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No NY Times, America Wasn’t Built On Slavery, But Faith That All Men Are Created Equal
The Federalist ^ | 08/21/2019 | Joshua Lawson

Posted on 08/21/2019 7:04:22 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

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.

Hannah-Jones claims, “white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst.” She provides no evidence or examples for this sweeping assertion. Alternatively, we know from numerous primary sources that the Founding Fathers did believe those words.

Jefferson’s original final draft of the Declaration explicitly referred to black slaves not as property but as men and castigated King George III for suppressing parliamentary efforts to prohibit or restrain “this execrable commerce” (referring to slavery). Letters written to John Jay show Alexander Hamilton hoping the Revolutionary War could lead to the emancipation of blacks and appraising them equal to whites in their abilities. Additional examples are plentiful.

Without the Founders’ Compromise, America Wouldn’t Exist

The Founders were painfully aware of the cognitive dissonance of forming a nation under the proclamation that all were created equal while maintaining slavery. They also had to face the political reality that the 13 colonies could not be united in a new nation if they immediately abolished slavery.

To insist that southern colonies immediately free their slaves would have been tantamount to demanding they destroy the economic livelihood of the entire region—a political fantasy and a suicidal non-starter. As scholar Harry V. Jaffa once pointed out, “if they had attempted to secure all the rights of all men, they would have ended in no rights secured for any men.”

With no other way to obtain the necessary support for unity and ratification, the Founders spitefully tolerated slavery’s existence, while also placing it on a path to extinction. Once the nation secured independence, American statesman of the Founding Era slashed away at slavery as quickly as prudence and political reality would allow.

American Statesman Led the Movement to End Slavery

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery in the territory that would become the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. In 1794, Congress barred American ships from engaging in the slave trade. Additional legislation in 1780 banned Americans from employment or investment in the international slave trade. Finally, the U.S. Congress officially banned the importation of slaves beginning on January 1, 1808, the earliest date allowed under the deal made to ratify the Constitution.

Far from the bastion of racism, hate and pro-slavery sentiment that the 1619 Project portrays, much of the United States was ahead of the world in ending the horror of slavery. Shortly after the signing of the Declaration, northern states took the lead. By 1804, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had passed laws that immediately or gradually abolished slavery.

This broadside assault against the institution of slavery explicitly contradicts the history sold by Hannah-Jones and the 1619 Project. If the American Founding was grounded in slavery, and the Founders didn’t believe a word of the opening of the Declaration, how does one account for these actions?

According to Hannah-Jones, one of the “primary reasons” Americans declared independence was to preserve slavery, fearful of the “growing calls” to abolish the slave trade in London. However, a closer look shows the abolitionist movement didn’t have a truly organized presence in England until 1783 when the first petition was filed by Quakers. It wasn’t until 1787 that the influential Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded.

Ultimately, more than 750,000 men died in the conflict that would finally end the wicked institution of slavery in America once and for all. When it was all over, the Civil War claimed eight times as many American lives as a percentage of the U.S. population as the Second World War.

Worldwide Abolition Lagged Behind the Northern States

Slavery wasn’t abolished until 1834 in the British Empire, 1848 in French colonial possessions, 1858 in Portuguese colonies, 1861 in Dutch Caribbean colonies, 1886 in Cuba, and 1888 in Brazil.

The pace of abolition was even worse in the non-Western part of the world. Barbary pirate slavers from North Africa enslaved more than a million Europeans until the end of WWI, three times the number of Africans sold to America. Slavery wasn’t abolished in China until 1910 (but was still practiced until 1949) and didn’t completely end in Korea until 1930. Qatar allowed slavery until 1952, Saudi Arabia and Yemen until 1962, and Mauritania until 1980—nearly 200 years after it was abolished by the state of Massachusetts.

Using the latest reliable figures from 2016, the Walk Free international human rights organization estimates that on any given day 40.3 million men, women, and children will be victims of modern-day slavery in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Tragically, that number is a low estimate, given the lack of reliable data from Arab states and the prevalence of slavery that still exists there.

Judging America By a Utopian Standard Is Naive

The entire framing of The New York Times’ effort deserves to be questioned. Reconstructing the American founding to the date of the first slave is a standard the Times is only placing on the United States. Is America’s “newspaper of record” about to embark on a grand venture of politely telling every other nation its celebratory founding is to be recalibrated to the date of its first instance of slavery? No, the Times’ project is deliberately—and solely—aimed at the United States.

Leftists have been engaging in this sort of deception for generations. Between the 1930s and 1980s, every perceived shortcoming of the United States was put under a microscope while the left was largely silent on the atrocities of communist tyrannies.

