Jefferson Condemns the Slave Trade in the Declaration of Independence

Sketched illustration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson's early draft of the Declaration of Independence included a notable paragraph, attacking King George III for allowing the Transatlantic Slave Trade to continue. During the Continental Congress's revision process to Jefferson's draft, they removed the bulk of the paragraph and reduced it to a veiled reference against slavery, complaining that King George incited "domestic insurrections among us." Later, Jefferson claimed that some delegates from northern and southern colonies had objected to the original paragraph and prompted its removal.

Here is the draft of the original paragraph that Jefferson wrote and the emphasis are original:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.


Source: Library of Congress