Reply to the Response to the Minority Report
July 28, 2000
TO: Readers of the Attached Reports
FROM: Daniel P. Jordan, President, TJF
SUBJECT: COMMENT ON DR. WALLENBORN'S RESPONSE
The Foundation welcomes the thoughts of our friend and former colleague, Ken Wallenborn, M.D. In the absence of new evidence, the Foundation stands firmly behind the comments of Cinder Stanton, its Shannon Senior Research Historian, as well as the scholarly report the Foundation issued in January 2000. We encourage everyone to read all of the various reports and responses and to form their own opinions on this complicated matter, about which honorable people have disagreed for over two hundred years.
Reply to Thomas Jefferson Foundation Response to the Minority Report to the DNA Study Committee
Reply by White McKenzie Wallenborn, M.D.
Author of the Minority Report
Former Clinical Professor, University of Virginia School of Medicine
Former Historical Interpreter, Monticello
This is the reply to the response to the Minority Report of the DNA Study Committee by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation through Lucia C. Stanton. With respect to the introductory comments by Mr. Daniel P. Jordan, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, on March 23, 2000 presenting the "Minority Report": Mr. Jordan's invitation to the public to read both reports (DNA Study Committee and Minority Report) and draw their own conclusions has produced an immense positive response to the "Minority Report" from Jefferson scholars, historians, physicians, scientists, statisticians, active and retired college professors, attorneys, geneaologists, and the general public. Many of those who have taken the time to read the TJMF report have been shocked to see the evidence that the committee used to reach their conclusions.
Several opening comments should be recorded before beginning the point by point discussion. The Foundation response by Ms. Stanton said that the committee as a whole did not feel the Minority Report was of sufficient weight to warrant a different conclusion. This statement is anything but the truth because the committee as a whole did not see the Minority Report until well after the release of the final committee report on January 27, 2000. In other words, the chair of the committee did not share the dissenting report (which was submitted on April 12, 1999) with the complete committee. As a matter of fact, the committee as a whole did not even see the final DNA Study Committee report until 72 hours prior to the release of this report to the public and there was no time to discuss the contents at that time (the committee had finished its deliberations in April 1999 - nine months earlier). There will be more comment about the elastic conception of the truth in section 1.
1. Jefferson denied the relationship (and Ms. Stanton says: "and by implication, Jefferson would not lie.").
In the fall of 1802, James Thomson Callender in a series of scandalous articles in a pro-Federalist weekly newspaper, the "Richmond Recorder" charged Thomas Jefferson with three basic misdeeds. These were as follows: 1) he had a son called Tom by his slave Sally; 2) that he had an affair with a married woman; and 3) that he had paid off a loan with devaluated currency. Although the Federalists continued to attack Mr. Jefferson most of his public life and throughout his retirement, primarily their charges echoed Callender's charges of 1802. The Federalists used them repeatedly against Jefferson.
Callender's allegations concerning the Walker affair with a reference to the "sable damsel", to whom Mr. Jefferson supposedly turned to after he was rejected by Mrs. Walker, were revived and printed again in 1805 in northern papers. This brought about a national political debate about Th. Jefferson's morality in the cases of Mrs. Walker and the concubinage of Sally Hemings.
Usually the Walker story and the Sally affair were lumped together in the same articles which confirm his distinct denial in the following letter. On July 1, 1805, Thomas Jefferson wrote a cover letter to Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy, and enclosed a copy of a letter to Mr. Levi Lincoln, the Attorney General. In this letter Mr. Jefferson pled guilty to one of the Federalists' charges, that when young and single, he offered love to a handsome lady. He acknowledged the incorrectness of the act but said that it is the only one founded on truth among all their allegations against me. There is no element of ambiguity in Jefferson's denial. The other allegations were well known to all.
In his letter to Dr. George Logan in 1816 he uses the exact phrase and capitalization as James T. Callender used, e.g. "As to Federal slanders, I never wished them to be answered, . . .Their approbation has taught a lesson, useful to the world that the man who fears no truths, has nothing to fear from lies. I should have fancied myself half guilty had I condescended to put pen to paper in refutation of their falsehoods, or drawn to them respect by any notice of myself." So it would appear that in this denial he was again specifically referring to Callender's slanders as picked up by the Federalists.
