Perspective and Finality
- That racial slavery was always and everywhere an evil.
- That no people should be ripped from their homelands and made property.
- That free labor always outcompetes slave labor, and that, as Tocqueville so wisely observed, the Ohio River separated not just the free from the unfree, but the productive versus the unproductive.
- That abolitionist societies first sprang up in Philadelphia in 1776.
- That northern states systematically uprooted slavery as an institution.
- That the common law forbade slavery.
- That the Declaration of Independence, especially in its first draft but always in its intent, condemned slavery.
- That for every pro-slavery man in the Constitutional Convention, there was an anti-slavery man as well.
- That Congress, unanimously, prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territories, 1787.
- That Congress ended America’s participation in the international slave trade as early as January 1, 1808.
- That, as late as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Founding Father Rufus King, though advanced in age, continued to fight the good fight against slavery.
- That colleges—such as Hillsdale, founded in 1844—were abolitionist.
- That northern states, throughout the 1830s and 1840s, passed Personal Liberty Laws, disallowing the use of state personnel or property to aid slave catchers.
- That, the Civil War and the 13th Amendment forever ended slavery and slave holding.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
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