Jefferson wrote to John Holmes of the Missouri Compromise- “but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”
Wolf by the ears…
Missouri’s admission to the Union as a slave state… threatened the tenuous balance- 22 states, 11 with slavery, 11 without. Missouri was the first territory carved from the Louisiana Purchase to apply for statehood. Jefferson’s vision of America as a land of small, republican farmers was in danger of devolving further into the plantation gang labor system dominating the tidewater south.
Henry Clay of Kentucky
Henry Clay’s solution to the crisis is often reviled… by historians for perpetuating slavery and providing the United States the opportunity to conquer more land. This New Left interpretation of history overlooks the contributions Clay made to our republic during its formative years. His American System had revitalized the nation following destructive War of 1812. Clay had convinced Madison, the National Bank’s most vocal critic, to recharter it in 1816. He had rewritten the rules of the House of Representatives and established the post of Speaker as the force we know it today. Firebrands bent on defending slavery at all costs- even peace and prosperity for all- could not be allowed to derail Clay’s vision. The Missouri Compromise has to be studied from all points of view.
Clay’s Compromise saved the republic in 1820… arm-chair historians(like Jamelle Bouie @jbouie at Slate) are quick to condemn the Compromise as an extension of slavery- but what if the Civil War had started in 1820? Was there a leader like Lincoln on hand to defend the Union? Would the people of the free states supported action against secessionists? If not for Clay, the slave-holding South would have emerged from this crisis in a stronger political position. The Union may never have recovered and abolition would have been dealt a serious blow.
Edward Coles freed his slaves… and was a neighbor(at one time) of Thomas Jefferson. Paul Finkelman wants to know why Jefferson couldn’t follow the example of this “contemporary.” Professor Finkelman’s analysis suffers a fatal case of contrariwise- Coles was following the examples set by his illustrious neighbor.
Just a kid
Jefferson and Coles were not contemporaries… Jefferson was 43 years older than Coles- an overlooked distinction in Finkelman’s interrogatory. Coles grew up and matured in a Virginia largely crafted by Jefferson. The anti-slavery spirit so many associate with Coles was made possible by the liberal society Jefferson helped reform(we should also note that Coles freed his slaves in Illinois territory, not Virginia.)
You have done well, my son.
Edward Coles was the perfect representation… of the generation Jefferson predicted would have an impact on slavery. Much ink has been spilled about Coles writing Jefferson encouraging emancipation. While Jefferson never emacipated all his slaves- his anti-slavery views and actions have been documented. Coles’ activism was the next step forward in the cause, while Jefferson’s were becoming a footnote. Jefferson said as much in response to one of Coles’ letters:
“The sentiments breathed through the whole do honor to both the head and heart of the writer. Mine on the subject of slavery of negroes have long since been in possession of the public, and time has only served to give them stronger root…. I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast, & had become as it were the vital spirit of every American, that the generous temperament of youth, analogous to the motion of their blood, and above the suggestions of avarice, would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it….Your solitary but welcome voice is the first which has brought this sound to my ear; and I have considered the general silence which prevails on this subject as indicating an apathy unfavorable to every hope. Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come…” Jefferson to Coles; Aug. 25, 1814
Neo-secessionists and revisionists struggle uselessly to blame the Civil War… on Federal overreach, inequitable tariffs, and outmoded economic theory- they fail to see the forest for the trees. The historical record settles matters plainly and without ambiguity.
Future Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens delivered the clearest, most definitive explanation… for secession and the existence of a Confederate State. Less than three weeks following Lincoln’s inauguration, Stephens defiantly declared to the nation:
Cadaver with an agenda
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago.”
Filed under Ephemera, News
Americans, largely through the efforts of a lewd media, used the Fourth of July 2017… to denigrate and trivialize Thomas Jefferson’s memory. Salacious accusations disguised as legitimate archaeology and scholarship dragged the author of our Declaration of Independence down into tabloid scandal-mongering. We have fallen to the point where Jefferson’s name cannot be mentioned without alleged slave mistresses. We forget what he gave us- focusing instead on trifling conjecture. We have forgotten what the Fourth of July truly means….
“I thank heaven that the 4th. of July is over. It is always a day of great fatigue to me”
Jefferson said… “And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and liberties of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. In short, the flames kindled on the 4th. of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism. On the contrary they will consume those engines, and all who work them.”
Remember what Jefferson gave us…….. never forget what he gave mankind.
To stop desecrating my memory