[Ads-l] OT: Re: slave

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Fri Sep 2 10:44:21 EDT 2016


It is possible that Key had both the literal and the metaphorical meanings in mind when he wrote -- they are both true for the time (especially if Key was also thinking about the Revolutionary War).

Amy wrote:
"Those arguing that "slave" is referring to the black British soldiers have to argue that Key still thinks of them that way, denying them status as "free," which is possible. It's not certain, but possible."

Presumably urged to do so by southern slave owners, at the end of the War of 1812 the American government argued that slaves were property, and property seized during a war had to be returned (or reparations paid).  "At the end of the war Americans demanded the either the return of ex-slaves or monetary reparations for the loss of property.  With few exceptions, the British refused.  According to custom, a slave arriving on British soil was free; a British ship at war had the status of British land itself."  [Quotation from dthe very interesting article "Black Sailors and Soldiers in the War of 1812", from PBS (WGBH), http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/black-soldier-and-sailors-war/]

Key was a southerner, and a (minor) slaveowner in 1814.  It is likely that he too thought of slaves as property.  However, the record seems very mixed; for example, he argued as a lawyer both for slaves seeking freedom and masters seeking return; he was considered a "decent master" but also was an active anti-abolitionist.  ["The record" from Wikipedia, "Francis Scott Key", section "Legal Career".]

Joel


      From: Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
 To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU 
 Sent: Friday, September 2, 2016 7:29 AM
 Subject: [ADS-L] OT: Re: slave
   
On 9/1/16 12:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
> Date:    Wed, 31 Aug 2016 19:15:51 +0000
> From:    Joel Berson<berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Re: "slave"
>
> My reading is yes, Francis Scott Key was referring to enslaved blacks who had been recruited by the British -- along with the "hirelings", Hessian soldiers who made up a large proportion of the British forces in America, to reclaim the United States as a British colony.
>
> Joel

Yup, I think this literal interpretation is just as valid as the 
metaphorical or the rhetorical (JL's argument that the terms are common 
rhetorical terms of the period).

Actually I think the only shift in reference necessary between the two 
readings is this: Is "slave" referring to the subject's past condition 
(the black British soldiers were *formerly* slaves) or is it referring 
to the subject's current condition? If it's referring to the subject's 
current condition, then impressed sailors is a logical referrent. Those 
arguing that "slave" is referring to the black British soldiers have to 
argue that Key still thinks of them that way, denying them status as 
"free," which is possible. It's not certain, but possible.

---Amy West


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