Friendly Reception. -- "Immediate" and "gradual" Abolition.
-Deplorable State of Liberia. --Amalgamation-mob versus the Blacks. --Outrages
encouraged by the Press, --Dr. Cox threatened with indelible "Blacking."
--Episcopal Interference. -- Indelicate Delicacy. --Heterodox Marriages.
--History of James Forten. --Fair Mount Water-works. --Hospital. --Penitentiary.
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.
From 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."
I obtained a great deal of information from this man on the subject of slavery; which he painted exactly in the same colors as those employed by all who have seen or felt it.
I may here state that I was cautious in believing any thing on "hearsay," though the good character of the witness was not always so easy to be ascertained. He came from the western part of Virginia, where, as I have before said, the system is less severe than in the rest of the State. When a master is dissatisfied with his slave, he generally threatens to sell him to the traders; the fate that impends over the victims of this infernal traffic being well known to be of the most dreadful description. "I'll put you in my pocket" is the phrase on these occasions. The horror they feel in moving further to the South, may be seen even in the ballads they are said to sing before the whites. The following is an extract from one of them, in the mouth of an emigrant slave from South Carolina:
"I born in Sout Calina,This threat of selling a discontented or refractory slave to those who are sure to treat him cruelly, is practised in the French colonies, and in fact wherever the system that gives it efficacy exists. M. Tanc, formerly a magistrate at Guadeloupe, (see Revue des Colonies, No. 7, p.17,) says, speaking of one of the planters, that the dread of being sold to him was employed as a motive to obedience throughout the island." Cet homme est si connu par son humeur féroce, que deux ateliers se soot révoltés pour ne pas lui être vendus. Quand on veut effrayer un nègre dont on est mécontent, on le menace de le vendre à cet habitant; eels suffit pour le corriger." Hence it is, perhaps, that the, perpetrators of the most brutal atrocities are protected by slave-owners from punishment: they are "scarecrow for poor nigger."
Fine country ebber seen,
I guine from Sout Calina,
I guine to New Orlean.
Old boss, he discontentum
He take de mare, black Fanny,
He buy a pedlar wagon,
And he boun' for Lousy-Anna.
He boun' for Lousy-Anna,
Old Debble, Lousy-Anna!
"He gone five day in Georgy,
Fine place for egg and ham;
When he get among the Ingens,
And he push for Alabam.
He look, bout 'pon de prairie,
Where de hear de cotton grow;
But he spirit stilt contrary,
And he must fudder go.
He boun' for Lousy-Anna, &c.
He look at Mrs. Seapy [Mississippi],
Good lady 'nough dey say;
But he tink de State look sleepy,
And so he 'fuse to stay.
When once he leff Calina,
And on he mare, black Fanny,
He take not off he bridle-bit,
Till he get to Lousy-Anna.
'Old debble, Lousy-Anna,
Dat scarecrow for poor nigger,
Where de sugar-cane grow to pine-tree,
And de pine-tree turn to sugar," &c.
The separation that takes place between the objects of a mutual affection --whether wives and husbands, or parents and children, is attended with circumstances of distress and despair, that no one can look upon unmoved, whose heart has not been hardened by familiarity with such scenes. Cases sometimes occur of what may be literally termed "broken hearts "--instant death from the shock of contending emotions. Other facts I became acquainted with must be suppressed from a regard to decency. I have alluded to them in reporting my Conversation with Mr. Rankin at Ripley. It is well known that slavery injures the morals of the master: delicacy has hitherto concealed its effects upon those who are most nearly and tenderly connected with him.
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.
It 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.
The inference that is commonly drawn from the condition of the slave, is extremely fallacious. A little reflection will detect the error; and a slight acquaintance with the emancipated will confirm its condemnation. That labor with wages would be hated by those who have been forced to work without, is a conclusion unwarranted by reason and experience. The facts that seem to support it may be explained by others that are purposely kept out of sight. How far the policy adopted or suggested, of introducing large masses of European labor into our West Indian colonies*,
--for the purpose, or with the effect, of keeping down the rate of wages by which the blacks would and ought to profit, --may be classed among the facts alluded to, I leave to the conscience of every honest man to decide. This importation is worse than the statute of wages; because it is encouraged by those who formerly made its supposed inefficiency a ground for refusing the very treasure which, they now tell us, imperatively calls for it. It is easy to say that the manumitted black will not work; and the most effectual way to prove the assertion is, to lessen the inducement, by lowering the remuneration. Freedom is a mere name, where the buyer of labor is to decide upon its price, on the plea that the seller asks too much: and slavery still continues, if a man is to be punished because he will not submit to be cheated.
* The Jamaica legislature has granted a bounty of £15 per head to laborers from Europe --a measure of which the results are more doubtful than the motives.
are many persons who object to "immediate" emancipation, from a misconception of its purport. They are not, perhaps, aware that the term is used in contradistinction to "gradual" abolition; and is no more open to the charge of precipitancy, than the other of endless protraction. It simply means, that the slave should be placed under the protection and control of the same government to which other men are subject, and should be transferred immediately from the power of the master --who makes the law which he enforces --to that of the magistrate, who enforces the law which the general legislature makes for the whole community.
The American abolitionists have no intention to follow the example of England. They do not acknowledge a right in any community to compel men, by the terrors of the cart-whip, to toil for the benefit of those who have been already "compensated" for the loss of that power by which they plundered and tortured them. They cannot see why any one who has been exposed, against his consent, to the burning rays of the sun, should have half as much more injustice done him than another who has been sheltered from them, and be compelled to toil six years while the other toils but four. They think there is but little difference between the slave and the apprentice; and that both have the same rights, whether they be "praedial" or "non-praedial". In fine, they would blush for their country, if she boasted of having abolished slavery, while such paragraphs as the following appeared in any journal in any part of her dominions:.
"On Thursday last, when Mr. Jerdan, the special magistrate, was speaking to the apprentices on Golden Grove about taking off the crop, the women, as usual, made a great noise; and after being repeatedly told to be quiet, without effect, Mr. J. ordered one, who seemed most clamorous, to be put in confinement; on which the whole gang declared 'they would go in the dark room too'. When they got near it they rescued her; and, to shew their defiance of the king's magistrate and of the law, they gave three cheers, and continued 'hurraing' for some time. After this, they all went to their work; but as it was necessary to put a proper check upon such rebellious conduct, the magistrate brought thirteen of the police and seven soldiers to the estate that evening. On the following morning the whole of the people were assembled, when nine men were flogged; and two of those, with six women, were sent to the house of correction."-Jamaica Royal Gazette, October 25,1834.
There are others who recommend some modification of the feudal services in lieu of compulsory labor. There is not sufficient analogy, however, between North American bondage and the feudal subjection, to warrant the experiment. The serfs have never been robbed of their property, or deprived of their inheritance: the land they till is the country of their ancestors: their claims are rather the claims of humanity than of justice: their situation is diversified by an acknowledged scale of services to be rendered: their servitude is in some measure political as well as personal, and varies with the varying legislation of the country. As they emerge from their hard lot, they are imperceptibly absorbed into the social mass; and no brand remains upon them, to remind them of their former degradation, and rivet the chains of their former associates. While in a state of vassalage they are human beings, not mere cattle, in the eye of the law: enumerated as "souls", not as fractions of men: every one an integral, not three-fifths of an unit. The American slave, on the other hand, presents a picture the very reverse of the one just described. He possesses not one solitary "incident" on which the superstructure of free action can be legally erected. He bears to his owner the relation of unqualified, unlimited submission. All that his friends demand for him at present is, that he should be to his master what the laborer is to the employer in every free country. His condition is not the result of that natural development which civil society has undergone everywhere, but has arisen from the forced union of barbarism and civilization, --the result of that power which unprincipled knowledge has obtained over helpless ignorance, by subjecting the physical force of one race to the avarice of another more enlightened. All that is required is, that these unfortunate beings may be allowed to employ their own limbs for the promotion of their own happiness; that they may be as free to sell their labor, as their owner is to use it without paying for it; and that wages may take place of the whip. No more is wanted than the application of that principle which stimulates industry by connecting it with profit; and which may be seen in full operation, wherever those who have been used to work "by the day" undertake to work "by the piece ". Let but the slave-owner give signs of the will, and the slave-legislature will find the way, to emancipate the bond from his wrongs, and the master from his fears. The matter would easily be settled, if the oppressor were as ready to grant freedom as the oppressed to receive it; for as a French writer (M. de Passemans) says of the Russian serfs "Un people est toujours mûr pour la liberté; main les hommes qui oppriment le people, ne sont pas toujours mûrs pour la justice et l'humanité."
I had another opportunity, while at Philadelphia, of ascertaining the true state of Liberia. From Mr. Temple, who had been sent thither as a missionary by the western Presbyterian board of Pittsburg, I received an account that fully confirmed what Jones had told me. He had resided there four or five months, and had not long been returned when I saw him. His health, had suffered so much from the effects of the climate, that he was compelled to quit the colony. Of six others, who went out with him, all died, in addition to two of the Methodist and Presbyterian persuasion who had arrived previously. In fact, all the missionaries, who had gone from the United States to that part of Africa, had died, with the exception of one who was then on his way home. The conduct of those colonists who were employed in the interior as religious teachers was highly blameable. They had all become traders, and were carrying on a traffic, the profits of which were at the expense both of the natives and the settlers. They supplied the one with goods at their own prices, as they had obtained them from the other, by imposing upon their ignorance. The whole settlement was one mass of chicanery and corruption, extending even to the aborigines, as far as they had the means of retaliating on the strangers, or of practising the same frauds on one another.
