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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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“Man Is Neither Wood Nor Stone”

“Man Is Neither Wood Nor Stone”

Top-Down Moral Education in Douglass’s Liberalism

(p.128) 6 “Man Is Neither Wood Nor Stone”
The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass

Nicholas Buccola

NYU Press

This chapter examines Douglass's understanding of the proper role of the state in educating its citizens in a way that is supportive of freedom and virtue. Douglass recognized the importance of top-down mechanisms for securing the conditions necessary for the exercise of personal freedom. More specifically, he thought individuals could be “taught” to behave in responsible ways by the threat of force, the promulgation of positive law, the rhetoric of statesmen, the celebration of political ideals in civic ceremonies, and through a robust system of elementary, secondary, and higher education. Through these methods, the state can promote what Douglass called a “humanitarian culture.”

Keywords:   top-down mechanisms, personal freedom, education, positive law, coercion, legislation, humanitarian culture, state institutions

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