The notion that Jefferson was merely following the crowd, and that everyone else did the same thing is convenient for us. But it has the unfortunate effect of erasing the courage of those who were willing to live their words, and pay the price.
Edward Coles doesn’t deserve to be forgotten merely to redeem Jefferson.
Coles, you’ll recall, failed in his attempt to recruit Jefferson as a spokesman for emancipation. And in order to free his own slaves, he was forced to leave Virginia.
IMAGES: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Thaddeus Kosciuszko, ca. 1789–1799 (Library of Congress); sketch of Edward Coles by E. B. Washburn (Wkipedia Commons)