"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 12, Number 10, October 2009

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given upon request.]

 

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Personal Responsibility in All Things Spiritual

 

“We live under a personal dispensation; there is no such thing as hereditary godliness or salvation by proxy.  Every man must for himself repent, and for himself believe.  Vain and foolish is the idea that, because we have had Christian parents, therefore we also are Christians.”

Charles H. Spurgeon

The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit

Vol. 57 (1911), p. 384

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A Legacy

 

Should my life extend to the 17th of this month, I will have attained to my “Heinz pickles” birthday (if you don’t catch the allusion, look at the label on a jar).  Having lost a step or two in my race with the grim reaper--a race I must inevitably lose--I am compelled to reflect on life, particularly on my life.  The inescapable decline in physical and mental capacity has long since set in, and is continuing apace.  I can no longer labor physically with the intensity and endurance that I not so long ago could.  My mental stamina for protracted and intense study is noticeably diminished, though I hope I am much more efficient in the use of my mental energies than I was at 20 or 30 or even 40.  I’m over the crest and on the back side of the hill--and have no certainty as to how long or steep the slope is on the way to the bottom. 

 

I ask myself, what have I accomplished in these nearly 57 years?  Compared to a list I wrote up for myself when 25, precious little, indeed virtually nothing that I had planned to do back then.  I had set an agenda of teaching in Bible college or seminary--continuous teaching at one institution was the intent (preferably one with an extensive library).  I have in truth taught much in the intervening years, indeed almost continuously and in many places and schools and churches, but without the continuity (or livable salary--I’ve nearly always had to endure the distraction of “secular” work) to accomplish the second purpose on my list: to transform class lecture notes into books on theology, apologetics, Bible topics and the like.  A systematic theology and a major book on OT messianic prophecy (to replace Hengstenberg’s work) were planned, along with several other works.  I have written much and diversely for publication--enough to fill a dozen books (only one of which has actually been published), but certainly much less of a lasting nature than I had hoped at 25.  I have thought several times of compiling and publishing topical books “from the pages of As Is See It”: one of biographical sketches (chiefly Baptists), another of selected articles on the KJV controversy, another on the history of Bible translations (English, Hebrew, Spanish, Romanian, and more), yet another on studies in OT texts, another on studies in NT texts, and more.  But since self-publishing requires a considerable cash outlay, and more considerable storage space for unsold stock, I haven’t yet undertaken any of these (so far, my efforts to secure a commercial publisher have been frustratingly unsuccessful).  I fully believe that “the writing that men do lives after them.”  I know well Spurgeon and A. T. Robertson and Vance Havner and Wilbur Smith and a many other men--indeed, including Paul, Peter, John and Jeremiah--because of the extensive corpus of writings they left behind.  I suppose it goes without saying that the first step in all this must be to write something worth leaving behind.

 

I have been an industrious and steady journalizer since 1977 with something on the order of 60+ journals and notebooks written during that time (and one semester’s journal from high school in 1969).  These may someday be the raw material for an autobiography, should I ever decide to write one for family consumption (I often wish my grandparents and great grandparents had written some 20-30 pages, at least, “for posterity”).  At the very least, should my children or grandchildren ever wish to get to know me better when I am gone, or learn what I was like “long ago,” they can consult my journals (if they can successfully decipher my often wretched penmanship).  Whatever writing skills I may possess are largely a result of my journal-keeping, and my practicing and honing of my writing there.

 

What specific legacy will I leave for my descendants?  Perhaps some money or material goods (books, mostly, I suppose), but this has not been and is not now a goal of mine.  My financial goal all along has been to insure as far as possible that I will have enough money to last as long as I do, so that I am no material burden to anyone.  Whether I am successful to this end remains to be seen.  A legacy of money is much over-rated.  It is often unappreciated by heirs, and if substantial can be a positive curse, leading to a lifestyle idle, corrupt, and arrogant.

