The Instigator
ThedebaternamedJ
Con (against)
Tied
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The Contender
levi_smiles
Pro (for)
Tied
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Did Thomas Jefferson have a relationship/have children with his slave Sally Hemings?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/22/2017 Category: People
Updated: 3 weeks ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 313 times Debate No: 104568
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
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ThedebaternamedJ

Con

Ground Rules-
Anyone accepting the debate will be taking on the position of someone who believes Thomas Jefferson had a relationship with his space, Sally Hemings
No ad hominems
Evidence for arguments is appreciated, but I will take you at your word
Round 1 will be opening arguments
Round 2 will be rebuttals
Round 3 will be extensions
Round 4 will be closing arguments
Resolved: Thomas Jefferson did not have a relationship with Sally Hemings
Opening argument
The basis on which most historians assert the claim that Thomas Jefferson has a relationship with.Sally Heming"s is flawed. The DNA evidence is inconclusive, and the historical evidence exonerates Jefferson instead of indicting him.
One of the first arguments often stated is that Thomas Jefferson was present at his plantation, Monticello, when Sally conceived her children. There are 2 flaws: 1. It can"t be proved whether Sally was at Monticello at the time as well, and 2. A relative visiting Monticello would be more likely to visit when Thomas was present. This includes his younger brother, Randolph, who was known to be quite sociable with Thomas" slaves.
The DNA evidence, despite popular belief, doesn"t condemn Jefferson to parenthood. It states that Sally"s last child, Eston Hemings, was fathered by A Jefferson. There were twenty five Jefferson males alive at the time, and eight are considered probable. Nowhere is it states that Thomas is irrefutably the father.
Madison Hemings" testimony in 1875 is also flawed. Nowhere does it state where Madison learned Thomas was his father, and many of his assertions are quoted verbatim from James Callendet"s original accusations. Speaking of Callendet, he was a notorious scandal monger who didn"t have firsthand evidence of his accusations.
Argument Closed
levi_smiles

Pro

Thanks, J, for this classic debate topic.

Let"s begin by acknowledging that neither position is provable beyond a reasonable doubt. After all, we are discussing the likelihood of an intimate secret with the potential to embarrass not just Jefferson and his family but also to diminish by some small measure our tremendous, well-deserved collective pride in this founding father and former President. For much of the past two centuries, that secret was only supported by personal testimony and common rumor. But the publication of Jefferson"s Farm Book in 1953 offered significant circumstantial bolster to the claim and began a conversation that endured until a 1998 comparison of the DNA of Eston Hemings" male lineage to that of Jefferson"s family. That study attributed a high probability to Eston"s descendancy from the Jeffersons and strongly shifted the consensus of historians to the view that Jefferson fathered at least one and probably all of Sally Heming"s children.

The evidence:

Eugene Foster, et al. published a report in Nature in 1998, comparing 19 genetic markers on the Y chromosomes of 14 subjects: five male descendants of two sons of Field Jefferson,Jefferson"s uncle, three descendants of John Carr, & one male descendant of Eston Hemings. The results matched identical Y-chromosome haplotypes in Jefferson and Hemings. Foster indicates a less than 1% possibility that this match can be accounted to chance, strongly indicating a Jefferson fathered Eston. [1]

Con is correct that twenty-five Jefferson males were alive over the time Heming"s children were conceived of whom eight were of an age and proximity to Jefferson to warrant investigation. These are Jefferson"s younger brother Randolph, five of Randolph's sons, and two of Field Jefferson"s grandsons. Two of Randolph"s sons are known to have visited Monticello near the time Eston was conceived but none of these eight candidates visited often enough to account for all six of Sally Hemming"s children and the documented visits for any of the eight do not much correlate to the six conceptions. None of these eight were ever rumored to have been intimate with Hemings, nor were even suggested as possible fathers before the DNA study. [2]

Jefferson"s visits, on the other hand, do strongly correlate to all six conceptions, mostly during the time when Jefferson served as Vice-President and then President, so he was gone for long periods and his returns were well documented. Four of Hemings" children were conceived in the first weeks of Jefferson"s return to Monticello. [3]

Con fails to consider the personal dynamics of any other Jefferson"s potential affair with Hemings. Sally Hemings was the younger sister of Jefferson"s dead wife Martha: they shared the same father who they both took after. Jefferson loved Martha deeply and swore on her deathbed never to remarry. Sally was a young, beautiful, nearly white woman who resembled his beloved wife, who was Jefferson"s legal possession, who benefited strongly from Jefferson"s attentions, and who could make no legal claim against him for marriage or paternity. For any other male Jefferson, Sally Hemings was the sister of Jefferson"s dead wife and the property of their widowed patriarch, as brother or uncle, as well as the PResident of the United States and a founding father, the principal source of their prestige and status in Virginia. For Jefferson, an affair with Sally must have seemed virtually appropriate and matched to circumstance. For any other Jefferson, an affair with Sally would have risked the worst: condemnation by the greatest man they knew.

We should also note that of the nine likely Jeffersons, only Jefferson was unmarried during the course of all six conceptions.

Jefferson was rather striking in appearance, with bright orange hair and steel-grey eyes, traits that continue in the descendants of Eston Hemings.

The descendants of Madison and Eston Hemings have long maintained their Jefferson ancestry, even in the face of widespread rebuke.

