"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. -- Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
"The negroes' own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, [is] as uniformly [manifest] as is the preference of the orangutan for the black women over those of his own species.
"I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind. It is not against experience to suppose, that different species of the same genus, or varieties of the same species, may possess different qualifications. Will not a lover of natural history then, one who views the gradations in all the races of animals with the eye of philosophy, excuse an effort to keep those in the department of man as distinct as nature has formed them? This unfortunate difference of color, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781
I have never held Jefferson in any special regard. He was more of a stylist than a thinker, and a vigorous style can sometimes overshadow deficiencies of the intellect. Here we see a powerful example of Jefferson's disingenuousness. I could have quoted many more: the deleted paragraph from the Declaration of Independence where he blames George III for "forcing slavery" on Americans. Someone must have reminded Jefferson, who never freed his own slaves, that King George had abolished slavery in England in 1772. Or I could have reproduced excerpts from an 1815 letter to his overseer, Jeremiah Goodman, where Jefferson explains at length how slaves should be mated (he had more than casual experience in that department himself). Whatever else the "Sage of Monticello" was, he was the precursor of the "science" of eugenics, which would be brought to its illogical conclusion by another grand theorist in the 20th century.
There is no question that when Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" he meant all white men because he did not consider black men to belong to the human species, or, as he puts it, to "the department of man." To him "blacks were a "different species" or a sub-species "inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind." He even has his doubts that blacks are a race and has the "suspicion" that they are a mutation of a race.
Enslaved blacks, the only ones with whom he had any acquaintance, seemed to him to recognize the superiority of whites over blacks and preferred their company as "the orangutan preferred black women over those of his own species." Well, you won't find those immortal words chiselled in marble over his statue at the Jefferson Monument. You can still find at Monticello, however, the cabinet which Jefferson caused to be built over his bed where he hid his mulatto concubine, Sally Hemmings, the half-sister of his late wife. At age 13 she became the maid of Jefferson's younger daughters (her biological nieces) and Jefferson's bedmate. She bore him five children whom Jefferson freed when they turned 21 (the only ones of his hundreds of slaves that he did free). Of course, he could have sold them down the river, as was the usual practice in his neck of the woods, or even made the girls his mistresses in substitution of their mother. That he did not may have had something to do with the fact that his affaire with Sally was exposed in the newspapers many years before and he wanted to be spared the further shame upon his name of having his own offspring sold at public auction after his death as his other slaves were in the largest such sale in Virginia history up to that time.
What he did with his own children, however, was not otherwise commendable. Although infinitely concerned about the education of his other daughters (he had no sons by his wife), of his nephews and grandchildren, and even of his friends' sons, he did not bother to teach his progeny by Sally Hemmings how to read or write. The last thing that he would have wanted would have been for them to become conspicuous in the world. Yet when they were allowed to leave his plantation three of them moved to other states where they passed as white. But, of course, they could never be whites in their father's eyes. In fact, he scarcely viewed them as human.
So, on this July 4th, when Americans celebrate the universal application of the Declaration of Independence's once meaningless assertion that "All men are created equal," let them remember, also, that Jefferson would not have approved.
Subsequent to the publication of this post, the blog Miami & Beyond was deleted, and with it the exchange between Babalú's Sr. Cohiba and me, which was alluded to in the "Comments" section. Here it is for those who might be interested:
The series was well done and thanks to DVR I was able to watch it. But you really have to read McCullough's book. The book is fantastic and after my reading it, forced me to read more about our founding fathers.
You should read His Majesty George Washington. One of the best Washington bio's out there which shows his real true greatness and shows that even all these centuries later, he was still the Greatest President of the United States. Washington had absolute power as Commander of the Army and he gave it up at the end of the war. After 2 terms as President, he could have had the office for life, but he let it go and set the model.
Washington was the only leader in world history -- the only revolutionary to have absolute power who relinquished it voluntarily. Not the same can be said for Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, Mao, and castro.
I also suggest you read Chernow's Hamilton and Isacson's Franklin.
Apr 23, 2008 6:22:00 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
John Adams and his son were the only U.S. presidents in the first 50 years of the republic not to own slaves. If nothing else could be said on his behalf that alone would have been enough: He was not a hypocrite.
Apr 23, 2008 6:23:00 AM
I'm reading the book now. The series is pretty faithful to the book, which is another plus.
