1735, a man named Hemings, the white English captain of a trading ship, fathered a daughter with a “full-blooded African” woman. The African woman’s child was named Elizabeth. The mother and daughter ended up as slaves of the Eppes family- the Eppes family from which John Wayles (Thomas Jefferson’s father in law) would marry his first wife, Martha. 1746- the year Wayles married Martha Eppes- Elizabeth Hemings, then about eleven years old, moved to the Wayles property. 1761, Elizabeth was taken by John Wayles into concubine and she bore five children to him, Robert Hemings, James Hemings, Thenia Hemings, Critta Hemings an Peter Hemings. In 1773, she gave birth to a sixth child: Sarah “Sally” Hemings.
Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton on New Year’s Day 1772. Martha, was a daughter of John Wayles. Through his marriage ,Jefferson acquired more slaves, later receiving Elizabeth Hemings, whose daughter, Sally, who would be born months later- was a half-sister of Martha Jefferson, after Wayles’s death. Martha Jefferson chose to keep the Hemings family together after her father’s death by bringing them onto her land. Jefferson payed a midwife to deliver Elizabeth’s son John. Nearly noon on Friday, September 6, 1782 Martha Jefferson died. Her house servants- including Elizabeth Hemings, were among those with Martha as she lay dying. In her last pledges to her husband, she told him to never marry again- Sally Hemings who was witness to this was not quite ten years old yet. Among one of the last things she did, Martha handed Sally a tiny silver servant bell as a gift.
1784, when Thomas Jefferson accepted a position as ambassador of France, he brought with him his eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, and James Hemings- son of Elizabeth Hemings and brother of Sally Hemings. Jefferson had intentions to train James to be a cook of French food. June 26th, 1787, Jefferson was able to get his daughter, Mary “Polly” Jefferson whom he’d left in the company of family along with his now deceased younger daughter Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson over to France to join him and Patsy in attempt to recreate his family. Polly arrived in London and was handed into the care of Abigail Adams, with the youngest Jefferson was Sally Hemings. “The old nurse whom you expected to have attended her was sick and unable to come, Abigail Adams wrote to Jefferson, “She has a girl about about 15 or 16 with her, the sister of the servant you have with you.” Abigail also told she is “quite like a child” and required more care than Polly- who was five year younger. She inquired about sending Sally back to Virginia.
There are no known images of Sally Hemings. On arrival in Europe, Sally was fourteen years of age, and had very light skin, “almost white” and “very handsome, with long straight hair down her back”. There was some resemblance between Sally Hemings and Jefferson’s late wife Martha Jefferson. Abigail Adams also described Sally as, “…she seems fond of the child and appears good natured.” Polly Jefferson and Sally arrived in Paris on July 15th, 1787. She probably ran errands and served as a chambermaid as well as a seamstress. She accompanied Patsy and Polly to dances and dinners, Jefferson spent a considerable sum in 1789 on clothing for Sally. While in Dusseldorf, Jefferson found himself fascinated by a 1699 painting by the Dutch artist Adriaen van der Werff of Abraham taking the young servant Hagar to his bed. The Virginian described it as, “delicious. I would have agreed to have been Abraham though the consequence would have been that I should have been five or six thousand years.”
Since her arrival in France, Sally had been paid some small wages- twelve livres a month for ten months. Jefferson had bought clothing for her and had her inoculated against smallpox. Sally’s day routine is less clear, though she may have served the Jefferson daughters as a maid at the convent school during part of her time in Paris. It was during the years of 1788 and 1789 that Thomas Jefferson began his sexual activity with Sally Hemings (then only fifteen or sixteen years old). The emotional content of the Jefferson-Hemings “relationship” is a mystery. Some say he loved her, and vice versa. Others argue it was coercive, institutionalized rape. If someone is your property, it is impossible for you to ask consent before sexual acts because they are “property” to you, property cannot give consent. No consent before sex is rape. All those who were slaves brought into concubine with their masters were raped- property cannot give consent because they are owned by another human being. It was not love, it was rape. Property cannot give consent. Sally Hemings might of been doing what she had to do to survive an evil system, accepting sexual duty as an element of her enslavement and using what leverage she had to improve the lot of her children.
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.
