Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings at Monticello

Monticello is an absolute must for any fan of history. Thomas Jefferson was not only a forward thinker responsible for the Declaration of Independence, but he is also considered the prime example of the American Paradox.

Join us as we tour Monticello and talk about Thomas Jefferson’s impact on history.

Intro: 0:00
Front: 0:13
Back: 0:58
Martha Jefferson: 4:10
Sally Hemings: 5:35
Gravesite: 11:17
American Paradox: 14:55

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Episode 94 – Monticello

Episode 94 – Monticello

Jenn: Walk with history today is from Monticello, Virginia, home of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.

So here we are in Monticello. I’m standing in front of the house of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, and this home. Was built over 40 years and reminiscent of the Italian style that he saw while he was in Europe as the ambassador to France. You’ll know that from the Hamilton song.

Uh, he basically missed the late eighties. By that they mean the late 1780s. And, uh, he was there for a couple years, probably about four years. And during that time, he. Got to see a lot of architectural style and then when he came back here, he rebuilt his home to look like that. Oh, did I lose my nickel? I thought I put my nickel in there.

You might recognize the home from the nickel right behind me here of Thomas Jefferson Con Monticello named for Small Mountain, because when he inherited this plantation from his father, this was part of the plantation. And this is up on a little hill, a little mountain. Of the plantation, and this is where he decided to build his home.

But this is what we all think of when we think of Monticello. This is the backside. Uh, this is not the front door. This is where the gathering hall, you walk through the front door, you can walk straight back to the gathering hall. That is what is right here off to the right if you’re facing it. Is his office, and then off to the left, if you’re facing it, is the dining room.

And what’s very interesting about Monticello’s, it took 40 years to build and actually his office bedroom is on the first floor. And so really, Thomas Jefferson had first floor living. It’s three stories and that dome room up there is basically an unused room. And it’s unused because it gets very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

So it’s. Unuseful, we had an amazing tour. There’s a lot of artifacts still in the house, and this is because. The person after Thomas Jefferson passes away, he’s in a lot of debts and his daughter and his grandson inherit the home, but he can’t afford it. He’s had to sell off the land, still can’t afford it.

And then the home is bought by a US Navy Commodore, uh, with the last name Levy, and he’s Jewish. So you might recognize this architecture. They use it for the Jewish. At the United States Naval Academy as well. He keeps the house in good order. Repair doesn’t change anything, and that way when it’s sold in the early 1920s to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, there’s basically nothing more they have to do to restore it.

But there’s, just keep it up.

One of the really super cool things about Monticello is Thomas Jefferson really believed in an educated citizen. Uh, educated voter. And so he bought a lot of books and towards the end of his life when he was trying to recoup some money in debt, he sold 6,000 books to, uh, the, to the Congress, and he did this in 1815 because if you remember what happens in the war of 1812, And Washington DC is burned to the ground.

They lose all of their books, but Thomas Jefferson really felt it was so important for a country to be educated and to have a library of the people that he sold his 6,000 volumes, uh, to Congress. And that is the beginning of the books we have today in the Library of Congress.

So this was inside that out building that Thomas Jefferson lived in with his wife Martha Wayland’s Skeleton. Jefferson, 23 year old widow when she married Thomas Jefferson and came to Monticello in January, 1772 for at least the first two years of their marriage. And after the birth of the first child, Martha lived and they both lived in this room.

Born into a wealthy Virginia family. She grew up on a plantation near Williamsburg, complications from the birth of her sixth child, Thomas Jefferson, and her sixth child took her life at the age of 33 in 1782. Uh, details of her life have remained exclusive because Thomas Jefferson burned her, their correspondence after her death.

Thomas Jefferson, when she died, he was 39 years old, the father of three young daughters, and. Young, wealthy widowers remarried and he didn’t. And the reason why he didn’t marry, it’s always interesting to me, is she asked him on her deathbed, uh, not to marry, she told him that she could not die happy if she thought her children were to ever have a stepmother brought in over them.

Which makes you wonder cuz she was raised by two stepmothers. So Jefferson took her hand and agreed, and, uh, that’s why he never remarried. It’s presumed he fathered six more children with his enslaved woman, Sally Hemmings.

So right beside. Monticello is what they call Mulberry Road, which is kind of like this little path you see here that leads, and this is where the enslaved lived on Monticello. And this is a what? What did their dwellings would’ve looked like. Four log dwellings stood here. The first was constructed in 1770, destroyed by fire.

Um, Negro quarter is what they were called, 17 by 32 foot structure intended for multiple enslaved individuals or. S in the 1790s, likely house Hemmings family members, including Sally and her children, this is where Sally Hemmings would’ve lived. And we’re gonna talk more about Sally Hemmings and how she’s connected to Thomas Jefferson.

That’s a very important story. It’s even mentioned in Hamilton. So here I’m walking into the enslaved recreation of the enslaved quarter. Here you can see that with a. With a ladder, and this is where the children more than likely would go. A little table here. It’s not very big a cellar to keep food stores, vegetables.

The big hearth, the big fireplace living. Utensils, clothing, and then one bed here. Again, for the elderly couples, people who are sick, it’s not very big. I can clear it, but it’s, it’s not a very big drilling.

