Slavery, Privacy and Misdemeanors – on Foundations of Freedom Thursday: Today is Foundations of Freedom Thursday, which means we’ll focus on questions from our audience. Did the founders plan to remove slavery gradually over time? Why did the founding fathers not clearly spell out the right to privacy in the constitution? Can the Noah Webster definition of misdemeanors be applied to the usage of the word in the constitution? All of this and more, on Foundations of Freedom Thursday!
Air Date: 9/28/2023
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Historic Quote: 0:12
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.
Rick Green: 0:25
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders. We’re taking on the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective. We’re doing that with David and Tim Barton. Tim’s a national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders. David Barton, of course, America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders, and I’m Rick Green, America’s Constitution Coach and a former Texas legislator. It’s an honor to serve with these guys. I hope that you enjoy the program, hope you check us out at WallBuilders. com . So many great tools there, whether you want to get into some of the videos or, you know, books or whatever it is and dive a little deeper into our founding principles and learn those things. Or you just want to listen to some of the archives or the radio program. There’s so much there. But one thing I do want to ask you to do when you get to that website, WallBuilders. com make a contribution, help invest in freedom. You know lives, fortune, sacred, honor- fortunes. It takes fuel in the tank. Everybody’s got to be willing to give a little bit. You know, if you can just do a small contribution there, maybe you can do a big one, today. It helps us to train more pastors and teachers and young people and legislators and all the things that we’re doing at WallBuilders to restore America’s constitutional republic, and also it helps us to add stations to reach more people with this program, where we’re teaching truth, we’re getting into the foundations. That’s what today’s all about- Foundations of Freedom Thursday is to get into the… It’s an opportunity for all of us to get into those foundational principles and answer your questions, and it’s a great time for us to share and to learn and sharpen each other’s countenance. Alright, David and Tim, let’s jump in. Our first question is coming from Michael. He said on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being you completely agree and 1 being you completely disagree… Well, Michael, I can answer this already. We’re very disagreeable people, so we’re all a 1. That’s it. We don’t even need to know what the question is. No, let’s go for it. He says what do you think of the following- Many Americans in the 18th and 19th century, such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, John Randolph and others in slave states, opposed slavery. However, many of them preferred slow, gradual emancipation and provision of finances, property and education of all slaves over immediate emancipation of them. This was because of great fear that prejudices from white people and bitterness from black people, especially ones who were slaves, would provoke a race war, which happened in Santo Domingo and Haiti in the early 19th century. Okay, so there’s the question guys. Did those guys, and he specifically named Washington, Jefferson, Madison and John Randolph in some of these slave states and maybe it’s in their writings or whatever, did they, you know, did they oppose slavery but wanted to do it slowly, slowly over time, meaning get rid of it slowly over time?
Tim Barton: 2:50
Yeah, you know, it’s not quite a loaded question, but there’s certainly a loaded answer because there’s a lot of context that you have to keep in mind for some of this conversation. At that time, when you’re looking at the 1700s, there was virtually nowhere in the world that did not have slavery where people were either enslaving others, themselves being enslaved. It was going back and forth. This was the way of the world, and so, as the founding fathers are beginning a political anti-slavery movement, which arguably the founding fathers are the only ones in the world at that time, from a political standpoint, right, this isn’t talking about like, maybe, the Quakers in America who have an abolition movement and even founding fathers who are part of the abolition movement in America. But we’re talking about, when it comes to not just a religious group, when you’re talking about the political leaders of the nation, when there are people in the world that have money and have political positions, whether they be kings or lords or nobles, right, whatever was in Europe, anywhere around the world, the practice, the standard of the world that time was to have slaves. So even the question asked about founding fathers in the South, it wasn’t just founding fathers in the South, because even Northern states they were passing laws for gradual abolition. So they passed laws to end slavery, but part of their laws was slavery would be ended in X number of years or that there could be no new people enslaved and that if the current people that were slaves had children, their children would be born free, and so it was only this generation of slaves that would remain. But they called these gradual abolition laws because they said we will not have any more slaves, but we will not necessarily take away