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History, Sex, Race: Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Once And Twice More

By Steve Light.

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Several years ago the attorney/historian, Annette Gordon Reed, published a book on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, a follow-up to her 1998 book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (And now Annette Gordon-Reed has co-authored with Peter S. Onuf another work on Jefferson, Most Blessed of Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination). It seemed that with these works, following upon the historical novel of Barbara Chase-Riboud, as well as upon both 1) the DNA evidence of a link between the Jefferson and Hemings families and 2) the Jefferson Family Association’s recognition of the Hemings family as part of the family, that the “controversy” was controversy no more, that the actuality of the relationship of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had become a part of facticity and consensus. I for my part thought this had all been resolved well before the appearance of Annette Gordon-Reed’s book. But opponents of the actuality and factuality in question remain intact. A book brought forth last year by an emergent Thomas Jefferson Heritage Association is testimony to this. Subsequently Jefferson emerged again on the one hand in the context of the appearance of a pedestrian hagiographic biography, inevitable given its authorship by a Newsweek editor and Scarborough Group/Charlie Rose/Meet the Press regular, Jon Meacham, and on the other hand in the context of a critical-polemical study of Jefferson’s role as a slaveholder, The Master of the Mountain, authored by the historian, Henry Wiencek, where Jefferson is shown to have revised his views on slavery, emerging from an early period of misgiving to an ardent and harsh defender of the institution both in personal practice and as a socio-political necessity. The former book has won the expected salutations of the media and middlebrow culture to which it is addressed, while the latter book has met with considerable criticism. Some, such as Annette Gordon-Reed, call into question the foundations of Wiencek’s thesis and even more his methodological handling of data and evidence while others either less or more critical of Wiencek’s methodology and his handling of evidence, and I incline to this latter view, contest the thesis by insisting that his evolutionist thesis is too weak in its assessment of Jefferson’s views, that it obscures the fact that there was no significant evolution at all, certainly none with any kind of significant qualitative or even quantitative break: Jefferson from start to finish was an ardent proponent and defender of slave labor and the slave system.

Some years I ago I had written about the Hemings/Jefferson question, but the essay was never published. Nonetheless I think its theses remain pertinent in the face of renewed opposition to the actuality of the Jefferson/Hemings relationship and relations and also because the historian Gordon S. Wood, who was the central target of my criticisms, has now revised his position so that while he was once in the camp of denial vis-a-vis a Hemings/Jefferson connection, he now believes it to have been a reality. And among other things he utilizes an argument I had originally used against his own reasoning. In l997 Wood in The New York Review of Books, replying to Barbara Chase-Riboud, author of the historical novel, Sally Hemings, concluded: “This idea of an intimate and loving relationship between Jefferson and his black slave may have gained great power and increasing credibility in our culture….If only it were true….But wishing won’t make it a historical reality. We just don’t have the evidence [my italics]….As long as Chase-Riboud remains a novelist she can make up whatever she wants to; but historians are different and are not supposed to write fiction, even in a good cause.” [1] Now Wood, again in The New York Review of Books, replying to Edwin M. Yoder, who tries to make the case that the DNA evidence in the Jefferson/Hemings case points not to Thomas Jefferson but at other Jeffersons, writes: “The evidence that Sally Hemings was Jefferson’s mulatto concubine and bore at least some of his children does not rest solely on the DNA findings. Far more convincing evidence for the relationship can be found in the powerfully argued works of historian Annette Gordon-Reed, especially her The Hemings of Monticello: An American Family(2008). In that book Gordon-Reed builds a persuasive contextual case for the relationship…Gordon-Reed has connected a multitude of dots and answered the many doubts some historians have had that Jefferson could be sexually involved with his mulatto slave…According to the DNA evidence the Carr nephews could not have been the fathers of Sally’s children. Jefferson’s brother [Randolph] could have, but all the other evidence points to Jefferson [my italics]….Mr. Yoder needs to catch up on the latest Jefferson scholarship.”[2]

Professor Wood tends towards condescension. He certainly was illegitimately condescending in relation to Ms. Chase-Riboud. But when Wood was still firmly in the denialist camp, I wrote in my essay that while Randolph could technically, by virtue of DNA and temporal-geographic proximity, have been the father of Heming’s children all, all, the circumstantial evidence pointed to Thomas. This is to say among other things that Wood could easily and with all the legitimacy of rigorous historical reason and craft have said in 1997 what he only now says today. This gap is significant both in terms of what it tells us historiographically and existentially about scholars and scholarship regarding the socio-historical and socio-racial matters at hand. The essay in question follows immediately below:

Professor Gordon S. Wood, in a response to Barbara Chase-Riboud’s letter to the New York Review of Books (June 12, l997)–in which she takes issue with Wood’s passing criticism of her historical novel on Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson in his review of Conor Cruise O’Brien’s book on Jefferson and the French Revolution (New York Review of Books, February 20, l997)–gets up upon his professional high horse. But this would be of relative inconsequence were it not for the fact that Professor Wood demonstrates a lack of discernment vis-a-vis racial stereotyping and the uses to which such typing have historically (and contemporaneously) been put, and strays from his own calling’s ostensibly cherished strictures of method and craft (and by virtue of which ostensible strictures he deems himself elected to scold Barbara Chase-Riboud). Of course, the reasons why Wood demonstrates the particular lack in question are not unrelated to the particular matter at hand, i.e. the possible relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. The vehement, inordinately vehement, denialism on the part of Jefferson historians and scholars is, before and after the revelation of DNA evidence, is rather transparent, but one should not assume that it is only this particular complex which leads to the ideational, notional, and methodological imprecisions on the part of those such as Wood.[1]

In his review of Conor Cruise O’Brien Wood contests Cruise O’Brien’s notion that Jefferson had sexual relations with one or more of the people enslaved upon his plantation, in particular the slave woman, Sally Hemings. In passing Wood also contests the manner in which Barbara Chase-Riboud narrated the relations between Jefferson and Hemings. He writes: “By now the story that Sally Hemings was Jefferson’s concubine in Paris and later too in America has been repeated so often and reinforced by the l995 film, Jefferson in Paris, that almost everyone believes it. O’Brien says he does. It is clear that Jefferson knew about the ways his fellow Virginia planters exploited their female slaves. He knew too that his father-in-law, John Wayles, had slept with his slaves and sired several Hemings, including Sally. Consequently, O’Brien concludes there is no valid reason to suppose that he disdained the sexual perquisites available in his caste, ‘any more than his father-in-law had disdained these.’ But there are valid reasons, the main one being Jefferson’s puritan and extremely repressed temperament and another being Sally’s age when she went to Paris. If Jefferson did in fact sleep with Sally in Paris he ought to be charged with child abuse: the girl was only about fourteen and not much more mature than Jefferson’s seven year-old daughter, whom she was supposed to be taking care of. She certainly was anything but the nubile flirt portrayed by Merchant and Ivory. Abigail Adams thought she was still very much ‘a child’ and reported that the ship captain who had brought her and Jefferson’s daughter across the Atlantic believed that she would ‘be of so little Service that he had better carry her back with him.’ O’Brien goes on to guess, in one of the many such guesses he makes about Jefferson in the book, that Jefferson did not go to England to collect his daughter when she arrived from America in l787 because he would have been embarrassed by the presence of Sally Hemings in front of Abigail Adams. It’s distressing to note that O’Brien’s principal citation for this conjecture is the questionable account in the novel Sally Hemings by Barbara Chase-Riboud.”

Barbara Chase-Riboud wrote a reply to this review and Wood responded in turn to her letter. I do not write today in order to add or subtract from the thesis about Jefferson and Hemings. I merely want to talk about Wood’s “reasoning”. To begin with, whether or not Jefferson was puritan and repressed in temperament is of no consequence at all as regards the possibility of his engaging in sexual relationships with those he held in bondage. Such temperament has not forestalled others prior or posterior to Jefferson in engaging in such relations. I do not doubt that among that set of slave owners who engaged in sexual relations–whether by forcible rape or by the always existing rape inherent in the situation de jure and de facto–with their slaves–there were those who certainly were puritan and repressed. Indeed, I would venture to say that in certain instances the very “character” in question was cause rather than brake. But I do not doubt that among those who did not engage in such “relations” there might well have been a libertine or two or three–and vice-versa once again! Wood seems blithely unaware that there is no necessary connection between character, temperament, and the passage to particular kinds of acts. The determination as to whether Jefferson “slept with his slaves”, or whether he carried on a relationship with Sally Hemings, cannot be established in any other way than by a gathering of material evidence, i.e. did he or did he not sleep with, abuse, rape her simpliciter.