 

I have sought to leave as a legacy to my children and grandchildren an example of diligence and hard work (the masthead of AISI contains a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear giving my perspective) and accepting personal responsibility for myself in all aspects of life.  In this, I believe my wife and I have been successful.  All of our children are productive and hard-working, assuming personal responsibility for their own needs and those dependent on them.  I recall a day some 18 years ago now (dutifully recorded in my journal) in which everyone in the family was gainfully employed--my wife at the dialysis clinic, I and the boys working on my brother’s farm, the older daughter working at a job and the younger baby-sitting for someone.  Independence and self-reliance, rather than dependence has ever been the aim.  This legacy is taught--and learned--by example; I received it from watching my own parents, and grandparents.  I will admit to at times being unproductive, and sometimes being unmotivated, but I would take great offense if someone ever called me lazy.

 

Another legacy I hope to leave is one of studiousness, a legacy of extensive education and mental attainments, though not necessarily or exclusively of the formal kind.  In truth, everyone who is truly educated is so by personal application to study and reading and thought.  A good formal education can at best lay a foundation upon which a person can then build for himself, or point in the right direction as to what ought to be learned.  Prior to my father (and his brother) no one on that side of the family had ever been to college, and indeed, high school graduates were rare (my paternal grandfather, typical of his day, attended through the 8th grade only; on my mother’s side, several of her sisters were college graduates).  My father, though himself rather unstudious, became an M.D.  In my generation, my older brother is a D. O., and my two sisters are R.N.s (as is my wife); I have already recorded in AISI 11:9 some account of my own education.  Of our four children, all have had some college, two are graduates, and one has an earned master’s degree, with some interest in and prospects for further formal study (none, however, shares my strong interest in languages). 

 

But more than just a record of “skill” at jumping through the formal hoops to get a college degree of two, I have sought to pass on a legacy of life-long study and learning--ever learning, growing, thinking.  And while I have admittedly regularly indulged my extensive desire for more, ever more books, I have also indulged my children’s desire for books.  Any time they--and now grandchildren, too--have expressed an interest in a book, I have gotten a copy for them.  Over the years, as I have done much reading, my knowledge has gotten fuller and my interests broader; the more I read, the more books I want to read, and the more topics I want to learn about.  One son, the youngest, loves books nearly as much as I do, and is much better read in certain subjects: all things military, and especially the American Civil War.

 

But the most important legacy I hope to leave behind is a spiritual heritage.  On my father’s side, in the old country (Bohemia) and during the first generation in America, my ancestors were non-religious Catholics.  My grandparents, for reasons I never learned, became and remained members of a theologically non-conservative mainline Protestant denomination, the Christian Church, from their 20s until their 70s, but from their 70s to their 90s, they attended first, independent Baptist churches, then a Gospel-preaching Assembly of God (the latter mostly due to its close proximity to their apartment).

 

My maternal grandfather, Ernest Ray Johnston, raised with no known (to me) religious training, was converted during the 1911 Billy Sunday crusade in Wichita, Kansas (one of more than 5,000 converts).  He was briefly a lay-preacher, long served as a deacon, and was a frequent witness for Christ.  Through my maternal grandmother Rufina Teague Johnston, there is a solid lineage of Southern Baptists back at least 200 years (to before 1800), and of Protestantism (Huguenots) back another century more.  My great grandfather, William Pleasant Teague, born in 1863 in North Carolina (Rowan County), was a lay-preacher; there were many Baptist preachers named Teague in North Carolina in the 19th century.  I have no doubt that some of them were relatives. 

 

In my own generation, on my mother’s side of the family there are 28 of us cousins, the off-spring of 7 sisters, all faithfully raised in conservative Southern Baptist churches, and more than half of whom grew up in pastors’ or deacons’ homes; a handful were educated for the ministry, though at a then-liberal Southern Baptist school (which did negatively impact their theological perspective).  Sadly, of the 27 cousins still living, only about half have today what could by any reasonable measure be called a vibrant relationship with God through Christ.  Some have aligned with liberal, apostate churches (which condone the corrupt lifestyle they have chosen); some have no church affiliation at all.  Incidence of divorce among the cousins is about on par with those in American society who are completely unchurched.  Of the many children descended from those of my generation, an even smaller percentage has an active relationship with Christ.  The spiritual legacy of three centuries is being frittered away in just two generations.

 

A spiritual legacy is not secure when merely one’s own children embrace it.  It is secure only when that generation assumes the responsibility to pass that heritage on to their own children, and they are raising them to fear and serve God.  I am grateful to God that by His grace all four of our children have embraced this Biblical heritage, and are in turn actively instilling it in their own children.  By God’s grace this most precious legacy will not be lost.  

