One of the central ironies of the American revolutionary spirit was how laden it was with internal contradictions. The Constitution of the United States commenced with the timeless words, "We the People." However, it was unclear exactly who the "people" to be protected under national law actually were. In the period immediately following the War, America remained a divided society, with inequalities between individuals on the basis of race, gender, and class.
The Constitutional framers recognized the hypocrisy of establishing a nation based on liberty while allowing an economy fundamentally predicated on slavery. Before the War, only Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Connecticut stopped importing slaves from Africa. By 1787 (the date the Constitution was drafted), all states except Georgia had stopped the trade. This was certainly a step in the right direction, but millions of blacks were still enslaved and forced to work on plantations. In a letter to John Holmes, Thomas Jefferson once famously said that slavery was like holding "a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go." The founding fathers vacillated on the issue of slavery. On the one hand, many recognized the inherent immorality of holding human beings in bondage. On the other hand, some believed that eradicating the system outright would seriously risk the future stability of the nation .
The Revolution offered women new opportunities and a new outlook, as well. As many women were draw into the war effort as couriers, nurses, cooks and cleaners, and in other roles, new occupational opportunities began to open up for them after the war ended. This extension of civic engagement encouraged some women to begin speaking of the need for the "equality of the sexes," stimulating a small but concentrated early women's rights movement. Still, it would be over one hundred years before even basic liberties such as suffrage were extended to both genders.