Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to David Barrow, 1 May 1815

To David Barrow

Monticello May 1. 15.


I have duly recieved your favor of Mar. 20. and am truly thankful for the favorable sentiments expressed in it towards my self. if, in the course of my life, it has been in any degree useful to the cause of humanity, the fact itself bears it’s full reward. the particular subject of the pamphlets you inclosed me was one of early and tender consideration with me, and had I continued in the councils of my own state, it should never have been out of sight. the only practicable plan I could ever devise is stated under the 14th quaere of the Notes on Virginia, and it is still the one most sound in my judgment. unhappily it is a case for which both parties require long and difficult preparation. the mind of the master is to be apprised by reflection, and strengthened by the energies of conscience, against the obstacles of self interest, to an acquiescence in the rights of others; that of the slave is to be prepared by instruction and habit for self-government and for the honest pursuits of industry and social duty. both of these courses of preparation require time, and the former must precede the latter. some progress is sensibly made in it; yet not so much as I had hoped and expected. but it will yield in time to temperate & steady pursuit, to the enlargement of the human mind, and it’s advancement in science. we are not in a world ungoverned by the laws and the power of a superior agent. our efforts are in his hand, and directed by it; and he will give them their effect in his own time. where the disease is most deeply seated, there it will be slowest in eradication. in the Northern states it was merely superficial, & easily corrected. in the Southern it is incorporated with the whole system, and requires time, patience, and perseverance in the curative process. that it may finally be effected and it’s1 progress hastened will be the last and fondest prayer of him who now salutes you with respect & consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (OCU: John Day Caldwell Collection); addressed: “The revd David Barrow near Mount-Stirling Kentucky”; franked; postmarked Milton, 5 May. PoC (DLC).

In the chapter on “Laws,” Query 14 in his Notes on the State of Virginia, TJ included his plan for the gradual emancipation of American slaves, according to which they were to be freed at birth, given vocational training at public expense, and sent abroad when they reached adulthood (Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, 1955 description ends , 137–8).

1TJ here canceled “durati.”

Index Entries

  • Barrow, David; letter to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; emancipation of slaves search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); and slavery search
  • slavery; and emancipation proposals search
  • slavery; TJ on search