Dec. 14, 2021

Hawaii 4-3

Consolation Prize is going true crime! In today's episode, we're going to hear about a murder case that a consul had to do some investigation of.

William Hooper had to piece together what happened in the death of Jephtha Jenney, on board the whaleship Nassau in the Pacific Ocean. In his role as consul in Honolulu, Hawaii, Hooper was charged with dealing with crime committed by Americans--and this was a particularly gruesome one. Listen to the story as told through the materials he collected.

Further Reading

Arista, Noelani. The Kingdom and the Republic: Sovereign Hawai’i and the Early United States. America in the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.

Department of State. Office of the Secretary. (9/1789 – ). Despatches: Volume 2: July 25, 1843 – December 31, 1845. File Unit: Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1820-1903, 1789 – 1906, 1789.

Gale, Robert L. A Herman Melville Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995.

Rouleau, Brian. With Sails Whitening Every Sea: Mariners and the Making of an American Maritime Empire. United States in the World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.

Unterman, Katherine. Uncle Sam’s Policemen: The Pursuit of Fugitives Across Borders. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Read the story of Luther Fox through the primary sources in the consular dispatches!

Here’s a link to the consular dispatches that deal with Luther Fox’s story, transcribed by our host, Abby Mullen (so there might be some transcription errors).


Producer: Abby Mullen
Voice Actors: Claude Berube and Jim Ambuske along with the following members of the Department of History & Art History at George Mason University: Christopher Hamner, Lincoln Mullen, Zachary Schrag, Mills Kelly, John Turner, Brian Platt, and Sam Huneke
Music: Andrew Cote
Show notes: Megan Brett

Thanks to all of our supporters and studio members. Go to to become a member today!


ABBY MULLEN: The story I’m about to tell you isn’t a true crime story. Ok, it’s about a crime. And the story is true. Fair warning, we’re going to get a little gruesome today. So if blood and gore isn’t your thing, maybe skip this one. Anyway. This isn’t a true crime story because we’re not really going to focus on the criminal, at least not exactly–we know next to nothing about him. And we know basically nothing about the victim of the crime, so we won’t be hearing about the effects of the crime on the victim’s family–if he even had one. But we are going to talk about what it was like to be a certain kind of American abroad, and how the pressures of the job can get to you, with disastrous consequences.

[theme music]

MULLEN: I’m Abby Mullen, and this is Consolation Prize, a podcast about the United States in the world through the eyes of its consuls. Before I tell you our story, I wanted to remind you that making great audio takes a lot of time and effort. You can help support Consolation Prize and other R2 Studios shows by becoming a member of the studio. By giving a one-time or a recurring donation, you can help get vibrant and compelling historical stories out into the world–your donations fund our voice actors, our sound design, our marketing, and so much more. You can learn more and become a member at, or at our website, Thanks so much for helping us make great audio.

[end music]

MULLEN: OK, so you know how I always say Consolation Prize is a podcast about the United States in the world through the eyes of its consuls? Well, this time it’s really true. Ordinarily we tell you stories about consuls. But this time, we’re going to play the role of the consul–we’re going to hear what he heard, see the story through his eyes. The events I’m going to tell you about were recorded in the consular dispatches kept by the State Department. Consuls sent back reports to Washington with all kinds of information about their work. Ordinarily, reading the dispatches is pretty good for putting you to sleep — lots of charts, numbers, records of ships coming and going. But every once in a while, consuls sent things to the State Department that make you sit up and go “what?” This is one of those stories.

[subtle but slightly discordant music]

MULLEN: So. Our story starts in a familiar place, if you listened to our last episode: Monterey, California. The East Indies squadron of the United States Navy had arrived in the port in the middle of September 1843. The commodore of the squadron was Lawrence Kearny. A few days after they arrived, Kearny had to write a rather uncomfortable letter to the Mexican authorities ashore:

LAWRENCE KEARNY: I have the honour to transmit the enclosed description of a man charged with the crime of murder. He absconded from his place of confinement in this ship, on Sunday evening, and if not drowned in the attempt to get on shore, or on board any of the vessels in your port, he is probably secreted in or about Monterey.

