Official Report from Liberia --Proofs of Africo-American Industry. --Ignominious Mode of Interment. --Inadmissibility of Free Blacks' Evidence in Ohio. --White Slave and her Children. --Blacks have "Notice to quit". --Sketch of Louisiana. --Courage of a Mulatto. --Blacklegs at Cincinnati.
Colonization Society, while its agent was painting the prosperous condition of Liberia, had documents in its possession that would at once have exposed the falsity of the statement. The auxiliary society of Georgetown, in Brown County, (Ohio, who had sent out a Baptist missionary, of the name of Jones, (a colored man,) to inquire into the state of the colony, had, a few months before, received his report, together with another from a convention of the settlers called by the agent of Liberia for the same purpose. A copy of these documents was sent by one of the Lane students, Mr. Wattles, to the Cincinnati Journal. He had procured them from the society's secretary, (Dr. Buckner,) in addition to some letters transmitted to the committee of the Board of Managers of the Presbyterian missions by their agent, Mr. Temple, whom they had sent out to Africa. The journal refused them a place in its columns. All these documents gave a very unfavorable account of the colony. The convention , whose names are appended to the report, state, among other things, that the settlers, "on their arrival, are placed in public receptacles; and, in almost every instance, their lands are withheld from them till they are over the fever. Consequently, many who do not take the fever for several weeks, and are anxious to do something, but not having their lands assigned them, turn their attentions to traffic; and those who are disposed to do nothing, let themselves down, depending upon what they get from the public stores. The fever now takes them, and is of such a nature that it generally brings on a train of diseases, and is also calculated to produce indolence in almost every case. About the time they are half through with the fever, the six months are expired, and they are turned out of doors, sick, weak, and debilitated; and, from the loss of friends and relatives, many are broken-hearted, and are thus brought to an untimely grave. Others are so discouraged, as to have no inclination to help themselves, and consequently so many afflicted widows and orphans become burthensome upon society. Mr. Jones says, in his report, that "there are hundreds there who would rather come back and be slaves, than stay in Liberia." "Of all misery, and all poverty, and all repining, that my imagination had ever conceived," --such are his words, --"it never had reached what my eyes now saw, and my ears heard. Hundreds of poor creatures, squalid, ragged, hungry, without employment, --some actually starving to death, and all praying most fervently that they might get home to America once more. Even the emancipated slave craved the boon of returning again to bondage, that he might once more have the pains of hunger satisfied. They would sit down and "tell us" (he was accompanied by another missionary) "their tale of suffering and of sorrow, with such a dejected and woe-begone aspect, that it would almost break ones heart. They would weep as they talked of their sorrows here, and their joys in America; and we mingled our tears freely with theirs. This part of the population included, as near as we could judge; two-thirds of the inhabitants of Monrovia." "I was particularly requested", he adds, "by some of the most respectable citizens, to, disabuse the American public on the present condition of the colony, and fearlessly to state the facts as they exist. For the agents who have been here, said they, have done as much harm by giving more flattering accounts than the truth would warrant; and by this means have induced many to come, who ever have been, and ever will be, a burthen to themselves and the colony. Others again, who were in good circumstances in America, and might live in the first style in the colony, have been so deceived by these agents, that they have returned home perfectly sickened with disappointment."
Speaking of the natives, he says, they are treated like slaves. "All the colonists, who can afford it, have a native or two to do their work. The natives never go into the house, but always eat and sleep in the kitchen. When they go to the door to speak to the master, they always take their hats off, and appear as though they desired to be very submissive." Yet these unfortunate colonists are made to say, in a circular addressed by them to their brethren at home, and published by the Colonization Society, that they were "grateful to God and their American patrons, for the happy change which had taken place in their situation." Eels, we have been told, do not suffer when they are flayed alive, because they are used to it. The cook has never asserted that they thanked her.
The document I have before quoted was brought from Liberia by a person whom I afterwards saw. Part of it I transcribed from a copy lent me by one of the Lane students. It came from "a convention of the citizens of Liberia, called by order of the agent of the American Colonization Society, for the purpose of inquiring" into the actual state of the colony.
"In answer ," they say, "to the inquiry made of the total neglect of agriculture, we would briefly remark that much depends upon the location of the newly arrived emigrants. The early settlers of the colony were located on Cape Mesurado; --a thirsty barren rock, unproductive, and on which nothing can be raised to any extent, and on which expedition after expedition was continued to be located for several years --which was very essential, as the colony was then surrounded by thousands of heathen enemies. So far agriculture, was neglected through necessity. During this time, the settlers of course turned their attention to trading. The population being small, the supplies from the natives were sufficient to serve them: therefore, the necessity of farming was not felt. This caused a total neglect, till the settlement of Caldwell was established. By this time the settlers, who were successful in trade, were so bound by their interests in mercantile pursuits, that farming to them could not be an object; and those who were unsuccessful, had neither courage nor means to attempt to farm. Caldwell being now settled, where the land is fertile, better things might have been expected; but the misfortune is, the people located there were generally poor, and in indigent circumstances --whose expectations were raised to so great a height by flattering reports before they left the United States, that they were induced to believe that they were going to a country in which they would enjoy a liberty attended with little or no difficulty in acquiring the common comforts of life. Now, on their arrival, they are placed in public receptacles; and in almost every instance their lands are withheld from them, &c.", till they become "burthensome upon society,"
The report recommends that land should be apportioned to the emigrants as they arrive. "The emigrants would not then be forced into the swamps, as they now are, to get lumber to sell, in order to support a starving family. This unprofitable and health-destroying employment had destroyed many and would destroy more." In another passage they say: --"Monrovia, our first and capital settlement, can only appear a town of considerable size, when delineated on the map. There its fine churches, its Lancasterian schools, and its market, and its forts, are shewn to great advantage; but, upon inspecting, the originals appear as dark shades. The cause, which we would assign, is, the want of a colonial coin." Signed by the convention. The last paragraph, as well as the whole style of this report, shews clearly that it was written with great caution, and under an apprehension of giving offence to the authorities at home. It affords, however, sufficient evidence, that the grossest fraud and mismanagement prevail, both in the colony and in the board of managers.
There is no State in the Union that has carried its enmity to these people so far as Ohio. In the public burying-ground, or "Potter's Field," as it is called, at Cincinnati, the difference of position, in which the bodies below are laid, points out the difference of complexion by which they were distinguished while living. The pride of the white man pursues its victim even beyond the grave. The one lies from East to West: the other, from North to South. I visited the spot with a benevolent Quaker, Mr. Davis, to whom I am indebted for many civilities. I saw the unchristian distinction amid all that is calculated to humble the pride of man: and I wished that the shame of Cincinnati might be known in every village of Europe. None but the poor and destitute are buried in this humiliating manner; as those who can scrape together a few dollars, would rather purchase a few feet of earth in some cemetery than submit to the supposed degradation of interment in the Potter's Field. It is thus that the corporation of the city unites with the legislature of the State, in pandering to the popular superstition; and the ingenuity of malice is racked to make life and death equally ignominious to its object: as if "the wicked" would not "cease from troubling," nor the weary be permitted to "be at rest" even in "narrow house."
The ignominious mode of interment, to which the poor among this neglected race are subject, is deeply felt by them. A young man, speaking to me upon the subject, said, with tears in his eyes, "I was much shocked to find, on my return to the city after a short absence, that one of my female relatives had been buried in this way. I visited the spot, and saw the grave: it cut me to the heart, we could and would have raised enough among ourselves to bury her decently, but it was too late." Another observed to me, that he had often been insultingly told by the whites that there would be a separate place in heaven for him and his people. --"But," added the man, "I always tell them we shall have a good boss in the next world --not a white boss."
It was in the year 1807 that the act, disqualifying colored persons from giving evidence, where whites are concerned, was passed, to the eternal dishonor of the State. It is therein expressly provided, that "no black or mulatto person shall hereafter be permitted to be sworn or give evidence in any court of record or elsewhere in this State, in any cause depending, or matter of controversy, where either party to the same is a white person; or in any prosecution which shall be instituted in behalf of this State against any white person."
Mr. Davis related to me an instance of human depravity, almost unequalled in the annals of crime. He was personally acquainted with the parties. It occurred in Virginia thirty or forty years ago: and the legal proceedings to which it gave rise, are now upon record. An orphan girl was indentured as an apprentice, to a man of the name of Jones, who died insolvent before the term, for which she was bound, had expired; and a Scotchman, (Hook,) a creditor of the deceased, got possession of her. She was a white woman. Hook, however, treated her as a slave, and compelled her to marry, or rather to cohabit with, a negro, by whom she had several children. The whole affair was subsequently brought into a court of justice; and, after a long and tedious litigation, the mother and the offspring were declared free. Whether the action was of a civil or a criminal nature, --whether any damages were awarded, or any punishment inflicted, --I was unable to learn. It is not very likely, however, that either the judge or the jury would be very severe against an act, which I have erroneously termed unequalled, as they were, probably, in the habit of committing it, directly or indirectly, themselves; --with this difference only, that compulsion, in their case, has the sanction of law, and is not exercised upon white women. After all, the children would have obtained but the mother's freedom. The father's disabilities would remain with them for life, and, perhaps, still longer.
This woman , whose name is Pagee, often comes to Cincinnati, in the neighborhood of which she lives. She had borne a white child, before her forced connexion with the slave; and her master, whose name he now bears, is thought to have been the father. According to a MS. narrative Mr. Davis shewed me "It is supposed the degraded condition of his mother and her children, induced him to leave them, when their situation was known, to remove to the Western country; where his qualifications for usefulness have procured him an office of honor and profit. His mother, having passed the prime of her life in slavery, and being destitute of the means of subsistence, and probably looking to this son for support in her declining years, followed him to the West; but it is believed, they never have recognized each other in the relation in which they stand to each other. Her daughter Charlotte had been taken into the family of General Jessup; and, when he passed through Cincinnati some years ago, she, with great care and difficulty, sought out her mother, and with much delicacy and filial tenderness, obtained a private interview with her, and kindly offered to administer to her wants."
Before I left Cincinnati, I obtained a copy of the advertisement, which was published in the newspapers relative to the security required of the free blacks. It is as-follows:
"The undersigned, trustees and overseers of the poor of the township of Cincinnati, hereby give notice, that the duties required of them by the act of the General Assembly of Ohio, entitled an act to regulate black and mulatto persons, and the act emendatory thereto, will hereafter be rigidly enforced; and all black and mulatto persons, now residents of the said Cincinnati township, and who have emigrated to and settled within the township of Cincinnati, without complying with the requisitions of the first section of the amended act aforesaid, are informed, that unless they enter into bond, as the said act directs, within thirty days from this date, they may expect, at the expiration of that time, the law to be rigidly enforced. And the undersigned further insert herein, for the information of the Cincinnatï township, the third section of the emendatory act aforesaid, as follows: --that, if any person, being a resident of the State, shall employ, harbor, or conceal any such negro, or mulatto person aforesaid, contrary to the provisions of the first section of this act, any person so offending, shall forfeit and pay, for every such offence, any sum not exceeding 100 dollars, the one half to the informer, and the other half for the use of the poor of the township in which such person may reside, to be recovered by action of debt, before any court having competent jurisdiction; and, moreover, be liable for the maintenance and support of such negro or mulatto; provided he or they shall become unable to support themselves.
" The co-operation of the public is expected in carrying these laws into full effect.The public took the hint; and the outrage detailed in the preceding volume, was perpetrated."WILLIAM MILLS, Trustees
BENJAMIN HOPKINS, of the
GEORGE LEE, Township.
June 29th, 1829."
person , for whom I brought a letter from his brother in Washington,
was a man, who would have been looked up to in any other country for his
good sense and pleasing manners. He had just received a printed circular,
addressed to the people of his race, by the editor of the Genius of
Universal Emancipation, an active and able advocate of the black man,
when he had few friends. The letter was written in Mexico; and the writer
(Lundy) stated that he had had a personal communication with the government
of that country, and that he had reason to believe a grant of land in the
Texas would be made, for the reception of colored people from Tennessee.
What a reverse and retaliation of fortune! The descendants of the bigoted
Spaniards are more tolerant than the descendants of the liberal English!
While the latter are driving away their own subjects, the former offer
them an asylum! The policy, however, that impoverished Spain and enriched
England, was dictated by the spirit of the age and the religion of the
country: that which is now strengthening Mexico, at the expense of the
United States, is opposed to both.
[not for excerpt book]
The following sketch of what may be seen in Louisiana I had from an eye-witness, whom I met with at Cincinnati, and whose veracity I have no reason to doubt. Slaves for sale at New Orleans are publicly exposed at the mart, or auction-room; the men ranged on one side, and the women on the other. Purchasers are in the habit of examining the mouth and the limbs, in the same way that a horse is subjected to the scrutinising touch of the buyer. The joints are tried, and turned, to see if they are strong and supple. Should the back, or shoulders, or any other part of the body, exhibit marks of frequent or severe flogging, the "animal"' is set aside, as rebellious and refractory. Twice a week, an exhibition takes place, during the season; and the human cattle are paraded through the streets, decently dressed, and in regular file, to attract customers. While at work in the streets, or on the banks of the river, they are frequently chained together by the ancle --women as well as men. Sometimes they wheel barrows on the road with a chain and a heavy ball at the end of it, affixed to one of their legs. The ball they place, when they can, in the barrow, as a temporary relief from the burthen. They work during the heat of the day, and few of them are decently clothed or suffciently fed. They are usually allowed an hour for dinner, which consists of rice and bullock's head. Something is given them to eat before they start, at an early hour, and when the toils of the day are over. On the Red River, a peck of corn a-week is the allowance for each. They must grind it and cook it themselves.
