Essay Sample Dedicated to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings Controversy

Published: 2022-10-10
Essay Sample Dedicated to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings Controversy
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Racism Slavery Relationship Thomas Jefferson
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1863 words
16 min read

Interracial relationships were a very controversial matter in American society during the time of slavery. For instance, if an individual wanted to engage in an interracial relationship, he or she had to keep the issue a secret from the public. There was a consequence of such relationships. There are questions on whether the interracial affiliation between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings was a mistake. According to Oberg, Barbara and Thomas (10), Thomas Jefferson inherited the possession of the Hemings family after the death of Martha and John Wayles who was Sally Hemings' parents. Thomas Jefferson moved into Monticello with the family who came to be known as the new residence of Hemings. The two first met at Monticello.

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Turner (58) asserts that the affair between Jefferson and Sally began in the early 19080's, and Martha Wayles is perceived to be the link between the two. Martha Wayles was Sally Hemings, half-sister, and she also married Thomas Jefferson. There are speculations that since Sally and Martha were related, and that they looked familiar, it could be the reason why Thomas Jefferson got attracted to Sally Hemings. However, since there are no written records of Thomas and Sally, the majority of scholars relies on the writings of other family members and made assumptions or drew conclusions about their relationships. Today, people still possess unconvincing evidence concerning the relationship and why it lasted. Sally decided to carry on with her long-term relation with Thomas Jefferson after an in-depth assessment of her preferences, her circumstances, and the little control that she partook over Thomas Jefferson.

As the third president of the United States and being human, there are possibilities of him siring children with Sally who was one of the slave girls. Evidence suggests that the allegations could be true. Ishida (22) elucidates that the Hemings family experienced emancipation, light treatments where Eston and Madison Hemings accounts of claiming that Thomas Jefferson fathered the children of Sally Hemings. On many occasions, he had a light heart towards the family of Sally Hemings and did not subject them to a heavy workload.

Turner (70) asserts that among Sally's roles encompassed handling Jefferson's wardrobe and chamber. She also looked after the children and did not do heavy work. She performed light duties and received monthly payments of twelve lire's. The light workload and the small wage signify that Thomas Jefferson had some emotional attachment with Sally Hemings based on the fact that other slaves did not receive any form of payment. Out of all the slaves who worked for Thomas Jefferson, there are no records to show that any of them received payment for the labor which they provided. Sally and her family received good treatment from Jefferson throughout their lives.

During Jefferson's tour to France, it is documented that Sally accompanied him to France. Her role was to assist Martha and Maria Jefferson. According to Turner (44), during their stay in France, Sally (Madison's mother) became Jefferson's concubine and upon her coming back home. Madison Hemings also assert that upon their arrival in France, the Hemings' family received light treatment from the president and that they were the only ones among the slaves whom Thomas Jefferson liberated, except one of his body servants. Jefferson never emancipated any slave, but only those of Hemings family.

According to Ishida (275), Israel Jefferson, who was among Thomas Jefferson's slaves, "the death of Thomas Jefferson was an affair of great moment to us slaves since Mr. Jefferson provided freedom to seven servants only. These were Sally, his chambermaid, who adopted the name Hemings, her four children -Harriet, Madison, Eston, and Beverly; John Hemings who was Sally's brother and Brunel Colburn who was an old and faithful body servant of Jefferson."

In his will, Thomas Jefferson clearly stated that the family of Hemings should be freed of their slave bond at the age of 21. These show the possibilities of Jefferson fathering Sally's children. Madison also refers to Jefferson as "father" six times in his memoir. Madison and his brother, Eston also made known that their father was Thomas Jefferson. Madison writes " We were the only children of Jefferson by a slave woman." The statement is an assurance that Jefferson's association with Sally and her offspring is directly linked to their liberation in Jefferson's will. During his childhood, Jefferson is said to have fathered Madison and his siblings. Madison persisted to follow this belief during his lifetime.

Jefferson employed Sally as his personalmaid and Jefferson was on the most cherished relations with her, and it is a confirmation that Sally was his concubine. Jefferson's connection with Sally's children was therefore not a coincidence. His actions proved that he was also human. History suggests that many influential personalities also found themselves in Thomas Jefferson's situation.

Lerner (70) explains that Dr. Eugene Foster in 1997 launched a medical inquiry to investigate a possible genetic link between Jefferson's living descendants and those of Sally Hemings. The medical practitioner matched the blood of the five offspring of Field Jefferson who was Thomas' paternalistic uncle, and the blood of the offspring of Sally Hemings-Cars and Thomas Woodson. The extracted DNA from the samples of blood were also forwarded to England where they underwent tests. The results suggested that there was a link between Field Jefferson Y chromosomes and the descendant of Eston Hemming, a fact which provided evidence to the assertion that Jefferson sired at least one of Sally Hemming's children. There are possibilities that the match was a coincidence by less than 1%. After the releasing of the DNA results in 1998, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation responded immediately. The foundation pledged to evaluate the scientific results and all the relevant evidence which were provided. TJMF Research Committee assessed the DNA study agreed that the haplotype match is over one hundred times more likely when Eston Hemings and Jefferson are related through the male line and that the inquiry fails to establish the fact that Thomas Jefferson was Hemings father, but that Hemings's father was a Jefferson (Duster, 88). Lack of a match between Hemings and Carr haplotypes subjects the study to rule out that Peter Carr and Samuel to be Eston Hemings' father. Lerner (60) also agrees that even though Woodson and Jefferson's haplotypes failed to match, the study indicates that Jefferson was not Thomas Woodson's father. The committee further asserts that the design of the study eliminated the ambiguity which resulted from the genetic influence which John Wayles had, through inquiring the Y chromosome. The study also included the DNAs of the male line descendants of five "old Virginia families" who were part of the analysis and attempted to sample the local population of Y chromosomes. None of these matched Jefferson's haplotype, and it is considered to be quite rare.

Barton (333) explains that the above facts suggest that the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings is an issue which has never been resolved. In as much as the DNA results proved compatible with the probability that Jefferson was the biological father of Eston Hemings- who was Sally's youngest son, Madison also claimed to be Jefferson's son and asserted that he and other Sally's children were Jefferson's children. There are speculations that Jefferson and Sally initiated their relationship when they were in France from 1787 to 1879. Sally conceived and decided to go back to the United States after they entered into a covenant where Thomas Jefferson promised her some benefits which included freedom for her children when they attained 21 years.

According to Duster, 44, Jefferson's paternity of Sally's children is an issue which has been confirmed beyond sensible doubt. The idea sounds right. However, it also clinches a deceptive legalistic outline. History is perceived to be more than a classroom than a courtroom. In this aspect, large space where rooms remain for cool versions of the veracity, up or down judgments which are not necessitated where academic scholars are expected to behave like legal advocates, professionally indebted to terminate evidence that fails to fit their case. The perfect way to approach the issue is to assert that the affliction of proof has moved rather radically. If history is an endless dispute, agnostics and questioners still have a responsibility in the discussion. However, it is an undeniable fact that Hemings and Jefferson were sexual partners.

In as much as many people believe that Jefferson fathered Sally's children, the fact is not coming out apparently. Even though Madison Hemings pushes this claim, Eston Hemings was born in 1808 when Thomas Jefferson was sixty-five years old. There are possibilities that the relationship between Jefferson and Sally started and ended during this period. The DNA results also pointed out a non-match with Thomas Woodson who was the first among Sally's surviving children. It is possible that Madison was wrong about the relationship between his mother and Thomas Jefferson. There are also possibilities of Thomas Woodson being on the wrong side of the story based on the fact that there could be "false paternity" which results in breaking the genetic line which falsifies the outcomes. The mulatto offspring in the Woodson line are perceived to be among the most vibrant claimants of the biological connection to Jefferson. The issue urges another DNA study to look into the lineage which is currently contemplated. Since the results of the study are unknown, an agnostic posture linked to the roots of the sexual connection is undoubtedly wise. It is likely that Jefferson is the father of Sally Heming's' children (most if not all), and that his relationship with Sally Heming's was withstanding.

The reason why a solution has never been provided to the issue is due to the questions on whether the link between Sally and Jefferson was a character relationship, coercive and consensual, or an agreement which gave both parties with what they wanted. For instance, Jefferson wanted a physical satisfaction, and Heming perhaps wanted a privileged status and the freedom for her children. There are also questions as to whether the association was love or rape relationship. It is possible that the relationship lasted for a very long time.

It does not make any difference since Thomas Jefferson was an influential personality within society. However, his intimate relationship with Heming lacks a demeanor on his idealistic to the American West such as Lewis and Clark expedition, and Louisiana Purchase. The issue does not also affect the stature of Jefferson as the principal architect of the matter, with Madison. The prominent legislation required that the church should completely separate from the church. Jefferson played a central role in the development of the Democratic party where the Virginia legal code was revised. These are what shaped the United States foreign policy as the third president and as the first secretary of the Democrats.


The idea of a slave mulatto girl getting into an intimate relationship with Thomas Jefferson gained significant attention and power and provided an opportunity to increase cultural credibility since it represented the deep yearnings of many American citizens. The case is a representation of what American citizens believe that it is the ultimate solution to racial segregation. With his position in the society, Jefferson can access many other ladies at Monticello who could satisfy his needs and comforts, but he continued to fixated to Sally Hemings.

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