Did "the Founders" Really Believe That Slavery Would Wither Away?

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Would it be logical to say as some historians believe that the war started with the Northwest Ordnance ,by setting the boundaries of slavery?

I suppose I can see why they say that, but I would not agree.

This began the political war for control of the government by population in Congress and by slave states vs free states in the Senate.

At this point the Southern states (VA-NC-SC-GA) were still reluctant to give up their claims to western territory. Decisions on the fate of KY and TN lay in the future and nothing about setting the border of slavery as the Ohio River is done yet.

Some parts /people of "the South" seem to have felt that banning slavery in the Northwest as a good thing that would prevent Northerners from competing with them in tobacco (cotton was a minor crop at this point). I think the slavery issue wasn't as divisive as many think: we have major slave owners like Washington thinking about ending slavery at a time when most of the states in the Union still allow slavery (8 of 13). Later events made the slavery divide much more contentious.

This began the political war for control of the government by population in Congress and by slave states vs free states in the Senate.

In 1784-87, both New Jersey and New York are still slave states. It was Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian and slaveowner, who proposed 10 new states in the Northwest Territory and drew the boundaries for them -- that got shot down. We ended up with 5 and a bit (OH-IN-IL-MI-WI and a part of MN). Jefferson apparently considered another 4-6 below the Ohio (where we ended with 4 in KY-TN-AL-MS).

Jefferson by the purchase of Louisianan gave the South a furture base for the expansion esp since slavery could not cross the line.

The Louisiana Purchase certainly changed things -- but the revolution in cotton production after the Cotton Gin became available (patent granted 1794) is what drove the expansion into what we now call FL-AL-MS. LA sugar cane was a big item, but cotton also was the mover behind AR-west TN-west KY and large parts of MO). The Louisiana Purchase made land available just when the cotton boom made cotton land hugely profitable.

Question ; Did TJ realize what this would mean as to the growth of slavery into these territories?

I don't think so, or at least that wasn't high on his list. He was very worried about a war with Napoleon and French expansion into the Mississippi River basin. When Monroe headed to Paris in 1803, his instructions called for him to go to London and seek an alliance against the French if New Orleans could not be purchased. (Napoleon surprised everyone by offering the whole of Louisiana).

When these lands were put up for sale ,who were the major purchasers ,bet you they did not come from the East nor from the North!

Hard to get to the upper Louisiana Territory from "the North" until the Erie Canal and the RRs developed in the Northwest Territory states. Generally, migration below the Mason-Dixon Line came from states below the Mason-Dixon Line (or New Jersey).

What mattered was who would control the federal system,which was the struggle that began with the Constitution.The men who established the government were as interested in this as those who followed.

For most of the period 1788-1860, it was "the South" that had the upper hand in the Federal government. It looked about even after the Election of 1860 (mainly because "the South" tried to tank the election to a Republican President to encourage slavery, IMHO.) After "the South" made the awful mistake of secession and the Civil War, "the South" became a backwater politically for 50-60 years. Foolish actions have consequences, and this is what "the South" got for their choices.

Evan with the Declaration of Independence there was the opening salvo into this fight.Compromise was the watch word for all the time till the young Turks saw no more compromise was to be had.Progressive /-industrial /Hamiltonian /Federalist vs the.Idealist / the agricultural -/Romantic/ Jeffersonian/Democratic finally came to grips.

That I don't see. All of those things are just normal political differences that can and were worked out. Slavery was the issue that could not be resolved -- largely because by the 1840s-1850s "the South" insisted it absolutely must go completely their way.

In addition, I think "the South" of the 1850s was cursed with a collection of bad politicians who led their area to destruction. They refused to make alliances with other parts of the country, they deliberately chose confrontation and combat over compromise and negotiation.

By the 1840s, the last of the movements to free the slaves in "the South" are dying or dead (VA-KY-TN). The attitude of "the South" is now that slavery must expand -- to areas in the US already declared free, to new acquisitions in Cuba, Mexico or Central America (by purchase or conquest). The idea of the Founders that slavery would decline was pretty much gone in "the South" by then -- where it still existed it was thought of as somewhere out in the dim and misty future, with no one seeming to work to make it a reality anymore.
 
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48th Miss.

First Sergeant
Joined
May 11, 2016
Location
North Carolina
I am posting this question here so as not to disrupt the thread in which this quote appeared. Nor is it my intention to single out @WJC , as the above has been stated on this forum numerous times in the past.

