Collection Number: 01131

Collection Title: R.H. Morrison Papers, 1820-1888

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.


This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 350 items)
Abstract Robert Hall Morrison (1798-1889) was a white Presbyterian minister who opposed slavery but also enslaved people at Cottage Home Plantation in Lincoln County, N.C. The collection includes letters written to and from members of the Morrison family, financial papers of R.H. Morrison, and miscellaneous papers. The letters, chiefly from R.H. Morrison to his cousin, James Morrison, discuss family matters, especially affliction by various diseases and illnesses. Morrison occasionally mentioned illness among Black people in the community, including Bagwell, en enslaved person who suffered from a kidney infection; an unnamed enslaved person who died of Typhoid fever while trafficked to Poplar Tent, N.C.; and health disparities between Black and white populations during a small pox outbreak. Other topics include the Carolinas hurricane of 1822; the business of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, including synod meetings such as one in which John Arch, an indigenous person of North America, visited, apparently as an example of a convert to Christianity; R.H. Morrison's work in the establishment and administration of Davidson College; details of his congregations in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties, N.C., and the existence of Sunday schools for Black congregants in Rocky River, Poplar Tent, and Sugar Creek, N.C.; his religious convictions; his views against slavery and secession and on the raid on Harpers Ferry; and agricultural activities on his Cottage Home Plantation, including silk farming. Morrison's financial papers consist of letters from agents managing his property in Tipton County, Tenn., and Lafayette and Sevier counties, Ark., detailing his business concerns; problems in conducting business during secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction; the construction of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad and the Memphis and Ohio Railroad; and perspectives on westward expansion into Mississippi River bottom lands. There are also receipts for his expenses and tax payments in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Other papers include a letter concerning the trafficking of enslaved people, letters from members of the Morrison family in Dallas County, Ala., and two letters from a chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war.
Creator Morrison, R. H. (Robert Hall), 1798-1889.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the R.H. Morrison Papers #1131, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. A. L. Bondurant of Oxford, Miss., in 1946 and Robert Hall Morrison II of Charlotte, N.C., in 1954.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

R.H. (Robert Hall) Morrison (1798-1889) was a white Presbyterian minister who opposed slavery. Despite that position, the 1860 U.S. Census Slave Schedule indicates that Morrison enslaved 55 people at Cottage Home Plantation in Lincoln County, N.C.

He was born to William Morrison (d. 1821) in 1798 in the Rocky River community near Concord, Mecklenburg (now Cabarrus) County, N.C. He attended the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1818, and studied theology at Princeton. He entered the ministry of the Presbyterian Church and was pastor to congregations in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, and, later, in Fayetteville, N.C., until he became the first president of Davidson College, Mecklenburg County, in 1837. He resigned from the college in 1840 due to ill health and retired to his Cottage Home Plantation in Lincoln County, North Carolina. He continued to preach in that county at the Machpelah Presbyterian Church until his death in 1889.

Robert Hall Morrison married Mary Graham (1801-1864), daughter of General Joseph Graham of Lincoln County. They had ten children who lived to adulthood. Their sons were William W., who enslaved people and worked for his uncle Senator William Alexander Graham in the U.S. Department of the Navy; Joseph Graham, who served on General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's staff during the Civil War; Robert Hall; and Alfred James. Several of their daughters were married to prominent leaders of the Confederacy: Isabella to General Daniel Harvey Hill, Mary Anna (1831-1915) to General Thomas Jonathan ("Stonewall") Jackson; Eugenia to General Rufus Clay Barringer; Susan Washington to Major Alphonso Calhoun Avery; Harriet to James Patton Irwin; and Laura to Colonel John E. Brown.

Robert Hall Morrison's elder brother, James McEwen Morrison, left North Carolina in 1816 for Dallas County, Ala., where he served as sheriff. In 1835, he and his family moved to Water Valley, Miss. James McEwen Morrison's son, Hugh McEwen Morrison, served as chaplain in the 19th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers, Army of Northern Virginia, during the Civil War. Robert Hall Morrison's sister Sally married Andrew Walker of Concord, Cabarrus County, N.C.

The Reverend James Morrison (1795-1870), son of John Morrison, was a third cousin of Robert Hall Morrison. He was born in the Rocky River community and, following graduation from the University of North Carolina in 1814, moved to Rockbridge County, Va., where he served as minister to the New Providence Presbyterian Church until his death. First cousins to James Morrison and third cousins to Robert Hall Morrison were the Reverend James Elijah Morrison (b. 1805) and the Reverend Elam Johnston Morrison (1800-1825), both Presbyterian ministers in North Carolina and Virginia.

