Jefferson cleared? Possible victim of fable spread by "conspiracy"greenspun.com : LUSENET : Poole's Roost II : One Thread
I'm somewhat surprised this hasn't seen more circulation. It is after all one of the "poster child" story for the reparationistas.
From a rather conservative source a report with some rather credible signers (see end for signers). It is possible that the whole of the Tom and Sally story was in fact a fable based on fiction spread by people heavily influenced by the Civil rights movement. WORSE, the time suggests that it might have been aided BY DEFAULT by the Fund Raising efforts as described herein.
The Fable of Tom and Sally
By James P. Lucier
The claim that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings has been shown to be baseless by a learned group of the nation’s most distinguished scholars.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which owns and manages our third president’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Va., came to a startling conclusion in January 2000, just as it was about to announce a $100 million capital-gifts campaign: Jefferson was a man who secretly conducted a sexual liaison with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and fathered her six illegitimate children — a sordid affair covered up by a conspiracy of silence on the part of Jefferson and all of his legitimate descendants. The implication is that he was not the man of high probity and moral principles portrayed by historians.
The report issued by an in-house committee at Monticello seemed clear enough. The committee said its review of the subject “indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Heming’s children appearing in Jefferson’s records.” Rather than being embarrassed by the new twist, the authors concluded that “the implications of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson and the entire Monticello community.” Thus was born a new Jefferson for a new age. Shortly thereafter, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation dropped the word “Memorial” from its name.
Critics noted that the membership of the in-house committee included very few names of persons experienced in analysis of historical data. It was chaired by Dianne Swann-Wright, a Ph.D. candidate still struggling to write her dissertation. She apparently has published no peer-reviewed work and nothing on Jefferson himself. After repeated phone inquiries, she promised to call back with examples of her work but never did. In other writing, she has portrayed herself as a child of the civil-rights generation, identifying with the four young girls brutally murdered in the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Ala. Critics have charged that she was overly influenced by the work of Annette Gordon-Reed, whose book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, seemed to provide a road map for the subsequent Monticello study.
Other members included an architect, an archaeologist, a geneticist, the head guide and a communications officer. A medical doctor wrote a dissenting report, only to have it ignored when the majority report was first published. The only recognized historian in the group was staff researcher Lucia Stanton, known for her meticulous work on Jefferson’s notebooks.
But now after a year of study and deliberations a committee of 13 distinguished scholars — the cream of U.S. historical researchers — has released a 565-page report demonstrating in a gentlemanly way that almost all of Monticello’s presumptions are thin at best and based on shoddy scholarship, improbable assumptions and even doctored documents. The report was unanimous, although one professor expressed several minority reservations.
Moreover, another rebuttal issued at the same time by a third group, the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, took a tougher attack based on firsthand accounts of dissidents from the Monticello group as well as legal and philosophical arguments.
Is this just a tempest in an academic teapot? Not so, according to experts interviewed by Insight; it is a battle for the interpretation of America’s heritage and the way future generations view the founders of the nation. University of Virginia law professor Robert Turner, chairman of the distinguished scholars committee, is a man who cares deeply about such things. “For a few weeks, I thought the Monticello report was right,” he tells Insight. “But I went to a luncheon, and as we went around the room everybody said it was a poor piece of work. Then I downloaded it from the Web, and it read like an advocacy piece. I’ve been studying Jefferson for close to 30 years and I thought he deserved a fair hearing.”
Then Turner began to put together the group of Jefferson scholars to examine the evidence piece by piece —authors mostly with several Jefferson books to their credit, history department chairmen, directors of graduate studies [see sidebar]. “We had a diverse group,” says Turner. “I wanted people of exceptional ability. But I also wanted people of courage. I told them I don’t care what you think, but you must agree to pursue the truth.”
The scholars examined the evidence individually, then got together for 15 hours of face-to-face meetings. “We have found most of the arguments used to point suspicion toward Thomas Jefferson to be unpersuasive and often factually erroneous,” they wrote. “Not a single member of our group, after an investigation lasting roughly one year, finds the case against Thomas Jefferson to be highly compelling, and the overwhelming majority of us believe it is very unlikely that he fathered any children by Sally Hemings.”
Dan Jordan, the president of the newly rechristened Thomas Jefferson Foundation, is unperturbed: “The group includes some fine scholars. I’m sure their opinions will be thoughtful. We are open to new evidence and we will review the report carefully,” he tells Insight. Meanwhile Monticello guides continue to tout the new Jefferson as gospel-truth to visitors.
Monticello has retooled its board with glitterati such as NBC headliner Katie Couric, PBS history icon Michael Beschloss and John F. Cooke, former president of the Disney Channel and now a vice president of the J. Paul Getty Trust.
Yet Thomas A. Saunders III, a Southside Virginia boy who made good as a New York City investment banker, is chairman-elect of the board of trustees and chairman of the $100 million development campaign. A philanthropist who has lavished millions of dollars on his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, and his graduate school, the University of Virginia, he has not hesitated to kick off the Monticello capital campaign with a few millions of his own.
