3 Archetypes of American Manliness-Part I: The Genteel Patriarch

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 22, 2010 · 36 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

Since starting the Art of Manliness, I’ve read a lot about the history of masculinity across different cultures and time periods. One of the best books I’ve read on the history of manliness in the US is Michael Kimmel’s Manhood in America: A Cultural History (although my feelings on the conclusions he draws from that history are another story). In his book, Kimmel argues that during the late 18th century, when America was just in its infancy, three ideals of manhood competed for dominance: the Genteel Patriarch, the Heroic Artisan, and the Self-Made Man.

In the end, according to Kimmel, the Self-Made Man won out, and American manliness today is defined by the archetype of the rugged, self-reliant man who through sheer force of will can shape his destiny no matter his circumstances. While the Self-Made Man triumphed as the defining ideal of American masculinity, the Genteel Patriarch and the Heroic Artisan archetypes still influence how Americans think about manhood.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll explore the attributes, history, and modern influence of these three archetypes of American manliness. Today we begin with the Genteel Patriarch.

The Genteel Patriarch

The Genteel Patriarch was an ideal of masculinity transplanted directly from Europe to the New World. The Genteel Patriarch defined manhood in terms of aristocratic landownership. He was an upper-class man who prized honor, character, and etiquette and had refined (i.e. European) tastes in clothing and food. The Genteel Patriarch sought to govern his vast estate with benevolence and kindness, and he spent much of his time doting on his children and ensuring they received the moral education they needed to be active and engaged citizens in the young republic.

For the Genteel Patriarch, farming was the only occupation that offered total independence and self-autonomy. Through farming, a man could develop the virtues of honor, self-reliance, and hospitality. Landownership provided the Genteel Patriarch with status, identity, and a tradition on which to build a manly family lineage.

Of course what’s ironic about the Genteel Patriarch is that while he upheld agrarianism as the ideal, manly way of life, he himself rarely tilled the ground or sowed the seeds on his land. Rather, slaves or hired help did most of the manual labor while the Genteel Patriarch stayed busy studying art, philosophy, and literature.

While the archetype of the Genteel Patriarch was noble and virtuous, the reality was racist, discriminatory, and out of reach to the majority of men. Remember, for the Genteel Patriarch manhood meant primarily one thing: land ownership. If you didn’t own property, you weren’t a man. Right away this excluded the lower classes and of course black men, who in many states couldn’t even legally own land. Worse still, black men were often the property of the Genteel Patriarch, and made his leisurely, cultured lifestyle possible.

The Decline of the Genteel Patriarch

While the Genteel Patriarch made a strong start as the winning ideal of American manliness, his lead would not last long. This archetype was diminished by two factors: American Independence and the opening of the frontier. In the period after the Revolutionary War, the new country sought to form its own character and identity; affectations that smacked of monarchy and aristocracy fell out of favor as not sufficiently democratic or American. At the same time, pioneers were heading out West, and making a go at life on the frontier required a tougher, grittier kind of man than the Genteel Patriarch. Thus the Genteel Patriarch began to be seen as an anachronistic ideal, no longer in-sync with the changing culture of the nation. Once praised as the paradigm of stately dignity, he began to be seen as the foppish and effeminate dandy who had a “womanish attachment” to European countries, especially France.

As America shifted from an agrarian to an industrial society, the Genteel Patriarch quickly became an endangered species. His values and traditions didn’t transfer well to the new fast-paced market economy. Seeing that his days were numbered, the Genteel Patriarch made his last stand in the American South.

To the issues of slavery and states’ rights, we can add another question at stake on the battlefields of the Civil War: the competition between two ideals of manliness. The Northern press often characterized the Genteel Patriarch of the South as lazy, effeminate, and dandified, while lauding Northern men for embracing the hardy ideals of the Self-Made Man. Southerners countered that Yanks lacked refinement and honor, and cared for nothing in life other than the all mighty dollar. The South’s defeat in the Civil War brought the inevitable eclipse of the Genteel Patriarch and the ascendancy of the Self-Made Man as the ideal of American manhood.

