Lee as a Slaveholder: Reputable Primary Sources?

Quaama

Sergeant
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Port Macquarie, Australia
Sometimes. Sometimes not. If, as the historian/writer, you choose to prefer letters to newspaper interviews, that is your business--but it doesn't negate either's status as a primary (or secondary) source.

I can write an untruthful letter as easily as I can tell the truth in an interview. 😣. This is where you earn that Pulitzer!

I think you should read Post #113 from @19thGeorgia which seems to effectively demonstrate the falsity of the Norris statement.

Also, one letter from Lee (see Post #20) in connection with a slanderous newspaper article has Lee clearly stating:
"No servant, soldier, or citizen, that was ever employed by me, can with truth charge me with bad treatment".

And, in terms of newspaper articles, there is New York Herald October 13 1870 that said about Lee:
"As a slaveholder, he was beloved by his slaves for his kindness and consideration toward them."
 

Quaama

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Port Macquarie, Australia
No. It's no less reliable than Lee's statements.

The Norris statement is not reliable as was amply demonstrated in Post #113 where it was shown to contain falsehoods and thus the entire statement can not be relied upon.
However, General Lee's word can be relied upon [that's the morality of the man as seen in another thread regarding that matter].
 

Quaama

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Port Macquarie, Australia
So obituaries should be considered objective?

Hard to say, @Fairfield was keen to include newspaper accounts so I thought I'd throw that one in the mix (together with the quote from the letter provided in Post #20 and the solid arguments given in Post #113 regarding the unreliability of the Norris statement).

When one considers those things, Lee's moral character, and other arguments raised in this thread and compares them with the deficit of proof against him then it must be concluded that there is not quite a bit in reference to Lee being a "brutal and barbaric slave-owner" as it seems that the opposite is true.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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I think you should read Post #113 from @19thGeorgia which seems to effectively demonstrate the falsity of the Norris statement.

Also, one letter from Lee (see Post #20) in connection with a slanderous newspaper article has Lee clearly stating:
"No servant, soldier, or citizen, that was ever employed by me, can with truth charge me with bad treatment".

And, in terms of newspaper articles, there is New York Herald October 13 1870 that said about Lee:
"As a slaveholder, he was beloved by his slaves for his kindness and consideration toward them."
I think that you should look up the definition of a "Primary Source".

:banghead:For the upteenth time, a primary source is reported by someone present at an event. All this other stuff is immaterial. :banghead:

As to your last comment on the sentence from his obituary: there is debate as to whether or not an obituary is primary. I don't believe that it is because the writer may--or may not--have first hand knowledge. When I wrote my father's obituary, I did so with his military records before me; I had no way of knowing what had actually happened--but I credited the accuracy of the US Army (the obit, therefore, was Secondary). In any case, obituaries always say nice things: how many times have you read the obituary of someone and said "who are they talking about?"
 

Fairfield

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Which of the details found by Elizabeth Pryor can be verified (and by what and where)?
[I can not find verification of any details in this thread in relation to the Norris statement that would show Lee to be a "brutal and barbaric slave-owner" as stated in the OP.]
Dr. Pryor is probably pointing to the receipts that show special payments to the sheriff at that very time. This is noteworthy because someone who pays for an action is complicit in that action: I'm afraid that Lee is as equally accountable--whether he was present and active or whether he was up at Arlington House, sipping mint juleps.
 

Fairfield

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Hard to say, @Fairfield was keen to include newspaper accounts so I thought I'd throw that one in the mix (together with the quote from the letter provided in Post #20 and the solid arguments given in Post #113 regarding the unreliability of the Norris statement).

When one considers those things, Lee's moral character, and other arguments raised in this thread and compares them with the deficit of proof against him then it must be concluded that there is not quite a bit in reference to Lee being a "brutal and barbaric slave-owner" as it seems that the opposite is true.
You mayt have misunderstood a simple citing of definition. what matters is that the account is primary. Lee's moral character is immaterial as to whether or not the account is primary but it is paramount to the historian's treatment of it. Whether or not Lee was brutal is also immaterial to the primariness of the interview--although it matters to the historian who must gauge the account.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Sometimes. Sometimes not. If, as the historian/writer, you choose to prefer letters to newspaper interviews, that is your business--but it doesn't negate either's status as a primary (or secondary) source.

I can write an untruthful letter as easily as I can tell the truth in an interview. 😣. This is where you earn that Pulitzer!
...with the Norris statement there was another element- the National Anti-Slavery Standard. IIRC they were known for smearing people. No one was immune.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
If, as the historian/writer, you choose to prefer letters to newspaper interviews, that is your business--but it doesn't negate either's status as a primary (or secondary) source.
My contention wasn't about it being a primary source, but that someone called it testimony implying some sort of legal standing which it did not have.
 
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19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
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As Elizabeth Brown Pryor found, the details in the Norris account that were verified:
-The timing of when he ran away (17 months)
-The number of slaves at Arlington
-The name of the overseer
-The name of the jail
-The location they were taken after the punishment
-Where they were employed after the war
-Even the name of the constable who arrested them and was paid by Lee (the receipts still existing)

The Norris account is no less credible than Lee's version of the events. Slaves were no less credible than their masters.
None of this proves they were whipped. No one questions that slaves escaped and were brought back to Virginia. "They have a receipt!" So what? There's nothing on it about whipping slaves.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Here are some receipts for the whipping of slaves. It is described on the document.

Does the Lee receipt have any such notations? - It does not.
1607438342004.png

1607438118429.png
 

unionblue

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Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
...with the Norris statement there was another element- the National Anti-Slavery Standard. IIRC they were known for smearing people. No one was immune.

