Rethinking Thomas Jefferson

Exclusive: Americans are proud that their Declaration of Independence was also a declaration of universal rights. But the hard truth is that, in 1776, the words were mere propaganda cloaking the fact that a third of the signers were slaveholders, including the famous author, Thomas Jefferson, as Robert Parry recalls.

By Robert Parry

Thomas Jefferson is admired for his elegant prose in the Declaration of Independence, but he was a world-class hypocrite. He wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – but he didn’t really believe any of that.

In his thoroughly repugnant book, Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson even engaged in the pseudo-science of measuring the skulls of African-Americans to prove that not all men were created equal. Some of Jefferson’s white supremacy nonsense survives to the present day in the views of unreconstructed segregationists.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States.

Because of his racism – and his undeniable political skills – Jefferson also ranks among the Founders as perhaps the most responsible for putting the United States on course for the Civil War. In the years after the Constitution was ratified, he pushed a highly constrained view of federal power, supporting the interests of white Southern plantation owners who feared that a strong central government would eventually doom slavery.

To promote that position, Jefferson injected a nasty factionalism that demonized George Washington’s Federalist allies, especially Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, in the 1790s. Hamilton, Adams and Washington believed that a vibrant central government was crucial for the nation’s development.

However, Jefferson and other Southern slaveholders saw an effective central government as an existential threat to slavery. Thus, they ramped up their angry insistence of “states’ rights” and concocted an extra-constitutional theory about the power of the states to “nullify” federal law.

Jefferson was the driving force in this movement, creating what became known as the Virginia Dynasty, a string of three consecutive two-term U.S. presidents from Virginia, starting with Jefferson in 1801 and continuing through James Madison and ending with James Monroe in 1825. By then, slavery’s roots had dug down even deeper across the South and spread into new states to the west.

It would take the bloodbath of the Civil War to finally pull slavery out of the soil of the South, but Jefferson’s weed-like political legacy would keep resurfacing, first after Reconstruction with the South’s reassertion of “states’ rights” and white supremacy. The South again would resist federal authority and repress blacks under Jim Crow laws and segregation.

Even today’s anti-government extremism from the likes of the Tea Party and “libertarians” can be traced back to Jefferson, a common thread from the days when Jefferson’s pro-slavery “nullificationists” tied up the pre-Civil War Congress to today’s anti-government extremism that has made Congress again a laughingstock of dysfunction.

Fearing Slave Rebellion

So, as Americans admire Jefferson’s soaring words – first read to the American people on July 4, 1776 – they shouldn’t forget that Jefferson and many of his fellow delegates at the Continental Congress considered their African-American slaves as mere investments, albeit potentially dangerous ones who needed to be kept in line with whips, guns and nooses.

A major impetus toward the Revolution in Virginia came when the tough-minded Royal Governor, the Earl of Dunmore, responded to colonial insults and insubordination in 1775 by threatening to “declare freedom to the slaves.” This perceived British encouragement of slave rebellions scared Virginia’s white aristocracy and created a financial incentive for plantation owners to join the drive toward independence, much as Britain’s blockade of Boston’s port did for the colonial ruling class of Massachusetts.

Some of Jefferson’s modern defenders argue that he shouldn’t be criticized too harshly for his hypocrisy on slavery, saying he should be judged by the standards of his time. But Jefferson – more than most people today – knew the horrors and degradations of slavery. He made that clear in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence when he included a segment blaming the King of England for the slave trade:

“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold.

“He has prostituted his negative [his veto] for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce; and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die. He is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

This section was largely deleted by slaveholding delegates of the Continental Congress – only the phrase “He has excited domestic Insurrections among us” survived – but Jefferson’s attempt to place the blame for slavery on the King, rather than on the colonists who owned slaves, reveals that he was well aware of the evils involved in the slave industry. Ultimately, a third of the signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves, including Jefferson.

Fighting the Federalists

After the Revolutionary War was won, the country floundered under the Articles of Confederation, which declared the states “sovereign” and “independent.” To save the nation’s fragile independence, George Washington and his then-protégé James Madison devised a new Constitution in 1787 that concentrated power in the central government.

However, this major change was fiercely opposed by key Southerners, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry and George Mason, who warned that the federal government would eventually come under the control of the North and would demand the end of slavery – thus intruding on the “rights” of white Virginians to own black slaves. Despite these warnings, the Constitution won ratification, albeit narrowly in Virginia. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Dubious Claim to Madison.”]

