Slavery & The American Revolution
‘Give me liberty or give me death’.
Patrick Henry’s famous words which inspired the American Revolution and led to the creation of the United States as a Republic.
These words have been repeatedly quoted since then, and used by others in support of their own battles against Tyranny as well as a metaphor for the essence of the American Revolution.
The birth of America was accompanied by the Declaration of Independence which in spirit was supposed to acknowledge the Equality of all Men as possessing certain inalienable rights like Life and Liberty.
It is these core values that we are told underpinned America’s War of Independence against Britain, and which also spurred Revolutions elsewhere particularly in France leading up to the French Revolution.
The American Revolution Did Not Abolish Slavery
Lost in the mist of revolutionary euphoria is the simple truth that the American Revolution was not a Universal Revolution espousing liberty for all Men because it did not end Slavery.
In-fact, the Founding Fathers themselves like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson amongst others continued to make use of Slaves on their own Plantations after the War of Independence.
It was only almost 100 years later during the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln that abolition was more agressively pursued.
Even then, it ignited a Civil War, and one can reasonably say if Lincoln could have won the Presidency without the support of the Abolitionist Movement, it would have taken much longer for Slavery to be abolished in America.
The American Revolution cannot therefore be treated as a Universal democratic revolution.
At its core, the American War of Independence was a class struggle between newly Rich Upper Class Colonists, and the established Nobility of the mother country England.
Therefore in looking at the American Revolution, we should at the very least be aware of its limited accomplishments especially in relation to Slaves.
If the Founding Fathers really meant it when they said ‘Give me Liberty or give me death’ then the first thing they should have done was free their own Slaves.