Slavery and Slave Trade in the District of Columbia. --Robey's Pen. Kidnappers. --Soul-drivers. --State of Morals. --Free Blacks. --Country impoverished. --Principles of Constitution. --Claim for Impressed Slave. --Wages and Mileage of Members of Congress. --Mr. Clay. --Juvenile Depravity. --Funeral of Member. --Average Age of Members. --President's Protest. --Mr. Leigh's Speech.
THE day after my first visit to the Cherokee chiefs I renewed my conversation with the slave in the breakfast-room of the hotel. I asked him how it was that he spoke English so correctly. He said that he had travelled about a good deal with different gentlemen, and had taken great pains to improve his language. He regretted much that he could not read and write. He had been married three times; --not that he had been twice a widower, --but such is the state of morals among the slaves, that the purest and most constant attachment does not wait for death to dissolve it. Connexions of this sort are necessarily but physical in their motives, as they are uncertain in their duration: the most endearing ties which can bind the parties together by tokens and objects of mutual affection being liable to be torn asunder at a moment's warning. "If the owner of my wife," he observed, "should endorse a bill, and the drawer fail, he would perhaps sell her to obtain money; and we should never see each other again."
I asked him whether the slaves in the house were allowed to keep what they might receive as presents from the guests; and was glad to find that, though legally disqualified from holding property, what was given to them became their own. "The times," he added, "are not so good for us as they were. I remember when we could accumulate something: but we are not so fortunate now." The Colonization Society, he thought, had done them great injury, by lessening the little interest that was before felt for them, and increasing the wish to get rid of them. While conversing with me, he used the word "gentleman," in what might be thought a singular manner, if the term were less indefinite in its meaning. Not being able to answer a question put to him, he pointed to another slave, and said: "that gentleman will tell you better than I can." I have often known the expression less appropriately applied. If the idea of any thing just or honorable be associated with the phrase; --if it imply a disposition to render to every man his due, I doubt not the person he referred to had at, least an equal claim with his master to the appellation. Two or three persons from the free States had been trying to convince this unfortunate man that he was more happy as a slave than he would be as a free man*.
The reasons given in support of this assertion, carried with them an indelible stigma upon the national character. What a country, where injustice lays her persecuting hand upon those who have escaped from oppression! --where the brand of infamy is stamped on the scars that cruelty has left; and the bond are told to find motives for resignation in the wrongs of the free!
* If so, why are free blacks, when convicted of certain crimes, sold as slaves? It is an odd way of preventing crime to place the criminal in a better situation than the innocent. "Slavery," said Governor Giles to the legislature of Virginia, in 1827, " must be admitted to be a punishment of the highest order; and, according to every just rule for the apportionment of punishment to crimes, it would seem, ought to be applied only to crimes of the highest order; but, under the existing laws, in case of free people of color only, it is extended to crimes not involving capital punishment."
"It seems," he adds, "but an act of justice to this unfortunate degraded class of persons, to state that the number of convicts compared with the whole population, exceeding 35,000, is extremely small, and would serve to shew, that even this description of our population is less demoralized than is generally supposed."
The truth will come out occasionally.
The manner in which the parental tie is disregarded here, is such as to render indifference to the best feelings of a parent's heart a matter of self-defence. The farmers in the neighborhood of Washington, breed slaves, as our graziers breed cattle, for the market; and a mother's agony for the loss of her child is no more regarded than the lowing of a cow for the calf that is carried off to be fattened for the butcher. We may judge of the anguish felt by the mothers, when they are "weeping for their children, and will not be comforted," by an event that occurred in 1828 at Yorkville, in South Carolina. A negro woman was executed there for the murder of her own child. "We are informed," says The Pioneer of that place, "that she made a confession of the crime with which she was charged, and assigned as her reason for doing so, that her master intended to sell her." She would have been separated, perhaps for ever, from her child. The thought of this drove her to madness.
It is not sufficient for the national dishonor, that the district marked out for the residence and immediate jurisdiction of the general government should be polluted by slavery. Here, under the eyes of Congress, --in defiance of public opinion, --and as if courting the observation of assembled legislators and ambassadors, a traffic, the most base and revolting, is carried on by a set of ruffians, with whom it would be the greatest injustice to compare our resurrection-men. They are called slave-traders, and their occupation is to kidnap every colored stranger they can lay their hands on. No matter whether he be free or not, his papers, if he chance to have any they can get at, are taken from him; and he is hurried to gaol, from whence, under pretence that the documents he has in his possession are not satisfactory, or that he is unable to pay the expenses of his arrest and detention, he is sent off to the southern market. Men, women, and children, indiscriminately, who come to Washington in search of employment, or to visit their friends, are liable to be carried off by these land-sharks; one of whom boasted to a man, from whom I had the statement, that he had just made forty dollars by a job. Proprietors of slaves would be ungrateful if they did not connive at the iniquities of the kidnapper. The net that is laid for the unfriended free man is pretty sure to catch the runaway. These villains deal with the drivers and agents, and sometimes with the planters themselves. A poor fellow, whose claims to freedom were pronounced defective, was purchased by one of them, not long ago, for a dollar, and sold the next day for four hundred. the same time , a colored young woman was entering the city from the country, when she was pursued by one of these blood-hounds; and, to escape, threw herself into the river, and was drowned. No notice whatever was taken of this horrible occurrence by the public papers; though it was a matter of notoriety. Another woman, to save her children, who would all have been doomed to slavery, if her claims to freedom had been rejected, precipitated herself from the top of a house, where she was confined, and was so dreadfully mutilated and mangled that she was suffered to escape, because she was no longer fit for sale. There was no doubt that she was a free woman; but she knew a whole family of young slaves was too valuable a property not to turn the scale against her.
"Not long since ," (see Niles's Reg. for July 1821,) "a negro man, at the moment of his transfer to one of these blood-merchants, cut his own throat on a public wharf at Baltimore; and, a few days ago, a negro woman, near Snow-hill in this State, (Maryland,) on being informed that she was sold, first cut the throat of her child, and then her own, --by which both of them immediately died."
Another, in the same year, at Baltimore, having been "sold to a dealer in human flesh for transportation, cut his own throat, and died at the moment when he was about to be delivered over to the bloodmerchant through his agent, a peace-officer." --Niles.
Many cases of extreme atrocity were related to me. One was that of an unfortunate girl, whose mistress, from ungrounded jealousy, employed some of her slaves to hold her down, and then, with her own hands, cut off the fore part of her feet. This was done during the absence of her husband. She was then carried bleeding into an adjoining wood, and left there to perish. It happened to be a frosty night, and her wounds were stanched by the cold.
Her life was eventually preserved by a good Samaritan, who, hearing her groans, went to her and carried her to his own home, where she continued to live; --her master, who had by chance discovered the place of her retreat, having presented her with her freedom, --partly in consideration of her sufferings, and partly to shield her from the resentment of his wife, who tried every art to get her into her power again. Were it not for the noble exertions that a few kind-hearted men, of whom I had the happiness to know two or three, are ready to make, as they have already made many, for the protection and defence of these helpless creatures, by far the greater part would be for ever deprived of their freedom; as it is very difficult for them, unfriended and unpitied, to establish a claim, which so many find it their interest to defeat or deny. Here, as in most, if not all, slave countries, the presumption is against liberty; and, contrary to every principle of moral and municipal law, a man is pronounced guilty because he cannot prove himself innocent. The onus is thrown upon the accused; and he is declared to be a slave, if he is unable to shew that he is free.
The committee of the House of Representatives on the district of Columbia, reported, in 1827, that this presumption, founded on immemorial usage, and sanctioned by judicial decisions, was so necessary to the security of slave-property, that, "although it may occasionally operate as a temporary hardship upon free persons of color, migrating to slave-holding States, from States in the Union where there exists no provision of law for the register of the evidences of emancipation or of freedom, they cannot recommend an abrogation of this long established priniciple." No doubt the Arabs and Algerines, the pirates of Cuba and Sumatra, have the same usages and principles: and what traveller or merchant would be allowed to dispute their justice, when once they have got him into their clutches?
Frequent petitions have been presented to congress, praying for the abolition of slavery in the district of Columbia: --nothing however has been done; and the memorials are no more respected than the subject or the signers. There is no part of the Union, from which the road to Washington leads through the temple of Liberty.
was led, from seeing a great many advertisements in the papers, offering rewards for runaway slaves, more particularly in the case of a woman and three children, to infer, that with such facilities of escape, this species of property must be of a very precarious and evanescent nature. Upon inquiry, however, I found I had judged very erroneously of the vigilance exercised in its protection. Many of those, I was assured, for whose apprehension these rewards are offered, have already been sold by their owners; who have recourse to this expedient, either to escape public censure, or, as is more probable, to conceal the distress which has compelled them to part with a sort of property that is not easily replaced. Nearly all menial services are engrossed by this portion of the population, more especially in the hotels, where the free blacks are not likely to seek or to find employment. The latter are obliged to register their names at the proper offices in the district, and to give security for good behavior to the amount of 500 dollars. The fee for registration is one dollar and a quarter --about five shillings. Electors with us pay a shilling for this form. Personal liberty under a republic is thus five times as dear as political liberty under a limited monarchy.
Slaves on the farms are allowed a peck of Indian corn per week each, with the addition of a daily herring --a luxury which is far from being universal. Tavernkeepers and others who hire them of their masters, pay a certain sum per month, and feed them; the latter finding their clothing. One day I went to see the "slaves' pen" --a wretched hovel, "right against" the Capitol, from which it is distant about half a mile, with no house intervening. The outside alone is accessible to the eye of a visitor; what passes within being reserved for the exclusive observation of its owner, (a man of the name of Robey,) and his unfortunate victims. It is surrounded by a wooden paling fourteen or fifteen feet in height, with the posts outside to prevent escape, and separated from the building by a space too narrow to admit of a free circulation of air. At a small window above, which was unglazed and exposed alike to the heat of summer and the cold of winter, so trying to the constitution, two or three sable faces appeared, looking out wistfully to while away the time and catch a refreshing breeze; the weather being extremely hot. In this wretched hovel, all colors, except white --the only guilty one --both sexes, and all ages, are confined, exposed indiscriminately to all the contamination which may be expected in such society and under such seclusion. The inmates of the gaol, of this class I mean, are even worse treated; some of them, if my informants are to be believed, having been actually frozen to death, during the inclement winters which often prevail in the country. While I was in the city, Robey had got possession of a woman, whose term of slavery was limited to six years. It was expected that she would be sold before the expiration of that period, and sent away to a distance, where the assertion of her claim would subject her to ill-usage. Cases of this kind are very common.
There was at the time a man in the gaol, who had been taken up on suspicion; and, as no one claimed him, he was to be sold to pay his fees*.
On these occasions , free papers would be of little avail to the accused; as the gaoler has it in his power, and frequently takes an opportunity, to destroy them, unless some person appears personally to give evidence in his favor.
* By the following law, which prevails in the State of Mississippi, it will be seen that the same person, whose testimony is rejected on the presumption of dishonesty, may be punished on the presumption of integrity; and, while he is no more than a brute in the witness box, is, in prison, responsible as a man.
When any slave or slaves shall be committed to any jail in this State, as a runaway, &c., it shall be the duty of the jailer, &c., to interrogate him, &c., as to his, &c., owner's name, &c., and the account thus received, together with a description of the slave, &c., the jailer shall forthwith transmit by mail to the owner, &c., named by the slave; and, if the statement made by said slave, &c., shall prove to be false, it shall be the duty of the jailer, without delay, to give the said slave, &c., twenty-five lashes, well laid on, and interrogate him, &c., anew, and transmit the intelligence obtained, together with a description as aforesaid, to the owner, &c., again named, and whip as before directed, if a second false account is given ; and so on, for the space of six months, it shall be the duty of the jailer alternately to interrogate and whip as aforesaid, whenever the said slave; &c., may give a, false account, &c:," --that is, whenever he shews he is, what the man who flogs him, tells you he is --not to be trusted.
The Benevolent Society of Alexandria stated, in 1827, that they had, in the first nine or ten months of their existence, wrested twelve people of color from the grasp of the slave-traders; and that they had reason to believe there were several others, entitled to their freedom, who had been sold: "If it were not," they added, " for this detestable traffic, those who have a large number of slaves upon poor land," (such is most of the soil near Washington,) "would not long be enabled to hold them; as it generally takes the whole produce of their labor to clothe and support them; and the only profit of the owner is derived from the sale of the young ones."
A most flagrant instance of cruelty occurred a year at two ago. A married woman, with a family, who had left her free papers in charge of Judge Hooper, of Centreville, in Maryland, was persuaded by a man, to whom she had hired herself, to accompany a fellow, who was to assist her in procuring these documents as a security against those outrages which so, often happen, but who proved to be a kidnapper --a confederate of her employer. This man brought her to Washington, on her way to New Orleans, where he intended to sell her. Here she was purchased by a notorious fellow of the name of Simson, and imprisoned in a room destined to such purposes in Robey's tavern; where she was brutally flogged, because she would not give up the name of a friend, (a white,) who had been to see her. The person from whom I had this account, the wife of one of those benevolent men alluded to as the friends of the oppressed, obtained an interview with her; and a letter having been dispatched to Centreville in Virginia, an answer was received that no such person was known there. It was too late when this mistake was rectified. A corroboration of her statement was sent by the postmaster of Centreville in Maryland, on being applied to. --She was on the road to New Orleans.
It is customary , when a sufficient number of slaves is obtained by the traffickers in this horrid business, to send them to the South, under the care of the soul-drivers, as they are called, who receive so much per head. If there are any good-looking mulatto girls in the gang, their charges are diminished. I need not say how they are remunerated. Lest there should be any difficulty on the road, they themselves qualify their victims. The person, from whom I had these details, heard one of these wretches boast of this expedient, as a constant practice with him.
In the district of Columbia, but one person has suffered for a capital offence during a period of twenty years; and he was a colored man, for a felonious attempt: the accuser being a white woman. Absence of punishment, however, is far from proving absence of crime; for, during that time, not a single year elapsed that did not witness the murder of one or more slaves in the ten miles square.
Every stranger must observe a marked difference in public morals between Washington and the principal cities in the non-slave-holding States. Disproportionately greater as the population is in the latter, respect is had to external decency; nor would it be easy to know what is passing within any house in New England by the display at the windows in open day and in the most frequented streets.
As industry is dishonored here, one of the greatest auxiliaries to female virtue is removed where it is most required; --at the seat of gaiety and idleness, the resort of the profligate, the wealthy, and the luxurious, the great centre of attraction to the intriguer, the placehunter, and the political adventurer. The consequences are such as might be expected from a combination of influences so ruinous to unprotected youth.
As Congress is empowered to regulate commerce between the States, and has exclusive jurisdiction in the district of Columbia, to abolish slavery in the latter and to prohibit the internal slave-trade, through the federal government, are the chief political objects of the "fanatics" in the North.
A motion lately made in the legislature of Vermont, to dismiss a resolution on the system of slavery in Columbia, was carried by a majority of 103 to 90 only. It will probably be contended, that these matters are to be regulated by the laws of Virginia and Maryland, some of which are still in force here. Such a principle seems to be the only way of explaining an expression used some years ago by Mr. Adams, to a deputation from Philadelphia to Washington: --"You have no more right to interfere with Columbia than I with Pennsylvania."
At Washington , the pride of color is in full operation. Wherever, among the objects of its scorn, there are any who, by their talents or respectable conduct, are silently advancing those claims which force alone can put down, the utmost efforts are made to draft them off to another hemisphere. I found this to be invariably the case, whatever part of the country I visited. I was in company for two or three hours with several of this description here; and their observations all tended to the same conclusion. In those States where slave labor is unprofitable, (as I have before observed,) the transportation scheme is warmly supported, as it was at first started; where "great gain" is made out of the system, it is as warmly opposed, because it tends to keep up the price of what they deal in. The buyer, of course, says "it is naught": the seller knows better.
The changes that impend over communities may generally be seen in the expedients which those in power have adopted to counteract or retard them. The more absurd the plan, the more perplexed, it may be presumed, are the schemers, and the more certain is their discomfiture. It is the proper punishment of those who have not pursued "the best policy", that reason should desert those who have deserted justice. Never was this truth more clearly or more forcibly exemplified than in the conduct of Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. They are dying under "a sore disease", and they have recourse to a nostrum that compels its continuance, while it holds out the hope of its removal. They have overtraded in iniquity, and they are mortgaging their children's well-being by a fresh loan of wickedness. "Why", says a writer, in the Southern Agriculturist," has mirth deserted the halls of our forefathers? and why has the halloo of boyish revelry ceased to be heard through the spacious walks of our country gardens? Could those walks speak, or the shrubbery answer, they would tell us it was prodigality and bad management: it was because our fathers neglected to plan corn, pease, potatoes, and pumpions (?sic). Our forefathers had always raised enough of them on their plantations for all domestic purposes, without sacrificing their indigo crops to buy those essentials at an exorbitant price, when they were most needed; as our fathers often did afterwards in bartering their cotton for corn." If they had raised Indian corn, or any other essential, the result would have been the same; while the allurement of a high price for the staple they were raising was absorbing all the capital they could obtain into the vortex of speculation, without the possibility of withdrawing it. If a farmer or manufacturer has hired machinery, whether inanimate or not, he can get rid of it when he can no longer employ it with a profit to himself. If he has bought it, he loses what it cost him, together with the interest, when he cannot find a purchaser. What is he to do, if it will not work, when his eye is not upon it; and, whether it work or not, must be fed and clothed?
The disastrous effects produced by forced labor on the condition of the cultivator, were pointed out to me, unintentionally, by a Southerner whom I met one day at our Ambassador's table. I was observing to him that our law of descents, to which he said (I think erroneously) we are all so much attached, and with which he did not seem inclined to find fault, had not, I had good reason to believe, secured a longer duration of possession to our landholders than the farmers of New England enjoyed. "It often happens that one of the family takes the estate; and the others, receiving an equivalent for their sake, go off to the West." "It may be so in the East;" was his reply. "Here the family and the estate both go off together. After an absence of twenty years, I found, on my return from Europe, that most of my friends had disappeared: their property had been sold-they were ruined."
The framers of the American constitution seem to have studiously avoided the use of the word "slave," while they took special care that the property and political power annexed to its possession should be secured. They retained the thing while they discarded the term, as if they were ashamed of proclaiming their inconsistency to the world. In the 2d Sect. of the 1st Art. of this celebrated document, it is said, "Representation and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers; which shall be determined by adding to the whole numbers of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons."Again, alluding to the slave trade, (Sect. 9,) "The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808; but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person." This was drawn up and signed in 1787. Pretty well this for a people who complain that their ancestors forced slavery upon them! A singular way of shewing their abhorrence of the "fatal legacy entailed" upon them!
The only other allusion of the same kind is similarly guarded. It forms part of the 2d Sect. of the 4th Art., and is as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof; shall be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due." To talk of a slave's labor being "due", to his master, is to insult common sense and common decency. While the latter can coin dollars out of the sweat and tears of his victim, he will do so. "The law allows it, and the court awards it." It is this clause, however, in the constitution, which renders the free States tributaries to the ambition of the slave States, and accessaries to all their guilt; --makes the boasted asylum of the persecuted the prison-house of the unfortunate, and converts the guardians of liberty into the turnkeys of its assassins.
Such is the nature of that instrument of independence which is founded on the assertion and the refusal of the same equal rights; which guarantees the enjoyment of freedom on the condition of its violation, and requires, as the price of political union, the sacrifice of all that can make political existence honorable. It is literally and truly, "propter vitam, vivendi perdere causas"--to build the republican form on the destruction of the republican spirit.
A long and memorable discussion on the meaning of the word "person", took place in the lower house some seven or eight years back. A claim had been brought before it, by one Marigny d'Auterive, for compensation; one of his slaves, who, with a horse and cart, had been impressed by General Jackson at New Orleans, having been wounded. The damages were laid at 230 dollars, or some such sum. The claim for the horse and cart was granted, but that for the man refused by the committee on claims. The house, however, decided in its favor, by a majority of four --just the number of members from the State of New York who voted on that side. From the time occupied by this debate, which was carried on, day after day, with extraordinary heat and pertinacity by both parties, it may fairly be calculated that it cost the nation 10,000 dollars, and probably nearly twice that sum, to ascertain the nature and extent of that property which can be given by human laws to one man over another! The advocates for unmitigated and unqualified tyranny, pleading, for eight dollars a day, before the greatest and freest people under the sun, the right of placing a rational, immortal being, on the same level with an ox or a jackass! The southern members displayed more than their usual sensitiveness on this occasion. Mr. Livingston was particularly indignant at the imputed attempt to deprive them of their most valuable property." "Allow the claim," he said, "and you do no more than justice: --reject it on these principles and you shake the Union." Mr. Gurley said: --"Gentlemen say a master cannot kill his slave as he can his ox. This depends entirely upon the laws of the State in which he lives; and in no case can be urged against the right of property. Gentlemen should not forget, that the civil law, somewhat modified by statute, is the common law of Louisiana; and that, by the law of Rome, the master had absolute dominion over his slave, as he had over his child." "Slavery," exclaimed Mr. Mercer, "is as much a part of the constitution as the great right of representation; for though the word 'slave' is not used in that instrument, the condition is admitted. It is clothed with rights, and protected; and the laws of Congress, and the decisions of the supreme court, are practical and living illustrations of its being an integral part of our system of government."
Some of the northern members were inclined to "go the whole hog," as
the phrase is. Mr. Everett, who had vindicated the system of slavery on
a former occasion, and had, like the great enemy of human liberty, shewn
that he could "quote Scripture for his purpose," said: --"The claim is
founded on that amendment to the constitution by which it is provided,
that private property shall not be taken for the public service, without
full compensation. If it had been suggested to introduce into this amendment
of the constitution the words, "except slaves," it would certainly have
prevented the adoption of the amendment, and might have proved destructive
of the constitution itself. By rejecting this claim, we virtually introduce
such a qualification into the constitution." He added --"If this service
had been hired and not impressed, would not his owner, in letting him,
have said --'this is no ordinary service *:
I cannot consent to yield my slave on the common terms of compensation, as if he were to work in a plantation or a garden. You are going to put him in the lines --within the fire of the enemy, where the risk of life is imminent, and my loss is likely to be in proportion.' Such unquestionably would be the language of the owner; and, if he made the contract at all, it would be on condition of being indemnified for the risk." Still stronger language was used; --but it is sickening to go through the details. Enough has been quoted to make an honest man blush for his species --for that part, at least, which, in spite of its folly and wickedness, still calls itself civilized and Christian.
* This cold-blooded calculation is well illustrated in the following advertisement, which I found, among many others of the same kind, in a southern paper.
Five hundred laborers wanted. We will employ the above number of laborers to work on the Muscle Shoals Canal, &c., at the rates of fifteen dollars per month, for twenty-six working days; or we will employ negroes by the year, or for a less time, as may suit the convenience of planters. We will also be responsible to slave-holders, who will hire their negroes to us, for any injury or damage that may hereafter happen in the progress of blasting rock, or the caving in of banks. For information in regard to the health of the men, the fare, &c., we would refer, &c.
