On Thomas Jefferson and Slavery
It is often noted that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and in fact, seemed to have certain proclivities and more than just a passing interest in dark-skinned females. Indeed, he seemed to have fathered at least one child through a female slave, though by most accounts, likely more than just one. So how can anyone say he was a “just man” or even a “good man”? How does his action reflect his beliefs? There seems to be a contradiction here, but in reality, what is lacking is little more than a serious lack of historical knowledge and reality.
In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the following words. While they were ultimately removed from the Declaration of Independence, it is important to understand the motivation behind them. Only then can we begin to understand the mindset of Jefferson and look into more of his personal and financial affairs and determine why he was and remained a slaveholder.
In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence as written by Thomas Jefferson it is stated:
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”
This particular passage is noted for being the most contentious and most hotly debated portion of the Declaration of Independence.
According to the Smithsonian Institution, “Massachusetts freed its slaves on the strength of the Declaration of Independence, weaving Jefferson’s language into the state constitution of 1780. The meaning of ‘all men’ sounded equally clear, and so disturbing to the authors of the constitutions of six Southern states that they emended Jefferson’s wording. ‘All freemen,’ they wrote in their founding documents, ‘are equal.’ The authors of those state constitutions knew what Jefferson meant, and could not accept it. The Continental Congress ultimately struck the passage because South Carolina and Georgia, crying out for more slaves, would not abide shutting down the market.”
It was imperative that the Southern States, including South Carolina and Georgia, be fully-involved participants in order to have an assurance that the new Constitution and resulting Constitutional Republic would be fully ratified and allowed to replace the previously existing Confederation of independent but united States of America.
For this to be accomplished, it was necessary at the time to retain the institution of slavery, even if only begrudgingly by many of the founding fathers.
(See this article about Slavery if you want to learn some other disturbing truths that are often glossed over or ignored in most history classes within the national indoctrination centers ... I mean educational institutions)
There were many compromises that were necessary in order to gain the support of the Southern States.
Among the most well known was the three-fifths compromise.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica website “Three-fifths compromise, compromise agreement between delegates from the Northern and the Southern states at the United States Constitutional Convention (1787) that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for determining direct taxation and representation in the House of Representatives.”
The reason behind this was that the Southern States desired the slaves to be counted as people only in terms of congressional representation within the national government. (“people” being the body politic as opposed to flesh and blood human beings or “legal persons”, “legal persons” being those to whom rights and duties are ascribed) In terms of becoming legal persons, the slave population was then demanded by the Southern States to be legally defined as “chattel”, also known as “res” or property while at the same time also being legally defined as being among the people or the body politic ... actual citizens of these independent and sovereign States.
This is a legally (and lawfully) unattainable position to hold.
In short, the Southern States were effectively demanding congressional legislation requiring cognitive dissonance in the form of law.
The Southern slave holding States and their representatives were demanding that the slaves be legally proclaimed to be at the same time, “persons”, “people”, and “property”.
In plain English that means that they were demanding the slaves be counted as people who would enjoy the privileges of citizenship, while at the same time arguing that they were nothing more than property.
(See this article about Corporate Personhood to learn more about the difference between “people”, “persons”, and “property”)
The three-fifths compromise ensured that in accordance with the law, the slaves would be legal persons, though not people, where being people they would by law, need to be full citizens, and would never be relegated to being nothing more than property as the Southern slave holders had originally demanded.
A further compromise was reached to ban the importation of slaves into the ports of the united States, said ban to begin in 1808 or twenty years after the ratification of the Constitution. While this was certainly not an ideal solution, it did at least pave the way for the cessation of slavery within the united States.
What does all that have to do with Thomas Jefferson and his ownership of slaves? In some ways, nothing. What it should determine and prove beyond any reasonable doubt, is that the Founders and Framers, by and large, actively sought to end the abhorrent practice of slavery from day one, though were forced to compromise merely to be free to create their own nation and remain free of the Crown rule of England.
In terms of the legalities of the day, there were much more specific rules on debts and the ability to dispose of one’s property in order to pay off those debts, insofar as that was actually possible before the passage of House Joint Resolution 192 after which debts may only be discharged and are not paid off.
Jefferson was heavily indebted, and had he sought to pay off those debts, he would have had to sell his slaves to others who he feared may not have been as concerned for their welfare. Had Thomas Jefferson attempted to free his slaves, they would have been reclaimed as slaves and sold at auction. Either scenario was equally appalling and sufficiently out of his control for him to permit.
Up to the time of his death, Thomas Jefferson remained heavily in debt. Thus, there was no legal recourse available at the time for him to free those slaves.
Jefferson inherited a great many slaves, some 135 men, women and children to be exact. However, these were inherited from his father in law John Wayles, and not purchased at slave auctions or anywhere else. However, more can be discovered from the Smithsonian including two other very interesting facts.“In his lifetime Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves. At any one time about 100 slaves lived on the mountain; the highest slave population, in 1817, was 140.”
“Though there were several surnames among the slaves on the ‘mountaintop’—Fossett, Hern, Colbert, Gillette, Brown, Hughes—they were all Hemingses by blood, descendants of the matriarch Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Hemings, or Hemings relatives by marriage. ‘A peculiar fact about his house servants was that we were all related to one another,’ as a former slave recalled many years later. Jefferson’s grandson Jeff Randolph observed, ‘Mr. Js Mechanics and his entire household of servants...consisted of one family connection and their wives.’”
It should be noted that this does absolutely nothing to negate the fact that to even consider the possibility of “owning” another flesh and blood man or woman is so much more than appalling and reprehensible. The question is, can this abhorrent practice be overlooked considering the wheels that he himself put in motion to end slavery? Can the ideology of a free and sovereign people and a free and sovereign nation help to offset any of what he did?
In a word, no. But ... and yeah, everything before the “but” is nothing I know. But, I can still agree with the many accomplishments of Jefferson without condoning the horrendous actions that took place.
The irony here of course, is that the BLM movement condemns Jefferson while they openly support Marx. The very same benefit that they refuse to Jefferson, they openly and proudly proclaim for Marx.
You can call me many things for supporting the good that Jefferson accomplished while glossing over the bad, but one thing the leftist Statists can never call me and that they seem to wear so well, is the title of hypocrite.
Let us know what you think please!