Wolf Howling is working on a novel about the American Revolution and would like to get some feedback — specifically, your feedback. Check it out.
I decided, in my hubris, some time ago to try my hand at writing a series of books – works of historical fiction – tracing a South Carolina family from 1760 through adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Below is the first half of book 1. I am a neophyte at writing fiction and have no idea whether I am a hack or actually writing something of interest. I will say nothing more then, if you would read and criticize, I would be deeply appreciative.
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: My goal is actually deeper than crowdsourcing the proofing, though that is proving of great benefit. I’ve never written fiction, let alone fiction wrapped around in-depth history as I understand it. I am at the point where I have written just enough of the first story that I can put it out publicly and, in essence, ask if I am wrapping interesting characters and events around history. If not, then that’s fine, I have no intention of putting in the thousand plus hours to finish this project just for my own personal gratification. Basically, I am hoping to get an honest thumbs up or thumbs down from as many people as possible before deciding to dedicate myself to this project for the next three to four years. I know how bookworm feels about the book, but she has been editing it for months. I need many neutral third parties to weigh in.
Book 1 : 1760 – 1761
Working Title: A Southern Road To Revolution Begins
An Annotated Work of Historical Fiction
Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
by D. Wolf
A Note On Carolina Geography
Throughout this book you will see the term “back country.” Every British colony in North America had what it called their own “back country.” The colonists were referring to their inevitably sparsely populated western regions, usually abutting the Appalachian mountain chain which runs from Maine to Georgia.
South Carolina also had a second designation, the “low country.” The meaning of that term has changed with time. In the 18th century, the term “low country” referred to all of the colony east of the fall line running from Camden to Augusta (see the map on the following page). It is an area of flat coastal terrain bisected by countless rivers, streams and creeks that, as you near the Camden/Augusta line, gradually becomes rolling hills. Today, when you hear someone referring to the South Carolina “low country,” they likely mean just the flat coastal regions from about Georgetown southwards to the border with Georgia, where most of the rice and indigo plantations flourished in the 18th century.
Footnotes and Endnotes
This is a unique work of historical fiction. It is unique in that I have tried to circumvent long expository paragraphs with footnotes. Where there is information or descriptions that would invariably be known by people of the age, but not necessarily by a modern reader, I have included brief footnotes to explain.
I have also included endnotes containing information that is not germane to the story, but that is necessary to understand in full both life in the 18th century and the historical antecedents that gave meaning to that history. So, for example, a reader could accept at face value Gwen York’s claim that the English poorly treated the Scots-Irish in Ireland of the 18th century. Or if so inclined, the reader could then look at the endnote and discover the historical facts that support that point.
I take some dramatic license throughout the series of books, either to move the story forward or to deal with complex events. I endeavor to point out each such instance in a comment at the end of each book.
Feb. 1, 1760 to March 29, 1760
What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.
John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, August 24, 1815, reprinted in The Works of John Adams, 1856
Tuesday, October 30, 1759
Charleston, Royal Colony of South Carolina1
Q. [Unidentified Member of British Parliament] What was the temper of America towards Great-Britain before the year 1763?
A. [Ben Franklin] The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the Crown, and paid, in all their courts, obedience to acts of parliament. Numerous as the people are in the [American colonies], they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons or armies, to keep them in subjection. They were governed by [Britain] at the expense only of a little pen, ink and paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only a respect, but an affection, for Great-Britain, for its laws, its customs and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce. . . .
Testimony of Benjamin Franklin before the House of Commons, London, United Kingdom, 1766
Throughout the British Empire, on the mainland of Britain and on colonies across four continents, the day had been one for young and old to celebrate the birthday of their King, George II. Now, with night falling in one of the King’s most prosperous colonies, the Royal Colony of South Carolina, the adults put their children to bed, then gathered to continue the celebration in balls and dances throughout the city.
Each year on the King’s birthday, the Royal Governor of South Carolina hosted the largest of the balls in Charleston, an invitation only event for the cream of Charleston society. He held it this year on the second floor hall of Poinsett’s Tavern. Some two hundred men and women, all in their finest formal clothes, were milling about, conversing in small groups and drinking rum punch as they awaited the start of the festivities. Near the front of the hall, a distinguished looking older man stood up on a chair to address the crowd. He needed no introduction. He was William Bull, Jr., a native of the Royal Colony of South Carolina and the colony’s long serving, very popular Lieutenant Governor.2
“Your attention, please,” Bull yelled above the din, then repeated it once again until silence fell on the room.
“Governor Lyttelton will be here in a moment to start off our ball. Before he does, some toasts. So take a moment and charge your glasses. Come now . . . don’t be shy. Charge them full. . . . As the Masons say, the bonds of friendship always tighten when they are wet.”
After waiting a few seconds for all present to fill their cups with punch, Bull held his own cup of rum punch aloft and said loudly, “A toast to our King George II, who has stood at the helm of our country for thirty-two years. We drink to his health, his happiness, and a wish that he may reign another thirty-two years, all as successful as the last!”
A thunder of claps and beating on tables rang out as the group replied, “To the King.”
As the people drank their toast, Bull again held his cup aloft. “A toast to our beloved motherland, Britain, the source of our liberties and the protector of our hearths and homes.”
“To Britain,” rang out.
And lastly,” said Bull, his voice rising to a crescendo, “to all true lovers of King and country. Long may we all prosper.”
“Long may we prosper,” the assembled guests repeated, downing the last of their punch, after which the din and applause became very loud. For they were all, whether native born in the colony or immigrants to it, and whether British by birth or simply by law as a settler in the colony, very proud to be British citizens.
1 Throughout this book, I refer to Charleston, South Carolina by its modern name. But from its founding in 1670 until 1790, the city was known by the name, Charles Town, or in the archaic, Charles Towne. It was named in honor of King Charles II.
2 In most colonies, particularly those with Royal charters, the highest positions in the colony’s government were reserved for appointment by the King. [See Endnote 2]
∞∞ 1 ∞∞
Friday, Feb. 1, 1760
Near the Settlement of Long Canes,
Royal Colony of South Carolina
At a great meeting of the [Cherokee] nation, . . . [French Officer] Louis Latinac . . . . [seized] a hatchet, struck it violently into a block of wood, exclaiming, as he did so, “Who is the warrior that will take this up for the king of France?” Salouee, a young chief of [the Cherokee town of] Estatoee, instantly tore the weapon from the tree. He declared himself for instant and continued war. “The spirits of our slain brothers,” was his cry, “call upon us to avenge their massacre. He is a woman that dares not follow me!”
William Gilmore Simms, The Life of Francis Marion, 1844, discussing French efforts to enlist the Cherokee Indians against the British during the French-Indian War.
It took thirteen-year-old James Armstrong a moment to regain his senses. His head throbbed from the blow that had knocked him unconscious minutes before. It was the terrified screams of women and children, the closest coming from about 50 yards distant, that brought him fully back to reality. Moments later, he registered the repeated sounds of musket fire.
Trying to push himself onto his knees, James pitched forward to the ground as his right thigh went white hot in pain. Rolling on his back and looking down, James realized he had been cut badly across his right thigh through his leather buckskin breeches. While it looked like the bleeding had slowed down to a trickle, James felt the worst of the pain from below the cut along his thigh bone.
James didn’t remember how he had gotten that injury. It didn’t matter. James raised himself up on his left knee, putting no pressure on his injured right leg.
Fifteen minutes earlier, James had been seated in his family’s wagon along with his father, mother and two sisters. The caravan they were in had stopped when the lead wagon sank to its left front axle in boggy terrain. His father left their wagon and walked to the front of the caravan to help, leaving behind his weapons – a long rifle, a brace of pistols, powder, ball, and a long bladed knife.
James’s wagon had been the last in a caravan made up of about 20 wagons and 150 men, women, and children, all farmers and artisans late of the Long Cane settlement near the Cherokee border. This caravan had taken shape when the people decided to abandon their homes and farms after the Cherokee began conducting bloody raids on Britain’s back-country settlers, sparing neither man, woman, nor child.
James remembered the shock and adrenaline he felt when it seemed that the entire Cherokee nation had let loose war cries and emerged out of the woods maybe 50 yards away.
James had spun around in the back of the wagon to face them. Most were on horseback and making a beeline towards the front of the caravan where the men were concentrated. Several on foot were running towards James and the other wagons at the caravan’s rear.
James had seen that the Cherokee were all dressed similarly in leather chaps, and a loin cloth. Most had on white European shirts on the cold February day, though a few were naked above the waist. Their exposed skin was covered in a red ochre, with splashes of black pigment across their faces. Everyone of them was bald but for a tuft of hair at the back crown of their head.1 Most of the braves rode or ran forward cradling muskets. Those without muskets held aloft war clubs2 or European made tomahawks with gleaming steel blades. 3 All screamed war cries as they sprinted forwards.
James hadn’t had time to feel fear. His only thought was to defend his mother and sisters as best he could. He immediately grabbed his father’s cartridge box with all of their spare powder and ball, putting the lanyard over his shoulder. Then taking his father’s long gun and a pistol, he had jumped out of the back of the wagon to the ground, dropping the pistol in the process and nearly the rifle as well. At 13, James was strong from working the fields, but manipulating his father’s .50 caliber long rifle, which, at six feet long and 10 lbs in weight, was bigger than James himself, was still difficult.
In the few seconds it had taken for James to bring the rifle up to his shoulder and cock the trigger, a club wielding brave was almost upon him. James pulled the trigger with the brave no more than ten yards away. Black smoke and flame erupted from the end of the gun and the recoil almost knocked James over. The brave’s chest exploded in a spray of blood and flesh.
Realizing that he didn’t have the 20 to 30 seconds needed to reload, James had dropped the rifle and scrambled to pick up the loaded pistol. He was vaguely aware that the Cherokee he had shot had fallen and gone still a few feet to his front. James was just starting to stand and raise the pistol when he felt an explosion of pain behind his right ear and all went black.
Now having regained consciousness, James took stock of his surroundings. The brave he had shot lay dead in a puddle of blood a few feet from James, his war club still in his hand. James’s long rifle and pistol were gone, as was the cartridge box James had slung over his shoulder. James turned his attention to the wagon, but was unable to see the front from his angle and position. Taking the brave’s war club from his hands and using it as a short cane, James hobbled as quickly as he could to the front of the wagon.
The screams of the injured and dying still filled the air, as well as the continuing sounds of musket shot as the men near the front of the caravan tried to fight off the Indian attack. But James no longer registered them. The sight that greeted him held his complete, horrified attention.
His mother lay hanging half out of the front of the wagon, the right side of her face caved in, no doubt from a vicious strike of a war club. She had been scalped as well. James was shortly at her side, but she was a bloody mess, almost beyond recognition. Detecting no sign of life, tears poured from from his eyes. Placing a hand on her left cheek, he whispered “God bless you, Mama, and take you to heaven,” then immediately turned his attention to finding his sisters.
Using his arms as much as possible to spare his injured leg, James wrestled his way up the wagon until he could see into the wagon’s bed. His older sister lay there, her head outlined in a halo of blood and brain matter, her hand still gripping their father’s long knife, its ten-inch blade covered in a blood-red sheen. It was immediately apparent to James what had happened. His sister had fought back, probably first with the pistol then, when the Cherokee had closed in, surprising them with the knife. Whomever she had stabbed had buried a tomahawk in the top of her skull, then left the area – the thought “hopefully to die a slow and painful death” quickly passing through James’ thoughts. James reached out, tears continuing to roll down his cheeks, and touched his sister’s calf, repeating his small blessing, “God bless you, Liza, and take you to heaven.”
Forcing himself to focus, James turned his attention away from Liza’s corpse. He scanned the wagon’s interior, looking both for his little sister, eight-year-old Janice, and the remaining pistol. Neither were there. Instead, James took the bloodied knife from his sister’s hand, then stuffed it into his belt.
Climbing down from the wagon, James closely scanned the surrounding area, looking for any sign of Janice. He didn’t want to yell out for her, lest he alert any nearby Cherokee to his presence. That was when he heard a twig break to his rear.
Whipping his head around, James struggled to locate the sound. Out of the corner of his eye, he finally caught sight of two braves stalking him.
The two Cherokee had spotted James at a distance several minutes before. They had run up near him, then began to move stealthily until they were about twenty yards behind him. Now detected, the two braves gave a war cry and charged.
James was never conscious of the fact that he could not escape the braves. He was beyond thought now, running on pure impulse. He began hobbling away as fast as he could, pulling the knife out of his waistband with some vague notion of turning to fight them once they caught up to him.
But James’s back was still turned from the braves when he felt a war club slam into his rib cage on his right side. He could hear the crack as his ribs snapped under the blow. He dropped his knife and fell face forward on the ground in agonizing pain.
Immediately one of the Cherokee pinned James left arm to the ground with his hands. The other brave pinned James right arm with his foot, then knelt down next to the boy.
James could feel a hand grabbing his hair. The Cherokee roughly yanked his head back up off the ground. A moment later James felt the cold, sharp steel blade of a scalping knife at his hairline. Blood squirted out and ran in torrents down James’s forehead and into his eyes as the Cherokee sawed away at his scalp. The pain was agony beyond anything James had ever felt. But even that paled in comparison when it combined with the explosion of pain James felt as he sucked in his breath to join the ongoing chorus of screams from the other settlers, jostling his just-broken ribs in the process.
James passed out from the pain.
1 The fullest description of the Cherokee and their customs during this period comes from The Memoirs of Lieut. Henry Timberlake (1765) [See Endnote 3]
2 The war club of the Iroquois-related tribes, of which the Cherokee were one, were carved from a single piece of wood. The club was approximately two feet long and one and a half to two inches wide along its length. Near the top of the club was carved a wooden ball, positioned like an axe head. The ball was three to eight inches in diameter.
3 None of the American Indian tribes had developed smelting and iron metallurgy, nor had they developed gun powder. In that sense at least, they were still using stone age technology. All of the iron and steel goods they possessed, including guns, steel tomahawks and knives, as well as powder and shot for the guns, came from trade with the Europeans.
∞∞ 2 ∞∞
Friday, March 14, 1760; 42 days having passed
Office of Dr. Andrew York
Tradd St., Charleston, Royal Colony of South Carolina
The Long Cane Massacre1
Yesterday night the whole of the Long Cane settlers, to the number of 150 moved off with most of their effects in wagons to go towards Augusta in Georgia and in a few hours after their setting off, were surprised and attacked by about 100 Cherokees on horseback, while they were getting their wagons out of a boggy place.
They had amongst them 40 gunmen, who might have made a very good defense, but unfortunately their guns were in the wagons; the few that recovered theirs fought the Indians half an hour, and were at last obliged to fly. In the action they lost 7 wagons and 40 of their people killed or taken — including women and children. The rest got safe to Augusta whence an express arrived here with the same account on Tues. morning.”
Many children have been found wandering in the woods, of the party that were attacked removing from the Long Canes settlement; one man brought no less than 9 of them to Augusta, which he picked up in two different parties, some of them terribly cut with tomahawks and left for dead, and others scalp’d, yet alive. . .
South Carolina Gazette, Issues Feb. 2-9 and Feb. 9-16, 1760
“Cousin Andrew,” a man called through the doorway leading into Dr. York’s office building.
Dr. Andrew York, one of the few University-trained physicians in the British North American colonies, was just mounting the steps to the upper floors of the Tradd Street house where he maintained his medical practice. The main floor housed his office, a storage room for his stock of tinctures and herbs, a waiting room, a bedroom for those servants who lived there full time, and two rooms in which to treat people as they came in. Andrew used the two upper floors as an infirmary for those who needed round the clock care.
Forty years old, Andrew’s brown hair, which he wore pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck, was beginning to go gray at the temples. His face was broad and dominated by a flat nose, the tip of which extended down below his nostrils. His bright blue eyes, beneath bushy eyebrows, were intense, and his mouth had a natural small downturn, all combining to give Andrew a slightly fearsome appearance, one only broken on those occasions – usually reserved for family and friends – when he smiled. He was dressed in navy-blue breeches, a brilliant crimson waistcoat, a white shirt ruffled at the neck, white linen stockings, and black shoes with silver buckles.
Hearing his name, Andrew turned toward the door. His serious expression softened when he saw Paul Armstrong, his cousin by marriage.
Paul was a tall, wiry man with reddish blond hair that he wore, as did Andrew and most men of the day, brushed back from his forehead and tied at the nape of his neck with a ribbon. Paul was dressed entirely in black from his tricorne hat to his riding boots, but for a white cravat about his neck with two tabs extending down several inches, marking him as a minister.
Normally, Paul was a tidy man, a virtue expected by his parishioners at the Indiantown Presbyterian Church, 2 which was located some ninety miles due north of Charleston and thirty miles inland. Now, though, Paul, was covered in dust and mud splatter from his four day journey on horseback to Charleston.
Andrew walked towards Paul, holding out his right hand in greeting. In a slightly raspy, baritone voice, he said “This is a surprise. I’m glad you’re here, Paul. I assume your presence means that you heard about the massacre of the Long Cane settlers. This is a bad business. Very bad.”
“I did hear, Cousin. I’m sorry it took me so long to get here. I was making a circuit of my other congregations when your courier arrived. Priscilla,” he said, referring to his wife, ”sent it on, but it only caught up with me five days ago. I thought it best to come immediately rather than wait at home to find out if you’d learned whether Uncle Angus and his family were involved. Truth to tell, I’ve assumed that, because they lived in Long Cane, they must have been.”
Twenty years as a physician had given Andrew practice at delivering bad news, but he had never grown used to the unpleasant task. Still, needs must when the Devil drives. Placing a hand on Paul’s shoulder, Andrew said, “Angus and his family were in the group. The Cherokee slaughtered Angus and his wife . . . their oldest daughter Liza as well. We don’t know what happened to Janice, but little James was found alive, though very badly injured.”
His worst fears realized, Paul’s face lost all color. He closed his eyes and silently recited a short prayer.
“Uncle Angus was one of the first settlers there. He was a good friend of the Cherokee for twenty years. . . . I don’t understand how this could happen.” Paul fell silent as he struggled to come to grips with the information. Then, as Andrew patiently waited for the questions he knew would come, Paul choked out, “Is there any idea about what happened to Janice?”
Andrew shook his head. “She wasn’t among the dead or the injured, so I suspect the Cherokee have taken her.”
“Will they harm her, do you think?”
“I can’t say for certain, Paul, but I doubt it. She was eight years old, if I recall correctly. Usually the Cherokee abduct children that age because they’re still young enough to be adopted into the tribe. And when they do adopt a child into the tribe, they treat that child as a full-blood member, which protects the child from rape or other abuse. I even think we stand a good chance of getting Janice back unharmed when this war with the Cherokee is over – that is, if I’m correct about what happened.”
“And what of Little James? You said he was badly injured.”
“The Cherokee mutilated him and left him for dead — ”
Paul, overcome by anger and distrust, looked away as if he could turn away from the images forming in his mind.
Andrew paused for a moment before continuing. “ – but a man, I don’t know his name, was passing through the area the day after the massacre. He rescued James and several other children whom he found alive and took them all to Augusta. As soon as I heard that there were survivors, I sent a wagon there to bring your Uncle James and any of his surviving family back to Charleston. Little James was the only one. The one bit of good news is that he has managed to pull through.”
“But you said he was mutilated, Andrew. How badly injured is he?
“They scalped him. But that was not the most dangerous of his injuries – .”
“Savages,” Paul spat. “What kind of people can do this to women and children? There needs to be a reckoning for this. It cannot go unanswered.”
Andrew put his hand on Paul’s shoulder and, his face intense, said “I can assure you, Paul, that it won’t go unanswered. The Cherokee will pay a heavy price for this.”
Dropping his hand from Paul’s shoulder, Andrew added angrily, “But really, it should never have come to this in the first place. Most of the Cherokee wanted peace. What a cock-up our Royal Governor has made of this. This war is at his door. The only thing he has done right is that he’s now put in a formal request for a British regiment to join with our militia so we can take the war to the Cherokee. Regardless of fault, we have to win this war now. But let that lie for the moment. Let me finish telling you about our little James. He is a strong boy who would have made his parents proud.
“When I finally got him almost a month ago, he was near dead. He had a long, inch-deep cut to his thigh that was showing signs of infection. To the extent the boy had any luck at all, it was that the wound to his thigh and, the scalping of course, though extensive, weren’t deep puncture wounds nor near any vital organs. Besides the scalping and the cut to his thigh, he also had a possible broken thigh bone — at least I think he may have had from all of the deep bruises around the cut. He had several broken ribs as well, and a nasty bump on his skull behind his right ear, though he suffered no fracture to his skull that I could tell.
“When I got James back here, to my infirmary, I cleaned his wounds again and restitched him. I couldn’t do much for the broken ribs he sustained, but they hadn’t punctured his lungs and, being as he is so young, they’re already close to being fully healed now. As to his probable broken leg, I felt no displacement of his bone, nor any fragmentation. It has healed to the point that he can bear his weight and hobble about now.
“To be honest, Paul, at first I didn’t think at first that Little James was going to make it. It was Divine Providence that his fever passed and the infection didn’t take him. And of course, he has his father’s fighting spirit. He’s so much better now I was going to bring him to my home today.”
“Can I see him, Cousin?”
“Of course, Paul, of course. He’s on the second floor. I was just on my way up there.”
The two men headed towards the staircase and up the broad, shallow steps to the second floor. As they walked, Paul said, “Andrew, when I stopped at your new house – it’s quite beautiful, by the way – your servant girl Molly told me that you and Gwen were both over here at the office. Is she with James?”
Andrew’s face settled into grim lines. “I’ll tell you about that after we meet with James.”
The two men emerged onto the second floor, which Paul saw was painted entirely in white. Andrew had stripped out most of the interior walls except for two walled rooms at the far end of the floor, which were separated from each other by a short hallway, at the end of which was a window. On the main body of the floor, Paul saw twelve beds arrayed along the walls, each with a large window above it. The beds themselves were wooden frames with the mattress supported by a rope lattice. Under the beds, Paul could see the bucket that lay under a strategically placed hole in the thin hay-stuffed mattresses, so that the patients could relieve themselves without moving.
Paul guessed that these windows were almost always open because the room did not have the overwhelming stench of human waste and disease that he associated with infirmaries. Although there was a whiff of these odors, the dominant smell was vinegar, which Andrew’s servants used each day in a diluted solution to scrub down the walls and floors.
The room held only four patients today. Two men with amputated limbs appeared asleep. A third man with a deathly pallor and sweat on his brow lay with eyes closed, mumbling something unintelligible. Two teen-aged boys, both dressed in white breeches and waistcoat, were at work. One was scrubbing the floor, the other measuring out doses of Laudanum3 – a tincture4 of opium – to give to the amputees.
Standing at the terminus of the far hallway, his head canted downward as he looked out the window at the street below, was the fourth patient: James. He was dressed in brown breeches and coat, with a dark green cotton waistcoat. Although it had been many years since he had seen his nephew, Paul knew instantly that this was James. It was a relief to see him well enough to be dressed and about.
Tempering his voice for the sickroom, Paul nevertheless managed to infuse it with warmth as he called out, “James!”
It was only when James turned towards him that Paul could see the horrible wound left by the scalping. Although he was accustomed to the grisly sights of people scarred and mutilated by disease, accident or the hand of man, Paul nevertheless had to make an effort to keep the shock off of his face when he saw James.
Nothing in Paul’s experience had prepared him for the sight of a living person who had been scalped. The Cherokee had cut away all the flesh from the top of James’s head, leaving his ivory colored skull visible from the top of his forehead to the crown of his head. The wound was framed all around with angry red scars at the margins of his skin.
His revulsion quickly passed, though, as James limped as fast as he could towards his uncle. As he neared Paul, he held out both hands. The two met in the middle and hugged.
After a long moment, Paul stepped back and took James by the shoulders. “I am so sorry, James. Cousin Andrew tells me it’s a miracle that you survived. We will have to say our thanks to God for that.”
James, his face showing the serious, stoic expression of a man, said quietly, “The Cherokee, they killed my parents and my sister. I couldn’t find my little sister. I tried to fight back,” he said, his voice rising and hardening, “but I was only able to kill one of the Cherokee before they got to me. I –” he said, his voice now trailing off, leaving Paul to rightly assume the boy felt overwhelmed with guilt, either for surviving the attack while his family did not or for not being able to protect them. Probably both, Paul concluded, as he thought to himself, “these are your deepest wounds, James, and they will take much longer to heal.”
“Cousin Andrew has told me everything. You needn’t worry now. We are going to take care of you. And God willing, we will get your little sister back.”
James hugged his uncle for a long time. When he finally let go, Paul asked him “Do you still hurt, son?”
The boy answered, “My head feels better, but my leg hurts and it still hurts some when I breathe deep.”
Paul turned to Andrew. “Does James still require your care?”
“No,” answered Andrew. “I’ve done all I can. He needs only time now.”
“Will his head h—-,” Paul began to ask, only to have Andrew interrupt. “No, his scalp will never heal over. He’ll be like this for the rest of his life, although it should cause no further medical complications. His leg is just weak now. He should recover most, if not all of his function in time.”
“So what will happen now?” asked Paul.
Andrew glanced toward the tall clock that stood against the far wall. The time was just shy of 9 a.m.
“In a few more minutes, a present should arrive for James. After that, I planned to take him home. I sent a letter by courier to your father in Camden letting him know what has happened and that we had Little James. I sent another letter a week ago letting him know that James was almost recovered and asking what he wanted us to do. Gwen and I have offered to take James in. James and I have talked and it is acceptable to him, We’re just waiting to hear your father’s wishes. I still haven’t heard back from him.”
Paul, as was his habit when deep in thought, studied the buckles on his shoes. Though Little James physical wounds were healing, Paul was concerned that his memories of the attack, combined with his terrible mutilation and his obvious guilt, might fester over the years, turning him into an angry and embittered soul. While Paul had no doubt his cousins would do their best by James, he thought that he and Priscilla might be better able to give James the extra attention that he would need to heal the wounds to his spirit.
“Would you and Cousin Gwen be offended if I asked to take him home with me? God has not seen fit to give Priscilla and me any children yet. We have more than enough room in both our home and our hearts for James.”
“I have no objections and I am sure neither Gwen nor your father will. James, would you like to take time to consider it?”
James pondered silently for a minute, looking away as he spoke. “It is so large and crowded here, it’s like . . . I don’t know. . . . I don’t know how to describe it. I can never repay you and Aunt Gwen for saving my life . . . your kindness.” Looking Andrew in the eye, he asked quietly, “Will you be offended if I went with Uncle Paul?”
Andrew gave James a soft, tight lipped smile and said in a gentle voice “No, James, no offense taken at all.” Then his voice hardening and rising to its normal volume, “But my acceptance is not unconditional, James. You must promise to bring Cousin Paul and Priscilla to visit us at least once or twice a year. Is that acceptable to you James?”
James closed his eyes and nodded. Paul, looking on, was surprised by how unnerved he was, watching James’s bare skull, framed in bright red scars, bobbing up and down. Paul did his best not to show it.
Andrew smiled and announced “Then we have a contract.” Extending his hand to James, Andrew said “Let us shake on it and be forever men of our words.”
After they had solemnly sealed the deal with a shake of their hands, Andrew said “Now, James, will you please –”
He was interrupted when a young woman reached the landing and headed towards him. Speaking in a strong Irish accent, she said, “Dr. York . . . and Master James, they said ya’ two was up here.”
Andrew smiled. The young woman was Brianna O’Brien, a round faced, raven haired nineteen-year-old Irish woman who, until a year ago, was an indentured servant to his family. He had especially liked her. She was always optimistic, always a hard worker, and never mean-spirited. When her five-year term of servitude ended, he had arranged for her to become an apprentice to a local wig maker who was both a longtime patient and friend. It seemed to have worked out well.
“Brianna, please, come in.”
Brianna, in a light blue dress and white cap, carried in a wooden box a foot tall and wide, which she set down on the nearest empty bed. She showed no reaction to James’s appearance, although she had been deeply shocked the first time she had seen him, that despite Andrew’s warning on the morning when she had come two weeks earlier to measure the boy for a wig.
Opening the box and withdrawing a wig of brown hair, she summoned the boy. “Master James, come here if you will. Let’s try this on ya’.”
James showed no outward signs of discomfort as Molly arranged the wig on his head, then fussed with it until it sat perfectly. The wig was in the design of the day, with the hair pulled back from the forehead and tied with a ribbon at the nape of the neck.
“There ya’ go. Right handsome lad ya’ are,” she said. She withdrew a hand held mirror from the box and held it up. “Here, see for yourself.”
The wig did not merely look good on James. It turned him from looking freakish to being a normal boy in the blink of an eye. James smiled. “Thank you, ma’am.” he said to Brianna.
“You’re welcome, young sir. But the person ya’ need to be thankin’ is Dr. York.”
James turned, still smiling, and said “Thank you, Uncle Andrew.” Andrew nodded in silent response.
Brianna started to explain to James how to care for his wigs when Andrew interrupted.
“Brianna, would you please take James downstairs and explain this to him there. James, your Uncle and I still have business to attend. We’ll be down in a few minutes.”
1 This is from two newspaper articles as they appeared in 1760. The Long Cane settlement was located towards the southwest corner of South Carolina, a frontier area that, in 1760, was near the Lower Towns of the seven Cherokee tribes. The Anglo-Cherokee War along the Southern frontier, from Virginia south through Georgia, had begun in 1758.
2 The Indiantown Presbyterian Church was built 1757 just outside of what is now Hemingway, South Carolina, an area inhabited jointly by Chickasaw Indians and Scots-Irish colonists. [See Endnote 7]
3 Laudanum was a patented medicine developed by a 17th century English chemist. It was quite potent, containing 10% powdered opium by weight, and very addictive. [See Endnote 8]
4A tincture is made by grinding and/or depositing a particular plant or bark into – usually – alcohol, and allowing it to seep for a period, usually two weeks or more, allowing the alcohol to draw out the active chemicals in the plant.
∞∞ 3 ∞∞
“. . . the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651
As James limped behind Brianna to the stairwell, Paul looked quizzically at Andrew.
“Upstairs,” Andrew said, guiding Paul back to the stairwell. “Your Cousin Gwen is up there with our son George.” George, at ten, was the third oldest of the York’s surviving children.
“Is there a problem?” asked Paul.
“Yes, indeed there is, Paul,” said Andrew. “George has yellow fever.1 ”
Andrew didn’t need to explain to Paul that yellow fever was, along with small pox and malaria, one of the three deadly illnesses that every few years reached epidemic proportions in South Carolina. Since Andrew’s arrival in 1740, there had been ten separate yellow fever epidemics in Charleston, taking hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. Of the many miseries that came with Charleston’s “fever season,”2 yellow fever was the worst.
To Andrew’s intense frustration – and never more so than now, when his own son lay ill – yellow fever could not be minimized in its effects through variolation as small pox could.3 Nor could yellow fever be treated or cured with medicine, as was the case with malaria, which usually responded to a tincture of quinine, sometimes known as “Jesuit’s bark.”
“George took sick about ten days ago . . . fever, chills, back pain. After three days, he seemed to get better. A day later, he began with the black vomit and the bleeding from his eyes and nose. . . . ” Andrew’s voice trailed off as they reached the landing half way to the third floor.
“Do you think he’ll recover?”
“I don’t know, Paul. I really don’t know, but I am not optimistic. This is a disease that all my skill as a doctor cannot touch. I have no idea its cause nor how to treat it. I’ve seen probably five hundred cases of yellow fever over the past twenty years. Half recover. Half die. Nothing that I have tried – and I have tried much – has altered that reality.”
Andrew stopped walking, lost in thought. “To the contrary, I’ve found that some of the things I have tried, bloodletting and emetics in particular, made things worse, to the point that I now only provide what palliative care that I can.”
“You don’t bleed for yellow fever?” asked Paul with a note of surprise in his voice. Every physician that Paul had ever met prescribed bloodletting as part of the treatment for virtually everything.
Andrew just shook his head. He did not want to get into a long discussion at the moment about his views on bloodletting, a technique European physicians had been practicing since the second century. Andrew stood among the small but growing number of physicians who questioned the efficacy of bloodletting and the underlying theories on which it was practiced.
Resuming his climb up the stairs, Andrew said “If George were going to recover, he would have turned the corner and started experiencing some easing of symptoms two or three days ago. He hasn’t. I think it only a matter of time.”
“I’m so sorry, Cousin Andrew. I will pray for him . . . and your family.”
“Before we go in here, have you had yellow fever?”
Paul shook his head. “Not that I am aware of. Is it . . . ?”
“Communicable is the word you’re looking for. I believe it is, though I am not certain. That’s why I have George here and not at the house. Anyone who’s had it is immune to the disease afterwards. Gwen had it a few years ago and, shortly after she did, Robert and I both came down with it. Still, I don’t think just walking in and standing by him for a few minutes will be a problem – but don’t touch him.”
With that, Andrew put out his arm, bidding Paul to step off the stairs and enter onto the third floor. The plan and furnishings on this floor were the same as on the second. Here, though, the only person occupying a bed was ten-year-old George. A white sheet covered him up to his neck. His face was drawn and a sickly yellow; his breathing heavily labored. He appeared comatose.
Sitting next to the bed was his mother, Mrs. Gwendolyn Armstrong York, a woman of forty years, five feet tall when standing, with a compact, sturdy build. Her simple green cotton dress covered her from neck to ankle, and her fiery red hair hung in loose ringlets from beneath a white bonnet. Her skin was porcelain white and lightly freckled. Her bright green eyes were her most striking feature, but they were sunken now from worry and sleeplessness. Even her stress and fatigue could not hide the fact that she was still a beautiful woman, a few smallpox scars from her youth notwithstanding.
A black teen-aged boy, about sixteen, who had been standing behind Gwen, move towards the two men, intercepting them halfway to the bed. Speaking softly, he said “I’m sorry, Dr. York. He turned worse last night. Lots of foul black vomit. I tried to give him a bit of tea this morning, but he won’t wake up. This heavy breathing is recent. And his skin has gotten more yellow and clammy. I would have sent for you, but by the time I realized how bad it was, Missus Gwen was already here. She told me you would be along shortly.”
“Thank you, Dennis,” Andrew said. Normally he would have questioned Dennis at some length about his observations and any treatments he would recommend, as well as his prognosis. Both knew, though, that there was no treatment for yellow fever but Providence, and Andrew, beneath his habitual calm demeanor, was in fact too distraught to play the Socratic method this morning. “That will be all for now, Dennis. Please give us a few minutes alone,” he said dismissing the young man.
While Andrew and the young man spoke, Paul had walked over to the bed and begun speaking quietly with Gwen. When Andrew arrived at the bedside, Gwen rose hugged her husband fiercely. Still, she was stoic, as was expected of responsible adults in Charleston. Death, after all, was never far away for any of them, but in particular for children and women of child-bearing age.4
This was not the first time death had stalked the York family. Their firstborn, Donald, had died from smallpox before reaching his first year. Their second child to pass, Constance, was three years old when she died. A falling timber fractured her skull when their house on Meeting Street in Charleston partially collapsed in the Hurricane of 1752.
“I don’t think he has long,” Gwen said, her normally musical voice, with its faint Irish brogue, flattened from resignation and sadness. Losing her other children had been hard, but both were very young when they passed. She did not love them any less than her son now lying before her, but she had so much invested in George, by ten years, that this loss was by far the worst. “Paul, would you –” she began, her voice trailing away.
“Of course,” Paul replied, understanding what she sought. Remembering Andrew’s admonition not to touch George, he merely moved next to the bed, bowed his head, and began to recite Psalm Twenty-Three, his voice soft yet very full. Andrew and Gwen likewise bowed their heads.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“Yea, though I –” Paul stopped as George took in a particularly deep, rattling breath, then stopped breathing. For a long moment no one moved as they waited for an exhale that seemed forever to arrive. When it did, George’s breathing returned to its labored pattern.
Paul, used though he was to ministering to people on their death beds, forgot his place in the the Psalm. It was Gwen who resumed the Psalm, with Paul and Andrew soon joining in.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen.”
A single tear rolled down Gwen’s face. Andrew took his wife’s hand.
1 Yellow fever is a mosquito-born disease with two phases. The first phase was flu like symptoms. Most would recover. Those who didn’t then went into phase two where they would suffer jaundice from liver damage, bleeding from the eyes and nose as well as into the stomach, and they would vomit coagulated blood that looks in appearance and consistency like coffee grounds. The mortality rate for those entering the second phase could reach 50%. [See Endnote 10]
2 Malaria and yellow fever were so common in the low country of colonial South Carolina that the period between roughly July and September became known as the “fever season.” [See Endnote 11]
3 Variolation for small pox was a medical procedure that was the forerunner to modern inoculation. The process of variolation, only widely known in the British world since 1718, involved taking blood or scabs infected with small pox and inserting it into a cut made in an individuals arm. People who took small pox by variolation usually experienced a much milder course of the disease.
4 In 18th century Charleston, odds were that a new-born child born would not live beyond his fourth year, and odds were that during pregnancy, one in eight women would die. [See Endnote 13]
∞∞ 4 ∞∞
I am now set down, my Dear brother, to obey your commands and give you a short description of the part of the world I now inhabit. South Carolina then is a large and Extensive Country Near the Sea. Most of the settled parts of it is upon a flat ⎯ the soil near Charles Town sandy, but further distant clay and swamp lands. It abounds with fine navigable rivers and great quantities of fine timber. The country at great distance, that is to say about a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles from Charles Town very hilly. The soil in general very fertile, and there is very few European or American fruits or grain but what grow here. The Country abounds with wild fowl, Venison and fish, Beef, veal and mutton, . . .
. . . The people in general [are] hospitable and honest, and the better sort add to these a polite gentile behavior. The poorer sort are the most indolent people in the world or they could never be wretched in so plentiful a country as this. The winters here are very fine and pleasant, but 4 months in the year is extremely disagreeable, excessive hot, much thunder and lightning, and . . . [mosquitoes] and sand flies in abundance.
Charles Town, the Metropolis, is a neat pretty place. The inhabitants [are] polite and live in a very gentile manner; the streets and houses regularly built; the ladies and gentlemen gay in their dress. Upon the whole you will find as many agreeable people of both sexes for the size of the places as almost any where. St. Philip’s Church in Charles Town is a very Elegant one and much frequented. There are several more places of public worship in this town and the generality of people [are] of a religious turn of mind. . . .
Eliza Lucas Pinckney, letter to her brother, Thomas Lucas, 22 May 1742, reprinted in Women of Colonial & Revolutionary Times, Volume 10, 1896
While Andrew lingered for a few more moments with his wife and son, Paul and James stepped out of Andrew’s Tradd Street office and onto Charleston’s sunlit streets. Tradd Street, though not a major thoroughfare, was alive with the mid morning sights, sounds and smells of hundreds of people, most on foot, some on horseback, some driving wagons loaded with all manner of goods, going about their daily lives.
On the other side of the sand covered street a small feral dog trotted across the front of a vacant lot on which stood the bare foundation of an old house. Work on a new house there was yet to begin. In the interim, nature in the fecund land of South Carolina was fighting to reclaim the lot with a growth of crepe myrtle and palmetto trees.
The dog moved beyond the lot and stopped at the corner of a brown stone home. After a thorough inspection, it marked the building, then ran off as a young woman and her toddler drew near.
The woman was carrying a sweet grass basket of the type made by people from Sierra Leone. They had brought this skill with them to Carolina when brought into the colony as slaves. A sandy-haired toddler in a dress walked at the woman’s side. Looking at the child, no one could tell if it was a boy or a girl. Charleston held to the English tradition of clothing both boys and girls in dresses until they were trained to control their bladder and bowels.
Paul smiled as he watched the child suddenly run as best it could to the newly marked corner, hike up its dress and, while showing himself a boy, add a marking of his own over the dog’s. The child’s mother waited patiently and, when he was done, the two walked on.
Moments later, Andrew appeared from around the back of his office building, leading his horse, a five-year-old chestnut Carolina Marsh Tacky mare. Gwen, he told Paul, had opted to stay with George while Andrew took Paul and James to the York’s home. Andrew had told her that he would return soon and relieve her.
Andrew addressed James. “Would you like to ride her? It will be easier on you then walking, and we’ll see if it’s comfortable on your leg.” James nodded his agreement with this suggestion.
The men each put a hand on James’s hips and under his arms to help him up. James put his left foot in the stirrup and mounted the horse, using his hands to help lift his injured right leg up and over the horse. Andrew observed closely as James grimaced momentarily in pain, though he uttered no complaint and seemed comfortable enough once he settled into the saddle.
“Are you in a hurry to return home?” Andrew asked Paul.
“Given that George is in extremis, I was thinking to remain here for you and your family if you do not object.”
Andrew gave a sad, grateful smile. “Of course not, Paul. You are always welcome here and, under the circumstance, I particularly appreciate your presence. It’s just as well you stay for awhile. My tailor is making several new outfits for James, but they will not be ready for two days. In any event, I think it will be some time before James is ready to ride comfortably on horseback for five days. When you leave, I’ll give you a wagon the two of you can take.”
The three started to walk along Tradd Street towards the York’s home, with Andrew holding his horse’s reins so James had only to sit and look around him.
“Actually, Paul, now that I’m thinking about it, you’ll have to write up a list of any supplies that you’d like to take back. We’ll get them and load them in the wagon for you.”
Paul smiled. “I can’t thank you enough, Cousin, but that won’t be necessary. Coming home with James will be prize enough. I didn’t arrive with much in currency, not having the thought of coming to market in mind.”
Andrew was a careful man of business – he counted every penny – but business, even though hurt by this damnable Cherokee War, was still good. And when it came to family, Andrew was always generous within reason. “I didn’t think you would have. It’s of no consequence. Consider this a present to help get young James established.”
The three turned the corner, walking into the heart of Charleston. The city, founded in 1670 as a business venture by eight Lord Proprietors,1 was not yet a century old. Because the Spanish claimed the land on which the city rose, its British founders built the city with a city wall, drawbridges, and a moat, making it the only city with medieval fortifications ever built in the British North American colonies. These defenses were warranted. The young city, in its first forty years, faced the threat of attacks from the Spanish and the Yamasee Indians, and was subject to several actual attacks by the French and by pirates, including among their number Blackbeard.
The city had also been the site of a Revolution. In 1719, the colonists, upset with inefficient, oft time corrupt and tyrannical government imposed by the Lord Proprietors, revolted, deposing the Proprietor’s government.2 They successfully petitioned the King, then George I, to dispossess the Lord Proprietors and make of South Carolina a Royal Colony.
Paul knew that Charlestonians were proud of their city and rightfully so. From a handful of settlers in 1670, Charleston had grown by 1760 to become the fourth largest city in the thirteen British North American colonies and was its richest port. The 15th and 16th Century’s Age of Discovery had given way to the Age of Sail and international trade. This resulted in both an explosion of wealth and the creation of a burgeoning middle class. No city benefited more from this than Charleston, which was the major port south of Philadelphia.
By 1760, Charleston had outgrown the city walls and drawbridge that marked its original boundaries. It held approximately 10,000 people, equally divided between white Europeans and blacks from Africa, the vast majority of whom were slaves. To the surprise of those who came from England, though, Charleston was also home to many free blacks. But even with 10,000 people, the city was not overly large by colonial standards – in comparison, Philadelphia held 26,000 people, and even that was minuscule by European standards. Britain’s capital, London, boasted a population in 1760 of 750,000 people.
Charleston sat on a peninsula running roughly from west to east, and bounded on either side by wide rivers, the Ashley River to the south and the Cooper River to the north. Those rivers terminated at the city’s southeastern edge, where they fed into a six-mile-wide, roughly horseshoe-shaped harbor that was seemingly occupied at all times by merchant ships in the hundreds, as well as the occasional British warship. Most of the commercial docks sat a half mile up the Cooper River, though there were also a few commercial docks on the Ashley.
A few blocks south of the docks was the midpoint of Church Street, a main thoroughfare that ran the length of the city from west to east, parallel to the Cooper River. It was there that Andrew and Gwen had built their new home.
As Andrew, Paul, and James approached the York house, they could see the third floor and roof above the red brick wall surrounding the property. The wall was long, as the house and its outbuildings actually occupied two lots – one fronting Church Street, with the lot behind it and to its north heading towards the Cooper River. Andrew had bought the lots after the 1752 hurricane had damaged the homes on these two lots beyond repair.
As they approached the gate, Paul looked about at the many and varied brick and stone houses lining the street. “I think you have built the biggest and nicest home in Charleston.”
“Hardly,” said Andrew. “Many of the plantation owners have houses that are much larger spread about the town. But I’m in competition with no one. Gwen and I built this only to satisfy ourselves.”
“Even if it isn’t the largest, cousin, it is still quite beautiful,” said Paul. “Being one of the few University-trained physicians in the colonies must pay handsomely.”
Andrew stopped as they reached the impressive iron gate leading into his front garden. It had two five-foot-wide expanses of wrought iron in a leaf and berry motif that swung apart in the middle, towards the house. The resulting opening was wide enough to allow carriages to pass through.
Turning to Paul as he opened the gate, Andrew inquired, “Do you forget that I own the largest shipping business in this city? And several other businesses, as well. I have a brewery, two of the apothecaries, and a partnership in several of the artisan shops. I practice medicine for the love of it, Paul, but I probably make less than a fifth of my income from it.”
Paul raised his eyebrows in surprise as they walked through the gate. “I’ve known you for twenty years, Andrew, and I knew you had some sort of shipping business, but as to those details, I never knew any of it – or at least if I heard it, it made no impression.”
Once through the gate, the three found themselves on an eight-foot-wide cobblestone path. The path ended in a level, circular area immediately before the house, also cobblestoned, that was so large a carriage could turn around on it. On either side of the path and the carriage circle were lush, well-trimmed lawns.
The carriage circle itself was lined with a low hedge and a variety of flowers pushing their way upwards, soon to bloom into bright colors. At its center was a five foot-tall marble statue of a shepherd holding a crook and a shepherdess sitting next to him, cradling a sheep.
This Arcadian scene wasn’t what Andrew had in mind when he sent a letter to his next oldest brother, John York, in London, asking him to procure a statue at a reasonable price suitable as the centerpiece of the front lawn of his new house. Andrew was actually thinking of something out of Roman or Greek mythology. Still, Gwen liked the statute John had sent and that was enough for Andrew.
Paul asked, “Do you like the house, James?”
“I’ve never seen a house like this,” answered James, a touch of wonder in his voice. Having grown up on the frontier in his family’s modest three-room home of log and clay, Charleston was a different, somewhat overwhelming world to James.
Once the men had gently helped James off the horse, Paul and James waited while Andrew tied it to a hitching post near the lawn. Paul’s own horse and a horse with an empty buckboard behind it were already tied there. Andrew recognized the buckboard as being from the print shop, The Carolinian, where his eldest son Robert served as an apprentice. “Robert must have stopped by,” he thought, scowling slightly as he always did when he contemplated his son as a printer’s apprentice.
The three-story house was built entirely of red brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern. At five-foot intervals on every floor of the house there were large rectangular windows that were framed along the top and both sides with decorative white woodwork. At the base of each window, supporting it, was a one inch thick, white carrara marble slab with black veins, rather like a shelf, that protruded a few inches beyond the exterior brickwork. To reach the landing and front door of the house, one had to ascend either one of two red brick staircases that curved up on each side of the landing.
“Did you build the house with a root cellar?”3 Paul asked as they mounted the steps.
Andrew shook his head. “No. We have to do things a bit differently here in Charleston. Here, if you go down far enough to build a cellar, let alone a root cellar, you’ll likely be below the water table. I had the builders lay cedar logs to the marl bedrock, then construct the house on thick brick and mortar columns and arches. If you were to pull away the curtain of bricks at the base of the house, below the main floor, what you’d see would look like the arches and columns of a Gothic cellar. The first floor of the house is six feet off the ground. I had them build that way for floods. Anyone in this town who doesn’t build with floods and fire in mind is either a new arrival or an old fool.”
Andrew’s mind briefly flashed to the disasters that had befallen Charleston since 1740, when he and Gwen had first arrived. Within a month of their arrival, the boarding house in which they were staying burned to the ground in a fire that consumed a third of the city. Their first home, as well as all of its ground floor furnishings, had been damaged in a flood in 1746. Then there was the of the hurricane of 1752 which had caused their daughter’s death.
Every few years, it seemed, Charleston was hit with heavy winds and flooding. Though 1752 was the worst storm Andrew had experienced, he had heard tales of the Hurricane of 1713, when the Ashley and Cooper Rivers flooded to the point that they came together in one giant river running over and through Charleston. Hundreds of people died and every ship in Charleston Harbor, but for one, was either sunk or washed ashore.
“Well, you seem prepared to weather any storm or fire now,” Paul remarked, as they entered the house.
1 King Charles II, in 1667, granted the land of (North and South) Carolina and the right there to establish a proprietary government to eight English lords. [See Endnote 14]
2 Colonel William Rhett, then a leading figure in South Carolina and an opponent of the Revolution, wrote presciently at the time that if the “revolt is not cropt in the bud, they will set up for themselves against his Majesty.” [See Endnote 15]
3 A root cellar was the refrigerator of history. If one digs ten feet or more in the earth, the temperature at that depth stays constant at the average annual temperature above ground. In most latitudes and locales, that means the cellar remains cool, neither freezing in the winter nor suffering from the summer heat It was one of our ancestors’ strategies for long-term food storage.
∞∞ 5 ∞∞
The Charleston we know today presents, architecturally, a quaint mixture of French and English ideas, together with some of the more salient ones of old San Domingo, in the way of exaggerated verandas and high brick walls, thrown in for good measure. . . .
William Rotch Ware, The Georgian Period, 1902
Opening the door to the York house caused a bell above the door to ring, announcing their presence. Stepping into a foyer as wide as the house itself, Paul’s gaze was immediately drawn upwards. On either side of the foyer were two grand staircases, both terminating on a second floor promenade, in the center of which were two large French doors that allowed access to the second floor. The first floor ceiling only began under the promenade, leaving the space above the foyer empty up to the second floor ceiling. Suspended from the second floor ceiling and hovering about twenty feet above the foyer was a large chandelier of crystal with silver and gold accents and three tiered rows of candles.
Dropping his gaze back to the floor, Paul saw a wide hallway in front of him, beginning under the promenade and running all the way to the back door of the house. On either side of the hallway closest to the foyer were impressive French doors. These doors stood open, allowing Paul to see into the dining room on the left and the sitting room on the right. Two much smaller doorways, signaling smaller rooms, could be seen further down the hall, at the rear of the house.
“What a grand entrance. This must be truly beautiful at night, when it’s all lit up. Is this your idea?” Paul asked.
“I’m many things, Paul, but not an architect. The architect Gwen and I finally chose had used variations on this entryway in several of the houses he’s designed over the years. You’ll see something similar at Henry Drayton’s plantation home. The only things that I am completely responsible for are the bright woods and color schemes.” Pulling his reading glasses half out of his pocket, Andrew added, “My eyes are starting to weaken, so I wanted to get the most out of reflected light wherever I happen to sit down in the house to read.”
Alerted to color’s importance in his cousin’s home, Paul paid closer attention to the color scheme. The floors were made from long planks of yellow pine, tightly fitted with tongue-in-groove construction. Whitewashed wood wainscoting framed the bottom three feet of the walls. Above the wainscot, the walls were done in plaster painted lemon yellow. The many large windows were open, with golden yellow drapes sporting silver patterns pulled back to allow in the breeze and light. The ceilings, standing sixteen feet above the floor to allow for air circulation in the subtropical Carolina climate, were of brilliant, carved white plaster. Every few feet along each wall was a decorative L-shaped sconce of polished silver holding a candle surrounded in glass.
“Well, if you wanted bright and airy, cousin, you’ve achieved your goal. Is the entire house like this?”
Andrew said “The first floor, which is the dining room and drawing room, and third floor, where we have the bedrooms and library, are the same. The second floor is our ballroom. It has a different color scheme. What is the old saying? ‘Go into marriage with your eyes wide open, spend your marriage with eyes half closed.’” With a half smile, he added “I would prefer that when I dance with my wife on the dance floor now days, she not be able to see my many imperfections. . . . Paul, if you don’t mind, I’ll be happy to give you a tour of the house later, but let us get you and James settled at the moment for I need to head back to Gwen. . . .”
“Oh, of course, of course. And please do not apologize, Andrew. After James and I eat, I’ll come back over to your office.”
Andrew looked about and said impatiently, “Where is Molly? She should have heard the bell as we came in.”
Andrew walked to wall below the promenade and pulled on a long, thin, scarlet and gold cloth that reached to the ceiling. Paul could hear a very faint ringing from the rear of the house. Never having seen anything like this before, he shot Andrew a silent, questioning look.
“It’s a bell pull. They are common in Britain now. It allows me to alert the servants that I need them, which saves us all a walk in this rather large house, and an even longer walk to the outbuildings. The bell system means the servants do not have stand at my elbow all the time, which is easier on everyone.”
One of the doors at the end of the hallway opened and Molly, one of the York’s indentured servants, stepped into view. At fifteen, Molly was a comely, buxom girl, with pretty blue eyes, porcelain skin and thick, raven hair pushed mostly beneath her white mob cap. She wore a simple, dark blue, cotton dress that reached from her neck to her ankles, over which she wore a somewhat rumpled white smock that protected her clothes.
“Good day, Dr. York. Sorry ‘ bout that. I didn’t hear ya’ come in,” said Molly in a distinct brogue as she walked towards them, straightening her smock as she did so. “Sirs,” she said to Paul and James, politely acknowledging them.
To Andrew ‘s surprise, Molly’s cheeks were stained bright red. He was about to ask her what she had been doing when the same door from which she had emerged opened a second time and his son, Robert, stepped into the hallway, following Molly to the foyer. He too adjusted his slightly rumpled clothes.
Andrew ‘s eyes narrowed for a moment. “Porcelain skinned girls can’t hide all of their secrets,” he thought to himself. He would need to talk to his son about this very soon, he decided.
Robert York, at fifteen, had inherited his mother’s bright red hair, green eyes and aquiline nose. He was growing tall, but was still thin, having not yet begun to fill out into his father’s athletic build, with wide shoulders and chest.
Already Robert stood an inch taller than his father, something that didn’t surprise Andrew at all. Andrew had long ago noted that children born in the colonies to European immigrants invariably grew to be a few inches taller than their parents. He rightfully attributed this to a better diet and healthier living standards than in Europe.
Robert wore navy blue breeches, a red waistcoat, and a simple white cotton shirt open at the neck. It was the dress of an artisan. In Robert’s case, for two years he had been an apprentice to a book and newspaper publisher, Timothy Lyons, a man whose family had opened the first print shop in Charleston almost three decades ago with financial backing from Ben Franklin.1
Andrew scowled unconsciously as he watched his son approach, walking in that slightly uncoordinated way typical for growing boys. As always when he saw his son, Andrew experienced the normal love of a parent tempered with a visceral disapproval that Andrew’s rational mind could contain but not erase.
Here was a boy who for eight years thrived in his education under the finest tutors2 available in the colonies. Andrew had expected his son to follow in his footsteps, by attending university in Britain, then to join with him in practicing medicine or business – or to combine both as Andrew did. Andrew had been most unpleasantly surprised when his son announced, on his thirteenth birthday, that he wanted to apprentice as a printer. It had caused a major row in the house.
A week of near civil war finally drove Gwen to step in between the two. At first she had been appalled at this seeming display of arrogance in her husband. A printer was no less a worthy profession than any other, nor was a university degree anything other than a credential, not a sina que non of intelligence. Gwen had never seen such arrogance in Andrew before. Then it had dawned on her that Andrew was not being arrogant. Rather, like many men, he wanted to craft miniature versions of himself to pass onto posterity. Andrew simply did not realize how well he had already succeeded.
“It must be a special type of hell for you,” she had told Andrew two years before, “to be raising a boy so like you.”
Andrew, angered a bit at his wife’s challenging tone, but with nothing but love for her and respect for her intelligence, had controlled his temper and bid her to explain. She did so using the same Socratic method Andrew used with her – to Gwen’s minor irritation – when he wanted to change her paradigm. It had taken a few minutes for Andrew to admit that he saw his own two strongest qualities as his fierce independence and his willfulness. It took only another minute for him to admit that those were the characteristics their son was displaying. Andrew turned away from Gwen at that moment, pondering for minute, before breaking into a hearty laugh at his own blindness laid bare. Leaning into her husband, she said to him quietly, “We’ve raised a good son, our Robert, to be just like his father in every way that matters. Be thankful.”
Andrew turned to his wife and kissed her. “You are a most amazing woman, Gwen, and I the world’s most fortunate man.” The matter was quickly resolved. Andrew would let Robert become a printer’s apprentice with the understanding that they would arrange his apprenticeship contract so that he could stop at any point and go to university. That unusual arrangement had come about through the condition that, for seven years, Andrew do all the advertising for his many businesses through the Timothy Lyons’s Print Shop.
Much to Andrew’s surprise, Robert had stayed at the apprenticeship and seemed to be thriving. “I’ll never understand this one,” he thought, “though at least he is an honest, God-fearing, and hard working boy.” In Andrew’s deeply Protestant view of life, to be honest, God-fearing, and hard working were the standards of manhood and success.
Robert stepped around Molly, gave Paul a brief, but respectful, greeting, then smiled broadly at James. “Cousin!!! You finally made it out of father’s sick bays. Good for you. How do you feel?”
James grinned back. “Hello, Robert. I’m well.”
Robert put his hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “Now that you have made good your escape, we can do some riding and hunting together when my schedule permits, if you like. And welcome to our family.”
James was about to answer when Andrew spoke. “That plan has changed, Robert. James will be going to live with your Uncle Paul. Though I suspect that they will be here through the weekend at least.”
Robert looked to his Uncle Paul, who nodded.
“Well, this weekend it will be then, James.” Robert said.
“If he feels up to it,” Andrew cautioned his son. “James is mending, not mended.” Robert gave a single nod in acknowledgment.
“Robert,” said Paul, “it’s now been two years since I’ve seen you. You’ve grown greatly and it appears being a printer suits you. Are you finding it a boon, then?”
“Oh, I am indeed, Uncle Paul. I love books and the news. I know father does not care for my work, but I can imagine doing nothing else. What better calling could there be than to spread knowledge. The best part is the odd article or poem that Master Lyons allows me to put into the paper. I’ve been thinking of trying to write a series of Silence Dogood letters,” Robert said, “but I make a poor Southern belle.”3
Paul laughed out loud at the thought of this tall, gangling youth affecting the thought and affect of Charleston women, famed for their inner toughness and outward femininity.
“I’m surprised to find you here this morning, Robert,” Andrew said to his son.
“The Governor had us run two broadsheets.4 I had to deliver them all about town. On the way back, I brought copies here for you, Father. They’re on the table in the dining room.”
“And an excuse to see Molly,” Andrew thought to himself. “Anything of importance?” he asked aloud.
“The one is, I think. Someone’s caught the pox and the Governor has him quarantined at White Point.” Andrew’s ears perked up at that. He immediately glanced towards the dining room table where the two broadsheets lay.
“The other,” Robert said, “is an announcement that the Governor is going to hold a public celebration in a few weeks for the string of victories we’ve won over the French in Europe and Canada. At any rate, how is George, father? I came by your office yesterday evening –”
“Your mother told me.”
“– and George looked very poorly. He didn’t seem to recognize mother or me.”
“I doubt very much that your brother has long. You might want to stop by there on your way to the print shop. Your mother is there now, and your Uncle Paul and I will be there shortly.”
Robert, his face somber, nodded agreement and took his leave. Andrew had Molly escort Paul and James to bedrooms on the third floor, and then Andrew walked to the rear of the house.
The two small rooms at the back of the house were a pantry, a storage room, and a work area for the servants. Entering the door on the right, which led to the servant’s work area, Andrew gave several tugs on a bell pull that rang in their kitchen, one of four outbuildings on the back of the York property, the others being a laundry, a small stable and an outhouse. The kitchen was built as a separate building some distance from the main house so as to limit the risk of fire to the main house.
While he was waiting for one of the cooks to appear so that he could arrange food for Paul and James, Andrew returned to the dining room, and picked up the broadsheets Robert had deposited.
1 After years of successfully running a print shop in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin began a franchising operation, funding his former employees and apprentices to go to various colonial cities to open their own print shops. One of his first franchises was The South Carolina Gazette in Charleston, S.C. [See Endnote 17]
2 Most children of middle-class and upper class parents in the colonies were taught by private tutor into their early to mid teen years. Every colony had numerous for-profit schools and many free schools sponsored by the government and by wealthy individuals and foundations. Only the New England colonies had compulsory public education. The literacy rate in the colonies, at 70%, was higher than in Britain. [See Endnote 18]
3 The “Silence Dogood letters” referred to a prank Ben Franklin perpetrated that was famous throughout the colonies, in which he successfully adopted the persona of a middle-aged woman in Boston to poke fun at Boston society. [See Endnote 19]
4 Newspaper publishers of the era would normally print a newspaper with multiple stories and advertisements once or twice a week. A broadsheet was a special printing of a single story that the publisher deemed so likely to interest readers that it justified the extra cost. Alternatively, the government often employed printers to print broadsheets containing government announcements or important public documents.
∞∞ 6 ∞∞
They lie on their hard matts, the pox breaking and mattering, and running one into another, their skin cleaving by reason thereof to the matts they lie on; when they turne them, a whole side [of skin] will flea off at once.
Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana, quoting William Bradford, 1634, describing a small pox epidemic among local Indians, many of whom were afflicted with “confluent” small pox.
Putting on his glasses, Andrew read the first of the broadsides:
This is to provide notice that a pilot,1 one Mr. Uriah Earl in the employment of our Royal Government, has been infected with
By Order of the Royal Governor of the Colony of South Carolina, the pilot has been quarantined in his home at White Point since the 10th of this month.2 Guards have been placed at the entrance to the pilot’s home and a white flag denoting quarantine for small pox has been placed outside of the home. All citizens are forbidden to enter or, if now inside the home, to leave the home until the quarantine is removed by subsequent order of our Royal Governor.
We have been unable to determine how Mr. Earl came by his illness. Thus, all citizens should be aware of the danger that the scourge of small pox may already be incubating in the city. Should you experience any flu-like symptoms within the next four weeks, you should treat your illness as suspicious and remain in your home or abode and arrange to be visited by one of our city’s many competent doctors. That is how small pox first presents and, if it is in fact small pox, you can pass on the disease at that point. It is not until several days later that the pustules break out, in the mouth first, then on the skin. Utmost caution is required for public health. Anyone with control over slaves, indentured servants or apprentices is to see that they act and are treated likewise. Failure to do anything required by this notice is and shall be punishable to the full extent of the law.
So ordered this 14th day of March in the year of our Lord, 1760.
William Henry Lyttelton
Andrew’s eyes narrowed as he read the announcement. Small Pox was the most feared disease in 18th century North America.3 Anyone of European stock who took small pox in the “natural way,” as opposed to variolation, stood about a one in three chance of dying from the disease. The death rate was worse for African blacks and much worse for American Indians. Andrew guessed that was because they were new to the disease, which had been endemic in Europe for centuries. All who survived small pox were scarred on their face and body at least a little, with the most unfortunate being horribly disfigured by the scarring. A number of survivors were left permanently blinded by the disease.
A series of thoughts flashed almost simultaneously in Andrew’s mind. If a pilot, had caught small pox, that meant all of the colony’s public health and quarantine measures had failed.4 Moreover, a pilot, because of the nature of his job, may well have interacted with a hundred or more people during the days he was contagious but before he displayed the pox. Many more infections, perhaps even an epidemic in the city, were a realistic possibility. And to top it off, Andrew still had yet to variolate his three youngest against small pox. “I’ll have to address all of this very soon,” Andrew thought to himself.
In a characteristic gesture when he was thinking, Andrew bent his head down and scowled as he did some quick mental math. Andrew knew that the last small pox epidemic in Charleston had been in 1738 because he and Gwen had arrived in the city shortly after it ended. Thousands were infected in that epidemic, with those that survived having immunity from the disease for life. But Charleston was twice the size now that it was then, and perhaps only 1,000 of the survivors still remained in the city. Perhaps another 2,000 in the city were immigrants who had arrived from Europe, where small pox was always present. The vast majority of Europeans born and raised in Europe were invariably survivors of the pox – as were Andrew and Gwen. But still, that probably left half the near 10,000 population of Charleston, particularly the blacks, both slave and free, at risk of the disease. This could be very bad indeed, thought Andrew.
He then set those thoughts aside for the moment. There was no epidemic upon them yet, and in any event, George would have to come before anything else.
1 Charleston was a major port city, but both the sand bar at the entrance to the harbor and the harbor itself were tricky to navigate. Consequently, Charleston employed a number of “pilots” and required by law that Captains of incoming or departing ships take a pilot on board to guide them across the bar and through the harbor.
2 White Point was then the largely undeveloped area at the very southeastern tip of Charleston, the apex of the triangle where the Cooper and the Ashley Rivers met and fed into Charleston’s harbor. The area was originally named Oyster Point, for the many old oyster shells that littered the area. That name eventually gave way to White Point, the name being more descriptive of the combination of bleached oyster shells and the white sand that covered the area.
3 The chance of dying from small pox was a tad better than 1 in 3. Those that survived were always scarred, many horrendously so, and some scarred to the point of disfigurement. Moreover, even a portion that survived the disease were left blind. [See Endnote 23]
4 Public health was of acute concern in port cities since the time of the bubonic plague in the 13th century. All port cities had laws to prevent ships carrying contagions from landing.
∞∞ 7 ∞∞
“These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia ; but upon the King’s regular and disciplined troops, Sir, it is impossible they should make any impression.”
Ben Franklin, Memoirs, 1818, relating a conversation Franklin had in 1755 with General Braddock. The above quote was Braddock’s response after Franklin warned him that the Indians he would soon face were skilled warriors adept at ambush.1
Putting down the first of the broadsides Robert had brought, Andrew now picked up the second.
Proclamation & Announcement
By Order of the Royal Governor of the Colony of South Carolina, Saturday, April 12th next shall be and is set aside for a day of prayer, feasting and celebration in honor of
The Annus Mirabilis of 17592
The great War in which we are now engaged was started in 1754 by the malevolent French who, in alliance with a number of powerful Indian tribes along the borders of our colonies, were attempting to strangle our British colonies in North America. The war soon spread to Europe, with France raising a powerful alliance against us that included Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, Sweden, Russia, and the Mughal Empire.4 Against this daunting alliance stood only the stalwart British empire, with our allies, Hanover, Prussia and a small number of the Indian tribes.
Not surprisingly, this war did not go well for Britain at its start. But our early defeats and losses are of no concern as they have now been doubly erased. Under the guiding hand of King George II and with the brilliant stratagems of Secretary William Pitt,5 Providence has smiled brightly on us, the British people, in 1759. We have been victorious across the globe in great battles whose names should forever be remembered and honored. To wit:
– The Royal Navy dashed the French King’s plans for an invasion of mainland Britain by decimating the French navy, first in the Battle of Lagos, then in the Battle of Quibron Bay. His Majesty’s Royal Navy now controls the high seas;
– In the West Indies, a British invasion force captured Guadeloupe from France, that island being the richest of France’s sugar producing islands;
– In India, our forces have held firm, beating back a French attempt to capture Madras;
– In Europe, a combined army of Britain and Prussia decisively put an end to French aggression east of the Rhine at the Battle of Minden; and
– In North America, we have driven the French and their Indian allies out of the Ohio Country. Our combined force of British regulars, colonial militia, and Indian allies have won great victories, capturing both Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Niagara. But the greatest victory of all was when General James Wolfe met the French on the Plains of Abraham outside of the French capital of Canada, Quebec. Though he fell mortally wounded at the battle’s end, General Wolfe’s defeat of the French led to the surrender of Quebec.
The French and their allies are reeling from their defeats. Still, though wounded, they are treacherous and will take every opportunity that presents itself to make war and mischief. Most notable for us has been their agitation among the Cherokee Indians. We will soon repay the French and Cherokee in full for their savage and unprovoked attacks upon our colony. General Jeffery Amherst, the Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Army in North America, has informed by dispatch that a regiment of British infantry is already at port and loading ships to come to Charleston, and once here, to join with our militia to repel the French and the Cherokee.
In the interim, we should give thanks to God for our nation’s great victories in the Annus Mirabilis of 1759. Accordingly, on the 12th of April next, commencing at noon, there shall be prayer, feasting and celebration upon the Commons, to be followed in the evening by a salute of cannon and a display of Chinese fireworks.
In a separate matter, I wish to announce that I will be stepping down as the Royal Governor of South Carolina effective on the 5th of April next, I having accepted appointment as the Royal Governor of Jamaica. In my absence and upon the authority of King George II, I do hereby appoint the Lieutenant Governor, William Bull II, to be the acting Governor, to wield all the powers inherent in that office, until such time as the King appoints a new Governor.
So ordered this 14th day of March in the year of our Lord, 1760.
William Henry Lyttelton
“Our bells are worn threadbare with ringing for victories,” Andrew said softly to himself, quoting something he had read not long before from the pen of the British wit, Horace Walpole. Andrew allowed himself a smile as he considered his nation’s turning the tables on France, hopefully decisively this time.
Andrew then added with disdain, “And I bid you a fast exit from this colony, Governor Lytteleton, you bloody, arrogant fool.”
Mary, one of the cooks at the York home and the wife to one of the sailors on the York ships, slipped in through the service door at the back of the house. Andrew asked Mary to set out food and drink for his guests, then walked up to the second floor to let his other children know that James and Paul would be staying with them for a few days.
1 Braddock’s Expedition in 1755 was the first British offensive in the French-Indian War. It ended in disaster when Braddock was killed and his force of British regulars decimated by Indians at the Battle of Monongehela.
2 Annus Mirabilis is a Latin phrase meaning “miraculous year.” The British began using the term to describe the year 1759, a year in which they scored a remarkable string of decisive victories in the wars they were fighting.
3 The “war” to which the Governor refers was the first true world war. By its end, it involved all the major world powers of the time, but for the Ottoman Empire, in battles spanning five continents. Although the Governor refers to the war in the singular, history assigns different names to each theater and phase of the war.
The North American theater of the war, where hostilities began in 1754, was fought largely in the Ohio Valley and in Canada. It was eventually named the French and Indian War (1754-1763). That part of the war fought in Europe and places other than North America was given the name The Seven Years War (1756-1763). The war in and to the south of Virginia with the Cherokee Indians, was known as the Anglo-Cherokee War (1758-1761).
4 The Mughal Empire, spanning a large part of Northern India and Afghanistan, was the last surviving vestige of the Mongol conquests that began in the 13th century.
5 William Pitt is a figure who looms large in the period leading up to the American Revolution. [See Endnote __]
∞∞ 8 ∞∞
Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature:
these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided.
John Locke, Thoughts On Education, 1693
Walking quickly up the stairs, Andrew crossed the spacious promenade, and opened the French doors leading into the ballroom. One or two evenings a month, he and Gwen entertained guests in this room. And four days a week, he could find his children here, being tutored. And so they were this morning.
Anne and Abigail, both aged 7; Henry, aged 13; and Malcolm, the York’s youngest at age 5, were all busily at work under the aegis of Professor Thomas Smith and his wife, Linda. While still in Britain, Andrew had studied Philosophy under Professor Smith at Edinburgh University.
Eleven years past, when Professor Smith was 48 and looking to retire, Andrew had contacted him and urged him to come to South Carolina to tutor the York children. The offer was especially timely because Mrs. Smith, though ten years younger than her husband, had become increasingly prone to illness and her doctor had recommended that she move to a warmer climate with cleaner air. While it took some time for Mrs. Smith to adjust to the Carolina heat, her health had improved. Unfortunately, her earlier health troubles had left her looking older than her years.
Professor Smith, or as he was known with great affection by students at Edinburgh University, the ‘Prince of Whales,’ had struggled more with the climate than had Mrs. Smith. A sedentary lifestyle, coupled with a love of good food, meant that, although he was a relatively short man, he weighed almost 20 stone.1 When the weather was very hot, he would frequently perspire through his clothing, requiring that he change his clothes midway through the day. Still, despite his unruly gray hair and the cane on which he increasingly relied, Professor Smith was light on his feet in the way peculiar to some very large men. That, and the fact that his bulk smoothed out any incipient wrinkles, managed to make him look much younger than his years.
Professor Smith also had another unique characteristic. In conversation, he spoke with a strong Scottish brogue. But when teaching, his brogue diminished significantly and his articulation became far more precise. Andrew had found that a blessing in his first year at Edinburgh, as many a Scot, particularly the Highlanders, seemed at first to be speaking in a foreign tongue. He still was of the opinion that all schools north of Hadrian’s Wall2 should offer a course in “The English Language as Butchered By The Scots.”
“Three are missing,” Andrew thought sadly as he stood on the threshold, looking into the room. “Donald, Constance, and soon George, all gone.” Shifting his eyes upward, he added quietly to himself in silent prayer, “Lord, please be gentle with George and protect those left to Gwen and me.”
The ballroom was impressive, and both Andrew and Mrs. York were quite proud of it. It was a single large room with no interior walls. Instead, it had eight load bearing columns of imported Italian white Carrara marble offset to the sides of the room, leaving a large open area in the middle. The columns stood atop a floor made of dark cypress wood. In between each of the columns, hanging from the middle of two-foot diameter medallions set in the white carved plaster ceiling, were crystal chandeliers, each half the size of the great chandelier in the foyer, but alike in all other respects. The wainscot around the room was of the same wood as the floors, above which the plaster walls were painted a sky blue.
Directly across the room from the promenade entrance was another pair of large French doors, these made of glass, that opened onto a large, covered portico running three quarters of the length of the house. The doors and all of the windows were open now, to let in the breeze coming in off of the ocean.
Set atop the French doors, the Yorks had commissioned a large, expertly painted plaster cast of the British royal coat of arms. Offset to the right, half a foot lower and half as large was a plaster cast of the York coat of arms and, to the left, Gwen’s own Armstrong coat arms. In between the many windows along each wall were hung paintings, some of the family, some of historic figures and scenes.
A large brick fireplace with a base of Carrara marble was centered along the east wall. Though unused at the moment, Andrew, like most in Charleston, kept a fire going for warmth about 180 days a year. From mid-November through February, the need for warmth was continuous, while in the spring and fall, Andrew found the need intermittent, oft times only on cold nights and brisk early mornings. Andrew only very rarely had to use his fireplaces during the warm and humid summer months.
Above the fireplace, Andrew had hung his favorite painting, a large oval oil portrait of his wife, painted when she was only 20. The artist, a man whose name Andrew could not remember, without even asking the Yorks’ for permission, had treated Mrs. York’s few smallpox scars as he treated the same scars on so many of his other customers: He had left them out of the painting. This was a minimal liberty, given that some of his subjects were so horribly disfigured from smallpox that he often relied upon his imagination to paint their faces without scars.
Wooden armchairs lined the walls for foot-sore guests. An old but still serviceable harpsichord sat in the northwest corner, and standing candelabras were distributed every ten feet all around the room. During the day, when the ballroom also served as the classroom for the children, the servants augmented the ballroom’s furniture with three ten-foot-long pine tables and two wooden easels. They were spread about the room now, with the easels positioned to catch the light from the long windows.
Henry sat at one table near the east wall and across from him sat Mrs. Smith. Dr. York could hear them speaking in Latin. Although Malcolm could have sat at a nearby table, he had chosen instead to sit on the floor, entertaining himself with a pile of wooden building blocks. Lastly, Anne and Abigail sat side by side at the third table, which was set in front of the portico doors. Anne was studying a large map mounted on one of the easels, while Abigail sipped from a small silver tankard and stared thoughtfully at the coats of arms above the door.
Mystified by Professor Smith’s absence from the scene, given that a man of Professor Smith’s bulk was hard to miss, Andrew stepped through the door. The mystery was solved when he found Professor Smith to his immediate left, standing up against the wall and observing the two girls from across the room. After the two men exchanged greetings, Professor Smith pushed himself away from the wall and asked in a strong Scottish brogue, “How is George this morning?”
“His condition is worsened. I fear he won’t recover.”
Professor Smith grimaced. He raised his hand as if to pat Andrew on the back but then, aware of both Andrew’s dignity and self-reserve, thought better of it. “Such a pity, Andrew. A fine student and a fine lad, he. . . .” The professor paused for a moment, not knowing whether to finish the sentence with a verb in the past tense or present tense. Silence seemed the wisest course, so he left the sentence unfinished. “He did not look good when we saw him Wednesday, but we said our prayers for him and hoped. Would you like me to bring the children over to see him later?”
“No, not that. None of them have had yellow fever. That’s why I moved George out of the house to my office. I’m going back over there shortly. I just came up to tell you and the children that young James, their cousin, is here. He’ll — “
“– Is that the laddie the Cherokee butchered?”
“Yes. Thank the good Lord, he’s healing well, though his skull will be showing the rest of his life. So, fair warning. He’s wearing a wig and looks perfectly normal, but if he takes the wig off, the sight is shocking. Henry and Robert have seen him with all of his injuries. None of the rest have. The girls will be fine, I think. But Malcolm. . . . Lord knows,” Andrew said, pondering his youngest son.
Robert was too often rebellious, but otherwise a good child. Henry, an old soul, had seemingly turned thirty when he turned six. The two girls were perfect angels. But Malcolm was . . . something else. Andrew did not know how to describe Malcolm in simple terms. His son was intensely curious, ignored the likely consequences of his actions, and possessed a mischievous streak unique among his siblings.
Abandoning this line of thinking, Andrew asked, “Have you overcome your fear of teaching the girls?”
Professor Smith gave a wry smile. A year earlier, the Professor had admitted to Andrew that, despite teaching for three decades, he had never taught young girls. As the Professor put it, he was “sweating just thinking of facing the wee beasties.” Nonetheless, Andrew, whose family lineage included three leaders of the Leveller movement3 whom Cromwell had executed, and Gwen were both adamant that Anne and Abigail would receive an education precisely the same as their boys.4 In Anne’s case, it was a matter of principal. In Abigail’s case, it was more, as Andrew planned to train her as a skilled midwife, hopefully cornering a lucrative market among Charleston’s elite.
The Professor said, mock seriously, “It only took me a day to realize that the lassies wouldn’t attack – at least not with any success.” Then turning serious, he added, “They are both doing as well as your boys. It’s early, o’ course, as I’ve only been teaching them a few weeks, but I have not any trepidation or concerns now.”
Gesturing to the girls, Andrew asked, “How is Abigail doing?” He believed his adopted daughter was quite intelligent but wanted to see what her tutor thought.
“She’s doing very well. Good memory. She’s a bit quieter than Anne, but she asks good questions. And she’s got unusual self-control, that one. I had Molly bring up hot chocolate as a treat this morn. She’s never gotten over the wonder of it since she had her first taste of it last year, she tells me.” The professor chuckled, picturing the sight. “She took a sip and her eyes got wider than saucers. Most wee kids, you give them something that they really like and they attack it like a wolf, it’s gone in seconds. Not this one. She’s nursed it for half an hour. I could see her eyes flitting to it every minute, but she’s just been a sip at a time. I’m giving her a few minutes to finish it before we start up the day.”
Andrew smiled approvingly. That is what he had hoped to hear. Abigail was an unexpected treasure. He had bought her solely with the idea of training her to be a midwife, much as he had trained a half dozen other young black men to be ship’s surgeons. But she had instantly become an inseparable friend to Anne and, much to Andrew’s surprise, a thoroughly enjoyable child who held promise beyond midwifery.
“So what are you teaching this morning, Professor?”
“I was going to go into the map more this morning, an’ I will later. But Abigail keeps looking at the coat of arms, so I’m going to start with that. Teach ’em a bit of their history.”
1 This is the British method that is still used in the United Kingdom to weigh people. A ‘stone’ is equal to 14 pounds.
2 The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall on the England’s border with Scotland. Rome occupied England from from 43 A.D. to 410 A.D. and built the wall as a defense against Scottish forays.
