An Innate Transcendentalist, Frederick Douglass

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Anja Shipp Engl 204 February 12, 2006

An Innate Transcendentalist, Frederick Douglass

Transcendentalism, from the Latin, means "overpassing." This American movement, which began in New England circa 1836, initially sprouted from the notion of breaking free from England. This social and spiritual philosophy contains six major points:
1. Trust your own intuition as truth and recognize the innate goodness of man;
2. Know who you are so that you know who you will be;
3. Be the best person that you can be by endeavoring to learn;
4. Young people sometimes hold the greatest truths;
5. Do not apologize for your life, and,
6. Once you know your truths, practice them.
My personal, condensed definition of this philosophy is that one should strive to find the strength to believe in oneself. To be an "intellectual, moral, and accountable being" (964) are all transcendental attributes Frederick Douglass embraced naturally from a conscious young age. Although Frederick witnessed much badness, much wicked and immoral behavior in man, he understood the goodness that should reside in the behavior of men (and women) and gave comment to it when treated with some humaneness (942, 45). He recognized the virtues of honor, justice, and humanity instinctively, listening to the higher knowledge of intuition, whether it come from the mind or the heart (962). Throughout his struggles he trusted his inner truth. He recognized how owning slaves changes a person. In the case of one of his mistresses, her mistreating him did not come naturally to her; it required "training" (947). Irresponsible power is poison to the heart (945). Transcendentalism embraces the notion of having the freedom of power, or control over oneself. When this movement began neither slaves nor women had this power. Frederick recognized the sentiment that freedom resides in the bosom of all human beings, black or white, man or woman. He objected to every



Cited: Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , an American Slave, Written by Himself. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter Sixth Edition. Nina Baym et al. New York: Norton, 2003. 939-73.

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