Document Analysis Paper – Frederick Douglass, “The Composite Nation”
We say something is composite when it comprises many different parts. A composite nation as implied by Frederick Douglass is a nation containing people of different races and religions. In his speech, “A Composite Nation”, he advocates for a multi-racial America with emphasis on the extension of rights to Asian-Americans including the rights to vote and lead. From this speech, it is evident that after the Cold War, Americans were not ready to embrace Chinese immigrants. Douglass, however, thinks that Americans should adopt Chinese immigrants, naturalize them, give them the right to vote and also give them the right to lead. This paper analyzes Douglass’ speech, The Composite Nation, delivered in Boston in 1869 after the Cold War of America. Douglass was one of the most renowned anti-slavery activists. He was born a slave and escaped when he was 20 years old and became a prominent author, orator and abolitionist (History.com Staff). I think the speech sought to address politicians and the general American public.
The writer understands America properly. He has watched it move from an inaccessible place to a place where migration conditions have improved significantly. America is now easily accessible by sea since they have ships all over and their language can be spoken all over the world. This has made America very tempting to people willing to migrate.
In his speech, Douglass acknowledges that America is a composite nation but with the colored races being considered inferior. He says that since America is a big continent, they should welcome the immigrants hoping to live better lives in America since America can afford to host them. Douglass goes ahead to say that it is only a matter of time before the Chinese start immigrating to America in large numbers. He has a vision of an America that is all-inclusive. One that has a multitude of races and religions all living together under one state but each still maintaining their original cultures.
Douglass condemns the fact that even though Europeans, Indians, and Negros have been part of the US population for quite some time, the citizens have still not acknowledged them as citizens. At the time the speech was given, there was a treaty between the US and China stating that the US may receive Chinamen only as immigrants, but she may not naturalize them as part of her Citizens. They were to remain subjects of the emperor. The Chinamen remained un-naturalized owing to this treaty and also owing to their superstitious nature. Chinamen believed in getting buried in their land. Douglass thinks that it is only a matter of time before they can abandon the bigotry and accept that if they can live comfortably in the US, they can also get buried in the US too.
This speech was written to encourage immigration of people into the United States. For example Douglass says that:
We shall spread the network of our science and our civilization over all who seek their shelter, whether from Asia, Africa, or the Isles of the Sea. We shall mould them all, each after his kind, into Americans; Indian and Celt, negro and Saxon, Latin and Teuton, Mongolian and Caucasian, Jew and gentile, all shall here bow to the same law, speak the same language, support the same government, enjoy the same liberty, vibrate with the same national enthusiasm, and seek the same national ends (Douglass n.d).
The speech was meant for the general American population to urge them to open their minds up to accepting the immigration of the Chinese into the continent.
According to this speech, life in America after the cold war was not very easy especially for the minority races who had migrated to the United States. People were striving to fight slavery and that’s where an abolitionist like. Douglass came up. Migrants were still not welcome in the country. The writer however puts across a point that if white people claim the American continent as their, then sooner rather than later, they will do so to other continents and leave the other races homeless.
Douglass’ speech is important in history since it came along way in speaking on behalf of the Asian-Americans in the United States especially when Americans had begun enacting Chinese-exclusion laws. He rejected these laws and condemned everybody who supported laws that oppressed other people. He said:
I submit this question of Chinese immigration should be settled upon higher principles than those of a cold and selfish expediency.
There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are eternal, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and the Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.
But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men (Lopez).
This speech supports what we know about Douglass. He was really passionate about his fight for human rights. It is a descriptive speech telling us what Americans in the 19th century were like and we can see the growth clearly in the current America where all races are treated equally. I would like to think Douglass’ speech has contributed greatly to this current situation.