POPLAR FOREST, Va. — The thought came to me as I was touring Thomas Jefferson’s “getaway house” in rural Virginia that made me ponder the debate among Republicans over whether “slavery had its benefits.”
Of course it didn’t! The third U.S. president owned slaves. They were property, just like the farm implements he kept in his storage places, or the horses he let roam in his corrals.
Yet we’re hearing from a Republican candidate for president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suggests that students need to be taught about the “benefits of slavery.”
I was struck when I read about how President Jefferson needed cash to pay off a big debt. What did he do? He decided to sell the human beings he owned as slaves to help retire the debt.
Imagine for just a moment being sold. Imagine that you might no longer be the property of one man and would become the property of another, a stranger.
I cannot for the ever-lovin’ life of me wrap my head around such a thing. Nor can I see any benefit at any level the idea of being owned by someone who thinks of me as three-fifths of a human being.
My brief visit to this relatively unknown exhibit near Lynchburg opened my eyes even wider to the utter stupidity of such a pronouncement coming from an individual who wants to settle into the Oval Office and lead a nation that comprises descendants of slaves.
We venerate Thomas Jefferson to this day as one of our nation’s founders, but oh brother … he had his serious flaws. Owning human beings was one of them.