Trulock Papers Research

Submitted By cgconrad
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AMANDA TRULOCK’S EVOLUTION OF THOUGHT ON SLAVERY “But I must say that I have a very different opinion with regard to the Negros than I had when in B-Port, for certainly they are the happiest people in the world, for they have no cares, and are not either aspiring after wealth nor fame.”1 These are the words written by Amanda Beardsley Trulock in 1837 as she described her arrival at her new home in Georgia with her husband, James Hines Trulock, to her family back in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This would not be the last time that Amanda’s perception of the peculiar institution of slavery, and also her tone used to describe her personal slaves, would shift due to an event or transition in her life. Although she defended the institution of slavery for many years, Amanda’s personal sentiments about her slaves hinged on the circumstances surrounding the Trulock plantation. Upon her arrival in the South, Amanda adopted the paternalistic view of the slavery social structure from J.H. Trulock, and even carried on its practice after she assumed control of the plantation after his death in 1849. However, as the hardships of the Civil War strained her strong family ties and the business’s profits suffered, and also after even her more favored slaves, like Reuben and his family, left the plantation for freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation, Amanda felt hurt and betrayed. It is after these events that Amanda’s letters took on a more aggressive and bitter tone about her former slaves and also those who supported the abolition of the institution.
Amanda’s marriage to James Hines Trulock is responsible for her positive paternalistic view of slavery, something that she claimed had changed in her 1837 letter writing, “I must say that I have a very different opinion with regard to the Negros than I had when in B-Port.”2 With nothing written about her specific views about the institution before her move to the South, it is impossible to juxtapose her sentiments side-by-side; however, it is almost certain that the Connecticut native possessed an extremely negative view toward the institution before her arrival in Georgia in 1837. Most Northerners considered slavery an unnecessary institution that should not exist, and some even revered it as evil or a sin that must be done away with for the sake of the nation. Although we do not know the entirety of Amanda’s views of slavery before her move to the South, is made clear through her correspondence that Amanda’s perspective on the subject evolved as her new life in the South depended on slave labor. In her marriage to “Mr. T,” as she refers to him numerous times throughout her correspondence, Amanda experiences her first shift in her thinking about slaves.3 An important factor in her shifting perspectives is the way in which her husband treated his slaves prior to, and also during, his marriage to Amanda. By assessing the letters, it seems Amanda adopted her husband’s paternalistic view of slavery and adapted her roles to fulfill this caretaking obligation. It is important to observe the individual interactions and business dealings of J.H. Trulock that affected slaves because Amanda adopted many of his managerial tactics when she assumed the planation in 1849.
In her article “’A Rough, Saucy Set of Hands to Manage’: Slave Resistance in Arkansas,” Kelly Houston Jones states that “although slavery was brutal, and masters often sought total domination over slaves, slaves might yet have been able to create their own lives, giving them enough ‘breathing room’ to bear their bondage.”4 J.H. Trulock, through his actions toward at least his more favored slaves, such as Reuben, allowed them to freely create their own lives as Jones suggests. Whether Trulock acted in this way because of business reasons or emotional bonds is unknown, but in the case of Reuben, it is suggested that in 1837 J.H. bought slaves named “Eliza, Orrin, Caroline, and Henry” from his sister who “might have been a