Differences And Similarities Between Finkelman And Douglas Wilson

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1. While authors, Paul Finkelman and Douglas Wilson both address the issue of presentism in their works, Douglas Wilson takes a firmer stance on the topic than Finkelman. Throughout the first paragraph in Finkelman’s excerpt of his novel, Jefferson and Slavery, Finkelman attempts to create a strong argument against Jefferson’s actions when he states, “Jefferson's professions and his actions does [should] not impose twentieth-century values on an eighteenth-century man” (256). Finkelman continues to put Jefferson’s morals to shame when he declares Jefferson failed at being “the leader of the best” (256). But by declaring this statement, it seems as if Finkelman unknowingly contradicted himself, by indirectly defining the definition of what was …show more content…

Although both authors agreed on using the ethical standards that was present during Jefferson’s time to evaluate him, only Wilson followed through his statement. Throughout his argument he continuously supported Jefferson’s actions on slavery, by using the peer pressure that was formed around Jefferson and the belief that he wanted the slaves to be emancipated to justify Wilson’s reasoning. In Finkelman’s work he begins to create a strong argument but fails to do so when contradicts himself in the first paragraph of his excerpt. Finkelman continues to impose twentieth-century morals upon Jefferson as he puts his actions to disgrace while he evaluates Jefferson. At the same time, Wilson does just the opposite, by using eighteenth-century ethical standards to evaluate …show more content…

In both secondary sources, both authors established an ethical standard in which they evaluated Jefferson. While Finkelman held Jefferson to today’s standards, Wilson did the opposite and held him to the eighteenth-century ethical standards. In Wilson’s article, he believed Jefferson did meet the ethical standard of his time when he asked the reader, “How did a man who was born into a slave holding society, whose family and admired friends owned slaves, who inherited a fortune that was dependent on slaves and slave labor, decide at an early age that slavery was morally wrong and forcefully declare that it ought to be abolished” (256)? Because of Wilson’s bold statement, it made sense to the author that Jefferson held his slaves because of not only his past but because of his age. However, Wilson’s argument takes a turn in the end when he admits he finds Jefferson guilty of providing adequate conditions for the slaves to live in, even for the eighteenth-century standards. Similarly to Wilson, Finkelman thinks along the same lines. In the first paragraph of Finkelman’s excerpt of his novel, Jefferson and Slavery, he bluntly states Jefferson fails at being “the leader of the best” and having the ability to “transcend his economic interests and his sectional background to implement the ideals he articulated” (256). Finkelman continues to explain Jefferson’s dependency on slaves and indirectly states he fails to meet the ethical standards once again in the second

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