Austin: Washington, Jefferson Were Actually Anti-Slavery Heroes - Don't Let the Left Smear Their Names
Presidents Day isn’t quite what it used to be.
A holiday that was started to honor George Washington on his birthday and served as a celebration of our nation’s greatest heroes is now seen by many as a time to condemn them. Entire generations have been indoctrinated to believe that Washington and Thomas Jefferson were nothing more than evil, racist, slave-owning tyrants.
I saw a perfect example of this indoctrination last week when I wrote about the Quintez Brown shooting. The 21-year-old was charged with attempted murder after allegedly attempting to assassinate a mayoral candidate in Louisville, Kentucky.
While doing some background research on Brown, it became clear to me that this kid wasn’t the degenerate one would expect to take shots at a political candidate. He was a promising young man absolutely bursting with potential.
The young activist was running for the Louisville City Council, played a very active role in his community and had previously worked as a columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he wrote about “race, youth opinion and social justice.” Much of Brown’s writing revealed him to be thoughtful and intelligent young man.
When it comes to the Founding Fathers, however, all of Brown’s nuance and thoughtfulness got thrown out the window. Like many millennials and members of Gen Z, he had been programmed to take the morally bankrupt ideas of Black Lives Matter and critical race theory as matter of fact.
A few lines from a May 27, 2021, article of his — titled “Louisville’s hug police budget is the real boogeyman traumatizing Black people” — demonstrated this point perfectly.
“My father grew up during the Reagan administration’s war on drugs,” Brown wrote. “His mother, my nana, grew up during the Johnson administration’s war on poverty. I grew up during the Bush administration’s war on terror. War has existed in my family for generations. Are we cursed people? Consider the answer our slave-owning Founding Fathers would give.”
If he had taken any time to learn about the Founding Fathers and their views, he never would have suggested they were pro-slavery. Nevertheless, he — and most of today’s impressionable youth — are being fed that perspective by the activists that have infiltrated American education.
By teaching our children that the Founding Fathers are racist and evil, the left is hoping to prove that America — at its core — is also racist and evil. If so, the country can only be fixed if we tear the entire system down.
In truth, the American system is the greatest that has ever existed. It has brought more freedoms to more people than any other governmental system in history.
The reason for this? Our Founders were true heroes who laid the groundwork for extinguishing one of the most powerful institutions in world history — slavery.
Only a few weeks prior to Brown’s shooting, I had just finished reading the great Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals.” The 2005 book dispels a number of popular left-wing misconceptions regarding race relations in America and, in one chapter, walks through the history and influence of slavery and the anti-slavery movement in the West.
Many modern-day educational programs/philosophies — including the 1619 Project and critical race theory — promote the idea that “racism” and “oppression” are central to the American founding. They teach that the Founders were tyrants responsible for creating modern-day America’s “systemic racism.”
As Sowell laid out in “Black Rednecks,” this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and many of the other Founders supported the abolition of slavery long before they ever penned this nation’s founding documents. They often supported anti-slavery policies and spoke to the moral evils associated with viewing human beings — including those of different races — as property.
No matter how vociferously they voiced their opposition at the time, however, the question of ending slavery was not as simple as voting “yay” or “nay.”
In the book, Sowell pointed out that if a clause banning slavery had been written into the Constitution, the document itself would have been banned from the South, creating “a separate nation in which slavery is unlikely to have been ended as early as Lincoln ended it.”
Furthermore, without the South’s support, the U.S. forces might never have been able to win the Revolutionary War.
As elected leaders of a constitutional republic, the Founders couldn’t simply ban every practice they disliked based on their own feelings. And slavery wasn’t just any old practice — it was universal, accepted and embraced by nearly all societies for all of human history.
What the Founders could do, however, and did — intentionally — was craft the founding documents in a way that would inevitably lead to the end of slavery. They did so by placing individual liberty at the very core of American law.
But why not ban slavery at the earliest convenience? Such questions expose a failure to understand the complications of that time.
“Today, slavery is too often discussed as an abstract question with an easy answer, leading to sweeping condemnations of those who did not reach that easy answer in their own time,” Sowell wrote.
“Many problems can be made simple, but only by leaving out the complications which those in the midst of these problems cannot so easily escape with a turn of a phrase, as those who look back on them in later centuries can,” he said.
When it came to ending slavery, the Founders were smart enough to know such a sweeping change couldn’t simply be made overnight. To them, slavery was indeed evil, but the consequences of releasing such a large number of slaves into the general population without planning or preparation would lead to greater evils.
For example, many of those opposed to slavery feared that, upon its abolition, a race war would ensue. Sure enough, these fears were later realized when the Civil War became the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Another consequence of careless emancipation would be extreme levels of generational poverty. As slaves, black people had been robbed of the opportunity to learn the many basic skills needed to become economically viable in a free market. This too was a fear that later became realized.
“Freed after the Civil War but poverty-stricken, illiterate, unskilled and unacculturated to the demanding way of life in a free republic with a market economy, blacks began their history as a free people at the bottom of American society,” Sowell noted.
Jefferson himself described haphazard emancipation “as being more like abandonment than liberation for people ‘whose habits have been formed in slavery,'” Sowell said.
Another question the critics might ask is, “If the Founders were so anti-slavery, why did they themselves own slaves?”
In an imperfect society, there are no perfect answers. Jefferson, Washington and many other abolitionists of the time kept slaves in order to ensure they were provided for, according to Sowell. Unlike many slave owners of the time, Washington and Jefferson didn’t just keep them around to exploit for profit — they lost money ensuring they were provided for.
At the time, it was not always legal to free one’s own slaves, and even then, as was mentioned above, if freed, many slaves would not have been able to take care of themselves economically. Jefferson described the question of whether to free his slaves as a measure between “justice” and “self-preservation,” Sowell noted.
Washington himself pondered this question as well. After completing his terms as president and returning to Virginia, he left his slaves behind in the North — “in effect freeing them,” according to Sowell. Upon his deathbed, Washington freed all of his slaves in his will.
Progressive historians often look on this move as “too little, too late,” a last-ditch effort on Washington’s part to make up for past sins. Such a surface-level analysis doesn’t come close to encapsulating the full picture.
Washington’s will didn’t merely ensure his slaves’ freedom. It also provided funds to pay for the older slaves’ medical expenses and ensured younger slaves would receive literary and occupational education in order to give them a chance at freedom and autonomy.
Jefferson, Washington and the other Founders are never given their due credit for all they did to end slavery. Instead, as Sowell noted in the book, even sympathetic historians view them as having “allowed” slavery to persist.
“Even those Western leaders who sought to end slavery are condemned by critics today for not having done it sooner or faster. The dangers and constraints of their times have too often been either ignored or brushed aside as mere excuses, as if elected leaders operating under constitutional law could simply decree whatever they felt was right,” Sowell wrote.
“Even a sympathetic biography of George Washington, for example, said: ‘He had helped to create a new world but had allowed into it an infection that he feared would eventually destroy it.’ This statement is breathtaking in its assumptions.
“Washington did not ‘allow’ slavery, which existed on American soil and around the world before he was born, nor did he have the option to decree its end.”
Our Founding Fathers were brave, anti-slavery heroes. That fact has been washed away by left-wing talking points.
So, it’s now up to us to share that truth with future generations.
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