Apr 23, 2008 6:48:00 AM
My only critique was that it condensed too much. I understand they were limited on time and could not make it another 6 hours. But a lot happened in his presidency and his greatest achievement was the mission to France which prevented war even though it cost him the election.
it was glossed over. Most folks who have not read the book would realize the significance of what he did.
Manny, Washington was not a hypocrite. Many of his slaves were dower slaves. He abhored the practice and would have loved to free them but by law at the time, he was prevented. He never seperate families and perhaps another example of his greatness was his will. His will demanded that none of the slaves would be sold or seperated and that upon the death of Martha, all the slaves were freed and given money to be educated. The ones that were too old were to be given money so that they could be taken care of for life.
Washington who was the wealthiest American of his day, loathed privilege and divided his entire estate equally among all his heirs so as to force them to fend for themselves.
Also, both Adams were from the North where slavery had already been abolished. Most of the Presidents we had were all from the South which sadly ran on a slave based economy.
Apr 23, 2008 7:19:00 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
No one was ever prevented from freeing his slaves in colonial times and many did. Washington, of course, owned slaves in his own name. So called "dower slaves" (that is, those inherited by his wife) also belonged to him. In fact, women had no rights either pre-1776 or post 1776. It was Washington, not Martha, who decided the fate of their slaves.
There was a law in Pennsylvania that any slave who remained in the state for longer than 6 months was considered emancipated. While residing in Philadelphia as president, Washington had his slave cook periodically sent back to Virginia in order to circumvent that law.
Why don't you read a book about Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. You know, the father of our country. He freed his slaves immediately upon declaring Cuba's independence from Spain and so did all the other rich landowners who followed him.
Apr 23, 2008 8:37:00 AM
Manny you are incorrect.
GW had no right to free dower slaves until after the death of Martha where he freed all the slaves. Remember in those days property rights were the same feudal rights from Britain.
Remember the time we're talking about ...1799.
Comparing to de Cespedes is a lousy analogy. The republic did not come about until the late 1860's, well after the US Civil War.
It took the deaths of hundreds of thousands of americans to free the slaves here in the US as that odious practice was ingrained in the South. the founders chose to ignore it and leave others to deal with it. Ironically, Britain had allowed slavery by this time.
Apr 23, 2008 10:28:00 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
George predeceased Martha.
Washington certainly had the right to sell the "dower slaves" and did.
Women had no property rights in 1799 that superceded their husbands' rights over them and their property. Yes, it was like feudal times.
Céspedes and the Cuban Founding Fathers understood what their American counterparts never did: that it is incongruous to fight for your freedom while holding other men enslaved.
Apr 23, 2008 11:24:00 AM
Manuel, you don't understand the concept of dower. GW did not have the authority to sell any dower property while Martha was alive. He did not have fee simple title to the property upon marriage to Martha. Under the common law at that time, only upon Martha's death could he have had fee simple title. The dower slaves were the property of Martha's first husband's estate (The Custus Estate).
Here's a copy of the will where again you will see that while it was GW's desire to emancipate them, he was prohibited by law.
Why don't you take a course in property law and then talk to me.
Apr 23, 2008 12:46:00 PM
here's the link
Apr 23, 2008 12:48:00 PM
He's choking on it, Senor. For once I approve of your approach.
Apr 23, 2008 4:31:00 PM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
1). Did George Washington own slaves in his own name?
Yes, of course he did. You do not refute that point which by itself makes my argument.
2). Did Martha's slaves work on George's plantation?
Of course they did, so George profitted by their labor directly no less than Martha did.
3). Could George have freed Martha's slaves?
Of course. He could have requested that it be done upon her death or he could have purchased the slaves outright himself from the entailment and freed them while still alive.
George Washington was the "Father of His Country" and the
master of his slaves.
Shall we have this discussion about Thomas Jefferson? It would prove even more interesting.
Apr 23, 2008 6:18:00 PM
Again, you have no idea what you're talking about Manny. Notwithstanding the fact you have no clue about dower under 18th century english common law, if you would have read any legit bio of GW, you would have learned that GW despised slavery. First, it cost too much money to maintain and because of sick or older slaves, they were not cost efficient. Unlike others, GW refused to split up families. His plantation could have been more profitable if he could have eliminated slave labor altogether.
