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Scholars Overturn Case for Thomas Jefferson's Relationship with Slave Sally Hemings
Capitalism Magazine ^ | June 2, 2001 | J. Patrick Mullins

Posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:42 PM PST by Cassanova Frankenstein

[CAPITALISMMAGAZINE.COM] In April 2001, a "blue ribbon" commission of highly accomplished and nationally recognized scholars reported its findings after a year-long investigation of the evidence for a sexual relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his house slave, Sally Hemings. The thirteen-member Scholars Commission agreed unanimously that the allegation of such a relationship is "by no means proven" and regretted that "public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people into believing that the issue is closed." With the exception of one of the thirteen commission members, the scholars' "individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false." In November 1998, the British scientific journal Nature published an article by retired pathologist Dr. Eugene Foster titled, "Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child." The article reported Foster's discovery that descendants of Eston Hemings, the last of Jefferson slave Sally Hemings's children, shared a distinctive genetic marker with descendants of Thomas Jefferson's paternal uncle. In its sensationalized reporting of this discovery, the media almost universally proclaimed that DNA testing had conclusively proven beyond a reasonable doubt the almost two-hundred-year-old allegation that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with one of his house slaves and fathered from one to seven children with her. Some historians jumped on the media bandwagon. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, the association which preserves and operates Jefferson's plantation home of Monticello, seemed to settle any lingering doubts on the subject in February 2000 when a committee of Monticello staff concluded that there was a "strong likelihood that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had a relationship over time that led to the birth of one, and perhaps all, of the known children of Sally Hemings." In the wake of the Nature article and the Monticello report, a group of private citizens organized the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society and invited a group of established Jefferson scholars to reexamine objectively all of the available evidence on the Jefferson-Hemings controversy and report their independent findings to the public. The resulting Scholars Commission made a detailed presentation of its findings in a 565-page report, available online at the Heritage Society's website, www.tjheritage.org. The Scholars Commission report pointed out that the original DNA report indicated only that a Jefferson male had fathered one of Sally Hemings's children; the available DNA could not specify Thomas Jefferson as the father. Noting that as many as eight adult Jefferson males lived within a hundred miles of Monticello, the commission's majority shifted the likelihood of Eston's paternity to Thomas Jefferson's younger brother, Randolph. Randolph Jefferson was known to fraternize with the Monticello slaves and is believed to have been present at Monticello at the estimated time of Eston's conception. Even oral tradition in Eston Hemings's family seems to point to Randolph rather than Thomas as Eston's father. It also appears that Sally's children were all born in the years when Randolph was a widower. He remarried in 1809, and Sally had her last child in 1808, despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson returned from the White House to live in Monticello full time in 1809. One of the strongest pieces of circumstantial evidence for Thomas Jefferson's paternity of the Hemings children was that Sally conceived only when Thomas was present at Monticello. As the report pointed out, however, Randolph and other family members would have visited the plantation when Thomas was home, not when he was absent and the plantation was locked. Since the DNA test tied the Jefferson family only to Eston, it remains entirely possible that Thomas's Carr nephews were responsible for fathering at least some of Sally's other children, as credible testimony by Thomas's grandchildren indicated. Jefferson's overseer, Edmund Bacon, also alleged that he knew Sally's lover to have been a man other than Thomas Jefferson, further subverting the contention that Thomas and Sally had a thirty-two-year monogamous relationship producing six children. The Commission's report addressed and knocked down the other points in favor of Jefferson's relationship with Hemings presented in the Monticello report. By presenting a compelling alternative explanation for the paternity of Eston and the other Hemings children, the Commission Report overturned the circumstantial case for Thomas Jefferson's paternity of any of Sally Hemings's children and shifted the onus of proof back to those who would insist upon the Founder's culpability. Media coverage of the Scholars Commission's April 12 press conference was a mere trickle of pebbles compared to the avalanche of reports on the 1998 DNA findings and the 2000 Monticello report. It remains to be seen if the Scholars Commission report will receive academic acknowledgment broad enough to establish a new consensus on the Jefferson-Hemings controversy and undo the damage which the previous media sensation did to the American people's understanding of and respect for Thomas Jefferson. -- J. Patrick Mullins is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Kentucky's History Department specializing in the history of the American Revolution.


TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: sallyhemings; thomasjefferson
Kind of old, but this was the first time I've seen it. Enjoy.
1 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:42 PM PST by Cassanova Frankenstein (hammm@darden.gbus.virginia.edu)
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To: Cassanova Frankenstein
My teeth are a bit gummy; would you mind cutting this up into little paragraphs for me, great -- thank you very much.
2 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:43 PM PST by Silly
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To: Cassanova Frankenstein
Good Post
Needs paragraphs though :)
3 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:43 PM PST by Fiddlstix
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To: Silly
The Scholars Commission report pointed out that the original DNA report indicated only that a Jefferson male had fathered one of Sally Hemings's children; the available DNA could not specify Thomas Jefferson as the father. 
Scholars Overturn Case for Thomas Jefferson's Relationship with Slave Sally Hemings

by J. Patrick Mullins
(June 2, 2001) 

[CAPITALISMMAGAZINE.COM] In April 2001, a "blue ribbon" commission of highly accomplished and nationally recognized scholars reported its findings after a year-long investigation of the evidence for a sexual relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his house slave, Sally Hemings. The thirteen-member Scholars Commission agreed unanimously that the allegation of such a relationship is "by no means proven" and regretted that "public confusion about the 1998 DNA testing and other evidence has misled many people into believing that the issue is closed." With the exception of one of the thirteen commission members, the scholars' "individual conclusions range from serious skepticism about the charge to a conviction that it is almost certainly false."

