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The Founders and Slavery, the truth.
Did you know?

See also Black Founders and Heroes of the Anti-Slavery movement

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Did you know? Benjamin Franklin was president of America's first anti-slavery society. Franklin's last public act was to petition Congress on February 3, 1790, to abolish slavery, urging them to "devise means for removing the inconsistency from the character of the American People" and to "promote mercy and justice toward this distressed race."

When Congress was debating slavery, Ben Franklin became President of Pennsylvania's Society for the Abolition of Slavery, America's first anti-slavery society. On March 23, 1790, in his last published letter (Federal Gazette), Franklin condemned the Southern State's economic argument for continuing slavery by satirically comparing them to the Muslim pirates who enslaved Christians: "If we cease our cruises against Christians, how shall we...make slaves of their people...to cultivate our land...to perform common labors...Must we be our own slaves: And is there not more compassion due to us as Mussulmen than to these Christian dogs. We have now about 50,000 slaves in and near Algiers...If we then cease taking and plundering the infidel ships and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation."

How to Understand Slavery and the American Founding by Matthew Spalding, Ph.D. - Slavery was indeed the imperfection that marred the American Founding. Those who founded this nation chose to make practical compromises for the sake of establishing in principle a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. "The inconsistency of the institution of slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented," John Quincy Adams readily admitted in 1837. Nevertheless, he argued: no charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge. Never from their lips was heard one syllable of attempt to justify the institution of slavery. They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence slavery, in common with every mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth. "In the way our Fathers originally left the slavery question, the institution was in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind rested in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction," Abraham Lincoln observed in 1858. "All I have asked or desired anywhere, is that it should be placed back again upon the basis that the Fathers of our government originally placed it upon."

Were the Founders Committed to Eradicating Slavery? By Mike Kelsey -- Were the founders really committed to eradicating slavery? It is commonplace to dismiss the Founders as racists who may have attacked slavery from time to time in writing but never in action. Critics of the Founders often claim that, since the Constitution did not abolish slavery, the Founders were unconcerned with actively fighting the institution in their lifetime, even if they may have wanted slavery to disappear at some vague point in the future. This argument is both misguided and naive. On this day in 1787, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which established the first official U.S. territory. Together with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance is one of the four "organic laws" of the United States and, as such, is critical for understanding the Founders, actual views concerning slavery. The final article of the ordinance declares unwaveringly that "there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory." By a firm majority, Congress had officially repudiated slavery. Significantly, the resolution caused five states to enter the Union as free states (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin). Furthermore, the ordinance was reaffirmed by the newly created U.S. Congress in 1789, two years after the ratification of the Constitution. The Northwest Ordinance reveals that, despite the compromises they made to preserve the Union, the Founders were firmly committed to immediately halting the spread of and eventually eradicating the institution of slavery. Posted in FeaturedFirst Principles

(Related: Why Only Democrats and Liberals Should Feel White Guilt It baffles me that we're taught that Democrats are the civil rights champions. They are absolutely the opposite. First of all, the Republican party was created to be the party against slavery because the Democrats were pro-slavery, and good people knew it was un-Christian and morally wrong. Lincoln was a Republican, and not in "name only" as so-called scholars are teaching on campuses across the country.  You'd never know it by how Republicans are portrayed now, but we were THE anti-slavery party, and we still are. The very first Republican president freed the slaves and was hated for it. He was consequentially murdered by a Democrat. (See ASTONISHING HISTORY OF DEMOCRAT RACISM Democrats have ALWAYS been the Party of Slavery and Racism & The Klu Klux Klan was created by the democrats for the express reason of terrorizing blacks and republicans in the south to prevent them from voting, and that every known Klansman that were members of congress have been democrats and the history of Republicans doing everything they could to block Democratic racism.)

The Constitution Did Not Condone Slavery by Ken Blackwell: Abraham Lincoln revered the Constitution and said that the fact that it nowhere mentioned the words slavery, slave, African, or Negro was a silent but powerful admission that the Founders were ashamed of the existence of slavery among them. They hid it away, Lincoln said, as "an afflicted man hides a wen or tumor." Abolitionist editor and orator Frederick Douglass also did not agree. He emphasized eloquently that not one word would have to be changed in the Constitution if only the states would follow George Washington's example and voluntarily give up slavery. Lincoln and Douglass were right.

James Madison explained why there was no mention of slavery in the Constitution. The framers were unwilling to admit in the federal charter there could be property in men. The idea that our Constitution "condoned" slavery and was therefore an immoral document unworthy of being viewed with reverence is a stock liberal claim. It is false. Most of the Founders wanted to abolish the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Jefferson had denounced that "execrable traffic" in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence. But South Carolina and Georgia delegates would not go along and, significantly, some in New England recognized the powerful influence of merchants whose ships included slavers.

...When, as President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson urged Congress to act before January 1, 1808 to ban the Slave Trade, he denounced it in the strongest language ever used by any president prior to Lincoln. He called it a violation of the "human rights of unoffending Africans." The great work of William Wilberforce in abolishing the Slave Trade in the British Empire would have been fruitless unless Jefferson had acted simultaneously in America.

Then, there's the Post's ritual repeating of the falsehood that the Founders viewed black people as "three fifths of a person." That is a wholly tendentious misreading of the Three-Fifths Clause. Don Fehrenbacher is a leading authority on this. In his penetrating study, The Slaveholding Republic, he writes: "[The] fraction 'three-fifths' had no racial meaning. It did not represent a perception of blacks as three-fifths human." It was a compromise on methods of levying taxes and apportioning representation in Congress. Further, the Three-Fifths Compromise reduced the power in Congress of slaveholding states while giving an electoral bonus to any state that voluntarily emancipated its slaves. When seven of the original thirteen states abolished slavery, they were allowed to count free black people in the census for purposes of representation in Congress.

It is especially galling to have liberals attack Republican Members on these matters. They forget that it was Republicans who gave us the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, those great guarantees of civil rights. Every vote cast against those amendments was cast by a Democrat. It was Republicans who passed the first anti-lynching bill in the House, in 1922. Those bills were routinely killed by Senate Democrats until 1957. The Democratic Party did much to overcome its legacy. Starting in 1948, with Mayor Hubert Humphrey's powerful call for civil rights at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, right up to Lyndon Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act that had first been offered by President Kennedy, the Democrats deserve credit. But in all that time, they were competing with a Republican Party whose civil rights credentials were solid and understood. Without Sen. Everett Dirksen's solid phalanx of Republicans, the Democrats' filibuster against the Civil Rights Act could not have been broken.

Founders Quote Database

"I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery." - Patrick Henry (letter to Robert Pleasants, 18 January 1773) Reference: The Spirit of 'Seventy-Six, Henry Commager and Richard Morris, 402.

"[Y]our late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view to emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country; but I despair of seeing it." -- George Washington (letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 10 May 1786) Reference: Washington's Maxims, 159.

"I rejoice in a belief that intellectual light will spring up in the dark corners of the earth; that freedom of enquiry will produce liberality of conduct; that mankind will reverse the absurd position that the many were, made for the few; and that they will not continue slaves in one part of the globe, when they can become freemen in another." --George Washington, draft of First Inaugural Address, 1789

American Minute for March 11th: Ben Franklin was the first president of the first anti-slavery society in the United States. In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the Midwest. Richard Bassett, a Signer of the Constitution, converted to Methodism, freed all his slaves and paid them as hired labor. John Quincy Adams fought to end slavery by removing Congress' Gag Rule. In 1807, Congress passed the Slave Importation Act, prohibiting further importation of slaves. 19 of the 34 States outlawed slavery before the Civil War: Pennsylvania 1787, New Hampshire 1788, Connecticut 1788, Massachusetts 1788, Rhode Island 1790, Vermont 1791, New York 1799, Ohio 1803, New Jersey 1804, Indiana 1816, Illinois 1818, Maine 1820, Michigan 1837, Iowa 1846, Wisconsin 1848, Minnesota 1858, Oregon 1859, California 1850 and Kansas 1861. Senator Charles Sumner's vehement stand against slavery resulted in Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina violently beating him on the head with a cane while he was seated at his desk on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Charles Sumner died MARCH 11, 1874, having never fully recovered from those injuries. Charles Sumner, who served as a Senator from Massachusetts for 23 years and helped found the Republican Party, stated: "Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible." Charles Sumner continued: "There is no reason for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the earth as the waters cover the sea."

