THE JEFFERSON-HEMINGS CONTROVERSY
> Hello i am doing a research > paper on jefferson and his affair is it real or not real? any ways i would > like to know if you would take time out of you busy schedual to send me > some info supporting both sides of the story. Please go to the following website: Analysis of Report on the Jefferson-Hemings Controversy http://www.geocities.com/jefperspective/resrpt1.htm It has the information you want, plus links to other websites that can help you.
> I do not write this to criticise you. Your points are all well taken. But you > seem "hell bent" on believing that Thos Jefferson was above all of this. > I do not put too much stock in the "DNA Tests" because it is not TJ's DNA. > It is all hypothetical and something that we will never really know. But my > point to you is, Thos Jefferson could have been the father of "some" of > Sally's children. True. He "could have" been. But as soon as you step into the world of what "could have been," you face an almost infinite number of possibilities which are easily (and unknowingly) selected based on one's own biases and prejudices. > As a researcher of family ancestors and in doing work for others in > researching the past, I also know that our forefathers did partake of the > "forbidden fruits". Of course, and I fully acknnowledged the same. But such a general observation can never be used to make conclusions in a particular case. > To believe it did not happen, is to ignore reality. Did I anywhere suggest that it did not happen? But to assume because it often did happen, that it therefore happened in a particular case, is to invent "reality." > It did happen. Are you to lead people to believe that Thos Jefferson > was above > all this? I think not. That would be like believing Bill Clinton was the > victim of Monica. Are you going to equate the integrity of Thomas Jefferson with Bill Clinton's? But in any case, I remain unimpressed with your grasp of the mind and personality of Jefferson. > Thos had his flaws like every human being. True. But I think it is a mistake to move from such a general assumption, to a particular one, i.e., TJ had flaws, therefore he fathered Sally's children. We must also assume that all 25 of the other men who had the same DNA as TJ also had flaws, and "could have been" the father. > Putting aside all the hype, the DNA, I am a believer that Thos Jefferson > was the father of "some" of Sally's children. I have always believed this > even before they did the DNA tests. Fawn M. Brodie in her book, Thomas > Jefferson An Intimate History also believed as I do. That is your personal opinion, based on the evidence. My personal opinion is that the evidence is really insufficient, and that there is no justification for calling TJ a liar and a hypocrite based on the evidence that does exist. > But in all honesty, I sincerely believe that Madison > Hemings knew who his father was. He sincerely believed it was Thos > Jefferson. I believe that you are sincere, and that Madison Hemings was sincere beyond question. But since there are innumerable men who are not quite sure that they are the natural father of their legal sons, I am curious as to how you think Madison Hemings would KNOW who his father was. > I realize that the (white) descendants of Jefferson do not want to admit > that Thos had an intimate relationship with Sally. No family wants to hear > about an illegitimate ancestor, but it does not change the fact that these things > happened. There is no question that Jefferson's wife's father had a black concubine, and that Sally Hemings was his daughter. There was no apparent attempt to change that fact. The situation is not the same with TJ, however. > There is also another flaw with Thos > Jefferson and that is his view on slavery. If he was so concerned about > "the equality of man", I have often wondered why he never set his slaves > free! I also think that Thos Jefferson was thinking only of the "white man" > when he wrote, "all men are created equal". I think you are mistaken. If you had read TJ's writings, you would realize that he believed that freeing people raised in slavery was like turning children out on the street. You would also realize that he worked all his life for what he considered the real solution to the problem, i.e., not turning them loose, but returning them to their African homeland. In the very same document that he wrote, "all men are created equal," he also indicted George III, saying "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people," i.e., black people. Therefore when you say you think he was thinking only of the white man, you are expressing you own misapprehension, not the mind of Thomas Jefferson. Moreover, though he believed blacks MAY have less talents than whites, he stated explicitly: "whatever be their degree of talent, it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others. On this subject they are gaining daily in the opinions of nations, and hopeful advances are making towards their re-establishment on an equal footing with the other colors of the human family." --Thomas Jefferson to Henri Gregoire, 1809. ME 12:255 Therefore, I think you are totally mistaken in your assumption that Jefferson thought that only white men are included in the statement "all men are created equal." I also believe you are mistaken in most of your other assumptions about the mind of Jefferson. But this provides an illustration of how your own preconceptions about Jefferson form your interpretation of him and his writings, rather than the other way around. > Your articles are interesting. But, I tend to disagree with your analysis > of Thos Jefferson. I am of the minority that believe he did father some > mulatto children and Sally was their mother. That, I am afraid, is the majority view, not the minority. The headlines proclaim that Jefferson has been "proved" to be the father of Sally's children, and most people have accepted that. > The evidence is all circumstancial and will be debated for probably another > 200 years. In genealogy we sometimes call this a "gut feeling". But your "gut feeling" is not based on an intimate acquaintance with Jefferson's writings or, through those, his personality. My own "gut feeling" is not based on hero worship. I have read, analyzed and categorized 20 volumes of TJ's writings. In doing so, I was constantly looking for duplicity and inconsistency. Instead, I found a brilliant, over- arching structure of political thought. I felt that, to a great extent, I was able to "see into" the mind of Thomas Jefferson, based not on the ideas I had formed about him beforehand, but based on what I learned from studying the writings themselves. I deliberately avoided reading the opinions of historians on Jefferson, because I wanted to form my own view from HIM, not from the opiinions of others. > There is also another old saying in genealogy. "It is > dangerous business to name someones issues some two hundred years after the > fact. If we are wrong in our assumptions, then we have in essence lost > our credibility as a genealogist." But isn't that what you are doing by concluding that some of Sally's children are the issue of TJ? Thank you for visiting the website, and for writing. I respect your right to form your own opinion on these matters, but I do not feel that your opinions are based on solid grounds. Rather, they seem to be based on assumptions that you have formed on the character and mind of Jefferson, and these assumptions do not seem to be based on real evidence. You may, of course, believe what you wish. Most thoughtful people refuse to believe anything unless it is based on adequate, valid evidence.
> I read your articles and I did get to see the last part of the movie that > was on tv. It is a very intersting story and I there is a possiblty he could > be the father. Only he would know. Seems that no one belives her family > and his don't want to acept it either. > > I to have been tracing my family history because like them I am related to a > part of history: Francis Scott Key. What is so bad about it is, he had other > families that don't matter. If it weren't for his ancestor John Key that > was a founder of New Jeresy he would not be here. His line (Francis) and > my line runs together. > > No matter what the out come is, we all are related some how if you really > look at it rather we like it or not. Thomas Jefferson was a very famous man > for what he did for our country. What he and other presidents done in their > personal lives is no one's business. If there is anyone on this earth that > was NEVER at fault I would like to know. Otherwise we should not judge > others. > > I do hope the outcome to this story ends happy for all. They should be > proud who they are related to cause it is a part of history we can't bring > back. I agree with you. Frankly, I couldn't care less whether Jefferson had a black slave as a lover or not. Like you said, it is nobody's business. What I care about is, in order to make their case, the proponents of an affair are compelled to call Thomas Jefferson a liar, a hypocrite, a deceiver, and every other direputable thing. They must do this, because Jefferson indicated that the affair never happened. Therefore, for people to say that it DID happen, they are forced to make Jefferson, his family, his overseer, all out to be liars. It is this tearing down of Jefferson and his reputation that I object to. And in tearing him down, they are also trying to tear down what he stood for. That I object to also.