In November 1998, the British scientific journal Nature published an article by retired pathologist Dr. Eugene Foster titled, "Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child." The article reported Foster's discovery that descendants of Eston Hemings, the last of Jefferson slave Sally Hemings's children, shared a distinctive genetic marker with descendants of Thomas Jefferson's paternal uncle. 

In its sensationalized reporting of this discovery, the media almost universally proclaimed that DNA testing had conclusively proven beyond a reasonable doubt the almost two-hundred-year-old allegation that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with one of his house slaves and fathered from one to seven children with her. Some historians jumped on the media bandwagon. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, the association which preserves and operates Jefferson's plantation home of Monticello, seemed to settle any lingering doubts on the subject in February 2000 when a committee of Monticello staff concluded that there was a "strong likelihood that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had a relationship over time that led to the birth of one, and perhaps all, of the known children of Sally Hemings."

In the wake of the Nature article and the Monticello report, a group of private citizens organized the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society and invited a group of established Jefferson scholars to reexamine objectively all of the available evidence on the Jefferson-Hemings controversy and report their independent findings to the public. The resulting Scholars Commission made a detailed presentation of its findings in a 565-page report, available online at the Heritage Society's website, www.tjheritage.org.

The Scholars Commission report pointed out that the original DNA report indicated only that a Jefferson male had fathered one of Sally Hemings's children; the available DNA could not specify Thomas Jefferson as the father. Noting that as many as eight adult Jefferson males lived within a hundred miles of Monticello, the commission's majority shifted the likelihood of Eston's paternity to Thomas Jefferson's younger brother, Randolph.

Randolph Jefferson was known to fraternize with the Monticello slaves and is believed to have been present at Monticello at the estimated time of Eston's conception. Even oral tradition in Eston Hemings's family seems to point to Randolph rather than Thomas as Eston's father. It also appears that Sally's children were all born in the years when Randolph was a widower. He remarried in 1809, and Sally had her last child in 1808, despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson returned from the White House to live in Monticello full time in 1809.

One of the strongest pieces of circumstantial evidence for Thomas Jefferson's paternity of the Hemings children was that Sally conceived only when Thomas was present at Monticello. As the report pointed out, however, Randolph and other family members would have visited the plantation when Thomas was home, not when he was absent and the plantation was locked. Since the DNA test tied the Jefferson family only to Eston, it remains entirely possible that Thomas's Carr nephews were responsible for fathering at least some of Sally's other children, as credible testimony by Thomas's grandchildren indicated. Jefferson's overseer, Edmund Bacon, also alleged that he knew Sally's lover to have been a man other than Thomas Jefferson, further subverting the contention that Thomas and Sally had a thirty-two-year monogamous relationship producing six children. The Commission's report addressed and knocked down the other points in favor of Jefferson's relationship with Hemings presented in the Monticello report.

By presenting a compelling alternative explanation for the paternity of Eston and the other Hemings children, the Commission Report overturned the circumstantial case for Thomas Jefferson's paternity of any of Sally Hemings's children and shifted the onus of proof back to those who would insist upon the Founder's culpability.

Media coverage of the Scholars Commission's April 12 press conference was a mere trickle of pebbles compared to the avalanche of reports on the 1998 DNA findings and the 2000 Monticello report. It remains to be seen if the Scholars Commission report will receive academic acknowledgment broad enough to establish a new consensus on the Jefferson-Hemings controversy and undo the damage which the previous media sensation did to the American people's understanding of and respect for Thomas Jefferson.

-- J. Patrick Mullins is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Kentucky's History Department specializing in the history of the American Revolution.

 

4 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:43 PM PST by KS Flyover
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To: Cassanova Frankenstein
Monticello was certainly not "locked" when TJ was not there.

Of his slaves only the children of Sally Hemings were freed when TJ died. That is a fairly interesting fact.

5 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:43 PM PST by justshutupandtakeit
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To: Silly
I have some nice soft chevre for you.
6 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:44 PM PST by mlo
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To: Cassanova Frankenstein
Good article. I took the tour at Monticello about 3 months ago and was stunned by the certainty with which they said that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally's children, as if there was no doubt at all. They need a copy of this article.
7 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:44 PM PST by FairWitness
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To: KS Flyover; mlo
Thanks, KSF. mlo, you mention cheese one more time and, well, I just can't say.
8 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:44 PM PST by Silly
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To: KS Flyover
After watching the weasels promoting Jefferson's paternity on C-span and their inability to answer direct questions, I dismissed the whole theory.
9 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:45 PM PST by Free the USA
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To: Cassanova Frankenstein
Revisionist revisionism? Revising the PC garbage back to truth? If the purpose of the Culture Destroyers is to simply create doubt, I suspect they've accomplished that.
10 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:46 PM PST by IronJack
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To: Cassanova Frankenstein
The article reported Foster's discovery that descendants of Eston Hemings, the last of Jefferson slave Sally Hemings's children, shared a distinctive genetic marker with descendants of Thomas Jefferson's paternal uncle. In its sensationalized reporting of this discovery, the media almost universally proclaimed that DNA testing had conclusively proven beyond a reasonable doubt the almost two-hundred-year-old allegation that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with one of his house slaves and fathered from one to seven children with her.

