Paula Abeles responds

Paula Abeles, who I’ve written about twice, responded in the comments late last night to one of the posts about her. Since I consider myself to be “fair” and “honorable” (okay, well, at least fair),  I’ve linked the reference to the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society web site referenced in her comment for easier access and I’ll give her the floor without editorializing, although I will be researching this issue more in the near future.  Here’s her comment in full:

This is Paula Abeles and let’s get this straight. I understand fair people might be confused about this issue because of the media’s sensationalized reporting of the Jefferson? Hemings issue—but these facts are irrefutable.
1. It was NOT a racial issue. The only Hemings descendent that had a DNA match and applied to the group was WHITE.
2. When the “Hemings descendents”—many of whom are not even descendents of Sally—couldn’t prove their case in court or to the membership—they resorted to threats to do everything possible to disrupt and sandbag the meetings.
3. Bloggers of both sides assumed identities to gain information from the other side. Everyone whose been on-line knows what this is like. The wife of the President of the Hemings family group posed as a young white reporter.

You may disagree with the decision—honorable people can disagree—but both sides had facts on their side—and the decision was made on available data (see for info on DNA and Scholar’s Commission that reviewed all the historical evidence).

Comment by PaulaAbeles on 06/21/08 at 12:54 AM

Feel free to post any additional info you may find in the comments, but please keep it civil (and absolutely no posting of personal info is allowed). Paula could have stormed in here slinging threats of lawsuits or making fun of the fact that I dress like a fourteen-year-old (I do), but she chose to take the high road and we should, too.

MORE: My ol’ pal Poputonian, former regular contributer at Digby’s Hullabaloo, a thoroughly reliable analyst, and an all-around great person, has contributed a rebuttal below in comments that’s worth a read. [UPDATE: Make that several rebuttals.  Thanks, Pop!  Sorry, prior commitments will keep me from participating today.]

Posted by Kevin K. on 06/21/08 at 07:20 AM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBarack ObamaElection '08St. McSamePoliblogs

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I’m setting aside my snarky nature to make a very serious comment here. This woman and the people she associates with are pathetic. I’ve studied Jefferson closely enough, before and after the DNA tests proved that Hemings and Jefferson blood was mixed, to know she is a self-delusional, racist denier, whose brain functions like the brains of the intelligent design nut-balls. They use mock trials and other non-scientific evidence to “prove” the fantasy they so desperately wish for. A short visit to the link she provided confirmed this for me.

For those who haven’t followed the Jefferson-Hemings case, Annette Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Professor of Law at New York Law School. She is black. Gordon-Reed used evidence-based research that was scholarly, both from a legal standpoint, and also from an historical standpoint, to evaluate the case of Hemings and Jefferson. Her most excellent book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy was published in 1997, before the DNA tests. Because of my interest in history, I read the book (before the DNA tests) and concluded based on the evidence that Thomas Jefferson had fathered all of Sally Hemings known children. While there was a mountain of circumstantial evidence all of which led to the same conclusion, the key for me was the memoir of Madison Hemings, their son, published in an Ohio Newspaper in 1873 (link below), along with the evidence that always put Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings in the same place at the approximate time of conception of each of their children.

Interestingly, in the preface to her book, Gordon-Reed anticipated her deniers:

I approach this task as a law professor and lawyer looking at how professionals in other disciplines—historians and, to a lesser extent, journalists—analyze and use items of evidence and the concept of proof. My look at the writing on this subject suggests that some scholars and commentators, when confronting the Jefferson-Hemings controversy, often use terms such as evidence, proof, and burden of proof, as a way of demonstrating the serious nature of the enterprise in which they are engaged. However, there seems to be come confusion about what those terms and phrases actually mean and how they are most effectively and fairly used.

Consider the difference between the nature of evidence and the nature of proof. Evidence goes toward establishing proof. By way of analogy, evidence can be described as the bricks that go into making up a wall of proof. Some scholars and commentators, who almost invariably approach the subject of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings in a defensive posture, have demanded that every brick of evidence that the two might have had a relationship amount to its own individual wall of proof. If the item of evidence offered does not itself add up to proof, they deem it to be “no evidence,” or alternatively, never mention it at all. Demanding that individual items of evidence amount to proof sets a standard that can only be met in the rarest of circumstances, either in history or in the law. There are, no doubt, many things that have been designated historical truths on the basis of far less evidence than exists on this matter.

Abeles and her fellow deniers refute the bricks and ignore the wall.

I also read a Jefferson biography called American Spinx, which was written before the DNA tests by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph J. Ellis. The intent of Ellis’ book was not to conclude about the likelihood of a Jefferson-Hemings liaison, but Ellis nonetheless rendered an opinion in an appendix to the book. I have to go by memory because I don’t have the book here, but my recollection is that Ellis acknowledged the extraordinary work of Gordon-Reed, and the quality of evidence presented by her, and admitted it could well be true, but said he had a hard time believing, culturally and politically, that Jefferson would have had a sexual liaison with one of his slaves. While Ellis hedged and acknowledged his uncertainty on the matter, he believed it unlikely that Jefferson had fathered Hemings’ children.

Then came the DNA tests, in 1999, which proved that Hemings blood contained Jefferson DNA. The deniers argue that the Jefferson DNA could have come from any male Jefferson who was related by blood to Thomas. This is true, but only one male Jefferson was always in the right place, at the right time to be the father of Sally Hemings’ children. Yes, that’s right, it’s the TJ we know and love. In other words, the DNA tests became the evidentiary mother-of-all-bricks in an amazing wall of proof that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings’ children. Only the most racist, pure-white believing, faith-like, creationist-out-of-whole-cloth denier could go to the lengths Abeles and her ilk have to deny the truth that stands before them.

And the Pulitzer winning Joseph J. Ellis now acknowledges that Jefferson fathered Hemings’ children. You can read his comment from 2000 here. He says:

How then to put it? To say that Jefferson’s paternity of several Hemings children is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” sounds about right ... the new scholarly consensus is that Jefferson and Hemings were sexual partners.

Madison Hemings’ amazing 1873 memoir is here at Frontline on

Abeles is a corrosively defensive nutball who will deny a wall of proof that towers before her so that she might fulfill her own wish in her own brain.

Comment by poputonian on 06/21/08 at 10:40 AM

Thanks, Kev, for the update above. Here’s another one that I think might really make some heads explode: I believe Thomas Jefferson loved Sally Hemings. Now, being the smart, open-mined guy I am, I know there aren’t enough bricks in this particular wall to constitute proof of love, but there are enough bricks to indicate their liaison lasted more than thirty years. Also, there are enough bricks to indicate TJ fathered all of Sally’s children. And finally, as to the love, here is what Madison Hemings wrote about his father, which he no doubt learned from his mother:

He had sons born to him, but they died in early infancy, so he then had but two children—Martha and Maria. The latter was left home, but afterwards was ordered to follow him to France. She was three years or so younger than Martha. My mother accompanied her as a body servant. When Mr. Jefferson went to France Martha was just budding into womanhood. Their stay (my mother’s and Maria’s) was about eighteen months. But during that time my mother became Mr. Jefferson’s concubine, and when he was called back home she was enciente by him. He desired to bring my mother back to Virginia with him but she demurred. She was just beginning to understand the French language well, and in France she was free, while if she returned to Virginia she would be re-enslaved. So she refused to return with him. To induce her to do so he promised her extraordinary privileges, and made a solemn pledge that her children should be freed at the age of twenty-one years. In consequence of his promise, on which she implicitly relied, she returned with him to Virginia.

I suppose a case could be made that TJ was just really horny, but given that Sally was the half-sister to his deceased wife Martha Wales, I’m imagining Sally as a Halle Berry look-alike and someone who TJ could have been quite enamored with. I know I don’t know enough to claim TJ loved her, so I won’t claim proof, but it’s how I want to see Jefferson and until there is evidence to suggest otherwise, it is what I will believe about him.

One more and I’ll quit. Annette Gordon-Reed has written a new book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which is set to be published in September.

This epic work tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family’s dispersal after Jefferson’s death in 1826. It brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson but also their children and Hemings’s siblings, who shared a father with Jefferson’s wife, Martha. The Hemingses of Monticello sets the family’s compelling saga against the backdrop of Revolutionary America, Paris on the eve of its own revolution, 1790s Philadelphia, and plantation life at Monticello. Much anticipated, this book promises to be the most important history of an American slave family ever written.