 

If this legacy is passed intact, I can die a contented man.

---Doug Kutilek

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Born Again in Kansas, Baptized in Arizona

 

[Note: the late radio newsman/commentator Paul Harvey (Aurandt), who died last February at 90, was for me always a bit hard to pin down regarding his brand of “Christianity.”  Obviously, he professed to be a Christian of some kind, as his regular annual pre-Christmas and pre-Easter broadcasts demonstrated (the former involving a man kneeling in the snow, the latter being a story about A. J. Gordon and a damaged bird cage--and always mis-ascribed to S. D. Gordon).  Rumor had it that he was a member of First Baptist Church in Dallas.  A photo in John W. Peterson’s autobiography, The Miracle Goes On (Zondervan, 1976), shows a 20-ish Harvey along with “The Norse Gospel Trio,” a Christian musical group of the 1930s in Kansas composed of Peterson’s older brothers.  These suggest a conservative, evangelical perspective.  Yet over the years, Harvey would often find good things to say about Adventists and Mormons, and even Norman Vincent Peale’s “feel good about yourself” kind of “Christianity.”  A recently published book, Paul Harvey’s America by Stephen Mansfield and David A. Holland (Tyndale House, 2009; 187 pp. hardback, $19.99) provides what may aptly be called, “the reset of the story.”--editor]

 

“Until they leave home, it is impossible to know whether the faith of kids who grow up in religiously oriented households is owned or merely borrowed from their parents.  This is doubly the case for those who grow up in a place like Tulsa, where religious fervor is practically infused in the drinking water along with fluoride.”

 

“Indeed, the 1935 Central High School yearbook, the Tom Tom, shows Paul, a junior, active in two clubs.  He was leader in the drama club (naturally) and something called the Hi-Y club.  That particular page of the yearbook features a group picture with a smiling Paul Aurandt on the back row.  It explains that the Hi-Y clubs were an extension of the YMCA and has as their purpose ‘to create, maintain, and extend the high standards of Christian fellowship throughout the school and community.’ “

 

“Clearly the Paul of the Tulsa years was moral and God-fearing, an outwardly Christian in every respect.  But there is reason to believe his faith at that time was of the borrowed variety.  Then, in the Kansas years [he moved to Salina, Kansas at age 19 to become manager of a failing radio station--editor], he met a group of Mennonite Christians, some of whom traveled to other churches around the state singing as the Norse Gospel Trio.  He saw in his new friends a dimension of relationship with God he didn’t recognize in himself.  He’d memorized the familiar words of John 3:16 from the King James Version as a boy, and now he couldn’t stop thinking about them and pondering their meaning: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ “

 

“ ‘Sometimes I would get to thinking about that verse--how wonderful it was,’ he would recall many years later.  ‘I never made it to the altar in any church, but I liked the promise of “everlasting life.”  So one night, alone in my room, kneeling at my bed, I offered my life to Christ.’ “

 

“Standing before . . . Kansas State [University] students at the age of eighty-five, Paul spoke tenderly of his days at that Salina radio station:

 

Traveling to Kansas corners with the Norse Gospel Trio from our radio station to many Mennonite churches in the state, I learned to love God and country and Kansas.  Before you were born, I was born again in Kansas.”

pp. 23-24.

 

Fast forward to 1971.  Paul Harvey has been on national radio for two decades and is nationally famous, with perennially the largest radio audience of any broadcast.  He and his wife “Angel” (a nick-name given to her as a child) are on vacation in the Phoenix area.  On a Sunday morning, they, seemingly at random, decide to attend Sunday services at a very small Baptist church in Cave Creek, Arizona, where scarcely a dozen regulars are gathered.  A guest speaker is the preacher of the hour and his topic is the importance of believer’s baptism as an act of obedience and submission to God.  Convinced by the sermon of the necessity of this duty, Harvey finds himself going forward in the presence of strangers at the invitation-time, to submit to baptism, and is baptized that very evening--in another church’s pond (this church being too small to even have a baptistery of their own).  Paul himself explained what happened in his mind during the sermon:

 

Submission to God.  I twisted in my chair.  New understanding discomfited me.  Long years ago I had asked to be saved but had I offered to serve?  I began to realize how much of me I had been holding back.  Could this be the source of my uneasiness, the inconsistency within me?”

