Skip to comments.The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
Posted on 09/22/2012 6:47:35 AM PDT by Renfield
...One cannot question the genuineness of Jeffersons liberal dreams, writes historian David Brion Davis. He was one of the first statesmen in any part of the world to advocate concrete measures for restricting and eradicating Negro slavery.
But in the 1790s, Davis continues, the most remarkable thing about Jeffersons stand on slavery is his immense silence. And later, Davis finds, Jeffersons emancipation efforts virtually ceased.
Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson.
The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation. Jefferson animates the paradox. And by looking closely at Monticello, we can see the process by which he rationalized an abomination to the point where an absolute moral reversal was reached and he made slavery fit into Americas national enterprise....
(Excerpt) Read more at smithsonianmag.com ...
In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses should have been invested in negroes. He advises that if the friends family had any cash left, every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value.
The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like Cattle in the market, and this disgusted him. Yet Jefferson was right, prescient, about the investment value of slaves. A startling statistic emerged in the 1970s, when economists taking a hardheaded look at slavery found that on the eve of the Civil War, enslaved black people, in the aggregate, formed the second most valuable capital asset in the United States. David Brion Davis sums up their findings: In 1860, the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing or railroads nationwide. The only asset more valuable than the black people was the land itself. The formula Jefferson had stumbled upon became the engine not only of Monticello but of the entire slaveholding South and the Northern industries, shippers, banks, insurers and investors who weighed risk against returns and bet on slavery. The words Jefferson usedtheir increasebecame magic words.
He met the paradox of what he knew should be (end of slavery) and how to maintain his estate and the economy of the south (keeping slavery). The solution came when the cotton gin (engine) was created, that lessended the need for slaves in the cotton growning areas. It was industrialization that permitted the eradication of slavery due to what were seen as economic requirements/justifications.
He didn't own Monticello when he died. He didn't own his slaves either, which is why he couldn't free them.
I’m scared to know what you think about after your first cup of coffee.
1) Read THE JEFFERSON LIES by David Barton
2) The Smithsonian Magazine is quite PC
Everyone is a product of their time and culture. A Jewish friend told me that, were he in the position of a German citizen in circa 1939, he would never have done the things that the German citizens did to the Jews. I told him that if he had been raised on a diet of Germanic superiority in a subservient Progressive culture he would have believed and done exactly what they did. He denied that. He somehow felt that his twenty-first century liberal (in the Founders sense) view was universal and the only and obvious way to see the world.
I can easily imagine myself in the shoes of somebody raised differently. I would be the product of that upbringing; not the product I am now at all. This failure to see life as others might see it is a huge liberal (as in Progressive/Socialist) failing on the part of Democrats in general.
So the article wasn’t about Sally Hemings.I kid,I kid!
Just finishing it as we type (by the way, I almost never drink coffee; I do drink enormous quantities of tea, though).
I am thinking about having a shower and shave, then going out to labor in my own garden, watering spinach and planting turnips and collards. No help from slaves or servants.
The south was simply stuck with and happy with the system of slavery. There was no longer a need to import them. They were reproducing faster than they were dying off.
I do agree with your main point, it's often harder to see what's happening before your very eyes, just look at the many people on FR that think it's okay to leave Bambi in office........
Finally got a chance to visit Monticello a few years ago. Was surpirsed how by cramped it looked on the inside. After taking the tour, seeing his gadgets, and learning about how he lived day to day, I went away convinced that he was a bit of a crackpot.
Yes, true. Had the South won the Civil War, I might have been master of a plantation myself; my great-great-grandfather, a colonel in the Virginia Militia (who, by the way, was with Lee at Appomattox), owned 3000 acres of Virginia piedmont land, where he raised tobacco, doubtless with the help of many slaves. The family also owned the local general store; as there was no money available during the war, they allowed all of their neighbors to buy on credit, and following the collapse of Confederate currency after the war, those neighbors were unable to pay their debts. The store went bankrupt, and with it, the plantation; my ancestor had to sell his plantation to pay off his debts, at a fraction of its value.
He lived well into the 20th century, a penniless, blind, forotten war hero.
Like Jefferson, I’m sure obama struggles with the contradictions of enslaving the majority of Americans with massive debt.
Then again, probably not.
Hi Gen. Blather,
I do agree that we are a product of our upbringing to a large extent. What I think about fashion, morals, behavior etc is rooted a lot in the environment I live in. For example, I think nothing of a woman dressed in a normal bathing suit at the beach (I only use the word “normal” to separate out anyone who is visualizing thongs or micro bikinis”. However, in India, a country that I visit for business, women typically will wear bathing suits that incorporate shorts into them (kinda like Olympic swimmers). Neither Hindus nor Christians have anything against bathing suits (unlike Muslims) but different cultures make each comfortable with skin at a different level
However, I have to say Slavery falls in a completely different spectrum. Since the New Testament, Western civilization has known that Slavery is immoral. If you are a Christian then you know that Jesus died for to free EVERYONE (from Sin.. but one can argue for any human bondage too). To “own” another human being runs completely contrary to the New Testament.
This is not a new fact. In the pre Civil War South, all moral arguments about slavery were made solely on the Old Testament. Some people in the South conveniently “forgot” that God had made a NEW Covenant with his children by sending Jesus.
This is what led to a huge moral split in the country. Non Southern based Christian churches were appalled that the Bible was being misconstrued by the Slave owners.
From the VERY first days of slavery, there was a huge moral and religious opposition to it. You can look up hundreds of thousands of citations on it. The Christian churches in the North led the fight against slavery. Thus it is very hard to argue that someone would grow up in the South and not be aware that there were COGENT and well presented moral and Christian arguments against slavery.
Almost universally, the Slave owners had economic reasons for slavery and it is my conjecture that each of them (in some part of their heart) knew what they were doing was wrong but economic necessity lead to keep using slaves. After all, the threat of financial ruin can be a powerful motivator.
I see many parallels today with Abortion. 50% of our populace supports abortion, mostly for selfish reasons (career, not the “right time” etc). When abortion is finally banned (as it will be) some historians will wonder if people back in the “savage 20th century” knew that abortion was wrong. My answer then (assuming I live that long) will be the same as it is now: Yes, we knew it was wrong but selfishness led us to continue the practice
should be: Like Jefferson struggled with slavery..