Mr. Jefferson's greed: New book challenges image of reluctant slaveholder

Publishers Weekly calls it the number one history title of the fall and one of the best of all genres. Both Smithsonian and American History magazines have made it a recent cover story.

However, thus far here in Thomas Jefferson's hometown, the reception to Henry Wiencek's new book, Master of the Mountain: Jefferson and His Slaves– which builds a portrait of the author of the Declaration of Independence as cold, greedy, and a lying racist– has been less effusive. Far less effusive.

No gush from the director of Monticello. No comment from Monticello's recently retired research historian. Nothing new here, says a UVA Jefferson expert. And in the world of historians, silence doesn't signal approval.

"Everybody outside of Jefferson country loves it," says Wiencek, interviewed shortly before the book's October 16 publication by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

Sitting in his Charlottesville home, Wiencek marvels at the buzz his book has been getting nationally and the cold shoulder he's been getting locally.

Already acclaimed for two prior histories, The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, Wiencek says he didn't start out to debunk the popular perception of Jefferson as a benevolent slaveholder. Well aware of the conventional explanation that the so-called Sage of Monticello was trapped by his time and his debt in a system he believed should be dismantled, Wiencek says recent research opened his eyes.

"There was an explosion of knowledge about the slaves at Monticello in the 1990s and 2000s," says Wiencek, crediting Monticello's historians and archeologists.

He says there wasn't just one thing that caused him to reconsider the vision of Jefferson as a rational, humane manager of slavery at Monticello.

"One thing was not enough to dispel that," says Wiencek. "Two things were not enough."

It turns out there were lots of things to make Jefferson idolizers wince. He put kids to work. He let the plantation's bosses whip his slaves. And, in an era when several prominent contemporary slaveholders set slaves free during their lifetimes, Jefferson– like some 19th-century horse-breeder– seemed to relish the idea that he could accumulate more slaves as families grew.

Wiencek "reviews Jefferson's record like a prosecutor," says the American Scholar review of Master of the Mountain, "hammering away at the evasions, rationalizations, and lies that have preserved Jefferson's reputation as a profoundly decent man trapped by the conventions of his own time."

"The information I found overturns the notion of Jefferson as a rational and humane slave owner who had a little trouble with overseers," explains Wiencek. "He had one brutal overseer after another. No one ever got fired."

According to Wiencek, one of Jefferson's slave overseers, William Page, was so cruel that when Page went to work for another planter, no one would hire slaves out to work under him.

"What struck me was the number of Albemarle planters whose reaction to William Page was as a 'terror,'" say Wiencek. "Planters were hard core, accustomed to a certain amount of violence, and they thought this guy was way over the line."

Wiencek made another discovery that radically changed his perception of how Jefferson's slaves were treated– a letter written by Elizabeth Trist, a neighbor to Jefferson's Lynchburg area getaway, who wrote to her grandson about the slaves there at Poplar Forest: "I fear the poor Negroes fare hard." She compared the estate to a notoriously brutal Louisiana plantation and said she wished the Poplar Forest slaves were treated even that well.

When he began to connect the dots, Wiencek says he realized what a "brutal" place Jefferson ran, one in which the Founding Father ordered that the "vigour of discipline" must be maintained.

What changed the author of "all men are created equal," who as a young man, aghast at "this execrable commerce" advocated for the abolition of slavery into a man who in the 1790s advised a cash-strapped acquaintance that "every farthing" should be invested in "land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. percent in this country by the increase in their value"?

In 1792, Jefferson calculated that the birth of black children brought a four percent annual profit, a formula he shared with George Washington, who freed his own slaves after his death.

"That was icy cold," declares Wiencek. "The man is counting up babies and writing to a lender that's why slavery is profitable. This S.O.B. is utterly cold. That changed my whole perspective."

Then there was the nail factory, where Jefferson, according to his Farm Book, sent slave boys aged 10 to 16 to pound out nails every day. Jefferson enthused that just two months of that enterprise provided him enough cash to pay Monticello's voluminous food bill for a year.

Adding to Wiencek's dismay was that some historians have attempted to scrub the ugliness away. For instance, in 1953, Edwin Betts was editing a report from Colonel Thomas Randolph, Jefferson's son-in-law, that the nailery was running well because "the small ones" were being whipped. Deciding that the image of beaten children did not fit the persona of a lenient slave owner, Betts withheld that note to Jefferson from his book, according to Wiencek, who found the original letter in Massachusetts.

Some Jefferson scholars, like Annette Gordon-Reed, dispute that 10-year-olds were whipped, positing that the youngest victims were more likely 12 years old.

"In any case, no one should have been beaten," Gordon-Reed writes in an email. "No kids should have been enslaved and working in the factory, period, as I indicate when talking about this in The Hemingses of Monticello, as does [Monticello historian] Cinder Stanton in her extensive writings on the nail factory."

Like UVA's top Jefferson expert Peter Onuf, the Pulitzer Prize-winner Gordon-Reed sees nothing new in Master of the Mountain.

"Practically every instance discussed has been written about and talked about before," says Gordon-Reed. "If not the specific event, other incidents of the same nature. It's a difference in tone– different packaging– more than anything really new."

University of Texas history prof Jacqueline Jones, however, says Wiencek's book makes significant advances on two major fronts.

"First, he has gone back to original sources and located material that was omitted in published versions prepared by editors who wanted to burnish Jefferson’s reputation as a benevolent slaveholder," Jones says in an email. "The passage detailing the whipping of the nailery boys is a case in point.

"Second, I think that all of his evidence taken together constitutes a much-needed corrective to some of the more recent scholarship on Jefferson, and to the popular perception of the 'Sage,'" says the Austin-based Jones. "In Master of the Mountain, Jefferson emerges as not some tortured soul, wrestling with the inhumanity of slavery while holding slaves himself, but as a thoroughly savvy businessman, calculating the future earnings of children and the future return on women of child-bearing age, and reckoning how much his enslaved workers can produce and how much those products are worth on the market."

Despite all the national buzz, Monticello, which is hosting Master of the Mountain's launch October 18, seems noncommittal when asked for a reaction.

“In the past five years there have been more than 409 Jefferson titles in print," says Monticello leader Leslie Greene Bowman in a prepared statement. "Monticello prides itself on the free exchange of ideas. We encourage in-depth research and scholarship on a wide variety of topics related to Thomas Jefferson, including slavery. Henry Wiencek completed a portion of his research at Monticello’s International Center for Jefferson Studies. The International Center for Jefferson Studies does not necessarily endorse the conclusions or ideas of its fellows.” 

Not quite the ringing endorsement.

A typical criticism of those condemning Jefferson's slave ownership today is "presentism"– judging the past through the lens of the present.