Ms. Stanton quotes Joanne Freeman as saying Mr. Jefferson had an elastic conception of the truth, when he believed the stakes of the nation were high. We are not talking about the stakes of the nation here but the private communication between Th. Jefferson and two of his close personal and political friends. There is no proof, that I am aware of, that would show that Mr. Jefferson told anything but the truth to any of his adult family, friends, or close political associates.
Ms. Stanton also states: "We know Jefferson's rationalizing talents and can imagine ways he could find a fairly comfortable place for this relationship in his view of himself". This statement belies all of Mr. Jefferson's professions of morality, his assertions that a slave master must not abuse those under his control, and especially his strong and well known feelings about miscegenation. An even less scholarly comment was referenced by Ms. Stanton that Jefferson might have considered a sexual liaison with a slave necessary for his health as he had books on the subject of health and sexual activity. This is preposterous . . .in my library are books by Fawn Brodie and Annette Gordon-Reed but by no means do I agree with them nor should anyone make a supposition that I do just because they are in my collection. Th. Jefferson himself never wrote about or was quoted as saying anything that would give credence to these statements.
Robert McDonald writing in "Southern Cultures" said that Callender's allegations had "scant credibility" to readers, and even "Jefferson's reticence which regularly characterized his responses to attacks" did nothing to enhance their believability.
In summary, the 1805 letter to Robert Smith is both an incisive and direct denial by a primary subject and is certainly not fraught with ambiguity or falsehood. Daniel P. Jordan, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, said in reference to Ms. Stanton's responses "Her views reflect my own" but in commenting on the possibility of Mr. Jefferson having a sexual relationship with a slave said in an interview for the Ken Burns documentary on PBS-TV: "My own belief is that, as one of the contemporaries of Jefferson said, it would be morally impossible for that to have occurred."
2. Edmund Bacon denied the relationship (and Ms. Stanton says: "and by implication, Bacon too would not lie").
Edmund Bacon said in his interview with Rev. H. Pierson that he began working for Mr. Jefferson on Dec. 27, 1800 and had the title of overseer from Sept. 29, 1806 until Oct. 15, 1822. In Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book and Garden Book there are at least two references to Bacon having several jobs at Monticello before he became overseer in 1806. His father had apparently done some contract jobs for Mr. Jefferson and so Edmund Bacon was known to Mr. Jefferson well before 1806. In his interview with Rev. Pierson, Mr. Bacon produced letters of Mr. Jefferson's to him, bills from Monticello, etc. to back up some of his remarks. Thomas Jefferson provided a letter of recommendation for Mr. Bacon when he went West looking for land and employment. Whether or not he was at Monticello at Harriet's or Madison's conception is not nearly as important as his observation that Sally's male companion was not Thomas Jefferson. Remember that he was there by all accounts when Eston was conceived (if Eston was conceived at Monticello). There are no secrets on a farm and Monticello was no different, so Edmund Bacon would have been aware of who was having an affair with Sally Hemings even if the affair had been going on before Bacon's arrival. Edmund Bacon, being a primary witness, gives a significant observation that Mr. Thomas Jefferson was not involved with Sally Hemings at least for one of her conceptions.
Now again we see undocumented assumptions on the part of the TJMF responder with an attempt to read the mind of Edmund Bacon. Ms. Stanton says: "First we have to consider reasons Bacon might have had for absolving Jefferson of the Hemings connection (he was talking to a clergyman in 1860, when mores were decidedly different from those of 1800; he was deeply loyal to Jefferson and proud of his association with a great man, and so forth)". Of course the main reason Bacon had for absolving Mr. Jefferson was that he was telling the truth about the situation. As to the mores being different in 1860 from those of 1800, it is doubtful that telling a truism (or a falsehood) to a clergyman in 1860 would be different from telling one in 1800. And what would be wrong with being proud of your association with a great man as long as you are willing to tell the truth about him? There just is no good reason for Mr. Bacon to tell lies during his interview. Being forgetful on minor points is understandable after not being around Mr. Jefferson for thirty eight years. As a primary witness, Edmund Bacon's revelations are of significant value in discrediting the purported Jefferson-Hemings affair.
