In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live, & continued in that until it was closed by the revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal government, nothing liberal could expect success.
Source: Autobiography, 1821*
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson’s life as a public man began at age 26. He was elected from his native Albemarle County to the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses.
Other than matters leading to independence a few years hence, this may be the only early legislative position expressed in his autobiography. He supported easing the law for freeing slaves, but the effort was defeated. He thought a majority of the Burgesses might eventually be convinced to support the cause, but the King’s Council held veto power over the legislature. Even if the Burgesses would approve, the Council would not. The slave trade was firmly entrenched in England and would not end for another four decades.
Historians (and others) have their opinions on Jefferson and slavery. It is worth noting his opposition began early. Though he never took the lead in that fight, he never wavered from his opinion that slavery was wrong and must one day be abolished.
*This link is to the entire volume. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
”City officials are a “tough crowd”
and the ovation they gave you was well-deserved.”
Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
Even if your audience is a tough crowd,
Mr. Jefferson hopes to earn their respect, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.