Thomas Jefferson Controlled His Slaves With Food
The control of food has long been a means to exercise power, and slave owners throughout history knew that. Take Thomas Jefferson. 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 “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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. Although he called slavery a “moral depravity” and “a hideous blot“, Jefferson lived a life of luxury that was only made possible by the labor of hundreds of chattel slaves.
Jefferson argued that slavery was contrary to the laws of nature, by which all humans have a right to personal liberty. He told all 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. Nonetheless, Jefferson owned slaves throughout his life, with all the violence that accompanied that. He also used food as a means to control and compel his slaves to do his bidding. Throughout his life, Jefferson owned over 600 slaves. Over 400 of them lived and worked in his Monticello estate. He constantly monitored his human property to extract the maximum labor out of them, and strove to increase their numbers through procreation – sometimes with his own personal participation.