Monday, July 4, 2016

Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? - The New York Times

Image result for flag of the continental army
As to the several sorts of servants: I have formerly observed that pure and proper slavery does not, nay cannot, subsist in England; such I mean, whereby an absolute and unlimited power is given to the master over the life and fortune of the slave. And indeed it is repugnant to reason, and the principles of natural law, that such a state should subsist any where.
Judge William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England - 1765
The Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress, and its army - led by George Washington - were on the wrong side to the campaign to end slavery. I hesitated to write this post because it is a bit churlish on Independence Day to point out that hypocrisy is a highly developed art form in our history. But while we celebrate the magnificent generalities of the Declaration we should remember the rest of the declaration of July 4, 1776. Jefferson, like any educated man of the times, had absorbed the lessons of Aristotle’s rhetoric. The two key points are the first and the last.

He began with All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain Unalienable rights."    He soon moves a catalog of twenty seven grievances. Building to a climax is the denunciation of the injustices of the tyrant King George III ends with “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

“Domestic rebellions” is a euphemism for slave rebellions, which the slave owners of sainted memory, our Founding Fathers were determined to suppress. Their rights to import, own, buy, sell human beings would soon be embedded in the Constitution of 1787. When in 1863 emancipation was declared its legal basis was confiscation of enemy contraband. Only with the Fourteenth Amendment were the former slaves promised the equal protection of the law; with the Fifteenth Amendment they were granted political rights. But of course those promises were betrayed for another century. And today clinging to individual rights Americans live largely in denial of any obligation to the heirs of those deprived of life, liberty, and property. -GWC
Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? - The New York Times
by Prof. Robert G. Parkinson (Binghamton University) July 4,2016

FOR more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights.

The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right....

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