> I find your remarks on your study of any "Jefferson-Hemings > Controversy" quite bias within itself. It insults the reader to read about > the historical bigotry for a scholar. You are entitled to your own opinion. I have received emails from many people, some of them praising and some of them condemning the article. I tried to back up every accusation of bias I made with evidence and reason. > Sure, there may be loopholes in Sally > Hemings' story. However, to adamantly label her story as entirely false is > unfair either. You did no know her as you say that the Americans today or > her "descendants from TJ" did not know him. In order to be truthful in the > history of America, scholars like yourself, must be open to both sides of > the story. Sally Hemings does not have a story. Everything about her was written by someone else. We may assume that Madison got all of his information from Sally, but we do not really know that. > I graduated with degrees in Political Science and East Asian Studies, > and a minor in International Studies. I know that different people from > various cultures will see history in "their eyes" which most likely contain > their own bias and ethnocentric take. Reading American history is more like > reading "his story" from a white man's take. This is one thing that is wrong with the way history is written. It does not present both sides, but rather the side the historian thinks is correct. A better history would present ALL the relevant information and ALL the reasonable explanations, with a fair case for each one. That would enable the reader to make his own judgments, rather than having to accept the historian's judgment and conclusions. > For instance, in our history > books, calling Native Americans "savages and beasts" were not coined by > Indians themselves, but from bigots who wrote what we read today. In > addition, Columbus as a national holiday is such an insult to the Native > Americans. The Indians acted as savages. They brutally slaughtered innocent women and children. Anyone who does that, whether white, red, or any other color, is a savage. It is still going on today. That does not excuse it. > Which brings another point, that in history, the Norsemen were > said to accidentally sailed to America. However, since it was not a big > deal for them of accidentally finding it, they did not feel that they needed > credit for their discovery. > Anyways, I've read, I've traveled, and I've seen people who are very > proud of their heritage. It is very honorable to defend a great American > leader like Thomas Jefferson. However, to not tell the entire truth or to > write a story that defames another person, Sally Hemings herself, without > evidence that Eston was 100% not TJ's son is an injustice to the Hemings and > all African Americans. This is my perspective, and you can take it or leave > it. If Thomas Jefferson is accused of fathering a slave's children, no one should be required to prove 100% he did NOT do so. Those who accuse him should prove 100% that he did it, and they cannot do that. > P.S. I am neither Caucasian or of African descent. I am a Asian American > trying to read history for what it is and not what other people see it as. If you wish to read history for what it is, you should read the evidence and reasoning for BOTH SIDES, and then carefully evaluate the evidence that supports the different interpretations. If you do that with the evidence for the Jefferson-Hemings controversy, you will see that the evidence pointing to Jefferson's innocence is personal testimony, and the evidence pointing to his guilt is hearsay, gossip and speculation.
Thank you for writing. I am glad to receive literate and intelligent responses from people who disagree with the position I have taken on the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. Most of the emails I receive are not in that category. In fact, the vast majority of those in opposition to my position have been semi-literate and abusive. Over the last year or so, I have received only two or three that were literate and intelligent responses. The truth is, I would gladly welcome an ongoing, sensible discussion of these issues with someone with a different point of view than my own. Unfortunately, previous correspondents seem to drop out after one or two exchanges. Nevertheless, I consider such a discussion potentially important because it could possibly point out weaknesses in the argument, or show how some points were not made sufficiently clear. I don't think there is much chance of anyone coming up with a big solution to the puzzle that no one has thought of before, since all the facts and evidence have already been carefully gone over many times by both sides to the controversy. But it may be possible to make the matter clearer and perhaps even more convincing by carefully examining all the available evidence. In adding my comments below to those you sent, I will assume that you have read my "critical analysis" of the Research Report issued by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. The URL for that article is in my sig below. Some of your comments seem unaware of some of the major points I made in that analysis. I will point those out, but if you have not actually read the analysis, I hope that you will, since that will save much time. It is a very long article, but because there is so much detail, the length was unavoidable. The TJMF report which it critiques was many times longer. > I do find your argument about Thomas Woodson compelling. However, is it > really out the realm of possibility that Jefferson COULDN'T have > fathered one or more of Sally Hemming's children? Of course not! "Possibility" allows for almost anything. What we must do is consider what is PROBABLE, based on the available facts and evidence. Just about the only thing in this whole controversy that approaches the realm of "not possible" is that TJ was the father of Thomas Woodson. Yet you will see that some of the diehards on the other side are STILL trying to prove that he was. > Why would the likely > culprits be