NOW THAT'S FUNNY
Two new books about Thomas Jefferson and his life are out just in time for Christmas, and once again, they remind us that though Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and declared that all men are “created equal,” he kept slaves and profited mightily from the institution of slavery.
NEWSFLASH: Humans are complicated!
By now most people know that Jefferson not only kept slaves, but had a romantic relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave he owned, and they had several children together. Despite this, he did not free her in his will.
BREAKING NEWS: Life is full of contradictions!
In the New York Times, Paul Finkelman, a professor and author of “Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson,” writes that Jefferson was not just “complicated,” he was thoroughly racist and hostile to all blacks, whether free or slaves. His article offers up lots of interesting facts, including the fact that Jefferson could be a cruel master who would sell slaves away from their families as punishment, and that Jefferson believed that blacks were inherently inferior to whites.
HEADLINE: Men of great accomplishment are sometimes jerks!
We are fascinated and offended by the ugly side of Thomas Jefferson because, even today, the words he wrote that began our country rings deeply in our hearts as true and beaming, and as Americans we strive to live by and for the sentiments he expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Hence, it is natural to try to rationalize his behavior.
TONIGHT AT 11: People make excuses for their heroes!
But he stayed a fervent slavery supporter up until his death. There is no way to rationalize that. Thomas Jefferson was also a huge spendthrift, and was constantly going into debt to buy beautiful things from Europe for his plantation, Monticello. It was worth it, I guess, because Monticello is a masterful beauty of a house that welcomes half a million visitors a year. His tarnished reputation doesn’t hurt his popularity. Maybe it enhances it.