A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin/Part 1
At different times, doubt has been expressed whether the representations of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" are a fair representation of slavery as it at present exists. This work, more, perhaps, than any other work of fiction that ever was written, has been a collection and arrangement of real incidents,—of actions really performed, of words and expressions really uttered,—grouped together with reference to a general result, in the same manner that the mosaic artist groups his fragments of various stones into one general picture. His is a mosaic of gems,—this is a mosaic of facts.
Artistically considered, it might not be best to point out in which quarry and from which region each fragment of the mosaic picture had its origin; and it is equally unartistic to disentangle the glittering web of fiction, and show out of what real warp and woof it is woven, and with what real coloring dyed. But the book had a purpose entirely transcending the artistic one, and accordingly encounters, at the hands of the public, demands not usually made on fictitious works. It is treated as a reality,—sifted, tried and tested, as a reality; and therefore as a reality it may be proper that it should be defended.
The writer acknowledges that the book is a very inadequate representation of slavery; and it is so, necessarily, for this reason,—that slavery, in some of its workings, is too dreadful for the purposes of art. A work which should represent it strictly as it is would be a work which could not be read. And all works which ever mean to give pleasure must draw a veil somewhere, or they cannot succeed.
The author will now proceed along the course of the story, from the first page onward, and develop, as far as possible, the incidents by which different parts were suggested.
In the very first chapter of the book we encounter the character of the negro-trader, Mr. Haley. His name stands at the head of this chapter as the representative of all the different characters introduced in the work which exhibit the trader, the kidnapper, the negro-catcher, the negro-whipper, and all the other inevitable auxiliaries and indispensable appendages, of what is often called the "divinely-instituted relation" of slavery. The author's first personal observation of this class of beings was somewhat as follows:
Several years ago, while one morning employed in the duties of the nursery, a colored woman was announced. She was ushered into the nursery, and the author thought, on first survey, that a more surly, unpromising face she had never seen. The woman was thoroughly black, thick-set, firmly built, and with strongly-marked African features. Those who have been accustomed to read the expressions of the African face know what a peculiar effect is produced by a lowering, desponding expression upon its dark features. It is like the shadow of a thunder-cloud. Unlike her race generally, the woman did not smile when smiled upon, nor utter any pleasant remark in reply to such as were addressed to her. The youngest pet of the nursery, a boy about three years old, walked up, and laid his little hand on her knee, and seemed astonished not to meet the quick smile which the negro almost always has in reserve for the little child. The writer thought her very cross and disagreeable, and, after a few moments' silence, asked, with perhaps a little impatience, "Do you want anything of me to-day?"
"Here are some papers," said the woman, pushing them towards her; "perhaps you would read them."
The first paper opened was a letter from a negro-trader in Kentucky, stating concisely that he had waited about as long as he could for her child; that he wanted to start for the South, and must get it off his hands; that, if she would send him two hundred dollars before the end of the week, she should have it; if not, that he would set it up at auction, at the courthouse door, on Saturday. He added, also, that he might have got more than that for the child, but that he was willing to let her have it cheap.
"What sort of a man is this?" said the author to the woman, when she had done reading the letter.
"Dunno, ma'am; great Christian, I know,member of the Methodist church, anyhow."
The expression of sullen irony with which this was said was a thing to be remembered.
"And how old is this child?" said the author to her.
The woman looked at the little boy who had been standing at her knee, with an expressive glance, and said, "She will be three years old this summer."
On further inquiry into the history of the woman, it appeared that she had been set free by the will of her owners; that the child was legally entitled to freedom, but had been seized on by the heirs of the estate. She was poor and friendless, without money to maintain a suit, and the heirs, of course, threw the child into the hands of the trader. The necessary sum, it may be added, was all raised in the small neighborhood which then surrounded the Lane Theological Seminary, and the child was redeemed.
If the public would like a specimen of the correspondence which passes between these worthies, who are the principal reliance of the community for supporting and extending the institution of slavery, the following may be interesting as a matter of literally curiosity. It was forwarded by Mr. M. J. Thomas, of Philadelphia, to the National Era, and stated by him to be "a copy taken verbatim from the original, found among the papers of the person to whom it was addressed, at the time of his arrest and conviction, for passing a variety of counterfeit bank-notes."
Poolsville, Montgomery Co., Md.,
March 24, 1831.
Dear Sir: I arrived home in safety with Louisa, John having been rescued from me, out of a two-story window, at twelve o'clock at night. I offered a reward of fifty dollars, and have him here safe in jail. The persons who took him brought him to Fredericktown jail. I wish you to write to no person in this state but myself. Kephart and myself are determined to go the whole hog for any negro you can find, and you must give me the earliest information, as soon as you do find any. Enclosed you will receive a handbill, and I can make a good bargain, if you can find them. I will in all cases, as soon as a negro runs off, send you a handbill immediately, so that you may be on the look-out. Please tell the constable to go on with the sale of John's property; and, when the money is made, I will send on an order to you for it. Please attend to this for me; likewise write to me, and inform me of any negro you think has run away,—no matter where you think he has come from, nor how far,—and I will try and find out his master. Let me know where you think he is from, with all particular marks, and if I don't find his master, Joe's dead!
Write to me about the crooked-fingered negro, and let me know which hand and which finger, color, &c.; likewise any mark the fellow has who says he got away from the negro-buyer, with his height and color, or any other you think has run off.
Give my respects to your partner, and be sure you write to no person but myself. If any person writes to you, you can inform me of it, and I will try to buy from them. I think we can make money, if we do business together; for I have plenty of money, if you can find plenty of negroes. Let me know if Daniel is still where he was, and if you have heard anything of Francis since I left you. Accept for yourself my regard and esteem.
Reuben B. Carlley.
John C. Saunders.
This letter strikingly illustrates the character of these fellow-patriots with whom the great men of our land have been acting in conjunction, in carrying out the beneficent provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law.
With regard to the Kephart named in this letter the community of Boston may have a special interest to know further particulars, as he was one of the dignitaries sent from the South to assist the good citizens of that place in the religious and patriotic enterprise of 1851, at the time that Shadrach was unfortunately rescued. It therefore may be well to introduce somewhat particularly John Kephart, as sketched by Richard H. Dana, Jr., one of the lawyers employed in the defence of the perpetrators of the rescue.
In the manner of giving in his testimony there was no bluster or outward show of insolence. His contempt for the humane feelings of the audience and community about him was too true to require any assumption of that kind. He neither paraded nor attempted to conceal the worst features of his calling. He treated it as a matter of business which he knew the community shuddered at, but the moral nature of which he was utterly indifferent to, beyond a certain secret pleasure in thus indirectly inflicting a little torture on his hearers.
I am not, however, altogether clear, to do John Caphart justice, that he is entirely conscience-proof. There was something in his anxious look which leaves one not without hope.
At the first trial we did not know of his pursuits, and he passed merely as a police-man of Norfolk, Virginia. But, at the second trial, some one in the room gave me a hint of the occupations many of these police-men take to, which led to my cross-examination.
Question. Is it a part of your duty, as a policeman, to take up colored persons who are out after hours in the streets?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Q. What is done with them?
A. We put them in the lock-up, and in the morning they are brought into court and ordered to be punished,—those that are to be punished.
Q. What punishment do they get?
A. Not exceeding thirty-nine lashes,
Q. Who gives them these lashes?
A. Any of the officers. I do, sometimes.
Q. Are you paid extra for this? How much?
A. Fifty cents a head. It used to be sixty-two cents. Now it is fifty. Fifty cents for each one we arrest, and fifty more for each one we flog.
Q. Are these persons you flog men and boys only, or are they women and girls also?
A. Men, women, boys and girls, just as it happens.
[The government interfered, and tried to prevent any further examination; and said, among other things, that he only performed his duty as police-officer under the law. After a discussion. Judge Curtis allowed it to proceed.]
Q. Is your flogging confined to these cases? Do you not flog slaves at the request of their masters?
A. Sometimes I do. Certainly, when I am called upon.
Q. In these cases of private flogging, are the negroes sent to you? Have you a place for flogging?
A. No. I go round, as I am sent for.
Q. Is this part of your duty as an officer?
A. No, sir.
Q. In these cases of private flogging, do you inquire into the circumstances, to see what the fault has been, or if there is any?
A. That's none of my business. I do as I am requested. The master is responsible.
Q. In these cases, too, I suppose you flog women and girls, as well as men.
A. Women and men.
Q. Mr. Caphart, how long have you been engaged in this business?
A. Ever since 1836
Q. How many negroes do you suppose you have flogged, in all, women and children included?
A. [Looking calmly round the room.] I don't know how many niggers you have got here in Maschusetts, but I should think I had flogged as many as you've got in the state.
[The same man testified that he was often employed to pursue fugitive slaves. His reply to the question was, "I never refuse a good job in that line."]
Q. Don't they sometimes turn out bad jobs?
A. Never, if I can help it.
Q. Are they not sometimes discharged after you get them?
A. Not often. I don't know that they ever are, except those Portuguese the counsel read about.
[I had found, in a Virginia report, a case of some two hundred Portuguese negroes, whom this John Caphart had seized from a vessel, and endeavored to get condemned as slaves, but whom the court discharged.]
Hon. John P. Hale, associated with Mr. Dana, as counsel for the defence, in the Rescue Trials, said of him, in his closing argument:
Why, gentlemen, he sells agony! Torture is his stock-in-trade! He is a walking scourge! He hawks, peddles, retails, groans and tears about the streets of Norfolk!
See also the following correspondence between two traders, one in North Carolina, the other in New Orleans; with a word of comment, by Hon. William Jay, of New York:
Halifax, N. C, Nov. 16, 1839.
Dear Sir: I have shipped in the brig Addison,—prices are below:
|No. 1. Caroline Ennis, ||$650 00|
|" 2. Silvy Holland,||625.00|
|" 3. Silvy Booth,||487.50|
|" 4. Maria Pollock,||475.00|
|" 5. Emeline Pollock,||475.00|
|" 6. Delia Averit,||475.00|
The two girls that cost $650 and $625 were bought before I shipped my first. I have a great many negroes offered to me, but I will not pay the prices they ask, for I know they will come down. I have no opposition in market. I will wait until I hear from you before I buy, and then I can judge what I must pay. Goodwin will send you the bill of lading for my negroes, as he shipped them with his own. Write often, as the times are critical, and it depends on the prices you get to govern me in buying. Yours, &c.,
G. W. Barnes.
|Mr. Theophilus Freeman,
The above was a small but choice invoice of wives and mothers. Nine days before, namely, 7th Nov., Mr. Barnes advised Mr. Freeman of having shipped a lot of forty-three men and women. Mr. Freeman, informing one of his correspondents of the state of the market, writes (Sunday, 21st Sept., 1839), "I bought a boy yesterday, sixteen years old, and likely, weighing one hundred and ten pounds, at $700. I sold a likely girl, twelve years old, at $500. I bought a man yesterday, twenty years old, six feet high, at $820; one to-day, twenty-four years old, at $850, black and sleek as a mole."
The writer has drawn in this work only one class of the negro-traders. There are all varieties of them, up to the great wholesale purchasers, who keep their large trading-houses; who are gentlemanly in manners and courteous in address; who, in many respects, often perform actions of real generosity; who consider slavery a very great evil, and hope the country will at some time be delivered from it, but who think that so long as clergyman and layman, saint and sinner, are all agreed in the propriety and necessity of slave-holding, it is better that the necessary trade in the article be conducted by men of humanity and decency, than by swearing, brutal men, of the Tom Loker school. These men are exceedingly sensitive with regard to what they consider the injustice of the world in excluding them from good society, simply because they undertake to supply a demand in the community which the bar, the press and the pulpit, all pronounce to be a proper one. In this respect, society certainly imitates the unreasonableness of the ancient Egyptians, who employed a certain class of men to prepare dead bodies for embalming, but flew at them with sticks and stones the moment the operation was over, on account of the sacrilegious liberty which they had taken. If there is an ill-used class of men in the world, it is certainly the slave-traders; for, if there is no harm in the institution of slavery,—if it is a divinely-appointed and honorable one, like civil government and the family state, and like other species of property relation,—then there is no earthly reason why a man may not as innocently be a slave-trader as any other kind of trader.
MR. AND MRS. SHELBY.
It was the design of the writer, in delineating the domestic arrangements of Mr. and Mrs. Shelby, to show a picture of the fairest side of slave-life, where easy indulgence and good-natured forbearance are tampered by just discipline and religious instruction, skilfully and judiciously imparted.
The writer did not come to her task without reading much upon both sides of the question, and making a particular effort to collect all the most favorable representations of slavery which she could obtain. And, as the reader may have a curiosity to examine some of the documents, the writer will present them quite at large. There is no kind of danger to the world in letting the very fairest side of slavery be seen; in fact, the horrors and barbarities which are necessarily inherent in it are so terrible that one stands absolutely in need of all the comfort which can be gained from incidents like the subjoined, to save them from utter despair of human nature. The first account is from Mr. J. K. Paulding's Letters on Slavery; and is a letter from a Virginia planter, whom we should judge, from his style, to be a very amiable, agreeable man, and who probably describes very fairly the state of things on his own domain.
Dear Sir: As regards the first query, which relates to the "rights and duties of the slave," I do not know how extensive a view of this branch of the subject is contemplated. In its simplest aspect, as understood and acted on in Virginia, I should say that the slave is entitled to an abundance of good plain food; to coarse but comfortable apparel; to a warm but humble dwelling; to protection when well, and to succor when sick; and, in return, that it is his duty to render to his master all the service he can consistently with perfect health, and to behave submissively and honestly. Other remarks suggest themselves, but they will be more appropriately introduced under different heads.
2d. "The domestic relations of master and slave."—These relations are much misunderstood by many persons at the North, who regard the terms as synonymous with oppressor and oppressed. Nothing can be further from the fact. The condition of the negroes in this state has been greatly ameliorated. The proprietors were formerly fewer and richer than at present. Distant quarters were often kept up to support the aristocratic mansion. They were rarely visited by their owners; and heartless overseers, frequently changed, were employed to manage them for a share of the crop. These men scourged the land, and sometimes the slaves. Their tenure was but for a year, and of course they made the most of their brief authority. Owing to the influence of our institutions, property has become subdivided, and most persons live on or near their estates. There are exceptions, to be sure, and particularly among wealthy gentlemen in the towns; but these last are almost all enlightened and humane, and alike liberal to the soil and to the slave who cultivates it. I could point out some noble instances of patriotic and spirited improvement among them. But, to return to the resident proprietors: most of them have been raised on the estates; from the older negroes they have received in infancy numberless acts of kindness; the younger ones have not unfrequently been their playmates (not the most suitable, I admit), and much good-will is thus generated on both sides. In addition to this, most men feel attached to their property; and this attachment is stronger in the case of persons than of things. I know it, and feel it. It is true, there are harsh masters; but there are also bad husbands and bad fathers. They are all exceptions to the rule, not the rule itself. Shall we therefore condemn in the gross those relations, and the rights and authority they imply, from their occasional abuse? I could mention many instances of strong attachment on the part of the slave, but will only adduce one or two, of which I have been the object. It became a question whether a faithful servant, bred up with me from boyhood, should give up his master or his wife and children, to whom he was affectionately attached, and most attentive and kind. The trial was a severe one, but he determined to break those tender ties and remain with me. I left it entirely to his discretion, though I would not, from considerations of interest, have taken for him quadruple the price I should probably have obtained. Fortunately, in the sequel, I was enabled to purchase his family, with the exception of a daughter, happily situated; and nothing but death shall henceforth part them. Were it put to the test, I am convinced that many masters would receive this striking proof of devotion. A gentleman but a day or two since informed me of a similar, and even stronger ease, afforded by one of his slaves. As the reward of assiduous and delicate attention to a venerated parent, in her last illness, I proposed to purchase and liberate a healthy and intelligent woman, about thirty years of age, the best nurse, and, in all respects, one of the best servants in the state, of which I was only part owner; but she declined to leave the family, and has been since rather better than free. I shall be excused for stating a ludicrous case I heard of some time ago:—A favorite and indulged servant requested his master to sell him to another gentleman. His master refused to do so, but told him he was at perfect liberty to go to the North, if he were not already free enough. After a while he repeated the request; and, on being urged to give an explanation of his singular conduct, told his master that he considered himself consumptive, and would soon die; and he thought Mr. B—— was better able to bear the loss than his master. He was sent to a medicinal spring and recovered his health, if, indeed, he had ever lost it, of which his master had been unapprized. It may not be amiss to describe my deportment towards my servants, whom I endeavor to render happy while I make them profitable. I never turn a deaf ear, but listen patiently to their communications. I chat familiarly with those who have passed service, or have not begun to render it. With the others I observe a more prudent reserve, but I encourage all to approach me without awe. I hardly ever go to town without having commissions to execute for some of them; and think they prefer to employ me, from a belief that, if their money should not quite hold out, I would add a little to it; and I not unfrequently do, in order to get a better article. The relation between myself and my slaves is decidedly friendly. I keep up pretty exact discipline, mingled with kindness, and hardly ever lose property by thievish, or labor by runaway slaves. I never lock the outer doors of my house. It is done, but done by the servants; and I rarely bestow a thought on the matter. I leave home periodically for two months, and commit the dwelling-house, plate, and other valuables, to the servants, without even an enumeration of the articles.
3d. "The duration of the labor of the slave."—The day is usually considered long enough. Employment at night is not exacted by me, except to shell corn once a week for their own consumption, and on a few other extraordinary occasions. The people, as we generally call them, are required to leave their houses at daybreak, and to work until dark, with the intermission of half an hour to an hour at breakfast, and one to two hours at dinner, according to the season and sort of work. In this respect I suppose our negroes will bear a favorable comparison with any laborers whatever.
4th. "The liberty usually allowed the slave,—his holidays and amusements, and the way in which they usually spend their evenings and holidays."—They are prohibited from going off the estate without first obtaining leave; though they often transgress, and with impunity, except in flagrant cases. Those who have wives on other plantations visit them on certain specified nights, and have an allowance of time for going and returning, proportioned to the distance. My negroes are permitted, and, indeed, encouraged, to raise as many ducks and chickens as they can; to cultivate vegetables for their own use, and a patch of corn for sale; to exercise their trades, when they possess one, which many do; to catch muskrats and other animals for the fur or the flesh; to raise bees, and, in fine, to earn an honest penny in any way which chance or their own ingenuity may offer. The modes specified are, however, those most commonly resorted to, and enable provident servants to make from five to thirty dollars apiece. The corn is of a different sort from that which I cultivate, and is all bought by me. A great many fowls are raised; I have this year known ten dollars worth sold by one man at one time. One of the chief sources of profit is the fur of the muskrat; for the purpose of catching which the marshes on the estate have been parcelled out and appropriated from time immemorial, and are held by a tenure little short of fee-simple. The negroes are indebted to Nat Turner and Tappan for a curtailment of some of their privileges. As a sincere friend to the blacks, I have much regretted the reckless interference of these persons, on account of the restrictions it has become, or been thought, necessary to impose. Since the exploit of the former hero, they have been forbidden to preach, except to their fellow-slaves, the property of the same owner; to have public funerals, unless a white person officiates: or to be taught to read and write. Their funerals formerly gave them great satisfaction, and it was customary here to furnish the relations of the deceased with bacon, spirit, flour, sugar and butter, with which a grand entertainment, in their way, was got up. We were once much amused by a hearty fellow requesting his mistress to let him have his funeral during his lifetime, when it would do him some good. The waggish request was granted; and I venture to say there never was a funeral the subject of which enjoyed it so much. When permitted, some of our negroes preached with great fluency. I was present, a few years since, when an Episcopal minister addressed the people, by appointment. On the conclusion of an excellent sermon, a negro preacher rose and thanked the gentleman kindly for his discourse, but frankly told him the congregation "did not understand his lingo." He then proceeded himself, with great vehemence and volubility, coining words where they had not been made to his hand, or rather his tongue, and impressing his hearers, doubtless, with a decided opinion of his superiority over his white co-laborer in the field of grace. My brother and I, who own contiguous estates, have lately erected a chapel on the line between them, and have employed an acceptable minister of the Baptist persuasion, to which the negroes almost exclusively belong, to afford them religious instruction. Except as a preparatory step to emancipation. I consider it exceedingly impolitic, even as regards the slaves themselves, to permit them to read and write: "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." And it is certainly impolitic as regards their masters, on the principle that "knowledge is power." My servants have not as long holidays as those of most other persons. I allow three days at Christmas, and a day at each of three other periods, besides a little time to work their patches; or, if very busy, I sometimes prefer to work them myself. Most of the ancient pastimes have been lost in this neighborhood, and religion, mock or real, has succeeded them. The banjo, their national instrument, is known but in name, or in a few of the tunes which have survived. Some of the younger negroes sing and dance, but the evenings and holidays are usually occupied in working, in visiting, and in praying and singing hymns. The primitive customs and sports are, I believe, better preserved further south, where slaves were brought from Africa long after they ceased to come here.
6th. "The provision usually made for their food and clothing,—for those who are too young or too old to labor."—My men receive twelve quarts of Indian meal (the abundant and universal allowance in this state), seven salted herrings, and two pounds of smoked bacon or three pounds of pork, a week; the other hands proportionally less. But, generally speaking, their food is issued daily, with the exception of meal, and consists of fish or bacon for breakfast, and meat, fresh or salted, with vegetables whenever we can provide them, for dinner; or, for a month or two in the spring, fresh fish cooked with a little bacon. This mode is rather more expensive to me than that of weekly rations, but more comfortable to the servants. Superannuated or invalid slaves draw their provisions regularly once a week; and the moment a child ceases to be nourished by its mother, it receives eight quarts of meal (more than it can consume), and one half-pound of lard. Besides the food furnished by me, nearly all the servants are able to make some addition from their private stores; and there is among the adults hardly an instance of one so improvident as not to do it. He must be an unthrifty fellow, indeed, who cannot realize the wish of the famous Henry IV. in regard to the French peasantry, and enjoy his fowl on Sunday. I always keep on hand, for the use of the negroes, sugar, molasses, &c., which, though not regularly issued, are applied for on the slightest pretexts, and frequently no pretext at all, and are never refused, except in cases of misconduct. In regard to clothing:—the men and boys receive a winter coat and trousers of strong cloth, three shirts, a stout pair of shoes and socks, and a pair of summer pantaloons, every year; a hat about every second year, and a great-coat and blanket every third year. Instead of great-coats and hats, the women have large capes to protect the bust in bad weather, and handkerchiefs for the head. The articles furnished are good and serviceable; and, with their own acquisitions, make their appearance decent and respectable. On Sunday they are even fine. The aged and invalid are clad as regularly as the rest, but less substantially. Mothers receive a little raw cotton, in proportion to the number of children, with the privilege of having the yarn, when spun, woven at my expense. I provide them with blankets. Orphans are put with careful women, and treated with tenderness. I am attached to the little slaves, and encourage familiarity among them. Sometimes, when I ride near the quarters, they come running after me with the most whimsical requests, and are rendered happy by the distribution of some little donation. The clothing described is that which is given to the crop hands. Home-servants, a numerous class in Virginia, are of course clad in a different and very superior manner. I neglected to mention, in the proper place, that there are on each of my plantations a kitchen, an oven, and one or more cooks; and that each hand is furnished with a tin bucket for his food, which is carried into the field by little negroes, who also supply the laborers with water.
7th. "Their treatment when sick."—My negroes go, or are carried, as soon as they are attacked, to a spacious and well-ventilated hospital, near the mansion-house. They are there received by an attentive nurse, who has an assortment of medicine, additional bed-clothing, and the command of as much light food as she may require, either from the table or the store-room of the proprietor. Wine, sago, rice, and other little comforts appertaining to such an establishment, are always kept on hand. The condition of the sick is much better than that of the poor whites or free colored people in the neighborhood.
8th. "Their rewards and punishments."—I occasionally bestow little gratuities for good conduct, and particularly after harvest; and hardly ever refuse a favor asked by those who faithfully perform their duty. Vicious and idle servants are punished with stripes, moderately inflicted; to which, in the case of theft, is added privation of meat, a severe punishment to those who are never suffered to be without it on any other account. From my limited observation, I think that servants to the North work much harder than our slaves. I was educated at a college in one of the free states, and, on my return to Virginia, was struck with the contrast. I was astonished at the number of idle domestics, and actually worried my mother, much to my contrition since, to reduce the establishment. I say to my contrition, because, after eighteen years residence in the good Old Dominion, I find myself surrounded by a troop of servants about as numerous as that against which I formerly so loudly exclaimed. While on this subject it may not be amiss to state a case of manumission which occurred about three years since. My nearest neighbor, a man of immense wealth, owned a favorite servant, a fine fellow, with polished manners and excellent disposition, who reads and writes, and is thoroughly versed in the duties of a butler and housekeeper, in the performance of which he was trusted without limit. This man was, on the death of his master, emancipated with a legacy of six thousand dollars, besides about two thousand dollars more which he had been permitted to accumulate, and had deposited with his master, who had given him credit for it. The use that this man, apparently so well qualified for freedom, and who has had an opportunity of travelling and of judging for himself, makes of his money and his time, is somewhat remarkable. In consequence of his exemplary conduct, he has been permitted to reside in the state, and for very moderate wages occupies the same situation he did in the old establishment, and will probably continue to occupy it as long as he lives. He has no children of his own, but has put a little girl, a relation of his, to school. Except in this instance, and in the purchase of a few plain articles of furniture, his freedom and his money seem not much to have benefited him. A servant of mine, who is intimate with him, thinks he is not as happy as he was before his liberation. Several other servants were freed at the same time, with smaller legacies, but I do not know what has become of them.
I do not regard negro-slavery, however mitigated, as a Utopian system, and have not intended so to delineate it. But it exists, and the difficulty of removing it is felt and acknowledged by all, save the fanatics, who, like "fools, rush in where angels dare not tread." It is pleasing to know that its burdens are not too heavy to be borne. That the treatment of slaves in this state is humane, and even indulgent, may be inferred from the fact of their rapid increase and great longevity. I believe that, constituted as they are, morally and physically, they are as happy as any peasantry in the world; and I venture to affirm, as the result of my reading and inquiry, that in no country are the laborers so liberally and invariably supplied with bread and meat as are the negro slaves of the United States. However great the dearth of provisions, famine never reaches them.
P.S.—It might have been stated above that on this estate there are about one hundred and sixty blacks. With the exception of infants, there has been, in eighteen months, but one death that I remember,—that of a man fully sixty-five years of age. The bill for medical attendance, from the second day of last November, comprising upwards of a year, is less than forty dollars.
The following accounts are taken from "Ingraham's Travels in the South-west," a work which seems to have been written as much to show the beauties of slavery as anything else. Speaking of the state of things on some Southern plantations, he gives the following pictures, which are presented without note or comment:
The little candidates for "field honors" are useless articles on a plantation during the first five or six years of their existence. They are then to take their first lesson in the elementary part of their education. When they have learned their manual alphabet tolerably well, they are placed in the field to take a spell at cotton-picking. The first day in the field is their proudest day. The young negroes look forward to it with as much restlessness and impatience as school-boys to a vacation. Black children are not put to work so young as many children of poor parents in the North. It is often the case that the children of the domestic servants become pets in the house, and the playmates of the white children of the family. No scene can be livelier or more interesting to a Northerner, than that which the negro quarters of a well-regulated plantation present on a Sabbath morning, just before church-hours. In every cabin the men are shaving and dressing; the women, arrayed in their gay muslins, are arranging their frizzly hair,—in which they take no little pride,—or investigating the condition of their children; the old people, neatly clothed, are quietly conversing or smoking about the doors; and those of the younger portion who are not undergoing the infliction of the wash-tub are enjoying themselves in the shade of the trees, or around some little pond, with as much zest as though slavery and freedom were synonymous terms. When all are dressed, and the hour arrives for worship, they lock up their cabins, and the whole population of the little village proceeds to the chapel, where divine service is performed, sometimes by an officiating clergyman, and often by the planter himself, if a church-member. The whole plantation is also frequently formed into a Sabbath class, which is instructed by the planter, or some member of his family; and often, such is the anxiety of the master that they should perfectly understand what they are taught,—a hard matter in the present state of their intellect,—that no means calculated to advance their progress are left untried. I was not long since shown a manuscript catechism, drawn up with great care and judgment by a distinguished planter, on a plan admirably adapted to the comprehension of the negroes.
It is now popular to treat slaves with kindness; and those planters who are known to be inhumanly rigorous to their slaves are scarcely countenanced by the more intelligent and humane portion of the community. Such instances, however, are very rare; but there are unprincipled men everywhere, who will give vent to their ill feelings and bad passions, not with less good will upon the back of an indented apprentice, than upon that of a purchased slave. Private chapels are now introduced upon most of the plantations of the more wealthy, which are far from any church; Sabbath-schools are instituted for the black children, and Bible-classes for the parents, which are superintended by the planter, a chaplain, or some of the female members of the family.
Nor are planters indifferent to the comfort of their gray-headed slaves. I have been much affected at beholding many exhibitions of their kindly feeling towards them. They always address them in a mild and pleasant manner, as "Uncle," or "Aunty,"—titles as peculiar to the old negro and negress as "boy" and "girl" to all under forty years of age. Some old Africans are allowed to spend their last years in their houses, without doing any kind of labor; these, if not too infirm, cultivate little patches of ground, on which they raise a few vegetables,—for vegetables grow nearly all the year round in this climate,—and make a little money to purchase a few extra comforts. They are also always receiving presents from their masters and mistresses, and the negroes on the estate, the latter of whom are extremely desirous of seeing the old people comfortable. A relation of the extra comforts which some planters allow their slaves would hardly obtain credit at the North. But you must recollect that Southern planters are men, and men of feeling, generous and high-minded, and possessing as much of the "milk of human kindness" as the sons of colder climes—although they may have been educated to regard that as right which a different education has led Northerners to consider wrong.
With regard to the character of Mrs. Shelby the writer must say a few words. While travelling in Kentucky, a few years since, some pious ladies expressed to her the same sentiments with regard to slavery which the reader has heard expressed by Mrs. Shelby.
There are many whose natural sense of justice cannot be made to tolerate the enormities of the system, even though they hear it defended by clergymen from the pulpit, and see it countenanced by all that is most honorable in rank and wealth.
A pious lady said to the author, with regard to instructing her slaves, "I am ashamed to teach them what is right; I know that they know as well as I do that it is wrong to hold them as slaves, and I am ashamed to look them in the face." Pointing to an intelligent mulatto woman who passed through the room, she continued, "Now, there's B——. She is as intelligent and capable as any white woman I ever knew, and as well able to have her liberty and take care of herself; and she knows it isn't right to keep her as we do, and I know it too; and yet I cannot get my husband to think as I do, or I should be glad to set them free."
