James Hemings

Portrait by Artist to Come

1765 in Guinea, Cumberland County, Virginia
1801 in Baltimore, Maryland




James Hemings, brother of Sally Hemings, was a Monticello slave who, when Thomas Jefferson was in Paris, trained as a chef so that he could return to Monticello and train other slaves to cook in the French style. Jefferson freed him in 1796, after he had trained his brother, Peter, to master French cooking.

Sadly, the transition to freedom was not successful and James died a few year later in 1801. He was only 36 (or 37).

| Jefferson, Thomas


By 1789 many of the Federalists, particularly Hamilton, had no confidence whatsoever left in the virtue or the natural sociability of the American people as adhesive forces: to rely on such wild schemes and visionary principles, as radicals like Jefferson and Paine did, to tie the United States together, the Federalists said, was to rely on nothing. Hence Hamilton and the other Federalist leaders had to find things other than republican virtue and natural sociability to make the American people a single nation.

Tying people together, creating social cohesiveness, making a single nation out of disparate sections and communities without relying on idealistic republican adhesives — this was the preoccupation of the Federalists, and it explains much of what they did — from Washington’s proposals for building canals to Hamilton’s financial program.

Gordon S. Wood
The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States (2011)