JF Ptak Science Books Post 1869
I was picking my way through Mr. Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (written in 1783/4), and dipped into Query 14, "Laws". Six pages in came the Great Man's thoughts on being white and being black. He really didn't have much hope for the black person in the new United States, and in an odd way, I think, did a sort of arithmetic calibration on the black race, giving a few points here and there "for", and piling up the count "against", making an overall large negative number for the possibility of the black and white races living together. [The full text of the work us available, here.]
In very many cases in his later writing Jefferson re-evaluates this thinking, as seen in this example, writing to Benjamin Banneker in 1791 ('"No body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence"), and in many others (as in the very full example1 of this 1809 letter to Henri Gregoire, shown below).
Jefferson had already written somewhat earlier in the book about blacks on page 197, where he discusses albinism in black people as part of a natural history chapter dealing with animals:
To this catalogue of our indigenous animals, I will add a short account of an anomaly of nature, taking place sometimes in the race of negroes brought from Africa, who, though black themselves, have in rare instances, white children, called Albinos...
This is not promising. This is also the first appearance in the book of the word "negro". [I wrote a short bit on the history of the fight for the capitalization of the letter "N" in "Negro" here; this was a fight that dragged itself into the first third of the 20th century.]
I am no Jefferson scholar, not by any means. Only familiar with the "basics" of Jefferson, and his design and architecture and technical aspects, and somewhat familiar with his writing on the basic morality of slave-holding, I was surprised to find what he had written about constitution of black people here in the Notes.
Perhaps I shouldn't've been so, but I was. Perhaps I wasn't as familiar with Jefferson during the time of the Revolution as I thought, seeing him as not only a man who changed the product of his time but who was also a product of them, writing in his present on the state of blacks in America that seems to have been seen as a great error in the mind of the Thomas Jefferson who would read these thoughts in the future, and refute (and perhaps repudiate) them.