At Capitol, supporters defend Jefferson on his 266th birthday

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On the 266th anniversary of his birth, some of Thomas Jefferson's biggest fans are again speaking out on the controversy that followed him to his grave in 1826 and has been fodder for scandal ever since.

Meeting beneath a portrait of the Virginian in the state Capitol he designed more than 200 years ago, the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society today made the case against claims the nation's third president had an affair with slave Sally Hemings and with her, had several children after his wife's death.

But it wasn't just business for these Jefferson devotees. Led by the organization's president, Dr. William McKenzie Wallenborn of Charlottesville, they squeezed out three hearty "huzzahs" for the Sage of Monticello.

Three authors and researchers, addressing about 40 in the Capitol's yellow-green-and-white Jefferson Room, refuted DNA evidence from nearly a decade ago that has led some scholars and Jefferson buffs to conclude he and Hemings had a continuing liaison.

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Adrian Zolkover - 4/17/2009

Thomas Jefferson was arguably the person who did the most to establish democracy in the United States. Inaccuracies, untruths and lies about him are detrimental to him and to United State’s history. Martha Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s wife and mother of his children, died in 1782. Sally Hemings had her first child Harriet in 1795, when Sally was 22 years old. The following evidence is persuasive, convincing and leads to the opinion that Thomas Jefferson was NOT the father of any of Sally Heming’s children. I got my information from the books THE JEFFERSON-HEMINGS MYTH, AN AMERICAN TRAVESTY, published 2001 by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society; and the book JEFFERSON VINDICATED by Cynthia H. Burton, copyright and publication 2005, Library of Congress control #2005902894. I recommend reading these books. They present chronology charts; DNA test results; observations of witnesses, families, and contemporaries at Monticello.

