Leave it to me when it comes to peppering America’s Independence Day celebration with quick dive into how the country reconciled its slave-owning system of production with a statement for liberty and independence from Britain’s rule.
Like most other chapters in American history were the narrative of virtues cruise closer to B.S. territory, the nation ignored the contradiction.
And the contradiction quickly handled by Congress in the case of the Declaration of Independence.
In a previous version of the epochal document, Thomas Jefferson — a walking contradiction of sorts as informed by his statements of moral opposition to slavery while he owned African slaves in addition the title of child predator — proposed the following passage that charged England with its support and establishment of the transatlantic slave trade and its instigation of African slaves to violently rebel against America for their own domestic freedom:
[The King of England] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & 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 & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: 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 has 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 document’s reference to the indigenous people of the Americas is also telling:
[The King] is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation & tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation:
he has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, & conditions of existence …
With all historical artifacts considered, The US, Britain and Jefferson are full of it.
By the way, this isn’t the right moment to get all cliché with me and mention how Jefferson lived in a different time from today.
Back to my point — Congress efficiently resolved this 3-D contradiction by deleting the entire passage.
Which means owning human beings — let alone treating them unfairly — was steam-ironed into the King Cotton fabric of this nation.
Happy Fourth, y’all …
song currently stuck in my head: “stimela (jazzanova remix)” – hugh masekela