Founding Fathers, Why Did It Take So Long To End Slavery: It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday, a special day of the week where we get to answer questions from you, the listeners! Always answering your questions from constitutional principles! Tune in today as we answer your questions such as how could the Founding Fathers own slaves and still be anti-slavery, why did it take so long to end slavery, were there any anti-slavery Founding Fathers, and so much more, right here on WallBuilders Live!

Air Date: 08/31/2017


Guests: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers.  Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times.  We apologize in advance.

Faith And The Culture

Intro:

President Thomas Jefferson said, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. And if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture, it’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday today on WallBuilders Live! Everyday of the week we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, all of it from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. But on Thursdays, we let you drive the conversation, so you can send in your emails to [email protected].

Send in your questions about the Founding Fathers, about an issue of the day, and how to apply that Biblical perspective, or historical perspective, or maybe some area of the of the Constitution. But Foundations of Freedom Thursday is a chance for us to take some of those questions and let that determine our topic for the day.

We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state rep, national speaker, and author.

Find out more about us, and the program, and even some of the archives of the program there at WallBuildersLive.com, that’s our radio site. Then if you go to WallBuilders.com you can get all kinds of resources for your church, for your school, or for your family. It’s a great way to get educated as a citizen on the history of our country, the faith of our Founders, and specific actions on what you can do in the culture today.

Is What Tucker Carlson Said About The Founders True?

So, David, we’ve got a lot of questions today, probably get to nearly all of them. But we’ll try to get to as many as we can if you’re ready.

David:

Yes, Sir. Fire away.

Rick:

Our first question today comes from someone who says they actually are fans.  They like you, David. They say, “I respect WallBuilders and David Barton a lot, but-

David:

You’ve got to watch out for those “buts.”

Rick:

You always know something’s coming. 

“I would like some information for clarification regarding some of David’s historical facts. I’ve listened to David’s facts on Founding Fathers and Slavery on Glenn Beck’s Website. I’ve listened to it many times and I’ve let others listen to it. David speaks about slavery and the Founding Fathers and Thomas Jefferson. He (David) says that the 14 of the 56 signers of the Declaration had slaves.”

The person sending the email also says, “I respect Tucker Carlson and Fox as well.” And he sent a picture and said, “Is this not a typo on the screen? David, because Tucker was talking about the tearing down of the statues and stuff and everybody going after the Founding Fathers. And he had a slide where he said, ‘Forty-one of 56 Declaration of Independence signers were slaveholders.’”

David:

It sounds like a little dyslexic thing there, I say 14, he says 41, same numbers.

Rick:

Right, exactly backward.

David:

That’s why he is wondering if it’s a typo. Because as I said 14 and he said 41.

Rick:

That’s right. If you want to speak on this I’ll just I’ll toss it to you bro, go ahead.

David:

We don’t actually say that 14 owned slaves. We say that 14 were pro-slavery, much more than 14 owned slaves. By the way, 41 may be right, what Tucker has. But I thought it’s interesting, I think Tucker does a really good job, but whoever put together those graphics says 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration owned slaves.  The two pictures they have up there are James Madison and George Mason.

Wait a minute, neither one of those guys are signers of the Declaration. So they’ve got two Founding Fathers up there that were slave owners and the graphic talks about Signers of the Declaration.

All that aside, you go back to it and what you find is that in so many of the states- like in Virginia, if you inherit dowry slaves, that’s slaves that come from your wife’s side when you get married. She has the dowry and the family often gives slaves.

In Virginia, you were not allowed ever to free dowry slaves, you just can’t do it. So that means if you marry someone who has slaves, you are now a slave owner. Now, that doesn’t mean you went out and bought them, doesn’t mean you like slavery. But in Virginia, that’s the state law. You’re stuck with that.

So a number of Founding Fathers were in situations where they own slaves but they themselves were not pro-slavery, which is why you go back to what happened in 1773 and 1774. You had states like Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts passing anti-slavery laws. In 1774 King George III vetoed every anti-slavery law in America and said, “You guys can’t do that. You’re part of the British Empire, we have slavery. That’s the way it is. You cannot have anti-slavery laws.”

