Skip to comments.The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
Posted on 09/22/2012 6:47:35 AM PDT by Renfield
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The more one learns about TJ, the better General Washington looks. Jefferson resented Washington and started hurtful (to GW) rumors about him during Washington's second term in office.
Ye olde RevWar/Colonial History/General Washington Ping list
My friend, the invention of the cotton gin did just the opposite of what you claim. Before the gin, the only cotton that could be profitably grown was the long fiber or 'low-land' variety. It was not a major crop because it was very geographically limited.
With the gin, the short fiber or 'upland' variety could be profitably grown spreading cotton production all the way from Georgia to Texas and as far north as Missouri and Tennessee. It infinitely increased the demand for slaves to plow, plant, how and pick cotton and the price of slaves sky rocked to the point that in 1860, slaves were the most valuable property in the nation -- more valuable than all the railroads and factories in the notion combined.
Paul Johnson in A History of the American People gives evidence:
"Unfortunately, his divided nature, the simultaneous existence in his personality of incompatible opposites, his indecisiveness, his open-mindedness and changeability, combined to turn his building activities, especially at Monticello, into a nightmare saga...
Almost from the start, the house was lived in, and guests invited there, though it was, by grandee standards, uninhabitable. When Jefferson became president, work on the house had proceeded for over thirty years, but half the rooms were unplastered and many had no flooring. One guest, Anna Maria Thornton, was surprised to find the upper floor reached by 'a little ladder of a staircase...very steep' (it is still there). On the second floor, where she slept, the window came down to the ground so there was no privacy but it was so short she had to crouch to see the view. The entrance hall had a clock perched awkwardly over the doorway, driven by cannon-ball weights in the corners, and with a balcony jutting out the back...
The chimneys proved too low and blew smoke into the house; the fires smoked too and gave out little heat. Jefferson was too jealous of Count Rumford's fame to install a 'Rumford,' the first really elegant drawing-room fireplace, so much admired by Jane Austen. He insisted on producing his own design, which did not work."
More examples are given.
I was surprised to learn a few years ago that many slaves were bought on credit — somewhat like having a mortgage on your home. The slave owner could not sell (or free) the slave until he’d repaid the bank, or other lender, the price of the slave, plus interest. Jefferson inherited his slaves from his wife’s father, and later from his wife. They were still heavily “mortgaged”, and since he spent much of his time serving the colonies and later the nation (rather than making Monticello a viable operation) he could not “free” them.
It was a dreadful system, and the banks had a lot to do with it. However, without slaves, the great plantations could never have been developed. No single family could have put all that land to the plow. Furthermore, without the cheap cotton, linen, wool from the South, the Northern mills would not have prospered. So the North benefited from the evil system too, as much as they would deny it.
Don’t forget, slavery of black people in the new World satrted with a black man suing in court to enslave another black man. Slavery started in North America with blacks enslaving blacks, not whites enslaving blacks.
A Middle Easterner and his wife were tried and convicted in Milwaukee a couple of years ago for keeping a slave for at least 20 years here.
Excellent post. I heartily agree, should we continue to have an America and a history.
I believe the same is true for those who rationalize illegal immigration because certain businesses can benefit by it. It's just a modern form of economic slavery.
My first thought as well. Rake up the racial animus real good just before the election = Alinsky.
More exactly, the slavery of black people in the British North American mainland colonies started with a black man suing in court to keep another black man in slavery. The Spanish had held Africans in slavery in the New World for more than 100 years before Jamestown was founded. And Indians had practiced slavery for who knows how long (Cabeza de Vaca and his companions were slaves of a Texas Indian tribe for several years in the 1500s until they managed to escape).
The murdering Lincoln killed almost a million Americans to destroy the system of government that our Founding Fathers fought and died for. He was a big government socialist of the first degree who thought the Fed Govt should control each and every aspect of our lives. One of his favorite admirers was Karl Marx. Each and every Founding Father believed in the Right of Secession. 13 states seceeded and formed the Confederate States of American. It was all about taxes and nothing else. The southern states paid the bills of the Fed Govt. Lincoln didn’t give a damn about slaves. He thought he was superior to the black man and wanted them shipped back to Africa. Jefferson Davis was the president. Lincoln had absolutely no jurisdiction in the CSA, and I could give a damn what Yankee histories have braindwashed Americans into believing since April 1865.
The short beds were because people in those years slept propped up because they were concerned that if they lay down they wouldn’t be able to breathe as well and would die. Antique beds from that era are short too — not because their owners were short (there were plenty of tall people in our early days: Jefferson himself, for instance — but because the folks slept propped up on pillows. Jefferson just simplified the process, making his bed the room divider between work areas and dressing areas. Enclosing it between walls kept the drafts away too and reduced the need for expensive bed hangings.
OTOH, the holes in the entry hall floor to accomodate the clock weights are amusing — obviously he made a mistake in his calculations on how long the chains should be to drive an accurate timepiece. Either he didn’t have the money to re-make the clock, or he was just too arrogant to admit his mistake. Practical solution? Lengthen the chains and cut holes in the floor. Remember, he didn’t have a wife still living to curtail such nonsense.
Unfortunately, I have not seen Monticello since it was re-furnished for its BiCentennial (or was it 250 years when they had the big party?) It was very sparsely furnished when I saw it, but I understand the brought in a lot of furnishings for the celebration. Some of that stuff stayed, and I need to make another visit.
Jefferson left behind thousands of letters. Perhaps you should read those if you want to know the man.
Yet none of that is relevant to my point.
Jefferson seems to have been conflicted--some of the strongest criticisms of slavery in that era are found in his writings, but he continued to hold slaves himself. He had a comfortable life at Monticello and could console himself with the notion that he treated his slaves well. Since he was deeply in debt I don't know if he could have legally given it all up and set all of his slaves free. If he could have it might have meant living the life of a poor dirt farmer--which is what the majority of his fellow-citizens were but that's not an easy change to make if you are used to a life of relative luxury. How many dirt farmers in Albemarle County drank imported wine?
It's easy to criticize him from this distance but we can't say how we would have acted if put in his situation.
Renfield is actually the name of my cat (who, when we acquired him as a feral kitten, was very much like the Renfield shown in the YouTube clip); I just borrowed the name.
Renfield, after many years as a steady and noble cat, is now 19 years old — ancient by cat standards — and he suffers from a feline equivalent of senile dementia. He again does crazy things, only at a much slower pace than before.
To paraphrase American Indian wisdom: "You should not criticize a man, until you have walked seven miles in his moccasins."
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