You are on page 1of 3

An Analysis of “Pictures of Slavery” by John Dixon Long

In relation to “Celia, A Slave” by Melton A. McLaurin OBJECTIVE This is an analysis of Chapter VII of a self-published document written by

the Reverend John Dixon Long called “Pictures of Slavery in Church and State”. Corollaries will be made to Melton A. McLaurin’s modern work “Celia, A Slave.” CONTEXT The Reverend John Dixon Long, born and raised in New Town, Maryland (a

border slave state) was the son of a slave-holding father and a mother who first introduced the ideas of abolitionism into young John’s mind. He served as minister in Maryland with the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) from 1835 until he was superannuated because of his failing health in 1848. He and his family remained in Maryland until he noticed that his boys were “beginning to imbibe the common prejudices of slave society-- hatred of work and of slaves” (Long, pg 8) 1, at which point he moved to the free state of Pennsylvania. It is in 1857, in Phildelphia that he seeks to publish this work. Because of its strong abolitionist message “no publisher in Philadelphia [that he] approached would undertake its publication” (Long, pg. 9). So he published it from his own funds. The entire document is a disjointed compilation of short stories and chance encounters with slaves and slave-holders that Long retells from his experiences as a minister. What ties all these encounters together though, is the “sin” and disgrace that slavery puts on the slave, the slave holders, society, and the church itself (specifically the MEC). In some reprints of this work, “Notices of the Press” are listed in the back. These contemporary reviews are predictably positive or negative based on their relation to the Mason-Dixon line. While the Christian Advocate, from

I will reference three different version of this work. When referring to sections outside of the chapter attached I will refer to it as (Long, pg #), and is found here: References to the specific chapter attached are cited only as (pg #). The Google books version includes an extended appendix and “Notes to the Press” which my primary source did not; I refer to that as (Long, Google, pg #). That version is found here: Church%20and%20State&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false By Matt Cromwell Page 1 of 3


An Analysis of “Pictures of Slavery” by John Dixon Long
In relation to “Celia, A Slave” by Melton A. McLaurin Chicago congratulates Long on highlighting the incongruity between the MEC’s official stance on slavery and it’s actual practice especially in the border states, Maryland’s From the Easton (Md.) Star calls the work “about as racy a sample of Anglo-American literature as has been belched from the very flatulent American press North for some time” (Long, Google, page 422). ANALYSIS and CONNECTION with CELIA The chapter analyzed here illustrates several

aspects of the legal/social environment surrounding the slavery controversy in which McLaurin’s, Celia, is also situated in and becomes an unwitting victim of. It opens with Long’s opinion on debt. He argues that slave holders often incur too much debt in order to maintain their vast estates. This seems to be a trumped up and generalized accusation. The slave owner, Robert Newsom, for example “had prospered” (McLaurin, pg. 10), enough so that he could afford to house Celia and her children (that he sired) in a separate cabin from the main home. Other than this opening section, the rest of Long’s claims in this chapter resonate strongly with Celia’s story. Next he describes the fright a colored man he knew received when he encountered Long and mistook him for a “nigger-buyer.” Long later describes “negro-buyers” as the most despicable types of humanity on earth. McLaurin describes how Newsom travelled far away to Audrain County specifically to hire a teenage slave to appear as domestic help for his young daughters. Taking Long’s description of “negro-buyers” into account, one could speculate that Newsom put out the word that he was looking for a teenage slave girl and was advised by such “negro-buyers” of Celia’s auction. In fact, another of Long’s stories is about a Christian slave-girl named Nancy who is sold without her mistress’ knowledge. Long’s repudiation of the family members who sold her is severe. The correlation between Long’s Nancy and Newsom’s Celia is striking; Celia could easily have been sold under identical circumstances.

By Matt Cromwell

Page 2 of 3

An Analysis of “Pictures of Slavery” by John Dixon Long
In relation to “Celia, A Slave” by Melton A. McLaurin Long also describes how he once was threatened with a suit against him by a slave-holder and fellow Methodist who claimed that Long had married one of his slaves without his consent. The point he raises is how dichotomous it is of Christians to disregard relationships between slaves. According to Long, Christian slave-masters’ disregard for their slaves’ sexual practices serves as a wedge between the slave and God. Though McLaurin does not address Newsom’s faith, the pervasiveness of Christianity among Southerners and especially slave-holders, heavily suggests he avowed Christian beliefs. Celia’s fellow slave and love interest George advocated for Celia to demand that Newsome quit his sexual advances on her seemingly out of moral concern. Whether Newsom was aware of Celia and George’s relationship is unclear, but her potential feelings for George or future marriage possibilities seems to be totally out of Newsom’s consideration. In this respect, Long affirms that reality and highlights the hypocrisy of it. CONCLUSION Long’s stories affirm and expand on Celia’s story in several ways.

Regarding the role of slave masters in slave marriages one can readily see Long’s concern for this moral issue played out badly against Celia with Newsom. Regarding the selling and buying of slaves, Long’s account adds complexity to the question of slave “dealers” which McLaurin does not address at all. But one has to ask what Celia’s life would have been like if she would have never been sold to Newsom in the first place. What I am most struck by in Lock’s story is the difference between how his readers received him and how we receive him now. His reasoning is extremely sound and just and right to our modern ears. At his time, though, he must have sounded extremely fringe and radical. It makes one wonder who the Lock’s of today are; who are the fringe elements of today who will 150 years from now sound so normative and just?

By Matt Cromwell

Page 3 of 3