Saturday, May 16, 2020

Peter Jefferson's Death: August 17, 1757

On June 5, 1757, Peter Jefferson took ill at his home, Shadwell, located on the River Anna in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Jane Jefferson sent Peter's man-servant, Sawney, to Castle Hill to request the services of their family friend, Dr. Thomas Walker.  At the time, 14-year old Thomas Jefferson was just coming home for summer break from the Dover Creek School, near Tuckahoe Plantation. By July 13, Peter's health had not improved, and on that day, Peter Jefferson wrote his will, appointing Dr. Walker as one of the executors for his estate. The other men he appointed were friends and business associates, Thomas Turpin Sr., John Nicholas, John Harvie, and Jane Jefferson's cousin, Peter Randolph.

Dr. Thomas Walker and Thomas Turpin Sr. were partners with Peter Jefferson at The Loyal Land Company.  John Nicholas and John Harvie were investors with Peter in a speculative land development and Peter Randolph was a lawyer and the family’s legal counsel in charge of handling the estate’s legal affairs. All were large land and slave owners who promised Peter and Jane that they would take care of any estate representation and family guidance. Although these men had access to a network of relationships that would help pave the way for young Thomas to take his rightful place among the gentry. 

Peter Jefferson’s Will stated: “…I do appoint Constitute & Ordain the Honorable Peter Randolph Esq., Thomas Turpin the Elder, John Nicholas, Doctor Thomas Walker & John Harvie Execrs of this my last
Will & Testament & Guardian to all my Children in Testimony whereof  I have signed, sealed, & Published this as my last Will and Testament. I give and devise to my dear & well beloved wife, Jane Jefferson, for and during her natural life or widowhood, the use and profits of the house & plantation whereon I now live.”

Dr. Walker made eleven visits to Shadwell before Peter passed away at age 49Peter Jefferson requested to be buried at Shadwell, and hired local carpenter Samuel Cobbs to build the coffin. The traditional funeral service was performed by the Rev. Mr. James Maury, and afterward, Peter was buried at Shadwell among the graceful cedars.

Peter Jefferson died on August 17, 1757, leaving Jane Jefferson a widow at age 37. Peter provided well for Jane by leaving her the house and plantation at Shadwell for her lifetime, together with a sufficient portion of slaves, stock, and horses.

To the estate, he left speculative land holdings, rental properties, and unlike many of his peers, no debt.  After 17 years of marriage, Jane was left with eight children ranging from ages 2 through 17, and then in charge of running the family plantation.

Young Thomas was on summer break from the Dover School at the time, but due to the circumstances, would never return. He revered his father, and realized that he would then have to become the man of the family. 

“But thrown on a wide world, among entire strangers, without a friend or guardian to advise, so young too, and with little experience of mankind, your dangers great, and still your safety
must rest on yourself…I recollect that at 14 years of age, the whole care & direction of myself was
thrown on myself entirely, without a relative or friend qualified to advise or guide me…” ~ Th: Jefferson

This comment casts a curiously slanted image of Thomas’ mother, whom he apparently did not judge
qualified to advise him. Thomas would not receive any portion of his inheritance until the age of twenty-one,and was subject to the scrutiny from the executors of the estate, Dr. Thomas Walker and John Harvie, as well as his mother. Thus, at fourteen, he was then head of the family with all its many responsibilities, but he had no power.

The adolescent years are a time when boys normally struggle with parental control and begin to assert their authority. The troubled teen had no masculine companion within the immediate family after the death of his father. He had his mother, six sisters, and an infant brother. Due to the fact that Peter Jefferson was away on surveying trips much of the time, and young Thomas had been sent to boarding schools for his education, quality time with Thomas had been more the norm than quantity time. Bereaved Thomas felt that he had been deserted at the age of fourteen. In his Commonplace Book, Thomas protested his mother’s authority and brooded about his father’s death. He wrote about being friendless, alone, and suffered under the hands of women.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

John Trumbull's 1817 portrait 
The Declaration of Independence

Information and image from the Architect of the Capitol, Richmond Times Dispatch, July 4, 2016

The classic painting "Declaration of Independence" is often erroneously thought to depict the signing of the aforementioned document.  Instead, it's the artist's conception of the moment on June 28, 1776, when the 5-member drafting committee- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin- presented their revolutionary document to John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  Six days later, on July 4, the document was adopted and, the following month, 56 congressional delegates signed it.  The oil-on-canvas painting is 12 feet by 18 feet and has hung in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol since 1826.  While 56 men signed the Declaration, only 47 are represented.  Trumbull did not attempt a wholly historical depiction and excluded those for whom no authoritative image could be found.  He also included five other patriots who did not sign.