limited to TJ's relatives---namely his brother and > others---and not TJ himself? It seems like the evidence exonerating him > is as equally thin if not thinner than that which would exonerate his > brother and others. TJ is counted as one of eight persons who were around Monticello and who "could-have-been" the father of Eston. We are mainly concerned with TJ and his guilt or innocence for the obvious reason that but for him, we would not even be discussing this matter. I do not think it is possible to say that the evidence exonerating TJ is equally as "thin if not thinner than that which would exonerate his brother and others." In fact, there is NO evidence that says that TJ's brother or others did NOT father Eston, and there is some that says they did. But there IS evidence that TJ denied fathering Sally's children, and there is evidence from his daughter, his grandson, and his overseer of the time, that he was not guilty. Thus, there is NOTHING saying his brother was not guilty, and much saying TJ was not guilty. We only have "some" evidence that indicates that TJ himself DID father Eston. At the same time, we have some evidence that indicates that TJ himself DID NOT father Eston. Our problem then becomes one of weighing and considering the evidence that says he did, as compared to that which says he did not. It also helps to show that there is good reason to suspect TJ's brother and others. But the main focus, obviously, is, Did TJ do it or not? As I emphasized in my article, when we consider the evidence FROM PERSONS that bear on TJ's guilt or innocence, we see that that which says that TJ was NOT the father comes first-hand from designated individuals. That evidence FROM PERSONS that says TJ was the father comes from handed-down hearsay (gossip) originated by unknown persons, and passed on by persons who could not possibly of their own knowledge know the truth of what they were relating. In fact, such persons relaying this information were not present at Monticello when the events they speak of took place, and often had not even been born. Therefore, the evidence from persons indicating TJ was innocent is specific and from actual identifiable individuals. The evidence indicating TJ was guilty is from unknown persons, and is just passed on as a form of gossip. The other evidence, not from personal testimony, indicating TJ is guilty involves birth patterns coincident to TJ's presence, the freeing of Sally's children, and family resemblances. None of these are specific in pointing to TJ, and all have perfectly reasonable explanations. I won't repeat those explanations here because of the length, but they are detailed in the analysis article. > History has told us time and time again that Presidents are among the > most notorious for engaging in illicut sexual activities. Is it an > alpha-male, high-testosterone phenomenon? Or is it merely because > Presidents and the powerful come to believe that the rules apply to > others and not to them? What you say is often true. But when you are considering the guilt or innocence of an individual, such stereotypes only equate to prejudice. It is like saying "All Southern slaveowners had sex with their female slaves, therefore TJ had sex with Sally," or "All Negroes are thieves, therefore this Negro standing accused in a court of law is a thief." Such generalizations should never be used when considering the guilt or innocence of a single individual. > For my opinion, there is no reason to believe that Jefferson can be > exonerated any more than there is reason to believe that he had a long > and loving affair with Sally Hemmings (albeit there are many among us > who would like to romanticize such an ending). I agree that a "loving affair" is just the product of someone's imagination. But I think I have provided good reason in my article for believing that Jefferson should be exonerated: his own testimony, his daughter's, the confessions of the Carr brothers, and Edmund Bacon's eyewitness testimony. Against that is gossip and ambiguous, inconclusive facts. I don't think the latter equates to or is better than the former at all. > If anything, your conclusions led me to a few of my own: The most likely > story is that Sally Hemmings was a powerless, female slave, forced into > sexual relations (is "raped" to strong of a word, here?) by more than > one white man in her lifetime. I think that the completely powerless female slave is, for the most part, a stereotype and a fiction. The conditions in slavery were not the same as in prison, except under certain exceptional conditions. No person, not even a child, is completely powerless, except in very extreme conditions. How many households are ruled by a six year old child? And regardless of the propaganda that is now current, for most people in slavery, the conditions were not that extreme. Sure they were awful and tragic with certain slaveowners. And the fact of being owned by someone else was degrading for all, regardless of how humane they might have been treated. But TJ was not one of those kinds of persons, and there is no evidence suggesting he was. > Further, I doubt that if indeed one of > these men were Thomas Jefferson, he held her in high regard---in any > more regard than he would have, say, a family pet. There is no evidence that TJ would have treated any human being as an animal, and there is much to indicate that he believed that "all men are created equal" SHOULD apply equally to persons in bondage. When these matters are discussed, however, his statements indicating that are carefully omitted. It is all part of a scam to tear down TJ and push a racial -- and racist -- agenda. > Anyway, that's my opinion, for what it is worth. Thank you for your opinion. Anyone is entitled to hold any opinion they wish, of course. "It's a free country." But for opinions to carry any weight in a rational discussion, they should -- they must -- be supported with facts and evidence. I would be very glad to continue this discussion on such a rational basis, and I look forward to any comments you might have on the points I raised.
