Monday, February 14, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

Happy Valentine's Day!  Let's explore love, black history, and presidency with T.J. and Sally Hemings.

Sixth Degree: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, penned
The Constitution, was a founding father of two families and our country.

De'Shante Hemmings, son of
Thomas Jefferson and
Sally Hemmings

There are no extant pictures of Sarah (Sally) Hemings.
This portrait of a mixed race woman is as good as any, and
I think it captures an innocent captivity that I associate with
Sally Hemings.  The Hemings family were referred to as "mulatto, "
a term from the latin root for "mule," a half-breed animal.  
Fifth Degree: Sally Hemmings
"Thomas, when I brought the Hemings as a wedding
gift, I didn't mean that kind of gift.  I'll free her over my
dead body.  Oh, wait, not even over my dead body."
Slave, mistress, half-sister-in-law, and trusted servant to Mrs. Jefferson, Ms Hemings has captured the imagination of millions.  We must never lose sight of the fact that she was enslaved and therefore robbed of self-determination.  Her children were promised freedom, but that promise was never kept.  Martha didn't free her half-sister in her will, and Thomas felt compelled to bed Martha's enslaved sister in order to keep his promise never to remarry.  And you think your family has issues!

Below is a video of Annette Gordon-Reed, a law professor at Harvard University and a Jefferson and Hemmings historian.  You can buy her book here.  I'm in the middle of it and absolutely love it.  It's upsetting, shocking, and inspiring.

Fourth Degree: Dr. Robert Sutton
Dr. Sutton administering the first vaccines
Sometimes being in a clinical trial or being the subject of medical research is a good thing, sometimes not.  In the 18th century it was usually not so great.  While Ms Hemmings and President Jefferson were in Paris, the smallpox vaccine was still experimental and new.  Dr. Robert Sutton was the doctor to the stars and he inoculated Sally Hemmings against smallpox.  It is doubtful that Jefferson was inoculated concurrent with Hemmings.  Most likely, he waited to see how she would react to the vaccine.

Louis XV visiting his youngest daughter.
Third Degree: King Louis XV
In 1774, Dr. Sutton was called to the bedside of King Louis XV to save him from small pox.  He was unsuccessful.

Marie as a child in Versailles
Second Degree: Louise Marie de France
Louis' seventh legitimate child became a Carmelite nun in 1770.  Some suppose that she did this to help compensate for her father's lax sexual morals.  Her father kept a seraglio of young women to feed his sexual appetites and cavorted with Madame Pompadour among others.

Louise Marie was raised and educated in Fontevrault Abbey with 3 of her siblings.  Plans to marry her off to a nobleman did not come to fruition and her father, Louis XV gave his permission for her to take the veil.   

Louis Marie became Mother Superior of her convent, and led an exemplary life.  She was stricken with a stomach ailment and passed into the Kingdom of Heaven on December 23, 1787.  She was made venerable by 

First Degree: Pope Pius IX, the longest reigning pope in history, (almost 32 years.)  

Fun Facts about Pius IX
Pius IX was pope longer than any other.  His 31 years and 236 days on the throne of Peter saw reforms and changes.  Here's a short list of Pius IX's innovations and accomplishments.

  • overseeing the First Vatican Council
  • he declared The Immaculate Conception, the first of only two times that papal infallibility has been declared
  • Italy became a country during his reign
  • he was the last pontiff to have his entire papacy during the 19th century
  • Pius IX refused to sanction the declaration of war against Catholic Austria and was beseiged by the new Italian government.  This was before the sovereign state of The Vatican, and the pope was in grave danger.  He was helped to escape by German and French military.  
  • Loss of the Pope Pius IX's temporal power led to the ignoring of concordats throughout Europe.  Catholics were persecuted and their rights were removed from Prussia to France, Germany to Switzerland.  
  • The concordat with Spain was successful.  
  • he wrote an encyclical which warned against and condemned the "False Liberalism" of the age, namely,  pantheismnaturalismrationalismindifferentismsocialismcommunismfreemasonry, and the various kinds ofreligious liberalism
  • He ordered dozens of American diocese to be established
  • He built the Latin American College in Rome
  • He built College of the United States of America at his own expense
for a biography of Pope Pius IX, click here

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