Taken altogether, the painting shows 42 of the 56 signers, along with five extra men. It omits 14 signers. They are:

Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire         Thomas Stone of Maryland
John Hart of New Jersey                               Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia
John Morton of Pennsylvania                        Francis Lightfoot Lee of Virginia
James Smith of Pennsylvania                        Carter Braxton of Virginia
George Taylor of Pennsylvania                     John Penn of North Carolina
George Ross of Pennsylvania                        Button Gwinnett of Georgia
Caesar Rodney of Delaware                          Lyman Hall of Georgia

The five men that are included but were not signers are: 

George Clinton of New York 
Robert Livingston of New York 
John Dickinson of Pennsylvania
Thomas Willing of Pennsylvania 
Charles Thompson of Pennsylvania

John Trumbull (1756-1843) was the first American painter to produce a series of history paintings; they depict scenes of the Revolutionary War.  John Trumbull, the son  of a Connecticut lawyer, became governor of the colony.  He was born June 6, 1756.

Upon traveling to London in 1780 to study with the renowned painter Benjamin West, in 1784, West proposed that Trumbull take over a project that West had started: a series of paintings on the American Revolution. The resulting paintings became Trumbell's best-known works. Trumbull viewed this role in this undertaking as that of a historian, "commemorating the great events of our country's revolution."

In 1786, Trumbull included this nonmilitary painting in his series designed to document the American war of independence. He underscored that in contrast to other nations the United States had its origins in a rational assertion of abstract principle rather than in the violence and caprice of monarchs. As usual he painstakingly sought to achieve authentic and realistic portraits of the figures in the painting, but he also departed from the historical record, taking liberties that heightened the dramatic effect of the painting and the symbolic importance of the event. The Declaration of Independence conflated into one day a whole series of events related to the drafting and approval of this document. The painting depicts not the signing of the Declaration but the presentation of the document to John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, by the drafting committee. Trumbull placed the members of this committee, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston, at the center of the scene to highlight their role in this event. He also included signers of the Declaration who had not actually been present on the day the document was signed. In fact, the signers were never assembled as a group in the way that Trumbull depicted them. Most of the delegates signed the Declaration of Independence on 2 August 1776, and other signatures were added until some time before the publication of the signed document on 19 January 1777.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Great Fresh (Flood) of 1771

Excerpt from Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man by Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox
Chapter 31 The Great Fresh of 1771
3-page article from the Virginia Cavalcade in Autumn 1951,  May 1771 - The Great Fresh of 1771

Journal entry from Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man, Chapter 31:

I will never forget the devastating spring we experienced in 1771. The previous winter was particularly cold. Creeks and tributaries froze, and the below freezing temperatures lasted well into early spring, until the first 10-12 days of May when we experienced torrential rains, which deluged the central Blue Ridge Mountain region. The destructive flooding from the great fresh and the continuous rain inundated the lowlands of all Virginia Rivers east of the Alleghenies. The land runoff had nowhere to go but over the banks, as the rivers could not handle the runoff fast enough. 

The spring fresh of 1771 produced the worst flood waters in Virginia history, and in some areas around Scott’s Landing, 40-45 feet above the mean level of the James River. For 60 hours, the James River rose continuously, as much as 16 inches per hour. Property losses were disastrous in the Piedmont, as well as in the Tidewater area. It was estimated that 4-6,000 hogshead of stored tobacco had been destroyed, and more than half of that year’s spring crop of seedlings had suffered the same fate in the fields along the James and low lying plantations along the shore.

