GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH! *cough* *cough* Except for African Americans and Native Americans *cough* *cough*

A guy I knew from high school (he’s a conservative pro gun type person) posted a picture of Patrick Henry and his famous saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” and I said “Except for the 78 slaves I own” and he got pissed off and said “And they said conservatives live in the past” I gave him a bit of a speech about how knowing your history isn’t the same as living it. He then claimed that I didn’t care about liberty and was insulting it. (WTF? Dumb ass) In fact, remembering the truth helps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If we remember we’ll decide slavery is shitty, share in the guilt as a people and make sure it never happens again. So here is my thing about the founding and many of the presidents that are so revered.

#1 Demi-god Status.

They’ve achieved a nearly demi-god status in American history. When I was in school we didn’t learn anything bad about them. We learned they were freedom fighters. If they had lost they would have been called traitors and maybe even terrorists because of what the patriots did to some loyalists. Tarred and Feathered as an example and worse. Of course, we can’t blame George Washington and the others for what some sadistic assholes did but it remains a dark mark on their side. In war there is rarely the good guys and bad guys. Not all the British soldiers and subjects were bad people and yet they are vilified in American history books. The Americans weren’t “the good guys” they were the guys that won. If you don’t believe me about the demi-god status look at these monuments. Gorgeous aren’t they? The Lincoln Memorial looks a bit like a ancient Greek temple, doesn’t it? The obelisk  (clearly phallic) is one of the free mason symbols (which George Washington was a member of) but to the ancient Egyptians it was thought to represent the sun god Ra. Interesting, isn’t it?

Image

           (Washington Monument)

Image(Lincoln Memorial)

Okay, before I get into this I am NOT saying they are bad people. I believe they are products of their environment just like we are. However, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that liberty doesn’t mean just white land owners. In the years before the revolutionary war there were at least 40,000 free African Americans. Free African Americans found themselves striding the middle ground between slave and white land owner. Some free African Americans owned property though and there were quite a few African American patriots as well. In one French regiment it is estimated that at least one quarter of the soldiers were African American. After the revolutionary war was won many of the loyalists departed the colonies with their slaves. Many of the African descendants in Jamaica are descendants of loyalist-owned slaves.

#2 Freedom?!

Many of the founding fathers and other presidents had slaves. Here is a short list.

Twelve of our presidents owned slaves and eight of them owned slaves while serving as president.

George Washington: Owned more than 200 slaves. He ordered them free after the death of himself and Martha, but who cares? He was done with them. Allegedly he, at least, was aware of the irony and felt uncomfortable about owning them.
Thomas Jefferson:
 Owned more than 100 slaves. It’s also a well known fact that he had sex with slave women and because they wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter you could consider it rape.
James Madison: 
owned and sold slaves all his life!
James Monroe: 
owned 30-40 slaves
Andrew Jackson: 
owned about 160 slaves
Martin Van Buren: 
owned at least one slave
William Henry Harrison: 
had several slaves
John Tyler:
 had slaves (not sure about the number)
James K. Polk:
 had 15 slaves
Zachary Taylor: 
owned more than 100 slaves. Last president to own slaves while in office.
Andrew Johnson: 
owned 8 slaves
Ulysses S. Grant: 
freed his slaves, (before office) but hell, he still has a history of owning other human beings.

**EDIT** Benjamin Franklin (not a president but a founding father) was against slaves but owned at least two. John Quincy Adams also opposed slavery.

**EDIT** It is also worth mentioning that Ben Franklin blamed the British for slavery which has a few kernels of truth but the continuation of slavery makes it a moot point. Allegedly, Jefferson, who had A LOT of slaves was actually anti-slavery and pushed for the abolishment of the international slave trade and the gradual emancipation of Virginia and (apparently) almost succeeded. Why didn’t he free his slaves then? Did he view himself as a protector so they didn’t end up with cruel masters? It’s a nice thought, but I personally don’t believe it. 

