Thomas Jefferson penned the immortal words “all men are created equal” in our Declaration of Independence, and he also owned slaves. To some, this second historical fact is the “it” of David Post’s Why Don’t People Get It About Jefferson and Slavery? The fact that Jefferson owned slaves makes him a liar, a hypocrite, and a fraud. To others, the fact of Jefferson’s slave ownership is only a part of the context within which the actions of Jefferson’s lifetime are judged. In the words of our 16th President:
All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression. A. Lincoln
Have we yet come to terms with the truth of the words “all men are created equal”? You know that we have not. Does the fact that for more than 220 years we have failed to fully live up to the promise of our founding documents and the sacrifices of our founding fathers excuse our deriding them both? No. it does not excuse our actions, but perhaps it explains them. See: Why Don’t People Get It About Jefferson and Slavery? In particular, see: “Words Fitly Spoken”: Thomas Jefferson, Slavery, and Sally Hemings (PDF), by David G. Post.