"HENRY and KIBBE."
May 24th, 1833."
The word " hereafter " seems to imply, that complaints had been made, or suspicions existed, against these contractors.
"Society," said one of the debaters, "has a right to the military services of a slave ; because it protects his life by the punishment annexed to his murder." The tie that connects duty and right is altogether wanting here. For whom --against whom is the slave to fight? The enemies of the community are not his enemies. He has no enemies out of his own country, and no friend but the Almighty. The past has no claim on his gratitude; and the future can excite no hope in his bosom. The isthmus that separates them is too narrow for a "Yankee " even to make a "notion" out of it.
The decision, to which the house came, gives, it may be observed, a direct bonus to slave-holding; as the owner thus obtains for his slave that indemnity which a master would not obtain for his apprentice.
What was the ultimate decision on D'Auterive's claim, which was returned to the committee, where it remained, for reconsideration, during the remainder --of the session, I know not --I believe it was, subsequently, in its favor.
I discovered , soon after the lads had left us, that my companion had come to Washington from North Carolina for the purpose of buying slaves. He was about 600 miles from home, and it would take him about a month, he said, to get back: at an average cost per head of two dollars for his "coffle".
Deposits. --System of Credit --Mercantile Failures. --Principle
of Federal Bank. --Paper Money. --Safety Fund of New York. --Fallacies
about Bankers. --Whigs and Tories --Mr. Van Buren; rejected by the Senate.
--Reasons. --Senate not aristocratical. --Party Feeling. --Post Office.
--Purity of Bag secured. --Franking. --Assaults upon Members: --Duelling.
--President Jackson a Soul-driver. --Abolition of Slave-trade. --Principles
of Federal Union illusory.
"kitchen cabinet" and the colonization society emulate each other in
absurdity. The latter would send away nearly three millions of its best
hands, while the country is looking to Europe for fresh importations of
labor; and the former would refuse capital from abroad, though every one
is crying out that the suffering is intolerable for want of it at home.
Congress is as suspicious and distrustful of the colored people as Canterbury. The following is a copy of a letter from the postmaster-general, in 1828, to one of his subordinates in Connecticut:
"Sir, --The mail must not, in any case whatever, be in the custody of a colored person. If a colored person is employed to lift the mail from the stage into the postoffice, it does not pass into his custody; but the labor is performed in the presence and under the immediate direction of the white person who has it in custody: but if a colored person takes it from a tavern, and carries it himself to the post-office, it comes into his custody during the time of carrying it, --which is contrary to law. I am, &c. John M'Lean."
Who would believe that there existed a civilized nation, where it is illegal for any but a "white person" to carry a heavy bag, locked, chained, and studded with nails! --Nimium ne crede colori! While the black man is prohibited from carrying the mail, the white man plunders its contents. Instances were frequently mentioned in the newspapers, of postmasters who had been detected in embezzling money from letters entrusted to their care. No less than twelve cases, it was stated, occurred within six months to the east of Portland, in the State of Maine.
There was a deficit in the department of nearly 40,000 dollars in 1823.
The postmaster attributed it to the delinquencies committed by the lower
functionaries. "It is expected," he said, in his circular to the contractors
for the mail, "that those postmasters who have appropriated the public
money to their own use, and have for years exhibited but little disposition
to refund it, will pay their respective balances without delay." This is
almost as bad as if the unhallowed hand of an "African" had laid hold of
I allude to a letter which appeared in May 1828, in the National Journal of Tennessee. The following is a copy:--
"I have been charged with dealing in slaves, by the partizans of General Jackson. They know not on what slippery ground they tread. To them this should have been a tender point. They did not surely know that their own idol was himself once engaged to a considerable extent in this traffic of human flesh, --in the buying and selling of slaves for profit. And I can say with tenfold emphasis, in their own language, 'this charge is not lightly made.' Deny it if he dare.
In another journal, the Political Examiner, appeared a communication from Major M'Ilhenny. "In the year 1811," says the Major, "I was stationed with the troops at Washington cantonment, Mississippi territory. General Jackson spent three or four days in our cantonment in quarters with Colonel Purdy, who commanded a battalion of the 7th regiment of infantry from Tennessee. The General was then a militia officer; and, during his stay, was exceedingly attentive to our drills. Some time after the visit of General Jackson to our cantonment, being in the village of Washington, (Mississippi territory,) where the legislature had convened, and in company with C. Meade, Speaker of the house of delegates; Silas Dinsmore, Choctaw agent; and several of my brother officers, --the good effects resulting from an arrangement to carry passports, when passing through the Indian nation, was spoken of. A number of deserters from the army, runaway negroes, kidnappers, horse-thieves, and many others, fugitives from justice, had been arrested at the agency, or in the nation; and it was stated by some gentlemen present, that the members from the upper part of the territory, who had taken their seats in the legislature, had carried their passports with them, in conformity with this happy arrangement. Mr. Dinsmore then related the following anecdote of General Jackson; who, he said, in passing down with a drove of negroes, halted at the agency to refresh. Being about to proceed, Mr. Dinsmore observed that it was necessary for persons passing through the nation to shew their passports. General Jackson replied, that "General Jackson required no passport to travel through the Indian nation." Mr. Dinsmore said that he did not know General Jackson from any other man; and that demanding his passport was in conformity with instructions from the war department. By this time the General, having sent forth his negroes, had mounted his horse; and, laying his hand upon his pistols, significantly replied, "these are General Jackson's passports."
Most of the presidents have been slave-owners: the present is the first slave-driver.
These facts, while brought forward to serve an electioneering purpose, shew both the character of the chief magistrate, and the low estimation in which his former employment is held by the public.
The slave-trade was abolished by Congress in 1808: --on the first day of which year, the act for its suppression came into operation. It was not, however, till 1819, that the power previously given to the States, into which slaves should be illegally introduced, to dispose of them according to their good will and pleasure, was withdrawn; and the president authorized and required to restore them to their country*.
As the Americans claim credit for putting a stop to the traffic, it may not be amiss to ask, what they did for the protection of its victims? When we find that they were placed at the mercy of the very persons who were most interested in abusing the trust, we are compelled to doubt either their good sense or their sincerity. The act of Congress, which prohibited the introduction of slaves from abroad into the United States, declared that, in case of infraction, all title in the importer should be null and void; and every person thus imported, should "remain subject to any regulation, not contravening the provisions of this act, that the legislature of the several States or territories (into which they shall be introduced) at any time hereafter may make for disposing of such negro, mulatto, or person of color." The effect of this clause was such as ought to have been foreseen. One case will be sufficient to place its tendency in its true light. In 1817, a slave-ship that had been sent to Africa by a Spaniard at the Havana, of the name of Madrazo, was returning to Cuba with her cargo, when she was captured by an American vessel, which had been fitted out at Baltimore, and the negroes on board were sold by Commodore Aury to a man of the name of Bowen. By the latter they were taken to Georgia, and delivered over, by the custom-house officer who had seized them, to the State government. And here we shall see how these miserable beings, who had thus escaped from the Charybdis of the middle passage, fell into the clutches of this merciless, murderous Scylla. The legislature immediately placed them at the disposal of the Governor, authorizing him to sell them for the benefit of the State, or transfer them on certain conditions to the Colonization Society. Part of them were sold; and the State had the benefit of 38,000 dollars by the sale. The rest, about twenty in number, were claimed by the Colonization Society. Thus stood the affair, when, at three different periods in 1820, and the following year, three applications were made to the district court of the State; by the Governor, Madrazo, and Bowen; the former requesting authority to make over the slaves that remained to the Society, --and the two latter claiming, under suitable pretences and allegations, their right to the "property" thus seized and disposed of. The district court having directed that the Governor's former acts should be confirmed, and his application granted, dismissed the claims of the others. An appeal was then made by the latter to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the decree affecting Bowen's case, but reversed that bearing upon Madrazo's, declaring him to be entitled to the whole, --both the slaves that remained, and an equivalent for those that had been sold. The matter was ultimately brought, by appeal, before the Supreme Court of the United States; where, after a discussion about jurisdiction, the judgment was against both Madrazo and Bowen, and the "thirty pieces of silver" remained in the treasury of the commonwealth of Georgia. The decision was in 1828.
* Up to the year 1830, 252 Africans had, in pursuance of the act suppressing the slave-trade, been sent to Liberia, at an expense of 264,710 dollars. Though the authority given to the president was limited to the support of the captured slaves till their return to Africa, yet it had been the practice to furnish them with provisions, &c., during a period varying from six to twelve months. The navy department, however, resolved, as the secretary stated in his report for that year, that the law would, in future, be executed according to its restricted acceptation; and that every effort would be made to confine the application of the funds destined for this purpose within the pale of its provisions.
When, in 1824 , a convention was agreed on between Great Britain and the United States, for the suppression of the slave-trade, by granting a reciprocal right of search between the vessels of the two nations, the good faith of the latter, in their efforts to put a stop to this piratical traffic, was fairly put to the test. The second article of the convention purported that "the commanders and commissioned officers of each of the two high contracting parties, duly authorised, &c., to cruize on the coast of Africa, of America, and of the West Indies, for the suppression of the slave-trade, shall be empowered, &c., to detain, examine, capture, and deliver over for trial and adjudication, by some competent tribunal, of whichever of the two countries it shall be found, on examination, to belong to, any ship or vessel concerned in the illicit traffic of slaves, and carrying the flag of the other, or owned by any subjects or citizens of either of the two contracting parties; except when in the presence of a ship of war of its own nation," &c. The words "of America" were struck out in the Senate by a majority of 23 to 20; while a motion that was made to strike out the words "and of the West Indies", was negatived by 29 to 14. With two or three other "amendments", the ratification of the convention was agreed to. After this alteration, however, our Government declined acceding to the treaty. It is a memorable fact, that the first person convicted of having been engaged in the slave-trade, which an act of Congress had declared to be piracy, was pardoned by the president.
If the Southerners are not much belied, this execrable traffic is still carried on by them. It can hardly be otherwise, considering the high price of slaves, and the facilities afforded to smuggling by the vicinity of Cuba. During the discussions which the Missouri questions gave rise to, it was openly stated in Congress, that 12,000 slaves had been brought illicitly into the southern States during the course of one year. "We have," said Mr. Justice Story, in his charge to the grand jury, at Boston, in 1819, "but too many melancholy proofs, from unquestionable sources, that it (the slave-trade) is still carried on with all the implacable ferocity and insatiable rapacity, of former times. Avarice has grown more subtle in its evasions, and watches and seizes its prey with an appetite quickened rather than suppressed by its guilty vigils. American citizens are steeped to their very mouths (I scarcely use too bold a figure) in this stream of iniquity. They throng to the coast of Africa, under the stained flags of Spain and Portugal; --sometimes selling abroad 'their cargoes of despair,' and sometimes bringing them into some of our southern ports; and there, under the forms of the law, defeating the purposes of the law itself, and legalising their inhuman, but profitable, adventures."
The way in which this traffic is carried on, is as follows: --An agent is despatched to Cuba or to Africa, for the purpose of purchasing slaves for the United States. As soon as the vessel arrives with its cargo off the Balize, the agent proceeds to New Orleans, and gives notice to the authorities of her arrival with an illegal freight. Proceedings are instituted against her, and, on her condemnation, the slaves are sold by public auction at a price considerably below their real value. The purchaser is, by previous agreement, the importer; and half the proceeds are pocketed by the informer; the other belonging to the general government. Not less than 10,000 were thus introduced in one year (1818). The statement was contradicted by a writer in the Federal Republican, though his admission that one sale had taken place in pursuance of the law on the subject, at prices amounting to 1000 dollars a-head*,
fully justifies any suspicion with regard to the fraud and collusion practised. In June 1821, no less than 109 negroes, that had been captured from a slaveship in 1818, were held as slaves in Alabama, subject to the decision of the Supreme Court, which had taken recognizances from their owners to produce them when demanded. In 1818, the collector of the customs at Darien delivered over to the Governor of Georgia 91 captured slaves; the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Crawford) not having favored him with any reply to a letter he wrote to him on the subject.
