“A transcript of my own individuality”: Elizabeth speaks in her own words

A colorized photograph of Elizabeth from one her books, I believe from this book.

Continuing from where we left off in the last article of this series, in 1864, Elizabeth (often called E.P.W. Packard) wrote a book telling her personal experience inside the Jacksonsville State Hospital titled The exposure on board the Atlantic & Pacific car of emancipation for the slaves of old Columbia, engineered by the lightning express; or, Christianity & Calvinism compared. With an appeal to the government to emancipate the slaves of the marriage union. Volume I. Ed. by a slave, now imprisoned in Jacksonville insane asylum, making the powerful claim she was enslaved by her marriage to Theophilus. I can’t thank Stephany enough for sharing the excerpts from Jeffrey L. Geller and Maxine Harris’s Women in the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls: 1840-1945. Originally I planned to reprint extracts of her book, but since its so long, its perhaps better to summarize it, to the best of my ability, in this post.

In the Dedication to this 1864 book, which is to her children, she first lays out some important genealogical information on her children:

  1. Theophilus Packard, Jr., her first child, born on Mar 17, 1842
  2. Issac Ware Packard, her second child, born Jun 24, 1844
  3. Samuel Packard, her third child, born Nov 2, 1847
  4. Elizabeth Ware Packard, her fourth child, born May 10, 1850
  5. George Hastings Packard, her fifth child, born Jul 18, 1853
  6. Arthur Dwight Packard, her sixth child, born Dec 18, 1858

As the dedication goes on, she ties in her Christian imagery, but also argues that she has been “deserted by my father, cast off by my husband, uncared for by my brothers” but says that these six children have stood by her, saying that their ” tender, loving hearts have writhed in secret agony over your mother’s sorrows.” She especially thanks her son Theophilus, who, despite the fact he was “threatened with disinheritance from our family and home,” whom visited her four times in prison, and the one secret visit of her son Isaac. She also notes that her cousin, Angeline S. Field, of Granville,  Ill., visited her “once, and has written me once,” a possible further connection to explore on this blog in the future.

When we get to the book’s Preface, the importance of the book it clear. Not only does she “assume the entire responsibility of the statements and opinions it contains” but it is, as noted in the title of this post, “a transcript of my own individuality upon paper.” She further says that while she is called “crazy, or insane” is because those who call her that cannot “see the reasonableness of the positions and opinions I assume to advocate and defend,” and further says they have a lack of “Christian charity.” She goes onto say that she has endured “a long and wearisome persecution and false imprisonment of three years for conscience sake,” and that truth is her only “weapon…defense…[and] refuge” to make her argument. She further points out that her ” benevolent regard for the insane party tempts me to give them some occasion for believing me insane by giving utterance to what, to them, will be insane opinions.” She ends by saying that she will pack her “thoughts into the form of cannon balls to shoot Calvinism with…by giving my reasons for my opinions” and says that the book, is effectively, “God’s work.”

Then, we get to the Introduction (written in October 1862), which is a bit different from the preface. She argues that book will be 12 distinct parts, and she wants to get to her children, to her family, to go home, saying she is presenting this book at the suggestion of Dr. Andrew McFarland (a Universalist and Spiritualist) of the asylum. She adds that she has had to confront the asylum’s trustees for falsely imprisoning her for  three years, condemns the “treacherous sister” of her husband, Sybil, the cousin of her husband, Sophia Porter Smith (calling her a “Calvin sycophant or parasite”), and her father, Rev. Samuel Ware (“defender of total depravity”) while she praises the wife of her brother (Samuel) named Mary and her brother Austin Ware, whom she calls kind, but halting. Connected to this is the Birth of the Book section where she justifies the necessity for publishing this book. She also admits that Dr. McFarland did not keep his promise to lend her money to publish my book, but instead tried to prevent its publication! Yikes!

After that is the My Passport section, which is a sort of preface to her statement to the Trustees of the Jacksonville Insane Asylum, at their September meeting in 1862, through the kindness of Dr. McFarland. She notes how she pleaded her case to the trustees, with the support of Dr. McFarland, and the correspondence with Mrs. Maria Chapman, also confined in the same asylum “on the charge of insanity, based on her embracing Swedenborgian views, while her friends remain Presbyterians” but is in a different ward, so the letters between they are carried by Dr. Tenny the mail-carrier. In the Statement Before the Trustees, she argues that Christianity and Calvinism are antagonistic to each other, saying that Calvinism is treasonous,and making further religious arguments saying that Jesus and Calvin’s ideas are in conflict. But then she makes her stronger arguments: her imprisonment and the attempt to chain her thoughts is “a crime against the constitution of this free government, and also a crime against civilization and human progress,” that the law through which she is imprisoned, “is a Calvinistic law” and immoral, that the Calvinistic law of marriage “enslaves the wife” and only cured by emancipation, and that Calvinism is inherently wrong in and of itself. She finally makes the request that the trustees give her paper to write her thoughts down in print,that her husband is effectively abusing her and should be taken from his “position in society, his family, and from all his constitutional rights as an American citizen, and imprison[ed]…in this Insane Asylum, for life, or until I can remove his children out of the reach of his influence”!

With that, we get to the Correspondence with Mrs. [Maria] Chapman. In response to her statement, Chapman tells her that she is anxious to know of the success of her pleading of case, saying that Elizabeth has “been so brave in fighting your own battles” but hopes it “will not be in vain.” In reply on Sept 8, Elizabeth, after making a religious argument, notes that she talked as fast as she could, but she spent 50 minutes making her case, with the trustees willing to do what she asked, and says that she prefers to “stand self-reliant and alone, depending upon my own intrinsic character, capacities, qualifications and deserts” for her own support. However, she does say that none of the trustees believe her to “be an insane person,” arguing that the “tide has turned.” Sadly, Elizabeth did not publish the reply by Maria, perhaps because it was personal in some way, although she did say that Elizabeth should have “spiritual freedom.” In another letter to Maria on Sept 12, Elizabeth noted the visit of her husband to the asylum, and in a way admitted her intelligence, although he still felt she was “insane,” which she followed by calling him “not a man…but only a personified demon”! Some in the hospital, like Mrs. Grapes (superintendent of the sewing room), Ms. Mary Segal (the chambermaid of Dr. McFarland), and Ms. Haslet (a Manteno gentleman) seemed to agree with her assessment! She then goes on in her religious argument. Following this is yet another letter to Maria, undated, saying that she has lost confidence in her husband and father as her spiritual guides. She also notes how her father placed in the Worchester Asylum at age 18 to cure her of a “derangement which followed a severe brain fever, the result of malign medical treatment” as she puts it, remaining there for five weeks. She also says that she sees the trustees as her friends, that don’t want to keep her imprisoned any longer. It is there that the letters end, with a P.S. note on the last letter, signed E.P.W.P. (Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard).

With that, we get to the next part of her book, titled Seeing Eye to Eye. In this section, she tells what can be considered a religious fable, basically saying that those of different religious sects within Christianity are working together, while arguing that practical Christians are alike, “not the creeds or sects.” Following this is another section titled Analogy: Between the Rebellion in Our Family and In Our Country. She compares the marital division between her and her husband as analogous to the Civil War itself, writing about the “insolent, intolerent spirit of the South,” and how she is not the one who should repent, but rather it should be her husband! She further argues that she has “suffered the most…having never retaliated an injury in my life,” adding that the North “Are the greatest sufferers in the spiritual plane” because they are, in her viewpoint, “keenly alive to justice and humanity, and love of country and kindred,” saying that the South are “hardened their sensibility by injustice and inhumanity so long.” She goes on to make further comparisons between the Civil War and marital strife with her husband, basically saying that the latter is analogous to the South! There’s so much in this section, I really can’t summarize all 33 points, but each one is powerful in their own way.

After this is a chapter titled Transmigration of Souls. She starts to go into some spiritual beliefs (“souls do inhabit different bodies, at different periods of their existence, as really as vegetable and animal life exist in different forms or bodies”), says that everyone can be “traced” and makes generally religious arguments, and talks about “twenty-one years of her spirit martyrdom” she has suffered under marriage to the “great red dragon” which could be either the devil or her husband (or a combination of both). Its really hard to tell!

One of the books more interesting letters is a letter she sent Dorothea Dix, in the Letter to Miss Dix section, for which she never got a reply. She wrote to Dix, on Mar 4, 1860, that “insane asylums must be destroyed, to be constructed anew on a righteous basis,” due to their cruelty and inhumane nature, along with her typical Christian religious arguments. What follows this is a sub-section titled “Defense of Miss Dix” which seems to be a defense, but also seems to say Dix is helping maintain the “present system of Insane Asylums”? This section is a bit confusing to say the least, and she seems to go with idea that Jews “persecuted Christ” (an anti-Semetic belief) when the historical record shows the opposite: that Christians persecuted Jews for centuries!

There are many other parts of her book, like chapters such as Not A Prison, A Record of IncidentsQuestions for Dr. McFarland’s Consideration, A Dream, With its Interpretation, December 1860, A Dream, Without An Interpretation, September, 1862, A Defense, A Note of Explanation, and The Great Trial of Mr.s Elizabeth Elizabeth P.W. Packard (full report by her attorney Stephen R. Moore). She also wrote a number of other books, including one in 1866 (also see here) with a possible update in 1860, 1868, 1871, 1873 (also see here and here), 1878-1879, and 1886. I think what has been mentioned is sufficient enough to explain Elizabeth’s thoughts and her convictions, although the full book itself gives a complete account. And with that, I’m going to end this post. See you next crime!

One thought on ““A transcript of my own individuality”: Elizabeth speaks in her own words

  1. Pingback: Packed with Packards and existing social hierarchies | Packed with Packards!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.