I know, you probably think my title is a misquote…it is not! In my last tidbit, I explained Jefferson’s quote in his ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’: “…that the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” In this tidbit, I want to unveil actual actions and thoughts of Thomas Jefferson on slavery.
1.TJ’s political career began as a Virginia legislator in 1769 at 26, and continued for over 40 years! Historian David Barton writes, “Upon entering that body, he approached respected senior legislator Richard Bland and proposed that the two of them undertake an “effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves”” (pg134*). The motion was overwhelmingly defeated and Bland was attacked and called an “enemy of his country”. TJ’s response to the defeat was, “…as long as Virginia remained a British colony, emancipation policies could expect no success” (pg134*).
2.Four years later in 1770, TJ took on the representation of a black slave child in court.** TJ wrote in favor of the child’s freedom, “Under the law of nature, all men are born free. Everyone comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the Author of nature” (pg134*). Jefferson lost the case.
3.Two years later in 1772, Jefferson took on another case representing another black slave child, and once again, lost.
4.During the early 1770’s, several American colonies attempted to pass laws prohibiting slavery, all of which were rejected by the British monarch, King George III.
5.In 1774, in behalf of the nation, Jefferson responded to the British imposition of slavery upon America with a letter to King George. In that letter TJ wrote, “The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state [by Britain]. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa. Yet our repeated attempts to effect this…have been hitherto defeated by his Majesty’s negative [veto]” (pg135*)
6.In 1776, prior to the Declaration, TJ wrote the following for Virginia, “no person hereafter coming into this country (Virginia) shall be held in slavery under any pretext whatever.” (pg135*)
7.Later in 1776, TJ was asked to pen the Declaration of Independence. Within the grievances, he wrote, “He (King George III) has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people which never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, so to incur miserable death in their transportation thither…He has…determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold” (pg135*). This portion of the Declaration was defeated and deleted through the efforts of the Representatives from Georgia and South Carolina.
8.From this statement, changes were made, and the final approved statement of the Declaration of Independence was birthed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among there are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Let’s stop here (more to come in next tidbit), and review what we’ve learned so far:
i.TJ was overwhelming anti-slavery in law.
ii.TJ blamed Britain for introducing and imposing slave law in America.
iii.As the “owner” of America, Britain was the primary reason slavery continued in America, when many colonies attempted to abolish it.
iv.TJ used the “law of nature” as his philosophical authority to fight slavery. What is the “law of nature”? It is a Bible doctrine taken from Romans 2:14: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves” (Rom2:14,Rom1:20; Ps19:1-3). In short, the “law of nature” was a common phrase used in early America to explain what was meant by the law(s) of God written into the Creation, which drive the nature and behavior of the created order—from the moon orbiting the earth, to a spider spinning his web; to the freedom naturally written in the heart of mankind.
In other words, in theology there are two locations where God communicates with mankind:
i.Special Revelation - The Bible
ii.General Revelation – The Creation
v.TJ’s initial written statement of the Declaration of Independence was good(see 7 above), but it only applied to American slavery. However, with its rejection and changes, ironically made by those who promoted slavery, the final statement (see 8 above) was God-inspired providence. Why? It applied to freedom for the world. In other words, Declaration of Independence was not only used to end slavery in America, but has been used to bring freedom to the people of the world—from that time, to this!
*Facts in this tidbit taken from historian David Barton’s incredible book “The Jefferson Lies”. It is a must read.
**Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson (1904), Vol.I, 474, “Arguments in the case of Howell v. Netherland.”
“Don't bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill. If you don't feel well, tell your doctor, but not the marketplace. If you need money, go to the bank, but not the marketplace.”
Following are a few examples of contemporary scholarship sentiment on Jefferson:
-“Thomas Jefferson was demonstrably a racist—and a particularly
aggressive and vindictive one at that…His flaws are beyond
redemption…Jefferson is a patron saint far more suitable to white
supremacists than to modern American liberals.”**
-“Jefferson…did not believe that all men were created equal. He was
-“The third president was a creepy, brutal, hypocrite…always deeply
committee to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare
of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were…deeply
-“Jefferson was a racist. There is no question about that”5*
-Jefferson…was convinced…blacks had to be seen as lower beings
because of their inferiority.”6*
-“Jefferson thought…blacks were inferior to whites in body and
The evidence used to convict Jefferson of racism by modern scholars is twofold:
1.Comments he wrote in ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’
2.Jefferson owned slaves
First, let’s look at what Jefferson wrote in his ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’:
“…that the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments
both of body and mind.”
These comments ‘appear’ to absolutely confirm contemporary Jefferson critics. I’m sure you are wondering how I could possibly think otherwise. First, and most important, you must remember liberalism possesses an agenda. Their objective is to discredit America’s Founding Fathers, in order to discredit their principles which were derived exclusively from the Judaeo/Christian ethic, i.e. the Bible; in order to replace those principles with atheism, the religion of liberalism. If you miss this point about liberalism—you’ve missed everything!
The methodology used to accomplish their objective is ‘Historical Revisionism’. HR is best described with the Romans 1:18 principle: “…suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”. When we apply this principle to Jefferson’s quote above, we discover that while it is true that liberals derived the quote from the ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’, but what they didn’t do was give the context. In other words, they conveniently left out, i.e.suppressed facts, that contradict their agenda!
For example, in the immediate context of the above quote, in the ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’, Jefferson actually wrote:
“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 red men, they have never yet been viewed by us as subjects of natural history. I advance it, therefore, as a ‘suspicion only’ that the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind” (Notes on the State of Virginia’, The Jefferson Lies, pg131).
In the same document, Jefferson also wrote, “…it will be right to make great allowances for the difference of condition…”.
Historian David Barton explains, “Jefferson understood that slavery was certainly not a favorable condition in which to compare intellectual abilities. He therefore eagerly invited and even sought outside evidence to disprove what he called his “suspicion only”” (Barton, pg 131).
A letter to Benjamin Banneker further sheds light on Jefferson’s real views. Benjamin Benneker was a free Black man, “…who was a highly accomplished, and a self-taught mathematician and astronomer. He wrote scientific almanacs that were in high demand in Jefferson’s day, “and was able to successfully predict sunsets, sunrises, eclipses, weather conditions, and recurrences of 17-year locust cycles” etc., (Barton, pg 128). Jefferson actually hired Benneker to survey Washington D.C.
In the letter to Benneker, Jefferson wrote:
“Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs…that nature has given our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want [lack] of them [Blacks] is owing [due] merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa and America.”
Furthermore, on the same day Jefferson wrote Banneker, “he told Condorcet that, “I shall be delighted to see that…the want [lack] of talents observed in them is merely the effect of their degraded condition, and not proceeding from any difference in the structure of the parts on which intellect depends” (Barton, pg132).
After being criticized for his “suspicion only” comments by French abolitionist Henri Gregoire, Jefferson replied,
“Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained on the grade of understanding allotted to them [blacks] by nature, and to find that in this respect they are on 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. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to other in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others” (Barton, pg132).
Finally, Jefferson writes to a friend Joel Barlow, referencing an earlier letter to Gregoire:
“He wrote to me also on the doubts I had expressed five or six and twenty years ago in the Notes of Virginia as to the grade of understanding on the Negroes…It was impossible for doubt to have been more tenderly or hesitatingly expressed than that was in the Notes of Virginia, and nothing was or is farther from my intentions than to enlist myself as the champion of a fixed opinion where I have only expressed a doubt” (Barton, pg133).
Barton concludes, “For today’s writers and academics to convert Jefferson’s loosely held, and cautiously and rarely expressed “suspicions” into unwavering resolute racism is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts” (Barton, pg133).
I heartily concur!!
*Title taken from chapter four of Historian David Barton’s incredible book “The Jefferson Lies”. This tidbit is based upon this book.
** Conor Cruise O’Brian. ‘The Jefferson Lies’, pg 119
***Stephen E. Ambrose. ‘The Jefferson Lies’, pg 119
4*Professor Paul Finkelman. ‘The Jefferson Lies’, pg120
5*Abolitionist, 2/12/97. ‘The Jefferson Lies’, pg120
6*Franziska Massner. ‘The Jefferson Lies’, pg130
7*Oscar Reiss. ‘The Jefferson Lies’. Pg130
If you want the things on the high shelf, you must stand on the books you read. -Jim Rohn