|JOHN A. MUREL|
| John A. Murel, the "western land-pirate," or "slave stealer," was a native of Tennessee and in the 1830's, was a famous character much talked of and dreaded in Mississippi. His home was in Madison County, Tennessee when he became notorious. A pamphlet was published by Virgil A. Stewart in 1835, purporting to reveal the secrets of Murel and his confederates, from which it appears that there was a confederacy of men with great shrewdness, embracing some men of law learning, for the stealing of slaves, and the harboring of runaways, the shipping of them to Texas or other distant regions, and the sale at a great profit to the gang.
So skillful were the operations of the gang, and so adroit their manipulations of the law, that slaveholders, when they suspected Murel of the loss of their slaves, were disposed to admit their loss as final, without further effort at recovery. One method was to suggest to a discontented slave to run away and take refuge at a certain place, with one of the confederates. This person held him as a runaway, supposedly ignorant of where the slave came from. Presently, an advertisement appeared describing the runaway and offering a reward. Thereupon, the harborer of the slave assumed the status of a taker-up of the runaway and, in a sense, attorney-in-fact for the owner. Instead of returning the slave, he would choose to commit a breach of trust and transport and sell him. There was no remedy except by suit for the value of the slave and no property could be found on which to levy.
In 1834, Murel was arrested for slave harboring, fined several hundred dollars, and in the absence of property, was sentenced to slavery for five years. He appealed to the Supreme Court and was about to be set free, when Stewart became associated with him. Stewart claimed that, after he had gained the outlaw's confidence, the plan was revealed of a general insurrection of slaves to take place on the night of December 25,1835, by which time Murel expected his clan of white men to be 2,000 strong. His purpose was simply to cause more bloodshed and destroy more property than any other robber who had ever lived, and he felt confidence in his success, because half of his "grand council" were men of high standing and "many of them in honorable and lucrative offices." This was the basis of a book that Stewart wrote and proceeded to sell through the country, creating a great panic and much bloodshed. The book contained a list of the members of the "Mystic Clan," in each of the slaveholding states, also, what purported to be a narration by Murel of various robberies and murders he had been guilty of, in Mississippi, mainly.