Monday, November 06, 2006

Paternity of Sally Hemings' Children: You Decide

Unfortunately, we will never know the truth as to whether or not Thomas Jefferson sired the children of Sally Hemings until the body of Thomas Jefferson is exhumed and his DNA is extracted and tested against those who claim to be descendants of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson.

I tend to believe that Thomas Jefferson probably did not father any of Sally Hemings' children because there are plausible explanations for the evidence we see that "seem" to point toward Thomas as the father and because he was so dead-set against miscegenation. I realize that a strong belief in something does not guarantee one will always adhere to that belief, but most people do adhere to what they strongly believe.

These two sites weigh the evidence and come to different conclusions. You decide for yourself.

Thomas Jefferson Is Probably Not The Father of Sally Hemings' Children

Thomas Jefferson Probably IS The Father of Sally Hemings' Children

One thing I have learned about the historians who are of a liberal mind-set is that they WILL edit some of the correspondence to suit their purposes and pass it on to the unassuming public. They did it to malign the character of George Washington and they've done it with Thomas Jefferson in trying to prove that he had easy and secret access to Sally Hemings. This example comes from Annette Gordon-Reed's book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. She changed the wording in an 1858 letter written by Thomas Jefferson's granddaugher, Ellen Randolph Coolidge, to her husband denying the possiblity of a Jefferson-Hemings relationship.

Bryan Craig, research librarian at the Jefferson Library, at Monticello, Jefferson’s estate, faxed this reporter a photocopy of the original Coolidge letter.

The letter actually said, "His [Jefferson’s] apartments had no private entrance not perfectly accessible and visible to all the household. No female domestic ever entered his chambers except at hours when he was known not to be there and none could have entered without being exposed to the public gaze."

In Prof. Gordon-Reed’s hands, the second sentence changed, as if by magic, to "No female domestic ever entered his chambers except at hours when he was known not to be in the public gaze."

Gordon-Reed’s changes turned the letter’s meaning on its head, supporting claims that Jefferson could have had secret trysts with Hemings. Either Gordon-Reed committed one of the most dramatic copying errors in the annals of academia, or one of the most egregious acts of academic fraud of the past generation.

Ironically, it was Prof. Gordon-Reed, who politely, promptly, directed me to the Jefferson Library, where I obtained a copy of the original Coolidge letter. After I e-mailed her three times about the discrepancy, Prof. Gordon-Reed finally responded, “As to the discrepancy, there was an error in transcription in my book. It was corrected for future printings.”

In January, 2000, a panel of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (TJMF, since renamed the Thomas Jefferson Foundation), which owns Jefferson’s Monticello home, released its Monticello report claiming there was a “strong likelihood” that Jefferson had fathered ALL of Hemings’ children.

The “scholars” who prepared the tendentious, 2000 Monticello report, led by Prof. Gordon-Reed’s reported friends, Dianne Swann-Wright and Lucia Stanton, could not be bothered to study the original Coolidge letter, and instead cited the false version published in Gordon-Reed’s book. Likewise, in 2000, Boston PBS station, WGBH, presented a “documentary,” Jefferson’s Blood, which perpetuated the hoax. The Monticello Report still cites the altered Coolidge letter (on p. 6, under "Primary Sources", and the PBS/WGBH web site for Jefferson’s Blood still has the phony version posted, in its entirety,, three years after it was proven to be false, a practice typical of the Jefferson-Hemings hoax industry as a whole.


It is true that it is still on the PBS website. I have read it for myself.

I do realize that there is a possiblity that Thomas Jefferson is the father of Sally Hemings' children, but at this point it is not a proven fact and there are too many plausible explanations for the evidence at hand. I would be very disappointed to learn that Thomas Jefferson did indeed father Sally Hemings' children.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings

Leo and I have had a brief discussion on slavery in America in a so-called "Christian Nation". Leo mentioned the hypocricy of Thomas Jefferson with regard to slavery which brought up the subject of Sally Hemings. I think that many people are still unaware that the DNA testing which supposedly proved that Thomas Jefferson fathered Hemings' children has been discredited. What the DNA has proved is that Hemings' children were related to "a" Jefferson, but not necessarily Thomas Jefferson. I decided to bring my comments here as a blogpost.

Dave Barton has an excellent article outlining the whole sordid affair. It's too sad that in recent times Jefferson has been maligned and his reputation ruined by those whose goal it is to paint our founders as bigoted monsters who deserve no respect and whose ideals are passe. (These rumors originated in Jefferson's day by a journalist who had a vendetta against him. Barton goes into great detail in his article.) Some have also spread malicious and untrue gossip about President George Washington.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Barton's article. I think you will find the entire article well worth the read.

"Herbert Barger, the Jefferson family historian and genealogist who assisted in the original DNA study for Nature (and who strenuously objected to the conclusions published in the original story) explained:

"My study indicates to me that Thomas Jefferson was not the father of Eston or any other Hemings child. The study indicates that Randolph [Thomas' younger brother] is possibly the father of Eston and the others. Randolph, named for his maternal Randolph family, was a widower and between wives when, shortly after his wife's death, Sally became pregnant with her first child. . . . She continued having children until 1808 when Eston was born. Randolph Jefferson would marry his second wife the next year, 1809. . . . [Significantly, t]hree of Sally Hemings' children, Harriet, Beverly and Eston (the latter two not common names), were given names of the Randolph family." (emphasis in original)


The Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission released a 565 page report on the Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings controversy. The Executive Summary of that report states:

"The question of whether Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children by his slave Sally Hemings is an issue about which honorable people can and do disagree. After a careful review of all of the evidence, the commission agrees unanimously that the allegation is by no means proven; and we find it regrettable that public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people. With the exception of one member, whose views are set forth both below and in his more detailed appended dissent, our individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false."

From what I've read, I tend to agree with Herbert Barger. He's done a most exellent job of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I think the Hemings' children were probably fathered by a Jefferson, but not Thomas Jefferson. I agree wholeheartedly with the Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission that there is no conclusive evidence that has proven Thomas Jefferson to be the father of Hemings' children. As Barton's article states, the research wasn't even thorough.

My husband has read many of Jefferson's writings. He and I have discussed the slavery issue with regard to Jefferson's view. He said that Jefferson was against slavery, but he was also concerned about the economical effects that abolition would cause. He feared economic collapse and the future of America's existence as its own country. I'm sure there were other factors, but I can't remember them all because this was years ago that we discussed it.

What really boggles the mind is the fact that there are still some who claim Jesus as Saviour and Lord that would allow slavery today.

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