African American History I
10 December 2009
Racial View Of/On Thomas Jefferson
Before Thomas Jefferson was known as the third president of the United States he was elected as the first secretary of state by George Washington. He was the second youngest member delegate in the second continental congress at Philadelphia in which he was selected for drafting the Declaration of independence which is a part of our nation’s constitution to which he acquires a lot of his fame. He was also very well known for the three-fifths comprise which is one of the many analytical highlights discussed in the Negro President by Gary Wills. His personal life also became a scandal and his views on slavery which John C. Miller elaborates on events in his life in the book Wolf By The Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. However his ultimate legacy was the founding of the University of Virginia.
The Negro President was a very interesting book and it had satisfactory information with references to support its findings. Jefferson was a member of the southern aristocracy in which he was standing in the middle of the nation’s major controversy which would eventually astound America to its foundations, that of slavery. The intention Wills carries out in this book is to analyze Jefferson’s role in the ongoing debate concerning it and he was able to become president on the strength of a rule that was seen as a compromise between the north and the south on the subject of slavery, known as the three-fifths rule. In this book the Wills sees Jefferson as a “negro president” because he was the recipient of the discreditable rule, achieving the presidency as a result of its application. By having large numbers of slaves counted as three- fifths of a person this fragment made it possible for Jefferson to attain the presidency. With so many slaves located in the states where Jefferson had potency, the three-fifths compromise provided a missile thrust which made the difference in the election of 1800. The terrible irony is that conjured votes of individuals who were not even considered people in the legal sense, and had no right to vote, made the difference. Slavery sadly ended up serving as a gargantuan bonus, providing an electoral boost.
In the prologue of the book Wills states he disagrees with those who diminish Jefferson’s great achievements the declaration of independence, or those who call him more a friend. He concentrates solely on his role as a protector and extender of the slave system. To highlight that aspect of Jefferson, he reviews the trenchant criticisms of him voiced by one of his most vociferous congressional critics Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts. He goes on to say his purpose of Pickering is he is a useful anti-Jefferson, a mirror image reversal. He focuses on one aspect of Pickering’s career who was a critic not an equal of Jefferson and the issue between them was the slave system Pickering was most credible and Jefferson was least credible. Jefferson felt no choice but to defend the evil, there was no large-scale political career open to southerners who refused to defend it. That is the tragedy of Jefferson and the nation (xiv). We may admit that he was trapped in the system; which is all the more reason for condemning the trap.
In Pickering’s 1783 plan for exchanging slavery which was previously mentioned in which he was least credible against Jefferson he states: “ To suffer the continuance of slaves till they can be gradually emancipated in states already overrun with them may be pardonable because unavoidable without hazarding greater evils; but to introduce them into countries where none now exist – countries which have been talked of, which we have boasted of, as asylums to the oppressed of the earth – can never be forgiven. For God’s sake, then let one more effort be made to prevent so terrible a calamity.” Pickering’s main contention with Jefferson in regards to his working towards the abolishment of slavery was...
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