OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings

Bonnie K. Goodman
38 min readOct 21, 2018

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, October 19, 1796, Former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton wrote an essay in the Gazette of the United States under the pseudonym “Phocion” accusing presidential nominee Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with one of his slaves. During the contentious campaign between anti-Federalist and former Secretary of State Jefferson and Federalist Vice President John Adams, Hamilton wrote 25 essays attacking Jefferson. None of the attacks would plague Jefferson beyond the 1796 campaign as the accusation he was involved with his slave later revealed to be Sally Hemings. For 200 years, it would haunt the founding father and third president’s legacy. Historian Joseph J. Ellis, “The alleged liaison between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings may be described as the longest-running miniseries in American history.”[1]

Equally, Hamilton and Jefferson’s rivalry is famed and immortalized in history by historians and now on the Broadway stage with the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Hamilton! by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Their rivalry paralleled the political rivalry and division between Jefferson’s agrarian perspective and Hamilton’s more urban and industrial approach.[2] Historian John Ferling points out in his book, Jefferson and Hamilton, The Rivalry That Forged a Nation:

“George Washington was the one who made things happen, but while he was the prime mover in Revolutionary America, it was Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, more than any others, who shaped the new American nation…. Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s contrasting views on the shape of the new American republic — its government, society, and economy — sparked a bitter rivalry. Furthermore, the ideas and issues that divided those two Founders have persisted from generation to generation in American politics.” [3]

Their stories diverged at the turn of the nineteenth century when James Callender revealed Hamilton’s affair to a married woman, and Jefferson won the 1800 presidential election. The Federalist defeat in 1800 was political death for Hamilton. Again, Hamilton attempted to meddle with the election supporting Pickney again as opposed to Jefferson and Adams. Hamilton planned to have Secretary of State Charles Pickney, Adams’s running mate, elected President and Secretary of War James McHenry elected Vice President. The Federalist party divided between Adams and Alexander Hamilton (High Federalists or Hamiltonians). Hamilton broke with Adams over reconciling with France after the “XYZ Affair” of 1797, and Adams would not cede the Federalist Party leadership to Hamilton. After Adams discovered Hamilton’s plot on May 12, 1800, he dismissed Pickney.[4]

Hamilton continued his assault on Adams and election interference with the October 24, 1800 publication of his “Letter from Alexander Hamilton Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams,” which was a fifty-four-page criticism of Adams. [5] Hamilton’s plan backfired, and the split in the Federalist Party giving the Democratic-Republicans a win in 1800. Hamilton decided it would be better to have Jefferson elected than Adams. Hamilton’s meddling caused chaos where the Democratic-Republican running mates Jefferson and vice-presidential candidate Aaron Burr had the same number of Electoral College votes throwing the election to the House of Representatives. [6]

Hamilton became the kingmaker of the election. On February 11, 1801, the House of Representatives met in the unfinished Capitol building in Washington to decide the election. Each state delegation had one vote, but there was a deadlock with 35 ballots. The Federalists wanted Burr rather than Jefferson, but Hamilton preferred Jefferson, and he convinced several Federalist Congressman to cast blank ballots and end the deadlock. On the 36th ballot, Jefferson won with ten state votes; Burr had four, with two blank abstaining votes ending the tie. [7]

After the election fiasco, Ferling recounts, “All the while, Hamilton slid, if not into oblivion, at least into the dark shadows of history.” Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans dominated American politics in the first quarter of the century. In 1824 and 1828, Andrew Jackson, another agrarian southern slaveholder, was considered a “second Jefferson.” Jackson’s Democratic Party dominated politics until the Civil War, secession and slavery reached a breaking point. [8]

Jefferson’s reputation took a hit with the Civil War, as the south as a whole and its slaveholding past were ostracized. Reconstruction brought the rapid rise of industrialization, which was Hamilton’s vision for America, and with its importance, Hamilton’s reputation healed and soared. Ferling explains,

“But a great shift occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century. The reputation of Jefferson, a Southerner and a slave the repudiation of slavery. The standing of Hamilton, who had been a proponent of a strong national government, soared, and he ascended even higher in America’s pantheon of heroes as the country entered the Industrial Age later in the century. While treasury secretary, Hamilton had offered an alternative to Jefferson’s agrarianism, ultimately making possible the explosive growth of the American economy.” [9]

The Gilded Age’s industrialization, urbanization, and capitalism represented Hamilton’s vision. Ferling recounts, “Hamilton was touted as the creator of modern capitalism and the first American businessman.” [10] The backlash against urban capitalism in the agrarian mid-west led to populism, the silver-gold debate, and the rise of Democrat William Jennings Bryan. In 1896, Bryan was called “the Jefferson of today,” while Bryan preached “Jeffersonian principles with Jacksonian courage.” Jefferson’s reputation rebounded and historians again compared the two, they “portrayed Jefferson as having stood for advancing the liberating tendencies unleashed by the American Revolution while Hamilton had represented the forces of reaction.” [11] Jefferson’s popularity was etched in stone in 1927, with his inclusion on Mount Rushmore.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the two Roosevelts were on either side of the Jefferson-Hamilton rivalry. President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) “extolled” Hamilton calling him, “the most brilliant American statesman who ever lived.” [12]Roosevelt Republicans sided with capitalism and urbanization. Ferling explains, “Roosevelt and his adherents were also ultranationalists who longed to extend the reach of American power, influence, and economic interests. They were drawn to Hamilton, the exponent of a robust, powerful United States capable not only of defending itself but also of expanding its borders.” As the nation prospered in the roaring twenties, so did Hamilton’s reputation. Ferling notes, “Nevertheless, Hamilton never eclipsed Jefferson in popularity in early-twentieth-century America, and admiration of the nation’s first Treasury secretary vanished almost entirely during the Great Depression.” [13]

His cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt elected president as a Democrat in 1932, amid the Great Depression aligned the New Deal Democrats with Jefferson’s philosophies. Roosevelt pitted wealthy capitalists against those suffering from the economic collapse and depression, compared to the struggle between agrarian Jefferson and capitalist Hamilton. Roosevelt gained the reputation as the “new Jefferson,” and Roosevelt’s popularity, winning four presidential elections, translated into Jefferson’s “popularity peak.” In 1943, Roosevelt was able to grant Jefferson the ultimate veneration, to celebrate Jefferson’s bicentennial, “the Jefferson Memorial in Washington was officially dedicated to America’s ‘Apostle of Freedom.’”[14]

In the post-World War II, Cold War, and with the rise of the Republican Right, Hamilton’s star rose for his positions on foreign policy and the economy. In the second half of the twentieth century, popularity between the two founding fathers’ depended on the president and party in power. In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy and later in the 1990s, William Jefferson Clinton, Bill praised their Democratic forbearer, while in the 1980s, Republican Ronald Reagan exalted Hamilton’s “wisdom.” [15]

The Civil Rights movement greatly affected slaveholding Jefferson’s reputation as contradictory to equal rights for all Americans, including the African Americans, whom he enslaved. In 1974, Fawn Brodie brought up Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemings in her biography, and it renewed the nearly 200-year-old question Hamilton raised in 1796, and the 1998 DNA test confirmed suspicions. Meanwhile, the twentieth-first century brought America the rise of new veneration for Hamilton; he was called “the forgotten father” and “The Man Who Made Modern America.” Presently, as Ferling points, “We honor Jefferson, but live in Hamilton’s country.” [16]

Nevertheless, in 1796, their political futures were both bright, and they were both conniving for control of the presidency. In 1796 and later in 1800, Hamilton would try to manipulate the vote to ensure the candidate of his choice would be elected. Hamilton backed neither fellow Federalist John Adams nor Democrat-Republican Jefferson, backing Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a former Major General from South Carolina. Initially, the Constitution did not differentiate a vote for President and Vice President. Hamilton tried to get Southern electors committed to an Adams-Pinckney ticket to throw away some Adams votes so that Pinckney would get more votes than Adams and would be voted president rather than the vice president. Instead, upon hearing of the plot, some New England Federalist electors did not vote for Pinckney. They voted Adams leaving Pinckney with fewer votes.[17]

On October 15, Hamilton started to write his articles in the Gazette, attacking Jefferson as unfit for the presidency. Hamilton had been using the pseudonym Phocion since the 1780s; Phocion was an Athenian statesman and known as “The Good.” Historian Thomas Fleming writes in his book The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation President George Washington inferred a warning about Jefferson in his Farewell Address mentioned as “the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party,” taking over. [18]

President Washington warned about parties:

“They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community,” he said in his Farewell Address. “They are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterward the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Hamilton’s attacks would mostly be about Jefferson’s public views, his support for France in the French Revolution. Many of the assaults attacked Jefferson’s “lack of courage” while Governor of Virginia and his “retreat” from Washington’s cabinet as Secretary of State while the nation faced international problems. Hamilton repeatedly attacked Jefferson’s noble claim not to be seeking power or having “political ambitions.” Hamilton, writing as Phocion, decried Jefferson as a “proto-Caesar, who ‘coyly refused the proffered diadem’ while secretly doing everything in his power to obtain it. In a word, he was a hypocrite.” [19] Hamilton had previously called Jefferson a “Caesar coyly refusing the preferred diadem” as Phicion on September 19, 1792.

In this new series of 25 articles in October 1796, Hamilton called Jefferson proto-Caesar, who had “coyly refused the proffered diadem” while “tenaciously grasping the substance of imperial domination.”[20] Hamilton wanted to make Jefferson appear as a coward and hypocrite. Referring to Jefferson leaving as Secretary of State from Washington’s cabinet, Hamilton inferred Jefferson was a coward.

“How different was the conduct of the spirited and truly patriotic HAMILTON?… He wished to retire as much as the philosopher of Monticello. He had a large family, and his little fortune was fast melting away in the expensive metropolis. But with a Roman’s spirit he declared that, much as he wished for retirement, yet he would remain at his post as long as there was any danger of his country being involved in war.”[21]

Hamilton used eight virtues to argue that Jefferson did not possess them. Mostly, Hamilton went after Jefferson’s contradictory views on race. Hamilton denoted that Jefferson viewed blacks as “a peculiar race of animals below man and above the orangutan… a high kind of brute hitherto undescribed.” Hamilton used a passage from Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia to attack the presidential candidate. Jefferson had written, “The preferences of the Orangutan for the black woman over those of his own species.” Jefferson used Orangutan to mean the “wild man of the woods.”[22]

However, Hamilton went further to accuse Jefferson of being involved with his slave and mixing the races with children. Historians believe that Hamilton only alluded to Jefferson’s sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings as a warning against using his affair with a married woman against him politically. Hamilton probably heard of Jefferson’s relationship with Hemings through Virginia’s politicians. In Charlottesville, near Monticello, Jefferson and Hemings’s gossip and the almost white slave children on his plantation. Fleming points out, “In all likelihood, he was telling the Jeffersonians that he was aware of the story and make it public if they revealed his tryst with Maria Reynolds. Neither Hemings nor Reynolds surfaced in this campaign.” [23]

Hamilton wrote:

“At one moment he [Jefferson] is anxious to emancipate the blacks to vindicate the liberty of the human race. At another he discovers that the blacks are of a different race from the human race and therefore, when emancipated, they must be instantly removed beyond the reach of mixture lest he (or she) should stain the blood of his (or her) master, not recollecting what from his situation and other circumstances he ought to have recollected — that this mixture may take place while the negro remains in slavery. He must have seen all around him sufficient marks of this staining of blood to have been convinced that retaining them in slavery would not prevent it.”[24]

