When researching American history it is sometimes difficult to imagine yourself in another era doing things those of the past have done. What makes reading and writing about history so fascinating is that you must do this. When reading about Thomas Jefferson, one must try to imagine the liberal mind of the Colonial Era. We can all agree, in this day and age, that slavery is wrong. However, even the most open minded people of the Colonial Era, the Civil War era and so on, thought that slavery was a necessary evil. Sure Thomas Jefferson made some attempts to end slavery. Most notably in his Declaration of Independence, he believed that “all men are created equal,” including slaves. However, in order for the Declaration of Independence to be approved and or ratified by all 13 Colonies (actually 12, New York abstained “courteously”. New York, having not received word from their state as to how they should vote, For or against independence, abstained from the vote), they had to remove the slavery clause. South Carolina’s representative John Rutledge was most adamant about the removal of this clause.

Was Thomas Jefferson truly an abolitionist?

He himself would you lead you to believe that he was, however, I’m of the school that believes he talked the talk, but rarely made any attempt to walk the walk. Where else in Jefferson’s life did he make ANY attempt to try and end slavery? His attitude towards slavery was actually hypocritical. He would express his detestation of slavery and was always willing to support any plan to eliminate it. But he did not put forth much effort. It was a lot of wishful thinking.

Thomas Jefferson lived from the labor of slaves. And he lived well. Jefferson was in debt. (perhaps because he didn’t support Alexander Hamilton’s idea for a national bank, but we’ll leave that for another blog.) Jefferson insisted that he would work hard to get himself out of debt, pay off his creditors and then use that to pay his debts of freedom to his own slaves. But, Jefferson never got out of debt, and he never tried very hard to do so. Throughout his life he put emphasis on drinking wine and collecting books, as opposed to getting out of debt to free his slaves. Thomas Jefferson lived very well, but not within his means. Simply go to Monticello to see this.

Additionally, Jefferson, like many liberal thinkers of the time, believed that blacks were racially inferior, and thought it impossible for blacks and whites to live in harmony side by side. Jefferson was also a supporter of extending slavery across the continent to the new lands that he purchased in the Louisiana Purchase. Hardly a man who wants to stop the abomination.

Jefferson was in no way an abolitionist.