Father’s gristmill at Shadwell was swept away in what was said to be, “the greatest flood ever known in Virginia.” Rich top soil along the James River was washed away and buried under 10-12 feet of sand overlaid with rocks, hundreds of livestock were killed, buildings along the rivers were destroyed, crops were lost, and people drowned. Almost all the dugout canoes used for commerce and transportation along the river for the past 30 years were destroyed in the deluge, as well as all the tobacco warehouse sheds. As a result of the flash flood, there were very few large trees left for rebuilding the dugout canoes, which severely endangered the future of Virginia’s tobacco trade.

The following is pulled from an even more detailed, 3-page article that appeared in the Virginia Cavalcade in Autumn 1951:

"In the spring of 1771 the lowlands of all Virginia rivers east of the Alleghenies were inundated by destructive floods. This unexpected tragedy was probably the most devastating act of God which has been experienced in Virginia during the three and one-half centuries since the English planted their colony at Jamestown. Many islands were torn to pieces, hills of sand thrown up, channels stopped, the face of nature almost changed.

While not a cloud was to be seen in the skies above the Tidewater, torrential rains deluged the central Blue Ridge Mountain region throughout ten or twelve days in May 1771. Rivers which drained this general area - the James, the Rappahannock, and the Roanoke in particular - overflowed when unprecedented quantities of water were funneled into their channels. The Shenandoah, Potomac, and York rivers seem to have swollen to a lesser degree, but whatever damage they did was overlooked in the colony's greater concern over the more extensive destruction done by the other three.

For sixty hours the James river rose continuously, as much as sixteen inches per hour. On May 27, a ship anchored near Warwick in Chesterfield County, a few miles below Richmond, which made soundings from the first perceptible rise, found itself riding a crest forty feet higher than the common tides. Other observers claimed that this fresh was twenty feet higher than the one in May 1766, and ten feet higher than those which had come in 1720 and 1724. Richard Adams saw from his porch a flood "40 feet perpendicular." So dreadful was it, he remarked, that a truthful description of it would not seem credible to anyone who had not seen it with his own eyes. Old Joe, an honest and well-known Negro at the falls of the James near the little town of Richmond, said that the water climbed fifteen feet above the crest of the worst flood remembered in the tradition of neighboring Indians. The Rappahannock River was reported in The Gentleman's Magazine of London to have risen twenty-five feet higher than it had ever been known to be.

Swept from their foundations, houses floated down the rapid currents. Despairing people trapped on these makeshift crafts shouted pitifully for help, but no attempts at rescue could be ventured. Wine casks, hogsheads of tobacco, furniture, trees, lumber, and even large warehouses were borne seaward by the swirling waters.

All told, one hundred and fifty persons were said to have lost their lives. Many others had narrow escapes.

Both in the Piedmont and in the Tidewater property losses were disastrous. Thomas Jefferson lost his gristmill at "Shadwell" on the Rivanna River. Everything was swept off Farrar's Island.... Eighty acres of rich topsoil on this farm were buried under ten to twelve feet of sand overlaid by rocks flattened smooth as if by a modern steam roller. Elk Island...nothing being saved but the people and five horses. It is more meaningful to express the losses of this one estate in terms of more than seven hundred livestock, nearly a hundred farm buildings, and unknown quantities of grain and tobacco. At another plantation, located where the Rivanna merges with the James, fourteen Negroes were drowned and only one of forty houses was left standing.

How much destruction was done in the Valley it is impossible to ascertain, but one surviving record indicates that the James River wreaked havoc even west of its passage through the Blue Ridge. John Howard of Botetourt County lost all of his growing crops, all but one of his tobacco houses, his corn house and the feed stored therein, and some of his livestock. It was only because of "the great goodness of God that my People are all alive," he wrote thankfully.

Floods are dirty things, and this one was no exception to the rule. When the rivers receded, carcasses, trees, and other debris were found to be matted together in some places to heights of twelve and even twenty feet. These confused masses of litter issued such a stench that there was no undoing them. As may have been expected, a "sickly" summer followed." 

