The weekly column from Clark Judge:
“Thomas Jefferson, the Constitution and Slavery”
By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute
It was William Faulkner who wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” How we understand the origins of our institutions and the men and women who shaped them shapes what we value about them now. It informs what we keep and what we change and what we build that’s new.
Last month, on 4th of July weekend, I found myself thinking about Thomas Jefferson and slavery. You know the derision directed at the author of the Declaration of Independence on this topic — and, in some quarters, at the legitimacy of the entire American project in light of his and the other Founders’ failure to abolish slavery at the country’s start.
I have a different view.
Yes, we have all read Mr. Jefferson’s impassioned denunciations of slavery and listened to charges that, despite those fine words, he made scarcely a move to end it. I could answer that words are action, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s words. For it mattered that the Declaration of Independence was written as it was, that the nation was established with an unequivocal statement of principles, a statement that was incompatible with slavery and that for the next 87 years lay as a weight —in the end a crushing weight — over the presence of human bondage in this country. Continue Reading