Why Did Thomas Jefferson Support Slavery?

1837 Words8 Pages
Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, and third president of the United States of America, owned slaves. He actively avoided the topic whenever possible, keeping his view on slavery a mystery to the American public. Behind closed doors, however, in his private writing and when addressing matters of Congress, Jefferson made his opinion clear; Jefferson supported slavery for its economic benefits. He avoided the guilt that one might face when condemning an entire race to labor their lives away for the sake of others by convincing himself that they, blacks, were inferior, almost sub human, when compared to whites. This can be seen more clearly when examining his relationship with the Heming's family and Jefferson's lack of…show more content…
This was not always his desire however because in 1784, according to the "Report of a Plan of Government for the Western Territory," he advocated for the prohibition of slavery in all western territories. As he grew older and gained more knowledge about slavery's impact on the economy, he suffered a great volte-face. In the 1820 debate over the Missouri Compromise, Jefferson heavily supported the legality of slavery in the west, stating that not allowing for slavery would “perpetrate” an “act of suicide on themselves"(Finkelman, 2012, p. 3). Jefferson implied that the prohibition he supported earlier would in fact doom any hope of America's westward expansion because of settlers' inability to financially support themselves. Extrapolating the 4% Theorem that he had defined many years earlier, Jefferson saw merit in growing the western economy through slavery, once again valuing financial benefits over the condition of an entire
Open Document