Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 5. Segment 1
The Church and the State

It is 1860, and a man from Illinois, Abraham LincolnSee It Now - Abraham Lincoln in 1858, has won the presidency. But there will be no parades for Lincoln, and little cheering, because the nation is about to go to war-with itself. Some people are saying that the American experiment in democracy—started so bravely seventy-one years earlier—is finished. How could this have happened?

The United States was born with a promise-and with a problem. The problem was slavery. By 1860 there are four million black slaves in America. Henry Highland GarnetSee It Now - Henry Highland Garnet is a black minister who sees to the heart of the problem. He says Hear It Now - Henry Garnet: "Our race was brought to the shores of America. They came not with glad spirits to a land of freedom. They came with broken hearts, and were doomed to unrequited toil and degradationCheck The Source - Henry Highland Garnet."

And the promise of America—what was the promise? The promise is in the words of the Declaration of Independence See It Now - The Declaration of IndependenceHear It Now - Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." The Founders of the United States—who wrote of liberty and equality in that remarkable Declaration and in a splendid Constitution—also gave their consent to slavery, which is the very opposite of liberty and equality. Why did they do it? Many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787 knew that slavery was wrong. And they said so. But the delegates from the Deep South refused to sign the Constitution if it banned slavery. So the delegates compromised, and allowed it to continue See It Now - George Washington with a SlaveCheck The Source - The Declaration of Independence: The Omission.

Though Thomas Jefferson See It Now - Thomas Jefferson himself owned close to 200 slaves, he knew slavery in America would lead to terrible things. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just," he wrote. "His justice cannot sleep forever."

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