Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers, over the objections of the Southern States, put into our founding documents a time-bomb that would end the institution of slavery forever in the United States. It had to be. If Englishmen could not be subjects of the crown due to natural, God-given rights, then neither could a black man be held as a slave in violation of those same rights.
Granted, they had to compromise with the South in order to keep the union together. They believed strongly that not only was it necessary to keep all states together, but that by keeping them together, one day the issue of slavery could be resolved.
To begin, let us examine the issue of slavery in the minds of out 18th Century ancestors. Up until that time, slavery was not only a fact of life, but a seemingly necesary one. Ancient civilizations survived, according to the sources, because of the institution of slavery. Rome could simply not exist unless one third of its population were a class of people who were owned by others. This was the thought of the day and up until that point in history.
In the 18th Century, faithful readers of the Bible began to realize that while the Bible justified and even regulated the practice of slavery, it heavily discouraged it. These modern thinkers began to realize that slavery was an abomination in the eyes of God, the same way that divorce, though tolerated and regulated, was an abomination.
In the political sphere, as men began to grasp the concept of fundamental liberties, they struggled with how they could justify slavery in such a universe that demands that people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, pondering upon this topic led many slave-owners to realize the evils of the practice. Each began to devise a way to end the practice altogether.
Slavery was a terribly institution. Some may try to justify it by pointing out the blessings slavery eventually brought to the black race. After all, they ended up in the freest and most prosperous country in the world. I do not. Our ancestors have no excuse for the practice. The only good thing to come of slavery is that we ended the abominable practice in contradiction to thousands of years of human experience for purely moral reasons.
I am proud that my ancestors, the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, denounced slavery and were willing to die in defense of their beliefs. In fact, it was Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign in 1844 where he proposed the radical idea that the slaves be bought from their masters at a fair market price and freed without conflict. Our history since that time has always shown that we were way ahead of the curve, announcing the equality of the races very early in our religious history, and fighting to extinguish any flames of racism wherever we could find it.
While many of the Founding Fathers wanted to end the pracitce, they knew it could not be done immediately. So they set into motion some provisions that would all but guarantee the eventual end of the institution.
The first time-bomb was set 20 years after the signing of the constitution. It declared that the federal government could not outlaw the importation of slaves until 1808. Indeed, on January 1, 1808, the free states overrulled the slave states and the importation of slaves was banned.
The history since that time was tumultuous on that issue. Even today, we feel the reverberations of the past. Regardless, as a document, the constitution was a mechanism by which the majority of the states could impose upon the other states such that they would end the practice of slavery. It was a union of which the federal government had enough power to override individual states and ensure equal protection under the law for all.
Some people misrepresent our Founding Fathers. Indeed, this is entirely unwarranted. An honest and objective examination of their lives will prove that these men were the men who seeded the eventual end of the abominable institution of slavery, despite the objections of slave owners and slave states.