By 1794, historical and DNA evidence confirms that Jefferson and Hemings were engaged in a sexual relationship. In 1794, Jefferson left his post as Secretary of State, and he returned fulltime to Monticello, a move he believed would be permanent. Hemings became pregnant in early 1795 and had a girl, Harriet, in October 1795. It was uncertain if Hemings had the child she claimed to be pregnant with in 1789 when Ambassador Jefferson and his party fled Revolutionary France. Jefferson only started keeping a ledger of his slaves in 1794 when he returned from Washington. At this time, he also expanded Monticello to give him more privacy, building Hemings now recently discovered room so no one would know his actions when the family visited Monticello. In 1794, Jefferson also believed his political career was over and was less concerned about any scandal interfering with his political future. [25]

Hamilton was not the first to remark about the white slaves at Monticello, in 1786, the Comte de Volney wrote in his journal: “But I was amazed to see children as white as I was called blacks and treated as such.”[26] Hamilton wanted to affect the Southern vote and use Jefferson’s views on slavery to turn southern slaveholders against one of their own. Hamilton wanted to scare slaveholders that Jefferson might free the slaves because of his involvement with his slave.

Historian Ron Chernow in his biography Alexander Hamilton notes Hamilton’s contradictory rhetoric. Chernow explains, “Unfortunately, the further one digs into the “Phocion” essays, the more apparent it becomes that Hamilton was engaging in devious manipulation of the southern vote. He was trying to turn southern slaveholders against Jefferson by asking whether they wanted a president who ‘promulgates his approbation of speedy emancipation of their slaves.’ Hamilton was trying to have it both ways. As an abolitionist, he wanted to expose Jefferson’s disingenuous sympathy for the slaves. As a Federalist, he wanted to frighten slaveholders into thinking that Jefferson might act on that sympathy and emancipate their slaves.”[27]

In contrast, Hamilton praised fellow federalist Adams, who was Washington’s handpicked successor. Hamilton ended his attacks on November 24. As historian Paul F. Boller indicates in his book Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush, “The first real presidential contest in American history turned out to be exuberantly venomous. On both sides, handbills, pamphlets, and articles in party newspapers denounced, disparaged, damned, decried, denigrated, and declaimed.” [28]

The article on October 19 was intensely personal, and the first time Jefferson would be accused of having an affair with one of his slaves. Neither Jefferson nor Adams directly engaged with each other during the campaign remaining above the fray. Adams would go on to win the 1796 election but by only three Electoral College votes, 71 to Jefferson’s 69. The 1796 election would be the only time that the President and Vice President would come from opposing parties. Jefferson would decisively win the second round against Adams in 1800, and the Federalist would never go on to win a presidential election again. The rumor about Jefferson involved with his slave, however, would persist.

In 1802, James Callendar, a former Jefferson supporter, became disgruntled when Jefferson refused to appoint him Postmaster of Richmond. Callendar wrote about Jefferson’s slave concubine Sally. He referred to Sally Hemings, the mulatto half-sister to his wife, Martha. Callendar wrote on September 1, 1802, in the Richmond Recorder:

“It is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, 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 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 and his two daughters. The delicacy of this arrangement must strike every person of common sensibility. What a sublime pattern for an American ambassador to place before the eyes of two young ladies!

If the reader does not feel himself disposed to pause we beg leave to proceed. Some years ago, this story had once or twice been hinted at in Rind’s Federalist. At that time, we believed the surmise to be an absolute calumny. One reason for thinking so was this. A vast body of people wished to debar Mr. Jefferson from the presidency. The establishment of this SINGLE FACT would have rendered his election impossible. We reasoned thus; that if the allegation had been true, it was sure to have been ascertained and advertised by his enemies, in every corner of the continent. The suppression of so decisive an enquiry serves to shew that the common sense of the federal party was overruled by divine providence. It was the predestination of the supreme being that they should be turned out; that they should be expelled from office by the popularity of a character, which, at that instant, was lying fettered and gagged, consumed and extinguished at their feet.” [29]

Callender had a history of exposing the affairs of men in government. Callender wrote The History of the United States for 1796 and exposed Hamilton’s affair with the married Maria Reynolds. The publication was supposed to “curb Hamilton’s influence,” but it was also Jefferson’s revenge to Hamilton bringing up Sally Hemings, tarnishing his reputation, and costing him the presidential election. Jefferson wanted to ensure that Hamilton was as ruined as he had been with the personal revelation. Callender used to be under Jefferson’s bankroll, and Jefferson financially supported this attack on Hamilton. [30] The Alien and Sedition Acts passage, and Callender’s particular writing brand, put him at risk. In 1800, he went too far with his anti-Federalist pamphlet, The Prospect Before Us, and on May 24, 1800, the courts sentenced him “to nine months in jail and a $200 fine.”

With Callender’s time in jail, Jefferson decided to distance himself from his former muckraker, finding him too “radical.” Jefferson was now in the White House, and as president had to appear above partisanship. After the 1800 election, Jefferson remarked, “I am really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender. it presents human nature in a hideous form: it gives me concern because I percieve that relief, which was afforded him on mere motives of charity, may be viewed under the aspect of employing him as a writer.” Callender in contrast thought his attack on the Federalists showed his loyalty to Jefferson and wanted Jefferson to reward him, and when Jefferson refused, Callender decided to attack Jefferson with the worst of the accusations he could hurl against him, the suspicion that he was having an affair with his slave and that children resulted from it.[31]

Callender’s article sparked Federalist interest in the story, and reprinted his story about Jefferson and his slave in their newspapers in every state “from Maine to Georgia.” The papers went as far as publishing “racist poems” about Jefferson and “Dusky Sally.” The Democratic-Republicans did nothing to counter; instead, choosing to wait for Jefferson to deny the claims, he never did, and the scandal erupted. In 1800 and 1801, the story was “once or twice been hinted at” in newspapers,” and Callender claimed the story was well-known. The Gazette of the United States was the same publication that Hamilton used to accuse Jefferson of an affair with his slave in 1796. Callender wrote in his piece that he had “heard the same subject freely spoken of in Virginia, and by Virginia Gentlemen.”

