Visit Gerrit Smith—Charles Sumner—Lucretia Mott—Wendell Phillips—William Lloyd Garrison—John G. Whittier—Become an Active Abolitionist—The Outlook—Human Slavery as it Was—Four Millions of Slaves in Bondage—Slaves were Chattels—Slave Sales—Runaway Slaves—Women for Sale—Community of Property—Mules, Slaves and Cattle—Blood Hounds—Special Laws for Recapturing Runaway Slaves—Fiendish Brutalities Towards Slaves—Opinions of Jefferson and Randolph—”A Sabath Scene in the South”—The Clergy in the Slave States—The National Sacrifice—Some of the Dangers Attending My Crusade—Fugitive Slave Laws—My Anti-Slavery Principles.
Visit Gerrit Smith.
Leaving Canada, I made my first visit to Peterboro’, the home of that noble and sincere friend of the poor down-trodden slave, Gerrit Smith. He joined hands with me for the crusade against human slavery, and ever after remained my faithful and sincere friend. Through him, I became acquainted with all the active abolitionists of the time, Charles Sumner, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Lydia Maria Child, Wendell Phillips and John G. Whittier. I had become an extreme abolitionist, determined to do my whole duty. I knew the risk, I knew that hatred, slander, malice, and social, religious and professional ostracism would be my portion. I knew that no other class of citizens were more despised by the rich, the powerful and the influential, than the despised abolitionists. I knew the path to professional preferment, success and influence was closed to me, but I felt then as I feel now, that the title of “negro thief” so often applied to me at that time was a prouder title than any conferred by monarchs. I felt then, and I feel now, after the lapse of thirty-five years, the approval of my own conscience, which is more to me than the fickle applause and approval of men.
The outlook was dark and unpromising, but my faith in the justice of the cause was steadfast, and my hope in the future undimmed by the prevailing political fogs—and treachery of politicians and dough-faced friends.
In thirteen great states of the republic human slavery existed, and throughout these states men, women, and children were bought and sold, just as cattle and swine are bought and sold at the present time. They were deprived of all human rights, beaten, abused, outraged and killed at the will and pleasure of their owners. Husbands were sold and separated from their wives, and children were sold and separated from their parents. In fact, four millions of men, women and children, in the slave states, possessed no rights that their masters were bound to respect. Slavery was the dominant power before which all other interests were subordinate. The coarsest, blackest, and most brutal tyranny prevailed all over that vile south Sodom. No word of pity or relief came to the oppressed. No one dare utter a word aloud against the institution of slavery, except at peril of life. To teach a slave to read was punished with death. A reign of terror prevailed. From the sanctum of the editor, the pulpit of the preacher, the desk of the teacher, the counting-house of the merchant, not a voice was heard on behalf of four millions of human beings held in cruel bondage, from which there appeared at that time no hope of relief. The poor slaves were silent and hopeless; if they looked for help to the so-called free states of the republic, they were met by the command, “Servants obey your masters.” If they fled from bondage, the Federal government stood ready to act the part of a policeman for the slave masters, and send the fugitive back to slavery. In a majority of the northern states a mean, cowardly, servile spirit prevailed, that bowed and cringed before the haughty slave-masters.
All the power and influence of the national government, all the power and influence of the wealthy classes, all the social and religious influence of the clergy and professional classes, were enlisted in positive or negative support of that sodomic institution, which made merchandise of the souls and bodies of human beings. The press of the north was muzzled. The religious Tract Societies, the Bible Societies, the Missionary Societies from Vermont to Texas, were silent or quiescent in the face of this giant wrong.
That was the condition of the American Republic in 1855. Its so-called banner of freedom, was a flaunting lie, its constitution a compact with Satan, its motto a deceitful, lying cant.
To the selfish and superficial observer of that time it appeared as if this arrogant slave power would last forever; entrenched in Federal and State law sustained by the church and all the dominant and wealthy classes of the republic, it appeared impregnable and indestructable. But, wait and see what a wonderful transformation was wrought in a few short years through the earnest labors of a few comparatively insignificant men and women “who loved their neighbors,” and obeyed the golden rule. The members of this little band of abolitionists were at first ridiculed and despised, and treated as ignorant fanatics and cranks.
As they increased in number and daring, they were hated, persecuted, outraged, and in many cases barbarously murdered. What crime had these men committed? The crime of “doing unto others as they would have others do unto them,” the crime of loving liberty better than slavery, the crime of teaching that every human being born into this world possesses an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Human Slavery as it Was—Four Millions of Slaves in Bondage.
