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Name: Mister Rea
Gender: Male
Hometown: Houston
Home country: Moon
Current location: afk
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 48,808

About Me

mostly harmless

Journal Archives

Oh Google News, why are you so mean?

Lengues dentata

also Toestitles


a few more

Most anti-gun-regulation arguments rest on the belief that swarms of ninjas plan to attack us.

And I will gladly concede the argument that, should there be a sudden outbreak of swarms of ninjas attacking, say, my place of business or recreation, a 30 round magazine semi-automatic will be just the tool for just that situation. In the meantime, however, I'm a little more concerned about red-faced screaming lunatics like Alex Jones and smarmy Machivellis like Wayne LaPierre walking around fully loaded and half cocked.

But that's just me.

The douchebag needs glasses

Dear Abby (cheating wife letter)

Jefferson and Hemings.

I wrote this as a reply that got out of hand in another thread. I thought I'd post it here, too, for anyone who is interested in this topic. The DUer I was replying to remarked that Thomas Jefferson was a rapist. I couldn't exactly dispute it; but I counted fully concur either. So here's how I split the moral difference.

It's harsh, and problematic, to judge 18th century behavior by 21st century standards. I certainly see the case for calling the Jefferson-Hemings relationship de facto rape. Obviously, legally speaking, it was not. How much consent Sally Hemings had will never be known. Absent that, all we can do is project--it's not even guessing--what we think might have happened there.

Sally Hemings was not just a slave. She was also Jefferson's sister-in-law. Sally's father was also the father of Jefferson's beloved wife Martha. Upon Martha's marriage to Thomas, her mother compelled her father (John Wayles) to send off the little quadroon girl (Sally's mother was at least mulatto, and quite possibly more than half white) who reminded her of her husband's on going affair with one of his slaves. Sally, then just a child, became a gift to the newlyweds, and thus legally owned by her own sister. Gossips as she grew up liked to note how much she resembled Martha Wayles Jefferson.

There's a special sort of denial-of-the-obvious that has to go on in a slave-owning household, but deep in their guts the Jeffersons must have known they were in legal possession of blood kin.

After Martha's death in 1782, Thomas went into a deep depression. His horrible performance as war governor also played a part in his funk. His friends tried to buck him up, keep him busy. They returned him to Congress, where he worked on plans to develop the west, including keeping Ohio free of slavery. Next they sent him off to Paris to replace Ben Franklin as minister (ambassador) to France. Once settled there, he sent for his daughter to join him there. Sally, now a teenager, came along as part of the retinue.

While single in Paris in the 1700s, Thomas Jefferson dogged it up. His most serious dalliance was with a brilliant English actress, who also happened to be married. If I recall correctly, she was not the only Mrs. he dallied with. I'd have to look that up but I'm not around my books right now. But Maria Cosway, the actress intellectually stimulated him. See his Debate between the Heart and Head letter to her. He made a fool of himself for Mrs Cosway. Once he tried to impress her by hopping over a fence in a single leap. He was not an athlete. He stumbled and broke his ankle. Maria left him anyway.

It's probably about this time that Sally caught his eye, with her resemblance to his wife and her doubtless compliant character, what with her being a slave and all. She was also, alas, not as bright as her sister. Abigail met Sally and, probably not knowing the family dynamics, was thoroughly unimpressed with the girl. Whatever charms she held for TJ, it was not her scintillating wit. This, along with her race and lack of capicity to actually refuse sexual consent, sets Sally Hemings apart from most of Jefferson's other known paramours.

On the other hand, it's not like Sally wouldn't have benefited in some small degree from yielding to her master's[sup]*[/sup] advances. A slave cannot hope for freedom, but she can aspire to more comfortable circumstances. Becoming the boss's bedwarmer would certainly afford her that, along with less work duties and the occasional bauble TJ might've lavished on her out of affection. Was the relationship coerced? At some implied level, almost certainly. And yet we have plenty of character witnesses in history recounting Jefferson as a gentle, introverted, brainy man. He had a track record for pursuing smart women.

But who knows, perhaps Jefferson himself was tired of the games the smart girls play. Perhaps Maria's come-hither-go-thither games burned him out. He was in his 40s when he took Sally as a mistress--well into middle age in that day--and quite the bumpkin at love. A simple lover and an uncomplicated affair can be quite a comfort to a man who needs sexual healing more than he needs the thrill of the chase. He was always a man who sought peace, harmony, and equilibrium in his other relations. He acquired no personal enemies in life, only political ones. He didn't suffer from "testosterone poisoning" as many sexual predators tend to do. He was a slaveowner, but hardly the possessor of an Ottoman harem. It seems unlike him to be a tyrant in his household, although for all that can be known we must always remember that absolute power has the capacity to corrupt absolutely even the gentlest human characters. At what is more absolute than the power to sell another soul down to a Carolina rice swamp over a lover's tiff?

