There has been much uproar concerning a Tea Party affiliate’s list of demands that’s been submitted to the Tennessee legislature. Many articles have surfaced claiming that the Tea Party (TP) seeks to eradicate any mentioning of slavery from textbooks. Of course, a demand of such nature is wrong – regardless of whether they are Democrat/Republican, black/white, etc. It is an inescapable fact the institution of slavery is inhumane, despicable and atrocious as many of the Founder Fathers unfortunately participated in it. No one can be justified in attempting to remove such a fact from US History. The question then comes to mind if the Tea Party (TP) did indeed attempt to whitewash this undeniable fact from textbooks.
Some of the most “controversial” demands/comments of the TP affiliate included:
- The Constitution created a Republic instead of a Democracy
- The call for textbook criteria to read, “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”
- “My biggest concern is that important information is being omitted, which creates a negative light on our Founding Fathers,” Brian Rieck. (Tea Party Activist)
- “The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” Hal Rounds (Spokesperson and TP affiliate)
Either the Tea Party wants to push propaganda or someone does not comprehend the English language very well. For example, while it is true that America employs democratic voting processes, it is still indeed a republic. Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution reads, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government….”
James Madison, also known as the Father of the Constitution laid out a strong case for a republican form of government in Federalist Papers number 10 and 39 to be exact. Even our Pledge of Allegiance states, “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands…”
The Founding Fathers understood that a “democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of another forty-nine.” (Thomas Jefferson) What is so controversial about textbooks acknowledging that America is a republic and not a democracy?
Probably the most “controversial” request is the second bullet point as stated above. Let’s break this down.
“No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure…”
-stop right here –
Two things are noteworthy to mention here. First, it was acknowledged that the minority experience (i.e. slavery, discrimination, etc.) “actually occurred”. There is no denial of this history by the Tea Party. Secondly, the first half of the quote states that this history shall not “obscure” something. Obscure means to conceal or keep from being seen. What is the Tea Party trying to prevent from being obscured? The second half of the quote answers that question.
“…the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”
Where is the demand for the Tea Party seeking to remove the teaching of slavery from textbooks? It becomes obvious that the TP is leveling the charge that public schools are purposely playing down or omitting the Founding Father’s great contributions to American history. Such great contributions include the importance of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Never in the history of mankind has a country founded its government on the premise that the right to life and liberty derive from our Creator and that these rights are unalienable. Additionally, it has never been truly established that government’s primary function is to merely protect those rights as the Constitution is like no other founding document in the world. Countries such as Rome, Sweden, France, Germany etc. have had several forms of government (i.e. monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, etc.) – not America though. The United States, on the other hand, is the only nation in the world that has had a Constitutional Republic that has lasted for over 220 years.
The liberties and opportunities of the United States have attracted many immigrants to come here. Even illegal aliens recognize that America is like no other country in the world as many risk their lives to come here for job opportunities. I have never heard of an American floating on an inner tube while fighting off sharks of the ocean to escape America; but I have certainly heard of a Cuban doing such a thing to flee the socialist whelms of Fidel Castro in search of freedom.
Then there’s also the charge from the Tea Party affiliate that information is being purposely omitted; which adds negative light to some our great revolutionaries. For example, modern textbooks hardly ever acknowledge the fact that some founders never owned slaves. John Adams, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, immediately comes to mind as he stated, “My opinion about it has always been known…never in my life did I own a slave.” (Letter to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley on January 24, 1801)
Some simply changed their position and later denounced slavery.
“Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity. . . . It is rebellion against the authority of a common Father. It is a practical denial of the extent and efficacy of the death of a common Savior. It is an usurpation of the prerogative of the great Sovereign of the universe who has solemnly claimed an exclusive property in the souls of men.” Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence (Minutes of the Proceedings of a Convention of Delegates from the Abolition Societies Established in Different Parts of the United States Assembled at Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1794)
“Why keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be a great evil.” Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of Independence (Kate Mason Rowland, Life and Correspondence of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898), Vol. II, pg. 231.)
“I am glad to hear that the disposition against keeping Negroes grows more general in North America. Several pieces have been lately printed here against the practice, and I hope in time it will be taken into consideration and suppressed by the legislature.” Benjamin Franklin, Signer of both the D.O.I and Constitution [The Works of Benjamin Franklin, John Bigelow, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. 5. p. 356, letter to Mr. Anthony Benezet on August 22, 1772.)]
“That men should pray and fight for their own freedom and yet keep others in slavery is certainly acting a very inconsistent, as well as unjust and perhaps impious, part. ” John Jay, Original Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (The Life and Times of John Jay, William Jay, editor (New York: J. & S. Harper, 1833), Vol. II, p. 174, to the Rev. Dr. Richard Price on September 27, 1785.)
Ask the average kid of their opinion of the Founding Fathers and many will say, “Oh, they were just a bunch of racist white men that owned slaves.” While it’s true many of them were slave owners, this does not summarize their complete history. Why aren’t public schools teaching that some Founders never had slaves and that some abhorred the institution? Why aren’t they teaching about the Founders that changed their disposition and released their slaves? Why aren’t they talking about the anti-slavery movement of many of the Founders? These are the kinds of concerns that the Tea Party seeks to unveil – not to demand that slavery be removed from textbooks!