"The reality is that the framers – posed in paintings as though frozen on an American Olympus – they were not gods, they were guys – guys who didn't give women the vote and let slavery stay for the time being..."When reflecting on American independence, it is easy to look back at the founding fathers from a modern perspective and condemn them for their inability to address the controversial issues of their time. Yet, we should remember that while the newly formed American states survived and emerged victorious from a costly war for independence – the future of republican governance in the colonies was far from certain.
One of the needs for a constitution – as argued by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers – was to create a national identity where seemingly disparate regions could unite under one national government. This would eliminate the creation of sectional, self-interested confederacies that would undoubtedly compete for ascendancy and power.
Hamilton argued a united national body would facilitate a prosperous economy and preserve peace. By challenging long established social practices at this precarious moment, the prospect of a unified, continental America would have been impossible. In order to placate regional interests, contentious issues such as slavery and voting rights for women became secondary to establishing a national government – the same government we proudly celebrate today.
To criticize our forefathers today without understanding the times in which they lived is a grave mistake. Many framers of the Constitution abhorred slavery personally and believed that because it was inherently flawed and inefficient, it would gradually die out over time. Furthermore, by purposefully omitting the word "slavery" from the document and adding a clause to abolish the slave trade in 1808, they set the course for its eventual extinction in the years ahead.
Although American slavery was an abomination that is part of our shared history, the Fourth of July weekend is not a time for cynicism. Instead, we should be thankful for what our founding fathers have given us: the most prosperous democratically elected republic in human history.
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