Which lead to a number of the Founding Fathers at that point in time to say, “Let’s not be part of the British Empire because we don’t want slavery anymore, and we don’t want slavery imposed on us, and we want to be able to end slavery.” A number of those Founding Fathers were slave owners, situations of inheritance or something else. So, that’s part of what goes on. Just because you own slaves does that mean that you are pro slavery? No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, take Benjamin Rush.

How Could The Founders Own Slaves And Be Anti-Slavery

Rick:

See, that’s a hard one, David. That’s a hard one for people to get their head around. To say that they owned slaves but they weren’t pro-slavery.

David:

All right Rick, let’s go to a different analogy. We think that abortion is absolutely totally wrong, that’s immoral, there’s no compromise with that in any way shape or form. It is an evil, it is a wrong. Yet, how many pro-life people do we know that had abortions? Or ran abortion clinics?

Abby Johnson is one, she used to run Planned Parenthood clinics. Now she’s one of the leading pro-life advocates. Rick, or our friend in Dallas, Carol Everett. She ran abortion clinics, she is now a huge pro-life leader.

But wait, they did abortions, they killed unborn children, they can’t be pro-life. No, the situation of the day was fairly complicated. We know of a lot of women who have had abortions or ran abortion clinics that are now strong pro-life advocates.

Rick:

In fact, some of the most powerful ads and commercials for life are people like Alveda King and so many other leaders that come out in that ad and say, “Don’t let anybody tell you an abortion does not affect you later on in life.” And they talk about their own experiences and how they’re pro-life now. But they did participate in an abortion.

So you’re exactly right, how can they say they’re pro-life after participating in it? Can we say the same of someone that participated in slavery? Perhaps not at their own choosing, as you were describing, a lot of these guys it was something they inherited and they tried to end it and be part of ending slavery. You’re saying they did own slaves but were still anti-slavery, which is in fact, possible.

David:

Yep, it’s possible. Matter of fact, I’ll go through some real significant Founding Fathers who owned slaves that nobody ever thinks about today.

Rick:

Hold that thought. Let’s take a quick break, we’ll come back, some Founding Fathers that were slave holders, but were actually anti-slavery. And then I’m sure you got some will talk about that were not slaveholders and were the beginning of the anti-slavery movement. Stay with us folks, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Outro:

Calvin Coolidge.

Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

American History

This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment in American history. In 1963 the United States Supreme Court decided that voluntary Bible reading could no longer be part of the school day.

Founding Father Benjamin Rush, known as the father of public schools under the Constitution, pointedly warned that the Bible should be read in schools in preference to all other books.

He specifically warned that if America ever ceased promoting Biblical principles in schools then we would waste so much time and money and punishing crimes. It takes so little pains to prevent them.

He was right, we now have seven million Americans in prison on probation or on parole. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Sadly, this was unnecessary but is the result of no longer teaching the morals of the Bible in schools.

For more information about the Founding Fathers views on the positive impact of the Bible in schools go to WallBuilders.com

Outro:

Abraham Lincoln said, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

The Anti-Slavery Founding Fathers

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live, Foundations of Freedom Thursday today. That’s why you’ll hear some of those, “out of the mouths of babes” quotes. It’s actually Founding Fathers’ quotes, out of the mouths of babes, that we love to share in our bumper music on these Foundations of Freedom Thursdays.

Today’s topic, our first question from the audience has to do with Founding Fathers that were actually slaveholders but also anti-slavery. David, you were explaining how that’s possible. I think the abortion analogy used is a perfect example of that. Folks today that are very pro-life but participated in an abortion earlier in their life. Perhaps that’s part of what drives him to be so pro-life and maybe the same is true for some of these folks in the Founding Era that were so anti-slavery.

David:

Well, you have so many Founding Fathers. If you think of anti-slavery Founding Fathers, certainly the first two that come to mind is Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush because they founded the first Anti-Slavery Society in America.

When King George III in 1774 vetoed their anti-slavery laws they created a society, civil disobedience, they said, “We’re going to end slavery anyway.” Watch this, they’re still British citizens and they have now created an anti-slavery society in 1774. So both of these guys create anti-slavery societies.