The reason I am asking this question is that since my youth I have seen the above stated with something akin to a religious conviction or self-evident truth. But, other than a few quotes from a certain selection of the Founders, such as Washington or Jefferson, I have not encountered much concrete evidence of such a belief or expectation that slavery was on its way out in the southern sections of the nation until that "evil genius" ; ) Eli Whitney, invented the cotton gin...and well...we just couldn't help ourselves. $$$.

First off, I have no doubt that the Constitution and therefore the U.S. of A. would not have been even remotely possible without the acknowledgement and inclusion of slavery at that time, so explanations of that are unnecessary.

What I am looking for is evidence/sources, other than a few quotes by "the usual suspects," that Slavery was widely considered to be on the way out.

I know that there are those that damm the Founders as guilty from the start for such a compromise, unjustly in my view considering the obstacles and threats they faced at that time. But, I have come to suspect--and I do not think I am alone on this forum--that this is more of a creation myth to give the Founders "cover" rather than a widespread demonstrable expectation that slavery was doomed. Did a considerable number of the population really believe that those who held a steadfast belief in the right of property in their fellow man would meekly fade away? That they would not find a way to improvise in the absence the cotton boom? I do not believe that they were so naive and if I am not mistaken many of these "thoughts that slavery would die" were penned later, more as laments of what had not yet come to pass.

Btw: I would prefer to be proven wrong and regain my youthful first impressions.

I'm not sure I can answer this question or if it has been and dont have the time to search the thread but I am currently reading Vindicating the Founders. Race,sex,class and justice in the origins of America by thomas G. West and it lends to the idea of course, that the founding was a start down a path that establishes the idea on Natural Law and human equality. It would just take time to bend all hearts. Obviously it was a conflicting time but we are all conflicted in our opinions and they evolve with time as well. However, the idea of the founding was extended to a degree to the slaves, was address prior to, during and after the Revolution. The NW ordinance was only seeded to the feds by Virginia, by a motion by Jefferson I think, with the caviot that no slavery will be allowed. Other lands were seeded with the idea that it would not be touched. It was an interesting time but it was the beginning of the end as slavery began to be seen for the immorality that it was and its contradiction of the founding. I am only on page 13.

Abebooks.com has used books for sale with a description of its condition. Odds are it can be found there cheap. I found it at the used book store.

Hope this helps
 

Carol

Private
Joined
May 26, 2019
Location
Western North Carolina
I am currently reading "Slavery and the Culture of Taste" by Simon Gikandi and I must say this book has been a fascinating read. Why? The details pour onto the page. This sentence is a prime example and I am quoting the book from page 284 found in Fragment I stating, "Could any state of freedom be imagined outside the shadow of slavery?"

Now, when I read this, I immediately think of all forms of the word slavery. The definition of slavery states when a person can be owned as property by another. The restrictions do not limit the clarity between voluntary or involuntary basis. But, slavery is known as an unwilling submission of one's self. The phrase "culture of taste" links colonial society and the liberty movement to the present, doesn't it?

I will not go further with my take on the subject except to answer the question presented. I honestly do not think the "Founders" believed slavery would wither away. One must look much deeper into the culture to understand why. The American Revolution represented a choice, a right to choose. Over time, I think the founding fathers felt that slavery would one day change.

When change didn't occur soon after, I'm sure many were disappointed with Congress determining a free state versus a slave state. James Tallmadge Jr. spoke at the February 13, 1819 session. He proposed Missouri as a state and further proclaimed that future introductions of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited. Of course, we all know the history from this point. Time and time again, views from elected men representing the people of their districts upholding a culture of taste until the brink of the catastrophe. By December 1819, Alabama would become a slave state and, the thoughts of Congress maintaining a balanced scale with rhythm would allow only wishful thinking. These actions further separated the nation in more ways than slavery.
 

48th Miss.

First Sergeant
Joined
May 11, 2016
Location
North Carolina
I'm not sure I can answer this question or if it has been and dont have the time to search the thread but I am currently reading Vindicating the Founders. Race,sex,class and justice in the origins of America by thomas G. West and it lends to the idea of course, that the founding was a start down a path that establishes the idea on Natural Law and human equality. It would just take time to bend all hearts. Obviously it was a conflicting time but we are all conflicted in our opinions and they evolve with time as well. However, the idea of the founding was extended to a degree to the slaves, was address prior to, during and after the Revolution. The NW ordinance was only seeded to the feds by Virginia, by a motion by Jefferson I think, with the caviot that no slavery will be allowed. Other lands were seeded with the idea that it would not be touched. It was an interesting time but it was the beginning of the end as slavery began to be seen for the immorality that it was and its contradiction of the founding. I am only on page 13.

