Confronting my ignorance.
This morning I thought about the most famous slave in history. My mind came to Moses. But I was mistaken, Moses was only born a slave, but he grew up in luxury as the son of a Pharaoh’s daughter. He then of course freed the Jews form Egypt which were slaves. This was circa 1400 BC. Born a slave but not a slave, yet not free.
In Greece slaves came form multiple sources. Some were sold by their parents. Some were sold by their tribes for goods and many were captured soldiers. Men Like Aristotle wrote positively about slavery. Salves in Greece did not have the right to vote but did have many occupations.
Corey Booker of course reminds us of Spartacus, a slave. This is circa 100BC. But if we think of Spartacus we must think of all gladiators, many of which were slaves. Spartacus was the leader of the Servile wars. AS many conquered soldiers became slaves, rebellion was a problem.
WE may now contemplate the rights of Jesus during his day and the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Clearly not a demonstration of human rights.
Subsequent to the fall of Rome slavery transitioned to Serfdom where men were bound to the land as opposed to being property. Stay here and do not leave, or else. Serfs as slaves did not have human rights.
Then we move to the period of the Byzantine-Ottoman and ottoman wars. Circa 1250-1475. This is when Christians became the source for fresh slaves.
Finally, we arrive at the Atlantic slave trade. This was a combination of Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Arabs and West African Kingdoms after 1525. It was the West African tribes that sold to the European slave traders. Note that this is one hundred years before the Mayflower.
Estimates of the Atlantic Slave trade include about 12.5 million shipped to the New World. Of those an estimated 10.7 million survived. Of those an estimated 388,000 shipped directly to North America.
The Portuguese began settling in Brazil during the year 1500. Of Course, we know Columbus began settlements in 1493 and by 1508 the Spanish settled Puerto Rico and then on to Central and South America. The Spanish Mexican war was from 1519 to 1521 and the Aztecs were defeated.
The French settled Quebec in 1541. 80 years before the Mayflower. AS you can see the British colonies were just a small part of the European settlements and the only ones that granted property rights to the common laborer.
Consider now that the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588. The point marks the decline of Spain and the rise of England. Again, consider the late development of the North American colonies versus the South American colonies.
Now we can move to 1789 and the forming of our Union. The age of enlightenment drew heavily on Athens and Rome. The old empires were being replaced with new concepts of equality. Brand new as class mobility had indeed been rare. Think of the traditions transplanted by European Settlers which all had kings. Think of the role English common law transposed on the American colonies under their control.
The rights of man which may have begun with the Magna Carta (1215), was only for the privileged one percent, the landholders. AT the essence of the Magna Carta was due process. Human rights are inextricably linked to due process. Any move towards judgment without due process is a retreat to Star Chambers.
Presently we compare the idea of our founding principles to be insufficient to our notions of Justice. Yet in the context of history our founding principles are the shining example of a city upon a hill. There is no precedent for human rights in History except to compare the brightness of a candle to the energy of the sun.
When you evaluate the troubling events of today. Please consider the history of the world. The history of hate. The history of discrimination. The history of class and that Freedom is the last, best hope of earth.