the slaves from the people that have purchased them. And I understand, as we say that the argument is oh, so they viewed them as property. And there’s a lot more conversation, but it’s oftentimes again, we forget some of the context that slavery, this wasn’t just white people enslaving black people, this wasn’t an American evil, this was a evil around the world, and so the fact that anybody is taking a step against it becomes significant. Now, why did they choose gradual and not instant? Well, there was a debate and discussion between founding fathers where some of them said no, end it all right now, and some said there could be major problems where there could be war, and we don’t want war. And so I do think that there were people on both sides of the issue and some people said it’s worth the consequences, end slavery now and some people said that that’s a little bit too much of a rash decision to say that everybody is freed. There could be more issues involved. So, it wasn’t just founding fathers from the South. I think there was more founding fathers included in that. There were definitely some from the North that held similar sentiments and positions and there were some from the South that advocated for not just gradual abolition but for immediate abolition, although certainly from the South the ones that were pro abolition you do see more of a gradual sense than from the North. You do see more of an immediate sense, but that’s just a little bit more of the context behind there. Dad, I know you have already some notes written down on this, so I will yield the remainder of my time at this moment to my colleague across the table.
David Barton: 5:46
Well, you hit a lot of the key points, but one thing to remember too is the summary that Michael set forth is it’s a decent summary of people in the South. But you got to remember that the South is where the minority of the founding fathers were, because that’s where the minority of the population was. Most of the population was in the North and most of the founding fathers were in the North. And most of the founding fathers were not gradual abolition. And, Tim, as you pointed out, some states were. New Jersey was, Pennsylvania was, but Massachusetts was not and Maine was not and New Hampshire was not and Vermont was not. All those states were immediate, right now end it. So what Michael’s described is a good summary of where it ended up in the South. But you’ve also got to remember it ended up there because that was the middle of all three positions. Some wanted no end to slavery, some wanted it ended right now and others said, well, let’s get the middle ground on that. So it’s a good description of where they all ended up when it finally came to policy, but it’s not necessarily an accurate description of what they all believed at the time, especially when you get out of the South. But it’s a great way to summarize it. And, Tim, I mean, your caveat was right. You just got to remember that this is not exclusive to the Founding Fathers. This is going on the whole world at the time. But the Founding Fathers, even those in the South, were decades ahead of the rest of the world, even in this position that they ended up in the South with, and that was this kind of progressive end of slavery.
Tim Barton: 7:11
And this could take us back too to the original draft of the Declaration, where the largest grievance in the original draft, right, the committee of five as they put this together, you have Jefferson and Adams, and Franklin and Livingston and Sherman, as they’re working together to put together the original draft of the Declaration, the largest grievance in the original draft is a grievance against the slave trade, arguing for the humanity of the slaves, those that were enslaved, saying look, these are men and all men are created equal. They’re making that connection. The reason that grievance did not make it in the final draft was because there were two states that opposed it. Those states were Georgia and South Carolina, specifically the delegates from those states. And if you look at the founding fathers, there definitely were some founding fathers that are in the racist category. There definitely are some that were in the pro-slavery category, and this is where, when you begin to look and see where.., who were those founding fathers and where did they reside, the majority of the pro-slavery founding fathers were from states like Georgia and South Carolina. They were a couple from New York, but generally speaking, the majority of them were from the South, and so this is also not to say that every founding father was anti-slavery. And it’s not to say that there weren’t racist founding fathers. There were some that fall in the racist category, but it wasn’t the majority of founding fathers. The majority of founding fathers had a much more enlightened position than the rest of the world at that time. And again, this is where nowhere else in the world did you have the political leaders of a nation take such a strong position against slavery and they laid a foundation for the anti-slavery movement, not just in America, but literally when England ends slavery in 1833, one of the things you can see in England is the influence… The arguments even of the abolitionists in England are influenced by the notion of the declaration that all men are created equal. That kind of phrasing was used in arguments around the world. The founding fathers laid the foundation for the abolition movement, not just in America but the rest of the world.
