America in the 1850s

The Supreme Court Decides

Was Justice Taney correct in his assertion about the beliefs and attitudes of the founding fathers?

At the minimum, he was half correct, and he may have actually been closer to three-quarters. Almost none of the founding fathers, from what we see in their records, believed that blacks were, or would become, the equals of whites.

It is important, here, to draw a distinction between the beliefs and the sympathies of the founding fathers. Many of the founding fathers of the nation sympathized with black Africans. Many of them believed it was a terrible thing that people had been seized, brought to America, and enslaved. This is different from saying that blacks and whites would one day be equals, however. In the debates at the constitutional convention of 1787, which culminated in the writing of the federal constitution, many sympathetic expressions were made by highly literate, culturally sophisticated men. Almost none of them ever declared that blacks were citizens, however. Does this alter our perception of the founding fathers of our nation? It has the potential to do so.


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