Funny, I thought the O.J. Simpleton trial had proven that even day-old DNA was not admissable. Now, 200 year old DNA is reliable. These people do George Orwell proud!

11 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:55 PM PST by Paul Atreides
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To: KS Flyover
Good. Another stake in the heart of Clinton's "Well Tom Jefferson did it too!" excuse.
12 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:55 PM PST by jimkress
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To: justshutupandtakeit
Of his slaves only the children of Sally Hemings were freed when TJ died.

Maybe Jefferson was just trying to head off a terrorist attack.

13 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:55 PM PST by Paul Atreides
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To: jimkress
I wonder if Obubba Been Laiden would have considered it sex if he walked in on Chelsea giving someone a Monica. Somehow, I think it would be a different story then.
14 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:55 PM PST by Paul Atreides
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Comment #15 Removed by Moderator

To: Cassanova Frankenstein
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, BUT IT'S TOO LATE!!! The masses of asses out there are CONVINCED that Thomas Jeferson fathered Hemming's child. I hear it in college, I read it in smart-assed liberal publications, and I've seen it on TV comedies, of all places. The liberals have changed history to suit their agenda yet again, and as usual, the people are worse off for it (although they are too stupid to realize it!)
16 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:56 PM PST by Captainpaintball
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To: IronJack
If the purpose of the Culture Destroyers is to simply create doubt, I suspect they've accomplished that.

Their intentins go a bit deeper than simply creating doubt. The bally-hoo over the Jefferson/Hemings claims was part of a much broader attempt to stir up old antagonisms within the American mainstream--on a North/South basis--and undermine all potential rallying points. (See Creating Hate In America Today for more on the subject of this thread, in the greater context of trying to undermine the Southern traditions, as part of that onslaught.)

The sad truth is that there are those who will seek to exploit every opportunity to undermine the cultural heritage and self-respect of the American mainstream. There are signs of a renewal of traditional values in some areas, in response to the recent Terrorist attacks. Now is a good time to launch an ideological counter-attack.

William Flax Return Of The Gods Web Site

17 posted on 11/16/2001 1:10:56 PM PST by Ohioan
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To: L_Candide
Allegations have been around for almost 200 years. Read the papers of that era. Were those people back in 1805 "Culture Destroyers" too?

What was the intent behind the "allegations?" Scandal? Character assassination? PC revisionism? Molehill manufacture? If any of the above, then the answer to your question is "Yes."

18 posted on 11/16/2001 1:11:04 PM PST by IronJack
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To: IronJack
I heard on the radio a few months ago that some historians were going after George Washington, trying to attach him to some scandal. The evidence for it must be weak since I haven't heard any more about it. It appears to be the work of the hate-America crowd. They are going after early President.
19 posted on 11/16/2001 1:11:42 PM PST by Number_Cruncher
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To: calypgin
Thought you might be interested in this.
20 posted on 11/16/2001 1:11:42 PM PST by be-baw
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To: KS Flyover
Nature besmirched itself in political propaganda, when it published the original article. It was a Clintonian attempt to back up the TRIMPOTUS Bubba's claim that "everyone did it". Nature is clearly an untrustworthy publication and one should take anything they publish with a large grain of salt. They tossed their credibility on the heap of soiled tissues used by the psychopathic President Bubba.
21 posted on 11/16/2001 1:11:43 PM PST by Kermit
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To: Number_Cruncher
To recast a nation's future, plunder its past.
22 posted on 11/16/2001 1:11:43 PM PST by IronJack
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To: IronJack
Doubt was created two hundred yrs. ago when TJ's hired character assassin (created to lie about Hamilton) turned on him instead because of a perceived slight (even a ignoble hired hand hates being treated with contempt and abandonment.) That is when it began and was never refuted in any credible way (Jefferson just ignored it) and certainly cannot be ruled out a priori. While it is true TJ loved beautiful women I am not sure that that translated into sexual affairs. Maybe he was like GW and loved to flirt but that was as far as he went.

Maybe not, after all Sally's children were the only slaves freed upon his death.

However, Jefferson was as duplicitous a man as ever occupied the White House. He was also one of the most hypocritical and, with the exception of stumbling into the Lousiana Purchase through blind luck, accomplished little of benefit to the U.S. when president. Like Clinton he had no effective opposition and a loyal claque of news media outlets to tout his claimed virtues and attack his enemies with calumnies and falsehoods so he was re-elected.

23 posted on 11/16/2001 1:23:33 PM PST by justshutupandtakeit
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