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.On the surface the three oldest Hemings brothers’ circumstances were alike.Jefferson reposed a great amount of trust in all three men and gave them privileges that others did not have.Their ultimate destinies suggest that all along there was, in fact, a profound difference in their situations: only Robert and James were destined to be emancipated by Jefferson.And when he did let them go and decided to have another personal servant, he did not replicate the relationship he had had with either Robert or James.Martin Hemings had a very tense and fateful moment with Jefferson during one of his infrequent trips back to the mountain during the early 1790s.The first hint that he would not continue to live at Monticello came in a letter Jefferson wrote to Daniel Hylton in November 1792.Unlike that of his sister Mary, who had managed her departure in as smooth a way as possible, Hemings’s eventual separation from the life he had known for almost two decades began in turmoil and ended in mystery.Martin and myself disagreed when I was last in Virginia insomuch that he desired me to sell him, and I determined to do it, and most irrevocably that he shall serve me no longer.If you could find a master agreeable to him, I should be glad if you would settle that point at any price you please: for as to price I will subscribe to any one with the master whom he shall chuse.Any credit may be given which shall be desired in reason.Perhaps Martin may undertake to find a purchaser.But I exclude all idea of his own responsibility: and I would wish that the transaction should be finished without delay, being desirous of avoiding all parley with him myself on the subject.8The last visit referred to in this letter had taken place earlier that year.After an eight-and-a-half-month absence—from the end of October 1791 until the end of July 1792—Jefferson returned to Monticello from Philadelphia.9 He stayed there for a little over two months and then went back to the capital, not to come home again until the following year.One can imagine the difficulty these types of drop-in visits caused, especially for slaves who were expected to snap to attention and deal with the extremely self-absorbed and exacting Jefferson.He was, as we have seen, a man who could not stand to live in a rented house without remodeling its rooms to fit his specifications—even for the short time that he might be living there.Rearranging the lives of the people who served in the house—so long as he was, in his view, nice about it—would have been of no great moment.Neither the cause nor the substance of his quarrel with Martin Hemings was ever disclosed.It must have been extremely serious for Hemings to have demanded to be sold and for Jefferson to have agreed to it with such alacrity.Hemings had been the butler at Monticello for twenty years, since he was nineteen years old.He was hardly a young man, and here he was opting for a life away from the most obvious sources of emotional support—not to gain freedom itself but just to be free of Jefferson.His departure would represent a momentous break in his own life and a real change in the structure of life at Monticello.While Jefferson made clear that he wanted Hemings to find a master of his own choice, and that he was willing to take any price in order to help matters along, suggesting solicitousness toward the man, his anger is palpable.There was here no viewing “every human being” for what it was “good for” or “keeping out of the way of the bad” aspects of the person.He was clearly furious at Hemings, and he fulfilled the truth of one of his grandchildren’s observations that he never talked about anything that he did not want to talk about.He and Martin Hemings had gone past the point of return, Hemings having said or done something so serious as to make Jefferson want to sever contact as completely as possible.Jefferson could have forced Hemings to continue at Monticello and, if required, had him beaten into submission.Certainly, any attempt to bring Hemings around by using the whip would have set off a chain reaction in a household staff made up entirely of Hemings’s relatives.Whether they would have protested aloud or not, even a slight negative change in the atmosphere would have damaged the willed harmony that Jefferson sought to maintain everywhere he went.Then there was the matter of Hemings’s younger half sister Sally.What would brutal treatment of her brother make her think of him? There was no need for a naked display of his power over Martin Hemings if the matter could be handled in a different way and keep some semblance of peace, and perhaps even make himself look good.The way Jefferson handled this, casting himself as the accommodating master, minimized the scope of the complaints that Martin Hemings’s relatives could raise about what was happening.The substance of the dispute would never be detailed in print, but Jefferson’s procedural “fairness” would be duly noted [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]