Thomas Jefferson: Thinker, Patriot, Hypocritical Monster

Picture: Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale (PD)

Paul Finkelman has published an op-ed at the New York Times on academic history’s failure to come to terms with Thomas Jefferson’s paradoxical support of slavery. It’s worth a read.

Via New York Times:

We are endlessly fascinated with Jefferson, in part because we seem unable to reconcile the rhetoric of liberty in his writing with the reality of his slave owning and his lifetime support for slavery. Time and again, we play down the latter in favor of the former, or write off the paradox as somehow indicative of his complex depths.

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 slavery only after discovering how profitable it could be, seem willing to confront the ugly truth: the third president was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.

Contrary to Mr. Wiencek’s depiction, Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience.

Continue reading.

18 Comments on "Thomas Jefferson: Thinker, Patriot, Hypocritical Monster"

  1. DeepCough | Dec 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

    “This country was founded by slave-owners who wanted to be free.” ~George Carlin

  2. emperorreagan | Dec 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm |

    It would be easier to discuss the short comings of the “founders” if Americans weren’t insistent on turning them into mythological figures on par with deities.

  3. Three Pipe Problem | Dec 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm |

    Yes, and future propagandists will find it equally “paradoxical” that today’s environmentalist perpetuated the system by driving cars. But let’s deal with this propagandist. His butchery of Jefferson’s actual positions surely doesn’t result from ignorance, for even the piece he linked to includes this statement by Jefferson:

    “I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”

    The author claims that Jefferson thought “something” should be done, “(b)ut he never said what that ‘something’ should be.” Actually, Jefferson introduced no less than 14 to end or abridge slavery, by various methods.

  4. The historical figures with the most insight have always been ignored. Kropotkin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Eugene Debbs, Voltairine de Cleyre… the list goes on and on. These people weren’t in my history book in high school and I was edumacated in Canada and the US (and a little in Japan, too). There’s a reason… nobody likes anarchists but anarchists; even some anarchists don’t like anarchists. What a fucking shame! You haven’t read anything about the world until you’ve read classical anarchist writings…. There’s more analytical acumen in Kropotkin’s writings than Thomas Jefferson and Paine put together.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do | Dec 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm |

      Anarchists are too busy knocking each-other down to start any real revolution, who knows if that will change, you can hope.

      • Any anarchist worth their salt would say that the Revolution has no beginning and no ending. It’s always becoming. Gustav Landauer is another important must-read anarchist. Gabriel Kuhn recently released an edited volume on Landauer’s thinking. Anyways, revolutions are social, not political. They aren’t fought and won. They are brought quietly into existence in between the cracks in the floor of oppression–through hardwork, integral eduation and consistent revolutionary practice at home and outside. In fact, there’s one going on right now in my yard, wouldn’t ya know it? My chickens like it.

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Dec 4, 2012 at 4:09 am |

          Maybe i should have emphasized real. Its a dog and pony show outside anywhere but perhaps Latin america. Keep working hard Adam and try not too, ya know, sort of validate my point like in your first sentence..

          • No need for sarc. I wasn’t being snarky, only upbeat. As for the first sentenec validating your point–if someone thinks that there is a start or end point in revolution then they haven’t thought very hard about how people work. People that throw their hands up and declare the ‘revolution’ a success mean they are happy to keep the status quo. And the people that say they are waiting for the ‘revolution’ to start haven’t realized that Revolution doesn’t come to you, it comes from you.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Dec 5, 2012 at 12:58 am |

            😉 I know, didn’t come out as funny as it was in my head. As for your point about the revolution having no end, I agree wholeheartedly. It revolves slower and faster but it doesn’t really have an end, reminds me of the troubles in Egypt right now, you could say the revolution has hit a roadblock because of those people who threw their hands up and declared it a ‘success’.

  5. DrDavidKelly | Dec 4, 2012 at 1:03 am |

    I don’t confess to know much about Jefferson but he was a politician no? I’m sure his actions were likely the result of political manouvering even if his heart was in the right place.

    • Matt Staggs | Dec 4, 2012 at 9:09 am |

      Go check out his slave dungeon at Monticello.

      • It’s all underground?

        • Matt Staggs | Dec 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm |

          Yes, but it’s written for characters level 3rd to 5th, and at least one of them should be a good cleric with access to Cure Light Wounds.

          • Jin The Ninja | Dec 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm |

            i’ll use my atonement build disc. priest; spam penance and holyfire all over that slavery sh*t.

      • bobbiethejean | Dec 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

        O__O I saw “slave dungeon” but for some reason my brain went “sex dungeon?” Though if the purported rumors of good ole TJ are true, that probably isn’t entirely wrong. XD

  6. BuzzCoastin | Dec 4, 2012 at 3:21 am |

    The phrase: “Hypocrisy thy name is politician”
    was first uttered by Ahfgrthenwal, 50,000 years ago
    during the Mid-Paleolithic political uprisings

  7. Tastycles | Dec 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm |

    Anachronistic knee jerk bullshit

Comments are closed.