What is freedom? Is freedom when a child does not have to hold the hand of their mother or father while walking across the street? Or is freedom the event that families can go to church every Sunday morning? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, freedom is defined as “the quality or state of being free as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” Both are occasions of freedom, but when examining liberty, it can take numerous forms depending upon the source. Independence for a child may be that they no longer have to hold their mother’s hand or be under their parents’ rule. In particularly the mid 1700’s, freedom for a white land-owning male and an African-American slave were two utterly different ideas.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of the Independence, was a great political figure of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, but was also a slave owner. Frederick Douglass, a slave, fought to become a man of independence in the 1800’s. And lastly, Franz Kafka was a lawyer and the author of “The Trial.” Kafka’s culture marks him as Jewish, but he was not a religiously observant Jewish man.
Initially viewing the contradicting notions of Thomas Jefferson as an author of a famous document of freedom, but also a white slave owner will display his inconsistent assessment of human freedom. Subsequently uncovering the life of Frederick Douglass and his struggle to be a free man will exhibit how he strongly supports the liberty of all humans. And finally noting Franz Kafka’s stance in society as both a lawyer and a non-practicing Jew will reveal his belief that no human is free. Examining the claims of Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, and Franz Kafka displays how different concepts of freedom can arise based on one’s background and position in society.
Probing into Thomas Jefferson’s assertions of human freedom, one must first note his conflicts in actions and background as a political leader. Henry Krusiewicz, Associate Professor of English, stated that Thomas Jefferson inherited twenty slaves and 3,000 acres of land in 1764. Then in 1772, he inherits from his wife’s father more land and 135 additional slaves. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson creates the Declaration of Independence, a document stating the thirteen colonies’ independence from England. One must find it ironic that he inherits many slaves, however, he is an adversary of the slave trade, and twelve years later, composes an independence document. Although his “Declaration of Independence” did not speak of freedom for slaves, it nevertheless challenges his position because the African-American slaves are similar to the thirteen colonies as property of the King of England. Jefferson knew what it was like to be a “slave” of England, but in spite of his opinion, was more or less an owner of African-American property.
Did Thomas Jefferson believe that humans are free? Jefferson declared, “We hold these truths to be...