President Thomas Jefferson was a very important figure in our nation’s history.
Not only was he president, he helped author the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The Louisiana Purchase on his watch more than doubled the size of our country.
The university town is built around Monticello, his plantation estate that overlooks the city. It is estimated that around 500,000 people visit Monticello per year. This is no small number of visitors and shows how much interest people have in Jefferson and his estate.
Jefferson, like George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and several presidents who succeeded them, were indeed slave owners. As we’ve stated in previous editorials, slavery was a shameful practice in our nation’s history. The former presidents who owned slaves are on the wrong side of history, but our culture and values are far different 200 years later. During the time these men were president, slavery was enshrined in the Constitution.
It took a bloody Civil War on our nation’s soil – with brother fighting against brother in some cases – and the lives of 620,000 people to end the institution of slavery. Thankfully, slavery has been a thing of the past for over 150 years.
We are truly a better country today not only because of slavery’s demise, but also because of efforts spanning many decades to expand civil rights for all individuals.
While we have moved past slavery, it is important to remember that chapter in our history. One can deplore that history, but we believe people can learn from it.
When the shameful events occurred in Charlottesville in 2017, in which a woman was killed during a demonstration over Confederate monuments, we said that it would be a shame to begin taking Confederate monuments down because it would be an attempt to erase history. Unfortunately, some cities took their Confederate monuments and statues down in excessive displays of political correctness.
We believe that is a real shame, because the Civil War needs to be taught, examined through books and, yes, monuments and statues for one to learn about our past.
We asked in an editorial after Charlottesville what was next – were demonstrators and the politically correct crowd going to try to tear down the Washington Monument because he was a slave owner? Or were they going to tear down the White House because it was built by slaves? Or raze Mount Vernon because it was owned by Washington and built by slaves?
President Donald Trump made the same statements about what was next on the list to tear down. We agreed with his statements and asked ourselves where does the whitewashing of our nation’s history end?
That brings us to the point of this editorial. In Charlottesville, the city council recently voted 4-1 to end a holiday named for Jefferson. The commission voted to remove April 13, the birthday of Jefferson, as a paid city holiday, and replace it with Liberation and Freedom Day – which commemorates the ending of slavery in Charlottesville and Albermarle County, Va. – on March 3. The decision came near the July 4 anniversary of Jefferson’s death in 1826.
This is political correctness run amok. As we’ve previously stated, we don’t condone Jefferson owning slaves, but trying to erase one of our Founding Fathers’ memories is really sad and says a lot about the local politicians in that community.
Jefferson, like Washington, Madison, Monroe and Jackson, all deserve to be remembered because they played an important part in our nation’s history.
Jefferson’s name and accomplishments, both good and bad, should be viewed in their totality. The then-revolutionary thought expressed by our third president in the Declaration of Independence not only changed our nation but had an impact far from our shores.
This idea was that certain of our rights came from our Creator and that governments are created and exist to secure those rights. The prevailing world view at that time was that any rights people had were those that government allowed.
May Jefferson’s memory endure for an idea that not only chartered our nation’s course but changed many parts of the world for the better.