Well, it’s settled. Everything we thought we knew about the American Founding is wrong. The real Founding is not the Declaration of Independence in 1776 or even the drafting of the Constitution in 1787. Instead, it is 1619 when the first slaves arrived in the settlement of Jamestown. Thus sayeth the 1619 Project of The New York Times, which seeks “to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
Of course, the 1619 Project merely regurgitates what has become the mainstream view of today’s Democratic Party. For instance, Beto O’Rourke said recently that “this country … was founded on racism, has persisted through racism and is racist today.” Bernie Sanders said earlier this year that the United States was “created” in large part “on racist principles.”
How did this calumny take root? The answer can be traced to the project of an Italian communist named Antonio Gramsci, the father of “cultural Marxism,” who in the 1930s called on socialists and communists to subvert Western culture from the inside in order to prepare the soil for the overthrow of liberalism. In the 1960s, the German activist Rudi Dutschke dubbed this project “the long march through the institutions.”
The success of this endeavor, especially in the academy, can be seen by the popularity of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” a disgraceful work filled with outright falsehoods, omissions, distortions of evidence, logical fallacies, plagiarism, and dubious sources. The book is such a travesty that even left-leaning historians have denounced it. Yet two generations of high school and college students have been marinated in this toxic stew, which advances the view that the United States is unjust and racist.
In 1776, slavery was a worldwide phenomenon. Indeed, it was Africans who sold other Africans into the Atlantic slave trade, the vast majority of whom were transported to South America. Muslims enslaved Europeans.
The United States was founded on a different principle, one that undermined the morality of slavery. The fact is that the principles of the Constitution are fundamentally anti-slavery. As James Madison noted, those present at the constitutional convention in 1787 “thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.”
Of course, those who argue that the American Founding was unjust point to the fact that the Constitution compromised on the issue of slavery. But people who assert this claim make the fundamental error of confusing the principles of the Constitution, which arise from the Declaration of Independence, with its compromises, in the absence of which, slave states very possibly would have created a polity wholly devoted to slavery.
One who recognized this point was Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist and former slave, who came to understand that without the Constitution — which he believed was fundamentally an anti-slavery document — and the Union it created, slavery would never have been ended in America.
Economists and historians have been exposing the shoddy scholarship that underpins the 1619 Project. But the real flaw in the project is its failure to recognize the role of the American Founding in the eventual abolition of slavery, at least in the West.
As the late Harry Jaffa once wrote, “It is not wonderful that a nation of slave-holders, upon achieving independence, failed to abolish slavery. What is wonderful, indeed miraculous, is that a nation of slave-holders founded a new nation on the proposition that ‘all men are created equal,’ making the abolition of slavery a moral and political necessity.”
To see this article and other by Mr. Owens and from Providence Journal, click read more.