Slavery throughout history has taken a variety of forms. The form most people – especially people in the US – are familiar with is the chattel slavery of blacks in the New World, in which slaves were the legal personal property of their masters. Other forms include the system of mass slavery practiced in Ancient Sparta, in which slaves, who outnumbered citizens ten-to-one, were owned by the state. There was also Russian serfdom, which often amounted to slavery by another name. Following are thirty things about those and other historic slavery facts.
30. The Master of Monticello: A Man of Contrasts
Thomas Jefferson was a complicated figure, to say the least. The Founding Father and leading member of the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence penned some of the most stirring words in advocating freedom, liberty, and equality. The phrase at the start of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” has moved and inspired idealists for centuries.
On the other hand, Jefferson pursued his happiness in a slave-operated plantation and led a life of luxury that was only made possible by the labor of hundreds of chattel slaves. He called slavery a “moral depravity” and “a hideous blot“. He thought that slavery was contrary to the laws of nature, by which every human being had a right to personal liberty, and told anybody who would listen that it was necessary to end slavery. Those views were quite radical in the environment in which he grew up and lived. However, despite whatever objections he had towards slavery, Jefferson owned slaves throughout his life.