MULLEN: Our old friend Thomas Larkin — remember him? He was the American consul in Monterey — anyway, Larkin wrote to the military and civil authorities as well. He wanted them all to be on the lookout for this escaped murderer. The general in the area promised to mobilize troops to look for the fugitive. 

[end music]

MULLEN: All of these communiques are in the consular dispatches. What didn’t make it into the dispatches was the description of the murderer that Kearny and Larkin distributed. So we don’t know what he looked like or how old he was or anything like that. We do know his name: Luther Fox. From newspaper reports of the time, we know he was from Albany County, New York. And we know what he did.

MULLEN: The sources that tell us about his crime aren’t in the dispatches from Monterey, though. They’re in the dispatches from Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1843, Hawaii was a sovereign nation, and the United States had a consul in Honolulu. The one we’re interested in is named William Hooper. He was actually the Vice Consul in Honolulu at the time — and we’re going to talk about him a lot more in an upcoming episode, because he’s a really, really interesting and complicated person.

MULLEN: But for now, we’re going to just look over his shoulder as he first encounters this crime.

[piano music]

WILLIAM HOOPER: I have the honor to inform you that I have placed on board the United States Ship Constellation under charge of Commodore Kearny, Luther Fox, a seaman discharged on my hands from the American Whale Ship Nassau, Weeks, Master, of New Bedford, charged with having taken the life of the first officer of that vessel on the high seas.

MULLEN: Hooper first became involved in Fox’s case when the Nassau, a whaleship from Massachusetts, came into port in Honolulu.

Colored engraving of a whale ship in the ocean, surrounded by a pod of whales with men in boats harpooning the whales.
“South Sea Whale Fishery”, 1825. From the collection of the Huntington Library.

MULLEN: Whaling was a big deal in Hawaii. Brian Rouleau, who has written a book about sailors in the nineteenth century, helps us understand just how big a deal. 

BRIAN ROULEAU: Oil is obviously a major, sort of driver of US foreign policy today. In the 19th century, a different kind of oil, not petroleum, but whale oil. The US whaling fleet was the largest in the world, it was the one of the most profitable sectors of the American economy, whale oil was used for, for a number of applications: candles, lighting, it had industrial applications, And so chasing whale oil, you know, chasing whales, the source of the whale oil, was sort of across the globe eventually led Americans into the Pacific. 

MULLEN: Honolulu had become one of the capitals of American whaling in the Pacific. So vice consul Hooper had to deal with whalers a lot. And he had to deal with a lot of bad behavior from sailors on the whaleships who came ashore. But this case was kind of a different thing: this wasn’t a crime committed in Honolulu. It was a crime committed on the high seas. 

MULLEN: So, even though the case fell into Hooper’s lap in Honolulu, Hooper believed that Fox had to go back to the United States for trial–to New Bedford. Kate Unterman, who writes about the history of extradition, explains.

KATE UNTERMAN: ​​All of the parties involved, you know, the victim, the perpetrator, were all American citizens, as far as I could tell from the documents. So it’s pretty clear that this is a case that would fall under US jurisdiction, but if it were more complicated, for instance, if the victim or the perpetrator were foreign nationals, it would probably still be US jurisdiction because of the flag that the ship was flying under. But in this case there’s, there’s, it’s, it’s not even a tricky case because they’re all Americans.

[gentle, slightly discordant music]

MULLEN: There was no American court in Hawaii to try Fox. So he had to get sent back to the United States. Hooper also collected evidence about the crime. And he took statements from other sailors on the Nassau in order to build the case against Fox.

MULLEN: Hooper took depositions from about half a dozen crewmates of Luther Fox. Each of them eventually ended up in the consular dispatches. Put together, they all tell pieces of a very gruesome story. 

MULLEN: Before we start the story, we need a little background. So I asked Akeia Gomes, the senior curator of maritime social history at Mystic Seaport to help us out. Mystic Seaport is a really cool place where you can see a real whaleship from this time period, the Charles W. Morgan. Akeia’s going to give us some context about whaling and whaleships that will help us understand what’s going on here.

