During the late 1700’s slavery was an intricate part of American life. As many as one and four people owned a slave, (pbs.org, 2012). In the North it was common for a family to have 3 to 4 slaves, where as in the South and on large plantations this number was much more. Some scholars indicate the population of African’s almost doubled during this period. In this way, slavery was a driving force of the economy affecting and shaping the melting pot of the United States. Despite its popularity, many people were against slavery. Some of these people that were against slavery include our founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Others, on the other hand sought for its continuation. Slavery was a way of life in colonial America. As a result, it manifested itself in our constitution, dramatically affecting how the country dealt with the issue of slavery.
Two people against slavery include George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. However, Washington did not expose his views to society. His stance against slavery is observed in his actions. After being a slave owner since he was the age of 11, he freed his slaves , (pbs.org, 2012). However Thomas Jefferson was the most outspoken concerning the issue of slavery. He drafted various laws on abolition including the importation of Africans to the New World. His reasoning for this was the inconsistences of equality. These especially became prevalent as the country began to establish laws, policy, and a democratic government. Jefferson viewed slavery as, “antidemocratic and contrary to the principles of the American Revolution”, (Monticello.org, 2012).
Despite this many people argued for slavery to remain in operation throughout the New World. One instance can be observed from Reverent Peter Fontaine of Virginia who argued that Europeans and Americans did not enslave Africans, stating that they were already enslaved when they were bought from the coast of Africa, (pbs.org, 2012). Others argue that slavery was necessary due to the idea that Africans were “racially inferior and as incapable as children”, (Monticello.org, 2012). Either way, slavery was economically sound. It saved money for American traders who received free labor instead of paid labor. This way, owners were able to maximize profits weather the slave farmed plantation land or a worked as a blacksmith. America was able to greatly profit from slave labor by shipping and trading goods from the New World to the Old one.
Slavery was a part of American life, yet it contradicted the Constitution. Issues of slavery is first be observed in the 1st Article of the Constitution in the Enumeration Clause. Here the constitution grants representatives based on geographic population. However, slaves are not considered a whole person. This indicates that slaves received no congressional representation in government. It also suggests that because Africans are not viewed as a whole man than he does not deserve or require representation. Instead, Africans are regarded as partially human only gaining three-fifths representation in Congress. In this framework of the United States government, from the start Africans did not receive equal rights as Americans. This would continue to be a problem for the nation that would continue throughout US history.
Freedom and Bondage in the Colonial Era. The Revolution, 1750-1805. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2narr1.html
Thomas Jefferson and Slavery, Plantation and Slavery. Retrieved from: http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery