Slavery in Lynchburg, Virginia

Preface

     While a student at Brookville High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, I wanted to get just one thing out of school, myself!  I never considered the possibility of going to college.  Like many young men during the early 1960’s, I assumed that I would be drafted into the army soon after graduating in 1963.  What would come after that was anyone’s guess.

Rather than the army, I spent three years attending the Lynchburg Branch of the University of Virginia.  There weren’t any so-called community colleges in Virginia at that time, at least not that I am aware of.  The Lynchburg Branch of UVA was the forerunner of what later became Central Virginia Community College.  The Branch provided the first two years of college at a bargain price.  I believe the tuition was a mere $240 per semester, or was it a year?  I do not remember exactly.

Because I never thought of going beyond high school, I had to take several high school algebra and geometry courses in addition to the traditional freshman and sophomore classes.  Hence, it took me three years to get the two.

There were some really terrific teachers at the UVA Branch.  Some were professors at the main campus in Charlottesville.  One who I particularly remember was Mr. Anderson, a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  Mr. Anderson would ride the Trailways bus down to Lynchburg one night a week and teach philosophy.  After class, some of us would walk to the bus station with him and discuss philosophy, while he waited for his bus back to Charlottesville.

There was one faculty member in particular who had a profound influence on my future.  Benjamin W. Wright, Jr. taught history at the UVA Branch and later at Central Virginia Community College.  He was a very demanding teacher, as were most college and university professors in those days before the rapid decline of higher education in America.  I took every course he offered, both semesters of Western Civilization and both semester of U. S. History.  Mr. Wright required three book reviews, three detailed map projects, and a research paper for each of his classes.  During my forty-two years teaching history at various colleges I could never have required that much for any of my classes, intro or upper level.

Mr. Wright challenged me to do a research paper on slavery in Lynchburg for the second half of the U. S. History survey during the spring semester of 1965.   I did so, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my undergraduate years.  I did the research at the old Jones Memorial Library located on Rivermont Avenue.  Handling old newspapers and other documents stored in the library at that time was pure joy.

I kept that paper, as well as others I did while at the UVA Branch and later at Lynchburg College.  Recently I decided to retype the paper and post it on my blog for anyone interested in the subject.  A copy of the original was in the Jones Memorial Library for many years, but I believe it failed to survive the closing of the library in 1987.

I retyped the paper without making any changes, except to correct the misspelled words noted by Mr. Wright.  That old portable, manual typewriter of mine did not have a spell check, like the laptop computer I am using to type these words.


SLAVERY IN LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA

by

Paul R. Waibel

University of Virginia, Lynchburg Branch

United States History Term Paper

May 6, 1965

Benjamin W. Wright, Jr., Instructor


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.      Antislavery

  • Antislavery Sympathy of the Lynchburg Quakers
  • The Anti-Abolitionist Meeting of 1835
  • The American Colonization Society

II.     The Slave Trade

  • Professional Slave Trading
  • Individual Slave Trading
  • Free Negroes and Slavery

III.    Slave Labor

  • In Local Industry
  • Employment of Lynchburg Slaves Outside the City
  • Domestic Slave Labor

IV.     Slaves and the Law

V.      Slave-Master Relationship

VI.     Some Lynchburg Census

VII.   Notes

VIII.  Bibliography

IX.     Important Sources Consulted But Not Quoted

 


I.  ANTISLAVERY

Antislavery Sympathy of the Lynchburg Quakers

            The first mention of the existence of slavery in Lynchburg is one of antislavery sympathy.  In reading the records of the Meetings of Women Friends of the South River Quakers, we find the first mention of slaves dated “the 12th day of the 10th month 1763” with the comment, “The instruction of negroes among us is too much neglected.”[1]

It is not surprising that the antislavery sympathy in Lynchburg should come first from the Quakers.  The Quakers were the first abolitionists in Virginia.  “As early as 1711 in Virginia, steps were taken definitely to wipe out slavery.”[2]  The Meetings were directed in 1775 and 1776, “to expel all those who refused to let their slaves free.”[3]  Before members of the Quaker faith could receive letters of transfer from one Meeting to another, they had to be free of, in addition to debts, etc., ownership of slaves—“he must own no slaves.”[4]  Quakers were disowned for holding slaves and were forbidden to buy, sell or hire slaves from their masters or to act as overseers.[5]

Lynchburg Quakers were no longer buying and selling slaves in 1771.  Referring back to the records of the Meetings of Women Friends in 1771, we find, “Friends are clear of buying and selling negroes,” and, on April 4, 1798, the record reads:  “None among us hold slaves except where the mistress only have right and we believe the greater bear testimony against this practice.”[6]

The rules imposed upon members of the Quaker faith governing their relationship with the institution of slavery, were strictly enforced.  According to the records the following persons were disowned by the South River Meeting held in Campbell County,[7] for purchasing or holding slaves:

Moses Kendrick, “8-18-1787”  Disowned “for purchasing a slave and holding liberated slaves in bondage.”

Obediah Kerby, “8-18-1792”  Disowned “for purchasing a slave and holding in bondage.”

Richard Tullis, “12-15-1792”  Disowned “for retaining a negro in bondage.”

Samuel Moorman, “3-21-1795”  Disowned “for holding a slave.”

Thomas Jackson, “12-11-1802”  Disowned “for hiring a slave.”

Samuel Fisher, “8-12-1820”  Disowned “for disposing of a colored man into slavery and not instead granting him freedom.”[8]

Also the children of Edith Easley who had attended the services at South River to “a degree of satisfaction,” could not be received in 1798, “on account of their father holding slaves.”[9]

In 1790 the first serious rumblings of the question of slavery were heard in Lynchburg.  The strong antislavery sentiments of the South River Quakers were until 1790 restricted to the Quakers themselves.  They had already freed their own slaves and were now moved to speak openly against others not in their society.  Says Douglas Brown: “The anti-slavery movement for all was on its way.”[10]  Even so, “In 1814 the records of South River complained that its members were ‘free from slavery but reluctant to speak against it.’”[11]

The Anti-Abolitionist Meeting of 1835

            On August 27, 1835, an anti-abolitionist meeting was held in Lynchburg.  The meeting was called because at the time an outside group was agitating the slaves and urging them to rebel by force.  Samuel J. Wiatt was chairman and R. H. Toler was secretary.  As an outcome of this meeting a strong vigilance committee was appointed in each ward, with instructions to suppress anything looking to abolition.  The meeting also resolved to petition the state Legislature to pass laws keeping out of the state so-called reformers, to strengthen the police force and request the postmaster to detain all incendiary publications.  However the most important outcome of the meeting was the action by the merchants in which they bound themselves not to trade with any place whose representatives interfered with the slaves.[12]

The action by the merchants which was aimed at the Northern agitators had a disastrous effect upon the Quakers in the Lynchburg area.  Largely as a result of this action the remainder of the Quakers left the area and headed west.[13]  Pressures placed upon the Quakers because of their antislavery sentiments caused many of them to leave earlier.  “When the Civil War finally broke out only a small remnant was left anywhere in Virginia and the old South River Meeting House had already been abandoned and was fast falling into ruins.”[14]

The American Colonization Society

            Eminent Virginians had long fought for the gradual abolition of slavery.  As a colony before the formation of the United States they struggled with the crown and later when Virginia became a member of the United States they had to struggle against proslavery sentiments in Virginia and the Nation as a whole.  When one views the efforts made by leading Virginians to abolish slavery in the state, it is not surprising that the “very backbone of he American Colonization Society was in Virginia.[15]

The American Colonization Society which had branches in the North as well as the South and foreign nations,[16] founded an auxiliary chapter in Lynchburg.[17]  Of the founding of the Lynchburg Chapter, Asbury Christian makes these comments in Lynchburg and Its People:

. . . . . in August, 1825, the colonization society, with Rev. John Early president, was started.  The purpose of this organization was to raise means to send to Africa ‘all free people of color’ who desired to go, and all slaves who were freed on that condition.  Regular meetings were held, a large amount of money raised . . . . a good work was done for the negroes who desired to return to their original home.[18]

Thus we see that after the Quakers were removed as an antislavery force the Colonization Society took their place.  Outside of Lynchburg and Its People there appears to be no mention of the activities—success or failure—of the Society in Lynchburg.  We can only study the activities of the Society on a state-wide or nation-wide basis and draw our conclusions from it.   It is safe, I feel, to take this course of action.  However due to the lack of space and the limited area of my topic I will confine myself to a very few remarks.

