David Barton Falsely Claims Declaration of Independence Condemns Slavery

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We’re all familiar by now with all those special editions of Bibles, the United States Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence possessed by conservatives. These editions are full of things that aren’t present in the copies the rest of us possess.

David Barton is especially infamous for reading false material into documents, like claiming the Founding Fathers settled the issue of evolution before the theory of evolution was a thing. They of course did not such thing. And then there are all the material in the Constitution he claims comes from the Bible.

Now he is wanting us to believe that “The Declaration Of Independence had two clauses condemning slavery” and that the nasty old British were the real bad guys, preventing us from freeing our slaves:

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“Great Britain would not allow us to end slavery. A number of the states passed anti-slavery laws and King George III struck them all down, said, ‘No, no, no, you’re part of the British Empire, as long as you’re part of the British Empire you’re going to have slavery,’ which is why a number of Founding Fathers got involved because they did not want slavery. That’s why the Declaration of Independence had two clauses condemning slavery as a reason we were leaving Great Britain. Now, we always hear about taxation without representation, that’s one clause, but twice as often in there you’ll hear about slavery being an issue. We don’t cover that.”

The reason we don’t “cover that” is because it is not there to be covered.

You can readily see for yourself that no such clause exists. You will search in vain for mention of slaves or of slavery.

As PFAW’s Kyle Mantyla observes at Right Wing Watch, though “the original draft did contain a passage on slavery, it was removed from the final version,” not because of British opposition of course (that would have been absurd since the Declaration removed the colonies from the oversight of Parliament’s desires in any case), but because of opposition from Georgia and South Carolina.

In fact, though the British brought millions of slaves into the colonies (a fact Jefferson condemned in his draft), it is ridiculous to claim Britain is the lone villain of the piece; as the BBC informs us,

“That the British benefited from the Atlantic slave system is indisputable. Yet, paradoxically, it was also the British who led the struggle to bring this system to an end.”

Although there was a public anti-slavery movement before the end of the American Revolution, and the Slave Trade Act of 1807 made it illegal for British ships to transport slaves between Africa and America, it was not until 1833 that an Act of the Parliament, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, abolished slavery in the British Empire.

This was still 30 years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States did not abolish slavery until 1865, after the bloodiest war in American history had been fought to end it, when the Thirteenth Amendment was finally ratified.

It is a fond wish of conservatives that the United States be pure of any blemishes, but the historical record denies them this. Facts matter, however much people like David Barton try to insulate themselves from them. The simple fact is that the U.S. did not get rid of slavery sooner because so many white people had a vested economic interest in the continuation of slavery.

Rich white people, not to put too fine a point upon it.