Thomas Jefferson and Arnold Schwarzenegger: Some Things Never Change

By , Editor
For some men of power, the plantation mentality hasn't changed much in 200 years. For all his sublime gifts and lofty rhetoric, his vision of America as an "Empire of Liberty," Thomas Jefferson, it would appear, fathered some or all of nursemaid-chambermaid-seamstress slave Sally Hemings' six children.

While historians and the Jefferson family had downplayed the probability of such a scandalous sequence of events -- brown sugar, how come you taste so good -- a 1998 DNA study concluded that Thomas Jefferson had, in the least, very likely fathered Eston Hemings, the youngest of Sally Hemings' six children, born in 1808, near the end of the Founding Father's second term as the third president of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson.jpgJefferson himself was mum on the topic, which was a persistent rumor in his day, but he did emancipate all of Hemings' children, many of whom strangely resembled the famously red-haired principal author of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, three of Hemings' children (daughter Harriet, sons Beverly and Eston) were so light-skinned that they lived as "members of white society" as adults.

How Jefferson dealt internally with the cognitive dissonance between his ideals and the fact that he was humping the involuntary help (Jefferson never did emancipate Hemings herself - Jefferson's daughter did shortly after the Sage of Monticello's death) - or whether he did, in fact, feel any cognitive dissonance at all over the cozy arrangement - it is clear that the subtext here was that the Lord and Master of his domain, the landed aristocrat, the paterfamilias, held absolute sway over his household and that should a fetching slave woman bat an eye his way, she was his for the taking.

mildred-baena.jpgOf course, this was Virginia at the turn of the 19th century. Cue to California in the late-'90s, where it appears Arnold Schwarzenegger indulged a similar privilege with Mildred "Patty" Baena, not a black slave but a brown housekeeper, and had a son with her who is now about 14 years old.

If you can morally distinguish between the sense of entitled paternalism, the grasping exceptionalism, the Will to Power over domains both great and small, at the root of these two cases of household wick-dipping, your mind is more subtle than mine.

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Eric Olsen is a career media professional and serial entrepreneur who has written influentially on a vast array of topics for periodicals, books, TV, radio, and the Internet. Olsen founded and published award winning online magazine and oversaw creation of the original content organization…

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