No, America Wasn’t Built On Slavery, But Faith That All Men Are Created Equal By Joshua Lawson for The Federalist
GNN Note – Lest we forget – slave markets are open for business all across Libya right now. Human trafficking, slavery, is a growing problem in America. These are not primarily black people, they are primarily white people, the same as it has been for most of human history. The black slave trade was a small portion of the overall problem.
By reframing America’s founding around slavery, the New York Times’ 1619 Project misreads history along with the role Americans played in realizing the ideals of the Declaration.
It’s there in plain sight. Spelled-out in its mission statement, the New York Times’ 1619 Project seeks to “reframe” American history to mark the year 1619 as the “true founding.” By doing so, the project will “[place] the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center” of the American story.
The year 1619 was chosen for the Times’ “re-founding” to mark when the first slaves arrived in the English settlement of Jamestown. For the Times, this moment irredeemably tainted the nation. Yet viewing the centuries-old actions of men through a 21st-century lens will not solve our present social tensions. Slavery was a heart-wrenching, obstacle during America’s birth, but by no objective analysis was it the central factor of the founding as the 1619 Project claims.
Slavery Is a Blight on All Humanity, Not Just America
Slavery was and is an abomination. The ownership of one man over another is an affront to both natural law and our God-given inalienable rights as human beings. It is an evil part of America’s past—as well as that of nearly every nation on earth. The fact that slavery has a universal heritage does not absolve American slave owners, but it does provide a necessary historical context.
During the 17th century, slavery was, sadly, an accepted part of life throughout the world. By A.D. 1619, slavery had existed for more than 5000 years, dating back at least to Mesopotamia. At the time the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown, the Spanish and Portuguese had been enslaving blacks and native peoples in the New World for more than 100 years. Native American tribes had been enslaving each other for who knows how long before that.
What’s notable about the United States is not that its citizens held slaves, but that the West’s crusade to end slavery began after Jefferson penned the aspirational words of America’s founding document.
America’s Founding Ideals Aren’t Lies
Written by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the 7,600-word flagship essay of the 1619 Project asserts that “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written.” Forgiving the fact that America is not a democracy but a constitutional republic, what ideals does she mean? The central organizing principle of the American founding was the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.