What Does Historian Edmund Morgan Say Is the Central Paradox of American History?

Historian Edmund Morgan has been hailed as one of the most influential American historians of the 20th century. In his works, he explored various aspects of American history, including the paradoxical nature of the country’s founding.

According to Morgan, the central paradox of American history is that a nation founded on the principles of freedom and equality was also built on slavery and inequality. He argues that this contradiction was present at the very beginning of American history and has persisted throughout its development.

Morgan’s observation is particularly relevant when we consider the founding documents of America. The Declaration of Independence, which famously states that “all men are created equal,” was written by slave-owning Founding Fathers who did not extend this belief to enslaved African Americans. Similarly, while the US Constitution guarantees individual rights and freedoms, it also codified slavery and denied basic human rights to millions of people.

This paradox has had far-reaching implications for American society. Slavery and discrimination have been deeply ingrained in America’s social, economic, and political systems since its inception. Even after slavery was abolished in 1865, Jim Crow laws enforced segregation and denied basic rights to African Americans for another century.

The legacy of this paradox can still be seen today in systemic racism and inequality that continue to plague American society. While America has made strides towards greater equality in recent decades, there is still much work to be done to fully address this paradox.

In conclusion, Edmund Morgan’s insight into the central paradox of American history sheds light on an essential aspect of our nation’s development. The contradiction between freedom and inequality has shaped America from its very beginnings and continues to shape it today. By acknowledging this paradox and working towards greater equality for all Americans, we can move closer towards realizing our nation’s founding ideals.