On the cotton plantations, they are half naked, and avoid, with feelings of shame and confusion, the gaze of the traveller. No exemption from toil is granted to the females, many of whom, while suckling their infants, are prohibited from seeing them till their return at night. Individuals, of both sexes and of all ages, may often be seen with iron collars, from which spikes of six inches' length protrude, round the neck, as a punishment for stealing*.That they do steal and will steal, they make no scruple to acknowledge and avow: they must steal or starve. The number of Virginians imported by the "soul-drivers" is so great, that it is supposed there must be, annually, nearly 10,000 sent to the Southern market by the "Old Dominion." Such is the substance of what was related to me; and there is no lack of testimony from other quarters to corroborate the statement. The iron collars alluded to are of such a nature that the wearer cannot lie down. He sleeps sitting up. Such was the statement made to Mr. Elizar Wright by a slave from Georgia --the property of a minister of the gospel, who had himself directed the overseer to put it on a man for running away. The evidence was corroborated, as far as it could be, by Mr. Joshua Coffin of Philadelphia.
* I If any person or persons, &c., shall cut or break any iron chain or collar, which any master of slaves should have used in order to prevent the running away or escape of any such slave or slaves, such person, &c., so offending shall, on conviction, &c., be fined not less than 200 dollars nor exceeding 1000 dollars; and suffer imprisonment for a term, not exceeding two years, nor less than six months." --Act of Louisiana Assembly, 1819. Severity of punishment measures extent of crime. What then must be the amount of suffering which prompted the offence, and that of cruelty which suggested the repression?
It has been asserted by those who have an interest in concealing the truth, or are too indolent to seek it, that the slave has neither the inclination nor the ability to provide for himself, and that to give him freedom would be to misapply kindness by injuring its object. I had abundant opportunity of submitting these assertions to the only test, by which their accuracy can be ascertained; and I can honestly declare, that an impartial induction from indisputable facts has led me to an opposite conclusion. I conversed freely and frequently with many of those who had passed immediately from bondage to freedom, and were pursuing the same course of industry, which had purchased them the blessing of the transition. I found them as intelligent, civil, and attentive to the duties required of them in their several employments and relations of life, as any of those who are neither disfranchised of their natural rights, nor exposed to the scorn and bad passions of their neighbors. While visiting at their houses, I remarked as much concern for each other's welfare as I have ever found in any other rank or order of society, and a much greater attention to the civilities and courtesies of society than I ever saw among their white fellow countrymen. Though they are under the necessity, in consequence of their civil disqualifications, of securing themselves against fraud by the presence of a white person, whenever they make a bargain with a member of the favored caste, there is no proof that honesty or punctuality is wanting on their side. That they suffer from the want of both in the other party is too often the case, and is naturally to be expected while men are disposed to take advantage of the law's injustice.
On entering one of their houses, with almost the only white companion I could have found --one of the students, --my attention was particularly directed to the respectable appearance of the mistress, an elderly woman, --and the unaffected ease with which she received us. She had the manners and good-breeding of a gentlewoman. Her husband, who had been emancipated by his owner, had bought her freedom, and that of her children, for the sum of 1375 dollars. It was after much solicitation, and a considerable lapse of time, that he succeeded in his object, as her master retained her in bondage with the view of enhancing her price, till she had had seven children. The husband was obliged to borrow part of the money; and he who is not, in a free State, believed on his oath, had his bond for 250 dollars accepted in a slave State. The wife and the children were, all this time, maintained by him, and he received no deduction or remuneration whatever on that account.
While we were at tea, I was much distressed by the mistress of the house declining to take any thing. As I suspected the reason, I prevailed upon her, at last, to partake of "her own labors," and share in the good things she had provided for us. I told her it was most painful to me to be distinguished in a manner that to an European mind conveyed the feelings of self reproach and humiliation. I was so ashamed and embarrassed by her deference to the folly of my own race, that it was some time before I could make up my mind to ask an explanation involving such odious associations, and intreat that I might be exempted from the observance of an usage that I utterly loathe and abominate.
She assured me, while speaking of Liberia, that she had never known nor heard of a slave, who would not prefer remaining in his native land, if he could be free, to a settlement in any other country. This I had often heard from others; and nothing but a complete disregard for truth, or, unthinking credulity, can assert or believe the contrary. My companion and I were ridiculing the bugbear of "amalgamation," when he told me that a justice of the peace had mentioned, in his presence, the circumstance of his having married four white men to colored women in the course of one winter. There is a practising physician in Cincinnati, who has taken unto himself a wife from this degraded caste; not agreeing with the general opinion, that a connexion of this sort is made culpable by the matrimonial, tie, and excusable without it.
Among the persons we visited during the evening, was a man between fifty and sixty years of age. He had given 1,200 dollars --the fruits of hard work and strict economy, for himself, his wife, and his children. To compass this object of his fondest wish required no less than sixteen years: during which time he had to support the whole family himself, and pay his master annually 120 dollars --the sum stipulated for his hire as a bricklayer and plasterer. He contrived to give his children a good education. Part of the money he paid his master, was advanced to him by some of his white friends, who were induced, at his earnest solicitation, to purchase his wife, when she was put up to auction with her children, to pay her master's debts. This part of the story he related in the presence of his wife, with great feeling and simplicity of manner. He discharged all his debts with interest. A certificate of character, which he put into my hands, from several of the principal inhabitants of Lewisburgh in Virginia, was signed by about sixty persons, among whom were the mayor and recorder of the city. Higher testimony to good conduct, than this document presented, few men can obtain, whether black or white --whether in America or in Europe. Yet this certificate would be a piece of blank paper in any court of Ohio justice. Evidence, that would be taken, without it, in Louisiana, would be rejected, with it, here, though backed by fifty others from every State in the Union.
So far is it from being true that self-respect is a feeling almost unknown to all of African descent, that I have never seen more indications of its influence on any men of any class or of any country, than among these very people: and I believe this favorable opinion is entertained by all who have seen as much of them. My companion, who was one of those that had undertaken the care of the "colored schools," lived almost exclusively among this part of the population, as it was pretty plainly intimated to him, that his visits would not be acceptable elsewhere, In making our calls, he took me, at my request to see a man, who had been indebted to his Herculean strength and extraordinary courage, for his escape from an attempt made by some ruffians to take him by force out of his house. He was a freed slave from Kentucky, and was serving as a cook at one of the hotels. His whole history, with the details of the brutal outrage, I had from his own mouth. The facts are well known to the inhabitants of Cincinnati.
I may preface the narrative by stating that he was a short sturdy man about thirty years of age, with a frame of adamant and a heart of invincible bravery. A form more adapted for feats of agility and athletic exercise, I never beheld. Mendoza, though taller, never, with all his boasting, could produce such an arm. He was a model of manly strength and perfect proportions. His master, who knew his value, and dreaded the effects of his resolution, had often promised to set him free; and, at last, as an inducement to remain with him, had entered upon record a grant to him of fifty acres of land, rented at two dollars an acre --to be made over to him when he should obtain his freedom. He had, though a mere lad, accumulated, by working extra hours, a considerable sum of money; and his master, wanting cash to complete a purchase he had made, was induced to sell him his freedom for 650 dollars. Having surmounted all the obstacles that were thrown in his way, he, at last, procured the legal proofs of his freedom, and set off, with his papers, for Ohio. On the road thither, he was attacked by three men, who seized him by the shoulders, and attempted to detain him. He threw them from him on the ground; and, running to the river, near which the assault had been made, he leaped into a boat, and crossed over to the other side.
Having resided some years in Cincinnati, he was, one night in the winter of 1833, aroused, while in bed with his wife, by a noise at the door. Thinking, however, that it was occasioned by, some drunken men, he paid little attention to it. "Had I known what was coming," said he, "I could have killed every one of them." Efforts had often been made to induce him to return to Kentucky; but he was not prepared for the sort of persuasion that was now to be used with him. His bed-room door was burst open, and fourteen men rushed in, headed by a person of the name of Samuel Goodin --lately appointed by the Judges, and rejected by the proper authorities, as Clerk to the County Court. They called out that they would have him dead or alive. He had but just time to leap from his bed, when, seizing a chair, he knocked two of them down; and, though severely wounded by their dirks in both arms, in the ribs, and in the intestines, made his escape down stairs, pursued by the gang into the yard. Here he discovered that his bowels were protruding from one of the wounds; when he supported them, as well as he could, with one hand, and, stooping down, laid hold with the other of a log of wood. With this weapon he laid about him so effectually, that he felled no less than seven of them to the ground.
In the mean time, (the whole combat lasted from one till two o'clock,) the wife, and a female cousin, who was in the house at the time, had borne their share in the fight, and had collected the neighbors by their screams for succor. No one ventured to rescue them; as the number of the assailants, the execrations they uttered, and the brandishing of their dirks and knives, kept every one aloof. At length, in attempting to escape, they broke down the fence; and the victim of their fury, while pursuing them, stumbled upon a stake, and, dragging his intestines after him, fainted away. One man only was secured on the spot, and another was subsequently taken. They were admitted to bail, and are not likely to make their appearance, should they be "wanted." Goodin is also under bail for the assault.
As soon as the field of battle was cleared, and the enemy had fled, every assistance was rendered to the wounded man. He was confined for two or three months; and the expenses he incurred, for medical attendance and proper nourishment, amounted to 140 dollars, not one cent of which has ever been repaid him. The object, in trying to get possession of his person, was to make away with him by violent means, or by sending him to the South. The estate, which his master made over to hire, is still legally his; and though he has never received any rents, he is entitled both to the land and the arrears. Since this occurrence; he has been shot at; and the parties interested have openly expressed their determination to effect his removal, whatever it may cost, or whatever be the mode. I asked him why he did not go to Canada. He smiled, and said he was not afraid of any man; and, though his strength was much reduced, he was fully prepared to repel force by force. The poor fellow was covered with deep scars, and suffered much from atmospheric changes. But he seemed to care little about the attack, and still less to dread its renewal. He was altogether a very extraordinary man. Neither boast nor threat escaped his lips. He knew the white man was his enemy; and he despised him too much to fear him.
A great many slaves, --no less, probably, than 300 every year, pass through Cincinnati on their way to Canada. Their propensity to run away from Kentucky is so well known, that few planters in Mississippi and Missouri will buy them, if they come from that State. This will account for the persecution against the freed men at Cincinnati, who give them an asylum, and speed them on their road to the British provinces; while it affords the owners an additional motive for granting them the privilege of buying what they might take without asking. The process of self-emancipation is, in fact, going on very largely; and the same policy which suggested its, will give it extension, as new converts are made in the North to the doctrines of abolition. It will be found the safest and the easiest way to "back out" of a system, that is fast becoming as odious in one section of the Union as it is destructive in the other.
The vicinity of Ohio has brought into closer contact and contrast the results of slave and of free labor; and Kentucky has seen, in the rapid progress of her neighbor, the causes that retard her own.
hardships to which the disqualifying statute exposes its objects, in
such a mixed population as that of Cincinnati, may be readily conceived.
When the unhealthy season drives away the idle and the wealthy from New
Orleans, those who live by gambling and swindling either follow their prey,
or seek some other quarry. Many come up the river to exercise their trade
in the western metropolis. Here the law supplies them with a "scape goat"
in case of "accidents." It is easy to throw suspicion on those whom it
has already condemned; self-defence is not allowed: and the penitentiary
buries within its walls the crimes of the one party and the wrongs of the
other. One of the latter class, whose master spoke of him to me as a very
honest boy, (" boy" is an expression of kindness, "fellow" of its opposite,)
told me one day that he considered himself very fortunate in never having
been accused of a theft, as many others had been, by the rogues and rascals
who frequented the house.
A Son's Feelings. --Ripley. --Georgetown. --Colony of
Emancipated Slaves. --Mr. Samuel Gist's Will. --Mormonites. --Liberia,
by an Eyewitness. --Certificate of Emancipation. --Gist's benevolent Intentions
defeated. --Return to Cincinnati. --Book of Mormon.
ON the 12th I left Cincinnati.When I arrived at the boat which was to convey me to Ripley, about sixty miles up the river, the porter, who carried my luggage, was accosted by a white man on board, and I went in search of the captain. On my return, I saw that the "boy" had received some afflicting intelligence; for his lips quivered, and his countenance was painfully dejected. He had just been informed that his mother, whom he had left a slave in Kentucky, had been brutally flogged by her master's brother-in-law, who had got her into his possession, during the other's bankruptcy.
story of the porter's misfortunes is similar to that of hundreds in
Cincinnati. I had it, when he was gone, from, the white man, who was going
to Paris, in Kentucky, where he had known him before he obtained his freedom.
"Sir," said he, "that boy is one of the best-hearted and most honest men
to be found anywhere. He worked night and day to buy himself; and, when
he had paid the purchase money, (600 dollars,) the sheriff took him in
execution for his master's debts; and he would have been sold, if he had
not made his escape. He
is now saving what he can scrape together to buy his mother, --a most
respectable old woman, and one of the most faithful servants I ever knew.
I would buy her myself on his account, and he would repay me, but I cannot
afford the money. Both parent and son have the good-will of all who know
them. She is now at Postlethwaite's hotel for sale. They ask 200 dollars
for her; --too much for a woman who is almost past her work. Her master
always treated her well; but his brother-in-law is a bad-tempered hard-hearted
man." I found, by this conversation, that she was at Lexington, at the
very house I had put up at; She is safe, I thought, under Postlethwaite's
roof; but what is to become of the poor creature if she is sold, and sent
off to a distance?