The left holds contempt and disdain for America’s ideals. In their heart-of-hearts, honest leftists cannot deny the unbelievable success of the United States and its institutions nor the appeal of its founding principles abroad. So, the left’s only recourse has been to mount its arguments by comparing American history to a Utopian standard they never use with any other country.

Self-criticism can be helpful, especially when it leads to improvement or the discovery of “blind spots” in one’s thinking. Yet as The Federalist’s David Marcus points out, the 1619 Project isn’t breaking new ground or telling Americans anything they haven’t already heard. Public-school textbooks have extensively covered the evils of America’s past for decades.

The central message of Howard Zinn’s popular textbook “A People’s History of the United States” is the Marxist narrative of “oppressed” versus “oppressor.” In the past 20 years, Hollywood has frequently reminded moviegoers of America’s past sins, the (undisputed) evil of slavery, and the long struggle to realize a more perfect union.

In 2017, the Smithsonian magazine warned against giving too much importance to the 1619 date, cautioning that doing so “distorts history” and places undue emphasis on “us” versus “them” narratives. You don’t say.

The 1619 Project Won’t Heal the Nation, it Will Sow Discord

The famous Roman orator Cicero held to a useful dictum: When you witness large forces on the move or scandal fills the air, ask yourself one question: Cui bono? To translate, “Whom does it benefit?” All Americans should ask themselves the same question about the Times’ ambitious revisionist history endeavor. Who benefits? For what good?

The 1619 Project is politically driven 2020 posturing dressed in the veneer of a historical “exposé.” By warping history, it hopes that dopamine hits of anger and injustice will prevent readers from engaging in objective analysis. Just in time to paint America as racist for the upcoming presidential election.

Judging by responses like the one that appeared in Slate, leftists are ready to swoop in on any criticism of the project, especially from conservatives. It’s hard to see how the entire effort won’t serve to rupture America’s partisan divide even further, and that this wasn’t part of the plan all along.

More problematically, its conclusions—that the United States was built by evil men and founded on a lie—lead to the sort of fundamental transformation leftist radicals have sought for a century. If America is as insidiously evil as the 1619 Project paints, what other recourse but to rip out its cancerous foundations root and stem? Leftists are banking that the outrage caused by the 1619 Project will provide them the political capital required to move to the next stage: a full reconfiguration of America into their image.

We Can’t Change the Past, But We Can Improve Tomorrow

America does not need further tribal rhetoric tearing up what little societal cohesion remains. The nation certainly doesn’t benefit from Times writers conducting a growing chorus of anger and grievance.

The New York Times used to at least feign impartiality. Yet the last two years give reason to question its reputation for sound judgment, especially where history is concerned. It published, for instance, one pillow-soft piece lauding mass-murderer Mao Zedong and another opining that sex was better under communist rule.

So, what if we stopped focusing on “racial identity” and the sins of men committed 400 years ago? What if, instead, we followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s advice and judged one another by the content of our character here and now—today—not in 1619, but 2019? Cui bono? To whom would that benefit? Everyone who prays for unity in our fractured republic.

Joshua Lawson is a graduate student at the Van Andel School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. He is pursuing a masters degree in American politics and political philosophy.
Photo Oil painting by Michele Felice Cornè depicting Commodore Edward Preble's squadron engaging Barbary pirate slave gunboats and the fortifications of Tripoli during the First Barbary War, 1804.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: america; founding; newyorktimes; slavery
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1 posted on 08/21/2019 7:04:23 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

America actually did quite well after slavery was abolished, and the N. states’ slave-free industrial economy won the Civil War.

2 posted on 08/21/2019 7:08:20 AM PDT by Socon-Econ (adical Islam,)
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To: SeekAndFind

The American Nation is an amalgamation of 11 different sub-nations that were settled by different peoples with different goals and different religious ideas. (See American Nations by Colin Woodard)

Only the Deep South Lowlands - settled by planters from Barbados - adopted a social/economic model based on Black African Slavery. A few of the other 10 sub-nations went along and most rebelled against the savage slavery model from the start.

3 posted on 08/21/2019 7:08:40 AM PDT by MattMusson (Sometimes the wind blows too much)
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To: SeekAndFind

What many revisionists and liberals fail to understand is that slavery existed on this continent long before white men set foot on it.

4 posted on 08/21/2019 7:12:17 AM PDT by rjsimmon (The Tree of Liberty Thirsts)
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To: rjsimmon


5 posted on 08/21/2019 7:16:16 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: SeekAndFind

‘Ultimately, more than 750,000 men died in the conflict that would finally end the wicked institution of slavery in America once and for all.’

Therefore, the Civil War was fought over Slavery?