A venerable friend of the writer, a lady born and educated a slave-holder, used to the writer the very words attributed to Mrs. Shelby:—"I never thought it was right to hold slaves. I always thought it was wrong when I was a girl, and I thought so still more when I came to join the church."
An incident related by this friend of her examination for the church shows in a striking manner what a difference may often exist between theoretical and practical benevolence.
A certain class of theologians in America have advocated the doctrine of disinterested benevolence with such zeal as to make it an imperative article of belief that every individual ought to be willing to endure everlasting misery, if by doing so they could, on the whole, produce a greater amount of general good in the universe; and the inquiry was sometimes made of candidates for church-membership whether they could bring themselves to this point, as a test of their sincerity. The clergyman who was to examine this lady was particularly interested in these speculations. When he came to inquire of her with regard to her views as to the obligations of Christianity, she informed him decidedly that she had brought her mind to the point of emancipating all her slaves, of whom she had a large number. The clergyman seemed rather to consider this as an excess of zeal, and recommended that she should take time to reflect upon it. He was, however, very urgent to know whether, if it should appear for the greatest good of the universe, she would be willing to be damned. Entirely unaccustomed to theological speculations, the good woman answered, with some vehemence, that "she was sure she was not;" adding, naturally enough, that if that had been her purpose she need not have come to join the church. The good lady, however, was admitted, and proved her devotion to the general good by the more tangible method of setting all her slaves at liberty, and carefully watching over their education and interests after they were liberated.
Mrs. Shelby is a fair type of the very best class of Southern women; and while the evils of the institution are felt and deplored, and while the world looks with just indignation on the national support and patronage which is given to it, and on the men who, knowing its nature, deliberately make efforts to perpetuate and extend it, it is but justice that it should bear in mind the virtues of such persons.
Many of them, surrounded by circumstances over which they can have no control, perplexed by domestic cares of which women in free states can have very little conception, loaded down by duties and responsibilities which wear upon the very springs of life, still go on bravely and patiently from day to day, doing all they can to alleviate what they cannot prevent, and, as far as the sphere of their own immediate power extends, rescuing those who are dependent upon them from the evils of the system.
We read of Him who shall at last come to judgment, that "His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner." Out of the great abyss of national sin he will rescue every grain of good and honest purpose and intention. His eyes, which are as a flame of fire, penetrate at once those intricate mazes where human judgment is lost, and will save and honor at last the truly good and sincere, however they may have been involved with the evil; and such souls as have resisted the greatest temptations, and persisted in good under the most perplexing circumstances, are those of whom he has written, "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
The character of George Harris has been represented as overdrawn, both as respects personal qualities and general intelligence. It has been said, too, that so many afflictive incidents happening to a slave are improbable, and present a distorted view of the institution.
In regard to person, it must be remembered that the half-breeds often inherit, to a great degree, the traits of their white ancestors. For this there is abundant evidence in the advertisements of the papers. Witness the following from the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Gazette, Oct. 5th, 1852:
GEORGE O. RAGLAND.
Chattanooga, June 15, 1852.
From the Capitolian Vis-a-vis, West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Nov. 1, 1852:
Runaway about the 15th of August last, Joe, a yellow man; small, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, and about 20 years of age. Has a Roman nose, was raised in New Orleans, and speaks French and English. He was bought last winter of Mr. Digges, Banks Arcade, New Orleans.
In regard to general intelligence, the reader will recollect that the writer stated it as a fact which she learned while on a journey through Kentucky, that a young colored man invented a machine for cleaning hemp, like that alluded to in her story.
Advertisements, also, occasionally propose for sale artisans of different descriptions. Slaves are often employed as pilots for vessels, and highly valued for their skill and knowledge. The following are advertisements from recent newspapers.
From the South Carolinian (Columbia), Dec. 4th, 1852:
VALUABLE NEGROES AT AUCTION.
BY J. & L. T. LEVIN.
Andrew, 24 years of age, a bricklayer and plasterer, and thorough workman.
George, 22 years of age, one of the best barbers in the State.
James, 19 years of age, an excellent painter.
These boys were raised in Columbia, and are exceptions to most of boys, and are sold for no fault whatever.
The terms of sale are one-half cash, the balance on a credit of six months, with interest, for notes payable at bank, with two or more approved endorsers.
Purchasers to pay for necessary papers.
November 27, 36.
From the same paper, of November 18th, 1852:
Will be sold at private sale, a LIKELY MAN, boat hand, and good pilot; is well acquainted with all the inlets between here and Savannah and Georgetown.
With regard to the incidents of George Harris' life, that he may not be supposed a purely exceptional case, we propose to offer some parallel facts from the lives of slaves of our personal acquaintance.
Lewis Clark is an acquaintance of the writer. Soon after his escape from slavery, he was received into the family of a sister-in-law of the author, and there educated. His conduct during this time was such as to win for him uncommon affection and respect, and the author has frequently heard him spoken of in the highest terms by all who knew him.
The gentleman in whose family he so long resided, says of him, in a recent letter to the writer, "I would trust him, as the saying is, with untold gold."
Lewis is a quadroon, a fine-looking man, with European features, hair slightly wavy, and with an intelligent, agreeable expression of countenance.
The reader is now desired to compare the following incidents of his life, part of which he related personally to the author, with the incidents of the life of George Harris.
His mother was a handsome quadroon woman, the daughter of her master, and given by him in marriage to a free white man, a Scotchman, with the express understanding that she and her children were to be free. This engagement, if made sincerely at all, was never complied with. His mother had nine children, and on the death of her husband, came back, with all these children, as slaves in her father's house.
A married daughter of the family, who was the dread of the whole household, on account of the violence of her temper, had taken from the family, upon her marriage, a young girl. By the violence of her abuse she soon reduced the child to a state of idiocy, and then came imperiously back to her father's establishment, declaring that the child was good for nothing, and that she would have another, and, as poor Lewis' evil star would have it, fixed her eye upon him.
To avoid one of her terrible outbreaks of temper, the family offered up this boy as a pacificatory sacrifice. The incident is thus described by Lewis, in a published narrative:—
Every boy was ordered in, to pass before this female sorceress, that she might select a victim for her unprovoked malice, on whom to pour the vials of her wrath for years. I was that unlucky fellow. Mr. Campbell, my grandfather, objected, because it would divide a family, and offered her Moses; * * * but objections and claims of every kind were swept away by the wild passion and shrill-toned voice of Mrs. B. Me she would have, and none else. Mr. Campbell went out to hunt, and drive away bad thoughts; the old lady became quiet, for she was sure none of her blood ran in my veins, and if there was any of her husband's there, it was no fault of hers. Slave-holding women are always revengeful toward the children of slaves that have any of the blood of their husbands in them. I was too young—only seven years of age—to understand what was going on. But my poor and affectionate mother understood and appreciated it all. When she left the kitchen of the mansion-house, where she was employed as cook, and came home to her own little cottage, the tear of anguish was in her eye, and the image of sorrow upon every feature of her face. She knew the female Nero whose rod was now to be over me. That night sleep departed from her eyes. With the youngest child clasped firmly to her bosom, she spent the night in walking the floor, coming ever and anon to lift up the clothes and look at me and my poor brother, who lay sleeping together. Sleeping, I said. Brother slept, but not I. I saw my mother when she first came to me, and I could not sleep. The vision of that night—its deep, ineffaceable impression—is now before my mind with all the distinctness of yesterday. In the morning I was put into the carriage with Mrs. B. and her children, and my weary pilgrimage of suffering was fairly begun.
Mrs. Banton is a character that can only exist where the laws of the land clothe with absolute power the coarsest, most brutal and violent-tempered, equally with the most generous and humane.
If irresponsible power is a trial to the virtue of the most watchful and careful, how fast must it develop cruelty in those who are naturally violent and brutal!
This woman was united to a drunken husband, of a temper equally ferocious. A recital of all the physical torture which this pair contrived to inflict on a hapless child, some of which have left ineffaceable marks on his person, would be too trying to humanity, and we gladly draw a veil over it.
Some incidents, however, are presented in the following extracts:
A very trivial offence was sufficient to call forth a great burst of indignation from this woman of ungoverned passions. In my simplicity, I put my lips to the same vessel, and drank out of it, from which her children were accustomed to drink. She expressed her utter abhorrence of such an act by throwing my head violently back, and dashing into my face two dippers of water. The shower of water was followed by a heavier shower of kicks; but the words, bitter and cutting, that followed, were like a storm of hail upon my young heart. "She would teach me better manners than that; she would let me know I was to be brought up to her hand; she would have one slave that knew his place; if I wanted water, go to the spring, and not drink there in the house." This was new times for me; for some days I was completely benumbed with my sorrow. ****** If there be one so lost to all feeling as even to say that the slaves do not suffer when families are separated, let such a one go to the ragged quilt which was my couch and pillow, and stand there night after night, for long, weary hours, and see the bitter tears streaming down the face of that more than orphan boy, while with half-suppressed sighs and sobs he calls again and again upon his absent mother.
"Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son?
Wretch even then? life's journey just begun.”
He was employed till late at night in spinning flax or rocking the baby, and called at a very early hour in the morning; and if he did not start at the first summons, a cruel chastisement was sure to follow. He says:
Such horror has seized me, lest I might not hear the first shrill call, that I have often in dreams fancied I heard that unwelcome voice, and have leaped from my couch and walked through the house and out of it before I awoke. I have gone and called the other slaves, in my sleep, and asked them if they did not hear master call. Never, while I live, will the remembrance of those long, bitter nights of fear pass from my mind.
He adds to this words which should be deeply pondered by those who lay the flattering unction to their souls that the oppressed do not feel the sundering of family ties.
But all my severe labor, and bitter and cruel punishments, for these ten years of captivity with this worse than Arab family, all these were as nothing to the sufferings I experienced by being separated from my mother, brothers and sisters; the same things, with them near to sympathize with me, to hear my story of sorrow, would have been comparatively tolerable.
They were distant only about thirty miles; and yet, in ten long, lonely years of childhood, I was only permitted to see them three times.
My mother occasionally found an opportunity to send me some token of remembrance and affection,—a sugar-plum or an apple; but I scarcely over ate them; they were laid up, and handled and wept over, till they wasted away in my hand.
My thoughts continually by day, and my dreams by night, were of mother and home; and the horror experienced in the morning, when I awoke and behold it was a dream, is beyond the power of language to describe.
Lewis had a beautiful sister by the name of Delia, who, on the death of her grandfather, was sold, with all the other children of his mother, for the purpose of dividing the estate. She was a pious girl, a member of the Baptist church. She fell into the hands of a brutal, drunken man, who wished to make her his mistress. Milton Clark, a brother of Lewis, in the narrative of his life describes the scene where he, with his mother, stood at the door while this girl was brutally whipped before it for wishing to conform to the principles of her Christian profession. As her resolution was unconquerable, she was placed in a coffle and sent down to the New Orleans market. Here she was sold to a Frenchman, named Coval. He took her to Mexico, emancipated and married her. After residing some time in France and the West Indies with him, he died, leaving her a fortune of twenty or thirty thousand dollars. At her death she endeavored to leave this by will to purchase the freedom of her brothers; but, as a slave cannot take property, or even have it left in trust for him, they never received any of it.
The incidents of the recovery of Lewis' freedom are thus told:
I had long thought and dreamed of Liberty. I was now determined to make an effort to gain it. No tongue can tell the doubt, the perplexities, the anxiety, which a slave feels, when making up his mind upon this subject. If he makes an effort, and is not successful, he must be laughed at by his fellows, he will be beaten unmercifully by the master, and then watched and used the harder for it all his life.
And then, if he gets away, who, what will he find? He is ignorant of the world. All the white part of mankind, that he has ever seen, are enemies to him and all his kindred. How can he venture where none but white faces shall greet him? The master tells him that abolitionists decoy slaves off into the free states to catch them and sell them to Louisiana or Mississippi; and, if he goes to Canada, the British will put him in a mine under ground, with both eyes put out, for life. How does he know what or whom to believe? A horror of great darkness comes upon him, as he thinks over what may befall him. Long, very long time did I think of escaping, before I made the effort.
At length, the report was started that I was to be sold for Louisiana. Then I thought it was time to act. My mind was made up. ***** What my feelings were when I reached the free shore can be better imagined than described. I trembled all over with deep emotion, and I could feel my hair rise up on my head. I was on what was called a free soil, among a people who had no slaves. I saw white men at work, and no slave smarting beneath the lash. Everything was indeed new and wonderful. Not knowing where to find a friend, and being ignorant of the country, unwilling to inquire, lest I should betray my ignorance, it was a whole week before I reached Cincinnati. At one place where I put up, I had a great many more questions put to me than I wished to answer. At another place, I was very much annoyed by the officiousness of the landlord, who made it a point to supply every guest with newspapers. I took the copy handed me, and turned it over, in a somewhat awkward manner, I suppose. He came to me to point out a veto, or some other very important news. I thought it best to decline his assistance, and gave up the paper, saying my eyes were not in a fit condition to read much.
At another place, the neighbors, on learning that a Kentuckian was at the tavern, came, in great earnestness, to find out what my business was. Kentuckians sometimes came there to kidnap their citizens. They were in the habit of watching them close. I at length satisfied them by assuring them that I was not, nor my father before me, any slave-holder at all; but, lest their suspicions should be excited in another direction, I added my grandfather was a slave-holder. ****** At daylight we were in Canada. When I stepped ashore here, I said, sure enough, I am free. Good heavens! what a sensation, when it first visits the bosom of a full-grown man; one born to bondage; one who had been taught, from early infancy, that this was his inevitable lot for life! Not till then did I dare to cherish, for a moment, the feeling that one of the limbs of my body was my own. The slaves often say, when cut in the hand or foot, "Plague on the old foot" or "the old hand! It is master's,—let him take care of it. Nigger don't care if he never get well." My hands, my feet, were now my own.
It will be recollected that George, in conversing with Eliza, gives an account of a scene in which he was violently beaten by his master's young son. This incident was suggested by the following letter from John M. Nelson to Mr. Theodore Weld, given in Slavery as It Is, p. 51.
Mr. Nelson removed from Virginia to Highland County, Ohio, many years since, where he is extensively known and respected. The letter is dated January 3d, 1839.
I was born and raised in Augusta County, Virginia; my father was an elder in the Presbyterian church, and was "owner" of about twenty slaves; he was what was generally termed a "good master." His slaves were generally tolerably well fed and clothed, and not over-worked; they were sometimes permitted to attend church, and called in to family worship; few of them, however, availed themselves of these privileges. On some occasions I have seen him whip them severely, particularly for the crime of trying to obtain their liberty, or for what was called "running away." For this they were scourged more severely than for anything else. After they have been retaken I have seen them stripped naked and suspended by the hands, sometimes to a tree, sometimes to a post, until their toes barely touched the ground, and whipped with a cowhide until the blood dripped from their backs. A boy named Jack, particularly, I have seen served in this way more than once. When I was quite a child, I recollect it grieved me very much to see one tied up to be whipped, and I used to intercede with tears in their behalf, and mingle my cries with theirs, and feel almost willing to take part of the punishment; I have been severely rebuked by my father for this kind of sympathy. Yet, such is the hardening nature of such scenes, that from this kind of commiseration for the suffering slave I became so blunted that I could not only witness their stripes with composure but myself inflict them, and that without remorse. One case I have often looked back to with sorrow and contrition, particularly since I have been convinced that "negroes are men." When I was perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age, I undertook to correct a young fellow named Ned, for some supposed offence,—I think it was leaving a bridle out of its proper place; he, being larger and stronger than myself, took hold of my arms and held me, in order to prevent my striking him. This I considered the height of insolence, and cried for help, when my father and mother both came running to my rescue. My father stripped and tied him, and took him into the orchard, where switches were plenty, and directed me to whip him; when one switch wore out, he supplied me with others. After I had whipped him a while, he fell on his knees to implore forgiveness, and I kicked him in the face; my father said, "Don't kick him, but whip him;" this I did until his back was literally covered with welts. I know I have repented, and trust I have obtained pardon for these things.
My father owned a woman (we used to call aunt Grace); she was purchased in Old Virginia.. She has told me that her old master, in his will, gave her her freedom, but at his death his sons had sold her to my father: when he bought her she manifested some unwillingness to go with him, when she was put in irons and taken by force. This was before I was born; but I remember to have seen the irons, and was told that was what they had been used for. Aunt Grace is still living, and must be between seventy and eighty years of age; she has, for the last forty years, been an exemplary Christian. When I was a youth I took some pains to learn her to read; this is now a great consolation to her. Since age and infirmity have rendered her of little value to her "owners," she is permitted to read as much as she pleases; this she can do, with the aid of glasses, in the old family Bible, which is almost the only book she has ever looked into. This, with some little mending for the black children, is all she does; she is still held as a slave. I well remember what a heart-rending scene there was in the family when my father sold her husband; this was, I suppose, thirty-five years ago. And yet my father was considered one of the best of masters. I know of few who were better, but of many who were worse.
With regard to the intelligence of George, and his teaching himself to read and write, there is a most interesting and affecting parallel to it in the "Life of Frederick Douglass,"—a book which can be recommended to any one who has a curiosity to trace the workings of an intelligent and active mind through all the squalid misery, degradation and oppression, of slavery. A few incidents will be given.
Like Clark, Douglass was the son of a white man. He was a plantation slave in a proud old family. His situation, probably, may be considered as an average one; that is to say, he led a life of dirt, degradation, discomfort of various kinds, made tolerable as a matter of daily habit, and considered as enviable in comparison with the lot of those who suffer worse abuse. An incident which Douglass relates of his mother is touching. He states that it is customary at an early age to separate mothers from their children, for the purpose of blunting and deadening natural affection. When he was three years old his mother was sent to work on a plantation eight or ten miles distant, and after that he never saw her except in the night. After her day's toil she would occasionally walk over to her child, lie down with him in her arms, hush him to sleep in her bosom, then rise up and walk back again to be ready for her field work by daylight. Now, we ask the highest-born lady in England or America, who is a mother, whether this does not show that this poor field-laborer had in her bosom, beneath her dirt and rags, a true mother's heart?
The last and bitterest indignity which has been heaped on the head of the unhappy slaves has been the denial to them of those holy affections which God gives alike to all. We are told, in fine phrase, by languid ladies of fashion, that "it is not to be supposed that those creatures have the same feelings that we have," when, perhaps, the very speaker could not endure one tithe of the fatigue and suffering which the slave-mother often bears for her child. Every mother who has a mother's heart within her, ought to know that this is blasphemy against nature, and, standing between the cradle of her living and the grave of her dead child, should indignantly reject such a slander on all motherhood.
Douglass thus relates the account of his learning to read, after he had been removed to the situation of house-servant in Baltimore.
It seems that his mistress, newly married and unaccustomed to the management of slaves, was very kind to him, and, among other acts of kindness, commenced teaching him to read. His master, discovering what was going on, he says.
At once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further, he said, "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy." These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.
After this, his mistress was as watchful to prevent his learning to read as she had before been to instruct him. His course after this he thus describes:
From this time I was most narrowly watched. If I was in a separate room any considerable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book, and was at once called to give an account of myself. All this, however, was too late. The first step had been taken. Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could, prevent me from taking the ell. The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could I converted into teachers. With their kindly aid, obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in learning to read. When I was sent of errands I always took my book with me, and by going one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge. I am strongly tempted to give the names of two or three of those little boys, as a testimonial of the gratitude and affection I bear them; but prudence forbids;—not that it would injure me, but it might embarrass them; for it is almost an unpardonable offence to teach slaves to read in this Christian country. It is enough to say of the dear little fellows, that they lived on Philpot-street, very near Durgin and Bailey's ship-yard. I used to talk this matter of slavery over with them. I would sometimes say to them I wished I could be as free as they would be when they got to be men. "You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I am a slave for life! Have not I as good a right to be free as you have?" These words used to trouble them; they would express for me the liveliest sympathy, and console me with the hope that something would occur by which I might be free.
I was now about twelve years old, and the thought of being a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart. Just about this time I got hold of a book entitled "The Columbian Orator." Every opportunity I got I used to read this book. Among much of other interesting matter, I found in it a dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave was represented as having run away from his master three times. The dialogue represented the conversation which took place between them when the slave was retaken the third time. In this dialogue, the whole argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward by the master, all of which was disposed of by the slave The slave was made to say some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to his master. —things which had the desired though unexpected effect; for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master.
In the same book I met with one of Sheridan's mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again, with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance. The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slave-holder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights. The reading of these documents enabled me to utter my thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but, while they relieved me of one difficulty, they brought on another even more painful than the one of which I was relieved. The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Anything, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.
I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed. While in this state of mind I was eager to hear any one speak of slavery. I was a ready listener. Every little while I could hear something about the abolitionists. It was some time before I found what the word meant. It was always used in such connections as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did anything very wrong in the mind of a slave-holder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection very often, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found it was "the act of abolishing;" but then I did not know what was to be abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not dare to ask any one about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted me to know very little about. After a patient waiting, I got one of our city papers, containing an account of the number of petitions from the North praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and of the slave-trade between the states. From this time I understood the words abolition and abolitionist, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow-slaves. The light broke in upon me by degrees. I went one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and, seeing two Irishmen unloading a scow of stone, I went, unasked, and helped them. When we had finished, one of them came to me and asked me if I were a slave. I told him I was. He asked, "Are ye a slave for life!" I told him that I was. The good Irishman seemed to be deeply affected by the statement. He said to the other that it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should be a slave for life. He said it was a shame to hold me. They both advised me to run away to the North; that I should find friends there, and that I should be free. I pretended not to be interested in what they said, and treated them as if I did not understand them; for I feared they might be treacherous. White men have been known to encourage slaves to escape, and then, to get the reward, catch them and return them to their masters. I was afraid that these seemingly good men might use me so; but I nevertheless remembered their advice, and from that time I resolved to run away. I looked forward to a time at which it would be safe for me to escape. I was too young to think of doing so immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I consoled myself with the hope that I should one day find a good chance. Meanwhile I would learn to write.
The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey's ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters, after hewing and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timber the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended When a piece of timber was intended for the larboard side it would be marked thus—"L." When a piece was for the starboard side it would be marked thus—"S." Apiece for the larboard side forward would be marked thus—L. F." When a piece was for starboard side forward it would be marked thus—"S. F." For larboard aft it would be marked thus—"L. A." For starboard aft it would be marked thus—"S. A." I soon learned the names of these letters, and for what they were intended when placed upon a piece of timber in the ship-yard, I immediately commenced copying them, and in a short time was able to make the four letters named. After that. when I met with any boy who I knew could write, I would tell him I could write as well as he. The next word would be, "I don't believe you. Let me see you try it." I would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many lessons in writing, which it is quite possible I should never have gotten in any other way. During this time my copy-book was the board fence, brick-wall and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With these I learned mainly how to write. I then commenced and continued copying the Italics in Webster's Spelling-book, until I could make them all without looking on the book. By this time my little Master Thomas had gone to school and learned how to write, and had written over a number of copy-books. These had been brought home, and shown to some of our near neighbors, and then laid aside. My mistress used to go to class-meeting at the Wilk-street meeting-house every Monday afternoon, and leave me to take care of the house. When left thus I used to spend the time in writing in the spaces left in Master Thomas' copy-book, copying what he had written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very similar to that of Master Thomas. Thus, after a long, tedious effort for years. I finally succeeded in learning how to write.
These few quoted incidents will show that the case of George Harris is by no means so uncommon as might be supposed.
Let the reader peruse the account which George Harris gives of the sale of his mother and her children, and then read the following account given by the venerable Josiah Henson, now pastor of the missionary settlement at Dawn, in Canada.
After the death of his master, he says, the slaves of the plantation were all put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder.
My brothers and sisters were bid off one by one, while my mother, holding my hand, looked on in an agony of grief, the cause of which I but ill understood at first, but which dawned on my mind with dreadful clearness as the sale proceeded. My mother was then separated from me, and put up in her turn. She was bought by a man named Isaac R., residing in Montgomery County [Mary- land], and then I was offered to the assembled purchasers. My mother, half distracted with the parting forever from all her children, pushed through the crowd, while the bidding for me was going on, to the spot where R. was standing. She fell at his feet, and clung to his knees, entreating him, in tones that a mother only could command, to buy her baby as well as herself, and spare to her one of her little ones at least. Will it, can it be believed, that this man, thus appealed to, was capable not merely of turning a deaf ear to her supplication, but of disengaging himself from her with such violent blows and kicks as to reduce her to the necessity of creeping out of his reach, and mingling the groan of bodily suffering with the sob of a breaking heart?
Now, all these incidents that have been given are real incidents of slavery, related by those who know slavery by the best of all tests—experience; and they are given by men who have earned a character in freedom which makes their word as good as the word of any man living.
The case of Lewis Clark might be called a harder one than common. The case of Douglass is probably a very fair average specimen.
The writer has conversed, in her time, with a very considerable number of liberated slaves, many of whom stated that their own individual lot had been comparatively a mild one; but she never talked with one who did not let fall, first or last, some incident which he had observed, some scene which he had witnessed, which went to show some most horrible abuse of the system; and, what was most affecting about it, the narrator often evidently considered it so much a matter of course as to mention it incidentally, without any particular emotion.
It is supposed by many that the great outcry among those who are opposed to slavery comes from a morbid reading of unauthenticated accounts gotten up in abolition papers, &c. This idea is a very mistaken one. The accounts which tell against the slave-system are derived from the continual living testimony of the poor slave himself; often from that of the fugitives from slavery who are continually passing through our Northern cities.
As a specimen of some of the incidents thus developed, is given the following fact of recent occurrence, related to the author by a lady in Boston. This lady, who was much in the habit of visiting the poor, was sent for, a month or two since, to see a mulatto woman who had just arrived at a colored boarding-house near by, and who appeared to be in much dejection of mind. A little conversation showed her to be a fugitive. Her history was as follows: She, with her brother, were, as is often the case, both the children and slaves of their master. At his death they were left to his legitimate daughter as her servants, and treated with as much consideration as very common kind of people might be expected to show to those who were entirely and in every respect at their disposal.
The wife of her brother ran away to Canada; and as there was some talk of selling her and her child, in consequence of some embarrassment in the family affairs, her brother, a fine-spirited young man, determined to effect her escape, also, to a land of liberty. He concealed her for some time in the back part of an obscure dwelling in the city, till he could find an opportunity to send her off. While she was in this retreat, he was indefatigable in his attentions to her, frequently bringing her fruit and flowers, and doing everything he could to beguile the weariness of her improvement.
At length, the steward of a vessel, whom he had obliged, offered to conceal him on board the ship, and give him a chance to escape. The noble-hearted fellow, though tempted by an offer which would enable him immediately to join his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, preferred to give this offer to his sister, and during the absence of the captain of the vessel she and her child were brought on board and secreted.
The captain, when he returned and discovered what had been done, was very angry, as the thing, if detected, would have involved him in very serious difficulties. He declared, at first, that he would send the woman up into town to jail; but, by her entreaties and those of the steward, was induced to wait till evening, and send word to her brother to come and take her back. After dark the brother came on board, and, instead of taking his sister away, began to appeal to the humanity of the captain in the most moving terms. He told his sister's history and his own, and pleaded eloquently his desire for her liberty. The captain had determined to be obdurate, but, alas! he was only a man. Perhaps he had himself a wife and child,—perhaps he felt that, were he in the young man's case, he would do just so for his sister. Be it as it may, he was at last overcome. He said to the young man, "I must send you away from my ship; I'll put off a boat and see you got into it, and you must row off, and never let me see your faces again; and if, after all, you should come back and get on board, it will be your fault, and not mine."
So, in the rain and darkness, the young man and his sister and child were lowered over the side of the vessel, and rowed away. After a while the ship weighed anchor, but before she reached Boston it was discovered that the woman and child were on board.
The lady to whom this story was related was requested to write a letter, in certain terms, to a person in the city whence the fugitive had come, to let the brother know of her safe arrival.
The fugitive was furnished with work, by which she could support herself and child, and the lady carefully attended to her wants for a few weeks.
One morning she came in, with a good deal of agitation, exclaiming, "O, ma'am, he's come! George is come!" And in a few minutes the young man was introduced.
The lady who gave this relation belongs to the first circles of Boston society; she says that she never was more impressed by the personal manners of any gentleman than by those of this fugitive brother. So much did he have the air of a perfect, finished gentleman, that she felt she could not question him with regard to his escape with the familiarity with which persons of his condition are commonly approached; and it was not till he requested her to write a letter for him, because he could not write himself, that she could realize that this fine specimen of manhood had been all his life a slave.
The remainder of the history is no less romantic. The lady had a friend in Montreal, whither George's wife had gone; and, after furnishing money to pay their expenses, she presented them with a letter to this gentleman, requesting the latter to assist the young man in finding his wife. When they landed at Montreal, George stepped on shore and presented this letter to the first man he met, asking him if he knew to whom it was directed. The gentleman proved to be the very person to whom the letter was addressed. George's wife, brought him to her without delay, so that, by return mail, the lady had the satisfaction of learning the happy termination of the adventure.
This is but a specimen of histories which are continually transpiring; so that those who speak of slavery can say, "We speak that which we do know, and testify that we have seen."
But we shall be told the slaves are all a lying race, and that these are lies which they tell us. There are some things, however, about these slaves, which cannot lie. Those deep lines of patient sorrow upon the face; that attitude of crouching and humble subjection; that sad, habitual expression of hope deferred, in the eye,—would tell their story, if the slave never spoke.
It is not long since the writer has seen faces such as might haunt one's dreams for weeks.
Suppose a poor, worn-out mother, sickly, feeble and old,—her hands worn to the bone with hard, unpaid toil,—whose nine children have been sold to the slave-trader, and whose tenth soon is to be sold, unless by her labor as washer-woman she can raise nine hundred dollars! Such are the kind of cases constantly coming to one's knowledge,—such are the witnesses which will not let us sleep.
Doubt has been expressed whether such a thing as an advertisement for a man, "dead or alive," like the advertisement for George Harris, was ever published in the Southern States. The scene of the story in which that occurs is supposed to be laid a few years back, at the time when the black laws of Ohio were passed. That at this time such advertisements were common in the newspapers, there is abundant evidence. That they are less common now, is a matter of hope and gratulation.
In the year 1839, Mr. Theodore D. Weld made a systematic attempt to collect and arrange the statistics of slavery. A mass of facts and statistics was gathered, which were authenticated with the most unquestionable accuracy. Some of the "one thousand witnesses," whom he brings upon the stand, were ministers, lawyers, merchants, and men of various other callings, who were either natives of the slave states, or had been residents there for many years of their life. Many of these were slave-holders. Others of the witnesses were, or had been, slave-drivers, or officers of coasting-vessels engaged in the slave-trade.
Another part of his evidence was gathered from public speeches in Congress, in the state legislatures, and elsewhere. But the majority of it was taken from recent newspapers.
The papers from which these facts were copied were preserved and put on file in a public place, where they remained for some years, for the information of the curious. After Mr. Weld's book was completed, a copy of it was sent, through the mail, to every editor from whose paper such advertisements had been taken, and to every individual of whom any facts had been narrated, with the passages which concerned them marked.
It is quite possible that this may have had some influence in rendering such advertisements less common. Men of sense often go on doing a thing which is very absurd, or even inhuman, simply because it has always been done before them, and they follow general custom, without much reflection. When their attention, however, is called to it by a stranger who sees the thing from another point of view, they become immediately sensible of the impropriety of the practice, and discontinue it. The reader will, however, be pained to notice, when he comes to the legal part of the book, that even in some of the largest cities of our slave states this barbarity had not been entirely discontinued, in the year 1850.
The list of advertisements in Mr. Weld's book is here inserted, not to weary the reader with its painful details, but that, by running his eye over the dates of the papers quoted, and the places of their publication, he may form a fair estimate of the extent to which this atrocity was publicly practised:
The Wilmington (North Carolina) Advertiser of July 13, 1838, contains the following advertisement:
"$100 will be paid to any person who may apprehend and safely confine in any jail in this state a certain negro man, named Alfred. And the same reward will be paid, if satisfactory evidence is given of his having been killed. He has one or more scars on one of his hands, caused by his having been shot. The Citizens of Onslow.
"Richlands, Onslow Co., May 16, 1838."
In the same column with the above, and directly under it, is the following:
"Ranaway, my negro man Richard. A reward of $25 will be paid for his apprehension, DEAD or ALIVE. Satisfactory proof will only be required of his being KILLED. He has with him, in all probability, his wife, Eliza, who ran away from Col. Thompson, now a resident of Alabama, about the time he commenced his journey to that state. Durant H. Rhodes."
In the Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, May 28, is the following:
"About the 1st of March last the negro man Ransom left me without the least provocation whatever; I will give a reward of twenty dollars for said negro, if taken, dead or alive,—and if killed in any attempt, an advance of five dollars will be paid.Bryant Johnson.
"Crawford Co., Georgia."
See the Newbern (N. C.) Spectator, Jan. 5, 1838, for the following:
"RANAWAY from the subscriber, a negro man named SAMPSON. Fifty dollars reward will be given for the delivery of him to me, or his confinement in any jail, so that I get him; and should he resist in being taken, so that violence is necessary to arrest him, I will not hold any person liable for damages should the slave be killed. Enoch Foy.
"Jones Co., N. C."
From the Charleston (S. C.) Courier, Feb. 20, 1836:
"$300 REWARD.—Ranaway from the subscriber, in November last, his two negro men named Billy and Pompey.
"Billy is 25 years old, and is known as the patroon of my boat for many years; in all probability he may resist; in that event 50 dollars will be paid for his HEAD."
The writer stated in her book that Eliza was a portrait drawn from life. The incident which brought the original to her notice may be simply narrated.
While the writer was travelling in Kentucky, many years ago, she attended church in a small country town. While there, her attention was called to a beautiful quadroon girl, who sat in one of the slips of the church, and appeared to have charge of some young children. The description of Eliza may suffice for a description of her. When the author returned from church, she inquired about the girl, and was told that she was as good and amiable as she was beautiful; that she was a pious girl, and a member of the church; and, finally, that she was owned by Mr. So-and-so. The idea that this girl was a slave struck a chill to her heart, and she said, earnestly, "O, I hope they treat her kindly."
"O, certainly," was the reply; "they think as much of her as of their own children."
"I hope they will never sell her," said a person in the company.
"Certainly they will not; a Southern gentleman, not long ago, offered her master a thousand dollars for her: but he told him that she was too good to be his wife, and he certainly should not have her for a mistress."
This is all that the writer knows of that girl.
With regard to the incident of Eliza's crossing the river on the ice,—as the possibility of the thing has been disputed.—the writer gives the following circumstance in confirmation.
Last spring, while the author was in New York, a Presbyterian clergyman, of Ohio, came to her, and said, "I understand they dispute that fact about the woman's crossing the river. Now, I know all about that, for I got the story from the very man that helped her up the bank. I know it is true, for she is now living in Canada."
It has been objected that the representation of the scene in which the plan for kidnapping Eliza, concocted by Haley, Marks and Loker, at the tavern, is a gross caricature on the state of things in Ohio.
What knowledge the author has had of the facilities which some justices of the peace, under the old fugitive law of Ohio, were in the habit of giving to kidnapping, may be inferred by comparing the statement in her book with some in her personal knowledge.
"Ye see," said Marks to Haley, stirring his punch as he did so, "ye see, we has justices convenient at all p'ints along shore, that does up any little jobs in our line quite reasonable. Tom, he does the knockin' down, and that ar; and I come in all dressed up,—shining boots,—everything first chop,—when the swearin''s to be done. You oughter see me, now!" said Marks, in a glow of professional pride, "how I can tone it off. One day I'm Mr. Twickem, from New Orleans; 'nother day, I'm just come from my plantation on Pearl river, where I works seven hundred niggers; then, again, I come out a distant relation to Henry Clay, or some old cock in Kentuck. Talents is different, you know. Now, Tom's a roarer when there's any thumping or fighting to be done; but at lying he an't good, Tom an't; ye see it don't come natural to him; but, Lord! if thar's a feller in the country that can swear to anything and everything, and put in all the circumstances and flourishes with a longer face, and carry't through better'n I can, why, I'd like to see him, that's all! I b'lieve, my heart, I could get along, and make through, even if justices were more particular than they is. Sometimes I rather wish they was more particular; 't would be a heap more relishin' if they was,—more fun, yer know."
In the year 1839, the writer received into her family, as a servant, a girl from Kentucky. She had been the slave of one of the lowest and most brutal families, with whom she had been brought up, in a log-cabin, in a state of half-barbarism. In proceeding to give her religious instruction, the author heard, for the first time in her life, an inquiry which she had not supposed possible to be made in America:—"Who is Jesus Christ, now, anyhow?"
When the author told her the history of the love and life and death of Christ, the girl seemed wholly overcome; tears streamed down her cheeks; and she exclaimed, piteously, "Why didn't nobody never tell me this before?"
"But," said the writer to her, "haven't you ever seen the Bible?"
"Yes, I have seen missus a-readin' on 't sometimes; but, law sakes! she's just a-readin' on't 'cause she could; don't s'pose it did her no good, no way."
She said she had been to one or two camp-meetings in her life, but "didn't notice very particular."
At all events, the story certainly made great impression on her, and had such an effect in improving her conduct, that the writer had great hopes of her.
On inquiring into her history, it was discovered that, by the laws of Ohio, she was legally entitled to her freedom, from the fact of her having been brought into the state, and left there, temporarily, by the consent of her mistress. These facts being properly authenticated before the proper authorities, papers attesting her freedom were drawn up, and it was now supposed that all danger of pursuit was over. After she had remained in the family for some months, word was sent, from various sources, to Professor Stowe, that the girl's young master was over, looking for her, and that, if care were not taken, she would be conveyed back into slavery.
Professor Stowe called on the magistrate who had authenticated her papers, and inquired whether they were not sufficient to protect her. The reply was, "Certainly they are, in law, if she could have a fair hearing; but they will come to your house in the night, with an officer and a warrant; they will take her before Justice D——, and swear to her. He's the man that does all this kind of business, and, he'll deliver her up, and there'll be an end to it."
Mr. Stowe then inquired what could be done; and was recommended to carry her to some place of security till the inquiry for her was over. Accordingly, that night, a brother of the author, with Professor Stowe, performed for the fugitive that office which the senator is represented as performing for Eliza. They drove about ten miles on a solitary road, crossed the creek at a very dangerous fording, and presented themselves, at midnight, at the house of John Van Zandt, a noble-minded Kentuckian, who had performed the good deed which the author, in her story, ascribes to Van Tromp.
After some rapping at the door, the worthy owner of the mansion appeared, candle in hand, as has been narrated.
"Are you the man that would save a poor colored girl from kidnappers?" was the first question.
"Guess I am," was the prompt response: "where is she?"
"Why, she's here."
"But how did you come?"
"I crossed the creek."
"Why, the Lord helped you!" said he; "I shouldn't dare cross it myself in the night. A man and his wife, and five children, were drowned there, a little while ago."
The reader may be interested to know that the poor girl never was re-taken; that she married well in Cincinnati, is a very respectable woman, and the mother of a large family of children.
The character of Uncle Tom has been objected to as improbable; and yet the writer has received more confirmations of that character, and from a greater variety of sources, than of any other in the book.
Many people have said to her, "I knew an Uncle Tom in such and such a Southern State." All the histories of this kind which have thus been related to her would of themselves, if collected, make a small volume. The author will relate a few of them.
While visiting in an obscure town in Maine, in the family of a friend, the conversation happened to turn upon this subject, and the gentleman with whose family she was staying related the following. He said that, when on a visit to his brother, in New Orleans, some years before, he found in his possession a most valuable negro man, of such remarkable probity and honesty that his brother literally trusted him with all he had. He had frequently seen him take out a handful of bills, without looking at them, and hand them to this servant, bidding him go and provide what was necessary for the family, and bring him the change. He remonstrated with his brother on this imprudence; but the latter replied that he had had such proof of this servant's impregnable conscientiousness that he felt it safe to trust him to any extent.
The history of the servant was this. He had belonged to a man in Baltimore, who, having a general prejudice against all the religious exercises of slaves, did all that he could to prevent his having any time for devotional duties, and strictly forbade him to read the Bible and pray, either by himself, or with the other servants; and because, like a certain man of old, named Daniel, he constantly disobeyed this unchristian edict, his master inflicted upon him that punishment which a master always has in his power to inflict,—he sold him into perpetual exile from his wife and children, down to New Orleans.
The gentleman who gave the writer this information says that, although not himself a religious man at the time, he was so struck with the man's piety that he said to his brother, "I hope you will never do anything to deprive this man of his religious privileges, for I think a judgment will come upon you if you do." To this his brother replied, that he should be very foolish to do it, since he had made up his mind that the man's religion was the root of his extraordinary excellences.
Some time since, there was sent to the writer from the South, through the mail, a little book, entitled, "Sketches of Old Virginia Family Servants," with a preface by Bishop Meade. The book contains an account of the following servants: African Bella, Old Milly, Blind Lucy, Aunt Betty, Springfield Bob, Mammy Chris, Diana Washington, Aunt Margaret, Rachel Parker, Nelly Jackson, My Own Mammy, Aunt Beck.
The following extract from Bishop Meade's preface may not be uninteresting.
The following sketches were placed in my hands with a request that I would examine them with a view to publication.
After reading them I could not but think that they would be both pleasing and edifying.
Very many such examples of fidelity and piety might be added from the old Virginia families. These will suffice as specimens, and will serve to show how interesting the relation between master and servant often is.
Many will doubtless be surprised to find that there was so much intelligence, as well as piety, in some of the old servants of Virginia, and that they had learned to read the Sacred Scriptures, so as to be useful in this way among their fellow-servants. It is, and always has been true, in regard to the servants of the Southern States, that although public schools may have been prohibited, yet no interference has been attempted, where the owners have chosen to teach their servants, or permit them to learn in a private way, how to read God's word. Accordingly, there always have been some who were thus taught. In the more southern states the number of these has most abounded. Of this fact I became well assured, about thirty years since, when visiting the Atlantic states, with a view to the formation of auxiliary colonization societies, and the selection of the first colonists for Africa. In the city of Charleston, South Carolina, I found more intelligence and character among the free colored population than anywhere else. The same was true of some of those in bondage. A respectable number might be seen in certain parts of the Episcopal churches which I attended using their prayer-books, and joining in the responses of the church.
Many purposes of convenience and hospitality were subserved by this encouragement of cultivation in some of the servants, on the part of the owners.
When travelling many years since with a sick wife, and two female relatives, from Charleston to Virginia, at a period of the year when many of the families from the country resort to the town for health, we were kindly urged to call at the seat of one of the first families in South Carolina, and a letter from the mistress, then in the city, was given us, to her servant, who had charge of the house in the absence of the family. On reaching there and delivering the letter to a most respectable-looking female servant, who immediately read it, we were kindly welcomed, and entertained, during a part of two days, as sumptuously as though the owner had been present. We understood that it was no uncommon thing in South Carolina for travellers to be thus entertained by the servants in the absence of the owners, on receiving letters from the same.
Instances of confidential and affectionate relationship between servants and their masters and mistresses, such as are set forth in the following Sketches, are still to be found in all the slave-holding states. I mention one, which has come under my own observation. The late Judge Upshur, of Virginia, had a faithful house-servant (by his will now set free), with whom he used to correspond on matters of business, when he was absent on his circuit. I was dining at his house, some years since, with a number of persons, himself being absent, when the conversation turned on the subject of the presidential election, then going on through the United States, and about which there was an intense interest; when his servant informed us that he had that day received a letter from his master, then on the western shore, in which he stated that the friends of General Harrison might be relieved from all uneasiness, as the returns already received made his election quite certain.
Of course it is not to be supposed that we design to convey the impression that such instances are numerous, the nature of the relationship forbidding it; but we do mean emphatically to affirm that there is far more of kindly and Christian intercourse than many at a distance are apt to believe. That there is a great and sad want of Christian instruction, notwithstanding the more recent efforts put forth to impart it, we most sorrowfully acknowledge.
Bishop Meade adds that these sketches are published with the hope that they might have the effect of turning the attention of ministers and heads of families more seriously to the duty of caring for the souls of their servants.
With regard to the servant of Judge Upshur, spoken of in this communication of Bishop Meade, his master has left, in his last will, the following remarkable tribute to his worth and excellence of character:
I emancipate and set free my servant, David Rice, and direct my executors to give him one hundred dollars. I recommend him in the strongest manner to the respect, esteem and confidence, of any community in which he may happen to live. He has been my slave for twenty-four years, during all which time he has been trusted to every extent, and in every respect; my confidence in him has been unbounded; his relation to myself and family has always been such as to afford him daily opportunities to deceive and injure us, yet he has never been detected in any serious fault, nor even in an unintentional breach of the decorum of his station. His intelligence is of a high order, his integrity above all suspicion, and his sense of right and propriety correct, and even refined. I feel that he is justly entitled to carry this certificate from me in the new relations which he must now form; it is due to his long and most faithful services, and to the sincere and steady friendship which I bear to him. In the uninterupted confidential intercourse of twenty-four years, I have never given him, nor had occasion to give him, one unpleasant word. I know no man who has fewer faults or more excellences than he.
In the free states there have been a few instances of such extraordinary piety among negroes, that their biography and sayings have been collected in religious tracts, and published for the instruction of the community.
One of these was, before his conversion, a convict in a state-prison in New York, and there received what was, perhaps, the first religious instruction that had ever been imparted to him. He became so eminent an example of humility, faith, and, above all, fervent love, that his presence in the neighborhood was esteemed a blessing to the church. A lady has described to the writer the manner in which he would stand up and exhort in the church-meetings for prayer, when, with streaming eyes and the deepest abasement, humbly addressing them as his masters and misses, he would nevertheless pour forth religious exhortations which were edifying to the most cultivated and refined.
In the town of Brunswick, Maine, where the writer lived when writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin," may now be seen the grave of an aged colored woman, named Phebe, who was so eminent for her piety and loveliness of character, that the writer has never heard her name mentioned except with that degree of awe and respect which one would imagine due to a saint. The small cottage where she resided is still visited and looked upon as a sort of shrine, as the spot where old Phebe lived and prayed. Her prayers and pious exhortations were supposed to have been the cause of the conversion of many young people in the place. Notwithstanding that the unchristian feeling of caste prevails as strongly in Maine as anywhere else in New England, and the negro, commonly speaking, is an object of aversion and contempt, yet, so great was the influence of her piety and loveliness of character, that she was uniformly treated with the utmost respect and attention by all classes of people. The most cultivated and intelligent ladies of the place esteemed it a privilege to visit her cottage; and when she was old and helpless, her wants were most tenderly provided for. When the news of her death was spread abroad in the place, it excited a general and very tender sensation of regret. "We have lost Phebe's prayers," was the remark frequently made afterwards by members of the church, as they met one another. At her funeral the ex-governor of the state and the professors of the college officiated as pall-bearers, and a sermon was preached in which the many excellences of her Christian character were held up as an example to the community. A small religious tract, containing an account of her life, was published by the American Tract Society, prepared by a lady of Brunswick. The writer recollects that on reading the tract, when she first went to Brunswick, a doubt arose in her mind whether it was not somewhat exaggerated. Some time afterwards she overheard some young persons conversing together about the tract, and saying that they did not think it gave exactly the right idea of Phebe. "Why, is it too highly colored?" was the inquiry of the author. "O, no, no, indeed," was the earnest response; "it doesn't begin to give an idea of how good she was."
Such instances as these serve to illustrate the words of the apostle, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."
John Bunyan says that although the valley of humiliation be unattractive in the eyes of the men of this world, yet the very sweetest flowers grow there. So it is with the condition of the lowly and poor in this world. God has often, indeed always, shown a particular regard for it, in selecting from that class the recipients of his grace. It is to be remembered that Jesus Christ, when he came to found the Christian dispensation, did not choose his apostles from the chief priests and the scribes, learned in the law, and high in the church; nor did he choose them from philosophers and poets, whose educated and comprehensive minds might be supposed best able to appreciate his great designs; but he chose twelve plain, poor fishermen, who were ignorant, and felt that they were ignorant and who, therefore, were willing to give themselves up with all simplicity to his guidance. What God asks of the soul more than anything else is faith and simplicity, the affection and reliance of the little child. Even these twelve fancied too much that they were wise, and Jesus was obliged to set a little child in the midst of them, as a more perfect teacher.
The negro race is confessedly more simple, docile, child-like and affectionate, than other races; and hence the divine graces of love and faith, when in-breathed by the Holy Spirit, find in their natural temperament a more congenial atmosphere.
A last instance parallel with that of Uncle Tom is to be found in the published memoirs of the venerable Josiah Henson, now, as we have said, a clergyman in Canada. He was "raised" in the State of Maryland. His first recollections were of seeing his father mutilated and covered with blood, suffering the penalty of the law for the crime of raising his hand against a white man.—that white man being the overseer, who had attempted a brutal assault upon his mother. This punishment made his father surly and dangerous, and he was subsequently sold south, and thus parted forever from his wife and children. Henson grew up in a state of heathenism, without any religious instruction, till, in a camp-meeting, he first heard of Jesus Christ, and was electrified by the great and thrilling news that He had tasted death for every man, the bond as well as the free. This story produced an immediate conversion, such as we read of in the Acts of the Apostles, where the Ethiopian eunuch, from one interview, hearing the story of the cross, at once believes and is baptized. Henson forthwith not only became a Christian, but began to declare the news to those about him; and, being a man of great natural force of mind and strength of character, his earnest endeavors to enlighten his fellow-heathen were so successful that he was gradually led to assume the station of a negro preacher; and though he could not read a word of the Bible or hymn-book, his labors in this line were much prospered. He became immediately a very valuable slave to his master, and was intrusted by the latter with the oversight of his whole estate, which he managed with great judgment and prudence. His master appears to have been a very ordinary man in every respect,—to have been entirely incapable of estimating him in any other light then as exceedingly valuable property, and to have had no other feeling excited by his extraordinary faithfulness than the desire to make the most of him. When his affairs became embarrassed, he formed the design of removing all his negroes into Kentucky, and intrusted the operation entirely to his overseer. Henson was to take them alone, without any other attendant, from Maryland to Kentucky, a distance of some thousands of miles, giving only his promise as a Christian that he would faithfully perform this undertaking. On the way thither they passed through a portion of Ohio, and there Henson was informed that he could now secure his own freedom and that of all his fellows. and he was strongly urged to do it. He was exceedingly tempted and tried, but his Christian principle was invulnerable. No inducements could lead him to feel that it was right for a Christian to violate a pledge solemnly given, and his influence over the whole band was so great that he took them all with him into Kentucky. Those casuists among us who lately seem to think and teach that it is right for us to violate the plain commands of God whenever some great national good can be secured by it, would do well to contemplate the inflexible principle of this poor slave, who, without being able to read a letter of the Bible, was yet enabled to perform this most sublime act of self-renunciation in obedience to its commands. Subsequently to this his master, in a relenting moment, was induced by a friend to sell him his freedom for four hundred dollars; but, when the excitement of the importunity had passed off, he regretted that he had suffered so valuable a piece of property to leave his hands for so slight a remuneration. By an unworthy artifice, therefore, he got possession of his servant's free papers, and condemned him still to hopeless slavery. Subsequently, his affairs becoming still more involved, he sent his son down the river with a flat-boat loaded with cattle and produce for the New Orleans market, directing him to take Henson along, and sell him after they had sold the cattle and the boat. All the depths of the negro's soul were torn up and thrown into convulsion by this horrible piece of ingratitude, cruelty and injustice; and, while outwardly calm, he was straggling with most bitter temptations from within, which, as he could not read the Bible, he could repel only by a recollection of its sacred truths, and by earnest prayer. As he neared the New Orleans market, he says that these convulsions of soul increased, especially when he met some of his old companions from Kentucky, whose despairing countenances and emaciated forms told of hard work and insufficient food, and confirmed all his worst fears of the lower country. In the transports of his despair, the temptation was more urgently presented to him to murder his young master and the other hand on the flat-boat in their sleep, to seize upon the boat, and make his escape. He thus relates the scene where he was almost brought to the perpetration of this deed:
One dark, rainy night, within a few days of New Orleans, my hour seemed to have come I was alone on the deck; Mr. Amos and the hands were all asleep below, and I crept down noiselessly, got hold of an axe, entered the cabin, and looking by the aid of the dim light there for my victims, my eye fell upon Master Amos, who was nearest to me; my hand slid along the axe-handle, I raised it to strike the fatal blow,—when suddenly the thought came to me, "What! commit murder! and you a Christian?" I had not called it murder before. It was self-defence,—it was preventing others from murdering me,—it was justifiable, it was even praiseworthy. But now, all at once, the truth burst upon me that it was a crime. I was going to kill a young man, who had done nothing to injure me, but obey commands which he could not resist; I was about to lose the fruit of all my efforts at self-improvement, the character I had acquired, and the peace of mind winch had never deserted me. All this came upon me instantly, and with a distinctness which made me almost think I heard it whispered in my ear; and I believe I even turned my head to listen. I shrunk back, laid down the axe, crept up on deck again, and thanked God, as I have done every day since, that I had not committed murder.
My feelings were still agitated, but they were changed. I was filled with shame and remorse for the design I had entertained, and with the fear that my companions would detect it in my face, or that a careless word would betray my guilty thoughts. I remained on deck all night, instead of rousing one of the men to relieve me; and nothing brought composure to my mind, but the solemn resolution I then made to resign myself to the will of God, and take with thankfulness, if I could, but with submission, at all events, whatever he might decide should be my lot. I reflected that if my life were reduced to a brief term I should have less to suffer, and that it was better to die with a Christian's hope, and a quiet conscience, than to live with the incessant recollection of a crime that would destroy the value of life, and under the weight of a secret that would crush out the satisfaction that might be expected from freedom, and every other blessing.
Subsequently to this, his young master was taken violently down with the river fever, and became as helpless as a child. He passionately entreated Henson not to desert him, but to attend to the selling of the boat and produce, and put him on board the steamboat, and not to leave him, dead or alive, till he had carried him back to his father.
The young master was borne in the arms of his faithful servant to the steamboat, and there nursed by him with unremitting attention during the journey up the river; nor did he leave him till he had placed him in his father's arms.
Our love for human nature would lead us to add, with sorrow, that all this disinterestedness and kindness was rewarded only by empty praises, such as would be bestowed upon a very fine dog; and Henson indignantly resolved no longer to submit to the injustice. With a degree of prudence, courage and address, which can scarcely find a parallel in any history, he managed, with his wife and two children, to escape into Canada. Here he learned to read, and, by his superior talent and capacity for management, laid the foundation for the fugitive settlement of Dawn, which is understood to be one of the most flourishing in Canada.
It would be well for the most cultivated of us to ask, whether our ten talents in the way of religious knowledge have enabled us to bring forth as much fruit to the glory of God, to withstand temptation as patiently, to return good for evil as disinterestedly, as this poor, ignorant slave. A writer in England has sneeringly remarked that such a man as Uncle Tom might be imported as a missionary to teach the most cultivated in England or America the true nature of religion. These instances show that what has been said with a sneer is in truth a sober verity; and it should never be forgotten that out of this race whom man despiseth have often been chosen of God true messengers of his grace, and temples for the indwelling of his Spirit.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
The vision attributed to Uncle Tom introduces quite a curious chapter of psychology with regard to the negro race, and indicates a peculiarity which goes far to show how very different they are from the white race. They are possessed of a nervous organization peculiarly susceptible and impressible. Their sensations and impressions are very vivid, and their fancy and imagination lively. In this respect the race has an oriental character, and betrays its tropical origin. Like the Hebrews of old and the oriental nations of the present, they give vent to their emotions with the utmost vivacity of expression, and their whole bodily system sympathizes with the movements of their minds. When in distress, they actually lift up their voices to weep, and "cry with an exceeding bitter cry." When alarmed, they are often paralyzed, and rendered entirely helpless. Their religious exercises are all colored by this sensitive and exceedingly vivacious temperament. Like oriental nations, they incline much to outward expressions, violent gesticulations, and agitating movements of the body. Sometimes, in their religious meetings, they will spring from the floor many times in succession, with a violence and rapidity which is perfectly astonishing. They will laugh, weep, embrace each other convulsively, and sometimes become entirely paralyzed and cataleptic. A clergyman from the North once remonstrated with a Southern clergyman for permitting such extravagances among his flock. The reply of the Southern minister was, in effect, this: "Sir, I am satisfied that the races are so essentially different that they cannot be regulated by the same rules. I, at first, felt as you do; and, though I saw that genuine conversions did take place, with all this outward manifestation, I was still so much annoyed by it as to forbid it among my negroes, till I was satisfied that the repression of it was a serious hindrance to real religious feeling; and then I became certain that all men cannot be regulated in their religious exercises by one model. I am assured that conversions produced with these accessories are quite as apt to be genuine, and to be as influential over the heart and life, as those produced in any other way." The fact is, that the Anglo-Saxon race—cool, logical and practical—have yet to learn the doctrine of toleration for the peculiarities of other races; and perhaps it was with a foresight of their peculiar character, and dominant position in the earth, that God gave the Bible to them in the fervent language and with the glowing imagery of the more susceptible and passionate oriental races.
Mesmerists have found that the negroes are singularly susceptible to all that class of influences which produce catalepsy, mesmeric sleep, and partial clairvoyant phenomena.
The African race, in their own climate, are believers in spells, in "fetish and obi," in "the evil eye," and other singular influences, for which, probably, there is an origin in this peculiarity of constitution. The magicians in scriptural history were Africans; and the so-called magical arts are still practised in Egypt, and other parts of Africa, with a degree of skill and success which can only be accounted for by supposing peculiarities of nervous constitution quite different from those of the whites. Considering those distinctive traits of the race, it is no matter of surprise to find in their religious histories, when acted upon by the powerful stimulant of the Christian religion, very peculiar features. We are not surprised to find almost constantly, in the narrations of their religious histories, accounts of visions, of heavenly voices, of mysterious sympathies and transmissions of knowledge from heart to heart without the intervention of the senses, or what the Quakers call being "baptized into the spirit" of those who are distant.
Cases of this kind are constantly recurring in their histories. The young man whose story was related to the Boston lady, and introduced above in the chapter on George Harris, stated this incident concerning the recovery of his liberty: That, after the departure of his wife and sister, he, for a long time, and very earnestly, sought some opportunity of escape, but that every avenue appeared to be closed to him. At length, in despair, he retreated to his room, and threw himself upon his bed, resolving to give up the undertaking, when, just as he was sinking to sleep, he was roused by a voice saying in his ear, "Why do you sleep now? Rise up, if you ever mean to be free!" He sprang up, went immediately out, and, in the course of two hours, discovered the means of escape which he used.
A lady whose history is known to the writer resided for some time on a Southern plantation, and was in the habit of imparting religious instruction to the slaves. One day, a woman from a distant plantation called at her residence, and inquired for her. The lady asked, in surprise, "How did you know about me?" The old woman's reply was, that she had long been distressed about her soul; but that, several nights before, some one had appeared to her in a dream, told her to go to this plantation and inquire for the strange lady there, and that she would teach her the way to heaven.
Another specimen of the same kind was related to the writer by a slave-woman who had been through the whole painful experience of a slave's life. She was originally a young girl of pleasing exterior and gentle nature, carefully reared as a seamstress and nurse to the children of a family in Virginia, and attached, with all the warmth of her susceptible nature, to these children. Although one of the tenderest of mothers when the writer knew her, yet she assured the writer that she had never loved a child of her own as she loved the dear little young mistress who was her particular charge. Owing, probably, to some pecuniary difficulty in the family, this girl, whom we will call Louisa, was sold, to go on to a Southern plantation. She has often described the scene when she was forced into a carriage, and saw her dear young mistress leaning from the window, stretching her arms towards her, screaming, and calling her name, with all the vehemence of childish grief. She was carried in a coffle, and sold as cook on a Southern plantation. With the utmost earnestness of language she has described to the writer her utter loneliness, and the distress and despair of her heart, in this situation, parted forever from all she held dear on earth, without even the possibility of writing letters or sending messages, surrounded by those who felt no kind of interest in her, and forced to a toil for which her more delicate education had entirely unfitted her. Under these circumstances, she began to believe that it was for some dreadful sin she had thus been afflicted. The course of her mind after this may be best told in her own simple words:
"After that, I began to feel awful wicked,—O, so wicked, you've no idea! I felt so wicked that my sins seemed like a load on me, and I went so heavy all the day! I felt so wicked that I didn't feel worthy to pray in the house, and I used to go way off in the lot and pray. At last, one day, when I was praying, the Lord he came and spoke to me."
"The Lord spoke to you?" said the writer; "what do you mean, Louisa?"
With a face of the utmost earnestness, she answered, "Why, ma'am, the Lord Jesus he came and spoke to me, you know; and I never, till the last day of my life, shall forget what he said to me."
"What was it?" said the writer.
"He said, 'Fear not, my little one; thy sins are forgiven thee;'" and she added to this some verses, which the writer recognized as those of a Methodist hymn.
Being curious to examine more closely this phenomenon, the author said,
"You mean that you dreamed this, Louisa."
With an air of wounded feeling, and much earnestness, she answered,
"O no, Mrs. Stowe; that never was a dream; you'll never make me believe that."
The thought at once arose in the writer's mind. If the Lord Jesus is indeed everywhere present, and if he is as tender-hearted and compassionate as he was on earth,—and we know he is,—must he not sometimes long to speak to the poor, desolate slave, when he knows that no voice but His can carry comfort and healing to his soul?
