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The looting of archaeological sites is a problem all around the world and it’s also a huge illegal business. Recently in Poland, authorities have recovered hundreds of stolen historical artifacts in a targeted police operation. These illegal historical artifacts are believed to have been illegally obtained. This latest incident is just another indicator of the scale of the unlawful cultural property trade in Poland and internationally.
The cache of illegal historical artifacts was found in Andrychów, in the south of Poland, located in the historical area known as Lesser Poland . A local man had been on the police’s “radar for some time,” reports The First News. It seems that a tipoff led them to search the suspect's property. Officers “received information that one of the inhabitants of Andrychów may be in possession of prohibited objects,” reports Wadowice Online . This led to officers from the regional police headquarters, based in Kraków, and local police to raid the home of a 40-year-old man.
Ancient horse stirrups were also found among the illegal historical artifacts found in the suspect’s home in Poland. ( KPP Wadowicach )
Police Raid Nets Treasure Trove Of Stolen Ancient Artifacts
What the authorities found was a treasure trove of stolen historical artifacts. Hundreds of items were found in cardboard boxes all over the property. Agnieszka Petek, a spokesperson at the district police headquarters in Wadowice stated that “There were more than 400 pieces of various artifacts, which lay deposited in boxes, in different parts of the house, especially in the attic,” according to Wadowice Online . Staff from the provincial office for the protection of monuments were also involved in the operation.
The owner of the illegal historical artifacts was arrested, and a file is being prepared in the local prosecutors’ office in relation to the case. The police believe that the objects were excavated illegally, and this is contrary to the Protection of Monuments and the Care of Monuments laws in Poland. The cache included lead bullets and shells of various calibers, parts of weapons, tools, arrowheads, and some knives. There were even items of clothing recovered. “Some of the items, including hammers, knives and arrowheads, date back to the Middle Ages ,” reports The First News .
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Many lead bullets and arrow heads were found in the large cache of stolen historical artifacts found in the suspect’s home in Poland. ( KPP Wadowicach )
Acquisition of Illegal Artifacts
The huge collection stolen historical artifacts was acquired in a variety of ways. Some of the items were bought in markets. Other objects were bought from online auction sites. This indicates the scale of illicit trade in cultural property in Poland and how easy it is to purchase illegally excavated artifacts.
It seems that most of the artifacts were obtained by “illegal searches using a metal detector around Poland, without the necessary permission,” reports The First News . The suspect in the case used a metal detector to dig up historic objects. A tiny number of detectorists are involved in unlawful activities. However, the vast majority are responsible and report their finds to the relevant authorities and they have helped archaeologists to find many important objects. Recently, as Ancient Origins reported, Polish metal detectorists “uncovered an exciting collection of artifacts on the historic site of the Battle of Grunwald which took place in 1410.”
Decorative and jewelry historical artifacts, illicitly obtained, discovered in the suspect’s home in Poland. ( KPP Wadowicach )
Global Trade In Stolen Cultural Property Is Big Business!
Illegal excavations are a serious problem, and they are having a devastating impact on the heritage of Poland. The First News quotes a statement from the district police headquarters in Wadowice: “Illegal excavations at archaeological sites lead to the permanent destruction of both the monument itself and places that are illegally explored.” No one knows how many important archaeological artifacts have been dug out of the ground illegally in the country.
The illicit trade in cultural property is a major problem not only in Poland but around the world according to UNESCO. There is a growing desire for rare objects and this is fueling the trade. Some people collect stolen artifacts because they are seen as works of art while others regard them as investments. It is believed that the global illicit trade in cultural property is worth billions of dollars. And this prohibited trade in historical artifacts is having a terrible impact on the heritage of many cultures and nations.
Metal detectorists. You may have seen them singly, or in pairs, or in groups. Come rain or shine, sweeping across the fields, listening attentively to the signal from their machine, eyes fixed to the ground. Then a signal, and a pause to examine the source, and a careful moving away of the soil, to examine the focus of their attention.
. the detector may pinpoint something of great significance, such as the remarkable Winchester Hoard
And what are the fruits of their labours? Very often a corroded nail or two, or a modern mechanical relict of a passing Massey Ferguson. At other times the detectorist may find something more interesting - a tangible piece of antiquity. It may be a George III half-penny, a lead token, a fragment from a Roman brooch, a 17th-century lead musket ball, or a decorative metal fitting from the end of a long since decayed leather strap. In fact, just about anything.
More rarely, the detector may pinpoint something of great significance, such as the remarkable Winchester Hoard. This find - two sets of late Iron Age gold jewellery - was discovered by Kevan Halls in 2000 and reported to the local Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Finds Liaison Officer. It was one of the most exciting metal detector finds of the decade, and because Mr Halls reported the discovery quickly, and carefully recorded the findspot, it meant a follow-up archaeological excavation was possible. There were no distinguishable archaeological features, or further remains, beneath the plough-soil, which suggests that the hoard may have been deposited in a shallow pit, possibly as an offering.
Another significant find was that of the Ringlemere Cup, a gold ceremonial cup, about four and half inches high, beaten out of a solid lump of gold by Bronze Age artisans. Detectorist Cliff Bradshaw discovered it in 2001, on farmland at Ringlemere in Kent. He contacted the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and the local PAS Finds Liaison Officer with news of his find, and the Trust was able to excavate the site with funding from English Heritage. The team confirmed that the site was a round barrow and that the cup may have represented grave goods from a central burial.
What can we learn from the diverse range of all these finds? Can they contribute to our understanding of the past? Or can the use of detectors do more harm than good?
The F.B.I. Is Trying to Return Thousands of Stolen Artifacts, Including Native American Burial Remains
Five years ago, F.B.I. agents descended on a house in rural Indiana packed with ancient artifacts unlawfully obtained by the home’s owner, 91-year-old Don Miller. Over a six-day raid, the agency seized more than 7,000 objects in a collection that ranged in the tens of thousands. It remains the largest single recovery of cultural property in the agency’s history. Witnessing the sheer number of artifacts accumulated was “jaw-dropping,” F.B.I. Agent Tim Carpenter later recollected in an interview with CBC’s Susan Bonner. Most staggering of all was the discovery that Miller had amassed approximately 500 sets of human remains, many of which are believed to have been looted from Native American burial grounds.
Since the raid, the F.B.I. has been quietly working to repatriate the objects and remains to their rightful owners. But to date, only around 15 percent of the horde has been returned. In the hopes of speeding up the identification and repatriation process, the F.B.I. is now publicizing the case.
It was no secret that the homeowner possessed a collection of artifacts that, according to the F.B.I., ultimately swelled to 42,000 in number.
Miller, who died in 2015, was a Christian missionary who was known among his community for his collections of treasure that he accumulated during vacation time traveling the world on “archaeological digs,” according to reporting by Indianapolis Star’s Domenica Bongiovanni. To that end, he often invited local residents, reporters and Boy Scout troops into his home to view his artifacts, however, he kept the human remains largely out of sight, CBS News reports.
But word got out all the same in 2013, the F.B.I. received a tip that Miller had been keeping ancient human bones, which in turn launched the raid on his home. Packed into display cases in his farmhouse were objects from around the world: North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, Papua New Guinea. In some cases, the F.B.I. says, Miller’s collecting had “crossed the line into illegality and outright looting.” That became particularly clear when agents found the human bones among his artifacts.
According to the CBC, it is not clear if Miller obtained the bones on his own, or if he purchased them on the black market. Buying and selling Native American remains is illegal in the United States, thanks to 1990 legislation that sought to correct the once-common practice of looting cultural artifacts from indigenous graves for trade among museums and collectors.
“All too often here we have been treated as curiosities rather than a people here,” Pete Coffey, a tribal official with North Dakota's Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations who is collaborating with the F.B.I., tells CBS News. “They could very well be my own great, great, great, great grandfather, or grandmother … I characterize it as being ripped out of the earth.”