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Thomas Jefferson's Landholdings as of 1774


These are Thomas Jefferson's landholdings as of 1774:

Fredericksville Parish:
Shadwell- 400 acres, inherited from Peter Jefferson, father
Lego- 819 and 1/4 acres, purchased in 1774
Pantops- inherited from Peter Jefferson
Limestone Tract- 4 acres, purchased in 1771
Pouncey's- 400 acres, inherited from Peter Jefferson

Saint Anne's Parish:
Monticello, 1,000 acres, inherited from Peter Jefferson
Tufton, 150 acres, inherited from Peter Jefferson
Portobello, 150 acres, inherited from Peter Jefferson

Bedford County:
Judith's Creek, 2,042 acres, inherited from John Wayles, father-in-law
Poplar Forest, 5,619 acres, inherited from John Wayles

Amherst County:
Part of Judith's Creek- 280 acres, inherited from John Wayles

Cumberland County:
Willis Creek- 1,076 acres, inherited from John Wayles

Goochland County:
Elk Hill- 307 acres, purchased in 1774
Elk Island- 333 acres, to which Martha Jefferson had dower rights from her late husband,
                   Bathurst Skelton

Rockbridge County:
Natural Bridge- 157 acres, patented on July 5, 1774

Henrico County:
Four lots in town of Beverley, inherited from Peter Jefferson

City of Richmond:
Part of a lot, purchased in 1774

After 1774: Thomas Jefferson would continue to acquire acreage in Albemarle County.  In 1777, he purchased acreage surrounding the Pantops farm to total 819 and 1/2 acres, as well as purchase a 483 acre neighboring mountain tract that rises 400 feet above Monticello, known as Montalto.

Thomas Jefferson's landholdings in Albemarle County, alone, eventually totaled some 5,000 acres. To manage this vast estate, Jefferson divided the land into separate farms.  The area surrounding his Monticello home constituted what he called the home farm, or Monticello Mountain.  Outlying lands were divided into manageable parcels known as quarter farms and were run by resident overseers. Thomas Jefferson's quarter farms were Tufton, which was adjacent to Monticello, and Shadwell and Lego farms, both north of the Rivanna.  Jefferson sought to further organize his farms by dividing them into agricultural fields of forty acres each.

After Thomas Jefferson's death in 1826, his daughter and heir, Martha Jefferson Randolph, was compelled to sell Monticello and much of its slaves to pay her father's debts.  The Dispersal Sale, held in January 1827, scattered his possessions among members of his family, as well as numerous buyers, chiefly from Albemarle and neighboring counties.  Since the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation took title to Monticello in 1923, it has acquired a large amount of his possessions. 

Currently, the landholdings of Thomas Jefferson now include approximately 2,500 of Jefferson's original 5,000 acres, of which more than 1,400 are held under protective easements, thanks to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
                                                          Monticello Plantation Model

This 9½-foot by 5½-foot bronze relief model of the 5,000-acre Monticello plantation offers visitors a totally new and comprehensive view of Jefferson's landholdings.

The model is sculpted on the scale of 1 inch to 200 feet, so the Monticello house, including its terrace wings, measures less than two inches across. But this scale provides a bird's-eye perspective on not only the extent of Jefferson's property (the Monticello mountaintop and four "quarter" farms) but also of the area's complex topography; the agricultural, ornamental, and natural landscapes; the rivers and streams; the structures and roadways that existed in Jefferson's time; and the spatial organization of the plantation.

The Monticello Plantation Model incorporates information from a wide range of sources, including Jefferson's own surveys, 19th-century drawings, early 20th-century aerial photographs, and recent research by Monticello archaeologists. The model's representation of the topography is based on a digital contour map made with photogrammetric techniques accurate enough to render contours at two-foot intervals. 

The model, located on east end of the Visitor Center Courtyard, is surrounded by an informational reader rail. 

Jayne Cox: When I volunteered at the Visitor Center at Monticello, the aerial view model in the courtyard was my favorite site. There I would explain how young Thomas Jefferson would ride his horse along the tobacco fields at Shadwell, cross the Rivanna at the ford, then hike up his favorite "little mountain" with school buddy, Dabney Carr. There they would study, speak of politics, their future and shared dreams under their favorite oak tree, now the resting place of Dabney Carr. 