 

“He would claim that from this day forward his lifelong tendency toward worry and fretfulness is gone.  He would feel more genuine joy more consistently.  He also would become much less self-conscious when talking about his faith.  He theorized it was because ‘baptism is such a public act . . . one’s dignity gets as drenched as one’s body.’ “

pp. 111-114

 

[Full disclosure necessitates informing the reader that some Seventh-day Adventist web-sites claim that Harvey became an Adventist by baptism circa 2000, but we have found no independent corroboration of this claim--editor]

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Wine in the Bible and Antiquity

 

With some frequency, I receive questions about what the Bible means by “wine” and associated questions regarding whether the wine at Cana of Galilee or at the Last Supper had alcohol content.  Having no interest or motivation at present to write at length on the topic, let me instead recommend some authoritative sources of information which the interested reader can pursue as his own inclination and interest may dictate.  The following are the best of what I have read on the subject.

 

1. Norman Geisler, "A Christian Perspective on Wine-drinking" in Bibliotheca Sacra, 139:553 January-March, 1982, pp. 46-57.  The single best presentation I have seen on the topic.

 

2. Robert H. Stein, "Wine-drinking in New Testament Times," Christianity Today, June 20, 1975, pp. 9-11.  The author shows that in the ancient world, wine was regularly drunk diluted with water, 2-, 3-, even 4-1, water to wine (so in reality, it was water, with some added wine, rather than the reverse).  No doubt this was done in major part to "disinfect" the water and kill unseen microbes that made the water unsafe (today we use chlorine for that purpose). 

 

3. William Ramsay, "Vinum," in Dictionary of Greek & Roman Antiquities, edited by William Smith.  (London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly, 1848.  Second edition), pp. 1201-1209.  A very full article on the production and use of wine in the ancient world.

 

4. "Symposium," in Dictionary of Greek & Roman Antiquities, edited by William Smith.  (London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly, 1848.  Second edition), pp. 1082-1084.  A discussion of social customs associated with wine drinking in antiquity, including information regarding dilution with water.

 

 5. John A. Broadus has a lengthy quote on the nature of wine in the NT in Life and Letters of John Albert Broadus, by A. T. Robertson (1901), pp. 426-7.

 

6. Finally, a pamphlet I have not read or even seen, but which was highly recommended by my very well-read late friend Glenn Conjurske, and which he described as “the real authoritative treatment of the subject” is called, The Testimony of the Bible to the Use and Abuse of Wine, etc., etc., With a Notice of the Corresponding Terms in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and Remarks on the Chief Objections of Modern Times, by William Kelly, the prolific 19th century Plymouth Brethren writer.  Reportedly, this is to be found in Kelly’s book Pamphlets.

 

These will provide solid food for thought and reflection for those concerned with this issue. 

---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

Fights I Didn’t Start and Some I Did by Robert L. Sumner.  Raleigh, North Carolina: Biblical Evangelism Press, 2009.  360 pp., paperback.  $9.95

 

Some men love controversy for controversy’s sake, and are such who, as it were, pass by and “take a dog by the ears” (Proverbs 26:17).  The author of this book is most assuredly NOT one of those people (I confidently say this on the basis of almost 30 years’ personal acquaintance with him, including 17 months spent as his assistant in the 1980s).  In the forty years since The Biblical Evangelist print periodical was launched by editor-evangelist Robert L. Sumner (with almost continuous publication since its founding, with just a couple of brief hiatuses over the years), Dr. Sumner has not a few times entered into dispute in print with various writers, preachers and correspondents.  In every case the point at issue, the matter in dispute, involved issues of doctrine or practice, integrity or honesty or accuracy, and was never a personal vendetta or attempt to “get” someone.

 

The fifteen chapters in this book are nearly all gleanings from almost forty years of The Biblical Evangelist.  The earliest is from the 1970s, the latest from this present year.  Several are from my days as assistant to the editor in the mid-1980s and reading them again brought back a great many memories.  The final chapter is a never-before-published account of the departure of Sumner and several other Sword of the Lord board members and employees from that ministry back in 1982 over the dishonesty and lack of personal integrity of Sword editor Curtis Hutson. 

