While most historians agree that the abolition movement matured in 1830, it would be misleading for educators to ignore the earlier emancipation efforts in American history. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Thomas Paine are among those who made conscious and deliberate efforts to end slavery, either through legislation or advocacy in other ways. Although some struggled with manumission during their lifetime, evidence suggests that they knew emancipation would need to succeed in order for America to live up to its promise and reputation as the land of the free. This crucial lesson uses primary sources to analyze the words of these men in regard to their mindfulness of the meaning of liberty, and of their efforts with emancipation, both publicly and privately, that reflected their struggle with and opposition to slavery. This is not a lesson of empathy in that we can put ourselves in their place and think about what we would do, rather it is a lesson of understanding the circumstances surrounding failed attempts of emancipation during this time period and the faith of our Founders that it would one day be achieved.

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