Now, how would Douglass respond the Supreme Court's Dred Scott ruling? He would have to step by step undermine each of the arguments the Court presents while at the same time proving that each of his arguments are valid. Douglass would challenge his reader to reject the Court's argument while at the same time accept his argument against slavery. The easiest way to write this reaction paper--How would Douglass respond to the Supreme Court's argument supporting slavery?--is to outline both of their arguments, and to use these arguments to lay out the larger arguments of your reaction paper.

Douglass's Argument Supreme Court's Argument
Thesis: Slavery is un-American Thesis: Slavery is an American Right
1. Blacks are men 1. Blacks aren't men
2. Blacks as men are entitled to liberty 2. Blacks are Property, like land
3. Whites can't own Blacks 3. Whites can own Blacks as Property
4.Whites can't enslave Blacks
without violating American values and God's laws
4. Society must protect Whites' Rights to own Blacks
Conclusion:American can't be free
until it ends Slavery
Conclusion: Slavery is legal and a basic right in U.S.

A good reaction paper always begin with highlighting and exposing the weakness of the opponent's arguments and examples. You want to use their own arguments and examples against them. Remember, you only need to write one reaction paper before the midterm is due.


Critical Historical Essay Format:

  1. Always begin your essay with the larger question to be explored and
    answered by your larger argument.

  2. Your thesis--your larger argument--should attempt to take a position or
    answer the question your paper begins with.

  3. In the Body of your essay, include at least three supporting arguments
    that attempt to prove your thesis.

  4. For the most part, your supporting arguments should go from weakest
    argument first building to your strongest argument last.

  5. In a good essay, each supporting argument builds on and elaborates on
    the preceding argument.

  6. Remember, the purpose of an essay is to prove your thesis. So after each supporting argument remind the reader how this argument supports your
    larger argument.

  7. Your conclusion should begin by restating your thesis.

  8. In the body of your conclusion you should try to convince your reader
    that your argument is important by answering what I call "the so what question?": Why is your argument important? and Why should your reader remember it? You can do this by relating your thesis to a larger issue that you know your reader already cares about.

  9. When you look over your first draft always ask: Can an ignorant reader, who knows nothing about your topic, understand your argument? Always try to write to the largest possible audience. Never assume that your reader understands your points or your examples.

  10. After writing a first draft, go back and look at your introduction. Is your thesis clear? Do you highlight in your introduction some of the points you want to argue in the body of your paper?

  11. Always revise and redraft, trying to make your arguments and examples stronger and more precise.


The debate over American rights and slavery illustrate the troublesome and inherent contradiction in a society based on rights and freedoms at the same time allowing slavery. This contradiction between America's professed principles and values and its denial of basic rights to Blacks and other minorities will be exploited by supporter of civil rights and granting freedom to all Americans. This struggle over the meaning of rights in America and who is entitled to these rights is still going on to this day.

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