1) Sally lived at Monticello from childhood through many child bearing years, and didn’t become pregnant until Sally was 22 years old, 13 years after Martha died.
2) Only Sally’s last child’s, Eston’s, DNA lineage has been tested; this was in 1998. The handling of blood samples and information is highly questionable. That test result shows Eston descended from Sally and A male Jefferson, not necessarily Thomas. Eston Heming’s DNA was tested from John Weeks Jefferson, whose family had always claimed lineage from “a Jefferson uncle”, meaning Randolph. Because Thomas Jefferson had no sons they must use the male Y chromosome from the DNA of his brother, nephews, male cousins, or another male carrying the Jefferson Y chromosome. They can’t trace this DNA lineage through generations of females.
3) Sally’s son Madison’s descendants, who were located after much effort, have refused to be DNA tested. We don’t know that a Jefferson fathered any other of Sally’s children.
4) The rumor that Sally was Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha’s half sister is just that, a rumor. The book ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL – THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE SALLY STORY by Rebecca L. McMurry and James F. McMurry, Jr. explores this issue. Page 116 Martha’s father John Wayle’s was born in Lancaster, England in 1715. Sally’s mother, Betty Hemings was born between the years 1725-1735. When John Wayles married the to-be Martha Wayles Jefferson’s mother, Martha Eppes Eppes, they made a prenuptial agreement in 1746 stating Betty Hemings belonged to Martha Eppes. Martha Wayles Jefferson was born in 1748. Martha Eppes died and John Wayles remarried in 1749. From reports and genealogy of the area and times, it is possible that Betty Hemings was of inter-racial ancestry. Much of the information reported by tainted journalists amounted to wives’ tales that did not stand up to the scrutiny of government records and statistics.
5) Even if we want to make the BIASED ASSUMPTION that more than Eston of Sally’s children was fathered by a Jefferson, it is again MOST UNLIKELY that Thomas was the Jefferson that fathered them.
6) Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris 1784, as the U.S. Ambassador to France, and was accompanied by his oldest daughter Martha who was 12 years old, and James Hemings. 1787. Three years later Jefferson’s other daughter Mary accompanied by Sally Hemings arrived in Paris. There Sally Hemings was introduced to the society of non-slave Negro friends of her older brother James. Thomas Jefferson and his family returned from Paris December 1789. Sally’s first child Harriet was born on October 5, 1795 when Thomas Jefferson was 52 years old; he was 65 years old when Eston, Sally’s last child, was born. In those days life expectancy was much shorter and people aged earlier, and had the ailments that may arrive with age. Thomas Jefferson had severe arthritis for many long years, and other ailments that appear with aging.
7) Thomas Jefferson’s younger brother Randolph Jefferson had become widowed between the years of 1796 and 1807. Randolph was born on October 1, 1755. He would have been between 41 and 52 years of age when his first wife died. Thomas Jefferson was born April 13, 1743 and was 12 ½ years older than Randolph. Eston, Sally’s last child, was born on May 21, 1808, when Randolph was about 52 ½ years old and Thomas was 65. When Jefferson retired to Monticello in 1809 after completing his second term as President, Sally quit having children. Randolph was remarried 1808 or early 1809, and after this Sally had no more children. Randolph’s oldest son, Thomas, married on October 3, 1808 and after this Sally had no more children. President Jefferson died July 4, 1826, when he was 83 years old.
8) Randolph’s residence and farm was 20 miles away from Monticello. Randolph had 5 sons, 4 of child bearing age in their early 20’s when Eston, Sally’s last child, was conceived. Randolph and his sons visited Monticello, and one or more of his sons periodically lived at Monticello. In the book JEFFERSON AT MONTICELLO by J. A. Bear, Jr., he reports that the slave Isaac reported that Randall was a simple man that used to come out among black people and play the fiddle and dance half the night. There are written historical statements from interviews with Thomas Jefferson and others expressing Randolph’s sometime lack of intelligence, character and personal discipline. Some writings indicate Randolph was somewhat intellectually retarded.
9) There were other male Jefferson relatives that visited Monticello. From a map it appears the Carrs lived less than 5 miles from Monticello. President Jefferson’s sister Lucy Jefferson Lewis and her family, and Martha Jefferson Randolph and her family lived almost adjacent to Monticello.
10) In archives is a letter dated August 12, 1807 where Thomas Jefferson writes to his brother Randolph that Randolph’s twin sister was then visiting Monticello and that he and his family were invited to visit, and also that Randolph was expected to deliver grass seed to Monticello. This was slightly more than 9 months before Eston’s birth. Randolph and his family likely visited at that time.
11) There is a journal of Thomas Jefferson’s letters; and when Jefferson was at home, at his insistence his daughter Martha J. Randolph, her husband (who managed Monticello) and their children (they had 12 children, one 13-14 years old around the time Sally became pregnant with Eston) lived at Monticello for the duration of his visit. Their own home was near to Monticello. Sometimes they arrived before he did. Also while Thomas was at Monticello, at times his sister and cousins visited.
12) Family letters express the great affection and respect the Jefferson family had for each other; and of Thomas Jefferson’s impeccable behavior regarding visibility of his living quarters and policies that servants were to be in his quarters only in his absence.
13) The whereabouts of the slaves was not at all times known. There were times when Sally helped out at estates neighboring Monticello.
14) Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772. She was a widower. They had 6 children. Only 3 lived beyond infancy, 2 beyond childhood. Martha Wayles Jefferson died in 1782. Their daughter Martha (Patsy) married Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. in 1790 and they had 12 children, and all survived childhood except 2 that died in infancy. They lived almost adjacent to Monticello. Martha Randolph lived until she was 64 years old. Their second surviving child, Mary (Maria, Polley), married John Wayles Eppes. They had 3 children and only one survived beyond age 3. Mary died giving birth when she was 26 years old. They lived about 60 miles from Monticello. President Jefferson’s sister Lucy Jefferson Lewis and her husband and children lived near Monticello.
15) When Martha Wayles Jefferson’s father died, they inherited his estate and slaves, and debts of what would now be over a million dollars that was paid for the slaves and secured by the slaves. President Jefferson died leaving considerable financial debts. Attorney Richard E. Dixon, author, page 160 “The Case Against Thomas Jefferson: A Trial Analysis of the Evidence on Paternity” THE JEFFERSON-HEMINGS MYTH “Jefferson’s financial situation would have prevented his freeing his slaves under Virginia law. It may also be that he would have let more or all go but for the legal claim of his creditors.” And laws made it difficult for ex-slaves to survive. After being freed Sally’s brother James became an alcoholic and committed suicide. Page 185 In a published article Madison, Sally’s 4th and next to youngest child, speaks of Jefferson “He was hardly ever known to get angry… He was uniformly kind to all about him being kind to all at all times.” Jefferson’s writings about human rights transcend his own circumstances and time.

He wrote in several articles that he thought miscegenation, bearing multi racial children, was degrading to all races involved. This was written at a time when slavery was legal and he held senior government offices. Within Monticello the slaves probably led a comfortable life; but when he died he was badly in debt. He freed some of the more senior slaves. The remaining slaves were considered part of the assets used as collateral for his inherited debts. And when slaves were freed there was an abundance of laws to prevent their gainful employment, and they had to leave Virginia.

If he were having an affair with Sally why didn’t she become pregnant before she was 22 years old, or during the 13 years after Thomas’s wife died, or in the many years he lived at Monticello after retiring as President 1809-1826? Sally had her first child in 1797 and last child 1808; Randolph was a widower 1796-1808. And Randolph had 4 sons of child bearing age when Sally became pregnant and they sometimes lived in or visited Monticello. Randolph’s oldest son married in 1808. And Randolph was known to have a somewhat retarded intellect. And he enjoyed “fiddling” around with the slaves. That President Jefferson was the father of even one of her children is possible, but I think most unlikely. Some might be of the opinion that the difference is only academic; that what big difference would there be if Thomas and Sally, two consenting adults, had a sexual relationship? I think it would have been much out of character for the brilliant, most principled, most important and dashing man, who was close with his and Martha’s children, to have a sexual relationship with a family slave Sally; for whom he held enough personal regard to have her help raise his children. I think there would be many accomplished, Caucasian, not slave women, who would be desirous of Thomas Jefferson’s attentions. From Sally’s point of view I think the statements from scholarly spin masters who (twist, manipulate, and ignore an overabundance of evidence to the contrary) state that Thomas Jefferson was, or even was most likely, the father of Eston and or Sally’s other children is degrading to Sally, as well as to President Jefferson, as well as to United States history.

