Practical Christianity: A Holy Nation

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Believers Who Worked Out Their Salvation with Fear and Trembling
Part 1

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

The Pilgrims comprised one of the most remarkable congregations that has ever existed on the face of this earth.
—D. James Kennedy1

Key point: Members of the Separatist congregation in Scrooby, England in the 1600s — believers who later became known as “Pilgrims” — serve as examples not only of how to “do Christianity,” but also of how to “do church.”

Last time we explored the importance of taking salvation seriously, of “working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It’s fascinating to note both individual and corporate manifestations of this process. Not only must individual Christians work out their own salvation, churches and other Christian groups frequently must do the same. In the Pilgrims—believers who fled England for Holland, then Holland for the New World during the early 1600s and established the Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts—we see evidence of the “working out process” at a congregational level. In this two-part series, I’d like to consider how this process was manifested in the Pilgrims’ decisions and actions up until the time they resolved to leave Holland for North America.

The Church in England

King Henry VIII

The Protestant Reformation is considered to have officially begun in 1517 when Martin Luther, a German monk, released his 95 Theses, a document in which he pointed out and objected to numerous abuses by and within the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation soon became a movement that spread throughout Europe, wielding its influence in numerous countries beyond Germany.

King Henry VIII, who ruled in England from 1509 to 1547, officially pulled his country away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534. In that year he declared himself sovereign over a new national church, which, not surprisingly, he called the Church of England. His actions weren’t theologically motivated, but we can’t fully consider that part of the story at this point. Suffice it to say that the move was a very big deal. King Henry, and eventually his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled from 1558 to 1603, instituted a number of changes that made England’s new national church distinct from the Church headquartered in Rome. Even so, some of Henry’s subjects didn’t believe enough had been changed. These Christians wanted to see and experience forms of worship that were simpler and less elaborate. Appealing to the Book of Acts, they called for a return to the worship practices of the early Christians. These men and women became known as Puritans, because they advocated purifying the church in this way.

William Bradford, years after he was involved in the Separatist congregation in Scrooby

Another group of believers went further. Seeing the Church of England as beyond reforming, they sought to break away from the national church and form congregations of their own. In a day when church and state were intertwined, departure from the national church would be deemed treasonous. Thus, these men and women were risking a great deal, both individually and as a group of believers.

William Brewster, an imaginary likeness

In the town of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, England, between 1586 and 1605, a Separatist congregation was formed that included William Brewster (1568-1644) and a young man by the name of William Bradford, who had been born around 1590. Brewster previously had served as a diplomatic assistant to the Netherlands. Because of the congregation’s convictions about the need to separate from the national church, the group faced ridicule, harassment, and in some cases, arrest and imprisonment.

Costly Convictions

William Bradford later would describe the situation by saying members of the congregation

were hunted and persecuted on every side, until their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison. Some were clapped into prison; others had their houses watched night and day, and escaped with difficulty; and most were obliged to fly, and leave their homes and means of livelihood. Yet these and many other even severer trials which afterwards befell them, being only what they expected, they were able to bear by the assistance of God’s grace and spirit. However, being thus molested, and seeing that there was no hope of their remaining there, they resolved by consent to go into the Low Countries, where they heard there was freedom of religion for all; and it was said that many from London and other parts of the country, who had been exiled and persecuted for the same cause, had gone to live at Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands. So after about a year, having kept their meeting for the worship of God every Sabbath in one place or another, notwithstanding the diligence and malice of their adversaries, seeing that they could no longer continue under such circumstances, they resolved to get over to Holland as soon as they could….2

Weary of the persecution and longing for freedom in their religious practices, the group fled England for Holland in 1608. They first resided in Amsterdam, then moved to Leyden a short time later.

Lessons from Godly Ancestors

The Separatist congregation stayed in Holland for over 10 years. We’ll consider those years next time, but for now, let’s reflect on the Pilgrims’ journey up until the time they made their decision to leave England. Several observations are in order.

First, these believers knew what it was like to face ridicule and persecution because of their faith, yet they refused to compromise. Their consciences were beholden to their God. Today, we need more believers like that. Persecution was just one aspect of the price they paid.

The Pilgrims’ consciences were beholden to their God.

Second, the Pilgrims apparently didn’t expect their Christianity to bring them ease and comfort. I list this as a separate item because the hardships they endured strengthened rather than derailed them. It’s never fun to endure persecution, but when we expect resistance from the world, we do not become disillusioned. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Third, they took their relationship with God so seriously that they even were willing to relocate to another country in order to worship Him as they believed they should. How precious to you is your relationship with the Lord? How important to you is your worship of Him?

Fourth, they acted, not individually, but as a church. This not only served to encourage them as individuals and families; it also increased the impact of their strategic actions. In Acts, we do not see an emphasis on accepting Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior to the extent we hear that emphasis today. Certainly accepting Christ into one’s life is legitimate; in fact, it is absolutely necessary. Yet in Acts, there was a corporate element that we seem to have lost.

Believers today need to rediscover the importance of corporate Christianity.

Jesus was and is Lord of the church. This theme permeated Charles Colson’s classic book, The Body. The Body later was revised, updated, and retitled Being the BodyWe need to rediscover and reapply the corporate Christianity the Pilgrims practiced and Colson upheld. This is biblical Christianity. The Pilgrims knew God had called them out as “a holy nation” (see 1 Pet. 2:9). They lived out the principle set forth in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” Wouldn’t this perspective, if it fully were applied in our churches today, bring God’s people together in ways that profoundly would change both the church and the world? 

The Pilgrims would continue to desperately need their God and one another. Holland would offer them the religious freedom they sought, but also a variety of daunting challenges.

Next time, we’ll explore some of those challenges and how the Pilgrims responded. Their example will inspire and encourage. I promise.


Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

top image: birthplace of William Bradford in Austerfield, South Yorkshire, England

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1Jerry Newcombe, compiler, The Wit and Wisdom of D. James Kennedy, (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Truth in Action Ministries, 2013), 150.

2William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Harold Padget, ed., (Kindle Locations 425-432). Portcullis Books. Kindle Edition. Original print release, 1920; Kindle edition, 2016.

The Importance of Getting History Right, Part 8

Don’t Be Fooled!

