Subject: Dishonoring Your Betters.
August 13, 1999
To Lucian Truscott IV:
I had the distinct displeasure of witnessing your absurd piece of exhibitionism on C-Span, last spring; where you posed for an obviously contrived media event, outside your immortal ancestor's residence at Monticello. At the time, I stared in disbelief--for while you appeared to be besotted (whether from alcohol or perhaps you were kicked in the head by a horse in your childhood, I cannot say), you acted as though you were speaking for the descendants of the greatest American of the 19th Century, in accepting what is clearly a scientific hoax, intended to besmirch his reputation!
While many have black sheep in their families, few consider it proper to wash their family linen in public. But you, Sir, have as your principal claim to respect in this life, descent from one of the most noble men in Western History. And yet you, in order to curry favor and attention in a media dominated by jealous little men with mean spirited agendas, besmirch his reputation before a wide audience! At the least, we must acknowledge that you are a man without decency or honor--or common sense. You inherited none of the clear insights or profound reasoning ability, for which your ancestor was so well known.
What upset me, of course, was not that Jefferson might have had a half-witted descendant--neither he nor his beloved wife can help that. But in the brief segment, I witnessed, you made it sound as though the entire family had accepted the contrived smear as truth! Since, then, I have had the privilege of corresponding with Herbert Barger, the family historian, and have come to understand that such was not the case.
Of course, the claimed DNA evidence of Thomas Jefferson's paternity of Eston Hemings is so speculative and unreliable as to add nothing of credibility to the original 19th century smear. As a trial lawyer, I can assure you that no experienced judge would even allow such spurious science into evidence--regardless of what any of your fellow media poseurs may have told you to the contrary. (I can refer you to my web site at [http://pages.prodigy.net/krtq73aa/civil.htm] for a more detailed discussion.)
In your little performance on C-Span, you stated that you thought your ancestor was confused on racial matters. But in your oafish way, you did not deign to share your reasoning. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson, both in his one book, and in numerous letters, gave carefully thought out reasons for his racial views--views, I might add, that he did not seek to foist on anyone else. Indeed, he called for a fair study of the types of mankind as objects of Natural History--a study to further understanding and the pursuit of truth; goals as apparently foreign to you, as to the media puppeteers who pull your strings.
One final note: Your ancestor did not hide his great love for his wife. He showed in his letters to other intelligent women of his day--Mrs. John (Abigail) Adams, for example--a romantic turn (completely chaste) as well as an appreciation for their intelligence, etc.. Nor was he ever the least afraid to espouse views that were a bit shocking to others. Yet his only mention of anything with Sally, was an angry denial. To most of us, the word of the man who wrote the instrument by which he and others pledged to one another their "lives their fortunes and their sacred honor," that we might all be free, is sacred. Do you really believe, as you recently proclaimed to Jim Manship, that Sally Hemings was one of the two great loves of Jefferson's life? You couldn't have been that drunk--or the horse could not have kicked your brain that far out of reason--or you would be dead!
You, Sir, are a disgrace to a Virginia heritage that real men--men of intelligence, courage and decency--have gladly died for. Please accept from this Ohioan my expression of heartfelt contempt!
I certainly accept with a sense of great honor your profession of contempt for me and what I said on the steps of Monticello. I accept your contempt in the same spirit Mr. Jefferson accepted the contempt of the Crown at the time he wrote the Declaration. For indeed thoughts and beliefs which are contrary and foreign to your own today are as contrary and foreign as Jefferson's were to the Crown back then. To be held in contempt by such a small-minded man as yourself is honor enough to last me a lifetime.
You must not have listened very closely to what I said from the steps of Monticello. My words were my own. I stated nothing on behalf of the Monticello Association, and in point of fact, I challenged the Association and the rest of this country to join me in accepting the Hemings into the family of Mr. Jefferson and into the greater family of this nation, and into its history. Nothing I said could be construed as having been said on behalf of the Monticello Association. In fact, the (then) President of the Association, Mr. Gillespie, was there to speak on behalf of the Association, which he did.