The objects seized from Miller’s home are being held in a facility near Indianapolis, where they are being cared for by anthropologists and local museum studies graduate students. The F.B.I. has been working with Native American tribal leaders, international officials and experts to return the artifacts, 361 of which were recently repatriated to China.
The process has not been easy. Miller spent seven decades amassing his collection, and he did not keep detailed records. The human remains are particularly tricky to identify because DNA analysis is invasive, and Carpenter tells the CBC's Bonner that officials do not want to cause “further offence to the ancestral remains,” and so have not used the process. Instead, the F.B.I. has set up an invitation-only website that contains information about all of the recovered items, and the agency is encouraging Native American tribal representatives, along with experts and foreign officials, to reach out if they think they have a claim to any of the artifacts.
“We have a lot of work left to do,” Carpenter says, “and we can't do that work until the experts come forward and help us identify these pieces and guide us on where they need to go.”
Rampant Antiquities Theft Threatens Cultural Heritage Around The World
ROME, ITALY - APRIL 17: 75 Archaeological coins (Aes Grave in cast bronze minted by the Mint of . [+] Rome, rare series of the first Roman coinage), from the third century. BC, and recovered in February 2019 in Viterbo from Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage after a complex investigation on April 17, 2019 in Rome, Italy. Press conference at the Caserma "La Marmora" in Rome, in the presence of the Minister for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Alberto Bonisoli, to present the report of the 2018 operational activity of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, which led to the arrest of 34 people and denounce 1,195 and the recovery of more than 56,400 cultural assets, including antiques, archives, books, archaeological and paleontological works and fake works.During the press conference some of the recovered assets were presented, in Italy and abroad, thanks to long and detailed investigative activities. (Photo by Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Getty Images)
Earlier this week, Europol announced the latest results of Pandora III, a law enforcement operation aimed at cracking down on the illegal trade of antiquities. The operation involved police and customs officials from 29 countries and was coordinated by the Spanish Civil Guard. All told, the operation resulted in the arrest of 59 individuals and the recovery of more than 18,000 cultural objects, including Greek and Roman coins, a 15 th -century Bible, and a Mesopotamian crystal cylinder seal.
These results are not unusual. In 2018, operation Pandora II resulted in 51 arrests and the recovery of more than 41,000 objects. And, in 2017, Pandora I resulted in 75 arrests and the recovery of more than 3,500 objects. Nor is Europe the only place where such crime is rampant. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Subhash Kappor, a Manhattan art dealer, was charged with overseeing a multinational trafficking network that had stolen more than $145 million worth of objects, and this week The Times of Israel reported the arrest of two crews of antiquities thieves in the West Bank.
Recently recovered antiquities are displayed at the foreign ministry, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July . [+] 29, 2019. The artifacts paraded Monday include archaeological and historical pieces recovered from Britain and Sweden, pottery fragments and shards with writing dating back to the ancient Sumerian civilization. Iraq is putting a great effort to restore its lost rich cultural heritage after it was decimated during the chaos that followed the 2003 U.S. invasion. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
For some, there is a desire to not just learn about the past, or to see ancient remains, but instead to personally own objects of remote antiquity. To acquire antiquities, however, is to inherently come into contact with criminal enterprise. Donna Yates, archaeologist and expert on antiquities theft, told me that there is no clean market for antiquities. “It’s a grey market … The (few) totally legal antiquities out there are sold alongside the loot and they are impossible for even a well-meaning buyer to differentiate between.”
Instead, the antiquities market has numerous connections to problematic actors. In a piece written for CNN last year, art historian Noah Charney described how organized international crime syndicates have been involved in art crime since the 1960s. And earlier this year, the BBC reported that antiquities looted from Middle Eastern sites by members of the Islamic State are still being sold on Facebook and other social media sites.
6 Ancient Monument Plowed Over By A Bulldozer
Offa&rsquos Dyke is a 1,200-year-old monument dating to the eighth century AD running along the border between England and Wales. Built by a local king to keep his land safe from invasion, it consists of a trench and an earthen mound. It&rsquos also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is ranked among some of the best wall walks in the world, on par with the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, in August 2013, a digger clearing overgrowth near a highway plowed over a section of the Dyke and destroyed it.
The man who destroyed it, and who had owned the land on which part of the dyke ran, faced a police inquiry, as willful destruction of Offa&rsquos Dyke carried a fine or jail time. However, he escaped punishment as police were unable to prove that he knew the Dyke existed. The man had lived in the area all his life.
The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
With five simple words in the Declaration of Independence—“all men are created equal”—Thomas Jefferson undid Aristotle’s ancient formula, which had governed human affairs until 1776: “From the hour of their birth, some men are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” In his original draft of the Declaration, in soaring, damning, fiery prose, Jefferson denounced the slave trade as an “execrable commerce . this assemblage of horrors,” a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberties.” As historian John Chester Miller put it, “The inclusion of Jefferson’s strictures on slavery and the slave trade would have committed the United States to the abolition of slavery.”
From This Story
Conceived by Jefferson as an agrarian idyll, Monticello (seen today) “operated on carefully calibrated brutality.” (Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, Photograph by Leonard Phillips) (Illustration by Charis Tsevis) A 1950s editor of Jefferson’s Farm Book (a ledger page) withheld a revelation that young slave boys in the nailworks were whipped. (The Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society) Sewing tools attest to the slave labor that funded luxury and ease. (Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello) Nailmaking implements from Thomas Jefferson's nailery at Monticello. The young boys known as nailers hammered out 5,000 to 10,000 nails per day. (Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello) As a young man at Monticello, Isaac Granger (a freedman by 1847) produced a half ton of nails in six months. (Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, VA)
The Smithsonian Book of Presidential Trivia
That was the way it was interpreted by some of those who read it at the time as well. Massachusetts freed its slaves on the strength of the Declaration of Independence, weaving Jefferson’s language into the state constitution of 1780. The meaning of “all men” sounded equally clear, and so disturbing to the authors of the constitutions of six Southern states that they emended Jefferson’s wording. “All freemen,” they wrote in their founding documents, “are equal.” The authors of those state constitutions knew what Jefferson meant, and could not accept it. The Continental Congress ultimately struck the passage because South Carolina and Georgia, crying out for more slaves, would not abide shutting down the market.
“One cannot question the genuineness of Jefferson’s liberal dreams,” writes historian David Brion Davis. “He was one of the first statesmen in any part of the world to advocate concrete measures for restricting and eradicating Negro slavery.”
But in the 1790s, Davis continues, “the most remarkable thing about Jefferson’s stand on slavery is his immense silence.” And later, Davis finds, Jefferson’s emancipation efforts “virtually ceased.”
Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson.
The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation. Jefferson animates the paradox. And by looking closely at Monticello, we can see the process by which he rationalized an abomination to the point where an absolute moral reversal was reached and he made slavery fit into America’s national enterprise.
We can be forgiven if we interrogate Jefferson posthumously about slavery. It is not judging him by today’s standards to do so. Many people of his own time, taking Jefferson at his word and seeing him as the embodiment of the country’s highest ideals, appealed to him. When he evaded and rationalized, his admirers were frustrated and mystified it felt like praying to a stone. The Virginia abolitionist Moncure Conway, noting Jefferson’s enduring reputation as a would-be emancipator, remarked scornfully, “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.”
Thomas Jefferson’s mansion stands atop his mountain like the Platonic ideal of a house: a perfect creation existing in an ethereal realm, literally above the clouds. To reach Monticello, you must ascend what a visitor called “this steep, savage hill,” through a thick forest and swirls of mist that recede at the summit, as if by command of the master of the mountain. “If it had not been called Monticello,” said one visitor, “I would call it Olympus, and Jove its occupant.” The house that presents itself at the summit seems to contain some kind of secret wisdom encoded in its form. Seeing Monticello is like reading an old American Revolutionary manifesto—the emotions still rise. This is the architecture of the New World, brought forth by its guiding spirit.
