Were our founders racists?
“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.” John Quincy Adams, (1)
“I would most ardently wish to become a member of it [the anti-slavery society] and . . . I can safely promise them that neither my tongue, nor my pen, nor purse shall be wanting to promote the abolition of what to me appears so inconsistent with humanity and Christianity. . .” William Livingston, signer of the Constitution and Governor of New Jersey in letter to John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and President of the Continental Congress
Were the founders racists? “…since the founders almost to a man spoke openly against the slave trade and many were members of abolitionist societies, as well as actively petitioned England to stop sending African slaves to the colonies, and made other legislative efforts to end or limit the trade; they can hardly be called racists. In contrast, how many Democratic leaders have spoken out against the horrors of abortion? Or supported legislation against it or even to limit it?” Just as the arguments in favor of slavery and supporting abortion are almost identical, so is the pro-abortion stance of the Democratic Party in sync with its historical stance in favor of the institute of slavery over a hundred and fifty years ago.
However, Bernie Sanders in a recent speech at Liberty University made the outright claim, not merely a guarded accusation, that the early founders were racist and that the American nation was founded on racist principals.
In doing so he repeats the claims of early democratic defenders of the slave trade that since the constitution or its preamble had no direct mention or prohibition against slavery, the forefathers never mentioned it, and therefore must have supported it. The trouble is, the founders did mention it, often. In fact, in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson had a rant against slavery and the fact that the British and King George repeatedly knocked down every attempt the colonies made to knock down or limit the slave trade in their colonies. And that included Virginia. In his first draft 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. . . . 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 restrain this execrable commerce.” The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Adrienne Koch and William Peden, eds. (New York: Random House, 1944)
Before American independence, Benjamin Franklin said;
“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” Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, ed. (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason, 1839), Vol. VIII, p. 42, to the Rev. Dean Woodward on April 10, 1773
Dozens of the signers of the Constitution were members of Abolitionist societies, hardly a racist stance. I mean, you wonder, do progressives like Sanders ever do their homework and question what they were taught in their liberal college educations? It appears they are incapable of independent thought or research. And Abe Lincoln and many others felt that the fact that the Declaration of Independence said all people were endowed by their Creator with “inalienable rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness” excluded slave keeping from being a lawful enterprise. Same thing today, most democrats read the constitution and claim it gives no protection to the unborn because it never explicitly mentions or condemns abortion…Really?
So the Democratic Party has at least been consistent in how most of them interpret the bible and constitution, and obviously how you interpret scripture and what you believe about where we came from, does matter. But since the founders almost to a man spoke openly against the slave trade and were members of abolitionist societies, as well as actively petitioned England to stop sending African slaves to the colonies and made other legislative efforts to end the trade; they can hardly be called racists. Again I ask how many Democratic leaders have spoken out against abortion or showed concern for the rights of unborn human babies? Or supported legislation against it or even to limit it? Bernie Sanders is just following the track of previous socialists in criticizing the pre-existing government of a nation and its founders. Socialists did the same thing in Russia and China and a half a dozen other nations. Some of the criticisms may have been accurate, but take a good look at what followed; in Russia they got rid of a czar and they put in Stalin, in China they overthrew Chinese warlords and put Mao in place. Not a big step for individual freedom or economic prosperity. And religious liberty and freedom of thought were crushed. Sanders is free to rant but he should at least make some effort to refrain from outright misrepresentation of his target. But what do you expect from an old white socialist?
“This however has been known to be the great temper of mankind, that they have accordingly labored in all ages, to wrest from the populace the knowledge of their rights… I say rights, for such they have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.”
John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. III, p. 449, “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law.”
1) An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at Their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837 (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837), p. 50
A far more comprehensive article can be found in issues and articles, the slave trade and the founders, at wallbuilders.org or com. I’ll post the link when I’m in town. Well worth the read
If the link doesn’t work just type in The Bible, Slavery, and America’s Founders in the search bar in the issues and articles area