As you might now know from Susan's blog, we went down to Charlottesville for a quick trip last week. We saw James Madison's home, The UVa, and Thomas Jefferson's home. It was interesting, and generally very nice.
However... as I think more and more about it, I find that whatever their other virtues, it is almost impossible to admire "The Founders" on any personal level. They may have been diligent, intelligent, and full of righteous abstemiousness, but they owned other people. Bought and sold them, often without regard to their family or other attachements. They almost certainly engaged in illicit and ethically problematic relationships with them... And I find it impossible to believe that they didn't know it was wrong (obviously some even acknowledged the practice was evil, but didn't stop).
It's pretty "icky," for lack of a better word. I also am not at all sure that I can excuse it based on the norms of the times. Clearly the people we're talking about thought long and hard about ethical matters-and hardly lacked either insight or the fortitude to engage in perilous change.