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Name: Mister Rea
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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 48,808

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What you find when you google "Jefferson on slavery"

This is interesting. Based on books I've read about it, Jefferson grew more vocal in his support of slavery in his later years. At least in his early career, he had the decency to be a hypocrite. But his political actions were limited to opposing the slave trade, not slavery itself. Most people don't separate those issues. In our time, that would be like failing to separate opposing car imports from the political issue of getting gas-guzzlers off the roads. Virginian slaveholders didn't like slave traders because they were undercutting market prices.

When I googled the phrase "Jefferson on slavery" I got this:

Thomas Jefferson and Slavery - Monticello

Thomas Jefferson was a consistent opponent of slavery his whole life. Calling it a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot,” he believed that slavery presented the ...

Thomas Jefferson and slavery - Wikipedia, the free ...

The relationship between Thomas Jefferson and slavery has been extensively debated by his biographers, and by scholars of slavery. He owned plantations ...

Jefferson on Slavery < Thomas Jefferson < Presidents ...

It has often been quoted because of the eloquent appeal to end slavery as degrading to the Southern family and endangering the liberty of all. Jefferson was one ...

The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson | History | Smithsonian

In his original draft of the Declaration, in soaring, damning, fiery prose, Jefferson denounced the slave trade as an “execrable commerce ...this assemblage of ...

The Real Thomas Jefferson - NYTimes.com
Nov 30, 2012 - Neither Mr. Meacham, who mostly ignores Jefferson's slave ownership, nor Mr. Wiencek, who sees him as a sort of fallen angel who comes to ...

Notice that Monticello.org takes the hagiographic pose: "consistent opponent of slavery his whole life." This is bullshit. You could argue reasonably that he opposed slavery on some principles, but it defies dictionary definitions to call him consistent about it. The man sold slaves to settle his debts, for criminey's sake.

This is TJ in 1814 on slavery:
Nor in the class of laborers do I mean to withhold from the comparison that portion whose color has condemned them, in certain parts of our Union, to a subjection to the will of others. Even these are better fed in these States, warmer clothed, and labor less than the journeymen or day-laborers of England. They have the comfort, too, of numerous families, in the midst of whom they live without want, or fear of it; a solace which few of the laborers of England possess. They are subject, it is true, to bodily coercion; but are not the hundreds of thousands of British soldiers and seamen subject to the same, without seeing, at the end of their career, when age and accident shall have rendered them unequal to labor, the certainty, which the other has, that he will never want?... But do not mistake me. I am not advocating slavery. I am not justifying the wrongs we have committed on a foreign people, by the example of another nation committing equal wrongs on their own subjects. On the contrary, there is nothing I would not sacrifice to a practicable plan of abolishing every vestige of this moral and political depravity."

Like so many of Jefferson quotes, this requires a bit of unpacking. He compares slaves' living conditions and clothing favorably to those of laborers and soldier of England. First off, this presents a pretty damn rosy view of real slave conditions. A few slaves were well fed & clothed, particularly those who worked in households. But the majority of slaves were off in tobacco, cotton, & sugar plantations, living in rags, dying from working conditions, and subject to family separation and personal humiliation beyond the touch of law in ways that even press-ganged redcoats and destitute coal miners were not.

This is one of slavery's oldest lies: at least they're treated better than factory workers. But bad as life was for the poor whites, there was at least hope for escaping circumstances and the comforts of family bonds. Jefferson wilfully glosses over the brutality happening literally in his own back yard.

Further, he says bluntly "do not mistake me. I am not advocating slavery." But in fact he did do exactly that. He wanted a plan to work toward ending slavery--usually in the form of paying off slaveholders (not the actual slaves, however). But he never himself offered a plan, much less offering any actual "sacrifice to a practicable plan." This is posery.

In 1816 he wrote this howler: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/jefferson-on-slavery.php
It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expense of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.

TJ is anticipating a race war (this is 16 years after Haiti's blood soaked revolution against France, a democratic revolt that Jefferson helped France to suppress). What he's leading up to is arguing for forced colonization to Africa alongside a policy of inducing white settlers to fill the void of a denegrofied Dixieland. So much for Mr. Small Government. Of course any such social reengineering was unworkable and something Jefferson never bothered to work for.

He continues:
And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species.

When other men of his age were able to see that circumstance of birth, not "natural symmetry" and hair texture, accounted for intellectual differences. Presumedly his own children by Sally Hemings were not of that "eternal monotany" and "immovable veil of black" that field slaves suffered from, but then they were no more than 1/8th black (Sally's mother was a mulatto and her father was Thomas Jefferson's father-in-law - I'll let you do the math on that point).

These race-centered conclusions tell us how much exposure Jefferson had to the thoughts & lives of field hands. His neurosis about black men lusting for white women finds a bizarre parallel in orangutans lusting for black women. This is the infancy of the psychosexual perversions revealing the worst mental distortions of racism. He's embracing unsubstantiated facts in order to justify his inhumane conclusions about racial differences. This is what Lord Acton meant about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

The Smithsonian article http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-dark-side-of-thomas-jefferson-35976004/ goes into more detail on how Jefferson pretty much stopped talking about ending slavery by the 1790s. His energies turned to opposing the Federalist Party of Washington and Hamilton, which politically anchored his fortunes to the slaveholding interest. Working on gradual abolition plans at this point, just as cotton was booming as the "new tobacco," would have been political suicide. Jefferson very carefully made his political bed and laid in it for the rest of his life.

The Monticello.org line about "consistent opponent of slavery his whole life" is baseless propaganda.
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