The next morning I called upon Mr. Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, highly esteemed by the abolitionists for some valuable letters he published, when in Kentucky, against slavery. My object in the visit I made, was to obtain from him some information relative to a colony of free blacks, who formerly belonged to an Englishman of the name of Samuel Gist, and who had been, in pursuance of his munificent bequest, emancipated, and transferred from his plantations in Virginia to the lands they now occupy in the neighborhood.
Mr. Rankin was unable to state more than I had already heard at Cincinnati. He very kindly, however, directed me to the proper quarter. He was superintending the erection of a chapel: among the workmen were one or two blacks and a Cherokee. He had, he said, seen a great deal of the former race, as the settlers generally made his house their home when they quitted or returned to "the camps", as the two colonies they have formed are called. Sometimes there would be as many as ten or twelve at a time in his house; yet, though his property was left exposed, nothing was ever taken by them. He could find , he said, no kind of difference, moral or intellectual, between the sable and the pale races. They were possessed of the same feelings, and directed by the same motives. He ridiculed, very happily, the dread of "amalgamation"; conceiving that perfect freedom of choice should be left to regulate this like every other matter in which society can never have such an interest as the parties directly concerned. His sentiments, upon these and other subjects, were characterised by great good sense, and implied an originality of mind and an independence of thinking very far in advance of the spirit of his country. I have seldom met with a man more decided in his principles of benevolence, or more mild in expressing them.
There is a passage in his "Letters on Slavery" so painfully descriptive of its abominations, that I was anxious to know, from his own lips, whether it was not too highly, colored. He assured me the facts it alluded to were too true. I have heard the same from equally good authority; and I would ask the Southerners, whether they really allow their male slaves to go alone into the sleeping-rooms of the white women, for the purpose of lighting the fires when they are in bed.
"It often happens ", says Mr. Rankin, in his ninth letter, that the master's children practise the same vices which prevail among his slaves; and even the Master himself is liable to be overwhelmed by the foods of temptation: and, in some instances, the father and his sons are involved in one common ruin: nor do the daughters always escape this impetuous fountain of pollution. Were it necessary, I could refer you to several instances of slaves actually seducing the daughters of their masters! Such seductions sometimes happen even in the most respectable-slave-holding families."
The next day I started for the Camps, having left my portmanteau with the landlord at Ripley. When the stage reached Georgetown, twelve miles from the latter place, I was informed that some of the settlers, of whom I was in search, were at work in the town. From them I learnt that the colony was two or three miles off. I told them I should ride over to see them. They begged I would wait till six o'clock, and they would shew me the way. It was then four o'clock and it was near eight before we set off, as they had to settle an account with a store-keeper, who kept them waiting for some money he owed them, and, after all, left the matter for future arrangement. The claim of one was for ten dollars. He told me they were often cheated and vexed, unless they could get a white witness; neither their word nor their oath being of any value on these occasions.
After we had walked upwards of two miles on a very bad road; which a heavy shower had rendered wet and dirty, I desired my companions to go on, and I would follow, after I had rested myself and recovered from a violent seizure of spasms in the stomach, to which I am occasionally subject. One of them had a bundle which I had entrusted to his care, and was unwilling to proceed with it till I had assured him that I felt no distrust about it. Having recovered in the course of an hour or two, I resumed my journey, avoiding the ruts and holes in the road when the moon, as it shone though the trees, enabled me. I began at last to despair of finding my way, by the guidance of instructions that were neither clearly given nor easily remembered, and I bawled out till I was hoarse. A light, however, appeared at a little distance, and a voice from the house where it was responded to my call, --"Who are you? --what do you want?" The owner of the voice was one of the settlers; and the precaution it bespoke arose from the frequent insults and annoyances he had met with. I soon explained to him the object of my visit, and gained his confidence. He then took me with him to the house of his father-in-law, about a quarter of a mile through the fields. On knocking at the door, the same questions were asked, and the same reluctance to open it exhibited, till assurance was given that we were friends. It was nearly eleven o'clock, and the family in bed. A blazing fire, however, cast its light upon every object in the log-hut and threw a cheerful aspect upon the welcome with which I was greeted. The women soon made their appearance; and, after taking a cup of coffee, and talking over the affairs of the colony, I betook myself to a clean and comfortable bed about one o'clock in the morning.
The substance of what I heard, on the condition and prospect of the settlers, was as follows: --They had been "located" in the lands they occupied about fifteen years; and their owner, Mr. Samuel Gist, had died some time before they left his plantation in Virginia. It seems they had been defrauded of their rights, and would probably have remained in ignorance of the bountiful provision made for them, had not an elderly man, who had been present when their master breathed his last, arrived from England to see how they were going on. From him they learnt that they were free, and that the land on which they were at work belonged to them. Their owner had always been kind to them, and would never allow any flogging upon the plantation. They were much attached to him; and the relation between them was that which exists between servants devoted to their master, and a master who has confidence in his servants. As soon as this joyful intelligence was communicated to them, they refused to work any longer without wages. They were compelled, however, by stripes and the most barbarous usage, to continue in bondage; their protector, who had gone to another part of the State, and promised to return, having died --it was supposed of poison. They struggled on in this way for some time, with no alleviation of their sufferings, and no hope of redress, when the indignation of some of the neighboring whites was excited by their piteous situation, beaten, half-starved, and badly clothed as they were; and they were advised to apply for their freedom at Richmond, from which they were distant upwards of twenty miles. Here they were treated with great cruelty, and were imprisoned till they were reduced to the most loathsome state by filth and vermin. At length, after they had endured the greatest hardships, --their numbers being reduced by violence, and many having been hunted down and shot like wild beasts, --they were put in possession of their liberty, and were sent off under a military escort.
It would be painful and tedious to detail all that they underwent from the scoffs, the brutality, and the villainy they encountered, on their passage to the State of Ohio; where they were carted out, as it were, on uncleared land, without provisions, and without the necessary implements for husbandry, The soil was the worst in the State; and at times so wet that nothing could be raised upon great part of it. My host, whose name (as far as I could make it was Peter Vicy, had but three hoes given him, while his family consisted of sixteen members. His wife had borne him twenty children. Each member of the community had eight acres as an allotment --of little or no value now to some of the possessors, who are married and have large families.
They have none of them any legal title to their lands; and if they had, it would be difficult to establish their claims under the disabilities which affect them. It is not very creditable to the agent employed by the court, which had finally given judgement in the matter, that he should have selected the most ineligible situation in the most unfavorable State of the Union for their residence, as they can neither live upon the produce of their allotments, nor obtain work without being liable to be defrauded by men who shelter their iniquity under the cloak of the law. They were strongly impressed with a belief that Mr. Gist had left a large sum of money for their support, and to provide three years' education for their children. Had it not been for some benevolent Quakers, who came to see them, soon after their arrival, they must have perished of hunger in the woods. Such was the melancholy prospect before them, that one of that society was so affected by what he saw and heard of their destitute condition, that he sat down in the midst of them and wept like a child. Two boats, loaded with clothing, and provisions, and tools, were sent to them by the Friends, and the Shakers were not behind them in charity. They brought them a vast quantity of things they stood in need of, having no less than six wagons filled with them. According to Peter's account, there were 360 in all when they left Virginia; though it would seem, by a letter written by Dr. John Adams, from Richmond Hill, in 1815, to the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery, that there were not so many.
He stated in that communication, that "a certain Samuel Guest*,
deceased, had, by his will, directed that his slaves, amounting to about 300, should be emancipated, and his lands sold for their benefit; which being prohibited by law, unless they should be removed out of the boundaries of the commonwealth of Virginia, he requests the aid of the society, and recommends their transportation to Guinea." The committee , to whom this letter was referred, reported that it did not appear that the convention could, at present, propose any specific plan for accomplishing the benevolent intention of Samuel Guest. I have extracted the above from a note to a work entitled, "A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery in the United States, &c.", by Jesse Torrey, Jun., Physician, published at Philadelphia in 1817. This account seems to confirm Peter's statement; and it may fairly be concluded, that if the personal friend of the testator had not visited the spot, and excited a spirit of inquiry among the slaves themselves, nothing ever would have been done for these unfortunate creatures. The author adds a circumstance that almost confirms this conjecture. The legislature of Indiana had just taken into consideration a petition from a person of the name of Sumner resident in Williamson county, Tennessee, and had decided that his request was inconsistent with the constitution of the State. "I have about forty slaves," says the writer, "and my intention is, if permitted by the laws of Indiana, to bring and free them, to purchase land for them and settle them on it, to give them provisions for the first year, and furnish them with tools for agriculture and domestic manufactory, and next spring with domestic animals You must be aware, that this must be attended with no small expenditure of money and trouble. I think that, after a man has had the use of slaves, and their ancestors, twenty or thirty years, it is unjust and inhuman to set them free unprovided with a home, &c. All that I have were raised by my father and myself, and the oldest is about my age (forty-six). I am also very desirous to leave the slave States, and spend my few remaining days in that State, where involuntary slavery is not admissible; and will, with the blessing of God, prepare to do so as soon as I can settle my affairs." Not being allowed to enrich Indiana, "at the expense of her neighbor" Tennessee, this generous-hearted man consulted the abolition society of Pennsylvania, and received a similar reply to that which had been sent to Dr. Adams.
* This appears to be the same person: --the name is properly Gist.
Since the emigrants have been settled here, their number has nearly doubled itself. The other colony is more fully peopled. They still retain the name of Camps, --an appellation that marks the length of time that elapsed before they could get any thing better than a tent to rest their weary heads in; --an appellation that will carry down to the remotest posterity the dishonor of their oppressors and persecutors. They are still liable to the intrusion of slave-traders and marauders, who break open their doors, and subject them to outrage or insult, at all hours of the night, in violation of the law of the land as it affects the white, but in accordance with its spirit as it bears on the black man. Three weeks before my visit, one of them was cruelly beaten, his dog shot, and his gun broken, by a gang of these wretches. He was confined several days to his bed by the injuries he received, and the lawyer to whom he applied, could obtain no redress for him, as neither his evidence, nor that of his neighbors, was admissible. Often has Peter , to entertain travellers who are sent to his cabin by the whites, and never has he had any remuneration for his ready hospitality, except from an English lady, who came one night with her carriage and servants. She would not allow him to persist in the refusal he made to accept any money from her. The agent, William Wickham, of Richmond, in Virginia, had, he told me, promised to come and see them. He had not only never been near them, but had not answered the letters they had procured to be sent to him. Under all these difficulties, and discouragements, some of them had contrived to build themselves comfortable log-huts, and to bring up their children, as decently as the want of education, and the few opportunities they have for religious instruction, from the occasional visits of white preachers, will admit of.
Peter has about eighty acres of land under cultivation: --the two last years the produce was not sufficient for his family, and they were compelled to draw upon their hard savings for a supply. Still they seemed cheerful and contented. One of their sons was employed at Cincinnati. I had some conversation with him, while there, about the settlement. Peter had two milch cows --a yoke of young oxen, and three calves --four horses and a wagon --fifteen head of sheep --a good stock of poultry --and forty or fifty hogs. All these were acquired by the industry of this man and his family, under an accumulation of difficulties that few would have had the courage to encounter, or the perseverance to overcome. would often go many miles in search of work; and, when they got any, would be fed with offals hardly fit for dogs or pigs. Sometimes, after toiling a week, they could obtain no more than a quarter or half dollar to return home with. They were ignorant and unsuspicious; and their employers were unscrupulous in using every, advantage that want of legal protection gave them. Death, or even slavery, seemed preferable to their lot in the wilderness. Some of the whites in the country, (their most bitter enemies are generally in the towns) would, now and then, give them a little assistance; but no one, when they had lost a valuable horse, which had often been borrowed by the neighbors, would stir a foot to detect the thief, who had been seen lurking about. Peter pays the taxes and does road-work the same as the whites, though he is excluded from their privileges, and has no protection from the State. By a statute passed in 1831, blacks and mulattoes in Ohio are exempted from the school-tax.
All the whites with whom I conversed upon the subject, admitted that they had been defrauded --but then their color! What right had they to remain where they were --they were marked as a distinct people --they could never associate with the chosen race --they must go to Liberia --there were plenty of persons in Georgetown ready to make up a purse to pay their passage --it would be easy to turn them out of their lands, as they had no title --the trustees could enforce the law --as they could not procure securities, they might be driven out of the township. Such were the sentiments of the tavern-keeper at Georgetown --an Englishman of the name of Wilson. A more brutal reviler of these harmless hard-working people I could hardly have found in the whole State of Ohio. I listened for some time to his abuse of the abolitionists, and his nonsense about a scheme that would ruin the country of his adoption, by transporting its best hands, and throwing away a portion of its capital. At last I asked him where he would find a place to receive them, ships to carry them away, and funds to defray the expense: whether they had ever committed any crime to be compared with that of their oppressors --whether there was any thing in reason or religion to justify what he recommended --and whether he thought the laws of nature were to be reversed in a young country among a race remarkable for its tenacity of life and its tendency to increase. "At all events," he replied, "we can get rid of these settlers, --they are an eye-sore and a nuisance, --and they have no business among us." I felt strongly inclined to say --"What business have you here? If the blacks have no business in America, what business have the whites in Africa?" that the day of reckoning is coming upon a nation so disgraced by cruelty and wickedness.
