Thomas Jefferson and Haitian Emigration

Thomas Jefferson And Haitian Emigration

Thomas Jefferson and slavery refers to the role and relationship Thomas Jefferson had with slavery. He owned plantations totaling thousands of acres and owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime. His record on slavery was mixed and contradictory. He was an opponent of the slave trade and disliked the effects of slavery on society and believed slavery harmful to both slave and master. He also opposed the practice of slave masters freeing their own slaves as he believed this made slave uprisings more likely. In the Virginia Assembly in 1769, he prevented a manumission law from being enacted. Contrastingly, under the Articles of Confederation in 1784, Jefferson proposed federal legislation banning slavery in the New Territories of the North and South, which failed to pass Congress by one vote. As president, he refused in 1804 to recognize Haiti a new republic established by a slave rebellion and in 1805 and 1806 enacted an arms and trade embargo against the new republic. In 1807, he signed a bill prohibiting the US from participating in the international slave trade. The widower Jefferson is believed to have had a "shadow family" with his mixed-race slave Sally Hemings, who was likely one of six half-siblings of his late wife. While many historians widely agree that he had four surviving children with her, others continue to debate the issue of his paternity.

Although Jefferson was one of the wealthiest slave owners in Virginia on paper during 1788-1789, owning more than 200 slaves, his Monticello estate value was considerably weighted by his debts and liabilities. Jefferson formally freed only two slaves during his lifetime, older brothers of Sally Hemings, in 1793 and in 1794. His friend Tadeusz Kościuszko entrusted Jefferson with his American estate and will in 1798, by which Kościuszko intended slaves to be purchased and freed, as he strongly supported abolitionism. Kościuszko died in 1817, but Jefferson never executed his will, although he could have freed all his own slaves with the money, at no cost to himself. After a few years, he passed on the executorship to a friend, who also refrained from acting. Finally, in 1852, the US Supreme Court ruled that the estate should go to heirs in Poland.

Jefferson allowed two of his "natural" Hemings children to "escape" rather than freeing them; the other two were freed through his will after his death. The Sally Hemings children were the only family to gain freedom from Monticello. In his will, he freed three other male slaves, all older men who had worked for him for decades. After his death, his daughter Martha Randolph gave Sally Hemings and Wormley Hughes "their time," an informal freedom. In 1827 the remaining 130 slaves at Monticello were sold to pay the debts of Jefferson's estate. Groundbreaking exhibits ran in 2012 on Jefferson and his slaves: Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: The Paradox of Liberty at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and Landscape of Slavery: Mulberry Row at Monticello, an outdoor installation at Monticello.

Read more about Thomas Jefferson And Haitian Emigration:  Early Years (1744–1774), Revolutionary Period (1775–1783), Following The Revolution (1784–1800), Retirement (1810–1826), Posthumous (1827-1830), Sally Hemings, Monticello Slave Life, Notes On The State of Virginia, Grégoire Correspondence, See Also

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