Benjamin Rush goes on to be the national leader the abolition movement. He has a national abolition movement, abolition chapters all across the United States, he trains the first black physicians, he helped start the first black denomination, Benjamin Rush was a slave owner and he remained a slave owner until one night he had a dream.

In that dream, Anthony Benezet appeared to him. Nobody knows who Anthony Benezet is today. But we used to study history and we knew that he was a Quaker who was one of the loudest voices against slavery in America.

Anthony Benezet in this dream talked to Benjamin Rush and said, “Slave owning is wrong.” And Rush is like, “Huh? Why is it wrong?” He hadn’t even thought about it before. Matter of fact, I’ve got a great quote here I want to read from John Jay.

John Jay says, “Prior to the Great Revolution, the American Revolution, the great majority of our people had been so long accustomed to the practice and convenience of having slaves that very few among them ever doubted the propriety and rectitude of it.”

It’s just been a part of our custom habit so long, nobody even thought about it. So here Anthony Benezet appears to Benjamin Rush and says, “You shouldn’t be owning slaves.” And Rush got rid of slaves-

Rick:

He was Pennsylvania, right?

David:

He was Pennsylvania.

Rick:

So this is not even a southern state?

David:

No, it’s not a Southern state. As a matter of fact, I think was it William Floyd, who was the largest slaveholder in New York. He’s a Founding Father, he owned more slaves than anybody in New York. He had six slaves, I think it was. That’s the largest slaveholder in New York.  Are you kidding me?

You’re looking to the South, slave owners with thousands of slaves at the time. Well, that’s the difference between the north and south. So, yes. Benjamin Franklin, he owned a slave. Now, he got rid of the slave and freed a slave. But he’s an anti-slavery guy. No question about it.

He heads the Pennsylvania abolition society. So you’ve got him. You’ve got guys like William Whipple. Whipple I think is a signer the Declaration from Rhode Island. This kind of goes to what John Jay was saying about people just had never thought about it being wrong. Because in the north you raised slaves like they were part of your family. Now, granted, they were slaves but it wasn’t the plantation life of the South. They were in the house with you and educated, and they just weren’t what we think of with slaves.

So what happened is, William Whipple cited the Declaration and becomes a general. So he’s going off to fight with George Washington and he takes Prince with him, that’s the name of this slave was Prince Whipple.

So Prince goes with them, as they’re getting close to joining George Washington on Christmas night, 1776 for the crossing of the Delaware, there are going to be there for that, they’re going to have the surprise attack the next morning, the Battle of Trenton. You have William Whipple turn to his slave Prince Whipple and says, “Prince, I hope you’re going to behave like a man of courage and fight bravely for your country.”

And Prince replied, “Sir, I have no inducement to fight. But if I had my liberty I would endeavor to defend it to the last drop of my blood.” And Whipple goes, “That’s right, you are slave. I Forgot.” And he freed him on the spot.

Rick:

On the spot?

David:

On the spot? “Never crossed my mind, of course.” In that famous picture of Washington crossing the Delaware, you have Prince Whipple there in the boat with George Washington.

Now, he wasn’t in the actual boat with Washington, that painting is a depiction of kind of what went on. You’ve got James Monroe in there, and you have Oliver Cromwell, and Prince Whipple, two blacks in the boat with Washington.

And by the way, those blacks served throughout the Revolution, served a long time. But that’s the kind of thing. There is a Founding Father who owned slaves, but he didn’t think about them being slaves. When he was challenged about it, “If I had my freedom.” 

“Of course, we’re all fighting for our freedom. Of course, you’re free.” So he frees him on the spot.

So you have a number of Founding Fathers who owned slaves but were not pro-slavery. And that’s the big difference. There’s a huge difference between being a slave owner and being a pro slavery guy.

Rick:

It’s almost like, David, sometimes people will take a phrase out of the Constitution and try to interpret it in today’s language. This is similar to that. You have to get in a time machine and you’ve got to go back to that day and try to insert yourself in their lives to really understand why they did some of the things they did instead of taking one fact from their biography or their history and trying to paint them with that one thing and assume that you understand what they were really all about or what they what they really believe. We’ve got to take another quick break, we’ll be right back, stay with us, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution of most of our states and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. That they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.”