The Hemings family enjoyed unique favor at Monticello. As slaves, Sally"s children were assigned light duties and important responsibilities. The boys were taught skilled trades. All four surviving children were freed as they came of age, a privilege enjoyed by no other slave family at Monticello. Harriet was the only female slave freed by Jefferson. When two of the boys decided to move north, Jefferson funded them in spite of being deep in debt at the time.

All six children were given names relevant to Jefferson, not Hemings, including James Madison Hemings.

Jefferson"s Farm Book was a rigorous accounting of Monticello"s agricultural operations. In it, Jefferson carefully noted the paternity of every slave born on his plantation except for Sally"s six children, for whom the father was not mentioned. [4]

Numerous sources document the prevailing rumor that Jefferson was the father of Hemings" children, including the diary of Jefferson"s close friend John Hartwell Cocke and former slave Israel Jefferson.

I"d agree with Con that the evidence is not irrefutable but I have to say I stand with the majority of historians who are now reasonably satisfied that Jefferson and Hemings had a sexual relationship producing at least one and probably six offspring over the course of fifteen years.

[1] https://www.nature.com...
[2] https://www.monticello.org...
[3] https://www.monticello.org...
[4] https://www.masshist.org...
Debate Round No. 1
ThedebaternamedJ

Con

I would like to thank my challenger for accepting the debate and answering very eloquently. Now, on to the rebuttals.
If you would, please follow the rebuttals in the format I set. You can only respond to the opening arguments. The concluding arguments will allow you to respond to rebuttals if you wish.

1. "Two of Randolph"s sons are known to have visited Monticello near the time Eston was conceived but none of these eight candidates visited often enough to account for all six of Sally Hemming"s children and the documented visits for any of the eight do not much correlate to the six conceptions."
This goes off the assumption that Sally's relationship with the Jefferson's was strictly monogamous, which there is no way to prove that it indeed was. And there are at least three other Jefferson's who are contenders of fatherhood.
-Thomas Jefferson Jr.-"Was a resident at Monticello for extensive periods of schooling in 1799, 1800, and 1801". This means that Thomas Jr. was at Monticello when Sally conceived an unnamed child in 1799 and Harriet Hemings in 1800
-Robert Lewis Jefferson-Delivered a letter to Monticello in July or August of 1807. Thomas arrived at Monticello on August 4. The letter, dated July 9, did not reach Thomas until August 8. This puts Robert at Monticello when Sally conceived Eston during this time frame.
-George Jefferson Jr-served as Thomas' commissioner. It is not unlikely he visited Monticello for business
-Then there is of course, Randolph. who was invited to Monticello in a letter dated August 12, 1807, about nine months before Eston was born. There is no evidence to suggest he declined the visit.

2. "Jefferson"s visits, on the other hand, do strongly correlate to all six conceptions, mostly during the time when Jefferson served as Vice-President and then President, so he was gone for long periods and his returns were well documented. Four of Hemings" children were conceived in the first weeks of Jefferson"s return to Monticello."
I'm sorry, but this simply isn't a strong argument. As I stated before, if you were a Jefferson visiting Monticello to see Thomas, when would you visit: when he was away, or when he was at home? Many state that there is no documents to support these visits, but a visiting family member, a common occurrence, probably wouldn't warrant putting pen to paper. And there is simply no way to prove that Sally was at Monticello during her conceptions.

3. "Sally Hemings was the sister of Jefferson"s dead wife and the property of their widowed patriarch"
The assertion that Sally was Jefferson's half sister has no basis in fact, and this rumor arose around the same time as Callender's allegations..

4."Jefferson was rather striking in appearance, with bright orange hair and steel-grey eyes, traits that continue in the descendants of Eston Hemings."
There are no contemporary descriptions of Randolph's appearance, but it is not all unlikely he was similar to Thomas. We've already well established that Eston had Jefferson blood. Family members often share similar characteristics, so this evidence is incredibly weak. Thomas Jefferson Randolph once told an interviewer that to those that saw them, it was clear that the Hemings had Jefferson blood. In the same interview, he stated "that there was not the shadow of suspicion that Mr. Jefferson in this or any other instance ever had commerce with his female slaves". This means that those who thought Jefferson was the father were those that spread the rumor. T.J. Randolph himself lived at Monticello for a time, and never saw any signs of a relationship between Thomas and Sally

5."The descendants of Madison and Eston Hemings have long maintained their Jefferson ancestry, even in the face of widespread rebuke."
False. Until Fawn Brodie's "Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate HIstory", the Hemings believed themselves to be descendant of a "Jefferson Uncle". Let it be known that Randolph Jefferson was often referred to as "Uncle Randolph".

6."The Hemings family enjoyed unique favor at Monticello."
There are two possible rebukes to this. Assuming that Sally is indeed the sister of Thomas' wife, and Thomas Jefferson was a known family man, it isn't likely he would put his family in squalid conditions as other slaves were, nor would he allow them to be put up on the auction block after his death. And the Hemings had enjoyed special privilege even before Thomas' time, and that was because they were skilled and trusted individuals in Monticello.

7."Numerous sources document the prevailing rumor that Jefferson was the father of Hemings" children, including the diary of Jefferson"s close friend John Hartwell Cocke and former slave Israel Jefferson."
Monticello worker Edmund Bacon directly contradicts these two, as he stated in his letters that many a time he saw a man leaving Sally's slave quarters, and confirmed that the man was indeed NOT Thomas Jefferson. While he never disclosed who the man was, one thing is certain: it was NOT Thomas Jefferson

https://jeffersondnastudy.com...
https://www.monticello.org...
https://www.tjheritage.org...
levi_smiles

Pro

Thx, J-

R1 Rebuttals

J: It can"t be proved whether Sally was at Monticello at the time as well.