AKEIA GOMES: I’ll try to, to paint a picture of what it’s like to see a whale ship, or maybe a cross section, maybe describing it as a cross section would be a good idea. So on the very bottom of the ship is where you would store all of the barrels of oil, right after you got done rendering the blubber into oil, put them all in the hull of the ship. And that’s where they’re stored until you get back home and you can unload. And then next story up is the steerage. And this is where some of the crew would sleep, there will be some storage there. Towards the back of the ship, you’d have first mates quarters, and captain’s quarters, which obviously the captain’s quarters were the nicest. He ate the best, he had the most room, sometimes captains would have their wives with them on board and their children. So you can imagine the amount of space that that requires. First mate was a little bit of a downgrade, right, but ate almost as well as the captain and had a little more space than the rest of the crew.

[sounds of men singing whaling songs under the next few lines]

GOMES: The forecastle is probably the most interesting part below deck. So this is at the very front of the ship, where you know, if you can imagine the ship comes to sort of like a point, a triangle in the front. And this is where–I don’t like to use the word unskilled, but this is where the, you know, if you’re not a harpooner, or a boat steerer, or someone that is considered very, very important, then you’re sleeping and hanging out in the forecastle. And if you read descriptions of what the forecastle was like, obviously it was cramped. The bunks were very small. But the one thing that I try to explain, you know, if I have people on the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic and we’re in that space, you get a sense of how cramped and small it is, but you don’t get a sense of how disgusting it was. So, you know, waste from food, rats, other vermin, oil, it was really this sort of dirty, stinky, nasty place where the crew hung out and socialized and made music and told jokes and drank, and well, not drank a lot. A lot of captains didn’t let their crew drink. But yeah, it was this sort of tight, congested, not so hygienic space.

MULLEN: By the way, you may have seen the word “forecastle” before in a book or something and not realized it: It looks like the word “fore-castle” but it’s pronounced “fohcsle,” or if you’re from some parts of New England like my former advisor, “fawcsle.” How you pronounce it doesn’t matter quite so much as where it is: the place where green hands, or newcomers to the whaling industry, slept and lived. 

view from above and side cut-away view of a whaling schooner
Plate 188 from G. Brown Goode, The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States, 1884

MULLEN: OK, with all of that background, we can start our tale. The story started on April 20, 1843. Our man, Luther Fox, was up in the rigging working on a sail. The second officer, Mr. Cleveland, gave him an order, and Fox didn’t want to obey. 

HIRAM WEEKS: Deposition of Hiram Weeks, master of the Nassau. He replied in a loud tone within my hearing, I being on deck at the time– “Damn the foot rope to Hell.” I immediately called to him to stop the swearing aloft. On his coming on decks, I reprimanded him severely for using such language aloft– to which he made no reply.

MULLEN: Sailors have a pretty well-established reputation in pop culture for being sweary–so it’s kind of weird that Fox got in trouble for swearing. 

GOMES: It really dependent upon the captain so this Captain weeks may have had it you know in his mind that we are Christian you know, we are going to live upright lives while on board this ship and I will absolutely not tolerate profanity on board my ship.

WEEKS: I then ordered the mate, Mr Jenny, to have the topmasts and topgallent masts scraped down by Fox, in order to punish him for using such language and to prevent a recurrence of it. 

MULLEN: Scraping the masts was necessary in order to prepare the masts for greasing. Greasing made the sails go up and down easily. But just because scraping was necessary doesn’t mean it was nice.

GOMES:  If you think about what goes on on deck, right on board a whaling ship, they have to bring the whale on board and chop it up, and mince the blubber, so that they can render it into oil. And so what you have on board deck is blood and blubber, and all sorts of nasty smells and fluids, and someone’s got to clean that up. And so that absolutely gets on the masts, on the boards, everywhere. And it’s a nasty, nasty job. So I can see why that would be assigned as punishment. Because you can imagine, you know, that’s not just on your knees with the rest of the crew sort of scrubbing, scrubbing, you know, what amounts to a floor, it’s scrubbing a mast, scraping a mast.