During this period of the writing and ratification of the Constitution, Jefferson was outside the country serving as the U.S. representative to France. His input into the debate over the Constitution was limited to several letters to Madison in which Jefferson criticized the dramatic power shift but did not advocate rejection.

When Jefferson returned to the United States in 1789 – and then served as President Washington’s Secretary of State – he grew worried about Virginia’s interests within the new constitutional framework and became harshly critical of Treasury Secretary Hamilton’s ambitious plans for creating a financial system and building the nation.

The charismatic Jefferson also began pulling his Virginia neighbor Madison out of Washington’s orbit and into his own, a shift in allegiance that caught Washington and Hamilton by surprise. Soon, with Jefferson secretly funding newspaper attacks on the Federalists — and them returning the favor — the young United States began descending into the bitter factionalism that Washington had feared.

A gifted wordsmith and impressive intellectual, Jefferson also proved adept at playing these power games as he shaped his small-government political faction into the Democratic-Republican Party. In 1800, from his perch as Vice President, Jefferson succeeded in ousting President John Adams amid such acrimony that it left lasting scars in the two men’s relationship which stretched back to Adams recruiting Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson considered his election in 1800 the “Second American Revolution” in that it pushed back against the strong nationalism of the Federalists and replaced it with a new constitutional interpretation that emphasized “states’ rights.”

Jefferson succeeded in selling his movement as the essence of democracy, relying on industrious small farmers and their common wisdom. But his real political base was the aristocracy of Southern plantation owners. It was their vast investment in slavery that was protected most by Jefferson’s resistance to an activist central government.

Through the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, with the federal government constrained and with Virginians at the helm, the cataclysmic fear of Jefferson’s fellow slaveholders – Patrick Henry and George Mason – could be deferred; a weak federal government would not soon infringe on their “liberty” to own other humans.

The ‘Black Jacobins’

But fear of slave rebellions was never too far beneath the surface of Jefferson’s thinking, coloring his attitudes toward a slave revolt in the French colony of St. Domingue (today’s Haiti). There, African slaves took seriously the Jacobins’ cry of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” After their demands for freedom were rebuffed and the brutal French plantation system continued, violent slave uprisings followed.

Hundreds of white plantation owners were slain as the rebels overran the colony. A self-educated slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture emerged as the revolution’s leader, demonstrating skills on the battlefield and in the complexities of politics.

Despite the atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict, the rebels – known as the “Black Jacobins” – gained the sympathy of the American Federalists. L’Ouverture negotiated friendly relations with the Federalist administration under President John Adams. Alexander Hamilton, a native of the Caribbean himself, helped L’Ouverture draft a constitution.

But events in Paris and Washington soon conspired to undo the promise of Haiti’s emancipation from slavery. Despite the Federalist sympathies, many American slave-owners, including Jefferson, feared that slave uprisings might spread northward. “If something is not done, and soon done,” Jefferson wrote in 1797, “we shall be the murderers of our own children.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the chaos and excesses of the French Revolution led to the ascendance of Napoleon Bonaparte, a brilliant and vain military commander possessed of legendary ambition. As he expanded his power across Europe, Napoleon also dreamed of rebuilding a French empire in the Americas.

In 1801, Jefferson became the third President of the United States – and his interests at least temporarily aligned with Napoleon’s. The French dictator wanted to restore French control of St. Domingue and Jefferson wanted to see the slave rebellion crushed.

President Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison collaborated with Napoleon through secret diplomatic channels. Napoleon asked Jefferson if the United States would help a French army traveling by sea to St. Domingue. Jefferson replied that “nothing will be easier than to furnish your army and fleet with everything and reduce Toussaint [L’Ouverture] to starvation.”

But Napoleon had a secret second phase of his plan that he didn’t share with Jefferson. Once the French army had subdued L’Ouverture and his rebel force, Napoleon intended to advance to the North American mainland, basing a new French empire in New Orleans and settling the vast territory west of the Mississippi River.

Stopping Napoleon

In 1802, the French expeditionary force achieved initial success against the slave army, driving L’Ouverture’s forces back into the mountains. But, as they retreated, the ex-slaves torched the cities and the plantations, destroying the colony’s once-thriving economic infrastructure. L’Ouverture, hoping to bring the war to an end, accepted Napoleon’s promise of a negotiated settlement that would ban future slavery in the country. As part of the agreement, L’Ouverture turned himself in.

