Independence Day

When Thomas Jefferson wrote his first draft of the Declaration of Independence he included this in the list of complaints against King George:

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

Obviously, this paragraph was problematic for the representatives of the states who were profiting from slavery (both for the southern states where slavery was the foundation of plantation culture, but also for northern states who profited from selling black humans to their southern neighbors). This paragraph could have set the stage for ending slavery in the creation of our new nation, but the delegates to the Continental Congress’ conflicting economic interests superseded Jefferson’s complaint against the king, and that paragraph was stricken from the declaration. The legally sanctioned, systematic degradation of black humans would continue for several generations before Abraham Lincoln finally signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Some of us will acknowledge that the system of white supremacy that was rooted in the foundation of this nation did not end in 1863, and that white supremacy must be extinguished before we can truly celebrate “Independence Day.” I look forward, with hope, that this day comes soon.

Saturday July 4, 2015 — Mark —