Never forget Thomas Jefferson
We can never allow people to erase Thomas Jefferson from American history. Thousands of years from now, his masterpiece — the Declaration of Independence — will be held up as a turning point in human history. The first two phrases alone changed the world.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..."
It's almost impossible to comprehend how radical this idea was from our modern perspective. This was the first time a government founded itself on the idea of equality. Without this idea memorialized and enshrined as our highest goal, it is doubtful anyone in Western civilization would have taken the steps necessary toward implementation. Without these words, it is doubtful that over 600,000 men would have sacrificed their lives in the Civil War to abolish slavery.
Most Americans are blissfully unaware that slavery was the way of the world for thousands of years before the great American experiment. Europeans enslaved Europeans. Africans enslaved Africans. Native Americans enslaved Native Americans. Asians enslaved Asians — and on and on. Most Americans are blissfully unaware that, as we sit here comfortably in the land of freedom, millions continue to be enslaved in non-Western regions of the world including Africa, China, and the Middle East.
Some of those Americans look on Thomas Jefferson and arrogantly judge him by today's standards. Yes, he owned slaves. He was born into that life. There was very little he could do about it. He sought legislative fixes that would have allowed the freeing of slaves, but to no avail. His debts also prevented him from freeing his own slaves. Had he freed his own slaves, he would have violated Virginia law and also likely landed in debtor's prison.
Many are unaware of the struggles this complicated man made in furtherance of ending slavery. For example, in 1807, when he was president of the United States, Jefferson signed into law the abolishment of the international slave trade.
When Thomas Jefferson submitted the Declaration of Independence for congressional approval, they deleted the 17th indictment against George III, in which Jefferson asserted the king "has waged war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty" by "captivating & carrying" Africans "into slavery in another hemisphere" and exposing them to "miserable death" in the horrific voyages we now call the Middle Passage.
If we erase Thomas Jefferson from our history, then we can never truly understand our history, our struggle, and our greatness. We become unmoored and adrift — and eventually ripe for tyranny. We can never cede control of the American story and the American experiment to those who have no real understanding of it through their own ignorance. Instead, we must educate people in a historical context, and we must continue pursuing our greatness.
Image via Pixabay.