Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII
1781
Jefferson discussed slavery again in response to a query about customs and manners in Virginia. He expressed deep fear at the violation of liberty caused by slavery: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just....”
 
View large page image jpg / 100K

    Document Transcript | page 270

The particular customs and manners that may happen to be received in that state?

It is difficult to determine on the standard by which the manners of a nation may be tried, whether catholic, or particular. It is more difficult for a native to bring to that standard the manners of his own nation, familiarized to him by habit. There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive either in his philanthropy or his self love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present.

  Return to top

Next page