The number of slaves in the Southern States at this period (1856) exceeded four millions, distributed as follows : Alabama, 445,000; Mississippi, 486,431; South Carolina, 402,406; Louisiana, 341,726; Texas, 182.566;[sic] Virginia, 490,465; Missouri, 114,921; Arkansas, 111,115; North Carolina, 331,059: Tennessee, 275,719; Kentucky, 225,483; Georgia, 462,198; Florida, 61,745: Delaware, 1,798; Maryland, 87,189; making a total of more than four millions of human beings held in cruel bondage.
Slaves Were Chattels.
Throughout the slave states, slaves were considered chattels, and were classed with horses, mules, swine, and other domestic animals. The slave was subject to his master’s disposal. He was doomed to toil that others might reap the fruits of his unrequited labor. He had no right in things real or personal; he was not ranked among sentient things, but among things. His wife and his offspring belonged to his master, to do as he pleased with. There was no law for the slave but his master’s whip. In fact, the slave had no right which his master was bound to respect. He was bought, sold and traded, the same as lands, cattle, and mules were bought, sold and traded. That my readers may have a clear idea of the status of the slaves, I reprint a few advertisements clipped from southern papers of that time; such advertisements were usually headed by a cut of a man or woman with a bundle on his or her back. The extent and cruelty of the inter-state slave trade is well illustrated by an extract from a report printed by the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky in 1851: “These horrid scenes (coffle gangs of slaves) are frequently occurring in our midst. There is not a neighborhood in the state where these heartrending scenes are not displayed; there is not a village or road that does not behold the sad procession of manacled outcasts whose chains and mournful countenances tell that they are exiled by force from all that their hearts hold dear.”
Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky were the breeding states of the south. It has been truly said that “the best blood of Virginia runs in the veins of her slaves.” This remark was equally true of Kentucky and Maryland.
(From N. O. Picayune.)
Foster’s Slave Depot.
Four Hundred Slaves Expected to Arrive by First November.
My two Slave Depots are now open for the reception of traders and purchasers. From my numerous correspondents, I have reason to believe that I shall have from four to five hundred slaves, for sale, betwoen [sic] this and the first of November, comprised of every size, age and sex, to suit the most critical observer. I am also prepared to accommodate Traders with comfortable lodgings and board at very reasonable rates. My stock of Slaves is equal if not superior to any offered in this market.
Thankful for past patronage, I earnestly solicit planters and the citizens generally, to give me a call before purchasing elsewhere.
N. B.—Slaves bought and sold on commission.
Just arrived, with a choice lot of virginia and carolina negroes, consisting of Plantation hands. Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Cooks, Washers, Ironers, and Seamstresses, and will be receiving fresh supplies during the season, which I offer for sale, for cash or approved paper. I have removed my office from Esplanade to 90 Baronne-street, between Union and Perdido-streets, two blocks west of St. Charles Hotel. No brokerage paid on the sale of negroes.John B. Smith,90 Baronne-street,195 Gravier and 85 Dryades-streets.
To Traders, Planters and Merchants.
Having opened my old stand, with considerable improvements, and another house added, I am prepared to accommodate for sale from 150 to 200 slaves. Also, good accommodation for owners. A good assortment of slaves constantly on hand for sale, consisting of Field Hands, Mechanics and House Servants. Apply to C. F. Hatcher,195 Gravier and 85 Dryades-streets.
Community of Property—Slaves, Mules and Lands.
(N. O. Picayune, 1859.)
Probate Sale of Negroes and Plantation.
By virtue of an Order issued from the Seventh District Court of East Felciana in the above entitled succession, I will sell on the premises, on Tuesday, the 20th of December next, the following property, belonging to said succession:—
The plantation, cultivated by the deceased as a cotton plantation, situated in the parish of Avoyelles, on the Atchafalaya River, containing about 742½ acres, together with all the improvements, consisting of 300 acres of open land, overseer’s house, quarters, cisterns, a good gin and mill—the said plantation being composed of the tract known as the McMillan tract, and of about 157½ acres from the tract known as the Evans tract, bounded on the east by the Atchafalaya River, north by James H. Cason, west by J. L. Delee, and south by Turner’s Bayou.
Also the following negroes :
- Zide, aged about 40 years.
- Martin, aged about 55 years.
- Fid, aged about 16 years.