As for the ridiculous, bigoted and narrow-minded jibberish in the rest of your message:
"On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson, both in his one book, and in numerous letters, gave carefully thought out reasons for his racial views--views, I might add, that he did not seek to foist on anyone else."
Your ignorance precedes you, Mr. Flax. As a published author of 33 years standing, I can tell you that one does not write letters, much less books, without having as a goal "to foist" one's views upon either the recipients of the letters or the public readers of the book. Otherwise, why would one write either letters or books? For one's own entertainment? I think not. Mr. Jefferson was a public man. He wanted his views made public, or else he would not have written his letters and his book. I am also a public man, and I write and state my views in order that others might read or listen to them. "Foisting" is the name of the game, Mr. Flax.
As for your statement that Mr. Jefferson issued some kind of "angry denial" about Sally Hemings, it is well established and accepted by historians that Mr. Jefferson did no such thing and remained mute on the subject until he went to his grave...his grave at Monticello which Sally Hemings tended 3 times a week, walking the seven miles from her home in Charlottesville and walking the seven miles back...until she died 9 years after he died.
Your ascribing my statements at Monticello -- to drunkenness or to a kick in the head by a horse -- bespeaks the same kind of desperation Mr. Manship engaged in when he emailed his list of recipients that "it is said" I moved to Los Angeles to somehow engage in "the homosexual lifestyle," whatever that is. You and Mr. Manship should be ashamed of yourselves.
As for Mr. Barger being the "family historian," why don't you put in a call to Monticello and see who is listed as the historian of the Monticello Association. You will find the name is not Barger. Mr. Barger is not a member of the Association, nor is he its historian. In fact, Mr. Barger is not a descendant of Mr. Jefferson or any branch of his family in any way, shape, or form.
At the end of your message you wrote:
"You, Sir, are a disgrace to a Virginia heritage that real men--men of intelligence, courage and decency--have gladly died for."
I agree totally that I am a disgrace to that "heritage" of "real men" of Virginia. They gladly died to defend their right to own slaves. In as much as you and Manship and Barger and others seem to believe that Mr. Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemings somehow damages his reputation, I would ask you this: How do you do further damage to the reputation of a man who owned slaves? I stand today in absolute critical opposition to this aspect of Mr. Jefferson's life. The ownership of other human beings was and is an abomination and should be condemned by us all. And before you go telling me that Mr. Jefferson should not be "judged" by today's values, please remind yourself that there were plenty of "values" in the colonies of that time which held slavery to be the same abomination which most of us hold it today. In fact, the argument over slavery almost cost this nation its founding, and only the so-called "compromise" which allowed slavery to persist enabled the Constitutional Convention to reach a consensus. That it took a bloody war which cost an unimaginable number of American lives to bring an end to slavery, is a disgrace to this country in general, and a special disgrace to the South -- including Virginia -- specifically.
Tell you what, Mr. Flax. Why don't you do this for me. Why don't you try defending Mr. Jefferson's ownership of other human beings, and while you're at it up there in Ohio, why don't you try defending ownership of slaves by other slaveholders.
Mr. Jefferson is my 5th great grandfather. I am proud to be his grandson. I am not proud he was a slave owner. I am not proud of the garbage he wrote in his "Notes".
I can tell you that I am proud to be the cousin of his descendants by his relationship with Sally Hemings, and I think as the years go by, you will find that my pride and my voice will be somewhat louder than yours or Manship's or Barger's in the debate which follows. I sleep soundly at night knowing that little men like you and Manship and Barger find your little voices in little emails such as the ones you send me. I express my views in public, in magazines, newspapers, radio, television, books, and motion pictures. I've done it for 33 years, and I think I've got another good 33 years in me, and I'll do it every last year I draw a breath.
Think about that tonight when you put your head down on your pillow tonight, Mr. Flax. I was on C-span, not you. I was on the Oprah Show, not you. I write for the New York Times, not you. I write for LIFE, not you. I write books, not you. I write for HBO, not you.
