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My first trip.

I. Virginia

  • A word before starting
  • -- I start -- Richmond -- Thoughts in a Graveyard -- a Sheriff's advertisement -- a slave sale -- the auctioneer -- a young girl -- her educational attainments -- son of a Gun -- no thing else -- two Girls sold -- the angry slave trustee -- of a runaway and Mint Juleps -- a man publicly stripped and “examined” -- Virtue at a discount,

A word before starting.

I have visited the Slave States several times-thrice on an anti-slavery errand. First, in 1854. I sailed to Richmond, Virginia, from New York city; travelled by railroad to Wilmington, North Carolina; and from that port by sea to the city of Charleston. I remained there two weeks-during the session of the Southern Commercial Convention. I then sailed to Savannah, where I resided three months, when I returned direct to New York city.

My second journey was performed in the autumn of the same year. It was rather an extended pedestrian tour-reaching from Richmond, Virginia, to Montgomery, Alabama.

My third journey was performed last spring, and was confined to Virginia. My letters, descriptive of this journey were published in the Boston Daily Traveller. They are somewhat different from my previous sketches, relating chiefly to the influence of [2] slavery on the agriculture, education, and material prosperity of a State. Reports of my talks with the slaves occupy in them a subordinate position.

In this volume alone, of all American anti-slavery or other books, the bondman has been enabled, in his own language, (if I may employ the familiar phrase of political essayists and orators), to “define his position on the all-engrossing question of the day.” Almost everybody has done it. Why, then, should not he? Surely he has some interest in it, even if it be “subject to the Constitution;” even if his interest is unfortunately in conflict with “the sacred compromises of the federal Compact!”

My object in travelling was, in part, to recruit my health, but chiefly to see slavery with my own eyes, and personally to learn what the bondmen said and thought of their condition.

My conversations with the slaves were written down as soon after they occurred as was convenient; occasionally, indeed, in stenographic notes, as the negroes spoke to me.

It will be seen that I do not aim at a literary reputation. I have only plain truths to tell — only plain words to tell them in. My mission was a humble one--to report. I claim no other merit than fidelity to that duty.

I most solemnly declare here, that in no one instance have I sought either to darken or embellish the truth — to add to, subtract from, or pervert a single statement of the slaves. There may be, scattered throughout these pages, a few minor inaccuracies; but I assure the reader, on my honor as a gentleman, that if there are any errors of fact, or other errors, I am totally unconscious of them. I believe this book, [3] as it leaves my hand, to be a volume of truths, undeformed by a single falsehood, or even the most trivial mis-statement.

Let these few words suffice for a preface.

I start — my voyage.

The good steamship Roanoke, after a very pleasant voyage, in the month of March, 1854, arrived at Richmond early in the morning.

I landed and strolled about the city. Of the voyage and of the city I intend to say nothing. There are books enough that treat of such themes. I shall write of the slave class only, or of subjects that relate to their condition.

Thoughts in a Graveyard.

Therefore, one word on the cemetery, which was the first public place I visited. I wondered at the absence of all headstones to colored persons deceased. Julius Caesar, Hannibal, George Washington and Pompey, had no representatives among the citizens interred — none, at least, whose monuments proclaimed and preserved their names.

I inquired where the “slave quarter” was.

“Why,” I was told, “in the nigger buryingground. You don't suppose we allow slaves to be buried here?”

I did suppose so, in my ignorance of southern customs, but soon discovered that I greatly erred. In every southern city that I have visited since (and I believe the rule universally prevails), the whites and the slaves and free people of color have separate places of interment. [4]

Cemeteries are separated; churches are pewed off; theatres are galleried off: I wonder now, (between ourselves and in strictest confidence), if Heaven, likewise, is constructed and arranged with special reference to this hostility of races and conditions of life? In the many mansions of the Heavenly Father, will there be sets of apartments for Africans exclusively — in the parlance of the play-bills, “for respectable colored persons?” If there are not, and if the Southern proslavery divines ever get there, we may expect a second Satanic rebellion against Authority so indifferent to the finer feelings — the refined sensibilities — of the slaveholding saints. With such a doughty champion as Mr. Parson Brownlow, in the character of Beelzebub, the coming conflict must be terrible indeed, and will require as its historian, a genius more exalted by far than the author of Paradise Lost. “May I be there to see!”

A Sheriff's advertisement.

I walked from the cemetery to the Court House, accompanied some distance by a slave, who was whistling, as he drove along, a popular line, which faithfully describes his lot in life:
Jordan am a hard road to trabble!

Undoubtedly, I mused; and so, too, was the Red Sea to the Egyptians!

I intended to attend the Mayor's Court, but when I reached the hall his honor had not yet arrived.

On the outer door of the hall, was posted a manuscript advertisement, of which I have preserved a verbatim copy. Here it is: [5]

Sheriff's sale

After transcribing this atrocious advertisement, I walked to the auction rooms in Wall street and that vicinity.

A slave sale.

The first apartment that I entered was an old, long, low, whitewashed, damp-looking room, of which the ceiling was supported by three wooden pillars. There were between thirty and forty white persons present. Seven or eight living chattels were “on sale, for cash, to the highest bidder.”

The sale commenced almost immediately after I made my appearance in the shambles. The first Article offered was a girl twelve years of age. She was dressed in a small-checked tartan frock, a white apron and a light-colored handkerchief. She was mounted with the auctioneer on a wooden stand, four steps high. The audience was standing or sitting on forms in different parts of the room.

The auctioneer was a middle-aged, fair-complexioned man, with light-blue, lazy-looking eyes, who drawled out, rather than uttered his words, and chewed an enormous quid of tobacco with a patient and persevering industry that was worthy of a nobler cause.

“ Gentlemen,” said the body-seller, “here's a girl twelve years old, warranted sound and strong — what d'ye bid to start her?” [6]

For at least ten minutes, notwithstanding all the lazily-uttered laudations of the auctioneer, the “gentlemen” who composed the audience did not bid a single cent to start her.

“ Come here,” said a dark-complexioned man of thirty, whose face mirrored a hard, grasping, unsympathetic nature, “come here, gal.”

“ Get down,” drawled the auctioneer.

The girl descended and went to the dark man, who was sitting with his face toward the back of his chair.

“How old are you?” said the fellow, as he felt beneath the young girl's chin and pinched her arms, for the purpose probably of ascertaining for himself whether she was as sound and strong as she was warranted to be.

“I don't know how old I'm,” replied the chattel.1

“ Can you count yer fingers?” demanded the dark man.

“Yes,” returned the chattel, as she took hold, first of her thumb, then of her forefinger, and lastly of her ring-finger, “one--three--two--five.”

“You're wrong! Tut. Take care,” interposed a mulatto, the slave or servant of the auctioneer, as he accompanied her hand from finger to finger. “Now try agin--one--two” ----

“ One,” began the girl, “two--three--four--five.”

“She'll do-she'll do,” said the dark man, who appeared perfectly satisfied with her educational attainments. [7]

“ Gentlemen! will none oa ye make a bid to start this gal?” asked the auctioneer, in an indolently imploring tone.

“Four-fifty,” said the dark man.

“Four-fifty's bid, gentlemen, for this gal--four-fifty--four hundred and fifty dollars--four-fifty — four-fifty — four-fifty — four-fifty — four hundred and fifty — four hundred end fifty dollars-four hundred and fifty dollars bid-going at four hundred end fifty dollars----”

“Sixty,” said a dirty-looking, unshaven man, with a narrow-brimmed hat on, who looked so tall and slim as to induce the belief that he must be the cele-brated son of A Gun so often spoken of in the quarrels of the Bowery boys.

“Sixty!” repeated the auctioneer; “four--sixty — four-sixty-for--sixty — four hundred and sixty — four hundred end sixty dollars bid — going at four hundred and sixty dollars, and gone — if — there is no — other bid--four h-u-u-n-dred ende” ----

“ Seventy!” said the dark man.

I need not continue the report.

To induce the buyers present to purchase her, the girl was ordered to go down a second time, to walk about, and to hold up her head. She was finally knocked down to Mr. Philorifle, of the narrow-brimmed hat, for five hundred end fifty dollars.

The second lot consisted of a young man, who was started at seven hundred dollars, and sold for eight hundred and ninety-five dollars.

“A thousand dollar nigger”--so the auctioneer styled a strong, healthy, athletic specimen of Southern flesh-goods, was the next piece of merchandise [8] offered for sale; but as not more than eight hundred dollars were bid for him, he was reserved for a more convenient season.

A mulatto — a kind-looking man of forty-five--was next put up; but no bids were made for him.

“That's all, gentlemen,” said the auctioneer, as he descended from his Southern platform — this truly “national” and “democratic platform”--“I don't think I can offer you any thing else to-day.”

“This way — over the way, gentlemen!” tolled a strong, iron-toned voice at the door.

We went over the way into another auction-room (at the corner of the streets), and saw two young female children sold into life-long slavery; doomed. to forego, whenever and as often as their masters willed it, all true domestic happiness in this world; condemned to total ignorance of the pleasures of knowledge, of home, of liberty; sentenced to be whipped, imprisoned, or corrupted, as the anger, the caprice, or the lust of their buyers deemed proper; forced to see their husbands lashed, their daughters polluted, their sons sold into distant States. “God bless you, Mrs. Stowe!” I involuntarily ejaculated in the slave shambles, as I saw these children sold, and thought of their sad prospective fate.

I entered a third room. One man, about twenty-five years of age, “warranted sound and strong,” was sold for seven hundred dollars. He was a captured runaway. The owner, or rather the trustee of this slave, cut quite a conspicuous figure in the room. A little, Dutch-built, blue-eyed man, very limber indeed both of limb and tongue. He strutted about, with a little stick in his hand, now here, now there; talking incessantly and to everybody: his lightcolored [9] overcoat, like the white plume of Henry of Navarre, always visible in the thickest of the crowd.

It would express but a faint idea of his state of mind, were I to say that he was somewhat agitated. Very faint, indeed. Angry is equally inexpressive. “Mad to the hung and biling over,” although it has not the sanction of classical usage, is the only phrase which is at all appropriate to the little man's mental condition.

“Would you believe it, sir!” he snapped at me; “he actually ran away; I offered one hundred dollars reward, too, and I didn't hear tell of him for two years and three months!”

I could hardly suppress a smile at the little man's ludicrously angry expression, as I thought of the very virtuous offence that the cause of his indignation had committed. As I saw that he expected me to say something, I exclaimed:

“Really! Two years and three months. Where did you find him finally?”

“In a saloon at Petersburg!” he said; “where”--here he raised his voice so that every one could hear him--“where, I dare say, the fellow made as good mint juleps as anybody need drink!”

I saw that the slave was standing behind the platform — which in this room was about five feet high — and that he was surrounded by a crowd of spectators. I left the little man angry and went up to the crowd.

Perhaps, my readers, you may be disposed to doubt what I am about to add — but it is a God's truth, not-withstanding its obstinate non-conformity with some Northern “South-side” views of Slavery.

The slave was dressed in his pantaloons, shirt and [10] vest. His vest was removed and his breast and neck exposed. His shoes and stockings were next taken off and his legs beneath the knees examined. His other garment was then loosened, and his naked body, from the upper part of the abdomen to the knees, was shamelessly exhibited to the view of the spectators.

“Turn round!” said the body-seller.

The negro obeyed, and his uncovered body from the shoulders to the calves of his legs was laid bare to criticism.

Not a word, not a look of disgust condemned this degrading, demoralizing and cowardly exhibition.

“You see, gentlemen,” said the auctioneer, “he's perfectly sound and a very finely formed nigger.”

He was sold for $700--about two-thirds only of the price he would have brought, if his masters could have given him that certificate of soulless manhood which the Southrons style, when they refer to the existence of the passive-obedience spirit in a slave, “a good character.”

A good name is a very unfortunate thing for a negro to possess. I determined, then and there, in my future intercourse with slaves, to urge them to cultivate as a religious duty all the habits which would speedily brand them as men of bad morals!

These scenes occurred on the 30th of March, 1854. [11]

Ii. Virginia.

  • Talk with a Free negro
  • -- a colored Liberator -- Oppressive laws and ordinances -- how they Operate -- worthless Free negroes -- the market woman -- women insulted -- how very contented the slaves are -- about runaways -- the African church -- a dodge exposed -- heavy hearts and raw backs -- Deity vindicated against a divine -- what white clergymen preach to slaves -- how do unto others, etc., fared -- the poor whites and slavery -- North and South -- Reciprocal Amenities -- a colored Exile -- a contented slave -- a Corroboration from Olmsted's book,

Talk with a Free negro.

in walking along one of the streets of Richmond, I was suddenly overtaken by a shower. I went into the store of a fruiterer and confectioner. He was a free man of color. I soon entered into a conversation with him, ascertained his history, and learned many valuable facts of the condition of the slaves of Richmond and vicinity.

A colored Liberator.

He was a mulatto of about thirty-five years of age. His eyes and his conversation showed him to be a person kind hearted yet resolute of purpose. The tone of his voice, the expression of his face, bespoke a man familiar with sorrow and cares. He was very intelligent and used exceedingly few negro phrases. He had been a slave, but had bought his freedom; and since that time had purchased his wife, brother, sister-in-law, with her husband and their two young children. Hie had been rather favored as a slave. He had had a kind proprietor, who had permitted him to hire himself — that is to say, to pay to his master a certain sum monthly for the use of his own bodily strength and mental faculties, retaining as his own funds whatever he might make “over and above” [12] the sum thus agreed upon between them. He had been a porter at a popular hotel, and was lucky enough to soon save sufficient with which to purchase his freedom from his owner. The next money he got was expended on articles of traffic. He prospered in his small retail trade, and with its earliest profits he purchased his wife.

What a low state of morals, by the way, does it indicate, when a robber, in fact, of the lion's share of a poor man's wages is spoken of as a kind and indulgent master! How unspeakably mean, too, to live on money thus ungenerously taken from the hard hands of lowly, unprotected toil!

“ You have acted nobly,” I said to him, “in buying seven persons from slavery, and you must have been very lucky to be able to do it, as well as to buy this house.” (He had told me that he owned the house and shop we were in.)

“Ah, sir!” said the good man, in a sad tone, “I wish I could do something more effectual. It's all I live for. No one,” he added, “can have any idea of how our people are persecuted here, only on account of their color.”

Oppressive laws and ordinances.

“Indeed!” I said, “I wish you would tell me some of the methods employed by the whites in persecuting your people. I will publish them.”

He named a host of them, from which I selected at the time the following particulars:

1. The oath of a colored man, whether free or a slave, is not admissible in courts of justice. Therefore, [13]

If a white man owes a debt to a person of color, and refuses to pay it, it is impossible for the creditor to resort to legal remedies in order to collect it.

If a white man, from any cause or motive — for the purpose, for example, of extorting money — chooses to swear before a court that any colored person, whether free or slave, has been insolent to him, he can cause the unfortunate object of his malice to be whipped by the public officers.

If a worthless vagabond, with a white skin, however black his heart may be, enters the store of a free man of color, and steals, even before the owner's eyes, any articles from it, the unfortunate merchant has no legal remedy, unless a white man saw the property thus feloniously appropriated — for the fear of the municipal lash restrains him from entering a public complaint or resenting the robbery on the spot.

Thus the blacks are always at the mercy of the whites — a position which no uncolored person, I am sure, would be willing to occupy.

In stating these facts, my informant related an incident which I shall narrate here, as it is at once a most striking illustration of the injustice sometimes practised by “our Southern brethren” toward their colored fellow creatures, and serves to show the practical workings of the laws relating to the oaths of persons of the subjugated race.

A few weeks before this interview, a white man went to the green market and was putting some vegetable — parsley, I believe — in his basket, when the colored woman in attendance asked him if he had measured it? He turned round fiercely and asked what she meant by insulting him. Next day he [14] took out a warrant, had the market woman brought before the mayor, and swore positively, as did his son also, that she had used insolent and abusive language to him. She would have been whipped, as usual, and had her sentence chronicled in the papers as the punishment of a “worthless free negro,” if several white persons, who were present at the time and knew her to be an honest inoffensive soul, had not promptly stepped up and swore that she was innocent of the offence charged by the plaintiff. She was therefore discharged; but the cowardly perjurers were not even reprimanded.

2. Although free men of color pay the same municipal taxes levied on white citizens, they are not only prohibited from exercising any influence in elections, but from entering the public square or the white man's cemetery.

3. They are prohibited from carrying any offensive or defensive weapons.

4. They are not allowed to go abroad after sunset, without a written permit from their owners or carrying their papers of freedom.

5. If they violate these regulations they are imprisoned until claimed by their masters, if slaves, or visited and liberated by their friends, if free. If they are free but without friends to attend to their interests — hear this and defend it if ye can, ye “Northern men with Southern principles” --they are kept in jail for a certain time, and then--God help them — they are sold into slavery to pay the expenses incurred by the city by keeping them incarcerated. Not many years ago, free girl from the opposite side of the river, incautiously entered the city of Richmond without her certificate of freedom. She was arrested, [15] kept in prison forty days, and then sold into perpetual bondage, for the Southern crime known as “being at large!” “How long, O Lord, how long?” How long, O North, how long?

6. All assemblages of colored men, consisting of more than five persons, are illegal, and severely punished by the administrators of Southern in-justice. This ordinance is strictly enforced.

7. Women of color are compelled to endure every species of insult. White boys often spit on their dresses as they are going to chapel; and when they meet a colored female out of doors after sunset, they conduct themselves still more grossly.

These are a few — a very few — of the outrages which the colored freeman is expected to endure and does submit to in the civilized, theologized, church-studded city of Richmond, in the middle of the nine-teenth century. Strange — is it not? Yet, in the free States of the North, the name of Abolitionist is frequently used as a by-word of reproach. Stranger still — is it not?

How very contented the slaves are.

In the course of the conversation in which these facts were mentioned, I stated to my companion that I had frequently heard the defenders and apologists of Southern crime in the Northern States, confidently declare that the slaves were perfectly contented with their lot, and would not willingly exchange it for freedom. I asked him if the slaves of Richmond were contented with their condition?

“ No, sir,” said the merchant with unusual energy, “they are not. I know the most of them. I've lived here for thirty years. First, in a hotel where [16] I used to meet dozens of them every day, and in my store, here, where I see hundreds from every part of the city and the country all the time. They are as discontented as they can be. There's a few of them, though, who are poor ignorant creatures, and have good masters, don't care anything about freedom.”

“How many do you suppose?” I asked; “one quarter of them?”

“ No, sir,” said the storekeeper, energetically; “not more than one-tenth.”

“What! you don't mean to say that not more than over one-tenth of the slaves have good masters?”

“ No, sir,” he answered; “but I do say that those who have good masters are as little contented as those who have bad masters.”

“Why so?”

“Kind treatment is a good thing, but it isn't liberty, sir; and colored people don't want that kind of privileges; they want their rights.”

“Do you think,” I asked, “that this feeling of discontent is as strong in the country as in the city?”

“No; not so strong,” he returned. “In the city they are more intelligent, and the discontented sentiment is stronger, because the colored people have more chance of talking to one another about their hardships.”

“ Do you think,” I inquired, “that the feelings of discontent have increased during your recollection?”

About runaways.

“ Oh, yes, sir,” he rejoined, “it has increased a hundred times, especially within the last eight years. When I was a boy, the colored people didn't think [17] much about freedom, because they were allowed a great deal of liberty; but now it seems as if the laws were becoming worse and worse for us every day; we can't enjoy anything now; we can't have the social meetings as we used to have; and now I tell you, sir, the colored people do think about it a good deal. They run away every good chance they can get. I know about a hundred that's gone North since last New Year; most of them got away altogether, and plenty's ready to follow them.”

“ Do any of them return?”

“No, sir,” said the freeman, “they've too much sense for that! You can't tell anything at all about the colored people from what the papers say. Whenever one comes back any whar‘, they make a string of remarks about it so long.” He measured about half a yard with his right hand on his left arm. “But,” he added, “they don't say nothing about them that run away — hundreds — and never come back agin! And jist look at the paragraphs about the trials at the courts here. It's always ‘a worthless negro,’ or ‘a worthless free negro.’ They allers say that, no difference what his character is, or what the character of the white man who appears against him is.”

He pointed to a paragraph of this kind in the Dispatch, and gave me a proof that the white accuser of the “worthless free negro” named in it,was a man of the most disreputable character.

The African church.

“ I was advised,” I said, “by a pro-slavery man to visit the African Church. Is it a splendid concern ” [18]

“Yes, sir,” he rejoined,

it's a very fine church. I thought they would tell you to go there! They allus do. That's an old game of theirs-“Go to the African church” they allus say to strangers, “and see how happy our slaves are, and how well they dress.” When I was living at the hotel, I've of'en heerd them say so to strangers. Once a gentleman from the North said to me, “Well, you people of color seem very happy. I was at your church to-day, and I really never did see a better dressed, or a happier-looking congregation.” Them was his words.

“Yes, massa,” I said, “but appearances is deceitful. You don't see their hearts. Many of them that you saw there with happy-looking faces had heavy hearts and raw backs. They're not all slaves either, as they tell you they are; one half of them's free people.”

“ But they look happy,” the gentleman said.

“ Very true massa,” says I, “ so they do; Sunday's the only happy day they have. That's the only time they have a chance of being all together. They're not allowed to ‘sociate on any other day.”

“By whom,” I asked, “is this African Church supported?”

“ By the colored people.”

“ You have a colored preacher, of course?”

“Oh, no;” said the storekeeper, “colored people are not allowed to enter the pulpit in Virginia.--------(I have forgotten the name), a colored clergyman, once attempted it, but they put him in jail.”

“ How much do you pay your preacher?”


Deity Vindicated against a divine.

“Six hundred dollars a year,” he replied; “but we don't elect him. We have nothing to do with the church but to go there, pay all the taxes, and listen to sermons ‘bout submission to the will of God.”

“ Does he often expatiate on that duty?”

“ Very often — very often. One day I heard him say that God had given all this continent to the white man, and that it was our duty to submit.”

“ Do the colored people,” I inquired, “believe all that sort of thing?”

“ Oh, no, sir,” he returned; “ one man whispered to me as the minister said that,

He be d----d! God am not sich a fool!’

“ Who elects your minister?”

He explained at considerable length, but I lost the greater part of his answer in thinking about the skeptical negro's vindication of the ways of Providence in its dealings with the colored children of men. I understood him to say that the church was governed by a board of trustees elected by all the churches in the city. Certain it is, that the people who pay the church expenses have neither part nor lot in the government of the church.

“Some time since,” said the storekeeper, “they told us we might have the church for----thousand dollars. (I have forgotten the sum he named.) Well, we raised it somehow or other, and got the building; but then we didn't get the right of choosing our own minister, as we expected.”

“ Does your white minister always preach to suit the slaveholders?” [20]

“Yes, sir,” he said, “always. He wouldn't be allowed to preach at all if he didn't.”

How do Unto others, etc., Fared.

The wife of the storekeeper hitherto had taken no part in the conversation. She interrupted her husband, and told me the history of a Northern preacher at present officiating in the city of New York, who was forced to leave Richmond because he once selected as a text, “Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you.” He is devotedly loved by the colored people of the city, and has cause to be proud of the hatred of the traffickers in human kind. When this clergyman first came to Richmond, he said nothing offensive to the human-property-holders. He paid a visit to New England, and came back what hitherto he had only nominally been — a Christian minister. The first text he selected, after his return to the city, was the Golden Rule. He commenced his sermon by saying that he had recently visited the scenes of his childhood and his early love; had knelt once more in the Christian church where he first experienced the spirit of religion; had looked upon the walls of the college where he had been trained to fight the good fight of faith; and had stood at the grave of his sainted mother. He had felt there, he said, that hitherto he had not done his duty as a Christian clergyman, but he was determined now, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to atone, by his future zeal, for his shortcomings in by-gone days. He then spoke of the free colored girl who had been sold into slavery for having unfortunately forgotten to carry her certificate of freedom: (the instance that [21] I have already cited). It had just occurred. “Brethren,” he exclaimed, in the enthusiasm of his newly-awakened zeal, “that was not ‘doing unto others as we would that others should do unto us!’ ” Before retiring to rest that night, he received forty letters of remonstrance from as many different members of his congregation. He was obliged to leave the city. Richmond, with true old Virginia pluck, would not submit to be reproved for her “peculiar” sins by a Northern Christian preacher.

The wife asked me if I was acquainted with the minister.

“ I am not,” I said, “but perhaps I may have seen him in New York.”

She went up stairs, and brought down a lithographic portrait of him, which she handled with a loving care, and looked at with an admiring regard, of which any public man might well have been proud.

