Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
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Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination

August 24, 2019


– [Narrator] This program is
presented by University of California Television. Like what you learned? Visit our website or follow
us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest UCTV programs. – My name is Dylan Penningroth. I’m professor of law and
history here at Berkeley and I’m a member of the Jefferson Memorial lectures committee. The Jefferson Memorial lectures
was established in 1944 through a bequest from
Elizabeth Bonistelle and her husband Cutler L. Bonistelle. A prominent San Francisco
couple, the Bonistelles cared deeply for history. And had hoped that the lectures
would encourage students, faculty, scholars and
those in the community to study the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. And to explore values inherent
in American democracy. Past lectures including
ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, senator Allen Simpson,
representative Tom Foley, Elizabeth Warren, Walter
LeFaber and Archibald Cox, have delivered Jefferson Memorial lectures on early American history. On Jefferson himself and
on American institutions in policies, in politics,
economics, education, and law. And we are pleased along
with the graduate council to present this year’s speaker, in the lecture series, professor Annette Gordon-Reed. Professor Reed is a
renowned American historian and law professor at Harvard University. Where she teaches criminal procedure. The legal profession and
American legal history. In 2010, she was awarded the
National Humanity’s medal and a MacArthur fellowship. She is a fellow of the American academy of arts and sciences. And in 2014, she was
Harmsworth visiting professor at Queens College at University of Oxford. Now, I have a little story to tell. And that is that the first time I ever saw professor Gordon-Reed was in 1999. I was a brand new assistant professor at the University of Virginia. And my mentor at the
time, Reginald Butler, in the history department
in African American studies told me about this big conference that was about to go down
about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. So I went. I sat in the back. Sort of in the right side of the back. And I was astonished. On stage was professor Gordon-Reed who two years earlier I
knew had published a book that had argued through
painstaking forensic analysis of the available historical documents that Thomas Jefferson probably had a long term sexual
relationship with Sally Hemings. One of his slaves. Now, a retired UVA scientist
had just released DNA tests that pointed to the same conclusion. Many of the people in the room that day pronounced themselves convinced. Now that there was DNA evidence. Me, I thought, why did it take DNA to convince you? Just read her book. So that was my introduction
to Mr. Jefferson’s university. But also to one of the
most brilliant minds at the intersection of history and law. And I’ve been an admirer ever since. If her first book revealed
that the historical profession could fall prey
to arguments from authority and assumptions about character, her second book, the
Hemingses of Monticello an American Family recovered
the lives of four generations of the Hemings family. Now, we historians of slavery, that’s what I do, typically write about enslaved people or the slaved community
in a certain region of at best, a certain plantation. This book was immediate,
specific, and human. It was about and I’ll quote, how these particular African Americans made their way through slavery in America. In a sense, it told American
history through the lives of specific African American people. And it deservedly won
the national book award, the Putlizer prize, and 15 other honors. Professor Gordon-Reed is now
working on a second volume about the Hemings family
that will take them into the 19th and 20th centuries. Her Jefferson lecture
titled, Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination, will focus on Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the United States of America. And how race and slavery
complicated his views of what kind of society was possible on the American continent. She’ll speak for about 40 minutes. And then we’ll have about
10 or 15 minutes for question and answer. And I’m gonna ask that you
please keep your questions short. And keep them in the form of a question. Without any further ado, please join me in welcoming
professor Annette Gordon-Reed. (applause) – Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you all for coming. Coming inside on this beautiful day. It’s absolutely gorgeous outside. And I can, kid my students
sometimes and say, we should have class outside. But we will stay inside
and have this discussion. It’s very very good to be here. And it’s interesting for me
because I’ve been talking about Jefferson recently with
my co-author Peter S. Onuf whom Dylan knows from the
University of Virginia. Peter was the Thomas Jefferson
Memorial foundation professor at Virginia. He was the successor to Maryl Peterson. Who was in turn the
successor to Dumas Malone. Who wrote the great six
volume biography of Jefferson. Jefferson and His Time. And I came to know Peter because of my first book. I wrote my manuscript and
I wanted to send it around to people whom I thought would be hostile to what I was saying. The critique of the historiography, the way historians had
written about this subject. And I’m afraid I was a little
stereotypical in my vision, or prejudiced in my vision, I assumed because he
held that professorship that he would be inclined to
dislike what I was saying. So I wanted people who would be skeptical to read the manuscript
so I sent it to him. And to my utter surprise, he actually liked it. And he recommended that it be published by the university press of Virginia. Which was important because
this was Jefferson’s university. And I decided to go with them
instead of a trade publisher because I knew the significance
of that connection. Peter and I have had, been having a conversation
about Jefferson now since 1995, it’s a long time. We have been very very good friends. Peter is an intellectual historian. And I do social history
and political history. I read some of the same
things that he reads and he reads some of the
same things that I read. But we have a different
focus for the most part. So when Peter decided that he
was thinking about retiring, which he as done. I said we should put this down on paper. We had been complaining, thinking
about the way people have written about Jefferson,
the way that people tend to write about him now in terms of paradox, the hypocrisy. That word hypocrisy,
well he’s a hypocrite. And we thought that that
term was too dismissive. That it sort of hid a lot of complexity and it missed the value, both the good points, and some
of the flaws of Jefferson. But it missed the complexity
of this individual. So what we thought we would
do would be to start anew. And look at Jefferson to
from the perspective of what we thought he ought to be doing, he should have been doing. Because I have a whole
laundry list of things that he should have been doing. And Peter does too. That it would be interesting
to sort of recapture if we could what Jefferson
thought he was doing himself. What he thought he was doing in the world. And that that might give us some insight into where he went wrong. The ways we think of him going wrong. And the things that he did right. So Peter and I decided to
collaborate on this project. It’s not something that
historians typically do. Although he has collaborated
with his brother. But this was something that
we wanted to do jointly and our editor wanted us
to have a single voice. So we sat on this project,
set about on this project to do things in a collaborative way. Writing sections and then
rewriting other’s work and going, to the point
that we don’t really know. Except for a few ticks that we might have, we don’t recognize who wrote what by the way time we had
gotten through all of this. And we decided that we wanted to use, as we would not be
using secondary sources, that we would go back
to Jefferson’s letters, Jefferson’s own words, and to try to figure this out. To figure this person out. And to move beyond the ditch that I think that we have sort of run into in writing about Jefferson. Talking about hypocrisy,
which is a way of ending the conversation instead of
opening the conversation. We take the title Most
Blessed of the Patriarchs, Thomas Jefferson and the
Empire of the Imagination, the second part is, we came up with. Most Blessed of the
Patriarchs is in quotes. And we had to fight with
our publisher about this because apparently it’s
not a good thing to put quotes in titles of books or whatever. But we said it’s from Jefferson. And I particularly did not wanna be seen, it would be okay for Peter, perhaps. To have called him the most
blessed of the patriarchs. It would not be something
that an African American woman could do for a 18th
century white slave holder and I wanted to make
clear that it was not, we were not calling him most
blessed of the patriarchs. He called himself that. And we fixed on this title. It comes from a letter that
he wrote to Angelica Church. Angelical Schuyler Church
of the Hamilton fame. If anybody’s listening to the sound track, you know she’s one of
the Schuyler sisters. Who Jefferson knew. When he was in Paris. And it’s in 1793, he writes
this letter to Angelica. He has been beaten up in the Cabinet. And Alexander Hamilton has
bested him in his battle for Washington’s favor. And he’s announcing his retirement to her. And he talks about, I
have my feels to form. And to watch for the
happiness of the people who, those who labor for my happiness. Namely the enslaved people at Monticello. He also says if I’m there and if my
daughter has joined me, I will consider myself as blessed as the most blessed of the patriarchs. And we thought, that’s
an interesting phrase, most blessed of the patriarchs. And then there’s another
letter that he writes two years later where
he describes himself as living like an antediluvian patriarch. At Monticello. And we thought, a patriarch. When we think of patriarch, you think of someone
from a religious figure, from a long time ago. Or conjures up an ancient times. And he’s supposed to be
the apostle of democracy. He is a republican statesman. He believes in democracy. Democracy with, you know, a democrat. He was a democrat with a little d. And how do you fit this notion of being a patriarch into this
notion of being a republican? A republican life. Patriarchs have enormous amounts of land. They have a wife, maybe multiple wives. A concubine, he had lots of land. He had enslaved people. And he did have a, that word concubine. He’s sort of saying this openly. Describing himself as this figure. So we thought that we could
use this as the title. The Empire of the Imagination
is about Jefferson’s vision for the country that he helped to found. That this is a person
who did not travel west. He set Louis and Clark west. He always believed that
America would move west and would go from sea to shining sea. And he had an understanding
about what the country would be. And it was mainly through his
imaginative, his imagination. The books that he read. The things that were important to him. His understanding of life. That’s what the Empire of
the Imagination is about. Is this visionary person
who conjures up this image of what the new nation would be. In the future. So we decided to not to follow a sort of, it’s a chronology. It’s a chronologically inclined book. But it is not a straight cradle to grave, he was born and then he dies kind of book. There’s sort of thematic. And the first section of
the book is called patriarch where we set out and try to discover what influences went
into making Jefferson. He is born into a slave society. He is at the top of the social ladder. Member of the Randolph family. A large and old family in Virginia. His father is not from, at the highest strata. But he was a self made man. Become wealthy, slave owner. And also a plantation owner
and owned a lot of land. But he made his money as a surveyor. And as a planter. He is intelligent. He had the best kind of
education that you could have. For people in Virginia at the time. He was tall. Which seems like you know, I guess it makes a difference even today. But it certainly made a time to be six feet two and a half inches tall. And he was the actual
owner of human beings. He had the power, legal
ownership over human beings. And he was male. And he was a first son. At a time when that mattered as well. So all of these influences, these things come into making him. Giving him his vision of himself. The society he is born into. His, the resources that he has. Physical, intellectual and financial. Make him who, give him an
idea of who he’s supposed to be in the world. An enormous amount of confidence. Some people might say arrogance. But it’s all there in this package. The other thing about him
is that he loves to read. And he considers himself to be a member, a sort of adherent to the enlightenment. He believes in science. And science shapes his view of the world. Scientific advances. We will discover things. We will know new things. We, he believed in something that I’m not sure that
we actually believe in. And that’s sort of a
straight line of progress. That things are gonna
get better and better and better inevitably. While we know that it doesn’t, that’s not necessarily so. That it is, you know is
maybe three steps forward, four steps backwards. Side over here and it’s… It’s a rocky road to progress. He believed that progress
would come as people became more educated. They would become more enlightened. And that’s the age that he lives in. Is reading all these books. Reading the books of famous scientists. Historians. Bacon, Lock, Newton. That this was inevitable. And that’s difficult for us
to wrap our minds around. And one of the tenants of… Well, couple of the
tenants that he adheres to in the enlightenment is
skepticism about religion. Sort of a hostility
towards organized religion. People think Jefferson was an atheist. He was not an atheist. But he was hostile to organized religion. Because he thought
organized religion priests were people who put themselves between individuals and God. That everybody had to think
for himself or herself. And you did not need an interlocker. You didn’t need that
intermediation between, mediation between the person and God. So skepticism about religion. He sees as an enlightenment virtue. And then also anti-slavery. And this is a real problem
that Jefferson has today because people say how
could he be anti-slavery, that’s all a ruse. But the question is, if that’s the case, who is he playing to? Right? This sort of idea that
he’s trying to fool us. But he doesn’t know who we are. He has no assurance of how
people are going to feel about that. He actually believed that slavery was a backward institution. And that if you, in believing in progress,
eventually it will go away. And this starts even
before he’s in public life. When he was in his 20s, he writes in his legal commonplace book. He puts down, he copies down a poem. By a man named William Shenstone. Or actual stanzas from the poem. That talk about an African ripped from his native land. Brought across the sea, forced to work, to labor for another. And this is when he’s in his 20s. There’s nobody looking at this point. There’s no public persona here. This is a part of his, the beginning of his
understanding of who he was. It’s like, announcing yourself to
be a liberal, in a way. These are the things that we believe. And anti-slavery was one of them. My colleague and friend
David Conig is now working on Jefferson’s legal career. Something that has been,
couple of books have been written about it, but his
legal commonplace book is now just been, is being edited. And so there’s a lot
of material that David is going through now. And he is, it’s his contention. That as a lawyer, Jefferson did things, made arguments that were designed to sort of chip away at slavery. As lawyers, as far as he could go with the law. Howell v. Netherland is the
most famous of his cases. He was representing a mixed raced man who was seeking his freedom
and he tries to make this argument about all men are created equal. He uses language that would
be in the declaration. This is years before the revolution. So this stuff is in his head. These ideas are in his head. Even as a young man. even before anybody’s looking. So to say that this is just a pose. That this was just a pose
for later generations or even for people in the 1780s, when he’s in France, is
really not quite right. Because he’s doing this even before all of this gets started. So David’s book will be
addressing all of this. So this young man, who
has this vision of himself as a progressive. And then something happens in his life that galvanizes him. And really becomes the key to who he was for the rest of his life. And that’s the American revolution. His involvement in the
American revolution. That was something that gave
Jefferson his sense of himself. And it was the most
important thing in his life. There’s no question about that. Besides his daughters, Martha
and you know, besides that. But the most important
political act of his life. It sort of defined who he was. He sees himself as a revolutionary and as having been a part
of creating something great. And this is his obsession. For the rest of his life. Preserving that is his obsession
for the rest of his life. We are obsessed with slavery. And I think rightly so. Because it’s such a, such an integral part
of the beginning of the United States of America. We are obsessed with race
because that’s the problem that we have that we’re still
trying to struggle with. He was not obsessed with
either one of those things. He was obsessed with the revolution. That we have created a country. And at some point, he discovers, or he pretends
to comes to believe, that there are forces that
are counter evolutionary. That people who are trying
to destroy the revolution, namely that person who has the hit musical now on Broadway. And a number one soundtrack
whatever for cast album. Hamilton. And did somebody hiss? Somebody beginning to hiss? Boo hiss, Hamilton, no. None of the battle the
network founding fathers, we don’t have to do that. So the revolution galvanizes Jefferson. It gives him his sense of identity. He embarks upon politics. He gets involved with politics
to defend that revolution. As a politician, that’s
what he thinks his job is. But something else happens
to him along the way. He begins to see, he has to have a different
attitude about African Americans. He writes at some point, that before the revolution, during the colonial period, that we, meaning white Virginians, thought of them as cattle. That they didn’t have, that he didn’t know,
Jefferson exaggerates. He has a tendency to exaggerate. But what he’s basically
saying is that people’s attitudes about enslaved people changed after the revolution. And what’s changed was
that blacks began to join the British. Blacks began to use their agency. Sort of voting with
their feet essentially, to join Lord Dunmore and anyone else who offered to give them freedom. And I’m reading, I’ve
read a wonderful book by a man named Robert Parkinson. It’s called the Common Cause. Creating race and nation
in the United States. And so what he talks about is how the involvement of Native
Americans and African Americans on the side of the
British become a sort of rallying cry for white
Americans who see this as, see this as sort of traitorous activities. And it’s the beginning of creating or making sure that blacks
and Native Americans are seen as being outside
of the American people. Something other than American people. So Jefferson begins to understand that they’re living amidst enemies. Potential enemies. That is to say African Americans. Virginians who were about
40% of the population during Jefferson’s time in South Carolina. It’s two to one, by the time they get to the antebellum period,
it’s three to one. So this is a huge internal enemy. What Allen Taylor, another
historian has called the internal enemy. That they are there. And he begins to see
them in a different way. So the urgency about ending slavery, which before was just sort
of a quiver in the arrow of progressives, becomes
something that he thinks in the… He begins to think is… I should say an arrow in
the quiver of progressives, I got that backwards. He sees as a threat. We have to do something about this because these people, we are at war. Slavery is a state of war. That’s a locking in formulation. Most people became slaves
in the ancient world after a war. And they were taken prisoners. And you can, you know, it was almost a merciful
thing to make a person a slave instead of killing them. Which you would have a right to do. And certainly, slavery was a continuation or some form of continuation of war. So African Americans and
white Americans existed in the state of war so
long as you had slavery. And he did not believe
that African Americans after emancipation, would
be able to love a country where they had been treated
as they had been treated. So you couldn’t have love of country, which is required to be a patriot. Required to be a citizen. White people would never
give up their prejudices against black people. There could be no wholesale
mix in between black and white. We could talk about that later. He couldn’t see that as a possibility. A country had to be comprised of people, a country was sort of a
larger version of a family. You start with a family as the basic unit. Then you have a community. And then you radiate out
to the nation as a whole. How can you be citizens,
equal citizens in a country if you cannot form families with people? It’s those affectionate ties. It’s that capacity is what
makes the people together. How do you say we’re all
equal but you can’t be my daughter-in-law? You can’t be my son-in-law. You can’t be in my family. He didn’t know that we would
figure out how to do that. But at his time period,
he couldn’t see that. Nor could he see the idea of having first class and second class citizens. You either are a citizen or you’re not. That makes his understanding about what had to happen and the
thing that also gives people a problem about Jefferson, namely, you had to emancipate enslaved people. But they had to be expatriated. Blacks and whites could not
live together, he thought, without conflict. And those words in the state of Virginia. He thought that people
would be upset to the extent that he was thinking about posterity. And he did think about posterity. He thought that people might be upset. Certainly his contemporaries
might be upset about the criticisms that he made of slavery. He would be surprised, I think, to know the extent to which we focus on that part of the equation. When he says emancipate. He thought he would be great. I’m for emancipation. But they have to go somewhere else. That’s the part of the equation that, that causes him problems today. But he did not think that
we could live together in harmony. Now, this has caused a lot
of criticism of Jefferson. But if we’re honest with ourselves, he also thought that
if you try to do this, that there might actually be a race war. That there would be conflict. And one side would kill the other side. And he basically says,
sort of in a prophetic way, there is no aspect of the Almighty that could take our side in this struggle. Because whites were wrong. I mean, slave owners
were wrong to do this. So this is a problem we have with him. And we sort of, I think, congratulate ourselves in saying that we’re better than that. But the truth is, we may not have had a race war like you know, the battle
of Antietam or whatever. Or Gettysburg. But we have had a huge
amount of conflicts. We are still having enormous
amount of conflicts. Between blacks and whites. And if you think about what
happened after reconstruction, about lynching, Jim Crowe, there’s been a cold war and a hot war in a lot of ways. It has not been easy. So this notion that this was crazy, that blacks and whites would
have difficulty living together without conflict is not
as crazy as we like to make it out to be. This is something we are
still trying to figure out how to bring black
people into citizenship. I mean, that is about a
lot of what is going on now with all of the terrible
videos that we’re seeing. The police encounters with black citizens. The difference between, whatever you think about
the second amendment, it is pretty clear that
African American men do not have the same freedom
to carry weapons about as white men do. So black citizenship
today is still something that we’re trying to work out. So Jefferson’s born in 1743. Into a slave society. He’s trying to figure
out how this will work. Not to make excuses for him. But I think we are not as
far along as we should be. This is a person who never saw a train. And we’ve had an opportunity,
many opportunities to know better than some
of the ways that we act. And we don’t as of yet. So this is his vision of what is going to be the solution. Even though as he gets
older, he understands that it’s really, it’s
really not gonna happen. The numbers are too great. One of the last letters that he writes, he talks about, he’s
sort of doing the math. And figuring out that this
is not really feasible even though he thinks that
this is the best solution. He says we’re gonna get to a point. We must do something
because we’ll get to a point where one million he says, fighting men, will say we will not go. African American men might
just say we’re not gonna go. And then a problem really starts. So Jefferson has a conception
of the United States after as a revolutionary
then as a politician as he’s trying to preserve this notion of republican government. And of course in republican government, the majority rules. People have to vote. People would have to vote slavery out. He discovers and
understands pretty clearly, pretty early on as a young man, as a legislator, he
tries to introduce a law to put in place as
gradual emancipation plan. And it goes absolutely nowhere. And then later on, another
man, St. George Tucker, in the 1790s tries to do a similar thing and it goes absolutely nowhere. So at some point, Jefferson
realizes that this is not, we’re not gonna have
a republican solution. We’re not likely to have
a republican solution to this problem. In his life time. Virginians were not
gonna vote slavery out. And people say well, you know, there are plenty of
things that you could say are never gonna happen. But they won’t happen unless you try. Right? He’s faulted for not making the effort. But keep in mind what I said
about his real obsession and that’s the United States of America. You created this country and
you wanna get this country on its feet. And then you say, and what he says is this
is a problem that’s gonna work itself out. And if you think about the way, it’s not uncommon for people to say all right, there’s this one
thing that I wanna fixate on and if I can just fix that, this other little thing over here is gonna take care of itself. And it’s that little thing over here that’s the real problem. And that’s slavery. He thinks slavery is gonna work itself out by enlightenment. Education. People will come to understand
that this has to end. That this is a backwards system. And it will end. Now of course, we know it
wasn’t a backwards system. We know with the cotton gin. When he buys Louisiana
and cotton becomes king. He doesn’t, he lives long enough to see
the beginning of the rise in the prices of enslaved people. He doesn’t live to see
the antebellum period when slavery is a really
prosperous institution. But he holds on to this idea that it is, because it’s ancient. And it is backwards,
it is going to go away. That’s his understanding of it. So I’m gonna focus on this
federalists over here. And he says when he’s elected president, he’s gonna sink federalism into an abyss. From which it will never
arise, and he does. He basically kills the federalist party. It’s over. For them. And we have Jefferson. And then we have Madison. We have Monroe. There’s a brief period
with John Quincy Adams. And then we have Jackson, who considers himself a Jeffersonian. So he has a record for his political party and his political ideals that
last longer than anybody. Nobody’s ever replicated that. Had a political influence that lasted for as long as his did through himself and his various surrogates. Through this. So he’s fixated on politics. Not upon you know, slavery,
politics in terms of federalism versus republicanism. Getting rid of the
monarchy is the equivalent of fighting communism to him. That is his obsession. He thought most of human
history has been ruled by, people have been ruled by these monarchs who have dragged people into war. European battles of power
politics from you know, wars, kings. We’re gonna get away from all of that. And we’re gonna do something. We’re gonna have an empire for liberty, is what he calls it. And he wants it to be
from sea to shining sea because he doesn’t want Spain and France and other people interfering
on American land. If you had separate, if you had, country was divided up. That they would fall prey
to European power politics. So that’s his vision. And slavery is something that recedes, his anti-slavery recedes
into the background. After he becomes a politician. We also think, we talk about
the second part of the book. The other influence on him
is not just his republicanism and his revolutionary. His focus, his fixation on the
United States as a country. Is France. He goes to France. And while he is there, he is
shocked by French society. He’s shocked by the women. Who are, he says, out in the streets. Meddling in politics. Leaving what’s important
in their nurseries behind. Searching for pleasure in the streets. Women, upper class women did
not go around by themselves. They went around escorted. So when he talks about
women in the streets, it makes it sound almost
like they’re prostitutes. Because they are seeking
pleasure in the streets. And this horrifies him. When he comes to, I should say he goes to
France in a sort of foul mood. His wife has died. There had been, he had had
a terrible time as governor. Wasn’t very successful as governor. And he was a little angry
with Virginians at this time. When he goes to France, he
had this sort of epiphany. The sort of thing that happens when you, you have complaints about
your country and then you go to another country and then you say well, at least we’re not doing that. That was his attitude about France. And he sees people starving. This is pre-revolutionary
France, the 1780s. People are starving in the streets. There are riots, there are bread riots. And he says, you know, we
don’t have this in America. We have enslaved people. But he thinks about himself. As slave owner. And he sees himself in that
term, that we sort of ridicule. As a benevolent patriarch. That’s his construction of himself. And he says, well, what we could do is we can hold on until
public opinion changes. And we can do something about slavery. But we don’t have women running crazy. We don’t have people
starving in the streets. The other thing that happens
while he’s in France, is that he’s there with James
Hemings and Sally Hemings. James and Sally Hemings
are the half siblings to his wife, to his deceased wife. Martha Wayles Jefferson’s
father, John Wayles, had six children with Elizabeth Hemings. And the youngest was Sarah
Hemings, or Sally Hemings. And James was one of the sons. Jefferson brought him to France
to learn how to be a cook. A chef, a French chef. And Sally Hemings came over accompanying Jefferson’s daughters. As a companion to Jefferson’s daughters. While they are there, he pays them wages. And James has free movement in France. So Jefferson, the other
thing that Peter and I argue is that they become the
faces of slavery to him. His understanding about
himself as a slave holder in this kind of weird state where people, he owns them by Virginia law. But they’re in this place where
they are potentially free. Because any enslaved person
who petitions for freedom in Paris in the 18th century, all of them, the petitions were granted. So all they had to do was
to go to the admiral court, and they would be free people. At some point, Madison Hemings, who is the son of, was the son of Thomas
Jefferson and Sally Hemings, who’s telling the story of his parents. Says Sally Hemings becomes
pregnant by Jefferson. Near the end of their stay. And she does not want to come
back to the United States. With Jefferson. Because she knows that any
child she has in Virginia will be enslaved. Virginia followed the
rule, pardiseco ruvanchum, you are what your mother was. This was not the rule that
the colonists came over with. The English rule that they came over with which was you were what your father was. But you can think about how
pardiseco ruvanchum is better. It makes for things more manageable. If you’re creating a slave society. The sexuality of women
was much more controlled by society than male’s. You would have, and of course men could
have many more children than women can have. You would potentially have
a large class of mixed raced free people, which they did not want. So she understood what
the situation would be if she went back to
France with this child. And any other children that she had. So Jefferson promises her that if she comes back with him, she would have a good life at Monticello. And that the children would be freed when they were 21. They would live with them and
they would leave as adults. Now, she accepts this. And this was a sort of
a difficult thing for me when I was writing my
first book to understand. But it wasn’t until I started
working on the Hemingses of Monticello that… When you’re doing a
biography, you have to sort of move yourself out. Stand aside and not talk
about what you would do. Again, what you think
other people ought to do. Because I would have said, stay in France. But then I can’t say that
because I know some of their descendants and that would be like saying I wish you were not here. But you know, that would
be the logical thing to do. But when I began to work on the book and I saw how he had treated her family. Her brothers, James I
mentioned and Robert. And Martin. Even before he went to France, James and Martin and Robert, lots of times Jefferson didn’t
even know where they were. They hired their own time. They traveled around. They didn’t live, they were enslaved by law. Obviously, they were enslaved. But they didn’t have a
life like other people down the mountain. I think Jefferson, the word co-opted is maybe pejorative. But he treated the Hemingses
in a different enough way that they began to see
themselves as a cast apart. She had seen him treat her brothers in this fashion. And I think Madison Hemings said she trusted him implicitly. And that’s another thing
that you kind of pause over and say, why would you trust him? But when I began to look at the family and how he treated them, if you’re 16, which is another point. 16 is very young. 16 is not in the 1780s, is not 16 today. I mean, we’ve sort of extended childhood. To the 30s maybe. (laughter) 40. I mean, the New York Times had an article few months back about
people who still go to their pediatricians when
they’re like 29 years old. ‘Cause they’re just used to them. And it’s weird because
there are all kinds of adult problems that pediatricians
don’t know anything about. But that’s a diversion. The point is, she’s 16. And… When I was writing the Hemingses, my daughter was about 15 or 16. So of course I’m sitting
there thinking, like… You know, this is horrible. To contemplate, to think about. But she wouldn’t have thought
of herself as a child. And he wouldn’t have
thought of her as a child. The age of consent in Virginia