- Winney, aged about 35 years.
- Emeline, aged about 40 years.
- Jane, aged about 16 years.
- Alexander, aged about 45 years.
- George, aged about 28 years.
- Antony, aged about 26 years.
- Harry, aged about 15 years.
- Jane, aged about 11 years.
- Milly, aged about 23 years; her three children—Dolly, 4 years, Abe, 2 years, Polly, 1 month.
- Zelphy, aged about 22 years and her two children—Emeline, 3 years, Tom, 1 year.
- Rhoda, aged 7 years.
- Ellen, aged 38 years.
- Zach, aged 9 years.
- Henry, aged 24 years.
Also 8 head of mules, stock of cattle, oxen, hogs and farming utensils on said plantations.
The said property will be sold in block, or separately, to suit purchasers.
Terms of Sale.
If sold in block, $6,000 cash; the balance on a credit of one, two, three and four years, the purchase price to bear 8 per cent. interest from day of sale, and to be secured by notes, with approved personal security, and a mortgage detained on the property.
If sold separately, the land on a credit of one, two, three and four years, with 8 per cent. interest from day of sale, to be secured by note, with approved personal security and mortgage on the property.
The negroes, one-third cash, the balance on one or two years, with 8 per cent. interest from the day of sale, to be secured by note; with approved personal security and mortgage on the property.
The mules, farming utensils, stock, etc., on a credit of twelve months, with 8 per cent. interest from day of sale, to be secured by note, with approved personal security, for all sums over $100; for all sums under $100, cash.
Sheriff’s Office, Marksville, this 21st day of October, A.D.
1859.L. Barbin,Sheriff and ex-officio Public Auctioneer.
Slave Women for Sale.
In the Charleston Mercury, the leading political paper of South Carolina, appeared the following advertisement:
“Negroes for Sale.—A girl about twenty years of age, raised in Virginia, and her two female children, one four and the other two years old—is remarkably strong and healthy, never having had a day’s sickness, with the exception of the small-pox, in her life. The children are fine and healthy. She is very prolific in her generating qualities, and affords a rare opportunity to any person who wishes to raise a family of healthy servants for their own use. Any person wishing to purchase will please leave their address at the Mercury office.”
Another infamous advertisement, from the Richmond, Va.,
Despatch, reads as follows:
For Sale—An accomplished and handsome lady’s maid. She is just turned 16 years of age, nearly white, was reared in a genteel family in Maryland, and is now for sale, not for any fault, but simply because the owner has no further use for her.”
“Negroes for Sale.—A negro woman, 24 years of age, and her two children, one 8 and the other 3 years old. Said negroes will be sold separately or together, as desired.
(From N. O. Picayune, 1857.)
One Hundred Dollars Reward.— Ran away from my plantation on Tensas River, in the parish of Catahoula, Louisiana, on the 22nd of September last, four negroes:
Richard, about 26 years of age, weighs 145 pounds, of dark complexion; has a large scar on the left cheek and one on the chin, same side of face.
Tom Simms, about 25 years old; weighs about 150 pounds; dark complexion; when he left had a small goatee under the chin.
Gus Simms, about 18 years old; weighs about 120 pounds; dark complexion, slim, and rather delicate in appearance.
I will pay the above reward if the above-named slaves are lodged in jail where I can get them, or $25 for either one of them.
They may probably try to make their way to the Free States, and may state that they belong to Sam Buford, my overseer, or to W. L. Campbell, of New Orleans, from whom I bought them.M. Gillis,Of the firm of Gillis & Ferguson
One Hundred Dollars Reward.—Ran away from the undersigned, on or abont [sic] the 18th of July, 1857, a negro man named Peyton (calls himself Peyton Randolph), aged 26 years, five feet seven inches high, weighs 150 pounds; he is genteel in his appearance, and can read and write. The above reward will be paid to any one who will have him lodged in jail, so that he can be recovered, or who will deliver him to Mr. John Ermon, on the corner of Race and Camp streets in this city.M. C. Hale,Constance, near Second-street.
Twenty-Five Dollars Reward.—Ran away from the subscriber, on the 29th of October, Missouri or Ann, a very likely griffe, aged 15 years, and about 5½ feet high; figure rather slender. She was barefooted, and had on a brown calico dress. She is refined and plausible in her manner and language, and unacquainted in the city.L. Greenleaf,Cor. Annunciation and Jackson streets.