The Genteel Patriarch’s Influence on Modern American Manliness

While the agrarian society of the Genteel Patriarch has long disappeared, the influence of this male archetype is still evident in American society. As he did in the 19th century, the Genteel Patriarch today serves as a foil to more popular forms of masculinity. Men who seem too cultured, refined, and style-conscious are sometimes dismissed as wimpy and not sufficiently masculine. It is now, as it was then, really a class issue-guided by the belief that only those with gobs of money have the time to attend to the minutiae of etiquette and fashion, while “real men” are too hard at work to notice such things. The Genteel Patriarch archetype remains suspect in many minds because of its perception as non-democratic.

This idea can most clearly be seen played out in the political arena. Ever since Andrew Jackson took the White House with a campaign promising to represent the common man, presidential candidates have had to make of a show of their rugged masculinity while downplaying characteristics that would mark them as the Genteel Patriarch, or in modern parlance, an “elitist.” A candidate must be intelligent, but not snobbishly so, articulate and well-mannered, but able to drink beer with factory workers and eat corn dogs at state fairs.

A familiar tactic in modern campaigns is for the conservative candidate to grab the democratic, common man mantle, while painting his liberal rival as the out-of-touch, dandified, Europe-admiring Genteel Patriarch. Of course both candidates typically have traits befitting this archetype, which leads to a battle to see who is best at spinning their own cultured background and attacking their contenders’. In the 1988 election, George HW Bush characterized Dukakis’ views as “born in Harvard-Yard’s boutique,” while defending his own Ivy League alma mater, Yale, as not being the same kind of enclave of “liberalism and elitism.” In 2004, George W. Bush’s campaign was able to paint the choice as being between a rugged cowboy type of man who cleared brush on his ranch and a stiff Massachusetts liberal, married to a multi-million dollar ketchup heiress. And a minor flap was created in 2008 when then-candidate Obama asked a crowd in Iowa, “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” Critics immediately pounced on the question as evidence of Obama being a high-falutin elitist. Or in other words, your classic Genteel Patriarch.

While the Genteel Patriarch has fallen out of favor in America, the Heroic Artisan and Self-Made Man continue to live on as ideals of American manliness. We’ll turn our attention to exploring the Heroic Artisan archetype next time.

Source:

Manhood in America by Michael Kimmel

3 Archetypes of American Manliness Series: 
Part I: The Genteel Patriarch
Part II: The Heroic Artisan
Part III: The Self-Made Man

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nicname August 23, 2010 at 1:09 am

Nice article, and I agree with it almost whole-heartedly.

2 Carl C August 23, 2010 at 3:03 am

Brett, you and your wife never cease to amaze me. Great article with tremendous insight into how these types play into our culture today. Please keep up the great work.
Carl

3 Lee August 23, 2010 at 6:48 am

What a crock. Patriarchs built this land.

4 Josh August 23, 2010 at 8:01 am

While the patriarchs may have founded the country, it was the frontiersman that actually built the land. The frontiersmen were the ones that expanded our country into the wilderness.

5 Eric Granata August 23, 2010 at 8:32 am

Interesting post. I am looking forward to the rest of the series. Also, your vocabulary is inspiring. My goal this week is to use both parlance and high-falutin in a conversation;-)

6 JB August 23, 2010 at 8:33 am

This account seems to be biased by the basic stereotypes he is trying to portray (e.g., that the patriarch “rarely” worked, an implication that he owned slaves is large numbers or that the vast majority were like this, and that “the reality was racist, discriminatory, and out of reach of the majority of men,” which last characteristic is already a leveling/democratic bias already–perhaps it is just the case that men are not equal in all respects, and perhaps it is better that a virtuous society be that of a union of unequals. Either side would require an argument.) As for myself, I greatly benefited from the autobiography of William Alexander Percy (uncle to Walker Percy), which, in the context of this article, one could characterize as “The Last of the Genteel Patriarchs.” See: Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter’s Son (http://books.google.com/books?id=kGq9jBt60rsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=lanterns+on+the+levee&hl=en&ei=UWpyTKuSOsGqlAe01fi_Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false).

I look forward to the rest of this series.

