Saturday, July 4, 2009

This Execrable Commerce

In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson tried to address the issue of slavery, but it was edited out of the final copy by Georgia and South Carolina in the messy process of political compromise.

Here are the words Jefferson originally wrote, himself a slave owner, though not a willing one.

"...he [the king of Great Britain] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another. In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned."

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