Fair Use Blog

Now available: the “Plumb-Line or Cork-Screw” debate, on anarchism and political compromise, from the pages of Liberty, 1886


In the Spring and Summer of 1886, a number of the contributors to Benjamin Tucker’s individualist anarchist newspaper Liberty debated the value of political compromise. The debate intersected with other debates that Tucker, Henry Appleton and Gertrude B. Kelly, as well as Dyer Lum and others, were engaged in over participation in the Knights of Labor, the relationship between anarchist radicalism and organized labor movements, and other long-running debates over social reform, Irish land politics, Malthusianism, sexual liberation, and so on. In the debate, the images that Tucker used for reasoning from radical principle, and adopting compromise stances in an effort to persuade indirectly — the plumb-line and the cork-screw — remained as characteristic phrases in individualist anarchist literature throughout the remaining decades of Liberty and its circle, with the term plumb-line Anarchism or plumb-line Individualism came to be used often as a in-group label for Tucker’s school of individualist anarchist thought. (See, for example, Will and Lizzie Holmes’s reference to our old plumbline friends decades later in Instead of a Magazine.)

Now at fair-use.org, I’ve made available full HTML hypertext transcriptions of 11 articles from the debate, including contributions by Henry Appleton, Benjamin Tucker, Gertrude B. Kelly, Victor S. Yarros, J. William Lloyd, and the pseudonymous D.D. The debate as a whole is collected here, at fair-use.org; the individual articles now available online are:

  1. X. Anarchism and Expediency in Liberty IV.1 (#79). 4.
  2. T. Plumb-Line or Cork-Screw, Which? in Liberty IV.1 (#79). 4-5.
  3. Benjamin Tucker. On Picket Duty in Liberty IV.1 (#79). 1.
  4. X. and T. Liberty and Compromise in Liberty IV.2 (#80). 4-5.
  5. V. Yarros. The Plumb-Line at New Haven in Liberty IV.2 (#80). 8.
  6. J. Wm. Lloyd. Plumb-Centre in Liberty IV.4 (#82). 1.
  7. Benjamin Tucker. On Picket Duty in Liberty IV.4 (#82). 1.
  8. X. The Nub of It All in Liberty IV.5 (#83). 4.
  9. D.D. and Editor Liberty. Plumb-Line and Cork-Screw in Liberty IV.5 (#83). 4.
  10. Gertrude B. Kelly. Justice or Force, Which? in Liberty IV.5 (#83). 7.
  11. X. and T. Anarchistic Small Fry in Liberty IV.6 (#84). 4-5.

From John V. Denson, “Slavery Laws in Alabama” (1908), Part II: Runaways

This text is transcribed from John V. Denson’s 1908 pamphlet, Slavery Laws in Alabama. The booklet was originally published as part of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute Historical Studies series. John V. Denson was a student and later GTA instructor at Alabama Polytechnic for History and Latin, later a prominent lawyer in the Auburn-Opelika area. Like most of the historical studies from Alabama Polytechnic (now Auburn University) from the first decade of the 1900s, the pamphlet apologizes for Southern slavery, and adopts a point of view that is at times frankly white supremacist. The pamphlet begins with a discussion of the law of manumission; here is the next section, on the law concerning fugitive slaves.

[7] RUNAWAYS: The laws of Alabama relating to runaways were never cruel and never overstepped the bounds of conservative measures for the recovery of property. The act of 1805, in Secs. 12 and 13, provided that runaway slaves[9] might be apprehended by any person and carried before the next justice of the peace, who should commit such runaway to jail or send to his master, who was to pay a fee of six dollars and reasonable costs and charges, and further, that all slaves lying out hid, killing hogs, etc., were to be taken by force by the patrol, at the direction of the justice of the peace, and committed to jail, the provost’s remuneration being thirty dollars paid by the state, three-fourths of which were to be repaid by the master in addition to his taxes. By the act of 1809[10] it was provided that [8] when a runaway slave was committed to jail and was not claimed by the owner within six months after the first publication of commitment, the sheriff should sell such slave, the proceeds going to the county; but if the owner should afterwards assert and prove his title, he could recover the amount paid to the county for the slave, but could not divest the title of the purchaser of such runaway, the time for such claim being limited in 1848 to five years after first publication.[11]

A slave found at a distance of eight miles from his master’s plantation without a pass from his master, or one who had lain out more than two days without leave of his master, was considered a runaway.

The penalty visited upon any person who knowingly aided any negro or any other slave to runaway or depart from his master’s service was imprisonment in the penitentiary [9] for a term of not less than two nor more than five years.[12]

So far as I have been able to discover there never existed in Alabama any statute, as there did in other states, providing for the outlawing of runaway slaves. In 1741 there was such a statute in North Carolina, providing that, Any person may lawfully kill a slave who has been outlawed for running away and lurking in swamps, etc.,[13] and a similar statute existed earlier in Virginia. In Maryland and the District of Columbia a similar law existed providing that when a slave should runaway from his master’s service into the woods and remain there, killing hogs, etc., and should refuse to surrender, and offer resistance to persons legally empowered to pursue and capture, it should be lawful for such pursuers to shoot, kill, and destroy such slave.[14] The Alabama law, it seems to me, gave very little more authority to legal pursuers of fugitive slaves than is now given to officers when engaged in the pursuit of fugitives.

In North Carolina a proclamation of outlawry against a slave was authorized whenever he should runaway from his master and conceal himself in some obscure retreat, and to sustain life, should kill hogs, etc., and any person might lawfully kill such outlawed slave.[15] Also in Virginia two justices of the peace were authorized to outlaw runaways, whom any person might kill, without accusation of crime for so doing, but this act was repealed in 1792.[16]

This authority to outlaw slaves never existed in Alabama, and a person neverp possessed authority to kill a slave without possibility of accusation of crime, the law in Alabama [10] most resembling this being as follows: Any justice of the peace receiving information that three or more runaway slaves are lurking in swamps and other obscure places, may by warrant, reciting the names of the slaves and their owners, if known, direct a leader of the patrol of the district, and if there be none, then any other suitable person, to summon and take with him such power as may be necessary to apprehend such runaways, and, if taken to deliver them to the owner or to commit them to the jail of his proper county.[17]

Even after 1860, when it would be natural to expect more rigorous laws, the only new laws as to runaways were acts providing for increased compensation for taking up runaway slaves.[18]

  1. [9] Sec. 12. All runaway slaves may be apprehended by any person and carried before the next justice of the peace, who shall commit such slave to jail or send him to his owner, who shall pay six dollars for the slave so taken, and costs and charges.

    Sec. 13. In cases of slaves lying out hid, killing hogs, etc., the justice of the peace must direct the provost of patrols to take the slaves by force and commit them to jail, the provost receiving thirty dollars from the Territory, three-fourths of which was to be repaid by the master in addition to his taxes.

    See also Ala. Justice, p. 425.

    Toulmin’s Dig. of 1807, p. 378.

