Major Butler's Legacy: Five Generations of a Slaveholding Family

Malcolm Bell, Author
Malcolm Bell, Author University of Georgia Press $40 (673p) ISBN 978-0-8203-0897-5
Reviewed on: 06/26/1987
Release date: 07/01/1987
Pierce Butler (17441822) resigned his British army commission in 1771 when he married into the gentry of South Carolina, where he subsequently established a family fortune based on the plantation labor of nearly 600 slaves. This academic study of Butler, his plantations and the lives of his descendants through the early 1900s provides instructive glimpses of the Southern slave economy and its dissolution after the Civil War. Historian Bell uses primary sources to reveal Butler's inconsistency as an advocate of slavery (he helped ensure its continuation as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention) who efficiently managed his lands from the distance of a Philadelphia townhouse, all the while regretting that he ever came to own one of the ""Wretched Affricans.'' Later, the race issue deeply affected the lives of Butler's heirs, including a grandson married to British actress-abolitionist Fanny Kemble and great-greatgrandson Owen Wister, the novelist, who sold the last of the family estate. Illustrations. (July)
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