Before lecturing Republicans, Democrats should mop up their side of the political spectrum [with regard to the issue of race].
—Journalist Deroy Murdock (who, by the way, is black)—

Note: In Part 6, we began to record some historical facts Democrats have hidden from the public or effectively encouraged the public to ignore. We added to the list in Part 7, and this week, in Part 8, we complete it. The list contains 33 items. It isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it is thorough and very informative. It’s available on a single page here.

The second Sunday after a congregation had welcomed a new pastor into its midst, churchgoers noticed he preached the very same sermon he’d given a week earlier. The next week, he preached the same sermon yet again. When his people asked him why he was doing this, the pastor replied, “When you begin to apply the principles in this sermon, I’ll be happy to move on to the next one.”

As we continue adding items to our list of historical truths Democrats conveniently overlook, some may feel we are being repetitious, even though we’ve been adding new items every week. Unlike the new preacher who kept preaching the same sermon, I believe you’re getting it. Democrats, generally speaking, have rewritten history and are overlooking their own racist past. There are exceptions, but overall, Democrats have a history that upholds racism.

The eleventh item on our list (see last week’s post) highlighted Republican attempts to make lynching a federal crime in 1922, 1923, and 1924—and Democrat efforts to thwart them. Southern Democrats in the US Senate successfully filibustered the bill. Looking back a few years may shed some light on why these Democrats’ efforts could succeed.

Historical Truths Democrats Have Successfully Concealed

Twelfth, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921, was a Democrat who promoted and adopted racist policies and who glorified the Ku Klux Klan. Under Wilson, the federal government resegregated numerous agencies in the US government. Yes, resegregated. Integration had taken place during Reconstruction decades before Wilson took office. Wilson “brought with him an administration loaded with white supremacists who segregated offices and removed black men from political appointments.” In 1914 President Wilson defended these policies, saying this:

Segregation is not humiliating but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen. If your organization goes out and tells the colored people of the country that it is a humiliation, they will so regard it, but if you do not tell them so, and regard it rather as a benefit, they will regard it the same. The only harm that will come will be if you cause them to think it is a humiliation… If this organization is ever to have another hearing before me it must have another spokesman. Your manner offends me…

Of course, Wilson’s policies affected people on a personal level. One man affected was John Abraham Davis. John Davis was a hard worker and excelled in school. Not long after graduating from high school in 1882 he landed a job at the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC. His job became his career. John was rewarded for his hard work with promotions and pay increases, and by 1908 he had a very respectable income as well as a home in the nation’s capital and a farm in a nearby state. Everything changed for John after Wilson took office. He was demoted, then sent from one department to another to do jobs that required little skill or experience. In the end he wound up delivering messages in the War Department, but that job paid only about half of what he had been earning in 1908. John was forced to sell the farm, and by 1917 his spirit had been crushed. He’d live for eleven more years but could not recover from the humiliation and economic ruin Wilson’s racist policies had brought upon him. Not surprisingly, other black men in government jobs had similar experiences.

Moreover, Woodrow Wilson spoke glowingly of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1901 in his book, A History of the American People, Volume IX, Wilson wrote, “Those who loved mastery and adventure directed the work of the Ku Klux.” He also wrote, “The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and conducted in the interest of adventurers.” The quote inspired this frame in the racist movie The Birth of a Nation, a silent movie directed by by D. W. Griffith and released in 1915. The film was successful and was a factor leading to a resurgence of the Klan, which also took place in 1915.


On another issue, Wilson is seen today as a leader promoting women’s suffrage. Not so fast! He and other Democrats actually had no choice but to go along with passage of the Nineteenth Amendment after landslide wins for Republicans in Congress in the election of 1918. On May 21, 1919, the Nineteenth Amendment passed the House of Representatives. The vote was 304-89. Ninety-one percent of Republicans but just 59 percent of Democrats voted for it. The Senate passed the amendment on June 4 of the same year by a vote of 56-25. Eighty-two percent of Republicans but just 41 percent of Democrats voted for it. On to the states it went, and Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 26, 1920. Tom Wrutz writes, “Of the 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment, 26 were Republican states [states with Republican legislatures].”


Suffragist demonstration in 1913 in Washington, DC

Thirteenth, the Democrat Convention in 1924 was called Klanbake because of the controversy that swirled around it involving the Ku Klux Klan. No political convention in US history has lasted as long as did this one. From June 24 to July 9, 1924, delegates cast a total of 103 ballots before officially nominating John W. Davis and Charles W. Bryan to run for president and vice-president, respectively. They would be defeated by Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes in November.


1924 Democrat Convention

Going into the convention, observers probably would have put their money on either Al Smith of New York or William Gibbs McAdoo, who had served as the Secretary of the Treasury in the Wilson administration and who would go on to serve as a Democrat US Senator from California. Davis became the compromise candidate.

Not all Democrats supported the revived KKK, and some wanted the party’s platform to condemn Klan for its violent activities. A plank was proposed. Pro-Klan delegates opposed Al Smith’s candidacy (Smith was a Catholic) and supported the candidacy of his chief opponent, William McAdoo (a Protestant). The convention was deeply divided. Writing about the proceedings, Randy Dotinga seasons his report with quotes from Robert K. Murray, a historian.

The vicious KKK debate finally ended in a chaotic two-hour vote that produced the most “prolonged pandemonium in an American political gathering.”

“The delegates engaged in fist fights, arguments, name calling, wrestling matches, and brawls, while the galleries howled and stomped their feet.” The fighting veered toward a riot that was only averted when 1,000 NYC cops hurried to the scene.

1924-dems202_zpsyoyhzzomDebate over adopting the anti-Klan plank was fierce. In the end, the plank was rejected by a vote of 546.15 to 542.85. In Celebration, “tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen rallied in a field in New Jersey, across the river from New York City. This event…was also attended by hundreds of Klan delegates to the convention, who burned crosses, urged violence and intimidation against African Americans and Catholics, and attacked effigies of Smith.”


Fourteenth, Democrat Hugo Black, who was a US Senator from Alabama from 1927 to 1937, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. After being elected to his seat in the Senate in 1926, Black spoke to a KKK gathering and thanked them for their support:

This passport which you have given me is a symbol to me of the passport which you have given me before. I do not feel that it would be out of place to state to you her on this occasion that I know that without the support of the members of this organization I would not have been called, even by my enemies, the “Junior Senator from Alabama.”

As a US Senator, Black strongly opposed anti-lynching legislation, even when the sponsors of the bill also were Democrats.

