David Schraub, in recent thread of comments has been contending that due to the existence of Black chattel slavery in the colonial states, the statement in Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin’s little letter to King George ratified by the Continental Congress was “hypocrisy”. I disagree. He writes:
I think it is perfectly reasonable to question whether Thomas Jefferson, slaveholder and likely rapist (sexual relations with a slave = rape under almost any definition of the term) views on “all men are created equal” might be held with at least a skeptical eye, no? I think that when the subject came to Black people, the majority of the founders were operating in bad faith.
Huh? I think, at the very least our problem stems from a disagreement of what hypocrisy really means.
Via google, a quick definition:
- an expression of agreement that is not supported by real conviction
- insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have
So it seems that we must at the very least come to an understanding that our founders, in making the statement that “all men are created equal” were actually intentionally promoting ideals which they thought were false, and not just operating in a cultural climate which is not thoroughly modern.
If a person enters a building, is searched and gives an oath that he intends no harm. But it is later discovered that he had a contracted a deadly virus but the symptoms were not apparent to him or his peers at the time, is he operating “in bad faith”? I don’t think so. Bad faith requires full knowledge of and deceiptful intentions. Adams and Jefferson had a long feud and disagreement over Jefferson’s opinion on slavery. Does that mean Adam’s was “not acting in bad faith” while Jefferson was. Or was Jefferson’s belief, common at the time, that the American Black’s were an “inferior race”. An excerpt culled from Jefferson’s memoirs via this web site (from 1785):
I am safe in affirming, that the proofs of genius given by the Indians of North America place them on a level with whites in the same uncultivated state. The North of Europe furnishes subjects enough for comparison with them, and for a proof of their equality. I have seen some thousands myself, and conversed much with them, and have found in them a masculine, sound understanding. I have had much information from men who had lived among them, and whose veracity and good sense were so far known to me, as to establish a reliance on their information. They have all agreed in bearing witness in favor of the genius of this people. As to their bodily strength, their manners rendering it disgraceful to labor, those muscles employed in labor will be weaker with them, than with the European laborer; but those which are exerted in the chase, and those faculties which are employed in the tracing an enemy or a wild beast, in contriving ambuscades for him, and in carrying them through their execution, are much stronger than with us, because they are more exercised. I believe the Indian, then, to be, in body and mind, equal to the white man. I have supposed the black man, in his present state, might not be so; but it would be hazardous to affirm, that, equally cultivated for a few generations, he would not become so.
Mr Schraub to contend hypocrisy must also contend that such statements as the above, was a pretense. A sham, put on to justify an unjust institution. I think Mr Schraub must demonstrate, to support his claim of bad faith, that bad faith was actually in play. That is, that the founders said one thing, while believing another. Those same founders, Adams and Jefferson in particular where profligate letter writers. Surely such evidence, if it is to be found, would be found therin. Have at it.