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Scholars reject Thomas Jefferson sex affair

Posted By Les Kinsolving On 12/26/2011 @ 7:00 pm In Commentary | Comments Disabled

“The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy” is a new book dealing with one of the most outrageous libels in American history. “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” noted:

“In September of 1802, political journalist James T. Callender, a disappointed office-seeker who had once been an ally of Jefferson, wrote in a Richmond newspaper that Jefferson had for many years ‘kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves.’ ‘Her name is Sally,’ Callender continued, adding that Jefferson had ‘several children’ by her.

“Although there had been rumors of a sexual relationship between Jefferson and a slave before 1802, Callender’s article spread the story widely. It was taken up by Jefferson’s Federalist opponents and was published in many newspapers during the remainder of Jefferson’s presidency.

“Jefferson’s policy was to offer no public response to personal attacks, and he apparently made no explicit public or private comment on this question (although a private letter of 1805 has been interpreted by some individuals as a denial of the story). Sally Hemings left no known accounts.

“The Jefferson-Hemings story was sustained through the 19th century by Northern abolitionists, British critics of American democracy, and others. Its vitality among the American population at large was recorded by European travelers of the time. Through the 20th century, some historians accepted the possibility of a Jefferson-Hemings connection and a few gave it credence, but most Jefferson scholars found the case for such a relationship unpersuasive.

“That a Jefferson-Hemings relationship could be neither refuted nor substantiated was challenged in 1998 by the results of DNA tests conducted by Dr. Eugene Foster and a team of geneticists. The study tested Y-chromosomal DNA samples from male-line descendants.

“Shortly after the DNA test results were released in November 1998, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation formed a research committee consisting of nine members of the foundation’s staff, including four with PhDs. In January 2000, the committee reported its finding: that the weight of all known evidence – from the DNA study, original documents, written and oral historical accounts, and statistical data – indicated a high probability that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Eston Hemings and that perhaps he was the father of all six of Sally Hemings’ children listed in Monticello records.”

One year later, however, another committee of 13 scholars – including Charles Kesler, Harvey Mansfield and Forrest McDonald – re-examined the evidence. The Jefferson-Hemings controversy summarizes their conclusions, which are not unanimous.

National Review noted:

“One scholar, Paul Rahe, still finds Jefferson guilty as charged. The rest, however, suspect Jefferson has gotten a bum’s rush.”

This unconscionable smear of the third president of our country and author of our Declaration of Independence was, in the last century, embellished by authors Fawn Brodie and Annette Gordon-Reed.


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