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  • Were the Founders Committed to Eradicating Slavery?

    Were the founders really committed to eradicating slavery?

    It is commonplace to dismiss the Founders as racists who may have attacked slavery from time to time in writing but never in action. Critics of the Founders often claim that, since the Constitution did not abolish slavery, the Founders were unconcerned with actively fighting the institution in their lifetime—even if they may have wanted slavery to disappear at some vague point in the future. This argument is both misguided and naïve.

    On this day in 1787, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which established the first official U.S. territory. Together with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance is one of the four “organic laws” of the United States and, as such, is critical for understanding the Founders’ actual views concerning slavery.

    The final article of the ordinance declares unwaveringly that “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory.” By a firm majority, Congress had officially repudiated slavery. Significantly, the resolution caused five states to enter the Union as free states (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin). Furthermore, the ordinance was reaffirmed by the newly created U.S. Congress in 1789—two years after the ratification of the Constitution.

    The Northwest Ordinance reveals that, despite the compromises they made to preserve the Union, the Founders were firmly committed to immediately halting the spread of and eventually eradicating the institution of slavery.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Were the Founders Committed to Eradicating Slavery?

    1. Noniterum says:

      This is nonsense, if they were so committed to ending slavery, why did they not renounce slavery and free their own slaves?

      • Serving says:

        THINK!!!! They were trying to get all the states to join the union. Some of them would not join if slavery was stopped. So, the most important thing at the time was to get the country to unite and then fight the other battles, such as slavery. WHICH I ALSO THINK WAS STUPID. I just thought I would say that before you called me a racist. That's what most of the non-thinkers do to get their way.

        I hope it isn't iterum!

    2. West Texan says:

      Countering slave promoting democrats proved just as difficult in early America as dealing with today's social progressive democrats. It's all about their being in control of people's lives. After all, elitist social progressives actually believe the general public is too dumb to master their own affairs. Such arrogance is just another word for stupidity. I rest my case!

    3. David says:

      anyone who really looks into the Founding Fathers will see exactly what they thought of the slave trade and exactly what their solution was, its too bad they weren't able to pull it off.

    4. Tim Az says:

      If the majority of the founding fathers were so attached to the institution of slavery. How did they manage the three fifths rule that was designed to tip the voter roles towards ending slavery? Was it merely coincidence that the founders acknowledged in the constitution that all man are created equal as well as passing the North West Ordinance. Finally all these steps taken by the founders eventually lead to a civil war to settle the argument once and for all. The saddest part is that for some unknown reason the losers of the civil war were allowed to wright the history books taught to our young and, revised American history to project all of the Souths failed practices upon those who fought to end slavery. How much damage to our youth has occurred from this teaching of revisionist history?

    5. Marcia says:

      It's interesting to note that their reason for declaring slaves as "2/3 of a person" was to limit the number of votes slave owners could claim. If the legal voters in a particular state collectively had, say, 2,000,000 slaves then that state could claim that all those slaves were for slavery. If that was allowed to stand the Founders knew they would never have enough votes to get slavery outlawed, thus the limit. Sorry I don't have a link to verify that fact but maybe someone else can post one.

    6. Jeanne Stotler says:

      In the lives of the founders that I have read about, including my own ancestors, I have seen where most freed their slaves on their deaths, in some instances they left the slaves apiece of property. In virginia I knew a family that lived on the property left their ancestor by the former owner, it was in the family for three generations until an unscroupulos developer talked them out of it and made millions for himself. In my eyes this man was alot worse than the Master who left them property along with theit freedom.

    7. Bobbie says:

      Of course the founders were committed to eradicating slavery. The last country to have it, the first to get rid of it. Isn't that something?

      Unfortunately radical people decided to manipulate the constitution to fit their personal perceptions they hold as racist regard when there is no such indication, tells me these tax paid spreaders of hate, need to be brought down to earth. Vanny Jones and the author of "white privilege" giving concert across the country, influencing hatred by misconstruing the constitution to advantage their inferiority and encourage others the same. After all, the constitution doesn't recognize any race to be superior to any other, so evil spins it into INFERIOR… low as a life can get.

      For any man to oppose the concept of this country to hold no race of man superior to any other, to recognize creed and culture as personal freedoms and not tax payer expenses, but in favor of EXPIRING THE CONCEPTt, has no purpose in this country and Obama should be impeached for his violation of oath as he favors in his position as President of America, the Muslim faith and Muslim people over all others.

      He claimed to scholar the constitution but violates it consistently with no accountability. People deserve a leader that respects, accepts and understands the true intentions of America's founders and the founding documents applied without resentment BUT EXEMPLARY!!!

      The documents have to be reeducated in reflection of it's truth and those in position HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO THEIR CONDUCT OF THEIR OATH AND VIOLATION THEREOF!!!!!!!

      that author should be jailed and pay the tax payers back with his tax paid seminars of his personal hatred promoting his book "white privilege" received. His perception along with the like minded have gotten into many minds, subverting the proper role of government. This has to be corrected and America will be doing much better!!!

    8. Carvin says:

      It's very interesting that the topic of slavery should arise again during this time of aqrgument over increasing taxes. It's interesting too that the party that opposed freeing the slaves then would be arguing for an increase of taxes.
      I have long thought of taxation as the new slavery. Any time a group of people are conscripted by another it's just wrong.

    9. Brian says:

      Such arrogance is just another word for stupidity indeed. Noniterum is right – why did they not renounce slavery and free their own slaves? If the founding fathers who OWNED slaves did not free them, which they certainly were powerful enough to do – no blaming others, then that lack of action and morality speaks volumes. At best is a case of do as I say not as I do hypocrisy. I rest my case too ;-)

    10. Erik says:

      The start of slavery in America was forced by the British prior to it's independence. While we can say what the founder SHOULD have done, it wasn't that cut and dry. The founders risked their lives with each move already. and the Union was fragile at best. Cutting off the feed was the best way even though it wasn't the most desired.

    11. Robert says:

      To say that the Founding Fathers of America endorsed slavery is an enormous false accusation. In 1774, Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush (1st Surgeon General) founded America’s first anti-slavery society. And John Jay (1st Chief Justice) was president of a similar society in New York. Other prominent Founding Fathers who were members of societies for ending slavery included Richard Bassett, James Madison (Father of the Constitution), James Monroe, Bushrod Washington, Charles Carroll, William Few, John Marshall, Richard Stockton, Zephaniah Swift, and many more. In fact, based in part on the efforts of these Founders, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts began abolishing slavery in 1780; Connecticut and Rhode Island did so in 1784; Vermont in 1786; New Hampshire in 1792; New York in 1799; and New Jersey did so in 1804. Additionally, the reason that Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa all prohibited slavery was a Congressional act, authored by Constitution signer Rufus King and signed into law by President George Washington, which prohibited slavery in those territories. There were a great volume of letters and speeches of the Founding Fathers that condemned slavery that was imposed upon the colonies by British rule. In 1774 a bill from the Virginia House of Burgess to end slavery in Virginia was sent to England and passed by Parliment, but vetoed by King George III. But it took the civil war where 375,000 northern men laid down their lives to finally put an end to what the British had initiated.

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