Thomas Jefferson is known as a man with a conflicted view of the slavery issues of his time. After reading an essay written by Thomas Jefferson on the topic of slavery, as well as his writings, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” it appears that his most cherished goals were the emancipation of slavery in Virginia and the reformation of Virginia’s constitution. Unfortunately, it was hard for Thomas Jefferson to be taken seriously about his position on slavery due to his lifestyle in which slaves were commonplace. Thomas Jefferson himself owned slaves as was common with plantation owners of his time. However, Jefferson spoke out tirelessly throughout his life against the institution of slavery and for the right of black people to be free. In contradiction, however, Jefferson had occasionally offered the view that blacks were an inferior race to whites. For example, in his Notes on the State of Virginia in which he had expressed his ardent desire for the emancipation of blacks, he also offered his opinion that “Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior. [T] he blacks . . . are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” 1
The ideas in his Notes are in opposition to the goals of the emancipation of slavery giving credence to Jefferson’s reputation as a conflicted man. It should be noted that the Notes were written in 1781, and Jefferson did try to improve the slaves’ lot before his death in 1826. Jefferson also wrote the Ordinance of 1784, a preliminary draft of the Northwest Ordinance, which would govern the land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River. Jefferson included in his bill a clause that would have prohibited slavery in these new territories after 1800. When this measure was blocked in Congress by just one vote, Jefferson lamented, “The voice of a single individual … would have pre…