In designing the mansion, Jefferson followed a precept laid down two centuries earlier by Palladio: “We must contrive a building in such a manner that the finest and most noble parts of it be the most exposed to public view, and the less agreeable disposed in by places, and removed from sight as much as possible.”
The mansion sits atop a long tunnel through which slaves, unseen, hurried back and forth carrying platters of food, fresh tableware, ice, beer, wine and linens, while above them 20, 30 or 40 guests sat listening to Jefferson’s dinner-table conversation. At one end of the tunnel lay the icehouse, at the other the kitchen, a hive of ceaseless activity where the enslaved cooks and their helpers produced one course after another.
During dinner Jefferson would open a panel in the side of the fireplace, insert an empty wine bottle and seconds later pull out a full bottle. We can imagine that he would delay explaining how this magic took place until an astonished guest put the question to him. The panel concealed a narrow dumbwaiter that descended to the basement. When Jefferson put an empty bottle in the compartment, a slave waiting in the basement pulled the dumbwaiter down, removed the empty, inserted a fresh bottle and sent it up to the master in a matter of seconds. Similarly, platters of hot food magically appeared on a revolving door fitted with shelves, and the used plates disappeared from sight on the same contrivance. Guests could not see or hear any of the activity, nor the links between the visible world and the invisible that magically produced Jefferson’s abundance.
Jefferson appeared every day at first light on Monticello’s long terrace, walking alone with his thoughts. From his terrace Jefferson looked out upon an industrious, well-organized enterprise of black coopers, smiths, nailmakers, a brewer, cooks professionally trained in French cuisine, a glazier, painters, millers and weavers. Black managers, slaves themselves, oversaw other slaves. A team of highly skilled artisans constructed Jefferson’s coach. The household staff ran what was essentially a mid-sized hotel, where some 16 slaves waited upon the needs of a daily horde of guests.
The plantation was a small town in everything but name, not just because of its size, but in its complexity. Skilled artisans and house slaves occupied cabins on Mulberry Row alongside hired white workers a few slaves lived in rooms in the mansion’s south dependency wing some slept where they worked. Most of Monticello’s slaves lived in clusters of cabins scattered down the mountain and on outlying farms. In his lifetime Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves. At any one time about 100 slaves lived on the mountain the highest slave population, in 1817, was 140.
Below the mansion there stood John Hemings’ cabinetmaking shop, called the joinery, along with a dairy, a stable, a small textile factory and a vast garden carved from the mountainside—the cluster of industries Jefferson launched to supply Monticello’s household and bring in cash. “To be independent for the comforts of life,” Jefferson said, “we must fabricate them ourselves.” He was speaking of America’s need to develop manufacturing, but he had learned that truth on a microscale on his plantation.
Jefferson looked down from his terrace onto a community of slaves he knew very well—an extended family and network of related families that had been in his ownership for two, three or four generations. Though there were several surnames among the slaves on the “mountaintop”—Fossett, Hern, Colbert, Gillette, Brown, Hughes—they were all Hemingses by blood, descendants of the matriarch Elizabeth “Betty” Hemings, or Hemings relatives by marriage. “A peculiar fact about his house servants was that we were all related to one another,” as a former slave recalled many years later. Jefferson’s grandson Jeff Randolph observed, “Mr. Js Mechanics and his entire household of servants. consisted of one family connection and their wives.”
For decades, archaeologists have been scouring Mulberry Row, finding mundane artifacts that testify to the way that life was lived in the workshops and cabins. They have found saw blades, a large drill bit, an ax head, blacksmith’s pincers, a wall bracket made in the joinery for a clock in the mansion, scissors, thimbles, locks and a key, and finished nails forged, cut and hammered by nail boys.
The archaeologists also found a bundle of raw nail rod—a lost measure of iron handed out to a nail boy one dawn. Why was this bundle found in the dirt, unworked, instead of forged, cut and hammered the way the boss had told them? Once, a missing bundle of rod had started a fight in the nailery that got one boy’s skull bashed in and another sold south to terrify the rest of the children—“in terrorem” were Jefferson’s words—“as if he were put out of the way by death.” Perhaps this very bundle was the cause of the fight.
Weaving slavery into a narrative about Thomas Jefferson usually presents a challenge to authors, but one writer managed to spin this vicious attack and terrible punishment of a nailery boy into a charming plantation tale. In a 1941 biography of Jefferson for “young adults” (ages 12 to 16) the author wrote: “In this beehive of industry no discord or revilings found entrance: there were no signs of discontent on the black shining faces as they worked under the direction of their master. The women sang at their tasks and the children old enough to work made nails leisurely, not too overworked for a prank now and then.”
It might seem unfair to mock the misconceptions and sappy prose of “a simpler era,” except that this book, The Way of an Eagle, and hundreds like it, shaped the attitudes of generations of readers about slavery and African-Americans. Time magazine chose it as one of the “important books” of 1941 in the children’s literature category, and it gained a second life in America’s libraries when it was reprinted in 1961 as Thomas Jefferson: Fighter for Freedom and Human Rights.
In describing what Mulberry Row looked like, William Kelso, the archaeologist who excavated it in the 1980s, writes, “There can be little doubt that a relatively shabby Main Street stood there.” Kelso notes that “throughout Jefferson’s tenure, it seems safe to conclude that the spartan Mulberry Row buildings. made a jarring impact on the Monticello landscape.”
It seems puzzling that Jefferson placed Mulberry Row, with its slave cabins and work buildings, so close to the mansion, but we are projecting the present onto the past. Today, tourists can walk freely up and down the old slave quarter. But in Jefferson’s time, guests didn’t go there, nor could they see it from the mansion or the lawn. Only one visitor left a description of Mulberry Row, and she got a glimpse of it only because she was a close friend of Jefferson’s, someone who could be counted upon to look with the right attitude. When she published her account in the Richmond Enquirer, she wrote that the cabins would appear “poor and uncomfortable” only to people of “northern feelings.”
The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.
In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value.”
The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like “Cattle in the market,” and this disgusted him. Yet Jefferson was right, prescient, about the investment value of slaves. A startling statistic emerged in the 1970s, when economists taking a hardheaded look at slavery found that on the eve of the Civil War, enslaved black people, in the aggregate, formed the second most valuable capital asset in the United States. David Brion Davis sums up their findings: “In 1860, the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing or railroads nationwide.” The only asset more valuable than the black people was the land itself. The formula Jefferson had stumbled upon became the engine not only of Monticello but of the entire slaveholding South and the Northern industries, shippers, banks, insurers and investors who weighed risk against returns and bet on slavery. The words Jefferson used—“their increase”—became magic words.
Jefferson’s 4 percent theorem threatens the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was “stuck” with or “trapped” in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy. The date of Jefferson’s calculation aligns with the waning of his emancipationist fervor. Jefferson began to back away from antislavery just around the time he computed the silent profit of the “peculiar institution.”
And this world was crueler than we have been led to believe. A letter has recently come to light describing how Monticello’s young black boys, “the small ones,” age 10, 11 or 12, were whipped to get them to work in Jefferson’s nail factory, whose profits paid the mansion’s grocery bills. This passage about children being lashed had been suppressed—deliberately deleted from the published record in the 1953 edition of Jefferson’s Farm Book, containing 500 pages of plantation papers. That edition of the Farm Book still serves as a standard reference for research into the way Monticello worked.
By 1789, Jefferson planned to shift away from growing tobacco at Monticello, whose cultivation he described as “a culture of infinite wretchedness.” Tobacco wore out the soil so fast that new acreage constantly had to be cleared, engrossing so much land that food could not be raised to feed the workers and requiring the farmer to purchase rations for the slaves. (In a strangely modern twist, Jefferson had taken note of the measurable climate change in the region: The Chesapeake region was unmistakably cooling and becoming inhospitable to heat-loving tobacco that would soon, he thought, become the staple of South Carolina and Georgia.) He visited farms and inspected equipment, considering a new crop, wheat, and the exciting prospect it opened before him.
