the founding fathers on race and slavery

Your first paper is an comparative analysis of a two primary sources—two essays, one by Benjamin Franklin and one by Thomas Jefferson—and how the two Founding Fathers conceived of “race” in early America.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are two of the most famous and celebrated of the Founding Fathers. Franklin was one of the few founders to explicit reject slavery and Jefferson, of course, wrote the immortal words in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Write an essay in which you analyze these men’s positions on race and slavery using ONLY the documents provided. That is, this is a document analysis so I don’t want you doing outside research. Read the documents and use them to compare and contrast Franklin and Jefferson’s views on this issue.

Here are some questions you should grapple with in your paper:

  1. What were their positions on slavery? What it good of bad for the colonies/United States (note the context is different as one is written after independence had largely been secured).
  2. What were their positions on race?
  3. Are the two related? (i.e. their positions on race and slavery)
  4. Finally, WHY do you think they held these positions and what does this tell us about conceptions of “race” and “slavery” in early America?

Note: This is a historical document analysis. The point of your paper is NEITHER to condemn NOR to defend these men’s positions. Your personal opinion is not my concern. Rather, analyze HOW they agree and/or disagree and WHY they held these opinions. Do not use the first person–again, this is not your opinion.

I highly recommend NOT using outside sources for two reasons. One, it’s a plagiarism trap. I’m not looking for other peoples’ analysis of Jefferson and Franklin but yours. If you do use outside sources and don’t cite them correctly you run the risk of plagiarizing–which counts even when unintentional. Second, when you read up on what other say about a document you do not tend to grapple with the document itself. Read these documents and use them to answer the questions. Quote them directly and analyze what each quotes mean. For example, when Jefferson rejected the suggestion of retain[ing] and incorporat[ing] the blacks into the state” because he argued there were “deep rooted prejudices” and that they had sustained “grave injuries” what did he MEAN. Do you see how I used the text directly there to formulate that question?

Your paper should be about 3-4 pages, double spaced, 12 pt. font, with 1 inch margins. (Ca. 1000 words).

The link to one of the documents:

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