- If slavery was a neutral thing for most colonials and early Americans, the Founding Fathers are on record with a position. On the one end Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton were against it; in the middle Thomas Jefferson, while believing that enslaved blacks should be free, also believed they were inferior — and never found a way to divorce himself and his way of life from his Monticello plantation and his
little mountainof slavery.
There is a more nuanced middle inhabited by James Madison — slave-owner, political philosopher and practical repositioner,
three-fifths-er, and Father of the Constitution — who truly believed that Africans were equal to whites yet never found a way to let go of the
peculiar institutionenjoyed by the South. See Noah Feldman on James Madison’s Lessons in Racism (29-Oct-2017) for a look at Madison and his evolving political positions vs. his unchanging personal one.
Madison's Lessons in Racism
Despite deceptive appearances, the British were far from luxuriating in Philadelphia while Washington and his army suffered at Valley Forge. Every public building was used to house two thousand sick and wounded British and Hessian soldiers. The army was placed on half-rations, and there was a shortage of medical and hospital supplies that caused tension between the British and the Hessians. Unable to obtain supplies, the city became a prison for as many as fifty thousand inhabitants and troops.