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Finally, gentleman, from the considerations above mentioned, as I cannot consistently with my own honor, nor with utility to my country, considering the manner in which Business is transacted here, remain any longer in this chair, I now resign it… Henry Laurens

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.

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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. [167]-210) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Print shows an allegory of liberty flourishing and monarchy and tyranny in decline. In a wooded grove Minerva, with a shield bearing the arms of the United States and a flag emblazoned with stars, pours libations on an altar fire. Beside her are three female figures. The first, Plenty, holds a torch to a pile of titles of nobility, crowns, scepters, and other attributes of monarchy. Justice holds a sword and scales, and Peace an olive branch. Behind them is a small pyramid on a pedestal inscribed with the names: Hancock, Warren, Sullivan, Putnam, Scamel, Barber, Green, Laurens, Wooster, Mercer, and Poor. Two urns on the monument are labeled "B. Franklin" and "Montgomery." To the right is a column, surmounted by a seated, nude Liberty figure holding a wreath. Below it stands a cherub with a scroll with the words "Allons enfans de la Patrie . . . ," an open book labeled "The Rights of Man," a staff and liberty cap, and a flag. Behind is a mountainous landscape and town. In the lower right foreground stands another group, including a king about to stab himself, several other monarchs cringing, and a standing woman. In the lower left stand an aged classical priest and a writhing, mutilated hydra. Stauffer describes an impression accompanied by the following text: "By a Column raised to Liberty, is a Monument sacred to the memory of the American Heroes, fallen in defence of their Country. While, Liberty is Crowning them, America uder [sic] the figure of Minerva sacrifices to their Manes, and a Priest of that Deity sings their glorious actions. The Hydra of Despotism mortally wounded by those great men expires in frightful convulsions. Peace and Justice hand in hand, join with America in her homage to Liberty. Plenty reclining on her emblematical Horn, reposes on American ground. The Genius of Liberty points out the declaration of Independence and a Book of the American Constitution. From the dreadful Sight, a group of Kings turn away with horror and dismay."

Print shows an allegory of liberty flourishing and monarchy and tyranny in decline. In a wooded grove Minerva, with a shield bearing the arms of the United States and a flag emblazoned with stars, pours libations on an altar fire. Beside her are three female figures. The first, Plenty, holds a torch to a pile of titles of nobility, crowns, scepters, and other attributes of monarchy. Justice holds a sword and scales, and Peace an olive branch. Behind them is a small pyramid on a pedestal inscribed with the names: Hancock, Warren, Sullivan, Putnam, Scamel, Barber, Green, Laurens, Wooster, Mercer, and Poor. Two urns on the monument are labeled “B. Franklin” and “Montgomery.” To the right is a column, surmounted by a seated, nude Liberty figure holding a wreath. Below it stands a cherub with a scroll with the words “Allons enfans de la Patrie . . . ,” an open book labeled “The Rights of Man,” a staff and liberty cap, and a flag. Behind is a mountainous landscape and town. In the lower right foreground stands another group, including a king about to stab himself, several other monarchs cringing, and a standing woman. In the lower left stand an aged classical priest and a writhing, mutilated hydra. Stauffer describes an impression accompanied by the following text: “By a Column raised to Liberty, is a Monument sacred to the memory of the American Heroes, fallen in defence of their Country. While, Liberty is Crowning them, America uder [sic] the figure of Minerva sacrifices to their Manes, and a Priest of that Deity sings their glorious actions. The Hydra of Despotism mortally wounded by those great men expires in frightful convulsions. Peace and Justice hand in hand, join with America in her homage to Liberty. Plenty reclining on her emblematical Horn, reposes on American ground. The Genius of Liberty points out the declaration of Independence and a Book of the American Constitution. From the dreadful Sight, a group of Kings turn away with horror and dismay.”


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.

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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.

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