“One Hundred Dollars Reward will be given for the apprehension of my negro, Edmund Kenney. He has straight hair, and complexion so nearly white that it is believed a stranger would suppose that there was no African blood in him. He was with my boy Dick a short time since, in Norfolk, and offered him for sale, and was apprehended, but escaped under pretence of being a white man.”
“Two Hundred Dollars Reward.—Ran away from the subscriber, last November, a white negro man, about 35 years old, hefght [sic] about five feet eight or ten inches, blue eyes, has a yellow woolly head, very fair skin.
“P. S.—Said man has a good-shaped foot and leg; and his foot is very small and hollow.”
Twenty Dollars Reward.—Ran away from the subscriber, on the 14th instant, a negro girl named Molly. She is 16 or 17 years of age, slim made, lately branded on her left cheek, thus, “R,” and a piece is taken off her ear on the same side; the same letter is branded on the inside of both her legs.Abner Ross,Fairfield District, S.C.
(From the Georgia Messenger.)
“Runaway.—My man George; has holes in his ears; is marked on the back with the whip; has been shot in the legs; has a scar on the forehead.”
(From the Wilmington, N.C., Advertiser.)
“Ran away, my negro man Richard. A reward of twenty-five dollars will be paid for his apprehension, dead or alive. Satisfactory proof only will be required of his being killed. He has with him, in all probability, his wife Eliza, who ran away from Colonel Thompson.
“Fifty Dollars Reward.—Ran away from the subscriber, on the 22nd ult., my negro man Albert, who is twenty-seven years old, very white, so much so, that he would not he suspected of beinq a negro. Has blue eyes, and very light hair. Wore, when he left, a long thin beard, and rode a chestnut sorrel horse, with about $70 belonging to himself.
“He is about five feet eight inches high, and weighs about 140 pounds. Has a very humble and meek appearance; can neither read nor write, and is a very kind and amiable fellow; speaks much like a low country negro. He has, no doubt, been led off by some miserable wretch during my absence in New York.”
A letter in a Vicksburg, Miss., paper, of June, 1857, from a planter, contained the following passage: “I can tell you how to break a negro of running away. When I catch a runaway negro I tie him down and pull one of his toe nails out by the roots, and tell him if he ever runs away again I will pull out two of them. I never have to do it more than once. It cures them.”
Blood Hounds were used to track runaway slaves, especially in thick woods or in swamps, where the poor wretches would live in caves or among the rocks, to elude the pursuit of their cruel taskmasters. Many died of exposure and starvation, rather than return to their owners, to be whipped and branded with red-hot irons. I clipped the following advertisements from Southern papers:
“Blood Hounds.—The undersigned, having bought the entire pack of negro dogs (of the Hay & Allen stock) he now proposes to catch runaway negroes. His charges will be three dollars a day for hunting, and fifteen dollars for catching a runaway. He resides three and one-half miles north of Livingston, near the lower Jones’ Bluff Road.“William Gambrel.”
“Notice.—The subscriber, living on Carroway Lake, on Hoes’ Bayou, in Carroll parish, sixteen miles on the road leading from Bayou Mason to Lake Providence, is ready with a pair of dogs to hunt runaway negroes at any time. These dogs are well trained, and are known throughout the parish. Letters addressed to me at Providence, will secure immediate attention. My terms are five dollars per day for hunting the trails, whether the negro is caught or not. Where a twelve hours’ trail is shown, and the negro not taken, no charge is made. For taking a negro, twenty-five dollars, and no charge made for hunting.“James W. Hall.”
Value of Bloodhounds.
The value of bloodhounds to the slave-hunters may be inferred from the following quotation of prices taken from a Columbia, S. C, paper:
“Mr. J. L. Bryan, of Moore county, sold at auction, on the 20th instant, a pack of ten bloodhounds, trained for hunting runaway negroes, for the sum of $1,540. The highest price paid for any one dog was $801; the lowest price, $75; average for the ten, $154.”
Bloodhounds are larger and more compact than ordinary hounds, with hair straight and sleek as that of the finest race horse, colored between yellow and brown, short-eared, rather long-nosed, and built for scenting, quick action and speed. They can take a scent three days old and run it down. Their speed is about equal to, and their endurance much greater than, a greyhound. Their bark resembles neither that of a bulldog, cur, nor hound, but is a yelp like a wolf’s. Their bite is a wolf-like snap, not the hold-fast grip of a bulldog. The “catch dog” used in slavery times on Southern plantations in capturing runaway slaves, looked like a cross between a Newfoundland and bull of large and powerful build.
