Furthermore, what could be done with the freed slaves? It was unthinkable then that "negroes" be set free to live amongst and intermingle with the white population.
Various emancipation schemes were cast about, such as moving the freed slaves out West or transporting them back to Africa. All the ideas seemed unworkable and unwieldy.
Bottom line: The transition costs of unwinding ourselves out of the bind of the institution of slavery seemed far too high.
And, of course, slaveholders, whose entrenched interests were in the status quo, were pleased to see the issue disappear.
With the cooperation of the likes of John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and James Madison, the first initiative in Congress to end slavery, spearheaded by Franklin, was engineered into political oblivion.
Franklin, the visionary, knew slavery could not go on and knew that the longer the nation waited, the challenge of ending it would grow only more complicated and painful.
We are saddled today with a government program, designed many years ago, that diminishes the wealth, benefits of ownership and freedom of every working American.
There have been numerous attempts over the past decades to fix Social Security. These attempts have only prolonged the agony and made the exit more painful and complicated.
When we look back 200 years, we wonder how great men could have turned away their eyes. I wonder today whether the outcome of the great Social Security debate will reflect the ideals of a free nation or calculations of entrenched political interests.
Maybe most to the point, Ellis concludes his essay by saying, "Perhaps it was inevitable, even preferable, that slavery as a national problem be moved from the Congress to the churches, where it could come under scrutiny as a sin requiring national purging, rather than as a social dilemma requiring a political solution."
This, perhaps, gives us a hint of the nature of our problem today.