Declaration of Slave Owners

From iGeek
Jump to: navigation, search

A historian friend of mine (Kevin Gutzman) wanted to clear the record. The claim is the authors of Declaration of Independence were hypocrites since they wrote that, "all men are created equal", while they had and supported slavery (and Women weren't included). Ignoring the gross historical fallacy of Presentism, in this case, it is also ignorance. I paraphrase Gutzman below (with my own commentary added in the conclusion).


Of the five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence:

  1. Roger Sherman of Connecticut drafted the Connecticut law that abolished slavery in Connecticut;
  2. Benjamin Franklin was the president of an abolition society that submitted a petition for the abolition of slavery to the first US Congress;
  3. John Adams, as the chief draftsman of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, wrote the section that was read by a Massachusetts court as having abolished slavery in Massachusetts;
  4. Thomas Jefferson
    • co-sponsored a 1769 bill to abolish slavery in Virginia
    • wrote the first draft of the law that banned slavery from the Midwest,
    • called for and signed the law that abolished the international slave trade,
    • wrote the most influential antislavery book in American history,
    • drafted a bill (which failed by one vote in Congress) that would have banned slavery from most of today's Deep South,
    • and wrote the part of the Declaration of Independence that says "all men are created equal";
  5. Robert Livingston's history is less known to Kevin, but Robert's relatives and political allies in New York were involved in antislavery, which led to abolition of New York slavery under a 1799 law signed by his friend, Governor John Jay.

🗒️ NOTE:
In case you want to know more about Jefferson and blacks, I recommend the "Colonization" chapter in the book, "Thomas Jefferson - Revolutionary: A Radical's Struggle to Remake America, by Kevin R. C. Gutzman.


As to women: Jefferson's Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge (which he drafted for Virginia, though it was not adopted) provided for education of Virginia "children." On its face, that included girls. (Perhaps interestingly, he also said "children" included blacks--and elsewhere said it could be read to include slaves.)


America inherited Slavery from generations before we were a country, it was given to us by countries like England, and countries/tribes in Africa. From the founding it wasn't a question of "if" we would end slavery, even the South was resigned to it (eventually). It was more a question of when and how.

Do you really think that the Founding Fathers were immoral to accept the laws of the land as they existed, and then figure out how to extricate themselves from the more unsavory ones as soon as was possible? Their choice was to live under the laws of England (which had slavery), or to fight for independence, create a nation, then fix that problem over time. If they refused the idea of slavery in the new country, then we would not have been a single country at all. The likely outcome of two or more countries would have been to be taken over, one at a time, by the colonial powers.

So the faux moral superiority of the Dunning-Kruger / Social Justice Warriors is quite annoying. Not because of the positions they take of thinking slavery was a bad thing: which we virtually all agree with -- but they do so from a position of ignorance, and omitting key context to understand what was going on. Or worse, they know the actual history of what they are talking about, and are intentionally misleading (committing lies of omission and commission) to further their cause. But I give them the benefit of the doubt by attributing ignorance instead of malice.


📚 References