Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Second Amendment has been under attack. Calls for gun control and a complete repeal of the Second Amendment are plaguing the media. A common tactic gun control supporters like to use involves attacking the apparent history of the Second Amendment, citing its irrelevance because it was written at a time where slavery was still happening, or when black people were counted as 3/5th of a person. While they aren’t wrong, there isn’t any correlation between comparing the three, as none of our founding documents mention the word “slavery” at all. In fact, contrary to popular belief, most of our Founding Fathers were against slavery, and worked tirelessly to abolish it.
As stated above, the left likes to use slavery as their basis for delegitimizing what our Constitution or Declaration of Independence say. Specifically, they cite our Founding Fathers and their ownership of slaves as a talking point. To no surprise, our education system continually fails the youth. Those who use this argument aren’t technically wrong, though, just severely misled.
It is important that we examine how far back slavery can be traced, and the conditions in which our Founding Fathers operated. An article from Smithsonianmag.com carefully traces the history of slavery, going back to the 1560’s when Sir John Hawkins, a slave trader and naval commander, engaged in slave-trading expeditions. The article also goes on to explain the countries who added fuel to the fire, citing Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and England as a “chain of events” during the beginnings of slavery.
Before the Declaration of Independence was adopted, meaning before we were independent from the Kingdom of Great Britain, studying the truth about slavery can be complicated. I believe many on the left who argue that slavery has stained our founding documents don’t fully grasp the issue. Thomas Jefferson blamed the rapacious British colonial policies as a reason for enslaved Africans in North America. Also, Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that slavery did, in fact, violate the natural rights of man. Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton were all officers of their respective states antislavery groups. Franklin also eventually became the President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and signed a petition to ultimately abolish slavery and the slave trade. Furthermore, Benjamin Franklin even went as far as to teach some of his slaves to read and write, and added to his will that his personal slave, Peter, be freed when Franklin passed.
Given the actions and quotes from our Founding Fathers, it is not radical to think that those who did own slaves, did not treat them harshly. As stated above, slavery was etched into our fabric for a couple hundred years before our country was founded, and there were still many who supported slavery. Some of our Founding Fathers feelings condemning slavery can be seen here.
When arguing such a major issue like slavery, it is critical that the facts are presented fairly. Two things can be true here; some of our Founding Fathers owned slaves, while also advocating for the complete abolishment of such an inhumane practice.
When Thomas Jefferson began drafting the Declaration of Independence, he had a goal in mind. T.J. was vehemently against slavery, and believed that every man was born free. For this reason, his words in one of the most important documents in history reflected his beliefs:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This was not a mistake, but a giant slap in the face to everything slavery stood for. In the fabric of our newly formed country, the Founding Fathers took a stand to such an evil, declaring that “all men are created equal.” No matter color, our status in the United States of America is the same, and has been the same since 1776.