Definition And Historical Application Of Freedom

1944 words - 8 pages

“Freedom is anything but unproblematic.” This words reign true when we look at the debates over the definition of freedom throughout all of history and even today. With debates over the NSA, the TSA, the Patriot Act, etc., Americans, and people of other nations who face similar debates over civil liberties, are constantly faced with the issue of figuring out what do we mean by freedom and how absolute should our freedom be. We discuss and debate over the extent to which we have our freedom and yet well all believe that freedom is a core value we all should have even though we don’t agree upon what it is and the extent to which we should have it. These debates are not specific to the present. In fact, during the 1840s through 1860s where slaves were just being emancipated, America had an even more fierce debate over the concept of freedom. Emancipation forever changed how Americans thought of freedom and “freedom was longer the novel condition it had been…but its meaning remained both uncertain and intensely contested.” These debates over freedom introduced new concepts to freedom that was not thought of previously in American history. In fact, during the debates of freedom during the 1840s through 1860s, we see that most individuals agreed upon freedom being a natural thing man had, but Emancipation introduced the debate over the rights that extend from freedom which was the main area of tension between free blacks, white Northerners, and pro-slavery Southerners.
During these debates of freedom in the Emancipation era, one of the views of what freedom should be for free blacks and women was that they should enjoy negative freedom in their private lives. This negative freedom means that they should have freedom from anything that tries to control and dictate the lives of blacks and women. The famous black abolitionist Frederick Douglass demonstrates this view when he says that “What is freedom? It is the right to choose one's own employment…and when any individual or combination of individuals undertakes to decide for any man when he shall work, where he shall work, at what he shall work, and for what he shall work, he or they practically reduce him to slavery.” Margret Fuller, a prominent advocate for woman’s rights, also supports this version of freedom for women when she states that “What a woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely and unimpeded, to unfold such powers as were given her when we left our common home.” Also, James Garfield ties in this argument with an argument that blacks and whites are equal by using an analogy where he says “Our stratification is like the ocean, where every individual drop is free to move, and where from the sternest depths of the mighty deep any drop may come up to glitter on the highest wave that rolls.” With these definitions we see that freedom for some women and blacks simply means freedom to live their lives as they...

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