The Flag of Liberating Athletes

Senator Thomas Hart Benton tried to straddle the fence on many issues that could no longer be avoided. Change and Progress forced many hands.

Slavery and African Americans
Benton lived all of his life surrounded by slavery. Born in 1785, he was the son of Jesse
Benton and Nancy Ann (Gooch) Benton. He grew up on the family farm worked by slaves in
Orange County, North Carolina. His father, a lawyer, planter, and investor in the Transylvania
Company, died in 1790 leaving a widow, eight children, and a complicated estate of land taxed, unsurveyed speculation land, and debt.2 Thomas Hart, his uncle, helped settle some of the
inheritance issues and at his death, gave Nancy Ann Benton and her children a tract of 3,200 acres
and six slaves in Tennessee. When Jesse Benton’s estate was divided in 1811 in Williamson County, Tennessee, each of his children received 216 acres and slaves.3 Thomas H. Benton
received Old Tom and his wife Dorcas, valued at one cent, plus $159.99 in compensation for higher value slaves willed to his siblings.4
In 1815 Benton, a lawyer, became the influential editor of the Missouri Enquirer, a St.

Louis newspaper. On the eve of his bid for the Senate, Benton spoke forcefully for the
sovereignty of Missouri whose transition from territory to state was under consideration in
Congress. While abolition might become the order of the day in the future, Benton insisted in
1819 that no other part of the Union and “no process of reasoning can make it right that they
[citizens of Missouri] should be forced to surrender their slaves.” Benton argued that to prohibit slavery was “contrary to the rights of the State.”5
The slavery issue became more and more a national debate in the 1840s. The rise of the
abolition movement coincided with the necessity for decision-making about the nation’s
expansion from sea to sea with the Oregon Treaty (1846) and the Mexican cession in the Treaty of
Guadelupe-Hidalgo (1848). Benton, then a senior member of the Senate, espoused opinions
similar to Abraham Lincoln. Both knew slave property was protected by the Constitution and,
though both disliked slavery, they supported the nation’s governing document. They, however,
refused to endorse expansion of slavery into new territories. In 1849 Benton traveled widely in
Missouri delivering speeches on slavery. In Jefferson City, he declared, “My personal
sentiments, then, are against the institution of slavery, and against its introduction into places in which it does not exist. If there was no slavery in Missouri today, I should oppose its coming in.”6
Benton also campaigned in 1849 against the practice of instructing the state’s senators on how to
vote on key issues, including slavery in the territories. He denounced John C. Calhoun’s
“Southern Address” that declared “the Federal Government has no right to extend or restric

Rosamond Press

For seven years I tried to get Erik Richardson to include the history of my grandfathers in his lectures and presentations. My good friends did get why, or, my black neighbor. Tonight, CNN held a Town hall about Black Athletes kneeling during the National Anthem that is rooted in military action, as is the Gadsen flag that all-white Tea Party Rebels waved in the face of those who voted for our First Black President. These angry whites could not tolerate the results of our National Election, which is my more important than this mere warrior ditty that was inspired by victories in the Barbary Wars. My great grandfather captained the U.S.S. Enterprise in our first foreign war, because a Caliphate was taking American Merchantmen, prisoner, and selling them as slaves. White men were being sold as slaves! What an outrage, meanwhile, down in South Carolina, a new shipment of black…

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About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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