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Robert Hall Morrison (1798-1889) was a white Presbyterian minister who opposed slavery but also enslaved people at Cottage Home Plantation in Lincoln County, N.C. The collection includes letters written to and from members of the Morrison family, financial papers of R.H. Morrison, and miscellaneous papers. The letters, chiefly from R.H. Morrison to his cousin, James Morrison, discuss family matters, especially affliction of various diseases and illnesses, including typhus, mumps, measles, ague, influenza, pneumonia, breast cancer, cholera, smallpox, whooping cough, rheumatism, bronchitis, drunkenness, neuralgia, catarrhal fever, Flux, and mental health issues. Morrison occasionally mentioned illness among Black people in the community, including Bagwell, an enslaved person who suffered from a kidney infection ("gravel"); an unnamed person, enslaved by William Morrison, who died of Typhoid fever while trafficked to Poplar Tent, N.C.; and health disparities between Black and white populations during a small pox outbreak. Homeopathic medicine, grief, and mourning are also described. Other topics include the Carolinas hurricane of 1822; the business of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, including Synod meetings such as the one in which John Arch, an indigenous person, visited in Poplar Tent, apparently as an example of a convert to Christianity; R.H. Morrison's work in the establishment and administration of Davidson College; details of his congregations in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties, N.C., and the existence of Sunday schools for Black congregants in Rocky River, Poplar Tent, and Sugar Creek; his religious convictions; his views against slavery and secession and on the raid on Harpers Ferry; and agricultural activities on his Cottage Home Plantation, including silk farming.

Morrison's financial papers consist of letters from agents managing his property in Tipton County, Tenn., and Lafayette and Sevier counties, Ark., detailing his business concerns; problems in conducting business during secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction; the construction of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad and the Memphis and Ohio Railroad; and perspectives on westward expansion into the Mississippi River bottom lands. There are also receipts for his expenses and tax payments in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Miscellaneous papers include letters from members of the Morrison family in Dallas County, Ala., and two letters from a chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859.

55 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Series 1 contains letters to the Reverend James Morrison from members of the Morrison family, particularly Robert Hall Morrison.

Two letters, dated 1820s, are from the Reverend Elam Johnston Morrison in Virginia and Maryland, regarding church matters and meetings, his travels and negative impressions of New York City, and the Presbyterian Church's friendship and rivalry with the Episcopal Church. A letter from the Reverend James Elijah Morrison in North Carolina discusses the evangelical movement in North Carolina in the 1830s, church business, and family matters.

The bulk of the correspondence is from the Reverend Dr. Robert Hall Morrison, 1820-1859. These letters discuss family matters, especially affliction by various diseases and illnesses, including typhus, mumps, measles, ague, influenza, pneumonia, breast cancer, cholera, smallpox, whooping cough, rheumatism, bronchitis, drunkenness, neuralgia, catarrhal fever, Flux, and mental health issues. Morrison occasionally mentioned illness among Black people in the community, including Bagwell, who suffered from a kidney infection ("gravel"); an unnamed person, enslaved by William Morrison, who died of Typhoid fever while trafficked to Poplar Tent, N.C.; and health disparities between Black and white populations during a small pox outbreak. Homeopathic medicine, grief, and mourning are also described. Other letters detail Robert Hall Morrison's entry into the ministry, his religious beliefs, and his activities in the North Carolina Presbyterian Synod, including Synod meetings, such as one in which John Arch, an indigenous person, visited in Poplar Tent, apparently as an example of a convert to Christianity. He also discussed in detail the congregations of his churches in the Rocky River community and in Fayetteville, N.C., as well as the activities of other ministers in North Carolina.

In the 1820s, Robert Hall Morrison wrote of his abhorrence of slavery and support of the American Colonization Society in Sierra Leone, though he himself enslaved people at his Cottage Home Plantation, to which he retired due to poor health in 1840. He also wrote of his feelings on the Missouri Compromise; his opinions on education, his founding of the North Carolina Education Society in 1822, and his work to establish a "Western College" in North Carolina (later Davidson College); missionary work of the Presbyterian Church; the Presbyterian Church's rivalry with the Episcopal Church in North Carolina ("The West they cannot move. The East they will gain in a measure."); and anecdotes concerning local preachers and members of his congregations. He also mentioned the existence of Sunday schools for Black congregants in Rocky River, Poplar Tent, and Sugar Creek, though it is not clear if he ministered to them. Other topics mentioned in the letters were the Carolinas hurricane in 1822; deaths of James Morrison's mother and Robert Hall Morrison's father; a mysterious and ultimately unsuccessful romance arranged by James Morrison between Robert Hall Morrison and Martha Lyle of Rockbridge County, Va.; and the establishment of Ravenscroft Academy in Raleigh, N.C.

