College of Political Knowledge
Subject: Early American History
Anyone that keeps up with my site knows that I am a bit obsessed with the founding of the nation…..that the history that we have all been taught is not exactly what may have happened…….it is acceptable only because few challenge the prevailing ‘wisdom’….well I have never been willing to accept too much without research and history is one of those subjects.
Yeas ago my dissertation on the Declaration Of Independence was rejected because I was making the case that Jefferson was not the author of the document…..he may have worked from notes but the ideas were not his…..even the wording in some cases were not his……so to say that I am not a Jefferson worshiper would be an understatement…….
I have never been one of those who worship at the alter of Thomas Jefferson and awhile back I read a short piece in Newser that made me stop and think….not only did I agree with the points made but it got my brain all fired up for more research…..my addiction!
Newser) – Two new high-profile biographies of Thomas Jefferson are out, and both go way too easy on him over slavery, writes Albany Law School professor Paul Finkelman in the New York Times. They’re guilty of the sin committed by many Jefferson biographies—they either gloss over his slave-owning ways or use the old he-was-a-complicated-man-in-complicated-times defense. Please, writes Finkelman. The “ugly truth” is that Jefferson “was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.”
Jefferson’s personal writings make clear he viewed black people as inferior to whites, nearly sub-human, writes Finkelman. He sold individual slaves away from their families as punishment or to pay for his wine and art collections. His will freed only five, and they were relatives of mistress Sally Hemings. We have to face it: The man was OK with slavery. He may have written the Declaration of Independence, but in the subsequent 50 years, even as George Washington and others freed their slaves, Jefferson remained “a buyer and seller of human beings.” Read the full column here.
All that got me interested in the whole slavery vs Jefferson thing….we all know about his views that slavery was wrong….but it was not wrong enough for him to disassociate himself from the practice…..some Jefferson thoughts on slaves…….from his work, “Notes On The State Of Virginia” in 1787……..
Among the Romans emancipation required but one effort. The slave, when made free, might mix with, without staining the blood of his master. But with us a second is necessary, unknown to history. When freed, he is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture.
They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour.
in memory they are equal to the whites, in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.
I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. … This unfortunate difference of colour, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people.
Just a few of his thoughts from his manuscript……
And then there was the program of manumission…..I know….HUH?
Slaves were offered freedom if they fought in the Continental Army……but what is the program? Manumission refers to granting liberty to slaves, a person should not try to use the word as a substitute for emancipation. These two terms, while referring to similar actions, are completely different. In general terms, manumission refers to the voluntary freeing of a slave. Emancipation, however, refers to the release of control, which may or may not be voluntary and the situation does not have to be one of slavery.
But Jefferson foresaw a problem with the program…….manumission only increased the number of free blacks living in proximity to whites, and accelerated the potential for conflict. Therefore, as his neighbors manumitted their slaves more frequently, Jefferson proposed that all freed slaves be forced to leave the state. His fear of racial interaction was so great that he proposed that white women bearing mulatto children should also be banned from the state. There was simply no answer to the problem of slavery. “We have the wolf by the ears,” he concluded,” and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”
Jefferson, the hero of states rights, was not some magnanimous leader….his ideas on states rights were more about property rights and property rights were a code word for slaves…..so his ideas were more about saving his holdings than some grandiose philosophical idea…..a personal desire more than some concern for the body polity.
At some point Americans need to stop deifying the ‘popular’ founders, as if they could do NO wrong…..they were merely men and as men were not infallible.