In giving an account of Slavery and its effects, so far as the writer had the means of observing, during the short time that he resided in Louisiana, he is actuated only by a desire to lay before the public, a simple statement of facts, as they came to his knowledge. Not that he is certain of bringing up any thing new on the subject; but that he may at least, revive old recollections, and add somewhat to the just indignation, that has already been manifested towards that most degrading and diabolical of all human institutions.
We profess to believe that all mankind "are endowed with certain unalienable rights." But we profess one thing, and act another. Though our laws and institutions render a portion of us the most free and happy people, on earth; yet they at the same time, render another portion the most abject and degraded.
The evil is a moral one, and therefore, the only means by which it can be abolished is to agitate the subject until all are brought to reflect upon it, to see its monstrous injustice, and its consequent impolicy.
The subject will be commenced by a narrative, in which the writer will relate only what he saw, or had sufficient proof of for believing, of the actual condition and sufferings of a class of our species who fully deserve our utmost sympathy and active assistance.
It will be concluded by a short essay on the effects which slavery produces on society; and should the writer err in the inferences that he may draw or in the conclusions that he may arrive at; he sincerely hopes that the integrity of his motives will be a sufficient apology to the reader for having trespassed upon his notice.
Eighteen — Months in Louisiana.
In the fall of the year 1840, I left my home in the county of Niagara, for the purpose of seeking employment in some of the Southern states, believing, from the many favorable accounts which I had of the advantages which almost all kinds of business offered, that I could do better in that section of the country than in New-York.
The particular part in which I should locate myself, I cared but little about; my only object being to make money as fast as possible. However, in consequence of letters of introduction and recommendation, which I had to people of Natchez, I determined to make my first application for business at that place. These letters introduced me to men of the first respectability in Natchez, and the surrounding neighborhood. Notwithstanding, I was unsuccessful in my attempt, until I became acquainted with a Mr. Surget. I had at that time nearly expended the, small sum with which I had set cut. I regret much the necessity which compels me to give publicity to Mr. Surget's name, as I am deeply indebted to him for many favors. I mention his kindness towards me, that should he ever know I have used his name publicly, he may also know, that, while I condemn some of his principles and practices, I am at the same time grateful for the favors I have received at his hands. During the time that I was searching for business, I had an excellent opportunity for observing the splendor in which many of the more wealthy planters lived. Their palace-like houses were furnished in the most sumptous and magnificent manner; and their tables were loaded with the most delicate viands and costly wines; I had before heard and read of the splendor with which many of the princes of Europe were surrounded; I now saw the reality, which when compared with what I subsequently found to be the condition of the slave; the contrast was striking, nay agonizing. After a short time unsuccessfully spent in looking for other business, I engaged with Mr. Surget as agent on a plantation, which he owned about twenty-five miles below Natchez, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi river. But
4before proceeding to a narrative of the treatment and condition of the slaves on this plantation, I will relate an affair that took place a few miles below Natchez; during the time that I was in the neighborhood, as I heard it spoken of by several individuals.
Four negroes ran away from their overseer, who pursued, overtook and captured them, and brought them back to the plantation on which they belonged; gave them a most unmerciful flogging on the bare back, and afterwards washed their wounds in fish brine; compelling them at the same time to drink a portion of the hateful beverage. The consequence of this treatment was, that the negroes died in a few hours. I afterwards learned, that washing with pork brine was very common after flogging, and that fish brine was not used, because it was considered poisonous. Probably this was unknown to the overseer at the time he applied it.
My business as agent, was merely nominal. To explain why it was so, I shall be under the necessity of giving a short history of my employer's affairs. He was the owner of five plantations. About a year before I became acquainted with him, he had dismissed all his white overseers, and substituted blacks in their places. These blacks were his slaves, selected from his working hands; and when he made them overseers, he gave them the same powers as are enjoyed by the whites, so far as related to the management of the plantations. And Mr. Surget has frequently declared that since he has been a planter, his affairs have never been so well managed, and that he would never again employ a white man as overseer. As these blacks performed the whole business of the plantations, there were, consequently, no whites on any of them, except the one on which Mr. Surget and his family resided. The laws of Louisiana require, that there be, at least, one white person, for every thirty slaves, to prevent them from combining together and raising insurrections. But the law is not regarded to its full extent. By a prevailing custom in the state the law is deemed satisfied, provided there be one white man on every plantation, be the number of slaves more or less. I was employed mostly for the purpose of satisfying this law.
As the manner of management, and the manner of living among the slaves on this plantation, is a pretty fair criterion by which to judge large plantations generally, I will enter
5into a minute and particular, though brief description of it; mentioning, however, in whatever respects they may differ from the general custom. There were 102 field hands, and about 20 who were too young to work. From the nature of the work most common to cotton plantations, small children cannot be employed; consequently, they have nothing to do but small chores until they are nine or ten years of age; and then their first work is cotton picking. Their houses were pretty comfortable, and all of them had floors; "Negro quarters" are generally much better than they are thought to be in the northern states; though some of them are without floors, and are no larger, better, or warmer than good hen coops. On all of Mr. Surget's plantations, except the one on which I was employed, the negro houses were made of brick, and were surrounded by a brick wall, twelve feel high; but on this, the houses were made of wood, and surrounded by a palisade fence, also twelve feet high. The houses are arranged in the form of a parallelogram, leaving an area of about an acre, in the middle; through the center of which is a row of shade trees. The quarters are inclosed, for the purpose of keeping the slaves from running about at night.
Each day after the negroes come in from the field, they are assembled together, and the roll is called to see if any are missing; and if any, who they are. The slaves are all numbered; and in calling the roll, the number is used instead of the name. After roll-call, they are locked up, in the yard. The practice of locking up slaves during the night, is very limited. I have never known any other person than Mr. Surget who did so, though I am told there are some in the neighborhood of New Orleans who have adopted it. In addition to the houses used for the negroes to live in, are two others outside of the yard used for hospitals, that the sick may have the benefit of more pure and wholesome air, than can be had where so many are, huddled together in so small a space. Here, too, the small children are kept during the day, while their mothers are in the field at work. While the children are quite small, the mothers come in two or three times a day to take care of there, but after they are weaned they are fed on milk. The milk is put into a trough or some large dish around which the little negroes crowd like pigs; eating, too, after the same manner of those animals, with the exception
6that since their mouths and noses are, not quite so favorably formed for the manner in which they are compelled to eat, as are those of the pig; they eat with greater disadvantage. The houses are most miserably furnished, having scarcely a sufficiency to supply actual want. A box, used as a chest, one or two stools, a bed composed of a tick of cotton bagging, filled with the "shucks" of corn, and one or two woollen blankets, together with a musquitoe bar, compose the whole. They have neither dishes, knives, forks, nor spoons, except such as they chance to pick up. Their clothes comport well with the furniture of their houses. Each man is furnished yearly (but the clothes are not dealt out at the one time) with two shirts, two pair of pantaloons a blanket coat; a palmetto or Mexican hat, and a pair of shoes. The shirts and pantaloons are made of very thick and heavy cotton cloth, manufactured expressly for negro wear; the women are furnished with precisely the same articles as the men, with the exception, that instead of pantaloons they have frocks. Some planters work their slaves the whole time, stopping, for nothing except unfavorable weather; while some others allow their slaves to work on Sunday for themselves.
Mr. Surget allowed his negroes, to rest Sunday, after they had washed their clothes, and shelled corn enough to last during the week. He was very particular that his slaves did not get cold by exposure to storms, since their healths were thereby injured; nor did he when picking cotton in the winter, drive them out to work when there was a heavy frost, as many planters do, because, in such cases the fingers are frequently frozen, which causes them to swell and become clumsy, thereby making a loss rather than a gain. As on nearly all other large plantations, so there was one woman on this, whose sole business was to prepare food for the remainder, and take it into the field to them. To carry the provisions, she had a mule and a cart which was curiously contrived with a small box on the front part in which the bread was thrown with as little regard to method or cleanliness, as though intended, for other than human beings. The meat was cut in pieces and put into a kind of tray, which was placed upon the bread; on the hind end of the cart, was a place prepared set a barrel for water. The bread is made after the manner of what are called "shovel cakes" — that we may better understand, their method of making bread,
7let us imagine ourselves in front of a large oven, five or six feet across the bottom on the inside. Suppose the oven to be heated, and ready for baking; in front of it stands a matronly looking wench, with her arms thrust almost to her elbows into a half barrel filled with meal and water. While she is rolling and tumbling this about, so that all parts may become equally mixed; we will observe a little farther, and see what else there is about the oven. A little to the left, stands a block, a large old fashioned fire shovel, a bucket of water, a pile of husks and a little girl eight or ten years old. Observe, now the meal is all mixed, the shovel is placed up on the block, the girl dips four or five husks into the water, and places them upon the shovel. After which, the woman scoops up a handful of two of the meal, and places it upon the husks; the whole is then put into the oven and the shovel is drawn out, leaving, the bread protected by the husks from the ashes and embers. This process is continued until the oven is filled, or until a sufficient quantity of bread is made.
The negroes were compelled to be in the field so soon as there was sufficient light to enable them to see to do their work properly. At eight o'clock breakfast was, brought into the field; about twenty minutes were allowed them for eating, after which they again resumed their work, and continued working until noon, when dinner was brought to them. They were then allowed about half or three quarters of an hour for eating and resting, (seldom longer,) when they again resumed their work, and labored until night put an end to their toils. I said they worked — and so they did, but unlike any other people I had ever before seen. Much has been said and written, of the gayety and cheerfulness of Southern slaves, and of their merry song singing. But who ever goes to Louisiania for the purpose of hearing songs merrily sung by the slaves, will I fear loose his journey.
The natural conclusion from these slaves, working so many hours in a day, is, that they wrought at a very moderate and easy rate; but this was so far from being the case, that I have sometimes thought when I have been observing them, that were a stranger to come into the field, he would think each one was trying to out work the rest, rather than working as though he intended to work the whole day. Now, what compelled them to work at this astonishing rate? Why, the whip. Frequently have I seen, the overseer when he
8thought they were not working fast enough, go through the whole " gang," compelling each one to lie down and expose his or her bare back to the lash; while shrieks and groans, and the agonizing cry of " O pray! O pray master!" were enough to rend the hardest heart, that makes the least pretensions to the feelings of humanity. Such is the way the miserable slave is compelled to toil and suffer, from day to day, and from month to month; until he wears out his wretched existence; to gratify the insatiable avarice, or the extravagant and unnatural desires of his tyrannical master. He who sees his fellow man suffer such cruel and oppressive injustice, and does not sympathize with him; and tender him a helping hand when practicable, is not a man but a monster, and as such should be expelled from civilized society. Here according to the plan that I have purposed to follow, it is proper to observe, that many planters differ from Mr. Surget in the management of their slaves in many particulars; though the general plan is nearly the same every where. Some allow their slaves to rest two hours in the middle of the day, during the month of July on account of the heat; and because they are then commonly less hurried by work, since in this month the work changes from hoeing cotton to picking, and changes gradually.
There is another difference which mostly exists between large and small planters; and I mention it rather for the sake of giving information, than because it affects the condition of the slave with regard to his happiness. Those planters who work so many hands, that the whole time of one or more can be employed in cooking and providing food for the remainder, have those who do nothing else. On the contrary, on plantations when there are but few slaves, each one cooks for himself. The provisions are prepared the night beforehand, so that there will be no delay in getting to their work in the morning. In such cases, all are provided with tin pails, holding from two to four quarts, in which to carry, their victuals into the field, and keep there during the day. There are other planters whose slaves come to the quarters for their meals, which are previously prepared for them. But the number of those belonging to this class, is very small. The quantity of food allowed to slaves, is almost as various as the givers are numerous. It consists almost exclusively of corn meal and pork. Slaves' rations are dealt out to them
9by the week, and on all plantations where one person cooks for the whole, the provisions are given in charge to that one; when each one cooks for himself, they are dealt out separately. In regard to meal, custom appears to have established a uniform rule throughout the state, for in almost all cases, a peck is the quantity allowed for each week; but the quantity of pork given, is not regulated by any such custom. Some give two pounds, some two and a half, some three and some as high as four pounds, and some none at all. In many instances instead of giving all pork, some substitute molasses in its stead, which is considered much more healthy. On Mr. Surget's plantation a barrel of pork was given each week for the, whole, or a little less than two pounds a piece. As some compensation for the lack of meat, milk was given out twice a week, which as it was kept three or four days, was of course sour and clabbered. No meat was allowed to children; they were fed on milk. But the custom of eating clabbered milk is not confined to the slave population of the Southern states; buttermilk and sour milk are considered more healthy than sweet, and are prefered to it both by white and black.
After I had been on the Ashley plantation as it was called, somewhat near three months, I witnessed a spectacle so revolting that the thoughts of it even now, create a loathsome sickening sensation. I had started to cross the Mississippi river as was customary for me to do on Thursday, for the purpose of meeting a courier, which Mr. Surget always sent down on that day unless prevented by some accident, to learn the condition of affairs on the plantation, and give directions concerning the management of his business. The river at that place is a mile in width. I had got but a short distance into the stream, when I heard the cracking of a whip on the opposite shore, which continued at intervals during the remainder of the time that I was crossing the river. On arriving at the opposite side, I saw a poor wretch stretched upon the earth and fastened there by four stakes, one for each wrist, and one for each ankle to which the wrists and ancles were fastened by strong cords. At the distance of about fifteen feet stood the ox-driver with a long ox-whip, the blows of which cut such horrid gashes, that though I was no nearer than thirty paces, I could see each wound distinctly as the lash left it. The agony of the sufferer was terrific. He writhed
10and struggled so convulsively that the stakes were several times started from the ground, and were as often driven down again with the ax. Death, "the king of terrors," is as nothing compared to pangs like these; and yet the pains and sufferings from such a flogging do not end with the application of the whip.
On witnessing the severity of this punishment I thought the negro had committed some great and unpardonable crime; such as murder, or an attempt at murder. But on inquiry, the mighty mountain of offence dwindled down to the insignificance of a mole hill. The negro, the previous night, had been down to the next plantation, the distance of, one mile, to see his sweet-heart; and if I remember right, his master told me he returned early in the morning, so that he lost no time from his work. "But," said he "I don't allow my negroes to leave the plantation, and I will let them know who is master." The fact of the business was, that he and Mr. Richardson, the planter below, were not on friendly terms, and he vented, his spite against him by whipping his own negro. This man's name was Thomas Ford. He was noted throughout the neighborhood for his unnecessary cruelty to his slaves. He owned thirty-five, and among all these, I was informed there were but few whose constitutions were not broken by whipping. I have heard that he was so dextrous with the whip, that he could carve the initials of his name upon a negroe's back. A report however, which I should never believe unless substantiated by credible proof. I will here state for the information of the curious, that great skill may be acquired in handling the whip. A person accustomed to whipping, or to seeing it done, can tell at a distance whether the person subjected to the punishment is severely, hurt or not. If the cracking of the whip is sharp and clear, the force of the blow is spent before the lash strikes. This kind of whipping is practiced more for show, than a real wish to injure. But when the lash falls with a dead heavy sound, the blows tell to their utmost. I have seen, many who pride themselves upon their dexterity, and who boast of their exploits.
Shortly after the occurrence just related, two negroes were brought back to the plantation who had run away some six months before; driven to the act by much abuse and suffering, they had in company with another attempted to make their escape into a free state.
Slaves who have been maltreated, and have what is called an obstinate and willful disposition, (but which in reality is only courage to maintain as far as possible their natural rights,) frequently run away from their masters and die in the woods and swamps; sometimes for months, supporting themselves during the time by venturing in to the plantations by right, and stealing hogs, and whatever else they may chance to find. Any person at a glimpse at the geographical situation of Louisiana, will see that its distance from any of the free states is so great, that there is scarcely a possible chance for a slave to make his escape; for this reason, comparatively but a small number of those who run away ever attempt to leave the neighborhood; prefering rather the safety of the secret places with which they may happen to be acquainted.
These two negroes had provocation sufficient to induce any being on earth to make some attempt at relief, whether success were apparent or not. The overseer from whom they ran away was a most cruel and inhuman man, and had punished some so severely with the paddle, an instrument known during the last war by the name of "cobbing board," that a physician was called to save their lives, as their wounds were deep and began to mortify. This treatment which was more or less experienced by all, but more particularly by these two individuals, was the cause which induced them to run away. — Concerning the other who started in company with them, it may not be uninteresting to give a short history. His name was Jasper; he was accounted the most effectual hand on the plantation, and was a man of great spirit and resolution. I have heard, the other negroes say that he often spoke of his wife and children whom he had been compelled to leave behind, when torn by ruthless hands from the home of his childhood, in terms of the warmest affection, mingled with regrets for their abscence. Until a short time before he left, he had had no difficulty with the overseer; though others had been burned by his tyranny, he had hitherto escaped unscorched; but his time came at last. One evening he burned a piece of board of small size and of little or no consequence, and for this offence the overseer, who never let an opportunity slip for exercising his authority, ordered him to lie in the stocks. Since all are not acquainted with stocks I will describe them: they are composed of two large pieces of wood so large as not be easily moved, these are fastened
12together at one end by means of a hinge, and at the other with a staple and a lock. People are confined in these sometimes by the neck, and sometimes by one and sometimes by both ancles. The neck and ancles are put into apertures prepared to receive them by raising the upper piece of timber: when both feet are put into them they are stretched a short distance apart, so that a person is compelled to lie in one position until taken out; consequently confining in the stocks for any considerable length of time and lying on a floor, is a punishment painful in the extreme. To this punishment Jasper submitted for three nights, (he had to work by day and be confined by night,) but on the fourth evening, when the overseer ordered him to go to the stocks and suffer himself to be confined there, he refused to comply; and when his tormentor endeavored to force him there; he with the true spirit of a man, resisting a cruel and unjust oppressor, seized a bar of iron that lay near and felled him to the floor. The house was immediately filled with the other negroes who came to the assistance of the overseer. Jasper, equally magnanimous as brave, instantly threw down the bar of iron, refusing to use it on his fellow slaves who assisted in his capture only because they were afraid to do otherwise. But though he would not make use of the iron, still he endeavored to fight his way through the throng that surrounded him and make his escape; and many were prostrated by the powerful blows which he dealt on all who opposed his progress. He was captured after much difficulty, and after he had once or twice nearly made his escape. Then the overseer in his turn made use of the bar and beat Jasper upon the head until he appeared lifeless. The blood ran from the wounds across the floor and puddled on the farther side of the room. After his capture Jasper was confined in the stocks for two or three weeks, during which time he underwent such a course of punishment as would have killed an ordinary man. When he had been punished as much as his crime deserved, he was turned loose and again put to work, but more dead than alive. In three months he nearly regained his former health and strength, and he then made his attempt at escape, in company with the two previously spoken of.
What afterwards became of his was never satisfactorily ascertained, as he left his companions the second night while they were asleep, and they never saw him or heard of him
13afterwards. I think he was shot; for about three months after he ran away, a negro answering to his description, was killed on Black river in an attempt to capture him. He showed the utmost desperation, refusing to yield himself on any terms. The description of both the person and character of this negro, showed him to be no other than the "heroic Jasper." Under other circumstances, and blessed with a fairer color, he might have been deemed a hero. But, — he was a mutinous slave. Had Jasper been born white, and had he possessed those advantages, which every white man does possess in this country; he might have rivalled Jackson or Webster, in his fame; for every circumstance with which he was connected, indicated that he had great and splendid qualities; that he was one of "Natures noblemen." O! the misfortune of being born of the negro race, to an aspiring mind! among whites to be trodden under foot, and in one's own countrymen to find barbarians only.
The other two, after being absent something near six months, were taken in the vicinity of Vicksburg, and were lodged in Vicksburg jail. What they suffered from cold, hunger, fatigue, and exposure can be better imagined than described. During all this time, they were in those immense swamps that lie on either side of the Mississippi; endeavoring to make their way up the river, until they should arrive at some of the free states on the Ohio; subsisting on whatever they chanced to find, and lying in the open air on the ground by night. That they proceeded no farther than Vicksburg in six months, is to be ascribed to their extreme ignorance. Entirely ignorant of the country, and of their course except as pointed out by the river, and compelled by fear to keep back in the swamps and cane brakes, their progress could not be otherwise than, toilsome and slow in the extreme. Hard indeed, must be that servitude, and great that love of liberty, which can induce man to brave such hardships to escape the one, and gain the other. I question much, whether any of our justly renowned forefathers, endured as much suffering as did these poor slaves, in their attempt to gain that, which is the natural birthright of every man, freedom. Yet so inconsistent are mankind in their opinions, that while they honor the one they stigmatize the other for the same attempt and actuated by like motives. As soon as these negroes were lodged in jail, information was sent to
14Mr. Surget concerning them. In a few days the negroes were brought down to the plantation; for whose coming I was previously prepared by a letter from Mr. Surget, from which the following is an extract: — John Lee and Alfred are at Vicksburg in jail, and the boat that goes down after the cotton, will take them down. Tell Frank, (the overseer,) that he must have every thing prepared for keeping them securely, and they must be kept closely confined, and flayed daily. They must be kept in the stocks, and the handcuffs kept on them; and no other person must be in the room with them. Frank must have them heavily ironed, and he must be particular not to let them get away. These orders I read to Frank, and he obeyed them to the letter. They were confined in the stocks, besides, being ironed so heavily that they could with difficulty move any part of their bodies. But whether they were flayed daily or not, I cannot say; for I would never witness their sufferings, and was never in the jail; (so the building was called in which the stocks were kept,) but once during the time they were confined there. — They had remained in the stocks about two weeks, when hearing nothing more concerning them from Mr. Surget, I ordered them released on my own responsibility. When John Lee and Alfred were set at liberty, Frank had a heavy iron collar placed upon the neck of each, and a band about the ancle so very heavy, that they were compelled to support them by thongs attached to belts around the waist. I never in my life saw people more pleased than were those two men on being released from confinement, and again allowed the privilege of associating with their acquaintances. They were not only pleased, but they appeared to enjoy perfect happiness; and the greeting, and the cordial shake of the hand, which they received from the other negroes, was so warm and heartfelt, considering the peculiar circumstances of the cage, as almost to affect one to tears. The others did not despise them for having failed in their attempt, as might be supposed, but on the contrary, they felt a mingled feeling of pity for their failure, and admiration for their daring. Their cause was a common one, and interested them all alike. I believe their punishment was perfectly unnecessary, (except perhaps for example,) as their sufferings ware so great during, the time they were out, that they could not have been induced to engage in a like enterprise again.
15I have given an accurate description of Mr. Surget's plan of management; but there yet remains to mention some parts of it, that were peculiar to himself. He worked his slaves as hard as any other planter, but he at the same time treated them less harshly than many of them did. He was a man who on all occasions consulted his interest. Though he did not like to have his slaves loose a moments time when it could be avoided, yet he did not like to have them exposed to inclement weather, or in any manner treated so as to injure their healths, except compelled by necessity. He was more opposed to flogging than many others, because excessive flogging was opposed to his interest; and though he whipped frequently with great severity, yet never with that reckless cruelty that I have sometimes witnessed in others, who were less calculating, and who at the same time did not work their slaves so hard, and fed and clothed them as well, if not better than he did. Those negroes, to whom it was necessary to call a physician were flogged without his knowledge; and so soon as the abuse became known to him, he put a stop to it by removing the overseer. In place of the whip, he substituted as far as practicable, the stocks, collars and bands of iron. He did not put his young negroes to work, at so early an age, nor task them so severely, as some; for the same reason that a good farmer would not work a colt, as he would an old horse. Before taking leave of the Ashley plantation, I will relate a few more incidents connected with it. The practice of, eating dirt, prevails extensively throughout this section of the country. Two negroes died on the plantation while I was there, from this cause. Mr. Surget informed me that he had lost some years six or eight slaves solely by eating dirt. Dirt affects the system like a slow poison; occasioning great debility, accompanied with bloating, and loss of appetite: and if the practice of eating it is persevered in, — certain death follows. A few weeks before death ensues; the victim becomes insane. These were the symptoms of the two whom I saw.
The physicians of the country affirm that this practice obtains, from a morbid appetite, which is created by drinking the muddy water of the river. In assigning the cause for the practice of dirt-eating, I shall differ, somewhat, with the physicians. Those who eat dirt, are aware of the effect produced. The operation is not so slow but that it is distinctly
16visible. They know it to be death, and that quickly. The effect of dirt eating is so certain, and so invariably the same, that he who uses it, knows he uses it to the destruction of his life. Having a certain knowledge of this fact would any person accustom himself to such an unnatural practice, unless he were tired of life? I observed before that one effect of dirt eating, was debility. Yet, notwithstanding, the great debility to which they are at last reduced; slaves who have in this manner ruined their healths, are kept in the field almost as long as they are able to stand. I once saw a poor woman come tottering in from the field, her strength so far gone, that she could with difficulty support herself. She complained of sickness; but — she was a dirt-eater. Her master reproached her with being herself the cause of her illness, and ordered her to be flogged, and sent back into the field; which was done. I heard the blows of the whip, accompanied with her "cries of anguish."
