Compare the conflicting interpretations of state and federal authority as emphasized in the speeches and writings of statesmen such as Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun.

Abolition of Slavery Movement

How effectively did Frederick Douglass’ 1845 autobiography respond to the claims from the 1830s that slavery was a “positive good?” Download Primary Source Set: Abolition of Slavery Movement 

With the assistance of targeted literacy support strategies, students will read and analyze excerpts from Calhoun’s speech and Douglass’ autobiography. They will determine the claims each historic figure made and the evidence they used to support their claims.

Abolition of Slavery Movement

Frederick Douglass, born a slave in 1818, would become one of the most visible and outspoken black abolitionists of the 19thcentury. He grew up in a rapidly expanding United States, whose very expansion stoked debate over the existence of slavery. White slavery advocates began a new vein of argument in defense of slavery: it was no longer an “evil,” but “a positive good.” In his famous 1837 speech to Congress, John C. Calhoun made his “positive good” claim, arguing both blacks and whites benefitted from the institution of slavery, especially as it was constructed in the South.