The “Racist Founding Fathers” Fallacy

(Ryan DeLarmeA now-deleted op-ed from a southern Florida Newspaper1 suggested that racism in America was inherited by present-day citizens from our Founding Fathers. “My fellow Americans, we have got to deal with the fact that we have not dealt with our problem left to us by our founding fathers: racism in American.” Unfortunately, the fellow did not elaborate on what exactly incited this charge, but this is a very common misconception.

by Ryan DeLarme, May 25th, 2021

It is so common, in fact, that a frightening percentage of young people today believe this to be true, simply on the basis that somebody said so. Slavery was a worldwide institution for centuries before America was even founded as an independent nation, slavery was already happening in Africa when the white man (the notably amoral, pro-slavery Dutch East India trading company2, to be precise) arrived there years before America was founded.

But the propaganda persists that the founding fathers were decidedly racist, somehow more so than those committing atrocities worldwide for thousands of years. Upon pouring over handwritten documents from the founding fathers themselves, you might not only discover this to be categorically false but that the reality was quite the opposite.

Our history has been so embellished by partisan hacks, pundits, “useful idiots” (as the Italians called them), and self-serving or politically compromised “scholars” since the inception of this nation that we have almost completely lost touch with the ideas which lead to its founding. Here is one popular example of how the argument gains traction when proper context is removed. This is coming from Jeff Dunetz, founder of “The Lid”:

“Many in the progressive world believe that our founding fathers were racist.  Usually to prove their point they cite Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution:

“ Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.”

Those “other persons” were a reference to the black slaves. To the liberals, that 3/5th figure is an indication our founding fathers were a bunch of racists who thought that the African slaves were only 60% as good as Caucasians. That is a simplistic and false answer.”

The conveniently neglected context is that founders from the northern colonies strongly opposed slavery. They insisted on counting the slaves as less than “full persons” to prevent the slave states from getting too many congressmen and electoral votes as to dominate the government and prevent slavery from ever being abolished.

The slave states wanted their slaves to be counted as a full person so they could dominate the House of Representatives and the Presidency. This would allow southern whites to have the benefit of counting the slaves while controlling the political power of the slaves who were not allowed to vote. The effective spin was that this was “racist”, those who know little about the inner workings of the American political system of the time take that statement at face value simply because they do not know any better, and why would they?

Here are some facts and quotes from the founding fathers that the modern education system tends to omit from their curriculum:

  • In 1759 Benjamin Franklin (who had owned slaves) changed his tune decades before the revolution when he met Anthony Benezet who started a school in Philadelphia and who later co-founded the Abolition Society. In 1763 Franklin wrote that African shortcomings and ignorance were not inherently natural but come from lack of education, slavery, and negative environments. He also wrote that he saw no difference in learning between African and white children.
  • Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush founded the WORLD’S FIRST antislavery society two years before the revolution3.
  • William Livingston, one of the drafters of the Declaration of independence wrote about abolishing slavery.
  • George Washington “There is not a man living who wishes to more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.”
  • John Adams “My opinion on slavery is known, never in my life have I owned a slave,”
  • Charles Carrol, one of Jefferson’s close advisors “Why keep alive the question of slavery? It is known by all to be a great evil.”
  • Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in an early version of the Declaration, drafted a 168-word passage that condemned slavery as one of the many evils foisted upon the colonies by the British crown. The passage was cut from the final wording.

7 years after the passage of America’s Constitution in 1787 White delegates from all around the Colonies met in Philadelphia with the goal of permanently abolishing slavery as an institution. Benjamin Rush, the founder of the Antislavery society spoke at the convention: 

Domestic slavery is repugnant… it is rebellious against the authority of a common father… it is a usurpation of the prerogative of the great sovereign of the universe who has solely claimed an exclusive property in the souls of men.” Essentially saying that all of God’s children were born equal.

The sad truth is that every racial group on this earth has at one time protected and embraced the institution of slavery. Not entire populations, typically it is just a few of the most powerful and influential individuals who stand to benefit the most from slavery that exert their power and influence to keep it alive. Slavery is alive today in China and India but most of their populations denounce it.

America’s founders were, to my knowledge the first men on earth to create a government that was ideologically opposed to the institution of slavery which was at the time deeply ingrained into the fiber of every nation on earth, particularly in Africa, where the practice was well established long before any white man set foot there.

It took America 75 years and a bloody war but the ideas set forth by founders were finally achieved and slavery was totally outlawed. The founders are reviled and assumed racists while they spent their lives confronting the dangerous forces that benefitted from and perpetuated slavery in a time when it was so deeply entrenched.

The bottom line is this: slavery, as an institution, should by now be a universally denounced relic of the past, but it ever remains an easy way to rile up the undiscerning. Today, first-world middle-class white kids rage against their parents, calling them racist all the while knowing virtually nothing of the reality that actual slavery exists in the world today. The conversation of racism has become a weaponized topic used by those who are actually keeping segregation alive for political purposes.

  1. Flkeysnews.com “We’ve not yet Dealt with Institutionalized Racism”. Page is now Missing.
  2. http://www.filmeducation.org/skin/history/timeline.pdf 
  3. Slavery and the Abolition Society, http://www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/slavery-abolition-society/

Published by Ryan DeLarme

Independent Journalist, Researcher, Creative Writer, Poet, Bum, Fool. <3's

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