There is a large gap in the letters between 1823 and 1837, by which time Robert Hall Morrison was serving as president of Davidson College, had married Mary Graham, and had six children with her. He wrote mostly in the period between 1837 and 1840 of everyday life at Davidson College, including problems of discipline and punishment of the students; economic conditions as reflected in decreasing values assigned to enslaved people and cotton in North Carolina; the possibility of establishing a silk industry not dependent on enslaved labor; and his advocacy of cotton and woolen mills in North Carolina as a replacement for the forced labor-based cotton industry. He also discussed in detail the problems Davidson College encountered in establishing its charter with the North Carolina legislature, including that body's criticisms of the Presbyterian Church and arguments against the school on the basis of the separation of church and state.

Following Robert Hall Morrison's resignation as president of Davidson College and his retirement to his Cottage Home Plantation in Lincoln County, N.C., he became more interested in agriculture and planting, asking James Morrison for advice on crop rotation, composting, and cover-crop planting. Regarding Davidson College, he wrote about Maxwell Chambers's legacy of $300,000 to the school, of new buildings and expansion, and of his continued troubles in trying to find competent administrators. He described finding a gold mine on his property and his attempts to mine it. He discussed his return to preaching at a new church in Lincoln County called Machpelah; his sentiments against Catholics, Mormons, and immigrants; and his anti-expansionist views against the Mexican War and the invasion of Cuba in 1851. He also commented on both United States and North Carolina elections and the impact of the raid on Harpers Ferry. He was virulently anti-Secessionist and complained about the "Croakers" in the deep South calling for secession in the 1850s. He also frequently mentioned his son William W. Morrison, who enslaved people and worked for William Alexander Graham in the United States Department of the Navy, and his daughters Harriet, Anna, and Laura and their respective spouses James Patton Irwin, Thomas J. ("Stonewall") Jackson, and Daniel Harvey Hill, including Irwin's activities in Alabama and D. H. Hill's teaching career in Lexington, Va., and Charlotte, N.C.

There is a typed transcription of all materials in Series 1.

Folder 1

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1821 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 1

Letter of 12 February 1820 describes Morrison's anti-slavery sentiments and the Colonization Society of Sierra Leone, and mentions Sunday schools for Black congregants in Rocky River, Poplar Tent, and Sugar Creek.

Letter of 5 November 1820 describes John Arch, an indigenous person, who had visited the Synod meeting in Poplar Tent on 5 October 1820, apparently a convert to Christianity.

Folder 2

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1822 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 2

A letter, 7 October 1822, describes the Carolinas hurricane of 27 September 1822. Writing from 30 miles south of Fayetteville, N.C., Morrison had heard of an enslaved person who died because of the storm.

Folder 3

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1823-1825 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 3

Folder 4

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1837-1840 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 4

Letter, 14 June 1837, discusses economic conditions as reflected in trafficking of enslaved people as part of settlement of General Graham estate, the decreasing values assigned to enslaved people and cotton in North Carolina, and the possibility of establishing a silk industry not dependent on enslaved labor. Another letter, 20 December 1838, further discusses silk farming and also advocates cotton and woolen mills as a replacement for the forced labor cotton industry.

Folder 5

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1841-1845 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 5

Letter, 4 April 1845, mentions efforts in keeping enslaved people employed at Cottage Home.

Letter, 3 June 1845, discusses pneumonia among family members and enslaved people.

Folder 6

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1846-1851 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 6

Letter, 29 April 1850, describes the kidney condition ("gravel") of Bagwell, a person enslaved by R.H. Morrison.

Folder 7

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1851 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 7

Letter, 24 February 1851, mentions fatalities from small pox more prevalent among Black people than white people.

Folder 8

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1852 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 8

Folder 9

Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1853-1859 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 9

A letter, 28 November 1859, describes the death of a young person who was enslaved, possibly by William W. Morrison, who died of Typhoid fever while trafficked to Poplar Tent. Morrison also commented on the impact of the raid on Harper's Ferry and described a family in which the matriarch suffered with a mental health condition.

Folder 10

Typed transcription of Series 1 #01131, Series: "1. Letters to the Reverend James Morrison, 1820-1859." Folder 10

Letters from Elam Johnston Morrison and James Elijah Morrison are placed at the beginning of the transcription, out of chronological order. The last letter in the transcription, dated 1888, is in Series 3, Folder 23.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888.