Sumner, Charles. E.C. Lester, Life & Public Services of Charles Sumner, pp. 321, 171. Stephen Abbott Northrop, D.D., A Cloud of Witnesses (Portland, OR: American Heritage Ministries, 1987; Mantle Ministries, 228 Still Ridge, Bulverde, TX), p. 436.

March 24th: William Jay, son of the First Supreme Court Chief Justice, helped found New York City's Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. His son, John Jay, was manager of New York Young Men's Anti-Slavery Society in 1834. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story helped establish the illegality of the slave trade in the 1844 Amistad case. Salmon P. Chase, appointed Chief Justice by Lincoln, defended so many escaped slaves in his career he was nicknamed "Attorney-General of Fugitive Slaves." Cassius Marcellus Clay, diplomat to Russia for Lincoln and Grant, founded the anti-slavery journal True American in 1845 and helped found the Republican party in 1854. Rufus King, born MARCH 24, 1755, was one of the youngest signers of the U.S. Constitution, only 32 years old. A Harvard graduate, Rufus was an aide to General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War. He later served as U.S. Minister to England and was a Senator from New York. In a speech made before the Senate at the time Missouri was petitioning for statehood, Rufus King stated: "I hold that all laws or compacts imposing any such condition as slavery upon any human being are absolutely void because they are contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God." King, Rufus. M.E. Bradford, A Worthy Company (Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1982), p. 15. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. 161.

On February 21, 1848, John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke at his desk in the House chamber, shortly after making an impassioned speech against the Democrat plan of extending slavery to the Western territories won in the Mexican-American War. He died 2 days later without regaining consciousness. A bronze marker on the floor indicates where Adams's desk once stood, known at the "whispering spot" in Statuary Hall. John Quincy Adams was the only President to serve as a Congressman after having been President. Nicknamed Old Man Eloquent for speaking out against slavery, he offered a plan for its elimination. In 1841, John Qunicy Adams defended before the Supreme Court 53 Africans who had mutinied aboard the slave ship Amistad, gaining them their freedom. As African slaves were purchased at Muslim slave markets, John Quincy Adams wrote in his "Essay on Turk" (1829): "The natural hatred of the Mussulmen towards the infidels is in just accordance with the precepts of the Koran...The fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion is the extirpation of hatred from the human heart. It forbids the exercise of it, even towards enemies...In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab...spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth...He declared undistinguishing and exterminating war as a part of his religion...The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust, to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature."


Lincoln Said It Best: The Founding Fathers Opposed Slavery BY JOHN MCCORMACK - One gets the sense that some in the media are doing their best to help Michele Bachmann win the Republican nomination by attacking her over ridiculous kerfuffles. The latest example involves her claim that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly" to end slavery. On Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos told Bachmann that her claim is "just not true": 

Stephanopoulos: The Pulitzer Prize winning website, Politifact, has found that you have the worst record of making false statements of any of the leading contenders. And I wondered if you wanted to take a chance to clear up some of your past statements. For example earlier this year you said that the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence worked tirelessly to end slavery. Now with respect Congresswoman, that's just not true. Many of them including Jefferson and Washington were actually slave holders and slavery didn't end until the Civil War.

Pressed on the issue, Bachmann replied, "Well if you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that's absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father's secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery." Citing only John Quincy Adams may have not made for the strongest argument, as Bachmann herself noted that he was a young boy during the revolution. But in arguing that the Founding Fathers worked to end slavery, Bachmann is on solid ground. She follows in the footsteps of the first Republican president.