* These prices were most likely nominal only.
Since the law has undergone an alteration, evasion must find some other way to defeat its intentions.
That the destruction of human life in the South, whether from insufficient food, a pestilential climate, or severe labor, is so great as to keep up a constant demand from without, may be inferred from a statement in the New Orleans Argus of September, 1830. In order to shew that the cost of raising sugar is greater in Louisiana than in Cuba, the writer says, that a slave in the latter requires little or no clothing, and is fed for a trifle; whereas his food and clothing in the former cost fifty dollars per annum. He then adds: "the loss by death in bringing slaves from a northern climate, which our planters are under the necessity of doing, is not less than twenty-five per cent." If this estimate be correct, how can it be with truth asserted, that the slaves are happy, and well-treated? If it is not correct, what credit is to be given to any evidence from the same quarter? Why should the planter spare his "cattle", when the difference between the cost of rearing and of importing will more than cover the loss from "wear and tear"? Humanity has no place on the creditor side of his ledger. He will find it some day on the other.
While Louisiana turns smuggler, Virginia is seeking new markets. "Perhaps", says a citizen of the latter State, in a note to the American Quarterly Review (Sept. 1832), "one of the greatest blessings (if it could be reconciled to our consciences) which could be conferred on the southern parts of the Union, would arise, from the total abolition of the African slave-trade, and the opening of the West Indian and South American markets to our slaves. We do not believe that the deportation to any other quarter, or in any other way, can ever effect the slightest diminution." What a horrible suggestion! As for the scheme lessening the numbers, he who recommends it must well know, it would have a contrary effect. They would be exported, on one side, because the trade was profitable; and the profit would be a bonus upon production. They would be imported, on the other, because the price of the foreign article would be less than that of the homegrown; and the difference would be a bonus upon over-working. Hence destruction of life in the latter cast would be at once the effect and the cause of its increase in the former. What a detestable circle of crime and cruelty! Is it possible that a system, thus opposed to the best feelings of our nature, and destructive of those principles on which the wealth and welfare of nations depend, can much longer continue?
Nothing can be imagined more perfect than the political mechanism of this republican confederation; whether you look at the complexity of its structure or the simplicity of its action. Each body moves in its own orbit, with periodical changes adapted to its magnitude and condition; and all revolve together round their common centre, without confusion or collision. The federal form seems to secure the best check to the personal and social infirmities of man. In his individual capacity, he is amenable to the State; in his collective, to the general government. An analogous development is given to his good qualities; and the same virtues which, when separately exercised, might have created discord and bloodshed, produce, in conjunction, peace and harmony. Such is the aspect presented by a distant and general view. Upon a closer inspection, however, you discover a principle that menaces the system with destruction or dissolution: you see the unequal division of light and liberty between the North and the South; and approaching separation casts her gloomy shadow before your eyes. You turn from the prospect with the bitterest feelings of regret and disappointment.
Steam-boat on the Ohio --Madison --Colony of Free Blacks
--Fugitive Slave --New Law against Slave-aliens in the West Indies --Indiana
saddled with Slave-paupers --Cincinnati --Attack on Free Blacks repulsed
--Kidnappers --Case of Cruelty at New Orleans --Public Meeting --Lane Seminary
--Visits to Colored People.
The first act was performed in dumb show and quick action, as usual, by the passengers; the second in the same manner, mutatismutandis, by the crew; and the last by the colored people, who took their time, and cracked their jokes, while they were feasting on the good things. Seeing they employed the tongue as well as the teeth, and enjoyed a pun as well as the pudding, I asked one of them, who seemed to be full of fun, why the whites always ate their dinner in solemn silence. They were all much amused with the question. He replied, that he could not tell the reason. "It was all habit. In Europe people were sociable at meals, and eating was not merely an affair of the appetite." While I was meditating on the various ways in which gregarious animals take their food, new light seemed to burst upon my mind, and I discovered the impassable and eternal barrier that it has pleased Nature to place between the two races that inhabit the new world. All animals of the "Simia tribe" chatter while they eat: --man (par excellence-meliore luto, --genus American) is a "silent feeder."
Ohio divides the slave-States from the free States: --a distinction
without a difference, unless it be more criminal to steal than to acknowledge
a right of theft; and less brutal to cry "mad dog!" than to knock him on
the head. The North holds the muzzle, while the South rivets the chain.
I went into a barber's shop; the master of which, in the course of conversation, told me there was a settlement of his people (he was one of the Pariah caste) within four miles of the place. I immediately resolved to visit it the following day. A white neighbor soon after came in, and asked him whether it was true, that he was about to leave the town. He replied, that he had no intention of the kind, though several persons were trying to get his house. "I am very glad to hear it," said the man "I was afraid you were going to quit us." Chancellor Walworth would have been utterly astonished at the white man's want of dignity; and still more so if he had staid, after such a shock to his feelings, and witnessed the civility with which every one who came into the shop treated the "degraded" barber.
had, by this time, seen as much of one race as of the other; and I
declare, as an honest man, that if there was really any superiority in
either, it had been placed on the wrong side. At Louisville, a German,
whose shop I went into to get some refreshment, assured me that the young
men in his establishment, who were all free blacks or mulattoes, were well-behaved
and trustworthy; and that one of them, with whom I had a good deal of conversation,
was well informed, and "beloved by all who knew him." The
next day I set off, on foot, for the colony --the existence of which
I had never before heard of. On arriving at the first house, which belonged
to a man of the name of Crosby, I was received with civility, but some
little coldness by his wife, till I informed her that I was an Englishman,
and that I was anxious to see, as well as to hear, how the settlers were
going on. Her countenance then brightened up, and she begged me to sit
had come from Kentucky, she said, about thirteen years before; and,
at first, had been well received and well treated; but for the last three
or four years, they had "met with so much scorn and disdain," that she
began to regret she had ever left her native place, though she had been
exposed there to the risk of losing her children, many in the neighborhood
having been carried off to the south by kidnappers. She and her husband
had lately been so much pestered and plagued by the whites with offers,
and all sorts of inducement, to give up their farm, and go to Liberia,
that they were almost tired out, and the poor man could not sleep of a
night for thinking of his family, and what was to become of them. These
importunate , solicitations, too, were doubly galling, as they came
chiefly from the teachers of a Sunday school, which had been established
by some whites, who thus took advantage of the opportunity they had, while
instructing the children, to urge upon the parents the necessity of emigrating
to the promised land. I discovered afterwards, that the whole settlement
was in a state of agitation upon this question. I overheard the settlers
repeating the arguments they had used against a scheme, which, they said,
had nothing to recommend it, but the hope it held out of lessening their
numbers, and perpetuating their degradation. A
white boy of ten or twelve years of age; had, a few days before, let
out the whole secret. "You must go to Africa," said he to Crosby, "there
are so many of you; and you increase so much faster than we do, that you'll
eat us out soon." The fact is, the situation these people have chosen is
one of the most eligible in the State. The land is good; --the river, where
they ship their produce, about a mile and a half off; and Madison, from
which they are distant but four miles, will, when the projected rail-road
to the metropolis is completed, be one of the most thriving towns in the
western country. While they were clearing their farms of the timber, they
were unmolested; but now that they have got the land into a good state
of cultivation, and are rising in the world, the avarice of the white man
casts a greedy eye on their luxuriant crops; and his pride is offended
at the decent appearance of their sons and daughters.
The settlers are from Virginia and Kentucky. Some are liberated slaves --others have bought their own freedom, and the rest were originally freemen. Their number amounts to 129, making eleven families, which are rapidly increasing. The colony extends a mile and a half in length, and half a mile in breadth. They grow wheat, and rye, and hemp, and a little tobacco. Crosby has two farms, consisting of 137 acres, about one-fourth of which is under cultivation. He had raised, the year before, 300 bushels of oats and 140 of wheat. His stock was composed of six milch cows, four horses, and other animals, making in all fifteen head. There were eight or ten hives of bees near the house. He had eight children.
While I was conversing with Mrs. Crosby, a colored man rode up, and having dismounted, presented himself at the door. After he had taken the seat that was offered, he said: --"It is so long since you saw me, and I am so altered by a swelled face, and a severe cold, that I am not surprised you do not know me." Having kept her curiosity in suspense a few minutes, he told her who he was. He was from her native place. Nothing could exceed the good woman's delight at the recognition. He had come into Indiana for the purpose of buying land, and was anxious to join the colony, if the whites, who were making every effort to prevent its extension, would permit him to settle there. I stepped out, that I might not be a restraint upon their conversation. Soon after, the farmer made his appearance: --a man with an honest open countenance, and a manner as devoid of suspicion as of guile.
It was now their dinner hour, and I proposed to sit down to table with them; though they told me they had but scanty fare, as it was a fast day. They had eggs and bacon, and coffee; and as they gave me a hearty welcome, I was as well pleased as if I had been sitting with nobles at the most costly banquet.
As soon as we had partaken of the humble repast, we adjourned to the school-room, a few paces off, where several of the neighbors had assembled for religious service. I remained talking with them for some time on various subjects, and found the elder part intelligent and communicative, and the younger attentive and well behaved. One of them , who appeared to be "the head of the clan", I took for a white man, as it required a more practised eye than mine to detect the "mark of the beast upon him." This man, whose name was Fountain Thurman, I accompanied to his house, which was close by. His history was somewhat singular, and explained the process by which a slave obtains his freedom through the interest of his master. He possessed an intellect as shrewd and as sharp as any I ever met with. owner, finding him an excellent workman at the different trades he had acquired, as mason, well-digger, rock-blaster, &c., agreed to sell him his freedom by "instalments." It was agreed he should pay him 100 dollars every year for seven years; and as he could earn 200, in addition to board and lodging, he not only paid down the purchase-money at the stipulated times, but bought a farm, and, by good management, was enabled to redeem his wife and his children. He then crossed the Ohio from Kentucky, and invested what remained in the eighty acres he had in his possession when I saw him. His land was in excellent order; and his mode of cultivation considered so judicious, that his white neighbors often employed him to instruct and assist them. He had a numerous family of children; and as of the three who were alone old enough to be useful, two were married, and settled elsewhere, and the other in bad health, --he had all the work of the farm to do by himself, and was obliged to decline many jobs that were offered him.
There is another colony of the same kind at the distance of two miles. It consists of two families, the heads of which are renters, and have been on their farms ten or twelve years, --quite sufficient time for the owner of the soil to ascertain whether it were worth while to let his land to these "idle vagabonds." I did not visit them; but I should imagine they are less likely to be molested than the others: for few men like to be tenants where all wish to be landowners.
My host had been into eleven States, and knew more about the physical and political condition of the country than almost any person I met in it.
Our conversation was interrupted by a man whom I had observed to fix his eyes very steadily on me, while I was in the school-room. Entering the house rather abruptly, he whispered something to the owner, and they went out together immediately. On his return, Thurman informed me that he had just heard, for the first time, that there was a female slave in the village, who had escaped from a trader, and had been concealed there a week. I begged I might see her; and, as the log hut where she had found an asylum was nearly a mile off, I mounted one of the farmer's horses, and he rode with me on another. We passed through the woods; and having crossed two or three creeks, came to a narrow lane, which skirted some enclosures, and led to the cottage of one of the settlers, --an old man, whom I had seen at the meeting. Within were two other men, and three or four women.
