Slavery In Joseph J. Ellis's Founding Brothers

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After a fiercely fought revolution, the newly independent American nation struggled to establish a concrete government amidst an influx of opposing ideologies. Loosely tied together by the Articles of Confederation, the thirteen sovereign states were far from united. As growing schisms in American society became apparent, an array of esteemed, prominent American men united in 1787 to form the basis of the United States government: the Constitution. Among the most eminent members of this convention were Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. These men, held to an almost godly stature, defined the future of the nation; but were their intentions as honest as they seemed? Joseph J. Ellis’s groundbreaking Founding Brothers …show more content…

Many northerners, Benjamin Franklin among them, began to question the legitimacy of the revolutionary ideal of liberty, if the same rights weren’t awarded to everyone. After landing the presidential seat of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, Franklin started to protest the racist claims of his Southern counterparts (they argued that slaves were incapable of integrating into society). He also proposed legislation that called for the eventual emancipation of all slaves. After Franklin’s death in 1790, the political conversation about slavery halted. Ellis claims the discourse went “silent”. Never directly mentioned in the Constitution, and commonly refereed to as “others”, African Americans were often denied existence in the Constitutional Conventions. James Madison embodied the complacency of the average white American man. Ellis describes his thinking as “a kind of mysterious region where ideas entered going in one direction but then emerged headed the opposite way.” (114). The Southern founding fathers, Madison included, acknowledged the moral evils of the slave trade but many of them slave owners themselves, did not desire an end to it, admittedly for their own profit. These men, the most educated and powerful of the era, had the chance to abolish the system of which many of them deemed immoral while creating the republic, but failed to as they were concerned only with their …show more content…

The topic of the night was the national debt crisis. Alexander Hamilton, a strong supporter of federal assumption, and James Madison, a loyal Virginian, were among the guests of this carefully calculated soiree. Personal motivations of wealth and power guided their conversations. Hamilton’s economic plan was devised to benefit the urban elite, who were, in his mind, the keystone of American economics. States like Virginia that had managed to pay off large amounts of their debt, now risked being charged more in new taxes under Hamilton’s plan. Jefferson protested Hamilton’s proposal for this reason, predicting that the most important citizens of his Republican vision, the yeoman farmers, would suffer. By the end of the night a compromise had been made that appeased both parties: the federal government would assume the national debt, and in turn, the capital of the nation would move from Pennsylvania to Virginia, an easily accessible region for Jefferson and Madison. Their quiet conversations clearly displayed their sole concern for themselves, not the American people. In addition, the fact that their compromise was made privately proves the lack of respect they

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