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the  great  land  hunt 

The Myth about the early colonists is that they sought only homes for themselves and freedom to practice their faith.  They were soon seeking all the land they could get and working it with servants and slaves or holding it for speculation.  Roger Williams described them:  They  have a depraved appetite after . . . great portions of land, land in this wilderness, as if men were in as great necessity and danger for want of great portions of land, as poor, hungry, thirsty seamen  . . .  after a long and starving passage. (letter to Major Mason, June 22nd 1670 )  The pursuit of Indian lands drove the wars of extermination against the Pequots and Narragansetts.  A later writer testifies to the pursuit of land as a source of wealth without work:  This hunger after Land seems very early to have taken rise in this Province, & is become now a kind of Epidemical madness, every Body eager to accumulate vast Tracts without having an intention or taking measures to settle or improve it.  ( Peter Wraxall writing in 1754 in New York )  

When Captain John Smith and the first group of colonists arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in April of 1607, they assured the chief of the Powhatans that they intended to stay only long enough to repair their boats.  By the end of the century the Indians who first greeted them were reduced to a tenth of their former population.  They were confined to a few reservations while all the land they once farmed was in the hands of the invaders. 

Those first colonists were standing on the edge of two and a quarter billion acres of real estate that,  absent  the  indians,  was theirs for the taking.  Not surprisingly, the permanent absence of the Indians soon became one of the primary goals of the American settlers.  It is fair to describe the forcible expulsion of 1 million Indians from their homes (and the same thing happened in Hawaii and Alaska)  as  the  permanent  policy  of  the  american  people,  carried out over 300 years as settlement moved west.  There were many who opposed it--as a matter of rhetoric.  A few missionaries seriously opposed it and found themselves in prison.  When the Chief Justice ruled in favor of the Cherokees of Georgia, President Andrew Jackson said John Marshall has made his decision.  Now let him enforce it.  William Penn and 100 Quakers signed an agreement with the Indians in 1682, the only treaty to which no oaths were sworn and the only one ever faithfully kept.  But Penn's sons abandoned the Quaker faith and adopted the policy of taking and selling Indian lands.  Benjamin Franklin was a member of the Pennsylvania legislature which passed a law in 1756 to pay bounties on Indian scalps--women's as well as men's. 


 

not yet on web site--

A 2009 book by Kevin Kenny, Peaceable Kingdom Lost, The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Experiment describes how the patriotic thugs of Pennsylvania waged a war of extermination against peaceful Christian Indians under cover of the Revolution.  See the account of the massacre at a mission of the Moravian Brethren March 9 1782 on pages 231-232.  


 





Jamestown:  tobacco  and  poisoned  sherry 

Every American school child has heard the story of the Indian Princess Pocahontas who married John Rolfe--Speak for yourself, John.  Actually, she was being held prisoner at the time, and she was already married.  Very few American schoolchildren have heard the story about the Jamestown settlers bringing a cask of poisoned sherry to what was supposed to be a peace parley with the Indians in 1623.  They poisoned 200 of the Indians and then shot another 50.  That is one of many episodes in a story that continued until all of the Indians of Virginia had been displaced from their homes.  By 1676 the remnant of the Powhatans had been forced onto reservations, most of which were later taken from them.  On the land where they once raised corn to feed themselves, slaves raised tobacco to be shipped to England.  By 1700, 1000 Powhatans remained of the 12,000 who lived there when Captain John Smith arrived in 1607.  In The Devil's Dictionary,   Ambrose Bierce satirized the attitude of the American colonists:   ABORIGINES  n.  Persons of little worth found encumbering the soil of a newly discovered country.  They soon cease to cumber;  now they fertilize. 

The Powhatans gave land to those first settlers, enough for them to settle on and raise food.  There was good hunting and good fishing.  Had they been content to farm a few acres they could have made homes for themselves.  How much land can you farm by yourself ?  What do you need with more ?  But the colonists came to make their fortunes.  They didn't want 10 acres, they wanted 10,000 acres.  They didn't want to work the land themselves, they wanted slaves and servants to work the land for them.  They didn't want to raise food to feed their families, they wanted to make money by catering to the new vice.  Tobacco certificates became the major currency of Virginia.  They could have had peace with the Powhatans,   but they did not want it.  They wanted war because only through war could they pursue the fortunes they came to find.  They really are the founders of that  All  American  life  style  which  trashes  families  in  the  pursuit  of  wealth,  which is addicted to the power and wealth which perennially leads to war.  It is  a way of life which has been with us ever since.

Those early Virginia settlers had no interest in a family farm.  They despised agricultural labor as the task assigned to slaves and servants.  Ten years after they arrived, they still got their food from England and traded for Indian corn or, more often,  took it by force.  The first bunch was looking for Sir Walter Raleigh's  cities  of  gold  and a direct trade route to the Orient.  When they found neither, they settled for tobacco plantations established on land taken from the Indians and worked by slaves brought from Africa.  They were looking for ways to make money more than they were looking for a place to live.  And this established the Virginia life style in which the Virginia aristocracy of 1776 was raised, which they inherited and passed on to their children, a life style which copied the English gentry in the attachment to luxury and leisure and which depended upon a lower class of indentured servants and slaves who were prevented by their circumstances from anything resembling a decent family life. 

great estates

The founding grandfathers belonged to a class of men who acquired great estates through political connections.  Lord Thomas Fairfax had 5 million acres.  William Byrd II had 180,000 acres.  After the Shenandoah Valley was opened, Benjamin Border acquired 600,000 acres from 1734 to 1749 through his friendship with Governor Gooch.  An 800,000 acre grant to the Loyal Company is described as a present that the leaders of the legislature, with the governor participating, made to themselves.  Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's father, was one of those who shared in this bounty.  George Washington's father owned 6 plantations.  His great grandfather, Colonel John Washington had been in the Virginia House of Burgesses.  John Henry, Patrick Henry's father, who had married into the influential Winston family, obtained land grants from the Governor's Council. 

The land owning system of America was the land owning system of England shipped overseas.  When the Normans beat the Saxons,  King William became the owner of all England, including the deer in the forest and the fish in the rivers.  He then parceled it out to his dukes who parceled it out to the knights and bishops and abbots whose serfs and tenants worked on the land.  They worked for a living, while those above them  owned  for  a  living.  In America, with two billion acres for the taking, common men had a much better chance of getting hold of some of it, but they often had to choose between paying rent to the big landlords or moving on.  The Quality claimed the best lands, while The Quantity scrambled for a share of what was left.  The broad bottom lands were appropriated by the gentry while the commoners wound up in the  dark hollows  of the mountains where all you could raise was moonshine whiskey.  Then President Washington sent the soldiers after them, because, like the founding fathers, they resisted paying taxes.  Mount Vernon produced whiskey, and he resented the competition.    [  41  ] 

King James gave Virginia to the Virginia Company and New England to the New England Company.  William Penn was given Pennsylvania and Delaware to pay off a debt owed to his father.  Maine and New Hampshire belonged to Sir Ferdinand Gorges and Captain John Mason.  Sir William Alexander received Nova Scotia in its entirety.   Sir George Calvert was given Maryland.  The Carolinas were given to  8 titled Englishmen.  Lord John Berkeley was given western New Jersey.   Sir George Carteret was given eastern New Jersey.  These gentlemen then parceled out what they supposedly owned although they often had trouble collecting their quitrents, especially after the Puritan Revolution led to the King losing his head.  There was something of a free for all in which aristocrats and commoners both tended to become squatters. 

A basic cause of the American Revolution was their fear of losing their land or having to pay up the arrears.  Long before the American Revolution, a rumor that the official owner intended to collect quitrents led to civil disturbances.  Some of these landlords also had grants in Ireland.  The Earl of Clarendon received his main rents from Irish grants.  Sir George Calvert had extensive land grants in Ireland.  They were some of those responsible for the situation which forced so many famine Irish to leave Ireland to come to America. 

In 1737, Henry McCullough, supervisor of the royal revenues in North Carolina, granted to himself and some associates a patent of 1.2 million acres.  In 1752  Governor Dobbs of North Carolina gave out most of the good farming land to a few families who paid him.  He wound up with 300,000 acres himself.  Lord Granville, one of the 8 noblemen to whom the Carolinas had been given, took a 60 mile wide strip in North Carolina on the Virginia border as his share.

When the English took New York from the Dutch in 1664, it was already being parceled out into great estates.  Henry Beekman got a tract 16 miles in length in Dutchess County.  He also had a tract 20 miles along the Hudson by 8 miles inland.  Governor Richard Coote, one of the few honest men of the time, tried to limit land grants to 100 acres.  But Governor Fletcher was bribed to give the Dellius Patent of 620,000 acres to a group for a quitrent of one raccoon skin per year.  This land was swindled from the Wapping Indians who had fought with the English against the French.  When the British government finally ruled against the Dellius Patent, it became a cause of revolutionary bitterness among some of the important men of the colony. 

 

George Washington 

When the American army surrounded the City of Boston in 1776 and began firing artillery into the town, General Washington exhorted the soldiers:  On our present conduct depends the Salvation of America.  It is a noble Cause we are engaged in, it is the cause of virtue and mankind; every temporal advantage and comfort to us, and our posterity depends upon the vigor of our exertions; in short, Freedom or Slavery must be the result of our conduct.  This from a slave owner.  Quote from  Dr. Samuel Johnson:  How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes ? 

After the Battle of Yorktown, George Washington rounded up the slaves who had fled to the British during the war and returned them to himself and their other former owners.  That is how he celebrated and defined the triumph of liberty. 

In Paris in 1783 John Adams and Benjamin Franklin signed off on the agreement which stipulated that 3000 fugitive slaves who had taken refuge with the British forces in America would be returned to their owners.  In New York, George Washington demanded the return of the fugitives, which included some of his own runaway slaves, from the British commander, Sir Guy Carleton.  But Carleton refused because he believed that the honor of the British crown, which had declared them free, would thereby be compromised.  It is notable that it was a British General, not General Washington, who defended the liberty of these people.  They were taken to Nova Scotia to get them away from Washington and the other slave owners trying to recapture their property.  Eventually, they were taken to Sierra Leone in Africa.  [ Adam Hochschild Bury the Chains  101-105   204  249 ]

George Washington's letter to a friend in 1767 said that anyone who neglects the present opportunity of hunting out good lands and in some measure marking and distinguishing them for their own will never regain it.   I can never look upon that  [1763] proclamation in any other light . . . than as a temporary expedient to quiet the minds of the Indians and [it] must fall of cours in a few years especially when those Indians are consenting to our occupying their lands.  (Writings of George Washington   John Fitzpatrick 2:467-471 )  And the  great  land  hunt  continued all over the colonies.  Perennial wars drove the Indians from their lands.  If they did not resist they were pushed off.  If they did resist or retaliate, it justified  a war of extermination.  Usually there was some semblance of legality.  Drunk Indians were persuaded to make a mark on deeds granting vaguely described lands.  An Indian would be made Chief for a Day to give him the authority to sign over the land belonging to his tribe.  The Iroquois cheerfully signed over land occupied by their enemies.  A land company paid lawyer Patrick Henry for a legal opinion that the transfer of land by Indians to private companies was valid even without the approval of the colonial legislature or the British government.

This land quest became a basic cause of the American Revolution after the British Government set the top of the Alleghenies as the limit for land hunting by the 1763 proclamation and then, in 1774, passed the Quebec Act, which made the land north of the Ohio River part of Quebec while giving Quebec Catholics equal rights.  The land interests of the American speculators were endangered and they managed to stir up the farmers of New England to believe that their religious liberty was in danger by the grant of equal rights to Catholics.  By  equal  rights  they meant their equal rights, not everybody's equal rights.  The British government tried to curtail the land hunt because, among other reasons, it stirred up war with the Indians and the British Empire was broke after fighting a series of wars on several continents.  But now the colonists were much less dependent upon the British since the French had been ousted from the Mississippi valley.  And the French empire was promising military support for an American rebellion against Britain.  In the years leading up to the Revolution, French agents met secretly with the patriots of America and hatched the conspiracy which led to the war. 

Benjamin Franklin participated in the great land hunt as a partner in several land companies.  In 1769, while living in London, he became a partner in the Grand Ohio Company which included some of England's richest men, including London bankers like Thomas Walpole and his brother.  By distributing stock to important government officials they got the Privy Council to approve their Ohio land grant in 1772.  The outbreak of the war prevented them from realizing their windfall, but it is a good example of the corrupt dealings in American real estate which preoccupied the American patriots on the eve of the Revolutionary War.

nor yet by toil

Young Washington copied a poem into his journal,  True Happiness, which stated his ideal:   A good estate on healthy soil, Not got by vice, nor yet by toil.  Obviously no amount of ordinary toil could lead to one of the great estates which went to those who were Assemblymen or those who could afford the price of an Assemblyman.  We have the same free enterprise system today.  It is our inheritance from the founding fathers.  The City Council, or the State Legislature or the Congress or the various departments of the Administration, further the enterprises of those who can afford their services.  And courteously escort those who cannot to the nearest exit.  

All of the founding fathers participated in the Great Land Hunt.  It was the major preoccupation of the men of their time, rich and poor.  But only the well-connected and the prosperous had the access to the Virginia legislature and the money to invest in the private land companies which bought the influence they needed to successfully pursue real estate.  The colony's royal charter described Virginia as extending 200 miles north and south from the entrance to Chesapeake Bay and within those bounds east and west from sea to sea.  The first settlers had displaced the Powhatans from their coastal lands.  The next generation took the piedmont from the Cherokees.  Now the land hunters of 1760 pursued land beyond the Allegheny Mountains. 

Before the Revolution, Washington spent a lot of time and energy in the pursuit of land.  After the death of his brother Lawrence, he took a leading role in the Ohio Company and was appointed by Governor Dinwoodie, also a major stockholder, to accompany Braddock on a 1754 expedition to the Ohio Valley that was actually a private crusade to protect their land grant from the French.  After they had failed to arouse any enthusiasm from other Virginians for a military venture in which they had no financial interest, volunteer soldiers were enticed by the promise of a share in 200,000 acres. 

the Ohio Valley 

The Governor of Virginia, the very important 12 man Council and the legislature had, at least in legal theory, the right to hand out real estate stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River and even beyond to the Pacific.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were among those who pursued land in the Ohio Valley across the mountains.  Washington eventually acquired 40,000 of the 200,000 acres given to volunteers of the 1754 regiment, even though it was originally supposed to go to compensate the volunteers, not the officers like Washington who had already been paid.  At the time of his death, his Ohio land made up the most valuable part of his estate.  In 1930, three of these tracts were appraised at 40 million dollars. 

In settled tide water Virginia, Washington owned 5000 acres and 49 slaves when he married a wealthy widow in January 1759.  Martha Dandridge Custis had 17,000 acres worked by 200 negroes plus 30,000 pounds.  One British pound sterling, circa 1759, would have been worth at least $ 150 in modern American money.  Washington is truly  the father of his country in that he is the model for all Americans who devoutly believe that  there  is  no  such  thing  as  enough  money.  It is one of our fundamental  american  values and it comes down to us from the founding fathers.   He is an inspiration to those star athletes who add millions of dollars in shoe endorsements to their multi-million dollar salaries, thus inspiring slum youth and the rest of us to adopt the All American motto:   Get all you can, any way you can.  He is written up for refusing a salary as Commander in Chief from the Continental Congress, but Continental dollars were worthless and the French bankrolled both his army and the Congress itself.  He regularly over spent the salary he received as the nation's first President. 

Like the other gentlemen of Virginia, Washington spent large sums on everything that was needed to make a proper appearance.  The accouterments of a gentleman included  a scarlet cloak, black clothes, and a dressed wig.  His imported carriage cost 100 pounds.  Washington showed up for a meeting of the Virginia assembly in a carriage drawn by the fancy horses he had purchased from the estate of the royal Governor, Lord Botetourt--six cream white animals, their silvery harnesses gleaming in the brilliant sunshine.  Their equipages precluded the founding fathers from giving up any of the revenue they received from owning slaves.  Maintaining the carriages, caring for the horses and polishing the harness required a small task force of drivers, grooms, stable boys, and footmen.

It is clear that, throughout his life, Washington persisted in regarding Negroes as disposable property.  In a March 21 1781 letter to Benjamin Harrison, he complains of having to sell negroes to pay up the taxes on his Virginia estates.  In a letter to his mother written February 15 1787, about her real and imagined financial needs, Washington advises her to  hire out the negroes.  This would ease you of all care and trouble, make your income certain, and your support ample.  . . . hire out all the rest of your servants except  a man and a maid, and live with one of your children.  This would relieve you entirely from the cares of this world, and leave your mind at ease to reflect undisturbedly on that which ought to come.  ( Bellamy  Private Life of George Washington ) 

liberty  for  the  cook 

When President and Mrs. Washington were in residence in Philadelphia, Martha Washington's personal slave, Oney Judge, escaped from the house in 1796 as the Washingtons were eating dinner.  Washington's prized cook, Hercules, fled in 1797.  (NY Times 4-20-2)  Incredible as it seems, belonging to President Washington's household and serving the great man himself and his international guests, wasn't enough to help these people resist the temptation to seek freedom as they defined it, spelled with a small personal f.  Maybe they hadn't read the Declaration.  The lawyers hadn't explained to them how  freedom  and slavery work together.  They apparently did not believe that the private platitudes of the founding fathers would ever do them any good.  There are anti slavery statements in Washington's letters but he never made a public statement opposing slavery.  By the time of his presidency it had long been the fashion in aristocratic society to have an anti slavery opinion.  You could own slaves and still be respectable, but it was as necessary to wear an anti slavery opinion, as it was to wear a powdered wig.  When he advertised in the county paper for the return of a runaway slave, offering a reward, he instructed the editor to leave his name out of the ad.  As President he signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 into law.  It ensured the right of owners to reclaim slaves as lost property.  Washington evaded the Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 by rotating his house hold slaves back to Virginia within the 6 month limit. 

It was his concern for his own fame that pushed him to include a provision in his will that the 125 slaves (out of 317) which belonged entirely to him should be freed, not after he died in 1797, but when Martha died.  But that put Martha in the position of living on the same plantation with 125 people who would be freed should she have a fatal accident or illness.  The carriage horses bolting because of a burr under the harness or a dead snake on the bridge;  too much of the wrong kind of medicine on her bedside table;  the mansion catching fire;  any of these things would cause 125 of her slaves to feel a certain jubilation through their tears for Old Missus.  Martha, it is said,  had a growing fear of the slaves who lived at Mount Vernon--those who would become free upon her death.   So she went to court in 1800 and freed the 125. 

Slavery was surrounded by a complicated politics, made more complex by the hypocrisy of the politicians.  Virginia plantation owners wanted to end the African slave trade because it undercut the value of the slaves they raised.  The high mortality rate of slaves in the mosquito-infested rice swamps of South Carolina and the demand for slaves among those establishing cotton plantations in the new territories created a demand for new supplies of slaves from Africa.  Rhode Island had few black slaves, but vessels from there dominated the slave and rum trade from Africa and the West Indies, and they strongly resisted any interference with it.  In 1729 Newport required a L 100 bond from anyone freeing a Negro, in case he became dependent upon town charity.  Owners of old and worn out slaves were only too ready to free them--reap the moral credit and shed the financial burden.  Small farmers opposed slavery because they could not compete with it, and free laborers opposed it because it undercut their wages.  Those opposed to slavery often had no sympathy for blacks as such.  The Free Soil party in Kansas wanted to exclude free negroes as well as slaves.  Black slaves were essential to the great plantations of the semi tropical south but not much use in New England.  Immigrant white labor could be cheaper than black slave labor and more expendable.  You didn't risk losing the money you had invested in the slave.  That was a basic reason for using immigrant labor on dangerous projects.  The Southern delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 wanted protection for their slave property and a continuation of the slave trade--they got both--but they also wanted to count slaves as people--as populace anyway--to give them greater representation in Congress.  Northern statesmen, looking out for their interest,  had to argue that slaves could not be counted as people, much less citizens, if they were still property, with no right to vote.  So the Founding Freemasons, in their Wisdom, decided that a slave is both Property and 3/5ths of a person.  Perhaps the pro life lawyers, looking for another clever stratagem, could argue that an embryo child is 1/3 of a person at 3 months gestation and 2/3ds of a person at 6 months, and has rights accordingly, in the spirit of the original Constitution. 