  2. [10] Sec. 20. When any slave shall be committed to the jail of any county as a runaway, and such runaway shall not be claimed and proved by the owner thereof within six months of the first publication of the commitment of such slave in some newspaper published in this state, it shall be lawful for the sheriff of said county to sell said slave at public auction, at the court house of his proper county, upon giving at least thirty days’ previous notice of such sale, by advertisement published in some newspaper in this state at the court house of the proper county, and at least two other public places in the same; and out of the proceeds arising from the sale of any runaway slave as aforesaid, the sheriff shall be entitled to the same commissions and fees as are allowed in execution, and the balance, after paying all prison fees and maintenance of said runaway slave while in jail, shall be for the use of the proper county: Provided, that if the owner of such runaway slave shall, after such sale prove his property in any such slave, the proper county shall pay to him the amount that shall have gone into the treasury, on account of the sale of such slave, but the right to any slave, sold as aforesaid, shall be and remain vested in the purchaser under the sale made by the sheriff as aforesaid.

    Clay’s Ala. Dig., p. 542, sec. 20.

    Almost word for word in Ala. Justice, p. 432, and referred to Dig. p. 373.

  3. [11] There may arise in some minds this question: When a negro committed to jail as a runaway, is not claimed by any man as a slave, why is it not presumed that he is a free negro and discharged? Free negroes did live in Alabama, for there are laws which are specially applicable to them, and before 1834 emancipated slaves might remain in Alabama as free negroes, and therefore there might arise some question as to whether such free negro was free or slave, but the Supreme Court of Alabama, in the case of Field v. Milly Walker, Ala. Rep. vol. 17, p. 81, has held that a person of color in this state is presumed to be a slave and the burden of proof is on such person of color.
  4. [12] Acts of ’40-’41, p. 129, sec. 15.

    Every person, who shall knowingly aid any negro or any other slave to run away, or depart from his master’s service, such person, so offtending, on conviction, shall suffer imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than two, and not exceeding five years.

    See also Clay’s Dig. of 1843, p. 419, sec. 15.

  5. [13] Stroud, p. 103; Haywood’s Manual, pp. 521-522.
  6. [14] Goodell’s American Slave Code, p. 231, Laws of Maryland, 1723, chap. 15, sec. 7.
  7. [15] Stroud, p. 38.
  8. [16] Goodell’s American Slave Code, p. 231; Stroud, p. 103.
  9. [17] Ala. Code of 1852, sec. 1024; Clay’s Dig., p. 541, sec. 15. This law was enacted in 1805, by the Miss. Territory.
  10. [18] Acts of ’61, p. 15.

    AN ACT. To amend section 1023 of the Code in relation to runaway slaves.

    Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, That hereafter it shall be the duty of justices of the peace before whom runaway slaves are brought, instead of committing them to jail, to order and direct such slaves to be delivered to their owner, overseer or agent, in all cases where the justice is satisfied that the name of the true owner is made known, and where the residence of such owner, his overseer or agent, is nearer than the county jail: Provided, that the owner, his overseer or agent, shall on delivery of the slave pay the fee now allowed by law for arresting, and the compensation hereinafter provided to the taker-up, or such other person as may have the custody of the slave, and in case of the refusal of the owner, his overseer or agent, to pay such fees and compensation promptly on delivery, then it shall be the duty of the person having charge of the slave, and the justice shall so instruct him, to carry the slave back to the office of the justice, who shall forthwith commit him to the county jail.

    Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That where runaway slaves are committed to jail, it shall be the duty of the justice in such cases to endorse on the back of his warrant to the sheriff, the cost and charges for apprehending and bringing to jail, and to certify the same to the owner, when delivery is made to him, but in no case to exceed the amount allowed by law.

    Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That for bringing a runaway slave to jail, the persons performing such service shall be entitled to the sum of ten cents a mile in coming to and returning from the jail, estimating the distance by the nearest route, and ferriages, and to the same compensation when the slave is carried to his master, or overseer, and the justice for his service shall be allowed the sum of seventy-five cents.

    Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That any justice who allows and endorses on the warrant or certificate to the owner, larger or other fees and compensation, than is now allowed by law, and by the provisions of this act, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction, shall be fined not less than double the aggregate amount endorsed, or certified, to be recovered before any magistrate for the use of the owner. App’d. Dec. 7, 1861.

    Also in the Acts of ’63, p. 63, appears this act.

    AN ACT, To increase the fees now allowed by law for apprehending and committing to jail runaway slaves.

    Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, That for apprehending and committing a runaway slave to jail, or for delivering him to his owner, the sum of ten dollars shall be allowed instead of six dollars as now provided by law; and for taking a runaway slave to jail the person performing such service shall be entitled to fifteen cents per mile, in giong to and returning from the jail, and to a like compensation when the slave is delivered to his master or overseer, instead of ten cents per mile as now provided, and the justice of the peace shall be allowed for his services one dollar and a half in lieu of seventy-five cents now allowed. App’d Dec. 7, 1863.

    Also in ’64 this act was passed. Acts of ’64, p. 78.

    AN ACT, To increase the compensation for taking up a runaway slave.

    Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, That from and after the passage of this act the compensation for taking up a runaway slave shall be twenty-five dollars, instead of the amount now allowed by law. Provided, that this act shall terminate with the existing war. App’d Dec. 10, 1864.

Miss Meriwether Harvey, Class of 1907

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had added a 1907 short study on “Slavery in Auburn, Alabama” to the Fair Use Repository. The booklet was published as part of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute Historical Studies series. Meriwether Harvey is listed as the author of the booklet; it is evident from the text that Harvey based the study on some fairly extensive first-hand interviews with family or acquaintances in some of the prominent white families that had formerly owned slaves in the area of Auburn, and also at least some interviews with local African-Americans who had been born under slavery. If you wanted to find information about the author, though, what was available was fairly limited. Harvey was not a member of the Alabama Polytechnic faculty in 1907, and the booklet gives no further detail about its author.

John David Smith, the author of An Old Creed for the New South (2008), describes the the booklet and its author on pp. 173-4, 179:

Fortunately, a talented amateur historian and a number of graduate students went beyond such romanticized views of slavery on the state and local level. […] Meriwether Harvey and James K. Turner conducted even more minute grass roots research on slavery in Auburn, Alabama and Edgecombe County, North Carolina, respectively. […] The essays by Meriwether Harvey and James K. Turner remain important because they represent the type of micro research on slavery that still cries out to be written. Harvey, a student at Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn, made the most detailed examination of the period of slavery in any one locale. He focused on slavery in Auburn, in 1860 a small cotton-producing community of one thousand whites and seven hundred blacks….

Smith helpfully, and correctly, identifies Meriwether Harvey as a student at Alabama Polytechnic (now known as Auburn University) — but misidentifies Harvey as “he.” After a bit of research with old copies of the Glomerata at the Auburn University Library Special Collections section, I can now introduce you to Miss Meriwether Harvey, a 19 year old Senior co-ed student at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, who graduated with honors as part of the Class of 1907. Alabama Polytechnic (formerly the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama) had in fact admitted a small number of female students since 1892, — including Miss Meriwether Harvey.

Miss Meriweather [sic] Harvey

Blockton, Ala.