 

Over the years, Dr. Sumner often felt constrained to defend the honor and integrity of godly men of the past who had become the objects of malicious or dishonest attacks.  When author and pastor Harry Ironside (d. 1951) was accused by a most casual of acquaintances with having abandoned the pre-tribulational rapture view a decade before his death, and of being so duplicitous as to conceal that fact from the public because it might hurt the sale of his books, Sumner came to Ironside’s defense and proved the critic’s claims to be utterly groundless, even malicious.  When a book sought to subvert dispensationalism by maliciously attacking the character of C. I. Scofield, editor of the famous reference Bible, Sumner came to Scofield’s defense and set the record straight by presenting the facts in the case, and exposing the slanderous nature of the assailant’s innuendos.  When the integrity of Christian apologist Harry Rimmer was subverted by a national ministry, Sumner presented the truth, and vindicated Rimmer. 

 

In other controversies, the issue was doctrinal.  Hyper-Calvinistic claims of “regeneration before faith” were refuted from Scripture, as was a published claim of a “millennial purgatory” for Christians.  A popular contemporary “Christian” musician was exposed and refuted for his attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ.  Assaults on historic fundamentalism were rebutted.  In still other essays, serious errors in matters of divorce and the ministry, Sodomy, and social drinking were addressed in detail.  These and the rest make for instructive reading.

 

(One controversy which is not included here, but which I wish had been, is the expose in the late 1980s of the brazen and unrepented of moral, ethical and financial debauchery of Jack Hyles, whose morally corrupt lifestyle spanning a quarter century gave fundamentalism an enduring black eye, and set a flagrantly ungodly paradigm as the ministry pattern for many preachers.  Sumner did a great service--his most important work, I think--in very reluctantly bringing to the public eye, in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17 and I Timothy 5:19-20, the very grave wickedness that Hyles refused to repent of after numerous private admonitions by many friends and associates.  I know that Dr. Sumner paid a very high price for his expose, including much hate mail and telephone threats from Hyles-Anderson faculty and college students, some promising to inflict great personal bodily harm on him, or to burn down his house--with him in it!  Dr. Sumner informs me that though not included in the book, all the material on the Hyles controversy including all he wrote and all of Hyles’ unedited replies is available on CD, and sells for $15.00 (go to www.biblicalevangelist.org/store/index).  It is also available free on the web at www.biblicalevangelist.org/jack_hyles_story.php.  This is a sad chapter in the history of American fundamentalism that every preacher young and old needs to be fully informed about.)

 

Having these essays collected into one volume is handy indeed.  Since I became a subscriber to The Biblical Evangelist (which I have always thought had by far the best content of any contemporary publication of its type) in the early 1980s, I have never knowingly disposed of a single issue (though I fear I have lost a few issues over the years), and have often referred to back issues, including issues containing some of these very articles.  I suspect that the average subscriber to The Biblical Evangelist is not quite the pack rat that I am and has not systematically kept back issues, and so no longer has access to these articles, which are of genuine long term interest and importance.  Well, here they are in one volume.  And those who are late in becoming familiar with The Biblical Evangelist, or who are yet unfamiliar with it, will have access in one volume to these important articles.  The book can be ordered for $12, postpaid, via the internet at the site noted above, or by writing to Biblical Evangelism Press, 5717 Pine Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606-8947.

---Doug Kutilek

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Through Sunshine and Shadow: My First 77 Years.  Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1987.  240 pp., hardback.

 

John Monroe (a.k.a. “Monk”) Parker, whose life spanned most of the century (1909-1994), was a native Alabaman and an important figure in 20th century American Fundamentalism.  Though a professed Christian and an immersed church member since childhood, he was not truly born again until his first year in college.  He transferred to the newly-organized Bob Jones College (then in Florida), where he was in the first graduating class of 1932, and later completed a Ph.D. there.  Over the next six decades, he would spend various periods as an evangelist (his almost constant pre-occupation, whatever else he was doing); college professor, administrative assistant and board of trustees member (at Bob Jones College); pastor; college president (the first at Pillsbury Baptist College, 1957-1965); Minnesota Baptist Convention president (1959-1963); conference speaker; and general director of Baptist World Mission (1969-1984).  He was singularly effective at almost everything he undertook--revival crusades saw hundreds converted, colleges grew, churches flourished, the mission enterprise was expanded.  Thrice married, his first wife died in an auto accident in 1946, his second after a long illness in 1981.  Each wife, godly Christian women all, was a blessing and help to his ministry.

