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Title: "An Attempt at a Most Foul and Unnatural Murder!" by Joseph Caldwell, [1805 or After]: Electronic Edition.
Author: Caldwell, Joseph, 1773-1835
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Bari Helms
Images scanned by Bari Helms
Text encoded by Brian Dietz
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 13K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-01-26, Brian Dietz finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: "An Attempt at a Most Foul and Unnatural Murder!" by Joseph Caldwell
Author: [Joseph Caldwell]
Description: 5 pages, 5 page images
Note: Call number 40005 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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"An Attempt at a Most Foul and Unnatural Murder!" by Joseph Caldwell , [1805 or After]
Caldwell, Joseph, 1773-1835

Page 1
An attempt at a most foul and unnatural murder!
It is well understood that an attempt has been lately made in a neighboring part of the country, to perpetrate a most cruel and inhuman parricide, without being able to succeed. The circumstances of this horrible affair appear to have been these. A respectable matron who has a large family of children became an object of odium and conspiracy among them, on account of the strict restraints which she imposed upon their vices and disorders. She had with infinite regret observed in them for a long time a strange tendency to the practices of getting drunk, and then engaging in acts of theft, lewdness, and riot, which naturally incurred the necessity of much lying, equivocation, & duplicity. It was besides found that even those who would not participate in such behavior, could not be prevailed on to lend their aid in suppressing or bringing it to punishment, though by the veil of secrecy which was kept over it, the proper distinction could but seldom be made, and the innocent were involved in equal disgrace with the guilty. Besides the above practices, these children were many of them prone to the habits of gaming, profane swearing, insulting people they met with, and when any person whose property they had laid their hands on, or on whom they had directed their impertinent freedoms, attempted to vindicate his rights, they assumed to call themselves the offended

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parties, and by threats of combination for secret mischief, or by imposing bluster, would endeavor to ward off the punishments which must have ensued upon information.
As for their behavior at home, though it was more guarded, yet they found frequent opportunities of playing tricks, entering into associations for creating noise, tumult, vociferation, and confusion, to the interruption of the family, and the disgrace of their mother's house. She finding that such conduct could no longer be borne with fell upon the expedient of appointing some of them to inspect the conduct of the rest, requiring them either to put a check upon it, or to make report to her of those who misbehaved. As she knew that the more perfect the restraint could be made, the better it would be for her offspring, she required the inspectors under oath to be faithful to their duty. The reason of this particularity was, that their depravity had ripened so far as to lay it down as a maxim, that mere promises were of no more force, than if they had never been made. This account may seem so extraordinary as to be incredible; but we are ready to maintain that it is literally true. It is very certain that they did not treat all promises alike, for they were those only which bound them to their duty which they pronounced to be without force; but such as they made to one another binding them to faithfulness in their combinations against the laws and rules of the family, or to conceal every immorality and disorder, were deemed as sacred and kept as inviolate promises to do good are among the generality of men. (The mother therefore, knew of no remedy for the corruption

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both in principle and practice than what she could find in the indispensable necessity of an oath.) As they found it absolutely impossible to argue this away, it was now brought to the final question, whether they should renounce their vices and disorders, and demean themselves in a moral, decent, and moderate manner, or openly throw off all respect and affection for their venerable parent, and declare themselves independent. Having tried the effect of the law for the space of six weeks, the greater part concluded that it was absolutely intolerable. When a new appointment of inspectors was to be made, they began by remonstrating against the impropriety of imposing an oath upon persons at their age. The anxious & indulgent mother listened with attention and kindness to their solicitations, though it is true they were often expressed with a degree of insolence and disrespect very unbecoming in children towards an aged and affectionate mother. She consented to withdraw the oath, & make one more trial whether a bare promise would not be effectual. She knew that without some rules which she could enforce, it would be impossible to keep the family together with any character among their neighbors, and that she would be sending her children into the world, only to be the pests of society. At this moment a large proportion of these infatuated sons grew outrageous, and clearly evinced that it was not the oath that had excited their aversion, but the necessity of giving up their beloved habits of licentiousness. They exclaimed against the unreasonableness of expecting or demanding of them that they should be strictly moral

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in their behavior, or that they should be liable to be detected and punished for playing tricks about the house, and raising tumultuary noises in the family to the utter subversion of all tranquility and attention to business.
They suddenly and impetuously flew towards her in a body, grasped her by the throat, pursued up their violence with unrelenting fury, and raised a promiscuous outcry that they would rather die than submit to such tyranny. That the laws of morality were not made for young people — that "God almighty himself could not abide by such laws as were imposed on them" — and that as for religion, they cared not half as much for the privilege of an orison to the Supreme Being as they did for the liberty of taking his name in vain, abusing him habitually to his face, and damning all his progeny into eternal perdition. It was enough to bring tears into the eyes of any person of common feeling to see how unrelenting the exasperation was which the love of their vices had infused into them.
They never seemed even to imagine that this was the true cause which had wrought them up to such an extremity of madness. So blinded were they to the real nature of their habits, that they acted as if they were doing no more than vindicating by a desperate struggle their proper rights; while nothing could be plainer, than that nothing but an indissoluble attachment to disorder and

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libertinism had brought their feelings to so irritated a state. No entreaties nor arguments could prevail on them to resume their natural feelings and respect for their injured & compassionate mother. Exerting every nerve, they long kept her gasping and half expiring, till they grew weary of their efforts, & she extricated herself from their clutches. Thus setting herself at liberty, they fled from the house, leaving a dread upon the mind of the astonished and suffering parent lest they should ever become troublesome by solicitations to be readmitted. We hope that should any such applications be ever made, the good old matron will not again trust herself in the hands of such unnatural children, and that she will always remember, that if she is not now out of existence, it is neither for the want of a wish, nor of the utmost effort they could make to destroy her.