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Letter of Thomas Ruffin to Archibald Murphey, October 29, 1831


Letter of Thomas Ruffin to Archibald Murphey, October 29, 1831


Thomas Ruffin sent a letter to Archibald Murphey to explain his action in caning Bridget, a slave of Murphey's that used to belong to Ruffin. Ruffin explained that he beat Bridget because he told her to stay away from his property or she would face consequences. Ruffin despised Bridget while she was under his ownership and believed that she would ruin the other slaves. This incident happened around a year after the ruling in the State v. Mann decision. This shows that Ruffin may not have had as much remorse regarding the Mann decision as he claimed to in his argument.


Thomas Ruffin


Thomas Ruffin to Archibald Murphey, 29 October 1831, Thomas Ruffin Papers, Collection 641, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.






Haw River, North Carolina

Original Format



Dear Sir,
The occasion of the least ___ is a source of much pain to me, after the intimate intercourse, which has ___ under diversity of fortune through a great number of years. I am sure, that I would not willingly or rather inconceivably do an act-which could properly show regards as wanted in respect of kinship toward you, and I had believed I would now ___ myself that the same disposition would be reached by all your ___ A circumstance that transpired which, on your part- grant the aspect of a disregard of my feelings and interests; and may led to one, on mines which may be regarded in the same light as yourself.
You were well aware when I conveyed Bridget to you, that I did it with your greatest insistence; not- for the sale of her value. For you offered to buy her, while I chose, if I posted whit her to you to do it without price; but because she was the aversion and terror to the highest degree of all the relations of the mother of your children; and because from her detestable character I thought she would impair the value of her descendants, whom I owned; not to speak of the other slaves which I got from you over part of which she had great influence with the residual fruits. For the reasons, I thus stated in the correspondence between us and through our mutual friend Sir Sevitt thou say purpose was to sell her a great distance; and I am ___, if he could not affect it upon better terms, to give her away to any man, who would oblige himself that she should not be sold or live short of a thousand miles from this place. In that pledge of the affair and after ___. I receiver your letters of which I need not state the term any more. That of my replies, suffice to say, that I cared not, either ___... the results of reflection, hold your appeal; and I sent you a deed for her. But I did never expect, that she would be permitted to annoy me in any way much less that the feelings of the venerable Matron, who honor me and mine by her residence with us and of the ladies of my family would be outraged by having her brought here, nor the value of my negroes would be impaired by permitting intercourse between them and a person of this woman’s character, temper, disposition towards me and mine, habits of life, dress, indulgences, etc. It however happens that shortly after I came here to live, she made her appearance, a passenger in the stage. I understood that she was in her daughter’s quarter and immediately ordered her off in the presence of my overseer and distinctly told her that if she courted-foot-on-premises of mine again, that I would have here severely occupied. I then did not permit any violence to her, but I directed my then overseer in her presence a departed to the present our that the order was to be implicitly obeyed. I did not again hear of her visits. While you visited a Greensboro last winter I was surprised by another application from you to purchase Lucy and her children. I did not wish to sell them, because, I wanted their services as nanny. But fearing that she might be always troublesome while her mother was so disliking to separate her from even to had mother, I wrote you that I would sell and stated at the time that I could not, under any pretense, suffer her another, and her to mate or have any intercourse. I heard nothing more from you; from which I concluded that you declined purchasing and that my plantation would be in place from that vile fiend. It was not many months before her daughter told me that Bridget was to be at the Haw Fields where under the pretense of going to church, she was no doubt to must and corrupt her child. She asks my have to go; which I of course refused. From all which you may ___ of the sanctity as formed of my purpose in protecting my negroes from her evil example and my family from her loathsome mind. You any therefore will ___… when I heard the beginnings of their work, that Bridget was at my quarters, with the view of punishing her contempt of defending my right of property, I arrived to find her but she was gone. I thin asked my overseer if she had been there or whether he had seen her and if so, why he did not obey my orders and whup her off. He told me that he did see here and on Saturday ran her of; but that he replied that she came in your carriage with youl that you had left here there in your way to my house and were to call for her again in the evening; and that in fact you did call later in your ___…. But on the next day she took her daughter off to the Haw-Fields; and upon your having the neighborhood did not accompany you, but uneasiness protecting about my plantation or near it. The effect has became that my overseer has been compelled to use stricter discipline than in the whole proceeding ten months. For the who took the stage for home and we all thought that we were happily rid of each other; but she only went, and this morning as I walked to the fields, I found her parked at the bridge, where she gave me a look and had the audacity which patience itself could not swallow. The suet was that upon the instant I gave her a good caning. My servant Lupe tells me that he saw early this morning going around my plantation from Nathan’s and she informed him.
You will now perceive any object in this ___ you, the correction of one owned slave, ___… in one of our most painful tasks. The punishment of the incident and ___ on the premises of the depraved I have of others, the equally indispensably is still more appreciable. One of my purposes therefore in beseech you as a favor to me and mine to intercept the intercourse of the woman on which encroach alike in on our tranquility and my right of property. I must protect my plantation from such violators. I wish not as heretofore and do so through your authority of influence over her, but if that be unavailing, I must inform my insubordination by such means of presumed chastisement and here justified which I will endeavor to make effectual. She will ruin my slaves if she comes here. Her daughter, in particular, will be worth more money to me; if I shall be compelled to sell her, which if I do at all will certainly do the remotest part of this continent where slavery is known.
The other purpose of this letter is to avow to you, as the owner of tis woman, the force I have used to he. If you think she merited only what she got I shall be gratified at the concord of our views. Should my contract meet your disapproval, the more obvious in the property of the exportation I have made of it. In the hope however that you will find no ore course of complaint against one and that in future shall be spared from the anxiety for the safety of my property and the fidelity of my slaves, put in calamity by her presence and the irksome out of ___ in the slave of another there faults which the mater may and ought to be ___ and in the further hope that the ___ of our terms may for parked in the amicable relations which have so long had returns us I remain.
Your friend,
Thomas Ruffin


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Thomas Ruffin, Letter of Thomas Ruffin to Archibald Murphey, October 29, 1831, Civil War Era NC, accessed June 20, 2024,