“ Such a testimonial,” I said, “oh! Douglas, prince of demagogues — breaker of sacred compacts for the sake of slavery — is more to be desired than ten thousand Presidencies. Such a testimonial — nay thousands of the like — you, during your life-time, might easily have earned, if, regardless of morality, duty, self-respect, you had not basely sold your soul for the chance of an office!”

The poor whites and slavery.

I asked the storekeeper whether the poorer white population of Richmond were in favor of slavery or against it?

“That's a question,” he replied, “that can't be answered very easily. Hundreds have said to me, [22] when they came into the store, that they detested slavery; but they never talk about it to white people: they're afraid to do so! ”

Afraid to do so!” Think of that, ye New England sons of revolutionary sires! In America, “the land of the free and home of the brave ;” free white men of the haughty Saxon race are “afraid ” to express their opinions. Ah! Southern rights are human wrongs!

North and South--Reciprocal Amenities.

The abolitionists of the North are often accused of malignantly misrepresenting the sentiments and the character of the people of the South. I was informed by the storekeeper, whose conversation I have been reporting, that the citizens of Richmond very zealously inculcate on the minds of their slaves that all that the Northern abolitionists want with them is to sell and cruelly treat them. The North is pictured to them as a place of punishment — a terrestrial hell — where negroes are abused, starved, and kicked about for the amusement of the white race. Abolitionist with them is the synonym for all that is vile and odious in human nature.

The freeman then asked me the true character of the people of the North?

I answered as an admirer of her character, principles and institutions might be expected to reply.

He asked if there was any disrespect shown to people of color?

I love the North, but I worship truth. Why will you, men of the North, seal the lips of your southern friends by your conduct to the free men of color among you? Ah! if you knew what affectionate [23] natures, what noble aspirations, what warm, pure, loving hearts beat beneath the bosoms of the negroes of the North, you would not, you could not harbor much longer the disgraceful and relentless prejudices that now keep you aloof like national enemies during the prevalence of a temporary truce.

I will not extend this report of our conversation any further. I will merely mention that I was advised by my colored friend to associate as much as possible with the free colored people, if I wished to ascertain the real sentiments of the slave population on the subject of slavery.

“Some of the slaves,” he said, “will distrust you; so will some of the free people; but don't form your opinion until you ask lots of them. You'll soon see, sir, how discontented they all are.”

I have followed his advice: with what result will be seen.

Of this man, let me add all that I now know. The next time that I visited Richmond, I found him in great distress: he had recently lost his wife. On my third visit, I found that he had sold out and gone to Philadelphia.

The contented slave.

In Richmond I found one contented slave. As I was going to the theatre (as I was ascending Monument street), I overtook a negro boy of about eight years of age.

“ Come here, Bob,” I said.

I had almost passed him. As he did not come immediately I turned round. He was leaning on the [24] rails of the public park, grinning from ear to ear — looking, in fact, like an incarnate grin.

“ He-he-he-e-e-e-he-eh-eee!” grinned Bob.

“Come here, Bob,” I repeated.

Bobby approached and took hold of my extended hand.

“What's your name, Bob?”

“Bill,” he grinned.

“What's your other name?”

“ Hain't got none!” said Bill.

“Are you a free boy?”

“No, I'se a slave.”

“Have you a father and a mother?”

“ Yes, he-he-e-e-he!” grinned Bill.

“Who do you belong to?”

Mrs. Snooks,” said Bill.

“ Would you like to be free and go North?”

“No!” he said, “I wouldn't go North; I don't want to be free; he-he-he-ee-e!”

“ Were you ever sold?” I asked.

“ No,” he returned, “Mrs. Snooks2 never sold her slaves all her life. I don't see what good selling slaves does,” he added.

“Nor I! . . . ‘Never sold a slave in her life’ . . Bill?” I asked with appropriate solemnity; “will you tell your mistress that a Northerner said she was a trump?”

“ Yes,” grinned Bill, “I'll tell her: he-he-he-e-e-e,” and he ran away trilling off his grins as he went along.

So much for the Old Dominion. [25]

A Corroboration.--“They (the blacks) invariably give way to the white people they meet. Once, when two of them, engaged in conversation, and looking at each other, had not noticed his approach, I saw a Virginian gentleman lift his cane and push a woman aside with it. In the evening I saw three rowdies, arm in arm, taking the whole of the sidewalk, hustle a black man off it, giving him a blow as they passed that sent him staggering into the middle of the street. As he recovered himself he began to call out to, and threaten them--‘ Can't, you find anything else to do than to be knockina quiet people round? You jus' come back here, will you? Here! you! don't care if you is white. You jus' come back here and I'll teach you how to behave — knockina people round!-don't care if I does hab to go to der watch house.’ They passed on without noticing him further, only laughing jeeringly. . . I observe in the newspapers complaints of growing insolence and insubordination among the negroes, arising, it is thought, from too many privileges being permitted them by their masters (!) and from too merciful administration of the police laws with regard to them. Except in this instance, however, I have not seen the slightest evidence of any independent manliness on the part of the negroes towards the whites. . . Their manner to white people is invariably either sullen, jocose or fawning.”

T. L. Olmsted.

Dec. 3, 1854. [26]

Iii. North Carolina.

  • A North Carolina plantation's Headquarters
  • -- Sovereignty of the individual in very full blast -- two slaves' statements -- a contented and a discontented slave -- the mulatto -- Contentment with slavery -- a colored preacher's family -- the negro who would n't be druv -- a boy's opinion -- a sign of the times -- advantages of a national creed -- Senator Douglas -- a Quotation,

my next communication is dated from Charleston, April 4. I transcribe as much of it as relates to the North Carolina slaves.

I left Richmond on Friday morning, and arrived at Wilmington about nine in the evening. On Saturday forenoon I took a stroll into the pine-tree forests by which the city is surrounded. After walking a few miles I came upon a rice plantation. About half a dozen old wooden shanties, a neat frame house, recently erected, and a large barn in the yard, formed what in the free States would be termed the homestead, but probably has another name here, as the buildings were all intended to hold the owner's property — to wit: rice and negroes.

Sovereignty of the individual.

I was extremely thirsty, and extremely curious to know something about the place, too; and so, to satisfy both cravings, I climbed over the fence — a rather disagreeable task as well as dangerous, in the present style of gents' nether garments — and then knocked at the door of the new wooden cabin. It was of no use knocking at the door. Dar was no one in. [27]

Massa, you needn't knock dar: open it.”

I turned round and saw — let me see (I am a judge of the price of colored Christians now)--say “ a ‘leven hundred dollar nigger” --standing between me and the fence, with his hat in his hand, and a very obsequious face on his shoulders.

“Look'e here, old boy,” I said, suiting my language to my company — the way to get into favor with it--“what d'ye take me for: a woman?”

“Oh-eh-eh! Oh! No, no, no, no, massa! Oh! No!” said the chattel timorously.

“ You don't, eh? Then put your hat on as quick as <*> mice. Never lift your hat to any one but a lady, and never do that if your wool isn't all fixed slick.”

The slave at once dismissed his dismal expression of countenance, and grinned rather than laughed aloud:

“Ah! massa! he! he! he! you isn't a slave; you kin do as you like; but ah can't do dat,” said Sambo.

“Are you a married man?”

“Oh, yes! massa; ah was married, but ah didn't like my old woman, and ah lives wid anoder now.”

“ Is your wife living?”

“Yes, oh, Yes, massa.”

“ You believe in the sovereignty of the individual — eh? old boy?”

“Dusseno, massa, what dat am,” rejoined the black.

Stephen Pearl Andrews! do you hear that? Here is a colored personator of your doctrine of individual sovereignty, who “dusseno what dat mean, massa” Stephen. Enlighten him, pray!)


Content or not?

“ Have you ever been at the North?” I asked.

The eye that had looked frivolous but a moment before, now suddenly-flashed with earnestness — it paid, I thought, a very eloquent eulogium on the institutions of the North.

“ No, massa, no!” he responded in a sad tone of voice, “neber, and I neber ‘specks to be dar.”

“ You would like to go there?” I remarked.

It is very easy to ascertain the opinions of simple people, from the peculiar expression of their eyes: I saw at once that my colored companion was struggling with the suspicion that he might be speaking to a spy.

“ You come from de North?” he asked cautiously.

“I am a Northern abolitionist: do you know what that means?”

“ Oh, yes, massa,” said Sambo, “you's for the slave. Do you tink, massa, dat we'll all get out of bondage yet?”

“I hope you will, my boy — very soon.”

“Dunno, massa; I's feared not. I's allus heerd dem talking ‘bout freedom comina, but it amn't comed yet.”

You wish you were free?”

“ Oh, yes, massa--we all does.”

“ Do all the colored people you know wish to be free?”

Yes, massa, they all does indeed.”

I spoke with him a little longer; looked into the barn where about a dozen persons, of both sexes, were thrashing rice with cudgels, and then I addressed another man of color. [29]

“ This man,” I soliloquized, as I cast my eyes upon the mulatto, “if he were an educated gentleman, would be a secret skeptic in religion but an orthodox professor; he would naturally prefer the practice of the law as a profession; but if he took to politics he would be as non-committal as our democratic aspirants to the presidential chair, or even, perhaps, as the editor of a northern national religious paper on the crime of slavery, and its numerous brood of lesser sins.”

“ How do you do?” I began.

He instantly took off his hat. All colored persons “away down South,” excepting in large cities, do so when addressed by a white man.

He was very well!

I was very glad to hear it — and how did his folks do?

I forget how he answered — you're not particular I hope? I talked irrelevantly for a time, for I knew it would be useless to throw away my frankness on him. So I put him through a course of Socratic questions.

He admitted dat freedom am a great blessina; dat de collud population in general — in fact, nine-tenths of those whom he knew — would like berry much to be free; but as for himself he allus had had good masters; he didn't see how he could better himself by being free. No — no — no — he didn't car about freedom, he didn't. He admitted, however, with ludicrously hasty expression of it, his willingness to accept freedom for himself if he were offered the boon.

“ My friend,” I said, “will you tell me why you would take it if freedom would not ‘better you’ as you call it?” [30]

He was puzzled. Burton's acting never afforded me one-half so much amusement as I derived from watching the bewildered and cunning expression of this non-committal negro's eyes.

“ Why, massa,” he stuttered, “I meaned that — a. If — I had to take my freedom — eh — if I'se ‘bleeged to, why, I'd — I'd--have to take it! ”

I offered him my hat in token of my admiration of this truly resplendent feat of logic.

“ Your answer is perfectly satisfactory,” said I; “I only beg pardon for having caused you to act against your principles by telling the truth.”

I left him amazed at my answer. As I shook hands with the other negro on departing, he said:

“ I's a slave, massa; that's what I is, and I neber ‘specks to be free.”

“ Keep up your heart, my boy,” I answered, “I hope I shall see you in the North yet.”

“ Feared not, massa,” he returned, “feared not. I only hope to be free when I gets to Heaben.”

The mulatto.

In returning to my hotel I met a mulatto — an intelligent looking man with a piercing dark eye. I saw that he had not a single spark of servility in his spirit; that if his skin made the middle passage, his soul came over in the Mayflower.

“ What are these birds?”

I pointed to a couple overhead.

“ Buzzards,” said the black man.

A few more trivial remarks and I asked:

“ Are you a free man?”

“ No, sir, I am a slave.”

“ Who owns you?” [31]

“--------; but he hires me out.”

“ Have you ever been North?”

“ No, sir, I never was.”

“You would like to go there and be free, I suppose?”

He gave me a penetrating look before replying. I seem to have stood the test; for he prefaced his reply by a remark which three others have made, after closely inspecting my physiognomy:

“ I know you're honest, sir. I'll say to you what I wouldn't say to plenty who'd ask me, as you've done. Yes, sir; I would like to go North. What man of color would not?”

“ I've often been told,” I remarked, “by the slave-holders' friends in the North, that you colored people are perfectly satisfied, and rather prefer slavery, indeed. Is that so? I always thought the colored people loved slavery ”--a pantomimic gesture concluded the sentence.

“Yes, massa,” said the slave, “I knows what you mean. They does love it. Over the left.”

“Are the majority of colored people of your acquaintance satisfied or dissatisfied with slavery?”

I know hundreds and hundreds,” he replied, “and almost all of them are as dissatisfied as they kin be.”

“ Are one-third satisfied, do you think?”

