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Jefferson’s slave ownership no trivial matter | READER COMMENTARY

A statue of Thomas Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence stands in New York's City Hall Council Chamber. The 1833 statue of Jefferson will be removed from the council chamber by the end of the year. Some New York City Council members have called for years to remove the statue from the room where they conduct business because Jefferson was a slaveholder. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey).
A statue of Thomas Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence stands in New York's City Hall Council Chamber. The 1833 statue of Jefferson will be removed from the council chamber by the end of the year. Some New York City Council members have called for years to remove the statue from the room where they conduct business because Jefferson was a slaveholder. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey). (Ted Shaffrey/AP)

I read Rosalind Nester’s tortured defense of Thomas Jefferson, prompted by one of his statues being removed by New York City (”Thomas Jefferson deserved better from New York City Council,” Nov. 20). Clearly, that action was driven by the indisputable historical fact that he owned hundreds of slaves during his accomplished lifetime. That Ms. Nester fails to even acknowledge that elephant in the room is just the kind of selective historical myopia that fuels the wildest excesses and demands of hyper-woke-ists and critical race theorists.

Thomas Jefferson had many fine qualities, some probably statue-worthy. He had a snappy prose style, a clever scientific bent and was a pretty good U.S. president (the Louisiana Purchase was particularly crackerjack). But he also quite clearly enjoyed the economic and carnal benefits of owning other human beings. He was a serial rapist (there’s no other word for it) who fathered at least six children, four of whom survived to adulthood and were enslaved by him. He made his own kids his slaves. All of this horror made worse by the fact that Jefferson was extremely well-lettered, brilliant and rational so he had to know that what he was doing was evil, not mitigated by some situational morality that justified America’s “peculiar institution.”

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There is much in Thomas Jefferson’s bio to suggest that he was an extraordinary fellow but not a good man. He was an oppressor, and little white third-graders today are not oppressors and should not be taught that they are. We are going to need Jeffersonian logic and rationality and eloquence to put America’s complicated history into a more thoughtful retelling so that all Americans can move forward with a shared sense of optimism and faith in our society and institutions.

Jon S. Ketzner, Cumberland

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