Portraits of C.W. Peale & Family
Monticello was a working plantation, and Jefferson was eager to make it pay. His slaves may have been members of his
family, but they were units of production as well. Everywhere on his plantation he sought to eliminate pockets of idleness. If a slave was too old or too sick to work in the fields, he or she was put to tending the vegetable gardens or to cooking in the quarters. When one of his former head men named Nace became ill, Jefferson ordered that he be
entirely kept from labour until he recovers; nevertheless, Nace was to spend his days indoors shelling corn or making shoes or baskets. Jefferson was willing to prescribe lighter work for women who were pregnant or raising infant children because they were actually breeding more property; thus, said Jefferson,
a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man. This is one of the times, he said, when
providence has made our interest and our duties coincide perfectly.
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)