Thomas Jefferson’s First Draft of the Declaration of Independence denounced the slave trade as an “execrable Commerce” and slavery itself as a “cruel war against nature itself” (1776)

Thomas Jefferson

Found in The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779)

Less well known than the official version of the Declaration of Independence of the American colonies is Thomas Jefferson’s first draft where Jeffeson makes the following points about slavery:

He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.
He has prostituted his Negative for Suppressing every legislative Attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable Commerce, determined to keep open a Markett where Men should be bought and sold, and that this assemblage of Horrors might want no Fact of distinguished Die

This quote can be used to coincide with the July 4 celebrations in this country. It is always a puzzlement to consider Jefferson’s obvious abhorrence of slavery, as this draft of the Declaration of independence clearly shows, and his ownership of slaves. One wonders how the two could exist side by side in the same individual. If a man like Jefferson was able to make compromises like this what does this mean for the rest of us?