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Jefferson on Equality

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    Slide 2:Taking Our Heroes/Icons Off the Pedestal

    Possible Flaws 1.) Personal scandal (affairs, plagiarism, corruption) Franklin, FDR, JFK, MLK Jr. 2.) Reprehensible ideas (Wagner, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh) 3.) Backward/outdated ideas (practically every historical figure) although you can always find those ahead of their time

    Slide 3:Off the Pedestal contd

    Whats the impact? ---make us feel better about ourselvesor does it encourage bad behavior? --make their accomplishments even more impressive? ---does it increase cynicism? ---undercut support for the good ideas they represent? When/how to do it? --What age/grade level? ---Build em up, then tear em down? ---Tear em down as you build em up? ---Just build em up?

    Slide 4:Larger QuestionImportance of Myths and Mythmaking in American Political Culture

    Slide 5:Digression #1: Political Science and Political Theory

    If you love Plato, Jefferson, Locke, Tocqueville, Mill, Marx, A. Smith, youll love political theory (Drs. Miller and McKnight) Philosophy and history are OK, too Political theory tends to emphasize normative issues and qualitative methods; political science is more empirical and quantitative

    Slide 6:Political Theory contd

    Writing about The Canon Four views: --Continuing debate about timeless issues --Understanding the influence of historical and social context on canon works --Using canon (which everyones read) to introduce new ideas --Canon is an abitrary construction, too confining

    Slide 7:Background on Notes on Virginia

    I had always made it a practice whenever an opportunity occurred of obtaining any information of our countryto commit it to writing. These memoranda were on loose papers, bundled up without orderI thought this a good occasion to embody their substance, which I did in the order of Marbois queries, so as to answer his wish and arrange them for my own use. -Autobiography, 1821

    Slide 8:Background on Notes on Virginia

    I had received a letter from deMarboisinforming me he had been instructed by his govt. to obtain statistical accounts of the different states of our Union, as might be useful for their information; and addressing to me a number of such queries relative to the state of Virginia.

    Slide 9:Complete Contents of NOV

    Header Front Matter Query 1 "Boundaries of Virginia" An exact description of the limits and boundaries of the state of Virginia. Limits Query 2 "Rivers" A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable? Rivers and Navigation Query 3 "Sea Ports" A notice of the best sea-ports of the state, and how big are the vessels they can receive? Query 4 "Mountains" A notice on its Mountains? Query 5 "Cascades"Its Cascades and Caverns? Query 6 "Productions mineral, vegetable and animal" A notice of the mines and other subterraneous riches; its trees, plants, fruits, &c. Section Minerals Chart "A comparative View of the Quadrupeds of Europe and of America." Query 7 "Climate" A notice of all what can increase the progress of human knowledge? Query 8 "Population" The number of its inhabitants? Query 9 "Military force" The number and condition of the militia and regular troops, and their pay? Military Query 10 "Marine force" The marine? Query 11 "Aborigines" A description of the Indians established in that state? Query 12 "Counties and towns" A notice of the counties, cities, townships, and villages? Query 13 "Constitution" The constitution of the state, and its several charters? Constitution Section Insertion Insertion Section Query 14 "Laws" The administration of justice and description of the laws? Query 15 "Colleges, buildings, and roads" The colleges and public establishments, the roads, buildings, &c.? Query 16 "Proceedings as to Tories" The measures taken with regard of the estates and possessions of the rebels, commonly called Tories? Query 17 "Religion" The different religions received into that state? Query 18 "Manners" The particular customs and manners that may happen to be received in that state? Query 19 "Manufactures" The present state of manufactures, commerce, interior and exterior trade? Query 20 "Subjects of commerce" Query 21 "Weights, Measures and Money" The weights, measures, and the currency of the hard money? Some details relating to the exchange with Europe? Query 22 "Public revenue and expences" The public income and expences? Query 23 "Histories, memorials, and state-papers"

    Slide 10:Proposition #1: Jefferson excluded blacks from the men in all men are created equal

    (The King) has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain.

    Slide 11:Proposition 1: Are blacks not men?

    Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another. --Original draft of Declaration of Independence, omitted by Continental Congress

    Slide 12:Proposition #2: the Declaration was political rhetoric, NOV was an attempt at objective science

    To justify a general conclusion, requires many observations, even where the subject may be submitted to the anatomical knife, to optical glasses, to analysis by fire, or by solvents. How much more then where it is a faculty, not a substance, we are examining; where it eludes the research of all the senses

    Slide 13:Proposition #2: Rhetoric vs. science

    Let me add too, as a circumstance of great tenderness, where our conclusion would degrade a whole race of men, from the rank in the scale of beings which their Creator may perhaps have given them. ---Jefferson, NOV, Query XIV In Notes on Virginia, Jefferson was participating in a cosmopolitan discourse on the nature of man and society. This text represents his attempt to bring the scientific method of his great heroes---Newton, Bacon, and Locke---to bear on the central issues concerning his state and new nation. --Alexander Boulton, The American Paradox: Jeffersonian Equality and Racial Science, American Quartelry, 9/95

    Slide 14:Political Rhetoric vs. Science

    POLITICAL RHETORIC: had to be consensual, stirring to action SCIENCE: clinical, cold-blooded, objective 1.) Need for careful, direct observation, not hearsay 2.) Need to control to control confounding variables What about blacks in Africa? conflict between two scientific principles

    Slide 15:Proposition #3: In the one realm that really countsthe moral sense---Jefferson considered blacks to be equal, and therefore deserving of equal rights

    We find among them numerous instances of the most rigid inegrity, and as many as among their better instructed masters, of benevolence, gratitude, and unshaken fidelity. NOV Whatever (blacks) degree of talent, it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding he was not therefore lord of the person and property of others- Jefferson, letter to Bishop Henri Gregoire

    Slide 16:Proposition #4: Jefferson changed his mind and/or really wasnt all that sure

    Other instances of Jefferson changing his mind Did Jefferson become less idealistic, less progressive? No one wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of the want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence --Jefferson, Letter to Benjamin Banneker, after receiving Bannekers almanac I have a long letter from Bannkeker, which shows him to have a mind of very common stature indeedit was impossible for doubt to have been more tenderly or hesitatingly expressed than that was in the NOV, and nothing was or is farther from my intentions, than to enlist myself as a champion of a fixed opinion, where I myself expressed only a doubt --Jefferson, Letter to Joel Barlo

    Slide 17:Digression #2: Phyllis Wheatley

    Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew, Some view our sable race with scornful eye, "Their colour is a diabolic die." Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

    Slide 18:Digression #3: Ignatius Sancho

    For the GENERAL ADVERTISER. April 29, 1780. -The vast bounties offered for able-bodied men sheweth the zeal and liberality of our wise lawgivers--yet indicateth a scarcity of men. Now, they seem to me to have overlooked one resource (which appears obvious); a resource which would greatly benefit the people at large (by being more usefully employed), and which are happily half-trained already for the service of their country--by being--powder proof--light, active, young fellows:--I dare say you have anticipated my scheme, which is to form ten companies at least, out of the very numerous body of hair-dressers--they are, for the most part, clean, clever, young men--and, as observed above, the utility would be immense:--the ladies, by once more getting the management of their heads into their own hands, might possibly regain their native reason and oeconomy--and the gentlemen might be induced by mere necessity to comb and care for their own heads--those (I mean) who have heads to care for.--If the above scheme should happily take place, among the many advantages too numerous to particularize, which would of course result from it--one not of the least magnitude would be a prodigious saving in the great momentous article of time;--people of the ton of both sexes (to speak within probability) usually losing between two or three hours daily on that important business.--My plan, Mr. Editor, I have the comfort to think, is replete with good--it tends to serve my king and country in the first instance-- and to cleanse, settle, and emancipate from the cruel bondage of French, as well as native frizeurs, the heads of my fellow-subjects. Yours, &c. AFRICANUS

    Slide 19:Proposition #5: Jeffersons anti-Buffon New World-centrism got the better of him

    Slide 20:Proposition #6: Jefferson was caught up in the prevalent struggle (in science, religion, and politics) between order/stability and freedom/revolution

    Slide 21:For more reading:

    Richardson, William D. 1984. Thomas Jefferson & Race: The Declaration and Notes on the State of Virginia Polity (3) 446-466. Yarbrough, Jean. 1991. Race and the Moral Foundation of the American Republic: Another Look at the Declaration and the Notes on Virginia. Journal of Politics, 53 (February): 90-105. Boulton, Alexander. 1995. The American Paradox: Jeffersonian Equality and Racial Science. American Quarterly, 47 (September): 467-491.