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Thomas Jefferson's Relationship With His Mother

This blog is largely, but not entirely, based on an article by Thomas Jewett.  It sheds light on the relationship between Thomas and his mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson wrote more letters than any other president, saving over 18,000 personal letters between 1783 and 1826.  He was able to accomplish this through the use of a letter press and a polygraph which replicated his correspondences.  He was a prodigious recorder, so it is odd that we have no correspondences between him and his mother.  I believe that it is very likely that their were numerous letters mailed from Jane Jefferson to Thomas while he was at boarding schools and college, ... ones that he may have saved in a neat stack tied with a cord, put in a box, and left in a trunk. It is very possible that the Shadwell fire on February 1, 1770, consumed them all, once he moved back home, but we will never know.

From the voluminous letters that were written after the fire, to others, Jefferson mentions his mother only once. It is odd that Jane Jefferson is only listed in his account books as "expenditure". And, it is odd that in his autobiography, that there is only one terse sentence concerning his mother, almost as if he was holding back from mentioning her at all. So, what kind of relationship did they have? Let's meet Jane Randolph Jefferson...

Jane Randolph Jefferson was of the Randolph clan, considered to be among the first families of the Virginia Colony.  Family lore held that the Randolph's were descended from various European royalty, dating as far back as Charlemagne.  Thomas Jefferson once sated that his maternal side could "trace their pedigree far back to England and Scotland..." " which let everyone ascribe the faith and merit he chooses."

Thomas's father, Peter Jefferson, early on, was a common Virginia farmer of the yeoman class and a backwoodsman at heart.  As a young man, he rubbed elbows with the Virginia elite, and then married into the Randolph family.  Peter was an explorer, surveyor, land speculator, and planter... lacking much formal education, but improved himself well. He was later selected as colonel in the Albemarle militia, and elected as a representative of Albemarle County in the capitol's House of Burgesses. Thomas was a blend of his parents: frontier and culture, and simplicity and elegance.

Little is known of Jane Jefferson's attributes except for family lore and supposition, possibly due to the February 1, 1770 fire at Shadwell that destroyed everything but some beds and Thomas' fiddle. As the fire blazed at Shadwell, Jefferson supposedly inquired about his books before his mother's health and well being. Jefferson apparently destroyed all of her later correspondences after her death in March 1774. 

Thomas Jefferson is said to have had a strong facial resemblance of his mother, but the height of his father. Jane Jefferson's great granddaughter, Ellen Randolph Coolidge, who never knew her, wrote that family tradition stated that Jane was "mild and peaceful by nature, a person of sweet temper and gentle manners." She was a woman of "clear and strong understanding." "She possessed a most amiable and affectionate disposition, a lively cheerful temper, and a great fund of humor," and that she was fond of letter writing. Thomas is said to have inherited his reticence and refinement from her, and due to her proper raising of her children, learned to appreciate and enjoy reading, music, and dancing. It was said that from his mother, he was endowed with "his cheerful and hopeful temper and disposition." Yet, Jane, at age 37, was in complete charge of the Shadwell plantation after her husband's death.  While her only son was away at boarding schools and college, she was in complete charge of the home, raising the younger children, and running the plantation. It may be assumed that she was intelligent, capable and strong-willed. I believe that she was forced to be tough when necessary and delegated duties to slaves and overseers on a daily basis. This responsibility fell on her often at Shadwell and Tuckahoe while Peter was away on surveying expeditions or trips to Williamsburg. He relied on her heavily to run the plantation and household in his absence.

If Jane Jefferson was described as having so many positive attributes by her great granddaughter, why is it that there is not an affectionate word written about her by her son? He never seemed to have spoken fondly of her, even to his own children.  This lack of communication about his mother seems to indicate feelings of deep hostility, most likely originating from his childhood.

