A Son's Feelings. --Ripley. --Georgetown. --Colony of Emancipated Slaves. --Mr. Samuel Gist's Will. --Mormonites. --Liberia, by an Eyewitness. --Certificate of Emancipation. --Gist's benevolent Intentions defeated. --Return to Cincinnati. --Book of Mormon.
ON the 12th I left Cincinnati.When I arrived at the boat which was to convey me to Ripley, about sixty miles up the river, the porter, who carried my luggage, was accosted by a white man on board, and I went in search of the captain. On my return, I saw that the "boy" had received some afflicting intelligence; for his lips quivered, and his countenance was painfully dejected. He had just been informed that his mother, whom he had left a slave in Kentucky, had been brutally flogged by her master's brother-in-law, who had got her into his possession, during the other's bankruptcy.
The story of the porter's misfortunes is similar to that of hundreds in Cincinnati. I had it, when he was gone, from, the white man, who was going to Paris, in Kentucky, where he had known him before he obtained his freedom. "Sir," said he, "that boy is one of the best-hearted and most honest men to be found anywhere. He worked night and day to buy himself; and, when he had paid the purchase money, (600 dollars,) the sheriff took him in execution for his master's debts; and he would have been sold, if he had not made his escape. He is now saving what he can scrape together to buy his mother, --a most respectable old woman, and one of the most faithful servants I ever knew. I would buy her myself on his account, and he would repay me, but I cannot afford the money. Both parent and son have the good-will of all who know them. She is now at Postlethwaite's hotel for sale. They ask 200 dollars for her; --too much for a woman who is almost past her work. Her master always treated her well; but his brother-in-law is a bad-tempered hard-hearted man." I found, by this conversation, that she was at Lexington, at the very house I had put up at; She is safe, I thought, under Postlethwaite's roof; but what is to become of the poor creature if she is sold, and sent off to a distance? It was about one o'clock when the boat quitted Cincinnati, and past midnight when it reached Ripley. There were, fortunately, two men waiting on the bank, with some luggage to be carried up the river; and one of them assisted me to carry my portmanteau to the inn, where we found all fast and in bed. Upon our knocking at the door, the owner came down in "an undress" and let me in. What sort of a place it was I had no means of ascertaining; all I could make out, when I had groped my way in the, dark to my berth, was, that there were at least three generations under the same roof with me; for I heard an infant squalling, an old woman coughing incessantly, and two men snoring a duet with great vigor and perseverance.
The next morning I called upon Mr. Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, highly esteemed by the abolitionists for some valuable letters he published, when in Kentucky, against slavery. My object in the visit I made, was to obtain from him some information relative to a colony of free blacks, who formerly belonged to an Englishman of the name of Samuel Gist, and who had been, in pursuance of his munificent bequest, emancipated, and transferred from his plantations in Virginia to the lands they now occupy in the neighborhood.
Mr. Rankin was unable to state more than I had already heard at Cincinnati. He very kindly, however, directed me to the proper quarter. He was superintending the erection of a chapel: among the workmen were one or two blacks and a Cherokee. He had, he said, seen a great deal of the former race, as the settlers generally made his house their home when they quitted or returned to "the camps", as the two colonies they have formed are called. Sometimes there would be as many as ten or twelve at a time in his house; yet, though his property was left exposed, nothing was ever taken by them. He could find, he said, no kind of difference, moral or intellectual, between the sable and the pale races. They were possessed of the same feelings, and directed by the same motives. He ridiculed, very happily, the dread of "amalgamation"; conceiving that perfect freedom of choice should be left to regulate this like every other matter in which society can never have such an interest as the parties directly concerned. His sentiments, upon these and other subjects, were characterised by great good sense, and implied an originality of mind and an independence of thinking very far in advance of the spirit of his country. I have seldom met with a man more decided in his principles of benevolence, or more mild in expressing them.
There is a passage in his "Letters on Slavery" so painfully descriptive of its abominations, that I was anxious to know, from his own lips, whether it was not too highly, colored. He assured me the facts it alluded to were too true. I have heard the same from equally good authority; and I would ask the Southerners, whether they really allow their male slaves to go alone into the sleeping-rooms of the white women, for the purpose of lighting the fires when they are in bed.
"It often happens", says Mr. Rankin, in his ninth letter, that the master's children practise the same vices which prevail among his slaves; and even the Master himself is liable to be overwhelmed by the foods of temptation: and, in some instances, the father and his sons are involved in one common ruin: nor do the daughters always escape this impetuous fountain of pollution. Were it necessary, I could refer you to several instances of slaves actually seducing the daughters of their masters! Such seductions sometimes happen even in the most respectable-slave-holding families."