 

Patrick Henry:   liberty  and  slavery 

Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace--but there is no peace.  The war is actually begun !  The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms !  Our brethren are already in the field !  Why stand we here idle ?  What is it that gentlemen wish ?  What would thy have ?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery ?  Forbid it, Almighty God !  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, . . . give  me  liberty  or  give  me  death !  (Mayer)  Patrick Henry  March 23rd  1775   Reportedly, he made a gesture of plunging an ivory handled letter opener into his breast by way of illustration. 

They'll  Take  Your  Niggers  From  You !   Patrick Henry June 17th 1788   Warning his fellow Virginians about the new Constitution.   There is some argument among scholars as to whether Patrick Henry delivered the speech of 1775 as his early biographer William Wirt later reconstructed it from various sources.  Like Parson Weems, he tended to romanticize.  But there is no doubt that Henry said something of the sort or that he was a gifted orator.  There is also some doubt about what he literally said in 1788, although this is what he said according to one listener.  But there is no doubt that he had a major concern with insuring that the new Constitution would protect the property rights of the Virginia slave owners.  Slavery had become unpopular in the North for economic reasons as much as for moral reasons.  And Patrick Henry was alarmed with the degree to which the new Constitution took away the powers which he had wielded as Governor of Virginia.  In fact the new Constitution eroded the self government of Virginia far more than any imposition by the British Parliament. 

This is some of what Henry had to say about slavery in 1788:  As much as I deplore slavery, I see that prudence forbids its abolition.  I deny that the general government ought to set them free, because a decided majority of the States have not the ties of sympathy and fellow-feeling for those whose interest would be affected by their emancipation.  The majority of Congress is to the north, and the slaves are to the south.  In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquillity gone away.  I repeat it again, that it would rejoice my very soul, that every one of my fellow-beings was emancipated.  As we ought with gratitude to admire that decree of heaven which has numbered us among the free, we ought to lament and deplore the necessity of holding our fellow men in bondage.  But is it practicable, by any human means, to liberate them, without producing the most dreadful and ruinous consequences ?  We ought to possess them in the manner we have inherited them from our ancestors, as their manumission is incompatible with the felicity of the country.  But we ought to soften, as much as possible, the rigor of their unhappy fate. 

So  the  felicity  of  the  country--the happiness of the country--required the unhappiness of the slaves.  Their pursuit of Happiness and their Liberty was not compatible with Henry's pursuit of these blessings.   Like the soldiers and the embryo babies, they must lay down their lives for Their Country--someone's country anyway, it hardly belonged to them.  It was the decree of heaven which gave freedom to Patrick Henry et al while the decree of the Virginia Assemblymen perpetuated the slavery of those who worked their plantations while they made grand speeches in the Assembly.  They did not accept as a decree of heaven that America belonged to Britain, but it was the decree of heaven that their black slaves belonged to them. 

77 years later

The 40 suggested amendments which the Virginia Assembly of 1788 pressed upon those who wrote the Constitution eventually led to the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.  But it was 1865 before an amendment to the Constitution was passed which outlawed slavery.  Meanwhile, millions of Americans lived and died in slavery.  It took 77 years of misery and a Civil War in which 600,000 were killed to finally put an end to the legal slavery which Patrick Henry and the other southerners insisted upon.  He bears moral responsibility for the protection of Slavery and the assertion of States Rights, which were basic to the Southern position, and for tying a bad cause to a good cause.  And the bitterness of the formal end of slavery brought about by a terrible war which devastated and impoverished the South, insured that Southern Negroes remained in poverty and bondage, perpetuated by Jim Crow laws and terrorism.  There were an estimated  2500 lynchings in the last 16 years of the 19th century,  107 reported lynchings in 1899.  Negroes were systematically disenfranchised and forced to go back to working on the plantations in a condition of semi slavery.  The South was still segregated 100 years after the 13th amendment was passed.  In the 1960s, Negroes still worked for $ 3 a day when they could get it, and still were not citizens who could vote. 

And for all that we have Patrick Henry to thank.  His great virtues were great vices in their practical effects.  He loved his country, which was Virginia, and he loved his family.  He left them and us a legacy of a genteel life style based upon great estates worked by slaves.  The fundamental contradiction of those men who proclaimed liberty while they practiced slavery is no where more evident than it is in the life of Patrick Henry. 

He once tried to write a pamphlet on the subject but had to put it aside.  In it he asked  Is there a man so degenerate as to wish to see his country the gloomy retreat of slaves ?  Henry realized what slavery was doing to Virginia.  By the time he wrote, black slaves were half of Virginia's population of 500,000.  After a slave revolt in which a number of whites were killed, Virginia passed a law prohibiting the education of Negro slaves.  Free white settlers avoided Virginia rather than try to compete with the system of great plantations, owned by aristocrats and  worked by slaves.  The easy access to slave women by the young white men of Virginia debauched their morals and produced illegitimate and outcast children who had a second reason to hate the white Virginians, the fathers who had discarded them.  The violence of slavery, the manacles, the whips, and the necessary intimidation degraded both slaves and masters.  Crimes against Negroes went unpunished because a slave could not take his master to court.  This situation of unreported and unpunished crime continued for 200 years.

the  Quaker  example 

In January of 1773, Henry wrote a reply to Robert Pleasants, a Quaker and Virginia neighbor who had freed his slaves, hired them back as paid laborers, and set up schools to educate them.  The reported cost was 3000 pounds--half a million in modern dollars.  Pleasants had sent him an anti slavery book written by the French born Philadelphia Quaker Anthony Benezet--  

I take this opp to acknowledge the receipt of A Benezet Book against the Slave Trade.  I thank you for it.  It is not a little surprising that Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart, in cherishing & improving its finer Feelings, should encourage a Practice so totally repugnant to the first Impression of right & wrong.  What adds to the wonder is that the Abominable Practice has been introduced in ye most enlightened Ages, Times that seem to have pretensions to boast of high Improvements in the Arts, Sciences, & refined Morality, have brought into general use, & guarded by many Laws, a Species of Violence & Tyranny, which our more rude & barbarous, but more honest Ancestors detested.    Is it not amazing that at a time, when ye Rights of Humanity are defined & understood with precision, in a Country above all others fond of Liberty, that in such an Age, & such a Country we find Men, professing a Religion ye most humane, mild, meek, gentle & generous; adopting a Principle as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistant with the Bible and destructive to Liberty. 

Every thinking honest Man rejects it in Speculation, how few in practice from consciencious
Motives ?  The World in general has denied ye People a share of its honours, but the Wise will ascribe to ye a just Tribute of virtuous Praise, for ye Practice of a train of Virtues among which yr disagreement to Slavery will be principally ranked.--I cannot but wish well to a people whose System imitates ye Example of him whose Life was perfect.--And believe me, I shall honour the Quakers for their noble Effort to abolish Slavery.  It is equally calculated to promote moral & political Good. 

Would any one believe that I am Master of Slaves of my own purchase !  I am drawn along by ye general inconvenience of living without them.  I will not, I cannot justify it.  However culpable my Conduct, I will so far pay my devoir to Virtue, as to own the excellence & rectitude of her Precepts, & to lament my want of conforming to them.--

I believe a time will come when an opposition will be offered to abolish this lamentable Evil.  Every thing we can do is to improve it, if it happens in our day, if not, let us transmit to our descendants together with our Slaves, a pity for their unhappy Lot, & an abhorrence for Slavery.  If we cannot reduce this wished for Reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity, it is ye furthest advance we can make toward Justice.  [ We owe to the ] purity of our Religion to shew that it is at variance with that Law which warrants Slavery.

Here is an instance that silent Meetings (ye scoff of reverend Doctors) have done that which learned & elaborate Preaching could not effect, so much preferable are the genuine dictates of Conscience & a steady attention to its feelings above ye teachings of those men who pretend to have found a better Guide.  I exhort you to persevere in so worthy a resolution, Some of your People disagree, or at least are lukewarm in the abolition of Slavery.  Many treat ye Resolution of your Meeting with redicule, & among those who throw Contempt on it, are Clergymen, whose surest Guard against both Redicule & Contempt is a certain Act of Assembly.--

I know not where to stop, I could say many things on this Subject; a serious review of which gives a gloomy perspective to future times.  Excuse this Scrawl, and believe me with esteem,     Yr hbl Servt.      Patrick Henry jun  

Every thinking honest Man rejects it in Speculation, how few in practice from consciencious
Motives ? 
 obviously describes Patrick Henry himself.  No doubt he deserves some credit for stating that:   I will not, I cannot justify it.  Then he says that I shall honour the Quakers for their noble Effort to abolish Slavery.  It is equally calculated to promote moral & political Good. . . .    I believe a time will come when an opposition will be offered to abolish this lamentable Evil.    Why was his own time not the time to do it ?  Why did the opposition to slavery led by the Quakers not qualify as the necessary opposition movement ?  The basic political reason is that abolition was a long way from being a popular cause, especially in Virginia.  And Patrick Henry was a popular politician.  So long as it remained an unpopular movement, he could not join it.  He did not get himself elected governor by espousing unpopular causes. 

Robert Pleasants and other Quakers had already abolished slavery from their own society.  Without doing violence to anything except their own bank accounts.  Patrick Henry, turning away from so obvious and simple a solution, looks forward to some future time.  Which did come of course.  The great violence of Bloody Kansas and the American Civil War was the only answer to the failure of Patrick Henry and the others to follow the Christian example which Pleasants and the Quakers had set for them.  That is the central theme of American History as of all Imperial History.  We pass by the road which led to Peace and Justice as if we couldn't see it and then find ourselves in a situation which demands war. 

violence and nonviolence

The neglect of the nonviolent solution inevitably leads to the demand for the violent solution.  How different the history of America would have been if other Christians had copied the Quakers in their abolition of slavery and in their refusal to go to war.  If the entirely unnecessary and unjustified Revolutionary War had been avoided, the Civil War could have been avoided also.  Slavery was ended in all British territories by 1833.  And America would almost certainly have become independent of the British Empire without a war,  the same way that Canada and Australia did.  But that is not the way of embryo empires. 

