restricted access The Medicinal Rod: Slave Health and Redhibition Law in George Washington Cable's The Grandissimes


The economic transactions and litigation necessary for slavery to function, coupled with the South's honor culture, meant skepticism and posturing frequently attended the buying and selling of enslaved people. This atmosphere provided opportunities for enslaved individuals familiar with the symbiotic ways their health and value intertwined to manipulate owners by feigning illness or adopting behaviors contrary to those of a "sound and sane" captive under Louisiana's redhibitory (slave warranty) law. Such actions offered a chance at preserving that which slavery denied its victims: proximity to family, a reduced chance of being sold, and an opportunity to exert agency within a strictly oppressive system. In dramatizing these paradoxes, George Washington Cable's The Grandissimes illustrates the vile hollowness of owners' paternalistic attitudes towards the enslaved, acknowledges the subjectivity and will of enslaved individuals, and castigates the return of slavery-like conditions in the form of the convict lease system.