No, Fox’s Katie Pavlich, the US wasn’t the First to Abolish Slavery

Fox Cable News’ Katie Pavlich asserted Tuesday, “They keep blaming America for slavery, but the truth is that throughout human history slavery has existed. America came along as the first country to end it within 150 years. And we get no credit for that.”

There are so many things wrong with this assertion that you barely know where to start. We probably need another 220 years of American history just to disabuse the US population of all the lies they’ve been spoonfed by Rupert Murdoch and his minions since the 1990s.

Slavery began in British North America in the 1600s. So it took longer than 150 years to abolish it. More like 200 years.

Second, the US was not the first country by any means to abolish slavery. In fact it was very late to do so. Even Tunisia abolished slavery before the United States.

Note that there is a difference between abolishing the slave trade and abolishing slavery itself. Here we are talking about the second, abolishing slavery itself.

Haiti made a revolution to abolish slavery in 1804.

Chile abolished it in 1823, Mexico and Central America in 1824.

Anglo-Texans made slavery legal again in 1836.

That is, not only did not the United States abolish slavery before every else, it actually reintroduced slavery where it had been banned by more enlightened governments.

Spain banned slavery in its European territory in 1837. The institution lasted for several more decades in overseas Spanish possessions like Cuba and Puerto Rico.

France’s revolutionary government abolished slavery in 1794, but the decree was not uniformly implemented, and Napoleon reversed it in 1802. France completely banned slavery in 1848.

The US Southern states were outliers in the New World along with Brazil (which abolished slavery in 1888), and Anglos actively rebelled against an enlightened Mexico over the issue.

As I noted a couple of years ago, in 1846, the Bey of Ottoman Tunis, Ahmad, issued a decree banning slavery in his realm. He had himself been a slave and was convinced by the British consul to take this step. (See Ismael M. Montana, The Abolition of Slavery in Ottoman Tunisia (U of Florida 2013).

Ahmad Bey’s decree was sent to the US Consul in Tunis, Samuel Daniel Heap, and he likely reported it back to President James K. Polk. Moreover, it was widely reported in the American press. In a letter Ahmad Bey wrote to the British and other Western consuls he spoke of “our aversion to the thraldom imposed on the human kind, which debases it to the condition of the brute creation . . .” and then he said,

“this affair never ceased to be the object of our attention . . . and we have thought proper to publish that we have abolished slavery in all our dominions, for we consider all slaves existing in our territory as being free, and do not recognize the legality of their being kept as property.” He sent notaries to the Sufi centers to write out deeds of manumission in which “no right of property in their persons” shall be alleged by their masters. (Abolition of Slavery in Tunis.: TRANSLATION., New York Evangelist; New York Vol. 17, Iss. 14, (Apr 2, 1846): 54.


Bonus video:

PBS: “The Haitian Revolution – Documentary (2009)”


  1. Robert Graf March 20, 2019 9:30 pm 

    The Faux News commentator also fails to mention that slavery in the US didn’t go down without a fight with the pro-slavery states committing treason to keep it alive. Even today, the losing side in the civil war is celebrated, something unheard of anywhere else.

  2. avatar
    Michael March 20, 2019 5:21 pm 

    Juan’s response to Fox News’ Katie Pavlich is important, in part because her statement depends upon our ignorance of history, of which there is much. And, his response is a good one that is quick to be understood.

    I went to the video he offers and after taking care of some things I had to do, I watched it. I know some about Haitian history and present-day events, but not enough. Nevertheless, I found why Juan offered this video. It is very interesting and should be seen.

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