Chains him, and tasks him, and extracts his sweat
With stripes, that Mercy with a bleeding heart,
Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast."
There is another incident of which, though I was not an eyewitness, I had undeniable proof. This plantation, before it was purchased by Mr. Surget, was owned by a Tennessean by the name of Jackson. At the same time that Mr. Jackson bought this plantation, he also purchased a residence for his family in Natchez. On the removal of his family from Tennessee to Natchez, Mrs. J. brought with her an English woman, who had acted in the capacity of chambermaid in her family. On some pretext, Mr. Jackson induced this woman to go down to the plantation; and when she arrived there, she was immediately compelled to go into the field and work with the negroes. This unjust treatment she highly resented, and ran away as often she had an Opportunity. For such obstinate conduct, she was several times flogged before she could be subdued in the least. Nor could her free spirit be entirely conquered, except by death; for notwithstanding the rigor with which she was treated, she would sometimes burst through all restraint, boldly assert her rights, and upbraid the overseer with the injustice which he practiced towards her. Some of the negroes who witnessed these proceedings, informed me that when she disputed or resisted the overseer,
17that he would knock her down with the butt of his whip, or whatever else was most convenient. No human constitution can bear such rigorous treatment long, nor did she prove an exception to the rule. Death put an end to her sufferings, in a little more than a year after her first arrival on the plantation. She was represented, as having a light complexion, blue eyes, and flaxen hair. Thinking, this tale of the negroes to be exaggerated, if not entirely false; I enquired about it of Mr. Glascock, a planter whose plantation joined Mr. Surget's. He informed me that what the negroes had said concerning the matter was strictly true; that the affair caused considerable excitement in the neighborhood; and that some, of the neighbors talked of interfering. Among this number was his, (Glascock's) father, but that nothing was ever done. The treatment of this woman fully concurs, with the sentiments that I several times heard expressed, during my residence in Louisiana. To wit: — That slavery as it exists in the United States, is one of the greatest of Heaven's blessings. That it is right, because, it has always existed since the most ancient times of which we have any account, either in sacred or profane writings; that God himself has sanctioned it, "because," said they, "he has, given laws concerning the treatment of slaves;" I shall not here attempt to prove these arguments to be fallacious. But admitting these assertions to be facts, and that the conclusions are correctly drawn, can we not with equal propriety, from the same manner of reasoning infer that God justifies sin, because it has always existed, and because he has given us laws for the government of our evil passions and desires. Both conclusions are equally inconsistent with reason and experience.
Some time in the latter part of June; 1841 I left the Ashley plantation, for Minden in Claiborne Parish; at which place arrived on the second of July. My intention is not to relate my own adventures, nor give a description of places, except, so far as may be connected with my subject; which is merely to give information concerning the situation of the slave in Louisiana. At Minden I remained five months; and in all this time, I never once saw a slave abused. They were sometimes flogged, but never considering them as slaves, except when they ought to have been.
The slaves here are better fed, better clothed, and tasked less severely than in any other part, of the state, in which I
18have been; and their appearance is as much better, than it is in other parts, as their treatment is more humane. Instead of looking so downcast, and having that look so expressive of conscious degradation, that is but too frequently seen, they are on the contrary, lively and cheerful, and almost entirely free from those vices, that I observed to be prevalent on the Mississippi and Red rivers. In fact, they appear almost like another race of beings. In no place have I ever seen property more carelessly exposed, or a greater opportunity offered for thieving than in Minden. Meat houses are left unlocked, doors of mechanic's shops left open &c., and yet stealing among the negroes, is a crime comparatively unknown there. The reason is they have enough to eat, drink, and wear; consequently, they have no occasion for stealing. How different, in the other places I have mentioned: nothing is secure from their depredations. Every thing is stolen, that can be eaten or in other any way used; and all kinds of property, that is convertible into articles which necessity demands. As so great a disparity exists in the conduct and appearance of the slaves, in different places, we are naturally led to enquire into the cause of this difference: and if in the one case, we find them treated with more humanity than in the other; we may safely, I think, ascribe that to be the cause, for the reason that it appears to be followed by a natural consequence. But here again, another question presents itself. That is, why the slaves in Claiborne Parish are treated better than the slaves are in the other parts of the state. There are two causes. The first is, Claiborne has been settled almost entirely within the last six or seven years; and settled by emigrants from N. York, Ohio, Indiana, and the older slave states. In New York, Ohio, and Indiana, there are no slaves; consequently emigrants form those states, unless of a very hardened and depraved character, could not immediately accustom themselves to the practice of excessive cruelty. In the older slave states, where the soil is not so prolific, or has been impoverished by long continued culture, the incitements to cupidity are less strong than where the soils are rich and produce abundantly. Education is more general, and is carried to a greater extent in the older state, than in the new. The fact, that mankind as they become enlightened become more humane, cannot in the presence of existing facts be doubted. Consequently, masters in the elder states, tread
19their slaves more kindly than in those where the people are more ignorant and rude. This conclusion is in perfect concordance with the reports of those, who from observation are competent judges. The circumstances under which the wild lands of the United States are settled has altered very materially, since the landing of our forefathers on the "rock of Plymouth." Then, the conscientious and the good had to flee to the wilderness for refuge. Now, the refugees from justice are those who are compelled to fly beyond the pale of civilization, for safety. These are soon followed by a hardy, reckless, enterprising people, who are actuated only by the love of adventure, and the desire of gain. And not until these have gone ahead, and cleared the way, do the more sober and honest of our citizens advance. This truth has been demonstrated, in the settlement of new territories, ever since the revolution. Such being the fact, one cannot but expect, that in slave states lately settled the slaves will be treated with greater severity than in the older states. I rank the inhabitants of Claiborne, mostly with the sober third class. This is one reason why slaves are treated better in Claiborne, than they are in other parts of the state that have been longer settled; settled by the reckless, enterprising class. But there is still another reason. The inhabitants of Claiborne are mostly poor. This fact will I think be found to be almost invariably true; that those masters having the least number of slaves treat them best; for having themselves, either toiled hard in the acquisition of their property, or being men who are actually compelled to labor with their slaves, for the support of their families, they know the hardships which the slave endures from having experienced the same themselves. A consciousness, usually, found to be accompanied with kind treatment. Besides, a man who owns but from one to ten slaves, places a much higher value upon them than he who owns fifty, or one hundred. If he loose one by death, or by any other means, the loss is enormous; almost irreparable. Consequently, he is more kind in his treatment both through fear of sickness, and through fear of offending them, so that they run away.
Having finished my observations concerning the slaves of Claiborne, I will now proceed to Natchitoches Parish, on Red river. At this place I arrived in November, 1841. — Here again, I saw slavery, existing in all its horrors. The slaves are worked about the same as on the Mississippi, but
20whipped and starved more, and much more poorly clad. The principle of the most enterprising and business men, among the planters, is to feed well, clothe comfortably, and "crack through." A principle, which requires a great deal of hard whipping to carry out, and one which renders the negroes subjects, that can with much propriety be compared with our coach horses. Each are well fed, worked hard, and commonly broken down in a few years.
I shall relate some cruelties which were perpetrated here: some, during the time that I was in the neighborhood; and some previous to my going there. Some of which I saw, the others such, as I heard from respectable authority. There was one Mr. Lambert who lived in this neighborhood, a gentleman who six years ago, had from; twenty-five to thirty slaves. That number, when I left there, was reduced to seven. All had died on the plantation from ill usage, except three or four who were shot while run away by people in attempting to capture them, and one which was sold. Those he had remaining are the most pitiable objects that can be conceived of; such a meager, ragged, degraded set of beings I never before saw. Their very looks created a mingled feeling of pity and disgust. Their backs were never sound, but were continual, festering, running sores. No wonder then that Mr. Lambert's slaves were frequently in the woods, and that they prefered being shot, to the certainty of enduring the torments of cold, hunger, and the lash. Yet, Mr. Lambert did not look like a tiger; neither was he a tiger; he was on the contrary, as polite and affable a man as is often met with; and an affectionate and kind man in his family. But he was a passionate man, and thought that his slaves could be managed by force only; that he must keep them down for fear they would become unmanageable. This is the correct principle for the management of slaves, but Mr. Lambert lacked judgment to execute it properly. I excuse the man, for his cruelty on this ground; but I do not excuse that system, which gives him power to exercise such tyranny. The history of Mr. Lambert is no fiction, and it is equally applicable to thousands. There was another planter in the same neighborhood, who would not let his slaves drink, out of the same cistern
21plenty of water; because he wished to keep them humble. Rather than his slaves should become impudent, from drinking pure water, he prefered to have them drink the water of the river, which in its low stages is sinking and very unwholesome. He too was noted for his unmerciful treatment to his slaves; he had a machine, expressly constructed, for the purpose of confining his slaves, when he flogged them. It consisted of two upright posts, connected at the top and bottom, by pieces extending across; a piece also extends across the middle; in which are three holes, one for the neck and one for each wrist. This cross piece is formed of two separate pieces of timber. The head and wrists are put in by raising the upper piece. In each of the uprights, there is a groove for this cross piece to move in, so that it may be raised or lowered, according to the height of the negro to be flogged. It is always placed, so the person to be punished, shall stand stooping. The whip is then played upon the bare back.
But the most cruel man that I was acquainted with in this neighborhood, was Mr. Livini, an Italian. Three years ago he flogged a slave for stealing so unmercifully, that when human nature could suffer no longer; he made a pretext to get to the river, by telling his master that he would show him where the stolen goods were concealed. But as soon as he was sufficiently near, he plunged into the river, and although, he was a good swimmer, and rails and, other things were thrown to him, he refused to make any attempt to save his life. This negro had been flogged for several days successively, and flogged upon suspicion only. Mr. Livini whipped another negro, while I lived in the neighborhood. His crime too was stealing, according to a confession that had been flogged out of him. Mr. Livini said that this negro should receive an hundred lashes daily, for ten days succession. On the third day, I had some business to transact with him, (Livini,) in consequence of which I happened there at the time he was whipping the negro. He was lying upon a rack, something like a ladder, which lay upon the ground. His feet were tied to one of the rounds or rather slats, and his hands were extended as far forward as possible, and tied also. The whip that was used a braided one, made after the fashion of the covered whips which teamsters frequently use. This is the ordinary whip used in whipping slaves, and goes
22by the name of, "nigger whip." At almost every blow small pieces of flesh, and clotted blood flew from the lash. The flesh on the negroe's back and thighs was mangled in the most shocking manner. The flesh mangled and torn, and the blood continually oozing from the wounds, and the groans of the victim at each blow, formed almost hideous spectacle. Yet the unfeeling monster who stood over him was as cool and composed, as though he was whipping a log of wood; striking fifteen or twenty blows, and then resting to renew his breath and strength. This was the last day the negro was whipped. For the neighbors interfered, and persuaded Mr. Livini that the negro was punished as much as his crime deserved. I could swell volumes, by the recital of scenes like these; but if the reader is as much disgusted with reading, as I am with writing, he will wish to read no more.
One more instance and I have done. There was a widow lady in the neighborhood, of whom the fact was notorious, that she gave her slaves but twenty-five ears of corn a week. Though this was all she gave, I do not wish to be understood, that this was all they had. As long as human stomachs are as voracious as they now are, they will not remain satisfied with such a meagre allowance; if, (as was the case in that neighborhood,) there are plenty of hogs and cattle near. Slavery, at the best, debases the moral principles of man, almost to a level with the brute. But such treatment as above described, would render the most honorable minded man that ever existed, a perfect fiend. I have hitherto spoken, of the treatment of the most rigorous masters only. While we find many, who treat their slaves with the unnecessary cruelty hitherto described; a great number will also be found, who treat them with more reason and humanity. The laws of Louisiana are far from being so severe on the slave, as might be imagined from the treatment which they receive. The laws prescribe the punishment of all offences which the slave can commit; and in no case that I recollect, can more than fifty lashes be inflicted for any crime. If the crime is so great that fifty lashes is not a sufficient punishment, something else is substituted in the place of the whip. Sometimes a ball attached to the leg by a chain, to be worn a certain length of time; sometimes imprisonment, and sometimes death. But where is the friend of the slave, who will ensure him that protection, which even the partiality of a slave law grants. —
23Alas! he is not to be found. Each man's judgement and passions, are the only laws by which he is governed Although the statutes of Louisiana prescribe certain punishments for certain offences committed by the slave; yet if that punishment is exceeded, the punisher is laid under no liabilities; or if he is the laws are never enforced. I dare affirm there is not a suit recorded on the dockets of Louisiana, where a master has been prosecuted for the abuse of his slaves. And oh! what unheard atrocities have been committed by men of hardened and abandoned principles, when under the influence of passion. — Actual murder is a crime for which a white may be punished. But if guilty, how difficult to convict him. In the first place there is no one to prosecute. Then again a slave can in no instance be evidence in any judicial proceeding, against a free white. Besides, if a slave resists or fights his overseer or master, he may be killed with impunity; or if he run away and is hailed, and refuses to stop he, may be shot like a wild beast, by any person. Under such circumstances, there is no possibility of convicting a man when he is actually guilty, and when there are those disposed to put the laws in force. I will give an example. In February, 1842, a white man murdered a free mulatto, on the River Bondieu, about seven miles from the village of city of Natchitoches. A more decided case of murder cannot occur. There were two other whites who were witnesses to the act. The murderer was apprehended and confined in jail, until the first session of the district court. But the grand jury refused to find a bill of indictment against him, and he was accordingly turned loose to kill as many more mulattoes as he should choose. Because if this man were convicted of murder, and hanged, it would (as was thought) afford a dangerous precedent.
Such a thing would have a tendency to lessen that fear and respect which the whites claim as a right from the negroes, and which the relative circumstances of the two classes require. Thus, the negro bond or free, has no chance for justice in a slave state, when his rights are opposed to the white man's; and this ever must be the condition of the negro, in any state, so long as slavery exists in that state. There are some other atrocities, that spring from this system and which without it, cannot exist; they remain yet to be spoken of. When we consider that there are many who have their own children working on their plantation; slaves that are goaded
24by the whip with relentless cruelty, compelled to toil and sweat like the meanest brute, by an unfeeling and despotic master, one who by the laws of God and nature, should have been a friend and protector; and when we see brother domineering over brother, from the prerogative of a fairer skin, and putting him up at auction, as is done where estates are divided and selling him to the highest bidder; a slave for life, body, mind and soul; we are lost in astonishment to think that there are those, who in the face of these facts, dreadful as they are, should still stand up as advocates for the rightfulness, and the continuance of this barbarous practice. The fact is indisputable, that there are those who make a business of rearing their own offspring for the market. We blush to speak it; but how much more ought we to be ashamed, for allowing acts so disgraceful to humanity to exist, and pass unreproved. There are many other enormities, which have so frequently been the subjects of remark, that I shall pass them over.
