When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.
In this era of deteriorating race relations, it behooves those of us not descended from slaves to show due humility when discussing the history of that horrific institution. Yet humility was conspicuously absent when Mr. Domenick Maglio, discussing the legacy of the Civil War, lamented, “The wounds have not healed completely[,] especially with people who have limited understanding of the historical context.”
It was an intriguing choice of words, on the heels of his out-of-context quoting of several Founding Fathers to make an apologist argument justifying the historical practice of slavery. In bemoaning others’ “limited understanding”, Mr. Maglio betrays his own complete ignorance: among the catalysts for the American War of Independence was slaveholders’ fear that the 1772 ruling, Somerset v Stewart, would lead to the abolition of slavery in the American colonies, as it did in England and Wales.
This history is meticulously documented in Rough Crossings, by acclaimed historian Simon Schama; and in Slave Nation, by the legal scholars Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen. John Adams, the sole Founding Father who did not own slaves, promised to support the practice at the First Continental Congress, in 1774, to secure the backing of the southern colonies. No quotation can erase George Washington’s ownership of hundreds of slaves; Thomas Jefferson’s ownership of hundreds of slaves; nor Benjamin Franklin’s ownership of slaves and printing “for sale” ads, in his Pennsylvania Gazette, for human beings.
The remainder of Mr. Maglio’s rant reprises the greatest hits of slavery-apologist tropes. He asserts that “primarily […] white soldiers fought each other for several reasons”, conveniently omitting the 10,000 black soldiers who died, and the 200,000 who served in the Union Army and Navy. Among those reasons, he writes, was “to resolve the practice of slavery” – a classic revisionist sanitization of the systematic terrorization and exploitation of human beings, for which former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was debunked and condemned not so long ago.
Not content to spread mere factual fallacies, Mr. Maglio ices the cake with logical ones: you didn’t have to be white to have owned slaves; slavery existed before the War of Independence; slavery still exists. None of these red herrings support his claim that the “moral, compassionate, and wise” Founding Fathers were not racist, of course, but then that’s not the point. They are excuses, crafted to preserve an aura of impunity around Founders who practiced, and thereby perpetuated, slavery. Such excuses are necessary for those who lean on the Founders’ authority to absolve their own indifference to the continuing legacy of slavery.
Perhaps before Mr. Maglio lectures on “historical context”, he might try learning a bit of it from actual historians. “It took a horrific Civil War to accomplish this monumental feat (abolishing slavery), which showed the world the USA did believe and practice liberty for all,” he concludes. Yet in the 154 years since the ratification of the 13th Amendment, the United States has continued to deny the humanity of much of its people. Segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, redlining, voter suppression, mass incarceration, on and on it goes. We urge Mr. Maglio to use his platform more responsibly, to better our community, and not for the dissemination of misinformation and historical revisionism.
Hernando County Progressive Caucus