Jefferson in Paris (1995) - full transcript

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old slave Sally Hemings. JEFFERSON IN PARIS follows Jefferson to France (as the U.S. ambassador to the court of Louis XVI), following the death of his wife his friendships and flirtations with the French, his relationship with his daughters and slaves from home (especially Sally), against the backdrop of the beginning of the French Revolution.

My wife, Mary Hemings, was Mary McCoy.
We never took the name Jefferson, sir.

We's all Hemingses.

I trust you had no trouble
finding our place?

We are a bit out of the way.

Yes, well, we journalists
will always find our destination

if there's a good story at the end of it.

- Sit, please.
- Oh, well, thank you.


It's like this, sir. When my father died
he was what they calls bankrupt.

Your father being...
President Thomas Jefferson?

Yes, sir. That is true and correct.

He was the third President
of the United States.

- You write mighty fast, sir.
- Ah! We call this shorthand.


Mary don't read or write nothin'.

I learned on my own self. Got
the white children to learn me in secret.

Mr. Lettinger, has anybody ever told you

it was against the law to learn a Negro
how to read and write during slavery?

They did tell about some owners

that cut off a finger every time
they catch a slave tryin' to get learnin'.

They was afraid, you see, of the Negro
readin' and getting to know too much.

Getting ideas in his head.

Mary, take my key
and bring them things out.

There was four of us living at Monticello.

The children of Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings.

There was three of us boys,
Beverly, Eston and myself. Madison.

We had one sister, Harriet.


Did Mr. Jefferson have children with any
other slave woman besides your mother?

No. Only our mother.
We was the only ones.

Did Mr. Jefferson ever show you
any partiality or fatherly affection?

He didn't favor us like he did
his white children and grandchildren,

but we was well treated.

Didn't have to do any field work
or any other hard labor.

My sister Harriet was put to
weavin' and spinnin' and such,

in a little factory on the home plantation.

And I was put to the carpenter trade.

My brother Eston and me
was more of the African blood.

But my brother Beverly,
you couldn't hardly tell him from white.

He so took after my father that
they tell the story of a French gentleman

dining with Mr. Jefferson
and seeing Beverly.

He did give a mighty jump to see
the spittin' image of Thomas Jefferson

serving his soup.

They were given by my father
to my mother.

And when she dies, she give 'em to me.

So these are your sole and only...

- May I?
- Sure.

Sole and only legacy
from Thomas Jefferson?

Oh, no, sir. Our legacy was our freedom,
long before emancipation.

By the age of 21
we could pick up and leave.

Wasn't slaves no more.

This was written in the will of our father
and his solemn promise to our mother:

"All our children will be free."

"I will set them free."

- And so it was done.
- It was mighty sweet to be free, sir.

They used to sing a song...

Free at last. Free at last.

Thank God Almighty I's free at last.

Once was a moaner.

Just like you.

Thank God Almighty I's free at last.

Lord, Lord, Lord,
them days was the days. Mm?

Thank God Almighty I's free at last.

Sure did fast and I did pray.

Thomas Jefferson,

minister plenipotentiary
of the United States of America.

"In the name of
the United States of America,"

"I have the great honor
of paying homage to Your Majesty,"

"as well as to all members
of the royal family."

"Au nom des Etats-Unis d'Amérigue

"J'ai I'insigne honneur de presenter
mes hommages a Votre Majeste."

"Ainsi gu'a toute la famille royale."

"It is in obedience
to the express commands"

"of the Congress
of the United States of America"

"that I have the honor
of assuring Your Majesty..."

"C'est sur I'ordre expres des membres
Du congres des Etats-Unis d'Amérique."

"Que jai Le privilege d'assurer
Votre Majesté..."

"Of their unanimous disposition
and desire to cultivate"

"the most friendly and liberal intercourse
between Your Majesty's subjects"

"and their citizens."

"De leur désir empressé
de tous ses membres"

"de nouer Les liens Les plus amicaux
et Les plus riches"

"entre Les sujets de Votre Majesté
et Les citoyens de leur pays."

"Another great nation, sire,
is rising in America."

Um... Have you found a good house?

I thank Your Majesty for your kind concern.

I have agreed to the Hotel de Langeac,
by the Grille de Chaillot.

It's very important to have
a decent house in Paris.

Antoine. Bon Dieu!

Oh hisse. Oh hisse. Oh hisse.

Donne Du pied. Donne Du pied. La.

Look over these figures again.
We don't want to be caught out.

All right. All right.

All right. All right.

I want a bull's-eye opening.

I veut un oeil-de-boeuf.

Mon Dieu.

You'd better get used to
getting hit over the head.

Master can't live but he's pulling
something down and building something up

and pulling that down again.


Come see!

A new girl.

She's odd-looking, but pretty.
She must come from abroad.

Good day, Mr. Jefferson,

Please follow me.
I'll take you to Mother Superior.

Par ici. Je vous prie.

Your father will see you before he leaves.

A fine, tall girl.

She has inherited your height, monsieur.

Yes, and that's no trifle
for a girl to inherit.

I'm relieved that your English is so greatly
superior to my French, madame L'Abbesse.

Because what I wish to say

is not altogether easy
to express in any language.

Perhaps I may even venture
to express it for you, monsieur.

We have 55 girls studying in the convent.

Of these, 15 are not Catholic,

but, like your daughter,
of various Protestant persuasions.

These girls are completely free
to pursue their own religious faith

and no attempt is ever made
to convert them to ours.

I assure you,

they emerge quite as good Protestants
as when they entered.

You will forgive my perhaps
somewhat exaggerated anxiety.

For an American, freedom of religious
conscience is one of our great principles.

I believe, monsieur,

you have to fulfill the part of both
father and mother to your daughter?

My wife died three years ago.

Well, Patsy,

this is not any kind of parting.

James will be coming to fetch you home
on Saturday afternoon

and every Saturday after that.

If only Polly and Lucy were with me.

One day soon both your sisters
will join us here,

and our little family will be reunited.

I promise you.

You know that I live only for that day.

And I live only for Saturday.

There's something in my eye.



Just the right amount of nutmeg.
The sauce is well-seasoned.

It could be reduced more
for finicky palates...

Get the glasses!

This dish could be served
at the best French tables!

Come have a drink with us
at the tavern tonight.

Pas de monnaie. No money.

People here
get paid for working!

- Ask the master for wages!
- You should be paid like us.

Put more wood on.

- Master.
- You see how this works, James?

As the wheel turns,
the distance is recorded on this meter.

- Master.
- What is it, James?

I was wanting to say...

This should be most helpful
in recording accurate boundaries.

- Within certain limits.
- I was wanting to say...

Wanting to say what, James?

I like finished sentences.

Yes, master, and what it is
I was wanting to finish is...

I wants to get paid.

Master, I want some money.

In our present circumstances,
your request is not unreasonable.

I shall tell Monsieur Petit
that on the first of each month

you are to receive 24 francs
by the way of salary.

You realize that this arrangement
holds good only in Paris,

and that at Monticello
we shall revert to our own system.

Yes, master. Thank you.

- I sure enough realize 24 francs.
- You understand. James?

- Yes, sir.
- Very well.

You mock our poor Queen.


Out of misguided modesty

she avoids drawn-out,
scandalous affairs...

By saying "yes" at once!

What would you do if your husband
were sluggish and impotent to boot?

I'd jump in his brother's bed!

Leaving aside the tapir,
we still have among us the moose.

