04) JEFFERSON MORALITY: Did Thomas Jefferson father children by one of his slaves named Sally Hemings?

Associated Locations:

  • Shadwell, Colony of Virginia – Thomas Jefferson Birthplace
  • Monticello, Virginia – Thomas Jefferson Home

Associated Dates:

  • April 13, 1743 – Thomas Jefferson Born
  • July 4, 1776 – Declaration of Independence signed

Prophetic Statements

Ezra Taft Benson

“The Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men, appeared within those sacred walls of the St. George Temple and had their vicarious work done for them. President Wilford Woodruff spoke of it in these words: ‘Before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.’

After he became President of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff declared that ‘those men who laid the foundation of this American government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits [and] were inspired of the Lord.'” 12

Supporting Research

Andrew Allison

“One of the victims of the Sedition Act who was pardoned by President Jefferson in 1801 was James Thomson Callender, a Republican journalist who had been an unrelenting critic of the Federalists during the last presidential campaign. But Callender wanted more than a pardon: later that year he plainly told James Madison, the new Secretary of State, that he hoped to be appointed postmaster in Richmond, Virginia.

When it became clear that he was not going to be offered any government post, the embittered Callender sought revenge by going to work for a Federalist newspaper in Richmond. In March 1802, he began publishing various charges against Republican leaders in Congress and certain members of the Cabinet. By autumn he was training his guns on the President.

Callender has been described as ‘the most unscrupulous scandalmonger of the day,.a journalist who stopped at nothing and stooped to anything..[He] was not an investigative journalist; he never bothered to investigate anything. For him, the story, especially if it reeked of scandal, was everything; truth, if it stood in his way, was summarily mowed down.’ True to his style, he fabricated a series of scandalous stories about Jefferson’s personal life, the ugliest of which charged him with having fathered several children by a mulatto slave at Monticello, a young woman named Sally Hemings. Although Callender had never gone near Jefferson’s estate, he alleged that this was common knowledge in the neighboring area. He included many lurid details of this supposed illicit relationship among the ‘entertaining facts’ he created for his readers, even inventing the names of children whom ‘Dusky Sally’ had never borne.

Other Federalist editors took up these accusations with glee, and Callender’s stories spread like wildfire from one end of the country to the other-sometimes expanded and embellished by subsequent writers. The President was charged with other evils as well; the torrent of slander never seemed to let up. As one biographer has written, ‘He suffered open personal attacks which in severity and obscenity have rarely if ever been matched in presidential history in the United States.'” 3

  1. Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1898, p. 89
  2. Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1987, Ensign 17 [November 1987]: 6
  3. Andrew Allison, The Real Thomas Jefferson, p. 228-229
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