The Debate over Slavery & the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, announced the separation of the United States and Great Britain. The document, though not legal, was created to be a set of basic ground rules for the nation. The ideas behind the document tend to be flexible and can be interpreted in several ways. This has been a cause for many problems over the years, one of those being Slavery. The first African American slaves were brought to America in 1619. At this time, slave owners were given full possession of the slaves. They were free to do as they pleased with them. As this progressed in the United States, the position of slave became one that was occupied only by African Americans. Also as slavery continued in the United States, a strong Anti-slavery movement built up. These anti slavery groups, as well as pro slavery groups, used the Declaration of Independence as their evidence for their beliefs. The Declaration had many effects on the institution of slavery in the United States. On one hand, it made slavery seem unjust and wrong. Others felt that it said slavery was fair. Nonetheless, it created barriers between races.
The members of the anti-slavery movement felt that the Declaration of Independence conveyed the idea of equality among all men, regardless of race. The Declaration states that "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"(175). Anti-Slavery groups used this idea as evidence for their beliefs. Benjamin Banneker, who was born to free African American parents, questioned Thomas Jefferson's idea that African Americans were inferior to White Americans. In his piece, "Letters to Thomas Jefferson", he talks about religion. He says that "One universal father hath given being to us all, and that he hath only made us all of one flesh afforded us all the Same Sensations the same faculties however diversified in situation or color, we are all of the Same Family, and Stand in the Same relation to him.