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 painter and glazier, or to use otherwise as he pleases.
I give also to my good servants John Hemings and Joe Fosset 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 …
I give also to John Hemings the services of his two apprentices, Madison and Eston Hemings, until their respective ages of twenty one years, at which period respectively, I give them their freedom.
Testament, March 16 & 17, 1826
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Burwell Colbert had been Jefferson’s personal servant for at least a decade. As nearly as was possible in that realm, the men were probably good friends. Burwell attended his master constantly in his final days and slept on a pallet in Jefferson’s bedroom.
John Hemings was a master carpenter, Joe Fossett a skilled blacksmith. John was a brother of Sally Hemings. Madison and Eston were her sons, John’s nephews.
Dumas Malone in the 6th and final volume of his biography of Jefferson, The Sage of Monticello, wrote, “These freedmen could take care of themselves. The same could not have been said for the large body of his slaves. To have turned them loose in a society in which they would have been unwelcome would have been no kindness to them, and, in view of his indebtedness may have been illegal as well as impracticable.” (Page 489)
The remainder of his slaves were sold after his death, to help pay down his debt. Jefferson made no mention of Sally Hemings in his will.