In July 1802, a Federalist weekly called the Port Folio published a poem that it put into the mouth of a fictional Jefferson slave named Quashee:
Our massa Jeffeson he say,
Dat all mans free alike are born:
Den tell me, why should Quashee stay,
To tend de cow and hoe de corn?
Huzza for massa Jeffeson
And why should one hab de white wife,
And me hab only Quangeroo?
Me no see reason for me life!
No. Quashee hab de white wife too.
Huzza for massa Jeffeson.
And does Prof. Finkelman think there is even a hint of originality in accusing Jefferson of hypocrisy? Jefferson’s enemies were pointing out the silliness of “all men are created equal” before the Hemings rumor even started. Jefferson didn”t believe all men were created equal any more than Prof. Finkelman does, and to handcuff Jefferson to those five words is profoundly stupid. The Declaration of Independence explains to George III why the colonists wanted out. It starts with rhetorical throat-clearing in which the signers say they are the King’s equals and have the right to leave. When the founders got around to writing the rules for actually running their new country”either in the Articles or the Constitution”they didn”t put in any gauzy bunk about equality.
Prof. Finkelman is shocked”shocked“that Jefferson thought blacks were dimmer than whites, but Jefferson was right. Anyone not blinkered by fashionable egalitarian bunk knows he was right. Prof. Finkelman is just as shocked to find out that Jefferson was worried that free blacks could become “pests in society,” but old Tom was on to something there, too. If Prof. Finkelman disagrees, he can tell us whether there is a single Martin Luther King Boulevard he”d like to go strolling on after sundown.
Prof. Finkelman makes it sound as though Jefferson loved slavery and wanted it to go on forever. Jefferson disliked slavery but disliked free Negroes even more. He wanted to emancipate the slaves and deport them “beyond the reach of mixture.”
The title of Prof. Finkleman’s Times article is “The Monster of Monticello.” It must take a lot of courage to spit on Jefferson because he owned slaves, and the professor better be ready to do a lot of spitting: Nine of the first 11 presidents owned slaves, and James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas, William Seward, Francis Scott Key, Winfield Scott, John Marshall, Roger Taney, James Monroe, Henry Clay, and Abraham Lincoln all wanted to send blacks out of the country.
People who actually knew Jefferson found him charming, cultivated, and a man of great honor. At a distance of 186 years, Prof. Finkelman tells us he was “creepy,” but Prof. Finkelman is only the most recent of many creeps. Black Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane tells us Jefferson was a “horny hypocrite” and black columnist Clarence Page called him a “deadbeat dad.” Columnist Richard Grenier likened Jefferson to Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler and called for the Jefferson Memorial to be torn down “stone by stone.” Conor Cruise O”Brien writes that Jefferson is “of necessity abhorrent.”
Jefferson’s reputation will survive, but that of The New York Times may not. It used to be an influential newspaper, but publishing vermin such as Prof. Finkelman will only speed its collapse into irrelevance.
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