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The Ida B. Wells Center on American Exceptionalism and Restorative Justice (The Wells Center) is a not-for-profit public benefit organization, whose raison d’être is to serve as a catalyst for ideas, strategies, and intellectual stimulation through Scholarship, Engagement, and Action (SEA) in the creation of thought-provoking social, economic, and academic SEA-change in global arenas.

The Wells Center provides resources and opportunities for policymakers, researchers, and world-wide thought-leaders to reimagine and reframe racial disparity issues stemming from England’s abandonment and America’s criminal enslavement of black Englishmen in colonial America. This thesis will have far-reaching implications upon America’s historiography and topical social issues like reparations and restorative justice.

Our Mission

The Ida B. Wells Center serves as a think tank forum to propose, advocate and publish creative perspectives, strategies, and solutions to address systemic race-based policies and practices rooted in America’s criminalization, exploitation, and disenfranchisement of black Englishmen in colonial times.

The Wells Center advances the idea that structural racism, racial injustice, and economic disparity in America today is the product of a colonial times criminal scheme on the part of white Englishmen against black Englishmen and the documentary base for attacking its legitimacy is Anglo Saxon jurisprudence, the British common law and England’s Magna Carta of 1215, the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, the Sedition Act of 1661, the Declaratory Act of 1766 and Somerset v. Stewart (1772)..

The Wells Center seeks to engage academia by bringing research and proffering findings for academic review, analysis and advancement and debate and then to U. S. policymakers and stakeholders, as black Englishmen were systematically exploited to serve as the bedrock of the U. S. slave pool and economy, in violation of the Treaty of Paris of 1773 and the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783, as verified and validated in historical records in the Book of Negroes and historical registries preserved in England and the United States.

The Ida B. Wells Center will:

  • Review, critique opposing topical white papers and publish white papers on colonial times and early America black Englishmen’s culture and people’s beliefs, practices, and the cognitive and social organization of colonial groups.
  • Study how colonial Americans who shared a common cultural system organized and shaped the physical and social world and were in turn shaped by those ideas, behaviors, and physical environments.
  • Craft and propose creative perspectives, strategies, and solutions to address disparity issues based upon race, structural racism and resulting community unrest, and governmental accountability for misanthrope horrors and exploitation of black Englishmen and systemic race-based policies and practices in the United States.

Core Exposition

The Somerset Decision

The first 19 or 20 Africans who arrived in the colony of Virginia in 1619 were indentured servants—not enslaved people. This was not luck; instead, England’s Magna Carta of 1215, the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381, and England’s common law effectively banned slavery within the American colonies, and by each colonial charter, all colonial governments were required and were initially adhering to and applying the English rule of law—the Cartwright Case of 1569 which declared “the air of England too pure for slaves to breathe.”

The Kingdom of Great Britain fastened England’s common law and statute law to the American colonies, and under the common law tradition of jus soli and Parliament’s 1350 Act—English citizenship was extended to all people born in the American colonies, as it provides…“For those who are born in Parts beyond the Seas.” And all mixed-race children born within the American colonies were English citizens under the English rule of law. The English rule of law imputed knowledge of all laws to all persons within the jurisdiction and willful blindness or ignorance of the law was not a basis of exculpation.

Significantly, under England’s common law and consistent with each colonial charter approved by England’s King, all children born in colonial America were recognized as being free-born Englishmen and under the protection of the British monarch—and no English person could be born into slavery, and no one in the Kingdom of Great Britain was above or below the English rule of law—the Elizabeth Key Freedom Case of 1655. And Virginia’s colonial assembly—the House of Burgesses—adhered and applied England’s common law tradition of partus sequitur patrem and legal principle of birthright English citizenship unto mixed-race people to Elizabeth Key in 1655. Key was born in the colony of Virginia to an African mother, who sued for her and her infant child’s freedom in colonial Virginia and prevailed.

Colonial slavery at birth or the colonial statute and racialized law of partus sequitur ventrem enacted after the Key decision in the 1660s did not change the British patrilineal descent tradition of partus sequitur patrem to matrilineal within colonial America for a fundamental reason—colonial legislatures were bicameral. None of the American colonial assemblies had the legislative power upon their own initiative to make slavery or hereditary slavery within the American colonies a lawful condition during British rule without the King’s formal approval as required by English law and each colonial charter.

England’s King did not give formal approval to the enactment of any of the colonial slave or hereditary slave statutes and racialized laws, as required by each colonial charter. The Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541 required the King’s formal approval to any alleged slave statutes or a law that purported to change the English patrilineal descent tradition to matrilineal within colonial America. The Sedition Act of 1661 made it a treasonable offense to promulgate a putative statute or law in the Kingdom without the King’s permission. These undisputable facts and the varied violations of the English rule of law by colonial assemblies made colonial America’s slave and hereditary slave statutes and racialized laws legal nullities and of no lawful effect.

Lawlessness, corruption of colonial government, and salutary neglect on the part of the British imperial government gave rise to hereditary slavery during the mid-seventeenth century in colonial America… but the British imperial government voided all inconsistent and repugnant colonial statutes and racialized laws with the American Colonies Act 1766, commonly referred to as the Declaratory Act of 1766.

The Declaratory Act of 1766 exerted parliamentary sovereignty over all American colonial assemblies and voided all colonial statutes and laws “in all cases whatsoever.” Colonial slave, hereditary slave statutes and racialized regulations “denied and questioned” and were both inconsistent and repugnant to the English rule of law and were not carved out exemptions to the Declaratory Act.

This Act of Parliament… recalibrated its relationship with the American colonies by nullifying inconsistent and repugnant colonial statutes, laws, resolutions, votes, orders, proceedings, and racialized regulations that denied or challenged “the power and authority of the parliament of Great Britain, to make laws and statutes,” and it restored colonial legislative and cultural affairs to status quo ante.

However, despite colonial slavery in all forms becoming illegal within colonial America in 1766, the practice of slavery continued… but in 1772—two hundred and fifty years ago—the high court of Great Britain ruled decisively in the landmark James Somerset v. Charles Stewart Case—slavery was “not allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom,” as it found “American Laws” purporting to create a condition of slavery to be ineffectual.

Historians interested in the Somerset Case who did not go back and consider Parliament’s Declaratory Act that voided all colonial slave statutes and racialized laws, along with all other statutes and laws in 1766 claims that the Somerset Case is distinguished from the Cartwright Case of 1569. However, the Somerset Case marked a pivotal moment in the annals of history, for it declared the ineffectualness of colonial America’s slave statutes and laws within the Kingdom of Great Britain.

William Murray, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield had referred the Somerset Case to the Twelve Judges—a procedure used during colonial times to address major points of English law. The twelve-judge tribunal sought to resolve the legal question of the effectualness of the slave statutes and racialized laws of the colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts and whether these “American Laws” legitimized the enslavement of a black colonial.

The Twelve Judges ruled in June 1772—the state of slavery was not lawfully effectuated by the colonial laws or statutes enacted in the colonies of Virginia or Massachusetts, and slavery could only exist by a “positive law.” Further, that slavery possessed no recognition in English law, having never been established in the common law or by statute. Moreover, in the absence of a “positive law,” slavery in the Kingdom could not exist and slavery could only be promulgated through “positive law,” which the British Parliament exclusively possessed.

The Somerset verdict portended the manumission of enslaved black colonials because Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766—voided all inconsistent and repugnant colonial statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever.” All slave and hereditary slave statutes and racialized laws enacted by colonial assemblies within the American colonies became legal nullities in 1766 and this case reaffirmed parliamentary sovereignty throughout the Kingdom of Great Britain. Consequently, James Somerset and as many as 15,000 enslaved black people in England and Wales were set at liberty in June 1772.

Yet four years later, the fifty-six signatories of the Declaration of Independence declared their right to liberty from Great Britain while concomitantly denying liberty to 500,000 colonial-born blacks on the Fourth of July in 1776. Indeed, there was a disconnect between the principle of natural equality for white colonials and the extralegal system of race-based hereditary slavery.

The lawless practice of hereditary slavery continued in the aftermath of the Somerset decision due to fears of social chaos, destabilization of colonial America, and possible armed rebellion within America’s southern colonies were concerns held by the British imperial government and actualized by the appalling silence of white New England Northerners.

Within a year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Prince Hall, a leader of the free black community in Boston, would file a petition with the Massachusetts General Court—its legislative assembly on behalf of “A Great Number of Blackes detained in a State of Slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country,” claiming that “every principle” of the American Revolution “Pleads Stronger than A thousand arguments” in favor of freedom for the enslaved. And yet white New England Northerners who enacted legislation that freed enslaved black Massachusetts based upon the Somerset verdict ignored Hall’s petition.

One hundred and seventy years ago, in 1852—the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester invited Abolitionist Frederick Douglass to give a Fourth of July speech, by which he purposely delayed his appearance one day to deliver a historic message on the racial injustices and broken promises within the Declaration of Independence. His message—What To a Slave Is the Fourth of July? —conveyed the sentiments of many blacks, who had been wrongly denied their rights to liberty and equality pronounced by the Founding Generation.

Douglass, a former slave, praised the forefathers for values expressed in the Declaration—while stating that slaves toiling in America had no positive feelings towards the founders who immorally fastened slavery onto them in America. He professed… “this Fourth of July is yours, not mines; You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And essentially, Douglass’s Fourth of July speech criticized his audience’s boundless pride for a nation that claimed to value freedom and allegiance to the rule of law—while making the case that the forefathers’ actual intentions were cloaked in darkness and deceit.
The United States ignored the rule of law when it came to their black countrymen and more than anything, this nation is built on uncontested, illegal claims—legal inconsistencies, and myths that have so long have been presumed truth—they appear to be accurate and verifiable history. The Fourth of July is an annualized day for reckoning America’s core idea of equality of citizenship.

Dr. James Brewer Stewart, Founder of Historians Against Slavery, a group of scholars that brings historical context and scholarship to the modern-day antislavery movement and a James Wallace Professor of History Emeritus, Macalester College, posed the question in the forward of Hidden in a Book — $40 Trillion—Keep the Mule written by Larry Kenneth Alexander… “How would our view of reparations, restitution, restorative justice (or whatever other term one might prefer) be affected if history confirmed that slavery in England’s colonies had been declared illegal… well before the American Revolution? What if, before the founding of our Nation, everyone held in bondage had actually been confirmed by Great Britain’s highest court to possess the full rights of English citizenship? In our view, that’s exactly what happened.”

At the signing of the Declaration of Independence—black colonists had the same legal rights and status as white colonists under the English rule of law. The American Colonies Act, commonly referred to as the Declaratory Act of 1766 had voided colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever,” ten years earlier.

The human ownership claims of white slaveholding colonials ceased having presumptive legitimacy as colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were abolished in 1766. For Parliament found these laws to be inconsistent or repugnant to English common law and set to reaffirm colonial America’s subordination to the Crown and Parliament by voiding and nullifying all resolutions, votes, orders, or proceedings passed in the absence of the Crown’s and Parliament’s authority.

In 1772, the Twelve Judges in the Somerset case upheld the parliamentary act done in 1766—by ruling slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom” and since slavery had never been established in common law and could only be promulgated by a “positive law,” then slaveholding white colonists within the American colonies were acting outside the rule of law.

A third of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were slaveowners or profiteers of hereditary slavery and they included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and some New England delegates who all understood the legal effect the Somerset ruling had on their financial status, so in deceit they subverted the intent of the delegation to proclaim liberty and equality for all by protecting slaveholding rights even though it was illegal.

Point in fact—colonial slavery was illegal as of March 1766—well before the American Revolution—and the Somerset decision on June 22, 1772 made colonial slavery unlawful and was the “final nail in the coffin” of colonial slavery. The Somerset decision was an expression of the power and authority of the British imperial government, and it was on full display—less than thirty-six months before the first “shot heard round the world” was fired in Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.

But even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary—within the historical profession, there is an unwillingness to recognize the contestable status of colonial slave statutes and a willingness to contend that slavery within colonial America faced no immediate threat from the British imperial government as a run-up to the American Revolution. This misapprehension of a verifiable fact has become embedded within U.S. history books and biographies and is now America’s public policy.

The myth that colonial slavery was facing no real threat from the British imperial government before the American Revolution is a confounding position—as it is ahistorical and quickly plummets when a conscientious student of history realizes that the British had an initiative—the Southern Strategy—operationalized before the Declaration of Independence. This British initiative sought to cripple colonial America’s slave-based economy by targeting the slave population to weaken and splinter the Continental Congress.

History supports that on November 7, 1775—Virginia’s governor Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation that adjudged America’s patriots as traitors to the Crown and declared “all indented servants, Negroes, or others… free that are able and willing to bear arms.” And Lord Dunmore’s proclamation of emancipation was well-publicized, and enslaved people throughout the thirteen colonies separated themselves from their enslavers to join the British military, supporting the conclusion that slavery was a factor that caused colonial America to separate themselves from Great Britain.

Colonial newspapers published Lord Dunmore’s proclamation in full and The Virginia Gazette warned slaves to “Be not then… tempted by the proclamation to ruin your selves.” In addition, the newspaper urged enslaved blacks to “cling to their kind masters.” Pro-slavery newspapers published articles claiming that Dunmore’s emancipation was a ploy—but it did not work, as enslaved blacks from all of the colonies were leaving their enslavers in pursuit of freedom. And by late November 1775—countless former enslaved colonials enlisted for military service with the British.

Lord Dunmore’s proclamation under the English rule of law made foreigners, such as African-born slaves—English citizens. In so doing, all semblance of the lawfulness of slavery within the American colonies was drained away from the practice of slavery in 1775. Moreover, Lord Dunmore formed a regiment of run-away enslaved people—Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment, and by December 1775 had more than 300 troops. This caused patriots to view Lord Dunmore’s proclamation of liberation of enslaved black colonials as a major concern and to realize that the holding together of the coalition of colonies, as well as its patriots together, was “a do or die” proposition.

Patriot General George Washington’s response to Lord Dunmore’s proclamation before the Declaration of Independence was that… “I do not think that forcing his lordship on shipboard is sufficient. Nothing less than depriving him of life or liberty will secure peace to Virginia, as motives of resentment actuate his conduct to a degree equal to the total destruction of that colony.”

Moreover, the British Southern Strategy caused Washington and other delegates to the Continental Congress to believe, as he stated to Colonel Henry Lee III in December 1775, that success in the rebellion would come to whatever side could arm “Negroes” the fastest, also supporting the conclusion that slavery was a factor that caused colonial America to separate themselves from Great Britain.

Further, a South Carolina delegate to the Second Congress wrote that Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation did more to sever ties between Britain and its colonies “than any other expedient which could possibly have been thought of” and Not the taxes and the tea, not the shots at Lexington and Concord, not the siege of Boston; rather, it was this act, Dunmore’s offer of freedom to slaves, that tipped the scales in favor of American independence” are the words of historian Jill Lepore in her book, These Truths: A History of the United States.