Abebooks.com has used books for sale with a description of its condition. Odds are it can be found there cheap. I found it at the used book store.

Hope this helps
Just found in the afore mentioned book that Franklin's idea of faith in progress could lead to the rectification of it. Noah Webster also mentioned it being gone in 200 years on it's own and faster with help..
I'm not sure I can answer this question or if it has been and dont have the time to search the thread but I am currently reading Vindicating the Founders. Race,sex,class and justice in the origins of America by thomas G. West and it lends to the idea of course, that the founding was a start down a path that establishes the idea on Natural Law and human equality. It would just take time to bend all hearts. Obviously it was a conflicting time but we are all conflicted in our opinions and they evolve with time as well. However, the idea of the founding was extended to a degree to the slaves, was address prior to, during and after the Revolution. The NW ordinance was only seeded to the feds by Virginia, by a motion by Jefferson I think, with the caviot that no slavery will be allowed. Other lands were seeded with the idea that it would not be touched. It was an interesting time but it was the beginning of the end as slavery began to be seen for the immorality that it was and its contradiction of the founding. I am only on page 13.

Abebooks.com has used books for sale with a description of its condition. Odds are it can be found there cheap. I found it at the used book store.

Hope this helps
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
I suppose I can see why they say that, but I would not agree.



At this point the Southern states (VA-NC-SC-GA) were still reluctant to give up their claims to western territory. Decisions on the fate of KY and TN lay in the future and nothing about setting the border of slavery as the Ohio River is done yet.

Some parts /people of "the South" seem to have felt that banning slavery in the Northwest as a good thing that would prevent Northerners from competing with them in tobacco (cotton was a minor crop at this point). I think the slavery issue wasn't as divisive as many think: we have major slave owners like Washington thinking about ending slavery at a time when most of the states in the Union still allow slavery (8 of 13). Later events made the slavery divide much more contentious.



In 1784-87, both New Jersey and New York are still slave states. It was Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian and slaveowner, who proposed 10 new states in the Northwest Territory and drew the boundaries for them -- that got shot down. We ended up with 5 and a bit (OH-IN-IL-MI-WI and a part of MN). Jefferson apparently considered another 4-6 below the Ohio (where we ended with 4 in KY-TN-AL-MS).



The Louisiana Purchase certainly changed things -- but the revolution in cotton production after the Cotton Gin became available (patent granted 1794) is what drove the expansion into what we now call FL-AL-MS. LA sugar cane was a big item, but cotton also was the mover behind AR-west TN-west KY and large parts of MO). The Louisiana Purchase made land available just when the cotton boom made cotton land hugely profitable.



I don't think so, or at least that wasn't high on his list. He was very worried about a war with Napoleon and French expansion into the Mississippi River basin. When Monroe headed to Paris in 1803, his instructions called for him to go to London and seek an alliance against the French if New Orleans could not be purchased. (Napoleon surprised everyone by offering the whole of Louisiana).



Hard to get to the upper Louisiana Territory from "the North" until the Erie Canal and the RRs developed in the Northwest Territory states. Generally, migration below the Mason-Dixon Line came from states below the Mason-Dixon Line (or New Jersey).



For most of the period 1788-1860, it was "the South" that had the upper hand in the Federal government. It looked about even after the Election of 1860 (mainly because "the South" tried to tank the election to a Republican President to encourage slavery, IMHO.) After "the South" made the awful mistake of secession and the Civil War, "the South" became a backwater politically for 50-60 years. Foolish actions have consequences, and this is what "the South" got for their choices.



That I don't see. All of those things are just normal political differences that can and were worked out. Slavery was the issue that could not be resolved -- largely because by the 1840s-1850s "the South" insisted it absolutely must go completely their way.

In addition, I think "the South" of the 1850s was cursed with a collection of bad politicians who led their area to destruction. They refused to make alliances with other parts of the country, they deliberately chose confrontation and combat over compromise and negotiation.

