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1 Destro  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 10:06:40am

A new portrait of the founding father challenges the long-held perception of Thomas Jefferson as a benevolent slaveholder

There is no such thing as a benevolent slaveholder. The only benevolent slaveholder would in theory be one that frees his slaves as soon as he takes possession/inherits them.

The slave system is by it's nature self soiling.

2 Gretchen G.Tiger  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 10:08:14am

I've never been a fan of Thomas Jefferson because of his slaveholding habits. He continued to hold slaves, and go into debt so they could not be freed even at his death.

George Washington, OTOH, stayed solvent and freed his slaves after Martha died.

Jefferson was an elitist in many ways. He pictured himself the Roman Patrician with his agrarian utopia.

3 Ayeless in Ghazi  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 11:14:23am

re: #2 ggt

Jefferson was an elitist in many ways. He pictured himself the Roman Patrician with his agrarian utopia.

Ah right, a classical liberal then.

4 SanFranciscoZionist  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 12:33:13pm

re: #2 ggt

I've never been a fan of Thomas Jefferson because of his slaveholding habits. He continued to hold slaves, and go into debt so they could not be freed even at his death.

George Washington, OTOH, stayed solvent and freed his slaves after Martha died.

Jefferson was an elitist in many ways. He pictured himself the Roman Patrician with his agrarian utopia.

Jefferson was brilliant, but he was a very limited man in a lot of ways. Washington agonized less over the issue of slavery, but was also able to be a better patriarch, looking out for the people whose lives depended on his financial well-being. There's a reason I'm an Adams girl, for all of HIS moral failings. Ain't nothing wrong with a good Puritan.

5 John Vreeland  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 1:18:03pm

A Puritan? Was Adams actually a Christian? His grandson founded the Unitarian Church near me, and I understand their religious philosophy was somewhat similar.

6 dragonath  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 1:28:44pm

Yes, and John Quincy Adams did not swear his oath of office on the Bible, but rather on the constitution.

This site about Jefferson has a number of Jefferson's quotations on emancipation.

7 John Vreeland  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 1:31:52pm

But back to slavery.
There are many institutions by different names that look like slavery, and may be so, but what makes a person a slave is the loss of all rights over their own person, such that they have no legal defense against being beaten or killed (as a slave-holder can probably expect). Serfdom, on the other hand, ties peasants to their employers but theoretically protects them from arbitrary physical harm.

I bring this up because some slave owners personally guaranteed this sort of protection to their slaves, and though there was no guarantee that these rights would continue after their master had died, or that he would even maintain them against his own capricious whims, for a time some lucky slaves could feel slightly better about their own state.

One such slave owner was, ironically, Jefferson Davis, who let his slaves form their own courts for maintaining order, and who withheld to himself only the right to commute an overly harsh punishment. This appears to be a rare, if visionary, approach, however.

8 HappyWarrior  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 2:34:14pm

Jefferson like all the Founders was a complicated man. There's much to admire about him but there are other things that are less admiring. Anyhow, he's a good reason why while we should admire and appreciate what the Founders did for us why they should not be elevated to secular sainthood. They were real men with ideas- both great and flawed.

9 Gretchen G.Tiger  Thu, Oct 11, 2012 6:28:29pm

re: #8 HappyWarrior

Jefferson like all the Founders was a complicated man. There's much to admire about him but there are other things that are less admiring. Anyhow, he's a good reason why while we should admire and appreciate what the Founders did for us why they should not be elevated to secular sainthood. They were real men with ideas- both great and flawed.

I agree, we admire them for what they achieved. They were not anointed, they were individuals brought together uniquely in time and place and chose to act. It's an example of what we all can do if we recognize the opportunity and have the courage to trust another individual or the group.

10 SanFranciscoZionist  Fri, Oct 12, 2012 12:22:43am

re: #5 John Vreeland

A Puritan? Was Adams actually a Christian? His grandson founded the Unitarian Church near me, and I understand their religious philosophy was somewhat similar.

He was raised a Congregationalist, and then his branch of the church went Unitarian. It was a thing. Definitely a Christian, from all I've read of him, albeit not the kind these modern loonies think the Founders all were, and definitely, regardless of religious belief, out of the Puritan cultural mold.

(And my understanding is that JQA declined to swear on the Bible not because he was not a believer, IIUC, he was also quite devout, although not particularly orthodox, but because he didn't think it was fitting to mix up religion in politics. Another good example for the modern loony.)

11 Dark_Falcon  Fri, Oct 12, 2012 5:49:26am

re: #10 SanFranciscoZionist

He was raised a Congregationalist, and then his branch of the church went Unitarian. It was a thing. Definitely a Christian, from all I've read of him, albeit not the kind these modern loonies think the Founders all were, and definitely, regardless of religious belief, out of the Puritan cultural mold.

(And my understanding is that JQA declined to swear on the Bible not because he was not a believer, IIUC, he was also quite devout, although not particularly orthodox, but because he didn't think it was fitting to mix up religion in politics. Another good example for the modern loony.)

Jefferson wasn't out of the Puritan mold, those of the planter class never were. They were unambiguously "The High" of their society and both in manner and consumption acted the part. Very different than the Puritans, who retained a decent amount of egalitarianism. Not surprising, given their struggles in England against Charles I and his Cavaliers.

Given the founding of the Tidewater culture by the younger sons of that same English gentry, cultural conflict between them and Puritan New England was inevitable. Indeed, while that conflict reached its zenith with the American Civil War, it has continued even unto this very day.


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