Patriot James Madison felt that the British Southern Strategy was the kind of “tampering with the slaves,” he had most feared. “To say the truth,” he confided in a friend, “that is the only part in which this colony is vulnerable—we shall fall like Achilles by the hand of one that knows that secret.” The British imperial government surely knew colonial America’s secret and King George III’s government proclaimed liberty for black colonials before the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.

Then in furtherance of their Southern Strategy—British General George Clinton liberated all enslaved people in colonial America on June 30, 1779, by the British Phillipsburg Proclamation. The primary rationale behind the Phillipsburg Proclamation was to stimulate mass desertion by encouraging enslaved black colonials to come over to the British. If successful, the British imperial government thought that it would strike a mighty blow at the plantation economy and force southern enslavers to use men to guard enslaved people instead of fighting British soldiers. The offer of liberty applied to males and females—including children and it was estimated that 100,000 enslaved people deserted to the British.

Finally, this pre-Declaration of Independence threat to colonial slavery created a tense diplomatic situation after the Treaty of Paris of 1783 ending the American Revolution was signed between the British and the United States when British General Guy Carleton claimed black colonials as English citizens. Each nation had agreed to “set at liberty” each other citizens. Then General George Washington made an ownership claim of black colonials based upon “colonial statutes,” abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and the Somerset decision—ten years before the Declaration of Independence. Carleton did not agree, and the dispute required America to legally prove their citizens’ human ownership under international law. They never did and 500,000 presumptive English citizens were denied liberty and enslaved by the United States.

However, what is particularly perplexing is the willingness of historians to declare colonial slavery faced “no immediate threat” in light of dispositive and compelling evidence to the contrary—such as, the British pre-Declaration of Independence slavery initiative—Southern Strategy and the criminal origin of colonial slavery that flourished due to colonial government corruption, colonial tyranny, and England’s policy of salutary neglect. Then in the early 1760s, the British imperial government abandoned its policy of salutary neglect and abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws by the Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever.”

Six years later, the Somerset decision ruled slavery was illegal and not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom,” which was self-executing and controlling legal precedent throughout the Kingdom of Great Britain that included colonial America. And even if one did not want to concede to the suggestion that the historical evidence is dispositive and insuperable or that the Somerset decision abolished colonial slavery—nonetheless, it is implausible, impeachable, and reckless for historians to claim there was “no immediate threat” to colonial slavery before the Declaration of Independence of 1776.

Simply—the southern Americans latched upon the British imperial government’s directive to its colonial governors in the summer of 1772—to not apply the Somerset decision which was only issued to avoid civil unrest, instability, and possible rebellion within the American colonies. But subsequent developments within colonial America and actions of the British imperial government caused that directive to be nullified before the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Moreover, the directive of the British imperial government in 1772 did not purport to legalize colonial slavery, nor could such a directive change the legal consequence that slavery had become illegal within colonial America by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766— ten years before the Declaration of Independence and in fact supports the conclusion that a real threat to colonial slavery did exist as the political directive did not change the law.

History supports, on January 6, 1772, within six months of the Somerset decision becoming known in colonial America—an enslaved person in the colony of Massachusetts named Felix submitted the first of five petitions during that year claiming—a range of rights be recognized to Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson and to the General Court of Massachusetts, its colonial assembly. Based upon historical records, Felix’s petition spoke of the “unhappy State and Condition” in which enslaved colonials were forced to live. Though signed only by this person named Felix—the document petitioned for the freedom and rights of all black colonials suffering as slaves in the Massachusetts colony, and Massachusetts assembly took the petition under consideration.

Significantly, the General Court of Massachusetts came to approve Felix’s or one or all of these freedom petitions before the American Revolution. However, Massachusetts Governor Hutchinson and then his successor Sir Thomas Gage followed the British imperial government’s directive of non-enforcement of the Somerset decision within colonial America, fearing civil unrest by colonial Southerners—and each vetoed the General Court of Massachusetts legislative actions favoring emancipation of enslaved Massachusetts colonials in 1773 and 1774. Abolitionists later published the petition as a pamphlet and letters and other abolitionist documents.

The vetoes by the British imperial government caused Massachusetts patriot Samuel Adams and other Northerners to clamor that the vetoes of the Massachusetts Assembly’s legislative measures to liberate enslaved colonials—by successive colonial governors evidenced Britain’s blatant disregard and contempt for the rule of law announced in the Somerset decision, and it proved corruption and was a rallying cry proving government tyranny.

Further, the scholar Matthew Mason observed in North American Calm, West Indian Storm: The Constitutional Politics and Legacy of the Somerset Decision “that American slaveholders saw Somerset as a fundamental denial of their property rights and political control over their slaves within an increasingly hostile antislavery empire.”

And while patriots in the southern colonies were pleased by the British imperial government’s olive branch concerning not enforcing the Somerset decision in colonial America and the successive vetoes by Massachusetts governors of slave emancipation legislation by the Massachusetts assembly… they collectively believed Britain’s handling of the Somerset case foretold of a nefarious plot to deprive them of their wealth—wealth created from their criminal enslavement of colonial-born British citizens and they knew that such could be easily accomplished by merely arresting and criminally prosecuting them. Thus, slaveholding southerners were not settled on the question of colonial slavery’s future before America’s Revolution.

Moreover, in the immediate aftermath of Massachusetts colonials protesting the British imperial government vetoing its emancipation bill in 1773 and 1774—throughout southern colonial America and in a colony such as Virginia—rumors of a British plan to enforce the Somerset decision and draft former slaves into the military began circulating to such an extent that even a group of enslaved black colonials presented themselves to Virginia’s Governor Lord Dunmore to volunteer their services.

Lord Dunmore declined the offer made by the enslaved colonials in 1774, but their presentment to Lord Dunmore evidenced the overall feelings of southern colonial Americans that they had concerns about the end of colonial slavery, and their concerns were only heightened by the literature and newspaper articles coming out of London that an Emancipation Bill was set to reach the floor of the British Parliament any day. But despite the fears of southern colonial Americans concerning an Emancipation Bill—an Emancipation Bill was an unnecessary formality for liberating black English citizens living in the American colonies.

The reason an Emancipation Bill was unnecessary to free America’s black colonials was because slavery after the Somerset decision was illegal, as Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 had already voided colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever,” six years earlier.

Furthermore, the Somerset decision involved a black colonial, and the question of the legality of “American Laws,” and these statutes and laws were declared ineffectual to legitimize slavery by the Twelve Judges in 1772, and as there were no subsequent colonial slave statutes or “positive laws” authorizing the practice—black colonials suffering as slaves in the American colonies were legally free English citizens—no different than the 15,000 black people suffering as slaves in England and Wales who were freed in 1772 immediately after the Somerset ruling.

Under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541 and each colonial charter—formal approval of the British sovereign was required to lawfully pass legislation within the Kingdom, and yet during colonial times, the practice of slavery became endemic—even without the King’s permission. And the actions of the colonial legislators from the colony of Virginia who enacted the initial hereditary slave statutes were violations of the Sedition Act of 1661, which made it a serious crime to enact a law without the King’s formal approval—but they and the practice were aided and assisted by the corruption of colonial government, racial repression, and a policy of salutary neglect, and hereditary slavery thrived.

Then one might ask—if it is true that the first nineteen Africans who arrived here in the United States in the colony of Virginia in 1619 were indentured servants—not slaves because of English laws—true that slavery was prohibited on British soil by the English rule of law—true that slavery in colonial America was not authorized by the common law or by a properly promulgated statute and true that colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were voided by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766—ten years before the Declaration of Independence in 1776, then why didn’t the Somerset decision on the 22nd of June 1772 free enslaved black colonials as colonial slave statutes in America’s colonies were illegal?

Reasonably, it could be argued, that in the aftermath of the Somerset decision that made slavery illegal in the Kingdom on June 22, 1772—the British imperial government felt that the liberation of 500,000 black colonials would cause civil unrest and possible armed rebellion within colonial America. They could have determined that the risk for civil unrest was too high—so the British imperial government directed its colonial governors to not apply the Somerset decision—to further the stabilization of its American colonies.

The British imperial government could have also feared that if the Somerset decision was enforced, as the colonial government was in criminal league with colonial enslavers, it too could create civil unrest and armed rebellion. And it was because of this corrupt partnership and other factors that no one was held to account for these criminal actions against black colonials and why colonial governors were directed to not apply or enforce the Somerset decision for the present time.

The corrupt relationship by and between colonial enslavers and the British colonial government and the proactive actions of the British imperial government is what accounts for the two hundred and fifty years of controversy, as it allowed southern American colonials to regroup and to claim with impunity that the Somerset decision did not affect colonial America and the ruling only meant “a person, regardless of being a slave, could not be forcibly removed from England against his will and carried abroad.” Yet, black colonials were restored to the status quo ante by operation of the English rule of law.

The Somerset decision was the “last nail in the coffin” of colonial slavery. The conclusion that it made slavery within colonial America illegal is inescapable when the Somerset decision is bridged back to colonial slavery’s problematic and lawless origin during the mid-1600s through the creation of the unitary state and parliamentary sovereignty by way of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Declaratory Act of 1766 that voided colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever.”

History supports… colonial slavery within colonial America’s colonies became illegal in 1766 under the Declaratory Act of 1766 and the Somerset decision merely affirmed parliamentary sovereignty over the American colonies; yet the illegal practice continued. But as the Rev. Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. had reminded America during the late 1960s—“the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Legal change did happen with the English Bill of Rights of 1689—followed by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 that abolished all repugnant colonial statutes and racialized laws within colonial America “for all purposes whatsoever” six years before the Somerset decision. And colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were not carved out as being exempted or exceptions to the Declaratory Act of 1766. However, legal change did not translate into actual change for black colonials.

The Somerset decision in 1772 is best understood as a subtle judicial strike down of “American Laws,” a solemn determination of the constitutional question of the extent of the power of a lawless sole chamber of a bicameral legislature to enact a “positive law” and an affirmation of parliamentary supremacy within the Kingdom of Great Britain that changed the calculus for America’s slaveholding colonists as the Twelve Judges definitively declared slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom, and could only be legal by a “positive law.”

The Founding Generation knew to a legal certainty that the Declaratory Act of 1766 had voided colonial slave statutes and all racialized laws ten years earlier, and there were no “positive laws” authorizing slavery within colonial America on July 4, 1776—as the Somerset decision had already struck down “American Laws” by ruling slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom” in 1772. Moreover, after declaring these erstwhile Englishmen, now Americans to be a new nation of people—America’s Founding Generation and over Thomas Jefferson’s objections fastened the United States of America and its people to the English rule of law.

Further, after declaring the United States an independent nation, the fifty-six delegates of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence—a legal instrument and a compact by and between the English citizens living in colonial America did come to purport an exclusion of 20 to 25 % of its 2.5 million population—all English citizens with African ancestry, all who had legal rights under England’s Magna Carta of 1215 and the English rule of law.

The purported “exclusion” from the Declaration was based on claims that this class of English citizens were slaves, legally owned by white English citizens. However, this was a calculated action and a last-ditch attempt by slaveholding Americans and others to preserve the tradition of hereditary slavery, as the practice was illegal under the English rule of law and now without the facial protection of the British imperial government—people’s fortunes, reputations, and legacies were at risk.

The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ended hostility between the British and the United States, and both nations agreed to “set at liberty” each other’s citizens after ratification, yet 500,000 presumptive English citizens were denied the due process of law and then exploited as being slaves owned by American citizens based upon “colonial statutes.” Under the English rule of law announced in the case of Rex v. Stapylton (K.B. 1771) the United States and its citizens had the legal burden of establishing legal ownership of black colonials after the American Revolution in 1783 ended and the lawful exclusion of black colonials from the Declaration of Independence; they did neither.

And yet, historians, such as the critics of the 1619 Project, published by the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize award-winning long-form commentary written by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones on how slavery shaped American political, social, and economic institutions in particular, Sean Wilentz from Princeton University, who circulated a protest-styled letter amongst historians, and Leslie M. Harris from Northwestern University who all claimed that the preservation of slavery had nothing to do with America’s push for independence in 1776. Their claims are ahistorical and at best constitutes a misapprehension of the legal effect of Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and the Somerset decision in 1772.

In particular—Wilentz’s letter took exception to the 1619 Project’s claim in the opening essay that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” Wilentz’s letter claimed certain events referred to in the project were “matters of verifiable fact” that could not be described as interpretation or “framing,” and he concluded that the project reflected “a displacement of historical understanding by ideology.”

Although Wilentz did concede in the letter that if the founders did indeed declare the colonies’ independence of Britain in order to ensure slavery would continue—if proven supportable, “the allegation would be astounding,” he yet stated that “every statement offered by the project to validate it is false.”

Wilentz did acquire four signatories, James McPherson, a George Henry Davis 1886 emeritus professor of American history, Princeton University; Gordon Wood, an Alva O. Wade University emeritus professor and emeritus professor of history, Brown University; Victoria Bynum, a distinguished emerita professor of history, Texas State University, and James Oakes, a distinguished professor, the Graduate Center, the City University of New York, all leading scholars in their field. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that these five historians have committed themselves to be “astounded” if supportable evidence exist to infer, if not prove that the American colonies declared independence to continue slavery.

The Declaratory Act of 1766, the Somerset decision and the British Southern Strategy were unadulterated expressions of British imperial power and control directed at the American colonies. They must be considered in tandem and then analyzed through the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and the exercise of parliamentary sovereignty to best understand why slaveholding colonists were concerned about the future of slavery, and how the narrative developed of claiming colonial slavery’s preservation was of no concern to the slaveholding colonists in colonial America in the run-up to the American Revolution.

Historian Charles M. Andrews in his book The Colonial Background of the American Revolution observed that patriots were inconsistent on basic constitutional and political issues. Even liberal Northerners like John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and others who supported the rule of English law, and who’d just three years earlier supported the historic slave emancipation bills of Massachusetts General Court consistent with the Somerset decision—and even protested their governors’ vetoes were appallingly compliant. They were willing to latch upon emerging arguments to support the American Revolution, and the flexibility of the patriots was traced in the book Political Ideas of the American Revolution by Randolph C. Adams.

Further, the first principle of this interdisciplinary assignment requires a study of the Declaration of Independence, the English rule of law, and community from the beginning of the 17th century to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. In furtherance of providing supportable evidence that the preservation of slavery was a priority for the founders—there are only two tasks. Firstly, identify the beginning of American colonial slavery, the ways people used the colonial legislative system to create the extralegal institution of slavery, and show how corruption and the systemic degradation of colonial governance and the flexibility of colonial Americans contributed to slavery’s creation and its preservation even after freely admitting in the Declaration and indicting the British for the “abolishing,” of “our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments,” slavery persisted and was later codified in the U.S. Constitution.

Secondly, explain the legal consequence of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and Parliament’s  Declaratory Act of 1766 that abolished colonial statutes and laws—ten years before the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and in the context of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield using England’s Twelve Judges procedure to definitively address and resolve the Kingdom-wide legal questions of colonial slave statutes entitlement to be granted full faith and credit; a solemn determination upon parliamentary sovereignty within the Kingdom of Great Britain and related legal issues regarding the practice of slavery in the historic Somerset v. Stewart case on the 22nd of June 1772.

