The Founding Fathers And Their Commitment To Slavery

0 Posted by - January 1, 2017 - LATEST POSTS

Although many of the Founding Fathers acknowledged that slavery violated the core American Revolutionary ideal of liberty, their simultaneous commitment to private property rights, principles of limited government, and intersectional harmony prevented them from making a bold move against slavery. The considerable investment of Southern Founders in slave-based staple agriculture, combined with their deep-seated racial prejudice, posed additional obstacles to emancipation.

Slaveholders among prominent Founding Fathers
slaveholders1 non-slaveholders
Founding Father state Founding Father state
Charles Carroll Maryland John Adams Massachusetts
Samuel Chase Maryland Samuel Adams Massachusetts
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania Oliver Ellsworth Connecticut
Button Gwinnett Georgia Alexander Hamilton New York
John Hancock Massachusetts Robert Treat Paine Massachusetts
Patrick Henry Virginia Thomas Paine Pennsylvania
John Jay New York Roger Sherman Connecticut
Thomas Jefferson Virginia
Richard Henry Lee Virginia
James Madison Virginia
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney South Carolina
Benjamin Rush Pennsylvania
Edward Rutledge South Carolina
George Washington Virginia
1Held slaves at some point in time.

In his initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas 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. TheContinental Congress apparently rejected the tortured logic of this passage by deleting it from the final document, but this decision also signaled the Founders’ commitment to subordinating the controversial issue of slavery to the larger goal of securing the unity and independence of the United States.

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