Our society has come to believe that Thomas Jefferson was a racist who actually supported the institution of slavery. Unfortunately, the historic record is a lot less clear on this issue than we are today, but then, given the process by which we have come to hold this opinion of Jefferson, it is not unexpected that the actual record would fifer with our opinions: we care more today about bending history to support our political agenda than we do for understanding it.
I have tried to read what was written at the time of our founders, and to understand the times as well as the men, themselves. This has led me to read as much as I can find from that time period (I will admit I seldom trust modern sources). What I have found has convinced me that, while he may have held some personal positions that we would call racist today, the accusations against Jefferson do not hold up to what I have discovered. Perhaps you will allow me to share with you just how easy it is to find the truth for yourself?
he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating
it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of
a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying
them to slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable
death in their transportations thither. this piratical warfare,
the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian
king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN
should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for
suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain
determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold
this excrable commerce ^ and that this assemblage of horrors might
want no fact of distiguished die, he is now exciting those very
people to rise in arms against us, and to purchase that liberty
of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom
he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes which he
urges them to commit against the lives of another.
And continues with a simple Google search for “Jefferson anti-slavery:”
Then you just start reading and you will find:
Thomas Jefferson was a consistent opponent of slavery throughout his life. He considered it contrary to the laws of nature that decreed that everyone had a right to personal liberty. He called the institution an “abominable crime,” a “moral depravity,” a “hideous blot,” and a “fatal stain” that deformed “what nature had bestowed on us of her fairest gifts.”
Early in his political career Jefferson took actions that he hoped would end in slavery’s abolition. He drafted the Virginia law of 1778 prohibiting the importation of enslaved Africans. In 1784 he proposed an ordinance banning slavery in the new territories of the Northwest. From the mid-1770s he advocated a plan of gradual emancipation, by which all born into slavery after a certain date would be declared free.
–by Thomas Jefferson
Keep looking into this issue and you will discover that Jefferson could not free his slaves: it was against the law at the time. You will also find he tried to change these laws – many times. He also helped in the anti-slavery effort in this nation his entire life. Look long enough and, eventually, your search will end up at the quote on the Jefferson memorial in Washington D.C.:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Now, many people know this quote, but how many are aware that these words were uttered in connection to Jefferson’s opposition to slavery? You see, Jefferson foresaw that the national rift over the issue of slavery would eventually lead to conflict and he feared for our nation as a result.
Jefferson was a divided man. He often lived in what appears to be contradiction to his stated beliefs. Unfortunately, we have lost our understanding of who this great American hero actually was, what he believed and why. Jefferson possesses a strong sense of duty and servitude that compelled him to do things with which he did not agree because of his beliefs about the proper role of the public servant. If you bother to look, you’ll find abundant evidence of this. In fact, the whole issue of separating Church and State is connected to this characteristic of Jefferson’s personal nature.
This is literally just a taste of what I have found. I have so much more but, honestly, if this does not change the reader’s mind, nothing I can do or say and no amount of historic evidence I present will manage to do so. One either holds an allegiance to the truth, or to their personal and political agenda. I just thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present the evidence behind my understanding of Jefferson and his position on slavery.