Frederick Douglass was born 200 years ago this month, and while he's justifiably known as an escaped slave and influential abolitionist, he was also one of the 19th century's most outspoken classical liberals. "The great fact underlying the claim for universal suffrage is that every man is himself and belongs to himself, and represents his own individuality," Douglass declared. "The same is true of woman… Her selfhood is as perfect and as absolute as is the selfhood of man."
A proponent of "free labor," Douglass was at odds with socialist and communitarian abolitionists who denounced property and self-ownership as part of a broader exploitative capitalist system. In fact, Douglass called socialism, which was migrating from Europe to the United States during his life, "errant nonsense" and was a proponent of John Locke and liberalism.
Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke to senior editor Damon Root, whose new article on Douglass is available at Reason.com, about the historical figure and his broader impact on American thinking.
Audio production by Ian Keyser.
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