Let me finish tonight by putting the cap on a story that was running by us last week. It concerns the evil of slavery.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who’s making forays into presidential politics, which will definitely add to the color of the competition, told a group in Iowa recently that our country’s “founders … worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. “I think it is high time,” she said, that we recognize the quote: “contribution of our founders who worked tirelessly … who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in this country.”
To those watching whose forebears know more of the true, sad story of this part of our history, let me confirm what your parents and grandparents told you perhaps in trying to explain how attitudes about race crept into our American culture.
Did the “founding fathers” work tirelessly to end slavery? Did they “not rest until slavery was extinguished in this country?”
Here are the facts. I have a high school history teacher, a close friend of mine, to thank for leading me to the details.
George Washington owned more than 200 slaves, some say between 250 and 350.
Thomas Jefferson owned as many as 200, his wife having brought a hundred to the marriage as her dowry.
James Madison, who drafted the Constitution, had over a hundred slaves, had them all his life, didn’t free them in his will.
James Monroe had around 75 slaves…
Andrew Jackson, about 160…
John Tyler, 70 slaves…
James Polk - 15 to 25…
Zackary Taylor up to 150 slaves.
Other presidents through those years – Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysess Grant also owned slaves.
So, if you want to get your history from the congresswoman from Minnesota, that’s, of course, an option.
Or you can check it out yourself.
I recommend in this and so other cases you do some work yourself. President Reagan used to say, “trust but verify.” When it comes to people like Bachmann and Glenn Beck and Michael Savage and Sarah Palin and rest of this jamboree, I think the smart move is to start with the “verify.”