Nous avons tout de méme I'élan.

- L'élan?
- L'élan. The moose.

The American moose stands so tall that a
reindeer can walk with ease under its belly.

I'd like to see that!

And so you shall, Monsieur de Buffon.

I have the pleasure
of introducing you to a moose.



Down with Calonne!

No more foreign adventures!

The fan.

- Vous connaissez Adrienne.
- Je suis ravie. Vraiment.

Cher monsieur. Bonsoir.


What an adventure, my dear.
We're lucky to be here at all.

They lit an enormous bonfire and they're
throwing on all they can lay their hands on.

I was certain they were going to drag us
out of our coach and throw us on top too.

I told them I was quite prepared
to sacrifice Maria, of course.

I said "Take her. She's much more
inflammable than I am."

- Mr. Cosway.
- You are. You know you are.

Now, let me introduce you to Mr. Thomas
Jefferson and his daughter, Patsy.

Mrs. and Mr. Richard Cosway, one of
the greatest English painters of the day.

What am I saying?
The greatest English painter.

Vous exagérez. My dear Lafayette.
Comme toujours.

So I said to the coachman
"Who is this they're burning?"

"The biggest rascal on earth,"
he said, "and burning's too good for him."

Calonne? Was that his name?
Minister of Finance.

I should not like to fall into the hands
of your Paris mob.

People of Paris need only one little spark
and boom! They explode.

The tables are laid and waiting!

Sit wherever you like.

We can't eat now!
We want to perform first.

- Come, friends.
- We've rehearsed for hours!

You'll be even more entertaining
after dinner.


Au revoir. My dear.

I will rejoin you afterwards.

Your secretary appears to admire
the duchess. We should be happy for her.

She is married to her uncle,
who is 40 years older than she.

Is your daughter here
to learn French manners and morals?

Manners to some extent,
but when it comes to morals,

we should keep to our own.

- Why? Are yours better than ours?
- They are better for us.

That is. For us Americans.

- And are they difficult to learn?
- Certainly not difficult to unlearn.

Pourquoi pas?

Les plus forts Ont fait la loi.

Les plus forts Ont fait la loi.

Les plus forts Ont fait la loi.

Tell me about America.

Madam, the subject is as large
as the land itself.

England is so small.

Even the sky is small.

In Italy. It is a vast cerulean blue.
It is not so much sky as heaven.

You are Italian?

Mr. Jefferson!
Mr. Jefferson. Can you tell me?

Is it true what my young friends are telling
me, that the revolt of our American colonies

was really against trade restrictions?

All you wanted, you Americans,
was the liberty to drink French wine.

Instead of English beer, one might say
that exchange alone was worth our trouble.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,"

"that they are endowed by their creator
with certain unalienable rights."

Tous Les hommes naissent-ils
vraiment égaux. Mr. Jefferson?

Are all men created equal. Mr. Jefferson?

Ou serait-il plus légitime de dire
"Tous Les blancs naissent-ils égaux'?

Or should this read,
"All white men are created equal"?

We allowed for certain differences
that are not caused by the laws of men

but by those of nature.

And though the Negro may not be inferior,

his status in no way
alters the wrongness of slavery.

It is evil.

Yet your first draft, I believe, contained
a clause on the abolition of slavery.

I considered it essential,

but Congress struck it out of the final
Declaration as being too particular.

La question de I'esclavage reste donc
ouvette et non résolue Chez vous.

So the question remains open with you,
and unsolved.

Votre revolution. Mr. Jefferson.
Nous apparait comme incomplete.

Your revolution, Mr. Jefferson,
appears to be incomplete.

Why did you omit the notion of property
as one of those rights?

Well, while I hold the right of the
individual to possess property as basic,

I consider it as a means
to human happiness...

but not as an end in itself.

It is Madame Cosway.

Mormora il fiumicello.

J Per la fiorita riva

sussurra il venticello tra I rami.

E I'uno e I'altro a sospirar m'invita.

Piangendo. Il rosignolo.

Perché mi chiami a pianger solo?

- E. O solitario amico.
- Elle est exquise.

Perché. Compagna.

A suoi dolor mi brami?

It is only Monsieur d'Hancarville
declaring that he loves me.

He thinks I don't take him seriously.
But how can I?

A man of society has to be in love,
preferably with a married woman.

And Monsieur d'Hancarville has done me
the honor of choosing me.

Monsieur d'Hancarville!

Oh, do go. My dear,
and see if we are wanted.

Please, do go.

Are you always cruel
to those who love you?

It's just a game we both play.

That's how it is here.

People play at love. It's not serious.

It is different in Italy.
There, we kill for it.

Well, that is going too far.

Why? How far do you go in America?

Oh, in America.
In America we stay at home

and are happy and contented
with the wives we have chosen.

Ah. If you can choose.
And are you happy and contented?

Oh, forgive me.

I have been told that your wife died
in giving birth to your son.

My daughter, Lucy.

- And the child?
- The child survived.

- So you have two daughters?
- I have three daughters living.

We lost our first child
when she was 18 months old.

Do you have no son?

He did not survive beyond 17 days.

The perfect place for it. Come on.

Quick, if we're going to play this game.

Heads and Hearts.
Now, let's divide up a little bit.

Hearts should be on this side. That's
right. So you have to stay there, Mr. Short.

Heads on this side.
Monsieur d'Hancarville.

Mr. Jefferson, I think you belong
over there with the Heads.

And that's right. Maria.
Definitely with the Hearts.

I know to my cost that she has no heart.

And I, to mine, that she has no head.

You would know too
if you had to pay her bills as I do.

So I shall start.
For the head,

friendship is but another word for
an alliance with the misfortunes of others.

Our own share of miseries is sufficient.
Why take on those of another?

Quand Le malheur
nous arrache des larmes.

N'est-il pas bon d'avoir un ami
pour essuyer nos pleurs?

When sorrow makes us weep, how sweet it is
to have a friend to wipe away our tears.

With such a comfort,
our very grief may turn to joy.

Come, come, Mr. Short. Take a man's part
and speak up for the head.

Well, sir, when my heart speaks,
the rest of me must needs be silent.

What rubbish!

Nothing is in our power
except intellectual pleasure.

In contemplating truth and nature,
matter and motion,

we ride, serene and sublime

above the concerns
of this mortal world.

Listen to me! All the frigid
speculations of the head

are not worth
one generous spasm of the heart.

The best way of being secure
against pain is to retire within ourselves

and to suffice for our own happiness.

Nobody cares for him
who cares for nobody.

A wise man will only depend on himself.

It's not your turn, madam,
nor is it your turn, sir.

I believe it's the Heads' turn.
It's the Heads' turn.

He's lost his head,
and she's lost her heart.

Yes, you, Mrs. Cosway, must speak only
from your tender heart. Now, answer me.

Is it not in the company of a friend
that nature wears her liveliest hue?

- Whence did she borrow it?
- From our charming companion.

Speak only from your head. Mr. Jefferson.

Our heart is pleased
because she is pleased.

No one is pleased at all. You've ruined
the game and lost everything.

- Monsieur. Monsieur.
- Assez. Assez.


This place makes me shudder.

Ill-formed, overloaded monstrosities.

When I was 17, I wanted to take my vows,

as a nun.

I see you're amused.

This is only because you are the opposite
of everything gloomy and ascetic.

To me you appear all clarity and light.

Of this world, not the next.

It's true. I was born in the sun
and I can't live without it.