The Declaration of Independence is made up of five distinct parts, the introduction; the preamble; the body, which can be divided into two sections; and a conclusion. The first section of the body of the Declaration gives evidence of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” heaped upon the colonists by the British imperial government and King George III. The founders agreed and listed 27 grievances against the British imperial government and King George III.

Still, there were other complaints, grievances and concerns supporting their right to rebellion which were removed from the original draft, yet probative in explaining the Founding Generation’s reasoning for the uprising. The Declaration was not an exhaustive listing of the reasons for independence.

In its original form, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence denounced slavery and the slave trade. The first part of the so-called “slavery passage” was aimed directly at the King. “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.” Jefferson then called the institution of slavery “prated war,” “execrable trade” and assembly of horrors.”

The second part of this passage alluded to Lord Dunmore’s 1775 proclamation, which offered freedom to any enslaved person in the American colonies who volunteered to serve in the British army to fight against American patriots…“he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has 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.”

The British imperial government’s Southern Strategy which Lord Dunmore’s proclamation was the first iteration, inspired tens of thousands of enslaved people to seek liberty behind British lines. And this incensed American patriots and was thought to rally colonists behind the cause for independence and did motivate them to rebellion. And yet, U. S. historians claim slavery played no role in the founders’ reasoning and calculus for separating themselves from Great Britain.

History supports, the Continental Congress believed that it was better to remove the section dealing with slavery than risk a protracted debate over the issue—understanding that it threatened unanimous support for independence from the southern colonies. The delegates recognized that the Declaration of Independence was going to result in war with the British and if the colonies were not united, they would not prevail. The clause itself was stricken out at the request of delegates from South Carolina, and Georgia—but supported by New England colonies.

However, with respect to discerning if the preservation of slavery factored in the Founding Generation’s calculus for declaring independence, the rationale for removing the section dealing with slavery, and the body section of the Declaration of Independence is insuperable evidence.

Jefferson’s original Declaration of Independence was edited because too many delegates, and the colonies they represented, had a vested interest in perpetuating the institution of chattel slavery. At the time, slavery existed in all thirteen colonies, and at least one-third of the delegates, who would go on to become the signers of the Declaration of Independence—owned enslaved people.

In addition, the delegates knew that the document would inevitably lead to war and would have to unify the colonies. Slavery was known to be a divisive issue and thousands of colonists, from all walks of life would have to voluntarily risk their lives in a rebellion against the British.

Further, within the four corners of the approved Declaration, the founders did complain about slavery being abolished through the Declaratory Act of 1766 and how it altered “fundamentally the Forms of our Governments,” and even in grievance 1 in the Declaration that “He [King George III] has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

Grievances 21 and 23 in the Declaration indicts the British imperial government and King George III… “For taking our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments,” and “For suspending our own Legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in All cases whatsoever.” The Declaration inculcates evidence that the founders separated from Great Britain because colonial slavery had been abolished by way of the Declaratory Act of 1766 and the Somerset decision in 1772.

Thus, there is compelling evidence that slavery had vital relevance to the Founding Generation’s creation of this nation as the slavery clause was removed from Jefferson’s original Declaration of Independence to further unanimity among the delegates and colonies and the agreed grievances confirmed that colonial slave statutes and laws were voided by the Declaratory Act of 1766 and as the Somerset decision ruled slavery was not legally recognized in the Kingdom when the American Revolution began and yet slavery remained a constant presence in the emergence of the United States.

During the English Civil Wars beginning in the early 1640s, and in violation of the English rule of law and their colonial charters… colonial assemblies began enacting slave statutes and racialized laws. The colonial slave statutes and their racialized laws were not lawfully promulgated since the colonial assemblies failed to secure the formal approval of England’s King under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, as well as required by each colonial charter and as the original colonial legislators, in failing to secure the King’s formal approval had committed a serious crime in violation of the Sedition Act of 1661 it made these colonial slave statutes and laws legal nullities under the English rule of law.  

The textbook definitions of the British imperial state and the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty are explained in A. V. Dicey’s book… Introduction to the Law of the Constitution 1885: “Unitarianism, in short, means the concentration of the strength of the State in the hands of one visible sovereign power, be that Parliament or Czar,” and the British Parliament was conferred this visible sovereign power in 1689, which occurred three generations before America’s Declaration of Independence… when the Kingdom of Great Britain became a unitary state with the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The Bill of Rights replaced the unbridled power of the Crown with parliamentary sovereignty.

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 had the legal effect and consequence of abolishing the bicameral colonial Legislatures within America as a matter of English law since England’s King was stripped of his power and authority to approve colonial statutes and laws within the Kingdom and Parliament was conferred parliamentary sovereignty. Then the British Parliament voided all repugnant colonial statutes and laws with the Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever,” and asserted and exercised the right of Parliament to enact laws for the American colonies, “in all cases whatsoever.”

The British imperial government’s exercise of parliamentary sovereignty in 1766 destroyed the claim or legal defense that colonial slavemasters were operating within the contours of colonial laws, even if the King had previously approved the practice of hereditary slavery or if they claimed tacit approval of slavery by the Crown.

And it is dispositive proof of colonial slavery’s unlawfulness since colonial America’s slave statutes and racialized laws were not carved out and Parliament did not deem such statutes and laws as being exempt from the Declaratory Act of 1766. The legislation of the British Parliament in 1766 recalibrated the British imperial government’s relationship with the American colonies by nullifying inconsistent and repugnant colonial statutes, laws, resolutions, votes, orders, proceedings, and racialized regulations that denied or challenged “the power and authority the parliament of Great Britain, to make laws and statutes,” and restored colonial legislative affairs to status quo ante.

The British imperial government extended an olive branch to the slaveholding Americans by delivering the Somerset decision orally, obliquely, and informally directing its colonial governors in America to disregard the precedential effect of the Somerset decision to prevent destabilizing the American colonies. However, the political decisions of the British imperial government did not and could not change the legal consequence of the Somerset decision.

The British imperial government’s olive branch to colonial America was well-received. Americans in the southern colonies came to argue that the Somerset decision only prohibited the forcible removal of slaves from England and competing interpretations took on a life of its own according to William W. Wiecek in his seminal legal writing The Sources of Antislavery Constitutionalism in America, 1760-1848 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977). Yet, the broader reading of the Somerset decision, supported by Forbes v. Cochrane (1824) 3 Dow & Ry KB 679 at 742, is that slavery in the Kingdom, as a concept, has no recognition in English law having never been established in the common law or by statute making it illegal.

The Somerset decision caused Virginia’s colonial elite, who became the de facto leadership of the First Continental Congress—which, to a man, profited from hereditary slavery to believe that a combined committee of all thirteen colonies needed to be formed to aid enslavers like themselves in defending their wealth generated from slavery. There had been an earlier attempt made by the Massachusetts General Court in 1768 after Parliament’s Stamp Act of 1765.

The 1768 circular letter from the Speaker of the Massachusetts assembly to his counterparts in the other colonies referred to provincial—instead of parliamentary taxation as “an essential unalterable Right in nature ingrafted into the British Constitution, as a fundamental Law & ever held sacred & irrevocable,” as taken from Samuel Adams to Darius Sessions, Jan. 2, 1773, in Henry Alonzo Cushing, ed, The Writings of Samuel Adams, 1:185 and the House resolution of January 30, 1768, in A Journal of the House of Representatives (Boston, 1768), app. 1-2—and it did not spur the Virginians to action.  But soon after the Somerset decision—the Virginians were found spearheading an initiative to form a continental Congress.

Slavery was the catalyst for Virginia’s slaveholding colonials to organize America’s thirteen colonies, not a rising democratic spirit nor any feelings of being treated lesser than other Englishmen. But Virginia’s slaveholding colonials knew that a privileged class resistance to British imperial governance that delivered them riches was a problematic rallying cry to mobilize the masses near the point of rebellion.  This realization caused colonial America’s slaveholding patriots to pretend that the slavery issue was resolved based upon “colonial statutes.”

Further, they positioned that their quarrel with the British imperial government and King George III was based upon natural rights of all colonial subjects and the common welfare, giving life to the notion that governments derived, or ought to derive, their authority from the consent of the governed. The Founding Generation then adopted the political philosophies of liberalism, and republicanism of John Locke—claiming all men were created equal.

The Virginians courted Massachusetts political activists—Samuel and John Adams. Samuel Adams expressed, “I wish for a permanent union with the mother country, but only on the principles of liberty and truth.” While his cousin John Adams hid his concerns about the state of imperial affairs. However, Samuel would speak of both reconciliation and separation in nearly the same breath, so as he claimed that he wanted a “bill of rights for British Americans” to counter Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 because he still hoped for accommodation and reconciliation—even though he also believed that American independence was inevitable, and everyone knew him to be ambivalent.

Yet, in May 1774, the British imperial government further exacerbated colonial discontent in Massachusetts by closing the Port of Boston, sending in troops of occupation, and appointing the military governor Sir Thomas Gage. These decisions called the “Intolerable Acts” in response to the Boston Tea Party, radicalized the colony of Massachusetts and all northern colonies… dispelling any lingering illusions about the legal rights of colonial Americans. And with an undisclosed agenda—Virginia’s committee successfully lobbied other colonies to form committees to support the colony of Massachusetts and join a planned Continental Congress that would be committed to their collective protection.

The First Continental Congress met in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774. In the forefront was Virginia’s delegation which included Colonel George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, Colonel Benjamin Harrison, Richard Bland, and at the head Peyton Randolph—who would be elected president of the convention. Further, the delegates were sent to the Continental Congress with similar charges: to restore the “union & harmony between Great Britain and the Colonies,” which would entail “ascertaining American rights” and adopting “a plan for the purpose of obtaining a redress of American grievances.”

However, scholar Arthur Schlesinger in The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution, warned against looking too closely at these resolutions to reconstruct intent. They stated, he cautioned, “not so much what the dominant elements in a community really wanted, as what they dared to say that they wanted.” Schlesinger thought confusion played a prominent role—not calculation. However, his observation that the delegates were not transparent is sufficient when fastened to the fact that these men were strangers who presumed to speak for all of the colonials and whose beliefs about the British Empire were themselves changing. Thus, this supports the notion that the actions of the delegates to the Continental Congress were the best evidence of their beliefs, motivations, and self-serving interests.

It is significant that when the British imperial government became aware of the covert actions of Virginia’s committee—which included bankrolling the emerging rebellion based upon the wealth that the British imperial government had allowed them to amass and keep from hereditary slavery and them spearheading the forming of the Continental Congress their corrupt partnership with America’s slaveholding patriots in the southern colonies was destroyed. Virginia’s governor Lord Dunmore dissolved Virginia’s Assembly in June 1774.

The Declaration of Independence was considered to be a legal instrument and an indictment of the Crown and according to Stanford historian Jack Rakove, a William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Political Science and author of Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (1996) that the phrase “all men are created equal” in the Declaration meant was that the American colonies, as a people, had the same rights of self-government as other peoples, and hence could declare independence, create new governments, and assume their “separate and equal station” among other nations.

Dr. Rakove’s view aligns with the first sentence of the Declaration that Americans as a whole and not as members of their respective colonies are a distinct “people.”  Thus, within this interpretation of this legal document… as black colonials were “people” living within the American colonies and everyone had basic rights under the English Bill of Rights of 1689, and as the vast majority of black colonials were colonial-born and were British citizens under England’s common law, black colonials were “included” in the Declaration of Independence and under no circumstance could they be capriciously “excluded.”

Further, Jefferson argued in his Notes on the State of Virginia that enslaving people would implant an “unremitting despotism” that would destroy the capacity of slaveowners to act as republican citizens. The moral corruption that Jefferson worried about, in other words, was what would happen to slaveowners who would become victims of their own “boisterous passions.”

Secondly, in an op-ed in Politico Magazine in March 2020, I helped Fact-Check the 1619 Project. The Times Ignored Me, the historian Leslie M. Harris, a professor of history at Northwestern University and author of In the Shadow of  Slavery, 1626-1863, who consulted with Hannah-Jones, stated, “I listened in stunned silence as Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times, repeated an idea that I had vigorously argued against with her fact-checker: that the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America.”

Yet, history supports the conclusion that the patriots did in fact fastened a new nation of people to preserve the odious practice of slavery. The American people were tricked into supporting the baseless claim that black colonials were outside the Declaration of Independence even though Northern delegates knew black colonials were their countrymen—not slaves as of the Fourth of July 1776.

Continuing, Professor Harris argued “[W]hite Southerners might have wanted to preserve slavery in their territory, but white Northerners were much more conflicted, with many opposing the ownership of enslaved people in the North even as they continued to benefit from investments in the slave trade and slave colonies. More importantly for Hannah-Jones’ argument, slavery in the Colonies faced no immediate threat from Great Britain, so colonists wouldn’t have needed to secede to protect it. It’s true that in 1772, the famous Somerset case ended slavery in England and Wales,” as Harris concluded… “but it had no impact on Britain’s Caribbean colonies, where the vast majority of black people enslaved by the British labored and died, or in the North American Colonies.”

Generally, it is as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed, “we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” White Northerners, such as John and Samuel Adams were “good people” of the 18th century who knew hereditary slavery was colonial tyranny. These white Northerners knew to a legal certainty that the British imperial government voided colonial slave statutes and racialized laws within the American colonies ‘for all purposes whatsoever” in 1766. These white Northerners knew to a legal certainty that the Somerset decision rendered colonial slavery unlawful within colonial America in 1772— and their “silence” allowed 500,000 black British citizens suffering as victims of colonial tyranny to be excluded from the Declaration of Independence and gave legitimacy to the misanthrope notion that the white colonists did not need to secede to protect slavery.

White northern delegates to the Continental Congress were equally complicit and were integral in the criminal enslavement of 500,000 colonial blacks, who were exploited and enslaved after the American Revolution. Further, although potential Northern delegates to the Continental Congress might have been first conflicted and hesitant about preserving slavery since none actively protested Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 that abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws and all supported the Somerset decision of 1772 … but once Southern delegates brought resources to bear to help northern colonies with their rebellious actions against the British and the Continental Congress was organized and operating, white Northern delegates were single-minded, unwavering, and committed partners in the scheme to preserve hereditary slavery.

For example… Pennsylvania Benjamin Franklin who was in England when the Somerset decision issued in 1772 defended colonial slave practices and even criticized British abolitionists for celebrating the Somerset decision stating: “O Pharisaical Britain! To pride thyself in setting free a single Slave that happens to land on thy coasts, while thy Merchants in all ports are encouraged by thy laws to continue a commerce whereby so many hundreds of thousands are dragged into a slavery that scarce be said to end with their lives, since it is entailed on their posterity.”

Then there was Massachusetts John Adams who never owned black slaves, and as a lawyer he represented enslaved black colonials seeking freedom, and reportedly supported Massachusetts assembly passage of emancipation legislation for enslaved Massachusetts black colonials in 1773 and 1774 consistent with rulings in the Somerset case, and yet he aided and abetted white Southerners once the Continental Congress was formed. He was resolved in maintaining unity to achieve independence from Britain.

