Thomas Jefferson and His Influence Against Slavery


Jefferson was the third president of the United States and one of the renowned presidents for his zeal to fight against the slave trade. He was one of the outspoken antislavery activists but on the contrary, also had many slaves under his custody. Its believed that despite the fact Jefferson started campaigning against slavery he could not release his slaves since he had high debts which he had secured using the slaves hence could not free them until he cleared all the debts. To show how determined he was in the campaign against slavery; he invested a lot in training and schooling the slaves who worked close to him or his family. According to him, slavery was a very delicate matter that could only be compared with holding a wolf by its ears, it would either destroy one if it tried to escape or the person holding it release it safely. He campaigned that abolishing the slave trade was the only way through which the Americans could avoid being in trouble when justice was served. According to Jordan’s thesis, Jefferson has commissioned his mind on all the differences between the white and the blacks (Jordan 234). In his view, as shown in the thesis, he showed that Jefferson like other whites saw the blacks as being inferior. This was one of the concepts that resulted in colonists enslaving the blacks.

Main text

It’s during his reign as the United States president that he tried to abolish the slave trade. According to some writers, Jefferson believed it was the responsibility of the state and the society to free all the slaves and discourage the vice that was threatening the security and the stability of the state. On various occasions, Jefferson accused the British government of sponsoring slave trafficking and importation claiming this was waging a cruel war against human nature. Jefferson view the slave trade as an illegal trade being conducted by people who had not offended the British. At one point, Jefferson launched a campaign to emancipate all slaves in Virginia thou it did not succeed.

In 1778, Jefferson proposed a bill to ban the importation of slaves to Virginia and other regions in America. Despite the fact that the bill was not enacted, it stopped the increased evil that slave importation was brought hence bringing hopes of future eradication of the slave trade. In 1784 he drafted a draft for the North West territory showing how the new state would not be involved in and form of slavery or involuntary servitude. In 1807, the president signed a bill abolishing the slave trade. According to Jefferson, the act of slave trade was a perpetual exercise that was degrading submission on one side and encouraging despotism on the other side. Despite the fact that in his work he acknowledged that the blacks who were mostly targeted in the slave trade were inferior to the whites, he also mentioned that the blacks deserved their rights to live free to be respected in any country. He stated that people should be judged by nature and not by the amount of labor they can do. He suggested that the whites should respect nature and practice good habits towards the blacks and other slaves since this was the only way through which the two could be allowed to interact in harmony. According to Stephen Ambrose, despite the fact that Jefferson viewed the slaves as inferior since he could entrust them with his food, children and other family responsibilities, he believed that some of the slaves were trustworthy.

The beginning of the slave trade in Virginia, one of the rich slave trade centers in the United States was in early 1600. In the 1680’s black slave trade dominated most Virginia plantations. As the slave trade continued, several laws were put in place such as the slaves were restricted from intermarrying with the whites or being associated in any form of sexual activities. In addition, the slaves were also denied the right to own property. Unlike white servants in these plantations, the slaves were normally harassed, and could even be stripped naked and whipped. These are some of the experiences that Jefferson witnessed as he grew up in his father’s Monticello slave plantation. When his father Peter Jefferson died, Jefferson inherited his slave plantation and around 135 slaves (Edward 167). He also inherited slaves from his father in law-making him have a large number of slaves. However, he also inherited huge debts that were for his father-in-law. To pay these debts, Jefferson began selling some of his slaves. According to Jordan’s arguments, if Jefferson had not inhered debts in his property, he would have agreed to release all his slaves. However since he could not do so, he started offering them formal training and other high-quality skills and later campaigned for the slave’s children to be recognized as citizens and be employed (Standard’s 200).

Ideology of races

According to Thomas Jefferson’s ideas, he had admitted that the slaves especially the black slaves were less superior to the whites. He however claimed that despite being inferior they were equal to all other races in all aspects concerning human rights. This was contrary to want many whites believed that there was only one brace called Negros which referred to only the black people. Most Americans during the post-revolution period would gladly acknowledge European descent or any other people with American appearance as part of their members. His idea that the slaves were equal with other races brought much conflict in the government with some of the higher-ranked people in his government such as Alexander Stephens declaring that that assumption is an error and that it was evident that the Negros are not equal to the whites. With several laws already in place especially discriminating against the slaves such as not being allowed to marry, it was hard for the president to implement his ideologies.

The tough stand of Jefferson’s ideas especially about the slaves’ rights and freedom brought a great rift between the government and the Southern part of the United States. According to people of the southern part, they believed that the slave trade was right. Due to this, the slave trade continued to thrive in the Southern part. This had a great effect in the future since as the number of slaves continued to increase in the Southern part, their interests’ also started mounting and hence resulted in many racial wars in this region of the United States which could be avoided if the southerners’ followed the Jefferson ideologies(Jefferson 155).

Some of the forms through which Jefferson tried to reduce the effect of slavery in the united states when he was a president was through recommending that African- American citizens be allowed to go colonize the African continents such as Sierra Leone and the coastal lands of Liberia. His intentions were to ensure that the African slaves in the United States received some form of freedom when they go to colonize these African countries. In addition, to ensure that the slaves received some freedom, he also recommended that the slaves be given citizenship and also employment in areas they had been trained in such as in Santo Domingo.

Some of the papers and letters that Jefferson wrote regarding the slave traded include the Rights of British America paper where he stated that the rights of humankind are deeply wounded by the slavery practices. His recommendation in such papers that the rights of the slaves like those of other humans should be respected has had a positive effect especially during the post-revolution era (Jordan 184).

Jordan’s thesis concerning slavery in the post-revolutionary period showed how various leaders such as Jefferson contributed to the abolishment of the slave trade. In the thesis, Jordan proved how Jefferson was committed to the process of abolishing the slave trade by proposing several bills and as the present signing several. In his thesis, Jordan shows the commitment Jefferson had in ensuring that slavery was abolished in the Northern region. This was through Jefferson’s recommendation to the Virginia General assembly for the gradual release, and illegalizing the importation plans. Jefferson also according to Jordan’s thesis proposed for the recognition of the already freed slaves to be recognized as American citizens. The effect of Jefferson’s ideas can still be felt to date since he was one of the main campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. In his thesis about Jefferson, Jordan shows how Jefferson clearly understood the differences between the whites and the blacks and hence the reason he was advocating for emancipation of the freed slaves (Jefferson 245). The arguments of Jordan about Jefferson’s ideologies have important impacts on the current interpretation of slavery in the United States. It’s through Jefferson’s intervention that the United States did not experience many political rifts between the slaves and the whites which resulted in the collapse of various states in the future. In his thesis, Jordan shows how Jefferson stood to ensure no more prejudices were done against the slaves.

Despite the fact that Jefferson Thomas was a slave owner his ideologies brought much light and contributed to the development of multiracial America. From Jordan’s thesis analysis about Jefferson’s ideologies on slave and race relations ships, his main aim was not to show the negative ways through which slaves have been affected by racial issues. This is proved by the several positive relations that Jordan quoted about Jefferson examples in his writings.

New Democratic Nation

The ideologies of Jefferson contributed to the development of a new democratic nation. When his ideologies on recognizing the children of the slaves as American citizens were implemented, the Unites States nation prevented itself from experiencing political rivalry between the two groups due to conflict of interest. However, according to Jordan’s thesis, Jefferson’s idea of viewing the slaves as inferiors has greatly contributed to the racial discrimination that can still be felt up to modern days which is associated with the slavery trade (Jefferson 245). Despite the fact that most whites consider blacks as people whose rights should be respected they also view them as inferiors in society.

From the various letters that Jefferson wrote which were mainly the mode of communication that Jefferson used to air out the concerns of the slavers, it was evident that the main reason why Jefferson was against slavery was to protect the states against political imbalances in the future and also to ensure that slaves experience their full freedom by not being used as working machines but for their labor to be used at reasonable grounds. This was evident from his efforts to ensure that all slaves who were under him were trained so that they could be more productive.

Jefferson also showed how continued encouragement and participation in the slave trade could affect the manners of the people. He argued that man is an imitative animal and hence if the slavery commerce was not abolished, the state will be corruption the minds of their children and hence result in generations that cannot submit to one another due to the odious peculiarities that the whites committed towards the slaves in the presence of their children (John 77).


Jefferson Thomas’s arguments have provided a concrete background to various institutions about the effects of subconscious racism and can be used as a guide in the modern community to encourage racial unity and hence have greatly affected the evolution of the multiracial American community that was as a result of slavery. Jefferson’s influence against slavery and his fight for the slave’s freedom played a key role in the post-revolution period and hence can be viewed as one of the reasons why the African Americans feel like part of the state. Jordan’s thesis which tackled more about Jefferson’s stand on slavery and his influence on slavery can be used as a guide in determining how slavery could have been the key contributor to the development of racial groups and other social classes. His campaign for the respect of the slaves’ rights resulted in the development of a democratic new state which could not have been achieved if the Americans continued encouraging slavery in the state. His writings against slavery have proved to the modern people that slavery did not only bring negative effects but also contributed to the revolution of America and other states.

Works Cited

David, Standard’s. Essay titled, “On Racism and Genocide”, Publisher, Springer p.269-281.

Douglass, John. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? Publisher, Rowman & Littlefield,2009, 676 pages.

Jefferson. Notes on the State of Virginia Publisher, Rowman & Littlefield 1782, 296 pages.

Jefferson, Letter to Governor. Harrison 1803, 170 pages.

Winthrop, Jordan. The White Man’s Burden, Part Five, “Thought and Society”, The University of Michigan p.165-229.

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