Thomas Jefferson's father died when Thomas was 14, home on summer break from The Dover Creek School, which was located near Tuckahoe Plantation. This is a time when boys normally struggle with parental control, especially maternal, and begin to assert their own personality. Upon his death, Peter Jefferson's will left Thomas under the complete control of his mother, defying convention, as Virginia primogeniture was the law at the time, which stated that the eldest son would inherit the entire estate. Thomas would not receive his portion until he reached 21 years of age, meanwhile was under the scrutiny of the will's executors and his mother. He became the head of the family with all its responsibilities, but he had no power.  Jane was the master of Shadwell, as Jefferson referred to Shadwell "as my mother's house." It can be supposed that this aroused feelings of resentment, guilt, and a possible cause of migraines starting in adolescence.

Thomas had no masculine companionship within his family unit after his father's death, having a mother, six sisters and an infant brother. He had not know his father on a daily basis, since Peter was often away on surveying trips, and Thomas was away at boarding school, making time with his father reduced to quality time, not quantity. From his writing, Thomas felt that he had been deserted at the age of fourteen, and that he could not rely on his mother's authority, while brooding about his father's death. He referred to being friendless, alone, and suffering at the hands of women. This comment of "suffering at the hands of women" leads me to believe that he was probably physically punished during his stay at Shadwell, which was, most likely, a common disciplinary practice at that time and for decades thereafter.

After his father's death, Thomas was sent to the Reverend Maury School for Boys, fourteen miles from Shadwell.  His mother insisted that he return home every weekend, no matter the weather, to assist her with the chores around the plantation, fulfilling his responsibilities as the "man of the house". On weekends, he was under the strict control of his mother, and midweek he was under the strict control of Reverend Maury. 

While away at boarding school or William and Mary College, Thomas would still refer to Shadwell as his official residence until the age of 27, as he declared his financial independence at age 21 and then assumed his place as head of the family. He once wrote to John Adams about his youthful years as "the dull monotony of a colonial subservience," and told  him that if he had the choice of living his life again, he would not go back before the age of 25!

Jefferson did like women who were feminine and gentile. He could not abide women who interfered in politics, and there were hints that his mother disapproved of his revolutionary activities and possibly his political views. Thomas' involvement with politics took him away from Shadwell, where he was most needed, and this may have been a thorn of contention with his mother. His coldness toward his mother also may have been exacerbated by her alleged sympathies to his Loyalist viewpoint of their cousin John Randolph.

On March 31, 1776, Jefferson wrote tersely in his pocket account book: "My mother died at eight o'clock this morning, in the 57th year of age."  As a student of the Enlightenment, he felt that reacting emotionally to the biological process of death would be irrational. I also believe that after going through the mourning of his father, his best friend and sister Jane, and dearest school buddy Dabney Carr, that he was probably "cold" to mourning and absent of grief, as those three deaths affected him very deeply. This outward lack of emotion, may have turned inward, and was probably the reason for him "taken sick" at the end of March 1776.  His "sickness" was a debilitating headache that lasted six weeks.  His migraine headaches struck Jefferson several times in his life, and usually correlated with personal loss, personal conflict, or deeply buried rage and guilt. Fawn Broke in Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History wrote,

"This syndrome is found in people who are generally anxious, striving, perfectionists, order loving, rigid, who during periods of threat or conflict  become progressively more tense, resentful, and fatigued.  The elaboration of a pattern of inflexibility and perfectionism to deal with feelings of insecurity begins in early childhood."

The lengthy headache was the only manifestation of Jefferson's feelings toward his mother. Whatever the reason for Jefferson's lack of reference to his mother, the relationship seemed odd by today's standards.

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

President Jefferson - Bad Press and Fake News

As we are inundated with negative and false news regarding President Trump and his 2016 election campaign, I kept thinking of how Thomas Jefferson was similarly assaulted by Richmond reporter, James Callender, and other members of the press. 

