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Frederick's Arguments

By , Niles, IL

Frederick Douglass uses rhetoric to show the horrific and inhuman treatments of the slaves by the slaveowners. In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,  an American Slave, Frederick Douglas explains situations that he has witnessed and experienced in his life before the abolition of slavery. Frederick Douglas uses a wide variety of rhetoric throughout his narrative to disprove the Practical (pragmatic) and the religious arguments of pre-Civil War America.


The religious argument of  the slaveowners is that they think it is okay to treat the slaves poorly and think it is okay to own slaves and think it is being validated by God in The Bible. Douglas thought why the slave owners think it's okay for slavery and the thought of god cursing ham and thought since god cursed ham the slave owners thought it was okay to have slavery and that it’s right. “It will do away the force of the argument, that god cursed ham, and therefore American slavery is right.”(19). The slave owners think that slavery was okay and god has made consent of having slaves since god has not said that you can not own slaves so the slave owners think it's okay to do so. The slave owners also argue that slavery is right and god never disclaims it, therefore he is in favor of it. Slave Owners are doing the slaves wrong and treating them unfairly, and thinking it’s okay to do so, they also think having slaves is a good and more efficient way to get things done.


Slave Owners thought it was a Practical (pragmatic) thought of owning slaves was a sign of power and also thought it was more efficient to buy slaves and have them work on the plantation for them. Mr.Gore whipped a slave, Demby, and expected him to go work more with the open wounds but he ran into the creek. Mr.Gore gave him three chances to get out or he would shoot him. He didn't get a response and shot Demby. “He had given Demby but few stripes,when, to get rid of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders, refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him that he would give him three calls,and that, if he did not come out at the third call, he would shoot him”(33). It shows that the slave owners think it's okay for the slaves to work when they are severely hurt and that is a very impractical thought because the slaveowners and overseers think they will work as efficient than another slave that is healthier, with no open cuts or wounds. An argument was also made that slavery should stay and not be abolished because it is the best option to have for everyone because southerners thought it was free labor, a sign of power, and faster than doing it yourself or alone. The slaves were not paid, so they will not work their hardest they will work at a slow and steady pace since they aren't getting paid and they are treated poorly. The impracticality of the slave owners and the overseers thought led to harsh treatments and even murdering of some slaves, without being charged.


The religious and Practical (pragmatic) arguments of pre-Civil War America were disproved by Frederick Douglass many times throughout the narrative using rhetoric. The slave owners think it was okay to treat the slaves poorly and discipline them violently, and then have them work like that. The slave owners think the slaves will work efficiently and quick not only while being treated unfairly but not being paid or getting great returns for their work. Slavery was harsh, the slave owners thought they had an advantage while owning slaves, but really it was more work for them because they made themselves work more. The abolition of slavery discontinued this and had finally set the slaves free.






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