On the whole the Colonization Societies were becoming quite successful prior to 1831.  They had received the backing of many prominent Americans.

Among the nationally known men who were members of this society, (American Colonization Society) . . . . were such distinguished men as Francis Scott Key, John Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Charles Fenton Mercer, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, and a long line of other prominent Americans.[19]

The Colonization Society received both federal and state aid, and in Virginia in 1832 the House “passed a bill which provided for the deportation and colonization of the free negroes of the Commonwealth, (1832) and such as thereafter might become free.”[20]  After the Nat Turner insurrection the Society fell a victim to the censorship which began to prevail in the South and gradually declined.

II.  THE SLAVE TRADE

Professional Slave Trading

            Slave traders set up businesses in Lynchburg just as they had in all other major cities of the South.  Four traders—George Davis, M. Hart, E. Myers and Seth Woodroof—advertised in the Christmas, 1845 and other numbers of the Lynchburg Republican.[21]  Slaves were also bought and sold by local individuals who, like the traders, advertised in the Lynchburg papers.

The professional slave traders advertised their offers in the Lynchburg Virginian and the Daily Republican.  It appears their main interest was in the purchasing of large quantities of Negroes rather than the selling of individuals.  This is not too difficult to understand.  The speculator’s “slave pen” or “office” was generally well known to everyone in the surrounding area.  They knew where to go if they wished to purchase a slave and did not need any advertisements to guide them.  On the other hand if the speculator was interested in gathering together a quantity of Negroes for shipment to the deep south cotton country, it would be necessary for him to announce his intentions to the plantation owners and other holders of slaves.  Thus we find that the ads placed by slave traders in the local papers dealt mostly with the purchase rather than the sale of slaves.

To the slave traders the Negroes were big business.  George Davis alone advertised in the June 9, 1845 Republican, for two hundred young Negroes of the usual ages.[22]  This advertisement not only indicates the large numbers of slaves called for by the traders but also indicates that there was a generally known and accepted range of ages that would be purchased.  Davis also offered to match the prices that could be gotten in Richmond or elsewhere and would go anywhere to inspect and make offers.[23]  He did not mention in this advertisement why he desired such a large quantity of Negroes, but he also advertised as a partner of M. Hart’s (“Davis and Hart”) to “buy any number of negroes that would suit the Southern market.”[24]  It is quite clear then that the large quantities called for by the slave traders were intended for shipment to the Deep South cotton kingdom.[25]

Seth Woodroof was also a very enterprising slave trader in Lynchburg.  He “sought from 75 to 150 between ages of 10 and 25, later extended to 30.”[26]  “By 1852 he had a newly erected brick building on First or Lynch street, behind the Farmers’ Bank,”[27] where he guaranteed to “keep them as secure as if they were placed in the jail of the Corporation.”[28]

Not all slave traders who advertised in the Lynchburg papers were necessarily from Lynchburg.  J. B. Mc Lendon advertised for Negroes between ten and thirty years old.  He could be called on at the “Washington Hotel, Lynchburg, or address him by mail.”[29]  From this I believe we can safely assume that Mr. Mc Lendon was some sort of traveling speculator who set up temporary quarters at the Washington Hotel.  He would probably purchase a quantity of Negroes from this area and then move on to another community.   Where did he keep the Negroes he purchased?  From the previously cited advertisement by Seth Woodroof we can assume that it was customary to keep them in the jail of the Corporation.

Individual Slave Trading

            Individuals advertised in the Lynchburg papers to sell or purchase slaves.  Micajah Davis, Jr. advertised in the August 8, 1855 Lynchburg Virginian, a twenty-seven year old Negro woman and her “four very likely[30] children.”[31]  His intentions were to sell five slaves, and the advertisement leads one to feel he hoped to do this in a one package family unit.  Others advertised a desire to purchase slaves.  A good example of this is a private individual who advertised in the Virginian for a Negro boy sixteen to twenty years old.[32]

A large number of advertisements appearing in the papers for the sale of Negro slaves were placed by the administrators of the estates of deceased persons announcing the auctioning off of the deceased’s property.  One such advertisement is titled “Public Sale of Negroes,” and reads in part:  “Billy and his wife Hannah and their three children, Daniel, Essex, and Mary, or so many as may be sufficient to satisfy the debt named in said deed.”[33]  This advertisement is an important example in that, unlike the one by M. Davis, Jr. previously quoted, this seller will break up the family if necessary.  The advertisement concludes, “it may take all to satisfy the purpose of the aforesaid.  The balance will be sold at the same time and place.”[34]  The advertisement was placed by “Balda McDaniel, adms. Of Henry Clark, dec’d.”  Credit was often extended in such sales of Negroes for twenty days to twelve months.  As a rule however, they were sold for cash.

Slaves sold for high prices even when the transaction was carried on between individuals.  A receipt, dated October 2, 1858, shows a Mr. D. Nowlin paid $950.00 for two Negro slaves guaranteed sound and healthy.[35]  Another receipt, dated October 16, 1858, just twelve days later than the previous one, shows David Nowlin paid $450.00 for a Negro slave forty-six years old.[36]  Neither receipt was on paper which would suggest the seller was a dealer.

The prices paid by David Nowlin seem like bargains when compared to the prices brought by some sales at two times when one would expect the prices of slaves to have fallen sharply.  Despite the frenzy of possible, or known, war between the states, slaves continued to bring good prices.

Bryan Akers, the auctioneer, sold, on April 12, a lot at the following prices:  A negro woman, nine hundred and ten dollars; a negro boy, seventeen years old, eleven hundred and thirty dollars; a girl, eighteen years old, eleven hundred dollars; a boy twelve, six hundred and forty dollars; a woman fifty, with child, seven hundred and sixty dollars.  The terms of the sale were cash, and the right of dower in the negroes was retained.  The price of slaves had not yet begun to depreciate.[37]

The Proclamation of Emancipation was issued on January 1, 1863.  It had little effect upon the price of slaves in Lynchburg.  During the same month in front of the Market House a Negro man of forty, a carpenter, sold for $3,120.00, a boy eighteen years old sold for $1,860.00, and a girl fifteen years old sold for $1,500.00.[38]  “The price of slaves had really gone up since the proclamation.”[39]

Free Negroes and Slavery

            It is a historical fact that free Negroes in the South owned slaves.  Consequently we should not be surprised to find that free Negroes in Lynchburg also held slaves.  Richard Parsons of Campbell County, a free Negro who owned property in Lynchburg, owned nine slaves.[40]  Russell Thomas a free Negro of Lynchburg who was a grocer, held one slave.[41]  We cannot know for sure what the motives were behind these Negroes who held in slavery members of their own race.  We need only ask ourselves, what were the motives behind the white people (Romans, Spanish, etc.) who also held in slavery members of their own race.  However we are, I think, safe in assuming that neither Parsons nor Thomas engaged in the buying and selling of slaves on a commercial basis.  But they are not all.  There were others.

Three Lynchburg barbers who were free Negroes—Armistead Pride, Claiborne Gladman, and Thomas Gladman—“held one, two, and three slaves respectively.”[42]  Claiborne, unlike Armistead or Thomas, apparently held slaves on a commercial basis.  Says Luther P. Jackson in his book Free Negro Labor and Property Holding in Virginia, 1830-1860:  “Claiborne Gladman had manumitted the slave members of his family in 1817, but after this event he held slaves apparently on a commercial basis.”[43]  So we have seen that the free Negroes of Lynchburg also were slave holders and to some extent may have engaged in the holding of slaves on a commercial basis.

III.  SLAVE LABOR

In Local Industry

            With antislavery and the slave trade behind us, we will now examine slave labor and its employment in Lynchburg.  Most people when they think of slavery, picture in their mind a crew of Negroes cropping tobacco or picking cotton in the hot blistering sun on some southern plantation.  This of course is an accurate picture, but there is also another picture of slavery in the prewar South.  This is the picture which one gets who has given some study to slavery and its application in the major Southern cities, and in particular the industrial cities of Virginia—Richmond, Petersburg and Lynchburg.

