October 30

Blog #42 – Slavery disqualifier?

“All men are created equal…” Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

“There is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach [slavery]… we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”  Thomas Jefferson’s letter to John Holmes

An argument that discredits some of the Founding Fathers, including men like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison among others is that because these men owned slaves yet fought for freedom, they are hypocrites.  The line of reasoning goes – “how could someone who so courageously advanced the cause of human freedom still be a slaveowner?  They can’t possibly be both for and against freedom.”   The next point in this line of thinking is that because of this hypocrisy, some of Founding Fathers, especially the Virginians, are racist because they neither had the courage to free their slaves or that they profited from their slaves’ labor. 

One of the most biting quotes about this dilemma is from this time period (not ours) by Englishman Samuel Johnson:

“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” (Ambrose 2).

But were our FFs neglectful of this slavery dilemma?   It appears not.  When Jefferson describes the perpetuation of slavery in his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, he talks about how the slavemaster attitude is passed on down to his children:

“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise in the most boisterous passions…The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated and daily exercised in tyranny…”

Here, the child of the slaveowner learns how to treat slaves like chattel, and the cycle is perpetuated.  But modern critics say, how could Jefferson recognize this contradiction in American society and not do anything about it?   Even in the same book where he criticizes slavery and its depravity, Jefferson embraces the racism of the time by asserting that slaves hadn’t produced any real literature, they smelled bad, and engage in sex constantly (Ambrose 4).  Yet, confoundingly, Jefferson also wrote a passage into the original draft of the Declaration of Independence that condemned slavery, and he also signed the bill that outlawed the international slave trade in 1808. 

“I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery].” —George Washington

Then there’s Washington.  He was the only one of the nine slaveowning president who had freed all of his slaves (neither Adams owned slaves).   He held the nation together through the force of his personality and will during some of the darkest times.  But that didn’t stop a school in New Orleans from being renamed in the 1990s from George Washington Elementary to the Charles R. Drew Elementary(Dr. Drew is the developer of hemoglobin) (Ambrose 11). 


Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush, FFs from Pennsylvania, helped found the nation’s first anti-slavery society in Philadelphia.  Rush is quoted as saying: “Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity… It is rebellion against the authority of a common Father.”

On the other side, there’s the assertion by Michelle Bachman, former Republican presidential candidate, who said that  the FFs “know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”   Specifically, Bachman mentions John Quincy Adams as one of these tireless founders, our 6th president. 


 1. What is happening here to the Founding Fathers?  Why are some people quick to attack and blame them for allowing slavery to exist at the foundation of a freedom-loving nation?  And why do some people defend the FFs with every ounce of their being? 

2. Do you think the FFs are being judged by today’s standards or by the standards of the day in which they lived?  Have the FFs become some kind of political football that candidates use for their own purposes?  Why?

Answer both questions by Thursday, class time, November 1.  300 words total. 


Ambrose, Stephen E. To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. Print

http://theweek.com/article/index/216841/did-the-founding-fathers-really-work-tirelessly-to-end-slavery  The Week.

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Posted October 30, 2012 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

72 thoughts on “Blog #42 – Slavery disqualifier?

  1. Aliyah McIlwain

    1. I think people realized that the founding fathers did a great job creating the country we live in today, but they left out such a vital part of our country. People are quick to attack the founding fathers for letting slavery to exist because the idea that they let human beings suffer while the rest of the country thrived on the very freedom they caught for seems rather hypocritical. It bothers a lot of people including myself that slaves just as human and capable as everyone else were not given the same opportunities. African-American’s today still often get the short hand of the stick.
    Maybe some people defend the founding fathers because they view things in a “governmental” way. They look at the fact that at the time slaves were vital to our nations’ survival. Without slavery I don’t think our nation would have been as successful. The nation would not have been able to build its economy. Given that slaves helped make this great contribution I am proud that my ancestors helped make my future brighter. Without slavery I would not be here. Slavery had its positive attributes, but I do not agree with the sick fashion in which it was handled.
    2. I think when people look in hind sight they are judging the founding fathers by today’s standards. Slavery had been abolished for over 100 years; people have now widely come to the same conclusion that slavery is wrong. In the 1800 slavery was a necessity, so unless you were a die-hard abolitionist you probably didn’t have much to say or strongly agreed with the idea of slavery. Although as immoral as it was I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to label the founding fathers as hypocrites; they were simply live as only they knew how, and in a way that society wished them to live. The founding fathers have not become political footballs; I rarely see mention of the founding father, but I do see frequent mentions of more resent past presidents.