Again, what he did in his will, showed courage because it was not what one would have expected a Virginian planter to do. He not only willed that all his slaves be freed, but that they educated and taken care of for life.
Jefferson's slave ownership and his not freeing him was a stain on an otherwise brilliant contribution he made to the USA and the world. It's easy for a know it all like you to condemn him from your position in the 21st century.
Abe Lincoln was willing to keep slavery in the then existing southern states if it meant preserving the union. The South started the civil war and even then, the elimination of slavery was not on Lincoln's mind. Again, if you read American History rather than the Marxist revisionist historians that condemn all of the American founding fathers, you'd have learned that it was upon a promise Lincoln made to God re: a military victory that he would free the slaves; which he did with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
I honestly don't understand why you have such a bug up your ass regarding the US Founding Fathers. But we wouldn't have the Constitution but for James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. We would have never made it as a nation if not for George Washington who was the greatest revolutionary in world history.
Last time I checked my history books, it was the Spanish that killed native americans and brought slavery to America and used the inquisition to murder the Jews.
So chill out and read some history from some legit historians.
Apr 23, 2008 7:56:00 PM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
More undigested legal gibberish signifying nothing. The facts are very simple: George Washington was a slaveholder, not merely through his wife but in his own right and name. That is an historical fact which no amount of dissimulation can erase. You ignore it because you cannot deny it. Your only mitigation is that he was a good master to his slaves, and personally, did not like slavery. (Sounds like the argument that Castro's apologists make on his behalf, doesn't it?).
This is like saying that a wife beater loves his wife and is personally opposed to wifebeating, but, nevertheless, practices what in theory he opposes.
Men's actions define them. That their supposed sympathies may be at odds with their actions only makes their actions all the more reprehensible. Knowing the difference between right and wrong is not an excuse for doing the wrong thing.
Slavery was as wrong in the 18th century as it is in the 21st, and there were men then, such as Adams (father and son), who opposed it.
While defending the icons of American history, you have no scrupples whatever about resurrecting the Black Legend to defame your own people.
The Inquisition was not unique to Spain. There was also an English Inquisition, which, incidentally, killed more people than its Spanish counterpart.
The extermination of the indigenous population of the Americas was never Spanish policy. In fact, Spaniards, unlike the English, mixed with the native population to such an extent that in most countries of Latin America they are completely melded.
In the enlightened 19th century -- four centuries removed from the Spanish Conquest -- the U.S. government did make the extermination of the native population its official policy.
But, as far as you are concerned, slavery and genocide are alike excusable if practiced by Americans.
Apr 23, 2008 9:12:00 PM
Manuel, you contradict yourself here:
"Of course. He could have requested that it be done upon her death or he could have purchased the slaves outright himself from the entailment and freed them while still alive."
He died before her, so he could hardly free them after her death. Besides, if he owned them already by marriage as you assert -since Martha could not own property- then it's absurd to purchase them again from himself.
Céspedes had the advantage of almost 100 years of foresight since the American revolution. You conveniently leave off that he was a rich landowner who benefited from slave labor for decades before he freed them in 1868.
More importantly, you forget to mention that Céspedes freed his slaves with the intention of having them join him as his army. It wasn't just from the good of his heart. He understood that in order to muster the necessary men to fight the Spaniards, they needed the slaves from the plantations on their side. A war needs cannon fodder.
Every time you judge historic figures by contemporary standards it's a ridiculous argument. Ever found any laws you don't agree with but have to comply? You always say exiles can't invade Cuba because US law prohibits it. Well, there you go.
Apr 24, 2008 6:05:00 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
It was Sr Cohiba who said that Washington was legally prevented from freeing Martha's slaves in her lifetime. I countered that if that were the case, then he could have purchased them himself from the entailment and freed them, or at least requested in his will that Martha and her heirs do so. He did not not.
But all this is a smokescreen anyway. Even if George were prevented from freeing Martha's slaves he certainly was never prevented from freeing his own.
Why didn't he? From the mammy who weaned him to the slaves who prepared him for burial, George Washington was served by slaves all his life.
He knew that slavery was wrong, as Sr Cohiba asserts; but right or wrong he refused to place his slaves' dignity as men above his own creature comforts.
So what, if according to Sr. Cohiba, he was good to his slaves and provided for their education (health care, maybe?). He was still more a tyrant to them than George III was ever to him.
