Thursday, July 05, 2012

America and Slavery

Over the 4th, Chris Rock sent out this Tweet:

Happy white peoples independence day. The slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks.

While it is true that the Declaration of Independence did not free the slaves, there were no fireworks for some time. First the fledgling United States had to fight and win the American Revolutionary War (aka The War of American Independence). It was a long and brutal war.

I will agree that the war did not help the slaves but something to keep in mind is that it was the British government that allowed slavery to become institutionalized in the colonies. That happened in the second half of the 17th century when there was no question about the colonists being English.

Slavery was not one of the causes for the revolution, either. The English were quite happy for it to continue as long as the mother country made a profit from it. In fact, by discouraging any industry except farming, the British encouraged slavery. Worse, they were often the ones selling the slaves to the colonists.

Jefferson originally included a harsh condemnation of slavery in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence.

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

This was removed from the final version at the urging of the southern colonies whose economies were dependent on slavery.

So, does Chris Rock think that the slaves would have been better off if the colonies had continued under the British government?

Note - it is true that the British Empire outlawed slavery before America did but in a monstrous bit of hypocrisy, they supported the South in the Civil War.

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