This is the third body of evidence against the idea that Thomas Jefferson sired children by his slave Sally Hemings.*
The culprit birthing the two century long accusation that Jefferson had children by Hemings was James T. Callender (1758-1803). He was a journalist who began his career in Scotland where he authored work critical of the British government. He was summarily indicted for sedition, and ultimately, he and his family fled to America. Incurring the sympathy of American patriots, he landed a job writing for a Republican newspaper, which was a Anti-Federalist, pro-Jefferson publication in Philadelphia. He continued his inflammatory attacks, this time against Federalists like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. At the time, the northern states tended to be Federalist, and the southern states anti-Federalist. Over time, this did not bode well for Callender, who was attacking the Federalists in their own front-yard. Fearing persecution, he fled from Philadelphia to Richmond, Virginia, and found another job with a Republican newspaper, continuing his attacks. “But in 1800, because of his vicious writings, Callender was convicted under the federal Sedition Law, fined $200, which is about $3000 today” (pg47). During nine months in prison, Callender wrote Jefferson 29 letters, who was then vice president under John Adams. Jefferson replied only three times, ‘BUT’ continued personal financial support of Callender’s children, which began upon his initial arrival from England.
The next year, when Jefferson became president, “he deemed the Sedition Law to be unconstitutional and pardoned everyone (14 people) who had been persecuted under it…including Callender!! Jefferson also ordered the fines…returned, with interest. The Federalist sheriff who had collected the $200 fine from Callender refused…even ignoring direct orders. Callender, now free, was unaware of these difficulties…and became infuriated with Jefferson” (pg47-48).
Furthermore, because he wrote in favor of Jefferson’s party, he now believed they owed him, and demanded a Presidential appointment as the U.S. postmaster for Richmond, which both President Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison rejected.
As the sheriff’s refusal to return the fine continued, Jefferson told Governor Monroe, “I think with you, we had better refund his fine by private contributions. I enclose you an order on Gibson & Jefferson for $50, which I believe is one fourth of the whole sum” (pg48).
Three days later, Callender responded to Jefferson’s benevolence with a vicious attack considering his $50 to be hush money, not charity, that was due. Of course, Jefferson correctly responded by cutting him off.
“The disgruntled Callender who previously had written only for Republican newspapers—that is pro-Jefferson, and Anti-Federalist publications—now actively sought a job with the Recorder, a Federalist newspaper in Richmond that was openly critical of President Jefferson.” From this point (1801) till his death (1803), he began his attacks on Jefferson—including the birthing a child with Hemings--accusation!
In his first piece, Callender wrote: “It is well known that the man whom it delighteth the people to honor [President Jefferson] keeps, and for many years past has kept as his concubine one of his own slaves. Her name is Sally. The name of her eldest son is Tom. His features are said to bear a striking, although sable [dark-skinned] resemblance to those of the president himself. The boy is ten or twelve years of age. His mother went to France in the same vessel with Mr Jefferson” (pg52).
Of course, as already noted, there are some serious problems with Callender’s facts. First, contemporary DNA research has unequivocally proven that ‘NO’ Jefferson genes—from all 26 possibilities, including Thomas Jefferson(pg2)---were found in Sally’s son, ‘Thomas Woodson’s’ lineage! Second, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings did not travel to France on the same vessel, there was a three-year gap, 1784 and 1787, respectively. Third, idea of Jefferson fathering children by Hemings was neither “well known” nor received by Americans at the time as proven by the fact that he was overwhelming re-elected to office--AFTER the rumors broke! Fourth, because any of Hemings children have a resemblance to Jefferson has absolutely ‘ZERO’ bearing on Thomas Jefferson fathering them! First and second cousins often have resemblance to one another because of the same Y gene, not because they have the same father. I personally had a second cousin whom I grew-up with, that as children, even I believed…he looked just like me! The ‘resemblance accusation factor’ in this controversy is--by far--the worst evidence in favor of those who hold that Jefferson fathered children by Sally Hemings!
Many scholars, even to this day, have debunked Callender’s accusations. “Almost every scandalously story about Jefferson which is still whispered or believed can be traced to the lies in Callender’s book” wrote, Pulitzer prize-winning author James Truslow Adams(pg54). Merrill Peterson, University of Virginia history professor and Pulitzer prize-winning historian Dumas Malone declared Callender “one of the most notorious scandalmongers and character assassins in American history” (pg55). University of Stanford, history professor John C. Miller describes Callender, “the most unscrupulous scandalmonger of the day…a journalist who stopped at nothing and stooped to anything.”
In a letter to Governor Monroe, Jefferson wrote, “I was really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender. It presents human nature in a hideous form. …I considered him as a man of science fled from persecution, and assured my friend of my readiness to do whatever I could to serve him… In 1798, I think, I was applied…to contribute to his relief…” “In 1799…I contributed again. When he fled in panic from Philadelphia…I availed myself of this pretext to cover a mere charity and sent him fifty dollars(750 dollars today). The succeeding year, he again wanted money…sent him another 50 dollars (750 dollars today)…” “…however ready I was to aid him with my own charities, and I gave him 50 dollars (750 dollars today)…” (pg58).
If you are counting, that’s five times Jefferson contributed large sums of money to help Callender; all this, plus pardoning him from an unjust law, and returning his fine with interest! Yet, because Jefferson would not appoint him to postmaster of Richmond, Callender went on the offensive inventing the Hemings accusations…which last to this day!
In spite of these three tidbits (1-3), which pretty much, offer irrefutable evidence that Jefferson did not father even one Hemings’ child---why do the rumors still linger? It’s a simple, but complex answer. The first step toward truth, is to remember to view things from God’s perspective. The Bible declares,
1.The life of Jesus is the light of men(Jn1:3). Mankind cannot understand, apart from the life/person of Christ Jesus. Therefore, without revelation from the Holy Spirit, which is synonymous with the person of Jesus(Jn1:1,Jn14:26), mankind will misinterpret life!
2.We are instructed not to be ignorant of the schemes of the devil(2Cor2:11).
What we are now seeing in the contemporary attacks on America’s Founding Fathers is a concerted effort to discredit their reputations and character, with the intent in mind to reject their philosophy and work. In other words, the ultimate liberal agenda is to reject the Declaration of Independence and Constitution because, they are products of our Founding Fathers! But why? In order to replace those documents with their own version of ‘positive’ law—which they believe to be more updated and equitable! In other words, because the Declaration of Independence and Constitution originate in the Bible, which is God’s word, and because liberalism is a doctrine of atheism, and atheism rejects the Bible, liberalism therefore rejects the Declaration and Constitution!
It’s that simple!
I repeat, do not be ignorant of the schemes of Satan!
*This tidbit series is indebted to David Barton, and his incredible book “The Jefferson Lies”. All quotes with page numbers come from his book.
Enrich yourself so you can enrich the lives of others.
-GARY COXE, Personal growth coach and life strategist
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