- 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.
The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
Quotes and snippets from Jefferson have been used to suggest that he altered his views on slavery, or that these were inconsistent with each other. He can be quoted to sound like an ardent abolitionist, or to sound like the most oppressive of masters. But everything he wrote on the subject is consistent with the complex treatment he gave to slavery in his Notes [on Virginia]. He always opposed enslavement in general and further slave imports to Virginia in particular. He always supported the freeing of slaves en masse, but always and only in connection with a scheme of deportation ...