Richard Dixon, president of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, a group that doubts the now-mainstream historical view that Jefferson fathered children with his enslaved house servant Sally Hemings, says he hasn't read Master of the Mountain, but did read the Smithsonian article.

"There is a significant issue of presentism in Henry's conclusions on Jefferson's moral bearings, but I wish to read the book," he says, "before I react."

Wiencek could see the presentism charge coming, and he notes that plenty of Jefferson's peers, including the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Paine, and Edward Coles (the latter of whom freed 17 of his own slaves), beseeched Jefferson to free his slaves and were perplexed at his evasions of the ideal of universal human rights.

UVA law professor Robert Turner, who was in a Heritage Society-commissioned group of scholars that disputes the view that Jefferson fathered Sallly Hemings' children, also read Wiencek's Smithsonian article.

"I'm troubled by it," says Turner. "There seems to be a movement almost to tear down Thomas Jefferson. We saw it with Sally Hemings and with slavery. Jefferson was a complex man, and most of the things he did are explainable."

Turner concedes that Jefferson was a racist. "Of course he was. Almost everyone was at that time. Jefferson was a reluctant racist."

What set Jefferson apart from his peers, says Turner, was his lifelong opposition to slavery. He didn't push for emancipation because it could have endangered the fragile new country. "He had to wait for an opportune moment," says Turner.

And of course there was his debt– $106,000– at the time of his death, and if he'd freed his human property, they could have been reenslaved, adds Turner.

Wiencek recounts another damning tale, in which a friend from the Revolutionary War, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, made Jefferson the executor of his estate and specifically bequeathed Jefferson money to free his slaves and to provide them land and farm equipment. Jefferson declined the money.

"I've lived in Charlottesville and been to Monticello," says Wiencek. "I'd never heard that."

When the University of Virginia Library recently put Kosciuszko's handwritten will on display, the exhibit claimed the will was merely "suggesting" that Jefferson use the money to liberate his slaves.

"This story is really soft-pedaled," says Wiencek. "The will didn't 'suggest' Jefferson free his slaves– it required it. This is how things like that can be spun."

Another irony Wiencek documents is how the more talented Monticello's slaves became– and they were highly skilled coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, French-style cooks, and artisans– the more the master would describe them as "stupid" and "incompetent," unable to care for themselves if they were set free.

"He was just lying," exclaims Wiencek. "He couldn't say, 'I can't free them because they're too valuable.' It was beyond hypocrisy."

Once his perspective on Jefferson began to change, Wiencek began to see incidents in a different light. He cites the example of Mary Hemings, Sally's half sister.

While Jefferson was in France, a white merchant, Colonel Thomas Bell, fell in love with Mary Hemings, and she lived with him in Charlottesville and had two children with him. When Jefferson returned, Bell wanted to buy Mary and her children into freedom, including two from another relationship. Mary approached Jefferson, who said she could have just the two youngest children.

In one light, says Wiencek, "Mary has the gumption to negotiate, and [Bell] is allowed to buy two children." The other light is that Jefferson made a man pay for his own two children and kept four of Mary Hemings' six kids. (On top of that, Jefferson charged rent for the time Mary had been with Bell during the early years of their marriage.)

"After a while, I just lost patience," says Wiencek, "not just with Jefferson, but with the apologists who spin all this to put Jefferson in a positive light."

Whether Master of the Mountain will change the general perception of Jefferson from "flawed" and "contradictory" to "greedy" and "racist" remains to be seen, especially in the Jefferson-dependent town of Charlottesville.

But elsewhere, with a major publisher's push, Wiencek's book is stirring a lot of reaction. "Every American should read it," says Salon.

Blogger Lindsay Bayerstein calls Wiencek's Smithsonian essay "a wakeup call, not just for its revelations about Thomas Jefferson, but for what it said about my own willingness to assume the best about a historical figure I admired."

The University of Texas' Jones still lauds Jefferson's "stirring words of equality" for inspiring countless struggles for human rights, but she too tempers her enthusiasm.

"His words," she says, "ultimately ring hollow as an expression of his own convictions– because we must conclude that he did not himself believe them."

Correction 10/18/12: Jacqueline Jones holds two chairs at the University of Texas but is not the chair of the history department.


I guess TJ had "binders full" of women and Negroes up for consideration. If he collected rent on Mary it makes him a pimp by definition. People used to see him rollin' by the Swann Tavern in that carriage with the slick maple wheels.

Jocularity aside, this is very disappointing. To be stuck in a context is one thing; to extend beyond the exigencies of context and use humans as instruments to support a lifestyle is indefensible. You could argue that we all do this when buying cheap goods, but these people were known to him by name.

Gotta give the hook a lil credit for publishing this not because it's relevant, local and captivating. But it goes against the Jeffersonian Grain and exposes the hypocrite adored by so many unknowing hoos. Or do they know what a hypocrite TJ was and it just adds to the smug attitude? The world may never know.

Does the author think that white ten and twelve year olds in 1800 sat around the house and played video games and were not disiplined with a beating?

The question is not where he would be in the spectrum of 2012 but where was he in a spectrum with his contemporaries?

I don't think anyone thinks he walked on water....

Really? This guy has nothing better to do? Mr. Jefferson was as human as the rest of us, so we feel better when we drag him down into the gutter where the rest of us reside. Mud for everyone. TJ tried many times to write abolition of slavery into the Declaration, (knowing that it would negatively impact his extravagant lifestyle) and it was repeatedly edited out. He said of this two things: if we don't do this now, we will pay for it later; and, I shudder when I consider that God is just. One of the most complex and brilliant minds ever is once again vilified. We'll never understand the man... and he is co-opted by persons of all persuasions. That he is still scrutinized and over-analyzed speaks to his influence and complexity. Can't wait for this "author's" books on Bill Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama!

Thank you Mr. Wiencek for your scholarly contribution to the historical record.

@jebmeister, I do believe Jefferson was an idealistic young man, but if you read this fine book you will learn that with the acquisition of property and Jefferson's obsession with the material side of life, greed took hold, and his youthful ideals were discarded. This is a cautionary human tale that needed to be told and I admire the grit shown by this author in pursuing the story wherever it led and the willingness to tell the truth.


Are you saying that TJ was scrooge without the redemption? This could be big especially around the xmas holidays.

