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MUP Catalogs

Rightful Liberty: Slavery, Morality, and Thomas Jefferson's World

By author: Arthur Scherr
Product Code: HH1010
ISBN: 9780881468052
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At a time when most studies of Thomas Jefferson concentrate on his relationship with Sally Hemings, RIGHTFUL LIBERTY merges the personal, intellectual, and political in Jefferson. Jefferson's moral and political thought are more complex and changing than they appear at first glance, consisting of "two Jeffersons," and evolving from a natural law, "universal" Enlightenment ethos to a more "cultural relativist" perspective, which he applied in his judgment of the Haitian and French revolutions. Their outcomes were not so different, each revealing his hope that the people's capacity for moral and political progress would increase as they became more exposed to liberal and democratic concepts. In addition to expounding this original thesis, RIGHTFUL LIBERTY explores themes and events overlooked by other Jefferson experts, such as his response to the English abolitionist Thomas Branagan; the formative influence of Montesquieu on the young Jefferson's opposition to slavery; a comparison of his attitudes to slavery and abolition with those of his young friend Edward Coles; his relationships with Black slaves and freedmen other than those of the well-known Hemings family; and a more nuanced perspective on his view of the Missouri Compromises of 1820 and 1821 and slavery's expansion than is found elsewhere. At a time when speculations about Jefferson's personal and sexual life, often based on little evidence, prevail in monographs and the media, this volume examines him from a more wide-ranging perspective, discerning his moral, political, and religious thought in relation to his actions, particularly respecting human enslavement.
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