Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tyler-McGraw and Pitcaithley on The Lemmon Slave Case

The latest issue of Common-place includes "The Lemmon Slave Case: Courtroom Drama, Constitutional Crisis and the Southern Quest to Nationalize Slavery," an essay by Marie Tyler-McGraw (independent public historian) and Dwight T. Pitcaithley (New Mexico State University). Here's an excerpt:
[During the 1850s] proslavery and antislavery partisans labored steadily and creatively to shape constitutional law and public opinion, the two components of slavery's future. The "Lemmon Case," as the subsequent slave rescue and legal case was called, pursued both. The escape of Levi and James was one of many popular slave narratives that featured thrilling escapes and ruptured black families. The Lemmon (or Lemon) case offered an expanding nineteenth-century American reading public, fond of melodrama on stage and in print, a vast cast of characters, amazing coincidences, betrayals, reversals of fortune, family reunions, courage, and legal ironies. To call the events in the Lemmon case melodrama is not to diminish their contemporary power, but to enhance it. In its many aspects, the case offered spectators and readers courtroom drama and legal dueling, as well as a black family saga second to none in the literature of the 1850s. It also brought in a wide range of regional types, from Wall Street traders to Southern politicians, escaping slaves, and a middling mountain South family far out of its comfort zone.
Read on here.