Thomas Jefferson’s Unknown Grandchildren

A STUDY IN HISTORICAL SILENCES

Although he married only once, Thomas Jefferson had two families. The first was by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson; the second, after her death, was by her young half sister, Jefferson’s quadroon slave Sally Hemings. This was known and eagerly publicized by the anti-Jefferson press during his first term as President. Despite pleas of Republican editors to deny the liaison, Jefferson maintained then, and thereafter to his death, a tight-lipped silence. Read more »

Children Of Darkness

Sure that he was divinely appointed, Nat Turner led fellow slaves in a bloody attempt to overthrow their masters

Until August, 1831, most Americans had never heard of Virginia’s Southampton County, an isolated, impoverished neighborhood located along the border in the southeastern part of the state. It was mostly a small farming area, with cotton fields and apple orchards dotting the flat, wooded landscape. The farmers were singularly fond of their apple crops: from them they made a potent apple brandy, one of the major sources of pleasure in this hardscrabble region.Read more »

"Consensus Politics,” 1800–1805

The idea goes back to the very beginnings of our national history. Then as now, it was built upon human relationships, and these—as Mr. Jefferson found to his sorrow—make a fragile foundation.

We hear a great deal these days, during an intensely political Presidency, about “consensus politics,” but it is no novelty of modern times. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Thomas Jefferson was its inventor and master practitioner. Time has all but canonized this Founding Father, so that few associate him with either guile, ruthlessness, or skill in political maneuver. Yet he had all three, and he knew how to use them.

The Town That Stopped The Clock

A noted newspaperman writes of his birthplace, a community in which time stood still—and then started backwards

My home town is probably the most regressive little city in the United States. When I left it thirty-five years ago it was as typically twentieth century as any post-war Gopher Prairie on the map. Some new store fronts—the first in my lifetime—had sprung up on the main street. The old knitting mill down by the depot, long in disuse, had been turned into a smoke-belching power plant. Mr. Fred Kelley had closed out his livery stable to give full time to selling Ford automobiles, which was making him rich.Read more »

The Harrisons Of Berkeley Hundred

Five successive Benjamin Harrisons created a private empire of tobacco and trade and a great Virginia plantation

 

Berkeley Hundred, as a working plantation still in operation after more than three centuries, is older than any English-speaking settlement in America outside Virginia. In fact, a Thanksgiving was celebrated on its river front and an experiment made there with corn whiskey before the Puritans, setting sail in one of the boats bound for Virginia, were blown off their course and landed in New England.

 
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