Description of a Negro Hunt.
The overseer or hunter mounts a fleet horse, holds his “catch” dog by a chain, and turns loose the hounds. Circling round, they strike the scent and soon lead off, their fast receding yelps marking the rapidity of the chase. The horseman follows over fences through timber and swamp as best he can, holding his “catch dog in leash.” Hounds sighting the negro, divide, form a semi-circle, and rapidly draw it into a large circle around him. As the pursued wretch runs, the dogs in front of him fall back, but preserve their equi-distant place in the circle which they are gradually closing. On nearing him they snap at his legs, but do not spring at his throat. As the circle narrows, the hunter arrives. The ominous sound of the chains’ rattle, like the warning note of the serpent, strikes the negro’s ears. The “catch dog” springs upon the exhausted runaway and holds him, hounds are clubbed away, the fugitive secured, dogs leashed, and the hunt is over.
Special laws existed for recapturing escaped slaves at any cost of life to the victims, by first proclaiming them outlaws. The following legal instrument, with its accompaniments, will suffice to show the way:
Whereas complaint hath this day been made to us, two of the Justices of the Peace for the said county, by William D. Cobb, of Jones county, that two negro slaves belonging to him, named Ben (commonly known by the name of Ben Fox), and Rigden, have absented themselves from their said master’s service, and are lurking about in the counties of Lenoir and Jones, committing acts of felony—these are, in the name of the state, to command the said slaves forthwith to surrender themselves and return home to their said master. And we do hereby, by virtue of an act of the Assembly of this state, concerning servants and slaves, intimate and declare if the said slaves do not surrender themselves and return home to their master immediately after the publication of these presents, that any person may kill and destroy said slaves by such means as he or they think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime or offence for so doing, without incurring any penalty or forfeiture thereby.
Given under our hands and seals, this 12th day of November, 1856.
The following was the law in reference to recapturing slaves in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and Louisiana: “If any slave shall happen to he slain for refusing to surrender him or herself, or in resisting any person who shall endeavor to apprehend such slave or slaves, such person so killing such slave as aforesaid making resistance, shall be and is by this Act indemnified from any prosecution for such killing.”
Fiendish Brutalities Towards Slaves.
The newspapers of the slave states in 1855–6–7 teemed with advertisements descriptive of runaway slaves. One had been “lacerated with a whip”— another, “severely bruised”—another, “a great many scars from the lash”—another, “several large scars An his back from severe whipping “—another “had an iron collar on his neck with a prong turned down—another has a “drawing chain fastened around his ankle”—another “was much marked with a branding iron”—another, a negress, “had an iron band around her neck,” &:c., &c. All these brutalities were permitted, if not authorized, by the slave code. Then came another class, which, if not authorized by law, were frequent and not prohibited: “Mary has a sore on her back and right arm, caused by a rifle ball”— another, “branded on the left jaw”—another, “has a soar across his breast and each arm, made by a knife: loves to talk of the goodness of God”—”Sam has a sword cut lately received on his left arm”—Fanny has a scar on her left eye; a good many teeth missing; the letter ‘A’ branded with red-hot iron on her left cheek and forehead “—another, “scarred with the bites of dogs.” ” Runaway—A negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off I burnt her with a hot iron on the left side of her face—I tried to make the letter ‘M.’ Rachel had three toe nails pulled out.”
I could fill many pages with similar extracts from advertisements in papers and from handbills, in circulation in the slave states, in the old dark days. One case that came under my personal observation in Alabama, is only a specimen of many others that I could mention of a similar nature.
A Methodist local preacher, a slave owner, proposed illicit intercourse with a young female slave. She refused, he sent her to the overseer to be whipped, again she refused, and he sent her again to be whipped, again she refused, and again was whipped. He then ordered her to be branded on the cheek, with a red-hot iron, then she yielded to this adulterous wretch, who had not overstepped the limits of the slave laws of Alabama. In fact, the poor downtrodden slaves suffered all that wanton, grasping avarice, brutal lust, malignant spite, and insane anger, could inflict. Their happiness was the sport of every whim, and the prey of every passion. Slavery was the cause of more suffering, than has followed from any other cause since the world began.
I was present at the burial of a female slave in Mississippi, who had been whipped to death by her master, for some trifling offence. While she was undergoing the punishment, she gave birth to a dead child, and mother and child were wrapped in old linen bagging and laid in the same grave—free at last!
