During his life time he was radical. He had radical believes. Some of his beliefs were hypocritical, like being against slavery when he owned slaves. A Virginian being against slavery was radical, even if he did own slaves and view Native Americans and African Americans as less than Europeans. He did believe women should be educated but so they could be better mothers. Which was the reason a lot of men believed women should be educated in the Early Republic. He did not believe in killing gay people, which actually was a punishment for sodomy/homosexuality in parts of Europe.
In 2012 are his believes radical? No. They seem assbackwards to us. They seem really oppressive to us. They would be labeled racist, sexist, etc. today. If he was alive today, most people would think he is a giant douchebag. In 1800? He was radical. In 1776 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence he was radical. Does that mean he is radical by todays standards? No. However, when studying Jefferson or looking at Jefferson we cannot look at him with todays standards and morals. We have to look at him as if he was alive in the 18th and early 19th century. Which ironically he was. We have to look at him in relationship to his time period. We have to think critically about him and take into account historical context.
The same is true for any historical figure. We have to look at them in relationship to their time period. We cannot write about them and put 21st century morals on them. We have to look at them in relation to their time period, culture, etc. We have to put them in context of their society. I was talking to my friend and we realized most people don’t do that. Most people put 20th century morals on people from the past and call it a day. We just say “Jefferson was racist” and leave it at that. We don’t look at the society he lives in. We say “well that society was racist and bad.” A lot of people would argue nothing good came out of the 18th century. A lot of people paint history as being all bad or all good. They don’t look at it in shades of grey. They don’t think about history critically.
My point is, we have to look at history critically to understand it. We cannot just put todays morals on history and say it is all bad or all good. We have to acknowledge there are good parts of history and really fucked up parts of history. The good and bad are all part of history and all of it needs to be critically studied.
edit: there is no point for the painting, I just really like it…