Slavery was legal and commonplace in Virginia in 1812, and in 2012 so is abortion. Henry's "presentism", that is, viewing history through the lens of the present, sheds light on the abhorrent immorality of Jefferson-era slavery and slave trade. It took a war where hundreds of thousands of WHITE Yankees (mostly Whigs, Republicans, abolitionists) gave their very lives or were injured to free the slaves in the South and end the legality of such immoral acts. I hope that Henry's book serves as an allegory for the currently legal but totally immoral practice of abortion. And that his black readers will be reminded that 360,000 Northern white folks died so their ancestors could be free. That was the ultimate price. And I hope that everyone will try to respect those that try now to save the children in 2012, not from slavery, but from death.

The leadership of Mr. Jefferson's University should pay heed to this book and acknowledge the institutional and personal cruelty of the University's founder and also recognize how they and others in their positions before them have helped to cloak the truth in deception through the glorification of one of the greatest hypocrites who ever lived. Monticello is truly the height of hypocrisy.

Cvillian, why is the race of the Union soldiers so important to you?

What was the race of the Confederate soldiers that fought and died to preserve slavery? What lesson should "black" readers (but not non-black readers, apparently) take away from the hundreds of thousands of WHITE southerners that gave their very lives or were injured to fight against the freedom of the slaves in the south?

Abortion is legal because it is right that a woman have control of her own body, even if she allowed a man to enter it. Slavery was abolished because it is not right and never has been, no matter how man men and women in 1812 believed that it was right.

Thank God for the Northern soldiers, black and white, that fought to end this evil practice. Thank President Obama for preserving the right of women everywhere to control their bodies.

Weincek slants the truth to match his conjectures. For example, he mentions that Thaddeus Kosciuszko offered Jefferson money through his will to free he slaves and provide for them. However, he neglects to mention that Kosciuszko left four wills that were all being contested. Kosciuszko's heirs finally won out. Jefferson could not claim the funds to free his slaves. This book should be taken with a grain of salt.

Can we can the Jefferson worship? Thanks for the La Purchase and foundation of UVA;otherwise a good amateur (if derivative) architect and purveyor of other mens' ideas. Instead of fine wines and high life, could Jefferson have freed and educated his slaves? of course, even by the complex standards of the time, he could have. Measure a thinker by this books,what did Jefferson write? "Notes of the State of Virginia."

Thomas Jefferson was human and had flaws like we all do. But if you take all the people that lived in his time period and rated them on almost any measure he gave to the world and to the United states way more than any one man needed to to justify his existance.

It is commonplace for history to categorize and revise a man once he is gone and the bickering is simply a pastime of people with an interest in doing so.

In context Thomas Jefferson was a great man. Other Presidents allowed atrocities to be committed in every war and placed american lives ahead of others. Some of their decisioins were selfish. politcal and barbaric and I am sure 100 years from now some author who has a comfortable life with even more amenities than we have now will try and apply 2112 values . In fact the odds are that by then there will be books written on how bad a black, gay, buddist woman President ordered a drone attack on an islamic transgender group for trying to kidnap white children into slavery.

Jefferson was human and had faults. I don't know anyone out there that does not have a bit of hypocrisy in their beliefs or their lives at one time or another.

Cvillian, the Civil War was not just about slavery and it was Liberal Republicans who freed the slaves, they no longer exist today. Back to the facts, the North noticed that the control of congress was in the South's possession due to the simple fact that 2/3s of the male black population was included in the populous to add to the electoral vote. This translated to the South having more representation in Congress. The North didn't like this at all. (I am not condoning slavery at all here, just stating facts.)

After the Emancipation Proclamation, that 2/3rds was no longer counted in the electoral vote and the South lost representation - ie "taxation without representation"? And there were blacks fighting on both sides of the Civil War, that is another historical fact you failed to state here. So only white landholders were allowed to vote and were counted into the electoral vote, it would take decades to give blacks and women the vote in this nation.

It was truly a start of a very bad time for both former slaves and the south after the civil war. You had uneducated and unskilled workers that were given their freedom and there was nothing to educate them or give them workable skills. Why when you see the old plantations in this area there are rows of homes nearby occupied by black families. Most stayed with their former masters, because they knew no other life. This is not to say that many did strike out on their own and become successful but this created a huge obstacle for many. And former slaves and their descendants who were of more white blood than black had a much easier time accumulating to society and the economy.

Admit here that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation does just about everything and anything to protect any sort of controversy when it should admit the truth of this man and his descendents.

And Cvillian, off topic from this article but abortion rates have indeed gone down over the years and if you truly wanted to help in this you would demand our schools educate teens on birth control and family planning and where they can access it rather than expecting teens not to have sex. There are numerous reasons for abortion to be available and the law of the land Roe v Wade exists, perhaps one day we will not need that law or abortion if we choose to educate ourselves properly? But that is the jest of those like you, you want to keep many ignorant and create the same devastation as the reconstruction of the south. On your stand on abortion, you hope that women will go back to the kitchen and remain barefoot and pregnant.

Cville Native - Um, have you missed the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's report that states that Eston was likely fathered by Jefferson (see item 2 at  Or the amazing Getting Word Project which has made public oral history interviews with descendants of the Hemings and other families from Monticello (
Also, there might be more to this story.  Check out this review:

For the record, slaves were 3/5 a person, not 2/3.

Not that we should judge the meaning of ~6% in antebellum America in the context of 2012 mathematics.

To all of you, did anyone of you personally know Mr. Jefferson? Oh, that's right, he died before ANY of you were born! I truly hope that 100 years from now, no one tries to publish a book about what was in Bill Clinton's or Barack Obama's mind. Mr. Jefferson gave a lot to enrich our lives here in the United States and perhaps this so-called author should write about the Constitution and the fact that he has the right to publish whatever he wishes to publish. Yep, born here and tired of the 'Let's get TJ Group'! Why don't you write about something you have first hand witness to? There is NO proof that Mr. Jefferson fathered Ms. Hemming's children and I am sick of hearing about it.

@ G Luv, you don't know what you're talking about. Read the old law.

@Ken Tiger, I personally believe TJ fathered all of Hemming's children I also am not fond of the TJF and their obvious bias to paint this man as "perfect" in order to keep the control it has on the county of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville and continue to bring revenue to itself.

June Ellis if you read beyond what may interest you, there has been DNA testing and the Smithsonian has long agreed with my view above that TJ was indeed the father of all of Hemmings child. If you don't like the article, don't read it. Get your panties out of a wad, please.

I'm not "Let's get TJ" group - I think history should be reported as it was, all the layers and all the facts. It is obvious you don't.

"To all of you, did anyone of you personally know Mr. Jefferson?"

Oh, my. We might as well not study history at all!