L: Sally was a slave: she was either at Monticello or in the company of TJ. Any special dispensation to travel was rare and would have certainly been noted in TJ"s Farm Book. There is no such notation or any documentation to support an unusual absence. We can presume with reasonable confidence that Sally did not sneak off on at least six occasions to conceive with one of TJ"s nephews 100 miles away.

J: A relative visiting Monticello would be more likely to visit when Thomas was present.

L: Not if that relative were raping TJ"s favorite slave & sister to his dead wife. That relative would be much more likely to visit during the long months when TJ was not around. The fact that Hemings never conceived in TJ"s absence is strong correlative evidence of TJ"s paternity.

J: Nowhere does it state where Madison learned Thomas was his father

L: Clearly, Sally"s children knew their father"s identity from childhood. Within the precincts of Monticello, TJ and Sally"s longstanding intimacy must have been fairly apparent.

From Wikipedia:

"According to his memoir, Sally Hemings told Madison that his father was Thomas Jefferson, and that their relationship had started in Paris in the late 1780s, where he was serving as a diplomat. Pregnant, she agreed to return with Jefferson to the United States based on his promise to free her children when they came of age." [1]

Madison reported that future First Lady Dolley Madison was visiting Monticello at the time of his birth and requested he be named after her husband. Dolley was a friend and frequent visitor and served as White House Hostess during Jefferson"s presidency in the absence of a presidential spouse. If Madison was just a bastard slave child of unknown paternity, I wonder that Dolley would make such a request or had she not made that request, would she not have taken offense at Sally"s presumption. But, if Sally"s relationship with Jefferson was known to Dolly, even discreetly approved of, the sentimental bond conferred by Dolley"s request is easily understood.

J: Many of his assertions are quoted verbatim from James Callendet"s original accusations.

L: That"s an accusation Con is going to need to affirm with evidence. I see none. Here is Callender"s original accusation:

https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org...

And here is Madison Hemings" testimonial:

https://www.pbs.org...

I see no lines "quoted verbatim." Indeed, Callender"s account gets almost every specific wrong: Sally"s only son in 1802 was Beverly, not Tom. He was 4 years old, not 10 or 12. Sally did not travel to France with TJ but came 3 years later with Polly. But all of these details would have been part of the popular conception at the time of Madison"s testimony. The fact that Madison"s account differs in all these popular details but was nevertheless proved correct a century later is strong evidence that Madison"s account was well detailed and well-informed by his mother, Sally.

J: Speaking of Callendet, he was a notorious scandal monger who didn"t have firsthand evidence of his accusations.

L: Well, scandalmongers can sometimes speak the truth (Think of Trump"s outing of the Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski relationship). And it wouldn't be the first of Callender"s accusations that TJ denied but later proved true: TJ denied having employed Callender to attack John Adams" reputation until Callender published TJ"s letters to him as evidence. [1]. But let"s agree Callender was a scumbag who was only repeating gossip. I refute and have shown that Madison was not using Callender as a source.

I wish I could use my remaining space to engage Con"s R2 rebuttal, but J has specifically requested that I refrain until R3 & we are playing by those rules.

I would request that Con address a few unanswered points:

Would Con agree that TJ"s motive and opportunity are far more compelling than any other Jeffersonian donor? That is, for any man other than TJ, Hemings was an unlikely target- TJ"s cherished possession living on a distant plantation, regular visits would have risked indiscretion, etc. For TJ alone, Hemings was discreet and available, particularly during their time in France.

What does Con make of TJ"s omission of the Heming"s children paternity in his Farm Book when he carefully recorded the paternity of all other slaves born at Monticello?

What does Con make of the Hemingses names reflecting Jefferson affiliations rather than Hemings?

I look forward to Con"s reply in R3.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org...

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
ThedebaternamedJ

Con

Now we move on to extensions. Again, I assure my opponent he will have a chance to respond to any rebuttals he wishes within the concluding arguments. And for the sake of making the arguments as extensive as possible, you can continue to rebut arguments from the opening arguments.

One of the many arguments made against Jefferson is that he never made an straightforward denial of the charges raised against him. This is a straight lie:
"I should have fancied myself half guilty, had I condescended to put pen to paper in refutation of their falsehoods, or drawn them respect by any notice from myself." "Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, June 20, 1816.
Jefferson never responded to accusations because he believed it would give them an element of truth. Along with this, he also stated a few months before he died:
"There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world." "Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1826. ME 16:179"

Martha Jefferson, Jefferson's daughter. Also had her own connection to the allegations. She once read a newspaper article directly accusing Jefferson of fathering Hemings. In a rage, she slammed the article down in front of her father and demanded an explanation. Instead of blanching at the thought of being found out by his precious daughter, he instead "laughed heartily", indicating he thought the allegations absurd, and Martha also directly denied Jefferson being the father on her own deathbed.

"He freed one girl some years before he died, and there was a great deal of talk about it. She was nearly as white as anybody, and very beautiful. People said he freed her because she was his own daughter. She was not his daughter; she was ________"s daughter. I know that. I have seen him come out of her mother"s room many a morning, when I went up to Monticello very early." (JB p. 102)
This is an excerpt from Edmund Bacon, an overseer for Thomas Jefferson. As I stated before, Edmund would have ample opportunity to see anyone coming and going from Monticello's slave quarters. This is a DIRECT eyewitness account from someone who asserts that Jefferson is not the father. Edmund Bacon is the only person within this whole debate who expressed an opinion on the Jefferson paternity and back it up with eyewitness evidence.