Rick Green: 8:58
All right, guys, let’s go to our second question. Next up is Laura in Ohio. She said my boys and I have been listening to your podcast for a couple of years now. Recently, we had the opportunity to meet with our state rep, where homeschool kids were allowed to ask whatever they wanted. My 12 year old apparently was very concerned about taxes. I’m sorry, guys, I love that! My 12 year old was very concerned about taxes. The rep said, wow, your mom must be doing a really good job teaching you about the Constitution, to which he replied, WallB uilders! So the rep said he was familiar with you guys and his wife said she’s a big fan of yours. Anyway, the question I was planning to ask was about the right to privacy, since it’s getting harder and harder to even get a refrigerator that doesn’t have a camera or isn’t trying to collect your personal data. Prior to the meeting I was looking via DuckDuckGo, where in the Constitution it addresses the right to privacy, only to find that the Constitution doesn’t expressly give us that right. Can you expound upon why the founding fathers didn’t clearly spell out the right to privacy for every citizen? Is it because they didn’t foresee the technology to come and thought it was all covered in the bill of rights. Thank you for all that you do. All right, David, Tim, I usually just immediately say, what do you think? I got to just say one thing, just, Laura, great question. I love the fact that your son’s thinking about this at 12, and I shouldn’t be this nitpicky over language, but when you say the Constitution didn’t expressly give us that right, just a reminder, Constitution doesn’t give you any rights. God gave you those rights. Constitution’s there to protect those rights and it doesn’t list them all. You know, ninth Amendment, all that good stuff, but, guys, that’s probably what we’re going to talk about here. So, yeah, right to privacy, those words are nowhere in the Constitution and unfortunately, people sometimes think right to privacy means abortion, even when they use those words that aren’t in the Constitution. But she’s talking about our personal privacy from government’s prying eyes.
Tim Barton: 10:40
Well, and Rick, you made a great point already about, not only where the rights come from, but even when we talk about rights, and the Constitution doesn’t list all of our rights, no, but the Constitution does list all of the power and authority the federal government has. And what does the federal government not have the power and authority to do? To invade your privacy. That’s not a power they have, which is also part of when you look at the due process, the Bill of Rights and you see things like privacy to the home. The founding fathers literally addressed the issues of privacy, but they addressed it in the sense, and the context of what they dealt with. When you go back to the declaration and you see that they had these, these writs, that people could… Right? These search warrants that were blank search warrants that somebody could show up at your house and they could come into your house and they could invade your privacy and they could look for some kind of violation and then, if they found a violation, then they would fill out this writ and say, okay, you’re guilty of this crime. And the founding fathers clearly said, nope, the right to privacy, that there cannot be a search without a valid, certain to warrant identifying what’s there, right? This is part of the constitutional foundation laid out in the Bill of Rights. It’s where this derives from and originates, and so the founding fathers did protect privacy in the only way they were really seeing that privacy being violated. It’s just that we have come so far with the application of technology and with the change of lifestyle in many regards, from the benefits of the technology that the founding fathers… there’s no way they could have ever envisioned it going this far. But they do lay out, we talk about this a lot, in the Constitution, it lays out the principles, not the specific details, and that’s why the Constitution is still so applicable to this day is because it deals with the principles of government, not necessarily with all of these specific details of our day to day life and how it applies. And this is where I think sometimes we miss the concept and notion of the principle that is being outlined in the Bill of Rights or in the Constitution, or the fact the Constitution tells the government the explicit things it can do and it’s not supposed to do anything the Constitution didn’t give the power and authority to do. And then, to go a little further, when they wrote the Bill of Rights, the founding fathers wrote a, it’ s known as a negative listing of rights, in the sense of that these are a list of things the government can never touch and can never infringe on, and part of it was the right to privacy. That is in the Bill of Rights, and again it was including the only context that they had seen privacy being violated. At least that would be my take. Dad, what’s your thought?
