The Under-Ground Railroad

Rev. W.M.Mitchell - The Under-Ground Railroad p6.png





The Rev. W. M. Mitchell,

of Toronto, C. W.

London: William Tweedie, 337, Strand.

Manchester: William Bremner, 11, Market St.,
and 15, Piccadilly.

Birmingham: Hudson & Son, 18, Bull Street.




The Author of the following work is a gentleman of colour, who was born and reared in North Carolina, United States. In early life he was left a destitute orphan, and had but few educational advantages. By the local authorities of Guildford County, in that state, he was bound apprentice to a Planter, whose land was cultivated by the unrequited toil of a company of his enslaved fellow-creatures, whose labour was enforced by the whip, and whose faults, real or fictitious, were punished by torture. His master was also a heartless trader in human beings. It affords a glimpse into Slave morals, that though our Author was freeborn, and, in consequence of his mother being an Indian, legally exempt from bondage, it was necessary to provide expressly in the indenture by which he was bound, against his being kidnapped or ensnared into Slavery. In this service he mis-spent twelve precious years of his life, and became inured to the inflicting of the cruelties attendant upon Man-stealing and Slave-driving. During the last five years of the time, the entire managenent of the business was committed to his hands. Hence he is personally conversant with all the disgusting details of Plantation Slave-life, of the Slave-pen, and of the Auction-block. It has since been a source of grief to him to recollect the part he took in ordering and superintending the harrassing and flogging of men, women, and children; and in separating for life those dearest one to the other, whose ties of kinship man has no power to sever. The wife and the child are still the wife and the child, how far and how long soever they be parted from husband and parent.

After leaving the unholy business, Mr. Mitchell was brought under the power of God's converting grace. The study of Christianity resulted—as it ever must, when unbiassed—in his discarding with abhorence the iniquities inherent in Slavery, which in ignorance and depravity he had assisted to perpetrate. He devoted himself from that day to the cause of the enslaved; and unto this day his devotion has continued to burn with unceasing ardour and indomitable persistency. While engaged in the ministry of Christ's gospel, he has justly regarded it an essential part of his work to promote the letting-go of the oppressed, undoing of the heavy burden, and the breaking of every yoke. Believing the enactment of the Mosaic law to involve a moral principle, which is of perpetual and universal obligation, he has endeavoured to act as answering to the voice of God, saying unto him, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant (bondman) which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee; even among you, in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him." (Deut. 23: 15, 16.) Resident in the State of Ohio, he was for many years an active member of a Vigilance Committee, whose business is to aid fugitives from Slavery in escaping to Canada. This is explained in the following pages, and is done in violation of iniquitous law, and at the risk of both money and liberty. But it is in obedience to the will of God, enjoined by the prophet Isaiah (chap. 16, v. 3, 4):—"Bring counsel," i. e. be deliberately united, "interpose with equity; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of noon-day; hide the outcasts; discover not the fugitive. Let the outcasts of Moab sojourn with thee (Oh! Sion); be thou to them a covert from the destroyer." (Lowth's Translation.) Acting thus as a director of the so-called "Underground Railroad," he has been a blessing to numbers of poor creatures, whose blessing in return has rested upon him and his fellow-directors. By a wise man, "the blessing of him that is ready to perish" is never despised; and certainly not the loving gratitude of those who by his aid attained unto freedom, comfort, and respectability. Amongst those whose escape it has been his honour and privilege to promote, it will interest the reader to know, is "Eliza," of Mrs. Stowe, in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," whose passage over the ice with her lovely boy has thrilled so many millions of readers. The Rev. John Rankin, a well-known Abolitionist, whose zeal during a long life has never flagged, and who has aided in the escape of thousands of fugitives, was the first to shelter this miraculously aided woman upon her stepping on the Ohio shore of the river. He passed her on to our author, who took charge of her for a brief period, and conveyed her into the care of another. This fact is related in the book itself. I refer to it because of the additional proof it affords that the talented authoress of that bewitching work has recorded facts, and has not been guilty of exaggeration.

