Guelzo: “The 1619 Project Is Not History; It Is Ignorance“

So, let us speak of slavery. The American republic inherited slavery from the British empire, in much the same way that it inherited its fiscal poverty, its lack of manufacturing capability, and its primitive infrastructure. We expected to overcome all of these in time. And we would have dealt the same way with slavery, too. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Gouverneur Morris attacked slavery wholesale as “a nefarious institution” which had “the curse of heaven . . . where it prevailed.” But the expectation of the Founders was that slavery was a dying institution. So, the Convention turned a blind eye to slavery, even as it insisted that turning that blind eye was not meant, as James Madison said, “to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men.”
They were, of course, wrong. The explosion of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, built on the production of cotton textiles and the invention of the cotton gin, turned slave-based cotton agriculture into a roaring inferno of profitability. Profitability first erased shame and then stimulated angry self-justifications; and instead of painlessly winking out, slavery had to be exterminated by the force of civil war before it could strangle the life of the republic itself. Even then, we botched the eradication of slavery’s racial legacy through a badly designed Reconstruction. We have paid the price for that ever since.

Allen C. Guelzo,Preaching A Conspiracy Theory” (Dec 2, 2019)


  1. The problem with the 1619 date is that it was not the beginning of slavery in the Colonies, quite the contrary as the Jamestown colonists, when they determined that the slaves (captured from a Portuguese slave ship) landed at their town by an English privateer operating under Dutch license had been baptized (a common Roman Catholic practice), they were turned into indentured servants and granted them land when they completed their service. In those days there was no way to return the former slaves to their native lands. The real start of slavery in the colonies was 1654, when Anthony Johnson, a black land owner, used the courts to turn his black indentured servant, John Casor, into a slave. Since this doesn’t fit the American Progressives’ Marxist view of history, their fallback, however inaccurate, is 1619. Funny how messy history is.

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