On his first day in office, President Joe Biden abolished former President Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission.
The stated purpose of the group was to “enable a rising generation to understand the history and principles of the founding of the United States in 1776 and to strive to form a more perfect Union,” according to its Monday report.
One of Biden’s 15 executive orders, titled “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” revoked Trump’s order creating the commission.
Yesterday, I took the first of many steps toward building our nation back better. pic.twitter.com/2o1S9pTjzk
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 21, 2021
The 1776 Commission treatise focuses on the nation’s founding documents and ideals, with special emphasis on the Declaration of Independence.
“Of course, neither America nor any other nation has perfectly lived up to the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent. But no nation before America ever dared state those truths as the formal basis for its politics, and none has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them,” the commission report reads.
There is an extensive discussion of slavery as the prime example of how the U.S. failed to live up to its ideals, but the document noted the emancipation movement began with Northern states banning the institution during, and in the years immediately following, the Revolutionary War.
“The First Continental Congress agreed to discontinue the slave trade and boycott other nations that engaged in it, and the Second Continental Congress reaffirmed this policy. The Northwest Ordinance, a pre-Constitution law passed to govern the western territories (and passed again by the First Congress and signed into law by President Washington) explicitly bans slavery from those territories and from any states that might be organized there,” the report continues.
Historian Victor Davis Hanson, who served on the commission, noted that two of the most prominently quoted people in the report are abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who both grounded their arguments for racial equality in the truths contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
It beggars belief that in one of its first acts, the @JoeBiden administration took down the report issued by the 1776 Commission, and on his first day as president, Biden disbanded the commission. https://t.co/yAv6hk50d4 via @Gundisalvus @DailySignal
— Virginia Allen (@Virginia_Allen5) January 20, 2021
“Neither wished to replace the Founders’ visions; both instead demanded that they be fully realized and enforced,’ Hanson wrote in a syndicated Op-Ed for The Western Journal.
An education writer for The Associated Press, Collin Binkley, provided a very negative take on the commission and its report.
“Trump established the group in September to rally support from white voters and as a response to The New York Times’ ‘1619 Project,’ which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America,” Binkley wrote for the AP.
“In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classrooms across the nation, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the ‘lofty ideals’ espoused by the Founding Fathers.”
Binkley also called into question the academic credentials of those serving on the commission, noting that the panel included “no professional historians of the United States.”
Historian Hanson, however, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, who holds a Ph.D. in classics from Stanford University.
Vice Chair Carol Swain is a former professor of political science and professor of law at Vanderbilt University, as well as a lifetime member of the James Madison Society at Princeton University.
Spalding is also the best-selling author of the book, “We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future.”
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and another commission member, said that the group wants to see the nation’s history taught and debated in a balanced way.
“That is the work we recommended in the 1776 report, for historians to look at primary sources, analyze what they meant in the context of the time, debate that meaning in good faith, without an agenda, and be ready to correct the record when proven wrong,” he wrote for The Daily Signal.
“To twist history to fit a political project is to write lies, which is why so many historians have criticized the 1619 Project, whose agenda is to make our America an object of contempt.”
Among the 1619 Project’s more fantastical claims is that the founders fought the Revolutionary War to protect slavery. Working against this claim: Great Britain did not outlaw slavery until 1833, over fifty years after America had already declared its independence.
“Our founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty and prosperity. No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America. And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation,” he said.
He lauded the 56 patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence, and thereby “enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said, ‘All men are created equal.'”
Trump also warned against the “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”
The Biden administration has already deleted the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission report from the White House website —but you can still find the report in full right here: https://t.co/0JaE9cxMUz
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) January 20, 2021
Gonzalez wrote that the commission plans to continue its work for the two-year period for which Trump established it, and The Heritage Foundation will continue to publish its recommendations.