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MKMcCabe at May 22, 2024 07:02 PM

221

LIFE AND TIMES OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS 373

suffered in slavery, I can say I too have suffered. To those who have taken
some risks and encountered hardships in the flight from bondage, I can say
I too have endured and risked. To those who have battled for liberty,
brother-hood, and citizenship, I can say I too have battled; and to those who have
lived to enjoy the fruits of victory, I can say I too live and rejoice. If I have
pushed my example too prominently for the good taste of my Caucasian
readers I beg them to remember that I have written in part for the
encouragement of a class whose aspirations need the stimulus of success.

I have aimed to assure them that knowledge can be obtained under
difficulties; that poverty may give place to competency; that obscurity is not an
absolute bar to distinction, and that a way is open to welfare and happiness
to all who will resolutely and wisely pursue that way; that neither slavery,
stripes, imprisonment, nor proscription, need extinguish self-respect, crush
manly ambition, or paralyze effort; that no power outside of himself can
prevent a man from sustaining an honorable character and a useful relation
to his day and generation; that neither institutions nor friends can make a
race to stand unless it has strength in its own legs; that there is no power in
the world which can be relied upon to help the weak against the strong—the
simple against the wise; that races like individuals must stand or fall by their
own merits; that all the prayers of Christendom cannot stop the force of a
single bullet, divest arsenic of poison, or suspend any law of nature. In my
communication with the colored people I have endeavored to deliver them
from the power of superstition, bigotry, and priest-craft. In theology I have
found them strutting about in the old clothes of the masters, just as the
masters strut about in the old clothes of the past. The falling power remains
among them long since it has ceased to be the religious fashion of our refined
and elegant white churches. I have taught that the "fault is not in our stars
but in ourselves that we are underlings," that "who would be free,
themselves must strike the blow." I have urged upon them self-reliance,
self-respect, industry, perseverance, and economy—to make the best of both
worlds but to make the best of this world first because it comes first, and
that he who does not improve himself by the motives and opportunities
afforded by this world gives the best evidence that he would not improve in
any other world. Schooled as I have been among the abolitionists of New
England, I recognize that the universe is governed by laws which are
unchangeable and eternal, that what men sow they will reap, and that there
is no way to dodge or circumvent the consequences of any act or deed. My
views at this point receive but limited endorsement among my people. They
for the most part think they have means of procuring special favor and help

221

LIFE AND TIMES OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS

373

suffered in slavery, I can say I too have suffered. To those who have taken
some risks and encountered hardships in the flight from bondage, I can say
I too have endured and risked. To those who have battled for liberty,
brother-hood, and citizenship, I can say I too have battled; and to those who have
lived to enjoy the fruits of victory, I can say I too live and rejoice. If I have
pushed my example too prominently for the good taste of my Caucasian
readers I beg them to remember that I have written in part for the
encouragement of a class whose aspirations need the stimulus of success.

I have aimed to assure them that knowledge can be obtained under
difficulties; that poverty may give place to competency; that obscurity is not an
absolute bar to distinction, and that a way is open to welfare and happiness
to all who will resolutely and wisely pursue that way; that neither slavery,
stripes, imprisonment, nor proscription, need extinguish self-respect, crush
manly ambition, or paralyze effort; that no power outside of himself can
prevent a man from sustaining an honorable character and a useful relation
to his day and generation; that neither institutions nor friends can make a
race to stand unless it has strength in its own legs; that there is no power in
the world which can be relied upon to help the weak against the strong—the
simple against the wise; that races like individuals must stand or fall by their
own merits; that all the prayers of Christendom cannot stop the force of a
single bullet, divest arsenic of poison, or suspend any law of nature. In my
communication with the colored people I have endeavored to deliver them
from the power of superstition, bigotry, and priest-craft. In theology I have
found them strutting about in the old clothes of the masters, just as the
masters strut about in the old clothes of the past. The falling power remains
among them long since it has ceased to be the religious fashion of our refined
and elegant white churches. I have taught that the "fault is not in our stars
but in ourselves that we are underlings," that "who would be free,
themselves must strike the blow." I have urged upon them self-reliance,
self-respect, industry, perseverance, and economy—to make the best of both
worlds but to make the best of this world first because it comes first, and
that he who does not improve himself by the motives and opportunities
afforded by this world gives the best evidence that he would not improve in
any other world. Schooled as I have been among the abolitionists of New
England, I recognize that the universe is governed by laws which are
unchangeable and eternal, that what men sow they will reap, and that there
is no way to dodge or circumvent the consequences of any act or deed. My
views at this point receive but limited endorsement among my people. They
for the most part think they have means of procuring special favor and help