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The "Great Father" metaphor was nearly century old by then, but the United States Government's paternalism on Indian policy grew much stronger after the military contest ended. They introduced the idea that a nuclear family is a core unit in the society to Indians who believed the tribe was the core unit of society. The government attempted to individualize each Indian in order to entitle him to what was called "the right to be a man." In the sense of the U.S. government, the manhood of the individual meant to be an independent subject in the capitalist framework. When they put the concept into practice, they did so by applying their glorious frontier history. The allotment policy was designed to make Indians homesteaders, setting aside to give the rest of land to ceaselessly incoming White immigrants.

Being an independent farmer, however, means to deprive an Indian of his large family groups. The allotment act was enacted only to suit Washington's intention, and not for the Indian's actual situation. Farming and living on a reservation were acceptable in the eyes of the Indians. However, an independent yeoman-ship in a capitalistic society was not. Culturally or economically, they were not ready to abandon their collective way of living. The Allotment policy did not take the impact of land fragmentation into consideration either. The Portland & Beyond article plainly describes today's aftereffects of the policy by presenting an old Indian reservation's story that htey are facing a deadlock because of the land fragmentation.

It is true that the United States government started playing an extremely paternal role in the post-frontier Native American policies, but their paternalism was actually self-serving and did not benefit their children's welfare. In this sense, the allotment policy turned the U.S. government into the "unfaithful father" and the Indians into the "resisting children," who were deprived of their true identity and independence.

Barbara J Fields evokes our understanding of democracy in her article, “Who Freed The Slaves.” She criticizes Lincoln, saying, “Although Lincoln privately believed that slavery was wrong and wished it might be abolished, his public policy faithfully reflected the standpoint of those for whom the war was an issue between free, white citizens: between unionists and secessionists, between right judged by free-soil northerners and rights claimed by slaveholding southerners.” She argues that Lincoln eventually freed slaves only for practical reasons in order to preserve the Union, which was his main objective. According to her, slaves instead freed themselves. She would definitely agree with the conclusion that “the image of him [Lincoln] as the Great Emancipator is a myth created by whites to deprive blacks of credit for achieving their own freedom,” as McPherson mentions in his article, “Who Freed The Slaves.”

The United States’ democracy has thrived with the underlying assumption that sovereignty rests with the people. However, this does not mean that the President of the United States is only the embodiment of public will and his personality does not matter. A president’s personality always plays a part. It was Lincoln who freed the slaves. Had Lincoln not been the president at the time, the United States would not have seen the emancipation. Slaves freed themselves to only some degree. Although Fields suggests that military men learned firsthand that the two [the war and the question of slavery] were inextricably linked, Lincoln also understood it. He actually had a better understanding of this than the military officers. Yet his position was totally different from John C Fremont’s or Benjamin Butler’s. He was president. He had to win the war. He had to preserve the Union. He had to stay in the White House. Otherwise, he could not have freed the slaves. His mission was not simply defeating the enemy under his very nose. He had to preserve the Union to free the slaves and he had to free the slaves to preserve the Union. Nobody understood this better than Lincoln himself.

As president, he never abandoned his moral principles. He believed that slavery was wrong and should be abolished. It was harder than we imagine not to compromise in a situation where military successes were not yet won, and “even Republicans like Horace Greeley, who had criticized Lincoln two years earlier for slowness to embrace emancipation, now criticized him for refusing to abandon it as a precondition for negotiations.” As the embodiment of public will, he had to balance every different viewpoint. Lincoln well understood that he needed military victories. As commander in chief, he indeed brought victory to the Union and emancipated the slaves. After all, Lincoln’s great political skills in understanding public opinion and having good timing enabled him to achieve his goal. Preserving the Union and freeing slaves were not two goals for him. It was actually through one goal that the two issues were “inextricably linked” for Lincoln. None of the presidential candidates except Lincoln in the elections of 1860 or 1864 possessed such skills. Lincoln freed slaves “by pronouncing slavery a moral evil that must come to an end and then winning the presidency in 1860, by refusing to compromise on the issue of slavery’s expansion or on Fort Sumter, by careful leadership and timing that kept a fragile Unionists’ coalition together in the first year of war and committed it to emancipation in the second, by refusing to compromise this policy once he had adopted it, and by prosecuting the war to unconditional victory as commander in chief of an army of liberation.” It is true that the anonymous overwhelming majority can make history. Fields makes some valid points. Slaves freed themselves to some degree. Military leaders also contributed to emancipation by creating the notion of contraband. However, they were not the whole story. We can never underestimate the influence that one leader has on history, especially when the leader is one of the greatest historical figures that the world has ever seen. Lincoln is still overseeing this country from the riverbank of the Potomac.


Barbara J. Fields. "Who Freed the Slaves.?": Goeffrey C. Ward, The Civil War: An Illustrated History (1990). 178-181.

James M. McPherson. "Who Freed the Slaves?." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society: Vol. 139, No. 1 (1995): 1-10.