WEEKS: On the following morning Fox was ordered to tar the bob stay and rigging above the bowsprit, which he commenced to do before breakfast. 

MULLEN: After breakfast, Fox went to his berth in the forecastle.

FRANK JOSEPH: Deposition of Frank Joseph. At my breakfast one morning during the last cruise Mr Jenny, the first Officer, came to the forecastle gangway and called upon Fox, a Seaman, to come up on deck. Fox refused to go up. The mate went away. 

[music becomes slightly more intense]

WEEKS: At about 8 o clock of that morning, Jepitha Jenney, the first officer of the Ship, came up to me and said that “Fox refused to come on deck saying that he would sooner die then come out of the forecastle when it was his watch below.” To which I replied, “Fox had not got command of the ship quite yet,” and that “we would get him out of the forecastle at some rate”—Whereupon Mr Jenny went on deck. 

MULLEN: When Fox says it’s his watch below, he mean he’s off the clock. He doesn’t want to be disturbed. But the first mate doesn’t seem to care.

GOMES: you hear these stories time and time again about captains and first mates that were just difficult or downright abusive that overworked people or were cruel so yeah, I mean it’s it’s not an uncommon thing for for a first mate to go and say I need you to do this you need to go up on deck and take care of that you’re not pulling your weight go up and do your work.

MULLEN: We don’t know whether Jenny was a cruel person, or if this was an unreasonable request. But it certainly seems like there might be a history between Fox and Jenney. So let’s pick up the story.

JOSEPH: A short time after this, I took my tin pail and pipe to go on deck. Just as I got to the foot of the gangway steps, I noticed someone coming down into the forecastle. I stepped one side to allow him to come down, with my back toward Fox.

[music becomes louder, more tense]

EDWARD ALGOOD: Deposition of Edward Algood. I heard a cry of Oh, dear! Oh, dear! 

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: Deposition of Michael Griffin. I immediately stepped forward and perceived Mr Jenny, the 1st officer, endeavouring to throw himself over of the forecastle gangway. On approaching him, I found that his right leg had been nearly severed from his body. The bones were protruding from that part of his leg attached to his body.

WEEKS: I applied a turnicut to stop the great effusion of blood, and then took up two or three of the main arteries, after which the leg was taken off and the remaining arteries taken up. He was afterward taken below and placed on a bed in the Cabin Floor, and his situation rendered as comfortable as possible.

MULLEN: You might be wondering–and so was I–what kind of medical training would a whaleship captain have? It seems like there’s no doctor on board.

GOMES: There were no doctors, because you couldn’t have someone on board a whaling ship who wasn’t doing whaling, who wasn’t pulling their weight as a member of the crew. So it fell to the captain or, if his wife was on board, that’s something that that his wife would take care of. And so that chest of, you know, I always make the joke, but the time and again, when you see these medical chests, in museums, or when they’re donated, the bulk of the medicine seems to be laudanum. Which I guess if you’re in pain, or if you’re ill, it just sort of helped you get through it, but The captain would administer and would give out the medicine or medical treatment.

GOMES: when you think about being on a whaling voyage, it’s very dangerous work. And people lost limbs and broke bones and and got gashes and things like that routinely. And the captain had to be ready to deal with those things. And so if you know, starting out as a captain, you did not have any medical training, you very quickly learned probably on your first voyage, how to treat wounds, how to sew wounds, how to, you know, administer medications, things like that. So whether it was by experience or learning beforehand, the captain had to know how to administer medical treatments.

MULLEN: So Captain Weeks had to do whatever he could for our victim, Mr. Jenney, who was bleeding and probably dying. Nobody else seems to have seen this happen, but the crew of the Nassau obviously have some idea about who did it. 

JAMES HACKETT: Deposition of James Hackett. About a half an hour after this occurrence, Captain Weeks requested me to go forward and look after Fox. I found him in the forecastle, sitting on a chest with a mincing knife across his legs. 

MULLEN: A mincing knife doesn’t sound very intimidating–sounds kind of like a paring knife? It would be hard to cut someone’s leg off with a paring knife.

