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If I Were Advisor to President Thomas Jefferson, Essay Example

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Words: 908

Essay

In his article in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Paul Finkelman notes that, “Thomas  Jefferson  is certainly the  most  popular  saint  of  American  civil religion.  His closest rival is  Abraham  Lincoln.  But Lincoln  was  merely our greatest  president  (Finkelman, 193).”  To further explain this, Finkelman goes on to say in regards to Lincoln’s legacy verses Jefferson’s that, Abraham Lincoln busted on to the political scene, freed slaves and then was martyred, whereas Jefferson did so much more. Examples he uses to validate the argument that Jefferson is truly the greatest American President include, “coauthor  of  the  Declaration  of Independence,  president, father  of  the  University of  Virginia,  philosopher, cofounder  of  the [Republican Party],  patron of  the  Lewis  and  Clark expedition, scientist, naturalist… (Finkelman, 194).”   It is noted here that Jefferson contributed to the expansion of the U.S. into the west, he was one of the fore father’s of the American revolution, and he was an architect and inventor. He also established major advancements for religious rights in Virginia. The author closes his argument about Jefferson by stating that, “Jefferson’s image in America  would  be  almost  perfect, were  it  not  for slavery (Finkelman, 194).” This makes me think that as his advisor, I would press on him the importance of abolishing slavery during his administration for the sake of his legacy and the country.

For a man who once wrote in a private letter in 1800, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man (Beschloss, and Sidey),” it’s hard to understand how slavery was not a central issue during his time as president. In addition to the conflict of slavery being a pertinent political issue of Jefferson’s era, it was also a core conflict building within his personal life as well. In a scientific correspondence study done by nature magazine, they note that “There is a long-standing historical controversy over the question of US President Thomas Jefferson’s paternity of the children of Sally Hemings, one of his slaves  27).” The study concludes that despite the fact Sally Hemings claimed her first son was fathered by Thomas Jefferson, it’s not true, but it is however true that her last son was fathered by the resident.  For the President’s family tree to be connected racially to America’s slave trade, it would only make sense that morally as well as politically this would be an issue he had strong feelings towards resolving(Foster, Jobling, Taylor, Donnelly, Knijff, Mieremet, Zerjal, and
Tyler-Smith 27-28).

There are benefits to the concept of Jefferson abolishing slavery, instead of Lincoln that are very obvious. For example, had slavery been abolished during Jefferson’s era, nearly a century before Lincoln’s presidency, perhaps racial understanding in American would be further evolved. Currently, there is a black president in the United States. This could have developed 50 to 100 years earlier.  There are also some negative aspects that could occur. For example, if Jefferson was as influential as the authors claim, then if he were martyred during this time for the same reason as Lincoln during his era, then maybe America would be without all of the innovations and progressive policies Jefferson provided. This doesn’t seem likely. It’s hard to believe that without Jefferson Louise and Clark would never have explored the West or that no one would have ever invented the macaroni machine. It’s also a possibility since the industrial era shortly followed Lincoln’s abolition of slavery which was largely how America thrived economically, that if Jefferson would have done the same, there would have been no industrial era to support him and America would have crumbled economically. The American economy almost did crumble when Jefferson placed an embargo on trade to Great Britain and France during 1803 when they were at war. The thought that American could not economically survive the abolishment of slavery during this time period is highly probable.

In sum, it’s difficult to assess whether advising Jefferson to abolish slavery during his presidency would have been beneficial to America. Considering that a President is only as great as his legacy, and Thomas Jefferson is considerably the greatest President of all time outside the problem of slavery. It only makes sense that his advisor would assist him with conquering the one thorn in the side of his administration.  While Jefferson did have other failures like the embargo with France and Great Britain or his congressional and judicial bouts with the Federalists limiting the authority of his actions, slavery has been the one negative mark on his presidency only enhanced by the fact that he fathered slave children. It would be incredibly difficult as President Jefferson’s advisor not to support this transition, especially considering of all his presidential acts handled with such foresight and wisdom, his stance on slavery was horribly wrong.

Work Cited

Beschloss, Michael , and Hugh Sidey. The White House. “The Presidents of the United States of America”. 2009. Web. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/thomasjefferson>.

Cohen, William . Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Slavery. Instituto de Estudos Avançados da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Web. <http://www.iea.usp.br/iea/teste/english/journal/38/cohenjefferson.pdf>.

Finkelman, Paul . “Thomas Jefferson and Antislavery: The Myth Goes On.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 1994: 193- 228. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://studythepast.com/civilrightsundergraduate/materials/thomasjefferson and antislavery _ the myth goes on _ paul finkelman.pdf>.

Foster, Eugene A. , M. A. Jobling, P. G. Taylor, P. Donnelly, P. de Knijff, Rene Mieremet, T. Zerjal, and C. Tyler-Smith. “Scientific correspondence.” Scientific correspondence. 396. (1998): 27-28. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/Jeffersons.pdf>.

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