Amidst all the firecrackers and flag-waving hoopla associated with Independence Day, I found this item from the New York Times News Service that reminds us of another American tradition, the circumvention of laws for racist purposes by our Chief Executive. It’s as old as, well, let’s just take a look:
PHILADELPHIA, July 3 — …Digging through layers of soil, brick and mortar, archaeologists for the city and the National Park Service have exposed remains of a four-story brick and stone mansion that was home to George Washington and John Adams, and was the seat of the executive branch before the White House was finished. Historians and community activists began demanding the excavation in 2002, after the site, which is adjacent to the Liberty Bell Center, was found to be above the mansion’s living quarters for nine household slaves that Washington brought here from Mount Vernon… …It was there that Washington signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, by which Congress ensured the right of owners to reclaim slaves as lost “property,” and from there that Martha Washington’s personal slave, Oney Judge, and the family’s cook, Hercules, eventually fled to freedom. John Adams, who never owned slaves, lived in the house until he moved to Washington in 1800. …Although the site has yielded few artifacts, it is fertile ground for historical reinterpretation. “It’s a symbol of things that have not been valued in the past,” said Edward Lawler, a historian with the Independence Hall Association. Early efforts to end slavery in Pennsylvania resulted in the passage of the Gradual Abolition Act of 1780, which allowed Washington, as a citizen of Virginia, to keep his slaves here for six months, at which point they were entitled to freedom. But Washington circumvented the Pennsylvania law, Mr. Lawler said, by rotating the slaves across state lines.