John Parker : Editorial Responses

I am John Parker. I was born in 1827. Over the last two decades, I have been characterized in the media as a man wearing many hats. I am rather proud of the contributions I have made in making America better and better as an abolitionist, industrialist, iron molder, and inventor. There is a need to clarify the motivations that have compelled me to serve in the diverse roles, especially the abolitionist role and the Underground Railroad (UR) facilitator role.

The Abolitionist Struggle  

When I examine slavery in the light of the actuality that the US was established as an independent, as well as free, republic, there is an obvious elementary contradiction. Slavery contradicts this country’s most esteemed value; that every person, by the nature of his or her creation, is equal to all other persons. I view chattel bondage as an obvious contradiction intrinsic in itself. It exposes persons to being handled, as well as treated, as commercial property. Even as they are being treated as commercial property, one cannot escape the core of the humanity, and compassion, which they embody.

Some publications, such as the one by Volk (2014), have labeled me and other abolitionists as idealists. Often, some my friends ask me why I should engage in fighting for this cause. I agree with them that abolition is a cause that may be challenging to win. Even then, I do not buy their assertion that the cause cannot be won. The odds against a win for abolitionists come off rather insurmountable, since their cries are hardly heeded by the authorities. It may be of assistance to those losing faith in the abolition fight to know that even before the US came into being, those inhabiting this promising continent fought against repression, slavery, and that related evils.

Humanitarians have over the years made efforts to make populations appreciate why slavery is immoral. The fight against repression, slavery, and that related evils has been increasingly won over the years, against a background of betrayals, setbacks, hardships, mob violence, and struggle. I remain convinced that a slavery-free America may not realized in my lifetime. Even then, that does not in any way provide me with a justification for sparing any effort towards the realization of an America where every one person in America is equal to the others.

Underground Railroad

Recently, various criticisms have been leveled against the UR movement. I regard Frederick Douglass highly as a statesman and writer. When I study he criticism he levels against the movement as captured by Gatewood (1981), he comes off as having lost touch with his experiences as a former slave. He comes off as critical of how he came to know, as well as enjoy, freedom. He contends that he is averse to the rather public declarations that we have made with regard to the movement’s aims.

Douglass asserts that owing to the declarations, the movement is now rather public. He concedes that he holds the movement in high esteem, but feels that we should put more efforts in enlightening the slaves. I agree with him that we should empower the slaves rather than the masters, who would otherwise become increasingly watchful, making the escape of slaves increasingly difficult.

Those criticizing the movement, including Douglass, should be awake to the political realities in which we lead it. The Fugitive Slave Act charges the state authorities in areas in which slavery is practiced to recover slaves who run away. Even then, the authorities have not been effective in recovering such slaves, allowing the thriving of the movement under my watch. There are Southerners arguing for the bolstering of act. Even then, I remain committed to assisting slaves escape via the movement’s structures, even as the Southerners continue blaming me for comprising their property rights. A slave is a human being. A slave cannot be construed to be a property. A slave is an equal to any of the Southern slaveholder.

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