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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Equality
Overview of Living the Revolution
Resource Menu: Equality
Text 1. Founding Fathers on Equality
Text 2. Founding Fathers on Slavery
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 3. African Americans on Slavery
Text 4. Woman's Role
Text 5. Women on Equality
Text 6. Summing Up
RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
2.  The Founding Fathers on Slavery
- Benjamin Franklin, An Address to the Public, 1789
- George Washington, Last Will & Testament, 1799, Item Two
- John Adams to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley, 24 Jan. 1801, excerpt
- Thomas Jefferson to Henri Grégoire, 25 Feb. 1809

  Benjamin FranklinGeorge Washington
John AdamsThomas Jefferson

The great paradox of the Revolution is slavery, and the men we call the Founding Fathers knew it. They talked and wrote about it, justified its survival under the Constitution, and northerners among them urged its eradication, someday. Some also took action. Franklin became president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negros Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Washington provided in his will for the emancipation of his slaves after the death of his wife. John Adams never owned slaves, as a matter of principle, yet in his letter to two Quaker abolitionists he expresses the widespread fear that emancipation—and agitation for it—would lead to violence. And again to Jefferson, who writes in 1809 that he has come to believe that black Africans "are on a par with ourselves" and that this awareness among citizens will hasten "the day of their relief." Someday. How one judges these men is problematic; they have been lauded and condemned for their words here. 6 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  How do these men deal with the paradox of slavery in the new republic?
  ·  Which men would label the paradox "hypocrisy"? How would others rebut this label?
  ·  How do their positions on slavery accord with their sense of equality?
  ·  What resolutions, if any, do they offer?
  ·  In what ways is slavery the core "predicament of early republic life"?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What notions of equality were held by early republican leaders? free black men? white women?
  •  How did their notions of equality and rights correspond?
  •  How did each group mold its public voice? How did each use its power?
  •  To what extent did America succeed in "living the revolution" by 1820?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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