Stay out of the way of horses' hooves, Mr. Flax, else you end up getting kicked in the head and finding your senses.
How we use words, Mr. Truscott, may or may not communicate what we consciously seek to communicate. It will never fail to communicate to the perceptive, other aspects of our character and personality.
While you still have not deigned to share your reasons for describing your ancestor as confused in his writing on racial questions, you have added the further insult of "garbage" to your thoughts on Mr. Jefferson's "Notes"--again with no suggestion of a reason.
In my previous challenge to your remarks at Monticello on your ancestor's reasoning ability, it was clear--both our letters follow--that my comments went to your failure to offer any justification for your disparaging conclusion. Instead of offering anything more, now, you have clumsily seized upon an obvious aside in the third sentence of my applicable paragraph. I wrote, in part: "Thomas Jefferson, both in his one book, and in numerous letters, gave carefully thought out reasons for his racial views--views ... that he did not seek to foist on anyone. .. Indeed, he called for a fair study of the types of mankind as objects of Natural History."
"As a published author of 33 years standing, I can tell you that one does not write letters, much less books, without having as a goal to 'foist' one's views upon either the recipients of the letters or the public readers of the book. Otherwise, why would one write either letters or books?"
Why, Mr. Truscott, Mr. Jefferson wrote his book to inform our French allies of the circumstances of their Virginia ally. He wrote his letters for all the reasons that literate men and women write letters: To inform his correspondents of his thoughts, observations and circumstances; sometimes to persuade, more often to merely keep in touch with those who were important to him--to communicate, Mr. Truscott, for all the honorable reasons that men and women communicate.
As a published writer on three continents, Mr. Truscott, of at least 38 years standing; as a participant on live TV programs--where I, not some media personality, was the principal audience draw--for some years; I know what "foist" means. Both as a trial lawyer and novelist--as well as one that grew up in a medical family where the techniques of analysis were daily table conversation--I also understand how people reveal themselves by misusing or embracing words. And you stand exposed of exactly the immorality that Jim Manship suggested some posts ago. "Foist" means to "thrust in wrongfully or slyly; insert improperly, palm off.... as to foist an unfit person into a position," etc.. Its secondary meaning is "to falsify, cheat; do poor, hurried work." In provincial English, it is also an adjective "to have a musty or moldy smell." Out of your own mouth, Mr. Truscott, you stand discredited in everything you have ever written.
You also reveal yourself in your opening paragraph. One seriously doubts that Mr. Jefferson "accepted the contempt of the Crown." He accepted, of course, whatever risks might follow the Declaration. Yet I suspect that the reaction in London was more fear than contempt. But how Lucian Truscott doth strut around! What a fatuous fellow he is? In what particular--in the whole of your turncoat life--can you seriously expect anyone to compare you to your ancestor?
You further reveal yourself as preoccupied with making a racial statement, pleasing to the far left, by embracing the revisionist history that the 1861 to 1865 War was over Slavery. Note that your little tirade on the subject (below) was in response to this sentence of mine:
"You, Sir, are a disgrace to a Virginia heritage that real men--men of intelligence, courage and decency--have gladly died for."
Nowhere did I specify one particular war. Virginians died for their heritage in the French & Indian War, in the Revolution, in the War of 1812. General Patton--who risked his life many times in World War II--was almost as steeped in that heritage as Robert E. Lee (the most honorable soldier, America has produced since George Washington himself), whose father and uncle had served with General Washington in the Revolution. Had you interviewed any of the men who served with the younger Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia, they would have told you that they believed they were fighting for the same cause, an earlier generation had given their all for in 1776. That cause was "Liberty," and the right to manage your own affairs; to preserve the enduring values of your people; to live your lives, according to lights God gave you.
