Do you think the negatives of Thomas Jefferson get downplayed here?


I don't live in your area but I do believe Thomas Jefferson's faults get overlooked all across the country, mostly because most people don't really know that much about him. Yes it's true that, even when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, he wrote about the immorality of slavery. But, many people, especially the political right, hold him up as someone who is a paragon of what an American IS. Yes, he was a genius and his ideas were wonderful. But, his personal appetites were excessive. Most people would be shocked to know that, when he died, he was basically bankrupt and that his daughter had to sell off most of his possessions to pay the bills he left behind. Of course, that doesn't make him a BAD person, but in today's world, when money seems to be most important to people, it does make him someone that that today's Political Right might not admire as much.

Well ohh me ohh my. I am glad you have raised an important relevant question. Maybe Sean Gregg will chime in.

so Thomas Jefferson was a man who wasn't perfect? This is news?
His accomplishments outweigh his imperfections and so he is still relevant and revered today.
The Hook will be lucky to be either in a decade

What negatives?

His negatives get overplayed............a scholars's commission has bebunked most of the Hemmings allegations, but most people still accept the allegations as fact. He introduced legislations to eliminate slavery. Of course he was far from perfect............most bigger than life people are total paradoxes.

Jefferson was a man of his times. Those times included Slavery and Revolution. Ironic, ain't it, that our "land of the free" owed a good part of its earliest prosperity to slaves? But is that really more ironic than the way Americans are so fond of using electronic gizmos to chat with each other? -- electronic gizmos manufactured by Chinese slaves? The more things change the more they stay the same. Read Brave African Huntress by Amos Tutuola. Listen to Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson on Pandora. Far from quelling the human soul's thirst for liberty, slavery often makes that thirst more intense. Maybe one day even a Chinese government will see fit to adopt the Bill of Rights? ... as part of its new constitution?

At the time Thomas Jefferson was alive, slavery was LEGAL! Once upon a time, prostitution, non-prescription narcotic drug use and acquisition, child labor, wife-beating, and other activities now considered social sins were LEGAL! Morality was, and is, a matter of convenience in most cases where it was, and is, trumped by economic necessity. These aforementioned conditions have generally been changed and that is why they are considered "HISTORY", and not "Current Events". As an American citizen you are entitled to your biased and uninformed opinion on this and many other topics, but I hope that when the time comes, your "politically correct" self will be voting in another state, because I'm sick of all the revisionists and political whiners who are taking over this area, and the people who apologize for history on one hand but are trying to make a fortune on historical tourism on the other! GO AWAY!

"a scholars's commission has bebunked most of the Hemmings allegations," Documentation? "He introduced legislations to eliminate slavery" Documentation? @Bob, are you making things up?
"...electronic gizmos manufactured by Chinese slaves?" @Christian Gehman, how does Chinese labor compare to American slave labor? Are Chinese children being sold to parts unknown? Are Chinese laborers being beaten to increase productivity? Are you, Christian Gehman, trying to say that the American form of slavery wasn't really that bad?
"Jefferson was a man of his times." There were a whole lot of men in his times that did not own slaves. He had a choice. He could have become a tradesman.

He bought ice cream to america, all else can be forgiven

I think we know far more of his faults in this area than any other. @Cville Eye, no one is condoning anything he did or didn't do. Jefferson was a complicated man in simpler times. None of us are without sin or going with the crowd at one time or another though we probably should have broke away from that.

As for the Hemmings information - Sally was his wife's biological half-sister and apparently looked like his wife from all accounts. There is too much actual information and evidence that leads one to believe that she did indeed have Jefferson's children. And that wasn't an unusual occurrence then. Not that I condone it at all, just stating facts here C'ville Eye.

@C'ville Native, I didn't say anything about Jefferson's children or non-children. I think you may be confusing me with another commenter. I was quoting Bob was was simply asking him to reveal his sources.

nuthin changes but the weather....

So if we buy products of slave labor (as non slave holders did in Jeffersons time) are we culpable? (call someone on your iphone and ask them)

I'm going with Skin's ice cream comment -- ice cream outweighs everything else Jefferson managed to do. Where would America be without the Klondike Bar? George Washington was another great Founding Father who also owned slaves. Jefferson was a great man, and his most-cherished legacy was the University of Virginia. I am hoping to see some of you at the Messiah Sing In at Old Cabell Hall this year. Spitting on boots y'ain't fit to shine often makes people snicker. Wondering about how many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves in a slave-owning era is about as interesting to me as wondering about how many slaves Julius Caesar or Marcus Aurelius owned. Blacks in America were (legally, in many states) second class citizens until Southerner Lyndon B. Johnson got the Civil Rights legislation passed. Eye's points seems to be (a) that the Chinese slaves aren't really slaves, and (b) that all slaveholders among the Founding Fathers of America should properly be consigned to a pit of obloquy so deep we never even think about the good they did in creating America. Perhaps that's true. I am amused by the notion that so many thousands of Charlottesvillains love their iPhones -- which I think are made by slaves. Slavery in China might be hard to quantify, I guess -- and I understand that, in many minds, Chinese slavery really can't be equated or even compared to the enormous human tragedy of African slavery in America. The good news is that we have very few slaves in America today -- just somewhere between a hundred thousand and a million prostitutes (of both sexes) in the flesh industry. Theirs is the real tragedy in America today -- but most Americans, perhaps including Eye, manage to ignore it completely. Some writers have opined that migrant farm workers are actually treated worse than slaves -- even still this year. It's possible to opine with some veracity that all of California agriculture -- the food you eat, in other words -- is picked by human beings treated worse than slaves. For the rest of the day I'll be listening to the music of two slave descendants whose music I find endlessly enjoyable: Teddy Wilson and Oscar Peterson. "I" ... I suggest you do the same.

For a balanced view of Mr. Jefferson, read his blog!
Several times each week, he posts briefly on a variety of topics, from aging to slavery.
Recent posts include:
- Days of wine, and not roses, but war! (And BFF!)
- Why can’t you be like everybody else?
- Did the whale swallow Jonah, or did Jonah swallow the whale?
- Luxury, drinking & whores! Oh my!
- How will we end slavery?

Read the blog at

The Democrats are not so innocent in race realations...

From wikopedia

The use of white primaries were first used by Southern Democratic Parties in the late 19th century. Since the South was virtually a one-party system with Democrats being the dominant party, exclusion from the primaries was a de facto exclusion from the decision-making process. The white primaries were made law in many states in a "selectively inclusive" system that stated that only whites might vote in the primaries—or by legally considering the general election as the only state-held election and giving the party control of the decision-making process within the party.

"The Democrats are not so innocent in race realations..."

Do you really think the people who are willing to find fault with Jefferson give racist Southerners a pass?

@glove and Bill M -- At the end of the Wikipedia article "Lynching in the United States," you can find links to articles about the lynching of many individuals, most of which describe and show pictures of appalling racial violence in the deaths of Will Brown (1919), Cordie Cheek (1933), Joe Coe (1891), Anthony Crawford (1916), Michael Donald (1981), Wesley Everest (1919), Leo Frank (1915), Raymond Gunn (1931), John Wesley Heath (1884), Sam Hose (1899), Ed Johnson (1906), Frank Little (1917), Steve Long (1868), Francis McIntosh (1836), Laura and Lawrence Nelson (1911), Mack, Charles Parker (1959), George Parrott (1881), Ell Persons (1917), Henry Plummer (1864), Robert Prager (1918), Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith (1930), Bill Sketoe (1864), Henry Smith (1893), Hyrum Smith (1844), Joseph Smith (1844), Lamar Smith (1955), Joseph Standing (1879), Emmett Till (1955), Mary Turner (1918), and Jesse Washington (1916). I believe that America's black slaves all lived under conditions of violently repressive domestic terrorism that modern day American find difficult to comprehend; and it is also possible that after the Emancipation, because the former slaves were no longer someone's very valuable property, things probably got worse ... and stayed bad for a long time.