Before closing this narrative, I wish to give the history of a race of people living on Red river, in the Parish of Natchitoches; for the purpose, of showing that the negro race is not naturally, so much inferior to the white, as is by some thought. These on Red River are a race, which considering the peculiar circumstances of their origin and of their present existence, may safely be said to differ from any other people known. The territory of Louisiana was discovered by the French at an early age; who in 1699 began a settlement within its limits; and it remained a French colony, until the year 1762. To encourage the settlement of the colony, liberal donations of land were granted to the first emigrants; which together with the small price demanded by the government for the remainder, enabled some of the first adventurers to become proprietors of tracts almost boundless in extent. In 1792 this territory was ceded; to Spain, who not only confirmed all grants and purchase made under the French government; but held out similar inducements, for the encouragement of all others who might wish in the country. In 1803, it was retrieved to France; and in 1803 was purchased of France, by Mr. Jefferson. As often as this territory was transfered from one nation to another, stipulations were entered into that the rights of its citizens sacred, and that all government acts should be ratified who are about to come
25into power. But with all the inducements held to settlers, Louisiana was never much populated until it came into the possession of the United States. The United States not only confirmed all grants and donations previously made, but in many cases, doubled them. In most of the old Spanish grants, land bordering on the large rivers extended back from the river, one hundred and sixteen chains and thirty-six links, or nearly a mile and a half. By an enactment of Congress, called the "back concession," one hundred and sixteen chains and thirty-six links more were added, when the tract was not situated on some creek, bayou, or other navigable stream. Many of the first adventurers into this territory under the French and Spanish governments, were unmarried men; and as there were very few white females in the country, some married squaws, and some others who had negress slaves, married them. Of this number was the pro genitor of the race, of whom I am about to speak. His name is not material to their history; but if I mistake not, it was Matewia. He was among the first, if not the first settler in the Parish of Natchitoches, which was settled a little more than a hundred years ago. Before his death, he freed his children, and by his will, made them his heirs. His descendants have now the exclusive possession of the country on Red River for fifteen miles. Among these, are many who are possessed of considerable wealth, and who live in a style of splendor. From the misfortune of their color, which prevents them from associating with the whites on terms of equality, they may be said to be a nation by themselves. But in the management of their plantation affairs, they act upon the same plans that the whites do about them. Schools are better supported by them, than they usually are in other parts of the state. And in point of wealth, and in the respectability of the character of its inhabitants, this section of country will equal any other of equal extent on Red River. Then where is our boasted superiority over the African? This instance plainly shows, that if we give them an opportunity equal to our own, their proficiency will be as great. — When the blacks first obtained possession of Hayti, they were a band of ignorant slaves, just emancipated. What could be expected from them? Under all the advantages which we possess, in this enlightened land, men are not deemed competent to transact the business which devolves
26on them as members of society until the age of twenty-one years. Yet we ought to be better fitted at the age of fifteen, with our advantages, than the man who has spent all his days on a cotton, sugar, indigo, or rice plantation, at the age of an hundred years admitting that he should have his faculties perfect until that time.
Have not then the inhabitants of St. Domingo done more than could reasonably have been expected from them? We do not call the Arab intellectually an inferior race, because they are sunk in ignorance and barbarism. No, we cannot; history informs us that they were once the most enlightened people on earth; that Egyptians, — now but one grade above the Arabs, were renowned for their learning and their knowledge of the arts and sciences, when civilized Europe was a "howling wilderness," and its people savages, more barbarous than the Arab and Egyptian, ever were. Nations once enlightened have sunk to the lowest depth of barbarism, while once barbaric nations have burst the bands of lethargy, superstition and ignorance, and now stand as bright constellations in the moral and political heavens; showing to what a happy eminence both men and nations may arrive, when reason is directed to its proper objects. Natural, intellectual preeminence, cannot be ascribed to any race on earth. — We see in the contemplation of nations of antiquity that when the attention of any people has been directed to the cultivation of literature, science, and the useful arts, that people has risen to power and eminence; but when these, the true sources of both individual and national aggrandizement have been neglected, that nation has returned to its former insignificance. If we cast our eyes to the nations now in existence, we shall see that wealth, power, and happiness, kept equal pace with intellectual improvement. The peculiar institutions of certain governments, popular superstitions, the corruption of rulers, and the unsettled state of neighboring nations, together with their enmity, are some of the causes which present the naturally inquisitive mind of man from exerting itself, or direct, it to improper objects. The peculiar laws and customs of China are such as to preclude advancement in, civilization, and they, have remained in nearly the same condition in which they now are, for nearly three thousand years; scarcely, changing their fashions of dress, or manner of building. The, popular; superstitions of
27Spain, united with the corruption of her rulers, who cherish these superstitions, and endeavor by every means in their power to keep the people ignorant and degraded, are the causes which make the Spaniards, who three centuries ago were the most renowned and enlightened people of Europe, the ignorant, superstitious and inefficient nation they now are. When Greece was governed by her Lycurgus and other rulers, whose ambition was centered in their country's good; who maintained peace with the nations which surrounded them, as far as was consistent with safety and honor, and encouraged domestic industry, she prospered. But when these were succeeded by ambitious and factious leaders, who corrupted the citizens, rendered them luxurious, idle and effeminate, and created divisions among them, she languished and at length fell. And when Rome became corrupted by the ambition, avarice, luxury, cruelty and injustice of her rulers, she too fell; partly a victim to her own lusts, and partly by the hands of her invaders. After the fall of the Roman Empire, an intellectual darkness thick as night hovered over and obscured all Europe; and not till centuries had rolled past, did the vital spark, seemingly extinct, at last revive. There is no one thing that tends to keep people in ignorance and barbarism, so much as war. The conquerors of the Romans were people whose sole occupation was war. No other business or profession was considered honorable among them. Instead of ambitious youths crowding to seminaries of learning, and striving with an honorable ambition who should excel in literature, science, or the arts, they crowded the lists of the tournament, or were found in the battlefield. And so long as war engrossed the whole minds of the people, they made no advance in civilization.
Not until after the wars of the Crusades had united the nations of Europe in a common cause, and thus in a measure extinguished feuds and animosities at homeland made known to them much of the knowledge possessed by the nations of the east, did the Europeans begin to see and attend to their true interests. Shortly after the Crusades began the Reformation in religion which "was effected by Martin Luther," which is justly entitled to be considered one of the most important events recorded in the pages of history. The consequences which it produced throughout, the civilized world, can hardly be appreciated, it not only
28freed men from that mental bondage under which they were held by the Romish Church, "but also materially contributed to the dissemination of more just and enlarged sentiments, respecting the nature and foundation of civil liberty." When civilized nations are conquered and overrun by those which are barbarous, all traces civilization vanish. Thus, though the Saracens contributed considerably to bring about the reformation of Europe, they were afterwards overrun by swarms of barbarians from the interior of Asia, who reduced them to a condition as degraded as their own. Large nations, when united by a common interest, and by common feelings, have greater advantages for civilization than small ones, from their greater security. In that state of society where people exist in small clans or tribes, which are continually at war with each other, mankind have in all ages been barbarous. Such was once the condition of Europe, and such is now the condition of nearly all Africa, and a considerable portion of Asia and America. Civilization cannot flourish except in a peaceful soil. Let us look at the contrast between the Indians of Peru and Mexico, and those of the United States, when first discovered by Europeans. The Peruvians and Mexicans were composed of numerous tribes, united together for mutual protection, forming nations so powerful as to be perfectly secure from the attacks of the small tribes about them. Thus having their attention and time unemployed, they naturally turned their minds to agriculture and the useful arts. In fact, they were compelled to do so, to supply the wants of an increasing population. While on the other hand, those Indians who inhabited the northern parts of America were divided into small clans, continually warring upon each other, and frequently annihilating whole tribes. No combination existed, of sufficient importance to withstand the aggressions, of their neighbors, except that of the Five Nations may be so called, and that was of recent formation. Could the arts of peace and of civilization flourish in a state of society like this? Where is that security for the possession and enjoyment of any thing except what nature demands, to induce people to exert themselves to obtain them. The process, by which nations become civilized, is slow, and dependent on many adventitious circumstances: Catastrophes sometimes occur which overthrow the labors of centuries in a few years. Where
29are Troy and Carthage? And by what means have that people passed away, who once inhabited a large portion of the United States, of whose civilization so many monuments are now in existence? The changes from barbarism to civilization, and the retrograde movements of those nations from civilization to barbarism, have been so numerous, and from such a variety of causes, that if there is any race superior to the rest, I think it cannot be ascertained which that race is. Having, as I think, pointed out one of the reasons why the negro is in his own country a barbarian, I will now endeavor to show why he is considered inferior to the European race in this. We do not denominate the negro an inferior race, because they have produced no good boot-blacks or barbers. No, it is because they have not produced men renowned in eloquence, poetry, nor philosophy, nor in any business or profession in which genius only, assisted by study and application, and encouraged by patronage; can excel. In the most common affairs of life in the business of a farmer or mechanics, we must acquire our skill by practice and experience. No man ever became an acute metaphysician, except his mind had previously undergone an exact and rigid discipline. No man ever became a renowned lawyer, except he in the first place became possessed of that needful knowledge which can be acquired by study only. Finally, no man was ever born great in any age or country. What would Newton have been, if born a Hottentot? Probably like any other Hottentot. Deprived of that education which first gave him an insight into mathematics and astronomy, and of those advantage which the age and nation in which he lived, afforded, those great discoveries which fill the mind with wonder and, sublimity, would never have been thought of. He followed in a road marked out by others a long, long way, before he struck a path untraveled before.
