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Filson Friday - “THIS PRICELESS JEWELL- Liberty!”:The Doyle Conspiracy of 1848

  • Fri, Jul 23, 2021 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
  • Eastern Standard Time

Ticket Price Free This event is now over

Sponsored by Dinsmore Private Client and Family Wealth Planning.

In the summer of 1848, Edward James Doyle, a twenty-two-year-old Irish immigrant, planned the largest slave escape attempt in Kentucky history. On the night of August 5th, he led forty-two bondsmen out of Lexington in a desperate attempt to find freedom across the Ohio River. After two sharp skirmishes with their pursuers, the fugitives were finally surrounded and captured.

Young Doyle was convicted of “Enticing Slaves to Run Away” in the Fayette Circuit Court and sentenced to twenty years in the Kentucky penitentiary where he died in 1863. Three of his African American lieutenants were found guilty of “Insurrection” and sentenced to die on the gallows. Until well into the 21st century Doyle has been depicted as an anti-slavery martyr while his three accomplices were believed to have sacrificed their lives in the cause of freedom.

But contemporary newspaper and court records tell a far different story. This talk reveals that some “friends” of fugitive slaves often had self-serving, if not outright criminal motives. This fascinating episode in Kentucky history also illustrates that enslaved people, despite the laws and beliefs of the time, had the power to make the most ardent supporters of slavery question the institution through their dignity and courage.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Philadelphia.

Date & Time

Fri, Jul 23, 2021 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

The Filson Historical Society
The Filson Historical Society, founded in 1884, is a privately-supported historical society dedicated to preserving the history of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley Region.