For decades, journalist, author, broadcaster and former Director of the Peace Corps under President Lyndon Johnson, Bill Moyers, has been one of the best commentators on current affairs and American history. He has done interviews over a wide range of topics from his seminal series of programs on "The Power of Myth" with Professor Joseph Campbell to his round-table discussions on a variety of political, social and spiritual topics that grew out of his Public Broadcasting series, "Bill Moyers Journal".
Here is one of his latest essays, pointing up the success of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence as a benchmark of human liberty against the terrible institution of slavery which degraded and counterpointed the struggle for freedom in the United States for decades. In was a institution that Jefferson himself perpetuated, as did many of the Founding Fathers.
Not all the major Founding Fathers thought as Jefferson did. Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton criticized Jefferson and his party for demanding freedom for themselves but not for blacks. Hamilton, a senior officer in the Revolutionary war who served directly under George Washington, urged that black men willing to fight for the revolutionary cause in the Continental Army be granted the right to freedom. As an adult Hamilton was opposed to slavery, but his views
on this, as well as his far-sighted need for a National Bank to boost manufacturing, did not survive the need to unify the 13 former colonies after the war.
"The existence of slavery makes us fancy many things that are founded neither in reason or experience."--Alexander Hamilton.
Although their views on slavery were not advanced by our standards, men like Hamilton and Franklin saw the contradictions of the peculiar institution and served in manumission groups to try and bring a gradual end to the "peculiar institution".