Boy, did Jefferson ever get a bad rap in history.
Lancaster, New Hampshire
March 24, 2010 4:52pm CST
This stems from a conversation I have been having in another thread on another topic entirely. though this is being written for the benefit of a prticular person, it is important corrective information that needs to be put put there. Now, it is commonly taught that Jefferson owned slaves. There is no disputing this. It was the "thing" of the time, a time in which not many saw it as evil. what isn't commonly taught it that Jefferson, despite owning slaves early on, was not very comfortable with the practice of slavery, calling it a "moral and political depravity" As time progressed, hebecame more and more openly against it and began acting to end it. So, Lets have a look at some of Jefferson's thoughts on slavery "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people [blacks] are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them." "Do not mistake me. I am not advocating slavery. I am not justifying the wrongs we have committed on a foreign people... On the contrary, there is nothing I would not sacrifice to a practicable plan of abolishing every vestige of this moral and political depravity." "Nobody wishes more ardently to see an abolition, not only of the trade, but of the condition of slavery; and certainly, nobody will be more willing to encounter every sacrifice for that object." "I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach in any practicable way." "I congratulate you, fellow citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long been eager to proscribe." [i]"There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. . . ." He then goes on to describe what he believes will be the divine consiquences of slavery... Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a context. But it is impossible to be temperate and to pursue this subject through the various considerations of policy, of morals, of history natural and civil. But words alone do not an abolishonist make. So what had he done to back up his beliefs with action? Quite a bit it turns out. as a young Lawyer, in the case of Howell v. Netherland, he argued that "“we are all born free" and that slavery was contrary to natural law. He lost the case as the courts dismissed his argument. in 1769, as a virginia state legislator, he helped to draft a bill to allow for “manumission by deed”, a procedure in which slave owners could transfer, by deed, their “property interest” in slaves back to the slaves themselves, setting them free. The bill passed in 1782, and Jefferson who was by then the Governor of the new state –signed it into law that year. As a member of the federal Congress in 1783-84, Jefferson drafted and submitted to that body a Report on the Government of the Western territories, which Congress enacted into law as the Ordinance of 1784. It provided that “after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty” in any part of the United States outside of the original 13 colonies. (does this sound familiar?) The slavery prohibition was deleted by Congress from the final bill... by a single vote as under the Articles of Confederation, which were then in effect, laws could be enacted only if supported by the delegations of seven States. In his original drafts of the constitution...slavery would have been out lawed as well. The reason it didn't make it in to the final draft was merely an unfortune matter of timing. It seems his latest drafts arrived at the convention too late. So we plainly see that Jefferson is not the whip cracking barbarin some history books have made him out to be. All that is usualy taught is that early on he owned slaves. What isn't taught is that he found it disgracefull enough to eventualy fight against it.
3 people like this
• United States
25 Mar 10
That is for sure - a lot of homosexuality in well known historical characters has been concealed, and, in some countries, they won't even teach about the holocaust. This is why I am wondering what made people remove teaching about Jefferson in some schools? I know there are other threads, but I haven't looked at them yet.
• United States
24 Mar 10
I am not merely going to concede, X. I will flat out say I was wrong and will give credence to that, having not been able to wait until I got home to read this. Why was the case Howell v. Netherland dismissed? And why is Jefferson not being taught about in some schools somewhere? I will stand, though, by what I said in overall reference to the constitution and government with the quote by Thoreau. "I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also."
• United States
25 Mar 10
You'll not see that stuff in a school history book anytime soon, unfortunately. When you can manipulate the written history of a nation, you control the population. I remember reading something like that when I was in school in the 60's. We slowly had our textbooks replaced and each edition left out more and more about the goodness of our founding fathers and the real sacrifices that people made to make this a free democratic republic. If you want to conquer a country, start by molding young minds.
• United States
25 Mar 10
X - Thank you for posting this piece on one of my favorite historical figures. I think that the beginning of our country should be concentrated on more in the schools. The bark about and I agree on the importance of each culture and back ground, but I consider this to be a huge part of America's culture and back ground. To understand where we are and why we are, we must look at where we come from. Looking at the above post, I believe, just backs up what I say. The holocausts are very important to learn so that they are not repeated. Slavery is important for the same reason. "Americanizing" of the "Indians", again, to not be repeated and to understand the development of society. I agree that Jefferson is mis taught in schools. I have learned more now than what I learned in schools. It pains me to hear that they will take so much out of our history books. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. Thomas Jefferson