Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bachmann’s Grasp of American History

Yep, it’s every bit as bad as you would expect it to be. In a speech in Iowa she tried to sanitize American history in regard to slavery:

“How unique in all of the world, that one nation that was the resting point from people groups all across the world,” she said. “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status.”

“Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?” she asked.

Except for all the black people who were shipped here as slaves, of course. But she has the answer on that too:

Speaking at an Iowans For Tax Relief event, Bachmann (R-MN) also noted how slavery was a “scourge” on American history, but added that “we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”

“And,” she continued, “I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”

Except that John Quincy Adams was not a founding father and he had nothing at all to do with the writing of our founding documents. He was certainly an outspoken opponent of slavery, as was his father — who actually was a founding father. And there were others among the founders who were anti-slavery — John Jay, Benjamin Rush, Ben Franklin.

But there were many slaveowners among the founders, including three of the most prominent — Washington, Jefferson and Madison. All three were highly ambivalent slaveowners, recognizing the injustice of slavery and hoping for its abolition even while holding slaves. Jefferson originally put an anti-slavery paragraph in the Declaration of Independence but it was stripped out in the editing because they feared they could not hold the colonies together if such a statement were in the document declaring revolution.

The same thing happened with the Constitution. There were enough pro-slavery founders that they could have — and would have — scuttled the entire thing if the constitution had contained any explicitly anti-slavery provisions. So it simply isn’t true that “the founding fathers” fought tooth and nail against slavery. Some did, some didn’t, and many owned slaves themselves.