12 Years a Slave

Burch is a cruel slave dealer in Washington D.C. who oversees the Williams’ Slave Pen with help from his assistant, Ebenezer Radburn. Burch imprisons Solomon, Eliza, Randall, Emily, Clemens Ray, John Williams, and several others in a basement. Burch (with his whip) is Solomon’s first taste of the bitter reality of slavery, and he is the reason why Solomon keeps his identity as a kidnapped free man a secret for twelve years—as Burch threatens to kill Solomon if he ever speaks of his freedom. Burch transfers Solomon, Eliza, and her children to his business partner, Theophilus Freeman, in New Orleans to be auctioned off. Solomon later brings Burch to court, but Burch is found innocent with help from his two fake witnesses, Benjamin O. Shekels and Benjamin A. Thorn. Afterwards, Burch accuses Solomon of defrauding him, but drops the charges in the middle of the case.

James Burch Quotes in 12 Years a Slave

The 12 Years a Slave quotes below are all either spoken by James Burch or refer to James Burch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Graymalkin Media edition of 12 Years a Slave published in 2014.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Then did the idea begin to break upon my mind, at first dim and confused, that I had been kidnapped. There must have been some misapprehension—some unfortunate mistake. It could not be that a free citizen of New-York, who had wronged no man, nor violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly […] I felt there was no trust or mercy in unfeeling man.

Related Characters: Solomon Northup (speaker), James Burch, Merrill Brown, Abram Hamilton
Related Symbols: Free papers, Chains
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

Though suspicions of Brown and Hamilton were not unfrequent, I could not reconcile myself to the idea that they were instrumental to my imprisonment. Surely they would seek me out—they would deliver me from thraldom. Alas! I had not then learned the measure “man’s inhumanity to man,” nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain.

Related Characters: Solomon Northup (speaker), James Burch, Merrill Brown, Abram Hamilton
Related Symbols: Chains
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington—though the Capital of a nation, whose theory of government, we are told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness! Hail! Columbia, happy land indeed!

Related Characters: Solomon Northup (speaker), James Burch, Ebenezer Radburn
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 22 Quotes

I was then offered as a witness, but, objection being made, the court decided my evidence inadmissible. It was rejected solely on the ground that I was a colored man—the fact of my being a free citizen of New-York not being disputed. […] Burch himself was offered as a witness in his own behalf. It was contended by counsel for the people, that such testimony should not be allowed—that it was in contravention of every rule of evidence, and if permitted would defeat the ends of justice. His testimony, however, was received by the court!

Related Characters: Solomon Northup (speaker), James Burch, Henry B. Northup
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
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James Burch Character Timeline in 12 Years a Slave

The timeline below shows where the character James Burch appears in 12 Years a Slave. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
The next morning, a door opens, revealing two white men—the infamous, cruel slave dealer named James Burch, and his assistant, Ebenezer Radburn. Solomon notes that Burch’s “whole appearance was sinister and... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Burch gruffly tells Solomon that he is now his slave and will be sent to New... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Burch orders Radburn to retrieve the paddle and whip, and Burch proceeds to beat and whip... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
...her into town to secure free papers, he promptly sold Eliza and her children to James Burch. Listening to Eliza’s story, Solomon is overcome with grief and empathy, declaring Eliza’s story... (full context)
Chapter 4
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
The Power of Music Theme Icon
One night, close to midnight, Burch and Radburn order the slaves to get up and follow them through the dark city.... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Examining the slaves that Burch has brought, Goodin asks Solomon where he comes from. Solomon accidentally answers that he is... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
...morning, the slaves are forced to continue on their journey, save for Clemens Ray, whom Burch decides to take back to Washington D.C. Solomon tells the reader that although he never... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Burch returns to Washington D.C. with Clemens Ray, while the rest of the slaves board a... (full context)
Chapter 5
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Later, other slave traders, including one named Theophilus Freeman, board the ship. Freeman takes over Burch’s slaves, including Solomon, Eliza, a slave named Harry, and several others. He coarsely informs Solomon... (full context)
Chapter 22
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
...in Washington D.C., where they immediately go to the police to file a complaint against Burch for selling Solomon into slavery. Burch is arrested but bailed out by his fellow slave... (full context)
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Soon after, Burch tries to charge Solomon with “conspir[ing] with the two white men to defraud him.” Solomon... (full context)