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Slavery: Respectfully, no! Proven leaders MUST lead. (Pt. 3 of 3)

… Your prayers I trust will not only be heard with indulgence in Heaven, but with influence on earth. But I cannot agree with you that they are the only weapons of one at your age, nor that the difficult work of cleansing the escutchion [defined area] of Virginia of the foul stain of slavery can best be done by the young. To effect so great and difficult an object great and extensive powers both of mind and influence are required, which can never be possessed in so great a degree by the young as by the old … It was under these impressions that I looked to you, my dear sir, as the first of our aged worthies, to awaken our fellow Citizens … by proposing a system for the gradual emancipation of our Slaves …
Edward Coles to Thomas Jefferson, September 26, 1814

 Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders of conviction won’t take no for an answer.
Coles had petitioned Jefferson to take the lead for emancipation in Virginia. Jefferson declined, claiming it was a battle for the young. The 29 year-old Coles was right back at the 71 year-old Jefferson, claiming just the opposite and explaining why.
Coles was effusive in his respect and appreciation for the elder statesman. Yet, he countered Jefferson’s advice to remain in Virginia, saying he wouldn’t leave to free his slaves in Illinois if he had any hope of securing their freedom in his native state. He had none.
Nor did he think those of his generation would stand against the popular tide in favor of slavery and see it through to emancipation. That task fell to those with proven powers of both mind and influence. Among those, he saw Jefferson as the person to take the lead.

He concluded by again apologizing for troubling Jefferson, thanking him for his kind expressions, and assuring him of his continued “respect and regard.”
But Coles got in a final parting shot, referencing Jefferson’s old friend, “Doctor [Benjamin] Franklin, to whom, by the way, Pennsylvania owes her early riddance of the evils of Slavery, was as actively and as usefully employed on as arduous duties after he had past your age as he had ever been at any period of his life.”

 “… you were just outstanding as Thomas Jefferson …
I have no idea how you pulled if off so well, but you certainly did.”

U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, Substantive Program Chair for the Judicial Conference

Thomas Jefferson stands ready to “pull it off” for your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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3 Responses to Slavery: Respectfully, no! Proven leaders MUST lead. (Pt. 3 of 3)

  1. It took “only” another fifty years to end slavery. It makes you wonder… if Jefferson had taken on this task,and recruited his powerful friends to help lead, might history have been far different for the US.

    • Thomas Jefferson Leadership says:

      Perhaps.
      Jefferson’s anti-slavery views were well known. When it came to major change, he was much more likely to seek a consensus or build a sizable majority before taking action.
      Any abolitionist effort at the time time would have been overtly confrontational. Jefferson hated confrontation.
      In this series of posts, it is obvious that Coles is ready to confront slavery. He is that kind of man. It is just as obvious that Jefferson is encouraging him to do so.
      Note also that none of that generation’s leaders, north or south, and they were great men, were willing to take up the abolitionist cause. Jefferson may have been correct: It just wasn’t the right time yet.

      • I’m not surprised. Major changes, like ending slavery, can take generations to accomplish. You could probably point to a couple of similar major “issues” in the world today. Thanks for keeping Jefferson in front of us today.

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