Further, slavery was abolished in Massachusetts in 1780 when it was forbidden by implication in the Declaration of Rights that Adams wrote into the Massachusetts Constitution.  Yet, Adams was scrupulously reserved and restrained from advancing his liberal views upon his prominent slaveholding colleagues, America’s heroes, and founders. Seemingly, Adams adopted Pennsylvania patriot Benjamin Franklin’s unity perspective… “we must all hang together, or most certainly, we shall hang separately.” However, in the late 1780s, it is reported that Adams did have occasion to share his thoughts on the slavery question during the U.S. constitutional debates—restating, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Moreover, the claim that “white Northerners were conflicted” when it came to preserving slavery is not supported by the evidence. Just take into account in the aftermath of the Somerset decision and before the Declaration of Independence on November 7, 1775, Virginia’s governor Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation, adjudging America’s patriots as traitors to the Crown and proclaimed “all indented servants, Negroes, or others… free that are able and willing to bear arms.” This British imperial proclamation was well-publicized, and enslaved people throughout the thirteen colonies separated themselves from their white slave masters to join England’s military. However, when the British imperial government provided black recruits weapons and taught them how to use them in the late fall of 1775, the Continental Congress of fifty-six white men approved intimidation and violence to stop black colonials from escaping captivity.

With little dispute… the philosophical concerns and differences between white Southerners and white Northerners within British North America were quickly placed aside, and the cohort of fifty-six men stood “shoulder to shoulder” with American slaveholders, who they knew were criminally enslaving legally free black British citizens in violation of the English rule of law… these white Northerners  held in confidence the fact that colonial hereditary slave statutes were never legally promulgated… were voided by the Declaratory Act in 1766 and were ruled unlawful by way of the Somerset decision and yet, they by a majority vote did agree to remove Jefferson’s criticism of colonial slavery and slave practice from the Declaration of Independence.

The delegates from the colony of Virginia owed their financial security to slavery, and they became leaders of the First Continental Congress. Their pro-slavery, racist views and interests defined and sculpted America’s resulting public reasoning for opposition to the British imperial government and ultimately, these views and interests were codified in the U.S. Constitution.

In the book Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution, scholars Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen observes that while white Northerners professed to hold enmity towards colonial slave practices on moral grounds, all capitulated to proslavery interests for the sake of unity during the Revolutionary War era. These white Englishmen living in Northern colonies did so because they collectively benefitted from the exploitation of black English citizens, as it financed the rebellion. Then slavery had transcendent importance for America’s emerging economy.

However, the coming together of the Founding Generation created an uneasy alliance of divergent ideologues. As Edmund S. Morgan, in his book American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, observed, “[T]he men who came together to found the independent United States, dedicated to freedom and equality, either held slaves or were willing to join hands with those who did… None of them felt entirely comfortable about the fact, but neither did they feel responsible for it. Most of them had inherited both their slaves and their attachment to freedom from an earlier generation, and they knew the two were not unconnected.”

White Northern delegates who supported the emancipation legislation of Massachusetts’ General Court in 1773 and 1774 because of the Somerset decision and protested vetoes of this emancipation legislation by two successive Massachusetts’ governors before the American Revolution knew to a legal certainty that colonial-born blacks—who constituted 90 to 95 percent of the overall slave population were English citizens by birth. And yet these white Northerners supported white Southerners’ baseless legal claim that black colonials were human property based upon “colonial statutes,” and thus excluded from the Declaration of Independence.

Furthermore, these Northerners demurred in raising and advocating for respecting the inalienable rights of black colonials based upon the English rule of law during the American Revolution. None advocated that their former English countrymen be granted the due process of law, in accordance with the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783. And then white Northerners, now white Americans, facilitated and aided in enslaving and exploiting 500,000 black British citizens.

These white Northerners said nothing—fearing the real possibility of disunification of the United States, and then white Northerners, by a majority vote, allowed slavery to be codified in the U. S. Constitution, fully apprised that “colonial (slave) statutes” and racialized laws were never lawfully promulgated—were abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and were solemnly declared unlawful by way of the Somerset decision in 1772.

Despite, and yet again—maybe it was because of Adams’s constant reminders to the delegates of the Continental Congress throughout the revolutionary war that…“Facts are stubborn things; whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,” is what best explains his cohort’s attempt to do just that—change the facts and evidence as to why a significant segment of colonial America separated themselves from the British and conceal the actual legal status of black colonials on July 4, 1776.

Professor Harris then conflates colonial slave practices within the American colonies with the more brutal Caribbean slave practices of the British—where the enslaved were primarily African natives to conclude that the Somerset decision “had no impact,” but this is a false equivalence. As an initial matter—it is essential to understand that the legal status of enslaved people in the North American Colonies and the Caribbean Colonies were legally distinguishable by material facts.

Firstly, the British Parliament had parliamentary sovereignty through the English Bill of Rights of 1689, and its Declaratory Act of 1766 had legally voided colonial slave statutes and racialized laws within the American colonies “for all purposes whatsoever.” All black people enslaved in the colonies in North America were suffering under colonial tyranny since colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were voided in 1766 and thus, in June 1772—slavery within America’s colonies was not authorized by any type of “positive law,” when the Somerset decision issued.

Secondly, unlike the British Caribbean colonies most enslaved people in colonial America were colonial-born English citizens suffering under colonial tyranny by their white countrymen. Colonial assemblies in the American colonies never legally changed the common law and the English law of partus sequitur patrem. Moreover, then Parliament abolished the racialized statutes and laws of partus sequitur ventrem within the American colonies in 1766, and thus, black colonials were presumptive English citizens when the Somerset decision issued in June 1772 because they were mostly born within the British colonies.

Thirdly, Charles Stewart based his ownership of James Somerset upon North American colonial slave statutes and laws. The Twelve Judges—Great Britain’s highest tribunal rejected Stewart’s ownership claim, declaring American colonial slave statutes and laws were legally inadequate to sustain a claim of ownership of a human person within the Kingdom. Furthermore, England’s highest tribunal ruled slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom,” and slavery within the Kingdom could only be lawfully accomplished through a “positive law,” a legislative power that colonial assemblies never possessed. Thus, among other things, as there is a concession by Professor Harris that Somerset “ended slavery in England and Wales,” the same must be, and was true for the British colonies in North America.

Lastly, the Somerset case involved “American Laws” and a black colonial named James Somerset who was suffering under the presumptive legality of colonial Virginia’s slave statutes and racialized laws, and it was after the historic ruling—the British imperial government prevailed upon their colonial governors to not enforce the Somerset decision within the American colonies fearing destabilization, social chaos, and outright rebellion within the southern American colonies.

Further, it is significant on this point that the colony of Massachusetts legislative assembly passed legislation emancipating the enslaved Massachusetts colonials based upon the Somerset decision—but all emancipation legislation was vetoed by successive Massachusetts governors before America’s Revolution started in 1775.

Thomas Jefferson complained that the British imperial government “by one Act they have suspended powers of American legislature and by another have declared they may legislate for us themselves in all cases whatsoever. These two acts alone form a basis broad enough whereon to erect a despotism of unlimited extent.” Jefferson was lamenting about the Declaratory Act of 1766.

Further, in light of the British Parliament exercising parliamentary sovereignty and voiding colonial slave statutes and racialized laws in 1766—the Somerset decision striking down “American Laws” throughout the Kingdom and affirming parliamentary sovereignty in 1772—the delegates to the Continental Congress decision to remove Jefferson’s overt criticisms of slavery and the slave trade in the Declaration…   thus, it is counter-intuitive and unsupportable that U.S. historians continue to argue—slavery faced no immediate threat from the British imperial government—had no role and was an irrelevancy to the Founding Generation with respect to declaring these American colonies independent of the British imperial government and King George III on July 4, 1776.

According to historian David Armitage, the Declaration of Independence was a legal instrument influenced by Emerich de Vattel’s The Laws of Nation, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs Nations, a work of political philosophy and international relations. Declaring America independent was a necessary first step before the founding of our nation and as black colonials were presumptive parties-in-interest due to their British citizenship or living within the American colonies, their respective rights, status, and obligations under the Declaration must be analyzed and determined by the English rule of law on July 4, 1776, yet this did not and have never occurred.

Further, without regard to which party has the burden of proof, the deductive argument establishing black colonials’ party-in-interest status, as Dr. Stewart explains…” In the beginning, way back in 1619, the first nineteen Africans arriving on the shores of Virginia were understood to have had the status of indentured servants in accordance with English common law. In short, they possessed the same “rights of Englishmen” as all other Virginians. For this reason, the subsequent “legalization” of slavery by colonial legislatures was anything but that. Instead, as English common law decreed, those enslaved by white colonists throughout the 17th and 18th centuries actually retained their rights as citizens even as “chattel property.” With respect to English legal precedent, they were, by common law definition, as free as those who bought and sold them.”

The fact that the first nineteen Africans in 1619 were indentured servants—not slaves was not by luck. Instead, slavery within colonial America was a prohibited practice under the Divine Right of Kings, England’s Magna Carta of 1215, and the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381.  But during the late 1650s… colonial assemblymen began criminally conspiring with colonial governors to place black colonials below the rule of English law with hereditary slavery, despite being British citizens by birth. The conspirators were successful in their criminal scheme, causing racial repression and colonial tyranny.

However, colonial slave statutes and their hereditary laws required the formal approval of England’s monarch under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541—and were not lawfully promulgated since the colonial assemblies did not secure the formal approval of England’s King under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, as well as required by each colonial charter. Moreover, as the original colonial legislators, in failing to secure the King’s formal approval, had committed a serious crime in violation of the Sedition Act of 1661, these colonial slave statutes and laws were legal nullities and could never become “positive law” under the English rule of law.  

Then the English Bill of Rights was signed into law in 1689 by King William III and Queen Mary II, who became co-rulers in England after the overthrow of King James II. The bill outlined specific constitutional and civil rights and ultimately gave Parliament power over the monarchy. The conferring of parliamentary sovereignty by way of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 abolished colonial Legislatures by operation of English law. However, the practice of hereditary slavery within colonial America and the extralegal practice of colonial slavery was assisted by colonial America’s distance from England, slavery’s profitability to the Kingdom and the New York Slave Revolt of 1712 which caused colonial assemblies to restrict the importation of Africans into colonial America while encouraging domestic slave practices.

Subsequently, in 1763 when the new Prime Minister George Grenville came into office the British imperial government ended salutary neglect, an informal policy of the British government from the early to mid-18th century regarding its North American colonies under which trade regulations for the colonies were laxly enforced, and imperial supervision of internal colonial affairs was loose as long as the colonies remained loyal to the British government.

Most notably, Grenville advocated for Parliament to enact laws requiring that the American colonists pay for the increased number of British troops through a series of taxes that included the Stamp Act in 1765. However, the colony of Massachusetts formed the Sons of Liberty in the summer of 1765 to oppose the act… claiming their rights as Englishmen to be taxed only by their consent through their representative assemblies, as had been the practice for a century and a half.

Parliament repealed the Stamp Act and concurrently enacted the American Colonies Act 1766, commonly referred to as the Declaratory Act of 1766 that addressed colonial government corruption, graft, and the exploitation of colonial-born blacks and captured Africans brought to the North American colonies.

The Declaratory Act of 1766 voided colonial statutes and racialized colonial laws “for all purposes whatsoever” and the Americans did not protest the abolishment of its inconsistent and repugnant colonial statutes and racialized laws as these English people in the American colonies knew and conceded to Parliament’s legislative power and authority.

The Twelve Judges in the Somerset case determined slavery could only be a lawful condition in the Kingdom of Great Britain by “positive law,” a legislative power that the colonial assemblies in North America never possessed. Thus, it is counterintuitive and outside a sane construction of a deductive argument to conclude slavery was not a large part of America’s Revolution, as white colonials were unlawfully exploiting black colonials before the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, continued to do so during America’s Revolution and ultimately the Founding Generation codified their unlawful enslavement in the U. S. Constitution in the late 1780s.

Colonial statutes could not justify the enslavement and exploitation of 500,000 British citizens after the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783 was ratified, yet it did, and it is America’s public policy. Historians and others must reexamine the question of preserving slavery and whether the preservation of slavery in North America was a significant reason for the American Revolution.

The Somerset decision in 1772 was the final “nail in the coffin” for colonial slavery as England’s highest court ruled slavery within the Kingdom was unconstitutional. Slavery in the Kingdom could only be authorized by “positive law,” and it was a legislative power held exclusively by the British Parliament. Such being the case, and as there is no historical record supporting the legal conclusion that colonial slave statutes were proven to be a “positive law,” in any of the North American colonies when the English people in the American colonies declared themselves an independent nation of people by way of the Declaration of Independence in 1776… the disapproving historians who claims it to be “matters of verifiable fact” must meet the burden of persuasion, and proof, under the rule of English law.

America’s Public Policy Is Ahistorical

Slavery in the United States has a criminal origin, and it is the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The “fruit of the poisonous tree” is a metaphorical expression whose origin is Anglo-American common law. The metaphor stands for the legal proposition that if the source of evidence (the tree) is corrupted or tainted, anything deriving from it (the fruit) will bear the same flaw. This applies to U. S. slavery (the fruit) since colonial slavery (the tree) was a criminal enterprise based upon colonial government corruption, graft, and colonial tyranny. Doubtlessly, U. S. slavery bears the same flaws as colonial slavery, and it could not have been lawfully inherited from British colonial rule based upon “colonial statutes” since the British imperial government abolished all “colonial statutes” ten years before the Declaration of Independence.

Yet U. S. slavery being a legal institution during British colonial rule is America’s public policy and serves as basic U. S. history, even though colonial slave statutes and racialized laws supporting slavery during colonial rule were not lawfully promulgated and were abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever.” Further, colonial slave statutes were repudiated by the British highest court, the Court of the King’s Bench in the James Somerset v. Charles Stewart case which declared slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom,” and that slavery in the Kingdom could only be legal by a “positive law,” which meant a statute, or a law enacted by England’s Parliament in 1772. This was four years before Parliament’s Declaration of Independence. Nonetheless, America’s Second Congress claimed black colonials were excluded from the Declaration because they were slaves.

America’s most reverberating tremor was felt when General George Washington declared this provocative truth, professing ownership of 500,000 black British citizens on behalf of white Americans in May 1783 in a meeting with British General Guy Carleton. Washington advocated for the surrender, retention, and continued enslavement of black colonials here in America based upon “colonial statutes.” Carleton was not persuaded. Washington’s claim and professed basis for enslaving and exploiting black Englishmen based upon “colonial statutes” shaped America’s public policy and U. S. constitutionalism. There are enumerable legal reasons why Washington’s claim to Carleton and the resulting enslavement and exploitation of 500,000 black Englishmen was legally unsupportable, and without factual merit.

As an initial matter and destructive to America’s public policy; (1) that slavery under the British rule of law was a legal institution; (2) the veracity of Washington’s colonial statute ownership claim and (3) the lawfulness of America’s enslavement of 500,000 black Englishmen is the fact that colonial slave statutes and laws were never lawfully promulgated.

