Requests for Information Related to Thomas Jefferson


> I to, am not after a dispute as such, indeed, it may be the clarification
> of terms that is more at the heart of the matter. But I believe my first
> comment was that principles have to be something lived out, not talked
> out
> to be either valid or meaningful. Words may have some merit in and of
> themselves, but action and deportment will always prove or disprove
> them.

Actually, I can't say that I entirely agree with you.  Principles are a
guide to action and have validity (or not) completely apart from the
person who utters them.  I am not into hero worship in any form, neither
do I believe that we should put our trust in certain principles depending
on the person or the kind of person who uttered them.  We should embrace
or not embrace principles on their merit alone, on how well they conform
to what we believe is right and true.  If we put our faith in man instead
of in truth, we are almost surely to be led astray.  We judge the man by
how well he lives by principles, not the other way around.  Hence,
principles have validity and meaning to me in themselves.  No actions by
any man whatsoever can alter the validity of principles.  I think it is
especially dangerous to denigrate the principles upon which this nation
was founded because of a judgment cast upon some of the persons who were
present at the founding.

> If I follow your logic, what am I to believe? I must believe that the
> government that Jefferson was only a part of establishing was more
> important than its treatment of the individual.

No.  It is that in politics, you are always limited by what is possible.
 As Jefferson said, "Half a loaf is better than no bread."  It is not
that government is more important than its treatment of the individual.
It is that establishing as just a government as circumstances will permit
is more important than doing nothing and living under an unjust

> Its like a man who hates
> liquor and its affects but whose only income is his brewery. He may
> have to
> find other employment if he should act out his principles and as you
> pointed out so well, doing the right thing is never simple.

This is true.  But like it or not, the big issue in 1776 was the
establishment of a free nation, not the elimination of slavery.  The last
might be the big issue to some people today, but it was not at that time.
 And as in everything else, it is a matter of first things first.

> I must come to the conclusion that you believe he did the right thing by
> everybody but his slaves and in so doing becomes an good example to other
> people and Americans in particular. If on the other hand, his actions were
> not a good example for others to follow, how then can his example be
> rightly followed.

I am not looking for a person to follow; I am looking at principles.  If
we follow principles, we will usually, if not always, find that our
vision exceeds what we are actually able to accomplish.  I think it is a
serious error to try to find a *person* to follow and to imitate their
example.  Perhaps Jesus Christ is worthy of such a following, but I know
of no others and think it is dangerous to look for them.

> If you truly believe that our forefathers were against the "abominable
> institution" of slavery, what do you mean by being against it. You say
> that
> by the time he might have freed his slaves it was against the law so being
> a good law abiding citizen, he obeyed the law. I also believe he is
> said to
> be against the "British Rule". Now British rule certainly cannot be
> considered as mean and dispicable as slavery, but even against the
> law, he
> spoke out against this great crime against Americans-British Rule.

British rule was rule by a foreign power in which the colonists were
denied participation.  That fact -- the denial of representation -- was
the principle cause of the American Revolution.  He was *not* denied
participation in the colonist's government of Virginia.  In fact, he was
a representative himself in that government.  You are asking him to stand
in opposition to all lawful government.  You would have him destroy the
whole society because of the existence of injustice in any part of it.
That was not his purpose, nor would it be a reasonable one.  He believed
in the legitimacy of the Virginia government; he did not believe in the
legitimacy of the British rule.  Thus, he felt compelled to submit to the
lawfulness of the Virginia government.

> No, your example is only hiding behind the law when it comes to slavery
> which is the exact opposite if possible of Jefferson's words. It seems
> to
> me that your hero can find many excuses for his abominable acts.

Part of the problem is, I believe you have an exaggerated, unrealistic
view of slavery.  It was a part of the social fabric of the time, and
although many slaves had miserable lives, and many slave-owners were
cruel and inhuman, not all of them were, and I am sure that Thomas
Jefferson was not.  Many if not most of the slaves had a decent life.
They were clothed and fed and cared for, and had some level of security
for their old age.  Many black people living in the inner cities of today
have far more miserable lives than many of the slaves of Jefferson's time
did.  And you can be sure that when Jefferson died, none of them cheered.
 But the very idea of slavery is abominable, certainly to us today.  It
is inconceivable to us today that one person would OWN another person.
But that is a consciousness that has taken 200 years to develop.

It seems like, however, that you could never be satisfied unless
Jefferson would have done what it has taken this country 200 years to do.
 He DID take actions, he DID try to have legislation passed that would be
a step towards eliminating the institution of slavery, he DID speak out
against it.  But people today, with their 20/20 hindsight, give him no
credit for that.  In fact, you yourself belittle all his efforts, even to
the point of calling him "addicted" to slavery.  He should have broken
laws, he should have destroyed the American union, he should have
instantly reformed the whole society -- something that took many years
and a civil war to do, and the job isn't quite finished yet.  But
Jefferson should have done in all in his lifetime, or else he is worthy
only of contempt.  Well, I do not agree with that view.  I think he did
as much as he could, given the circumstances of his time.

> A
> whore is
> involved in an "immoral institution". Why she is involved could vary from
> person to person, but her involvement certainly causes her to be immoral.
> If, in Jefferson's words,"slavery is an abominable institution", then
> certainly the man committed a continuing abomination all his adult life.

> I might add, your logic also suggests that the British had much more cause
> to tax our forefathers than our did our forefathers to hold slaves, but,
> and as you pointed out, leaving the wealth of thirteen colonies is a lot
> more complicated than you think.

The British had no right to tax the colonists without their
representation, and the colonists had no right to own slaves.  Both
situations were corrected after the expenditure of much blood and
treasure.  Rather than condemn the people who fought against BOTH kinds
of injustice because they did not do enough in the opinion of people
living today, I think we ought to honor everyone who in any way
contributed towards ending both.


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