PostHeaderIcon Removing The Last Vestiges Of Slavery

Would you believe there have actually been serious proposals to dismantle the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC? Possibly other memorials as well.

Why? Because the person(s) being memorialized owned slaves.

I am inclined to believe that this idea must have started as a joke but, these days, nothing is too loony for the ultra left so the idea is taken seriously. (Indeed, it may have been serious from the beginning but even yours cynically truly has trouble believing that.)

So, Mr. Jefferson was the arch supporter of slavery was he? Let us turn to the man himself for our first clue:

But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.


– Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, (discussing slavery and the Missouri question), Monticello, 22 April 1820.

Sorry folks but this sounds more to me like a person who was caught up in something he knew to be morally wrong but did not know how an easy way out of. I have read or heard of similar sentiments on the part of other political leaders of the period.

This is not to excuse slavery. It was wrong and I highly suspect that, well before it ended, most everybody in the nation knew that it was wrong and should long since have been ended. They just did not want to suffer the pain that would come with any form of emancipation (remember the economic implications).

It is also interesting to note that, long before emancipation, slavery had ceased to be economically advantageous in most businesses – this is the primary reason it ended in the industrial north long before in the agricultural south. But, even in the south, it had lost much of its economic advantage.

From our modern perspective, we tend to assume that slave labor was free labor. This was simply not the truth. To begin with, a healthy slave was worth a relatively large amount of money. Then the slaves had to be housed, fed, clothed and provided with sufficient medical care to protect the underlying investment in their persons. There was nothing “free” about any of this.

Back to Mr. Jefferson and the supposed need to destroy his fame and his memorials because of the slave issue:

Was it not Thomas Jefferson who documented the notion that ALL men (humans) are created equal? Had he meant otherwise, he surely could have written: “all WHITE men” or “all FREE men”, or “all ANGLO-SAXON men” or any of dozens of other qualifiers that would have made clear that he did not literally mean “ALL men”. Yet, that seems to be exactly what he did mean. And, although his words were not effectively true at the moment he wrote them, the document he wrote surely gave a primary impetus to the movement that eventually made his words effectively as well as morally true. How could we not honor such a thinker (even if the thoughts in question were not totally original)?

Then there is the issue of Mr. Jefferson’s supposed intimate relations with a slave named Sally Hemings. In the first place, I have no doubt whatever that such a relationship did exist. The real question is whether this was just another example (and there must have been many) where a slaveholder used his power to force himself on his female slaves – or might it have been something less horrible? Might it perhaps have been a caring relationship between two consenting adults? Let us delve further…

First, I find nothing in the historical record to indicate Mr. Jefferson was a “womanizer”. He was married once and, by all accounts, was devoted to his wife Martha Wayles. Martha died relatively young and Mr. Jefferson never married again.

Allow me a bit of a digression here to explain that, in early America, having one’s spouse die young was quite common. Also common was the fact that the surviving spouse often married a sibling of the dead spouse. What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Jefferson / Hemings affair? Simply everything. It was hardly a secret that Sally Hemings was Martha Wayles half sister, her father being John Wayles (also Martha’s father) and Betty Hemings, a mulatto (half white) slave who had a relationship with Mr. Wayles somewhat similar to that between Jefferson and Hemings. Ergo, Sally Hemings was three quarters white, the half sister of Mr. Jefferson’s late wife, and, by contemporary accounts, looked very much like her half sister Martha.

This made a union between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson fairly normal for the times – excepting the sad fact that, a single drop of Negro blood made Sally a Negro in the eyes of existing law, no matter who and what she may have looked like.

There is little evidence that Mr. Jefferson did much to hide the liaison – he simply could not consider marrying her because it was forbidden by law as well as by local custom.

Interestingly, to some extent this worked in their favor. Mr. Jefferson was one of several diplomats who spent long periods abroad, working to gain support for the rebellious colonies and later representing the new nation to foreign governments. Normally, a diplomat could not bring his wife along on these extended absences from home. However, Sally, nominally a servant, could (and did) accompany Mr. Jefferson on many of his travels. Ergo, they got to spend more time together that would have been the case if they were married.

There is one more issue we must deal with: Namely, why did Mr. Jefferson not free Sally and the children she bore him (and, indeed, all of his slaves) when he died? The answer is both sad and simple. When Mr. Jefferson died, he owned NOTHING whatever. He was long since bankrupt, having failed to manage his plantation while spending on credit to purchase the books and scientific gadgets that were the first love of his life. His creditors generously allowed him to live out his life at Monticello, as if he were still master of the place, because of their gratitude for his service to the emerging United States.

Yet today, some of us seriously consider destroying the memorials that properly acknowledge Mr. Jefferson’s contributions to humanity simply because he was, to some extent, what his times trained and expected him to be? This strikes me as more of that ignorant nonsense that seems about to take over our once proud Republic. One can picture ISIS thugs bulldozing monuments in the Middle East. Is that what we now aspire to?

Are we, as a people, incapable of understanding the difference between actions and ideas? Some of Mr. Jefferson’s actions, such as participating in the, at the time, generally accepted practice of slave ownership were limited to a single place and time. The ideas he helped instill in a new nation have transcended place and time and helped to build the freest, most prosperous nation in history. And, yes, this include Blacks as well as people of all ethnicity who have prospered under our system. Never forget that we are the only nation on earth who feel the need to build a fence around our borders to keep people OUT. If the nation our founders created is so bad, why are so many millions (including Blacks) willing to risk their very lives to come here and share our prosperity?

Think about it.

Troy L Robinson

6 Responses to “Removing The Last Vestiges Of Slavery”

  • Troy says:

    What is wrong with the

    in this post?

  • ◄Dave► says:

    Thanks for the history lesson on Jefferson. The analogy with the Islamic jihadists destroying priceless artifacts from ancient history is quite appropriate.

    Like it or not, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, many if not most of our European ancestors did not view the Negro race as ‘men’ or even humans. They would have been thought of more like valuable draught animals than enslaved people. I suspect that they thought of abolitionists in the same way many today think of PETA. At some future date, our posterity will probably look back in horror at the thought that their ancestors used to even ride horses, much less hitch a plow or wagon to one. 🙂 ◄Dave►

  • Chris says:

    America has a history albeit short by comparison to the rest of the world. Actually that relative short duration may serve to make individual instances of greater importance simply because there are less of them. I submit that the desire to remove landmarks and historical references by leftists is motivated by the exact same thing that motivates Islamists like ISIS. They must erase the history and heritage that shapes and maintains culture to create a “blank slate” that can be molded into their ideal society. The specter of someone being offended has nothing to do with it. Look at how many Christians were offended by plastering a rainbow flag across the Whitehouse. A slap across the face to millions upon millions. But that offense isn’t bad because it moves the agenda of destroying Americas Christian heritage.

    • Troy says:

      But that offense isn’t bad because it moves the agenda of destroying Americas Christian heritage.

      I am so very conflicted by this apparent ongoing attack on our “Christian Heritage”. I try (futily) to respect people’s right to believe BS and I certainly know that bullying is NOT the way to get rid of the limitations that superstition places on human progress. Still, I so wish the believers (especially Muslim, Christian and Jewish) would wise up — or at least shut up. Together, they are the source of far too much of our historical and current strife.

      Troy

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