@ Ken Tiger et al, a scholar's commission has largely refuted the Hemmings allegation against Jefferson. Even the person who did the DNA testing says it is not dispositive with regard to Jefferson's paternity. The DNA test results came out when Clinton was in the midst of the Lewinsky scanda, and many believe the rush to spin the DNA results was motivated by a desire to make Clinton's actions seem not so bad. I'm not sure what motivates the Thomas Jefferson Memorial foundation, except possibly political correctness or a desire not to look bad by disputing the allegation.

I will definetly buy this book. I have lived here for 30 years among all these Jefferson is God zombies who refuse to admit any truth at all, about Sally Hemmings, about his finances, anything. When I would comment that maybe Mr. J wasnt so a perfect human being I would be met with glances, that if weapons, would have killed me on the spot. Let the truth be told and let those that deny the truth continue to smoke the deluded historical crack.

I find it amusing that due to the overwhelming evidence that TJ was a slavemonger, no one disputes that fact, but suggest that he may have loved a black woman and fathered her children... well, that there is crazy talk.

Never mind that it was common for white slaveholders to have sex with and even rape their female captives. Somehow, the apologists have it fixed in their minds that while Jefferson was engaged in the brutal, sadistic, and dehumanizing business of treating his fellow human beings like cattle, he would never do something so vile as sleep with a black woman.

In the apologist's mind, slavery is more morally acceptable than sleeping with a black woman.

This book is based on primary sources, some never before revealed, that is it's value and I suggest reading it before passing judgment.

Far too often Americans have a difficult time objectively viewing the historical record if it does not shine a complimentary light on this country and the men and women who were the main players.

Debate is a good thing, but if one's mind is closed to new information the world becomes a small and uninteresting place.

Most people do not study history; they seldom seek beyond the sanitized versions which are taught in grade school, that is, if they teach it at all. They parrot the writngs of the latest Notable Scribe, and then drop him/her and go on to the next one as soon as their new book is released. Even worse, many get their "history" when it's made into a movie, especially by Disney, who seldom lets facts interfere with their stories.

from Bill Moyer's "Moyers and company'

"Jefferson himself was an aristocrat whose inheritance of 5000 acres and the slaves to work it, mocked his eloquent notion of equality. He acknowledged that slavery degraded master and slave alike, but would not give his own slaves their freedom. Their labor kept him financially afloat. Hundreds of slaves, forced like beasts of burden to toil from sunrise to sunset under threat of the lash, enabled him to thrive as a privileged gentleman, to pursue his intellectual interests, and to rise in politics. Even the children born to him by the slave Sally Hemings, remained slaves, as did their mother. Only an obscure provision in his will released his children after his death. All the others -- scores of slaves -- were sold to pay off his debts.

Yes, Thomas Jefferson possessed "a happy talent for composition" -- but he employed it for cross purposes. Whatever he was thinking when he wrote “all men are created equal,” he also believed blacks were inferior to whites. Inferior, he wrote, "to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind." To read his argument today is to enter the pathology of white superiority that attended the birth of our nation.

So forcefully did he state the case, and so great was his standing among the slave-holding class, that after his death the black abolitionist David Walker would claim Jefferson’s argument had "injured us more, and has been as great a barrier to our emancipation as any thing that has ever been advanced against us," for it had "…sunk deep into the hearts of millions of the whites, and never will be removed this side of eternity."

So, the ideal of equality Jefferson proclaimed, he also betrayed. He got it right when he wrote about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As the core of our human aspirations. But he lived it wrong, denying to others the rights he claimed for himself. And that's how Jefferson came to embody the oldest and longest war of all -- the war between the self and the truth, between what we know and how we live."

ROI of 4% on slaves producing more slaves. Romeny's way...Simple math: profit means exploiting the poor and women. Exploiting the poor until they die. They have no voice and could not render a voice on this post...not ever.

Slaves and women were treated the same. Jefferson and the "founding" fathers (ghag) wanted nothing to do with freeing them until women revolted.

correction: Romney's way...profits above all else

I go through phases where I get very demoralized at the lack of intellectual discipline in these posts. Agree that debate is good, and thanks to our founders, like Jefferson and Madison, we have the right to do it. The amazingly ignorant ties to Romney bemuse me. Mitt Romney appears to be an incredibly caring and sensitive person. Obama runs his political machine, politics of class warfare, pandering to the Islamic extremists, covers up either the incompetence or ignorance that motivated him to lie to the American people about the death of an American ambassador, ties to domestic terrorists Bill Ayers, on, and on, and yet someone tries to make some connection to Mitt Romney's understanding of ROI, which to Obama probably means Reversing Our Income.

I also laughed at the reference to those who get their history from Disney.....I'd rather get it there than from Oliver Stone.

Some of you should read, "In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal" by William G. Hyland, Jr. Also, consider reading Dr. White (Ken) Wallenborn's (Retired MD from the UVA Medical College) Minority Report. You might learn that there is another side to the Jefferson/Hemings story. Without a surviving male heir of Thomas Jefferson's, no one can ever prove or disprove that any of Ms. Hemings children were Mr. Jefferson's. DNA goes through the male line. Mr. Jefferson's only son died in infancy. I will always believe that Mr. Jefferson would not have harmed Sally Hemings in any way. If he and she had a love affair, I have no problem with that. I would have a problem with him fathering children whom would not be recognized as his children and I choose to believe he didn't father her children. Mr. Jefferson has been dead for over 200 years and I do not understand the need for folks to dig up dirt about our founding fathers. We are all human beings with flaws. I am one of them. I sincerely hope that 200 years from now, no one tries to find out things about me that cannot be proved one way or the other. What is the point? Slavery was wrong, period. Why it happened, I do not understand. I can't imagine 'owning' another human being! Thank goodness for President Lincoln and Martin Luther King!

I do not have my panties in a wad. At my age bloomers would be a better word.
As for 2/3 vs 3/5. 3/5's is the correct fraction that was finally agreed upon by the Framers of the Constitution. A slave was never considered 3/5 of a human being. The number of Representatives to the Congress of the United States is based upon population of a state. The more people, the more Representatives. California has more Representatives than Rhode Island. The northern states did not want the slaves counted at all. The southern states wanted the slaves counted. The compromise was that the slaves would be counted and 3/5 of that number would be added to the states head count. The northern states did not want the southern states to have more Representatives than they did. However, the northern states were more populated and would have had more Representatives had not the slaves been counted. If I say that 3/5 of my 100 neighbors, attended UVA, that means 60 went to UVA. And that is how the slave number was added to each states head count. No one ever suggested that a slave was less than a whole person at the Constitutional Convention!

"I go through phases where I get very demoralized at the lack of intellectual discipline in these posts... Obama blah, blah, blah..."