The next day I started for the Camps, having left my portmanteau with the landlord at Ripley. When the stage reached Georgetown, twelve miles from the latter place, I was informed that some of the settlers, of whom I was in search, were at work in the town. From them I learnt that the colony was two or three miles off. I told them I should ride over to see them. They begged I would wait till six o'clock, and they would shew me the way. It was then four o'clock and it was near eight before we set off, as they had to settle an account with a store-keeper, who kept them waiting for some money he owed them, and, after all, left the matter for future arrangement. The claim of one was for ten dollars. He told me they were often cheated and vexed, unless they could get a white witness; neither their word nor their oath being of any value on these occasions.
After we had walked upwards of two miles on a very bad road; which a heavy shower had rendered wet and dirty, I desired my companions to go on, and I would follow, after I had rested myself and recovered from a violent seizure of spasms in the stomach, to which I am occasionally subject. One of them had a bundle which I had entrusted to his care, and was unwilling to proceed with it till I had assured him that I felt no distrust about it. Having recovered in the course of an hour or two, I resumed my journey, avoiding the ruts and holes in the road when the moon, as it shone though the trees, enabled me. I began at last to despair of finding my way, by the guidance of instructions that were neither clearly given nor easily remembered, and I bawled out till I was hoarse. A light, however, appeared at a little distance, and a voice from the house where it was responded to my call, --"Who are you? --what do you want?" The owner of the voice was one of the settlers; and the precaution it bespoke arose from the frequent insults and annoyances he had met with. I soon explained to him the object of my visit, and gained his confidence. He then took me with him to the house of his father-in-law, about a quarter of a mile through the fields. On knocking at the door, the same questions were asked, and the same reluctance to open it exhibited, till assurance was given that we were friends. It was nearly eleven o'clock, and the family in bed. A blazing fire, however, cast its light upon every object in the log-hut and threw a cheerful aspect upon the welcome with which I was greeted. The women soon made their appearance; and, after taking a cup of coffee, and talking over the affairs of the colony, I betook myself to a clean and comfortable bed about one o'clock in the morning.
The substance of what I heard, on the condition and prospect of the settlers, was as follows: --They had been "located" in the lands they occupied about fifteen years; and their owner, Mr. Samuel Gist, had died some time before they left his plantation in Virginia. It seems they had been defrauded of their rights, and would probably have remained in ignorance of the bountiful provision made for them, had not an elderly man, who had been present when their master breathed his last, arrived from England to see how they were going on. From him they learnt that they were free, and that the land on which they were at work belonged to them. Their owner had always been kind to them, and would never allow any flogging upon the plantation. They were much attached to him; and the relation between them was that which exists between servants devoted to their master, and a master who has confidence in his servants. As soon as this joyful intelligence was communicated to them, they refused to work any longer without wages. They were compelled, however, by stripes and the most barbarous usage, to continue in bondage; their protector, who had gone to another part of the State, and promised to return, having died --it was supposed of poison. They struggled on in this way for some time, with no alleviation of their sufferings, and no hope of redress, when the indignation of some of the neighboring whites was excited by their piteous situation, beaten, half-starved, and badly clothed as they were; and they were advised to apply for their freedom at Richmond, from which they were distant upwards of twenty miles. Here they were treated with great cruelty, and were imprisoned till they were reduced to the most loathsome state by filth and vermin. At length, after they had endured the greatest hardships, --their numbers being reduced by violence, and many having been hunted down and shot like wild beasts, --they were put in possession of their liberty, and were sent off under a military escort.
It would be painful and tedious to detail all that they underwent from the scoffs, the brutality, and the villainy they encountered, on their passage to the State of Ohio; where they were carted out, as it were, on uncleared land, without provisions, and without the necessary implements for husbandry, The soil was the worst in the State; and at times so wet that nothing could be raised upon great part of it. My host, whose name (as far as I could make it was Peter Vicy, had but three hoes given him, while his family consisted of sixteen members. His wife had borne him twenty children. Each member of the community had eight acres as an allotment --of little or no value now to some of the possessors, who are married and have large families.
