There were approximately 500 attendees who heard him speak, each paying twelve and a half cents.
He had been invited to speak about what the Fourth of July means for America's black population, and while the first part of his speech praises what the founding fathers did for this country, his speech soon develops into a condemnation of the attitude of American society toward slavery. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens." Here, he is likely addressing the president of the Anti-Slavery Society — not the president of the United States.
Douglass praises and respects the signers of the Declaration of Independence, people who put the interests of a country above their own.
He concedes, however, that the main purpose of his speech is not to give praise and thanks to these men, for he says that the deeds of those patriots are well known.
He touches on the history of the American Revolutionaries' fight for freedom against their legal bondage under British rule.
He tells the audience that he supports the actions of these revolutionaries.It is noteworthy that Douglass considers himself a citizen, an equal to the spectators in attendance.Throughout this speech, as well as his life, Douglass advocated equal justice and rights, as well as citizenship, for blacks.The contemporary American church, by remaining silent and acquiescing to the existence of slavery, he argues, is more of an infidel than Paine, Voltaire, or Bolingbroke (three eighteenth-century philosophers who spoke out against the churches of their time).Douglass argues that the church is "superlatively guilty" — superlative, meaning even more guilty — because it is an institution which has the power to eradicate slavery by condemning it.The real subject of his speech, he concedes, is American slavery.He condemns America for being untrue to its founding principles, its past, and its present.And while it advocates democracy in Europe and elsewhere, it does not grant it to all of its own people.Similarly, he argues that while the American Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal," American society creates an under-class of men and women.Frederick Douglass was a fiery orator and his speeches were often published in various abolitionist newspapers.Among his well-known speeches is "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro," presented in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, a version of which he published as a booklet. Douglass moved to Rochester in 1847, when he became the publisher of The North Star, an abolitionist weekly.