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"As a member of the William and Mary community, I pledge on my honor not to lie, cheat, or steal, either in my academic or personal life.  I understand that such acts violate the Honor Code and undermine the community of trust, of which we are all stewards."

When I took this pledge in the Wren Building, I had the feeling of becoming a true member of William and Mary, a college, which represents tradition, sophistication and honor. This “newest old campus” of America has been an epitome of southern honor since its foundation. Honor was, especially in the South, a very complicated concept. It encompassed two things that seemed diametrically opposite of each other – refinement and violence.

Refinement was a sign of honor. When their honor was challenged, southerners resorted to violence. Colleges in the Old South saw a number of cases in which students hovering in the middle between the world of adulthood and childhood faced the issue of maintaining their honor. Being away from home and given the freedom they had previously never enjoyed in their lives, these students assumed that they were expected to live as adults, regardless of their immaturity. They sometimes resorted to violence to protect their honor, and other times they were trapped in the space between maturity and immaturity. Edward Baptist’s case symbolized this dilemma. When he prepared his speech, his friend, James T. Killough, played a prank on him. Offended by Killough’s mischief, Baptist challenged him to a fight. Although Baptist meant a fistfight, Killough took the challenge differently, and announced they would duel with knives. “Baptist, therefore, found himself in the midst of a dilemma: he had only intended a fistfight, but the southern honor ethic that guided his society dictated that if he backed down from this deadly path he would be branded a coward – a label that could follow him the rest of his life.” Students even pulled a trigger during fights once in a while. It was not uncommon for them to conceal weapons to settle conflicts of honor in duels. “This reality planted them firmly in the world of the Old South, and helped them define who they were.”

College was for training local elites in the South. As those would-be elites developed their sense of honor, they created a unique southern culture. In the South, refinement and violence were actually inseparable. Honor was also a fundamental rationale for slavery in the South. Northerners never understood the significance of Southern honor, and these differences eventually resulted in the Civil War. Southern honor was, if not the only causing factor, definitely one of the main reasons that were responsible for the breakout of the Civil War. 


Robert F. Pace. "Honor and Violence.": Halls of Honor: College Men in the Old South (2004):82-97.


A number of “isms” exist in this country today. Racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, able-ism, anti-Semitism…the list goes on and on. In the early 19th-century, racism and sexism were the most widespread of these “isms” in American culture. Blacks and women, however, were not completely oppressed all of the time during this era. They were trying to obtain freedom within a confined space. Since the Pilgrim Fathers, women have been treated equal to men within the Christian Church. Also, as Gordon-Reed points out in last week’s reading, racism in the 19th-century was different from as it is today.

Slavery was present in many different forms, and the majority of them were different form the southern plantation style slavery that we easily associate the institution with today. “Slaves in Richmond, especially enslaved men, often lived away from their owners in the countryside, who sent them to the capital to be hired out when they were not needed in the field.” Those enslaved men worked with whites side by side, and boosted the capitol’s economy. Gabriel was an example of this situation. He enjoyed far better freedom than plantation slaves and was allowed to earn his own money in Richmond. While he was eager for freedom for himself and his fellow slaves, he interestingly enough did not see all whites as his opponents. He rather considered merchants, not his owner, as his enemies since they took advantage of his weak social standing and abused him for his labor. In a conspiracy plot, Gabriel found his chance in the partisanship that also flourished in the early 18th century. Although he knew from the beginning that his plot would likely not appeal to most whites, he thought that the men of his race could connect with those of Jeffersonian sentiment that shared his hostility toward merchants and wanted equality and freedom for all. Gabriel simply failed to recognize that “the Jeffersonian cry for liberty and equality was meant to apply to whites only.” Different as it was from today, racism still existed. Negros were Negros.  “If Gabriel had intended to treat hostage Monroe with leniency, such magnanimity was not returned, especially from Republicans who were startled to discover that their slaves believed they had a common enemy in the merchants.” It was too late for Gabriel to realize this before he was hanged.

Women also actively challenged their traditional roles in the early 19th-century. Since America had a truly national mobile party system, women lay claim to their Republican motherhood. Whigs reached out to women first. Virginian women’s excitement about Daniel Webster’s address symbolized their new roles in politics, but also their limits. Women were required to affirm their husbands’ honor by actively supporting their candidates, but they could not vote themselves. The erection of a Henry Clay statue was the only way to assert their power within a limited field, revolutionary as it was from an 1840’s perspective. Women’s participation in partisanship, however, faded away as regionalism spurred by racism led to the Civil War. “For the southern Whigs and southern Democrats, in contrast to northern ones, claimed their party and they alone could simultaneously protect slavery from northern intervention and preserve the Union.” The freedom and equality that blacks and women enjoyed in the early 19th-century were very superficial and allowed to them in accordance with white males’ interests. The proof is that “the political mobilization of white women that began in 1840 culminated, not in the formation of a woman suffrage movement, but in active support of the Confederacy by most women and active support of the Union by some.” As two historical compromise bills represent, the antebellum was an era of balancing double standards from which Americans suffered. The Civil War broke out once society could no longer sustain the balance.