But when my father died, we had to leave
Florence and go to London.

We were poor, but I had a little talent for
painting and ambition to become an artist.

But instead...

You were married.

Mr. Cosway encourages me to paint,
but not to exhibit my work.

I tell you freely about myself and my life,

but about yourself you keep everything
hidden and closed.

When my wife died, I destroyed every letter
that had ever passed between us.

I wanted no one to find
the least trace of our happiness.

It was hers and mine.

And then only mine.

To be shared with no one.

Miss Jefferson, please sit still.

Enough now.
It looks fine as it is.

I've been sitting here for hours!

Stay calma.

This is unbearable!

Voila. Vas-y. Doucement. Doticement.
Voila. Voila.

Cara. I see Signor Leonardo's
been with you.

Let me look.

I would be proud, Mr. Jefferson,
to have such a pretty daughter.

Mrs. Cosway plays well.

On Sunday last. I went as a private
citizen. And accompanied by my daughter.

To the Palace of Versailles.

(usher} Le roil.

We joined the crowd admitted
according to some ancient custom

to view the king and queen
on their way to Mass.

I meant to impress upon my daughter
the vainglory of these spectacles.

May we Americans never emulate them.

Nor burden our taxpayers
with such useless splendors.

Quelle joie de vous avoir parmi nous.

The royal procession
showed an unexpected informality

and animation of spirits.

It is said that this is due
to Marie Antoinette.

Who tries to make such occasions
agreeable to her husband.

Who is often awkward and unsociable.

no other American ambassador

gave us the pleasure
of meeting his family.

You should have come earlier!
What is your name?

- Martha Jefferson.
- Monsieur L'Ambassadeur.


There's nothing to fear, Patsy.
She was only asking your name,

and quite charmingly.

Daily life at court
is still ruled by an etiquette so rigid

that the most private pursuits
of the king and queen

are converted into public ceremony.

It is like watching actors. Fantastically
painted. Bewigged and bejeweled.

Disporting themselves on a stage.

The leading actress. Though never
a popular one. Is the queen.

Whose extravagance is blamed for the
desperate financial situation of France.

But the king loves her very much.
And she rules him completely.

As a foreigner and Austrian. She feels
lonely and isolated at the French court.

And has surrounded herself
with her own little band of favorites.

They love to play
at being simple shepherdesses.

A game that is said to cost
the exchequer one million livres a year.

But the friendship of the shepherdesses
is based on their ferocious greed.

The queen's favorites take advantage of
her lonely craving for affection.

Threatening to leave her
Whenever she fails to accede

to their insatiable demands.

- Bon. D'accord.
- Oh. Allez.


Ia la. La la la. La. La.

The French royal family are the butt
of salacious skits and slanders

unimaginable in any other
Christian kingdom.

The queen is depicted with the appetites
of a Messalina or a Sappho.

Or engaged in incestuous monstrosities
with the Count d'Artois.

The king's debauched brother.

"The Surrender at Yorktown."

Well done, Trumbull.
It's very lifelike!

And that is you, sir, here, on the left
of my little sketch. And hard to see.

I assure you that in the finished painting,

no one will ask,
"Where is General Lafayette?"

And here is Lord Cornwallis, surrendering.

Ah. No, a mistake, sir.
It was not Cornwallis.

Milord feigned sickness
to escape sharing his men's humiliation.

Then I'm very sorry.
I must have been misinformed in London.

Probably on purpose.

You really rubbed their noses in it,
playing Yankee Doodle!

Yankee Doodle went to town
riding on a pony

I was shaking like a leaf with the malaria
I'd caught in your confounded swamps.

- And this is Monsieur...
- Ah. De Viromesnil.

Is that you, Viromésnil?

I didn't recognize you
with two legs on!

Inform Mr. Jefferson.

We're asking
no more than our due.

The eye I've given them
deserves a pension.

My dear friend.
My dearest friend and comrade,

we are all here comrades, and so
perhaps it is not too greatly indelicate

to mention what weighs
on these gentlemen.

Although a considerable amount
is due for their services

rendered in the American war, the States
have not yet paid their debts to them.

Promises must be kept.

I'd never have thought
we'd have to beg!

Not even the interest.

Sir, we put our lives in danger.

We sacrificed arms and legs...

We offered them willingly
for your cause!

Many of these gallant officers
have lost limbs,

or have been disabled in other ways,

fighting for our cause.

Yet all requests for moneys
justly due to them have been ignored.

The fact is, Mr. Short, there is no money.
Our Congress is insolvent.

I know that your own salary
hasn't been paid yet.

Let alone my salary.

I haven't been reimbursed for the outlay
I've made on my domestic establishment.

Well, that is a personal matter.

But all this financial business
presses on my mind like a mountain.

This is to inform the Congress that
our crushing debts compel me forthwith

to journey to The Hague.

I intend to appeal to
some private Dutch bankers.

Who are justly famous
for their financial wizardry.

These shrewd moneymen
have devised a loan to cover our interest

on another loan.

A bit of juggling to restore our credit

and honor our debt
to those gallant French officers.

Bouge pas.

- Mr. Short.
- Mrs. Cosway.

- It was unexpected and most urgent.
- Evidently.

He was promised for the féte on Friday.

I trust we will have the honor
of your presence, Mr. Short.

- You keep faith with your friends, I hope.
- Alas, madam, I leave for Rome tomorrow.

Also on urgent business.


I've heard that you Americans
are always on urgent business.

Your friends miss you.
And none more than myself.

And Mr. Cosway. Who. However. Has much
to fill his time within this place.

I pass my more solitary hours

in great hopes of a continuance
of our happy days together.

I imagine I see you
smiling down at me once more.

Absence from a friend grown dear...

is harder than I'd imagined.

My dear Mrs. Cosway...

Nor had I imagined
how dear this friend had grown to me.

My dear friend...

How close to my heart.

My dear. Dear friend.

Absence from a friend grown dear
is harder than I imagined.

I observe the hog of this land.
Of which the celebrated ham is made.

Is tall, gaunt and with heavy lop ears.

People here pride themselves
on their unique smokehouses

that have no chimney.

But I had the pleasure
of informing them that in Virginia

we use the same method
of smoking our bacon.

Accipe. Carissima soror. Lumen Christi.

Accipe. Carissima soror. Lumen Christi.

When they rise,
it's called the resurrection

after having been dead to the world.

But why are you crying?

It's with joy.


Wait, dear.

I wanted to see you.

And I hoped you might want to see me.

You must miss your father
so very much in his absence.

- He'll be back soon.
- Oh? When? Have you had word?

I had hoped to know you better. And even,
if you will let me, to be your friend.

Thank you, madam.

You see, I know how it is to be
a foreigner in a foreign country.

I was born in that condition. For in Italy
I am English and in England I'm Italian.

But I'm American everywhere.

Yes. There you are like your father.

Wherever he is. He is what he is.

There is another reason why I feel
such a sympathy for you and your family.

Because you have suffered tragedy
in the loss of your mother

and so many little brothers and sisters.

My childhood was also made tragic
for my poor parents,

and in a most horrible and unnatural way.

May I tell you?
May I tell you my story?

I had three little sisters and a brother,
all of whom died very suddenly.

And only I and one
little brother were left.

One day, someone overheard
my Italian nurse singing to me:

"I have sent four to heaven before you,"

"and now I will send you too,
and save your eternal soul."

It was she who had
poisoned the little babies,

for what. In her madness,
she thought was their salvation.

Imagine the state of mind
and heart of my poor parents.

You will understand better than anyone
that I have to stay with Papa always,

that he needs me.

He will never marry again, because that is
what he vowed to Mama on her deathbed.

Look! Look who it is.

- We are so glad to see you, Mr. Jefferson.
- We're enchanted to see you.

We thought you'd completely forgotten us.

I arrived from my travels
only one hour ago.

Come on up. Come on, come on.

- What a dwarf!
- Is it drafty up there?

Ah. Mr. Jefferson.

You're so attached to the opera that you
would not waste a moment to come here.

Say rather so attached to my friends,
whom I hoped to find here.

Well, sir, you have found us.

But it is by no means certain
that my wife is any longer your friend.

See how angry your neglect has made her.

Why would I be angry?

Alas, my duties were official,
or I would have returned weeks ago.

Women will never believe any business

could take precedence
over our business with them.

Mr. Jefferson. Take your bow.

Ah, Mademoiselle Contat!

Such large hats
are forbidden in the theater now!

Throw me in the Bastille then,
with the thieves,

the forgers
and the child molesters!

Meanwhile, come join us
as we yawn through the ballets.

Well, Mr. Jefferson, I shall leave you
to make your peace as best you can.

Come, Monsieur d'Hancarville.
Be at least as tactful as her husband.

I came back as soon as I could.

I was restless for Paris.

I can't imagine you restless,

or even thinking of anyone or anything except - what do you call it?

the business at hand.

I thought of you constantly.
I wrote you constantly.

Yes, about smoked bacon and hogs.

What an extraordinary person you are.

I hoped to interest you
in what interested me.

I missed you. I missed you immensely.

Bravo! Bravo!

I kept having a debate
between my head and my heart.

Which, in your case, the head always wins.

Not this time. My poor head was
simply whirled around by my unruly heart.

Oh, your heart.

It kept telling me "I love the lady",

and will continue to love her forever."

"If she were on one side of the globe
and I on the other,

I would pierce through the whole mass
of the world to reach her."


Bring Dardanus to me!

I want to kiss him!
I want to go up to Heaven with him!

Get him a new wig!

And new legs, too!


They seem to have
survived the ordeal.

Don't you wish it were possible
to fly off to America?

Yes, if I could take you with me.

It is not impossible.
We are not on the other side of the moon.

- But what are you saying?
- I'm saying "Come to America."

Come to Monticello.

Leave everything? Leave everything here?
Leave my husband?

I have thought of it sometimes.

Mr. Cosway and I have even spoken of it.

We are good friends,
although he does not...

he cannot love me
the way a man loves a woman.

You must have guessed that.

What I guessed from the beginning
was that you needed me as I need you.

Within a year or two, my government
will recall me from my assignment here,

and I shall go home for good.

Which is what you want
more than anything in the world.

I can't deny that all my wishes end

where I hope my days will end,
at Monticello.

But to leave you...

To leave you behind,
with all the ocean between us,

and no... no hope of ever seeing you again.

But even if I had no vows to break,
what about yours?

You vowed to your wife...

You and I are alive,

and the earth belongs to us,

to the living.

Would you dare?

Would you?

Yes. Yes.

For you... for you I would dare anything.

- Would fly in the balloon.
- Oh, no. No.

It might carry you too far away from me.

- Yet I would ford a flood.
- No, that's too dangerous.

Then I would leap over these logs.


Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson.

What have you done?
What have you done?

Pardon. Monsieur.

But he's going the wrong way
for Mr. Jefferson's house.

Yes, I told him to drive
straight to the ball.

It is fashionable to be late
to a certain degree,

but beyond that limit it is uncouth.

Not to visit a sick friend
for fear of being late for a ball.

Not a ball, madam. It is the ball.

Everyone will be there. Le tout Paris.
Except, of course, Mr. Jefferson.

Poor Mr. Jefferson.
We must send him some calf's-foot jelly.

Whatever it is one sends to invalids
who have hurt their wrist.

Oh, forgive me, madam,
I forgot to tell you.

I have secured passage
for the packet on Thursday.

I have, thank heaven, finished recording

the entire Orléans family for posterity
and we are now free to go home.

Dear, dull London.
I've grown weary of Paris, have not you?

There are many amusements, it's true,
but some of them are of the wrong kind.

I write with pain and must be short.

Failing a private messenger.
I send this letter whatever way I can.

I fear it may be opened at the post office
and my words. Meant only for you.

Read by spies and strangers.

When you come next.
I shall never let you part from me again.

But are you coming to Paris?
I dread the answer may be no.

And that all this time
my fond heart has been deceiving me.

Look into my eyes.


A power now pervades you.

My wand...
and my fingertips...

will do the rest.

Nature touches upon the Divine.

The Divine flows...

I have made myself the medium
between this force and you.

From me into you.


Receive from my eyes

this heavenly current
which lessens pain

and assuages souls
tormented by every malady.

I tingle all over.

I am reborn.
My body is purified.

I'm overwhelmed!
My senses are abandoning me!

My body throbs!

Will you excuse me?


Calm down. Dear friend. You must give it
a chance. It can cure you.

This is just trash and tricks
for the weak mind.

The method is completely scientific.

I myself have been cured of all sorts
of ailments through animal magnetism.

Du pain! Du pain!

Du pain!

The high price of bread
in France is an old grievance.

But now. The many deprivations
coming all together.

Whether these be bread or fuel
and warm clothes for the dreadful winter.

Are judged by the populace
to be insupportable.

Once the French people get started,
they don't go to it with gloves on.

Their wrath has found an object
in the person of the queen.

Who devotes herself to her amusements.

Indulging in
every current fancy and delusion.

She welcomes fashionable charlatans.
Like the dangerous Dr. Mesmer.

And allows them intimacies such as
freedom to touch the royal person

that not so long ago would have
condemned them to the rack.

It's very amusing.

Please, do sit down.
You'll see.

While outside the people
starve and freeze to death.

The queen and her ladies
are cozy in warm chambers

scented by blooms
from the royal hothouse.

And dressed as if
it were a different season.

Or as if they lived in a different climate
from the rest of France.

Is it any wonder that Marie Antoinette
is hated by the people?

What a perfect patient.

The doors to healing
are now open.

Here you are, Monsieur.
Don't be shy. Come to Mother.

Go on, Dr. Mesmer.

Watch this. It's a fascinating
scientific experiment.

Look at the Duchess.
Isn't she funny?

Oh. Majesté.

How was your trip?

Yet their sentiments have not changed
toward the little dauphin.

Who is still loved. As is the king himself.

Despite the iniquities
he has come to represent.

The Marquis de Lafayette
and other liberal aristocrats

are eager to break down
the monstrous privilege

both of their own quarter
and of the clergy.

They propose to revive a long-dormant
assembly called the States General.

Which has not convened since 1614.

In this. The common people
will have their own elected deputies.

To be called the Third Estate.

But the king.
Who has the most to lose. Says:

"What does it matter if I give up
some of my own authority."

"As long as my people are happy?"

London is so melancholy.

There is something in this air
Which always makes me sad.

How I long for blue skies
and for church bells.

And for your presence.

What am I without seeing
or hearing from you?

Write to me. Write to me.

I live only in your letters.
And in memories of our "jours hetreux,"

our happy days together.

It is impossible
to paint the anguish of my heart.

Confined a week to her bed.
With the whooping cough.

Your dear angel. Lucy. Was thrown
into convulsion and then expired.

