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Was Thomas Jefferson ever a slave-seducer?
Posted By Les Kinsolving On 12/31/2012 @ 7:51 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments
In its biographical content on Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, Wikipedia reports that she married Thomas Jefferson on Jan. 1, 1772.
“Throughout their almost 11-year marriage, the Jeffersons appeared to have been devoted to each other. … Martha died on Sept. 6, 1782, a few months after the birth of her (sixth) child. Jefferson was so distraught he did not remarry and remained a widower for the rest of his life. He was inconsolable in his loss. … After the funeral, he withdrew to his room for three weeks. … Not until mid-October did Jefferson begin to resume a normal life, when he wrote: ‘Emerging from that stupor of mine which had rendered me as dead to the world as she whose loss occasioned it.’”
This very deep grief, as well as his decision to remain a widower for the rest of his life, surely demonstrates the malicious foolishness of claims that the author of the Declaration of Independence and twice-elected president of the United States would ever have had sex with, and fathered any children with, a slave .
But that was claimed by one of the most ethically questionable newspapermen in U.S. history, James Callender.
Having been pardoned by Jefferson after his jail sentence for sedition, Callender asked the president to appoint him postmaster of Richmond, Va. – which Jefferson refused to do.
On July 17, 1803, Callender drowned in three feet of water of the James River, reportedly too drunk to save himself.
This history apparently had little influence on the New York Times on Dec. 1 of this year.
Paul Finkelman, a law professor at Albany Law School, wrote a column headlined, “The Monster of Monticello: Why Do We Pretend Jefferson Wasn’t a Horrible Racist?”
This column contained the following Jefferson bashings:
“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. … the third president was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.
“[W]hen he wrote the Declaration of Independence, announcing the ‘self-evident’ truth that all men are ‘created equal,’ he owned some 175 slaves. … But while many of his contemporaries, including George Washington, freed their slaves during and after the revolution – inspired, perhaps, by the words of the Declaration – Jefferson did not. Over the subsequent 50 years, a period of extraordinary public service, Jefferson remained the master of Monticello, and a buyer and seller of human beings.
“Rather than encouraging his countrymen to liberate their slaves, he opposed both private manumission and public emancipation. Even at his death, Jefferson failed to fulfill the promise of his rhetoric: his will emancipated only five slaves, all relatives of his mistress Sally Hemings, and condemned nearly 200 others to the auction block. Even Hemings remained a slave, though her children by Jefferson went free.”
That there is simply no genetic proof that Thomas Jefferson ever seduced or raped slaves demonstrates the outrageousness of the New York Times column by this law professor.
Another teacher, Douglas Bryan, posted on the Monticello.org website:
“I believe it’s historically accurate to say that Jefferson fought against slavery his entire life. From the original draft of the Declaration of Independence to his support of the elimination of slavery in the Western territories. As a slave owner, a stance such as this would have done him no good. Yet this was his stance.
“As far as his ownership of slaves goes, it’s important to keep in context the time in which he lived. There were legal restrictions on the freeing of slaves, and Jefferson also struggled to manage very large debts. One did not simply free slaves at that time by walking up to them and telling them that they are free to go. There was a financial burden to be had, both in the release of a slave, as well as the labor loss that would be incurred on these types of plantations – let alone a plantation that carried an enormous amount of debt. Yet regardless of what Jefferson did, or did not do regarding the operation of Monticello, it’s important to keep in mind that Thomas Jefferson never once defended the institution of slavery. Not once. That’s a lot more than can be said of other men of political power during that time. It was a terrible problem that he did indeed struggle with, as did many of the Founding Fathers of this country.
“It is also disappointing, yet not surprising that the Smithsonian would present an article as fact and truth … and then readers of its article would be compelled to ‘protest’ the information that the Monticello historians have objectively put forth about Mr. Jefferson, through years and years of factual research. It seems all that is necessary nowadays, is to print something in a magazine, put it on TV, and voila – it must be the truth of the matter. I hope that mindset does not continue to be the case. I believe all of the individuals who founded this country, and forged it’s Constitution, deserve a little more respect – and dare I say, benefit of the doubt, than an article in a magazine – full of recycled information – might grant them.”
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