3 The “Leveller Movement” in Britain was a movement that sought equal rights for commoners and for women, replacement of the aristocracy with a meritocracy, and religious tolerance. They rose to prominence during the English Civil War (1641-1649) as supporters of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell turned on the Levellers for their radical proposals at the end of the Civil War, imprisoning and executing many of their leaders.
4 After the basics of education, while boys who could often went on to college and university, education for girls either stopped or diverged to learning the social graces in so-called “finishing schools.” But while girls of the era did not have the option of attending colleges or universities, many parents who could afford to do so, such as Henry Laurens in Charleston and James Otis, Sr. in Boston saw to the rounded education of their daughters through tutors. [See Endnote 33]
∞∞ 9 ∞∞
Come, cheer up, my lads, ’tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honor we call you, as freemen not slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?
Heart of Oak are our ships,
Jolly Tars are our men,
We always are ready: Steady, boys, Steady!
We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again.
William Boyce and David Garrick, Hearts of Oak (song), 1760, written to honor the Annus Mirabilis of 1759.
As Andrew and Prof. Smith drew near the two young girls, Anne’s face lit up when she saw her father. She leapt from her chair, ran to him and, when she reached him, locked him in a tight hug. At four feet tall, dressed in a long, plain white cotton dress, with loosely curled red locks and striking green eyes, Anne was growing up to be her mother in miniature.
Abigail, who was dressed in the same color and style as Anne, had straight black hair pulled back and tied in a bow, soft brown eyes, and skin the color of rich caramel. She was two inches taller than Anne, thinner, and more angular. She paused to watch carefully as her adopted sister ran to Andrew. Then, just as Abigail had been doing for the past year in matters of family, she copied her sister, rising from chair and running to hug Andrew as well.
Andrew smiled at both girls. Embracing them in return, he said, “What a wonderful greeting. A bit surprising given that we were together a few hours ago at breakfast, but far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth. It appears I should be visiting you girls here every morning during your studies.”
Malcolm watched this transpire from his perch on the floor. Six inches shorter than Anne, Malcolm had his father’s blue-gray eyes and his mother’s loose, ringlet curls, though his hair was straw colored and worn pulled back in the same style as his father’s. It was clear that his 5-year-old notion of manliness meant that he was not going to copy the girls by running to his father. However, when he saw his father envelop the girls in a big hug, he abandoned his dignity, and raced across the floor at full tilt, only slowing down slightly before he slammed into his father’s side to hug him as well. That elicited a short grunt from his father who looked at his son with amusement before lifting the boy into his arms and bestowing a hearty kiss on his cheek.
“Anyone who forgets you, Malcolm, does so at their peril. Are you being good and not bothering your sisters?”
Malcolm, whose favorite pastime was in fact bothering his sisters in general and Abigail in particular – because she reacted to him the most – nodded his head. “I am, Father. I’m being very good.”
Andrew thought about saying “I know that is hard for you,” but quickly realized that, given Malcolm’s temperament, Malcolm might not receive the words as encouraging praise but, instead, might interpret them as an acknowledgment of his struggles and implicit permission to be naughty. Andrew therefore contented himself with patting his youngest child’s back and saying, “That is my fine young man.”
Looking across the room, Andrew called out, “Mrs. Smith, may I have a word with Henry, please.”
“Henry, you have permission to leave our lesson to speak with your father.”
When he stood to cross the room, Henry could be seen to stand a bit over five feet tall. Of all the York children, he took most after his father, having inherited his fathers broad face and long, flat nose, the tip of which extended down below his nostrils. He was dressed in cream-colored breeches and waistcoat with a formal white shirt ruffled at the neck. His cream-colored coat was folded neatly across the back of an empty chair next to the one in which he had been sitting. Henry, the most serious and studious of Andrew’s children, walked silently over to his father and looked at him quizzically.
Still holding Malcolm in his arms, Andrew addressed the three older children who now stood before him.
“Children, your cousins, Reverend Paul and little James, are here for a few days. I’ve told you that Little James lost his entire family in a Cherokee ambush over a month ago, and he himself was horribly injured. Now –”
“What happened to him?” asked Malcolm, tugging at Andrew’s ear for emphasis.
“They scalped him, cut him, and left him for dead,” said Henry, his bluntness natural, not adopted for its effect on Malcolm. Malcolm’s eyes widened in a mix of curiosity and horror, more the former than the latter.
Andrew frowned. He had not intended to give those details to Malcolm as he thought, rightly, that Malcolm would pester James for more information. But that cat was now out of the bag and the boy would have learned the details eventually. Andrew reminded himself to take Malcolm aside later and impress upon him the need not to pester his cousin.
“That’s right, Henry,” said Andrew. “He’s getting much better, but this has all been hard for him. I expect the four of you to do your Christian best to make Rev. Paul and Little James feel welcome in this house.”
Anne and Abigail said almost in unison, “We will, father,” while Henry solemnly nodded his head once. Malcolm was still lost in the wonder of what he had just heard and only nodded his head a moment later, clearly as an afterthought.
“And how is George this morning, father?” asked Henry.
“Not well . . . not well at all. Still, as long as he lives, there is hope, small and fading though it may be. I will be going back over shortly to be with him and your mother. And just to remind you, none of you have had yellow fever. I do not want any of you children to go over there lest you catch the disease from George.” Dismissing the children, he said, “Now, back to your studies.”
As the other children returned to their tables, Andrew bent down with Malcolm. Malcolm, however, was not yet ready to leave his father’s arms. Instead, he tugged on his father’s shirt sleeve. “Come over and look at what I’m building, father.”
“What is it?”
“A big castle,” said Malcolm, “to keep out the French.”
Andrew smiled at his son as he set the boy on his feet. “I promise to be there shortly, Malcolm.” Turning his son around by the shoulders and pointing him towards his pile of building blocks, Andrew said, “Run along now.”
Then, fascinated as always by the way in which his children learned, Andrew lingered in the ballroom a moment, watching as Professor Smith led the two girls to a painting on the wall, an artist’s romanticization of the Battle of Crecy1 in 1346 between the French and the English. In the foreground, two armored knights, one English, one French, both clutching shield and sword were doing battle, while in the background, rows of English archers with longbows were decimating the French knights charging towards them.
Professor Smith pointed to the picture. “This, lassies, is a picture of a very famous battle four hundred years ago during what was called the Hundred Years War between England and France. I’m showing it to you for two reasons. One, that war started because, when the French King died, the next in line for the French throne was his grandson, Edward III who also happened to be the King of England. But you can never trust the French. They refused to name Edward as the King of France. That’s what started the war.”
Anne asked. “Aren’t we still at war with France?”
Professor Smith nodded. “Yes, indeed we are. But it hasn’t been one long war. There have been periods of peace before a new war has erupted for some new reason. But when you look back, you’ll see that we’ve been at war with France almost more than we’ve been at peace with them over the past 500 years. The French Kings are a perfidious lot, lassies. They can’t be trusted not to stab you in the back at the first chance they get.”
Abigail asked, “What is pefid . . perfid. . .?”
“Per-fid-i-ous,” enunciated Professor Smith, rolling the “r.” “Repeat that now.”
Both girls obediently parroted – even with the rolled “r” – “Perfidious.”
“Good,” the Professor said. Then dropping into a full brogue, “But ya’ don’ have ‘n to roll your ‘r’s’ lessen you wan’ to be a Scotsman.” Smiling, he tapped on a very thick leather bound book lying on the desk between the girls, A Dictionary of the English Language, by Samuel Johnson, published just a few years earlier. “What do we do when we need to learn the meaning of a word?”
The girls opened the book to P then looked to the Professor. “P-e-r-f” he said. It took another a minute before the girls found the right page.
“Oh! Oh! I’ve found it” said Anne excitedly. “Perfidious. Trea . . . –“
Anne nodded, never taking her eyes off the book. “Treacherous. False to trust, guilty of vio-o-o . . . violated faith.“ Anne smiled and looked up at the professor.
“Very good, Anne, very good. So you see, “perfidious” means a person that can’t be trusted . . . someone who will smile to your face but then stab you when your back is turned if he thinks that he can get away with it.”
“Perfidious,” Abigail said. Then, so that she would remember it, she tried to fit it into a sentence as Mrs. York had taught her to do. Often the target of Malcolm’s hair pulling and others teases, she smiled broadly and said “Malcolm is perfidious.” Anne nodded her head in agreement; Andrew smiled in spite of himself at the thought of sibling rivalry being used to further his daughters’ education; Professor Smith ignored Abigail’s sentence and resumed his teaching.
“The second reason I’m showing you this is the two knights in armor. This was in the days before we had guns. People would wear armor and carry swords and shields. They’d use a shield to block the other person’s attack,” he said, blocking an imaginary sword swing with his own imaginary shield.
When neither girl asked him any more questions, he told them to return to the table. Because both girls loved Professor Smith’s history lessons, they quickly took their seats. Satisfied that he had their attention, Professor Smith resumed the lesson.
He pointed up at the Royal Coat of Arms that Abigail had been staring at earlier.
“That, lassies, is the Royal Coat of Arms of the greatest nation on earth, the United Kingdom of Great Britain. What does the shape of that look like?”
“A shield?” Abigail half asked, half answered.
“Very good. That is exactly right. It used to be, hundreds of years ago, that people would paint their shields with their family symbol.2 That way, even though they had on a helmet, they could recognize each other when they were fighting. Most families in Britain have a coat of arms like this one, and each one tells a story.”
“So let’s see the story this one tells. You see the symbol at the top left, the three golden lions?” When the girls nodded, he continued, “That was the symbol of King Richard the Lionheart. He was a great King of England 500 years ago and, since then, his symbol has been used as the symbol of England.”
Then, pointing at the nearby map, Professor Smith instructed, “Anne, come over here and point to England on this map, as we did yesterday.”
Anne walked to the map and pointed to the bottom half of the island labeled “United Kingdom.” Professor Smith nodded his approval. Anne returned smiling to her seat, feeling proud of herself for remembering the prior day’s lesson.
Pointing up again at the Royal Coat of Arms, Professor Smith said, “Right next to the three lions, you see another lion, but this one in red and standing up straight on its back paws. That is the symbol of King William the Lion of Scotland. He was King at about the same time as King Richard the Lionheart was king in England 500 years ago. Abigail, show me Scotland on this map.”
When Abigail did so, pointing to the northern half of the United Kingdom, Professor Smith resumed, “You lassies are very impressive students. Very good. The reason those two are together is because Scotland and England joined together fifty years ago to create the United Kingdom. So now our King is the King of the United Kingdom of England and Scotland.”
Pointing to the harp in the bottom left corner panel, the professor said, “This harp is the symbol of Ireland. It’s on this coat of arms because the King of England has also been the King of Ireland for the past 500 years.”
Moving his walking stick to point to the bottom right quarter panel while simultaneously using the other hand to point to the Holy Roman Empire on the map, he said, “Our King, George II, was born in Hanover and is the Prince of three small areas that are part of the Holy Roman Empire. Each of those three symbols in the bottom right is the family symbol of his princedoms in the German areas.”
The girls looked at each other and, to the surprise of both Professor Smith and Dr. York, started giggling.
“And what has you laughing now, lassies?” asked Professor Smith.
Anne answered for both of them. “Why, Professor Smith, we’re British. How can we have a a King that’s not British?”
“That is a good question. When Queen Anne died about fifty years ago, she didn’t have any children. George I was the closest in kin to her who was also a Protestant. I think if I remember correctly, Parliament passed over fifty Catholics who were closer in kinship to Anne in order to offer the Crown to George of Hanover.”
Abigail, still confused, asked, “But how could he be German?”
“If you are asking what I think you are,” Professor Smith said, “many of the Royal families of Europe made alliances by arranging marriages with the royal families of other countries. It’s all quite incestuous, but I doubt you could find one King or Queen who is not related to most of the others throughout all of Europe. Remember girls, we already discussed that our English King, Edward III was the grandson of a French King and should have been given the French throne. So, the fact that an English royal has a German kin who could be next in line for the British throne is not surprising at all.”
“Incestu . . .”
“Incestuous. That means people who are too closely related by blood but who still get married and have children. It would be like you, Anne, marrying your brother Henry.” Both girls responded to that in unison with “Ewwww!!!”
“Yes, yes,” said Prof. Smith after the girls had registered their revulsion, “incest is a problem, particularly for European royalty, because people who are too closely related often give birth to children who are imbeciles or deformed.”
The girls still looked confused, but this was not one that the Professor wanted to explain in any greater depth at the moment, so he spoke quickly to foreclose another question.
“Now, the last symbol. These three markings on the top right are called fleur-de-lis. That means ‘flower of the lily.’ They don’t look much like flowers, do they? But those are the symbols of France. Do you remember I told you when we were looking at the picture that a war started several hundred years ago because the French refused to seat King Edward, the rightful heir, on the throne of France?”
Professor Smith paused until both girls nodded, then continued. “Well, our Kings have kept the French symbol on their Royal Coat of Arms ever since to assert their rights to rule France . . . and to really annoy the French, which is itself a very, very good reason.”
Andrew smiled. Professor Smith was an excellent tutor, but he had a visceral dislike for the French. Not that this was unusual in the least. Most British children learned to hate the French – and Catholics as well – while suckling at their mother’s breast.
Professor Smith moved to stand next to the map. Pointing to Quebec and the wide expanse of land in between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains, he ran his hand all the way down to New Orleans as he spoke.
“This latest war with the perfidious French,” he said, deliberately reusing the word ‘perfidious’ so the girls would add it to their permanent vocabulary, “started because the French wanted to claim all the land between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains, all the way from Quebec in Canada down to New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico. They were building forts in between Quebec and New Orleans and trying to convince all of the Indian tribes who lived in that area to go to war against us here in the British colonies.” Pushing outward with his hands for emphasis, he said “Eventually they were going to push us in the British colonies all into the sea.” Smiling now, he said to the girls, “Not very nice of them, was it?”
Henry was turned in his chair, listening to Professor Smith while Mrs. Smith had walked over to Malcolm. Standing now, Henry said, “Excuse me Professor. I realize you are simplifying this for the girls, but I thought this war started because that Virginia militia officer . . . who was it? Captain Washington . . . George Washington, I think, he ambushed a party of French and Indians.”
Professor Smith pivoted his substantial bulk towards Henry. “The Jumonville Incident is what you are referring to, Henry. It was Major Washington to be accurate. Have you ever read Major Washington’s Journal of his mission to contact the French?3 It was published five or six years ago. I can’t remember if I assigned it to you to read or not.”
“Not that I recall, Sir.”
“Well, remind me when Mrs. Smith and I switch in an hour, to have you read it. I recall your father has a copy in your family library. True, Major Washington, who since redeemed himself admirably at the Battle of Monongahela I might add, ambushed a French patrol, though it was his Indian scouts that took it upon themselves to murder the French diplomat, Jumonville.4 And while that was the straw on the camel’s back that started the French and Indian war, this war, nor the war now in Europe, is not about that.
“This war is about empire, Henry . . . global supremacy. That is why the French were building forts from from Quebec to New Orleans. It’s why they led brutal military expeditions against any Indians in Ohio Country who traded with the British. It’s ultimately about the French wanting to drive we British out of all of our colonies, here, in the West Indies, and in India. And do remember, the French and Indian war may have started with Washington, but this war now across five continents wasn’t formally declared until the Royal Navy started attacking French ships carrying soldiers to North America in 1755.”5
Andrew added his own two shillings worth. “The war was inevitable, Henry. We’ve already fought – what? — five or six wars with the French just since 1600, all of which have bled into the colonies. The one before this, the War of Austrian Succession, ended just six years before the start of this one. All have spilled much blood but all have been indecisive. In the end, either the French or the British will be left standing when everything is said and done. That or in a few years we’ll be fighting again. If it hadn’t been Major Washington who started the war here in 1754, it would have been someone else, some other incident, here, in Europe, or in India. We would have ended up at war here in the colonies just the same.”
Henry nodded and returned to his seat, allowing the Professor to return his attention to the girls. Andrew, satisfied that his daughters were attentive students benefiting from a knowledgeable and interesting teacher, wandered across the room to see his son Malcolm’s engineering feats. Having left Malcolm with the happy impression that he was destined to be a great builder, Andrew tore himself away from the school room. It was time to return to his medical office to be with Gwen and George.
1 The Battle of Crecy (1346 A.D.) was the first major English victory on land during the 100 Years War (1337 A.D. – 1453 A.D.). The battle pitted 10,000 English, half of whom were archers wielding longbows, against 30,000 French. It was the first battle in which the 6-foot-tall Welsh longbow was used. The longbow proved devastating. Only a handful of English were killed in the battle while some 4,000 French knights and an untold number of commoners were killed in the battle and its aftermath, the vast majority falling to arrows.
2 [See Endnote 35]
3 The Journal of Major George Washington, his journal recounting his first expedition into the Ohio Country on a mission from the Virginia Governor, was published in the colonies and in Britain in 1754, giving notoriety to the then-21-year-old George Washington.
4 Washington was one of the few American colonists with an extensive military record, though it was mixed. He proved himself a poor tactician at Fort Necessity, but a man of intense personal bravery and with an ability to command at the Battle of Monongahela, something for which he became famous throughout the colonies. [See Endnote 37]
5 In 1755, the Royal Navy dispatched a small fleet under Admiral Edward Boscawen to intercept a French convoy carrying reinforcements to North America. He defeated the French ships off Cape Ray, Newfoundland.
∞∞ 10 ∞∞
Home of the York Family
Church St., Charleston, SC
I am resolved to be a good mother to my children, to pray for them, to set them good examples, to give them good advice, to be careful both of their souls and bodies, to watch over their tender minds.
Elise Pinckney and Marvin R. Zahniser, The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney: Intriguing Letters by One of Colonial America’s Most Accomplished Women, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Univ of South Carolina Press, 1972
Paul, from his seat at the dining room table, took the opportunity to look about as he ate his supper. Through the open windows, he could see a beautiful sunset full of pastel blues, glowing orange, and deep reds. Even though the last rays of the sun still illuminated the dining room, Molly and several other servants were moving busily about, lighting all of the first floor candles. They had also put a dozen unlit punched-tin and glass candle lanterns on a side table in the dining room so that anyone walking beyond the first floor could carry a light.
Paul decided that he liked the dining room, which was less stuffy and dark than many he had seen. It was a large room with the same yellow pine flooring, yellow walls, and white plaster ceiling as the foyer. The table at which he sat could accommodate twenty people, though only eight sat there now, including himself. Two crystal chandeliers were suspended over each end of the table. Several side tables, all with silver candelabras, were set against the walls. Two china cabinets stood at either end of the room, both displaying a variety of silver serving ware and knick-knacks behind glass doors. All of the furniture in the dining room was made of highly polished cherry wood, and all was done in the style made famous during Queen Anne’s monarchy, with little ornamentation beyond the softly curving lines used in the arms and legs.
In the center of the outer wall was a large brick fireplace with a base of Carrara marble. Above the fireplace hung the only painting in the room, a large oil painting of a three mast, square rigged ship sailing under a full moon through an angry sea.
At the dining table, Gwen sat at the foot. At her left sat Paul, James, Robert and Henry, and to her right sat Malcolm, Anne and Abigail.
Gwen’s presence at the table was something of a triumph for Paul and Andrew. She had sat at George’s side for the last ten hours, refusing to leave either to eat or to drink. The men’s combined efforts had convinced her that she was putting herself in a weakened state that would leave her vulnerable to illness herself – and then where would the family be? Gwen had agreed to return home only when Andrew promised that he would take her place at George’s side.
Now, with her guests and family around her, Gwen kept her face carefully serene. The only clue to her distress was that she was not eating, merely occasionally moving her tiny portion of ham and sweet potato about on her plate. Paul had to chide her to get her to take even a few mouthfuls.
Eventually recognizing the futility of his effort, Paul tried to engage Gwen in conversation instead. “This is the first time I have been in your new house, Cousin Gwen. This all looks so delicate and beautiful without being ostentatious.”
Gwen smiled briefly at Paul. “Thank you.”
“Is all of this furniture imported? I’ve rarely seen any of such workmanship in the colonies.”
“Except for the books, the chandeliers and a few other odds and ends, everything in this house was made by the artisans in the town at probably half the cost to import, though, in truth, many of the artisans themselves, like Thomas Elfe – probably half the furniture here came out of his local workshop – they’re British born. The colonies are maturing now. Trade has grown with amazing speed over the past twenty years. And all of that wealth draws in skilled laborers from Britain and elsewhere like moths to a flame. Then there is the iron work. Andrew tells me that the free Africans have cornered that trade in the city.”
When Gwen again fell silent, Paul made another effort. “This wood work is exquisite.” Beyond a tight-lipped smile that was more like a grimace, Gwen returned no other answer. Instead, as if to forestall further questions, she ate a tiny bit of ham. Evidently that was enough for her.
Pushing her plate away, Gwen turned to Molly, who was sitting just inside the doorway.
“Molly, please have the kitchen staff bring out tea and the desserts.”
When Gwen began to stand, Paul quickly rose himself. “Cousin, please sit. If you need anything, allow me to get it for you.”
Gwen, charmed out of her worries by Paul’s unstinting efforts to raise her spirits, smiled warmly at him. “Thank you, dear cousin, but I’m just getting my snuff box. It’s right here.”
Moving to a nearby side table, Gwen opened a drawer and reached in. She returned to her seat holding a black lacquer box with a white cameo carving of a woman in classical Greek attire on the top. Opening the box, she revealed finely ground tobacco strongly scented with vanilla.1 Gwen offered some of her snuff to Paul but he shook his head.
“I use a pipe. I’ll have one later, after everyone’s eaten.”
“There’s fine Virginia leaf in the drawer if you want to try some. It’s Andrew’s private stock. I know he would be happy to share.” Gwen said. Then taking a small pinch of the snuff between her thumb and forefinger, she inhaled it. Sighing deeply at that little enjoyment, she smiled at Paul.
“I’m sorry for being such a poor hostess to you and James this evening.”
“I am amazed that you would say that under the circumstances, Gwen. Please do not think you have to act as a hostess to us.”
Gwen replied wistfully, “It was very nice of so many people to show up at Andrew’s office today to wish George well, wasn’t it?” Word had gotten around about George and at least seventy people, some individually, some in groups, came up to say their prayers for him.
“Yes, it gladdens my heart to see how very well respected you and Andrew are here.”
Rather than answering, Gwen nodded absently and then, sighing, closed her eyes and tilted her head back to relieve the stress in her neck and shoulders. Finally, opening her eyes, she looked back to Paul and asked, “Did anyone ever tell you how Andrew and I decided to come to Charleston?”
Paul shook his head. “No, I have never heard the story. Please tell me.”
“Your parents and your Uncle James, God rest his soul, came to the colonies in 1727, I think it was, maybe ’28 . . . No matter. They came because of trade laws and the Penal laws being imposed on us, Ulster Scots and Popish Irish alike.2
“As good as the British government is to us here, it was as damnable to us in Ireland. Me own parents were set to follow yours when they both died in a fire. I was their only surviving child and a wee girl at that. I sold what few possessions I was able to retrieve and our little plot of land near Londonderry, then moved to Edinburgh to be with my Aunt. Her second husband had run a print shop and bookstore there, but then he died and she had taken it over.3 She was happy to have me come and help her run it.”
Paul immediately thought of Robert’s fascination with printing and glanced over to him. He was busy in conversation with James and Henry. So as not to appear rude, Paul quickly turned his attention back to Gwen, but she had seen his almost instinctive glance at her oldest son.
“I know what ye be thinkin’, and it’s probably so. I used to tell my boy tales of running the print shop and how books are the world’s greatest invention. And they really are All the knowledge of mankind. A thousand different ways to look at the world. They can lift you up or tickle you or leave you in tears. And you can see the world in all its mysteries without ever leaving your chair. I’ve always felt like, reading an old book, that I am having a conversation of sorts across oceans of time with very interesting people.” Inhaling deeply, she added, “Yes, I suspect I planted a seed in Robert.
“Back to my story. I had sent a short letter to your father and James when I first got to Edinburgh, but they never received it. Then I met Andrew. What a handsome and charming man he was,” she said, smiling wistfully. “He was still in university and engaged to another. His father had arranged for him to marry some or other duchess in Bristol, where his father ran their shipping business. But I had caught Andrew’s eye and he mine. We fell in love.
“Oh, his father was angry,” she said with emphasis. “He didn’t show up for our wedding and I don’t think he and Andrew said word one to each other for two years, until the day Andrew went home, and then only to make his father a business offer.
“After we were wed, I wrote again to my Uncle James and your father, this letter actually making it into their hands some six months after I sent it. I told them about my new husband, son of a shipping owner and himself about to graduate with a degree in medicine from Edinburgh. I told them about our child I was soon expecting.”
Gwen paused for a moment as Mary walked in carrying a large silver tray laden with an ornate tea service. Following behind her was Rosalie, with a tray on which were two freshly baked pecan pies. Gwen thanked the servants as they distributed the tea and cut the pie into slices. Gwen herself took only the tea, into which she stirred both cream and sugar, but the others at the table, Paul included, were more enthusiastic about the pie and helped themselves generously.
After the maids withdrew, Gwen resumed her story. Paul was no longer her only audience. The children were openly listening to her story as well.
“Your father and James were both still living in Camden.4 This was before James moved with his second wife to Long Cane. They wrote to me about the beautiful country in South Carolina and about Charleston. I still have the letter upstairs somewhere. I’ll have to find it for you. They talked about there being no university-trained doctors in the colonies, or at least very few. A university-trained physician could make a good living in the colonies. And if Andrew was of a mind to open a shipping business, there was no better place than Charleston.
“The letter arrived at just the right time. Our first son had just died in the crib of small pox.” Her voice broke at that. Donald’s death was always a sad memory, but it was a long time ago. What brought these tears was the memory of Donald on top of the reality of George. Fighting back the tears, she turned her face away from the table and used a linen napkin to wipe her eyes.
No one said anything, allowing her to compose herself. The only one to move was Malcolm, who arose from his chair, walked to his mother and hugged her. Gwen smiled at that. She hugged her son tightly and kissed him on the top of his head, then sent him back to his seat.
“I am sorry,” she said, embarrassed at her display of emotion. Paul, himself feeling a bit choked up, flipped his hand through the air as if to say, “No matter.” Composed now, Gwen continued.
“As I was saying, the letter arrived at the perfect time. Andrew had just started working for an older physician in Edinburgh but wasn’t making much money. He was never going to get a chance to run his father’s shipping business – that was going to be left to his oldest brother.5 But he was so excited at the chance to come to the colonies and practice medicine the way he wanted to do it . . . and he was, if anything, even more excited about starting up a shipping business in Charleston after he had studied up on the city.
“I told Andrew that we barely had enough money to buy a honey pot6 let alone a ship. Andrew said his father would finance it. I thought he was dreaming, but he said that his father could no more pass up a good business opportunity, even if it was the Devil himself offering it, than he could fly. I swear, Andrew and his father were cut from the exact same cloth.”
“I take it, then, Cousin Gwen, that Andrew’s father is financing the shipping business?”
“Oh, he once was, but my Andrew bought out his father’s interest fifteen years ago. And I must say that his father made out very well indeed. Of course, Andrew’s father did more than just fund the first ship and its cargo for our shipping business. He also put Andrew in partnership with Captain Bill.
“I know you’ve met Bill and his wife Faith during your past visits, when we were still in our old house. What a wonderful friend and partner he’s been. He takes care of the ships and the crews. Andrew handles the business end. I used to assist him with that until too many children came along. My Andrew still has the same enthusiasm today he did when we first started. He’s always on the lookout for business opportunities . . . anywhere he can find a niche, he says.”
A loud knock came at the front door. Gwen looked over to Molly and saw that she was already on her feet and heading towards the door.
“At any rate, that’s how Andrew and I came to be here. And by the grace of God, it’s been a good life. We owe a debt to your father and James that we will never be able to repay . . . though your father does keep sending us a bill,” she said, laughing gently at her own joke.
1 Tobacco use at this time was ubiquitous, not merely in the colonies, but in Europe as well, and among both men and women. While many men smoked tobacco in pipes, women and the wealthy of both sexes most often used tobacco in the form of scented, finely ground “snuff” that they inhaled. Pope Benedict XIII regularly used snuff. In England, King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, would, by the mid-1770’s, be nicknamed “Snuffy” for her addiction, which was so great that she had an entire room in her castle devoted to her stock of snuff.
2 “Ulster Scots” were Scots who immigrated, voluntarily or involuntarily, to Northern Ireland. The term, “Scots-Irish” refers to those of the “Ulster Scots” who then immigrated to the American colonies. The historical British treatment of the Irish as a whole, and particularly the Catholic majority and the non-Anglican Protestant minority, was horrid, as were many of the unforced choices of the Irish.
3 It was very rare at the time for a woman in Britain or the colonies to open up a business, but very common for a widow to take over and run an existing small or middling sized business, whether in Britain or the colonies.
4 Camden, situated along the South Carolina fault line, is approximately 150 miles northwest of Charleston. It is the oldest city in the South Carolina back country and was, in 1760, its main inland trade center.
5 England historically followed the rule of primogeniture, that the first born son inherited all or the vast bulk of any estate.
6 A “honey pot” was another name commonly given to a chamber pot. It was a pot with a lid used as a toilet, most often found in the bedroom, in the days before indoor plumbing. It would save having to go out to the outhouse bathroom during the night. Indoor bathrooms did not make their first appearance in America until about the mid-19th century.
∞∞ 11 ∞∞
. . . After our arrival in Carolina, we suffered every kind of evil. In about eighteen months our elder brother, unaccustomed to the hard labor we had to undergo, died of a fever. Since leaving France we had experienced every kind of affliction – disease – pestilence – famine – poverty – hard labor. I have been six months together without tasting bread, working the ground like a slave; and I have even passed three or four year without always having it when I wanted it.
God has done great things for us, enabling us to bear up under so many trials. I should never have done, were I to attempt to detail to you all of our adventures. Let it suffice that God has had compassion on me, and changed my fate to a more happy one. for which glory be unto Him.
Judith Manigault, Letter to her brother, circa 1700, translated from French and reprinted by Dr. David Ramsay, History of South Carolina, Volume 1, 1809
Stepping into the dining room and then aside so as to allow the recent arrival to enter, Molly announced, “It’s Mr. Francis Marion, Mrs. York.”
From behind Molly appeared a short, strongly built, twenty-eight-year old man with black hair pulled back from his forehead and clubbed in the back. Swarthy, with a prominent hook nose and strong Gallic features, he was dressed in a royal blue suit, brightened by his white stockings and ruffled white shirt.
“Francis,” said Gwen, standing to receive her guest. “This is an unexpected surprise. I am so glad to see you.”
Beaming at Gwen’s welcome, Marion walked towards her with the peculiar, jerking gait that resulted from his having been born with deformed ankles
As he approached, Gwen swept her hand towards those seated at the table. “Francis, you already know my children. I don’t know, though, if you have ever met my cousin, Reverend Paul Armstrong, and our other cousin, Little James.”
“I believe the Reverend and I have met in passing at some of your parties, but I have never had the honor to meet Little James,” Marion said in his melodic baritone voice as he shook hands with Paul and James. Then coming to Gwen and taking her hands, he said “I heard this evening. I am so sorry about what is happening with George. I was just over with George and Dr. York.”
Mrs. York, blinking back her tears, momentarily tightened her grip on Marion’s hands. “Thank you,” she said softly, adding, “Will you please sit and join us? It would surely improve my humor. Have you supped yet this evening?”
“I ate earlier at a tavern with Captain Moultrie, thank you.” he said, referring to William Moultrie, a well known local planter, politician, and militia leader. “But I can always drink tea and eat . . . what is that, pecan pie? It looks delicious.”
In response to Gwen’s politely phrased order, Malcolm moved to a seat on the other side of the girls. Francis Marion then took the seat Malcolm had vacated, immediately to Mrs. York’s right, which put him across from Paul and James. Molly placed a slice of pie and a cup of tea in front of Marion. Wasting no further words, Marion quickly took a bite of the pie. Finding that it perfectly satisfied his sweet tooth, he closed his eyes, savoring the rich taste.
Turning to Paul and James, Gwen explained, “Francis has been a family friend for over a decade, ever since my husband nearly sent him to his death in Davy Jones’s locker.”
Paul nodded solemnly, but James openly stared at Marion, obviously fascinated to meet another person who had come so near a sudden and premature death. Seeing James’ curiosity, Marion spoke.
“Don’t worry, young James. Your cousin Dr. York is not a would-be murderer. When I was fifteen, I decided I wanted to become a sailor. My parents desperately tried to talk me out of it but, failing that, arranged for me to apprentice as a sailor with Dr. York’s shipping company. Captain Bill said that he would send me on an easy trip for my virgin voyage. He assigned me to a Bermuda Sloop1 to pick up molasses and salt in the Caribbean. It was a fast, sturdy little ship and all should have gone well. We made it half way to Barbados” Marion said, waving his arms dramatically, “when a whale came out of the depths and slammed into our boat.”
The York children, having heard this story before, showed no surprise. Paul, Abigail, and James, however, had not. James could not control an exclamation. “No! That never happened. A whale?”
“Aye,” said Marion. “It was a very big whale too. I thought he was going to swallow us like Jonah,” Marion said with a laugh. “It didn’t, but what it did do was knock loose a timber below the waterline. The ship took on water very quickly. The captain ordered that we abandon ship and our crew – a small one, only six people – scrambled aboard the life boat.
“Well, it was called a life boat but that’s to give it more dignity than it deserves. It really was just a small dinghy. Still, it was better than a sinking ship. We were adrift in the ocean for seven days before a passing ship saved us.” His smile fading, Marion added, “Unfortunately, we lost two people, the Captain and the bosun, while waiting for rescue.”
Paul, trying to avoid looking as surprised by the story as his small cousin, slowly and solemnly nodded his head as he pondered the story. “So was that your only voyage?”
“Oh, aye,” said Marion, laughing. “When we finally arrived back in Charleston, I told Captain Bill that if that was the easy voyage, I had no chance of surviving a difficult one. Dr. York paid my wages as if we had completed the mission instead of losing the ship, and then let me out of the contract of apprenticeship when I asked. I’ve been kissing the ground and farming ever since,” he added, grinning.
“Still, it was not a wasted voyage. I was well paid, though nowhere near well paid enough to do it again. I gained a much deeper appreciation for the most mundane experiences of life. And I acquired new friends. I have a very good relationship with Captain Bill, Dr. York, and their families that has lasted ever since.”
“From the way my husband tells it,” Gwen said, “the other three who survived that wreck were all deeply impressed, Francis, at how you kept up their spirits and worked to keep them all alive, though you were the youngest of them all. Both Andrew and Bill have always been quite impressed with you – and sad that you refused to sail again. They are of the opinion that you are a brave soul with a calm and level head who would have made a first rate ship’s Captain had you stayed with it.”
Marion blushed slightly, but beyond a self-deprecating shake of his head, he said nothing.
“So what brings you to Charleston, Francis?” asked Gwen. Turning to Paul, she added for his benefit, “Francis lives not all that far from you, near Georgetown.”
“I’ve been commissioned as a Lieutenant in the militia and assigned to Captain Moultrie’s unit. We were discussing plans for the upcoming battle with the Cherokee and their French allies when the British regiment gets here from New York.”
Hearing the word “French,” Abigail, who had been silently and politely listening to the adults talk, caught Anne’s eye, and then turned to face her nemesis, Malcolm. “The French and Malcolm are perfidious.” She followed this statement by squinting her eyes and crinkling her nose at Malcolm, trying to look ferocious. Malcolm’s effort to look ferocious, when he mimicked her expression, was equally unsuccessful.
“Mon Dieu!” Marion exclaimed, now speaking the fluent French he had learned from his parents.
Abigail whipped her head around to face him. Marion arched his eyebrows and shifted in his seat to face Abigail. With great melodrama, he said “Je suis Français. And I am a very nice man, not perfidious at all, I swear.” In an instant, Abigail’s face went from ferocious to horrified – and embarrassed.
Seeing that Abigail was beyond words, Anne rose to her defense. Reaching across Abigail’s chest and grabbing her far shoulder to interpose herself between Abigail and Marion, Anne said, “Abigail meant no harm, Mr. Marion.”
Marion laughed kindly at the sight of this one little girl bravely defending the other. Gently removing Anne’s hand from Abigail’s shoulder and holding it, while at the same time taking Abigail’s hand, he said, “Tu es doux et jolie filles, and you need not fear me. I am a Huguenot, a French Protestant,2 and a very proud citizen of Britain, the country that has offered me succor since the day I was born. So not all French people are perfidious.”
Now,” he emphasized, “if you mean to say that King Louis, his court, and all the French Kings who came before him are perfidious, I could not agree more. As to Malcolm,” he said, catching Malcolm’s eye and winking, “I am sure that you must be mistaken. But here, let me teach you what we Huguenot’s call King Louis in French, . . . le bâtard.‘”
Francis Marion looked back over his shoulder at Gwen with a twinkle in his eye, hoping that he had not overstepped his bounds. She looked mildly shocked, but not angered. All would have been well had not Abigail taken that moment to repeat her new vocabulary.
“Le ba —-”
“No!” Marion quickly interrupted. “No, no, no, don’t repeat that. It is not a good word, and if you repeat it, I fear Mrs. York will have me tarred and feathered, which would be very bad,” turning in profile to the girls and canting his head upwards, “for my ruggedly handsome face, no?”
Abigail didn’t understand half of what this man was saying but, while she had been frightened of him only a minute ago, now she was charmed. She giggled, as did Anne. Marion formally kissed their hands, then released them. With a smile, he turned back to Mrs. York.
Anne whispered in Abigail’s ear. Abigail nodded, at which Anne stood up and said, “Mother, we’ve finished eating. May we be excused from the table?” Gwen nodded. The two girls then piled their silverware and napkin on their plate, as they had been taught, before leaving the table.
As she got to the door, Abigail stopped, turned around, and went back to Francis Marion. “It was very nice to meet you, sir.” Marion gave a formal bow of his head in response. The two girls then each grabbed a lantern and lit the candles before heading upstairs.
As Abigail and Anne left the dining room, Marion said to Gwen, “Sweet children, Mrs. York. I don’t believe that I have met Abigail before.”
Gwen responded, “Oh, please excuse me for not introducing you. And you’re right. You haven’t met her before as you were unable to make it here for our last Hogmanay party.3 She is a recent addition to our little family. It is a long story, best told by my husband.”
“Of course,” said Marion. “I will look forward to hearing it.”
With the girls out of the room, Paul returned the conversation to more substantive matters.
“I truly don’t understand how this Cherokee War started,” he said. “Somehow, while I was busy building my ministry over the past three years, I missed the Cherokee’s transition from being one of our biggest trading partners and long time allies to being our vicious enemies.4 That is ironic indeed, given that there are probably more Cherokee on our borders who have had an audience with our King George II than there are colonists who have,” Paul said, referring to a state visit seven Cherokee made to Britain in 1730.
“You’re correct about past relationships, Paul,” said Mrs. York. “Take Attakullakulla, or Little Carpenter, as we call him. He was one of those who met the King. I met him over a decade ago. I do believe that every person in our colony knows who Attakullakulla is, in part because he has always acted as a spokesman for the Cherokee in dealing with our government.”
Turning to her sons, Mrs. York asked, “Do either of you children remember Little Carpenter?”
Robert said, “No.” Henry silently shook his head.
“That’s a shame, boys, because he was something to see and someone worth meeting. He came to our old home with Mr. Stuart, the Indian trader. I know you remember Mr. Stuart. He has a house near your father’s office on Tradd Street and he visits us often. It was ten years ago that he brought Little Carpenter to talk to your father about shipping and the deer-skin trade. Little Carpenter was a small man, very thin, odd looking as all the Cherokee are to us, with their shaved heads and their ornamented skin, but with an excellent command of English. Very smart, even witty. . . . Truth to tell, I found him quite charming. I still can’t imagine him going to war against us.”
