Thomas L. Krannawitter

Thomas L. Krannawitter

Beginning Monday, at The Soiled Dove Underground in Denver, and continuing for 10 evenings over 10 months, "Tragedy & Triumph: The Story of Slavery in the United States," will present the truth about slavery.

Contrary to the claims of progressive opportunists, the story of how Americans came to view slavery as a problem, and then quickly solved it, reveals America’s goodness more than any other subject. It’s an important reason for Americans to love their country.

The principles of the American founding in general, and the United States Constitution in particular, stand in the way of those who want to replace limited Constitutional government with a large bureaucratic state of unlimited power. They have a vested political interest, therefore, in trying to discredit the Founders and the Founders’ Constitution.

Blaming the Founders for the sin of slavery and denouncing the Constitution as irredeemably racist have proven to be effective tactics. Through "Tragedy & Triumph," however, we in Colorado who still cherish the principles of freedom are pushing back. We hope you join us.

Prior to the American founding, most people in most regimes didn’t acknowledge, or didn’t know, that slavery is wrong, which is why few tried to abolish it. Throughout most of human history, most people did not see slavery as a problem in need of solving.

America, however, was destined for a tragic moral and political confrontation over slavery. America was founded on the simple, yet revolutionary idea that every human being has a natural, rightful claim to his own natural freedom, his own private property, his own person. That idea is incompatible with slavery, which means the American founding is incompatible with slavery.

When Americans today ask why the Americans of 1776 did not immediately abolish slavery, they’re asking the wrong question. The right question is: Why did the Americans of 1776 found a new regime upon the principle that the natural rights of Americans are the same as the natural rights of all human beings, everywhere, and that the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect the natural rights of the citizens who consent to form a government?

No people had ever attempted such a thing. Not in Africa, nor Europe, nor Asia — not in the peaks of Roman or Greek civilization — not anywhere was there a model of establishing a self-governing republic and combining equal protection for equal individual rights with the consent of the governed, all out of dedication to the principle that all men are created equal by nature. That’s American exceptionalism.

The Founders did more than make declarations. From 1776 through the early 1800s, America became the greatest anti-slavery movement in history, as half of the original states abolished slavery, the importation of foreign-born slaves was outlawed, and the spread of slavery to new federal territories was prohibited.

In "Tragedy & Triumph," we will tell the stories of 19th century changes in technology, economics, political philosophy, Christian theology and biological science that gave rise to new defenses of slavery and corresponding rejections of the Founding principles.

Lincoln, however, would not let those principles be forgotten. He, and others, became guardians of the American idea during America’s darkest hours. In order to preserve the principles of the founding and rise to the standards of those principles, Lincoln led the United States through a terrible, bloody civil war. He was rewarded with a bullet blasted through his brain.

How Americans came to understand the wrongness of slavery — and the decisive, swift actions they took along with the great sacrifices they made to abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment — is an unprecedented, beautiful story filled with heroes, villains, tragedy and triumph.

It’s a story of which Americans should be proud. It’s among the many reasons Americans should love their country. It’s the story that will be told over the course of 10 lively, monthly meetings in "Tragedy & Triumph."

Thomas L. Krannawitter, Ph.D., is president of Speakeasy Ideas, which is offering a 10-part live learning experience — "Tragedy & Triumph: The Story of Slavery in the U.S." — beginning Monday, Jan. 27, at The Soiled Dove Underground in Denver. For tickets, event schedules, and more information, please visit

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