I wasn’t sure about this..but I really need your help. For a last two years I have a health problem that’s ruining my life. Im losing moblility of my hands and it’s gettin’ worse week by week. Doctors are not exactly sure why this is happening. In present state it’s hard for me to hold a pen and I’m really scared it’s gonna get worse. You see there is possiblity I’ll lose ability of doing any kind of art I do and love. Like drawing, sewing, embroidery, playin’ instruments and making costumes. I was associating my future with the last one and willing to go on costume design studies next year. The problem is I don’t have any money for more medical exams not even mentioning any surgery. But there is no way I’m gonna give up. And that’s why Im comin’ to you. I’m not askin’ for donation but considering buyin’ a commision from me. I can draw you literally anything (at least I’ll try there is a lot I was never drawin’ in my life ) your OCs , your ships , create you a sona , your favourite character Anything. I’m new in digital drawing that’s why I can only make a sketch or lineart. You can pay me how much you want starting from 2 $ For payment details please contact me by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just write me on tumblr. I’ll try my best I swear. My adress is 123-help right now.
At age ten, Thomas was sent into the woods alone, with a gun. The assignment- the expectation- was that he was so come home with evidence that he could survive on his own in the wild. The test did not begin well. He killed nothing, had nothing to show for himself. The woods were forbidding. Everything around the boy- the trees and the thickets and the rocks and the river- was frightening and frustrating.
always!!! i love giving recs! (just know jay if you do actually read any of these, i’m holding you accountable for telling me what you thought of them lol)
thomas jefferson: the art of power by jon meacham. best biography ever, in my nonprofessional opinion. it’s shorter than a lot, but you take away the most from it. i reread all the time. it doesn’t overglorify him too much & shows you just how complex jefferson is.
james madison: a life reconsidered by lynne cheney. this was my first biography i read on madison, and it’s still my favorite. like the first, it’s short but it gives you a great synopsis of jemmy behind the scenes.
washington: a life by ron chernow. listen, we all know that chernow is a bit biased and glorifying… but that man writes good biographies anyways. this is my favorite one-volume washington bio to date. it helped me with my job interview, so i’ll always cherish it
john quincy adams by harlow giles unger. first biography i ever read. ever, so in my eyes it’s wonderful. it makes you fall in love with jqa, yet glorified him a bit. but i honestly didn’t care bc he deserved to be haha
Happy Independence Day weekend! Chris recommends the following for your patriotic reading (and if you think we are getting through this list without any Hamilton gifs, you are mistaken):
George Washington: The
Indispensable Man by James T. Flexner is a condensed version of
the original 4-volume biography. Flexner presents the nation’s first
president in all his failings as well as his remarkable greatness.
The Autobiography of Benjamin
Franklin does not cover the revolutionary period but it’s a
fascinating look inside the mind of the talented Franklin. For an
unbiased and comprehensive view, Walter Isaacson’sBenjamin
Franklin: An American Life is the book to read.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning biography
John Adams by David McCullough is so good that HBO made a
series out of it, with Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney playing John
and Abigail Adams.
Often described as both a philosophical
thinker and a political genius, the charismatic author of the
Declaration of Independence is captured by Jon Meacham in Thomas
Jefferson: The Art of Power.
Of all the founding fathers, James
Madison is the most underestimated, partly due to his short (5’ 4”)
stature, quiet voice, and frequent illness. But in James Madison:
A Life Reconsidered, Lynne Cheney deftly illustrates Madison’s
abilities and achievements.
Of course, no list is complete without
Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the biography that inspired
Lin-Manual Miranda to compose his award-winning musical. And at the
other end of the dueling ground stands potentially the most
complicated and misunderstood founding father. While there are
several good biographies, the most entertaining take on Aaron
‘You’re the Worst’ Burr is Gore Vidal’s Burr: A Novel.
Historical figures of this magnitude
can be difficult to view as human beings but Joseph J. Ellis captures
the diverse personalities of six founding fathers and the daunting
challenge they faced as they set the course for a new nation in
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation.
Last, but certainly not least, whether
you believe “behind every great man is a great woman” or a woman
rolling her eyes, you’ll love Cokie Roberts’ Founding Mothers: The
Women Who Raised Our Nation, brimming with fascinating stories of
extraordinary women who, often behind the scenes, were influential in
the great experiment of freedom and democracy called America.
Please talk about Thomas and Martha Jefferson! They seem like such an otp yet there is hardly anything on them! And Thomas gets so much hate now bc of Hamilton.
