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be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that those liberties are the gift of God; that they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
In the same year that he published the Notes on Virginia, Jefferson introduced into a bill in Congress a clause excluding slavery from the whole of the territory of the United States between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, south as well as north of the Ohio. The clause was lost by the vote of a single State only.
Probably, finally, no single act of Jefferson's presidency gave him more personal satisfaction than his opportunity of reminding the Houses of Congress, in his message of 1806, that the time was approaching when, by the expiration of the twentyyear limit set by the Constitution, they might pass a law putting an end to the slave-trade, and with it to those “violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe.” Jefferson renewed his devotion to the cause of emancipation in a letter to Edward Coles, in the autumn of 1814, reiterating his faith in the scheme of colonization, and deploring the fact that the younger generation, in whose own breast the flame of liberty had been kindled, were not more eager to extend the process to their negro brethren. For himself, he said, the time for action was past. Old Priam could not buckle on the armor of Hector. The enterprise of emancipation was for the young. ... “It shall have all my prayers—the only weapons of an old man.”
What more natural than to expect a man with such a record in word and deed in behalf of emancipation to hail with joy and support with ardor the efforts of the "restrictionists” in the Congress of 1819–20 to exclude slavery from the proposed new State of Missouri and the remaining part of the Louisiana Purchase territory? It was the first movement to stop the spread of slavery west of the Mississippi, as his own bill of 1784 had been the first movement to stop the spread of slavery west of the Alleghanies. Tallmadge's proposal that no more slaves be allowed to go into Missouri was like his own measure in the House of Burgesses many years before to declare free after one year any negro slave brought into the State of Virginia. The provision that negroes born in the State of Missouri should become free at the age of twenty-five was less radical than his own proposition of 1779 for Virginia that all children born of slaves should be free from their birth and should be placed under the tutelage of the State until old enough for colonization. Yet, in spite of all this, Jefferson opposed the imposition of any restriction regarding slavery upon Missouri by Congress as a condition of its admission as a State into the Union, and condemned the famous Compromise which forbade the extension of slavery into the rest of the territory of the Louisiana Purchase above the parallel of 36° 30'.
In this matter Jefferson's abhorrence of the revival of Federalism got the better of his hatred for slavery. He could see in the policy of the restrictionist only a ruse to restore the prestige of the northern champions of a consolidated government. He who once in his horror of slavery had “trembled for his country," now found the impassioned pleas of Taylor, Slade, Tallmadge, and King for a race of freemen in our new West only hypocrisy and guile. “The Missouri question,” he wrote to William Pinkney, "is a mere party trick. The leaders of Federalism, defeated in their schemes of obtaining power by rallying partisans to the principle of monarchism . . . have changed their tack and thrown out another barrel to the whale. They are taking advantage of the virtuous feelings of the people to effect a division of parties by a geographical line. ... They are wasting Jeremiads on the miseries of slavery, as if we were advocates for it. Sincerity in their declamations should direct their efforts to the true point of the difficulty, and unite their counsels with ours in devising some reasonable and practicable plan of getting rid of it.” But what plan was either more reasonable or more practicable at the moment for getting rid of slavery than to prevent its going into the new lands west of the Mississippi, Jefferson, if he knew, did not state. Again he wrote to Lafayette in France, that the Missouri question was "not a moral question, but merely one of power: its object is to raise a geographical principle for the choice of a president, and the noise will be kept up until that is effected.” And again, to General Dearborn, after the passage of the compromise: “Desperate of regaining their power under political distinctions, they (the Federalists] have wriggled into its seat under the auspices of morality, and are again in the ascendency from which their sins had hurled them.” So the man whom cynics ridiculed for his idealism in politics lost the moral point of the Missouri question in his own cynical attitude, and comforted himself, for his country, with the miserable sophistry that the extension of slavery into the new West would lighten the dark cloud by dissipating it, and for his person, with the dismal thanksgiving that he would "not live to see the issue."
Religious obloquy, which had pursued Jefferson all through his official life, did not cease with his retirement or even with his burial. He was accused by the orthodoxy of New England of having imported the atheistical doctrines of the French Jacobins to corrupt his countrymen. Ridiculous stories of his hostility to Christianity were circulated, even to the rumor of a presidential edict to suppress all copies of the Bible. But Jefferson was no more an atheist than he was a Jacobin. Whether he was a Christian or not depends on the definition of a word which has never been defined alike by any two of a multitude of sects. The Christianity of the priesthood and the Christianity of dogma he equally abhorred. He rejected all doctrines which offended his reason or his ethics: the Trinity, predestination, the virgin birth of Christ, apostolic succession, the atonement, miracles, et cetera; but his writings abound with references to a Deity in whose hands are the issues of human affairs, and with expressions of faith in a future life where those parted on earth shall meet again. He fought strenuously against any connection between church and state, as the endowed Anglican clergy of Virginia experienced to their sorrow; but he generally followed the worship and accepted the ministrations of the Episcopal Church, while he was a liberal contributor to churches of many denominations and a good friend to hosts of clergymen. He rejected the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible; but he knew the book better than most of his critics, and compiled with considerable labor a kind of “harmony of the Gospels,” called “The Jefferson Bible,” designed to cull out and arrange in order the essential teachings of Jesus.1 It is prob