Thomas Roderick Dew

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Thomas Roderick Dew
Thomas Roderick Dew.jpg
13th President of the
College of William & Mary
In office
Preceded by Adam Empie
Succeeded by Robert Saunders, Jr.
Personal details
King and Queen County, Virginia
Education The College of William & Mary
OccupationProfessor of History, Metaphysics, and Political Economy, College of William & Mary
Known forProslavery writings

Thomas Roderick Dew (18021846) was a professor at and then president of The College of William & Mary. [1] He was an influential pro-slavery advocate.



Thomas Dew was born in King and Queen County, Virginia in 1802, son of Captain Thomas Dew and Lucy Gatewood Dew. His father was a Revolutionary War soldier and founder of Dewsville, a prosperous plantation near Newtown, King and Queen County. He attended The College of William & Mary, graduating in 1820, and subsequently spent several years studying in Europe. [2] :1110 He was a professor of history, metaphysics, and political economy at William & Mary from 1827 to 1836, then President until his death from bronchitis in 1846. [1] He twice declined invitations to run for political office, as well as invitations to teach at South Carolina College (today the University of South Carolina) and the University of Virginia. [3] Shortly before his death, he married Natalia Hay. He died on their honeymoon, in Paris; his remains were later moved to the Wren Chapel on the William & Mary campus. [4] His descendant Charles B. Dew is a professor of Southern history at Williams College, and wrote in The Making of a Racist (2016) of his Southern family's tradition of racism. [5]

King and Queen County, Virginia U.S. county in Virginia

King and Queen County is a county in the U.S. state of Virginia, located in that state's Middle Peninsula on the eastern edge of the Richmond, VA metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 6,945. Its county seat is King and Queen Court House.

Newtown, King and Queen County, Virginia Unincorporated community in Virginia, United States

Newtown is an unincorporated community in King and Queen County, Virginia, United States.

Metaphysics Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.

"Dew achieved national prominence when he attacked the tariff of 1828. He backed free trade, believing export taxes hindered Southern planters at the expense of Northern manufacturers. He favored state banks over a national bank, fearing that the latter would provide the government with too much power over the economy." [1] Dew's largest book was the Digest of the Laws, Customs, Manners, and Institutions of Ancient and Modern Nations (1853). [2] A source was P. Austin Nuttall's 1840 Classical and Archaeological Dictionary. [6]

The tariff history of the United States spans from 1789 to present. The first tariff law passed by the U.S. Congress, acting under the then-recently ratified Constitution, was the Tariff of 1789. Its purpose was to generate revenue for the federal government, and also to act as a protective barrier around newly starting domestic industries. An Import tax set by tariff rates was collected by treasury agents before goods could be unloaded at U.S. ports.

This history of central banking in the United States encompasses various bank regulations, from early "wildcat" practices through the present Federal Reserve System.

Peter Austin Nuttall was an English editor and classicist best known for dictionaries. He was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire and moved to London after completing his studies, gaining a doctorate from Aberdeen University in 1822. He was a contributor and possibly an editor of The Gentleman's Magazine between 1820 and 1837. From 1825 his editions of Latin authors were published. In 1839 he became a partner in a printing business, producing classics, educational reference books, anti-Catholic apologetics, and revised editions of older dictionaries such as Walker's and Johnson's. In 1840 he petitioned Parliament against the Copyright Bill. In 1863 Nuttall's Standard Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language was published. Nuttall died bankrupt and was survived by five children; his wife and at least three children predeceased him. Subsequently, Frederick Warne & Co published further dictionaries under his name as late as 1973, and The Nuttall Encyclopædia in 1900.

Dew and slavery

In 1832, he published a review of the celebrated slavery debate of 183132 in the Virginia General Assembly, A Review of the Debates in the Legislature of 1831 and 1832, which went far towards putting a stop to a movement, then assuming considerable proportions, to proclaim the end of slavery in Virginia. [7] :21–47 The Virginia Legislature's debate was a response to Nat Turner's slave rebellion of August 1831. [8] "Like many other white southerners, he argued that whites and freed blacks could not live alongside one other in peace.... Dew dismissed colonization of freed American blacks in Africa as prohibitively expensive and logistically impractical, and he noted that the deportation of blacks would prevent Virginia from profiting as 'a negro raising state for other states' of the South." [3] While his position was convincing to many Southern readers, Jesse Burton Harrison, of Lynchburg, Virginia, wrote a robust response that argued that colonization (returning slaves to Africa) was possible and that slavery was economically inefficient. [9]

Slavery System under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work

Slavery is any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalized, de jure slavery. In a broader sense, however, the word slavery may also refer to any situation in which an individual is de facto forced to work against their own will. Scholars also use the more generic terms such as unfree labour or forced labour to refer to such situations. However, and especially under slavery in broader senses of the word, slaves may have some rights and protections according to laws or customs.

Virginia General Assembly legislative body of Virginia, United States

The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia, with 40 members. Combined together, the General Assembly consists of 140 elected representatives from an equal number of constituent districts across the commonwealth. The House of Delegates is presided over by the Speaker of the House, while the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The Senate of Virginia's clerk is known as the "Clerk of the Senate".

