"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thomas Jefferson and political attack ads

Political attack ads in the era of the Founding Fathers
In this critical cartoon Thomas Jefferson is shown as the cock or rooster.  The cock Jefferson courts a hen, portrayed as Jefferson's slave Sally Hemings. Contemporary Federalist Party opponents of Jefferson sought to destroy his presidency and his new political party with charges of Jefferson's promiscuous behavior and his ownership of slaves. The cock was also a symbol of revolutionary France, which Jefferson was known to admire and which, his critics believed, Jefferson unduly favored.

Political Attack Ads are as Old as the Republic
  • Yes the attack ads told the truth . . . Thomas Jefferson was screwing his slaves.
  • Jefferson was raping and impregnating a 14 year old female slave who was also the half-sister of his wife.

Political ads attacking your opponent go back to the beginning of the United States.  But the funny about attack ads is they are often true.

Before the age of TV political attack ads took the form of political cartoons, pamphlets and "hit pieces" appearing as newspaper articles.  Here are some of the first.

On October 19, 1796, during the nation’s first contested presidential election, the Gazette of the United States published an article accusing Thomas Jefferson, a former secretary of state, of carrying on an affair with Sarah “Sally” Hemings, one of his slaves.

At the time, Jefferson was seeking the presidency as a Democratic-Republican, a political party he had co-founded with James Madison. His rival for the office was John Adams, vice president during George Washington’s two terms and a Federalist.

The article was the work of Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s former treasury secretary. It was one of 25 that Hamilton wrote for the newspaper between Oct. 15 and Nov. 24, assailing Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. They appeared under the byline of Phocion, an ancient Athenian politician.

During the American Revolution, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Hamilton had worked in tandem to end British colonial rule and found the new nation. But after Washington declined to serve a third term, the political climate turned nasty.

The Federalists accused the Democratic-Republicans of supporting the French Revolution (true), which had grown violent, while their rivals accused the “aristocratic” Federalists of favoring monarchism.  Never mind the fact that the Federalists overthrew the monarchy and established an American Republic.  Facts have no meaning in politics then or now.

Adams won the election, carrying nine states to Jefferson’s seven, with 71 electoral votes to Jefferson’s 68. Having come in second, Jefferson became vice president. The contest was the only one in U.S. history in which a president and vice president were elected from opposing tickets. Subsequently, adoption of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution has precluded this from occurring again.

Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s late wife, Martha, by their father, John Wayles. Most historians have concluded that, as a widower, Jefferson may have had as many as six children with Hemings, maintaining a 38-year relationship with her until his death in 1826.

Thomas Jefferson  -  A Rapist of Slaves
  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . . unless you are my slave, then I am going to bang the living shit out of you."   (A little know passage at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence.)

The slave Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife Martha Wayles Skelton. The Hemings' and all of Wayles' slaves were inherited by the Jeffersons a year after their marriage and were taken to Monticello.

Wow!!!!!  Stop right there.  Jefferson was raping the slave half-sister of his wife.  And yes it is rape.  A slave cannot freely consent to sex.

In 1787 a 14 year old Sally Hemings (yes 14) was chosen to accompany Mary, the youngest daughter of Jefferson, to Paris to rejoin her father; the widower was serving as the US Minister to France. She spent two years there no doubt providing hours of entertainment for Jefferson.

Sally Hemings remained in France (where slavery was illegal) for 26 months.  Under French law, both Sally and James could have petitioned for their freedom, as the 1789 revolutionary constitution in France abolished slavery in principle.

Descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings pose for a
group photograph at Monticello in 1999.

Hemings had the legal right to remain in France as a free person; if she returned to Virginia with Jefferson, it would be as a slave. According to her son's memoir, Hemings became pregnant by Jefferson in Paris and agreed to return with him to the United States after he promised to free her children when they came of age. Hemings's strong kinship ties with her mother, extended family and siblings likely drew her back to Monticello.

In 1789, Sally and James Hemings returned to the United States with Jefferson. He was still only 46 years old and seven years a widower. As evidenced by Jefferson's father-in-law, John Wayles, wealthy Virginia widowers frequently took enslaved women as concubines. That Jefferson also would do so was not unusual for the time.

According to Madison Hemings, Sally Hemings's first child died soon after her return from Paris. Those Jefferson records that have survived mutilation and purge, note that Hemings had six children after her return to the US:
  • Harriet Hemings (I) (October 5, 1795 - December 7, 1797)
  • Beverley Hemings (possibly named William Beverley Hemings) (April 1, 1798 - after 1873)
  • unnamed daughter (possibly named Thenia after Hemings's sister Thenia) (born in 1799 and died in infancy)
  • Harriet Hemings (II) (May 22, 1801 - after 1863)
  • Madison Hemings (possibly named James Madison Hemings) (January 19, 1805 – 1877)
  • Eston Hemings (possibly named Thomas Eston Hemings) (May 21, 1808 – 1856)
Jefferson recorded slave births in his Farm Book; unlike his practice in recording births of other slaves, he did not note the father of Hemings's children.

Sally Hemings' documented duties at Monticello included being a nursemaid-companion, lady's maid, chambermaid, and seamstress. It is not known whether she was literate, and she left no known writings. She was described as very fair, with "straight hair down her back." Jefferson's grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, described her as "light colored and decidedly good looking."

