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.
These words, the core of our Declaration of Independence, were written by a slave owner, Thomas Jefferson. How can we have any respect for the people who founded our country, knowing that many, like Jefferson and Washington, practiced slavery?
I have written a piece on slavery. You can read it here.
Suffice it to say that slavery was inbred into our culture for thousands of years. Americans should be proud that we were able to stop it in less than 75 years after our founding. We fought a horrible war, turned family against family, yet were able to succeed.
Slave owners like Jefferson and Washington knew that slavery must end. They were fallible and did what they thought was best. They built a foundation on which their successors could create a truly free society.
Their vision was clear, if their actions were sometimes inconsistent. These weren’t monsters, they were visionaries caught in thousands of years of culture.
15 years later, in 1789 when they were negotiating the constitution, they knew that they were unable to change those thousands of years of culture overnight. They knew that they had to agree to some things they didn’t like so they could get the deal done.
Within 75 years Jefferson’s words were brought true when ALL men were included, not just those who were ‘free.’ But the struggle didn’t end there. Integration was coming, but coming slowly. Truman integrated the military. Eisenhower began school integration. Jim Crow laws fell away in the 60s. We could fix the laws, but fixing the culture was more difficult.
We are making progress. Every day we have the ‘first’ this or the ‘first’ that. Whether it’s a fortune 500 CEO, a supreme court justice, or a president. We gain ground against that thousand years of culture, bit by bit. Sooner rather than later, we will succeed. And the words of the preamble of the Constitution written all those years ago, will become true. We will have “A More Perfect Union.”
When he wrote these words, Gouverneur Morris understood that perfection was impossible. All we could do to strive for it.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
It does get better, every day. And we will keep working toward that perfect union.
Happy Fourth of July, 2019.