Temple drew the same picture as Jones, of the idleness that had neglected agriculture, and transferred all the hard work of the colony to the natives. Two thirds of the inhabitants at Monrovia were in a state of starvation; no statistical return was made of deaths to the local authorities; and the decent performance of funeral rights was often denied. With the exception of eight or ten recaptured slaves, no conversions had been effected among the native tribes. Temple, though he had suffered so much from the climate, and was fully resolved to have no kind of connexion with the colony, was willing, he said, to go as a missionary into the interior. The Colonization Society, to whom he had communicated his wishes, had taken no public notice of his offer. They were highly offended with him for having given, in his letters from Liberia, such a discouraging representation of what he had witnessed. They urged him to contradict it by the publication of a more favorable statement, alleging as a reason for the request and a motive for compliance, that their funds were exhausted, and little hope of a further supply remained, till the distrust in the public mind was removed. Every artifice that cunning could suggest --every inducement that might be likely to work on a timid or a mercenary disposition, was used to enlist him in their cause. Though worn down by illness, and exposed to all the obloquy which hatred of color can inflict, he firmly refused to participate in the guilt of deceiving his fellow countrymen, in a matter involving their health, their comfort, and their lives.
His description of the emigrants, who went out with him, was truly distressing. Some of them were in a complete state of destitution --without a blanket to lie on, or a change of clothes. They had left many things behind, having been assured that they would get every thing they might want during the passage, and on their arrival. There was one woman without her husband, and a little girl who had neither parents, nor relatives, nor friends to take care of her. On his return, the scene he witnessed was heartrending: the colonists imploring the captain on their knees to take them with him. Though he wanted hands, he was not permitted to give them a passage. A passport was necessary; the Governor was applied to: but he refused one on various pretences, and at last concealed himself to escape importunity. Such is the condition of this "flourishing settlement" --grass growing in the streets of Monrovia --vermin destroying the vegetation --the settlers dying and desponding --unprotected from foreign vessels that intercept their trade with the native tribes --a prey to every sort of abuse, without a possibility of removing the impressions which the suppression of facts and the fabrications of falsehoods have produced at home: --a colony without a mother-country --a horde of semi-civilized helpless beings, without an acknowledged government --a mere band of buccaniers, with no regular commission to make peace or war with the nations around, and without any security against the vengeance or justice of barbarous or civilized communities --a set of intruders on a foreign soil, living under the hybrid and anomalous rule of a pseudo-philanthropic society, in conjunction with a hypocritical congress of States, which distrusts the power it grants and doubts its own privileges --liable to be exterminated by the savages in the neighborhood, or to be dispersed by the first maritime power of any part of the globe, that may call in question, the title-deeds of its possessions, and the charter of its political incorporation.
While the rival societies were carrying on their literary warfare with all the zeal and energy that the importance of the cause could inspire, the mob at New York took up the cudgels in good earnest on one side, and gave convincing proofs that the friends of the Colonization Society are not always the friends of those whose welfare it professes to promote. They attacked the churches and houses of the colored people, and demolished both to an extent of damage, which, according to the lowest estimate, could not be repaired for less than 20,000 dollars. Many of these unfortunate people, who were afterwards acknowledged, even by their enemies, to have been as patient during these outrages as they had been inoffensive before their infliction, were compelled to remove their families and furniture, and seek refuge in flight. For three days the city was completely at the mercy of these marauders, who were each day becoming more formidable by their numbers, and the audacity which the connivance, if not the co-operation, of the more opulent classes, had instilled into their minds.
According to the Courier and Enquirer, there were not above ten or a dozen men and twenty or thirty boys, that committed all the mischief. "It is true," adds this firebrand, "that, whilst the acts of the mob went to shew an abhorrence of the conduct and doctrines of the immediate abolitionists, they were encouraged by the general voice of those present; but the majority, and, indeed, almost all of these were of too respectable a character, to take part themselves in any act of violence." The three days, during which Bristol was given up to fire and plunder, do not reflect more disgrace on the authorities of that place, than the same period of time which the magistrates of New York permitted to elapse, while their fellow citizens were suffering in their persons and property for no offence political or religious. There was no excuse for the outrages that would not have involved the apologist in greater criminality than the perpetrator. The only crime imputed was an excess of charity and liberty, beyond what a superstitious tyrannical people had been accustomed to; and the only motive for violence was the dread of an event, which had been passing before their eyes to a much greater extent, and with more disgusting accompaniments, than the doctrines imputed to their opponents could by any possibility bring about. With all this the chief sufferers were the innocent; and vengeance fell upon those who had done nothing to excite it.
A silly cry of "amalgamation" had exasperated the public mind; and so completely obstructed the perception of truth, that it was believed, not only that the abolitionists wished the two races to mingle their abhorrent and abhorred embrace, but that the instrument of their unhallowed project, was to be the adoption of measures which would necessarily set limits to the dreaded evil, by raising both master and slave from the vices of their condition; while they would rescue the one from violence and the other from a brutal and factitious passion. Never was any nation exhibited in a more contemptible fight! Never did pride, and prejudice, and presumption gain more thorough mastery over the heart and the intellect. It makes one blush for the inhumanity and folly of mankind. We are lost in astonishment to see how little influence either religion or philosophy is able to exercise over men who boast of their attainments in both! How slow is the progress of truth even among the most favored people! We look back to the kindred superstitions of past ages, and we can scarcely believe that civilization could ever have overcome such obstacles to its advancement.
While these disgraceful scenes were going on, the daily press was adding fuel to the flame it had created The Times of New York said, "The spirit which pervaded the throng had been aroused into action by a long and aggravating course of reckless proceedings, contrary to the first principles of public justice." --"In our judgment," said the Albany Argus, "the abolitionists, by their mad measures and insane obstinacy, are endangering the peace and safety of the country. In this view, we regret that the laws have not armed the executive with authority to banish them from the country, upon the same principle that dogs are muzzled in hot weather, and foreign voyagers compelled to undergo quarantine."
The New York American, the editor of which acknowledged to Lewis Tappan that the abolition cause was a just one, thus expressed himself, "They (the rioters) did, indeed, in their proceedings at the Chatham Chapel, shew that they were actuated by a spirit which one cannot help admiring; and their conduct, considering all the circumstances, would be contemplated with more pride than blame by their fellow citizens: but this spirit, so admirable, is a most delicate spirit to deal with; and the conduct, so laudable in one instance, most dangerous as a precedent." A whole book might be filled with similar quotations from the journals of the day.
at last an effort was made to save the city from pillage and conflagration,
the mayor thought fit to act the partisan as well as the magistrate; and
to rebuke the philanthropists while he denounced the incendiaries. In the
first proclamation issued by this equitable functionary of the first city
in the Union, the good people under his care and control were told, that,
"however repugnant to the good sense of the community are the doctrines
and measures of a few misguided individuals, on the subject which has led
to the existing excitement of the public mind, their conduct affords no
justification for popular commotion. The laws are sufficient to restrain
whatever is subversive of public morals, and to prevent all violation of
public decorum. On them alone must the citizen rely; and misjudging and
imprudent men, as well as the most temperate and discrete, must be protected
in their undoubted right of persons and property." In his second proclamation
he said: "I caution, in the most friendly spirit, all those who, to resent
an offensive difference of opinion, have allowed themselves to usurp the
authority of the laws, against inciting or abetting further commotion:'
This was the "pulveris exigui jactus" of Cornelius W. Lawrence,
Mayor of New York!
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.
The rioters , not contented with destroying the furniture of Lewis Tappan's house, threatened to dip his brother Arthur and Dr. Cox in indelible ink. It was generally believed that they had prepared a tub for the purpose, --a method of curing the abolition mania highly applauded by all, who thought the disorder required a strong remedy, --on the Homaeopathic principle --"Take a hair of the animal that has bitten you". This is "going the whole hog" with a vengeance!
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.
When the mayor ordered the rioters to disperse, they shouted out, "Three cheers for James Watson Webb, of the Courier!" The Board of Managers of the Colonization Society of New York published certain resolutions disapproving of these tumultuous assemblages, which they declared "were held without any previous knowledge on their part." Disavowal does not always exonerate. "Qui s'excuse s'accuse". The objects of the Society had been favored with the formal approbation of these disowned coadjutors in the "good cause". The daily papers announced to the public the intention of the Antislavery Society to meet, and pointed out the time and place, though no such intention existed as to either. The Courier and Enquirer is the organ of the planters, who know full well what string to touch, when they would rouse the great "leviathan". "Amalgamation" is the cry in the North; and "the rights of property" in the South. Each is admirably adapted to its purpose; while neither would succeed out of its appropriate sphere. The slave-owners must laugh in their sleeves, to see how easily their dupes are led to do their bidding, whether on the floor of congress or in the streets of New York.
