Saturday, July 08, 2006

Thomas Jefferson, the self conflicting man

We watched a Ken Burns’ presentation, part 2 of 2, of Thomas Jefferson yesterday evening . It was very interesting.

I have always admired Thomas Jefferson, his ideology, his amazing wide spread of interests in almost everything, and his tinkering.

But last night I learned he didn’t always practice what he preached. He was a man with conflicting ideas within his own mind… as if his left brain was arguing with his right brain.

He realized slavery was wrong but he worked his slaves hard and never freed one. Economics made it impractical not to use slavery.

He appreciated the native Indian and the natives’ profound values of Nature and life and thought the white man was doing the Indian wrong. But was that before or after he initialized the first “Trail of Tears”?

Thomas Jefferson said he believed in the check and balance system – where Congress watchdogs the executive branch and the judicial section being totally independent of both and so on. The executive branch, should not have absolute power, the way he designed it. Then, he broke all rules and authorized the Louisiana Purchase, which should have only been done with the legislators’ approval, and the price was more than the country had in its treasurer. Of course in time, it was proven it was a good buy.

In today’s times, If Clinton or Bush had made such a bold unauthorized move the opposite party would be raising hell, as they should.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a mile or so from Monticello is the Thomas Jefferson Museum. I asked the lady docent, who was the ideal profile of a DAR, did they have anything about Sally Hemings, Thomas’s alleged slave mistress. She gave me an icy stare and said the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society considered Sally Hemings a “colored slave, just like any other colored slave.” Well, alright then.

I thought I should run out to the van and get that 6-pack of not chilled Cokes and hold it up in front of her and ask her again.



Blogger gerbil said...

I remember talking to some when Clinton relations with Monica were under the microscope. We were talking about the difference that time makes. Jefferson was hated by one section of US society and at the time was as villified as any president since (possible exception being Nixon) yet he firmly stands up there with the greats.

He is proof that often great leaders are at heart real people and have the same flaws etc that we have. Your right he is a very interesting man.

1:12 PM  
Blogger ET said...

It almost seems Thomas was empowered by a higher power to put on paper the right thing - and of course he was still human.
I think back then it was common practice for plantation owners to have a black mistress and the lady of the house would look the other way and pretend the situation didn't exist.

1:50 PM  

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