Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII.: HONOUR TO WHOM HONOUR. - The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: From 1817-1882
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CHAPTER XVIII.: “HONOUR TO WHOM HONOUR.” - Frederick Douglass, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: From 1817-1882 
The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: From 1817-1882, written by himself; with an Introduction by the Right Hon. John Bright, ed. John Lobb (London: Christian Age Office, 1882).
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“HONOUR TO WHOM HONOUR.”
Grateful recognition—H. Beecher Stowe—Other Friends—Woman suffrage—Failure of Male Governments.
GRATITUDE to benefactors is a well recognised virtue, and to express it in some form or other, however imperfectly, is a duty to ourselves as well as to those who have helped us. Never reluctant or tardy, I trust, in the discharge of this duty, I have seldom been satisfied with the manner of its performance. When I have made my best effort in this line, my words have done small justice to my feelings. And now, in mentioning my obligations to my special friends, and acknowledging the help I received from them in the days of my need, I can hope to do no better than give a faint hint of my sense of the value of their friendship and assist tance. I have sometimes been credited with having been the architect of my own fortune, and have pretty generally received the title of a “self-made man;” and while I cannot altogether disclaim this title, when I look back over the facts of my life, and consider the helpful influences exerted upon me, by friends more fortunately born and educated than myself, I am compelled to give them at least an equal measure of credit, with myself, for the success which has attended my labours in life. The little energy, industry and perseverance which have been mine, would hardly have availed me, in the absence of thoughtful friends, and highly favouring circumstances. Without these, the last forty years of my life might have been spent on the wharves of New Bedford, rolling oil casks, loading ships for whaling voyages, sawing wood, putting in coal, picking up a job here and there, wherever I could find one, holding my own with difficulty against gauntsided poverty, in the race for life and bread. I never see one of my old companions of the lower strata, begrimed by toil, hard handed, and dust covered, receiving for wages scarcely enough to keep the “wolf” at a respectful distance from his door and hearthstone, without a fellow feeling and the thought that I have been separated from him only by circumstances other than those of my own making. Much to be thankful for, but little room for boasting here. It was mine to take the “Tide at its flood.” It was my good fortune to get out of slavery at the right time, and to be speedily brought into contact with that circle of highly cultivated men and women, banded together for the overthrow of slavery, of which Wm. Lloyd Garrison was the acknowledged leader. To these friends, earnest, courageous, inflexible, ready to own me as a man and brother, against all the scorn, contempt, and derision of a slavery-polluted atmosphere, I owe my success in life. The story is simple, and the truth plain. They thought that I possessed qualities that might be made useful to my race, and through them I was brought to the notice of the world, and gained a hold upon the attention of the American people, which I hope remains unbroken to this day.
Observing woman’s agency, devotion, and efficiency in pleading the cause of the slave, gratitude for this high service early moved me to give favourable attention to the subject of what is called “Woman’s Rights,” and caused me to be denominated a woman’s-rights-man. I am glad to say I have never been ashamed to be thus designated. Recognising not sex, nor physical strength, but moral intelligence and the ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and the power to choose between them, as the true basis of Republican Government, to which all are alike subject, and bound alike to obey, I was not long in reaching the conclusion that there was no foundation in reason or justice for woman’s exclusion from the right of choice in the selection of the persons who should frame the laws, and thus shape the destiny of all the people, irrespective of sex.
In a conversation with Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, when she was yet a young lady, and an earnest abolitionist, she was at the pains to set before me, in a very strong light, the wrong and injustice of this exclusion. I could not meet her arguments except with the shallow plea of “custom,” “natural division of duties,” “indelicacy of woman’s taking part in politics,” the common talk of “woman’s sphere,” and the like, all of which that able woman, who was then no less logical than now, brushed away by those arguments which she has so often and effectively used since, and which no man has yet successfully refuted. If intelligence is the only true and rational basis of government, it follows that that is the best government which draws its life and power from the largest sources of wisdom, energy, and goodness at its command. The force of this reasoning would be easily comprehended and readily assented to in any case involving the employment of physical strength. We should all see the folly and madness of attempting to accomplish with a part what could only be done with the united strength of the whole. Though this folly may be less apparent, it is just as real, when one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the world is excluded from any voice or vote in civil government. In this denial of the right to participate in government, not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power for the government of the world. Thus far all human governments have been failures, for none have secured, except in a partial degree, the ends for which governments are instituted.
War, slavery, injustice, and oppression, and the idea that might makes right, have been uppermost in all such governments; and the weak, for whose protection governments are ostensibly created, have had practically no rights which the strong have felt bound to respect. The slayers of thousands have been exalted into heroes, and the worship of mere physical force has been considered glorious. Nations have been, and still are, but armed camps, expending their wealth, and strength, and ingenuity, in forging weapons of destruction against each other; and while it may not be contended that the introduction of the feminine element in government would entirely cure this tendency to exalt might over right, many reasons can be given to show that woman’s influence would greatly tend to check and modify this barbarous and destructive tendency. At any rate, seeing that the male governments of the world have failed, it can do no harm to try the experiment of a government by man and woman united. But it is not my purpose to argue the question here, but simply to state, in a brief way, the ground of my espousal of the cause of woman’s suffrage. I believed that the exclusion of my race from participation in government was not only a wrong, but a great mistake, because it took from that race motives for high thought and endeavour, and degraded them in the eyes of the world around them. Man derives a sense of his consequence in the world not merely subjectively, but objectively. If from the cradle through life the outside world brands a class as unfit for this or that work, the character of that class will come to resemble and conform to the character described. To find valuable qualities in our fellows, such qualities must be presumed and expected. I would give woman a vote, give her a motive to qualify herself to vote, precisely as I insisted upon giving the coloured man the right to vote, in order that he should have the same motives for making himself a useful citizen as those in force in the case of other citizens. In a word, I have never yet been able to find one consideration, one argument, or suggestion in favour of man’s right to participate in civil government which did not equally apply to the right of woman.