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
Autumn is never a second Spring…
- “Draining the swamp” actually means crippling the government to the point of ineptitude
- It is a woeful administration that can be mocked and manipulated by the North Korean regime
- This President is well beyond the impeachment standards established by Madison and Hamilton
- Neither political party is able to provide leadership
- Paul Ryan is not even an insect on Henry Clay’s tombstone
- Trump supporters will remain so, until he demands their sons and daughters risk their lives overseas
- Elon Musk is not the new Thomas Edison
- US Grant is an overrated tactician
- William S. Rosecrans is an underrated tactician
- Please finish the Eisenhower Memorial
- Those of us who love history must be vigilant during this chaotic time of revision and destruction
- We must not allow this coddled and entitled generation to rewrite our history
- There is no white supremacy at the University of Virginia
- Confederate monuments in public spaces should be moved to cemeteries and battlefields
- Corporate Charter Schools betray the original intent of the movement
- School choice works
- Historia est Magistra Vitae
To stop desecrating my memory
For too long defenders of Confederate heritage… have associated it with freedom and individual rights for all whites. The specter of the conquering Yankee invading the homeland to oppress the yeoman and steal his acre was the rallying cry. Policy makers in the Confederacy used this propaganda to dupe poor whites to defend the landed gentry- a social order built on the aristocracy of chattel slavery. Jefferson Davis and ilk had no interest in expanding opportunity for the thousands of men who volunteered for this abhorrent cause- they were cannon fodder.
Talk of opportunity and liberty were contrary to the Confederate cause… the slave owning power structure needed poor whites to stay right where they were. The egalitarian dreams of Thomas Jefferson had no place in the CSA- and the leadership expressed it openly- The Declaration of Independence was a threat to the south. Far from a “second American Revolution,” the American Civil War was an authoritarian power grab by an entrenched group of oligarchs.
Confederate propaganda from Georgia said it best…
“Thanks to Mr. Jefferson we have made a mistake … and pushed the love of democracy too far … vulgar democracy and licentious freedom is rapidly supplanting all the principles of constitutional ‘liberty’! When shall the American people perceive that all our difficulties arise from the absurdities of deciding that the ‘pauper’ and the ‘landholder’ are alike competent to manage the affairs of a Country, or alike entitled to vote for those who shall?” Athens Southern Watchman 1857
Jefferson’s feelings on slavery and liberty also alienated our apostle of liberty… from these slave owning aristocrats…
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it …The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and moral undepraved by such circumstances [under slavery]. And with what desecration should the statement be loaded, who permitting one half of the citizens to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots and these into enemies, destroys the morals of one part and the amor patriae of the other.” Notes on the State of Virginia 1782
Jefferson struggled with his love for Maria Cosway…. going as far as to illustrate his emotional agony to her in a letter- the letter detailed the tug-of-war between Jefferson’s head and his aching heart. Jefferson was perfectly content to remain within his head, buried in his books and letters. But, as seen in the previous post, Jefferson was a man who cared and loved deeply. Maria Cosway was a special woman, he knew he would never find another like her:
Head: In fine, my friend, you must mend your manners. This is not a world to live at random in as you do. To avoid these eternal distresses, to which you are for ever exposing us, you must learn to look forward before you take a step which may interest our peace. Everything in this world is matter of calculation. Advance then with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer; but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, and see which preponderates…The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves, and to suffice for our own happiness. Those, which depend on ourselves, are the only pleasures a wise man will count on: for nothing is ours which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures.
Heart: This world abounds indeed with misery: to lighten it’s burthen we must divide it with one another. But let us now try the virtues of your mathematical balance, and as you have put into one scale the burthens of friendship, let me put it’s comforts into the other….In a life where we are perpetually exposed to want and accident, yours is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to retire from all aid, and to wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-sufficiency! For assuredly nobody will care for him who cares for nobody.
Thomas Jefferson was the author of religious freedom in America… as the First Amendment borrows its language from his Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Like all men of the Enlightenment, Jefferson believed it was built upon the individual. The individual was born free to worship, or not, in anyway he saw fit.
“…nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”
Author of Religious Freedom
Jefferson clearly draws the line between the public citizen and his private religious beliefs… the freedom to worship remained a private decision- not to be propagated in the public sphere. Jefferson acknowledged the dangers of a state-sponsored religion, but he also realized that religious zealotry could threaten civil liberties.
He cautioned his friend, James Madison:
“The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error.”
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