But Napoleon broke his word. Jealous and contemptuous of L’Ouverture, who was regarded by some admirers as a general with skills rivaling Napoleon’s, the French dictator had L’Ouverture shipped in chains back to Europe where he was mistreated and died in prison.

Infuriated by the betrayal, L’Ouverture’s young generals resumed the war with a vengeance. In the months that followed, the French army – already decimated by disease – was overwhelmed by a fierce enemy fighting in familiar terrain and determined not to be put back into slavery.

Napoleon sent a second French army, but it too was destroyed. Though the famed general had conquered much of Europe, he lost 24,000 men, including some of his best troops, in St. Domingue before abandoning his campaign. The death toll among the ex-slaves was much higher, but they had prevailed, albeit over a devastated land.

By 1803, a frustrated Napoleon – denied his foothold in the New World – agreed to sell New Orleans and the Louisiana territories to Jefferson, a negotiation handled by Madison that ironically required just the sort of expansive interpretation of federal powers that the Jeffersonians ordinarily disdained.

However, a greater irony was that the Louisiana Purchase, which opened the heart of the present United States to American settlement and is regarded as possibly Jefferson’s greatest achievement as president, had been made possible despite Jefferson’s misguided – and racist – collaboration with Napoleon.

“By their long and bitter struggle for independence, St. Domingue’s blacks were instrumental in allowing the United States to more than double the size of its territory,” wrote Stanford University professor John Chester Miller in his book, The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. But, Miller observed, “the decisive contribution made by the black freedom fighters … went almost unnoticed by the Jeffersonian administration.”

Without L’Ouverture’s leadership, the island nation fell into a downward spiral. In 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the radical slave leader who had replaced L’Ouverture, formally declared the nation’s independence and returned it to its original Indian name, Haiti.

A year later, apparently fearing a return of the French, Dessalines ordered the massacre of the remaining French whites on the island. Jefferson reacted to the bloodshed by imposing a stiff economic embargo on Haiti. In 1806, Dessalines himself was brutally assassinated, touching off a cycle of political violence that would haunt Haiti for the next two centuries.

Hand-Wringing over Slavery

On a personal level, Jefferson might occasionally wring his hands about the evils of slavery and express his earnest wish that something could be done. But he also viewed his slaves as investments. He considered his child-bearing female slaves particularly valuable because they could boost his “capital” via reproduction.

“I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm,” Jefferson remarked. “What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption.”

Though considering blacks inferior to whites and rejecting the possibility that free blacks could live peaceably with whites, Jefferson reputedly bedded one of his teenage slave girls, Sally Hemings.

Jefferson’s many apologists either deny the evidence of this sexual relationship or they insist it was consensual, amounting to something like a historic love story. Some Jefferson apologists also excuse his failure to free his slaves in his will – as George Washington and some other Founders did – because of his financial difficulties. Jefferson only allowed a few slaves from the Hemings family to go free.

Jefferson’s defenders also whitewash much of his political legacy, arguing that “Jeffersonian democracy” was the paragon of liberty, with its supposed reliance on the simple wisdom of hardworking family farmers. But the hypocrisy of “Jeffersonian democracy” was largely the same as the hypocrisy that pervaded the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party was controlled by slave-owning elites, not common farmers and surely not citizens who were serious about setting African-Americans free. Indeed, Jefferson’s political promotion of states’ rights, including “nullification” of federal law, helped set the stage for Southern secession after Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 as an anti-slavery candidate.

Yet, even after the bloody Civil War, many Southern whites continued to embrace Jefferson’s political hostility to a strong central government, leading to the decades of Jim Crow repression of blacks and surviving to the present day with the racism that bubbles just beneath the surface of the Tea Party.

Virginian First

Arguably, Jefferson’s greatest weakness as a national leader – and why modern Americans should view his legacy with particular skepticism – is that he was a Virginian first, an American second. Like many of his contemporaries, he grew up considering Virginia his country, just as many Bostonians saw themselves primarily as citizens of Massachusetts.

Some colonial leaders, especially George Washington, overcame their parochial interests and came to see themselves as Americans first. For Washington and his aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton, that transformation was aided by their involvement in fighting up and down the length of the nation. But Jefferson was not a soldier and spent most of the war in Virginia.

As historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg note in their 2010 book Madison and Jefferson, Jefferson – and his later ally Madison – were, first and foremost, politicians representing the interests of their constituencies in Virginia.