Slavery was becoming an economic burden in Virginia prior to 1831.  “The records show beyond question that up to 1830-31 there was a steadily growing body of public opinion in Virginia . . . that slavery was an economic, moral, and social evil.”[44]  This is largely evident from the Virginia Slavery Debate of 1832.[45]  The chief agricultural center had shifted to the deep South cotton country causing slavery to be a burden upon the economy of the upper South.  Those who owned plantations found that the slaves’ services were no longer needed.    They had to find a new source of employment for them, sell them south to the cotton growers, or free them.  Unfortunately certain power structures prevented the later from being realized.

The Virginia cities of Petersburg, Lynchburg and particularly Richmond were fast becoming the industrial centers of the South.  Richmond was the major industrial city of the South and was thought of by contemporaries as the manufacturing heart of Dixie.[46]  In these three cities slavery was being applied to an industrial economy.  Richmond’s Joseph R. Anderson’s Tredegar Works (Tredegar Iron Company), a major employer of slave labor, was regarded as a “test case of adaptability of slavery to heavy industry.”[47]

Lynchburg’s industry was largely in tobacco processing and manufacturing of railway cars, steam engines and agricultural implements.  Her growth in the field of tobacco was phenomenal.  “In twenty-three years of the town (23 years after incorporation in 1805) . . . [it] is stated to have become the point for the largest tobacco inspection in the United States.”[48]  Somewhat later but of equal importance was the development of heavy industry in Lynchburg.  Kathleen Bruce notes that:

Between 1855 and 1860 in the Piedmont town of Lynchburg on the James River, and in Petersburg at the falls of the Appomattox, twenty miles by railway from Richmond, men were manufacturing railway cars and almost as great a variety of steam engines and agricultural implements as were made in Richmond.[49]

Yet there is still more.  As early as 1828 the Lynchburg Manufacturing Company was founded to manufacture cotton.[50]

Because their services were not needed on the plantations, slaves owned by masters in the counties were often sent into the cities (including Lynchburg) for employment.[51]  Those slaves who were sent to Lynchburg were employed largely in the tobacco factories, where they worked side by side with free Negroes.[52]  Kenneth M. Stampp has these comments to make about the employment of bondsmen and their importance in the society of the tobacco towns:

Almost all of the thirteen thousand workers in the tobacco factories of the Virginia District were bondsmen.  The majority of them were employed in the three leading tobacco manufacturing cities—Richmond, Petersburg, and Lynchburg.  These slave workers were not only a vital part of this industry but also a curiously paradoxical element in the society of the tobacco towns.[53]

Employment of Lynchburg Slaves Outside of the City

            Negro bondsmen from Lynchburg were hired out by their masters to industries outside of the city.  We find evidence of this practice in various advertisements in the Lynchburg papers calling for Negro labor.  The Thedegar Iron Works of Richmond advertised in the January 10, 1863 Daily Republican for five hundred, “able-bodied NEGRO MEN, to be employed by us at our Blast Furnaces, in Botetourt county, and at our Coal Mines, on the James River seventeen miles above this city.”[54]  In the same paper on January 12, 1863, The Marion Magnetic Furnace in Smith county sought to employ sixty Negro men (also wanted 40 Irishmen) as “Wood Choppers, Colliers, Teamsters, & c.”[55]  On January 23, 1863, J. M. Harris advertised for seventy-five Negro men, “to work on the repairs of the JR&K Canal, and North River Improvement for the year of 1865.”[56]  He was obviously a man who believed in planning well ahead.

None of these advertisements mention the price that would be paid for the bondsmen’s labor, although the Marion Magnetic Furnace did offer “customary prices.”  All were in agreement in that they would furnish the slaves with provisions and clothing.  The Thedegar Iron Works even guaranteed that they would be well guarded.

City Employment of Slave Labor

            The extent to which slaves were employed by the city itself for public works, etc., I have not been able to discover in my limited research.  In Slavery in the Cities, Richard Wade did careful research into the employment of bondsmen by city governments and the tasks they performed.  He made this general statement which I believe would hold true for Lynchburg as well as the cities which Mr. Wade studied.

Municipal works depended heavily on slave labor.  Gangs of Negroes graded, paved, and cleaned streets, built bridges, collected garbage, dug canals and sewers, and generally provided the muscle for city projects.[57]

Mr. Wade also states that owners were usually paid from twenty-five to fifty cents a day for the slave’s labor.

Domestic Slave Labor

            Slaves were often hired out by their masters to serve as servants, cooks, etc., in Lynchburg homes.  Advertisements placed in the Daily Republican and Lynchburg Virginian both offered and sought to hire slaves to serve in local homes.  R. H. glass ran an ad in the Daily Republican on January 10, 1863 which read:  “I have for hire a servant girl, 17 years old, for nurse or house servant.”[58]  Another advertisement read, “for hire two negro women—one a good Cook, Washer and Ironer; and one accustomed to house work, about 15 years old.”[59]  Others sought to hire labor and advertised to this effect.  One such advertisement read:  “WANTED IMMEDIATELY—A colored GIRL, (slave preferred) from 12 to 14 years of age, to nurse an infant.  A trusty girl will find a good home by early application at the Virginian office.”[60]

IV.  SLAVES AND THE LAW

            The standing of the slave in the eyes of the law was not the same as that of a free person.  In Lynchburg the position of the slave before the law was the same as in all other cities of the South.  If a law were broken by a free person he was fined a set sum of money.  fIf the same law was broken by a slave (and in some cases a free Negro) he or she could receive as many as thirty-nine lashes.  Occasionally the slave or his master could pay a fine in lieu of the usual punishment.  This was not always so since it was left up to the discretion of the Magistrate.

The town of Lynchburg passed, on November 29, 1844, Ordinance VIII titled, “An Ordinance to provide for the recovery of fines and penalties generally; and to fix the mode and extent of punishment in certain cases.”  Section three of Ordinance VIII read:

Be it further ordained, That in all cases of penal laws within this Corporation, where free persons are punishable by fine, slaves shall be punishable by whippings; and in cases where the extent of such punishment is not stated, it shall be fixed at the discretion of the Magistrate:  Provided, That such punishment shall not exceed twenty lashes for any one offence; and provided moreover, that the Magistrate may, if the nature of the offence be such as to render it proper, suffer a slave, or some body for him, to pay such punishment.[61]

From this ordinance we can get a general idea of the law and its application to both free men and slaves.  Simply stated, punishments were dealt out according to the rule—fines for free persons, whippings for slaves.

The citing of a few ordinances as examples will serve to illustrate further the above and to some extent the areas covered.  Sections five and six of Ordinance I passed November 29, 1844 forbid slaves to sell on their own articles of food.  It was titled “An Ordinance to prevent violations of good morals and decency,” and read:

Be it further ordained, That any slave living within this Corporation, who shall hereafter sell, or expose to sale, with the same any butter, eggs, foods, or vegetables, shall receive any number of lashes on his or her bare back, not exceeding fifteen; unless such articles are the actual property, and sold for the benefit of his or her owner.

Be it further ordained, That any owner of a slave or slaves, who shall suffer such slave or slaves to own or keep any horse, cow or hog, for the use of such slave or slaves, without showing to some member of the common council how the same is maintained, shall pay a fine of five dollars for every such offence.[62]

This ordinance sought to improve the morals and decency of the Negro slaves by making their masters accountable in part for their actions.

Section five of Ordinance II, “An Ordinance to secure orderly conduct, to restrain and punish persons guilty of disorder, and concerning the cage,” passed 29th November 1844, dealt with “any person who defaces or injures any part of the Post Office, or the Cage, or any building, etc. about the Post Office or Cage, or the Market Place proper.”  Offences by a free person were punishable by a fine of five dollars.  If the offence was by a slave, “he or she shall receive on his or her bare back any number of lashes, not exceeding thirty-nine.”[63]

And so it goes much the same with all of the ordinances.  Occasionally an ordinance instructed that the lashes be “well laid on,” or that the punishment be doubled for additional offences.  Acts of the General Assembly relating to Lynchburg were also included with punishments running much the same as the city ordinances.

V.  SLAVE-MASTER RELATIONSHIP

            After one has made a study of the slave trade, the hiring out of slaves to industries, the treatment of slaves at the hands of the law, etc., he is likely to conclude that all slaves were cruelly treated and held in bondage that is best described as a living hell.  No doubt this was very true in many cases, but in others it was not.  The life of some slaves was far better than they could have expected as free men.  The life of a free Negro was not always as rosy as one would like to think.

The life of a free Negro anywhere in the South was far from being a truly free one.  He was often bound by the same restrictions in social life and before the law as were the bondsmen.  In the Lynchburg area the free Negro men worked mostly in the tobacco industry.  When the season was over they did whatever came their way.  The women were often forced to resort to prostitution.  There is evidence which shows that a free Negro woman in Lynchburg operated a house of ill repute.  Where the bondsman who happened to land in a good home had security, the free Nero had none.

Of course not a great many slaves were fortunate enough to land in good homes.  But some did and they respected their masters just as their masters respected them (bearing in mind they were slaves), and remained loyal throughout the dark hours of the Civil War.  We can find several examples of the existence of this type of relationship in Lynchburg and the surrounding area.  One such slave was Blind Billy whom I have found mentioned in several sources.  Margaret C. Cabell in 1858, spoke well of Blind Billy and several other Negroes both free and slave.  Says Mrs. Cabell in Sketches and Recollections of Lynchburg:

There in Lynchburg many colored persons, both free and slaves, who possessed very good characters, and some of them were remarkable for good sense as well as for moral virtues.  There were uncle Cato and aunt Sopby his wife, Arthur Holcombe, Armistead pride . . . .

There was BLIND BILLY, who will long be remembered, though the soft clear notes of his flute are now no more heard.  Like all blind persons, he possessed a great talent for music, and at balls, parties, and military parades, he was a most important personage.  Billy was a slave, owned by the late Dr. Howell Davies; and there was not an inhabitant of the town who would pass Blind Bill without at least a kindly word. . . . . His death, occurring a few years since, left in the musical world a chasm not easily supplied; for who can now play so sweetly for us those touching old Scotch airs, which tearfully recall the loved, the lost—or who can so gladden us with the sounds of merry music as poor Blind Bill! [64]

Silas Green a slave in Franklin County tried hard to join the Confederate Army.  He enrolled himself with the others of the county but when it came time for him to join the army in the field his master refused to let him go.  He then formed a company of his own, drilled and prepared for camp, but again he had to stay behind while the others went off to fight.  He later came to Lynchburg where he pursued the calling of a drayman.[65]

Blind Billy and Silas Green are not the only examples.  On May 8, 1861 and old Negro who had served as a drummer in the war of 1812, came to Lynchburg with one of the Roanoke troops.  “When asked if he could go through the war, he replied, ‘yes Marsa, I spects to lib to git old linkum’s skull.’”[66]  Gabriel Hunt who in 1927 was a janitor at the Campbell courthouse and a Confederate veteran pensioner, spoke of the happenings on Samuel Pannill’s Green Hill plantation, on which he was a slave, “with the pride of one who participated there.”[67]

VI.  CONCLUSION AND COMMENT

            A meeting was held, on September 30, 1865, to “express the sentiments of the citizens of Lynchburg in regard to the situation at that time.”  From it arose this statement, “we recognize the abolition of slavery as an existing fact (and have no purpose or wish to attempt its restoration in any form).”[68]  Thus slavery was officially ended and so accepted by the citizens of Lynchburg.

This paper has been a brief summary of the institution of slavery and its many aspects as it existed here in the city of Lynchburg.  It is not all that could be said and further research by a competent authority could, I am sure, result in a good size volume.

In dealing with Quakers further research could have been conducted and included the family history of the Lynch family, founders of Lynchburg and members of the Quaker faith.  I could have mentioned that Dr. John C. Lynch, son of John Lynch founder of Lynchburg, was poisoned by a slave.  The slave was tried but acquitted because the court was not unanimous.  There is no finer example of strong Quaker convictions in regard to slavery than the actions by John Lynch and his second son Edward, who became the administrators of John C. Lynch’s estate.  At the end of the trial they emancipated the slave saying it was not for them to judge, and that freedom and liberty was the natural right of every man.[69]

I could have mentioned other forms of “slavery” that existed in Lynchburg for a short time.  Further research could be done on the Barnes family who moved to Lynchburg in 1829 from New York, and who brought with them a little white bond servant girl.  The girl was seldom fed and one day a neighbor woman observed Mrs. Barnes with the girl tied to a bed post, beating her with a stick, and then throwing a shovel of hot embers over her.  The girl later told of “how she had been put into a box, shut up in the baker, hung by her thumbs, and in many other ways cruelly treated.”  After being run out of Lynchburg, Mr. Barnes complained in a letter to the New York Courier of how bad he had been treated in Lynchburg.[70]

I have mentioned earlier a book by Richard C. Wade titled Slavery in the Cities.  In this book Mr. Wade made a careful study of slavery and its application in the major cities of the South.  He dealt in the general areas of slave labor in industries, homes, etc., and the slaves relationship with the law (social life, also).  I have tried to follow Mr. Wade’s example and cover much the same areas in my paper as he did in his book.  Although he did not mention Lynchburg, he did give good coverage to Richmond the only major industrial city in the South during the period.  Since Lynchburg had an industrial economy similar to Richmond’s, although on a smaller scale, I was able to draw helpful parallels between them.  I think I can say without putting myself on the spot that the picture presented by Mr. Wade in his book, is representative of Lynchburg as well as the cities he covered.

I have included in this paper mention of several admirable relationships between slaves and their masters.  These and the short paragraphs at the end on John Lynch and the Barnes’ are, I think, good for general interest and for presenting a more well-rounded picture of the institution of slavery in Lynchburg.

——————————————-

 

SOME LYNCHBURG CENSUS

Year                 Whites             Free Negroes              Slaves              Total

1816[71]              1,765               256                              1,056               3,087

1828[72]              2,492               385                              1,751               4,628

1850[73]              4,178               491                              3,401               8,071


NOTES

          [1] Douglas Summers Brown, A History of Lynchburg’s Pioneer Quakers and Their Meeting House 1754-1936 (Lynchburg, 1936), pp. 82-83, quoting records of Meetings of Women Friends, October 12, 1763.

[2] Ibid., p. 81.

[3] Ibid. pp. 81-82.

[4] Ibid., p. 69.

[5] Ibid., p. 82.

[6] Ibid., p. 83.

[7] The South River Meeting House is the present restored Quaker Meeting House located on Timberlake Road across from Fort Hill Shopping Center.  At one time well outside of the city and on the “edge of the forest,” the Meeting is now surrounded by modern, twentieth-century Lynchburg.

[8] Our Quaker Friends of Ye Olden Time (Lynchburg, 1905), pp. 148-150.

[9] Brown, Quakers, p. 83.

[10] Ibid.,  pp. 62-63.

[11] Ibid., p. 85.

[12] W. Asbury Christian, Lynchburg and Its People (Lynchburg, 1900), pp. 119-120.

[13] Brown, Quakers, p. 89.

[14] Ibid.

[15] J. D. Eggleston, “Southern Leaders’ Attitude Toward Slavery,” reprint from:  The Farmville Herald, XIII (May 30, 1930).

[16] The African Repository and Colonial Journal, V (November, 1829).  See the Journal also for an excellent example of the courageous vigor with which the American Colonization Society fought slavery on all grounds.

[17] Theodore M. Whitfield, Slavery Agitation in Virginia, 1829-1832 (Baltimore, 1930), p. 12.

[18] Christian, Lynchburg People, p. 82.

[19] Theodore G. Bildo, “Voluntary Resettlement of American Negroes in Africa,” reprint from:  Congressional Record (April 24, 1939), p. 4.

[20] Eggleston, “Southern Leaders’ Attitude Toward Slavery.”

[21] Frederic Bancroft, Slave-Trading in the Old South (Baltimore, 1931), p. 92.

[22] Ibid., pp. 92-93.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] When we consider the price paid for a slave we can get some idea of the large amount of capital which was invested in the slave trade.  To purchase two hundred or “any number” would have required many thousands of dollars.

[26] Bancroft, Slave-Trading, pp. 92-93.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution:  Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (New York,1963), p. 261.

[29] Harriet Beecher Stowe, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Boston, 1853), p. 144, quoting Lynchburg Virginian, November 18, 1852.

[30] “Very likely” is a phrase which appears in almost every advertisement for the sale of slaves.  It must have served to express a very broad list of qualifications supposedly possessed by the Negroes.  The central points in Lynchburg for the sale of Negro slaves appear to have been in front of Lynch’s Warehouse and in front of the Market House.