  2. Ariel Boston

    1) The founding fathers are being painted as hypocrites Some people are quick to attack and blame them for allowing slavery to exist at the foundation of a freedom loving nation because it’s not really the right way to go about building up trust with people. It would have been for the founding fathers to have been totally upfront and real with what they thought about slavery and everything. The way they went back and forth kind of made them seem dishonest and sketchy. Some people defend them with every ounce of their being to protect the reputation the founding fathers have and to make sure they don’t get blackballed. Them being hypocrites is not a good face for the fathers of our country and they are supposed to be very good righteous men. I feel like the founding fathers knew slavery was wrong, but they just let it fly because slavery was a good source of income.

    2) I think the founding fathers are being judged by today’s standards because I’m not sure of people’s views on issues like that back then. But I’m sure that if people found something really wrong with what the founding fathers were doing, sending mixed signals, someone would have spoken up about it or written a pamphlet because that’s just how people seemed to respond to controversy back then. Now, I think Americans are really soft and hypersensitive about things that weren’t really even an issue to begin with. The founding fathers have become a sort of political football, because the way candidates view them can be twisted any way you want. It is very convenient that way, because on the issue of slavery the founding fathers were neither here nor there. They seemed kind of vague as far as where they stood on that and I feel like they left that mystery on purpose.

  3. Kacey Arnold

    1. The founding fathers are being blamed and called hypocritical for being timid to try and change/ or remove slavery which is an institution that had become just as much a part of america as the constitution. Many people support them so much simply because of that reason, people say you can do anything if you put your mind to it or work hard but slavery if the same institution that when tampered with spawn a civil war and even before that caused stress and almost a break in the unity of the colonies in many cases including the Missouri compromise.
    2. The ff are definitely being judged from today’s standards rather than their own era’s standards during which people did many things we would call morally wrong or backwards. Example being the way Thomas Jefferson hated slavery and spoke out agianst it while at home keeping slaves, a healthy plantation, and an ongoing affair making four known of children with his slave Sally Hemmings. Now many politicians use the founding fathers to defend many of their points both good and bad such as they could say taht they didnt want to be hypocritical on a certain subject and use Thomas Jefferson`s action agianst and toward slavery to call TJ hypocritical which is how he wouldnt want to be or to say that TJ was a revolutionary and knew the limits of his power and believd that to maintain a stable country and unity he wouldnt beable to abolish slavery.

  4. Isabella Gutierrez

    1. The reason people are blaming the founding fathers for slavery to still exist, is because they are still continuing to promote it. They may seem like they want it to be abolished however they can’t see past their hypocritical views. They are saying slavery is wrong and unjust yet they continue to uphold slaves on their plantations and treat them lesser then themselves. Why try to act like you against it when you yourself is part of the problem. For example a man like Thomas Jefferson convicted slavery in the US constitution, but he himself owned many slaves. He felt as a man of higher stature in society he should own slaves like every other wealthy virginian. However this sign is of hypocrisy of which he was being blamed for. However there were some people who defended the Founding Fathers. They believed they were still just human beings who make mistakes and were allowed to preach what they did not practice. They believed men who governed our country knew what they were doing and we should follow along with them no matter what imperfections they may make.

    2. I personally believe that the founding Fathers are being judged by both today’s standards and the standards of the day in which they lived. For example today slavery would be seen as an abhorrent and immoral act in society. And since all these men still owned slaves but told others it was a cruel act, they would still be looked at the same (hypocritical). Things have changed so much since then but our laws and morals remain much the same. But if the founding fathers were still alive today they would still be judged the same today as they would be back then. Back then also the issue would remain the same. Slavery was a much bigger issue in their time so they would still be judged by the standards of their time even greater. I also do believe the founding Fathers are being used as a “Political football” they are often tossed among candidates as either men to look up to and gain guidance from or look down upon because they could be seen as hypocrites and their morals may not be correct.