Under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541 and each colonial charter, formal approval of the sovereign was required to lawfully pass legislation within the Kingdom. Colonial assemblies failed to secure the King’s formal approval upon its colonial slave statutes and laws. Further, colonial assemblies purporting to enact slave statutes and hereditary slave laws, without securing the King’s formal approval committed a treasonous offense under the Sedition Act of 1661. Thus, colonial slave statutes and laws were legal nullities and were never lawful, least of all, were not “positive laws.”

In No Property in Man (2018), historian Sean Wilentz struggled and failed to capture the centrality of slavery and racism to the nation’s founding era. That older style of American historian… whose renditions are painfully devoid of dissenting voices or perspectives that  downplays race, such things like the degree to which many Northern delegates to the Second Congress supported slavery throughout America’s revolution, or how the English rule of law is blatantly ignored when it reveals white colonials in an unfavorable light, as they conscientiously, pretend to misapprehend the illegality of colonial slave statutes… the powerlessness of colonial assemblies after England’s Bill of Rights of 1689 and that of colonial statutes after Parliament abolished them in 1766, constitutes the same genre of history taught in U. S. public schools as being this nation’s actual history, when in fact it is ahistorical.

Their revisionist, sculpted rendition of history became America’s public policies and were represented in the codification of the U. S. Constitution and America’s race-based policies and relations. However, the Declaratory Act of 1766 abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever” and the Court of the King’s Bench struck down “American Laws” regarding slavery six years later in the Somerset v. Stewart case in June 1772. This was three years before the American Revolution started and was the “final nail” in colonial slavery’s coffin and U. S. history books should reflect this reality and the fact that black colonials could not be excluded from the Declaration of Independence.

Dr. James Brewer Stewart, Founder of Historians Against Slavery, a group of scholars that brings historical context and scholarship to the modern-day antislavery movement and a James Wallace Professor of History Emeritus, Macalester College, states in the forward of Hidden in a Book — $40 Trillion—Keep the Mule written by Larry Kenneth Alexander… “How would our view of reparations, restitution, restorative justice (or whatever other term one might prefer) be affected if history confirmed that slavery in England’s colonies had been declared illegal… well before the American Revolution? What if, before the founding of our Nation, everyone held in bondage had actually been confirmed by Great Britain’s highest court to possess the full rights of English citizenship? In our view, that’s exactly what happened.”

Based upon Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence and England’s common law adopted by America’s Second Congress after proclaiming itself an independent nation in July 1776 and over Thomas Jefferson’s objections there is insuperable and dispositive evidence supporting our exposition that before the Revolution slavery in England’s American colonies was declared illegal. Although colonial statutes were never legally promulgated, abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and struck down by the Somerset Decision in 1772… the burden of proof and persuasion rested with America’s cohort of fifty-six signatories to the Declaration of Independence and all historians and others who adopted the claim that black colonials were “human property” during colonial times… and that the institution of slavery was lawfully inherited from the British.

Further, colonial assemblymen criminally conspired with the colonial governor to place black colonials below the rule of English law and were successful in their scheme, causing colonial tyranny. Then finally, the British imperial government ended salutary neglect and addressed the colonial tyranny by enacting Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 which abolished colonial statutes and racialized colonial laws “for all purposes whatsoever” nine years before the American Revolution. Moreover, in June 1772… the Court of the King’s Bench in the James Somerset v. Charles Stewart case ruled slavery was unconstitutional, not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom” and determined that slavery could only be lawful in the Kingdom of Great Britain by “positive law,” a legislative power which British colonial assemblies never possessed. Thus, it is counterintuitive and outside a sane construction of the English rule of law to conclude slavery was lawfully inherited from the British, and those colonial statutes justified the enslavement and exploitation of 500,000 British citizens after the American Revolution.

Myths have been substituted for historical facts, as all are taught at a young age that slavery during British colonial rule was a legal institution, however, this is ahistorical as slavery in colonial America was never a legal institution during British colonial rule and after the American Revolution, this nation did not lawfully inherit the institution of slavery from the British.

Hidden in this myth is the fact that the Founding Generation merely proclaimed that black colonials and Native Americans, and women were “excluded” from benefiting from the Declaration of Independence and went no further. This was legally inadequate to effectuate a lawful exclusion since most black colonials were English citizens by English law. Thus, as the Founding Generation’s proclamation of exclusion was legally inadequate to effectuate a lawful exclusion, those who embraced and adopted the exclusion claim had the legal burden of proving black colonials were indeed excluded from benefitting from the Declaration of Independence.

Under the English rule of law… Rex v. Stapylton (K. B. 1771) was controlling precedence at the time… and slaveholding colonials had the burden of persuasion to convince the Second Congress as to the specific standard, such as the preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt, and then sustain their burden of proof of ownership and the exclusion of black colonials from the Declaration of Independence by producing evidence. The burden is vested with the Founding Generation or the person who makes or adopts the claim. It was no one else’s legal obligation to disprove.

In Stapylton, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield presided, Robert Stapylton was charged after attempting to deport his purported slave, Thomas Lewis forcibly. Stapylton’s defense rested on the basis that as Lewis was his slave, his actions were lawful. Lord Mansfield had the opportunity to use a legal procedure in criminal cases referred to as the Twelve Judges to determine points of law, which were not for the jury, in criminal matters. However, he shied away from doing so and sought (unsuccessfully) to dissuade the parties from using the presumed legality of slavery, telling Stapylton that “being black will not prove the property.”

In the end, Mansfield directed the jury that they should presume Lewis a free man, unless Stapylton could prove otherwise. He further directed the jury that unless they found that Stapylton was the legal owner of Lewis, “you will find the Defendant guilty.” Lewis testified, and the jury convicted Stapylton.

Further, after the Revolution ended, the Founding Generation proclaimed black colonials were human property based upon “colonial statutes” and thus were not entitled to be “set at liberty” under the Treaty of Definitive Peace in 1783. However, these claims impacted presumptive British citizens, and as British General Carleton had claimed them as being protected by the terms of the treaty, then under the British Magna Carta of 1215, clause 39 and Nation of Laws (international law) the 500,000 black colonials were entitled to a due process of law hearing. The United States did not give these British citizens a due process hearing and they were exploited as being slaves all their natural lives and their children. Under Stapylton the status of being human property owned by the Americans had to be proven and it was not.

Colonial data points impacting the question of colonial statutes and slavery’s legality before the American Revolution… the Divine Right of Kings; England’s Magna Carta of 1215; the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381; the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541; the Sedition Act of 1661; the English Bill of Rights of 1689; Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766, and the Court of the King’s Bench rulings in Rex v. Stapylton (K. B. 1771) and the James Somerset v. Charles Stewart case in 1772 that declared slavery was not “allowed and authorized by the laws of this Kingdom” and can only be authorized by a “positive law,” a law enacted by the British Parliament is both compelling and dispositive.

These data points and others eviscerate the historical claims that black colonials who were British citizens by English law were “human property” during colonial times and were legally excluded from the Declaration of Independence. They were not “human property” owned by white colonial Englishmen under the rule of English law during colonial rule. Instead, and even if that was so, they were still entitled to be “set at liberty” after the British General Carleton placed the United States on notice of this treaty dispute, and Congress ratified the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783.

Under the rule of English law and Nation of Laws (international law) as colonial slave statutes were never lawfully promulgated… abolished by the Declaratory Act of 1766 and then the British imperial government freed all black colonials by way of the Phillipsburg Proclamation in June 1779 freedom was all but guaranteed. Thus, the United States did not have a facially valid basis for denying liberty for the 500,000 Englishmen, as the colonial statutes were legal nullities. This fact and exposition expose the critical structural fault line that meanders throughout America’s historiography.

The exposition that colonial slave statutes had been declared illegal… well before the American Revolution has astounding implications for U. S. constitutionalism and society. On the positive side… it will cause people to ask why they have never been taught such things previously, and it will prompt them to reexamine America’s history, their perspectives and understanding of race, white privilege, and American exceptionalism. Further, it just might motivate a thought leader, policymakers, and others who have relied upon this heretofore discredited claim that black colonials were legally enslaved people during British colonial rule based upon colonial statutes and thereby excluded from the Declaration of Independenceto research such topics as the Declaratory Act of 1766, Washington’s Book of Negroesof 1783, and institutionalized racism in America or to just have a dialog.

This thoughtful, well-researched, and legally supported exposition that provides a counter to America’s foundational public policies regarding black slavery, deserves due consideration by academics, policy leaders, thought leaders, and others… and yet the conflation of the award-winning 1619 Project with the academic-based critical race theory debate is weaponized to serve as an artifice, conferring people with the “privilege” of discrediting, deflecting, and demonizing worthy race-based thesis and commentary without thought or academic engagement. All freethinkers, open communicators, and people interested in serving this democracy should be concerned since the legacy of colonial slavery, unjust treatment under the rule of law, and racial disparity continues and are America’s most durable exports.

Banning the Teaching of Critical Race Theory

Many are gaslighting the 1619 Project, while others like former President Donald Trump have conflated the 1619 Project with critical race theory, declaring both were “toxic propaganda, ideological poison, that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together, will destroy our country.” The 1619 Project is a worthwhile commentary… but critical race theory (CRT) must not be conflated with journalism, as critical race theory is an academic concept that entreats the rigors of academic scholarship, intellectualism, and engagement that posits… race is a social construct. That racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice but also something embedded in our legal systems and public policies.

There is a nationwide initiative of conservative, local, and state government officials trying to pass laws banning the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools. Laws that prevent, inhibit, and shape perspectives of black children and others from even contemplating the notion that race is a social construct. They reinforce an ahistorical, inaccurate, and misleading account of this nation’s history that depicts slavery in British colonial America as a legal institution… that black colonials were “human property” lawfully owned by white colonials during colonial times and black colonials were lesser Englishmen under the English rule of law when in fact, they were crime victims and subjected to criminal behavior that violated the English rule of law.

These types of local and state laws, while they continue to teach revisionist U. S. history are violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U. S. Supreme Court in West Virginia v. Barnette (1943) ruled “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Critical race theory is a field of intellectual inquiry that seeks to know, articulate, and explain why racism in the United States has shaped public policy. Through the study of law and U. S. history, critical race theory attempts to reveal how racial oppression shaped the legal fabric of the United States and became codified into America’s foundational documents. For evidence of that, all too many “look no further” than the “Three-Fifths Compromise” in the U. S. Constitution, whereby enslaved black colonials, denied the due process of the law and the right to vote, were nonetheless treated as part of the population for increasing congressional representation of slave-holding states. But this is just the “tip of the iceberg,” instead… conscientious historians, thought leaders, policymakers, and others should look to which party had the burden of proving slavery in British colonial America was a legal institution… that black colonials were lawfully owned by white colonials during colonial times and black colonials were lesser Englishmen and identify what English laws, if anything, demoted the legal status, rights, and rank of black colonials, that had the consequence of elevating white colonials above their black countrymen before the Declaration of Independence. This is the first principle… begin at the beginning and apply the rule of English law that placed the responsibility of proving this ahistorical claim upon the party who made and benefitted from it: America’s Founding Generation.

History supports… no slave statute was ever enacted that codified slavery in the Kingdom of Great Britain during colonial rule.  The colonial Legislatures were bicameral, and while colonial assemblies in America had laws to define slave status, they were all legal nullities since none had the King’s formal approval, which violated the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541. Parliament’s Sedition Act of 1661 criminalized the putative enactment of legislation without the King’s formal approval.

In 1689, the English Bill of Rights changed the British monarchy into a constitutional monarchy and announced the legislative supremacy of Parliament. Then the British imperial government abolished all colonial slave statutes and racialized laws in colonial America through the Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever.” In the Somerset case, the Court of the King’s Bench ruled slavery in the Kingdom was unconstitutional and could only be lawful by way of a “positive law,” a power vested solely in the British Parliament in 1772. Thus, the historical claim that black colonials were legal slaves before the American Revolution and excluded from the Declaration of Independence can never be proven with insuperable evidence.

Laws banning teaching CRT create a “hostile educational environment” for descendants of black English citizens and others who are descendants of enslaved people. These laws are violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Colonial slavery was an extralegal institution and was the product of colonial tyranny, corruption of colonial government and hooliganism. Doubtlessly… slavery at birth and laws authorizing slavery were enacted by colonial assemblies without the King’s formal approval in December 1661 and were not lawfully promulgated statutes and laws under colonial charters. These colonial slave statutes and laws violated the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, and as Parliament’s Sedition Act of 1661 had already criminalized such behavior… under English law, these slave statutes and laws were legal nullities.

Local and state laws banning teaching critical race theory perpetuates and allow to stand unchallenged the racist idea that hereditary slavery for black colonials within colonial America was authorized by English law when that is not the case. Further, the British imperial government abolished all colonial slave statutes and laws by way of the Declaratory Act of 1766, which aggressively undermines the claim that black colonials were legally enslaved people in the United States based upon “colonial statutes” when America declared itself a new nation by way of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Thus, such laws banning teaching critical race theory have the effect of teaching black children that they are less-than white children because of their skin color, which violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as these local and state laws constitute de jure discrimination, no different than the local and state Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation in the post-Civil War South.

The Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, announced to the world the separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain and the establishment of the United States of America. It explained the causes of this defiant maneuver with a long list of charges against King George III. In justifying the American Revolution, it averred a universal truth about human rights in magnificent words that have inspired countless people through the ages and articulated the highest ideals of liberty, equality, and the right to self-determination. Yet the fifty-six signers of America’s founding document claimed 20 to 25 % of its 2.5 million population of English citizens with African ancestry was excluded. The “exclusion” from the Declaration of Independence claim was an allegation. It was not probative or at least was not conclusive evidence under the controlling precedence of Rex v. Stapylton (K. B. 1771) (“being black will not prove the property.”)

Further… an agreement to do something illegal is a conspiracy. In the English common law tradition, a conspirator is guilty of the crime conspired to… if there is an agreement to commit a crime and at least one overt act to further the crime. The historical claim of “exclusion” lodged against black colonials and put before the cohort of fifty-six signatories constitutes an agreement to prevent the inclusion of black colonials under the Declaration of Independence who were crime victims suffering under colonial tyranny before the American Revolution and in furtherance of that conspiracy… the nascent United States codified laws which denied legally free people liberty after the Revolution ended in 1783. Such conduct, as alleged, constitutes an overt act, and thus… it is only reasonable when considering, interrogating, or analyzing the issue of whether history confirmed that 500,000 black colonials were human property lawfully owned by the Americans based upon “colonial statutes” as Washington claimed… well before the American Revolution and also justifiably excluded from the ideals of liberty and equality… one must remember, the Second Congress and U. S. historians have never met their threshold obligation of proving that black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence by a preponderance of the evidence.

America’s Run-up to the Declaration of Independence

Slavery within colonial America was a prohibited practice under the Divine Right of Kings, England’s Magna Carta of 1215, and the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381. During the English Civil Wars beginning in the early 1640s, and in violation of the English rule of law and their colonial charters… colonial assemblies began enacting slave statutes and racialized laws. The colonial slave statutes and their racialized laws were not lawfully promulgated since the colonial assemblies failed to secure the formal approval of England’s King under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, as well as required by each colonial charter and as the original colonial legislators, in failing to secure the King’s formal approval had committed a crime in violation of the Sedition Act of 1661 it made these colonial slave statutes and laws legal nullities under the English rule of law.  

