Last June, the city of Wilmington, Delaware abruptly dismantled statues of Columbus and Caesar Rodney, signer of the Declaration of Independence, ostensibly to avoid possible vandalism.
I only learned of this the other day when President Donald Trump condemned the removal during his commemoration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. He promised to include Rodney in his proposed Garden of American Heroes. [Rodney, like Columbus, had Italian roots. In fact, our Institute traced Rodney’s lineage back to the Caesar Adelmare family of Treviso, Italy in issue XLII of The Italic Way Magazine, which can be found on our website and cited in Wikipedia.]
What did Rodney do wrong? Like the other southern Founding Fathers, he owned slaves. But, he was honored with a statue for breaking his delegation’s tie vote at the First Continental Congress in 1776 to favor independence. In short, Caesar Rodney’s vote launched America! Suffering from asthma and facial cancer, Rodney left his Delaware home, his face partially wrapped in a scarf, and rode 80 miles on horseback during a summer storm to cast the deciding vote. Before he succumbed to the cancer eight years later, Rodney served as wartime governor of Delaware and major general of the state militia, supplying troops and equipment to Gen. Washington.
After the war, Rodney introduced a bill in the Delaware Assembly to ban the importation of slaves. In his will, he freed his own slaves, which numbered about 15. No matter, though, to revisionists he now has the Mark of Cain.
It is curious that presidential contender, Joe Biden of Delaware, has been silent on the removal of the Rodney statue. A Founding Father, a local hero since the Revolution, his image on horseback gracing the heart of the state capital, and immortalized in a classic Broadway play and the movie 1776, doesn’t warrant a mention from Biden. Draw your own conclusions.
Bygone slavery is the new yardstick of history. It has become the ultimate tool of revisionists to discern good people from bad, one race from another, and to whittle down the accomplishments of whole civilizations. The trick is to hide your own slave-driving past while exposing that of others. With the help of one-trick academics, who conveniently forget that slavery was once universal in both the Old and New Worlds, and with the connivance of a media that shamelessly disseminates this lopsided narrative, slavery is as divisive an issue today as it was in 1861. But, sometimes it gets a little confusing.
The NYTimes recently profiled Ron Graham, an African American who traces his ancestry to slaves held by the Creek Indians. Yes, some Indigenous tribes bought or captured Black slaves to work their fields, just like racist White masters. One estimate is that there are 160,000 living descendants of these Indigenous-owned slaves in America today. A treaty with the U.S. government in 1866, obligated these tribes to free their slaves and give them tribal citizenship. The Indians largely ignored the treaty – freeing their slaves but not making them citizens. People like Ron Graham have been struggling to secure citizenship and the benefits that come with it – shares in casinos, natural resources, government subsidies, etc. In 2017, the Cherokee Nation lost a suit and had to extend citizenship to 7,000 slave descendants. But the tribes are still resisting. The Choctaw Nation went so far as to lobby House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in June, to squash any legislation on behalf of African American claimants, saying Black slavery was Whitey’s (my word) fault not the Choctaws.
It would be futile to try to convince self-righteous revisionists that Euro-Americans didn’t invent slavery or have a global monopoly on it. Muslims were pulling slaves out of sub-Saharan Africa centuries before White slavers got there. Black African monarchs were the wholesalers to all outside slavers, saving them perilous trips into the interior. When Fascist Italy completed its conquest of Ethiopia, perhaps two million slaves were freed from the clutches of Haile Selassie’s dominant Amharic tribe. In fact, the Italian emancipation was made law by Ethiopia after the Italians left in 1942. Mussolini may have technically freed more Blacks than Abe Lincoln!
You don’t read that in history books. -JLM