A few years ago, Mr. Mitchell became a missionary to the escaped fugitives in Toronto, Canada West, in the service of the American Baptist Free Mission Society—the only one of that denomination in the United States which takes proper ground in denouncing Slavery as a sin, and refusing to touch its proceeds. He has succeeded in gathering a large congregation of this class of persons, but their poverty, and, alas, the strength of prejudice against colour existing in that British colony, has necessitated his visit to this country to collect money to build a chapel and school-house for their use and benefit. On his coming to me with a letter from a friend, I rigidly examined his credentials; and being fully satisfied with them, I have deemed it a privilege to promote his object to the extent of my ability. Having had the pleasure to hear him address many audiences, I have become impressed with the importance of giving permanent form to the principal narratives and facts he is accustomed to relate. Hence I suggested the publishing of the book now in the hands of the reader. The suggestion having been cordially sanctioned by many well-known philantropists, it is hoped that by their aid and that of others, the little work will obtain a wide circulation. By this means good will be done. The excellent object Mr. Mitchell has in view will be served, as the condition and claims of the fugitives in Canada—that interesting class of our fellow British subjects—will become better known to those who have the means and the will to assist them. At least a portion of the profits of the book will be given to the building now in course of erection, which he hopes will be the centre of his future labours. Principally, however, additional information will be diffused respecting that giant crime—American Slavery. Introduced by us into that country, and still sustained by our commerce, we are more closely connected with it than any other nation. Its abolition must and will be brought about mainly by British influence. In this noble work English Christians must take the lead, as they did in effecting emancipation in the West Indies. Dr. Albert Barnes, the celebrated commentator, has repeatedly testified that Slavery could not exist one hour if the church in that country put forth her power. This witness is true; but I am persuaded that the impetus must be given by the church in this country. Our Christian merchants, manufacturers, and artizans, those princes of wealth, enterprise, skill, and industry, must bring their moral influence to bear upon the four-million-fold enormity, and it will sink beneath the pressure, but not before. Every instrumentality tending to evoke that influence is valuable—though apparently feeble as this little book. "Who hath despised the day of small things?"

For grains of sand the mountains make,

And atomies infinitude.

A spark may fire a Moscow, or a mouse may tease an elephant to death. God speed this little book, then, and make it mighty to the pulling down of that stronghold of Satanic blood-guiltiness and woe.

I need not add how cordially I recommend the case of Mr. Mitchell to the beneficent of every denomination and class. Humanity and religion are alike interested in it. Already he has been well received, and in all instances he has elicited testimonies of his candour, sincerity, and ability. His credentials are indubitable, his reputation bigh, and his speeches are thrilling. He has done good service in behalf of the enslaved since he came to England, and I doubt not he will yet render efficient aid before he returns to his family and flock. I sincerely pray for the complete success of his mission amongst us, for his safe arrival home in due time, and for a long future of uninterrupted prosperity in the cause of truth and grace.


Trinity Chapel, Trinity-street, Southwark,

August 22, 1860.

P.S. Out of the multitude of testimonials spontaneously borne in favour of Mr. Mitchell, I may append the two following:—

From the Bolton Guardian, April 12, 1860.

"His address was delivered with great freedom and animation, and gave proofs of mental and oratorical powers of no mean degree. The audience frequently applauded the noble sentiments of the speaker."

From the St. Albans Times, March, 1860.

"Mr. Mitchell is a popular orator, and in himself a fine specimen of the intellectual capacity of the coloured race. We believe his visit to England will not only be eminently successful as regards its special object, but also in awakening a much stronger feeling than even now exists against Slavery and the Slave Trade."


Clayton Place, Kennington Road, London,

August 20, 1860.

My dear Sir,

I read and re-read your small work with deep attention and interest, and rejoice that in your forthcoming publication you are about to supply some authentic narratives of the perilous adventures and, in most instances, great sufferings of those who are courageous enough to leave the house of bondage for the home of freedom; while I think your book will be a valuable addition to our Anti-Slavery literature, I am desirous that it should do more than merely furnish reading to the friends of the Slave. I earnestly wish it may excite such an active and liberal sympathy as may lead to the speedy contribution of the sum which is needed to enable you to accomplish the object of your mission, and then to return to that field of ministerial and benevolent labour which you have left behind you.

I can, with confidence recommend you to the Abolitionists of Great Britain, having made myself acquainted with your credentials. Knowing, also, that you are the Authorised Agent of the Free Mission Society, and that you possess the esteem and good opinion of those whom you represent in Canada. The work in which you are engaged is a most important one, both in connection with the welfare of those who are fortunate enough to escape from Slavery into the British dominions, and the progressive improvement and elevation, morally and religiously, of the coloured community of Western Canada.

It is my sincere hope that through the publication of your "Under-ground Railroad," and your other efforts, your labours amongst us may be soon terminated by complete success, and that you may then, after a safe return to America, long live to succour the needy, instruct the ignorant, and advance the glorious cause of human emancipation.

Believe me, my dear Sir,

Very truly yours,


Rev. W. Mitchell.

34, Newington Crescent, S.

19th August, 1860.

My dear Sir,

I have read with great interest the little book you have written, and are about to publish, for the purpose of enlisting English sympathy on behalf of the Fugitive Slaves of America. The book contains the results of your own observations and experience, and is eminently calcilated to accomplish the object you have in view. I hope, therefore, that your enterprise will receive the support of all our Anti-Slavery friends, and of no small portion of the general public.

