Celia, A Slave Chapters 5-6 Summary & Analysis

Melton A. McLaurin

Celia, A Slave

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Celia, A Slave Chapters 5-6 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 5 Summary: The Trial

Chapter Five, “The Trial,” is an account of Celia’s trial for the murder Newsom, which began on October 9, 1855, with Judge William Augustus Hall presiding.  Hall, who was born in Maine, raised in Virginia, and educated at Yale before finally settling in Missouri, was an active Democrat in Missouri politics with “strong Unionist sentiments” (68).   Hall chose John Jameson, Nathan Chapman Kouns, and Isaac Boulware, all of whom McLaurin describes as savvy political choices for Celia’s defense.  As McLaurin notes, Hall needed to appoint Celia an attorney who was capable and politically neutral, “one whose presence would make it difficult for slavery’s critics to label the trial a farce or shame, and one who would not arouse the emotions of Missouri’s more militant proslavery faction in the process” (70).  Jameson was a slave owner himself, but not vocal in slavery debates; he was affable and unambitious, but a talented courtroom attorney whose skill at reading a jury was well known.  His legal team of Kouns and Boulware came from well-respected slaveholding families and could be counted on to do the legal research necessary to provide a good defense.

McLaurin speculates as to whether Jameson’s being the father of two adolescent daughters might have caused him to have empathy with his client, or whether his recent ordainment as a Disciples of Christ minister would have caused him to be more likely to consider the moral implications of slavery in relation to Celia’s case.  He also notes that there is no evidence as to what Jameson thought about Celia’s guilt or innocence before he was appointed her attorney, though he would have been already aware of her case.

McLaurin next describes the jury selected for Celia’s trial—all white men of various financial standing, and none as well off as Robert Newsom had been.  All were married (with the exception of one seventy-five-year-old widower), with children, and five had daughters around Celia’s age.  At least four were slave owners.  The remainder of the chapter describes Jameson’s defense of Celia through his cross-examination of the prosecution’s main witnesses—including Jefferson Jones,…

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