The Founders put slavery on the path to ultimate extinction, Abraham Lincoln said. But the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 threatened to bring about slavery's resurgence by opening up new territories to slaveowning. In 1854, Lincoln made this argument in a series of speeches on behalf of candidates opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. "In these addresses Lincoln set forth the themes that he would carry into the presidency six years later," writes Princeton's James M. McPherson in the Battle Cry of Freedom. McPherson summarizes Lincoln's argument:

The founding fathers, said Lincoln, had opposed slavery. They adopted a Declaration of Independence that pronounced all men created equal. They enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 banning slavery from the vast Northwest Territory. To be sure, many of the founders owned slaves. But they asserted their hostility to slavery in principle while tolerating it temporarily (as they hoped) in practice. That was why they did not mention the words "slave" or "slavery" in the Constitution, but referred only to "persons held to service." "Thus, the thing is hid away, in the constitution," said Lincoln, "just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time." The first step was to prevent the spread of this cancer, which the fathers took with the Northwest Ordinance, the prohibition of the African slave trade in 1807, and the Missouri Compromise restriction of 1820. The second was to begin a process of gradual emancipation, which the generation of the fathers had accomplished in the states north of Maryland. 

Here's what Lincoln said of the Founding Fathers in his 1854 Peoria speech:

The argument of "Necessity" was the only argument they ever admitted in favor of slavery; and so far, and so far only as it carried them, did they ever go. They found the institution existing among us, which they could not help; and they cast blame upon the British King for having permitted its introduction. BEFORE the constitution, they prohibited its introduction into the north-western Territory---the only country we owned, then free from it. AT the framing and adoption of the constitution, they forbore to so much as mention the word "slave" or "slavery" in the whole instrument. In the provision for the recovery of fugitives, the slave is spoken of as a "PERSON HELD TO SERVICE OR LABOR." In that prohibiting the abolition of the African slave trade for twenty years, that trade is spoken of as "The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States NOW EXISTING, shall think proper to admit," &c. These are the only provisions alluding to slavery. Thus, the thing is hid away, in the constitution, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time. Less than this our fathers COULD not do; and NOW [MORE?] they WOULD not do. Necessity drove them so far, and farther, they would not go. But this is not all. The earliest Congress, under the constitution, took the same view of slavery. They hedged and hemmed it in to the narrowest limits of necessity.

In 1794, they prohibited an out-going slave-trade---that is, the taking of slaves FROM the United States to sell.

In 1798, they prohibited the bringing of slaves from Africa, INTO the Mississippi Territory---this territory then comprising what are now the States of Mississippi and Alabama. This was TEN YEARS before they had the authority to do the same thing as to the States existing at the adoption of the constitution.

In 1800 they prohibited AMERICAN CITIZENS from trading in slaves between foreign countries---as, for instance, from Africa to Brazil.

In 1803 they passed a law in aid of one or two State laws, in restraint of the internal slave trade.

In 1807, in apparent hot haste, they passed the law, nearly a year in advance to take effect the first day of 1808---the very first day the constitution would permit---prohibiting the African slave trade by heavy pecuniary and corporal penalties.

 In 1820, finding these provisions ineffectual, they declared the trade piracy, and annexed to it, the extreme penalty of death. While all this was passing in the general government, five or six of the original slave States had adopted systems of gradual emancipation; and by which the institution was rapidly becoming extinct within these limits.

Thus we see, the plain unmistakable spirit of that age, towards slavery, was hostility to the PRINCIPLE, and toleration, ONLY BY NECESSITY.

In Lincoln's famous 1860 Cooper Union speech, he noted that of the 39 framers of the Constitution, 22 had voted on the question of banning slavery in the new territories. Twenty of the 22 voted to ban it, while another one of the Constitution's framers--George Washington--signed into law legislation enforcing the Northwest Ordinance that banned slavery in the Northwest Territories. At Cooper Union, Lincoln also quoted Thomas Jefferson, who had argued in favor of Virginia emancipation: "It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation, and deportation, peaceably, and in such slow degrees, as that the evil will wear off insensibly...." 

To be sure, the Founding Fathers weren't abolitionists. But they were overwhelmingly antislavery.

I eagerly await George Stephanopoulos's "fact check" of Honest Abe.

("Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." Abraham Lincoln )


PatriotPost.us Founder's Quotes

"Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States....I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in...abhorrence." John Adams (letter to Evans, 8 June 1819) Reference: Vindicating the Founders, West (5); original  Selected Writings of John and John Quicny Adams, Koch and Peden (209)

"[T]here is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery]." George Washington (letter to Robert Morris, 12 April 1786) Reference: Washington's Maxims, 157.