Now, take a peek at advance praise for the book (note that two of the reviewers, Ellis and Morgan, are Pulitzer winners) and consider this against claims made by Abeles:

“Annette Gordon-Reed has broken a path into territory that has hitherto eluded historians: what happens to intimate human relations, those between lover and loved, parent and child, brother and sister, when one among them is enslaved to another. In a richly detailed narrative of events, public and private, she reconstructs the feelings of the participants: Thomas Jefferson, his slave mistress, and her blood relatives. The result is not simply a fascinating story in itself, but a new perspective on how the humanity of slaves and a slave owner could adjust and survive in circumstances designed to obliterate it. We have had other studies of master-slave relationships, but none that has penetrated to the depth of this one.”—Edmund S. Morgan, author of American Slavery

“Thomas Jefferson often described his slaves at Monticello as ‘my family.’ Annette Gordon-Reed has taken that description seriously. Surely more seriously than Jefferson ever intended! The result, the story of the Hemings family, is the most comprehensive account of one slave family ever written. It is not a pretty story, but it is poignant beyond belief. And it demonstrates conclusively that we must put aside Gone With the Wind forever and begin to study Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom.”—Joseph J. Ellis, author of American Sphinx

“This is not only a riveting history of a slave family on a grand scale, it is also a rarely seen portrait of the family in the Big House, with a remarkable account of the relationship of white and black families. This work catapults Gordon-Reed into the very first rank of historians of slavery.”—John Hope Franklin, author of From Slavery to Freedom

“Jefferson’s Monticello is a great American icon. But this book allows us to see the place as never before—as the Hemingses’ Monticello. And when Jefferson is in Paris, so are James and Sally Hemings. From years of painstaking research and deep personal engagement with all the Jefferson controversies, Annette Gordon-Reed has crafted a brave, compelling, and moving family saga about slavery and freedom. This is a thoroughly human story about an inhuman institution, told from the inside looking out. Jefferson owned the Hemingses and fathered some of them as he tried to scientifically manage their lives and labor in minute detail; Gordon-Reed never lets us forget that. But more importantly, this work is a beautifully written, textured story about race, tragedy, and sometimes hope—America’s story. If this country has a modern Shakespeare looking for material, Gordon-Reed has provided it.”—David W. Blight, author of A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation

“Annette Gordon-Reed is a prodigiously gifted historian and The Hemingses of Monticello is her masterpiece. Bringing the Hemings family out of the shadows and into vibrant life, Gordon-Reed restores them to their proper role at Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home. As she reconstructs the lives and times of Elizabeth Hemings, her children, among them, James and Sally, and many, many other family members, Gordon-Reed illuminates the history of slavery and race in the Old Dominion. Jefferson’s Virginia—and Jefferson himself—will never look the same again.”—Peter Onuf, author of Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood and The Mind of Thomas Jefferson

“Annette Gordon-Reed’s splendid achievement will have the last word on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, for one cannot imagine another historian matching her exhaustive research and interpretive balance.”—David Levering-Lewis, author of W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century

About the Author
Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University. She is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. She lives in New York City.

I did notice that one of the “experts” at the link Abeles referenced was some legal dude from Alabama. Gosh, the truth about Jefferson and Hemings is such a tough call.

Comment by poputonian on 06/21/08 at 12:09 PM

Very interesting and convincing.  John Hope Franklin is God.

I don´t think Mrs. Abeles will be posting anymore rebuttals here.  She appears to be a lost cause…

Nice work Poputonian!!

Why a Halle Berry look-a-like?

No factual basis for imagining Sally Hemings as a Halle Berry look alike. There are no known images that exist of her. But Jefferson seemed like a fairly handsome man, so I assume his wife Martha Wayles was attractive. Sally Hemings and Martha Wayles were half sisters, and some have theorized that Sally might have looked like Martha. So as Sally was maybe attractive and had one white parent and one black, my thoughts go to a fine-featured and attractive mixed race person in pop-culture, such as Halle Berry. Nothing more than that.

I should note I made a typo in the third post and that the Pulitzer Prize winning historians were Joseph J. Ellis and Edmund S. Morgan.  I inadvertently wrote Gordon as the second of the two.

[KEVIN K.—Since this post is getting a lot of traffic, I fixed the typo in poputonian’s comment above.]

Summary of Editorial in The Washington Post
On May 30, 1999, the Ombudsman of The Washington Post, E. R. Shipp, ran an editorial chastising its own reporters, as well as other journalists elsewhere, for failing to make clear what is fact and what is speculation regarding the results of the Jefferson/Hemings DNA test.

The results of the DNA test showed that “A” Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings but not which Jefferson. E. R. Shipp cites eight different articles that ran in The Post and complained that journalists were reporting that it was “in fact” Thomas Jefferson.