  5. Shashank R.

    Question #1: In this situation the founding fathers are being critiqued on their hypocrisy that they had presented during their efforts or promotions of freedom. Many people tend to argue that the founding fathers are significantly overlooked on the idea that many of them owned slaves which directly contradicted their ideas on freedom. Many people are quick to attack the colonist’s ideals and morale in a sense in which how could they bare invading/denying freedom of the black slaves. They do this because most are uneducated or do not use logic behind why SOME colonists had this mindset. I am NOT one of those people. Although the founding fathers DID contradict their own ideal, I personally feel as though many of these early Leaders were justified with their reasoning behind their indifference towards slaves. They were justified for a number of reasons. One main reason was because they were practicing the norm of their time and following regular customs. The slavery freedom aspect was in a sense “Set aside” while they gain their own freedom first. Another important reason behind this critical perception of the colonists is that the Colonists recognized and realized that the slave labor at that time could not be prevented as it was an intricate part of the nation’s economy. The significance of slave labor in the time in which they owned slaves the monetary affluence that came with slaves was too great of a commodity for the nation to give up at the time. Some colonists may have realized their actions of complying with the dehumanization in the status quo; therefore they freed many if not all of their slaves. But others had stayed strong with this idea maybe hinting ideas of sympathy but still realizing how valuable slaves were to the nation. Some people (Sort of like me) defend the FF’s with “every ounce of their being” because we/they understand the sacrifices and choices that these men made shaped the future in significant ways. The foundation they set for the country itself outweighs the fact that some of them owned slaves. And we/they also comprehend the fact that slavery during this time wasn’t a very significant issue in retrospect but the FF’s wanted to focus on the Short-term issues which would have the most significant impact in the aspects of timeframe and magnitude, and clearly at this time the idea of slavery wasn’t on the top of their docket.
    Question #2: The FF’s are being judged on the standards presented by people today rather than the more logical and reasonable alternative in judging them within their own era. People today are critical to the things that the Founding Fathers had done or the choices they made. But people today, as explained in the first question, fail to fathom or wrap their mind around the simple idea that the circumstances in which they were in called for DIFFERENT measures or procedures than we would use today. This ties into the next embedded question because it shows how people abuse the ideals and thoughts of our founding fathers. In my opinion the idea of a “Political Football” and the FF’s is clearly evident today. The idea of our Founding fathers being used as a political football between the candidates today is a prime example of how people, no matter the social class or educational spectrum, fail to register the meanings of decisions and principles of the Founding fathers. One example of variance between the two times (Which should be obvious) is how Thomas Jefferson had a very conservative take on foreign policy and applying his thoughts to the war on terror and intervention of other governments in other countries. This is an irrelevant argument as you can’t cross apply his ideals, as the situations and circumstances of that time has taken a drastic and polar shift and change. The people who use these references and analogies are being completely ridiculous, specifically the so called “leaders” of our country. Trying to win over votes by making irrelevant references to an uneducated part of the public, now that’s just PETTY. I’m sure the FF’s would be able to correlate to this situation and handle it in a way they intended in the first place.

  6. Aaron Walt

    In this discussion, our Founding Fathers are being cast in a completely different light than we are used to seeing them in. They are being criticized for being hypocritical and racist. This is strange to hear because these men have all always been seen as perfect men who ingeniously founded a great nation. Now, they are being ostracized for their views on slavery. Some people are quick to attack and blame them for allowing slavery to exist because slavery is one of those issues that is almost completely one sided today. In our age, slavery is a horrendous act that is definitely not allowed in our society. So, people do not realize that back in the days of our founding fathers, slavery was common in the south and only certain people were against. But, our standards our set pretty high on our Founding Fathers, so we would assume that they would not partake in the scandalous act of slavery. Some people strongly defend our founding fathers because they still see them as perfect men. These people don’t realize that even great men can have flaws.

    Our Founding Fathers are definitely being judged by today’s standards, which is the biggest problem in this debate. People don’t realize how different society was in the 18th century compared to now. Back then, slavery was seen completely different than it is now. The Founding Fathers have become a political football that candidates use for their own purposes. Politicians always throw around big, exciting, patriotic words that pumps up overenthusiastic crowds. One of their favorites is referencing the Founding Fathers. They tell people that they model their political strategies after the Founding Fathers, even if it’s not true. People figure that if it worked for the founding of our country, then it will still work today.

