When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming as a universal truth that “all men are created equal,” negro slavery was a legalized institution throughout the thirteen states. The contrast between the actual fact and the proclaimed truth was flagrant and irreconcilable. Jefferson and his associates were entirely aware of the fact. It was commonly believed at the time that slavery was a moral as well as an economic evil, but the leading men of the day looked forward to the early disappearance of the evil. Jefferson and Washington and many others, although themselves the owners of slaves, were sincerely interested in the movement for gradual emancipation; and they hoped and expected that the institution would not outlast the century of which the dominant spirit was a passionate concern for human freedom. They would have been 187amazed and disheartened could they have known that within fifty years negro slavery would be the foundation of the economic and social life of the Southern States, that it would threaten the very existence of the federal Union, compromise the future of free government, and end at last in a desperate and sanguinary civil war.