Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson

Hey folks,

Here's an article I bumped into about Thomas Jefferson and the view that he was a "benevolent" slaveholder. Read here.


  1. Reading this article reminded me of a lecture that we had earlier in the year where it was stated that slavery is full of contradictions. Similar to that discussion, it is here in this article that one could say Thomas Jefferson was full of contradictions. Jefferson is known as the “father of the Declaration of Independence.” He is the “father” of a document that clearly declares, “all men are created equally” and yet, according to this article, he owned one of the highest slave populations in 1817. Therein, lies the most obvious contradiction of Jefferson, however, it does not stop there. The article continues to explain how Jefferson not only had slaves himself but how he also promoted others to own slaves. He said that they were important commodities that could bring profit to a family. One of the other major contradictions pointed out is when the article states, “By all accounts he was a kind and generous master. His conviction of the injustice of the institution strengthened his sense of obligation toward its victims” (5) Jefferson claims to have not liked the idea of slavery and yet, he did everything but try to stop it. The only thing he did do was claimed to treat the people that he enslaved well, yet that is a contradiction all on its own. It’s like he is saying, I will own people, force them to do labor, and take away their freedom, but I’ll do it in a nice way. It is just ridiculous and this article does a good job at pointing out all of the irony of and contradictions to Thomas Jefferson.

  2. In 1776 Thomas Jefferson, seemingly steadfast in his beliefs, described slavery as "a cruel war against human nature." Yet within the next twenty years Jefferson came to own over a hundred slaves. I find it not only interesting that Jefferson's view on slavery completely changed, but that it did so within such a short period of time. It makes one wonder whether Jefferson’s “dark transformation” was a consequence of political, economical, cultural reasons or a combination of them all. Regardless, by Jefferson owning slaves he was, in effect, supporting and justifying the entire institution of slavery to the American people.