at this time period was 10. They raised it to 12. In the 1820s. There was a different
understanding about what women… I mean, women didn’t go to college. They didn’t have careers. There was a different understanding. But it was still young. For a person to make this kind of choice. Make this decision. And James Hemings, we
write about the fact that James Hemings was doing
things at this time. We don’t have his words. But he’s doing things at
the time that indicate that he wants to stay there. He hires a tutor. To teach him proper French. Now, he’s been trained as a chef. And so it’s much more
likely that the two of them had this idea that they
were going to stay. But Jefferson persuades them to come back. Persuades her to come back with him. And which she does. And Peter and I think that the combination of his
disdain for French society, his capacity to take these
two really anonymous people, people whose lives are not like, I mean, they’re enslaved, there’s the law. But he’s not treating
them like other people down the mountain. And they are the faces of slavery for him. And by the time he comes back, he’s thinking not about
getting rid of slavery. He’s thinking about ways
to make slavery easier for African American women
by planting olive trees. So that, which were easy to pick. Olives were apparently not onerous. To pick. So he’s thinking about
ways to ameliorate slavery. And once you begin to think
of yourself as someone who is making slavery better, you pretty much lost. I mean, you’re… All of the kind of things
you do to help all the little gratuities that you give, all the leniencies that you give. All those kinds of things
allow you to pat yourself on the back and say I’m a good slave owner. And a good slaver owner is, that’s not something that
he would’ve as a young man, slavery was a state of war. Slavery was an evil. Slavery was not something
that could be made better. But after France, that’s what he believes. And he comes back to Virginia determined to be a good slave owner. And by the time of his death, he is convinced that
that is what he’s doing. He doesn’t have the
faith in the end that… Even before the end, that this is gonna end in any kind of republican sort of way. But he keeps this faith. That something’s going
to happen in the future. Now, again, this is not satisfactory to us. Because we want him, we want him to be better. I was at Monticello two weeks ago. It was just a week ago. It just seems… I’ve been so many places since this time, there was a summit there in Monticello that is actually online if you, I think it might be interesting to watch. It was a summit on slavery
and the legacy of race, the legacy of slavery and
race in the United States at Monticello. 2100 people came. On the west lawn. People of all races. Members of the Hemings family,
descendants and so forth. And members of the public and everybody. There were two panels. Really an amazing time. I was given the chance
to sum everything up and I had to say, I could not believe, I would never have believed, when Dylan was talking
about the conference that, summit walker’s conference
that he’s describing here. That we would be standing
on the lawn at Monticello. That there would be in
the visitor’s center a gigantic family tree
of the Hemings family with Jefferson on it. And a film that talks
about him being the father of Sally Hemings’ children. And trying to reckon with
this legacy of this person. Who is good and bad. There’s a lot of talk about moving statues and changing names and so forth. But he is so central to
American, the American story. That I think for me, it’s better to sort of look at him. And talk about all of the
problems that we’re having because every single thing
that we’re talking about today were things that he anticipated. In the area of race. The difficulty of fitting
blacks into the society. The questions of gender. Questions of republicanism. And citizenship. All of this things are in his story. And what Peter and I wanted to capture to sort of recapture was why
this person was important. Not just as a whipping boy. Not as somebody to just criticize. But a person whose life can
explicate who we really are. There was a saying that, that sort of collapses
Jefferson into America. Jefferson is sort of
an exemplar of America. And I really do think that’s true. It’s sort of unfair to him as a person to sort of carry the legacy
of an entire country. Or to be compared to an entire country. But studying his life
is a way of studying us. And it’s endlessly fascinating. And I think it’s just
endlessly important as well. So I would like to stop talking now and I would like to hear your questions. (applause) – You talk about Jefferson’s
view of slavery evolving over his lifetime. Do you see any connections
between his evolving economic circumstances and his
evolving view of slavery? – Well, his economic circumstances didn’t really evolve other than
to get worse and worse. I don’t think… The problem is, Jefferson didn’t think enough about economics. Jefferson didn’t really
understand economics. Jefferson had memorandum books. Where he kept a record of
every single expenditure that he ever made. But he never added anything up. (laughter) So it’s like, you go out and you buy three
dollars and 50 cents for a cappuccino and you put down the date. And everything. But you never… You never have any sense of where you are. When he left the presidency, there was one time he did
decide to total things up. And he was shocked. At how broke he was. He didn’t, money… He talked a lot about money. And wanting money. But he didn’t spend as much energy on that as he did writing about politics. And participating in
the republic of letters. Monticello was not a prosperous farm farm. Most of the people at Monticello, he had a very relatively few people… He didn’t have as many
people in the fields as he should have. We’re talking about this as he
should have been doing this. But many people in the fields as… He needed to actually be prosperous. Most of the people there
were working on the house. And doing his mechanical things that were not really prosperous. He had a nail factory. That was prosperous for a time. And then the British started selling nails and sort of basically ruined his market. I don’t… I don’t think his attitude about slavery, there’s some arguments that
he became wedded to slavery because it was more profitable. He realized it was profitable. But it wasn’t really for him. I guess the suggestion that he was making a certain percentage of money, a 4% plan or something like that. That he was making a lot of money. Which is not a great return on investment. The people who were really
prosperous had seven or eight. I mean, it was much bigger than that. I just don’t think that he… He talked about economics. But it really, money was not a driving force in his life. Because if it had been, he would have done, he would
have been more attentive to it. When his grandson takes over the farm, in the 18 teens, production went up like three times. He just wasn’t attentive to it at all. He talked of gain. He talked around it, but
you know when Jefferson is obsessed about something. Because you know it, because you know what he’s doing. You can see it and he’s counting the peas. The number of peas in a peck. Individually counting them out. That kind of focus. He didn’t have that for the economics or he would’ve been in a better situation. – Hi there. You made the point earlier that Jefferson targeted a lot of his fire
power on the federalists. I’m curious, was there anyone that he
grappled with to his other flank, whichever side that would be, that was more of a cahoonian stripe? Or a positive good view of slavery if Jefferson was more
of a gradual extinction, necessary evil? And maybe if you could
provide any insight into that. Also, how would he have
responded to those arguments in the context of the brewing civil war? – You know, that’s… Well. The founding generation was of the view that slavery was a necessary evil. Right? I mean, the South Carolinians were into it. But people, people in Virginia, that was their story. That this was a necessary evil that was eventually gonna go away. It was a back, like think of something
backwards we do now. That we say oh, one of these days people
aren’t gonna do that anymore. He dies before we really began to get the pro-slavery ideology. He just misses the real you know, Thomas Dew and his own grand children. Who began to shift over. Well, his eldest grandson
introduces an emancipation plan. His grandfather’s emancipation plan. Tries to introduce that in the, in a sort of constitutional
convention they have after Jefferson dies. But no, he was, slavery
was a necessary evil. And he misses the beginning, the nascent pro-slavery ideology. How he would’ve responded to it, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to say. People ask, how would he
have responded to the war? What would he have done? It would’ve been excruciating for him. He hated, hated England. And the idea that the south at some point is making overtures to England, or the idea that any one of those sides would’ve been relying on
the Europeans to help them. That was the whole
point of the revolution. Is to separate, to get out of that. On the other hand, he loved Virginia. So it would’ve been the
patriotic love of his country with the place that he
knew as his country first, against his hatred of
the idea of Americans siding with Europeans against one another. I don’t know what he would’ve done. His granddaughter, Ellen
Coolidge was a unionist. But then she moved to Massachusetts. His grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph was a confederate. And his youngest grandson,
George Wythe Randolph was the secretary of the confederacy. So… Even the grandchildren
were split on all of that. But I know it would’ve been
excruciating for him because… And when he writes about
the Missouri compromise, the controversy in between 1819 and 1820, the fire bell in the night letter. He says this is like a
fire bell in the night. You can hear the anguish. Because he’s realizing they’re
gonna go to war about this. All this thing, where he’s saying, oh, we’re eventually gonna come to some amicable agreement about it. He realizes, that’s not gonna happen. This is, is the death now. It’ll be the rock upon
which the union will split. And that was a horrifying notion to him. – On a more domestic area, level, you talk about his progeny. And I’m interested in knowing
a little bit more about how he may have felt about his children that he had with Sally. How many, I’m not clear
about how many he had. But was he… I try to imagine how he would
feel about these children who are his and grandchildren
who are also his. Given the times. – It’s hard to wrap your mind around it. The idea of having children or family members
that are your legal, that you legally own. Now of course parents
don’t own their kids. But that, the power over
kids is something that obviously that would’ve
existed as legal children. Madison Hemings said that
he was not in the habit of showing us partiality. Or fatherly affection. And he compares, he said but he was affectionate
with his grandchildren. Now his grandchildren are, were, of the same generation pretty
much as the Hemings children. So what he seems to be talking about is the fact that Jefferson was you know, bounced him on the knee
and patted him on the head and did all these kinds of things. Contingency is so important
as historians always know. I think it’s really significant that Jefferson’s legal daughter, Martha, when her husband fails essentially, they have to move back to Monticello. So in 1809, she moves her family, the husband and all the
kids into Monticello. And that, and I wonder
what would’ve happened to the Hemings children. There were, Sally Hemings
had seven children. Four of them lived to adulthood. If their lives would’ve been different if the legal white
grandchildren had not been in the same place. Because there’s no way
that a man of that class, that man of that, he could not treat those children the same way he treats his legal white grandchildren. I mean, it might be bad enough that he has a mistress. His daughter’s aunt. If you think about this. So you know, this is all
speculation on my part. But I just can’t see how
he could’ve treated them exactly the same. Treated them like white kids. Because Martha wouldn’t have liked that. What I do know from doing, I hadn’t paid very much attention to this because I was doing something
different in the first book. There are a series of
letters that Jefferson writes to his overseer at Poplar Forest. And he’s talking about his coming visits. And he will say, I’m
coming with Johnny Hemings and his assistants. Johnny Hemings’ assistants were Madison, depending upon the years, were
Beverly Madison and Eston. The sons. Jefferson had put them under
the tutelage of John Hemings. John Hemings was his favorite artisan. And he spent a lot of time. Jefferson was a wood worker himself. He spent a lot of time with him. So he takes these young men and puts them under the
tutelage of a person that he is with a lot. So he’s with them a lot. So they go to Poplar Forest. They are isolated. It’s 90 miles from Monticello. Monticello’s in the woods. This is even more in the woods. So he’s there with them. For weeks at a time. So we don’t know what he’s like. All three of them play the violin. As he played the violin. They’re named for his favorite cousins. And best friends. Madison Hemings is James Madison Hemings. Beverly, the eldest son, is described at one point as
ascending a hot air balloon. After he escapes from Monticello. They basically leave to
live as white people. Beverly and Harriet were the two oldest who went to live as white people. And we know nothing about them. Because they had no freedom papers. There’s no paper record. They disappeared into
whiteness and we don’t know anything about them. So hot air ballooning was
the Jefferson fascination. He was obsessed with that. So there are these little, Eston Hemings made his
living as a musician in Ohio. And his signature tune was
a song called Money Musk. And that was one of the few
songs that Jefferson copied out by hand. In his, you know, he
didn’t really care for popular music as much. He liked classical music. That was one of the few
songs that he copied out in his own in his music book. So all these little tantalizing things that suggest that he
is connecting to them. But we don’t, he can’t write about them. He could not write about this. And Madison doesn’t talk about this except to compare himself
to the grandchildren. And he’s sort of like
the typical grandfather. But a father who you sort of see as, you get the sense that
he’s sort of training them. Making sure they’re trained to do things. They’re never servants. But they’re trained as carpenters. If they were to show up today, they’d have a job. Not as a, not working with a blacksmith. Not working with the horses or whatever. But something that he knew
would always be needed. So we don’t really know other
than those little bits of, other than the facts that he makes them, he puts themselves in their lives. Thank you. – Yes. Welcome, Professor Reed to the Bay area. Just a quick question,
maybe a plea for help. Jefferson’s always been someone that I always admired. His writing… Founding father and you know… I had a couple kids and I
try to pass that on to them. Now they’re in the university. And you’re right, it’s
for them to get over the whole stain of slavery. And every time I bring Jefferson up, they throw it back in my face. So I was gonna ask your assistance how… – I mean, he was a slave owner. – Is there anything that
you would still try to maybe try to convey to younger people about the importance and what he meant? My daughter’s in the
audience, so you can just… – Don’t give up. Well, because there isn’t… He’s at the center of so
much that’s in America. History is not just about your best BFF. The people that you like the best and you wanna have fun with. There’s a lot to admire, but there’s a lot to be concerned about. And I think he’s an important
figure for grappling with serious, serious issues. He’s also been made I think the fall guy for race and slavery. Because it’s easy. One of the interesting things
about Hamilton the play, has anybody seen that? Does anybody… Yeah. So a few people. Lucky people went out to see it. If you did not know American history, you would
think the only slave owner up on that stage was Jefferson. Washington is not linked to slavery. Madison is not linked to slavery. Or the sort of racial
attitudes that Jefferson has as a racist, these were the, this is the, his garden variety. I’ve called him one time in my, in an article, a garden variety white guy. And a church in Greenwich
village put that up on the… On their little thing. Jefferson, garden variety white guy. No, and people want to suggest, you know, when he says white people may be smarter, I ventured as a suspicion only. That whites are smarter than blacks. Of course he believed that
whites are smarter than blacks. Better looking and all that. These are, what is this all been about? If a critical mass of
white people haven’t felt those exact things. And it’s sort of not, it’s sort of running away
from the pervasiveness of that idea to sort of say well, there was this garden of Eden. And then the serpent came
in and it was Jefferson and then all of a sudden
white people became racist. It’s like… No, no, that’s not, that’s not what happened. The reason he was a popular
politician is because he knew his people. He understood what they wanted. And that’s what, that’s what he did. Once he realized, they’re
not going for this. They’re not gonna vote slavery out. He’s like, I’m out of it. I’m over here with the federalists, and the judiciary and all these other structural civics type
things that he’s fixated on. So I think you don’t really, my home
state wanted to take him out of the history books. I’m from Texas and they wanted to, and everybody laughs. They wanted to take him
