History textbooks rarely mention it. We are ashamed, perhaps, to believe that our heroes and the icons of liberty could participate in one of the greatest injustices inflicted on mankind.
George Washington Virginia In his initial draft of the Declaration of IndependenceThomas Jefferson condemned the injustice of the slave trade and, by implication, slavery, but he also blamed the presence of enslaved Africans in North America on avaricious British colonial policies.
Jefferson thus acknowledged that slavery violated the natural rights of the enslaved, while at the same time he absolved Americans of any responsibility for owning slaves themselves. Nevertheless, the Founders, with the exception of those from South Carolina and Georgia, exhibited considerable aversion to slavery during the era of the Articles of Confederation —89 by prohibiting the importation of foreign slaves to individual states and lending their support to a proposal by Jefferson to ban slavery in the Northwest Territory.
Such antislavery policies, however, only went so far.
The prohibition of foreign slave imports, by limiting the foreign supply, conveniently served the interests of Virginia and Maryland slaveholders, who could then sell their own surplus slaves southward and westward at higher prices.
Furthermore, the ban on slavery in the Northwest tacitly legitimated the expansion of slavery in the Southwest. Despite initial disagreements over slavery at the Constitutional Convention inthe Founders once again demonstrated their commitment to maintaining the unity of the new United States by resolving to diffuse sectional tensions over slavery.
To this end the Founders drafted a series of constitutional clauses acknowledging deep-seated regional differences over slavery while requiring all sections of the new country to make compromises as well.
But they also used this same ratio to determine the federal tax contribution required of each state, thus increasing the direct federal tax burden of slaveholding states.
Georgians and South Carolinians won a moratorium until on any congressional ban against the importation of slaves, but in the meantime individual states remained free to prohibit slave imports if they so wished. Southerners also obtained the inclusion of a fugitive slave clause see Fugitive Slave Acts designed to encourage the return of runaway slaves who sought refuge in free states, but the Constitution left enforcement of this clause to the cooperation of the states rather than to the coercion of Congress.
Although the Founders, consistent with their beliefs in limited government, opposed granting the new federal government significant authority over slavery, several individual Northern Founders promoted antislavery causes at the state level.
Benjamin Franklin in Pennsylvania, as well as John Jay and Alexander Hamilton in New York, served as officers in their respective state antislavery societies. The prestige they lent to these organizations ultimately contributed to the gradual abolition of slavery in each of the Northern states.
Although slavery was legal in every Northern state at the beginning of the American Revolutionits economic impact was marginal.
As a result, Northern Founders were freer to explore the libertarian dimensions of Revolutionary ideology. The experience of Franklin was in many ways typical of the evolving attitudes of Northern Founders toward slavery.
|Correspondence and Other Writings of Six Major Shapers of the United States:||These units were developed to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance.|
Although enmeshed in the slave system for much of his life, Franklin eventually came to believe that slavery ought to be abolished gradually and legally. Franklin himself had owned slaves, run ads in his Pennsylvania Gazette to secure the return of fugitive slaves, and defended the honour of slaveholding revolutionaries.
Byhowever, Franklin had divested himself of slaves, and shortly thereafter he became the president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
He also went further than most of his contemporaries by signing a petition to the First Federal Congress in for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.
Jay was the son of one of the largest slaveholders in New York and, like Franklin, a slaveholder himself, though he claimed his ownership was a means to a beneficial end:Thomas Jefferson, draftsman of the Declaration of Independence of the United States and the nation’s first secretary of state (–94), second vice president (–), and, as the third president (–09), the statesman responsible.
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Over , searchable documents, fully annotated, from the authoritative Founding Fathers Papers projects.
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Six founding fathers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, are kidnapped form early America and brought to to be used as props in the election.