Too often we forget that the Founding Fathers found slavery well-established in all the colonies. It is therefore astounding that most of the Founding Fathers were hostile to an institution that was hallowed in tradition and the law. Abraham Lincoln was correct in regard to most of the Founding Fathers and slavery when he said during the Lincoln-Douglas debates:
We are getting a little nearer the true issue of this controversy, and I am profoundly grateful for this one sentence. Judge Douglas asks you, “Why cannot the institution of slavery, or rather, why cannot the nation, part slave and part free, continue as our fathers made it forever?” In the first place, I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. When Judge Douglas undertakes to say that, as a matter of choice, the fathers of the Government made this nation part slave and part free, he assumes what is historically a falsehood. More than that: when the fathers of the Government cut off the source of slavery by the abolition of the slave-trade, and adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction; and when Judge Douglas asks me why it cannot continue as our fathers made it, I ask him why he and his friends could not let it remain as our fathers made it?
It is a shame that the same basic antipathy to slavery shown by most of the Founding Fathers became lost in the South as the decades passed. What the Founding Fathers almost universally regarded as an evil that would sooner or later pass from the land, became in time to many a positive good and a cherished way of life for the slave masters. As usually occurs in American history when we wander from the principles of the Founding Fathers, much evil resulted from this change of attitude.