Samuel and Peter Carr, those tested during the DNA testing, are also under suspicion. While they are definitively not the fathers of Eston Hemings, that doesn't absolve them from guilt of fathering the other children. Thomas Jefferson Randolph confronted the two brothers with an article accusing Thomas of fathering slave children, and the two wept in remorse at their uncle taking blame for something they did. Ellen Randolph Coolidge also overheard Peter Carr laughing that he was getting away with fathering slave children and his uncle was being blamed. While some assert that these two different reactions are proof that their accounts are invalid, this is completely normal behavior. Who hasn't heard of the church goer who would laugh at dirty jokes with their friends, but freeze in front of the priest?

Paternity proponents also assert the strong Hemings oral tradition that Jefferson is their ancestor, but the descendants of Thomas Woodson believed the same thing, and they were proven wrong by DNA evidence. Simply put, oral tradition is hearsay and cannot be admitted as evidence of Thomas' paternity

My opponent asserts in his opening argument that other Jefferson's cannot be considered for paternity, as they were not considered before the DNA tests. This is absurd reasoning. By that logic, we cannot use the DNA evidence in this debate as DNA testing was not around in the 19th century.

What my opponent fails to realize is that I have proven that Monticello was practically crawling with Jeffersons at any given time, and any of them could have fathered the Hemings.

And finally, there is the question if Thomas was even able to father children. Thomas Jefferson was a sickly man, constantly riddled with migraines, many of which were incapacitating, forcing him to lie in bed for hours at a time.
Violent headache for two days after behaving awkwardly in front of a girl he fancied (March 1764, age 20);
Six week headache after his mother's death on March 31, 1776;
Six weeks of headache soon after arriving, unhappy and homesick, as minister to France in 1785;
While overburdened as Secretary of State, headaches recurred when he learned that a friend had become ill, but recovered (April 1790);
About this time he had a second set of headaches, lasting from sunrise to sunset each day for 6 weeks. Thomas Jefferson was not a healthy man, and this may have left him impotent.

Due to my opponents special requests at the end of his argument, I will answer

I would say that while Jefferson may have had opportunity, he certainly did not have motive. If my opponent will allow me(this is entirely at his discretion) to bring Thomas Jefferson's character into this argument. Thomas Jefferson was a man known to abhor miscegenation(mixing of the races) and at the time of the first birth, Jefferson's wife had died. He was stricken with grief, and he had promised to her that he would never remarry. This dedication to his first wife would prevent any sort of sexual relationship, especially with, according to Abigail Adams, an immature 14-year old Sally.

As to the farm book, if the father was indeed one of his relatives, it's not entirely impossible he was aiming to protect them from further condemnation.

As to the naming question, it's not compelling evidence. If any slave were pregnant, Thomas would most likely be the one to name them, and name them names that were familiar to him.
levi_smiles

Pro

J: This goes off the assumption that Sally's relationship with the Jefferson's was strictly monogamous, which there is no way to prove that it indeed was.

L: No. But chambermaid was an elite position in a hierarchy of 600 slaves. We can assume Sally was held to a high standard of decorum & her personal life the subject of some scrutiny. No mention is made of any lover for Sally except TJ and her children clearly believed they all had one father, TJ.

J: And there are at least three other Jefferson's who are contenders of fatherhood.

L: All three of these are included in the eight more likely Jeffersons mentioned in R1. Two are sons of Randolph, one a grandson of Field. As Con states, these 3 visited around Eston"s likely conception give or take a couple of weeks. As I stated in R1, these three do not demonstrate a pattern of visits correlating to Sally"s six conceptions, only TJ"s visits correlate to all six conceptions.

I think Con misapprehends the context in which these nephews might have considered raping Sally. Virginia law prohibited any interaction with another man"s slave except by express permission of the owner. Indeed, sex with another man"s slave had been traditionally forbidden going back to Leviticus. [1] A newborn slave might have been seen as a financial gain in the long term but also represented an increased financial burden in the near term. Owners suspecting white paternity were likely to investigate the identity of the father and expect compensation. All three of these candidates belonged to the elite of Virginia with likely access to women who were not available by law and subject to risk of scandal. That some Jeffersons had some intermittent opportunities to impregnate Sally is admissible but considering the risk, motive seems highly unlikely absent some documented evidence of special affection, for which we have none. TJ alone had the right, motive, and opportunity to impregnate Sally Hemings.

J: As I stated before, if you were a Jefferson visiting Monticello to see Thomas, when would you visit: when he was away, or when he was at home?

L:If you were illegally messing with your uncle"s property would you be more likely to do so while he was present or absent? I'll repeat that Sally never conceived in Jefferson"s absence.

J: Many state that there is no documents to support these visits, but a visiting family member, a common occurrence, probably wouldn't warrant putting pen to paper.

L: Visitors to great houses were generally recorded- dinners were thrown, slaves were re-assigned, bedrooms were made ready, etc. Visitors invited by the President of the United States were generally recorded as a matter of security and history.

J: And there is simply no way to prove that Sally was at Monticello during her conceptions.