I was at Peter's, two or three of his white neighbors came in, and
treated him with respect. One of them, an old man, appeared to be speechless
with astonishment at the sight of a white man sitting at the same table
with a black. It was some time before he recovered himself; when he made
up for lost time, by his loquacity and inquisitiveness. He was very anxious
to know who and what the stranger was; though he did not venture to put
any direct questions. As soon as I had ascertained that he was "raised"
in Kentucky, I turned the tables upon him, and began to cross-examine him
as to the state of that country. He had left it in consequence of the cruelties
he had witnessed. He could bear it no longer. To see human beings tortured
till the blood flowed from them in streams, or dying with hunger; --to
witness the sale of children by their own parents, and the separation of
infants and mothers from each other, had turned the current of his feelings,
and driven him into voluntary exile. "A judgement," he exclaimed, "will
come upon the land, and the whites will be driven out."
["Mormonites ":] maintain that the Indian tribes will finally recover their lands, and the blacks gain the ascendancy over the whites. Their practice corresponds with their principles; and no invidious distinctions are allowed to humiliate one portion of the community and elevate the other. In such opinions and habits it is easy to perceive the causes of that hatred and hostility by which they have been assailed, having settled in Jackson county, in the State of Missouri, and invited the free people of color to join them, they were attacked by an armed band of forty or fifty men, and driven into the woods, with their women and children. The next day, another settlement, about ten miles off from the former, suffered a similar fate: --the shops were plundered, and the houses broken into.
The other party, in reply, accused the settlers of having opened an
asylum for rogues and vagabonds, and free blacks.
Such was the description given by Peter's daughter, who was an excellent mimic, and who had been present at the man's recital of what he had seen: This young woman was a great support to the family, by her good sense and industry. She had a loom in an adjoining hut, and added considerably to the common stock by the proceeds of her weaving. She had acquired the art, as it were, by piece-meal; the whites having thrown every obstacle in the way of its acquirement. None of her own race could teach her; and very few of the other were willing to give her any instruction, even in the most simple kinds of work. She had succeeded, however, in making herself mistress of the employment, and was not idle in the use of her skill.
While I was conversing with Peter and his wife, they said the whole colony, if they were once righted, would willingly pay any expenses that an agent, to or from England, might incur in prosecuting their claims. They had no one to befriend them; and they were becoming every day more impoverished and more despised. To add to their distress, the whites had succeeded in sowing dissention among them, and Peter himself, as well as his family, was looked upon with jealousy and envy by all the rest. This I discovered on inquiring why the men, who had been my guides, had never been to the log-hut, where I was, though they had told me that the people, old and young, would be rejoiced to see me. They took great care, however, of the bundle, which I recovered without any difficulty. There are several other settlements of the same kind in the State; but in none of them has the common enemy been so successful in creating divisions and distinctions. If something be not done for the lower Camp, to defend the settlers and instruct their children, it will not be long before it is abandoned in great part, if not entirely.
Jones, who had been sent out to Liberia by the Brown County Colonization
Society, was living within eight or ten miles, Peter sent his son over
for him the next day, and he arrived, with his wife, in the evening, too
late for me to get back to Ripley that night. I remained, therefore, another
night in the cabin, being anxious to obtain information about the African
colony. It was some time before Jones would dismiss his suspicions, and
speak out, fairly and fully, his opinions. He had been so much abused and
persecuted by the colonizationists, who were displeased with him for divulging
the truth; that he was fearful of committing himself before a stranger,
who might, for aught he knew, have been sent as a spy to entrap him. He
was, in fact, placed in a situation that required great caution and circumspection.
He was still a slave. Part of his purchase-money he had paid to his master
in Kentucky; and the, remainder the Brown County Society had promised to
advance, as one of the conditions of his mission to Liberia. This agreement
had never been fulfilled; his unfavourable report having furnished a motive
and a reason for the refusal. He was but three weeks in the colony; and,
not being a man of quick conception or comprehensive views, his account
was necessarily defective; no just grounds, however, exist for doubting
its accuracy; particularly as it is confirmed by the testimony of others,
who had a stronger interest in favor of the truth, and more time for observation.
One third of the settlers, he informed me, died the first year after their arrival. Of 300 emigrant from Norfolk, in Virginia, 106 had perished by the end of the year. This statement he had from Governor Mechlin.
The largest farm in cultivation there, does not exceed three or four acres; and sufficient produce is not raised for one twentieth part of the population. The chief dependence for support is on the natives, whom they pay for the commodities they want, in rum, gunpowder, and tobacco. The latter may be considered the currency of the country. A commission, appointed by the governor to make inquiries into the state of the colony, had reported that two-thirds of the settlers had not more than one meal in their houses; and that the funds appropriated to the erection of a saw-mill and the completion of a road, had been embezzled or misapplied. There were other parts of the report highly unfavorable to the governor, who brought home with him, on his return to America, one copy; while Jones, who got back in the preceding February, was the bearer of another. The Colonization Society, it is generally believed, has not yet laid the contents of these despatches before the public. One of the charges referred to the substitution by the store-keeper, of bad provisions for those brought out in a good condition by the Lafayette. The copy I saw at Cincinnati of this document, contained no accusation of the kind. That part and others of a similar nature might have been omitted in the transcript. It was lent to me by one of the Lane students, (Mr. Wattles,) who obtained it from Dr. Buckner, of Georgetown, as I have before stated.
Some of the early settlers, who were maintained by the Society for the first twelve months, are doing well. They are merchants --not agriculturists; and may be considered as the medium of communication between the natives and the importers of goods; whose profits from the trade thus carried on are enormous. The natives are ignorant, and submissive to the colonists, who employ them to do all the laborious part of their work, --the heat of the climate, they assert, being beyond their strength. They are too proud or too lazy even to carry a parcel; and as wages are extremely low, they do little or nothing that requires manual exertion. There is small hope, therefore, that the settlers will turn their attention to the cultivation of the soil, or make any attempt to civilize the aborigines; as the Americans, whether of European or of African descent, feel it their interest to keep them in a state of debasement and subjection. There are other causes too in operation, for diverting industry from agriculture to trade. The elective franchise depends on the possession of land; and, where opposition to the governing party is apprehended, allotments are delayed till the pending elections are over, --to the great detriment and discouragement of the claimants. There are many tribes in the neighborhood: some of them have already shewn unequivocal symptoms, of hostility. Though subdued for the present, they would become formidable if they acted in concert, or had some experienced leader to organize them, and teach them the use of fire-arms, --an article they have recently manifested an inclination to receive in payment for the ivory, palm-oil, and other things with which they supply the traders.
Of the schools and churches, Jones spoke favorably. Most, if not all, of the white missionaries, who had been sent out from America, had found the climate too hot and unhealthy for their constitutions. There are now about 3000 settlers remaining in the colony. Jones declared that, after all he had seen and heard of Liberia, nothing should induce him, to live there; and that it would be madness for any one; unless he had some capital, to settle at that place.
The next day I returned to Ripley on one of Peter's horses, and his son accompanied me on another. These good people seemed much affected by my visit. They begged I would not interfere in their behalf, if they were likely to be placed, by such a step, in a worse situation. They were reconciled to their fate, and would continue to trust in a higher Power for relief from their sufferings, or support under them. They were desirous that their children should be instructed, and all discord cease in the Camp; that they might live peaceably and amicably with one another, and shew, by their good conduct that they did not deserve the cruel treatment they were receiving from the whites. I called on three or four of the other settlers; but the men were out, and one or two of the women, whom I saw, were either not inclined, or (more likely) not enabled, to give me any satisfactory information. I endeavored to impress upon one of them the policy, as well as the duty, of being united; as they had a common enemy to deal with, who would be better pleased to set them all at variance with one another, than promote the interests of any. She said I had told her more than she had ever heard before, and that there was much truth in it.
If schools were established, and a white preacher --to protect them --appointed, they might, perhaps, emerge from the state of despondency in which I left them. Mr. Rankin informed me that the Presbytery of Chillicothe (Ohio) had resolved upon sending a schoolmaster to instruct their children. The first and most important thing to be done by their friends, is to obtain from the legislature the repeal of that iniquitous statute which has given them up as a prey to the designing and the unprincipled, and put the seal of legal authority on the prejudice that debases them, and the roguery that defrauds them.
The young females are often brought back by their employers in a condition which reflects more dishonor on the villainy that has betrayed them, than on their own imprudence. In the case of a white woman, an oath is sufficient to filiate. Here the mother obtains neither reparation for herself, nor maintenance for her child. Her evidence is worthless; No explanation can be given by the injured party, and no punishment inflicted on the guilty. She is left in the middle of the Camps, to find her home, if she have one, and assistance where she can.
The people of the hotel where I lodged, at Ripley, were much pleased when I acquainted them with the object of my visit to the Camps. They had heard a great deal of the oppression and fraud from which its inhabitants had suffered. Their wrongs ought to be known, they said, to the family, if any remained, of their benevolent owner, that ample redress might be obtained from them. I was particularly warned to be on my guard with a person who was a sort of sub-agent for these poor people, and who was living at Hillsborough; to which place it was my intention to proceed, for the purpose of making further inquiries. Some years ago, a man had been appointed to reside at Georgetown, and administer to the wants of the settlers from Virginia. He was in very indigent circumstances when he arrived; but having set up a store, in which he appeared to be making money, he suddenly decamped, and is now living, in the State of Illinois, on some land he is supposed to have purchased with the fruits of his successful speculation in the Camps.
Samuel Gist left two daughters, both of whom were always remarkably kind to the slaves. One of them was married, and is said to have had a son; the other was also married, and her husband quitted England. This was all the information I could obtain about the family; and my informants could neither write nor read.
was shewn several papers of freedom while at Peter's house. The, following
is a copy of one of them: --
"Virginia to wit.
" By virtue of the act of the General Assembly, intituled 'An Act giving effect to the last will and testament of Samuel Gist, deceased, late of the city of London', passed the 26th day of February, 1816, Anthony, one of the slaves belonging to the estate of the said Samuel Gist, deceased, aged about six years, was, by a decree of the Superior Court of Chancery for the Richmond district, pronounced the third day of July*,
declared to be emancipated and free to all intents and purposes.
* I am not certain about the date here. As I transcribed it, it appears to be 1813; but that must be a mistake. As the decree was made in pursuance of an act of the legislature, to give effect to the will, the codicil, (as it appears in the Appendix,) appended to the latter, follows the condition on which was made, and is null. The slaves have obtained their freedom; but what has become of the estate?
I subjoin a transcript from a copy of a letter to a Quaker of the name of Woodrow, at Hillsborough in Highland County, Ohio. The copy was taken by W. Patterson, (a colored man,) who taught a school in the settlement one quarter. He boarded with Peter, who was never remunerated by those who had sent the man. On the back of the paper was written "This letter is only a copy of Mr. Wickham's letter; and there may be some words not legally taken down, in consequence of its being very hard to read."
"Dear Sir,I left Ripley the next day for Cincinnati, with the view of seeing whether something might not be done for the poor people at the Camps, and with the intention of proceeding from that city to Hillsborough. In the boat was a young man, with whom I had travelled from Ripley, and who had left the stage, in consequence of illness, before it reached Georgetown. We immediately recognized each other, and reciprocated civilities. He enquired the result of my expedition, and told me he had lived within a mile of the Camps, and was well acquainted with all the circumstances connected with the colony. The conduct of the whites towards them had been most brutal and vexatious. They had, in the first instance, endeavored to drive them away, declaring that they had no business there; had ever since insulted and threatened them; and were only waiting till they were themselves sufficiently numerous, to expel them by force. He had no doubt, he said, that gross injustice had been practised upon these helpless people; and that if it were not for the employment some of them got on the river and at Cincinnati; they would long since have been exterminated, or driven away, by starvation. The inhabitants of Georgetown cared little what became of them, if they could but get rid of them. He had little to say in praise of Mr. Wilson; and I was not inclined to defend his character, as the loss of a pair of razors I left under his care had not tended to remove my dislike of his violent and insolent abuse of the "niggers."
"I have just received your letter of the 1st instant. The estate of Mr. Gist in Virginia now amounts, according to my estimate, from 8000 to 10,000 dollars. The whole subject is placed by an act of assembly under the control of the chancellor for the Richmond district; and no step is ever taken, except by his own (here some word was wanting). The property, by our general laws, by a special provision in this case, is subject to the claims of creditors; and the estate has already been very much diminished by a decree rendered by C. J. Marshall in favour of W. Anderson, representative, for 50,000 dollars. This decree has been satisfied. There are now two suits brought by the aty. [I presume attorney] of Jos. Smith and of John Smith against the estate. Appeals, death, have caused delay in bringing their cause to a hearing: about two months ago they were reversed [I am not sure whether the word be not 'revised']. The Court meets in Oct., and I shall exert myself to have them tried as soon as possible. It is impossible to say at what time they can be brought on: but I shall be much disappointed, if the term passes without a decision. The opinion of the chancellor was against the claim; and I am very sanguine it will be affirmed. Should it, however, be revised, it cannot now be known what effect it will have on the estate. If we succeed in their cause, there will be no obstacle, of which I am at present advised, that can delay the claims of the concerns of the estate. In that event, the Chancellor, according to the will of Mr. Gist, will have the funds noted [vested?] in some productive stock, and the extents applied to the benefit of the aged and infirm. There are still in Virginia from eighteen to twenty negroes, whom I hope to remove, if the decision of the Court of Appeals be, as I anticipate, in the next spring, &c. &c.
"WM. B. WICKHAM." ;
As the [Mormons ] maintain the natural equality of mankind, without excepting the native Indians or the African race there is little reason to be surprised at the cruel persecution by which they have suffered, and still less at the continued accession of converts among those who sympathize with the wrongs of others or seek an asylum for their own.
The preachers and believers of the following doctrines were not likely to remain, unmolested, in the State of Missouri.
"The Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal, &c. He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness: and he denieth none that come unto him; black and white bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." Again: "Behold! the Lamanites, your brethren, whom ye hate, because of their filthiness and the cursings which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our fathers; &c. Wherefore the Lord God will not destroy them; but will be merciful to them; and one day they shall become a blessed people." "O my brethren, I fear, that, unless ye shall repent of your sins, that their skins shall be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God*.
Wherefore a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins;" &c. The king saith unto him, yea! if the Lord saith unto us, go! we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves, until we repair unto them the many murders and sins, which we have committed against them. But Ammon saith unto him, it is "Against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should be any slaves among them. Therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren."
* This ridiculous notion is to be found, where few would think of looking for it, in Dr. Lettsom's letters. Speaking of one among the patrimonial slaves whom he had emancipated, "the benevolent Quaker says, quite unconscious that he was sanctioning a distinction equally foolish and wicked, --"Poor Teresa! Thou little thinkest how much thy master values thy present. He will probably never see thee in this world! In the next thou mayest appear white as an European, and happy as he who has said 'be free!'"
Cincinnatians. --Independence of the Press. --Expatriation
of the Whites --Growth of Cincinnati. --Hillsborough. --Prosperity of Ohio.
--Visit to the Camps --Cruel Treatment --Lords' Protest --Bainsbridge.
--Gradation of Settlers. --Chillicothe. --Effects of Law of evidence
in Ohio. --Zanesville. --Spread of Catholic doctrines --Wheeling. --Pittsburg.
--Journey to Philadelphia. --Stage-heroes and Stage-lovers.
While conversing with one of the students, of whom I have before spoken, he shewed me a letter he had received from Lewis Tappan, of New York. I took the following extract from it, as it shews the state of the public press in America. After relating what had passed during the examination, at a public meeting, of a person who had been some time at Liberia, of which place he gave a most lamentable account, the writer adds: "The newspapers have endeavoured to mislead the public on this subject, and have done it to a considerable extent. We cannot get any explanation into any influential paper, except the Evangelist, unless by chance. Charles King --editor of the American --told me the abolitionists are right. 'Why don't you say so in your paper?' he laughed and replied: 'The time has not come yet,' and in a few days he admitted a piece against us. One of the editors of the Daily Advertiser, --of the name of Townsend, told me, our cause was a just one. 'Why then do you not publish articles on our side?' He looked angry, and said, ' The paper is my property: I'm not going to injure it.' So he says nothing on either side."
Among my colored friends at this place was one from North Carolina, who was well acquainted with Damon Jones, having lived in the same part of the country with him for some time. He spoke of him as an industrious honest man, temperate in his habits and respected by those who knew him. He had heard of the ill treatment he had met with. The last time he saw him was on the public road, in company with a white man. They appeared to be going towards the South. This corresponds exactly with what Damon told me --that he was decoyed into Alabama. Of Mr. Gaston my informant expressed himself in very different terms. He described him as a hard master, and an advocate in the legislature of the State, for severe measures against the slaves. Free backs have the elective franchise in North Carolina; and in some districts it has happened that they have been almost the only voters at an election. Some of them are wealthy; and all who conduct themselves with propriety are much less insulted and molested than their brethren in the northern states. This disgraceful pre-eminence in injustice is an indisputable fact; and I never met with a free black from the South who could not testify to its truth from the experience of his own feelings. There are but few States where these people enjoy the elective franchise: and they are, I believe, in the free, --Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania; but they seldom or never make any use of it in Philadelphia: North Carolina and Tennessee alone of the Slave States, allow them the privilege of voting. Their political and social disabilities are almost as various as the States to which they belong; and while both are subject to modifications by their removal from one to another, they still remain in the lowest rank of society, with an impassable barrier between themselves and others who occupy the scale above.
They appear to be further removed from the common sympathies of our nature in Eastern Virginia than in any other part of the Union; and to be, in some respects, in a less enviable situation than those slaves who have fallen into the hands of humane masters. I could always distinguish a free man from a slave at Richmond, by the former taking off his hat to me as he passed --a piece of conciliatory civility which the other feels to be a work of supererogation, as his master will protect him. The better the coat, the more submissive was the bow of the wearer. A remarkably fine-looking man of very respectable appearance touched his hat to me one day as I was going by. As there was no other person where he stood, I stopped and entered into conversation with him, and asked him whether he was not free. "No, Sir!" was his reply --"most people think as you do but I am not so." It was civility that induced him to bow: in most others it is fear.
] supplies the Southern market with machinery of various kinds, implements
of husbandry, and articles of furniture. Hence, in a great measure, the
bitter hostility it has manifested against every thing that may lead to
the abolition or amelioration of a system on which it thinks, as Liverpool
once thought of the slave-trade, its interests depend.
The day after my arrival at Hillsborough, I called at Joshua Woodrow's store, and found him, busy behind the counter. As soon as I announced to him the object of my errand, he crossed over, and commenced his replies to my inquiries, with a tone of voice and change of countenance that bespoke no slight degree of discretion, and recalled to my mind the hints I had received at Ripley. He informed me that he was one of three local agents, all Quakers, who had been nominated by the manumission society at Philadelphia to look after the interests of Mr. Gist's emancipated slaves. The other two were Levi Warner, of Chillicothe, and Enoch Lewis who resided near one of the settlements. He had, at first, declined accepting the commission, as he was too much occupied and too old to pay proper attention to its duties. He was induced, however, from motives of humanity alone, to undertake the office. There were , he said, altogether, three, colonies; --called the Camps, upper and lower, founded at the same time, at the distance of ten miles from, each other, and containing about 300 souls. The other had been "located" but two or three years. From the agent, (Wickham,) at Richmond, he had heard that after all claims upon the estate were satisfied, and legal expenses paid, there would remain somewhat more than 5000 dollars, the interest of which was to be employed for the relief of the aged and the infirm. It was to carry these objects into effect that he had been appointed. Speaking of the lower Camps, my visit to which I had concealed from him till his questions elicited the fact from me, he endeavored to impress my mind with an unfavorable opinion of the settlers. "To tell you the truth," said he, with a mysterious look and in a low voice, "I do not wish this to be known publicly --I have heard that they are rather too fond of a glass of whiskey." This delicacy towards a despised race rather surprised me; and the more so, as I felt assured, from what I had seen, that the imputation could not be justly laid upon my friend Peter, as he would naturally have offered me a glass of spirits, had there been any in the log-hut, when I entered it fatigued and unwell. But if the charge had any foundation, it was the duty of the agent to report it to his employers, rather than to whisper it to a stranger: When I informed him of my intention to visit the new colony of which he had spoken, he strongly urged me to call on Enoch Lewis, who lived near the place, and take him with me. He seemed particularly anxious that I should have the benefit of his company, as a guide and an interpreter. On my return to the inn, he sent me a message to say, that there was a man at his house who was going that way, and would ride with me. I found in the uncertain state of the weather, an excuse for declining the offer; and, a few hours after, when the day had cleared up, I set off on horseback by myself, having received the necessary instructions from the prudent Joshua.
After riding five or six miles, and surmounting the difficulties of choice which the concurrence of crossroads presented, I rode up to a house that stood at the distance of a quarter of a mile, and inquired the way of a young woman who was standing at the door. She referred me to her father. He came up very civilly to the place where I stood, and supplied me with the information I wanted. The usual interrogatory a stranger meets with in the woods was put; and as soon as I had answered that I was from England, and wished to see how the blacks were going on, the farmer offered to conduct me himself, as he knew the people well, --had occasionally given them employment, and felt great interest in their welfare, both from their good conduct while working for him, and the reports that were current of the ill-usage they had met with. was rather puzzled what to do. He was a near neighbor of Enoch; and I thought it not unlikely that Joshua had sent him a hint, through my intended companion, of what was going on, that he might either send over to Enoch, or prevent, by his presence; an unrestrained communication between the settlers and the stranger. It was some time before my suspicions were entirely removed; but after he had invited me to take some dinner, had saddled his horse, and had ridden through the woods with me in free and friendly discourse, I could no longer withhold my confidence from him, when I saw him received in a familiar, yet respectful, manner by the sable inmates of the log-hut we stopped at. It was a wretched cabin, with little or no furniture, beyond a bed or two, and some chairs of the meanest kind. Every thing about the room and the inhabitants, bore the marks of extreme poverty. We were soon surrounded by people of all ages and of both sexes. An old man, between seventy and eighty, and his wife, the parent stem of no less than seventeen branches, With their collateral offsets, were the chief speakers; --and, as in the lower Camps, the old lady had most to say, and was most ready to say it. Four years had elapsed since they left Virginia for the place where I found them. When the other party, who now occupy the Camps, were sent off, against their consent, by the agent, William Wickham, about seventy remained behind in concealment. They were subsequently collected together by the authorities, and carried into the northern part of Ohio; and being left there, without Provisions, to shift for themselves, they dispersed, --some into Pennsylvania, and others into Canada. The rest found their way back, about a year after, to the plantation in Virginia. Here they maintained themselves on the land which they had formerly cultivated as slaves, as it was untenanted at the time, and belonged, they conceived, to them by their master's bequest.
I questioned these people, they gave the some account of the manner in which they first heard of the death and the donation of Samuel Gist, --of the cruelties and vexations they underwent during their efforts to obtain their freedom; and of the suspicious circumstances which attended the death of the Englishman who came over to see them. None of them could tell when Gist died. The old man said that he had made many fruitless attempts to find out the contents of the will; and had often expressed his surprise to Woodrow, that anyone should undertake to carry into effect the object of a man's last wish not knowing what it was. Joshua had told me, a few hours before, that he had never seen a copy of the document in question. As he was induced, according to his own statement, to befriend these unfortunate people from motives of pure benevolence it was certainly strange that he should not have thought it necessary to inquire what their rights and claims were; and whether the pittance, he was to dole out to them, was all they were entitled to. When they quitted the plantation, they were accompanied by three armed men, and two of them were handcuffed with irons, because they were unwilling to go. This, they declared, was done by Wickham's order. Here I interrupted the narrative, to ask how the slaves were treated in that part of the country. They threw up their hands, and exclaimed, "we cannot give you any idea of it: they are treated worse than dogs ---they are cut to pieces." "That poor girl," said the old woman, pointing to a young person present, "had her back broke by a blow she had from a man, who knocked her down with a rail." The poor creature's appearance testified to the truth of what her grandmother had said.
When first they arrived, they were allowed five acres to each person. They had one plough for two families, and, subsequently, when the women were anxious to earn something by spinning, they could get from Joshua but two wheels for the whole party, and were obliged to borrow the remainder of what they wanted. They shewed me a miserable blanket and a pair of trowsers that Joshua had given them, --the latter of the coarsest material, and totally unfit for the winter dress of an infirm old man. The blanket was on one of the beds. When contrasted with the clothing which their kind old master was in the habit of sending them from England, and of which I saw a specimen, it was too plain that they had lost by the freedom they had obtained, and would have been happier as slaves --if their benefactor had lived. And here is the worst part of slavery; since the continuance of good treatment is uncertain, while its remembrance embitters the evils that follow its removal. They were told, when they left Virginia, that they would have as much land, where they were going, as they might want; but now, that their numbers are increasing, they are unable to procure a further supply. What little there is, is of a good quality; but there is not enough (and my companion assented to the assertion) for their support. They occasionally get a job in the neighborhood; and some of them go to Cincinnati for work, but they complained that they were often defrauded of their wages, without a chance of redress under a system which encourages roguery by pinioning its victim. They had been urged to give up their lands and go to Liberia; but they returned the same answer to the importunate proposal, that all make, who have a particle of free choice left them. They are in fact in a state bordering upon destitution; and to use their own words, do not know what to do. I endeavored to console them by assuring them that I would use my utmost efforts to assist them --that I would publish a statement of their case, on my return to England; and that I would, in the mean time, write home for a copy of their master's will, if it could be procured in London, that it might be sent over to America. That part of the document, which I had afterwards copied out at Doctor's Commons, will be found in the Appendix.
The poor creatures were much pleased with the promise, thus held out to them; but I reminded them that the difficulties which arose from lapse of time, claims of relatives --the tricks of agents, the decisions of the Virginia courts, and the distance between the two countries, --these considerations should check their expectations, and make them resigned to their fate. I inquired how many there were of them; and, after counting the families, and the individual members of each, they agreed that the sum total was forty-two --just twelve more than Joshua had reckoned when I was with him. Yet he was present, they assured me, when they had made the same calculation on a former occasion. They said, they had always understood there were 340 or 360 in the lower Camps originally, exclusive of those in the upper; though the agent had told me there were not more than 300 in both. They were loud in their complaints against the agents. When they succeed in obtaining relief from Joshua, it is given not in money, or raw material, so that they might purchase or make their own things with advantage to themselves; but they must take what they want out of his store, or employ Enoch's daughters to work up the clothing they require.
It was some time before I could comprehend what they meant --when, at last, I said: "you mean that your agent is your tradesman, and puts what he pays you with one hand into his own pocket with the other; charging what price, and making what profit, he pleases?" They all smiled; and the old woman, clapping her hands and striding across the room, cried out, "You're right! --you're right! that's it exactly."
There was no school for their children, and no religious instructor among them.
