Murcheson County

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Rodney Page Books

Maureen, the heroine, tests traditional social norms

Chapter 26 (v.1) - Chapter 26

Submitted: September 01, 2016

Reads: 263

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Submitted: September 01, 2016

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Itwasunacceptable.Itwasunheardof.Itjustwasn’tdone,butMaureenSalterwasnotdeterredbythenaysayers.Whyshouldn’tshedoit?Somesaiditwasillegal,butthatwasdebatable.Otherssaidevenifitwasn’tillegal,itviolatedallsocialnorms,butMaureenquestionedwhoitwasthatdeterminedthesocialnorms.

 ThesimmeringcauldronJacobUnderwoodanticipatedyearsearlierboiledoverinNovember,1860whenthepresidentialvotewassplitamongfourcandidates.AbrahamLincolnwaselectedwith39percent.Thenewpresidentwasperceivedasanardentabolitionist,andaftertwodecadesofgrowingapprehension,theSouth’sworsenightmare,atleastfortheslave-owningplanters,hadcometopass.

 TheSouthCarolinalegislatureconvenedasecessionconvention,andonDecember21stbecamethefirststatetoleavetheUnion.WithinthemonthGeorgia’slegislaturelikewisecalledforaspecialconvention.Eachcountywasallotteddelegatestobeelectedbyitsresidents.

 Candidatesfellintotwocamps…thosewhosupportedimmediatesecessionandthosefavoringcontinuedcooperationwiththefederalgovernment,hopingthecontentiousissueofslaverycouldberesolvedshortofsecessionandwar.Mostvocalinsupportofimmediatesecessionweretheplanters.Almosteveryoneelse…merchants,craftsmenandyeomanfarmers…opposedit.

 SomewerestrongUnionistswhoownednoorfewslaves.TheywereloyaltotheStateofGeorgiaandtheUnitedStatesandviewedsecessionasalastresorttoaddressthestate’sgrievances.Othersforesawwarandhadlittleinclinationtosacrificethemselvessorichplanterscouldholdontotheirslaves.

MurchesonCountycitizens’opinionswerecloselydivided.

*

“Idothinkyourreactionsaremostdemeaningandinsulting,”Maureensaidangrily.

 Joshualaughed.Wilbertlistenedincredulously.Gantsaidnothing.

 Maureenfocusedherireonherhusband.

“Youlaughatme,JoshuaSalter?Youthoughtmeintelligentenoughtomanagethefarm’saffairs,didyounot?DidInotrelieveyouofthestressofkeepingtheledgerandmanagingourfinances?HowmuchmorestupidImusthavebecomesinceyouhappilyassignedmethoseresponsibilities.”

 Joshuastoppedlaughing.He’dneverseenhiswifesoangry.

 MaureenmovedhergazetoWilbert.

“Andyou,Mr.WilbertJones,suchamysteriousbutsupposedlylearnedman,yousitandsmirkwithridicule.PerhapsIvastlyoverestimatedyourintelligence.Imostcertainlyassignedmorecreditthanisduebasedonyourgoodmanners.”

 MaureenthenaddressedGant.

 “Gant,youarefreeman.YouareentitledtoyourthoughtsandfeelingsyetyousitthereanddispassionatelystareatmeasifIamascrazyasEloise.”

 Allthreemen’sheadsdrooped.StaringattheirlapswaspreferabletofacingMaureen’sfury.

Madeangrierbythemen’stimidity,Maureenstompedoutofthekitchenanddownthebreezeway.Sheploppeddowninachairandrockedferociously,oblivioustothenear-freezingchill.

 Wilbertspoke,justaboveawhisper.“Joshua,I’venotbeforeobservedyourwife’sIrishtemper.”

Gantadded,“Lordy,MissMaureenshoreismad.”

“Perhapsshehasgoodreason,”Joshuasaid.“Ifthelawdoesnotprohibitsuch,whyshouldshenotputherselfupfordelegate?”

Gantsaid,“Theydonefreedsomeofusblackfolks,buttheyain’tfreedtheladiesyet.”

Gant’sironystruckWilbert.

“Gant’sright.Thewomenremainslavesofsorts.Theyaredeniedthevoteyetmanagemanyaffairsofbusiness,farmsandhouseholds.”

Joshualaughed,“Thatiscertain.IfitnotforMaureen’swaywithnumbers,thefarmwouldhavelongagofaltered.”

Wilbertsatthoughtfullyforafewmomentsandsaid,“Thoughstatutesforbidwomentovoteforthelegislators,thatverybodydidnotexplicitlydenywomentherighttoserveasadelegatetotheSecessionConvention.I’msureitwasanoversight,andsheislikelytoencounterallmannerofcriticismandharassment,butlackingalegalprohibition,Idonotbelieveshecanbedenied.”

“MissMaureen’sarealsmartandspiritedlady,”Gantsaid.“Ain’tnothingornobodygonnasayordonothingthat’sgonnatokeepthatwomandown.”

“That’sforcertain,”Joshuasaid.“Perhapsweshouldopenourmindsandlistentowhatshehastosay.”

Maureen’stempercooled,asdidherbodytemperature,andshereturnedtothekitchenwhereawarmfirecrackledinthehearth.However,thelookshegavethethreemenwasascoldastheweatheroutside.

“Itrustyougentlemenhavehadtimeenoughtodevisewaysandmeanstofurtherbelittleme,”Maureensaid.

Gantspokeup.“MissMaureen,Iain’tspeakingforMisterJoshuaorMisterWilbert,butIbebehindyouwhateveryouwanttodo.”

JoshuaandWilbertenthusiasticallynoddedtheiragreement.

*

ThedelegateelectionwasonJanuary2,1861.Eightcandidateswereontheballot;thethreecandidateswiththemostvoteswouldrepresentMurchesonCountyattheconventioninMilledgeville.

 ClaytonSymington,thewealthiestmaninthecountyandownerofitslargestplantation,garneredthemostvotes.NextwasCharlesWhitmire,ownerandproprietorofIrvingtown’slargestretailestablishment.ThirdwasMaureenSalter.


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