“With no disrespect meant, Mrs. York,” said Marion, “I do not believe you have the full picture. The fact is that, no matter how well they deal with us, the Cherokee govern themselves very differently from our ways. I’ve had several long conversations about this with one of the retired Indian traders, a man I trust greatly to speak the truth on these matters. Will it bore or disturb you if I give you the details?” Marion paused politely, glancing interrogatively around the table.
A chorus of “noes” and “please, tell us more,” rose from everyone. It was clear that, at the mention of the exotic Cherokee, the boys were interested in what Marion had to say. Even James, rather than being frightened by this recitation, was curious.
“The Cherokee have about sixty or seventy towns spread along three strips. There are the Lower Cherokee towns along our Western border, this side of the Appalachian Mountains. Their Middle Towns are in the Appalachian Mountains. Then they have the Overhill Towns on the other side of the mountains.
“The way the Cherokee govern themselves is not something we’d recognize. Each town is like a separate nation, with its own civil and foreign policy. To the extent there are recognized leaders among several of the townships, they hold that position by their ability to persuade, not their authority to command. All the towns’ major decisions are made individually by each town and in a democratic vote. Unfortunately for us, the ‘perfidious French,’ as your charming daughter would say, have been spreading their poison in many of the Cherokee towns. There is a French Major, Louis Latinac, may the devil take him, who has been all too successful in convincing many of the Cherokee that the British plan to destroy the Cherokee and that the Cherokee should therefore destroy us first.”
“Ahhh,” said Robert. “That puts things in a different light. I couldn’t see how half the nation went to war with us while the other half was trying to make peace. What you’re saying explains why the Cherokee simultaneously acted in two completely different ways.”
“What do you mean, Robert?” asked Paul.
“Well, cousin, for the last two years, I’ve been putting together the typeset for every story we’ve printed on this imbroglio with the Cherokee, as well stories about the French and Indian war. Most of the fighting in the French and Indian War has been fought six hundred miles from here, in the Ohio Valley and up into Canada. I know of no colonists from South Carolina who have been involved.
“That hasn’t been true of the Cherokee though. Someone in the British government asked them to help in the war, and they’ve more than done their part. They are . . . or were, I guess I should say, quite good allies. They’d sent several bands of warriors over the past four years to fight next to our forces in the North. Two years ago, the Cherokee took part in the siege of a French Fort, I can’t remember the name, but I know it was important and that it’s been renamed Fort Pitt5 since we captured it.
“At any rate, as the Cherokee were marching back the five or six hundred miles in small groups after the siege, there was some sort of misunderstanding about horses. The facts aren’t clear to me, but it seems as if the Cherokee came upon about a dozen horses along their march home and thought they were entitled to take those horses. The Virginians didn’t and, to make their point, they ambushed and slaughtered about forty of the Cherokee, then scalped the dead Cherokee and tried to get a bounty for their scalps from the Virginia governor by claiming they were Shawnee.”
Robert’s talk having turned unexpectedly graphic, Gwen held up a finger to silence her son. Turning to Little James, she saw that his face was emotionless. “Are you okay with this talk, James?” James shrugged of his shoulders. “Would you like to leave the table?” James pursed his lips and shook his head.
While Gwen was still unsure whether this talk was okay for James, she was certain that Malcolm didn’t need to hear it. When she turned to dismiss Malcolm from the table, however, she was surprised to find he wasn’t there. Before she even had the chance to ponder where her mischievous little boy might have gone, she heard James give a surprised grunt. Turning, she was just in time to see that Malcolm had snuck up behind James and pulled off his wig, exposing to all the terrible wound the Cherokee had inflicted on him.
The next few seconds everything happened at once. Gwen’s face turned an apoplectic red, as she slammed her hand down onto the dining table hard enough to rattle all of the silverware and send tea spilling out of its cups. Henry yelled at Malcolm, “You little prat!” while Robert gave Malcolm a hard swat on his buttocks that should have brought him to tears.
Malcolm ignored everything but James. Open-mouthed, he stared at the large expanse of James’s white naked skull and the angry red scars where his skin resumed. Shocked themselves, everyone else stopped and watched as Malcolm and James engaged with each other as if no one else were present.
James, his expressionless face giving nothing away, held out his hand to Malcolm. Malcolm slowly returned the wig, never moving his eyes from James’s skull.
James took the wig, but instead of immediately putting it on, he quickly bent his head down to Malcolm’s level and shook his exposed skull two inches from Malcolm’s nose. Malcolm let out a frightened yelp and collapsed onto his bottom. James laughed at him.
Malcolm quickly got up off the floor, his eyes still wide. “May I touch it?” he asked, wonder in his voice.
Mrs. York groaned and buried her head in her palms. James, though, smiled and bent his head down for Malcolm to touch. Malcolm slowly reached up and gingerly touched James’ exposed skull. Lacking the words to describe the wonder of feeling someone’s skull without hair or skin, Malcolm gave a long, shrill squeal of amazement. The sound broke the spell that held everyone still and silent.
“Malcolm,” Mrs. York said, her voice shaking with barely contained rage, “leave this table. Leave it now. Go to your room. If I see you again tonight, I will feed you to the fish.”
Malcolm, knowing that he was in trouble but having long since decided, as much as any five-year-old could consciously decide, that the trouble had been worth it, struggled to contain a smile as he turned away. Lighting a candle in one of the lanterns, he walked out of the room. Moments later, James asked if he could be excused as well.
“Yes, of course,” said Mrs. York, her exasperation and embarrassment plain in her voice, “To everyone here, and to you in particular James, I apologize for my son.”
Once the younger boys were gone, Paul leaned back in his chair, more relaxed than he’d been all evening. “In my ministry, Gwen, I’ve dealt with a number of people over the years who have been in accidents that left them horribly scarred. The worst have been the scars from fire. My experience has uniformly been that the ones who simply trusted in God and who didn’t withdraw into themselves out of shame or out of feeling themselves victims . . . they were the ones who bounced back to lead a normal life. I’m glad this happened. It might have been the best thing for James in the long run.”
“Did the Cherokee do that?” Marion asked.
“Long Canes,” answered Paul. “They killed his family, probably kidnapped his little sister, then scalped James and left him for dead.”
Marion slowly shook his head. “It seems he has made an amazing recovery. Well, if he enjoys drinking in taverns when he gets older, I’ll wager he never pays for a drink.”
Into the silence that then fell, Robert asked, “Should I continue?” The others murmured their assent.
Before Robert could say a word, though, high pitched screams from two little girls pierced the air. Henry was the first to rise from his seat. When Paul rose as well, Henry stopped him. “Please, cousin. Stay. I’d bet a pound to a shilling that we all know what that is. It came from the ballroom. I’ll see to it.”
Mrs. York sighed gustily. “Thank you, Henry.”
“Let me pick up where I left off,” said Robert. “Before Malcolm sent us all up in arms, I was speaking about the Virginian attack on the Cherokees. I don’t know if all of you read The Carolinian – and if you don’t, you should,” he added, smiling, “but the fact is that, since the Virginian attack, we’ve been reporting countless Cherokee attacks against our frontier settlements over the past year and a half. Most have been as brutal as Long Cane, though involving substantially fewer people in each attack. It would be a wonder if there are any colonists left alive and still in their homes much to the north west of Orangeburg.”6
Paul was still confused. “We never harmed the Cherokee, so I don’t see why they would attack us and not just take revenge against the Virginians? We have nothing to do with the Virginia colony. They might as well be a separate country.”
Francis Marion spoke up. “Before October last, you are right, we did nothing to the Cherokee to justify their attacks against us – at least nothing according to our minds, but not to the Cherokees’. The Cherokee have a unique concept of justice. It is by clan, not individual. There are seven Cherokee clans. This means that if, say, a member of the Wild Potato clan kills a member of the Wolf clan and then escapes and can’t be found, the Wolf clan can take vengeance against the Wild Potato clan. Or, as is usually the case, the Wolf clan can be satisfied if the Wild Potato clan offers up one of their clan members to the Wolf Clan for judgment. It’s the senior women of the clan that decide, and their judgment can be anything from death by fire torture lasting days to adoption into the Wolf Clan to take the place of the murdered clan member. So, even though it was the Virginians that wronged the Cherokee, they see themselves as justified in taking retribution against all colonists of the ‘British Clan.’”
When Marion stopped for a moment to take a sip of his tea, Paul noted another incongruity about the Cherokee war. “I guess I can see how some of the Cherokee might look to take their vengeance against us in light of all that, but. . . . Well,correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems we are at war with the entire Cherokee nation, rather than against a couple of the Cherokee towns.”
“A very good point,” responded Marion. “I was just coming to that. The reality is that we’ve since given the Cherokee a very good reason to be at war with our colony. There’s no wrapping it in clean cloth: Governor Lyttelton is a disgrace.
“Last October, a delegation of thirty-two Cherokee town chiefs who wanted to keep peace with our colony offered to meet with our Royal Governor under a flag of truce to try and end this war. The Governor suffered them to enter Charleston under that flag of truce, but then immediately had them arrested without ever granting them even an audience. I don’t think that there is a single life-long colonist, including Lieutenant Governor Bull, who has dealt with the Cherokee all of his life, who did not advise the Governor as strongly as possible against doing that. May God spare us any further Royal Governors so arrogant and foolish as this one.”
“I never liked the man,” said Mrs. York. “How typical for him to do something so crude and hateful.”
“Well, you’re in luck there, Mr. Marion,” said Robert. “Governor Lyttelton announced today that he is leaving Charleston to take over as Governor in one of our West Indies islands.”
“That is good news,” said Marion. “Unfortunately, it comes after all the damage has already been done. Indeed, it’s even worse then you’ve heard so far, Paul. There is much more. After arresting the chiefs, Lyttelton called out the militia and, with these chiefs as hostage, marched into the back country. I was on that march. Lyttelton was foolish about this too, for our militia wasn’t strong enough to defeat the Cherokee should we have met up. Then a case of small pox broke out in one of the units and most of the militia deserted before it could take them – which answers any question about what we fear more, the pox or the Indians.”
“At any rate, Lyttelton was forced to withdraw but, instead of bringing the chiefs back with him or simply returning them to their tribes, he left them in bondage at Fort Prince George.7 When the Cherokee tried to free their chiefs by a ruse that killed a militia officer, the Fort’s second in command slaughtered every one of the chiefs they were holding. That is why the entire Cherokee Nation is now united against the South Carolina colony.”
“Oh, my Lord,” said Paul. Looking to Gwen, he said a single word: “Glencoe.” Gwen nodded silently in agreement.
“Glencoe?” asked Marion.
“Glencoe,” Paul repeated. “There is not a Scot alive who doesn’t know that story.8 It was the lowest, most despicable incident in Britain’s history. I won’t bother you with all of the details. The important ones are that a force of royal soldiers asked the MacDonald Clan for shelter and food. The Highlanders all have a strict custom of offering guests every hospitality and guaranteeing their safety while in their homes. The clan agreed and, for two weeks, the soldiers lived with the MacDonalds, eating their food, drinking their ale, all in complete safety and a spirit of goodwill.
““The King had issued an order to root out thieves in the area and those in the British government, it’s rumored men of clan Campbell, who wanted to see the Highlanders broken used that order to justify issuing orders of their own. Their orders were for those soldiers staying with the MacDonalds to slaughter the MacDonalds in their beds in the middle of the night. Most Scots have never forgiven that event. It probably had as much to do with the Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 1745 as anything.”9
While Paul was speaking, Henry walked in and resumed his seat. Gwen looked to Henry.
“Malcolm pulled James up to the second floor with Anne and Abigail for a second showing,” he said, answering her unspoken question.
“And?” asked Gwen.
“And the girls were all touching his skull and asking questions. James seems to be enjoying the attention, so I didn’t bother doing anything, but just left them to it.”
Gwen shook her head resignedly. She was in the middle of thanking Henry for his help when front door pealed, announcing that someone had entered the house. Everyone looked to the foyer door, where Andrew soon appeared. He said nothing, he just looked to his wife and gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Gwen burst into tears.
1 Almost all large merchant and naval vessels of the time used the “square rig” configuration of sails. The Bermuda Sloop was a type of ship developed in 17th century Bermuda that utilized triangular sails. Such boats were often smaller, but much faster and far more maneuverable when facing headwinds than the square rigged ships. The “Bermuda rig” is the basis for all modern sailing yachts.
2 The Huguenots were a Calvinist sect of French Protestants whom the Catholic monarchs of France brutally suppressed from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Around 1700, may Huguenots settled in the colony of South Carolina. The two most famous descendants of these Huguenot settlers were Henry Laurens and Francis Marion. [See Endnote 46]
3 Hogmanay is the name given the Scottish New Year’s celebration.
4 The colonists in South Carolina traded with several different Indian tribes within and surrounding its borders. The largest of these tribes was the Cherokee tribe, with whom the colonists maintained a very lucrative trade for deer skins in return for all manner of goods, the most common being muskets, powder, shot, iron tools (including tomahawks), and rum. Up until 1730 or so, the deer skin trade alone was the South Carolina colony’s most profitable and sizable export. Twenty years later, despite the rise of the indigo and rice crops, South Carolina still shipped over 150,000 pounds of deer skin to Britain annually, making it the third most profitable export. [See Endnote 48]
5 The name of the French Fort was Fort Duquesne. The British built a new fort on its ruins and called it Fort Pitt in honor of the British politician, William Pitt. The city that grew up around this new fort is known today as Pittsburgh.
6 Orangeburg was a major area of German and Swiss settlement in the Carolina back-country. It was 76 miles northwest of Charleston.
7 Fort Prince George was located in the southwest corner of the colony, next to the largest of the Cherokee Lower Towns, Keowee. It was a small fort that functioned as the primary trading post among the Cherokee Lower Towns.
8 The Massacre at Glencoe likely served as the basis for a similar event in fiction, The Red Wedding, in George R.R. Martin’s The Game of Thrones.
9 “Jacobites” was the name given to those people in Britain and Ireland, mostly Highland Scots and most of the Irish Catholics, who supported King James II, the last Catholic King to rule England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobites rebelled against the British when James II was deposed, then again in 1715 and 1745 in an effort to seat the Catholic heirs of James II back on the throne of England. [See Endnote 53]
∞∞ 12 ∞∞
Wednesday, March 19, 1760; Five days having passed
The Old White Meeting House1
Meeting St., Charleston, South Carolina
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1602
Andrew stood at the pulpit, very straight, examining the crowd as a Colonel might examine troops assembled for inspection. He was dressed all in black “mourning clothes”2 imported from Britain, as were his wife and children who, along with Paul and Little James, and several of the close family friends, sat in the center of the front row. On a raised platform in between Dr. York and his family lay George’s small, closed casket.
The Church beyond was filled past capacity with people who had come to pay their respects, and even more who had arrived late and now stood outside of the Church, listening through the open doors and windows. Some were friends. Many more were people whose lives the York family had touched in some way.
When the assembled congregation stilled, Andrew reached into his pocket and withdrew a piece of paper. Unfolding it, he laid it upon the pulpit and glanced at it briefly. The document contained five words, written one atop another in large letters, so that Andrew did not need his glasses.
Inhaling deeply, he began. “I want to thank all of you gathered here to honor the memory of our son George.
“For those of you who knew George, I hope your days were made the better by it. He was, to my eyes, a fine and worthy son and a good brother to his siblings. What better epitaph can people hope for in this life but to have someone say of them, at the end of their time on this earth, that they worked hard, honored our God in their conduct, and brought joy to others. That is as true for a person of ten years as it is for a person of ninety. I am proud to be able to say that about my George.
“There are many tales I could tell of George, but I will tell just this one. He was six years old. I had given him a few shillings to spend in the coffee shop.
“I have always been careful in teaching my children about money. They each have weekly tasks they must perform completely to earn their coin. It is always a small amount, teaching the child that they cannot have everything and that they must make choices.
“That day, I can’t remember what George did but he had earned his keep. His favorite treat was a tankard of hot chocolate from the tavern. That is what he wanted so I took him there. On the way, we passed a middle-aged woman begging in the street because she had lost everything in a fire. She was injured as well. I sent George into the tavern to order his hot chocolate while I remained outside with the woman.
“I told her to come to my office on Tradd Street where I would treat her injuries and put her in contact with a benevolent society that would help her through this difficult period until she was back on her feet. As I finished talking to her, George emerged from the tavern with meat and bread in his hands. He walked over and gave it to the woman. She had tears in her eyes. She ate as if she had not eaten in days, which I assume that she hadn’t, then left to go to my office.
“After she left, I did not congratulate or thank George. Instead I told my son that I was not going to pay him any more money, so I hoped he was happy with his decision. His words to me were ‘I know, father, and that is all right. She looked very hungry.’ Then we walked home.
“I was so proud of George that day. For it is in simple acts of kindness, in how we live our lives day to day, the sacrifices of our own happiness, that our character shows through. And George’s was a good and kind soul indeed.
“But for whom do we mourn? The truth is that George’s spirit fled his body five days ago. His was a very pure soul, and I have no doubt he is in Heaven, far removed from earthly pain and suffering. What we mourn over now is an empty shell of what was, and the people we mourn for are, in very large measure, ourselves, for so keenly do we feel the loss. So is there a lesson to be had in that mourning?
“We — and by we, I mean everyone here — are unfortunately all too familiar with death. It surrounds us every day, and there is not a one among us who has not experienced the death of loved ones. Our children die in great numbers not long from the crib. Our wives perish with all too much regularity in childbirth. And men fall prey to all manner of disease and accidents.
“It happens without rhyme or reason to our imperfect eye, all in accord with some celestial plan that will forever be beyond our ken. As a doctor, I would like to think that God has given me some knowledge and skill to try to effect His plan for a temporary period. But eventually death comes for us all in turn.
“So why fear death? We have been given a life by God and we exist on His time, not ours, and it will end at His time. What we should fear more than anything else is wasting a minute of this precious gift He has given us.
“Each day brings forth little challenges. How we meet each of them is a series of strokes from the blacksmith’s hammer on the malleable iron of our soul. Shall we meet them as George? I sincerely hope that we do, for the world will be much better for it.”
The church was silent as Dr. York left the pulpit and took a seat next to Gwen. She gave a bittersweet smile to her husband from beneath a black veil and squeezed his hand. The tears gone, she was left feeling only a deep sadness for her son’s loss and gratitude that her husband had given him such a fitting eulogy.
The service continued for another twenty minutes, the presiding Reverend, Brian Cotton, offering prayers. Cousin Paul then said a final prayer once the casket was removed to the graveside, just before the pall bearers lowered George into his place of final rest.
Each of the children had responded differently to George’s death. They were no strangers to death for, as Andrew had observed, it was a constant companion in Charleston. Rare was the month when the family did not attend at least one funereal. But George’s loss was far more personal and immediate.
For Malcolm, the loss meant coming to grips with the adult reality that George had gone away for the remainder of Malcolm’s time on earth.
For Anne, it was her first feeling of existential angst, a child’s feeling that there must be some purpose to life and the panicked feeling that she did not understand what it was.
For Abigail, having only known George for a little over year, the loss was less of a visceral pain. She very much took to heart Dr. York’s admonition, as she understood it, to act with Christian charity. But she was also left curious how a physician could stave off death if life ended upon God’s time, as Dr. York had said.
For Henry, the death was a deep and profound loss, although he struggled successfully not to show that. In George, he had lost his closest friend since the day Robert had left the family home. He was still trying to arrange a life without George before he could even begin to think what it all meant.
As for Robert, he was the only one old enough fully to understand his father’s message. And for as often as he and his father were at loggerheads, he trusted implicitly his father’s moral values and ethics.
1 A joint group of Scots and Scots-Irish Presbyterians, English Congregationalists, and French Huguenots built the “Old White Meeting House” between 1680 and 1685. It served all of the Calvinist “Dissenting” religions in Charleston for many decades. The Church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times on the same spot. The original graveyard associated with the Church is still extant and contains graves dating back to at least 1695.
2 18th century Britain and its colonies saw the adoption of elaborate “mourning” rituals that had little to do with mourning and a great deal to do with establishing one’s position in the social hierarchy. [See Endnote 55]
∞∞ 13 ∞∞
2nd Floor Ballroom
Home of the York Family
Church St., Charleston, South Carolina
Now I lay me down to take my sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Child’s Prayer, New England Primer, 1777
The York family returned to their home after George’s interment. The first hour at home had passed quietly enough, but for the past two hours a steady stream of people – from the Charleston upper echelons to dock workers still dressed in their work clothes, from judges and lawyers to sailors and servants, and from business partners to business competitors – had come to their home and filed into the ballroom. There, in front of the fireplace, Dr. and Mrs. York sat receiving their guests’ condolences and thanking them sincerely for their presence.
It was customary for the children to be there as well, but Gwen thought that they would be too tired to behave properly. She therefore released them to do as they would, with the strict admonition that whatever they did had to show due respect for the solemnity of the situation.
Finally, the seemingly endless parade of people paying their respects had reached its end, though about a hundred people still milled about in the ballroom, eating, drinking and politely chatting.
“We might be done, Gwen,” Andrew said, taking his wife’s hand. “You seem to be holding up. Are you?”
Gwen managed a sad little smile. “In truth, Andrew, I’m numb at the moment. I had cried out all my tears for George before today. I thought your words at the eulogy insightful, that we mourn mostly for our own loss.” Gesturing to the many people still gathered in the ballroom, she added, “And I think this similar. This bit of custom is not so much a chance for us to be comforted, though that be a consequence, as it is for our friends and acquaintances to let us know that they care.”
Andrew hugged his wife, then said “I need to walk about. Will you join me?”
Gwen shook her head. “Not now, Andrew. I just wish to sit here for a moment in solitude.”
Glancing at the crowded room as he rose from his chair, Andrew wryly observed, “Solitude would not appear to be possible at the moment.”
“Oh, Andrew, one can be as alone in a crowd as in an empty room. Go, please. I’ll be fine.”
Andrew was gone no more than a minute when the final well-wisher appeared before Gwen. And for the first time that day, Gwen smiled out of happiness.
“Eliza, thank you so much for coming,” said Gwen, rising to greet her old friend, Eliza Lucas Pinckney. “I could not think of a person I would rather see today.”
Eliza, dressed in a black linen gown, was three years younger and two inches taller than Gwen. Though thirty-eight years old, middle age had yet to show on her. She still wore her chestnut brown hair in a youthful, loose bun atop head, her bangs parted in the front and swept gently to the side, just as when Gwen had met her almost twenty years ago. Looking at her, Gwen mused that Eliza’s face, like all things about her, was in perfect proportion and balance. If someone asked Gwen to describe Eliza, she would say that her dear friend was one of those very rare people who seem to move through life with an effortless and deeply Christian grace.
Eliza hugged Gwen, then took the seat Andrew had recently vacated. Speaking with the refined English accent she had acquired as a teen at a girl’s finishing school in Britain, Eliza said, “I am so sorry about George.“
“Of course, and thank you” said Gwen. “It seems all you and I have done for the past two years is meet under an ill cloud.”
From the moment when they first met, Gwen and Eliza had been fast friends, sometimes seeing each other as often as several times a month between social events, parties, and visits. This changed seven years ago, when Eliza and her family had moved for five years to London where her husband, Charles Pinckney, a well-respected Charleston lawyer, served as the colony’s agent in matters dealing with the Crown.
When the Pinckneys had returned to Charleston almost two years ago, the Yorks had planned a celebration for their homecoming but it was not to be. Charles Pinckney fell ill with a severe case of malaria only two weeks after their return.. He was dead within three days, before Andrew even had a chance to administer the first dose of a tincture of quinine. That was the first of the funerals. There had been several funerals for mutual friends since.
“I don’t know why we haven’t seen each other more in the past year,” said Eliza. “It seems our lives have led in different directions. Since Charles’ death, I’ve rather withdrawn into my oaks and magnolias, especially since my children are still away.” Eliza had given birth to four children, three of whom survived, they being her sons Charles, age 14 and Thomas, age 10, and her daughter Harriott, age 12.
“We must remedy our failure to see each other, Eliza. Your children still haven’t returned?”
“No. All three are still at boarding school in Britain. I do miss them terribly. But I remember my own education at boarding school. It was the greatest gift my father could bestow upon me, so I will not begrudge this to my children.”
“Well, I have two young girls of seven whom I’ve raised on stories of you.”
“The poor girls!” Eliza said in mock horror. “Why would you punish them so?”
“If they were to grow up like you, Eliza, I would be a proud mother indeed.”
“You are far too kind, Gwen.” After a moment’s pause, Eliza said, “Perhaps you could bring them by, not this weekend, but the one after. It is long past time that we resumed our friendship. I didn’t realize until just this moment how much I’ve missed your company. This would be the perfect time of year to visit my plantation at Wappoo Creek. The flowers will be in bloom and the air dripping with the scent of lilac. I would love to meet your girls. But wait. I thought you had only one daughter. Did you give birth to a seven-year-old girl while I was unaware?”
“Andrew and I bought a slave girl, a mulatto1 the same age as Anne, who was about to be sold to the West Indies.”
“Oh my,” said Eliza, well aware of the stories about slavery on the sugar islands. As bad as slavery could be in the North American colonies, it’s reputation was exponentially worse, far more brutal, in the sugar islands. The only time the North American colonists sold their slaves to work on the sugar islands was when they were deeply problematic or intractable. “What could a child do that could possibly be so grievous as to justify that?”
Gwen shook her head. “I am sworn to secrecy as to her father’s identity , but I can tell you that it is the son of a plantation owner. The child’s sin was in her blood, not her acts. Her presence constantly reminded the plantation’s owners that their son was morally weak. They sent their son off to boarding school; I believe he’s in Scotland at the moment. They would not sell the mother, but Andrew was able to buy the girl at a good price with the idea that he would train her to be the midwife for his practice. But, as they say, even the best laid plans never survive the first shot.”
“Before we could figure out the logistics of how to handle the child – our first thought that, while we were seeing to her education, we would place her with one of the black families Andrew employs in the shipping industry – she and my Anne became inseparable from the moment they met. She is a darling girl and very intelligent. Her name is Abigail. We had to emancipate her, of course, to lawfully educate her2 . . . and now she’s part of our family.”
“What a wonderful story, Gwen. I –” Eliza stopped when a man’s voice, seething with rage, interrupted her. Gwen barely recognized it as her husband’s voice.
“YOU COME INTO MY HOUSE . . . ON THIS DAY . . . AND SAY THAT!?”
Neither Gwen nor Eliza could see what was happening through the crowd. They both rose swiftly and made their way past the assembled people. As they did, they could hear the loud sound of a fist striking flesh, followed immediately by gasps from the onlookers.
When Gwen got to the front of the crowd, she was shocked to see that Andrew, his face contorted in rage, was holding a man by the throat, pinning him against one of the marble columns. The man’s face had turned a dark, beet red. Even taking away his unnatural color, Mrs. York did not recognize the man. He appeared at a glance to be in his mid-20’s, well-dressed, with a thin, aquiline face. He was taller than Andrew but at least a stone lighter. He was bleeding copiously from his nose, the blood dripping onto Andrew’s hand and his shirtsleeve.
Gwen quickly ran forward and interposed herself in between Andrew and the bleeding man. She had seen Andrew angry before, but never like this. She had also seen him fight before, for Andrew York was never one to suffer fools for too long. But she had never seen him in a murderous rage such as this.
Andrew was staring into the other man’s eyes, which were beginning to bulge as Andrew continued to choke him. Andrew took no notice of Gwen.
“Andrew,” she said. When he continued to ignore her, she said his name again, more loudly, at the same time tapping him on the cheek until he looked down at her, though he still did not release his grip on the other man’s throat.
Speaking calmly, Gwen said, “Andrew, you need to stop this now. Get control of yourself.” When that still seemed to have no effect, she repeated sharply “Andrew!!”
Andrew snorted like a bull, then, with a grimace, finally pulled his hand from the man’s throat. The man immediately bent over in a fit of coughing as he struggled to get his breath.
“I’m sorry, Gwen,” Andrew said in a remarkably calm voice. “One moment please.”
Andrew looked about until he saw his friend Christopher Gadsden, a short, thick middle aged merchant with a bald pate, pinched face, and permanent scowl.
“Christopher,” Andrew said gruffly, “you have dueling pistols, do you not?” Gwen’s face turned white with shock, but she said nothing.
Gadsden, well known for his mercurial temper, replied “Aye, I do, Andrew.”
“May I borrow them?”
“Of course. And I’ll act as your second if you like.”
“Thank you, Christopher. Can I merely challenge him to a duel here or is there some ritual?”
“There are rules,”3 said Gadsden, a veteran of several duels. “As your second, I have to visit him tomorrow and formally deliver the challenge. He has to have time to say a public apology. When do you want to do this?
Andrew stepped around Gwen. He placed his hand on the bleeding man’s shoulder and leaned near his ear. “Saturday morning at dawn. The race track. God help you if you make me hunt you down.”
The man snapped his body upright, knocking away Andrew’s hand. “Get off me, you mad dog!” he spit. Then to the crowd, he said in a loud voice. “All of you saw this. You’re witnesses to this attack.”
The man shook himself, as if to put all of his parts back in their correct alignment. Taking a handkerchief from the pocket of his coat, he began to daub the blood from his face. With a glare at Dr. York, he turned and stormed out of the room, a hundred sets of eyes following his progress.
When he was gone and out of earshot, Gadsden said, “Andrew, you can’t hunt him down if he chooses not to show. That would be murder.”
Andrew gave an angry grunt. Raising his voice so that he could be heard throughout the silent ballroom, he said to the guests, “My apologies to all of you. That . . . individual, if you do not know, was another physician in town. Stillwell is his name. He accused me of killing my son through incompetence. Please, ignore this and continue about your business.”
Gwen had been about to raise a thousand arguments against Andrew engaging in a duel before she heard his brief explanation of what had happened. Now, though, her face stony, she realized that she could no more stop this than King Canute could stem the tides.4 Nor did she think she wanted to.
“Aim true, Husband.”
1 “Mulatto” is an archaic term referring to a mixed race person, usually a person born of a white parent and a black parent. By law, whether any child born was born slave or free depended on the mother’s status. If the mother was a slave at the time she gave birth, then the child was considered born into slavery.
2 Educating slaves in South Carolina was lawful prior to 1740. After 1740, it remained lawful to teach a slave to read, but nothing else. [See Endnote 57]
3 Virtually every European society from Roman times through the mid-19th century allowed for dueling. A duel allowed two people to engage in voluntary mutual combat without fear of any legal penalty for the damage they inflicted, but such duels had to be conducted formally. [See Endnote 58]
4 King Canute of 11th century England commanded that the tides go out. He proved that his power had limits when, instead, the tide rose. [See Endnote 59]
∞∞ 14 ∞∞
Thursday, March 20, 1760; One day having passed
The York Home, Church St., Charleston, S.C.
If honor were profitable, everybody would be honorable.
St. Thomas More, circa 1500
Andrew had just sat down with his family for the noon meal when a knock came at the door. He and Gwen turned questioning looks upon each other.
Wiping his mouth with an embroidered linen napkin before laying it on the table, Andrew rose and announced to no one in particular, “I have no earthly idea who that could be.”
He could hear Molly’s footsteps as she walked from the back of the house towards the door. Dr. York arrived in the foyer at the same time she opened the door, revealing a tall, thin man with graying hair. He was dressed in an artisan’s work clothes and held a folded document in his hand.
“Mr. Lyons, do please come in,” said Andrew. He was always pleased to see Timothy Lyons, the owner of the Carolinian print shop and the master for Robert’s apprenticeship.
“Thank you, Dr. York,” Lyons said as he crossed the threshold.
“Have you had lunch, sir?”
“Yes, but if you have any tea, I could do with a cup.”
“Molly, please bring a tea service into the sitting room.” As the two men walked into the sitting room, Andrew asked, “Is everything all right with Robert?
“Robert?” Lyons said absently. “Oh yes, he’s fine. He’s doing a wonderful job as my apprentice by the way. A very sober and hard working young man. Were all the apprentices I’ve had like him, my hair would not be gray. He’s at the shop now setting the type for a letter from Dr. Stillwell.”
At the mention of Dr. Stillwell, a look that was equal parts anger and resolve settled on Andrew’s face. “I assume that is a copy of his letter that you hold?”
“It is in fact, sir.” Handing the letter to Andrew, Lyons said, “He is refusing to duel, though he does not in any way apologize for his conduct except in the most perfunctory way. To the contrary, the letter is an attack upon your competency and stability. I’ve brought this here as I expect you will want to respond. If you are able to do so before six this evening, I will see to it that your response is published in the paper next to his letter.”
Motioning for Lyons to sit as Molly brought in a silver tea service, Andrew put on his glasses, then sat as well. Unfolding the letter, he began to read:
My name is Dr. George Stillwell. I am the youngest University trained physician in this city, having had the valuable benefit of being trained in the latest techniques of modern medicine but three years ago at the University of Glasgow. I am writing here to respond formally to a certain Dr. Andrew York’s request for a duel.
The background is thus. Wednesday last, I, along with many others, attended the funeral of George York, the recently deceased son of Dr. York, he being one of the older physicians still practicing in this city. Dr. York’s young son George had tragically died of yellow fever, a treatable malady, a few days earlier while under Dr. York’s care.
While at the reception afterwards to pay my respects to the York family, I was horrified to learn that Doctor York had chosen not to bleed his son, nor treat him with calomel.1 These are the most basic measures that would be taken by any modern and competent doctor2 to treat yellow fever and, I have no doubt, they might well have saved George York’s life if administered by a competent physician. It was unfortunate that, just at the moment I expressed those thoughts, unbeknownst to me, Dr. York was passing nearby. I do not apologize for expressing those thoughts. To the contrary, I stand by them, though I will admit that I would have refrained from expressing them on that sad day had I known Dr. York was within hearing distance.
After hearing me comment, Dr. York, flew into an uncontrolled rage and, rather than deal responsibly with his failures, chose to attack me instead. Dr. York’s instability is frightening. I have decided to refrain from pressing charges for his brutal assault upon my person, given that he was grieving on that particular day. But I have no intention of engaging this poor and misguided man in a duel. I have no desire to kill him, nor to have him kill me, nor will either solve the reality that Dr. York’s choices, particularly not to bleed patients, runs counter to all established medical knowledge. It violates the most modern and best practices of medicine as being taught now in University, and it places those many unfortunates who end up as his patients in grave danger. The man is a menace.
As Andrew finished reading, he looked upwards towards the ceiling and gave a short, mirthless laugh. “I . . . have been masterfully manipulated and outplayed. I see his game now.”
Addressing Lyons directly, Andrew said “Stillwell made eye contact with me as I was approaching him. He was in polite conversation and actually raised his voice to insure that I would hear him. He wanted to provoke me.”
“To what end?” asked Lyons.
“He has tried to build a medical practice over the past three years, and from what I understand, has barely managed to do so. This is an opportunity to create an argument with me, the most prominent physician in town, in an event surrounded by drama. Everyone in this town will read his attack on me, and perhaps a fair number will be fooled by his words. And indeed, there are more than a few people in this town so set in their belief that bleeding is the key to medicine that they have left my practice over the years to seek physicians who would bleed them. This will no doubt shake out many others who harbor such beliefs to the benefit of Mr. Stillwell.”
“Do you honestly think he would be so calculating as to do that intentionally at your son’s funeral?”
“Perhaps he did not foresee the violence of my reaction, but there is no doubt in my mind, after reading this, that he fully intended to spark a very public row with me. Couple blind ambition with a complete lack of honor and conscience and you have our young Mr. Stillwell. I will respond, sir.”
1 Calomel was a compound of mercury and chloride in white, powdery form. Many 18th century physicians prescribed it as a violent laxative to bring about “intestinal purging,” and as an emetic to cause vomiting. [See Endnote 60]
2 The mid-18th and early 19th century are often referred to as the “Age of Heroic Medicine,” when physicians would regularly administer treatments that would have an immediate and drastic impact upon the patient’s body. These treatments almost invariably consisted of bloodletting, induced vomiting by emetics, forced evacuation of the bowels through powerful laxatives and enemas, sweating, and blistering with small, hot irons. Only on very rare occasion were any of these treatments, even by accident, clinically beneficial, but at least it appeared to the physician and the patient that something was being proactively done and, just as the proverbial person who bangs his head against the wall feels better when he stops, the patient would feel comparatively “better” after a short recovery from the violent treatments.
∞∞ 15 ∞∞
The Carolinian Print Shop, Cumberland Street, Charleston, S.C.
I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health
of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief.
Excerpt, Hippocratic Oath (modern version)
“Hello, son,” Andrew said as he stepped over the threshold into the print shop where Robert was apprenticed. Andrew was surprised to find the shop empty but for Robert, who was bent over a small frame, adding typeset to compose a story. With his right hand he reached into a box divided into multiple small compartments, each filled with small, cast metal fonts. Andrew watched his son as he quickly transferred letters from the box into a composing stick held in his left hand.
“Hello, Father,” Robert responded. “Just one moment if I may. Let me set this in. . . .” Robert’s voice trailed off as he concentrated on the task at hand. Curious, Andrew walked over to his son and looked over his shoulder at the partially completed article, composed of the cast metal fonts, all resting neatly in a half empty wood-framed box. It looked very confusing, to the point that Andrew squinted his eyes, then put on his reading glasses to inspect his son’s handiwork.
“This looks like gibberish” said Andrew.
Robert laughed. “What I am putting together is the mirror image of what will come out in ink on the printed page. Here” he said, holding up a handheld mirror he used to check his own work. “look in the mirror.”
In the mirror, Andrew could read the printing, which now appeared as normal text. Recognizing it as Stillwell’s letter, Andrew said, “Ah! I see it really is gibberish.” Robert gave a derisive snort.
“Fascinating,” said Andrew. “I didn’t realize how tricky typesetting is.”
“It’s taken me all of the past two years to get good with it,” said Robert. Then glancing in the mirror himself, he said “ – though I still — ahh, look, I transposed two of the letters. I must remember to mind my p’s and q’s. Can you give me just a moment to fix this?”
“Certainly,” said Andrew, his eyes falling on a newspaper laying on a nearby table. The lead article was titled “Cherokee Attack Thwarted Twice At Fort Ninety Six.”1
“The Cherokee attacked Ninety Six?”
“That’s last week’s paper if you missed it,” said Robert.
“Good thing indeed they didn’t capture that Fort,” said Andrew, picking up the paper. “There would be nothing between the Cherokee and our low country. We’d be fighting a defense here instead of taking the fight to them. If history teaches nothing, Robert, it teaches that wherever the horseman of war rides, he always has his three brothers, famine, disease and death, at his side.”
Speaking now to himself, Andrew said softly, “What a disaster that would have been for the colony,” before turning his attention to the article:
Following word of the Massacre at Long Canes, what settlers remained in that back country area retreated to the safety of Fort Ninety Six. The garrison there contained 33 resolute White Men and 12 Stout Negroes, all armed. On February 3, 40 Cherokees launched an attack on the fort but were driven back. The militia restocked the garrison and began raising other forces, anticipating a second attack at this important spot. Unfortunately, a small pox epidemic broke out in the garrison, limiting reinforcement and degrading the defenders. Seeing an opportunity, a second Cherokee war party, this time of about 250 warriors, attacked the Fort on March 3. The brave defenders held out under constant fire for 36 hours. The Cherokee, upon seeing the approach of a relief column under Major Lloyd, broke off the attack and retreated.
The Cherokee left six of their dead on the field. Only two of the garrison defenders were wounded. During their attacks, the Cherokee burned down all but one of the trading post’s buildings outside of the palisade Fort at Ninety Six. Then during their retreat, the Cherokee burned the homes and killed the cattle of settlers along a twenty-two mile front.
Andrew put down the paper. While his son continued working on his typeset, Andrew looked about the room. The large printing press, not much advanced since the time of Guttenberg, occupied the center of the room. Near the ceiling, numerous lines of string ran from wall to wall, over which were draped perhaps 100 printed pages, their ink drying. Elsewhere were huge stacks of blank paper, bottles of black ink, and various other tools of the trade. It had the look of a busy shop.