The cultivation of wheat revitalized the plantation economy and reshaped the South’s agricultural landscape. Planters all over the Chesapeake region had been making the shift. (George Washington had begun raising grains some 30 years earlier because his land wore out faster than Jefferson’s did.) Jefferson continued to plant some tobacco because it remained an important cash crop, but his vision for wheat farming was rapturous: “The cultivation of wheat is the reverse [of tobacco] in every circumstance. Besides cloathing the earth with herbage, and preserving its fertility, it feeds the labourers plentifully, requires from them only a moderate toil, except in the season of harvest, raises great numbers of animals for food and service, and diffuses plenty and happiness among the whole.”
Wheat farming forced changes in the relationship between planter and slave. Tobacco was raised by gangs of slaves all doing the same repetitive, backbreaking tasks under the direct, strict supervision of overseers. Wheat required a variety of skilled laborers, and Jefferson’s ambitious plans required a retrained work force of millers, mechanics, carpenters, smiths, spinners, coopers, and plowmen and plowmen.
Jefferson still needed a cohort of “labourers in the ground” to carry out the hardest tasks, so the Monticello slave community became more segmented and hierarchical. They were all slaves, but some slaves would be better than others. The majority remained laborers above them were enslaved artisans (both male and female) above them were enslaved managers above them was the household staff. The higher you stood in the hierarchy, the better clothes and food you got you also lived literally on a higher plane, closer to the mountaintop. A small minority of slaves received pay, profit sharing or what Jefferson called “gratuities,” while the lowest workers received only the barest rations and clothing. Differences bred resentment, especially toward the elite household staff.
Planting wheat required fewer workers than tobacco, leaving a pool of field laborers available for specialized training. Jefferson embarked on a comprehensive program to modernize slavery, diversify it and industrialize it. Monticello would have a nail factory, a textile factory, a short-lived tinsmithing operation, coopering and charcoal burning. He had ambitious plans for a flour mill and a canal to provide water power for it.
Training for this new organization began in childhood. Jefferson sketched out a plan in his Farm Book: “children till 10. years old to serve as nurses. from 10. to 16. the boys make nails, the girls spin. at 16. go into the ground or learn trades.”
Tobacco required child labor (the small stature of children made them ideal workers for the distasteful task of plucking and killing tobacco worms) wheat did not, so Jefferson transferred his surplus of young workers to his nail factory (boys) and spinning and weaving operations (girls).
He launched the nailery in 1794 and supervised it personally for three years. “I now employ a dozen little boys from 10. to 16. years of age, overlooking all the details of their business myself.” He said he spent half the day counting and measuring nails. In the morning he weighed and distributed nail rod to each nailer at the end of the day he weighed the finished product and noted how much rod had been wasted.
The nailery “particularly suited me,” he wrote, “because it would employ a parcel of boys who would otherwise be idle.” Equally important, it served as a training and testing ground. All the nail boys got extra food those who did well received a new suit of clothes, and they could also expect to graduate, as it were, to training as artisans rather than going “in the ground” as common field slaves.
Some nail boys rose in the plantation hierarchy to become house servants, blacksmiths, carpenters or coopers. Wormley Hughes, a slave who became head gardener, started in the nailery, as did Burwell Colbert, who rose to become the mansion’s butler and Jefferson’s personal attendant. Isaac Granger, the son of an enslaved Monticello foreman, Great George Granger, was the most productive nailer, with a profit averaging 80 cents a day over the first six months of 1796, when he was 20 he fashioned half a ton of nails during those six months. The work was tedious in the extreme. Confined for long hours in the hot, smoky workshop, the boys hammered out 5,000 to 10,000 nails a day, producing a gross income of $2,000 in 1796. Jefferson’s competition for the nailery was the state penitentiary.
The nailers received twice the food ration of a field worker but no wages. Jefferson paid white boys (an overseer’s sons) 50 cents a day for cutting wood to feed the nailery’s fires, but this was a weekend job done “on Saturdays, when they were not in school.”
Exuberant over the success of the nailery, Jefferson wrote: “My new trade of nail-making is to me in this country what an additional title of nobility or the ensigns of a new order are in Europe.” The profit was substantial. Just months after the factory began operation, he wrote that “a nailery which I have established with my own negro boys now provides completely for the maintenance of my family.” Two months of labor by the nail boys paid the entire annual grocery bill for the white family. He wrote to a Richmond merchant, “My groceries come to between 4. and 500. Dollars a year, taken and paid for quarterly. The best resource of quarterly paiment in my power is Nails, of which I make enough every fortnight [emphasis added] to pay a quarter’s bill.”
In an 1840s memoir, Isaac Granger, by then a freedman who had taken the surname Jefferson, recalled circumstances at the nailery. Isaac, who worked there as a young man, specified the incentives that Jefferson offered to nailers: “Gave the boys in the nail factory a pound of meat a week, a dozen herrings, a quart of molasses, and peck of meal. Give them that wukked the best a suit of red or blue encouraged them mightily.” Not all the slaves felt so mightily encouraged. It was Great George Granger’s job, as foreman, to get those people to work. Without molasses and suits to offer, he had to rely on persuasion, in all its forms. For years he had been very successful—by what methods, we don’t know. But in the winter of 1798 the system ground to a halt when Granger, perhaps for the first time, refused to whip people.
Col. Thomas Mann Randolph, Jefferson’s son-in-law, reported to Jefferson, then living in Philadelphia as vice president, that “insubordination” had “greatly clogged” operations under Granger. A month later there was “progress,” but Granger was “absolutely wasting with care.” He was caught between his own people and Jefferson, who had rescued the family when they had been sold from the plantation of Jefferson’s father-in-law, given him a good job, allowed him to earn money and own property, and shown similar benevolence to Granger’s children. Now Jefferson had his eye on Granger’s output.
Jefferson noted curtly in a letter to Randolph that another overseer had already delivered his tobacco to the Richmond market, “where I hope George’s will soon join it.” Randolph reported back that Granger’s people had not even packed the tobacco yet, but gently urged his father-in-law to have patience with the foreman: “He is not careless. tho’ he procrastinates too much.” It seems that Randolph was trying to protect Granger from Jefferson’s wrath. George was not procrastinating he was struggling against a workforce that resisted him. But he would not beat them, and they knew it.
At length, Randolph had to admit the truth to Jefferson. Granger, he wrote, “cannot command his force.” The only recourse was the whip. Randolph reported “instances of disobedience so gross that I am obliged to interfere and have them punished myself.” Randolph would not have administered the whip personally they had professionals for that.
Most likely he called in William Page, the white overseer who ran Jefferson’s farms across the river, a man notorious for his cruelty. Throughout Jefferson’s plantation records there runs a thread of indicators—some direct, some oblique, some euphemistic—that the Monticello machine operated on carefully calibrated brutality. Some slaves would never readily submit to bondage. Some, Jefferson wrote, “require a vigour of discipline to make them do reasonable work.” That plain statement of his policy has been largely ignored in preference to Jefferson’s well-known self-exoneration: “I love industry and abhor severity.” Jefferson made that reassuring remark to a neighbor, but he might as well have been talking to himself. He hated conflict, disliked having to punish people and found ways to distance himself from the violence his system required.
Thus he went on record with a denunciation of overseers as “the most abject, degraded and unprincipled race,” men of “pride, insolence and spirit of domination.” Though he despised these brutes, they were hardhanded men who got things done and had no misgivings. He hired them, issuing orders to impose a vigor of discipline.
It was during the 1950s, when historian Edwin Betts was editing one of Colonel Randolph’s plantation reports for Jefferson’s Farm Book, that he confronted a taboo subject and made his fateful deletion. Randolph reported to Jefferson that the nailery was functioning very well because “the small ones” were being whipped. The youngsters did not take willingly to being forced to show up in the icy midwinter hour before dawn at the master’s nail forge. And so the overseer, Gabriel Lilly, was whipping them “for truancy.”
