“This Most Illegal Family”

Jeffory A. Clymer

in Family Money

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199897704
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980123 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in American Literary History

“This Most Illegal Family”

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Chapter 1 examines white slaveowners’ efforts to bequeath property to their enslaved, or formerly enslaved, mistresses or their mixed-race children. More than isolated cases of generosity, goodwill, or even guilt, this history encompasses the efforts of the enslaved to be accorded the legal protections that normally extended to white wives and children. This chapter explores these interracial inheritance quarrels as portrayed in legal cases and literary works, particularly Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends (1857) and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856). Thematizing the law’s adjudication of race, family, and inheritance, Webb and Stowe assess the incongruity of interracial emotional bonds and economic rights in the Southern version of family. Their novels ultimately envision the redistribution of white wealth to the formerly enslaved.

Keywords: Frank J. Webb; Harriet Beecher Stowe; race; inheritance; slavery; law; family; sexuality

Chapter.  12819 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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