“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty
from the drivers of negroes?"
18th century Britain’s pre-eminent man of letters
In 1775 Dr. Johnson reached for his pen to write a political pamphlet, “Taxation No Tyranny,” in response to the protestations of the First Continental Congress about the Coercive Acts and other administrative and legislative actions of King George’s government. Johnson was no fan of either the colonial protests or American independence.
He pushed a tempting button. His acid comment about the slaveholders who would adopt the Declaration of Independence in 1776 rang more than a few bells in Britain, which developed an active anti-slavery movement soon after the Revolutionary War ended, and outlawed slavery throughout most of the Empire in 1833.
An early draft of the Declaration decried slavery in the colonies, but that mention was purged from the final official version.
Too bad that Americans waited about 90 years to do something official about eliminating slavery, and too bad we’re still dealing with the legacies of colonial acceptance of that most harsh of violations of human rights and spirit.