I soon obtained from the object of my search the story of her misfortunes and her escape. She was by right a free woman; her parents, who had been taken from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, having, by the emancipation law of the former, ceased to be slaves at the expiration of the apprenticeship it created. Unfortunately, they were ignorant and careless; and their children, unable to establish their claims to freedom, were sold into slavery, and dispersed over the country. My guide, who had declared, on our entering the cabin, that he was sure he had seen her somewhere, asked her what part of Kentucky she came from. Her answer converted indistinct recollection into complete recognition; and he found, not only that he was well acquainted with her friends, but that her master's wife was his master's niece, --a circumstance which recalled to his mind the unhappy fate of the latter. She was shot by her husband, while he was laboring under an illness from which he thought he should never recover. She was a most beautiful woman; and he destroyed her lest she should marry again after his death. The brute was sentenced to be hanged for the murder; but he was saved from execution by a mysterious death. No one could tell what had become of him but it was generally believed that what was called his death was his removal to some other part of the country.
The poor woman 's account of herself was, that she had been carried by land, with forty or fifty others, about 400 miles from Lexington: when she contrived to escape, and got back to her home, in the depth of winter, and through unheard-of difficulties; having travelled the whole way on foot, with the exception of fifty miles, when she rode on horseback behind a man, who refused to accept any remuneration. Her husband had given her some money at parting. By the time she got back, she had spent what she had received from him, and was dreadfully frost-bitten. She remained at home five weeks; when she was retaken; and having been put into prison for a week, was again carried off towards the South; and again, after four days' travel, eluded the vigilance of her keeper. She wandered about for three months, suffering from fatigue and hunger, and worn down by anxiety of mind for her infant children, whom she had left at the mercy of a cruel master. She at last found her way to Madison, having just money enough left to pay her fare by a stage part of the way. It was at the log hut, where I found her, that the man, I spoke of as having whispered to my guide, first saw her, on a visit from Madison, where he lived, to the woman of the house, who washed for him. He felt so much interested for her, that he determined to assist her to the utmost of his power; and as he had lately lost his wife, and was dissatisfied with the country, he intended to accompany her to Canada, and let her have his wife's papers as a passport. She had informed her husband of her second flight; and she was in hopes he would be able to join her with as many of her children as he could escape with.
It was agreed that a subscription should be raised among the settlers for the fugitive. Her benevolent friend told me he had ten dollars of his own for the purpose, and he hoped to get twenty more from his acquaintance. The gratitude of the poor creature herself for the little assistance I was enabled to render, and the generous sympathy expressed in her behalf by all present --less in words than in looks-- cannot be described. "Many a time," she said, as she grasped my hand, while the tears were rolling down her cheeks, --"many a time have I prayed to God that some one would come from England, and redeem us from our cruel bondage."
I should observe , that when I was first informed of the slave's concealment in the settlement, I was requested to assist her escape, by writing false papers of freedom for her. Some documents of the kind, properly drawn up and authenticated, were put into my hands; but I refused to copy them, not only from a repugnance to do what was illegal, but from a conviction that they might perhaps lead to her detection by giving her a false security. No hint was given to me that she wanted money: nor have I reason to think that any was expected from me.
I know not how the law stands in Indiana. In Ohio I should have incurred a penalty of 1000 dollars --one half to the informer, and the other half to the State --for this act of common humanity. In North Carolina I might have been "hanged without benefit of clergy." To rescue a fugitive from justice is punishable, by Act of Congress, with a fine of 500 dollars. Our sympathy with the person robbed is thus thought to be half what it is with the robber; and it is twice as penal at Columbus to succor the distressed, as it is at Washington to obstruct justice.
But what right has an Englishman to throw blame or odium on any country, while his own has sent out to her colonies such instructions as I am about to quote from an Antigua paper?
The colonial secretary, with the view of promoting some legislative enactment, suggests to the colonial governments, that "the intrusion into a British colony of foreign fugitive slaves, should be made punishable, as a misdemeanor, by imprisonment with hard labor. The sympathy we may feel for the individual ought not to render us insensible to the dangerous tendency of his conduct." Who is to know that they are slaves? (It is an insult to the English, to talk now of foreign slaves; --there ought to be no other any where.) Are men to be convicted on exparte evidence, or upon no evidence, of an imaginary offence?
The second suggestion is, that as "the mere punishment of the offence is not all that the case requires, provision should also be made for the removal of the offender. As an alien, he has no right to fix his abode in the king's dominions: he must therefore be warned to depart; and if unable or unwilling to obey, he must be forcibly placed on board the first vessel which may be sailing to any foreign country where slavery does not prevail." That is, he is to be refused an asylum, as a convicted felon*,
and transmitted, with successive precedents for cruelty,
* A boy, fifteen years of age, was condemned to death at Martinique, in 1815, for this offence; while his mother, who had concealed and fed him, was compelled to witness his execution. British subjects, it seems, are to escape the punishment as well as the guilt of the parent. The sentence of the court was thus worded: --"La Cour condamne Elysée (agé de 15 ans) à être pendu, et etranglé jusqu'à ce que mort s'ensuive, et son corps jeté à la voirie, pour avoir voulu ravir à son mâitre le prix de sa valeur; et Agnes, sa mere, à assister à l'execution, pour avoir recelé son fils, en lui procurant un asile, sous pretexte de pitié, et en fournissant à sa nourriture et entretien."
" From realm to realm, with cross or crescent crown'd,till not a spot of earth remains for the sole of his foot to rest on.
Where'er mankind and misery are found,"
abominable measure is the legitimate child of compromise; and
the hand that signed the death-warrant of the slave-alien is red with the blood of the apprentice-slave.
The secretary observes, (thirdly,) with a spirit of disinterestedness worthy of the occasion and the object, that if we were to transfer these fugitives to any English possession, we should subject ourselves "to the imputation of being governed by selfish motives, and of seeking to recruit the defective population of our colonies at the expense of our neighbours;" --specifying Sierra Leone, --the very place where we are doing what he deprecates. The only difference is, that, in that case, "our neighbors" are on shipboard, and, in the one supposed, on land. We are to hold, it seems, as a treaty-making power, for the "suppression of the slave-trade", that the fountain is pure, while the waters are polluted; that slavery is lawful, and the slave-trade piracy; and that man may have property in man at Martinique, but none on the Atlantic.
circular virtually recommends that a new class of offences should be
created, distinguishing common aliens from aliens who are slaves de
facto or de jure, and making color a presumption of guilt, as
if it were sought to perpetuate those prejudices which emancipation would
destroy. "The fugitive", says the secretary, "may deny that he was a slave,"
&c. "To obtain his conviction of an unlawful intrusion, it would be
necessary that this allegation should be disproved, which (meaning the
conviction, not the allegation) would be impracticable," &c.; still
"such persons should, when so suspected, be removed as aliens," and procure
"securities for their departure and intermediate good conduct; in default
of which (meaning the securities) they should be committed to close
custody," &c. He had just before stated, that slaves driven on our
shores by accident or shipwreck, are not to be considered "criminal." "There
is no motive for removing such persons as aliens" Then there is
a motive for removing others. The same exemption is to be applied to the
victims of the slavetrade. "They would have an irresistible claim to hospitality."
The black has rights in Africa, but none in Guadaloupe. The secretary says,
that where the fugitives had been held as slaves unlawfully, "there would
be no crime to punish." The crime therefore consists, not in coming to
the colony, but in coming as a slave, --a composite species of offence,
never known before, --a cumulative or constructive delinquency, in which
are mixed up "conduct" that is "unlawful" yet natural in a foreign country,
while it is innocent, yet dangerous, in our own; and "an act" that alien
laws, the most odious to British ears, can alone make penal. There are
other passages in this official paper equally objectionable. The whole
ends with this significant hint: "You will communicate this despatch to
the legislature, conveying to them the desire of his Majesty's Government,
that to whatever extent the law at present there may be inadequate to give
effect to these views, such further provision may be made by law as may
be necessary for the purpose."
--Dated, Downingstreet, 4th November,1834.
As the day was closing in, my guide offered to conduct me to Madison in the same way we had gone to the log-hut. We set off accordingly in the cool of the evening, and arrived there before dark. As we were riding together, he told me he had given three dollars an acre for the eighty he held, and had lately been offered 700 dollars for his bargain. A great deal of hostility had recently been exhibited against him for his supposed interference with his neighbors whom he was accused of having dissuaded from going to Liberia: not that his white neighbors wished him to emigrate, as they found him too useful to be spared; but they had threatened him for giving advice to others. Most of them, however, stood in need of no advice; for they saw through the whole plan in a moment, and often put such questions to the proposers as they were unable to answer.
We met several whites on the road, some of them very well dressed, as they were returning from a prayer-meeting at Madison. Most of them spoke familiarly to my companion, or nodded to him as they passed. He was a short man, with a clear piercing eye, and an iron frame. His bearing was frank and manly, but respectful; and his whole appearance bespoke great activity and resolution. A slight touch of the braggart about him was not ill-suited to the wildness of the scenery and the romantic nature of the adventure; and might fairly be set down to that giddiness of mind which self-elevation from the most abject state is apt to produce in the strongest heads. I learnt from him that there were kidnappers at Madison, whom he knew well by sight. The vicinity of the slave-States offers such facilities and inducements to this nefarious calling, that it ought not to be matter of surprise to find men base and cruel enough to yield to the temptation, when neither Boston nor New York is free from them.
State of Indiana is burthened with a class of people, who are sent
to it from the other side of the Ohio, in return for its "comity" in hunting
up their runaways. When a slave is past work and good for nothing, his
master sets him free, and gives him a few dollars to take him across the
river. There he soon "comes upon the parish," and is buried at the expense
of the community. There were no less than five of this description within
the six weeks that preceded my visit, who found a, grave, as they had received
their support, in the land of their adoption. This may seem a hard case;
yet it is but a part --and a very small part --of that system by which
the whole Union, directly or indirectly, in its domestic or its foreign
policy, is rendered subservient to the interest of the slave-holder. There
is too much reason to believe that this practice is very common. An act
was passed in 1821, by the legislature of Pennsylvania to the following
"Any person or persons who shall, after the passage of this act, bring or cause to be brought into this commonwealth, any black or colored indentured servant above the age of twenty-eight years, such person, his or her heirs, executors, or administrators and assigns, &c., shall be liable to the overseers of the poor of the city, township, &c., to which such negro, &c., shall become chargeable, for such necessary expense, with costs of suit thereon, as such overseers may be put to for the maintenance," &c. It would be very easy to convert slaves into indentured servants. Here we see how the slave's old age is provided for by his benevolent owner, and how it is that the black man is "a curse and a nuisance" to the country. I have no doubt, from what I heard at Philadelphia, that a "settlement" is often gained in this way, while the pauper comes upon the list of the charitable societies supported by the colored people.
So much is "help" wanted in this new State, that it is not an uncommon thing for the settlers to purchase slaves and convert them into redemptioners, --that is, to make it the price of their freedom, that they should serve their purchasers a certain number of years. Objections have been made to this system; but it seems a fair bargain, if both parties to it be voluntary agents, and observant of its conditions. It sometimes happens that the manumitted leave their employment, before the period of their apprenticeship has expired. It will probably be found, in these cases, that the arrangement was made without their consent, or enforced in a manner that was never stipulated. Fraud is more likely to occur in the other party, who might take advantage of the disqualifying statute, and sell the unsuspecting apprentice into second slavery.
On the first of June, I left the pretty town of Madison, at four o'clock in the afternoon, and reached Cincinnati, by a steam-boat, at five the next morning; the distance being about 100 miles. As we entered, there were no less than eleven double decked steamboats, and a smaller one lying there, on their way up or down the river.