But you have seen fit to disparage that heritage because many of the Virginia leaders owned slaves!! Have you ever seriously read your ancestor's thoughts on the subject? Did he ever suggest that the slave system was a good one? He did recognize--as the Radicals after 1865, failed to recognize--the problems for both races in ending it without careful preparation.
Mr. Truscott, you admonish me, "before you go telling me that Mr. Jefferson should not be 'judged' by today's values," etc.. But, Sir, I would never do that. I, as most Americans, would take Mr. Jefferson's values over anything offered in competition thereto in the media outlets you boast of. Mr. Jefferson's values were based upon a scan of all human history, all the recorded experience he could garner in a lifetime of study--a study in many languages. Mr. Jefferson's values, Sir, were developed through the application of an extraordinarily high level of intelligence to the fruits of that study, his sole motivation, the discovery of truth. You can not name one single soul in modern America who has the intellectual credentials to suggest that Thomas Jefferson's values pertain to any one time or era. So rant and rave about his slave holding. He would have turned his slaves lose in a moment, if he thought they would have been provided for without him. If he erred in that, his patronage was still more humane than the modern Welfare State that holds millions of American Negroes--as millions of American Whites--in a form of Federal thralldom.
I do not want to end, without acknowledging your point about Sally Hemings making frequent treks to Thomas Jefferson's grave. This was apparently a not infrequent demonstration of respect among ex-slaves in many parts of the South: The loyal and faithful servant, raised in Christian values, paying devoted respect in death to a well loved former master (in your ancestor's case, to the father of her original Mistress), long after freedom had been obtained. Is that phenomenon not indeed one of the proofs of loyalty to a broader Society, that the great Negro educator Booker T. Washington cited as a compelling reason for the spirit of reconciliation for which he labored so nobly and so long (with such productive results, until it was derailed by the politics of confrontation, that today dominate almost all media discussion on racial questions)?
Sally's devotion to the Jeffersons is to her credit. It does not make her the mother of any of Thomas Jefferson's children. It certainly does not make her one of the great loves of his life. I am quite sure that he would have earned her love through kindness and respect; but that does not imply anything sexual.
In ascribing your conduct to possible intoxication or a kick in the head, I sought to be charitable. The only other explanation--for such behavior--other than a chemical imbalance--would be "demonic possession"; and I have always been a skeptic as to whether such is really possible. (I do not doubt that you have been influenced by evil forces; but I suspect more of the human variety.) I will, however, join with Jim Manship in prayers for your redemption. You are a fatuous fellow; but I wish you no harm. I will continue to expose you, if you continue as you have.
Since Mr. Flax seems to be unable to recognize the obvious, I will point out to him that my description of Mr. Jefferson as "confused" points directly at the contradiction between his having written the Declaration with his immortal words..."all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness..." and Mr. Jefferson's ownership of slaves. To say that Mr. Jefferson was confused in this regard is to be charitable to the man.
Down further in his message, Mr. Flax repeats the same tired old Confederate chestnut that the Civil War wasn't really about slavery:
"Had you interviewed any of the men who served with the younger Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia, they would have told you that they believed they were fighting for the same cause, an earlier generation had given their all for in 1776. That cause was "Liberty," and the right to manage your own affairs; to preserve the enduring values of your people; to live your lives, according to lights God gave you."
The cause was "liberty," Mr. Flax? What of the "liberty" promised by Mr. Jefferson to "all men" but denied to slaves? Were these noble gentlemen like Robert E. Lee fighting for the "liberty" of the slaves in the State of Virginia? Your argument is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.
As for Robert E. Lee being "the most honorable solider since George Washington himself," I think you would find some argument about that from his West Point classmates, who no doubt noted that Lee spurned the oath he took to uphold the Constitution of the country which sent him to West Point, turned his back on that country, and indeed went to war against it. Honorable? Perhaps in your eyes, but not in mine.
You wrote: "He would have turned his slaves lose in a moment, if he thought they would have been provided for without him."