If to Jefferson the children they had represented secret little octoroon joys, to Sally they might have also represented a kind of domestic insurance. But again, these are only stabs in the dark. My guess, as much idle speculation as is anyone else's, is that he sought the path of least resistance in taking his half-sister-in-law to bed, but didn't exactly need to threaten violence (beyond that which slavery entails) to close the deal.

People are complicated and, when slavery is a social institution rather than a simple felony, passing judgment on them from 200 years away is bound to folly.

Quote from Jefferson showing his small gov't philosophy

I'm reading Jefferson's Notes on Virginia (1783), written to correct European misconceptions about North America's governance and ecology. It's fascinating. Here's what he wrote comparing the relative anarchy of Indian society with the heirarchical structures of Europe--presumedly Jefferson found the young United States halfway between the two extremes (this was 18 months after Yorktown, but while the Treaty of Paris was still being negotiated). I thought the last paragraph was interesting.

Teej said:
When the first effectual settlement of our colony was made, which was in 1607, the country from the sea-coast to the mountains, and from Patowmac to the most southern waters of James river, was occupied by upwards of forty different tribes of Indians. Of these the Powhatans, the Mannahoacs, and Monacans, were the most powerful. Those between the sea-coast and falls of the rivers, were in amity with one another, and attached to the Powhatans as their link of union. Those between the falls of the rivers and the mountains, were divided into two confederacies; the tribes inhabiting the head waters of Patowmac and Rappahanoc being attached to the Mannahoacs; and those on the upper parts of James river to the Monacans. But the Monacans and their friends were in amity with the Mannahoacs and their friends, and waged joint and perpetual war against the Powhatans.

We are told that the Powhatans, Mannahoacs, and Monacans, spoke languages so radically different, that interpreters were necessary when they transacted business. Hence we may conjecture, that this was not the case between all the tribes, and probably that each spoke the language of the nation to which it was attached; which we know to have been the case in many particular instances. Very possibly there may have been antiently {anciently} three different stocks, each of which multiplying in a long course of time, had separated into so many little societies. This practice results from the circumstance of their having never submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government. Their only controuls are their manners, and that moral sense of right and wrong, which, like the sense of tasting and feeling, in every man makes a part of his nature. An offence against these is punished by contempt, by exclusion from society, or, where the case is serious, as that of murder, by the individuals whom it concerns.

Imperfect as this species of coercion may seem, crimes are very rare among them: insomuch that were it made a question, whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last: and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under care of the wolves. It will be said, that great societies cannot exist without government. The Savages therefore break them into small ones.

It's like that dude ate Smart for breakfast.

You're so Boehn (I'll bet you think this cliff is about you)

You misled your whole party
Like everyone owned a yacht
You had strategically got the districts drawn
So the House of Reps could be bought
You had one eye on the mirror
As you watched yourself cry a lot...

And all of the press said that you'd reach a bargain,
you'd reach a bargain, but...

You're so Boehn
You probably think this cliff is about you
You're so Boehn (you're so Boehn)
I'll bet you think this cliff is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

Oh, you set this up some months ago
When you were still quite naive
When the pretty Foxes told you polling said
What you wanted then to believe
But you gave away your marbles when
You Kool-Aid was cut with Tea

I had a dream that you wanted to govern
Wanted to govern, but...

You're so Boehn
You probably think this cliff is about you
You're so Boehn (such a pain!)
I'll bet you think this cliff is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

{musical interlude - dancing Tea Bags launch onto stage like Chinese Opera dancers, wielding scissors instead of swords}

We had a race and got your ass battered
Got your ass battered, but...

You're so Boehn
You probably think this cliff is about you
You're so Boehn (teardrops rain!)
I'll bet you think this cliff is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

Well, I hear you went up to Grover Norquist
Who naturally showed no class
Then you turned your back on the Teabag crowd
While they handed you back your ass
Well, they make you bend low all the time
And when they don't, then it's...
Some Koch Brother goon
Or the Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce, and...

You're so Boehn
You probably think this cliff is about you
You're so Boehn (you're so Boehn)
I'll bet you think this cliff is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

You're so mean, Bucky
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