While a good master is certainly preferable to a bad master, no man would wish to be a slave to either.
As for Céspedes, he understood that he could not be both slavemaster and liberator. He freed his slaves when he declared Cuba's independence but did not compel them to follow him into battle, but most did. That is, perhaps, the greatest testament to him.
Cuban exiles did not make the laws of this country. Its Founding Fathers did. Domestic slavery was sanctioned by the Constitution and Washington himself urged, in his farewell address, neutrality in the face of foreign evil.
Apr 24, 2008 6:56:00 AM
In your comment of 8:37 you said:
"So called "dower slaves" (that is, those inherited by his wife) also belonged to him. In fact, women had no rights either pre-1776 or post 1776. It was Washington, not Martha, who decided the fate of their slaves."
You are asserting that Washington owned all the slaves because Martha could not own property (which is true, Martha's slaves were owned by her male relatives which dowed them to George). Washington couldn't purchase slaves he already owned. Hence your contradiction.
Céspedes was 49 years old when he freed his slaves. He had enjoyed the "creature comforts" and riches slavery afforded him since birth.
Apr 24, 2008 7:07:00 AM
"But all this is a smokescreen anyway. Even if George were prevented from freeing Martha's slaves he certainly was never prevented from freeing his own."
if he had freed his slaves (which he inherited by the way) then he'd have to split up families.
Again Manny, I don't know why you have a bug up your ass about the american founding fathers. I would expect that from a pro marxist revisionist historian, but not from you.
Slavery was the most odious badge in the history of the new world. In the USA and in Latin American and the Caribbean.
You argue out of your bum rather than through historical references. I'm willing to bet the farm Manny that if you had been born in the South in the early 18th century to southern planters you'd have no qualms about owning slaves.
If you read Washington and Jefferson's writings, they loathed the practice. But the economy of the south was so entrenched with Slave Labor that it in a way bound their hands. Looking backwards from the 21st century was can easily say that they should have done the moral thing and freed them. It's easy to look back at time but it's not realistic.
All of the founders new that slavery was going to be the undoing of the nation. They chose to let future generations deal with it rather than kill the compromise regarding the passage of the Constitution.
Not everyone is a saint.
Instead of speaking out of your bum, why don't you read Gordon Wood's Revolutionary Characters and perhaps you may learn something.
Say what you will about the American founding fathers, but we've managed to have free elections for over 200 years and despite civil wars and world wars and 9/11 our constitution still stands. Can't say the same for what's happened in Latin America and in Cuba. But then again, it's the American's fault, right Manny?
Apr 24, 2008 7:51:00 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
Although I did not admit Sr Cohiba's point (i.e. that Washington couldn't free Martha's slaves because they were entailed to her first husband's estate), I did show how Washington could indeed have freed Martha's slaves even if such an entailment had existed (by buying them from the entailed estate and freeing them himself).
The point is that Céspedes did free his slaves on the eve of revolution. Washington did not. Doing so meant ruin for Céspedes and the other planters who followed him. Washington, Jefferson and the rest would do anything for the cause of freedom except impoverish themselves by granting men of a different hue the freedom that they claimed for themselves.
Apr 24, 2008 8:14:00 AM
Manuel A.Tellechea said...
"Bug up your ass" (2X)
"Argue out of your bum"
What is it with you today?
Is it now a requirement upon joining "Babalú's magnificent cadre of writers" to lower yourself to Val's level? If so, you are succeeding even beyond my expectations.
Yes, the U.S. has had a great many free elections over 200 years and some as well that were not so free: "Free elections" without the participation of non-property holders; African-Americans (nominally until 1865); women (until 1920); and American Indians (until 1923). "Free elections" with the suspension of habeas corpus (Lincoln); "free elections" where the candidate who received the most popular votes did not win; "free" elections like those that brought to power Rutherford B. Hayes, John F. Kennedy and, yes, George W. Bush in 2000.
As for U.S. complicity in the destruction of Cuba, I guess that U.S. intervention, The Treaty of Paris (1898), the Platt Amendment and the imposition of Fidel Castro had nothing to do with our current woes?
Cohiba, you are what Martí called a yankófilo, a Cuban who admires excessively the United States and is blind to the virtues of his own countrymen.
A perfect fit for Babalú.
Apr 24, 2008 8:38:00 AM