This instance of Louisa is so exactly parallel to another case, which the author received from an authentic source, that she is tempted to place the two side by side.
Among the slaves who were brought into the New England States, at the time when slavery was prevalent, was one woman, who, immediately on being told the history of the love of Jesus Christ, exclaimed, "He is the one; this is what I wanted."
This language causing surprise, her history was inquired into. It was briefly this: While living in her simple hut in Africa, the kidnappers one day rushed upon her family, and carried her husband and children off to the slave-ship, she escaping into the woods. On returning to her desolate home, she mourned with the bitterness of "Rachel weeping for her children." For many days her heart was oppressed with a heavy weight of sorrow; and, refusing all sustenance, she wandered up and down the desolate forest.
At last, she says, a strong impulse came over her to kneel down and pour out her sorrows into the ear of some unknown Being whom she fancied to be above her, in the sky. She did so; and, to her surprise, found an inexpressible sensation of relief. After this, it was her custom daily to go out to this same spot, and supplicate this unknown Friend. Subsequently, she was herself taken, and brought over to America; and, when the story of Jesus and his love was related to her, she immediately felt in her soul that this Jesus was the very friend who had spoken comfort to her yearning spirit in the distant forest of Africa.
Compare now these experiences with the earnest and beautiful language of Paul: "He hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him, though he be not far from every one of us."
Is not this truly "feeling after God and finding Him"? And may we not hope that the yearning, troubled, helpless heart of man, pressed by the insufferable anguish of this short life, or wearied by its utter vanity, never extends its ignorant, pleading hand to God in vain? Is not the veil which divides us from an almighty and most merciful Father much thinner than we, in the pride of our philosophy, are apt to imagine? and is it not the most worthy conception of Him to suppose that the more utterly helpless and ignorant the human being is that seeks His aid, the more tender and the more condescending will be His communication with that soul?
If a mother has among her children one whom sickness has made blind, or deaf, or dumb, incapable of acquiring knowledge through the usual channels of communication, does she not seek to reach its darkened mind by modes of communication tenderer and more intimate than those which she uses with the stronger and more favored ones? But can the love of any mother be compared with the infinite love of Jesus? Has He not described himself as that good Shepherd who leaves the whole flock of secure and well-instructed ones, to follow over the mountains of sin and ignorance the one lost sheep: and, when He hath found it, rejoicing more over that one than over the ninety and nine that went not astray? Has He not told us that each of these little ones has a guardian angel that doth always behold the face of his Father which is in heaven? And is it not comforting to us to think that His love and care will be in proportion to the ignorance and the wants of His chosen ones? ****** Since the above was prepared for the press the author has received the following extract from a letter written by a gentleman in Missouri to the editor of the Oberlin (Ohio) Evangelist:
I really thought, while reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin," that the authoress, when describing the character of Tom, had in her mind's eye a slave whose acquaintance I made some years since, in the State of Mississippi, called "Uncle Jacob." I was staying a day or two with a planter, and in the evening, when out in the yard, I heard a well-known hymn and tune sung in one of the "quarters," and then the voice of prayer; and O, such a prayer! what fervor, what unction,—nay, the man "prayed right up;" and when I read of Uncle Tom, how "nothing could exceed the touching simplicity, the childlike earnestness, of his prayer, enriched with the language of Scripture, which seemed so entirely to have wrought itself into his being as to have become a part of himself," the recollections of that evening prayer were strangely vivid. On entering the house and referring to what I had heard, his master replied, "Ah, sir, if I covet anything in this world, it is Uncle Jacob's religion. If there is a good man on earth, he certainly is one." He said Uncle Jacob was a regulator on the plantation; that a word or a look from him, addressed to younger slaves, had more efficacy than a blow from the overseer.
The next morning Uncle Jacob informed me he was from Kentucky, opposite Cincinnati; that his opportunities for attending religious worship had been frequent; that at about the age of forty he was sold south, was set to picking cotton; could not, when doing his best, pick the task assigned him; was whipped and whipped, he could not possibly tell how often; was of the opinion that the overseer came to the conclusion that whipping could not bring one more pound out of him, for he set him to driving a team. At this and other work he could "make a hand;" had changed owners three or four times. He expressed himself as well pleased with his present situation as he expected to be in the South, but was yearning to return to his former associations in Kentucky.
Miss Ophelia stands as the representative of a numerous class of the very best of Northern people; to whom, perhaps, if our Lord should again address his churches a letter, as he did those of old time, he would use the same words as then: "I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."
There are in this class of people activity, zeal, unflinching conscientiousness, clear intellectual discriminations between truth and error, and great logical and doctrinal correctness; but there is a want of that spirit of love, without which, in the eye of Christ, the most perfect character is as deficient as a wax flower—wanting in life and perfume.
Yet this blessed principle is not dead in their hearts, but only sleepeth; and so great is the real and genuine goodness, that, when the true magnet of divine love is applied, they always answer to its touch.
So when the gentle Eva, who is an impersonation in childish form of the love of Christ, solves at once, by a blessed instinct, the problem which Ophelia has long been unable to solve by dint of utmost hammering and vehement effort, she at once, with a good and honest heart, perceives and acknowledges her mistake, and is willing to learn even of a little child.
Miss Ophelia, again, represents one great sin, of which, unconsciously, American Christians have allowed themselves to be guilty. Unconsciously it must be, for nowhere is conscience so predominant as among this class, and nowhere is there a more honest strife to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
One of the first and most declared objects of the gospel has been to break down all these irrational barriers and prejudices which separate the human brotherhood into diverse and contending clans. Paul says, "In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free." The Jews at that time were separated from the Gentiles by an insuperable wall of prejudice. They could not eat and drink together, nor pray together. But the apostles most earnestly labored to show them the sin of this prejudice. St. Paul says to the Ephesians, speaking of this former division, "He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us."
It is very easy to see that although slavery has been abolished in the New England States, it has left behind it the most baneful feature of the system—that which makes American worse than Roman slavery—the prejudice of caste and color. In the New England States the negro has been treated as belonging to an inferior race of beings;—forced to sit apart by himself in the place of worship; his children excluded from the schools; himself excluded from the railroad-car and the omnibus, and the peculiarities of his race made the subject of bitter contempt and ridicule.
This course of conduct has been justified by saying that they are a degraded race. But how came they degraded? Take any class of men, and shut them from the means of education, deprive them of hope and self-respect, close to them all avenues of honorable ambition, and you will make just such a race of them as the negroes have been among us.
So singular and so melancholy is the dominion of prejudice over the human mind, that professors of Christianity in our New England States have often, with very serious self-denial to themselves, sent the gospel to heathen as dark-complexioned as the Africans, when in their very neighborhood were persons of dark complexion, who, on that account, were forbidden to send their children to the schools, and discouraged from entering the churches. The effect of this has been directly to degrade and depress the race, and then this very degradation and depression has been pleaded as the reason for continuing this course.
Not long since the writer called upon a benevolent lady, and during the course of the call the conversation turned upon the incidents of a fire which had occurred the night before in the neighborhood. A deserted house had been burned to the ground. The lady said it was supposed it had been set on fire. "What could be any one's motive for setting it on fire?" said the writer.
"Well," replied the lady, "it was supposed that a colored family was about to move into it, and it was thought that the neighborhood wouldn't consent to that. So it was supposed that was the reason."
This was said with an air of innocence and much unconcern.
The writer inquired, "Was it a family of bad character?"
"No, not particularly, that I know of," said the lady; "but then they are negroes, you know."
Now, this lady is a very pious lady. She probably would deny herself to send the gospel to the heathen, and if she had ever thought of considering this family a heathen family, would have felt the deepest interest in their welfare; because on the subject of duty to the heathen she had been frequently instructed from the pulpit, and had all her religious and conscientious sensibilities awake. Probably she had never listened from the pulpit to a sermon which should exhibit the great truth, that "in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free."
Supposing our Lord was now on earth, as he was once, what course is it probable that he would pursue with regard to this unchristian prejudice of color?
There was a class of men in those days as much despised by the Jews as the negroes are by us; and it was a complaint made of Christ that he was a friend of publicans and sinners. And if Christ should enter, on some communion season, into a place of worship, and see the colored man sitting afar off by himself, would it not be just in his spirit to go there and sit with him, rather than to take the seats of his richer and more prosperous brethren?
It is, however, but just to our Northern Christians to say that this sin has been committed ignorantly and in unbelief, and that within a few years signs of a much better spirit have begun to manifest themselves. In some places, recently, the doors of school-houses have been thrown open to the children, and many a good Miss Ophelia has opened her eyes in astonishment to find that, while she has been devouring the Missionary Herald, and going without butter on her bread and sugar in her tea to send the gospel to the Sandwich Islands, there is a very thriving colony of heathen in her own neighborhood at home; and, true to her own good and honest heart, she has resolved, not to give up her prayers and efforts for the heathen abroad, but to add thereunto labors for the heathen at home.
Our safety and hope in this matter is this: that we are multitudes in all our churches who do most truly and sincerely love Christ above all things, and who, just so soon as a little reflection shall have made them sensible of their duty in this respect, will most earnestly perform it.
It is true that, if they do so, they may be called Abolitionists; but the true Miss Ophelia is not afraid of a hard name in a good cause, and has rather learned to consider "the reproach of Christ a greater treasure than the riches of Egypt."
That there is much already for Christians to do in enlightening the moral sense of the community on this subject, will appear if we consider that even so well-educated and gentlemanly a man as Frederick Douglass was recently obliged to pass the night on the deck of a steamer, when in delicate health, because this senseless prejudice deprived him of a place in the cabin; and that that very laborious and useful minister, Dr. Pennington, of New York, has, during the last season, been often obliged seriously to endanger his health, by walking to his pastoral labors, over his very extended parish, under a burning sun, because he could not be allowed the common privilege of the omnibus, which conveys every class of white men, from the most refined to the lowest and most disgusting.
Let us consider now the number of professors of the religion of Christ in New York, and consider also that, by the very fact of their profession, they consider Dr. Pennington the brother of their Lord, and a member with them of the body of Christ.
Now, these Christians are influential, rich and powerful; they can control public sentiment on any subject that they think of any particular importance, and they profess, by their religion, that "if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it."
It is a serious question, whether such a marked indignity offered to Christ and his ministry, in the person of a colored brother, without any remonstrance on their part, will not lead to a general feeling that all that the Bible says about the union of Christians is a mere hollow sound, and means nothing.
Those who are anxious to do something directly to improve the condition of the slave, can do it in no way so directly as by elevating the condition of the free colored people around them, and taking every pains to give them equal rights and privileges.
This unchristian prejudice has doubtless stood in the way of the emancipation of hundreds of slaves. The slave-holder, feeling and acknowledging the evils of slavery, has come to the North, and seen evidences of this unkindly and unchristian state of feeling towards the slave, and has thus reflected within himself:
"If I keep my slave at the South, he is, it is true, under the dominion of a very severe law; but then he enjoys the advantage of my friendship and assistance, and derives, through his connection with me and my flimily, some kind of a position in the community. As my servant he is allowed a seat in the car and a place at the table. But if I emancipate and send him North, he will encounter substantially all the disadvantages of slavery, with no master to protect him."
This mode of reasoning has proved an apology to many a man for keeping his slaves in a position which he confesses to be a bad one; and it will be at once perceived that, should the position of the negro be conspicuously reversed in our northern states, the effect upon the emancipation of the slave would be very great. They, then, who keep up this prejudice, may be said to be, in a certain sense, slave-holders.
It is not meant by this that all distinctions of society should be broken over, and that people should be obliged to choose their intimate associates from a class unfitted by education and habits to sympathize with them.
The negro should not be lifted out of his sphere of life because he is a negro, but he should be treated with Christian courtesy in his sphere. In the railroad car, in the omnibus and steamboat, all ranks and degrees of white persons move with unquestioned freedom side by side; and Christianity requires that the negro have the same privilege.
That the dirtiest and most uneducated foreigner or American, with breath redolent of whiskey and clothes foul and disordered, should have an unquestioned right to take a seat next to any person in a railroad car or steamboat, and that the respectable, decent and gentlemanly negro should be excluded simply because he is a negro, cannot be considered otherwise than as an irrational and unchristian thing: and any Christian who allows such things done in his presence without remonstrance, and the use of his Christian influence, will certainly be made deeply sensible of his error when he comes at last to direct and personal interview with his Lord.
There is no hope for this matter, if the love of Christ is not strong enough, and if it cannot be said, with regard to the two races, "He is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us."
The time is coming rapidly when the upper classes in society must learn that their education, wealth and refinement, are not their own; that they have no right to use them for their own selfish benefit; but that they should hold them rather, as Fenelon expresses it, as "a ministry," a stewardship, which they hold in trust for the benefit of their poorer brethren.
In some of the very highest circles in England and America we begin to see illustrious examples of the commencement of such a condition of things.
One of the merchant princes of Boston, whose funeral has lately been celebrated in our city, afforded in his life a beautiful example of this truth. His wealth was the wealth of thousands. He was the steward of the widow and the orphan. His funds were a savings bank, wherein were laid up the resources of the poor; and the mourners at his funeral were the scholars of the schools which he had founded, the officers of literary institutions which his munificence had endowed, the widows and orphans whom he had counselled and supported, and the men, in all ranks and conditions of life, who had been made by his benevolence to feel that his wealth was their wealth. May God raise up many men in Boston to enter into the spirit and labors of Amos Lawrence!
This is the true socialism, which comes from the spirit of Christ, and, without breaking down existing orders of society, by love makes the property and possessions of the higher class the property of the lower.
Men are always seeking to begin their reforms with the outward and physical. Christ begins his reforms in the heart. Men would break up all ranks of society, and throw all property into a common stock; but Christ would inspire the higher class with that Divine Spirit by which all the wealth and means and advantages of their position are used for the good of the lower.
We see, also, in the highest aristocracy of England, instances of the same tendency. Among her oldest nobility there begin to arise lecturers to mechanics and patrons of ragged schools; and it is said that even on the throne of England is a woman who weekly instructs her class of Sunday-school scholars from the children in the vicinity of her country residence.
In this way, and not by an outward and physical division of property, shall all things be had in common. And when the white race shall regard their superiority over the colored one only as a talent intrusted for the advantage of their weaker brother, then will the prejudice of caste melt away in the light of Christianity.
MARIE ST. CLARE.
Marie St. Clare is the type of a class of women not peculiar to any latitude, nor any condition of society. She may be found in England or in America. In the northern free states we have many Marie St. Clares, more or less fully developed.
When found in a northern latitude, she is forever in trouble about her domestic relations. Her servants never do anything right. Strange to tell, they are not perfect, and she thinks it a very great shame. She is fully convinced that she ought to have every moral and Christian virtue in her kitchen for a little less than the ordinary wages; and when her cook leaves her, because she finds she can get better wages and less work in a neighboring family, she thinks it shockingly selfish, unprincipled conduct. She is of opinion that servants ought to be perfectly disinterested; that they ought to be willing to take up with the worst rooms in the house, with very moderate wages, and very indifferent food, when they can get much better elsewhere, purely for the sake of pleasing her. She likes to get hold of foreign servants, who have not yet learned our ways, who are used to working for low wages, and who will be satisfied with almost anything; but she is often heard to lament that they soon get spoiled, and want as many privileges as anybody else,—which is perfectly shocking. Marie often wishes that she could be a slave-holder, or could live somewhere where the lower class are kept down, and made to know their place. She is always hunting for cheap seamstresses, and will tell you, in an under-tone, that she has discovered a woman who will make linen shirts beautifully, stitch the collars and wristbands twice, all for thirty-seven cents, when many seamstresses get a dollar for it; says she does it because she's poor, and has no friends; thinks you had better be careful in your conversation, and not let her know what prices are, or else she will get spoiled, and go to raising her price,—these sewing-women are so selfish. When Marie St. Clare has the misfortune to live in a free state, there is no end to her troubles. Her cook is always going off for better wages and more comfortable quarters; her chamber-maid, strangely enough, won't agree to be chambermaid and seamstress both for half wages, and so she deserts. Marie's kitchen-cabinet, therefore, is always in a state of revolution; and she often declares, with affecting earnestness, that servants are the torment of her life. If her husband endeavor to remonstrate, or suggest another mode of treatment, he is a hard-hearted, unfeeling man; "he doesn't love her, and she always knew he didn't;" and so he is disposed of.
But, when Marie comes under a system of laws which gives her absolute control over her dependants,—which enables her to separate them, at her pleasure, from their dearest femily connections, or to inflict upon them the most disgraceful and violent punishments, without even the restraint which seeing the execution might possibly produce,—then it is that the character arrives at full maturity. Human nature is no worse at the South than at the North; but law at the South distinctly provides for and protects the worst abuses to which that nature is liable.
It is often supposed that domestic servitude in slave states is a kind of paradise; that house-servants are invariably pets; that young mistresses are always fond of their "mammies," and young masters always handsome, good-natured and indulgent.
Let any one in Old England or New England look about among their immediate acquaintances, and ask how many there are who would use absolute despotic power amiably in a family, especially over a class degraded by servitude, ignorant, indolent, deceitful, provoking, as slaves almost necessarily are, and always must be.
Let them look into their own hearts, and ask themselves if they would dare to be trusted with such a power. Do they not find in themselves temptations to be unjust to those who are inferiors and dependants? Do they not find themselves tempted to be irritable and provoked, when the service of their families is negligently performed? And, if they had the power to inflict cruel punishments, or to have them inflicted by sending the servant out to some place of correction, would they not be tempted to use that liberty?
With regard to those degrading punishments to which females are subjected, by being sent to professional whippers, or by having such functionaries sent for to the house,—as John Caphart testifies that he has often been, in Baltimore,—what can be said of their influence both on the superior and on the inferior class? It is very painful indeed to contemplate this subject. The mind instinctively shrinks from it; but still it is a very serious question whether it be not our duty to encounter this pain, that our sympathies may be quickened into more active exercise. For this reason, we give here the testimony of a gentleman whose accuracy will not be doubted, and who subjected himself to the pain of being an eye-witness to a scene of this kind in the calaboose in New Orleans. As the reader will perceive from the account, it was a scene of such every-day occurrence as not to excite any particular remark, or any expression of sympathy from those of the same condition and color with the sufferer.
When our missionaries first went to India, it was esteemed a duty among Christian nations to make themselves acquainted with the cruelties and atrocities of idolatrous worship, as a means of quickening our zeal to send them the gospel.
If it be said that we in the free states have no such interest in slavery, as we do not support it, and have no power to prevent it, it is replied that slavery does exist in the District of Columbia, which belongs to the whole United States; and that the free states are, before God, guilty of the crime of continuing it there, unless they will honestly do what in them lies for its extermination.
The subjoined account was written by the benevolent Dr. Howe, whose labors in behalf of the blind have rendered his name dear to humanity, and was sent in a letter to the Hon. Charles Sumner. If any one think it too painful to be perused, let him ask himself if God will hold those guiltless who suffer a system to continue, the details of which they cannot even read. That this describes a common scene in the calaboose, we shall by and by produce other witnesses to show.
I have passed ten days in New Orleans, not unprofitably, I trust, in examining the public institutions,—the schools, asylums, hospitals, prisons, &c. With the exception of the first, there is little hope of amelioration. I know not how much merit there may be in their system; but I do know that, in the administration of the penal code, there are abominations which should bring down the fate of Sodom upon the city. If Howard or Mrs. Fry ever discovered so ill-administered a den of thieves as the New Orleans prison, they never described it. In the negro's apartment I saw much which made me blush that I was a white man, and which, for a moment, stirred up an evil spirit in my animal nature. Entering a large paved court-yard, around which ran galleries filled with slaves of all ages, sexes and colors, I heard the snap of a whip, every stroke of which sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol. I turned my head, and beheld a sight which absolutely chilled me to the marrow of my bones, and gave me, for the first time in my life, the sensation of my hair stiffening at the roots. There lay a black girl flat upon her face, on a board, her two thumbs tied, and fastened to one end, her feet tied, and drawn tightly to the other end, while a strap passed over the small of her back, and, fastened around the board, compressed her closely to it. Below the strap she was entirely naked. By her side, and six feet off, stood a huge negro, with a long whip, which he applied with dreadful power and wonderful precision. Every stroke brought away a strip of skin, which clung to the lash, or fell quivering on the pavement, while the blood followed after it. The poor creature writhed and shrieked, and, in a voice which showed alike her fear of death and her dreadful agony, screamed to her master, who stood at her head, "O, spare my life! don't cut my soul out!" But still fell the horrid lash; still strip after strip peeled off from the skin; gash after gash was cut in her living flesh, until it became a livid and bloody mass of raw and quivering muscle. It was with the greatest difficulty I refrained from springing upon the torturer, and arresting his lash; but, alas! what could I do, but turn aside to hide my tears for the sufferer, and my blushes for humanity? This was in a public and regularly-organized prison; the punishment was one recognized and authorized by the law. But think you the poor wretch had committed a heinous offence, and had been convicted thereof, and sentenced to the lash? Not at all. She was brought by her master to be whipped by the common executioner, without trial, judge or jury, just at his beck or nod, for some real or supposed offence, or to gratify his own whim or malice. And he may bring her day after day, without cause assigned, and inflict any number of lashes he pleases, short of twenty-five, provided only he pays the fee. Or, if he choose, he may have a private whipping-board on his own premises, and brutalize himself there. A shocking part of this horrid punishment was its publicity, as I have said; it was in a court-yard surrounded by galleries, which were filled with colored persons of all sexes,—runaway slaves, committed for some crime, or slaves up for sale. You would naturally suppose they crowded forward, and gazed, horror-stricken, at the brutal spectacle below; but they did not; many of them hardly noticed it, and many were entirely indifferent to it. They went on in their childish pursuits, and some were laughing outright in the distant parts of the galleries; so low can man, created in God's image, be sunk in brutality.
It is with pleasure that we turn from the dark picture just presented, to the character of the generous and noble-hearted St. Clare, wherein the fairest picture of our Southern brother is presented.
It has been the writer's object to separate carefully, as far as possible, the system from the men. It is her sincere belief that, while the irresponsible power of slavery is such that no human being ought ever to possess it, probably that power was never exercised more leniently than in many cases in the Southern States. She has been astonished to see how, under all the disadvantages which attend the early possession of arbitrary power, all the temptations which every reflecting mind must see will arise from the possession of this power in various forms, there are often developed such fine and interesting traits of character. To say that these cases are common, alas! is not in our power. Men know human nature too well to believe us, if we should. But the more dreadful the evil to be assailed, the more careful should we be to be just in our apprehensions, and to balance the horror which certain abuses must necessarily excite, by a consideration of those excellent and redeeming traits which are often found in individuals connected with the system.
The twin brothers, Alfred and Augustine St. Clare, represent two classes of men which are to be found in all countries. They are the radically aristocratic and democratic men. The aristocrat by position is not always the aristocrat by nature, and vice versa; but the aristocrat by nature, whether he be in a higher or lower position in society, is he who, though he may be just, generous and humane, to those whom he considers his equals, is entirely insensible to the wants, and sufferings, and common humanity, of those whom he considers the lower orders. The sufferings of a countess would make him weep; the sufferings of a seamstress are quite another matter.
On the other hand, the democrat is often found in the highest position of life. To this man, superiority to his brother is a thing which he can never boldly and nakedly assert without a secret pain. In the lowest and humblest walk of life, he acknowledges the sacredness of a common humanity; and however degraded by the opinions and institutions of society any particular class may be, there is an instinctive feeling in his soul which teaches him that they are men of like passions with himself. Such men have a penetration which at once sees through all the false shows of outward custom which make one man so dissimilar to another, to those great generic capabilities, sorrows, wants and weaknesses, wherein all men and women are alike; and there is no such thing as making them realize that one order of human beings have any prescriptive right over another order, or that the tears and sufferings of one are not just as good as those of another order.
That such men are to be found at the South in the relation of slave-masters, that when so found they cannot and will not be deluded by any of the shams and sophistry wherewith slavery has been defended, that they look upon it as a relic of a barbarous age, and utterly scorn and contemn all its apologists, we can abundantly show. Many of the most illustrious Southern men of the Revolution were of this class, and many men of distinguished position of later day have entertained the same sentiments.
Witness the following letter of Patrick Henry, the sentiments of which are so much an echo of those of St. Clare that the reader might suppose one to be a copy of the other:
LETTER OF PATRICK HENRY.
Hanover, January 18th, 1773.
Dear Sir: I take this opportunity to acknowledge the receipt of Anthony Benezet's book against the slave-trade; I thank you for it. Is it not a little surprising that the professors of Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart, in cherishing and improving its finer feelings, should encourage a practice so totally repugnant to the first impressions of right and wrong? What adds to the wonder is, that this abominable practice has been introduced in the most enlightened ages. Times that seem to have pretensions to boast of high improvements in the arts and sciences, and refined morality, have brought into general use, and guarded by many laws, a species of violence and tyranny which our more rude and barbarous, but more honest ancestors detested. Is it not amazing that at a time when the rights of humanity are defined and understood with precision, in a country above all others fond of liberty,—that in such an age and in such a country we find men professing a religion the most mild, humane, gentle and generous, adopting such a principle, as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible, and destructive to liberty? Every thinking, honest man rejects it in speculation. How free in practice from conscientious motives?
Would any one believe that I am master of slaves of my own purchase? I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them. I will not, I cannot, justify it. However culpable my conduct, I will so far pay my devoir to virtue as to own the excellence and rectitude of her precepts, and lament my want of conformity to them.
I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we can do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot, and an abhorrence for slavery. If we cannot reduce this wished-for reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity. It is the furthest advance we can make towards justice. It is a debt we owe to the purity of our religion, to show that it is at variance with that law which warrants slavery.
I know not when to stop. I could say many things on the subject, a serious view of which gives a gloomy prospect to future times!
What a sorrowful thing it is that such men live an inglorious life, drawn along by the general current of society, when they ought to be its regenerators! Has God endowed them with such nobleness of soul, such clearness of perception, for nothing? Should they, to whom he has given superior powers of insight and feeling, live as all the world live?
Southern men of this class have often risen up to reprove the men of the North, when they are drawn in to apologize for the system of slavery. Thus, on one occasion, a representative from one of the northern states, a gentleman now occupying the very highest rank of distinction and official station, used in Congress the following language:
The great relation of servitude, in some form or other, with greater or less departure from the theoretic equality of men, is inseparable from our nature. Domestic slavery is not, in my judgment, to be set down as an immoral or irreligious relation. The slaves of this country are better clothed and fed than the peasantry of some of the most prosperous states of Europe.
He was answered by Mr. Mitchell, of Tennessee, in these words:
Sir, I do not go the length of the gentleman from Massachusetts, and hold that the existence of slavery in this country is almost a blessing. On the contrary, I am firmly settled in the opinion that it is a great curse,—one of the greatest that could have been interwoven in our system. I, Mr. Chairman, am one of those whom these poor wretches call masters. I do not task them; I feed and clothe them well; but yet, alas! they are slaves, and slavery is a curse in any shape. It is no doubt true that there are persons in Europe far more degraded than our slaves,—worse fed, worse clothed, &c.; but, sir, this is far from proving that negroes ought to be slaves.
The celebrated John Randolph, of Roanoke, said in Congress, on one occasion:
Sir, I envy neither the heart nor the head of that man from the North who rises here to defend slavery on principle.
The following lines from the will of this eccentric man show that this clear sense of justice, which is a gift of superior natures. at last produced some appropriate fruits in practice:
I give to my slaves their freedom, to which my conscience tells me they are justly entitled. It has a long time been a matter of the deepest regret to me, that the circumstances under which I inherited them, and the obstacles thrown in the way by the laws of the land, have prevented my emancipating them in my life-time, which it is my full intention to do in case I can accomplish it.
The influence on such minds as these of that kind of theological teaching which prevails in the majority of pulpits at the South, and which justifies slavery directly from the Bible, cannot be sufficiently regretted. Such men are shocked to find their spiritual teachers less conscientious than themselves; and if the Biblical argument succeeds in bewildering them, it produces scepticism with regard to the Bible itself. Professor Stowe states that, during his residence in Ohio, he visited at the house of a gentleman who had once been a Virginian planter, and during the first years of his life was an avowed sceptic. He stated that his scepticism was entirely referable to this one cause,—that his minister had constructed a scriptural argument in defence of slavery which he was unable to answer, and that his moral sense was so shocked by the idea that the Bible defended such an atrocious system, that he became an entire unbeliever, and so continued until he came under the ministration of a clergyman in Ohio, who succeeded in presenting to him the true scriptural view of the subject. He immediately threw aside his scepticism, and became a member of a Christian church.
So we hear the Baltimore Sun, a paper in a slave state, and no way suspected of leaning towards abolitionism, thus scornfully disposing of the scriptural argument:
Messrs. Burgess, Taylor & Co., Sun Iron Building, send us a copy of a work of imposing exterior, a handsome work of nearly six hundred pages, from the pen of Rev. Josiah Priest, A.M., and published by Rev. W. S. Brown, M.D., at Glasgow, Kentucky, the copy before us conveying the assurance that it is the "fifth edition—stereotyped." And we have no doubt it is; and the fiftieth edition may be published; but it will amount to nothing, for there is nothing in it. The book comprises the usually quoted facts associated with the history of slavery as recorded in the Scriptures, accompanied by the opinions and arguments of another man in relation thereto. And this sort of thing may go on to the end of time. It can accomplish nothing towards the perpetuation of slavery. The book is called "Bible Defence of Slavery; and Origin, Fortunes, and History, of the Negro Race." Bible defence of slavery! There is no such thing as a Bible defence of slavery at the present day. Slavery in the United States is a social institution, originating in the convenience and cupidity of our ancestors, existing by state laws and recognized to a certain extent—for the recovery of slave property—by the constitution. And nobody would pretend that, if it were inexpedient and unprofitable for any man or any state to continue to hold slaves, they would be bound to do so, on the ground of a "Bible defence" of it. Slavery is recorded in the Bible, and approved, with many degrading characteristics. War is recorded in the Bible, and approved, under what seems to us the extreme of cruelty. But are slavery and war to endure forever, because we find them in the Bible? Or, are they to cease at once and forever, because the Bible inculcates peace and brotherhood?
The book before us exhibits great research, but is obnoxious to severe criticism, on account of its gratuitous assumptions. The writer is constantly assuming this, that, and the other. In a work of this sort, a "doubtless" this, and "no doubt" the other, and "such is our belief," with respect to important premises, will not be acceptable to the intelligent reader. Many of the positions assumed are ludicrous; and the fancy of the writer runs to exuberance in putting words and speeches into the mouths of the ancients, predicated upon the brief record of Scripture history. The argument from the curse of Ham is not worth the paper it is written upon. It is just equivalent to that of Blackwood's Magazine, we remember examining some years since, in reference to the admission of Rothschild to Parliament. The writer maintained the religious obligation of the Christian public to perpetuate the political disabilities of the Jews, because it would be resisting the Divine will to remove them, in view of the "curse" which the aforesaid Christian Pharisee understood to be levelled against the sons of Abraham. Admitting that God has cursed both the Jewish race and the descendants of Ham, He is able to fulfil His purpose, though the "rest of mankind" should in all things act up to the benevolent precepts of the "Divine law." Man may very safely cultivate the highest principles of the Christian dispensation, and leave God to work out the fulfilment of His curse.