I so respect the Research & Collections department of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. They do amazing work on all research regarding Thomas Jefferson.  I wanted to share their article on James Callender with you.  I could never have done a better, more thorough job. Here it is to share, as well as comments of mine.
Monticello Research: James Thomson Callender (1758-1803), well known in his time as a political writer and newspaper editor, is remembered today chiefly for his series of newspaper articles alleging that Thomas Jefferson had children with Sally Hemings. Born in Scotland, Callender wrote The Political Press Progress of Britain, that attacked British institutions. The document was outlawed in January 1793 and thus, he fled to America, arriving in the States in May 1793.
Callender criticized elements of the Constitution which he believed were undemocratic, such as the election of the president through the Electoral College. He said that the Senate was flagrantly unrepresentative because it was not directly elected by the people, and blasted George Washington, who had "debauched" and "deceived" the nation by promoting himself as a popular idol. An advocate of an unfettered press, Callender declared, "The more that a nation knows about the mode of conducting its business, the better chance has that business of being properly conducted." Throughout Callender's career his writings were rabidly partisan.
When Callender lost his job as the congressional reporter for the Philadelphia Gazette he turned to writing pamphlets supporting the Republican party cause, but he was continually in debt. Jefferson helped his journalist ally by securing him a position on the Republican paper,The Aurora, and provided him with money off and on for several years.[1] Jefferson understood the power of the printed word to reach people and he did not stop Callender in his attacks against Federalist leaders.
In order to curb Alexander Hamilton's influence, Callender published in his work, History of the United States for 1796 (1797), a report of the affair between Alexander Hamilton and Maria Reynolds, a married woman. The day before the Alien and Sedition Acts became law on July 13, 1798, Callender fled to Virginia to the home of Senator Stevens Thomson Mason of Loudoun County. Then, in 1799, he moved to Richmond where he wrote for the Richmond Recorder. His anti-Federalist pamphlet, The Prospect Before Us, led to his prosecution under the Sedition Act. He was sentenced on May 24, 1800, to nine months in jail and a $200 fine.
When he got out of jail in the spring of 1801 Callender expected President Jefferson to reward him for his work and his loyalty. He wanted the Richmond postmaster job but he did not get it. In the president's view, Callender was now too radical, and in an attempt to foster reconciliation after the difficult election, Jefferson did not include the more militant or radical Republicans. As Jefferson writes, "I am really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender. It presents human nature in a hideous form." [2] In February 1802, Callender joined with Federalist newspaper editor Henry Pace and began to attack both parties, but even more so against the Republicans and Jefferson in particular. In a series of articles beginning on September 1, 1802, Callender alleged that Jefferson had several children by a slave concubine, Sally Hemings. [3]
Jayne Cox: This is quoted from Dumas Malone's Jefferson The President First Term 1801-1805, Chapter XIII Freedom and Licentiousness :
"Considering the extent and severity of the attacks on Jefferson's morals during his presidency, his apparent ability to brush them off is remarkable. No doubt his progressive disillusionment with the press during his administration was, in part at least,  a reflection of his resentment of the outrageous charges against him as a person..."
Shortly before reaching the halfway point in his first term, Jefferson expressed himself in a letter to a man of learning in Europe, M. Pictet, February 5,1803, "Our newspapers, for the most part, present only the caricatures of disaffected minds. Indeed, the abuses of the freedom of the press have been carried to a length never before known or borne by any civilized nation."
Another attack on President Jefferson was by Harry Croswell, editor of the sheet called The Wasp in Hudson, New York- a paper which "became a symbol of unrestrained scurrility"- was not an attack on the principles of the existing federal government, but on President Jefferson himself. On September 9, 1802, this paper said, "Jefferson paid Callender for calling Washington a traitor, a robber, and a perjurer, for calling Adams a hoary-headed incendiary; and for most grossly slandering the private characters of men whom he well knew were virtuous. These charges, not a democratic editor has yet dared, or ever will dare, to meet in an open and  manly discussion."
In Jefferson's second inaugural address, Jefferson clearly justified in asserting that the "artillery of the press" had been directed against his administration.
Monticello Research: Callender's life quickly began to disintegrate, in large part due to his bitterness and alcoholism. On December 20, 1802, George Hay, Callender's past defense lawyer, beat Callender for threatening to publish stories about him. Callender continued to drink heavily and ended up breaking off his partnership with Pace. Callender was seen in a drunken stupor on July 17, 1803, and later that day, he drowned in the James River. He wrote a letter before his death that was published afterwards that tried to make amends for his past. In particular, the letter was about editorial exchanges dealing with the Skelton Jones' and Armistead Selden duel that set off a series of bitter newspaper attacks. However, it did not address most of the past, including the attacks on Jefferson.


