Friday, August 17, 2012

Question on Jefferson and His Slaves

I sometimes so hyperfocus on the religion issue regarding America's Founders that I miss others. But I won't shooting my mouth off as though I am an expert in those areas only to have someone call out my errors. So someone please correct my understanding if I am wrong. My understanding of Jefferson and freeing his slaves is I think he desired to free his slaves like other founders did, but the problem was his spendthrift nature. He left his estate such debt problems that he ended up not being able to afford to free his slaves.

Is that a fair assessment?


Jim51 said...


My reading of Jefferson is that he did anguish some regarding slavery and he refused to sell family members apart. Yet he did blow enormous sums on fine French wine and furniture, as well as incessant home remodeling, carriages and fine horses. And we haven't even mentioned his library yet.
If a need to post a bond is what kept him from freeing his slaves then I don't think we can completely let him off the hook.
I think the same is true of other Founders as well. For example, Washington did provide for the emancipation of his slaves in his will, but it was contingent upon Martha's death.
So it doesn't seem unfair to me to suggest that some Founders wished to do the right thing regarding slavery but were unwilling to suffer much inconvenience to accomplish it.

Jonathan Rowe said...


Many thanks for this.