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 with the British army evacuated [from Philadelphia in 1778] and the Patriots now in charge, Philadelphia Loyalists were doubly vulnerable to censure and punishment for siding with the Crown and for having consorted with the enemy. The Philadelphia Assembly Appointed [Charles Willson] Peale and four others to be Commissioners of Forfeited Estates, and for that the commissioners would receive a 5 percent commission. Peale’s group had extraordinary power to interrogate suspected traitors, break into houses, remove property, and sell off estates. Writs were issued to seize 118 estates ...

Paul Staiti
Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution Through Painter’s Eyes (2016)