The above quoted Declaration was authored by Thomas Jefferson, and signed by his fellow founding fathers. Many persons today use the constitutional statement as the source for their belief in racial equality and integration in today’s America. However, statements from the author of the Declaration, as well as from his fellow founding fathers and other prominent politicians around that time, prove that the Declaration’s statement on equality, was not meant to be a statement on racial equality, nor did its authors ever intend a racially diverse America.
1. John C. Calhoun Speech On The Oregon Bill (June 27, 1848)
It [the constitutional statement and ideal that all men are created equal] had strong hold on the mind of Mr. Jefferson, the author of that document, which caused him to take an utterly false view of the subordinate relation of the black to the white race in the South; and to hold, in consequence, that the former, though utterly unqualified to possess liberty, were as fully entitled to both liberty and equality as the latter; and that to deprive them of it was unjust and immoral.” (Source 2)
Calhoun is the only one on this list who actually disagreed with the premise that all men are created equal. He felt that the notion was totally erroneous seeing as only two persons were created [Adam and Eve] and that babies, not men, are born; and born, not free, but as totally dependent on their parents. Since Calhoun did not even believe that all white men were equal, it is not surprising that he believed also, that men who belong to different races were not equal to whites and that the “blacks” were “utterly unqualified to possess liberty.”
2. Thomas Jefferson on the possible integration of negroes into the state of Virginia
“It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state,…? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained…the real distinctions which nature has made…will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.” (Source 3)
Even though Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, he did not believe in slavery as Calhoun in the above pointed out. Nevertheless, Jefferson felt that the freed “blacks” should not be integrated into the United States. This is the same Thomas Jefferson who authored the Declaration and the claim that “all men are created equal” yet the above quote makes it clear that he did not believe this applied to all races.
3. Thomas Jefferson Letter To Roger C. Weightman (June 24, 1826):
Thomas Jefferson Letter “The cession of that kind of property, [the slaves] for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected; and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. (Source 2)
The above quote is further proof that, though Jefferson opposed slavery, and supported “a general emancipation”, it also, according to him, “would not cost me a second thought, if…a general…expatriation could be effected;” Thus, it is very apparent that he wanted an exodus of the “blacks” from the United States to Africa. He did not want a United States with free “blacks” and “whites”, working together to build a stronger more diverse country.
4. Thomas Jefferson On the Natural Differences Between Negroes and “Whites”
The first difference which strikes us is that of colour… the difference is fixed in nature… And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form… The circumstance of Superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man?” (Source 3)
Once again it is clear that Thomas Jefferson’s statement on equality in the constitution did not mean that he viewed “blacks” as physically and morally equal to whites. In fact he makes it clear in the above quote, that he believed “whites” have superior physical attributes to “blacks”.
5. Andrew Jackson State of The Union Address On The Resettlement Of Native Americans (December 6, 1830)
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government…, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages…Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. (Source 2)
The above quote by Andrew Jackson typified the sentiment of the day, not only of ordinary folk, but also of Presidents and other people of influence in the United States. It demonstrates the commonly held belief of post Constitution Americans, that not only “blacks” but also “Native Americans”, and any other peoples who belonged to different races, were to be excluded from the freedoms mentioned in the Declaration. Andrew Jackson, certainly was not ignorant of the contents of the Declaration, but he clearly did not believe in a mixed America but in a “white” America, where people of European descent, particularly of Anglo Saxon descent, enjoyed the freedoms that their forefathers had provided, as opposed to “a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages…” (Source 2)
6. Abraham Lincoln’s reply to Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858
“I have no purpose, either directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” (Source 1)
7. Abraham Lincoln’s reply to Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858
“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary…” (Source 1)
None of the above meant that Lincoln supported slavery, but it did mean that he opposed racial diversity to the point that both races would have equal socio-political rights. His interpretation of the Declaration’s statement on freedom, was that all men did have a natural right to it. However he felt the “blacks” should have the right to freedom in “black” societies and not in an integrated, racially diverse society where “whites” were the majority. In that, his views were similar to those of Thomas Jefferson.
8. Stephen A. Douglas in the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Ottawa , Illinois, August 21, 1858
For one, I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. I believe this government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races.” (Source 1)
Stephen A. Douglas’ belief that “this government was made…for the benefit of the white man and their posterity forever…” was held by the overwhelming majority of Americans and their political leaders at that time. There was never a thought that the Declaration’s statement on equality extended to other races.
9. Robert Y. Hayne On Slavery (Webster-Hayne Debates January 1830)
We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us, and to fulfil the high trust which had developed upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled, without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land. We found that we had to deal with a people whose physical, moral, and intellectual habits and character, totally disqualified them from the enjoyment of the blessings of freedom.” (Source 2)
Hayne was not the only politician in those times to believe that “blacks” were “disqualified…from the enjoyment of the blessings of freedom.” This conclusion was based on the widely held view that “blacks” were intellectually and morally inferior and so could not take advantage of the benefits that came with freedom. A far cry from the notion that America was founded on principles of diversity.
10. Robert Y. Hayne on the Conditions of the “Free Blacks” (Webster-Hayne Debates January 1830)
Sir, there does not exist, on the face of the whole earth, a population so poor, so wretched, so vile, so loathsome, so utterly destitute of all the comforts, conveniences, and decencies of life, as the unfortunate blacks of Philadelphia, and New York, and Boston. Liberty has been to them the greatest of calamities, the heaviest of curses. Sir, I have had some opportunities of making comparisons between the condition of the free negroes of the North and the slaves of the South, and the comparison has left not only an indelible impression of the superior advantages of the latter, but has gone far to reconcile me to slavery itself. (Source 2)
Source 1: (U. S. History Sourcebook – Advanced” by CK-12 Foundation) http://amzn.to/2bjozSt
Source 2: http://amzn.to/2bKAjBm (“50 Core American Documents: Required Reading for Students, Teachers, and Citizens” by Christopher Burkett)
Source 3: ( Notes on the State of Virginia (Boston, 1 pages 144-151, 169-171)