The idea that the preservation of slavery was the key reason American colonists declared independence from Britain — a theory put forth in a New York Times report on the 400th anniversary of the first importation of slaves to America — is demonstrably false [“A revisionist narrative of slavery,” Opinion, Aug. 20].
Thomas Jefferson’s early draft of the Declaration of Independence condemned slavery. His original text stated that King George III “has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”
Jefferson, who himself owned slaves, later said this passage was removed in order to secure votes of Georgia, and North and South Carolina for unanimous passage of the Declaration. These colonies would have remained in allegiance to Britain if independence meant the end of slavery.
America had a chance to end slavery at the inception of the country. We have struggled throughout our existence with slavery and its legacy. More than 600,000 Americans died fighting over slavery in our Civil War. We are still fighting over slavery and its effects. We cannot finally heal those effects with falsehoods.