The purists cannot deny that Jefferson spent years in fornication with Sally Hemmings, so he was not the perfect man they want him to be. They do not know for sure if he was or wasn't fathering children by Sally Hemmings. If he was sleeping with her then it's a possibility. Some of the Jefferson descendants are willing to accept the other sides' claims and half aren't at all. The other side had their own Jefferson family reunion and some of the direct descents of Jefferson attended so... whatever. I just want to know what it would do for people to know that their ancestor is Thomas Jefferson.
posted on 09/14/2003 4:27:24 PM PDT
(and you thought I was joking about the tinfoil hat)
We don't know
that Thomas Jefferson ever had sexual relations with that woman, Sally Hemings. A political enemy, James Callender, claimed in 1802 that Jefferson had children by Sally; Callender died less than a year later (drowned while intoxicated). Jefferson denied the truth of the allegation in a letter in 1805.
The DNA evidence is ambiguous, since Thomas Jefferson was not the only Jefferson male in the vicinity.
The main argument in favor is the oral tradition among Sally's descendants, that Sally had children by Thomas Jefferson.
Madison Hemings, one of her children, told the census taker in 1870 that he was the son of Thomas Jefferson; the census taker was sufficiently impressed that he made a note of that on the census form (clearly legible on the microfilm of the census record). Later, in 1873, a newspaper in Pike County, Ohio, carried an article about Madison Hemings being the son of Thomas Jefferson, evidently based on what Madison had told the author.
There is a good short treatment of this in Willard Sterne Randall's Thomas Jefferson: A Life (1993). The late Fawn Brodie, who did more than anyone else to revive interest in the Sally Hemings story, located several of her descendants who claimed to have heard of their descent from Thomas Jefferson from family tradition.
Sally's mother was a mulatto, so she was no more than one-quarter African by ancestry.
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