“Merie.” General.

A very congenial piece of curiosity.

Despises frivolity. “Isn’t the Captain of Company K handsome!” Believes in maintaining her rights and doing the right. A natural-born mythologist. Always eager to talk about the Conway Cabal (?). Never sends post cards to the professors. Hardest boner of Co-eds. Pretends that she is going to “IV” but makes I’s. “I’m shocked to think that Napoleon wrote L-O-V-E letters.”

Honorary member of Websterian Literary Society; Distinction ’05.

This is from p. 41 in the Senior Class section of the Glomerata, API’s official yearbook, Vol. X for the school year ending in 1907.

Ms. Harvey was one of only eight women enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic in 1907. She graduated with honor as part of the Class of 1907; here is her listing in the 1907-1908 Alabama Polytechnic Institute catalogue:

Page 24. [...] GRADUATES WITH HONOR: John Bayard Clarke, Marion; John Cameron Dow, Barbour; Edwin Alexander Harriss, Georgia; Mary Meriwether Harvey, Bibb; [...]
Alabama Polytechnic Institute Catalogue, 1908, p. 24

Many thanks to the Auburn University Archives and Special Collections Department for their help in locating and identifying the author of this remarkable local study. More information about Meriwether Harvey is now available through Meriwether Harvey at ”Notes from the Margins”.

From John V. Denson, “Slavery Laws in Alabama” (1908), Part I: Emancipation


This text is transcribed from John V. Denson’s 1908 pamphlet, Slavery Laws in Alabama. The booklet was originally published as part of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute Historical Studies series (which had also previously published Meriwether Harvey’s Slavery in Auburn, Alabama). John V. Denson was a member of the Board of Instruction for Alabama Polytechnic for History and Latin. Like most of the historical studies from Alabama Polytechnic (now Auburn University) from the 1900s, the viewpoint of the pamphlet is frankly white supremacist, and romanticizes and apologizes for Southern slavery. It is however an extensive and detailed study of the slave code in Alabama in particular. Here is the first section, on the law of manumission. More to follow.

Slavery Laws in Alabama


John V. Denson.

In this study of the laws of Alabama that related to slavery, it is not my intention to discuss at all the administration of the laws nor the conditions resulting from any maladministration of them, but merely the laws themselves in the abstract. To get the legal facts about their administration would be a matter of great difficulty, for the courts in which the great majority of slave cases were tried, that is, courts of a justice of the peace, were not courts of record, and the only facts accessible concerning them would be the personal statements of old citizens, and however interesting these might be, they would not be authoritative. The study, then, is a discussion of the statutes that have existed from time to time in Alabama relating to the slave and the free negro from 1819 to 1865. Where it was possible I have compared Alabama laws with the laws of other States. *EMANCIPATION:* Leaving aside any moral questions that may be incident to the emancipation of slaves, I shall discuss it solely from the legal standpoint. Slaves in Alabama were considered and dealt with as property, as chattels personal, and since the right of the owner of any property is absolute, it would seem, at first glance, that the owner of slaves should be allowed to deal with them without interference, and certainly to give them freedom if he saw fit. But slaves were a peculiar kind of property, and for the welfare of the public it was necessary that some restraints be placed upon the powers and rights of the master. A man may own a large quantity of gun-powder, and his property rights are absolute, but for the good of the public he is restrained in a degree, and is forbidden to store it in certain places. [2] And so the Legislature restrained the power of the slave master for various reasons. According to the law slaves were property, and creditors had a legal right to look upon them as security for their debts due from slave owners. The right of the creditor was valid and the master was bound to recognize it, the law providing that an emancipated slave was liable to be taken to satisfy a debt contracted before such emancipation. Again, it was necessary to prevent a freed slave from becoming a charge upon the public, and the master must give bond guaranteeing this. There was among slave-holders a very general impression that the influence of a free negro upon slaves was demoralizing, nor was this unreasonable. The slave might become restless under the taunts of his free brother, or encouraged to hope for freedom himself, and so might run away or incite an insurrection. Hence after 1834 the slave when freed was required to leave the State. also there was current in the South an idea that unrestrained emancipation would result in one of two conditions: either the emancipated negro must remain in the condition of the free negro in competition with the white man for his daily bread, or he must become lord of the soil, as he had in Hayti and Jamaica. Southerners, at least many of them, believed that the negro was incapable of providing sustenance for himself in competition with the whites, and they thought that a large percentage of negroes would be without work, almost starving, and the consequence would be plunder and pillage. The alternative of becoming owners of the soil was even more to be avoided, certainly if reports from Jamaica and Hayti were to be believed.[8] Unrestrained emancipation might turn loose upon Southern white men a horde of ignorant creatures, unchecked by wise leaders, and incapable of being controlled. All these things the South feared, and the laws checking emancipation were intended to prevent them. The Constitution of Alabama, formed in 1819, contained [3] the following statements about emancipation: The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves, without the consent of their owners, or without paying their owners, previous to such emancipation, a full equivalent in money for the slaves so emancipated. They shall have the power to pass laws to permit the owners of slaves to emancipate them, saving the rights of creditors, and preventing them from becoming a public charge.[9] The early statute law in Alabama was the act of the Mississippi Territorial Legislature, passed in 1805, when Alabama was included in the Territory, and it remained the law until 1834. That statute provided: That from and after the passage of this act it shall not be lawful for any person or persons holding or owning slaves, to liberate them or any of them, unless they first prove to the satisfaction of the General Assembly, that such slave or slaves have done some meritorious act, either for the benefit of the said owner or for the benefit of this Territory; and in the said case the owner or owners of the said slave or slaves shall give bond or security to the Governor, for the time being, that the said slave or slaves shall not become chargeable to the public. Provided, nevertheless, that all slaves so emancipated shall be liable to be taken by execution to satisfy any debt contracted by the person emancipating them before such emancipation is made. Section 2 of this act provides: That any slave claiming freedom shall proceed by petition to the county or circuit court of his master’s county; the master must enter into a bond approved by the governor, in a sum to be adjudged by the court, that such [4] slave will be subject to the order of the court and abide by the judgment of the court, the slave to remain in the service of the master till the determination of the suit.[10] It will be noticed that this statute contains no provision that the freed slave shall leave the state, and there was no such provision until 1834. Another noticeable feature is that there is nothing contained in the statute that would prevent a person’s directing in his will that slaves be taken out of the state by his executors, to free territory, and there set free, and a provision of this kind did not occur until 1860. So far as I can find no will containing a bequest of this nature was ever declared null and void. In South Carolina the act of 1820[11] was the same as that quoted above, but in 1841 an act was passed which declared void all bequests, deeds, etc., which intended after the death of the owner to remove slaves from the state and liberate them.[11] Goodell, in his American Slave Code, published in 1853, makes the unqualified statement that, In South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, the legislature, only by express enactments, has authority to emancipate slaves, and cites as his authority Stroud, P. 147. Stroud’s work was published in 1827.[12] Mrs. Stowe, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1851, makes the same statement, but cites no authority.[13] If these two persons had taken the trouble, they might have found that in 1834 the Legislature of Alabama enacted a law which provided that judges of the county court might, upon petition of the owner, emancipate slaves, in consideration of long, faithful, and meritorious services performed, and for other good causes, provided such slaves should leave the State within twelve months, never to return, and if such slaves should return, they were to be apprehended by the sheriff [5] and were liable to be sold for life as slaves. As in all provisions for emancipation, it was definitely set forth that nothing in the act should be so construed as to prejudice the rights of the creditors of the owner of the emancipated slaves.[14] This act remained in force until the act of 1860, which revoked and annulled all emancipation laws. The method of procedure under this act was simple. The master desiring to emancipate a slave made publication in his county newspaper for at least sixty days previous to making application, giving the name and description of the slave; at the appointed time the petition was filed and the cause tried. If there was proof that the slave had served his master with fidelity, or other good cause was shown, and no sufficient objection was offered, the judge of probate, acting upon authority conferred by the Legislature, declared the slave free.[14] [6] This act remained in force till 1860. At that time a stringent act prohibiting emancipation was passed, and it is natural to find it. Intensified by the sectional conflict in Kansas, and by the raid of John Brown, the antipathy between the South and the North was growing apace. In Alabama, one of the results of this was the sweeping act of 1860, which was as follows:

Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, That from and after the passage of this act, all clauses, items, words, or directions contained in any last will and testament, or other instrument, made for the purpose of emancipating any negro slave or slaves, either directly or indirectly, is hereby declared to be void and of no effect.

Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That any and all clauses of any last will and testament or other instrument by which any executor, administrator, trustee, incorporation or society of persons, may be authorized or directed to remove any slave or slaves from the state of Alabama, for the purpose of emancipating such slave or slaves, is hereby declared to be void and of no effect.

Sec. 3. Be it further enacted, That all gifts and bequests by last will and testament, or other instrument, of any slave or slaves to any person or persons, or to any trustee, incorporation or society of persons, upon the trust or condition that such slave or slaves shall be removed beyond the limits of the state of Alabama, and to some state or territory, where African slavery does not exist, shall be utterly null and void.

Sec. 4. Be it further enacted, That all laws and parts of laws authorizing the emancipation of any slave or slaves, by any proceedings before any court in the state of Alabama, are hereby repealed.

Sec. 5. Be it further enacted, That the provisions of this act shall not apply to wills and testaments or other instruments which may have become effectual before its passage.[15]

  1. [8]Stearn’s Notes on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Note 9.
  2. [9]Three clauses seem to have been taken almost verbatim from the constitution of Mississippi (1817), except that the latter forbade the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners unless where a slave shall have rendered to the State some distinguished service, in which case the owner shall be paid a full equivalent for the slaves so emancipated. See Poore’s Charters and Constitutions.
  3. [10]Toulmin’s Dig. of 1807, p. 259. Hitchcock’s Ala. Justice, p. 421.
  4. [11]O’Neal’s article on S. c. laws in DeBow’s Industrial Resources of the South, vol. 2, p. 274.
  5. [12]Goodell’s American Slave Code, p. 341.
  6. [13]Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Key, vol. 2, p. 354.
  7. [14]

    Acts of the Legislature, ’33-34, p. 29.

    Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, That whenever the owner or owners of any slave or slaves, shall be desirous of emancipating such slave or slaves, such owner or owners shall make publication in some newspaper printed within the county where such slaves reside, (or if there be no paper printed in said county, then in the nearest paper thereto,) for at least sixty days previously to the making application in which shall be set forth the time and place that such application will be made, together with the names and description of the slave or slaves, sought to be emancipated; and at the time appointed the judge of the county court may upon petition filed, proceed to hear and determine upon the application so made, and if, in his opinion, the said slave should be emancipated, in consideration of long, faithful, and meritorious services performed, or for other good and sufficient cause shown, the said judge may proceed to emancipate and set free such slave or slaves; and the clerk of the court shall make record of the same in a book to be kept by him for that purpose: Provided, that such slave or slaves shall remove without the limits of this state, within twelve months after such emancipation, never more to return, and that such emancipation shall not take effect until after such removal.

    Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That if the said slave or slaves shall return within the limits of this state after such removal and emancipation, he, she, or they, shall be subject to be apprehended by the sheriff of the county within which the same may be found and imprisoned, and after having advertised the same for at least thirty days, may be sold to the best bidder for cash as slaves for life; and the proceeds of such sale, after paying all expenses, shall be paid into the county treasury for the use of said county.

    Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of all sheriffs, constables and patrols, to apprehend slaves who shall return after having been so emancipated and removed, and bring them before some justice of the peace who shall commit them; and the same compensation shall be allowed in such cases as is allowed for apprehending runaway slaves.

    Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That nothing in this act contained shall be so construed as to prejudice the rights of the creditors of the owner of slaves so emancipated.

    App’d, Jan. 17, 1834.

    See also Clay’s Ala Dig. of 1843, p. 545, secs. 37, 38, and 40. Also Ala. Code of 1852, secs. 2044-2048.

  8. [15]Acts of 1859-60, p. 28. App’d Jan. 25, 1860.

Now available: full text of “Slavery in Auburn, Alabama” (1907)

Now available on the Fair Use Repository website: I have just made available the full, transcribed text of Slavery in Auburn, Alabama, a small 18pp booklet from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute Historical Studies (published by Auburn University, then known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute) written by Meriwether Harvey.

I found the booklet on the shelves at the Auburn University RBD Library, an aging, decaying reprint booklet carefully tucked into a protective grey cover, and decided that this document of local history deserved preserving. So I have spent the past couple days reading and transcribing the text into digital form.

The booklet was written in 1907, and its viewpoint very emphatically reflects the views common among wealthy white families and former slaveholders (like the Harveys) in and around Auburn, Alabama, a small college town in what was then rural East Alabama. It is romanticized, although concerned enough with points of detail and description that that only causes a problem in some parts of the booklet. At times, the text is oblivious, or frankly racist. It makes some blanket claims about the local slave trade that are almost certainly self-serving lies told by the author’s sources. However, the booklet seems to have been based primarily on first-hand interviews with slaveholding white families and a few interviews with African-American residents who had been born under slavery, and whether intentionally or unintentionally provides fascinating points of detail, and anecdotes reflecting the reminiscences, the self-justifying fantasies, and also the anxieties of white slaveholders in East Alabama, as well as some of the range of experiences of slavery in east Alabama, and the operation of the slaves’ economy, despite its frustrating limitations. Some excerpts:

Slavery in Auburn, Alabama (1907)

By Meriwether Harvey

[…] Corn shucking was another great occasion in the negro’s life. The owner would have all his corn hauled up and thrown on the ground at the crib door in a big pile; then he would invite his neighbors’ negroes to come to his house on a certain night to a corn shucking. Only the men were invited; as they came they could be heard in the distance singing corn songs. I have tried to record some of these songs, but I find they were a jargon; they had no real words, only a tune. Some disinterested man would lay a long pole in the middle of the pile; then two negro men would choose sides, as is done today in spelling matches, and the two sides would enter into a contest to see which could first finish their side of the pile. The leader, dressed in a stove pipe hat and feather, walked up and down on the pile and gave out the corn song. The whole crowd answered him in the chorus. As they shucked, they would throw the corn into the barn in front of them and the shucks behind. When they had finished about half of the pile, corn whiskey was passed; thus they worked till eleven o’clock, when [13] they had a big plain supper. After eating the put the shucks in pens made for the purpose. By twelve they had finished, and then the frolic began. They danced about the great bonfire that had been burning all the time behind them, so that they might have sufficient light to shuck the corn, the lights and shadows making a strange and ghostly scene. After the supper the owner of the plantation, the giver of the corn shucking, or sometimes the overseer, was seized and carried about on the shoulders of some of the negroes. The other negroes followed, all singing at the top of their voices. About two or three o’clock in the morning they all went home.

