Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Truth Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
Again, we have known you long, and can put the most entire confidence in your truth, candor, and sincerity. Every one who has heard you speak has felt, and, I am confident, every one who reads your book will feel, persuaded that you give them a fair specimen of the whole truth. (Letter.5)
Wendell Phillips makes the case that we should trust Douglass's story because of his character. If we know him to be a trustworthy person, he suggests, his book can be treated as true. But part of how we know that a person is trustworthy is our experience of the person himself: Douglass's audience can tell just from listening to him that he must be telling the truth.
Just about this time, I got hold of a book entitled "The Columbian Orator." Every opportunity I got, I used to read this book. Among much of other interesting matter, I found in it a dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave was represented as having run away from his master three times. The dialogue represented the conversation which took place between them, when the slave was retaken the third time. In this dialogue, the whole argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward by the master, all of which was disposed of by the slave. The slave was made to say some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to his master--things which had the desired though unexpected effect; for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master. . . . The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. (7.5)
What Douglass learns from this book is that, when it's given a chance to be heard, the truth will always win out. When the slave and the slave owner argue over whether slavery is justified, the slave has already won: if he's allowed to speak, he can tell the truth about slavery, and no argument can refute that. This helps us understand why Douglass associates slavery so closely with deception: the only way slave owners can defend slavery is by lying about it.