Egerton, Douglas R. "Gabriel's Conspiracy and the Election of 1800."The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 56, No. 2 (1990): 191-214.

Rothman, Joshua D. "The Church and the Brothel are Only Separated by a Pane of Glass.": Sex and Race on the Streets of Richmond, (2003): 92-132.

Varon, Elizabeth R. "Tippecanoe and the Ladies, Too: white Women and Party Politics in Antebellum Virginia, "Journal of American History, Vol. 82, No. 2 (1995): 424-521.

Jesus once said, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." However, this was not the case for Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest historical figures that America can boast of, and our College’s most notable alumnus. Jefferson built his house on top of a mountain “to have freedom, privacy, and dominion over himself,” and even more than that, to hide his contradictions from the public.

            Jefferson was once considered a man capable of solving the problems that America faces today, but some now harshly criticize him for being rather the epitome of these problems. While he was an enthusiastic advocate for the ideals of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, he reigned over slaves at Monticello at the same time. He rarely freed his slaves when he was alive because his extravagances constantly put him in debt, and he “thought they provided the ultimate form of security for the family.” He did not even free them at his death as George Washington did. Instead, he let his family auction them off to pay back their debts.

            These facts alone are enough to make him a controversial figure, but what makes Jefferson the most controversial among the Founding Fathers is that he was in “moral debt” to an enslaved woman –Sally Hemings. It is now widely recognized that he had a relationship with Hemings and fathered several children by her. Gordon-Reed points out that “the rape of black women was endemic to slavery; the no-possible-consent rule says that whether Jefferson used force or charm on Hemings is of no great moment.” Since slaves were their masters’ property, there was no situation in which they were treated as equals. Every slave woman who had a sexual relationship with her white master suffered from the conflict between legal and natural right. Hemings “would be a traitor who denied the reality of her enslavement and provided her enemy-Jefferson- with something that he very much wanted, while keeping her body from the men who shared her oppression and thus had a superior moral claim to it, that is to say, African American males.”

            It was true that “Jefferson did not envision Hemings as a potential legal bride,” yet Gordon-Reed also admits that we cannot underestimate their personal relationship simply because Jefferson raped Hemings in the no-possible-consent rule framework. Hemings, as a teenage girl, chose to remain by the side of Jefferson who promised her good treatment and her children future freedom, rather than to free herself by escaping to the courthouse in Paris. Rather, Hemings shared something with Jefferson. “She apparently did not see herself in either of the last two roles [victim of rape, or degraded sexual object], which puts her into something of a historical and cultural bind, trapped between both gender and race-related stereotypes that inhibit nuanced considerations of her life.” Jefferson’s contradictions were mirrored in Hemings and she compromised her womanhood for her children’s future in the same way that Jefferson compromised his ideals when he acknowledged reality and omitted slaves’ life, liberty and pursuit of happiness from the Declaration of Independence. They meant something more than slave-master relationship to each other. Whether Jefferson was a patriarchal or more equal figure in regards to Hemings, Jefferson doubtlessly held affection towards her.

            Jefferson was not always benevolent to his every slave as he was to Hemings. “He acted to protect what he considered to be the femininity of Hemings and her female relatives, while failing to show similar concerns for other enslaved women on his plantations.” Although race and American slavery were deeply intertwined, Jefferson’s failure to show concerns for his slaves is not proof that Jefferson was a racist in today’s terms. The notion of a single black race was a product of the Reconstruction period, and “eighteenth-century people of African origin, like Hemings, did not have the same sense of African American identity as blacks in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” Furthermore, it was common practice for Virginia plantation owners to have slaves in his time. Although people constantly challenged the morality of slavery, every slave owner was reluctant to relinquish their privileges. It was more understandable when the owner suffered from chronic debt. We cannot pass judgment on him about his slave ownership using our modern perspectives.

Jefferson is remembered as the way he actually was; the greatest public servant that America has ever had. Jefferson, after all, was not saint. He was not able to free his slaves because of his financial situation. To sustain his gentility, he had to keep his extravagancies. Otherwise he could not have been entrusted to draft the most significant document in the U.S. history. We would have lost our greatest public servant in that case. He did not free Hemings in particular because he was reluctant to let her go away. As a normal man, Jefferson had strong monopolistic desires and jealousy for his beloved woman. He happened to love a girl whose social status did not let them be married, but he did his best to provide Hemings with all what she wanted so long as he could afford it. It goes without saying that his affection for her does not blemish his fame. Thomas Jefferson’s palace will remain shining as a symbol of this great nation far into the future.


Gordon-Reed, Annette. "The Teenagers and the Woman," and "His promises on Which She Implicitly Relied," and "The Treaty" and " Did they Love Each Other", chapters 15, 16, & 17 from her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), 308-375.