[31] Vol. III, No. 1.

[32] August 18, ???? [In my original paper I listed the year as 1934, which is obviously wrong.  It maybe 1864 or 1865.], Vol. XIII, No. 1.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Nowlin Family, MS.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Christian, Lynchburg People, p. 192.

[38] Ibid., p. 208.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Luther Porter Jackson, Free Negro Labor and Property Holding in Virginia, 1830-1860 (New York, 1942), p. 219.

[41] Ibid., p. 221.

[42] Ibid., p.220.

[43] Ibid.

[44] J. D. Eggleston, “The Attitude of Virginia Leaders Toward Slavery and Secession,” The Virginia Teacher, XIII (September-October, 1932), p. 6.

[45] Joseph Clarke Robert, “The Road From Monticello:  A Study of the Virginia Slavery Debate of 1832,” Historical Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society, Series XXIV (Durham, 1941).  This is a very good source of information on the slavery debate.

[46] Richard C. Wade, Slavery in the Cities:  The South, 1820-1860 (New York, 1964), pp. 12-13.

[47] Ibid., p. 35.

[48] Kathleen Bruce, Virginia Iron Manufacture in the Slave Era (New York, 1931), p. 123.

[49] Ibid., p. 322.

[50] Ibid., p. 124.

[51] Jackson, Negro Labor, p. 176.

[52] Ibid., p. 74.

[53] Stampp, Peculiar Institution, p. 64.

[54] Vol. 6, No. 19.

[55] Ibid.,  Vol. 6, No. 20.

[56] Ibid., Vol. 6, No. 30.

[57] Wade, Slavery in the cities, pp. 44-45.

[58] Vol. 6, No. 19.

[59] Lynchburg Virginian, August 8, 1865, Vol. 33, No. 1.

[60] August 13, 1865, Vol. 33, No. 3.

[61] Revised Ordinances of the Corporation of Lynchburg, Together with a Digest of the Acts of the General Assembly, Relating to the Town of Lynchburg, rev. by Robert J. Davis (Lynchburg, 1845).

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] (Richmond, 1858), pp. 204-205.

[65] R. H. Early, Campbell Chronicles and Family Sketches:  Embracing the History of Campbell County, Virginia 1782-1926 (Lynchburg, 1927), p. 68.

[66] Christian, Lynchburg People, p. 199.

[67] Early, Campbell Chronicles, p. 264.

[68] Christian, Lynchburg and its People, p. 208.

[69] Early, Campbell Chronicles, p. 68.

[70] Christian, Lynchburg People, pp. 97-99.

[71] Ibid., pp. 58-59.

[72] Ibid., p. 108.

[73] Ibid., p. 148.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

The African Repository and Colonial Journal, V, 9 (November, 1829).

Bancroft, Frederic.  Slave-Trading in the Old South.  Baltimore:  J. H. Furst       Company, 1931.

Bildo, Theodore G.  “Voluntary Resettlement of American Negroes in Africa,” reprint from:  Congressional Record, (April 24, 1939).

Brown, Douglas Summers.  A History of Lynchburg’s Pioneer Quakers and Their Meeting House, 1754-1936.  Lynchburg:  J. P. Bell Company, Inc., 1936.

Bruce, Kathleen.  Virginia Iron Manufacture in the Slave Era.  New York:  The Century Co., 1931.

Cabell, Margaret Couch.  Sketches and Recollections of Lynchburg.  Richmond:  C. H. Wynne, 1858.

Christian, W. Asbury.  Lynchburg and its People.  Lynchburg:  J. P. Bell Company, 1900.

[Lynchburg] Daily Republican.  Various Issues.  Lynchburg.

Davis, Robert J., rev. by.  Revised Ordinances of the Corporation of Lynchburg, Together With a Digest of the Acts of the General Assembly, Relating to the Town of Lynchburg.  Lynchburg:  Toller Townley & Statham, 1845.

Early, R. H.  Campbell Chronicles and Family Sketches:  Embracing the History of Campbell County, Virginia, 1782-1926.  Lynchburg:  J. P. Bell Company, 1927.

Eggleston, J. D.  “The Attitude of Virginia Leaders Toward Slavery and Secession,” reprint from:  The Virginia Teacher, XIII (September-October, 1932), 6-7.

Jackson, Luther Porter.  Free Negro Labor and Property Holdings in Virginia, 1830-1860.  New York:  D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., 1942.

Lynchburg Virginian.  Various Issues.

Nowlin Family.  ms.

Our Quaker Friends of Ye Olden time.  Lynchburg:  J. P. Bell Company, 1905.

Robert, Joseph Clarke.  “The Road From Monticello:  A History of the Virginia Slavery Debate of 1832,”  Historical Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society.  Series XXIV.  Durham:  Duke University Press, 1941.

Stampp, Kenneth M.  The Peculiar Institution:  Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher.  A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Boston:  John P. Jewett & Co., 1853.

Wade, Richard C.  Slavery in the Cities:  The South, 1820-1860.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1964.

Whitfield, Theodore M.  Slavery Agitation in Virginia, 1829-1832.  Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins Press, 1930.

IMPORTANT SOURCES CONSULTED BUT NOT QUOTED

Drewry, William Sidney.  The South-hampton Insurrection.  Washington:  The Meale Company, 1900.

Hart, Albert Bushnell.  Slavery and Abolition, 1831-1841, vol. XVI of The American Nation:  A History, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart.  New York:  Harper& Brothers, 1906.

Pollock, Edward, ed.  Sketch Book of Lynchburg, Va.:  Its People and its Trade.  Lynchburg:  Edward Pollock and S. C. Judson, 1887.

Speech of Hon. Wade Hampton, on the Constitutionality of the Slave Trade Laws.  (Delivered in the Senate of South Carolina, December 10, 1859), Columbia:  Steam-Power Press of R. W. Gibbes, 1860.

(Copyright, 2016 by Paul R. Waibel)

 

 

 

Amazing True Stories from the Space Age

amazing-stories-imageWorld War II ended with the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan.  It was the ultimate display of madness in a war that pushed the limits of man’s inhumanity towards humankind.  The dramatic demonstration of the destructive power of atomic energy did not result in a universal commitment to ban its use in future wars.   On the contrary, both the United States and the Soviet Union, leaders of the two opposing Cold War alliances, assumed that World War III would be fought with nuclear weapons.  President Eisenhower said that in war a nation will use whatever weapons are in its arsenal.

Rod Pyle’s new book, AMAZING STORIES OF THE SPACE AGE (New York:  Prometheus Books, 2017) reveals that what was sold to the public as a “space race” by both superpowers, was in fact an arms race.  Each side expended much energy and wealth attempting to gain the military advantage in outer space.

Since there were no international treaties regarding territorial claims in space during the 1950’s, leaders saw the race to the moon in similar terms to the 15th and 16th centuries voyages of discovery.  The first to reach the moon could claim it, much as the European nations claimed portions of the newly discovered Western Hemisphere.  It was not so much the prospect of valuable natural resources available on the moon that drove the race to the moon, as it was the military advantage of establishing bases on the moon from which to launch attacks on the Soviet Union or the United States, depending on which side you were on.

Rod Pyle has mined a wealth of declassified government documents regarding such government projects as “Project Orion,” a spacecraft that would be propelled by a series of atomic explosions, or “LUNEX,” the construction of an underground Air Force base on the moon.  One plan called for an orbiting mirror, dubbed a “sun gun,” that would concentrate the sun’s rays in a kind of death ray that could incinerate whole cities.

Both Soviet and American military leaders foresaw the militarization of the moon.  Red Army lunar marines and US “space army” units would have bases on the moon from which they would launch attacks against the enemy.  Lunar battles would be fought by soldiers armed with nuclear bazookas and, in the case of the US space army, the M-29 Davy Crockett Tactical Nuclear Recoilless Gun that would fire a nuclear warhead with “the equivalent punch of 10-20 tons of TNT.”

Pyle includes drawings from the declassified documents that illustrate some of the science fiction like government funded projects.  What kept the government from spending even more funds on these bizarre ideas than it did?  Part of the answer is found in the Vietnam War and the War on Poverty that strained available resources and forced concentration on more realistic objectives, like putting a man on the moon.