“No, sir. Not more than one-tenth. As few as has good masters doesn't think about freedom so much; but if they could get the offer, all of them would be free.”

“ Are you a married man?”

“Yes, sir,” said the slave.

“ Were you married by a clergyman?” [32]

“Yes, sir.”

“ Have you any children?”

“Yes, sir. I've had thirteen.”

“E-e-eh?” I ejaculated; “you don't mean that?”

“Yes, massa; I's had thirteen, but they all died, ‘cept four; it's an unhealthy place this.”

I confess that I was rather astonished at finding so resolute a family man in bondage; for I thought that the energy he had thus exhibited in the “heavy father line” of endeavor, might also have effected his escape, or at least his self purchase.

“Did you ever read ‘Uncle Tom's cabin?’ ”

“ No, massa; what is it?”

Explanations followed — but you've read it of course? It's truly a fiction without fiction.

On leaving, he shook hands, and said, with emotion:

“ God bless you, massa! God bless you! I hope de abolitionists will win de battle, and bring us all out of bondage.”

I may state here that the word bondage is very frequently used by the colored people to express their condition. More frequently, I think, than slavery.

I walked on, and at length came near an unpainted wooden house, occupied exclusively by colored people.

A colored preacher's family.

The family consisted of eight persons — the mother, four sons and three daughters. One son is twenty-one years old; the eldest daughter is nineteen, the other two female children are under ten years of age.

They are the children of a colored Methodist “Bethel” preacher, in New York or Brooklyn, of the name of Jacob Mitchell. He has, it appears, [33] been struggling a long time to get money enough to buy his wife, eldest daughter, and three youngest children. Come! my Methodist friends of New York, I want you to redeem this lot — to convert them from chattels into human beings. Here they are, for sale for cash--five immortal beings, all church members, and good moral people, too! Assist Mr. Mitchell without loss of time! He has already saved about two thousand dollars; another, thousand, they say, would buy the “whole cargo, and their blessing into the bargain.” Let the three sons escape for themselves; they are not fit to be free if they make no effort to escape from slavery.

Mr. Mitchell is a freeman by gift. This family are from Maryland. Some time ago, knowing that they were all to be sold to the South, they made their escape into the semi-free State of Pennsylvania, but were captured, and brought back, and sold to North Carolina. What a celestial gratification must it be to Mr. Millard Fillmore, and the friends of the Fugitive Slave Law, to know of such triumphs of the true spirit of nationality — such pleasing proofs of inter-national, or rather of inter-state courtesy! Great Heavens! it must be overpowering, over-whelming, overshadowing! Ah! little do our sectional and fanatical souls know of the bliss that awaits the Conqueror of his Prejudices in favor of humanity and freedom! Very little, alas!

Mr. Mitchell's family can read.

A Chronic case of Runawayism.

A man of twenty-three, or thereabouts, was laboring, might and main, as I entered the room, at mastering the mysteries of the first lesson-book. [34]

“Hullo!” I exclaimed, “do they allow colored people to learn to read in this city?”

“No, massa!” said the sable student, “dey don't ‘lows it: but they can't help themselves. I'll do as I please!”

“ Oh! you're a freeman?”

“No, massa, I's a slave; but I won't stand any bad treatment. I's run away six times already, and I'd run away agin, if they tried to drive me,” he exclaimed with emphasis.

“ Six times!” I repeated. “Why, you must have been very unfortunate to have been recaptured so often. How far north did you ever get?”

“ Oh, massa, I never tried to get North. I never ran more than thirty miles, and then I worked, and staid dare.”

“ What did your master do to you when he caught you?”

“I ketched it,” said the fugitive, “dey lashed me; but I doesn't care--I won't be druv.”

He looked as if he meant what he said, too. I advised him, as I have advised at least a dozen darkeys already, to run away to the North at the very earliest opportunity.

A boy's opinion.

I had five other conversations with slaves in Wilmington. I will briefly state the result of each interview.

“ How old are you, Bob?”

“Thirteen, sir.”

“ Are you free?”

“No; I'm a slave.”

“Would you like to go North?”

“Yes, sir. I would like to — very much.” [35]

“ What! don't you like to be a slave”

“ No, sir; I don't,” he said with savage emphasis, “I hate it.”

“ Do all the boys you know hate to be slaves?”

“ No, sir; but all the smart boys do. There's only a few, and them's stupid devils, who don't care about it.”

“Then, you're one of the smart boys?” I said, smiling, as I placed my hand on his head.

But the boy was in no mood for smiles. His face exhibited signs of the most poignant grief, as he replied:

“Well, sir, I wish I was a free boy — and away from this darned mean country.”

The boy was a mulatto.

A sign of the times.

Parson Brownlow, in his recent challenge to the North, reserved the right to refuse to accept any offer to discuss the Slavery Question with a person of color. This fact may yet be cited as a sad and significant indication of our inveterate blindness to danger. For, is it not quite probable or possible, that the colored race alone may yet decide this question, both for themselves and us, and reciprocate the parson's compliment, by refusing to permit the uncolored man to have anything to say about it? When we find that “all the smart boys” of the subjugated race hate slavery with a deadly animosity, it surely is not unreasonable to believe in such a terrible, but desirable result. Terrible to the tyrant, but desirable for the sake of our national honor.


Advantages of a national creed.

Freedom of speech (this passage I wrote at a later period), the freeman's great right of public utterance of thought, even in conversation — for exceptions, however numerous, do not disprove the fact — is a luxury of which the Northerner has the exclusive monopoly, and that only in his own Free States, if he cherishes a radical anti-slavery creed, or any Christian sympathy for the negro bondman. How insufferable, therefore, the insolence, or the intended insolence, which taunts the Republican party with being sectional — with having no nationality — with not daring to maintain any political organization in the Southern States! The ebon oligarchy, having effectually crushed out the essential elements of Republican freedom, exult over the damnable disgrace — throw their harlot taunts at the decencies and virtues which, having outraged, they affect to despise and try to make odious by glorying in their own deep shame.

I regret that the great Republican party is not more worthy of these laudatory taunts. I deeply lament that it should tolerate in its ranks any but the deadliest, the most earnest enemies — not of the mistake merely, but the cowardly crime of American Slavery.

I regret to see the anxiety its prominent politicians so often and so unnecessarily display, to quiet the apprehensions of the traffickers in humanity, by announcing their fixed determination never, under any circumstances, to interfere with the infernal institutions where it already exists. Ah! gentlemen! if such be your creed, God send us another Democratic [37] President! The best friend of the slave, I have often thought, is his worst enemy. Legree hastens the day of emancipation more rapidly than St. Clair. Atchison has done more for the slave by his brutality than Garrison by his humanity. I hope to see the day when the Republican party will glory in its hostility to slavery everywhere and always. Until then, its mission must be fulfilled by individual effort and underground transit companies.

Yet that there are advantages in a national creed I saw, and thus stated, after reading a speech by Senator Douglas, in which he used in substance the expression. here attributed to him:


The Dropsied Dwarf of Illinois,
     By brother sneaks called “Little Giant,”
He who has made so great a noise
     By being to the Slave Power pliant,
Upon the Senate floor one day
     “Rebuking” Freedom's friends, did say:
“Republicans must stay at home,
     Or hide their creed, so none can find 'em,
The Democrat alone can roam,
     Nor leave his sentiments behind him!”
“Pray why?” asks Freedom, in surprise,
     “Because” (the Dropsied Dwarf replies),
“Your ‘glittering generalities’
     Are odious in St. Legree's eyes,
While we such ‘self-apparent lies’
     Reject, and in his favor rise.”
Ah! then, “said Freedom,” in my rambles,
     I'll keep away from negro-shambles,
Yet you (I see), your creed suits well,
     'Twill serve you here — and when in Hell. “

slavery in North Carolina.--“The aspect of North Carolina with regard to slavery is, in some respects, less lamentable [38] than that of Virginia. There is not only less bigotry upon the subject, and more freedom of conversation, but I saw here, in the Institution, more of patriarchal character than in any other State. [Very patriarchal, in the old slave mother's case!--J. R.] The slave more frequently appears as a family servant — a member of his master's family, interested with him in his fortune, good or bad. . . . . Slavery thus loses much of its inhumanity. It is still questionable, however, if, as the subject race approaches civilization, the dominant race is not proportionably retarded in its onward progress. One is often forced to question, too, in viewing slavery in this aspect, whether humanity and the accumulation of wealth, the prosperity of the master and the happiness and improvement of the subject, are not in some degree incompatible.” --Olmsted. [39]

Iv. North Carolina.

  • Slavery or Matrimony?
  • -- a colored calculation -- how the slaves feel -- the old slave mother's reply -- the domestic institution -- a chuckling negro -- why slaves lie -- a Patriot slave -- discontent -- negro Cannibalism -- Talks with whites -- Southern Abolitionists -- a slave pen -- a white slave -- an infernal outrage on Motherhood -- stir up the fires -- for whom?

the next slave with whom I talked was also a mulatto--one-third white blood. The mulattoes are invariably the most discontented of the colored population.

Slavery or Matrimony — a colored calculation.

“I've five children,” he said, “but my wife is a free woman, and they are free, although I am a slave.”

Of course the reader knows that by American law the child follows the condition of its mother. Mother free, children free; mother slave, slave children. Perhaps the speediest method of peaceably abolishing slavery would be to change (by reversing) this law. Under its beneficent operations the chivalry would be transformed into manifold liberators!

“ How old are you?”

“I'm thirty-seven.”

“ How do the colored people feel about slavery?”

All the colored people of my acquaintance (and I know them all here), would gladly be free if they could get their liberty. Say about a third have good masters, and they are not so discontented, of course, as the rest, but ask them at the ballot, or some other [40] way, so that they could express their sentiments without fear, and then you would hear such a shout for liberty as never was raised before.”

I will omit my questions.

“ My owner hires me out to hotels. He gets twenty dollars a month for me. I clear besides that about two hundred dollars for myself. About ten years since I took up with this woman.”

He is speaking of the wife of his bosom!

“ Were you married?”

“Oh yes,” he continued, “I was regularly married by a minister. They always do it here. The slaves will be married, and their owners make a fine wedding of it, but it doesn't amount to anything, because they are liable to be separated for life at any moment, and often is. I've often thought this subject over.”

“What subject?”

“About marrying,” he said.

“ Most men do.”

“ Well, but I mean different. I see, if I hadn't married, I would have been free now; bekase I would have had a thousand dollars by this time to have bought myself with. But it took all I could make to get along with my family. Well, they're all free, my sons ar‘; and I'm giving them as good an education as we dare give them; so that, if the time does come when I'm going to be sold, they may buy me.”

He sighed, and added:

When I'm an old man.”

I asked if he did not think of escaping before that time?

“No,” he said, “I wouldn't run the risk now of [41] trying to escape. It's hardly so much an object, sir, when a man's turned the hill. Besides, my family. I might be sold away from them, which I won't be, if I don't try to run away — leastways till I'm old.”

“ Are the whites very hard on you here?”

“Yes, sir, they are very hard on us here. We dare not say anything about being discontented.”

This was the statement of one man, fully confirmed in its general particulars by another slave, of whose domestic relations I asked nothing and know nothing.

The old slave mother.

I entered a cabin on the roadside. A little child, a slave, with a future as dark as its own face before it (as the poet might have observed, but didn't), was sitting quietly playing on the doorstep.

“ Will you have the kindness, madam,” I said, “to give me a glass of water?”

“Oh yes, massa,” said the old woman I had spoken to, as she set herself about getting it. I did not want it — I only asked for it as an excuse for entering the house.

“Are you a free woman, madam?”

“No, massa; I's not. I's not likely to be,” said the old lady.

“ Were you ever at the North?”

“ No, massa.”

“Would you like to go there?”

She gave a funnily scrutinizing glance:

“ We-ll, massa, I ca-n't say dat, for I neber was dar,” she returned, in a slow and very peculiar tone.

“ How old are you?”

(Wasn't that popping a rather delicate question in [42] a rather summary manner, my fair sisters of the North?)

“ I's sixty-two,” said the venerable slave.

(Ladies, lovely, of the North! would you believe it? She actually appeared to be of the age she mentioned — no, not even a single day older.)

She had had eleven children, but--

“I's only three I kin see now, massa,” she added, mournfully.

“Have any of your children been sold?” I inquired.

