The Founders and Slavery

Paul Finkelman paul-finkelman at UTULSA.EDU
Fri Apr 21 18:35:13 PDT 2000


one more for Leslie.  Yes, TJ's bill only had harmful consequences for white women and
black men who had children together.  WHite men (like TJ) were free to have sex with
slaves or free black women.  As for the "alleged" -- even the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Association at Monticello now accepts and acknowledges that TJ fathered children with his
slave Sally Hemings (who was, by the way, also his half-sister-in-law).  The likelihood of
someone other than TJ fathering these children is none to less than none.  What I find
amazing about TJ and his alleged antislavery views is not that he fathered children with
Sally, but that he continued to own his children and treated them like slaves, that he
owned his own half-sister-in-law (the half sister of his late wife -- Sally Hemings was
the daughter of John Wayles and Betty Hemings; Martha Wayles Jefferson was also the
daughter of John Wayles).


--
Paul Finkelman
Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law
University of Tulsa College of Law
3120 East Fourth Place
Tulsa, OK  74104-2499

918-631-3706
Fax  918-631-2194
paul-finkelman at utulsa.edu



Leslie Goldstein wrote:

> did he really state it that way, specifically (if silently) exempting from the
> proposal children of white men and black women?.   If so, Interesting to think about
> what  this might say about his views on women (as in white women slave owners who
> might have sex with slaves, as TJ is alleged to have done).  BTW, to Paul or anyone
> else who has looked closely at the stuff on dna and who visited Monticello when and
> all that, what is the likelihood that TJ rather than one of his male relatives was the
> sex partner of Sally Hemmings?
> still curious,
> Leslie
>
> Paul Finkelman wrote:
>
> > TJ's words are useful to all of us. The problem with Professor West's analysis, I
> > think, is his unwillingness, refusal, inability, to separate the message from the
> > messenger.  TJ's message is useful to us today, having been resurrected by
> > Lincoln.  But we cannot credit Jefferson for what other people did with his words,
> > nor can we impute to Jefferson ideas he opposed, merely  because we have mined his
> > language and applied it to concepts -- like racial equality -- that he worked
> > against all his life.  As chair of the committee to revise VA's laws (after he
> > wrote the DofI) Jefferson proposed outlawing and expelling from the state children
> > of white women and black men (free or slave).  This is hardly an icon we would
> > want, anywhere outside of perhaps Bob Jones University.
> >
> > Paul Finkelman
> > Chapman Distinguished Professor
> > University of Tulsa College of Law
> > 3120 East Fourth Place
> > Tulsa, OK  74104
> >
> > 918-631-3706
> > Fax 918-631-2194
> >
> > E-mail:  paul-finkelman at utulsa.edu
> >
> > Richard Dougherty wrote:
> >
> > > Just a suggestion that saying or writing something, even absent political
> > > activism on it, may itself be an important action.  One might consider, in this
> > > regard, the comments of Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "I Have a Dream" speech
> > > in 1963, addressing the articulation of the principles he held dear, and that
> > > clearly seemed to move him to action:
> > > "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the
> > > Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a
> > > promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a
> > > promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life,
> > > liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
> > > King, like Frederick Douglass, knew the power of Jefferson's words, even if we
> > > think Jefferson himself didn't live up to them.  Douglass came to accept the
> > > view that "the Constitution, construed in the light of well established rules
> > > of legal interpretation, might be made consistent in its details with the noble
> > > purposes avowed in its preamble; and that hereafter we should insist upon the
> > > application of such rules to that instrument, and demand that it be wielded in
> > > behalf of emancipation" (Life and Writings).
> > > King's point, of course, was that by 1963 America still hadn't lived up to the
> > > founding principles, but that was not the fault of the Declaration or
> > > Constitution.
> > >
> > > Richard Dougherty
> > > University of Dallas
> > >
> > > Judith Baer wrote:
> > >
> > > > Tom West writes about
> > > >
> > > > the big things that Jefferson did to
> > > > oppose slavery:
> > > >
> > > > but only #s 3, 4, and 6 on that list that "do" anything at all.  These
> > > > others "say" or "write."  In fact, it's arguable that the proposals J. made
> > > > really weren't action at all.  We all know TJ wrote eloquently against
> > > > slavery--that doesn't establish that he did much to end it.
> > > >
> > > > Judy Baer
> > > > Political Science
> > > > Texas A&M
> >
> > --

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