The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

John Jacobus Flournoy: Champion of the Common Man in the
Ante-Bellum South. By E. Merton Coulter. Savannah (The
Georgia Historical Society), 1942. Pp. vii+112. Bibliog-
raphy, notes, and index. $2.00.
John James Flournoy (alias John Jacobus Flournoy), best
known for his many eccentricities, was born in 1808 and lived
most of his seventy-one years in the vicinity of Athens, Georgia.
This strange old man was quite unbalanced mentally and at
one time, admitting his insanity, entered an insane asylum,
but on second thought decided that he was sane and left. On
reading Professor Coulter's biography, however, one is con-
vinced that there is considerable evidence that Flournoy's first
analysis of his mental status was eminently correct.
The subject of this biography, an unusual mixture of genius
and dumbness, was set apart from others from the beginning
because he was as "deaf as a white oak post" and because he
was afflicted with an annoying impediment in his speech. As
if to further alienate himself, he refused to shave or to have
his hair cut. He insisted, as he said, on letting "God have his
way with his face." As he grew older he added to his peculiari-
ties by wearing an India rubber overcoat at all times and by
using the lowly donkey as his only means of transportation.
He dubbed himself "a deaf grey-beard," while his neighbors
generally called him "old Flournoy" or "the devil." "Old Flour-
noy will get you" was frequently repeated by parents to
frighten children into obedience.
The life of Flournoy, thus handicapped by deafness and by
strange peculiarities, is proof that there is no relation between
deafness and mental vigor. The fertile mind of Flournoy was
exceedingly productive, though one may not always be proud
of the product. Since no one would listen to "old Flournoy,"
he wrote dozens of pamphlets and hundreds of newspaper arti-
cles, the latter under the disguise of a pseudonym. Out of his
numerous mental troubles he concocted a new order of conduct
which he called trigamy for the "female felicity and comfort."
John Jacobus applied the principles only to the extent of bigamy
when the old-fashioned and cranky Mrs. Flournoy the First
appeared on the scene and put an end to the "new order."
He advocated the abolition of the jury system; he approved
the introduction of Lynch law, enforced by Regulators, to force
courts to administer justice; he believed and advocated vigor-
ously the expulsion of all negroes, free as well as slave, from

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 47, July 1943 - April, 1944. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146054/. Accessed July 23, 2014.