[The Virginia Legislature] … in desiring us to look out for some proper place to which insurgent negroes may be sent … Sierra Leone was fixed on as the place … [for] the blacks then in England were carried thither … mr Thornton, the British Chargé des affaires here, he informs me the establishment is prosperous, and he thinks there will be no objection on the part of the company to recieve blacks from us, not of the character of common felons, but guilty of insurgency only, provided they are sent as free persons, the principles of their institution admitting no slavery among them.
To James Monroe, June 3, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson routinely supported efforts to repatriate former slaves to Africa, South America or the Caribbean. In doing so, they would be freed from future indignities by their former owners and other whites. A benevolent society in England had established such a colony in Sierra Leone, and it was prospering. He hoped to send blacks in America there, too.
An essential requirement for any repatriation would be that they must be sent as free people with no possibility of future slavery. Britain had guaranteed that in Sierra Leone.
Ever the practical man, Jefferson hoped that some trading endeavor might occur with the ships transporting these people across the Atlantic, to defray the cost. If that were allowed and successful, it might also provide the means for black freedmen to relocate voluntarily to a more accepting society.
What constituted “insurgent negroes” is not clear, but they could not have been criminals or those currently bound in slavery.