Commonplace Book #166

Already a master of the rhetorical device of the jeremiad–calling the fallen nation back to its lost principles–but also now portraying himself as the victim of proslavery scorn, Douglass enjoyed being the aggressor. Claiming he was constantly accused of irritating Americans, rather than appealing to their better instincts, Douglass happily pled guilty: “I admit that we have irritated them,” he declared. “They desire to be irritated. As it is in physics, so in morals, there are cases that demand irritation, and counter irritation. The conscience of the American public needs this irritation. And I would blister it all over, from centre to circumference, until it gives signs of a purer…life that it is now manifesting to the world.” Douglass named the demons and stalked his prey. As the latter-day Jeremiah he spoke as did the ancient prophet, calling the nation to judgment for its mendacity, its wanton violation of its own covenants and warning of its imminent ruin.

David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, 180.