It is true that Jefferson is idolized, but it is also true that even in Charlottesville and up at Monticello it is not that hard to find out that he was a cruel slave owner who chose not to free his slaves. Go up to Monticello and buy a ticket for the Mulberry Row tour and you'll learn all about the children who worked in the nail factory and were held to incredibly tough production standards. You can ask the guide any question you want about Jefferson and his slaves and you'll get an honest reply. Anyone who believes that Jefferson was a benevolent slave owner is choosing not to be educated.

With reference to Bob's comments above, I've been mystified about the attraction of conservatives, especially tea party conservatives to the founding fathers like Jefferson and Madison. It's gotten to the point where they have almost deified them, and it didn't make sense until you examined the tea party rhetoric and see that the founding fathers in their views toward American democracy were in line with their own. Here you had a group of elite white males who wanted to seperate themselves from (in their minds) an oppressive system that not only limited their personal liberties, but more over stifled their monetary ambitions in the new world. Plus in the new system of governance, if you were a woman, you couldn't play the game, if you were a poor man with little taxable value, you couldn't play the game, if you were African, you were property, and if you were Native American, you were the enemy. So, in the tea partiers mind, it really was the perfect world of white supremacy, and it's no wonder you often hear about 'getting back to the framers intent.'
There is also not only a deification of Jefferson and Madison afoot, but a new type of deification for the modern age; and that is Disneyfication. However this is more for economic reasons than for social or political reasons. In the Disney world of defining history, the content is removed and altered to fit a fantasy reality, and then what's left is only a caricature, something so one dimensional as to fit only in a advertisment, or a entertaining promotional video. It's much easier to deal with intellectually when you just want to sell tickets by not bringing up any of that ugly stuff such as content....

I think some people have trouble understanding that most people are not totally good or totally bad. There are people who have great ideas and achieve great things, but have other parts of their lives that are the opposite. The founding fathers set up a framework of governing that is genius---no other country has the same perspective on the rights of individuals. Its why to this day, as bad as things sometimes are, people want to come to this country. I'm not a member of the tea party, but I'm guessing there are some people there who have the negative views espoused by esteban as the typical view---I'm doubtful it is the norm. Just like there are those on the left who would prefer a more communist country, I don't think they are the norm. There are people in the democratic party who hate Christians and would prefer to prevent them from free expression, but I don't think they are the norm. Does the occupy wall street movement fully represent everyone on the left, or the 99%, or whoever they represent? What about the allegations of rape against some of the OWS people---are they the norm? If all the tea partiers want to harken back to a day when woman had no rights, how do you explain women who are members of the tea party?

Yet another article aimed at "debunking" Mr. Jefferson. This new book indeed sounds interesting but what should be the takeaway from it. Jefferson was far from a perfect human being in his personal life - well we already knew that. There were other aristocrats during his time who were far more enlightened about slavery. OK but was it not the case that Mr Jefferson was more or less comparable to others of his class in these matters? Not a fine moral example - just a man like his peers.

The truth is that Mr. Jefferson's misdeeds are as common as grass - then as now. Obviously the book was written not just because of his "greed" but because he is so justifiably famous. His words "all men are created equal" have had more positive effects that thousands of moral failings by men of his time. These words have been enlisted in many causes from women's rights to the 1960's civil rights revolution. Focusing on his errors misses the point. It is like visiting the Statue of Liberty and commenting on the trash that litters the area.

It is my belief that the ideas of great thinkers like Jefferson transcend their personal flaws. It is fine to expose their flaws but their far greater contributions must not be forgotten.

@Bob, Thank you for a fair assessment and Amen!

or Mr. Scott, to paraphrase your comment, he was just a conflicted hypocrite

Joe - Yes a conflicted hypocrite indeed. So what? How does that diminish the importance of his ideas?

@Astonished & June Ellis, Sally Hemmings was 7/8ths white and in the Charlottesville census after she was freed (upon Jefferson's death) and living in Charlottesville they listed her as white, as were her children.

There are also accounts that she looked very much like Jefferson's dead wife who made him promise never to re-marry. (She had a step-mother she apparently despised and didn't want her children subject to that.) So, you have a man up on a mountain with a woman who looks very much like the woman he married? I'm not judging. Nor should anyone else. What is done is done.

I just find it very annoying and it impedes upon the facts when the TJF refused to co-operate to collect DNA to either disprove or prove if indeed Hemming's children were fathered by TJ. This could have been verified beyond a doubt but the TJF and family refused graves to be exhumed for DNA.

I personally find Jefferson a very interesting man. I think he did an astounding job in his part of setting up our nation. He had the foresight that with others to ensure our nation operate as it does. No small feat. I do not think the way the University of Virginia has grown would be what he ever had in mind. He was a visionary. But he also was not perfect, no one is.

The great thing about this country, is I can have my beliefs and voice them. Henry Wiencek can write this book. For that we should be thankful to Thomas Jefferson and all the founding fathers.

And just as good that Annette Gordon-Reed can write this review of Henry Wiencek's book:

Those of us who are prone to jumping to conclusions about Jefferson would be well-advised to read Annette Gordon-Smith's thoughtful review in Slate. Her detailed questioning of Wiencek's work proceeds like a cross-examination and loses its force because of its micro analysis that loses track of its meaningful context. I don't believe her argument as overcome the more damning view of Jefferson as a man who died of hypocrisy. I'm inclined to keep in mind that the the damage wrought by Jefferson's ideas and work ultimately led to a horrific civil war that took the lives of over 600,000 of his fellow citizens. He helped craft a design for our country that was fraudulent and could not stand the test of time because it justified the brutal ideology of White supremacy while at the same denying fundamental human rights to the vast majority of humanity. Jefferson made it philosophically comfortable for the slavers of his time to continue to inflict horror and misery upon millions of enslaved men, women and children and so we should not forget how divorced Jefferson's words were from his deeds. To accept the myth of Jefferson as an author of freedom and liberty is a kind of denial and, as Jefferson found out, an insatiable greed that no materialistic or intellectual pursuit could ever satisfy.

Globe - If you will look at the historical record you will see that preservation of slavery was necessary at the time in order to form the new USA at all. In other words, the southern states would not have joined up without this agreement on slavery. Now perhaps you would have chosen to form a new union only from the northern states, which were less friendly to slavery. I am not sure if even the northern states would have assented to a new country if slavery had been outlawed in the 1780s.

Another thing. We rightfully condemn slavery today as an evil and it only persists in a few backwaters now. But your strident condemnation of slavery commits the error of presentism that is discussed in this article. Slavery existed as a matter of course from earliest history up to the 19th century. Does that mean it was right? Well, no, but our appraisal of the morality does not exist in some realm apart from our real world that is changing with time. We can judge people in the year 1800 to be wrong when they supported slavery but that is from our current perspective - most of them at the time were OK with it. I fully expect that in another 100 years the people of 2112 will look back at us with disgust at our beliefs and practices. Rather than chastising our founders for accepting slavery you should credit them with implementing principles that helped later to end slavery. Moral judgments are contingent and dependent on temporal and cultural context.

As far as the horrible civil war you speak of - I pretty much agree with you there. I think that the deaths of 600000 (which would if scaled to the current population amount to many millions) was too great a price to pay. A question - was the impact of the Civil War on the African-American population greater than the impact of the civil rights revolution of the 1960s? I think that the 60s were more important. Consider - after Emancipation black Americans in the South were "free" - but they lived with horrible oppression under Jim Crow for decades. Only ended (for the most part) in the 60s. Yes people went through a huge struggle then and some died but a trivial number compared to the death in the Civil War.

Mr. Scott -- Many apologists for the US share your point of view regarding the philosophical error of "presentism", especially when confronted with declarative statements that indict Jefferson's ethics. The problem is that many of these same apologists also seek to glorify Jefferson through a bit of triumphalistic hoopla, in general, something which the University of Virginia is guilty today. We can't judge the past by today's ethics? But we can certainly profit from having a pliable interpretation of our past misdeeds to suit our image needs. So as not to sully our self or national image, we are asked to give Jefferson a break. We are also told to remain true to the strict interpretation of the US Constitution in its original construction, that is where your argument leads. Of course it is valuable to understand the historic context of a particular event or person's work. But then we are obliged to understand our own historic context and how our circumstances have been influenced by previous eras and take an ethical position about how all of it is related and where it should go. I would rather take my historic cues from others who lived and died at the time of Jefferson, I would even take the silence I hear from the voiceless of Jefferson's time over Jefferson's White supremacist views.

So I guess I am an apologist for Jefferson. Was I guilty of "triumphalistic hoopla," then? I don't think so but it is the reader's call. I made what I considered to be a reasoned defense of Mr. Jefferson. No one seems to want to engage me though on my argument which is that the principles he promoted are far more important than his undoubted failings.

I could be wrong but as I read your comment you seem to be saying that I (and others) are defending Jefferson in order to support our own high moral standing or the high standing of the USA at present and that this is illegitimate. But how can you infer that? You have no evidence of that. Why not just deal with the argument as I have presented it rather than indulging in psychoanalysis?

You say that I favor a strict interpretation of the Constitution? Where have I said that? And how do you infer that from my comments?

Frankly I have a difficult time understanding your comments so maybe you could elaborate a bit.

@Globe. Thanks for the compliment... I guess. Gordon-Reed it is. But I was not engaging in micro-anaysis. Of the three issues I mentioned, two of them were among the items most often discussed in articles-- the "4 percent theorem" and the Kosciusko business. I thought it better to give one example from the book that is not mentioned in the publicity material-- the slave collars. It was important, I thought, to be specific.

To Mr. Scott --Strict constructionists aim to understand the Constitution in its historic context and in a manner true to the intent of its authors. They argue that we ought not impose our present views upon the meaning of the Constitution, a very similar position to those who don't want to judge yesterday's heroes with today's ethics. Not all who defend Jefferson are apologists, however. But many of Jefferson's apologists use the "presentism" argument that you used. To address your point about the good of Jefferson outweighing the bad, there are quite a few countries in the past 250 years that have not in that time span engaged in the enslavement of a large segment of its population, a vicious civil war, colonialist and genocidal practices against indigenous peoples, all the while carrying out these actions licensed by the arrogance of white supremacism wrapped in acoutrements of a democratic republic. The principles that Jefferson offered were stolen and fraudulently applied and the contradictory nature by which they have been coopted and implemented have caused our country to come to rebellion, centuries of virulent racism, incredible disparities in quality of life, wealth, health and power that we have yet to overcome today, but we are trying, with very little help from Mr. Jefferson's University (I should say, against the will of UVA).

OK I now understand your analogy of "presentism" with strict constructionism and you are correct as far as I can see. But so what? I am not interested in arguing the merits or lack thereof of strict constructionism.

You reference my point about the good in Jefferson outweighing the bad and then launch into a screed about the evils of America. But that still misses my point. I wasn't saying that Jefferson's principles are proven to be good as evidenced by how great a country we have. My scope was broader - I think that the beneficial effects of Jefferson's ideas have been evident over time in many places in many contexts, not just in America. You claim Jefferson's principles were "stolen." That's an odd idea. Yes other thinkers like John Locke had similar ideas - and Jefferson certainly acknowledged his debt to these thinkers. Jefferson reformulated these ideas in a concise and cogent way and, more importantly, presented them in the context of our Declaration of Independence which turned out to be of enormous significance in world history.

I fail to understand how you can segue from a discussion of the status of Jefferson to a far broader discussion of how evil the US is as you see it. I get that you see our country is evil but do really think that, if so, the the evil stems from Mr. Jefferson? Or if there had been no Jefferson that the evil would not occur? So where is the connection between the two topics? In any case I am not interested in an argument about America's moral status.

Mr. Scott, Let's say Jefferson invented the polio vaccine by obtaining it as a gift from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Great invention, wonderful and beneficial contribution to the world. He and his peers needed it so it was shared with him but the Indians told Jefferson that he was obliged to share it with all his people and carry on with this kind of generous and tolerant spirit in the future in all essential things because it embodied a sustainable social contract that worked in the Americas. However Jefferson proceeded to freely share it with only White Euro-American men. But in his evil genius he then invented another temporary vaccine that would hold off the symptoms of polio for a given time, as long as the non-White Euro-Americans would work for it or pay most of their disposable income for it, they could eke out a living albeit in a much weaker state as their health and life prospects suffered greatly. The lack of the vaccine left most of the people of the US in a state of bondage. Jefferson called it the Pursuit of Life vaccine. Only White men were guaranteed the right to the vaccine. Even the original providers of the vaccine were deprived of it by Jefferson and his privileged followers and so the majority of the indigenous peoples perished of disease or were massacred in the wars they bravely launched to free the lands that held the vaccine. Eventually, the Jefferson cartel's monopoly on the vaccine led to a brutal civil war that nearly destroyed the US.
If you believe in the universality of human rights and the sacredness of such principles, that they were given by God to everyone, then I hope you would agree that these principles were stolen and misused for the sake of greed and power by Jefferson.

ps. Thank God that Jonas Salk was no Jefferson.

OK I gather that in your polio vaccine story, the vaccine plays the role of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Is that right? So the native Americans here are fill ins for the earlier thinkers like Locke, yes? It seems like you actually do acknowledge that the principles in question are valuable if they are represented by the vaccine? Again do I have this right?

In your story Jefferson withheld the vaccine from everybody except white Caucasians. So in the analogy were the principles withheld? Well the idea was out there already - you can't withhold an idea. But yes in other areas the principle was withheld. For example women were denied the vote until a much later time. And black people were oppressed for a very long time. So in that sense the principle was "withheld" - except I would say "not implemented fully" rather than "withheld." But here's the thing - the principle proved more powerful than the forces that attempted to continue the practices of the past that failed to implement the principles. Because gradually the barriers to equal rights have dissolved. Not completely, true, but to a far greater extent than would have seemed possible in Jefferson's time.

Now was all this due to Jefferson's statement about "all men are created equal?" Of course not. We all know of the long struggles that have been required to achieve even partial success. And many different ideas played a role in these struggles. But I would argue that the ideals put forward by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence have played a major role.

So no I don't agree that the principles were stolen by Jefferson for greed and power. I have already argued against the idea that the ideas were stolen. And how did these principles enrich Jefferson or augment his power? Again we return to the central issue. Even if Jefferson had been a thoroughly despicable human being (as many seem to believe) still the ideas he promoted would retain their luster as a beacon for humanity.

@June Ellis, it is clear that there were mixed race babies born at Monticello during Jefferson's time. If Thomas Jefferson had sex with his slaves or allowed his family members or guests to have sex with his slaves then the words "slut" and "pimp" come to mind. I'm sure he would not have allowed sex with his livestock, but the slaves' being 3/5 of a human made a difference between a slave and a cow.

globe, commenting on subjects that you know nothing about seems to be a passion of yours. (I'm still waiting for you to get back to the Moto Saloon discussion and cite or quote the text of the "music prohibition policy" you have repeatedly referred to there.)

Two questions related to the present discussion first:

Could you please re-write this in English and perhaps expand upon it a little? I'm kind of fascinated by it in a train wreck sort of way.
"The principles that Jefferson offered were stolen and fraudulently applied and the contradictory nature by which they have been coopted and implemented have caused our country to come to rebellion, centuries of virulent racism, incredible disparities in quality of life, wealth, health and power that we have yet to overcome today, but we are trying, with very little help from Mr. Jefferson's University (I should say, against the will of UVA)."

Secondly, your far fetched and loopy parable begins with Mr. Jefferson both inventing and receiving as a gift a cure for polio. The tale ends with you implying that it was instead stolen. Were you attempting to make a point? Was it something having to do with space-time, multiple personalities, or this article and subsequent discussion?

It seems very likely to me that without Jefferson, we would not have America, or that we would have a very different America. I love the America we have, warts on her derriere and all ... those who don't love it are still free to leave. I don't think we have gotten to the bottom of the real Jefferson yet. Evidently Jefferson DID profit from slavery, and from slave-owning; however, it seems pretty clear that he did not profit enough to get himself out of debt before he died. Or did he lose all his money playing cards? Or founding the University of Virginia? And as far as downing colonials for owning slaves, why, you might just as well point the slave-bone at Julius Caesar -- The Emperor Claudius -- and Marcus Aurelius. I am so ignorant that I don't even know: tell me, is it true that in Muslim countries subject to Sharia law, nearly half the human race still lives in conditions that resemble slavery in all but name? I am so ignorant I don't even know the answer to the question: Is it true that the wage-slaves of our lovely American capitalist society are still occasionally machine-gunned, beaten severely, or pistol-whipped by their masters' police forces? ... as happened at Ford's River Rouge Plant in 1932? Or are the masters now so content that all they need to do is pluck the bread from our fingers? ... by paying tax at the special 14% rate that Mitt Romney paid on his $20 million dollar income? Ain't it true, still -- that the Pinkertons and other "detective agencies" were formed primarily to kill off labor activists? So I guess the only real question would be: When, exactly, do you think that stopped?

"...those who don't love it are still free to leave."


@ g luv - the point is that the past can't be undone. If it makes you too uncomfortable, you can either (a) strive to change the future; or (b) live somewhere else. The real travesty these days is not that Jefferson owned slaves, and not that he fathered slave children, and not that he didn't free his slaves -- those items are all in the past and can't be changed -- the real travesty is that it now costs $24 per person to get into Monticello. Pluck the tourists seems to be the rule on that little mountain these days. That will keep all the poor folk off the sacred soil very handily, I guess.

"If it makes you too uncomfortable, you can either (a) strive to change the future; or (b) live somewhere else. The real travesty these days..."

The real travesty these days is that the ignorati are happy to sidetrack a perfectly good discussion with (a) false dichotomies; or (b) by trotting out the old "love it or leave it" chestnut.

There is nothing wrong with analyzing the past. Even over-analyzing it. It's a fascinating subject, and perfectly relevant to how we deal with modern political morality and hypocrisy.

@Christian Gehman , "It seems very likely to me that without Jefferson, we would not have America, or that we would have a very different America" Jefferson got his ideas on government and democracy from some Europeans as did others. He did not frame the Constitution, he wrote the Declaration of Independence which did not define this country. It is really a shame how he has been exalted over all of his contemporaries. Do you love Madison, Monroe, Washington or Alexander Hamilton? Are you saying that recently naturalized citizens should love Jefferson or leave the country?
As for Mitt Romney (for the life of me I don't know what he has to do with any of this) his income was solely due to capital gains which is taxed at a different rate than wage earner's income? Otherwise people who sale their homes will be taxed at a much higher rate. If he elected President, he will once again have a salary and that will be taxed like yours but probably at a higher tax rate. Whatever the case I'm sure he paid more in taxes last year than you did, so what's your beef?

"...nearly half the human race still lives in conditions that resemble slavery in all but n...." What a weird impression of slavery.

Our recent crop of presidents includes child murderers via drone strike. It's better to overlook our living sociopaths that destroy children's lives and concentrate on the dead ones that no one can do anything about, eh?

So you actually believe the Founding Fathers were sociopaths? And why in the world would you imply that President Obama -- if that's whom you meant -- is a child murderer? America took up the war in Afghanistan to deny terrorists like those who attacked America a safe haven. Maybe you approved of bombing the World Trade Center ... or consider that a valid reprisal for .... what, exactly? Maybe you prefer the approach favored by the man known around my house as "That Lying Mattress" -- just send the jobs to Asia. President Bush got Colin Powell to lie about the weapons of mass destruction. Ten years later, here we are .... talking about slavery more than 200 years ago. As if the attitudes of that time are somehow instructive today -- a hundred and fifty years after the great war fought over that question.

I will be ordering this book , looks and sounds GREAT !.