She quotes Herbert Barger who says “I don’t believe there will ever be a way of saying for sure” and comments that “reporters and headline writers should be so honest”.


The Washington Post
Reporting on Jefferson
By E. R. Shipp
Sunday, May 30, 1999; Page B06

If my great grandmother told me I was related to the Queen of England, that does not give me an automatic invitation to Christmas at Balmoral - especially if I had previously been included on sufferance but disrupted the proceedings and behaved badly.  Would you think that because the Queen didn’t want me back it showed she was a sexist, anti-irish, or hates lawyer?  Hopefully not.  So why do you automatically assume the only reason the Hemings weren’t included must be racism?  The Hemings descendents have no “right” to attend a purely private function, and given their bad behavior and machinations to party-crash, they were no longer welcome.  That’s not racism, that’s freedom of association. 
Unfortunately, the first time these allegations came to light, to spare annoyance to her family, my sister choose to “ride it out”.  This time she is not going to do that.  She did nothing wrong, but has vilified by your report.  Prior to his “blog”, Mr. Smith had several e-mail conversations with Paula, and even had her home number, but he didn’t even bother to ask her about the AP article, to confirm or deny - which was the very least he could have done. 
Liese Howarth
P.S. Lest you are inclined to dismiss me as merely another racist by association, until all this started, I supported and donated to Senator Obama.  However, given the acts of his supporters, perhaps I should judge him by company he keeps and reconsider my choice.

More about Sally Hemings’ appearance; this from page 160 of Gordon-Reed’s first book:

As the daughter of a man who was white and a woman who was half-white, Sally Hemings was, according to the racial classifications of the day, a quadroon. She was described as being nearly white in appearance with “straight hair down her back.” According to the accounts of slaves who lived on the plantation and Jefferson’s grandson, she was considered to be very beautiful, so much so that she was known as “Dashing Sally.” As a Hemings who worked in the big house, she was at the top of the hierarchy of Monticello and spent her years running errands for Martha Jefferson.

Ms. Howarth,

However, given the acts of his supporters, perhaps I should judge him by company he keeps and reconsider my choice.

If that’s all it takes for you to reconsider, this Obama supporter does not think you were all too serious about it to begin with.

and spent her years running errands for Martha Jefferson.

Sorry, peeps, another typo - this should say:

“and spent her early years running errands for Martha Jefferson.”

I won’t go into a presentation of the evidence that the gifted lawyer and historian Annett Gordon-Reed accumulated to make the case of a Jefferson-Hemings liaison, but would encourage anyone interested to obtain a copy of her book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. It’s available in any library and in all the chain bookstores.

That said, Ms. Howarth’s comment hardly warrants any response from me, as she and the people she associates with are dedicated to the pursuit of a lost cause (see below.) But the Pulitzer winning historian Joseph J. Ellis did write something in 2000 (see link above) that does deal with the likes of these dead-enders:

To be sure, the DNA evidence establishes probability rather than certainty. A spirited rebuttal has been mounted by the Jefferson genealogist Herbert Barger, suggesting that Randolph Jefferson or his son Isham (Jefferson’s brother and nephew, respectively) is a more likely candidate. No one had mentioned Randolph Jefferson as a possible alternative before the DNA study. He is being brought forward now because he fits the genetic profile. This belated claim strikes me as a kind of last stand for the most dedicated Jefferson loyalists. If history were a courtroom, the Barger explanation would constitute a desperate appeal to the jury designed to generate sufficient doubt in the minds of enough jurors to block a guilty verdict. It might serve that purpose among the white descendants of the Jefferson family, permitting them to deny requests from Hemings descendants for inclusion in the family burial plot at Monticello. And if there are any surviving members of that informal organization half-jestingly called the “Monticello Mafia,’’ they can plausibly claim that the genetic evidence is inconclusive. Historians of the Lost Cause syndrome will recognize the poignant fusion of sincerity and futility at work here.

Again, Gordon-Reed had already made the case with a massive accumulation of evidentiary bricks that constituted, when taken together, a wall of proof that Jefferson and Hemings were family. The DNA study added scientific evidence to the prior primary and documentary evidence that there was Jefferson blood mixed with Hemings blood. Case closed.

Quoting Annette Gordon-Reed and Joseph Ellis as the basis for your rebuttals should concern any fair-minded person. I don’t believe in ad hominem attacks—but Annette Gordon-Reed has been censured by the academic community (although arguably not sufficiently) for 3 critical factual “distortions” in the primary source evidence cited for her book.

