a most interesting forum from may -- an hour of conversation with hitchens, whom i admire for his candor and his wit. he wrote a definitive biography of jefferson, it appears. (podcast available, no need for an ipod, just get itunes and ipodder on your computer and enjoy all the podcasts in the world).
sally hemmings, thomas jefferson's slave 'wife', comes across as the heroine of story. hitchens in fact calls her the 'mother of the country', if jefferson is the father. she was a quadroon (father and grandfather were both white), very beautiful, very bright, and she bore him several children who were manumitted (probably on sally's insistence) and who probably passed off as whites.
interesting irony: jefferson was a humanist and an abolitionist, yet he does not mind sleeping with and repeatedly impregnating a woman, sally, who was his wife's half-sister, *and* his property, his slave.
there are inherent contradictions in the things even rather great people say they believe in and what they practise. jefferson was, after all, the author of the us constitution, and a renaissance man: a scientist, etc. he also didn't particularly trust the us congress, and behind their backs authorized the attacks on and the slaughter of the barbary pirates, arab pirates from libya and so forth who were a menace to merchant ships in the mediterranean and the atlantic.
well, we are used to politicians saying one thing and doing another, aren't we?
i haven't read the book, but it sounds fascinating. has anybody on this blog read it?