Wow, the hook has got to at least peek into the future, this comment system is like so 1990's

DISQUS would offer more traffic flow .

you are either for war or against it. drones tend to save American lives. even adults were once children. those who protect American interests come from families and those families still believe they have children serving American interests - at war.

either lay down on the grass and die like the terrorists would like; or shut up and let the military and the President decide on what is best for the USA!

BTW - Romney is clueless about the Middle East and the posture a president of the USA must have during turmoil in the ME. Romney scapegoated out of Vietnam (what crap) and he has never fought nor engaged in war. He will fund WAR because that's the republican way. Romney needs to shut up about the actions of our current President's and Syria, and Lebanon and all other middle eastern countries. Until FACTS are presented about certain ambassady(s) -- no one on EARTH wants to suggest terrorism. Romney wants to blister the present President's positions regardless.

I am a republican female and NOT voting for Romney because I was not included in his "binders" but blinders - sick of this mess on wallstreet and the 1% -- it exists.

Further Mitt is UNEMPLOYED because he dodged taxes and can retire on the backs of the rest of us who paid far more as a percentage of our income. This is plane stupid politics at its' best.

And, further, who the heck does Ann (never worked in her life) think she is? The Romneys are backward folk who need to just roll up their red carpets and let Americans who pay taxes (not Cayman Island tax dodgers like the Romneys) have a voice.

American is better than the romneeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzz!

thank you for no response. OUR CHILDREN who are laying their lives on the line deserve much better than pure rhetoric! I have lost TWO (2) nephews due to the Afganistan WAR! I know what I am talking about! Do YOU?!

I am a republican registered woman VOTING FOR OBAMA!

Who are you people that succumb to idiots like the Romney's? I am not one of them; however, I had believed in the republican stance. What a waste!

Great review Lisa. I also enjoyed hearing Hawes Spencer discuss the book with Rick Moore yesterday on WNRN, second half of this show.

I dont hate Mr. Jefferson, I just wish people in this town would talk about the real facts of his existence versus the words he penned

I dont hate Mr. Jefferson, I just wish people in this town would talk about the real facts of his existence versus the words he penned, and the true causes he made during his lifetime, the truth shall set you free

What does Kristin Szakos have to say about tearing down Monticello? She wants to tear down the statues of Lee and Jackson supposedly because they were slaveholders/racists. Jackson had one house slave, Jefferson in his lifetime had over six hundred slaves. Obviously slavery/racism isn't the real reason Szakos calls for the statues to be torn down, while saying nothing about tearing down Monticello. There's something deeper going on in her subconscious that makes her feel a strong resentment towards Jackson and Lee which she doesn't apparently feel towards Jefferson.

@ globe: The polio vaccine ain't all it's cracked up to be.

@mccloskey - writers live mostly in the words they pen. Some write words that endure for centuries and inspire others. Some write comments that self-vaporize in a heartbeat. And by the way, Joe -- aren't all hypocrites, by definition "conflicted" ... ? Focus on this notion, which I think I wrote but which others have expressed better: "Love is a beautiful game that spins/into the world when the day begins." How much you can love seems to me a better measure of any man than his debts or any of his lawful behavior. It seems to me extraordinarily pointless to cry down a man for owning slaves in a slave-owning period. We don't cry down Julius Caesar for owning slaves much, do we? A man's debts are usually very painful toward the end of his life. How long, exactly, did the Jeffersons manage to hang on to Monticello? Some of his descendants still live out in Keswick. Let the past remain the past, I say: and judging the heroes of the past by their own standards seems reasonable enough to me. All history is full of unsavory bits best tossed over your shoulder to the dogs lounging on the hearth. I will just say, I have been a bit surprised by the ferocity of some of the antipathy toward Uncle Tom; many of his descendants today are his sixth-great grandchildren. Some are white. Some are black. I am sure black and white descendants might be happy to compare notes. I don't see any of either stripe on this thread, but I do see a lot of pointlessly contentious opinions that wouldn't even be expressed without the focal point of the great man himself. For, make no mistake, Jefferson was a great man. He was better educated than most of the commenters, and he made a really positive difference in the world. Some of Jefferson's ideas, when carried to their logical conclusions, led straight to the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. Whoever we are, we must make the best of what we started with. If anyone amongst the crowd baying so frantically at old Tom's heels can do better than he did -- I'll applaud you. If not, pipe down would be the best advice I can give you, because "Goggle-eyed eejits all agree, you can't catch a fish if there's one in the sea." I will further opine that it is more than a bit COWARDLY not to sign your name to anything you write. But good luck, fare thee well, get out for a hike if you can still walk. You have a week or ten days maybe left of the peak color season, which of course you can't enjoy because it costs $24 a person to get in. Why they can't extend the "free pass" to all of Region Ten -- in fact to anyone with a Virginia Driver's License ... is more than I can figure out.

And as for me, I applaud not only Lee but all of his Lieutenants. And I would like to point out that, as is the case in New York, most of the northern "free" states have not yet managed to elect a black governor of Doug Wilder's caliber -- or any black governor at all, for that matter. Not that it matters a twopenny farting to me... who gets elected outside Virginia.

Jesus, you all are touchy when it comes to the Holy, Eternal War advocated by both Obama and Romney.

As far as I know, Jefferson, for all of his faults, didn't directly order the murder of children as Obama does and Romney would do were he selected to be Grand Poobah of America, Inc.

I'll do better than he did but first you'll have to give me six hundred slaves to free

I shall meet your six hundred SLAVES and raise you six thousand DRONES -- hah! -- better than any BOARD GAME ! -- say, rather hot in here -- you there, loosen my collar and bring me my dewars, that's a good child --

Hey Jupes, grab me another cider and pass the hemp cigar! Oh, man Jupes, you got it soggy again! What did I tell you about that!

here is a link to a true amazing story about Jeffersons nephew, I found out about this when I purchased the farm next door in Farmville

Please tell me, has anyone yet put together an official or semi-official Slave Trail map for tourists across the South? Strong chance for a best seller on this dark voyage -- I'd be happy to co-write or edit the project. Certain to sell millions of copies ...

@ george jeff -- the holy eternal war you mention is the eternal jihadi war waged by Muslims against all non-Muslims, especially if they are Christians or Jews. The rest of your "facts" are probably equally wrong. Let them give back the churches they stole -- let them give civil rights or any rights at all to women -- then we may talk to them as equals. Not even Turkey, the most enlightened of the Muslim nations, could be approved for membership in European Community, primarily because the Turk's record on what the West now considers the acceptable minimum regarding the civil rights of women and other minorities, as well as freedom of religion generally, is -- still today -- deplorably languishing in a state more like what subjects of the Ottoman despotism of the 15th century enjoyed.