When I was young, we were instructed to revere the men dubbed by President Warren Harding as “the Founding Fathers.” Reverence has since gone out of fashion.
Even today’s freedom-minded often express a general iffiness about America’s separation from England.
Now, I’m so deep-seatedly anti-monarchical, so resolutely anti-royal that I tend to shake my head at this sort of stuff. Yet people I very much admire might be called Revolution Liberty Skeptics.
“Can anyone tell me why American independence was worth fighting for?” asks economist Bryan Caplan. He says “it’s hard to get a decent answer” on specific policies improved by the secession from the Empire, at least liberty-wise.
He speculates, for example, that separation “allowed American slavery to avoid earlier — and peaceful — abolition.”
Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel ably answers him, noting that before “the American Revolution, every New World colony, British or otherwise, legally sanctioned slavery, and nearly every colony counted enslaved people among its population. As late as 1770, nearly twice as many Africans were in bondage throughout the colony of New York as within Georgia, although slaves were a much larger percentage of Georgia’s population.” Vermont, which did not join the union until 1791, abolished slavery in 1777. By 1804, gradual emancipation had begun in all the remaining northern states that had not abolished slavery outright.*
Do we really think all this would’ve happened under British rule?
As Hummel reminds us, “emancipation had to start somewhere.”
It started in the country that put liberty up front.**
Scoffing at the Revolution now won’t put liberty further forward.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* New York’s gradualist plan declared all children of slaves born after July 4, 1799, to be free after ages 25 and 28 years, female and male, respectively.
** Hummel makes good points on other freedoms, too.