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American Romanticism: What Does It Mean To Be A Citizen?

1043 words - 4 pages

What does it mean to be a citizen? Prejudice has always been a problem in history. As depicted in 19th century literature, the Native Americans and slaves endured hardship acquiring human rights as well as citizenship. For example, Elias Boudinot's "An Address to the Whites", Douglass' "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" and a children's ABC poem, "To Our Little Readers". In all of these pieces, it depicts how these particular races were isolated due to the color of their skin and their origin. Though "Americans", they did not receive their rightful privileges of citizenship, although they fought to achieve what was rightfully theirs.In Elias Boudinot's "An Address to the Whites", is a plea for the acceptance of Native Americans for they were often referenced to as "savages" or in any other condescending manner as they attempt to be accepted into the society as "Americans". Boudinot describes how the Native Americans have improved, from the ability to read and write not only their own language, but English as well. As he states,"She will become not a great, but a faithful ally of the United States. In times of peace she will plead the common liberties of America. In times of war her intrepid sons will sacrifice their lives in your defence. And because she will be useful to you in coming time, she asks you to assist her in her present struggles. She asks not for greatness; she seeks not wealth, she pleads only for assistance to become respectable as a nation, to enlighten and ennoble her sons, and to ornament her daughters with modesty and virtue" (1451).He depicts such a clear idea and plea that the Native Americans are not different from anyone else. Only the color of their skins as well as the emotions that are placed on skin color, religion and "lack of" education isolates them from being accepted as citizens.As he states, "a period is fast approaching when the stale remark-'Do what you will, an Indian will still be an Indian,' must be placed no more in speech" (1445), clearly depicts how Indians were segregated. As the Native Americans fight for their right to be treated with equality, they ask "will you push them from you, or will you save them? Let humanity answer" (1452).In Frederick Douglass' "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July", he portrays a powerful message depicting the slaves for they have nothing to celebrate on the Fourth of July. The Fourth of July celebrates the freedom of the United States, however, for a slave, what do they have to celebrate on this day? They are captive with their free will and freedom taken away to serve the White men. As Douglass states on page 1954,"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; you boasted liberty, and unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and...

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