Again, not saying they weren’t great men. These men worked hard to form a powerful country. They gave their all to make sure that those they viewed as under oppression were give their freedom. It’s a shame they didn’t think a little harder about who else was being oppressed. Perhaps due to culture and the times it was an oversight. A very ironic one. My problem with American history is that they cover up the truth in order to inspire loyalty to our country. I learned about slavery in about the second or third grade and they never once talked about our beloved presidents owning other people. I want to say “no one’s perfect”, but that leaves an ashy taste in my mouth. It’s not the right thing to say. You say that about someone who makes minor mistakes. Not about people who owned another human being(s)

Guys, just like most countries in the world, it was built on the backs of slaves. The difference between the US and all the rest is that we did it in the 18th century. It’s also ironic as shit since we all have a hard-on for freedom. The love of liberty is apparently deeply interwoven in our culture…or is it? Why, in the 2013, are we still arguing for gay rights; for the rights of women to have control of their own bodies? Why do women still making less than men? Why does affirmative action even need to exist? If we’re so gung-ho on freedom then why does the government still want to deny the civil rights of others? I know, I know, it’s more complex than that. Senators that want some freedoms given to people get sandbagged by senators that oppose it. It’s ironic that two presidents that pushed for civil rights/freedom of African Americans were assassinated. It’s also worth mentioning that Lincoln privately opposed slavery but viewed it more as an economic issue than a human right’s issue.

#3 Native Americans

Image

George Washington:

In 1779, George Washington instructed Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois people. Washington stated, “lay waste all the settlements around…that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed”. In the course of the carnage and annihilation of Indian people, Washington also instructed his general not “listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected”. (Stannard, David E. AMERICAN HOLOCAUST. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. pp. 118-121.)

Thomas Jefferson:

In 1807, Thomas Jefferson instructed his War Department that, should any Indians resist against America stealing Indian lands, the Indian resistance must be met with “the hatchet”. Jefferson continued, “And…if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, ” he wrote, “we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi.” Jefferson, the slave owner, continued, “in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them”. (Ibid)

Abraham Lincoln:

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution, by hanging, of 38 Dakota Sioux prisoners in Mankato, Minnesota. Most of those executed were holy men or political leaders of their camps. None of them were responsible for committing the crimes they were accused of. Coined as the Largest Mass Execution in U.S. History. (Brown, Dee. BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1970. pp. 59-61)

Theodore Roosevelt:

The fourth face you see on that “Stony Mountain” is America’s first twentieth century president, alleged American hero, and Nobel peace prize recipient, Theodore Roosevelt. This Indian fighter firmly grasped the notion of Manifest Destiny saying that America’s extermination of the Indians and thefts our their lands “was ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable”. Roosevelt once said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth”. (Stannard, Op.Cit.)

Before:

Image

After:

Image

(Do I even need to point out that this was carved into a sacred mountain? Look at it before the carving? It clearly has something special about it. It’s very majestic looking.This mountain and the land around it was seized by the US after the Lakota lost the Great Sioux War)

So, do we deserve to be proud of our history? Of course, there are some things we can be proud of and I also feel the need to say that presidents…rulers in general…are often forced to do things as a leader that they may not otherwise do. They may personally disagree with it but do it anyway. I wouldn’t want to be a president/royal/prime minister…whatever.

Being proud of my nationality is an issue I’ve struggled with for years. For quite awhile I’ve wished that my family were still Irish-Irish so this wouldn’t be my history. Ireland is far from perfect, of course. If I lived there I’d be bitching about abortion being illegal. My Irish ancestors came over during the potato famine and during the Civil War and served on the Union side.

These subjects make me feel guilty for being a white American even though I had nothing to do with any of it and my family had nothing to do with it.

