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HOME > Biographical > Harriet Beecher Stowe > CHAPTER X. PRINCIPLES ESTABLISHED.—STATE v. LEGREE; A CASE NOT IN THE BOOKS.
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CHAPTER X. PRINCIPLES ESTABLISHED.—STATE v. LEGREE; A CASE NOT IN THE BOOKS.
From a review of all the legal cases which have hitherto been presented, and of the principles established in the judicial decisions upon them, the following facts must be apparent to the reader:

First, That masters do, now and then, kill slaves by the torture.

Second, That the fact of so killing a slave is not of itself held presumption of murder, in slave jurisprudence.

Third, That the slave in the act of resistance to his master may always be killed.

From these things it will be seen to follow, that, if the facts of the death of Tom had been fully proved by two white witnesses, in open court, Legree could not have been held by any consistent interpreter of slave-law to be a murderer; for Tom was in the act of resistance to the will of his master. His master had laid a command on him, in the presence of other slaves. Tom had deliberately refused to obey the command. The master commenced chastisement, to reduce him to obedience. And it is evident, at the first glance, to every one, that, if the law does not sustain him in enforcing obedience in such a case, there is an end of the whole slave power. No Southern court would dare to decide that Legree did wrong to continue the punishment, as long as Tom continued the insubordination. Legree stood by him every moment of the time, pressing him to yield, and offering to let him go as soon as he did yield. Tom’s resistance was insurrection. It was an example which could not be allowed, for a moment, on any Southern plantation. By the express words of the constitution of Georgia, and by the understanding and usage of all slave-law, the power of life and death is always left in the hands of the master, in exigences like this. This is not a case like that of Souther v. The Commonwealth. The victim of Souther was not in a state of resistance or insurrection. The punishment, in his case, was a ............
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