Nobody embodies the paradox at the heart of the American founding more vividly than Thomas Jefferson, the slave owner who penned the American creed of liberty in the Declaration of Independence and who, with a slave as his concubine, would “dream of freedom in his bondsmaid’s arms,” as Irish poet Tom Moore jeered during Jefferson’s second presidential term. As young vandals torch our national heritage, in an infectious delusion that America was conceived in slavery, not in liberty, take a good look at our third president, warts and all. You’ll find, despite his undeniable flaws, one of history’s great men …
This article appears as “Thomas Jefferson” in the July 27, 2020, print edition of National Review.
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