When Anti-Asian Violence Rose Frederick Douglass Spoke Out

Pat Young

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LetUsHavePeace

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It would be very helpful to find where Douglass uses the term "Anglo-Saxon" in his Composite Nation speech. I could not find it in the Library of Congress' microfilm typescript. I did find Douglass' references to "Indian and Celt, negro and Saxon, Latin and Teuton, Mongolian and Caucasian, Jew and gentile". (page 33). And, of course, he refers to himself as an "Ethiopian".

The term "Anglo-Saxon" only came into popular use in Britain at the end of the Victorian era as a moral justification for their Empire and a useful catchall for the English-speakers of those islands that helped paper over the very real differences between the English, Scots and Irish. But, no American politician would have gotten very far in 1867 as an advocate of "the idea of that America was an Anglo-Saxon country". That would have been electoral suicide, as Douglass himself would have been the first to point out; how could you unite "white" voters as a racial bloc by choosing a term that insulted the second and third largest groups, by heritage - the Irish and the Germans?

If we are going to stick to the year 1900 as the cut-off point for historical data, it seems to me we need to apply the restriction to attempts like this one to drag back to 1867 modern ideas that were not in the minds of anyone back then. We could follow current medieval studies departments in abandoning the use of this manufactured term. As myth the notion had a brief flurry of success at the same time people were building statues to Cecil Rhodes. As a term in common use, even Henry J. Ford, the illustrator of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, thought it was a complete fiction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Justice_Ford
 

Pat Young

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It would be very helpful to find where Douglass uses the term "Anglo-Saxon" in his Composite Nation speech. I could not find it in the Library of Congress' microfilm typescript. I did find Douglass' references to "Indian and Celt, negro and Saxon, Latin and Teuton, Mongolian and Caucasian, Jew and gentile". (page 33). And, of course, he refers to himself as an "Ethiopian".

The term "Anglo-Saxon" only came into popular use in Britain at the end of the Victorian era as a moral justification for their Empire and a useful catchall for the English-speakers of those islands that helped paper over the very real differences between the English, Scots and Irish. But, no American politician would have gotten very far in 1867 as an advocate of "the idea of that America was an Anglo-Saxon country". That would have been electoral suicide, as Douglass himself would have been the first to point out; how could you unite "white" voters as a racial bloc by choosing a term that insulted the second and third largest groups, by heritage - the Irish and the Germans?

If we are going to stick to the year 1900 as the cut-off point for historical data, it seems to me we need to apply the restriction to attempts like this one to drag back to 1867 modern ideas that were not in the minds of anyone back then. We could follow current medieval studies departments in abandoning the use of this manufactured term. As myth the notion had a brief flurry of success at the same time people were building statues to Cecil Rhodes. As a term in common use, even Henry J. Ford, the illustrator of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, thought it was a complete fiction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Justice_Ford
I have encountered the term Anglo Saxon many time in my reading of Civil War and Reconstruction Era newspapers. Here is one example I have previously written about:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/au...emacy-of-the-anglo-saxon.147788/#post-1849814
 

LetUsHavePeace

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I am afraid that the concern I raised about usage was not understood. I was trying to point out that Frederick Douglass would not have used the term "Anglo-Saxon" because (1) he was a Republican and the conceit was entirely, as Mr. Young's article points out, a Democrat talking point and (2) Douglass wanted his fellow Americans to be more conscious of the variety of their ancestries and origins, not less. I cannot imagine Frederick Douglass' using the term "anti-Asian"; in his mind calling Koreans, Chinese and Japanese by the catch-all of "Asians" would have shown disrespect to people's particular identities.
Douglass had the confidence to believe that his views would prevail. "Race" would fail to be useful because, even when it did work politically, its costs would become too great to bear. When Andrew Johnson used the threat of the Chinese becoming citizens in vetoing the Civil Rights Act, he was raising the issue because it gave California Democrats their best chance to overcome the Republican majority; and, for one election, it seemed to work.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Huntly_Haight
But, as Douglass would keep reminding people for the rest of his life, history could not be understood solely as a matter of skin color. Even among white people, "race" alone would not explain the complexities of Haight, Newton Booth and Dennis Kearney and the Democrats, Republicans, Anti-Monopoly and Greenback Parties; and it would not get anywhere close to understanding how Benjamin Butler and Denis Kearney could end up on the same ticket in 1876.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Respectfully Pat, I read about 3/4 of your article, then had to switch gears. Again, this is just me being honest, but I felt I was reading a modern article based around the current political climate.... except it had Fredrick Douglas tossed in there to solidify how the evil "whites" treated Asians over 150 years ago. Although I do enjoy your articles, I visit this site to get away from current political issues, and this reminded me of such. Just my honest opinion.
 

unionblue

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Respectfully Pat, I read about 3/4 of your article, then had to switch gears. Again, this is just me being honest, but I felt I was reading a modern article based around the current political climate.... except it had Fredrick Douglas tossed in there to solidify how the evil "whites" treated Asians over 150 years ago. Although I do enjoy your articles, I visit this site to get away from current political issues, and this reminded me of such. Just my honest opinion.

