Letter: The triumph of abolition

I always enjoy Glenn Beaton’s columns because they are humorous, well-informed and carefully reasoned. However, his most recent column may be fatally flawed by his assertion that America may never be redeemed from its “original sin of slavery” (“Still dreaming,” Commentary, The Aspen Times, Jan. 24). Such statements feed the popular uninformed notion that slavery was an American innovation. There was nothing uniquely American about slavery. At the time of the founding of our republic in 1776, slavery existed almost everywhere and had been accepted by organized societies for about 10,000 years. Slavery was practiced by all the great cultures of the ancient world as well as the great aboriginal cultures of the New World that we like to glamorize.

While America did not invent slavery, the United States played a prominent role in the worldwide abolition of one of the most ancient and ubiquitous of all human institutions. It may come as a surprise to some that America participated in only a very small percentage of the African slave trade; in 1808, only 32 years after independence, America made it a crime to import slaves, and slavery was outlawed in most states long before the Civil War. In no other country did anti-slavery idealists pay a higher price to abolish slavery. Only a few decades after our Civil War, slavery became universally discredited and illegal. America played a leading role in this worldwide mass movement that brought about one of the most fundamental transformations in human history.

It is unfortunate that popular politically correct assumptions about America’s involvement with slavery lack perspective or context. Unthinking indictments of the United States as uniquely blameworthy for an evil institution ignore the historical facts that provide a basis for pride in what America actually accomplished.

Michael Malcolm