A Rape in the Early Republic: Gender and Legal Culture in an 1806 Virginia Trial

A Rape in the Early Republic: Gender and Legal Culture in an 1806 Virginia Trial

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On January 14, 1806, Sidney Hanson was raped by John Deskins on a rough gravel path in the woods in Tazewell County, Virginia. In the early nineteenth century, trials for rape were rare. Scanty court records typically lacked the detail needed to reconstruct the lives of those involved and evaluate the social and physical setting of the crime. Yet the events on that fateful day in 1806 would be the exception.

In A Rape in the Early Republic, Randal L. Hall reproduces the complete trial testimony of Alexander Smyth, the prosecutor for Hanson's trial. Smyth's detailed record offers a revealing glimpse into how early rape cases moved through the legal system, first at the local level and then in the state's recently created district court system. It also shows that Deskins was not the only one on trial — Hanson's character was being scrutinized as well.

Hall's introduction, rather than offering an analysis of Smyth's documents, provides important context and highlights historical themes that Hanson's situation illustrates. Featuring classroom discussion ideas and a list of suggested reading, A Rape in the Early Republic will be a valuable resource for students and scholars as well as anyone interested in gender, law, and society in the early republic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813169521
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Series: New Directions in Southern History
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 136
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Randal L. Hall is associate professor of history at Rice University and editor of the Journal of Southern History. He is the author of several books, including Mountains on the Market: Industry, the Environment, and the South, and Lum and Abner: Rural America and the Golden Age of Radio.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction 1

The Invitation to Publish 29

The Testimony 31

The Argument to the Jury 63

The Sentencing 99

Appendix A "Rape," A section from The New Virginia Justice (1795), edited by William Waller Hening 103

Appendix B The Trial of Jason Fairbanks (1801) 109

Discussion Ideas for the Classroom 113

Suggested Reading 115

Index 119

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