I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach [slavery], in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle [a small matter] which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the otherIt is one thing, though, to change one's own life, and another to change one's family's life because of a new moral vision. If you went vegetarian, for instance, how would you explain the change to your children? I can imagine children understanding and accepting vegetarianism, but what would they make of your past meat-eating? The possible difficulty of explaining isn't a reason not to change, but I wonder how much is owed to children in terms of an explanation, and what the best way to put it would be. Can an authority admit to being wrong without undermining its authority? Perhaps it doesn't matter.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I went to Monticello earlier this week, where it's always interesting to see how the subject of slavery will be addressed. Our guide this time seemed to think that Jefferson's owning slaves was worse because he recognized that slavery is wrong. I'm not so sure. But it is curious how he could see the injustice of the institution and yet perpetuate it. I had thought that perhaps he just couldn't imagine doing without the lifestyle that slavery allowed him and, perhaps especially, his family to enjoy. But this (from Wikipedia) suggests that he feared the vengeance of freed slaves: