Letters


The Feud Continues

This is in response to Betsy Peoples' piece "Jefferson Family Feud" in the July/August 2002 issue.

As a Hemmings descendant [although history books use one "m," family members contend Hemmings is spelled with two] and a fellow participant in the ongoing fracas between the families, I wanted to point out that the Hemingses have been invited to the annual meetings by only one Monticello Association (MA) member, Lucian K. Truscott IV, and with only one year as the exception (when Lucian's uncle, James Truscott, then president, extended the invitation at Lucian's behest). Most association members have made it abundantly clear they would rather we stayed at home. We keep showing up because Lucian invites us, and because we wish to be treated the same as all of Jefferson's descendants and be granted the right to apply for membership to the association.

The criteria for membership in the MA states only that "any lineal descendant" of Thomas Jefferson may be included as a member. The requirement for membership is a paper trail (such as birth certificates) proving descent. We have discovered that there is no paper trail for White families who applied for MA membership and none was required of them. Yet DNA evidence and strong circumstantial evidence, such as the Eston Hemmings families possess which won over top Jefferson scholars and historians, the public, and the brass that owns and operates Jefferson's Monticello - is not good enough for the asssociation.

The facts are: There was a positive result in testing for the presence of Jeffersonian DNA in Eston Hemmings' descendant John Jefferson; Jefferson was always present when Sally Hemings conceived her children - conversely, she never conceived when Jefferson was absent; There is not a shred of evidence that any other Jefferson male was the progenitor of the Hemmings lines.

The crux of the matter is that Nathaniel Abeles [MA President] & Co. know full well that Thomas Jefferson had a family with Sally Hemmings. And they hate it even more that one of our lines at least - can claim, using science and Jefferson's own log books, that Old Tom's blood runs in our veins. The master's White descendants cannot make this same claim. They do not - nor will they ever - know with absolute certainty that they are legitimate descendants of Thomas Jefferson. Only their oral traditions tell them who they are, and this uncertain genealogy frightens them.

Jill Sim

Covesville, Va.

Questioning Restorative Justice

Our increasingly punitive and irrational administration of justice cries out for reform, but Restorative Justice (RJ), except for a very few, carefully chosen juvenile cases, may be a disastrous step backward ["Community Reinvestment Acts," July/August 2002].

The framers of our Constitution were well aware that the accused were much more apt to be victimized in existing systems of justice than the accusers and created a system based on objectivity and logic rather than mob or majority impulses. …

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