“True Republicanism”: on slaves building the White House

by Diane Duane
The White House

I see that Bill O’Reilly has taken it on himself to enlighten the present First Lady regarding her assertion that slaves built the White House. “Yes, but they were well clothed and fed,” he says. (The implication apparently being: So that’s all right, then.)

Unfortunately for O’Reilly’s thesis, First Lady Abigail Adams (who had the benefit of being actually on site at the time) doesn’t agree. From an 1800 letter to her uncle Cotton Tufts:

The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employd with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house. the four carts are all loaded at the same time, and whilst four carry this rubish about half a mile, the remaining eight rest upon their Shovels, Two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day as the whole 12, but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, to labour, whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast, Such is the case of many of the inhabitants of this place.

…Yet O’Reilly claims to have to speak up on this subject because he’s got that “history teacher” thing going on. Not very hard, apparently. What kind of history teacher can’t be bothered to check a primary source?…


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