In 1935 Black led a filibuster of the Wagner-Costigan anti-lynching bill. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that when a motion to end the fillibuster was defeated “[t]he southerners- headed by Tom Connally of Texas and Hugo Black of Alabama—grinned at each other and shook hands.”


Fifteenth, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Hugo Black to the Supreme Court in 1937. He was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court from August 19, 1937 until just September 17, 1971, just days before his death. Shortly after Black became an Associate Justice, reporter Ray Sprigle of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a story disclosing Black’s involvement in the KKK. The report caused quite a stir, and Sprigle won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. As a Supreme Court Justice, Black “went on to reintroduce America to the long-dormant phrase ‘separation of church and state, twisting its meaning. Black also wrote the majority opinion that deemed internment camps in the United States constitutional in 1944.”


Sixteenth, in 1938, during a filibuster of the Wagner-Van Nuys anti-lynching bill—a bill, by the way, bearing the names of two Democrat senators, Robert Wagner and Frederick Van Nuys— Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo, also a Democrat, declared,

If you succeed in the passage of this bill, you will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate.

Seventeenth, in 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed James Byrmes to the US Supreme Court. Byrmes was a segregationist who in 1919 said, “This is a white man’s country, and will always remain a white man’s country.”

Eighteenth, FDR committed racist acts and failed to defend races who were vulnerable.

  • In 1942, internment camps were established by Executive Order 9066 to house American citizens descended from Japanese and Japanese expatriates.
  • Jesse Owens had defied the propaganda of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany by winning four gold medals on German soil, at the Berlin Olympics of 1936. After the games, FDR invited only the white athletes to meet with him. Of course, Owens received no such invitation.

FDR invited only white athletes to meet with him following the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

  • While Roosevelt was critical of lynching, he would not support a federal anti-lynching law. He said Southern Democrats, especially Senators, would retaliate by blocking other bills Roosevelt supported that were essential for the country’s survival: “If I come out for the anti-lynching bill now, they will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep America from collapsing. I just can’t take that risk.”
  • FDR also has been accused of not doing enough to help the Jews during the Holocaust and World War 2.

Ninteenth, evangelist Billy Graham led a crusade in Jackson, Mississippi in 1952. Graham’s policy was clear regarding race—members of all races would be welcome at his events. Mississippi Democrat Governor Hugh White didn’t like the policy and asked Graham to schedule different services for white and black audiences. Graham refused, although he did, at the Jackson Crusade, allow segregated seating. Several months later, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Graham vehemently resisted the call for segregated seating. In Jackson, Graham proclaimed, “There is no scriptural basis for segregation. It may be there are places where such is desirable to both races, but certainly not in the church. The ground at the foot of the cross is level.…[I]t touches my heart when I see whites stand shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”


Billy Graham in 1966

Twentieth, In 1956, a document was drafted in the US Congress called “The Declaration of Constitutional Principles” or simply the “Southern Manifesto.” In it, 101 political leaders expressed their opposition to racial integration in public facilities and venues, including schools. Ninety-nine of the leaders were Democrats and two were Republicans. One signatory to the document was J. William Fulbright, Senator from Arkansas and eventual mentor to Bill Clinton. Fulbright has been described as a racist, a “notorious segregationist,” pro-communist, and anti-Semitic. Recently, “the famous Fulbright fellowship…[was] renamed…the “J. William Fulbright–Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellowship.”

Former Democrat Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright has been described as a racist, a “notorious segregationist,” pro-communist, and anti-Semitic. Recently, “the famous Fulbright fellowship…[was] renamed…the “J. William Fulbright–Hillary Rodham Clinton Fellowship.”

Twenty-first, Bruce Bartlett, author of Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past,” explains that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower repeated his call for civil rights legislation in his 1957 State of the Union address. Previously, the legislation had passed in the House but had died in the Senate because of opposition from Southern Democrats. Lyndon B. Johnson was the Senate’s Majority Leader. Opponents of the legislation were looking to him to oppose it, just as he had in the past. (While a congressman, Johnson had called President Harry Truman’s civil rights initiative “a farce and a sham—an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty. I am opposed to that program. I have voted against the so-called poll tax repeal bill…I have voted against the so-called anti-lynching bill.”) Johnson, however, wanted to become president. Bartlett continues,

After dragging his feet on the civil rights bill throughout much of 1957, Johnson finally came to the conclusion that the tide had turned in favor of civil rights and he needed to be on the right side of the issue if he hoped to become president.…

At the same time, the Senate’s master tactician and principal opponent of the civil rights bill, Democrat Richard B. Russell of Georgia, saw the same handwriting on the wall but came to a different conclusion. He realized that the support was no longer there for an old-fashioned Democrat filibuster.…So Russell adopted a different strategy this time of trying to amend the civil rights bill so as to minimize its impact. Behind the scenes, Johnson went along with Russell’s strategy of not killing the civil rights bill, but trying to neuter it as much as possible.…

Eisenhower was disappointed at not being able to produce a better piece of legislation. “I wanted a much stronger civil rights bill in ’57 than I could get,” he later lamented. “But the Democrats…wouldn’t let me have it.”

Johnson explained his approach this way:

senator_lyndon_johnsonThese Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.

Forgive the language—I’m just reporting what was said. On Air Force One, President Johnson was speaking to two like-minded governors and explaining some of the benefits Democrats would reap from his “Great Society” programs. Johnson said, “I’ll have those niggars voting Democrat for the next 200 years.”

Twenty-second, In 1958, Billy Graham planned a rally on the steps of South Carolina’s capitol building. South Carolina Democrat Governor George Timmerman objected and successfully nixed the plans to hold the rally at the capitol. Graham was viewed as an “integrationist.” In fact, the KKK had listed Billy Graham as one of their targets in 1957. Governor Timmerman said, “There is, in fact, no reason to select the State House unless the real purpose is to capitalize, for propaganda, purposes, on the appearance of a widely known advocate of desegregation. It is Graham’s endorsement of desegregation that has brought him front-page acclaim.” Brig. General Christian H. Clark helped make Fort Jackson, which was a federal venue, available, and the rally was held there. As many as 60,000 people of different races attended, and the meeting was “described at the time as the largest turnout for a non-sporting event in state history.”

Twenty-third, in 1962 George C. Wallace, then a Democrat, was elected Governor of Alabama. He was inaugurated on January 14, 1963.

In his inauguration speech he proclaimed, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

Twenty-fourth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963
The top image is a photo of the crowd attending that event.