She retained her senses perfectly.

Called me a few moments before she died.
And asked distinctly for water.

You shall always, always,
above everyone, be first in my life.

I vow to you now, as you vowed to Mama.

No one shall ever come between us.

I shall write to your Aunt Elizabeth
that Polly must come to France

on the next available ship
before winter sets in.

Her nurse may accompany her.

I will be her nurse and her mother
and her sister and her everything

and your everything, dearest Papa.

Oh. Your poor wrist.

The surgeon has made
a bad thing of setting it.

I may have to carry it as a reminder
of foolishness the rest of my life.

Polly, dearest.

You may imagine. My dear Mrs. Eppes.

How greatly we desire
to have Polly with us.

And never to be parted from her again.

The voyage and the change of domicile
would be greatly eased for her

by the company of any one servant
to whom she is particularly attached.

I's goin' with you. We two, we be laughing
and jokin' each other all the way.

We's gonna ride on a big old ship.

Oh, and we be rockin' on the water.

Ain't that gay, Polly? Huh?

Ain't that gay?

My grandmother, Betty Hemings,

was the daughter of
a full-blooded African slave woman

and an English sea captain,
name of Hemings.

She was the property of Mr. John Wayles.

Mr. Jefferson,
having married Mr. Wayles' daughter,

my grandmother and all of her kin
came to live at Monticello.

That is. Thomas Jefferson inherited your
family from his wife's father, John Wayles.

Yes, sir. Mr. Wayles was the father
of Mrs. Thomas Jefferson.

He was also the father of my mother,
Sally Hemings,

and her brother, James Hemings,

and four other offspring he had with my
grandmother, who he took as concubine.

So Mrs. Thomas Jefferson
and Sally Hemings...

were half-sisters.

Ain't no use in asking
who is sister with who

and who the father
and who the brother.

They don't speak of it now
and they didn't speak of it then.

No matter whose blood flows in your veins,

you either master or you slave.

You're white or you're black.
There no in-between.

Occupez-vous des bagages.

Welcome, Miss Polly.

Here she is!


Hello, Sally.

What is it? Have you forgotten
your own sister, Patsy, and your papa?

- We missed you.
- You let her be away from us too long.

- Help me up with her.
- Your wrist.

It'll be all right.

Oh, we missed you.


Welcome to France,
Mademoiselle Jefferson.

To the land of liberty and equality -
or soon it will be.

- Polly, come on inside.
- It's all right.

- Come with Papa.
- Sally!

So. Granny's gone?


She was sick a while.

You see her there, layin' in bed,

and she couldn't take nothin' to eat.

Little Isaac, he tried givin' her
a piece o' his crust.

But she said "Uh-uh.
Granny don't want bread no more."

They done bury her
over by Weaver's Cottage.

Sit down, Mademoiselle.

He said "Sit."


This is my sister.


- Get to work!
- Let's celebrate Sally's arrival.

You have a beautiful sister.

Eh bien.
Nous allons examiner Ce poignet.

Jespére qu'il n'est pas trop douloureuix.

It's still very swollen.

This will take longer to heal
than you thought.

You wants a poultice on that, master.

With hot ashes and mustard.

My old nurse at Tuckahoe
had all kinds of roots and herbs

for the mumps and the whooping cough
and every sort of ache and pain.

And no medicine ever suited me
as well or tasted better.

I have some letters for you, sir.

Letters from a lady.

- And how is the lady?
- She sends her regards.

Thank you.

My French harpsichord is easier.

Did you receive
my last two letters?

What does this silence mean.
Inconstant friend?

I live in misery waiting for
a letter from you.

Unable to bear this anxiety. I have taken
a passage for Calais on Thursday next.

I am in a million fears about you.

I long to be with you.

- Polly.
- Lucy. Lucy.

What if little Lucy wasn't dead,

but was sittin' up in her coffin
in the cold, wet ground?

- Patsy.
- Hush.

You hush.

Our little Lucy is an angel now,
in heaven with Mama.

Where have you been?

This is for master's poor hand.

When Miss Polly
is home from the convent,

you were to sleep with her, I told you.

Go on.


Try some of this.

It might do you some good.

Did Sally make it?

Well, I'll try anything.

Walk like ladies.

The cake's all dough.

You needn't mind the weather.

If the wind don't blow.

While it is true that under French law
slavery is considered illegal,

I don't think that American citizens
need to be too concerned.

My advice to you would be to keep
your boy here and say nothing about him.

- Where are you from?
- Byrd's Nest, Gooseland County.

Mr. James Byrd is my master.

Would you be knowin' Suzie Melton,
what was cook there one time?

- Married Israel Jefferson of Monticello?
- She be my mother's own sister.

- Lordy.
- Ain't it a small world to turn around in?

What sort of place would that be,
Byrd's Nest?

Oh, we's getting on most fine.
Plenty to eat.

New clothes for the summer and winter.

Saturday night, master don't care
how much we dance and carry on

so long we don't do it on a Sunday.

Mm-mm, some fares good,
some fares common.

- Oh, he fare pretty good.
- Yes, sir.

Master's so fond of me,
I's like his own child almost.

- Company coming.
- What's your name?

Horatius. Horatius Byrd.
My own master's name.

- Afternoon, Miss Cosway.
- James.


- What a pretty girl that was.
- That's Sally. She my baby sister.


James? She come to see old master?

Mm-hm. That Miss Cosway.

She go away and now she back.

If slavery's illegal in France,
the boy could claim he was free

and refuse to go back home with us.

Master, Miss Cosway
is waiting for you in the music room.

Inform the lady I'll be with her presently.

Strictly speaking, the answer
to your question is "yes",

but I don't think your boy
would know enough to claim that right.

Didn't you yourself, Mr. Jefferson. Bring
over two of your servants from Virginia?

A male and a female, I believe.

You see, I've come back.

Although with very little encouragement.
Why did you not write?

I had always to wait
for a suitable messenger.

How could I run the risk of exposing
my tender sentiments to the officials?

Ah. Excuses, vain excuses.

Mr. Trumbull could have brought letters,
but you entrusted none even to him.

- Did you have nothing then to say to me?
- I had too much to say.

And have you come back
only to load me with reproaches?

- And how is your poor wrist?
- It is better,

no thanks to the French surgeons. But I've
been trying out some American witchcraft.

Oh, I hope it works, so that soon
you can play your violin for me again.

Our beautiful duets,
our happy day. Our jour heureux.

Jour heureux.

Espoir enchanteur.

Prix charmant d'un amour Si tendre.

Je vais I'avoir. Je vais I'entendre

I'm alone here. Mr. Cosway's in London.

He wished me to... to find my own way.

Did you lose it?

Yes, but the moment I saw you
I found it again.

Show us your calicos.

The ones up there.

Trust me. I know what girls like
better than you.

- But American girls?
- American girls?

And how, pray. Are your American girls
so different to the rest of the world?

Their expectations are different.

Oh, you mean they expect to make corn
puddings and to knit woolen stockings

for their lord and master?

I could think of
worse occupations for a woman.

What a tyrant you'd be.

- The turquoise.
- Farther down.

- Oui. Celui-la.
- Bleu vert.

Bleu vert.

Pardon. Monsieur.
Vous pourriez venir un moment?


Are you sure?
I'm afraid it won't suit Patsy.

- It's not for Patsy.
- Oh, Polly would like it even less.

It's for a servant girl
who needs to be ouffitted.

