No founding father was more instrumental in establishing the United States as a nation grounded in individual freedom, natural law, Republican form of government, and a constitutionally limited federal government than Thomas Jefferson. No founding father has been more unfairly maligned by academia and modern historians than Thomas Jefferson. Some readers, those of a more progressive persuasion, are probably shaking their heads right now at that last statement and saying to themselves “but but he owned slaves.” I am aware that he owned slaves, and I am in no way excusing that, however, I know the whole truth about Thomas Jefferson and slavery. This truth has been buried by colleges, universities, and a great many authors; a process that began in the 1960s, and is now almost complete.
This burying of the truth and the unfair maligning of Thomas Jefferson, along with other founding fathers, is an orchestrated attempt to discredit the very principles this country was founded on. Those founding principles are the bedrock of our Constitution. By eroding the bedrock of the Constitution, progressives have been transitioning us from a Constitutional Republic into a Social Democracy, such as those in Europe.
Step one in reversing this transition is clearing Thomas Jefferson’s good name, and restoring respect for those principles he espoused. There have been two books written that have told the whole truth, and completely torn down the lies and distortions. The first is The Real Thomas Jefferson by Andrew M. Allison and the second is Jefferson Lies by David Barton. Both are exceptional books that are packed full of original source material from Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson Lies is the primary source for this article, with all of the quotes and information coming from chapter four.
Jefferson has been called a racist because of statements he wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, back in 1781. In that same book he called emphatically for the emancipation of the slaves. Here is the main offending statement:
To our reproach, it must be said that though for a century and a half we have had under our eyes the races of black and of red men, they have never yet been viewed by us as subjects of natural history. I advance it therefore as a supposition only that the blacks… are inferior to the whites in endowment both of body and mind. (emphasis added by David Barton the author)
As you can see, he is just discussing the mere possibility. Later he corrected himself, as you can see, in this letter he wrote to Benjamin Banneker of Philadelphia, in August 30. 1791. Banneker was a Free black that Jefferson hired to survey Washington DC.
no body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colours of men, & that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa & America. I can add with truth that no body wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body & mind to what it ought to be, as fast as the imbecillity of their present existence, and other circumstance which cannot be neglected, will admit.
He expressed the same sentiments to Henri Gregiore in a letter written on February 25, 1809.
Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature, and to find that in this respect they are on a par with ourselves. My doubts were the result of personal observation on the limited sphere of my own State, where the opportunities for the development of their genius were not favorable, and those of exercising it still less so. I expressed them therefore with great hesitation; but whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights.
At age 14 Thomas Jefferson inherited 187 slaves He hated slavery and would very much liked to have freed his slaves, however, Virginia law prevented him from freeing them. He tried very hard to end slavery, first in Virginia, later in the entire United States. He tried very hard to free not just his own slaves, but all slaves in the United States. Here is a list of his attempts:
1769, in his first year in Virginia Legislature, he tried to abolish slavery in Virginia. Jefferson failed at this attempt.
Here is Thomas Jefferson’s argument in the Case of Howell vs. Netherland. where he argued for freedom for a slave in 1770. Also in 1772 he tried again in another case
Under the law of nature, all men are born free. Everyone comes into the world with the right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving it to his own will. That is what is called personal liberty, and is given to him by the Author of Nature.
Thomas Jefferson wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, in 1774. Here is what he had to say about slavery in that work:
The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the infranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa. Yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibitions, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his majesty’s negative…
In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote a draft of Virginia Constitution that included language which stated “no person hereafter coming into this country [Virginia] shall be held in slavery under any pretext whatever.” It was defeated.
In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the following passage about slavery, which was removed because of Georgia and South Carolina. Criticizing Britain over slavery was an attempt to end slavery in the United States
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 into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither… determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold
In 1778 he introduced a bill that banned the importation of slaves into Virginia, which passed. In 1779 he tried to pass a Virginia bill that would have emancipated all slaves born after passage, it failed. Both laws passing would have ended slavery in Virginia in a generation.
In 1784 Jefferson introduced a resolution in the Continental Congress to end slavery in every territory that eventually would become a State. It failed by one vote. It was later incorporated into the Northwest Ordinance, which did end slavery in all territories. Here what he wrote about the resolution:
‘there were 10. states present. 6. voted unanimously for it, 3. against it, and one was divided: and seven votes being requisite to decide the proposition affirmatively, it was lost…thus we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, & heaven was silent in that awful moment! but it is to be hoped it will not always be silent & that the friends to the rights of human nature will in the end prevail.
Rather than a villain, Thomas Jefferson was an abolitionist hero, who should be honored. He was until the 1960s.