Why I Love the Internet

18 Jun


It shows me stuff like this. A former slave owner from Tennessee writes to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, in 1865 offering him his “job” back. Anderson replies. An excerpt:

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living.
In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good- looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters.
P.S. — Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson

Read the whole thing. It’s possibly the best thing I’ve read in months. And it led me to Benjamin Banneker’s comprehensive smackdown of Thomas Jefferson:

Sir, I freely and cheerfully acknowledge, that I am of the African race, and in that color which is natural to them of the deepest dye; and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that I now confess to you, that I am not under that state of tyrannical thraldom, and inhuman captivity, to which too many of my brethren are doomed, but that I have abundantly tasted of the fruition of those blessings, which proceed from that free and unequalled liberty with which you are favored; and which, I hope, you will willingly allow you have mercifully received, from the immediate hand of that Being, from whom proceedeth every good and perfect Gift.

Sir, suffer me to recal to your mind that time, in which the arms and tyranny of the British crown were exerted, with every powerful effort, in order to reduce you to a state of servitude : look back, I entreat you, on the variety of dangers to which you were exposed; reflect on that time, in which every human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the conflict, and you cannot but be led to a serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential preservation; you cannot but acknowledge, that the present freedom and tranquility which you enjoy you have mercifully received, and that it is the peculiar blessing of Heaven.

This, Sir, was a time when you cleary saw into the injustice of a state of slavery, and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition. It was now that your abhorrence thereof was so excited, that you publicly held forth this true and invaluable doctrine, which is worthy to be recorded and remembered in all succeeding ages : “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Here was a time, in which your tender feelings for yourselves had engaged you thus to declare, you were then impressed with proper ideas of the great violation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings, to which you were entitled by nature; but, Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.

To which Jefferson said basically: “Oh, phooey!


Posted by on June 18, 2009 in Life


8 responses to “Why I Love the Internet

  1. SunnyKris

    June 18, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Quite a find Amrita!

    If Jourdon was from our generation, his blog would have been a radical hangout, with millions of followers on twitter! 😉

  2. Gradwolf

    June 19, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Great find, Amrita! That was wonderfully written and might I say, cheeky?

    Now on that note, I have to refer you to this link, which is, straight opposite of what Jourdan Anderson did. Thank to Internet, we find stuff like this too: Here

    Read the whole blog, will you? FakeIPLPlayer will sound sensible after that(Ok, I know its kirkit, but I couldn’t think of a better analogy)

  3. Gradwolf

    June 19, 2009 at 4:10 am

    And on a more sensible note, read this.

  4. memsaab

    June 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    And this is why I love your blog Amrita 😀 In your excerpt he sounds a bit like a beaten down Indian housewife, but I love his demand for his back wages in the entire thing!!! LOL! Wonder if he ever got them (not)?

  5. bollyviewer

    June 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Way to go Jourdan Anderson! It certainly is a very interesting read. I just have one reservation about the authenticity: from the letter, Col. Anderson doesnt seem like he believed in educating his slaves. But he must have made an exception in the case of Jourdan because Jourdan sounds unusually well educated and articulate!

  6. Amrita

    June 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    SunnyK – aint that the truth!

    Adithya – you mean that isn’t satire? the comments are for reals, I know because they have that whiff of “why do you offend me?” about them, but I thought that stuff was hilarious. Thanks for the second link – I’m reading it now.

    Memsaab – Meri maange poori karo! Yeah, that took some chutzpah, didn’t it? Esp coz that wasn’t pocket change he was asking for. From what they were able to deduce, he didn’t get a reply and it’s highly unlikely the colonel had the cash in any case that close to the end of the war on the losing side. The man’s thought process in writing that letter in the first place is as interesting as Anderson’s in replying. That petri dish of relationships is next to unimaginable sitting here today.

    BV – if you click the image through to the snopes forum and then click for the larger image, you can see that it says this letter was actually written by a third party as dictated by Anderson. Like you said, the good colonel wasn’t into educating his slaves.

  7. pitu

    June 19, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    *is rendered speechless*

  8. Amey

    June 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Given the prevalent attitude re: slavery and colonialism at that time, I am not really surprised some slave owner asked his ex-slaves to come back and work for him. I am pretty sure Col. Henderson didn’t really think he was doing anything wrong.

%d bloggers like this: