a Thomas Jefferson career assessment

Reply Thu 22 Jun, 2006 06:24 pm
another excerpt from Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia: ch. 14, is worth considering:

Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry. -- Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar ;oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism.

here's a poem by Phillis Wheatley, a young slave woman (TJ misspelled her name as well as dismissed her work. and ironically enough, African American men of letters have reviled her as well for this very poem):

"Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die,"
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

now Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in the 2002 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, ironically enough, relates that a freelance writer named Walter Grigo had discovered that the entire poem could be anagrammed to produce this message:

Hail, Brethren in Christ! Have ye
Forgotten God's word? Scriptures teach
Us that bondage is wrong. His own greedy
Kin sold Joseph into slavery. "Is there
No balm in Gilead?" God made us all.
Aren't African men born to be free? So
Am I. Ye commit so brute a crime
On us. But we can change thy attitude.
America, manumit our race. I thank the


whether it was an anagram is unknowable, but Jefferson having to resort to dismissing her poetry's literary merits in order to maintain his "suspicion," as he termed it, that blacks "are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind," smacks of desperation. if poetic gifts were the sole yardstick of mental endowment, most whites would be relegated to inferior mental status. and it's rather mind-boggling that Jefferson made an issue of poetry, at a time when very few blacks had the chance to learn to read & write. then adding insult to injury is the circumlocution, "the compositions published under her name," insinuating that she hadn't written the poems, without providing any basis for doubting her authorship; evidently, though her poetry was beneath criticism, it wasn't beneath innuendo.
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Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2006 04:55 pm
Letty wrote:
As I said, I am relying on the acumen of my oldest sister. I find her to be generally accurate in these matters. Actually, yit, the private lives of famous folks tell a lot about their stature as the leader of a country; however, history should not judge the failures or achievements of a leader based solely on what he did outside the seat o

Idea I believe that much Thos. Jefferson's debt came from his spending on building the University of Virginia his life long dream. And did no one know that during his presidency he wrote two versions of the gospels. He evidently did not like the versions that came from Matthew, Mark, Luke and James (or who ever really wrote them)
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Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2006 05:02 pm
Thomas Jefferson, and most of the founding fathers were deists. I suppose they searched just as we all do.
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Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2006 05:20 pm
David McCullough discusses Jefferson's shopaholic tendencies, especially while he was in France, in his biography "John Adams." Perhaps he was the Founding Great-Great-Great Grandfather of the credit card?
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Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2006 06:03 pm
Actually, most of the Founders were practicing Christians. It would be comforting to think that Deism was predominate, but it just ain't so.
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Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2006 06:09 pm
Asherman, I was under the impression that deism simply meant that the founding fathers didn't believe that Jesus was divine.
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Joe Nation
Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2006 08:10 pm
Thomas Jefferson was not a practicing Christian, he took no membership at any church, but he liked to attend them and listen to the sermons. He was confident in the powers of Providence, but never implied in any way a personal relationship.

Joe(sounds like a Deist to me) Nation
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