7 Titus Techera August 23, 2010 at 8:41 am

Patriarchs needn’t be racist, as Washington, Jefferson and many other Founders serve to show. Blacks were excluded because of the circumstances: but if there had been no black slavery in America – gentlemen farmers would have existed just the same. And the proper word to describe them is gentleman farmer, I think. Just because the poor could not be landowners does not make gentlemanship evil, but it is not the democratic side of democracy, I admit. Let us not forget, in despite of the oddities of historical or anthropological scholarship, that the Constitution was not written by self-made men or heroic artisans. – Neither of the two is particularly connected with politics. Gentlemen farmers are.

The description in this article is very misleading in this respect: it neglects to mention that these were the men in the Houses of Burgesses and so forth – these are the men who argued the natural right of men and necessity of revolution. It is a staggering thing, therefore: it is alike to reading a history of the American Revolution without any mention of the America Revolution.

To neglect that these men dedicated themselves to the public life, not the private – to call them racists and so forth – is abominable. what about the good things, like the Founding? Who wrote the State Constitutions? Who led the political movements in America? I find it odd to see such an article on AoM…

8 CRW August 23, 2010 at 8:56 am

The point missed here is that these Genteel Patriarchs were also polymaths, or “renaissance men”. Jefferson embodied more than just the Gentleman farmer, as there were countless things he studied. Washington and many other founders shared this trait, which shaped them into the dynamic leaders we study and embody today.

9 CB August 23, 2010 at 10:13 am

I think that while “racist & discriminatory” can be strong and harsh words to associate with specific men in history, they are appropriate to describe the archetype. The archetype is a general, almost primal, description of a basic model from which we categorize individuals. So at its core, I believe this is a fair and true description of the archetype. It is not necessarily an accurate or true description of any one specific man.
With this in mind, it is easy to see why this type of “manliness” would indeed be popular. In fact, you can see how certain portions of this archetype are used in other archtypes, such as the Self Made Man. While I have not read Mr Kimmel’s work and am certainly no mind reader to predict the McKay’s future posts, I can see how the ultimate goal of the Self Made Man is to be some sort of Genteel Patriarch. The Genteel Patriarch was concerned with power and though manliness was define by how much power a man had. Power is defined differently throughout different periods of history. Whereas in the 18th century, power was defined as landownership and voting rights, today power is defined by money and political clout. The Self Made Man, at its logical peak, would want to have the most power that he could earn with his own hands. While not concerned about owning slaves, he would be concern with how many subordinates he controled.
Again, these descriptions are at the archetypal level. These are deep seeded, almost instinctual beliefs that define the starting points for morals. Archetypes do not define the character of the individual but they can categorize character traits of a population.

10 Mike August 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

If you liked this article, you might be interested in “Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America” which examines that impact of fraternal societies (e.g. Freemasonry) on masculine identity. Not exactly a “page turner”, but of interest to someone who really wants to learn about the evolution of manhood in the USA. I read this book in college when I rushed a college fraternity and it was very enlightening.

11 Grant Cooper August 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

I am continuously impressed at the high value your site and articles provide in terms of insight, scholarship, progressive education, and entertainment. Please keep up the good work and try to take the critics’ harsh comments, some well-reasoned and some less so, in stride. One request, have a place where readers can suggest topics (perhaps there already is one). From a happy husband, dad & granddad.

12 Dave August 23, 2010 at 10:54 am

I think it’s important to remember that these are archetypes, not descriptions of actual individuals or groups of individuals and how they actually lived. Archetypes are symbols, ideal examples that root themselves in the public imagination and culture. So what is being argued here is that the landowning patriarch who didn’t have to work his own land was for a time considered the epitome of manliness, but then that ideal lost favor. As a student of history, I would say this is quite accurate. A good book about the Revolutionary War is the Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon Wood. It really explains the American shift from a society based on patriarchy, feudalism, patronage, aristocracy, ect to one based on capitalism and democracy. The ideal of the GP really had no place in that new world because he does indeed represent a very non-democratic ideal.

13 willo August 23, 2010 at 11:22 am

My dad was a farmer and he put me to work helping him when I was growing up.
Some of our equipment was attached to the tractor with a there point hitch, but some was towed behind like a trailer. I remember him saying once that those pieces were sticking their tongues out at him. (he had a dry sense of humor)
We would sometimes get very dirty and greasy working on the equipment and I didn’t like it, and he said that unless I wanted to be a “gentleman farmer”, I’d have to put up with it, and that our place was too small for me to be one.