[…] The treatment of slaves was generally good because the negro was property and was cared for as such. [sic] I have interviewed only one man who ever saw a slave unmercifully beaten. [sic] A great many negroes would run away; some of them were chronic runaways, and were so seemingly without any cause whatever. A few of these chronic runaways were chained at night. Certain people all through the country kept fox hounds for tracking runaway negroes, who would go off into the swamps and woods. It was often impossible to catch them in any way except with dogs. They were seldom bitten by the dogs when over taken; they would climb a tree if one was near at hand, but if they were caught on the ground, the dogs were so trained that they circled around the negroes, without going close to them. Negroes always aided a runaway by slipping to him something to eat. Mr. H. never had a negro to lie out more than three days, and never offered more than ten dollars as a reward for his return. Mr. B., with the aid of another man, caught a negro who had been in the woods seven years. He advertised the negro, and in due time returned him to his master. The slave turned out to be the most faithful of a large number of slaves. Mrs. D. says of her whole [15] number of slaves, which was between one hundred and fifty and two hundred, there was never a runaway; Mr. B. knows several such cases. Uncle West would run from the plantation up to Mr. F. R.’s residence whenever the overseer told him to do what he did not wish to do, or threatened to whip him. None of the negroes ever did any other kind of running away.

The overseers were men selected for their practical farming ability, and their business was to oversee the negroes and look after the farm and the planting. Sometimes an overseer was discharged, or brought to trial, when he mistreated a negro. One of Mr. W. H.’s overseers whipped two of his negroes, who hid in the swamp. Some of the other negroes came from the plantation to Auburn to tell their master. He decided the whipping unjust and paid the overseer up and let him go.

When an overseer was hired it was understood that he was to ride the country as a patrol; also the young white slave-owners of the neighborhood patrolled on certain nights. A negro was not allowed to leave his master’s plantation without a pass stating where he was going and when he was to return. This had to be signed, either by the overseer or the master. If the negro was caught away from home without a pass, he was whipped with a leather strap by these patrols. The usual punishment for being away from home without a pass was ten to twenty lashes, but in exceptional cases thirty-nine lashes might be given. These patrols went usually Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons and nights, but they also went out any night when they thought they might catch negroes roving about. They patrolled the roads, visited the plantations, and searched the cabins; if a negro was caught in a cabin away from home, he was taken off a good way from the negro quarters and whipped. Of course the whipping depended upon the offense, the mood of the patrol, and the negro whipped. Sometimes people who did not own negroes would catch a [16] negro without a pass and beat him badly, but the regular patrol did not do this.

The negroes were punished as a rule, by whipping; the whip was a leather strap so that it would not cut the skin. The foreman was the boss and did the whipping, but the owner, or overseer, was there to witness it. On some plantations the overseer did the whipping, but the master was usually present. Negroes were not whipped for small offenses; a foreman would sometimes dislike a certain negro and would beat that one unmercifully. As a rule, the overseer was more kind and merciful than the foreman. If there was a large number of hands, the foreman spent his whole time bossing; if the number was small, he would work awhile and then boss awhile. He lorded it over the other negroes. The worst whipping was often done by the negro parents.

[…] Slavery was not without its dark side. There were near Auburn several instances of cruel treatment to slaves. In one case they were not properly fed, in another, they were not sufficiently clothed. How far this was due to the lack of means of the masters is now hard to determine. In some cases they seem to have been overworked. In one or two they were treated roughly and punished severely. In one case a slave stabbed his master, but did not kill him. The slave was tried and hanged. Public opinion disapproved of cruelty on the part of masters. One man was indicted three times for ill treatment of his slaves, especially for failing to supply them with sufficient food and clothing. He was fined each time.

[18]There were some old negroes who did as they pleased and went where they pleased. These negroes were too old and infirm to be of any value. Mr. H. had four or five such, two of whom were blind women. They made money by making baskets and selling chickens and eggs. These negroes were not what were called free negroes. Uncle Burl Dillard was in reality a free negro, but he nominally belonged to the Dillards. He made ginger bread and persimmon beer, which he sold. He also had a wagon and mule, and went through the country buying old rags which he took to Columbus and there sold. His wife, Aunt Kitty Dillard, was a slave.

The negroes had the greatest contempt for poor white folks, that is people who owned no negroes. Every one speaks of their faithfulness. They would divide anything they had with their masters and would steal from their neighbor rather than their master. Only cribs and smoke houses were locked. They thought their folks the greatest in the world, and what belonged to the master was always spoken of as theirs. They were respectful to every one except poor white folks. Mr. R.’s negroes came from South Carolina and would not associate with other negroes because they thought South Carolina negroes far superior to any of the negroes in Auburn. In 1847 Aus Harvey went to Mexico with his master. When they left, the mother of Mr. Harvey made Aus promise to bring her son back if he should die. Mr. Harvey died with yellow fever, and true to his promise, Aus brought the body home. He paid his own fare and that of the corpse by cooking and doing various things. He told parties that the corpse was a piece of furniture he was bringing to Alabama. Finally, he got the body as far as Montgomery; then the family sent for it. There were many examples of faithfulness, too numerous to be told.

–Meriwether Harvey, Slavery in Auburn, Alabama (1907)

“Enemies In Almost All Our Institutions”: The Rise and the Tactics of the Cheka under Dzerzhinskii, from W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War (1989), 381-385.

The following passage comes from pp. 381-385 of Chapter 11, The Struggle to Survive in W. Bruce Lincoln’s book Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989). The passage is cited as a source in recent revisions of Wikipedia:Cheka, but the text of the passage was not yet fully available online, so here it is, for reference. Hyperlinks have been added; footnotes are from the original text.

[…] Rather than admit the real enemies they faced were an acute lack of civic responsibility among the people they ruled, the Bolsheviks proclaimed bungling, shirking, and sabotage to be the reason for their inability to mobilize the working men and women of Russia in the cause of economic reconstruction. To deal with such spectral foes required a massive invasion of Russians’ daily lives. For the first time in their modern history, the men and women of Russia became responsible not only for what they said and did, but for what they thought.

