The Founders and Slavery
tomwest at ACAD.UDALLAS.EDU
Thu Apr 20 15:53:54 PDT 2000
Michael McConnell asks whether "Jefferson in fact supported
gradual emancipation in Virginia. Apparently the Jefferson
papers contain a proposal for gradual emancipation. Tom seems
to infer from this that Jefferson wrote, and therefore supported,
the bill. Is that a correct inference? (Some items in the Jefferson
papers were written by other people.) Paul states that Jefferson,
as chairman of the relevant committee, prevented the bill from
going to the floor. How do we know that?"
In Papers of TJ, 2:470, "A Bill Concerning Slaves" appears.
According to the editor, "This bill was prepared by TJ; . . . Bill
presented by Madison 31 Oct. 1785, amended by Senate 8 Dec.,
and Senate amdts accepted by House 9 Dec."
The bill as originally written by TJ (this was changed by the VA
legislature) says only those currently slaves and "descendants
of the females of them" would be slaves in the future, and that
free negroes and mulattoes would not be permitted to reside in
VA. The editor remarks that this was "a definite system for
gradual emancipation, the ancitipated decline being brought
about by failure to replenish the stock through importation and
by manumission on the part of individual owners."
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