The Silence by Joseph J. Ellis

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The silence is the third chapter of the book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation whose author by Joseph J. Ellis. The chapter is named silence because initially there was the loudest debate concerning slavery in the early American politics in the initial seventy years. The fact that, this issue was highly debated upon, but the constitution and the legislation remained in a total silence and never yapped anything for quite some time. In this chapter, Ellis gives an intensive discussion concerning the long lasting silence that the government conceptualized on the question regarding slavery. At this particular time, there were proposals against the abolishment of the slave trade. The critical reasons as to why slave trade was to be abolished included; there were substantial claims that were enslaving people lowered the reputation of America as a country, and it was at the same time unethical activity in nature. Some people also demonstrated that the bible and the constitution reprimands and forbids any forms of slavery. The allegation was thought to be plain truth, and thus slave trade was supposed to be abolished. The issues of equality amongst all men and no one is superior to the other also argued against slavery among other reasons.

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Jefferson is holding a party. Soon there are presentations of petitions by delegates from Philadelphia and New York. The petitions were purporting for the elimination of slavery and suggesting the end of African slave trade. The House representatives did not tolerate the issue and had no sign of condoning with the question, in fact, they ignored like hell and pretended to have not seen or heard anything. They claimed that the delegates were purely cowards and that they had refused to fight for independence. They insisted that the constitution was not in any way going to allow such laws to prohibit slave trade and slavery.

But soon the matter was exhumed from the representatives thus moving to another level. Benjamin Franklin had an entirely different view as he considered the revolution to be as an aged grandfather, he signed his name in another petition whose principal goal was to end slavery. The petition had been addressed to the Society of Pennsylvania whose objective was to abolish slavery and the slave trade in general. The representatives hardly looked down upon Franklin since he was a pantheon of the mythology of America. He was only below George Washington. The petition pointed out that slavery was something not appealing and that the Constitution had given them enough power to do anything to remove any element of stigmatization amongst the human beings.

James Madison, who was the leader of the house of the representatives then appointed committees to discuss the steps they have to undertake concerning the pressing issues at hand. This made the people handle the question efficiently and directly tackling it and also lead to the confrontation of each other in the house based on the reaction of the members based on the question. Ellis emerges immediately at that point; he addresses a short statement concerning the history of how slavery had been taken care off during the founding of the country. He outlined how the matter had been handled and how the constitution had taken care of the issues until 1808. At this particular time the law had lessened its rules and regulation concerning slavery. This fact triggered the house to fully exploit and discuss the question, and later Franklin signed the petition. A representative from Pennsylvania is known as Thomas Scott gave out his argumentation that slavery was not completely protected by the constitution, but contrary, he claimed that the Congress should incorporate the declaration than the constitution during the guiding process.

During that particular moment, James Jackson gave out his stand by using biblical quotes in support of slavery and slave trade abolishment. Ellis once again proposed that the issue concerning slavery brought a lot of anticipation in the United States. The problem could continue until the end of the civil war is when maximum attention will be reinforced. Curbing the issue was not just geographically but also ideological. Some parts had already brought slavery to a standstill such as New Hampshire and Vermont. The driving spirit of Jefferson was the idea of setting the slaves free, and it looked pleasing to him. He also condemned the extension of slavery towards the western territories.

Analysis of Themes


This is the central theme throughout the whole chapter. Ellis gives a diversified explanation of the issue of slavery. He claims that the founding fathers were not silent on the question intentionally, but they were integrating of the survival of their republican experiment. He further says that the founders had a stance of putting slavery to an end, but as a result of the loyalty they had towards their fragile union, which was threatened on posting of the question which could have lead to the death of the union.


This is another theme that comes up explicitly in this chapter.For instance, Ellis claims that the success of the union was as a result of the collaboration that is coming together to all parties.He also analyses of the strengths and the weakness of those involved in the implementation of the law to wipe out slavery. Incidences of collaboration can be seen in the following areas; Washingtonreliability towards Hamilton in the initial days of the republic. Madison and Jefferson create the Republican Party to oppose the Federalists and finally, Adams and Jefferson, who jointly work together to secure a peace treaty to stop the revolutionary war.

What made the abolition of slavery difficult during that time was because of the following reasons; the thirteen states were still working to join and also they were still unstable during that particular time. Secondly, there were no clear statements on where the slaves could go or kept if they were to be freed and they did not want them to be found together with the Caucasians. Thirdly, there were allegations that the southern economy purely depended on slavery. Therefore, the prohibition of the slavery would have lead into total collapse of the economy. Finally, for the firsts twenty years of the nations existence, the constitutional convention had initially initiated that the federal government had no competed and affirmative stand on slave trade prohibition.

The use US constitution of 1787 did not Condon slavery, and they laid down stern rules and regulation to unrest the international slave trade. The petition from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society claimed that the slavery institution was not completed and well protected by the constitution and therefore it was suggested by Scott that the Congress should use the declaration instead of the law during the guideline process. When Ellis says that the challenge to slavery drove the racial (and racist) presumption to the surface of the debate for the first time he meant that, the people who were disregarding and secluding others due to the color difference. When they heard about the slavery challenge they went to the debate to also participate concerning the issue, and this was their first time to go into the debate.

The emancipation of the in 1790 we optimistic that slave trade will end soon because all the parties and the stakeholders had come into an agreement and they were willing to stop slavery and the slave trade. There were also well-defined areas as to where the slaves would be taken so as not to mingle with the Caucasians. When Ellis says that the census of 1790 revealed that the window of opportunity to end slavery was not ending, but closing in this case he meant that, based on the statistics from the population of slaves that coexisted before were almost similar to what was currently available. Sectorial compromise meant that, despite all other parties accepting to end slavery, there were a few people who did not Harken to the voice of stopping slavery. Ellis compromised on the issues of leaving some loopholes on slavery abolitions. He wanted to stop slavery altogether, but some people were not ready to fully submit and support him. The approved committee of the House, lead to a total transformation and all the parties in one accord, accepted to end slavery and the slave trade. The report served as a unifying factor, and all stakeholders got informed information which leads to their rational decision making.

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