America has always imagined itself as exceptional… A Shining City on a Hill. This bucolic view, as well as our white countrymen’s inability to acknowledge America’s profound, deep-seated systemic and virulent strain of white supremacy, created during colonial times, has lulled many into thinking that a white country emerged in 1776 and was shepherded through the constitutional convention process by learned, principled men, committed to the rule of law and to be “a nation of laws, not men,” unlike other nations. Yet, they chose a slaver George Washington as standard-bearer and first President in 1789. They, along with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, and others, are touted as enlightened men of the eighteenth century and heroes of the American Revolution.
Among other accolades and attributes, Washington is revered for confessing to chopping down a cherry tree and never telling lies. Generously, in the book Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, Nancy Isenberg observed that “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.” Doubtlessly, as deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today are a direct result of our founders’ vision, practices, and ideals that put black people below the rule of law, it forces us to reimagine these “imperfect men” to examine structural racism origins: “colonial statutes.”
Liberty was improvidently denied to Revolutionary War-era blacks at the dawn of this Republic based upon colonial statutes. Further, a series of compromises occurred during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 due to the presumption that 500,000 Revolutionary War-era blacks were slaves under British rule that led to Article One, section 2 of the United States Constitution: the Three-Fifths Compromise. Many believed that this meant early America’s blacks as individuals were considered three-fifths of a person and in fact remained in force until the post-Civil War 13th Amendment freed all enslaved people in the United States, the 14th Amendment gave them full citizenship, and the 15th Amendment granted back men the right to vote. Thus, America’s historiography must change, and a proper and an untraversed portal to achieve restorative justice is revealed.
Colonial slave statutes operated extralegally during colonial times, and Parliament’s Declaratory Act of 1766 abolished colonial statutes. The Act changed everything, as colonial slave statutes became null and “utterly void.” It was in 1766 when Parliament exercised its supreme power and authority over colonial legislative assemblies. The Declaratory Act had the force of English law within the colonies, and it was enacted 21 years before the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Furthermore, Parliament did not repeal the Declaratory Act, and no subsequent colonial slave statutes were lawfully promulgated and enacted. However, after the Definitive Treaty of Peace in 1783 that ended the American Revolutionary War was ratified, 500,000 Revolutionary War-era blacks were enslaved based upon the presumptive validity of “colonial statutes.” These presumptive free Englishmen were not granted a due process hearing. No American ever met their burden by proving ownership title required by law and controlled by the holding in Rex v. Stampylton. Yet, Revolutionary War-era blacks were denied due process and then exploited as slaves… becoming the bedrock of America’s slave pool.
Myths have been substituted for historical facts. Everyone is taught that colonial slave statutes made Revolutionary War-era blacks the property of Americans. This was ahistorical. Further hidden in myth is the fact that slavery in the colonies was an extralegal practice, existing due to corruption of colonial government officials and colonial slave statutes, laws, resolutions, orders, and related regulations were legislatively avoided by the British imperial government in 1766. This action by England was figured prominently in the 13 colonies’ Declaration of Independence ten years later, in July 1776. Moreover, six years after colonial statutes were abolished… colonial slave statutes were struck down when England’s Court of the King’s Bench ruled slavery was not “allowed and approved by the laws of this Kingdom” and “the state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of now being introduced by Courts of Justice upon mere reasoning or inferences from any principles, natural or political; it must take its rise from positive law.” Colonial slave statutes were rendered null and void during colonial times.
In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Washington claimed in May 1783, colonial blacks were property and owned by erstwhile Englishmen, now Americans, and this claim became America’s policy. The founders crafted, refined, and bolstered Washington’s reputation to further the “colonial statute” lie, and it became an enduring myth. Just two generations ago, President John F. Kennedy observed that “the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie; deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth; persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic; too often we hold to the cliches of our forebears… we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
English law prohibited slavery on its soil, and colonial statutes were enacted in violation of colonial charters. Further, the exercise of parliamentary sovereignty over colonial legislatures and its abolishment of colonial statutes in 1766, as well as the official acts of the British imperial government overturning “American Laws” by way of the Somerset decision in 1772, coupled with the attestation of the 13 colonial governments which condemned King George III for abolishing colonial statutes in the Declaration of Independence, did not stop America’s government from claiming ownership of Revolutionary War-era blacks based upon “colonial statutes.”
The untruthful, deceptive, and unchallenged claim that Revolutionary War-era blacks were owned by erstwhile Englishmen, now Americans based upon “colonial statutes,” created the superstructure for structural racism within the U. S. and white supremacy ideals and dogma. The racist notion that blacks could be placed below the rule of law was imported into America as a cultural norm, and it was then exported… with worldwide implications. Doubtlessly, this is the linchpin of structural racism and white supremacy ideology within the U. S.
Black people during colonial times were crime victims, not slaves, as all colonial slave statutes and related regulations were legislatively avoided in 1766 by Parliament. However, colonial slavery from its beginning violated English law… and due to the British government’s collaboration in furtherance of this crime, slaveholding colonists were not legally sanctioned for practicing slavery during colonial times. And while this criminal practice lost its shiny veneer of legitimacy once the Somerset decision affirmed parliamentary sovereignty after the Declaratory Act of 1766… four years before the Declaration of Independence, it is particularly significant that none of the slaveholding patriots were ever held to account for their behavior that violated English law during colonial times and all too many will continue to claim that there is nothing to see here… let’s move along.