L: Any slave away from her owner"s property without paperwork was a serious crime- citizens returning slaves were well compensated so an owner"s leave was well documented. TJ"s farm book took careful note of those rare times when slaves were allowed absence. Sally"s trips to Paris & to Charlottesville were recorded so we can reasonably expect additional absences to have been recorded as well. No such record exists.

J:The assertion that Sally was Jefferson's half sister has no basis in fact

L:

"Folks said these Hemingses was old Mr.Wayles" children." [2]

-Issac Jefferson, Memoirs

A December 20, 1802, letter from Thomas Gibbons, a Federalist planter of Georgia, to Jonathan Dayton states that Sally Hemings "is half sister to his first wife" [3]

"an opinion has existed . . . that this very Sally is the natural daughter of Mr. Wales, who was the father of the actual Mrs. Jefferson."

Thomas Turner, Boston Repertory

"whose wife dying she (Elizabeth) was taken by the widower Wales as his concubine, by , whom she had six children--three sons and three daughters, viz: Robert, James, Peter, Critty, Sally and Thena. These children went by the name of Hemings."

Madison Hemings, Life Among the Lowly

J: and this rumor arose around the same time as Callender's allegations.

L: As we saw printed above, Callender made no representations regarding Sally"s parentage. Why connect these various testimonies to Callender, except to damn by association with a less reliable source?

J: There are no contemporary descriptions of Randolph's appearance, but it is not all unlikely he was similar to Thomas. We've already well established that Eston had Jefferson blood. Family members often share similar characteristics, so this evidence is incredibly weak. Thomas Jefferson Randolph once told an interviewer that to those that saw them, it was clear that the Hemings had Jefferson blood.

L: "Randolph said in one instance, a gentleman dining with Mr. Jefferson, looked so startled as he raised his eyes from the latter to the servant behind him, that his discovery of the resemblance was perfectly obvious to all." [4]

J:In the same interview, he stated "that there was not the shadow of suspicion that Mr. Jefferson in this or any other instance ever had commerce with his female slaves". This means that those who thought Jefferson was the father were those that spread the rumor. T.J. Randolph himself lived at Monticello for a time, and never saw any signs of a relationship between Thomas and Sally

L: In fact, Randolph specifically accused Samuel and/or Peter Carr of fathering Sally"s children. The DNA test exculpated either from Eston"s paternity, contradicting Randolph"s testimony. We should note that Randolph, et. al. we're well motivated to defect or lie regarding TJ"s affair.

J: False. Until Fawn Brodie's "Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate HIstory", the Hemings believed themselves to be descendant of a "Jefferson Uncle".

L: False. Brodie published in 1975. Madison"s account linked above was printed in 1873 and is clear about his father. The Scioto Gazette published a biography in 1902 of Eston"s daughter Anna under the heading, "Granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson." [5] Jean Jefferson, descendant of Eston, discovered that her family stopped relating Eston"s paternity in the 1940"s out of fear of racial prejudice. [6]

J: Assuming that Sally is indeed the sister of Thomas' wife-

L: Con just asserted "no basis in fact" & is now building theories on Sally"s parentage. I think Con is more convinced than Con lets on.

L: nor would he allow them to be put up on the auction block after his death. And the Hemings had enjoyed special privilege even before Thomas' time, and that was because they were skilled and trusted individuals in Monticello.

J: Except that Sally"s skilled and trusted brothers & all other members of the Hemings family were sold at auction on TJ"s death. Even among the many Monticello Hemingses, Sally"s children were special.

J: Monticello worker Edmund Bacon directly contradicts these two, as he stated in his letters that many a time he saw a man leaving Sally's slave quarters, and confirmed that the man was indeed NOT Thomas Jefferson.

L: Not particularly compelling. Bacon was motivated to dissemble on TJ"s behalf and gave no name for us to investigate. Bacon lived a mile from Monticello and did not oversee the house slaves. Since Sally shared a room with other house slaves, an anonymous visitor to those rooms would not necessarily implicate Sally- a fact Bacon must have known but chose to ignore in defense of TJ.

[1] http://biblehub.com...
[2] https://babel.hathitrust.org...
[3] https://www.monticello.org...
[4] https://www.pbs.org...
[5] https://www.pbs.org...
[6] https://web.archive.org...
Debate Round No. 3
ThedebaternamedJ

Con

L: Clearly, Sally"s children knew their father"s identity from childhood. Within the precincts of Monticello, TJ and Sally"s longstanding intimacy must have been fairly apparent.
Response: In Madison's testimony, he states that Sally was the one who told him his father. This indicates Jefferson gave no indication of such a thing. And as I'll soon demonstrate, Madison is far from reliable.
L:Madison reported that future First Lady Dolley Madison was visiting Monticello at the time of his birth and requested he be named after her husband.
J: Dolley Madison supposedly visited Monticello to request the name of the new slave child, and specifically requested a boy's name, in a time when it was impossible to determine the sex of a child? Also, James and Dolley Madison's correspondence indicate that Dolley was in Washington D.C. at the time of Madison's birth, as she had traveled from Virginia to Washington during the winter to act as Jefferson's hostess at the White House. Madison Hemings is lying through his teeth.
L:"According to his memoir, Sally Hemings told Madison that his father was Thomas Jefferson, and that their relationship had started in Paris in the late 1780s, where he was serving as a diplomat. Pregnant, she agreed to return with Jefferson to the United States based on his promise to free her children when they came of age." [1]
J: Madison is again giving statements with no proof. Where is the proof of this supposed deal between Jefferson and Sally? Sally was not pregnant in Paris. James Callender and Madison both assert that Tom Woodson was born in Paris, while the DNA tests have proved that Tom isn't a Jefferson son, so there is no reason for this deal between master and slave.
L: Clearly, Sally"s children knew their father"s identity from childhood. Within the precincts of Monticello, TJ and Sally"s longstanding intimacy must have been fairly apparent.
J: In Madison's testimony, he states that Sally was the one who told him. This indicates that Jefferson gave no indication that he was Madison's father, and there's no way to verify if Sally was indeed the one who told him. It's hard to believe as I've already demonstrated that Madison's testimonies have wild inaccuracies. That, or he could be lying.
L: In fact, Randolph specifically accused Samuel and/or Peter Carr of fathering Sally"s children. The DNA test exculpated either from Eston"s paternity, contradicting Randolph"s testimony. We should note that Randolph, et. al. we're well motivated to defect or lie regarding TJ"s affair.
J: The DNA test exonerated the Carr's of Eston's birth. They are still suspects for the rest of the children.
L: All three of these are included in the eight more likely Jeffersons mentioned in R1. Two are sons of Randolph, one a grandson of Field. As Con states, these 3 visited around Eston"s likely conception give or take a couple of weeks. As I stated in R1, these three do not demonstrate a pattern of visits correlating to Sally"s six conceptions, only TJ"s visits correlate to all six conceptions.
J: He claims they correlate, but do they really?
Harriet-Born October 5, 1795. Died two years later. Conception date: Around January 11, 1795. Jefferson was at Monticello from January 1794-March 1797. From the time he left to become secretary of state in 1790 to Harriet's conceptions, five years had past. Jefferson did indeed visit Monticello during this time, but if there were sexual liaisons, why did none produce a child? Jefferson was at Monticello for a full year before Harriet was born. This casts serious doubt on a long term sexual relationship
Beverly-Born April 1798, probably April 1. Conception date: July 8, 1797. Jefferson had been in Philadelphia since may of that year. He left Philly the morning of July 6 and arrived July 11. There is no way he was at Monticello to impregnate Sally.
Thena-Born around December 7, 1799. Conception date:Mid-March 1799. Jefferson arrived at Monticello on March 8, 1799. There is a window, but it is small. Jefferson probably arrived too late.
Harriet(II)-born May 1801. Conception date:around August 1800. Jefferson was at Monticello from May 29-November 1800, but his whereabouts in August and September are unknown. Records suggest he was in Charlottesville.
Madison Hemings-January 1805. Conception date: Around April 27, 1804. Jefferson was at Monticello before the death of his daughter on April 17. In the weeks that followed, with the funerals and mourners swarming Monticello, it is unlikely Jefferson called Sally for sex. Jefferson May 11, shortly after the conception, and was not present for Madison's birth. Jefferson may have had right, but he certainly had no motive, or opportunity.
L: Any slave away from her owner"s property without paperwork was a serious crime- citizens returning slaves were well compensated so an owner"s leave was well documented. TJ"s farm book took careful note of those rare times when slaves were allowed absence. Sally"s trips to Paris & to Charlottesville were recorded so we can reasonably expect additional absences to have been recorded as well. No such record exists.
Response: But records DO exist. In 1802, that implies that Sally, as well as Critta, her sister, may have been elsewhere. Jefferson wrote to daughter Maria, at Eppington, July 2, 1802:
"P.S. I have always forgotten to answer your apologies about Critta, which were very unnecessary. I am happy she has been with you and useful to you. At Monticello there could be nothing for her to do; so that her being with you is exactly as desirable to me as she can be useful to you."
Both Critta and Sally were Maria's maids. If there was nothing for Critta to do, what was there for Sally? In January 1802, a Monticello worker wrote that housekeeping was needed at the plantation, but Critta was absent, and no one else was there to do it. Where are the other servants, specifically Sally? This proves that Jefferson did not always record his slave's absences in the Farm Book.
"Folks said these Hemingses was old Mr.Wayles" children." [2]
"an opinion has existed . . . that this very Sally is the natural daughter of Mr. Wales, who was the father of the actual Mrs. Jefferson."
A December 20, 1802, letter from Thomas Gibbons, a Federalist planter of Georgia, to Jonathan Dayton states that Sally Hemings "is half sister to his first wife" [3]
Response: "Folks SAID", "an OPINION has existed". This proves that the allegations were merely rumor, nothing more. And a Federalist planter? As a political opponent to Thomas Jefferson, this planter had every reason to accuse Jefferson.
L: As we saw printed above, Callender made no representations regarding Sally"s parentage. Why connect these various testimonies to Callender, except to damn by association with a less reliable source?
Response: Merely giving context.
L: "Randolph said in one instance, a gentleman dining with Mr. Jefferson, looked so startled as he raised his eyes from the latter to the servant behind him, that his discovery of the resemblance was perfectly obvious to all." [4]
Response:Irrelevant. 've already stated that family members often share commonalities. It is not unlikely Randolph looked like Thomas
L: Con just asserted "no basis in fact" & is now building theories on Sally"s parentage. I think Con is more convinced than Con lets on.
Response: You misunderstand: I am merely stating that even if the rumor WAS true, it has no bearing on whether Thomas is the father.
L: Except that Sally"s skilled and trusted brothers & all other members of the Hemings family were sold at auction on TJ"s death. Even among the many Monticello Hemingses, Sally"s children were special.
Response: The way Jefferson freed Sally's children is consistent with a way to emancipate slaves he noted in "Notes on the State of Virginia". Keep in mind that Sally was never freed. They children were to be freed after they had become skilled enough to participate in white society.