"[Y]our late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view to emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country; but I despair of seeing it." George Washington (letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 10 May 1786) Reference: Washington's Maxims, 159.

"I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery."  Patrick Henry (letter to Robert Pleasants, 18 January 1773) Reference: The Spirit of 'Seventy-Six, Henry Commager and Richard Morris, 402.

For a complete database of Founders' quotes on various topics, link to the Internet's most comprehensive resource page on our Founding documents http://PatriotPost.US/histdocs/ and select Founders Quote Database.


Valentine's Day: A Day to Remember Frederick Douglass by Nick Rizzuto - On July 5th of 1852 (before the civil War), Douglass, who referred to himself as a "black, dyed in the wool Republican," addressed the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York. During his passionate speech, Douglass said, "Take the Constitution according to its plain reading. I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it." Douglass continued his Independence Day address by proclaiming that, "Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document." ...What makes Douglass' praise for the constitution even more unlikely was that he did so according to its "plain reading"; or in other words, as it had been written. He spoke these words before America fought a Civil War to decide once and for all the issue of slavery and even before a single piece of Civil Rights legislation had passed through congress. Douglass did not complain about the lack of specifics in the constitution that indicated what the government "must do on your behalf," as then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama famously did in a 2001 interview. Nor did he decry that it was a "charter of negative libertie" which, as President Obama has stated he believes, "represented the bias of the founders."


Thomas Sowell

Stop "Making a Difference" By Thomas Sowell - [M]any who repeat the giving back mantra would sneer at any such notion as patriotism or any idea that the institutions and values of American society have accomplished worthy things and deserve their support, instead of their undermining. Our educational system, from the schools to the universities, are actively undermining any sense of loyalty to the traditions, institutions and values of American society. They are not giving back anything except condemnation, often depicting sins common to the human race around the world as peculiar evils of our society. A classic example is slavery, which is repeatedly drummed into our heads in the schools and in the media as something unique done by white people to black people in the United States. The tragic fact is that, for thousands of years of recorded history, people of every race and color have been both slaves and enslavers. The Europeans enslaved on the Barbary Coast of North Africa alone were far more numerous than all the Africans brought to the United States and to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. What was unique about Western civilization was that it was the first civilization to turn against slavery, and that it stamped out slavery not only in its own societies but in other societies around the world during the era of Western imperialism. That process took well over a century, because non-Western societies resisted... Those who want to give back should give back the truth. It is a debt that is long overdue.

"This is a long story and it is covered in a long essay titled 'The Real History of Slavery' in my book 'Black Rednecks, White Liberals.' Thomas Sowell

Black Rednecks, White Liberals by Thomas Sowell The question arises as to why America's Founder's established "all men are created equal," while at the same time allowing slavery to continue? From the words of the Founders, it appears they feared a race war as being more of an evil consequence then slavery, after witnessing the what happened in Santa Domingo (now Haiti). So they instead hoped slavery would be progressively eradicated more peacefully rather than by violence. Slavery is not based on racism, but on vulnerability. It was based on religion at times, but also regardless of race. Not only did whites enslave whites, and blacks enslaved blacks, and Asians enslaved Asians, Europeans also enslaved other Europeans, Africans enslaved other Africans, and Arabs enslaved other Arabs, who were vulnerable, regardless of race. Also, Christians had slaves, as well as Buddhists had slaves, and the Muslim's Koran accepts slavery as an institution.

------------------------------------

The Founding Fathers and Slavery by David Barton

Even though the issue of slavery is often raised as a discrediting charge against the Founding Fathers, the historical fact is that slavery was not the product of, nor was it an evil introduced by, the Founding Fathers; slavery had been introduced to America nearly two centuries before the Founders. ...The Revolution was the turning point in the national attitude-and it was the Founding Fathers who contributed greatly to that change. In fact, many of the Founders vigorously complained against the fact that Great Britain had forcefully imposed upon the Colonies the evil of slavery.

For example, Thomas Jefferson heavily criticized that British policy: 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. . . . Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce [that is, he has opposed efforts to prohibit the slave trade].

