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The Political Thought of Frederick DouglassIn Pursuit of American Liberty$
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Nicholas Buccola

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814787113

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814787113.001.0001

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“Every Man Is Himself and Belongs to Himself ”

“Every Man Is Himself and Belongs to Himself ”

Slavery and Self-Ownership as the Foundations of Douglass’s Liberalism

(p.14) 2 “Every Man Is Himself and Belongs to Himself ”
The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass

Nicholas Buccola

NYU Press

This chapter explores how Douglass drew on the experience of slavery to defend the classical liberal idea of self-ownership. His abhorrence of slavery provides the foundation for the two principles at the core of his political thought: it led him to embrace the liberal idea of self-ownership; and his desire to see the institution abolished led him to an acute appreciation of the ways in which the achievement of universal freedom depends upon the development of a strong ethos of mutual responsibility. A political community is only just, he argued, if each individual's right to control his or her own life is respected.

Keywords:   slavery, self-ownership, liberalism, universal freedom, mutual responsibility, political community

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