I found the first part of AMAZING STORIES OF THE SPACE AGE very interesting.  The latter part of the book, the part that chronicles the  journey to the moon, the development of the space shuttle, etc., was not so interesting, at least not for me.  On the whole, the book is a good read, especially for those who have an interest in the history of space exploration.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always live under the mercy.

Pride Comes Before Destruction, Or Does It?

Jessica Tracy’s TAKE PRIDE:  WHY THE DEADLILEST SIN HOLDS THE SECRET TO HUMAN SUCCESS (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) is a well-written, very interesting, and often humorous look at that mysterious aspect of our personality, pride.  What is pride?  How and why did human beings develop pride?  What crucial role does pride play in shaping our lives?  These are among the questions Ms. Tracy attempts to answer.

Before getting into a review of TAKE PRIDE, let me first admit to a brief love affair with the study of psychology.  I took a two-semester course in general psychology as a sophomore in college way back in 1964-65, when literacy was still a requirement for admission to college.   The first semester was a great experience.  We studied theories by Freud, etc., learned what abnormal was in contrast to normal, and all sorts of interesting things about people’s behavior.

That abnormal vs. normal thing still eludes me, however.  How can you classify some behavior as abnormal when no one seems to be able to define normal?  Think about that for awhile.

I almost decided to major in psychology, but then came the second semester.  It was all about the parts of eyes and ears, testing, and statistics.  I was so bored.  But I made it through the course having learned two lasting lessons.  First, psychology is NOT a science.  It is more like a group of late night patrons in a bar passionately expressing their personal opinions on subjects about which they know little.  Second, having been taught by a practicing psychologist with a patch over one eye and an addiction to cigarettes, I am convinced that every psychologist is in need of a psychiatrist.    But I wander.  Back to Ms. Tracy’s TAKE PRIDE.

The French philosopher René Descartes is famous for saying, “I think, therefore I am.”  Descartes was pointing out the simple truth that in order to reason one must begin with some assumption.  In his case, his starting assumption was the fact that he could not doubt that he was sitting there thinking (i.e., doubting).

What the thinker must remember, however, is that the starting assumption determines the path one’s reasoning takes as well as the end or conclusion of the journey.  I think it is important for the reader keep this in mind while reading TAKE PRIDE.

Ms. Tracy’s beginning assumption is the evolutionary theory of the origin and development of life.  Human beings are but one animal species.  What distinguishes a human from the other animal species that arose from the evolutionary process of, as one individual has put it, “from ooze to you by way of the zoo,” is what Ms. Tracy calls “our uniquely human sense of self.”  “Without the human self,” writes Tracy, “our species would not have been able to do or become all the things that make us different from other animals.”

Pride is the emotion that enabled we of the human species “to do and become” all that we can as humans.   Pride provides the “motivational kick” that enables human beings to be human.  “Pride and self,” concludes Tracy, “are mutually reinforcing psychological phenomena, two adaptations that go hand in hand and whose joint evolutionary development has allowed our species to become what it is today.”  Pride is not a negative emotion.  It is rather a positive emotion.  It leads to greatness, but can also lead to tragedy.

All of this is mere theory or speculative reasoning based upon theoretical assumptions.   Ms. Tracy uses words and phrases like “self-evident,” “obviously,” “must be the result of,” etc. to give the appearance of scientific fact to what remains only speculation.

Various scholars have tried to explain what makes a human being different from other animals using the theory of evolution.  All have failed.  Beginning with the assumption that matter is the ultimate reality, one cannot arrive at a satisfactory explanation of what makes a human being human.  Creationists beginning with the assumption that the ultimate reality is a personal, infinite creator do have an explanation for the” mannishness of man.”  But both evolution and creation are theories, neither one of which can be tested and proven wrong.

A discussion among psychologists is much like a group of children playing in a sand box discussing their feelings about sand.  The scene may be interesting, even entertaining, for the adults looking on, but little more than that.  Because psychologists are trying to understand people, their books will always be, depending upon how well written they are, interesting.  “People,” said Art Linklleter, “are interesting.”

I found Jessica Tracy’s TAKE PRIDE interesting and thought provoking.  It was a welcome break from the lighter reading I have been doing of late.  If you are considering reading it, I encourage you to do so.   Just keep in mind that your response to what Tracy is saying will depend upon your answer to the question of what is the ultimate reality.   All inquire must begin with the answer that question.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always live under the mercy.

Historian’s Almanac: August 12, 2016

Today is August 12, 2016.  There are 141 days left in the year and only 87 days left until we elect a new President.

It was on August 12, 1927 that the romantic action-packed World War I movie “Wings” premiered at the Criterion Theater, in New York City.  It was awarded the highest honor, Best Picture, at the first Academy Awards ceremony on May 16, 1929 in Los Angeles, California.  “Wings” was the only silent movie so honored by the Academy.  The script was written to accommodate Clara Bow, superstar and cultural icon known to history as the “It” Girl.

“Wings” is one of the most significant movies in cinema history.  The realistic air combat scenes set the standard by which all subsequent aviation movies were judged.  It took 7 months to film, rather than just 1 month, which was normal at that time.  “Wings” cost $2 million ($26,725,988.70 in 2016) to make, a paltry sum compared to the cost of today’s action movies.  Last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” had a budget of $306 million.  “Avatar” (2009) cost $425 million to make.

Frequent bad weather around San Antonio, Texas where “Wings” was filmed left the cast with time on their hands.  By the end of filming, every one of the elevator girls at the St. Anthony Hotel, where the cast was housed, became pregnant.  Clara Bow, who announced her engagement to Victor Fleming upon arrival in San Antonio, had a sizzling affair with Gary Cooper.  It has been said of Cooper, whose career got its big boost from his role in “Wings,” that he bedded every one of his leading ladies during his career.

“Wings” is also remembered as one of the first motion pictures to show nudity.  During a scene at an army recruiting center, the naked backsides of some male recruits being processed can be seen through a cracked door.  Far more titillating, I’m sure, is a brief second during a Paris bedroom scene when movie goers were treated to a glimpse of Clara Bow’s breasts.

[See “Wings” trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9P3XXvleo4]

Janis Joplin gave her last concert on the evening of August 12, 1970 in the Harvard Stadium at Harvard University.  She ended the concert with her own version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.”  She died of a drug overdose on October 4.  [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn5TNqjuHiU]

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) introduced the use of an antiseptic during surgery on August 12, 1865, when he applied a solution of carbolic acid to a leg wound of a seven-year-old boy.  In 1879, Dr. Joseph Lawrence named his newly developed mouthwash, “Listerine,” in honor of Joseph Lister.

“The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.”  Clara Bow

“Audiences like their blues singers to be miserable.”  Janis Joplin

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures and always live under the mercy.

 

 

Historian’s Almanac: August 4, 2016

Today is August 4, 2016.  There are 149 days left in the year and only 95 days left until we elect a new President.

The Norwegian Nobel Laurate, Knut Hamsun (aka, Knut Pedersen) was born on this day in 1859 in Lom, Gudbrandsdal, Norway.  Born into poverty, Knut was sent to live with an uncle who starved and beat him regularly.  In 1874 he was able to escape from his uncle’s oppression.  He spent the next 5 years doing odd jobs for food and shelter.

Hamsun began his writing career with the publican of his first novel, The Enigmatic Man: A Love Story from Northern Norway, in 1877.  It was a love story that began, “Near a small hill crowned with trees, at the foot of which a small river meandered across the lovely meadow, was a handsome farmhouse. It belonged to the richest man in town, Ole Aae.”

Hamsun was not proud of his first novel, or two others that are among the 30 novels he wrote during his long career.  He did not allow them to be included in his Collected Works during his lifetime.  Why?  As he explained to his publisher:  “I would never have published things like ‘A Reconciliation’, ‘The Enigmatic One’ and ‘Bjørger’ had it not been, each time, to show my brothers and sisters that I was not to be made fun of.”

During his literary career of 70 years, Hamsun wrote short stories, plays, essays, travelogues, and poetry as well as novels.  He first won acclaim with Hunger (1890), a novel about a young writer driven to near madness by hunger and poverty.  He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920 for Growth of the Soul, first published in 1917.