We’ll talk more about Sally Hemmings and who she was and her connection to Thomas Jefferson. This is the room that they found they believe belonged to her and her children. And kind of the timeline of her life.

So who’s Sally Hemmings? Sarah Hemings. She is an enslaved woman that is owned by Thomas Jefferson. She lives from 1773 to 1835. She is one fourth African American. So what does that mean? Means her father was white and her mother’s father was white. Sally’s father was John Whelan’s father of Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha.

So she’s technically Martha’s half sister. Believe he had an affair with Sally Hemmings and fathered six of her children. He’s actually with his wife’s half-sister. They believe the relationship started when Sally went to France with Thomas’s daughter. As her companion, her enslaved companion, and she was there for 26 months from the age 14 to 16, and Thomas Jefferson at the time is 44 years old.

This is where they believe she ended into an intimate relationship with Thomas Jefferson because she comes home impregnated and. In Paris. She’s a free woman and she could stay in Paris and be a free woman. And actually, Thomas Jefferson pays her a wage in Paris because she’s a free woman in Paris. She negotiated that she’d returned to Virginia and resume enslavement as long as her children were emancipated at the age of 21.

There is DNA connection between. Of Sally Hemmings and the Jefferson family. Now, what can’t be concluded, without a doubt is who in the Jefferson family is the relation? Is it Thomas Jefferson? Is it. Thomas Jefferson’s son-in-law is at Thomas Jefferson’s brother, and so all these people are also living here.

This is the family house, and since Sally is here, there’s claims that there were other people entering into relationship with Sally Hemmings. So even though there is a DNA correlation to the Thomas Jefferson line, it cannot be directly concluded that it was Thomas Jefferson. It’s a possibility of paternity, but doesn’t prove paternity.

And this is the controversy. Even the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, they have paid outside historians. They have paid outside genealogists. Put this all together and it still is inconclusive. So the best remark I have seen is historical accuracy should never be overwhelmed by political correctness, and that’s kind of what we see here.

As a historian, I can never say a hundred percent that something happened more than likely. Sally Hemmings had children with Thomas Jefferson, but it could have been someone else in Thomas Jefferson’s line that did have those children with her. And again, you can read all the books in controversy. Like I said, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has paid for historians and genealogists to look at this, and it still is inconclusive.

It’s just a map of where we’re at, and you can see Monticello from the back here. We’re walking down to the grave site, so from the back of Monticello. Down the left side, if you’re facing it down, this pathway is the grave of Thomas Jeff.

So this is the graveyard of Thomas Jefferson, and as you can see, he’s right there. Four children die in infancy. I don’t know if that’s the little grave markers in front of his grave, but let’s see if I can get around to the front. And then two other graves beside it, it’s that obelisk. So he’s the one.

Designed the que, he wanted it to be made of a mineral that you weren’t trying to, uh, take or chip pieces off of. But then what happened was people did chip pieces off of it to, um, to have a memento of visiting his grave. They had to replace it. That Congress in 1882 actually replaced this with a stronger mineral.

The original is at the University of Missouri, and this is the recreation. Here is Barry Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence of the statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and the father of the University of Virginia. That’s what he wanted on his tombstone. Obviously it does not save third president of the United States because he found that job to be, uh, excruciatingly hard , and he didn’t remember it with, uh, fond memories.

And this chart shows where people are buried. So Thomas Jefferson is six, but we have the cars, the Randolph’s and the Jeffersons. And this is when I told you that they’re not sure what line Sally Hemmings children come from, whether it’s the. The Randolph’s or the Jefferson line because his sister marries the car and then Randolph is his son-in-law.

And so she’s ma, he’s married to a Jefferson line, so they’re not sure what, who. Father, those children of Sally Hemmings, here’s the nickel I’ve been carrying today for our filming, and I’m gonna leave it on the grave of Thomas Jefferson so you can watch me because we can’t get in here. You have to kind of fling it onto the grave.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Uh, there usually is a lot more here that’s here right now, but I’m gonna give it my best shot.

We’ll talk about the American paradox. So most people consider. Jefferson to be the biggest example of the American paradox, and he is that because he enslaves more than 600 people during his lifetime, doesn’t free many, maybe as many as 10, and most of them, they think it’s because of a family relation.

And yet he writes the Declaration of Independence. He is the author of this document that is used to provide freedom. And liberty and American identity to people today, and people don’t know what to do with that. Who was Thomas Jefferson? What did that mean? And he did wrestle with that idea within himself.

He had stated he made him his mind up to treat his enslaved well, but he still enslaved them. That is the American paradox. How could a person who is an enslave. Write a document about enlightenment and be so. Forward thinking to educate people and to have free thought and freedom to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but still keep people enslaved, not see those.

People as American not see those people as entitled to rights. The American Paradox, we’ll talk more about that on our podcast talk with history if you’re interested, but historians do believe that Thomas Jefferson is the prime example of America’s paradox. So we just saw the Reenactor here. Who plays Thomas?

Jeff? Fantastic. So awesome. I recommend you go. You have to visit Thomas Jefferson is America’s Paradox. He wrestles with that throughout his life and to be here at Monticello, to be immersed with his history and what he saw and what he did and what he changed and what influenced him. It was just remarkable.

So definitely visit if you can, but onto our next walk with history.

Published by Scott

The mountains are calling, let me grab a jacket and my kids.

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