Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

Synopsis

The brutal axe murder and dismemberment of a Negro slave, committed in 1811 by two brothers, Lilburne and Isham Lewis, whose mother was Thomas Jefferson's sister and whose father was his first cousin, form the core of this historical detective story and account of frontier life in western Kentucky in the first decades of the nineteenth century.

On the night of December 15, 1811, drunk and enraged over the breaking of a pitcher, Lilburne bound his seventeen-year-old slave, George, and, in front of the assembled household's other slaves, cut off his head. The brothers were indicted for murder, released on bail, and attempted suicide.

Boynton Merrill Jr. explores the tragic combination of circumstances and social forces that culminated in this ghastly event: the lawlessness of the frontier settlements, the dehumanizing effects of chattel slavery, and the Lewis family's history of mental instability and their ever-declining fortunes.

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