A Jefferson enthusiast, Saunders details to Insight a grand vision of what the foundation can do: “I am the beneficiary of the founding of a country that is extraordinary. For whatever reason, there was a collection of geniuses, a set of circumstances that quite fortuitously brought them together at the same time. I’ve been around the world in every corner in my career, and there is no other place on Earth that offers our opportunity for freedom and individual rights. The Founders got it right — they put together the checks and balances, the whole system. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t have a clue. That’s where the educational program of the foundation will help.”
But Saunders defends the internal Monticello committee report as the work of impartial scholars. “Of course it was discussed at board meetings,” he says, “but the board didn’t take any position on it.” Saunders bristles at the suggestion that a Jefferson paternity of Hemings children is a slur on his character. “You have to put everything into a proper context. Until you put it in context, I don’t think you are in a position to judge that relationship. Whether he had a relationship with Sally Hemings or not has no impact on what he did for this country and for democratic principles.”
Monticello critics beg to differ. David Murray is the director of the Statistical Assessment Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington devoted to the accurate use of scientific and social research in public-policy debate. He says: “It is hard to escape the concern that Thomas Jefferson has been enlisted, on the losing side, in a battle of cultural symbolism, where the sexual and racial elements of the story have been allowed to predominate, turning a quest for evidence into a moral referendum on the evils of slavery.”
Others don’t mince words either. “What we see is a deliberate and unforgivable attempt to destroy the reputation of one of this great nation’s greatest Founding Fathers. What makes this crime against our heritage the more reprehensible is that it was endorsed by the long-established institution that was founded to memorialize this man who is our most brilliant Founding Father,” says Bahman Batmanghelidj, an Iranian-born, Oxford-educated U.S. citizen who admires Jefferson’s principles precisely because of the experience of his native land. Indeed, he was a catalyst for organizing the Heritage group.
The immediate cause of the Monticello announcement was purportedly a Nov. 5, 1998, article in the British magazine Nature that DNA testing of male descendants of Eston Hemings, one of Sally’s illegitimate brood, disclosed a rare Y chromosome, known only in males of the Jefferson family. But unlike genetic testing of real subjects to prove actual paternity, no certainty could be established by the test in question. No recoverable DNA of Jefferson exists, and since he had only one son who died as an infant, he had no male line that could be tested. So researchers tested male descendants of Jefferson’s uncle, Field Jefferson, finding the Y marker. This implies it was passed into the family tree by Jefferson’s grandfather.
As a result, there were 25 male Jeffersons of an age to be considered a guilty party, eight of whom lived close enough to the plantation to be hot suspects. They are Jefferson himself, his brother Randolph, Randolph’s five sons (then in their late teens and early 20s) and a cousin, George — all of them frequent visitors to Monticello when Thomas was in residence. Although the Nature article itself made no claim that Thomas was the one, journalists gleefully pounced on the report as conclusive. At that time another president, William Jefferson Clinton, was in hot water over sexual improprieties. If the great TJ was a bounder, what was the big deal about Bill?
The DNA test was presented in the press as confirmation of the wild speculations of Jefferson biographer Fawn Brodie and Hollywood scenario writers. There is little documentary evidence of Sally anywhere. Her mother, Betty Hemings, was a slave owned by Jefferson’s father-in-law, John Wayles, and the personal servant to Martha Wayles before she married Jefferson. Sally was an infant when Betty came to Monticello with Martha. After Jefferson’s wife died, he went to Paris as U.S. minister, later sending for his two daughters. Unknown to Jefferson, the 14-year-old Sally was chosen to accompany the young girls. In the fervid imagination of those unencumbered by any evidence, Sally’s role in Paris was transformed into a dramatic love affair.
If so, no one in a Paris captivated by the famous visitor ever took note. There is no evidence that Sally even lived in Jefferson’s small Parisian residence; it is more likely she was quartered across town where she was a lady’s maid to the two girls who had been placed in a convent school. But there is no evidence for that either.
Upon Jefferson’s return and his election as president, the story started with James Thomson Callender in 1802, editor of the Richmond (Va.) Enquirer — a paper with a reputation not unlike that of the National Enquirer today: “It is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps and for many years has kept as his concubine, one of his own slaves. Her name is SALLY. The name of her eldest son is TOM. His features are said to bear a striking although sable resemblance to those of the President himself. …” Callender bore a grudge against Jefferson because the new president had declined to name him postmaster of Richmond. He also was a chronic alcoholic given to fits of depression who drowned a few weeks after writing those lines. Jefferson never dignified the accusation with any comment.
The descendants of a slave named Thomas Woodson have claimed for two centuries that he was Callender’s “Tom.” But their story was totally undone when the DNA study revealed that Woodson’s descendants showed no sign of the Jefferson Y chromosome.