Henry says:  Is it not amazing that at a time, when ye Rights of Humanity are defined & understood with precision, in a Country above all others fond of Liberty, that in such an Age, & such a Country we find Men . . . . adopting a Principle as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistant with the Bible and destructive to Liberty.   And amazing that Patrick Henry of  Give me Liberty or Give me Death fame would go along with Slavery and fail to include the slaves in the 1777 Declaration of Rights.  Two years later, Henry was calling for war as the only alternative to  chains and slavery--that is, the only alternative to white Americans putting up with the tax on tea etc.  Meanwhile, he sees no alternative to the chains and slavery that he and the other Virginians have imposed upon the black Africans who work on their plantations.  They had more to complain about than a tax on tea.  He says that Slavery is inconsistant with the Bible.  But, even though he believes in the Bible, he will not do what he has to do to follow what he pretends to believe. 

Love of Country 

a serious review of which gives a gloomy perspective to future times  echoes his earlier question:  Is there a man so degenerate as to wish to see his country the gloomy retreat of slaves ?   And shows his recognition of what slavery would do to American society.  What it had already done to Virginia society.  Yet, Virginia's patriarch had no answer, even when Robert Pleasants handed him the answer.  He ignores the answer he has in his hand and shades his eyes, peering into the future for an answer.  There are many such Statesmen.  There is no doubt that, in his way, he loved Virginia.  And he saw what slavery was doing to Virginia.  And, along with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, he was the most influential and important Virginian.  He had the most prominent position in the State.  He had a great gift of speaking.  And none of it added up to a Declaration that  we  must  give  them  their  liberty ! 

He describes slavery as  Violence & Tyranny  and destructive to Liberty.  But he can do nothing about it even while he calls for rebellion against King George III.  Who was hardly either a tyrant or a despot.  Since King Charles I had his head cut off in 1649, the English King had become something of a Constitutional Monarch who was careful about how much tyrannizing he attempted over his subjects.  The British government could fairly be described as a corrupt plutocracy, much like the government of colonial Virginia.  But there was as much freedom for the common man in England as there was in America and England was far closer to being a democracy than the France of Louis XVI which instigated the American colonists to rebel against England and then bankrolled and supported the Rebellion.  And England had abolished slavery in 1772, freeing some 11,000 slaves in England itself. 

Robert Pleasants wrote Governor Patrick Henry again in March 1777:  Some of us from a full conviction of the injustice, and an apprehension of duty, have been induced to embrace the present favorable juncture, when the representatives of the people have nobly declared  all  men  equally  free  to manumit divers of our negroes;  and propose, without any desire to offend or thereby to injure any person, to invest more of them with the same inestimable priviledge.  This I conceive was necessary to inform the Governor of, especially as I have been told there hath not been wanting some busie meddling people, who have threatened to put in force the former most unjust and unreasonable law--which empowered the church wardens to take and sell such manumitted negroes back into slavery--and that application has actually been made to thee for this very purpose; altho' from a knowledge of thy sentiments on this subject, I am far from thinking, such application would meet with any encouragement from thee.

wash  your  own  hands  first 

He acknowledges the Virginia Declaration of Rights as Noble but suggests that the Virginia legislature should act to establish a general, uniform and constant liberty, that is, include the slaves in the Declaration,  for if less injury offered to ourselves from the mother Country, can justify the expense of so much Blood and Treasure, how can we impose with propriety absolute slavery on others ?  It hath often appeared to me as if this very matter was one, if not the principal cause of our present troubles, and that we ought first to have cleansed our own hands, before we could consistently oppose the measures of others, tending to the same purpose.  In short, why not first give liberty to the slaves living in Virginia, before embarking upon a war which is supposedly on behalf of  liberty  somehow defined so that it continues to include slavery ?  Take the beam out of your own eye first.  Then Pleasants asks:   But if on the contrary we seek our own glory, and present interest, by forbidden means, how can we expect peace there, or happiness hereafter ?  . . .  the present struggle for liberty, if successful, would be but partial, and instead of abolishing, might lay the foundation of greater imposition   and Tiranny to our posterity than any we have yet known.  Like Patrick Henry he sees the terrible consequences of failing to put an end to slavery.  Unlike Henry, he seriously set out to accomplish it and did accomplish it so far as it lay in his power.  

Henry says:  if it happens in our day, if not, let us transmit to our descendants together with our Slaves, a pity for their unhappy Lot.  What is the excuse for such fatalism ?  He was eager, rhetorically at least, to jump into a war for  freedom now !  in respect to breaking the chains of the tea tax on himself and his fellow plantation owners.  He didn't accept fatalistically the prospect that perhaps some day the American colonies would be independent of Great Britain.  But he is philosophically resigned to the prospect that his slaves are not going to be freed in his life time.  He is pretty sure of that because he does not intend to free them.  Instead he is going to leave them to his children.  Which is just what he did.  But why ?  Patrick Henry was a very successful lawyer and a very successful politician, several times elected Governor of Virginia.  Why could he not live without slaves ?  Why could he not free them in his will ?  If he believes that slavery is a curse, why does he intend to leave this curse to his children, instead of protecting them from it ?  ye general inconvenience of living without them is somehow sufficient reason for Henry to continue in a life style which puts a curse upon his family and his country and which entirely discredits his pretence that he is ready to die for liberty.  He is ready to die for liberty but he has to hold on to slavery because it would be inconvenient to quit it.  It sounds familiar doesn't it ?  He is indeed the spiritual father of all those modern Americans who are rhetorically ready to die for liberty but can't face the inconvenience of forgoing abortion. 

my  home  sweet  home 

The personal reason why Henry could not join the abolitionists is that he had spent his whole life acquiring those plantations which required slaves to work them.  And he meant to leave them to the children he had brought up in the plantation life style.  For Patrick Henry,  america, my home sweet home, meant my mansion house on my estate.  For his slaves, it meant the cabins out back, and chains, if necessary, to keep them from escaping.  And, because he loved his children, he intended to leave them sufficient property so that they could continue to live in the way he had brought them up.  Patrick Henry perhaps deserves the title of  father  of  his  country  more than George Washington.  Henry had 16 children by two wives, having married again in October 1777 after the death of his first wife.  He was devoted to his many children and left them all plantations and slaves.  He gave his beloved daughters slaves for their dowries.  He bequeathed to all of them a life style in which fine houses and fancy dresses were purchased by the hard labor of those who lived in shacks and worked in the tobacco fields in the July sun. 

When Patrick Henry gave one of his daughters a dozen negroes for a wedding present so she could continue to enjoy that leisurely and luxurious lifestyle which depended upon slavery, he perpetuated the situation which systematically undermined and destroyed the black family.  He is the model for those indulgent and self-indulgent parents who share a luxurious life style with their children, because they love their children but also because that is the way they wish to live.  And, once you get caught up in it, you can't see how else to live, just as the Henry family could not see how else they might live.  The price of that life style in his time was slavery.  The price of that life style in our time is abortion.  Had Patrick Henry loved Virginia better, he would never have left it a legacy of slavery.  Had he loved his children better, he would never have left them a life style which depended upon slavery.  He left his country and his children a terrible curse in the guise of a blessing.

Virginia lifestyle  circa 1800 

Traveling through Pennsylvania about 1800, Robert Sutcliffe saw prosperous farmers driving sturdy wagons pulled by good 4 horse teams.  In Virginia he typically saw  a ragged black boy or girl driving a team consisting of a lean cow and a mule;  sometimes a lean bull or an ox and a mule;  and I have seen a mule, a bull, and a cow each miserable in its appearance, composing one team, with a half-naked black slave or two riding or driving as occasion suited.  He saw a "hogshead of tobacco with a pivot or axle driven into each end  being rolled along the road pulled by a team. . . .   In the middle of these primitive sights, Sutcliffe was startled by a contrast such as Virginia could always show.  Between Richmond and Fredericksburg,--In the afternoon, as our road lay through the woods, I was surprised to meet a family party travelling along in as elegant a coach as is usually met with in the neighborhood of London, and attended by several gayly dressed footmen.   (page 26 of volume I of Henry Adams History )  Luxury based upon Slavery was the basic economy of Virginia in the time of Patrick Henry, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  It is the Real Legacy of the Founding Fathers and Mothers who had to have those elegant coaches and fancy dresses and gayly dressed footmen.  By contrast, the Quakers insisted upon simplicity in dress  as a Christian obligation.  William Penn said:  Let thy garments be plain and simple. . . . If thou art clean and warm, thy end is accomplished; to do more is to rob the poor. 

If Patrick Henry had really cared about real LIBERTY, instead of freeing lawyers from taxes, planters from trade restrictions, land speculators from limits on what they could grab, and ambitious politicians from being subordinate to the English government, he could have done something to benefit his country instead of leaving it with a legacy of slavery, racial segregation and degraded humanity stuck in slums.  He also sympathized with the religious dissenters of his time and sometimes took their cases, especially if they could pay him, but his own ambitions caused him to stick with the Anglican establishment his whole life--in public, and to go along with the Freemasons in private.  Just as he could agree fully with Pleasants while refusing to change his own behavior.   He is the archetype of so many men of natural ability and remarkable character who hold on to the wealth and power of this world and thereby compromise whatever pretended devotion they have to essential moral and spiritual ideals.  They are those that the  gospel describes--they receive the word but let it be choked by riches, like the seed which falls among thorns.  Henry had a wonderful eloquence.  And deceived himself and others into believing that he had done something because he had said something.  Our words condemn us when we do not live up to them.  They were better left unsaid. 

