Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619-1860

By Thomas D. Morris | Go to book overview

Acknowledgments

My obligations have mounted during the course of this work, which has gone on for about fifteen years. I regret that my effort to acknowledge the help of people individually falls far short because there have been so many.

One group I wish to thank collectively consists of the numerous workers in the state archives, various manuscript collections, and county courthouses throughout the South. Uniformly, they were helpful and courteous. Without their efforts this study could never have included the information about local practice. Because I worked in the local records of all the slaveholding states (with the exception of Delaware), the list of my obligations is so lengthy that I cannot name all the people. I can only hope that they will accept my gratitude. One or two examples must suffice to illustrate their help. During the better part of a morning a county employee in the courthouse in Nachitoches, Louisiana, and I clambered about an old courthouse building soon to be torn down. We sought (without success, in this case) some criminal records in an attic of the building where documents were scattered around, unorganized, and mildewed. In Hayneville, Alabama, the county clerk drove my wife and me to an old garage where the nineteenth-century records were kept and gave us unrestricted access to all the material we could find amid the school desks and old engines. Such stories could be multiplied endlessly.

I shall always cherish the enthusiasm of the staffs of the state archives, county records, and manuscript collections--especially when they realized that I was a Northerner rummaging about in one of the ugliest aspects of Southern history. In addition to these people, the staffs of the University of Washington Law Library, the Law Library at the Northwestern College of Law at Lewis and Clark College, and the interlibrary loan office at Portland State University provided access to the vital published legal materials.

Southern hospitality is so renowned that it seems to exist in a mythical world. But it is a fact, and oddly enough it even appeared among people living in the South who were not born Southerners. Among the Southerners and transplanted Northerners who made our trip to the region so pleasant were Paul Finkelman, then living in Austin, Texas; Ronald Labbé in Lafayette, Louisiana; James Ely Jr. in Nashville; Coburn and Mona Freer in Athens, Georgia; John and "Boots" Basil in Columbia, South Carolina; Mart Stewart in Atlanta; Virginia and Pat Patterson in Richmond; and Walter Evans and Becky Berg in Washington, D.C. Outside the South Cliff and Betty Kroeber made our stay in southern California, where I worked in the Huntington Library, a real treat.

The responses of scholars have been a source of real pleasure, even when they have been less than gentle (sometimes these comments have been the most impor-

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