Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase

By Roger G. Kennedy | Go to book overview
Save to active project

3

The Way Not Taken

After 1783, France and Britain withdrew from all but sporadic interventions into the politics of the Southland, and Spain barely summoned the energy to cling to its possessions along the Gulf of Mexico. In the space thus created, the government of the United States controlled by the owners of great plantations and of many slaves became free to eliminate Indian competition. Thereafter it was able to decide how an empire of cheap land acquired from them might be allocated. In this open scene, the planters could make decisions without inhibition, arranging the society they wanted and the disposition of land that would best serve their interests. It is difficult to think of another group of people in human history who have enjoyed so luxurious an occasion to turn theoretical preferences into desired outcomes.

The most articulate among the Founders in setting forth how they should best make use of this immense opportunity was Thomas Jefferson. He was also the most powerful man among them as they swept aside the subsistence economy of the American Indians of the South, sustained the trans-Atlantic shipment of labor from Africa, and filled the Southland with African slaves while its independent farmers were thrust to the sidelines. These were not the outcomes advocated by Jefferson in his writings of the 1770s and the early 1780s. He had urged a contrary model for civil society and another use of the land in the famous words: 1

Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.… Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependence begets subservience and suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. 2

-26-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 350

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?