Ch. 6: Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia 1787
Thomas Jefferson viewed African Americans as human beings. However, he didn’t feel they could exist in society together because whites were viewed as superior. Therefore, there was no way that whites and blacks could coexist. He wrote the following, “Favor and beauty are recognized in animals, why not man”? In his opinion, there should always be someone far more superior and without a doubt that would be the white man. He did state that blacks did have some positive qualities, however he never said that they should be treated as equal. His writing left it as an open-ended question so the individual could make their own choice in the matter.
Jefferson thought that once the slaves were freed, they could mix with society however without effecting the systems that the whites already had in place. The freed blacks were basically supposed to fade away. This could potential pose a problem and they were fearful that the other slaves who were not liberated would revolt.
There were different biological differences that were mentioned between races. According to Thomas Jefferson, blacks required less sleep after a hard day of work. They also have less hair on their bodies and they produce a distinct odor that according to Jefferson is due to them secreting a certain liquid through there glands related to the kidneys. He also mentioned that blacks are more eager for females (relations) and less interested in the emotional aspect of it. Blacks had also been introduced to civilized society, and various aspects of sciences, and the arts because of the homes they were “privileged” to live in. Because of the various locations of these homes, they have some kind of knowledge. However, the Indians had not been introduced to this type of lifestyle. They used simpler methods of self-expression like the use of carved figures on wood. Thomas Jefferson said that blacks are more gifted than whites in music. They were able to carry a melody and were able the sing on tune with the right timing. He did state that it was unclear if they were able to master a complicated harmony. He wrote positives and negatives in regard to all three races.
Slave owners could take this writing and twist it to their advantage. It showed that the African Americans were made to “labor”. Their bodies according to Thomas Jefferson were able to work without little rest and had a natural cooling system built within them which would justify the slave owners’ actions of physically abusing them because of their endurance and strength. It also brought justification for the abuse of Indians as well. The writings depicted them as less than the African Americans which would also justify taking the Indians land and freedom. Thomas Jefferson battled with the idea of slavery behind closed doors and he knew that something had to be done.