I Never Heard That: Proof the Founders Tried to Stop the Expansion of Slavery

Proof the Founders Tried to Stop the Expansion of Slavery

by Pamela J. Adams

For the last several decades, progressives in the education system have systematically been rewriting and erasing America's history. By doing so they have successfully been able to convince generations that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other Founders were nothing more than racist slave owners who did nothing to stop the horrible practice. For professors and teachers to claim that, though, they have to be completely ignorant of the earliest documents in our nation's formation at best, or blatantly and purposefully misrepresenting America's history at worst. Fortunately, I'm not in the public school system so let class begin!

Once the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, officially ending the Revolutionary War, Britain forfeited their claim to what is known as the Northwest Territory. This area consisted of lands north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River, now modern day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Missouri. While still Indian territory, citizens believed they were now free to enter and settle in the lands. Congress did too as they began drafting legislation regarding the territory.

Jefferson drafted the Land Ordinance of 1784, which included five basic articles on how the Northwest Territory would be handled. Concerned the government would grab up the lands and increase in power, the anti-federalist took steps to ensure settlers were given access to the plots. The first four articles set perimeters for forming new territories, how they would be distributed, and becoming states. The fifth article abolished slavery and all involuntary servitude in these Northwest Territory states after 1800. However, two Southern delegates moved to strike Jefferson’s slavery clause, triggering an approval vote for the article. It failed by one vote.

In a letter to James Madison days after the vote, Jefferson wrote: “The clause was lost by an individual vote only. Ten states were present. The four eastern states, New York, and Pennsylvania were for the clause; Jersey would have been for it, but there were but two members, one of whom was sick in his chambers. South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia voted against it. North Carolina was divided, as would have been Virginia, had not one of its delegates [James Monroe] been sick in bed.”

At another point he expressed his disappointment stating, "The voice of a single individual ... would have prevented this abominable crime from spreading itself over the new country. Thus we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and Heaven was silent in that awful moment!" Regardless, he and other Founders continued to maintain citizens would soon dissolve slavery on their own.

The Ordinance of 1785, also drafted by Jefferson, expanded on the 1784 Ordinance. It focused on how the territories would be divided up, instituting requirements for surveying the land. Jefferson proposed the rectilinear system, where land surveyors portioned off tracts in six-mile square sections, equaling 36 square miles, called townships. These sections were then divided into 36 one-mile square sections, or 640 acres, with their boundaries running perfectly north, south, east and west. This system allowed for easy surveying and selling of plots and one section was specifically designated for supporting public education. From the sky, you can still see this grid system in the states under this ordinance.

Officially titled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio," the Continental Congress passed its third and final Ordinance on July 13, 1787. Using portions of Jefferson's original 1784 document, this Ordinance included highly detailed instructions on the requirements to become a state. Most importantly, it returned the provision stating the Northwest Territory would be slave-free, yet this time it would be immediate.

The Northwest Territory would be divided into three to five territories, as opposed to Jefferson's ten, with governors appointed after their population contained 5,000 men of voting age. Duties for the governors mirrored those over the colonies before the Revolution. Yet unlike the colonies, this was a temporary stage until the population of the territory reached 60,000 citizens. At this time, they could draft a state constitution. The only requirements were the government had to be "republic" and slavery and involuntary servitude was strictly prohibited.

Living themselves as colonies of a mother country, Congress made the unprecedented move to allow the territories to apply for statehood, entering the Union as equals to the original thirteen states, receiving "the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty" and all benefits soon entitled under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Article Three of the Ordinance emphasized religion, education, and Indians: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them."

A few months following the passage of the 1787 Ordinance, Congress scrapped the Articles of Confederation for the Constitution of the United States of America, passed on September 17th. Following George Washington's inauguration in April of 1789, a few modifications and amendments were made to previous legislation passed under the Articles to comply to the new Constitution, including the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Congress reconfirmed the Ordinance and President Washington signed it into law, both on August 7, 1789.

As the country continued to grow and obtain land through wars and the Louisiana Purchase, free and slave states continued to fight over the slavery issue. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 outlawed slavery north of the accepted latitude boundary of the Ohio River, as set in the 1787 Ordinance. This held until Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas composed the Kansas-Nebraska Act to gain southern support for his presidential run. This law allowed states to determine their slavery status regardless of location, causing anti- and pro-slavery advocates to flood Kansas. The "Bloody Kansas" incident resulted in countless deaths and prompted Senator Charles Sumner and others to form the abolitionist Republican Party.

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a "Father of the Democratic Party" Andrew Jackson appointee, grossly overstepped his judicial powers in the 1857 Dred Scott Decision to bind slavery and America forever. After ruling a slave was not a citizen, Taney claimed Scott did not have a right to file a lawsuit. That could have been the end of it, yet Taney continued his argument, stating no Negro ever was or ever would be a citizen, which came as quite a shock to free blacks both in the north and the south. Proclaiming slaves were property, he ruled owners could take their slaves into free states without fear of losing them, per the 5th Amendment.

Taney's ruling not only nullified the Missouri Compromise, it deemed the Northwest Ordinance unconstitutional. His actions did not end the slavery debate, it only exacerbated it. Infuriated Americans who had been tolerating slavery responded by electing the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. This caused southern states to secede, which resulted in a bloody war between the North and the South. Taney reached beyond his purview in hopes of permanently cementing slavery in America, yet his actions actually caused its final demise.

In my article Jefferson, Slavery, and the Declaration of Independence, I discussed Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration, which excoriates King George III for capturing innocent people and forcing them into slavery. Colonists had tried multiple times to address and diminish slavery, yet the king always vetoed their efforts. Unfortunately, by the time of the Revolutionary War, southern states Georgia and South Carolina had become so dependent on slavery, they rejected Jefferson's paragraph in the Declaration. Likewise, any attempts to outright abolish slavery under the new government would have resulted in the brand new country crumbling and likely falling again under British rule. Nevertheless, understanding nothing could be done federally in the original thirteen states, the Founders obviously did what they could to take steps to prevent its expansion into new states.

The Ordinances emphasized religion, morality, and education as keys to the survival of our Republic. It is in no wonder the Progressive left are destroying all three? We are in a fight against a secular push to make government our god which only leads to more slavery. Too many lives have been lost and too much blood has been shed for our freedom to not fight just as hard to preserve it. We may not be on the battlefield, but neither was Thomas Paine when he wrote Common Sense. With my pen as my sword and facts as my ammunition, I hope you join me America's War to Keep Independence!

But that’s just my 2 cents.


About the Author

Pamela J. Adams was a high school math teacher in an inner city school system but her passion is research and history. Pam has authored several genealogy books along with compilations of her historical blogs, Liberating Letters, which she maintains at her website TheFactsPaper.com. You can find more details about her books on her Amazon Page.

You can follow her current blogs at her Liberating Letters Facebook, Twitter, and Patreon accounts. Her desire is to provide a tool for teachers, parents, grandparents, and citizens to preserve and pass on America's rich history to students, family, and all people who love freedom and liberty. Pamela was also a contributing writer to Constitution.com before joining Mustard Seed Sentinel.

“Read more untold stories and how they still relate to us today at TheFactsPaper.com.”

You can read Pamela’s “I Never Heard That” column on the 2nd Wednesday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.

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