 

I personally heard him preach only once--and I cannot now recall precisely where or when (though I do remember his subject and most of his major points--it was a superb message on “Barriers You Must Cross on Your Road to Hell” or some such title; I’m only sorry I didn’t take notes, and that I don’t have a print or audio copy of it; on line, I could only find excerpts from this message).  As far as I am aware, he published only one book of sermons, The World’s Most Popular Game (Sword of the Lord, 1968), and this autobiography (my copies of both books, acquired by me used, are signed by the author).

 

The autobiography, written about 8 years before his death, is a little slow in getting started, but once he enters his college days, the narrative flows.  The volume is supplied with numerous pictures that add to the story.  While not a great book, here is a man worth knowing about.

---Doug Kutilek

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In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: the Sally Hemings Sex Scandal, by William G. Hyland, Jr.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.  292 pp., hardback, $26.95

 

For a generation and more, the major thrust of “political correctness” in the realm of history writing (really, history re-writing and revisionism, akin to what the Bolsheviks did in Russia in the 1920s and 30s) has been to denigrate, degrade, debase and discredit great men of the past, particularly great American leaders.  Washington has been attacked with fraudulent claims that he “padded” his expense accounts during the Revolutionary War; Lincoln has been abused by some who think he wasn’t quite anti-slavery enough; Robert E. Lee has been maligned as though he had as little character as those who attack him; and Jefferson has been viciously and dishonestly charged with sexual abuse, even rape, of his female slaves (you might notice that all these now allegedly “evil” people are white males; how could they or anyone be counted as truly “great” without being female or “people of color”?).

 

The slander of Jefferson actually has a history stretching back two centuries.  In 1802, James Callender, a drunken, angry disappointed office-seeker turned against Jefferson (whom he had previously supported) and vented his ire by claiming in a Richmond, Virginia newspaper that Thomas Jefferson was co-habiting with one of his females slaves (Sally Hemings) and had fathered more than one child by her.  This slander was picked up and repeated by several Federalist-favoring newspapers in the North.  Being part and parcel of the highly partisan journalism of the day, it was not believed by those who knew Jefferson intimately, and was largely discounted and mostly forgotten.  In the 1990s, DNA tests on one of Thomas Woodson’s direct male descendents--Woodson being the oldest of the slave children allegedly fathered by Jefferson (conceived in Paris, so the story went)--proved with absolute conclusiveness that Jefferson was not and could not have been Woodson’s father nor could any of Jefferson’s close male relatives have been the father, and that Callender therefore had fabricated the whole malicious story; in short, he lied.  Indeed, there seems to be scant evidence to support the claim that Woodson was even Sally Hemings’ child.

 

In 1873, what was characterized as an interview with Madison Hemings, who was born into slavery at Monticello, the son of Sally Hemings, was published in an Ohio newspaper.  In that interview (which, judging from style, vocabulary, and content--not those of a semi-literate ex-slave--, must have been heavily edited, supplemented and rewritten, even “doctored,” by the interviewer), Madison claimed that he had been fathered by Thomas Jefferson (a view without contemporary corroboration).  The best historians of the 19th century exonerated Jefferson from this claim, viewing Madison’s assertion as self-serving to give himself higher social status by claiming Jefferson as his father.

 

The Jefferson paternity charge was generally discounted until the 1970s, when Fawn Brodie revived it with a vengeance in what passes for a biography of Jefferson, and in the climate of political correctness and historic revisionism that have characterized the last several decades, numerous writers--some actually professional historians--were only too glad to seize upon something so “juicy” which denigrated one of the “dead white men” who founded our racist, sexist, bigoted nation.  Today, the popular opinion--propagated in books, novels, fictionalized television programs, and published articles--is that Jefferson fathered not one but all six of Sally Hemings children, having begun this relationship with her when she was a mere 14 and he was in his 40s (making him a pedophile).  Furthermore, it is alleged that Jefferson was so calloused, that he allowed his own mis-begotten mulatto children to be born, grow up, and live in slavery, only to be further degraded by having to wait table while he and his legitimate white children dined.

