July 28, 2003

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Mastering the art of French cooking, or Thomas Jefferson as slavemaster. From E.M. Halliday (2001), Understanding Thomas Jefferson (New York: HarperCollins: 0060197935):

p. 146: Lucia Stanton has woven the narrative of her monograph on slavery at Monticello around... Joe and Edy Fossett... Joe, whose mother was... Sally Hemings's half siter, was... in 1807, the plantation's head blacksmith.... [H]e had fallen inove with Edy.... When Jefferson went to White House [in 1801]... he took Edy with him for training in French cuisine.... [I]t would seem that she and Joe had gotten together now an dthen... by 1807 she had two small children, and there is no knoweldge of any other father. There was, however, a rumor of close attention to her by some other man... conveyed to Joe... in the summer of 1806.... Joe Fossett disappeared from Monticello--much to Jefferson's dismay, since Joe had "never in his life received a blow from any one," and was looked upon ass a model slave.... Joe was apprehended [at the White House] and sent back to Monticello, but not before the young couple had patched things up.... If this were a fairy tale, their ultimately goodhearted mater would have sent them back together, with his cheerful blessing; but this was Thomas Jefferson, and he was not about to curtail Edy's education in gourmet [French] cooking for the sake of a romance... [W]hen Edy finally came back in 1809 and was made Monticello's head cook, the loving couple became mates for life, and raised a total of eight children....

Jefferson's will directed that Joe Fossett should be give his freedom, effective in July 1827--presumably because he was a favorite slave as well as Sally Hemings's half-nephew. Six months before that... his wife and his children [had been] sold to the highest bidder at the auction of Monticello's "negroes." It could have been worse: Edy and their two youngest children were bought by... Joe's brother-in-law.... Two teenaged daughters were also sold to Charlottesville residents... the Fossett family had survived the Monticello auction with only three of the children lost to an unknown fate. And ten years later Joe Fossett, free Negro, having by hard work and various financial maneuvers managed to buy back his wife Edy and the children still living with her... legally emancipated them.

Posted by DeLong at July 28, 2003 08:05 PM | TrackBack

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