Friday, July 17, 2020

The Home of the Free: The Great Compromise

Many modern historians refer to slavery as our nation's original sin. Of course I understand the metaphor. Like the Catholic doctrine that all babies are born with the sins of Adam upon their heads, so too America was conceived by parents who passed to them the evil of slavery. The problem is not in the metaphor itself, but that the "parents" and "conception" in the metaphor are misrepresented in such a way as to skew the entire meaning.

The modern construction of this metaphor is designed to convince American youth that our Founding Fathers represent the parents in the metaphor and as such they were the ones responsible for passing onto us the sin of slavery. Using this interpretation, public education has laid the foundation needed to undermine the beliefs of students whose parents have passed to them cherished convictions in the goodness of the American founding and its positive impact on the world. Once the Founders and their work is undermined by misshapen history it is easy work to instill in young people a disdain for both the Founders and the Constitution they constructed; which Constitution many educators argue is responsible for institutionalizing slavery in the newly formed union.

Our Founders were explicit that the declaration of our independence was to mark the beginning of "new nation," conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, namely: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the original sin metaphor I would mark this declaration as the baptism of the nation, the moment when as a nation a covenant was made, a promissory note written, that we would become a nation of liberty and justice for all. Our Founders authored this promise, this covenant, and intended it to stand as a witness of their intent and purpose for their work.

Surely America suffered from the scourge of our parents, our European parents, not of our making but of the conquests of the old world. Spain, Britain, and France pillaged and enslaved countless Africans in their greedy pursuits to dominate each other, and deposited the economic engine of slavery in the Americas so they could live comfortably apart from the abhorrent evil that it clearly was. 

So yes, the "sin" of slavery was passed to us by our parents, they planted slavery here and by the time of the founding of the United States of America slavery was well ingrained in this land. For the young burgeoning America it would not be so easy to ignore, this new nation would have to sacrifice much to root this evil out, and only then would the future of American liberty and our ideals of justice be secure.

Our founders were not naive to the awful reality of slavery, many of our most revered founders, those we credit most with the inspiration behind our extraordinary Union, desired the eventual abolition of slavery. Many generations of American leaders, even slave owning leaders, sought for a peaceful solution to end slavery.

Sadly, this would not be, and eventually Americans would spill much blood to answer for the "original sin," to finally wipe away the stains of our European fathers. America would for many generations root out the cancer of racism that had for too long soothed a guilty conscience and rationalized a great evil.

Many modern educators argue against my premise by pointing to the compromise on slavery in the construction of our constitution, saying in that moment our Founders institutionalize slavery and thereby embraced the sin of slavery. If this were truly so, how could generations of abolitionist, such as Frederick Douglas, used the founding documents and intents of our founders to effectively fight against slavery. Abraham Lincoln relied upon this original intent for the moral authority to abolish slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. stood in Washington to cash the promissory note written by our Founders for the liberty of all.

Without the slavery compromise at the constitutional convention there would have been no constitution and no promissory note. Without the great experiment in American democracy slavery would certainly have proven far more difficult to abolish. Are those historical deconstructionist prepared to argue that no United States of America would have proved more liberating to millions of African Americans? Surely they need to rethink their historical interpretations.

***Written in reaction to a posting by PJ Media and Alfonzo Rachel:

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