Twenty-fifth, Contrary to the assumptions of many today, Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • In the House of Representatives, 80 percent of Republicans voted for the measure, while just 61 percent of Democrats voted for it.
  • In the Senate, Republicans were at last able to end a filibuster brought by Democrats. Eighty-two percent of Republicans supported cloture along with just 66 percent of Democrats.
  • In the vote on the legislation itself, 82 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats gave their support. 

Twenty-sixth, Surprise, surprise! The Voting Rights Act of 1965 also became law largely because of Republicans.

  • Ninety-four percent of Republicans in the US Senate supported the Voting Rights Act, contrasted to 73 percent of Democrats.
  • When the Senate voted on the final version of the bill from the House, one lone Republican Senator opposed it, along with 17 Democrats.
  • In the House of Representatives, 82 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats voted for the legislation. 

everettdirksenRepublican Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen was a co-author of the legislation, and he strategized against opposition brought by Democrats. He said, “There has to be a real remedy. There has to be something durable and worthwhile. This cannot go on forever, this denial of the right to vote by ruses and devices and tests and whatever the mind can contrive to either make it very difficult or to make it impossible to vote.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law largely because of the work of Republicans.

Twenty-seventh, Lester Maddox was elected governor of Georgia in 1970 and was a Democrat at the time. An ardent segregationist, Maddox once said, “That’s part of American greatness, is discrimination. Yes, sir. Inequality, I think, breeds freedom and gives a man opportunity.”

bill_clinton_1978Twenty-eighth, In 1989, the NAACP sued three state officials, including then-Arkansas Democrat Governor Bill Clinton, under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a federal statute. According to the Arkansas Gazette on December 6, 1989, “Plaintiffs offered plenty of proof of monolithic voting along racial lines, intimidation of black voters and candidates and other official acts that made voting harder for blacks.” The paper also said that “the evidence at the trial was indeed overwhelming that the Voting Rights Act had been violated.” The court ordered the redrawing of electoral districts to enhance the strength of votes from the black community.

Writing at, Deroy Murdock reports,

During his 12-year tenure, Governor Clinton never approved a state civil-rights law. However, he did issue birthday proclamations honoring Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. He also signed Act 116 in 1987. That statute reconfirmed that the star directly above the word “Arkansas” in the state flag “is to commemorate the Confederate States of America.” Arkansas also observed Confederate Flag Day every year Clinton served. The governor’s silence was consent.



Also, examples of merchandise from Bill Clinton’s presidential run in 1992 have appeared that reflect Confederate sympathies.


Twenty-ninth, As a presidential candidate in 2000, Al Gore declared to the NAACP that his father was voted out of office after voting for the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The Senior Gore, however, opposed the Civil Rights Act and voted against it. In 1970, Gore, Sr. lost to Republican Bill Brock in a contest that centered on the Supreme Court, the war in Viet Nam, and prayer in public schools. Also in 2000, Gore claimed to have worked to increase diversity among those who followed him every day, including the Secret Service; but blacks in the Secret Service were suing Gore because they “were not being promoted to positions guarding the Vice-President.”

robert_byrd_official_portraitThirtieth, in a National Review article titled “Whitewashing the Democratic Party’s History,” Mona Charen writes, “As recently as 2010, the Senate’s president pro tempore was former Ku Klux Klan Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.).” Go here to learn more about this KKK role.

During World War 2, Byrd wrote, “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side. … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” Go here to view a brief timeline of Byrd’s actions with regard to race relations.

Thirty-first, Barak Obama has increased racial tensions in this country since becoming president. One glaring manifestation of this truth that if you’re opposed to his policies, you’re accused of racism. Check out articles herehere, here, and here.

This president is the most racist president there has ever been in America. He is purposely trying to use race to divide Americans.
Ben Stein, speaking of President Barak Obama—

070731-N-0696M-156 WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 31, 2007) - As Senator Hillary Clinton listens, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Mullen responds to a question during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee for appointment to Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Hart Senate Office Building, July 31, 2007. Mullen was joined by Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. James E. Cartwright for his appointment to Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley (RELEASED)

Thirty-second and finally, Hillary Clinton apparently has garnered support from people willing to embrace the Confederate flag (also go here). While a candidate can’t control who supports him or her, the candidate can disavow attitudes of prominent supporters with whom he or she disagrees.

Hillary Clinton does not have the best track record with regard to race, especially when one considers her husband’s policies when he was Governor of Arkansas. Yet she has been quick to accuse Republicans of racism.


In fact, accusations of racism among Republicans has become a Democrat mantra.

You see, Democrats don’t just rewrite the past, they misrepresent the present, too.

Part 9 is available here.


Copyright © 2016 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

The Importance of Getting History Right, Part 7

Forgetting Flaws and Fabricating Fantasies: The Democrats’ Revisionist History

I am not a fan of the Republican Party. I’m not here as a Republican shill. I don’t like them. I’m not a member of the Republican Party. They’ve lost their way. But let’s get history right.
—Glenn Beck1

A condensed version of this article is available here.
Part 6 is available here.

Is a college education everything it’s cracked up to be? Increasingly, conservatives are compelled to say no. While education can be defined concisely as a quest for truth, college students in the United States today, generally speaking, aren’t acquiring truth. They’re being indoctrinated, and not by accident.


Woodrow Wilson in 1902, President of Princeton University

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University (1902-1910) before becoming governor of New Jersey (1911-1913) and president of the United States (1913-1921).2 Wilson has been called a “progressive reformer”3 and even the “Godfather of Liberalism.”4 Ironically, it was in a speech about the Young Men’s Christian Association that Wilson made this significant statement: “I have often said that the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.”5

Dennis Prager indicates that what Wilson said hasn’t been forgotten. On the contrary, it is being consistently applied in higher education today.

In 1996, in his commencement address to the graduating seniors of Dartmouth College, the then president of the college, James O. Freedman, cited the Wilson quote favorably. And in 2002, in another commencement address, Freedman said that “the purpose of a college education is to question your father’s values.”6

The context for Prager’s insights is an article titled “What Kids Now Learn in College.”7 It can’t be good, given the admission made by Freedman.8 The truth is that warning signs about higher education are everywhere for Christian parents and others who hold to traditional moral values, and they have been for some time.9 Hopefully in the near future, I will be able to write an article about some of these signs for Word Foundations readers. For now, I want to highlight five of the 27 items Prager says parents are paying $20,000 to $50,000 annually per child for their children to learn.

