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Friday, July 4, 2014

Jefferson's Complexity

[Image from: historyplace]

Despite the fact Thomas Jefferson wrote the American Declaration of Independence, declaring a break from Mother England for the colonies, Jefferson owned slaves.

Despite the fact he owned slaves, he approached abolitionist philosophies throughout his life. On this humanitarian venture, on both a personal level and a governing level, he failed. It is hard determining his mind-set on this movement. He left behind numerous, contradictory statements found in many of his letters, journals, and documents.

One of the few attempts by Jefferson to legally remove slavery from the emerging country can be seen in the composition draft of the Declaration of independence. Not surprisingly, this passage was deleted by the Second Continental Congress.
[King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
(Norton Anthology of American Literature 655)

A digital copy of the surviving "Rough draught," in full, can be read here: www.loc.gov/exhibits.

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