Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Solomon and The Scoundrels: The Trial and the Tale

Several people that I know or have heard that went to see the movie "Twelve Years A Slave" stated that it was either to hard to watch and walked out or refused to stay because of the brute facts of the film.
Others just refuse to go just because of the stirrings that it may bring. 

In my mind, this blog may be a little easier to digest as you read the newspaper account of the examination of the two scoundrels who kidnapped and sold Solomon Northrup.

The Kidnapping:

Solomon Northrup along with both of his parent was born free. Solomon was born around 1808 and married around 1820. He and his wife and children lived in Saratoga Springs.

In 1841 he was employed by two men to drive a team south to New York for the sum of a dollar a day.
After reaching Washington, Solomon fell ill and got a room at the Gadsden Hotel to rest.
Two men came to his room with offers of medicine to help with the pain.

When Solomon awoke all hell broke loose. He was chained to the floor in Williams Slave Pen.

A slave dealer by the name of James Birch and another man named Ebenezer Radburn stripped him down, beat him and dared him to ever mention that he was a Free Man again.

The Kidnapping Trial as seen in the New York Herald July 1854 from the Saratoga Whig   (Click on all newspaper articles to read for better view)

In The Matter Of Alexander Merrill and Joseph Russell:

These two men were arrested for enticing Solomon to Washington City under false pretense of work and selling him into slavery.
George Scott and Henry Northrup were the prosecutors of the case.  William Wait and John Brothereon represented the two prisoners.
Abel Meeker and David Maxwell were the Justice of the Peace and W. O. Odell was the District Attorney.

The trial or examination as it was called was held at the Balleston Spa on July 11th 1854.

Solomon Speaks:

Solomon was sworn in and stated he was now 47 years of age. At the time of the occurrence he was in contact with the two men who were now arrested and on trial for enslaving him.

Step by step Solomon related how he was told that he would be paid to drive a team of horses and also to play the fiddle at a circus for a dollar a day.
He told how after arriving in New York the prisoners wanted him to go on to Washington but that he was reluctant to go unless he had his free papers. Once the supposed free papers were obtained they ventured on their way.

They partied together drinking and smoking by day at the Gadsby Hotel.  That afternoon he was feeling sick and by evening, he was very ill and took to his bed.
 When he awoke he was tied to the floor in a slave pen and stripped of all his money and belongings.

Two men Birch and Radburn came in and accused Solomon of lying and being a runaway from Georgia.  They flogged and paddled him with Cat-of 9 tails until he was told to stop or else he would not be any good for sale.
After spending several more days in the slave pen he was sent from there by railroad then by steam boat to Virginia and from there to New Orleans where he was sold.

Solomon Northrop states he was kept in slavery for 12 years, released where he returned to his wife and kids.

Cross Examination:

Solomon stated that he had not been to any of those places before.  On cross he actually stated most of what he said previously except for naming another person by the name of St. John who then testified.

St John told on the stand that the appearance of the two prisoners had changed from long straggly hair to being well groomed. A gold watch and chain hung from Russell’s pocket and loose lips told that he sold the Negro Solomon.

Another witness testifies that he has known Solomon since 1826 or 1827 and that he remembers seeing the two men previously and talked to Solomon about his fear of him going with the two in this adventure.

Mr. Wait, the council for the defendant Russell, called no witnesses. Bail was set at $5,000 dollars each.

The punishment for kidnapping and selling into slavery is no less than 2 years or no longer than 10 years.

The Tale of the Heartless Tape:

Solomon Northrup sued the slavers but lost the fight based on the law that a black person could not testify against a white person.
Even though the slavers were remanded into custody they were eventually released for lack of Northrup’s testimony.


Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Great article, and I see that you shared more than what is usually told about his story!

Ms Vicky said...

Thanks Angela, I thought it was a very telling article. Its just to bad that Northrup was not able to profit from this horrible 12 yr atrocity.

Kristin said...

Too bad he was so hard headed and went with those two against the advice of several.

I'm one of those who avoided the movie because I just know I would get so angry and raise my blood pressure all in vain. Your post was much easier to read.

Ms Vicky said...

I thought this would be much easier also after hearing that some walked out because of cruelty.

suzanne thorndyke said...

It's so reassuring to see how far the legal system has moved on since then, the outcome of Northup's trial was disgusting. I'm currently doing a project on Northup, if I could email you some further questions that would be absolutely amazing.

suzanne thorndyke said...

It's so reassuring to see how far the legal system has moved on since then, the outcome of Northup's trial was disgusting. I'm currently doing a project on Northup, if I could email you some further questions that would be absolutely amazing.