Words Illuminate the Mind, Actions Unveil the Heart

Wandering around the state of Virginia, visiting various historical locations, I had the opportJeffersonunity to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The man who played such a pivotal role in the formation of this country; writing the Declaration of Independence, influencing the development of the Constitution, writing definitively on the separation of church and state, and serving as the third President of the United States, is a study in contradictions.

When he wrote the words, “All men are created equal”, his concept of the word ‘men’ was limited to free white males, not the inclusive embracing concept of ‘mankind’ the words have come to mean.

The list of his contradictions is long and it bends towards complicating his memory.

He held fellow men and women in bondage.

He championed education but denied it for slaves out of fear that an educated, literate slave posed a threat.

He ordered the whip not be used against his black butler, a favorite slave, yet let the use of such terror continue for others.

He conducted scientific research trying to find a less labor intensive crop to sugarcane to reduce the onerous workload borne by slaves…and shift that burden, albeit lessened, onto the children of slaves.

He used the promise of manumission as a carrot to control those slaves he owned. Dangling the opportunity as an incentive, and threat, to maintain order.

He fathered children with Sally Hemings; holding this woman as a slave and never granting her freedom.

A man whose words inspired a nation to greatness, fostered the emergence of the anti-slavery movement, and lit the beacon of America believed slaves to be inferior humans not capable of controlling their own destiny.

He promoted the idea of teaching them skills and then sending slaves back to West Africa because he could not conceive of an America where black and white could live as one people.

He was a bigoted genius whose mind conceived universal truths and whose heart refused to recognize the contradiction in his denial of those very truths to some men and women he considered mere property.

From this, I took away several things.

First, the words of the founders are timeless. Their application from the limited scope of “white males” to the universal application today demonstrates our nation, our constitution, and our laws are subject to the progress of society.

Those who would argue the constitution is inviolate and not subject to changing interpretation ignore the contradictions of the founders such as Jefferson.

Jefferson was a product of his time. His words ring with a universal truth even if he himself would have found 21st century America to be a foreign, unimaginable world.

When we discuss things such as constitutional changes, we need to keep in mind the contradictions demonstrated by the authors of these words. Times change and we must learn to adapt our laws to this change.

The principles established by Jefferson and the founders stand the test of time. Their application requires constant review.

There has never been a time when the universal truth, “actions speak louder than words”, is more apropos. The current leaders of this nation show the same contradictions.  We can learn from Jefferson’s flaws as much as we can from his genius.

Pay attention to what people do, in their actions are the truths behind the rhetoric.

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About Joe Broadmeadow

Joe Broadmeadow retired with the rank of Captain from the East Providence Police Department after serving for 20 years. He is the author of the novels Collision Course, Silenced Justice, and Saving the Last Dragon available on Amazon in print and Kindle. Joe is working o the latest in a series of Josh Williams and Harrison "Hawk" Bennett novels and a sequel to Saving the Last Dragon. In 2014 Joe completed a 2,185 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail
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2 Responses to Words Illuminate the Mind, Actions Unveil the Heart

  1. Sue Coletta says:

    So true on many levels.

  2. Good article, Joe. He was certainly a man of contradictory times. It’ll be interesting to look back at 2017 two hundred years from now and judge the current contradictions.

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