“Yes,” she said, sobbing, the tears beginning to trinkle down her furrowed cheeks, “three on ‘em. Two boys were sold down South--I don't know where they is; and my oldest son was sold to Texas three years since. There was talk about him coming back, but it's bin talked about too-oo-oo” --her sobs interrupted her speech for a few seconds--“too-oo-oo long to be true, I's afeerd.”

Her maternal affections were strongly moved; I knew she would answer any questions now.

“ It must have been very hard with you to part with your boys; almost as hard as when your other children died?” I said.

“ Almost, massa?” she rejoined, “far wuss. When they're dead, it seems as if we knowed they wus gone; but when they're sold down South--ah!--ah!--massa”--

She did not finish the sentence in articulate words, but the tears that raced down her wrinkled face, the sighs that heaved her bereaved maternal breast, concluded it more eloquently than her tongue could have done.

“It almost broke my heart, massa,” she said, “but we cannot complain--we's only slaves.” [43]

A curious wish entered my mind as she uttered these words. I wished that I had the right of selecting the mode of punishing the Southern pro-slavery divines in the world to come. I would give each of them, what not one of them has, A Christian heart, capable of compassion for human sorrow and suffering; and then I would compel them to look, throughout all eternity, on the ghost of the face of this poor miserable mother, whose children had been sold by their inhuman masters far away from her, and far distant from each other.

“Oh! God!” I ejaculated as I gazed on her grief-furrowed face, which was wet with heart-sad tears, “this slavery is the most infernal institution that the sun looks down upon.)”

I did not address this remark to the old woman; I did not, indeed, intend to utter it at all; but I did speak it aloud, and she heard it.

“ Yes, massa,” she said, “it am infernal; but we's no choice but to submit.”

“Would you believe it, my old friend,” I said, “that your masters, and their white serfs at the North, say you are all happy and contented with slavery?”

“ Well, massa,” she replied, “we has often to say so to people that ask us; I would have said it to you, if you hadn't talked about my childer; we's afeerd to complain.”

“Yes, I suppose so; not half of you are contented?”

“ A half on us, massa!” she exclaimed, energetically, “no, not one quarter.”

I talked with the old mother for a few minutes longer, and then took her by the hand. [44]

“Good bye, old lady,” I said, “I hope that you will die a free woman with all your children around you.”

A deep sigh preceded the slave-mother's answer.

“ I hope so, massa, I hope so; but it seems as if this life was to be a hard trial to colored people. I's no hopes of seeing my boys agin this side the Land.”

“Good bye,” I repeated, as I retreated hastily — for, to say the truth, I could no longer restrain my tears, and I hated to let a woman see me weep--“good bye.”

“ Good bye,” said the slave-mother. “God bless you, massa, God bless you! Yes, massa, and God will bless you, if you is the friend of the slave.”

I find, in a recent number of the Boston Saturday Express, a simple narrative, in rhyme, of another North Carolina slave-mother's reply. I subjoin it here:

The slave-mother's reply.

All my noble boys are sold,
Bartered for the trader's gold;
Where the Rio Grande runs,
Toils the eldest of my sons;
In the swamps of Florida,
Hides my Rob, a runaway;
Georgia's rice-fields show the care
Of my boys who labor there;
Alabama claims the three
Last who nestled on my knee;
Children seven, seven masters hold
By their cursed power of gold;
Stronger here than mother's love--
Stronger here, but weak above;
Ask me not to hope to be
Free, or see my children free;
Rather teach me so to live, [45]
That this boon the Lord may give--
First to clasp them by the hand,
As they enter in the land.

The chuckling negro.

I was walking along the river side. A colored man passed me. He could hardly move along. It was evident that no auctioneer could have warranted him to be “sound and strong.”

Two other negroes were walking along. One of them pointed to the slow man, and said, grinning as he said it:

“Dat dare fellow am as ill as if he were one of de white pop'lation.”

Now this was very far from a compliment to “de white pop'lation,” as the cause of the fellow's lameness was evident enough, and said nothing very flattering for his moral character.

I went up to the chuckler.

“ Now, old fellow, what were you saying?”

The negro grinned, laughed, and chuckled alternately for several minutes before answering:

“Oh, er-r-er-he-he-he-eee I” he laughed, “I was saying dat de white pop'lation would be maina some remarks on dat ‘ar nigger.”

“Oh! Oh!” I answered, “old fellow, how can you lie so?”

“Oh no, I isn't massa,” said the old jolly-looking slave, as he relapsed into a fit of chuckling, interspersed by ejaculations of very broken English.

“ Are you a slave, old fellow?”

“ Oh, yes, massa,” said the chuckler.

“How old are you?”

“Sixty, massa,” he replied. “I's eighteen when [46] Jefferson war President, and dat war in 1812; I mind ‘bout de war. De rigiments camped on dat hill. I carried de wood for dem.”

“Have you been a slave ever since?”

“ Yes, massa, and long afore dat.”

“ Would you like to be free?”

The chuckling laugh was again put in full blast. He seemed to use it for the purpose that young ladies reserve their swoons for — to avoid continuing disagreeable conversation; or, that Senator Douglas uses footpad language on the stump for — to avoid the answering of disagreeable questions.

“No, massa,” --a long chuckle--“I'd not like to be free. In de North, de free colored pop'lation isn't able to get ‘long widout eating one anoder.”

“ Who told you that?” I inquired.

“De masters of de ships from dar.” (He was a stevedore.)

“ You would n't like to be free, eh?” I replied, in a jovial tone, as I poked him in the ribs, “what a lying scamp you are, old fellow!”

Hardly had I done so, before I had a realizing experience of the profundity of Shakspeare's philosophy:

One dig ia th‘ ribs, good, my lord,
Makes white and colored men akin.

Julius Caesar Hannibal's edition.

He threw off his dissimulation, dismissed his grins and his chuckles, looked grave, and said,

“Well, massa, you's a funny man — dat am a fact. I's would like to be free; but it's no use, massa-it's no use. I's a slave, and I's been one sixty years, and I ‘specs to die in bondage.” [47]

“ Do all the colored people you know want to be free?”

Oh, yes, massa,” he said firmly, “they all does, ob course.”

I had a long conversation with him: he spoke seriously, gave direct and explicit answers to all my questions, and God-blessed me at parting.

In North Carolina, then, I have had long and confidential conversations with at least a score of slaves. They all stated, with one exception, that not only they, but all their acquaintances, were discontented with their present condition. He that hath slaves let him think! Negroes have all the fierce passions of white men, and there is a limit set by Deity Himself to human endurance of oppression.

Talks with whites.

“ How do you think the negroes feel on the subject of slavery?” I asked of a carpenter in Wilmington. “Contented?”

“ Oh,” --a very long oh--“yes, they're all content. How could they better themselves? I know what the North is. I've travelled all over York and the New England States. All that abolition outcry is only interest. What does the North care for niggers Look at them in New York, the poor, scourged, driven, kicked, and cuffed wretches.”

I had a talk also with a German who had lived in Wilmington five years. He was an abolitionist.

“ At Richmond,” I said, “I was told that many of the poorer citizens — those who did not own slaves — were secret abolitionists. Is it so here?”

The reply was very decided.

“ Yes, sir. Look there,” he said — it was Sunday--“look [48] at that girl walking a long way behind her master and mistress, who're going to church, just exactly as if she was a dog.”

“ Do you think that the majority of the classes I mentioned, in this city, are secret abolitionists?”

“ Oh, Yes,” he said, with excessive emphasis.

A slave pen.

I visited one very peculiar institution in Wilmington — a house where negroes, or rather slaves, of both sexes are kept for sale. There were dozens of the poor wretches squatting or walking about the yard.

As I entered it, I saw a colored girl go up to a young male chattel, pat her arms, in the most affectionate manner, around his neck, stand unsteadily on tiptoe, and salute his lips with the long lingering kiss of a lover. I mention this incident for the benefit of Northern gentlemen, whose sweethearts, to use a newspaper phrase, are “respectfully requested to please copy” this admirable fashion. That it is of lowly origin is no reason for rejecting it.

The Articles on sale at this establishment were of every shade of color, from the almost white to the altogether black. Yet--“Christ died for all?”

There was one man with sharp. features, fine blue eyes, and a most intelligent-looking face. He was what I have heard called a saddle-leather-colored negro. He asked me if I would buy him?

Poor fellow! I hadn't quite change enough to change his condition.

There was a black girl, with an infant nearly white, having blue eyes and straight hair. I learned the mother's history. She had lived in a family at Richmond, Virginia. She there became acquainted with [49] a young American, to whom, in time, she bore a daughter. Her master was so enraged, when he discovered her condition, that he swore he would sell her South. The author of her misfortune offered to buy her; but the master of the woman, under whose quivering heart the young man's child was beating, with demoniacal sternness rejected the proffered reparation: and he sold both the mother and the unborn babe to the dreaded Southern Traders.

Defend the institution that caused this most infernal outrage, ye “national” ministers of the Most Just God--struggle priestfully, hand in hand, against its philanthropic assailants, and, verily, you shall have your reward.

Stir up the fires, Beelzebub! [50]

V. South Carolina.

  • Charleston
  • -- the Sugar House -- an Incendiary paragraph -- bully Brooks and colored Contentment -- dare South Carolina secede? -- the consequences of Secession -- punishment at the Sugar House -- Charles Sumner's Namesake -- story of a slave -- how he knowed his parents like a book -- the captured negro's conduct -- slaves willing to fight -- raised and growed -- Paddling -- the brine barrel -- Humphrey Marshall's description of an efficient means of saving grace,

I love Charleston! I spent a fortnight there--one of the happiest periods of my life. Perhaps it was the aspect of the city — its thoroughly English appearance and construction, its old-time customs, its genial climate — for there were roses in full bloom in its public gardens when there were snow storms at the North; perhaps it was the English architecture, the merry peal of bells, the watchman chaunting the time of night, the uniformed patrol — which I soon learned to hate — all of them reminding me of my boyhood days, that cast a spell around my spirit during my sojourn there, and which now casts a spell over my recollections of the city of Calhoun; but, be this as it may, in spite of my stern and inflexible anti-slavery zeal, I would rather to-day be a sojourner in Charleston than a resident of any other city on the Continent.

Did I say a spell? Not of idleness, however. I attended to my business.

Here is an extract from a letter that I wrote at the time:

The city jail is an old brick building, of the Scotch Presbyterian style of architecture.

Close beside it is another massive building, [51] resembling a feudal castle in its external form — the infamous Bastile or the Spanish Inquisition in its internal management — an edifice which is destined to be levelled to the earth amid the savage yells of insurgent negroes and the shrieks of widowed ladies, whose husbands shall have been justly massacred by wholesale; or else amid the cheers of the true chivalry of the age, the assailants of slavery and the friends of the bondmen, and the applause of the fair daughters of the Southern States. God grant that the beautiful women of the South may be the first to demand the demolition of this execrable edifice; God grant that they may be spared the misery of seeing their husbands and their children slaughtered by their slaves; but God grant, over and above all, that the Sugar House of Charleston, by some means, or at any cost, may speedily be levelled to the earth that it pollutes by its practices and presence.

The first of man's natural rights is the right to live: without liberty there is no life, but existence only. If any man unjustly deprived me of my liberty, and I had it in my power to kill him, it would, I conceive, be a very grave crime to permit him to live and enslave me.

Bully Brooks and colored Contentment.

“ And such,” I wrote-“let the howling Mr. Preston S. Brooks, and the Northern sycophants of the slaveholders, say as they will--such are the sentiments of the majority of the slaves in the city of Charleston.”

Mr. Brooks was a nobody at that time. But I had just read, in the Charleston Mercury, a speech of his, wherein he stated, with an audacity which is peculiar [52] to the Southern politicians, that the slaves were happy and eminently contented with their unfortunate condition. The Mercury, on the strength of this speech, predicted a glorious future for him! The eulogist has since fallen in a duel, and the eulogized is lying in an assassin's grave. Fit future for a liar, a despot, and a coward! But let us not linger here. Let us spit upon his grave and pass on, leaving his soul in the custody of the infernal gods!