If Sally did bear a son named Thomas, no record exists. But after five years she began a childbearing career of six children with no acknowledged father. During those years, Jefferson was away from Monticello approximately half the time during his career of public service to the nation. He kept meticulous records in journals of the days he left and arrived back. The Monticello committee pounced on a study purporting to show Jefferson’s arrivals at Monticello coincided with the time of the conception of Sally’s children.
But, as Murray has shown, the use of statistics in that study is deeply flawed. Moreover, other critics have pointed out that Jefferson’s arrivals also coincided with inundations of his friends and relatives, such as those nearby suspects, Randolph Jefferson and his sons. Indeed, it was noted at the time that Randolph, a man far simpler than his genius brother, often sat up late in the slave quarters in Monticello playing the fiddle for dancing. Jefferson seldom recorded the familiar visits of his relatives, so the Monticello committee says that there is no documentary proof that Randolph actually was visiting at the mansion during Sally’s conception window.
On the other hand, no documentary proof exists that Sally was at Monticello during those periods either. Workers often were sent to other plantations when the workload was light — as would be the case when Jefferson was away and the mansion locked up. If so, did Sally return at the same time as Jefferson? There is very little mention of Sally at all, except in routine notations of her name in supply lists distributed. No arguments can be drawn either way from a lack of records.
Nor is there any evidence that all of Sally’s children had the same father, or that any but Eston carried the Y Jefferson chromosome. There is no basis for the assumption that Jefferson was “likely the father of all six.”
By contrast, neither Sally nor her children ever made any affirmation that they had a family connection to Jefferson — except Madison Hemings who, 48 years later and living as a free man in Ohio, asserted to a radical Republican newspaper editor that all his mother’s children had been sired by Jefferson. So why is Monticello making common ground with Jefferson’s historic enemies?
The Distinguished Scholars Commission Says No
- Lance Banning
Professor of History,
University of Kentucky
- James Ceaser
Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs,
University of Virginia
- Robert H. Ferrell
Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus,
- Charles R. Kesler
Professor of Government,
Claremont McKenna College
- Harvey C. Mansfield
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government,
- David N. Mayer
Professor of Law and History,
- Forrest McDonald
Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus,
University of Alabama
- Thomas Traut
Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics School of Medicine,
University of North Carolina
- Robert F. Turner (Chairman)
Center for National Security Law,
University of Virginia School of Law
- Walter E. Williams
Professor of Economics,
George Mason University
- Jean Yarborough
Professor of Political Science,
- Paul Rahe
Jay P. Walker Professor of History,
University of Tulsa
-- Anonymous, May 03, 2001
Charles, it doesn't matter who has decided what, it has been proven by DNA testing of the decendents. Just goes to show how far some pwople will go to try to discredit the truth, all of thos "distingueshed" people's opinions mean no more than paula Gordon's opinions on embedded.
-- Anonymous, May 03, 2001
Heh, we don't want to let a little thing like DNA confuse him. Do you want to tell us how you're never wrong again, cpr?
-- Anonymous, May 03, 2001
NO Cherri!! It was NOT proved by DNA. Reread what CPR posted again:
The immediate cause of the Monticello announcement was purportedly a Nov. 5, 1998, article in the British magazine Nature that DNA testing of male descendants of Eston Hemings, one of Sally’s illegitimate brood, disclosed a rare Y chromosome, known only in males of the Jefferson family. But unlike genetic testing of real subjects to prove actual paternity, no certainty could be established by the test in question. No recoverable DNA of Jefferson exists, and since he had only one son who died as an infant, he had no male line that could be tested. So researchers tested male descendants of Jefferson’s uncle, Field Jefferson, finding the Y marker. This implies it was passed into the family tree by Jefferson’s grandfather. As a result, there were 25 male Jeffersons of an age to be considered a guilty party, eight of whom lived close enough to the plantation to be hot suspects. They are Jefferson himself, his brother Randolph, Randolph’s five sons (then in their late teens and early 20s) and a cousin, George — all of them frequent visitors to Monticello when Thomas was in residence.
The supposed proof was based on reporters not understanding what the DNA test really meant.
-- Anonymous, May 03, 2001
[Quote] They are Jefferson himself,...[Unquote]
There is no reason to believe it was anyone but him.
-- Anonymous, May 03, 2001
Let me make a wild guess. Your job doesn't involve molecular genetics. *<)))
-- Anonymous, May 03, 2001
Anyone but him? What an absurd statement when the article discusses **25 Candidates**
As a result, there were 25 male Jeffersons of an age to be considered a guilty party, eight of whom lived close enough to the plantation to be hot suspects. They are Jefferson himself, his brother Randolph, Randolph’s five sons (then in their late teens and early 20s) and a cousin, George — all of them frequent visitors to Monticello when Thomas was in residence
-- Anonymous, May 04, 2001
Interesting. Jefferson’s original tombstone stands about a block from my office. It is part of a memorial. Donated by the family sometime ago. I walk by it most days. The whole controversy still doesn’t ignite much of a fire of interest in my mind.
-- Anonymous, May 04, 2001