Thomas Jefferson is one of the most revered, respected and well-known of America’s fabled Founding Fathers. Not only was he our nation’s third president, but he was also of course the principal scribe behind the Declaration of Independence, an esteemed architect and a generally impressive polyglot, with skills ranging from diplomacy to theology. That’s all great, but T.J. also did a bunch of stuff that makes him seem like kind of a jerk.
In violation of previous treaties (and of basic human rights) Jefferson advocated for and enforced “Indian Removal” policies that ripped thousands and thousands of Image credit: Native Americans
from their homelands and banished them to the west. The Cherokee Nation got hit the hardest, forced to move from Georgia all the west of the Mississippi. T.J. thought Indians should Westernize and Christianize, or get the hell out of their own homeland.
In early 1781, while serving as the wartime Governor of Virginia, Jefferson was confronted with a force of British soldiers advancing toward the capital city of Richmond. Rather than doing anything even remotely heroic, or even simply operating within the bounds of his gubernatorial duties and trying to protect the city, Jefferson fled to his home, Monticello. When Brits plotted to raid and occupy Monticello a few months later
, Jefferson at least displayed consistency by again turning tail and running, this time to another plantation he owned farther west.
When Jefferson used the rhetoric of renowned Enlightenment thinker John Locke in the Image credit: Declaration of Independence
, he changed one key word so as to not make poor people feel entitled to the same things as rich people. Locke’s phrase that Jefferson essentially plagiarized was Image credit: “Life, Liberty, and Estate (aka Property)
.” Jefferson removed that last word and changed it to the ambiguous “Pursuit of Happiness,” so those Colonial types would be willing to fight against their oppressive British overlords and then in victory, not ask “OK, so we just bled and died and all, can we have some equal property now?” Let the debate begin…
Jefferson had a long “affair” outside of marriage. And with whom did President Jefferson choose to conduct these relations? A slave! He fathered at least one child with his Image credit: slave Sally Hemmings
, and may have sired as many as half a dozen kids with her. The two conducted a many years long tryst, and we can only guess that it was Jefferson instigating that whole chapter.
1 Slave owner
Owning slaves? Not cool. And Thomas Jefferson, the man who opined ad nauseam about liberty this and freedom that, owned plenty of slaves
! Yes, he signed into law an 1807 bill banning the “importation” of more slaves and he spoke out against slavery being a permanent facet of American life, but in general it seems he was just kicking the can down the road and perfectly embodying hypocrisy. It’s nice to say slavery is bad and argue for “gradual emancipation,” but if you advocate for emancipation, don’t continue to own hundreds of slaves at the same time.