Today is the day millions of Americans celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence from British rule over 200 years ago. But was that declaration of independence a natural extension of the frustration felt by the early colonist against the “tyranny” of the British monarchy, or was it more about a powerful few wanting to secure their riches through their newfound money printing machine, aka, slave trading.
That the Declaration of Independence heralded the foundation of a new nation is a foregone conclusion. It is well known that, despite the fact that there were still many British loyalists making up the voices of descent (of which one of them was William Franklin, the then Governor of New Jersey and son of Benjamin Franklin), those voices wanting full secession from British rule prevailed. These “patriots” eventually, through diplomacy and battlefield victories, prevailed.
We have been told all too often that the colonists were angry about the fact that they were being taxed so heavily by the British crown yet had none of their interests represented. Taxation without representation was one of the main reasons that many of us were taught was the reason why the American Revolution was even considered.
But, consider the fact that British soldiers were better paid than the fledgling colonies were able to pay their soldiers primarily comprised of rag tag militias. The British crown was powerful enough to provide protection against hostile nations and savvy enough to provide incentive for businessmen looking to make their fortune in the new colonies as long as they remained loyal to the crown.
Interestingly enough, prior to 1776, the amount of African slave rebellions in the colonies and in the Caribbean, which was home to many plantations owned by wealthy colonists living in North America, were increasing at an alarming rate. North American plantation owners were consumed with fear that the uprising of the African slaves abroad would spill into the borders of this fledgling nation. Additionally an increasing amount of African slaves were escaping from their owners and joining the British Armies in order to fight against American secession. Why? The anti-slavery sentiment in London was growing at a fever pitch and, by all accounts, according to professor Gerald Horne in his exhaustive historical analysis called The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, that sentiment was going to spread through the British empire and was leading to the institution of slavery being abolished in all of its colonies (even though it hadn’t yet happened).
It is argued very effectively that the wealthy land owners, slave owners and those sympathetic to them were the primary drafters of the document called The Declaration of Independence. This document insured that their fortunes made by virtue of slavery being legal would be secure for many more generations. The counter-revolution, aka The American Revolution, therefore was a targeted campaign that the framers of this new document approved of in order to maintain their way of life, namely legalized slavery.
African slaves, my ancestors, were not set free as a result of that Independence Day. Almost another 100 years would have to pass before their freedom was secured by the bloodiest war in US history and the ratification of the 13th amendment. Another 100 years after that would have to pass before they were fully able to participate in the political process.
So, as a proud American whose ancestors were undoubtedly victimized by the morally bankrupt system of chattel slavery that this country perfected, Independence Day does not resonate as much with me as it does with many other Americans. Yes, I enjoy the food, the fun and the revelry, but by acknowledging the facts of the story of my people in this country I am no less proud to be here. In fact, that I am able to acknowledge these facts and still be proud to be an American makes me not only a good American, but a great one.