SOURCE: HNN Staff (1-26-11)
Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) has courted controversy after giving a speech to an Iowa tax reform group in which she implied that the founding fathers ended the institution of slavery.
BACHMANN: We know that was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was a scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history.
But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.
Of the four founding fathers who became president, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe owned slaves. Only John Adams, the only New Englander to occupy the White House until 1825, did not own slaves. His son, John Quincy Adams, was a staunch abolitionist but not considered by historians to be a founding father. He died in 1848, well before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery in 1865.
Bachmann’s comments immediately drew fire from pundits. CNN’s Anderson Cooper, normally reserved in his comments, said her statement either showed “she has a shaky grasp on our history” or amounted to a “deliberate rewriting.”
The congresswoman also drew fire for her comment that for early settlers and immigrants, “the color of their skin [didn’t matter], it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status…. Once you got here, we were all the same.” “That is pretty remarkable,” wrote a correspondent for The Root. “Race, culture and class didn't matter when our country was founded. Uh huh.”
One of Bachmann’s few defenders is Dan Riehl at Big Journalism. “John Adams put the Republic above what was then an impossible issue to resolve. It is inaccurate to suggest,” he wrote, “that [John Adams] was a proponent of slavery with no role in its ultimately being eliminated in the U.S.”
Ms. Bachmann, a darling of the Tea Party movement, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. She recently gave the Tea Party Express’s rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address.