I'm glad you knew Mr. Jefferson so well back when he was still alive that you're able to make this statement. The rest of us, who were born after his death and didn't know him personally, are left with the facts. The only slaves he freed in his lifetime and upon his death all had the last name Hemings. In his lifetime he owned more than 250 human beings. He freed about a dozen Hemings.
Finally, you wrote this piece of patronizing and inaccurate garbage:
"The loyal and faithful servant, raised in Christian values, paying devoted respect in death to a well loved former master (in your ancestor's case, to the father of her original Mistress), long after freedom had been obtained."
Actually, Mr. Flax, in my ancestor's case, Mr. Jefferson was the husband, not the father, of Martha, who had been Sally's initial owner. Your use of the term "mistress" and your appraisal of why Sally would have walked 14 miles round trip to tend to Mr. Jefferson's grave is patronizing in the extreme and belies your real intentions.
Incidentally, you will not find the story of Sally tending Tom's grave in any history books. That story is part of the Hemings' family oral history. Part of the story was that Sally made the arduous journey two or three times a week, even as an old woman, because she loved him so much.
Thanks for answering my challenge to you:
"Why don't you try defending Mr. Jefferson's ownership of other human beings, and while you're at it up there in Ohio, why don't you try defending ownership of slaves by other slaveholders."
By your patronizing comments about Sally's motives and your rank speculation about why Mr. Jefferson didn't free his slaves, you've done one hell of a good job defending slavery.
And so at the end of your lovely little message, we ascribe the reasons for my views and opinions from drunkenness and being kicked in the head by a horse to demonic possession.
Thanks for your prayers, Mr. Flax, but you may as well write me out of them right now. At the rate you have me going, I'll be beyond hope by 5 pm today.
Once again, you have told more about yourself in the post, reprinted below, than you might have wished. The confusion over Jefferson's language in the Declaration of Independence, cited, is yours not his. Had you read the Declaration in its entirety--rather than indulge the usual leftwing penchant for quoting it out of context--you should realize that the preamble, which you quote in small part, is concerned with the respective rights of Government and individuals; that the Fathers, who selected your ancestor as their spokesman, rejected the traditional concept that the Government or King ruled by divine mandate, and set up instead a compact concept, and the doctrine that the rights of man are held against Government, not from Government. Equality at creation was never intended to imply equality in socio-economic circumstances or result; only that Government was not ordained by God, but was ultimately answerable to the Governed in terms of the political compact. Unless you can point to some writing of your ancestor, where he claimed slavery mandated by God, you have no argument.
The Declaration is posted at my web site, as the important statement of American philosophy, which it is.
My comments on Jefferson's willingness to free his slaves, if he could be sure they would be provided for, is based upon his lifelong comments--both his consistent aversion to the system, and his continuous concern as to how it should be resolved, with a keen awareness of the potential problems for both races.
Your comments on Robert E. Lee are again beneath contempt. You obviously beg the ultimate question as to the duty he assumed by his oath. Moral issues are not resolved by might. But when you suggest that he was not respected by his military contemporaries, you engage in the tactics of the "big lie" as egregiously as a Hitler or a Clinton. Robert E. Lee owned no slaves; but he recognized a duty to Virginia. He did not flaunt his heritage in order to betray it. He placed his sword and offered his life upon the alter of a God fearing patriotism, you obviously do not even understand.
You prattle endlessly about "slavery," and are too blind to see that most of us--even many Negroes--have less real freedom today, than ever before. If you would actually read the Declaration--not quote it out of context--you would see that the sins of the London Government in 1776 are less extreme than those of the Clinton Administration today.
It is your prerogative to be dull, of course. You come under attack only because you use your ancestry to dishonor your heritage for media attention. You curry favor among the intellectually bereft, by offering to wash your family linen in public. The tragedy is that that is not only uncouth and churlish. You are too muddleheaded to realize that it is basically clean linen!
Stop sending me your musings on these subjects or any other subjects, Mr. Flax. I have no further interest in hearing from you or anyone else on Mr. Manship's lunatic fringe mailing list.
Remove my name from your list, please.