Nothing is quite what it seems here. The argument is that Laurens, latterly a patriot, led a lynch mob against an innocent man while the British colonial governor was busy defending him. Laurens would have a varied career in the Revolution and spend part of it as a prisoner in the Tower of London. He spent the years after the war attempting to recover the property losses he suffered during the conflict – Harris seems unfamiliar with the concept that men actually pledged and gave their lives, the fortunes and their sacred honor and in the case of Laurens, an eldest son. And, by the way, the son had advocated freedom for slaves and after the war Laurens had manumitted ALL of his slaves! Was Thomas Jeremiah the tool of Lord William Campbell? We shall never know and, in particular, this book will bring us no closer to the truth. Was Henry Laurens much more – and far better – than the portrait of him rendered in the pages? Without a doubt and given that the author has failed on the two most important issues before him we can hardly recommend the book.
The hanging of Thomas Jeremiah : a free Black man’s encounter with liberty J. William Harris New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2009 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 223 p. : ill., maps, ports. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. -210) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
In 1775, Thomas Jeremiah was one of fewer than five hundred “Free Negros” in South Carolina and, with an estimated worth of £1,000 (about $200,000 in today’s dollars), possibly the richest person of African descent in British North America. A slave owner himself, Jeremiah was accused of sowing insurrection among slaves at the behest of the British.
Chief among the accusers was Henry Laurens, Charleston’s leading patriot, a slave owner and former slave trader, who would later become the president of the Continental Congress. On the other side was Lord William Campbell, royal governor of the colony, who passionately believed that the accusation was unjust and tried to save Jeremiah’s life but failed. Jeremiah was tried and sentenced to death. In August 1775, he was hanged and his body burned.