In fact, my family, as far back as we can trace it (1400s on one side, 1600s on the other) have had good relations with the Native American people. I’m a direct descendant of Governor Bradford and until my grandfather’s messy divorce in the 1970s he had articles belonging to Bradford but had them snatched away from him by his bitch of an ex wife. My mother would have inherited those and she would have donated them to the Smithsonian. Forever lost to history. Deborah Sampson is also a direct descendant through the Bradford line and disguised herself as a man to fight during the revolutionary war. I can be proud of those two. My great grandfather on my maternal grandfather’s side was a doctor and gave free care to Native Americans. He did this despite the fact that his great grandmother’s family was massacred by the Shawnee (mother, father, and an infant brother) and kidnapped as a sort of “PoW” custom that traditionally was used to replace lost tribesmen. (Some of the PoWs went on to become a sort of honorary member of the tribe. She lived with them and claimed to have played with Tecumseh as a child before leaving at age 18 to go back to her “own kind”) I mean, she could have easily passed down a hatred of the Shawnee tribe but didn’t. She gained a unique insight to say the least.

I need to leave soon so I’ll end this abruptly. 

Is the “grandfather clause” real? Should I feel guilty even if I had nothing to do with it? The obvious answer seems to be no…and yet…

Sources:

http://www.common-place.org/vol-04/no-04/author/

Adams, John Quincy.  The Diary of John Quincy Adams.Scribner’s Sons, NY 1951.

Annals of Congress. 1818. p. 310.

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Barger, Herbert.  Thomas Jefferson – Sally Hemings DNA Study.

Bassett, John Spencer.  The Life of Andrew Jackson.   Archon Books.  1967.

Bigelow, John.  . “Jefferson’s Financial Diary.”.  Harper’s.March 1885, v.70, n418.

Brands, H.W.  The First American.  Doubleday, New York.  2000.

Brant, Irving.  The Fourth President: A Life of James Madison.  Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis. 1970.

(Buchanan, James.)  Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion.  Appleton, New York.  1866.

Burke, Henry. Robert Carter III of Nomini.

Clanin, Douglas E.  Personal communication.  8/13/01.

Cleaves, Freeman.  Old Tippecanoe.  Kenninat Press; Washington, NY.1939.p7, 253)

Cole, Donald B.  Martin Van Buren and the American Political System.  Princeton University Press, Princeton. 1984.

Congressional Globe v6, n1. 1837 p37.

Congressional Globe 1838. v6 n1 p54

Congressional Globe.  35th Cong, 1st session. Appendix, p5  The Making of America.

Cox, Lawanda and John H Cox.  “Johnson and the Negro” in Andrew Johnson: A Profile.  edited by Eric L. McKitrick.  Hill and Wang, NY1969, p139-163.

Curtis, George Ticknor. Life of James Buchanan.  Harper and Brothers.  New York.  1883.

Dunn, J.P. Indiana: A Redemption From Slavery.  Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1900.(Originally published 1888)

Eckenrode, H.J.  Rutherford B. Hayes: Statesman of Reunion.  Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY. 1930.

Ellis, Joseph J.  Passionate Sage.  Norton, NY 1993

Falkner, Leonard.  The President Who Wouldn’t Retire.  Coward-McCann.  New York. 1967.

Flexner,James Thomas.  George Washington: Anguish and Farewell.  Little, Brown.  Boston.1969.

Franklin, Benjamin Writings.  The Library of America, New York.1987.

Gerson, Evelyn.  Ona Judge Staines: Escape From Washington.

Goebel, Dorothy Burne  .William Henry Harrison: A Political Biography .  Historical Bureau of the Indiana Library and Historical Department, Indianapolis.1926.

Grant, Ulysses S.  Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant.  Century Co, New York.1885.

Grant, Ulysses S. 3rd.  Ulysses S. Grant: Warrior and Statesman.  Morrow,New York, 1968.

Green, James A.  William Henry Harrison: His Life and Times.  Garrett and Massie, Richmond. 1941.

Hamilton, Holman.  Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House.  Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis.1951.

