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

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:28 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 50.1 
  • Words: 852
  • Essay Grade: 3,00 /5 (1 Graders)
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        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


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