> You state that the Y-chromosome specimen was taken from the presumptive > decendants of Field Jefferson (President Jefferson's paternal uncle). > Sir, I must say that this ASSUMES that Field Jefferson and Thomas > Jefferson's father were indeed whole brothers (having the same father as > well as mother). As, you know we cannot assume paternal lineage. There are some things we must assume in the absence of contrary evidence. All available evidence suggests that Peter (TJ's father) and Field Jefferson were indeed whole borthers, NO available evidence suggests that they were not, therefore we are compelled to assume they were. If we did not make such uncontested assumptions, the writing of history would be impossible. It is only when paternal lineage is challenged on apparent valid grounds that we must drop such natural assumptions and evaluate the controversy carefully.
> Thanks for your response. I realize that we legally > ASSUME that the natural father of any child is a > woman's husband. However, in reality we realize that > this truly cannot be ascertained without DNA. This is technically correct. > Therefore, it is possible that Feild Jefferson and > Peter Jefferson are not whole brothers. This is indeed POSSIBLE. But in order to make a reasonable argument one way or the other, one must proceed on the basis of reasonable and PROBABLE evidence, not just possibilities. To use an absurd example, one could say that an alien from outer space could have been the father of Peter Jefferson. That is "possible," but so improbable as to be completely unworthy of consideration. In other words, we only sink into a state of confusion if we begin considering every possibility. But if we can introduce evidence that supports the possibility, then we have something substantial to go on. For example, if it was known that a space ship landed on the Jefferson estate nine months before Peter was born, then we have something to argue about. But a naked possibility contributes little except to show that the accepted conclusion is not absolute, and that is something that should always be taken for granted. > Sir, I agree > with you that they more than likely are--but to base > the conclusion that Eston Hemmings is or is not the > natural son of Thomas Jefferson by examining the > SUPPOSITION that Peter and Field Jefferson ARE whole > brothers is questionable. I just always question > anything that gives paternal lineage as proof. Your questioning is justified, provided you can find some evidence to support it. It is always a good idea to question, and to use that questioning in order to search for supportive evidence. But until you can find something, however tenuous, to substantiate the question, we are compelled to accept the records as they stand and to make ordinary assumptions. All history is based on these kinds of assumptions. It is only when dealing with DNA that we can move from the uncertainties of history, to the definiteness of science.
> I just read your brilliant refutation of the Monticello Foundation's shameful > propaganda report.As a law enforcemnt officer I can I have investigated many > crimes and traffic collisions. I have never entered any of them with a > pre-conceived idea of what happened.I have investigated fatal traffic > collisions(which are treated basically as a homicide)and many times what I > thought had occurred was not what happened at all once I began > investigating. If I handled a collision like the Monticello report,needless to > say I would be unemployed now.Their report was a politically > correct,slanderous,assault not just on Thomas Jefferson,but on his ideals. I > mean look at who runs Monticello:Dan Jordan(a man with a massive amount of > guilt for slavery of which he had no part), Peter Onuf: a man who excoriates > Jefferson on every occasion he gets,and who at the 1993 Legacies conference > proceeded with other modern scholars to discredit Jefferson's ideals,and his > Legacy.Not only were they not unbiased,they have an agenda to discredit > republicanism.After reading what they say,I can draw no other > conclusion.Thank God,people like you have the means and ability to have a > website such as this to refute such abominal lies.The sad fact is the modern > historian feels his job is to tear down,destroy,and show the American people > that our Founders were not only not great,but people to be ashamed of. These > people are SICK! Keep up the good work! Thanks for writing, and for your complimentary words. It is disgusting what these "scholars" are trying to do. It is, as you say, all part of a political agenda. What was so remarkable about the Memorial Foundation's Report is, there was no attempt at even-handedness. If they had lined up all the items of evidence, both pro and con, and then evaluated each one with some objectivity, whatever the results were would have been more acceptable. But the report so obviously presented only one side, it was obvious that they pursued their ends "with singleness of mind." We know that it is the job of the historian to nurture the foundation upon which our nation is built -- to examine it, criticize it, but in the end, to help it to flourish. One wonders about the concept of mission these historians have when they are bent on such distructiveness. We can only hope that future generations will view them as they intellectual traitors that they are.
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