- 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
The failure of the Loyalists to flock to the royal standard cannot be understood without appreciating how effectively they had been locked down and neutralized by the patriots. Loyalists could not buy, sell, or bequeath property or other assets. They were barred from all legal recourse to recover debts or redress any other injury. They could not practice law or teach unless they had taken an oath of allegiance to the cause. They could not be executors of estates or be a guardian to a child.
Any person who wrote, or spoke, or by any act libeled or defamed Congress ... should be brought to trial.