The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson

  • The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson seems a provocative enough title, but in the October 2012 issue of Smithsonian magazine, Henry Wiencek devastatingly details how Jefferson actually treated his (100 +) slaves at Monticello. Rather than the lenient master often described by historians, Mr. Wiencek (acknowledging that Jefferson liked to avoid conflict) demonstrates that Jefferson employed brutal overseers to maximize his profit. And Jefferson personally involved himself to embark on a comprehensive program to modernize slavery, diversify it and industrialize it.

     

    Mr. Wiencek also takes to task eminent Jefferson scholars — Merrill Peterson, Dumas Malone, Joseph Ellis — for perpetuating the story that Thomas Jefferson was a benign owner of slaves. Too bad for his reputation, but this new view of Jefferson by Mr. Wiencek, as well as by a new generation of historians, is a necessary correction to the record.

JDN | 22-Oct-2012

But what set [Baron von] Steuben apart from his contemporaries was his schooling under Frederick the Great, Prince Henry, and a dozen other general officers. He had learned from the best soldiers in the world how to gather and assess intelligence, how to read and exploit terrain, how to plan marches, camps, battles and entire campaigns. He gleaned more from his seventeen years in the Prussian military than most professional soldiers would in a lifetime. In the Seven Years’ War alone, he built up a record of professional education that none of his future comrades in the Continental Army — Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, the Baron Johann de Kalb, and Lafayette included — could match.

Paul Lockhart
The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army (2008)