Skip to comments.Giving Thomas Jefferson the Business: The Jefferson-Hemings Hoax
Posted on 12/16/2003 11:18:44 AM PST by mrustow
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So many times? She had six children in eighteen years- if anything that was a low output two hundred years ago.
How much work can you do when you're pregnant? It could have been years' worth of down time.
Slaves (or most anyone else) in ca. 1800 didn't get maternity leave- you worked at your tasks/chores until you were ready to deliver, and you were put back to work as soon as you could stand up.
Did he not have a problem with his unmarried slave having child after child? And who paid for the day-to-day existence of so many children? Jefferson?
Slaves could not legally marry- so the morality issue was minimal. Jefferson was responsible for the food/clothing/shelter of his slaves, but remember he owned all slaves born on the plantation- he could sell them if he wished. Later on as the lower South was populated, excess slaves from Virginia would be sold to owners in Alabama or Mississippi.
And thank God for that! I love it!
As I see history, and I admit that I've been influenced by Popper, the field has less to do in practice with probabilities or cultural assumptions than it does with individual cases. My knowledge of this case leads me to no conclusion, as to who the father or fathers of Hemings' children was. The only conclusions I can come to are (for reasons given in previous posts): 1. The Jefferson in Paris story is a lie; and 2. The story of Jeffferson and Hemings having had a 40-year-long monogamous relationship is a lie.
Since those who support a new interpretion of Jefferson's life have no evidence upon which to support their claims, AND have been caught tampering with evidence which tends to contradict their claims, I see no reason to give credence to their claims.
I do object to the phrase " The Hemming's Party" which tends to clearly telegraph the position long before the analysis. A kind of verbal variant of the Texas Sharpshooter effect. Much like those who assert that Jefferson is absolutely and incontrovertibly the father of Hemming's child, those who absolutely deny the probability, (or in some case even the possibility) that Jefferson is the father of Hemming's child use much the same process. Each draws his target around the requisite number of bullets to score the appropriate and specious bulls eye.
Technically, you're right, and if I were writing a scholarly paper on the case, I would have to use some roundabout, terminally-clunky phrase, such as "those who dispute Jefferson's traditional biographers," but the clunky phrasing would still be nothing but a euphemism for "the Hemings Party," which is itself a euphemism for "that bunch of goddamned crooks who should be hung upside down nekkid, covered in honey, and left out in the midday, Texas sun."
Texas sharpshooter or no, I can accept the theoretical possibility of Jefferson's paternity, but whereas the paternity case in truth remains open, where it will likely remain for all time, the case regarding the wickedness of the low-down, dirty, egg-sucking dogs who engineered this hoax has for me been made beyond a shadow of a doubt.
But the reunions aren't for "Jeffersons," they're for descendants of Thomas Jefferson. (And so far, only the descendants of ONE Hemings child have even been identified as descendants of ANY Jefferson.) And hundreds of people demanding to be admitted have definitively been EXCLUDED as descendants of ANY Jefferson.
The media (led by the New York Times) and academia champion the notion that any black person who wants to be admitted, should be admitted. The plan of Truscott, et al., is to cause a black takeover of the Thomas Jefferson Association, so that those white descendants whom we know for sure to be his descendants, are buried under a flood of fraudulent, black "descendants"; to cause history that is written with care, based on primary documents, to be replaced by black oral history, which is based on racist myths and contemporary fabrications; and to cause, ultimately, Thomas Jefferson to be replaced as the focus of the history of Monticello, by a focus on the slaves who lived there.
None of what I just said is speculative; it has all been underway since at least the mid-1990s.
When Clinton was caught with Lewinski they had to dredge up the Jefferson story to show that "everybody does it." Now that Clinton's legacy is that of a liar, Bush must be made to be a liar, too.
No, it isn't facile. It's simply the most honest route. There is no historical knowledge as to whether Thomas Jefferson was the father of any of Sally Hemings' children. Were you aware that almost nothing is known about the life of Sally Hemings?
While no final definitive conclusion is possible given the data, the data do give a clear indication of probabilities and possibilities. To give equal weight to the probable and possible is something of clever magic act and is disingenuous.
"Probabilities" are irrelevant in judging an historical case. Speaking of them in a historical context is pseudo-scientific. One tries to sound scientific and rigorous, when in fact one is simply indulging in speculation. Now, that's facile. But probabilities are useful in writing realistic, historical fiction. Possibilities are useful in writing historical fiction with little realistic foundation. There, I made the distinction. Happy now?
As to other issues..
I would characterise the Jefferson in Paris story as " unsupported by evidence" thus it is highly improbable. A theory/speculation unsupported by evidence is not a lie unless you can provide conclusive data to deny the assertion. The inability to provide that data to deny the assertion is absolutely no support of the assertion itself.
The Jefferson in Paris story is either true or false. To say it is "highly improbable" is a dodge. I wouldn't have made a point of noting this, had you not gotten nasty, but this "highly improbable" talk is truly shows a lack of courage. Saying it's "highly improbable" doesn't foreclose on the possibility it's true.
The Jefferson in Paris story was built on claims that have been disconfirmed, and which were entirely fictional.
Claim #1. While in Paris, Jefferson bedded Hemings. (Cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed; comes from a confirmed liar; thus, no reason to believe it happened, and good reason to believe it never happened.)
Claim #2. While in Paris, Jefferson impregnated Hemings. (No record of said impregnation, no reason to believe it happened, and very good reason to believe it didn't happen.)
Claim #3. Shortly after returning from Paris, Hemings gave birth to Thomas Woodson. (A. No record of Hemings ever giving birth at the time. B. Descendants of the former slave Thomas Woodson were definitively excluded as descendants of ANY Jefferson male. C. Biography of Thomas Woodson provided by his descendants is full of holes, independent of the Paris story. D. Descendants of Woodson have pushed this story even more passionately, since it was disproven, than before; ditto for academics and journalists.)
The entire Jefferson-Hemings story is built upon the Jefferson in Paris story.
The Jefferson-Hemings story, beginning with Jefferson in Paris, was invented by a known liar, James Thomson Callender, who had no direct knowledge of the goings-on at Monticello, much less those thousands of miles away, in Paris. The myth has been perpetuated for 201 years by people who simply repeated Callender's lies.
The 40 year monogamous relationship is highly improbable and is generally adhered to by those with a very active imaginations and a fatally romantic twist of mind. Whatever charms Sally Hemmings may have had she remainded "property" in her lifetime.It is extraordinarily difficult to imagine a 40 year monogamous love match between Jefferson and a person who was his property. It is even more difficult to imagine it in the context of the intellectual gulf between the two.
This is all empty speculation on your part, which is on the exact same plane as those who say, "Jefferson was so virtuous, he couldn't have been the father of her children."
Throwing around words like "probability" is no substitute for rigor in the handling of historical evidence and historical arguments.