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Monday
June 17th, 2019

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

Last week, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg stated that Thomas Jefferson “knew slavery was wrong” and that there shouldn’t be monuments or memorials to Jefferson.

Perhaps we forget that despite the shortcomings of Jefferson, George Washington and other founding fathers who also owned slaves, their enlightened view of self-government led the world to the freedoms we experience today.

Those that are benefitting the most from the enlightened views of Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, are minorities and women.

When you look at the world before the belief in self government, the chance to advance in society was narrow in European nations, and the tribal areas of Africa struggle to this day with providing opportunities for citizens in those countries with limited freedoms.

But because Jefferson penned the words that changed the world on the view of government, even if they did not apply to people in his day, the belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” continued to grow and expand.

Had he never said it, freedom for millions would still be a dream.

We know that slavery was wrong and it was ended by a Civil War. That war was based on Jefferson’s own words.

I predicted long ago that liberals would not dare go after George Washington, but attacks on Jefferson may indicate that even the sacrifices made by Washington to plant the seed of freedom on the North American continent will be ridiculed because he, too, owned slaves.

Our republic continues to evolve, and it is healthy to do so. As we better understand our God-given rights, we are better at extending freedom to every life.

This country is having a loud debate over whether or not those same freedoms extend to the unborn, much like those who once accepted slavery, but there will be a day when every person is cherished and protected.

It has been a long process to move from the old to the new, and if we are to hold the founders to this unfair historic perspective, then we each would be guilty as those who have made historic trespasses.

For anyone to cast a stone back in time, they are sure to strike their own lineage. While slavery involved the wrong of those from European descent who bought them, it would also reflect poorly on the African tribes who sold them.

For every Native American who accuses the Europeans of stealing their land, they would also have to give the land to the tribes they conquered to claim it as their own as well, even if they eradicated them.

And those who believe they are taking the high ground today by condemning Jefferson would also have to overlook the freedoms they experience today because Jefferson was willing to sacrifice his life in a belief that humanity can practice self governance, and once that bridge was crossed, there was no turning back on lighting the lamp of freedom for others.

While it may sound good to throw the founding fathers under the bus for the wrong of owning slaves two-and-a-half centuries ago, the descendants of those slaves are living in freedom thanks to the words of Jefferson and the actions of Washington.

It is unfathomable to believe we would not honor the good that has come from the seed planted by the founders.

They were not perfect men. Neither are those who are trying to erase them from being honored.

But in their humanity they saw we could become something more than subjects of a crown. They saw that we could govern ourselves, and once the dam of tyranny was breached, freedom would continue to spill across the land from sea to shining sea.

It’s still pouring out to this day, bringing opportunity to those who may have never been given a chance. 

And that is worthy of our recognition.

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