And that ends my argument. The public now decide
levi_smiles

Pro

J: This indicates Jefferson gave no indication of such a thing.

L: We agree that no documents record TJ admitting paternity.

J: Dolley Madison...specifically requested a boy's name, in a time when it was impossible to determine the sex of a child?

L: Madison"s testimony indicated that the request was made at his birth, so gender was easily determined.

J: Also, James and Dolley Madison's correspondence indicate that Dolley was in Washington D.C. at the time of Madison's birth, as she had traveled from Virginia to Washington during the winter to act as Jefferson's hostess at the White House.

L: Citation? Link?

J: James Callender and Madison both assert that Tom Woodson was born in Paris

L: Nope. Madison states that the baby died shortly after childbirth in Virginia and gave no name. We"ve already agreed that Callender was just repeating rumors and did not seem to have any first hand knowledge.

J: It's hard to believe as I've already demonstrated that Madison's testimonies have wild inaccuracies.

L: I refute that Con has so demonstrated. Con faults Madison for stating a child named Thomas Woodson was born in Paris. We can read Madison"s account linked above and verify that he gave no such testimony.

J: The DNA test exonerated the Carr's of Eston's birth. They are still suspects for the rest of the children.

L: Beyond the highly motivated accusation of Thomas Jefferson Randolph, no evidence circumstantial or otherwise implicates the Carrs. That Randolph has been disproved in one testable instance increases doubt. Con has never shown evidence that Sally had more than one lover. The notion stretches credulity that TJ"s personal chambermaid might give birth to multiple illegal offspring fathered by multiple distant white relatives and still maintain TJ"s particular favor for herself and her children.

J: He claims they correlate, but do they really?
Harriet-Born October 5, 1795. Died two years later. Conception date: Around January 11, 1795. Jefferson was at Monticello from January 1794-March 1797. From the time he left to become secretary of state in 1790 to Harriet's conceptions, five years had past. Jefferson did indeed visit Monticello during this time, but if there were sexual liaisons, why did none produce a child?

L: And there was a 4 year gap between Harriet & Madison and a 3 year gap between Madison & Eston. Con is making my point. Sally was clearly fertile. If she was running around with somebody other than TJ how likely is it that she only conceived during those rare and widely separated times when TJ was home? As to the nature and frequency of TJ"s intercourse with Sally, we will likely never have any insight.

J: Beverly-Born April 1798, probably April 1. Conception date: July 8, 1797. Jefferson had been in Philadelphia since may of that year. He left Philly the morning of July 6 and arrived July 11.

L: Con makes my point again. Terms of pregnzncy are hardly exact and a conception date is only the middle of a range & the uncertainty of Beverly"s birthday extends that range. That Sally got pregnant soon after TJ"s return is strong corroboration.

J: Thena-Born around December 7, 1799. Conception date:Mid-March 1799. Jefferson arrived at Monticello on March 8, 1799. There is a window, but it is small.

L: As above, Thena"s conception time matches TJ"s return to Monticello, increasing implication.

J: Harriet(II)-born May 1801. Conception date:around August 1800. Jefferson was at Monticello from May 29-November 1800, but his whereabouts in August and September are unknown. Records suggest he was in Charlottesville.

L: Monticello is in Charlottesville, VA. When records suggest Charlottesville, I take that to mean Monticello.

J: Madison Hemings-January 1805. Conception date: Around April 27, 1804. Jefferson was at Monticello before the death of his daughter on April 17. In the weeks that followed, with the funerals and mourners swarming Monticello, it is unlikely Jefferson called Sally for sex.

L: Sheer speculation. I've had sex a few weeks after a loss. Intimacy is a common need in response to loss.

L: But records DO exist. In 1802, that implies that Sally, as well as Critta, her sister, may have been elsewhere. Jefferson wrote to daughter Maria, at Eppington, July 2, 1802".This proves that Jefferson did not always record his slave's absences in the Farm Book.

J: If Sally traveled with Crita and if Sally"s duties as chambermaid & seamstress did not preclude housekeeping. A lot of ifs. Keep in mind that Sally had 2 or 3 children under age 4 at the time which would have made travel with Crita unlikely.

J: "Folks SAID", "an OPINION has existed". This proves that the allegations were merely rumor, nothing more. And a Federalist planter? As a political opponent to Thomas Jefferson, this planter had every reason to accuse Jefferson.

L: Four independent sources regarding the paternity of a slave two hundred years ago is pretty decent, as good as we're going to get. Much of history is based on fewer sources. In the absence of any contradictory claims, John Wayles was the likeliest father of both Sally Hemings and Martha Jefferson.

J: Irrelevant. 've already stated that family members often share commonalities. It is not unlikely Randolph looked like Thomas.

L: Actually, Randolph implicated the Carrs, remember? I assume that means that the Carrs were the ones who looked most like TJ, but the DNA test exonerates the Carrs as fathers to Eston.

J: The way Jefferson freed Sally's children is consistent with a way to emancipate slaves he noted in "Notes on the State of Virginia". Keep in mind that Sally was never freed. They children were to be freed after they had become skilled enough to participate in white society.