 

Thomas Jefferson 

In 1788 Thomas Jefferson declined to join an international anti slavery organization started by Brissot:   Those whom I serve have never been in a position to lift up their voices against slavery.  I am an American and a Virginian and, although I esteem your aims, I cannot affiliate myself with your association.  As he indicates, Jefferson was bound by his political position to protect slavery.  Those whom I serve would never have elected him President in 1800 and again in 1804 had he not been a reliable defender of the plantation and slavery system to which he and they belonged.  In 1820 he spoke out against the provision in the Missouri Compromise which restricted slavery in the new territories, even though he had proposed such a restriction himself back in 1784.  Whatever grand and fuzzy sentiments he put into the Declaration of Independence, as an ambitious political man he stuck to the Virginia formula which said in effect that  some are more equal than others.  He is really telling Brissot that I have never been in a position to lift up my voice against slavery.  That is, any serious opposition to slavery was incompatible with the position of wealth and power he occupied.  In this respect he is the father of all those who can never stand up for what they know to be right, because they cannot let go of the wealth they have or give up the pursuit of the power they seek.  They see what is right and they even say so.  But they never go beyond the limits which position sets.  Those who live the same kind of compromised life understand and sympathize. 

tremble  for  yourself 

And his personal life style throughout his entire life was tied to the perpetuation of slavery.  Whatever private opinion he might have held, or pretended that he held, Jefferson continued to buy slaves while he was President.  In his Notes on the State of Virginia he wrote:  I tremble for my Country when I reflect that God is Just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.   Which is a queer sort of theology, even for a half Christian.  Why did he not rather tremble for himself, since he lived and died a slave owner ?  Why did he assume that, when God woke up, He would not specially punish those, like Tom Jefferson, who made and spent large fortunes which came from slavery ?  God, as He is presented in the Christian New Testament, punishes the guilty individual, rather then blasting the whole group indiscriminately.  And Thomas Jefferson, prominent lawyer, soon to be President and a very smart fellow, could surely have figured out a way to make a living which did not perpetuate slavery, if he was afraid of God's Justice. 

When he had his Notes on the State of Virginia privately printed in Paris in 1785, Jefferson sent all of two copies to America, to his two friends and political comrades, James Madison and James Monroe.  He asked Madison's advice as to circulating it any further because there are sentiments on some subjects which I apprehend might be displeasing to the country perhaps to the assembly or to some who lead it.  I do not wish to be exposed to their censure . . . . And he expresses a fear that there might even be a misapplication of law to such a publication were it made. . . .   in no event do I propose to admit them to go to the public at large.  ( TJ in Paris to JM in Virginia May 11th 1785, p. 372 of Volume I of James Morton Smith ed. The Republic of Letters)   Eventually he passed out a dozen more copies to people he trusted, but it  was  not a  PUBLIC  publication aimed at pushing American opinion in the direction of abolition--which is how his later hagiographers like to present it.  No more than a handful of Americans ever had the chance to read it until Jefferson was long gone and safe from any censure.  I tremble etc. is now inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C., as if it were the public position which he took in his lifetime.  The truth is the exact opposite.  But thus is perpetuated the Big Lie about Jefferson which is essential to the Big Lie about America. 

( Psst.  Slavery is Wrong !  Pass it on ! )

What sort of a Fearless Crusade against Slavery can you mount via a Private Opinion communicated to a few friends and carefully withheld from the public ?   And, unlike the Quakers, who were doing everything they could, as openly as they could, to abolish slavery by deeds as well as by words, Jefferson could command the public platform.  He defied the British Empire supposedly but then was afraid to risk offending the prejudices of his fellow Virginia slave owners.  Of course he never would have become President if he had openly opposed slavery.  Especially if he had shown that he meant it by first liberating his own slaves.  He would have lost the support of the Southern plantation owners who counted him as one of their own.  Which is just what he was, for all practical and political purposes.  His pious anti slavery sentiments were passed on to posterity but concealed from his contemporaries.  In the battle over slavery, as it was actually being fought out in his own time, Jefferson was entirely on the side of the slave owners. 

The Notes contain a condemnation of  the whole commerce between master and slave as a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. . . . Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm  basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God ?  That they are not to be violated but with his wrath ?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just:  that his justice cannot sleep for ever.  Jefferson apparently hoped that the American Revolution would somehow lead to a total emancipation . . .  with the consent of the masters.  As if men who believe in wealth and spend their lives acquiring it can just give it up.  As if Jefferson himself could or would do it.  Nothing but a violent rebellion can get rid of the Tyranny of George III, but the despotism of slavery will somehow be ended via the confidential opinions of Tom Jefferson which he is too chicken to publish.  Since it wasn't published when it mattered,   why should anyone be bothered with it afterwards ?  Since he did not have the courage to declare it while he held center stage, what use is there in his private Notes which leaked out long afterwards ? 

It's the King's fault

In fact the American Revolution perpetuated Slavery and led to a major expansion of Slavery into the new lands of the Louisiana Purchase.  Why would Jefferson ever assume that men would voluntarily forego the opportunity to make their fortunes via the Plantation system ?  He was supposed to have been a political realist, but, in respect to slavery, he was a self-deluded dreamer and a Wishful Thinker.  Jefferson was in the morally anomalous position of believing that liberty was the gift of God, having to recognize that he was withholding that liberty from his slaves, and failing to do anything about it, aside from rhetorical pretenses.  Circa 1774, he blamed King George III for slavery, while giving his father and himself and his fellow plantation owners a pass.  If there was any truth to that indictment, who was to blame 10 years later, 20 years later, 30 years later and 40 years later, when George III was long gone and Thomas Jefferson had in effect replaced him ?  When he died  50  years  later,  in 1826, his slaves were still slaves.  And, in all these ways, he truly deserves his title as America's Founding Father.  Which is why it is important to have an accurate moral portrait of him.  By seeing him clearly we begin to see ourselves clearly.  The phoniness of his pretensions underlines the phoniness of ours.  The false claim made for America is tied to the false claim made for Thomas Jefferson.

It is important to notice how much of a conformist Jefferson was and how much of a conformist and even hypocrite he had to be in his position.  It explains how he could ostensibly support the Christian religion even while he did what he could to undermine it.  This same hypocrisy was characteristic of all the Virginia Freemasons who had long been in the habit of publicly attending the Anglican Church, as they were required to do by law, while secretly adhering to a creed which was seeking to subvert and replace Christianity with the religion of the New World Order.  This hypocrisy can be observed in the lives of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, James Monroe and all of the other Freemasons who played important roles in the American Revolution. 

Freedom Some Day 

When he was in the Congress in 1784, Jefferson supported a provision in the Ordinance regulating the new territories,  which would prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude after 1800.  When it was voted down, by one vote, he gave it up.  When the issue came up again in 1820 in respect to the Missouri Compromise he took the opposite position.  Which raises the obvious question as to whether he was ever serious about it.  He would hardly have given up the struggle for the rest of his political career and the rest of his life, after losing the provision by one committee vote in 1784, if he had really cared about it.  And what was his position worth anyway ?  He made no proposal to  End  Slavery  Now,  Where I Live, in the State of Virginia.  Rather he made an ineffectual gesture towards keeping other men from making money the way he did.  Some Day the Slaves Will Be Free, Some Where Beyond the Mountains.  Some Day We Will All Get Pie in the Sky. 

A letter to Jefferson in Paris from James Madison, dated January 22nd 1786, which summarized the actions of the Virginia legislature, said that:  Several petitions (from Methodists chiefly) appeared in favor of a gradual abolition of slavery  . . . were not thrown under the table, but were treated with all the indignity short of it.  (Smith, Letters I 401 )  It shows where any real opposition to slavery was coming from at that time.  The politicians were probably right in seeing the cause of abolition in Virginia as hopeless, but then why pretend they were statesmen or moral visionaries ?  Clearly, they gave no serious support to abolition.  And how could they while they held on to their own slaves and to their political careers ?  In this same session, Madison, with Jefferson's support, worked energetically and successfully to defeat a Bill for the support of Christian schools in Virginia.  Jefferson and Madison were both secretly Freemasons, and their Freedom of Religion Act was really aimed at freedom from the Christian Religion.  It shows the kind of effort they could make for something they really believed in.  Their actions, their lack of actions and their token gestures clearly show that they  did not have any real belief in the effort to abolish slavery. 

Jefferson and Madison both liked to think of themselves as opposed to slavery but their actions speak louder than their words.   And even their words were muted at the time when it counted.  When they seriously considered the prospect of freeing the negro slaves, they tied it to the condition that the freed slaves should then be removed from America and returned to Africa.  And some steps were taken in that direction when Liberia was founded.  Look at the contrast with the Quakers who not only freed their slaves but educated them and hired them and accepted them as fellow citizens.  To that conspicuous real time and contemporary example Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had a one word answer:  NEVER.  They were willfully blind to Robert Pleasants example of freeing his slaves at his own expense and then hiring them as free labor.  The conditions they put upon their supposed abolition of slavery show plainly that they were never serious about it.  Their Position was:  We'll do it some day, if the government pays us, and then pays to ship the blacks back to Africa. 

Because of their Quaker faith, John and Mary Payne freed the slaves from the Scotchtown Virginia plantation In 1782--a plantation which had previously belonged to Patrick Henry.  Without the slave labor, they could not continue to make a go of the plantation.  They moved to Philadelphia, where their family fortunes never recovered from the substantial loss of their property in the slaves they had manumitted instead of selling.  Mother Anthony, the only former slave they took with them as a paid employee, saved her wages and, when she died,  she left a substantial sum of money to the widowed and impoverished Mary Payne.   Their daughter Dolly later married James Madison, leaving the Quaker religion of her parents.  [ see Dolly Madison by Katharine Anthony ]  On her way to becoming the hostess with the mostess, she left the plain Quaker dresses behind for the silks and satins and brocades which were the fashion among the  ladies connected to the gentlemen of the new federal government.

