This Day (Crooked Finger Edition)

Published:September 26, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1745, a subscriber to the Virginia Gazette advertised the disappearance of his indentured servant, an Irishman with a scar on his head and a crooked finger who “is very much given to strong Drink,” who lisps when he’s drunk, who “plays very well on the Violin, and [who] pretends to teach Dancing.” As far as Irishmen go, this guy actually sounds pretty cool.

Anyway, on this day sixty-nine years later, Edward Coles—a friend of Thomas Jefferson who had earlier written in hopes that the former president might support the cause of gradual emancipation—responded to Jefferson’s “no, thank you” with a sometimes-sharp “yes, but …” For instance, Coles rebuts Jefferson’s argument that he, Jefferson, is too old to take on such work by invoking Benjamin Franklin:

Your time of life I had no considered as an obstacle to the undertaking. Doctor Franklin, to whom, by the way, Pennsylvania owes her early riddance of the evils of Slavery, was as actively and as usefully employed on as arduous duties after he had past your age as he had ever been at any period of his life.

Oh, snap.

Finally, on this day in 1926, 5,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan, including the Imperial Wizard himself, presented a flagpole to the College of William and Mary. College president Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler accepted the gift, but used the occasion to wag a crooked finger, so to speak, delivering a pointed lecture on the virtues of religious liberty and the evils of mob violence. As far as lectures go, well … this one didn’t take. Less than a year later, a group of fifty masked Klan members forcibly removed Raymond Bird, a black man charged with an offense against two white women, from the Wythe County jail. Encountering little resistance from the local authorities, the mob shot Bird, beat him, tortured him, and then lynched him.

Tsk, tsk.

IMAGES: “Grown Ladies &c. taught to Dance” by Rennoldson, January 2, 1769 (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation); from Virginia Gazette, Parks, September 26, 1745, page 3 (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation); letter from Edward Coles to Thomas Jefferson, September 26, 1814, page 1 (Library of Congress); program for Flag Presentation by Ku Klux Klan to the College of William and Mary, September 26, 1926 (College of William and Mary)