Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Power of Satire

Ten years before the 13th Amendment became law, an advertisement for a slave auction appeared in the July 1855 issue of the Dartmouth Oestrus. Knowing the political and satirical nature of this undergraduate publication, Dartmouth College students at that time surely were not fooled into believing the advertisement was real. President Nathan Lord's pro-slavery stance, defended in his Letter of Inquiry to Ministers of the Gospel of all Denominations on Slavery, was a frequent target for the anger of the largely abolitionist campus. Advertising an auction at which Lord's wife Betsey and their children would be sold as slaves, was an acceptable level of protest against his stance on the "peculiar institution."

In more recent years, the ad has enjoyed some success as a hoax. The College Archives does receive inquiries about mid-19th century slavery in Hanover, occasionally based on researchers discovering this item. Out of the context of the publication and its times, even our readers on April Fools Day might have found it possible to believe the cruelty of slavery also touched Hanover, before reading further.

Ask for the The Dartmouth Oestrus, DC History LH 1 D2D282 and Letter of Inquiry to Ministers of the Gospel of all Denominations on Slavery, 4th edition, DC History E 449 L654 1860.

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