"Admit Missouri as she is into the Union", says a slavebreeder, who is looking out for a new market, to the manufacturer, "and you shall have the tariff." "Mob and muzzle the fanatics", says the slave-owner, surrounded by his tawney brats, to the sensitive Caucasian of the North, "or your women will undergo the fate of the Sabines, and darkness will cover the land." The appeal succeeds in both cases, and the national welfare is sacrificed to mean avarice and meaner pride. Plectuntur Achivi! --"Uncle Sam" pays for all. He struts and talks big, while he is paying a double price for the coat he wears, and is laughed at by the whole world for the care he takes of his skin.
It is supposed that 20,000 persons had collected together, in various parts of the city, for the purposes of mischief and plunder. Of the rioters, 150 were committed to prison for want of bail. Three were subsequently condemned to one year's imprisonment, with hard labor; and five to six months', in the penitentiary.
"We trust", said the Courier, "the immediate abolitionists and amalgamators will see, in the proceedings of the last few days, sufficient proof that the people of New York have determined to prevent the propagation among them of their wicked and absurd doctrines, --much less to permit the practice of them. If we have been instrumental in producing this desirable state of public feeling, we take pride in it." Singular state of public feeling, that is "much less determined" to "permit the practice", than to "prevent the propagation", of certain doctrines! That there should be any determination to permit what was never contemplated, is as remarkable as the resolution to stifle opinions that were never taught. Such are the instigators of an insane populace.
"They praise, and they admire, they know not what,
And know not whom --but as one leads the other."
Milton, Paradise Regained, Book 3, 50-59:
50Are few, and glory scarce of few is raised.
A miscellaneous rabble, who extol
Things vulgar, and, well weighed, scarce worth the praise?
They praise and they admire they know not what,
And know not whom, but as one leads the other;
And what delight to be by such extolled,
To live upon their tongues, and be their talk?
Of whom to be dispraised were no small praise--
His lot who dares be singularly good.
The intelligent among them and the wise
When order and tranquillity were restored by the presence of the military, so little were the inhabitants disposed to investigate the cause, or prevent the recurrence, of the danger from which they had just escaped, that they threw the whole blame upon the Antislavery Society, rather than confess that it originated in the wish they felt to answer argument by force. They urged their opponents to recant their humanity, instead of repenting and reforming themselves. What took place afterwards reflected more dishonor on the nation than all the violence which had marked the exploits of the memorable three days. Charges were laid against the leading members of the emancipation party, that never would have been thought of by men of ordinary candor, and could not have gained credence with any one not prepared to believe the most preposterous accusations. What motives could the Tappans, or Dr. Cox, have had for increasing the number of mulattoes in the United States? Was it likely that Arthur Tappan, a man remarkable for his piety and benevolence, had resolved to marry his daughter, against her consent, to a negro; or, that Dr. Cox, when he said in the pulpit, that we could not be certain what were the form and color of that body in which the Lord of life appeared on earth, meant more than that the distinction of caste had no existence in the divine mind?
Yet it was imputed and believed that these men had entered into a conspiracy against the human species, by promoting marriage between the blacks and whites! The intention was taken for granted; and condemned as a crime! The population of a vast city arose in their might and majesty, to protest against a scheme so wicked and unnatural! and the accused, in deference to this monster of folly, entered a public disclaimer of the unpopular proposition! The advocates of slavery, under which the two races are fast blending their distinctive colors, proclaim their abhorrence of an intermixture which they are striving to perpetuate; while the friends of freedom think fit to disavow a project which the measures they recommend are the least calculated to promote!
The disgusting and indecent discussions with which New York is agitated and inflamed, are extended to the remotest corners of the Union; and the peace of a whole community is disturbed, because the earthly tabernacles of our immortal souls have not been cast in the same mould, and covered with the same clay! Even the Church steps forward to support the State in this emergency; and religion is called in to heal the wounds she ought to have prevented. 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.
I was astonished that the young women would not see, if they could not feel, the indelicacy of discussing the subject of "amalgamation." To found objections to the matrimonial union on physical, not on moral grounds, betrays an impurity of ideas which could never gain admittance into a well regulated mind. Swift says, "the nicest people have the nastiest ideas;" and what I witnessed in America bears out his assertion. The same people, who scrupulously avoid the use of certain innocent words, because they are sometimes applied in an indecent way, were talking, from morning to night, about the sexual passion, with a vehemence of manner, and in a tone of earnestness, utterly abhorrent from the generally received notions of propriety.
I had always thought that there was something dignified and decorous about marriage, --something in the intercourse between the sexes, to raise it above the grovelling appetite of the brute creation, --some little admixture of mental and moral qualities, to charm the imagination, and give play to our love of the gentle virtues; --but, from all I could make out of the innumerable debates I heard on the subject, it appeared to be almost an universal feeling, that the whole matter was to be decided upon by physical considerations alone; that the sole avenue to the heart was through the eye, as it rested on the skin; that the circle, within which the taste and the affections were suffered to range, was circumscribed by boundaries, from which it is exempt when applied to other objects in all their diversified forms and colors; and that, in short, the whole affair was purely sensual, in its most disgusting and degrading grossness. This may, for aught I know, be very true; but the opposite error is at least complimentary to our nature, and may elevate where it fails to enlighten.
What are we to think of a country, where concubinage is considered less criminal than marriage; and where a preacher of the gospel can declare publicly, that neither the victim nor the offspring of an illicit intercourse shall ever be protected against injustice and want by the civil power, or rescued from demoralization by the sanction of religious rites? "The fact", says Dr. Reese, of New York, in a pamphlet on this subject , --"The fact, that no white person would consent to marry a negro, without having previously forfeited all character with the whites; and even profligate sexual intercourse between the races everywhere meets with the execration of the respectable and virtuous among the whites, as the most despicable form of licentiousness, is of itself irrefragable proof that equality in any respect, in this country, is neither practicable nor desirable." He goes on to say, "Amalgamation may and does exist among the most degraded of the species: but Americans" --(in the name of the Prophet!) --"will never yield the sanction of law and religion to an equality incongruous and unnatural."
The reverend author, it may be observed, asserts, in the one place, that equality cannot exist, because the Americans will not sanction it; and, in the other, that the Americans will not sanction it, although it does exist. The holy man turns away his face from an "incongruous" equality, because it is "impracticable". Silly as the objection to abolition is, from its supposed tendency to amalgamation, one feels at a loss how to answer it properly: for whether, as an abolitionist, you profess to prevent, or promote an intermixture, you give up the very principle for which you are contending; and admit the inequality, while you deny its existence. Why, indeed, should you trouble yourself about the matter? Indifference is the natural state of mind in contemplating a contingency in which you can have no interest, and ought to have no influence.
In 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.
It appears, by an act of the Maryland legislature, passed in 1663, that there was less sensitiveness on this point formerly than at present. The second section says, "Forasmuch as divers free-born English women, forgetful of their free condition, and to the disgrace of our nation, do intermarry with negro slaves; by which also divers suits may arise, touching the issue of such women, and a great damage doth befall the master of such negroes; for preservation whereof, &c., be it enacted, that whatsoever free-born woman shall intermarry with any slave, from and after the last day of this present assembly, shall serve the master of such slave during the life of her husband; and that all the issue of such freeborn women so married shall be slaves, as their fathers were." The planters took advantage of this law, to compel those white women they had bought as redemptioners to marry their slaves, for the purpose of adding the wives and the children to their live-stock.
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 for it.
Infant Schools. --State of Education in Pennsylvania.
--Almshouse. --Increase of Pauperism. --Institution for poor Children.
--House of Refuge. --Hackney-coachmen and Barbers in Philadelphia. --Quaker
schism. --Elias Hicks. --Generous and affectionate Character of the Blacks.
In America , we are reminded of the base antipathies that have separated the two races. Were they to associate together in the early periods of life, no room would be left for those feelings of arrogance and contempt that now step in to divide them. What is now called natural repugnance would be seen to be nothing but an artificial affection of the mind produced by the conjunction of two ideas that have no necessary connexion. In the South, where children of both colors are brought up together, and the white infant is often suckled at a black breast, the link that unites the prejudice of the mind with the visible object, is supplied from a different source. It is not the color, but the condition that qualifies the sentiment. It is the idea of servitude, which inseparably accompanies that of the complexion, and produces an abhorrence, not so much of the person, as of his occupation. There is something even honorable to our nature in the feeling; as it is associated with contempt for those who degrade it, by submitting to oppression. In the North it is unmixed absurdity and wickedness --gross and grovelling --with nothing generous to redeem it, and no misconception to excuse it*.
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.
In Martinique , a white man (Bardel) a year or two ago, sent a challenge to a colored man (Frotte) --an honor which we sometimes see refused in England to a candidate for a patrician death, though the distinction of rank in the one case is so much less than that of complexion in the other, that a plebeian eye cannot see the difference, and a generous mind would not make it.
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.
At each end of that side of the square appropriated to the workshops, is an asylum for children --one for each of the two races, which, while they are destined to inhabit together the land of their common inheritance, are studiously separated in infancy and in manhood --in sickness and in old age --in the manufactory and the poorhouse --in the school and the hospital --in the house of prayer, and in the house of mourning --in the public festival, and in the private assembly --in the day of battle, and in the hour of death --in the funeral procession, and in the grave itself.
