Monday, April 21, 2008

Even if its not popular

So, it's been a while. My apologies. I assure you this past absence is not indicative of future posting frequency.

Anywho, I read a lot these days and I thought it'd make for passable blog entries to share things I've found engaging, so here goes:

In 1846, a black man named William Freeman was released from prison after serving a sentence for a crime which it was later determined he did not commit. Shortly thereafter, Freeman entered the home of John VanNest, and armed with two knives, killed John, his pregnant wife, and his mother. Upon his capture he openly confessed to the crime and laughed hysterically. As it turns out, Freeman had a deep family history of mental illness. Unconcerned with Freeman's circumstances, the community demanded his death and threatened violence on any attorney who would represent him. When no willing man could be found, Henry Seward volunteered. In the following weeks Seward worked diligently preparing Freeman's defense and urged the jury to have Freeman committed rather than put to death as his actions were, "unexplainable on any principles of sanity." Ultimately, Seward's pleas fell on deaf ears as everyone knew they would. But Seward reflecting on the incident remarked, "In due time, gentlemen of the jury, when I shall have payed the debt of nature, my remains will rest here in your midst, with those of my kindred and my neighbors. It is very possible that they may be unhonored, neglected, and spurned. But perhaps, years hence, when the passion and excitement which now agitate this community shall have passed away, some wandering stranger, some lonely exile, some Indian, some Negro may erect over them a humble stone and thereupon this epitaph, 'He was Faithful.'"
Poetically enough, that phrase can be seen on his headstone today.


This would be a commendable account of any man, but what makes it more amazing to me is the fact that Seward was a very ambitious politician who was aiming for the presidential nomination. Today's candidates would never risk challenging public sentiment like that. It is therefore a great tragedy to me that we know Seward more singularly for his purchase of Alaska than his faithful pursuit of Right in spite of scorn and derision.

3 comments:

the Chaneys said...

very interesting, bro. keep it coming.

Amber said...

Very interesting post! Did you find it in your current book? The psychologist in me wonders about Freeman. What else you got on him?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a story in the news on any given day in New Orleans, minus the "standing up for what's right" part!