L: I"ll repeat that other skilled workers and Hemmings were sold at TJ"s death, indicating special treatment. Sally was never formally emancipated but was allowed to retire to go live with her sons in town- quite special. Con noted that Crita and Sally were both sisters and housemaids with a lifetime of service at Monticello- but Crita and her children were not freed by TJ.

Why was Sally special?

Jefferson"s relationship with Sally Hemings once seemed little more than an accusation bandied about during the 1804 Presidential campaign. When Madison Hemings came forward with his testimony in 1873, few scholars were willing to credit a former slave's recollection, especially since his details contradicted the popular rumors. But further research, especially the publication of TJ"s Farm Book in 1953, supported Madison"s testimony. How did Madison have details right that historians didn't in 1873 except by some genuine source? Historians debated the issue for 44 years until the DNA test showed that Madison"s brother Eston had Jefferson DNA. Although TJ was not the only possible Jefferson, the combination of proximity, sole legal access, sole discreet access, family familiarity, and a pattern of residency confirming to conception times make TJ by far the likeliest candidate for paternity. Monticello"s head archeologist performed a 2000 statistical analysis of TJ"s residency crossed with Heming"s conceptions based on random sampling and assigned a 1% chance to the possibility that any Jefferson but TJ was the father of all six Hemings offspring. [1] That same year the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the primary organization dedicated to the preservation of TJ"s legacy, concluded that the evidence warranted acceptance of the Jefferson-Hemings affair as history. [2]

None of the data is irresistible. None of the documents are above critique. But the history we teach is more often the consensus of likeliest outcomes based on inconclusive evidence. Certainly, the present consensus based on available evidence is well justified: Thomas Jefferson probably had an intimate relationship with his slave Sally Hemings and fathered at least one, probably all of her children.

Please vote PRO
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 1 week ago
ThedebaternamedJ
Well, Levi, I suppose we won"t know what the community thinks, but again, I thank you for accepting the debate.
Yes, I took the less fashionable opinion, but not for its own sake. I simply haven"t been able to swallow the official story given to us by the Monticello Foundation, Annette Gordon Reed, etc. I did my own research, and while others like Gordon Reed assert "for certain" I can only say "maybe" at best and "unlikely" at worst. I also take umbrage with the idea that those who reject Thomas" paternity are racists. I assure you, I"m not. As someone with a great respect for Thomas Jefferson, the recent disgust he has been receiving has rubbed me the wrong way.
But I digress. Thank you again for accepting my challenge
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
Thanks much for the vote of confidence. And the end of your comment reminds me
My evidence for my last chance at speaking came from two books:
"In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal" by William G. Hyland Jr.
"Framing a Legend: Exposing the Distorted History of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings" by M. Andre Holowchak.
I ran out of room as well.
Posted by levi_smiles 3 weeks ago
levi_smiles
Thanks J. I thought you debated well- fully engaged, reasoned arguments, good research. On top of which you chose to defend the less fashionable point of view, the hallmark of a good debater. Don't count yourself out in the voting: contrarian perspectives are often popular on DDO.

Mean out of room for citations so I'm including them here.

[1] https://www.jstor.org...
[2] https://www.monticello.org...
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
Oops, a glitch in the system repeated my comments. Sorry
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
To my dismay, I didn"t get a chance to formally thank my opponent. Looking back on the debate now, see obvious mistakes in my arguments, and chances missed, and my opponent undoubtedly noticed them. However, despite the experience gap, my opponent treated me seriously and with respect, a rarity in my experience. Despite being a "newbie" he treated me with respect and had no ad hominems in his argument. I would like to profusely thank him for the learning experience, and again for taking me seriously.
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
To my dismay, I didn"t get a chance to formally thank my opponent. Looking back on the debate now, see obvious mistakes in my arguments, and chances missed, and my opponent undoubtedly noticed them. However, despite the experience gap, my opponent treated me seriously and with respect, a rarity in my experience. Despite being a "newbie" he treated me with respect and had no ad hominems in his argument. I would like to profusely thank him for the learning experience, and again for taking me seriously.
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
To my dismay, I didn"t get a chance to formally thank my opponent. Looking back on the debate now, see obvious mistakes in my arguments, and chances missed, and my opponent undoubtedly noticed them. However, despite the experience gap, my opponent treated me seriously and with respect, a rarity in my experience. Despite being a "newbie" he treated me with respect and had no ad hominems in his argument. I would like to profusely thank him for the learning experience, and again for taking me seriously.
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
To my dismay, I didn"t get a chance to formally thank my opponent. Looking back on the debate now, see obvious mistakes in my arguments, and chances missed, and my opponent undoubtedly noticed them. However, despite the experience gap, my opponent treated me seriously and with respect, a rarity in my experience. Despite being a "newbie" he treated me with respect and had no ad hominems in his argument. I would like to profusely thank him for the learning experience, and again for taking me seriously.
Posted by ThedebaternamedJ 3 weeks ago
ThedebaternamedJ
To my dismay, I didn"t get a chance to formally thank my opponent. Looking back on the debate now, see obvious mistakes in my arguments, and chances missed, and my opponent undoubtedly noticed them. However, despite the experience gap, my opponent treated me seriously and with respect, a rarity in my experience. Despite being a "newbie" he treated me with respect and had no ad hominems in his argument. I would like to profusely thank him for the learning experience, and again for taking me seriously.
Posted by JimShady 4 weeks ago
JimShady
Hai, kare wa shita. anata wa ie ni ike, chisai onna no ko.
No votes have been placed for this debate.