top of page
  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

America’s Declaration of Independence Condemned Two Aspects of My Ethnic Heritage: King George's Refusal to Return Runaway Slaves To Captivity and "Merciless Indian Savages"

 By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on July 5, 2024

An Editorial Opinion

Now that America's annual 4th of July celebration is over, I want to discuss the Declaration of Independence from a historical and personal perspective.


The 13 colonies' Declaration of Independence from King George, III, is a revered document in American history.  It contains a list of 27 grievances against the British monarchy that justified the American Revolution. 


Most Americans have never read the Declaration of Independence.  They just know it is an important document in America’s history.

Grievance 27 in the Declaration of Independence expressly demeans my African-American and Native-American ancestry.  Here is how and why:


Grievance 27 states: "[King George] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions."

According to the National Park Service and numerous historians, this statement is often interpreted as one grievance.  In reality, it is two separate grievances.  

The Grievance Relating to Runaway Slaves of African Descent


The domestic insurrections brought on by the British refers primarily to Lord Dunmore’s proclamation that any slaves that ran away from their masters to join him in fighting the rebellious colonists would be granted their freedom.  A significant part of Dunmore's force that attacked the Virginia coast was composed of runaway slaves.


Additionally, the English case of Somerset v. Stewart (1772) limited the rights of Southern slave owners in their slaves.  In this case, the master of a runaway slave from Virginia petitioned the King's Court for his return.  The Chief Justice of the King’s Court, Lord Mansfield (William Murray), ruled:


"The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged."


So, the runaway slave was not returned.  News of this case spread throughout the colonies. The legal principle that a slave could secure his freedom by escaping slavery caused great alarm in the South.  It was viewed as insurrectionist conduct within the 13 colonies.


Furthermore, the “Founding Fathers” were painfully aware of how hypocritical they were being in stating that “all men are created equal” while maintaining the institution of slavery in the colonies.  For example, Thomas Jefferson, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd president of the United States, owned 267 slaves in1822.  Jefferson whipped his slaves and sold them into the Deep South to instill fear and obedience in them. Jefferson only freed three slaves during his lifetime and five at his death  – all of them were blood relatives. 

So, the reference to "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence really applied to white men only. The Declaration's failure to expressly condemn slavery eventually paved the way for the Confederate Constitution of 1861. Though this Constitution largely mimics the U.S. Constitution, it is replete with references to “the institution of negro slavery,” “negroes of the African race,” and “negro slaves.” It specifically forbids the Confederate Congress from passing any “law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves.”


The Grievance Relating to "Merciless Indian Savages"

The designation of Native Americans as “merciless Indian savages” is overtly racist and has driven U.S. policy towards 574 federally recognized Indian Tribes for more than 400 years. Benjamin Franklin, another signatory to the Declaration of Independence, called Native-Americans “ignorant savages.

America's treatment of Native-Americans was awful before and after the Declaration of Independence.

After the Revolutionary War to free America as an English colony and after the Ohio War in 1790, President George Washington regarded Native-Americans as "animals of prey" who should be slaughtered and their cultures destroyed.

In 1845, William Gilmore Simms wrote, "Our binding prejudices .... have been fostered as necessary to justify the reckless and unsparing hand with which we have smitten [Native Americans] in their habitations and expelled them from their country."

In 1871, Francis A. Walker, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, considered Native-Americans so far beneath morality that he said, "When dealing with savage men, as with savage beasts, no question of national honor can arise."

Every treaty America's national government, territorial governments, and private companies made with Indian Nations was broken by the white man. The white men's lack of trustworthiness and honest dealings eventually gave rise to the term "Indian-Giver."

By any objective definition, America's national government fully and officially embraced the concept of "white supremacy" in its dealing with Native-Americans from the 1600s up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During this period of time, an estimated 60 million Native-Americans were exterminated by white European settlers, U.S. Army soldiers, and white vigilantes on the Western Frontier.

Adolf Hitler admired our concentration camps for American Indians in the west and according to John Toland, his biograoher, "often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination -- by starvation and uneven combat" as the model for his extermination of Jews and Gypsies (Rom people)."



For more than four centuries, white historians, government scribes, and news reporters have recorded America's mistreatment of Native-Americans in the light most favorable to whites. This body of spin-masters has lied over and over again about the nature and scope of slavery and Indian-white relationships in America.

African-Americans and Native-Americans have seen, experienced, and endured the worst aspects of white behavior in this country. Yet, they remain very proud people, and they still form the heart and soul of this nation.

We must always remember that Native-Americans were the first Americans. The rest of us are descendants of poor European migrants who came to America willingly or African slaves who came here involuntarily in the hell holes of slave ships.

Of course, it is illegal in Old Confederate states to teach this history of the Declaration of Independence in public schools. This documented history has been labeled as a "critical race theory" by modern-day "white supremacists" and those politicians who advance their causes.

Regardless, I am very proud of my African American and Native-American ancestry. I am also proud of the positive aspects of my white heritage, via Michael Daley and the Carmichael family. I embrace the positive values of all three cultures.

I respect the tradition of Americans whose ancestry was not condemned or demeaned in the Declaration of Independence to celebrate the 4th of July with joy in their hearts. Freedom from a monarch's subjugation is always a wonderful thing.

On a personal level, I celebrate President Abraham Lincoln's January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth), when the last slaves in the South were freed by the Union army. Freedom from pepetual enslavement is also a wonderful thing, particularly for the enslaved people.

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page