The Declaration of Independence proclaims that all men are Created equal. The Declaration voiced the values of the revolutionaries, and their drive for independence. Yet, as liberty was being fought for, there were some in America who were enslaved. Did the Founding Fathers recognize what some people have come to believe was a glaring contradiction?
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, though he owned slaves, was an abolitionist. He hated slavery, but was unable to free his inherited slaves due to the laws of the time which required the former slave owner to ensure the newly freed slave to be given monies, goods, and other necessities to begin their life after slavery. While rich in land, Jefferson was in deep debt and could not afford to free his slaves.
Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, and in an early version of the Declaration he drafted a 168-word passage that condemned slavery as one of the many evils foisted upon the colonies by the British crown. The passage was cut from the final wording when, after eleven States approved of the wording, South Carolina and Georgia did not (a fact revealed by Jefferson in his autobiography decades later). The desire was that the States would unanimously sign the Declaration, so, for the sake of that unanimous stance, the wording was removed.
33-year-old Jefferson composed the Declaration between June 11 and June 28, 1776, and then sent a rough draft to members of a pre-selected committee. The committee included fellow revolutionaries John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, who provided edits ahead of its presentation to Congress. Between July 1 and July 3, congressional delegates debated the document, during which time they removed Jefferson’s anti-slavery passage.
The signers ultimately replaced the deleted clause with a passage highlighting King George’s incitement of “domestic insurrections among us,” for stirring up warfare between the colonists and Indian tribes. While the passage was a shadow of the original language, the condemnation of slavery remained deleted.
Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence