Tag Archives: Emancipation

Can blacks and whites live together peaceably in America?

Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them. It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation and deportation peaceably and in such slow degree as that the evil will wear off insensibly, and their place be pari passu [on equal footing] filled up by free white laborers. If on the contrary it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders who won’t solve problem make matters worse.
While Jefferson believed slaves were destined to be free, they were equally destined not to be free in America. In Notes on Virginia in 1782, he wrote, “Deep-rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained …,” (among other things) would keep the races from living together in harmony. Attempting to do so would create political divisions and “convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.” Jefferson believed a gradual repatriation to Africa was in the best interest of both races.

He was prophetic in writing, “human nature must shudder at the prospect” of failure to do so. A national convulsion did come 40 years later with the Civil War.

The presentation was well done and extremely well-received…
I highly recommend Patrick Lee … “

Executive Director, Township Officials of Illinois
Give your audience something unique and memorable!
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The slaves must be freed, or else!

The principles of the amendment [for emancipation of slaves] however were agreed on, that is to say, the freedom of all born after a certain day, and deportation at a proper age. But it was found that the public mind would not yet bear the proposition, nor will it bear it even at this day. Yet the day is not distant when it must bear and adopt it, or worse will follow. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, all the leading in the world isn’t enough.
Jefferson hoped his late 1770s revisions of the Virginia’s laws would also provide for eventual freedom for slaves, but it was not to be. Not only was public opinion opposed, it was still opposed more than 40 years later when he wrote this.

Unyielding public opinion would have to yield “or worse will follow.” Affirming the certainty “that these people [slaves] are to be free,” Jefferson also affirmed the great universal sentiment of the Declaration of Independence, that all men have the divine right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Public opinion never did yield. In another 40 years, the Civil War was fought to accomplish what he had hoped to do peaceably 80 years before.

The next post will deal with deportation of freed slaves.

“Your appearance as Captain William Clark at our recent convention was a hit!
… interesting, informative, and provided great insight … “
Senior VP, Community Bankers Association of Illinois
Thomas Jefferson yields to Lewis & Clark’s Capt. Clark to inspire your audience!
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Keep nibbling away at evil institutions

The first establishment in Virginia which became permanent was made in 1607. I have found no mention of negroes in the colony until about 1650. The first brought here as slaves were by a Dutch ship; after which the English commenced the trade and continued it until the revolutionary war. That suspended, ipso facto, their further importation for the present, and the business of the war pressing constantly on the legislature, this subject was not acted on finally until the year 78. when I brought in a bill to prevent their further importation. This passed without opposition, and stopped the increase of the evil by importation, leaving to future efforts its final eradication.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Determined leaders remain committed to their causes over time.
In 1769, Jefferson had been on the losing side of a slavery-limiting issue in the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1778, he was the successful author of a bill to prohibit further importation of slaves into the state. He recognized this was not the ultimate goal but rather a step in that direction.

“One of our municipal officials even remarked he liked Thomas Jefferson
better than David Broder,
the Pultizer Prize-winning columnist who spoke the following day.”

Illinois Municipal League
Mr. Jefferson will make a most favorable impression on your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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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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Slavery: I am too old. This requires youth. (Pt. 2 of 3)

[My] sentiments … on the subject of slavery of negroes have long since been … [known], and time has only served to give them stronger root. The love of justice and the love of country plead equally the cause of these people, and it is a moral reproach to us that they should have pleaded it so long in vain …
Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come …
I am sensible of the partialities with which you have looked towards me as the person who should undertake this salutary but arduous work … This enterprise is for the young; for those who can follow it up, and bear it through to its consummation. It shall have all my prayers, & these are the only weapons of an old man …

I hope then, my dear sir, you will … [remain in Virginia and] become the missionary of this doctrine truly Christian … It is an encouraging observation that no good measure was ever proposed, which, if duly pursued, failed to prevail in the end … And you will be supported by the religious precept, “be not weary in well-doing.”
To Edward Coles, August 24, 1814

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Old leaders may defer to young ones to see a matter through to completion.
The first post in this series was Coles’ letter to Jefferson. This is Jefferson’s reply. The final post will be Coles’ follow-up letter.
Jefferson replied promptly to Coles, who urged him to take the lead in the effort to abolish slavery. He honored Cole’s “head and heart,” and joined him in the reproach slavery was to its victims, their owners and the nation. Yet, he declined Cole’s invitation.
Jefferson traced Virginia’s attitude toward slaves.  Every legislative effort toward improving their condition had been ignored, rebuffed or denounced. Over time, the slaves’ “degraded condition” affected whites’ attitude toward them and their own ability to care for themselves. They became “pests in society by their idleness.” He strongly opposed “amalgamation,” sexual contact between the races and the mixed-race children it produced.
By 1814, there was still no popular sentiment for emancipation. Jefferson had suggested freedom and an education for those born after a certain date, and then relocation outside America. That would gradually bring slavery to an end. Until then, it was a slaveowner’s responsibility “to feed and clothe them well, protect them from all ill usage, require such reasonable labor only as is performed voluntarily by freemen.”
He disagreed with Coles’ decision to leave Virginia. He wanted the young man’s anti-slavery passion applied at home. He closed his letter affirming his “great friendship and respect.”

Clearly the visits with President Jefferson and Captain Clark
have set the standard for future conferences.”
Indiana Historical Society, Director of Education

Mr. Jefferson will set a high standard for your audience!
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Slavery: Respectfully, sir, you need to step up. (Pt. 1 of 3)

Dear Sir
I never took up my pen with more hesitation or felt more embarrassment than I now do in addressing you on the subject of this letter. The fear of appearing presumptuous distresses me, and would deter me from venturing thus to call your attention to a subject of such magnitude, and so beset with difficulties, as that of a general emancipation of the Slaves of Virginia, had I not the highest opinion of your goodness and liberality, in not only excusing me for the liberty I take, but in justly appreciating my motives in doing so …
Edward Coles to Thomas Jefferson, July 31, 1814

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Young leaders should challenge old ones to do what’s right.
Something different this week! This post is from a letter TO Jefferson about slavery. The next post will be Jefferson’s reply. The final entry in this series will be this writer’s follow-up.

Edward Coles, 1786-1868, came from a prominent Virginia family. As a very young man, he developed an abhorrence of slavery and a determination to free any slaves who would become his inheritance. He accomplished that in 1819.

In the meantime, he served as private secretary to President Madison from 1810-15, followed by a diplomatic assignment to Russia. Coles then relocated to Illinois, freed his slaves, and was narrowly elected governor of of that state in 1822. He devoted much of his life to the anti-slavery cause.

In this letter, the 29 year-old Coles respectfully but passionately urged former President, now 71, to become a spokesman for that same cause. He cited Jefferson’s wisdom, virtue, authorship of the Declaration of Independence, and status within the country as uniquely qualifying him to lead this effort. Even if Jefferson’s efforts proved unsuccessful during his own lifetime, he would have established a foundation for future generations to build upon.

Coles concluded by affirming his convictions had “forced me to leave my native state, and with it all my relations and friends.” He hoped his drastic action would provide “some excuse for the liberty of this intrusion” (and perhaps a final inducement for Jefferson to join this cause?).

Jefferson declined. That will be the subject of the next post.

“One of our municipal leaders remarked he liked Thomas Jefferson better than David Broder,
the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who spoke the following day.”

Illinois Municipal League, Director of Communications and Education

No Pulitzer Prizes here but a winning presentation awaits your audience.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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