Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Randomness

Pardon the history buff in me...

I just finished watching a mini-series (thank you Netflix) on Sally Hemings. For those of you not in the know, Hemings was a slave of Thomas Jefferson with whom he is rumored to have had intimate relations resulting in multiple children. Thanks to DNA testing in 1998, one of Hemings sons, Madison, was sired by 1 of 21 possible candidates (1 of which is/was Thomas Jefferson).

Initially I was skeptical of this long-standing historical rumor but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. You see, it's a good possibility that Sally Hemings was, by blood, the half-sister of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson's wife). If such is the case, there's a good chance Miss Hemings bore some physical resemblance to her older half-sister Martha (who died at age 39, leaving Thomas Jefferson a widower, in 1782). I could see where Jefferson might have been attracted to a woman who bore some resemblance to his late wife, even if she was one of his slaves. Although when she was coming of age, she was technically not one of his slaves but one of his servants. She was sent over to Paris to serve on Jefferson's kitchen staff at around age 16 when he was the US Ambassador to France, and in France slavery was illegal. She was technically free.

Also, in Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence he did specifically mention freedom of the slaves. All references to slavery were taken out of the Declaration prior to its final draft by the Southern delegates of the Continental Congress. So, despite his ownership of slaves (something Jefferson's conscience grappled with the rest of his life) his attitude toward slavery was somewhat liberal.

The social and religious climate of the early 19th century would never have allowed Jefferson to be President had it been proven that he had sired children with one of his slaves, and while it was rumored at the time, Jefferson repeatedly denied it due to some sense of duty to his country.

So what do YOU think? Did Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings have children together?

7 comments:

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

I certainly would not find it hard to believe. Men are men, he is no different. I just hope that it was consentual and that he treated her well if she was his lover as well as his servant/slave.

I find it interesting that his wife was her half sister....

Dantallion said...

He did NOT have sexual relations with that woman!!

;)



PS Word verification was "yitza". What a great word.

Perplexio said...

Barbara: It is speculated that Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife. I don't believe that has been proven nor has it been disproven as of yet. What HAS been proven is that, Hemings' son, Madison, is genetically linked to the Jeffersons. There are 21 possible candidates for Madison's father, one of which is Thomas Jefferson. Also, Hemings tended Jefferson's grave until her death in 1835. So, either there was something special between the 2 of them, or he was REALLY good to his slaves.

dantallion: yitza sounds like something you'd order at a Jewish deli. As in, "I'll have the corned beef on rye with a bowl of matzo ball soup and a side of yitza."

Awareness said...

Yes indeed he did the dirty deed. I asked him the last time I played with my Ouija board and channelled the two of them.

The Phoenix said...

I think it's very possible they had children together. Probable even.

Also, there's some evidence that they had genuine love for each other too.

Godwhacker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Malcolm: said...

I also believe that they had children together. I had never heard about the possibility that Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife. That puts an interesting spin on things.