According to the same book and the same logic, all mankind being under a "curse," none of us ought to work out any alleviation for ourselves, and we are sinning heinously in harnessing steam to the performance of manual labor, cutting wheat by McCormick's diablerie, and laying hold of the lightning to carry our messages for us, instead of footing it ourselves as our father Adam did. With a little more common sense, and much less of the uncommon sort, we should better understand Scripture, the institutions under which we live, the several rights of our fellow-citizens in all sections of the country, and the good, sound, practical, social relations, which ought to contribute infinitely more than they do to the happiness of mankind.
If the reader wishes to know what kind of preaching it is that St. Clare alludes to, when he says he can learn what is quite as much to the purpose from the Picayune, and that such scriptural expositions of their peculiar relations don't edify him much, he is referred to the following extract from a sermon preached in New Orleans, by the Rev. Theophilus Clapp. Let our reader now imagine that he sees St. Clare seated in the front slip, waggishly taking notes of the following specimen of ethics and humanity.
Let all Christian teachers show our servants the importance of being submissive, obedient, industrious, honest and faithful to the interests of their masters. Let their minds be filled with sweet anticipations of rest eternal beyond the grave. Let them be trained to direct their views to that fascinating and glorious futurity, where the sins, sorrows, and troubles of earth, will be contemplated under the aspect of means indispensable to our everlasting progress in knowledge, virtue and happiness. I would say to every slave in the United States, "You should realize that a wise, kind, and merciful Providence has appointed for you your condition in life; and, all things considered, you could not be more eligibly situated. The burden of your care, toils and responsibilities, is much lighter than that which God has imposed on your master. The most enlightened philanthropists, with unlimited resources, could not place you in a situation more favorable to your present and everlasting welfare than that which you now occupy. You have your troubles. So have all. Remember how evanescent are the pleasures and joys of human life."
But, as Mr. Clapp will not, perhaps, be accepted as a representation of orthodoxy, let him be supposed to listen to the following declarations of the Rev. James Smylie, a clergyman of great influence in the Presbyterian church, in a tract upon slavery, which he states in the introduction to have been written with particular reference to removing the conscientious scruples of religious people in Mississippi and Louisiana, with regard to its propriety.
If I believed, or was of opinion, that it was the legitimate tendency of the gospel to abolish slavery, how would I approach a man, possessing as many slaves as Abraham had, and tell him I wished to obtain his permission to preach to his slaves?
Suppose the man to be ignorant of the gospel, and that he would inquire of me what was my object. I would tell him candidly (and every minister ought to be candid) that I wished to preach the gospel, because its legitimate tendency is to make his slaves honest, trusty and faithful; not serving "with eye service, as men pleasers," "not purloining, but showing all good fidelity." "And is this," he would ask, "really the tendency of the gospel?" I would answer, Yes. Then I might expect that a man who had a thousand slaves, if he believed me, would not only permit me to preach to his slaves, but would do more. He would be willing to build me a house, furnish me a garden, and ample provision for a support. Because, he would conclude, verily, that this preacher would he worth more to him than a dozen overseers. But, suppose, then, he would tell me that he had understood that the tendency of the gospel was to abolish slavery, and inquire of me if that was the fact. Ah! this is the rub. He has now cornered me. What shall I say? Shall I, like a dishonest man, twist and dodge, and shift and turn, to evade an answer? No. I must Kentuckian like, come out, broad, flat-footed, and tell him that abolition is the tendency of the gospel. What am I now to calculate upon? I have told the man that it is the tendency of the gospel to make him so poor as to oblige him to take hold of the maul and wedge himself; he must catch, curry, and saddle his own horse; he must black his own brogans (for he will not be able to buy boots). His wife must go, herself, to the washtub, take hold of the scrubbing-broom, wash the pots, and cook all that she and her rail mauler will eat.
Query.—Is it to be expected that a master ignorant heretofore of the tendency of the gospel would fall so desperately in love with it, from a knowledge of its tendency, that he would encourage the preaching of it among his slaves? Verily, NO.
But suppose, when he put the last question to me, as to its tendency, I could and would, without a twist or quibble, tell him, plainly and candidly, that it was a slander on the gospel to say that emancipation or abolition was its legitimate tendency. I would tell him that the commandments of some men, and not the commandments of God, made slavery a sin.—Smylie on Slavery, p. 71.
One can imagine the expression of countenance and tone of voice with which St. Clare would receive such expositions of the gospel. It is to be remarked that this tract does not contain the opinions of one man only, but that it has in its appendix a letter from two ecclesiastical bodies of the Presbyterian church, substantially endorsing its sentiments.
Can any one wonder that a man like St. Clare should put such questions as these?
"Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion, which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than, even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."
The character of St, Clare was drawn by the writer with enthusiasm and with hope. Will this hope never be realized? Will those men at the South, to whom God has given the power to perceive and the heart to feel the unutterable wrong and injustice of slavery, always remain silent and inactive? What nobler ambition to a Southern man than to deliver his country from this disgrace? From the South must the deliverer arise. How long shall he delay? There is a crown brighter than any earthly ambition has ever worn,—there is a laurel which will not fade: it is prepared and waiting for that hero who shall rise up for liberty at the South, and free that noble and beautiful country from the burden and disgrace of slavery.
As St. Clare and the Shelbys are the representatives of one class of masters, so Legree is the representative of another; and, as all good masters are not as enlightened, as generous, and as considerate, as St. Clare and Mr. Shelby, or as careful and successful in religious training as Mrs. Shelby, so all bad masters do not unite the personal ugliness, the coarseness and profaneness, of Legree.
Legree is introduced not for the sake of vilifying masters as a class, but for the sake of bringing to the minds of honorable Southern men, who are masters, a very important feature in the system of slavery, upon which, perhaps, they have never reflected. It is this: that no Southern law requires any test of character from the man to whom the absolute power of master is granted.
In the second part of this book it will be shown that the legal power of the master amounts to an absolute despotism over body and soul; and that there is no protection for the slave's life or limb, his family relations, his conscience, nay, more, his eternal interests, but the character of the master.
Rev. Charles C. Jones, of Georgia, in addressing masters, tells them that they have the power to open the kingdom of heaven or to shut it, to their slaves (Religious Instruction of the Negroes, p. 158), and a South Carolinian, in a recent article in Fraser's Magazine, apparently in a very serious spirit, thus acknowledges the fact of this awful power: "Yes, we would have the whole South to feel that the soul of the slave is in some sense in the master's keeping, and to be charged against him hereafter."
Now, it is respectfully submitted to men of this high class, who are the law-makers, whether this awful power to bind and to loose, to open and to shut the kingdom of heaven, ought to be intrusted to every man in the community, without any other qualification than that of property to buy. Let this gentleman of South Carolina cast his eyes around the world. Let him travel for one week through any district of country either in the South or the North, and ask himself how many of the men whom he meets are fit to be trusted with this power,—how many are fit to be trusted with their own souls, much less with those of others?
Now, in all the theory of government as it is managed in our country, just in proportion to the extent of power is the strictness with which qualification for the proper exercise of it is demanded. The physician may not meddle with the body, to prescribe for its ailments, without a certificate that he is properly qualified. The judge may not decide on the laws which relate to property, without a long course of training, and most abundant preparation. It is only this office of master, which contains the power to bind and to loose, and to open and shut the kingdom of heaven, and involves responsibility for the soul as well as the body, that is thrown out to every hand, and committed without inquiry to any man of any character. A man may have made all his property by piracy upon the high seas, as we have represented in the case of Legree, and there is no law whatever to prevent his investing that property in acquiring this absolute control over the souls and bodies of his fellow-beings. To the half-maniac drunkard, to the man notorious for hardness and cruelty, to the man sunk entirely below public opinion, to the bitter infidel and blasphemer, the law confides this power, just as freely as to the most honorable and religious man on earth. And yet, men who make and uphold these laws think they are guiltless before God, because individually they do not perpetrate the wrongs which they allow others to perpetrate!
To the pirate Legree the law gives a power which no man of woman born, save One, ever was good enough to exercise.
Are there such men as Legree? Let any one go into the low districts and dens of New York, let them go into some of the lanes and alleys of London, and will they not there see many Legrees? Nay, take the purest district of New England, and let people cast about in their memory and see if there have not been men there, hard, coarse, unfeeling, brutal, who, if they had possessed the absolute power of Legree, would have used it in the same way; and that there should be Legrees in the Southern States, is only saying that human nature is the same there that it is everywhere. The only difference is this,—that in free states Legree is chained and restrained by law; in the slave states, the law makes him an absolute, irresponsible despot.
It is a shocking task to confirm by fact this part of the writer's story. One may well approach it in fear and trembling. It is so mournful to think that man, made in the image of God, and by his human birth a brother of Jesus Christ, can sink so low, can do such things as the very soul shudders to contemplate,—and to think that the very man who thus sinks is our brother,—is capable, like us, of the renewal by the Spirit of grace, by which he might be created in the image of Christ and be made equal unto the angels. They who uphold the laws which grant this awful power have another heavy responsibility, of which they little dream. How many souls of masters have been ruined through it! How has this absolute authority provoked and developed wickedness which otherwise might have been suppressed! How many have stumbled into everlasting perdition over this stumbling-stone of IRRESPONSIBLE POWER!
What facts do the judicial trials of slave-holding states occasionally develop! What horrible records defile the pages of the law-book, describing unheard-of scenes of torture and agony, perpetrated in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, by the irresponsible despot who owns the body and soul! Let any one read, if they can, the ninety-third page of Weld's Slavery as It Is, where the Rev. Mr. Dickey gives an account of a trial in Kentucky for a deed of butchery and blood too repulsive to humanity to be here described. The culprit was convicted, and sentenced to death. Mr. Dickey's account of the finale is thus:
The Court sat—Isham was judged to be guilty of a capital crime in the affair of George. He was to be hanged at Salem. The day was set. My good old father visited him in the prison—two or three times talked and prayed with him; I visited him once myself. We fondly hoped that he was a sincere penitent. Before the day of execution came, by some means, I never knew what, Isham was missing. About two years after, we learned that he had gone down to Natchez, and had married a lady of some refinement and piety. I saw her letters to his sisters , who were worthy members of the church of which I was pastor. The last letter told of his death. He was in Jackson'a army, and fell in the famous battle of New Orleans. I am, sir, your friend,
But the reader will have too much reason to know of the possibility of the existence of such men as Legree, when he comes to read the records of the trials and judicial decisions in Part II.
Let not the Southern country be taunted as the only country in the world which produces such men;—let us in sorrow and in humility concede that such men are found everywhere; but let not the Southern country deny the awful charge that she invests such men with absolute, irresponsible power over both the body and the soul.
With regard to that atrocious system of working up the human being in a given time, on which Legree is represented as conducting his plantation, there is unfortunately too much reason to know that it has been practised and is still practised.
In Mr. Weld's book, "Slavery as It Is," under the head of Labor, p. 39, are given several extracts from various documents, to show that this system has been pursued on some plantations to such an extent as to shorten life, and to prevent the increase of the slave population, so that, unless annually renewed, it would of itself die out. Of these documents we quote the following:
The Agricultural Society of Baton Rouge, La., in its report, published in 1829, furnishes a labored estimate of the amount of expenditure necessarily incurred in conducting "a well-regulated sugar estate." In this estimate, the annual net loss of slaves, over and above the supply by propagation, is set down at two and a half per cent.! The late Hon. Josiah S. Johnson, a member of Congress from Louisiana, addressed a letter to the Secretary of the United States' Treasury, in 1830, containing a similar estimate, apparently made with great care, and going into minute details. Many items in this estimate differ from the preceding; but the estimate of the annual decrease of the slaves on a plantation was the same,—two and a half per cent.!
In September, 1834, the writer of this had an interview with James G. Birney, Esq., who then resided in Kentucky, having removed, with his family, from Alabama, the year before. A few hours before that interview, and on the morning of the same day, Mr. B. had spent a couple of hours with Hon. Henry Clay, at his residence, near Lexington. Mr. Birney remarked that Mr. Clay had just told him he had lately been led to mistrust certain estimates as to the increase of the slave population in the far South-west,—estimates which he had presented, I think, in a speech before the Colonization Society. He now believed that the births among the slaves in that quarter were not equal to the deaths; and that, of course, the slave population, independent of immigration from the slave-selling states, was not sustaining itself.
Among other facts stated by Mr. Clay was the following, which we copy verbatim from the original memorandum made at the time by Mr. Birney, with which he has kindly furnished us.
"Sept. 16, 1834.—Hon. H. Clay, in a conversation at his own house on the subject of slavery, informed me that Hon. Outerbridge Horsey—formerly a senator in Congress from the State of Delaware, and the owner of a sugar plantation in Louisiana—declared to him that his overseer worked his hands so closely that one of the women brought forth a child whilst engaged in the labors of the field.
"Also that, a few years since, he was at a brick-yard in the environs of New Orleans, in which one hundred hands were employed; among them were from twenty to thirty young women, in the prime of life. He was told by the proprietor that there had not been a child born among them for the last two or three years, although they all had husbands."
The late Mr. Samuel Blackwell, a highly respected citizen of Jersey City, opposite the city of New York, and a member of the Presbyterian church, visited many of the sugar plantations in Louisiana a few years since; and having, for many years, been the owner of an extensive sugar refinery in England, and subsequently in this country, he had not only every facility afforded him by the planters for personal inspection of all parts of the process of sugar-making, but received from them the most unreserved communications as to their management of their slaves. Mr. B., after his return, frequently made the following statement to gentlemen of his acquaintance:—"That the planters generally declared to him that they were obliged so to overwork their slaves, during the sugar-making season (from eight to ten weeks), as to use them up in seven or eight years. For, said they, after the process is commenced, it must be pushed, without cessation, night and day; and we cannot afford to keep a sufficient number of slaves to do the extra work at the time of sugar-making, as we could not profitably employ them the rest of the year."
Dr. Demming, a gentleman of high respectability, residing in Ashland, Richland County, Ohio, stated to Professor Wright, of New York city,
"That, during a recent tour at the South, while ascending the Ohio river, on the steamboat Fame, he had an opportunity of conversing with a Mr. Dickinson, a resident of Pittsburg, in company with a number of cotton-planters and slave-dealers from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Mr. Dickinson stated as a fact, that the sugar-planters upon the sugar-coast in Louisiana had ascertained that, as it was usually necessary to employ about twice the amount of labor during the boiling season that was required during the season of raising, they could, by excessive driving, day and night, during the boiling season, accomplish the whole labor with one set of hands. By pursuing this plan, they could afford to sacrifice a set of hands once in seven years! He further stated that this horrible system was now practised to a considerable extent! The correctness of this statement was substantially admitted by the slave-holders then on board."
The following testimony of Rev. Dr. Channing, of Boston, who resided some time in Virginia, shows that the over-working of slaves, to such an extent as to abridge life, and cause a decrease of population, is not confined to the far South and South-west.
"I heard of an estate managed by an individual who was considered as singularly successful, and who was able to govern the slaves without the use of the whip. I was anxious to see him; and trusted that some discovery had been made favorable to humanity. I asked him how he was able to dispense with corporal punishment. He replied to me, with a very determined look, 'The slaves know that the work must be done, and that it is better to do it without punishment than with it.' In other words, the certainty and dread of chastisement were so impressed on them that they never incurred it.
" I then found that the slaves on this well-managed estate decreased in number. I asked the cause. He replied, with perfect frankness and ease, 'The gang is not large enough for the estate.' In other words, they were not equal to the work of the plantation, and yet were made to do it, though with the certainty of abridging life.
"On this plantation the huts were uncommonly convenient. There was an unusual air of neatness. A superficial observer would have called the slaves happy. Yet they were living under a severe, subduing discipline, and were over-worked to a degree that shortened life."—Channing on Slavery, page 162, first edition.
A friend of the writer—the Rev. Mr. Barrows, now officiating as teacher of Hebrew in Andover Theological Seminary—stated the following, in conversation with her:—That, while at New Orleans, some time since, he was invited by a planter to visit his estate, as he considered it to be a model one. He found good dwellings for the slaves, abundant provision distributed to them, all cruel punishments superseded by rational and reasonable ones, and half a day every week allowed to the negroes to cultivate their own grounds. Provision was also made for their moral and religious instruction. Mr. Barrows then asked the planter,
"Do you consider your estate a fair specimen?" The gentleman replied, "There are two systems pursued among us. One is, to make all we can out of a negro in a few years, and then supply his place with another; and the other is, to treat him as I do. My neighbor on the next plantation pursues the opposite system. His boys are hard worked and scantily fed; and I have had them come to me, and get down on their knees to beg me to buy them."
Mr. Barrows says he subsequently passed by this plantation, and that the woe-struck, dejected aspect of its laborers fully confirmed the account. He also says that the gentleman who managed so benevolently told him, "I do not make much money out of my slaves."
It will be easy to show that such is the nature of slavery, and the temptations of masters, that such well-regulated plantations are and must be infinitely in the minority, and exceptional cases.
The Rev. Charles C. Jones, a man of the finest feelings of humanity, and for many years an assiduous laborer for the benefit of the slave, himself the owner of a plantation, and qualified, therefore, to judge, both by experience and observation, says, after speaking of the great improvidence of the negroes, engendered by slavery:
And, indeed, once for all, I will here say that the wastes of the system are so great, as well as the fluctuation in prices of the staple articles for market, that it is difficult, nay, impossible, to indulge in large expenditures on plantations, and make them savingly profitable.—Religious Instruction, p. 116.
If even the religious and benevolent master feels the difficulty of uniting any great consideration for the comfort of the slave with prudence and economy, how readily must the moral question be solved by minds of the coarse style of thought which we have supposed in Legree!
" I used to, when I fust begun, have considerable trouble fussin' with 'em, and trying to make 'em hold out,—doctorin' on 'em up when they's sick, and givin' on 'em clothes, and blankets, and what not, trying to keep 'em all sort o' decent and comfortable. Law, 'twant no sort o' use; I lost money on 'em, and 'twas heaps o' trouble. Now, you see, I just put 'em straight through, sick or well. When one nigger's dead, I buy another; and I find it comes cheaper and easier every way."
Added to this, the peculiar mode of labor on the sugar plantation is such that the master, at a certain season of the year, must over-work his slaves, unless he is willing to incur great pecuniary loss. In that very gracefully written apology for slavery, Professor Ingraham's "Travels in the South-west," the following description of sugar-making is given. We quote from him in preference to any one else, because he speaks as an apologist, and describes the thing with the grace of a Mr. Skimpole.
When the grinding has once commenced, there is no cessation of labor till it is completed. From beginning to end a busy and cheerful scene continues. The negroes,
"————Whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week,"
work from eighteen to twenty hours,
"And make the night joint laborer with the day;"
though, to lighten the burden as much as possible, the gang is divided into two watches, one taking the first and the other the last part of the night; and, notwithstanding this continued labor, the negroes improve in appearance, and appear fat and flourishing. They drink freely of cane-juice, and the sickly among them revive, and become robust and healthy.
After the grinding is finished, the negroes have several holidays, when they are quite at liberty to dance and frolic as much as they please: and the cane-song—which is improvised by one of the gang, the rest all joining in a prolonged and unintelligible chorus—now breaks, night and day, upon the ear, in notes "most musical, most melancholy."
The above is inserted as a specimen of the facility with which the most horrible facts may be told in the genteelest phrase. In a work entitled "Travels in Louisiana in 1802" is the following extract (see Weld's "Slavery as It Is," p. 134), from which it appears that this cheerful process of laboring night and day lasts three months! Now, let any one learn the private history of seven hundred blacks,—men and women,—compelled to work day and night, under the lash of a driver, for a period of three months.
Possibly, if the gentleman who wrote this account were employed, with his wife and family, in this "cheerful scene" of labor,—if he saw the woman that he loved, the daughter who was dear to him as his own soul, forced on in the general gang, in this toil which
"Does not divide the Sabbath from the week,
And makes the night joint laborer with the day,"
—possibly, if he saw all this, he might have another opinion of its cheerfulness; and it might be an eminently salutary thing if every apologist for slavery were to enjoy some such privilege for a season, particularly as Mr. Ingraham is careful to tell us that its effect upon the general health is so excellent that the negroes improve in appearance, and appear fat and flourishing, and that the sickly among them revive, and become robust and healthy. One would think it a surprising fact, if working slaves night and day, and giving them cane-juice to drink, really produces such salutary results, that the practice should not be continued the whole year round; though, perhaps, in this case, the negroes would become so fat as to be unable to labor. Possibly, it is because this healthful process is not longer continued that the agricultural societies of Louisiana are obliged to set down an annual loss of slaves on sugar plantations to the amount of two and a half per cent. This ought to be looked into by philanthropists. Perhaps working them all night for six months, instead of three, might remedy the evil. But this periodical pressure is not confined to the making of sugar. There is also a press in the cotton season, as any one can observe by reading the Southern newspapers. At a certain season of the year, the whole interest of the community is engaged in gathering in the cotton crop. Concerning this Mr. Weld says ("Slavery as It Is," page 34):
In the cotton and sugar region there is a fearful amount of desperate gambling, in which, though money is the ostensible stake and forfeit, human life is the real one. The length to which this rivalry is carried at the South and Southwest, the multitude of planters who engage in it, and the recklessness of human life exhibited in driving the murderous game to its issue, cannot well be imagined by one who has not lived in the midst of it. Desire of gain is only one of the motives that stimulates them; the éclat of having made the largest crop with a given number of hands is also a powerful stimulant; the Southern newspapers, at the crop season, chronicle carefully the "cotton brag," and the "crack cotton-picking," and "unparalleled driving," &c. Even the editors of professedly religious papers cheer on the mélee, and sing the triumphs of the victor. Among these we recollect the celebrated Rev. J. N. Maffit, recently editor of a religious paper at Natchez, Miss., in which he took care to assign a prominent place and capitals to "the cotton brag."
As a specimen, of recent date, of this kind of affair, we subjoin the following from the Fairfield Herald, Winsboro', S. C, Nov. 4, 1852.
We find in many of our southern and western exchanges notices of the amount of cotton picked by hands, and the quantity by each hand; and, as we have received a similar account, which we have not seen excelled, so far as regards the quantity picked by one hand, we with pleasure furnish the statement, with the remark that it is from a citizen of this district, overseeing for Maj. H. W. Parr.
"Broad River, Oct. 12, 1852.
"Messrs. Editors:—By way of contributing something to your variety (provided it meets your approbation), I send you the return of a day's picking of cotton, not by picked hands, but the fag end of a set of hands on one plantation, the able-bodied hands having been drawn out for other purposes. Now for the result of a day's picking, from sun-up until sun-down, by twenty-two hands,—women, boys, and two men:—four thousand eight hundred and eighty pounds of clean picked cotton, from the stalk.
"The highest, three hundred and fifty pounds, by several; the lowest, one hundred and fifteen pounds. One of the number has picked in the last seven and a half days (Sunday excepted), eleven hours each day, nineteen hundred pounds clean cotton. When any of my agricultural friends beat this, in the same time, and during sunshine, I will try again. James Steward."
It seems that this agriculturist professes to have accomplished all these extraordinary results with what he very elegantly terms the "fag end" of a set of hands; and, the more to exalt his glory in the matter, he distinctly informs the public that there were no "able-bodied" hands employed; that this whole triumphant result was worked out of women and children, and two disabled men; in other words, he boasts that out of women and children, and the feeble and sickly, he has extracted four thousand eight hundred and eighty pounds of clean picked cotton in a day; and that one of these same hands has been made to pick nineteen hundred pounds of clean cotton in a week! and adds, complacently, that, when any of his agricultural friends beat this, in the same time, and during sunshine, he "will try again."
Will any of our readers now consider the forcing up of the hands on Legree's plantation an exaggeration? Yet see how complacently this account is quoted by the editor, as a most praiseworthy and laudable thing!
"Behold the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth! and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."
That the representations of the style of dwelling-house, modes of housekeeping, and, in short, the features of life generally, as described on Legree's plantation, are not wild and fabulous drafts on the imagination, or exaggerated pictures of exceptional cases, there is the most abundant testimony before the world, and has been for a long number of years. Let the reader weigh the following testimony with regard to the dwellings of the negroes, which has been for some years before the world, in the work of Mr. Weld. It shows the state of things in this respect, at least up to the year 1838.
Mr. Stephen E. Maltby, Inspector of Provisions, Skaneateles, N. Y., who has lived in Alabama.—"The huts where the slaves slept generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor."
Mr. George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester, N. Y., who lived four years in Virginia.—"Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Virginia, I cannot call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; anything that a Northern laborer, or mechanic, white or colored, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition, to separate the sexes."
William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine, President of the American Peace Society, formerly a slave-holder in Florida.—"The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto-leaf. The door, when they had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments; \except the Guinea negroes had sometimes a small enclosure for their 'god houses.' These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays."
Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, pastor Presbyterian Church, Castile, Greene Co., N. Y., who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837.—"The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors; and have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together."
Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave states.—"On old plantations the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards, seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies from eight by ten to ten by twelve feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass, in any. In the new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of similar dimensions."
Mr. Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian church in Farmington, Ohio, Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-8.—"Their houses were commonly built of logs; sometimes they were framed, often they had no floor; some of them have two apartments, commonly but one; each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted of a man and his wife and children, while in other instances persons of both sexes were thrown together, without any regard to family relationship."
The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana, by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves: "They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect and sometimes no floor, and seldom raised from the ground, ill ventilated, and surrounded with filth."
Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of his life in Madison Co., Alabama.—"The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from ten to twelve feet square, often without windows, doors or floors; they have neither chairs, table, or bedstead."
Reuben L. Macy, of Hudson, N. Y., a member of the religious society of Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19.—"The houses for the field-slaves were about fourteen feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out."
Mr. Lemuel Sapington, of Lancaster, Pa., a native of Maryland, formerly a slave-holder.—"The descriptions generally given of negro quarters are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter."
Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee.—"When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber."
Philemon Bliss, Esq., Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1835.—"The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment, and very generally without floors."
Slavery as It Is, p. 43.
The Rev. C. C. Jones, to whom we have already alluded, when taking a survey of the condition of the negroes considered as a field for missionary effort, takes into account all the conditions of their external life. He speaks of a part of Georgia where as much attention had been paid to the comfort of the negro as in any part of the United States. He gives the following picture:
Their general mode of living is coarse and vulgar. Many negro houses are small, low to the ground, blackened with smoke, often with dirt floors, and the furniture of the plainest kind. On some estates the houses are framed, weatherboarded, neatly white-washed, and made sufficiently large and comfortable in every respect. The improvement in the size, material and finish, of negro houses, is extending. Occasionally they may be found constructed of tabby or brick.
Religious Instruction of the Negroes, p. 116.
Now, admitting what Mr. Jones says, to wit, that improvements with regard to the accommodation of the negroes are continually making among enlightened and Christian people, still, if we take into account how many people there are who are neither enlightened nor Christian, how unproductive of any benefit to the master all these improvements are, and how entirely, therefore they must be the result either of native generosity or of Christian sentiment, the reader may fairly conclude that such improvements are the exception, rather than the rule.
A friend of the writer, travelling in Georgia during the last month, thus writes:
Upon the long line of rice and cotton plantations extending along the railroad from Savannah to this city, the negro quarters contain scarcely a single hut which a Northern farmer would deem fit shelter for his cattle. They are all built of poles, with the ends so slightly notched that they are almost as open as children's cob-houses (which they very much resemble), without a single glazed window, and with only one mud chimney to each cluster of from four to eight cabins. And yet our fellow-travellers were quietly expatiating upon the negro's strange inability to endure cold weather!
Let this modern picture be compared with the account given by the Rev. Horace Moulton, who spent five years in Georgia between 1817 and 1824, and it will be seen, in that state at least, there is some resemblance between the more remote and more recent practice:
The huts of the slaves are mostly of the poorest kind. They are not as good as those temporary shanties which are thrown up beside railroads. They are erected with posts and crotches, with but little or no frame-work about them. They have no stoves or chimneys; some of them have something like a fireplace at one end, and a board or two off at that side, or on the roof, to let off the smoke. Others have nothing like a fireplace in them; in these the fire is sometimes made in the middle of the hut. These buildings have but one apartment in them; the places where they pass in and out serve both for doors and windows; the sides and roofs are covered with coarse, and in many instances with refuse boards. In warm weather, especially in the spring, the slaves keep up a smoke, or fire and smoke, all night, to drive away the gnats and mosquitos, which are very troublesome in all the low country of the South; so much so that the whites sleep under frames with nets over them, knit so fine that the mosquitos cannot fly through them.
Slavery as It Is, p. 19.
The same Mr. Moulon gives the following account of the food of the slaves, and the mode of procedure on the plantation on which he was engaged. It may be here mentioned that at the time he was at the South he was engaged in certain business relations which caused him frequently to visit different plantations, and to have under his control many of the slaves. His opportunities for observation, therefore, were quite intimate. There is a homely matter-of-fact distinctness in the style that forbids the idea of its being a fancy sketch:
It was a general custom, wherever I have been, for the master to give each of his slaves, male and female, one peck of corn per week for their food. This, at fifty cents per bushel, which was all that it was worth when I was there, would amount to twelve and a half cents per week for board per head.
It cost me, upon an average, when at the South, one dollar per day for board;—the price of fourteen bushels of corn per week. This would make my board equal in amount to the board of forty-six slaves! This is all that good or bad masters allow their slaves, round about Savannah, on the plantations. One peck of gourd-seed corn is to be measured out to each slave once every week. One man with whom I labored, however, being desirous to get all the work out of his hands he could, before I left (about fifty in number), bought for them every week, or twice a week, a beef's head from market. With this they made a soup in a large iron kettle, around which the hands came at meal-time, and dipping out the soup, would mix it with their hominy, and eat it as though it were a feast. This man permitted his slaves to eat twice a day while I was doing a job for him. He promised me a beaver hat, and as good a suit of clothes as could be bought in the city, if I would accomplish so much for him before I returned to the North; giving me the entire control over his slaves. Thus you may see the temptations overseers sometimes have, to get all the work they can out of the poor slaves. The above is an exception to the general rule of feeding. For, in all other places where I worked and visited, the slaves had nothing from their masters but the corn, or its equivalent in potatoes or rice; and to this they were not permitted to come but once a day. The custom was to blow the horn early in the morning, as a signal for the hands to rise and go to work. When commenced, they continue work until about eleven o'clock A. M., when, at the signal, all hands left off, and went into their huts, made their fires, made their corn-meal into hominy or cake, ate it, and went to work again at the signal of the horn, and worked until night, or until their tasks were done. Some cooked their breakfast in the field while at work. Each slave must grind his own corn in a hand-mill after he has done his work at night. There is generally one hand-mill on every plantation for the use of the slaves.