6 posted on 08/21/2019 7:17:25 AM PDT by Meatspace
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To: Socon-Econ

i am offended by the use of the N. word

“America actually did quite well after slavery was abolished, and the N. states’ slave-free industrial economy won the Civil War.”

7 posted on 08/21/2019 7:17:50 AM PDT by teeman8r (Armageddon won't be pretty, but it's not like it's the end of the world.)
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To: SeekAndFind
The 1619 project is a disgusting example of the Orwellian takeover of public education.

So sorry I recently tossed my college texts (70's).

8 posted on 08/21/2019 7:22:17 AM PDT by G Larry (There is no great virtue in bargaining with the Devil)
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To: SeekAndFind

Western white Christian men are the only people to have ended the accepted practice of slavery. I am proud of that. Pound sand, NYT.

9 posted on 08/21/2019 7:22:40 AM PDT by bk1000 (I stand with Trump)
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To: KC_Lion; SkyDancer; Sarah Barracuda


10 posted on 08/21/2019 7:25:50 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: SeekAndFind

This is the anti-American version of history that your children and grandchildren are being indoctrinated with at government schools and many private schools. That is why the next generation of voters is convinced that Socialism is the answer to our problems in this country. Their goal is equality, not liberty.

Shame on lazy adults who have not objected to this attack on freedom, which we have financed with our money.

11 posted on 08/21/2019 7:27:00 AM PDT by txrefugee
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To: Meatspace

If modern America is built on anything, it is the Civil War in which the South’s slave based agrarian society was destroyed, and resulted in the North’s industrial age. The Southern states were practically erased during the decades long military occupation that followed.

Prior to the civil war, the only thing “built on slavery” was the Southern agrarian economy, which actually caused the South to lag behind.

America wasn’t built on slavery and the vestiges of slavery were leveled to the ground. America today is built on the North’s war to eradicate slavery, the resulting industrial revolution, mass European immigration, and World Wars I and II.

12 posted on 08/21/2019 7:27:18 AM PDT by Williams (Stop Tolerating The Intolerant.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Slavery still exists today. Most modern-day slavery involves muslims, as it has for centuries.

13 posted on 08/21/2019 7:27:21 AM PDT by abclily
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To: SeekAndFind
An interesting point about the Left is that they apparently believe only they can learn from humanity's past. If that were true, no societal progress would ever have been made - we would still be living in huts and be subject to petty dictators called chieftains. And their prime lights (Marx, Lenin, Wilson, etc) would never have been able to change anything to achieve what the Left considers 'progress'.

In this particular case, they are either (a) blind to the differences in society between 1619, 1860 and 2019, or (b) they are simply trying to divide and conquer the country. My personal vote is for the latter conclusion because whatever we think of their motives and actions, they are NOT stupid - deluded by their own voices and determination to avoid God, but not stupid.

14 posted on 08/21/2019 7:27:22 AM PDT by Pecos (My rights as an individual are not subject to a public vote.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Slavery built very little. It is/was a failed economic system, which was already in relative decline against the free-labor practices of the industrial north.

It was a typical forced, crony-capitalist system, which benefited a few wealthy people and governments, but besides the slaves, also suppressed wages for poor whites.

That slavery “built America” another ignorant, emotive leftist, race-mongering slogan which is exactly WRONG.

15 posted on 08/21/2019 7:31:01 AM PDT by PGR88
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To: SeekAndFind

The ultimate demise of slavery was built into the Declaration. It made it problematic from the start and set it on the road to abolishment.

16 posted on 08/21/2019 7:31:22 AM PDT by headstamp 2 (There's a stairway to heaven, but there's a highway to hell.)
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To: abclily

As i understand it, slavery is alive and well in the Sudan. Black on black BTW.

17 posted on 08/21/2019 7:32:25 AM PDT by V_TWIN
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To: PGR88
That slavery “built America” another ignorant, emotive leftist, race-mongering slogan which is exactly WRONG.

Which is why they get upset if you say, "We should have picked our own damned cotton."

18 posted on 08/21/2019 7:33:30 AM PDT by dfwgator (Endut! Hoch Hech!)
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To: SeekAndFind
The overwhelming majority of early Americans and most of America’s leaders did not own slaves. Some did own slaves, which were often inherited (like George Washington at age eleven), but many of these people set them free after independence. Most Founders believed that slavery was wrong and that it should be abolished.

- The Bible, Slavery, and America’s Founders
19 posted on 08/21/2019 7:39:12 AM PDT by \/\/ayne (I regret that I have but one subscription cancellation notice to give to my local newspaper.)
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To: bk1000

Pound sand, NYT.

The first "Africans" here were not enslaved.

20 posted on 08/21/2019 7:44:11 AM PDT by Tommy Revolts
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