Every competent history student or teacher knows the allegationsrnconcerning Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Yet one Clintoniternwas given time on National Public Radio to announcernthat, until Ellis’s piece, “white historians” had engaged in a vastrnconspiracy to obliterate any suspicion of the affair. If such a plotrnexisted, it was spectacularly unsuccessful, as the original accusationrnwas widely published in newspapers in 1802 (at the beginningrnof Jefferson’s first term as president), regularly reprintedrn(and regularly rebutted), dwelt on at length in everyrnbiography of Jefferson since the first one during his lifetime,rnand repeated throughout the rest of the 19th and 20th centuries,rnincluding in some high-school textbooks, a best-sellingrnbodice-ripper, screen presentations, and, finally, two fiill-lengthrnhistory books devoted exclusively to this scandal, both of whichrnwere widely reviewed. Even tour guides at Monticello mentionrnthe scandal, though dismissively. It appears that the only peoplernfrom whom the “white conspiracy” succeeded in hiding thernallegations were the folks at National Public Radio.rnIn Jefferson’s fime, guests at Monticello were fully aware thatrnalmost all of the Jefferson family’s house servants, adult andrnchild, were “quadroons” and “octoroons” (not “mulattos,” as isrncommonly said). Being only one-fourth, one-eighth, or, inrnsome cases, one-sixteenth of African descent, most of themrncould, in the phrase of the day, “pass for white.” Yet none of Jefferson’srnnumerous and highly influenfial visitors ever accusedrnhim, privately or publicly, of sexual misconduct, nor was therernany scandal until the fateful year of 1802, when the notoriousrnJames T. Callender came along.rnIam indebted to the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian VirginiusrnDabney, author of The Jefferson Scandals, for assemblingrnall the sources. James T. Callender was a Scot who, facingrntrial for sedition in London in the I790’s, fled to America.rnHe became a writer for the Philadelphia Gazette, the house organrnof the (original) Republican Party, the faction founded byrnThomas Jefferson. Jefferson was delighted with Callender’s vicious,rnif unfounded, attacks on luminaries of the rival EederalistrnParty. Callender called Washington a “scandalous hypocrite”rnwho “authorized the robbery and ruin of his own army”rnin the Revolution, and John Adams “a British spy.” He alsornslandered Madison. But none of the mud ever seemed to sfick.rnCallender’s first modest success was when he accused AlexanderrnHamilton of embezzling funds from the Treasury whilernserving as its secretary. Hamilton proved that the money wasrnhis own, but it had been handled mysteriously for the purposernof paying off a blackmailer who had threatened to expose a lovernaffair between Hamilton and the blackmailer’s wife. This discoveryrnconfirmed Callender in his career of dynamite-fishingrn—tossing out a fabricated slander in the hope that some unrelatedrnpiece of muck would float up to the surface.rnCallender was indicted, tried, and convicted under the (unconsfitutional)rnSedition Act of 1798 for slandering PresidentrnAdams. When Jefferson became President in 1801, true to hisrnprincipled opposition to Adams’ monarchical pretensions, hernpromptly pardoned all who had been convicted, including Callender,rnand released them from jail. But the federal governmentrnwas slow in returning the fines which Callender and thernother convicts had paid. Although Jefferson himself finally paidrna portion of Callender’s fine, the latter, Dabney records, broodedrnover his maltreatment and was determined to be rewardedrnwith the Richmond postmastership, which paid $1,500 a year,rnfor his services to the Republican Party.rnWhen President Jefferson refiised to appoint him or to respondrnto his letters, Callender threatened to release informationrndamaging to Jefferson. The President refused to pay whatrnhe called “hush money,” writing to Governor James Monroe ofrnVirginia that Callender “knows nothing of me which I am notrnwilling to declare before the world.” Callender then obtainedrnemployment at the Recorder, the house organ of the (now opposition)rnFederalist Party, and began assaulting President Jeffersonrnsavagely. Throughout each of several absurd and quicklyrndisproved slanders, Jefferson remained silent, following thernprinciple he had announced to Samuel Smith in 1798: “WerernI to undertake to answer the calumnies of the newspapers, itrnwould be more than all my own time, and that of twenty aidsrn[sic] could effect, for while I should be answering one, twentyrnnew ones would be invented. I have thought it better to trust tornthe justice of my countrymen….”rnCallender soon heard of the mixed-race servants at Monticellornand promptiy announced that the long-widowed Jeffersonrnhad a “Congo harem.” He had also heard the name “SallyrnHemings” and began to write of “dusky Sally,” “black Sal,” “thernblack wench and her mulatto litter,” and the “mahogany coloredrncharmer.” (He had obviously never seen the very lightskinnedrnHemings.) The Federalist press gleefully repeated therncharge. Eminent historian James Truslow Adams, in The LivingrnJefferson, concluded that every mention of the Sally Hemingsrnscandal can be traced back to Callender’s articles. Nevertheless,rnthe slander grew until it included the accusation thatrnJefferson had sold his own “black” children into prostitution inrnNew Orleans. By the I820’s, the entire scandal, though heardrnby all, was believed by none, and it took the rise of the Abolitionistrnmovement and William Lloyd Carrison’s publication ofrnthe poem, “Jefferson’s Daughter,” to revive the slander. A fewrnother Abolitionists made their own efforts at defamation, butrnsince these merely served to alienate them from their countrymen,rnNorth and South, they soon gave up.rnIn 1974, at the height of the popularity of “psychohistory,”rnProfessor Fawn Brodie of the University of California at Los Angelesrncame out with Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. ArnBook of tlie Month Club selection and a great commercial success,rnthe book was not a history in any reasonable sense of thernterm. It was roundly denounced by the historians who reviewedrnit; the only positive reviews it received were from writersrnwho specialized in fiction. The book is a collection of wildrnspeculation and Freudian “analysis,” with whole sections onrnwhat Jefferson “must have thought,” “must have meant,” andrn”probably did.”rnBrodie bought the story that all of Sally Hemings’ offspringrnwere Jefferson’s, which required that the first child, whom Callenderrncalled “Yellow Tom” and Brodie called “Tom,” wasrnborn immediately after Jefferson returned with his servants tornMonticello from France, in 1789. The only problem withrn”Tom” is that he never existed. The meticulous records of slavernbirths at Monticello show none of that name within 10 years ofrn1789. Altiiough Sally would have been quite visibly pregnantrnthroughout the sea voyage from France to America, none of thernpassengers who daily saw her and her constant companion, Jefferson’srndaughter Mary, ever noticed the I6-year-old’s supposedrnstate. In the late 19th century, a Thomas Woodson, living inrnOhio and of partial African descent, claimed to have been thernillegitimate child of Hemings and Jefferson. He offered no evidencernand was forgotten, until Brodie decided that he must bernJefferson’s child.rn14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn