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Mark Tushnet, Slave Law in the American South (2003)

Title

Mark Tushnet, Slave Law in the American South (2003)

Description

Slavery in the American South could not have existed without the authority of law defining slaves as the property of their masters. But the fact that slaves were also human beings placed limits on this harsh reality. When the rigor of the law and the complex bonds of sentiment linking master and slave came into conflict, masters looked to the courts. In one such case, "State v. Mann, North Carolina Supreme Court justice Thomas Ruffin ruled that masters could not be prosecuted for assaulting their slaves. In articulating the legal basis for his decision, Justice Ruffin also revealed his own view of the "logic of slavery," in which he sanctioned the owner's rights even as he expressed his own horror at the mistreatment of the slave. Mark Tushnet, one of the foremost living authorities on antebellum slave law, now shows how studying such a simple case can illuminate an entire society. For those who detested slavery, the case represented all that was intolerable about that institution; for those who defended it, it raised vexing and persistent issues that could not be wished away. As further testament to the importance of "State V. Mann, Harriett Beecher Stowe even made it central to her second antislavery novel, "Dred. Tushnet discusses the opinion's place in the novel--in which she quoted liberally from Ruffin's decision--and evaluates other historians' interpretations of both the opinion and Stowe's provocative novel. Tushnet provides a finely detailed analysis of Ruffin's opinion, portraying the judge as a man compelled by law to uphold the slaveowner's right while moved as a Christian by the slave's maltreatment and ever hopeful that communal morality and a deep-seated sense of honorwould moderate the excesses of slave owners. As Tushnet shows, however, slave law was a means for maintaining the ideological hegemony of the Southern master class.

Creator

Tushnet, Mark

Source

Tushnet, Mark. Slave Law in the American South. (2003), Civil War Era NC, accessed February 22, 2012, http://history.ncsu.edu/projects/civil.war.era.nc/admin/items/show/77.

Date

2003-XX-XX

Type

Scholarship

Coverage

Chowan County, North Carolina

Original Format

Book

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Files

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Collection

Citation

Tushnet, Mark, Mark Tushnet, Slave Law in the American South (2003), Civil War Era NC, accessed September 25, 2017, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/77.