David Barton: 13:04
I would build some fences around it because there is, as you said, a lot of right to privacy. There’s the right to privacy on what your religious faith is and how you practice that, and the government can’t get involved with that, that’s up to you. There’s rights of privacy set on the writs of assistance and the Fourth Amendment, particularly on search warrants and how specific they have to be. And there’s rights of privacy on you can’t quarter government troops in your home. There’s all these things that as really going back to James Otis in 1761, founding father, he said a man’s home is this castle. You don’t get to invade that castle, you don’t get to walk into any time you want to. So there was that concept. Now, what we call the right to privacy really is a rhetorical product of Roe v Wade, and Roe v Wade is where they’re saying hey, because there’s a right to privacy, you can’t stop abortions. Now this is where I want to back up and say, in the context of all of the Bill of Rights, Washington, all the other founders, continually emphasize that this is within the parameters of what they called religion and morality. George Washington, farewell address, religion and morality. That’s where everything comes from. That’s what the constitution is based on, and so to take a right to privacy apart from religion and morality takes you in a direction that is really not healthy and not good for society. And that’s what Roe v Wade did. Because, quite frankly, I mean even today, we don’t allow right to privacy if you abuse your children or if they’re spousal abuse. We don’t allow right to privacy with polygamy. We don’t allow right to privacy… If you commit theft in the privacy of your home or if you engage in child grooming in the privacy of your home. No, no, no. We’re going to get involved in that. And that goes back to religion and morality. So the concept of privacy was really kind of put forth in this open ended way by the Roe v Wade court to stop religious and moral influences, and that used to be a religious and moral position, that taking an unborn life is wrong no, no, no. You can do that in the privacy of your home, between you and your doctor. So the right to privacy, as Tim, you outlined it, it’s really clear in the Constitution, but it does not include the right to do anything you want to, as long as it’s in the privacy of your home, and that’s a really a strong moral and religious boundary that needs to be re-established in people’s thinking and this is where libertarianism has been so harmful is whatever I do in the privacy of my home, I can do myself, I can do drugs, I can do whatever. How about the way in Colorado now that you doing drugs is causing all these car wrecks and killing people in the highways because of what you do in the privacy of your home? So there has to be a moral and a religious measurement for that. But within the framework of that, that’s what the founding fathers… They did have a right to privacy, but certainly not the way we define it today.
Rick Green: 15:43
Yeah, and you know, guys, this is a broader subject and maybe we cover this even more in a future program. But sometimes we get this weird view of liberty that we think that means, you know, what the founders called natural liberty, if you’re living on an island, you can do whatever you want as long as nature doesn’t stop you. But what we have is civil liberty, and even the founders, , were clear about that. Civil liberty means your natural liberty’s liberties going to be inhibited in some ways because you’re living among other people and there just has to be some, you know, rules for life in a society, in a neighborhood. And so I think that gets us, hopefully, when we think through those things, we move away from this kind of libertarian idea that it’s just whatever you want to do and there are zero limits, no matter what. And I don’t think that’s what the gal was asking in her question, was it, Laura? But it is, you know, it’s definitely important for us to recognize, hey, there’s things not listed in the Constitution that you do have, even bodily autonomy. You know, guys, that’s another one. It’s like the founders didn’t say hey, government cannot make you inject things into your body or make you wear a mask or whatever, but those were still rights. That bodily autonomy was something that they just didn’t think they had to list, which is what the Ninth Amendment would cover that as as well. But, david, I think what you’re saying is so important, especially for our side, you know, and a lot of the folks in our circles that we talk about, because we are, we’re tired of government intrusion and we want government to leave us alone. But, man, when you live in society, there’s some things you, you know, you need government, for. Government’s not a bad institution if it’s in its lane that God designed it to be. It’s actually a blessing. It’s when it gets outside its lane, that’s when it becomes a curse. Okay, went over the halfway mark, guys, take a quick break. We’ll come back. We got some more questions from the audience. You’re listening to Wall Builders.
