Was it beneath the personal dignity of Thomas Jefferson to consort with any black slave?

At 06:36 AM 10/16/2001 -0700, Chris & Tom Tinney, Sr. wrote:

>The only logical and rational conclusion is that the said Thomas Jefferson would have considered it beneath his own personal dignity to consort with any black slave.

A very interesting claim, which shows that you obviously know zero about Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was involved in many sexual escapades before he met Sally. The first known is that he proposed or intended to propose marriage to Rebecca Burwell, a 16-year-old girl. She married Jacquelin Ambler instead, and became the mother-in-law of US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, who wrote the famous Marbury vs. Madison decision which was a rebuke for President Jefferson.

It was probably a wise move for Rebecca Burwell not to marry Thomas Jefferson, because the woman Jefferson eventually did marry died soon because of having too many children in too short a time.

Next, Jefferson engaged in an adulterous affair with Elizabeth Walker, the wife of General John Walker, who had gone off to fight in one of the Indian Wars. The Walkers were neighbors of Jefferson before he built Monticello and when General Walker was leaving, he asked Thomas Jefferson to take care of his wife. Jefferson certainly did that, while he was gone.

Years later, General Walker found out that Jefferson had been sleeping with his wife and challenged Jefferson to a duel, but Jefferson declined.

Some historians have claimed another scandal erupted when Thomas Jefferson married his wife, Martha Wayles. They say that he married her when she was still married to another man, Bathurst Skelton, and that she had a son named John. However, it has been concluded that this question arose because the calendar changed at about that time. Almost every date during this period has two years attached to it, because of the calendar change. The conclusion is that John Skelton died in June 1771, that Bathurst Skelton died in September 1771, and that Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles on 1 January 1772. This was still a brief interlude for a woman supposedly in mourning from the loss of both her husband and her son.

When Jefferson went to France in 1784, he started another adulterous affair, this time with Maria Cosway, wife of the famous painter, Richard Cosway. Richard Cosway was refered to as a "fop" by none other than King George III. Apparently, Richard Cosway was thought of as a homosexual who did not care if his wife slept with other men. Maria Cosway later became notorious for the numerous affairs she had in her life, something Jefferson could not have known because he was probably among her early lovers. Here is where Fawn Brodie made a huge mistake in her book, "Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History". Fawn Brodie said that Maria Cosway was "guilt ridden and ill equipped for adultery". Fawn Brodie obviously did not do much research on the life of Maria Cosway.

Benjamin Franklin was famous for the number of mistresses he had and the number of illegitimate children he sired. When Jefferson came to France, Franklin was already there and reputedly introduced Jefferson to several of his mistresses, especially since Franklin was going back to America anyway.

When Maria Cosway and her husband later left Paris for England, Thomas Jefferson followed them on horseback for as long as he could. Jefferson and Maria Cosway then exchanged love letters. One letter by Jefferson, entitled "The Head and the Heart" became famous.

In 1787, Maria Cosway returned to Paris alone, without her husband, obviously hoping to renew her relationship with Jefferson. She was disappointed that Jefferson expressed no interest in her. Perhaps Jefferson had heard of her reputation for promiscuity.

Still, for the next forty years, until they died, Maria Cosway continued to write love letters to Thomas Jefferson, always hinting that she would like for Jefferson to invite her to America. Jefferson responded politely, but never encouraged her. These letters are now at Princeton University.

We know from his accounts book that Thomas Jefferson probably first became sexually involved with Sally Hemings on or about April 6, 1789, because his account book shows that on that date he spent 96 francs buying "cloths for Sally." Over the period of the next seven weeks, Jefferson bought clothing for Sally on five separate occasions, spending a total of 216 francs. He also paid 41 francs for washing for Sally and 105 francs for an apartment for Sally. Sally had already been in France for two years and this was the first time Jefferson had ever spent any money on her.

Many believe that Sally was not the first slave-mistress of Thomas Jefferson. One candidate is Mary Hemings, the half-sister of Sally. Mary had a son named Joe Fossett, who was born in 1780. The descendants of Joe Fossett claim that Thomas Jefferson was his father.

Joe Fossett was always given special treatment and is mentioned in the will of Thomas Jefferson. Joe Fossett was caught in 1806 on the White House lawn, sneaking out of the White House early in the morning. He had been obviously sleeping with his wife Edy, who was working in the White House. Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to occupy the White House. Although John Adams and his wife visited the still not entirely completed White House and Abigail Adams notoriously hung up her wash to dry in the White House basement, they probably never spent the night there. When Thomas Jefferson became president, there was no White House staff, so he brought some of his slaves and they became the first White House staff. Among his slaves, Edy, the wife of Joe Fossett, and Davy and Fanny Bowles are known to have worked in the White House. However, Thomas Jefferson did not want Joe Fossett there and, when Joe was caught leaving the White House, Thomas Jefferson had him arrested and put in jail in Arlington.

There is reason to suspect that Thomas Jefferson was the real father of Joe Fossett, especially since Jefferson later gave Joe Fossett his freedom. Joe Fossett was so named because his father was said to be William Fossett, a white man who worked briefly for Thomas Jefferson, but there is no evidence that William Fossett was around nine months before Joe Fossett was born. There are many famous people who are descendants of Joe Fossett. One of his daughters married Tucker Isaacs, a prominent Jewish businessman in Charlottesville, and they had nine children. The next time you meet a Jewish man named Isaacs, ask him if he is part-black and see his reaction. There are at least two well-known tournament chess players named Isaacs.

Another candidate for the original slave mistress of Thomas Jefferson is Betty Brown. She received a lot of special treatment, compared with the other slaves. One of her sons was Burwell, who was left $300 in the will of Thomas Jefferson. He was the only person, including the daughters, who was left a significant sum of money in the will of Thomas Jefferson. He is sometimes referred to as Burwell Colburn, but there was nobody named Colburn who ever worked at Monticello, so there is suspicion that Burwell was also the son of Thomas Jefferson.

Finally, there was John Hemings, the younger half-brother of Sally. John Hemings was born in 1775. John Wayles had died in 1773 and John Hemings was born as the slave of Thomas Jefferson. John Hemings was made the supervisor in charge of the construction of Jefferson's second home at Poplar Forest. It is surprising that a mere slave was given such an important position. His father was said to be John Neilson, the architect who designed Poplar Forest, but it seems unlikely that this was true. John Hemings also supervised the construction of some of the buildings which became the University of Virginia.

These circumstances have led some to conclude that Thomas Jefferson was the real father of Joe Fossett, Burwell Colburn and John Hemings. One thing was certain: That all three of them had white fathers. Possibly the real situation was that Thomas Jefferson suspected that he might be the father, but was not sure. He certainly gave those three men advantages that the other slaves did not receive.

Fawn Brodie, in her book, "Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History", engaged in a lot of wild speculation and made a lot of baseless and doubtful conjectures, but one of her theories is worth repeating, which is Thomas Jefferson was only interested in "forbidden women". Brodie pointed out that every woman Jefferson is known to have been involved with was in some way forbidden. Elizabeth Walker and Maria Cosway were married to other men. Jefferson's only legal wife, Martha Wayles, had been married to a man who had died just three months earlier. Rebecca Burwell was very young. Sally Hemings was a slave.

Sam Sloan

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