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The Original draft of the Declaration of Independence


In the summer of 1776, the 13 colonies were already engaged in a battle for independence from England. These 13, separate colonies sent representatives to Philadelphia, known as the Continental Congress, where it was decided that in order to engage in a war with England and come out as victors, they must be united in purpose and dedication. These 13 colonies of America became The United States of America.


The Continental Congress needed to draft a declaration of independence from the rule of King George. Those charged with the responsibility to write the declaration was Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. It was first suggested that John Adams would be the scribe for the declaration, but he knew that he was not well liked by many of the representatives, so Thomas Jefferson was chosen to pen the document. Jefferson was one of the most educated men in the Congress and liked by many. It took 17 days for the group of 5 men to write the declaration.


There are 24 grievances to the king in the original declaration, one of which focuses on taxation without representation.


I want to focus on another part of the first draft of the declaration- the most important part, in my opinion. In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence the longest grievance listed is all about slavery. And no, it is not in defense for it.


The words penned by Jefferson will teach us exactly what he, and many others, thought about slavery during this time-



he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.


Let’s take a look at this piece by piece.


he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.



We see from the first sentence that the King of England was responsible for bringing slaves to the New World. After all, the American colonies did belong to England. Participating in the slave trade was a very lucrative business, one that brought in a lot of money. It was for this reason that the King made the colonies have slaves. He profited from it.


this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce:



Jefferson calls out the King, saying that a King who proclaims to be Christian is not acting as a Christian by enslaving other men. Notice the word MEN is capitalized, showing that Jefferson does indeed mean ALL MEN are created equal- not just white men. Jefferson notes that the King struck down any law that would prohibit slavery in the colonies.


and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.



This last part is very interesting. Here, Jefferson says that the King is guilty of using the slaves against the colonists. He was offering to purchase the slaves’ freedom if they rise up against the rebellious colonies and proclaim their loyalty to him the King- which is funny because he was the one enslaving them in the first place.


From this one paragraph written by Jefferson in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, we can see what his personal stance was on slavery. There is no questioning it. So why did this section not end up in the final Declaration of Independence?


Once this document was written, it was taken before the Continental Congress. It was decided beforehand that all 13 colonies had to vote in favor of the declaration before it would become official. This original draft was presented to the representatives and the vote came out 11 to 2 in favor of it. 11 colonies voted for this version of the declaration. Only 2 dissented. Those two colonies were Georgia and South Carolina. It’s not hard to guess why these two voted against it. Slavery played a huge part in their economies. Without slavery, their economies would cease to be prosperous.


It was imperative that the colonies were unanimous in their support of the Declaration of Independence. A revolution against the most powerful nation at that time would have been futile if the colonies were not united. This was the most important part of their declaration. Debates, discussions and revisions took place over the next several days in order for the vote to be unanimous, and on July 2, 1776 a unanimous vote was reached. Two days later, July 4, 1776, the Declaration was officially ratified and printed for dispersal.


Why is this first draft of the Declaration of Independence important? It ruins the narrative that our Founding Fathers were white supremacists. Jefferson himself, who is looked at as one of the most racist and hypocritical Founding Fathers, wrote very plainly that slavery was an abomination and it needed to be stopped. When you learn that just 2 of the 13 colonies voted against that draft, you realize that the vast majority of Founding Fathers were completely in favor of eradicating slavery and understood that ALL MEN were created equal. When you understand that being a united nation was the only way we would win a revolution against England, you understand why that section needed to be rewritten.


The seeds of equality were instilled in the Declaration of Independence. It was a step in the direction of freedom for all.


Were the Founding Fathers racist white supremacists? No, they were not. That is clear when you read true history.






The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson

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