James Madison's Montpelier We The People Spring 2017 Montpelier_WTP_Spring2017_FINAL-1-web - Page 19

SPRING 2017 How do you see the story of slavery and the story of American Exceptionalism in the Founding Era coexisting side by side? Rights, which Madison essentially drafted. I think you have to recognize that someone who did these things deserves enormous credit and to the extent that you can think more about it at Montpelier, that’s a good thing for scholars and students and all Americans. When you’re visiting Montpelier, you’re not only seeing the home of the man who basically devised the Constitution, you’re also visiting a place where you can study the Constitution and I think that’s a helpful thing for society. It’s one of the great mysteries of modern times how people who were as brilliant and talented as Madison, Jefferson, and Washington could live in a society where they created such wonderful products as the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, yet they tolerated slavery. They were not lovers of slavery, they recognized its challenges, but they did tolerate it. Maybe no one I think people who visit Montpelier recognize that could have done anything else in their positions. you have an opportunity to go back in time and But I do think when you’re talking about the extraordinary things that go into what we now have see what a home of one of the Founding Fathers looked like and now, with the reconstruction, what come to call American exceptionalism, and they are the slave quarters looked like. But you also have the extraordinary, I think you have to recognize that chance to study the Constitution and participate in it began side-by-side with slavery. One wonders Constitutional seminars and research and I think it’s what would have been the history of our country if wonderful what The Montpelier Foundation has done we had not had slavery. Would we be much farther advanced than we are today? I presume we would be, and I’m pleased to be involved in a modest way. but you never know. I just like for How does history help us understand the people to learn the good and the …when you realize what an present and the future? What is the value bad and I think when you realize extraordinary country and what its of history in a democratic society? what an extraordinary country achievements are you have to put and what its achievements are you It has been said many times that have to put it in the context of the it in the context of the fact that at fact that at one point before the one point before the Civil War, there if you don’t learn history you have a pretty good chance of repeating Civil War, there were four million were four million enslaved people. the mistakes that have been made enslaved people. your predecessors. The theory of learning history is that you can see what people did Why do you believe Montpelier is an important site and what right and wrong when they were confronted with do you hope the American public takes away from a visit? similar challenges and you can learn how to improve yourself as a society. It’