Description: Throughout the history of American slavery and abolitionist activities Jefferson was a key figure. Because he so clearly and fervently denounced slavery as inconsistent with natural rights and the ideology of the Revolution, he has been hailed by many as a champion of equality. On the other hand, Jefferson owned many slaves during his lifetime, and he freed only seven, five of these being emancipated through his will. This fact has made him vulnerable to attacks from modern historians. The critics have oversimplified and distorted matters relating to slavery as they applied to Jefferson and his time. Slavery during his lifetime was not the dramatic issue that it has been made out to be. The major passion of Jefferson's generation was the establishment of a sound Union for whites, based on general principles of republicanism. Specifically, for Jefferson, this meant the establishment of a nation for self-governing, self-sufficient white farmers. In his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson declared that "those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God if ever he had a chosen people."2 The Creator had deposited in these people, to a greater extent than in any other group, a large amount of true virtue. Looking back through the ages for evidence of the farmer's virtues, Jefferson concluded that *corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example."3 The "'cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens," he wrote. "They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds."
Date: December 1973
Creator: Beatty, James Paul