First of all, she changed words in a letter from Ellen Randolph Coolidge to implicate Jefferson (the original exonerates him). She touted the relevance and knowledge of Madison Hemings—only to find out she changed critical aspects of Samuel Wetmore’s interview with Madison Hemings—to clean up “mistakes” in the factual record (as just one example: he says his grandmother was an African—Gordon-Reed corrected it to read Great-Grandmother)

Gordon-Reed has claimed these were typos—-but typos do not usually strengthen someone’s historical case—and there are not usually multiple examples of it.

All things being equal, Gordon-Reed would have been thrown out on her proverbial ear for fraudulently presenting doctored primary source documents as originals. As to Ellis—suffice it to say he has his own problems with truthfulness—apart from the fiction he spreads about Jefferson.

Lastly, to address the first issue raised, the 13 scholars on the Scholars Commission were prominent Jefferson historians (Gordon-Reed is a law professor not historian)—including the Chair of Government at Harvard.

Ms. Gordon-Reed makes a compelling case—it’s true—but it’s a lawyer’s case—-all the facts in support of her position (and more than a few massaged to fit) and nothing that would tend to discredit it. Hardly fair or balanced.

No one disputes the DNA evidence which linked Eston Hemings to a Jefferson male—but there were 27 Jefferson males in close proximity at the time. That the father was 64 year old Thomas—suffering from prostate problems known to cause impotency—is hardly a slam dunk. Mr. Poputonian claims there was a ‘love affair”—but the DNA completely discredits his proposition. Fans of the movie “Jefferson In Paris” will recognize that the most likely candidate as Thomas’s son was the child conceived in Paris—referred to in James Callendar’s original smears as “Black Tom”—Thomas Woodson.

If a descendent of Woodson had been linked to Jefferson—any Jefferson—there would truly be conclusive proof of a relationship (after all TJ was the ONLY Jefferson male in Paris). Sally was pregnant when she left Paris—but the DNA evidence confirmed it was by a European—-The Woodson line was tested again and again—a total of 7 times—-NO MATCH TO ANY JEFFERSON.

The bottom line as anyone who has read this far probably understands—this was not an open and shut case. There were ‘facts’ both sides could point to to support their argument. My husband’s family is descended from Thomas Jefferson-true—but they are also proud of their descent from abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson who financed John Brown’s slave uprising. The family has run a foundation to honor Higginson for 50 years that is one of the largest contributors in the DC-metropolitan area sponsoring programs for African-American children.

Jefferson descendants look like America—they are African-American, Italian-American, Irish-American, Native American—etc. After 8 generations, it is a remarkably diverse group. Everyone should ask themselves—why—if the Hemings descendants had such a strong case—they didn’t simply sue the association to let them in? The fact that they had no grounds for a suit—-should give every thinking person pause.

As I mentioned, the only Hemings descendent that applied to the association was Julia Westerinen, descendent of Eston Hemings. By any calculas, she is white. Most of the others so prominently braying to the media were descendants of Madison Hemings (who refused to be tested) and descendants of Sally’s brothers sisters and uncles—NONE of whom could have remotely been descended from a Hemings-Jefferson union had there been one.

One of the joys (and distresses) of surfing the Internet is that you can come upon things of interest—true and false. I have a new book coming out, The Hemingses of Monticello, as this site made clear. In my excitement about this after seven years of toil, I occasionally check to see if anything about the book turns up on the Net. I was surprised to see the reference to the book on this site. But I knew from the content of what was printed that Ms. Abeles, or one of her cohort, would soon respond with their characteristic venom and nonsense. I am speaking of her statement that I “fraudulently” changed primary documents and put them in the back of my book to deceive readers. That is an outright lie. She declares a specific intent to deceive that simply did not exist. There was an error in the transcription of Ellen Coolidge’s letter, an error that was corrected for later printings as soon as it was pointed out to me. That was years ago. I do address this subject in an endnote in my new book.
  Ms. Abeles knows nothing of me except that I disagree with her about Hemings and Jefferson. She has never been in my head or heart. I don’t know Ms. Abeles either, but from her comments, her personality is evidently such that her response to one who disagrees with her about something is to attack them personally or to impute evil intent when there is none. I know there is nothing I can do to convince her of that and, quite frankly, I’m not interested in trying. I just want to alert readers of this blog to the absolutely falsity of her claims about my personal integrity and the integrity of my work.
  A head’s up: I’m not going to get involved in a back and forth about this issue.
  Some good has come of this: I’ve discovered a new site to visit!
Annette Gordon-Reed

Annette, thanks for stopping by! We’ll gladly promote your book when it becomes available.

