An Arkansas state senator defends his comments about slavery in the United States.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton said America’s founders viewed slavery as a “necessary evil upon which the union was built.”
His words have been criticized as an attempt to justify black slavery.
He introduces legislation to ban federal funds for a New York Times newspaper project to revise the historical view of slavery.
The founder of the project expressed his indignation at these remarks.
What did Senator Cotton say?
Senator Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he rejects the idea that the United States is a systemically racist country in its essence.
“We have to study the history of slavery, its role and its impact on the development of our country because otherwise we cannot understand our country.
“As the founding fathers said, that was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a certain way, like [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the road to its ultimate extinction. ”
Two hundred and thirty years after the entry into force of the government formed by the American Constitution and 154 years after the official abolition of slavery in the country, the legacy of the founding of the nation and the role of “the institution special ”, as it was often called, is still the subject of intense debate.
Over the weekend, Tom Cotton managed to insert himself in the midst of the seething controversy by saying that the nation’s founders saw slavery as a ‘necessary evil’ and put it on the road to extinction – claims which are both very controversial.
While some early rulers viewed the continued existence of slavery as necessary, and others viewed it as evil, there was little overlap between the two perspectives. And as to the end of the practice, while the Constitution authorized the prohibition of the slave trade in the United States in 1808, slavery was built into the document – notably in the way slaves (“all others people ”) were counted for representation in Congress.
In the end, it took a war to dismantle the institution of slavery in the United States. If the founders had indeed put the practice on the path of extinction, it turned out to be bloody, the lasting consequences of which remain to this day.
On Thursday, Senator Cotton introduced the Saving American History Act, aimed at stopping the funding of 1619, an initiative that grounds the teaching of United States history around the first arrivals of slave ships to the United States in August of the same year.
The project won the Pulitzer Prize for comments from its founder, New York Times reporter Nicole Hannah-Jones, but it has been criticized by many American conservatives as an attempt to move from American independence to slavery.
After five prominent historians wrote to The Times to point out historical inaccuracies, the newspaper corrected the article in two words; the phrase “some of” was added to describe the number of settlers who wanted to secede from Britain in order to preserve slavery.
“The whole premise of the New York Times’ factually and historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at the root, a systemically racist country at heart and irremediable,” said Senator Cotton, calling the project “leftist propaganda. “.
“I reject this root and this branch. America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always fought to keep this promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it. ”
Responding to Senator Cotton’s legislation, Ms Hannah-Jones tweeted that if slavery was justified as a means of ending, so could everything else.
Senator Cotton then responded, denying that he was justifying slavery and calling Hannah-Jones’ comments “lies.”
“Describing the * views of the Founders * and how they put the evil institution on the brink of extinction, a point frequently made by Lincoln, does not endorse or justify slavery,” he tweeted after the backlash. .
What is the context?
The row is part of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota in May, sparked huge protests across the United States against police brutality and racism.
Protesters and police in the city of Portland, Oregon, have clashed several times in recent days. The clashes have escalated since President Donald Trump’s deeply controversial decision to send federal law enforcement to the city. Under the US constitution, policing is the responsibility of individual states, not the federal government.
Senator Cotton sharply criticized the nationwide protests, describing them in an opinion piece for The New York Times as an “orgy of violence” and supporting Donald Trump’s threat to use troops to quell the unrest.
The article was widely criticized, and more than 800 Times employees signed a letter denouncing its publication, claiming it contained disinformation.
The newspaper later apologized, saying the article fell below its editorial standards. Opinion editor James Bennet resigned as a result.