The little Negro nurse.
She's very pretty.

How old is she?

I'm not sure. I inherited her.

- You inherited her?
- Yes.

Yes, as a responsibility.

We are responsible for these people
as members of our most intimate family.

They're... It's impossible
to explain to a foreigner.

Even an American not born in our
southern states is unable to understand

the special relationship
we have with our Negroes.

Ten meters.

Oh. No. Eight will be enough. It's
a simple dress. Huit metres. Je vous prie.

It's only an effigy. They are burning
an effigy of Brienne, the finance minister.

Last time they were burning
another finance minister.

That was Monsieur de Calonne.
He is now an exile in England.

The people are making their voice heard.

There's nothing to fear
in the triumph of the people.

Not even you are safe any more.

- Come on. Come away.
- All they want is their liberty.

Their right to freedom.

I've seen such horrible,
horrible sights in the streets.

It makes me fear that men are not good,
not kind by nature, but cruel.

No, no.

They've been warped by generations
of tyranny, but they are naturally good.

If I were not sure of that, sure of
the goodness inherent in the natural man,

I would no longer want to be alive.

Loosen up here a bit.
You'll look more graceful.

Let me show you
what I've planned for the ribbons.

I told you
I don't want any trimmings!



Sally, have you gone deaf?

- Where did you get that?
- Old master done gimme the cloth to sew.

I've been calling and calling you.
Come along.

He's gotta pay you for that.

You's out of your head, James.

Folks get wages for their work,
that's the law of this land.

But we is slaves.

Yeah, you's a slave all right,
right down to the bottom of your soul.

Yeah, well, I sooner be a slave
to old master than to that old liquor.

You mind yourself
or you'll end up just like Bob Tuffle.

You think on that and what happened to he
on account of the way he was drinkin'

just like you is drinkin'.

"If that nigger don't walk the chalk,
y'all put him on the block and sell him!"

Yeah, but ain't nobody won't buy a
drinking nigger. He ain't no use for work.

What's I want with all that money, huh?
I gets me my something to eat.

I gets me my new clothes.

You tell him... you tell him right this
minute: 20 francs a month for your wages.

You is hurtin' my arm.

I'll hurt you so you knows
if you don't tell him right now.

- I just talkin' to Sally, master.
- You are?

What are you talkin' about?

Just talkin', master.

It's a mighty pretty dress, Sally.

Good night, James.

Come in, Sally.

You did it?
What are you doin'?

You'd better get back in there...

What are you doing there, Sally?

What's the matter?

Master, I scared.

Of what?

- Ghosts.
- Ghosts?


Have you ever seen one?

Scare me so bad, my hair ris up till
I couldn't get my hat back on my head.

Well, you won't see any here because
they're all left behind in Virginia.

- Uh-uh. They come with us, master.
- What? They sailed with you on the ship?

I thought ghosts couldn't cross water.

See, they don't need no ship, no water,

they just... goes on through the air.

Same as smoke.

I done seen Molly.
She done drown herself in the millpond.

She's here with us?

Well, doesn't that make you feel
nice and at home

to have Molly come all the way to Paris
from the bottom of our old millpond?

You know, when they bring Molly up,

there weren't nothin' left to bury,
she was ate up so bad.

All her eyes was gone, and half her face,

her legs and all.

And there weren't
a morsel of brain left in her skull,

what was all swarming
with them water bugs.

Good night, Sally.

And thank you for giving me
a pleasant vision to lull me to sleep.

Good night.

Master? There's this old fly
sittin' on your face.

- Where? I don't see it.
- Is it troublin' you?

I just stays here and
fan him right off you.

I do beg your pardon, Mr. Ambassador.

The King began dozing off

five minutes
after the Assembly opened.

How could he have
done otherwise?

The Finance Minister's speech
was a perfect sleeping potion!

And our poor Queen,
so sad and exasperated!

Your immediate task now is practical.

Your three separate orders
of nobles, clergy and commons

- must be combined into one single vote.
- But that is our resolve.

We shall vote not by rank,
but with the commons.

Sir, I once knew a young man

who, having visited countries
where liberty and equality were the rule,

decided to import those commodities
into his own country.

Do you know what happened to him?

Well, sir, he was hanged.

Don't laugh.

My invention is the most humane
form of execution ever conceived.

Mr. Gullotin,

for whom did you invent
your charming machine?

Is it only for us?

Can commoners also take advantage
of so noble a form of execution?


No more wretches swaying from
gallows or pulled apart by horses!

No more rascally hangings?
No more lowlife drawings and quarterings?

Oh, what a terrible shame.


Whatever these learned
French surgeons may say,

our old American remedies
are still the best.

Now, Sally, since the cure
was due to your ministrations,

it's only right that the results
should be to your benefit.

Yes, master?

To Sally Hemings,

24 francs.

You shall receive
the same amount every month.

Of course,
it's yours to do with as you please,

but I would advise you
not to give it to James,

or he will be spending it
in ways that won't do him any good.

He young and wild.

And you're so old and sage?

Would you want me to keep it for you?


This is your money.

It'll be right here in the corner.

You'll be rich soon, and then
what will you do with all your wealth?

I takes it home to Virginia.

Don't you want to spend it
on pretty things here in Paris?

They has no pretty things
like we has in Virginia.

Well, what about this?

Yeah. But I like the bright colors best.

Pink I likes. And yellow.


Now, I wonder...

what you will think of this?

Of course, you may not care for it at all,

in which case I might as well
give it away to some other girl...

Uh-uh. What is it?

You show me. Show me what it is.

It's that one.

It's not that one.

It's this one.

- Is that for me?
- Mm-hm.

That's plum pretty.


Haven't you finished with Patsy yet?
You're so slow, Sally.

What will I say to Soeur Thérése
if we're late again?

You tell her that you only got one girl,

and she's so unlucky to be born
with only two hands.

You make me so cross.

You make me so cross.

That's to teach you
respect for your mistress.

You go and lay out Polly's things.

"He spread her legs
as widely as possible

and knelt down
to enjoy her charms."

Is that how we excite men?

"Toinette abandoned herself
to her pleasure."

I do think

in lovemaking
some perversity is no bad thing.

"As she undressed..."

Jeffy? Are you asleep?

Mother Superior says
I can write to my parents.

- Yes, I may enter my novitiate.
- Oh, Julia, you can take your vows.


Now I have only one wish left.

Oh, Jeffy. I pray for it.

For you. That God will allow you
to join the true church.

(Jefferson} The jealousies of rank have
brought the States General to an impasse.

The older nobles and the clergy are
determined to negate any measures

that would lose them
the least of their privileges.

And of course. As usual.
The queen is on their side.

Your credibility is at stake!

Your people respect you.
Their representatives will listen.

The members of the Third Estate
are waiting for your answer.

Tell them
they're on the wrong track.

The King!

The order of the commons.
The Third Estate. Are equally determined.

So that there is a deadlock.
Which only the king can resolve.

We have listened to your requests

with all the interest they deserve.

But we feel obliged to inform you

that the State...

is ruled by secular laws.

The King cannot allow them

to be changed...
or even discussed.


There's not a minute to lose!
I've come from Versailles.

Our Finance Minister
has been dismissed!

This will be

a St Bartholomew's Day
massacre for patriots!

We must choose colored cockades
so we know our allies!

- What color do you want?
- You choose!

Green, the color of hope?
Or blue...

Blue, the color of American freedom
and democracy?

Green! Green!

Comrades, the word is out!

Police spies and informers
watch my every move.

But they won't get me,
at least not alive!

Citizens, follow me!

To arms!

The spirit of liberty is cantering
from one end of France to the other.

And through all ranks of society.

There are some incidents of violence.
Due to the continued shortage of bread.

So that grain speculators
are frequent victims.

Yet I will agree to be stoned
as a false prophet

if all does not end well in this country.

Hallali. Mes beaux.


- Is it a revolt?
- No, Sire.

It is a revolution.

Liberty, blessed Liberty,
Goddess of an enlightened people,

Rule today in this holy place.

Through you,
our temple is purified.,


Liberty, because of you,

Reason dispels falsehood,

Error flees,
Fanaticism is overcome.

Our gospel is Nature.

And we are of the cult
of Virtue.

I fear it is what in England
you would call rather silly,

but for us it's a beautiful new thought,

that the flower of the poor potato
is more valuable than our finest jewelry.

Thank you, Adrienne.

This is for you.

How sweet of you.

Perhaps you don't understand the deep
affinity between us and the people.

We are, all of us, commoners now.

And they are all noble.

Some of the faces I have seen
in the streets of Paris did not look noble.

What I don't understand
is what you are all waiting for.

Why don't you go? Get out?

Run for your lives?

It is not easy to leave everything behind.

Go to a strange country,

an emigre, a refugee,

without money or connections or friends.

So one persuades oneself
that everything will turn out well.

On Tuesday last. A crowd of women. In
a direct approach to the king and queen

to help them feed their children.

Marched to Versailles and forced the
royal family to return with them to Paris.

The Marquis de Lafayette
as commander of the new National Guard.

Had the duty of escort.

The people hope that the presence
of the king in their midst

will help relieve their
desperate situation.

Waving loaves in the air on spikes, they
jest that surely now they will have bread.

When they had brought the baker himself.
That is the King.

And the baker's wife
and his little apprentice.

Vive Le roil Vive Le roi!

I came to give you this.

A memento of my small art
and its great subject.

Papa has always taught us
that in matters of religion,

everyone must be free
to follow their own conscience.

So you've not told him yet?

I shall have to soon.

I am so happy for you.

When I was your age, I, too, desired
oh, so ardently to take my vows.

But it was not to be.

You will be more fortunate than I.

But what will you do
when he returns to America?

I shall stay here in the convent
and take my vows.

And not see your beautiful Monticello?



I don't ever want to go back to Monticello.

Dear Patsy, it's your sweet home,
and your father's most cherished place.

You don't know.


- What is it, my dear child?
- You don't know how we live in Monticello.

Why, it is a paradise on earth.

Your father has told me so much, so much.

And he has made me love the place and...

made me long to go there too.

And has he told you about
our Negroes and how they live?

I'm sure he's very good to them.

He's the best master in all of Virginia.

But he is the master,
and they are the servants.


And I'm certain that they hate us.
Yes, I know they do.

I can see it in their faces even when
they smile and say "Yes, master."

And they're always there,
watching everything we do,

and listening to everything we say
and hating us.

And I hate them.

And yet I pity them
for the misery of their lives.

And I wish from the bottom of my heart
that all the Negroes could be free forever.

But they have us and we have them.

Your father has explained to me how it is
in the nature of a family relationship.

And I've seen how kind he is. For instance,
to the little Negro nurse, Sally.

He has bought her pretty clothes,
just as he has for you.

Can't you speak to me?

Please. Tell me.

No, Mrs. Cosway,
don't ask me, don't force me.

Who would force you?

Only to relieve your heart
by speaking to a friend.

I can't speak, Mrs. Cosway.
I can't speak because...


Because it's unspeakable.

I can't possibly guess.

It's late. Master.

Master's expecting you in the garden.

(sings quietly to herself}.

- What are you doing here?
- Missus, you scared me out of my skin.

I's picking corn for dinner.

Old master, he's so proud of his corn,

but I see his Frenchie guests -
they can't abide it.

They don't even know
how to eat it like it should be ate.

Why? How do you eat it?

You roast it, then you eats it on the cob.

And it's the sweetest stuff
you ever eat in your life.

Except for cush-cush and ashcake.

Since you are never to be found,
I have boldly come to you.

Ah, but it is you who
are never to be found,

except among a crowd of friends
and admirers who hide you from view.

At least my view.

I've planted an American garden.

I had seeds sent from Virginia,
but only our harmony corn has prospered.

Everything else has been a dismal failure.

Our watermelons, cantaloupes,
sweet potatoes.

You see, it hasn't rooted.

If only I could give you a taste
of our marvelous sweet potatoes.

- You sound homesick. Mr. Jefferson.
- It is hard to leave.

I shall miss my friends, and so much else.

Who would not want to be in France
at such a glorious time?

Ah, yes, the glorious revolution.

Sally Hemings!

I too, shall have to return soon.

I have overstayed both my leave
from London and my welcome in Paris.

- Your welcome from whom?
- From you, sir.

My affections have not altered.

There has been no change in
the friendship that has been between us

from the first moment.

You are becoming the perfect diplomat.

Courteous and amiable always,
and always on your guard.

Well, I confess I fear unguarded moments.

As when you fell and hurt your wrist?

I do feel most horribly
responsible for that.

As though it were I
who led you into recklessness.

No, no.

It was my own middle-aged vanity

that made me attempt
what only a youth can do.

- Master.
- Our corn. You must try our corn.

Yes. Pick it up and eat it with your hands.

It's like with all your Frenchie guests,
master, when we cook it for 'em.

- They love our corn.
- They loves it when you're lookin' at 'em,

but when you ain't, they just spits it out.

Nonsense, Sally. That's nonsense.

I seen it with my own eyes.
They just spit.

Excuse me.

What is it? What's wrong?

You told me yourself
I could never hope to understand.

If I have erred in some way,
if I have offended you,

I beg you to be as frank with me
as I've always tried to be with you.

On all subjects?

Or are there some
that are best left unexplained?

Let me call on you tomorrow.

I've so missed you.

Let us resume our jours heureux.
Our happy days together.


I wish we could.

Is someone leaving?

Yes, Sir. Madame Cosway.

I wish you both success and joy.

May God protect you
and keep you from harm.

And without a word
for those who love you?

Not even our American friend?

My dear Mrs. Cosway,
this is all very hard on me.

How will I justify myself when
he reproaches me for your absence?

He will be heartbroken.

I don't think we need fear
for Mr. Jefferson's heart.

But he has one. Believe me,
a great and tender heart.

Only he wears it under a suit of armor.

Well, then he is safe, for it will
never break or hurt him very much.

- We have failed you.
- No, not you.

You have been kindness
and hospitality itself.

In France, we boast how fertile
is our soil for love and lovers.

But if the soil is American, then nothing will grow but corn and - what is it?

sweet potatoes.

Come in.

You sad. Master?

You cryin'?

You want me to sing for you?

I could sing you something sad,
something merry.

Let it be sad then, Sally

since that's my mood.

I can't bear it. It'll make me
sink into my grave with sadness.

You want me to show you
how to cut the pigeon wing?

How to what?

We calls it cuttin' the pigeon wings

cos you hold your neck up real stiff,
just like a pigeon do,

and you're there flappin' your arms,

and your legs.

I show you.

Who's going to the ball?



But first a couple has to set the floor.

They comes up,
bends over to each other at the waist,

and the woman,
she puts her hands on her hips,

and the man roll his eyes all around.
And he's grinning.

