A new scholarly study has confirmed the doubts that Thomas Jefferson fathered the child of his slave, Sally Hemmings, the Washington Times reported.
The Times reports that a panel of thirteen scholars were nearly unanimous in concluding their serious skepticism of the truth of the allegation of the Jefferson-Hemmings affair and some of the scholars even concluded the allegation was false. Their report, commissioned by the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, will be published in a book, the Times reported. The Times article details the historical and scientific basis for doubting the conclusion reached after a 1998 DNA test of the descendant of the slave child of Jefferson's paternity.
I was one historian who has been skeptical from the beginning of the Y-chromosome DNA test that could only prove that a member of the Jefferson family, but not necessarily Thomas Jefferson himself, had fathered the child, because the test only determines one's patrilinear lineage, not one's individual paternity. In other words, one inherits Y-chromosome DNA from one's male ancestors, but the test can only identify that one of the males of the same generation (i.e. brothers) must have been the father of an individual; it cannot identify which one specifically. Thus, the Founding Father's brother, Richard Jefferson, was an equal suspect based upon the scientific evidence. As the study reported in the Times suggests, he was a more likely one based upon the historical evidence.
In my post, Clinton Wrong to Compare Sanger with Jefferson, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2009/04/clinton-wrong-to-compare-sanger-with.html, from April of 2009, I explained why the Left seeks to besmirch the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves, in order to defend their own misdeeds or for other political reasons. Although I did not address the Hemmings allegations in that post specifically, I did touch upon the Left's iconoclasm towards the Founders that allows them to co-opt certain ideals they choose selectively, while condemning America through ad hominem arguments against its Founding Fathers. The iconoclasm allows the liberals to dismiss any ideals from the Founders, and especially the Framers of the Constitution, with which they disagree by dismissing the Founders as hypocrites. Some on the Left can even condemn America by claiming it was evil from the beginning.
Central to the Left's argument was not only Jefferson's slaveholding, which I addressed in that earlier post, but especially the allegation that he had fathered a child with his slave. It was not surprising, therefore, that the same liberals who would have defended strongly a suspect legally in court who were facing similar charges were quick to convict Jefferson with the verdict of history and sully his reputation.
At best, the scholarly study casts serious doubts on the allegation that Jefferson fathered Hemmings' child. Based on all the evidence, it at least appears unfair to insist upon the allegation's veracity. Indeed, it seems more probable that the allegation is false. The alleged affair has no place in Jefferson's biography, except as a footnote as an example of liberal revisionism.
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