Perhaps, however, Wood is aware that the point he has made lacks ground, because in his review he immediately switches topics (to one which he seems to think bears a logical connection to the “order of reasons” he has just established, but which in fact bears no essential connection at all). He begins to speak of Sally Hemings’ age. “If Jefferson did sleep with Sally Hemings,” Woods fairly thunders, “he ought be charged with child abuse.” But what does the nature of Jefferson’s alleged act (i.e. “sleeping” with a “child”) have to do with whether or not he committed the act in fact? Wood seems to argue, i.e. 1) Jefferson would not commit child abuse [rape]. 2) Sally Hemings was a child. 3) Therefore, Jefferson did not sleep with [abuse/rape] Sally Hemings. QED, to be sure, but the quod in question is precisely our own thesis as to the inadequacy of Wood’s reasoning. After all, as pertains to the material fact or not of the sexual relationship in question, Sally Hemings’ age does not provide us any reason in and of itself to suppose one way or the other about whether or not Jefferson had sexual relations with Sally Hemings (or to determine whether or not this relationship continued on into the future). Jefferson might not have been capable of committing “child abuse”. He might have refrained from having sexual relations with a l4 year-old. On the other hand, perhaps he liked 14 year-olds (who would not realize how repressed and puritan he was! etc). Prolepsis: readers should not come away from this paper thinking that I imply that Jefferson was a child-abuser or that I posit that he “liked 14 year-olds”. The immediately preceding “conjectures” are made simply in order to point out the problems with Wood’s reasoning. I am not a Jefferson scholar nor a scholar of slavery and claim no ability to speak with even a minimal authority or erudition on his likes and dislikes or sexual history, by force or “consent”, etc…..

Barbara Chase-Riboud in her letter says that Sally Hemings was between 14 and 15 when she went to Paris, but was between l6 and l7 when she returned to Virginia, “certainly by l8th-Century standards a marriageable woman.” But Ms. Chase-Riboud fails to point out what is truly problematic about Wood’s reasoning. In Wood’s account it is important that Sally Hemings be considered a “child”, else his “syllogistic” defense of Jefferson will break down. But how does he establish that she is a child? He relies on the testimony of Abigail Adams. Now: it may well have been that relative to other l4 year-old girls in l787 and/or 14 year-old girls with whom Abigail Adams was acquainted that Sally Hemings was “immature”, i.e. “childlike”. Of course, had Sally Hemings possessed the intellectual maturity of, say, a 14 year-old Giacomo Leopardi and the sexual maturity of a woman well beyond her years or, more importantly, had she been a women of 24, mature or immature, there were a large set of people–in l787 and in l887 and on into the 20th Century (and in which set we could easily include the authors of articles in early 20th Century editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica, as but one example…)–who would have without hesitation referred to Sally Hemings as “a child”. What kind of witness, then, was Abigail Adams? Of course, Wood might say that he has also referred to another witness, a contemporary ship captain. Wood seems to have forgotten that the ship captain’s testimony is second-hand testimony; it comes to us only via Abigail Adams. But, it could be that both Adams and the captain were accurate in their estimation of Sally Hemings relative “immaturity”. The question is, to what degree might Adams and the captain have seen Hemings through conventional, contemporary stereotypic eyes? Wood weakens his own case. He writes in his reply to Barbara Chase-Riboud’s letter: “Chase-Riboud’s dialogue may be brief, but it is not lifelike, meaning that it is not entirely historically accurate, which is why I said in the review that it was ‘questionable’. In her novel Chase-Riboud indicates that Abigail was a stranger to slavery and had never even seen a slave before she met Sally Hemings in London. But in fact Abigail knew slavery very intimately: not only had slavery been an everyday reality in pre-revolutionary Massachusetts, but Abigail’s father himself had owned two slaves.

Abigail did not like slavery, it is true, but she was not the flaming abolitionist that the novel depicts.” But if Wood is right this means that it is more likely that Adams was subject to conventional (racist) views, albeit that even if she were a militant abolitionist she could just as easily have held the same conventional views and referred readily to African Americans as “children”. Such views did not necessarily preclude taking abolitionist positions (and in some instances could be the cause of the adoption of such positions). But how could all of these considerations, readily banal–though not unimportant–have slipped by Wood (who into the bargain does not seem to realize that “lifelike” dialogue is by no means something which is to be determined solely by a measure of its “historical accuracy”)? That is what is truly distressing in all this and, once again, it is precisely that which has compelled me to write today. Wood, of course, misses all this twice, because in his reply to Barbara Chase-Riboud he reiterates all this in stronger terms. He writes: “It was not Sally’s age by itself that made her a child and thus an unlikely partner for Jefferson in l787. It was her lack of maturity as evidenced by two observers at the time. No doubt some teenagers are very mature and maybe some of them were by eighteenth-century standards ‘marriageable women.’ But Sally was not that kind of mature teenager. Abigail Adams noted in l787 that Sally was merely ‘a child’ and reported that the ship captain who had brought her and Jefferson’s daughter to Europe from America made the same point in observing that the child would be of ‘so little Service’ in taking care of Jefferson’s daughter ‘that he had better carry her back with him.'” I have just shown why all this “reasoning” of Wood’s is beside the point. But I want to repeat that in his reiteration he lets standards of historical craft slip to the side. We are not given even the most cursory scrutiny of the witness nor of the second-hand witness. But then even if the captain did actually say that “he had better carry her back with him” and even if he and Abigail were right about the “girl” being “a child”, how are we to determine the meaning of this statement by the captain about “carrying her back with him”? Maybe he was just as taken with the “girl” as Jefferson (and offered up an excuse so as to “carry her back….”). But there is another factor to consider. If the girl were so clearly “immature” and so clearly “useless” as a baby-sitter for Jefferson’s daughter, doesn’t that raise the possibility that there was another reason why Jefferson, who Wood will later in his response to Chase-Riboud call “meticulous about knowing everything going on at Monticello” (and which could lead us to conjecture that perhaps Jefferson might not be one to “engage” incompetent baby-sitters so easily as all that), wanted her to come along, i.e. like he dug her, dig!? Wood weakens his own case once again.

Wood, in the long passage of his we quoted at the outset, writes disdainfully of Cruse O’Brien’s “many guesses”, but it is Wood who makes all sorts of guesses of his own–and guesses showing a lack of acumen as regards the ways and manners of men and women and world. In the latter portion of his response to Barbara Chase-Riboud, Wood writes: “There is no doubt that members of the Hemings family were privileged: they were household slaves, the offspring or descendants of Jefferson’s father-in-law or other whites at Monticello, and very light-complexioned. That Jefferson should have noted that one of these privileged household slaves gave birth to a child is not unusual. He was meticulous about keeping track of everything that went on at Monticello. In his Farm Book he dutifully recorded not only the new colts he acquired and the hogs he killed but as well the births of nearly all of his slaves, including Sally’s offspring. If Jefferson were indeed the father of Sally’s children, then by recording the births in this methodical way seems not just to take the edge off the supposed romance, but to turn Jefferson into some kind of unfeeling monster”. Again, this is all problematic. That Jefferson recorded or did not record these births–meticulously or otherwise–tells us very little in and of itself about Jefferson’s character (or about the meaning and motive of this “recording”) and still less about whether or not Sally Hemings’ children were his own children. On the other hand, if the “meticulous” noting of births does tell us something about Jefferson’s character, i.e. that he was prone to meticulously recording the births of those on his plantation (yes, that much it does tell us!), it does not tell us anything about the nature of his relationship with Sally Hemings. If, Jefferson did not have a romance or even a less involved relationship with Sally Hemings then the “meticulous” recording of the births of her children might be a small sign that could be seen as consistent with the fact at hand. On the other hand if Jefferson did have a romance or even a lesser relationship with Sally Hemings the “meticulous” recording would not tell us very much at all other than what we already know, i.e. that Jefferson “meticulously” recorded….etc. In other words, the “meticulous” recording as one fact does not enable us to reach even a minimum threshold for conjecture about any other possible facts for the very simple reason that the “meticulous” recording of births can plausibly coexist with all of the various possible relationships (or not) that could have obtained between Jefferson and Sally Hemings–and included among which possible relationships would be the possible fact that Jefferson might well have been “unfeeling”, which possibility Wood rules out from the start as if it were, by definition, impossible….”Take the edge off the romance”? Pre-nuptial agreements can sometimes take the edge off the romance and sometimes not–depending on the circumstances. So too for marriage, for the travails of life, rigid personalities, and so on and so forth. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Life is variable and various phenomenon can give rise to various meanings. Wood seems to think meanings are ready-made and exist in strict causal and one-to one correspondence. Perhaps, but not on this planet.

