A 1620 Project should replace the Democrats’ misbegotten 1619 Project
Almost the very first act of the Biden administration was to ditch the 1776 Project, which celebrates America’s legacy of liberty. The administration gave pride of place to the 1619 Project, which obsesses about slavery, a concept that was always antithetical to American values. The real start of America’s core values was in November 1620, when people seeking religious liberty set foot on America’s shores.
In November 2019, the New York Times Magazine began a program named the 1619 Project. The editors assert that the history of the United States has its foundation in the first slave ship that docked in Jamestown on August 20, 1619. According to History.com, on that day the privateer White Lion docked at Jamestown colony’s Point Comfort unloading 20 Angolans. The privateers exchanged the captives for food as indentured servants, but Jamestown placed them in slavery.
The 1619 Project considers those 20 Angolans to be the defining moment in American history. From that moment, they contend, America irrevocably became a racist nation governed by white supremacy. The New York Times editors insist that systemic racism became America’s character from that time forward. America has a racist core that defines who we are.
The 1619 Project view of history entirely neglects another ship that landed far north of Jamestown just one year later, in 1620, a date that is now also 400 years in America’s past. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620, destined for the Hudson River near what became New Amsterdam. A violent winter storm blew the ship off course to the north, forcing it to anchor in Cape Cod harbor on November 21, 1620.
The Mayflower carried a mix of 40 English Puritan Separatists and 62 English colonialists. The two groups had very different purposes for immigrating to America. Both Queen Elizabeth I and King James I had severely persecuted the Puritans. To escape this persecution, the Puritans felt that God had called them to journey into the wilderness of America to establish a City on the Hill in line with their Puritan beliefs and traditions. The 62 English colonialists, on the other hand, took part in a strictly commercial venture.
Since the Mayflower landed in an area outside territory governed by the Jamestown charter, the colonialists entered into a compact to ensure that the rights of both groups would be respected. On November 21, 1620, 41 passengers representing both groups signed the Mayflower Compact. That compact, the first document written in America to ensure civic harmony, represented a precursor to the Constitution. Then, on December 18, 1620, the passengers disembarked at the legendary Plymouth Rock.
The Puritans endured many hardships. It was their values and culture that created the core culture for the United States, rather than the values and culture of the Jamestown slavers. The Puritan core values include first and foremost faith in God. Next, that the Bible serves as their guidebook for creating holy families, holy communities, and a holy nation. They understood their mission to be to create a City on a Hill and, later, a Nation on a Hill.
The 1619 Project misses the importance of the Puritan core values, and of other key religious communities, in creating the United States of America of 1776. The Quakers, led by William Penn, infused America with genuine respect for all people. Everyone has a divine spark that makes us all the children of God. Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is America’s birthplace. Jamestown is not. Drawn to the freedom of religion experienced in America, Catholics flocked to New York, Maryland, and New Jersey. Jews found refuge in New York, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The values of the New England Puritans, Quakers of Pennsylvania, Jews and Catholics of the Middle States, and Virginian Anglicans all contributed to America’s moral strength. The positive values of the Virginian love of freedom, independence, and religious tolerance contributed to the creation of American culture.
The Virginian practice of slavery, in conflict with American core culture, led to a horrendous and brutal Civil War. Americans rejected slavery when the anti-slave North was victorious over the South. Racism is not the defining characteristic of Americans. Love of God, family, community, and nation are. The 1620 Project trumps the 1619 Project.
IMAGE: The Mayflower at Sea by A S Burbank. Public Domain.