“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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Mark Poliner July 27, 2016 - 12:43 pm

“Republicanism” mentioned from 1800 is NOT the Republican Party. Learn
your history. In 1800 you had the Federalists (Adams), the Whigs, and the
Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson). The modern Republican Party (GOP) did not form until 1850.

dianeduane July 27, 2016 - 1:13 pm

Thank you for pointing that out. I knew that to start with. My point is that I find the resonance… interesting.

Alexander Richards July 28, 2016 - 7:47 pm

While the GOP did not form until 1854 I would not call them the “modern republican party”. The Modern republican party did not not happen until first the 1870 when post war industrials take over the party and gives up on reform the south saying they’ve done enough and becomes the party of big business, then when faced with the New Deal they added being for small government but the real kicker comes Pres. Johnson supported the Civil Rights Act 1964 and the Dixecrats leave the Democratic part and join the Republican part. Now you have the Modern Republican Party.


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