January 17, 1819 – Thomas Jefferson to Joel Yancey on the Value of the Slave “Crop”

Joel Yancey lived on the plantation next to that of Thomas Jefferson, from whom he bought the land, and they became friends. On this day in history, Jefferson wrote to Yancey about “the mortality among our negroes.” Jefferson said to Yancey that he feared overseers were too hard on the women, not permitting them to devote enough time to caring for their children. Lest anyone get teary-eyed over Jefferson’s paternal-sounding concerns, his reasoning was strictly economic:

I consider the labor of a breeding woman as no object, and that a child raised every 2. years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man. in this, as in all other cases, providence has made our interests & our duties coincide perfectly.”

You can read the whole letter here.

Thomas Jefferson

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