Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Vice President and His Mulatto (p.p.s.)

Brenda Gordon has also sent me a fascinating artifact relating to the half-hidden history of her family… and of American politics.

It’s a newspaper article dated November 29, 1832. Here’s what the Lexington Observer and Kentucky Reporter had to say about the marriage of a white man, Thomas W. Scott, to Adeline Johnson, daughter of future U.S. Vice President Richard M. Johnson and his octoroon slave/common-law wife Julia Chinn.

(Mrs. Gordon discovered about a decade ago that Richard Johnson and Julia Chinn are her great-great-great-grandparents. She transcribed this article from a microfilm copy at the Kentucky History Center.)
Marriage Extraordinary! MARRIED, In Scott County, on the 8th inst. By the Rev. ------*, Mr. THOMAS W. SCOTT, a white man, to Miss ADELINE J. JOHNSON, a mulatto girl, and reputed, or acknowledged, daughter of the Honorable Richard M. Johnson, one of the Representatives of the state of Kentucky in the Congress of the United States!

A few days after Mr. Scott became the happy husband of the FAIR and lovely Adeline, he was presented by her father, the “good Colonel,” with a fine tract of land, known as the “Blue Spring farm,” for which a deed has been regularly made and entered of record in the office of the Clerk of the Scott County Court. The deed runs, “to Thomas W. Scott and Adeline J. Scott, his wife, jointly, their heirs,” &c.

This is the second time that the moral feelings of that portion of the people of Scott county who possess such feelings, have been shocked and outraged by the marriage of a mulatto daughter of Col. Johnson to a white man, if a man, who will so far degrade himself; who will make himself an object of scorn and destation to every person that has the least regard for decency, for a little property; can be considered a white man. About two years and a half ago, a Mr. DANIEL PENCE, married IMOGENE, Colonel Johnson’s eldest daughter; and, as has more recently been the case with Mr. Scott, was soon after rewarded for his degradation, by being put in possession of a large farm and a number of slaves to cultivate it.

How long will the people of Scott County – of Kentucky – permit such palpable violations of the laws of their state to be commited with impunity! How long will the moral and religious part of the community suffer such indecent and shocking example to be set for their sons and the rising generation, before they put their veto upon them? – before they consign to private life at least, if not to infamy, those who encourage such violations of the laws both of God and of man? The laws of Kentucky forbid, under heavy penalties, a white man’s marrying a negro or mulatto, or living with one in the character of man and wife. Why should Pence and Scott not be held amenable to the laws? What are the Grand Jury of Scott about? … Will they suffer Pence and Scott to go unpunished because they have become the sons-in-law of Col. Johnson? – We hope not. We hope to see the supremacy of the laws of the country maintained, although persons high in office should be made to feel their weight.

* The Rev. Thomas Henderson, Principal of the Choctaw Academy, is said to have performed the marriage ceremony between Mr. Scott and Miss Adeline. We incline to doubt his having done so; for we have a higher opinion of Mr. Henderson than to believe he would be guilty of such an outrage against public opinion and the laws of his country.


Anonymous said...

You know, with some creative editing, that piece of opinion can serve as commentary against gay marriage that is somehow acceptable in this country.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Interesting. It's quite possible that, 175 years from now, people might be amused at all the fuss being made about gay marriage.

Anonymous said...

Using Google I found your web site. I was researching Richard Mentor Johnson because of his stand on Freedom of Conscience regarding several issues.

I really was delighted to find your posting since living here in California and being against prop8 I agree with ItAintEasy. In fact I sent it off to another friend who has a web site dealing with religious liberty issues.

I just want to say thank you for posting it.