Tim Barton: 17:24
Hi, friends, this is Tim Barton of Wall Builders. This is a time when most Americans don’t know much about American history, or even heroes of the faith, and I know oftentimes for parents we’re trying to find good content for our kids to read and if you remember back to the Bible, the Book of Hebrews, it has the Faith Hall of Fame where they outlined the leaders of faith that had gone before them. Well, this is something that, as Americans, we really want to go back and outline some of these heroes, not just of American history, but heroes of Christianity and our faith as well. I want to let you know about some biographical sketches we have available on our website. One is called the Courageous Leaders Collection, and this collection includes people like Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, George Washington Carver, Susanna Wesley, even the Wright Brothers, and there’s a second collection called Heroes of History, and this collection you’ll read about people like Benjamin Franklin or Christopher Columbus, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Harriet Tubman, friends the list goes on and on. This is a great collection for your young person to have and read and it’s a providential view of American and Christian history. This is available at WallBuilders. com that’s www. WallBuilders. com .
Historic Quote: 18:27
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 Green: 18:49
We’re back here at WallBuilders. Thanks for staying with us on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday. Diving right back into your questions, folks, you can send them in to radio@WallBuilders. com , radio@WallBuilders. com. Michael’s question is straight out of the Constitution. He says in article 2, section 4. It says the president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, unless it’s five million dollars going to Hunter first, and then, no wait, that parts not in there! For For for treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. Are the definition and standard for misdemeanors in article 2, section 4, the ones specified by Noah Webster in his dictionary, and are the definition standards for misdemeanors consistent throughout the US Constitution? Michael, thank you man. Great question, great detailed question. David, before you answer that, remind us- Noah Webster and a dictionary. Who was this guy and when did he do this dictionary?
David Barton: 19:45
Noah Webster was the founding father who fought in the American War for independence. After the war, he was a legislator, he was a judge. He was the second man of the United States to call for the Constitutional Convention. Palletire Webster as far as I know, not a relative was the first guy, he was the second guy. Then he is very engaged in saying you know, to make sure we don’t ever go back to Great Britain again, we need an American system of education. So he comes up with spelling and his words of spelling are very different from British spelling and that was by design to make us Independent in our thinking and independent and our relations on education, everything else, so we’d never be tempted to go back. He then came up with the dictionary in 1828. He learned 28 different languages so he could take all the words back to their original meanings and in doing so he defines 70,000…
Rick Green: 20:34
Wait a minute! I don’t know if I could name 28 different languages.
David Barton: 20:36
Thank you very much!
Rick Green: 20:41
I don’t know if I could name 28 different languages. He learned the 28! That’s crazy. Yeah.