Continuing to survey the room, Andrew’s eyes fell on a black wooden practice chanter with a reed on the end lying on a windowsill near his son. A practice chanter was used by players of the bagpipes to practice their skills in relative quiet, without the loud brash sound of the instrument itself.
“Oh, for the love of — ,” Andrew said. “Tell me you’re not still playing those fiendish, God-forsaken pipes. Sounds like the Devil with extremes of flatulence.”
Robert turned and smiled ear to ear. It was a running joke with his father, who really did not like the sound of the bagpipes. His mother did, and she taught Robert to enjoy the sound. When young Robert learned that his father didn’t care for the bagpipes, that sealed the decision he had to make at age seven when, by his mother’s edict, he had to choose a musical instrument to learn. Over the years, Robert had come to truly enjoy playing the bagpipes. His father complained bitterly every time he heard them.
“I practice at least half an hour every day, Father. You know how much I look forward to serenading you and Mother every chance I get.”
Andrew, his voice full of mock annoyance, said “I can disinherit you, you know.”
Robert laughed again. Then turning serious, he said, “Master Lyons told me you would be by sometime today with a letter we need to print. I’ve set Stillwell’s letter up to allow us room to put your response right next to it.”
Andrew said, “Good. So I take it you have read Stillwell’s letter in full?”
“I have,” said Robert.
Robert gave a an ironic laugh. “After living for years listening to you discuss your thoughts and tests on bloodletting as well as emetics, Father, I know the truth of it. I’m afraid others might not.”
“And that is precisely what Stillwell is counting upon. Very smart of you to note that. Unfortunately, he will get some of what he desires because I lost control. That is never a good idea, Robert. One should always remain clear of head and never give in to impulse born of anger. Hopefully you will do better than I, my son.” Handing his letter to Robert, Andrew asked, “Do I need to add a title?”
“No, we’ll do that. I’ll need to get this started to typeset right now. As it is, we’ll be working all night to get this edition out on time.”
Andrew nodded. “Robert, we need to have a short talk. When will you next be by the house?”
“Well, since I know that you will not be dueling on Saturday, I will come by for supper rather than an early breakfast. May I ask what this is about?”
“Good, and it’s about Molly.” Robert’s face took on a sullen cast. How did his father even know about that, he wondered.
Andrew said, ”I recognize that look. Lower your hackles, son. We just need to talk. We’ll see you on Saturday eve then.”
As his father left the shop, Robert opened and read his father’s letter.
Response of Dr. Andrew York to George Stillwell:
An incident occurred on the day of my ten-year-old son’s funeral. The incident involved Mr. George Stillwell, a man who claims to be a doctor and a recent graduate from the University of Glasgow. He moved to our city three years ago. He regularly advertises in our newspapers, claiming unique knowledge of cures for all manner of disease, along with the “latest” in treatments for every ailment and injury. I have watched his ridiculous puffery for these three years past with abhorrence. As I understand it, his efforts have resulted in soliciting a small number of victims for his malpractice.
Mr. Stillwell, during the reception after my son’s burial, accused me of being responsible for the death of my child. His claim that he did not realize I was nearby when he made his statements is a bold faced lie. He took notice of me as I approached, then raised his voice to insure that I could hear him. He did so with the intention of inciting me at my weakest moment. He succeeded. After beating him far less than he deserved for his unforgivable effrontery, I challenged him to a duel. This man has refused, which marks him as honorless and a coward, but he is far more – far worse, I should say – than that.
It is now clear to me that Mr. Stillwell deliberately staged this incident to elicit precisely my reaction. Mr. Stillwell desired the notoriety he has gained and is using it as an opportunity to expand the ranks of his medical practice at my expense. What kind of man would attack a father on the day the father is burying his son, so that the man can gain, he thinks, an advantage in business? I cannot imagine a man closer in character to the snake in the Garden of Eden.
Specifically, Mr. Stillwell claimed that if I had only bled George as “any competent doctor would do,” my son would have survived his bout of yellow fever. Let us talk about bloodletting and competent doctors, shall we?
We live in a great new age, an enlightened epoch in history, one defined by the search for objective truth in all aspects of life. We are on the cusp of understanding the physical world that God has created. Ancient shibboleths by which our ancestors tried to make sense of the world are falling by the wayside daily. As Sir Issac Newton,2 a man responsible for upending many of those shibboleths, wrote a century ago, “Plato is my friend — Aristotle is my friend — but my greatest friend is truth.”
So how does one find physical truth outside of the moral truths of the Bible? The great Sir Francis Bacon,3 and other giants of this new epoch, very much including Newton himself, have given us the method to do so, the application of which is called ‘science.’ The method is to develop a hypothesis, doing our best to limit it to a single variable that can be proven or disproven. We test the hypothesis and observe the results. Then, because we are all too human, we must ask others to proof our methods, replicate the test, and verify or disprove our results. If they are verified, then we have found an objective truth.
This brings us to bloodletting which, fortunately for us, is something the efficacy of which can be proven or disproven. In the second century Anno Domini,4 a physician named Galen, who practiced in ancient Rome, articulated a theory of medicine that included bloodletting as its most important part. He believed that an overabundance of blood created in the liver caused disease and retarded healing from wounds. His theories were not new. At their heart was the ancient belief in “four elements,” earth, air, wind and fire. The ancients believed that those four elements also dictated the human physical condition and, at the anatomical level, that meant our bodies were governed by four “humors” that need to be kept in balance. We have based much of the practice of medicine on Galen’s teachings for the past 1,600 years.5
Over those past 1,600 years, we have learned much that Galen did not know and, using the method of Bacon and Newton, we have proven that several of Galen’s theories were wrong. We know that the theory of four elements is without foundation, and thus it follows that so must be Galen’s theory of four humors governing our health. Two hundred years ago, Dr. Andreas Vesalius proved that Galen’s teachings on anatomy, most of which were based on dissecting pigs and monkeys, were inaccurate when it came to humans. Most importantly, over a century ago, the English physician William Harvey proved that Galen’s beliefs about blood and its production in our bodies were completely wrong. He proved definitively that the liver is not continuously producing new blood in our bodies, but rather that the blood we have is a set amount that circulates continuously. It is precious, necessary for life, and there is no proof that it at any time becomes excessive.
One would think that all of this alone would have led to a repudiation of Galen’s theories, particularly as to bloodletting, with physicians lining up in droves to use the modern method to test whether this ancient practice helped or harmed patients. That it has not is a condemnation of the practice of medicine by fools – and it appears there is no greater fool than Stillwell. Not I. In light of what I learned at the University of Edinburgh about Vesalius and Harvey, I vowed to treat Galen as Sir Isaac Newton treated Plato and Aristotle.
My oath as a physician is an ancient one. It can be summarized in part that I may do no harm. Early in my career, I practiced bloodletting and emetics as part of every treatment, just as physicians have done since Galen, just as Mr. Stillwell does, though he ridiculously claims such treatments to be “modern.” I could not, in my early practice, justify withholding such common treatments without a base against which to test. For five years, I kept records of how I treated each patient and how they progressed. And when I deemed the number sufficient, as I treated new patients who matched the condition of my old patients, I merely stopped bleeding and emetics as part of the treatment.
My results have been definitive. I have yet to find a condition for which bloodletting and emetics provided an increase in any positive outcomes. To the contrary, I have found a direct relationship with improved survival and more rapid healing when I did not do bloodletting and emetics. That has been as true for disease, from Yellow Fever to small pox and malaria, as it has been for injury. I have, over the past three years, been in contact with other physicians of good repute – and that does not include Mr. Stillwell – to inform them of my results and ask that they similarly test the efficacy of bloodletting and emetics.
Mr. Stillwell is a charlatan and a rogue who will make outlandish promises with no basis in reality in order to get your business. In the best of cases, he gives false hope. In most cases, he will do you harm. Either way, the honorless scoundrel that he is, Mr. Stillwell will have your money in his pocket and be all the happier. For those of you unable to discern his character or who are so foolish as to take his promises at face value, please, do not darken my door. You are deserving of Mr. Stillwell.
1 This article is an amalgam of several news stories, partly being select quotes from originals articles published in the South Carolina Gazette, circa March 15, 1760. Ninety Six was the unusual name given to a very small settlement established at an important road junction in the back country of the colony of South Carolina. [See Endnote 62]
2 Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726), was the founder of classical physics and one of the leading figures of the scientific revolution during the Age of Enlightenment.
3 Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was the father of the “scientific method” and his books arguably marked the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment in England.
4 Anno Domini, usually stated by the initials A.D., means “In The Year Of Our Lord.” [See Endnote 65]
5 Perhaps the most important of Galen’s theories to which 18th century physicians still clung was the “miasma” theory, that disease was spread through bad air and noxious smells. It wasn’t until widespread use of microscopes allowed people to see parasites, bacteria and viruses not visible to the naked eye that the “germ theory” of disease replaced the miasma theory in the late 19th century, leading to the most significant advances in medicine in all of history.
∞∞ 16 ∞∞
Friday, March 21, 1760; One day having passed
Cooper River Docks, Charleston, South Carolina
In a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.
Thomas Jefferson, Query XVIII, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1782
Paul lit his pipe and gratefully breathed in the smoke. He and Andrew were each enjoying a pipe just across from the docks, standing in front of the warehouse Andrew owned for his shipping business. They were surrounded by a wave of humanity that, even in an era when people did not regularly bathe,1 smelled of body odor and stale sweat so strongly as to be stomach churning. Usually Paul, like most men, would carry a scented handkerchief or a small bag of aromatics for times such as this. But he had neither at the moment, so he used the tobacco smoke to battle the stench as best he could.
“I do appreciate this, Andrew,” Paul said, referring to the supplies Andrew’s men were loading onto a nearby wagon, where James already sat on the seat board. Even as he spoke, Paul’s eyes were firmly fixed on the ships now tied up at the docks. Some were loading cargo, others unloading.
The sight was impressive to Paul, as well as to James, as neither had ever been to the docks. The ships, the largest of which were great three-masted ships of 300 tons burthen,2 looked gigantic to Paul’s eye, and their miles of rope and rigging complex beyond his comprehension.
Then there was the sheer industry of the swarms of people on the docks, each doing separate tasks. It strongly reminded Paul of the ordered chaos of an ant colony. There were sailors, as well as hundreds of stevedores loading and unloading the various ships as far as Paul could see. Some of them moved with cargo in a steady stream into and out of the York warehouse, just one of the many warehouses lining the docks. Two of the men, one an older black, the other a young white, both in the loose fitting clothes of sailors, were in the process of loading up the wagon in which James sat with goods according to a list Andrew had given them. It was already filled near capacity.
Andrew took his pipe from his mouth and released a long exhale of smoke. “No need to mention it, Paul. Gwen and I were both so happy to see you and to have you here when we lost George. You were truly a great comfort. Thank you. And we deeply appreciate what you’re doing for Little James.”
The two men were silent for a minute. Then Dr. York said, “I’m sending two men to ride with you and James to your home, then come back with the wagon.”
“There’s no need for that.” Paul said.
Andrew replied “You’re too trusting a soul, Paul. I never send anything out of the city without an armed escort. I’m certainly not going to neglect that now, when the cargo includes my relatives.”
“It’s safe enough along the King’s Highway3 from here to Georgetown, Andrew, and I’ve never heard of any problems on the old Indian trails I take from there to Indiantown.”
“That may be your experience, but mine is somewhat more checkered. It is fairly safe along the coast and then going to Camden, but anywhere southwest by west of there is lawless. And with the Cherokee now at war with us . . . well, better safe than sorry.”
“Again, I do appreciate it, Cousin. At least James and I won’t lack for company on the trip. Who will be our chaperons?”
“The two men loading out your wagon. They’re two of my sailors not long into port. It will be another month before they set sail again, so this is a chance for them to earn some extra money. Cassius, the black man, is a bosun, and the young white man is Theodore, his bosun’s mate. Actually, you’ve already met Cassius’s son, Dennis. He was the apprentice you met on the third floor the morning when we first visited George.”
Paul nodded thoughtfully for a moment. “I was surprised at how well-spoken young Dennis was. Priscilla and I have a slave but I can hardly understand him. Anyway, I thought it was against the law to educate slaves.”
“It is, but I don’t have slaves. Cassius is a free man, as are his wife and son. Dennis is quite smart. As to slavery, the only place slavery makes economic sense in the West is on the agricultural plantations, and even then only for growing the heavily labor intensive crops, such as rice, indigo, and tobacco. I hear tell that the Muslims still chain African and European slaves to the oars in the Mediterranean Sea, but slavery isn’t practical on Western sailing ships.”
“So all of these blacks that I see on the docks and ships here, are they free?” Paul asked, his tone belying his surprise.
“Many are. As I say, all of mine are. Free blacks don’t have a lot of options for employment in the colonies, the Southern ones especially, but one option they do have is on merchant ships and as stevedores and harbor pilots. Almost four in every ten of my crews are free blacks. And if you go up to the Northern colonies, you’ll find ship’s crews there are similar. Though I would wager that a good portion of the blacks in the Northern ports are runaway slaves from the South.”
“So why are you training blacks in your medical practice?”
Andrew smiled. “Part of why we’ve been so successful at the shipping business is that we have very professional crews, most of whom have been together for years. A big part of that is we pay them very well. A second big part is that we take care of them. Being a sailor is a dangerous business, Paul.”
With his pipe clenched firmly between his teeth, Dr. York used both hands to gesture towards the sailors aboard the ships. “Rare is the sailor who goes more than a year without injury, and rarer still is the sailor who hasn’t faced death from scurvy or some disease picked up at a foreign port. Every sailor you lose to injury or disease means a slower voyage and a higher turnover.”
“So what –”
“Patience, Paul. Let me finish. Most any ship that you go aboard, and oft as not even in the Royal Navy right now, has at best a ship’s doctor in name only. It’s usually just a person with a tiny amount of medical training or, if he is one of the rare trained doctors, he’s somehow compromised. Many of the trained doctors are there only because they’re drunkards or somewhat insane, and cannot seek safer, more profitable employment elsewhere. Regardless, whether trained or not, they’re more likely to kill you than cure you. It is a poor way of doing business.
“You sail on one of my ships, though, and my ship’s surgeons, all but one of whom are black, are quite competent. I’ve personally trained every one of them. They are all children of my current or former sailors. Each is as good a doctor as you will find anywhere. We don’t lose many of our crew to injury or disease, and the sailors appreciate that greatly.”
“Why blacks? I saw both white and black young men at your office. I assume most of them are apprenticing with you.”
“You assume correctly. You said yourself when we walked to my home on your first day here that a university-trained physician must do well in the colonies. You were right. For two million souls in the colonies right now, there are probably no more than 200 physicians like me, with a university degree in medicine. We command high fees and most of us have practices just treating the wealthy.
“The next best thing to be is a doctor who has learned his trade as an apprentice to one of these university trained physicians. After seven years of it, you can go to most any town and make a decent living. If you’re white, that is. Most of my white apprentices have no desire to put to sea when they can make a comfortable living on land. That same option doesn’t exist for blacks. Unfortunate for them, but fortunate for my shipping company and our sailors. And I pay our ship’s doctors a premium for their medical skills.”
“I had never realized any of this about merchant shipping,” Paul said. “I thought. . . .” Paul’s voice trailed off as he tried to order his thoughts.
Andrew added, “The reason you’ll find no slaves as sailors on the merchant ships is because they have a marketable skill and hundreds of opportunities in foreign ports to jump ship. Captains from every country are always on the lookout for skilled crew and they don’t care about any color other than the color of money. And a skilled sailor, let alone a ship’s physician, is a valuable trade indeed. True, as I said a moment ago, I pay the ship’s physicians extra, but even then, with the money I save keeping my sailors healthy and loyal, that alone is probably worth four to five hundred pounds a year over my costs.”
“Your mind is an abacus, Andrew,” Paul said with a smile.
“You could never give a businessman a higher compliment,” Andrew replied.
“So do you deal in slave trade at all with your shipping?” Paul asked.
Andrew took a long inhale on his pipe before answering. “There is a lot of money to be made in it, but no, not at all. That’s not that unusual among the major shippers. Probably the biggest shipping company in the colonies is run by Thomas Hancock and his nephew out of Boston. They don’t ship slaves at all. I can’t say why they don’t, but for myself and my partner, Captain Bill . . . Let me put it this way. Have you ever been on a slave transport or seen slaves just off the ship from Africa?”
Paul shook his head.
Andrew spoke, disgust coloring his voice. “Those slave ships are an abomination of filth and disease. And the slaves. . . . As a physician, Paul, it offends me to my core.
“One of my first jobs in this city was to act as a port physician, examining slaves for disease as they came into port. A person who has never seen those ships and their wretched cargo would be hard put to imagine it. It is a vision of Hell. And the trips are as lethal for the crews transporting the slaves as the trips are for the slaves themselves. A slaver can expect to lose a fifth of his crew and over a tenth of his slave cargo on the trip from Africa.”
Paul shook his head, horrified. “I never realized it was that dire.”
1 Bathing was very rare in 18th century European cultures. Most people would wash just their face and hands each day, and they would change those garments worn next to the skin if they could afford to do so. People often used scented clothes, handkerchiefs, and nose gays to mask noxious smells of body odor – be it their own or others. [See Endnote 67]
2 “Tons burthen” was a technical term for the cargo capacity of a wooden sailing ship as determined by a mathematical formula. Where “Length” refers to the length of the ship in feet, from stem to stern post, and where “Beam” refers to the height, in feet, of the tallest beam on the ship, the tonnage of a cargo ship = (Length – (Beam x 3/5)) x Beam x Beam/294
3 The King’s Highway was a 1,300 mile long road commissioned by King Charles II in 1650 and finally completed by the colonists in 1735. It was a road connecting all of the colonies, starting in Boston and terminating in Charleston. The South Carolina leg of the road ran parallel to the coast, connecting Charleston to Georgetown and then north to Wilmington, N.C.
∞∞ 17 ∞∞
Cooper River Docks, Charleston, South Carolina
To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, 1776
William “Bill” Drake, fifty three years old, trim, hard and weather-beaten from spending the better part of his life at sea, stood up from behind his desk as he saw Andrew enter the warehouse. Bill, one of the wealthier men in Charleston as a result of his long and successful partnership in the shipping industry with Andrew, dressed like a sea captain even on shore. He wore neither ruffled shirt nor stockings and shoes. Rather, he wore a plain white shirt opening shy of his neck. His vest and breeches were both dark brown, the former decorated with subdued gold patterns. His breeches tucked below the knee into black boots with silver side buttons. Around his waist, he wore a wide black belt fastened with a silver buckle. Attached to the belt was the dirk Bill had received when he was a lieutenant in the East India Company.1 It had a bronze, lion heads pommel, the symbol of the East India Company, and a grip of ivory. The blade was eighteen inches long, curved and made of the finest Indian wootz steel.2 He never appeared in public without it.
“I didn’t expect to see you for a few more days,” Bill said across the half empty warehouse.
Andrew, who normally spent an hour or two a day attending to the business end of the shipping partnership, had been absent ever since George had come down with yellow fever.
“It’s about time I came back and earned my keep,” Andrew said with a sad smile. “Besides, I was just outside with cousin Paul seeing him off.”
“That was a very nice service you and Gwen had for George” Bill said. “Drink?”
“Do we still have any of the gin?” Andrew asked. He always kept the office stocked with small beer, Madeira wine, mead and gin.3 All but the Madeira came from Andrew’s own brewery a little northwest of the city.
As Andrew stepped across the threshold into the office of the warehouse, two men, obviously father and son, one about fifty years old, the other about half that, both dressed in black and wearing black Yemmenite Kippahs, rose. The two ran the Cohen & Son Counting House,4 though their only client was Andrew. The eldest, fifty year old David Cohen, greeted Andrew.
“Shalom, my friend,” said David, coming from around his desk to shake Andrew’s hand. “It is so good to see you back.”
“Thank you,” said Andrew, “and thank you and, I think it was the entire Jewish community5 who showed for George’s funeral. That meant much to Gwen and I, David.”
Taking Andrew’s hands, David said, “Such a sorrow, such a sorrow. Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim . . . May God console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Andrew, whose interaction with the large Jewish population of Charleston dated back twenty years, knew the import of those Hebrew words. For a Jewish person, there could be no more sincere words of comfort and sympathy. “Thank you, my friend,” said Andrew.
As Bill handed a small glass to Andrew, half filled with gin and the juice of a quarter lime, Andrew turned to David and his son, Daniel, and asked “May I pour you a glass of Madeira?” Andrew knew that David and, indeed, most of the Jews in Charleston shunned liquors, but like everyone else of the era, out of necessity they consumed small beer and wine as their primary beverages. And while father and son well knew they were welcome to drink of anything in the office without request, the import of the moment was Andrew offering to serve them. Both accepted.
After Andrew handed them their drinks, Daniel said, “Dr. York, we have your accounts ready for your review for the last two ships as well as the quarterly accounts for the apothecaries and brewery.”
Andrew smiled and nodded at Daniel. “Thank you. I’m not up for looking at them now. I doubt that I could give them the concentration they deserve. I’ll do it in a few days.”
With that, Andrew walked to the huge map that occupied much of the northern wall of the office. It was a map of the coastal areas bounded by the Atlantic Ocean with all of the 130 ports in which the York & Drake Shipping Company traded at one time or another. On the map were placed colored pins, each flagged with the name of one of the company vessels and showing their expected locations. On a table below were company books for each vessel detailing their current crew, their manifest, planned ports of call and an estimate of their times to and in each port. On the far left side of the map were two columns, one for ships in port at Charleston, another for ships in maintenance and repair at the Drake shipyard on the opposite side of the Cooper River. The shipyard was owned and run for the past eight years by Bill’s 33 year old son and master shipwright, Thomas.
The map showed eight pins with yellow flags in various British and other European ports. Andrew used the yellow colored pins for the partnership’s ocean-going vessels, most of which were brigs6 of 200 to 250 tons burthen. A ninth yellow pin was shown outside of Charleston’s Harbor, indicating that it was expected to arrive at port in the next few days. Three other yellow pins showed ships in the Drake Shipyard.
There were another twelve red pins on the map. These were smaller vessels, schooners of 100 to 150 tons burthen, most used in the lucrative Caribbean and South American trade. Besides those ships, the partnership maintained a dozen other single mast coasters and a few other small ships to ply the rivers, mostly bringing goods from the plantations to the York wharf.
Bill stepped up next to Andrew. “Would you like me to bring you up to date?”
Andrew shook his head, “No need at the moment unless there is a crisis. Has there been any issues arise while I’ve been absent.”
“No, we have everything under control here. The only outstanding issue I can think of that you need to address is getting together the investors for The Nautilus,”7 Bill said, referencing the new ship Bill’s son, Thomas, was building for them at his shipyard. It was to be their flagship, a copper bottomed, three masted barque8 of 300 tons burthen. Fully loaded, it would have almost twenty feet of draft below the waterline, thus making it the largest ship that could still be brought into Charleston Harbor. “My son tells me the copper plates have started to arrive and he expects to have the ship ready for launch by November.”
Andrew nodded. Taking the final drink of his gin, he set down the glass and said. “Well, two things I need to warn you about, Bill.” The two men spent the next few minutes discussing the likelihood of a small pox outbreak and its effect on their shipping. Then the conversation moved on to the ominous warning Andrew had received from his brother John, that the British government was about to crack down on American shipping.
1 The East India Company was a corporation formed in 1600 to trade with the nations of abutting the Indian Ocean. It eventually became the most profitable corporation of the era [See Endnote 70]
2 Wootz steel was a high carbon steel made in India between the 6th century and 18th century. The steel was legendary for its resilience and ability to hold an edge. Wootz steel was easily recognizable by the banding patterns in the steel. No one has been able to fully reproduce wootz steel since the process died in the 18th century.
3 Gin was the most popular liquor in England throughout much of the 18th century. [See Endnote 72]
4 Jews were known throughout Europe, from the Medieval period onward, for their association with finance and trade. [See Endnote 73]
5 By 1760, the Jewish population of Charleston was the largest to be found in any city of the thirteen colonies. Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jews began immigrating to Charleston in 1695. By 1760, there was also a large population of Germanic Ashkenazi Jews in Charleston. [See Endnote 74]
6 A brig was a merchant ship, usually 150 to 480 tons burthen, with two masts and square rigged sails. [See Endnote 75]
7 The insurance industry was still in its infancy by 1760. Shippers often self-insured by selling an ownership interest in each ship to limited partners.
8 A barque was a merchant vessel, usually between 250-700 tons burthen, with three masts, and a combination of both fore-and-aft sails and square sails. [See Endnote 75]
∞∞ 18 ∞∞
Saturday, March 22, 1760; One day having passed
Church St., Charleston, South Carolina
Base – Ball
The ball once struck off,
Away flies the boy,
To the next destined post,
Then home with joy
Thus Britons for Lucre
Fly over the main;1
But, with pleasure transported,
Return home again.
John Newton, A Little Pretty Pocket Book, 1744
It was early evening and the Yorks, minus Robert, had finished their supper almost an hour before. Robert, who had been working on yet another broadside from the Royal Governor, had been unable to make it in time to eat his meal with the family. But make it he eventually had, and now he sat at the dinner table, eating while conversing with his mother and Henry. Anne and Abigail were both upstairs in the family library on the third floor, reading their assignment for the day, Chapter 1 of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Molly was also on the third floor with Malcolm, where she was reading to him from A Little Pretty Pocket Book.
Andrew had retired to the sitting room, well lit by candlelight, though even that was not bright enough for Andrew. He augmented the candlelight with a lamp burning extremely bright from sperm whale oil.2 Sitting at one of several small tables in the room, Andrew had two documents before him. Picking up first the broadside Robert had brought home with him, Andrew began to read.
By Order Of The Royal Governor Of South Carolina, Henry Lyttelton
MUSTER OF THE MILITIA
All commanders of militia in the districts of this colony are hereby ordered to muster their units at noon on the 10th day of April next.
Pursuant to the Acts of the General Assembly of South Carolina, all able bodied free men between the ages of 16 and 60 years of age are required to report for this muster, and are to arrive at the muster armed with a good and sufficient musket or long rifle, at least 20 cartridges of good powder and ball, and in addition, a sword, bayonet or hatchet. Each militia unit should be prepared to depart no later than 21 April next on an expedition to severely chastise the Cherokee Indians and any French units found in Cherokee territory, and to bring relief to our garrisons under attack at Fort Prince George and at Fort Loudoun.3 Overall command of the expedition shall be under Colonel Archibald Montgomery of His Majesty’s Royal Army.
Additionally, and pursuant to the Acts of the General Assembly of South Carolina, each owner of slaves must bring or send to the muster his able-bodied and trustworthy slaves, armed by the owner in the same manner as free men. Said slaves shall serve in the ranks of the militia. Those slaves who are noted for their distinguished service or who kill one enemy in battle, as witnessed by one or more white witnesses, shall be entitled to their freedom, a payment of ten pounds, and clothing, to wit: a livery coat and pair of breeches made of good red negro cloth,4 turned up with blue, and a black hat and a pair of black shoes. In the event that a slave is freed, killed, or wounded, the owner shall be compensated from the public treasury. In the event a slave is permanently injured and thereafter unable to work, he shall be provided for out of the public treasury.5
Colonel Montgomery, commanding an infantry regiment of 1,200 soldiers drawn from units of the Royal Scots and the 77th Regiment of Foot, departed New York a week ago. He and his soldiers are expected to arrive in Charleston by the first week of April. . . .
The remainder of the document gave instructions for militia units outside of Charleston to send officers to the city to meet with Colonel Montgomery. It did not pertain to Andrew so, after briefly scanning it, he set the document aside.
“And so it begins,” Andrew thought. He was more than a bit troubled that the British army was sending such a comparatively small force. He knew that the Cherokee could field upwards of 3,000 warriors and that they would have the advantage of fighting on terrain they knew well. On the one hand, these were battle hardened British soldiers and they would be augmented by the militia. On the other, the dangerous arrogance of the British officer corps was legendary.
“I hope this Colonel Montgomery is no General Braddock,” Andrew thought, before turning his attention to the other document before him. It was a letter from his brother John, sealed with the York family coat of arms embossed on a mixture of resin and red wax.
John York had been a rising star in the British Navy six years earlier. Then, while serving as First Officer aboard the HMS Defiance, a 58 gun, fourth rate ship of the line,6 he was involved in an engagement in the Cape of St. Lawrence. The Defiance and two other British ships had come upon a flotilla of three French warships, one of which was the Alcide, a 64 gun French frigate. The battle lasted for over five hours, with the British victorious in the end. But the action had cost John York his left leg below the knee and his left eye. Infection during recovery had almost killed him and effectively ended his military career aboard ship. His benefactors, for few rose to high rank in his Majesty’s navy without benefactors, did not forget him however. They arranged for John to become a senior assistant to the First Lord of the Admiralty in London.
Andrew had only seen his brother twice since immigrating to the colonies two decades ago. The last time was eight years before, when the HMS Defiance had made port in Charleston for repairs and supplies. Still, the two had always kept in touch by letter and were as close as two brothers could be under the circumstances.
January 17, 1760
My Dear Brother,
I do hope this letter finds you and your family well. Do please give my special regards to Gwen. I will forever marvel that you were able to marry such a lovely and charming woman. Why she agreed to the union is still a mystery.
As to the life of my own family, our son Peter, upon his thirteenth birthday, was officially accepted as a midshipman in His Majesty’s Navy. Helen and I could not be more proud of him. He is now being trained and will ship out as part of the crew of the HMS Superb upon its commissioning later this year.
I received your last letter of 10 November, along with the pipe of Madeira wine7 you sent to help us celebrate the New Year. It arrived at a time when we were celebrating the Quibron Bay victory here in the ministry. I set it up in our board room where it proved the perfect libation. Lord Anson, the First Lord of the Admiralty, has asked me to convey to you his heartfelt thanks.
It looks like our five centuries of war with the French have turned the corner. It will take the French Navy decades to recover from the beating we’ve given them, and their Army is not in all that much better shape. There is still more fighting to be done to put the final nails in their coffin, but what a great time to be British.
Great, but not perfect, unfortunately, at least for you. I was over at Mr. Pitt’s office the other day in the company of Lord Anson. Lord Anson presented a complaint to Mr. Pitt that our naval commanders have observed a robust trade that, despite the war, continues between our North American colonies and the French sugar islands in the West Indies.–
Andrew’s interest was piqued. “This looks like trouble,” he thought moments before he was interrupted as Gwen and Robert entered into the sitting room.
“Hello, Father,” Robert said with a smile. “I take it you’ve read the notice for the muster.”
Andrew, still holding the letter in his hand, removed his reading glasses and gestured for Robert and Gwen to sit. “I have. Why?”
“I’d like to go too. I can ride and shoot a long rifle as well as anyone in this town.”
“Aye, that you can. But . . . you’re fifteen Robert, still too young. And –” Andrew held up his hand, cutting off the start of another argument from Robert, “I do not have a good feeling about this. We may well be sending too small a force.”
Robert snorted, clearly thinking this unfair. “Are you going?”
Dr. York nodded his head. “I’m a major in the militia, Robert, and in charge of its medical for our Charleston units. Besides, I need to be there if we locate your Uncle James’s little girl. You do recall that the Cherokee may well have taken her?”
Robert looked ready to argue. Andrew held up his hand to forestall him yet again and said “And do remember, Robert, even if your mother and I agreed that you could go, you are bound by your apprenticeship contract. Mr. Lyons would have to let you go if you were sixteen, but you’re not. As it is, were you to go now, he would have to agree to you going, given your age, and I doubt that will happen. But I will make a promise to you Robert. I will keep you informed by letter of the progress of the expedition. You can use my letters for your paper. Mr. Lyons ought to appreciate that. Now if you will give me two minutes, I want to finish reading this letter from your uncle.”
Gwen, seeing the familiar seal, asked from her perch on the sofa, “Is that from John?”
Dr. York nodded, then put on his glasses. “He says to give you his regards and that he enjoyed the wine we sent him. Oh, and that his son is now a midshipman in the Royal Navy.”
Gwen fell silent as her husband resumed reading.
As I listened to Mr. Pitt, I recalled our discussion of many years ago, where you had talked about how important the French island trade was to the colonies, and how smuggling had been ongoing as a means to get around punitive tariffs. We never discussed the involvement of your shipping company in the smuggling trade, and, just as I did not want to know then, I do not want to know now.
But – I will warn you that I left Lord Anson’s meeting with the understanding that Mr. Pitt was going to order the Royal Governors in America and the West Indies to tamp down severely on smuggling and the “illegal and pernicious” trade with the French. Moreover, Mr. Pitt asked Lord Anson to order that the Royal Navy begin stopping ships and conducting a search if the Captain has any reason to suspect smuggling. I do not wish you to be caught unaware brother.
Andrew looked up from the letter. He scowled and said under his breath, “Damn them.”
Gwen looked at him with concern. “Is there a problem, Husband?”
“Not yet, but one seems in the offing. We will have to wait and see. No one in government in Britain seems to understand a thing about business and even less about the economies here in the colonies.” With that, Dr. York resumed reading.
Let me end on a humorous note. You no doubt recall that our old King, Charles II, after whom your city is named, was a rake who kept several mistresses, though by later in life, it was down to just two, Nell Gwyn, the comic actress and one time prostitute with a very colorful past, and a Catholic woman, the Duchess of Portsmouth. I was reading in a magazine the other day about Nell and her antics. She was in a carriage heading towards the Royal Palace when her coach came under attack by a mob yelling and hollering that she was a “Catholic whore,” apparently mistaking her for the Duchess of Portsmouth. Nell stopped the cab, stepped out and said, “Good people, you are mistaken. I’m the Protestant whore.” They let her pass unmolested after that.
Oh my, to love this country, one has to love it with the thousands of warts it wears. I look forward to your next letter, Brother.
Your humble servant ,
P.S. I have enclosed two pamphlets making the rounds in London at the moment. They discuss the contours of what we should demand in a peace treaty with France. The first is A Letter Addressed To Two Great Men. I am not sure who wrote it. The second pamphlet, Remarks To A Letter . . . , responds to the first. Both would directly impact on the American colonies.
Laughing at his brother’s anecdote, Andrew removed the pamphlets from the envelope and set them on the table in front of him, intending to read them later. Rising from his chair and pocketing his glasses, he extinguished the whale oil reading lantern, making the room seem very dim in the remaining light from the many beeswax candles scattered about the room. Sitting down next to Gwen, he handed the letter to her so that she could read it later.
“It is ironic to think,” Andrew said, “that Gutenberg created the printing press to spread the word of our Lord, but it seems to get even more use of late commenting on the scandals of the day.”
Robert nodded. “I won’t argue that point with you, Father. Our best selling runs are almost always when there is a scandal in Britain or an argument of one sort or another between two of the well known locals. Our run with your letter and Stillwell’s actually sold extremely well. Best in five years, Master Lyons tells me.”
Andrew, a note of frustration in his voice, said “Only because I lost my temper, fool that I can be.” Andrew still hadn’t reconciled himself to having been manipulated by Dr. Stillwell.
“What will happen with all of that now?” Robert asked, hoping for the sake of the print shop that his father might sue Stillwell for libel.
“Nothing at all. I’ve had my say and I am not going to give that scoundrel another opportunity to gain attention at my expense.”
“Not going to sue then?”
Andrew had a good chuckle at the note of sadness in his son’s voice. “I admire your business sense Robert, but sorry, no. Not that I didn’t consider it, but the truth is I could never win the lawsuit given the state of things. I would be fighting not just Stillwell, but the settled science of 1,600 years, even if it is completely wrong. Far too many people just hear the label ‘science’ and being fools, accept it as received wisdom without ever checking to see whether the conclusion actually is based on sound science.”
“Well that’s too bad,” Robert said sincerely. He understood his father’s passion on this topic and was able to guess at the frustration he must be feeling.
“On to other things,” Andrew said.
“Molly,” Robert said, knowing full well where this conversation was heading. “How do you even know anything about that?”
Gwen spoke. “Neither your father nor I are blind, Robert.”
“Well, we’re not doing anything wrong.” Then, with a note of defiance, he said “And if you think that you can make me stop seeing her just because she is a serving girl, I refuse to do that”
Andrew looked at Gwen with raised eyebrows. She shook her head and gave a short, ironic laugh.
“Your father said something very similar to his father a long time ago, Robert, when he left a Duchess at the alter for a poor Ulster-Scot girl working in a print shop. And you know your family history. We wouldn’t be worth the appellation of Levellers if we judged Molly because of her position rather than the content of her character.”
“Thank you, Gwen. Quite right, all.” said Andrew. Addressing his son, he leaned forward. “I am not going to make the same mistake with you my father made with me when it comes to meddling in your most private affairs. We barely spoke for the last 15 years of his life. All I ask is that you have your eyes wide open when it comes to women and your future. Molly’s Catholicism8 shouldn’t matter, but I can assure you, it will, and, if this goes anywhere, anyone with a score to settle will use it against you.”
“Molly’s Catholic?” Robert said in surprise.
“She hasn’t told you?” Gwen asked. Andrew immediately followed, asking incredulously, “And you haven’t figured it out after two years?”
Robert, opened mouthed, shook his head no to both questions.
“But she goes to Church with us most every week at the Meeting House. What –”
Gwen responded. “She does that simply because there are usually no Catholic services available, Robert She’s not always there. That’s because two years ago I made arrangements with some of the local Catholic families for her to attend services in their homes when a Catholic priest comes through town. It is all done very privately.”
Robert sat back in his chair and nodded.
Andrew asked “Have you not ever noticed the rosary she has with her . . . constantly?”
Robert responded, “You mean that bracelet with the cross hanging off?”
Andrew closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to put his son’s ignorance in perspective. “Not a cross, Robert, not a cross. It is a crucifix. I guess that I should be rather heartened that hatred of the papists has receded to the point that, having raised you in this city, no one has made a memorable issue of it in your presence.”
“What is the –” Robert was asking before Andrew cut him off.
“I’ve not got the time tonight to educate you on the nuances of Catholic theology,” Andrew paused for a moment and shook his head at his son’s surprising lack of knowledge, then said “—and that includes the rosary. And it might be best for you to educate yourself on that.”
“Robert,” Gwen said, “your father and I are responsible for Molly. That is what we wanted to talk to you about tonight.”
“Actually,” Andrew added, “we’re far more responsible for her at this point than we are for you. You don’t live under this roof anymore. You’re a young man now, and I would like to think a very good one in your heart. You’ve either learned right from us or you haven’t. That is not what concerns us at the moment. Molly is our charge now. She is a good, hard-working, and honest girl. She’s God fearing, even if she is a papist. And your mother and I are going to watch out for her interests as like we would our own daughter’s until she leaves this house.”
“Robert,” Gwen said, “Molly is an orphan. When we took her on as an indentured servant, we became, on some level, her surrogate parents, or at least that’s the way we see it. You have no idea how lucky you’ve been, Robert, to grow up as you have, with both parents taking care of you, in a good home and not having to worry about money. Molly has had a much, much harder road to hoe, son. She is living in a colony two thousand miles from where she grew up, and she has no family of her own here. Has she ever told you of how she ended up coming to this colony?”
Robert shook his head. “No, not really. She’s talked a little about her parents and how lovely her home was in Ireland, but little bits and pieces, nothing more. Certainly nothing to explain how she came to America.”
“’Tis a dire story, even for indentured servants.9 I know of it because of Bill,” she said, referring to her husband’s sea Captain partner who had brought Molly to Charleston from Ireland, “and a letter he brought with him from a Reverend your father knows in Ulster, recounting what happened. This is a girl who knows poverty and starvation. I’m not going further into details. She can tell you if she wants to, or not. This is not one to push her on, Robert.”
Andrew, his brow furrowed, said, “Our concerns, Robert, are two-fold. I don’t need to know the details of your relations with Molly, but you need to know our concerns. One is that Molly’s background . . . I will tell you this much of it. Three years ago she was an orphan wandering the streets and near dead from starvation. That means that she may hunger for attention now, which is something different from the two of you being so akin that you’ll be happy over the years, as your mother and I have been, once the initial burst of emotion and desire ends. You are going to have to go slowly with her if this goes anywhere, so that both of you are sure.”
