Quantcast
Connect with us

Here is the anti-slavery paragraph that got cut from the Declaration of Independence

Published

on

- Commentary

The original draft of the Declaration of Independence indicted the institution of slavery. Spoiler alert: it didn’t make it into the final version.

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of five men—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston—to write a document declaring the independence of the colonies. The gang of five tasked Jefferson with taking the first crack, which he did, writing a draft, which included a litany of grievances against the King, the last of which read:

ADVERTISEMENT

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s 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 incure miserable death in their transportation hither. 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 to restrain this execrable commerce [determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold]: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also 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.

The paragraph starts out great, condemning, as it does, the evils of slavery. It turns into a cop-out towards the end. Jefferson, absolves his fellow slave owners by blaming the King for bringing slavery and selling enslaved people to the colonies. Even worse, he criticizes him for offering freedom to the slaves who managed to escape, in exchange for their fighting with the British. Both the sides of the War used the promise of freedom to entice slaves to fight for the opposing side.

But even this self-exonerating and hypocritical critique of slavery was too much.

The Committee of Five didn’t mind it paragraph. John Adams was particularly enthusiastic and would write in a letter decades later, “I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning Negro slavery.”

When the document was presented to the Congress on June 28, certain delegates were less than supportive. As Adams explained, Jefferson’s “Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress… They obliterated some of the best of it… I have long wondered that the original draft had not been published.” In the next sentence Adams declared that the “the reason is the vehement philippic against Negro slavery.” (Well, there you go, John). To be fair delegates from Northern States, whose merchant economies benefited from the slave trade, also objected. By the time the document was signed, on July 4, the criticism of slavery had been dropped.

ADVERTISEMENT

While we don’t know what exactly the delegates said to make their case, I imagine it was something along the lines of….

Tom. John Adams* is right: you’re a really good writer. Not sure you’re ten times better than he is. That seems unnecessarily self-critical on John’s part. But, great rhetorical flourishes. And don’t pay attention to John’s criticism about tone**. It’s perfect. Not too critical, not too passionate.  That’s his issue. Not yours.

There’s a lot of good stuff in here and we know some of this is just spit-balling so, the following tweaks shouldn’t be too much of a hold up. It’s no big deal, but we’d love you to cut a part of the document. Of course, it’s totally up to you. But if you want us to pass this thing, the whole slavery-is-against-nature graph is going to have to go. It’s a nice sentiment. It may be true. But the slave trade is kind of our thing. Besides, the “all men are created equal” is a nice enough gesture. And getting rid of the paragraph will make you feel less awkward about your whole slave-owning situation.

We don’t have to resolve this issue now. We can table it. For a century or so.

Good work! Keep it up and you’ll really go places!

Thanks!

*In the same letter Adams recalled telling Jefferson, “you can write ten times better than I can.”

ADVERTISEMENT

** Adams also confided that there were “expressions which I would not have inserted if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal, for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity, only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document…”


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

The pandemic has exposed a disturbing fact about who the government helps most

Published

on

In January 2020, the NASDAQ stock market’s index stood just under 10,000. In the March crash, it fell to 7,000. As of July 10, 2020, it hit 10,600. The U.S. government’s economic policies produced a “recovery” for the rich who own the vast bulk of stocks. Their holdings are worth more now than before COVID-19 hit us. The other major benchmarks for securities, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard and Poor 500, show similarly dramatic, slightly smaller recoveries.

Massive government economic intervention—what most of its current beneficiaries have always denounced—subsidized those recoveries. The Federal Reserve pumped unprecedented amounts of new money into the U.S. economy after mid-March. That money poured into the stock market and fueled its rise. The U.S. Treasury provided unprecedented direct cash supports to much of corporate America.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump is a vampire who feeds off his own followers — and no one deserved to be drained more than Jeff Sessions

Published

on

Former senator and disgraced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has finally come, at age 73, to what is almost certainly the end of the road for his villainous political career. On Tuesday night, the right-wing Republican who served as a U.S. senator from 1997 to 2017 lost in his comeback attempt, defeated in the Republican primary for his old seat by Tommy Tuberville, a man whose cartoonish name better suited his previous career as head football coach at Auburn. The runoff election between the two wasn't even close, with the Riverboat Gambler (a silly and self-serious nickname for Tuberville, especially when "The Tubz" was right there for the taking) taking more than 60% of the vote.

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

Fearing jail and facing defeat: Don’t expect Trump to leave office quietly

Published

on

The presidency of Donald John Trump is collapsing. Unwilling or unable to confront the deadly realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 138,000 American lives, the president’s job-approval ratings have plummeted. The ravages of the virus, in turn, have triggered a deep economic slump, pushing unemployment rates to levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. There is a growing perception that our 45th commander in chief, never known for his intellectual acuity or moral rectitude, is unfit to lead the nation in this moment of extreme crisis.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image