David Barton: 20:42
And you look at the languages he learned it, just as some of them, I don’t know how you ever learn that in a life… I don’t know how the people who grow up learning it can speak it. I mean it’s crazy what he did. But 28 languages, he defined 70,000 words, 40,000 had not been previously defined, and it’s just, it’s amazing, with the guy did. So when you go to the meaning of misdemeanor out of Noah Webster’s dictionary, I’ll just read it what it says for him. It says in law, an offensive of a less atrocious nature than a crime. Crimes and misdemeanors are more synonymous terms but in common uses the word crime is made to denote offenses of a deeper and more atrocious die, while small faults and omissions of less consequence are comprised under the gentler name of misdemeanors. So when the Constitution talks about impeachment there are six clauses in the Constitution, it talks about high crimes and misdemeanors, and Not only Noah Webster but so many folks who actually had a hand in writing the Constitution, the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention, the 39 who signed it, those guys, they had definitions and they were very clear. The same when you get into the ratification conventions where all the states have their their delegates there to ratify it, so they’re discussing the Constitution. What does this mean? What does this clause mean? And you get definitions there. So, by and large, high crimes and misdemeanors simply means a crime and misdemeanor for someone who’s in high office. So a high crime is not higher than a low crime, it’s just a crime by someone who’s in a high office. So that would be a federal judgeship, it would be governorship, it would be a presidency, it would not be a US Senate or US House of Representatives. In 1797 they tried to impeach William Blount, who was a signer of the Constitution but who got involved in some foreign intrigue, and they tried to impeach him. And the founding father said no, no, no, implement is not for your elected House and Senate. Those people answer directly to the people. What you’ve got impeachment for is people that don’t answer directly to the people, and that would be the president. He has public votes, it’s through the Electoral College, etc. So high crime and misdemeanor, by defined by so many constitutional commentaries, is simply bad behavior by someone in high office. Now, what’s bad behavior? Well, that’s subjective. For example, when you look at the impeachments undertaken by Congress in the early years, they impeached a federal judge for cussing in the courtroom. They said that’s bad behavior. That clearly is not a crime, but it’s a high crime and misdemeanor by definition under the Constitution. Another judge got drunk in his private life and they impeached him for being drunk in private life. And so, as you look down the impeach… there was a cabinet level official that was impeached during the Civil War because he chose Someone different for an office than what Congress wanted him to choose. So it can be anything at all. It does not have to be something that violates a written crime somewhere, just in the eyes of the people. It has to be something that demeans the office or that takes it down, that gives it less respect, etc. The way impeachments run today you look at Trump and others this is political trial. This has nothing to do with the constitutional clause on high crimes and misdemeanors. This is a partisan witch trial and that is not a good deal. So that’s the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors and in this case, Webster’s definition is fairly close to it. It’s just bad behavior. It’s not a serious crime. There’s something much less than that. But the way that they have applied it to Trump, like with insurrection or, you know, creating insurrection by by challenging an election or questioning an election. That could be under the original definition, but the way it’s been used in the last century, this is a brand new approach to high crimes and misdemeanors.
Rick Green: 24:27
Yeah, I was thinking, as you said, that David, just questioning an election man, I’d be in prison right now for just asking for a recount. Back in my first race in 1998 I lost by 20 and just said hey, you know can we just verify that, make sure? Ended up winning about 36. You know, today I guess that’s against the law to say um, just like to make sure, you know, that we counted those things correctly.
David Barton: 24:45
It’s interesting, Rick, that recently some collection of clips have been appearing on the website showing all the Democrats who have challenged election in the last six to eight years, even three or four years ago, where the Democrats had a hackathon at the US Senate and they had these guys that broke into every election machine they had and changed the results. And so they started saying, wow, elections are not safe they’re not secure, you can’t trust the machines. I mean Democrats saying exactly the kind of things that they’re been inditing Trump… They’re inditing Trump for the very things they themselves have said, and so it really is instructive to go out and you can just check social media. All these Democrats who are talking about how elections are not safe and machines can’t be trusted, everything they’re inditing Trump for, Democrats have been saying for a number of years.
Rick Green: 25:32
Alright folks, be sure to send those questions radio@ WallB uilders. com , radio@W allB uilders. com . I hope that today actually you, after you get more of these foundations, after you learn from these questions and we go back into history and we study these things, I hope that you’ll be motivated to do more, that you won’t just sit on the sidelines. Faith without works is dead. That you will take your faith, you’ll live out your faith in every area of the culture, including how we treat our neighbors and what our society looks like. Get educated on these things. Get more information at WallB uilders. com . Take our Biblical Citizenship class, host that class, become one of our Constitution Coaches and host those classes in your home or at your church. Just got back from a coaches conference. Got to hear all these great testimonials of what’s happening in communities where they’re hosting these classes. It’s absolutely phenomenal and you can be the catalyst for a restoration of those biblical values and Constitutional principles. You can be the one to lead the way in your community. Every single one of us can do something. Every single one of us has a voice that needs to be heard. Our values need to be counted. Step up and be a part of the solution, folks. Thanks so much for listening to WallBuilders.