"a scholars's commission has bebunked most of the Hemmings allegations," Documentation? "He introduced legislations to eliminate slavery" Documentation? @Bob, are you making things up?

No, he's not making things up. Thie first link addresses Jefferson and his various pieces of legislation to abolish slavery. The second addresses the Hemmings controversy and the scholar's commission. Next time just Google it for yourself, you might learn something.

Thank you, Pete!

Why do people make things so political? Nobody who owned slaves was innocent. Even our revered Pilgrims and Puritans took Native American females as slaves and sent the men into slavery via Barbados in return to male Africans at first. Once the native Americans were gone, they imported only Africans. Slavery was an abomination. Nobody ... Jefferson, Washington, etc. were innocent of that.

Why do people make things so political? Nobody who owned slaves was innocent. Even our revered Pilgrims and Puritans took Native American females as slaves and sent the men into slavery via Barbados in return to male Africans at first. Once the native Americans were gone, they imported only Africans. Slavery was an abomination. Nobody ... Jefferson, Washington, etc. was innocent of that.

Christian Gehman------ I believe that America's black slaves all lived under conditions of violently repressive domestic terrorism that modern day American find difficult to comprehend

I would say that ALL blacks lived under that duress .even the supoosed "free" blacks in the north.... so when people want to only blame "southerners" you need to realize a few things..

1) Only 5 % of "southerners" owned slaves, many of the rest were dirt farmers or tradesman who wished that they could find a job but the jobs were not there because rich people had slaves to do the work.

2) Notherners treated their help pretty bad and it was no picnic to live in the north since when the work was not there neither was food or shelter.

3) The north controlled the shipping and docks and purchased the products produced from the slouth and made a bundle on it.

There is blood on everyones hands and while you can certainly place the overwhelming portion of the blame on a medium size group of "southerners" northers and southerners were both guilty of being complicit in the crime. Not everyone in the south voted the pro slavery agenda... (there was never a unanamous election) just as not everyone in the north wanted to end it since they were making money on the deal.

Not every priest is a pedophile, not every muslim is a jihadist and not every democrat is mentally challenged.

The point is that America has done more to right the wrong than any other country on the planet. The demograhics and opportunitues prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Jefferson chose to fight the batlles that he could win. He won most of them and we have all benefitted (including blacks) and we are a better country for having had him as part of its founding and infancy.

Waal, Ponce, I don't remember singling out the South, but you may be right. My personal experience has been that white folk in the White Highlands of New York State(from Kingston northwest through the Catskills to -- Clinton? Cooperstown? Rochester) are actually more perniciously prejudiced against blacks than any part of Virginia I have visited. But there are so few blacks in most of that part of the world that they can pat themselves on the back for being open-minded. In general, the politics there are much like the politics in Virginia -- minus a substantial black population. And perhaps HL Gates is right -- much of the prejudice may be economic rather than color- or racially-motivated.

@Ponce - No, you cannot blame ALL southerner's & northerner's! Women could not even vote. Read: "Caste, Class, or Race".

If a married white woman sided with the slaves, they would be thrown out on the streets. Men in America have had far too much economic control for far too long. We need change!

Remember the underground railroad? Suffrage Movement?

I know, you, conveniently forgot.

IMO: White men should pay reparations to blacks and women. Just like those Japanese who were given reparations for their imprisonment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Slavery and suffrage are no different.

I would vote for Obama if he could push through a reparations law!

"IMO: White men should pay reparations to blacks and women. Just like those Japanese who were given reparations for their imprisonment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Slavery and suffrage are no different."

Well, figure out what reparations you think are fair and then deduct every invention that those evil white men have brought into womens lives and we can talk.....

. on your cell phone, computer, land line, you could drive over in your or take a train, bus, or even a plane or a helicopter.... or perhaps you would rather communicate by beating on a hollow log...

Take away every invention made by white men and then we can talk.