“It is hard for most to think of Madison and Jefferson and admit that they were Virginians first, Americans second,” Burstein and Isenberg note. “But this fact seems beyond dispute. Virginians felt they had to act to protect the interests of the Old Dominion, or else, before long, they would become marginalized by a northern-dominated economy.

“Virginians who thought in terms of the profit to be reaped in land were often reluctant to invest in manufacturing enterprises. The real tragedy is that they chose to speculate in slaves rather than in textile factories and iron works. … And so as Virginians tied their fortunes to the land, they failed to extricate themselves from a way of life that was limited in outlook and produced only resistance to economic development.”

So, while it’s understandable why Americans would celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s famous words in the Declaration of Independence, they should not forget the history. Those noble words about the “self-evident” truths – that “all men are created equal” endowed with “unalienable Rights” – were simply propaganda in 1776. They were given substance only by a long struggle against the political machinations of, among others, their author.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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36 comments on “Rethinking Thomas Jefferson

  1. charles sereno on said:

    Amazing how a “mere journalist” like Parry can put professional historians in a sweat. Well, I fulfilled my patriotic July 4 duty reading this article!

    • Brian Willson on said:

      Jefferson included this telling passage in the Declaration of Independence: “He [the King of Great Britain] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

      Jefferson and the other men of that time who were developing the early US American ideology/theology, had it completely wrong. It was the Europeans who were the “merciless savages”, not the hundreds of nations of Indigenous who already inhabited the lands of the western Hemisphere. In fact, in virtually all of the hundreds US colonial and later US Army military interventions since the 1700s, including Viet Nam where I personally learned of our policies, we have endeavored to impose on the various inhabitants of our extended frontiers a merciless savage rule of warfare of an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    • E.D. Williamson on said:

      This article could have been a bit more complete with at least a mention of the first true slave of the U.S. and his “Virginian” owner.

  2. mtracy9 on said:

    Jefferson also sometimes have his slaves whipped. When runaway Jame Hubbard was captured, Jefferson “had him severely flogged in the presence of his old companions, and committed to jail.” Three other runaways were also whipped and “sent as an example to New Orleans to be sold.” Letters and slave narratives also revealed several cruel overseers on Jefferson’s quarter farms. William Page, overseer of Shadwell and Lego, had inspired “terror” in the slave community.

  3. shill on said:

    Nothing new here. Many of the politically elite, white, male, land owners felt the same about slavery and the perceived differences between the races as Jefferson did. Remember, he was a POLITICIAN, which automatically meant, then as now, that he often SAID one thing, but DID another. There were pro-slavery people in the North, as well as anti-slavery people in the South. Robert E. Lee was reported to be against slavery as was Stonewall Jackson. Abraham Linclon, often given credit for being pro-civil rights for blacks, was in reality no friend to that race either. He emancipated the slaves in the South solely for the purpose of helping to win the War Between the States. In fact, he stated earlier in his career that he did not think that the black and white races could live together and that he felt that the white race should be the superior one between the two. His answer to this perceived problem was to propose that blacks be shipped en masse out of the country and to let them colonize a country of their own. He also said if he could keep the Union together without freeing one slave he would do that, if he could keep the Union together by freeing some slaves and allowing others to remain in bondage, he’d do that, and if he could keep the Union together by freeing all slaves, then he’d do THAT. But slavery, while it had been a hot issue for years, was NOT the CENTRAL reason for the war. The South felt it had the right to secede from rule under a government that they perceived no longer represented their interests, and Lincoln felt they did not have this right. Most other countries that had once had slavery had managed to abolish it without having a war that killed more of its citizens than any war before or since. As with most of the important issues and people in history, the truth is often a lot more comples than what we read in our history textbooks in school. Plus, history books are more often than not written by the winners, not the losers of such conflagrations as the North/South War.

    • charles sereno on said:

      shill, when you say — “Nothing new here.” — people will think you’re saying — “Oh, we all know that.” Like when pundits say — ‘Snowden never told us anything new.” I know that’s not what you meant. This article IS news to the American public.

    • mtracy9 on said:

      Lincoln never enriched himself off of other people’s labor by owning slaves as Jefferson did.