  1. Jefferson helped Callender financially in three ways. He helped him find work, he bought his pamphlets, and he gave money outright to him. The first payment to Callender made by Jefferson was for $15.14 for multiple copies of Callender's series of pamphlets History of the United States for 1796. See MB, 2: 963, 975, 980, 1002, 1005, 1018, 1028, and 1042 which covers the years 1797 to 1801.
  2. Jefferson to James Monroe, July 15, 1802.  Bergh, 10:330. It is in this letter among others, he says Callender was a charity case of his regardless of political affiliation.
  3. Richmond Recorder, September 1 1802.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Young Thomas Jefferson to attend The College of William & Mary

Nicknamed "Long Tom," Thomas Jefferson was slim, at six feet two and a half inches, which was tall considering that the average man at the time stood five feet six inches tall.  In later years, his slave, Isaac Granger Jefferson, who worked as a tinsmith and blacksmith at Monticello, described his master as being a tall and straight-bodied man with square shoulders, long face and a high nose.  His cheeks were lean and  his jaw square and firm. Thomas had auburn to light-red hair, fair skin that freckeled and sunburned easily, pointed features, and deep-set hazel eyes.  He expressed fluent humorous and pleasant conversation in a soft voice, higher pitch than most, but could be shy and reserved.  He was described as  being the perpetual charmer, and usually made an excellent impression upon both men and women.

Young Thomas had a great love for reading and writing, and often had a book in his hand.  He knew his Bible, and  continued to love and become proficient in the English classics, that were introduced to him at the Dover Creek School and continued by Reverend James Maury at the Maury School for Boys. Because of his unusually high intellect, Thomas was greatly influenced and encouraged by Rev. Maury, and long-time friend of  the family, Joshua Fry, to apply to The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia's capital and education center.

The Shadwell library was small in comparison to that of Tuckahoe, where he spent seven years of his childhood, as well as the Dover Creek School library. Thomas was looking forward to moving away from home, and began to give serious thought to enrolling at The College of William & Mary.

After a discussion with Peter Randolph, Thomas argues for permission to enter The College of William & Mary with Dr. Thomas Walker of Castle Hill and John Harvie of Belmont, the Jefferson estate executors and his  respected guardians.  John Harvie, the active executor of Peter Jefferson's estate, was the person responsible for providing Thomas with the estate funds necessary for college tuition and personal spending money.

In a letter written to John Harvie, one of the earliest preserved Jefferson letters, Thomas stated his reasons for wanting to go to college.  He wrote,

                                                                                                                  4 January 1760


I was at Colo. Peter Randolph's about a Fortnight ago, & my Schooling falling into Discourse, he said he thought it would be to my Advantage to go to College, & was desirous I should go, as indeed I am  myself for several Reasons.  In the first place as long as I stay at the Mountains, the Loss of one-fourth of my Time is inevitable, by Company's coming here & detaining me from School.  And likewise  my Absence will in a great Measure put a Stop to so much Company, & by that Means lessen the Expences of the Estate in House-Keeping.  And on the other Hand by going to the College I shall get a more  universal Acquaintance, which may hereafter be serviceable to me; &I suppose I can pursue my Studies in the Greek & Latin as well there as here, & likewise learn something of  the Mathematics.  I shall be glad of your opinion, and remain, Sir, your most humble servant,

                                                                                                        Thomas Jefferson, Jr."

Thomas Jefferson arrived at The College of William & Mary on the 25th of March 1760.  He graduated with supreme honors on the 25th of April  1762, having completed all his studies in two years.  Upon graduation, he was invited to study at the law office and home of the distinguished law professor and friend, George Wythe, where he remained a student for five years.


Read more about the young Jefferson's college years and time in Williamsburg, as well as Jefferson's first 31 years of life in Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man, by Jayne D'Alessandro-Cox

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