Jefferson was in most respects a typical slaveholder. Although he always condemned slavery, he did own one of the largest slave populations in Virginia. Upon the division of his father-in-law’s estate in 1774 he became, in fact, the second-largest slaveholder in Albemarle County. Thereafter the number of his slaves remained around two hundred — with increases through births offset by periodic sales to pay off debts. Jefferson was known to be a good master, reluctant to break up families or to sell slaves except for delinquency or at their own request. Nevertheless, between 1784 and 1794 he disposed of 161 people by sale or gift. It is true that Jefferson was averse to separating young children from their parents; but once slave boys or girls reached the age of ten or twelve and their working lives began, they were no longer children in Jefferson’s mind.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat, second President; 1735—1826.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland, senator; 1737—1832.
Lawyer, politician, writer, militia officer, signer of the Declaration of Independence; 1732—1808.
Philadelphia printer, writer, scientist, inventor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat to France; 1706—90.
Washington’s aide-de-camp, lawyer, contributor to the Federalist Papers, Secretary of the Treasury; 1755/1757—1804.
Lawyer, diplomat, Continental congressman, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; 1745—1829.
Constitutionalist, congressman, Secretary of State, fourth President; 1751—1836.
Soldier, lawyer, politician, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; 1755—1835.
Merchant, financier; helped draft then stylized the Constitution; 1752—1816.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, “Financier of the Revolution”; 1734—1806.
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)