Betts decided that the image of children being beaten at Monticello had to be suppressed, omitting this document from his edition. He had an entirely different image in his head the introduction to the book declared, “Jefferson came close to creating on his own plantations the ideal rural community.” Betts couldn’t do anything about the original letter, but no one would see it, tucked away in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The full text did not emerge in print until 2005.
Betts’ omission was important in shaping the scholarly consensus that Jefferson managed his plantations with a lenient hand. Relying on Betts’ editing, the historian Jack McLaughlin noted that Lilly “resorted to the whip during Jefferson’s absence, but Jefferson put a stop to it.”
“Slavery was an evil he had to live with,” historian Merrill Peterson wrote, “and he managed it with what little dosings of humanity a diabolical system permitted.” Peterson echoed Jefferson’s complaints about the work force, alluding to “the slackness of slave labor,” and emphasized Jefferson’s benevolence: “In the management of his slaves Jefferson encouraged diligence but was instinctively too lenient to demand it. By all accounts he was a kind and generous master. His conviction of the injustice of the institution strengthened his sense of obligation toward its victims.”
Joseph Ellis observed that only “on rare occasions, and as a last resort, he ordered overseers to use the lash.” Dumas Malone stated, “Jefferson was kind to his servants to the point of indulgence, and within the framework of an institution he disliked he saw that they were well provided for. His ‘people’ were devoted to him.”
As a rule, the slaves who lived at the mountaintop, including the Hemings family and the Grangers, were treated better than slaves who worked the fields farther down the mountain. But the machine was hard to restrain.
After the violent tenures of earlier overseers, Gabriel Lilly seemed to portend a gentler reign when he arrived at Monticello in 1800. Colonel Randolph’s first report was optimistic. “All goes well,” he wrote, and “what is under Lillie admirably.” His second report about two weeks later was glowing: “Lillie goes on with great spirit and complete quiet at Mont’o.: he is so good tempered that he can get twice as much done without the smallest discontent as some with the hardest driving possible.” In addition to placing him over the laborers “in the ground” at Monticello, Jefferson put Lilly in charge of the nailery for an extra fee of 㾶 a year.
Once Lilly established himself, his good temper evidently evaporated, because Jefferson began to worry about what Lilly would do to the nailers, the promising adolescents whom Jefferson managed personally, intending to move them up the plantation ladder. He wrote to Randolph: “I forgot to ask the favor of you to speak to Lilly as to the treatment of the nailers. it would destroy their value in my estimation to degrade them in their own eyes by the whip. this therefore must not be resorted to but in extremities. as they will again be under my government, I would chuse they should retain the stimulus of character.” But in the same letter he emphasized that output must be maintained: “I hope Lilly keeps the small nailers engaged so as to supply our customers.”
Colonel Randolph immediately dispatched a reassuring but carefully worded reply: “Everything goes well at Mont’o.—the Nailers all [at] work and executing well some heavy orders. . I had given a charge of lenity respecting all: (Burwell absolutely excepted from the whip alltogether) before you wrote: none have incurred it but the small ones for truancy.” To the news that the small ones were being whipped and that “lenity” had an elastic meaning, Jefferson had no response the small ones had to be kept “engaged.”
It seems that Jefferson grew uneasy about Lilly’s regime at the nailery. Jefferson replaced him with William Stewart but kept Lilly in charge of the adult crews building his mill and canal. Under Stewart’s lenient command (greatly softened by habitual drinking), the nailery’s productivity sank. The nail boys, favored or not, had to be brought to heel. In a very unusual letter, Jefferson told his Irish master joiner, James Dinsmore, that he was bringing Lilly back to the nailery. It might seem puzzling that Jefferson would feel compelled to explain a personnel decision that had nothing to do with Dinsmore, but the nailery stood just a few steps from Dinsmore’s shop. Jefferson was preparing Dinsmore to witness scenes under Lilly’s command such as he had not seen under Stewart, and his tone was stern: “I am quite at a loss about the nailboys remaining with mr Stewart. they have long been a dead expence instead of profit to me. in truth they require a vigour of discipline to make them do reasonable work, to which he cannot bring himself. on the whole I think it will be best for them also to be removed to mr Lilly’s [control].”
The incident of horrible violence in the nailery—the attack by one nail boy against another—may shed some light on the fear Lilly instilled in the nail boys. In 1803 a nailer named Cary smashed his hammer into the skull of a fellow nailer, Brown Colbert. Seized with convulsions, Colbert went into a coma and would certainly have died had Colonel Randolph not immediately summoned a physician, who performed brain surgery. With a trephine saw, the doctor drew back the broken part of Colbert’s skull, thus relieving pressure on the brain. Amazingly, the young man survived.
Bad enough that Cary had so viciously attacked someone, but his victim was a Hemings. Jefferson angrily wrote to Randolph that “it will be necessary for me to make an example of him in terrorem to others, in order to maintain the police so rigorously necessary among the nail boys.” He ordered that Cary be sold away “so distant as never more to be heard of among us.” And he alluded to the abyss beyond the gates of Monticello into which people could be flung: “There are generally negro purchasers from Georgia passing about the state.” Randolph’s report of the incident included Cary’s motive: The boy was “irritated at some little trick from Brown, who hid part of his nailrod to teaze him.” But under Lilly’s regime this trick was not so “little.” Colbert knew the rules, and he knew very well that if Cary couldn’t find his nailrod, he would fall behind, and under Lilly that meant a beating. Hence the furious attack.
Jefferson’s daughter Martha wrote to her father that one of the slaves, a disobedient and disruptive man named John, tried to poison Lilly, perhaps hoping to kill him. John was safe from any severe punishment because he was a hired slave: If Lilly injured him, Jefferson would have to compensate his owner, so Lilly had no means to retaliate. John, evidently grasping the extent of his immunity, took every opportunity to undermine and provoke him, even “cutting up [Lilly’s] garden [and] destroying his things.”
But Lilly had his own kind of immunity. He understood his importance to Jefferson when he renegotiated his contract, so that beginning in 1804 he would no longer receive a flat fee for managing the nailery but be paid 2 percent of the gross. Productivity immediately soared. In the spring of 1804, Jefferson wrote to his supplier: “The manager of my nailery had so increased its activity as to call for a larger supply of rod. than had heretofore been necessary.”
Maintaining a high level of activity required a commensurate level of discipline. Thus, in the fall of 1804, when Lilly was informed that one of the nail boys was sick, he would have none of it. Appalled by what happened next, one of Monticello’s white workmen, a carpenter named James Oldham, informed Jefferson of “the Barbarity that [Lilly] made use of with Little Jimmy.”
Oldham reported that James Hemings, the 17-year-old son of the house servant Critta Hemings, had been sick for three nights running, so sick that Oldham feared the boy might not live. He took Hemings into his own room to keep watch over him. When he told Lilly that Hemings was seriously ill, Lilly said he would whip Jimmy into working. Oldham “begged him not to punish him,” but “this had no effect.” The “Barbarity” ensued: Lilly “whipped him three times in one day, and the boy was really not able to raise his hand to his head.”
Flogging to this degree does not persuade someone to work it disables him. But it also sends a message to the other slaves, especially those, like Jimmy, who belonged to the elite class of Hemings servants and might think they were above the authority of Gabriel Lilly. Once he recovered, Jimmy Hemings fled Monticello, joining the community of free blacks and runaways who made a living as boatmen on the James River, floating up and down between Richmond and obscure backwater villages. Contacting Hemings through Oldham, Jefferson tried to persuade him to come home, but did not set the slave catchers after him. There is no record that Jefferson made any remonstrance against Lilly, who was unrepentant about the beating and loss of a valuable slave indeed, he demanded that his salary be doubled to 𧴜. This put Jefferson in a quandary. He displayed no misgivings about the regime that Oldham characterized as “the most cruel,” but 𧴜 was more than he wanted to pay. Jefferson wrote that Lilly as an overseer “is as good a one as can be”—“certainly I can never get a man who fulfills my purposes better than he does.”