Constitution Alive

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.

Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.

We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution.  You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.

The Measuring Stick

Intro:

Samuel Adams said, “The liberties of our Country and the freedom of our civil Constitution are worth defending against hazards. And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live Foundations of Freedom Thursday today. We’re taking your questions, you can send those in via email to [email protected]. We’ve been answering a question from Glen that had to do with the Founding Fathers and slavery. A slide that Tucker Carlson had in terms of the number of Declaration of Independence signers that were either slaveholders or pro-slavery. And there’s definitely a difference between the two. David, you’ve pointed that out very well, the difference between being a slaveholder at some point in there in a person’s history, versus being pro-slavery or anti-slavery.

David:

Let’s try a different measurement. Let’s take the abortion issue we were talking about before. Are we going to say that Abby Johnson and Carol Everett are pro-abortion because they did abortions at one time and had abortions. No, we’re not

Rick:

Can’t, definitely not.

David:

Why not? They owned slaves, why aren’t they pro-slavery? No, the question you ask is, “In the overall course of their life did they do anything to end abortion?” Yeah, Carol Everetts has how many groups, and Abby Johnson all over- Yeah, they are anti-abortion despite the fact that they ran abortion clinics and had abortions.

Because look how the movement ended at the end of their life. They have taken the movement further toward preserving unborn life than it was when they got involved. Same thing with the Founding Fathers Benjamin Rush owned slaves, so did Ben Franklin. Yeah, but at the end of their life had they done more to end the evil of slavery in America than others? Yes, absolutely. They got the nation organized and they got States organized to end slavery.

Why Did It Take So Long To End Slavery

Rick:

David, that actually brings up our next question, why did it take so long? This one this one comes from Kyle. He asked basically the same thing. He said, “Been through WallBuilders, read through the writings, and the quotes.” He loves the fact that we provide a counter to the popular idea that the Founders of our nation were primarily white supremacy who loves slavery.

He continues, “However, when I present this information to some of my friends who still hold this view they point out that there’s a difference from wanting to end slavery and actually doing it. The fact that slavery continued for so long in our nation’s history is still an indictment on the Founders and their principles as a whole.” So his question is, “If they were against it, why not get rid of it in their lifetimes?”

David:

That’s the problem, they don’t know much about history. They think they do because slavery continued in the South. But in the north, it did not. You had Founder after Founder, and State after State abolish slavery.

For example, there were no slaves in Massachusetts after 1780 because the state constitution abolished that. You have Vermont, Connecticut, you have all the states up there with the anti-slavery Founders that said, “We’re taking care of that, we’re stopping it.”

Now, because of their view of limited government, the masses choose legislatures not allowed to legislate for Georgia. So don’t say that the Founding Fathers continued slavery say that the Georgia Founding Fathers continued slavery. But the New England Founding Fathers stopped slavery.

You can do the same with Pennsylvania. You can do the same with all these other states and even in New York where that they did not end slavery until a little later. Still, your biggest slave holder has six slaves? That’s not the same comparison as looking to South Carolina and Georgia and North Carolina, it’s just a whole different ballgame.

So when people respond like that it’s because number one, they don’t know much about history. This is the way that history has been taught over the last several decades. When it comes to racial history we give a southern view of that not a northern view, therefore we can tell you all about southern slavery but we can’t tell you about the fact that in Massachusetts there never was a time when blacks could not vote.

They can’t tell you about the fact that all over New England blacks voted and held office such as went with Cheswell elected office in 1768. You have Thomas Hercules elected in 1793. These are black folks elected office in white states. So where’s the racism?

You get it because you see Southern history and that’s all the schools teach anymore. They don’t teach the good, the bad, and the ugly. They teach the bad and the ugly.

