Musings: Jefferson’s initial anti-slavery passage in the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson reading the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence to Benjamin Franklin. Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Referring to  King George of England and slavery, Thomas Jefferson (who inherited his father’s slaves at the age of 14) initially drafted the following as part 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.”

The politics of money, power and prejudice led in part to the deletion of the passage as a means to an end – the needed vote for the Declaration of Independence document. The downstream effect of the deletion became woven into the fabric of culture and the subsequent social, judicial & political constructs.  

History can’t be rewritten, only a reformation & a renaissance if not a revolution in thought and subsequent human behavior must occur for change to have an opportunity to take root and prevail.  

“I have observed this in my experience of slavery – that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom.”  Frederick Douglass

This you tube offers perhaps one of the best insights into the nature of slavery and America’s shared history:

The Truth about the Confederacy (and slavery)  in the United States