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Guide to the Francis Cope Yarnall Papers, 1853-1861


Yarnall's bound manuscript volume entitled "Letters on Slavery," dated 1885, discussing slavery in the American South.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Francis Cope Yarnall papers
Yarnall, Francis
0.1 Linear Feet
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

The collection consists of a bound manuscript volume entitled "Letters on Slavery, F.C.Y., 1853" (88 pages) and a small number of clippings, some loose and some mounted within the volume. The spine of the book, bookplate, and the copies of the letterse all bear Francis Yarnall's name or initials, so presumably the handwriting is his. It is possible the volume is a contemporary copy because all clippings date to 1861 or earlier.

The volume has two parts: a wide-ranging discussion of slavery in the South (pages 1-25) and a series of letters (48 pages) dated 1853-1854 between Yarnall and Professor M. in New York, in which the discussion is continued. Yarnall toured the South and his initial article is dated March 1853 in Huntsville, Alabama. He wrote that he was opposed to slavery, but did not advocate sudden abolition. He was sensitive to the complexity of the subject, and presents a comprehensive assessment of many aspects of slavery: condition and treatment of slaves (both house and field hands); the character of black people; the character of overseers and masters; slave traders and drivers; agricultural practices in the South; treatment of runaway slaves, including the use of dogs and murder of fugitives; the impact of Northern anti-slavery movements; the reception of the Fugitive Slave Act; the prospects of colonization in Africa; and the relationship between Christianity and slavery. Yarnall appears to attempt a neutral view about these issues in his article, reiterating repeatedly that his comments are based on first-hand observations and inquiries.

He is more hostile to slavery in the subsequent letters between himself and Professor M. Professor M. defended slavery on practical, religious, and philosophical grounds. Yarnall attacked slavery in his return letters. It is unclear whether Professor M. is an actual person or a literary device. All of the volume's letters are in the same handwriting. Additional topics include: the condition of blacks in Africa; labor in the North; inequality as a condition of life; white men's potential to elevate other races; prejudice between North and South; Jamaica's emancipation; the deaths of leaders Clay, Calhoun, and Webster; the Nebraska Bill; and Southern slavery laws.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], [Title of collection], David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

"Letters on Slavery," F.C.Y., 1853-1854
(1 Volumes)
Box 1
Clippings from the Whig Almanac, 1855
Box 1
Information folder about the Yarnall family
Box 1

Historical Note

Francis Cope Yarnall (1830-1890), businessman from a Philadelphia family, was a prominent railroad executive and coal operator. He was interested in developing slate quarries in the Bangor region, and served as vice president of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company; president of the Lehigh and Lackawanna Railroad; vice president of the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad; and a director of the Mortgage Trust Company of Pennsylvania.

Yarnall was born May 4, 1830, son of Edward Yarnall, a wholesale druggist and director of the North American Bank. The family was Francis Yarnall married Mary Coale of Baltimore.

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