As soon as we had reached the land, a rush of draymen and porters was made upon the passengers and the luggage. I looked out, as I invariably did when I wanted a job done, for one of the despised caste, and, espying three or four standing at a distance, apparently unmoved and uninterested in the result of the contest, I procured the services of one of them, who had come in search of employment, which respect for decency, or fear of insult, had restrained him from asking in the crowd of boisterous intruders. And here I had an opportunity of seeing how completely the lawyer at Lewisburgh had been misinformed, when he said there were no blacks in Ohio.
Brutal and ungrateful as the whole Union has shewn itself to these people, who, so far from injuring, have enriched and defended it, not one State had dared, till lately, to push its hatred so far, as to expel them by violence. An attempt was, however, made at Cincinnati, to enforce a statute, that was passed in 1807, and had fallen into disuse. Notice was given by the trustees or overseers, to the colored part of the population, that they must find securities, to the amount of 500 dollars, for their good behavior, --on the pretence that they might become a burthen to the city; but in reality, to gratify the jealousy of the working class, and break up an asylum, which the fugitives from Kentucky, amounting to the number of two or three hundred every year, are sure to find there, on crossing the river. An answer was made to this communication, that there was neither possibility of producing the securities required, nor intention of yielding to the expulsion threatened; and preparations were made to resist, to the last drop of blood, a savage attack meditated by some of "the baser sort." The attack was made by about 300; and the resistance sustained by somewhat more than a tenth of that number, who entrenched themselves in their houses, and fired on their assailants from the windows, sallying out as the enemy fled, and shooting them down with a spirit, as much superior to that on the other side, as the cause they fought in. The result was, that the whites gave up the contest, after two or three had been killed, and several wounded; while the blacks lost not a man, and received no wounds of any consequence, but a broken arm, which an accident, during the pursuit, occasioned to one of their party. An authentic "return of the killed and wounded" was never published, for as several persons engaged in this disgraceful proceeding belonged to respectable families, their fate was concealed by their relatives, and it was agreed, on all hands, to throw over the circumstances of the defeat that veil, which could not be found for those of the attack.
Since that period, the victors have been suffered to reside in the place unmolested. There are nearly 3000 of them, --a larger proportion, probably, to the whole population, than their brethren in New York bear to the inhabitants of that city. Three-fourths out of the whole number consist of manumitted slaves from Virginia and Kentucky; the greater part having purchased their own freedom. Some of them possess a good deal of property; and all of them, with such exceptions as are to be found in the other race, are industrious in their habits, and respectable in their conduct. Though they derive no benefit from the school fund, are excluded from the orphan asylum, have no political privileges, and cannot, even in this "free" State, as it is called, give evidence in any case against a white; yet they are subject to the same taxes. One of them had his house broken into, a short time back, and sixteen dollars, besides several articles of clothing, stolen; yet, though the thief was taken, and the evidence irresistibly clear against him, the plea put in by the prisoner's counsel, that the testimony of the complainant could not be received, because he was a colored man, prevailed, and the trial resulted in an acquittal. About the same time, one of these unfortunate men was killed by a white man, in the presence of five or six of his own race; and the same impediment to justice protected the murderer from punishment. I had these anecdotes from a white, who was in court during the trial which the last case gave rise to.
few years ago , when more than a thousand sought an asylum in Canada to escape persecution, a subscription to assist them, amounting to eight or nine hundred dollars, was raised among those who remained. of them are now saving what little they can earn by their labor, to redeem their relatives and friends from the bonds they have got rid of themselves. One of them, who had paid 800 dollars for his own freedom, had been twice to New Orleans to buy his son, but was unable to raise so large a sum as 1200 dollars, demanded for him by his mistress. "He is now in Canada," he added "he was here not three weeks ago, having made his escape. I have still a daughter there, for whom I feel great anxiety." This man had been employed as a silversmith; but the skill which had enabled him to obtain his liberty, was now useless to him. No one would encourage him in his business, or work with him; and he was compelled to subsist by the few jobs he could get, now and then, on board the steamboats, or in the city. I was astonished at the acuteness of his perception, and the extent of his information. His language and address were both marked by a degree of propriety and correctness that I seldom saw among the whites. I was observing to one of the latter, that I had not expected to find, in the houses of a class who are said to be brutalized and irreclaimable, so much taste exhibited in the selection of furniture and ornaments. "I assure you", he replied, "that the elegancies of life are so well understood by those who have been in the way of acquiring or observing them, that it is a very common thing in the south to consult them on the disposal of draperies, and the details of the toilette." It was hard upon this poor fellow, that his industry and good conduct could not secure him a comfortable retreat for his old age in the land of his birth. He could not remain in Virginia when he became free. He spoke in high terms of Dr. Patterson, of Charlotteville: he was remarkable, he said, for his humanity and gentleness.
There are many circumstances observable in Indiana and Ohio that assimilate them to the slave States. The barbers' shops and the coffee-houses are filled with the same indecent prints and engravings, chiefly of French manufacture, that are to be seen stuck on the walls, to gratify the perverted taste of the Kentuckians and Virginians. The proprietors of these houses excused their conformity to these vicious practices, by declaring that they were necessary to attract, by amusing customers. The newspapers, too, are polluted with advertisements for runaway slaves, such as the following.
"One hundred dollars reward. Run away from the subscriber, living in Bracken County, Kentucky, on the 21st instant, a negro man, named Jarret, between thirty-five and forty years of age, five feet nine or ten inches high, an active-looking fellow, rather slender made, thin sharp visage for a negro, has a proud lofty carriage: not very black negro. He had some years ago a small round scar on each elbow, also two scars on the right arm above the elbow, and one on the right hand near the joint of the fore finger: they may have disappeared at this time. He is given to intoxication. Had on, when he went away, an old fur hat, and an old blue coat. He stabbed a negro man in the neighborhood; and, fearing the consequences, absconded. The above reward will be given for the apprehension of said negro, so that I get him, and all reasonable expenses, if brought to me, or I will give one half of him, if bro't to me, if taken out of the State of Kentucky. Any communication addressed to Mr. James Fleming, in Augusta, Bracken County, Kentucky, will be promptly attended to. Elizabeth Fee."I never met with any advertisement of this kind in the northern and middle States.
What sort of people inhabit the western valley, may be seen from the tone and style of the western Monthly Magazine, edited by Judge Hall, --a publication that marks the character of those "it lives to please", by its open hostility to emancipation. The following is an extract from an article in the June number, 1834. "The prejudice of color is not confined to the white man: the negro is equally jealous of those who differ from him in complexion to (a singular confession-founded, however, on what is not true,) and will never receive the white missionary with the same confidence which will be reposed in the civilized black emigrant. The feeling is mutual, because it is inherent. Nature herself has drawn the line, and has created distinctions between these races, so palpable as to be instantly obvious, whenever the respective parties meet, to more than one of the senses. It is true that certain young gentlemen in the neighborhood of this city, some of whose sayings and doings we noticed in our last number, have arrived at the sage conclusion, that Nature is wrong in that matter, and have determined, with a gallantry, which is certainly very becoming in persons of their profession, that the sable part of the softer sex shall not continue 'to waste their fragrance on the desert air,' but shall be elevated to a moral and political equality with other young ladies, and --what will be much easier --with their champions. They have accordingly commenced leaving their cards at the doors of the daughters of Africa. One of them was seen a few days ago, if we are rightly informed, politely escorting a black young lady through our streets, and another has taken his lodgings in a colored family,
I need not quote any further. I would not have inserted such disgusting language, if I had not wished to shew how little practical liberty there can be in any country where the most praiseworthy and innocent actions are thus distorted, and their authors pointed out to popular insult and violence. The persons here alluded to, are two students of Lane seminary, near Cincinnati, who had dedicated their time to the benevolent task of qualifying their fellow citizens, by instruction in the elementary branches of science and sound principles of religion, to perform their duties to themselves and their native country. They had given up their academical studies, and were boarding with some of those whom they had made such sacrifices to benefit. "This was the head and front of their offending." Not contented with this indecent and unprovoked attack upon the privacies of domestic life, the judge stigmatizes the whole body of students, merely because they are abolitionists, (that is, because they prefer their own judgement to his,) as "stipendiaries" who are "subsisting upon public charity," and affects to see, in the objects they are aiming at, an attempt to "unite Church and State" --a bugbear that has the same sort of influence over the American people, that the charge of trying to separate them once had in England; where the antislavery society was accused of a wish to divide the throne from the altar. Abolition doctrines must be of a strange nature, when their tendency is to create an ecclesiastical establishment in one country, and destroy it in another. As for the other "parties," I had, before I stumbled upon the Western Magazine, been several times in the house of one of them, and the only crimes that he had committed were that he could not "change his skin;" that he had purchased his freedom with his own hands for 600 dollars; --that he had come to Cincinnati, a few years before, without a dollar in his pocket, and was then possessed of property worth 3000 dollars; --that he had a well-behaved decent family and a comfortable home to shelter them, and that he was a friend to the distressed and an enemy to injustice.
I had a most convincing proof of that kindness to the unfortunate which I have mentioned. At the back of the house, where one of these students was boarding, were some hot and cold baths, belonging to the landlord. Here I found an elderly man at work, who had been in the town about five weeks. His head was cut and disfigured by many dreadful wounds, which were hardly yet cicatrized. The sight of these was very painful. His story was soon related. He had been sent from Virginia to Ohio by his master, with a written promise that he would give him his freedom if he would pay him seventy-five dollars. With this object in view, he had been working for fifteen months with his master's son; when he was told that he was free by the laws of the State. To prevent the assertion of his claim, his employer hired three ruffians to carry him off to the south --the mart of every thing villainous, and diabolical. When they arrived, in the night time, at his hut, they found he had armed himself with a dirk, and was determined upon resistance. After vainly, attempting to seize his person by entering the door, which they had forced, they attacked him through the window with stones and other missiles, till he was reduced to a state of insensibility, by repeated blows on the head. They then took possession of his person, and carried him down the river in chains. His wife, who was living at Cincinnati, heard of his arrival in the port, and with the assistance of the person on whose premises I saw him at work, a writ of habeas corpus was obtained and he was rescued. As his evidence would not be legally valid, this horrible outrage remains unpunished. One of his children, a girl of twelve or thirteen years of Age, was so much injured by the wounds she received while clinging to her father, with the view of affording protection, or obtaining mercy, that she has since died. The report of her medical attendant was, that her death was caused by the blows inflicted upon her in the course of this barbarous affair. The rest of his children were still in bondage, while the mother was toiling to purchase their freedom.
I heard so many accounts here of the frauds and the cruelties exercised upon these unoffending people, that I felt sick at heart, and disgusted with human nature. Some of them are too revolting to be detailed --men selling their own daughters for the vilest purposes, and women enriching themselves by the vices and thefts of their slaves: and these enormities are committed by persons who have not the plea of poverty to urge as an excuse for their guilt. At New Orleans , the poor creatures are turned out into the street, of a night, with a basket of fruit or cakes; and they must return with a specified sum, or they are flogged in a most savage manner. The whole system of iniquity was explained to me by a man, who obtained his information from one of its unfortunate victims. He was remonstrating with her on the wicked life she led, when she stripped her gown from her shoulders, and, exhibiting the bleeding marks of the stripes she had just received from her mistress, convinced him that vice could have no better palliation than such a reward for virtue. He afterwards watched her himself, and saw her stealing wood for her owner's kitchen. Her sister, she told him, often stole poultry or any thing else she could lay her hands on, and carried the booty home to her mistress.