They have none of them any legal title to their lands; and if they had, it would be difficult to establish their claims under the disabilities which affect them. It is not very creditable to the agent employed by the court, which had finally given judgement in the matter, that he should have selected the most ineligible situation in the most unfavorable State of the Union for their residence, as they can neither live upon the produce of their allotments, nor obtain work without being liable to be defrauded by men who shelter their iniquity under the cloak of the law. They were strongly impressed with a belief that Mr. Gist had left a large sum of money for their support, and to provide three years' education for their children. Had it not been for some benevolent Quakers, who came to see them, soon after their arrival, they must have perished of hunger in the woods. Such was the melancholy prospect before them, that one of that society was so affected by what he saw and heard of their destitute condition, that he sat down in the midst of them and wept like a child. Two boats, loaded with clothing, and provisions, and tools, were sent to them by the Friends, and the Shakers were not behind them in charity. They brought them a vast quantity of things they stood in need of, having no less than six wagons filled with them. According to Peter's account, there were 360 in all when they left Virginia; though it would seem, by a letter written by Dr. John Adams, from Richmond Hill, in 1815, to the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery, that there were not so many.
He stated in that communication, that "a certain Samuel Guest*,
deceased, had, by his will, directed that his slaves, amounting to about 300, should be emancipated, and his lands sold for their benefit; which being prohibited by law, unless they should be removed out of the boundaries of the commonwealth of Virginia, he requests the aid of the society, and recommends their transportation to Guinea." The committee, to whom this letter was referred, reported that it did not appear that the convention could, at present, propose any specific plan for accomplishing the benevolent intention of Samuel Guest. I have extracted the above from a note to a work entitled, "A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery in the United States, &c.", by Jesse Torrey, Jun., Physician, published at Philadelphia in 1817. This account seems to confirm Peter's statement; and it may fairly be concluded, that if the personal friend of the testator had not visited the spot, and excited a spirit of inquiry among the slaves themselves, nothing ever would have been done for these unfortunate creatures. The author adds a circumstance that almost confirms this conjecture. The legislature of Indiana had just taken into consideration a petition from a person of the name of Sumner resident in Williamson county, Tennessee, and had decided that his request was inconsistent with the constitution of the State. "I have about forty slaves," says the writer, "and my intention is, if permitted by the laws of Indiana, to bring and free them, to purchase land for them and settle them on it, to give them provisions for the first year, and furnish them with tools for agriculture and domestic manufactory, and next spring with domestic animals You must be aware, that this must be attended with no small expenditure of money and trouble. I think that, after a man has had the use of slaves, and their ancestors, twenty or thirty years, it is unjust and inhuman to set them free unprovided with a home, &c. All that I have were raised by my father and myself, and the oldest is about my age (forty-six). I am also very desirous to leave the slave States, and spend my few remaining days in that State, where involuntary slavery is not admissible; and will, with the blessing of God, prepare to do so as soon as I can settle my affairs." Not being allowed to enrich Indiana, "at the expense of her neighbor" Tennessee, this generous-hearted man consulted the abolition society of Pennsylvania, and received a similar reply to that which had been sent to Dr. Adams.
* This appears to be the same person: --the name is properly Gist.
Since the emigrants have been settled here, their number has nearly doubled itself. The other colony is more fully peopled. They still retain the name of Camps, --an appellation that marks the length of time that elapsed before they could get any thing better than a tent to rest their weary heads in; --an appellation that will carry down to the remotest posterity the dishonor of their oppressors and persecutors. They are still liable to the intrusion of slave-traders and marauders, who break open their doors, and subject them to outrage or insult, at all hours of the night, in violation of the law of the land as it affects the white, but in accordance with its spirit as it bears on the black man. Three weeks before my visit, one of them was cruelly beaten, his dog shot, and his gun broken, by a gang of these wretches. He was confined several days to his bed by the injuries he received, and the lawyer to whom he applied, could obtain no redress for him, as neither his evidence, nor that of his neighbors, was admissible. Often has Peter, to entertain travellers who are sent to his cabin by the whites, and never has he had any remuneration for his ready hospitality, except from an English lady, who came one night with her carriage and servants. She would not allow him to persist in the refusal he made to accept any money from her. The agent, William Wickham, of Richmond, in Virginia, had, he told me, promised to come and see them. He had not only never been near them, but had not answered the letters they had procured to be sent to him. Under all these difficulties, and discouragements, some of them had contrived to build themselves comfortable log-huts, and to bring up their children, as decently as the want of education, and the few opportunities they have for religious instruction, from the occasional visits of white preachers, will admit of.
