Tourgee's Argument about status of African Americans
Starting at a young age when Tourgee was a boy living in the North he was opposed to slavery especially due to the abolitionist movement in his hometown. He held strong views about the white southern idea that African Americans were inherently inferior to Caucasians. In An Appeal to Caesar, he explains this, “The slave was a man forcibly deprived of a natural and inherent right, the right of self-control, of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Not from any desert on his part, not because of any infraction of the laws of society, but simply because another man desired to hold and enjoy the fruits of his labor” (Item 577). Through this Tourgee disputes the belief that African Americans were a lower race and instead places blame of their position upon the slaveholders who he argued were interested in reaping the benefits of another individual’s labor. By doing so he shifts the way in which the slave came to their position off the slave and on to the slave master. It is interesting that he makes this distinction especially clarifying that the rights they weren’t granted were “inherent” because he uses the same word that many white southerners utilized in order to declare them intrinsically a subordinate race from Caucasians. In this the reader can tell it is a direct reply to the preconceived notions of many individuals at the time.