A most horrible case of barbarity occurred last year at New Orleans. The Mercantile Advertiser of that city, after stating that a fire had broken out in a house, where several slaves were supposed to be confined in chains, adds: "the crowd rushed in to their deliverance, and amongst others, Mr. Canonge, Judge of the criminal court, who demanded of Mr. and Mrs. Lalaurie where these poor creatures were kept, which they obstinately refused to disclose, when Mr. Canonge, with a manly and praiseworthy zeal, rushed into the kitchen, which was on fire, followed by two or three young men, and brought forth a negro woman, found there chained. She was covered with bruises and wounds from severe flogging. All the apartments were then forced open. In a room on the ground-floor, two more were found chained, and in a deplorable condition. Up stairs, and in the garret, four more were found chained; some so weak as to be unable to walk, and all covered with wounds and sores. One, a mulatto boy, declares himself to have been chained for five months, being fed daily with only a handful of meal, and receiving every morning the most cruel treatment." I was informed by persons who were there at the time, that these poor creatures were gagged, to prevent their cries; that the perpetrators of these enormities were never punished; and that, when the excitement of the moment was over, public opinion threw obstacles in the way of justice, and palliated what had been done. The judge afterwards published a deposition, that "all the persons present were apparently indifferent to the result," and that Mr. Lalaurie said to him "in an insulting tone," "that there were persons who would do much better by remaining at home, than visiting others to dictate to them laws in the quality of officious friends."
In one district of Cincinnati, property amounting in value to 50,000 dollars, and belonging to colored persons, is taxed for public and local purposes. When a petition was presented lately to the legislature, praying that the owners might be admitted to a share in the benefits of the common school fund, the Committee, appointed to inquire into the subject, reported against the claim. "The decision might," they said, "at first view appear unnatural, and unbecoming a charitable, high-minded, and intelligent community;" "but when," they added, "we take into view that the security of our government rests and remains in the morality, virtue, and wisdom of our free white citizens; and that by the education of them, by means of a public fund, the government is only strengthening her own resources, and providing for her own security, honor, and elevation, the fact will be readily yielded, that the common school fund is not the offspring of the offices of charity; but that the principal and interest is amply repaid by the exercise of those functions which the government itself imposes upon all her free white citizens." The representatives have certainly done their duty to their constituents. A stronger plea for educating all the "free whites" than this jargon offers, could not have been made out.
attended, while at Cincinnati, a meeting of "The Colonization Society"; and my patience was put to the most severe test, in listening to the nasal twang and monotonous voice of the speaker, that fell, with isochronous pauses, on the ear, like the lugubrious sounds sent forth in the silent hour of the night, by the steam-monster on the Ohio. Mr. Finley (an agent of the Society) began by eulogizing the principles and objects of the "benevolent institution," for which he was pleading, and proceeded to paint, in glowing colors, the flourishing state of the colony it had planted on the benighted shores of Africa.
The last accounts that had been received of the settlers, were of the most gratifying description. They had a prosperous and increasing trade, were welcomed, by the vast and numerous tribes in the interior of that mysterious continent, as benefactors and bearers of every thing good and holy. Kings and chieftains from afar, whose names, like the coruscations of distant planets, had not yet reached us, had come down, by thousands, to see the wonderful strangers; --to cast their sceptres at their feet, and to break the chains of their captives --past, present, and future: and to implore their Christian brethren that they would send schoolmasters and preachers to instruct the rising, and civilize the present, generation. They had embraced the new comers with transports of joy: --they had shed tears of gratitude over the hardships they had suffered, and the benefits they meditated, for the unenlightened descendants of their common ancestors. Already had they built a church and appointed a pastor from their own community, and with their own funds. The whole history of colonization, from the stretching of the cow-hide to the loves of Pocohontas, presented nothing parallel, analogous, or comparable, to the success which had attended this first effort to remove the "colored population" of the United States to their "native land." As for the colonists themselves, the whole current of their wicked and disgusting habits had been suddenly turned into pious and wholesome channels. The blasphemer, while inhaling the pure air of Liberia, had forgotten his oaths and imprecations: the drunkard, in contemplating the beautiful scenery that surrounded him, had become temperate and abstemious: --the waters of the Atlantic had washed away all the impurities, and removed all the infirmities, of his nature; and the vile outcast of America --the plague and curse of its virtuous and generous citizen --had cast off the slime of his former iniquities, and now stands erect and elated, disenthralled of his vices, and disencumbered of his crimes. The poisonous exotic of Virginia is now a luxuriant plant in Monrovia:--
Much more was said to the same effect and in the same spirit. There were some of those present for whom the scheme of deportation had been planned, but who had too much sagacity to be deluded by its fallacies, and too much spirit to accept its insulting offers. Before these men, as if in defiance of decency, and in scorn of those rules which every man who respects himself, and is unwilling to be classed with the lowest vulgar, observes, the "hired agent" of the Colonization Society made use of the word "nigger," an expression peculiarly expressive of contempt and abhorrence. After asserting, with unblushing effrontery, that the free blacks were anxious to emigrate, and that their sympathies and affections were naturally centered in the home of their fathers, he concluded by reminding them, that they would there escape from the tyranny of public opinion, and enjoy those privileges which were denied them in America.
I did not stay to hear the next speaker --Dr. Beecher, the President of Lane Seminary, as my patience was down, and I had not courage enough to wind it up again.
I was not sorry , the next day, that I had retired; as I found the reverend doctor, to whom I was introduced, was so far jaundiced, that he not only admitted the existence of the disease, under which he, in common with his countrymen, labor, but maintained that it was conducive to health, and in strict accordance with the order of nature, He called it a prejudice, yet he considered it a salutary preventive of that amalgamation, which would confound the two races and obliterate the traces of their distinction: --a result that, in the view of common sense, is neither to be dreaded nor deprecated, as it would destroy animosity by destroying its causes. He did not see why the Colonization Society should not call a man a "free agent" and departing with his "free consent," to whom no other alternative was offered but Liberia or the lash. He had the choice of two evils, and therefore he went with his free consent. He who gives up his purse, when the urgent "sounds salute his ear" --"Your money or your life!" gives up his money with his free consent: It is an abuse of words to say he is under duress. The only difference between the two cases is, that the alternative offered to the traveller comes from the highwayman alone; while that offered to the slave comes conjointly from his owner and the colonizationist. Dr. Beecher , however, advocated the cause of immediate emancipation. His humanity struggled with his prejudices, and his heart pleaded in favor of liberty, while his intellect yielded to sophistries which would rob it of more than half its value.
While the hatred of the pseudo-Christian would refuse to its victim a few feet of the land he has watered with his tears, and enriched with the sweat of his brow, a small number of good Samaritans, with whom "nor numbers nor example" have "wrought to swerve from truth," are binding up his sores, and pouring oil into his wounds. While the judges and clergy of Cincinnati would ship him off for Africa to teach the arts and sciences to the heathen, these devoted men would have him learn his letters at home. With this unequivocal good object in view, they have, with a zeal beyond their means, established three schools; one of which is under the care of the only young woman, who could be found, in the valley of the Mississippi, to undertake an office, that would be sure to involve her in ridicule and misrepresentation. This young person, whose name is Lathrop, has a sister married to an American missionary in Ceylon. I visited her school two or three times, and was equally pleased and surprised at the progress her pupils had made in the short space of a fortnight.
This and the two other schools are chiefly supported by the students at the Lane Seminary. They are visited every other evening by some of their young patrons, and are under the immediate superintendence of two from the body --of whom I have before spoken as having incurred the displeasure of Judge Hall --the censor morum and arbiter elegantiarum of Cincinnati. They contain about 100 pupils of both sexes. Those parents who are able to do so, (there are but thirty,) pay one dollar a quarter for their children. They were anxious to increase the sum --but their offer was declined. The expenditure exceeds the receipts by nearly 200 dollars. When the first school was opened, in the preceding March, there were but four or five who could read tolerably well. As it is made a condition of admittance that a child should know the letters of the alphabet, many were at first rejected. The poor little things were so much affected by the disappointment, that they cried bitterly, and begged to be taken into the school. There were forty or fifty in this situation. It was intended to hire a woman for the purpose of giving them this slight qualification. So assiduous are the pupils in learning their lessons, that one of the instructors, who had been a teacher in New Jersey and Connecticut, assured me, that he had never witnessed such instances of rapid improvement. Another, who had had a great deal of experience in Massachusetts, declared that an equal progress in arithmetic, after two years' study, had never come under his observation.
All those who had attended these schools, as examiners, were of opinion that the supposed difference of intellect between the two races seemed to be in favor of that which is usually classed below the other. This may be accounted for from the additional stimulus, which the hope of rising from a galling, because an unmerited, degradation, has given, and the greater degree of docility which Nature or parental care has bestowed. In addition to these schools, there are between forty and fifty adults of both sexes, who are instructed in reading and useful branches of knowledge in the evening. Singular as it may seem, there is not, in a city containing nearly 30,000 inhabitants, one white who has shewn any permanent interest in these benevolent efforts to raise the condition of his fellow-citizens.
Judge Hall says, in his Magazine, that when an Englishman uses the word "singular" or "remarkable", to preface his account of any thing, he has heard or seen in America, he is sure to tell a lie. I hope most sincerely he will be able to prove that I am no exception to the rule; and it will add to the pleasure I shall have, if he be himself witness against me. I shall feel double respect for the bench, when it supplies both the evidence that convicts, and the sentence that condemns.
The day after the meeting, I bent my solitary way towards the enemy's quarters. On enquiring of a young man the road to Lane Seminary, I found he was one of the students, and was going thither.
The institution, which is situated about two miles from the city, and is supported by the Presbyterian church, has not existed longer than three or four years. Attached to the house are 120 acres of land, of which three or four are appropriated to the purposes of a garden. Of the students, forty belong to the theological class, and between that number and fifty to the literary: the latter being, for the most part, destined to the former. Three hours of each day are devoted to manual labor, rather as an auxiliary to health, than from motives of economy,) though the cause of learning has gained as much by the promotion of the one as by that of the other. Those who are employed in mechanical pursuits, such as stereotype printing, finishing hats and shoes, &c., earn, upon an average, two dollars a week; while the profits of agricultural labor amount to about half that sum for the same period. The benefits and advantages of these separate occupations are sometimes equalized by an interchange; and both parties gain by diversifying both exercise of limbs and acquisition of skill. The superintendent, who manages the financial affairs of the college, deducts, from the regular charges for board, the amount of what each gains; and it is, generally found, that the proceeds of their industry are sufficient to cover this part of their expense.
There was not in the Academy one abolitionist twelve months before my visit. There were then but three who were not so, and they were all from the free States. Of the rest, more than one-fifth consisted of slave-owners, and all, without exception, declared that "cruelty was the rule of slavery, and kindness the exception." One professor only, out of six, was a decided and open friend to emancipation. The students were nearly all men of mature age, not mere school boys, as Judge Hall had termed them.
While I was conversing with Mr. Weld, and two or three other students in his room, the former put into my hands a letter, written by a young man, who had been brought, when a child, from the coast of Africa, and had, by working extra time, and reducing his hours for sleep almost to the minimum required for existence, succeeded in teaching himself to read and write, and in purchasing his freedom. For the latter he had paid, in the year 1833, the sum of 700 dollars, including what he had given for certain portions of time to work on his own account. The writer , (James Bradley,) about twenty-seven years of age, was absent. The paper, which was addressed to Mrs. Child of Boston, contained the narrative of his sufferings and his exertions. His master bore the character of a kind and humane man towards his slaves; yet he was accustomed to knock poor Bradley about the head so cruelly, that his life was despaired of: and the whole family were equally brutal; for while the children were tormenting him with sticks and pins, the father expressed a wish, in his presence, that he was dead, as he would never be good for anything, telling him that "he would as soon knock him on the head as an opossum." In his letter to Mrs. Child, he assures her that what is said by travellers and others who have questioned the slaves upon their wish for freedom, is not to be relied on: as it is a matter of policy with them to affect contentment, and conceal their real sentiments on the subject, since harsher treatment, and severe measures to prevent escape, would be the inevitable result of any anxiety they might shew for liberty. "How strange is it", --such are his own words, --"that any body should believe that a human being could be a slave, and feel contented. I don't believe there ever was a slave who did not long for liberty." The whole letter bore the stamp of a mind elevated, candid, and simple, to a degree that art would attempt in vain to imitate.