Peter has about eighty acres of land under cultivation: --the two last years the produce was not sufficient for his family, and they were compelled to draw upon their hard savings for a supply. Still they seemed cheerful and contented. One of their sons was employed at Cincinnati. I had some conversation with him, while there, about the settlement. Peter had two milch cows --a yoke of young oxen, and three calves --four horses and a wagon --fifteen head of sheep --a good stock of poultry --and forty or fifty hogs. All these were acquired by the industry of this man and his family, under an accumulation of difficulties that few would have had the courage to encounter, or the perseverance to overcome. They would often go many miles in search of work; and, when they got any, would be fed with offals hardly fit for dogs or pigs. Sometimes, after toiling a week, they could obtain no more than a quarter or half dollar to return home with. They were ignorant and unsuspicious; and their employers were unscrupulous in using every, advantage that want of legal protection gave them. Death, or even slavery, seemed preferable to their lot in the wilderness. Some of the whites in the country, (their most bitter enemies are generally in the towns) would, now and then, give them a little assistance; but no one, when they had lost a valuable horse, which had often been borrowed by the neighbors, would stir a foot to detect the thief, who had been seen lurking about. Peter pays the taxes and does road-work the same as the whites, though he is excluded from their privileges, and has no protection from the State. By a statute passed in 1831, blacks and mulattoes in Ohio are exempted from the school-tax.
All the whites with whom I conversed upon the subject, admitted that they had been defrauded --but then their color! What right had they to remain where they were --they were marked as a distinct people --they could never associate with the chosen race --they must go to Liberia --there were plenty of persons in Georgetown ready to make up a purse to pay their passage --it would be easy to turn them out of their lands, as they had no title --the trustees could enforce the law --as they could not procure securities, they might be driven out of the township. Such were the sentiments of the tavern-keeper at Georgetown --an Englishman of the name of Wilson. A more brutal reviler of these harmless hard-working people I could hardly have found in the whole State of Ohio. I listened for some time to his abuse of the abolitionists, and his nonsense about a scheme that would ruin the country of his adoption, by transporting its best hands, and throwing away a portion of its capital. At last I asked him where he would find a place to receive them, ships to carry them away, and funds to defray the expense: whether they had ever committed any crime to be compared with that of their oppressors --whether there was any thing in reason or religion to justify what he recommended --and whether he thought the laws of nature were to be reversed in a young country among a race remarkable for its tenacity of life and its tendency to increase. "At all events," he replied, "we can get rid of these settlers, --they are an eye-sore and a nuisance, --and they have no business among us." I felt strongly inclined to say --"What business have you here? If the blacks have no business in America, what business have the whites in Africa?" But I was convinced that the day of reckoning is coming upon a nation so disgraced by cruelty and wickedness.
While I was at Peter's, two or three of his white neighbors came in, and treated him with respect. One of them, an old man, appeared to be speechless with astonishment at the sight of a white man sitting at the same table with a black. It was some time before he recovered himself; when he made up for lost time, by his loquacity and inquisitiveness. He was very anxious to know who and what the stranger was; though he did not venture to put any direct questions. As soon as I had ascertained that he was "raised" in Kentucky, I turned the tables upon him, and began to cross-examine him as to the state of that country. He had left it in consequence of the cruelties he had witnessed. He could bear it no longer. To see human beings tortured till the blood flowed from them in streams, or dying with hunger; --to witness the sale of children by their own parents, and the separation of infants and mothers from each other, had turned the current of his feelings, and driven him into voluntary exile. "A judgement," he exclaimed, "will come upon the land, and the whites will be driven out."
I found, in the course of conversation, that the Kentuckian was well acquainted with the Mormons, or Mormonites, some of whom had been settled in the neighborhood before they went further to the west. Their present number, he thought, amounted to five or six thousand. The founder of the sect (Smith) had published what he called his seal.
There were six remaining to be revealed, as the world became prepared to receive them. It is partly historical and partly prophetic and didactic. The members of the society live in common; and their intercourse with one another is characterised by equality and harmony. They have some excellent preachers among them, and are the most moral well-behaved people my informant ever knew. They maintain that the Indian tribes will finally recover their lands, and the blacks gain the ascendancy over the whites. Their practice corresponds with their principles; and no invidious distinctions are allowed to humiliate one portion of the community and elevate the other. In such opinions and habits it is easy to perceive the causes of that hatred and hostility by which they have been assailed, having settled in Jackson county, in the State of Missouri, and invited the free people of color to join them, they were attacked by an armed band of forty or fifty men, and driven into the woods, with their women and children. The next day, another settlement, about ten miles off from the former, suffered a similar fate: --the shops were plundered, and the houses broken into. Some days after, a regular engagement took place, (the injured party having taken up arms in self-defence,) and several were killed on both sides. A man was seized in the act of ransacking a store, and carried before a magistrate, who refused to take cognizance of the affair. The accused then turned upon the accusers, and they were committed to gaol, by a warrant for false imprisonment, the mob declaring that they should never come out alive. These and other facts were communicated to a Missouri paper by a Mormonite (Orsan Hyde). The other party, in reply, accused the settlers of having opened an asylum for rogues and vagabonds, and free blacks. As I evinced a considerable degree of interest about these singular people, and expressed a wish to visit them, the talkative old man fancied I wanted to join them, and become a preacher. "What could he want," said he, "with the colored people? Did he come all the way from England to see them? I'm sure he's a real gentleman from his dress and manner. His skin was quite white. Why, Nelly," (turning to a young woman who was present,) "his complexion was much fairer than yours. I'd give any thing to know his name."
