Were the Founding Fathers Proslavery?

People have a hard time separating slavery from racism.

The two terms have become synonymous in American society because of the history of the slavery in America.

This description lacks complexity, as white Europeans were also enslaved, albeit at a different rate and manner, as white indentured servitude disappeared long before African slavery in the United States.

But that does not mean it didn’t exist, as did black slaveowners, most of whom owned slaves for profit over humanitarian concern.

Regardless, Americans eventually associated slavery with Africans and no other racial group.

Yet, you could be anti-slavery and believe in “white supremacy” in the 18h and 19th centuries. The vast majority of Americans would not have known any other explanation for a stable society. Western civilization was, after all, crafted by Europeans.

And most emancipationists and later abolitionists were indeed “racists” under a modern definition of term.

The notable exceptions would be the several leading American black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and some white radicals like the Grimke sisters of South Carolina. But these were the exceptions in the antebellum United States.

Modern historians who dabble in the business of “systemic white supremacy” never can answer one simple question: what was the alternative for 18th or 19th century people living in the 18th or 19th centuries?

Many dreamed of a world without slavery, Southerners like Jefferson included, but most could not figure out how to reconcile abolition with a multi-racial society, not even in New England where African-Americans made up less than one percent of the population and yet faced severe restrictions on their lives and property.

They did not think Africans were capable of self-government, not even after the War, as Connecticut among other Northern States prohibited blacks from voting. That only changed with the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Antebellum Americans did not hold our modern views on race, and to insist that they did and that their actions should have matched our own is the very definition of presentism.

This is why I argue that Lincoln’s “proposition nation” was indeed a myth, not because Jefferson didn’t write it or some people–even many members of the founding generation–didn’t rhetorically use it, but because actions spoke louder than words. American commitment to racial egalitarianism, or any egalitarianism for that matter, was suspect at best and mostly non-existent.

They didn’t believe it beyond political rights for citizens, and citizenship had restrictions.

Even Jefferson’s proposed revisions to the Virginia Constitution limited voting rights and citizenship.

So much for Jefferson’s belief in “all men are created equal.”

So what?

Does it change the fact that these men drafted two constitutions for the United States and several State constitutions or that they won two wars against the British, a naval war against France and were, in my opinion, the greatest generation in American history?

No other generation comes close.

That’s why “conservatives” who run around championing Lincoln and the 1850s Republican Party aren’t really conserving anything except a nineteenth century leftist dream based on a real myth, the myth of the proposition nation and the righteous cause.

Is that “conservative”? Randy Barnett seems to think so, which is why I spent three episodes of The Brion McClanahan Show this week on Barnett’s piece.

You aren’t going to win an argument with a leftist by relying on leftist talking points. You’ve already conceded the field.

Part II is now up.

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