The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slaveryby John Chester Miller

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  • North Carolina Office of Archives and History

    The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery by John Chester MillerReview by: C. W. HarperThe North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 55, No. 3 (July, 1978), p. 354Published by: North Carolina Office of Archives and HistoryStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23535251 .Accessed: 17/06/2014 14:56

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  • 354 Book Reviews

    The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery. By John Chester Miller. (New York: Free Press, 1977. Frontispiece, preface, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pp. xii, 319. $12.95.)

    John Chester Miller, professor emeritus of history at Stanford University,

    presents this volume as an addition to the endless debate revolving around the

    paradox that the author of the Declaration of Independence was one of the

    largest slaveholders of his time. Nonetheless, a comprehensive, definitive

    analysis of such aspects of Jefferson's personality, conduct, and ideas which im

    pinge upon the subject of slavery did not exist before this publication.

    Miller, a prolific writer on the American Revolutionary and Federalist eras, is

    eminently familiar with the historical record. He traces the development of Jef

    ferson's attitudes toward slavery over the full course of his lifetime, relating this aspect of his thinking to his views on agrarianism, property rights, the

    social character of American democracy, and North-South political conflicts.

    Miller argues the possibility that Jefferson sought to accomplish by stealth

    what he could not hope to do openlyto make the Declaration a charter of

    freedom for slaves. With compassion and understanding he reminds one that Jef

    ferson felt that emancipation and expatriation were feasible. Yet, the Virginian encountered powerful social and economic undercurrents which prohibited ef

    forts to bring about this reform. In spite of his real and abiding abhorrence of

    slavery, Jefferson was too much the political pragmatist, too intent upon achiev

    ing lofty but realizable goals, and too much the product of his background as a

    Virginia slaveholder to grapple with man's tyranny over man with the same fer vor he displayed in contending against British tyranny. Miller's Jefferson

    emerges with greater luster if he is judged by his words rather than by his acts.

    Miller lays to rest the political smear, recently revived, that Sally Hemings was Jefferson's mistress. He reveals the ambivalencies, limitations, and

    strengths of Jefferson and affirms the "Jeffersonian tradition" in American

    democracy. This is an excellent work, well written and scholarlya must for the student

    of Jefferson and slavery.

    C. W. Harper North Carolina State University

    C. W. Harper

    A Sacred Circle: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South. By Drew Gilpin Faust. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977. Preface, epilogue, manuscript collections cited, notes, index. Pp. xii, 189. $11.00.)

    This valuable study is about five archconservatives, and arch-egotists, too, of the Old South who corresponded with each other in "a sacred circle" of agree ment generally in their criticism of the South. These men all felt alienated from their society and rejected by it. Were they at fault for their belief that they were not appreciated, or was southern society at fault? To this reviewer, both were to blame.

    The author, using modern psychological insights, has done an excellent job in

    seeking to explain the characters of these men on the basis of their unhappy, ill

    adjusted childhoods. They were left motherless at an early age, and at a forma

    ra NORTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL REVIEW

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    Article Contentsp. 354

    Issue Table of ContentsThe North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 55, No. 3 (July, 1978), pp. 251-374Front MatterSouthern Women in the War: The North Carolina Woman's Committee, 1917-1919 [pp. 251-283]County Fiscal Policy In Colonial North Carolina [pp. 284-305]The Letters of John S. Cairns to William Brewster, 1887-1895 [pp. 306-338]Poetic Justice; or, an Ill-fated Epic by Thomas Burke [pp. 339-346]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 347-347]Review: untitled [pp. 347-348]Review: untitled [pp. 348-349]Review: untitled [pp. 349-350]Review: untitled [pp. 350-351]Review: untitled [pp. 351-351]Review: untitled [pp. 352-352]Review: untitled [pp. 352-353]Review: untitled [pp. 353-353]Review: untitled [pp. 354-354]Review: untitled [pp. 354-355]Review: untitled [pp. 355-356]Review: untitled [pp. 356-356]Review: untitled [pp. 356-357]Review: untitled [pp. 357-358]Review: untitled [pp. 358-359]Review: untitled [pp. 359-360]Review: untitled [pp. 360-360]Review: untitled [pp. 360-361]Review: untitled [pp. 361-361]Review: untitled [pp. 362-362]Review: untitled [pp. 362-363]Review: untitled [pp. 363-364]Review: untitled [pp. 364-365]Other Recent Publications [pp. 365-373]

    Back Matter

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