Such was the description given by Peter's daughter, who was an excellent mimic, and who had been present at the man's recital of what he had seen: This young woman was a great support to the family, by her good sense and industry. She had a loom in an adjoining hut, and added considerably to the common stock by the proceeds of her weaving. She had acquired the art, as it were, by piece-meal; the whites having thrown every obstacle in the way of its acquirement. None of her own race could teach her; and very few of the other were willing to give her any instruction, even in the most simple kinds of work. She had succeeded, however, in making herself mistress of the employment, and was not idle in the use of her skill.
While I was conversing with Peter and his wife, they said the whole colony, if they were once righted, would willingly pay any expenses that an agent, to or from England, might incur in prosecuting their claims. They had no one to befriend them; and they were becoming every day more impoverished and more despised. To add to their distress, the whites had succeeded in sowing dissention among them, and Peter himself, as well as his family, was looked upon with jealousy and envy by all the rest. This I discovered on inquiring why the men, who had been my guides, had never been to the log-hut, where I was, though they had told me that the people, old and young, would be rejoiced to see me. They took great care, however, of the bundle, which I recovered without any difficulty. There are several other settlements of the same kind in the State; but in none of them has the common enemy been so successful in creating divisions and distinctions. If something be not done for the lower Camp, to defend the settlers and instruct their children, it will not be long before it is abandoned in great part, if not entirely.
Jones, who had been sent out to Liberia by the Brown County Colonization
Society, was living within eight or ten miles, Peter sent his son over
for him the next day, and he arrived, with his wife, in the evening, too
late for me to get back to Ripley that night. I remained, therefore, another
night in the cabin, being anxious to obtain information about the African
colony. It was some time before Jones would dismiss his suspicions, and
speak out, fairly and fully, his opinions. He had been so much abused and
persecuted by the colonizationists, who were displeased with him for divulging
the truth; that he was fearful of committing himself before a stranger,
who might, for aught he knew, have been sent as a spy to entrap him. He
was, in fact, placed in a situation that required great caution and circumspection.
He was still a slave. Part of his purchase-money he had paid to his master
in Kentucky; and the, remainder the Brown County Society had promised to
advance, as one of the conditions of his mission to Liberia. This agreement
had never been fulfilled; his unfavourable report having furnished a motive
and a reason for the refusal. He was but three weeks in the colony; and,
not being a man of quick conception or comprehensive views, his account
was necessarily defective; no just grounds, however, exist for doubting
its accuracy; particularly as it is confirmed by the testimony of others,
who had a stronger interest in favor of the truth, and more time for observation.
One third of the settlers, he informed me, died the first year after their arrival. Of 300 emigrant from Norfolk, in Virginia, 106 had perished by the end of the year. This statement he had from Governor Mechlin.
The largest farm in cultivation there, does not exceed three or four acres; and sufficient produce is not raised for one twentieth part of the population. The chief dependence for support is on the natives, whom they pay for the commodities they want, in rum, gunpowder, and tobacco. The latter may be considered the currency of the country. A commission, appointed by the governor to make inquiries into the state of the colony, had reported that two-thirds of the settlers had not more than one meal in their houses; and that the funds appropriated to the erection of a saw-mill and the completion of a road, had been embezzled or misapplied. There were other parts of the report highly unfavorable to the governor, who brought home with him, on his return to America, one copy; while Jones, who got back in the preceding February, was the bearer of another. The Colonization Society, it is generally believed, has not yet laid the contents of these despatches before the public. One of the charges referred to the substitution by the store-keeper, of bad provisions for those brought out in a good condition by the Lafayette. The copy I saw at Cincinnati of this document, contained no accusation of the kind. That part and others of a similar nature might have been omitted in the transcript. It was lent to me by one of the Lane students, (Mr. Wattles,) who obtained it from Dr. Buckner, of Georgetown, as I have before stated.
