Open Access Honors Program Thesis
The importance of Thomas Jefferson in the history of the United States cannot be understated. He is revered nationally for his involvement in the writing of the Declaration of Independence and his presidency, along with other accomplishments. Due to his prominent position in history, there is a high level of interest in his life, his actions, and his beliefs. The most commonly invoked image of Jefferson is in his political roles and this engenders respect, making any questionable behavior in his personal life difficult to understand. Uncertainty about aspects of Jefferson's personal life, including the existence of romantic relationships following his wife's death, received particular attention from historians. One of the alleged romantic interests, Sally Hemings, has received more attention since, if the relationship occurred, it clashed with the popular image of Jefferson. Speculation about this relationship caused historians to further scour Jefferson's writings to determine if his beliefs about slavery supported or disputed its existence. The original purpose of this research was to discover if the passage of time resulted in the gradual acceptance of the Hemings relationship. It quickly expanded to include another debated romance. Less controversial than Hemings, Maria Cosway, a married woman, captured Jefferson's eye in France for a short period of time and authors have debated if the relationship blossomed beyond friendship. The books in this sample showed that the authors did not reach a unified opinion affirming the existence of either relationship. Instead, authors have gradually recognized the necessity of addressing the evidence related to the relationship and offering their own interpretation.
Year of Submission
Department of History
University Honors Designation
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors
1 PDF file (33 pages)
©2007 Courtney Ihde
Ihde, Courtney, "Thomas Jefferson's Biographers: Historiography and Sally Hemings" (2007). Honors Program Theses. 674.