Your evidence that the above publication was known for "smearing people?"
My contention wasn't about it being a primary source, but that someone called it testimony implying some sort of legal standing which it did not have.

But if it is considered a "primary source" would this effect your opinion of it?
None of this proves they were whipped. No one questions that slaves escaped and were brought back to Virginia. "They have a receipt!" So what? There's nothing on it about whipping slaves.

Would a 19th century "receipt" contain a detailed description of what it was being issued for?
 

Fairfield

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...with the Norris statement there was another element- the National Anti-Slavery Standard. IIRC they were known for smearing people. No one was immune.
It appeared else where as well.

But consider: why would anyone be out to smear? In 1857-8, Lee was a lieutenant that no one had heard of (Harpers Ferry had yet to come). No one cared about just another army lieutenant. It was slavery itself that was being featured. In 1866, Lee was yesterday's news: the north had moved on (this is one of the complaints of Union veterans). Lee couldn't be more of a villain to the widows, children and friends left behind by ANV than he was already. Then, look at the size of the news pieces--this wasn't healine material; it was a filler.

Personally, I've never read that this newspaper was "known to smear" people. That it was critical of slave owners is a given (considering its name)--but, then, so were a lot of others.
 

DanSBHawk

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Location
Wisconsin
I posted two from the 19th century. Did you not see them?
I looked it up in Pryors book. It's not a receipt but an entry in Lee's account book listing payments to the constable. The payment for dealing with Norris was six times higher than the previous years payments to recover fugitive slaves. Lee's entry for the payment is "for arrest, etc. of fugitive slaves."
 

Fairfield

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My contention wasn't about it being a primary source, but that someone called it testimony implying some sort of legal standing which it did not have.
If you are referring to my statement on testimony (post 314), I was very clear and don't believe that I implied anything: "A newspaper interview counts as a primary source and primary source needn't be legal testimony" [emphasis is mine, now added].
 

lurid

First Sergeant
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Jan 3, 2019
Let's not overrate Norris' (alleged) statement.

It was not testimony. It was called an Interview and printed in a

...newspaper.

Thank you for the advice, but I have to reject your advice because you clearly didn't understand what I meant. Your post is just down right out of context. I don't have dog in this fight, so I'm not trying to prove Lee's guilt or innocence. I used the Norris statement to do a compare and contrast with Lee's statements. Not to overrate anything he said, so you are the one overrating it. Therefore, let's not misinterpret what people say. Hence, inquire about the meaning and don't presume anything.

In post #330 you stated this: My contention wasn't about it being a primary source, but that someone called it testimony implying some sort of legal standing which it did not have. You misinterpreted what I said again, period. FYI, "testimony" has more than one connotation. According to Merriam Webster, the on connotation states this," an open acknowledgment." And Norris openly acknowledged to a someone that Lee had him whipped. I never implied some sort of legal standing, that's the way you interpreted it, which was unequivocally wrong. You posted out of context again. Show me where I was taking about the legality of anything? A newspaper interview is not written and recorded testimony? When parishioners in your church give a testimony do they need some sort of legal standing? No. Everyone knows what they're talking about. Do I need to explain any more?

I was giving instructions on how historiography works on the college level, which the OP clearly stated he or she was writing a paper for a military history. Therefore, I didn't overrate anything Norris said, nor did I overate anything Lee said. My point is that we have come to a impasse with all these dubious primary sources that were posted. Evidently, you didn't read my entire post or you would have come to the shocking conclusion that I said historians never deal in "certainties" and almost always deal in "probabilities." That's how it works on a college level, and obviously not on a internet forum.

The OP's professor already has his or her mind made up that Lee was a barbaric slave owner. He stated this in the OP: I've a professor who undoubtedly holds the converse view, and who claimed quite a bit in reference to Lee being a "brutal and barbaric slave-owner, giving the Virginia Gentleman hand to the whites and the whip hand to people of color." That professor is never going to believe differently unless the OP can provide some overwhelming evidence, which nobody in this thread did. That professor is never going to take some ragged letter reprint that could have been altered 10,000 ways that Lee "supposedly" wrote himself to exonerate himself in annotated bibliography. It's never going to happen. Even if that letter is real, all it proves is Lee denied it. It does not prove he didn't have his slaves whipped. Not at all.

Speculating that the OP goes with the information that was presented in this thread(I doubt it anyway), the conclusion in here is an impasse. The OP's professor is going to go with the most "probabilities" because there are no "certainties." Whether you or anyone else accepts it, the "probability" suggests that Lee whipped his slaves because whipping slaves was common in that era. Lee's letter does not matter because he's speaking for himself. Lee's purported sterling character does not matter. Testimony about Lee's character does not matter. Interpretations don't matter. All that matters is where the evidence points. The probability suggests Lee whipped slaves, and that's what a college professor with tenure is going to believe.

I'm not trying prove or disprove anything. I couldn't careless if Lee whipped his slaves or not. I have the OP's approval anyway. What have you or anyone else done to help the OP's historiography plight?
 
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19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
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Apr 4, 2017
I looked it up in Pryors book. It's not a receipt but an entry in Lee's account book listing payments to the constable. The payment for dealing with Norris was six times higher than the previous years payments to recover fugitive slaves. Lee's entry for the payment is "for arrest, etc. of fugitive slaves."
"The payment for dealing with Norris was six times higher than the previous years payments to recover fugitive slaves."

The other slaves were just across the river in Washington, DC. Lee even knew the house where they were staying. The Norris group was caught near the PA line. It took a lot more time and effort to bring them back.

Take a look at those 1850s receipts for whipping slaves. Would that cause the bill to be six times higher?...or would things like travel, lodging, food, feed for horses, etc, be the cause?
 
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