  7. Chris G.

    1.)The people that are quick to blame the FF’S are the people in the North. The FF’S are getting so much recognition for making our nation free, they owned their owned slaves! I believe that is a complete abomination to the United States of America. 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. 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. the Founders, with the exception of those from South Carolina and Georgia, exhibited considerable aversion to slavery during the era of the Articles of Confederation.
    2.) People respected the founding fathers for owning slaves probably lived in the South. The historical fact is that slavery was not the product of, nor was it an evil introduced by the Founders; slavery was introduced in America nearly two centuries before the Founders. In fact, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay noted that there had been few serious efforts to dismantle the institution of slavery prior to the Founding Fathers. Jefferson knew slavery was wrong and that he was wrong in profiting from the institution, but apparently could see no way to relinquish it in his lifetime. He thought abolition of slavery might be accomplished by the young men of the next generation. By the end of the American Revolution, slavery had proven unprofitable in the North and was dying out. Even in the South the institution was becoming less useful to farmers as tobacco prices fluctuated and began to drop. However, in 1793 Northerner Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin; this device made it possible for textile mills to use the type of cotton most easily grown in the South.

  8. Ryan Jezierski

    What is happening to the Founding Fathers is that they are being considered hypocrites and racists because they are preaching for Freedom for the slaves, but yet they are the ones who still own them. I think people are so quick to attack them bfor allowing slavery to exist at the foundation of a “freedom-loving” nation because they see that even though they were fighting for the rights of the slaves, it was wrong of them to own them while doing so. I think some people defend the founding fathers because they might see the importance that slavery had on the country. I personally think that even though they said they were trying to fight for Freedom of the slaves, that owning them was an advantage for them, because of the amount of work that they might have been doing, the extra help might have been necissary.
    Yes, I think the Founding Fathers are being judged somewhat by today’s standards because in the article, it states that someone from our modern era, talked about how Jefferson couldn’t recognize a contraditction with wanting freedom for the slaves but owning them, “But modern critics say, how could Jefferson recognize this contradiction in American society and not do anything about it?” I think this is using some of today’s standards because in the past, that was probably something (Freedom of the Slaves) that they (the Founding Fathers) didn’t look at as a contradiction. I think that they are using the Founding Fathers as their own “presidental football” because they might want to compare themselves to the Founding Fathers.

  9. Neelan J.

    1. This article written is making it seem like our Founding Fathers are hypocrites. They want to argue because they don’t know exactly what had happened. Many people want to come in and destroy them for some of the wrong things they had done, but didn’t look at all the good. People want to attack them because they were well-known. Fame brings good and also hate. They are attacking the Founding Fathers for letting slavery exist in a “freedom loving nation.” The people that are defending the Founding Fathers are saying that they were trying to get rid of slavery and to do well.
    2. I do think that the Founding Fathers are being judged by today’s standards. No one back then would’ve said something, but now, many people are finding a reason to put them down or talk about what they had done. Back then slavery was a part of life, and the Founding Fathers were trying to abolish it. But, now people want to judge of what they could’ve done. None of the candidates tried to talk about that, and if they referred to them, the Founding Fathers would’ve gained more supporters over the years.

  10. Kelsey Nowak

    In my opinion, what the founding fathers have done and said in the past is being interpreted differently. There is an issue of the fact that many of our founding fathers had slaves. Some people accuse the founding fathers of hypocrisy when they themselves owned slaves and yet tried to get rid of it. Some people are so quick to attack and blame them for allowing slavery to exist at the foundation of a freedom-loving nation because it seems that because of this hypocrisy, the founding fathers are actually racist. People may say that they were racist because they didn’t have the courage to free their slaves and they may not have freed them because they profited from their slaves. However some people defend the founding fathers with every ounce of their being because they did try to free slaves and they didn’t free theirs because it was their time period. It was the norm back then to have a couple slaves and at the very least the founding fathers acknowledged slavery. Also, Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush founded the first abolitionist society in Philadelphia. In addition, people may be so quick to defend our founding fathers because they can find quotes that support what they were saying. For instance, Benjamin Rush stated, “Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity… It is rebellion against the authority of a common father.” Mr. Rush not only stated that he knew slavery was a bad thing but at the same time he mentions religion. I think that people are quick to defend anyone who is a man of Christianity because they think that people who are religious are morally right. Those people who defend the founding fathers probably see them as Christian men who were working towards the abolition of slavery. In my opinion, the founding fathers are being judged by today’s standards as opposed to the actual time that they lived in. I think that it is not correct to say that the founding fathers worked tirelessly or say that they were racist and hypocritical. I do not think that they worked tirelessly because many of our founding fathers had to deal with other issues. For example: the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, making the Constitution, the War of 1812, etc. Also, I don’t think that the founding fathers were necessarily racist or hypocritical. It was just the time period, it was normal to have slaves and I feel as if men of their status were expected to own slaves. To sum it all up, I do think that the founding fathers have become some kind of political football that the candidates use for their own purposes because I feel as if the candidates mention our founding fathers to show the people that they “know” something about American history. I think that a lot of what our political candidates say is just talk and if they can throw in some history, such as our founding fathers, they will do it because I think that’s what they think the people want to hear.

  11. Remy Combs

    1) The Founding Fathers are being accused as hypocrites, since they made efforts to fight for freedom for everyone in the U.S. including slaves, but they still owned slaves. People are quick to attack and blame them for allowing slavery to exist because the people believe that they were racist, or that they profit from slave labor, and because of that, they didn’t want to let them go. People defend them because they were the Founding Fathers of America, and that people believed that they were indoctrinated. They grew up believing that nothing could be wrong in America, and that everyone had rights and freedom.
    2) I think that the Founding Fathers are judged by present-day standards instead of their original standards. In their time, black people didn’t have any rights. If we were living in their time, the majority would not think slavery was wrong. Presently, we look at the Founding Fathers and think of them as hypocrites because of the doctrine that said “All men were created equal…” The FFs are used in a political football manner, because candidates like to use them in debates and campaigns for their own sole purposes. They use the FFs so that the citizens of the U.S. can relate to them and that they can better grasp a feel of what the candidate is talking about.

  12. J'Laan Pittman

    The founding fathers are being ridiculed for being hypocrites. Some say that they are contradictory in their beliefs. This appears to be true in the idea of slavery and equality. The Founding Fathers spoke and advocated freedom but still owned slaves. Some are quick to attack them because our Founding Fathers are supposed to be all about equality; they are expected to not be bias or hypocrites when tasked with a big a job as writing and delegating our rights. Some people decide that our Founding Fathers are the best people that have ever existed. They defend them like their lives depended on it. Thisa is probably because the Founding Fathers were supposed to be role models. Some might depend on that state of perfection so that they don’t have to face the fact that the Constitution and similar documents might be flawed. It seems almost ironic that the Founding Fathers wanted equality for all and then owned slaves. But one must remember that back in those times the belief was that the slaves were not even people. Back then, most people still beleived that it was needed to own slaves to work the fields of plantations. If we judge them in our eyes and views on slavery their actions seem not only hypocritical but also contradictory in the Constitution. It seemed that the Founding Fathers didn’t want to take the step to free their own slaves. Today’s presidential candidates play on the perfectness of the Founding Fathers for their own gain. Many gloat on and on about how strong they are to gain the trust and support of voters. They are counting on the fact that people will ignore the contradictory ideas that the Founding Fathers had spoken about. Not everyone even knows exactly what the Constitution says. Most view the Founder Fathers as the ones who initiated the freedom of the United States of America.

  13. Maggie Davis

    1. People are so quick to judge the founding fathers on their conflicting beliefs and actions because they simply don’t understand how sensitive of an issue slavery was at the time. Back in the days of the founding fathers, slavery literally determined the fate of the brand-new union. If the FFs had abolished slavery at the time, the North and South would probably go into immediate conflict, and the fragile new country was not ready for that yet. In today’s world, we view slavery as unnecessary and cruel, which it is, but it was also a crucial part of the economy back then, and an extremely controversial topic. So while it is easy to jump to conclusions that the founding fathers were “hypocritical,” once one looks at their actual motives, it can be seen that this is not the case. In my opinion, the founding fathers probably spoke against slavery to start a new idea of thought for the next generations of leaders, but never actually started a movement against slavery in order to keep the careful balance between North and South. I think some people are quick to attach blame because they want to expose the “truth” about our flawed founding fathers. On the other hand, some defend them with their life because they want to keep them on the pedestal that we have put them on.
    2. The FF’s are definitely being judged by today’s standards instead of the standards of the time period that they lived in. People today forget that the founding fathers were politicians, and if the public were really opposed to the founding fathers’ contradicting opinions and actions, they probably would have done something about it. Politicians in our time period protect them and their images so that they can use them in campaigns, and reflect off of their views, like “political football.”