On a recent afternoon at Monticello, Fraser Neiman, the head archaeologist, led the way down the mountain into a ravine, following the trace of a road laid out by Jefferson for his carriage rides. It passed the house of Edmund Bacon, the overseer Jefferson employed from 1806 to 1822, about a mile from the mansion. When Jefferson retired from the presidency in 1809, he moved the nailery from the summit—he no longer wanted even to see it, let alone manage it—to a site downhill 100 yards from Bacon’s house. The archaeologists discovered unmistakable evidence of the shop—nails, nail rod, charcoal, coal and slag. Neiman pointed out on his map locations of the shop and Bacon’s house. “The nailery was a socially fractious place,” he said. “One suspects that’s part of the reason for getting it off the mountaintop and putting it right here next to the overseer’s house.”
About 600 feet east of Bacon’s house stood the cabin of James Hubbard, a slave who lived by himself. The archaeologists dug more than 100 test pits at this site but came up with nothing still, when they brought in metal detectors and turned up a few wrought nails, it was enough evidence to convince them that they had found the actual site of Hubbard’s house. Hubbard was 11 years old and living with his family at Poplar Forest, Jefferson’s second plantation, near Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1794, when Jefferson brought him to Monticello to work in the new nailery on the mountaintop. His assignment was a sign of Jefferson’s favor for the Hubbard family. James’ father, a skilled shoemaker, had risen to the post of foreman of labor at Poplar Forest Jefferson saw similar potential in the son. At first James performed abysmally, wasting more material than any of the other nail boys. Perhaps he was just a slow learner perhaps he hated it but he made himself better and better at the miserable work, swinging his hammer thousands of times a day, until he excelled. When Jefferson measured the nailery’s output he found that Hubbard had reached the top percent efficiency—in converting nail rod to finished nails.
A model slave, eager to improve himself, Hubbard grasped every opportunity the system offered. In his time off from the nailery, he took on additional tasks to earn cash. He sacrificed sleep to make money by burning charcoal, tending a kiln through the night. Jefferson also paid him for hauling—a position of trust because a man with a horse and permission to leave the plantation could easily escape. Through his industriousness Hubbard laid aside enough cash to purchase some fine clothes, including a hat, knee breeches and two overcoats.
Then one day in the summer of 1805, early in Jefferson’s second term as president, Hubbard vanished. For years he had patiently carried out an elaborate deception, pretending to be the loyal, hardworking slave. He had done that hard work not to soften a life in slavery but to escape it. The clothing was not for show it was a disguise.
Hubbard had been gone for many weeks when the president received a letter from the sheriff of Fairfax County. He had in custody a man named Hubbard who had confessed to being an escaped slave. In his confession Hubbard revealed the details of his escape. He had made a deal with Wilson Lilly, son of the overseer Gabriel Lilly, paying him $5 and an overcoat in exchange for false emancipation documents and a travel pass to Washington. But illiteracy was Hubbard’s downfall: He did not realize that the documents Wilson Lilly had written were not very persuasive. When Hubbard reached Fairfax County, about 100 miles north of Monticello, the sheriff stopped him, demanding to see his papers. The sheriff, who knew forgeries when he saw them and arrested Hubbard, also asked Jefferson for a reward because he had run “a great Risk” arresting “as large a fellow as he is.”
Hubbard was returned to Monticello. If he received some punishment for his escape, there is no record of it. In fact, it seems that Hubbard was forgiven and regained Jefferson’s trust within a year. The October 1806 schedule of work for the nailery shows Hubbard working with the heaviest gauge of rod with a daily output of 15 pounds of nails. That Christmas, Jefferson allowed him to travel from Monticello to Poplar Forest to see his family. Jefferson may have trusted him again, but Bacon remained wary.
One day when Bacon was trying to fill an order for nails, he found that the entire stock of eight-penny nails pounds of nails worth $50—was gone: “Of course they had been stolen.” He immediately suspected James Hubbard and confronted him, but Hubbard “denied it powerfully.” Bacon ransacked Hubbard’s cabin and “every place I could think of” but came up empty-handed. Despite the lack of evidence, Bacon remained convinced of Hubbard’s guilt. He conferred with the white manager of the nailery, Reuben Grady: “Let us drop it. He has hid them somewhere, and if we say no more about it, we shall find them.”
Walking through the woods after a heavy rain, Bacon spotted muddy tracks on the leaves on one side of the path. He followed the tracks to their end, where he found the nails buried in a large box. Immediately, he went up the mountain to inform Jefferson of the discovery and of his certainty that Hubbard was the thief. Jefferson was “very much surprised and felt very badly about it” because Hubbard “had always been a favorite servant.” Jefferson said he would question Hubbard personally the next morning when he went on his usual ride past Bacon’s house.
When Jefferson showed up the next day, Bacon had Hubbard called in. At the sight of his master, Hubbard burst into tears. Bacon wrote, “I never saw any person, white or black, feel as badly as he did when he saw his master. He was mortified and distressed beyond measure. [W]e all had confidence in him. Now his character was gone.” Hubbard tearfully begged Jefferson’s pardon “over and over again.” For a slave, burglary was a capital crime. A runaway slave who once broke into Bacon’s private storehouse and stole three pieces of bacon and a bag of cornmeal was condemned to hang in Albemarle County. The governor commuted his sentence, and the slave was “transported,” the legal term for being sold by the state to the Deep South or West Indies.
Even Bacon felt moved by Hubbard’s plea—“I felt very badly myself”— but he knew what would come next: Hubbard had to be whipped. So Bacon was astonished when Jefferson turned to him and said, “Ah, sir, we can’t punish him. He has suffered enough already.” Jefferson offered some counsel to Hubbard, “gave him a heap of good advice,” and sent him back to the nailery, where Reuben Grady was waiting, “expecting . to whip him.”
Jefferson’s magnanimity seemed to spark a conversion in Hubbard. When he got to the nailery, he told Grady he’d been seeking religion for a long time, “but I never heard anything before that sounded so, or made me feel so, as I did when master said, ‘Go, and don’t do so any more.’ ” So now he was “determined to seek religion till I find it.” Bacon said, “Sure enough, he afterwards came to me for a permit to go and be baptized.” But that, too, was deception. On his authorized absences from the plantation to attend church, Hubbard made arrangements for another escape.
During the holiday season in late 1810, Hubbard vanished again. Documents about Hubbard’s escape reveal that Jefferson’s plantations were riven with secret networks. Jefferson had at least one spy in the slave community willing to inform on fellow slaves for cash Jefferson wrote that he “engaged a trusty negro man of my own, and promised him a reward. if he could inform us so that [Hubbard] should be taken.” But the spy could not get anyone to talk. Jefferson wrote that Hubbard “has not been heard of.” But that was not true: a few people had heard of Hubbard’s movements.
Jefferson could not crack the wall of silence at Monticello, but an informer at Poplar Forest told the overseer that a boatman belonging to Colonel Randolph aided Hubbard’s escape, clandestinely ferrying him up the James River from Poplar Forest to the area around Monticello, even though white patrollers of two or three counties were hunting the fugitive. The boatman might have been part of a network that plied the Rivanna and James rivers, smuggling goods and fugitives.
Possibly, Hubbard tried to make contact with friends around Monticello possibly, he was planning to flee to the North again possibly, it was all disinformation planted by Hubbard’s friends. At some point Hubbard headed southwest, not north, across the Blue Ridge. He made his way to the town of Lexington, where he was able to live for over a year as a free man, being in possession of an impeccable manumission document.