Now openly acknowledged by the Bolsheviks’ Central Committee as an instrument for fulfilling the will of the Party and the proletariat,[112] Dzerzhinskii‘s Cheka became the Bolsheviks’ chief defense against their inability to mobilize Russians to rebuild their nation’s economic life. Although its brutality against the Whites continued unabated in those areas where Bolsheviks still vied for control, the Cheka now became an instrument to coerce a nation as [382] it began to search for enemies of the people among peasants, Red Army soldiers, workers, bureaucrats, and even loyal Bolsheviks. The form of our struggle against our enemies must change, Dzerzhinskii told the Central Executive Committee in February 1919 as he argued (very prematurely, it turned out) that the battle against the Whites had been won. They now are trying to worm their way into our Soviet institutions so that, once they have infiltrated our ranks, they can sabotage our work. Nothing could have expressed more clearly the Bolsheviks’ increasingly paranoid response to the crises that surrounded them. We know that we have enemies in almost all our institutions, Dzerzhinskii concluded, but we cannot smash our institutions. We have to dig out clues and try to catch them.[113] Its resources now focused upon government offices, trade unions, factories, villages, and party headquarters, the Cheka declared war against the Russians. In this struggle, the organs of the Cheka must become an instrument for realizing the centralized will of the proletariat, Lenin told the Fourth Conference of Provincial Chekas a year later. He therefore insisted that the Cheka must become a weapon for creating the sort of discipline that we have been able to establish in the Red Army [in society as a whole].[114]

Dzerzhinskii shared all the fears of internal enemies that plagued Lenin and his comrades. Power had not softened him physically or morally, for he had continued to live a thoroughly ascetic life, even when others had begun to enjoy the comforts that their newly won positions made possible. Although he had exercised the power of life and death over men under the most trying conditions, Dzerzhinskii still remained true to his once-stated ideal that a Chekist must always have a cool head, a warm heart, and clean hands.[115] His features sharpened by age and the burdens of office, Dzerzhinskii now resembled the Grand Inquisitor more than ever. When his appointment as commissar of internal affairs in March 1919 enabled him to combine the personnel of the Cheka with the much larger institutional and financial resources of one of Soviet Russia’s most important commissariats, he shaped the two into an institution of uniquely pervasive coercive abilities. Eventually, the Cheka became reorganized as the GPU, the acronym for Gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie (State Political Administration), which, popular gallows humor bitterly remarked, really stood for the phrase Gospodi, pomilui umershikh, or Lord, have mercy upon the dead.[116] With a clear mandate to act as the Party’s special [383] instrument to rout out sedition and sabotage wherever it might threaten the Bolsheviks’ efforts to move ahead with Russia’s economic reconstruction,[117] Dzerzhinskii‘s Cheka became in every sense the avenging sword of the Revolution.

As the Cheka expanded its work beyond those Civil War fronts where it faced enemies in open battle, it took control of Russia’s railways, waterways, frontiers, cities, large towns, factories, and government offices. Everywhere, it searched for White Guardists, saboteurs, and shirkers who might be trying to undermine Russia from within. Far distant were the days when Dzerzhinskii had carried the Cheka‘s entire files around Petrograd in a briefcase. Now the Cheka‘s dossiers about real, suspected, and imagined enemies numbered in the tens of thousands. How a person’s parents and grandparents had been employed, where and how they had lived, and whom they had entertained in their homes all became important, as things written or said in days long past returned to haunt innocent Russians. Inheritor of the tsarist belief that it was in man’s nature to do evil, the Cheka lived with the frustrating conviction that most crimes inevitably would go undiscovered and unpunished. Its agents always tried to uncover new crimes in the course of every inquiry. One should never … confront [a suspect] … with material evidence convicting him of guilt at the beginning of an interrogation, the Cheka instructed its interrogators. It is important to ascertain first other participants in the case and the possibility of other as yet undisclosed crimes.[118]

As they violated the minds and bodies of their victims, the Cheka‘s inquisitors abandoned every moral principle that guided the behavior of civilized men and women. Usually, prisoners were questioned late at night after they had been kept without sleep and fed starvation rations for long periods. Hunger and disease were part of everyday life in Cheka prisons, but so were physical and psychological tortures. Rapes of female prisoners by Cheka guards and interrogators were so commonplace that they occasioned comment from superiors only if performed in some particularly brutal or perverted fashion. Threats against relatives, whippings, and beatings (during which interrogators sometimes gouged out one of the victim’s eyes) were everyday methods of extracting confessions, but each Cheka headquarters evidently developed certain specialties. The Cheka in Voronezh rolled its prisoners around inside a barrel into which nails had been driven, while the Cheka in Kharkov used scalping as a preferred form of torture. In Armavir, the Cheka [384] used a death wreath that applied increasing pressure to a prisoner’s skull; at Tsaritsyn, they separated prisoners’ joints by sawing through their bones; and, in Omsk, they poured molten sealing wax on prisoners’ faces, arms, and necks. In Kiev, Chekists installed rats in pieces of pipe that had been closed at one end, placed the open end against prisoners’ stomachs, and then heated the pipes until the rats, maddened by the heat, tried to escape by gnawing their way into the prisoners’ intestines.[119]

Like the sword of Damocles, the threat of death hung over every prisoner of the Cheka, not only because interrogators terrorized prisoners with mock executions,[120] but because real executions occurred very often. Estimates of men and women killed by Cheka executioners between 1918 and the end of the Civil War in 1921 vary wildly from a few thousand (Dzerzhinskii‘s lieutenant Martyn Latsis set the total for this period at 12,733)[121] into the hundreds of thousands, and one estimate set the number of Cheka victims for the somewhat longer period between the October Revolution and Lenin‘s death at the astronomical figure of one and three-quarters million.[122] Although they do not take into account those killed when the Cheka suppressed hundreds of insurrections against Soviet authority, the best estimates set the probable number of executions at about a hundred thousand,[123] or about seven times the number killed by the tsarist government during the entire century before the Revolution. That staggering statistic becomes even more appalling if we remember that it does not include those who died in Cheka prisons from disease, hunger, or beatings. To this day, it remains impossible to do more than guess at the number of men, women, and children whose lives were snuffed out by the Cheka between 1918 and 1921.

