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Opinion

Youngkin Takes Shot at Cancel Culture, Lauds Washington and Jefferson

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Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin took a jab at cancel culture during his victory speech early Wednesday morning by celebrating the lives of past great Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

“For too long we’ve been expected to shelve our dreams, to shelve our hope, to settle for low expectations. We will not be a commonwealth of low expectations, we’ll be a commonwealth of high expectations,” the Republican said.

Youngkin next noted that people from different races, religions, ages and political ideologies supported his candidacy.

“This is the spirit of Virginia coming together like never before, the spirit of Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Monroe and Patrick Henry of Virginia, standing up and taking our commonwealth back,” he said.

How refreshing, in light of the attacks founders like Washington and Jefferson have received of late.

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Many on the left seem to think because these men owned slaves, they, along with the rest of America’s incredible founding, must be canceled.

It’s the 1619 Project way of thinking: America is defined not by July 4, 1776, but by 1619, the year slavery was introduced into the British colony of Virginia.

Should our founding fathers be respected?

The New York Times’ lead writer on the Project’s school curriculum, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was honest enough to admit slavery came to these shores over 150 years before the original 13 American colonies declared their independence.

However, she alleged that by 1776, Britain “had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution,” and therefore the colonies broke away to preserve slavery. Give me a break.

That claim does not square with reality.

Slavery was abolished in Great Britain in 1833 — over a half-century after the founding of the United States.

Nearly every state north of the Mason-Dixon Line voted to abolish slavery by the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, so they in fact preceded the former mother country by decades.

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By 1804, all northern states had passed legislation ending slavery.

Washington and Jefferson, though slave owners, wanted to see the institution’s demise not only in Virginia, but the entire country.

Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention and signed the document that specifically authorized the federal government to ban the importation of slaves starting in 1808, approximately 20 years from the date it was ratified.

Congress voted for the ban in 1807 so it could go into effect at the earliest possible date, and then-President Jefferson signed the bill into law.

Additionally, the Constitution contained a compromise that the founders reached, counting three-fifths of the state’s slave population when calculating the overall population for determining how many representatives a state would have in Congress.

The southern states wanted to count their entire slave populations for representation purposes, but the northern states were not willing to allow it.

The impact was to lessen the number of votes slave-holding interests held in the House of Representatives.

Both of these constitutional provisions were a recognition that slavery was a present evil, but not something many of the founders like Washington and Jefferson wanted to see continue in perpetuity.

In a 1786 letter to Declaration of Independence signer Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, Washington wrote regarding slavery, “I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it — but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, & that is by Legislative authority: and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting.”

The most high-profile act the former president took was to free his slaves in his will after his death in 1799, an action he knew would send a strong signal to the nation and the world about where he stood on the issue.

“Washington’s emancipation provision was widely publicized and celebrated by abolitionists and African Americans,” an article on the official Mount Vernon website explains.

In a eulogy praising the founding father, Richard Allen — a former slave and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church — said Washington, undeterred by popular opinion in his home state of Virginia, “dared to do his duty, and wipe off the only stain with which man could ever reproach him.”

Like Washington, Jefferson let his views on slavery be publicly known.

Jefferson sought to place slavery on the path to extinction in Virginia through legislation introduced in 1779 that banned the further importation of slaves and created an orderly process for slaveholders to free those being held in bondage. The bill did not pass.

Jefferson, however, did not give up his efforts, supporting legislation in 1784 at the federal level prohibiting slavery in all the territorial lands west of the original 13 states.

That legislation fell one vote short; however, in 1787 the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which established the laws governing the territorial land encompassing the future states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. The ordinance outlawed the introduction of slavery in the territory.

Jefferson, who served as Virginia’s governor after Patrick Henry during the Revolutionary War, wrote about the evils of slavery in his only published work, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” in 1781.

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” he asked. “That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?

“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever,” Jefferson penned.

Those words are inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Youngkin was right to celebrate the lives of Washington, Jefferson and other prominent Virginians.

They laid the foundations of liberty that we enjoy the blessings of to this day.

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