Since many of the founding fathers of the United States were professing Christians it could be assumed that they were fairly knowledgeable of the Bible, then why did they not end slavery immediately? And if not immediately then why not at least in the year of Jubilee as the O.T. teaches? I really don’t see any excuse for them other than being afraid to lose money and property.
Hello John. That is a great question, and I think a really important piece of history to understand regarding our nation. Many of the founding fathers did want to abolish slavery (like John Adams, Benjamin Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson). However, many of the southern states were opposed and considered slavery a necessary evil in order to ensure economic success. When we first became a nation, the decision was highly controversial. Many people did not want to split from Great Britain. So, as members of Congress, such as John Adams, pushed for independence from Great Britain, they ultimately realized that they could only fight one battle at a time. If they were to ever win a unanimous vote for independence, they would have to secede in their fight for abolishing slavery, at least for a time. The preamble to the constitution begins by declaring that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with unalienable rights because the hope of many of the founders was that slavery would eventually be abolished.
My explanation is very brief and only scratches the surface of the issues during the time of our split from Great Britain. There is a book we read in a college History class that is easy to read and talks all about the history of America. The book is called, “A Short History of the United States” by Robert V. Remini. Also, the film “1766” gives a really accurate historical narrative regarding these things.
God bless you!
Greetings, John! It’s a good question and a seemingly perplexing one, to be sure. I want to gently submit that this grievous sin was not unique to the United States during that time (which certainly doesn’t excuse it), although it’s been getting that attention for decades now. On a side note, what is unique in this is that the United States was the first nation to abolish slavery.
In any case, Holly’s explanation to your question is excellent.
In His love.
@hedgemo60. I wouldn’t venture to say why it was not abolished in our beginnings. However, I think it is probably similar to the many sins that beset our lives even today.
Currently, the evil of racism is clearly identified and many empathetic hearts feel compelled almost desperate to be seen as an enemy to racism. Meanwhile, the wrong we are comfortable with goes unaddressed. The sin that besets us is the sin we desire. And even when we know it is wrong and should be avoided; we continue engaging and giving excuses. “I just can’t help myself, its sound economics, or etc.”
Although it was evil to many and certainly those bearing this affliction, enslavement still held a rational explanation and necessity for the enslaver. After all, it was accepted practice throughout the world. It was the norm, even today. So, whether you engage in human trafficking, drug trafficking, or pick your favorite sin; we remain mired because it is more enjoyable than egregious to the practitioner.
Though slavery is seen as one of the biggest sins, for me a descendant of American slaves; it is no more horrible than the way we currently mistreat, hate, hurt, and murder one another. The great news is; in His time GOD always deals with our sins. No one and no system is exempt from His judgment.
Hello @hedgemo60! What @holly_nichole32 said was right on! This has been a question that I have personally pondered. What I have concluded is that if you really look at what all was going on, it’s not that they thought slavery was not an issue, by Thomas Jefferson writing in the Notes on the State of Virginia in summary that slavery is at war with human nature and with justice, and by making the Northwest Ordinance, they were facing more pressing issues at that time as in fighting the War for Independence, and building a new country (which all had to be in place before they could focus on slavery). And because slavery was such a norm back then, if they tried to focus on abolishing it right away, they would’ve been faced with the reality of splitting the Union they had just fought to make. So, instead, they decided to lay a foundation in which to make it possible for later leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln as we now know, to fight this battle.
On more modern basis, we are suffering more than one type of slavery.
I hope this helps!
You know, I agree with you that we couldn’t fight for independence and the end of slavery at the same time. But after we fought and got our independence, then why did it take so long after that to end slavery?
They were racists, as were most people at the time. Jefferson specifically did not believe all of the Bible. When Christianity was brought to slaves, it was often used to justify slavery rather than undermine it.
In one striking case, the slave Bible has several parts deleted, always those that would have pressed back on slavery:
The Freedom Writers and other abolitionists did a lot of work to recover and explain why slavery was biblically wrong. Even they, however, still thought that Europeans ranked higher than colored people.
