The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Founding Fathers on Slavery

Peter Marshall

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How could America’s Founding Fathers say they were Christian and not abolish slavery?

In a Christ in Prophecy series titled “America’s Christian Heritage,” Dr. David Reagan interviews a historian who has tackled one of the most haunting questions in American history.

For over forty years the Rev. Peter Marshall has gained national recognition as a teacher and writer on America’s Christian heritage. Because he believes that our nation is in moral and spiritual crisis and that the only hope for restoration is revival, his increasingly prophetic ministry focuses on two major themes — recovering the original American vision with the truth about our Christian heritage, and putting 2 Chronicles 7:14 on national repentance into practice.

Son of the famous Senate chaplain Dr. Peter Marshall and author Catherine Marshall, Rev. Marshall has devoted himself to a continent-wide ministry of preaching, teaching and writing. He has co-authored three best-selling books about God’s call on America and His hand on our history — The Light and The Glory, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Sounding Forth the Trumpet. His ministry is called Peter Marshall Ministries.

The Founding Fathers on Slavery

Dr. Reagan: The Founding Fathers are often attacked as hypocrites because they talked about liberty and they talked about freedom, yet some of them were slave holders.


Rev. Marshall: Right. Samuel Johnson the great British essayist said, “What is this yelping about freedom that I hear on the other side of the Atlantic from these slave drivers?”

There was some hypocrisy there. The Founding Fathers were well aware of that. The New England delegates, particularly the Adams’ from Massachusetts and New Hampshire and so forth were absolutely determined to not have slavery in the New Republic.

The problem was that (particularly we write about this in my second book From Sea to Shining Sea) the South Carolina and Georgia delegates said, “Listen, our entire economy is based on slavery. We will never be able to get this Constitution ratified. We won’t be able to be part of the Union unless there are some provision for slavery.” And so, the compromise was that the word “slavery” never appears in the Constitution.

The importation of slaves was finally prohibited 25 years later. They really hoped, as Franklin put it, “Put it on the road to extinction.” They hoped that what would happen would be that the American people would get rid of it, which is why the word does not appear in the Constitution, because they were writing that document for all of eternity. They knew that. They were very conscious of the role they were playing on the stage of world history. The Northern delegates were absolutely committed to getting rid of slavery, but the problem was they couldn’t get the Southern delegates to agree, so there had to be a compromise.

This conflict in American history was not resolved until Appomattox. It took a Civil War because the Church would not deal with it. But, the Founding Fathers were well aware of that conflict and tried to get rid of it, but were not able to.


America's Christian Heritage

America’s Christian Heritage DVD

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America’s Christian Heritage is a 70-minute interview of the Reverend Peter Marshall, historian and author of the book The Light and the Glory and son of the famous Senate chaplain Dr. Peter Marshall and Catherine Marshall, author of the Christy novels.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. Nathan E. Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the over 4.5 billion people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He also co-hosts the ministry's television program Christ in Prophecy and podcast The Truth Will Set You Free.

3 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Where is the historical evidence that the Founding Fathers sought to bring an end to slavery? In every nation or kingdom where slaves were prevalent their numbers increased and they grew in strength ultimately leading to a revolt. These slaves also aided the enemy in campaigns against their host country. Slavery of a people always had consequences, this we can clearly see even here in America. With freedom comes the desire to right a wrong, thus we have affirmative action, increased welfare rolls, lower standards of education, and minority loan quarantees. We have civil rights organizations that continue to feed the flames of racial injustice at the expense of taxpayer dollars. An unwavering crime epidemic and the abandonment of children at increased levels creating single parent homes ensuring a further cycle of poverty for generations to come. This is the product of slavery, a moral vacuum with no end in sight predicated on the belief that this rebellion is justifiable. We will continue to pay this price in America due to the impotence of our Founding Fathers to address the issue of slavery and the undeniable consequences it brings.

  • Rodney,

    The components were put in place by our founders. Benjamin Franklin was a prominent abolitionist as were other founding fathers. Franklin was asked by Thomas Jefferson to proof read the Declaration of Independence, and mark any necessary changes to it. The original words were not Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They were Life, Liberty, and Property, which were a direct quote from John Locke's writings on capitalism. Franklin pointed out the problem with term "property" to Jefferson being that the Southern states viewed slaves as property, and not human beings. So, if they left that term in the Declaration slavery would never go away.

    You probably have also heard of slaves being counted as 3/5's of a person, right? Well, this was done by northern states for census reasons. The southern states wanted each slave counted, which would mean that the south would have a greater population than the north, thus, having more seats in congress. Counting them as 3/5's kept the power in congress with the northern states, which were anti-slavery.

  • Gideon, either way you paint it, the Founding Fathers had slaves at their disposal, that my friend is a historical fact. It is easy to see how many view these early leaders as hypocrits, "All men are created equal", perhaps that only fit the white european version.


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