GOMES: it’s this long knife, maybe like a foot and a half long, with a wooden handle on top. And you hold it so that you can neatly cut blubber into squares, right, into into rectangles, I guess, then then slabs. So it doesn’t have to be super sharp, because you’re only cutting through blubber. I imagine it would be very painful to be cut with one of these. They’re very large, large instruments. But again, they were created for the purpose of chopping the blubber into slab so that you could toss them into the tripods to boil down into oil.

Whaler’s mincing knife, ca 1876. National Museum of American History.

MULLEN: OK, so this is a very serious knife. One that does a lot of violence to whales, and it obviously can hurt humans pretty bad as well. But what we still don’t know is why. Why did Luther Fox flip out so much that he amputated Jenney’s leg?

[sad music]

HACKETT: I asked him if he was aware what he had done. He replied that he could not help it, and burst into tears. He said he warned Mr Jenny not to come down, ”that it was his watch below and that he would not come up alone unless the whole watch came up.” I requested him to give me the knife. This, he refused to do, saying “if they come after me I shall defend myself and sell my life as dear as I can.” I told him they would not attempt to force him on deck, but he had better give himself up. He finally gave me the knife and I placed it in his berth and left the forecastle.

[thoughtful piano]

MULLEN: We can never know exactly what brought Luther Fox to the place where he attacked Jenney. But we do know a few things about sailors more generally. They’re not known for their gentility and measured behavior.

ROULEAU: Sailors since ancient times develop a reputation as a sort of a class apart, as a kind of almost a distinct species or family within the sort of human community. The spend large parts of their working lives distant from the shore, developing their own unique sort of maritime culture that seems to operate under its own set of rules and assumptions. So certainly by the 19th century a lot of sort of American observers talk about sailors as this sort of class apart, as this distinct community – wild, anarchic sort of beyond the capacity of authorities to control and to some extent sailors do deserve that reputation but it has less to do, I think, with a distinct culture so much as it has to do with the kind of material conditions with which they were forced to work. Deprivation, material deprivation simply drives a lot of what is classified as their misbehavior. They spend, particularly in the Pacific, which is some of the longest and most arduous voyages that a mariner could make in the 19th century involve their departure from the United States and their arrival in the Pacific. We are talking about years on end pent up aboard ship with limited access to fresh food, limited access to alcohol, limited access to the company of women. They were poorly paid, often exploited, and abused by officers.

GOMES: You’re doing this incredibly dangerous, dirty, filthy, nasty work. And so that is your experience for three or four years, and there’s nowhere to go. And there’s nothing to do about it. And you’re subject to these rules, you know, based on whatever the captain thinks the rules should be. You’re dealing with people’s temperaments and personalities that you might not get along with. You’re sleeping in a forecastle with a dozen other men, and dealing with them and their personalities and their hygiene. And so it’s it’s difficult, it’s very difficult.

MULLEN: This doesn’t explain exactly why Fox went off on Jenney. But his actions do seem to me, anyway, to be the culmination of some kind of mental breakdown. Maybe the deprivation, and the smells, and the lack of sleep, and the hardship of cutting into whale after whale, or maybe the boredom of not seeing any whales, maybe all of that finally pushed him into violence. 

MULLEN: But there’s more to the story. Here’s the next piece.

WEEKS: At about 1 o’clock PM it appeared very evident to me that Mr. Jenney was approaching to his end. At 3 o’clock he died. and at 12 o’clock of the following day his body was cast into the ocean.

SAMUEL GOODHUE: Deposition of Samuel Goodhue. After his death I was requested by Captain Weeks to go to the forecastle after the instrument which had been used to take the life of Mr Jenny. I found a mincing knife in the berth of Luther Fox, one of the seamen. Near the center of it, I noticed it had two or three gaps, evidently made by its coming in contact with iron or bones. Near both gaps was more or less blood. The business of mincing blubber had been alloted to Fox during the voyage and it was his custom to keep the knife in his possession. It was also usual for him to grind the knives always after cutting in a whale.

