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Thomas Jefferson: The Man, The Myth, and The Morality

Uploaded by Admin on Jan 22, 1999

Thomas Jefferson was a man of the greatest moral character who has been excoriated routinely over the last 30 years by historical revisionists and presentists. His commitment to America and his vast contributions to the framing of society as it is today are overlooked in favor of base analysis of his character that, while not flawless, is that of a morally upright person who has deeply held convictions and lives by them. Jefferson was born to a prominent family of Virginia tobacco growers. Plantation life is based largely around the work of slaves, so Jefferson was surrounded by them from the time of his birth in 1743 until the day he died. One of the harshest criticisms of Jefferson comes from the fact that, while he vehemently opposed slavery, was indeed a slave owner himself. As historian Douglas L. Wilson points out in his Atlantic Monthly article "Thomas Jefferson and the Character Issue", the question should be reversed: "...[T]his was of asking the question... is essentially backward, and reflects the pervasive presentism of our time. Consider, for example, how different the question appears when inverted and framed in more historical terms: How did a man who was born into a slave holding society, whose family and admired friends owned slaves, who inherited a fortune that was dependent on slaves and slave labor, decide at an early age that slavery was morally wrong and forcefully declare that it ought to be abolished?" (Wilson 66). Wilson also argues that Jefferson knew that his slaves would be better off working for him than freed in a world where they would be treated with contempt and not given any real freedoms. Another way that Thomas Jefferson shows his moral character is in his most famous achievement, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. This document is probably the most important document in the history of the United States, and one of the most important in the history of the world. Jefferson writes that "all men are created equal" and argues that every man has the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Jefferson's document shows not only his strongly held beliefs in freedom, but his acceptance of and belief in the views of the Age of Reason. He believed himself to be a person who was doing what was morally right, not for the fame that would eventually accompany it. In fact, he didn't want...

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Uploaded by:   Admin

Date:   01/22/1999

Category:   Thomas Jefferson

Length:   3 pages (749 words)

Views:   1791

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