Last Will and Testament of Thomas Jefferson--re: Hemings
The Library of Congress was kind enough to send me a copy of Thomas Jefferson's last will and testament dated March 16, 1826 together with the codicil thereto dated March 17, 1826. I could not find this document on the web so am very grateful to the Library of Congress. Of interest to me during background research for a possible novel of historical fiction is the mention of the Hemings family in the will of Mr. Jefferson. The pertinent language is to be found in the March 17, 1826 codicil reproduced, in pertinent part, below:
"I, Thomas Jefferson, of Monticello, in Albemarle, make and add the following codicil to my will, controlling the same so far as the provisions go:
* * *
I give to my good, affectionate, and faithful servant Burwell, his freedom, and the sum of three hundred dollars, to buy necessaries to commence his trade of glazier, or to use otherwise, as he pleases.
I give also to my good servants John Hemings and Joe Fossel, their freedom at the end of one year after my death; and to each of them respectively, all the tools of their respective shops or callings; and it is my will that a comfortable log-house be built for each of the three servants so emancipated, on some part of my lands convenient to them with respect to the residence of their wives, and to Charlottesville and the University, where they will be mostly employed, and reasonably convenient also to the interests of the proprietor of the lands, of which houses I give the use of one, with curtilage of an acre to each, during his life or personal occupation thereof.
I give also to John Hemings the service of his two apprentices Madison and Easton Hemings, until their respective ages of twenty-one years, at which period respectively, I give them their freedom; and I humbly and earnestly request of the legislature of Virginia a confirmation of the bequest of freedom to these servants, with permission to remain in this State, where their families and connections are, as an additional instance of the favor, of which I have received so many other manifestations in the course of my life, and for which I now give them my last, solemn, and dutiful thanks.
In testimony that this is a codicil to my will of yesterday's date, and that it is to modify so far the provisions of that will, I have written it all with my own hand in two pages, to each of which I subscribe my name, this seventeenth day of March, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six."
/sig Thomas Jefferson
Reprinted from The Works of Thomas Jefferson, collected and edited by Paul Leicester Ford, Vol. XII (Putnam and Sons 1905).