While the cholera was raging, the only ministers who attended at the
hospital to afford religious consolation to the patients, were the Catholic
priests, whom no personal considerations could prevail upon to quit the
post assigned them by their sense of duty. It was the same at the time
of the yellow-fever. I have both facts from one of the physicians who attended. On
the former occasion, the only spiritual aid the Protestant sick received,
was from a black man, who prayed by their bed-side, and some women of the
same race, who were employed to wash the linen, and who sang hymns to the
poor sufferers. Similar desertion, and similar devotedness, were remarked
in other places. Who are the persons most respected in the city? Those
who abandoned it in its affliction! Who are most reviled as religionists
and despised as men? The very people who exposed their lives in smoothing
the path of death to its inhabitants!
The Philadelphia House of Refuge...
There was one colored boy among them. His conduct was as good as that of the others, and his treatment the same. No contempt or aversion was manifested against him. The poor fellow had stolen a watch --an offence that his destitute condition might almost excuse. He had neither father, nor mother, nor friend, to advise and correct him. He was literally without a home, and did not know that he had ever had one.
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.
The 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 Quakers in the United States are less noted for their co-operation in works of benevolence with the members of other religious societies than their brethren in the mother country. This difference is partly owing to the spirit of sectarianism; but more particularly to the custom, which generally prevails, of opening charitable meetings with prayer --an observance, to comply with which would be inconsistent with the principles of many among the "Friends." It was dispensed with on this account at the convention for forming the National Antislavery Society; which thus adopted a rule that has obviated any scruples or objections on this head in England. It is a great misfortune that any obstacle of the kind should exist, to cripple the exertions of men, who would be able to act more effectually in concert, and who are often defeated, when isolated, where they might have been successful united. It would be highly honorable to the society, if it were merely an adherence to principle, and not a deviation from it, that distinguished them from the parent stock. Had they, as a body, acted up to the rule they profess as individuals; had they publicly borne their "testimony " against the prejudice they condemn in private, and admitted their sable brethren to that social equality which they generally acknowledge is due to them, the national character would never have been stained by such cruel and cowardly proceedings as have lately taken place; an appeal to their conduct would have been an unanswerable reply to the charge of "amalgamation" (if the prejudice which gave it birth could have survived the respect they had ceased to pay to it). Instead of being stigmatized, by the victims of this wicked antipathy, as hypocrites and timeservers, they would have been found the best friends and protectors of the free, as they have always been the unwearied opponent of the kidnapper. No one could have raised his voice successfully against a practice which they had sanctioned by their example. The followers of Penn would have abashed the apostles of mischief; and those who may now fairly lay their misfortunes at the door of Quaker apostasy, would have been indebted for their safety to Quaker consistency.
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? Even upon the subject of slavery, the Society is far from an explicit, or an unequivocal denunciation of its injustice. Among the rules of discipline, published at Philadelphia in 1831, is the following: --"We earnestly desire it may become the concern of our members generally, to use the influence they have with those who hold slaves, by inheritance or otherwise, that they may be treated with moderation and kindness, and instructed as objects of the common salvation, in the principles of the Christian religion, as well as in such branches of school learning as may fit them for freedom, and to become useful members of society." What is this but an encouragement of slavery? Talk of moderation indeed to a man, the very coat on whose back you know to be purchased at the expense of the person for whom you ask it! Tell him to be kind, while you see he knows not how to be just! Advise the open violator of religion to disseminate its principles, among those, who would thus become the judges, as they are now the victims, of his wickedness! Recommend the instruction of the very beings from whose ignorance he derives his pelf and his power! --and urge him to prepare his slaves for freedom, when it is the want of that preparation that supplies him with an apology for his guilt, and a motive for its continuance! If it be a sin in Quakers to hold slaves, they must consider it a sin in others; and they are partakers of the sin, who employ their influence with the offender, to palliate its heinousness with the suggestion of an amelioration, or to connive at its enormities by their silence on the paramount duty of repentance and reparation. What follows is little better: "Also, that friends in their several neighborhoods, advise and assist such of the black people, as are at liberty, in the education of their children, and common worldly concerns." Is there no better way, in which they can be assisted? Do they labor under no disabilities or grievances? Will not the assistance thus recommended by "the discipline," make them feel more keenly the pressure of their wrongs, and the denial of their rights? The black man stands in need of far other protection from the Quaker: --"Bear your testimony, he would say, against the pride of your white brother, by removing the barrier it has planted between his children and mine. Shew your sincerity by your humility, and let not the ill-treatment I receive be sanctioned by your deference to the votaries of worldly-mindedness. Let your practice conform to your principles, and those common courtesies be observed, which you would not dare to refuse me in any other country."
Nothing is said in the rules above quoted about the sin of slavery. The slave-trade alone is condemned; and "hiring slaves" is called "an unrighteous traffic." Its victims, however, are never spoken of as men entitled to the same rights as every other branch of the human family. Friends are exhorted "to educate those whom they or their predecessors have released from bondage, that they may become useful and respectable members of the community." They are described, whenever they are named, as a distinct race, --as objects of beneficence and condescension, destined to never-ending inferiority --doomed to experience, in the very kindness they receive, the proofs of hopeless degradation, and the sentence of unrelenting exclusion. What a disgraceful contrast does this apostate body of religionists exhibit with the Synod of Cincinnati, who, the year before, had declared slavery to be "a heinous sin and scandal!" Even the enemies of human freedom --those who hold that emancipation would destroy the constitution, and dissolve the Union, have openly insulted the Quakers, by praising their prudence and forbearance in this matter. The "Friends" and the New York rioters have been coupled together as sharers of that approbation, which the "waiters upon" public opinion are so skilful in applying.
Those who feel no abhorrence for the shouts of incendiaries, may well be pleased with the canting of time-servers.
It should be observed that a great schism has separated the Society
into two hostile camps. The orthodox, who happen to be in the minority,
are naturally anxious to conciliate public favor, and to obtain from without
the power they want within. To this cause may be attributed the retrograde
movement which has for some time characterised their "sayings and doings." Those
who are abolitionists of the new school, who would take off the fetters
from the white man's mind, as well as from the black man's body --veteres
avias de pulmone-- are chiefly of that party who are stigmatized as
While the Missouri question was under discussion, a memorial was sent by the Philadelphians to Congress against admitting a new State into the Union with the curse of slavery upon it. I was informed that several Quakers affixed their names to it. I am unwilling to believe that any "Friend" would adopt or approve of such sentiments as the following: "Your memorialists will not deny that most of the slave-holding States are free from blame with respect to the introduction of negro slavery, and its continuance until the present time among them; that its immediate total abolition is incompatible with their safety, and even with genuine benevolence to the blacks; and that, in permitting its admission in the new States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, Congress pursued a policy perhaps indispensable for the general security of our brethren of the South."
Elias Hicks , whose "heresies" are recorded in the appellation bestowed upon the Quaker "neologists", had so much influence with the monthly meeting, of which he was a member, that he prevailed upon all of them not only to manumit their slaves, but to pay them the arrears of those wages which would have been due to them if free. He abstained entirely from every article of food, or dress, or furniture, which had been produced by slave-labor. He evinced, in his last moments, how strong the ruling principle of his life was even in death. He was observed, by those who surrounded his bed at that awful moment, to push off, with what little strength remained, a cotton coverlid that had been put over him. As he repeated the effort three or four times in succession, some one remarked that it was probably on account of the material of which it was made, that he was unwilling it should remain upon him. He fixed his eyes upon the speaker, and, nodding assent, turned round on his side, and soon after, breathed his last.
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.
Isaac Hopper assured me, that he never knew a slave-owner whose word he could trust in any case where slave-property was concerned. He has had great experience in such matters; having rescued and redeemed many from the horrors of slavery, and being well acquainted with the tricks and treachery of those who are engaged in this infamous traffic. Yet these men frequently confide in the honor of their slaves, allowing them to work out their own emancipation, with no other security for their observance of the agreement than their integrity. The servant at the house where I lodged in Philadelphia, was 100 dollars in debt to his master, --having bound himself to pay the purchase-money of his freedom by instalments. He was without any incumbrance, and might with ease have made his escape to Canada.
When I asked him why he remained, he replied that he had given his honor, and nothing should induce him to break his faith. Such instances are very frequent. He himself put to me a case of conscience, and asked my advice. A person, with whom he was acquainted, had been brought from Virginia by his owner, with the hope that some one would advance the price of his freedom, (400 dollars,) and, as the slave's wife, a free woman, and her children, were in Philadelphia, he had left him there, while he went on to New York. The slave had promised not to run away. I recommended that he should return to Virginia, and, taking the first opportunity of rejoining his wife, proceed to Canada.
Both master and man were disappointed at the result, the one of his visit to Philadelphia, the other of his application to friends. Such was the sense of honor, that restrained the latter from violating his engagement, that he went back to his chains. Masters often work on the compassion of benevolent men, and connive at the escape of their slaves, with the hope of obtaining their value, when they cannot dispose of them in the usual way. To purchase under such circumstances, or indeed under any, is doubly injurious to the interests of humanity; as it acknowledges the right of the master to sell, and enables him to replace his stock. The sum of human suffering is not in the slightest degree diminished. There is merely a change in its distribution: --for, while the system continues, the necessary instruments of its operation will be sought for.