The farm was in good condition --an excellent crop of wheat in the field adjoining the log-hut; two pretty white ponies, and a cow with a calf in another; and the whole as skilfully and industriously cultivated as the narrow means of the occupants would allow. The cow had just been obtained by one of the daughters who had received it in lieu of wages from a neighbor she had worked for --a source of great delight and comfort to them, as they could get no milk before. My guide said they would do well if they had more land, and pointed out to me, as we reached and as we were leaving the farm, the neat and thrifty appearance of the fields. This, however, was the best managed allotment in the colony, and formed an exception to the general distress of which I have spoken; --though I question whether the owner had any thing beyond the bare necessesaries of life for the support of his family. Speaking of the "black law" of Ohio, my companion declared his determination to remove, if he could, from its statute book, an enactment which he had always thought unconstitutional, and, which is a disgrace to a free country, in an age fast verging towards the middle of the nineteenth century.
The sun was now declining; and we took our leave of these persecuted helpless people, and terminated a visit, which, I trust, has thrown a few gleams of hope over the gloomy paths of their earthly pilgrimage.
Such are the people who are held up to the scorn of mankind by British statesmen as idle vagabonds, fit only "to point a moral" in a senatorial speech? "or adorn" a protest. Such are the people who supplied the Duke of Wellington, Lord St. Vincent, Lord Penshurst, and Lord Wynford with a Christian argument against the abolition of slavery --from the bill for which they declared themselves dissentient, because, among other equally valid reasons, "the experience of the United States --a country but thinly peopled, in proportion to its extent and fertility, and always in want of hands, has shewn that, even in more temperate climates, the labor of emancipated negroes could not be relied on for the cultivation of the soil; and that the welfare of society, as well as that of the emancipated negroes themselves, required that they should be removed elsewhere." Between whig and tory what is the black refugee to do? The one would send him away because he enriches the country --the other because he impoverishes it.
As I had declined the farmer's invitation to dinner, I thought I could not do better than partake of his evening meal. On our return to his house, he introduced me to his sons --two sturdy strapping youths, with good looks and good appetites. One of his daughters made the tea, while the other drove away the flies. As soon as we had eaten and uttered as many good things as we could, (for the whole party was merry as well as hungry,) the lookers on sat down to their repast. This, as far as I had opportunity to observe, is the usual order of things in the houses of the middle class. The masculine is more worthy than the feminine; and the feminine more worthy than the neuter. Hence the women eat after the men; and the blacks after the women.
It was now time to "be off." I had finished my mission and my meal: so I shook my worthy host by the hand, cracked a parting joke with the young people, and mounting my horse, returned to Hillsborough.
The next morning, when I asked for my bill, the landlord (Mr. Miller)
refused to take any thing for the hire of his horse; and I could not prevail
upon him to alter his determination. Both he and his wife had been extremely
obliging and desirous of contributing to my accommodation in every respect.
Chillicothe is a flourishing town on one of the great links of that chain of water communication which connects New York with New Orleans. It contains a population of four or five thousand people, of whom the colored portion forms about one-tenth. The latter have two churches and a school, consisting of thirty-five scholars of both sexes. The teacher, who is of the same race, is a graduate of the college of Athens, Ohio: Though they are taxed to the poor fund, they derive no benefit from it. Whatever is done to instruct the ignorant or relieve the indigent, is exclusively derived from their own resources. They complain bitterly of the many discouragements to which their legal disqualifications expose them: There is scarcely one who has not suffered from want of evidence to prove a pecuniary claim upon the whites. One man, who had been a tanner, and possessed property to the amount of 10,000 dollars, is now reduced to a state of poverty, from the frauds that have been practised upon him with perfect impunity. Another had his house pulled down, in sight of himself and his family, and was forced to quit the place, as no legal proof could be obtained of an injury which was well known to the whole town. A third, who was a barber, happened to owe a physician, who died in Kentucky, seven dollars and three quarters for taking care of his health, while the doctor (Webb) owed him eighteen dollars for taking care of his beard. Medicine, being a necessary, must be paid for; shaving, being a luxury, may be had for nothing at Chillicothe. The executors could prove he was a debtor, and he could not prove he was a creditor. It is lucky for him that the two trades are no longer united, or he might be made to cure diseases as well as cut hair gratis. One of these persecuted men told me, that they were sometimes in such a state of despondency, that they felt inclined to give up the struggle, and descend to the level of those who are to be found in many places, the victims of vice and crime; and who, though discountenanced by the rest, bring discredit on the whole race.
note : Apparently refers to laws against blacks having their own churches]
About 100 families had lately been driven, by religious intolerance, into the State from North Carolina where they were prohibited from meeting together to pray. They had suffered infinitely more for conscience sake than the Momiers of Switzerland, about whom so much was said a few years ago. But where is the De Stael who will espouse their cause, and expose the iniquity of their oppressors? Yet these people have, contrived to realize a good deal of property, though they dare not engage extensively in business, while there is no security for obtaining what is due to them.
have houses and real estate in the town, worth at least 10,000 dollars,
and farms in the county worth about 30,000 more. One man alone has, within
four miles of the place, an estate, the value of which may fairly be estimated
at 5000 dollars. There is a considerable colony of them in Jackson county,
at the distance of thirty or forty miles from Chillicothe. Some of these
settlers have farms of 200 or 300 acres, and even more. There is another
near Gallipolis that contains about 200 people, who are doing well, in
spite of every obstacle. A
Presbyterian minister, (a white,) assured me that they were an honest,
industrious, and orderly people. The church to which he belongs, has declared
itself most decidedly and unequivocally against slavery. The following
is extracted from "the Minutes of the Synod of Cincinnati." --"Resolved,
that the buying, selling, or holding of a slave, for the sake of gain,
is, in the judgment of this Synod, a heinous sin and scandal, requiring
the cognizance of the church judicatories." Two years ago, the Synod of
Kentucky negatived similar resolutions by a majority of four only, at a
meeting of upwards of 100 members. It is expected that the majority will
shortly be on the other side.
I had, however , during my tour, been thoroughly convinced, from the best evidence, that this unfortunate race of men are fully entitled, by their conduct, to the same rights and privileges as those who have robbed them of both, and have added insult to injustice. Their errors and their vices are the unavoidable consequence, and not the cause, of their proscription and persecution. The condemnation that has been wantonly and wickedly passed upon then, is as unwarranted by the condition to which they have raised themselves, as it is irreconcileable with what we know are the characteristics, and what we may believe are the destinies, of the human race. I think I had sufficient acquaintance with them to form an opinion, as correct and as unbiassed, at least, as that of those who revile and ridicule them; and I can truly and honestly declare, that the orderly and obliging behavior I observed among them --the decent and comfortable arrangements I witnessed in their houses --the anxiety they expressed for the education of their children and their own improvement --the industry which was apparent in all about them, and the intelligence which marked their conversation --their sympathy with one another, and the respect they maintain for themselves --the absence of vindictive feeling against the whites, and the gratitude they evinced towards every one who treats them with common civility and regard, --far surpassed the expectation I had formed, of finding among them something more elevated than the instinct of monkeys united to the passions of men. They are "not only almost, but altogether, such as" the white man --except the bonds he has fastened on their bodies or their minds.
Zanesville , which is divided from Putnam and West Zanesville by the river Muskingum, contains, with them, a numerous and industrious population, among which are to be classed 400 or 500 persons of African descent, distinguished by the various tints that the white man's disregard of "Nature's impassable barrier" has produced in the original shade. The latter have a Sunday school, attended by seventy pupils, chiefly adults. They have also established a day school for children; and, like their brethren elsewhere, are eager for knowledge, and anxious to improve their condition. From an Englishman (Mr. Howell) who is resident here with his family, and from whom I experienced great civility. I received a very favorable account of their conduct. From an extensive acquaintance with them, he is of opinion that their attainments exceed the common standard that white person, under similar circumstances, might be expected to acquire. Evidence to this effect was so frequent from the most competent witnesses, that its repetition must, I fear, be tedious. The reiteration of charges, which become more virulent as they are refined, gives calumny a great advantage over truth. Though less harassed than their brethren at Cincinnati and Chillicothe, these people have not escaped the inflictions of the Ohio justice code, --the fitful parent of violence and villainy. An instance not long ago occurred at Marietta, where, a colored man had his house attacked and his daughters insulted before his face by a drunken white, who stabbed a young man while he was attempting to rescue the females from the assault. Their protector died of his wounds; but the murderer escaped punishment; no one but a half-caste Indian among the many who were present could enter the witness box against him; and his evidence was set aside on the plea of a previous quarrel with the prisoner. Numerous instances of the cruel operation of this iniquitous enactment might be given; but the very existence of the disqualification marks the character of the country, and evinces a spirit of injustice as ready to apply the law as to make it.
There is an anti-slavery society at Zanesville. Its object is to rescue the freedman from obloquy as well as the slave from his chains. After little more than a year's duration, the original number of its members (four) had increased to nearly 200 at the time of my visit.
This place is well situated for trade; both iron and coal, in abundance, being found at no great distance. It has several flour-mills, iron founderies, two glass-houses, and a cotton factory, with two small woollen factories. It appears to be an eligible place for the investment of capital, as good mortgages can be had at ten or even twelve per cent. If we compare the progress that the State has made with that of Virginia and Kentucky, from both of which it is separated by the river from which it derives its name, we shall see at once that "the battle is not to the strong" when they contend in chains against the free. In the year 1800, Ohio contained 45,365 inhabitants, while Virginia had 880,200, and Kentucky 220,959. At the next census, (1810,) Ohio had increased to the amount of 230,760, while the corresponding numbers for the other two States were 974,622 and 406,511. The succeeding census presented a still greater disparity; and the last, in 1830, exhibited Ohio in close approximation to Virginia, and triumphant over Kentucky.
The narrow strip of land which runs on each side of Wheeling, for thirty or forty miles, between Ohio and Pennsylvania, though part of Virginia, contains but few slaves, and those few are said to be well treated: the facilities for escape to the neighboring States being such as to render that sort of property too precarious to be profitable. The inhabitants of Wheeling appear to be less infected with the feeling of caste than any place I saw. Both races may be seen there in friendly communication; and, at an establishment kept by a person who would be treated with contempt elsewhere, blacks and whites sit at the same table together.
system of slavery is becoming every day more odious to this part of
western Virginia. Not long ago, a poor fellow who was a great favorite
with every one, was sold by his master at Wheeling to a trader, when the
indignation of the people was such, that they assembled in great force
and threatened to rescue him. Had any one offered to lead them on, they
would have carried their resolution into effect. He was, however, taken
off and separated for ever from his wife and children. The scene was described
to me as one of the most heart-rending and horrible.
was gratified by hearing that an abolition society existed in the town
and already counted 300 members, though, at its commencement a twelvemonth
before, it had not more than half a dozen. It had, within the last ten
or twelve days, established a school for the free blacks, of whom between
sixty and seventy had entered their names as pupils. There
are about 1200 of these people in the city. Nothing had been done before
to improve their condition, beyond a small school which they supported
themselves. They evince a great desire to receive instruction. One of the
boys, about ten years of age, had been studying Greek about four or five
months, yet he construed part of one of Aesop's Fables, and answered
the questions I put to him, with regard to tenses and numbers, much better
than many boys of longer standing in years and study. He was a very sharp
little fellow, and went through his task without conceit or hesitation.
They all read in the English Testament very fairly. Their instructor spoke
of their docility and capacity in the same terms that all do who have seen
as much of this injured race. I observed that more than half the children
were mulattoes. So much for amalgamation! They have a church of their own,
and an association for mutual instruction.
The next morning , the man, who had waited at table, was missing; and the lady of the house expressed her apprehensions that he had been kidnapped, an event of too frequent occurrence to be thought improbable. I was on my way to the poor fellow's lodging in search of him, when he made his appearance and accounted for his absence by an indisposition which had seized him. He soon overtook me, and I returned with him to the house. Like so many others I had seen, he had been indebted to himself alone for his freedom, and that of his wife, whom he had left in Virginia, and who would, if she were delayed or detained there but a short time longer, exceed the term allowed by law to the emancipated, and again become a slave.
some letters put into my hand by his present employer, I found his
character for honesty and industry stood as high as that of any one in
any sphere of life. The attestations to his respectability were evidently
unbiassed opinions, and reflected as much honor on the writers as on the
subject of the testimonials. In one of the letters I read, the writer declared
that he was willing and ready to perform his part of the engagement which
had been entered into between his father and the slave; and that he trusted
in the "integrity" of the latter, that he would fulfil his part also. The
writer of another certified that he had known him for fifteen years, during
the whole of which time he had sustained an irreproachable character. "His
reputation," he added, "in the place of his residence, is that of being
a man of honesty, probity, and good demeanor." "Since he has obtained his
freedom, he has resided in Charleston, Jefferson County, and by his correct
deportment and industry, he has secured the respect and esteem of all the
inhabitants, and has been enabled to pay two-thirds of the purchase money
--which he realized by his energy, frugality, and application to business."
Forged papers of freedom are often obtained from white men, who make it a business to sell them to the slaves. Detection is impossible, as the matter is arranged through the medium of free blacks, who take care never to be seen by any other white man than the scrivener. All other evidence against the latter would be rejected; and every attempt to prevent or punish these practices serves only to increase their number, by binding still closer the tie that connects the offender with his clients. It is, in fact, a regular profession, carried on by men who thus endeavor to extract some profit from the system which has impoverished them --making the oppressor himself heal some of the wounds he has inflicted.
is to freedom that the slave looks, amidst the toils of the field,
and the torments of the lash. This is a refuge from his griefs and his
wrong, that he never loses sight of, however difficult of attainment; ---a
hope that "quits him but with life". Hence it is, that when he has at last
obtained his object, he proves more industrious than many who, born free,
have no inducements to exertion; because they are deprived of those motives
which the prospect of rising inspires. I could generally distinguish, among
the free blacks, those who had inherited, from those who had acquired,
their freedom. The latter had a much quicker perception, more energy of
character, and a more anxious wish to rise in the world.
