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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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From Slavery to Liberty and Equality

From Slavery to Liberty and Equality

Douglass’s Liberal Democratic Politics

(p.41) 3 From Slavery to Liberty and Equality
The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass

Nicholas Buccola

NYU Press

This chapter draws out the political consequences of Douglass's belief in self-ownership by describing his commitments to individual rights, toleration, and limited, representative government and by demonstrating that he rejected anarchist, socialist, perfectionist, and radical democratic alternatives to liberalism. First, liberals believe in the primacy of individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Second, liberals believe religious and moral diversity ought to be tolerated or even celebrated. Third, liberals reject anarchism as a viable option and endorse limited government to protect individual rights. Fourth, liberals believe that democratic government is most likely to protect individual rights, but stop short of the romantic devotion to majority rule that is typical of radical democrats. These points illustrate that Douglass's politics are, in short, liberal.

Keywords:   liberalism, liberals, individual rights, representative government, self-ownership, limited government, liberal politics

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