At Richmond and at Wilmington, I continued, I found the slaves discontented, but despondingly resigned to their fate. At Charleston I found them morose and savagely brooding over their wrongs. They know and they dread the slaveholder's power; they are afraid to assail it without first effecting a combination among themselves, which the ordinances of the city, that are sternly enforced, and the fear of a traitor among them, prevent. But if the guards who now keep nightly watch were to be otherwise employed — if the roar of hostile cannon was to be heard by the slaves, or a hostile fleet was seen sailing up the bay of Charleston — then, as surely as God lives, would the sewers of tile city be instantly filled with the blood of the slave masters. I have had long and confidential conversations with great numbers of the slaves here, who trusted me because I talked with them, and acted toward them as a friend, and I speak advisedly when I say that they are already ripe for a rebellion, and that South Carolina dares not (even if the North was willing to permit her) to secede from this Union of States. Her only hope of safety from wholesale slaughter is the Union. Laugh the secessionists to score, ye Union-loving sons of the North, for the negroes are prepared [53] “to cement the Federal compact” once more — and really it needs it — with “the blood of despots,” and their own then free blood, too, if the “resistance-to-tyrants” doctrine in practice shall call for the solemn and voluntary sacrifice.

The Sugar House of Charleston is a building erected for the purpose of punishing and selling slaves in. I visited it. It is simply a prison with a treadmill, a work yard, putrid privies, whipping posts and a brine barrel attached. There are, I think, three corridors. Many of the cells are perfectly dark. They are all very small.

What, think you, is the mode of conducting this peculiar institution?

If a planter arrives in the city with a lot of slaves for sale, he repairs to the Sugar House and places them in custody, and there they are kept until disposed of, as usual--“by auction for cash to the highest bidder.”

If any slaveholder, from any or from no cause, desires to punish his human property, but is too sensitive, or what is far more probable, too lazy to inflict the chastisement himself — he takes it (the man, woman or child), to the Sugar House, and simply orders how he desires it to be punished; and, without any trial — without any questions asked or explanations given, the command is implicitly obeyed by the officers of the institution. A small sum is paid for the board of the incarcerated.

If any colored person is found out of doors after ten o'clock at night, without a ticket of leave from its owner, the unfortunate wanderer is taken to the Sugar House and kept there till morning; when, if the master pays one dollar fine, the slave is liberated; [54] but, if he refuses to do so, the prisoner is tied hand and foot and lashed before he or she is set at liberty. For women are whipped as frequently as men.

And yet the city which supports these official Haynaus, regards itself as one of the burning lights of our modern civilization! Miserable race of woman-whippers — worthy constituents of the assassin Brooks —— fit men to celebrate his memory and to revile, with worse than fiendish glee, the sufferings of his pure-hearted victim, Charles Sumner!3

Story of a slave.

The concluding portion of the narrative that I sub join, related to me by a slave, whose answers I took down in short hand as he uttered them, will serve to show how the name of the Sugar House has become a word of terror to the colored race in South Carolina and the adjoining slave States. I first heard of it and its horrors at Richmond, from the colored storekeeper of whom I have spoken at considerable length. Of course I alter the real names of the different parties mentioned in the statement. I omit, also, many of my questions:

“My name is Pete Barclay. I was born in Newberg, South Carolina. I'm ‘bout tirty years old now.”)

“ Why, don't you know your exact age?”

“ No, sah,” said the slave. “Let me see. I'll tell [55] you ‘xactly how old I'm now. I've bin two years here — not quite two years till nex‘ month — and I know Nicholas Smith — I seen him only de oder day; he says I'm ‘xactly de same age as he is. I'm ‘xactly thirty-two years old. Dat's his age.”

“Is he free?”

“Yes, sah, he's a freeman. He was raised where I growed.”4

“Is he a white man?”

“ Oh, yes, sah, he's a white man, he's not a colored man at all. He knows everytina — more dan I do — he kin read and write, and all dat sort oa thing, you know. I'd a sister and mother in Carolina, ‘bout 130 miles on the cars, as I'm told. I was raised by Mr. Kenog. He's bin dead for years; I wish I was wid him now. Dat was de first man dat raised me.”

“Did you ever know your father and mother?”

“Oh, yes; I knowed dem like a book. Mother died four years afore I came to Columbus — I've bin here two years--four and two is six--isn't it, sah?”

I assumed the responsibility of answering in the affirmative.

“Well, she has been dead about dat time. It may not be quite so long, though.”

“Who's Kenog, sir?”

“ He was a farmer in Newberg,” said the slave.

“ Did your father belong to him?”

“No, sah.”

“Was your father a slave?”

“Yes, sah, and my moder too.” [56]

“Was your mother ever sold?”

“ No, sah, my mother neber was sold; she was raised dere and died dere.”

“ How many children had she?”

“ I can't say ‘xactly,” replied the slave, “let me count jist how many she had.”

He commenced with his thumb to count the number of his brothers and sisters on his fingers.

“ Maria,” he said, “dat's my sister dat I got a letter from home, the other day; Alice — shes dead — dat's two; Lea — I never seen her — she's dead — dat's three; I've had three sisters. Wash, dat's one; Hannibal, dat's two; Major and Jackson, dat's — let me, me — aint it four, sah?”

“ Yes.”

“Den, I've dree sisters and four broders — dat's — dat's a ”----

He could not finish the sentence. The intricate problem was beyond his arithmetical ken.

“Yes,” he continued, in reply to my questions, “sometimes slaves has got two names, and sometimes only one. My fader belonged to a widow woman, named Lucy Roberts. I knowed him as well as I know dat candle.”

This conversation occurred in a house occupied partly by colored people, during candle light.

“Dat's how I came to be called Roberts,” he said, “he took her name. After I left Roberts I belonged to Richardson. I was about six years old when I went to Mr. Richardson. I was a present from Roberts to him; dat's how I came to belong to him. I stayed wid him till ‘bout two years since — not quite two years; it's not two years till May. Den I was sold to dis ole man, my boss now.” [57]

It is unnecessary to say “dat dis ole man, my boss now,” was not present at this nocturnal meeting of Southern colored and Northern un-colored woolly-heads.

“ What sort of a boss is he?” I inquired.

The answer was brief enough and as bitter as brief:

“ He's de meanest ole scamp goina.”

“Are the colored people of your acquaintance all discontented with their present condition?”

“Yes, sah,” he replied, “all on ‘em; I knows lots and lots on ‘em since I came here, and I's a stranger in the city: I's not bin here quite two years yet — not two years till nex‘ month, sah — and all dat I does know wants to be free very bad, I tell ye, and may be will fight before long if they don't get freedom somehow. Dis country is de meanest country in de world.”

“Did you ever live outside of South Carolina?”

“ No, sah,” he said, nothing abashed by his recent decision, “I never has bin out on it, but I knows dat nothina could be worse. I's been knocked about five or six years now very bad; but I won't stand it much longer; I'll run away the very firs' chance I gets. Massa, is a colored man safe in the State of New York?”

I replied that I believed that it now would be impossible, without a desperate and bloody contest between the municipal authorities and the people of New York, for a Southron to rethrust a slave as a brand into the burning, after he had once trod the soil of Manhattan Island. I thought that perhaps lie could lave done so as late as a year ago, but that he could not do it since the recent anti-slavery revival. [58] (Abolitionism, at that time, had penetrated the theatres, and even the pulpits were belching forth anathemas against it.)

He spoke of one John Bouldon, an intimate friend of his, who had been legally kidnapped from New York city after successfully effecting his escape from slavery.

“ Dey brought him back,” he said, “but he looked brave and game. Oh, he looked well, sah,” he added, with enthusiastic energy. “Dey wouldn't let us talk to him; we only see him through de grating of de jail. Dey took him away one morning — he came wid de sheriff of New York — and I heerd tell of somebody havina raised $1,500 or $15,000 to buy him — yes, I believe it was $1,500--but it wasn't a high price, sah; he was a first-rate tailor.”

“Do you know anything,” I asked, “about the Sugar House here? A colored man at Richmond advised me to go and see it. I've been there, but the officer who showed me round seemed to think that my absence would be as much for the good of the house as my company. He showed me all the cells, because he could n't well help himself; but he did n't give me any information.”

(On entering the yard of this Inferno — the day was excessively sultry — I was almost suffocated by the first inhalation of its atmosphere. The odor arising from the privies, which were in close proximity to the treadmill, rendered the atmosphere insufferably corrupt. There were eight persons on the treadmill at the time inhaling the poisonous air.)

“You could n't have axed a better person, sah,” said the slave, “dan me. I's bin twice dere. De first time dat I was dere I was put in by my [59] master for playina at cards. He came up one night and caught us — a few boys and myself — playina in a room.”

“ ‘ I don't want my boys to do that,’ he said, and den he went down stairs.”

“Three days passed, and I thought it war all over. But it warn't. On de fourth day, he came into my bedroom afore I got up and put a pair of handcuffs on me and tuk me to de Sugar House. I was kept dare in a dark cell — de only light I had came through five gimlet holes — for four days, and I was paddled twice.”

“Paddled!” I repeated, “what do you mean?”

“ Oh,” he said, “dey whip us with a paddle.”

“ What's that?” I asked.

“A paddle,” he rejoined, “is a piece of board ‘bout three fingers wide and half an inch deep wid holes in it. I got twenty de firs' day and twenty do last. Dey put in a kind of drawer wid hominy in it, nothing else, once a day, and dat was our vittals. I couldn't taste any de firs' day at all.”

“ What was your second offence?” I asked.

“Nothina, massa, nothina at all. I got leave to go to the races, and I met some friends dare, and when I came back I was half an hour too late. He put me to the Sugar House agin. I was kept dar two days and got twenty-five lashes.”

“ How many at each time?”

“ Fifteen bof times, massa.”

“Two fifteens make thirty, not twenty-five,” I ventured to suggest.

“ Does it, massa?” --he pondered for a few seconds with a gravity becoming the importance of the subject--“so it does. Well, I got thirty. Den, after [60] dey paddle dem, you know, dey wash their backs with salt water.”

I astonished my colored friend by starting from the chair in which I had been lounging.

“ Great God!” I exclaimed, “you don't mean to say that in earnest?”

Massa,” he repeated, “it am as true as I'm sitting here.”

“ Will you swear that?” I asked.

Massa,” he repeated slowly and solemnly, “it am God's truth; I'll swear it wherever you like; dere's hundreds beside me who would do it if you axed them. De colored people here know it too well, sah.”

postscript.--Hon. Humphrey Marshall, of Kentucky, in his defence of Matt Ward, thus describes another efficient means of saving grace invented for the maintenance of the blessed “Missionary institution:”

“The strap, gentlemen, you are probably aware, is an instrument of refined modern torture, ordinarily used in whipping slaves. By the old system, the cow-hide — a severe punishment — cut and lacerated them so badly as to almost spoil their sale when brought to the lower markets. But this strap, I am told, is a vast improvement in the art of whipping negroes; and, it is said, that one of them may be punished by it within one inch of his life, and yet he will come out with no visible injury, and his skin will be as smooth and polished as a peeled onion!”

The paddle is a large, thin ferule of wood, in which many small holes are bored; when a blow is struck, these holes, from the rush and partial exhaustion of air in them, act like diminutive cups, and the continued application of the instrument has been described to me to produce precisely such a result as that attributed to the strap by Mr. Marshall. [61]

Vi. South Carolina.

  • Salt water philanthropy
  • -- the girl who did n't like ginger -- the good un and the nice ole Gal -- a small family -- not church-members and why -- not divorced, and not married, and both -- Christian morality and slavery -- surprising ignorance of the slaves -- concerning Napoleon Bonaparte -- Europe and the slave who never heern ob him -- colored Contentment -- what the boys said -- the willing Exile -- pro and Con -- slaveholders criminal even if ignorant of the moral Law -- Savannah -- a slave's allowance -- Expense of supporting slavery on the non-slaveholder -- a compliment to the legal profession,

Salt water philanthropy.

the last revelation of the slave was so revolting that I hesitated to believe it, until it was confirmed by a cloud of colored witnesses, many of whom had been subjected in their own persons to the horrible and heathenish punishment. It shocked me beyond anything that I had ever heard.

This shows, I found, how Northern people will persist in seeing Southern institutions and Southern customs from a false and unfriendly point of view! Bless you! to wash the lacerated backs of the slaves with brine is not by any means an indication of a cruel disposition!

This is how I found it out:

I was talking with a Southron about slavery, and told him, in reply to his statement that the negro bondmen were the happiest of human beings, that I had heard that sometimes after they were whipped their backs were immediately washed with salt water.

“ I know it,” he said; “what of it?”

“I think it is infernal barbarity — that's all.”

“Why, no, sir,” he said, “it's philanthropy to do it.”

I turned round. He was perfectly grave. He was [62] not speaking ironically. I was amazed, but said nothing.