    • Jada Thacker on said:

      Shill,

      Thank you for your reasoned comment. To hold the issue of slavery as the sole, or even prime, cause of the War Between the States (for that is what it actually was)is an absurdity. I believe Voltaire said that those who can make us believe in absurdities can make us commit atrocities. Atrocities were indeed committed, and it does not excuse them to pretend they were were committed in the name of altruism.

  4. Art James on said:

    `
    Brian Wilson?
    You same/same?
    Brian S. lost legs?
    `
    If so` Memory,
    and` Concord
    Weapon` Arm
    Weapon’s ` Kill,
    `’
    Army Depot . . .
    `,
    `
    Charlie Litkey?
    `
    Howdy, Take
    Care. Peace.
    O, wondering.

  5. FreeSociety on said:

    I disagree. What we clearly see is that a “centralized government” is too far away and remote to pay attention to any of the problems of the masses. Instead, a small centralized group can easily be manipulated to serve only the self interests of large Corporations, Big Banks, and in fact International Bankers.

    States Rights were a proper check and a balance against a runaway Federal Power that could be hijacked by a few powerful interests. We clearly have that problem today, so this supports the idea that Jefferson wisely cautioned against centralized government, and for a more distributed system of power.

    Our Country never really won its so-called “Independence” because it adopted the same “Bank of England” (Rothschilds) Private Monopoly by a private group over the entire control of the Nation’s Money. Thus, the National Bank (which was a private, profiteering institution), which Andrew Jackson had shut down, and later the Federal Reserve Monopoly, represent the fundamental problem with concentrated power and concentrated control. With it came the Imperialism and Economic Slavery that our Country had tried to reject when it fought the British Army (instead Britain has been refashioned into our “ally”, and we fight Wars on behalf of European Bankers Imperialist interests).

    Think of what goes on nowadays: Some State legalizes Marijuana or euthanasia (because the public really wants it), and then the FEDS come in anyway and just criminalize and jail people. That ain’t freedom.

    The concept of States Rights was very valid. It is unfortunate that slavery occurred, but this was more than just a States issue regardless — for the Constitution when originally written had never outlawed it.

    So do not blame States Rights. You can’t ever complain to the CIA or the NSA or the Pentagon or the Dept of Justice — and actually ever get real justice, or truth-telling. But you can go down to City Hall or your local Town Hall, and perhaps have some ability to have your voice heard.

    Distribution of power is very important (which means the support of States Rights). For power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If States had even power, maybe then a whistleblower like Edward Snowden could get asylum (free from oppression) somewhere inside the United States. Instead, he is a dead man anywhere inside our borders.

    The public is clearly not served by absolute, centralized power.

    • mtracy9 on said:

      In the South, under Jim Crow, blacks could not get justice with local governments regarding discrimination, and therefore federal troops were required to bring about justice and freedom.

      • FreeSociety on said:

        There is no perfect system, but it is always better to have tyranny optionally exist in a few places than to have tyranny unconditionally exist everywhere around us by Orwellian mandate — which is the situation that we have TODAY (as a consequence of centralized power, and not listening to Thomas Jefferson).

        Some States have been trying to repeal provisions of The Patriot Act. Let’s hope that the States have enough power to succeed here and not be overrun by Totalitarian, Police-State Federal Law.

        And again, the people can never change a big, powerful Orwellian centralized government. Once a government has absolute power: power then does whatever it wants — including torture, shipping jobs overseas, perpetual Warfare, and financial corruption.

        Local distributed government is the only realistic way of having the voices of common folks ever be heard and listened to.

  6. Eric on said:

    “In his thoroughly repugnant book, Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson even engaged in the pseudo-science of measuring the skulls of African-Americans to prove that not all men were created equal.”

    Pseudo-science? What makes it pseudo-science? Brain size correlates with intelligence. And blacks have smaller brains on average. This was all rehashed recently with the exposure of the scientific fraud of Stephen Jay Gould. It is available on the Internet if you use a search engine.

    By the way, blacks still practice slavery in Africa.

    • mtracy9 on said:

      If brain size correlates with intelligence than whales are smarter than humans, since whales’ brains are bigger. By the way, where do blacks still practice slavery in Africa?

      • charles sereno on said:

        Just a minute mtracy9. Blue whales have the BIGGEST brains and they’re obviously Caucasian (they turn blue in cold water; Moby Dick was an exceptional “Ethiopian” with a fair complexion).

      • Eric on said:

        Human brain size correlates with intelligence. This was all rehashed recently with the exposure of the scientific fraud of Stephen Jay Gould. It is available on the Internet if you use a search engine.

