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The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery

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This analysis of Jefferson's antislavery views and the actions to which they gave rise, the subject matter of The Wolf by the Ears, is necessarily episodic; while chronology has been generally observed, it was not possible to weld this disparate material into the form of a biographical narrative.

334 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1977

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About the author

John Chester Miller

13 books4 followers
A specialist in the early history of the United States, John Chester Miller taught at Bryn Mawr from 1940 until 1950, and at Stanford University from 1950 until 1973, where he was the inaugural holder of the Edgar E. Robinson Professorship in United States History.

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Sue.
373 reviews2 followers
November 24, 2015
I read this many years ago and remember finding it engaging. If I ever have time I would like to look at it again now that the Sally Hemmings story have been bolstered with dna testing.
14 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2023
Fabulous book. Puts Jefferson in a new light. Impeccably written.
225 reviews2 followers
July 19, 2022
John Chester Miller was a famous American historian of the early national period in our country's history. One of his last books was The Wolf by the Ears written in 1977 to explain Thomas Jefferson's viewpoints on slavery. The tile is taken from a quote by Jefferson about slavery in which he said that we have the wolf by the ears. We can neither hold him or let him go which accurately sums up the muddled response that Jefferson had towards slavery. In his early days , he was gung ho in advocating the end of the institution but he came short in making public announcements to that effect. As he grew older, he left the problem to a younger generation believing that only privileged Virginians could end the institution safely. Jefferson did believe in ending slavery but also wanted all blacks to be transported back to Africa or to a favorable island in the Caribbean. Miller does a great job in detailing Jefferson's positions on slavery throughout the years and you come away from this book wondering how such an intelligent man could be so infatuated with an immoral institution. The book was written at a time period where the Sally Hemings story still did not hold much credence. However, the introduction of DNA testing in the late 1990s confirmed what many historians had maintained about Jefferson and his favorite female slave. Miller was not convinced fully of this liaison but had he lived long enough he would have been exposed to the new factual information of the scientific community. All in all, a great book by a superb and capable historian.
Profile Image for Gretchen.
75 reviews1 follower
July 31, 2023
John Chester Miller wrote this book before Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings, enslaved by Jefferson, was confirmed. Miller, on the whole, seems absolutely unable to believe that Jefferson was able to act sexually in ways that were inconsistent with his stated beliefs.

Despite that big faux pas, Miller's book is a fascinating look at Jefferson's attitudes and hypocrisy toward slavery and Black people.
6 reviews
October 2, 2020
Poor use of evidence to justify claims as anything more than speculation. Otherwise adds little to nothing to the effort of Jefferson.
Profile Image for Craig Bolton.
1,195 reviews71 followers
September 23, 2010
The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery by John Chester Miller (1991)
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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