August 10, 2007 12:44 PM   Subscribe

In August 1781, the case of Brom and Bett vs. Ashley went to the jury. The year before, Mum Bett, a slave in the Ashley house since 1742, was struck by her mistress. Mum Bett left the house and refused to return. Bett had overheard conversations about the new Massachusetts constitution that included the clause, "All men are created equal" and argued that the clause applied to her. When the jury agreed, slavery was effectively abolished in the state of Massachusetts. Mum Bett took the name of Elizabeth Freeman and went to work in the employ of her lawyer. (More inside)
posted by forrest (33 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Elizabeth Freeman was the great-grandmother of W.E.B. Dubois, father of Pan-Africanism and a co-founder of the NAACP.

One of the other co-founders was William English Walling, whose wife, Anna Strunsky, co-authored the Kempton-Wace Letters with Jack London. Jack London's youngest daughter Becky was a lifelong baseball fan. One of her favorite teams was the New York Giants, the last team Eddie Grant played for before he retired.

In October 1918, Eddie Grant was killed by a German artillery shell while trying to get medical aid to his wounded lieutenant. Grant was commanding a battalion of infantry that was trying to rescue the Lost Battalion which was led by his old friend Charles Whittlesey. Although Grant's advance was halted, the Lost Battalion was rescued two days later. A month after that, the war ended.

Whittlesey was awarded the Medal of Honor and was chosen to be a pallbearer at the burial of the Unknown Soldier in November 1921. A few days later, he committed suicide by jumping from the United Fruit Company ship SS Toloa en route to Cuba.

The Toloa was named after a region on Tongatapu, largest of the Tonga Islands. Tonga is where Captain William Bligh was set adrift during the Mutiny on the Bounty. Previous to his abrupt loss of command of the Bounty, Bligh served as Ship's Master for Captain James Cook on Cook's third exploratory voyage in the Pacific. Cook, Yorkshire farm boy, captain of the Endeavor and a man who wrote that he had sailed "farther than any other man has been before", was the inspiration for one James T. Kirk, Iowa farm boy, captain of the Enterprise, who would boldly go where no man had gone before.

One of Kirk's successors, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, was a character based on Horatio Hornblower, who was in turn based on Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald. Cochrane was a brilliant, flamboyant, and irascible Master and Commander whose early career in the Royal Navy ended when he accused his superior, Admiral Lord Gambier, of failing to press the attack during the Battle of Basque Roads.

Gambier was exonerated and four years later he was part of the British team negotiating the Treaty of Ghent. Across the table was James Bayard, a senator (and father of two more senators and grandfather of another and great-grandfather of still another) from Delaware. During the presidential election of 1800, with the vote tied in the electoral college, Bayard led a group of Federalists away from voting for Aaron Burr. The Federalists' abstention resulted in Thomas Jefferson being elected president.

Aaron Burr was the brother-in-law of Tapping Reeve, law partner of Theodore Sedgwick. Sedgwick was an outspoken critic of the Shays Rebellion and his house was a natural target for reprisal. When a mob of rebels attacked the house, however, they were repulsed by his servant and one-time client -- Elizabeth Freeman.
posted by forrest at 12:45 PM on August 10, 2007 [13 favorites]

Neat. But no links for Picard or Kirk? For shame sir, this is the internet!
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:57 PM on August 10, 2007

Is Bayard Street in New York City named for him?

(I was in NYC recently ate at the Mandarin Court, near Bayard, so I'm curious.)
posted by grubi at 1:00 PM on August 10, 2007

Yay, Cochrane! I just read an excerpt from some of his writings. It consists of him bitching about how small and crappy his ship was, and other, similar, really engaging stuff. His writing style is really easy, and just so much fun. (And while the Speedy was clearly the inspiration for Atropos, the irascible, withdrawn Hornblower himself was probably not based on Cochrane. More likely -- at least personality-wise -- he was drawn more from his namesake, Adm. Horatio "I have done my duty." Nelson.)

Ahem. Because any of you care. Anyway, this is a really, really neat idea for a post -- love all the connections :)
posted by kalimac at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2007

This is one of those Kevin Bacon things, isn't it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:08 PM on August 10, 2007

this is one of the greatest fpps I've ever seen. If I could give out gold stars, I would do so for this one and then retire gold stars forever. I cannot favorite this enough.
posted by shmegegge at 1:12 PM on August 10, 2007

One more famous connection to Theodore Sedgwick....

This is one of those Kevin Bacon things, isn't it?

