Declaration of Independence and slavery

I recently read that the Declaration of Independence originally blamed King George of England for the slave trade. I did a double-take.

The Declaration of Independence originally included text that attacked the slave trade. And blamed England for it. Thomas Jefferson had some cojones. A slave owner himself, he attacked the slave trade in the opening salvo in the war against Britain. OK. Good for him for attacking the slave trade, even though he didn’t follow through with expunging it from his personal life.

He blamed England. Huh. The king wouldn’t allow the colonials to make the slave trade illegal. What? Oh yes, and Jefferson blamed the King of England for inciting the slaves to rise up and kill their owners. This is not to say that the King of England was not guilty as charged, but it is curious to blame the King when others in the colonies profited so richly from trading in human lives. Including Jefferson. (Seriously, to get Jefferson on the couch for psychological study would be fascinating.)

The following is the passage expunged from the Declaration of Independence.

“He [the King of England] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and 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 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 on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.” Source: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/declaration-independence-and-debate-over-slavery and Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Being His Autobiography, Correspondence, Reports, Messages, Addresses, and other Writings, Official and Private (Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Maury, 1853-1854).

Advertisements

Your thoughts?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s