  • The South votes Republican because it is still racist, and the Republican Party caters to racists.
  • Whites can be racist; non-whites cannot be (because whites have power, and the powerless cannot be racist).
  • Blacks are victims of whites.
  • The American Founders were sexist, racist slaveholders whose primary concern was preserving their wealthy status.
  • The Constitution says what progressives think it should say.10

Appropriately, Dennis Prager concludes his article with this piercing question: “Still want to go into years of debt?” Keep in mind we’ve listed here only a few of Prager’s observations!11 Also keep in mind that it isn’t just institutions of higher education indoctrinating children, but the broader culture as well.

For the past several weeks, we’ve been discussing the importance of having an accurate understanding of history in general, and of black history in particular.12 Last week we began making a list13 of historical truths that surprise and enlighten modern readers because they hardly ever are highlighted. Why do we only hear select portions of black history? The simple answer is that progressives and Democrats have revised history to their own advantage.

No longer will we ignore previously hidden historical truths or the lessons they teach! In Part 6 we had the privilege of discovering the contributions blacks made to the cause of liberty in the American Revolution and during Reconstruction.14 Our journey was prompted by these, the first two items on our list.

Historical Truths Democrats Have Successfully Concealed

First, many black soldiers fought alongside whites in the Revolutionary War.15 Their contributions to the cause of liberty and American independence truly were incalculable.

Second, all of the first black Members of Congress were Republicans.16 They courageously faced threats and fierce opposition from those who never wanted to free the slaves in the first place, many of whom were Democrats.

We now will add nine more items to the list. As you read, please remember that our primary goal isn’t to be pro-Republican or even anti-Democrat, but to learn the truth about history. We simply want to ask, “What happened?” Are you ready?

Third, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially ended slavery in the United States. The US Senate passed it on April 8, 1864, and the US House of Representatives passed it on January 31, 1865.17 One hundred eighteen out of 118 Republicans—100 percent—voted for the amendment, but a mere 19 of 82 Democrats—23 percent—voted for it.18,19 “Among Democrats, 63 percent of senators and 78 percent of House members voted: ‘No.’”20

Fourth, the 14th Amendment specifies that all Americans will have equal protection under the law. “In 1866 94 percent of GOP senators and 96 percent of GOP House members approved” the measure. Every single Democrat in Congress voted no.21

Fifth, the 15th Amendment guarantees the right to vote for every American, regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”22 At the time Congress passed it, there were a total of 56 congressional Democrats, and not one of them voted for it.23 The 15th Amendment would go on to be ratified on February 3, 1870.24

Sixth, the Democrat platform of 1860 “continued to campaign for immigrant rights and slavery. The 1864 platform denounced the Civil War and called for negotiations with the Confederacy. The 1868 platform denounced ‘negro supremacy’.”25  Blacks haven’t been the exclusive targets of Democrat racism, however. Democrat Party platforms from the last thirty years of the 19th century, as well as the 1900 platform, show that Asians, the Chinese, “the Mongolian race,” “servile races,” and the Japanese have been targets as well.26 During this time, Democrats didn’t abandon racism toward blacks, either; their 1892 platform decried blacks’ voting rights. 27

Seventh, Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan (KKK):

The KKK was founded in Tennessee immediately after the end of the Civil War as a sort of social club for former Confederate Soldiers whose influence quickly spread through the decimated Southern states.  As Columbia professor Eric Foner wrote in his A Short History of Reconstruction, in its early days, the group was loosely bound by one main principle: launching a reign of terror against Republican leaders black and white.

Racism was, of course, a guiding principle, but not quite as guiding as the hatred of the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, the Yankees who[m] early Klansmen believed destroyed their homeland through what they termed a “war of northern aggression.”28

According to Larry Elder,

In 1872 congressional investigations, Democrats admitted beginning the Klan as an effort to stop the spread of the Republican Party and to re-establish Democratic control in Southern states. As PBS’ “American Experience” notes, “In outright defiance of the Republican-led federal government, Southern Democrats formed organizations that violently intimidated blacks and Republicans who tried to win political power. The most prominent of these, the Ku Klux Klan, was formed in Pulaski, Tenn., in 1865.” Blacks, who were all Republican at that time, became the primary targets of violence.29


“A political cartoon depicting the KKK and the Democratic Party as continuations of the Confederacy”

Eighth, the election of 1876 sent Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to the White House, but only after a compromise was reached that gave him just enough electoral votes to be elected.



The results of the election were mired in controversy, although Democrat Samuel J. Tilden had, without question, won the popular vote.30 According to the website Digital History,



At a meeting in February 1877 at Washington, D.C.’s Wormley Hotel (which was operated by an African American), Democratic leaders accepted Hayes’s election in exchange for Republican promises to withdraw federal troops from the South, provide federal funding for internal improvements in the South, and name a prominent Southerner to the president’s cabinet. When the federal troops were withdrawn, the Republican governments in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina collapsed, bringing Reconstruction to a formal end.

Under the so-called Compromise of 1877, the national government would no longer intervene in southern affairs. This would permit the imposition of racial segregation and the disfranchisement of black voters.31

When the federal troops were withdrawn from the South, the Republican governments in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina collapsed, bringing Reconstruction to a formal end. Under the so-called Compromise of 1877, the national government would no longer intervene in southern affairs. This would permit the imposition of racial segregation and the disfranchisement of black voters.
Digital History


the presidential election of 1880 is notable for several reasons. First, it was the first presidential election that took place following Reconstruction. Second, the Democrats nominated Winfield Scott Hancock, who had been a Union general during the Civil War. He’d emerged a war hero, but significantly, “Hancock was a Democrat who fought to preserve the Union but not to end slavery or see Black Americans protected by the United States Constitution.”32



It was a very shrewd move on the part of Democrats. Recognizing this, Republicans distributed a handbill that highlighted the stark differences between the two parties—and that effectively laid out reasons not to vote for the Democratic ticket.


For a larger copy of this image, click here.

While today some of the language used in the flyer would be considered inappropriate, the points it conveyed resonated with the public.33 In the end, the popular vote was very close, even though the vote in the electoral college was not.34 James A. Garfield was elected.



