• Five Founders on Slavery

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Five Founders on Slavery George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison on Slavery None of the leading Founders ever declared slavery to be a just or beneficial institution. In fact, they hoped to see the slave trade eradicated, and eventually the entire institution of slavery made illegal. George Washington Letter to Robert Morris 1 April 12, 1786 "...[T]here is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it...." John Adams Letter to Robert J. Evans 2 June 8, 1819 "...Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States.... I have, through my whole life ...
  • Letter to John Jay

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Letter to John Jay Letter to John Jay 1 Alexander Hamilton Hamilton, a founder of the New York Manumission Society, writes to John Jay, a co-founder of the Society and then-president of the Continental Congress, arguing that slaves should be allowed to fight for the American cause in the War for Independence, earning their "freedom with their muskets." Eventually, some 5,000 blacks served as soldiers in the war. March 14, 1779 Dear Sir: Colonel Laurens, who will have the honor of delivering you this letter, is on his way to South Carolina, on a project, which I think, in the present situation of affairs there, is a very good one and deserves every kind of support and encouragement. This is to raise two, three, or four battalions of negroes ...
  • Letter to the English Anti-Slavery Society

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Letter to the English Anti-Slavery Society Letter to the English Anti-Slavery Society 1 John Jay (1745-1829) In 1777, Jay's first attempt to abolish slavery in New York failed. In 1788, the state banned the importation of slaves. By 1799, the New York Manumission Society advocated for a bill, signed into law that year by then-Governor Jay, specifying that as of July 4, all children born to slave parents would be freed by a certain age. Less than a year after the Constitutional Convention, Jay addresses concerns from his British counterparts that anti-slavery progress in America is too slow. June 1788 Gentlemen: Our society has been favored with your letter of the 1st of May last, and are happy that efforts so honorable to the nation are ...
  • Draft of the Declaration of Independence

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Draft of the Declaration of Independence Draft of the Declaration of Independence 1 Thomas Jefferson Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence contained a critique of King George III's involvement in the slave trade. Although not approved by the entire Second Continental Congress, it indicates that the leading Founders understood the slavery issue in moral terms. 1776 ...He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare ...
  • Query XVIII: Manners

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Query XVIII: Manners Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII: Manners 1 Thomas Jefferson The primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was well aware that his ownership of slaves violated the principles he espoused. 1784 The particular customs and manners that may happen to be received in that State? It is difficult to determine on the standard by which the manners of a nation may be tried, whether catholic or particular. It is more difficult for a native to bring to that standard the manners of his own nation, familiarized to him by habit. There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual ...
  • Federalist 54

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    Federalist 54 Federalist 54 1 James Madison Madison here gives voice to the understanding of the South regarding the three-fifths clause of the Constitution, which required that three-fifths of the slaves in each state be counted for purposes of representation. This clause had a strange history. Most Southerners argued that slaves should be counted as full persons for voting purposes, while Northerners opposed to slavery advocated that they not be counted at all. Here Madison's "Southerner" presents the compromise position with approval, but in the process admits much of its moral illogic. February 12, 1788 The Apportionment of Members Among the States ..."We subscribe to the doctrine," might one of our Southern brethren observe, "that ...
  • The Northwest Ordinance

     |  Roots of the Slavery Crisis

    The Northwest Ordinance The Northwest Ordinance Congress of the Confederation Passed when only a single state outlawed slavery, the anti-slavery stance of the Northwest Ordinance—barring slavery in the territories, and thus in future states—gave weight to Abraham Lincoln's later argument that the Founders sought to place slavery "in the course of ultimate extinction." July 13, 1787 Article VI ...There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed ...
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