Forgot About [John] Jay

A bit late, but Will Wilkinson notes that rather than reaching implausibly for non-Founder John Quincy Adams, Michele Bachmann could have cited some actual anti-slavery Founding Fathers:

The really odd thing about this is that she is not altogether wrong, but she can’t seem to get the right part right. Plenty of founders did fight hard to end slavery, but Ms Bachmann doesn’t seem to know who they were. Part of the problem may be that conservatives’ favourite founders, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, held large numbers of human beings as slaves and did less than a lot about it. The really good guys on the slavery issue—which is to say on the human freedom issue—were not the Virginia plantation masters but the less-venerated “big government” Yankee founders who sped the abolition of slavery in the north.

The American Spectator’s Jeffrey Lord twists a bit to put Jefferson and Madison in a favourable light, and it’s true that both wanted slavery to end eventually. Mr Lord gets warmer when he notes Alexander Hamilton’s role in the New York Manumission Society. But it was John Jay who was the real mastermind behind this admirable enterprise, and he got essential help from other legit founders like Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and my favourite, Gouverneur Morris (pictured). So how about some love for John Jay, a slaveholder of whom I think one can truly say that he worked tirelessly to end slavery? And Jay did more than get the New York Manumission Society off the ground.

Jay not only founded the African Free School in New York City, as Governor of New York he signed the bill that ended slavery. Something people forget about the politics of slavery in the Founding era is that slavery existed at that time in the north, and was generally perceived as being on the wane in general. Some politicians, primarily in the northern states, took action and actually abolished slavery and that’s why slavery went away in the north. Southern politicians who claimed to favor gradual emancipation could have, but didn’t, pass actual legislation embodying this vision.