Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Missing Fathers by Eduardo Galeano
The Declaration of Independence affirmed that all men were created equal.
Shortly thereafter, the Constitution of the United States clarified the concept: it established that each slave was worth three-fifths of a person.
One drafter of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris, opposed this provision, but in vain. Not long before he had tried, also in vain, to get the State of New York to abolish slavery, and managed to extract a constitutional promise that in the future "every being who breaths the air of this State shall enjoy the privileges of a freeman."
Morris, a central figure at the moment the United States acquired a face and a soul, was a founding father that history forgot.
In the year 2006, Spanish journalist Vicente Romero looked for his grave. He found it behind a church in the South Bronx. The gravestone, erased by rain and sun, provided a platform for two large garbage cans.
Robert Carter was buried in the garden.
In his will he asked "to be laid under a shady tree, where he might be undisturbed, and sleep in peace and security. No stone, nor inscription."
This Virginian patrician was one of the richest, if not the richest, of all the prosperous landowners who broke ties with England.
Although several other founding fathers looked askance at slavery, none of them freed their slaves. Carter was the only one to unchain the four hundred and fifty blacks he owned "to allow them to live and work according to their own will and pleasure." He freed them seventy years before Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery, and did so gradually, taking care that none was simply turned out and deserted.
Such folly condemned him to solitude and oblivion.
He was cut off by his friends, his neighbors, and his family, all of who were convinced that free blacks were a threat to personal and national security.
Later on, his acts were rewarded with collective amnesia.