Of course it was Lincoln. Jefferson owned slaves but he argued fiercely for abolition. The comfortable shibboleths and easy answers that we all hear so often are wrong to categorize Jefferson so glibly without knowing the man. Was he a slaver or an Abolitionist?
Some people say that’s impossible. That the decision must be either / or but that’s what Jefferson did. He didn’t free the slaves even when he died as some other people did.
Jefferson is judged to have been a hypocrite but that’s a wrong judgment. He was one of the most influential people at the time and even he couldn’t eradicate slavery. The entire Continental Congress that met to try to forge a Constitution to guide the new country couldn’t eliminate slavery, Many knew how wrong it was but they choose to form a country first then deal with slavery after that and they did.
Pennsylvania outlawed slavery one year after The United States Constitution was ratified. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence gave them the moral ammunition to do that. Without Jefferson the revolution would not have happened when it did and slavery would not begin to be eliminated until later, and even that is debatable
Consider that slavery exists today. The criminals who operate the International sex trade make slaves of young women. Many cultures have de-facto slavery. Why aren’t they judged more harshly than Jefferson whose name and reputation is being systematically removed from the American History books and from the story about the beginning of America by the Politically Correct Movement.
What would have happened if Jefferson’s slaves were freed? Chances are they would have been captured or arrested. That would mean killed. Even if they were free, most African Americans during those times would find it almost impossible to support themselves.
Slavery was wrong but far too many people didn’t know that at the time.
In support of Jefferson, there’s plenty of literature that shows Jefferson had no objection if one of the slaves left.
He never chased after a slave who left and several returned after they left. Dinesh D’Souza wrote in his book: “What’s So Great About America”:
“Slavery has existed in all known civilizations. In his study Slavery and Social Death, the West Indian sociologist Orlando Patterson writes, ‘Slavery has existed from the dawn of human history, in the most primitive of human societies and in the most civilized. There is no region on earth that has not at some time harbored the institution.’ A brief survey of the nations of the world confirms this. The Sumerians and Babylonians practiced slavery, as did the ancient Egyptians. The Chinese, the Indians, and the Arabs all had slaves. Slavery was widespread in Greece and Rome, and also in sub-Saharan Africa. American Indians practiced slavery long before Columbus set one foot on this continent.
If slavery is not distinctively Western, what is? The movement to end slavery! Abolition is an exclusively Western institution. The historian J.M. Roberts writes, ‘No civilization once dependent on slavery has ever been able to eradicate it, except the Western.’ Of course, slaves in every society don’t want to be slaves. The history of slavery is full of incidents of runaways, slave revolts, and so on. But typically slaves were captured in warfare, and if they got away they were perfectly happy to take other people as slaves.”
Slavery began to be abolished first in Pennsylvania in 1780. The last country to abolish legal slavery was Mauritania, where it was officially abolished by presidential decree in 1981
But what was slavery like on Monticello where Jefferson had slaves?