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In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal
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In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  56 ratings  ·  13 reviews
The belief that Thomas Jefferson had an affair and fathered a child (or children) with slave Sally Hemings---and that such an allegation was proven by DNA testing—has become so pervasive in American popular culture that it is not only widely accepted but taught to students as historical fact. But as William G. Hyland Jr. demonstrates, this "fact" is nothing more than the a ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Jul 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm not used to reading history this polemical. Hyland's a lawyer by trade, and it shows throughout his pugnacious little book. Coming out swinging, he posits that Thomas Jefferson did not have an affair with his slave Sally Hemings, which matter has been the subject of some debate. He bases his case on several points, including DNA evidence, historical accounts and inferences made from historical accounts. The case, as it turns out, is hurt more by Hyland's advocacy of it than any shortcomings ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: presidents, history
Of the three books I've read specifically about the Jefferson-Hemings story, this is the best written. Hyland, a lawyer, reviews the evidence thoroughly.
- Some is clearly accurate: Jefferson and Eston Hemings share a male ancestor. DNA proves it.
- Some is clearly wrong: Jefferson shares no ancestors with the Woodson family.
- Some evidence is debatable: Was Edmond Bacon defending an icon or was Madison Hemings wrong when he said Jefferson didn't like farming?

I would like to see a book as well wr
Sep 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Critics billed this book as "an irrefutable case" against the Hemingses' claim that T. Jefferson was their father, but it failed to convince me. Key quotes were parcially quoted and interpretted out of context. I also think the author, William Hyland Jr., was arrogant from the outset, and though I tried to see the "defens's" point of view, his attitude towards the topic in general turned me off to him in particular. Why does Jefferson need defending? He's not accused of any great crime. His pate ...more
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In celebration of the 4th of July, I offer this essay in defense of our greatest founding father, Thomas Jefferson. I feel Mr. Jefferson’s reputation has been unfairly eviscerated by a misrepresentation of the DNA results in the Hemings controversy. The exhumation of discredited, prurient embellishments has not only deluded readers, but impoverished a fair debate. In fact, with the possible exception of the Kennedy assassination, I am unaware of any major historical controversy riddled with so m ...more
Jeffrey West
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
In August of 2010 I had the privilege of visiting Monticello. During the tour we were told, as if it were indisputable fact, that Thomas Jefferson fathered several slave children. Luckily for me, and for Thomas, the visitor's center at the bottom of the hill had this book. The book is written by a trial lawyer who wrote it to be a sort of "Trial" for Thomas Jefferson as the defendant and the Hemmings family as the plaintiff. It should be said that I read this book with the goal of proving to mys ...more
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Thomas Jefferson has been on trial in the court of public opinion since 1802 regarding his alleged affair with Sally Hemings. In a democratic society, the defendant does not have to prove innocence. The defense only has to raise reasonable doubt. [i]In Defense of Thomas Jefferson[/i] is a resounding success in that light.

Hyland’s thesis relies on several key points. Most notably, the famous DNA test in 1998 [i]does not[/i] prove that Thomas Jefferson was the father of one, let alone six, of Sal
Mar 14, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2022
This is the first defense of Jefferson I’ve read as related to the Hemings scandal. I’ve never looked into the facts surrounding the tale before, and after reading this I will definitely be doing more digging. I do know that what is presented as 100% certain (“TJ DID father Sally Hemings’s child(ren)) is far from it, and I tend to agree with the author’s hypothesis that it was most likely a brother or close relative of Thomas Jefferson who fathered Sally Hemings’s children. Overall the book was ...more
Sara Goldenberg
Oct 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Save yourself 270 pages. The brother did it. End of story.
Nick West
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thomas-jefferson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Although he doesn't completely close the case, Hyland does succeed in casting serious doubt on the Sally Hemings sex scandal (where Jefferson was accused of fathering a child/children by one of his slaves). Hyland believes Jefferson's younger brother was the more likely father of Eston Hemings. I'd definitely recommend to U.S. History buffs. ...more
Helen Azar
Feb 23, 2010 marked it as to-read
Although, despite all the protests from certain factions, I do believe that Jefferson was romantically and sexually involved with Sally Hemings and had children with her, I would like to give this book a shot.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Not guilty. Interesting.
Michael Fattorosi
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Jul 17, 2016
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Jan 25, 2014
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Jun 29, 2012
Greg Czahur
rated it it was amazing
Mar 25, 2019
Julie Ellis
Oct 18, 2009 rated it liked it
A bit repetitive, but a good defense of Thomas Jefferson.
Brian S. Wise
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Aug 06, 2011
Sean Campbell
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Nov 30, 2014
Monica Hess
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Jan 06, 2016
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Aug 25, 2012
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Mar 04, 2011
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Feb 26, 2013
J. Andrew Brantley
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Dec 05, 2012
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Jul 05, 2021
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Rachel Stull
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William G. Hyland Jr., a native of Virginia, received his B.A. from the University of Alabama and a J.D. from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. Before law school, he worked with a Top Secret security clearance for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in Washington, D. C. Hyland is a member of the Virginia and New York Historical Societies. He now lives and writes in Tampa Bay, Flor ...more

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