I’ll never fully understand it.
Despite the robust, centuries-long (let’s be real, millennia-long) custom of slavery on every continent of this planet of all languages, cultures, skin colors, races, religions, and everything in between—somehow the United States and its comparatively short-lived and comparatively tiny* foray into slavery always ends up as the scapegoat.
We alone are held responsible.
And, any good that has come, is coming, and will come of this great nation is forever nullified by the fact that many of those first Americans—yes, including some of the Founders—owned slaves.
So what that the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were and continue to be two of the most radically AMAZING, liberating, freeing documents the world has ever seen. So what that these two documents unleashed the raw potential of a FREE human being unlike anything ever had before. Never mind all the good their authors—our Founders—did both for this country, and eventually for the cause of abolition itself.
You know, ‘cuz the scumbags owned slaves.
And apparently, that argument is no longer good enough. It doesn’t go FAR enough.
Meet The 1619 Project, courtesy of The New York Times Magazine. The project, as the magazine puts it, is “a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
The project contains pieces like “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true” and “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation,” reads another.
(The irony seems lost on The Times as they force me to create an account that will only allow me to read a scant few of these articles before I have to start paying for it. Selfish capitalist pigs.)
Look, many of the stories are hard to read. And rightfully so.
They are stories of immense physical and emotional pain. From pictures of iron shackles used to restrain captured children, to the painful stories memorialized by those who endured the horrors of slave ships and survived… it’s awful. Slavery was, is, and always will be, a horrid stain on this earth.
Question: who’s arguing that slavery WASN’T a scourge on this country and this earth? Who’s arguing that those 400,000 slaves and their descendants DIDN’T help build the country? Who’s arguing that the Founders didn’t own slaves? Who?
But a casual read of this dramatic project would have the average reader believe that not only does the vast majority of white Americans not know about how awful slavery was, but that slavery’s legacy is still institutionalized—beginning from our Founding and continuing today.
And here’s the project’s pièce de résistance: our founders fought for their freedom primarily “because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”
I actually felt my blood boil reading that line.
The rewriting of history here is so brazenly devious. It’s like fingernails scraping down the dusty surface of the proverbial chalkboard—except much more destructive.
It’s actually a bit funny, if you can get through the screeching nail-dragging. The writer of states that the Founders fought the revolution in order to PRESERVE slavery, right? And yet in the very next breath, the writer goes to great lengths to talk about how Jefferson, after having penned words about inalienable rights and God-given freedoms, tried to blame America’s slavery sin on England:
“Jefferson and the other founders were keenly aware of this hypocrisy. And so in Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence, he tried to argue that it wasn’t the colonists’ fault. Instead, he blamed the king of England for forcing the institution of slavery on the unwilling colonists and called the trafficking in human beings a crime.”
So…let me see get this straight: Thomas Jefferson and his pals decided to challenge the world’s then-superpower to a literal WAR, in which every last one of them stood to lose EVERYTHING (including their own lives) if they failed … and they decided to start out by blaming the King of England for making the Founders take on what they now wanted to protect?
Oh and while asserting that Jefferson tried blaming slavery on England, the writer simultaneously tries to argue that England’s calls for abolition rose loudly above the American Revolution. Um-yeah, for the record, nobody in England got serious about abolishing slavery until 1787, which, for those keeping tracking, was a full five years after we won the Revolutionary War.
(If you’ve lost track as The New York Times twists itself into a pretzel of contradictory statements in its effort to paint the United States in the WORST possible light, don’t worry. You’re not alone)
But I’ve digressed.
The whole crock is a DEMONSTRABLY false narrative.
Allow me to…demonstrate:
Thomas Jefferson actually wanted to address the concept of slavery in the Declaration of Independence.
This clause sparked a huge debate, and in order to get the buy-in of colonies where the slave trade was the strongest, they struck it from the document. But—Jefferson and other Founders OWNED slaves, so what gives? See #2:
Not only was slavery an established part of society (and something that many of these men inherited from their fathers before them) some laws made it difficult to simply free slaves.
This is where things get sticky. “Actions speak louder than words,” someone wrote in response to an article I posted containing the anti-slavery stances of several of our Founders. Well, yes—but here’s the deal: the Founders had just help defeat a massive government, and had taken immense care to prevent another all-powerful centralized government from emerging. There was a very real concern that the whole thing could fail if they weren’t careful with the power of the federal government. The argument wasn’t simply anti-slavery and pro-slavery; it was also about the role of the federal government in telling states what they could and couldn’t do. Questioning the institution of slavery would have been such new a concept that it wouldn’t have necessarily been clear whether or not it was in the federal government’s purview.
Every state had different laws affecting how and when slaves could be freed (laws of manumission”).
As one of many examples, “according to Virginia law [where Jefferson and Washington lived], slaves freed after May 1806 were required to leave the state within one year or face reenslavement”—which gave the freed slaves little recourse. Of the slaves Jefferson did free in his lifetime and at his death, he had to petition the Virginia government for special permission to do it. Similarly, “by law, neither George nor Martha [Custis] Washington could free the Custis dower slaves.” Instead, they were required to pass them on to their family.
They also wanted to change the laws as part of the permanent process. As Washington said with the same breath as he decried 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.”
Yeah yeah, but actions DO speak louder than words. Cheap talk, that’s all. Why didn’t he just DO it instead of TALK about it?
We also have to understand that—while a hugely significant factor—it wasn’t JUST about the laws. It’s unsavory (especially when viewed through today’s eyes), but slavery was so very much a part of the economic fabric of society and the functioning of daily life. The fact that many of our Founders were even entertaining the idea of trying to end it is a testament to their true realization that their new nation was contradicting itself with its practices; practices that flew squarely in the face of those hallowed words: “all men are created equal.”
It was a start. A good one.
The controversial “three-fifths” clause of the Constitution actually helped to END slavery.
In 1787 when Congress ratified the Constitution, they did so with a clause that categorized slaves as just three-fifths of a person. As apparently dehumanizing as that seems to us today, that’s not what it was intended to do. “Rather,” as Erik Jenson writes, “it addresses whether and how slaves should be counted for the purpose of determining the number of representatives in Congress.”
Had pro-slavery states been allowed to count each slave as one whole person, their majority in Congress would have been permanent—thus permanently ending the debate. These states didn’t love the idea of reducing their representation in Congress, but they got at tax liability break out of it so they went along.
To recap, the three-fifths clause did two things: helped to prevent a permanent pro-slavery majority in Congress, and recognized slaves as humans. That was huge.
Slavery was banned in new territories beyond the original colonies—thus preventing its expansion.
Slavery north of the Ohio River was prohibited with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Thomas Jefferson had actually wanted ALL expansion west of the Appalachian Mountains to be free of slavery with an ordinance he proposed in 1784 (why would he do that if he wanted to preserve slavery?)—but the Northwest Ordinance that ultimately result was again, a start.
We don’t heal wrongs by telling lies.
What this idiotic New York Times series does is pick at the wounds of racial divide by blending real tragedies alongside revisionist (and flat-out false) history to perpetuate the FALSE idea that we’re no farther along now than we were then. And with chaos comes great opportunity: to finally conquer and kill America as founded; to finally do away with the VALUES and the IDEAS that made us who we ALL are today.
Don’t let them do it.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com, and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show on KSEV 700 Radio in Houston, and on Newsmax TV. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree