[ExI] difficult (?) puzzle

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Thu Jul 9 02:17:19 UTC 2020

I'm not footnoting what you said, but trying to point out that you're minimizing what Jefferson and Lee did. This isn't to say Jefferson had some good ideas and did some good things, but it's not like he merely 'kept a slave' as bad as that alone would be. He literally owned _hundreds_ of slaves, even bought a few during his lifetime, emancipated very few, and has a fairly bad record with slavery for someone supposedly enlightened on things like -- you guessed it -- freedom and slavery. It seems to me that he never let his enlightened views get in the way of his financial prosperity or his material enjoyments.* This also goes for how he tended to punish slaves: letting others do it when he wasn't around, sometimes even selling them to worse masters.** This tells us something very important about the man. It means he didn't walk the walk as much as talk the talk.

Lee is much worse, in my opinion. He didn't have a record as a activist for freedom or against slavery. He was a military man who fought to preserve a slave society. I don't understand what people see in him beyond that. What's the 'rational side' of Lee that I missed? The statues put up to honor him were put in place mainly by the UDC -- basically a White supremacist group promoting the Lost Cause view of the South and trying to soften the image of the slave period, of segregation, and of Jim Crow. This isn't a footnote.

(As a general, too, one might criticize Lee, but that's another matter for the historian and military specialist. His reckless campaigns cost his men's lives. He was mainly victorious going against timid, slow, and inept adversaries. Sure, at a tactical level, he was quite good, but strategically, he depended on the other side making mistakes and was still wasteful in the process. Yet a hagiography exists of him as a great general. But I take it you weren't going over this aspect of his life.)

I hardly think people who call into question commemorating these two are fanatics guilty of black and white thinking. Again, not footnoting you but disagreeing with your attitude and assessment here. And, sure, just about any person is mixed, but it's not like every person wrote glowingly about freedom yet kept hundreds of slaves. ('course, there's something to be said that owners of slaves are more likely to be aware of encroachments on their freedom, but this is the acute awareness of the hypocrite.)

As an addendum for those who argue about this is applying today's moral standards to people who lived long ago, the problem is there were enlightened people back in the 18th century who condemned slavery. This wasn't a lunatic fringe view back then. By 1800, the year Jefferson was elected president, seven states had already outlawed slavery. And it was outlawed in Vermont since 1770! It wasn't like Jefferson was living in the Bronze Age. (In fact, slavery had been outlawed in many places centuries before Jefferson.) Georgia banned slavery in 1735 only to have it re-instituted in 1751.

Lee has it even worse, though Lee was not anti-slavery. His time is much later, when any enlightened person had even less reason to support slavery. Yet he didn't take that step, AFAIK, and as, in fact, quite cruel as a slave owner.


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* See this article on the explanation of why Jefferson likely became silent on the slavery issue once he discovered slavery earned him hefty profits:

** See https://foundersandslavery.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/the-wrecking-of-a-reputation-thomas-jefferson-slavery/
and compare to James Madison, who tended to be more lenient approach:

'... but cannot think of punishing him [a slave he brought to a free state] by transportation merely for coveting that liberty for which we have paid the price of so much blood, and have proclaimed so often to be the right, & worthy the pursuit, of every human being.'


On Jul 8, 2020, at 2:03 PM, William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> I knew all that, Dan. You don't have to add footnotes every time I write, do you?  bill w
>> On Wed, Jul 8, 2020 at 3:11 PM Dan TheBookMan via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> On Jul 8, 2020, at 8:08 AM, William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> Fanatics are responsible for all of it:  tearing down statues, taking names off of buildings and so on.  It is black and white thinking.  If Jefferson kept a slave then he is a bad person who has utterly no qualities we want to emulate.  I predict that cooler heads will prevail after some token things, like moving statues to cemeteries and the like.  For example, Robert E. Lee was a very fine person who let his emotion of loyalty overcome his rational side (a danger for all conservatives, I should add).
>>> bill w
>> Except that Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves and bought slaves too. See:
>> https://www.monticello.org/slavery/slavery-faqs/property/
>> It seems to me like he might’ve written about the evils of slavery, but he didn’t do much to suffer material discomfort in that regard.
>> And Robert E. Lee likewise owned at least two hundred slaves and was quite cruel in that capacity. See:
>> https://apnews.com/afs:Content:9009420680
>> Regards,
>> Dan
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