“Father, we’re not –”
“Robert, stop. I know you’re fifteen and this is probably just young flirting. But in another year, you will be of age to marry, even if on the young side. And you are old enough now to make a man’s mistakes. Which brings me to our second concern. I hope that you will not take advantage of this girl. I sincerely don’t think that you will. But should you, and should she suffer because of it, you will not be the God-fearing man I had hoped and believed you are becoming. In that event, we won’t forgive you, Robert. Do not expect to set foot in our presence again. Am I being clear?
Robert pursed his lips and nodded. “Yes, father.” Although he felt defensive, he also felt somehow comforted that his parents were so concerned with Molly’s welfare. He cared a lot for Molly, though he didn’t know if that was love. He just knew at this point that he wanted to be with her whenever he could, and he wanted her to be happy.
1 “Lucre” is an old expression for money. “Main,” as used in the context of the poem, refers to the high seas. Britain by 1744 was a mercantile empire that depended on foreign trade for its wealth.
2 Oil from sperm whales was prized in the 18th century for providing the most luminous and odorless source of light. [See Endnote 79]
3 The Colony of South Carolina built and manned two forts in Cherokee lands. The first was Fort Prince George built near the Lower Towns of the Cherokee nation. The second was Fort Loudoun, built in 1756 among the Overhill Towns to the west of the Appalachian Mountains in what is now known as the Tennessee Valley. It was 156 miles from the nearest place of potential colonial reinforcement, that being Fort Prince George.
4 The term “negro cloth” as used in the law probably refers to “homespun” cloth made in the colony from flax and hemp. [See Endnote 81]
5 This is an amalgam of quoted material from the militia laws of South Carolina through 1761. There were some minor variations on these provisions between 1704 and 1759. Slaves formed a significant portion of the militia from the founding of the colony through the Anglo Cherokee War. Additionally, every time the colonists went to war, they did so with contingents of Indian allies. The Catawba Indians, the Chickasaw Indians, and others invariably took part as allies, just as the Cherokee had through 1758.
6 The term “ship of the line,” referred to warships with enough cannon that they would be included in naval battle formations. [See Endnote 83]
7 A “pipe” was a barrel capable of holding 141 gallons of wine.
8 It is difficult to convey the level of hatred and contempt the average British Protestant had for Catholics in the years between England’s Reformation, led by Henry VIII in the 16th century, and the American Revolution. It was a visceral hatred with a bloody past that did not abate in America and Britain until the early 19th century, and even today, one can still see vestiges of it, particularly in Ireland. [See Endnote 85]
9 Between one-half and two-thirds of all European immigrants to the American colonies between 1630 and 1775 came as indentured servants. [See Endnote 86]
∞∞ 19 ∞∞
Wednesday, March 26, 1760; Four days having passed
Backyard Garden, York Home
Church St., Charleston, S.C.
This Indenture, Made the Fourth Day of August in the Twenty-ninth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second King of Great Britain, . . . William Buckland . . .
Agree[s] . . . [to be] a faithful Covenant Servant, [to] well and truly serve the said Thomas
Mason . . . in the Plantation of Virginia beyond the Seas, for the Space of Four Years, . . .
And the said Thomas Mason . . . in Consideration thereof, doth hereby . . . Agree . . . to provide for
and allow the said Wm Buckland all necessary Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging, . . .
Extract From A Contract For Indentured Servitude,1 1755
The full moon made sitting outside on one of the wrought iron benches that lined the perimeter of the York’s backyard garden like sitting under candlelight. Twisted in her seat to face Robert, Molly could clearly make out his facial features, though the colors were mostly washed out in the semi-dark.
“Robert, I’m na’ sure we should be out here. Your parents –”
“My parents already know we are seeing a lot of each other.”
Molly’s mouth dropped open. Robert smiled as he leaned over and, putting his fingers under her chin, gently pushed up until her mouth closed. “Bugs,” he said.
“And they’re na’ mad?” she asked in surprise. She had hoped they wouldn’t be if they ever found out, but she had seen too much of the dark side of life. Bitter experience had left her constantly worried that the sword of Damocles might be about to drop whenever something good was happening in her world.
“No, they’re not mad, Molly.”
“And they don’t mind ya’ paying attention to their servant girl?”
“No. Actually, it was the other way around. They’re very protective of you. The other night, they read me the riot act2 about treating you well.”
It took Robert a moment to realize that Molly had started to cry. He moved next to her on the bench and put his arm around her.
He couldn’t fathom her tears. “Why are you crying, Molly?”
“Your parents, Robert. I knew that they were good people and nice . . . but I never knew anyone cared enough to be watching out for me.”
He hugged her tight for a moment then pushed her back to arms’ length so he could see her. She had her head down. Robert smiled and said “Oh Lord, Molly. We all care about you.”
After letting her compose herself for a minute, he said, “I have no idea what your life was like before you came here. You never seem to want to talk about it. But for you to feel like this, I am going to guess that it was not easy.”
Molly shook her head but said nothing, just continued to stare off downwards. Then she looked up, took Robert’s hand and kissed it. “No. T’was na’ easy.” Robert was immediately struck by the mature idea that this girl was much stronger than he thought.
“Would you please tell me?”
She flashed a broad, sad smile to him, one that didn’t touch her eyes. He noticed that her sing-song Irish brogue became much stronger now. Apparently she was trying to lose it in America, but now all pretense of that was gone, and she sounded like a young child back in Ireland at the moment.
“It’s sad and embarrassing,” she said, then glanced away.
Taking a deep breath, she said, “I was born near Londonderry. First time I heard your mother’s voice, Robert, I could tell we had grown up within fifty miles of each other. Did ya’ know that?” she asked. When Robert shook his head, she said, “Well, that was a Godsend to me, when I heard her voice as we got off ship in this town. It gave me real hope that everything was going to be okay then.”
She paused for a moment, then said. “I was born third and last in me family, but me two older brothers were dead by the time I was ten. The smallpox took ’em. Me Pa . . . we had a small farm, but then he died in an accident shortly after my brothers died. Me Ma couldn’t keep up the payments, so we lost the farm. We moved to Ulster. Ma thought she could get work there, but what she got was consumption instead, almost soon as we arrived. I tried to care for her, but she was passed from me in a few months.
“I had started work in a sewing shop, but the man in charge . . . . Let’s just say, after me Ma died, he turned out to be a bad man and leave it at that. I ran from there but . . . I had nowhere to go.” She glanced briefly at Robert before looking away again.
“I begged for food on the street for a few months and tried ta stay out o’ trouble.”
She paused and took a deep breath. “I think I weighed no more than 5 stone there by the end. I was starving. Really starving and it’s very hard, Robert, harder than ya’ can imagine. It gnaws at ya’ like a grim monster, never stopping til ya’ can think of naught else. And it was starting to turn cold at night. Looking back, I was probably at the very end o’ me rope then. I probably would na’ have lasted another month before I’d have joined the rest o’ me family.”
Robert, discomfited, hugged her close. Pushing him away with a small, sad smile, Molly continued. “Most o’ that time, I can na’ even remember it. But I remember clear as day everything what happened on that last day, when the starving ended.”
“I was just wandering to no place in particular, when I smelled fresh bread. Oh, Robert, but it was the prettiest thing I ever smelled. It was coming from a small house on the far side o’ a Presbyterian Church. I was so hungry . . . the only thing I could think o’ was getting to the bread. When I got close by, I could see the loaves on a rack through an open door. I don’t remember deciding what to do. I just ran in and grabbed a loaf. Oh, the cooking ladies, they started hollering and I took off like a cat with its tail on fire.
“I ran around the Church and straight into the belly of the Reverend who ran the Church.” She gave a small laugh as she remembered that event, but it was very brief. She soon turned sad and serious again.
“I was so surprised . . . for a moment I just stared at him. Then his cooks came running after me yelling ‘Thief’ and I remembered to run again. But I didn’t get even a step before the Reverend cuffed me hard with the back o’ his hand. It sent the bread flying in one direction and me in the other. I remember going to grab the bread. It was all I could think o’ doing. Then when I looked up, there was nowhere to run. I was cornered. So I backed meself up against the wall and sat down and started stuffing the bread into me mouth as fast as I could. In between bites, I begged him na’ to hit me anymore.
“It took me a minute to realize no one was coming to take me precious bread. The Reverend was just staring at me with his hand up to stop his servants. He asked me my name and a couple o’ other questions. I must have been quite a sight. Filthy dirty. Near a skeleton. And blood from my nose where he cuffed me. I was so scared, but then I wasn’t anymore. It’s funny, but I don’t remember why. The Reverend was not gentle, but I think now it may have been that his voice got softer. I just remember this sudden hope that here was an angel who was going to help me.
“Let me stop here for a moment Robert. There is something you don’t know about me. I’m —
“Catholic,” Robert said, finishing her sentence.
“How did ya know?” Molly asked in surprise.
“It’s the Frankincense that gets into your skin at the masses. Any Congregationalist with a good nose can sniff out a Catholic from ten feet.”
Molly laughed. “I think ya’ be fibbing me, Robert York.”
“And I think you’re right, Molly. Father told me it the other night and implied, at least, that it shouldn’t matter in a fair world” Then with a smile, Robert added, “At least so long as you don’t try and convert me. I hate fish on Fridays.”
Molly put a hand on Robert’s cheek, a true smile finally blooming on her face. Then dropping her hand, she resumed her story. “Well, the world’s not fair. It matters – and it matter a hundred times more in Ireland. The Protestants, they hate the Catholics o’er there, even though it be a Catholic country. I expected nothing from a Protestant over there but evil. But it wasn’t like that at all with this Reverend. He bent down and looked at me, then said to his servants, if I remember right, “This is the most feral and pitiful creature I’ve ever seen” – or something to that effect.
“He told his servants to take me inside – clean me up, feed me, and give me new clothes. I thought I was dreamin’. For two seconds, I was so happy. Then one of the servants, an old woman, spat out ‘She’s a papist, that one.’ She said I wasn’t deserving of any charity. I tried to lie then and say I was Protestant. I didn’t realize that my mother’s rosary beads, the one possession I had from her, were showing from beneath me cuff.
“Before I got far into me tale, the Reverend pulled back me cuff and called me what I was: a liar. I burst into tears, certain now that I’d be hanged for thieving. Then the Reverend asked me if I prayed with the beads every day. And I told him the truth. Yes.” Looking up to Robert, she said, “And I still do, Robert, every day. Tis’ the first thing I do in the morn and the last thing I do before bed.”
She dropped her eyes for a moment and paused to gather her thoughts. “I think that is what decided it for the Reverend. He said he would help me, regardless o’ me faith. He had the servants clean me up and feed me. They gave me a soup and buttered bread. I still remember every bite and mouthful. They gave me new clothes . . . well, not new, but clean anyway, and warm. “
“The Reverend went away for awhile. Then when he came back, he said that, if I wanted, I could start a new life in the American colonies. I’d have to get on a ship with a Captain he knew who was in port. The Captain turned out to be your father’s business partner, Bill. And I’d have to agree to become an indentured servant. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. But it didn’t matter. That ship meant life to me. I never in me life thought I would be hugging a Presbyterian minister in Ulster, but I did then.”
She paused for a long moment, reflecting, before she shook her head to clear her thoughts. “So . . . that is the story,” Molly said, a bit embarrassed. “I’m here because o’ a very kind man in the Reverend. John Anderson was his name. And one day, I hope to get a chance to return to Ulster and hug him again.”
“And now I am leading a good life here in Charleston, because o’ God, because o’ Bill, because o’ your ma and pa . . .,” then with a big smile, she said “and maybe . . . p’haps, even because o’ you, Robert York.”
Robert didn’t quite know what to make of her story. She had lived through things he had never even imagined. And here she was, a beautiful and happy girl, a girl who never complained, and a girl who made him happy just being around her. He decided that he would think it all through later. For now, flush with emotion, he leaned over, took Molly’s face in his hands, and kissed her.
They stayed there for maybe ten minutes, hugging and kissing, before Robert led her from the bench. “Let’s go inside and get under the light. I need you to tell me about your rosary and the Catholic crucifix. My religious education is sorely lacking.” Then adding in a whimsical tone, “Father was shocked.”
“Oh,” said Molly as they walked, “That reminds me. Your Pa’ is going to give me smallpox tomorrow.”
2 The phrase “reading them the riot act” is based on an old British law, “The Riot Act of 1714.” That Act provided that, if an authority determined that a gathering of people was “riotous and tumultuous,” he could read out the terms of the Riot Act to the gathering. If they failed to disperse within an hour, the authorities could arrest and jail them for up to two years.
∞∞ 20 ∞∞
Thursday, March 27, 1760; One day having passed
Home of Lt. William Bull Jr.
Meeting St., Charleston, Royal Colony of South Carolina
The Practice of conveying and suffering the Small Pox by Inoculation has never been used in America nor indeed in our Nation, but how many lives might be saved by it if it were practiced? I will procure a Council of our Physicians, and lay the matter before them.
Rev. Cotton Mather, Diary, Entry for May 26, 1721
“A small pox epidemic,” Andrew said, as he settled into a handsome Chippendale chair opposite William Bull II, the Royal Colony of South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor. “It’s started William. I’ve started getting patients from different areas of town. I’ve canvased the other physicians and it seems we all are.”
William pursed his lips, then standing from behind his desk, moved to a table laden with crystal glasses and decanters. “Madeira?” he asked Andrew.
“Yes, thank you,” said Andrew. Andrew waited until William had poured them both a glass of the wine, then returned to his seat before continuing.
“I’ve seen two patients this morning with the smallpox already in their mouths and five others who are showing the flu-like symptoms. The others have got 18 confirmed cases of the smallpox and probably another 50 ready to start showing. And it’s from all different areas of town. But you probably already know this.”
“No, not at all,” said William. “I had only heard of two other cases of the smallpox so far. What you’re telling me is shocking. We’ve had the odd case of small pox every year, but we haven’t had a smallpox epidemic in this city since . . . “ William trailed off, searching his memory.
“1738,” said Andrew. “Two years before I arrived here. I’d say we’re been very lucky, but that luck has run out now.”
“Have you told this to Governor Lyttleton yet?”
Andrew scowled and simply looked at William in silent response.
“I see,” said William, noncommittally. “What is it that you suggest that we do, Andrew?”
“My guess, William, is that half of the people or more in this city, free, slave and indentured alike, have never had the pox. My suggestion is that we hire every physician in the city and fund them to carry out variolation for free on every last man, woman and child in this town who has not had the smallpox. This is a public health crisis, William, and we need a coordinated response from the Royal Government.”
“Inoculate an entire town? Is there any precedent for this, Andrew?”
“Precedent, I don’t know, but necessity, yes.”
William stood up and walked around the desk, considering Andrew as he walked. Finally, leaning against the desk, he said, “Good Lord, Andrew. Is variolation even so much safer it is worth the risk? You know I’m trained as a physician, but I admit I haven’t kept up on it. There are so many claimed cures out there that turn out to be worthless, if not themselves dangerous . . . . Do we know for a fact that variolation is worth the risk?”
“Follow a few simple rules and it is. William, I’ve done at least 300 variolations over the twenty years since I’ve been in this city, including all of my children but the smallest. I’ve lost a grand total of 4 people from it. That number would have been near 100 if they had taken smallpox in the normal way. And the other 296 didn’t just survive . . . . Let me put it this way. The onset from variolation is 5 to 7 days after the procedure. After that the time frames are the same as with regular smallpox, but people are much less effected. There are fewer pustules and much less scarring, William, and I only have had one person go blind. Just so you know, I will be variolating the rest of my children, along with half my servants and a few others in about an hour. There is very little safer in our world than variolation done right.”
“I trust you –” William said, before Andrew interrupted him.
“Don’t do something simply because I say so,” said Andrew, it offending his core belief on how science should be treated. “Call over some of the other physicians in town tonight. Call Lionel Chalmers or either of the Murrays and ask them about variolation. I know it’s part of their practice.”
“Fair enough,” William said, stopping to sip his wine. “I have to tell you, Andrew, the governor isn’t the only problem. I know for a fact many of people of this city are dead set against variolation; they think it dangerous and ineffective. And a lot of the people I am talking about sit in the House of Commons. But let’s leave that aside for the moment. How do you suggest organizing this?”
“I have no idea how you’ll have to get the authority for this through the House of Commons on short notice. But from the medical perspective, this needs to move fast. Call a meeting of all the town’s physicians for Saturday at noon at Dillon’s tavern. We can figure out our supplies and assign areas to all the doctors.”
William rubbed his hand over his mouth. “Governor Lyttelton is still officially the Governor for another week. I will have to get his approval to authorize this, and frankly, I have no idea what he will do.”
“Actually,” Andrew said, “that should be the easiest part. Let him know, if he let’s you authorize this and it works, he can take all of the credit for authorizing it. And if it fails, well, it was the physician’s plan authorized by the Lieutenant Governor, himself a physician, and about which Governor Lyttelton was skeptical.”
“Do you really think him that arrogant and shallow?”
“Good Lord. Don’t you?”
∞∞ 21 ∞∞
Saturday, March 29, 1760; Two days having passed
Dock at White Point
About fourteen days [ago], four [pirate ships] appeared in sight of the town.
[The pirates] immediately took the pilot boat which was stationed on the bar,
and in a few days took eight or nine outward-bound vessels with several of the
best inhabitants of Charles Town on board.
Gov. of S.C. Robert Johnson, Letter to the Lord Proprietors of the colony, 18 June 1718, describing Blackbeard’s capture of ships and hostages outside the bar of Charleston Harbor, reprinted in The History of South Carolina Under The Proprietary Government, 1670-1719, Edward McCrady, 1897
It was 8 a.m. on a beautiful morning in Charleston. The sun was rising into a clear blue sky. The temperature was a bit on the cool side, a little below 60 degrees, with almost no wind. From their vantage point on a small dock at Oyster Point, Mrs. York, Anne, Abigail, and Malcolm looked south, across the Ashley River, which was so calm it appeared to be made of glass in the early morning light. Off in the distance, still at least 250 yards away, they could see six African men, all dressed in white, paddling a long canoe in their direction.
Both girls were dressed in navy-blue linen and cotton dresses along with red capes to fight the morning chill. Malcolm was dressed, as were all boys his age, in the same clothing the men wore. His hunter green coat, which brushed the top of his thighs, sat over over a brown waistcoat and breeches that buckled just below his knees. Mrs. York alone was dressed all in black, still in mourning for George.
In allowing her children to wear colors, Mrs. York was bucking custom, at least the custom among the British upper class, which dictated that her entire family, including children, should wear black for six months following the loss of a child. Mrs. York, however, thought that far too macabre. She intended to wear the black for a month and had relieved her children of black clothing the day after the funeral. Dr. York had also stopped wearing black the day after the funeral simply because he thought it inappropriate to make his medical rounds in a color associated with death.
Bored with standing still, Malcolm began to run up and down the beach, entranced by the hundreds of bleached oyster shells in and near the water’s edge that had given the area its name. “Malcolm,” yelled Mrs. York, as her youngest got a little too far away for her comfort. “Malcolm, you stay near us, or the pirate ghosties will be carrying you off!”
“Pirate ghosts?!” asked Anne, looking up to her mother, wide-eyed.
Mrs. York smiled down at her. The relationship the Charlestonians had with the Caribbean pirates in the late 17th and early 18th century was often problematic, sometimes profitable, and always colorful. Everyone who lived in Charleston for any length of time heard tales of how Blackbeard threatened to execute hostages and burn down the city, how Stede Bonnet terrorized Carolina shipping until he and his crew were caught and hanged, and how Anne Bonnie started off her pirate career near Charleston.1 Likewise they heard rumors that pirates would come spend their gold and sell their stolen wares in the city, and that more than a few of them – those that had made enough coin and still had their head attached to their neck at the end of their careers – retired to Charleston.
“About fifty or sixty years ago,” Mrs. York told the children, “our town had a big problem with pirates. Your father’s told you some of the stories, I know. Stede Bonnet was the worst for our city, pirating all of our shipping between here and the Carib. Well, the governor tried to put an end to it and sent out a ship to capture Bonnet and his pirate crew. They brought them back to town, held a trial, then they hanged Bonnet and about 20 other pirates right here where we be standing. They buried them in the marsh over there,” Mrs. York said, pointing off to her left.
Both girls turned and pressed their backs up against Mrs. York, then scanned the marsh warily for any signs of ghosts.
Mrs. York chuckled. “I don’t want you two to be scared. Nobody’s ever claimed to see the ghosts of the men they hanged that day. I’m just saying that to keep your little brother in line.” The tension left the girls’ bodies, but neither took her eyes away from the marsh, just in case.
When Mrs. York checked on Malcolm, she saw that he was closer, but at the water’s edge, bending over to grab one of the oyster shells.
“Careful, Malcolm,” she yelled, “those pretty shells have thorns.” Moments later, Malcolm popped upright, holding a bloody thumb he had just cut on the razor’s edge of one of the shells. Rolling her eyes, Gwen called for son to come to her. Malcolm stared at his cut for a moment, shot an accusing look at the river, and scampered to his mother.
While Malcolm was making his way towards her, Mrs. York reached through a slit in the side of her dress to find the small bag she had tied around her waist over her petticoat. 2 From it, she withdrew a simple, white, cotton handkerchief.
When Malcolm reached Mrs. York, there were no tears. Instead, he silently thrust out his right hand for her inspection. A a few drops of blood oozed from his thumb. Mrs. York dabbed away the blood and inspected the small wound. There was a bit of sand and dirt in it. As her own mother had done with her, she spit on her son’s cut and cleaned it out as her son crinkled his face. She then folded the handkerchief twice, put it on her son’s cut, and told him to hold it down until the bleeding stopped.
“Stay here with me now, Malcolm. The boat’s almost here.”
Malcolm looked at the men in the approaching canoe then looked up to his mother. “Are they the pirate ghosties?”
Nearby, Abigail sighed, implying the question “How dumb can you be?” Malcolm ignored her, too young still to understand her unstated criticism.
Mrs. York smiled down at her son. “No, they’re the men come from Mrs. Pickney. They’re going to row us over to her home on Wappoo Creek. It’s about an hour from here.”
The canoe was only about a hundred yards away now and brought clearly into focus. Mrs. York had seen the great canoe many times before but never ridden in it. Eliza Pinckney and her family used it regularly during good weather to travel the six nautical miles from their plantation home on Wappoo Creek to Charleston.
The canoe, painted a dark brown was some 40 feet long and 6 feet wide at the mid point, hollowed out and expertly crafted from a giant cypress log. It was manned by six slaves and Mrs. York could hear them singing a rowing shanty to keep their paddling synchronized. Eliza had long ago told her that the trip by their canoe took a little over an hour, while traveling overland to Charleston was seventeen miles and took most of a day by carriage.
1 Legend has it that at least some of Captain Kidd’s crew passed through Charleston as well.
2 This was what passed for a woman’s “pocket” in the 18th century.
∞∞ 22 ∞∞
Bluff Plantation, St. Andrews Parish
West Ashley, S.C.
Honoured Sir, — Your letter by way of Philadelphia [that] I duly received was an additional proof of that paternal tenderness which I have always Experienced from the most Indulgent of Parents from my Cradle to the present time, and the subject of it is of the utmost importance to my peace and happiness. As you propose [an arranged marriage to] Mr L. . . . I am sorry I can’t have Sentiment favourable enough to him to take time to think on the Subject, as your Indulgence to me will ever add weight to the duty that obliges me to consult what best pleases you, for so much Generosity on your part claims all my Obedience.
But as I know ’tis my Happiness you consult, I must beg the favour of you to pay my compliments to the old Gentleman for his Generosity and favourable Sentiments of me, and let him know my thoughts on the affair in such civil terms as you know much better than any I can dictate; and beg leave to say to you that the riches of Chile and Peru put together if he had them, could not purchase a sufficient Esteem for him to make him my husband. . . .
Eliza Lucas, 17 or 18 years old at the time, extract from a letter to her Father who was in Antigua, circa 1742, politely but firmly declining her Father’s attempts to arrange a marriage for her, reprinted in Women of Colonial & Revolutionary Times, Volume 10, 1896
By the time the boat arrived at the plantation, the African slaves, who had been rowing for two hours, were soaked through with sweat. Titus, a middle-aged man and the captain of the boat’s small crew, jumped from the rowboat and climbed two rungs up a wooden ladder to the dock at Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s Bluff Plantation. He immediately secured the rowboat to the dock with ropes at stern and bow. Three other slaves, dressed as Titus was in a white ruffled shirt and and white trousers, followed him up the ladder while two remained in the rowboat to help Mrs. York and the children onto the dock.
Mrs. York politely thanked the men for the lovely trip. The children, following her example, did the same. At that moment, Eliza Pinckney walked from the door at the rear of her plantation house to greet her guests.
Mrs. York smiled at the sight. Mrs. Pinckney was dressed in a lime green, silk day dress with three-quarter length sleeves. Mrs. York assumed that the silk came from the silk worms that Mrs. Pinckney had imported to try and start a silk industry in South Carolina. As far as Mrs. York was concerned, Eliza was one of the prettiest women that she knew, and certainly the most accomplished.
Gwen and Eliza hugged warmly when they met just off of the dock.
“It is so good to see you, Gwen, and under much better circumstance than I dared hope. I was so worried that Andrew was going to engage in that duel.”
Gwen scowled. “May the Devil take young Dr. Stillwell for angering my husband so, and being a coward to boot.”
“True,” said Eliza. “But I have known a few good men who’ve died in duels. And none were single, unattached men. Every time, it seemed, they left behind wives and children. I’m glad this duel didn’t happen. If all men were as cowardly as I am, this world would be a more peaceable place.”
Laughing, Gwen turned to the children, who had stopped a few feet behind her. “Come, children, and meet Mrs. Pinckney.”
Gwen chose to introduce Anne first, for she had long noted that Abigail always took her cues from Anne on how to act, both in public and with the family. Gwen had found herself surprised near a year ago at how easy it was to fall fully into the role of adopted mother to Abigail. She was already concerned about how white Charleston society would accept Abigail as she matured, but she did not have that worry for the moment with Eliza.
“Eliza, may I present my daughter Anne?” Anne curtsied as she had been taught. Eliza returned the curtsy.
“The last time I saw you, Anne, you were still a babe in your mother’s arms. My, but you’ve grown – you’re even starting to look like your mother. You should thank your stars for that.” Anne smiled.
“And this,” Gwen said, “is Abigail, our newest addition.”
Eliza had watched Abigail’s eyes on Anne when Anne was introduced. She suspected that Abigail probably felt unsure of herself.
After the two had exchanged curtsies, Eliza said, “Abby – may I call you Abby? – I am so happy to meet you and have you here today.” Taking Abigail’s hand and kneeling down until she was at eye level with the girl, Eliza said, “I hope we are going to have fun and get to be good friends, you and I.”
Gwen watched as Abby gave a big, lovely smile, her tentativeness visibly melting away. “The magic of Eliza,” Gwen thought.
“And who is this moppy-headed lad?” Eliza asked, turning her attention to Malcolm.
“I’m Malcolm” he said, forgetting to do anything else until his mother gently prodded him with her knee.
“Oh, sorry,” said Malcolm, who then bowed to Eliza. Eliza returned it with a curtsy. “And a fine gentleman you will be.”
“Liza,” Gwen said, “before we take another step onto your property, you need to know that my husband variolated these three two days ago with small pox. He said they pose no danger to anyone at the moment, and won’t for at least another few days, but if you want us –”
Liza, nodding her head, interrupted Gwen. “I don’t know if you remember, but it was your husband that variolated my children before we left for London. I recall it taking about a week for them to take the disease. And frankly, of all the doctors in Charleston, Andrew is the one I trust. So this is not something about which I will worry for a moment.”
Addressing the children, Eliza said “I’m sorry my own children aren’t here to play with you. They’re still off at boarding school in Britain. But, I hope we will have much to entertain us. I am not sure if you’ve had breakfast, but I have some treats and hot chocolate out for you on the table inside if you want to run up there. Lisa will meet you in there,” Eliza said, referring to the middle-aged slave who, along with her 18 year old daughter, Mary, ran the plantation’s kitchen. “Your mother and I will be there shortly.”
Malcolm took off at a full run, easily outdistancing the girls, who took off after him but were hindered by their ankle length skirts and block heeled shoes. As he got close to the door, he yelled over his shoulder, “I’m going to drink all your hot chocolate, Abby.” Abby yelled back, “You better not,” and picked up her pace as best she could.
“There seems to be a competition,” Eliza said, smiling.
“Oh. If you only knew,” said Gwen. “Those two . . . well, three, really . . . Anne as well, take great delight in teasing each other.”
By the time the women walked into the rear door of the plantation home, the children were already at a small table in the sitting room, eating rice pudding topped with custard and raspberry jam 1 and drinking hot chocolate. Gwen mildly scolded them.
“Not waiting for us? And did any of you say grace?”
The children put down their food, each looking sheepish. “No, Mother,” Anne said.
“Abigail, say grace, please,” Gwen said to her.
Adults and children both bowed their heads. “Thank you Lord for this food we are about . . .” Abigail paused for a moment and her eyes fluttered open as she thought. “For this food we’ve already started eating. Please bless this food, please bless this home, and please bless everyone in it. Amen.”
All present repeated “Amen” as they opened their eyes. The children began to eat and drink again.
With the children once again focused on their food, Gwen took a moment to appreciate how comfortable and beautiful Eliza’s home was. A fire crackled in the hearth, driving out the morning cold. The walls were painted verdigris green and the couches and chairs scattered throughout the room were a warm rosewood with sporting damask cushions. The effect was welcoming and stimulating, without being overwhelming.
Indeed, the whole home had that atmosphere. It was much busier and more ornate than Gwen’s house, and filled with fine furniture and knick-knacks of exquisite make, but it was neither pretentious nor uncomfortable. Under another hand, both might have been the case, Gwen thought, but Eliza had arranged it so that everything seemed to fit.
1 This is a colonial era desert lifted from the lifted from the recipe book of Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale. [See Endnote 91]
∞∞ 23 ∞∞
. . . I rise at five o’Clock in the morning, read till seven — then take a walk in the garden or fields, see that the Servants are at their respective business, then to breakfast. The first hour after breakfast is spent in music, the next is constantly employed in recollecting something I have learned, least for want of practice it should be quite lost, such as french and short hand. After that, I devote the rest of the time till I dress for dinner, to our little Polly, and two black girls who I teach to read, and . . . I intend for school mistress’s for the rest of the Negroe children.
Another scheme you see, but to proceed, the first hour after dinner, as the first after breakfast, at musick, the rest of the afternoon in needle work till candle light, and from that time to bed time read or write; . . . Mondays my musick Master is here. Tuesday my friend Mrs. Chardon (about 3 miles distant) and I are constantly engaged to each other, she at our house one Tuesday I at hers the next, and this is one of [the] happiest days I spendat Wappoo. Thursday the whole day except what the necessary affairs of the family take up, is spent in writing, either on the business of the plantations or on letters to my friends. Every other Friday, if no company, we go a vizeting, so that I go abroad once a week and no oftener. . . .
Eliza Lucas, Letter to a friend, circa 1741, reprinted in Women of Colonial & Revolutionary Times, Volume 10, 1896
With the children settled, Eliza and Gwen disposed themselves comfortably in two graceful rosewood chairs with flower-embroidered damask cushions. On the small table between the two chairs was a tea service atop an ornate plate of highly polished black lacquer with gold filigree and oriental designs. Showing the graceful technique she had learned at her boarding school in England, Eliza poured a cup of tea for Gwen and one for herself.
After study the delicate painted porcelain cup in her hand, and taking a sip of the finely-flavored tea, Gwen could not resist an appropriate quotation:
For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crown’d,
The berries crackle, and the mill turns round.
On shining altars of Japan they raise
The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze.1
“Oh, I know that!” Eliza exclaimed. Eliza, like Gwen, loved literature and the two women were both prodigious readers. “It’s . . . ohh, I can’t remember the name.”
“Pope,” Gwen said.
“Pope! The Rape of the Lock. Now I remember,” Eliza said, calling to memory the poet Alexander Pope’s most famous work, a 1712 mock-epic satire of British high society. “I haven’t read that in years.” Before Eliza and Gwen could wander into a spirited discussion about the books they had read, Anne spoke.
“Mrs. Pinckney,” said Anne, “my Mother tells me you are the most famous woman in all of the colony. She said I should ask you why if I wanted to know.”
“Did she?” Eliza asked, her cheeks reddening. Anne nodded her affirmation. Eliza raised her eyebrows, giving her face a mocking, humorous cast that made the children laugh. ”I think your mother might be telling tall tales.”
At those words, Anne suddenly looked very serious and took up the task of defending her mother’s good name. “Oh, no, Mother never lies to us.” Then, correcting herself, she added, “Well, she does lie to Malcolm about pirate ghosties.”
Eliza laughed at that. “You have built a fine reputation with your daughters at least, Gwen. I have no doubt well deserved.” Turning back to Anne, she said, “I suppose your mother said that because of what happened with the indigo. That is a long story, Anne. Are you sure you want to hear it?”
“Oh, yes!” exclaimed Anne. “We’ve been waiting to hear it ever since Mother told us that you’re so famous.”
Abigail, always a little more reserved than Anne, nodded her affirmation. Malcolm was already bored and began looking about the room for anything that might catch his interest.
“First off, do you know what botany is?”
The girls were silent, which led Eliza to infer, correctly, that they did not.
“Let’s see how best I can explain this. Botany is the science of growing plants. What soils, what light, what drainage and temperatures in which they’ll grow. Of every plant, a botanist has to ask whether you have to grow them from seed or if they’ll grow from a cutting. Hmmm, actually, . . . let me show you something in my garden that’s very interesting, I think that seeing it will make what I’m about to say more understandable. You’ll like this, especially you, Malcolm, I think. Come outside, everybody. Leave your food and drink here, for we’ll be back in a minute.”
“Children,” said Gwen. “It’s chilly outside, so be sure to wear your cloaks or jacket.”
As the small group readied itself to go outside, Eliza called out “Lisa!” When the middle-aged black woman appeared in the doorway, Eliza asked that she have Jeb meet them on the east side of the house “and have him bring some of those worms and bugs he uses for baiting the fish.”
Once Lisa had vanished to execute this assignment, Eliza ushered Gwen and the children outside.
“Fifteen years ago, a friend of mine was traveling through the swampy area on the coast up around our northern border. She came across a most unusual plant and sent me several of them. I’ve been experimenting with them for years . . . . “
Eliza led the group around the corner towards the back of her house. Once there, she angled off to a sectioned area of the house garden that contained a row of five fairly small clay pots. In each was a rather unremarkable group of about four to six short, thick stems jutting up out of a single root in the center and terminating in strange leaves at the top. A few of the leaves were closed, but most were open. The leaves appeared to be two semicircles on either side of the stem with spikes around the rim of each leaf. The interior of the circles were a dull red with what appeared to the children to be a few thin red hairs poking out.
“May I present to you Dionaea muscipula, children, also know as the Venus plant.2 As far as we know, it is only found in one location in the world – in the swamps on our northern border. And it grows in soil that is so poor that no other plant can grow in it. I’ve tried growing it in better soils and they always die. But if you put this plant in say, a mix of moss and sand, where most every other plant would fail, the Venus plant thrives. That is strange, but it gets far stranger still.”
Jeb, a very old, thin, black man with a head of closely-cropped white hair walked around the corner of the plantation home, his steps surprisingly nimble. He was carrying a small wooden bucket in a hand disfigured by arthritis.
Jeb had lived at the Wappoo Creek plantation for almost fifty years. For most of his time there, he was the plantation’s carpenter, but arthritis and age had taken their toll. For the last ten years, Jeb was given the freedom to help out around the plantation when and where he could and to spend a part of most every day fishing. Eliza smiled at him and motioned for him to come.
“That is Jeb,” she explained to Gwen and the children. “He is the grand old man here. His job is to keep everybody’s spirits up – and he catches most of the fish we eat.”
“Good morning, Jeb,” Eliza said, as he neared.
“Mizz Eliza, mornin’ to you,” Jeb responded with a smile, showing that he had a surprising number of intact teeth for one so old. After greeting Eliza, he smiled and nodded towards Gwen and the children.
“If you would please do the honors, please, Jeb.”
Jeb did not need to ask for further explanation. He had been caring for these plants for years on Eliza’s behalf. They mostly took care of themselves, but once a month during spring and summer he would hand feed them a little. When guests were around, this feeding always made a wonderful show.
“Now watch closely, Malcolm,” Eliza said. Intrigued, Malcolm fixed his eyes firmly on the plant. The girls did as well.
Jeb picked a juvenile cricket out of his bucket and hovered it over one of the leaves until he was sure it was centered. Then he dropped it. The cricket landed in the leaf and didn’t move for a moment. The children were not impressed.
Then the cricket moved a bit as it positioned itself to jump away. In the blink of an eye the leaves snapped together, imprisoning the bug within its two leaves. The spikes on the ends of the leaves acted like bars around a jail cell.
As one, the children cried out, “Oooooh!” They pressed closer to the plant to inspect the now-closed leaf and the doomed cricket trying to escape its tomb.
“Oh, my word!” Gwen exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s a bit unsettling actually.”
Eliza smiled. “Carnivorous plants. . . . Carnivorous, children, means ‘meat-eating.’ It makes you wonder whether we might run into little Venus’s big brother in a swamp or jungle somewhere. The professors to whom I gave the plants in Britain were uniformly fascinated by its properties.”
“’Bout a week from now that’ll open up,” Jeb said, pointing to the leaves, “and that bug’ll be all gone. Eaten up.”
“Huzzah!” Malcolm exclaimed. “A plant that eats bugs!”
“Will it eat dead bugs?” asked Anne.
“Nah,” Jeb said. “Put a dead bug in there and it won’t do a thing. Got to be a live one that moves around some. The plant knows.”
Malcolm reached out cautiously to touch a plant that had its leaves still open.
“Go on,” said Jeb. “You can touch it. It’s not going to eat you. You too big a meal. It’d get fat and bust out of its stem.” Jeb laughed.
Malcom touched the spikes only to find them surprisingly soft – to him, at least. He was not quite yet old enough to look at it from a bug’s perspective. Then, getting brave, he put his finger inside and touched the red part of the leaves, ready to pull his finger away in a heartbeat if the plant snapped shut on his finger. But nothing happened.
“Now, watch, young’uns,” Jeb said, pulling a small worm out of his bucket. He dropped the worm into the plant Malcolm had just touched. Again, nothing happened until the bug started to move. Only then did the leaves slam shut, ready to digest its prey.
“So now you’ve seen botany in action.” Eliza said. “The botanist has to figure out how best to grow plants . . . even if that means learning how to feed them living bugs. Let’s go back into the house now and I’ll tell you more about how I learned to grow and use indigo.”
1 The “shining altars of Japan” refers to a Japanese tea service – i.e., teapot, cups, saucers.
2 The Venus Flytrap was discovered and sent to England circa 1760. The plant’s only natural habitat is in the swamps of the two Carolinas within a sixty mile radius of Wilmington, N.C. [See Endnote 93]
∞∞ 24 ∞∞
In 1733, I sent one of my journeymen to Charleston, S.C. where a printer was wanting. . . . On his decease, the [print shop franchise] was continued by his widow who, being born and bred in Holland, where, as I have been informed, the knowledge of accounts makes a part of female education, she not only sent me as clear a state as she could find of the transactions past, but continued to account with the greatest regularity and exactness every quarter afterwards, and managed the business with such success, that she no only brought up reputably a family of children, but, at the expiration of the term, was able to purchase of me the printing-house, and establish her son in it. I mention this affair chiefly for the sake of recommending that branch of education for our young females, as likely to be of more use to them and their children, in case of widowhood, than either music or dancing . . .
Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 1791
“When I was only a little older than you girls, I went to school in London,” Eliza said, now seated again with her guests in the sitting room. “Botany was my favorite subject. Indeed, it was one of the only subjects we were allowed to study. The school didn’t allow for women to study history, which I very much wanted to do. Nor did the school prepare us to run a business concern, though many women in Britain and her colonies are saddled with such responsibility during our lifetimes. But in addition to such things as writing a fine hand, learning our basic figures, dancing, and needlepoint, we were expected to learn about plants.
