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The Mass Media

Mind of the Week

Mind of the Week

Editor’s Note: Due to a missing file this excerpt from Douglas’ landmark speech on Haiti was missing from last week’s section.Frederick Douglass is one of America’s true revolutionaries. He fought fiercely with his eloquence against the organized inequalities of his fellow man. He was taught to read at age 12 by the wife of the man holding him in bondage. Furious, his “master” lectured his wife and Frederick on why “if a slave learned to read, he would become dissatisfied with his condition and desire freedom.” Ever active, at 21 he legally obtained his freedom and began a distinguished career as writer, editor, activist, statesman, and humanitarian. At the time of his speech he was an ex-US minister to Haiti.This sample of Douglass’s mind is from a speech he gave January 2nd, 1883 and can be found in its entirety at http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/history/1844-1915/douglass.htmA special thanks to Alayn’s blog Tiajoupa.net as this wonderful speech may have completely avoided our radar otherwise. No other land has brighter skies. No other land has purer water, richer soil, or a more happily diversified climate. She has all the natural conditions essential to a noble, prosperous and happy country. Yet, there she is, torn and rent by revolutions, by clamorous factions and anarchies; floundering her life away from year in a labyrinth of social misery. Every little while we find her convulsed by civil war, engaged in the terrible work of death; frantically shedding her own blood and driving her best mental material into hopeless exile. Port au Prince, a city of sixty thousand souls, and capable of being made one of the healthiest, happiest and one of the most beautiful cities of the West Indies, has been destroyed by fire once in each twenty-five years of its history. The explanation is this: Haiti is a country of revolutions. They break forth without warning and without excuse. The town may stand at sunset and vanish in the morning. Splendid ruins, once the homes of the rich, meet us on every street. Great warehouses, once the property of successful merchants, confront us with their marred and shattered walls in different parts of the city. When we ask: “Whence these mournful ruins?” and “Why are they not rebuilt?” we are answered by one word– a word of agony and dismal terror, a word which goes to the core of all this people’s woes; It is, “revolution!” Such are the uncertainties and insecurities caused by this revolutionary madness of a part of her people, that no insurance company will insure property at a rate which the holder can afford to pay. Under such a condition of things a tranquil mind is impossible. There is ever a chronic, feverish looking forward to possible disasters. Incendiary fires; fires set on foot as a proof of dissatisfaction with the government; fires for personal revenge, and fires to promote revolution are of startling frequency. This is sometimes thought to be due to the character of the race. Far from it. The common people of Haiti are peaceful enough. They have no taste for revolutions. The fault is not with the ignorant many, but with the educated and ambitious few. Too proud to work, and not disposed to go into commerce, they make politics a business of their country. Governed neither by love nor mercy for their country, they care not into what depths she may be plunged. No president, however virtuous, wise and patriotic, ever suits them when they themselves happen to be out of power.I wish I could say that these are the only conspirators against thepeace of Haiti, but I cannot. hey have allies in the United States. Recent developments have shown that even a former United States Minister, resident and Consul General to that country has considered against the present government of Haiti. It so happens that we have men in this country who, to accomplish their personal and selfish ends, will fan the flame of passion between the factions in Haiti and will otherwise assist in setting revolutions afoot. To their shame be it spoken, men in high American quarters have boasted to me of their ability to start a revolution in Haiti at pleasure. They have only to raise sufficient money, they say, with which to arm and otherwise equip the malcontents, of either faction, to effect their object. Men who have old munitions of war or old ships to sell; ships that will go down in the first storm, have an interest in stirring up strife in Haiti. It gives them a market for their worthless wares. Others of a speculative turn of mind and who have money to lend at high rates of interest are glad to conspire with revolutionary chiefs of either faction, to enable them to start a bloody insurrection. To them, the welfare of Haiti is nothing; the shedding of human blood is nothing; the success of free institutions is nothing, and the ruin of neighboring country is nothing. They are sharks, pirates and Shylocks, greedy for money, no matter at what cost of life and misery to mankind.