As things turned out he passed away when I was a teenager and I thought the business was too iffy, and I aspired to become an “heroic artisan”; but we kept the farm & I rent out the land. I don’t make nearly enough in rent to support myself but at least I’m able to keep the place.

14 Albert August 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

For an influential example of a contemporary “Genteel Patriarch” who isn’t racist and whose writings show how agrarian community is not “out of reach of the majority of men,” see Wendell Berry. Or just visit the Mennonites.

It’s not that small scale landowning and farming is “out of reach” of most men; it’s that modern men don’t want to put in the effort for what they perceive to be a meager return because of the cultural ramifications of the evitable rise of mercantilism and its progeny in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cultural leaders brought us to cubicles, Walmart, and modern banking and we’ve gotten used to it.

15 Brett McKay August 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@Albert-

As Dave explains well, we’re not talking about actual people or lifestyles, we’re talking about archetypes. While I’m a fan on Wendell Berry and agree that being a landowner and farmer is not out of reach for most men, Mr. Berry and other modern small farmers do not fit the Genteel Patriarch archetype. GP’s oversaw a manor of workers and servants, were highly cultured and educated, followed European fashions and tastes, and had a sophisticated, aristocratic air. Having servants or slaves work the land instead of having to do it themselves allowed them to become polymaths as pointed out above. It was not simply a matter of owning land.

16 Tyler Tervooren August 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm

It makes perfect sense to me that the Self-Made Man won out as the dominant archetype in America simply because it’s so much more accessible than the other 2. In almost any culture, the middle and underclass far outnumber the elite.

When we started a brand new country in 1776 and donned the slogan, “The Land of Opportunity” it gave men around the world a new hope that they, too, could become an “ideal man.”

17 Brian Cooper August 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

If the slavery issue were removed, I believe the GP concept can thrive today. Pare it down to the essence. A man should be the kind and benevolent master of his estate. Be that estate a 1/4 acre lot in a subdivision, 100 acres of wooded raw land or 1000 acres of truck farm. A man’s estate is his estate regardless of size. The times have changed and the hundreds of thousands of acres owned by colonial plantations or robber barons at the turn of the 20th century are no longer the norm. But a parcel of land in a neighborhood can be an estate just as well as a larger farm on the edge of town. The concept espoused in the opening of the article denotes a father or head of household who instills strong ethics, Christian values in my case, while maintaining an outward appearance of formality. This can be seen in the resurgence of fedoras for example.

18 Jordan M. Poss August 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

“If you didn’t own property, you weren’t a man.”

No, you just weren’t a voter.

Kudos to Titus Techera. The remarks about the end of the Civil War and the decline of Genteel Patriarchy–to be replaced by the Self-Made Man–are misleading, because Genteel Patriarchs usually were self-made men. I like the idea of a series on American male archetypes, but this article is mostly pop culture mythology rather than history.

19 Brett McKay August 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm

@Jordan-

Your comment is both historically inaccurate and confusing. You give kudos to Titus, but he admits that these weren’t self-made men. Two of the best examples of GP’s were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They were not self-made men. They inherited land (both), married into money (Washington), and enjoyed the partronage of others. The idea that they were self-made men is truly pop culture mythology.

20 Brent August 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Brett,

If you haven’t already read it, David Hackett Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America” is a must-read on this topic:
http://www.amazon.com/Albions-Seed-British-Folkways-Cultural/dp/0195069056

21 Brett McKay August 23, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for the tip, Brent. I’ll definitely check it out.

22 Kyle E August 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Great article! I enjoy seeing how men in today’s society relate to men of generations gone by. Your articles are always top notch!

23 Andy B August 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Brett,

Love the article and can’t wait for the others in the series. As I approach 40 (in just a few weeks) I keep asking myself how have I measured as a man. This reminds me that there are so many ways to measure my manliness. In the end, like most people, I’m probably a hybrid of everything you present on AOM.

Keep up the great work!

Andy

24 Mike C. August 24, 2010 at 1:21 am

I believe that this is a well-written article. However, I think that furthering the picture of our Founding Fathers as racists is very offensive. They reshaped the line of thinking on how a country stays truly free, through independent states that could choose whether or not they wanted to stay together, and set in stone a system that protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority. This simple fact has been largely overshadowed by the fact that they owned slaves.
This sounds crazy, but will historians 200 years from now berate JFK or MLK because they ate meat? What if that is the social concern of the future? Looking at it from our point of view now, it seems silly, but we would laugh at them for being so narrow-minded. Just because something is part of our present beliefs does not mean that we should demonize such great minds. Nobody will ever be perfect. At the present time no one criticizes our leadership for the racist policies of accepting more Mexicans than Cubans or Darfurians in this country, so I think that we can give our Founding Fathers a break as well.

25 CoffeeZombie August 24, 2010 at 10:06 am

“If you didn’t own property, you weren’t a man. Right away this excluded the lower classes and of course black men, who in many states couldn’t even legally own land. Worse still, black men were often the property of the Genteel Patriarch, and made his leisurely, cultured lifestyle possible.”

Methinks you are confusing Europe with America. Plenty of men in America owned land who were not “Genteel Patriarchs;” indeed, they were quite squarely “lower class.”

The vast, vast majority of land-owning men in the US never owned a slave or hired servant and, instead, worked the land themselves. In the State of Georgia, this was the ideal upon which it was founded: common, hard-working men carving out their lives in the land (which is why Georgia was the only colony in which slavely was illegal, until 1749, when it was legalized in order to compete commercially with the slave-owning colonies).

However, it is, I think, accurate to say that the Civil War was the last stand of the genteel patriarch. Since then, the government those patriarchs founded has eroded into base faux-democracy.

26 Jordan M. Poss August 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

@Brett — I was thinking more of the Deep South, where antebellum patriarchs generally carved fortunes out of wilderness in a few decades. Barely two generations before the Civil War there was virtually nothing in what is now Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. These men certainly conformed to the patriarchal model without being “first family of Virginia” types, the Washingtons, Lees, and so forth. And it’s generally those Deep South patriarchs that get the worst rap. The pop culture mythos that I’m going after is that of a landed gentry that did nothing to get to its position, but relaxed in the shade sipping tea while hired–or forced–labor did its dirty work. The truth is vastly more complex.

Ditto to Mike C. Part of the problem is our own 200-year-distant perspective on topics which barely registered in their minds at the time.

27 Jordan M. Poss August 24, 2010 at 10:09 am

Kudos to CoffeeZombie for pointing out the unique place of Georgia in colonial history. James Oglethorpe was a humanitarian par excellence, and would certainly make a good topic on this site.

28 MKR August 26, 2010 at 11:03 am

Well, if you look at this from a global perspective the fact remains that most Americans do rely on cheap or slave labor to support our inflated lifestyles. The crime now is that instead of using our leisure time – the time in which we are not working to grow our own food and make the things we need to survive – we are not pursuing education, seeking to better ourselves, working to bring about positive change. Instead we are wasting our lives on frivolity.

We have been given a great opportunity just by being born in this country and I personally believe we owe it not only to our country but to the world to make ourselves men who, while avoiding the negative aspects of the genteel patriarch, do embody the positive – men who understand the value of education and the arts, who, like our founders and those genteel patriarchs of the Enlightenment saw value in the human spirit, in every human spirit, and sought to bring some form of equality – however imperfect the earliest manifestations of that equality were – to their societies. This website is a good start and I thank the McKays for all their work.

29 Brucifer September 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

Well Bret, I don’t know here…. your thing about slavery is what is tripping things up. There were plenty of Genteel Patriarch types in the northern states and in Canada, where slavery was not a component. In Britain, they would call these chaps “Country Squires” and such. The Genteel Patriarch was not enabled by the use of slavery, per se. It was in fact, a vestige of medieval feudal practices and even of earlier warlord/chiefdom.

30 Brett McKay September 1, 2010 at 11:59 am

@Brucifer-

Again, you, as others have done, are confusing archetypes for a description of real historical figures and facts. An archetype is an ideal, a symbol in the cultural imagination and conscious. It’s is not a description of how most men or every man lived during a time period, but a description of a popular symbol that existed during that time period. Yes there were quite obviously farmers who owned land in America and did not use slaves. But we’re talking about an archetype of manliness, what one of the ideals of manliness was during early American history. And this archetype, this symbol was of a man who ruled kindly over a large plot of land that was tended by servants and slaves, which allowed him both the independence and status of land owning and the time to cultivate his mind and manners and take part in politics. The reality is that the vast majority of men never attained this kind of life; it existed more as an ideal and an archetype.