His description appeared in the Richmond Enquirer: “a Nailor by trade, of 27 years of age, about six feet high, stout limbs and strong made, of daring demeanor, bold and harsh features, dark complexion, apt to drink freely and had even furnished himself with money and probably a free pass on a former elopement he attempted to get out of the State Northwardly . . . and probably may have taken the same direction now.”
A year after his escape Hubbard was spotted in Lexington. Before he could be captured, he took off again, heading farther west into the Allegheny Mountains, but Jefferson put a slave tracker on his trail. Cornered and clapped in irons, Hubbard was brought back to Monticello, where Jefferson made an example of him: “I had him severely flogged in the presence of his old companions, and committed to jail.” Under the lash Hubbard revealed the details of his escape and the name of an accomplice he had been able to elude capture by carrying genuine manumission papers he’d bought from a free black man in Albemarle County. The man who provided Hubbard with the papers spent six months in jail. Jefferson sold Hubbard to one of his overseers, and his final fate is not known.
Slaves lived as if in an occupied country. As Hubbard discovered, few could outrun the newspaper ads, slave patrols, vigilant sheriffs demanding papers and slave-catching bounty hunters with their guns and dogs. Hubbard was brave or desperate enough to try it twice, unmoved by the incentives Jefferson held out to cooperative, diligent, industrious slaves.
In 1817, Jefferson’s old friend, the Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, died in Switzerland. The Polish nobleman, who had arrived from Europe in 1776 to aid the Americans, left a substantial fortune to Jefferson. Kosciuszko bequeathed funds to free Jefferson’s slaves and purchase land and farming equipment for them to begin a life on their own. In the spring of 1819, Jefferson pondered what to do with the legacy. Kosciuszko had made him executor of the will, so Jefferson had a legal duty, as well as a personal obligation to his deceased friend, to carry out the terms of the document.
The terms came as no surprise to Jefferson. He had helped Kosciuszko draft the will, which states, “I hereby authorize my friend, Thomas Jefferson, to employ the whole [bequest] in purchasing Negroes from his own or any others and giving them liberty in my name.” Kosciuszko’s estate was nearly $20,000, the equivalent today of roughly $280,000. But Jefferson refused the gift, even though it would have reduced the debt hanging over Monticello, while also relieving him, in part at least, of what he himself had described in 1814 as the “moral reproach” of slavery.
If Jefferson had accepted the legacy, as much as half of it would have gone not to Jefferson but, in effect, to his slaves—to the purchase price for land, livestock, equipment and transportation to establish them in a place such as Illinois or Ohio. Moreover, the slaves most suited for immediate emancipation—smiths, coopers, carpenters, the most skilled farmers—were the very ones whom Jefferson most valued. He also shrank from any public identification with the cause of emancipation.
It had long been accepted that slaves were assets that could be seized for debt, but Jefferson turned this around when he used slaves as collateral for a very large loan he had taken out in 1796 from a Dutch banking house in order to rebuild Monticello. He pioneered the monetizing of slaves, just as he pioneered the industrialization and diversification of slavery.
Before his refusal of Kosciuszko’s legacy, as Jefferson mulled over whether to accept the bequest, he had written to one of his plantation managers: “A child raised every 2. years is of more profit then the crop of the best laboring man. in this, as in all other cases, providence has made our duties and our interests coincide perfectly. [W]ith respect therefore to our women & their children I must pray you to inculcate upon the overseers that it is not their labor, but their increase which is the first consideration with us.”
In the 1790s, as Jefferson was mortgaging his slaves to build Monticello, George Washington was trying to scrape together financing for an emancipation at Mount Vernon, which he finally ordered in his will. He proved that emancipation was not only possible, but practical, and he overturned all the Jeffersonian rationalizations. Jefferson insisted that a multiracial society with free black people was impossible, but Washington did not think so. Never did Washington suggest that blacks were inferior or that they should be exiled.
It is curious that we accept Jefferson as the moral standard of the founders’ era, not Washington. Perhaps it is because the Father of his Country left a somewhat troubling legacy: His emancipation of his slaves stands as not a tribute but a rebuke to his era, and to the prevaricators and profiteers of the future, and declares that if you claim to have principles, you must live by them.
After Jefferson’s death in 1826, the families of Jefferson’s most devoted servants were split apart. Onto the auction block went Caroline Hughes, the 9-year-old daughter of Jefferson’s gardener Wormley Hughes. One family was divided up among eight different buyers, another family among seven buyers.
Joseph Fossett, a Monticello blacksmith, was among the handful of slaves freed in Jefferson’s will, but Jefferson left Fossett’s family enslaved. In the six months between Jefferson’s death and the auction of his property, Fossett tried to strike bargains with families in Charlottesville to purchase his wife and six of his seven children. His oldest child (born, ironically, in the White House itself) had already been given to Jefferson’s grandson. Fossett found sympathetic buyers for his wife, his son Peter and two other children, but he watched the auction of three young daughters to different buyers. One of them, 17-year-old Patsy, immediately escaped from her new master, a University of Virginia official.
Joseph Fossett spent ten years at his anvil and forge earning the money to buy back his wife and children. By the late 1830s he had cash in hand to reclaim Peter, then about 21, but the owner reneged on the deal. Compelled to leave Peter in slavery and having lost three daughters, Joseph and Edith Fossett departed Charlottesville for Ohio around 1840. Years later, speaking as a free man in Ohio in 1898, Peter, who was 83, would recount that he had never forgotten the moment when he was “put up on the auction block and sold like a horse.”
The Mycenaean ‘Griffin Warrior’ (circa 1500 BC)
Heralded by the Greek Ministry of Culture as the “the most important tomb to have been discovered in 65 years in continental Greece”, the 3500-year old Mycenaean ‘Griffin Warrior’ grave found in Pylos (in October 2015) was filled with over 1,400 precious objects. Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand of Johannesburg had made this incredible ancient scope even more ‘romantic’ with their reconstruction of the face of the presumably renowned warrior male, done with the aid of a depiction on an ancient seal discovered inside the tomb.
Artist’s drawing of late Mycenaean warriors, with the soldier on the right wearing the Dendra Panoply.
Hundreds of arrowheads and crossbow bolts found in forest could be from Casimir the Great battle fieldArchaeologists unearthed the huge find during an investigation to find out why the area was being plagued by illegal treasure hunters. Historical Museum in Sanok
Hundreds of arrowheads and crossbow bolts from a major 14th century battle with King Casimir the Great have been found in a forest in Sanok.
Archaeologists in Biała Góra say they think they have now found the battlefield of Casimir the Great’s campaign in Red Ruthenia (now part of south-eastern Poland and Ukraine).
The incredible discovery came after archaeologists, curious about why so many illegal treasure hunters had been flocking to the peak in the Słonne Mountains and part of Sanok’s Wójtostwo district, decided to investigate.
The hundreds of arrowheads and crossbow bolts come from the 14th century. Historical Museum in Sanok
Already well-known for being the site of a medieval settlement, the last time it had been officially researched was 50 years ago.
Dr. Piotr Kotowicz from the Sanok Historical Museum told PAP: “We decided to use the same research method and invited the Galicia Historical and Exploratory Association’s representatives to work with us.
“The results of the research exceeded our wildest expectations. During several seasons, in the area around the fortified settlement, we found more than 200 arrowheads and bolts.”
Archaeologists say they think they have now found the battlefield of Casimir the Great’s campaign in Red Ruthenia (now part of south-eastern Poland and Ukraine). Public domain
It is still unclear who fought whom and why, but the archaeologists believe that the objects may be a sign of a 14th century battle between Polish and Ruthenian forces.
According to chronicles, in 1340 Casimir the Great with an army of 20,000 conquered several fortified settlements in the area.
Kotowicz is convinced, that the latest findings in Sanok can be linked to that particular military campaign.