“Don't you know,” he asked, “that in this warm climate, if the master were to leave his slave's back just as it is after being whipped, that mortification would ensue and the nigger die?”

Oh, philanthropy! how lovely art thou even to the tyrant when thy ways are the ways of — selfish interest! I was satisfied.

The anti-ginger girl.

One morning, in walking up Calhoun street, I saw a pretty colored girl standing at a garden-gate, and of course went over and had a talk with her on “things in general and slavery in particular.” She was a finely formed, Saxon-faced girl, with a sparkling, roguish-looking eye. Her hair was black and glossy, and all her features were Caucasian; but her complexion was yellow, and therefore she was a slave.

“Did you ever try to escape?” I asked her.

She answered, but I did not hear her distinctly.

“Oh, you did,” I said, in reply to her supposed remark. “In Virginia, eh did you come from that State?”

“ No, sir,” returned the yellow girl, with a merry glance and a laugh, “I did not say dat; I said I never tried, ‘kase dey would catch me agin, and den I'd get ginger.”

From the manner in which she uttered the dissyllable ginger, I inferred that she did not relish that article of commerce.

After a few further remarks, during the course of which she hinted that her mistress might be induced [63] to sell her, and that she would have no objection — in point of fact, rather the reverse — to become my property, I bade the pretty, lively female slave farewell. She, like nearly all her class, was evidently the mistress of a white man. Evangelizing institution!

The good ‘un and nice ole Gal.

I was leaning on the outside of the fence of a garden, a few miles from Charleston, in which an old man of color was working.

“ Then you've had — how many masters in all?” I asked.

“ Five, massa, al'degeder,” said the slave, touching his cap politely, as he had done a dozen times at least during the preceding three or four minutes.

“ Never mind touching your hat,” I said. “How many children have you had?”

“I's had eight by my firs' wife, and five by de second, and five by dis ole woman.”

He pointed to a negress who had just entered the garden. Her wool was grey, but she appeared to be twenty years, at least, her husband's junior. I saluted her.

“You ever been married more than once?”

“Oh! Yes, massa,” said the silver-grey woolly-head. “I's bin married once before.”

“ Had any children?”

“Yes, massa,” she said, “I's had five by dis ole man, and seven by de last un.”

“You are both Christians?” I asked.

“Yes, massa,” she said, “we goes to de church; we's not members ob de church, kase we's colored people, and dey won't let us be.” [64]

This statement does not hold everywhere. It may be true, however, of South Carolina.

“ That's not a great misfortune,” I remarked, as I recalled to my recollection a long editorial article that I had lately read in the North Carolina Baptist Recorder, entitled, The fanaticism of the New England clergy; which was written by a professed minister of the gospel of love, for the purpose of proving that Jesus Christ, the friend of oppressed humanity, was a Southern Rights man; and that God, the Father of our race, “whose name is love,” had revealed it to be his will that the negro should be, and should be kept as a bondman; and consequently, of course — this was the inference — that sugar houses, treadmills, whips, paddles, brine-barrels, bloodhounds, Millard Fillmores, and “sound national men” should exist to keep them in that debased condition.

“Is it not massa?” asked the woman, laughing, “well, I s'pose we kin be Christians widout beina members ob de church.”

“ If you have kept all the commandments as well as you have kept the first,” I rejoined, in a jocular tone, “multiply, and so forth, you know, you must be Christians of the A No. 1 sect. Eight and five are thirteen, thirteen and five are eighteen; you've had eighteen children, old man, have n't you?”

“Yes, massa,” said the old slave, grinning.

“Seven and five are twelve; that's the old woman's share. You've done very well between you, I declare!”

The colored Replenishers roared with laughter.


Marriage and divorce among slaves.

“How long has your first husband been dead?” I asked the woman.

“ He isn't dead yet, massa,” said the mother of a dozen darkies, “he's livina yet. I didn't like him, and I neber did; so I tuk up wid my ole man.”

“ And you like him, do you?”

“ Oh, yes, massa,” she said as a prelude to a peal of chuckles. “I's a great deal younger dan he is, but I wouldn't change agin.”

“Rather flattering to you, old boy,” I said, addressing the male article of traffic; “do you return the compliment?”

“ Yes, massa,” he said with a laugh, and a loving look at her, “she's a nice ole gal. I's knowed her since she was dat high” --he levelled his hand to within two feet of the ground--“and I knows,” he added, “dat she's a good un.”

Chuckles, expressive of gratification, followed from the good un, which was succeeded by a history of the ole man's life, but it was uttered in such elaborately broken English, that I could not understand a word of it.

Surprising ignorance of the slave.

“You say you were owned by an Englishman,” I repeated, affecting an ignorance of Southern geography, “and that you lived at St. Helena. Was St. Helena an island?”

“ Yes, massa.”

“ The island that Napoleon Bonaparte lived at?”

“Napol'on Bonapard!” he repeated. [66]

“Did you never hear of Napoleon Bonaparte?” 1 asked.

“No, massa,” he returned, “who was him?”

“ It is the name of a gentleman, who did a thing or two in Europe,” I returned. “But do you know what Europe is?”

“No, massa,” said the slave, “I never heerd on him?”

I explained that Europe was a State annexable to the United States, and, therefore, destined to be one of them in the good time coming, boys.

Contentment and morality.

“Were you married,” I continued, “to your present wife by a minister?”

“ No, massa, dey neber does de like of dat wid colored people.”

(He was mistaken in this particular; for slaves are very often married by the preachers.)

“Then you live together,” I suggested, “until you quarrel, and then you separate?”

“ Oh, no, not allus,” said the woman; “we sometimes quarrels in de daytime, and make all up at night.”

Thus is the system of slavery a practical defiance of the Christian doctrine of marriage and divorce.

“Are you content with being in bondage?”

“No, no, massa, indeed,” said the old man, “but we can't help ourselves. I neber ‘xpects to be free dis side de land.”

I turned to the good un:

“The slave-masters,” I said, “when they go North, [67] say that you are all contented, and do n't want to be free — is that so?”

“ Oh, J — s, no!” she exclaimed, with a fervency of emphasis, which both amazed and amused me.

What the boys say.

I had four confidential conversations with colored mulatto youths in different parts of the city. All of them were very discontented with their condition, and said that all the boys they knew were equally dissatisfied.

I asked one boy — a free boy:

“ Do you think that any boys, who are slaves, are content?”

“There may be one or two,” he answered, “but they haven't got any sense.”

The willing Exile.

I rode one day several miles with a free man of color, and conversed with him all the way.

At the age of thirteen he was liberated by his owner, a Quaker gentleman, who sold his estates, and manumitted all his slaves before going to the North. He had six children by his first wife, but, as she was a slave, they were born into bondage also. He said that he had done well in a pecuniary way here, but that, before three years were over, he and all his children would sail for Liberia.

“No, sir,” he said in reply to a question, “I wouldn't leave a child of mine in a country where they may be sold into slavery, even if they are free, if they cannot pay their taxes.”

“You don't mean to say----” [68]

“ Yes, sir,” he continued, interrupting me, “they does that here.”

Hold! enough!--

Thus abruptly terminates the last letter that I wrote to my Northern anti-slavery friends during my first trip South.

I have omitted the purely didactic passages, as my object is to furnish facts, rather than to advocate theories, or to philosophize. Among these portions, however, I find two paragraphs which it may be well to preserve.

Pro and Con.

At Wilmington, a philanthropic lady, a woman evidently of pure character and kindly nature — told me, mildly, that the Northern Abolitionists had no idea how numerous and how friendly the bonds were that united the slave to his master. As she said so I felt inclined to reply that perhaps Southern slaveholders had no idea how many and how insurrectionary the reasons were that are daily tending to array them one against the other. I did not say so, however, for the lady was a slaveholder, and I was in her house. Such an assertion would have been regarded as an insult. It isn't always etiquette to speak the truth!

And again:

Thus, therefore, although I say that I wish to see slavery abolished at any cost — even at the cost of a social Black St. Bartholomew's night — I do not say that all, or even the majority of the slaveholders, are depraved or heartless men. Far from it. Among them are the kindliest natures, the most hospitable, generous and honorable souls. They have been conceived in the sin and born in the iniquity, so to [69] speak; on the slavery problem they never think with a desire to ascertain the truth; they regard the wrong as an established right; they hear it praised and defended from their youth up; and look on it, from habit, as the true social condition of the negro. They would as soon think of inquiring into the sentiments of their horses on their position, as to interrogate the slaves as to their ideas of bondage. There are many good men in the slaveholding ranks, who support the iniquity by their influence and their character, without suspecting that they are the pillars of a gigantic crime.

Are they, then, excused? No! Ignorance of the laws of humanity excuseth no man. They are the pillars of a huge Temple of Sin, and should perish with it when it falls.

A gentleman who, as I had every reason to believe, is a St. Clair to his slaves, lately said to me that his negroes could not be discontented, because they had no reason of complaint, as he was as kind to them as it is possible for a master to be.

“ What right have you to be kind, as you call it, to your slaves?”

“ Sir!” he ejaculated, in surprise.

“You do not see,” I continued, “that you speak of your kindness as of an exclusive possession which you had the right to dispense or retain at your pleasure. You forget at the outset that the negro is a man — your equal. Leave him alone — let him be free — and he will be kind to you, I have no doubt without making you his slave, and not boast of it either, I will warrant. This patronizing kindness is an insult to a freeman. Would you not be very apt to call me out if I went about, and said, in a condescending [70] tone, that I had always been very kind to you? Kindness is very well in its way — but it is not freedom. Such is the view I should take of it if I were a slave.”

“I don't forget — I deny that the negro is my equal,” said the Southerner, cooly; and thus the conversation dropped.

I concluded my fourth letter from Charleston in these words:

“I have spent six days now in conversing with colored people here, and I have never yet met one who professed to be contented with slavery — far less to prefer it. Many, many have I met who are panting for liberty, and several slaves who are prepared to risk the chance of failure in a servile insurrection.”

Having done my work, I left Charleston.


I spent three months at Savannah. My friends have often asked me how it was, that, when I dared to talk so freely with the slaves, I was never once discovered or betrayed? I reply, by remembering that the wisdom of the serpent is as necessary to a reformer as the harmlessness of the dove. I did not think it wrong to use stratagem to serve the slave. I have the talent of silence, the talent of discreet speech — and also — and I use it quite as often as the others — the talent and virtue of indiscreetness. The friend of the slave needs all three!

I found that the slaves of Georgia were without hope — passively resigned. It was requisite, in the first place, to arouse their hope. To effect that result, it was indispensably necessary to let them know [71] of the anti-slavery battle waging throughout the Union--of which, unfortunately they were totally ignorant and likely to remain uninformed.

How I went to work to enlighten them, I do not deem it prudent to say. It might close that avenue of power to the abolitionists.

Suffice it to say that I seldom spoke to the city slaves. I never cared to run the risk of being betrayed, excepting when I was travelling on a journey. Hence, when I intended to reside in a city, I never spoke confidentially to the slaves until I was prepared to depart.

I had only one conversation with a slave in Savannah, of which I have preserved the record.

In walking along the beautiful road--one of the most charming in the Union--which leads from the city to the Catholic cemetery, I met an aged negro slave. It was on a Sunday.

“Good morning, uncle.”

“ Good mornina, mass'r.”

“Who do you belong to?”

He told me.

“ Hired out?”

“ No, mass'r, I works on de boss's plantation.”

“What's your allowance?”

“ A peck of meal a week, mass'r.”

“ What else?”

“Nothina mass'r, at all. We has a little piece of ground dat we digs and plants. We raises vegetables, and we has a few chickens. We sells them (vegetables and eggs), on Sundays and buys a piece of bacon wid de money when we kin, mass'r.”

“ That's pretty hard allowance,” I said. [72]

“ Yes, mass'r, it is dat; but we can't help dat.”

* * * * * * * *

“ Did you ever know a slave who would rather be in bondage than be free?”

“ I neber did, mass'r.”

Savannah is a city of 20,000 souls.

How many policemen do you suppose it requires to keep the peace there?

Eighty-one mounted guards.

There are larger cities in the Northern States with but one constable, and he engaged occasionally only in performing his official duties!

Who pays the expenses of this guard — the salaries of the men, and for the purchase money, the feed and accoutrements of the horses?

Chiefly, the non-slaveholding population.

Let the Democratic supporters of the “constitutional” crime of American slavery reflect on this unpalatable fact!

In all slaveholding cities — excepting the great seaports, and St. Louis, Louisville and Baltimore, which are practically free — the lawyers form the richest and most influential class.

