America’s founding generation understood America’s founding documents to be, not only a declaration of independence from Great Britain, but also an attack on the institution of slavery. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also understood this.
When, for example, Dr. King was accused of being an extremist, he replied, "Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist?” He then quoted Jefferson’s words from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Hyatt, Abolitionist FoundingFathers, 45).
Indeed, in 1776, when slavery was accepted and practiced in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and throughout much of the world, these were the words of an extremist.
That these words were directed at the institution of slavery is plainly indicated by an early draft of the Declaration in which Jefferson attacked the King of England and accused him of introducing slavery into the Colonies. He wrote,
He 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 them and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere (Hyatt, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, 44).
Although the above statement did not make it into the final draft, there is no question that the one that did make the final draft was a direct attack on the institution of slavery. Jefferson wrote,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
It is clear that America’s founding generation understood these words as an attack on slavery. For example, a 1784 gathering of Methodist leaders in Baltimore issued a statement in which they denounced slavery as “contrary to the golden rule of God . . . as well as every principle of the Revolution” (Hyatt, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, 29).
The Awakening preacher, Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803), referred to these words of the Declaration in a pamphlet he wrote against slavery. Confronting those who argued that slavery was God’s way of bringing Africans from their pagan land to expose them to the Gospel, he exclaimed,
What sort of “gospel” message is being conveyed when people are enslaved because of the color of their skin? The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights. Oh, the shocking, the intolerable inconsistencies (Hyatt, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, 30)!
Frederick Douglas (1818–1895), the former slave and famous abolitionist, understood the antislavery character of America’s founding documents and declared,
Anyone of these provisions in the hands of abolition statesmen, and backed by a right moral sentiment, would put an end to slavery in America (Hyatt, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, 54-55).
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) understood this and in his stirring, I Have a Dream speech, he exhorted 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 those same words of 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.”
Abraham Lincoln also understood the anti-slavery character of the nation’s founding documents. In 1858, Lincoln, who had become the new Republican party’s first candidate for president, declared that the anti-slavery platform of the new party was the same as that of the nation’s Founders. He said,
In the way our Fathers originally left the slavery question, the institution was in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind rested in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. All I have asked or desired is that it should be placed back again upon the bases that the Fathers of our government originally placed it upon (Hyatt, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, 59-60).
As documented in my books, Abolitionist Founding Fathers and 1726, a great, spiritual awakening in Colonial America turned multitudes, including America’s Founding Fathers, against slavery at a time it was practiced throughout the world. This then led to America’s colorblind founding documents with no classifications based on race and no mention of slaves or slavery.