Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Coursera - History of the Slave South, Assignment 2

While Jefferson waxes rhetorical with observations about slavery and speculation about black physiology in the "Laws" section of Notes on the State of Virginia, the "Manners" section seems to give a snapshot of his actual judgement about slavery. He fears that the wrath of God will come down on the new Republic and observes "The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust" (p 175).

Returning to the "Laws" section of the text, we see Jefferson's observations about the very nature of blacks. While our essay prompt mockingly refers to 'science', this was cutting edge science for Jefferson and his contemporaries and these were serious concerns of the day.  Jefferson proffers many differences between blacks and whites, not only "political", but also "physical and moral" (p 149). He argues that upon the emancipation of the blacks in the Republic, they should be given a fresh start in a new land and be replaced by white immigrants; they cannot be incorporated into the Republic due to "Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites" and "ten thousand recollections by the blacks of the injuries they have sustained" (p 149). He goes on to delineate ways in which blacks are different from (read: inferior to) whites in their most basic attributes. He remarks that they are less attractive than whites, their bodies process waste differently from whites, giving them a "strong and disagreeable odor" but also makes them "more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold than whites" (p 150).  Jefferson continues by stating that blacks require less sleep, use less forethought, and are more ruled by sex than romance than whites. In fact, he summarizes nicely for us his position when he says "In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection" (p150).

The modern reader at this point is tempted to raise a query at this point - what about blacks who were not slaves, or who became free and gained an education?  Here Jefferson compares the idea of an educated black writer to a white one: "though we admit him to the first place among those of his own color who have presented themselves to the public judgment ....when we compare him with [a white writer] we are compelled to enroll him at the bottom of the column" (p 152). Jefferson does not waver from his theory of black inferiority, even citing examples of enslaved whites who were far "smarter" than his contemporary enslaved blacks in America, and under supposed far harsher conditions (p154). Clearly he does not support the idea that slavery itself is the problem here.

For Jefferson, the only way that the idea of emancipation could be entertained was by putting forth the idea of removing all freed blacks from the American (white) Republic. He again contrasts the American situation to that of ancient Rome:   Among the Romans emancipation required but one effort. The slave, when made free, might mix with, without staining the blood of his master. But with us a second is necessary, unknown to history. When freed, he is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture." (p 155).


Pickyknitter said...

self → 1. The argument of the writer is that while Jefferson may have found slavery to be repugnant to him personally, he also felt that it was a justifiable state of affairs and difficult to dismantle or erase. This communicates that the writer understood both the text and the assignment and was able to identify meaningful passages.

Pickyknitter said...

2. The writer uses appropriate quotes from the text to support her argument. These quotes are pertinent and well chosen and allow Jefferson's own words to speak for themselves. 3. The writer's analysis is persuasive because it is clear, concise and answers the essay prompt with references from the text which are well chosen and applicable. The analysis could be stronger if the writer was not restricted by word count
peer 1 → This is an excellent submission which clearly sets out the student's view of Jefferson's hypocrisy. He dissects by way of quotation and analysis how Jefferson said one thing and then did another, yet nevertheless acknowledges that, however ridiculous the new scientific notions might seem to us, they were cutting edge at the time and a man of Jefferson's intellect would be bound to be influenced by them. I liked that he introduced the question of free blacks who had received an education - strangely missing from the Notes. It was an interesting piece - each quotation used was part of the analysis and used to strengthen the argument.
peer 2 → Peer Evaluation- Student #3 Though not really present it as a stated argument’ Student 3 does hits on the themes of Jefferson as racist, segregationist, and abolitionist. Student makes relevant use of “Notes” historical evidence to answer assignment questions, particularly Jefferson’s views on differences between blacks and whites. However, one glaring exception occurs in the first paragraph which states Jefferson “. . . fears that the wrath of God will come down on the new Republic and observes "The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust" (p 175).” The text from “Notes” where Jefferson actually describes the wrath of God towards slavery would have served as better support for the student’s statement. The quote cited was more an example of Jefferson’s hope for the future abolishment of slavery in our country than an example of slavery as an evil. In general this student presents an acceptable response to the writing assignment
peer 3 → 1. My peer states that Jefferson was morally and religiously opposed to slavery. Jefferson also used what scientific methods were available to him to denote the physical and mental differences between blacks and whites. This, coupled with long-standing social issues, would prevent emancipation. The author also cites Jefferson's juxtaposing of white slaves in Roman times with black slaves in his time, offered by the founding father as proof that it was not slavery that was holding blacks back intellectually, as many classic authors were slaves and blacks were simply not producing anything on that level. The removal of all freed blacks from the Republic was the only way to end slavery. 2. The author clearly quotes "Notes" and even mentions the proper sections ("Laws" and "Manners, respectively). He constantly cites pages numbers, and uses quotation marks when using text from sources. 3. I find this author's use of citations and personal deductions very strong. I have no real issue with the assignment.
peer 4 → The quotes used throughout this essay is excellent, as it lends support to not only the writer's argument but Jefferson's as well. Sticking to the theme of racial inferiority amongst blacks and whites is evident and well-done. I especially enjoyed and appreciated the critique of the question prompts and explaining why the wording may cause confusion or controversy. Science today is not in the same vein as science of the 18th and 19th century. Bringing up modern thought and comparing it to 19th century thinking was an interesting point to discuss and helps to show how we've changed our perspective and understanding of certain things.