  14. Zach Resnick

    Our fore fathers are being criticized for going against what they “said” they stood for. In my opinion, they deserve this. They are praised everyday for what an incredible country they put together but they do deserve a little criticism. The fact is obvious that they truly didn’t stick to their word of doing everything they could to make everyone equal. The obvious argument is if they truly did want everyone to be equal, why did they own slaves themselves? Wouldn’t they want to set the right examples being the role models of the country? I can also see why our fore fathers are being defended of their hypocrisy. They are our fore fathers. They started the most powerful society that we love today. Defending the people that started us is common but you have to look beside it and realize their hypocrisy. I do think that our fore fathers are being compared to standards we live by today. In this day and age you can hire anyone to do your dirty labor. Thomas Jefferson couldn’t just hire a free gardener that would do his field work. That is what he had his slaves for. By all means, slavery was an awful thing but they weren’t used for taking peoples anger out of them. They were used for labor. I do agree that our fore fathers are being tossed around by ignorant politicians today. There is no reason for this. Instead they should be grateful for what our fore fathers started. They don’t know what it was like for our fore fathers and shouldn’t criticize something they have never experienced. They do this because its an easy point to make but they should just shut their mouths. Our fore fathers do deserve a little criticism for owning slaves themselves but we should be grateful today for what we have and appreciate everything our fore fathers did to create such an amazing society.

  15. Marta Plumhoff

    Our founding fathers are being discredited and questioned on their morals because of the so-called “hypocrisy” they lived. I think that these people are ready and even looking to find some issue with our founding fathers that they can use to explain any issue America might currently be having. For example, if they can say that even our founding fathers were divided on the concern of slavery, they might use that to account for the racial segregation or discrimination that exists in some parts of our nation. They are just looking for a scapegoat that they can easily use to dump the problems America is having. I think that if they can say that America has problems because of its beginning and the way it was originally founded, they will. However, there are others that will always defend our founding fathers. I think they do this because they not only believe that if America ever loses hope in our country then nothing will ever change, but if the people of America lose hope in the start and the foundation of our country, everything will get worse.
    Everybody always says don’t judge somebody until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. It’s hard to judge people based on something you don’t know; however, that doesn’t stop people from doing it. The people who are criticizing the founding fathers are doing by today’s standards. They have no idea what life was like in that time, or what it was like to own slaves, or speak out against it, which is why it’s almost easy for them to judge the founding fathers. The candidates also use our founding fathers to boost their own image and morale. I think that they criticize and accentuate the mistakes the founding fathers made to almost raise themselves above them. If they can say that people as great as our own founding fathers made mistakes, then maybe they think it conceals or makes okay their own mistakes.

  16. Michael Trease

    The Founding Fathers are being frequently attacked for owning a large number of slaves, while at the same time protesting slavery. Some people are quick to blame and criticize them for allowing slavery to exist in the foundation of a nation founded on the idea of freedom and rights for all, as according to the 3/5 Compromise settled in 1787, our Founding Fathers decided to classify African American individuals as 3/5’s of an individual when the popular vote was to be given. They were barely provided with any rights as citizens, despite the idea the Founding Fathers had of a freedom-loving-nation. However, some people go to great lengths to defend the Founding Fathers from the ample criticisms being thrown at them. The main argument that those protecting the reputation of Founding Fathers have is that in the late 18th century, the Founding Fathers would be ostracized by many at the time for outlawing slavery, as it was a key factor to the success of the Southern economy at the time. It is also argued that the Founding Fathers such as James Madison, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were only going along with the norms and lifestyle of society at the time by owning slaves.
    In my opinion, the Founding are being judged by critics using the standards of society today too often, rather than critics taking into account the characteristics of society in the late 18th century. It should be recognized that the exploitation of slaves was key to economic and political success at the time. If the Founding Fathers had not gone along with the 3/5 Compromise, violent outbreak would have most likely occurred between the North and South. It was a wise decision not to start a civil war at the birth of the country. However, I also believe that the Founding Fathers were somewhat hypocritical. Benjamin Franklin, who was known to be an avid protester of slavery as he founded the nation’s first Anti-Slavery Society in 1774, was known for owning a few slaves himself.