The “meticulous” recording of the births in question is, in short, a banal fact, one with rather weak signifying power. It tells us very little absent our knowledge about other facts in question, but it also tells us little even if we knew for certain what were and what were not the relevant facts vis-a-vis the relationship in question. Because the meaning of the “meticulous recording” is not something that derives solely from the nature of the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings. If Jefferson carried on a “long and loving relationship with Sally Hemings” and at the same time “meticulously” recorded the births of their children, what would this tell us? Nothing in and of itself other than, once again, the tautegorical fact that Jefferson “meticulously” recorded the births. But could it be a sign that Jefferson was a “monster”? Not in and of itself, unless, of course, one lives in a world where everything is pre-established and invariable, i.e. where the two facts are mutually exclusive, that is to say where the “meticulous” recording of births and the existence of a romance which has given rise to these births cannot exist in the same order of reality. Such invariability vis-a-vis human existence and the meaning of human actions is not something, as just stated, characteristic of this planet. But the very variability of this planet does give rise to the fact that members of this species can live in different “worlds”. Wood has given us a picture of his (invariant) world. But he does not seem to realize that in such a “world” it is hard to practice the kind of historical scholarship he ostensibly wants to defend because given Wood’s rigid and ostensibly naive view of human nature and human behavior–from which not only contingency, the unexpected, and contradiction have been banished, but even plausible inconsistency and variation–it is impossible to form any kind of plausible, no less veridical psychological, sociological, or historical judgments. Of course, we could have hoped that having entered the realm of teratological science, Wood might have told us something truly interesting about Jefferson, but in the course of his defense of Jefferson he seems to have “forgotten” even the more banal findings of the science in question, viz. that being a slave-owner is a category of being that can, indeed, gather around it all sorts of epithets….But, perhaps, teratology is not his true calling, or at least not vis-a-vis the human realm. But syllogistic science, of a sort, seems to be: 1) Jefferson recorded meticulously the births of the children of a slave woman, Sally Hemings. 2) Monsters record meticulously the births of their slave-children. 3) Jefferson was not a monster. 4) Therefore, he fathered no children with Sally Hemings….

Wood tells us Jefferson was meticulous in recording everything that went on at Monticello. But he does not seem to realize that it would follow that it would not, therefore, be unnatural for Jefferson to record meticulously the births of “his children” with Sally Hemings, which children he might not want to openly acknowledge for various and sundry reasons (but of which the “recording” could be seen–in one of several possible conjectures–as being his own “private”–sentimental even?–recognition…etc. etc.). But again, all this matters not. What he wrote in his Farm Book and how he wrote in the Farm Book tells us nothing, provides no evidence either way, given the various different scenarios that could all be constructed from this one bit of “evidence”, as to the question at hand, viz. did he or did he not have carnal relations with Sally Hemings and did these relations produce or not produce children and within what kind of relationship did these “relations” take place? In his review of Cruise O’Brien, Wood says it was “distressing” that Cruise O’Brien had recourse to Barbara Chase-Riboud’s “questionable account”. And I have quoted his elaboration of this in his letter of response to Barbara Chase-Riboud where-in he speaks of her dialogue as not being “lifelike”. “Not lifelike”? I am afraid that, once again, it must be pointed out that Wood is not the best witness when it comes to the question of what is “lifelike”, because, once again, judging from the way he speaks about how “causality” works in the world of humans, he seems a remarkable stranger to the ways and very often capricious and moreover contingent ways (i.e. that necessity does not hold anything but a very relative sway–even statistically–when it comes to the human passage to act and action) of the particular species which usually holds center stage when it comes to the practice of historical narrative and historical reasoning.