Is the negro afforded an opportunity for distinguishing himself in any except the most servile of occupations? Then how can we expect him to excel in any other? Prejudice binds him to the earth in fetters of tenfold adamant. — Suppose an intelligent, likely negro commences business in some of our villages, as a barber; that by prudence and diligent application to business, he at length acquires a sufficiency to enable him to engage in something more lucrative and respectable. And if, on consideration, he should think tavern-keeping
30best suited to his capacities, and should accordingly rent a hotel would any of us patronize him? We would think we were disgracing ourselves. Or what lawyer would admit a negro as student in his office. Suppose so singular a thing should take place, would he be admitted to the bar? And if admitted, would he ever be patronized by a single client? And if all these strange things should take place, under what disadvantages would he appear in court, from the prejudices of judge and jury, and from the consciousness that these prejudices existed! Who among all those who boast so vehemently of their superiority, could successfully oppose such obstacles as these? The road to eminence among European nations, is as difficult for the African to pursue, and presents as many obstacles, as does the road to Timbuctoo to the European traveler. The negroes are said as a race to be idle, vain, and to possess a fondness for frivolous ornaments of dress; which their accusers construe into a proof of a natural weakness of mind. Go the world over, and we shall find that where ignorance prevails, there too may be found idleness and folly. They have been accused of being haughty and dictatorial. But the assertion has no foundation in truth. Bring the white man and negro in collision under almost any circumstances, and if the latter conduct himself with that independence which equals use toward each other, the cry is, "down with the saucy niggar. A niggar will be a niggar any way. His actions show what he is. Why, they would run over us if they had the power." There is no mistake in this fact. The, universal opinion is, that we have a right to trample upon the black, and that he has no right to complain or resist.
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
And we are weeds without it. All constraint,
Except what wisdom lays on evil men,
Is evil; hurts the faculties; Impedes
Their progress in the road to science; blinds
The eyesight of discovery; and begets
In those who suffer it, a sordid mind,
Bestial, a meager intellect, until
To be the tenant of man's noble form."
Having in the preceding narrative related some of the evils which spring from the institution of slavery, I now purpose to treat of the moral, religious, and political effects of slavery, both upon the master and slave. I shall treat of each class separately, beginning with the master. That slavery has a tendency to corrupt the morals of society, is evident from the following facts. The generality of mankind when in the possession of absolute authority, abuse that power, and corruption of principle always follows that abuse; or rather they go hand in hand, and mutually assist each other in their pestiferous course, blasting the happiness which springs from domestic love, and social intercourse. History comes loaded with the proof of this position, and the experience of every day adds its humiliating evidence of the natural weakness of the human mind, and the depravity of the human heart.
There are many bright exceptions to this course of action but alas! how few is the number in comparison with those who act in conformity with it. Again, since nearly all the labor is performed by the slave, the master is for the most part idle; and idleness is the stepping stone to vice. The master, from the consciousness that he is continually practicing injustice upon the slave in almost every possible form, becomes hardened in his iniquity. He becomes merciless and cruel; and by usurping the rights of others, he begets in himself a contempt for those rights. These effects are natural consequences, and being confirmed by the state of society among slaveholders, they need no further illustration.
We next come to consider the moral effects of slavery upon the slave. From the relations which exist between master
32and slave, the consequence follows that the slave must be kept ignorant and degraded. In fact, this is the only tenure by which slavery can exist in the United States, or in any country where the slaves are three times as numerous as their masters. I call upon, any man to show me a people thus circumstanced, and I will show him one that is sunk to the lowest depths of moral degradation. Besides in spite of all the exertions that are used to keep the slaves in ignorance, they have still sufficient knowledge to know that their rights are usurped. With this consciousness in their minds, is it not absurdity to expect that the slave will keep any peace or faith, with him whom he knows to be his worst enemy; the principle of revenge is deeply seated in the human breast. Who can sustain a positive wrong, without having feelings of retaliation arise? Hence, lying, stealing, frequent murder, and the like crimes to which the, negroes are said to be addicted, are natural results from the feelings which are produced in the minds of all men, under similar circumstances. If one man steal, or take forcibly from another, all that he hath, and there is no law to revenge the wrong which the injured man has sustained, nor make him any restitution, we certainly cannot blame that man if he take vengance into his own hands.
Conscious inferiority, is a sentiment which if once imbibed is almost sure to ruin any man. Let any person believe himself inferior to others, and his actions will be sure to make him so. Now what person who is continually trampled upon does not at last believe himself to be an inferior, insignificant being. If there be any such, they are vastly different from those which common observation presents to us. Besides, the slave has no character to sustain, born in a station from which neither principle nor character can raise him, and one from which they cannot sink to a lower; pride of character, the most powerful sentiment that exists in free society, whether civilized or savage, that tends to elevate the moral condition of man, is totally lost. And lastly the shameful manner of punishing, publicly on the bare back, does not add a little to the sum of the many causes of the moral degradation of the slave, by destroying that natural modesty and reserve which is common to all people. We come next to consider the effect of slavery upon religion. But firstly, we will see how far slavery is, compatible with religious principles;
33and if it is found to be in opposition to them, we must acknowledge that it does not exercise a favorable effect upon religion, or that no true religion can exist among those whose practices are directly opposed to its precepts.
Much has been said by those who oppose the abolition of slavery, about the sanction which this system receives from the precedents laid down in the Bible. That there were those who were bond-men for life, cannot be doubted,; for Moses, in the laws which he gave the Israelites, says, Lev. 25. 44, 45, 46; "But thy bondmen and bondmaids, Which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are around about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids, moreover, of the children of the strangers, that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land, and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you to inherit them for a possession: they shall be your bondmen forever." But these directions concerning the purchase of slaves, that is, of whom they should make bondmen, cannot by any manner of means be construed into a recommendation of the practice of compelling servitude from others. In order to understand why Moses gave these laws, we must consider for a moment the condition of the Jews. Being just emancipated from bondage, they were of necessity very ignorant; and the prevalence of the custom of holding servants among all the nations with which they were acquainted, made them so prejudiced in favor of the custom, that they, would suppose it to originate in a natural right. There is nothing more difficult, than to convince and influence, ignorant and prejudiced minds. In consequence of these reasons, Moses frequently had the greatest difficulty in persuading the Israelites to do that which was directly calculated for their benefit. How then could he attempt the abolition of a custom, sanctioned by the usage of surrounding nations; and which was considered by them as sacred as the rights by which they held their cattle, or any other property. Their jealousy would have had some apparent grounds. They would not have listened to him for a moment. But by giving directions concerning of whom bondmen should be made, and of their treatment, he could both preserve his own influence, and ameliorate the bondman's condition. He doubtless loved his own nation better than any other, and to prevent
34them from suffering under such a curse, he prohibited them from holding Israelites in bondage, by telling them to "buy of the heathen nations round about them." And he allowed them to buy only children from their parents. He did not tell them to steal their slaves. His abhorrence of the practice, he expresses in Ex.21. 16, "He that stealeth a man and selleth him or if he be found in his hands, shall surely be put to death." He insured the humane treatment of the bondman by the following law: Deut. 23. 15, 16, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master, the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates which liketh him best." Again, Ex. 22. 21: "Thou shalt neither vex the stranger nor oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." And Ex. 23. 6, says, "Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause." These, with numerous other passages in the writings of Moses, plainly show that he was by no means in favor of slavery; that he submitted to the practice, only from necessity. But we have still higher authority than that of Moses. If the principle of holding men in bondage is founded in justice, why did the Lord wish to free the Israelites from the Egyptians? Justice and right are superlative terms. Therefore if slavery is just, the slave must, necessarily, be the happiest man in existence; since no other people can say that their neighbors, on all occasions deal justly and truly with them. If such was their condition, the Lord would certainly not have interfered and made them as miserable as other people, by giving them their freedom.
But though slavery received a tacit sanction under the Mosaic laws, yet on the appearance of our Savior, all doubt as to its justness was totally overthrown; as was the case with many other Anti-Christian practices. That system of charity which he enjoins upon us, to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves,’ and to "do unto them, as we would want them to do to us," is opposed to all injustice and oppression. When the lawyer asked Christ, what was the first great law, he answers, to "love God with all thy soul," and the second, which is like unto it; "love thy neighbor as thyself." And how explicitly does he tell us who our neighbors are, in the touching and practical parable of the Good Samaritan. The term "neighbor," include all of whatever nation or age, who are in
35distress. Humanity, charity, and benevolence, are the great characteristic principles, by which a christian is distinguished. How much in opposition are these principles to that system of legalized despotism, which is founded on injustice, and carried out by violence, and which causes so much suffering and distress. The doctrines of Christianity, teach us to treat the fatherless and widow with peculiar care. This system makes widows, and orphans at a wholesale rate, while it mocks their distress, instead of affording them relief.
