“Letter to Henry Clay,” North Star LMarfurt

From Frederick Douglass’s letter to Henry Clay in 1847, we learn that he was actively involved in determining whether or not the newly acquired territories from the Mexican-American war would be slave holding or not. Frederick Douglass was extremely angered by Henry Clay’s inconsistencies regarding the issue. Douglass uses quotes from Clay’s speeches to point out his hypocracy. I think this shows us that the decade before the civil war was a time when the abolitionist movement was taking off, and more into the minds of mainstream voters. Abolitionism became a value of the Republican Party of the time, and so Republican politicians supported it in their speeches. However, as Frederick Douglass points out, they were less willing to do so in practice. This must have been insulting to people such as Frederick Douglass, who probably felt that Clay was just using his cause as a way to get votes. Furthermore, Douglass shows discomfort with the fact that Clay thinks that states and the new territories shoud choose wether or not they have slaves, showing that Clay will not commit to being a true abolitionist.

This letter raises questions about the suitability of slaves in an expanding America, and the hypocrisy of some Republican politicians. Given the desert climate of much the Mexican cessasion, not suitable for plantation agriculture, would slavery even have been feasable there? Also, how would politicians who thought that blacks were just as capable of whites, such as Jefferson and Clay, refute claims of hypocrisy such as this one from Douglass?