A Man of His Time 

The excuse for Jefferson is that he was a man of his time.  But he was supposed to be a man who was far ahead of his time.  And many other men of his time, like Robert Pleasants,  had already led the way in freeing their slaves.  If he sincerely deplored slavery, why could he not have followed the example of Pleasants ?  Nor can he find any excuse in the politics of his own time.  Slave owning was abolished in England in 1772.  America supposedly broke away from England to establish freedom contra England.  Actually, it established Slavery contra England.  In the Summary View of 1774 Jefferson excoriates King George III for tolerating the slave trade and thereby promoting slavery in America.  He drew upon this document for his first draft of the 1776 Declaration of Independence and blamed the tyranny of George III for that assemblage of horrors . . . slavery in another hemisphere.  It was nixed by the other patriotic plantation owners, who saw the problem with blaming the King for the plantation system that they intended to cherish and preserve, in defiance of the Quakers and anyone else.  And, 50 years after the Revolution, Jefferson still hung on to his slaves. 

Jefferson's pretended brief for Liberty for All through Revolution raises the obvious question as to why America, freed from the tyranny of George III, lagged so far behind England in eliminating both the slave trade and slavery.  France, America's ally and Jefferson's second home,  had abolished slavery in all French territories by 1787.  What kept an American Statesman and President, who was supposedly the great visionary of his time, the great father of  liberty  with a capital L, and the great champion of the rights of man, from leading the way to abolish slavery in America ?  If any man ever had freedom of action and the necessary vision and understanding to lead the way towards liberty, it was Thomas Jefferson.  It is his shame that he only pretended to do it.  The  big  lie  that  america  stands  for  freedom  begins with the  falsehood that Thomas Jefferson stood for freedom.  He wouldn't even sit up for it.  He lay with slavery, that is the truth.  That was his shame.  It is the shame of his biographers--his hagiographers--that they have falsified their history to perpetuate this falsehood. 

And Jefferson did not have to look to Europe for a good example.  Other American States had already abolished slavery.  Pennsylvania passed a law in 1780 providing for gradual emancipation.  New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island followed before the end of the century.  Vermont wrote a ban on slavery into its first Constitution.   Slavery in Massachusetts came to an end in 1781 after a lawsuit based upon the declaration in the state constitution that All men are born free and equal.  New Hampshire had a similar case.  It illustrates why the patriot lawyers of Virginia, like Patrick Henry and George Mason, had to so carefully hedge in the free and equal clause of the Declaration of Rights so that you could be created free and equal but born into slavery, if you were born black in Revolutionary Virginia.  Slavery was not important to the economy of the northern states.  Families which kept a few black slaves as servants, like that of Benjamin Franklin, found it a doubtful economy and there was not much resistance to abolition.  The number of black slaves in Pennsylvania decreased from 6000 to 3000 between 1776 and 1790.  The number of slaves in Virginia increased from 200,000 to 300,000 in the same period.  (Morison & Commager I 244) 

Sell Out in Rhode Island 

Like other states, Virginia passed a law against the foreign slave trade in 1778 because it was a monopoly of the British traders which brought them no revenue and because it undercut the price Virginia plantation owners could get for the slaves they raised and sold.  But the slave trade to America continued for many years, legal or not, especially after the Rhode Island skippers got hold of it after the War.  And Jefferson, as President, effectively negated any enforcement of the federal law against the slave trade as Jay Coughtry relates in  The Notorious Triangle  Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade  1700-1807  pp. 228-229:  "in February of 1804, Jefferson caved in and fired Collector Russel.  His replacement at the Bristol Customhouse was Charles Collins. . . .   From 1804 to 1807, prosecutions of slave traders ceased, and African clearances from Rhode Island ports soared.  Occasional directives from the Treasury or State Departments, including a personal order from Secretary Madison to prosecute four known Rhode Island slavers, were simply ignored.   The President of the United States had been a party to the slave traders' triumph, although most assumed that he had been duped.  Nevertheless, he did nothing to remedy the effects of his appointment when apprised of its consequences, and was savagely burlesqued in the Federalist press. . . . On December 2, 1806, Jefferson urged Congress to begin drafting the legislation that would eventually become the Anti-Slave Trade Act of 1807.  Whether he realized it or not, he had already nullified that act, as well as its predecessor, by a petty political appointment made nearly three years before.  Politics had triumphed over law." 

In fact the slave trade persisted until the Civil War, despite the law.  A lot of true believers like to assume that the founding fathers were duped about this or that--Jefferson by the slave traders, Washington by the Freemasons.  They were supposedly far sighted statesmen who couldn't see what was going on under their noses.   In February 1862, after the Civil War began, Captain Nathaniel Gordon was hung for bringing a cargo of slaves from Africa, the first man in American history to be so punished, even though slave trading had nominally been a hanging offense for more than 40 years.  book:  Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader   Ron Soodalter 2006. 

Their worshippers persist in giving the founding fathers a pass which they do not deserve in respect to slavery.  Suppose you make your living from several taverns that you own.  And, sitting on the City Council, you regularly do what you can to protect the tavern owners from those who want to close the taverns or seriously restrict them.  But, in private letters, you deplore the evils of alcohol and express the pious hope that some day there will be national Prohibition.  Should any one take these protestations seriously ?  Should you be given moral credit for being a closet Prohibitionist when you live and die a tavern owner, when your political career depends upon your remaining the defender of the tavern owners ?  As private men, the founding fathers made their fortunes from slavery.  As public men, they defended slavery and insured that it would continue.  So what are their other protestations worth  ? 

Benjamin Franklin is given credit for delivering the petition of the Abolition Society to Congress in 1790.  That supposedly cancels the fact that he refused to oppose slavery while he attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 as a delegate from Pennsylvania, and one of the most influential men there.  Having allowed slavery to be written into the American Constitution, he supposedly made up for it by a belated token gesture.  When he wrote to the Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet in 1772, Franklin said   I hope in time it will be taken into consideration and suppressed by the legislature.  But when he participated in the first great national American legislature, 15 years later, he had nothing to say against the perpetuation of slavery in America in its Founding Document.  in  time  had still not arrived, even though Liberty had now supposedly arrived in America.  Franklin had a major role in writing the foundational legislation of America and shrugged off the fact that the FREEDOMS written into the Constitution did not include any Freedom for the slaves of America.  When the 1790 petition was denounced by the slave owners in Congress, Franklin responded with an  anonymous  letter in the newspaper.  Two months before he died, he was still unwilling to stand up and be counted in defense of what he supposedly believed. 

Saying and Doing

Those who opposed slavery as a matter of private opinion or who reserved any public expression of that opinion for a more convenient time and a more receptive audience, are like all those who are opposed to abortion,  as  a  matter  of  opinion.   What, besides nothing, is it worth ?  How can you tell the cowards from the hypocrites ?   Planned Parenthood opposes abortion.  Read their literature.  Bill Clinton was opposed to abortion.  Some years ago I had a conversation with a man who emphatically stated his  opinion  that abortion is murder.  And that is what he had told his niece when he drove her to the abortion clinic, he righteously declared.  It seems not to have occurred to him that he could have refused to drive her there.  He obviously felt that he was  justified  by  his  opinion.  What more could you ask ?  But a person is judged by what he does, not by what he says.  God looks at our actions and gives us no credit for our idle opinions.  In Matthew 21.28-31  Jesus points to the son who did the will of his father in contrast to the one who said something but did nothing.  In Luke 6.46 He asks:   why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say ? 

Regardless of his fine feelings, if he actually had them, it was necessary for Jefferson's aristocratic life style that he squeeze every dollar he could from his labor force.  Big plantation owners had trouble making ends meet.  Tobacco soon depleted the fertility of the land and surpluses caused the price to fall.  Other crops paid much less.  He might have gotten by had he been content to live in a modest house with a modest life style.  But the enormous expense of maintaining the luxurious life style of Monticello precluded him from ever seriously attempting to escape from his position as the Master of large plantations worked by many slaves.  He did not allow his slaves to be beaten.  What that meant in practice was that, if a slave would not work without the whip, he would dispose of the slave to some owner who did not have his sensitivity, the way you would sell off a balky mule, at a knocked down price. 

No doubt he was a gentleman of fine sentiments.  Obviously he did not like being surrounded by slaves all the time.  His solution was to put in shrubbery and tunnels so that he saw as little of his slaves as possible.  He spent a lot of money to remodel Monticello.  But it remained a prison with him as the warden.  For all his cleverness, he couldn't figure out that his own road to Freedom required giving freedom to his slaves. 

drinking  up  their  lives 

However much  my country  might be to blame, it was Tom Jefferson in person who spent the revenues of his estates on trips to Paris and a lavish life style which left him bankrupt by the time of his death.  He spent large sums of money over 50 years to make Monticello the grand mansion of the American Dream.  Like others who have no real faith in a life beyond this one, he tried to build a personal paradise on earth.  He constantly entertained and he had as many as 50 house guests at a time.  They brought their horses and their servants with them and they all had to be fed.  He served the best French wine to his guests at a time when it took 6 weeks to bring it across the Atlantic, and he ordered hundreds of bottles at a time.  The $1 a bottle he paid circa 1800 was a day's wage for a common laborer, the equivalent of $ 50 in American money circa 2000. 

After he died, his 200 slaves had to be sold on the auction block to pay off the debts he had incurred living as a country gentleman.  The auctioned slaves wound up on the cotton plantations of the territories acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, which is often cited as Jefferson's major accomplishment.  Their lives may have passed away far from Monticello, but, in a very real sense, Thomas Jefferson and his guests drank up their lives in the wine they poured.  Revelation 17.6 describes the Roman Empire as a Great Harlot who drinks up the blood of the saints.  Indeed, the Great Empire and those who belong to it do drink the blood of their slaves and servants and low paid laborers.  The  devouring  empire  has eaten up the lives of many and it does it still. 