3. Thomas Jefferson Randolph denied the relationship (and Ms. Stanton says: "and by implication, Thomas Jefferson Randolph would not lie").
Actually the DNA evidence may have strengthened Thomas Jefferson Randolph's version of the events. The DNA applies only to Eston Hemings and not to Sally Hemings other four children and in no way eliminates Peter or Samuel Carr from being the father of those four children. The DNA evidence indicates that Eston's father was someone carrying the Jefferson Y-Chromosome. Thomas Jefferson Randolph (and Henry S. Randall) reported that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings could not have met-were far distant from each other-for fifteen months prior to the birth of the Hemings who looked most like Thomas Jefferson and this most likely would have been Eston . . .and here Ms. Stanton erroneously gives these dates as July 1806 to September 1807 when these dates of 15 months separation should be February 1807 to May 1808 (see section 4 of the response). Thus if Eston's father was a Jefferson and Mr. Jefferson was not around Sally for fifteen months prior to Eston's birth, then the most likely father would be Randolph Jefferson or one of his sons. Eston is said to be the son of Sally that most resembled Thomas Jefferson. He was six feet one inch tall and decidedly very light skinned. Madison Hemings was five feet seven inches and a darker mulatto. Beverly's appearance is only vaguely described. Eston was noted by one person in Cincinnati to look just like a Jefferson bust in Washington, thus it would appear that Eston was most likely the one referred to in TJR's comments to Henry S. Randall.
In response to Ms. Stanton's statement that "we know, however, from the Memorandum Books and other sources that Jefferson was at Monticello at the right time to father all of Sally Hemings children". A study of the Memorandum Books, the Farm Book, the Garden Book, and the Monticello Research Staff's Chronology Record of time and location of Mr. Jefferson do not support Ms. Stanton's statement. We do know the dates of Mr. Jefferson's departures from Philadelphia and Washington and the dates of his departures from Monticello to return to those cities. However it is difficult to pinpoint his presence at Monticello on or near the estimated dates of conception. Mr. Jefferson was a man on the move when he returned to Monticello and would make visits overnight or for longer periods to places such as Poplar Forest, Enniscorthy, Warren, Scottsville, Montpelier, Natural Bridge, etc. We do know that he was at Monticello on April 17, 1804 which is ten days before the estimated date of Madison Hemings's conception. He was there at the time of the death of his younger daughter, Maria Jefferson Eppes. She was the daughter that looked most like Th. Jefferson's wife and died from the same cause, late complications of childbirth. It is extremely unlikely that he would show his grief at that time with all of the family around by having a sexual liaison with Sally Hemings ten days after Maria's death. As to Sally's presence or absence from Monticello, there is only sketchy evidence of her whereabouts prior to 1801. From 1801 until 1810, there is almost no evidence bearing on this matter. While Mr. Jefferson was serving as President (1801-1809) and away from Monticello, the house was kept locked. During this time he leased some of his slaves out and it would not be unreasonable to think that Sally and some of the other house staff might have been loaned out to neighbors or nearby relatives at Edgehill, Snowden, Varina, Farmington, etc.
In summary, Thomas Jefferson Randolph's comments to Henry S. Randall were quite candid and were most likely closer to the truth on these matters. And because he was a primary witness, they are very meaningful.
4. There is insufficient information about Sally Hemings and other Jeffersons to make a valid statistical estimate of probability.
This was discussed in point three but to be more specific let me give here the estimated dates of conception (EDC), F. Neiman's dates that Th. Jefferson was supposed to be at Monticello (FND), and the dates that the Farm Book, Garden Book, Memorandum Books, and Monticello Research Department's Chronological Record can give Mr. Jefferson's exact location on specific date (SLD):
|Jan. 11, 1795
|Jan. 16, 1794-Feb. 20, 1797
No exclusions by Neiman
|Jan. 1, 1795
Feb. 1, 1795 only
|July 8, 1797
|July 11, 1797-Dec. 4, 1797
No exclusions by Neiman
|July 1, 1797 (only
date with reference
to TJ's presence in
this entire time).
|Aug. 21, 1800
|May 29, 1800-Nov. 1800
No exclusions by Neiman
|From Aug. 12 until
Sept. 8, TJ's
|Apr. 27, 1804
|Apr. 5, 1(434) May 11, 1804
No exclusions by Neiman
|Apr. 8, 12, and May
9 are the only dates
listing TJ's location
|Aug. 28, 1807
|Aug. 5, 1807-Oct. 1, 1807
No exclusions by Neiman
|July 23, 1807 only.