Among well-known authors who have praised Knut Hamsun are Arthur Koestler, H. G. Wells, and Thomas Mann who hailed him as a “descendant of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche.”  Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-born Jewish author who wrote only in Yiddish, and himself a Nobel laurate, was a great admirer of Hamsun.  “The whole school of fiction in the 20th century,” said Singer, “stems from Hamsun.”

Norwegians are proud of Knut Hamsun the Nobel Laurate.  But, there is another side of Hamsun’s legacy that is problematic.  Hansum was among a small number of interwar intellectuals who somehow found merit in the pseudo-scientific racial theories that were popular at that time in both Europe and America.

Hamsun supported the German occupation of Norway during World War II.  In 1943, he sent his Nobel medal as a gift to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.  It may have been an attempt to gain an audience with Hitler, whom he admired.  If so, it worked.

When Hamsun met Hitler in 1943, he dared to advise the Führer on German policy towards Norway.  Hitler, of course, was not used to taking advice from anyone, even such a devoted lackey as Hamsun.  According to Hitler confident, Otto Dietrich, it took Hitler 3 days to get over his anger.

In 1945, when he heard the news of Hitler’s death, Hamsun published a eulogy in the Aftenposten is Norway’s largest printed newspaper:

“Hitler was a warrior, a warrior for humankind and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations. He was a reforming character of the highest order, and his historical fate was that he functioned in a time of exampleless [unequalled] brutality, which in the end felled him.

“Thus may the ordinary Western European look at Adolf Hitler. And we, his close followers, bow our heads at his death” (May 7, 1945).

Sufficient time has gone by since the end of World War II to allow Norwegians to excuse Hamsun’s pro-Nazi past and focus on his legacy as a great author.  On the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2009, the Knut Hamsun Center was opened in northern Norway near where he was born.  Resembling a large black cube, the Hamsun Center is a museum and educational center dedicated to honoring his life and work.

Hamsun’s literary works remain on school reading lists in Norway.  Still his wartime collaboration with the German occupation and his pro-Nazi sympathies linger in the background like a ghost.

——

It’s the birthday of Elizabeth, wife of George VI (The King’s Speech), Queen of England (1936-1952), and mother of Elizabeth II.  She was known as the “Queen Mother.”  She died on March 30, 2002.

It’s the anniversary of the death of the American actor Victor Mature, who starred in many Biblical epics, among them Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Robe (1953), and Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).  Of his career, he once said: “Actually, I am a golfer. That is my real occupation. I never was an actor; ask anybody, particularly the critics.”

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures and always live under the mercy.

 

Historian’s Almanac: July 31, 2016

Today is July 31, 2016.  There are 153 days left in the year and only 99 days left until we elect a new President.

Seventy-two years ago today, the French writer, poet, philosopher, journalist, and pioneering aviator, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry took off from an airbase on the island of Corsica on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean Sea.  He was flying an unarmed Lockheed P-38 Lightning American fighter aircraft.  He did not return to the airbase.  Pilot and plane simply vanished without a trace.

Many pilots vanished on missions during World War II, but Antoine Saint-Exupéry was not just another pilot.  He was a French national treasure.  He was also a French patriot determined to serve his country.  When the Germans invaded France in May, 1940, Saint-Exupéry joined the French Air Force.  Faced with imminent defeat in late June, France asked for an armistice and exited the war.  Saint-Exupéry would not accept defeat.  After spending 27 months in the United States campaigning for America’s entry into the war, he joined the Free French Air Force in North Africa.

Saint Exupéry’s literary career began in 1926 with the publication of L’Aviateur (The Aviator) in the French literary magazine Le Navire d’Argent (The Silver Ship).  A short novel, Night Flight (Vol de nuit) appeared in 1931.  It was based on his experience flying the mail in Argentina.  Night Flight became an international best seller.

Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre des hommes) appeared in 1939.  It was an autobiography, a memoir, in which Saint-Exupéry presents his philosophy of what makes life worth living.  “The book’s themes deal with friendship, death, heroism, camaraderie and solidarity among colleagues, humanity and the search for meaning in life” (www.wikiwand.com/en/Wind, _Sand_and_Stars).

Saint-Exupéry may well have remained a literary figure known mainly to his countrymen and a few students of modern literature were it not for a short novella published a year before his death.  He wrote and illustrated The Little Prince during the 27 months he lived as an expatriate in New York City.

“Everyone knows the basic bones of the story: an aviator, downed in the desert and facing long odds of survival, encounters a strange young person, neither man nor really boy, who, it emerges over time, has travelled from his solitary home on a distant asteroid, where he lives alone with a single rose. The rose has made him so miserable that, in torment, he has taken advantage of a flock of birds to convey him to other planets. He is instructed by a wise if cautious fox, and by a sinister angel of death, the snake” (Adam Gopnik, “The Strange Triumph of ‘The Little Prince,’” The New Yorker, April 29, 2014).

The Little Prince was received with mixed reviews, when it first appeared.  It spent only two weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, whereas Wind, Sand and Stars remained there for five months when it first appeared in 1939.  Readers were confused.  Was it a children’s book?   Was it meant for adults?  Was it an allegory, or perhaps a serious philosophical book?  What was it really about?

Volumes have been written trying to figure out who or what the various characters—the prince, the fox, the snake—represent, or where in Saint-Exupéry’s life they are found.  Once when asked who the Little Prince was, he replied:  “I am the prince.”

Over the years since its first appearance, The Little Prince has been translated into 250 languages and dialects.  It continues to sell two million copies annually, and with total sales exceeding 140 million copies, it is one of the best-selling books ever published.

Why its lasting appeal?  The answer to that question can be found within the publisher’s blurb on the back cover of most editions:  “There are few stories which in some way, in some degree, change the world forever for their readers. This is one.”

Part of the mystery surrounding Saint-Exupéry and the Little Prince is that they both fell out of the sky and disappeared forever.  At least that was the case until September, 1998, when a French fisherman fishing off the coast of France south of Marseille, discovered caught in his nets a silver identity bracelet with Saint-Exupéry’s name on it and that of his wife Consuelo.  The bracelet was later verified as that belonging to Saint-Exupéry.  In May, 2000, the remains of his Lockheed P-38 were discovered near where the bracelet was previously found.

There remains at least one mystery that leaves this blogger wanting to know more of Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance.  A few days after Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance, “[a]n unidentifiable body in a French [military] uniform” was found washed up on a beach south of Marseille.  Was it Saint-Exupéry?  We will never know.

I close with this quote from the Little Prince.  “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The unabridged audio book of The Little Prince can be found on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTi536xVuw4

Until next time be good to all God’s creation and always go under the mercy.

 

 

Historian’s Almanac: July 29, 2016

Today is the 29th day of July, 2016.  There are only 149 days left until Christmas and only 155 left in 2016.

It was on this day in 1586 that Sir Walter Raleigh made the first delivery of Virginia tobacco to England.

You will recall that it was Sir Walter who covered a puddle of water with his velvet cloak so that Queen Elizabeth I might not muddy her royal feet.  The first mention of his noble gesture is found in Thomas Fuller’s History of the Worthies of England, published in 1662.

Raleigh was but one of a number of gentlemen rumored at the time to be among the Virgin Queen’s lovers.  Whether or not Queen Elizabeth I did in fact have secret lovers has never been verified by historians.  Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic opponents who wanted to replace her on the throne of England with her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, referred to her as the “whore” of Europe who had “defiled her body and the country” with her “filthy lust.”

There is no doubt that Raleigh was one of the queen’s favorites and that she was obviously charmed by him.  But, though she may have had other male favorites, she was not one to suffer disloyalty.  When it became known that Raleigh had secretly married one of the queen’s ladies in waiting, Sir Walter was packed off to the Tower of London, as was also the recent bride, Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton.

Raleigh and his wife were released from prison in 1593.  Raleigh regained the Queen’s favor after several years.

The Raleighs lived happily until Elizabeth’s death on March 23, 1603.  Just four months later Raleigh was arrested and returned to the Tower of London after being implicated in plot against Elizabeth I’s successor, James I.   James I was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots.  At the appointed time on October 29, 1618, Raleigh was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster.  His severed head was embalmed and given to his wife, Lady Raleigh.  She kept in a velvet bag until her death 29 years later.

A small pouch of tobacco was found in Raleigh’s cell after his execution.  He had written on it in Latin, “It was my companion at that most miserable time”.

