Robin Vander Wall
These sorts of inquiries have always been fascinating to me. I’ve always hoped that someone might actually write a paper or an academic journal article which set out to discover how many people of historical merit would end up as registered sex offenders if held to the cultural mores of our present day and time.
Two significant persons come immediately to my mind, and you may already be speaking about one of them. John Marshall, who was the fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was in his mid twenties when he first met Polly who would eventually become his wife. Polly was 13 or 14 at the time. They married before Polly turned 16. One might presume that they touched in an intimate way before they were ever married. But who knows, right?
Then there is Thomas Jefferson. Much has been written about whether or not Jefferson fathered a child (or more) by his slave-servant, Sally Hemmings. What we DO know is that Sally traveled with Jefferson to France in 1784. Jefferson was 44 and a widow. Sally was 12. When Sally returned to Monticello 26 months later, she was pregnant. By whom we may never know. But her descendants have always maintained that Jefferson was the father. There is SOME historical evidence to support that. If it were ever to be established beyond any reasonable doubt, then I believe it would be fair to label Jefferson as foremost among Americans who, in this day and time, would be registered as a sex offender.