Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

During the 18th America was dealing with independence from Europe and trying to establish them as a strong country. As far as government goes no a monarchal government was not in question. Many people saw great opportunity to step up and contribute ideas that will make America into the country of preference. One of these men was 3rd president and member of the original founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. While most Americans view Thomas Jefferson as an upstanding and honorable man. He was plagued with the moral contradiction of having fathered children with one of his slaves Sally Heming’s and as a result spurred a great deal of controversy. As a result of his action’s Jefferson’s virtuous demeanor is questioned and shows how hypocritical he is.

Peter Jefferson, a planter turned legislature in the Virginia House of Burgesses and Jane Randolph, daughter of a rich distinguished Virginia family are the parents of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was born April 3 1743, at Shadwell, his family farm in Albemarle County Virginia. Growing up he was taught discipline and self-perseverance. His father taught him how to read, write and also how to do a numerous amount of outdoor activities. However he soon had to put his child behavior behind him and without warning take over being the man of the household. 1757 Thomas Jefferson, is 14 and has to faces the death of his father. With being the oldest male Thomas Jefferson had to now take responsibilities over his younger siblings. Unable to enjoy his youth like he used to Jefferson found satisfaction in horseback riding playing his instruments and taking walks in the company of his sister Jane.

Like most young men in this time he attended private schools and was provided with the best tutors where he studied several languages. Education became Jefferson’s top priority. In 1760 he enrolled at the college of William and Mary located in Williamsburg Virginia. “Jefferson often referred to his college town as devilsburg.” When most young men where out drinking Jefferson was preferred to be in his books studying. It’s no surprise that he excelled in such subjects as calculus, Greek, Spanish, grammar, and classical literature. William and Mary granted him an honorary degree in 1782. After college Jefferson went on to study law with George Wythe. He practiced law from 1761 to 1774.

Thomas Jefferson did not believe in racial equality, and thought that blacks were intellectually inferior. However in one of the most important documents in American history is the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson himself, he says ”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by there creator…” Jefferson knew that his ownership of slaves contradicted his principles. What Jefferson wanted most was for slaves to one day be free, he wanted them to go back to Africa. He refused to grant freedom to his own slaves because of their significances to his wealth, but overall he condemned slavery.

Thomas Jefferson began building Monticello in 1770, his estate that was more than 10,000 acres. Over 180 slaves occupied and cared his estate while he was away. In 1772 he married Martha Wayles Skleton and moved her into his home at Monticello. Martha came from a well-established family; John Wayles her father was a well-known lawyer. Along with Martha came the company of her slave who also happened to be her half sister. Sally Hemings was the daughter of John Wayles and his slave Betty Hemings.

After Thomas Jefferson’s wife died there were rumors speculating that he was secretly involved with one of his salves intimately. James Callender took the liberty to write about this controversy in the Richmond Recorder. Callender writes “It’s well known that the man, whom it delighteeth the people to honor, keeps for many years in his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is Sally…By this wench Sally, our president has had several children.” Many people began to respond to this statement. Abolitionists used this scandal as an example for the corruption of slavery. Many Americans did not accept the affair but they knew that there was truth to it. In the widely read 1839 A diary in America by Frederick Marryat, he writes, “It is a well-known fact that a considerable portion of Mr. Jefferson’s slaves were his own children.”

When Thomas went to France as an ambassador he brought with him his daughter and his slave Sally. According to Sally’s son Madison during an interview for the Ohio newspaper in 1873, Sally was the maidservant for Jefferson’s daughter Polly. In 1789 Sally was just 16 when she became pregnant with her first son. By French law Sally had the choice to stay in France as a free woman, instead she chose to go back to the states with Jefferson. Sally agreed to go back with Jefferson under certain conditions. She was to be granted “extraordinary privileges”, and that her children be emancipated the day they reach the age of 21. Madison goes on to say that Sally had three more sons and one daughter to no other man but Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was very devoted and hard working when it came down to politics. Jefferson sailed home to Monticello from France October 1789. President George Washington requested that Thomas Jefferson take the position as the first secretary state. Intrigued by the idea of separating governmental power into three branches Jefferson quickly obliged. With the constitutions lack of protection for individual rights and the concern of the governments overall power made Jefferson apprehensive about America’s government.

Disagreements between treasurer Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson about the National Bank led to the having the Federalists led by Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans led by Jefferson. Jefferson left office in 1796, because ne believed that President Washington favored Hamilton’s policies better.
Thomas Jefferson won the presidential election of 1800, making him the 3rd president of the United States. “He used time to readjust his principles to terminate his goals that caused to denounce him as an untrustworthy demagogue.” Governing by his republican ideals of limited power in the federal government. Jefferson decreased the number of federal officials, and reduced the size of the army. Some accomplishments that Jefferson made as a president was he restored a republican government that “protected liberty, equality of opportunity, freedom of conscience, and consent of the governed.”

Despite the rumors about his Jefferson’s personal life he never let that show in the workplace. Jefferson’s daughters by his late wife Martha denied the allegations that he could have fathered any of Sally Heming’s children. However people were still curious about if there was any truth to the rumors about his relationship with his slave Sally. An African-American lawyer named Brodie studied journals and letters from the summer of 1788, in which he found evidence of Jefferson’s attraction his young slave. This is the evidence that Brodie came across “his bursts of envious admiration for the patriarch Abraham in a painting of him and his concubine, Hagar, who was also his wife’s servant.” Centuries later thanks to advance science and technologies Eugene Foster, a retied pathologist, performed DNA testing. He collected blood samples from 14 men, both and white from men who claim to be decedents of Thomas Jefferson. Eugene Foster writes, “The largely unchanging Y (male) chromosomes of Jefferson’s white decedents, almost precisely match those of descendents of Heming’s last son Eston. Who was born at Monticello in 1808.” Suprisengly the DNA didn’t match Sally’s first son Tom, who most people thought to be Jefferson’s son.

Thomas Jefferson can be viewed as honorable and others can view him hypocritical. What’s most certain is that it is not so easy for people to trust the judgements of someone who contradicts himself. As a part of human nature it is normal to make mistakes. It is also typical for humans to accept that a person will make mistakes and at one point in life everyone will. . Most Americans believe that regardless of his personal behaviors Jefferson remains heroic for his work he accomplished. Although when you are someone like Thomas Jefferson who is a politician and a lawmaker, and perform actions that goes against your beliefs it could leave some doubt about your character and whether or not you believed in the principles you stress.

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