        About slavery in Africa, type “slavery in Africa” in a search engine.

        • mtracy9 on said:

          I typed “slavery in Africa” into Google. Up popped the neo-Nazi site Stormfront.

          • Eric on said:

            I got a Wikipedia article with about a zillion links, notes, and references.

        • penguinsonarock on said:

          Eric- You, and people like you are the reason this world is such a shithole. I don’t know where you’re from or what you do, but you’re a sad excuse for a human being. How about Jesus being black. Now go grow up a bit, and not blame everyone else for your sorry life.

  7. Jason Blazevic on said:

    Although I sometimes criticize Parry, I find this article to be excellent. Parry brings out some of the many reasons why Jefferson is referred to as the American Sphinx.

    As for ‘professional historians’ being in a sweat (charles sereno), please consider that not all historians are the same. I try to refrain from painting with a wide brush. For example, painting all Republicans as racists and all Democrats as welfare recipients serves MSNBC and Fox, but ignores the great complexities of humanity.

    • charles sereno on said:

      Jason, I have reconsidered and I have no problem accepting criticism for my “wide brush.” Upon reflection, I doubt any ‘professional historians’ are in a sweat. In my defense, I overstepped because of my disconsolance with the discrepancy of known facts and the predominant received view of historians after more than 200 years. Why did it take so long to determine, e.g., the question of Jefferson’s illegitimate children when it was widely known at the time? Of course, not all historians are the same. In fact they’re a cut above economists. Seriously, I would have rephrased my statement to make it more accurate if I had thought about it more carefully. Careless words just prolong pointless arguments.

      • Kevin Schmidt on said:

        What about careless logic?

        How does your unproven assertion that historians are “a cut above economists” prove that “not all historians are the same”?

  8. gregorylkruse on said:

    I’m not an historian or an economist, but I love history, and I want to know the truth. Parry is a scholar, and I’m learning a lot from him, therefore I give him money. It’s like tuition. No, it is tuition. Part of my recent independent study includes reading “The French Revolution and Napoleon”, by Charles Downer Hazen. It is one of the most interesting confluences of my little intellectual life, the American and French Revolutions, and it all started with Bob Parry and Les Miserables. The Hazen book is available on Kindle for $.99, and I would recommend Victor Hugo’s book too.

  9. HISTORICVS on said:

    Speaking of historic southern hypocrisy, the expansion of policing powers of the federal government is another thing we can thank the slaveholders of the old south for. Their representatives in Congress granted unprecedented enforcement authority to the federal government to reclaim thier “property”, runaway slaves, in the free states, in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. They of course controlled the federal government at the time.

    When several free states passed “personal liberty laws” defying enforcement within their borders of this draconian law, slaveholders howled all the more about the abridgement of their rights. It would seem that the all-important southern “states’ rights” theory was applicable only to these hypocrites themselves.

    The great southern spokesman John Calhoun, in these remarks to a fellow congressman at the start of the 1812 session of Congress, perhapos summed up the southern position best: “I admit your conclusions in respect to us Southrons — that we are essentially aristocratic. I cannot deny but we can and do yield much to democracy; this is our sectional policy. We are from necessity thrown upon and solemnly wedded to that party, however it may occasionally clash with our feelings, for the conservation of our interests. It is through our affiliation with that party in the Middle and Western States we control, under the Constitution, the governing of the United States; but when we cease thus to control this nation through a disjointed Democracy, or any material obstacle in that party which shall tend to throw us out of that rule and control, we shall then resort to the dissolution of the Union.”

  10. Terry Washington on said:

    Yawn- Thomas Jefferson and other “Founding Fathers” owned slaves- bears crap in the woods, Popes tend to be Roman Catholics and several foundinf fathers owned human chattel- go figure!

    Terry

  11. This is an entirely different perspective on the founding era. We should be teaching it our schools. At a minimum, everyone who reads this article should spread the truth it contains as widely as possible. We never will be able to escape the dimly-lit world of conservatism until we shine a light on its foundation, an uneducated view of reality.

  12. From a Canadian perspective, Parry’s analysis and the resulting discussion is simply fascinating. So much of what we in Canada see and hear of the consciousness of the US’s citizens regarding a materialist understanding of their country’s history is filtered through CNN, Fox and mainstream print/online media.