*MY TIME HAS COME TO SHINE*
i like TJ, but lbh, he acted like an as*hole on many occasions haha. yet, his relationship with Martha is one of the rares things in his life that could redeem him imho. so yessssss: let me talk (A LOT) about the love story of Thomas & Martha Jefferson!!! it will make you cry, i promise
Martha was an accomplished musician who played the pianoforte and spinet, and also sang. When she was 18, she married Bathurst Skelton with whom she had a child named John, but less than two years after the marriage, Bathurst became ill and died in 1768. After the acceptable period of mourning was over, the wealthy and beautiful (all physical accounts of her describe her as such) new widow began attracting many suitors, including Thomas Jefferson. Thomas fell in love with Martha nearly straightaway, however, she did not share the same feelings for him when he first started calling on her. Neither did her father tho, who didn’t approve of the lower status Thomas Jefferson’s interests in his daughter. Thomas proposed to Martha in early 1771, but she did not accept. Thanks to an encouraging letter written to him by a friend, Mrs. Drummond, Thomas continued to pursue the relationship. According to family lore, two men waiting outside the Wayles’ house to see Martha heard her and Thomas, who got there before the other men, playing music and singing together. Upon hearing this, they gave up and went home, realising the tenderness between the two. Bonding over things, such as their mutual love of music and literature, Martha accepted Thomas’ proposal by June, 1771. Unlike marriages of generations past that considered monetary and social reasons for tying the knot over romantic feelings, the couple was one of a growing number of couples getting married out of love. Their wedding was planned for later that summer, however, the bad luck in child rearing that followed the Eppes-Wayles-Jefferson families around struck and caused them to postpone. Martha’s son died at just three and a half years old. The heartbroken Martha and Thomas rescheduled the wedding. During their courtship, Thomas Jefferson’s passion for Martha was so great that it caused him to ignore some of his revolutionary principles. In a blatant violation of the colonial boycott of British goods, Thomas ordered a “forte-piano” from England—along with special instructions about its construction to make sure it would be “worthy the acceptance of a lady for whom I intend it”. Thomas also had is work in progress, Monticello, renovated so it would be less of a bachelor pad and more of a family home. On December 23, he wrote out a wedding bond for the couple. In it, he described Martha as a “spinster”, later crossed out and replaced with “widow,” most likely by Martha’s brother-in-law and Thomas’ witness while writing the bond. The Skelton connection was not something Jefferson thought much about. Captivated by visions of their new life together, he had unconsciously edited Patty’s first husband out of the picture in his preparations for the wedding. On January 1, 1772, Martha and Thomas were married at Martha’s family’s home. After the wedding, to have their honeymoon at Monticello, they made the 100-mile trip in one of the worst snowstorms to hit Virginia. Eight miles from their destination, their carriage bogged down in 2–3 feet of snow and they had to proceed on horseback, riding the remaining distance over a rough mountain track. Arriving at Monticello late at night after the servants had banked the fires and retired, the couple settled in the freezing one-room, twenty-foot-square brick building,
still known by its nickname, the ‘Honeymoon Cottage’.Thomas lit a fire in the fireplace to get some warmth and they toasted their new home with a leftover half-bottle of french wine hidden behind a shelf of books, and “song and merriment and laughter”. Of his beloved wife, Jefferson once wrote, “in every scheme of happiness she is placed in the foreground of the picture as the principal figure. Take that away, and there is no picture for me.” Nine months after she and Thomas were married, Martha gave birth to the couple’s first of six children, also named Martha but called “Patsy.” Of the six kids, only Patsy and another daughter, Mary, survived childhood, and Patsy is the only one to live a long life. The loss of so many children took its toll on Martha, as did the pregnancies and childbirths themselves (Martha is described as being frail and her health declined with each pregnancy, as they all were physically tough and left her bedridden). When Thomas was Governor of Virginia, she twice had to flee Richmond and Monticello with her children when the British raided both locations. The state of her health during and post-pregnancies kept Thomas as close to home as possible so he could be with his ailing wife, sometimes choosing local Virginia politics over national roles. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, asked him to go on a diplomatic trip to Paris, which he declined so he could stay home with Martha. During the summer of 1776, Thomas had been receiving letters from Martha asking him to come home from the Continental Congress as soon as he could because she was very ill. On September 1, 1776, Thomas Jefferson, the only delegate from the state of Virginia still in Philadelphia, left his state with no vote to attend to his wife. His fears were not unfounded –Martha, like her mother and Mary at the age of 25, would eventually succumb to the difficulties of childbirth. When she was in good health, Martha and Thomas spent their time reading with each other and performing musical duets for themselves and guests. They each seem to be equally devoted to the other. Martha also proved to be very adept at running a home and managing a large plantation. As Jon Meacham noticed in his biography ‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power’, Thomas found “In Martha, the most congenial of companions, a woman who spoke his language. Their nights were filled with music and wine and talk—talk of everything. They seemed to have fully shared their lives with each other. He confided in her about politics (…) Smart and strong willed, she liked having her way, was not a woman of retiring nature or of quiet views. She had a mind of her own.” During the Revolutionary War, “ladies’ associations” begun in many states with the goal of collecting money and making clothing for the Continental Army. In 1780, Martha Washington nominated Martha Jefferson for the head of Virginia’s ladies association. In a letter to Eleanor Conway Madison (the only surviving complete letter written by Martha), she says, “I undertake with chearfulness the duty of furnishing to my country women an opportunity of proving that they also participate of those virtuous feelings with gave birth to it.” In May, 1782, Martha gave birth to her last child and never recovered from the ordeal. Thomas wrote a letter to close friend, James Monroe, stating, “Mrs. Jefferson has added another daughter to our family. She has ever since and still continues very dangerously ill.” *WARNING: tearjerker anecdote*
While on her deathbed, Martha and Thomas copied lines from one of their favorite novels, “Tristram Shandy” by Laurence Sterne. As she lay dying in their bed at just 33, Martha began writing a passage from the book but too weak, Thomas finished it, transforming the passage into a final dialogue between husband and wife: [written by Martha] Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen. The days and hours of it are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day, never to return - more every thing presses on - [written by Thomas] and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which follows it, are preludes to the eternal separation which we are shortly to make! It seems like Thomas didn’t have the strength to finish the entire quote: —Heaven have mercy upon us both. On September 6, 1782, a devastated Thomas could only bring himself to write simply in his account book, “My dear wife died this day at 11:45 A.M.” He was inconsolable in his loss and “was led from the room almost in a state of insensibility by his sister Mrs. Carr, who, with great difficulty, got him into his library where he fainted” —and not for a brief moment. Jefferson “remained so long insensible that they feared he would never revive.” After the funeral, he withdrew to his room for three weeks, pacing constantly, only allowing his sister to visit him. He was incoherent with grief, and perhaps surrendered to rage. There is a hint that he lost all control, according to his daughter Patsy, the “witness to many violent bursts of grief” : “the scene that followed (…) when, almost by stealth, I entered his room by night, to this day I dare not describe to myself”. He destroyed all her letters and didn’t keep any of her belongings -just a few survived-. In a letter to his sister-in-law, he even was alluding to the possibility of suicide: “This miserable kind of existence is really too burdensome to be borne (…) I could not wish its continuance a moment”, but he would endure for their children. Jefferson remained “inconsolable” – a word used by many biographers and Jefferson’s contemporaries to describe his condition – for months. He sobbed deeply at night, broke down when he tried to appear in public and talk about his deceased wife, and news of his grief and shattered condition spread through the colony. Not until after long weeks did Jefferson begin to resume a normal life when he wrote, “emerging from that stupor of mind which had rendered me as dead to the world as was she whose loss occasioned it. All my plans of comfort and happiness were reversed by a single event.” Jefferson erected a marble tombstone for his wife at Monticello, with the inscription stating she had been “torn from him by death.” On her gravestone, as a part of the epitaph, Jefferson added lines from Homer’s The Iliad: Nay if even in the house of Hades the dead forget their dead, yet will I even there be mindful of my dear comrade ; and below: This monument of his love is inscribed. Keeping a promise he allegedly made to Martha, he never remarried. Thomas never fully recovered form her death. He never mentioned his wife, even to his closest firends, and almost 40 years after her death, he still referred to her in his autobiography as “the cherished companion of my life, in whose affections, unabated on both sides, I had lived the last ten years in unchequered happiness.” After Jefferson’s death, in a secret drawer beside his bed, a folded paper with the “Tristram Shandy” text written by Martha on her deathbed was found –a lock of her hair carefully hidden inside–. Its wear showed that it was opened and refolded often.
Could you tell us more about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his father? As much as possible if that's not a bother.
“It is the strong in the body who are both the strong and free in the mind.”
- Peter Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson’s father was Peter Jefferson who was born into humble circumstances, worked for years as a surveyor and grew steadily, through hard work, affluent. He served as Justice of the Peace, county surveyor and sheriff. He married Jane Randolph and soon became second in command of his county militia and sat in the House of Burgesses (the Virginia assembly). Four years before the birth of Thomas Jefferson in 1743, Peter build Shadwell. Shadwell was a six room one and a half story farmhouse that sat on the ridge looking over the Rivanna River. Peter was not a well educated gentleman. Younger Jefferson was third of nine children: Jane, 1740-1765, Mary, 1741-1804, Elizabeth, 1744-1774, Martha, 1746-1811, Peter, 1748-1748, Unnamed, 1750-1750, Lucy, 1752-1810, Anna, 1755-1828 and Randolph, 1755-1815.