Opinions of Jefferson and Randolph—Both Slave-Holders.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the “Declaration of Independence,” made a clause to his last will, conferring freedom on his own slave offspring, as far as the Slave Code of Virginia permitted him to do it, supplying the lack of power by “humbly imploring the Legislature of Virginia to confirm the bequests with permission to remain in the state, where their families and connections are.” Two of his daughters by an octoroon female slave were taken from Virginia to New Orleans, after Jefferson’s death, and sold in the slave market at $1,500 each, to be used for unmentionable purposes. Both these unfortunate children of the author of the Declaration of Independence were quite white, their eyes blue and their hair long, soft, and auburn in color.
A land of liberty for white people, for slave-holders, was it, where Jefferson could not bequeath liberty to his own children? In Georgia, had he lived and died there, the “attempt” would have been an “offence” for which his estate would have been subjected to a fine of one thousand dollars, and each of his executors, if accepting the trust, a thousand more. In one of his letters Jefferson says, “when the measure of the slaves’ tears, is full, when their groans have involved heaven itself in darkness, doubtless a God of justice will listen to their distress.”
John Randolph of Roanoke.
John Randolph of Roanoke, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and a native of Virginia, says:—”Avarice alone can drive, as it does drive, this infernal traffic, and the wretched victims of it, like so many post-horses, whipped to death in a mail-coach.”
“Ambition has its cover-sluts in the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war, but where are the trophies of avarice? The handcuff, the manacle the blood-stained cowhide! What man is worse received in society for being a hard master? Who denies the right of a daughter or sister to such monsters?” (Speech in Congress.)
Study this picture. Wholesale murder, barbarism and cruelty. The general prevalence of these in the highest circles, and no one regarding the perpetrators the worse for it, or shrinking back from the closest family affinity with the monsters!
The Clergy of the Slave States.
Every clergyman in the Slave States, either openly or passively, upheld human slavery. They maintained that slavery was a wise and beneficent institution devised by God for the protection and welfare of the negro race. These reverend pro-slavery champions resembled the priests of Juggernaut recommending the worship of their god by pointing to the wretches writhing and shrieking and expiring under his car. From a pro-slavery pamphlet, published by the Reverend James Smiley of the Amita Presbytery, Mississippi, I extract the following: “If slavery be a sin, and if the buying, selling and holding a slave be a sin, then three-fourths of all the Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians of eleven states of this union are of the devil. They not only buy and sell slaves, but they arrest and restore runaway slaves, and justify their conduct by the Bible.”
Scarce had the solemn Sabbath bellCeased quivering in the steeple;Scarce had the parson to the deskWalked stately through his people,When down the summer shaded streetA wasted female figure,With dusky brow and naked feet.Came rushing wild and eager.She saw the white spire through the trees,She heard the sweet hymn swelling;O, pitying Christ! a refuge give.That poor one in Thy dwelling.Like a scared fawn before the houndsRight up the aisle she glided;While close behind her, whip in hand,A lank-haired hunter glided.She raised a keen and bitter cry.To Heaven and Earth appealing;Were manhood’s generous pulses dead?Had woman’s heart no feeling?“Who dares profane this hour and day?”Cried out the angry pastor;“Why, bless your soul, the wench’s a slave,And I’m her lord and master!“I’ve law and gospel on my side,And who shall dare refuse me?”Down came the parson, bowing low,“My good sir, pray, excuse me!To own, and work, and whip her;Quick, deacon, throw that PolyglotBefore the wench, and trip her!”Plump dropped the holy tome, and o’erIts sacred pages stumbling;Bound hand and foot, a slave once more.The hapless wretch lay trembling.I saw the parson tie the knot,The while his flock addressing;The Scriptural claims of slavery.With text on text impressing.Shriek rose on shriek—the Sabbath airHer wild cries tore asunder;I listened with hushed breath to hearGod answer with His thunder.All still!—the very altar’s clothHad smothered down her shrieking;I saw her dragged along the aisle,Her shackles loudly clanking.My brain took fire; ” Is this ,” I cried,The end of prayer and preaching?Then down with pulpit; down with priest.And give us Nature’s teaching!Whittier.
The National Sacrifice.
