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Muda69

The Founders Were Flawed. The Nation Is Imperfect. The Constitution Is Still a 'Glorious Liberty Document.'

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As part of its ambitious “1619” inquiry into the legacy of slavery, The New York Times revives false 19th century revisionist history about the American founding.: https://reason.com/2019/08/21/the-founders-were-flawed-the-nation-is-imperfect-the-constitution-is-still-a-glorious-liberty-document/

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Across the map of the United States, the borders of Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona draw a distinct line. It's the 36º30′ line, a remnant of the boundary between free and slave states drawn in 1820. It is a scar across the belly of America, and a vivid symbol of the ways in which slavery still touches nearly every facet of American history.

That pervasive legacy is the subject of a series of articles in The New York Times titled "The 1619 Project." To cover the history of slavery and its modern effects is certainly a worthy goal, and much of the Project achieves that goal effectively. Khalil Gibran Muhammad's portrait of the Louisiana sugar industry, for instance, vividly covers a region that its victims considered the worst of all of slavery's forms. Even better is Nikole Hannah-Jones's celebration of black-led political movements. She is certainly correct that "without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different" and "might not be a democracy at all."

Where the 1619 articles go wrong is in a persistent and off-key theme: an effort to prove that slavery "is the country's very origin," that slavery is the source of "nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional," and that, in Hannah-Jones's words, the founders "used" "racist ideology" "at the nation's founding." In this, the Times steps beyond history and into political polemic—one based on a falsehood and that in an essential way, repudiates the work of countless people of all races, including those Hannah-Jones celebrates, who have believed that what makes America "exceptional" is the proposition that all men are created equal. 

....

The myth that America was premised on slavery took off in the 1830s, not the 1770s. That was when John C. Calhoun, Alexander Stephens, George Fitzhugh, and others offered a new vision of America—one that either disregarded the facts of history to portray the founders as white supremacists, or denounced them for not being so. Relatively moderate figures such as Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas twisted the language of the Declaration to say that the phrase "all men are created equal" actually meant only white men. Abraham Lincoln effectively refuted that in his debates with Douglas. Calhoun was, in a sense, more honest about his abhorrent views; he scorned the Declaration precisely because it made no color distinctions. "There is not a word of truth in it," wrote Calhoun. People are "in no sense…either free or equal." Indiana Sen. John Pettit was even more succinct. The Declaration, he said, was "a self-evident lie."

It was these men—the generation after the founding—who manufactured the myth of American white supremacy. They did so against the opposition of such figures as Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, and John Quincy Adams. "From the day of the declaration of independence," wrote Adams, the "wise rulers of the land" had counseled "to repair the injustice" of slavery, not perpetuate it. "Universal emancipation was the lesson which they had urged upon their contemporaries, and held forth as transcendent and irremissible [sic] duties to their children of the present age." These opponents of the new white supremacist myth were hardly fringe figures. Lincoln and Douglass were national leaders backed by millions who agreed with their opposition to the white supremacist lie. Adams was a former president. Sumner was nearly assassinated in the Senate for opposing white supremacy. Yet their work is never discussed in the Times articles.

...

Even some abolitionists embraced the white supremacy legend. William Lloyd Garrison denounced the Constitution because he believed it protected slavery. This, Douglass replied, was false both legally and factually: those who claimed it was pro-slavery had the burden of proof—yet they never offered any. The Constitution's wording gave it no guarantees and provided plentiful means for abolishing it. In fact, none of its words would have to be changed for Congress to eliminate slavery overnight. It was slavery's defenders, he argued, not its enemies, who should fear the Constitution—and secession proved him right. Slaveocrats had realized that the Constitution was, in Douglass's words, "a glorious liberty document," and they wanted out. 

Still, after the war, "Lost Cause" historians rehabilitated the Confederate vision, claiming the Constitution was a racist document, so that the legend remains today. The United States, writes Hannah-Jones, "was founded…as a slavocracy," and the Constitution "preserved and protected slavery." This is once more asserted as an uncontroverted fact—and Lincoln's and Douglass's refutations of it go unmentioned in the Times

No doubt Taney would be delighted at this acceptance of his thesis. What accounts for it? The myth of a white supremacist founding has always served the emotional needs of many people. For racists, it offers a rationalization for hatred. For others, it offers a vision of the founders as arch-villains. Some find it comforting to believe that an evil as colossal as slavery could only be manufactured by diabolically perfect men rather than by quotidian politics and the banality of evil. For still others, it provides a new fable of the fall from Eden, attractive because it implies the possibility of a single act of redemption. If evil entered the world at a single time, by a conscious act, maybe it could be reversed by one conscious revolution. 

The reality is more complex, more dreadful, and, in some ways, more glorious. After all, slavery was abolished, segregation was overturned, and the struggle today is carried on by people ultimately driven by their commitment to the principle that all men are created equal—the principle articulated at the nation's birth. It was precisely because millions of Americans have never bought the notion that America was built as a slavocracy—and have had historical grounds for that denial—that they were willing to lay their lives on the line, not only in the 1860s but ever since, to make good on the promissory note of the Declaration.

Their efforts raise the question of what counts as the historical "truth" about the American Dream. A nation's history, after all, occupies a realm between fact and moral commitments. Like a marriage, a constitution, or an ethical concept like "blame," it encompasses both what actually happened and the philosophical question of what those happenings mean. Slavery certainly happened—but so, too, did the abolitionist movement and the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The authors of those amendments viewed them not as changing the Constitution, but as rescuing it from Taney and other mythmakers who had tried to pervert it into a white supremacist document. 

In fact, it would be more accurate to say that what makes America unique isn't slavery but the effort to abolish it. Slavery is among the oldest and most ubiquitous of all human institutions; as the Times series' title indicates, American slavery predated the American Revolution by a century and a half. What's unique about America is that it alone announced at birth the principle that all men are created equal—and that its people have struggled to realize that principle since then. As a result of their efforts, the Constitution today has much more to do with what happened in 1865 than in 1776, let alone 1619. Nothing could be more worthwhile than learning slavery's history, and remembering its victims and vanquishers. But to claim that America's essence is white supremacy is to swallow slavery's fatal lie. 

As usual, Lincoln said it best. When the founders wrote of equality, he explained, they knew they had "no power to confer such a boon" at that instant. But that was not their purpose. Instead, they "set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere." That constant labor, in the generations that followed, is the true source of "nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional."

Agreed.  Methinks this New York Times series is but another effort to popularize and push reparations on the general public.

As one of the comments to this commentary states:

"Let’s not be deceived about the real purpose of this series: There is a presidential election in fifteen months, the incumbent president is a Republican, the Democrats lost the last presidential election because African-American voters did not turn out in the numbers they did in 200 and 2012, and the Democrats and their allies in the media are bound and determined not to let that happen again. Thus, the incessant drumbeat about racism, white supremacy, reparations, and the legacy of slavery.

Which is not to say that the incumbent Republican president doesn’t play into their hands by providing constant fodder for his opponents. But there clearly is a reason this “1619 Project” was not published during the Obama years."

 

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, Muda69 said:

As part of its ambitious “1619” inquiry into the legacy of slavery, The New York Times revives false 19th century revisionist history about the American founding.: https://reason.com/2019/08/21/the-founders-were-flawed-the-nation-is-imperfect-the-constitution-is-still-a-glorious-liberty-document/

Agreed.  Methinks this New York Times series is but another effort to popularize and push reparations on the general public.

As one of the comments to this commentary states:

"Let’s not be deceived about the real purpose of this series: There is a presidential election in fifteen months, the incumbent president is a Republican, the Democrats lost the last presidential election because African-American voters did not turn out in the numbers they did in 200 and 2012, and the Democrats and their allies in the media are bound and determined not to let that happen again. Thus, the incessant drumbeat about racism, white supremacy, reparations, and the legacy of slavery.

Which is not to say that the incumbent Republican president doesn’t play into their hands by providing constant fodder for his opponents. But there clearly is a reason this “1619 Project” was not published during the Obama years."

 

Read into it what you personally choose. It's a part of History that isn't taught in schools. Parents have had to be History teachers at home if they want their children to know the true history of slavery in the United States. Other than the whitewashed version at least.

Edited by gonzoron
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1 hour ago, gonzoron said:

Read into it what you personally choose. It's a part of History that isn't taught in schools. Parents have had to be History teachers at home if they want their children to know the true history of slavery in the United States. Other than the whitewashed version at least.