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1773 letter to Dean Woodward, confirmed that whenever the Americans had attempted to end slavery, the British government had indeed thwarted those attempts. Franklin explained that . . .. . . 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.

Further confirmation that even the Virginia Founders were not responsible for slavery, but actually tried to dismantle the institution, was provided by John Quincy Adams (known as the "hell-hound of abolition" for his extensive efforts against that evil). Adams explained: 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 [Jefferson]. No charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge. Never from their lips was heard one syllable of attempt to justify the institution of slavery. They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country [Great Britain] and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth. Such was the undoubting conviction of Jefferson to his dying day. In the Memoir of His Life, written at the age of seventy-seven, he gave to his countrymen the solemn and emphatic warning that the day was not distant when they must hear and adopt the general emancipation of their slaves. Click here for complete column.

A Southern View of Black History? (WallBuilders) Today, most Americans are taught Black History from a southern point of view. That is, they are exposed to the slave trade and the atrocities of slavery that were common in the South but hear nearly nothing about the many positive things that occurred in the North. For example, who has been taught about Wentworth Cheswell -- the first black elected to office in America, in 1768 in New Hampshire? Or the election of Black American Thomas Hercules to office in Pennsylvania in 1793? Or that in Massachusetts, blacks routinely voted in colonial elections? Or that when the Constitution was ratified in Maryland, more Blacks than Whites voted in Baltimore? Such stories are absent from textbooks today.
   History is properly to teach the good, the bad, and the ugly -- all of it; but students today usually get only the bad and the ugly, rarely the good. For example, students are regularly told that the first load of slaves sailed up the James River in Virginia in 1619 and thus slavery was introduced into America, but few learn about the first slaves that arrived in the Massachusetts Colony set up by the Christian Pilgrims and Puritans. When that slave ship arrived in Massachusetts, the ship�s officers were arrested and imprisoned, and the kidnapped slaves were returned to Africa at the Colony�s expense. That positive side of history is untold today.
   Similarly, most Americans are unaware that American colonies passed anti-slavery laws before the American Revolution, but that those laws were vetoed by Great Britain, who insisted on the continuance of slavery in America. In fact, several Founders who owned slaves while British citizens freed them once America declared her independence. Sadly, we have been taught to identify Founding Fathers who owned slaves but are unaware of the greater number who opposed slavery or worked with anti-slavery societies. 

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson & Slavery in Virginia by David Barton - It is ironic that two prominent Founding Fathers who owned (inherited) slaves (Thomas Jefferson and George Washington) were both early, albeit unsuccessful, pioneers in the movement to end slavery in their State and in the nation. Both Washington and Jefferson were raised in Virginia, a geographic part of the country in which slavery had been an entrenched cultural institution. In fact, at the time of the Founders, the morality of slavery had rarely been questioned; and in the 150 years following the introduction of slavery into Virginia by Dutch traders in 1619, there had been few voices raised in objection.

...As Jefferson and Washington sought to liberalize the State's slavery laws to make it easier to free slaves, the State Legislature went in exactly the opposite direction, passing laws making it more difficult to free slaves. (As one example, Washington was able to circumvent State laws by freeing his slaves in his will at his death in 1799; by the time of Jefferson's death in 1826, State laws had so stiffened that it had become virtually impossible for Jefferson to use the same means.) What today have become the almost unknown views and forgotten efforts of both Washington and Jefferson to end slavery in their State and in the nation should be reviewed.

...Not only was Washington born into a world in which slavery was accepted, but he himself became a slave owner at the tender age of 11 when his father died, leaving him slaves as an inheritance. As other family members deceased, Washington inherited even more slaves. ...Yet, not only did Washington refuse to sell slaves or to break up their families but he also felt a genuine responsibility to take care of the slaves he held until there was, according to his own words, a "plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished." One proof of his commitment to care for his slaves regardless of the cost to himself was his order that: Negroes must be clothed and fed . . . whether anything is made or not. 18 Not only did George Washington commit himself to caring for his slaves and to seeking a legal remedy by which they might be freed in his State but he also took the leadership in doing so on the national level. In fact, the first federal racial civil rights law in America was passed on August 7, 1789, with the endorsing signature of President George Washington.

...Jefferson, too, sought similar goals, but by living twenty-seven years longer than Washington, Jefferson faced additional hostile State laws which Washington had not. But before reviewing Jefferson's words and actions regarding slavery, a brief review of the overall trend of the laws of Virginia on the subject are in order. In 1692, Virginia passed a law that placed an economic burden on any slave owner who released his slaves, thus discouraging owners from freeing their slaves. That law declared: [N]o Negro or mulatto slave shall be set free, unless the emancipator pays for his transportation out of the country within six months. 24 (Subsequent laws imposed additional provisions that a slave could not be freed unless the slave owner guaranteed a security bond for the education, livelihood, and support of the freed slave in order to ensure that the former slave would not become a burden to the community or to the society. 25 Not only did such laws place extreme economic hardships on any slave owner who tried to free his slaves but they also provided stiff penalties for any slave owner who attempted to free slaves without abiding by these laws.)

...In 1782, however, Virginia began to move in a new direction (for a short time) by passing a very liberal manumission law. As a result, "this restraint on the power of the master to emancipate his slave was removed, and since that time the master may emancipate by his last will or deed." 27 (It was because of this law that George Washington was able to free his slaves in his last will and testament in 1799.)

...Furthermore, recall that Virginia law did not recognize slave families. Therefore, if a slave was freed, the law made it almost impossible for him to remain near his spouse, children, or his family members who had not been freed, for the law required that a freed slave promptly depart the State or else reenter slavery: If any slave hereafter emancipated shall remain within this Commonwealth more than twelve months after his or her right to freedom shall have accrued, he or she shall forfeit all such right and may be apprehended and sold. 31 It was under difficult laws like these-under laws even more restrictive than those Washington had faced-that Jefferson was required to operate. Nevertheless, as a slave owner (he, like Washington, had inherited slaves), Jefferson maintained a consistent public opposition to slavery and assiduously labored to end slavery both in his State and in the nation. Jefferson's efforts to end slavery were manifested years before the American Revolution. As he explained: In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live [Albemarle County, Virginia], and so continued until it was closed by the Revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal [crown] government, nothing [like this] could expect success. 32

...Significantly, Thomas Jefferson helped end slavery in several States by his leadership on the Declaration of Independence, and he was even behind the first attempt to end slavery nationally. In 1784, Jefferson introduced a law in the national Continental Congress to abolish slavery in every State in America. His proposal had stated: That after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty. 36 Unfortunately, Jefferson's law fell one vote short of passage.

...Nearly twenty-five years later, Jefferson bemoaned that ending slavery had been a task even more difficult than he had imagined. In 1805, he lamented: I have long since given up the expectation of any early provision for the extinguishment of slavery among us. [While] there are many virtuous men who would make any sacrifices to affect it, many equally virtuous persuade themselves either that the thing is not wrong or that it cannot be remedied. 38 Jefferson eventually recognized that slavery probably would never be ended during his lifetime. However, this did not keep him from continually encouraging others in their efforts to end slavery. For example, in 1814, he wrote Edward Coles: Dear Sir, -Your favor of July 31 [a treatise opposing slavery] was duly received and was read with peculiar pleasure. The sentiments breathed through the whole do honor to both the head and heart of the writer. Mine on the subject of slavery of Negroes have long since been in possession of the public and time has only served to give them stronger root. The love of justice and the love of country plead equally the cause of these people, and it is a moral reproach to us that they should have pleaded it so long in vain.

Six inconvenient truths about the U.S. and slavery Michael Medved (Townhall.com) Those who want to discredit the United States and to deny our role as history's most powerful and pre-eminent force for freedom, goodness and human dignity invariably focus on America's bloody past as a slave-holding nation.

The Bible, Slavery, and America's Founders By Stephen McDowell - America's Founding Fathers are seen by some people today as unjust and hypocrites, for while they talked of liberty and equality, they at the same time were enslaving hundreds of thousands of Africans. Some allege that the Founders bear most of the blame for the evils of slavery. Consequently, many today have little respect for the Founders and turn their ear from listening to anything they may have to say. And, in their view, to speak of America as founded as a Christian nation is unthinkable (for how could a Christian nation tolerate slavery?).

...America's Founders were predominantly Christians and had a Biblical worldview. If that was so, some say, how could they allow slavery, for isn't slavery sin? As the Bible reveals to man what is sin, we need to examine what it has to say about slavery.

...Slavery has existed throughout the world since after the fall of man. Egypt and other ancient empires enslaved multitudes. Greece and Rome had many slaves, taken from nations they conquered. Slavery was a part of almost every culture. While some Christian nations had taken steps to end slavery, it was still an established part of most of the world when America began to be settled.

...The overwhelming majority of early Americans and most of America's leaders did not own slaves. Some did own slaves, which were often inherited (like George Washington at age eleven), but many of these people set them free after independence. Most Founders believed that slavery was wrong and that it should be abolished. William Livingston, signer of the Constitution and Governor of New Jersey, wrote to an anti-slavery society in New York (John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and President of the Continental Congress, was President of this society):

...The founders did not just believe slavery was an evil that needed to be abolished, and they did not just speak against it, but they acted on their beliefs. During the Revolutionary War black slaves who fought won their freedom in every state except South Carolina and Georgia.

...Many of the founders started and served in anti-slavery societies. Franklin and Rush founded the first such society in America in 1774. John Jay was president of a similar society in New York. Other Founding Fathers serving in anti-slavery societies included: William Livingston (Constitution signer), James Madison, Richard Bassett, James Monroe, Bushrod Washington, Charles Carroll, William Few, John Marshall, Richard Stockton, Zephaniah Swift, and many more.

...The Founders opposed slavery based upon the principle of the equality of all men. Throughout history many slaves have revolted but it was believed (even by those enslaved) that some people had the right to enslave others. The American slave protests were the first in history based on principles of God-endowed liberty for all. It was not the secularists who spoke out against slavery but the ministers and Christian statesmen.

...Although no Southern state abolished slavery, there was much anti-slavery sentiment. Many anti-slavery societies were started, especially in the upper South. Many Southern states considered proposals abolishing slavery, for example, the Virginia legislature in 1778 and 1796. When none passed, many, like Washington, set their slaves free, making provision for their well being.


American Minute for March 11th: Ben Franklin was the first president of the first anti-slavery society in the United States. Richard Bassett, a Signer of the Constitution, converted to Methodism, freed all his slaves and paid them as hired labor. John Quincy Adams fought to end slavery by removing Congress' Gag Rule. It was Senator Charles Sumner's vehement stand against slavery that resulted in Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina violently beating Sumner on the head with a cane while he was seated at his desk on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Charles Sumner died MARCH 11, 1874, having never fully recovered from those injuries. A founder of the Republican Party, Charles Sumner served as a Senator from Massachusetts for 23 years. He stated: "Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible." Charles Sumner continued: "There is no reason for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the earth as the waters cover the sea."

American Minute for March 24th: William Jay, son of the First Supreme Court Chief Justice, helped found New York City's Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. His son, John Jay, was manager of New York Young Men's Anti-Slavery Society in 1834. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story helped establish the illegality of the slave trade in the 1844 Amistad case. Salmon P. Chase, appointed Chief Justice by Lincoln, defended so many escaped slaves in his career he was nicknamed "Attorney-General of Fugitive Slaves." Cassius Marcellus Clay, diplomat to Russia for Lincoln and Grant, founded the anti-slavery journal True American in 1845 and helped found the Republican party in 1854. Rufus King, born MARCH 24, 1755, was one of the youngest signers of the U.S. Constitution, only 32 years old. A Harvard graduate, Rufus King was an aide to General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War. Rufus King later served as U.S. Minister to England and was a Senator from New York. In a speech made before the Senate at the time Missouri was petitioning for statehood, Rufus King stated: "I hold that all laws or compacts imposing any such condition as slavery upon any human being are absolutely void because they are contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God."


See also:

o Allen West commemorates Black History Month by telling the truth about Republicans and Black history ...and how Democrats worked against civil Rights....

o Orson Wells tells the story of how The Battle Hymn of The Republic came to be written. (Video 5:21)


Back to America's Christian Heritage Index


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