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.
Newhaven. --Cemetery. --Grave of Ashmun. --"Potter's Field:'
--Yale College. --Hartford. --Christian Promise and Performance. --Liberty
of Speech imprudent in the United States --Second Edition of "Canterbury
Tale." --Bishop of Charleston's Letter to Daniel O'Connell. --Providence.
--Interview with Dr. Channing. --Philanthropy of the Unitarians, and Philanthropy
of Moses Brown. --Contrasted Industry.
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 singular distribution of the graves in the burying ground, was pointed out to me by the Rev. Mr. Jocelyn, of Newhaven --one of those who are pre-eminently entitled to the appellation of " fanatics"; --men, who, in every age and country, catch, from the elevated situation they have assumed, the first rays of that divine light which has not yet reached the crowd below; --men who are honorably distinguished by the hatred and compassion of the wicked and the weak, --the enemies of that reform they will one day boastingly advocate*;
--men, whose zeal in the cause of humanity is at once the result and the reproach of the selfishness around them; men, who, in the confederated republics of North America, are a butt and a by-word for the ribaldry of the vilest and most venal journalists in the world:
* The nature and progress of national reform, may be seen in the conduct of its opponents. They begin by stigmatizing its leaders as the vilest of the vile, that it may be thought bad advocates cannot have a good cause: --and they end by becoming its friends, that it may be thought a good cause cannot have bad advocates. Great men belong to the first period: great statesmen to the second. It is unjust to confound them, and to expect principle where there never has been any thing but expediency. American emancipation is pure from all political taint. She has had her martyrs: she is not yet disgraced by demagogues.
"By whom to be disprais'd is no small praiseFrom this place Mr. Jocelyn accompanied me to Yale College
Their lot who dare be singularly good."
From Paradise Regained, Book 3, lines 50-59 (part of the stanza is quoted earlier).
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.
I found, on my arrival, that "war had smoothed his wrinkled front" at Canterbury; and that a more agreeable deity had been both there and at Brooklyn that Miss Crandall had become a bride, and one of the young ladies whom I had seen on my former visit, was about to be married to W. L. Garrison.
The next morning one of the brothers of the betrothed, drove me over to the school. Neither the late, nor the present, Miss Crandall was at home. Mrs. Philleo was passing the honey-moon at Philadelphia; and Miss Almira was out on a visit. A young man, however, of the name of Burleigh, who assisted in teaching the pupils, received us very cordially. In requital of his kind offices to a persecuted woman, he was then under an indictment, as an infringer of the same enactment under which she had been subjected to such unmanly and harassing proceedings. His trial --if there is to be a trial --was to come on in December. The object of the information was, most probably, to intimidate him, and deter others from taking any share in the tuition of a school, which had become more odious to its enemies in proportion to their failure in trying to put it down with or without law. Reflection had had time enough to see, that the Federal Court, as long as it had any regard for its own reputation, or any respect for the constitution of the country, would never confirm the validity of a law, that must strike a fatal blow at both. If free blacks be citizens, --and it will be no easy matter to prove they are not so --they are entitled, in moving from one commonwealth to another, to the same privileges that are granted, by the terms of their union with the rest, to the citizens of the latter*.
There were twenty pupils in the school --there had been as many as thirty. On the mantel-piece of the room, into which we were shewn, was lying a stone, twice as large as that I saw the year before. It had been used for the same purpose. It was thrown into the house through one of the windows. The weight of it must have been at least two pounds: There were ten panes of glass completely destroyed by a long pole, which had been left on the premises, and which I saw. Part of the window-sash had been broken in. There were two windows in this state; both in the sitting room. On the table were lying Baxter's Bible and Cruden's Concordance; beautifully bound in russia: the former in two volumes octavo --the latter in one. They had been brought over from Scotland by Mr. Charles Stuart, the great "malleus" of the Colonization imposture. In each volume was the following inscription:
* The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States. --Constitution of the United States, Article 4, Section 2.
"Presented to Miss Crandall by the Ladies of Edinburgh, as a mark of the respect with which they regard the Christian courage of her conduct towards their colored sisters in the United States; and from a, conviction that such consistent love and strength, could only be derived from the DIVINE AUTHOR of the SACRED VOLUME."Below were quotations from St. John xxi. 15, and Psalm xl. 1, 2, dated Edinburgh, March 5,1834. The expenses of the prosecution had already cost Mrs. Philleo upwards of 600 dollars. Legal eloquence is by no means cheap --not that it is scarce, but that the seller too often puts his own price upon it. Mr. Ellsworth, of Hartford, the counsel for the defendant, charged 200 dollars for the last pleadings. Cheap law may encourage litigation: but dear law is undoubtedly a premium upon persecution. Il faut que chacun vive; and disinterestedness is not the characteristic of every profession. Till I visited Canterbury, personal experience had led me to think that physicians might fairly claim it as their own peculiar virtue. But the behavior of Dr. Harris, the opposite neighbor of Mrs. Philleo, dispelled this "amabilis error." When called upon to render medical assistance to one of the pupils, who was suffering severe pain, he flatly refused to cross the road; told Mr. Burleigh that he might publish his refusal to the whole world and declared that he looked upon the request as a personal insult. No other medical advice was to be had within three miles!
Another information for harboring, --the former was for teaching colored children, was hanging over the head of this meritorious woman. It ought to be mentioned, that her sister had nobly supported her under her trials --had never shrunk from the task she undertook: and, though but twenty years of age, had remained firmly at her post, alone, and surrounded by enemies against whom even her life could hardly be considered safe.
Some time before , the house was discovered to be on fire; and a colored man, who happened to be there at the time, was accused, and tried for an offence which, if proved, would have subjected him to perpetual imprisonment. Not a particle of evidence, however, could be produced against him; and he was immediately acquitted. The poor fellow had to pay one hundred dollars for his innocence. There is every reason to believe that the fire was the work of an incendiary; as the Windham County Advertiser had, a short time before, informed the public, that Miss Crandall's school would soon be totally broken up. All attempts to obtain from the Editor an explanation of his mysterious words failed.
Though some of the young women had certificates from the congregational churches to which they belonged, yet they were not admitted to the Canterbury meeting-house, where the same religious society assemble. They were forced to attend worship at a place two miles off, and were frequently insulted on their way thither and on their return. The lapse of a year had not produced either a relaxation of persecution, or an advance towards a truce, on the part of the oppressor. The same dark and fanatical spirit still cast his baneful shadow over a village, that one would have expected, from its secluded and beautiful situation, to be the abode of charity and good neighborhood. The assistant teacher could scarcely walk out, without hearing something intended to wound his feelings, and provoke a retort. That manly calmness, however, which the noble task he had assumed demanded and supposed was never wanting; and the consciousness of a good cause tempered the zeal of youth with the composure of mature years. Visitors even were not secure from insult. The traces of the harness, when they were about to leave, were sometimes found to be cut; and practices were resorted to, that would have disgraced the most brutal tribe of savages.
When the day , on which Miss Crandall was to be married, had arrived, the minister of the place, who had published the banns, and had promised, "if Providence would permit him," to perform the ceremony, wrote her a note declining to officiate under existing circumstances: He had that morning received a letter, enclosing some money, and requesting he would not unite the parties in matrimony. They were compelled to go to Brooklyn, where the marriage took place. He had bitterly repented his conduct, I was told; the majority of his congregation having become displeased with him. His mortification must have been great, as he had been appointed just when former dissensions, that had so far separated his flock into feuds, as to occasion the dismissal of five or six pastors in about twice as many years, had been merged in a common feeling of animosity against the unwelcome institution for teaching A, B, C, to an outlawed race. Party feeling had put its own construction on his proceedings. In sooth, the little village of Canterbury contains within its bosom a set of self-tormentors, that seem determined to sting every thing, and every body, that comes near them. There was a little English girl, of six or seven years of age, in the school. Her aunt was staying there. She had been but two years from the old country, and was much shocked at the unnatural conduct she had witnessed in a Christian people towards their fellowmen. The little girl had been sent by her father from Utica (New York) to Canterbury; from a feeling of abhorrence to tyranny.
In the room where we were sitting, I observed a lithographic portrait of O'Connell --a name that no descendant of Africa can pronounce without feelings of deep respect. That the expression is not too strong may be seen in the following letter, as it was published in America, the most honorable testimony that could well be paid to the value of that influence against which it was directed. The writer of this "verbosa et grandis epistola" was lately sent, if rumor is to be believed, on a spiritual mission from the Pope to Hayti!
"I wrote a few weeks since from Baltimore a letter, which you cannot, I suppose, have yet received; in which I alluded to the injustice which you thoughtlessly did to a people, of whom you know so little as you do of the slave-holding Americans. But this day I have had an imperfect view of a letter, which you appear to have written from Derrynane, in last September, upon the subject of our cruelty and injustice. That view, imperfect as it was, was to my eye more blasting than any I have for years beheld. I now tell you that a more wanton piece of injustice has never been done to a brave and generous people than this, which you, ignorant of our situation, of our history, of our laws, of our customs, and of our principles, have dared to perpetrate. You have not only been guilty of gross injustice to a people, whom you know not, and who aided you with a noble and disinterested enthusiasm; but you have heaped shame and confusion upon your own countrymen, and those who were once your admirers; and would still, if you permitted it, be your friends.