I obviously did not make this clear enough in the post; I will begin the next installment with a little primer on archetypes to try to improve things.

31 Hondo September 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm

CoffeeZombie,

Georgia was unique in that it didn’t employ traditional black slavery but it did use a version of slavery where debtors served out their sentences doing slave’s work. The wealthy of Georgia weren’t exactly tilling their own soil either.

32 Native Son September 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I just finished reading the book. Although the description of the archetypes seems accurate, towards the end, the author draws a conclusion that all the archetypes represent failed models of American manhood. I’m not sure what his opinion of contemporary American manliness is, but he seems to equate manliness with nothing more than attempts by white working and middle class men to oppress and exclude women, men of other ethnic backgrounds and anyone of the “wrong” religious or sexual orientation from the “entitlements” of white, preferably Anglo Saxon, Christian heterosexual men.
I found his developed theme equating American manliness with 19th century nativists, Jacksonian Democrats, “effete” Easterners, Klansmen, and members of various “secret societies” and service clubs to be facile.

33 Workingman_Chronic_Renter September 17, 2010 at 6:16 am

I find it tiresome when half-baked cultural Marxists like Brett & Kate, who have clearly never read anything by or about Thomas Jefferson, immediately plop him up to take the hit for all the racism, paternalism, land grabbing collectivism and malignant narcissism we find far more prevalent among socialist Central Planners of pseudo-liberalism. Why not plop up Washington? He had three times as many slaves. Ahh, but Statists need Washington for the militarist warfare/welfare model. And besides, Jefferson is an intellectual threat. The Founding Fathers were born into the institution of slavery. They were Abolitionists and they consciously designed the model of our Constitutional Republic to abolish both Slavery and Serfdom – you morons.

34 Workingman_Chronic_Renter September 17, 2010 at 6:32 am

…These “genteels” were born into DEBT. They were not only born into a slave system which was itself considered, not merely a way of the world for 10,000 years up to that point, but also a peculiarity to American Life and “an abomination” no less by Jefferson than by most Americans at the time. Jefferson had a negative net worth from cradle to grave – the equivalent of over a million dollars of debt today. (I know I know – socialists don’t grasp the concept of debt.) John & Abigail lost everything to a Bank that went under. Adams was in his late 60′s. As for Washington, who the heck do you think Martha Washington is anyway? …George Washington had no money of his own.

The Cold War is over. The ideological battle is done. Stop kidding yourselves. Learn history and Reality Economics.

35 jerry June 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Workingman_Chronic_Renter…they would have to think for themselves to understand a word that you said. Anyone can change the words of age old ideas and try to make them their own…that being said much can be learned from the commenter.

36 Phil January 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm

workingman, and others:

a point of clarification: i realize i’m about four years late to this party, but you’re wrong about jefferson.

he may have fancied himself the beacon of learned society, intellectualism, science and philosophy, but it’s a simple matter of historical record that he was, indeed, racist.

his treatise “notes on the state of virginia” (published 1781) actually advanced the first theory purporting the “natural” inferiority of black persons. here is a quote from that work:

“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”

there are other, similar quotes in this treatise as well and i would encourage anyone interested in the history of race in the U.S. to read the document.

jefferson, fancying himself a learned gentleman, then called on science to prove exactly HOW blacks were inferior to the whites… which quickly led to the development of scientific race theory, where other white men (doctors, anthropologists, professors) elaborated hierarchical classifications of human populations based on measurement of skull sizes, brow ridges, noses, eyes, and so forth.

so jefferson can in fact be regarded as having institutionalized slavery for the next 100 years, while also providing the theoretical foundation for the scientific classifications that justified jim crow segregation in the U.S. even though he, himself, was a gentleman to the slaves he owned, and certainly had sexual affairs with some of them, he did more to retard race relations than any American in history (arguably).

of course in reasoning that blacks were biologically inferior, jefferson was merely borrowing from kant and other european “enlightenment” philosophers, though calling on science to buttress and legitimate this prejudice was his unique contribution to the racial stratification system we’re bound to today .

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