Hirschfield, Fritz  George Washington and Slavery.  University of Missouri Press, Columbia.1997.

Horton, R.G.  The Life and Public Services of James Buchanan  .Derby and Jackson, New York.1856.

Jackson, Andrew.  Correspondence of Andrew Jackson. Carnegie Institute of Washington, Washington, D.C. 1931.

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Jefferson, Thomas.  Writings.  Library of America, NY.1984.

Johnson, Andrew.  The Papers of Andrew Johnson.  Vol 6.  University of Tennessee Press.  Knoxville.  1983.  p549-550.

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Madison, James.  Papers of James Madison.  U of Chicago.  Chicago.

Madison, James.  Writings.  The Library of America.  NY 1999.

McCormac, Eugene Irving  .James K. Polk: A Political Biography.  University of California Press, Berkeley.1922.

McKinley, Silas Bent and Silas Bent.  Old Rough and Ready.   Vanguard Press, New York.1946.

Miller, John Chester.  The Wolf By The Ears.  Free Press, New York.1977.

Monroe, James  .The Writings of James Monroe.  Knickerbocker Press, New York.1903.

Moore, Chaddra.  Personal Communication.  11.6.01.

Nichols, Roy Franklin.Franklin Pierce.  University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.1931.

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Remini, Robert V.  Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845.  Harper and Row.  New York.  1984. p51)

Remini, Robert V.  Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. Harper and Row, New York.1977.

Remini, Robert V.  Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822-1832.  Harper and Row.  New York.  1981.

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Smith, Page. John Adams.  Doubleday, Garden City, NY

Snyder, Charles M.  The President And The Lady.  University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.1975.

Stanton, Lucia.  “Monticello to Main Street: The Hemings Family and Charlottesville.”  The Magazine of Albemarle County History.  1997.  v. 55. pp 94-96.

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10 thoughts on “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH! *cough* *cough* Except for African Americans and Native Americans *cough* *cough*

  1. cagey says:

    My father’s ancestors were Irish. After being persecuted by England, they were brought to America before the American Revolution as white slaves/servants. To earn their freedom they fought in the Revolutionary War, and hoped to obtain land and a pension that many men were given for their service. After being shot and captured by Hessian forces, they were taken back to England to a notorious prision camp — and awaited death for almost two years. Eventually they were freed and sent back to America… but it took years of fighting the US government to be given the land they were owed… as the Irish were still viewed at that time as just as an ‘inferior race’ just as African Americans. Much the same happened to my father’s mother’s ancestors — who were Iberian Jews that fled persecution during the Inquisition and hid as ”non Jewish” in England — eventually shipped to Ireland, and then sold as slaves to the Barbados colonies — then underwent a period of servatude in the American colonies right before the Revolution (and went on to shamefully have slaves themselves!). It sort of proves that our ancestors were just as complicated individuals as the men who were the ”founding fathers”. I often wrestle with the disconnect between my ancestors that were enslaved and then later on became abolitionists and those that diverged and became slave masters. This translated through the ages to my late grandparents being outright rascists.Tradition it seems, is hard to break.

    Those in my mother’s side of the family that settled in the Maryland Colony were hardlined slave holders and yet their line can be traced to our current President. The irony in this often makes me smile.

    I can on the one hand, be proud of my heritage and what my ancestors fought for, and on the other still be ashamed of what we as humans do to one another. We should never attempt to sugarcoat or forget our history — we are doomed to repeat it… otherwise.

    • Holy shit, is your ancestor one of the persons liberated by Benjamin Franklin on one of his secret “pirate” ships?

      • cagey says:

        It’s quite possible. It’s to my understanding Franklin would utilize the pirates in conducting prisoner exchanges — and I do know that these ancestors were liberated in such an exchange. One of the men we know of did not remain in Pennsylvania with the rest of his family, but went to Canada — and he named his son Benjamin Franklin. I still have quite a lot of researching to do.

