An inscription inside the Jefferon memorial says: --- God who gave us life gave us Liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is depotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free establish the law for educating the common people. This is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan. ---- Would Jefferson have said that? He was a slave owner himself.

  • He didn't say slavery is despotism, he said commerce between master and slave is despotism. Antislavery and anti capitalism are not the same
    – D J Sims
    May 21, 2016 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


The official story is that the inscription is taken from Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, with the last two sentences being from a letter to George Washington. A manuscript.

The quote isn't some black-and-white assertion against slavery. Thomas Jefferson had complex and evolving relationships with slaves. He owned lots of them (inherited some 135 of them), had a romantic relationship with one of them after his wife died (including kids), waived various fees, and was the key politician who banned importation of new slaves and then slavery itself in numerous states.

It's just wrong to assume that a politician in the late 18th century should have behaved and acted like a radical social justice warrior in the 21st century. There is no contradiction between Jefferson's life and the inscription and Jefferson was an amazing politician and president who has improved the U.S. society dramatically.

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    It is also very wrong to whitewash history and dispose of any critical evaluation as something only “radical social justice warriors” would do. In particular, much has been written about Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings and presenting as a “romantic relationship” (and evidence of a complex relationship with slaves?!) is a questionable choice of words. Besides, this hardly seems to address the question.
    – Relaxed
    May 21, 2016 at 14:18
  • I am just saying that those who "critically evaluate" either completely misunderstand the history or deliberately distort it while they attempt to intimidate people at the present and reach their own goals. Slavery was as old as the human civilizations themselves - and slavery has done a huge amount of good stuff for the mankind. It's only a recent fad to pretend that slavery is a bad crime from all viewpoints. And the people who are saying these things today are both deluded and not courageous - they really face no risks for saying these silly things. My answer surely addresses the question. May 21, 2016 at 14:55
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    Well, that's even worse than I thought, your comments just confirm that you have zero interest in a history or the question itself and just were itching to rant on the subject. Also why this obsession with what's good or bad, what I personally think or whether I face personal risks? All this seem to have no place in a rational approach to history and I don't think you need to be a “radical social justice warrior” to disagree with it.
    – Relaxed
    May 21, 2016 at 15:00
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    It is outrageous that this complete and well documented answer was voted down. Something is definitely wrong with this site.
    – Alex
    May 21, 2016 at 22:36
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    +1 You are correct. People today cannot understand these ideas.
    – user6591
    May 23, 2016 at 1:19

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