Raleigh’s delivery of tobacco to England on this date in 1586 was perhaps his most lasting legacy.  Jamestown became a boom colony as Virginia tobacco became one of the New World’s chief exports to Europe.  Promoters of the foreign weed hailed it as a “sacred herb” with valuable medicinal properties capable of curing 36 ailments. More importantly perhaps is the fact that it quickly became a very profitable source of tax revenue wherever it was introduced.

Not until the mid-twentieth century did modern medicine acknowledge that tobacco, far from being good for one’s health, was in fact a deadly weed.  Such was already noted by James I in a treatise he wrote in 1604 titled “A Counterblaste to Tobacco”, in which denounced the use of tobacco as “[a] custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.”

 

Also of note during these two weeks of the major political party conventions to nominate candidates for the upcoming election is that on this day in 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon was nominated as the Republican candidate for president.  Although Nixon lost the election to John F. Kennedy, he was elected president in 1969.  Ironically, it was on July 29, 1974 that the House Judiciary Committee voted 27 – 11 to recommend President Nixon be impeached.

 

And finally the world’s best known sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, made his first appearance in the “Adventure of Dancing Men” on this day in 1898.

Until next time be good to all God’s creation and always go under the mercy.

 

 

The Witness of John’s Gospel

41INwEFqdcL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Gospel of John is often given to new Christians to read because its central message is the divinity of Jesus Christ.  It is often given to unbelievers for the same reason.  Many have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior after reading John’s Gospel.

Adam Hamilton’s JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF LIGHT AND LIFE (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016) is an exposition of the Gospel of John for both the Christian layperson in search of a better understanding of John’s Gospel and the non-Christian seeking to know more about the Christian faith and the person and work of Jesus Christ upon which that faith is built.  It is not a commentary.  It is not a ponderous scholarly study intended for the seminary student.

Because the book is about John’s Gospel and its central theme, “the identity and meaning of Jesus,” Hamilton includes the entire Gospel of John from the Common English Bible. Thus one can read the Gospel along with Hamilton’s guide to its major themes.  The study is divided into six chapters, each of which is followed by a portion of the Gospel.  Hamilton notes in his introduction that the book is suited for small group study.  If used for a small group study, a DVD is available for purchase, as well as a paperback guide for the small group leader.

As fallen creatures we live in darkness until that darkness is pierced by the light of the Gospel.  The light brings life both now and beyond physical death, for the darkness cannot overcome the light.  The life of the believer is lived in the light that is the Word, the Word that was in the beginning, was with God, and was God.  The born-again follower of Jesus Christ lives knowing, as Hamilton puts it, that “Death is just a period at the end of a sentence before a new sentence begins.”

Hamilton points out that John’s Gospel should not be read as though it were some sort of mini biography.  The emphasis is on the “meaning—the spiritual significance” of the events in Jesus’ life and the words he spoke.  It must be read at two levels, even allegorically at times.

On one level the account of the various miracles performed by Jesus are related in a straightforward manner.  They tell us that water was turned into wine, that a blind man was made to see, or that a lame man was made to walk.  On a deeper level they answer the questions that confront all of us:  Who is this man Jesus?  How does he affect my life?  What is required of me?  We are compelled to answer the question that Jesus asked of his disciples in Matthew 16:13-17:  “But who do you say that I am?”  It is the most important question that must and will be answered by every human being.

Here and there Hamilton points out interesting insights that otherwise might go unnoticed.  One example is John’s mention that when Jesus was on the cross the soldiers “affixed a sponge to a hyssop branch, dipped it in sour wine, and raised it to his lips.”  Why does John include that little detail?

In suggesting an answer, Hamilton calls our attention to Exodus 12:21b-22a, Leviticus 14, Numbers 19, and Psalm 51:7 to help us understand the important symbolism of the hyssop branch.  When we read those Old Testament passages in light of John 19:28-30, we are reminded that the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is a book about Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  He is the “second Adam” who came to restore what was ruined by the first Adam.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (KJV).  Later John reminds us that for the Christian living a more abundant life does not mean a life of idle contemplation.  At the end of his Gospel John again quotes Jesus:  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21).  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to serve, to witness, and yes, to suffer, always knowing that Jesus Christ stands on the other side of the Jordan with his arms open wide to welcome us home.

JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF LIGHT AND LIFE is the first book by Adam Hamilton that I have read.  Having done, I will go on to read other titles by him.

Until next time be good to all God’s creation and always go under the mercy.

Finding One’s Place in a Post-Christian World

anything goesLeslie Williams’ latest book, WHEN ANYTHING GOES:  BEING CHRISTIAN IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD (Abingdon Press, 2016) is a bold affirmation of meaning and purpose in a world that loudly proclaims that all is meaningless.  It is particularly suited for the thinking Christian layperson who is attempting to live as a Christian in a cultural environment that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.

The intellectual and cultural life of America during its first two hundred years was shaped by the Judeo-Christian worldview.  Western Civilization, of which the United States is but one small part, resulted from a synthesis of classical humanism and the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, what historians refer to as the Medieval synthesis.

The Medieval synthesis, or “pre-modernity,” understood reality as an orderly universe created by a personal infinite God who created all that exist from nothing and is not, himself, a part of his creation.  Thus there was meaning and purpose for both the individual and history.

The Scientific Revolution of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries discovered that the universe was a kind of machine, or clock, which operated according to cause-and-effect natural laws.  The eighteenth-century Enlightenment relegated God to the role of “clock maker,” or architect of the universe.  The Enlightenment’s understanding of reality, “modernity,” was a secularized version of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Both pre-modernity and modernity held that there was meaning and purpose for both the individual and history.  Because human beings were rational, they could unlock the secrets of the universe, and with the knowledge gained through the application of reason, they could build a better world.  There was a basis for faith in progress and optimism about the future.

The Christian living in America today is “swimming against the post-Christian American cultural currents. . .”  The assumptions that in the past formed the basis of the cultural consensus have been removed.  The Bible and Christianity no longer have any authority in contemporary American culture.  If there is no God as post-modernity asserts, there is no reference point, no hope for meaning.

Williams:   “I can’t even toss around the words soul or truth because post-modernism has claimed there is no absolute truth, that all ‘truth’ is relative.  Objectivity is obsolete.  And we have no soul, no center, no self, but are made up of mere echoes from tradition, from brain chemistry, and from our past experience.”

Using her own life experiences, Ms. Williams provides the Christian reader with a guide to making sense of, and living in, a post-modern, post-Christian America.  Unlike our non-Christian fellow travelers along the road to Damascus, we Christians are not adrift in a fog.  Our worldview affirms that we are living in a world of hope, a world in which the future is brighter than the past.

If you, reader, are among those experiencing the loneliness of the Christian mind, Leslie Williams’ WHEN ANYTHING GOES:  BEING CHRISTIAN IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD will help you make sense out of what many are convinced makes no sense.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures, and always walk under the mercy.

A Story With a Happy Ending

moonlight over parisMOONLIGHT OVER PARIS: A NOVEL is an old fashioned romance told and retold many times before.  There aren’t any surprises.  We know from the outset, perhaps even from the cover, exactly how the story will develop and end.  Still, I found it a good read and worthy of recommending.

A young, attractive lady recovering from a failed romance seeks to recover by going to Paris to pursue her long suppressed desire to be an artist.  Helena is able to do so because, as we soon discover, she is from a very wealthy family.  While in Paris, Helena lives with a wealthy aunt who is a bit “modern.”

It is the 1920s, a period when those who survived the trauma of the Great War are trying to forget it by embracing all things new and modern.  Helena soon finds friends among a small group of art students.  Not surprisingly, Helena meets a young American named Sam Howard who is working for the Chicago Tribune.  Like Helena, Sam is trying to escape his past.  In his case it is the expectation that he will assume leadership of Howard Steel.

There are cameo appearances of various American expatriate writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernst Hemingway, members of what will later be remembered as the “Lost Generation.”  To include the writers without mention of Sylvia Beach and her Shakespeare and Company Bookstore would not do, and so they are a part of the ambiance of the story.

MOONLIGHT OVER PARIS reminds me of the romance novels of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It does not need any hot and steamy love scenes to keep the reader’s attention.  It is simply a pleasant novel to enjoy when one feels the need to relax and put mind in neutral.   Read and enjoy.