  17. Maddie George

    The Founding Fathers are slightly being shown in a hypocritical manner. People are beginning to wonder how men who proclaimed freedom for all could still own slaves, keeping people in bondage. Some people are quick to attack them because they try to expose moral flaws in the Founding Fathers, flaws which can be taken advantage of when other decisions made by these men are called into question. Others keep the Founding Fathers on the high pedestal we keep them at. They are so central to our history we are taught at an early age that these men were a force of capitol G Good. They were every bit the heroes we want them to have been. People today fight to keep them as high on their pedestal as possible, while others try to prove these men were basic humans, and still others try to convey the definition somewhere in the middle. The Founding Fathers are being judged by today’s standards, rather than the standards of their time period. In their time it was not an uncommon opinion that blacks were a substandard race. They had grown up in a time where the practice was common place; while there may have been some guilt over it, the benefits outweighed the moral costs. The economic benefits alone could outweigh the moral cost. Just look at modern use of sweatshops and child labour. The companies that do it know it’s not the most morally ideal situation, but the profit to be gained from taking cost cutting measures such as these override the moral downside. Politicians use the Founding Fathers a political ‘football’ of sorts as they exemplify the highest ideal of a politician to the majority of the population. They started everything, changed the course of history irrevocably, and politicians today wish to follow in their footsteps.

  18. Isabelle Molnar

    1) In this article the Founding Fathers are being criticized not for ignoring the issue on slavery, but for not doing anything about it despite their full awareness of the morality of slavery. The Founding Fathers were flawed, as all great people in history, and people have the right to criticize them. People find that it is outrageous that these freedom advocators had the audacity to own slaves and the fact that many of the Founding Fathers were wealthy landowners. But many people look past these flaws and defend them because these are the men who led us to being an economic success, a huge world power and a prosperous nation. Their policies were the foundation for a generally successful government that many nations lack the benefit of. And not all of the founding fathers were for slavery, and in fact some of them were not only the founder of economic and political success in America, but also of anti-slavery organizations and thinking. For instance, George Washington freed all of his slaves after being elected president and Ben Franklin along with Benjamin Rush helped to start the first anti-slavery society in Philadelphia.
    2) I think that the Founding Fathers are being judged by the standards of today. Within the majority of society, the wealthy were expected to own slaves and large plots of land. Although some thought slavery wrong during the time of the FFs, I don’t believe very many of them would criticize them for owning slaves as many people are now. Many people today are also using the FFs as “political footballs”, using the Founding Fathers policies as models of modern ones. Modern politicians and people within the government are comparing and contrasting themselves with the FFs, using them as both weapons against opponents and useful tools for their benefit.

  19. Anna Daugherty

    1. Our Founding Fathers have been looked at as hypocrites. They have been accused of having hypocritical views on slavery. How could our Founding Fathers work so hard to advance human freedom, but yet still be slave owners? Many people are quick to criticize the Founding Fathers because of these views. The ones quick to criticize thought that in order to fully be advocators of human freedom the FF needed to free their slaves. Yes, the FF could talk the talk, but could they walk the walk? When you think about it, it almost seems right that the Founding Fathers did not take action on abolishing slavery. In truth though they did add something to the freedom of slaves even if it did not have an immediate effect. What the Founding Fathers did was they spoke out against slavery. That in itself was a great help to the cause. Because, here are these big inspirational leaders who have a huge influence on American and if they start talking about the freedom of slaves then the idea will start to form in the heads of other Americans. So when people were so quick to judge the Founding Fathers they must not have taken this into consideration. In my opinion, they did all they could have done without ruining the balance between the North and South. The North and South were already very sensitive to each other at this time, so if you add in the freeing of slaves then the conflict could be uncontrollable. I can understand though why some may be quick to criticize these Founding Fathers, but there are others who look at the full picture and they put the Founding Fathers on this high pedestal that is not to be touched.
    2. I definitely believe that the majority of Americans judge the Founding Fathers by today’s standards. Yes, we know now how wrong slavery is and what a mistake it was in the history of America, but I think that many fail to take in account the time and morals of our Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers did not take that “huge” of an action by today’s standards, but when you think about it, even talking about abolishing slavery in that time period was a HUGE deal. I don’t think that the Founding Fathers have become political “footballs” mainly because I have not heard the president or candidates bring the Founding Fathers up to use to their advantage. However, I do think that more recent presidents have been used as political “footballs” to the president and candidates.

