No, the American Republic Was Not Founded on Slavery
Journalistic propaganda is a powerful instrument of indoctrination. Without evidence, foul ideas can easily penetrate mainstream discourse. For instance, recently it has become fashionable to posit that slavery is America’s original sin. To sensible people, this is a risible claim, because there is nothing particularly American about slavery. But revisiting the history of slavery in non-Western societies in Asia and Africa would do little to change the minds of America’s critics. A more appropriate strategy would be to contrast the opinions of the Founding Fathers on slavery with those of leaders in other countries. Only after undertaking this task will we be able to judge America.
In a larger historical context, asserting that some of the American founders owned slaves does not make them appear remarkable, because for most of history slavery was a normal institution. Therefore, in retrospect, they are to be seen as the products of a peculiar time. What matters is not that they possessed slaves, but their revolutionary views on slavery during an era when it was universally embraced and their attempts at dismantling the system.
Thomas Jefferson in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence was exceptionally caustic in his critique of George III for imposing the slave trade on the colonies:
He [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 & 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. 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. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished dye, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Of profound importance in this statement is that Jefferson capitalized the word men. To historian M. Andrew Holowchak this indicates that “philosophically and unequivocally Jefferson considered Blacks as men, not chattel.” However, such a remonstration of slavery was deleted by the Continental Congress to achieve a compromise with Southern states. Like now, tradeoffs formed a crucial aspect of the political process. Those seeking to berate the Founding Fathers lack a proper understanding of history and politics. Thomas Sowell in his highly recommended text Black Rednecks and White Liberals described the intense political environment the founding fathers endured in their quest to outlaw slavery:
Many who have dismissed the anti-slavery words of the founders of the American republic as just rhetoric have not bothered to check the facts of history. Washington, Jefferson, and oth
Article from Mises Wire