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    Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings Essay

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    Not only did he note their relationship, he also said that Madison Hemings was their son ‘as any other fact, which I believe from circumstances but do not positively know. ‘xi As a resident at Monticello where Hemings and Jefferson resided, shows that he could have picked up on this information. Historian Winthrop Jordan researched the timings of Sally Hemings pregnancies. Thomas Jefferson had been with Sally nine months before the birth of each of her children. For example, on April 17, 1804, Maria, the daughter of Jefferson, died and both Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings attended her funeral at Monticello.

    On January 19, 1805, nine months and two days later, Madison Hemings was born. xii The Will of Thomas Jefferson shows the special connection between Hemings and Jefferson. In the codicil to his will, he granted freedom to five slaves, and implies that their wives and children will receive their freedom. Those five slaves were Burwell Colbert, John Hemings, Joe Fossett, Madison Hemings and Eston Hemings. All five slaves were connected to Sally. Colbert was Jefferson’s personal valet, and Sally’s relative. John Hemings was Sally’s younger brother, and Joe Fossett was also Sally’s relative.

    Madison and Eston were the children of Sally. Jefferson not only freed these five slaves who were blood relations of Sally, but he also petitioned the Virginia legislature to allow them to remain in the state. Another significant fact is that while the will refers to Burwell, John and Joe as his ‘servants’, he uses the term ‘apprentices’ when referring to Madison and Eston. Sally was not mentioned in his will, but it is known that there was some special arrangement to grant her freedom, as she was proclaimed free two years after Jefferson’s death.

    xiii In 1998, Eugene Foster, a retired pathologist, performed DNA tests on the descendants of Thomas Jefferson’s family and Sally Hemings. The result of the tests was that Jefferson fathered at least one of her children. The DNA examinations showed that the Y-chromosomes of Jefferson and Hemings descendants were distinctively similar. Evidence showed that there was a less than 1% chance that a person chosen at random would share the same set of Y-chromosome mutations that exist in the Jefferson lineage.

    xiv Lander, a DNA expert at the Whitehead Institute in Boston said: ‘The fact that Eston Hemings’ descendant has this rare chromosome, together with the historical evidence, seals the case that Jefferson fathered Eston. ‘ xv DNA evidence combined with historical evidence, seals the case that Jefferson was sexually involved with Sally Hemings, and produced at least one child from her. As of today, many still ponder the possibility that Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the great champions in history of individual rights, freedoms and liberties, was capable of shacking up with a slave.

    Jefferson was still a man, and he had desires. However, the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings is known not just to be purely sexual, but to be full of love and compassion. Sally lived at Monticello up until the day Jefferson died, and stood by his deathbed. Those who claim that Jefferson could not have possibly fathered children by his black slaves argue that the man who wrote the famous words, ‘All men are created equal,’ could not possibly at the same time have been having sex with his black slaves in a shack behind his house.

    Yet, if Thomas Jefferson really thought that a black man was equal to a white man, he must have believed that a black woman was just as good as a white woman. Jefferson was clearly attracted to women, and was not a man to remain celibate for the remainder of his life because he was a widow. Sally, his dead wife’s half-sister, more than likely resembled Martha and therefore, Jefferson was attracted to her. Jefferson never denied the story, even when newspapers and gossip was everywhere about this incident.

    On the contrary, Sally Hemings stayed right at his side and even in the White House throughout the entire controversy. She never left him, and he never sent her away. If the story that Sally Hemings was actually the concubine of Thomas Jefferson, the President of the United States, at the time, were not true, then why would he not deny it? The answer is obvious. The story must have been true.

    Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings were romantically involved, and the results of their love were children. i Sloan, Samuel, The Slave Children of Thomas Jefferson (Berkeley, CA: The Orden Press, 1992), 14.ii Ibid. , 49. iii Ibid. , 36. iv Gordon-Reed, Annette, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997), 17. v Ibid. , 56. vi Sloan, 67. vii Ibid. , 71. viii Gordon-Reed, 128. ix Ibid. , 131. x Fleming, Thomas, The Man from Monticello: An Intimate Life of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1969), 81 xi Sloan, 115. xii Ibid. , 124. xiii Ibid. , 145. xiv Thomas, David, “”Frontline. ” The History of a Secret. PBS. 1/99. < http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shoes/jefferson >.

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