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« The Royal Wedding: It's the optics, stupid | Main | Ayman al-Zawahiri "wouldn't even look at a woman if she was wearing a short skirt" »

May 01, 2011

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As one who lost his loved soul mate nearly 18 years ago, I can think that sex or color had little to do with the relationship. Kindness and understanding are the same when the skin is peeled off.

What goomp said. If the sketchy records are correct, Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's deceased wife and herself three-quarters white, so if I were writing the script she'd be the (much younger) spitting image of his beloved Martha.

Any such story must deal with the fact that Thomas did not free Sally, although in his will he freed other members of his family, and in fact kept more than a hundred slaves — a huge discrepancy with our modern understanding of his written support of liberty.

I am asking this question out of pure ignorance: is it possible that, at the time, it might have been to Sally's advantage to remain in Thomas' family, even as a slave?

She was legally free as soon as she got to Paris. (By French law, anyway.) But it's not like you can abandon your hostage children.

Thomas Jefferson was a creep. It was incest as well as sleeping with a woman who was legally in his power. Anybody claiming it was a love story just makes both partners creepy together. If Jefferson was nerdy enough not to think of it that way, and if they wove an illusion for themselves that it was consensual, that's creepier still.

I suppose it would sell, though. The Gothic romance crowd loves creepy vampires sleeping with their woman-slaves who weally weally wuv them and make them feel better (after being raped), so this would go over well with them.

Incest? No. She was no blood relation to him. And she had no "hostage children" during the time they were in Paris.

According to Wikipedia (and undisputed as far as I can tell), Sally was the half-sister of TJ's wife, Martha, and bore a close resemblance to her.

The story is that Sally was fifteen when TJ called his nine year old daughter Maria to Paris, and Sally was chosen to attend her. This is apparently when Thomas became closely acquainted with Sally.

So, no, not incest; instead, it still looks like a creepy attempt to have an affair with a much younger version of his dead wife.

This is as clear an example as I know of the difference between the great words and deeds of great men and their deeply flawed personal lives.

And I still don't understand TJ's failure to free Sally in his will, as I would expect him to do if he had any real affection for her. It makes me wonder if he wasn't keeping Sally a slave, but perhaps was keeping Martha bound to him, even through their deaths.

I don't know, but again, any dramatization that fails to deal with this is bound to be unsatisfying, to say the least.

No, there was nothing creepy about it. It was not uncommon for a widower to marry a sister in law then. Jefferson did not free Sally but he freed her children. Freed slaves had to leave Virginia immediately back then so it's possible that he couldn't stand the thought of not having her by his side. I don't know if you could call it love probably more like Cliff Roberts in Obsession.

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