we consider them to be unlikely."_
The DNA evidence by itself does not prove conclusively that Thomas Jefferson had an unacknowledged family with Sally Hemings. Nor does the historical evidence by itself. But for two entirely independent kinds of evidence to point so strongly to the same conclusion makes a robust case. The historian Joseph Ellis certainly felt so, and to his credit admitted error. "The new evidence persuaded me that I had been wrong, and I felt a kind of moral and professional obligation 332
Barger, the historian who helped Foster, was not pleased by this outcome. He has assailed Foster's findings and proposed other male Jeffersons as the father of Eston, just as the Jefferson grandchildren did on an earlier occasion. But none of these ad hoc candidates can be shown to have been present at Monticello at all of Sally Hemings's conceptions as Thomas Jefferson was. Jefferson had a strange and special tie with Sally Hemings, one only possible in the divided world of slave and free. No portraits of Sally survive, but she may well have reminded Jefferson of his beloved wife Martha, being as she was Martha's half sister. Both were daughters of John Wayles, Martha by his wife Martha Eppes, Sally by the slave Elizabeth Hemings, who became Wayles's mistress after his wife's death.
Jefferson's feelings for Sally, a subject of much speculation, are simply unknown. In all his correspondence he mentions her just once. At Monticello his white family and his unacknowledged black family lived side by side, but even in private he seems to have paid no special attention to Sally's children. Madison learned to read, he says, "by inducing the white children to teach me the letters and something more." As for Jefferson, "He was not in the habit of showing partiality or fatherly affection to us children. We were the only children of his by a slave woman."
Some mysteries lie beyond the power even of DNA to resolve.
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