276 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

This series contains letters from various agents who managed property belonging to Robert Hall Morrison in Tipton County, Tenn., and Lafayette and Sevier counties, Ark., as well as financial and legal documents and receipts for household expenses and taxes in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

From 1853 to 1860, Morrison's agent in Tennessee was J. M. Maclin of Oak Hill. Maclin's letters are concerned with tax payments and problems with tenants on the land; news of the new Memphis and Ohio Railroad being built in the county; local church news and religious sentiment in Tennessee; and local crops, weather, and illnesses. Other items mentioned include the exodus of many Tennessee planters to Mississippi in search of better land for cotton planting; Maclin's involvement in the establishment of a Synodical College at La Grange, Tenn., and the election of Daniel Harvey Hill to a chair of mathematics at the College in 1857. In 1860, Maclin died, and Morrison used a series of agents in his place: W. G. Kimbrough, Berry H. Ligor, J. W. Maclin, and C. E. Seay. Letters from these agents deal with problems with renters and taxes; the legal and financial complications of the changes between the Confederate States of America and the United States; the poor market in cotton and land prices during the Civil War; and some description of attitudes towards secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction in Tennessee.

In 1858, Morrison purchased land in Lafayette County, and later Sevier County, Ark., and employed Cornelius J. Duffee to be his agent in that state. Duffee's letters are primarily concerned with land prices, taxes, and some local news, including the burning of Camden, Ark., by arsonists and the regulations and structure of Arkansas' "Swampland Department" and its involvement with the construction of railroads in the state. Duffee wrote extensively about the 1860 election in Arkansas and pro-Unionist sentiment in that state. He also mentioned the take-over of the United States Arsenal in Little Rock by state troops on 9 February 1861; the Arkansas legislature's discussions of secession in 1860-1861; Arkansas's fear of invasion by federal troops in Missouri; and the problems of conducting business during secession and the Civil War. Duffee died in 1862. Morrison then employed W. W. Andrews, J. M. Montgomery, Henry G. Rind (who resigned his post to live and teach in the Choctaw Indian Nation in Polk County, Ark.), H. H. Cleary, B. C. Kinsworthy, and Henry Moore as his agents in Lafayette and Sevier counties, Ark. These agents' letters are primarily concerned with Morrison's problems with taxes, the construction of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad through Morrison's land, soft land prices, and increases in taxes due to reconstruction and the Radical Party in Arkansas.

There are also receipts for this period for Morrison's household expenses in North Carolina, several financial and legal documents, and records for payment of his taxes in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Folder 11

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1827-1848 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 11

Folder 12

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1850-1854 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 12

Folder 13

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1855-1856 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 13

Folder 14

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1857 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 14

Folder 15

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1858 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 15

Folder 16

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1859 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 16

Folder 17

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1860 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 17

Folder 18

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1861 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 18

Folder 19

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1862-1868 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 19

Folder 20

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1869-1871 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 20

Folder 21

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1872-1876 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 21

Folder 22

Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1877-1888 #01131, Series: "2. Financial Papers of Robert Hall Morrison, 1853-1888." Folder 22

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Papers, 1820-1888.

12 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

This series consists of legal documents and letters from James McEwen Morrison in Selma, Dallas County, Ala., to his brother-in-law and attorney, Andrew Walker in Concord, Cabarrus County, N.C., between 1820 and 1834. The letters discuss family matters; news of crops, illnesses, and weather; the avarice of the Presbyterian Church; the trafficking of enslaved people; and the settling of Morrison's mother's estate in North Carolina. There is also one letter dated 1829 from Ziza Morrison in Shelbyville, Tenn., to his cousin Andrew Walker in North Carolina, informing him of Morrison's marriage and family news; and two letters from Hugh McEwen Morrison (son of James McEwen Morrison), a chaplain in the 19th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers, Army of Northern Virginia, to his aunt Sally Walker and uncle Cyrus Alexander in 1864, in which he discussed his war experiences ("I have seen seven battles and I have seen men mowed down like wheat and scattered life chaff yet I have not been hurt") and news of his cousins William Morrison, Joseph Morrison, and Anna Morrison Jackson. The last letter in the series, dated 1882, is from Robert Hall Morrison to an unknown individual, answering a query about his mother's family, the McEwens of North Carolina.

Folder 23

Other papers, 1820-1888 #01131, Series: "3. Other Papers, 1820-1888." Folder 23

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Processing Information

Processed by: Elizabeth Pauk, May 1991

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Conscious Editing Work by: Nancy Kaiser, October 2020. Updated abstract, subject headings, biographical note, scope and content notes, and container list.

Since August 2017, we have added ethnic and racial identities for individuals and families represented in collections. To determine identity, we rely on self-identification; other information supplied to the repository by collection creators or sources; public records, press accounts, and secondary sources; and contextual information in the collection materials. Omissions of ethnic and racial identities in finding aids created or updated after August 2017 are an indication of insufficient information to make an educated guess or an individual's preference for identity information to be excluded from description. When we have misidentified, please let us know at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu.

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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