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

Washington’s ultimate success as the American commander in chief, however, never stemmed from his military abilities. He was never a traditional military hero. He had no smashing, stunning victories, and his tactical and strategic maneuvers were never the sort that awed men. Instead, it was his character and political talent and judgement that mattered most. His stoicism, dignity, and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds came to symbolize the entire Revolutionary cause.

Gordon S. Wood
The American Revolution: A History (2002)