"Do you believe that we, who love freedom and our fellow-men, are the heartless wretches that you describe, because we cannot at once do all that your imagination conceives to be perfection, and which we, who have the experimental knowledge, have the irrefragable evidence to be destructive folly? You have, in the unfortunate moment when you sent forth that document (if it be yours) done an evil, which no contrition can repair, no service can redeem. As a Carolinian, I cannot reason with you upon facts, of which you are ignorant. As an Irishman, I bewail your infatuation. And, whilst I am doomed to meet a variety of trials, one of the keenest and bitterest of my feelings will be, that the most contumelious insult, which was flung upon the land of my adoption, was ungratefully and wantonly given in the moment when she was flushed with a victory won by American aid, by one whom I once valued as a dear friend in the country of my birth.
"Should the Derrynane manifesto against the proud Americans and their slave-holding States be a forgery, I should rejoice to learn the fact from yourself. Should it be your production, I would say --in me you shall find one amongst thousands of your countrymen, who will not succumb to your insult, nor quail before your threat.
"I shall make no parade of my love of liberty, nor send you homilies upon my humanity. But whilst, with every Carolinian that I know, I lament an evil, which Britain has superinduced, and which we cannot at once remedy, I deny your right to interfere; and I pray you might succeed in raising the ruined population of Ireland to the level of the comforts of the Carolinian slave. Should you live to behold this result of your labors, you will have accomplished more than is expected by
"JOHN, Bishop of Charleston.
"To Daniel O'Connell, Esq."
The day after my visit to Canterbury, I removed from Brooklyn to Providence, Rhode Island. I had received from Mr. May a letter of introduction to Dr. Channing, who was at his country seat about thirty or forty miles from the city. Thither I proceeded to visit him, entirely at the suggestion of others; for, though he had been represented to me as a man of an expanded mind, who would probably be desirous of hearing the sentiments entertained in Europe on the conduct of those Americans, who had restricted the blessings of freedom to mere physical enjoyment, "and despised others" on account of their skins, yet I thought it more complimentary to the Doctor, to apply to him what Dr. Bentley has remarked in the case of an epidemical illusion. "All honorable men and good citizens would prefer to be considered as participating in the excitement, than as having been free from it, and opposed to it, without ever daring to resist, or check, or reduce it."
After some common-place observations, which the ceremony of introduction drew on, I stated, in allusion to something in the letter I had bought with me, that I had, during my residence in America, felt deeply interested in the condition of a large portion of the community, who appeared to be condemned, from no fault or crime on their part, to a state of degradation, of which no one who has never been out of Europe, could form an adequate concept.
I referred , among other instances, to the separation at meals between the two races. The Doctor asserted, in reply, that the feeling, which induced the white man to reject his colored brother from his table, was the same with that which excluded the servant from his master's society; and that the prejudice, which the feudal lord entertained against his serf, was analogous to the antipathy of which I had given an example. To this I objected, that the distinction, of which I spoke, was that of color not of rank: that the qualification, required for admittance to equality, might be obtained by the domestic, or his descendants, but was out of the reach of the Africo-American, till the Ethiopian was enabled to change his skin; and that I could not admit the analogy, without admitting that the persons, to whom it was applied, were to remain and be treated as servants, the very thing against which I was contending: --the end I had in view being to classify men according to their character and condition, and not to confound the learned with the illiterate, or the wealthy with the indigent; --an arrangement that would be sure to mortify one party and embarrass the other. As for the serf, he had none of those political rights which the free black possessed: --he had the advantages neither of property nor of education. He was not excluded from social intercourse with freemen of the same class, and was subject to no further disabilities than were to be found in most communities during their progress to refinement. He was not marked as an object of insult and contempt, wherever he went --he was as much a man as his lord --he was not an outcast --a Pariah.
There were other prejudices in the world, I was told, equally painful to their objects, and equally deserving of our attention. The answer was that they were neither permanent nor general --that they were neither so odious to those who suffered from them, nor so disgraceful to those who cherished them that few would defend, and none were afraid to condemn them, and that little improvement of the human mind could be looked for, while a superstition so degrading was permitted to weaken its powers and sully its attainments.
I was assured , that all those colored persons, who had come under the notice of the Doctor, were men of indifferent character; that the whole race were remarkable for want of sympathy with one another's misfortunes: and that, according to the evidence of a correspondent in Philadelphia, the generality of those of African descent in that city, were degraded to the lowest state.
To the first assertion I could merely object, that the experience of one man ought not to settle a question, involving the character and condition of millions; and that a comprehensive conclusion could not be drawn from a few limited cases. To the second, I replied, that all I had ever heard upon the subject from men who differed widely upon other points, concurred in ascribing qualities directly the reverse of those imputed by him, and that a contrary opinion was so prevalent as to throw suspicion on the free blacks, as assistants or accessaries in almost every case of escape from slavery. As for the testimony of the Philadelphian, little credit is due to a man, who deposes to facts that may be proved to be false by official documents, to be ignorant of which, is to be guilty of injustice towards those he condemns.
The Doctor stated, that he entertained no prejudice himself, being willing to sit at the same table with any one, and having remonstrated with the driver of a stage for not admitting his colored servant into his coach.
I was at a loss how to express myself upon a general subject before a person, who thus, as he had frequently done before, applied my observations to his own conduct. I contented myself with assuring him, that I should not have entered so fully into the subject, if he had not said that he was exempt from the prejudice in question*;
* The Doctor must have deceived himself here, or forgotten what he said to Mrs. Child, when he pronounced his judgment of her work on the Africo-Americans. He agreed, he told her, with her sentiments on slavery, but he disapproved of what she had written about equal rights. Such a concession, he thought, would lead to amalgamation --an event which he was surprised she should view with no abhorrence. Dr. Beecher, of Cincinnati, made a similar observation to me. "Would you," said he, "have us sully the pure blood we have received from our English ancestors, by such alliances as a closer intimacy with the other race would produce?"
hint was then given that there were different races of men, with various degrees of intellect, according to the discoveries of phrenology *.
* "We undoubtedly feel ourselves to be all of one race; and this is well: we trace ourselves up to one pair, and feel the same blood flowing in our veins. But do we understand our spiritual brotherhood? Do we feel ourselves to be derived from one Heavenly Parent, in whose image we are all made, and whose perfection we may constantly approach? Do we feel that there is one divine life in our own and in all souls? This seems to me the only true bond of man to man. Here is a tie more sacred, more enduring, than all the ties of this earth. Is it felt? and do we in consequence truly honour one another?"
--Dr. Channing's Discourses.
My remarks were declared to be erroneous or irrelevant. There was no reason, it was added, to suppose that any pain or humiliation was inflicted by these national customs *.
* "We have spoken of the inferiority and worthlessness of that dominion over others which has been coveted so greedily in all ages. We should rejoice could we convey some just idea of its moral turpitude . . . . . . No outrage, no injury can equal that which is perpetrated by him who would break down and subjugate the human mind; who would rob men of self-reverence; who would bring them to stand more in awe of outward authority, than of reason and conscience in their own souls; who would make himself a standard and law for his race; and shape, by force or terror, the free spirits of others after his own judgement and will."
-Dr. Channing on Napoleon Bonaparte.
* Negroes were once not only thought inferior to us, but excluded from the rights of humanity. Fuller, in his "Holy State," while drawing a picture of a religious sailor, says: "In the taking of a prize he most prizeth the men's lives whom he takes; though some of them may chance to be negroes or savages; and it is the custom of some to throw them overboard. But our captain counts the image of God nevertheless his image, cut in ebony as if done in ivory."
If, said I , a man is despised not for his crimes, but for his own or his father's misfortunes, such injustice ought not to go unpunished or unexposed. The Doctor thought the best way to combat the prejudice was to elevate its object. This method conceived was impracticable, as the rejection of moral distinctions was the very evil complained of. No impression, I was told, could be made by entreaty or remonstrance on habits so long formed; and that, therefore, it must be left to time and the better conduct of the aggrieved, to convert contumely into respect, and obtain those rights which are now denied.
I could not see how the white man's mind was to be enlightened from without, when no corrective was applied within*,
* "The energy which is to carry forward the intellect of a people, belongs to private individuals, who devote themselves to lonely thought, who worship truth, who originate the view demanded by their age, who help us to throw off the yoke of established prejudices," &c.
-Dr. Channing on Napoleon.
"Among these will be ranked, perhaps on the highest throne, the moral and religious reformer, who truly merits that name; who rises above his times; who is moved by a holy impulse to assail vicious establishments sustained by fierce passions and inveterate prejudices."
-Dr. Channing on Milton.