I read another , from a man in Indiana, who had, in a similar manner, obtained both his freedom and a knowledge of writing. His sentiments and style were of a very superior order. There were not more, in a long composition, than two or three trivial errors of grammar, --one of them so purely idiomatic that I have often observed it in men who profess to be well-educated. The hand-writing was singularly clear, and even beautiful.
Two days after this visit, I called again at the Seminary, and was introduced to James Bradley. It struck me, when I first saw him, that the color of his skin was of a deeper jet, than that which prevails among the Africo-Americans of equally pure descent*.
As he was but two or three years of age when he was stolen from Africa, he could not remember anything that had occurred to him in that country, except that he was at play in the fields when he was carried off. The cruelties he had witnessed in South Carolina, whither he was taken, could not, he said, be described. The period he had purchased, in order to work on his own account, he passed in the Arkansas, where there are, to the eternal disgrace of the federal government, which has exclusive jurisdiction over it, a large number of slaves, exposed to the greatest hardships. When that territory is to be admitted into the Union, the same discussion which agitated it throughout every limb will be renewed; and the world will again witness the disgusting spectacle of a free people contending against liberty.
* Many facts might be adduced to render it probable that the color of the human skin is affected by climate. "India", says Bishop Heber, in his 'Narrative of a Journey, &c.', "has been always, and long before the Europeans came hither, a favourite theatre for adventurers from Persia, Greece, Tartary, Turkey and Arabia, all white men, and all, in their turn, possessing themselves of wealth and power. These circumstances must have greatly contributed to make a fair complexion fashionable. It is remarkable, however, to observe, how surely all these classes of men, in a few generations, even without any intermarriage with the Hindoos, assume the deep olive tint, little less dark than that of a negro, which seems natural to the climate. The Portuguese natives form unions among themselves alone; or, if they can, with Europeans. but the Portuguese have, during a 300 years' residence in India, become as black as Caffres."
Dr. Beecher exhibited great liberality towards James Bradley, who was absent from a tea-party he gave to the students. He not only expressed great regret that he had not joined the company, but declared, if he had foreseen what had occurred, he would have gone himself to invite him.
Among the students was a young man, whose sole patrimony consisted, in addition to 200 dollars, of two slaves. When convinced of the sin of slavery by the discussions to which I have before alluded, he emancipated both; and, when I saw him, was paying, out of his own pocket, the expenses of education for one of them. I need not say that I felt it a much higher honor to take this noble-minded youth by the hand, than to see Andrew Jackson smiling on the toad-eaters and office-hunters about him.
The students from the South related to me anecdotes, illustrative of the horrid system under which they had been brought up. One of them said, he was sometimes asked by a slave what right his father had to his services. There is not, indeed, among those who are thus defrauded of their natural rights, one solitary being, that is not fully sensible of the injustice, and prepared to assert his claims at the first opportunity that the chance of escape may offer. Though naturally shrewd, and possessing what few faculties remain to them in a state of extreme acuteness, by frequent exercise and, the concentration of the mental energies on a few objects, they are in the constant habit of feigning stupidity, to disarm suspicion, and escape exaction. The attachment they evince to their children is very strong; and they are seen, after the toils of the day, caressing them on their knees, and listening, with parental fondness, to their prattle. Their affections are warm, and easily gained. The strongest attachment, and unbounded gratitude, in return for kind treatment, are characteristics of the whole race; and there are many who would not hesitate to risk their lives for those who have endeavored to make them happy.
A student from Alabama, while detailing the horrors he had witnessed, mentioned the circumstance of a woman, in an advanced state of pregnancy, being flogged by her master till she miscarried. To be worked to death is no uncommon thing; and the torture is increased by the slowness of the process. Severity of toil depends on the kind of cultivation; increasing in intensity, as the produce is cotton, rice, or sugar. The last, on account of the nightwork, is so destructive, in its manipulations, of heath and life, that it is a custom with the slaves to pray for cheap sugar.
Mr. Weld, and two others, one of whom was Mr. Morgan, whom I before spoke of as the only abolitionist among the professors, accompanied me on my return to the city; and we spent the evening in visiting some of the colored people, with one of whom we drank tea.
I found their houses furnished in a style of comfort and elegance much superior to what I had seen among whites of the same rank. At one of them was an old man of a very advanced age. From his own statement, which was confirmed by those present, he must have been 114 years old. He had retained his faculties, and was strong enough to walk without assistance; though his feet were much crippled by the sufferings he had undergone: having been compelled, for six years, to drag a weight of fifty-six pounds, attached by a chain to his legs, while at work. In addition to this instrument of wearisome annoyance, he had worn an iron collar round his neck, fastened to his waist, and projecting over his head, with a bell suspended from the upper part. He was a very religious man; and it was for preaching to his fellow slaves, that these excruciating tortures were inflicted upon him. When we asked him if he had ever been flogged, he threw his arms up wildly, and seemed to labor under an oppressive load of recollections. This was invariably his custom, when the subject was recalled to his mind. "Yes!" he exclaimed, "the cow-hide was my breakfast, and dinner, and supper," meaning that he had been exposed to the lash at every meal. When he had completed a century of suffering and sorrow, he resolutely declared that his task was done, and he would work no more. His master (the brute's name was Patterson) then brought him from Virginia to Ohio, and left him on the banks of the river. In spite of his years and his infirmities, poor Solomon Scott managed to find his way to the Cincinnati hotel; where he was earning his bread, like an honest man, by cleaning shoes, and making himself useful about the house; when owner, finding he had a few dollars' worth of labor still left in him, sent his brother-in-law (a "young gentleman" of the name of Price) to bring him back. Outraged humanity, however, at last asserted her rights. The indignation of the by-standers protected the old man's grey hairs: and the youth returned to his employer, to report the result of his unmanly errand. The benevolent spirit of his race has now rescued him from the misery that awaits the colored pauper in this country, and has smoothed the little that remains of his path to the grave. Theson-in-law of the person, at whose house I saw him, took him from the harpies who had contracted to starve him, and he has at last found an asylum in his declining years. His benefactor, who had realized five or six thousand dollars by his industry, to which he was indebted for his own freedom, had laid out part of his savings in procuring that blessing for others. He had redeemed a young woman from servitude for 300, and a man for 600 dollars. They were to repay him the money as soon as they had the ability.
If any thing could add to the guilt of slavery it would be its effect on the female character. "Corruptio optimi fit pessima." I asked whether women were not sometimes more cruel than men. The answer from all present was, that they were much more so. The gross licentiousness of the men would account for this deplorable pre-eminence in guilt: as jealousy would not be contented with the suffering it inflicted upon its objects, but would transfer its hatred to all connected with them, and engender a habit of savage ferocity towards the whole race. There may be another reason for the unkindness alluded to --an opposite feeling might be imputed to bad motives. But this is a part of the subject too delicate to be touched upon: and perhaps human nature "is clad in complete steel" in the slave States; and Purity herself may tread in perfect safety the "infamous hill and perilous sandy wilds" of the south.
As the poor old man expressed himself very indistinctly, the mistress of the house interpreted what he said. An anecdote she had frequently heard from him, and which she related to us, while he sat by enjoying the general laugh it created, shewed what cunning and self-possession the slaves have. She had before told us a very amusing story of a lad who acted the part of Brutus so successfully, that, while his master set him down for as idiot, he had completed his preparations for a long journey, and started "one fine day", with his saddle-bags well filled, --and a trusty steed, for Canada; with the route to which he had made himself thoroughly acquainted, by asking one of the sons to explain the queer dots and lines on the map. He changed horses regularly as he proceeded, whenever he could do so with safety, and dismissed them, in succession, to find their way home. In this way he arrived at the place "where he would be," and is now a good loyal British subject; while his master is vowing vengeance, and literally growing twigs, to scourge the rebellious boy --when he gets him again into his power: his forgiveness of a former flight, occasioned by his brutality, having, he declares, encouraged a second attempt.
But I must not forget "uncle Solomon" and his joke. He was, one Sunday, at a neighbor's house, when the mistress returned from church, and not finding the dinner ready, began to scold the cook in no measured terms. "Madam," said the woman, "you gave me no orders: and you know you have always told me to do nothing without orders:" "True," replied the other, "but your conscience might have told you that I was not to be starved." The cook put on a look of stupidity. "What! don't you understand me?" exclaimed the virago: "don't you understand what conscience is? Solomon! you know what conscience is?" Solomon kept his wisdom to himself. "Why, Solomon! you must be a fool. Conscience is something within us that tells us when we do wrong." "Where was your's then," said Solomon, "when you cut that poor woman's back to pieces other day?" Before she could recover from her confusion, Solomon had vanished; having very prudently followed the example of those wits who make it a point to quit the company when they have said "a good thing."
I need not --I cannot repeat the shocking stories of wanton unrelenting cruelty I heard during these visits. This woman, and her brothers and sisters, had been emancipated by their master, or rather their father, who had left instructions in his will, that they should be allowed sufficient time to earn the purchase money. When the proceeds had been divided among the family, every instrument, that fraud or force could suggest, was used, to reduce them again to a state of bondage. Her master's daughter, (her half sister,) in whose service she lived, was remarkable for her harshness. She was in the habit of accusing the female slaves of stealing her trinkets and sweetmeats, while she had herself secreted the one, and eaten the other; one day her sister, who was of a mild and amiable disposition, discovered one of her silk gowns concealed in the garden, and upbraided her for her conduct. It was too late! a poor girl, who had been falsely accused of the crime, had lost an eye, which was torn from the socket, by the flogging her master had inflicted upon her. This brute of a woman would shut up the children, in the depth of winter, without fire or furniture, in a dark room, and when they cried from the severity of the cold, apply heated irons to their feet.
The house where we drank tea, or rather supped, for it was a good substantial meal we partook of, was one of those, which Judge Hall thinks so ill fitted to the humble follower of Him, who taught by his own example the humility he inculcated in his precepts. The owner had completed the purchase of his freedom about eight years before, and had been enabled, by success in trade, to procure that of his brother and sister. He was a carpenter, and had five or six hands in his employment: all, but one, whites --a memorable victory, obtained by skill and perseverance over obstacles, that, with most men, would have proved insuperable. His journeymen had been so much jeered at and insulted by the members of their fraternity, for working with a "colored boss", that they were obliged to quit their lodgings. I saw them at work in his shop, or I would not have believed that so many men could have been found in Cincinnati, possessed of sufficient moral courage, to bear up against the taunts and upbraidings of their comrades. One of them had come from New York; and, though he had, at first, expressed great astonishment, on finding a colored man able to work well, (a pretty good proof of the repulsive feeling, that separates the inhabitants of the same city into two distinct castes,) yet he had bound himself to work a year with him, and renewed the agreement on the expiration of the term. I should add that nearly all the persons, who employed this man, were slave-owners, and not citizens of the free State of Ohio. I passed a very agreeable evening with him and his family; and I could not help thinking, that it would be as well if those who abuse such men as he, in their books and their speeches, had as much of his acuteness as they want of his benevolence.
END OF VOL. II.