Because Shadwell burnt down in 1770- every letter he had written before the age of twenty-six was destroyed. A lot of his youth is elusive but there are considerable facts concerning that Thomas Jefferson did not have a happy childhood. Peter Jefferson died when Thomas was fourteen in 1757.
According to John Ferling, author of Jefferson-Hamilton the Rivalry that Forged a Nation:
“Young Thomas revered his father, a self-made man who, through industry, quick wits, and a good marriage…”
re·vere /rəˈvir/ verb
revered: feel deep respect or admiration for (something).
John Ferling’s point of views seems to point to us that he looked up to his father held admiration towards him and saw him as a strong, leading figure. Young Jefferson in Jefferson-Hamilton was “a man of good judgment and a keen taste for learning.”
The death of his father in 1757 at the age of fourteen left young Jefferson feeling abandoned and stripped of gratification as well as the security of a family. “At 14 years of age, the whole care and direction of my self was thrown on my self entirely, without a relation… to advise or guide me.” He himself was glad that he hadn’t turned “worthless” and was possibly his way of assuring himself that he was like his father- a self made man.
Because Thomas was the only male child for a long while, his father did much to instill the habits he had upon his son. “Spice of ambition, as Peter drove greatly to get ahead. Ferling believes that the youngster “clearly” idolized his father and wished to surpass him. According to Peter’s will, he was to receive five thousand acres and numerous slaves when he turned twenty-one.
From Jefferson-Hamilton I have gathered that Thomas Jefferson deeply looked up to his father, Peter Jefferson, greatly appreciated him and idolized him. He left few pages in his diary/auto-biography in which he spoke of his childhood himself unwilling to speak of it or recall any of it.
But, one biographer’s point of view is simply biased to base the entire analysis of their relationship upon. Let us which over to Thomas Jefferson: the Art of Power by Jon Meacham:
As a child, Thomas understand that his father was a man other men admired. Peter was celebrated for his courage, excellent at riding and hunting. It was once even said that senior Jefferson uprighted two huge hogsheads of tobacco that weighed a thousand pounds each. Thomas was raised to yield power, he as taught that he had to be great.
At the age of ten, Jefferson’s father sent him into the woods alone with a gun. The mission was that he had to come home showing that he could survive in the wild on his own- mind you, Thomas was ten. But, the test did not go well, found the entire expedition frightening to him and frustrated him. “He was born for confidence and knew nothing else.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “My father’s education had been quite neglected; but of strong mind, sound judgment and eager information. He read much and improved himself.”
The was a certain legacy Peter Jefferson had left behind- some of it in the mind of younger Thomas who admired his strength and recounted things he had done many times in his life. But, it was not all just idealization in his imagination. There was contempt, “My father had a devoted friend to whose house he would go, dine, spend the night, dine with him again on the second day, and return to Shadwell in the evening.” They were together four days out of seven; Jefferson spent few time with his children- let alone Thomas. Peter was away from many periods of time leaving his wife and family alone.
More disagreement was held in the fact that Thomas became head of the household at just the age of fourteen and as he remembered- it was not a fond transition that was disposed upon him. He resented that he didn’t have his father’s guidance or advice to lead him into his adulthood. The son would would come to describe him as a man of gigantic strength with “remarkable powers of endurance, untiring energy, and indomitable courage.”
In conclusion, while Thomas Jefferson respect, idolization and admiration towards his father, he had a form of dormant enmity towards the man who had abandoned him as a teen and left him without a direction to go in or advice as he headed towards adulthood. Including the tough expectations implaced upon him as a youth- he himself believed that his father “abandoned him” and seeing as he had an unsteady relationship with his mother. After his father, his elder sister Jane was the last main connections/relationships he had with his family but she died when Thomas was only twenty-two.
Hi I have two questions if that is okay. Firstly, what biographies would you say are the best to get on our first 5 presidents and also on their wives? Also, idk if you have done it or not yet, but if you can would you do a PowerPoint on Martha Washington? Thank you!
please tell me about a baroness hitting on jefferson and john adams' son in law im crying
There is not much else to say. On page 188 of Thomas Jefferson: Art of Power it says:
“Twice he [Thomas Jefferson] attended masquerade balls at the Opera–parties that ran from eleven pm and ran until six in the morning. (Once he and William S. Stephens, John Adams’s son-in-law, were the targets of a forward baroness). “When Mr. Jefferson had made his escape,” Smith wrote, “she had fastened her talons on me).”
I have American lion but not the art of power. Would you recommend?
If you are looking for a fast paced, not biased biography about Thomas Jefferson that is highly informative I STRONGLY suggest Art and Power by Jon Meacham. It is definitely worth a read, as usual Meacham dazzled me with his writing skill.