Erm, considering that Kevin Bacon is married to Kyra Sedgwick, it literally is.
posted by jokeefe at 1:18 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I knew it!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:22 PM on August 10, 2007

This is fantastic. Thanks, forrest!
posted by mewithoutyou at 1:23 PM on August 10, 2007

Well done!
posted by drezdn at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2007

Awesome - fight the power! Flagged as fantastic. Though I wonder about that last appeal:
The constitutionality of slavery was clearly raised when the last appeal was heard in April 1783. It was during this trial that Chief Justice William Cushing told the jury: "All men are born free and equal: and . . . every subject is entitled to liberty; and to have it guarded by the laws. . . .Perpetual servitude can no longer be tolerated in our government. . . . " The jury agreed, confirming Quok Walker's right to freedom.

I don't think juries are allowed to disagree with judges!
posted by exogenous at 1:30 PM on August 10, 2007

James Burke would be proud.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:30 PM on August 10, 2007

Really well done.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:43 PM on August 10, 2007

Your "more inside" is a thing of beauty. This is a great FPP, and you put it together magnificently.
posted by amyms at 1:47 PM on August 10, 2007

posted by ltracey at 1:47 PM on August 10, 2007

Great links, great stories, great job weaving it all together.

A+++, would favorite again (if I could).

Especially given that I favorited it on the strength of the OP alone, before reading that first comment.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:56 PM on August 10, 2007

Huh. I thought it would get flagged to death as "what does all this shit have to do with each other except as a tortured excuse for a FPP?!?!?" GYOB-filter. Guess I was wrong.
posted by yhbc at 2:02 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

But no links for Picard or Kirk? For shame sir, this is the internet!

Maybe there wasn't anything on the internet about Kirk or Picard.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:25 PM on August 10, 2007

The problem with this is, as with all hypertext, is that I have very little interest in reading the links— the whole of the connections is here, splayed out before me.

I appreciate it, it's very interesting, but in this case the links, while supporting, draw the attention directly away from the idea that forms the heart of this post.

As such, I think it breaks the guidelines, even as I congratulate you on such a well-formed mini-essay.
posted by klangklangston at 3:09 PM on August 10, 2007

forrest: You scamp. What a great post. It was fun reading without even clickity-clicking.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 3:09 PM on August 10, 2007

Is there a guideline against explaining the links you provide? That explains a lot about some of the more frustrating posts around here.
posted by shmegegge at 3:34 PM on August 10, 2007

love this! (i never knew that was why Mass ended slavery there)
posted by amberglow at 4:11 PM on August 10, 2007

Is Bayard Street in New York City named for him?
this says ... named for Nicholas Bayard, NYC mayor in 1686. ...
posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on August 10, 2007

klangklangston, if this post is against the guidelines, I say let the guidelines be changed to accomodate this post!

I was considering posting about some things related to this, but I'm glad I didn't, because this is so much better. Sidebar!
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:39 PM on August 10, 2007

Forrest, did you put these connections together yourself? If so, that's some amazing research, and you should pitch this as a book. Fleshing out all the bios and the links would make for a fascinating read.

Weird, too, I was just reading about the Kempton-Wace letters (Jack London was such a freak!), and I just rented the Hornblower series on Netflix. Watched the first one last night; very entertaining.

Great post!
posted by IcyJuly at 5:51 PM on August 10, 2007

IcyJuly: I was planning a post on Elizabeth Freeman when I came across the Smithsonian piece on Eddie Grant. At the same time, I was reading Blue Latitudes (about Cook) and I wondered if I could tie them all together. It took a while because there were such interesting subjects in all the dead ends I followed.

jokeefe: Interesting link. I missed that. It really would have been sweet to run this through Kevin Bacon.

kallmac: you're probably right, but I always felt that Hornblower was more similar to Cochrane in his exploits. Nelson had all the set-piece battles while the other two seemed to triumph through a ruse or clever tactic.
posted by forrest at 7:31 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Who do you think you are, James Burke?

(I keed, I keed....)
posted by eriko at 8:21 PM on August 10, 2007

I cried
posted by longsleeves at 9:02 PM on August 10, 2007

Incredibly great post, and the Kevin Bacon connection is icing on the cake. Only on MetaFilter could you get an amazing collection of obscure connections and have someone come along to tie it all together with something even more bizarre.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:25 PM on August 10, 2007

On coochies and furries, versifying's a breeze.
The pope makin' bacon? "Ja, extra mayo, please!"
But this post, starting so humbly with Bett,
Cook'd and Tapp'd, saShay'd halfway to Tibet.
Lim'rick? Fuck — how can I see forrest for the trees?
posted by rob511 at 12:18 AM on August 11, 2007

Nicely done. Thank you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:13 PM on August 11, 2007

Well there goes my evening.
posted by Mitheral at 6:57 PM on August 11, 2007

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