So the question that his friends are putting back to him is, “Well, how come they didn’t end the institution?” Well, time out, they did a whole lot to end the institution. But it’s just like Texas can’t force California to end all abortions. We’ve got lots of anti-abortion laws in Texas but we’re not allowed to do that for California. Same thing back then. Which also means they don’t understand the Constitution if they’re asking that question. I understand their sentiment, but you have both reality, you have actual true history, and you have the constitution that also comes into account.

Don’t tell me that the Founding Fathers were pro-slavery when three-fourths, only 14 of the 56 are documented as pro-slavery. That’s 25 percent of Founding Fathers. The other 75 percent did everything they could to end slavery.

Rick:

Stay with us folks, we’ll be right back.

Outro:

George Washington said, “The Constitution approaches near to perfection than any other government instituted among men.”

Rick:

If you ever wonder if it’s over for America.  Can we restore those constitutional principles that made our nation great? Then we want to encourage you.  We want to show you some evidence of how it can be done. We want to show you the evidence behind what made America great in the first place. And we want to have some fun while we’re doing it.

It’s called Chasing American Legends. It’s our special television program that follows the Green family around the nation investigating myths and legends about America.  And it’s amazing what we have found and what we’ve discovered. Dove Channel is now airing Chasing American Legends and we want you to check it out.

We’ve got a link today at WallBuildersLive.com so you can find out more about Chasing American Legends, airing now on the Dove Channel. We’re going to take you and march with the Minutemen for the re-enactment of April 19th, 1775. That shot heard around the world. Take you to investigate the battles that George Washington was in.

All kinds of great episodes.  Check it out right now at DoveChannel.com.  Give our family a chance to inspire yours. We know we can give you some hope of the future of our nation. Check it out. Chasing American Legends at DoveChannel.com

Passing Anti-Slavery Laws

Outro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution of most of our states and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. That they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.”

Rick:

Welcome back, thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live. It’s our final segment today, it’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday. The great question today from Glenn on the signers of the Declaration, and the Founders, and how they could have slaves and be anti-slavery. David, you’ve answered that question I think incredibly well.

There are more materials by the way, at our Website. You have a great article on the Founders and slavery that folks can read there on our Website as well. But we’re going to come back to something that you said Kyle could share with his friends, our second question of the day that also deals with this issue of, “Why did it take so long then to get rid of slavery?”

David:

Well, if you look at what the Founding Fathers did legislatively, once the nation came together as a nation under the Constitution, they start passing anti-slavery laws. And so you look at the Founding Fathers, George Washington 1789 signed a law that says, “Any federal territory out there cannot have slavery.”

We can’t limit the states. Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, they have slavery. But he said, “No new state coming into the United States can have slavery.”  So Washington signs an anti-slavery law. Therefore, the six states that came in out of the Northwest Territory Indiana, Ohio, and you have Michigan, and Minnesota, they all came as anti-slavery States because Washington signed that law.

In 1794 he signed a law that said, “We’re not going to export any slaves from America to any other nation, that stops.” Signed the law. In 1808, Thomas Jefferson signed the law and says, “We will not import any slaves into America, we’re not going to have another slave come into America.” We’re moving in the right direction. They’re doing what they can.

If Not The Founding Founders Perpetuating Slavery, Then Who Did

In 1820 the Democrats got control of Congress and they repeal George Washington’s anti-slavery law and they start repealing those anti-slavery laws. So it’s not the Founding Fathers who perpetuate slavery, it’s Democrats.

By the way, the statues have come down, every single Confederate statue that’s come down has been of a Democrat leader. Nobody’s talking about that. It’s not the Founding Fathers who pushed the expansion of slavery. It’s the Democrats who did and they still wanted slavery.

They were willing to start their own nation so they could have slavery. And by the way, that’s why the Confederate Constitution says, “If you don’t want slavery you cannot be part of the Confederate States of America.” Let’s talk about Democrats expanding slavery rather than the Founding Fathers expanding slavery.

Rick:

In fact, we’ve got some other questions we couldn’t get to today dealing with the statues and dealing with a lot of these issues. We’ll certainly hit those next Thursday on Foundations of Freedom Thursday.

Be sure and visit our Website and get some of the past programs as well. It’s all available at WallBuilders Live.com. Thanks so much for listening to WallBuildersLive!

Outro:

Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”