In his conclusion to his response to Barbara Chase-Riboud, Wood writes: “This idea of an intimate and loving relationship between Jefferson and his black slave may have gained great power and increasing credibility in our culture because it represents the deep yearnings of many Americans: it symbolizes what many of us believe is the ultimate solution to our race problem. If only it were true…But wishing won’t make it a historical reality.” Yet, what exactly does he mean by, i.e. “the deep yearnings of many Americans,” etc.? Doubtless, it could mean, no matter how clumsily he has put it, that we all yearn for authentic community free of domination of all sorts in terms of race, gender, class, orientation, etc. etc, i.e. “when…Jupiter aligns with Mars/ then peace shall guide the planets/ and love shall conquer all…”, etc. On the other hand, if we take the image literally, i.e. slave-owner and slave–and Wood has left it literal–it could represent a very different kind of yearning. Now, I will assume that Wood does not want to go back, that he does not “yearn” for the antebellum, and I will assume that he does not mean to give his passage over to the various possible significations in question (and this will, thankfully, save me the task of “analyzing” a passage about which Wood seems unaware–since he has taken no rhetorico-critical preventive care vis-a-vis its composition–that it fairly shouts its possible, if exceedingly banal, entendres, as do shout for “analysis” the “logic” of and the affective vehemence betrayed in his construction of the aforementioned two syllogisms upon which he rests so much of his case….). It remains, however, that Wood is completely out to sea as regards the motives of Barbara Chase-Riboud and others. And there are various plausible other reasons why someone might want “it to be true”, if, that is, one had the extra-narratological reasons to which Wood alludes. I won’t bother to conjecture on Wood’s motives. But I can comment when he writes: “We just don’t have the evidence for the existence of the long and passionate slave marriage. As long as Chase-Riboud remains a novelist she can make up whatever she wants to; but historians are different and are not supposed to write fiction, even in a good cause”. Here again Wood gets up on that high horse. Now, I am not versed in Wood’s itinerary or scholarly works, but surely he knows that historical writing can escape neither the imaginative faculty nor the aporetic orders of representation, and surely he must know or concede that in any event and in whatever discursive paradigm one utilizes everything depends on the manner by which one constitutes the notion, i.e. the “fiction”, at hand. Because an emphatic, a mature and embodied contestation of reason does not seek to abolish reason (or a “will to truth”) nor simply to make it more reasonable, the reasonable, like reason itself, never quite having reason enough, but rather to make it (and the “will to truth”!) ever the more wise. The roles of historical novelist and historian and their respective practices for all that they are decidedly different are not at all mutually exclusive, as Wood, engaging one more logical fallacy, intimates. But I should also add that one might want to speculate on why Wood does not comment on what is surely a substantive notion (notwithstanding whatever one’s consideration of this notion might be and, as I mentioned at the outset, I reject this notion) contained in Barbara Chase-Riboud’s thesis about Jefferson and Hemings, viz. that Jefferson had, by the time of his presidency and after, outgrown his earlier racist views.

Notes for Preface

1. Gordon S. Wood, “The Sally Hemings Case” [Exchange of letters between Barbara Chase-Riboud and Gordon S. Wood vis-a-vis: Wood: “Liberty’s Wild Man”(New York Review of Books, February 20, 1997)], New York Review of Books, June 12, 1997.

2. Gordon S. Wood, “She Was His Concubine” [Exchange of letters between Edwin M. Yoder, Jr and Gordon S. Wood vis-a-vis “In Quest of Bloodlines”(New York Review of Books, May 23, 2013], New York Review of Books, July 11, 2013.

Notes for Essay

1. The various schools of denial, it should be pointed out, did not readily dissipate in the face of DNA evidence. Joseph Ellis, for example, did switch camps, but without ever confronting all of his previous arguments in favor of denial. But the denialist camps now merely focus their denial on the DNA evidence. “But it could have been Randolph [Jefferson’s younger brother] or, or, or…” became the new refrain. Yes, it could have been. But the point is not that the DNA evidence lacks absoluteness vis-a-vis Thomas Jefferson himself, nor is the primary point that all the circumstantial evidence points in Thomas’, not in Randolph’s direction; rather the point is that the schools of denial in question cannot bring themselves in proximity to any authentic will to truth on the one hand or self-critical reflection as to their own motives or methodological procedures on the other.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Light, a basketball point-guard following upon Nate Archibald, Pete Maravich, and Willie Somerset–and akin as well to Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, and Earl Boykins–is also a philosopher and poet.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, May 7th, 2016.