Every Independence Day since Ian was 10 he and I read both the Declaration of Independance and Frederick Douglas’ full speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (He’s read a good deal on Douglas). Today will be different since he’s on a middle school retreat. He and I agreed to text some excerpts and read it in full Friday. It’s been a meaningful ritual for us, especially as Christians. Here’s some excerpts that always grab us:
“Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history —the very ring—bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.
Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost. . . .
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too, great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory. . . .
Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! . . . I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.”
The full speech can be found here. https://www.owleyes.org/text/what-to-the-slave-is-the-fourth-of-july/read/text-of-douglasss-speech?fbclid=IwAR1i4e7Sd_QBR3cBNiWcs4cj4LHjrX6ofW74wPgnDdOXo6FUXyMZ6LMouTg&fs=e&s=cl#root-72