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Old March 24th, 2013, 01:01 PM   #1

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The only man hanged for slave trading in the US


His name was Nathaniel Gordon, and he was a mariner hailing from Maine. Born in 1824, he was caught in 1860 attempting to bring a batch of West African captives across the Atlantic to sell into slavery. This was a crime that had been nominally punishable by death since 1820; however, previous slave traders had only been slapped with a fine or miniscule prison time, or had gotten off scott-free. Nat Gordon got the dubious honor of becoming a scapegoat.

Gordon was sentenced to death by hanging, and the sentence was carried out in February of 1862, during a low point in the Union's fortunes during the Civil War. He went to his death drugged and semi-coherent; he had nearly managed to cheat the hangman the night before thanks to a bottle of poison he had been carrying on his person during his imprisonment.

Many expressed opposition to the execution, particularly because Gordon had a young son, and his beautiful wife showed passionate devotion to her husband during his trial. Both his mother and his wife interceded to Mary Todd-Lincoln on his behalf, and many letters were written to President Lincoln pleading for clemency. Lincoln's only response was to chillingly recommend that Gordon get his heart right with his Maker.

Gordon's execution is one of the more obscure events in American history, but the following is a superb account:

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Captain-Gordon-American-Trader/dp/B005Q8QUDW"]Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader: Ron Soodalter: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/316Ano-FaNL.@@AMEPARAM@@316Ano-FaNL[/ame]
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Old March 24th, 2013, 01:37 PM   #2
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Obviously bad timing for Gordon with the Civil War and all.
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Old March 24th, 2013, 01:38 PM   #3

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Even at the time, and well before it, the slave trade was illegal and considered wrong. So, as harsh as it may sound, this seems like a case of good riddance to bad rubbish.
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Old March 24th, 2013, 01:44 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viperlord View Post
Even at the time, and well before it, the slave trade was illegal and considered wrong. So, as harsh as it may sound, this seems like a case of good riddance to bad rubbish.
Reading the book, I found myself feeling torn. The intimate look into Gordon's life and trial, particularly his young wife's grief and frantic intercessions, left me feeling pretty bad, for her if not for him. It also seems pretty unfair that out of all the dozens of men who were caught commiting this crime between 1820 and 1862, Gordon was the only one to swing for it.

But then, one thinks of the nearly 1000 people who were torn from their homes and families, and very nearly became lifelong human chattels just to line Gordon's purse. Thus, in the end I agree with the second sentence of your post.
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