Why did America’s Founders say … “all men are created equal?” (Part 1 of 2)
As a civil rights activist my entire life, I have long supported the of removing the statues, symbols and names that honor the Confederacy and those infamous for racial intolerance – especially those engaged in the remnants of institutional and de facto racism that we find today. This does not mean, however, that I favor vigilante destruction of these misplaced monuments, but instead that they be moved legally to more appropriate sites — such as museums – where they can be part of an accurate description of their place in history – infamy, if it be that.
It is important to remember that most of those Confederate symbols were NOT some post-Civil War olive branch. They were not part of President Lincoln’s “charity to all and malice toward none” Reconstruction policy. The more charitable post-War treatment of the leaders of the Confederacy came after Lincoln’s assassination, when southern Democrat Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency. Johnson’s favoritism toward the leaders of the Confederacy enraged those in Congress known as the Radical Republicans – and the excessive leniency of Johnson only ended with the election of Republican President Grant.
But many of the honors – statues, flags and namings – came after Democrats took over the south by force-of-arms in the late 1800s – literally, a mini-civil war against Negroes and the Constitution waged by the Democratic Party and their paramilitary enforcers – such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, the White Citizens Councils and others — for another 100 years.
Other racist monuments arose in the early 1900s during the shameful racist administration of Democrat President Woodrow Wilson – a southern white supremacist with a glowing passion for the Confederacy and an open affection for the Ku Klux Klan. It probably stems from his early years as a child in a Virginia slave-owning family.
And yet another round of Confederate honorings came in the 1960s when the leaders of the solid Democrat southland rose in defiance of integration – especially school desegregation. Under the Southern Manifesto, many of the most prominent and powerful Democrat leaders of the time showed their defiance by adding the Confederate battle flags to a number of southern state standards – where they remained until Republican Governors and Republican legislature began removing them.
But what about folks like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and all the other American icons that the left has put in the crosshairs of their radical campaign against the entire American culture? The left accuses President Trump of engaging in a culture war. In reality, it is Republicans, in general, and conservatives, specifically, who rise in defense of a culture based on personal freedom, limited government and equality – a culture upon which THE LEFT has declared war in favor of autocratic principles – including socialism.
Every American should be thankful for the wisdom and goodness of our Founders – and that includes even those who may not — at this moment – enjoy the full share of American Exceptionalism and have full access to the nation’s personal opportunity society. Even those who are still oppressed in our one-party- authoritarian Democrat-controlled major cities have greater opportunity and freedom than most people of the world. But much more needs to be done to level the playing field. And thanks to the Founders, the pendulum of history has moved – and is still moving — in favor of the disadvantaged. For sure, the job of rooting out de facto racism WHERE IT EXISTS is an incomplete task.
We rightfully honor our Founders for the eminent good they did – despite their slave ownership at the time. They crafted a nation that placed unprecedented vast power in the hands of the people – something that was not seen in the world in which they existed – a world of kings, potentates, czars, tsars and tribal leaders. Virtually every nation – and every people — on earth at the time were ruled over by authoritarians. Our Founders were raised, bred and educated in that world – and yet they crafted for America a nation where “we the people” have maximum influence over matters of state – if we choose to protect it and exercise it.
No sooner than they enacted the Constitution to articulate – not guarantee – the inalienable rights of the people, they used their own enshrined amendment process to craft 10 new tweaks to the Constitution to more clearly define our inalienable rights – the Bill of Rights.
The ability to amend the Constitution was incredibly important regarding their thinking on slavery. It was not an institution that most of the Founders accepted with comfort, Even as slave owners, they longed for the day that some future generation would do what they could not, given the zeitgeist of the times – end slavery. Washington wrote (emphasis added):
“The unfortunate condition of the persons, whose labour in part I employed, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the Adults among them as easy & as comfortable in their circumstances as their actual state of ignorance & improvidence would admit; & to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born; afforded some satisfaction to my mind, & could not I hoped be displeasing to the justice of the Creator.”
Washington expressed his frustration with the institution of slavery on a number of occasions. In communicating with a cousin, he said that he “longed every day … more and more to get clear of the ownership of slaves.”
Washington’s last will and testament emancipated a large number of slaves under his authority. He was legally prevented from freeing those slaves he managed on his plantation, but to which he did not personally hold title. They were divided among the grandchildren. A portion of the slaves were left with his widow Martha – to be freed upon her passing. She freed them rather quickly – fearing that one among them may take her life to gain freedom.
Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words in the very Declaration of Independence – that ALL men (as in mankind) are created equal with equal human rights – was an extraordinary statement of the times. It was a shot across the bow of those who supported slavery and the inferiority of Negroes – enslaved or free.
Jefferson once described his frustration on the issue of slavery in his day by saying it is like holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” But even as a slaveholder by pragmatic necessity, he – like Washington – had the heart of an abolitionist.
Jefferson often opined against slavery, believing it would lead to the destruction of the Republic – and it almost did. John Adams and John Quincy Adams were outspoken abolitionists and never owned slaves. Most of the Founders expressed either opposition or at least discomfort with slavery
The second genius of the Founders was their ability to foresee the need for we the people to lead this new union of states to be a “more perfect union.” They gave the people the power to even change the very Constitution they so carefully crafted. Men like Washington and Jefferson not only laid the foundation and the moral case for emancipation, they were — In that sense — abolitionists in heart and mind.
They were exceptional men of the day with extraordinary morality and vision. It is only ginned-up ignorance that has aroused the rabble to attack their memory, their history and the honors bestowed on them by generations of appropriately appreciative Americans. Their sin in the eyes of the left is not drawn from an objective analysis of their, words, actions or deeds, but merely the fact that they are White old men — and the public is susceptible to the left’s fraud because of a lack of education.
You have to remember that the Equality Phrase in the Declaration of Independence was endorsed by all the Founders. From the day it was adopted, it has screamed out against prejudice and white supremacy – or supremacy of any kind based on identity politics. It was the clarion call that led to the abolition of slavery, the end of southern segregation and oppression – and coincidentally gave women and 18-year-olds the vote — and is still crying out on behalf of those currently trapped in our de facto segregated cities – the last vestiges of the Democratic Party’s long history of Negro oppression.
If it is wrong to apply cancel politics to such notable Americans as Washington, Jefferson and others, are there those who should be re-routed to less honorable statues? For sure. And I will deal with that in Part 2 of this commentary.
So, there ‘tis.