Letter: Was Thomas Jefferson politically correct?

Sir: Bryan Appleyard's article on political correctness (5 May) quotes Robert Hughes speaking of 'obsessive retrofitting of the past with one's own moral precepts', in reference to those who criticise Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves. Modish fiddlesticks. Five minutes at Monticello demonstrate beyond peradventure that Jefferson, a tinkering, amiable buffoon in domestic matters, far from owning slaves was, by them, owned.

Nothing at Monticello worked. Including slaves. His 'academical village' drove the builders crazy with utopian timber; the house was never right; his vaunted clock, to work, required a hole in the hall floor; his 'secret' bedroom was Virginia's biggest joke; his vegetable garden was too steep to cultivate; and his 'patent pen and ink duplicating machine' blotted the Constitution of the United States.

While his 'slaves' consumed his rum in uncontrolled quantities, they were sending Jefferson's guests watered wine. Warm of course. It reached their table via his 'unique in all America' dumb-waiter. Alongside the fireplace.

Returning to my motel bedroom in Charlottesville, I switch on the television weatherman and yearn for a bondage worth escaping to.



Shardlow, Derbyshire

6 May