An alert reader points out that I missed perhaps the most disturbing angle of Thomas Jefferson's long relationship with the slave society of America. In 1798, the Revolutionary War general Tadeusz Kosciuszko, hero of America and his native Poland, named his good friend Thomas Jefferson as the executor of his will. Kosciuzko wrote the following:
Thaddeus Kosciuszko being just in my departure from America do hereby declare and direct that should I make no other testamentary disposition of my property in the United States I hereby authorise my friend Thomas Jefferson to employ the whole thereof in purchasing Negroes from among his own or any others and giving them liberty in my name, in giving them an education in trades or otherwise and in having them instructed for their new condition in the duties of morality which may make them good neighbours, good fathers or mothers, husbands or wives and in their duties as citizens teaching them to be defenders of their liberty and Country and of the good order of society and in whatsoever may make them happy and useful and I make the said Thomas Jefferson my executor of this
"The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death," a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. "The South cannot exist without African slavery." Mississippi's commissioner to Maryland insisted that "slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity." If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, "the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone."If these warnings were not sufficient to frighten hesitating Southerners into secession, commissioners played the race card. A Mississippi commissioner told Georgians that Republicans intended not only to abolish slavery but also to "substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races." Georgia's commissioner to Virginia dutifully assured his listeners that if Southern states stayed in the Union, "we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything."
(As an aside, I love that last quote. Someone commented the first time I posted this "Ha Ha--You forgot black president!" Moving on.)
An Alabaman born in Kentucky tried to persuade his native state to secede by portraying Lincoln's election as "nothing less than an open declaration of war" by Yankee fanatics who intended to force the "sons and daughters" of the South to associate "with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality," thus "consigning her [the South's] citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans ..."This argument appealed as powerfully to nonslaveholders as to slaveholders. Whites of both classes considered the bondage of blacks to be the basis of liberty for whites. Slavery, they declared, elevated all whites to an equality of status by confining menial labor and caste subordination to blacks. "If slaves are freed," maintained proslavery spokesmen, whites "will become menials. We will lose every right and liberty which belongs to the name of freemen."
I fearlessly assert that the existing relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions.
... For a nation whose foundational myth is deeply invested in virtue rather than conquest, a founding father who is a sociopath is extraordinarily problematic since virtue by its very nature is a personal rather than abstract quality.Yes, Jefferson's contributions were indisputably brilliant and awesome in their import, but in the realm of virtue, brilliance and perception are not leading indicators. In effect the foundational myth of the USA is one of personal morality. This is a nation whose basis is is personal rather than some abstract heroic or divine dispensation. Acknowledging Jefferson's sociopathy if done seriously and thoughtfully, threatens the edifice.
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