out of the history books. They replaced him with John Calvin. And… That noted American, John Calvin. Because of, mainly because
of his views about religion, but I also think Sally
is part of it as well. But you can’t do that. There is no American
history without Jefferson. You know? If he doesn’t, if he’s not in American history books, nobody belongs in an
American history book. You just can’t do it. It’s like we’re gonna have
the Mao and the long march and anytime somebody’s disfavored, they kind of get airbrushed
out of the picture. We can’t do that with him. Because he’s too central to it. And there are problems, it
doesn’t mean that you have to admire or worship anybody. That’s not the goal of it. The goal is to grapple
seriously with the people who helped make the country
and put us on the road that we’ve been on. So you don’t have to like him. A lot of people like him. A lot of people love him,
a lot of people loathe him. But you have to recognize the importance. And going through all of these, the words, the things that are hurtful, all those kinds of things. They’re real. And I just don’t think you
should run away with that. There are different, I’m
always asked now about who should be, whose name
should come down, who should… You know, I was up at Yale not long ago and I’ve said this before. John Calhoon can go. (laughter) I mean, there’s all the
difference in the world between being one of the
founders of the United States and somebody who tried to
destroy the United States. We don’t have to have
monuments to those people. It’s just, you can remember
them in a different way. But I think we, we will be hiding something from ourselves if we don’t grapple with him. And it’s not about love. It’s about understanding the
importance of this figure. – I’m trying to get a better understanding of the relationship between
Sally Hemings and Jefferson. I know on her death bed, that his wife got a promise that he
would never marry again. So… Sally Hemings was the nurse
maid for his children. And she was a comfort in his bed. What else was she, did he, he was such an intellectual. Did he try and educate her in any way? What was that relationship
like other than being in bed? – We don’t really know what
their relationship was like. Because he never wrote about it. She never wrote about it. Madison describes, Madison Hemings describes her as taking care of Jefferson’s
rooms and sewing. She’s… He’s describing the life of a house wife. And I don’t wanna say wife. But a person who is basically
taking care of this guy. And who is her master. And once she comes back from France, she’s totally under his control. But I guess you could say, and people have pointed
out to me when I say that, is that when men married women, the women were totally,
you couldn’t refuse sex. The only thing that couldn’t happen is that you couldn’t be sold. You could apply moderate correction. There’s a difference between
being a slave and a wife. But we’re talking… People are starting to
twitter in here on that. But there are gradations of subordination and unfreedom there. So we don’t know anything about this other than the fact
that when he comes back, there are no stories with him about women. There are no, there appear to be no other successive generations of Sallys. And you would think, maybe I’m, this is my modern sensibility to do this, that it’s just hard to
imagine that he had a purely sexual relationship or
sexual attraction to her for 38 years. That’s typically not the way that works. I say in my first book
lust can last 20 minutes. 20 days or 20 months. But not 20 years, that’s the
span of her child bearing. And she was his wife’s half sister. That’s the other thing that’s not thought about enough in this. Is what is going on here
with this person who has taken up with his wife’s, his beloved deceased
wife’s sister that he’s… I think it would be impossible for him to look at her without making
the connection to his wife. So… We don’t know that that’s, what that role that played in it. We do, the only gestured towards him is that she comes back here. And that could’ve been because of him or it could’ve been, and
I talk in the book about whether or not this was
to be with her family. When she dies, she gives items
that belonged to Jefferson to her children that she has kept. That she gives to her children. Which is sort of a way of keeping, it’s like a
memorial thing in a way. People say, talk about Stockholm syndrome. But… It could just be a person
making the best deal that she could make in her life. That women, women did that all the time. Marrying people, this is the best thing
that I’m going to do. Sally Hemings was one quarter black. I mean, her father was a white man. Her fathers were white men. Who do we think, why do we assume that her
ideal, her understanding of who she would end up
with would be a black man? We’ve constructed race
in a particular way. And if it was gonna be a white man, why wouldn’t he be as
good as any other one? – [Woman] Could she read English? – We don’t know. Her brothers could. Her brothers were literate. But we don’t have any way. – [Woman] She’s learned French? – Yeah, she spoke French. But… We don’t have any, we
have no letters from her. Robert and James were literate. Robert, James and Peter were literate. There are letters from
Robert to Jefferson. Jefferson also kept a list
of all the letters he got and all the letters he sent out. There are letters from Robert to him. The correspondence between them. But it’s gone. It’s been lost. And so, we don’t know. Whether she could. We don’t know nothing about her. – [Woman] Thank you. – Hello. – Hello. – In Thomas Jefferson’s
correspondence with John Adams, he refers to certain parts of the Bible, more specifically I think it
was the concept of a miracle as a pile of dung. I was wondering how these
more radical beliefs affected how he was respected in a more religious time. – Well, it caused him a lot of problems. When he was running for office, people in New England, we
think of New England as, New England was the religious place then. They had established religion. And people were saying bury your Bibles. Because they thought he was gonna come and take away the Bible. They said if he’s elected,
incest and adultery will be common. Non sequitur. But that’s what they thought. He kept, people had a sense that he was skeptical of religion. But he was very very
private about his religion. He doesn’t tell his family that. He begins his process of
creating what is called the Jefferson Bible. Basically the life and
morals of Jesus of Nazareth. When he’s president, he comes
back to it as an older man. He basically takes a razor
blade and scissors out all of the miracles. And creates a Jefferson Bible. And what Peter and I talk, we have a chapter on this, and we talk about this as trying to create an American civic religion. He believed that it should, he believed that Jesus
was a wonderful teacher. But you should follow
the teachings of Jesus and not the things that the priests, he said the people had made
up and said that Jesus said. So he was always, he was considered an atheist. And that was a big deal. So he really kept his, he didn’t talk openly about his religion. But people could sort of gauge that he was, and from things that said to other people, the rumor was that he was an atheist. And that he hated religion. But it really, as I said,
he wasn’t an atheist. He thought that one day
everybody would be a unitarian. That was his prediction. That one day… And he considered himself a Christian. But he thought, he said, he’s a primitive Christian. He believed in the what he thought were the
true teachings of Jesus and not the miracles. But he did have to keep that secret. If people had known that
he’d cut up the Bible, it would have been over. (laughter) – Thank you. For coming to Berkeley. It’s a pleasure listening to you. I’m a retired lawyer. I seem to recall 50 years ago
when I was an undergraduate, reading a book that characterized
the particularly cruel form of slavery that was
active in the United States as contrasted with
Catholic countries like, more south American. And I’m… – It’s morning. – Well, I’m… It’s a shock to me to hear that he couldn’t imagine after
20 or 30 year affair with Sally Hemings. And being the patriarch that he is and as well read as he
is and a long history of Roman patriarchs having their
slaves manage their estates. And the Islamic world,
slavery taking a form that didn’t degrade people
in the way that it does here. Or at least didn’t necessarily do it. What I’m wondering is is, how much of it had to do with Catholicism, realism, hierarchy and corporate state in Europe as contrasted with
nominalism, enlightenment, Lock, new science, new way
of looking at the world, and the new world. And Protestant energy in the new world. – Well, you know. People write about this a lot. The supposedly better
slavery in Catholic countries versus Protestant countries. I think it’s almost as similar, it’s the same thing today. The Europeans are racist in their own way. And we’re racist in our own way. Americans are racist in our own way. It’s a matter of the
culture definitely matters. In Catholic countries you
do have the recording, they keep records of the births of people. Because they want them to be baptized. The Catholics are there to save souls. And the Protestants didn’t seem
to care as much about that. And so there’s a very
different understanding about family in Catholic countries. In the civil system where
you cannot, for example, cannot disinherit your children unless they do something really
really really really bad. And then the English system,
you don’t have to leave your kids anything. There’s no forced heirship
other than by contract. Namely the marriage contract. Dowered courtesy. So you come, there’s a different
understanding about family between the British. And the British, you’re either black or you’re white. You know? And the Europeans, I mean
the continental people have they have gradations. And it may actually matter that you are part white or whatever. The French saw the mixed class as sort of a buffer
between blacks and whites. And one letter, I remember one letter says that if we treat them better,
they will side with us. Instead of their darker cousin. The British don’t do that. You’re black or you’re white. You’re in or you’re out. And that sounds harsh. But in a way, it’s interesting that the
true civil rights movement among blacks happens here. Because, and I think it’s because blacks never, I mean sure
there are always people who play color consciousness
and stuff like that. But seriously, after the end of slavery, blacks and whites of all colors
were thrown into one pot. You’re all black. And we were forced to
cooperate with one another. We never really got this caste thing going as seriously as it exists in other places where everybody’s pretending
that there is no race. In Brazil. I was in Cuba in 2010 and I
was at a university there. And I said what about
the racial situation? And this person told me the revolution ended race. And I’m like… And the black people sitting in the room, I could sort of see them like… I don’t know about that. I mean, he is British. He’s a product of that system. And his racial attitudes
are very much of that binary of black and white. Now, in the end, when
he fixes out his will, and he says, the Virginia
law of 1806 said that in order to remain, if you were freed, in order to remain in Virginia, you had to have permission
of the legislature. He asked the legislature
to allow the people that he’s freeing to remain in Virginia because this is where
their families and their connections are. Now when he was doing that, there were some people
who were freeing slaves on the condition that they go to Liberia. He could’ve done that. But he doesn’t send them to Liberia. Because he wants them, because he knows these people. He wants them to say in Virginia. And that’s the answer as
to why all black people should remain in America. Because that’s where our
families and connections are. But Jefferson is speaking,
thinking abstractly. But in his day to day life, the stuff he says, everything that he says and noticed in the state of Virginia, you can find something that
he’s doing on the plantation that in real life, in real time, that’s completely in
contrevention of that. And I just think that’s
the difference between thinking abstractly, the
catechism of white supremacy, and the actual lived
experience of the person who is dealing face to face with people. – One last very short question and it belongs to you. – Oh thank you so much. Hello. – Hello. – You know, on the question
of whether slavery would have ceased to exist. As some of the founding
fathers apparently believed, it’s always seemed to me that the Louisiana purchase
basically guaranteed that slavery would continue to exist for X number of years. And because of the, you know, the soil depletion
and all of that stuff that was true of the eastern states. And it also seems to me that
Jefferson must have known that. Didn’t he? I mean… – Well, the problem. – [Woman] Or he should’ve. – He should’ve known that
buying Louisiana would change the calculus. He had the idea that, he had a brief moment, the idea, was that he believed in
a notion of diffusion. That if slaves were spread out across this territory, that it would be easier to free them. He looked at the example of New England. New England was able to
emancipate enslaved people ’cause there are not that many
black people in New England. And numbers really matter. That something we don’t
talk about very much today. But even then, numbers matter. So he thought that
that’s what would happen. And we know that’s ridiculous. We look at that and say that’s ridiculous. But he’s saying in another region, where they were spread out, not that many, we could free them. The other thing is that slavery
was already in Virginia. The Spanish had slaves. They were wedded to that very much. In order for the federal government, we would’ve had a war in 1804. When he’s president, if
they had tried to root, they had made the choice
for slavery already. So I mean… There’s a book John Craig
Hammond has written a book about, about this contesting slavery. And talks about the
Louisiana territory that people write about it as
if it’s this sort of land that’s just sort of out there. But in fact, the plantations
out there already. And the federal government
would have to send an army. They would have to fight
to get, to make that, to sort of end it. So yeah, he had an idea, he knew that slavery wasn’t gonna go away. But this diffusion idea,
which we think is ridiculous, but it comes from his
idea that this extra land would spread slaves out. There would be few and then they could in
fact be emancipated. Just as they had done in New England. But that’s not what happened. The land was too good. Settler, it wasn’t just the Spanish
who were out there. The settlers from the east went out. And they, and everybody wanted to be, even if they didn’t own
slaves, they aspired to. And they brought their slaves west. And that’s what caused
the expansion of slavery and eventually what caused a civil war. As they wanted to try to
make a nation of slaves. A slave nation instead of a free nation. Thank you. (applause) (rhythmic music)

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  1. I have to disagree. He could have just as easily focused on the fact that many blacks fought on the side of the Revolution. Also, in her psychological analysis, she ignores the fact that Jefferson was obsessed with developing Monticello, and for this he needed money. Lots of money. And slaves were, in his view one of the two greatest economic assets a man could have. The other one was land. He was obsessed with money and was ever getting into more and more debt. He was not going to free one of his greatest "economic assets". Also, slavery is wrong now and was wrong then. It has always been wrong. And he knew it very well. He was simply too egotistical to do anything about it.

  2. Jefferson like most men in power or over nations make the mistake of assuming they are in control. God will not allow any gods on earth. He uses men for his own purposes. Jefferson made the statement that blacks and whites could not exist together in the nation that he and others founded. According to him, whites would never give up their prejudices against blacks and blacks would never forgive the white man for slavery. He lacked the understanding of the black man and the power of God within the black race for forgiveness (he thought blacks were unforgiving like him) . He was right about his race at that time. He did not foresee generations of young whites different from him. No man placed over nations and people by God will escape his will.

  3. Black African 1963/67 allows marry white people.
    Naturally it's not colour of skin it's about the heart of the individuals. Its history makes uncomfortable/ this is 2019 obviously moved on and mixed culture/ diversity moved forward

  4. Historically are reliant on the future/ come out from slavery to normality life. Is there such a thing? Or will history taint generations moving forward….grandchildren want to know their history/ and be horrified to know, their ancestors died/enslaved so they could live/ a "free" life not an enslaved life as they had too survive.
    It's so surreal….their ancestors had to be " own" as like a property/ sold and bought like "land" property. Its disturbing but true.
    It's the colour of skin….differs a person to be in higher class…white / black but all belong in same family tree.

  5. like the bible says there is nothing new under the sun. it is biblical. the more white side could not bear children because of the curse. so she needed someone close to bear more children for her that she can consider her own . it can be that some children was not of her own per to say.

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