Blog 12

Thomas Jefferson and the Hemings family are perhaps one of the most talked about families of the revolutionary era. It is a household that is remembered both for scandal and triumph. Thomas Jefferson’s name refused to fade from history since the drafting of his Declaration of Independence.

The Smithsonian details the tumultuous election of 1800 between then President John Adams, his Vice President Thomas Jefferson, Senator Aaron Burr, and diplomat Charles Pickney. The election had the possibility to splinter the still young nation again, as this represented the truest possibility for power to change ruling parties. The Smithsonian writes that Jefferson sought the Presidency even though he knew that he would be ‘“ a constant butt for every shaft of calumny which malice & falsehood could form.”’ This is what he worked his entire life for. Jefferson sought to end the rule of the Federalist Party, as he felt they were smearing all that had been accomplished up to that point. He feared an expansion of federal power rivaling that of Great Britain. This election was going to be nasty.

Resulting from this election is one of the most memorable tossings of political zingers In a US Presidential race. President Adams used his surrogates to paint Jefferson as a man who would doom American families. Detailed in Forbes, the President of Yale publicly declared that if Jefferson were elected “we would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution.” Further, a Connecticut newspaper wrote that “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced.” Jefferson would not be outdone, however. He had a journalist, whom he had been secretly funding, write that Adams “behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.” Clearly, the “bromance” between these two men had fizzled to nonexistence by 1800.

With Jefferson winning the election, it looked like the rough and tumbling times of the election was behind him. However, in 1802, it seemed that those same tempers were about to return. In another article, The Smithsonian writes of these tempers. Ironically, it was the same writer that Jefferson had bankrolled to attack Adams that was now attacking Jefferson. The writer,

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The electoral results of the 1800 election.

James Callender broke a story claiming that Jefferson had a slave mistress, Sally Hemings, with whom he had children with. Callender writes that this relationship has been going on for many years, and had been kept under wraps by Jefferson, aside from two brief mentions in newspapers. There is not much evidence to support this claim, however, historians view this as something that probably happened. Hemings was Jefferson’s personal attendant traveled to France with him. It would not be a Leap to suggest that the two grew close. Monticello’s website writes of a DNA link between descendants of Jefferson’s family and Sally’s son Eston found that Eston had to have been fathered by a Jefferson.

There are many places right now that have collected the writings of Thomas Jefferson. Schools such as Princeton, Yale, and Jefferson’s own University of Virginia have collected his writings for use in their libraries. The National Archives and the Library of Congress also have collections from Jefferson. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has maintained Jefferson’s home at Monticello for the use of the public.

They also keep historical records and information on Thomas Jefferson and members of the Hemings family. Other people detailed by the Foundation included freemen that worked at the plantation, other slaves Jefferson owned, and some indentured servants at Monticello. Finally, there is, of course, the Jefferson Monument in Washington DC. It is a beautiful dome surrounded by white pillars. Inside there is a bronze statue of  Jefferson, along with quotations from Jefferson’s writings from The Declaration of Independence and “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1777.”

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Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

 

Overall, I think that the revolution has been looked at in a couple of different ways. The first is the usual “romantic” way. By this, I mean that the average person looks back on the revolution with it being a joyous event in American history. And in some ways, it was. From it, came a new country that quickly developed into a force to be reckoned with. This inspired more and more countries to let go of their imperialistic regimes in favor of more self-determination.

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Jefferson Memorial in D.C.

The ideals that Thomas Jefferson put forth proclaiming the natural rights of man and their equality had not been expressed by a major government at that time. Though it was just fancy rhetoric, it went on to define a new standard for the government for years to come. However, I think that when people look back on the Revolution, they remember it with too much fondness. Sometimes people start to connect dots between the revolutionary times to modern day. In doing so, this allows for a comparison of political conditions that should not exist. Take, for example, the Tea Party Movement of 2009. This movement was a grassroots push to rebel against the political establishment. These men and women harkened back to the original BostonTea Party to justify their protests, verbal berating of elected official, and occasional violence. While challenging and protesting government is clearly enumerated in the Constitution, the relativity of economic and political climate is not the same.

Another aspect of the Revolution that is often misconstrued, especially by myself, is the length of time it took to enact the democratic-republican form of government seen today. Depending on who is asked, an argument can be made to say that the Revolution started soon after the French-Indian war ended in 1963. The Boston Massacre occurred 5 YEARS PRIOR to the official start of direct fighting between colonists and Britain. In between that time is, is the often overlooked but still important period of states slowly becoming self-determining. State constitutions were drawn up, and tensions slowly started to bubble.

No matter how it is looked at though, the Revolution will serve as this nation’s most important event ever. From it grew some of the most important men in history, of which government is still based on today.

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