Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rubenstein Gift to Rebuild Slave Quarters

Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein's $10 million gift to President James Madison's Montpelier estate will fund the restoration of the site's former slave quarters.  Madison is considered the father of the U.S. Constitution.  WaPo reported:

About $3.5 million will go to archaeological and other work on a small complex of slave cabins, a kitchen and two smoke­houses that stood just south of the mansion.

Experts believe about 30 people — "house slaves" and their families — occupied what were relatively comfortable structures. The plan is to reconstruct the buildings and furnish the complex.

The plantation's "field slaves" lived in more spartan cabins of logs and mud near where they worked, said Montpelier's director of archaeology, Matthew Reeves.

Madison, although troubled by slavery, at one point owned 118 slaves. It is said he talked more on the subject of slavery than on any other.

Rubenstein said at a recent event, "Without the Bill of Rights the Constitution would not be what it is."  He did mention the terrible exception for slavery.  Rubenstein joined likely Presidential nominee Jeb Bush and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

He commented on the Bill of Rights, saying all people "could be equal" but "we're not there yet."  Mr. Rubenstein will loan the Constitution Center copies of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery. 

Mr. Rubenstein closed with his belief President George H.W. Bush would be a founding father if the Constitution were written today.  What exception would the landed gentry write in today?  Might it be corporate free speech rights, destruction of the right to privacy, even carried interest taxation?

Slavery is the remnant the powerful gifted to themselves.  They would do similarly today.  It's fitting Rubenstein's gift recreates slave quarters.