“I was sixteen when I left school and returned home. By then, my father had inherited three plantations in Carolina. My mother was quite ill. Sadly for her (and for me), my father, who was one of the King’s officers, was off in Antigua. When my poor mother passed away, it was left to me to run the three plantations –”
“You ran three plantations? By yourself? At sixteen?” asked Anne, her voice filled with wonder.
“Well, I had a lot of help, but yes. I was the person responsible for making all the final decisions at this plantation, which is about 600 acres, and at two larger plantations, one producing rice, another timber and pine tar. Thankfully, the people doing the work were good people, so the plantations ran smoothly. And fortunately I had a head for business.
“But all that is besides the point. I wanted to tell you about the indigo. My dear father knew of my love of botany and he used to send me seed packets from his travels to see if I could find another cash crop that would grow in this colony. I tried so many different plants and fruit trees here, but the most promising one was indigo. Do you know what indigo is?”
Abigail spoke hesitantly. “It’s a color, isn’t it? You were growing a color?”
Eliza smiled. “That’s almost right, Abby. It’s actually a plant that creates a blue dye. Indeed, those pretty clothes you’re wearing got their color from indigo dye. This afternoon, when it’s a little warmer, I’ll walk you around and show you how we grow the indigo plant, then harvest the leaves and, lastly, how we turn those leaves into dye.
“I’m not the first person to discover indigo dye, of course. For a long time, fabric makers in Britain have needed a lot of blue dye from indigo. Unfortunately for them, as little as twenty years ago, the French were the only ones who knew how to grow the indigo plant and get the dye out of it.”
“Perfidious French,” murmured Abigail, causing Anne to giggle.
Eliza laughed. “Perfidious French, indeed. My story will show you how true those words are, Abby.
“So, my father sent me some indigo seeds one year and I found that they grew well in our soil. I wrote to my father and he sent more seeds, along with a Frenchman skilled in turning the plant into the dye. What neither my father nor I knew was that he was a very bad man, that Frenchman.”
“What did he do?” asked Abigail.
“He wanted to make sure only the French could produce indigo so he somehow destroyed the process of turning the crop into a usable dye. I couldn’t figure out why our crop, which seemed to grow so well under his care, nevertheless would not make dye. Finally, I read all that I could on indigo and watched him very closely. I eventually figured out how he was deliberately ruining the crop as we tried to turn it into dye.”
“Children,” Gwen said, “I want you to remember that when Eliza figured out that the Frenchman was trying to destroy her crop, she was barely eighteen at the time. I know that seems old to you, but it’s actually very young for all the responsibility Eliza carried. When I was that age, I was struggling just running a small print shop in Edinburgh.”
Malcolm, now thoroughly bored, left his seat to wander around Eliza’s plantation home. No one else noticed. The girls were fascinated by Eliza’s tale.
“What did you do about the Frenchman?” asked Anne.
“Oh, I dismissed him immediately. He was not happy about it and put up quite a fuss as I had him removed. I then wrote my father, who sent out another man, an African familiar with the process. He was a great help. It took about another three years, but we finally had a good crop that we were able to turn into dye.”
Abigail looked confused. “But how did that make you famous?”
“If I had stopped there, I probably would not have been. But I could see a big market in Britain that we might be able to capture from the French, though it would take a lot more than my tiny 600 acres here. So I began giving away the seed. . . .”
“You gave it away?” asked Anne in surprise. Her father had lectured Anne fifty times if he had done it once on how things had value and you didn’t want to “give them away,” or for that matter, to sell them for less than they were worth. That the brilliant young Eliza would have done something so contrary to her father’s teaching confused her.
“Yes I did,” said Eliza. “Sometimes you give things away because it’s your Christian duty to help others in need. But on rare occasions, you do so because it is to your own advantage. With the indigo seed, I gave it away because giving the seed and knowledge away in that one instance meant a lot more profit later on. Do you understand what ‘profit’ is?”
Anne nodded. “Profit” she knew meant selling something at more than it cost you so that you could buy hot chocolate and pretty dresses. Abigail, who had not yet had the occasional benefit of Dr. York’s simplified explanation about profit and loss did not know this, but was too embarrassed to display her ignorance. She said nothing, making a note in her mind to ask Anne later.
“In this special case,” said Eliza, “I gave the seed away to every planter I could find in the low country, along with instructions on how to turn the indigo into a dye. Within three years, planters all over Carolina were producing so much indigo that the King put a six pence per pound premium on Carolina indigo, meaning we could undersell the French.”
The little girls, whose faces mirrored perfectly their interest and understanding, looked blank.
“What’s a ‘pound premium’?” asked Abigail at the same time that Anne asked, “What do you mean ‘undersell’?”
“A premium . . . some call it a subsidy . . . but in either case, it meant that when I came into port in London with a pound of dye, the customs officer would give me six pence. That was in addition to what the fabric makers would pay me for the pound of indigo in London.
“To undersell someone means to charge less than they do for the same product. People, given the choice, will always pay less for something that is of the same quality.
“Now the French, at the time, had to sell their Indigo at about 30 pence a pound to make a profit. It cost me that much to ship my Indigo to Britain. But with the 6 pence a pound from subsidy, I could sell my pound of Indigo at 29 pence per pound and still make a handsome profit of 5 pence a pound. And indeed, so could everyone else in our colony”
“It worked out wonderfully for planters in Carolina. Indigo dye soon became one of our colony’s biggest selling crops. We produced 5,000 lbs in 1745. By 1748, we produced 140,000 lbs. and captured the entire market from the French. And it worked out well for the King because all the money they used to send to France for indigo, they now kept within Britain. If I had kept the secret of indigo dye for myself, I never would have been able to grow enough to get the king interested, so that he would help us to make it so that the French had to compete with us. As long as they were the only ones selling the dye, they could set whatever prices they wanted. Now, though, we set even better prices that made people want to buy our dye, not theirs.”
Anne nodded silently in wonder, trying to process what she had just heard through her seven-year-old’s perspective. She didn’t understand a lot of it, but she could see the esteem in which her mother held Eliza, and that seemed important to Anne.
“So what else have you tried to grow here for cash crops?” asked Gwen, curious herself now.
“Oh my,” said Eliza, “over the years I think I’ve tried just about everything imaginable. Out in the fields beyond the house, I have little plots of all types of grasses, vegetable, and fruits. I’ve failed at most, but that is how you learn. A lot of things will grow in this soil, but some might not grow as fruitfully as they do elsewhere. So I can grow everything from fig trees to ginger, cotton, alfalfa, and cassava . . . lemons and limes and apples. The list is long indeed. I just can’t grow all of these crops in sufficient quantities to make a profit. Currently, I have my eyes on the profit I can make from a forest of oak trees I planted 20 years ago. My hope was to harvest them for wood I can then sell. Oak, you know, is especially good for ship building. Those trees should be mature enough to start harvesting soon.”
Gwen nodded her understanding. “And I know that you have tried your hand at making silk here in Carolina. I’ll wager that the beautiful gown you’re wearing –”
Blushing and smiling, Eliza looked down at her gown and gently stroked the sleeve. “Yes, this was made from my own silk worms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it cheaper than we could import silk from China, but it did make for some nice dresses. The silk worms are all gone now.”
Just as Gwen opened her mouth to ask another question about Eliza’s gown, she noticed Malcolm was missing.
“Girls, do you know where your brother went?” Both Anne and Abigail shook their heads. “Please, Anne, go find your brother and bring him here.”
Anne took Abigail’s hand to lead her away from the table as part of the search party but Gwen stopped her. “No, just you, Anne. If you tell Malcolm to come back, he will. If you’re there, Abby, I think he’ll just run away and try to torment you.”
Once Anne had left the room and Abigail settled back into her seat, Gwen and Eliza began to catch up on each other’s lives. Abigail did not understand much that they were talking about, so her attention wandered. She played idly with the few grains of rice still in her bowl. Then, looking up, saw a young black woman, a curious expression on her face, starting at her through a doorway.
Suddenly, Anne’s raised voice came from a nearby room. “Malcolm! Put that down!!”
Gwen rose instantly, saying, “I need to see what this is about.” As she left the sitting room, Eliza followed closely on her heels. Abigail left her chair as well but, rather than leaving the room, she walked over to the young black woman who was staring at her.
∞∞ 25 ∞∞
From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise.
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, 1845
As Abigail walked towards her, Mary, the 18-year-old slave daughter of Lisa, pushed herself off the wall against which she had been leaning, put her hands on her hips, and canted her head to the side.
“Did I do something wrong?” asked Abby.
Mary gave a short, mirthless laugh. “I don’t think so. But, why’ you dressed like that?” she asked, her voice holding an edge that made Abby nervous.
“These are my clothes,” Abby answered, not understanding.
Mary closed her eyes and shook her head “No, child, why’ you dressed like that white girl and sittin’ at the table with them?”
“That’s my sister, Anne”
“Yo’ sister,” Mary repeated. “Hmmph. And is that red haired woman yo’ mother?”
“She’s my mom here,” said Abby, nodding. “I have another mom too, but I haven’t seen her in a long time. I miss her.”
“Is yo’ other mother black like me?” Mary asked.
Abigail said yes.
“So you their slave girl?”
“No. Father told me I’ve been emac . . . emanci . . . “
“Emancipated?” the woman half stated, half asked. Abigail nodded.
“What they go and emancipate yo’ for?”
Abigail thought about that for a moment before pursing her lips and shrugging her shoulders.
“And now you living with them?”
Abigail nodded. “They’re all very nice to me. Well, all but Malcolm.”
Mary laughed at that. “I guess you mean that little white boy that’s with you. All brothers and sisters are alike, don’t matter the skin color.”
Abigail nodded emphatically.
“So you a free little girl. Um-hum.” The woman sighed. “Girl, I love Miss Eliza. But I would throw this all away in a heartbeat and more besides to be free like you.”
Abigail was very confused, though not sure why. She just had an inchoate feeling of disquiet that this grown woman who seemed nice enough, would express envy of her. Abigail did not understand.
The woman stared at Abigail a long moment before dismissing her. “Okay, get along now,” the woman said with a toss of her head.
∞∞ 26 ∞∞
What the English like is something that they can beat time to, something that hits them straight on the drum of the ear.
George Frideric Handel, English composer, circa 1750, quoted in Richard Streatfeild, Handel, 2005
Gwen held Malcolm up and out from her at eye level, wondering what to do with her son. When she had come into the library, she had found her son standing on a pile of books he had taken down off of the bookcase to create himself a ladder. What he was trying to reach, Gwen wasn’t sure, only that, if it was out of his reach in the library, he shouldn’t have it.
“None of the other children had been a third as much trouble as this one,” Gwen thought, reminding herself that a calm response to Malcolm’s escapades tended to work well. “He can’t seem to sit still. There’s no malice in him, though. At least there’s that. And he does try his best . . . for the short minute he can remain focused at least.”
Confused by his mother’s silent contemplation as she held him aloft, Malcolm asked lovingly, “Are you well, Mother?”
Gwen wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, It was Eliza, standing behind Gwen, who answered Malcolm.
“No, Malcolm” said Eliza, “but mothers of energetic little boys often aren’t. You’re just a boy like mine were at your age – and this is my fault, Gwen. Now that my boys are off at school, I seem to have forgotten how to deal with little boys. Girls of seven like to talk and play; boys of five like to run and do. He doesn’t need to sit and listen to us chat. I think I know a solution if you don’t mind him playing outside.”
“Frankly, Eliza, I’m at wit’s end with this one. I would be grateful for any help.”
Eliza had Lisa fetch Jeb. When he arrived a few minutes later, she explained that they had a boy who needed to be let out to run or do something under a watchful eye. Jeb smiled and said “I know jus’ the thing, Ma’am.”
Jeb turned to Malcolm to ask, “You ever been fishin’, young man?”
When Malcolm shook his head, Jeb said, “I fish almost every night, catch’n our supper. I have some lines out right now. I put a worm or a fat cricket on a hook,” Jeb said, miming the act, “toss it in the water, and pretty soon those fish be all over it, trying to earn their way into the cooking pot. Then I pull them in all fightin’ and wrigglin’ til I have ’em on the dock. So . . . would you like to learn how to fish?”
Malcolm nodded his head excitedly and immediately took Jeb’s outstretched, gnarled hand. “I’ll take good care of ‘im,” Jeb promised Gwen, as he and Malcolm left the room.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Gwen looked about the library, which could easily function as a second sitting room. It was a large room with dark mahogany wainscoting, Robin’s Egg blue walls, and white satin drapes with designs in gold and silver filigree. Mahogany bookshelves dominated the room, although one of them had recently and haphazardly been largely denuded of most of the books on the lower shelves. The comfortably distributed sofas, chairs, and tables also looked as if they were made of mahogany, and all were in the ornate Chippendale style now popular in Britain. Scattered about the room, on tables and shelves, were a number of beautiful pieces in the oriental style..
Near the entrance to the room sat an elegant harpsichord. “Ohhh,” Gwen cooed as she eyed it. “I don’t know how instrument sounds, but it’s beautiful in its own right as furniture. It’s new, isn’t it?”
The harpsichord’s casing was stained a beautiful golden yellow overlaid with delicate patterns in black. The instrument’s lid was raised and held open with a stick at a steep angle, revealing the instrument’s strings and inner workings, as well as a beautiful painting in French Renaissance style on the inside of the lid. The instrument had a dual keyboard, with a second row of keys set in a step above the first row.
“Charles bought this for me as a gift while we were in Britain. It’s new to this house, but most definitely not new. It’s a French antique, from the Ruckers-Taskin shop . . . and the sound is quite beautiful. It makes me seem a much better musician than I am,” Eliza said.
Returning her attention to the chaos Malcolm created, Gwen summoned Abigail and Anne. “Come girls, let’s re-shelve these books.”
Anne baulked. “But Mother, it was Malcolm who made the mess. Why do Abby and I have to clean it?” Abigail, already bending down to pick up a book paused, waiting to see what would happen.
Before Gwen could answer, Eliza spoke up. “I think your mother would say that it falls to you to clean it because, sadly, that is what women so often end up doing – cleaning the little messes their men leave lying around. Men seem not to notice the chaos they leave in their wake. Women do notice and, as they care more, so do they clean more.”
“Eliza is right, girls. Do you think Malcolm would see anything untoward about the mess he left? But you girls do, right? And you also know that Eliza will be unhappy if we leave it here.”
“But, Mother,” said Abigail, always anxious to nail down the details, “does this mean that Malcolm is free to make a mess whenever he wants?”
“No, of course not, Abigail. Were he in this room, I would make him clean it himself, for every man should be responsible for his own conduct. And were he at home, I have no doubt that he would get a good scolding from your father for being so thoughtless, first as to make the mess and then as to leaving it lie. But he is not here and we are, so we will clean.”
Satisfied with Eliza’s and Gwen’s explanations, the girls bent to their task, swiftly restoring order to both floor and bookshelf. Not all the books, however, were returned to their place. Anne kept out one of them, fascinated by its illustrations. A Description Of Some Curious And Uncommon Creatures, by Thomas Boreman, 1739, read the cover. Anne sat on the floor, slowly leafing through the book and trying her best to read it while Abigail wandered over to inspect the harpsichord.
“As I remember, Eliza” said Gwen, “you enjoyed the harpsichord before you left for Britain with your family. Do you still play?”
“Every day. With my own children gone and now my husband passed, I find it very soothing to play for an hour once or twice a day.”
“You were quite accomplished –” Gwen began, but Eliza shook her head firmly in denial.
“Oh, stop that,” said Gwen. “You really were quite good, even if you only played mostly for your own pleasure. I remember you treating us to your music a few times when Andrew and I visited. You used to have a music teacher come by once a week if I remember correctly.”
“I still do. I won’t lay claim to any real skill at the instrument, though. I would never play in public, or at least beyond close friends . . . but it’s nice to have someone come by to teach me, and I love to play.”
“I can’t play a note on anything,” said Gwen “One of my very few regrets in this life is that I never had the chance to learn to play an instrument growing up on a farm in Ireland. I am determined that my children will have that opportunity. They get to pick what they want to learn when they are . . . well, the age of these two now, actually,” Gwen said, with a nod to Anne and Abigail. “Robert chose the pipes – I think because I like them so much. He is quite good at this point and truly seems to enjoy it. Henry chose the trumpet and is doing well. My George before he passed was learning the violin. . . . I need to introduce these two to instrument now.”
“Could you play something?” asked Abigail. Anticipating music, she perched on a chair next to the harpsichord.
Eliza walked to the harpsichord. “Just for you, I will. What would you like to hear?”
Abigail didn’t know the names of any songs, so she just shrugged her shoulders.
“No special requests then. So, I will choose something,” said Eliza. Going to a nearby cabinet, Eliza withdrew a thin, well-worn booklet of sheet music and practice exercises, “L’Art de toucher Le Clavecin,” a primer on playing the harpsichord written by French composer Francois Couperin.
“When I learned how to play the harpsichord thirty years ago, my music master started me on this book.” Sitting at the harpsichord and flipping the book open to the Premier Prelude, Eliza began to play. It was a simple but pleasant melody, all within a one and a half octave range, and all of eighth notes with an occasional trill. It took less than a minute to play. By the end of it, Abigail was smiling ear to ear.
Abigail had spent her first five years in a house without music. When Dr. York brought her home a year ago, she had loved the music she heard downstairs in their second-floor ballroom, but that was always groups of musicians. This was the first time she had ever heard the harpsichord played on its own and, indeed, on a harpsichord perfectly tuned and with a soft, melodic pitch.
Finding such an appreciative audience, Eliza played two more of Couperin’s short preludes, then played the latest piece she was trying to learn, Handel’s lively Chaconne in G Major.
Abigail’s eyes never moved from Eliza’s swiftly moving fingers, occasionally laughing out loud in amazement and joy as Eliza finished an intricate passage. Eliza made a few mistakes and her rhythm was a bit imperfect, but no one but she, her own harshest critic, noticed. The entire piece took Eliza about 5 minutes to play, after which Gwen, Anne, and Abigail all applauded. Eliza laughed and blushed. Anne had put down her book and was looking at Liza over top Abigail’s shoulder.
“Ahhhh, now that is the musician I remember,” said Gwen.
“Can you play another” asked Abigail.
Eliza pursed her lips and slowly shook her head. “I am done. My poor fingers are about to fall off.” It took all of Eliza’s willpower not to laugh at the suddenly sad expression on Abigail’s face.
“But,” Eliza said. “I can do something better. I can teach you two play. Would you like that.”
“Really?” asked Abigail, excitement almost overcoming her. Anne smiled and nodded enthusiastically.
At Eliza’s direction, the girls sat down on either side of Eliza on the bench. Eliza positioned Abigail’s left hand on the keyboard. Pressing down Abigail’s left hand little finger, Eliza said “That note is called a low ‘C’ on the treble clef.” She turned to her right and did the same for Anne on the high ‘C,’ two octaves above. And so began the girls’ first lesson in music.
∞∞ 27 ∞∞
In the Gullah Language: Den, Fox staat fuh talk. E say to eself, a say, “Dish yuh Crow duh ooman, enty? Ef a kin suade um fuh talk, him haffuh op’n e mout, enty? En ef e op’n e mout, enty de meat fuh drop out?
Translated: Then, Fox started to talk. He said to himself, he said, “This here Crowis a woman, not so? If I can persuade her to talk, she has to open her mouth, not so? And if she opens her mouth, isn’t it true the meat will drop out?”
Joseph Opala, The Gullah: Rice, Slavery & The Sierra Leone-American Connection1
Jeb and Malcolm walked towards the end of the plantation’s dock on Wappoo Creek. The water was about ten feet deep here, for Wappoo was really more of a small river than a creek. On either side of the dock, reeds and marsh marched along the banks. Jeb was carrying three wooden fishing poles, two about four feet long, the other half that length, along with his bait bucket and a crust of old bread.
“Now, the most important thing, young Mister Malcolm, is that you don’ go fallin’ or jumpin’ into the water. Ya’ don’ be gettin’ too close to the edge. And ya’ don’ go near dem reeds and grass on da’ banks. Ther’er some mean things in that creek that would eat you up like jus’ like dat’ Venus ate the bugs today.”
“Truly?” asked Malcolm, his eyes wide.
“Oh, yeah. Two time I pulled fishies out o’ this here creek about this long,” said Jeb, holding his hands about three feet apart, “that had rows of teeth like daggers. And I’ve had others that bit right through the line. Then there are gators all over here. They’re usually okay out o’ the water, but you don’t want to be in there with ’em.”
“What is a gator?”
“You ain’t never seen a gator?”
Malcolm shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“Hmmm. They’re big ol’ things. Half as long as this dock and weigh a hundred times or more’n what you do. They got . . . well, you ever seen a picture of a dragon?”
When Malcolm nodded, Jeb said, “I seen me one once too, in Miss Eliza’s books. Well, gators have a head like a dragon, all long and full o’ sharp teeth. And if you get too close, they’ll eat you all up. Lot’s o’ them round here. But we’ll worry ’bout Mr. Gator later. Let me introduce you to some o’ the little fish first.”
Jeb handed Malcolm the crust of bread and told him to start pulling it apart and tossing the pieces in the water. As Malcolm did, small fish, only a few inches long, swam up to the surface to eat the bread, first one, and then a dozen at least. Malcolm laughed excitedly.
“We’re gonna’ let you practice catchin’ some o’ those small fish to start.” Jeb held up the two foot pole. There was a nail at its base with about ten feet of coiled string attached. The string stretched out from the coil to pass through a small eye hook on the pole’s end. About two feet from the end of the string, a cork was attached, while at the end of the string was a small iron hook with a barbed tip. “I taught Miss Liza’s boys to fish with this pole. Now, I’m goin’ to teach you. I’ll show you how to bait the hook in a moment. For now, hold the pole.”
Once Jeb was satisfied that Malcolm was holding the pole correctly, a hand at the base and the other half way up the pole, with one finger resting on the line, he said. “After we cast out yo’ line, then you have to sit and wait until you feel a little jerk on the line. That’s Mr. Fish takin’ yo’ bait.” Jeb pushed the fishing rod a tiny bit in Malcolm’s grasp so he could feel a “little jerk.”
“When yo’ feel that, you quick pull the pole back” Jeb said, showing him how to do it. “That’ll set the hook, and then we can land yo’ fish.” Malcolm practiced jerking the pole back twice.
“Now, watch what I do,” said Jeb, “so yo’ can bait you’ own hook next time.” Jeb groped around in his bait bucket for a worm. Catching one, he cut it into one inch pieces, all of which then lay wriggling on the dock. Picking one up, he showed Malcolm how to run the hook through the worm without poking the hook into his own fingers.
The two spent the next hour with Malcolm practicing on the small fish. His first few attempts, the fish escaped with his bait. Slowly, though, Malcolm learned to feel the fish jerking the line. When that happened – for there is no better teacher than experience – he began to catch some of the small fish, mostly adolescent blue gill.
They might as well have been ten foot monsters for as happy and as excited as Malcolm was. Every time he caught one, Jeb took it off the hook and had Malcolm throw it back into the water, admonishing the fish to go find its bigger brother.
After an hour’s break for lunch, and an unplanned hour’s nap by Malcolm, he and Jeb went back out to the dock to try and land fish worthy of a cooking pot. As they approached the dock, they were met with a loud, very deep rumbling noise that went on for a few long seconds. Malcolm stopped in his tracks.
“What was that?” he asked Jeb, his voice full of wonder.
“That was a gator,” Jeb said. “Probably about a quarter mile away from the sounds of it. He’s out looking for a lady gator. This is the time o’ year the gators be gettin’ together, like yo’ mom and dad got together and had you. The gators want to get together and make little gator Malcolms.”
That made Malcolm laugh, and he continued to giggle as he and Jeb walked up the dock.
“Now, this is goin’ be a little different. We’re goin’ catch the bigger fish now. So we’ll fish from the same place, but we goin’ to be aiming the cast out there by the reeds,” Jeb said, pointing to an area about fifteen yards west of the docks. “And we’re goin’ have to be a lot more patient. The bigger ones take their sweet time about takin’ the bait. Now, go on and find us a nice juicy worm in the bucket,” Jeb said, releasing Malcolm’s hand to let the boy run up to the bait bucket on the dock. Jeb’s heart nearly skipped a beat when he thought for a second that Malcolm wasn’t going to be able to stop himself in time near the end of the dock.
“You do go all out, don’ ya boy,” Jeb said to himself, laughing. Then, loudly, so that Malcolm could hear. “Yo gonna turn yo’ mom’s hair white like mine. Here’s the rule, though, on docks: Go slow. You don’t want to slip and end up takin’ a swim with the gators in this water.”
By the time Jeb made it up to the end of the dock, Malcolm had already picked out a large worm. It was struggling to get out of Malcolm’s grasp when Jeb took it from him and carefully impaled it on one of the barbed fish hooks.
“Now, I’ll cast this for us cause yo’ not big enough yet. Then yo’ can hold the pole.” Malcolm nodded and Jeb expertly cast the line. With no wind, Jeb was able to land the baited hook within a foot of where he had aimed. He sat down, then had Malcolm sit between his legs so that he could keep one hand on the pole as well as a finger on the string.
It was twenty minutes and five casts later before one finally took the hook. The moment he felt it, Jeb jerked the pole, leaving it still in Malcolm’s hands.
“Hold onto the pole now,” Jeb said as he put both hands on the string and started to pull in the fish, hand over hand. This one has a little fight, Jeb thought. As it got closer to the dock, Jeb stood up and tried to maneuver around Malcolm, inadvertently kicking his bait bucket into the creek.
“The devil!!” Jeb exclaimed as he watched the bucket land on its side, take on water and sink into the creek. Turning his attention back to the fish, Jeb finally pulled it out of the water.
“Ho, look at this one. You caught us a catfish, Malcolm!” Malcolm was beside himself with excitement. “I ain’t never caught one from that hole before’n this. Look, it’s almost as big you,” Jeb said.
The catfish was about two-feet long and a good five pounds. Once he had it on the dock, Jeb held out the prize for Malcolm to examine. Malcolm had never seen a fish so big. Its gills moved back and forth as the fish tried to take in water to breathe. Malcolm let out a long “oooh” as he touched the slippery, smooth skin of the catfish. Then, to Jeb’s surprise, Malcolm hugged him. Jeb laughed at that.
“Appreciat’n yo fishing class, do yo’? I take it yo’ havin’ fun.”
Malcolm nodded his head vigorously. “Thank you so much, Jeb. This was great fun.”
Jeb quickly removed the hook from the fish’s mouth. He had a bucket on the dock to put the fish in as he caught them, but he decided to carry it up to the plantation’s cooks in exchange for any old meat they had that was destined for the garbage pit. He had to replace his lost bait.
“C,mon, let’s take Mr. Catfish up to show ya’ Mom and let the cookin’ ladies get started on it.”
1 Slaves in South Carolina and Georgia coastal areas came from a variety of different areas of Africa and often spoke different languages. In order to communicate, they borrowed words from their different languages as well as English, coming up with a “Creole dialect” common to slaves along the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia as well as the Bahamas. [See Endnote 94]
∞∞ 28 ∞∞
By the power of music, I mean, its power to affect the hearers; to raise various passions in the human mind.
John Wesley, Thoughts On Music, 1779
Gwen and Eliza were sitting on a sofa about ten feet from the harpischord, at which the girls sat, taking turns learning their fingering, the scales, and the treble clef. Neither sounded too talented to Gwen at the moment, but then again Gwen was well aware that she did not know the slightest about learning a musical instrument, at least other than that her children all sounded like they were torturing cats during their first year of practice.
Eliza had spent an hour teaching the girls; then everyone had gone for a lunch of shrimp and grits,1 following which the girls returned to the harpsichord. After awhile, Anne went back to reading the book she had put down earlier, while Abigail, entranced by the harpsichord, continued on. Gwen and Eliza sat on the nearby sofa where, for the next hour they reminisced.
After an hour, when Abby began to play her first chords, Eliza observed, “Abby may have some real talent on the harpsichord. It’s been thirty years since I learned to play, and I still remember my first lessons. Abby’s learned in two hours what it took me two weeks to learn. Do you intend to have her trained in music?”
“I don’t see how I can’t if I’m going to raise her with my others,” answered Gwen quietly.
“Do you have a teacher in mind for her?” asked Eliza.
“Actually, I don’t think that the teachers we have for Robert or Henry teach harpsichord, though George’s . . . well, his old teacher might. Why?” Do you have someone in mind?”
“My music master, Stefan, is quite accomplished on the harpsichord. I know you’ve seen him before. He’s been living in the city for forty years. He plays at all of the major balls in town. Now he is expensive, but if Abby really has musical talent, I think he’ll be worth the money. I’d be happy to arrange for him to pay you a visit next week. And who knows? If he ends up being able to teach Anne as well on whatever instrument she chooses, he may be so thrilled as a teacher you might well be able to negotiate a good price with him. In any event, I suspect Abby might thrive under him.”
Gwen said, “Do, please, send him around. If you’re right about Abby, I’d love to encourage it.”
Raising her voice, Gwen called to Anne to come to her.
“Abigail seems to have made the choice of what musical instrument she wants to play. You will need to choose soon as well. Do you know which instrument you would like to learn?”
After a moments thought, Anne answered firmly, “I want to play the violin like George. That way Abby and I can play together like the people at the dances.”
“Well, then it is settled,” said Gwen, smiling at her daughter.
“Are you enjoying the books?” Eliza asked.
“Oh, they’re very interesting,” Anne said solemnly.
Eliza laughed. “Well, if you see any there that you would like to borrow, you are more than welcome. All of those books on the bottom shelf belonged to my child –”
Eliza stopped mid sentence as three of her domestic slaves from the kitchen, one of whom was Lisa, came to the door, one carrying the huge catfish by its gills, two others acting as her escort.
“Oh, my word!” Eliza exclaimed. The three black women were smiling. The woman carrying the fish spoke. “Jeb an’ da’ boy don’ brought this up. He ask we let yo’ two see what da’ boy caught in dat creek befo’ we start turning this one into gumbo.”
Gwen and Eliza laughed as Anne and Abigail, completely lost their interest in both books and harpsichord, and ran up to examine the huge fish. Both girls reached out to touch the fish, then jump backed in fright when it began flapping its tail, even as its life slowly ebbed away.
“What kind of fish is it?” asked Anne.
“This here’s a catfish,” Lisa said, “the best tastin’ fish in the world. Yo’ can touch it. Not going to hurt yo’. And these here fish have skin, not — ” scales, Lisa was about to say when through the window, they heard a high pitched howl followed by Jeb’s panicked screams for help.
1 Grits are a porridge made from corn. [See Endnote 95]
∞∞ 29 ∞∞
O Fortune, cruelest of heavenly powers,
Why make such game of this poor life of ours?
Horace, Satires, Book II, circa 30 B.C.
“Alright. Go an’ run up there,” Jeb told Malcolm. Jeb had been holding Malcolm’s hand, walking him towards the dock, but Malcolm was almost pulling him along like a dog on a leash that had just seen a squirrel run by. Once Jeb released him, Malcolm took off like a shot, running with his fishing pole towards the dock fifteen yards away. Jeb smiled and shook his head at Malcolm’s excitement. He hoped the boy would stay long enough tonight to taste that catfish they had caught. “Nothin better than catfish” Jeb thought to himself.
Malcom was almost to the dock when he tumbled, the fishing pole flying out of his hand and rolling down the small bank so that it’s end just broached the water near the reeds.
“What yo’ tryin’ t’ do to yo’self, Malcolm?” Jeb said with a laugh.
Malcolm got up, smoothed out his clothes and stared for a moment at his scraped palm before rubbing it on his breeches and putting the scrape out of his mind. He looked around for his fishing pole, then seeing it, broke into a trot. Retrieving it, he stood there, knocking a bit of mud off the line.
Jeb’s smile froze on his lips when he saw the reeds rustle about ten yards from Malcolm.
“Malcolm!! Run!!” Jeb yelled, tearing after the boy. It only took him a few seconds to reach Malcolm, but the alligator was quicker.
The gator was about ten foot long and had shot out of the reeds at lightening speed, it’s huge snaggle-toothed mouth agape. Malcolm yelled out in shock and tried to back-peddle from the gator, but slipped, his feet going out from under him. Even before his body touched down on the bank, the gator slammed it’s jaws shut on Malcolm’s left leg about a quarter of the way up Malcolm’s calf.
Jeb could hear Malcolm’s shin bone shatter in the gator’s mouth.1 As Jeb wrapped his hands around Malcolm’s leg, maybe an inch from the gator’s mouth, and pulled with all of his might, Malcolm let out a primal howl of pain that sounded more animal than human.
Jeb started screaming for help as the gator tried to walk back with its prize into the water. At almost 300 pounds, the gator far outweighed Jeb and was easily winning the tug of war. Jeb dug his heels into the muddy bank. That slowed the gator’s progress, but it still had managed to get it’s body almost wholly into the river before it stopped. Jeb could hear people running up behind him and shouting, but his full attention was on the gator.
Jeb looked in the gator’s cold reptilian eyes. They looked like the eyes of Satan to Jeb. Knowing what was about to come, Jeb turned to Malcolm. The boy’s mouth was open in a silent scream. “Turn your head, boy. Don’t watch this.” Almost crying, he was barely able to get out the words, “Please God, don’t watch this.”
Just as he finished speaking, Jeb could feel the alligator go into a roll. Jeb closed his eyes and gripped Malcolm’s leg even tighter. In a moment, he felt all the pull from the gator release. Opening his eyes, he watched as the gator, Malcom’s foot and the bloody stump of Malcolm’s leg in its mouth, slowly turned into the river and silently disappeared.
1 Alligators and Crocodiles have the strongest bite force in the world, estimated to be second only to that of Tyrannosaurus Rex. On land, they can achieve short bursts of speed of up to 35 miles per hour. That is faster than the fastest human and near the speed of race horses.
End Book I, Part I
∞∞ Prologue ∞∞
2 He was William Bull, Jr., a native of the Royal Colony of South Carolina and the colony’s long serving, very popular Lieutenant Governor . . .
In most colonies, particularly those with Royal charters, the highest positions in the colony’s government were reserved for appointment by the King. It was not a merit system. It was a vestige of the medieval world, a patronage system with most of these appointments going to politically connected citizens of mainland Britain, so called “placemen of the King.” Many of the appointees were good at their jobs and respected by the colonists. Unfortunately, a large number were not, something that would figure prominently in the lead up to the American Revolution.
In large measure, native born colonists were shut out of the highest positions within their own colonial government. There were notable exceptions, and one position almost invariably filled by a native born colonist was that of the colony’s Lieutenant Governor.
Another aspect of colonial government is that, in almost all cases, it resembled in miniature the government of Britain. The colonists elected their own to the colony’s legislative body, their House of Commons. The King, or in some cases, the Royal Governor, appointed men to serve on a Royal Council, more or less like the House of Lords. No colony had representation in the British Parliament.
∞∞ 1 ∞∞
3. Their exposed skin was covered in a red ochre, with splashes of black pigment across their faces. Everyone of them was bald but for a tuft of hair at the back crown of their head.
In 1761, Lt. Henry Timberlake described the Cherokee in his journal:
The Cherokees are of a middle stature, of an olive colour, tho’ generally painted, and their skins stained with gun-powder, pricked into it in very pretty figures. The hair of their head is shaved, tho’ many of the old people have it plucked out by the roots, except a patch on the hinder part of the head, about twice the bigness of a crown-piece, which is ornamented with beads, feathers, wampum, stained deers hair, and such like baubles. The ears are slit and stretched to an enormous size, putting the person who undergoes the operation to incredible pain, being unable to lie on either side for nearly forty days. To remedy this, they generally slit but one at a time; so soon as the patient can bear it, they wound round with wire to expand them, and are adorned with silver pendants and rings, which they likewise wear at the nose. This custom does not belong originally to the Cherokees, but taken by them from the Shawnese, or other northern nations.
They that can afford it wear a collar of wampum, which are beads cut out of clam-shells, a silver breast-plate, and bracelets on their arms and wrists of the same metal, a bit of cloth over their private parts, a shirt of the English make, a sort of cloth-boots, and mockasons, which are shoes of a make peculiar to the Americans, ornamented with porcupine-quills; a large mantle or match-coat thrown over all complete their dress at home; but when they go to war they leave their trinkets behind and the mere necessaries serve them.
The women wear the hair of their head, which is so long it reaches the middle of their legs, and sometimes to the ground, club’d, and ornamented with ribbons of various color; but, except their eye-brows, pluck it from all other parts of the body, especially the looser parts of the sex. The rest of their dress has now become very like the European; and indeed, that of the men is greatly altered. The old people still remember and praise the ancient days, before they were acquainted with the whites, when they had but little dress, except a bit of skin around their middles, mockasons, a mantle of buffalo skin for the winter, and a lighter one of feathers for the summer. The women, particularly the half-breed, are remarkably well featured; and both men and women are straight and well-built, with small hands and feet.
∞∞ 2 ∞∞
7 Paul was a tidy man, a virtue expected by his parishioners at the Indiantown Presbyterian Church, . . .
Robert Wilson and John James founded the Indiantown Presbyterian Church in 1757 just outside of what is now Hemingway, South Carolina. Chaloklowa Chickasaw Indians lived there and, eventually Scots-Irish colonists joined them. Descendants of both groups live there still. Readers may know another slightly fictionalized story about the Indiantown Church. The British burned the actual church to the ground during the Revolutionary War, claiming it to be a “sedition shop.” This act likely provided the basis for a similar scene (though falsely portrayed as being a mass murder with the congregation trapped in the Church) in the 2000 movie, The Patriot.
∞∞ 3 ∞∞
10 “George has yellow fever” . . .
Yellow fever is an acute, hemorrhagic viral disease that originated in Africa. It wasn’t until 1890 that doctors discovered that a type of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which thrives in urban environments, transmits the disease. It posed a particular danger in Charleston, which was hot, humid, and crowded
The majority of people infected with the disease would recover after the first phase of symptoms. In the 18th century, with no tests available, the first phrase was impossible to distinguish from other non-specific flu-like ailments. It is only now that we know that only ten to thirty percent of those afflicted with the disease will progress into the second phase of symptoms.
Those who do progress into the second phase suffer jaundice from liver damage (hence the name “yellow fever”), bleeding from the eyes, nose and into the stomach, and they vomit coagulated blood that looks in appearance and consistency like coffee grounds. The mortality rate for those entering the second phase could reach 50% or more among those populations with no prior exposure to the disease, such as Europeans and Indians.
Physicians of the time did note that anyone once afflicted gained immunity. Perhaps the most famous epidemic of yellow fever was that which struck our then-capital city, Philadelphia, in 1793. President George Washington and Congress abandoned the city, leading to the creation of Washington, D.C. as our nation’s capital.
11 Of the many miseries that came with Charleston’s “fever season,” . . .
Malaria was so common in the low country of colonial South Carolina that the period between roughly July and September became known as the “fever season.” This notion of a “fever season” was reinforced when yellow fever epidemics swept through colonial cities every few years. Both malaria and yellow fever were mosquito-borne illnesses, and thus reached their apex during the period in which the two dangerous types of mosquitoes hatched and matured in the coastal regions. The carriers were the Anopheles mosquito bringing malaria to the rural low country and to the boggy areas of Charleston, and Aedes aegypti, the urban mosquito bringing yellow fever to Charleston.
Both of these diseases originated in Africa and, while mosquitoes are poor fliers, rarely flying more than 100 yards from where they hatch, they are stalwart sailors. Every ship that came into Charleston having previously made port in Africa could be carrying already hatched and infected mosquitoes at most times of the year.
13 Death, after all, was never far away for any of them, but in particular for children and women of child bearing age. . . .
In most places during the 18th century, the infant morality rate was at least 25%, though in the Carolina low country and other similarly unhealthy areas that number could go as high as 50%. Those who survived infancy were still at risk, as almost three in ten children in the colonies would die before their fifth birthday due to accident or disease. Women in their childbearing years were also at high risk. An estimated 10% to 15% of pregnancies ended in maternal death from complications during pregnancy, complications during birth, or infection in the days after giving birth.
A tragic example of those numbers played out in the life of Henry Laurens, an important figure in both Charleston and American history. Henry married Elizabeth Ball in Charleston in 1750. During their twenty years of marriage, they had thirteen children together. Most died in their infancy. Only four reached adulthood. And while Mrs. Laurens did not die in childbirth, she never recovered her health after her final pregnancy. Within a few months of giving birth to their last child, she died in 1770.
∞∞ 4 ∞∞
14 The city, founded in 1670 as a business venture by eight Lord Proprietors . . .
England had their own brutal and bloody civil war, both political and religious in origin, from 1642 to 1651. Politically, it pitted the Parliament and rule through elected representatives of the people against a King who wanted to rule by divine right. Religiously, it pitted the Puritan, Presbyterian and other “Dissenting” Protestant religions, all supporters of Parliament, against the Anglican supporters of the King. Parliament’s army, commanded by Oliver Cromwell, won the war and Parliamentary forces executed the King, Charles I.
But then Cromwell appointed himself Lord Protector of England and lost the peace. His was a harsh Puritan rule, though nominally Republican, leaving the English people missing their monarchy. Thus a decade after Cromwell and Parliament won the war, a new, duly elected Parliament voted to restore the monarchy and name Charles II, son of the executed Charles I, the new King of England. That event is known in British history as The Restoration.
In good, medieval kingly tradition, Charles II gave royal favors to those who were most influential in his restoration. To eight of these supporters, led by Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, he gave the right to establish, rule over, and profit from, Carolina, a British colony in North America on the lands that now comprise North and South Carolina. Early in the 18th century, because geography prevented easy travel between the northern and southern portions of the colony, the colony was split into two halves, North and South Carolina, and ruled separately thereafter.
The Cooper River, abutting Charleston to the North, and the Ashley River, abutting Charleston to the South, are both named after Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper. Cooper, interestingly enough, was the primary patron of the major Enlightenment figure, John Locke. He had Locke draft Carolina’s first Constitution.
15 In 1719, the colonists, . . . revolted, deposing the Proprietor’s government.
Footnote 15 mentions William Rhett, a central figure in the early years of the Carolina Colony. Col. Rhett’s progeny have largely stayed in Charleston and, at times, played similarly important roles. In the early 20th century, one of Col. Rhett’s descendants, Robert Rhett, was elected Mayor of Charleston. In anticipation of a visit by President Howard Taft, Rhett tasked his servant to create a new dish The servant came up with a new type of crab soup. Thus it is an interesting historical fact that the uniquely Southern delicacy, she-crab soup, was not only invented in Charleston, it was invented by Rhett’s butler. And if you do not get the pun, watch Gone With The Wind.
∞∞ 5 ∞∞
17 . . . opened the first print shop in Charleston almost three decades ago with financial backing from Ben Franklin. . . .
Benjamin Franklin was the first international celebrity. With only two years of formal education, Franklin, a vociferous reader and self-educated man, opened a printing business in Philadelphia that led him to be known throughout the colonies for his wit and wisdom. He published a weekly newspaper and, annually, the extremely popular Poor Richard’s Almanac. Franklin gained international fame for his experiments with lightning and his invention of the lightning rod.
One of Franklin’s major business ventures was to franchise print shops in various colonial cities, including Charleston, S.C. The franchisee was, in each case, one of Franklin’s former employees or apprentices.
J. Whitemarsh, a former apprentice to Ben Franklin, opened the first print shop in Charleston in 1732, doing so with Franklin’s financial and material support. When he died to yellow fever two years later, Lewis Timothy, another former apprentice to Ben Franklin, went to Charleston to continue the print shop with a similar franchise arrangement. He too soon died, though his widow successfully operated the franchise for near a decade until her son took over the business. She was so efficient at the job that it led Franklin to champion training all women in business and accounting as part of their formal education.
18 . . . [Robert] thrived in his education under the finest tutors . . .
Despite formal education being spotty at best in the colonies, the literacy rate in America was among the world’s highest at 70% because the majority of colonists were of the dissenting protestant religions. All of those religions placed overwhelming emphasis on teaching children to read as a religious duty so that they could read and understand the Bible.
Beyond that basic education, often conducted within the family itself, education and educational opportunities varied greatly in colonial times. Oft times, that basic education, or just a little beyond that, was all a person in the colonies received. Regardless, those that chose to educate themselves thereafter with books were some of our leading citizens. Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the most ferociously intelligent man of the Enlightenment Period, only attended two years of formal schooling. Beyond that, he taught himself through reading books. Similar was the Father of our Country, George Washington.
Outside of New England, there was no compulsory educational system, but several different types of schools were available. Most colonies ran tax payer funded free schools that were primarily attended by the children of poor and middle class citizens. To the same end, many more charitable free schools were sponsored by rich individuals and associations. There were also for-profit schools that catered to the middle class and upper middle class students. Those parents that could afford to do so – primarily the wealthy – hired individual tutors for their children.
In all cases, education followed a familiar pattern. A family would begin their children’s – boys and girls – education in the basics of reading. The child, boy or girl, would attend some type of school or begin tutoring in reading, math, religion and history. At about age 12 or 13, that phase of the education during ended and one of three things occurred.
For most lower class and many middle class male children, they either returned to their family farm or they became an apprentice. In 1760, a male could apprentice in any profession, including religion, medicine and the legal profession. Only a few apprenticeships were open to females, such as wigmaking.
For those that could afford it, they sent their children for higher education in the colonies or in Britain. For the males, their education would span the spectrum of academic disciplines and often ended in academic training in law or medicine. For females, their post secondary educational opportunities were limited to knitting, music, dance and the social graces, with few opportunities for higher education other than tutors and books.
New England colonies had compulsory elementary education since 1647, when Massachusetts passed the “Old Deluder Act,” establishing schools to thwart the “one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from knowledge of Scriptures.”
19 I’ve been thinking of trying to write a series of Silence Dogood letters,” Robert said, “but I make a poor Southern belle.” . . .
The “Silence Dogood letters” referred to a prank Ben Franklin perpetrated that was famous throughout the colonies. As a sixteen-year-old printer’s apprentice to his brother in Boston, Franklin repeatedly asked his brother to print his own articles and poems, with his brother refusing each time. Consequently, in 1722, Franklin wrote a series of letters under the name Silence Dogood, supposedly a widow in Boston, poking fun at Boston society. Every two weeks, he placed one under the door of the print shop addressed to his brother. Finding the letters clever, his brother printed them and they became quite popular among the readership. Franklin continued the ruse for six months, writing fourteen letters in total.
∞∞ 6 ∞∞
23 Small Pox was the most feared disease in 18th century North America . . .
A person taking small pox in the “natural way” could expect, assuming they lived through it, about a little over a month of debilitating illness and, often, agonizing pain. Even when the last scab fell off and the pustules were gone, people often experienced some further period of weakness, perhaps months, until their strength was fully recovered.
Once a victim contracted small pox, they would go through an incubation period of almost two weeks, showing no symptoms. Then the second stage of the disease would begin – a high fever, often coupled with severe headaches, backaches and nausea. The victim at this point was contagious. This would last about three days.
In the third stage, red spots appeared inside the victim’s mouth and throat, as well as on the tongue. Over the course of about 36 hours, these spots would blister, then burst. It was at this point, the start of the fourth stage of the illness, that the course of the infection might vary. In the ordinary course of infection, pox, small, very hard, raised pustules in the hundreds would begin to appear all over the face and body, sometimes even on the eyes, the soles of the feet, and the palms of the hands. These pustules would enlarge over a period of a week to ten days, becoming extremely painful and noxious. Most who would die from the disease did so at at this point in the fourth stage.
Those that survived saw their small pox, over the next week, slowly drain of fluid. Once drained, the pustules would scab, with the scabs falling off over the next several days. The victim was contagious until the last of the scabs fell off, and the scabs themselves were contagious for years afterward.
If, as was normal, the small pox on a victim were a bit spaced from one another, the victim’s chances of survival were good. If, however, the victim had “confluent pox,” with the pustules forming almost one on top of the other, their chances of survival decreased significantly. Such unfortunates would slough off huge swatches of skin, leaving them in extreme pain and open to deadly secondary infections. Sixty to seventy percent of those with confluent small pox would die of it.
Yet two other types of small pox infection could show at the fourth stage. Both were rare and nearly always fatal. Pregnant women were most at risk for the “black pox.” Rather than having pox raise up across their body, their skin remained smooth. They would hemorrhage under the skin and into their eyes. Their skin would take on a charred appearance from the subcutaneous bleeding and the whites of their eyes would turn fully red from the blood. Most would die within a little over a week after the hemorrhaging began.
In the fourth type of the disease, “malignant pox,”it was children who were most at risk. The pox would become observable, but would not raise up. They remained buried in the skin. The sufferer would get a severe rash on their tongue and throat. They too would invariably die within a week or so of the appearance of their unique symptoms.
24 If a pilot, had caught small pox, that meant all of the colony’s public health and quarantine measures had failed.
Public health was of acute concern in port cities. The history of sea travel was the history of disease, contagion and death. In the 14th century, sea trade had spread bubonic plague throughout Europe, killing half the population in the worst calamity civilization had ever faced. Nothing had changed since except the specific diseases carried on the ships. In 18th century Charleston, ships arrived with small pox from Europe, yellow fever from Africa, and other diseases that could set off deadly epidemics.
Charleston had a series of laws to prevent any ship from landing if there was any suspicion of communicable disease on board. All ships had to be led to a point “below the guns” at Fort Johnson on the southern side of the harbor and there declare either that the crew and their passengers were free of disease or be inspected by a port physician. Any ship that was suspected of carrying disease had to wait out a quarantine period of ten days without disease before being allowed to land. Ships carrying slaves from Africa were assumed to be carrying disease and their human cargo was always deposited at Sullivan’s Island Pest Houses for a period of quarantine.
The Royal Colony of South Carolina, like all other North American colonies except Pennsylvania, also had general quarantine laws that applied to anyone who contracted small pox. The law required such individuals to remain in their home until diagnosed as free of their illness. Guards had to be posted outside of homes where someone inside had small pox and a flag displayed to let all know that there was someone in the home who had an active case of small pox.
Variolation was also a rather controversial procedure. Some argued on religious grounds that variolation was interfering with the natural works of God, though many religious leaders, including most notably Rev. Cotton Mather of Boston, strongly disputed that. Other concerns were practical. A person who was variolated still became infectious and could pass on the disease “in the natural way” to others, so in that sense, variolation was inviting active infection into a community where none then exists. Two, quite often the course of the disease in variolated individuals was so mild that they felt strong enough to go about in the community even before their final scabs had fallen off – leading in several cases to epidemics in the community. Consequently, while no locale in the colonies completely banned variolation, many restricted it.
According to Elizabeth Fenn in her book, Pox Americana, Charleston passed the first such restriction, “in 1738, when the city passed “An Act for the better preventing of the spreading of the infection of the Small Pox.” The ordinance imposed a hefty fine of five hundred pounds on anyone giving or receiving inoculation within two miles of the city. ”
∞∞ 7 ∞∞
29 Under the guiding hand of King George II and with the brilliant stratagems of Secretary William Pitt . . .
William Pitt was a Whig politician and a commoner – i.e.,a man without noble title. That and the fact that he had risen upon his own merit made him immensely popular throughout the British empire. Though not a favorite of the King, by popular pressure he was appointed to the government in 1756 as a sort of co-Prime Minister. He was charged with developing a new strategy to turn around the failing war effort and was given leave to hand pick those officers, irrespective of seniority, who would put his strategies into effect. The fruits of his efforts ripened in 1759 and continued through the end of the wars.
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35 It used to be, hundreds of years ago, that people would paint their shields with their family symbol.
Painting shields was a practice long before heraldry. Warriors used to paint their shields to hide the grain of the wood, as a blow from an axe or sword parallel to the grain of the wood would often split the shield.
37 True, Major Washington ambushed a French patrol, though it was his Indian scouts that took it upon themselves to murder the French diplomat, Jumonville. . . .
A young George Washington, twenty-two years old in 1754 at the time of the Jumonville Incident, earned notoriety in two other incidents during the French-Indian war. His first did not reflect well on his military skills. He chose poor terrain on which to build Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania, to defend against an advancing French force and their Indian allies. In short order, the French were able to force a humiliated George Washington to surrender.
But what Washington may have lacked in tactical skills, he more than made up for with personal bravery and an ability to inspire soldiers. When Gen Braddock’s force was defeated at the Battle of Monongahela, Washington stepped in and rallied the British, preventing a slaughter. For that he became celebrated throughout the colonies as the Hero of Monongahela.
∞∞ 10 ∞∞
40 They came [to America from Ireland] because of the Penal laws being imposed on us, Ulster Scots and Popish Irish alike,
“Ulster Scots” were Scots who immigrated to the north of Ireland. “Popish” was a then common, if somewhat derogatory, term for Catholics.
The same Norman dynasty that conquered England in 1066 conquered Ireland a century later. English monarchs thereafter claimed to be the the monarchs of Ireland, though the countries were always ruled as separate nations. The history of English rule over Ireland is one of periodic Irish rebellions and severe English reprisals. This took on religious overtones after the 16th century Reformations in England and Scotland, with both nations emerging as Protestant nations while Ireland remained largely Catholic. One of the schemes of King James I in the early 17th century to pacify Ireland was to dispossess Irish Catholic lords of their lands and to populate those territories with Scottish and English Protestants. This gave rise to a unique class of individuals who would play a large role in the founding of America, the Scots-Irish, virtually all of whom were Presbyterian.
As history played out in Britain and Ireland, it turned out that not all Protestant denominations were created equal. There were more than two dozen sizable Protestant sects in Britain by the 18th century. Only one, the Anglican Church, became the established state Church in both England and Ireland. After the English Civil War, which saw the largely Puritan and Presbyterian forces of Oliver Cromwell triumph over the largely Anglican Royalists, when the Anglicans regained power with the Restoration, they came back seeking vengeance. All of the other Protestant denominations, including the Scottish Presbyterians were labeled the “Dissenting religions” and were subject to increasing discrimination at law.
After 1691, the Irish Anglicans held unchallenged power in Ireland and began to enact a series of draconian laws, the Penal Laws, to dispossess Catholics and members of the Dissenting Religions in Ireland of property and any political power. These laws were, in the words of the great British politician, Edmund Burke, “a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.” The end result was to drive a massive immigration of 250,000 Scots-Irish Presbyterians to the American colonies in the early and mid-18th century.
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46 I am a Huguenot, a French Protestant . . .
Catholic French kings regularly suppressed the Protestant Huguenot movement, with their worst act being the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572, when the French King Charles IX ordered attacks that killed upwards of 30,000 Huguenots throughout France. To escape the repression that regularly flared up, many wealthy French Huguenots abandoned all their belongings and wealth to escape France. Many ended up in Britain, Many more, at the end of the 17th century, came to the American colonies.
48 . . . I missed the Cherokee’s transition from being one of our biggest trading partners and long time allies to being our vicious enemies. . . .
The Cherokee tribe had emerged dominant among the Indian tribes in and beyond the border of South Carolina after they allied with the colonists against the Yamasee Indians in 1715. The Yamasee Indian tribe occupied the heartland of South Carolina, but ceased to exist as a nation after the 1715 war. From that point on, the South Carolina Indian trade of British and colonial goods for deer skins was carried on between the colonists and primarily the Cherokee tribe.
The Royal Government regulated the deer skin trade after 1720, limiting it to licensed Indian traders, most of whom seemed to be immigrants from Scotland. The purpose of regulating the trade was two-fold. One was to ensure taxes were paid. The other was to ensure the Indians were treated fairly.
The Yamasee War of 1715 had provided a stark warning of the damage that could be done warring with the local tribes. It was a war that almost wiped the colony of South Carolina off the map. And it was a war that began because many colonists were engaged in unfair trade with the Indians, often trading cheap, defective goods in return for the valuable deer pelts. The British learned that it was important to establish good relations with the Cherokee Indians, something they tried to cement when Cherokee Indians were given a state visit to Britain to meet with King George II in 1730.
Typically, Indian traders would lead a dual life. Half the year, from the beginning to the end of the Fall and Winter hunting season, they would live among the Cherokee, earning their trust, and in many cases, marrying into the tribe. The rest of the year would be spent among the colonists, arranging for shipment of the pelts and gathering goods to trade with the Indians for the next season.
John Stuart is probably the most famous of the Indian Traders today because of his role as a loyalist in the American Revolution. Stuart was born in Inverness, Scotland, in about 1718 and immigrated with his family to Charleston around 1733. Thereafter, he became a trader with the Cherokee Indians and rose to become the most liked and respected colonist among the tribe. They referred to him by the nickname “Bushyhead” for his bushy red hair. After his British wife died, John Stuart took a Cherokee wife. They had a son whom they gave a tribal family name of Bushyhead. It is a family name very well known among the Cherokee today, as several “Bushyheads” from this line have been tribal leaders through the modern era.
53 [The slaughter at Glencoe] probably had as much to do with the Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 1745 as anything. . . .
“Jacobites” was the name given to those people in Britain and Ireland, mostly Highland Scots and some of the Irish Catholics, who supported King James II, the last Catholic King to rule England, Scotland and Ireland. King James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. His replacements were William of Holland, the Protestant nephew of James II who shared the throne jointly with his wife Mary, who was James II’s Protestant daughter. King William put down the Jacobite rebellion in a series of battles through 1690, then offered the Scottish Jacobites peace so long as they would pledge their allegiance to him and his line, which they did. The justification for the massacre at Glencoe was that the MacDonald clan was late in giving this pledge.
The Jacobites, in Scotland at least, remained true to their pledge until 1714, when Queen Anne, Mary’s sister and the last of her line, died childless. Rather than giving the throne to James II’s sole surviving son, Charles, a Catholic, the English Court offered the throne to the Protestant George I of Hanover. The Jacobites, with support from the Pope and the King of France, rose up in 1715, intending to seat Charles on the British throne. The English and Lowland Scots beat back the rebellion.
A second major Jacobite rebellion occurred in 1745, when James II’s grandson, “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” again with support from France and the Papacy, saw an opportunity to strike while Britain was occupied in the War of Austrian Succession. This second rebellion ended in a final and decisive victory for the English and Lowland Scots at The Battle of Culloden. So brutal was the slaughter at that battle and the subsequent hunt for surviving Jacobites that the British officer commanding at the time, the Duke of Cumberland, thereafter was known as “The Butcher of Culloden.” Many of the Jacobites captured after the battle were given a choice between execution or taking an oath of allegiance to King George II, followed by banishment as indentured servants to the American colonies.
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55 He was dressed all in black “mourning clothes” . . .
18th century British “mourning” rituals were formalized and elaborate. An entire and very lucrative industry developed in Britain devoted to creating black “mourning clothes” made with the most expensive fabrics, the cost of which were out of reach for all but the financially well off. The ritual called for the bereaved to wear black mourning clothes for a period of six months to a year, thus multiplying the expense for these clothes, as several sets of them would be required. Records show that “mourning clothes” were a major import item into the colonies.
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57 We had to emancipate [Abigail, born a slave] . . . to lawfully educate her . . .
Before 1740, slaves in the Royal Colony of South Carolina could be educated. In 1739, a small group of 20 slaves, led by an educated slave named Cato, staged the Stono Rebellion. Marching towards what they believed would be freedom in the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine, more slaves joined, finally totaling 80. Before the colonists put the rebellion down, killing 44 blacks, the escaped slaves had killed 47 whites. The rebellion, though small, had a major impact in the South Carolina colony, where black slaves in the low country significantly outnumbered white colonists.
The next year, the colony’s legislature passed The Negro Law of 1740, a comprehensive act that governed the treatment of slaves and confirmed their status as “chattel” property. In order to prevent future rebellions, the act, among other things, restricted slaves’ ability to travel and congregate, made it illegal for a slave to bear arms except as part of the militia, and proscribed educating slaves, with the exception that slaves could be taught to read. The act also limited slave owners’ right to free their slaves. A slave owner had to receive legislative permission , by affirmative vote, in each instance before emancipating a slave or lawfully freeing all of his slaves through his Last Will and Testament. The act of freeing a slave was, in 18th century parlance, known as “manumission.” Often one of the conditions of freeing a slave was that the owner would be required to arrange for the former slave’s education and integration into society.
58 “There are rules,” said Gadsden, a veteran of several duels.
The rules of dueling varied by location and time, but by the 18th century usually involved seconds, men who would act as intermediaries before the duel to see if the matter could be resolved peacefully. A doctor was usually present, as were witnesses in case the matter was later investigated. Duels were not uncommon in the colonies and during the early years of the Republic. Settling arguments by duel was most common in the Southern states. The most famous was the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton that resulted in Hamilton’s death. Andrew Jackson, before his presidency, engaged in at least thirteen duels. During one of those duels, he took a musket ball to the left arm, where it remained for nineteen years until he had surgery to have it removed.
59 . . . she could no more stop this than King Canute could stem the tides.
King Canute was the last of the great Viking warlords to hail from Scandinavia. Already King of Sweden and Denmark, he successfully invaded England in 1016 A.D., becoming King there too. A famous, perhaps apocryphal, tale is told of King Canute finding himself surrounded by courtiers who treated him, much to his chagrin, as a God-like figure who could do no wrong. Gathering them together, he took them to the ocean shore and loudly commanded the tides to recede. When, instead, the tide rose, engulfing his legs, he is reputed to have said “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”
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60 I was horrified to learn that Doctor York had chosen not to bleed his son, nor treat him with calomel.
Calomel was most famously used in large and repeated doses by Dr. Benjamin Rush to treat his yellow fever patients during the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia. Compounds of mercury were used in treating various illnesses and conditions, including syphilis, into the 20th century, even though the dangers of mercury poisoning had been known since at least the 18th century.
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62 The lead article was titled “Cherokee Attack Thwarted Twice At Fort Ninety Six.”
Ninety Six was the unusual name given to a very small settlement established at an important road junction in the back country of the colony of South Carolina. Main roads at that junction led to Charleston, Augusta, the Cherokee town of Keowee, and colonial settlements in Saluda. There is much speculation, but no definitive story, as to how the area got its name. Experienced Indian trader, Robert Gouedy, built a major trading post there around 1750, serving the colonists and the Cherokee Indians.
With the start of the Anglo-Cherokee War in 1758, the Royal Governor directed that a small fort – it ended up being a palisade fort of 90 square feet – be built at Ninety Six and garrisoned by back-country militia. It was a strategic location that, if lost to the Cherokee, would have opened up major portions of Georgia and South Carolina to attack. The British deemed it to be similarly strategic during the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, 1779-1781.
65 In the second century Anno Domini, a physician named Galen . . .
For two millennium, people in the West have defined the passage of years by reference to the year of the birth of Jesus Christ. Those years before the birth of Christ were classed as “B.C.”, or “Before Christ,” while the years occurring afterwards were classed to as “A.D.,” or “Anno Domini,” that being medieval Latin for “in the year of our Lord.” Lately, with the move afoot to erase Christianity from all aspects of society, many scholars have replaced “B.C.” with “BCE,” standing for the “Before the Common Era,” and replaced “A.D.” with “C.E.” standing for “Common Era.” Ironically, the term “Common Era” is still dated from . . . the birth of Christ.
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67 They were surrounded by a wave of humanity that, even in an era when people did not regularly bathe, smelled of body odor and stale sweat so strongly as to be stomach churning.
Bathing was very rare in 18th century European cultures. Most people would wash just their face and hands each day, and they would change those garments worn next to the skin if they could afford to do so. People used a variety of means, based on what they could afford, to mask odors. Along with scented handkerchiefs and bags of aromatics, there were strong perfumes, and many people would roll up their freshly laundered clothes in aromatics. In addition, many women carried nosegays.
Part of the antipathy towards bathing was that, for centuries, Europeans believed that natural oils helped fight off disease and that bathing removed those oils and left the pores dangerously open and unprotected. This belief reached its height in 17th century England under King James I, a man who is reputed never to have bathed in his adult life. That said, by the mid 18th century, even most doctors were recommending bathing of the entire body, some even more than once per week, weather permitting.
Bath tubs were just beginning to make their appearance, but given how labor intensive it was to heat the water, fill the tubs, and then drain them, they were found only in a few of the richer households. North of South Carolina, many people would effectively bathe by swimming in lakes and rivers. This was difficult in South Carolina and Georgia, though, because there were so many alligators in the rivers and streams of the Low Country.
Interestingly, while few people maintained bathes in 18th century Charleston, Dr. David Ramsay, a physician of the era, points out that bidets – a chair holding a tub of water where the seat would be and which was intended to be used for washing one’s nethers – were very common. Bidets were introduced into Charleston society by the influx of Huguenots circa 1700.
A good example of the scents of the era and the methods people used to mask odors is the 1778 book, The Toilet of Flora, by Pierre-Joseph Buc’hoz, which can be downloaded free from Google Books.
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70 Attached to the belt was the dirk Bill had received when he was a lieutenant in the East India Company.
The East India Company (EIC) was granted a monopoly in 1600 on British trade in Asia, including with China, Japan and India. It did not rely on the British military and navy for support, rather it eventually formed it’s own military. It’s merchant ships were the largest built in the 18th century, some as large as 1,500 tons burthen, but they were also armed with cannon, some as many as 40 or more. By way of comparison, merchant ships making use of Charleston Harbor were no larger than 300 tons burthen. By 1760, the EIC had not merely its own navy, but it’s own army of about 20,000 men. Trading in all the wares of the orient, including tea, opium, salt-peter and fabrics, the EIC became not only the richest company that the world had ever seen, but both an investment for many of Britain’s wealthy aristocracy and a cash-cow for Britain’s Parliament to tax into penury.
72 “Do we still have any of the gin?” Andrew asked, referring to the gin produced by one of his other businesses, a brewery.
Gin, a spirit that originated in the Netherlands, had taken Britain by storm in the late 17th century after the Dutch Prince, William of Orange, had been invited by Parliament to take over the British throne. The government, seeing gin distillation as a means to use up poor quality grain, banned foreign liquor importation and encouraged home brewing of gin. Extremely cheap to make, thousands of British took to brewing it in their homes, kicking off a period that came to be known as the “gin craze.” At the height of the craze, Londoners alone were producing ten million gallons of gin a year, with the quality of their product ranging from, at its worst, rotgut flavored with turpentine, to, at its best, high quality spirits infused with juniper berries and many other botanicals. Cheap gin became the bane of lower class British society. The effects of its abuse led gin to be labeled “mother’s ruin,” and William Hogarth famously documented its ills in his 1751 drawing, Gin Lane. The Gin Craze did not abate in Britain until the late 1750’s.
73 The [Jewish father and son] ran the Cohen & Son Counting House, . . .
From the Medieval period onward, Jews were associated with finance and trade. This was because virtually all European countries confined their Jews to only those two professions, and, while Christians at the time were banned from lending money at interest, the Jews were not. Virtually every European Kingdom of the High Middle Ages employed a Court Jew to coordinate loans.
Antisemitism in Europe during the Medieval Period through the 18th century probably stemmed from two bases. One, Jews were a small and very insular minority in every European country, and thus subject to being scapegoated in an era of tribalism and ignorance. Two, creditors were, and still are, only popular when one needs a loan of money. Rarely are they popular when one has to pay back the loan at interest. More than a few royal debtors extinguished their debts by leading deadly religious riots against their Jewish creditors. In England, this culminated in an infamous massacre of Jews at York Castle in 1190, and then an expulsion of all Jews from England a century later.
European antisemitism was receding by the 17th century, when Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell invited the Jews back to England to help rebuild the country in the wake of the Civil War. Antisemitism was at its nadir in the British North American colonies, where religious tolerance was not merely a reality, it was a necessity given the religious pluralism of the population.
74 . . . and thank you and, I think it was the entire Jewish community who showed for George’s funeral.
Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jews began immigrating to Charleston in 1695. By 1760, there was also a large population of Germanic Ashkenazi Jews in Charleston.
75 Andrew used the yellow colored pins for the partnership’s ocean-going vessels, most of which were brigs of 200 to 250 tons burthen.
Sailing ships of the 18th century were the at the zenith of technology of the era. There were numerous different types of merchant sailing ships, each finely tuned for slightly different considerations. Generally, those considerations were
1. The depths of the bar and ports in which the ship might trade. So, for instance, Charleston Harbor, the richest in 18th century North America, could only accommodate small to medium sized ships of up to 300 tons burthen that, fully loaded, had a “draft” of no more than 20 feet or so below the waterline. The deepest entrance to the port was 17 ft at low tide and the harbor experienced 8 ft. tides. At the other end of the spectrum were some of the deep water ports in England used by East India Company trading vessels of 1,500 tons burthen.
2. The trade off between size, maneuverability into the wind, and speed. All 18th century sailing ships could tack into a head wind (feel free to look up the physics regarding angle of wind direction and the effect on keel pressure), but ships with sails rigged fore and aft (parallel to the length of the ship) did so much more efficiently. That said, “square rigged” ships ran faster with the wind at their backs and, indeed, the larger the vessel, the greater the need for square rigged sails just to overcome the inertia of a large, heavily loaded ship.
Thus, the general rule was that the smallest of merchant vessels, such as the Bermuda Sloop, Cutters and some of the single masted coasters, were most likely to use only fore-and-aft sails. The picture below is “A Cutter In A Swell.” It is unsigned but attributed to Thomas Buttersworth, probably composed about 1820.
Schooners were two masted ships (a third mast wasn’t added until the 19th century) that used only fore-and-aft rigging on both masts. They were the largest of the small ships. Those schooners fitted out as merchant ships usually had a cargo capacity of 50 to 150 tons burthen. They had a shallow draft below the waterline, were extremely fast and maneuverable and could be crewed by as small a number as a captain, a cook and one sailor per mast. The picture below is The American Schooner COLUMBIA before Block Island, 1881 by William G. Yorke.
Most medium sized merchant vessels of 200 to 500 tons burthen used any one of numerous possible combinations of square sails and fore-and-aft sails. The barkue shown in the painting below is probably about 300 tons burthen and has three masts, the forward two of which are rigged with square sails, the rear of which has fore and aft sails. The painting is The Bark Elberta of Prospect by Honore Pellegrin, 1855.
The largest 18th century merchant vessels were fully “ship rigged” with all but a few gibs being square sails. The picture below is a painting of a 1,000 tons burthen East India Company ship, East Indiamen off Madagascar, 1837 by Thomas Goldsworth Dutton, currently held in the National Maritime Museum, London, Greenwich.
3. Another general consideration was crew size. Crews were expensive. Fore-and-aft sails were easier to manipulate and thus allowed for a smaller crew. In the latter half of the 18th century, merchants hit on the barque configuration as being, in general, the most efficient for ocean-going trade. The barque, as discussed above, had three masts, the front two of which were rigged with square sails, the rear of which was rigged with fore-and-aft sails. A barque of 300 tons burthen could be sailed by as small a crew as ten men.
4. A final consideration for 18th century merchants would be whether they intended to engage in illegal trade. The 18th century Age of Sail was also the age of smuggling in the American colonies, Britain, and throughout much of Europe, all for a host of reasons this book will deal with later. Smuggling carried on by falsified manifests required the payment of bribes, but did not impact the choice of ship. Pure smuggling, without payment of bribes, was usually carried on by sloops and schooners that could outrun British square rigged vessels to windward and, with a shallow draft below the waterline, could go into rivers where British revenue ships could not follow.
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79 He augmented the candlelight with a lamp burning extremely bright from sperm whale oil.
Sperm whale oil was the best source of light the 18th century. But it was also quite expensive and thus rarely used except in financially well-off households. Even then it was used sparingly.
The most common form of light in middle and upper class house holds was from beeswax candles augmented by light from fireplaces and, in some cases, oil lamps burning any of a number of different types of oil. The least expensive and most common form of light among the poorer households and along the frontier was from candles made of tallow, which is animal fat. These burned faster than beeswax candles and smelled like cooking meat. Additionally, rease salvaged from cooking meat could also be used to fuel oil lamps, giving off a similar odor.
81 . . . and clothing, to wit: a livery coat and pair of breeches made of good red negro cloth . . .
A major item of trade between Britain and her American colonies were the many different varieties of finished cloth produced by Britain’s extensive textile industry. The colonies had no commercial textile industry to speak of at the time. That said, most women in the American colonies knew how to spin their own cloth for use at home, either of necessity or just to save money. This “homespun” cloth was extensively used for slaves, indentured servants, and by settlers in the back country. One of the ironies of 1760 colonial South Carolina was that the garments slaves and the lower classes wore, virtually all of which were made from homespun cloth, were lighter and much more appropriate for the climate than the wools and heavy fabrics the well-to-do wore. As the next decade played out in conflict with Britain, most colonists would turn evermore to using homespun cloth.
83 Then, while serving as First Officer aboard the HMS Defiance, a 58 gun, fourth rate ship of the line . . .
The term “ship of the line,” referred to warships with enough cannon that they would be included in naval battle formations. The most common naval tactic of the time was to array with ships in line parallel to the enemy so that one could bring the most firepower to bear. Under the British rating system, Great Frigates of the 1st Rate (100+ cannon), 2nd Rate (90 to 98 cannon), 3rd Rate (64 to 80 cannon) and 4th Rate (50 to 60 cannon) were all considered “ships of the line.” Ships with lesser number of cannon were frigates, sloops or brigs used for other duties, such as patrols and convoy escorts.
84 Molly’s Catholicism shouldn’t matter, but I can assure you, it will,
The 16th century Reformation in Britain, spurred on by Henry VIII’s libido, had left British Protestants with a visceral hatred of Catholicism that went well into the irrational. It was a hatred founded upon differences in religious dogma, the brutal religious wars of 16th and 17th century Europe, and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an attempt by Guy Fawkes and a small group of fellow Catholics to blow up the British Parliament. The 1642 English Civil War and the 1688 Glorious Revolution, were caused in part by the Stuart Kings’ Catholic relations and even a mere suspicion that they would lead a Catholic restoration in Britain. That distrust of Catholicism had traveled with the British colonists to the New World.
That said, Charleston was perhaps the most religiously tolerant of any city in the British empire. Although the colony, in 1705, had passed a law making Anglican religion the “state religion” and tax money was used to fund the local Anglican Churches, the colony was home to nine different Christian Protestant sects as well as the largest number of Jews anywhere in the colonies. They all got along with surprising equanimity. The only religion proscribed by law in South Carolina was Catholicism. Although several well-known Catholics resided in town, they were not completely integrated into local society and they could not legally hold Catholic religious services in Charleston.
86 ‘Tis a dire story, even for indentured servants. . . .
In a contract of indentured servitude, a sponsor would pay for the person’s fare to travel to America, in exchange for which the person would agree by contract to spend a set number of years, often five years, working for the sponsor, usually at no wages, but including room and board. At the end of the period of indentured servitude, the sponsor would be liable by the terms of the contract to provide some sort of fairly substantial consideration, so called “freedom dues,” whether a lump sum of money or some land, to help the now former servant to get started on their own.
Treatment of indentured servants by their sponsor varied greatly. Often, the servants had a hard life but sponsors treated fairly throughout their term. That said, all too often, indentured servants were treated harshly and a substantial number did not survive their term of servitude. You can read much more about colonial American indentured servitude in an essay by Richard Hofstadter, White Servitude.
While most Europeans entered indentured servitude of their own free well, many did not. Britain sent many Scots and Irish who took part in the Jacobite Rebellions into indentured servitude in the American colonies. Additionally, in 1718, Britain passed the Transportation Act, allowing British magistrates to sentence criminals to be transported to the American Colonies and sold into indentured servitude. Between 1718 and 1775, approximately 60,000 British and Irish convicts were “transported” to the thirteen North American colonies.
Not surprisingly, sending convicts to the colonies was rather controversial, at least among the American colonists. Quite often, these convicts did not suddenly become model citizens after arriving in the colonies. Ben Franklin, the most eloquent opponent of the practice, gave a short list of their transgressions in an essay he wrote in 1751: “housebreaking, shoplifting, . . . highway robbing, [sons] corrupted and hang’d, [daughters] debauch’d and pox’d, a wife stabbed, a husband’s throat cut, . . . a child’s brains beat out with an axe . . .” In that essay, Franklin thanked the government of Britain for their concern for her colonies’ well-being and suggested that the colonists send rattlesnakes to take up residence in Britain’s government offices to show the colonists’ sincere thanks. It is vintage Franklin satire well worth the short read.
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89 . . . and how Anne Bonnie started off her pirate career near Charleston.
Edgar Allen Poe, in his story, The Gold Bug, placed the search for Captain Kidd’s buried treasure on Sullivan’s Island, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.
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91 . . . the children were already at a small table in the sitting room, eating rice pudding topped with custard and raspberry jam
Instructions on how to prepare the desert in a modern kitchen are available from Historic Foodways, a site run by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
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92 . . . On shining altars of Japan they raise The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze.”
It was not just oriental tea services that were in demand in Britain, and by extension the colonies. Britain of the 17th and 18th century was a lucrative market for oriental works of all sort, from trays to furniture, from tea kettles to tea services. When the market became so robust that imports from the Orient could no longer meet demand, enterprising British artisans began to copy the oriental style, in a process that became known as Japanning.
93 May I present to you Dionaea muscipula, children, also know as the Venus plant.
Rare even among carnivorous plants, the Venus Flytrap has a delayed triggering mechanism. This from Wiki: “When an insect or spider crawling along the leaves contacts a hair, the trap prepares to close, snapping shut only if another contact occurs within approximately twenty seconds of the first strike. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value, and the plant will only begin digestion after five more stimuli to ensure it has caught a live bug worthy of consumption.”
There is no direct evidence that Liza Pinckney ever experimented with the Venus Flytrap. That said, given her extensive interest in botany, the fact that the plant is unique to the Carolinas, and given that it officially made its way into Britain circa 1760, it would be a surprise to find that Eliza did not keep some on her plantation to experiment a bit with growing them. Botanists in Britain were fascinated by the plant and many, most famously Charles Darwin, experimented extensively with the plant through the mid-19th century.
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94 . . . The Gullah: Rice, Slavery . . .
Gullah language and culture has survived through to today among many blacks along the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and as well, the island of Bermuda. Perhaps the most famous Gullah speaker in America is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He grew up speaking Gullah as his first language.
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95 . . . then everyone had gone for a lunch of shrimp and grits, . . .
Grits were an ancient Indian corn dish embraced by the South Carolina colonists. First, the corn was processed into “hominy” by soaking the corn in a mild lye solution of wood ashes and water. The hominy was then dried and ground into meal. The meal was put into boiling water to make grits, a sort of porridge. How the Indians came upon this process is lost to time, but like many ancient practices that our ancestors could not grasp at the time they were adopted, turning corn into hominy gave them a benefit. Today, we know that it causes nixtamalization of the corn and that allows humans to get more nutritional benefit from consuming hominy than from consuming untreated corn.
Grits has been a staple of South Carolina cuisine since colonial times. Shrimp and grits is one of the more common Charleston recipes for grits.
The York family is fictional, as are their servants. Dr. Stillwell is a fictional character modeled on some of the famous physicians of the day.
Unless pointed out in a footnote that a particular broadside or newspaper article is quoted from an actual 18th century article, the article or broadside is fictional.
I take some license with Charleston’s Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1760. It is not well documented in historical literature beyond the highlights. Some aspects of the epidemic are clearly known. There was a mass inoculation throughout the city, but it was quite chaotic and controversial. The epidemic was raging by April 1760 and began to abate in June. There are differing accounts of how and when the epidemic started. Dr. David Ramsay, in his 1810 history of SC, states that the epidemic began in the home of a pilot and that the pilot’s home, at White Point, was then quarantined. Ramsay does not name the pilot. I have given him the fictional name of Mr. Uriah Earl. Others state that the smallpox was brought into Charleston by soldiers returning from Lyttelton’s 1759 Expedition against the Cherokee. Furthermore, I condensed the time frame of the outbreak somewhat. The first incidents of smallpox occurred in January, 1760.