Time for a correction, AP?

The AP should run a correction to this story that appeared in today’s morning newspaper and in countless other papers around the country. The assertion that Hemings gave birth to children fathered by Thomas Jefferson is almost certainly bogus. Fathered by “a” Jefferson? Perhaps.

According to an authoritative 2012 Wall Street Journal column by Robert F. Turner, a professor at the University of Virginia and editor of “The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy: Report of the Scholars Commission,” 1998 DNA tests did not use genetic material from Thomas Jefferson, but rather suggest that one of more than two dozen Jefferson males may have fathered Hemings’ youngest son, Eston. Turner wrote that there may have been at least seven Jefferson men, including Thomas Jefferson, at Monticello when Eston was conceived in 1807.

“Allegations that the ‘oral history’ of Sally’s descendants identified the president as the father of all of Sally’s children are also incorrect,” Turner wrote. “Eston’s descendants repeatedly acknowledged — before and after the DNA tests — that as children they were told they were not descendants of Thomas Jefferson but rather of an ‘uncle.’”

The most likely candidate, according to Turner, is Jefferson’s younger brother, known at Monticello as “Uncle Randolph.” Randolph, who it was said would “come out among black people, play the fiddle and dance half the night,” was invited to visit Monticello just weeks before Eston’s likely conception.

Turner points out that the first allegations of President Jefferson fathering a child with Hemings’ was published in the Richmond Recorder in September 1802, noting that Hemings’ eldest child was named “Tom.” After Jefferson’s death, a former slave named Thomas Woodson claimed he was that “Tom,” but DNA tests of descendants of Woodson’s disproved this.

That Richmond newspaper story was written by the notorious slanderer James Callender, who was imprisoned under the Sedition Act during John Adams’ term as second president. He admitted writing lies about Adams to get Jefferson elected. In fact he shouted as much in front of the White House when he demanded that Jefferson grant him the job of postmaster of Richmond, Va. The newspaper story apparently was his revenge.

Thomas Jefferson, third president of U.S. (WSJ pix via Getty Images)


Happy Constitution Day

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most propitious days in the history of this country. On this day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.

You remember the Constitution don’t you?

That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like, such as immigration laws, which the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have Power To … establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization …”

The Constitution also says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”

But when it came to ObamaCare, which is replete with a panoply of revenue generating taxes to offset its expenses, the Senate grabbed an unrelated bill that had passed the House, cut the existing language and substituted the ObamaCare verbiage. The bill number was the only thing that originated in the House.

Yes, it’s those four-handwritten pages that give Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States …” Not to force people to engage in commerce by buying health insurance or pay a fine or a tax for not doing so.

Arguably, Congress cannot abrogate that power by handing the president the power to impose tariffs and declare emergencies.

That Commerce Clause also has been stretched to prohibit a farmer from growing grain to feed his own cattle because that affected demand for grain on the interstate market. The same rationale allows Congress to set minimum wages for jobs that have nothing to do with interstate commerce.

It also gave Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Some wars get declared, while others are just military exercises.

The instrument also says the “President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Not decide for himself when the Senate is in session. At least the judiciary slapped Obama’s wrist on that one.

During ratification the Founders added the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment that says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” That probably means Congress can’t order a religion to pay for contraceptions, abortifacients and sterilization against its beliefs.

We’re pretty sure the document did not envision a president’s administration creating by regulation laws the Congress refused to pass — think immigration enforcement and rules promulgated by the EPA, FEC, HHS, HUD or USDA without the consent of Congress.

Another clause gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States …” though the foregoing powers and powers vested by the Constitution part is largely ignored.

The Constitution also gave Congress the power “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever … to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings …” And just when did Congress purchase and the state Legislature consent to turning over 85 percent of Nevada’s land mass to the federal government?

As James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations …”

Happy Constitution Day, while it lasts.

A version of this first appeared in 2014.

Book depicts the harsh reality of the brutal life in post-Civil War Texas

Author Paulette Jiles has again plowed the red dirt of North Texas and turned up a tale of brutality and inhumanity and love and devotion. This time with the fictionalization of the historical account of freed slave Britt Johnson, who in the closing days of the Civil War rescued his wife and children after they had been captured in Young County by a Comanche and Kiowa raiding party — “The Color of Lightning.”

Jiles, who lives on a small spread Near Utopia, Texas, goes into vivid detail about the landscape’s trees — post oak, mesquite, Osage orange — and grasses — buffalo grass and buckwheat — about the people and how they survived the capricious environment of drought, wind, storms and vicious Indian raids from across the Red River. She described the dust billowing up from horse hooves as looking like little fires.

The book is populated with historic characters in addition to Johnson and family — the frustrated Quaker Indian agent is given a fictional name but others keep their real names, such as Comanche chief Peta Nocona and his son Quanah Parker with captive wife Cynthia Ann Parker.

Jiles’ detailed depictions of the violence can leave one a bit squeamish, but they ring true to the historical accounts of the day.

I highly recommend the book, especially to any who are familiar with the region and its history.

Other books by Jiles set in Texas history include “News of the World,” in which Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from town to town reading the latest newspapers to audiences for a dime a head, but agrees to return a freed captive 10-year-old girl to her family near San Antonio. Then there is “Stormy Weather,” about life in the grease orchard of East Texas during the Depression, as well as “Simon the Fiddler,” about, what else?, an itinerant fiddler trying to find love and a living wage traveling from town to town in Texas. Kidd makes a cameo appearance in a couple of other of her books.

I listened to an audio version of  “Lightning” and the reader was excellent at conveying the drama and sweeping narrative. I read the other three in print versions. All are worthy.

Today’s omphaloskepsis

Political correctness is run amok. Just look at today’s newspaper.

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez nailed the new Oscar “diversity” requirements.

Meanwhile, the morning paper reported that the Clark County School Board voted 5-1 to rename Kit Carson Elementary School, which was built in 1956.

Despite all of his discoveries and exploits, Carson’s name was removed apparently because he was ordered to force the Navajos onto a new reservation further West. No mention apparently was made of the fact Carson did not want to carry out his orders and tried to resign.  Nor was it mentioned that Carson, later as an Indian agent, worked until his death in 1868 to protect tribes from corruption and exploitation.

Can the Carson River and Carson City be next? What about the streets in Las Vegas named for Carson and John C. Fremont?

Meanwhile, the headline on the editorial in the insert declared, “America won’t reach its potential until it honestly addresses racism.”

It decried President Trump’s orders to stop forcing federal employees to undergo training in “critical race theory,” which foists the notion of white privilege. It also blasted Trump’s hollow “threat to withhold federal funding to schools using The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project,” which teaches that the country was founded in order to protect the institution of slavery.

The editorial states, “Recognizing racism is a first step to addressing it.” Presuming racism is rampant and even systemic without solid evidence is, well, presumptuous.

Earlier in the week the morning paper carried a column by Larry Elder, who pointed out that the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald found: “A police officer is 18 1/2 times more likely to be killed by a Black male than an unarmed Black male is to be killed by a police officer.”

Everybody is engaged in serious omphaloskepsis — navel gazing.

Kit Carson Elementary (Google Street View via R-J)