Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence: Original Draft (1776)

Thomas Jefferson used many opportunities to oppose slavery.   One example is his Original Draft of the Declaration of Independence.  John Adams, writing almost 50 years later, praised Jefferson’s original draft.  “I was delighted with its high tone, and the flights of Oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning Negro Slavery, which though I knew his Southern Brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose…  I have long wondered that the Original draft has not been published.  I suppose the reason is the vehement Philippic [bitter discourse] against Negro Slavery.”  John Adams, Letter to Timothy Pickering, August 6, 1822

Here is a portion of Jefferson’s original draft:  “… [King George] 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 and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere…  [He has denied] every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable [detestable] commerce…  [and] he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded [forced] them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against thelives of another.”  Thomas JeffersonJefferson’s Draft of the Declaration of Independence, June 28, 1776

If slavery continued, Jefferson believed America would eventually suffer harsh consequences. “… can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?  Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever…”  Thomas JeffersonNotes on Virginia, February 27, 1787


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