Historian Mark Silk believes that Jefferson’s two-time presidential rival, John Adams was responsible for leaking Jefferson’s secret relationship with Hemings. In November 2016, Silk wrote the article, “Did John Adams Out Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings?” in the Smithsonian Magazine. Silk argues the Adams first referred to the affair in two January 1794 letters to his sons Charles and John Quincy. In the letters, Adams alluded to a relationship between Jefferson and “Dashing Sally.” Silk claims it has been overlooked because Adams used a “classical allusion whose significance historians and biographers have failed to appreciate.” According to Silk, “The documents cast new light on the question of elite awareness of the relationship, on the nature of the press in the early republic, and on Adams himself.”[32]

Jefferson had just resigned from Washington’s cabinet from his position as the first Secretary of State and returned to his plantation, Monticello. In the two letters, dated January 2 to Charles and January 3 to John Quincy, Adams referred to the “mythical early history of ancient Rome.” On January 2, Adams wrote, “Mr Jefferson is going to Montecello to Spend his Days in Retirement, in Rural Amusements and Philosophical Meditations — Untill the President dies or resigns, when I suppose he is to be invited from his Conversations with Egeria in the Groves, to take the Reins of the State, and conduct it forty Years in Piety and Peace.” On January 3, Adams similarly wrote, “At other Moments he may meditate the gratification of his Ambition; Numa was called from the Forrests to be King of Rome. And if Jefferson, after the Death or Resignation of the President should be summoned from the familiar Society of Egeria, to govern the Country forty Years in Peace and Piety, So be it.” At that time, Silk indicates “conversation” and “familiar” were terms for sex and intimacy. However, Adams refrained from the same story when he wrote to his wife Abigail about Jefferson’s resignation.

According to the Roman myth, after warrior, King Romulus died, the senators call upon the “intellectual” Numa Pompilius to be king, although reluctant he agreed. Egeria was “a divine nymph or goddess” whom Numa would meet in a sacred grove. As Silk recounts, “The stories say she was not just his instructor but also his spouse, his Sabine wife having died some years before. ‘Egeria is believed to have slept with Numa the just,’ Ovid wrote in his Amores.”[33]

Adams used the story to parallel Jefferson’s life with Numa’s, while referring to Hemings as Egeria, with Jefferson waiting for the end of Washington presidency to be called from his sacred grove, Monticello back to lead the country. Adams was “well versed” in Latin and Greek literature, but the anecdote received the popular treatment when in 1786, “French writer Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian had published Numa Pompilius, Second Roi de Rome.” Adams referred to the story previously in his three-volume Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America published in 1787. While the two letters to his sons do not definitively prove that Adams knew about the Jefferson-Hemings liaison in early 1794, this elucidation of the allusion to Egeria makes that an intriguing possibility.

Supporting his theory, Silk writes that after Callendar published his article about Jefferson and Hemings, John Quincy wrote to his youngest brother Thomas Boylston on October 5, with a poem mocking Jefferson based on one written by Horace. The poem went, “Dear Thomas, deem it no disgrace / With slaves to mend thy breed / Nor let the wench’s smutty face / Deter thee from the deed.” John Quincy claimed Thomas Paine wrote it, and “professed bafflement that “the tender tale of Sally” could have traveled across the Atlantic and the poem back again, within just a few weeks.” John Quincy commented, “But indeed, Pain being so much in the philosopher’s confidence may have been acquainted with the facts earlier than the American public in general.” [34] Silk believes John Quincy wrote the poem because he knew of the affair for years.

Annette Gordon-Reed, the pre-eminent scholar on the Jefferson-Hemings relationship, seems to believe the metaphor might mean Adams knew of the relationship. Gordon-Reed told Silk, “While the two letters to his sons do not definitively prove that Adams knew about the Jefferson-Hemings liaison in early 1794, this elucidation of the allusion to Egeria makes that an intriguing possibility.”[35]

For two centuries, the rumor about Jefferson and Sally Hemings would remain a cloud over his legacy and reputation.[36] Hemings was Jefferson’s “mistress” supposedly starting in 1787 when he was the American minister to France, and she was just 14 years old and then bore him six children. When Jefferson and Hemings’ sexual relationship began when they were in France where slavery was not legal or enforceable, Hemings and her brother James, a chef, wanted to remain there. According to her son Madison’s memoirs, Jefferson offered her privileges and freedom to any of her children when they became adults if she would return to Monticello.

Jefferson never addressed the issue, but Jefferson’s daughter Martha (Patsy) Jefferson Randolph, refuted the claim. At the same time, her children, Ellen Randolph Coolidge, and Thomas Jefferson Randolph countered that Jefferson’s nephews Peter and Samuel Carr fathered Hemings’ children. Hemings’ second youngest son Madison Hemings recounted in 1873 that Jefferson was his father and father, all of Hemings’ children. In 1822, Jefferson let Heming’s children Beverly and Harriet leave Monticello and freed Madison and Eston in his will, the only slave family allowed such a privilege. Jefferson never freed Hemings, but his daughter allowed her to leave Monticello after Jefferson’s death in 1826.

Most historians refused to believe Jefferson had been involved with his slave, and they have long denied the relationship between the president and his slave. Historians could not reckon that the founding father had a 40-year relationship with a slave, his slave when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a champion of freedom, yet in his lifetime; he owned 600 slaves; it was the biggest contradiction in his legacy and recently affected his historical reputation more than anything else in his life and career.

