In an attack on the New York Times' 1619 project tracing slavery in America to its origins, Republican senator Tom Cotton described it as "the necessary evil upon which the union was built".
"We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can't understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction." Cotton write.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was awarded this year's Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her introductory essay to the 1619 Project, said … "If chattel slavery – heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit – were a 'necessary evil' as Tom Cotton says, it's hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end.
Cotton concedes a claim, often denied by conservatives, that slavery was central to the founding of the American republic. That said, Cotton now insists he was merely attributing the remark to the Founding Founders.
The text of his editorial, however, plainly poses him in agreement: "As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil."
Cotton attempted a similar "clarification" after his "Send in the Troops" op-ed was interpreted as a call for a general crackdown on rowdy protestors.
Once again, he set out to sound like a no-nonsense strongman of the right, poured cement around his own feet, didn't like how fast it set, and ended up bleating about "fake news" on Twitter.
Accurate to say they envisioned an America without slavery, but can't recall a single instance of a founder referring to slavery as a "necessary evil." Founders like Jefferson/Washington questioned the morality of slavery and kept owning slaves. It was largely about profit.
— John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger) July 26, 2020