  20. Maria Roma

    1. The $1 bill, an extremely commonly circulated item, features George Washington on it. George Washington is also on the 25₵ coin. Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill, and Thomas Jefferson is on the $2 bill. Obviously these men were important historical figures. Why else would they be on our currency? A lot of people defend these men “with every ounce of their being” because these men have become symbols of what this country stands for. They are the ones who set the framework on which our country is based. Others are quicker to judge the founding fathers. This is because slavery is an issue that many people have strong, personal feeling about. They would be quick to judge and blame anyone who could possibly be to blame for the tragedy, regardless of their standing in history.

    2. Times have changed immensely since the founding fathers were alive. People are quick to judge the founding fathers to our modern societal standards, but they do not take into account what was the social norm during the time period in which the founding fathers lived. Slavery was extremely normal during the 1700s and early 1800s. It is hard for us to fathom now, because the belief that slavery is morally unethical is so clearly engrained in our society. Back then, though, people didn’t really think twice about owning slaves. It would eventually take a lot of strong people to change the social norms. These strong advocates for anti-slavery – although they eventually made a great change in history – had to overcome a lot of difficulties to get there. The founding fathers had to be concerned about creating a great, strong nation, and being advocates for anti-slavery, whether it was something they wanted to do or not, could have sacrificed their hopes of creating a strong democracy. People use the founding fathers as their “football”, so to speak, because they take these men and use them to answer current pressing questions, when the truth is no one knows what these men would have said, and no one can even speculate. Times have changed, and the founding father’s philosophies can’t be used to judge all current problems, because they’re, to put it simply, out of date.

  21. Courtney Wilkie

    In this selection, the Founding Fathers are basically being called hypocrites for owning slaves when they were in favor of abolishing slavery. It doesn’t make too much sense why they would fight for blacks’ freedom, yet still own slaves. Some people are so quick to attack and blame our founding fathers for allowing slavery at the base of a freedom-loving nation because the reason many people left and came to the new world was because they were being treated horribly. Now that we have escaped the bad treatment to ourselves, we are going to take blacks and do the same thing to them? A free nation should include everyone, no matter what color your skin is, or what you believe in. Although our nation was supposed to be all about freedom and equality, blacks were still treated in terrible ways. Some people may defend the founding fathers with every ounce of their being because they feel the same way as the FFs. They may feel that slavery is a bad thing, but they also find a reason to keep their slaves and realize how much work they do for them. Maybe they don’t like the idea of slavery, but they need a workforce. Some people that defend the Founding Fathers could simply be thinking that slavery is wrong but necessary at the time to accomplish certain things.
    I think that the founding fathers are being judged by today’s standards because back then, a lot of people had slaves and it just wasn’t a big deal to them. Today, we all think of slavery and it’s a terrifying concept because we all see each other as being equal now. I think if we lived in the time of the founding fathers and their slaves, we might have some different feelings, but i do think it’s being judged by today’s standards because we automatically expect equality for everyone and we aren’t exposed to that kind of torture and unfairness.

  22. Alexa R

    1.) The founding fathers sound really hypocritical, they keep switching sides. People are quick to blame then because they are the founding fathers the frame work for our entire country was left in their hands and they wrote in that they wanted freedom for everyone but didn’t enforce it for everyone. Some people defend them because it was was a hard time in American Society we were just getting started and trying to get things done with little to no money and so for them to worry about a practice that wasn’t affecting the majority was kind of crazy. Slavery only really affected black people and their owners and seeing as black people were not looked at as people then why worry about it they were just money making objects so why take a chance in hurting the economy and messing up social aspects of daily life to free an object.
    2.) I think the founding fathers are getting judged by today’s standards. Everybody is looking at how wrong and immoral it is but back then black people were objects things used strictly for making money not people. Whereas now we are considered people you can’t blame a person based on how it was back then. The founding fathers are being judged on total different scale back then it wasn’t even considered super racist if you called a black person the N word. Yes Politian’s use the founding fathers as political footballs the founding fathers represent the penincal of the best Politian so why not. The founding fathers are like the quarterback they pick the play or choose how the country will structured and it’s up to the new politicians to catch the pass and make sure things go in the correct way either we can get a touchdown which is to have a moral and stable environment or we can fumble it and let our country suck.

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