In 2007, Maura Singleton wrote the article “Anatomy of a Mystery: The Jefferson-Hemings controversy in the post-DNA era” in the University of Virginia Magazine.[37] Singleton observed, “If history is “an argument without end,” as the historian Joseph Ellis says, then the dispute over whether Thomas Jefferson had sexual relations with his slave Sally Hemings might rank as one of the ugliest.” The debate has “has involved systematic denial, reversals of position, name-calling, intimidation and all manner of scholarly abuse. It has led to accusations of shoddy scholarship, of tampering with historical evidence, of bias and duplicity and censorship. The credibility of individuals living and dead, white and black, has been routinely undermined. Conspiracy theories — hallmarks of any enduring controversy — have further tightened the Gordian knot.”[38]

In 1974, biographer and historian Fawn M. Brodie was the first academic to give credence to the possibility in her book Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. In 1997, law professor and historian Annette Gordon-Reed renewed the debate in her book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, examined the historiography and argued in favor that Jefferson had been involved with Hemings. African-American historian John Hope Franklin also sided with Hemings. Franklin claimed, “These things [interracial liaisons] were part of the natural landscape in Virginia, and Mr. Jefferson was as likely as any others to have done this because it’s in character with the times — and indeed, with him, who believed in exploiting these people that he controlled completely.” [39]

In 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) Research Committee Report on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings finally resolved the issue. Through DNA testing in 1998 of descendants, they determined a “high probability” Jefferson did father Hemings’ youngest son Easton born in 1808 and most probably all of her six children, four of which survived adulthood. [40]Only after the DNA results did historians admit that Jefferson fathered Hemings children putting the controversy to rest. In 2008, Gordon-Reed published her sweeping history, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, examining the complicated relationship between the Jeffersons and the Hemings. Gordon-Reed won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for History and an additional 14 awards. In 2016, Peter S. Onuf and Gordon-Reed published another book on the conflicting story entitled, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, which argues that Jefferson “lived a paradox.”

The tales that slave Sally Hemings did have a bedroom next to former President Thomas Jefferson in his Monticello plantation house is no longer a tale but truth. In 2017, archeologists uncovered the room Jefferson gave Sally Hemings in Monticello’s South Wing and restored it. Archeologists discovered the room Hemings occupied from 1809 until Jefferson’s Monticello’s death in 1826 during work, part of their The Mountaintop Project restoring to the former president’s time. [41]Jefferson’s grandson was the first to recount that Hemings’ bedroom was next to the former president’s room in Monticello’s South Wing.

Hemings’ room was hidden and obliterated from history and the public in 1941 when the museum transformed the room into a men’s bathroom for the house museum. In 1967, restoration architect Floyd Johnson renovated and enlarged the bathroom, which further compromised Heming’s original room. Turning Hemings’ bedroom into a men’s bathroom was “considered by some as the final insult to Hemings’ legacy.” Archeologists have ripped the room next to Jefferson’s to the bones, uncovering its original red dirt floor and features, including a brick hearth and fireplace. The large room measures “14 feet, 8 inches wide and 13 feet long” but was windowless for the privacy the president looked for when spending time with Hemings. Last year, Fraser Neiman, director of archeology at Monticello, told NBC News, “This room is a real connection to the past. We are uncovering and discovering, and we’re finding many, many artifacts.”[42]

The Mountaintop Project spent $35 million to restore Monticello to appear when Jefferson lived there. The goal is to tell the stories of those who lived at Monticello, including Jefferson, his family, and his slaves, to give a complete view and highlight African-Americans’ lives and roles at the plantation. Part of the restoration process includes the “re-creation” of two slave cabins, Mulberry Row, which the museum completed in 2015, and the “storehouse for iron.” The Hemings family has been a focus of the project; Sally Hemings’ bedroom restoration and they rebuilt the Hemings’ slave cabin on Mulberry Row.

Gardiner Hallock, the restoration project director, indicated that the room shows that Hemings lived a far better life than other slaves on the plantation did. Even though the room was rather large, average in today’s standards, the fact that it had no windows made it, according to Hallock, “dark, damp and uncomfortable.” Hallock told NBC News, “This discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living. Some of Sally’s children may have been born in this room. It’s important because it shows Sally as a human being — a mother, daughter, and sister — and brings out the relationships in her life.”[43]

Sally Hemings’ restored room was part of a 2018 exhibit, which opened in June at Monticello, “Life of Sally Hemings.” Heming’s probable room in the slave quarters does not recreate how it looked then and remains empty except for a shadow outlining her and the words of her son Madison telling her story projected on the walls. There are no known portraits of Hemings, but accounts by a slave and blacksmith Isaac Granger Jefferson claim she was “mighty near white… very handsome, long straight hair down her back.”[44]

Monticello’s biggest conundrum was how to describe the relationship between Hemings and Jefferson, especially in the era of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, questioned, “We really can’t know what the dynamic was. Was it rape? Was there affection? We felt we had to present a range of views, including the most painful one.” The exhibit decided to use the term rape? Monticello’s public historian Niya Bates explained, “There are a lot of people who believe rape is too polarizing a word. But it was a conversation that we knew we could not avoid. It’s a conversation the public is already having.” There is a plaque outside the room entitled “Sex, Power, and Ownership,” explaining they used the term rape because, under Virginia law, Heming’s was a slave and owned by Jefferson.