Tenth, Democrats in the South after the Civil War no longer had the institution of slavery to bring blacks down, so they found other ways. “Jim Crow laws” were widely used for this purpose. Jim Crow was a character created by Thomas “Daddy” Rice. In the 1830s, Rice wrote and performed for audiences in blackface and spoke in a black dialect.35 The name Jim Crow caught on, and by the late 1830s it had become a negative term people used to refer to a black man.36  We’ve noted that during Reconstruction (a period lasting from 1855-1877), federal laws were passed that afforded certain basic civil rights to blacks. However, in

the 1870s, Democrats gradually regained power in the Southern legislatures, having used insurgent paramilitary groups, such as the White League and Red Shirts, to disrupt Republican organizing, run Republican officeholders out of town, and intimidate blacks to suppress their voting. Extensive voter fraud was also used. Gubernatorial elections were close and had been disputed in Louisiana for years, with increasing violence against blacks during campaigns from 1868 onward. In 1877, a national Democratic Party compromise to gain Southern support in the presidential election [an event we highlighted in our eighth point on this list] resulted in the government’s withdrawing the last of the federal troops from the South. White Democrats had regained political power in every Southern state. These Southern, white, Democratic Redeemer governments legislated Jim Crow laws, officially segregating black people from the white population.37


—Not Just in the South—
Democrats running for office in Ohio in 1867
Go here for more information.

Go here and here to read some examples of Jim Crow laws and to learn about the segregation and oppression they engendered. Jim Crow laws were enacted not just during the 19th century in the years following the Civil War, but also well into the 20th century.

Eleventh, the Ku Klux Klan continued its campaign of intimidation, and no tactic in the KKK’s arsenal was more effective than lynching.38 You can understand why. If you can stomach it, take a few moments to watch this presentation on lynching.39 Among other things, it’s important for us to know these facts.

• Between 1886 and 1968 there were 4,743 lynchings recorded.
• There were 3,446 blacks lynched out of the 4,743 lynchings. That calls [counts] for 72.7% of [the] lynchings.
• Whites accounted for the extra 27.3%.40 

These are just the lynchings that were recorded! In 1922, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill authored by Missouri Republican Representative Leonidas Dyer that would have made lynching a federal crime. President Warren G. Harding supported the bill, but senate Democrats from southern states filibustered it, thereby blocking its passage.41 They filibustered it again in 1923 and 1924.42

In 1922, 1923, and 1924, Senate Democrats from southern states filibustered a bill authored by Missouri Republican Representative Leonidas Dyer that would have made lynching a federal crime.


This last item took place in the early 20th century, and there’s a good bit more to cover. We’ll complete this list next week by highlighting several 20th-century events, personalities, and attitudes. This will by no means become an exhaustive list, but I believe it will become—and already is—an informative one.

Elbert Lee Guillory is a former Louisiana state senator. In 2013, Guillory switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. As you hear him explain why, you’ll be reminded of the historical discoveries we’ve made this week and get a foretaste of next week’s discussion.

Before concluding, I feel compelled to underscore the following three items.

First, let’s reiterate. We’re diving into history and trying to learn from what it teaches us. We’re simply trying to uncover what happened. We do this because so many of these important historical facts never are discussed. They should not remain hidden in America’s past, because they hold too many lessons for Americans today.

Second, while this written presentation, in a sense, airs Democrats’ “dirty laundry” with regard to racism, we would never try to make the case that Republicans have a perfect record in this area. Yet their record doesn’t have to be perfect to be a far cry from what the Democrats claim.

Third, in recent years Republicans have developed an unfortunate and disappointing track record of campaigning on conservative principles and then, once elected, acquiescing to Democrat pressure without a fight. Voters who put these Republicans in office are rightly angry over this. This is relevant to our discussion because it is clear to many that Democrats still use intimidation and misinformation as vicious weapons. They have enthusiastic allies in the mainstream media, as well. Republicans need to stand up to Democrats unwaveringly and fight for the principles they ran on when they campaigned for office—the way they used to do when they fought against slavery and fought for equality for all Americans! Can you imagine Republicans of the era of history we’ve been highlighting calling their party a “big tent” that welcomes pro-slavery adherents into its ranks? Can you imagine their saying, “Well, I’m personally opposed to slavery, but I believe every person has a right to choose whether or not to become a slaveowner”? This sounds ridiculous because it is! Republicans, rediscover your roots and stand once again on solid ground! Your constituents long for you to do these things!

Can you imagine Republicans of the era of history we’ve been highlighting calling their party a “big tent” that welcomes pro-slavery adherents into its ranks? Can you imagine their saying, “Well, I’m personally opposed to slavery, but I believe every person has a right to choose whether or not to become a slaveowner”?


Churchill_portrait_NYP_45063Until next week, remember this insightful quote from Winston S. Churchill: “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”43 Let’s make sure we look back, and that we do so with clarity of vision.

These posts are offered, hopefully, as means to these ends.

Part 8 is available here.


Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Top image: The First Vote: African Americans vote for the first time, as depicted in 1867 on the cover of Harper’s magazine. Engraving by Alfred R. Waud.


























25 Minor grammatical changes were made for clarity.













38David Barton, Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black and White, (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press, 2004), 115.








The Importance of Getting History Right, Part 6

Affirming the Priceless Contributions of Black Americans to the Cause of Liberty During the Eras of the American Revolution and Reconstruction

Historical records show that 5,000 blacks fought for American Independence. Even without the certainty of their futures, they understood that the risk of dying for freedom was better than the guarantee of living under oppression. Now, if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard about these black heroes, it hasn’t been by accident. After the Civil War, the losers, the Democrats, were allowed to re-write the history books. They knew that the best way to isolate blacks was to remove them from history. But we conservatives are getting wiser and we are making some noise.
Amy Reid

Part 5 is available here.

The article cited above is titled “Black Revolutionary War Heroes.” In it, writer and speaker Amy Reid cites some tremendous examples of African American contributions to American Independence and freedom. Specifically, she mentions Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, Wentworth Cheswell, James Armistead (pictured above with Marquis de Lafayette), Prince Eastabrook, Prince Whipple, and Oliver Cromwell. To this list we can add the name of Salem Poor.


Postage Stamp, 1975

The phrase “Gallant Soldier” on the stamp honoring Poor didn’t come from a 20th century assessment of his actions on the battlefield. Rather, it came from fourteen white officers who saw Poor in action at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Several months later, in December, they submitted a petition to the General Court of Massachusetts requesting official recognition of his service. They affirmed Poor had acted “like an Experienced officer, as Well as an Excellent Soldier” and went on to say that it would have been “Tedious” to explain the details of Poor’s military skill, so “We Would Only beg leave to say in the Person of this Negro Centers a Brave & gallant Soldier.”

Amy Reid’s very powerful observation bears repeating: “Now, if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard about these black heroes, it hasn’t been by accident. After the Civil War, the losers, the Democrats, were allowed to rewrite the history books. They knew that the best way to isolate blacks was to remove them from history.”

The Democrats have been allowed to revise history.

This week we begin exploring some of the events from history that Democrats have edited to their advantage. Please know that this article isn’t primarily pro-Republican, or even anti-Democrat. Rather, it is an effort to get to the truth about history.

This article—indeed, all the articles in this series—aren’t primarily pro-Republican, or even anti-Democrat. Rather, they represent concerted efforts to uncover what really happened in history.

When we learn the truth, we find lessons for Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats need to own up to the the truth. Republicans need to rediscover their roots and once again uphold the founding principles of the Republican party—not just during campaigns to get elected, but especially after they get in office, with their actions.

This week we will examine two important historical truths that Democrats have successfully concealed, and in our next post we will add several more. Get ready for an eye-opening journey. For additional information on each topic, click on the links provided.

Historical Truths Democrats Have Successfully Concealed

  1. Many black soldiers fought alongside whites in the Revolutionary War. Their contributions to the cause of liberty and American independence truly were incalculable.
  2. All of the first black Members of Congress were Republicans. They courageously faced threats and fierce opposition from those who never wanted to free the slaves in the first place, many of whom were Democrats.

Dive in and digest these historical facts between now and next week, when we’ll add several more amazing items to the list.

Part 7 is available here.

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

The Importance of Getting History Right, Part 1

Defog Your Rearview Mirror

Understanding the Historical Context Is Essential to Understanding the Historical Event, and Understanding the Event Is Essential to Rightly Interpreting the Present and Navigating the Future

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”
Aldous Huxley Collected Essays

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

On Monday, May 14, 1804, a group of more than thirty volunteers who became known as the Corps of Discovery departed in three boats from Camp Dubois in Indiana Territory for St. Charles, Missouri. There they would join Captain Meriwether Lewis, the leader of the expedition of which they had agreed to be a part. Second-in-command was Second Lieutenant William Clark.


Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

On May 21, the group headed west by following the Missouri River. Their mission was to explore the vast area of land the United States had acquired through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This investment is considered one of President Thomas Jefferson’s greatest accomplishments.


The Lewis and Clark Expedition ended 28 months after it began—on September 23, 1806, when the men returned to St. Louis. From that city, Lewis, Clark, and their companions had journeyed up the Missouri River, “across the Rocky Mountains, and down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.” When travel on the water was too dangerous, the explorers carried their boats on land. Sacajawea, a Native American woman they met on their journey, helped them by serving as a guide. During the expedition, the explorers and observers recorded their findings. They kept journals, drew maps, and collected samples of various plants, all of which helped to make the effort a resounding success. Having walked, hiked, ridden horses, and rowed boats, the pioneers traveled about 8,000 miles. The painting at the top was painted by by Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) and is titled Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition is all the more fascinating because it really happened. Yet suppose I told you that after they’d collected several unusual plant samples, Lewis and Clark sent them back to President Jefferson by Federal Express. Ridiculous? Absolutely! Even so, such an idea is no less ridiculous than some modern interpretations of past events that fail to consider the contexts of those events—the social and cultural climates of the times. It’s too bad the ridiculous nature of many modern interpretations usually is subtle, almost to the point of being undetectable. Were it more blatant, fewer people would be duped.

Many modern interpretations of historical events are just as ridiculous as the suggestion that Lewis and Clark were able, on their expedition, to send plant samples back to President Jefferson by Federal Express.

Quite often, as sloppy historians interpret the past through the lens of modern perspectives on everything from medicine to the economy to social status, they also make a multitude of unwarranted and often condescending judgments. H. L. Mencken, a writer known for his own brand of sensationalism, once said that a historian is “an unsuccessful novelist.” Unfortunately, he was all too accurate. Note as well the quotes showcased at the top of this article. As much as I disagree with Carl Sagan on a host of issues, he was absolutely right about being bamboozled. We need to realize people are bamboozled by sloppy and agenda-driven historians as well as politicians.

When studying history, follow these important guidelines: Learn all you can, not just about what happened, but also about what led up to it. Seek to understand the thinking of the times. Do not blame the people of a past era for not knowing pertinent information we know today, especially information they had no way to learn. Remember that we have hindsight, and they did not. Some even possessed a lot more foresight than we tend to believe. Look beyond surface meanings and consider implications and repercussions. Consider the worldview perspectives of historical subjects. Don’t just observe what people did, but also what they didn’t do. If we will seek to do these things, the lessons we derive from history’s vaults will be far more accurate than they otherwise would.

When studying history, learn all you can, not just about what happened, but also about what led up to it. Seek to understand the thinking of the times. Do not blame the people of a past era for not knowing pertinent information we know today, especially information they had no way to learn. Remember that we have hindsight, and they did not. Some even possessed a lot more foresight than we tend to believe. Look beyond surface meanings and consider implications and repercussions. Consider the worldview perspectives of historical subjects. Don’t just observe what people did, but also what they didn’t do.

In this post and the next (and possibly other posts as well) I want to consider the issue of slavery in the United States—specifically the approach the architects of the US Constitution took in dealing with this divisive and sensitive issue. I do this in part because of the recent escalation of racial tensions and incidents of violence in our country. Did our Founders intend to perpetuate slavery based on race, or did they in fact set the stage for it eventually to be eradicated? Is the Constitution a racist document, or does it reflect the Declaration’s core principles that “all men [persons, human beings] 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”?

Obviously, slavery continued in America for many years after the Constitution took effect, but this fact alone may not tell the entire story. A great deal is at stake here. The belief that the Framers of the Constitution wanted slavery to continue forever understandably will make it harder for blacks to trust governmental authorities, including police. Yet, if we dig deeper and come to understand many of the relevant historical details, we just might discover truths that can help ease some of today’s racial tensions and conflicts.

We alluded to the issues of slavery and its relationship to the Constitution in a previous post but did not have opportunity to explore it in any significant detail. Perhaps no provision in the Constitution as it was originally drafted is more misunderstood than the “Three-Fifths Clause,” which resulted from the “Three-Fifths Compromise.” While it is technically correct to say the Constitution originally authorized counting each slave as three-fifths of a person, this leaves the erroneous impression that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention and the Founders of America believed that a slave was less than a human being.