Equally important is the question of why Jim Crow took hold and desegregation took so long. Some prominent Cristian’s actually argued that opposing segregation was an attack on the inerrancy of Scripture:
Bob Jones is not arguing for slavery, and his position is consistent with abolition. However he does not believe white and colored people should live in the same neighborhood, eat at the same lunch counter, or go to the same schools.
Rather, he wants to send black people back to Africa and prevent any immigrants from outside Europe from coming to the US.
All because the Bible says so (according to him).
Keep in mind that this was embraced by large parts of the Church at the time. He saw himself as a law and order moderate. This was recent too. It would take until 2000 before his university removed its rules against interracial dating.
That is the ugly and recent history we somehow have to grapple. Is it not a good thing that God is slow to pour out his wrath and he gives us grace?
@swamidass The devaluing of human life through history, and especially American history, is so expansive. You brought up a few other really great points, which could be discussed individually for hours and hours. Thank you for briefly including these into our conversation.
After the War for Independence, they still had to figure out how to run this new Union. The “New Experiment” had just begun, which meant that they still had to create a Constitution and submit the Federalist Papers, which were articles in the news papers written by three men (John Jay, Alexandre Hamilton, and James Maddison) over a process of two years in defense of the Constitution against the anti-federalists. It’s not a matter of “Whew! This War’s over, let’s get to other stuff,” it’s a matter of “If we lose this War, we are all slaves to the king of England. But if we win, we’re faced with the dangerous task of creating a new government in accordance with the natural rights of man and the well being of the common good that will last for generations to come.” —which was not an easy, quick thing to do, and which had never been done before. Although they saw it as a problem and violation to natural rights as humans, as mentioned previously (read [[https://assets-us-01.kc-usercontent.com/c7bb3f89-eb78-007e-971a-d5864cf7a236/6fa6c8f9-3f12-45af-a587-5d9368a235c3/Thomas-Jefferson-Notes-on-the-State-of-Virginia.pdf]](http://The Notes on the State of Virginia by Jefferson) ,they realized that they could not do everything. They were still human like you and me. They did say stuff about it, as stated above, and they did pass the Northwest Ordinance for those who would follow, which settled it for a time. But in some ways, they still had a bigger more pressing battle in the face of starting a new nation. They definitely laid the foundation in which to make it possible for later leaders (not too much later) to focus on.
There was a very mixed group of people involved with the government making it obvious that there would be those who were racist, but I don’t think it would be fair, nor accurate to say that they were all racist. If they did try to abolish slavery right away, they would be facing the devastation of a split Union they had worked so hard for especially in the sense that slavery was what made the South so prosperous, though the core of the founders understood it to be contrary to what brought freedom and justice to the nation, and contrary to the ways of God.
Although we do not know exactly what denomination Thomas Jefferson was, we do know that he was a Christian by his own words:
“A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian; that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.
Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.
I have always said, and will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.
- The doctrines of Jesus are simple and tend to the happiness of man.
- There is only one God, and He is all perfect.
- There is a future state of rewards and punishment.
- To love God with all the heart and thy neighbor as thyself is the sum of all. These are the great points on which to reform the religion of the Jews.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this
If you would like to study more into this issue, I would recommend looking into Hillsdale College’s free online courses on American government and history.
Because He lives,
These are all very good answers and much appreciated. However I have a question on my mind and it’s been on my mind for some time. Keep in mind I’m not a historical scholar so someone may have a better answer my question is is not why didn’t the founding fathers abolish slavery right away but rather why did we have it in the first place. Why did it begin and why did we think that it was acceptable to own other human beings?
An excellent question, and there a several good threads on Connect. Here are a couple of links that I have researched and found helpful in sorting through this very complicated human tragedy.
Here is a link using a database based on maritime records of merchant ships covering a period of 350 + years from 1500 to 1875.
This link is an animation of all the ships, the flag they sailed under, their port of origin, and their destination port. This was an eye-opening animation.
Hope this helps.
Fair point. I didn’t specify my question very well. I meant it more has a 30,000 ft view of human nature. The very idea that man has at times felt justified in gaining power over other people’s lives against their will. Whether it be slavery, occupancy, or some other form. Again, I’m not a historian but I’m certain that the course of human history will show this type of “conquering spirit” for lack of a better term, repeatedly. We have it even today. it may come in different forms but it’s still the same idea.