Sunday, January 14, 2007
Maillard on Slavery, Miscegenation and Disinheritance
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
Kevin Noble Maillard , Syracuse University, has posted a new working paper on SSRN, The Heir-Cut of the Slave: Miscegenation and Disinheritance in Antebellum South Carolina. Here's the abstract: This essay questions the effect of testamentary law on race and status, and how law may hinder the practical and formal past of family relationships. I examine antebellum South Carolina to pose questions of law and interracial memory in regards to the juridical window that made miscegenation, what Mary Boykin Chesnut called the “monstrous system” of miscegenation and slavery, in South Carolina difficult to define. This case concerns two miscegenous conflicts within the same family. First, in 1861, a scheming relative accused her “white” and recently widowed cousin, Mary Remley, of being a black slave. Were the claim true, Mary and her children, as slaves, could not legally stand as beneficiaries of her deceased husband's will, thus enabling the cousin to inherit as the legitimate next of kin. Mrs. Remley and her children had always believed themselves to be free white persons, thus this claim shocked them into a racial paranoia that weakened their previous security in self-identity. Years later, the daughters would revisit the interracial issue again upon the death of their brother, Paul Durbin Remley. In his will, he disinherited his sisters in favor of his slave mistress, Philis, and their two children, Charles and Cecile. His sisters, as the white collateral heirs, objected to the trust he had established for Philis, and contested the will in the state legal system. However, they did not learn of his death until after the Civil War, when Philis wrote them a loving letter explaining the circumstances of her master/lover's death. This point of notification forms a crucial element in the resulting litigation, which incites questions of law and memory that challenge independent recollections of the past.