Some of the early settlers, who were maintained by the Society for the first twelve months, are doing well. They are merchants --not agriculturists; and may be considered as the medium of communication between the natives and the importers of goods; whose profits from the trade thus carried on are enormous. The natives are ignorant, and submissive to the colonists, who employ them to do all the laborious part of their work, --the heat of the climate, they assert, being beyond their strength. They are too proud or too lazy even to carry a parcel; and as wages are extremely low, they do little or nothing that requires manual exertion. There is small hope, therefore, that the settlers will turn their attention to the cultivation of the soil, or make any attempt to civilize the aborigines; as the Americans, whether of European or of African descent, feel it their interest to keep them in a state of debasement and subjection. There are other causes too in operation, for diverting industry from agriculture to trade. The elective franchise depends on the possession of land; and, where opposition to the governing party is apprehended, allotments are delayed till the pending elections are over, --to the great detriment and discouragement of the claimants. There are many tribes in the neighborhood: some of them have already shewn unequivocal symptoms, of hostility. Though subdued for the present, they would become formidable if they acted in concert, or had some experienced leader to organize them, and teach them the use of fire-arms, --an article they have recently manifested an inclination to receive in payment for the ivory, palm-oil, and other things with which they supply the traders.
Of the schools and churches, Jones spoke favorably. Most, if not all, of the white missionaries, who had been sent out from America, had found the climate too hot and unhealthy for their constitutions. There are now about 3000 settlers remaining in the colony. Jones declared that, after all he had seen and heard of Liberia, nothing should induce him, to live there; and that it would be madness for any one; unless he had some capital, to settle at that place.
The next day I returned to Ripley on one of Peter's horses, and his son accompanied me on another. These good people seemed much affected by my visit. They begged I would not interfere in their behalf, if they were likely to be placed, by such a step, in a worse situation. They were reconciled to their fate, and would continue to trust in a higher Power for relief from their sufferings, or support under them. They were desirous that their children should be instructed, and all discord cease in the Camp; that they might live peaceably and amicably with one another, and shew, by their good conduct that they did not deserve the cruel treatment they were receiving from the whites. I called on three or four of the other settlers; but the men were out, and one or two of the women, whom I saw, were either not inclined, or (more likely) not enabled, to give me any satisfactory information. I endeavored to impress upon one of them the policy, as well as the duty, of being united; as they had a common enemy to deal with, who would be better pleased to set them all at variance with one another, than promote the interests of any. She said I had told her more than she had ever heard before, and that there was much truth in it.
If schools were established, and a white preacher --to protect them --appointed, they might, perhaps, emerge from the state of despondency in which I left them. Mr. Rankin informed me that the Presbytery of Chillicothe (Ohio) had resolved upon sending a schoolmaster to instruct their children. The first and most important thing to be done by their friends, is to obtain from the legislature the repeal of that iniquitous statute which has given them up as a prey to the designing and the unprincipled, and put the seal of legal authority on the prejudice that debases them, and the roguery that defrauds them.
The young females are often brought back by their employers in a condition which reflects more dishonor on the villainy that has betrayed them, than on their own imprudence. In the case of a white woman, an oath is sufficient to filiate. Here the mother obtains neither reparation for herself, nor maintenance for her child. Her evidence is worthless; No explanation can be given by the injured party, and no punishment inflicted on the guilty. She is left in the middle of the Camps, to find her home, if she have one, and assistance where she can.
The people of the hotel where I lodged, at Ripley, were much pleased when I acquainted them with the object of my visit to the Camps. They had heard a great deal of the oppression and fraud from which its inhabitants had suffered. Their wrongs ought to be known, they said, to the family, if any remained, of their benevolent owner, that ample redress might be obtained from them. I was particularly warned to be on my guard with a person who was a sort of sub-agent for these poor people, and who was living at Hillsborough; to which place it was my intention to proceed, for the purpose of making further inquiries. Some years ago, a man had been appointed to reside at Georgetown, and administer to the wants of the settlers from Virginia. He was in very indigent circumstances when he arrived; but having set up a store, in which he appeared to be making money, he suddenly decamped, and is now living, in the State of Illinois, on some land he is supposed to have purchased with the fruits of his successful speculation in the Camps.
Samuel Gist left two daughters, both of whom were always remarkably kind to the slaves. One of them was married, and is said to have had a son; the other was also married, and her husband quitted England. This was all the information I could obtain about the family; and my informants could neither write nor read.
was shewn several papers of freedom while at Peter's house. The, following
is a copy of one of them: --
"Virginia to wit.
