Juneteenth is possible because of Independence Day. The radicals pushing the 1619 Project and critical race theory would likely beg to differ with this statement, but the facts make a compelling case.
On July 4, 1776, the leaders of our nation declared that all people are created equal and that God gives us rights that cannot be taken away — including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That promise would not be fulfilled for all Americans until years later, but it was — in many ways — made possible by those patriots who sought to create a nation based on freedom.
Slavery — a scorn on any society — was introduced to the colonies well before the founding of our country. The compromise of the original language of the U.S. Constitution fell short of the promise of the Declaration of Independence, but it put in place the process that allowed Congress and the states to correct that injustice years later.
Americans eventually fought a Civil War over the issue of slavery. My home state was far from the battlefields and a fairly new state having been added to the Union in 1848. Yet, more than 91,000 men from Wisconsin fought in the Civil War — and over 12,000 of them died during the war.
Most other nations would have fallen apart after such strife amongst the people. Yet, the United States recovered and eventually prospered over time.
Ironically, it was the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It took until June 19, 1865, before federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all those who were slaves were set free under the 16th president’s proclamation.
Mr. Lincoln noted: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”
Republican majorities in Congress subsequently pushed forth the resolution of the 13th Amendment which permanently eliminated slavery. The process does not require the chief executive to sign the resolution, but Mr. Lincoln felt so strongly about the language that he asked to sign it before it was sent to the states for ratification. Republicans pushed to enact further amendments to the Constitution that provided property rights to former slaves and allowed them to vote.
Mr. Lincoln observed: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.”
I am proud that the Republican Party was started in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854. Like those who founded the church where I grew up and where my father was the pastor, the people who attended the first gathering of Republicans were abolitionists.
While slavery ended in the United States more than a century and a half ago, it sadly still exists in some parts of the world. Many are forced to work against their will in forced labor, others in forced marriages, some in sexual exploitation and others as child slaves.
The United States, as well as other countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands, have accused communist China of committing genocide. There are multiple reports of Uyghurs being held in internment camps, and the government forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women to suppress the population and separating children from their families.
While many around the world have denounced the unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia and imposed economic sanctions on Russian leaders, there is considerable reluctance to take on communist China. We must be reminded that an attack against one man’s legitimate freedom is an attack against all of us who cherish our liberty.
History shows that America was tainted by slavery, yet is not defined by it. In fact, the people of our beloved republic overcame this evil.
Many of the purveyors of the “everyone and everything are racists” myth either are lying or willfully ignorant when it comes to the complete history of America. In 2020, many of the protestors that came out of the Black Lives Matter movement actually tore down a statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg outside the Wisconsin Capitol.
Col. Heg died on the battlefield fighting the Confederacy. He was a Norwegian immigrant and an anti-slavery activist. Hardly the kind of person who should be a target of the protestors. Unless, of course, the objective is not about race, but about imposing Marxist policies — as the founders of BLM acknowledge is their training.
In contrast, it was the founders’ dream of liberty and justice for all that led the way. It is the constant march towards a more perfect nation that ensures that freedom rings true in every part of America and for all people today. There would not be a reason to celebrate Juneteenth without the actions taken on July 4, 1776. Yet another reason to celebrate Independence Day.
• Scott Walker is the president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.
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