I mentioned that I should probably publish an account of what I had seen of the colored race in America, as, now that our colonial system had been changed, the subject would be interesting to many in England. The Doctor observed, that he, for one, had not the slightest objection that Europe should be minutely acquainted with the condition of the United States, if the account were just and fair. He had just before remarked, that it would be as well if the zealous friends of the African race would bestow some of their care upon those whom difference of rank subjects to exclusion and mortification. I made no answer: I could not apply the charge to myself without being guilty of discourtesy by imputing it. A suggestion was then made that rather surprised me. The Doctor thought that if some great genius were to appear among the colored people, the reputation he would obtain might be extended to his brethren, and their lot be ameliorated through the admiration and sympathy he would excite for himself and his race. It seemed hard indeed that the destiny of nearly three millions of human beings should be contingent on the appearance of a miracle; and the redemption of a whole nation be made to wait for the Avatar of "a faultless monster."
The Doctor informed me he had just heard that what he had predicted had occurred in our colonies --that the transition from forced to free labor was likely to throw many persons out of employment, and that freedom would thus be an injury instead of a benefit to a large portion of its objects. I replied, that the event alluded to, if it should take place, would confirm what the abolitionists had asserted, and the planters denied; since it would shew that the labor of slaves was more costly than that of free men, and that the same quantity of work could be done with fewer hands under the stimulus of wages; that the evil, if it was one, would find its own remedy, as the surplus number would soon be provided for out of that increase of capital which the compensation money, as well as a more profitable mode of agriculture, will create. The difficulty, however, that was anticipated has no existence; for the planters complain that the apprentices demand too high wages --a proof that labor is not redundant; --and are absolutely importing European workmen, --a proof that they wish it were so.
In the course of our discussion, the Doctor declared it, as the result of all his reflections on the matter, to be his firm conviction, that the best, and only way to assist the colored people, (I am obliged to repeat this odious expression,) would be to educate them in separate schools --in other words, to destroy the distinction by continuing it; and that the abolitionists had injured their cause by their imprudence. It was hardly worth while to answer, that no reform, religious or political, had ever been carried on by the "meek and gentle": that the violence complained of was the result, and not the occasion, of the opposition the cause had met with; and that it would be unjust to punish the client for the faults of his advocate*.
* "Men of natural softness and timidity, of a sincere but effeminate virtue, will be apt to look on these bolder, hardier spirits as violent, perturbed, and uncharitable; and the charge will not be wholly groundless. But that deep feeling of evils, which is necessary to effectual conflict with them, and which marks God's most powerful messengers to mankind, cannot breathe itself in soft and tender accents. The deeply moved soul will speak strongly, and ought to speak strongly, so as to move and shake nations." --Dr. Channing on Milton.
Throughout the whole of this protracted discussion, my opponent seemed to take it for granted that it turned upon the claims of a race naturally inferior to our own, --a method of begging the question more suited to the predilections of the disputant, than the common rules of logic. That they were doomed to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water" appeared to be a reasonable postulate. They were invariably spoken of as "servants," whose proper place was in the kitchen; where they were to take their meals apart, because they did not complain of a distinction, which complaint would render more galling; and because no white servant would remain in the establishment, if it were otherwise arranged, --a determination so utterly unworthy of notice, that no man who wishes to be respected by his domestics, would allow them to decide upon the usages of his own house, and no great or good mind would for a moment place personal convenience in collision with a sense of duty, or sacrifice principle to vulgar malevolence.
When I was told that the prejudice was invincible, and that no effort, therefore, should be made to subdue it, I could not admit either the premises or the conclusion, unless it were demonstrated that truth and reason had lost their influence on the national mind; and that it was the result, not the motive, of human actions, that ought to determine the line of our conduct, and regulate the conscience*.
* "It is an important branch of the minister's duty, to bring home the general principles of duty to the individual mind; to turn it upon itself; to rouse it to a resolute impartial survey of its own responsibilities and ill-deserts. And is not energy needed to break through the barriers of pride and self love, and to place the individual before a tribunal in his own breast, as solemn and as searching as that which awaits him at the last day?"
-Dr. Channing's Discourses.
The Doctor alleged as a proof of his regard for the swarthy part of his fellow-citizens, that the "African schools" of Boston had originated with him --a manifestation of kindness little in accordance with a wish to abolish distinctions which it is calculated to perpetuate*.
* A large majority of citizens, at a public meeting at Salem, (Massachusetts,) lately resolved, "that the school committee be instructed to provide a school in some convenient place for the instruction of colored children, belonging to the town; and to remove said children, now in the public schools, to said school." In the cities, where this class of people are more numerous, the schools they attend, are distinct from the rest. Where, from reasons of economy, a different arrangement prevails, it seems that additional expense is to be incurred, with the view of gratifying the abominable jealousies of the white people. It is easy to see both the motives and the effects of this public announcement. It encourages the evil-disposed by the example it gives; and points out the intended victim of their brutality, by driving deeper in the brand that marks him. The "higher orders" are guiltless of the slaughter; --they merely put up the game.
The most striking feature in what passed, during this interview, was the attempt of a philosopher, to find in the extent and intensity of a prejudice a reason for its continuance, --to confound the subject of superstition with its victim, (as if the best way to cure Cotton Mather of witch-finding would have been to teach the old women of Salem divinity, or as if a monomaniac could be restored to reason by placing the object of his illusion in a new position,) and to leave the task of correction not to the conscience of the proud man, but the conduct of him whom he scorns for not having the "wedding garment" he wears himself. "I should be sorry," said the reverend Doctor, "to say any thing that may lessen the sympathy you feel for the blacks." I assured him that I did not feel for them, because they differed from me in complexion, but because they resembled me in mind. As one branch of the human family, they are entitled to my sympathy, as much as any other. The humblest of them is one of those "little ones," to offend whom, is to offend the great Father of all. The conversation concluded with an observation, from the other side, that prejudices and follies existed in every country, and that this was one of the consequences of the existing state of society: --a truism I was so little inclined to controvert, that it had formed the ground-work of all that I had been saying.
As for the inequalities which prevail in the world, whatever grievances may attend them fall indiscriminately on all, as the wealth, and rank, and vanity, and ambition, in which they originate, change hands. One evil can never sanction another; nor is it a valid objection to the reformation of an abuse, that it cannot embrace all. I had spoken with considerable warmth and earnestness; but, I trust, without forgetting what was due from a stranger to a distinguished man in his own house. I thought it right, however, to apologize for the excess which had appeared on my part, both of zeal and of loquacity. I should probably have exhibited less of the former, if there had been more of the latter on the other side. But the Doctor throughout was extremely cold and reserved, and seemed to weigh every word before he gave it utterance; --urging me to continue, as if to take time for reflection. Having declined to partake of the refreshment which was politely offered me, I took my leave of this celebrated writer.
I have related the details of what passed on this occasion with the same object that would lead an Eastern traveller to record the opinions of a high-caste Brahmin. What an humiliating contrast does the acknowledged cradle of civilization present with its boasted asylum! How great is the difference between the convert to Unitarianism in the east, and its champion in the west! --between Rammohun Roy and Dr. Channing! The Shaster could not take away moral courage from the one, nor the Bible give it to the other. In the darkest ages of cruelty and ignorance, the cause of truth and justice has found its friends and martyrs. But who, in the whole compass of American literature, has stood up against the brutal superstition of his country? What will posterity say, when they see, among the most distinguished of her writers, not one solitary instance of a man who was willing to sacrifice the paltry ambition of the hour to principle;-not one who could rise above the infected atmosphere around him; --not one who had mind enough to perceive the gross idolatry of his contemporaries, or heart enough to denounce it? --while the few who are destined to take the lead as moral teachers, have been reproved for their boldness by those who have usurped the throne, and are repelled from a nearer approach by the very persons, who ought to have honored them with their applause, and aided them with their co-operation.
A few days after my visit to Dr. Channing, I was informed by one of his friends, who had just seen him, that he had called me an "enthusiast": --an appellation that implies the same difference between his feelings and mine, that the word "heretic" does between his opinions and those of his orthodox opponents.
Before I left America, the Doctor preached a sermon against slavery, --in consequence, I was told, of what had passed between us. But that could not be the case, as I had said nothing to him on the subject; having purposely separated the question as it bears on the South and on the North and confining my observations to the prejudice that prevails in the latter, point, I think , of greater importance, because I believe the other hangs upon it. The distinction was well drawn by a Haytian, while conversing with an American, from whom I had the anecdote. "If I were a white," said he, "I would submit to treatment from the Algerines or Tripolitans, from which neither William of England, not Louis Philip of France, would be exempted: but I would rather die than suffer the infliction of chains on account of my skin." The first case he viewed as a chance of war --a right of conquest: the other an outrage to humanity --a personal insult.
An incident that occurred some years back in Kentucky, shews how completely the very existence of American slavery depends upon the prejudice against color, --diverting the sense of justice, and the sympathy due to human suffering, from their natural channels. "A laudable indignation", says the Emporium of Louisville, "was universally manifested among our citizens, and even among our blacks, on Saturday last, by the exposure of a woman and two children for sale by public auction, at the front of our principal tavern. This woman and children were as white as any of our citizens: indeed, we scarcely ever saw a child with a fairer or clearer complexion than the younger one. That they were not slaves, we do not pretend to say; but there was something so revolting to the feelings at the sight of this woman and children exposed to sale by their young master, --it excited such an association of ideas in the mind of every one, --it brought to recollection so forcibly the morality of slave-holding States, --that not a person was found to make an offer for them."