" By virtue of the act of the General Assembly, intituled 'An Act giving effect to the last will and testament of Samuel Gist, deceased, late of the city of London', passed the 26th day of February, 1816, Anthony, one of the slaves belonging to the estate of the said Samuel Gist, deceased, aged about six years, was, by a decree of the Superior Court of Chancery for the Richmond district, pronounced the third day of July*,
declared to be emancipated and free to all intents and purposes.
* I am not certain about the date here. As I transcribed it, it appears to be 1813; but that must be a mistake. As the decree was made in pursuance of an act of the legislature, to give effect to the will, the codicil, (as it appears in the Appendix,) appended to the latter, follows the condition on which was made, and is null. The slaves have obtained their freedom; but what has become of the estate?
I subjoin a transcript from a copy of a letter to a Quaker of the name of Woodrow, at Hillsborough in Highland County, Ohio. The copy was taken by W. Patterson, (a colored man,) who taught a school in the settlement one quarter. He boarded with Peter, who was never remunerated by those who had sent the man. On the back of the paper was written "This letter is only a copy of Mr. Wickham's letter; and there may be some words not legally taken down, in consequence of its being very hard to read."
"Dear Sir,I left Ripley the next day for Cincinnati, with the view of seeing whether something might not be done for the poor people at the Camps, and with the intention of proceeding from that city to Hillsborough. In the boat was a young man, with whom I had travelled from Ripley, and who had left the stage, in consequence of illness, before it reached Georgetown. We immediately recognized each other, and reciprocated civilities. He enquired the result of my expedition, and told me he had lived within a mile of the Camps, and was well acquainted with all the circumstances connected with the colony. The conduct of the whites towards them had been most brutal and vexatious. They had, in the first instance, endeavored to drive them away, declaring that they had no business there; had ever since insulted and threatened them; and were only waiting till they were themselves sufficiently numerous, to expel them by force. He had no doubt, he said, that gross injustice had been practised upon these helpless people; and that if it were not for the employment some of them got on the river and at Cincinnati; they would long since have been exterminated, or driven away, by starvation. The inhabitants of Georgetown cared little what became of them, if they could but get rid of them. He had little to say in praise of Mr. Wilson; and I was not inclined to defend his character, as the loss of a pair of razors I left under his care had not tended to remove my dislike of his violent and insolent abuse of the "niggers."
"I have just received your letter of the 1st instant. The estate of Mr. Gist in Virginia now amounts, according to my estimate, from 8000 to 10,000 dollars. The whole subject is placed by an act of assembly under the control of the chancellor for the Richmond district; and no step is ever taken, except by his own (here some word was wanting). The property, by our general laws, by a special provision in this case, is subject to the claims of creditors; and the estate has already been very much diminished by a decree rendered by C. J. Marshall in favour of W. Anderson, representative, for 50,000 dollars. This decree has been satisfied. There are now two suits brought by the aty. [I presume attorney] of Jos. Smith and of John Smith against the estate. Appeals, death, have caused delay in bringing their cause to a hearing: about two months ago they were reversed [I am not sure whether the word be not 'revised']. The Court meets in Oct., and I shall exert myself to have them tried as soon as possible. It is impossible to say at what time they can be brought on: but I shall be much disappointed, if the term passes without a decision. The opinion of the chancellor was against the claim; and I am very sanguine it will be affirmed. Should it, however, be revised, it cannot now be known what effect it will have on the estate. If we succeed in their cause, there will be no obstacle, of which I am at present advised, that can delay the claims of the concerns of the estate. In that event, the Chancellor, according to the will of Mr. Gist, will have the funds noted [vested?] in some productive stock, and the extents applied to the benefit of the aged and infirm. There are still in Virginia from eighteen to twenty negroes, whom I hope to remove, if the decision of the Court of Appeals be, as I anticipate, in the next spring, &c. &c.
"WM. B. WICKHAM." ;
Though I had no opportunity of visiting any Mormon settlement, I am enabled to give some account of the people to be found there, --a society that appears to be adding very rapidly to its numbers, if credit is to be given to one of the preachers, who signs his name "Gladden Bishop" to a letter recently published in one of the newspapers of the country. He there states, that there are already 20,000 converts to the doctrines he professes; that they have 800 ministers, though there were but six in 1830, when the sect first became known: that two printing-offices, as many stores, and a large meeting-house, built of stone, belong to them.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the new faith, who is reported to have recently been shot in a conflict with its enemies, published, a few years ago, "an account, written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi." As the "account" was, when found, in "an unknown tongue", the world would have been but little the better or the wiser for it, if the discoverer of this precious document had not been inspired to interpret its contents. Whether through delusion or collusion, there were found eleven persons willing to testify, by their signatures, to the truth of this apocalypse. Eight names of living and respectable witnesses were affixed to one certificate, and three to another. The former had this declaration: "We have seen and hefted and know of a surety, that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken: and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which have the; appearance of ancient work and of curious workmanship." The other was to the same effect. "That an angel of God", such are the words used, "came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon."