It is not evil to have ambition. And we all learn as time goes on..... doctors used to advertise for cigarettes and women helped vote in prohibition.... women smoked and drank during pregnancy. Every race creed and color has their demons. Africans sold the slaves to the muslims to bring to america...

How far back do we go? was adam the first ahole?

@ felix - I think we should compensate all former slaves who are now living.

Let's be sure we don't miss any negativity. Our discourse is needlessly positive.

@Cville can find the report of the Scholar's Commission on Amazon.....Its "The Jefferson Hemmings Controversy--Report of the Scholars Commission" published in April 2001. Interesting that the Hemmings controversy took new life during the Clinton-Lewinsky episode where it seems no coincidence some of the misinformation about the DNA testing was touted to give help legitimize Clinton's behavior.

As far as legislation re slavery, check out Wikipedia.........none of this is a secret.

What is wrong with you guys? It seems to me that this is a symptom of what is wrong with this country right now. The great political divide has run off its platform and seeped into our every day lives. People are extremely rude and nasty and, yes, RACIST as evidenced by bumper stickers on their cars. People have lost whatever human kindness they may have had in the past. We call people with opposing politcal views mentally challenged or senile and deluded. We no longer believe in what is inscribed at the Statue of Liberty ... Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free".

Yes, there is blame to go around concerning Slavery and Bigotry of every kind. We have a past where Slavery was practiced, permitted, condoned and even championed. And, not just in the South, but in the North and as far back as the first person set foot on the North American Continent to take the lands that belonged to our Native Americans and then send them insto slavery ... meaning the Pilgrims and Puritans.

We have become a people whose hallmarks are negativity and cruelty, and YES Racism is still alive and well in this wonderful country full of "idealism". We care more about money than our fellow man. And, the Internet has given us the platform to do it without facing the other guy.

Slavery was diminishing until cotton became the predominating Southern crop (Southern because it won't grow in the Great White North-all puns intended.) Cotton hadn't caught on because of the considerable amount of time it took to remove the seeds from a bale of cotton. Then Eli Whitney (Northerner!) invented the cotton gin which removed the seeds in short order, thus making cotton more easily and rapidly processed, and thus more useful (and profitable!) Demand for cotton rose, in the industrial North and overseas (can you say Tariffs?) therefore demand for cotton pickers rose, since neither Jefferson or Whitney or anyone else, North or South, had invented a machine to pick the cotton. Since knowledge of crop rotation to replenish soil nutrients was not widespread at the time, soil became depleted, cotton would not grow, and more land was needed to grow it. This pushed the Westward expansion and the need for slavery to be allowed in the new territories, many of which had been opened by individuals more geared to self-sufficiency who opposed the introduction of slavery into their region. The resulting conflicts exacerbated the moral vs. economic arguments regarding slavery and increased the polarization of the country, ultimately resulting in the Secession of the Southern States and the invasion of same by the Northern States, at the instigation of the Federal Government led by Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, who, as a political expedient, changed the focus of the war from Reunification (primarily economic) to the Abolition of Slavery (Moral). So it would appear that if Eli Whitney had not invented the cotton gin, or if Jefferson had invented the tractor, or if either ot both had invented a mechanical harvester, slavery would have diminished and eventually disappeared (cheaper to pay a person and let them buy their own food, clothing, and housing-economic again!) and the War Between the States would not have been necessary. Lesson over.

Didn't matter whether slavery was diminishing or not .... it doesn't matter what facts you throw at it ... SLAVERY WAS AND IS WRONG! The ends do not justify the means in this matter. I am a WHITE, CHRISTIAN, NATIVE BORN American. No matter how you slice it, slavery is wrong and any excuses for it just as wrong.

@BooniesMommy-I never said slavery was right. Your color is irrelevant, your holier-than-thou "Christian" fingerpointing at a dead historical figure regarding so-called excesses and bankruptcy is sanctimonous nonsense, and I do not believe anyone in this discussion or anywhere else for that matter really cares where you were born! You are looking at history through 21st-century tinted glasses and pontificating accordingly! Do you buy only USA made products? If not, you are probably supporting sweatshop labor overseas, which is a form of slave labor, in which case you are a total hypocrite. Looks like you have as many flaws as you attribute to Mr. Jefferson

Re: reparations-The Federal government should pay HUGE reparations to the South for the destruction and loss of life caused by their invasion.

