Skip to main content

Thomas Ruffin Gray

Image result for nat turner images

Much of what we know or think we know about Nat Turner, and the slave rebellion to which he gave his name, derives from a single written source, a pamphlet by Thomas Ruffin Gray.

 In a recent research paper for UC Berkeley, Christopher Tomlins has discussed "whether a hastily-written twenty page pamphlet rushed into print by an opportunistic white lawyer, down on his luck and hoping to cash in on Turner's notoriety, actually deserves to be treated as empirically reliable...."

 Tomlins starts with the basics: beginning very early in the morning on August 22, 1831. Turner led a group of blacks, most of them slaves (Billy Artis was the free man in the group) in massacring the whites in slave holding families that morning. The massacre occupied them for 12 hours, the rebellion after that consisted of repeated confrontations with militia.

By the afternoon of August 23, Turner was the only member of the group who had neither been killed nor captured. He eluded authorities until Sunday, October 30. He was executed (hanged) on November 11.

Gray was a local attorney, but he doesn't seem ever to have acted as Turner's attorney. the only role his membership in the bar really plays in this story is: it allowed him to move easily into and out of the jail where Turner was held around Nov. 1, talk to him, and take the notes that, he hoped, would reverse his own fortunes.

I will say no more  and simply recommend the article. Here is a link.


Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…