Popular culture has previously romanticized the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings. In 1979, Barbara Chase-Riboud published a novel, “Sally Hemings,” describing the events from Sally’s perspective, giving her a voice. The novel, which portrayed Sally Hemings “as both an independent woman and Jefferson’s concubine,” faced a backlash among historians who convinced CBS from making a planned TV movie adaption. Sixteen years later, in 1995, the affair would get the big-screen film treatment with “Jefferson in Paris,” documenting the start in Paris, France, and portraying the relationship as a romance. Twenty years later, CBS finally made their mini-series with 1999’s “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal.” Even as recent as 2016, Stephen O’Connor, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College published, “Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings,” a fictionalized recount of the relationship from Jefferson’s viewpoint.

Historians have also pondered the nature of the Jefferson and Hemings relationship. At a Forth Worth conference entitled “Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the DNA Evidence” in the late 1990s, Jon Kukla observed as historians tried to define the relationship between the president and his slave. One male historian said, “Surely it was a loving relationship,” while another, a female historian claimed with equal certainty, “surely it was rape.” The late great slavery historian Winthrop Jordan weighed in on the “occasionally heated discussion, which centered on such terms as rape, concubinage.” Professor Jordan doubted “that anyone today will ever know enough about the emotional contents of the Hemings-Jefferson relationship to understand it thoroughly,” and he suggested that “such labels do little to help our understanding.” [45]

In 2008, Gordon-Reed wrote the article, “Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other? A historian tackles one of American history’s thorniest questions.” For Gordon-Reed, it leads to other questions that are difficult for a historian to assume. Gordon-Reed asks, “What does this mean for Sally and Thomas, the enslaved woman, and the man who owned her? What love could exist between a man and a woman enmeshed in — and negotiation the rules of — that world? And what difference does it make if they ‘loved’ each other? Why are members of my audience so intent on knowing that?” The public may believe “Jefferson’s love for Hemings could somehow redeem and heal him,” considering his contradictory positions and comments on slavery during his lifetime.[46]

There seems proof on both sides that there were sustained feelings. Gordon-Reed explains that Jefferson promised Hemings “a good life at Monticello and freedom for her children when they became adults” to convince her to return from Paris to Monticello, and that “It simply takes more than lust to sustain an interest in another person over such an extended time period.” Jefferson also ensured that Hemings “interacted with him on a daily basis for almost four decades.” After Callendar exposed their relationship, Jefferson’s daughter Martha wanted him to sell Hemings and the children “to spare him further embarrassment,” but he refused. Instead, Jefferson continued to have children with Hemings, and they named them after key people in his life, “James Madison, Thomas Eston, William Beverly, and Harriet.” [47]

There is less to prove Hemings’ affection for Jefferson, except she abandoned her chance to have freedom in France, but she might not have wanted to leave her extended family at Monticello. Her great-grandchildren claim that Jefferson “loved her dearly,” after his death, she left Monticello with some of Jefferson’s items “pairs of his glasses, an inkwell, and shoe buckles, which she gave to her children as mementos.” Gordon-Reed concludes, “The most that can be said is that Hemings and Jefferson lived together over many years and had seven children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Jefferson kept his promises to Hemings, and their offspring got a four-decade head start on emancipation, making the most of it by leading prosperous and stable lives. That, I think, is about as much as one can expect from love in the context of life during American slavery.”

Between Monticello slave and Hemings descendants, they do not consider the relationship, although disparate rape. Rosemary Medley Ghoston, a descendant of Madison Hemings, told the New York Times, “I really don’t think slaves had a choice. Maybe if it was not rape, it was a duty that she had to fulfill.” A cousin, Julius “Calvin” Jefferson, thinks there was love because Hemings was Jefferson’s wife Martha’s half-sister, and that would have invoked love from Jefferson because he loved his wife dearly. Jefferson remarked, “I think it was a love story. Did she look like Martha? I think she did.”[48]

The historical record shows Sally Hemings, her children, and the Hemings family at Monticello lived better lives than other slaves, including those on the plantation. Hemings’ relationship and position with Jefferson granted her unique privileges regarding her living arrangements within the main house, the work she and her children did, and her children’s freedom at the age of majority. Whether she wanted the sexual relationship with Jefferson at 14 is impossible to know. However, afterward, she saw the benefits she had on the plantation. Within the hierarchy of the Monticello’s slaves, it is difficult to imagine she would not have wanted a position that, although not free, was closer to freedom than most slaves within the southern system. From the little historical accounts and records, she had the best position within a generally abominable system.

Society now cannot contend or even rationalize that Hemings might have been fine with the arrangement because slavery has no redeemable qualities. Hemings might have seen her position as better than most slaves and tolerable in the South. The evidence, the room Hemings lived within the “big house,” she was not separated from her mother or siblings and later her children, her work was light, and she was never sold or faced brutality at Monticello. However, as O’Connor notes in his novel Hemings’s feelings and motivations might have been just as “conflicted” and of a paradox as Jefferson’s toward slavery and the relationship.

Women in general at that time did not have the same rights as men. Women were hardly equal. Wives were not equal to their husbands; they did not have the same legal rights, could not vote, have a say in the government, or hold political posts; they were not educated the same way or have access to the professions. Legally a married woman was under her husband’s control, and she could not own property; what she owned belonged to her husband. Women were, for intents and purposes, second-class citizens. Men owned their wives in a sense similar to the way southern men owned their slaves. The difference women were prized, slaves were scorned.

Legally it was non-existent for a woman to have her economic and legal rights after she married. Dale and Theodore Rosengarten explain, “Under South Carolina law, a married woman was a feme covert, or ‘covered,’ by her husband, which meant she could not act legally in her own name and had no property rights except to a dower. For a married woman to conduct business independently, she had to be granted the status of “sole trader” by her husband. This permitted her to own a business, keep the profits, write a will, and, most important, avoid liability for her husband’s debts.” [49] The same was true of all colonial, Revolutionary, and antebellum America.

Historian Virginia Scharff notes this divide between the equality of men and lack of it for women, “Masters and slaves, men and women, did not have equal access to power or property or fame, or even to control over their own bodies. But they depended upon one another, from one generation to the next, to the point of life and death.”[50] The historical analysis does not look at Jefferson’s contradictory view of women in American society, just towards slavery.