Although the site was known to have a medieval settlement, the last time it had been officially researched was 50 years ago. This time archaeologists found the remnants of the weapons. Historical Museum in Sanok
Shortly afterward, between 1340 and 1344, Red Ruthenia was incorporated into Poland permanently after the death of duke Bolesław – Jerzy II.
Dr. Kotowicz said: “It seems that the caves and bolts we discovered are a testimony of fights between Ruthenians and Poles.
“The analysis of the caves’ spread shows that most of them were concentrated in the stronghold’s area and right next to it.
Dr. Piotr Kotowicz from the Sanok Historical Museum said the find “exceeded our wildest expectations.” Piotr Kotowicz/Facebook
“We also searched the area around it for ‘response’ to the attack. However, we did not find too many caves with the weapons.
“This means that the defenders were dominated by the invaders and their response to the attack was minimal.”
The fortified settlement on Biała Góra was rather small, surrounded by one line of fortifications and dry moat. According to the recent findings, it was heavily damaged during the battle.
In the area around the fortified settlement the archaeologists found more than 200 arrowheads and bolts. Historical Museum in Sanok
The arrowheads and bolts weren’t the only surprises that awaited Dr. Kotowicz’s team.
A nearby patch of flattened land hid numerous artifacts of older origins – even from the 9th or 10th centuries. Among them is the first Arabic coin from the Middle Ages, dirham, found in Sanok.
Dr. Kotowicz believes that these are the remains of an industrial settlement, as evidenced by numerous cinders - iron ore was probably melted there.
Coil to the Soil
One detectorist-for-hire in the Ring Finders network is Woodrow Engle, 37, a video game designer who took up detecting two years ago as a way to spend more time outdoors. He covers his home region of Sonoma and Marin Counties in California.
So far, Mr. Engle said he’s been on 20 or so recovery missions and recovered missing items about half the time. For one recent job, he accepted a half-dozen freshly laid eggs as a reward for another, $500 in cash.
While metal detecting fits neatly into the category of “those ‘old people’ hobbies that you’re supposed to pick up once you’re retired,” Mr. Engle said, he has noticed a wave of relative newcomers, many of whom are of a certain age: “They’re all this sub-generation they call the Oregon Trail generation that had a analog childhood but a digital adulthood, so they’re really interested in cool, older stuff — maybe they had a coin collection when they were kids — but they’re not afraid to adopt new technology, and they can figure out how to use advanced machines, like these new detectors that are coming out.”
Ryson Zettlemoyer, a 36-year-old gem cutter, handyman and detectorist operating near Eureka, Calif., agrees that the pastime is growing in popularity and it’s no wonder, he said. According to Mr. Zettlemoyer, there are thousands of documented buried “major treasures” in the United States yet to be found, just from the 1800s alone. His Ring Finder profile notes that he charges a commission on “caches and hoards” of gold treasure.
In the 1930s, thousands of banks closed their doors, while at the same time, the federal government passed an act to seize citizens’ gold. “A lot of people who had gold buried it — and a lot of that stuff is still out there,” Mr. Zettlemoyer said.
For one recent commission, he searched for two days and located a Mason jar buried a foot deep containing several gold bullions, and two one-ounce gold bars.
“That’s a family’s inheritance,” he said. “So they call people like me to come out and find it.”
As much as there is to be gained, the hobby also has its costs. Daisy Duncan, a 26-year-old detectorist in South Carolina, always finds herself saying “just one more signal,” when she knows perfectly well that she will keep on sweeping for hours — sometimes into the night.
On the upside, there is the rush: “When I am out hunting, it honestly does not matter how I’m feeling because by the end, I feel amazing,” she said. But compared with more expeditious treasure hunting methods — like magnet fishing, which involves swinging a strong magnet along a creek bed or lake bottom and instantly pulling up any “treasure” there is to be had — Duncan said metal detecting “is not just a walk in the park.” In addition to being physically draining and an emotional roller coaster of celebration and disappointment, she said, “it can get expensive.”
Detectors can range from a couple hundred dollars to upward of $5,000. A popular pick for experts is the French-made XP Deus ($949), and for kids, the Nokta Makro Mini Hoard ($120). Detectorists may also carry headphones, a metal detecting shovel, hand tools such as a hori-hori (a serrated, steel hand shovel), a “finds pouch,” and a hand-held precision detector called a pinpointer.
More expensive equipment tends to be lighter weight and more precise. That means the pricier the detector, the better chance you’ll have of distinguishing tinfoil or canslaw (the detectorist term for soda can metal that has been shredded by lawn mowers) from gold bullions.
Attire may include a tool belt, gloves (“You’d be amazed how much glass there is in the ground,” one detectorist warned) and the occasional themed T-shirt (“I’m a Swinger” “Can I Metal Detect Your Yard?” or “Coil to the Soil”).
The Greatest Archeological Looter Has Finally Been Caught
Thanks to the French authorities, twenty-seven thousand and four hundred illegally obtained artifacts have been discovered at the home of a Frenchman living in Belgium.
Much of the haul was from Roman times but some were from the Iron Age, the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. According to news.artnet.com, it all started in October of 2019.
A man called Patrice T. notified the Flemish Organization for Immovable Heritage that he had recently found over fourteen thousand coins on his newly purchased property in Gingelom, Belgium. Archaeologists went to Patrice’s property and he showed them two large pails filled with coins that were in the trunk of his car.
Credit: Douane Française – www.douane.gouv.fr
Archaeologist Marleen Martens sensed something was fishy and notified French authorities. According to nieuwsblad.be, Martens remarked, “During the site survey we concluded that it was impossible for the coins to have come from this site.
They were located in an earth layer that was formed after the Middle Ages. A few coins could exceptionally still toss up. But 14,000?” Apparently, Patrice had buried illegally dug coins on his property and claimed they had been found there.
While it is legal to excavate on your own property in Belgium, it is illegal in France to use a metal detector without special permission which is very difficult to obtain unless you are an accredited scientist with a specific academic purpose.
Patrice thought he could get away with claiming his finds were legitimate when, in fact, they were mostly dug up illegally in France. After the French authorities got involved a raid was set for Patrice’s home where they found over nine hundred thousand dollars’ worth of artifacts.
According to smithsonianmag.com, one of the most important relics in Patrice’s collection was a Roman copper dodecahedron.
Two dodecahedra and an icosahedron on display in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (Bonn, Germany). Kleon3 – CC BY-SA 4.0
The small hollow device is made with twelve flat pentagonal panels with a hole in the center of each. No one knows for sure what the object was used for but there are many theories.
Some believe they held yarn for knitting while others have thought they were candlesticks, something similar to dice for games, religious relics or just decorative sculpture. Regardless, only about one hundred have ever been found and they are quite valuable.
Other objects found were bracelets necklaces torques – thick metal necklaces that don’t join together but have decoration at each end and frequently worn by Viking men Roman fibulae- brooches which held clothing together more ancient coins belt buckles from the Merovingian and Renaissance era and parts of ancient statues.
Legionnaire’s fibulae. 1st – 2nd centuries AD. Shawn Michael Caza – CC BY-SA 2.5
France24.com tells us Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire claimed that “This seizure is a clear message to those who — for the profit and the selfish pleasure of a few — deprive us of our shared heritage and erase entire sections of our history.”
Patrice has not yet been tried but Le Maire believes there is enough evidence to send him to prison and fine him hundreds of thousands of euros.
This is not the first time Patrice has come up with artifacts he claimed he “found”. He dug up over five thousand coins in 1993 and claimed he had found them alongside the road in France. The mayor allowed him to keep the coins as he had no reason to doubt the man and archaeological experts were not called.
The Guardian has called Patrice “one of the greatest archaeological looters in European history” and it is believed he is very educated in archaeological matters giving him the knowledge of where to look for treasure in France.
Patrice’s collection was perfectly cleaned and sorted in display cases with most of the coins in special boxes used by collectors and it is believed he has been illegally selling and trading artifacts for years.