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LETTERS

Doubts about Jefferson paternity

November 22, 2008

Re: "Jefferson, His Slave Mistress and the Antebellum South" [by Glen Speer, Nov. 14].

As one who has studied the life of Thomas Jefferson and portrayed him professionally across the nation for 18 years, may I offer another perspective to your review?

Annette Gordon-Reed's book "The Hemingses of Monticello" is built on the premise that Jefferson fathered all seven of Sally Hemings' children. That has not and probably cannot be proven. The DNA testing of a decade ago narrowed the paternity of just one of Sally's children to a circle of Jefferson males, of whom Thomas was only one. That circle has been described as being as small as seven men, larger than 24 and several numbers in between.

Publicly, Jefferson never said a word about these allegations. In his private writing, which we have copies of today, he denied it repeatedly. His final denial came on May 15, 1826, just weeks before he died. If you remove Gordon-Reed's foundational premise, much of her work begins to crumble.

Patrick Lee

Ashland, Mo.

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