In Defense of Thomas Jefferson

The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal by William G. Hyland Jr.

  • Published: Aug 14, 2020

The belief that Thomas Jefferson had an affair and fathered a child (or children) with slave Sally Hemings--and that such an allegation was proven by DNA testinghas become so pervasive in American popular culture that it is not only widely accepted but... read more

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Details of In Defense of Thomas Jefferson

Exact title of the book
In Defense of Thomas Jefferson
Book author
William G. Hyland Jr.
ISBN
9781429969260
Publisher
St. Martin's Publishing Group
Published
Jun 09, 2009
Language
English
Format
PDF, FB2, EPUB, MOBI
Pages
320
File size (in PDF)
2880 kB

Some brief overview of book

The belief that Thomas Jefferson had an affair and fathered a child (or children) with slave Sally Hemings--and that such an allegation was proven by DNA testinghas become so pervasive in American popular culture that it is not only widely accepted but taught to students as historical fact. But as William G. Hyland Jr. demonstrates, this "fact" is nothing more than the accumulation of salacious rumors and irresponsible scholarship over the years, much of it inspired by political grudges, academic opportunism, and the trend of historical revisionism that seeks to drag the reputation of the Founding Fathers through the mud.

In this startling and revelatory argument, Hyland shows not only that the evidence against Jefferson is lacking, but that in fact he is entirely innocent of the charge of having sexual relations with Hemings. Historians have the wrong Jefferson. Hyland, an experienced trial lawyer, presents the most reliable historical evidence while dissecting the unreliable, and in doing so he cuts through centuries of unsubstantiated charges.

The author reminds us that the DNA tests identified Eston Hemings, Sally's youngest child, as being merely the descendant of a "Jefferson male." Randolph Jefferson, the president's wayward, younger brother with a reputation for socializing among the Monticello slaves, emerges as the most likely of several possible candidates. Meanwhile, the author traces the evolution of this rumor about Thomas Jefferson back to the allegation made by one James Callendar, a "drunken ruffian" who carried a grudge after unsuccessfully lobbying the president for a postmaster appointment--and who then openly bragged of ruining Jefferson's reputation. Hyland also delves into Hemings family oral histories that go against the popular rumor, as well as the ways in which the Jefferson rumors were advanced by less-than-historical dramas and by flawed scholarly research often shaped by political agendas.

Reflecting both a layperson's curiosity and a lawyer's precision, Hyland definitively puts to rest the allegation of the thirty-eight-year liaison between Jefferson and Hemings. In doing so, he reclaims the nation's third president from the arena of Hollywood-style myth and melodrama and gives his readers a unique opportunity to serve as jurors on this enduringly fascinating episode in American history.

About author

G. Hyland, Jr., a native of Virginia, received his B. A. from the University of Alabama and a J.

D. from Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. A former prosecutor, Hyland is a trial lawyer with over twenty-six years of litigation experience. His publications have appeared in the law journals of the University of Texas and University of Richmond, as well as in the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, including his article, "A Civil Action Hemings v.

Jefferson." Before law school, he worked with a Top Secret security clearance for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in Washington, D. C. Hyland serves on Florida's Judicial Nominating Commission and is a member of the Virginia and New York Historical Societies.

He now lives and writes in Tampa Bay, Florida.

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