No wonder it required an army of two millions of men (half of whom were slain) to rid the land of such a monstrous curse as human slavery. From the torture dens of the outraged, bruised and beaten slaves the prayer for justice had reached the “god of battles,” and the command had gone forth to that vile South Sodom to “let the oppressed go free,” and slavery with its whips, fetters, chains, bloodhounds and red-hot branding irons, was swept away in rivers of blood.
Some of the Dangers Attending My Crusade.
In all the Slave States there were laws for the enforcement of severe penalties for interference with the institution of slavery. Senator Preston of Virginia declared in his place in the U. S. Senate that “any person uttering abolition sentiments in the Slave States would be hanged.” In Louisiana the laws read as follows: “If any person shall in any language hold any conversation tending to promote discontent among the slaves, he may be imprisoned from three to twenty years; or he may suffer death at the direction of the court.” In Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi the same laws existed. In North Carolina, the pillory and whipping for the first offence, and death for the second offence. In Virginia, for the first offence, thirty-nine lashes; the second offence, death.
From Gerrit Smith I obtained much valuable and interesting information as to the workings of the different organizations having for their object the liberation from bondage of the slaves of the South. He accompanied me to Boston, New York. Philadelphia and Longwood, the home of Hannah Cox, whose house was always open to the poor slaves flying from their pursuers, and whose heart warmly sympathised with every means for the liberation of the oppressed.
During these visits I became acquainted with many liberty-loving men and women, whose time, talents, and means were devoted to the cause of freedom. The contact with such earnest minds, imbued with an undying hatred and detestation of that foul blot on the escutchon of their country, served to strengthen my resolution and fortify me for the labor before me. I was initiated into a knowledge of the methods to circulate information among the slaves of the South: the routes to be taken, after reaching the so-called Free States, and the relief posts, where shelter and aid for transportation could be obtained. My excellent friend also accompanied me to Ohio and Indiana, where I made the personal acquaintance of friends in those states who at risk of life and property gave shelter to the fugitives, and assisted them to reach Canada.
The Rev. O. B. Frothingham, in his life of Gerrit Smith, says:
“Alexander M. Ross, of Canada, whose remarkable exploits in running off slaves caused such consternation in the southern states, was in communication with Gerrit Smith from first to last, was aided by him in his preparation with information and counsel, and had a close understanding with him in regard to his course of procedure. Both these men made the rescue of slaves a personal matter.”
Fugitive Slave Law.
The poor fugitive who had run the gauntlet of slave hunters and bloodhounds, was not safe even after he had crossed the boundary line between the Slave and the Free States, for the slave drivers of the South and their allies, the democrats of the North, controlled the United States Government at that time, and under the provisions of the iniquitous “Fugitive Slave law,” the North was compelled to act as a police officer, for the capture and return to slavery of fugitives from the Slave States.
Different Views Among Abolitionists.
While there existed among all true abolitionists a sincere desire to aid the oppressed people of the Slave States, there was much diversity of opinion as to the means to be adopted for their liberation from bondage.
Garrison, Whittier, Lucretia Mott, and all the members of the Society of Friends, were opposed to violent measures, such as would result in bloodshed. Their efforts were confined to the public discussion of the wrongs of the slave, and the iniquity and injustice of human slavery. On the other hand, Gerrit Smith, Theodore Parker, Joshua R. Giddings, John Brown, and many others, equally sincere and noble men and women, actively or passively aided and abetted every effort to liberate the slaves from their bondage. It is almost needless for me to say that, while I sympathized with every man and woman who desired the freedom of the slave, my views accorded with those who believed human slavery to be such a monstrous wrong and injustice, that any measure, no matter how violent, was justifiable in so holy a cause as the liberation of those held in bondage.
My Anti-Slavery Principles.
The principles that animated, impelled, and controlled my actions as an abolitionist, may briefly be summed up as follows:—
- That every innocent human being has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- That no government, nation, or individual, has any right to deprive an innocent human being of his or her inalienable rights.
- That a man held against his will as a slave has a natural right to kill every one who seeks to prevent his enjoyment of liberty.
- That it is the natural right of a slave to develop this right in a practical manner, and actually kill all those who seek to prevent his enjoyment of liberty.
- That the freeman has a natural right to help the slaves to recover their liberty, and in that enterprise to do for them all which they have a right to do for themselves.
- That it is the natural duty of a freeman to help the slaves to the enjoyment of this liberty, and as a means to that end, to aid them in killing all such as oppose their natural right to freedom.
- That the performance of this duty is to be controlled only by the freeman’s power and opportunity to help the slaves.