In conclusion, I must be allowed to pay my tribute to the earnestness and success of your labours in this country on behalf of your oppressed and suffering race.

Very truly yours,


Hon. Sec. London Emancipation Committee.

Rev. W. Mitchell.

From Wm. Howard Day, Esq., M.A., of Chatham, Kent County, Canada West.

4, America Square, Minories, London, E.C.,

August 20, 1860.

Rev. William M. Mitchell.

Dear Brother,

I am happy to add a word to the numerous endorsements already given you, as to the necessity of the work in which you are engaged in Canada, and as to the earnestness which, from personal knowledge, I can testify you exercise in that work.

More or less, since 1843, I have been in Canada among the Fugitive Slaves, teaching and labouring otherwise for their benefit. I have even travelled for three hundred miles on foot from house to house, to visit these people in their homes. For the last five years I have been a permanent resident among them; and think, therefore, I know the people and their instructors. And to you, who know me, I think I can say, without being liable to the charge of attempting to flatter you, that among the Ministers in Canada in direct contact with the coloured people, I know of none who are preaching with more effect, and labouring otherwise with more earnest desire to do good, than you.

Meeting you here, providentially, I have been pleased to attend upon your meetings lately held, and in my humble way otherwise to evince my earnest desire that you succeed in your excellent object, viz., to rear a Chapel in the city of Toronto, for the benefit of the Colonial people, for the worship of the Living God.

As a labourer in Canada, I may be permitted to say I do earnestly hope that you may be soon enabled to return to your interesting field of labour, laden with the practical sympathy of this great country for the Fugitive Slave. The fewness of the labourers render this the more necessary, and your position in the city of Toronto renders it more urgent still.

The book which you now bring forward as a means to enable you to accomplish your object, I have read and re-read with great interest, not merely because it is full of thrilling facts, but because I have been personally acquainted with some of the individuals named, and the facts detailed. I believe they are all what they pass for—facts. Perhaps it is easier for me to believe them so to be, because I have, as before stated, been conversant with those who have thus escaped by this "Under-ground Railroad." But a look into the Prison-house of American Bondage, and an acquaintance with its victims, will convince any that "Truth is stranger than fiction."

This work ought to be circulated, because it teaches the ABC of Anti-Slavery, as well as its higher mathematics. There is need to again arouse the sentiment of this country as against Chattelization, or human Slavery: and as the pioneers are passing away—the men who achieved West India Freedom—and as we become commercially more attached to the Land of Bondage, we need to indoctrinate anew the present generation. Thus commerce will not entirely stultify our national conscience; thus our supineness and indifference, induced mainly by the use of Slave-labour Cotton as opposed to Cotton of Free Labour, will pass away, and the British heart again speak its true word against the enslavement of man.

This work by you, dear Sir, is another evidence of what a man can accomplish who, like yourself, has had to acquire education, even in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties. The encouragement of this work will, therefore, be an encouragement to all such as are struggling against tremendous odds, and thereby a grand help to our grander cause.

In the best of bonds,
I remain.
Very truly for freedom,

It affords me much gratification to join with those esteemed friends who have already testified to Mr. Mitchell's claims being worthy of the sympathy and support of all Christian people. The cause in which he is engaged is a most important one—the service he is endeavouring to render to the Fugitive Slave population, one which has been long lost sight of; and his credentials are such as must satisfy every one of his fitness for his work. I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Mitchell address a large assembly the other evening, and can testify to his being a man of no ordinary ability.

Chaplain to his Excellency, the Lord Lieutenant.
Dublin, 9th April, 1859.

I can fully express my hope that the Christian friends in Dublin will cheerfully accord to Mr. Mitchell such proofs of their good will as to enable him and his coloured brethren to hold on their way cheerfully in the good work of our common Lord.


Dublin, Ireland.

I have pleasure in adding my testimony to that of my highly esteemed friend, Dr. Urwick; I have looked at Mr. Mitchell's credentials, which are many and strong; and having stopped myself some time at Toronto, I can well assert that the object he is endeavouring to carry out is one that deserves our Christian sympathy.

Chaplain to His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant,
Dublin, Ireland. I have much pleasure in recommending Mr. Mitchell and his cause to the Christian public, as one deserving their sympathy.

The Hon. and Rev. BAPTIST W. NOEL.


Mr. Mitchell and his Cause, with his much-esteemed and worty Companion, Rev. W. Troy, have been recommended to the sympathies of British Christians by the New Association for the abolition of Slavery, Glasgow; and their reception by the Anti-Slavery Societies in Ireland, Scotland, and England, for whom they have lectured, has been most satisfactory to them and the friends of humanity in this country.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).