@Muda69 had Mr. Beal, who apparently didn’t teach his classes about the three-fifths compromise.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, DanteEstonia said:

@Muda69 had Mr. Beal, who apparently didn’t teach his classes about the three-fifths compromise.

Yes, he did.  Your continued disparaging remarks of a dead man who knew more about history and government than you obviously every will is duly noted.

Do you teach your students that the founders fathers were in effect arch-villains?

 

11 hours ago, gonzoron said:

Read into it what you personally choose. It's a part of History that isn't taught in schools. Parents have had to be History teachers at home if they want their children to know the true history of slavery in the United States. Other than the whitewashed version at least.

What is your true history of slavery in the United States, gonzo?

 

Edited by Muda69
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3 hours ago, Muda69 said:

Do you teach your students that the founders fathers were in effect arch-villains?

I teach them that the US Constitution is nothing more than a legal document; and that a lot of State Constitutions are better written than it, because the language used in State Constitutions is newer and more precise.

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4 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

I teach them that the US Constitution is nothing more than a legal document; and that a lot of State Constitutions are better written than it, because the language used in State Constitutions is newer and more precise.

Exactly how "precise" should the US Constitution be, IYHO?

 

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26 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

I teach them that the US Constitution is nothing more than a legal document; and that a lot of State Constitutions are better written than it, because the language used in State Constitutions is newer and more precise.

Image result for rolling eyes

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1 hour ago, DanteEstonia said:

I teach them that the US Constitution is nothing more than a legal document; and that a lot of State Constitutions are better written than it, because the language used in State Constitutions is newer and more precise.

I am wondering though how the students reach this conclusion. Is it something you allow them to explore, or do you just tell them outright this is the way it is? 

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8 hours ago, Irishman said:

I am wondering though how the students reach this conclusion. Is it something you allow them to explore, or do you just tell them outright this is the way it is? 

The most recent time I did it, we compared how the right to bear arms is written in the US Constitution and the Nevada Constitution. I had them compare the dates they were written, and then write a version in their own language.

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10 hours ago, DanteEstonia said:

The most recent time I did it, we compared how the right to bear arms is written in the US Constitution and the Nevada Constitution. I had them compare the dates they were written, and then write a version in their own language.

So newer is always better.  Got it.

 

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1 hour ago, Muda69 said:

So newer is always better.  Got it.

 

So you would rather our laws be written in Old English?

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22 hours ago, DanteEstonia said:

I teach them that the US Constitution is nothing more than a legal document; and that a lot of State Constitutions are better written than it, because the language used in State Constitutions is newer and more precise.

image.png.87e2b740da3297cd9e269ed781f1a457.png

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10 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

So you would rather our laws be written in Old English?

Just because you and your students refuse to learn and understand Old English is no reason to throw the document out.

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12 minutes ago, Muda69 said:

Just because you and your students refuse to learn and understand Old English is no reason to throw the document out.

Looks like your English teacher failed you as well. Old English is the language of Beowulf, not Jefferson.

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2 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

Looks like your English teacher failed you as well. Old English is the language of Beowulf, not Jefferson.

Beowulf is a fictional poem. Based on fictional events in Denmark. So Beowulf’s language would have been Danish had he existed.

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2 minutes ago, gonzoron said:

Beowulf is a fictional poem. Based on fictional events in Denmark. So Beowulf’s language would have been Danish had he existed.

It’s also the first attested language of an organized kingdom in England.

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2 minutes ago, gonzoron said:

Beowulf is a fictional poem. Based on fictional events in Denmark. So Beowulf’s language would have been Danish had he existed.

Dante....you may need a word with your literature teachers as well.............

Or perhaps get back to staying in Holiday Inn Expresses.......

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17 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

Looks like your English teacher failed you as well. Old English is the language of Beowulf, not Jefferson.

Looks like your English teacher failed you as well.   I didn't know the U.S. Constitution was written in Old English, as you intimated in your original statement.

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Muda69 said:

Looks like your English teacher failed you as well.   I didn't know the U.S. Constitution was written in Old English, as you intimated in your original statement.

 

 

Your comment implied that you thought the US Constitution was written in Old English.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

Your comment implied that you thought the US Constitution was written in Old English.

No Dante, yours did. But you go right on believing your are right.  After all you are a supposed educational professional.

 

 

Edited by Muda69
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