This past week, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), sent a letter to Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, in which he expressed “grave concern” about the Biden administration's plan to implement the New York Times' "1619 Project" into school curriculums across America.
There is reason for McConnell’s “grave concern,” for the “1619 Project” paints America as inherently racist and corrupt and in need of fundamental transformation. According to those who propagate this myth, 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to these shores, defined America and is her true founding, not 1776.
This narrative is already being taught in many public schools and has even infiltrated Christian schools. A distraught parent recently contacted me to tell me of her daughter being taught, in her Christian school, that America’s founders were bad people and only wanted freedom for themselves.
The situation is critical, for as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots." If we do not preserve our roots, the America of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, and King will be no more. What a tragedy that would be for America and for all mankind!
1726 is the Key for Interpreting Our History
Slavery is a horrible blight on America’s past and could have defined the country, had it not been for 1726. That year, a great, spiritual awakening began, which profoundly transformed colonial America. Racial and cultural barriers were breached and an abolition movement was ignited that eventually brought about the end of slavery on this continent.
Instead of being defined by 1619, America became defined by 1726 as a land of faith and freedom. The key to preserving our history and confronting the 1619 myth is to understand what happened, beginning in 1726. Interpreting America's history in the light of 1726 changes everything.
Here are 5 historical facts from the 1726 narrative that completely undermines the 1619 myth about America.
Slavery Was Not Unique to America
Slavery is a part of sinful humanity and has been practiced by many peoples and civilizations for thousands of years. Slavery was being practiced in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and many parts of the world when the first African slaves were brought to America in 1619.
This is why the late Dr. Walter E. Williams, who was Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and who happened to be black, said that slavery in America was neither odd nor strange. He pointed out that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, “An estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom.”
Williams pointed out that what was unique about slavery in America was both the brevity of its existence and the moral outrage that arose against it. The late historians, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, agreed, saying,
Europeans did not outdo others in enslaving people or treating slaves viciously. They outdid others by creating a Christian civilization that eventually stirred moral condemnation of slavery and roused mass movements against it.
Moral Outrage Arose Against Slavery in Colonial America
As documented in my book, 1726, a powerful anti-slavery movement emerged out of the great, spiritual awakening that rocked colonial America in the 18th century. In this “Great Awakening,” racial and cultural barriers were breached as blacks and whites worshipped together and shared the Gospel with everyone regardless of race or status in life.
Second-generation Awakening preachers then began to viciously attack the institution of slavery around 1750. Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803), for example, who had been personally tutored by Jonathan Edwards, was outraged by what he saw while pastoring in Newport, Rhode Island, an important hub in the transatlantic slave trade. He declared, “This whole country have their hands full of blood this day.”
In 1774, after the First Continental Congress had convened in Philadelphia, Hopkins sent a pamphlet to every member of the Congress, asking how they could complain about “enslavement” to England and overlook the “enslavement” of so many blacks in the Colonies.
As “Liberty” was becoming a watchword throughout the Colonies, the preachers of the Awakening began applying it to the enslaved in America. Like Hopkins, they pointed out the hypocrisy of demanding freedom from England while continuing to tolerate the institution of slavery in their midst. The Baptist preacher, John Allen, thundered,
Blush ye pretended votaries of freedom! ye trifling Patriots! who are making a vain parade of being advocates for the liberties of mankind, who are thus making a mockery of your profession by trampling on the sacred natural rights and privileges of Africans (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 93-94).
The breaching of racial barriers in the Great Awakening provided the social context for George Washington to order his recruiting officers to accept free blacks into the ranks of the Continental Army. As a result, by 1781 one in every seven American soldiers was black. Blacks and whites fought together for freedom from Great Britain.
Out of this Christian Awakening, the moral and spiritual forces were unleashed that would eventually bring about the end of slavery on this continent.
America’s Founders Rejected Slavery
When it Was Accepted Around the World
As a result of the Great Awakening and the abolition movement it launched, virtually all of America’s founders turned against slavery at a time it was accepted and practiced throughout the world. Dr. Thomas Sowell, who happens to be black, has written about this, saying,
Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century–and then it was an issue only in Western civilization. Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other American leaders. You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 90).
Dr, Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. A passionate abolitionist, he called on the ministers of America to take a bold stand against slavery, saying, “Slavery is a Hydra sin and includes in it every violation of the precepts of the Laws and the Gospels” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).
Two years before the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin liberated his two slaves and began advocating for abolition. He joined the Abolition Society in Philadelphia and later served as its president.
George Washington’s situation was more complex because of the size of the plantation and the number of slaves he had inherited. Nonetheless, he set up a compassionate program to completely disentangle Mt. Vernon from the institution of slavery. Concerning abolition, he declared,
Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union by consolidating it in a common bond of principle (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 103).
Even those founders, such as Patrick Henry, who did not free their slaves admitted that it was sinful and wrong. By the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787, virtually every founder agreed with John Adams who declared,
Every measure of prudence ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. I have throughout my whole life held the practice of slavery in abhorrence (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).
Yes, America’s founders were at the forefront of the fight to end slavery in the 18th century.
America’s Founding Documents Are Colorblind
Because of the Great Awakening, there are no classifications based on race or skin color in America’s founding documents. Nothing in either the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution indicates that the freedoms guaranteed do not apply to every individual.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) understood this and in his stirring, I Have a Dream speech, he challenged America, not to dispense with her founding documents, but instead, to live up to them. Speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he declared,
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Then quoting from the Declaration of Independence, he proclaimed,
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 122).
Yes, America’s founding documents are colorblind even if her history has not been.
Hundreds of Thousands of American Citizens
Sacrificed Their Lives to End Slavery
Where would a nation get the moral fortitude to sacrifice a million of its citizens in order to end slavery? The Civil War was, by far, the costliest war America has ever fought. There was an incredible loss of property and livelihood, but nothing could compare with the loss of life that occurred.
It is estimated that at least 700,000 soldiers lost their lives. Add to this the civilian casualties and the thousands who were permanently maimed and injured and we arrive at the estimate of one million casualties. The magnitude of the loss is amplified by the fact that the United States population at the time was only 31 million.
By way of comparison, in WWII around 290,000 American soldiers lost their lives. In the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan less than 10,000 Americans have died. More lives were lost in the Civil War than in all wars combined from the American Revolution through the Korean Conflict.
It was truly a devastating time. Weeping could be heard in homes throughout America. In many homes both father and sons were missing. Hardly a family could be found that had not lost multiple family members.
It was the moral conviction that slavery was abhorrent in the sight of God that led hundreds of thousands of white Americans to put their lives on the line to bring about the abolition of slavery in their land. This moral outrage was a product of 1726 and the Awakening that began that year and the Awakenings that came afterwards.
The Summation of it All
Yes, America’s history has been far from perfect, but where sin has abounded God’s grace has abounded much more (Romans 5:20b). 1619 represents America’s sin but 1726 represents God’s grace sent forth in the form of a great, spiritual awakening.
Because of 1726 and subsequent awakenings, Christian awakening is in our national DNA. Let us, therefore, pray with confidence that another Great Awakening will sweep across our land, renewing our faith and bringing hope, healing, and reconciliation. #Remembering1726
This article is drived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, 1726: The Year that Defined America, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. He is also the creator of the "1727 Project," which is a Powerpoint presentation documenting America's birth out of a spiritual awakening that also brought about the end of slavery on the American continent.