AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2007 Issue

More Unusual Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

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He would go on to successfully defend both Justice Samuel Chase from impeachment and Aaron Burr over the Burr conspiracy. Son-in-law Keene would have something of a checkered career, he being accused of participating in the Burr conspiracy. Keene moved to New Orleans and, in 1815, may have been the first to petition the Spanish government for the right to set up a non-Spanish colony in Texas (nothing came of it, and the French then established the first such Texas colony in 1818). As to whether father and son-in-law ever resolved their differences, we cannot tell, but perhaps, since Keene named a son after Luther Martin. $250.

Item 134 is a book dealing with a difficult subject, the forced institutionalization of those deemed insane. Elizabeth T. Stone was such a person, committed to an asylum by her family in 1840. According to Ms. Stone, she was an outcast from her family all her life. Despite leaving at age 15 to work in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, she for some reason attempted to be helpful to them. Conned into visiting the family for Thanksgiving, her brothers, including one she says she supported financially for his education, had her thrown in an asylum, where she spent two years. Her "crime," she said, was her switch from the family's Methodist religion to that of the Baptists (probably considered "crazy" in 1840 New England). Stone wrote a series of books describing her predicament. As to whether Ms. Stone was quite right mentally or somewhat paranoid, it is hard to tell from a distance, but undoubtedly there is much truth to descriptions of the horrors patients were forced to endure in 19th century mental hospitals. Offered is the last of her four books, published in 1861, The American Godhead: or, the Constitution of the United States Cast Down by Northern Slavery, or by the Power of Insane Hospitals. $500.

Item 66 is a Report to His Excellency the Governor, on Prisons, Prison Discipline, and the Criminal Law, by the Attorney General. South Carolina Attorney General Isaac Hayne recommends some changes in the law, while at one point noting the state's low crime rate, with an explanation that, in hindsight, sounds quite ominous -- "more than half of our population, and the portion among whom, from their position, crime would naturally most abound, are slaves, who are kept in order without a resort to the Courts." This statement begs for an explanation as to exactly how they were kept in order. $1,000.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books is found online at www.lesserbooks.com, telephone 203-389-8111.

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