Many estimable and harmless blacks were most cruelly beaten during these disturbances, by men who make it a matter of boast that they have got rid of slavery themselves, and yet are incensed against those who would have the Southern States follow their example: men who vent their anger against the mere accident of an accident, --a participation in the color of an oppressed race. What was the persecution of the Salem witches, of the Jews, of the Protestants, compared to this indiscriminate hatred of a people, whom no peculiarity, religious, intellectual. or political, has separated from their savage tormentors? To call any country, where such abominations are perpetrated, encouraged, and defended, as far as commendation openly bestowed on the spirit from which they sprang, can encourage and defend them, --to call such a country free or enlightened, is an insult to the common sense of mankind.
Among those who lost their little all on this melancholy occasion, were two colored females, who lived together; one of them the widowed mother of a young man of the name of Smith, who has distinguished himself at Glasgow by his literary acquirements and exemplary conduct; having won one prize, and contended for another, if not for more, and being highly respected by every one who knows him.
Bishop Onderdonk invites Peter Williams, whose church had been damaged
in the late shock, to come out from the evil thing; and Peter Williams,
in obedience to the injunctions of his diocesan, disconnects himself from
the managing committee of the Anti-slavery Society, and places himself,
by his moderation and Christian feeling, far above the authors and abettors
of the outrage which had separated him from his congregation. Whether the
Bishop exceeded the limits of his spiritual authority on this occasion,
remains for future discussion: but he certainly had no right to mutilate
the letter of his subordinate; and, by omitting some of the most important
passages, make the writer appear in a character the very reverse of that
which he had assumed. He had no right to place an amiable, but timid man,
in such a position that he could not vindicate his character without offending
either the church of which he is a minister, or the congregation of which
he is the pastor. The result has been, that he has sacrificed his personal
feelings to what he considers the welfare of his flock; and is now abused
by his former friends, because the Episcopalians are too strong or too
cunning for him.
the Philadelphia Directory, the names of the colored inhabitants have
a cross prefixed to them. In the Boston Guide you may hunt a long time
for them in vain: they are placed at the end of the book by themselves.
No place is too high or too low to shelter them from insult. If the European
blood were really purer than the African, there ought to be a graduated
scale of dishonor corresponding to the degrees of intermixture, and apportioning
to every tint, whether full or fading, its appropriate place in public
estimation. Such is, or was, the rule in other countries, where human rights
were invaded or curtailed. But here the low-minded, vulgar pride of the
whites defeats its own object, and tumbles into the ludicrous by leaping
at the sublime. How can one fluid be superior in quality to another, when
the smallest quantity of the latter can totally destroy its virtues? If
Folly ever took counsel of Common Sense, she would not give such an advantage
to her adversary. She would tremble for herself, when she saw every feather,
plucked from her cap, turned against her, shorn of its beauty, and disfigured
by the very thing she abominates.
Among the numerous colored citizens, whose respectability is "the glory and the shame" of Philadelphia, is one who is well known throughout the Union for the wealth he possesses, and the probity and urbanity which mark his character, in public and private life. The history of James Forten, such as I had it from his own lips, while sitting at his hospitable board, is somewhat remarkable. He is descended from a family that has resided in Pennsylvania 170 years; and does not, as far as he has been able to ascertain, number one slave among its members. He himself took an active part in the revolutionary war, and fell into the hands of the enemy, while serving in the Royal Louis, under the father of the celebrated Decatur. It was in 1780 that this vessel was captured by the Amphion, commanded by Sir John Beazley. Sir John's son, who was then a midshipman, about the same age with young Forten, was one day playing at marbles on the deck, when the latter, who had been employed to pick them up, exhibited such superior skill, after the game was over, in "knuckling down" and hitting the object aimed at, that the young Englishman was delighted with him. The acquaintance soon ripened into a sort of intimacy; and his generous friend offered, if he would accompany him to England, to provide for his education, and assist him in procuring some respectable occupation. The young Africo-American, however, preferred serving his country, small as the chance was that he would ever recover his liberty, to the brilliant career thus placed before him; and he was ultimately transferred to the prison-ship, the old Jersey, of sixty-four guns, then lying in the East river, where the New York navy-yard now is. Sir John's son was so affected at parting, that he shed tears; and having obtained from his father a protection for him against enlistment, saved him from the wretched fate which befell many of his brethren, who were carried by their captors to the West Indies, and sold there as slaves. He remained in confinement seven months, till he was sent home in exchange. During the period of his detention, no less than 3500 prisoners fell victims to an epidemic, which the crowded state of the vessel occasioned.The average number on board was 1500. When the war was over, Forten went to London, where he remained a year; and, on his return to his native land, obtained employment in the sail-loft which is now his own property, and which has witnessed his industry and enterprise for upwards of forty-six years. In his business, as a sail-maker, he is generally considered to stand above competition.
No citizen ought to be more honored in his own country than James Forten, if to be instrumental in saving human life give a title to respect. No less than twelve fellow creatures owe their existence to him; for that is the number of persons he has saved with his own hands from drowning --I believe they were all whites. That circumstance, however, would have had no influence upon his humanity. His work-shop being on the banks of the river, he has frequent opportunity of exercising his philanthropy at the risk of his life. There was hanging up in his sitting-room, in a gilt frame, an honorable testimony to his successful efforts in rescuing four men from a watery grave. This heir-loom, for which he would not take a thousand dollars, was presented to him, in 1821, by the Humane Society of Philadelphia. It consists of an engraving, in which is represented the rescue of a female from the waves, and a written attestation, signed by the President and Secretary, with the dates of the cases, which the Society thus thought deserving of its "honorary certificate."
Forten , while I was in the city; gave a strong proof of his disregard
for self-interest, in a case where the happiness of his fellow-man was
concerned. He refused a commission to supply a ship in the harbour with
sails, because it had been employed in the slave-trade, and was likely
to be engaged again in the same abominable traffic. He is now a wealthy
man; and has given his family, consisting of eight children, an excellent
education, adapted to the fortunes they will one day have, and (I hope
I may add) to the station they will one day fill: --for the time cannot
be distant, when virtues and accomplishments, that would be respected in
every other part of the world, will raise their possessors in America above
the insults and vexations of the Pariah State.
I conversed alone with eight of the colored prisoners. The greater part had fallen into crime through want and ignorance. Two of them had taken no more than was necessary to satisfy the exigencies of the moment. One had been convicted of receiving goods, knowing them to have been stolen. His account was, that he had been requested by some strangers, to assist in carrying a bundle. He owned he had committed petty depredations occasionally; so that he was condemned, in all probability, in consequence of his bad character. He seemed fully aware of this, and promised, without any canting professions, to amend his life. He was a mere boy, deprived of parental care --his mother being dead, and his father at a distance. Another had been sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for an offence, which any unprincipled woman might fasten on any man. He declared his innocence, and ascribed his misfortune to a spirit of revenge in his master's wife, whose bad character he had exposed. If it was true, as he asserted, that his master owed him 150 dollars for work, a better reason might be found for the charge. It is hardly probable, however, that the jury would come, unbiassed by prejudice, to the examination of a question, involving considerations peculiarly odious to their feelings. Mr. Wood, who had known him from a boy, spoke very favorably of his character. One young man had been committed for cutting and stabbing, when detected in an attempt to steal. He seemed an old offender, and a bad subject. One, an elderly man, had passed a considerable part of his life in different gaols. He had, however, had "a call," and was sure he should be preserved in future from temptation. Though he stuttered very much, he had made up his mind to turn preacher, on his discharge. He seemed to think the Lord would open his mouth. Whatever the amount of his own faith might be, the keepers had but little in his sincerity. Another of these convicts, who had been a slave, declared that he had been so much insulted in the North, that he would rather return to his former condition, than again undergo so many mortifications. Another was a runaway slave, who had stolen a suit of clothes in the depth of winter, to supply the place of the worn-out garments he had on at the time.
Such is the history of these cases, as they presented themselves indiscriminately
to my inquiries. Most of them were, I believe, as they were narrated. One
or two, the keeper, to whom I repeated what had been told me, declared
to be falsely stated. In general, however, there was an air of candor and
sincerity about the men, that could not well have been assumed. At least
it was unaccompanied with canting or professions. One of them corrected
me when I said to him --"This, then, is your second offence." "No, Sir!"
was his reply --"it is my third." The keepers spoke well of them. The colored
prisoners, he told me, were generally quiet and well-behaved. From what
I saw on this occasion, I am led to believe that want of work, ignorance,
and the difficulty of finding unprejudiced witnesses and juries, are the
chief causes that have led so many of this unfortunate race to the prisons
and penitentiaries of the country. I would not draw a hasty or sweeping
conclusion from the few isolated facts thus brought under my notice: but
I would submit it to the consideration of any candid man, whether it is
just to ascribe any given circumstance to a physical peculiarity, when
the common motives that actuate human beings are sufficient to account
There were seventy women and forty men among the insane. The latter I did not see. Among the females were several colored persons. The two races agree together pretty well; though some repugnance is at first expressed by some of the "more worthy." Habit, however, reconciles them to an unavoidable necessity; and more rational conduct is exhibited by those who have lost their reason, than by those who are supposed to retain it in all its vigor.
Mania a putu is much more common among the white than the black women. The same may be said generally of inebriety. Dr. Parrish, jun., who was with me, confirmed what the keeper said on this subject. The year before, 123 persons, of whom twenty were women, died of this complaint in the city and liberties of Philadelphia.
fact equally honorable to the African race, was mentioned by the matron
of the female infirmary, where one or two were employed at the side of
a sick relative in keeping off the flies, and assuaging the heat of the
day with a fan. She said that there were but few of them in the establishment,
their aversion to enter its walls being as strong as that of their white
fellow-countrymen. To many of both death would be preferable to the disgrace
of living in the almshouse. The second report of the Ladies' Branch of
the Union Benevolent Association, pays an honorable and a well merited
tribute to these people, "Nine colored families have agreed to make deposits
[to the Fuel Saving Society]. They reside in one court, and might be held
up as patterns for habits of order, industry, and regularity."
these good people, instead of detaining labor in the cities, where
it is not wanted, and where it is too much disposed to linger, would find
some way to forward it to the west, where it is so scarce, that the most
iniquitous means are often used to obtain it, they would rescue the distant
States from slavery, and their own from pauperism. The Virginia "breeders
" ought to subscribe to the Provident Society, as it indirectly creates
a demand for their "stock" in Indiana and Illinois.
the winter of 1831-32, 3197 out door poor received relief in wood;
of these, 950 were foreigners; 2794 were whites, and 403 blacks.
A case of great hardship occurred while I was at Philadelphia. A man of the name of William Hector was claimed as a slave by a person from Maryland. He had been resident ten or twelve years in Pennsylvania: --the greater part of which time he had passed honestly and industriously in the city. Such at least was the testimony I received to his character from one of his neighbors, who had long been acquainted with him. There were 300 or 400 blacks present when the trial took place. The judge decided in favor of the claimant (Southern); having refused to allow sufficient time to procure evidence that would have established the prisoner's right to freedom. Three weeks were requested, and three days only were granted. His mother was an Indian; and his brother, it was said, had obtained judgment against a similar claim, on that ground. His wife, who was present, expressed her grief in a way that would have melted the heart of any one, but the administrator of the most cruel and unjust code that ever disgraced a civilized community --the sole interpreter and agent of a slave-holding legislature's will --with no jury to direct him, and little conscience to restrain him. If a black man's cow is taken from him, twelve honest men assist him to recover his property; if his person is seised, a judge or a magistrate decides on his right to his own body. In New Jersey and in other States, a justice of the peace has summary and definitive jurisdiction in such cases. By the revised statutes of New York, a supposed fugitive might formerly take out a writ de homine replegiando, and obtain the protection of a jury. Such security is now denied; as the superior court have unanimously declared the law, under which he seeks a remedy, unconstitutional. "I would observe," said Judge Hoffman, "that, as far as concerns the southern States, without this provision, (giving exclusive jurisdiction to a single magistrate,) our present government would not have been in existence. I may say it was the price of that constitution."
The law, by which the liberty of a human being is placed at the mercy of one man, was passed by the legislature of Pennsylvania in 1826. By the sixth section it is enacted, that "a fugitive " (any colored person may be claimed as a fugitive "from labor or service, shall be brought before a judge, and upon proof, to the satisfaction of such judge, that the person so seized or arrested, doth, under the laws of the State or territory from which he or she fled, owe service to the person claiming him or her, it shall be the duty of such judge to give a certificate thereof to such claimant, his or her duly authorized agent or attorney, which shall be sufficient warrant for removing the said fugitive to the State or territory from which he or she fled."
In many of the cities in the Union, the free blacks are hackney coachmen; and some of them drive their own carriages, which are usually the best and the neatest on the stand. I asked one of them, whether the whites did not prefer them. He replied that they did, and added, that there were three reasons for the preference; --because they had no fear that they would assume any thing like equality, --because they could order them about in the tone of masters, --and still more, because it might be thought they were riding in their own carriages --like our cockneys, who put a livery-servant at the back of a glasscoach, and then pass it off as their own. Hence it is that these men are more attentive to the appearance both of themselves and their vehicles, and elevate their condition by the means employed to degrade it.
