What was the role of Dr. LaLaurie?
As far as we can ascertain, there is nothing to suggest anyone suspected Madame LaLaurie of cruelty before her third marriage in 1828. The records of her slaves show that out of the 20 deaths in total, 12 died in the short period between 1831-33. Could this be a coincidence of some significance? Did her third husband play some role in the torture?
There are some particulars of Dr. LaLaurie’s medical practice that tally with aspects of the slave’s confinement. When he first arrived from France in 1825, LaLaurie advertised himself as “a French physician…acquainted with the means, lately discovered in France of destroying hunches.” These methods included stretching the patient out on a couch to straighten the spine. We know Madame LaLaurie’s daughter, Pauline had a spinal condition, and this could be how she first met her third husband. Is it possible that the slaves in the attic who had “their limbs stretched and torn from one extremity to the other” were in fact subjects in experimental medical treatments?
As Morrow Long states, this is unlikely because of the general mistreatment of the slaves. It would not have been in the doctor’s interest to whip and starve his subjects and leave their wounds to fester. It is, therefore, more likely that the Dr knew of his wife’s mistreatment of the slaves- but was not directly involved. After all, if people outside had their suspicions about what was happening in the LaLaurie mansion, it is inconceivable that any of the mansion’s residents were oblivious to events.
Some reports suggest that Madame LaLaurie’s daughters attempted to help the slaves and their mother subsequently punished them. However, Dr. LaLaurie did nothing. This silent complicity explains his terse reply to concerned Judge Canonge to mind his own business. LaLaurie feared if rescuers discovered the tortured slaves, they would question his role – even if he were guilty of nothing more than silence. However, Madame LaLaurie could not have chained and abused so many slaves without some help. This help was most likely came from her coach driver, the sleek, well-fed slave that rumor suggested was Madame’s eyes and ears in the house and who even helped her escape New Orleans.
For Madame LaLaurie was never brought to justice. So what happened to her?