Some argue that, to be fair, one needs to evaluate Jefferson as a man of his time. Unfortunately, the damage wrought by Jefferson's ideas and work ultimately led to a horrific war that took the lives of 600,000 of his fellow citizens. For Jefferson wasn't just a man of his time. He helped craft a design for our country that justified the heinous ideology of White supremacy, he made it philosophically comfortable for the slavers of his time to continue to inflict daily misery upon millions of innocent men, women and children. Let's not forget how divorced Jefferson's supposedly sacred words were from humanity and morality. To accept the myth of Jefferson as an author of freedom and liberty is a kind of compartmentalization that ultimately leads to a life of contradiction and, as Jefferson found out, a greed that no materialistic pursuit could ever satisfy.

I followed the links supplied by Carrboro Pete and one is to Monticello (read the comments after the article, hardly an unbiased source) and the commission was sponsored by a group , The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, "An organization dedicated to furthering the honor and integrity of Thomas Jefferson, and to promoting his vision and ideas, and their application in our times and ..." Again, hardly an unbiased group.

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" comes to mind. I'm sure he would allow sex with his livestock. I guess the slaves' being 3/5 of a human made a difference between a slave and a cow. Just sayin', Christian Gehman and Carrboro Pete.

@glube -- I am hardly amazed that you believe Thomas Jefferson caused the Civil War.
How one feels about Jefferson and the other slave owners among the Founding Fathers seems a matter of personal predilection: some posters prefer to focus on the ownership of slaves, others prefer to focus on the real accomplishment of creating America. Tell me, why is there no similar focus on Monroe, Madison and Washington? On Harrison? Shan't they all be tarred with the same brush? But as to solutions: other than condemning the slave-owners among America's Founding Fathers (was this most of the Southern delegates?) to eternal obloquy, what is to be done? Should Monticello allow African Americans free admission in perpetuity with presentation of a proof of slavery? Perhaps hanging an effigy of Thomas Jefferson in a pillory somewhere on the grounds at Monticello or UVA and encouraging for one day a month and encouraging people to sling mud at it would attract the right amount of attention? As for the original question, do the TJ negatives get downplayed here? It seems clear that those negatives do get downplayed here -- by some people. Another solution might be to paint the columns and the dome on the Lawn or Monticello at UVA black for a while, just to call attention to and acknowledge the importance of the ongoing problem. If there is one ... it's not clear to me that most people living today believe there is a problem. It seems to me that it was the principle that "All men are created free and equal" was what, ultimately, caused the Civil War. John Locke espoused that doctrine. As a practical matter, this notion has always been either a laughable sophistry or the most important highest principle of American thought -- which opinion you lean toward indicates your feelings overall about America, or about Thomas Jefferson. I believe Jefferson was a better man despite his faults than most of the commenters in this thread because his contributions to the greater good of all mankind outweighed his flaws and the flaws of his time. Has Monticello got around to having actors pose as slaves on the grounds at Monticello yet? I am not sure it would be a good idea, but possibly we'll see it happen soon, at least for a few days a year. Or what about a Slave Remembrance Day of Barbecue and Fried Chicken Celebration at Monticello and all over Charlottesville annually on Jefferson's birthday by all those wish to participate? With free admission and a government sponsored coupon that could be redeemed at any locally-owned restaurant like the Wayside Takeout? Bring these problems out into the open, air them thoroughly once a year -- and put them to rest where they belong. The South Island in New Zealand may be a better place to live .... although the Nzeds have their own problems with the Maori past .... frankly, I think people even in Charlottesville should bit more concerned about the genocide of all the American Indians, which is still ongoing. Why can't all Virginia's tribes be recognized, at least on the Commonwealth level?

In my last comment I said " I'm sure he would allow sex with his livestock." Change "would" to "would not."