Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Guess whose statue they just took down

By Tom Woods

First it was statues of people like John C. Calhoun.

That worked, since Americans have been told that Calhoun, one of the only political thinkers the United States ever produced who’s actually worth reading, was uniquely wicked and racist, etc.

Some warned that eventually the savages would come for the truly iconic figures in American history.

No way, we were told.

Um, yes way.

A statue of Thomas Jefferson was removed from city hall in New York.

Because the author of the Declaration of Independence is obviously unfit to shine the shoes of such intellectual and moral exemplars as Kathy Hochul and Bill de Blasio.

Since the people removing the statue generally have no problem with people wearing Che Guevara T-shirts, I hope I can be forgiven for suspecting that something other than moral rectitude is at the root of this.

With regard to Jefferson and slavery, you know the full story if you’re a Tom Woods Show listener. But here’s something I thought I’d share with you written by Kevin Gutzman, a college professor and biographer of Jefferson and James Madison who also teaches at my Liberty Classroom:

I’ve just read, for about the ten thousandth time, that the Declaration of Independence is false or hypocritical in laying out a claim that “all men are created equal” because “slaves and women weren’t included.” Please indulge me as I repeat my responsive comment here.

This is wrong, I think, but I’m willing to be dissuaded. Here’s what I know:

Of the five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence:

1) Roger Sherman of Connecticut drafted the Connecticut law that abolished slavery in Connecticut;

2) Benjamin Franklin was the president of an abolition society that submitted a petition for the abolition of slavery to the first US Congress;

3) John Adams, as the chief draftsman of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, wrote the section that was read by a Massachusetts court as having abolished slavery in Massachusetts;

4) Thomas Jefferson co-sponsored a 1769 bill to abolish slavery in Virginia, wrote the first draft of the law that banned slavery from the Midwest, called for and signed the law that abolished the international slave trade, wrote the most influential antislavery book in American history, drafted a bill (which failed by one vote in Congress) that would have banned slavery from most of today’s Deep South, and wrote the part of the Declaration of Independence that says “all men are created equal”; and

5) Robert Livingston … well, his record I don’t know as well, but I do know that several of his political allies in New York and some of his relatives were involved in antislavery, which led to abolition of New York slavery under a 1799 law signed by his friend Governor John Jay.

So why do we say slaves weren’t included in “all men are created equal”?

As to women: Jefferson’s Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge (which he drafted for Virginia, though it was not adopted) provided for education of Virginia “children.” On its face, that included girls. (Perhaps interestingly, he also said “children” included blacks — and elsewhere said it could be read to include slaves.)

It seems to me that people are making a lot of uninformed assertions in this thread. (In case you want to know more about Jefferson and blacks, I not-so-humbly refer you to the “Colonization” chapter in my latest book, Thomas Jefferson — Revolutionary.) There’s also quite a bit of “They’re responsible for not having their novel ideas sooner” in criticism of 18th-century American/Western men.

I’ll add to this comment that I don’t quite understand the psychology driving people to join in this public breast-beating about their supposed (though not actual) moral superiority to the people who made the American Revolution. I’m trying to be charitable, but every potential explanation that occurs to me isn’t positive.

For more, listen to this episode of the Tom Woods Show:

2 replies »

  1. Weelll_ If they want to “erase” the Constitution they have to first rid the country of the man that rote it! ummm?

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