The Worst One

In Judgment at Nuremberg, the American judge gives the harshest penalty to a defendant of noble character who had been a Nazi Judge.  Because, he tells him, you are the worst one.  If only hooligans and low life ruffians had gone along with the Nazis, they could never have done what they did.  The fact that so many Germans of good character also went along with the Nazis is what made it seem all right.  Similarly, instead of excusing Jefferson because of his noble character, he is all the more to be condemned.  Someone without his fine personal qualities, a man of average character and intelligence who inherited plantations worked by slaves from his father and grandfather, has some excuse for shrugging off the obvious moral issue arising from his position.  What else would you expect of such a man except that he live the life he had inherited and take his standards from those around him ?  But Tom Jefferson has no such excuse.  He knew better, he could have done better.  He claimed the position of a moral leader of men.  And then would not lead them away from the most conspicuous evil of the time.  He is still presented as the leader of a  great  moral  revolution  in the affairs of men.  But he neglected to make the obvious moral change in his own affairs. 

He was a well read man who knew the French philosophers, all those who inspired the call for Liberty  Equality  Fraternity  upon which the intellectual and moral ferment of the American and French Revolutions were based.  Jefferson himself was in Paris when the Revolution broke out and he played an important role in helping to launch it and justify it, head chopping and all.  He could not have been ignorant of those Quakers who wrote about slavery from the real life perspective of men who had actually abolished it from their own lives.  Instead of spinning some fine philosopher's theory, they took the chains off and then told about it to encourage others to do the same.   That is what a  real  opinion--a conviction--looks like.  It's got two feet.  It gets up and goes somewhere.  Otherwise, an opinion is just hot air.  All it does is stress the air conditioning in the banquet hall. 

Jefferson was a visionary who could not or would not see what was right in front of him.  He proclaimed liberty and lived and died a slave owner.  That is his epitaph.  And it is the inheritance which America has received from him:  a pretence of  liberty which conceals slavery behind the shrubbery.  For another three generations, hooligans and low life ruffians bought black men and women and did whatever they wanted with them.  And they could point to the example of the author of the Declaration of Independence as their justification.  They could wave the Flag of Freedom over the crimes they committed against black men and women who had no recourse because the Constitution written by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson did not recognize them as persons with rights.  Jefferson is the true father of the modern Constitution which does not recognize embryo children as persons with rights. 

Let it Spread

Jefferson justified his support for extending slavery into the new territories in a statement he made to Lafayette Dec 26 1820 :  All know that permitting the slaves of the South to spread into the West will not add one being to that unfortunate condition, that it will increase the happiness of those existing, and by spreading them over a larger surface, will dilute the evil every where, and facilitate the means of finally getting rid of it, an event more anxiously wished by those on whom it presses than by the noisy pretenders to exclusive humanity.  This statement illustrates the final flowering of Jefferson's self-defensive moral senility.  He surely knows better than to assume that the foreign slave trade has really ended, or that slaves won't be bred to meet an increased demand for slave labor.  How can he possibly believe that continuing to go along with slavery will somehow lead to its decrease and disappearance ?  Give them enough rope and the slave owners will tie themselves up while untying their slaves ?  What a cool strategy, and so easy for everyone !  Just let the weeds grow and they will eventually eradicate themselves.  As Ashleigh Brilliant once said:  the solution to the problems created by apathy is:  More Apathy !   

Jefferson's fundamental faith is the basic American belief that you can arrive at moral goals by mechanical means--by some historical process which makes a moral struggle unnecessary.  The  clever theory of the amoral intellectual takes the place of morality.  The dreadful deficiency of this false faith is measured by the 600,000 killed in the terrible blood letting of the Civil War.  And they died in vain,  as measured by the 100 years of semi-slavery for American Negroes which followed, and as measured by the abominable situation in which so many American Negroes still live out their lives in the slums of our big cities.

There have been a few hundred Americans, even a few thousand perhaps--not more--who really did do what Tom Jefferson only pretended to do--what believers in the American Cult still pretend that he did.  He does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with those who sacrificed their property, who went to jail, who even lost their lives to help the black slaves of America escape from that condition in which the Founding Slave Owners left them.  The Quakers and the Abolitionists said out loud what Jefferson confided to his Notes and they acted in keeping with what he claimed to believe, thereby showing that they really did believe it.  Unlike the Founding Slave Owners, they Paid the Price for Freedom.  They acted from conviction. 

The followers of the American Cult give Jefferson a pass because they give themselves a pass in respect to ever living up to what they pretend to believe.  They believe as Jefferson did that if you write it in your diary, or confide it to a friend, it is the same as saying it out loud in the place where people don't want to hear it.  They use the issue to further their political ambitions while presenting themselves as devoted to the cause.  They have to believe that saying something in a safe place is equivalent to doing something in a dangerous place, and that the paper money of an opinion is as good as the gold coin of passionate conviction which pushes people to Do Something.  They have to believe it, because they don't have the Courage to do anything effective, no more than Tom Jefferson did. 

Blame the King

Thomas Jefferson is the real founding father of America in the way that he pretended to himself and to others that he believed in liberty even while, in all of his effective actions, he furthered slavery.  In his Summary View of the Rights of British America, written in 1774, (and published anonymously, like most of what he wrote)  he adopted the pose of someone who was Really, Really, Opposed to Slavery, contra that old debbil King of England who had somehow forced Jefferson's grandfather to acquire plantations and slaves.  And, 46 years later, still hanging on to his own slaves, despite the King being long gone, and having neglected all his opportunities to do Something Effective to end slavery, he was still stuck in the same self-deluded pose, explaining to Lafayette how all the sophisticated people like himself knew that Slavery could be ended by just going along with it and letting it expand to the new territories.  He is the spiritual father of those millions of Americans who have submitted to slavery and inflicted coercion of all kinds upon others while deluding themselves that they really believed in Freedom, and knew what it meant, and had the Courage to stand up for it. 

Thomas Jefferson is the Founding Father of the Great American Self Deception.  He is the model for those who strike a pose for others and deceive themselves until it pushes them into moral madness.  What else was Jefferson's absurd notion that slavery could be eradicated by letting it spread ?  That not one more slave will result ?  That it can only increase the happiness of his auctioned slaves when they are marched off to Arkansas ?  This is the Great Political Thinker of the Age ?  This is another  Crazy  Old  Cracker, still pretending to be the Negro's Best Friend on the verge of selling them to pay his liquor bill !  This is a man with a terminal moral blindness as to who he is and what he is and what he has done with his life--what he has failed to do.  And, in that way especially, he is truly the Father of his Country. 

My  Idea  Will  Save  the  World  ! 

This isn't the only instance of Jefferson's wacko political theories.  Look at his absurd theory of generations presented in his September 6th 1789 letter to James Madison which leads him to the conclusion that:  Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years.  Like other Great Thinkers, his vanity made him believe that a cranky intellectual principle, discovered by him, was The Answer to all the Moral problems of society:  the Generations of Society can be treated as if they were discontinuous, even if they aren't,  and this determines Rights, will prevent war etc.  It is a fantasy on paper, at odds with reality, which he presents as The  Fundamental  Political  Principle.  Of course it is nonsense to suppose that any Intellectual Principle can make a moral and spiritual struggle unnecessary--that some Great Thinker's Intellectual Discovery will resolve all moral and political problems.  It is one of the perennial illusions of those who turn away from the moral struggle as Jefferson did.  There has to be some easier way.  It must be this  Great  Notion  which just came to Me.  This gratuitous  Faith  in  Myself  and  My  Ideas  was a basic character defect in Thomas Jefferson, as it is in many others.  By the end of his life it had become a form of madness, a severe self-delusion.  Since he did not believe that Jesus Christ had Saved the World by his Great Sacrifice, he had to believe that it was up to Tom Jefferson to save it by some Great Notion.  The same delusion is central to the American Cult--America has the keys to the Salvation of the World.  The local harm that Jefferson's madness caused has grown into Harm on a world wide scale.  The delusion that America is Saving the World while destroying it has become the national madness. 

He is a few years away from dying bankrupt which means that all of his black slaves will be sold off to the cotton plantations of the Louisiana Territory to pay up his wine bills.  As President, he abandoned the cause of abolition.  But he still believes himself to be  1. the Negro's Best Friend  2. the Visionary Statesman who sees how slavery will peacefully peter out as it spreads to the new territories.  There may be some pardon and excuse for him, considering all the circumstances of his life.  What excuse can there be for those who perpetuate the lies he taught himself to believe ?  For those silly scholars who count his private words and ignore his public words, who give him credit for idle opinions which are belied by all the real political acts of his life ?  If Jefferson somehow avoided the fiery pit, they surely won't.  The lowest level of hell is reserved for all false teachers.  The latrines of all the upper levels dump on that one.  It is only justice for what they dumped on others. 

Jefferson and Madison did have a sort of Practical Plan to end slavery, even if they never seriously promoted it.  The plan was not abolition of slavery but conditional termination:  the government would free the slaves by using the revenue from federal land sales to compensate the slave owners.  So the sale of the lands forcibly taken from the Indians would provide the money to pay the Masters to let their slaves go.  Then the government would pay to transport the freed blacks back to Africa and re-settle them there--would displace a few African tribes to make room for them.  The founding of Liberia in 1822 was a step in the direction of this plan.  Like most do good schemes, it is based on the assumption that  the  government  will  pay.  Being a noble character of the modern type, the founding father stood ready to free his blacks so long as the government  paid  him  and  got  rid  of  them. 

And it is understandable that they would have looked at it this way.  The family fortunes of the founding fathers came from government favors--royal grants of land to their grandfathers, or the largesse of the colonial legislature.  Their captive labor force belonged to them because The Law said it did and the Sheriff was ready to run down any escapees.  Why should they have to sacrifice their private fortunes for the sake of some moral principle ?  Why shouldn't the government pay ?  If they were to lose the slaves which were necessary to work those great estates, they must have some state compensation, lest they drop out of that privileged class which had been their birth right. 

As young idealists, Jefferson and Madison saw the evil of slavery and sincerely deplored it.  But they were also young gentlemen of fortune, born into the privileged elite of Virginia.  How could they disentangle those two things ?  Or ever do anything serious to end slavery while they continued ?  Because the law required it, they regularly attended the Anglican Church service where they heard the long established readings of the imperial state church on topics such as money and slavery.  Augustine had long ago adapted Christian teaching to his congregation of owners of large plantations worked by slaves.  So the teaching that You cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve God and money had long before been explained away.  It didn't mean that you had to choose between being a wealthy slave owner and living the Christian life.  So there was nothing in the doctrine of the establishment church to put them on the right course, nor any cure for it in the doctrines of Freemasonry which they secretly held.  They had to hold on to their wealth and they had to pursue political power.  So how could they  free their own slaves or join the Quaker abolitionists, without giving up any hope of ever becoming President ? 

