Monday, September 10, 2012

Amanuensis Monday
John McLaurin's Response Concerning Sick Ned

Slave Coffle, Washington, DC, 1819
Image from Library of Congress

John McLaurin responded to Duncan McArn who had written him in January 1836, concerning Ned, a sick slave. McArn thought he had purchased an "unsound negro" from McLaurin. Read Duncan McLaurin's Letter Concerning his Newly Purchased Slave, Ned

March 04, 1836

Dear Sir,

Your letter was received but not read in due time. It was taken out of the office by a namesake of mine who lives in the country. I am very much surprised at its contents. If the boy NED was unsound when I sold him, it certainly was not known to me nor to any person acquainted with him. That he had had the fever and ague is a fact which I told you of before you purchased him but that does not make a man unsound. We are all liable to fevers and when the fever is on delirium . If he has taken a disease which may prove dangerous in consequence of exposure on the journey or from any other cause I regret it very much, but I cannot think that I am to blame for it.

I do assure you, Sir, there was nothing about him which indicated unsoundness as far as my knowledge extended, nor was the least intimation of the existence of such a thing given me, by him or any other person.

If you had called at John C. McLaurin’s as you promised me you would, you might have got him and the other boy off your hands at a profit. I wrote him you would call and he was ready and anxious to buy them. You not stopping there was a disappointment to him as well as to me. I wished him to have them. He knew the negroes well. I shall be sorry if you lose by the purchase, but if you do, it cannot be my fault and I feel unwilling to pay for any accident that has happened to the boy (which lessens his value) since I departed with him.

I give you my word if he had been an unsound negro I never would have offered him for sale. If he was here today in the same condition as when he was taken away, he would bring more money then you paid for him.

I hope before this time that he has recovered his health and will do you good service.

Write me on receipt of this and let me know if the boy is getting better.

Respectfully yours,
J. M. McLaurin

Ned traveled from Fayetteville, NC, to Fayette, Jefferson County, MS, with slave traders and Duncan McArn who purchased him. It is likely he was in the company of other slaves who were a part of a slave coffle

Slave Coffle - A coffle was a convoy of slaves, mostly chained or roped together. The average coffle consisted of between 30 and 50 people. Men were placed in front, followed by women without children, children who were able to walk, and lastly, women with infants and small children who had to be carried. Major traders would have as many as 300 people. Determine by the destination, traveling 20 - 25 miles per day, the trip could take several weeks.

McArn (Duncan) and Family Papers, Collection Number: Z/1487
Collection may be seen at the Mississippi Department of History and Archives
African American Migration Experience - The Domestic Slave Trade


  1. 300 people. You know, it is just always a horror. He write "Respectfully yours," Just boggles my mind.

  2. I can't even begin to imagine how a person could be merely considered a transaction. Thank goodness we've moved forward--though I recognize that we still have a ways to go. I have thought so much about what it was like for others in the past as a result of my blogging experiences. . . and know that I can't possibly fully understand, but I hope that we've moved forward.

  3. Thank goodness we have moved forward.