Feb 21, 2008 - Sale 2137

Sale 2137 - Lot 15

Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
A CIVIL WAR CASE INVOLVING CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION--LAW.) "Record of the proceedings against John and George Durr, free persons of color, charged with aiding another free person of color, William Durr, to incite a slave Sally and her children to flee to the Yankeys (sic)." Group of handwritten documents, relating to the trial, sentence and appeal on behalf of John Durr. Includes: a large folio sheet with the hand-written record of the original court proceeding, a letter of petition from Elias P. Scott, "planter" on behalf of the prisoner, citing the "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" of his sentence; and a note from Thomas Muckinfuss, a juror and relative of the slave owner, George Muckinfuss, on behalf of Durr, addressed to M.L. Bonham, Governor of South Carolina. And finally a note from the Governor's office regarding the commutation of the sentence. Four separate handwritten documents, totaling five pages, of various size (large folio to small 8vo). Archival paper-repair to the first document, the remainder in excellent condition. should be seen. Colleton District, South Carolina, November, 1863-July, 1864

Additional Details

a highly unusual legal proceeding. John Durr and George Durr, free persons of color, were accused of aiding William Durr (also free) to incite Sally and her two children Manda and Allen, the slaves of George Muckinfuss to cross the lines to the "Yankees." The first document, a large, folio page apparently taken from a court ledger, describes the original proceeding in detail. The accompanying documents constitute the appeal of the sentence of John Durr and the commuting of it by Governor Bonham. While the other two Durrs were apparently given lighter sentences (not mentioned here), John was sentenced "to be taken to Walterboro Jail and there kept in solitary confinement for three years. And to receive fifty stripes (lashes) on the bare back, this day, and to receive fifty stripes on the bare Back on the first Monday in February, then to receive fifty stripes at the expiration of every Three Months until the term of his imprisonment ends." This unbelievably cruel sentence amounted to a total of 600 lashes! By the time of this appeal and petition on his behalf, John Durr had already served ten months of his sentence and received 200 lashes. Even the owner of the slave Sally was apparently appalled. Included is his note to the governor, stating that Sally's own testimony had been coerced. Citing "Cruel and unusual punishment," and the coerced testimony of Sally, the court ordered John Durr to be set free. A note from the Governor's secretary refers to work for an engineer as part of the conditions of Durr's pardon.