If any estimate of the Cheka‘s victims must remain an uncertain conjecture, the methods by which they met their deaths are far better known. Chekist executioners sometimes crucified their vctims in Ekaterinoslav and Kiev. In Odessa, they favored chaining White officers to planks and pushing them slowly into furnaces or boiling water. The Sevastopol Cheka preferred mass hangings. In other places, the Cheka beheaded its victims by twisting their necks until their heads could be torn off. Some executioners had their victims stoned to death. Denikin‘s investigators discovered corpses whose lungs, throats, and mouths had been packed with earth. Other victims died after being chopped apart with axes. Still others were skinned alive. Severing arms and legs, disemboweling, blinding, cutting [385] off tongues, ears, and noses, and various sorts of sexual mutilation often prolonged victims’ agonies before the executions.[124]

Most commonly, an executioner fired a single bullet into the base of his victim’s skull. When larger numbers of prisoners needed to be killed quickly, as in cases where sudden advances by White forces threatened their liberation, Cheka firing squads and machine-gunners did the killing. As the armies of General Denikin advanced toward Kiev, more than four hundred Cheka prisoners met their deaths in that fashion on the night of August 26, 1919. In Kharkov, the Cheka killed seventy-nine in a single night, and there were reports that some two thousand died in Ekaterinodar during one twenty-four-hour period in August 1920.[125] The whole of it was coated with blood–blood ankle deep, wisps of hair, and the like, investigators from Denikin‘s forces reported after they visited the main Cheka slaughterhouse in Kiev. A conspicuous object, their report concluded, was the wooden block upon which the victims had to lay their heads for the purpose of being brained with a crowbar, with, in the floor beside it, a traphole filled to the brim with human brain-matter from the shattering of the skulls.[126]

  1. [112]Obrashchenie TsK RKP(b), p. 250.
  2. [113]Dzerzhinskii, pp. 254-255.
  3. [114]Lenin, Rech’ … na 4-i konferentsii, pp. 370-371.
  4. [115]Quoted in Legett, p. 187.
  5. [116]Quoted in Mel’gunov (1925), p. 265.
  6. [117]Obrashchenie TsK RKP(b), p. 250.
  7. [118]118. Quoted in Gerson, p. 150.
  8. [119]119. Mel’gunov (1925), p. 111.
  9. [120]See, for example, Berkman (1925), p. 166.
  10. [121]121. Latsis (1921), p. 9.
  11. [122]Mel’gunov (1925), p. 111.
  12. [123]Chamberlin, II, p. 75; Gerson, pp. 172-176; Leggett, pp. 466-468.
  13. [124]Mel’gunov (1925), pp. 78-81, 172-187.
  14. [125]125. Chamberlin II, p. 83, note 16; Leggett, p. 200; Mel’gunov (1925), pp. 73-74, 174-175.
  15. [126]Ibid., pp. 75-85; Leggett, p. 200.

Max Eastman Is ‘Sorry’ For Today’s Rebels (Alden Whitman, New York Times, Jan. 9, 1969)

Here is an article on Max Eastman and his reflections on the New Left in his old age. This article appeared in The New York Times of January 9, 1969 (p. 33).

Max Eastman Is ‘Sorry’ For Today’s Rebels


One of the country’s reigning radical writers and agitators of a half-century ago looked this week at today’s young militants and found more to pity than to praise.

He is Max Eastman, editor of the Socialist periodical, The Masses, and its successor, The Liberator, in the years before and during World War I. Widely influential in left-wing and labor circles, these magazines printed articles by Mr. Eastman and by, among others, John Reed and Floyd Dell. Art Young and Robert Minor were among the cartoonists.

Twice Faced Trial

Because of antiwar articles in The Masses, Mr. Eastman was twice brought to trial amid nationwide publicity, charged with conspiracy to obstruct the draft. The charge was dropped after two Federal juries were unable to agree on a verdict.

I feel kind of sorry for these young rebels of today, he said in an interview last Saturday at his West 13th Street apartment that marked his 86th birthday. He was on his way from Martha’s Vineyard, where he and his wife spend their summers, to a winter home in Barbados.

They have an emotion not unlike ours, he continued, running his fingers through a shock of fine, snow-white hair. They want to make a revolution but they have no ultimate purpose.

I have a certain emotional sympathy for them, but they are rather pathetic because they have no plan. They just seek a revolution for its ow sake.

By contrast, said Mr. Eastman, glancing from his padded chair around a room festooned with Christmas and birthday cards, We had a program and a purpose, which was to make over capitalism into Socialism, and it was based on an ideal and on an ideal and on an ideology.

With a vigor that belied his years, the ruddy-faced Mr. Eastman categorized the radicals of the New Left as the bohemian wing of the bourgeoisie, sons and daughters of the well-to-do, who have no real class affiliation and no alliances with the working class.

It is not possible, he said in slow, measured tones, to bring about a revolution–except on a class basis–unless by some sort of fluke.

Asked why today’s rebels appeared to lack an ideology, he declared:

Socialism was once a plausible plan, but when Socialism failed completely and produced a totalitarian tyranny [in the Soviet Union under Stalin], it left social ideas without a theoretical basis.

Mr. Eastman stressed, though, that there were some similarities between rebels in 1969 and those of his era.

Mood Called the Same

The mood of militance is the same, he asserted, and so is the general rejection of convention. But many of today’s restive youth are caught up in trivialities. Obscenity, for example.

Having broken with the Socialist movement (but I never considered myself a Marxist, not even in The Masses days in 1913) when his friend Leon Trotsky was read out of the Communist party by Stalin in 1926-27, Mr. Eastman made his own transition from radicalism to the Reader’s Digest. He has been a roving editor for that publication since 1941.

The author and poet indicated hat his outlook for social change in the United States and the world was gloomy. He doubted, he said, that this country needs a revolution, or that one was possible either from the New Left or the Negro community. Negro militants, he said, are bound to raise hell, but they can’t make a revolution.

We have to patch up the world as it is and accept it, although I don’t feel very happy about it, Mr. Eastman said.

Like many writers, he has given no thought to retirement. Doubleday is to publish this spring a translation he made many years ago of Trotsky’s account of Lenin’s youth.

The manuscript, which Mr. Eastman had believed lost, turned up in the Harvard library a few years ago. It chronicles the Bolshevik leader’s life up to when he joined the Russian revolutionary movement after becoming a lawyer in St. Petersburg, now Leningrad.

In addition, Mr. Eastman is collecting a number of essays and portraits of his contemporaries for publication soon. These, he remarked with a twinkle in his bluish eyes, are to be entitled Bull in the Afternoon and Other Essays.

The lead essay, a criticism of Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, precipitated the famous set-to between the two authors.

Fresh in His Mind

That encounter, which took place in 1937 in the office of Max Perkins, an editor at Scribner’s, was still fresh in Mr. Eastman’s mind.

Hemingway shoved an open book against my nose, he recalled, and accused me of saying that he lacked virility. I grabbed him by the throat and threw him–or backed him up–over Perkins’s desk and onto his back on the floor.

The two men’s friendship, never thereafter the epitome of cordiality, is now largely a mellow memory for Mr. Eastman. In addition to the piece on Hemingway, Mr. Eastman plans to include his new book essays on H. L. Mencken, Bernard Berenson and Sherwood Anderson.

At 86, an author is still an author.

The article closes with a photo from
The New York Times (by Michael Evans)
Max Eastman, with his tabby Twiggy, during the interview at his home on West 13th Street.

Over My Shoulder # 49: Sic Semper

Here’s the rules.

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from my class readings, Herodotus (c. 449 BCE), The Histories (trans. G.C. Macaulay and Donald Lateiner); I read it during one of my study jags over at The Coffee Cat. It’s Herodotus’s version of the end of the life of Cyrus the Great, the first King of Kings of the Persian Empire. At this time in his life, Cyrus had gained supreme power over the Persians, taken power over the old Median Empire, and set out on decades of large-scale conquest, subjugating nearly all of the peoples in Asia Minor, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. He then went with his army to the river Aras, in the hopes of expanding his conquest onto the Central Asian plains.

201. When [Babylon] also had been subdued by Cyrus, he desired to bring the Massagetai into subjection to himself. This nation is reputed to be both great and warlike, and to dwell towards the East and the sunrise, beyond the river Araxes and over against the Issedonians. Some say that this nation is of the Scythian race.

. . . 205. Now the ruler of the Massagetai was a woman, who was queen after the death of her husband, and her name was Tomyris. To her Cyrus sent and wooed her, pretending that he desired to have her for his wife. Tomyris, understanding that he was wooing not herself but rather the kingdom of the Massagetai, rejected his approaches. Cyrus after this, as he made no progress by craft, marched to the Araxes and campaigned openly against the Massagetai, forming bridges of boats over the river for his army to cross, and building towers upon the vessels which gave them safe passage across the river.

[. . . The captive king Croesus advised Cyrus to leave behind part of his army, along with preparations for a feast with strong wine, as a snare for the Massagetai warriors, who had no experience with Persian drinks.]

211. . . . After this when Cyrus and the sound part of the army of the Persians had marched back to the Araxes, and those unfit for fighting had been left behind, then one-third of the army of the Massagetai attacked and proceeded to kill, not without resistance, those whom the army of Cyrus had left behind. Seeing the feast that was set forth, when they had overcome their enemies they lay down and feasted, and being satiated with food and wine they went to sleep. Then the Persians came upon them and slew many of them, and took alive many more even than they slew, and among these the son of the queen Tomyris, who was leading the army of the Massagetai; and his name was Sparagapises.

212. She then, when she heard that which had come to pass with the army and also the things concerning her son, sent a herald to Cyrus and said: Cyrus, insatiable of blood, do not celebrate too much what has come to pass, namely because with that fruit of the vine, with which you fill yourselves and become so mad that as the wine descends into your bodies, wicked words float up upon its stream,—because setting a snare, I say, with such a drug as this you overcame my son and not by valor in fight. Now therefore hear this my word, giving you good advice:—Restore to me my son and depart from this land without penalty, triumphant over a third part of the army of the Massagetai. If you shall not do so, I swear to you by the Sun, who is lord of the Massagetai, that surely I will give you your fill of blood, blood-thirsty though you are.

213. These words were reported to him, but Cyrus disregarded them; and the son of the queen Tomyris, Sparagapises, when he sobered up and he realized his plight, entreated Cyrus that he might be loosed from his chains and gained his request. So soon as his hands were free, he put himself to death. 214. He then ended his life in this manner; but Tomyris, as Cyrus did not listen to her, gathered together all her power and joined battle with Cyrus. This battle I judge to have been the fiercest of all the battles fought by Barbarians,[1] and I am informed that it happened thus:—first, it is said, they stood apart and shot at one another, and afterwards when their arrows were all shot away, they fell upon one another and engaged in close combat with their spears and daggers; and so they continued their fight with one another for a long time, and neither side would flee; but at last the Massagetai got the better in the fight. The greater part of the Persian army was destroyed there upon the spot, and Cyrus himself died there, after he had reigned twenty-nine years. Then Tomyris filled a skin with human blood and had search made among the Persian dead for the corpse of Cyrus. When she found it, she let his head down into the skin and doing outrage to the corpse she said this over it: Though I yet live and have overcome you in fight, nevertheless you have destroyed me by taking my son with craft. I nevertheless according to my threat will give you your fill of blood. There are many tales told about the end of Cyrus, but this one is to my mind the most worthy of belief.

— Herodotus (c. 449 BCE), The Histories, Book I §§ 212-213. (Trans. G.C. Macaulay and Donald Lateiner.)

  1. [1] [Sic. By Barbarians, Herodotus simply means nations that do not speak Greek. —CJ]

Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie on Robert E. Lee and the whipping of the Norris slaves

This passage is from Bruce Levine’s 2013 study, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (Random House, 2013). Levine’s text includes an error of misreading the sources: in reading descriptions of the escape and whipping, he seems to have mistakenly parsed my sister Mary, a cousin of ours, and I determined to run away as my sister, Mary (a cousin of ours), and I determined to run away, thus mistaking Mary Norris for the unnamed cousin of ours in Norris’s testimony (in fact, according to Pryor, inf., the cousin is George Parks).

Hundley was anxious to attribute such conduct to only the greediest and cruelest masters. In fact, however, cracking whips and piercing cries were heard throughout the South. Robert E. Lee liked to think of himself as a humane owner. But he could react as fiercely as any other when his power and authority were challenged. In 1859, three of Lee’s slaves–Wesley Norris, his sister, and a cousin named Mary–attempted to escape from the Arlington plantation. Recaptured in Maryland, the unfortunate people were jailed there for two weeks and then delivered back into Lee’s hands. Promising to teach them a lesson they would not soon forget, Lee had them taken to the barn, stripped to the waist, and whipped between twenty and fifty times each on their bare flesh by a local constable named Dick Williams. As the punishment proceeded, Wesley Norris later recalled, Lee stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to lay it on well, which he did.44

44. Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through His Private Letters (New York, 2007), 260-261.

–Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (Random House, 2013). 11, 309n44.

Two more years of THE LIBERATOR now available! (Scanning Project, Week 1 update)

I’m happy to announce, as an update to the ongoing Liberator online archive project that two more volumes of The Liberator — Vol. XII and Vol. XIII — are now available, in full page-scan PDF facsimiles — at the Liberator online archive:

The early 1840s were eventful and contentious years in the American Abolitionist movement, with much of the controversy centered on Garrison, Abby Kelly and their radical allies — especially the ultras’ strident opposition to electioneering and political parties, and their principled defense of women’s freedom to participate equally in the Abolitionist movement. In May 1840, the American Anti-slavery Society underwent a schism in the conflict over both propositions; more conservative, politically-oriented and anti-feminist abolitionists attempted to purge Garrison from the AAS, and when they failed to run him out, they left to form a new, conervative American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. The pages of The Liberator in 1841-1842 were full not only of news about national events, slavery, war, but also internal debate within the movement over the AAS/AFAS split and the electoral campaigns of the recently-formed Liberty Party, as well as new reports and arguments over the Come-Outer religious movement, endorsed by Garrison, Abby Kelly, and others, which called on Christians to come out of mainline denominations that did not reflect their conscientious beliefs on spiritual practice or which refused to take a moral stand against slavery, alongside established features such as the Refuge of Oppression columns (in which Garrison quoted, verbatim, the words of defenders of slavery and racism, in order to demonstrate the inhumanity of their views), international updates on the Caribbean and on the speaking tours of British Abolitionists, reflections on religious and moral topics, and pages of bad moral reform poetry. To see it as it happened, you can now check out 104 more issues of The Liberator available online, in full, for free, from January 1841 to the end of December 1842.

If you enjoy this project or find the materials useful, you can help support the work and speed up the on-going progress with a contribution to the project, in any amount, through the Molinari Institute — the not-for-profit sponsor of the Fair Use Repository. You can read more about the fundraiser and the archive project in the introductory post here at Fair Use Blog.

Read, cite, and enjoy!