"The more things change, the more they remain the same."

Discouraging, ain't it?
 

Pat Young

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T
Respectfully Pat, I read about 3/4 of your article, then had to switch gears. Again, this is just me being honest, but I felt I was reading a modern article based around the current political climate.... except it had Fredrick Douglas tossed in there to solidify how the evil "whites" treated Asians over 150 years ago. Although I do enjoy your articles, I visit this site to get away from current political issues, and this reminded me of such. Just my honest opinion.
i did not discuss anything modern at all in the article. These events occurred more than a century and a half ago.
 

Pete Longstreet

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@Pat Young ,

I think that is what has @Pete Longstreet down, the repeating of history, then and now.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
The repeating of history and that society is trying to make a certain race of people feel ashamed about what their ancestors did 150-200 years ago. I'm a firm believer that if you dig deep enough... you'll find skeletons in everybody's closet.
 

Fairfield

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modern ideas that were not in the minds of anyone back then.
The point may be that such ideas of inclusivity are not as "modern" as might be supposed. Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was a Quaker who held to a basic Quaker tenet that all people are created equal. Other people associated with the abolition movement (antebellum) often espoused universal equality. Frederick Douglass is an excellent example--not only was he concerned with abolition but his interests and efforts were legion; he was an active supporter of women's rights, for example.

Further, "Anglo-Saxon" seems to be a term that Mr. Douglass did use. There is an entire work on springer.com: This essay examines Frederick Douglass’s use of the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in the contexts of both American slavery and Anglo-American relations. I can't access it because it is one of those collected works sites that require payment beyond my reach--but, as it is a study of his works, the information ought to be available through research.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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The point may be that such ideas of inclusivity are not as "modern" as might be supposed. Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was a Quaker who held to a basic Quaker tenet that all people are created equal. Other people associated with the abolition movement (antebellum) often espoused universal equality. Frederick Douglass is an excellent example--not only was he concerned with abolition but his interests and efforts were legion; he was an active supporter of women's rights, for example.

Further, "Anglo-Saxon" seems to be a term that Mr. Douglass did use. There is an entire work on springer.com: This essay examines Frederick Douglass’s use of the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in the contexts of both American slavery and Anglo-American relations. I can't access it because it is one of those collected works sites that require payment beyond my reach--but, as it is a study of his works, the information ought to be available through research.
Here is a link to the article.
https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1057/s41280-019-00121-3.pdf

Ms. Abrams' thesis is that there was an opposition in Douglass' mind between "Anglophilia" (good) and "Anglo-Saxons") bad. The author uses the term "Anglo-Saxon" 72 times in the paper; what was fascinating for me was to find that this entire structure was based on ONE reference to Douglass' own use of the term - the article Douglass wrote for the North Star - "The War with Mexico" published January 21, 1848. Every other use of the term is by Ms. Abrams herself or from a quotation of another modern scholar's work. Douglass 3; modern intellectuals 69. (Even the Washington Generals used to do better than that.)
I have tried - without success - to point out how reductionist Mr. Young's view is and how little it represents Douglass' own thoughts.
Douglass was a genius; he was also wonderfully quick study. It took him barely a year to move from the Quaker intolerant "tolerance" - don't talk to slaveowners - to his own robust and wonderful ideas.
‘The Destiny of Colored Americans,’ The North Star, November 16, 1849: ‘We deem it a settled point that the destiny of the colored man is bound up with that of the white people of this country; be the destiny of the latter what it may.’
Quoting Lucretia Mott as an advocate for "equality" is further reductionism. Mott and her husband were not for equal civil rights; they did not want women to have any civil rights at all. After attending Seneca Falls and listening to the Motts offer their usual pablum about woman being a separate, more delicate specie, Douglass properly concludes that, among respectable people, it was far easier to talk about the rights of animals than to risk the mention of civil rights for women.
 

Fairfield

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Quoting Lucretia Mott as an advocate for "equality" is further reductionism. Mott and her husband were not for equal civil rights; they did not want women to have any civil rights at all.
Well, you can accuse me of what you want and call me what you choose--you are entitled to your own opinions. But, as the expression goes, not to your own facts.

Quoting Dr. Debra Michals (National Women's History Museum:
Her devotion to women’s rights did not deter her from fighting for an end to slavery. She and her husband protested the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and helped an enslaved person escape bondage a few years later. In 1866, Mott became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association. Mott joined with Stanton and Anthony in decrying the 14th​ and 15th​ amendments to the Constitution for granting the vote to black men but not to women. Mott was also involved with efforts to establish Swarthmore College and was instrumental in ensuring it was coeducational. Dedicated to all forms of human freedom, Mott argued as ardently for women’s rights as for black rights, including suffrage, education, and economic aid. Mott played a major role in the woman suffrage movement through her life.

When did she oppose women's rights? In the "Declaration of Sentiments"? As president the American Equal Rights Association?
 
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