Three generations before America’s Declaration of Independence… the Kingdom of Great Britain became a unitary state with the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The Bill of Rights replaced the unbridled power of the Crown with parliamentary sovereignty. The textbook analysis of the British imperial state and the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty is explained in A. V. Dicey’s book… Introduction to the Law of the Constitution 1885: “Unitarianism, in short, means the concentration of the strength of the State in the hands of one visible sovereign power, be that Parliament or Czar.” The British Parliament was conferred this visible sovereign power.

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 had the legal effect and consequence of abolishing the colonial Legislatures within America, as a matter of English law. Then by way of consolidating its visible power and authority… the British Parliament voided all inconsistent and repugnant colonial statutes and laws with the Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever.” The British imperial government’s exercise of parliamentary sovereignty in 1766 destroyed the claim or legal defense that colonial slavemasters were operating within the contours of colonial laws, even if the King had previously approved the practice of hereditary slavery.

Thus, when the Court of the King’s Bench in the Somerset v. Stewart case ruled in 1772 that “slavery was not allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom” of Great Britain and that slavery can only be made lawful by a “positive law,” it was an unadulterated expression of British imperial power and control directed at the American colonies. None of the colonial assemblies in America had the legislative power and authority to enact “positive laws.” Only Parliament had the visible sovereign power to enact a “positive law” and yet it never did, and the British highest court struck down colonial slave statutes decreeing slavery was unconstitutional in the Kingdom.

The scholar Matthew Mason observed in North American Calm, West Indian Storm: The Constitutional Politics and Legacy of the Somerset Decision “that American slaveholders saw Somerset as “a fundamental denial of their property rights and their political control over their slaves within an increasingly hostile antislavery empire.” The British imperial government and American slaveholders knew the Somerset decision was the “last nail in the coffin” of colonial slavery. This conclusion is inescapable when the Somerset decision is bridged back to colonial slavery’s problematic and lawless origin during the mid-1600s through the creation of the unitary state and parliamentary sovereignty by way of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Declaratory Act of 1766 that abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever.” Further, colonial legislators failed to secure the King’s formal approval and committed a crime by purporting that such colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were promulgated laws, in violation of the Sedition Act of 1661.

Dr. Stewart observed… “This truth received powerful reaffirmation in the 1772 Somerset v. Stewart case when England’s highest court declared that slavery was ‘not allowed or approved by the laws of this Kingdom’ and could only be enacted through the application of ‘positive law.’ None of the colonial slave codes qualified as ‘positive law’ as they had not been officially approved by the British parliament, in which the King participated directly. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Stamp Act Crisis (1765-67) Parliament anticipated this point very directly when passing the Declaratory Act making it clear that it, with the King included, should ‘legislate over the colonies in all cases whatsoever.’”

The Somerset decision foreclosed all portended escapes since colonial slave statutes and laws were not lawfully promulgated… none had the King’s formal approval as the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541 required, and by each colonial charter, it made these colonial slave statutes and laws legal nullities under the English rule of law. Moreover, the British Parliament was conferred parliamentary sovereignty through the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The Parliament exercised that power through enacting the Declaratory Act of 1766, which abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever.” America’s slaveholders had nowhere to retreat on these points

The British imperial government extended an olive branch to the slaveholding Americans by delivering the Somerset decision orally, obliquely, and directing its colonial governors in America to disregard the precedential effect of the Somerset decision to prevent destabilizing the American colonies. And while patriots in the southern colonies were pleased by the British imperial government’s olive branch concerning not enforcing the Somerset decision in colonial America and the successive vetoes by Massachusetts governors of slave emancipation legislation by the Massachusetts assembly… they collectively believed Britain’s handling of the Somerset case foretold of a nefarious plot to deprive them of their wealth—wealth created from their criminal enslavement of colonial-born British citizens and they knew that such could be easily accomplished by merely arresting and criminally prosecuting them. Thus, slaveholding southerners were not settled on the question of colonial slavery’s future before America’s Revolution.

On June 11, 1776… the Second Congress appointed a “Committee of Five” to draft a declaration, consisting of delegates John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. The committee wanted Adams to write the document… but Adams persuaded them to choose Jefferson with his oversight.

To this point, Dr. Stewart observed… “[N]one was more sensitive to this situation than slaveholding Thomas Jefferson, whose indictment of the King as an emancipator of the enslaved was edited out of the Declaration of Independence at the last minute by zealously proslavery colleagues. After blaming the King (not himself and fellow slaveholders) for fastening black bondage upon the unwilling white colonists. Jefferson concluded by accusing the King of:

“…exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them; thus paying of former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

But the great problem that Jefferson faced and which many of his admirers ignore is that he was an irredeemable racist and could not imagine how black and white peoples could ever coexist as free citizens in one republic. There was, Jefferson argued in his Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIV, already too much foul history dividing these peoples. And worst still, Jefferson hypothesized, in proto-racist terms, that the differences between the peoples would also doom this relationship. He thought that black colonials should be freed… but colonized elsewhere.

Continuing, Dr. Stewart observed… “Along with its gross-deception, Jefferson’s indictment persuasively documents his fearful concerns over Somerset’s application on his own Virginia plantation. Though once dead in this beloved Monticello, Somerset had come into force in 1775 when its Governor Lord John Murray Dunmore issued a proclamation promising freedom to those enslaved who took up arms in opposition to the Patriot cause. As Dunmore saw it, all the colonists, not just the white ones held English citizenship, and the Patriots who now rejected it were nothing more than traitors while slaves who picked up arms were doing their duty as English citizens. In short, his view and Lord Mansfield’s Somerset decision lined up perfectly, English law made slavery illegal in the colonies.”

Worried General George Washington, in his capacity as both commander-in-chief of the patriots’ forces and a concerned enslaver, felt that it was necessary to crush Lord Dunmore’s initiative of recruiting black colonials or the momentum of slave defection and enlistment would be “like a snowball rolling down a hill.” Dunmore’s proclamation caused Washington to believe, as he stated in a letter to Colonel Henry Lee III in December 1775… that success in the rebellion would come to whatever side could arm “negroes” the fastest.

Further, a South Carolina delegate to the Second Congress wrote that Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation did more to sever ties between Britain and its colonies “than any other expedient which could possibly have been thought of” and Not the taxes and the tea, not the shots at Lexington and Concord, not the siege of Boston; rather, it was this act, Dunmore’s offer of freedom to slaves, that tipped the scales in favor of American independence” are the words of historian Jill Lepore in her book, These Truths: A History of the United States.

Instead, delegate James Madison of Virginia lamented that Dunmore’s initiative in November of 1775 was the kind of “tampering with the slaves” that he had most feared. “To say the truth,” he confided in a friend, “that is the only part in which this colony is vulnerable… we shall fall like Achilles by the hand of one that knows that secret,” and it was because of this shared secret that caused Dunmore to proclaim the liberation of black colonials, who were already English citizens by the rule of English law. And yet how many contemporary Americans have ever heard of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation that emancipated colonial slaves in November 1775… that slavery was an extralegal practice in colonial America during colonial times… that all colonial slave statutes and laws were abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and how slavery was ruled unconstitutional within the  Kingdom of Great Britain by the Court of the King’s Bench in the Somerset case in 1772… before America’s Declaration of Independence. This is not pure chance.

British citizenship for people born in colonial America was automatic and provided for in each colonial charter. Birthright citizenship was unalienable and a binding contract between England’s King and children born within the King’s sovereign realm… no Englishman could be born into slavery under the English rule of law. Known as jus soli…

Further, British citizenship was impervious to cancellation, alteration, or nullification by third parties under the English rule of law. Thus, it is an inaccurate depiction of British colonial times to conclude that black colonials suffered as slaves due to the rule of English law. Instead, they suffered as enslaved British citizens because of colonial tyranny, corruption of colonial government, and hooliganism. Thus, it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to teach in public schools that colonial blacks had no legal rights during British colonial rule based upon statutes enacted by colonial assemblies.

It is significant… the Declaration of Independence had twenty-eight enumerated grievances leveled against England’s King George III. Within the four corners of the Declaration, it verified that colonial assemblies had no actual power to pass a law that stripped a person born in colonial America of their British citizenship and could not legally enslave a colonial-born person. For example, the Founding Generation complained and opposed continued governance, indicting the King, stating… “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good,”… “For taking our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments” and “For suspending our own Legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in All cases whatsoever.” It is significant that the Founding Generation took the language “in all cases whatsoever directly from Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and complained in the Declaration that the British imperial government had abolished their “most valuable laws.”

Dr. Stewart continues… “Leaping ahead to the end of the Revolution, in 1783 and to the aftermath of the Treaty of Paris that confirmed British defeat, we find George Washington struggling to deny this truth during negotiations with British General Guy Carleton. Carleton insisted that black as well as white loyalists who had been captured by the Americans were in point of legal fact English citizens and always had been. They must therefore be fully included when the two exchange prisoners. Claiming that black loyalists had been declared by Colonial statute to be human property long before the Revolution, Washington refused, and the stalemate was broken only after the two negotiators had agreed that each should compile registries listing the captured black loyalists by name in American and English versions of what became known as The Book of Negroes. These listings, it was agreed, would serve as the basis for further negotiations that led to still further disagreements.”

British General Carleton announced his decision to remove all black colonials from the United States if they wanted to leave and articulated the British imperial government’s policy that all enslaved black colonials possessed the full rights of English citizenship by the English rule of law. Further, because of their British citizenship… black colonials were entitled to certificates of freedom… but knowing that the treaty was yet to be ratified by America’s Congress… Carleton adjourned the meeting, deciding that nothing could be settled with Washington.

Carleton ordered everyone under his command to “remain on duty until every man, woman, and child who want[ed] to leave the United States is safely moved to British soil.” However, through detention, coercion, and an elaborate dragnet erected by the Americans, a mass exodus of black colonials from the United States was thwarted and not realized. Dr. Stewart explains, “Though Carleton had capitulated, he did manage to secure the liberty for a fraction of the captured American black loyalists (3,000 or so). In his eyes, as English law required, they had reclaimed their citizenship. In the end for them, the Somerset Decision restored their ‘“rights as Englishmen,”’ which confirms once more that after 1772 enslavement within the colonies had been patently illegal.”

The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) was a world conflict involving the United States and Great Britain and France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The peace process brought the nascent United States into international law and diplomacy, playing against Earth’s largest and most established powers. A crucial provision in the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783, also known as the Treaty of Paris of 1783, named for the city in which it was negotiated and signed provided in Article 7… “There shall be a firm and perpetual Peace between his Britanic Majesty and the said States, and between the Subjects of the one and the Citizens of the other, wherefore all Hostilities both by Sea and Land shall henceforth cease. All prisoners on both Sides shall be set at Liberty…” and yet, the United States failed to honor this article of setting all British prisoners at liberty, which had and continues to have unresolved international implications.

History supports… all colonial blacks living in the British thirteen colonies in 1783 enslaved by Americans were indeed English prisoners, as the English rule of law prohibited slavery on British soil, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 conferred and guaranteed fundamental citizen’s rights, the Declaratory Act of 1766 abolished colonial slave statutes, and the Phillipsburg Proclamation of June 1779 emancipated all enslaved people and granted unconditional freedom to them during colonial rule. But Americans claimed these English citizens were not “prisoners” instead were human property, legally owned during colonial times based upon “colonial statutes.” This was a baseless claim since slavery was prohibited on British soil… slavery was never legally authorized. Colonial statutes authorizing slavery were legally defective as the King did not grant his permission to enacted slave statutes and racialized laws in colonial America and all colonial statutes were abolished by way of the Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever.”

The Wells Center’s exposition… black colonials possessed the full rights of English citizenship well before the American Revolution and no British citizen could be excluded from the grant of liberty and freedom announced in the Declaration of Independence is obvious when a conscientious student of U. S. history consider Thomas Jefferson’s proposed Roman Law bill before the Second Congress and the full-throated debate that led to its defeat and then the formal adoption of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, all after the Declaration was adopted July 1776.

In the end, Jefferson forever complained that in opposing his Roman Law bill, along with their edits of the Declaration… the Second Congress had “mangled” the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson felt that this young nation had foolishly tethered itself to Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence… England’s Magna Carta of 1215 requiring due process of law; the General Charter of Emancipation in 1381 prohibiting slavery on sovereign soil; the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541 that required the King’s permission to any statute or law in the Kingdom; the Sedition Act of 1661 criminalizing enacting statutes and laws without the King’s permission; the English Bill of Rights of 1689 granting fundamental rights to all citizens and Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766  that abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws “for all purposes whatsoever” nine years before the American Revolution. Jefferson knew that America’s adoption of English law made the claim that black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence an absurdity and a profane affront to the Declaration’s core principle of equality.

The Second Congress understood and factored in their irreconcilable aspects, claiming black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence before they adopted Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence and England’s common law. The Founding Generation understood that hereditary slavery was a criminal practice since colonial Legislatures were bicameral and colonial assemblies had by-passed the King and by so doing, failed to secure the King’s permission. Further, before adopting English jurisprudence, the Second Congress knew that those defective colonial slave statutes had been abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever,” ten years before America’s Declaration of Independence; yet did not care.

Furthermore, the Second Congress knew that when the British Court of the King’s Bench in the Somerset case struck down colonial slave statutes… ruling slavery was not “approved and authorized by the laws of this Kingdom” and could only be legal by the enactment of a “positive law,” a legislative power that vested solely with the British Parliament in 1772, it was the “final nail” in colonial slavery’s coffin. And undeniably, the Second Congress knew that any one of these facts destroyed the notion that these fifty-six white English citizens could legally exclude black English citizens from the Declaration of Independence. It was all too obvious, and such is why the fierce opposition and initiative of conservative local and state lawmakers to pass banning the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools is raging.

This notion was given powerful affirmation by the Heritage Foundation. This conservative policy organization has explicitly expressed… teaching critical race theory “is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based.” The Heritage Foundation’s view of the implications of teaching critical race theory is not too dramatic when one understands and consider that white colonials knew slavery was illegal… and could never prove black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence,” as the British Parliament abolished colonial statutes “for all purposes whatsoever” in 1766… well before the start of America’s Revolution.

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects the rights of black students in public school districts throughout the U. S. from receiving customized, inaccurate, or sculpted information and ideas proffered as actual history-based upon de jure discrimination. This protection most certainly applies in the context of state and local governments enacting laws that ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, as such laws banning critical race theories like the one set out herein have the effect of allowing a revisionist rendition of U. S. history to substitute for actual history and to stand unchallenged.

Further, public school educators who find value in using the 1619 Project in furtherance of teaching young people and other stakeholders have protection under the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which limits the authority of state and local government to take away any benefit or privilege, including employment at a public school, for an arbitrary reason. Thus, it is apparent that the conservative initiative to pass local and state laws banning the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools is nothing more than a stalking horse to test the mettle of liberal America or create for all times an orthodox U. S. historiography.

