Happy Secession Day, Independence Day, and July 4th! As we celebrate our respective States and their much-cherished sovereignties, let’s look to the generation that seized destiny this fateful day in 1776.
Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant, if controversial figure. Some controversy is warranted (his views on religion) while others may be manufactured. Anne Coulter addresses the oft-espoused narrative that Jefferson fathered children with his slave, Sally Hemings:
In 1998, a retired pathologist, Dr. Eugene Foster, performed a DNA test on the Y-chromosomes of living male descendants of Sally Hemings, as well as those from Jefferson’s paternal uncle. The Y-chromosome is passed from male to male, so, if the story were true, Hemings’ male descendants ought to have the Y-chromosome of the Jefferson male bloodline.
What the DNA tests showed was that Hemings’ firstborn son, Tom—the Tom whose alleged paternity was the basis for Callender’s accusation—was not related to any Jefferson male.
Foster’s study did establish that Hemings’ last-born son, Eston, was the son of some Jefferson male, but could not possibly say whether that was Thomas Jefferson or any of the other 25 adult male Jeffersons living in Virginia at the time, eight of them at or near Monticello.
As Coulter notes, the DNA evidence is inconclusive that Jefferson fathered a child with Hemings. Other evidence points to other members of the Jefferson tree:
The science alone puts the odds of Thomas Jefferson fathering Eston at less than 15%—less than 4%, if all living Jefferson males are considered, not just the ones at Monticello.
All other known facts about Jefferson make it far less probable still.
There are no letters, diaries or records supporting the idea that Jefferson was intimate with Hemings, and quite a bit of written documentation to refute it, including Jefferson’s views on miscegenation and his failure to free Hemings in his will, despite freeing several other slaves.
In private letters, Jefferson denounced Callender’s claim—a denial made more credible by his admission to a sexual indiscretion that would have been more shameful at the time: his youthful seduction of a friend’s wife.
None of the private correspondence from anyone else living at Monticello credited the Hemings rumor, though several pointed to other likely suspects—specifically Jefferson’s brother, Randolph.
Eston was born in 1808, when Thomas Jefferson was 64 years old and in his second term as president.
Those who should be defending Jefferson’s reputation (or at least listing the facts) have shamelessly capitulated to the present narrative, driven along by the desires of a minority of special interests:
In response to DNA proof that only one of Hemings’ children was related to any Jefferson male—and her firstborn son was definitely NOT fathered by any Jefferson—the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the Monticello Association and the National Genealogical Society promptly announced their official positions: Thomas Jefferson fathered all six of Hemings’ children! Guided tours of Monticello today include the provably false information that Jefferson fathered all of Hemings’ children.
Still, we should rest easy knowing that truth does not bend to man’s will, but stands strong throughout the ages.
Flawed man or not, Jefferson is ours.
Happy Independence Day!