Slavery


Did Jefferson Free His Slaves?


Dear Mr. Jefferson,

We are interested in your views on slavery.  Did you free your slaves?
If so, under what circumstances?

Mr. Mollica's 10th Grade US History Class
Milton, NH



My dear students,

	Thank you for writing to me. My opinion has ever been
that, until more can be done for the slaves, we should endeavor, 
with those whom fortune has thrown on our hands, to feed and 
clothe them well, protect them from ill usage, and require 
such reasonable labor only as is performed voluntarily by freeman. 
The laws do not permit us to turn them loose. I see manumission 
as similar to abandoning children, who have no way of caring for 
themselves. I leave it for future generations to correct the ills 
of their fathers.

	As for your second question, I have indeed freed two slaves. 
I also plan to free five more in my will. All of these men are 
skilled tradesmen and capable of earning a living on their own. 
I should also mention that two slaves ran away and were not 
pursued by me. 

	I am with great esteem, Your most obedt. humble servt,
				Th. Jefferson


P.S. From Mr. Jefferson's scribe:  All nine slaves who were freed 
or were allowed to run away  were members of the Hemings family. F
Four of them (the two "run aways" and the two freed in his will) 
were the children of Sally Hemings. Most historians now accept 
the existence of a relationship between Thomas Jefferson and 
Sally Hemings that led to the birth of one, and most likely all 
four, of Sally Heming's surviving children. Thomas Jefferson did 
not acknowledge this during his lifetime and your above letter 
reflects this fact.





Slaves and Religion


Dear Mr. Jefferson,

	 I am studying about your life and I have a few questions.
My name isJenna and I am reading a book about your life and 
would like to get into more detail.

	 My first question is about your family. I know that you 
came from a large family and I was just wondering if being in 
a big family affected your decisions as president (having 
experience in a group of people). My next question relates 
to your slaves practicing their religion. I have heard that 
you allowed them to have their own religion and you were not
worried about them revolting, why is that? This question 
is about your estate (Monticello). Why did your father 
choose you to inherit the land and not your siblings?

	During your life would you say that you spent more 
time at home or more time out and abroad, as president.

	 Thank you for your time.
                Jenna



Dear Mistress Jenna,

	Thank you for your recent letter. Please excuse me for not 
responding to it sooner, but I was away from Monticello and 
have only recently returned.

	I did indeed come from a family of some size, however it 
was not unusually large by the standards of my day. My 
daughter Martha has had twelve children - eleven of whom 
have survived past early childhood. I do not think that 
the size of my family has had an impact on my decision 
making abilities. I would probably attribute it more 
to my education.

	I do indeed allow my slaves to practice their own 
religion. I do not follow your argument; why would this 
necessarily lead to slave revolts?

	As for my inheritance of Monticello, as the eldest 
son of my father, I fell under the laws of primogeniture. 
The English law of primogeniture assured that the eldest 
son received all of his father's lands. My father was 
generous to my younger, and only, brother Randolph to 
whom he gave some lands along the James River near 
Scottsville. My sisters received no land and upon their 
marriages were given other kinds of property such as 
slaves, money and household goods. Once a woman is 
married all of her possessions become the property of 
her husband. As for the law of primogeniture, it no 
longer exists since I was instrumental in having it 
revoked in Virginia.

	Your last question is a difficult one to answer 
since I have never thought of it before. I have spent 
many many years away from Monticello in service to 
my country and to my state. Since my retirement in 
1809 however, I have spent most of my time either at 
Monticello or my Bedford County home, Poplar Forest.

	I am with great esteem, Your most obedt. humble servt,
                    Th.Jefferson



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