MULLEN: It was never in doubt that Luther Fox was guilty of killing Jephtha Jenney. Fox himself never disputed it. Even though no one actually saw him wield the knife, everyone could figure out what had happened when Jenney went below to talk to Fox and came out with a nearly severed leg.

MULLEN: This crime happened on April 21st, 1843. We don’t know what happened to Fox in between when Hackett took him into custody, and when he was put on board the USS Constellation on July 22. He probably stayed in what passed for a consular jail once the Nassau got to Honolulu. While he was there, he may have met a young whaleship sailor named Herman Melville. If you’ve read Moby-Dick, you encountered someone who might have been based in part on Luther Fox: the character Steelkit. It’s in chapter 54, “The Town-Ho’s Story.” But the real story of Luther Fox is, in my opinion at least, stranger and more fascinating than Melville’s Steelkit. And we haven’t even heard the rest of Fox’s story yet.

MULLEN: He still has to get to New Bedford, Massachusetts, for prosecution. Consul Hooper also wants to ship back two witnesses, along with the depositions he’s taken. So, why does he go back on the Constellation? It could have been a case of right-place, right-time for Hooper. 

MULLEN: Here’s Kate Unterman again.

UNTERMAN: What was the Constellation doing in Hawaii? The story is pretty interesting. It was actually coming back from China. It had been, you know, sent to China during the Opium Wars to sort of protect American citizens and American property and also to try to kind of open up commercial relations. So it was on the way back from China, and then it stopped in Hawaii because in 1843, there was a British effort to kind of claim Hawaii as a protectorate. So this was not something that the Americans wanted to happen. And so the Constellation was sent to kind of deal with that, or at least provide like, some sort of like military backing as the missionaries and diplomats and things try to deal with it.

MULLEN: We’re going to come back to the British claims on Hawaii in a later episode, so stay tuned. You’ll not be surprised to know that the American consul–this American consul, in fact, William Hooper–gets into that story as well, in a kind of strange way. But that’s a story for another time.

MULLEN: For now, Hooper chooses the official conveyance of the Constellation for sending Fox and the two witnesses back to the United States. Commodore Kearny takes on board the three men, Hooper’s depositions, and the mincing knife, which he’ll take back to the court as evidence. 

MULLEN: The Constellation’s ultimate destination–or at least Fox’s ultimate destination–is Massachusetts. But they can’t go straight to New Bedford to get Fox to trial–it’s too far. The journey from Hawaii to the East Coast stops in Monterey, California.

MULLEN: I wondered why the two witnesses had to go back in person, when Hooper took depositions from all the others. We don’t know for sure, but Akeia had an interesting idea: 

GOMES: this is the height of whaling. This, this happens at the height of whaling, but it’s also a few years before westward movement, right. Before whaling sort of starts to center itself in San Francisco and the west coast. It’s around the time that whaling populations are being depleted in the Atlantic. And so you have to do your whaling in the Pacific. And so California, you know, the West Coast becomes a really appealing location. And a lot of people get on board whale ships just so they can get off in California and not come back home and not continue to do whaling.

[brisk and slightly martial music]

MULLEN: The Constellation came into port in Monterey in September 1843. Fox had been in confinement for the journey. He had a guard set on him. Nonetheless, after a few days in port, the ship’s lieutenant, Henry Pinckney, had to report to Commodore Kearny,

HENRY PINCKNEY (Ambuske): I have to report that Luther Fox, a prisoner sent on board by the Consul at Honolulu, effected his escape from the charge of a sentry on the evening of the 10th instant. He had been confined under charge of a sentry, and there appeared no reason to apprehend his escaping, as the distance from the shore and coldness of the weather would, it was supposed, prevent any attempt at escaping by swimming, and he could have left the ship in no other way without being detected.

MULLEN: This is not exactly an Escape from Alcatraz situation–the Constellation isn’t a giant rock fortress, and the bay is Monterey, not San Francisco, but still. 

PINCKNEY: He was seen in his hammock at 8 o’clock in the evening of the 10th and was heard to speak to a man confined near him about half past 8, but soon after 9 it was discovered that he had left his hammock, & search was made for him in all parts of the Ship without success. 

