Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We the Slave Owners

From the Hoover Institution author Dinesh D'Souza writes "In Jefferson's America, were some men not created equal?":Although slavery ended in the United States more than a century ago, its legacy continues to be disputed among scholars and to underlie contemporary debates about public policy. The reason for this is that slavery is considered the classic expression of American racism, and its effects are still viewed as central to the problems faced by blacks in the United States. Slavery seems to be the wound that never healed—the moral core of the oppression story so fundamental to black identity today. No wonder that bitterness generated by recollections of slavery has turned a generation of black scholars and activists against the nation's Founding -- against identification with America itself.

"Jefferson didn't mean it when he wrote that all men are created equal," writes historian John Hope Franklin. "We've never meant it. The truth is that we're a bigoted people and always have been. We think every other country is trying to copy us now, and if they are, God help the world." He argues that, by betraying the ideals of freedom, "the Founding Fathers set the stage for every succeeding generation of Americans to apologize, compromise, and temporize on those principles."

Thomas Jefferson's freed slaves.

In Black Odyssey, Nathan Huggins condemns the American Framers for establishing, not freedom, but "a model totalitarian society." Huggins condemns the Framers for refusing to mention the words "slave" or "slavery" in the Constitution in an effort to "sanitize their new creation" and avoid "the deforming mirror of truth." The Founding, he concludes, was simply "a bad way to start."

Speaking on the 200th anniversary of the Constitution, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall refused to "find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. The government they devised was defective from the start." Marshall urged that instead of jingoistic celebration, Americans should seek an "understanding of the Constitution's defects," its immoral project to "trade moral principles for self-interest."

Is it true that the American Founding was corrupted by a base and unwarranted compromise with slavery, and that the Framers of the Constitution, many of whom were slaveowners, revealed themselves as racist hypocrites? Must we agree with the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who charged that the American Founding was a "covenant with death," an "agreement with hell," and a "refuge of lies," an appraisal endorsed by the great black leader Frederick Douglass? If these charges are true, then America is indeed ill-founded, blacks are right to think of themselves as alienated "Africans in America," and the hope for racial amity constructed upon the liberal democratic vision of the Founding becomes a chimera.

On the other hand, if the Framers are exonerated of the charges of racist hypocrisy, then their blueprint for America might provide a viable foundation for helping blacks and whites to transcend the pathology of race. Indeed, it is the vision of Thomas Jefferson and the Framers that provides the only secure basis for a multiracial society, in which citizens are united not by blood or lineage, but by virtue of their equality.

4 comments:

  1. Ron: We've danced to this tune in the past. Statements such as this are prvocative, but erroneous..."Jefferson didn't mean it when he wrote that all men are created equal," writes historian John Hope Franklin.Jefferson did mean it, or at least agreed with it it. The Declartion of Independence doesn't say I hold these truths to be self-evident...It says, We hold these truths to be self-evident...

    To make an honest assessment, one ought to examine the whole paragraph


    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.Jefferson is also stating that these rights aren't automatically guaranteed. That they must be "secured".

    Furthermore, Jefferson stuck his neck out by writing this in the first draft which was cut out of the final product...

    He 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. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.As I pointed out, Jefferson stuck his neck out with the previous statement. He certainly didn't have to write it, so why would he if he didn't mean it?

    SOURCE: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/compare.htm

    This site provides the 3 versions of the Declaration Of Independence (FIRST DRAFT, REPORTED DRAFT, and ENGROSSED COPY) side by side so you can see the changes as it evolved.

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