Author: Anonymous


“Our massa Jefferson he say” by Anonymous (September 1, 1802)

The following poem first appeared on July 10, 1802, in the Port Folio, a Federalist literary paper published in Philadelphia. The version below was reprinted in the Richmond Recorder on September 1, 1802, on the same page as James Thomson Callender‘s article accusing Thomas Jefferson of having children by his slave Sally (presumably Sally Hemings). Although this version is unsigned, the original was attributed to Asmodio, possibly referring to the biblical king known in the Talmud as “the genius of matrimonial unhappiness” and who fell in love with Sara, killing seven of her husbands in turn. According to the Jefferson biographer Fawn M. Brodie, “The choice of pseudonym is a curiosity, since ‘Sally’ is the nickname for ‘Sara,’ and the intent of the ballad maker was clearly the destruction of Sara’s ‘husband.’ It suggests that the author was a man of considerable erudition.” Some spelling has been modernized.


Letter from “A Private Citizen” to James Monroe (December 10–11, 1800)

In this letter to James Monroe, dated December 10, 1800, and printed in the Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser the next day, “A Private Citizen” praises the governor‘s handling of Gabriel’s Conspiracy. The writer goes on to claim that the potential for violence remains and that Virginia must address the problem, arguing against a gradual emancipation plan presented by St. George Tucker and instead providing his own blueprint for long-term white supremacy. Some spelling has been modernized.


The Story of Juan Ortiz; an excerpt from The Discovery and Conquest of Terra Florida by a Gentleman of Elvas (1557)

In this excerpt from The Discovery and Conquest of Terra Florida, which includes all of chapters 8 and 9, the author, known only as “A Gentleman of Elvas,” tells the story of Juan Ortiz. Ortiz was a Spanish soldier attached to an expedition to present-day Florida led by Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528 when he was captured by Indians. Eleven years later he again encountered Spaniards, who this time were under the command of Hernando de Soto. Ortiz joined Soto’s men and died during the winter of 1641–1642. This English translation comes from an edition edited by Richard Hakluyt (the younger) in 1611 and republished by the Hakluyt Society in 1851.


“Nottoway Indians” from Gentleman’s Magazine (1821)

In this short dispatch from London’s Gentleman’s Magazine, originally printed in 1821, an anonymous writer—probably John Wood, a mathematics professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg—recounts his visit to a community of Nottoway Indians in Southampton County. He mistakenly describes the Nottoways’ language as “Powhattan,” which is to say Algonquian, and even Celtic; in fact, Wood’s word list made its way from Thomas Jefferson to Stephen DuPonceau, who identified it as likely Iroquoian. In his short piece, Wood also comments on the Virginia Indians’ religion.

Sponsors  |  View all