 

DNA tests in the 1990s, performed on a descendent of Sally Heming’s youngest child Eston (born 1808), indicated that a Jefferson male did indeed father Eston.  There were in fact more than a dozen Jefferson males--several generations of descendents of Jefferson’s grandfather--and not just Thomas Jefferson who carried the same marker DNA and who were alive and of the right age to be potentially Eston’s father; a half dozen of them were often present at Monticello.  Anyone of them was therefore a potential candidate for Eston’s paternity.  And since there was no DNA testing done (or possible) on descendants of Heming’s other children, there is absolutely no DNA evidence to support the claim that Thomas Jefferson or any other Jefferson male was the father of any of these other Hemings children (yet, those who wish to discredit Jefferson make the leap of presumption that because a Jefferson male fathered the last of Hemings’ children, that male must have been Thomas, and he must have fathered them all).

 

Several lines of evidence give very strong support for the claim that Thomas Jefferson was not the father of Eston or any other of Hemings’ children.  First, it was a widely known fact that Thomas’ thirteen-years-younger brother Randolph, as well as two of Thomas’ nephews, Peter and Samuel Carr, did regularly “socialize” with the Monticello slave women, including Sally Hemings and her sister.  The Carr brothers even admitted that they were responsible for fathering some of the mulatto children on the plantation.  While the Carr brothers are genetically excluded from being the father of Eston, they, of course, in the absence of DNA evidence, can be neither included nor excluded regarding the paternity of Hemings’ other children.  A Hemings’ family tradition that persisted through the 19th century and well into the 20th was that a Jefferson “uncle” (“Uncle Randolph” was how Thomas’ brother was known at Monticello) had fathered Hemings’ children.  And Jefferson’s plantation manager from 1800 to 1820 reported that he often saw a white man--known to him but not named (and certainly not Thomas)--coming out of Sally Hemings’ slave quarters early in the morning.

 

Second, there is no corroborating evidence that Jefferson ever “fraternized” with his slave women.  Not a hint of such a suggestion from people in a position to know exists.  Jefferson’s known character, his personal integrity, and his stoic lifestyle all discredit the claims of slave paternity.  And the testimonies of his children and grandchildren all categorically deny that Callender’s (now proven to be dishonest) charges had any basis in fact.

 

Third, while in some cases Jefferson was at Monticello on the presumed dates when Hemings conceived children (as were several other Jefferson males), there is little or no evidence that she was at Monticello on those dates (Jefferson would often rent out his slaves to others when there was insufficient work to be done at home).  In one case, the evidence is that Jefferson had been away from Monticello for 15 months at the time Hemings gave birth, which would of course absolutely exonerate him from the slander in the case of that child.  In a couple of other cases, there is good reason to doubt that Jefferson was present on the plantation when Hemings conceived.

 

Fourth, Jefferson’s very poor health, especially when Madison (1805) and Eston (1808) were born--Jefferson was in his early to mid-60s--, makes it exceedingly unlikely that he even could have been carrying on a torrid love affair with Hemings at that time.

 

In short, all the evidence, dutifully weighed and considered, leaves a verdict of “not guilty” of the original accusation made by Callender in 1802, and “not proven” for claims allegedly made by Madison Hemings (1873) and present-day Hemings descendants, with the all-too-eager willingness by some writers and historians to believe the worst, no matter what it is, and no matter how feebly supported it is, about Jefferson and other “Founding Fathers.”

 

The author, William Hyland, Jr., is by profession an attorney.  His book is not well organized, is marred by numerous repetitions of information and quotations, and is not particularly well written.  Nevertheless, he does an adequate job of exposing the flimsiness of the evidence invoked by Jefferson’s accusers, and marshals a strong case exonerating Jefferson of all charges (of course to prove the universal negative that Jefferson never slept with any of his slaves is impossible in the absence of video recordings of every moment of every day of his life; but on the accusers lies the burden of proof, for the rule of argumentation is “he who affirms must also prove.”  There is no known unequivocal evidence indicting Jefferson.  Their case is therefore lost).

 

(For sane and authoritative presentations of the Jefferson-Hemings controversy--pre-DNA--, see the 6-volume biography of Jefferson by Dumas Malone, particularly vol. IV, pp. 212-216; 494-498; vol. VI, pp. 513-514; and Merrill D. Peterson, The Image of Jefferson in the American Mind (Oxford, 1962), pp. 181-187)

---Doug Kutilek

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