Without regard to its long-term purpose… this conservative initiative is designed to expose weaknesses, stratagems, and new emerging liberal thesis… such as slavery in England’s colonies had been declared illegal well before the American Revolution, or everyone held in bondage had actually been confirmed by Great Britain’s highest court to possess the full rights of English citizenship by 1776… and arguably, the Declaration of Independence is America’s sole foundational document, and it only expands to include other documents depending upon how one construes the word “founding.”

Some historians include as founding documents, the pre-colonial British Magna Carta of 1215 that guaranteed due process of law for all, then necessarily the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381 that prohibited slavery on British soil… and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 that established fundamental rights to all British citizens and conferred supreme legislative authority unto Parliament and of course, Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 that abolished all colonial statutes and suspended colonial assemblies.

Conversely, if “founding” means foundational for clarifying how we have come to understand our country, the list grows in a different direction, and it must include Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence and England’s common law adopted by the Second Congress. Some historians do or might include the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights, the U. S. Constitution, the Federalist/Anti-Federalist Papers, the Mayflower Compact, the Northwest Ordinances, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and even the “I Have a Dream” speech of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Doubtlessly, those undisclosed figures mobilizing conservative lawmakers to be stalking horses by bringing local and state laws banning the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools know what a first principle-based inquiry of the critical race theory and the 1619 Project will create once a revelatory thesis is asked and answered such as… “What if, before the founding of our Nation, everyone held in bondage had actually been confirmed by Great Britain’s highest court to possess the full rights of English citizenship?” if such a thesis like this is found academically unassailable, accurate, and historically sound.

Further, they know that compelling and insuperable evidence does exist to prove the thesis that colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were abolished in 1766 and that there was no legal basis to claim and support the exclusion of black colonials in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 or their enslavement and exploitation after the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution was ratified by the United States.

The Second Congress formally adopted Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence and English common law. After rejecting Jefferson’s bill to adopt Roman Law, black colonials were entitled to due process of the law. However, as they knew to a legal certainty that they could not prevail legally as the colonial slave statutes and racialized laws were abolished by Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever” ten years earlier, they ignored the rule of law. The audacious acts of claiming that black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence in 1776,  refusing to grant black colonials their freedom under the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783 based upon “colonial statutes,” and then codifying the enslavement and exploitation of British citizens in the U. S. Constitution came to shape the political and legal fabric of the United States.

Slavery was an illegal practice on British soil, and colonial slave statutes were never legal since the colonial legislatures were bicameral and colonial assemblies failed, ignored or were unable to secure the permission of England’s King regarding colonial slave laws before the British Parliament was conferred parliamentary supremacy over the Kingdom by way of the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Additionally, Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 legislatively abolished all colonial slave statutes ten years before the Declaration of Independence, and as the Somerset decision ruled slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom” four years… before the Declaration of Independence… the dispositive thesis is revealed…  before the founding of our Nation, everyone held in bondage had actually been confirmed by Great Britain’s highest court to possess the full rights of English citizenship and racism in colonial America did shape the public policy, as it caused black Englishmen to be excluded from the Declaration of Independence which is America’s foundational document. Later the U. S. Constitution codified the enslavement of more than 500,000 black British citizens without affording them the due process of law.

These 500,000 black Englishmen were entitled to due process after the Revolution ended, according to the English criminal assault case of Rex v. Stapylton (K.B. 1771), where a white defendant proffered a slave ownership defense. In this case, Robert Stapylton had attempted to send his alleged slave, Thomas Lewis, back to the colonies. The jury concluded that there was no evidence that Stapylton had property in Lewis. Still, during the trial, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield stated that Stapylton’s defense was problematic under the English rule of law and had nudged the defendant to settle with the black victim, explaining the exacting standard of proof facing the defendant… “being black will not prove the property.” However, Stapylton was unpersuaded, the trial proceeded, and he was found guilty of the crime of assault.

Furthermore, Stapylton was controlling precedent for resolving the question of whether black colonials were English citizens covered by the Declaration of Independence and the treaty dispute by and between British General Guy Carleton and General George Washington… whether black colonials were British citizens and entitled to be “set at liberty” per the Definitive Treaty of Peace 1783 has astounding implications for U. S. constitutionalism. The negotiations had resulted in a stalemate and an agreement between the two negotiators to keep separate registries called “Book of Negroes” in May 1783…  and to resolve the legal question in the future, did black colonials who suffered as slaves legally belong to Americans during British rule.

Doubtlessly, slavery was a criminal enterprise. The stubborn core facts are that the Founding Generation had the burden of proving their claim that black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence. Rex v. Stapylton (K. B. 1771) (“being black will not prove the property.”) British Parliament abolished slavery on its soil by a General Charter of Emancipation in 1381, and as Parliament abolished colonial slave statutes and racialized laws by the Declaratory Act of 1766, they could never sustain their burden of proof.

Conservatives know that the evidence proving racism shaped America’s public policy regarding the Declaration of Independence is compelling, probative, and insuperable. They fear that this irrefutable knowledge will be discovered and undermine U. S. constitutionalism and that it will have existential consequences upon America’s preeminence, the legacies of its slave holding heroes, politicians, and notions of American exceptionalism and our civil religion, and they want to prevent people from coming into that knowledge.

Early Colonial America

The colonies in British America did not have a separate and distinct constitution and judicial system from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Instead… by colonial charter… the American colonies were bound to the English rule of law, and slavery was a criminal act. The colony of Virginia remained bound by the colonial charter to adhere to the English rule of law at all times during British colonial rule.

History supports… although disembarking the Dutch privateer ship White Lion in chains in 1619, the first 19 or 20 kidnapped Africans arriving on Virginia’s shores at Point Comfort were indentured servants, not enslaved people, and this was not luck… instead, slavery on British soil was prohibited by the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381, which was never abolished and remained the English law of the land during colonial times.

Further, none of the colonial assemblies had the authority to enact a “positive law” to legalize slavery. Such power resided exclusively with the British Parliament. Purported colonial statutes and racialized laws, proceedings, and resolutions that enslaved kidnapped Africans and colonial-born people of African ancestry at birth placed people below the rule of English law and denied them due process of law, violated Parliament’s pre-colonial Magna Carta of 1215, clause 39, the General Charter of Emancipation in 1381, the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, the Sedition Act of 1661, and Parliament’s Habeas Corpus Act of 1679.

Dr. Stewart observed…”In the beginning, way back in 1619, the first nineteen Africans arriving on the shores of Virginia were understood to have had the status of indentured servants in accordance with English common law. In short, they possessed the same “rights of Englishmen” as all other Virginians. For this reason the subsequent “legalization” of slavery by colonial legislatures was anything but that. Instead, as English common law decreed, those enslaved by white colonists throughout the 17th and 18th centuries actually retained their rights as citizens even as “chattel property.” With respect to English legal precedent, they were, by common law definition, as free as those who bought and sold them.”

Fidelity to England’s Magna Carta of 1215, clause 39, the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381 prohibiting slavery on British soil and upholding its creed of being  “a nation of laws, not men” was why the captured Africans in 1619 joined the ranks of indentured servants with the one thousand others in British colonial America. However, and to be sure, indentured servitude was deadly and challenging work, and many people died before their terms were over. But indentured servitude was temporary, with a beginning and an end.

After indentured servitude ended, captured Africans, no different from other immigrants, became British citizens when they completed their term of indenture. They were then eligible for headrights for land in the new colony in the Chesapeake Bay region, where indentured servants were more common. If born in colonial America, their children were free-born English citizens under the English rule of law and each colonial charter. Everyone was subject to the rule of English law without any attending racial bias.

For example, Anthony Johnson was one of the first Africans to arrive in Virginia. After serving as an indentured servant until 1635, he became a British citizen and a significant property owner in Virginia. He owned two hundred and fifty acres of fertile land and held five indentured contracts by 1651. Johnson married an African named Isabelle. She gave birth to their son William in 1623 or 1624… and he was the first recorded Afro-Englishman born in the British colonies in America.

In 1652… “an unfortunate fire” caused “great losses” for Johnson. He applied to the colonial court for tax relief. Under Virginia’s 1645 Taxation Act… “All negro men and women and all other men from the age of 16 to 60 shall be tithable.” And without regard to Johnson’s African origin, the colonial court not only reduced his taxes, evidencing that Africans who became free had status and rights under English common law in early colonial America, but on February 28, 1652, it exempted Johnson’s wife, and his two daughters from paying taxes “during their natural lives.” The colonial court’s tax relief grant to Johnson’s family gave Johnson’s family members the same social status as white women, who were not taxed in Virginia.

Then in 1654, in a civil case entitled Anthony Johnson versus Robert Parker… Johnson prevailed in Virginia’s colonial court against a white colonial. This replevin case involved John Casor, a black indentured servant whose contract was owned by Johnson… but he complained that his indentured contract had expired seven years earlier and was being held illegally. Parker intervened on behalf of Casor and cajoled Johnson into freeing him since keeping an indentured servant beyond his termination date was considered a serious matter, and a person could be severely punished for such an offense, as it violated English law. However, Johnson, who was illiterate, was tricked… and he brought a lawsuit after discovering that Casor had signed a term of indenture to Parker, and he sought the return of Casor.

Initially, the court ruled in favor of Parker… but Johnson appealed, and in 1655, the colonial court reversed its ruling and found that Johnson still “owned” Casor under England’s common law. Parker was ordered to return Casor and pay court fees. In sustaining Johnson’s claim against Parker… the colonial court in Virginia established that black colonials and/or people born in Africa once becoming a free citizen could bring legal matters in colonial courts and receive a fair hearing during early colonial times.

Without much dispute, the captured African Johnson becoming a British citizen after indentured servitude, then a significant property owner in Virginia, who owned two-hundred and fifty acres of fertile land and held five indentured contracts by 1651; him securing tax relief in 1652 and the favorable disposition of his 1654 civil case against a white colonist to recover ownership of an indentured servant under contract are significant because they do establish a treatment and a socio status accorded to people of African ancestry who became English citizens after indentured servitude in early colonial America… whose treatment and status that was practically and theoretically incompatible with a system of racial repression.

The first court-reported case of slavery in the American colonies was the African named John Punch in the year 1640, whose punishment for the crime of escaping his indentured servant contract was a sentence of slavery for the remainder of his life. Punch and two white men… a Scotsman named James Gregory and a Dutchman named Victor stood trial in 1640 for the crime of running away. All three men were contracted to a Virginian named Hugh Gwyn, and each performed similar tasks. They felt so exploited, they were willing to take risks to pursue freedom and run away.

Though fleeing away from their master as a group… the punishment of the runaways differed, as the white men’s terms were only extended by four years, but “… the third being a Negro named John Punch” was sentenced to “serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life.” Edgar A. Toppin, in A Biographical History of Blacks Since 1528, writes: “Thus, the black man John Punch became a slave, unlike two white indentured servants who merely had to serve a longer-term.” England had abolished slavery by a general charter of emancipation in 1381, and England’s common law announced in Cartwright’s Case (1569), which held that a man must be freed, as “that England was too pure an air for a slave to breathe it” and Virginia’s colonial charter binding it to common law prohibiting slavery on English soil.

Punch’s sentence was unlawful, and this July 9, 1640 verdict gave rise to targeted repression of people of African ancestry within America’s courts. Thus, John Punch was “Negro Zero” regarding documented slavery and disparate treatment of blacks in colonial America.

The unique species of colonial tyranny called slavery spawned a culture of hooliganism, white supremacy within colonial America, and likewise, allowing white colonials to operate above English law… had a natural and foreseeable consequence of creating an American ethos that English law and traditional rules did not bind colonial Americans. This ethos was especially coveted when it came to them dealing with their extralegal slavery practices. Thus, after generations of salutary neglect by the British imperial government and despite the enactment of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 that conferred fundamental liberties unto all English citizens… colonial Americans were fully committed to a slavocracy by the time His Majesty’s King’s Bench rebuked slavery in the Kingdom by way of the Somerset decision in 1772.

What people do is not the standard for establishing what was lawful during colonial times. Instead… colonial America was a “nation of laws, not men,” and the standard for establishing what was lawful was promulgated laws, defined within legal and constitutional limits. Colonial slave statutes and laws never met that objective standard.

Further, the notion that slavery was a legal practice during colonial times, in the absence of promulgated laws evidence circular, flawed reasoning as promulgated laws define what is lawful. To conclude that an extralegal practice… based upon custom and tradition is what defines lawful is meritless. Yet, that has been America’s enduring defense of black slavery and black colonials being excluded from the Declaration of Independence and being reduced to slaves here in the United States after the ratification of the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783.

The English Civil Wars began in 1642… fighting that took place in the British Isles between supporters of the monarchy of King Charles I and his successor Charles II and opposing groups in each of the realms. The first was settled with Oliver Cromwell’s victory for Parliamentary forces at the 1645 Battle of Naseby. The second phase ended in December 1648 when Charles I was arrested, charged with treason, and then was beheaded in 1649. Then in 1651, the British monarchy was suspended until it was reinstated as a constitutional monarchy in 1661.

During the English civil war period… many Englishmen took advantage of the situation. For example, communities in England seized timber and other resources on the sequestered estates of Royalists, Catholics, the royal family’s estates, and the church hierarchy. While 3,000 miles away in the American colonies… the Americans took advantage of this period of civil unrest by creating a species of colonial tyranny… slavery.

Under Virginia’s colonial charter… no one was above or below the English rule of law. And looking back at early colonial times, one must be struck by what can only be called… the equality of oppression. Not the least among the things that framed this period of colonial history was that the British imperial government and its installed colonial governors saw little or no distinction between black and white colonials, whether indentured servants, colonists or its gentry planter class… all were held in equal contempt.

Further, the rule of English law throughout colonial America recognized British citizenship at birth under partus sequitur patrem. The father’s condition established the legal status of a person born in colonial America. This was the law in colonial America. It was reaffirmed in a 1656 case brought by Elizabeth Key, the first woman of African ancestry in the American colonies to sue for her freedom from slavery and win.

Key won her freedom and that of her infant son on July 21, 1656, in the colony of Virginia, and she based her case on the fact that she was born in the colony of Virginia… her father was an Englishmen, and that she was thereby an English citizen by law. However, the Key decision proved to be the impetus for Virginia’s legislative assembly endeavoring to change the descent law in Virginia… and they purported to do so using a corrupt criminal scheme that began when Virginia’s legislative assembly, the House of Burgesses, purported to legalize slavery in 1661, without securing the King’s permission. Then, the following year, in 1662, Virginia’s legislative assembly purported to enact a hereditary slave law called partus sequitur ventrem, commonly known as Virginia’s hereditary slave statute.

Virginia’s hereditary slave statute provided…

Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or free. Be it, therefore, enacted and declared by this present grand assembly that all children borne in this country shall be bond or free according to the condition of the mother.”