I first want to debunk the myth that the Constitution’s Three-Fifths Cause, in and of itself, is clear evidence that the Constitution’s Framers considered a black man or woman as less than a person. Then we’ll examine the Three-Fifths Clause in some detail, as well as the context in which it was adopted. I believe you’ll find our historical discoveries extremely enlightening. They will bolster your faith in the founding of our country, and in the Constitution as well.

Here’s a portion of what we said earlier about the dawn of the US government under the Constitution (not all original citations have been included here).

After the American Revolution, the thirteen states rejoiced over their independence, but they still were thirteen individual states, each of which, in many ways, acted as an individual country. Previously the war against Great Britain had united these Virginians, New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, Marylanders, and the residents of the other states, but now other matters confronted the new nation. How could the states work together? Could they establish a central government that would acknowledge states’ sovereignty, yet unify the states to address the issues that would confront them all?

An attempt was made in the Articles of Confederation. This document was drafted under the authority of the Second Continental Congress, which appointed a committee to begin the work on July 12, 1776. In the latter part of 1777, a document was sent to the states for ratification. All the states had approved it in the early part of 1781. The states now had a new central government, but it wasn’t long before problems arose. The national government was too weak. It had no executive authority and no judiciary. Too high a hurdle had been established for the passage of laws. Furthermore, the states had their own monetary systems, so understandably, buying and selling across state lines became difficult. Without free trade between the states, the national economy was severely hindered.…

Accordingly, the states were asked to send their representatives to Philadelphia in May of 1787. This meeting become the Constitutional Convention. Delegates soon realized they shouldn’t try to fix the Articles of Confederation but needed to replace it altogether. The Convention met from May 25 to September 17, 1787.

According to Article VII of the proposed Constitution, the document would become binding on all thirteen states after it had been ratified by nine. New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify on Saturday, June 21, 1788. The remaining states followed, but after New Hampshire’s decisive vote it was “agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789.” Thus, the last two states to ratify, North Carolina and Rhode Island, did so after the Constitution already had taken effect. On November 21, 1789, North Carolina officially embraced the Constitution, and on May 29, 1790, by just two votes, Rhode Island joined the rest of the original colonies, making it unanimous.


Signing of the Constitution by Thomas P. Rossiter (1818-1871)

When the Constitution was being drafted in 1787, however, ratification of the thirteenth of thirteen states was three years and a great many debates away. As they hammered out the details, delegates crafted a Constitution that differed from the Articles of Confederation in a large number of ways. One of these related to the legislative body. Some delegates, principally those from small states, felt each state should have an equal share of lawmakers. Others, mainly those from the larger states, believed that representation in the legislative body should reflect each state’s population. The Articles of Confederation had set up just one legislative body, but the new Constitution established two—the Senate and the House of Representatives. This arrangement affirmed both perspectives. In the Senate, each state, regardless of size, would have two Senators. In the House, the number of representatives from each state would be determined by that state’s population. Thus, in the House, the larger states would have more representatives than the smaller ones. For a bill to become law, it would have to pass both houses of Congress. This truly was was a brilliant approach.

Having agreed to this model, the delegates then had to adopt a formula for determining the number of representatives each state would have in the House. Delegates resolved that each state would get one Representative for every 30,000 people. Even though only men could vote, women and children were counted along with them. But how should slaves be counted? Gary DeMar writes, “The Northern states did not want to count slaves. The Southern states hoped to include slaves in the population statistics in order to acquire additional representation in Congress to advance their political [pro-slavery] position.” In the end, it was agreed that in slave states, a Representative would be added for every 50,000 slaves rather than 30,000. In mathematical terms, this effectively meant that that every five slaves would count as three persons for representation purposes, so each individual slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person. This same count also was used to determine amounts states would pay in taxes as well.

As insensitive and as cruel as this may sound in our day, this was not at all about the worth of a slave as a person. Had the Southern states gotten what they wanted, every slave would have been counted as one individual. This would have resulted in a stronger pro-slavery contingent in the House. Had the Northern states gotten their way, no slaves would have been counted at all, and the anti-slavery position in the House of Representatives would have been strengthened to the greatest degree possible. Neither side prevailed. A compromise was reached.

The Three-Fifths Clause read,

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.


So, contrary to first impressions, the pro-slavery position was to count slaves as full individuals, and the abolitionist position was to not count them at all! Again, the decision to number slaves in the manner described in the Three-Fifths Clause had absolutely nothing to do with the worth of a slave as a person, but with taxation and with representation of slave states in the House of Representatives.

The pro-slavery position was to count slaves as full individuals, and the abolitionist position was to not count them at all! The Three-Fifths Clause had absolutely nothing to do with the worth of a slave as a person, but with taxation and with representation of slave states in the House of Representatives.

Overcoming the impression one gets when he or she hears that the Constitution authorized counting each slave as three-fifths of a person is difficult enough, but even many of the sources that acknowledge the Three-Fifths Clause was about counting slaves for representative and taxation purposes don’t explain what this actually meant in practical terms (as we have here). Moreover, the sources often go on to condemn, either directly or by implication, the Founders for refusing to draw a line in the sand to end slavery altogether. Consider this description of the Three-Fifths Compromise in “The Making of America: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Nation.”


The Southern states insisted that their slave populations would be counted when assigning seats in the House of Representatives, even though no one seriously considered giving the right to vote to anyone other than white men. This resulted in the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” in which 60% of a state’s slave population would be added to its free population when assigning seats in the House. Sadly, the new nation’s founding document sanctioned slavery: at the insistence of Southern states, the Constitution specifically prohibited Congress from passing any laws that abolished or restricted the slave trade until 1808.1

This makes it sound as if the Southern states got everything they wanted, but, in fact (as we already have said), they did not. Next week, we’ll learn even more about slavery and the Constitution at the founding of America. Among other things, we’ll consider why the anti-slavery delegates at the Constitutional Convention didn’t give their pro-slavery counterparts an ultimatum.

I venture to say that anyone who gives our discussion a fair hearing will find it enlightening and eye-opening. Stay tuned.

Part 2 is available here.


Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.


1The editors of Time, The Making of America, (New York: Time, Inc., 2005), 83.

Websites in this article have been cited for information purposes only. No citation should be construed as an endorsement.