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Chapter 15:

  • An earnest prayer
  • -- what came of it -- a Skeptic -- Fiend -- stratagem -- reflections and opinions on the “peculiar institution.”

Night again found me still suffering, and still a captive. The next day I heard from Captain Crawford that the prayer which I put up that evening to the Throne of Grace was rather eccentric, very strong, and directed specially to the case of our oppressive jailor. I suppose it must have been rather so, for the jailor visited me the next day. His house was in the prisonyard directly opposite my window.

Entering my cell, as I have said, he ordered me to follow him. I did so, not knowing what fate I was about to meet. When out of hearing of my fellow-prisoners, he said:

Who is that who prays in this prison every night? It is you, I suspect.

“I presume so,” replied I, “for it is my habit to pray night and morning; for I am told in the good Book to pray for my enemies, and I apprehend you are one.” [195]

“Well, now, there's no use in fooling! Did you pray for the Lord to kill me?”

“No, sir,” said I, “I prayed for the Lord to convert you, or else kill you.”

“Well, you prayed for them fellows the Bible speaks of,” he rejoined, referring to the Apostles Paul and Silas.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, that's all one tarnal big lie!”

“Why, sir,” I inquired, “do you not believe in the Bible?”

“No! I don't believe one tarnal word of it, I don't.”

“Then, sir, if you escape the rod of God in this life, you certainly will not in eternity.”

“See here, sir,” he rejoined angrily, “you had better mind what you say.”

“I will speak my mind whenever it pleases me to do so,” I said, looking the jailor directly in the eye.

In this strain the conversation continued, till at length he became so enraged, that, pushing me violently back in my cell, he locked me fast to a staple driven into the floor.

While lying thus, a negro came and gazed intently at me, through the bars of the cell door. This he repeated many times during the [196] day, and at night I asked him if he belonged to the jailor.

“No sah” said he, “I b'long to the richest man in dis county.”

“What are you in here for?”

He dropped his voice almost to a whisper, as he replied:

Two white fellers came to my quarters one night, and got me to go with 'em. Dey had dar faces blacked all ober. Den dey crawled into a winder whar dar wus some white gals, an' de gals dey hollered, an' de two fellers dey runned, an' I runned arter 'em. But I didn't know what they'd done, an' so I stopped, an' de white men what run arter all oa us, cotched me, an' brought me down here. Den dey chained me like you is now, and den de white rascals what had blacked ‘emselves, dey runned off right away. But dey won't b'lieve a poor darkey. Now, massa, Tom White, an' he's a white man, seed dem white fellers what blacked dar faces, an' he told so, an' den I was tuk out oa de cell.

Here the poor creature started after the jailor for the performance of some duty.

I was now desirous to know what Captain Crawford's candid opinion was concerning slavery, but the loud tones in which we were forced to talk prevented me, for fear of drawing [197] down some cruel punishment upon us. I conversed on the subject, however, with my comrade, Lieutenant Collins, and we both resolved never to cease its agitation so long as the Lord gave us life, and so long as there remained a single slave on the fair soil of Columbia. Our minds were much strengthened in this resolve by recalling to memory the teachings of Washington, Adams, Monroe, and others. Abigail Adams, the mother of John Quincy Adams, said:

I wish most sincerely that there was not a slave in the Province.

Benjamin Franklin, whose life was my schoolbook, in an address to the Senate and House of Representatives, said:

From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally the portion, and is still the birthright, of all men, and influenced by the strong ties of humanity, and the principle of their institution, your memorialists conceive themselves bound to use all justifiable endeavors to loosen the bands of slavery; that you will be pleased to countenance the restoration of liberty to these unhappy men, who alone, in this land of Freedom, are degraded into perpetual bondage, and who, amidst the general joy of surrounding freemen, are groaning in servile subjection; that you will [198] devise means for removing this inconsistency from the character of the American people; that you will promote mercy and justice towards this distressed race; and that you will step to the very verge of the power vested in you, for discouraging every species of traffic in the persons of our fellow-men.

--B. F., Pres't (F. Gazette, 1790).

During the dreary night I often awoke, and I remember once, when thus arousing, those beautiful lines came into my mind:

When for the rights of man we fight,
And all seems lost, and friends have fled,
Remembering in Misfortune's night,
New glory rests on Virtue's head,
Duty remains, though joy is gone,
On final good I fix mine eyes;
Distance all fear, and, though alone,
Stand ready for the sacrifice.

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