The account of this interview, which I had read from my journal to some of the Doctor's friends, I was particularly requested not to publish; as they thought it might injure our cause, by exciting a feeling of hostility to it among those who are attached to him. This consideration, if it be valid, affords an additional reason why I should publish it; as it shews what are the chief obstacles that obstruct a fair and impartial inquiry into this momentous subject. If friendship is to stand in the way of justice, and humanity wait upon personal feeling, --let it be known, that we may not over-rate our forces. I replied, that I never would admit such a principle: we must look to Truth, and not to Socrates. The greater part of my manuscript was seen by several of my American friends, and they approved of it. Any alterations it may have undergone, were made with a view to soften what might be thought harsh. I mention this to prove honesty of intention. I insist on it no further. If I am to lose their respect, be it so. I shall at least retain my own. If I have done any man injustice, the same motive which led to an unintentional wrong, will prompt a free and an open reparation.
That the Unitarians , as a body, should, while they profess to be the fearless and unbiassed advocates of freedom, have as yet done nothing to shew their sincerity, by putting into practice those principles which have cost nobler men their lives or their fortunes, is, however discreditable to America, no matter for surprise. What Jew will admit ham to his table, when the High Priest will not eat pork? Parties, coteries, and sects are governed by their leaders. Whether in politics, literature, or religion, "man-worship," as it is termed, seems to be the fashion of the country. People admire the dial-plate, and forget the works which alone give it value. The Unitarians know their duty, but they dare not act up to it *.
* The Pope at Rome was more liberal two hundred years ago, than the "liberals" at Boston are now. The Catholic missionaries in Africa received instructions from home, in 1633, requiring them to put a stop to the slave-trade. - Les missionaires capuchins recurent une lettre du Cardinal Cibo, au nom du sacre college. Elle contenait des plaintes ameres sur la continuation de la vente des esclaves, et des instances pour faire cesser enfin set odieux usage. Mais ils virent peu d'apparence de pouvoir executer les ordres du Saint Siege, parse que le commerce du pays consiste uniquement en ivoire et Bans la traite des esclaves."-Prevot. Histoire Generale des Voyages, 12. 186.
The missionaries succeeded in excluding the English from the trade. --The latter "made up " for the interruption afterwards.
Before I left Providence, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the venerable Moses Brown, then in his ninety-sixth year --a consistent member of the Society of Friends, who, when the rights of the negro were little known and less cared for, carried out into unrestricted practice, more than sixty years ago, the great principle that "all men are to be protected in the possession of personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Not only did this upright Quaker emancipate his slaves: he scrupulously paid them the difference between the value of the labor he had drawn from them, while in his "service," and the food and clothing he had given them. I was presented by one of the most active abolitionists in the city (George Benson) with a copy of the manumission papers, drawn up by him and properly attested, on this occasion. The document is dated the 10th of the 11th Month, 1773.
In the preamble the writer says: "Whereas I am clearly convinced that the buying and selling men of what color soever as slaves, is contrary to the Divine mind, manifest in the consciences of all men, however some may smother and neglect its reprovings, and being also made sensible that the holding negroes in slavery, however kindly treated by their masters, has a great tendency to encourage the iniquitous traffic and practice of importing them from their native country, and is contrary to that justice, mercy, and humility, enjoined as the duty of every Christian, I do therefore," &c.
Speaking of one, a child of two years of age, he says; "She having the same natural right, I hereby give her the same power, as my own children, to take and use her freedom, enjoining upon my heirs a careful watch over her for her good, and that they, in case I be taken hence, give her suitable education; or, if she be bound out, that they take care in that and all other respects as much as to white children," &c. Addressing the objects of his kindness, he thus expresses himself. "For the encouragement to such sober prudence and industry, I hereby give to the first six named, the other three having good trades, the use of one acre of land, as marked off on my farm, as long as you improve it to good purpose. I now no longer consider you as slaves, nor myself as your master but your friend; and so long as you behave well, may you expect my further countenance support, and assistance, &c." Receive your liberty with a humble sense of its being a favor from the great King of heaven and earth, who, through his light that shines upon the consciences of all men, black as well as white, thereby sheweth us what is good, and that the Lord's requiring each of us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God, is the cause of this my duty to you. Be therefore watchful and attentive to that divine teaching in your own minds," &c.
Moses Brown was a member of the Pennsylvania Society, incorporated by the legislature of the State in 1789, for promoting the abolition of slavery His name appears on the list among those of Franklin, Rush, Jay, Benjamin West, Granville Sharp, Thomas Day (author of Sandford and Merton), Thomas Clarkson, Richard Price, David Barclay, William Pitt, J. C. Lettsom, l'Abbe Raynal, and le Marquis de la Fayette.
The act which passed, in 1780, for the gradual abolition of slavery in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has this sentiment in the preamble. "Weaned by a long course of experience from those narrow prejudices and partialities we had imbibed, we find our hearts enlarged with kindness and benevolence, towards men of all conditions and nations; and we conceive ourselves at this particular period extraordinarily called upon by the blessings we have received to manifest the sincerity of our profession and to give a substantial proof of our gratitude."*
* Henry the Eighth of England, in emancipating two of his villeins, made use of an expression closely resembling what may be found in the above document. --Whereas God created all men free; but afterwards the laws and customs of nations subjected some under the yoke of servitude, we think it is pious and meritorious with God, to manumit Henry Knight, a tailor, and John Herne, a husbandman, our natives, as being born within the manor of Stoke Clymmysland, in our county of Cornwall," &c.
"At a general court, held at Warwick, the 18th of May, 1652. Whereas there is a common course practised among Englishmen to buy negroes to that end they may have them for service or slaves for ever: for the preventing of such practices among us, let it be ordered, that no black mankind, or white being, shall be forced by covenant, bond, or otherwise to serve any man or his assignees, longer than ten years, or until they come to be twenty-four years of age, if they be taken in under fourteen, from the time of their coming within the liberties of this colony; --at the end or term of ten years to set them free, as the manner is with the English servants. And that man, that will not let them go free, or shall sell them away elsewhere, to that end they may be enslaved to others for a longer time, he or they shall forfeit to the colony forty pounds." Moses Brown gives the names of the members from whom this memorable enactment proceeded. It appears, from it, that whites as well as blacks were slaves, and distinguished from the "redemptioners." It was at that time, and long after, the policy of European governments to prohibit the emigration of mechanics and artisans. Labor was therefore extremely scarce in the new world; and its high price led to the enormity, which the law thus attempted to prevent.
Though Rhode Island was the first to abolish slavery, it was the last to give up the profits of the slave-trade, and still encourages the system by punishing, with a fine of 300 dollars and five or three years' imprisonment, any one who assists a slave to escape. The citizens of this State carried on the abominable traffic long after it had been declared illegal by the general government. About ten years ago, a vessel belonging to a Rhode-islander, was seized and condemned for having been engaged in the slave-trade. No buyer, however, could be found, when the sale took place, among his fellow-citizens; till the confiscated goods were at last purchased by a Bostonian, who had come from Massachusetts for the express purpose. Such was the general indignation against this man for daring to brave public opinion, which had manifested itself so strongly in favor of the slave-trader, that he was seized by the people, who had assembled on the occasion, and his ears were cut off. This anecdote was told me by Mr. Peter A. Jay*,
* Mr. Peter A. Jay, who is descended from a Huguenot family, which the fame of his father, during the struggle for American liberty, has rendered illustrious, is well known in New York for the active aid he affords to its numerous charities. His brother (Mr. William Jay) has just excited an extraordinary interest in America, by a work entitled "An Inquiry into the Colonization and Anti-Slavery Societies". It will probably be republished in this country; and the proceeds of the sale will form a scholarship for a colored student at the Auburn Theological Seminary.
The following is extracted from a memorial presented to the legislature of Connecticut in 1834, and signed by a long list of its most distinguished constituents. "The white man cannot labor upon equal terms with the negro. Those who have just emerged from a state of barbarism or slavery have few artificial wants. Regardless of the decencies of life, and improvident of the future, the black can afford his services at a lower price than the white man. And as he is, in caste, below the influence of public opinion, he seldom hesitates in supplying any contingent wants, without the ceremony of contracts, or the efforts of toil. If native indolence should deter him from this course, he has no compunctions in supplying himself from the public store-house, as a legal pauper. Whenever they came into competition, therefore, the white man is deprived of employment, or is forced to labor for less than he requires. He is compelled to yield the market to the African, and, with his family, ultimately becomes the tenant of an alms-house, or is driven from the State, to seek a better lot in Western wilds. Thus have thousands of our most valuable citizens been banished from home and kindred, for the accommodation of the most debased race that the civilized world has ever seen, and whom the false philosophy of enthusiasts is hourly inviting to deprive us of the benefits of civilized society."
The above picture will be rather a "poser" to our protesting
peers, --Instead of the whites driving away the blacks, the blacks are
driving away the whites. What a curious country! the same people are driven
from the South because the negro is a slave, and from the North, because
he is free. The West, however, gains by it. Here they may mingle their
tears, together, and exchange consolation. But they will not escape, even
in the wilderness; the horrid black man will find them some day. It is
a hard case: --the African is the evil genius of the American.