Gonna wear a red gown


Gonna wear a velvet coat


Goin' to the ball. Dee-Dee...

But it's better if you're on a dirt floor,
cos then your feet can slap down real hard.

Or you get a glass of water...

and you put it on your head,
and you see how many steps you can do

without spilling the water.

Goin' to the ball. Dee-Dee
Goin' to the ball. Dee-Dee.

Goin' to the ball. Dee-Dee
Goin' to the ball.

Let me show you how to do buck dancing.

You hold hands. You jumps up and down...

You still scared of me, Sally?

I ain't scared of you, master.

I respect your decision, monsieur,

but I regret it.

We have become fond
of both your daughters.

And I have reason to believe that your elder
daughter is not altogether willing to depart.

But I am confident that she will
be glad of it in her future years.

We have our own ways,
Madame L'Abbesse.

Which we must follow
if we are to be true to ourselves.

I believe freedom of worship
is written into your Constitution.

Yes, madam. I am proud to say it is.

But we allow each man to choose his
religion according to his own conscience.

In spite of promises made to me,
my daughter was unduly influenced.

On the contrary, monsieur,

your daughter, exercising the freedom
on which your country prides itself,

made the choice
which she judged to be right.

My daughter is too young
to make such a judgment.

Independence is not a toy
for children to play with,

but the privilege of a fully matured mind.


Not yet asleep?

- It's very late.
- What's the time?

It's past midnight.
Didn't you hear it strike?

I thought I counted eleven.

General Washington
has written to ask me to return home

and become his secretary of state.

You know my feelings about public office:

That I'd rather eat my soup
at home with you and Polly

than have all the honors and position
my country can heap on me.

But, Patsy, you have to be at home,

and learn what, after all,
you can only learn in America -

to be a woman of your own country,
a lady of Virginia.

Have you so fallen in love with France?

Or is it the dislike of your own country?

Surely not.

Remember what you promised me
when you were only ten years old.

You said then, in your sweet way,

that you were there for me,
and would do everything for me,

and would forever be
the lady of my household.

Who can be the mistress
of Monticello but you?

Don't you want to be that?

More than anything else in the world.

If only it could be.

Monticello is yours,

as I am.

Listen, dearest Patsy,

and believe me,

you are my true life and my true love.

And everything that is
best in me belongs to you.

- I need some of your money, Sal.
- I ain't got it.

Old master done keep it for me.

- You let him keep your money?
- Uh-huh.

- You do beat all for natural stupidness.
- I don't needs it.

I needs it.

Is you in trouble?

I just go tell old master
that I wants my money.

And if he says "What for?"

I say that it's for me,

and the little one that's coming.

Who's been at you?
Is it one of them down there?

- I'll kill him with my bare hands.
- Them Frenchies?

They as much as look at me
and I bop 'em in his face.

Who is it, then? Hm?

You think you know somethin'
and you don't know nothin'.

So it's him, is it?

Whole lot better if it was
one of them Frenchies.

And you's scarcely 14.

I's 15 and you knows it.

I's almost 16.

You's glad.

You's glad to breed more little niggers
to work in your master's fields.

It won't be no field nigger
if it's his own child I's carryin'.

Oh, yeah. He let it sit in his parlor,
drinkin' his port.

Like my white father and yours done for us.

Don't you shush me. You know blamed
well what our white father done for us.

Give us away for her weddin' present
when his white daughter, our white sister,

married Mr. Jefferson - and he serve you
the same when Miss Patsy get married.

You see. You and all
your little half-niggers,

y'all gets throwed in with the pots and
pans she be takin' away from Monticello.

Or he gets married hisself, and this
new Mrs. Jefferson, she come and say.

"Who are all these brat niggers
runnin' around my house?"

"That don't look good.
You go sell 'em some place else."

You don't know nothin'.
Old master, he never gonna marry again.

I is there when he do promise
Miss Jefferson on her deathbed.

Oh. White folks' promises.

Yeah, well, they keep 'em
when they make 'em to other white folk.

If the angels was to
come down from heaven,

then they'd cheat them
the same as they do us.

It's pitiful.

Pitiful times we's in.

But you listen here.

Sal, if we stays in Paris, we's free.

- Yeah. Plum free to starve to death.
- I can get wages any day I wants

with makin' the pastries
and all them things I learns.

But he learns you so you can cook
good things to eat at Monticello.

It's lucky for us I got more sense in my
little toe than you has in your entire body.

I misses my mammy
and they all somethin' awful.

I wants to go home.

Home? Home? What home?

Your little old slave cabin where they
keeps you like the animals they breeds?

God Almighty never meant
for human beings to be like animals.

We has a soul, and a head, and a mind.
We ain't like a dog or a horse.

Now, you listen to me.
You do what I says and you and me is free.

And that little one in there - free.

Don't you want to see
what it's like to own your own body?

You's crazy, James Hemings.

You's crazy.

Master, we stayin' in Paris.
Sally and I are stayin'.

You consider yourself free, then,
to go or stay as you please?

We is free here, master.

Ain't nobody is a slave in France.

Does your sister also wish
to follow the law prevailing here

rather than the American law
under which she was born?

She don't understand nothing.

She do what I say.

With no regard for what I say?

She be wantin' her freedom, master,

for her own self
and the little one what's comin'.

So you, James,
will provide for Sally and her child?

I'll be gettin' work and wages.

And remember, once I have left
and you are here on your own,

there's nothin' more
I shall be able to do for you.

You will be livin'
among strangers in a strange land

of which you do not even
know the language.

I know some.

More than you, master.

Yes, well, that is true.

But if, James...

James, listen to me.

If I say "Come home to Virginia
and I shall give you your freedom"?

- You'd give me my freedom?
- That is what I'm proposing.

My papers and all?

Everything that is legally required
to release you from my ownership.

And her and the little one?

What do you say. Sally?

Now, think very carefully.

You and your child
will be free to leave Monticello

and earn your living elsewhere
as a free woman.

- Where's I goin'?
- Wherever you wish.

Where do I go?

Let me make another proposal.

While you, James, may claim your freedom
whenever you wish after our return home,

Sally and her child

will remain at Monticello

under my care,

but upon my death
to be given her freedom.

How will we know it'll happen like that
when we get back to Monticello?

You have my word.

You wish me to swear
an oath on the Bible?


Patsy, will you step inside, please?

Close the door.

Now, here's a strange to-do, Patsy.

I'm about to swear an oath
that on our return to Virginia

James shall have his freedom.

But should anything happen to me, Patsy,

it will be you
who have to fulfill that promise.

Do you understand me?

And further, there's an oath to Sally, that
she, too. Upon my death. Shall be free.

Her and the little one what's comin'.

Yes, Sally and the child she's expecting.

And all other children
that may be born to her in the future.

Do you bind yourself to that?

I swear by Almighty God that upon
my return to the state of Virginia

I shall, within a period of not more than
two years, give his freedom to James Hemings.

Since, however, James was brought
to Paris, at great expense to me,

for the purpose of learning
the art of French cookery,

he shall continue to reside
at Monticello, in my service,

until he shall have taught the same art
to such persons as I shall place under him.

Do you swear?

I swear.

I also hereby promise and declare
that Sally Hemings, sister of James,

shall be freed upon my death.

Likewise, all children born to her
shall be freed from my ownership,

or that of my heirs,
upon reaching the age of 21.

Do you swear, Patsy?

I swear.