During Senator Tim Kaine’s remarks yesterday on the Senate floor (actually, since this post concerns the use of words and accountability thereof, I guess I should clarify: he wasn’t speaking about the floor. Nobody talks about the floor in the Senate) as the Virginia Democrat addressed the issue of police department accountability , he uttered this remarkable passage:
“The first African Americans sent into the English colonies came to Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619. They were slaves. They had been captured against their will. But they landed in colonies that didn’t have slavery. There were no laws about slavery in the colonies at that time. The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it. It got created by the Virginia General Assembly and the legislatures of other states. It got created by the court systems in colonial America,We created it.”
“We” did not “create” slavery. There is no rational dispute on this point. Even if Kaine was saying that Virginia, his state, created slavery, that’s not true either. The colony of Virginia is not “we”: it is not the state of Virginia, and it is not the United States of America. “We” used here is transparent white guilt peddling by Kaine, and it is inaccurate.
That transgression, however pales by contrast to the head-scratching statement that “we” created slavery. Of course the United States didn’t create slavery: slavery existed before the United States did. (Nor did slavery create the United States, which is the discredited and intellectually dishonest thesis of the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” which somehow won a Pulitzer Prize for its “creator,” Nikole Hannah-Jones , who, like Kaine, was just making stuff up.) The United States certainly did inherit slavery from somebody (that makes two words in this bizarre passage that Kaine either deliberately misapplies or doesn’t know what they mean): the U.S. inherited slavery from the colonies, which had inherited them from Great Britain.
In the 17th century, the British colonists (and the colonists of other European nations) used African slaves in North America rather than European indentured servants. Althoughit didn’t “create” slavery either, Spain, not “we,” probably deserves credit for introducing (but still not “creating”) the commerce of slavery in the Americas. (Native Americans practiced slavery long before Europeans arrived.) Historians estimate approximately 6 million to 7 million enslaved people were taken to North America before the United States’ founding. Inherit, the description that Kaine rejects, is an apt word: the colonies inherited slavery from its European owners.
It’s not unfair to expect a U.S. Senator from Virginia to be familiar with the Declaration of Independence. Why did Thomas Jefferson, who authored the first draft of the the founding document, condemn King George III over England’s participation in the slave trade if his own colony “created it”? Tom wrote,
“He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain.”
After intense debate, the Second Continental Congress removed Jefferson’s passage condemning slavery, thus setting up the conflict that metastasized into the Civil War, but allowing the Declaration to receive the indispensable support of the slave-holding colonies, which were, like the other colonies then, part of the British Empire.
Conclusion: Senator Kaine’s statement that the United States “created slavery” was untrue by any historical and linguistic measure. It was either dishonest, stupid, or ignorant, and there is no defending it. He was engaging in U.S. bashing, because that’s what the George Floyd mob’s purpose is, and his Party is along for the ride.
The Hill, which is a reliably left-leaning political news and commentary website, issued a tweet:
The quote is accurate, and the tweet contained the video clip to provide context. Was the tweet intentionally provocative, and framed so as to maximize clicks? Sure. It was also 100% accurate, and any flack Kaine caught for saying something so ludicrous was 100% earned.
“Conservatives pounced.” as the mainstream news media likes to say when something their clients do or say is wrong. On the conservative site PJ Media, writer Megan Fox had almost too much fun with Kaine’s nonsense:
This claim sent shockwaves of outrage through the recesses of Hell, where Egyptian pharaohs and the emperors of Rome reside. “How dare he take credit for slavery,” said King Tut. “Who the hell does he think built the pyramids? Aliens?”
Diocletian wasn’t any more complimentary. “The Roman methods of torturing slaves are so renowned around the world that millions of people wear the instrument of our torture around their necks as a reminder of the sheer brutality we wrought on the world’s underprivileged. Americans tried hard, but until you feed people to wild animals in front of cheering crowds you haven’t even begun to realize your potential in crimes against humanity.”
Julius Ceasar told reporters, “Those were the days. One time I sold 53,000 citizens of Gaul to traders on the same day. Man, what a windfall that was.”
Satan had to get his two cents in there too and declared, “I am the true creator of slavery. Duh. My specialty is putting people in bondage. It’s like, my whole gig.” Mohammed then piped up, “Not so fast, Beezelbub, my contributions to the history of enslaving people continues to this day,” he grinned. “Boko Haram is kidnapping African children right now!”
At this point, an elected official with integrity and the common sense of a marmot would issue a statement saying, “I misspoke. Obviously the United States didn’t “create” slavery. We did inherit the practice, from Great Britain. I apologize for any confusion my poor choice of words has caused; elected officials have an obligation to be clear in their public statements, and not to spread misinformation. I pledge to do better.”
Tim Kaine, however (whom we almost had a “heartbeat from the Presidency”), is not such a politician. Here is the statement he did issue:
“There was no law mandating slavery on our shores when African slaves came ashore in 1619. Did slavery already exist in the world? Of course. But not in the laws of colonial America at the time. We could have been a nation completely without the institution. But colonial legislatures and courts, and eventually the U.S. legal system, created the institution on our shores and maintained slavery until the 13th Amendment. As I said, we didn’t inherit it. We chose to create it.”
This is insulting, weak and fatuous. If one is going to “double-down,” one has to do better. Slavery was a legal and common practice of the nation, Great Britain of whose extended empire the colonies were a part. As an extension of the British Empire, the Virginia Colony didn’t have to legalize slavery: it was already legal, and it was never “mandated.”Nobody was forced to have slaves.
“We could have been a nation completely without the institution” embodies the worst kind of hindsight bias; we also could have been a nation that spoke Swedish, but since the colonies were entirely creatures of the British Empire and had not developed a separate culture by the 17th Century, allowing slavery was preordained.
Since neither side of the political spectrum is capable of admitting that they were wrong, progressives took up Kaine’s hopeless cause and began furiously spinning and throwing up smoke. Look at this protest from the progressive website The Mary Sue, which begins with yet another example of the Left’s favorite rationalization from the Ethics Alarms list recently, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is.” The headline: “Conservatives Are Mad at Tim Kaine for Saying America Created Slavery. Which He Didn’t Say.”
Kaine did say that America created slavery.
Responding to a tweet from a critic of Kaine’s historical fiction, the writer, Jessica Mason, tap-dances madly,
Yes, there was slavery among Native American tribes, but it wasn’t the large scale trade of human beings that the Europeans brought, and that doesn’t erase that Native Americans were also enslaved. Also, slaves probably didn’t build the pyramids.
Oops! If Europeans brought it, then ‘we” couldn’t “create” slavery, could “we”?
Later, she writes,
Now, it’s very clear if you actually watch the clip, that what Senator Kaine is talking about here is how America, both in the colonies and in the framing of the United States Constitution, chose slavery. We created … our own legal framework for it. It’s an uncomfortable truth that we still are feeling the repercussions of. America chose to be a slave nation, after a lot of debate, but we chose it.
If Kaine had made the unremarkable (but also simplistic) point that the United States chose to keep slavery at its inception (the choice was that, or not having a nation, but never mind), nobody would be criticizing him. “Chose” and “created” are not the same; they aren’t even synonyms. If Kaine meant “chose,” that’s what he should have said. Including the double-down message, Kaine has now used “created” three times, and he’s accountable.
One more: reacting to conservative Sean Davis’s tweet that “He’s not stupid enough to believe this, but he’s pretty sure his base of illiterate, culture-canceling Marxists will buy it,” Mason writes,
“No, Sean, he’s not stupid enough to believe that but you were stupid enough to retweet a video without actually watching it or understanding the content because of a badly worded tweet.”
That “badly worded tweet” from the Hill is an exact quote. And Kaine may not be stupid enough to believe that “we” created slavery, but he’s definitely dishonest enough to say so anyway, repeatedly.