Nat Turners slave rebellion slave rebellion that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, during August 1831

Nat Turner's Rebellion was a slave rebellion that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831, led by Nat Turner. Rebel slaves killed from 55 to 65 people, at least 51 being white. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.

In his inaugural speech as President at William & Mary, "he admonished young planters to resist fanatics who wished to eliminate slavery. Dew emphasized the importance of a broad-based liberal arts education but singled out morals and politics as the most significant subjects of study." [3]

Dew was well respected in the South; his widely-distributed writings helped to confirm pro-slavery public opinion. His work has been compared to that of the Southern surgeon and medical authority Samuel A. Cartwright, who defended slavery and invented the diseases of drapetomania (the madness that makes slaves want to run away), and dysaesthesia aethiopica ("rascality"), both cured with beatings. His 1833 Review was republished in 1849, and collected in The Pro-Slavery Argument, together with writings by Harper, Hammond and Simms. [10]

Samuel A. Cartwright American physician

Samuel Adolphus Cartwright was a physician who practiced in Mississippi and Louisiana in the antebellum United States. Cartwright is best known as the inventor of the 'disease' of drapetomania and an outspoken critic of germ theory. During the American Civil War he joined the Confederate States of America and was assigned the responsibility of improving sanitary conditions in the camps about Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson, Louisiana.


Drapetomania was a conjectural mental illness that, in 1851, American physician Samuel A. Cartwright hypothesized as the cause of enslaved Africans fleeing captivity. Contemporarily reprinted in the South, Cartwright's article was widely mocked and satirized in the northern United States. The concept has since been debunked as pseudoscience and shown to be part of the edifice of scientific racism.

Dysaesthesia aethiopica

In psychiatry, dysaesthesia aethiopica was an alleged mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851, which proposed a theory for the cause of laziness among slaves. Today, dysaesthesia aethiopica is considered an example of pseudoscience, and part of the edifice of scientific racism.

Many people at the time credited Dew with the defeat of the proposal to end slavery in Virginia in the 1830s. He was opposed to even gradual emancipation. Dew's teaching and his writings influenced the following generations, which opposed Reconstruction and created Jim Crow. [11] :1137–1139

Dew on men and women

"Dew characterized women as modest, passive, virtuous, and religiously devout, attributing these traits to women's physical weakness, which rendered them dependent on male goodwill. He also asserted that men, across all cultures and historical periods, were intellectually superior to women, but he blamed the disparity on differences in the substance and duration of education rather than on unequal natural endowments. Dew argued that it was appropriate to deny suffrage to women because their intense focus on their own families impeded their ability to comprehend broader political developments." [3] He described the hardships faced by men in the marketplace and the almost brutal strength needed to survive in such a competitive atmosphere. He stated that courage and boldness are man's attributes. For Dew, women were dependent and weak, but a spring of irresistible power.

Works by Thomas R. Dew

Briefer pieces, letters, speeches

Archival material

Dew's family papers [12] and papers from his time as president of the College of William and Mary [13] can be found at the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.

Related Research Articles

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George Fitzhugh American activist

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  1. 1 2 3 Ely, Melvin Patrick; Loux, Jennifer R. "Thomas R. Dew (1802–1846)". Encyclopedia Virginia/Dictionary of Virginia Biography . Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. 1 2 Brophy, Alfred L. (2008). "Considering William and Mary's History with Slavery: The Case of President Thomas R. Dew" (PDF). William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. 16. pp. 1091–1139. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ely, Melvin Patrick; Loux, Jennifer R.; Dictionary of Virginia Biography (2015). "Thomas R. Dew (1802–1846)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities in partnership with the Library of Virginia.
  4. Swem Library Special Collections Research Center Archives. "Papers, ca. 1830-1967" . Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  5. Pitts, Leonard (September 2, 2016). "A white Southerner searches for the source of his family's racism". Washington Post . Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  6. Nuttall, P. Austin (1840). A classical and archaeological dictionary of the manners, customs, laws, institutions, arts, etc. of the celebrated nations of antiquity, and of the middle ages. To which is prefixed A synoptical and chronological view of ancient history. London: Whittaker. OCLC   2667864.
  7. Brophy, Alfred L. (2016). University, Court, and Slave: Prolsavery Thought in Southern Courts and Colleges and the Coming of Civil War. Oxford University Press. ISBN   0190625937.
  8. Brophy, Alfred L. (June 2013). "The Nat Turner Trials". North Carolina Law Review . 91. pp. 1817–80.
  9. Harrison, Jesse Burton (1832). Review of the slave question : extracted from the American Quarterly Review, Dec. 1832, based on the speech of Th. Marshall, of Fauquier, showing that slavery is the essential hindrance to the prosperity of the slave-holding states : with particular reference to Virginia, though applicable to other states where slavery exists. By a Virginian. American Quarterly Review.
  10. Harper, William; Hammond, James Henry; Dew, Thomas Roderick; Simms, William Gilmore (1853). The Pro-Slavery Argument. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co.
  11. Brophy, Alfred L. (2008). "Considering William and Mary's History with Slavery: The Case of President Thomas Roderick Dew" (PDF). William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. 16. pp. 1091–1139.
  12. "Dew Family Papers". Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Archived from the original on 27 June 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  13. "Office of the President. Thomas Roderick Dew". Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Archived from the original on 26 June 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011.

Further reading