It is highly gratifying to see the pride of man defeating its own purposes, and enriching the very persons it would impoverish and depress. It is the same with the barbers, who are almost entirely colored men. The whites are too proud or too lazy to shave themselves; and one of the few employmeats they have left open to the despised race, has given it both wealth and influence. The barber 's shop is a lounging place, and a reading-room; where the customers amuse themselves with caricatures and newspapers; while the conversation that passes makes the operator acquainted with the occurrences of the day. The information these men possess is astonishing. Most of them take in the abolition papers, which thus find a powerful support, and the best channel to convey their sentiments to the public. Were they to act in concert, their numbers would enable them to exercise a salutary check upon a large portion of the periodical press, by limiting their subscriptions to those publications that are friendly or less violent in their hostility to them. There are many who express themselves freely upon those topics, in which they are personally interested, who, in handling a colonizationist, are as ready with their logic as their razors, and can take off his arguments and his beard with equal dexterity.
respectability of this class was proved a few years back, by a memorial
they sent to the legislature of the State. According to statistical tables,
the accuracy of which could not be disputed, they contributed 2500 dollars
annually to the poor fund, and seldom received more than 2000 from it,
--while but four per cent. upon the whole amount of paupers, whether in
or out of the alms-house, belonged to them; --eight and a quarter per cent.
being, in 1830, their proportion of the population in Philadelphia. They
were paying annually for rents 100,000 dollars, and had six methodist (sic)
meetinghouses, two Baptist, two Presbyterian, one Episcopalian, and one
public hall, all supported by themselves, and valued at upwards of 100,000
dollars. They owned two Sunday schools, two tract societies, two Bible
societies, two temperance societies, and one female literary institution.
"We have among ourselves," say these ill-treated men, "more than fifty
beneficent societies, some of which are incorporated, for mutual aid in
times of sickness and distress." The members were liable to be expelled
or suspended for misconduct. Upwards of 7000 dollars, raised among themselves,
were expended annually in the relief of sickness or distress. "It is worthy
of remark," they add, "that we cannot find a single instance of one of
the members of these societies being convicted in any of our courts. One
instance only has occurred of a member brought up and accused before a
court, but this individual was acquitted."
The sons of Africa are reminded, even in the Quaker meeting-houses, of the mark which has been set upon them, as if they were the children of Cain. Yet the rules of discipline particularly forbid such unchristian distinctions. Monthly meetings are desired by them, to exercise due deliberation, in consulting upon the qualification of applicants for admission; and to receive such as are found worthy "into membership, without distinction of nation or color." who, on reading this injunction, would believe that "colored friends," when assembled with their white brethren to worship their common father, are obliged to sit by themselves; and that those attempts, which are now and then made, to join the excluded, or invite them to sit among the privileged, have been rewarded with remonstrance, reproach, and persecution?
An anecdote told me by Isaac Hopper, who has the active benevolence, as well as the religious opinions, of the heresiarch, throws some light on the relative characteristics of the two races that seem destined to share the new continent between them. It is seldom, indeed, that any one has an opportunity of ascertaining the validity of those opinions which ascribe generosity and high-mindedness to the owner, and the opposite qualities to his bondsman A citizen of Delaware, of the name of Perry Boots, had allowed his slave, Daniel Benson, some twenty years ago, to reside in Philadelphia, on condition that he would pay him forty dollars a-year. The "rent" of his own body was punctually paid for some time, though the "tenant" had to support his own mother, as well as to provide for his own maintenance. Having, however , been told that he was free by the laws of Pennsylvania, he applied to Mr. Hopper for advice; and the latter informed his master, by letter, that he had no further claim upon his services. It was in vain that remonstrances were made, and lawyers consulted. The case was plain. His consent had been given for a longer residence than that within which his property in human flesh could be retained; and the man was declared to be no longer "bound to service". Disappointed and chagrined at the decision, the master upbraided the man with ingratitude for the kindness he had always shewn him. "It is true ", replied the other, "that you have always treated me well; and I feel attached to your family, from having lived with your father but the same law which gave you my labor, now gives me my liberty. You say you intended to grant me my freedom on some future day: --what price would you ask for me, were I still your slave?" "One hundred dollars." "The money is yours," said the generous black, producing a bag of hard dollars that he had laid by; "and now that I am a free citizen of the United States, I hope you will do me the honor of dining with me to-day." Both offers were accepted: a receipt was given for the money; and the parties sat down together to as good a banquet as the remainder of the hoard could provide.
Another story I had from the same quarter, presents a melancholy picture of the attachment these people possess for their children. A fugitive, who had accumulated a handsome fortune in Philadelphia, was anxious, about fifteen years back, to recover his family; and Isaac Hopper undertook to pay his master 150 dollars for his freedom. The bargain having been settled, and the necessary papers completed, the father went into Maryland in search of his little ones. They were no longer there. He had been promised them. They were sold. The shock was too much for a parent's feelings. His wealth had lost all its charms. He returned to Philadelphia, and died of a broken heart.
remarkable trait of generosity occurred about thirty years ago. Three
men, who had concealed themselves in Philadelphia, fell into the hands
of their master. A Quaker, whose name was Harrison, advanced, though he
had never seen them, the sum of 250 dollars for them. In the mean time,
two of them had made their escape; and a person, who wanted a servant,
agreed to pay Harrison 125 dollars for the one that remained. When, at
the expiration of five years, for which he had been bound, the man became
his own master, he went to his benefactor, and offered to return him the
remainder of the money; observing, that the whole debt had become his,
by the flight of his comrades, and that it was hard upon Harrison that
he should suffer from an act of kindness. I need not say what reply was
made to the proposal.
There is a spacious cemetery near the town, or rather forming a part of it, where the inhabitants find a last home. The pride of caste, in pushing its folly beyond the grave, has effected an approximation, by attempting a disjunction between the two races. The ground is divided into two lots, each thirty feet by twenty, the price of which is about twenty-five dollars. A portion of these had been purchased by the "people called Africans," as Mrs. Child, in her very interesting work*,
has appropriately termed them. In process of time, as the population of the town increased, more land was added to the burying-ground, and monuments were erected, beyond that portion appropriated to the "outcasts." So that they who were once on the outside, are now in the midst of their skin-proud revilers. Among the former, lies Ashmun, the first governor of Liberia; in death, as in life, the friend and the companion of the black man. Beyond is the Potter's Field, where the dead bodies of the poor are deposited. The paupers of Newhaven are reminded, when they visit the graves of their departed friends, that the purity of their blood is a matter of deep interest and concern to their "betters"; and that the contamination of "bad company" will not be allowed to "corrupt" their "good manners," while reposing beneath the few feet of sod allotted to them by the hand of charity. It is thus that the earliest and the latest associations of life, --the first impressions of the cradle, and the last monitions from the grave, are made to perpetuate an antipathy, opposed alike to the innocence of the one, and to the humility of the other. The blood of the black man cries from the ground against his brother. The heart of the white man is hardened against him. May the Father of both look with pity and mercy upon them!
* An Appeal in favor of that class of Americans called, Africans, by Mrs. Child, &c., Boston, 1833.
the Union, there is, perhaps, no city, containing the same amount of population,
where the blacks meet with more contumely and unkindness than at this place.
Some of them told me it was hardly safe for them to be in the streets alone
at night. One man assured me that he never ventured out after day-light,
without some weapon of defence about him. No young woman of that race,
if she would avoid insult, dare pass through the town, in the dusk of the
evening, without a man to protect her. To pelt them with stones, and cry
out nigger! nigger! as they pass, seems to be the pastime of the place.
I had seen and heard so much of the indignities and cruelties heaped on
the heads of this persecuted race, that I had ceased to feel surprise at
any thing I was told on the subject. Indignation, I trust, I shall never
cease to feel; and I blame myself for not having spoken more strongly and
more frequently against these enormities. I could perceive that I had given
great offence in several quarters, by the expression of my sentiments.
It would be more to my honor if I had given more reason for it.
Boston, to which place I went on the 1st of September, I saw a cousin of Peter Vicey. She gave the same account of what passed in Virginia, on the establishment of their claim to liberty, as was given me by the colonists in Ohio. She was married to a man, of whom I heard a very favorable report from Mr. Child. She stated that she had had great difficulty in obtaining her papers of freedom from the agent, William Wickham, as he refused to let her have them, because she would not accompany the party who had gone into Ohio. When she had at last succeeded in her object, he told her there was money due to her, and he would remit it to her at Boston, whither she was going. She applied for it several times, through a lawyer; but not one cent did she ever get from William Wickham. Her husband informed me that a friend had once seen a copy of Mr. Gist's will in Virginia, but had forgotten the contents.
Among the many instances which I was doomed to hear of the national bigotry, were one or two particularly deserving of notice. It is an established fact that blindness is more prevalent among the blacks than the whites; yet none of them are allowed to partake of the benefits which the asylum, lately established at Boston, affords to those who are afflicted with this infirmity. There was an application made for admission, by persons who had befriended a poor colored child that was blind, --but without effect, though the inhabitants of the town where he lived, petitioned the legislature in his favor. Those with whom the election rested decided against him. A letter from one of the poor boy's friends, (Benjamin Davenport,) to a member of the legislature says, "the reason assigned was because he had a colored skin. The Governor informed me that he had no objection to granting him a certificate; but the Trustees objected. He also informed me, that the Institution received nearly 3000 dollars last year from the unexpended appropriation to the deaf and dumb, making about 9000 dollars from the State last year. I understand the objection made by Dr. Howe, who seems to be the Principal of the Institution, is, if they should have pupils from the South, their parents or friends would not like to have them in the same school with colored children. I am not aware that the legislature intended any distinction of color, when they made the grant; nor do I believe they would countenance it." The boy, thus rejected, was remarkable for goodness of disposition and acuteness of mind. Dr. Howe is well known in America as a Philhellenist.
Another instance refers to the case of juvenile offenders, who were declared to be inadmissible at the house of reformation, on account of their complexion. But, perhaps , the strongest example of this vile feeling is to be seen in the conduct of Judge Story, while addressing a jury, who were trying a white man on a charge of murder. The victim of his savage ferocity was the steward or cook of a vessel he commanded. He had beaten and flogged him till he died. Three colored men of unexceptionable character deposed to the fact, of which they had been eye-witnesses. All suspicion of concert or collusion between the witnesses was precluded by the variation in its details of the evidence they gave. The defence was that the deceased had died from the effects of sickness, and not from the blows he had received. His wife, however, swore that he was in good health when he left her; that she had never heard of his having been ill; and that he had always had an excellent constitution. The prisoner was acquitted; the judge having told the jury they must deduct from the weight of testimony, pruduced by the witnesses, the probable iufluence of their prejudices aganst a man of a different color from their own. No allusion whatever was made to a similar feeling on the other side; though it was just as likely to operate in favor of a white man as against him. Any one unaquainted with the state of the public mind and the character of the judge, would have supposed that the whites alone, were the victims of an unreasonable, prejudice.
Such an observation from the bench, in open court, in a trial for a brutal assault, accompanied with fatal effects, and very suspicious circumstances proclaims more clearly and more strikingly the diabolical spirit which pervades the nation, than a thousand anecdotes illustrative of what is practised, by individuals in private life. Public opinion took part with the accused, and the judge congratulated him on an acquittal, by which his "character was fully vindicated."
the examination of the public schools took place last year, the African
schools, as they are called, were omitted in the list advertised, though
it was particularly requested that a notice, relative to them, should be
inserted at the same time in the papers. The pupils that attend them were
not allowed to join in the procession, which greeted the President when
he arrived in the city on his tour. The reason alleged was, that it would
be offensive to a southerner if the colored children should turn out to
receive him. A
white man , who had the care of one of these schools, was convicted
of having been in the habit of corrupting the morals of the young women
under his care. He protested his innocence, and complained that all his
predecessors had labored unjustly under the same imputation. The proofs
against him were conclusive of his guilt, yet he was continued in his place
under some pretence or other. His predecessors were probably as bad as
himself. Few care for these children; their virtues are a reproach to those
who despise them. Why should they be punished or checked by the scorner,
who encourage and promote those vices that give him an excuse for his contempt?
He ought to thank them for helping him to keep the "niggers" down. A proper
teacher is now appointed to the school in question.
house of industry, guided by Dr. Tuckerman]
It [the ward for the insane] adjoins the apartment in which the colored people, with the usual disregard of their feelings, are lodged apart, and must, from the noise and confusion which prevail, be the source of great annoyance to them, particularly to the sick.
The patients are from time to time, removed to Worcester Asylum, where they are cured in a large proportion of cases, in the early stages of the disorder.In the infant school here, the stain of color is visible among the pupils. "The common class shun their society." In the infirmary, where these poor creatures were, I remarked, as I did in almost every place of the kind, strong indications of assiduous attention to the helpless and infirm. A woman was brushing away the flies from a child who was sick in bed. Upon inquiry , I was told there were not many of this class of paupers. One of them, an old man, ninety-seven years of age, had served in the American navy, during the whole of the revolutionary war. He had no pension; and he could find no Greenwich Hospital*
in the Sailor's Snug Harbor.
* Every one who has seen this place, knows that there are plenty of colored pensioners among its inmates.
[Estab. for juvenile offenders:]
Not much to the credit, however, of the proper authorities; a resolution had been made against admitting any juvenile offender, who might happen to have a drop of the prohibited and proscribed blood in his veins: so that those, who are said to stand most in need of reformation, are excluded from its benefits, by the very persons who complain that they are incorrigible. The average cost of the children, whose age is from nine to eighteen, is twelve cents per diem.