Their Own Words: Slavery and America’s Founding Fathers
- Posted by Renee Nal
- On July 4, 2020
- 0 Comments
- Amy Mek, Benjamin Franklin, Black Lives Matter, founding fathers, founding fathers view of slavery, George Floyd, James Wilson, John Quincy Adams, Marxism, RAIR, RAIR Foundation, RAIR Foundation USA, Slavery and America, The founding fathers had slaves, Which founding fathers had slaves
This article has been partially reprinted from TrevorLoudon.com, with permission.
The most powerful tool in the Marxist toolbox is lies. Lies lead people of goodwill down inconceivable paths. In nazi Germany, it was lies that convinced Jewish people to get on the trains to their deaths. In America, lies about the founding of America are used to slander the founding fathers and to indoctrinate young people into hating the most benevolent, kindest, most prosperous country that ever existed.
The best lies contain a grain of truth. Black Lives Matter is effective because black lives DO matter. But it is based on the lie that black Americans are being hunted. Outliers such as the death of George Floyd are essential in the Marxist desire to spark revolution.
In the case of the founding fathers, the grain of truth is that some did indeed have slaves. But the lie is that founding fathers were pro-slavery. Anyone who seeks the truth will find it if they look to source documents, not progressively scrubbed history books.
Slavery was not introduced by the founding fathers – it had been in America for well over a century by the time the founding documents were conceived. Many of the founders abhorred slavery, but since it was deeply intertwined with the economy and since the slaves themselves were vulnerable to external forces, many advocated for a “gradual abolition”, but an abolition was required as not only did the practice conflict with the founding documents, but the practiced conflicted with Christianity.
From the Jamestown Rediscovery Project:
“A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in 1619. The Africans became indentured servants, similar in legal position to many poor Englishmen who traded several years labor in exchange for passage to America.” (emphasis added)
These black and white indentured servants stayed in America after they payed their “debt”. One of the original African indentured servants, often cited as the “first slave”, is John Punch, and can be traced back to Barack Obama’s white mother Ann Dunham.
According to the Jamestown study, “[T]he popular conception of a racial-based slave system did not develop until the 1680’s.”
By the time the founding fathers were born, slavery was accepted as the norm and would not be easy to overturn. Before the founding fathers, there was little effort to stop slavery.
That all changed with the Revolution, the “Father of the American Revolution”, was against slavery (Samuel Adams) and helped to change the tone of a nation. Some of the founders complained that slavery was an evil pushed onto the colonies by England.
So the question is, what did the founding fathers actually say about slavery?
In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote,
“He [King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. . .”
He also stated,
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.”
Joseph Reed, Revolutionary Officer; Governor of Pennsylvania
“Honored will that State be in the annals of history which shall first abolish this violation of the rights of mankind.”
Samuel Adams, Signer of the Declaration,
“But to the eye of reason, what can be more clear than that all men have an equal right to happiness? Nature made no other distinction than that of higher or lower degrees of power of mind and body. . . . Were the talents and virtues which Heaven has bestowed on men given merely to make them more obedient drudges? . . . No! In the judgment of heaven there is no other superiority among men than a superiority of wisdom and virtue.”
James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution
“Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power in the master over the life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common law. . . . The reasons which we sometimes see assigned for the origin and the continuance of slavery appear, when examined to the bottom, to be built upon a false foundation. In the enjoyment of their persons and of their property, the common law protects all.”
From Benjamin Franklin, (1773) lamenting that the British government wanted slavery, even as America opposed it…
“. . a disposition to abolish slavery prevails in North America, that many of Pennsylvanians have set their slaves at liberty, and that even the Virginia Assembly have petitioned the King for permission to make a law for preventing the importation of more into that colony. This request, however, will probably not be granted as their former laws of that kind have always been repealed.”
John Quincy Adams, July 4th, 1837
“The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction than by the author of the Declaration himself.”
Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress, lamenting Georgia, North and South Carolina’s continued support for slavery:
“Even the sacred Scriptures had been quoted to justify this iniquitous traffic. It is true that the Egyptians held the Israelites in bondage for four hundred years, . . . but . . . gentlemen cannot forget the consequences that followed: they were delivered by a strong hand and stretched-out arm and it ought to be remembered that the Almighty Power that accomplished their deliverance is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”
Richard Henry Lee, Signer of the Declaration
“Christianity, by introducing into Europe the truest principles of humanity, universal benevolence, and brotherly love, had happily abolished civil slavery. Let us who profess the same religion practice its precepts . . . by agreeing to this duty.”
James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution:
“Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power in the master over the life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common law”
John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration:
“It is certainly unlawful to make inroads upon others . . . and take away their liberty by no better means than superior power.”
John Adams, US President, Signer of the Bill of Rights, in a letter to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley (1801)
“…my opinion against it has always been known, and my practice has been so conformable to my sentiments that I have always employed freemen, both as domestics and laborers, and never in my life did I own a slave. The abolition of slavery must be gradual, and accomplished with much caution and circumspection. Violent means and measures would produce greater violations of justice and humanity than the continuance of the practice.”
Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the Declaration, Signer of the Constitution (1772)
“I am glad to hear that the disposition against keeping negroes grows more general in North America. Several pieces have been lately printed here against the practice, and I hope in time it will be taken into consideration and suppressed by the legislature.”
“That mankind are all formed by the same Almighty Being, alike objects of his care, and equally designed for the enjoyment of happiness, the Christian religion teaches us to believe, and the political creed of Americans fully coincides with the position. . . . [We] earnestly entreat your serious attention to the subject of slavery – that you will be pleased to countenance the restoration of liberty to those unhappy men who alone in this land of freedom are degraded into perpetual bondage and who . . . are groaning in servile subjection.”
Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Senator from Maryland, State Senator in Maryland
“Why keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be a great evil.”
Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration,
“Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity. . . . It is rebellion against the authority of a common Father. It is a practical denial of the extent and efficacy of the death of a common Savior. It is an usurpation of the prerogative of the great Sovereign of the universe who has solemnly claimed an exclusive property in the souls of men.”
“The commerce in African slaves has breathed its last in Pennsylvania. I shall send you a copy of our late law respecting that trade as soon as it is published. I am encouraged by the success that has finally attended the exertions of the friends of universal freedom and justice.”
John Jay, President of Continental Congress,
“That men should pray and fight for their own freedom and yet keep others in slavery is certainly acting a very inconsistent, as well as unjust and perhaps impious, part.”
Noah Webster, Responsible for Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution:
“Justice and humanity require it. Christianity commands it…pray for the glorious period when the last slave who fights for freedom shall be restored to the possession of that inestimable right.”
“that it is my wish to hold the unhappy people who are the subject of this letter, in slavery. I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it — but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, & that is by Legislative authority: and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting.”
It is anti-intellectual to reduce the founding fathers to mere “slave-owners”. In fact, the founding fathers laid the foundation for America to claw it’s way out of slavery. All Americans should be warned that those who push a false narrative about the intent and nature of the founding fathers’ view of slavery are cherry-picking history and have their own anti-American agenda. Always read the source documents. Seek to understand the context of the time.
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