Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (Part 2)

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Robert L. Pyles, MD | Potomac Tea Party

In the efforts of the Progressive Left to destroy the legacy and monumental contributions of Thomas Jefferson, a centerpiece has been the focus on his presumed relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave at Monticello.  The charge goes that Jefferson had a long-term relationship with Sally Hemings, and had six children with her. In spite of the fact that there is very little evidence to support this rather dubious hypothesis, the tours at Monticello and the University of Virginia state this as a fact.  As it turns out, this is probably not at all true.

Part 2: Sally Hemings’ Children

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: The Left Spins Another Yarn to Trash the Founders
 (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)  (Appendix I) (Appendix II) 

Another “proof” cited by the Progressive Left, is that Jefferson had arranged to free Sally Hemings’ children at his death. He did not do that with any of the other Monticello slaves.  That special treatment must mean that those were his own children as well.

Another reality check: When Sally Hemings and her brother came to Paris, after they had been living there for a while, they learned that if they continued to live in France on a permanent basis, they would be free.   Yet Sally Hemings voluntarily returned to Monticello when Jefferson’s time in Paris was over.  We already know that Jefferson highly valued the relationship Sally Hemings had with his two motherless daughters.

Is it too much of a stretch of the imagination to guess that he might have offered freeing her future children, as an added inducement to persuade her to return to Monticello? Keep in mind that she would have been only 18 at that point.

Add to that the fact that Sally Hemings would have been left, as a very young woman, isolated in Paris, with little means of support, instead of returning to family and friends at Monticello.

The fact that Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife is another likely possibility as to why he might have wanted to have her children be free.  This could well have been yet another way of honoring his wife’s memory.
 
The controversy continues—today the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and some scholars accept that Thomas Jefferson is the father of Sally Hemings’ children; seemingly this is based more on political conjecture, than any real evidence.

Jefferson’s Letter-Love and Honor

It should be noted that Thomas Jefferson did, indeed, fall deeply in love when he was in Paris.  However, it was with Maria Cosgrove, the wife of a British diplomat.  Apparently, the marriage was a very poor one, and it seems that Maria Cosgrove returned those feelings of love in full measure. 
 
However, when her diplomat husband was recalled to Britain, Maria Cosgrove elected to return with him.  Jefferson wrote her a very moving love letter of farewell.  Having read many of Jefferson’s writings, from letters to colleagues to documents, I have to say that this is the most stunning piece of writing I have ever read by him, with the possible exception of the Declaration of Independence.
 
In this letter, Jefferson has laid bare his very soul.  The essential essence of the man is there, plain for all to see.  It is a very long letter, and it is written in the form of a remarkable dialogue between his heart and his head-or more precisely, between his overwhelming feelings of love, and his even more profound sense of honor.  
 
It is clear that his love for Maria Cosgrove is intense and all-consuming.  It is equally clear, as he writes it to her husband also, that as much as he desires her, any transgression of moral limits is completely out of the question.
 
What comes through, loud and clear, is a profound sense of hopelessness.  Although his love for Maria Cosgrove is boundless, He accepts that she is forever out of his reach.  He shows great respect for her, for her husband, and for her marriage.   Most of all, he shows respect for himself, and accepts that he is completely bound by his unshakable sense of honor.   The depth of character of the man comes through like a clarion call.  As the reader can tell, I was immensely impressed.


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Final Thoughts

There has been speculation among scholars as to whether this relationship with Maria Cosgrove was ever consummated.  For anyone who has any question about whether Jefferson had an intimate relationship with either Maria Cosgrove or Sally Hemings , this letter is a “must read”.
 
Jefferson’s profound sense of personal honor make it profoundly clear that cheating on a marriage would have been total anathema to him.
 
As far as a possible relationship with Sally Hemings, the information presented earlier would seem to make this extremely unlikely. However, this letter also makes it abundantly clear that for a person of Jefferson’s impeccable sense of honor and integrity, to have been involved in such a long-term exploitative affair with one of his slaves would seem virtually impossible.
 
As much as the Progressive Left would like to imagine it otherwise, it seems to me that, by far the most likely scenario, as a number of Jefferson scholars have written, is that he spent the last forty-five years of his life without an intimate relationship with a woman, thus keeping both the letter and spirit of his promise to his wife.
 
So the obvious question is, in the face of so little actual evidence, why do the tours at Monticello and the University of Virginia, insist on stating as an absolute fact, that Thomas Jefferson had a long-term relationship with Sally Hemings?
 
The answer is that the Left is much more committed to their ideology and political goals, than they are to historical reality.  As has been noted elsewhere, many of our institutions of higher learning have fallen under the sway of Socialist professors.  In the case of the students, they are likely following the lead of their teachers.
 
I have mentioned earlier that there is a widespread effort by the Progressive Left to undermine our country by  attacking the foundations of our society-certainly religion and the family, but most of all, our historical legacy of freedom and liberty.  Statues of heroic figures are being torn down, and false and demeaning histories are being written.  But the most obvious and direct attacks are on our Founding Fathers. Every slander imaginable is being leveled against them, especially slavery. 
 
Thomas Jefferson is particularly tempting because of his central role in the founding of our country.  As with the other Founders, he is attacked because of slavery, but in his case, the Left has a particularly irresistible target.  I would suggest that Sally Hemings is the tip of the spear, in the effort by the Progressive Left to destroy the monumental contributions of Thomas Jefferson to the freedom and liberty of this country. Similar efforts are underway in the tours at Montpelier, the home of James Madison.
 
If the Progressive Left is able to discredit the authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution, two of the most important political documents in the history of the world, and the very essence of our freedom and liberty, their work will be done.
 
Addendum:  It has just come to my attention that a gentleman by the name of Keith Woods has recently posted a video on YouTube (see below) about this same subject, under the heading of “Leather Apron Club”. 

Interestingly, he and I, working completely independently, came to exactly the same conclusions.  Firstly, that Thomas Jefferson was a paragon of honorable behavior, and probably remained celibate for the last forty three years of his life.  And, secondly, that there is virtually no evidence that he had an intimate relationship with Sally Hemings.  Indeed, it seems that she was a very minor figure in his life. 

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Among other credits, Dr. Pyles served as President of the American Psychoanalytic Association and was awarded the honor of “Distinguished Life Fellow” of the American Psychiatric Association.

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: The Left Spins Another Yarn to Trash the Founders
              (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)  (Appendix I) (Appendix II) 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Potomac Tea Party
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