Okay, this doesn’t count as a “forth” or a “back”, but an addendum. About the Scholar’s Commission, and their purported censure of me, one of the commission members, the late Lance Banning, by far the greatest scholar among them, apologized to me with great sincerity about the charge in the Commission Report that I had deliberately changed primary documents. He said it was always clear to him that it was a mistake, and he had argued strenuously with the other members of the Commission about making that claim. But they were adamant that this was a good point of attack and wouldn’t listen to him. I had never met him, but he was gentleman enough to come up to me at a conference we attended in Baltimore to say how sorry he was about what they had said. I also have a nice letter from him about all this. Lance and I never came to an agreement about Hemings and Jefferson, but we managed to discuss the issue with great civility and to be cordial with one another despite our being on opposite sides.

Thanks Kevin, that would be wonderful. And while we’re on the “Corrections”, scratch the double “the” in my last post and note “he argued strenuously”.

Annette, what an honor it is that you would take the time to visit this space and share in the dialog with us. The detractor-sisters on this post have three lines of attack: 1. ignore the wall 2. criticize each brick for not being a wall by itself, and 3. attack the mason. They are swift-boating dead-enders, but their methods won’t work here.

On a positive note, I’d like to acknowledge how much I’ve been enlightened by your work. You are an extraordinary researcher, writer, and thinker, and I’m happy to say you make me proud to be an American. Thank you.

Thanks for your kind words, poputonian. I almost didn’t write because I’m thoroughly Jeffersonian in my aversion to vitriolic encounters. The couple of times I’ve weighed in during these types of online discussions my participation sent people over the deep end. The threads quickly deteriorated to the most base and savage level. But, this was just too egregious to ignore. And, as I said, the best thing about this is that I have found another place to land when I surf.


Ms. Abeles,

Your assertion that the DNA tests discredited a love affair is utterly preposterous. Love is an emotional state, and so far a DNA test that detects it hasn’t been invented.

As to this comment you made:

Mr. Poputonian claims there was a ‘love affair”

I actually wrote the opposite of that:

I know I don’t know enough to claim TJ loved her, so I won’t

I also reiterated this point, because I didn’t want to be misunderstood:

I know there aren’t enough bricks in this particular wall to constitute proof of love

If you have any doubt about what I wrote, scroll upward and read it again. I went to some length to make sure readers knew I was not making that claim. To make that claim would suggest certainty on the matter and I am well aware there is no such certainty and in all likelihood never will be.

That said, I did make the point that merely suggesting the possibility of love between Jefferson and Hemings might make some heads explode, and obviously, it did yours. Perhaps that caused you to make a factual distortion about what I wrote.

Annette, please land here anytime! Kevin is a fantastic proprietor. He used to host the very successful, but, like many of us, took a hiatus after the Cheney administration steamrolled for four more years. Kev returned recently with these new digs and the place is now building to its former glory. Welcome!

Thanks. You bet I’ll stop by.


“And while we’re on the ‘Corrections’, scratch the double ‘the’ in my last post and note ‘he argued strenuously’.”

Just fixed it, Annette. We really appreciate you stopping by and look forward to seeing you around these parts again.


To correct a couple errant assertions by Ms. Abeles:

She states that descendants of Madison Hemings refused to be DNA tested.

There are no known male-line descendants who can be tested. These tests can only be done on male-line descendants. Madison’s son William died childless in 1910. He is believed to buried at Fort Leavenworth. It has been suggested that he be disinterred for testing, but he has no descendants to authorize this. Some descendants of his sister have casually said they would be opposed to this, even if they had the authority to allow it. In the rhetoric of Jefferson “defenders” this has come to constitute a pernicious “refusal” to be tested.

BTW, Madison had another son, James, but it is not known what happened to him after he returned from service in the union army during the Civil War.

Regarding Jefferson’s health and ability to conceive, he suffered from what was probably an enlarged prostate in the last decade of his life,  and chronic diarrhea the last two decades (which he kept secret from his family). He died in 1826. Apart from those afflictions, he was an exceptionally healthy man, and kept a demanding schedule late into his life, including regular daily rounds of horseback riding. Sally’s children were all conceived prior to 1808, which makes the health issues pretty much moot.

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