New York Post: 1619 Project Ignores Cause of American Revolution

New York Post, February 2, 2023

To vilify our founders, Hulu’s ‘1619’ ignores what actually sparked the American Revolution

The 1619 Project is back in the news with the release of the six-part Hulu series built around the claim that “nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.” Progressives have canonized the Nikole Hannah-Jones-led New York Times effort, which is being taught in more than 4,500 classrooms. But the project is riddled with faulty assumptions and factual errors that have been debunked across the ideological spectrum.

The 1619 Project’s most harebrained idea is that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery. Slavery was barbaric, especially in the more southern states. But there was little slavery in the northern colonies, and they would not have risked their lives for its preservation.

The 1619 storyline could not have passed the laugh test unless many Americans were clueless on the British brutality that sparked the war.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., President John F. Kennedy’s court historian and a revered liberal intellectual, declared in 2004, “Historians today conclude that the colonists were driven to revolt in 1776 because of a false conviction that they faced a British conspiracy to destroy their freedom.” But the British imposition of martial law, suspension of habeas corpus and censorship were not simply deranged fantasies of Thomas Jefferson.

Slavery did help spark the revolution, but it was “slavery by Parliament” — a common derisive phrase in founding-era America. The Declaratory Act of 1766 announced that Parliament “had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”

That meant Parliament could never do an injustice to the Americans, since Parliament had the right to use and abuse colonists as it pleased.

Law after law trumpeted Americans’ legal inferiority to their masters. The Sugar Act of 1764 resulted in British officials confiscating hundreds of American ships, based on mere allegations that the shipowners or captains were involved in smuggling. To retain their ships, Americans had to somehow prove they had never been involved in smuggling — a near-impossible burden.

Britain imposed heavy taxes on imports and issued “writs of assistance” entitling British soldiers to search any home for evidence that tariffs on tea or whiskey had been shirked. Massachusetts lawyer James Otis denounced those writs for conferring “a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.”

Britain prohibited Americans from erecting any mill for rolling or slitting iron; British statesman William Pitt exclaimed, “It is forbidden to make even a nail for a horseshoe.” The Declaration of Independence denounced King George for “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.”

Vermont patriots marched in 1775 against the British Army under a flag depicting a pine tree — a symbol of British tyranny. Because pine was an excellent material for building ships, Parliament banned cutting down any white pine trees, claiming them all for the British crown without compensation. Historian Jonathan Sewall, writing in 1846, claimed the conflict with Britain “began in the forests of Maine in the contests of her lumbermen with the King’s surveyor, as to the right to cut, and the property in white pine trees.”

The first major clashes of the Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord, Mass., after British troops sought to confiscate colonial firearms. After British troops were cut to pieces at the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, British Gen. Thomas Gage decreed that “anyone found in possession of arms would be deemed guilty of treason,” as Professor David Kopel notes. Britain planned to confiscate almost all the firearms in the colonies after suppressing the revolt. If it had succeeded, colonists could have been subjugated to London for generations.

Perhaps contemporary activists are blindfolded to the causes of our revolution because they perceive government as benevolent — if not an Avenging Angel. In contrast, it was a common saying in the 1770s: “The Restraint of Government is the True Liberty and Freedom of the People.” Americans took their lodestar from British political philosopher John Locke, who warned, “He who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him.”

African-American slavery was a profound injustice, and we should not downplay that abhorrent part of our nation’s past. But Americans should never forget that their nation was forged in resistance to political slavery — to the claims by distant masters to unlimited power. It’s also a lesson political elites in Washington and state capitals across the nation should heed.


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  1. New York Post: 1619 Project Ignores Cause of American Revolution - United Push Back - February 1, 2023

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