Some of the planters have no corn; others often get out. The substitute for it is the equivalent of one peck of corn, either in rice or sweet potatoes, neither of which is as good for the slaves as corn. They complain more of being faint when fed on rice or potatoes than when fed on corn. I was with one man a few weeks who gave me his hands to do a job of work, and, to save time, one cooked for all the rest. The following course was taken:—Two crotched sticks were driven down at one end of the yard, and, a small pole being laid on the crotches, they swung a large iron kettle on the middle of the pole; then made up a fire under the kettle, and boiled the hominy; when ready, the hands were called around this kettle with their wooden plates and spoons. They dipped out and ate standing around the kettle, or sitting upon the ground, as best suited their convenience. When they had potatoes, they took them out with their hands, and ate them.
Slavery as It Is, p. 18.
Thomas Clay, Esq., a slave-holder of Georgia, and a most benevolent man, and who interested himself very successfully in endeavoring lo promote the improvement of the negroes, in his address before the Georgia Presbytery, 1833, says of their food, "The quantity allowed by custom is a peck of corn a week.
The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, May 30, 1788, says, "A single peck of corn, or the same measure of rice, is the ordinary provision for a hard-working slave, to which a small quantity of meat is occasionally, though rarely, added." Captain William Ladd, of Minot, Maine, formerly a slave-holder in Florida, says, "The usual allowance of food was a quart of corn a day to a full-task hand, with a modicum of salt; kind masters allowed a peck of corn a week."
The law of North Carolina provides that the master shall give his slave a quart of corn a day, which is less than a peck a week by one quart.—Haywood's Manual, 525; Slavery as It Is, p. 29. The master, therefore, who gave a peck a week would feel that he was going beyond the law, and giving a quart for generosity.
This condition of things will appear far more probable in the section of country where the scene of the story is laid. It is in the south-western states, where no provision is raised on the plantations, but the supply for the slaves is all purchased from the more northern states.
Let the reader now imagine the various temptations which might occur to retrench the allowance of the slaves, under these circumstances;—scarcity of money, financial embarrassment, high price of provisions, and various causes of the kind, bring a great influence upon the master or overseer.
At the time when it was discussed whether the State of Missouri should be admitted as a slave state, the measure, like all measures for the advancement of this horrible system, was advocated on the good old plea of humanity to the negroes; thus Mr. Alexander Smyth, in his speech on the slavery question, Jan. 21, 1820, says:
By confihing the slaves to the Southern States, where crops are raised for exportation, and bread and meat are purchased, you doom them to scarcity and hunger. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are ill fed.
Slavery as It Is, p. 28.
This is a simple recognition of the state of things we have adverted to. To the same purport, Mr. Asa A. Stone, a theological student, who resided near Natchez, Miss., in 1834-5, says:
On almost every plantation, the hands suffer more or less from hunger at some seasons of almost every year. There is always a good deal of suffering from hunger. On many plantations, and particularly in Louisiana, the slaves are in a condition of almost utter famishment, during a great portion of the year.—Ibid.
Mr. Tobias Baudinot, St. Albans, Ohio, a member of the Methodist Church, who for some years was a navigator on the Mississippi, says:
The slaves down the Mississippi are half-starved. The boats, when they stop at night, are constantly boarded by slaves, begging for something to eat.
On the whole, while it is freely and cheerfully admitted that many individuals have made most commendable advances in regard to the provision for the physical comfort of the slave, still it is to be feared that the picture of the accommodations on Legree's plantation has as yet too many counterparts. Lest, however, the author should be suspected of keeping back anything which might serve to throw light on the subject, she will insert in full the following incidents on the other side, from the pen of the accomplished Professor Ingraham. How far these may be regarded as exceptional cases, or as pictures of the general mode of providing for slaves, may safely be left to the good sense of the reader. The professor's anecdotes are as follows:
"What can you do with so much tobacco?" said a gentleman,—who related the circumstance to me,—on hearing a planter, whom he was visiting, give an order to his teamster to bring two hogsheads of tobacco out to the estate from the "Landing."
"I purchase it for my negroes; it is a harmless indulgence, which it gives me pleasure to afford them."
"Why are you at the trouble and expense of having high-post bedsteads for your negroes?" said a gentleman from the North, while walking through the handsome "quarters," or village, for the slaves, then in progress on a plantation near Natchez—addressing the proprietor.
"To suspend their 'bars' from, that they may not be troubled with mosquitos."
"Master, me would like, if you please, a little bit gallery front my house."
"For what, Peter?"
"'Cause, master, the sun too hot [an odd reason for a negro to give] that side, and when he rain we no able to keep de door open."
"Well, well, when a carpenter gets a little leisure, you shall have one."
A few weeks after, I was at the plantation, and riding past the quarters one Sabbath morning, beheld Peter, his wife and children, with his old father, all sunning themselves in the new gallery.
"Missus, you promise me a Chrismus gif."
"Well, Jane, there is a new calico frock for you."
"It werry pretty, Missus," said Jane, eying it at a distance without touching it, "but me prefer muslin, if you please: muslin de fashion dis Chrismus."
"Very well, Jane, call to-morrow, and you shall have a muslin."
The writer would not think of controverting the truth of these anecdotes. Any probable amount of high-post bedsteads and mosquito "bars," of tobacco distributed as gratuity, and verandas constructed by leisurely carpenters for the sunning of fastidious negroes, may be conceded, and they do in no whit impair the truth of the other facts. When the reader remembers that the "gang" of some opulent owners amounts to from five to seven hundred working hands, besides children, he can judge how extensively these accommodations are likely to be provided. Let them be safely thrown into the account, for what they are worth.
At all events, it is pleasing to end off so disagreeable a chapter with some more agreeable images.
SELECT INCIDENTS OF LAWFUL TRADE.
In this chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin were recorded some of the most highly-wrought and touching incidents of the slave-trade. It will be well to authenticate a few of them.
One of the first sketches presented to view is an account of the separation of a very old, decrepit negro woman from her young son, by a sheriff's sale. The writer is sorry to say that not the slightest credit for invention is due to her in this incident. She found it, almost exactly as it stands, in the published journal of a young Southerner, related as a scene to which he was eye-witness. The only circumstance which she has omitted in the narrative was one of additional inhumanity and painfulness which he had delineated. He represents the boy as being bought by a planter, who fettered his hands, and tied a rope round his neck which he attached to the neck of his horse, thus compelling the child to trot by his side. This incident alone was suppressed by the author.
Another scene of fraud and cruelty, in the same chapter, is described as perpetrated by a Kentucky slave-master, who sells a woman to a trader, and induces her to go with him by the deceitful assertion that she is to be taken down the river a short distance, to work at the same hotel with her husband. This was an instance which occurred under the writer's own observation, some years since, when she was going down the Ohio river. The woman was very respectable both in appearance and dress. The writer recalls her image now with distinctness, attired with great neatness in a white wrapper, her clothing and hair all arranged with evident care, and having with her a prettily-dressed boy about seven years of age. She had also a hair trunk of clothing, which showed that she had been carefully and respectably brought up. It will be seen, in perusing the account, that the incident is somewhat altered to suit the purpose of the story, the woman being there represented as carrying with her a young infant.
The custom of unceremoniously separating the infant from its mother, when the latter is about to be taken from a Northern to a Southern market, is a matter of every-day notoriety in the trade. It is not done occasionally and sometimes, but always, whenever there is occasion for it; and the mother's agonies are no more regarded than those of a cow when her calf is separated from her.
The reason of this is, that the care and raising of children is no part of the intention or provision of a Southern plantation. They are a trouble; they detract from the value of the mother as a field-hand, and it is more expensive to raise them than to buy them ready raised; they are therefore left behind in the making up of a coffle. Not longer ago than last summer, the writer was conversing with Thomas Strother, a slave minister of the gospel in St. Louis, for whose emancipation she was making some effort. He incidentally mentioned to her a scene which he had witnessed but a short time before, in which a young woman of his acquaintance came to him almost in a state of distraction, telling him that she had been sold to go South with a trader, and leave behind her a nursing infant.
In Lewis Clark's narrative he mentions that a master in his neighborhood sold a woman and child to a trader, with the charge that he should not sell the child from its mother. The man, however, traded off the child in the very next town, in payment of his tavern-bill.
The following testimony is from a gentleman who writes from New Orleans to the National Era.
This writer says:
While at Robinson, or Tyree Springs, twenty miles from Nashville, on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee, my hostess said to me, one day, "Yonder comes a gang of slaves, chained." I went to the road-side and viewed them. For the better answering my purpose of observation, I stopped the white man in front, who was at his ease in a one-horse wagon, and asked him if those slaves were for sale. I counted them and observed their position. They were divided, by three one-horse wagons, each containing a man-merchant, so arranged as to command the whole gang. Some were unchained; sixty were chained in two companies, thirty in each, the right hand of one to the left hand of the other opposite one, making fifteen each side of a large ox-chain, to which every hand was fastened, and necessarily compelled to hold up,—men and women promiscuously, and about in equal proportions,—all young people. No children here, except a few in a wagon behind, which were the only children in the four gangs. I said to a respectable mulatto woman in the house, "Is it true that the negro-traders take mothers from their babies?" "Massa, it is true; for here, last week, such a girl [naming her], who lives about a mile off, was taken after dinner,—knew nothing of it in the morning,—sold, put into the gang, and her baby given away to a neighbor. She was a stout young woman, and brought a good price."
Nor is the pitiful lie to be regarded which
says that these unhappy mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, do not feel when the most sacred ties are thus severed. Every day and hour bears living witness of the falsehood of this slander, the more false because spoken of a race peculiarly affectionate, and strong, vivacious and vehement, in the expression of their feelings.
The case which the writer supposed of the woman's throwing herself overboard is not by any means a singular one. Witness the following recent fact, which appeared under the head of
ANOTHER INCIDENT FOR "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN."
The editorial correspondent of the Oneida, (N. Y.) Telegraph, writing from a steamer on the Mississippi river, gives the following sad story:
"At Louisville, a gentleman took passage, having with him a family of blacks,—husband, wife and children. The master was bound for Memphis, Tenn., at which place he intended to take all except the man ashore. The latter was hand-cuffed, and although his master said nothing of his intention, the negro made up his mind, from appearances, as well as from the remarks of those around him, that he was destined for the Southern market. We reached Memphis during the night, and whilst within sight of the town, just before landing, the negro caused his wife to divide their things, as though resigned to the intended separation, and then, taking a moment when his master's back was turned, ran forward and jumped into the river. Of course he sank, and his master was several hundred dollars poorer than a moment before. That was all; at least, scarcely any one mentioned it the next morning. I was obliged to get my information from the deck hands, and did not hear a remark concerning it in the cabin. In justice to the master, I should say, that after the occurrence he disclaimed any intention to separate them. Appearances, however, are quite against him, if I have been rightly informed. This sad affair needs no comment. It is an argument, however, that I might have used to-day, with some effect, whilst talking with a highly-intelligent Southerner of the evils of slavery. He had been reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, and spoke of it as a novel, which, like other romances, was well calculated to excite the sympathies, by the recital of heart-touching incidents which never had an existence, except in the imagination of the writer."
Instances have occurred where mothers, whose children were about to be sold from them, have, in their desperation, murdered their own offspring, to save them from this worst kind of orphanage. A case of this kind has been recently tried in the United States, and was alluded to, a week or two ago, by Mr. Giddings, in his speech on the floor of Congress.
An American gentleman from Italy, complaining of the effect of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" on the Italian mind, states that. images of fathers dragged from their families to be sold into slavery, and of babes torn from the breasts of weeping mothers, are constantly presented before the minds of the people as scenes of every-day life in America. The author can only say, sorrowfully, that it is only the truth which is thus presented.
These things are, every day, part and parcel of one of the most thriving trades that is carried on in America. The only difference between us and foreign nations is, that we have got used to it, and they have not. The thing has been done, and done again, day after day, and year after year, reported and lamented over in every variety of way; but it is going on this day with more briskness than ever before, and such scenes as we have described are enacted oftener, as the author will prove when she comes to the chapter on the internal slave-trade.
The incident in this same chapter which describes the scene where the wife of the unfortunate article, catalogued as "John aged 30," rushed on board the boat and threw her arms around him, with moans and lamentations, was a real incident. The gentleman who related it was so stirred in his spirit at the sight, that he addressed the trader in the exact words which the writer represents the young minister as having used in her narrative.
My friend, how can you, how dare you, carry on a trade like this? Look at those poor creatures! Here I am, rejoicing in my heart that I am going home to my wife and child; and the same bell which is the signal to carry me onward towards them will part this poor man and his wife forever. Depend upon it, God will bring you into judgment for this.
If that gentleman has read the work,—as perhaps he has before now,—he has probably recognized his own words. One affecting incident in the narrative, as it really occurred, ought to be mentioned. The wife was passionately bemoaning her husband's fate, as about to be forever separated from all that he held dear, to be sold to the hard usage of a Southern plantation. The husband, in reply, used that very simple but sublime expression which the writer has placed in the mouth of Uncle Tom, in similar circumstances: "There'll be the same God there that there is here."
One other incident mentioned in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" may, perhaps, be as well verified in this place as in any other.
The case of old Prue was related by a brother and sister of the writer, as follows: She was the woman who supplied rusks and other articles of the kind at the house where they boarded. Her manners, appearance and character, were just as described. One day another servant came in her place, bringing the rusks. The sister of the writer inquired what had become of Prue. She seemed reluctant to answer for some time, but at last said that they had taken her into the cellar and beaten her, and that the flies had got at her, and she was dead!
It is well known that there are no cellars, properly so called, in New Orleans, the nature of the ground being such as to forbid digging. The slave who used the word had probably been imported from some state where cellars were in use, and applied the term to the place which was used for the ordinary purposes of a cellar. A cook who lived in the writer's family, having lived most of her life on a plantation, always applied the descriptive terms of the plantation to the very limited enclosures and retinue of a very plain house and yard.
This same lady, while living in the same place, used frequently to have her compassion excited by hearing the wailings of a sickly baby in a house adjoining their own, as also the objurgations and tyrannical abuse of a ferocious virago upon its mother. She once got an opportunity to speak to its mother, who appeared heart-broken and dejected, and inquired what was the matter with her child. Her answer was that she had had a fever, and that her milk was all dried away; and that her mistress was set against her child, and would not buy milk for it. She had tried to feed it on her own coarse food, but it pined and cried continually; and in witness of this she brought the baby to her. It was emaciated to a skeleton. The lady took the little thing to a friend of hers in the house who had been recently confined, and who was suffering from a redundancy of milk, and begged her to nurse it. The miserable sight of the little, famished, wasted thing affected the mother so as to overcome all other considerations, and she placed it to her breast, when it revived, and took food with an eagerness which showed how much it had suffered. But the child was so reduced that this proved only a transient alleviation. It was after this almost impossible to get sight of the woman, and the violent temper of her mistress was such as to make it difficult to interfere in the case. The lady secretly afforded what aid she could, though, as she confessed, with a sort of misgiving that it was a cruelty to try to hold back the poor little sufferer from the refuge of the grave; and it was a relief to her when at last its wailings ceased, and it went where the weary are at rest. This is one of those cases which go to show that the interest of the owner will not always insure kind treatment of the slave.
There is one other incident, which the writer interwove into the history of the mulatto woman who was bought by Legree for his plantation. The reader will remember that, in telling her story to Emmeline, she says:
"My Mas'r was Mr. Ellis,—lived on Levee-street. P'raps you've seen the house."
"Was he good to you?" said Emmeline.
"Mostly, till he tuk sick. He's lain sick, off and on, more than six months, and been orful oneasy. 'Pears like he warn't willin' to have nobody rest, day nor night; and got so cur'ous, there couldn't nobody suit him. 'Pears like he just grew crosser every day; kep me up nights till I got fairly beat out, and couldn't keep awake no longer; and 'cause I got to sleep one night, Lors! he talk so orful to me, and he tell me he'd sell me to just the hardest master he could find; and he'd promised toe my freedom, too, when he died.'
An incident of this sort came under the author's observation in the following manner: A quadroon slave family, liberated by the will of the master, settled on Walnut Hills, near her residence, and their children were received into her family school, taught in her house. In this family was a little quadroon boy, four or five years of age, with a sad, dejected appearance, who excited their interest.
The history of this child, as narrated by his friends, was simply this: His mother had been the indefatigable nurse of her master, during a lingering and painful sickness, which at last terminated his life. She had borne all the fatigue of the nursing, both by night and by day, sustained in it by his promise that she should be rewarded for it by her liberty, at his death. Overcome by exhaustion and fatigue, she one night fell asleep, and he was unable to rouse her. The next day, after violently upbraiding her, he altered the directions of his will, and sold her to a man who was noted in all the region round as a cruel master, which sale, immediately on his death, which was shortly after, took effect. The only mitigation of her sentence was that her child was not to be taken with her into this dreaded lot, but was given to this quadroon family to be brought into a free state.
The writer very well remembers hearing this story narrated among a group of liberated negroes, and their comments on it. A peculiar form of grave and solemn irony often characterizes the communications of this class of people. It is a habit engendered in slavery to comment upon proceedings of this kind in language apparently respectful to the perpetrators, and which is felt to be irony only by a certain peculiarity of manner, difficult to describe. After the relation of this story, when the writer expressed her indignation in no measured terms, one of the oldest of the sable circle remarked, gravely,
"The man was a mighty great Christian, anyhow."
The writer warmly expressed her dissent from this view, when another of the same circle added,
"Went to glory, anyhow."
And another continued,
"Had the greatest kind of a time when he was a-dyin'; said he was goin' straight into heaven."
And when the writer remarked that many people thought so who never got there, a singular smile of grim approval passed round the circle, but no further comments were made. This incident has often recurred to the writer's mind, as showing the danger to the welfare of the master's soul from the possession of absolute power. A man of justice and humanity when in health, is often tempted to become unjust, exacting and exorbitant, in sickness. If, in these circumstances, he is surrounded by inferiors, from whom law and public opinion have taken away the rights of common humanity, how is he tempted to the exercise of the most despotic passions, and, like this unfortunate man, to leave the world with the weight of these awful words upon his head: "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Topsy stands as the representative of a large class of the children who are growing up under the institution of slavery,—quick, active, subtle and ingenious, apparently utterly devoid of principle and conscience, keenly penetrating, by an instinct which exists in the childish mind, the degradation of their condition, and the utter hopelessness of rising above it; feeling the black skin on them, like the mark of Cain, to be a sign of reprobation and infamy, and urged on by a kind of secret desperation to make their "calling and election" in sin "sure."
Christian people have often been perfectly astonished and discouraged, as Miss Ophelia was, in the attempt to bring up such children decently and Christianly, under a state of things which takes away every stimulant which God meant should operate healthfully on the human mind.
We are not now speaking of the Southern States merely, but of the New England States; for, startling as it may appear, slavery is not yet wholly abolished in the free states of the North. The most unchristian part of it, that which gives to it all the bitterness and all the sting, is yet, in a great measure, unrepealed; it is the practical denial to the negro of the rights of human brotherhood. In consequence of this, Topsy is a character which may be found at the North as well as at the South. In conducting the education of negro, mulatto and quadroon children, the writer has often observed this fact:—that, for a certain time, and up to a certain age, they kept equal pace with, and were often superior to, the white children with whom they were associated; but that there came a time when they became indifferent to learning, and made no further progress. This was invariably at the age when they were old enough to reflect upon life, and to perceive that society had no place to offer them for which anything more would be requisite than the rudest and most elementary knowledge.
Let us consider how it is with our own children; how few of them would ever acquire an education from the mere love of learning.
In the process necessary to acquire a handsome style of hand-writing, to master the intricacies of any language, or to conquer the difficulties of mathematical study, how often does the perseverance of the child flag, and need to be stimulated by his parents and teachers by such considerations as these: "It will be necessary for you, in such or such a position in life, to possess this or that acquirement or accomplishment. How could you ever become a merchant, without understanding accounts? How could you enter the learned professions without understanding languages? If you are ignorant and uninformed, you cannot take rank as a gentleman in society."
Does not every one know that, without the stimulus which teachers and parents thus continually present, multitudes of children would never gain a tolerable education? And is it not the absence of all such stimulus which has prevented the negro child from an equal advance?
It is often objected to the negro race that they are frivolous and vain, passionately fond of show, and are interested only in trifles. And who is to blame for all this? Take away all high aims, all noble ambition, from any class, and what is left for them to be interested in but trifles?
The present attorney-general of Liberia, Mr. Lewis, is a man who commands the highest respect, for talent and ability in his position; yet, while he was in America, it is said that, like many other young colored men, he was distinguished only for foppery and frivolity. What made the change in Lewis after he went to Liberia? Who does not see the answer? Does any one wish to know what is inscribed on the seal which keeps the great stone over the sepulchre of African mind? It is this.—which was so truly said by poor Topsy,—"Nothing but a nigger!"
It is this, burnt into the soul by the branding-iron of cruel and unchristian scorn, that is a sorer and deeper wound than all the physical evils of slavery together.
There never was a slave who did not feel it. Deep, deep down in the dark, still waters of his soul is the conviction, heavier, bitterer than all others, that he is not regarded as a man. On this point may be introduced the testimony of one who has known the wormwood and the gall of slavery by bitter experience. The following letter has been received from Dr. Pennington, in relation to some inquiries of the author:
New York, Nov. 30, 1852.
Mrs H. B. Stowe.
Esteemed Madam: I have duly received your kind letter in answer to mine of the 15th instant, in which you state that you "have an intense curiosity to know how far you have rightly divined the heart of the slave." You give me your idea in these words: "There lies buried down in the heart of the most seemingly careless and stupid slave a bleeding spot, that bleeds and aches, though he could scarcely tell why; and that this sore spot is the degradation of his position."
After escaping from the plantation of Dr. Tilghman, in Washington County, Md., where I was held as a slave, and worked as a blacksmith, I came to the State of Pennsylvania, and, after experiencing there some of the vicissitudes referred to in my little published narrative, I came into New York State, bringing in my mind a certain indescribable feeling of wretchedness. They used to say of me at Dr. Tilghman's, "That blacksmith Jemmy is a 'cute fellow; still water runs deep." But I confess that "blacksmith Jemmy" was not 'cute enough to understand the cause of his own wretchedness. The current of the still water may have run deep, but it did not reach down to that awful bed of lava.
At times I thought it occasioned by the lurking fear of betrayal. There was no Vigilance Committee at the time,—there were but anti-slavery men. I came North with my counsels in my own cautious breast. I married a wife, and did not tell her I was a fugitive. None of my friends knew it. I knew not the means of safety, and hence I was constantly in fear of meeting with some one who would betray me.
It was fully two years before I could hold up my head; but still that feeling was in my mind. In 1846, after opening my bosom as a fugitive to John Hooker, Esq., I felt this much relief,—"Thank God there is one brother-man in hard old Connecticut that knows my troubles."
Soon after this, when I sailed to the island of Jamaica, and on landing there saw colored men in all the stations of civil, social, commercial life, where I had seen white men in this country, that feeling of wretchedness experienced a sensible relief, as if some feverish sore had been just reached by just the right kind of balm. There was before my eye evidence that a colored man is more than "a nigger." I went into the House of Assembly at Spanishtown, where fifteen out of forty-five members were colored men. I went into the courts, where I saw in the jury-box colored and white men together, colored and white lawyers at the bar. I went into the Common Council of Kingston; there I found men of different colors. So in all the counting-rooms, &c. &c.
But still there was this drawback. Somebody says, "This is nothing but a nigger island." Now, then, my old trouble came back again; "a nigger among niggers is but a nigger still."
In 1849, when I undertook my second visit to Great Britain, I resolved to prolong and extend my travel and intercourse with the best class of men, with a view to see if I could banish that troublesome old ghost entirely out of my mind. In England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium and Prussia, my whole power has been concentrated on this object. "I'll be a man, and I'll kill off this enemy which has haunted me these twenty years and more." I believe I have succeeded in some good degree; at least, I have now no more trouble on the score of equal manhood with the whites. My European tour was certainly useful, because there the trial was fair and honorable. I had nothing to complain of. I got what was due to man, and I was expected to do what was due from man to man. I sought not to be treated as a pet. I put myself into the harness, and wrought manfully in the first pulpits, and the platforms in peace congresses, conventions, anniversaries, commencements, &c.; and in these exercises that rusty old iron came out of my soul, and went "clean away."
You say again you have never seen a slave however careless and merry-hearted, who had not this sore place, and that did not shrink or get angry if a finger was laid on it. I see that you have been a close observer of negro nature. So far as I understand your idea, I think you are perfectly correct in the impression you have received, as explained in your note.
O, Mrs. Stowe, slavery is an awful system! It takes man as God made him; it demolishes him, and then mis-creates him, or perhaps I should say mal-creates him!
Wishing you good health and good success in your arduous work,
I am yours, respectfully,
J. W. C. Pennington.
People of intelligence, who have had the care of slaves, have often made this remark to the writer: "They are a singular whimsical people; you can do a great deal more with them by humoring some of their prejudices, than by bestowing on them the most substantial favors." On inquiring what these prejudices were, the reply would be, "They like to have their weddings elegantly celebrated, and to have a good deal of notice taken of their funerals, and to give and go to parties dressed and appearing like white people; and they will often put up with material inconveniences, and suffer themselves to be worked very hard, if they are humored in these respects."
Can any one think of this without compassion? Poor souls! willing to bear with so much for simply this slight acknowledgment of their common humanity. To honor their weddings and funerals is, in some sort, acknowledging that they are human, and therefore they prize it. Hence we see the reason of the passionate attachment which often exists in a faithful slave to a good master. It is, in fact, a transfer of his identity to his master. A stern law and an unchristian public sentiment has taken away his birthright of humanity, erased his name from the catalogue of men, and made him an anomalous creature—neither man nor brute. When a kind master recognizes his humanity, and treats him as a humble companion and a friend, there is no end to the devotion and gratitude which he thus excites. He is to the slave a deliverer and a saviour from the curse which lies on his hapless race. Deprived of all legal rights and privileges, all opportunity or hope of personal advancement or honor, he transfers, as it were, his whole existence into his master's, and appropriates his rights, his position, his honor, as his own; and thus enjoys a kind of reflected sense of what it might be to be a man himself. Hence it is that the appeal to the more generous part of the negro character is seldom made in vain.
An acquaintance of the writer was married to a gentleman in Louisiana, who was the proprietor of some eight hundred slaves. He, of course, had a large train of servants in his domestic establishment. When about to enter upon her duties, she was warned that the servants were all so thievish that she would be under the necessity, in common with all other housekeepers, of keeping everything under lock and key. She however, announced her intention of training her servants in such a manner as to make this unnecessary. Her ideas were ridiculed as chimerical, but she resolved to carry them into practice. The course she pursued was as follows: She called all the family servants together; told them that it would be a great burden and restraint upon her to be obliged to keep everything locked from them; that she had heard that they were not at all to be trusted, but that she could not help hoping that they were much better than they had been represented. She told them that she should provide abundantly for all their wants, and then that she should leave her stores unlocked, and trust to their honor.
The idea that they were supposed capable of having any honor struck a new chord at once in every heart. The servants appeared most grateful for the trust, and there was much public spirit excited, the older and graver ones exerting themselves to watch over the children, that nothing might be done to destroy this new-found treasure of honor.
At last, however, the lady discovered that some depredations had been made on her cake by some of the juvenile part of the establishment; she, therefore, convened all the servants, and stated the fact to them. She remarked that it was not on account of the value of the cake that she felt annoyed, but that they must be sensible that it would not be pleasant for her to have it indiscriminately fingered and handled, and that, therefore, she should set some cake out upon a table, or some convenient place, and beg that all those who were disposed to take it would go there and help themselves, and allow the rest to remain undisturbed in the closet. She states that the cake stood upon the table and dried, without a morsel of it being touched, and that she never afterwards had any trouble in this respect.
A little time after, a new carriage was bought, and one night the leather boot of it was found to be missing. Before her husband had time to take any steps on the subject, the servants of the family called a convention among themselves, and instituted an inquiry into the offence. The boot was found and promptly restored, though they would not reveal to their master and mistress the name of the offender.
One other anecdote which this lady related illustrates that peculiar devotion of a slave to a good master, to which allusion has been made. Her husband met with his death by a sudden and melancholy accident. He had a personal attendant and confidential servant who had grown up with him from childhood. This servant was so overwhelmed with grief as to be almost stupefied. On the day of the funeral a brother of his deceased master inquired of him if he had performed a certain commission for his mistress. The servant said that he had forgotten it. Not perceiving his feelings at the moment, the gentleman replied, "I am surprised that you should neglect any command of your mistress, when she is in such affliction."
This remark was the last drop in the full cup. The poor fellow fell to the ground entirely insensible, and the family were obliged to spend nearly two hours employing various means to restore his vitality. The physician accounted for his situation by saying that there had been such a rush of all the blood in the body towards the heart, that there was actual danger of a rupture of that organ,—a literal death by a broken heart.
Some thoughts may be suggested by Miss Ophelia's conscientious but unsuccessful efforts in the education of Topsy.
Society has yet need of a great deal of enlightening as to the means of restoring the vicious and degraded to virtue.
It has been erroneously supposed that with brutal and degraded natures only coarse and brutal measures could avail; and yet it has been found, by those who have most experience, that their success with this class of society has been just in proportion to the delicacy and kindliness with which they have treated them.
Lord Shaftsbury, who has won so honorable a fame by his benevolent interest in the efforts made for the degraded lower classes of his own land, says, in a recent letter to the author:
You are right about Topsy: our ragged schools will afford you many instances of poor children, hardened by kicks, insults and neglect, moved to tears and docility by the first word of kindness. It opens new feelings, develops, as it were, a new nature, and brings the wretched outcast into the family of man.
Recent efforts which have been made among unfortunate females in some of the worst districts of New York show the same thing. What is it that rankles deepest in the breast of fallen woman, that makes her so hopeless and irreclaimable? It is that burning consciousness of degradation which stings worse than cold or hunger, and makes her shrink from the face of the missionary and the philanthropist. They who have visited these haunts of despair and wretchedness have learned that they must touch gently the shattered harp of the human soul, if they would string it again to divine music; that they must encourage self-respect, and hope, and sense of character, or the bonds of death can never be broken.