And some of the “scholars” that state in writing and lectures that he was the father of Eston and or more of her children are those that own and work for Monticello and are professors at the University of Virginia, both institutions that were founded by Thomas Jefferson. They have a fundamental responsibility not to lie and deface their founder Thomas Jefferson. They have changed the name from The Monticello Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation to The Monticello Thomas Jefferson Foundation. With its present administration, I think the Monticello Corporation has no reason to continue as a public facility representing Thomas Jefferson, its founder, or United States history. Academia would be better off without those that misstate, deceive, lie, and prosecute their institutions’ founder, instead of presenting the available information and wherever it may lead. They should be removed from their positions of responsibility. I conclude that because Thomas Jefferson was an extraordinarily brilliant, principled, judicious and discerning person, and because of much additional evidence which supports my conclusion, it is extremely unlikely that President Jefferson would have had a sexual relationship with, and or impregnated Sally Hemings. As multiple public records show, and as these scholars would have known, there were many other male Jeffersons, some adolescent or in their early 20’s, frequently at Monticello when Thomas Jefferson was there, and particularly during the time when Sally became pregnant with Eston, who could have been the father of Eston. And as to the rest of her children, there may have been several different fathers, as reported was so with Sally’s mother.

I emphatically question the motives of people who have an agenda to publish BIASED AND MISINFORMING opinions and conclusions [and to the extent that they ignore most pertinent scientific evidence and historic evidence, LIES] about the very person who probably did the most, in his day, to end slavery. Jefferson wrote numerous articles, including his first draft of the Declaration of Independence (exhibits are available), where he states that slavery is “a cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty” and that slavery is “an assemblage of horrors”. They made him delete his opinions about slavery from his draft of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was arguably our most significant founding father. He was the most instrumental in establishing democracy with the new idea that he first wrote in the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Additionally “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

(Ms.) Adrian Zolkover

Herbert Barger - 4/17/2009

As a Jefferson family historian who assisted Dr. E.A. Foster with the Jefferson-Hemings DNA Study and Founder, Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, I was extremely happy that the public is now hearing that the DNA Study was a study in altering attitudes toward Mr. Jefferson. Dr Foster and I found NO proof that TJ fathered slave children.

He tested a KNOWN carrier of Jefferson DNA, John Weeks Jefferson, ancestral grandson of Eston Hemings. That family had never claimed descent from THOMAS but his brother Randolph, who was known to TJ's grandchildren and their slave playmates as "UNCLE RANDOLPH." I have a copy of a Hemings letter in which the writer states that they always claimed descent from a "Jefferson uncle or a nephew." The match could NOT fail under these circumstances. The original originator and the lady who financed part of the early research died recently, knowing that she was not treated fair by Dr Foster in that he promised the results for her Jefferson Book. She asked, "Gene is it money that you want? His reply was NO....FAME. He got his fame and you Mr and Mrs citizen, got "the shaft."
Needless to state that their friendship was ended.

I informed Dr Foster that Nature must hear of other suspects and suggested he inform them of this..........HE DID NOT, thus the false headline, "Jefferson fathers slaves last child." Had they have had this vital information they could NOT have issued this "negotiated" title with Dr. Foster.

Later he gave this amateurish study with the false headline, to Dr. Dan Jordan, Monticello President who appointed an African-American ORAL history specialist to be Chairman of his Monticello Study Group. This was a biased group as revealed by Dr. Ken Wallenborn whose Minority Report was "hidden under the rug" and not revealed with the original study release. You may read of this and the results of the Scholars Commission Report from web page: My own web page at reveals even more of the MISHANDLING and outright attempts to paint Mr. Jefferson as a father of slave children.

Annette Gordon-Reed has recently published a book, The Hemingses of Monticello in which she BOLDLY states that Thomas Jefferson fathered 7 of Sally's children. This is a statement without merit and there is NO proof to back it up. Politically correct attempts to revise our country's history is underway today from many quarters and will continue.

I call upon responsible historians and the lay public citizens to contact Monticello and DEMAND a more thorough review of this biased finding. Authors go to Monticello for research and ASSUME they are getting factual reporting, but I caution that their summary of TJ fathering not only probably one (I explain above how this was determined), but possibly ALL of Sally's children. There was NO match of the Jefferson/Woodson DNA (the major Campaign Lie of James Callender in 1802.) There is absolutely NO call for this type of confusing stance. ONLY ONE Hemings was tested so why that "ALL" statement. You, the public MUST stand up and be counted in assisting to get this FALSE image of Mr. Jefferson corrected. This Thomas Jefferson Foundation (the word MEMORIAL, has since been dropped from their title), may own his home but WE the people own this great man's legacy! I will assist any historian in publishing a book to expose this agenda.

Herbert Barger
Jefferson Family Historian