As I'm working on edits on the first chapter of University, Court, and Slave, I'm revisiting the trials that took place in Southampton County in the wake of the Nat Turner rebellion. I see that Chris Tomlins of UC-Irvine's Law School (and winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American history for Freedom Bound) has a new paper up on ssrn, "Demonic Ambiguities: Enchantment and Disenchantment in Nathaniel Turner’s Virginia," about The Confessions of Nat Turner. Here is his abstract:
This paper conjoins three texts – the “Confessions of Nat Turner,” Walter Benjamin’s “Capitalism as Religion,” and Max Weber’s “Science as a Vocation.” Benjamin and Weber provide interpretive prisms through which to examine Turner’s confession. Though quite unlike each other, each glances at the demonic – a matter of some significance when one considers the meaning of the “full faith and credit” held due the decision of the Southampton (Virginia) County Court to hangTurner for his attempted 1831 slave rebellion. Like guilt/debt, the dual meanings of Schuld that, for Benjamin, confirmed the existence of a religious – specifically a Christian – structure in capitalism, the conjunction of faith and credit has its own demonic ambiguity, simultaneously sacralizing (faith) and secularizing (credit) the authority of the law. In capitalism as religion and as law, these demonic ambiguities fuse together in an overwhelming simultaneity that is at once economic and juridical, moral and psychological, profane and sacral. This simultaneity – and Turner’s attempt to disrupt it – is the paper’s chief concern.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thomas Dew makes an appearance in Chris' article -- I have some thoughts on Dew here. The illustration is of the Meherrin Road in Southampton, near the intersection with Blackhead Signpost Road. It is looking in the direction of the battle at Parker's field, which figures prominently in Nat Turner's confession.