Isaac Franklin Haunts My Dreams

I felt like I came home from Gallatin with something clinging to me. A bad memory that wasn’t mine. All night long, I dreamed about lost little girls. Sometimes I had lost one, sometimes I was the lost girl.

Do you guys read this blog, That Devil History? Today he’s talking about the urban/rural divide. Here are the people mentioned in the text as articulating the rural, supposedly more moral, side of the debate: Thomas Jefferson, James Henry Hammond, the Agrarians, and Sarah Palin. Lumping the Agrarians all together as one and not looking into it/their lives, that’s 50% rapist.

The thing that’s interesting about Hammond–aside from all the gay sex he had–was that he raped his nieces.

In my Isaac Franklin section, I’m arguing that one of the reasons for the slave traders to invite all planters in an area to the “fancy girl” auctions, where the women were stripped and auctioned off in a sexualized way, was that it was both about bonding–that to be a rich, successful planter meant you could just buy your own whore and have her around instead of having to go to the brothel like a normal man, so you and the rest of your cohorts were celebrating that you all had so much money that you could “waste” it on a slaves whose primary labor was sexual–and about hierarchy–the most desirable women at these auctions had the lightest skin color (Franklin even calls one of them “white.”). So, obviously, they all knew they were buying and raping the daughters of other planters. Which meant that they were standing there, in a group, admitting that they desired to rape the daughters of other planters. That the only think keeping them from raping another planter’s daughter with his wife (his white unenslaved daughter, as opposed to his daughter that Franklin might describe as white, but who was enslaved) was the steep social cost.

But the fantasy had to be that the man with enough status could rape another man’s unenslaved daughters and get away with it.

Hammond had that kind of status. He raped his nieces and got away with it. Got elected to the Senate after the scandal blew over.

Their lives were ruined.

I think about Adelicia Acklen, surrounded in death by her children with Franklin, none of whom lived to adulthood. And I wonder what it must have been like to be married to a man like that. Did he stop raping women after he retired? Did he only rape women in Louisiana on those plantations when he was down there without her? Did she sit in her room, watching him walk down the path to the slave quarters, knowing what he was going there to do? Did he rape her?

I have this desire to read some kind of justice into the fact that none of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children–that he was such a blight on this world that his line ended with him, or that some old witch cursed the fuck out of him and this is that curse playing out–but that feels like a sick way to think about dead children. And it also feels like a convenient lie. We don’t know how many of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children. We don’t know how many men raped Franklin’s children like he raped their mothers.

But you can go play golf at one of the sites of Franklin’s atrocities. And I guess I don’t know what I’d want us to do instead. My fear is that we’d tear all these buildings down–because their history is so horrid–except a few we’d leave as museums and then we’d get to pretend the problem wasn’t that wide-spread.