The next date
location was Sept.
13, 1807 and he
was actually at
*He was known to be at Monticello on April 17, 1804 because this is the date that his daughter Maria died at Monticello.
There are some striking coincidences which also add to the perplexity. For example, when Jefferson finally came home after his second term as President, for some reason Sally quit having children. Randolph Jefferson (TJ's brother and a possible father of Eston) was widowed probably as early as 1796 but as soon as he remarried in late 1808 or early 1809, Sally had no more children. Thomas Jefferson, Jr. (Randolph's son and a possible father of Eston) married on Oct. 3, 1808 and after this date, Sally had no more children. Obstetrical calculations are notoriously fallible and coupled with early or late deliveries being entirely possible, throw more doubt on the Monte Carlo Simulation studies based on these factors. At any rate, Neiman's statistics cry out for valid comparative studies of the other Jefferson males who might have fathered Eston and in the absence of these comparisons, the results are inconclusive. Because no accurate records were kept of these other Jefferson male visits to Monticello, no comparisons can be performed. And given the fact that there is no proof of Sally Hemings's presence at Monticello when Eston was conceived, the picture really becomes muddled.
WEBMASTER NOTE: A chronology of Jefferson's whereabouts throughout his life compiled by former Monticello Curator, James A. Bear, Jr., lists Jefferson at Monticello on many more dates than Dr. Wallenborn notes. The chronology is available at Monticello's Jefferson Library in Charlottesville, VA.
5. Madison Hemings recollection lack credibility because of language used (Ms. Stanton says: "amazing grammar and vocabulary") and his age 68.
Wetmore's article about Madison Hemings can not be called an "accurate reflection of Hemings's statements" as there are not direct quotations of Madison Hemings before and/or subsequent to the publication that reaffirm Wetmore's opinions. To make such a statement without access to Wetmore's interview notes just is not acceptable. Madison Hemings did not sign the original document or at least there is no record of a signature to affirm concurrence with Wetmore's statements. There can be no doubt that the language is Wetmore's and whether or not he changed the content to fit his (Wetmore's) strong political agenda is unknown but becomes suspect. In other words, this document is very problematic and should not be considered as a primary source of evidence.
In response to Ms. Stanton's statement that "Hemings would not have forgotten who his father was, no matter his age", it is almost impossible for anyone to say with absolute certainty who his father was. DNA can rule out paternity but does not prove it as we have seen in the case of Eston Hemings. Your parent(s) can tell you who your father is but even this is sometimes wrong, as is seen in the case of Thomas Woodson, who certainly did not know who his father was. If you read Wetmore's article carefully, at no time does Madison Hemings say that his mother told him that Thomas Jefferson was his father.
In final response to Ms. Stanton's comment that "the details of language and historical facts are irrelevant to the main issue: paternity", the entire questionable composition of Wetmore's publication, coupled with the fact that Madison never acknowledged the source of his information as to whom his father was, are very relevant to the main issue of paternity.
The author of the Minority Report of the DNA Study Committee would like to conclude with a statement: If the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the DNA Study Committee majority had been seeking the truth and had used accurate legal and historical information rather than politically correct motivation, their statement should have been something like this: "After almost two hundred years of study including recent DNA information, it is still impossible to prove with absolute certainty whether Thomas Jefferson did or did not father any of Sally Hemings five children." This statement is accurate and honest and it would have helped discourage the campaign by leading universities (including Thomas Jefferson's own University of Virginia), magazines, university publications, national commercial and public TV networks, and newspapers to denigrate and destroy the legacy of one of the greatest of our founding fathers and one of the greatest of all of our citizens.
Second Revision: June 29, 2000