Mark Lamster | Essays

Thomas Jefferson: (Henpecked) Jewish President

That Thomas Jefferson had an African-American lover is by now common knowledge. Few, however, realize he had a Jewish grandmother, a fact too often neglected by chauvinistic historians. This situation is likely to change, given a recently found trove of notes Ethel Finebaum Jefferson left for her grandson over the course of their lives, usually on scraps of parchment tacked up around Monticello, where she lived in a small garret apartment which she found to be entirely too drafty. A few of those notes are reproduced below, courtesy the Library of Congress.

"I don't care if you designed it. No ball-playing in the house." "If you get powder from your wig on the sofa clean it up. I'm not your slave." "Don't you think you'd be more comfortable in a sweater?" "You can work on your 'Declaration' just as soon as you've finished your kreplach — and not one second earlier." "You may be the president, but you're still not the King of England." "Martha hates me. And you could fire her matzoh balls at the British, they're so heavy. " "I've told you a thousand times that Tuesday is mahjong night in the North Octagonal Room." "You spent WHAT on Louisiana? They don't even have a Loehmann's."

Posted in: History

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