- 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
... Washington had made every mistake in the book in the New York campaign. He had misread the enemy’s intentions; he had divided his forces in the face of superior numbers; he had provided no cavalry; he had hesitated almost fatally to get his army out of Manhattan once he grasped the folly of keeping it there; he had allowed Greene to persuade him against his better judgment to keep men in Fort Washington; he had allowed a wealth of precious tents, flour, ordnance, and ammunition at Forts Washington and Lee to fall into enemy hands.