Absurd as this "account" is, or perhaps because it is absurd, it has imposed upon many; while the prophet, under whose standard they are gathering, contrived, by his cunning, to reconcile attachment to received truths with the natural love of the new and the marvellous. In acknowledging the authenticity of the Bible, he brings forward a supplement to its supposed omissions, and interweaves its doctrines and sanctions with the narrative of his own mission.
The chief peculiarities of the sect are the gift of preaching in unknown tongues, plainness of apparel; and gratuitous services in all who are chosen to minister to the secular and spiritual wants of the community. One passage in this curious Koran clearly points to the place of its concoction, and the preposessions of its author; who would doubtless ground a claim for the prophetic spirit on this very objection from the unbeliever. It alludes, most unequivocally, to the free-masons; Ontario county, in the State of New York, being the place where Morgan's murder excited such a spirit of hostility to "the craft." "Satan", says the plate, "did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another, in whatever difficult circumstances they should be placed; that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings. And it came to pass, that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words: and this that they might distinguish a brother, who had entered into the covenant, that, whatever wickedness his brother should do, he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant: and whosoever of their band should reveal unto the world their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness which had been given by Gadianton and Kishkumen."
The prophetic and didactic portions of Smith's work are such as might be expected from one, who would make a belief in the Christian revelation subservient to his purposes. The historical part chiefly narrates the deeds and misdeeds of the Lamanites and Nephites --descended from Laman and Nephi; two out of four brothers, who, with their parents, Lehi and Sarai, fled, in the first year of King Zedekiah, from the ill-fated city of Jerusalem into the wilderness. The plates had been previously obtained by their father, who sent his sons back to their former place of abode for these genealogical cords of his family. Lehi is described as a lineal descendant of Joseph, the son of Jacob. The Lamanites represent the rebellious, and the Nephites the obedient, portion of the family; and, through them, of the whole human race. Nephi, the youngest son, built, in obedience to the commands of the Holy Spirit, a vessel, in which the whole family sailed to a distant and an unknown land. Our Saviour, after his resurrection, is described as appearing, in the character of teacher, to the Nephites --the chosen people of the New world, who were ultimately subdued by their less worthy kindred. The "plates" were, we are told, "hid up onto the Lord in the earth, to be brought forth in due time by the hand of the Gentile:" Such is the outline, which the fortunes and characters of the two great branches, that sprang from the adventurous Patriarch, who first planted himself in the western wilds, present. Their disputes and reconciliations ; their wars and their alliances, are detailed with tedious minuteness; and the mounds of earth, which, as they now exist in that part of the country, have given rise to so much interest and speculation, are referred to, by the preachers of the Mormon faith, as proofs of the existence of these theocratic tribes.
As the [Mormons] maintain the natural equality of mankind, without excepting the native Indians or the African race there is little reason to be surprised at the cruel persecution by which they have suffered, and still less at the continued accession of converts among those who sympathize with the wrongs of others or seek an asylum for their own.
The preachers and believers of the following doctrines were not likely to remain, unmolested, in the State of Missouri.
"The Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal, &c. He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness: and he denieth none that come unto him; black and white bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." Again: "Behold! the Lamanites, your brethren, whom ye hate, because of their filthiness and the cursings which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our fathers; &c. Wherefore the Lord God will not destroy them; but will be merciful to them; and one day they shall become a blessed people." "O my brethren, I fear, that, unless ye shall repent of your sins, that their skins shall be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God*.
Wherefore a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins;" &c. The king saith unto him, yea! if the Lord saith unto us, go! we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves, until we repair unto them the many murders and sins, which we have committed against them. But Ammon saith unto him, it is "Against the law of our brethren, which was established by my father, that there should be any slaves among them. Therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren."
* This ridiculous notion is to be found, where few would think of looking for it, in Dr. Lettsom's letters. Speaking of one among the patrimonial slaves whom he had emancipated, "the benevolent Quaker says, quite unconscious that he was sanctioning a distinction equally foolish and wicked, --"Poor Teresa! Thou little thinkest how much thy master values thy present. He will probably never see thee in this world! In the next thou mayest appear white as an European, and happy as he who has said 'be free!'"