Let us examine the gospel of Christ, and see on what principles its appeals are constructed. Of what nature are those motives which have melted our hearts and renewed. our wills? Are they not appeals to the most generous and noble instincts of our nature? Are we not told of One fairer than the sons of men,—One reigning in immortal glory, who loved us so that he could bear pain, and want, and shame, and death itself, for our sake?
When Christ speaks to the soul, does he crush one of its nobler faculties? Does he taunt us with our degradation, our selfishness, our narrowness of view, and feebleness of intellect, compared with his own? Is it not true that he not only saves us from our sins, but saves us in a way most considerate, most tender, most regardful of our feelings and sufferings? Does not the Bible tell us that, in order to fulfil his office of Redeemer the more perfectly, he took upon him the condition of humanity, and endured the pains, and wants, and temptations of a mortal existence, that he might be to us a sympathizing, appreciating friend, "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and cheering us gently on in the hard path of returning virtue?
O, when shall we, who have received so much of Jesus Christ, learn to repay it in acts of kindness to our poor brethren? When shall we be Christ-like, and not man-like, in our efforts to reclaim the fallen and wandering?
The writer's sketch of the character of this people has been drawn from personal observation. There are several settlements of these people in Ohio, and the manner of living, the tone of sentiment, and the habits of life, as represented in her book, are not at all exaggerated.
These settlements have always been refuges for the oppressed and outlawed slave. The character of Rachel Halliday was a real one, but she has passed away to her reward. Simeon Halliday, calmly risking fine and imprisonment for his love to God and man, has had in this country many counterparts among the sect.
The writer had in mind, at the time of writing, the scenes in the trial of Thomas Garret, of Wilmington, Delaware, for the crime of hiring a hack to convey a mother and four children from Newcastle jail to Wilmington, a distance of five miles.
The writer has received the facts in this case in a letter from John Garret himself, from which some extracts will be made:
1st month 18thh, 1853.
My Dear Friend,
Harriet Beecher Stowe: I have this day received a request from Charles K. Whipple, of Boston, to furnish thee with a statement, authentic and circumstantial, of the trouble and losses which have been brought upon myself and others of my friends from the aid we had rendered to fugitive slaves, in order, if thought of sufficient importance, to be published in a work thee is now preparing for the press.
I will now endeavor to give thee a statement of what John Hunn and myself suffered by aiding a family of slaves, a few years since. I will give the facts as they occurred, and thee may condense and publish so much as thee may think useful in thy work, and no more:"
"In the 12th month, year 1846, a family, consisting of Samuel Hawkins, a freeman, his wife Emeline, and six children, who were afterwards proved slaves, stopped at the house of a friend named John Hunn, near Middletown, in this state, in the evening about sunset, to procure food and lodging for the night. They were seen by some of Hunn's pro-slavery neighbors, who soon came with a constable, and had them taken before a magistrate. Hunn had left the slaves in his kitchen when he went to the village of Middletown, half a mile distant. When the officer came with a warrant for them, he met Hunn at the kitchen door, and asked for the blacks; Hunn, with truth, said he did not know where they were. Hunn's wife, thinking they would be safer, had sent them up stairs during his absence, where they were found. Hunn made no resistance, and they were taken before the magistrate, and from his office direct to Newcastle jail, where they arrived about one o'clock on 7th day morning.
The sheriff and his daughter, being kind, humane people, inquired of Hawkins and wife the facts of their case; and his daughter wrote to a lady here, to request me to go to Newcastle and inquire into the case, as her father and self really believed they were most of them, if not all, entitled to their freedom. Next morning I went to Newcastle: had the family of colored people brought into the parlor, and the sheriff and myself came to the conclusion that the parents and four youngest children were by law entitled to their freedom. I prevailed on the sheriff to show me the commitment of the magistrate, which I found was defective, and not in due form according to law. I procured a copy and handed it to a lawyer. He pronounced the commitment irregular, and agreed to go nest morning to Newcastle and have the whole family taken before Judge Booth, Chief Justice of the state, by habeas corpus, when the following admission was made by Samuel Hawkins and wife: They admitted that the two eldest boys were held by one Charles Glaudin, of Queen Anne County, Maryland, as slaves; that after the birth of these two children, Elizabeth Turner, also of Queen Anne, the mistress of their mother, had set her free, and permitted her to go and live with her husband, near twenty miles from her residence, after which the four youngest children were born; that her mistress during all that time, eleven or twelve years, had never contributed one dollar to their support, or come to see them. After examining the commitment in their case and consulting with my attorney, the judge set the whole family at liberty. The day was wet and cold; one of the children, three years old, was a cripple from white swelling, and could not walk astep; another, eleven months old, at the breast; and the parents being desirous of getting to Wilmington, five miles distant, I asked the judge if there would be any risk or impropriety in my hiring a conveyance for the mother and four young children to Wilmington. His reply, in the presence of the sheriff and my attorney, was there would not be any. I then requested the sheriff to procure a hack to take them over to Wilmington."
The whole family escaped. John Hunn and John Garret were brought up to trial for having practically fulfilled those words of Christ which read, "I was a stranger and ye took me in, I was sick and in prison and ye came unto me." For John Hunn's part of this crime, he was fined two thousand five hundred dollars, and John Garret was fined five thousand four hundred. Three thousand five hundred of this was the fine for hiring a hack for them, and one thousand nine hundred was assessed on him as the value of the slaves! Our European friends will infer from this that it costs something to obey Christ in America, as well as in Europe.
After John Garret's trial was over, and this heavy judgment had been given against him, he calmly rose in the court-room, and requested leave to address a few words to the court and audience.
Leave being granted, he spoke as follows:
I have a few words which I wish to address to the court, jury and prosecutors, in the several suits that have been brought against me during the sittings of this court, in order to determine the amount of penalty I must pay for doing what my feelings prompted me to do as a lawful and meritorious act; a simple act of humanity and justice, as I believed, to eight of that oppressed race, the people of color, whom I found in the Newcastle jail, in the 12th month, 1845. I will now endeavor to state the facts of those cases, for your consideration and reflection after you return home to your families and friends. You will then have time to ponder on what has transpired here since the sitting of this court, and I believe that your verdict will then be unanimous, that the law of the United States, as explained by our venerable judge, when compared with the act committed by me, was cruel and oppressive, and needs remodelling.
Here follows a very brief and clear statement of the facts in the case, of which the reader is already apprized.
After showing conclusively that he had no reason to suppose the family to be slaves, and that they had all been discharged by the judge, he nobly adds the following words:
Had I believed every one of them to he slaves, I should have done the same thing. I should have done violence to my convictions of duty, had I not made use of all the lawful means in my power to liberate those people, and assist them to become men and women, rather than leave them in the condition of chattels personal.
I am called an Abolitionist; once a name of reproach, but one I have ever been proud to be considered worthy of being called. For the last twenty-five years I have been engaged in the cause of this despised and much-injured race, and consider their cause worth suffering for; but, owing to a multiplicity of other engagements, I could not devote so much of my time and mind to their cause as I otherwise should have done.
The impositions and persecutions practised on those unoffending and innocent brethren are extreme beyond endurance. I am now placed in a situation in which I have not so much to claim my attention as formerly; and I now pledge myself, in the presence of this assembly, to use all lawful and honorable means to lessen the burdens of this oppressed people, and endeavor, according to ability furnished, to burst their chains asunder, and set them free; not relaxing my efforts on their behalf while blessed with health, and a slave remains to tread the soil of the state of my adoption,—Delaware.
After mature reflection, I can assure this assembly it is my opinion at this time that the verdicts you have given the prosecutors against John Hunn and myself, within the past few days, will have a tendency to raise a spirit of inquiry throughout the length and breadth of the land, respecting this monster evil (slavery), in many minds that have not heretofore investigated the subject. The reports of those trials will be published by editors from Maine to Texas and the far West; and what must be the effect produced? It will, no doubt, add hundreds, perhaps thousands, to the present large and rapidly increasing army of abolitionists. The injury is great to us who are the immediate sufferers by your verdict; but I believe the verdicts you have given against us within the last few days will have a powerful effect in bringing about the abolition of slavery in this country, this land of boasted freedom, where not only the slave is fettered at the South by his lordly master, but the white man at the North is bound as in chains to do the bidding of his Southern masters.
In his letter to the writer John Garret adds, that after this speech a young man who had served as juryman came across the room, and taking him by the hand, said:
"Old gentleman, I believe every statement that you have made. I came from home prejudiced against you, and I now acknowledge that I have helped to do you injustice."
Thus calmly and simply did this Quaker confess Christ before men, according as it is written of them of old,—"He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt."
Christ has said, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed." In our days it is not customary to be ashamed of Christ personally, but of his words many are ashamed. But when they meet Him in judgment they will have cause to remember them; for heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word shall not pass away.
Another case of the same kind is of a more affecting character.
Richard Dillingham was the son of a respectable Quaker family in Morrow County, Ohio. His pious mother brought him up in the full belief of the doctrine of St. John, that the love of God and the love of man are inseparable. He was diligently taught in such theological notions as are implied in such passages as these: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.—But whoso hath this world's goods and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?—My little children, let us not love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
In accordance with these precepts, Richard Dillingham, in early manhood, was found in Cincinnati teaching the colored people, and visiting in the prisons and doing what in him lay to "love in deed and in truth."
Some unfortunate families among the colored people had dear friends who were slaves in Nashville, Tennessee. Richard was so interested in their story, that when he went into Tennessee he was actually taken up and caught in the very fact of helping certain poor people to escape to their friends.
He was seized and thrown into prison. In the language of this world he was imprisoned as a "negro-stealer." His own account is given in the following letter to his parents:
Nashville Jail, 12th mo. 15th, 1849.
Dear Parents: I presume you have heard of my arrest and imprisonment in the Nashville jail, under a charge of aiding in an attempted escape of slaves from the city of Nashville, on the 5th inst. I was arrested by M. D. Maddox (district constable), aided by Frederick Marshal, watchman at the Nashville Inn, and the bridge-keeper, at the bridge across the Cumberland river. When they arrested me, I had rode up to the bridge on horseback and paid the toll for myself and for the hack to pass over, in which three colored persons, who were said to be slaves, were found by the men who arrested me. The driver of the hack (who is a free colored man of this city), and the persons in the hack, were also arrested; and after being taken to the Nashville Inn and searched, we were all taken to jail. My arrest took place about eleven o'clock at night.
In another letter he says:
At the bridge, Maddox said to me, "You are just the man we wanted. We will make an example of you." As soon as we were safe in the bar-room of the inn, Maddox took a candle and looked me in the face, to see if he could recognize my countenance: and looking intently at me a few moments, he said, "Well, you are too good-looking a young man to be engaged in such an affair as this." The bystanders asked me several questions, to which I replied that under the present circumstances I would rather be excused from answering any questions relating to my case; upon which they desisted from further inquiry. Some threats and malicious wishes were uttered against me by the ruffian part of the assembly, being about twenty-five persons. I was put in a cell which had six persons in it, and I can assure thee that they were very far from being agreeable companions to me, although they were kind. But thou knows that I do not relish cursing and swearing, and worst of all loathsome and obscene blasphemy; and of such was most of the conversation of my prison mates when I was first put in here. The jailers are kind enough to me, but the jail is so constructed that it cannot be warmed, and we have to either warm ourselves by walking in our cell, which is twelve by fifteen feet, or by lying in bed. I went out to my trial on the 10th of last month, and put it off till the next term Of the court, which will be commenced on the second of next 4th month. I put it off on the ground of excitement.
Dear brother, I have no hopes of getting clear of being convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary; but do not think that I am without comfort in my afflictions, for I assure thee that I have many reflections that give me sweet consolation in the midst of my grief. I have a clear conscience before my God, which is my greatest comfort and support through all my troubles and afflictions. An approving conscience none can know but those who enjoy it. It nerves us in the hour of trial to bear our sufferings with fortitude, and even with cheerfulness. The greatest affliction I have is the reflection of the sorrow and anxiety my friends will have to endure on my account. But I can assure thee, brother, that with the exception of this reflection, I am far, very far, from being one of the most miserable of men. Nay, to the contrary, I am not terrified at the prospect before me, though I am grieved about it; but all have enough to grieve about in this unfriendly wilderness of sin and woe. My hopes are not fixed in this world, and therefore I have a source of consolation that will never fail me, so long as I slight not the offers of mercy, comfort and peace, which my blessed Saviour constantly privileges me with.
One source of almost constant annoyance to my feelings is the profanity and vulgarity, and the bad, disagreeable temper, of two or three fellow-prisoners of my cell. They show me considerable kindness and respect; but they cannot do otherwise, when treated with the civility and kindness with which I treat them. If it be my fate to go to the penitentiary for eight or ten years, I can, I believe, meet my doom without shedding a tear. I have not yet shed a tear, though there may be many in store. My bail-bonds were set at seven thousand dollars. If I should be bailed out, I should return to my trial, unless my security were rich, and did not wish me to return; for I am Richard yet, although I am in the prison of my enemy, and will not flinch from what I believe to be right and honorable. These are the principles which, in carrying out, have lodged me here; for there was a time, at my arrest, that I might have, in all probability, escaped the police, but it would have subjected those who were arrested with me to punishment, perhaps even to death, in order to find out who I was, and if they had not told more than they could have done in truth, they would probably have been punished without mercy; and I am determined no one shall suffer for me. I am now a prisoner, but those who were arrested with me are all at liberty, and I believe without whipping. I now stand alone before the Commonwealth of Tennessee to answer for the affair. Tell my friends I am in the midst of consolation here.
Richard was engaged to a young lady of amiable disposition and fine mental endowments.
To her he thus writes:
O, dearest! Canst thou upbraid me? canst thou call it crime? wouldst thou call it crime, or couldst thou upbraid me, for rescuing, or attempting to rescue, thy father, mother, or brother and sister, or even friends, from a captivity among a cruel race of oppressors? O, couldst thou only see what I have seen, and hear what I have heard, of the sad, vexatious, degrading, and soul-trying situation of as noble minds as ever the Anglo-Saxon race were possessed of, mourning in vain for that universal heaven-born boon of freedom, which an all-wise and beneficent Creator has designed for all, thou couldst not censure, but wouldst deeply sympathize with me! Take all those things into consideration, and the thousands of poor mortals who are dragging out far more miserable lives than mine will be, even at ten years in the penitentiary, and thou wilt not look upon my fate with so much horror as thou would at first thought.
In another letter he adds:
I have happy hours here, and I should not be miserable if I could only know you were not sorrowing for me at home. It would give me more satisfaction to hear that you were not grieving about me than anything else.
The nearer I live to the principle of the commandment, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," the more enjoyment I have of this life. None can know the enjoyments that flow from feelings of good will towards our fellow-beings, both friends and enemies, but those who cultivate them. Even in my prison-cell I may be happy, if I will. For the Christian's consolation cannot be shut out from him by enemies or iron gates.
In another letter to the lady before alluded to he says:
By what I am able to learn, I believe thy "Richard" has not fallen altogether unlamented; and the satisfaction it gives me is sufficient to make my prison life more pleasant and desirable than even a life of liberty without the esteem and respect of my friends. But it gives bitterness to the cup of my afflictions to think that my dear friends and relatives have to suffer such grief and sorrow for me. ****** Though persecution ever so severe be my lot, yet I will not allow my indignation ever to ripen into revenge even against my bitterest enemies; for there will be a time when all things must be revealed before Him who has said "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." Yes, my heart shall ever glow with love fur my poor fellow-mortals, who are hastening rapidly on to their final destination—the awful tomb and the solemn judgment.
Perhaps it will give thee some consolation for me to tell thee that I believe there is a considerable sympathy existing in the minds of some of the better portion of the citizens here, which may be of some benefit to me. But all that can be done in my behalf will still leave my case a sad one. Think not, however, that it is all loss to me, for by my calamity I have learned many good and useful lessons, which I hope may yet prove both temporal and spiritual blessings to me.
"Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face."
Therefore I hope thou and my dear distressed parents will be somewhat comforted about me, for know you regard my spiritual welfare far more than anything else.
In his next letter to the same friend he says:
Since I wrote my last, I have had a severe moral conflict, in which I believe the right conquered, and has completely gained the ascendency. The matter was this: A man with whom I have become acquainted since my imprisonment offered to bail me out and let me stay away from my trials and pay the bail-bonds for me, and was very anxious to do it. [Here he mentions that the funds held by this individual had been placed in his hands by a person who obtained them by dishonest means.] But having learned the above facts, which he in confidence made known to me, I declined accepting his offer, giving him my reasons in full. The matter rests with him, my attorneys and myself. My attorneys do not know who he is, but, with his permission, I in confidence informed them of the nature of the case, after I came to a conclusion upon the subject, and had determined not to accept the offer; which was approved by them. I also had an offer of iron-saws and files and other tools by which I could break jail; but I refused them also, as I do not wish to pursue any such underhanded course to extricate myself from my present difficulties; for when I leave Tennessee—if I ever do—I am determined to leave it a free man. Thou need not fear that I shall ever stoop to dishonorable means to avoid my severe impending fate. When I meet thee again I want to meet thee with a clear conscience, and a character unspotted by disgrace.
In another place he says, in view of his nearly approaching trial:
O dear parents! The principles of love for my fellow-beings which you have instilled into my mind are some of the greatest consolations I have in my imprisonment, and they give me resignation to bear whatever may be inflicted upon me without feeling any malice or bitterness toward my vigilant prosecutors. If they show me mercy, it will be accepted by me with gratitude; but if they do not, I will endeavor to bear whatever they may inflict with Christian fortitude and resignation, and try not to murmur at my lot; but it is hard to obey the commandment, "Love your enemies."
The day of his trial at length came.
His youth, his engaging manners, frank address, and invariable gentleness to all who approached him, had won many friends, and the trial excited much interest.
His mother and her brother, Asa Williams, went a distance of seven hundred and fifty miles to attend his trial. They carried with them a certificate of his character, drawn up by Dr. Brisbane, and numerously signed by his friends and acquaintances, and officially countersigned by civil officers. This was done at the suggestion of his counsel, and exhibited by them in court. When brought to the bar it is said that "his demeanor was calm, dignified and manly." His mother sat by his side. The prosecuting attorney waived his plea, and left the ground clear for Richard'a counsel. Their defence was eloquent and pathetic. After they closed, Richard rose, and in a calm and dignified manner spoke extemporaneously as follows:
"By the kind permission of the Court, for which I am sincerely thankful, I avail myself of the privilege of adding a few words to the remarks already made by my counsel. And although I stand, by my own confession, as a criminal in the eyes of your violated laws, yet I feel confident that I am addressing those who have hearts to feel; and in meting out the punishment that I am about to suffer I hope you will be lenient, for it is a new situation in which I am placed. Never before, in the whole course of my life, have I been charged with a dishonest act. And from my childhood kind parents, whose names I deeply reverence, have instilled into my mind a desire to be virtuous and honorable; and it has ever been my aim so to conduct myself as to merit the confidence and esteem of my fellow-men. But, gentlemen, I have violated your laws. This offence I did commit; and I now stand before you, to my sorrow and regret, as a criminal. But I was prompted to it by feelings of humanity. It has been suspected, as I was informed, that I am leagued with a fraternity who are combined for the purpose of committing such offences as the one with which I am charged. But, gentlemen, the impression is false. I alone am guilty, I alone committed the offence, and I alone must suffer the penalty. My parents, my friends, my relatives, are as innocent of any participation in or knowledge of my offence as the babe unborn. My parents are still living, though advanced in years, and, in the course of nature, a few more years will terminate their earthly existence. In their old age and infirmity they will need a stay and protection; and if you can, consistently with your ideas of justice, make my term of imprisonment a short one, you will receive the lasting gratitude of a son who reverences his parents, and the prayers and blessings of an aged father and mother who love their child."
A great deal of sensation now appeared in the court-room, and most of the jury are said to have wept. They retired for a few moments, and returned a verdict for three years imprisonment in the penitentiary.
The Nashville Daily Gazette of April 13, 1849, contains the following notice:
"THE KIDNAPPING CASE.
"Richard Dillingham, who was arrested on the 5th day of December last, having in his possession three slaves whom he intended to convey with him to a free state, was arraigned yesterday and tried in the Criminal Court. The prisoner confessed his guilt, and made a short speech in palliation of his offence. He avowed that the act was undertaken by himself without instigation from any source, and he alone was responsible for the error into which his education had led him. He had, he said, no other motive than the good of the slaves, and did not expect to claim any advantage by freeing them. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment in the penitentiary, the least time the law allows for the offence committed. Mr. Dillingham is a Quaker from Ohio, and has been a teacher in that state. He belongs to a respectable family, and he is not without the sympathy of those who attended the trial. It was a fool-hardy enterprise in which he embarked, and dearly has he paid for his rashness."
His mother, before leaving Nashville, visited the governor, and had an interview with him in regard to pardoning her son. He gave her some encouragement, but thought she had better postpone her petition for the present. After the lapse of several months, she wrote to him about it; but he seemed to have changed his mind, as the following letter will show:
"Nashville, August 29, 1849.
"Dear Madam: Your letter of the 6th of the 7th mo. was received, and would have been noticed earlier but for my absence from home. Your solicitude for your son is natural, and it would be gratifying to be able to reward it by releasing him, if it were in my power. But the offence for which he is suffering was clearly made out, and its tendency here is very hurtful to our rights, and our peace as a people. He is doomed to the shortest period known to our statute. And, at all events, I could not interfere with his case for some time to come; and, to be frank with you, I do not see how his time can be lessened at all. But my term of office will expire soon, and the governor elect, Gen. William Trousdale, will take my place. To him you will make any future appeal.
" Yours, &c.N. L. Brown."
The warden of the penitentiary, John McIntosh, was much prejudiced against him. He thought the sentence was too light, and, being of a stern bearing, Richard had not much to expect from his kindness. But the same sterling integrity and ingenuousness which had ever, under all circumstances, marked his conduct, soon wrought a change in the minds of his keepers, and of his enemies generally. He became a favorite with Mcintosh, and some of the guard. According to the rules of the prison, he was not allowed to write oftener than once in three months, and what he wrote had, of course, to be inspected by the warden.
He was at first put to sawing and scrubbing rock; but, as the delicacy of his frame unfitted him for such labors, and the spotless sanctity of his life won the reverence of his jailers, he was soon promoted to be steward of the prison hospital. In a letter to a friend he thus announces this change in his situation:
I suppose thou art, ere this time, informed of the change in my situation, having been placed in the hospital of the penitentiary as steward.… I feel but poorly qualified to fill the situation they have assigned me, but will try to do the best I can … I enjoy the comforts of a good fire and a warm room, and am allowed to sit up evenings and read, which I prize as a great privilege … I have now been here nearly nine months, and have twenty-seven more to stay. It seems to me a long time in prospect. I try to be as patient as I can, but sometimes I get low-spirited. I throw off the thoughts of home and friends as much as possible; for, when indulged in, they only increase my melancholy feelings. And what wounds my feelings most is the reflection of what you all suffer of grief and anxiety for me. Cease to grieve for me, for I am unworthy of it; and it only causes pain for you, without availing aught for me. … As ever, thine in the bonds of affection, R. D.
He had been in prison little more than a year when the cholera invaded Nashville, and broke out among the inmates; Richard was up day and night in attendance on the sick, his disinterested and sympathetic nature leading him to labors to which his delicate constitution, impaired by confinement, was altogether inadequate.
"Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, grief and pain, by turns dismayed,
The youthful champion stood: at his control
Despair and anguish fled the trembling soul.
Comfort came down the dying wretch to raise.
And his last faltering accents whispered praise."
Worn with these labors, the gentle, patient lover of God and of his brother, sank at last overwearied, and passed peacefully away to a world where all are lovely and loving.
Though his correspondence with her he most loved was interrupted, from his unwillingness to subject his letters to the surveillance of the warden, yet a note reached her, conveyed through the hands of a prisoner whose time was out. In this letter, the last which any earthly friend ever received, he says:
I ofttimes, yea, all times, think of thee;—if I did not, I should cease to exist.
What must that system be which makes it necessary to imprison with convicted felons a man like this, because he loves his brother man "not wisely but too well"?
On his death Whittier wrote the following:
"Si crucem libenter portes, te portabit."—Imit. Christ.
"The Cross, if freely borne, shall be
No burthen, but support, to thee."
So, moved of old time for our sake,
The holy man of Kempen spake.
Thou brave and true one, upon whom
Was laid the Cross of Martyrdom,
How didst thou, in thy faithful youth,
Bear witness to this blessed truth!
Thy cross of suffering and of shame
A staff within thy hands became;—
In paths, where Faith alone could see
The Master's steps, upholding thee.
Thine was the seed-time: God alone
Beholds the end of what is sown;
Beyond our vision, weak and dim,
The harvest-time is hid with Him.
Yet, unforgotten where it lies,
That seed of generous sacrifice,
Though seeming on the desert cast,
Shall rise with bloom and fruit at last.
J. G. Whittier.
Amesbury, Second mo. 18th, 1852.
THE SPIRIT OF ST. CLARE.
The general tone of the press and of the community in the slave states, so far as it has been made known at the North, has been loudly condemnatory of the representations of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Still, it would be unjust to the character of the South to refuse to acknowledge that she has many sons with candor enough to perceive, and courage enough to avow, the evils of her "peculiar institutions." The manly independence exhibited by these men, in communities where popular sentiment rules despotically, either by law or in spite of law, should be duly honored. The sympathy of such minds as these is a high encouragement to philanthropic effort.
The author inserts a few testimonials from Southern men, not without some pride in being thus kindly judged by those who might have been naturally expected to read her book with prejudice against it.
The Jefferson Inquirer, published at Jefferson City, Missouri, Oct. 23, 1852, contains the following communication:
UNCLE TOM's CABIN.
I have lately read this celebrated book, which, perhaps, has gone through more editions, and been sold in greater numbers, than any work from the American press, in the same length of time. It is a work of high literary finish, and its several characters are drawn with great power and truthfulness, although, like the characters in most novels and works of fiction, in some instances too highly colored. There is no attack on slave-holders as such, but, on the contrary, many of them are represented as highly noble, generous, humane and benevolent. Nor is there any attack upon them as a class. It sets forth many of the evils of slavery, as an institution established by law, but without charging these evils on those who hold the slaves, and seems fully to appreciate the difficulties in finding a remedy. Its effect upon the slave-holder is to make him a kinder and better master; to which none can object. This is said without any intention to endorse everything contained in the book, or, indeed, in any novel, or work of fiction. But, if I mistake not, there are few, excepting those who are greatly prejudiced, that will rise from a perusal of the book without being a truer and better Christian, and a more humane and benevolent man. As a slave-holder, I do not feel the least aggrieved. How Mrs. Stowe, the authoress, has obtained her extremely accurate knowledge of the negroes, their character, dialect, habits, &c., is beyond my comprehension, as she never resided—as appears from the preface—in a slave state, or among slaves of negroes. But they are certainly admirably delineated. The book is highly interesting and amusing, and will afford a rich treat to its reader.
The opinion of the editor himself is given in these words:
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
Well, like a good portion of "the world and the rest of mankind," we have read the book of Mrs. Stowe bearing the above title.
From numerous statements, newspaper paragraphs and rumors, we supposed the book was all that fanaticism and heresy could invent, and were therefore greatly prejudiced against it. But, on reading it, we cannot refrain from saying that it is a work of more than ordinary moral worth, and is entitled to consideration. We do not regard it as "a corruption of moral sentiment," and a gross "libel on a portion of our people." The authoress seems disposed to treat the subject fairly, though, in some particulars, the scenes are too highly colored, and too strongly drawn from the imagination. The book, however, may lead its readers at a distance to misapprehend some of the general and better features of "Southern life as it is" (which, by the way, we, as an individual, prefer to Northern life); yet it is a perfect mirror of several classes of people "we have in our mind's eye, who are not free from all the ills flesh is heir to." It has been feared that the book would result in injury to the slave-holding interests of the country; but we apprehend no such thing, and hesitate not to recommend it to the perusal of our friends and the public generally.
Mrs. Stowe has exhibited a knowledge of many peculiarities of Southern society which is really wonderful, when we consider that she is a Northern lady by birth and residence.
We hope, then, before our friends form any harsh opinions of the merits of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and make up any judgment against us for pronouncing in its favor (barring some objections to it), that they will give it a careful perusal; and, in so speaking, we may say that we yield to no man in his devotion to Southern rights and interests.
The editor of the St. Louis (Missouri) Battery pronounces the following judgment:
We took up this work, a few evenings since, with just such prejudices against it as we presume many others have commenced reading it. We have been so much in contact with ultra abolitionists,—have had so much evidence that their benevolence was much more hatred for the master than love for the slave, accompanied with a profound ignorance of the circumstances surrounding both, and a most consummate, supreme disgust for the whole negro race,—that we had about concluded that anything but rant and nonsense was out of the question from a Northern writer upon the subject of slavery.
Mrs. Stowe, in these delineations of life among the lowly, has convinced us to the contrary.
She brings to the discussion of her subject a perfectly cool, calculating judgment, a wide, all-comprehending intellectual vision, and a deep, warm, sea-like woman's soul, over all of which is flung a perfect iris-like imagination, which makes the light of her pictures stronger and more beautiful, as their shades are darker and terror-striking.
We do not wonder that the copy before us is of the seventieth thousand. And seventy thousand more will not supply the demand, or we mistake the appreciation of the American people of the real merits of literary productions. Mrs. Stowe has, in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," set up for herself a monument more enduring than marble. It will stand amid the wastes of slavery as the Memnon stands amid the sands of the African desert, telling both the white man and the negro of the approach of morning. The book is not an abolitionist work, in the offensive sense of the word. It is, as we have intimated, free from everything like fanaticism, no matter what amount of enthusiasm vivifies every page, and runs like electricity along every thread of the story. It presents at one view the excellences and the evils of the system of slavery, and breathes the true spirit of Christian benevolence for the slave, and charity for the master.
The next witness gives his testimony in a letter to the New York Evening Post:
LIGHT OF THE SOUTH.
The subjoined communication comes to us postmarked New Orleans, June 19, 1852:
"I have just been reading 'Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Scenes in Lowly Life,' by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. It found its way to me through the channel of a young student, who purchased it at the North, to read on his homeward passage to New Orleans. He was entirely unacquainted with its character; he was attracted by its title, supposing it might amuse him while travelling. Through his family it was shown to me, as something that I would probably like. I looked at the author's name, and said, 'O, yes; anything from that lady I will read;' otherwise I should have disregarded a work of fiction without such a title.
"The remarks from persons present were, that it was a most amusing work, and the scenes most admirably drawn to life. I accepted the offer of a perusal of it, and brought it home with me. Although I have not read every sentence, I have looked over the whole of it, and I now wish to bear my testimony to its just delineation of the position that the slave occupies. Colorings in the work there are, but no colorings of the actual and real position of the slave worse than really exist. Whippings to death do occur; I know it to be so. Painful separations of master and slave, under circumstances creditable to the master's feelings of humanity, do also occur. I know that, too. Many families, after having brought up their children in entire dependence on slaves to do everything for them, and after having been indulged in elegances and luxuries, have exhausted all their means; and the black people only being left, whom they must sell, for further support. Running away, everybody knows, is the worst crime a slave can commit, in the eyes of his master, except it be a humane master; and from such few slaves care to run away.
