Could the US founding fathers be guilty of creating a nation based on slavery?

…as answered on Quora….

Seems a funny way of putting it.

  1. America’s founders weren’t creating a “nation.” They created a federal union, with each state as a separate sovereign governing in a republican fashion its nation of free people. That is a better description.
  2. Some of those free people in those states owned slaves, in most states. Thomas Jefferson had written anti-slavery passages in his Declaration of Independence, but they were removed by the Continental Congress for fear of alienating states dominated by slaveowners. But most founders recognized that slavery was the opposite of freedom.
  3. The state of Vermont, independent at the time of the Revolution and through the Philadelphia Convention, formally abolished slavery in 1777. It entered the union in 1791. For the next seven decades, northern states, one by one, legislated against the institution of slavery. In the aftermath of the Civil War, slavery was abolished in all states by the 13th Amendment. (Arguably, the federal union ceased to be at that time, and a nation-state was then created — not because of the abolition of slavery, but because of the manner in which it was accomplished . . . but that is another and quite thorny issue.)
  4. At the time of the founding of the United State in the late 18th century, few countries had abolished slavery, though it was not widely practiced in Europe any longer. But it had been practiced from time immemorial. So in that context, did the founders create a political union “based on slavery”? All of civilization was in part “based on slavery.” That is, slavery was a worldwide phenomena. And it is still practiced in Africa and Asia, especially in Muslim-majority countries.
  5. What the founders did do was proclaim freedom as central to their cause. And that proclamation (declaration) along with their expressed desire to “secure the blessings of liberty” leavened the culture and allowed the states of the union, and then the federal government (after a horrific war in no small part the result of this issue), to repudiate slavery. Over time. Which is how social change happens.

The idea of blaming the founders for slavery while not crediting them with the principles that were corrosive to the ancient institution, seems tendentious and . . . twisted . . . to me. Could it serve as part of an agenda on the totalitarian left to discredit individual liberty by means of its opposite — the better to institutionalize not chattel slavery but mass political slavery, the slavery of socialism?

Not Irrelevant:

Did white people oppose slavery?

What did Austrian economists think of slavery?

Why is capitalism not the root cause of slavery?

How different would the U.S. be if it didn’t have slave labor in its beginning stages?

Who thinks slavery was avoidable?

Who was the first U.S. President whose immediate family owned slaves?

Where do human rights come from?