By the 1840s, the last of the movements to free the slaves in "the South" are dying or dead (VA-KY-TN). The attitude of "the South" is now that slavery must expand -- to areas in the US already declared free, to new acquisitions in Cuba, Mexico or Central America (by purchase or conquest). The idea of the Founders that slavery would decline was pretty much gone in "the South" by then -- where it still existed it was thought of as somewhere out in the dim and misty future, with no one seeming to work to make it a reality anymore.
If you read of their later years one would believe that they place the responsibility of this on the next generations, In fact one of the motives for Jefferson establishing the university was to educate the next generation to accomplish this [ THOMAS JEFFERSON'S EDUCATION--Alan Taylor} As with all things that one may hope for in the future, events occur that alter these plans. Jefferson debt forced his family to sell off his salves ,Washington passed his to his widow who emaciated them after her death .Then a certain Yankee came South by the name of Eli Whitney and present the South with the COTTON GIN which gave rise to the cotton industrial in both the North and Europe. Interesting is that this same man started the industrial revolution in the North with the interchangeable parts, some say it was his then some say he only perfected on it. Then you had all that rich ground from the Louisiana Purchase which provided for more cotton production to feed the mills of the North and Europe. Slavery became a economic investment therefore for slaves to flee their home on the plantations was a financial loss and to recover these properties was necessary. This brought on quite a bit of hostility in the white Northern states and then other events involving the possible spared of slavery into FREE white land and hostility of Southern political control of Washington ,then as they on story goes the kettle that had been on a fire that had been stoked for by said events finally reached the point where the top was to hot to be removed by any accords or nothing was present to extinguish the fire , the kettle exploded. As Lincoln in his second inaugural speech, both sides share responsibility for the events that brought on the war. As to the question ,yes I do think that with time as all factors remaining on that same course slavery would cease as it was. But again the gods have a way of altering the best plans of people. There is one fact ,that one way or the other the people knew that this nation could not continue on this same accord, either the North would secede or the South would and form their own country. Fate or the unseen finger placed the one man who could bring an end to this and fulfill the desires and hopes of the Founders . SUGGEST BOOK [THE WAR BEFORE THE WAR=author Andrew Delbanco]
 

48th Miss.

First Sergeant
Joined
May 11, 2016
Location
North Carolina
If you read of their later years one would believe that they place the responsibility of this on the next generations, In fact one of the motives for Jefferson establishing the university was to educate the next generation to accomplish this [ THOMAS JEFFERSON'S EDUCATION--Alan Taylor} As with all things that one may hope for in the future, events occur that alter these plans. Jefferson debt forced his family to sell off his salves ,Washington passed his to his widow who emaciated them after her death .Then a certain Yankee came South by the name of Eli Whitney and present the South with the COTTON GIN which gave rise to the cotton industrial in both the North and Europe. Interesting is that this same man started the industrial revolution in the North with the interchangeable parts, some say it was his then some say he only perfected on it. Then you had all that rich ground from the Louisiana Purchase which provided for more cotton production to feed the mills of the North and Europe. Slavery became a economic investment therefore for slaves to flee their home on the plantations was a financial loss and to recover these properties was necessary. This brought on quite a bit of hostility in the white Northern states and then other events involving the possible spared of slavery into FREE white land and hostility of Southern political control of Washington ,then as they on story goes the kettle that had been on a fire that had been stoked for by said events finally reached the point where the top was to hot to be removed by any accords or nothing was present to extinguish the fire , the kettle exploded. As Lincoln in his second inaugural speech, both sides share responsibility for the events that brought on the war. As to the question ,yes I do think that with time as all factors remaining on that same course slavery would cease as it was. But again the gods have a way of altering the best plans of people. There is one fact ,that one way or the other the people knew that this nation could not continue on this same accord, either the North would secede or the South would and form their own country. Fate or the unseen finger placed the one man who could bring an end to this and fulfill the desires and hopes of the Founders . SUGGEST BOOK [THE WAR BEFORE THE WAR=author Andrew Delbanco]
I believe I can agree with this. In the book I mentioned above, several of the founding generation thought the institution would die out. One, I forget which one, believed that without any outside forces changing the trajectory that it would take 200 years to complete. This book only deals with this in about 45 pages but the forward motion and thought processes put in place by the Founding documents created a space for the dialogue and future actions even if those actions were somewhat compromising but still going forward. People forget that Hearts must be changed here and value must be added to those who at the time, for the most part only had monetary value. It is interesting to note that free blacks in places had voting rights, property ownership rights so they were included in the Constitution as being All men created equal. Race was not the issue but slave or free. Even the Constitution did not call them slaves, which some think a negative, but it's a positive as they started the evolution of thought that the slaves were Persons even if persons in bondage. They gave them value even in the punitive taxing of the slave as 2/3rds. It was a compromise and it was an expense on the slaveholder which had to be paid which could and did reduce the profits gained by having a slave. Some call them 2/3rds or a person and that can be true in a purely one sided debate but it is also true that it gave them more value than they had and penalized the owner at the same time.

I will check out the book you recommended, like my stack is not already too big. Lol
 

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