"I am a slave-holder myself. I have long been dissatisfied with the system; particularly since I have made the Bible my criterion for judging of it. I am convinced, from what I read there slavery is not in accordance with what God delights to honor in his creatures. I am altogether opposed to the system; and I intend always to use whatever influence I may have against it. I feel very bold in speaking against it, though living in the midst of it, because I am backed by a powerful arm, that can overturn and overrule the strongest efforts that the determined friends of slavery are now making for its continuance.
"I sincerely hope that more of Mrs. Stowes may be found, to show up the reality of slavery. It needs master minds to show it as it is, that it may rest upon its own merits.
"Like Mrs. Stowe, I feel that, since so many and good people, too, at the North, have quietly consented to leave the slave to his fate, by acquiescing in and approving the late measures of government, those who do feel differently should bestir themselves. Christian effort must do the work; and soon it would be done, if Christians would unite, not to destroy the Union states, but honestly to speak out, and speak freely, against that they know is wrong. They are not aware what countenance they give to slave-holders to hold on to their prey. Troubled consciences can be easily quieted by the sympathies of pious people, particularly when interest and inclination come in as aids.
"I am told there is to be a reply made to Uncle Tom's Cabin,' entitled 'Uncle Tom's Cabin as It Is.' I am glad of it. Investigation is what is wanted.
"You will wonder why this communication is made to you by an unknown. It is simply made to encourage your heart, and strengthen your determination to persevere, and do all you can to put the emancipation of the slave in progress. Who I am you will never know; nor do I wish you to know, nor any one else. I am a
The following facts make the fiction of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" appear tame in the comparison. They are from the New York Evangelist.
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
Mr. Editor: I see in your paper that some persons deny the statements of Mrs. Stowe. I have read her book, every word of it. I was born in East Tennessee, near Knoxville, and, we thought, in an enlightened part of the Union, much favored in our social, political and religious privileges, &c. &c. Well, I think about the year 1829, or, perhaps, '28, a good old German Methodist owned a black man named Robin, a Methodist preacher, and the manager of farm, distillery, &c., salesman and financier. This good old German Methodist had a son named Willey, a schoolmate of mine, and, as times were, a first-rate fellow. The old man also owned a keen, bright-eyed mulatto girl; and Willey—the naughty boy!—became enamored of the poor girl. The result was soon discovered; and our good German Methodist told his brother Robin to flog the girl for her wickedness. Brother Robin said he could not and would not perform such an act of cruelty as to flog the girl for what she could not help; and for that act of disobedience old Robin was flogged by the good old German brother, until he could not stand. He was carried to bed; and, some three weeks thereafter, when my father left the state, he was still confined to his bed from the effects of that flogging.
Again: in the fall of 1836 I went South, for my health, stopped at a village in Mississippi, and obtained employment in the largest house in the county, as a book-keeper, with a firm from Louisville, Ky. A man residing near the village—a bachelor, thirty years of age—became embarrassed, and executed a mortgage to my employer on a fine, likely boy, weighing about two hundred pounds,—quick-witted, active, obedient, and remarkably faithful, trusty and honest; so much so, that he was held up as an example. He had a wife that he loved. His owner cast his eyes upon her, and she became his paramour. His boy remonstrated with his master; told him that he tried faithfully to perform his every duty; that he was a good and faithful "nigger" to him; and it was hard, after he had toiled hard all day, and till ten o'clock at night, for him to have his domestic relations broken up and interfered with. The white man denied the charge, and the wife also denied it. One night, about the first of September, the boy came home earlier than usual, say about nine o'clock. It was a wet, dismal night; he made a fire in his cabin, went to get his supper, and found ocular demonstration of the guilt of his master. He became enraged, as I suppose any man would, seized a butcher-knife, and cut his master's throat, stabbed his wife in twenty-seven places, came to the village, and knocked at the office-door. I told him to come in. He did so, and asked for my employer. I called him. The boy then told him that he had killed his master and his wife, and what for. My employer locked him up, and he, a doctor and myself, went out to the house of the old bachelor, and found him dead, find the boy's wife nearly so. She, however, lived. We (my employer and myself) returned to the village, watched the boy until about sunrise, left him locked up, and went to get our breakfasts, intending to take the boy to jail (as it was my employer's interest, if possible, to save the boy, having one thousand dollars at stake in him). But, whilst we were eating, some persons who had heard of the murder broke open the door, took the poor fellow, put a log chain round his neck, and started him for the woods, at the point of the bayonet, marching by where we were eating, with a great deal of noise. My employer, hearing it, ran out, and rescued the boy. The mob again broke in and took the boy, and marched him, as before stated, out of town.
My employer then begged them not to disgrace their town in such a manner; but to appoint a jury of twelve sober men, to decide what should be done. And twelve as sober men as could be found (I was not sober) said he must be hanged. They then tied a rope round his neck, and set him on an old horse. He made a speech to the mob, which I, at the time, thought if it had come from some senator, would have been received with rounds of applause; and, withal, he was more calm than I am now, in writing this. And, after he had told all about the deed, and its cause, he then kicked the horse out from under him, and was launched into eternity. My employer has often remarked that he never saw anything more noble, in his whole life, than the conduct of that boy.
Now, Mr. Editor, I have given you facts, and can give you names and dates. You can do what you think is best for the cause of humanity. I hope I have seen the evil of my former practices, and will endeavor to reform.
James L. Hill.
Springfield, Ill., Sept. 17th, 1852.
"The Opinion of a Southerner," given below, appeared in the National Era, published at Washington. This is an anti-slavery journal, but by its generous tone and eminent ability it commands the respect and patronage of many readers in the slave states:
The following communication comes enclosed in an envelope from Louisiana.—Ed. Era.
THE OPINION OF A SOUTHERNER.
To the Editor of the National Era:
I have just been reading, in the New York Observer of the 12th of August, an article from the Southern Free Press, headed by an editorial one from the Observer, that has for its caption, "Progress in the Right Quarter."
The editor of the New York Observer says that the Southern Free Press has been an able and earnest defender of Southern institutions; but that he now advocates the passage of a law to prohibit the separation of families, and recommends instruction to a portion of slaves that are most honest and faithful. The Observer further adds: "It was such language as this that was becoming common, before Northern fanaticism ruined the prospects of emancipation." It is not so! Northern fanaticism, as he calls it, has done everything that has been done for bettering the condition of the slave. Every one who knows anything of slavery for the last thirty years will recollect that about that time since, the condition of the slave in Louisiana—for about Louisiana only do I speak, because about Louisiana only do I know—was as depressed and miserable as any of the accounts of the abolitionists that ever I have seen have made it. I saj abolitionists; I mean friends and advocates of freedom, in a fair and honorable way. If any doubt my assertion, let them seek for information. Let them get the black laws of Louisiana, and read them. Let them get facts from individuals of veracity, on whose statements they would rely.
This wretched condition of slaves roused the friends of humanity, who, like men, and Christian men, came fearlessly forward, and told truths, indignantly expressing their abhorrence of their oppressors. Such measures, of course, brought forth strife, which caused the cries of humanity to sound louder and louder throughout the land. The friends of freedom gained the ascendency in the hearts of the people, and the slave-holders were brought to a stand. Some, through fear of consequences, lessened their cruelties, while others were made to think, that, perhaps, were not unwilling to do so when it was urged upon them. Cruelties were not only refrained from, but the slave's comforts were increased. A retrograde treatment now was not practicable. Fears of rebellion kept them to it. The slave had found friends, and they were watchful. It was, however, soon discovered that too many privileges, too much leniency, and giving knowledge, would destroy the power to keep down the slave, and tend to weaken, if not destroy, the system. Accordingly, stringent laws had to be passed, and a penalty attached to them. No one must teach, or cause to be taught, a slave, without incurring the penalty. The law is now in force. These necessary laws, as they are called, are all put down to the account of the friends of freedom—to their interference. I do suppose that they do justly belong to their interference; for who that studies the history of the world's transactions does not know that in all contests with power the weak, until successful, will be dealt with more rigorously? Lose not sight, however, of their former condition. Law after law has since been passed to draw the cord tighter around the poor slave, and all attributed to the abolitionists. Well, anyhow, progress is being made. Here comes out the Southern Press, and makes some honorable concessions. He says: "The assaults upon slavery, made for the last twenty years by the North, have increased the evils of it. The treatment of slaves has undoubtedly become a delicate and difficult question. The South has a great and moral conflict to wage; and it is for her to put on the most invulnerable moral panoply." He then thinks the availability of slave property would not be injured by passing a law to prohibit the separation of slave families; for he says, "Although cases sometimes occur which we observe are seized by these Northern fanatics as characteristic of the system," &c. Nonsense! there are no "cases sometimes" occurring—no such thing! They are every day's occurrences, though there are families that form the exception, and many, I would hope, that would not do it. While I am writing I can call before me three men that were brought here by negro traders from Virginia, each having left six or seven children, with their wives, from whom they have never heard. One other died here, a short time since, who left the same number in Carolina, from whom he had never heard.
I spent the summer of 1845 in Nashville. During the month of September, six hundred slaves passed through that place, in four different gangs, for New Orleans—final destination, probably, Texas. A goodly proportion were women; young women, of course; many mothers must have left not only their children, but their babies. One gang only had a few children. I made some excursions to the different watering places around Nashville; and while at Robinson, or Tyree Springs, twenty miles from Nashville, on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee, my hostess said to me, one day, "Yonder comes a gang of slaves, chained." I went to the road-side, and viewed them. For the better answering my purpose of observation, I stopped the white man in front, who was at his ease in a one-horse wagon, and asked him if those slaves were for sale. I counted them and observed their position. They were divided by three one-horse wagons, each containing a man-merchant, so arranged as to command the whole gang. Some were unchained; sixty were chained, in two companies, thirty in each, the right hand of one to the left hand of the other opposite one, making fifteen each side of a large ox-chain, to which every hand was fastened, and necessarily compelled to hold up,—men and women promiscuously, and about in equal proportions,—all young people. No children here, except a few in a wagon behind, which were the only children in the four gangs. I said to a respectable mulatto woman in the house, "Is it true that the negro traders take mothers from their babies?" "Missis, it is true; for here, last week, such a girl [naming her], who lives about a mile off, was taken after dinner,—knew nothing of it in the morning,—sold, put into the gang, and her baby was given away to a neighbor. She was a stout young woman, and brought a good price."
The annexation of Texas induced the spirited traffic that summer. Coming down home in a small boat, water low, a negro trader on board had forty-five men and women crammed into a little spot, some handcuffed. One respectable-looking man had left a wife and seven children in Nashville. Near Memphis the boat stopped at a plantation by previous arrangement, to take in thirty more. An hour's delay was the stipulated time with the captain of the boat. Thirty young men and women came down the bank of the Mississippi, looking wretchedness personified—just from the field; in appearance dirty, disconsolate and oppressed; some with an old shawl under their arm a few had blankets; some had nothing at all—looked as though they cared for nothing. I calculated, while looking at them coming down the bank, that I could hold in a bundle all that the whole of them had. The short notice that was given them, when about to leave, was in consequence of the fears entertained that they would slip one side. They all looked distressed,—leaving all that was dear to them behind, to be put under the hammer, for the property of the highest bidder. No children here! The whole seventy-five were crammed into a little space on the boat, men and women all together.
I am happy to see that morality is rearing its head with advocates for slavery, and that a "most invulnerable moral panoply" is thought to be necessary. I hope it may not prove to be like Mr. Clay's compromises. The Southern Press says: "As for caricatures of slavery in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and the 'White Slave,' all founded in imaginary circumstances, &c., we consider them highly incendiary. He who undertakes to stir up strife between two individual neighbors, by detraction, is justly regarded, by all men and all moral codes, as a criminal." Then he quotes the ninth commandment, and adds: "But to bear false witness against whole states, and millions of people, &c., would seem to be a crime as much deeper in turpitude as the mischief is greater and tlie provocation less." In the first place, I will put the Southern Press upon proof that Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe has told one falsehood. If she has told truth, it is, indeed, a powerful engine of "assault on slavery," such as these Northern fanatics have made for the "last twenty years." The number against whom she offends, in the editor's opinion, seems to increase the turpitude of her crime. That is good reasoning! I hope the editor will be brought to feel that wholesale wickedness is worse than single-handed, and is infinitely harder to reach, particularly if of long standing. It gathers boldness and strength when it is sanctioned by the authority of time, and aided by numbers that are interested in supporting it. Such is slavery; and Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe deserves the gratitude of "states and millions of people" for her talented work, in showing it up in its true light. She has advocated truth, justice and humanity, and they will back her efforts. Her work will be read by "states and millions of people;" and when the Southern Press attempts to malign her, by bringing forward her own avowal, "that the subject of slavery had been so painful to her, that she had abstained from conversing on it for several years," and that, in his opinion, "it accounts for the intensity of the venom of her book," his really envenomed shafts will fall harmless at her feet; for readers will judge for themselves, and be very apt to conclude that more venom comes from the Southern Press than from her. She advocates what is right, and has a straight road, which "few get lost on:" he advocates what is wrong, and has, consequently, to tack, concede, deny, slander, and all sorts of things.
With all due deference to whatever of just principles the Southern Press may have advanced in favor of the slave, I am a poor judge of human nature if I mistake in saying that Mrs. Stowe has done much to draw from him those concessions; and the putting forth of this "most invulnerable moral panoply," that has just come into his head as a bulwark of safety for slavery, owes its impetus to her, and other like efforts. I hope the Southern Press will not imitate the spoiled child, who refused to eat his pie for spite.
The "White Slave" I have not seen. I guess its character, for I made a passage to New York, some fourteen or fifteen years since, in a packet-ship, with a young woman whose face was enveloped in a profusion of light brown curls, and who sat at the table with the passengers all the way as a white woman. When at the quarantine, Staten Island, the captain received a letter, sent by express mail, from a person in New Orleans, claiming her as his slave,'and threatening the captain with the penalty of the existing law if she was not immediately returned. The streaming eyes of the poor, unfortunate girl told the truth, when the captain reluctantly broke it to her. She unhesitatingly confessed that she had runaway, and that a friend had paid her passage. Proper measures were taken, and she was conveyed to a packet-ship that was at Sandy Hook, bound for New Orleans.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," I think, is a just delineation of slavery. The incidents are colored, but the position that the slave is made to hold is just. I did not read every page of it, my object being to ascertain what position the slave occupied. I could state a case of whipping to death that would equal Uncle Tom's; still, such cases are not very frequent.
The stirring up of strife between neighbors, that the Southern Press complains of deserves notice. Who are neighbors? The most explicit answer to this question will be found in the reply Christ made to the lawyer, when he asked it of him. Another question will arise. Whether, in Christ's judgment, Mrs. Stowe would be considered a neighbor or an incendiary? As the Almighty Ruler of the universe and the Maker of man has said that He has made all the nations of the earth of one blood, and man in His own image, the black man, irrespective of his color, would seem to be a neighbor who has fallen among his enemies, that have deprived him of the fruits of his labor, his liberty, his right to his wife and children, his right to obtain the knowledge to read, or to anything that earth holds dear, except such portions of food and raiment as will fit him for his despoiler's purposes. Let not the apologists for slavery bring up the isolated cases of leniency, giving instruction, and affectionate attachment, that are found among some masters, as specimens of slavery! It is unfair! They form exceptions, and much do I respect them; but they are not the rules of slavery. The strife that is being stirred up is not to take away anything that belongs to another,—neither their silver or gold, their fine linen or purple, their houses or land, their horses or cattle, or anything that is their property; but to rescue a neighbor from their unmanly cupidity. A Republican.
No introduction is necessary to explain the following correspondence, and no commendation will be required to secure for it a respectful attention from thinking readers:
|||Washington City, D. C,|
Dec. 6, 1852.
D. R. Goodloe, Esq,
Dear Sir: I understand that you are a North Carolinian, and have always resided in the South you must, consequently, be acquainted with the workings of the institution of slavery. You have doubtless also read that world-renowned book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Mrs. Stowe. The apologists for slavery deny that this book is a truthful picture of slavery. They say that its representations are exaggerated, its scenes and incidents unfounded, and, in a word, that the whole book is a caricature. They also deny that families are separated,—that children are sold from their parents, wives from their husbands, &c. Under these circumstances, I am induced to ask your opinion of Mrs. Stowe's book, and whether or not, in your opinion, her statements are entitled to credit. I have the honor to be,
A. M. Gangewer.
Washington, Dec. 8, 1852.
Dear Sir: Your letter of the 6th inst., asking my opinion of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," has been received; and there being no reason why I should withhold it, unless it be the fear of public opinion (your object being, as I understand, the publication of my reply), I proceed to give it in some detail.
A book of fiction, to be worth reading, must necessarily be filled with rare and striking incidents, and the leading characters must be remarkable, some for great virtues, others, perhaps, for great vices or follies. A narrative of the ordinary events in the lives of commonplace people would be insufferably dull and insipid; and a book made up of such materials would be, to the elegant and graphic pictures of life and manners which we have in the writings of Sir Walter Scott and Dickens, what a surveyor's plot of a ten-acre field is to a painted landscape, in which the eye is charmed by a thousand varieties of hill and dale, of green shrubbery and transparent water, of light and shade, at a glance. In order to determine whether a novel is a fair picture of society, it is not necessary to ask if its chief personages are to be met with every day; but whether they are characteristic of the times and country,—whether they embody the prevalent sentiments, virtues, vices, follies, and peculiarities,—and whether the events, tragic or otherwise, are such as may and do occasionally occur.
Judging "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by these principles, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a faithful portraiture of Southern life and institutions. There is nothing in the book inconsistent with the laws and usages of the slave-holding states; the virtues, vices, and peculiar hues of character and manners, are all Southern, and must be recognized at once by every one who reads the book. I may never have seen such depravity in one man as that exhibited in the character of Legree, though I have ten thousand times witnessed the various shades of it in different individuals. On the other hand, I have never seen so many perfections concentrated in one human being as Mrs. Stowe has conferred upon the daughter of a slave-holder. Evangeline is an image of beauty and goodness which can never be effaced from the mind, whatever may be its prejudices. Yet her whole character is fragrant of the South; her generous sympathy, her beauty and delicacy, her sensibility are all Southern. They are "to the manor born,' and embodying as they do the Southern ideal of beauty and loveliness, cannot be ostracized from Southern hearts, even by the power of the vigilance committees.
The character of St. Clare cannot fail to inspire love and admiration. He is the beau ideal of a Southern gentleman,—honorable, generous and humane, of accomplished manners, liberal education, and easy fortune. In his treatment of his slaves, he errs on the side of lenity, rather than vigor; and is always their kind protector, from a natural impulse of goodness, without much reflection upon what may befall them when death or misfortune shall deprive them of his friendship.
Mr. Shelby, the original owner of Uncie Tom, and who sells him to a trader, from the pressure of a sort of pecuniary necessity, is by no means a bad character; his wife and son are whatever honor and humanity could wish; and, in a word, the only white persons who make any considerable figure in the book to a disadvantage are the villain Legree, who is a Vermonter by birth, and the oily-tongued slave-trader Haley, who has the accent of a Northerner. It is, therefore, evident that Mrs. Stowe's object in writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has not been to disparage Southern character. A careful analysis of the book would authorize the opposite inference,—that she has studied to shield the Southern people from opprobrium, and even to convey an elevated idea of Southern society, at the moment of exposing the evils of the system of slavery. She directs her batteries against the institution, not against individuals; and generously makes a renegade Vermonter stand for her most hideous picture of a brutal tyrant.
Invidious as the duty may be, I cannot withhold my testimony to the fact that families of slaves are often separated. I know not how any man can have the hardihood to deny it. The thing is notorious, and is often the subject of painful remark in the Southern States. I have often heard the practice of separating husband and wife, parent and child, defended, apologized for, paliated in a thousand ways, but have never heard it denied. How could it be denied, in fact, when probably the very circumstance which elicited the conversation was a case of cruel separation then transpiring? No, sir! the denial of this fact by mercenary scribblers may deceive persons at a distance, but it can impose upon no one at the South.
In all the slave-holding states the relation of matrimony between slaves, or between a slave and free person, is merely voluntary. There is no law sanctioning it, or recognizing it in any shape, directly or indirectly. In a word, it is illicit, and binds no one,—neither the slaves themselves nor their masters. In separating husband and wife, or parent and child, the trader or owner violates no law of the state—neither statute nor common law. He buys or sells at auction or privately that which the majesty of the law has declared to be property. The victims may writhe in agony, and the tender-hearted spectator may look on with gloomy sorrow and indignation, but it is to no purpose. The promptings of mercy and justice in the heart are only in rebellion against the law of the land.
The law itself not unfrequently performs the most cruel separations of families, almost without the intervention of individual agency. This happens in the case of persons who die insolvent, or who become so during lifetime. The estate, real and personal, must be disposed of at auction to the highest bidder, and the executor, administrator, sheriff, trustee, or other person whose duty it is to dispose of the property, although he may possess the most humane intentions in the world. cannot present the final severance of the most endearing ties of kindred. The illustration given by Mrs. Stowe, in the sale of Uncle Tom by Mr. Shelby, is a very common case. Pecuniary embarrassment is a most fruitful source of misfortune to the slave as well as the master; and instances of family ties broken from this cause are of daily occurrence.
It often happens that great abuses exist in vioation of law, and in spite of the efforts of the authorities to suppress them; such is the case with drunkenness, gambling, and other vices. But here is a law common to all the slave-holding states, which upholds and gives countenance to the wrong-doer, while its blackest terrors are reserved for those who would interpose to protect the innocent. Statesmen of elevated and honorable characters, from a vague notion of state necessity, have defended this law in the abstract, while they would, without hesitation, condemn every instance of its application as unjust.
In one respect I am glad to see it publicly denied that the families of slaves are separated; for while it argues a disreputable want of candor, it at the same time evinces a commendable sense of shame, and induces the hope that the public opinion at the South will not much longer tolerate this most odious, though not essential, part of the system of slavery.
In this connection I will call to your recollection a remark of the editor of the Southern Press, in one of the last numbers of that paper, which acknowledges the existence of the abuse in question, and recommends its correction. He says:
"The South has a great moral conflict to wage; and it is for her to put on the most invulnerable moral panoply. Hence it is her duty, as well as interest, to mitigate or remove whatever of evil that results incidentally from the institution. The separation of husband and wife, parent and child, is one of these evils, which we know is generally avoided and repudiated there—although cases sometimes occur which we observe are seized by these Northern fanatics as characteristic illustrations of the system. Now we can see no great evil or inconvenience, but much good, in the prohibition by law of such occurrences. Let the husband and wife be sold together, and the parents and minor children. Such a law would affect but slightly the general value or availability of slave property, and would prevent in some cases the violence done to the feelings of such connections by sales either compulsory or voluntary. We are satisfied that it would be beneficial to the master and slave to promote marriage, and the observance of all its duties and relations."
Much as I have differed with the editor of the Southern Press in his general views of public policy, I am disposed to forgive him past errors in consideration of his public acknowledgment of this "incidental evil," and his frank recommendation of its removal. A Southern newspaper less devoted than the Southern Press to the maintenance of slavery would be seriously compromised by such a suggestion, and its advice would be far less likely to be heeded. I think, therefore, that Mr. Fisher deserves the thanks of every good man, North and South, for thus boldly pointing out the necessity of reform.
The picture which Mrs. Stowe has drawn of slavery as an institution is anything but favorable. She has illustrated the frightful cruelty and oppression that must result from a law which gives to one class of society almost absolute and irresponsible power over another. Yet the very machinery she has employed for this purpose shows that all who are parties to the system are not necessarily culpable. It is a high virtue in St. Clare to purchase Uncle Tom. He is actuated by no selfish or improper motive. Moved by a desire to gratify his daughter, and prompted by his own humane feelings, he purchases a slave, in order to rescue him from a hard fate on the plantations. If he had not been a slave-holder before, it was now his duty to become one. This, I think, is the moral to be drawn from the story of St. Clare, and the South have a right to claim the authority of Mrs. Stowe in defence of slave-holding, to this extent. It may be said that it was the duty of St. Clare to emancipate Uncle Tom; but the wealth of the Rothschilds would not enable a man to act out his benevolent instincts at such a price. And if such was his duty, is it not equally the duty of every monied man in the free states to attend the New Orleans slave-mart with the same benevolent purpose in view? It seems to me that to purchase a slave with the purpose of saving him from a hard and cruel fate, and without any view to emancipation, is itself a good action. If the slave should subsequently become able to redeem himself, it would doubtless be the duty of the owner to emancipate him; and it would be but even-handed justice to set down every dollar of the slave's earnings, above the expense of his maintenance, to his credit, until the price paid for him should be fully restored. This is all that justice could exact of the slave-holder.
Those who have railed against "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as an incendiary publication have singularly (supposing that they have read the book) overlooked the moral of the hero's life. Uncle Tom is the most faithful of servants. He literally "obeyed in all things" his "masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God." If his conduct exhibits the slightest departure from a literal fulfilment of this injunction of Scripture, it is in a case which must command the approbation of the most rigid casuist; for the injunction of obedience extends, of course, only to lawful commands. It is only when the monster Legree commands him to inflict undeserved chastisement upon his fellow-servants, that Uncle Tom refuses obedience. He would not listen to a proposition of escaping into Ohio with the young woman Eliza, on the night after they were sold by Mr. Shelby to the trader Haley. He thought it would be bad faith to his late master, whom he had nursed in his arms, and might be the means of bringing him into difficulty. He offered no resistance to Haley, and obeyed even Legree in every legitimate command. But when he was required to be the instrument of his master's cruelty, he chose rather to die, with the courage and resolution of a Christian martyr, than to save his life by a guilty compliance. Such was Uncle Tom—not a bad example for the imitation of man or master. I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob't serv't,
Daniel R. Goodloe.
A. M. Gangewer, Esq.,
Washington, D. C.
The writer has received permission to publish the following extract from a letter received by a lady at the North from the editor of a Southern paper. The mind and character of the author will speak for themselves, in the reading of it:
Charleston, Sunday, 25th July, 1852.
* * * The books, I infer, are Mrs. Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The book was furnished me by ——— ———, about a fortnight ago, and you may be assured I read it with an attentive interest. "Now, what is your opinion of it?" you will ask; and, knowing my preconceived opinions upon the question of slavery, and the embodiment of my principles, which I have so long supported, in regard to that peculiar institution, you may be prepared to meet an indirect answer. This my own consciousness of truth would not allow, in the present instance. The book is a truthful picture of life, with the dark outlines beautifully portrayed. The life—the characteristics, incidents, and the dialogues—is life itself reduced to paper. In her appendix she rather evades the question whether it was taken from actual scenes, but says there are many counterparts. In this she is correct, beyond doubt. Had she changed the picture of Legree, on Red river, for ——— ———, on ——— Island, South Carolina, she could not have drawn a more admirable portrait. I am led to question whether she had not some knowledge of this beast, as he is known to be, and made the transposition for effect.
My position in connection with the extreme party, both in Georgia and South Carolina, would constitute a restraint to the full expression of my feelings upon several of the governing principles of the institution. I have studied slavery, in all its different phases,—have been thrown in contact with the negro in different parts of the world, and made it my aim to study his nature, so far as my limited abilities would give me light,—and, whatever my opinions have been, they were based upon what I supposed to be honest convictions.
During the last three years you well know what my opportunities have been to examine all the sectional bearings of an institution which now holds the great and most momentous question of our federal well-being. These opportunities I have not let pass, but have given myself, body and soul, to a knowledge of its vast intricacies,—to its constitutional compact, and its individual hardships. Its wrongs are in the constituted rights of the master, and the blank letter of those laws which pretend to govern the bondman's rights. What legislative act, based upon the construction of self-protection for the very men who contemplate the laws,—even though their intention was amelioration,—could be enforced, when the legislated object is held as the bond property of the legislator? The very fact of constituting a law for the amelioration of property becomes an absurdity, so far as carrying it out is concerned. A law which is intended to govern, and gives the governed no means of seeking its protection, is like the clustering together of so many useless words for vain show. But why talk of law? That which is considered the popular rights of a people, and every tenacious prejudice set forth to protect its property interest, creates its own power, against every weaker vessel. Laws which interfere with this become unpopular,—repugnant to a forceable will, and a dead letter in effect. So long as the voice of the governed cannot be heard, and his wrongs are felt beyond the jurisdiction or domain of the law, as nine-tenths are, where is the hope of redress? The master is the powerful vessel; the negro feels his dependence, and, fearing the consequences of an appeal for his rights, submits to the cruelty of his master, in preference to the dread of something more cruel. It is in those disputed cases of cruelty we find the wrongs of slavery, and in those governing laws which give power to bad Northern men to become the most cruel task-masters. Do not judge, from my observations, that I am seeking consolation for the abolitionists. Such is not my intention; but truth to a course which calls loudly for reformation constrains me to say that humanity calls for some law to govern the force and absolute will of the master, and to reform no part is more requisite than that which regards the slave's food and raiment. A person must live years at the South before he can become fully acquainted with the many workings of slavery. A Northern man not prominently interested in the political and social weal of the South may live for years in it, and pass from town to town in his every-day pursuits, and yet see but the polished side of slavery. With me it has been different. Its effect upon the negro himself, and its effect upon the social and commercial well-being of Southern society, has been laid broadly open to me, and I have seen more of its workings within the past year than was disclosed to me all the time before. It is with these feelings that I am constrained to do credit to Mrs. Stowe's book, which I consider must have been written by one who derived the materials from a thorough acquaintance with the subject. The character of the slave-dealer, the bankrupt owner in Kentucky, and the New Orleans merchant, are simple every-day occurrences in these parts. Editors may speak of the dramatic effect as they please; the tale is not told them, and the occurrences of common reality would form a picture more glaring. I could write a work, with date and incontrovertible facts, of abuses which stand recorded in the knowledge of the community in which they were transacted, that would need no dramatic effect, and would stand out ten-fold more horrible than anything Mrs. Stowe has described.
I have read two columns in the Southern Press of Mrs. Eastman's "Aunt Phillis' Cabin, or Southern Life as It Is," with the remarks of the editor. I have no comments to make upon it, that being done by itself. The editor might have saved himself being writ down an ass by the public, if he had withheld his nonsense. If the two columns are a specimen of Mrs. Eastman's book, I pity her attempt and her name as an author.
- The leader of the insurrection in lower Virginia, in which upwards of a hundred white persons, principally women and children, were massacred in cold blood.
- E. D.'s father survived him only a few months.