Politics and International Relations

  • Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and American Democracy

Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and American Democracy

Self-taught, unsurpassed as speakers, central in the struggle for freedom in the United States, and known to each other, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, are, for students of American political thought, worth thinking about together.

Focusing mainly on what Douglass, Lincoln, and some of their contemporaries, said, rather than on what scholars have said about them, we consider two of America’s foremost leaders with these questions especially in mind: how does the principle of equality play out in a democratic polity that is full of inequalities and differences, and for which equality is not the sole aim? How can democratic leaders assert and advance principles amid the constraints of practice? On what terms might a people, treated with unforgettable injustice and cruelty, join as citizens the perpetrators of that injustice and cruelty.