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Thomas Jefferson

July 11, 1994

In response to "From a Founding Father, an Imperfect Vision of America," by Benjamin Schwarz, Commentary, July 4;

Of course Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, after all, he was a powerful and influential Virginian plantation owner! Regardless, his papers indicate nothing but distaste for slavery for moral and economic reasons. Not to mention his wife Martha's influence: "I wish with all my soul that the poor Negroes were all freed. It grieves my heart when I think that these our fellow creatures should be treated so terribly as they are by many of our countrymen" (from a letter to her father from Paris, May 3, 1787).

Jefferson believed in the abolition of slavery as it was contrary to " . . . the lasting interests of the American states and to the rights of human nature deeply wounded by this infamous practice" (from a Draft of Instructions to the Virginia Delegates in the Continental Congress, July, 1774.) Jefferson viewed the issue with much importance as he considered it to be one of the " . . . great objects I have in view, that is the emancipation of their slaves, and the settlement of their constitution on a firmer and more permanent basis" (from a letter June 7, 1785.)

The references are from "The Papers of Thomas Jefferson," volumes 1-25, from 1760 to 1793, Princeton University Press. The evidence I find indicates Jefferson was a protagonist for human rights and a most illustrious citizen. He most certainly was not a racist, bigot or hypocrite as Schwarz would have us believe.

DENNIS CUOCCO

Whittier

I think your decision to include this negative article on Jefferson on July 4 is appalling. I cannot comment on the accuracy of Schwarz's comments on Jefferson's private life and his views on slavery and blacks. But why bring this up on July 4? This day has been set aside to celebrate the approval of the Declaration of Independence. It is a day for remembering how this great country was formed.

ROBERT L. FRANZ

Placentia

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