Let the people think of this fact; let them remember too, that lawyers are the leeches of the body politic. [73]

Vii. South Carolina.

  • The Southern Commercial Convention
  • -- secret history of the anti-tribune debate -- Parson Brownlow's great joke -- Greeley and the counter-jumpers -- Sartorial description of the author -- a sublime moral -- the Tennessee editor -- Parson Brownlow's pulpit pistols -- a Southern opinion of Greeley -- the Tribune's correspondent an honorary delegate -- sound and fury -- turned out -- the dagger parasol stem -- Planting Potatoes for Posterity,

The Commercial Convention.

everybody, North and South, has heard of the great Commercial Conventions, which regularly assemble, now here, now there, but always in the Slave States, to discuss the interests, and “resolve” on the prosperity — immediate, unparalleled, and unconditional — of slaveholding trade, territory, education, Legree-lash-literature, and “direct commerce with Europe!” These assemblies are generally regarded, in the Slave States, as the safety-valves of the Southern Juggernaut-institution, without which, for want of ventilation, that political organization would speedily explode, and scatter death and destruction to the ends of the earth. All the politicians of the third order, and the second class (occasionally, perhaps, of the upper circles, also) assiduously attend them, to publicly renew the unmanly assurances of their unwavering loyalty to the overshadowing disgrace of the American nation, and the blighting and devastating curse of their own unhappy section. These exhibitions would be more amusing than a farce, if they were not, to thoughtful men, more tragic than a tragedy. For what is more sorrowful than to see men of talent the willing and enthusiastic eulogists of so very foul a crime as the system of American slavery? [74]

The ridiculous aspect of these assemblies has been admirably portrayed, again and again, by the prominent journalists of the North and South, without respect of political party. The other aspect has never yet been fully noticed, even by the New York Tribune, whose sarcastic and merciless presentations of these Southern absurdities were keenly felt and resented by their perpetrators — nay, even, honored by a five hours debate in the Commercial Convention which assembled in Charleston in 1854.

I beg pardon of the chivalry! I had closed up the record of this, my first trip, without deeming them and their Convention as worthy even of a passing notice. It would have been very unfair to have treated them so cavalierly. It would not have been rendering like for like. They did not serve me in that way. Let me render them, therefore, the courtesy of a chapter.

This was how it happened, that anti-Tribune debate :

I determined to remain in Charleston during the session of the Convention, to report its proceedings for the metropolitan press. Previous to my departure from New York city, I had been a member of the Tribune's editorial staff. So I entered the Commercial Convention, and announced myself as the reporter of that paper.

I was very courteously treated. 1 had the distinguished honor of a self-introduction to the illustrious Parson Brownlow, who, seemingly having taken a fancy to me, patronized me in his original and extraordinary way. He went with me to the principal dry goods stores, and showed me the glories thereof, invariably introducing me to strangers in this way: [75]

“ You've heerd of Horace Greeley?”

They had, in every case, heard of that celebrated editor. They sometimes, even — probably to prove the exactness of their knowledge — volunteered to express their conception of his character. One or two, indeed, to use their own expression, “made no bones” of uttering what they thought of him, without waiting for a special invitation to that effect. These estimates of Mr. Greeley were seldom offensive to his friends on the score of excessive or extravagant eulogy. The answer of one Palmetto counter-jumper will abundantly prove this assertion:

“You've heerd of Horace Greeley?” asked the grinning parson, as the usual prelude to his excellent joke.

“Yes: damned rascal — what about it?” said the young, laconic, counter-jumping judge.

This is him!” quoth the parson.

Of course, on a minute inspection, the startling effect thus suddenly produced as suddenly vanished. That spotless linen, hair elaborately dressed, moustache carefully trimmed and scientifically curled: those pantaloons, and coat, and vest, well brushed and white not one, but each of the gravest black; of the finest and most costly material too; and fitting albeit so exactly to the figure, that they seemed to have been plastic moulds, into which, in a melted physical condition, I had been cautiously poured: that superb Genin hat, those daintiest of French boots, glittering diamond ring, and no less brilliant breastpin: Did you ever see Horace Greeley, Mr. Zachariah Smith, and if you have, do you wonder that I was not immediately arrested?

The parson, in convention, delivered an irregular [76] speech, or out-of-pulpit sermon, whose moral and practical application, as he stated it, was this celestial injunction, “Never put your arm inside of a jug handle.” The advice was more especially addressed to the young lady spectators. By a bold license of speech, which men of genius are privileged to employ, the jug-handle of this more than celestial moral indicated the arm of every young man who would not, at his clerical command, sign the temperance, or rather the total abstinence pledge.

The parson introduced me to a Southern editor, whose style of thought and conversation greatly amused me. He was from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Full to overflowing, was the Tennessee journalist, of loyalty to slavery (which, down South, they often euphonize as “the South!” ), and loyalty to venerable rye; and of the most friendly feelings, too, toward Parson Brownlow, Virginia short-cut, and the Honorable Mr. Jones, his representative in Congress. He praised Mr. Jones first and foremost: Jones was bound to be President, he said, and had come down here (but I mustn't tell nary one about it) to put himself right with the South Carolina fire-eaters, who were offended at a Union speech that he had recently delivered in New York city! Couldn't I help him out of his fix by giving him a good notice — right kind, you know, of pitchina into him, eh? That was a d----d good fellow? Wouldn't I take a chaw? No? Was it possible I never chawed? Well, suppose we liquored then? Oh, curse it now — that was piling on the agony altogether too loud — neither chaw nor drink? That came of being in the Tribune office. Damn such isms, he said.

But when he found that I was a willing and delighted [77] listener to his stories of Tennessee, he seemed to forgive my unfamiliar isms. The told me that he had often seen Parson Brownlow, in the pulpit, before opening his Bible to read the text of his sermon, first take out a couple of loaded pistols and lay one of them on each side of the holy volume. This precaution, he said, he was obliged to take, in order to defend himself, if suddenly assailed, by ruffians whom he often denounced. The anecdotes, admiringly told, that he related of the parson, proved him to be, of all living Americans — not even Stephen A. Douglas excepted — the most indecent and unscrupulous of speech.5

The editor knew Greeley too. Greeley, upon the hull, was a clever fellow personally; but a d----d rascal, no two ways about it, politically. Worst man in the country: he would be d----d if he wasn't. Perhaps, I suggested, mightn't that follow even if he was? He didn't see the point! He had bin to New York. Had called on Greeley, and had been told by him that he might examine his exchanges. His impressions, therefore, were favorable to Greeley.

As the Tennessee editor, with eyes half shut from the effects of whisky — his feet, higher than his head, resting on a table — was garrulously muttering his opinions of the New York journalist, I thought of a plan by which, if it succeeded, I might somewhat enliven the proceedings of the Convention, and hear the Southern lions roar.

“ Now,” I said, “since Greeley was so ‘clever,’ it [78] is no more than fair that you should try to reciprocate?”

“ That's a fact,” mumbled the editor, “I'll be happy to serve you in any way, Mr. R. How kin I?”

“Introduce a resolution into the Convention tomorrow morning, constituting the representatives of the New York press honorary delegates.”

“ I'll do it,” he said: and he kept his word.

The motion was put — and carried! The truth is, that it was not rightly understood. But, before the Convention re-assembled next morning, it was evident that there had been brains in birth-pang labor, in view of the extraordinary vote. The Standard and “a planter” remonstrated publicly. This gentleman, they said, may be both a Chesterfield and a Howard (it was not the blooded family they meant — only the English philanthropist), but in the Commercial Convention, they argued, we can recognize him merely and solely as the representative of the New York Tribune!! As such---

It is unnecessary to me to say what treatment I merited “as such.”

When the Convention was called to order, a gentleman, in a shrewd and courteous speech, moved that the resolution be rescinded without discussion. He hoped there would be no debate. It was unprecedented to admit reporters as honorary delegates into any convention. The dignity invested them with the right of voting and participating in debate. Gentlemen had not thought of these facts in voting for the resolution which conferred such unusual honors on the representatives of the New York press. There were other reasons: which he would not name here. It was unprecedented. That was enough! [79]

He sat down.

Shrill and loud, and in ringing tones came the sentence through the theatre:

“ And if it is not enough, Mr. President, I have other reasons to give!”

I turned round, and saw, in the Georgia delegation, a tall, lank, bony, red-headed man, with his thin wiry finger stretched out à la Randolph — his body more than half bent over the gallery.

“Unpre-re-cedented!” he shrilly shouted, quivering with indignation, “unpre-re-cedented, why! sir, it's unparalleled, outrageous and insufferable. What, sir! have we come here to tolerate in our midst, and not only tolerate, no sir, not only that, but honor, sir, honor, sir, an emissary of that infamous abolition sheet, the New York Tribune!”

I chuckled! The poker was stirring; the lions and lesser beasts were beginning to roar!

For five mortal hours (called mortal, I suppose, because they are very short-lived) the politicians belched forth their denunciations of the Tribune. Never before, probably — never to my knowlege — was so splendid a tribute paid to any journal.

It was impossible to stem the current of their fanatical rage. It was in vain that one old man, grey-haired and feeble, appealed to them — for God's sake — to vote at once, and not debate; not to furnish capital to their enemies — not to advertise the organ of abolitionism.

With a rush, and a roar, and a sweeping force, on came the filthy flood of speech again, all the fouler, and stronger and wilder, from that attempted check. The chance was too good to be lost. Probably many of them had never seen an abolitionist before, and [80] never again would have such an opportunity of unburdening their minds in such a presence. I was astonished at the contempt with which they spoke of the press. I did not know then, what I soon learned, that the press South is a greater slave than the negro, and is treated by the planters and politicians who rule it, exactly as it deserves to be — like a serf.

The motion was rescinded.

I rose up at once, took my delegate ribbon from its button-hole, threw it on the ground, and walked out of the reporters' seat. This act was noticed by great numbers, as it was done in front of the audience, and was an exhibition of independence which, I discovered, made me many friends. I thought it due to the press to reciprocate the contempt of the politicians, and when gentlemen who introduced themselves after this episode, were informed of this reason of my conduct, many of them endorsed it in the usual fashion:

Let's liquor.”

I went to the upper gallery (it was in the theatre), and entered a private box as spectator. I took no further notes. There were three young ladies in the box. One of them, I noticed (after I had been there some time), was playing with the stem of her parasol. I looked at it, and saw that it was a dagger, as well as a handle; like a sword cane, it was hollow, and secretly contained a glittering deadly weapon! I had never before either seen, or heard, or read of such a fashion: nor since. From before what a beneficent condition of society did that dagger-parasol-stem lift up the thick curtain! It was an irresistible argument, I thought, for the extension of slavery, and for “respecting” the “rights” --the [81] State rights, not human rights — of our “Southern brethren!” Oh! eloquent parasol-stem! potent preacher! graphic painter and historian! your lesson is ever present with me, whenever, as a citizen, I am called on to act in public affairs; and long will be remembered after the faintest shadow of the eloquent orations of the Commercial Convention are utterly obliterated from my recollection.

Faint, indeed, are my present recollections. I remember only endless resolutions denouncing the North, and creating a new South; and a discourse by a Rev. Mr. Marshall, of Kentucky or Mississippi, I think, on the Importance of Planting Potatoes for Posterity; which, in a defence of men of insight and foresight, he declared to be the mission of the visionary as contrasted with the lower and grosser work of the practical intellect — that only hoes its row for the present generation. It was very funny — for the preacher was in earnest. Dean Swift, in jest, could not have composed a keener satire on the Southern Commercial Conventions.

1 Slaves shall be deemed sold, taken, reputed and adjudged in law to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators and assigns, to all intent and purpose whatsoever.--Code of South Carolina.

2 He gave her real name: of course, I adopt instead a generic title.

3 *I never spoke to any poor whites of this State, in order to learn their feelings towards slavery and slaveholders. Yet it may be interesting to the friends of the greatest of Massachusetts' Senators to know, as an indication of sentiment, that there is a native-born child of South Carolina parents, who reside in the capital, named after our torch-tongued orator, Charles Sumner.

4 Long after this sentence was spoken, I found a world of sad histories in this accidental utterance. Raised — and growed!

5 Let it be remembered that Parson Brownlow is still the pastor, in good standing, of an orthodox Southern Church, although he endorsed and eulogized the conduct of a mob, who publicly burned a negro slave to death, without form of law.

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