It is time to say it. The Founders were awesome. In fact, the Founders are more amazing than ever. One of the many reasons is that the Founders put America on the path to ending slavery and, with Lincoln, ended it.
The Founders put America on the road to ending slavery by their public and private pronouncements and actions; pronouncements that would have led to their death if they were captured by the British. The Founders deplored slavery and blasted the King for engaging in the slave trade, as stated in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence. Even before the Constitution, the Founders forbade its spread via the Northwest Ordinance. The Founders, to include slaveholders Washington and Jefferson, knew that slavery was a sin and said so. They knew slavery was incompatible with the equality of the very God whom they drew their inspiration and justification. They also knew it could not be put away immediately, but they did what was possible to put it on the path to extinction.
Lincoln cited the writings of the Founders as justification for ending slavery. However, Lincoln knew the Founders were faced with a tough choice. The choice was either have, as Lincoln said, “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” or have a disunited Revolutionary War effort, split between slave-holders and non-slaveholders, that would inevitably lose the struggle against King George. The Founders bravely took a chance against Great Britain and they took a chance on America. They believed in America so much to know that she would grow out of this great sin and that individual freedom would triumph over tyranny of the government; in this case the tyranny of several state governments, and later the Supreme Court, that said slavery was ok.
Lincoln was great and should be honored. He was brave and did what he had to do in order to preserve the Union but make no mistake, his inspiration came from the Founders and the same God they invoked. The martyrdom that was Lincoln’s would have been the fate of all the American Founders, and their families, if the Revolution had been lost.
The American Founders saw a government, for the first time, make the statement that all mankind had rights that came not from the King, or even a somewhat benevolent government, but from Almighty God. Having rights was rare enough but having them come from God ensured these rights would never die. Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence were these rights restricted based on race or sex. The Founders were smart enough to know this and the shockwaves this sent throughout the world are still being felt today and the slaveholders felt it first. The day that Declaration was signed the slaveholders knew their days were numbered.
Only 20 years after the Constitution, the abominable slave trade was ended in America on its first possible day of passage (the Constitution gave the trade 20 more years and everyone expected it would die, which it did). The bill abolishing the slave trade was called for, and later signed, by President Thomas Jefferson. Later, four score and seven years after its founding, the nation did another unprecedented thing. It fought a civil war that was not about tariffs or state’s rights, but about preserving the Union and ending slavery. What an amazing thing. Who does that? The United States of America does that. What the Founders did, with some advocating against their self-interest, in putting America on the course of ending slavery is one of the few annals of history that grows all the more remarkable over the passage of time.
Our Founders had guts. They were men in every sense of the word. These heroes stood against Great Britain, the most powerful empire in the history of the world when the odds of success were low. The American Founding Fathers could have had a revolution just for independence but they took it further and said it was to be a revolution for which all mankind had eternal rights from God; rights that the government could never take away. The world had never seen anything like it and has not since then.
This Independence Day, thank you George, John, Tom, Ben, and company. You did the right thing, even when it was against your own self-interest. We owe you our lives, our very existence, and our sacred honor.