And so the young idealists became old practical politicians who watched slavery grow.  Who watched their own slaves live and die as slaves.  And yet, as a matter of occasional rhetoric or pious pretence, they still wanted to abolish slavery.  They wanted to do it in a way which would not devalue the property they owned or undermine the political positions they held.  Since there was no way to do that, there was no way to do anything.  As old men, they held on to the illusion that they really had done something.  They had put forth ideas.  In lieu of examples they left us ideas.  Here is something you should do--of course I can't do it.  As if others couldn't see that slavery was evil.  Or that it was incompatible with Liberty.  As if the real abolitionist had not long since gone ahead and done the thing that the founding father only pretended that he wished to do some day--a day that never came if he lived to be 80, or if he lived to be 100. 

The Wisdom of the Age 

Thomas Jefferson had the greatest reputation of his time for visionary political wisdom.  He had read all the English and French philosophers who inspired the Age of Revolution.  He was the Architect of the New World Order and one of the founders of a new faith, which centered upon america and liberty, and humanity, science and reason.  In the   history of Jefferson's Presidency which he published in 1890, Henry Adams refers to the sunlight of the 19th century bursting upon the recalcitrant New England Puritans, these resolute sons of granite and ice  who turned their faces from the sight. (I 61-62)  Adams shared the faith of millions who believed that a New Age of Humanity began with Jefferson and his companions, a New Age of Reason and Science and Liberty--Liberty above all, including especially sexual liberty, in the tolerant sun beams of the God of Nature that the Freemasons acknowledged.

Then look at the political wisdom of Thomas Jefferson in 1820 when he was 77 years old.  Just let slavery expand and it will bring freedom to the slaves, and, meanwhile, it won't lead to an increase in the number of slaves, and, meanwhile, it will increase the happiness of those who are already slaves.  This is The Answer which the Great Father of America and Liberty came up with, in the maturity of his wisdom, to the great challenge of Slavery. 

How did the Wisest Man of his Age turn into the Biggest Moral and Political Nitwit of his Age ?  Because, while he made himself the Architect of the New World Order, he never took any personal moral responsibility for being the Architect of his own life.  He never faced up to the reality of his captive work force out in the fields in the July heat of Virginia while he was making fine speeches in Congress or dining in Paris with the other gentlemen revolutionaries.  He never recognized that it was not the King of England nor My Country that had an obligation to Do Something to Abolish Slavery, but the fellow he saw in the mirror every morning.  Did he really believe he had The Answer to Slavery ?  He came to where he had to believe it, even though it was Make Believe.  He had to believe that somehow he was leading his Country to Freedom despite the obvious evidence that he had led it much deeper into slavery. 

Like so many other intellectuals and pretended idealists, he stayed on the road of wealth and power and convinced himself that it was also the road of Freedom for All.  Put wealth first, put political power second, put personal fame third, and, somehow, when these things were attained, all other good things would be attained.  So there he is at the end of his life still believing that he has found The Answer to Slavery.  Like the old moth who had the illusion that he really had reached the star.  And he is now quite blind to the truth that the road he has followed his whole life has taken him and the Nation he led further and further from real Liberty.  Under the head of liberty, he has helped build The Great Slave Empire of the West.  He is the Founder of the American Illusion. 

the  real  legacy  of  the  founding  fathers 

In 1820, Jefferson wrote  We have the wolf by the ears:  and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.  Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.  The founding slave owners put themselves and the nation in the same predicament.  Slaves were half the population of Virginia and more than half further south.  After a slave revolt, Virginia passed laws forbidding slaves to be educated.  To the degradation of slavery was added the permanent grievance of those whose white fathers stuck them out back and refused to acknowledge them.  These illegitimate and unwanted children are still taking their revenge for a double injury.  They have absorbed all the violence that was done to them and many of them have preserved it and multiplied it, the way men will.  The long, long  Violence & Tyranny of America predictably produces a violent and crime-ridden society and half of that crime is concentrated in the inner city slums where the great grandchildren of the founding fathers live.  Our prisons are stuffed with those men who can rightfully claim the names of their former owners, America's founding fathers. 

The Henry Adams history quotes verses about  Jefferson by Thomas Moore:  (p. 114 of 1986 edition, volume I ) 

The Weary statesman for repose hath fled
From halls of council to his negro's shed;
Where, blest, he woos some black Aspasia's grace
And dreams of freedom in his slave's embrace
 

Adams says that Moore "embalmed in his lines the slanders which the Scotch libeller Calender invented against Jefferson."  But why does Adams quote it, if he really believed it a libel ?  In fact, modern DNA testing shows it was no libel.  [ Calender was found drowned in 3 feet of water. ]

Alex Haley once told an interviewer that he could just as easily have traced his  roots  back to the British Isles as well as tracing them to Africa.  It might not have led to a best selling book and a popular TV series,  but it would have made people recognize the basic identity of American negroes.  They are descended from the outcast and illegitimate children of the founding fathers and of all the other whites who took advantage of their situation over 3 centuries of slavery and semi slavery.  Haley was pointing to the basic fact that American Negroes are at least half white in their racial inheritance.  Jefferson's slave wife, Sally Hemmings, was 3/4ths white, and so their children were 7/8ths white.

In the time of the founding fathers, concubinage, prostitution and rape which was no crime because it could not be legally punished had already begun to create a population whose right to a share of their patrimony was denied them along with the denial of their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  When I was on the Freedom Rides in 1961, I met some of those who had a deep rooted personal grievance against their American founding fathers, who had made them live out back in the shed.  One of my companions had whiter skin than mine plus Negro features.  Another had Caucasian features with dark skin.  If they used the old octoroon legal standard in reverse--1/8th is enough to classify you--there would be no such thing as a colored person in America. 

The slums of our big cities are filled with the half white / half black descendents of the gentlemen who wrote the Constitution, and the un gentlemen who were excluded from that secret Masonic conclave.  Imagine that the child you threw in the trash stood before you accusingly.  Not many of them want to talk about it, but it happens all the time in the nightmares of aborted women.  But it is also happening to us in the persons of those direct descendents of the founding fathers who have incorporated into their lives and into their families the violent history of American slavery and segregation.  The life style which we so willingly inherited from the founding fathers, that life style of wealth and luxury obtained by devouring the lives of others, presents us with a bill we cannot afford to pay.  The wealth they consumed is now owed by us plus about 1000 per cent interest.  And, one way or another, we are going to pay it,  in the form of crimes we suffer or more prisons or higher insurance rates or enormous bills for social services to those who come from this subculture of devastated families.  Those who get dewy-eyed over George Washington and Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison should volunteer to pay the bill for the lawsuit brought against white America by the descendents of the slaves of the Founding Fathers.  It is the price of American Greatness. 

fear and despair 

Slavery was spiritual poison, not just a physical condition.  In 1802 Gouverneur Morris warned the Congress of the danger that slave revolts might be encouraged by foreign states stimulatingwith a prospect of freedom the miserable men who now toil without hope.  Slaves must believe that it is impossible for them to become free.  Men in their unhappy condition must be impelled by fear and discouraged by despair.  Yes.  The impulsion of fear must be strengthened by the hand of despair.  (Sparks III 417  414 as quoted in Richard Brookhiser Gentleman Revolutionary 170)  Morris had a habit of being offensively blunt.  But he was perfectly right in arguing that slaves must not only be deprived of liberty but of the very hope of liberty, lest they be tempted to revolt.  fear  strengthened  by  despair  was the necessary antidote to slave revolts.  The slaves of Haiti revolted successfully in 1791.  In 1802 President Thomas Jefferson assisted the French expeditionary force which failed to re-capture the island.  Slave rebellions were a real danger then and now.  We are still suffering from the mindless violence of black riots and even more from the epidemic violence of that crime which is rampant in the black slums of America, which victimizes blacks far more often than it does whites.  It is the Legacy of the Founding Fathers.

The gross sexual immorality which was encouraged and forced upon black Americans by their white masters continues to destroy black families.  The black Christian Church provided the moral foundation upon which families could be built.  But the same moral corrosion which pervades affluent white American families has begun to infect successful black American families.

A Better Home

If there is a positive side to the experience of Africans brought to America in bondage, it owes nothing to the Founding Slave Owners and their false promise of Freedom in America.  It is entirely due to those real Christians who helped Negroes escape from slavery and to those Christian missionaries who brought true spiritual freedom to those who were still in bondage.  The Quakers freed their own slaves and helped others escape from Slavery through the Underground Railway.  The Anabaptist missionaries, who were jailed in Virginia as they were in New England, persisted in bringing the true light of the gospel to those dark places where the proclaimers of liberty kept their slaves.  They never made fine speeches about liberty while wearing powdered wigs.  They merely risked their lives to bring it about.  There is an authentic and passionate Christianity which grows best among those who suffer persecution and poverty.  The black Church helped the slaves survive.  They found no  home  sweet  home  in the slave cabins of America, but they found the hope of a better Home than Tom Jefferson's mansion--Steal Away Home to Jesus . . . Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Coming For to Carry Me Home.  In His Father's house there are many mansions.  And slave huts, in the other place, for those who lived in luxury at the expense of their slaves.  Like Lazarus and the rich man, they will both receive the reward they have earned.

Terry  Sullivan   Oct 27th 2015 

  the original of this article is pages 39 to 60  of The Roots of Abortion   it is one of several related articles on the subject of Moral Economy 

others are:

Christian Economy [ Adam Smith in the Dock ]

Governor Bradford Discovers the Folly of Communism and the Wisdom of Piece Work 

Adam Smith and Family Wage 

The Unjust Economy  [ The Unjust Society ]  from Letter to the Bishops 

I read it Oct 24th 2015.   It holds together and it is good.