Many believe that all we have to do to set things aright in this country is to return to the original intent of the writers of the Constitution. But as I read the history of my country, including some really candid stories of our early presidents, I realize that we were on shaky ground from the start. For example, “all men”, as in those who are created equal, was a lie. One can argue that just because the fathers held slaves, they believed in their hearts that slavery was wrong. At least the words about equality made it to the parchment, right?
Both Washington and Jefferson wrote about freeing their slaves. It was like they were addicted. “I should not be keeping slaves. It is bad for them and it is bad for me. I will let them go tomorrow.” And then tomorrow they say, “I will sign their freedom papers next week after the family party.” Then comes Monday morning: “I will release them after the harvest.”
Boy, I sure get that! The problem is the legacy they left us: hypocrisy, disregard for the humanity of others, putting my own needs and desires first. The list goes on.
How different it would have been if they had done as many of the Quaker slave owners had done when they realized the sin in owning other human beings. With risk to their own financial well-being, they let their slaves go. And then they went on to help other slaves find their freedom. Their legacy? Honesty, respect for the humanity of all, putting the needs and desires of others on the same plane as one’s own.
I can’t help but wonder what would be different today if our founders had done more than write their ideals and actually lived them. What if they had freed their slaves and opened the door for black citizens, women and Native Americans to share in the process of building the nation. Instead, we have had to struggle forward like anoxcart through mud with one of its wheels missing.