In the last six tidbits I wrote about TJ’s war against slavery. Of course, the number one rebuttal is the accusation that TJ owned over 130 slaves at any one time. How do I explain what appears to be such blatant hypocrisy? In other words, how can a man fight against slavery, while simultaneously owning them?
The best way to answer this complex question is: British and Virginia law. If you remember, prior to 1776, the American colonies were ruled by British law. Interestingly, even prior to 1776, Americans attempted to end both slavery and the slave trade, but were systemically rebuffed by King George.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, also known as the “hell-hound of abolition” wrote of the Founding Fathers:
“They universally considered it [slavery] as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country [Great Britain] and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth.”
Another example is,
“the Imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain; and that the King’s Majesty . . . had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the Colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever. the Imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain; and that the King’s Majesty . . . had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the Colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”
It was this kind of tyranny that subsequently led to TJ writing in the very Declaration of Independence:
“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 who never offended him, captivating and 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, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce [that is, he has opposed efforts to prohibit the slave trade]”
Furthermore, in 1773 Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to Dean Woodward, confirming Britain’s resistance to the colonies attempts to curb slavery:
“. . . a disposition to abolish slavery prevails in North America, that many of Pennsylvanians have set their slaves at liberty, and that even the Virginia Assembly have petitioned the King for permission to make a law for preventing the importation of more into that colony. This request, however, will probably not be granted as their former laws of that kind have always been repealed.”
Adding fuel to this fire, Virginia was filled with obedient subjects. In 1692, Virginia passed a law declaring:
No Negro or mulatto slave shall be set free, unless the emancipator pays for his transportation out of the country within six months.
Other subsequent Virginia laws forbad owners to free slaves unless education, livelihood, and support could be guaranteed so that the slave would not be a burden to society. Of course, these laws were coupled with stiff penalties if the owner was convicted of a violation. If we were to stop here, it doesn’t take much common sense to understand that if TJ had freed some 130 slaves (or more), it would have bankrupted him—as well as landed him in prison!
In 1723, another law was passed which forbad the emancipation of slaves for any reason, even by a last will and testament! I presume to present themselves as not too overly strict, Virginians added a clause allowing an exception for “meritorious service” by a slave! Of course, the Virginians were the sole judges of what constituted a meritorious service. The obvious result was that no owner could manumit their slaves.
In 1782, Virginia softened and passed legislation allowing owners to emancipate slaves upon their death in a last will and deed. It was through this law that George Washington freed his slaves upon death in 1799.
Sadly, in 1806, Virginia repealed the 1782 law declaring:
“It shall be lawful for any person, by his or her last will and testament, or by any other instrument in writing under his or her hand and seal . . . to emancipate and set free his or her slaves . . . Provided, also, that all slaves so emancipated, not being . . . of sound mind and body, or being above the age of forty-five years, or being males under the age of twenty one, or females under the age of eighteen years, shall respectively be supported and maintained by the person so liberating them, or by his or her estate.””
Adding to this already impossible scenario, because Virginia law did not recognize slave families, if a slave was freed, he/she could not remain near his spouse or children, because the law demanded that the free slave immediately leave the state or return to slavery:
“If any slave hereafter emancipated shall remain within this Commonwealth more than twelve months after his or her right to freedom shall have accrued, he or she shall forfeit all such right and may be apprehended and sold.”
Here is the ‘elephant-in-the-living-room’ intentionally ignored (Rom1:18) by contemporary liberal historical revisionists: slavery was common all over the world, from time past, up to TJ’s day…in every culture, nation, and religion! On the contrary, for the first time in human history, in America, the morality of slavery was now questioned!! Why? The Judaeo/Christian ethic was being applied! The American Founding Fathers, including TJ, began to apply Holy Scripture to slavery: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen1:27). How do I know this is true? Because the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” Equality among humans cannot exist apart from the image and likeness of God! I repeat, only the Judaeo/Christian ethic…allows for human equality!
Here is the seminal question, if you were Thomas Jefferson, would you have freed your slaves? No honest person would answer in the affirmative!
My final evidence is found in the words of John Quincy Adams, and Black abolitionist Frederick Douglas regarding TJ:
“The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction than by the author of the Declaration himself [Jefferson]. No charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge.
-John Quincy Adams
“It was the Sage of Old Dominion (Virginia) that said—while speaking of the possibility of a conflict between the slaves and slavesholders—“God has no attribute that could take sides with the oppressor in such a contest. I tremble for my country when I reflect that god is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Such is the warning voice of Thomas Jefferson, and every day’s experience since its utterance until now confirms its wisdom and commends its truth.” -Frederick Douglas (Barton, pg148)
*Facts in this tidbit taken from historian David Barton’s incredible book “The Jefferson Lies”. It is a must read!!
What you become directly influences what you get. –Jim Rohn