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

The disarrayed condition of the colonies in 1764 — economies and societies in flux with changes wrought by war, governments trying simultaneously to adjust to international peace and cope with the effects of Indian insurrections — helps explain how the colonists reacted to British efforts to reform imperial relations.… But the single most significant factor was the depression that by 1764 had fastened a clammy grip on trade in every colony, and which would not fully release it until the decade had ended.

Fred Anderson
Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2000)