Historian David McCullough wrote of the state of slavery in America at the time of the Declaration of Independence:
Even opponents of slavery did not escape its stain. Benjamin Franklin had once owned two house slaves and had traded in slaves from his Market Street print shop, advertising “a likely wench of about 15 years old.” To his everlasting credit, John Adams had never owned slaves nor hired slaves of others to work on his farm. He called it “a foul contagion in the human character.” But as an attorney in slave cases he had always represented the slave master, never the slave. Jefferson, as we have seen, was of two equally contradictory minds, perfectly reconciled by his awesome intellect with tortured but elegant rationalizations.“In truth, black slavery had long since become an accepted part of life in all of the thirteen colonies. Of a total population in the colonies of nearly 2,500,000 people in 1776, approximately one in five were slaves, some 500,000 men, women, and children. In Virginia alone, which had the most slaves by far, they numbered more than 200,000. There was no member of the Virginia delegation who did not own slaves, and of all members of Congress at least a third owned or had owned slaves. The total of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves in 1776, as near as can be determined from his personal records, was about 200, which was also the approximate number owned by George Washington.” ~ Emphasis mine. From David McCullough's John Adams (It's a great read. Try it sometime, Michele. You might learn something.)
Meanwhile, as America experienced its birthing pangs in Congress assembled in Philadelphia, PA, hundreds of miles to the north in Braintree, MA, Abigail gathered up the Adams clan and headed for Boston to get her children inoculated for smallpox. Among them was NINE-YEAR-OLD “FOUNDING FATHER” John Quincy Adams whose inoculation ordeal went largely unreported, although Abigail said “The little folks are very sick then and puke every morning, but after that they are comfortable.”
The fantastical claim by fantasy “historian” Michele Bachmann that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery isn’t only an absurd invention but, in factual historical terms, the exact opposite of the Founding Fathers’ failure to substantively tackle slavery head-on. In today’s terminology, their prevarications and moral timidity would be called “kicking the can down the road” or “caving” to the powerful commercial interests in the Southern states as well as in Northern ports like Boston whose economy depended on the slave trade. The risk of dissolution of our young republic and fragile union was too great in the minds of the Founding Fathers, mostly from the Northern states, who actually opposed slavery, to take a principled stand in favor of abolition.
So they kicked the can down the road for a couple of generations, for Lincoln and his contemporaries to deal with, at the cost of 600,000 lost American lives. Yet the Founding Fathers’ legacy remained largely intact; secession and civil war didn’t happen on their watch. It may be a comforting fantasy for Teabaggers to contemplate our founding history as an “immaculate conception” and our founders as saintly Christian demi-gods.
The TRUTH, though, is different and far more compelling. Our Founding Fathers were flawed human beings, which to my mind renders their achievement all the more spectacular. And despite his original AMERICAN SIN, Thomas Jefferson remains my favorite Founding Father … Because, I think while he was of his time, he was, innately a decent man, with lasting transcendental qualities that soften the sin. And he wrote so beautifully.