According to historian Jon Kukla, Jefferson was not interested in women’s longing for equal rights and thought they were a danger to American democracy. Kukla points out:

“Jefferson was never entirely comfortable with strong and independent women. In politics, except for a brief moment in dialogue with Abigail Adams, his attitude toward women was immovable. Jefferson did nothing whatsoever to improve the legal or social condition of women in American society, and he was always wary of female influence in government…. In Virginia during the Revolution, he was largely indifferent to women’s aspirations for educational his years as minister to the court of Louis XVI, however, he became alarmed by the conduct of French women at court, in their salons, and eventually in the streets. When Jefferson returned from Europe, he was convinced that women posed a serious menace to republican government and American liberty.” [51]

At the time of the American Revolution, women did want more freedom. This interest can be most recalled from Abigail Adams’ letter to her husband John Adams, where she asked him to remember the ladies. As the Second Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, Abigail wrote her husband a letter on March 31, 1776, advocating that the Congress considers women’s rights as individuals and have power over their lives.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” [52]

In the colonial and Revolutionary era, when there is few recorded evidence on women’s views, Abigail Adams proved that women wanted to be treated as equals in the law. There are over 1,100 letters between the future first couple, and they show their respect for each other personally and intellectually. History notes, “Adams letter was a private first step in the fight for equal rights for women. Recognized and admired as a formidable woman in her own right, the union of Abigail and John Adams persists as a model of mutual respect and affection.” Historians refer to John and Abigail Adams as “America’s first power couple.”

The Massachusetts Historical Society has the over 1,000 letters between the founding couple written between 1762 and 1801, the society has even digitalized the letters, and they are available online to the public. The letters “are meant to show both the consistency of their relationship and the evolution of the family through the entire founding era.” [53] The correspondence also “give historians a unique perspective on domestic and political life during the revolutionary era.” [54] Historian H. W. Brands indicates that Abigail Adams “was a fair match for her husband — no prisoner of precedent himself — and a redoubtable foe of law and traditions that worked to keep women in their accustomed place.” [55]

In contrast, Jefferson’s view of women and slavery must be taken into account when examining his relationship with Hemings. Two recent books have attempted to examine Jefferson’s relationship to women, Jon Kukla’s Mr. Jefferson’s women (2008) and Virginia Scharff’s The Women Jefferson Loved (2010). Before these two books, no volume specifically examined Jefferson’s relationships. Jefferson separated his public and private life, especially sealing off his secret life and relationships. The documentary evidence left represents that division meant to shape Jefferson’s historical legacy instead of gaining the complete picture of the man. Kukla points out, “We historians would never get a handle on what Jordan called the “emotional contents of the Hemings-Jefferson relationship” without knowing more about how Jefferson interacted with other women…. I discovered that the book on Jefferson and women I had hoped to find was not there. This book, Mr. Jefferson’s Women, is basically one I wanted to read.” [56]

Scharff argues that Jefferson loved all the women in his life including Sally Hemings.

“I contend that he loved them all — a controversial enough claim in its own right. Fawn Brodie and others suggested that he hated his mother. Many historians deny that he had any real feelings for Sally Hemings. And some have seen in him a sexist reactionary pure and simple, a notable misogynist even for his own time. I see Jefferson as a possessive patriarch, as sure of his right to rule his domain as any of the kings he despised, but also as a man who loved women. Love is not a simple or predictable or necessarily helpful thing, and it is certainly not in any sense “pure.” Love hurts as much as it heals, and even when love is trying its hardest to be a force for good, it makes people do small, sometimes benighted things that have great consequences.” [57]

Historian Francis D. Cogliano, in his 2006 book Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy, devoted an entire chapter to how Sally Hemings affects the third president’s historical reputation. Cogliano notes:

“Jefferson’s conception of history… did not consider the most intimate aspects of an individual’s life a suitable subject for historical examination.” Historians, for the most part, ignored Jefferson private and personal life except his marriage and relationship to his daughters for years. As Cogliano points out, “Jefferson’s more sympathetic biographers and historians adhered to this view and were blinkered by assumptions not only about race but also about ideology in considering the Hemings matter… Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings underscores not only the complexity of Jefferson’s relationship with slavery but also the limits of the Whig approach to history embraced by Jefferson (and some of his scholarly admirers).”[58]

After more than 200 years, it is time for historians and the public to resolve and come to peace that Jefferson was involved with his slave, Sally Hemings, and had children with her. He has descendants that like many other slaveholders that are of both races. Like many of the slave owners of the time, Jefferson was a contradiction. His role in the nation’s founding, writer of the Declaration of Independence, and president make his actions seem more contradictory. Historians and the public have to acknowledge that although the nation has put Jefferson on a pedestal in history, he had both a public and private self that he kept very much hidden. Like now, interest and rumors floated around about his personal life.

The public is judging Jefferson in present terms and not in historical circumstances. Historians also get marred in the blurry of the timelines and differences of societal conventions of acceptability. Kukla notes that the problem, “With the evidence so meager, it was obvious that despite our training, many of us in the audience were unthinkingly projecting contemporary values back into an earlier and perhaps different age.”[59]

The newly discovered bedroom at Monticello and the exhibit gives more contexts to Heming’s life, where a little-written record was left to take her out of being a myth and into a reality. Only if the public would look into the mindset and whole situation Sally Hemings faced can history and society put the relationship in context. Maybe Jefferson’s historical reputation can again rise above his personal life to his refocus again on his accomplishments as the third president of the nation he helped found.


Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: Norton, 1974.

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.

Cogliano, Francis D. Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2006.

Ellis Joseph J. American Sphinx. NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1996.