Virginia’s slave statute in 1661 and the hereditary slave statute the following year in 1662 were fatally defective because they did not have the King’s permission. They were not lawfully promulgated laws because they violated the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, Virginia’s colonial charter, and the Sedition Act of 1661 which criminalized a legislature’s mere imputation of having “a legislative power without the King.” Moreover, in the absence of the King’s permission… the slave statutes were legal nullities by operation of law, and Virginia’s colonial governor William Berkeley should have vetoed both slave statutes… but he was conveniently out of Virginia and in England when Virginia’s legislative assembly passed the slave laws. Still, when Berkeley returned to Virginia in December 1662… he failed to veto the defective colonial slave statutes. He did not prevent its enactment within the colony of Virginia since the criminal conspirators paid the Governor’s back salary.

Graft and corruption of colonial government facilitated colonial slavery. Due to the profitability of hereditary slavery… the practice thrived in the colony of Virginia and was copied by other British colonies. Virginia’s hereditary slave practice became endemic throughout British North America, and the ideology of white supremacy was integral to its growth. Before such time… no European regarded themselves as “white” but instead defined their race, ancestry, or ethnicity in terms of their nationality.

In 1761… fifteen years before the United States declared itself as a new nation with the Declaration, white colonials stretching from present-day Maine to Georgia proclaimed themselves loyal British citizens who celebrated the coronation of King George III. English citizens in colonial America were heirs to the 13th Century English Magna Carta of 1215, which established the principles that no one is above the law (not even the King) and that no one can take away certain rights and the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381 that prohibited slavery on British soil. So, in 1766, when Parliament abolished all colonial slave statutes and racialized laws through the Declaratory Act of 1766 “for all purposes whatsoever,” ten years before the emergence of the United States and as the colonial Americans conceded to the power and authority of Parliament to abolish colonial statutes and laws in 1776… this compressed and defined the period of colonial rule to scrutinize.

It is significant, and a dispositive fact that revisionist historians cannot substantiate that the Founding Generation met their burden of proving that black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence, nor have historians ever identified any legislation enacted by the British Parliament that rescinded the Declaratory Act of 1766 or otherwise reinstated colonial slave statutes and racialized laws between 1766 and 1776 and, in fact, the fifty-six patriots’ indictment of England’s King George III’s governance in the Declaration of Independence, grievance one specifically stated… “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good,” and grievance twenty-one stated displeasure “For taking our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments” constitutes dispositive proof.

Further, these listed grievances being affixed to the Declaration of Independence are especially significant as they establish the rebuttable presumption that the Second Congress knew colonial slavery had been abolished in 1766… and knew each colonial assembly lacked the power and authority to enact a colonial slave statute or a racialized law without the King’s permission since the colonial Legislature was bicameral before they declared the United States an independent nation on July 4, 1776.

The Founding Generation of fifty-six delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence had no lawful authority, absolute or imagined, to claim and never substantiated its position that black colonial Englishmen living in colonial America were excluded from the Declaration of Independence, America’s founding document. Thus, under the rule of English law, formally adopted by America’s Second Congress as our jurisprudence in July 1776…and as heirs to the 13th Century English Magna Carta of 1215, which established the principles that no one is above the law, not even the King and no one can be deprived of their liberty rights without due process of law… the Founding Generation had the burden of proving all-black Englishmen were excluded under the Declaration of Independence and once the Definitive Treaty of Peace 1783 was ratified on January 14, 1784… all 500,000 black English citizens should have been “set at liberty.” Rex v. Stapylton (K. B. 1771) (“being black will not prove the property.”)

Instead, the Founding Generation made black Englishmen the human property of former white colonials, now Americans, upon the bare claim that this nation of British citizens had been enslaved people under British rule based upon “colonial statutes.” They failed to confer unto them the due process of English law, and the unproven claim that black colonials were excluded under the Declaration of Independence became public policy. It shaped the legal fabric of the United States, and it was codified in the U. S. Constitution and subsequent laws.

Yet U. S. history is taught and popularly understood through the biographies of its great men, who are presented and canonized as either heroic or tragic figures in a global struggle for human freedom by historians. But, historian Andrew Burstein noted that a “biography is never a faithful record. It is a construction, a clandestine effort to refashion memory, to create a new tradition, or sanction yet another myth about what is past.” And just two generations ago, President John F. Kennedy observed “the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie; persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic; too often we hold to the clichés of our forebears… we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Further, in the book Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, Nancy Isenberg observed, “these were our founders, imperfect men in a less than perfect nation, grasping at opportunities. That they did good for their country is understood and worth our celebration; that they were also jealous, resentful, self-protective, and, covetous politicians should be no less a part of their collective biography. What separates history from myth is that history takes in the whole picture, whereas myth averts our eyes from the truth when it turns men into heroes and gods.” And none have our eyes been more averted way from than America’s slaveholding Founding Fathers from the southern colonies, such as the Virginians George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others.

Theodore W. Allen, in his seminal two-volume study The Invention of the White Race, posited that the American laboring class of white colonists within British North America showed little interest in “white identity” during the early 1760s and therefore could not see themselves as being superior to black colonials before England instituted the system of race-based privileges towards the end of the 17th century that post-dates hereditary slave statutes.

Allen explains how, in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676… the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation by Virginia’s legislative assembly that enacted racialized statutes, laws, and regulations against free black colonials. However, Virginia’s legislative assembly did not bother to obtain the King’s permission, as required by the rule of English law and Virginia’s colonial charter. Further, Allen observed that his research of Virginia’s colonial records did not reveal an official use of the word “white,” even as a token of social status before 1691. This was not a matter of semantics… he also found that the “white race” as we know it… was not, and could not, have been functioning in early Virginia.

Contributing to the rise of the “white race” was the fact that colonial society was based upon European values… caste system, mores, and traditions. Within this system and traditions… darker-skinned people were universally stigmatized as laborers and servants, as it was a characteristic of most who worked outside in the sun and the elements. And with a population explosion of black colonials due to the hereditary slavery scheme in colonial America… those biases and European stereotypes were seamlessly adopted to support an informal race-based caste hierarchy that became entrenched throughout colonial America’s social structures and institutions.

Hereditary slavery, enslaving colonial-born people of African ancestry at birth, was a criminal practice. From inception… colonial slavery was anathema to the English rule of law, and it created an ethos of hooliganism, white privilege, and colonial tyranny. The colonial assemblies during the 1660s failed to secure the English King’s permission upon their slave statutes. It violated the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, the colonial charters, and the Sedition Act of 1661. Further, by the end of the 1680s, England’s King could not give his permission to enact a “positive law” as the unbridled power of the Crown was changed to a constitutional monarchy. The legislative supremacy of Parliament was announced in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Thus, colonial assemblies within the American colonies were legislatively abolished in 1689.

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 was an act of Parliament that limited the power of the Crown and guaranteed certain rights to British citizens. The English Bill of Rights incorporated the growing conviction that although some people may inherit privileges, all British citizens enjoyed fundamental rights… in particular “liberty,” that could not be taken away, abolished, or interfered with even by the King. He, too, was also subject to and not above the law. Ex post facto legislation retroactively changed the legal consequences of actions committed before enacting the law, thus, all earlier hereditary slave statutes and laws were rendered legal nullities in 1689.

Then soon after, Parliament passed the English Bill of Rights of 1689 that declared fundamental, unalienable rights and liberties of all British citizens and conferred supreme legislative power to the British Parliament… the thought in colonial America became that the three distinct classes of blacks… free negroes (one that was recognized as being free)… enslaved colonial-born blacks (one that was a British citizen by birth) and captured Africans had to be conflated, as the notion of the existence of a distinct class of blacks called “free negroes,” recognized by the English rule of law was too great of a risk to their business interest and freedom.

Further, in 1702, Lord Chief Justice John Holt of England’s Court of the King’s Bench ruled in Smith v. Brown & Cooper… “As soon as a Negro comes to England, he is free; One may be a villain in England… but not a slave.” This judicial decision was binding throughout the Kingdom, including the American colonies.

The narrative that being black equals being a slave conflated the varied classification of blacks living in colonial America. Such being the case, the colonial elite and those who profited from slavery created the narrative that being black—equal to being an enslaved person, and none were protected by the English rule of law. They did so to protect their wealth, political power, and liberty since they knew being a slave, if born in colonial America, was a criminal condition and that the then newly enacted English Bill of Rights of 1689 inured benefits and legal rights unto colonial-born blacks. However… hereditary slavery continued to flourish due to corrupt colonial governors, graft, and hooliganism.

Poor white colonials were conferred “white privilege,” and they became the unofficial enforcement agency within colonial America.” They proved to be the perfect group for subverting the legal status of colonial-born blacks and other “free negroes.” Further, black colonials and Africans were defined in separate population groups, although they lived together throughout the 13 British colonies by the 18th century. But, the New York Slave Revolt of 1712, where 29 white lives were lost, caused the colonial assemblies to restrict Africans’ importation in favor of colonial-born blacks, who they saw as being less aggressive and more docile.

Yet, soon the colonies of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Maryland became exclusively reliant upon exploiting enslaved colonial-born blacks. The population of black Englishmen exceeded white colonials in some regions of the southern colonies by two to one. Thus, when the United States declared itself independent in July 1776… most black people living in colonial America were British citizens by the English rule of law. This accounted for the dramatic rise in the natural-born black population, as ninety percent of all so-called slaves were then colonially born by the summer of 1776.

Hereditary slavery was a criminal scheme. People of African ancestry born in colonial America were robbed of their British citizenship, humanity, and protected birthrights authorized by the English rule of law.  There was widespread colonial tyranny targeted at black colonials, which violated England’s Magna Carta of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689.

In 1766, the British imperial government exercised parliamentary sovereignty to restore law and order within colonial America by enacting the American Colonies Act of 1766, commonly referred to as Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766. The constitutional state of affairs within colonial America was recalibrated, as this Act of Parliament abolished all colonial statutes, laws, resolutions, votes, orders, proceedings, and regulations that denied or challenged ”the power and authority of the Parliament of Great Britain, to make laws and statutes” for the American colonies and restored colonial legislative affairs to status quo ante according to each colonial charter, and it effectively dissolved all colonial assemblies within colonial America.

The legislative actions of the British Parliament under parliamentary sovereignty rendered all colonial statutes, laws, proceedings, and regulations null and avoided, and it rescinded and removed all colonial lawmaking power and authority from colonial legislative assemblies within North America. The colonies and their state of affairs were returned to status quo ante, and it eviscerated the tyranny of colonial assemblies and victims of hereditary slavery were returned to status quo ante, and their British citizenship was fully restored; thus, hereditary slavery became a criminal act against another British citizen by the English rule of law in 1766.

Doubtlessly… colonial slave statutes questioned Parliament’s power and authority to enact the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541, that required the King’s permission unto all statutes and laws enacted in the Kingdom, and the Sedition Act of 1661 that criminalized a legislature’s mere imputation of having “a legislative power without the King.” Thus, the existence of multiple criminal violations of English law and the crime of treason being fastened to a legislature purporting to enact statutes and laws in the Kingdom without the King’s permission might best explain why the colonial assemblymen in British America had a quite muted response to Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 that abolished all colonial statutes “in all cases whatsoever” and dissolved colonial assemblies.

The British imperial government had the legal authority to abolish colonial statutes and dissolve colonial assemblies for a good reason or no reason. All colonial slave statutes and racialized laws, resolutions, votes, orders, proceedings, and regulations became legal nullities under the British rule of law because of parliamentary sovereignty. But colonial slave statutes questioned Parliament’s enactment of the 1350 Act that conferred citizenship and privileges unto colonial-born blacks “for those who are born in Parts beyond the Seas” and the General Charter of Emancipation of 1381 that abolished slavery on British soil.

Yet another supportable reason did exist for Parliament to abolish colonial statutes and laws… and perhaps the most potent reason of all was that the Kingdom of Great Britain had become a unitary nation, and all legislative power was vested in the Parliament of Great Britain. And significantly, most colonials in America, such as the Virginian lawyer John Randolph, whose father was Sir John Randolph, the only Virginian to be knighted, who stated in 1766 that the Declaratory Act merely made explicitly the known and accepted constitutional state of colonial affairs is the best reason that the abolishment of colonial statutes and laws in the Act did not raise a ruckus in 1766.

Thomas Jefferson’s lamentations concerning Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 and the British imperial government were…

“By one Act, they have suspended powers of American legislature and by another have declared they may legislate for us themselves in all cases whatsoever. These two acts alone form a basis broad enough whereon to erect a despotism of unlimited extent.”

History supports… six years after the Declaratory Act of 1766… the British highest court… the Court of the King’s Bench in the Somerset case determined in 1772… slavery was unconstitutional and not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom.” Further, the High court ruled that slavery could only be made legal through a “positive law,” a power that only resided with the British Parliament. Thus, under Somerset, colonial assemblies never had the power or authority to enact a lawful slave statute since they could not enact a positive law during colonial times.

Accordingly, by the 4th of July in the year 1776… Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and the other Founding Fathers could not credibly claim ownership over enslaved colonial born blacks as they were English citizens by birth, nor could they credibly support a claim that black colonials were excluded from the Declaration of Independence since… slavery in colonial America was prohibited under Parliament’s General Charter of Emancipation in 1381. Also, they knew those colonial statutes and racialized laws enacted without the King’s permission were legal nullities under the Royal Assent by Commission Act of 1541 and were  crimes under the Sedition Act of 1661.

Further, each of the 56 signatories to the Declaration knew (or should have known) to a legal certainty that the British imperial government had abolished colonial slave statutes in 1766. The British highest court, the Court of the King’s Bench, had declared slavery was unconstitutional within the Kingdom in 1772… thereby, all enslaved black colonials possessed the full rights of English citizenship in 1776, as a matter of the English rule of law.

The Somerset Decision transformed all recalcitrant slave holders in colonial America into criminals under the English rule of law. Having been in criminal partnership with officials of the British colonial government and unwilling to abide by the rule of law, they committed themselves to protecting their criminal enterprise. They formed the First Continental Congress, comprising twelve of the thirteen British colonies, as the colony of Georgia declined to participate because it needed British military support against Native American attacks. The assembly met at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in September and October of 1774, and it had 56 delegates. Amongst the delegates were George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John Adams.

The delegates from the colony of Virginia owed their financial security to slavery, and they became leaders of the First Continental Congress. Their pro-slavery, racist views and interests defined and sculpted America’s resulting public reasoning for opposition to the British imperial government. However, the coming together of the Founding Generation created an uneasy alliance of divergent ideologues. As Edmund S. Morgan, in his book American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, observed, “[T]he men who came together to found the independent United States, dedicated to freedom and equality, either held slaves or were willing to join hands with those who did… None of them felt entirely comfortable about the fact, but neither did they feel responsible for it. Most of them had inherited both their slaves and their attachment to freedom from an earlier generation, and they knew the two were not unconnected.”

Thus, America’s slave-holding Founding Fathers, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others, had the burden of proving ownership of black colonials.  Rex v. Stapylton (K. B. 1771) (“being black will not prove the property.”) Colonial-born black people such as Oney Judge or the child Sally Hemings were both born in Virginia under the English rule of law in 1773, were free-born English citizens. Thus, when independence was declared from the Kingdom of Great Britain in July 1776, all colonial-born blacks were protected and included.

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