      • That’s pretty awesome and there app. The fledgling country couldn’t get their PoWs back the traditional way they he had to create a ‘trade off’ pretty clever.

  2. Great Post!

    First of all did you read all of those books? Second, are you a history major? Third, this is not a criticism but an addition and some of which are my opinions: Slavery in the US didn’t just take place in the 18th century, because it started in the 1500’s and didn’t end till 1865. Unless you believe, which I do, that it didn’t end till 1940, because of the debt peonage system, share cropping, and the convict leasing system (Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon).

    We are still fighting for equal rights, because the US is run by White males, and unconsciously or not they don’t feel that women, homosexuals, and people of color are their equals. Don’t get me started on women’s rights.

    Have you ever seen the documentary “The House I Live In?” Its a documentary on the mass incarceration of African American Males through the “war on drugs.” It is stated that this is the new American Holocaust in slow motion.

    • I didn’t read all of the books though I’ve read quite a few of them. Some of them were from other websites that listed them as a source and after cross referencing I took it. Not a history major but history is one of my great loves in life. I’m an Early Childhood Development major. You’re right about the slavery time line thing and I noted that when I was writing that. I felt like it would need to branch off into pre-Revolutionary topics and it was long enough as it was lol. I can agree with you about it not really ending until the 1940s. A “in all but name” sort of deal.

      Personally, I’m tired of the whole “old-white-heterosexual” male thing in politics. There are too many of them and their ideals often don’t reflect Amercians as a whole. We need to completely re-do both democrat and republican parties. Get rid of the people that have a history of lining their own pockets or further lining CEO’s pockets. Get rid of lobbying. Give more women and people of non-Caucasian origin a chance. I think if we had a bunch of people from different “races” in there we might see some improvement in some social areas. America is behind in a lot of ways socially, did you know New Zealand already has had a gay/transgender member of Parliament? WAY ahead of America, the so called “Liberty Country” Check out Georgina Beyer. She is the first gay/transgender mayor and member of Parliament. She’s also used to be a prostitute.

      I haven’t seen the House I Live In but I’ve read a bit about that issue.

  3. […] GIVER ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH! *cough* *cough* Except for African Americans and Native Americans… (seershadonnghaile.wordpress.com) […]

  4. Slacker says:

    that is what I have been saying all along. textbooks in public schools will only tell the tale of American exceptionalism. it will always tell a story about something bad is happening in that the US government just sleeps in and saves the day. We are not even teaching our children the constitution as written anymore.

    • Yeah, it seems to be “open to interpretation” just because the second ammendment (by public opinion) is strictly interpretational.

    • You’re totally right. That’s one of the reasons the French hate us. They helped save the fledgling country multiple times and we don’t exactly show gratitude very often. I’d hate us too.

      Though history is corrupted I don’t think the ‘American’ spirit is even a bad thing. We HAVE accomplished things no other country had. We’re adventurous. Brave. Or at least that’s oh we’re supposed to aspire to be. We prize those traits above all, I think. Or at least the perception of them. It’s okay to be a proud American about THOSE sort of things. Just not that manifest destiny bullshit…you know, genocide of the NA people.

      My one beef with the Spirit of America is that corrupt politicians have and will again manipulate our people into money-wars that will only damage the success of future generations if we bleed the economy dry with constant wars. Wars that we are encouraged to believe are righteous and just.

      By telling us we’re descended from the best people in the world and can save everyone with “freedom” ….which means they are “free” to depend on the US so they can gain a little prosperity. I’m not saying the all if our soldiers died for nothing. Just Vietnam and arguably the wars in the Middle East. I just want our soldiers to stay alive, to stop coming home with PTSD, to be take care of like they deserve…and if they have to die then let it be for truly righteous reasons. Every dead soldier deserves to die for something just, not war profiteering. Went on a bit of a rant there, sorry.

      Also if there are typos and autocorrect blame my phone with the cracked screen. :-p

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