From the onset of this country, America has protected religious freedom. Initially in 1779, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom which was an act establishing religious freedom. Proving its precedence over race to our founders, the guarantee for the freedom of religion was cemented in the first amendment (Religious Freedom, auburn. edu). It takes the smallest amount of common sense to see why religion was more important than race. The belief in the American melting pot would essentially mean believing in equality for all races.
On the contrary to this ideal, the majority of the founders had slaves, because slave labor was the cheapest labor. For example, Jefferson condemned the moral depravity of slavery and the ownership of slaves, saying once that slavery was a “hideous blot” and “moral stain” on America’s history (Stanton, Monticello. org), while continuing to own slaves himself. Moreover, he once used the metaphor of a wolf to describe the moral versus economic struggle of slavery. He stated, “We have the wolf by the ears; and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale and self-preservation in the other” (Miller 241).
It’s no surprise that some of the founders were the stereotypical norm of their economic, cultural, and racial class; selfish bastards who protected their pocket books and bottom lines. Unfortunately, it’s a part of the human condition that they watched out for themselves, even when contrary to the ethical and moral standards. Regarding the example of slavery, Americans are and were willing to demean a race of people; however, Americans haven’t belittled a religion to the same degree.
Works Cited Miller, John Chester. The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1991. 241. Print. “Religious Freedom. ” Auburn University. Ed. James Nunn. Freedom of Faith, 7 Mar. 2004. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. . Stanton, Lucia. “Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. ” Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The Jefferson Monticello, Feb. 2008. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. . Works Consulted French, Scot A. and Edward L. Ayers. “The Strange Career of Thomas Jefferson: Race and Slavery in American Memory, 1943-1993. ” In Jeffersonian Legacies, ed. Peter S. Onuf. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 418-456.