Ellis, Joseph J. First Family: Abigail and John Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Ferling, John E. Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013.

Fleming, Thomas J. The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2015.

Gordon-Reed Annette. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.

Gordon-Reed, Annette. “Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?” American Heritage, VOLUME 58, ISSUE 5 (Fall 2008). https://www.americanheritage.com/content/did-sally-hemings-and-thomas-jefferson-love-each-other

Gordon-Reed, Annette and Peter S. Onuf. “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Holton, Woody. Abigail Adams, New York: Free Press, 2009.

Kukla, Jon. Mr. Jefferson’s Women. New York: Vintage Books, 2008.

Kuntz, Tom, “Jefferson and Hemings: Was It Love?” New York Times, November 26, 2008.

Rosengarten, Theodore, and Dale Rosengarten. A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life. Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press in association with McKissick Museum, 2002.

Scharff, Virginia. The Women Jefferson Loved. New York: Harper, 2010.

Silk, Mark. “Did John Adams Out Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings?” Smithsonian Magazine, November 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/john-adams-out-thomas-jefferson-sally-hemings-180960789/

Singleton, Maura. “Anatomy of a Mystery: The Jefferson-Hemings controversy in the post-DNA era.” University of Virginia Magazine, 2007. http://uvamagazine.org/articles/anatomy_of_a_mystery/

Troy, Gil, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, 3-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011.

[1] Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx, (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1996), 363; http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/jefferson/ https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/cron/1996sphinx.html

[2] https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/19th-century/1800-overview/

[3] John E. Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013), x.

[4] Bonnie Goodman, “1800 Overview” in Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, 3-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011. https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/19th-century/1800-overview/

[5] “Introductory Note: Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States, [24 October 1800],” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-25-02-0110-0001. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 25, July 1800 — April 1802, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977, pp. 169–185.]

[6] Goodman, “1800 Overview” in Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/19th-century/1800-overview/

[7] Goodman, “1800 Overview” in Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/19th-century/1800-overview/

[8] Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, x.

[9] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xi.

[10] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xi.

[11] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xii.

[12] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xii.

[13] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xiii.

[14] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xiii.

[15] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xiv.

[16] Ibid., Ferling, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, xv.

[17] Bonnie Goodman, “1796 Overview” in Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008, 3-Volume Set. New York: Infobase Pub, 2011. https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/19th-century/1796-overview/

[18] https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=160

[19] Thomas J. Fleming, The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation, (Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2015); Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 512.

[20] Paul F. Boller, Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 8.

[21] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 512.

[22] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 512.

[23] Fleming, The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation, 282.

[24] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 512.

[25]Fleming, The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation, 260.

[26] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 512.

[27] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 512.

[28] Paul F. Boller, Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, 8.

[29] “To Thomas Jefferson from John Barnes, 31 August 1802,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-38-02-0286. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 38, 1 July–12 November 1802, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011, pp. 323–325.] https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-38-02-0286 https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/_The_President_Again_by_James_Thomson_Callender_September_1_1802

[30] https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/james-callender

[31] https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/james-callender; Jefferson to James Monroe, July 15, 1802, in PTJ, 38:72. “From Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 15 July 1802,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-38-02-0069. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 38, 1 July–12 November 1802, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011, pp. 72–74.]


[32] Mark Silk, “Did John Adams Out Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings?” Smithsonian Magazine, November 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/john-adams-out-thomas-jefferson-sally-hemings-180960789/

[33] Mark Silk, “Did John Adams Out Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings?”

[34] While the two letters to his sons do not definitively prove that Adams knew about the Jefferson-Hemings liaison in early 1794, this elucidation of the allusion to Egeria makes that an intriguing possibility.

[35] Mark Silk, “Did John Adams Out Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings?”

[36] https://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings-brief-account

[37] Maura Singleton “Anatomy of a Mystery: The Jefferson-Hemings controversy in the post-DNA era.” University of Virginia Magazine, 2007. http://uvamagazine.org/articles/anatomy_of_a_mystery/



[40] https://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/report-research-committee-thomas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings

[41] https://www.monticello.org/site/visit/mountaintop-project-revealing-jeffersons-monticello

[42] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/thomas-jefferson-s-enslaved-mistress-sally-hemings-living-quarters-found-n771261

[43] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/thomas-jefferson-s-enslaved-mistress-sally-hemings-living-quarters-found-n771261

[44] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/16/us/sally-hemings-exhibit-monticello.html?module=inline

[45] Jon Kukla, Mr. Jefferson’s Women, (New York: Vintage Books, 2008),

[46] Gordon-Reed, “Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?” American Heritage, VOLUME 58, ISSUE 5 (Fall 2008). https://www.americanheritage.com/content/did-sally-hemings-and-thomas-jefferson-love-each-other

[47] Gordon-Reed, “Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?”

[48] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/16/us/jefferson-sally-hemings-descendants.html

[49] Theodore Rosengarten and Dale Rosengarten. A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life, (Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press in association with McKissick Museum, 2002), 85.

[50] Virginia Scharff, The Women Jefferson Loved, (New York: Harper, 2010),

[51] Jon Kukla, Mr. Jefferson’s Women, (New York: Vintage Books, 2008),

[52] “Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March 1776,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0241. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761 — May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. 369–371.]


[53] https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/docedit/31/

[54] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/abigail-adams-urges-husband-to-remember-the-ladies

[55] Woody Holton, Abigail Adams, (New York: Free Press, 2009).

[56] Kukla, Mr. Jefferson’s Women,

[57] Virginia Scharff, The Women Jefferson Loved, (New York: Harper, 2010),

[58] Francis D. Cogliano, Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy, (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2006).

[59] Kukla, Mr. Jefferson’s Women.

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) and historian. She is the author of Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896, The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South, We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism.

Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”

Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over a dozen years of experience in education and political journalism.



Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a historian, librarian, and journalist. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.