As an adult she may have lived in a room in Monticello's "South Dependencies," a wing of the mansion which was accessible to the main house through a covered passageway

She had a total of six children of record born into slavery; four survived to adulthood and were noted for their resemblance to Jefferson. Sally Hemings served in Jefferson's household as a domestic servant until his death.

The historical question of whether Jefferson was the father of her children has been known as the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. Following renewed historic analysis and a 1998 DNA study that found a match between the Jefferson male line and a descendant of her last son, Eston Hemings, a consensus among historians supports that the widower Jefferson fathered her son Eston Hemings and likely all her children

Even though he was deeply in debt, Jefferson freed all of Sally Hemings' children: Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston, as they came of age. They were seven-eighths European in ancestry, and three of the four entered white society as adults. Their descendants identified as white. As the historian Edmund S. Morgan has noted, "Hemings herself was withheld from auction and freed at last by Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was, of course, her niece."

The Federalists prevent Jefferson from burning the Constitution.
This Federalist cartoon depicts the federal eagle preventing Jefferson from burning the Constitution on the altar of French despotism.

The Federalists linked the Republicans with the bloody excesses of the French Revolution. Jefferson and his adherents, they charged, embraced the same “cant of jacobinical illiberality” as their radical friends in France; like their counterparts across the ocean, they were “artful and ambiguous demagogues” who led “discontented hotheads,” “democratic blockheads” and “cold-hearted jacobins.” Furthermore the Federalists charged the Republican leaders espoused a “creed of atheism and revolution.”

The Election of 1800
  • “Citizens choose your sides.  You who are for French notions of government; for the tempestuous sea of anarchy and misrule; for arming the poor against the rich; for fraternizing with the foes of God and man; go to the left and support the leaders, or the dupes, of the anti-federal junto. But you that are sober, industrious, thriving, and happy, give your votes for those men who mean to preserve the union of the states, the purity and vigor of our excellent Constitution, the sacred majesty of the laws, and the holy ordinances of religion.”         -- - - - - A New York Federalist Newspaper (Spring of 1800) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The election of 1800 was fought against the background of the ultra-violent French Revolution's Reign of Terror that butchered 40,000 people.  Under the Consulate of Napoleon Bonaparte the entire world appeared to be spinning out of control with war, death and anarchy everywhere.

The Federalists attacked the pro-French Thomas Jefferson as a godless Jacobin revolutionary who would unleash the forces of bloody terror upon the land. With Jefferson as President, so warned one newspaper, "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes."
The French Reign of Terror killed 40,000
people and Jefferson was rightly painted as
pro-French during the election of 1800. .

Others attacked Jefferson's deist beliefs as the views of an infidel who "writes aghast the truths of God's words; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, and without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians."

Overall, the Federalists wanted strong federal authority to restrain the excesses of popular majorities, while the Democratic-Republicans wanted to reduce national authority so that the people could rule more directly through state governments.

Jefferson won the election.

In his first inaugural address in March 1801, Jefferson pleaded for national unity, insisting that differences of opinion were not differences of principle.

Then Jefferson said, with much hope, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."

Jefferson's words were pure 100% propaganda to pacify the public.  Once in power Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican Party began an all out attack on Federalist Party members and the independent Federal Courts that were dominated by Federalists.

Jefferson went after Federalist Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase who had signed the Declaration of Independence and had been appointed to the Court by George Washington.  Chase was impeached by order of a power mad Thomas Jefferson in an attempt to intimidate the independent Federal Courts. He was found innocent in a Senate trial fairly presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr.

Jefferson devoted much of his time in office to achieve the destruction of his own Vice President for daring to oppose his will.  Vice President Burr came from New York.  Destroying Burr paved the way for Jefferson's close Virginia allies, Madison and Monroe, to become President.  

Looks like the Federalists were right.  Jefferson was power mad.  But for sure Jefferson was all about hardball politics.

See our article THE FEDERALIST - "Aaron Burr - Founding Patriot."

"The Prairie Dog" is an anti-Jefferson satire.
James Akin's earliest-known signed cartoon relating to Jefferson's covert negotiations for the purchase of West Florida from Spain in 1804. Jefferson, as a scrawny dog, is stung by a hornet with Napoleon's head into coughing up "Two Millions" in gold coins, (the secret appropriation Jefferson sought from Congress for the purchase). On the right dances a man (possibly a French diplomat) with orders from French minister Talleyrand in his pocket and maps of East Florida and West Florida in his hand. He says, "A gull for the People."

"Infant Liberty Nursed by Mother Mob"
The conservative Federalist Party still had hopes of regaining the presidency when this anti-Jefferson political cartoon appeared in The Echo, a book critical of Jefferson, published by New Englanders. The creators of the cartoon attempted to link fears of excesses of "republican" mobs, Irishmen, blacks, and Democratic Clubs, such as Tammany Hall. Their effort failed. James Madison, Jefferson's closest political protege was elected the fourth president of the United States.

Jeffersonian "Luxuries"
The Master can rape and impregnate the helpless females while beating the males.  Even at this early stage of the Republic you started to see a split based on slavery between politicians in the North and the South. 

Political cartoon depicting Jefferson attempting to slow Washington's
move towards the Federalist Party.

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