    I urge you all to read Harriet Washington’s “Medical Apartheid”. There you will see that not only was Jefferson a political philosopher/theorist, he was also a scientist. He performed a range of innoculation experiments on his enslaved property that US and the world owes to the lives of these victims of small pox experimentation. So, thanks Mas. Tom, for Jeffersonian democracy, booty calls in the slave barracks and prefiguring the Tuskegee and other post Nuremberg experiments on US citizens and others.

    Happy J4, people. Take back your country the megolmaniac ruling class and make your country and the world a safer place to be.

  13. KrisAnne Hall on said:

    Wow! Talk about historical cherry picking! Alas, this is the tool of revisionist. Where is the real logical analysis of these professed “contradictions” in Jefferson’s personalty. It is because the author’s assertions are not even supported by his facts. Notice there is not one factual display of the accusations against Jefferson. The author makes accusations, claim those accusations are supported by Jefferson’s words and actions, but is unable to provide any proof of such. They claim hypocrisy but cannot display it. If Jefferson was the hypocrit they claim, why can’t the author put Jefferson’s own statements juxtaposing themselves? All the author has are empty accusations placed next to Jefferson’s actual defense of Liberty. There is no evidence to back his empty accusations.
    Talk about hypocrisy, why doesn’t the author do to Lincoln what they fail to do with Jefferson? You can actually place Lincoln’s statements of pro-slavery and anti-slavery juxtaposition eachother. (Check out Lincoln’s fourth debate with Douglas or even his first inaugural address) But he won’t because it doesn’t support tlhis agenda.
    Hamilton and his group were in support of a “healthy” central government. However, a central government supreme over the Sates is NOT a “healthy” central government. Hamilton, as made clear by his own words, would have NEVER supported the power hungry, liberty destroying central government we have today. The people need to stop listening to ignorant revisionists and start reading the words of the framers themselves. A simple reading will quickly showw this article to be misleading at best and most likely completely full of unsubstantiated accusations and flat out lies.
    My only consolation? No one really concerned with truth and historical accuracy is reading this tripe.

  14. Dennis Hand on said:

    Nothing here but cherry pick passages, innuendo and revisionist history. In other words, pure unadulterated BS.

  15. Steve Canon on said:

    I’m sorry, but as a political science major with a minor in history, this article is just hypothetical garbage. Revisionist history at its worst.

  16. Dwaine Taylor on said:

    The kind of revisionist bovine scat in this article brings shame on the 1st Amendment. The author needs a more productive hobby.

  17. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution turned out to create the greatest Nation the world has ever known … regardless of anyone’s individual desire to revise them by a failed debate. There’s an amendment process for that. After-all, we see the third world government these revisionist have charted for us. By their ‘delphi techniques’, they’ve ‘revised’ our Churches, institutions, and scores of uneducated people. Yep, the progressives are speedily racing us ‘back’ to Paganism and Hedonism; and they’ve almost gotten us there. So, forget Thomas Jefferson, and even Adam Smith … just follow the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — That — they got right! Or, feed the Cretins and their cronies. Follow their unsubstantiated arguments …. they will live in the palaces, and have us living in cardboard boxes on the hill … feeding them! That is why they have created ‘strong central governments’, after-all!

  18. anonymous on said:

    Seeing as how the “author” was a former “Bloomberg” editor, it is understandable where his influences and drivel come from as rewriting American history and trashing the reputations of the founding fathers is part and parcel of the Banksters/Zionists game plan.

  19. Tom O'Neill on said:

    This is a very important article–and I hope it has an influence. It comes in the wake of some excellent scholarship on the Hemings family, in the wake of a Smithsonian study on the economic value slaves had for Jefferson, and is current with an excellent article by Paul Krugman about the need to come clean about the role of hypocrisy in the American past. Some say: “Why bother to revisit the issue of Jefferson’s character? The man is dead, and can’t defend himself.” Others say: “It is an anachronism to judge Jefferson by today’s standards. In his day, it was not understood that slavery was wrong.” This latter defense is the worst kind of bilge. It matters that we recognize Jefferson’s slave-holding should not be regarded as a mere blip in the life of an otherwise highly honorable man. Until we do, we are likely to find in his example permission for our own terrible sins against human equality: holding people at Guantanamo on the ground that their arrest was such a travesty of justice that we can never bring them to trial; blowing up weddings with drones; smashing a Muslim nation of twenty-five million fellow mortals; arranging which presidents of other countries can have freedom of the skies and which cannot.