MULLEN: There were only so many places Fox could be on a crowded naval vessel. But he proved more resourceful than anticipated.

[splashing noises]

PINCKNEY: I learned soon after that William Houston … had seen something in the water, which, he said, looked like a man, but did not feel certain of it, and the Sentry on the forecastle had seen something pass the bows which he supposed to be a fish, and it is nearly certain that the prisoner passed through one of the ports and swam towards the shore, which, as the water was very cold, and the distance considerable, I am inclined to believe he never reached.

MULLEN: Maybe Fox didn’t make it–but the Americans couldn’t take any chances. I don’t imagine that the Mexicans would look favorably on the Americans if they let a murderer run loose in California. And from the perspective of the American criminal justice system, California wasn’t ideal either.

UNTERMAN: At this time, there was not an extradition treaty between the US and Mexico. So if and that partly had to do with the question of slavery, Mexico was unwilling to extradite fugitive slaves. So um, so if Luther Fox, you know, got loose in Alta California, then at least for the next few years, he’d be safe in Mexico until it becomes until that that region became part of the US.

MULLEN: So Commodore Kearny issued this reward, nine days after Fox’s escape.

One hundred dollars reward, for the delivery of Luther Fox on board this ship, and Fifty dollars, with expences, for his delivery to any other United States Ship of war that may arrive at any port in California, or coast of Mexico.

MULLEN: On May 1, 1844, Lawrence Kearny wrote a letter to the secretary of the navy. The letter turns up in the consular dispatches of Honolulu, but Kearny was by then in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The letter informed the secretary that Kearny was sending him a package–a package with the depositions of the master and officers of the Nassau. Those were the ones so carefully collected by vice consul William Hooper, the ones you heard from earlier. It’s kind of funny–Hooper’s original letter with the depositions was addressed to the district attorney of Massachusetts, but Kearny’s cover letter just said “the District Attorney of Blank”. As in, there was a space left to fill in. Hooper thought Fox needed to go back to New Bedford, but the origin point of the ship, it seems like Kearny was not so sure of the jurisdiction of the case. But in the end, maybe it didn’t matter. The package was meant to be delivered to some district attorney, but that was all Kearny had for him. The witnesses who came in person had seemingly been let off at an earlier port. And as for Luther Fox… he was never heard from again.

[credits music]

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Brian Rouleau

Brian Rouleau received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and joined the history department at Texas A&M the same year. He specializes in the nineteenth-century United States, American foreign relations, and the history of childhood. His first book, With Sails Whitening Every Sea: Mariners and the Making of an American Maritime Empire, explored the role of sailors in connecting the early United States with the wider world. Rouleau’s second book, Empire’s Nursery: Children’s Literature and the Origins of the American Century, traced the importance of dime novels, pulp fiction, and comic books in educating young Americans about their nation’s growing global obligations. His current project investigates the life and international exploits of Lee Christmas, an infamous American mercenary. Rouleau teaches courses on early American history, the American Revolution, the U.S. West, diplomatic history, and the history of children and the family. (From Texas A&M University)

Akeia de Barros Gomes

Akeia de Barros Gomes is the Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories at Mystic Seaport Museum and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University. Her work focuses on broadening the narrative of New England’s maritime history to foreground the voices and perspectives of Indigenous North Americans, Africans and African Americans in the framing of maritime history. Prior to her position at Mystic Seaport, Akeia was Curator of Social History at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. She earned her MA and PhD in Anthropology/Archaeology at the University of Connecticut and her BA at Salve Regina University. Before engaging in museum work, Akeia was Professor in the Departments of American Studies and Psychology and Human Development at Wheelock College in Boston from 2008-2017.

Katherine Unterman

Katherine Unterman is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University. She received a PhD from Yale University and a Master’s in Legal Studies from Stanford Law School. She is the author of Uncle Sam’s Policemen: The Pursuit of Fugitives across Borders (Harvard University Press, 2015), as well as multiple articles that bridge legal history and American foreign relations. In 2019-20, she held an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellowship.