Political Correctness at Monticello

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I went on a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, yesterday with some friends.  It had been a long time since I had visited The Great Man’s home, and I fully expected to be exposed to a strong dose of political correctness, which now pervades all of American society.  It didn’t take long before the school-marmish tour guide announced that “historians tell us” that Jefferson fathered six children with slave Sally Hemmings.

She didn’t say which historians say this, nor did she indicate why anyone would expect historians to have knowledge of DNA science, which would be necessary to come to such a conclusion.  Nor did she mention that there are many prominent scholars who have objected to (and ridiculed) this assumption.  For example, as Professor Marco Bassani writes in his great new book, Liberty, State, & Union: The Political Theory of Thomas Jefferson:

“John Works, a Jeffferson descendant in radical disagreement” with the Jefferson slave child story “has established a ‘Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society,’ charging a board of well-known scholars (including Lance Banning, Robert Ferrel, Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr. and Paul Rahe — the latter dissenting) with the task of looking anew at the whole matter.  In spring 2001, the results were published without much fuss since the conclusion was that the charges weren’t proved and that they were in all likelihood a hoax.”

Professor Bassani, who teaches political theory at the University of Milan, gets to the heart of the matter when he writes:

“If the spokesman of American freedom had, in fact, fathered children with a slave woman and kept them in slavery, then the ultimate hypocricy of the way America was founded, and of a history told only through Dead White Males, as has always been claimed in radical [Marxist] circles, would be exposed once and for all.”

11:14 am on October 28, 2010
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