Hence we must conclude that Christianity is opposed to slavery in every form. It may moreover be shown that slavery is opposed to Christianity. When treating of the moral effects of slavery, it was clearly proved, that slavery is opposed to morality, which leads us to observe another maxim; viz. "pure and undefiled religion," cannot exist in a state of society morally depraved. How can he who is in the daily habit of robbing, instead of ministering to the wants of the poor, address himself in humble adoration and prayer, to that being who says, "the poor ye have always with you," and who both by the words and acts of his whole life, enjoins upon us, kind and benevolent treatment toward them. The last enumerated cause why slavery is opposed to Christianity, is as applicable to the slave as the master. I mean moral depravity. To this, we may add two others, the first and principal of which is that many masters will not allow their slaves to receive any religious instruction. And secondly, whatever instruction they do receive, comes from the whites; and what credence can they give to their preaching, as long as they preach one thing, and act another. We next come to consider the political effect of slavery, or what is the same thing, to consider whether any such system is likely to make good citizens, since all nations are composed of individuals. If this position be true, the consequence follows, that a nation will be good or bad, happy or miserable, or whatever else a majority of its inhabitants are. Hence, as morality and religion are the foundations of good order and happiness, among individuals, so they must also be in nations. This conclusion holds more particularly true in a government like ours, in which all are called upon to take an active part. The principle of slavery, is fundamentally opposed to the genius of republicanism.
That artificial distinction is created among men, which has
36no foundation in nature; and for the suppression of which, we cannot be too zealous and active. Such then, being the disastrous effect of slavery, are we not called upon as philanthropists, patriots, and christians, to use every means in our power to abolish it. The first consideration is, what are the means in our power.
Slavery must be encountered on political grounds. It was instituted, and exists by legislative enactment, and it must be abolished by legislative enactments. Governments are instituted for the good of the many, and this object is effected by the formation, from time to time of such new laws as may have been found, necessary, or by the abolition of such as may be deemed hurtful. We are apt to think in acting upon this question politically, that we are resorting to unjust, violent, and illiberal means. But in fact, there is no other way in which a national, question can be so peacefully and effectually settled, if indeed one can be settled by any other means whatever. When the general welfare of the country requires a certain set of measures to be carried into effect, Congress may (if there be no constitutional objection) pass such laws and regulations as shall have a tendency to bring about the desired result. In so doing, reference is had only to the mass of the people, not to the manner in which it will affect particular individuals. The Tariff and the general Bankrupt Laws met with, violent opposition from interested persons. Yet this was not considered any reason why the projectors of those laws should abandon their undertakings. It is impossible to pass any general law, however beneficial to the nation at large, that will benefit every person; and it is absurd to think of such a thing.
Our only inquiries should be what does the public good require in relation to any particular, and what are our constitutional means of interference? Convinced on these points, we should engage in the work with all our powers. Among the most formidable of the opposers of the abolition of slavery, are those who contend that when the several states by their representatives, "ordained and established" the constitution, a stipulation was entered into between the northern and southern states, by which it was agreed that the north should in no manner interfere with the slave interests of the south. I cannot see that there was any necessity for such an agreement, because all the states were at that time, with few or
37no exceptions, slave holding states. Both the north and the south had the same interests at stake. But, if stipulations were entered into, why is there no record of them? Why is the constitution, the only fit instrument by which such an agreement could be preserved, entirely silent on the subject? Some have construed a part of section second, of article fourth, into a recognition of the right of slavery. It is this: "No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, and escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due." Due, means owing, and no man can owe another except by contract.
Hence, this clause cannot have any reference to that class, which are considered "goods and chattels," which consequently, are incapable of entering into a contract. But admitting this clause may be construed to extend to the slave, it then has no reference to the general government; it speaks of states only.
What was the object in "ordaining and establishing" the Constitution? The preamble says, to "promote the general welfare of the people of the United States." There is no doubt that the abolition of slavery would be for the general good. The main question is, how this subject can be disposed of. Some are afraid of interfering with state rights. I contend that the abolition of slavery will not interfere with state rights, so long as the Constitution is entirely silent on the subject; so long as individual rights are superior to all other rights, and the "general good" requires it. To those who have scruples on the ground of state rights, I will show how slavery may be abolished, without interfering with them in the least. But, as I said before, the thing must be done politically. The first and only requisite for this, is to elect a majority in Congress and a President who are truly republican; who believe that "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." No person will deny that Congress has power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in all the territories of the United States, wherever it may exist. Besides, the third clause of section eighth, of article first, says: "Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." The power to regulate commerce,
38also implies the power to prohibit it utterly, when hurtful to the "general good." High tariffs and duties result from this principle, in our dealings with foreign nations. But it can he applied with as much justice to the commerce among the several states, as to that with foreign nations. To illustrate this position, I will suppose an example. All are doubtless aware that certain parts of the state of Ohio produce a weed of poisonous qualities; that this weed is eaten by the cows; that its poisonous qualities are thereby imparted to the milk, and to the butter and cheese made from the milk. Suppose the weed to be common to the whole state, and that the people of Ohio manufacture large quantities of such poisonous butter and cheese, which they send into the markets of the other states. Would any one say that Congress has no right to put a stop to such a trade? And if they have a right to prohibit trade among the states in this case, so they have in all other cases where it is evidently for the "public good." Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and a part of South Carolina, are slave-producing and slave-exporting states. In Maryland and Virginia, slavery flourishes, not by the labor of the slave, but by the raising of slaves for other markets. Were this trade stopped, slaves would soon become so numerous in those states, as to be a nuisance, rather than a benefit; and they would accordingly in a short time be set at liberty — provided the general government would take them out of the way, and provide for their maintenance. This could easily be done, by giving them a portion of that immense tract which we possess at the west, and which now lies a waste, benefiting no one. While the above named states may be called slave-producing states, there are others which are slave-consuming states, or rather, manufacturing states; for the slaves are worked up, some into cotton, some into sugar, and some into rice. What would be the effect of a prohibition in the traffic of slaves, on the consuming states? Slavery itself would in a short time cease to exist, in consequence of the death of all the slaves; or else, the holders would be under the necessity of treating their slaves much more humanely than is now done. Among the consuming states may be classed Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, the southern part of Alabama and Georgia, and, though not a state, Texas.
But there is still more which this republican Congress and
39President could do. Nearly all the offices in the U. States are at the disposal of the President. Hence, he can exert a mighty influence on the subject, by means of this power; which together with the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the territories, and a prohibition of the traffic in slaves between, the different states, — would so rack the system to its foundation, that it could not long survive. If we allow this system, so pernicious to the rights and happiness of a large portion of our fellow-citizens, to exist, without attempting to abolish it, what glaring injustice do we assist in perpetrating! And for such an enormous sin, may not our final doom be, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; inasmuch as ye did not assist the defenseless and needy, ye did it not unto me." I say, we assist; for if we look idly on, while such atrocities are acted, when we have the means and power of interference, the action becomes our own.
The doctrines of benevolence and Christianity require, not only that we do no unjust act, but that we be active in assisting such as have need of our help. There is but one criterion by which we can judge of men under circumstances differing from our own, and that is by imagining ourselves to occupy their situations; we can then judge with correctness and true feeling. And who, viewing slavery in this light, would not cry out against its injustice, cruelty, and enormity. And taking this view of the case, which charity, humanity, and justice, dictate, who would not use his most strenuous exertions to abolish it; or who, suffering in reality under this hellish system, would not become frantic for relief? Many well intentioned people have been prevented from acting on this subject, by the following seemingly plausible argument: viz. that the slaves are for the most part happy; what need have they of our pity or assistance. This is not the fact. But were the assertion true, what sort of happiness is that which they enjoy? Is it that kind of enjoyment which belongs to a rational mind? Is it not rather a kind of brute happiness, which consists in eating, drinking, sleeping and freedom from pain, such as all the meanest animals may enjoy? This is all the happiness they can enjoy, nor do they generally enjoy this. Where is that immortal mind by which man is distinguished above the brute creation; and by which he holds dominion over the fowls of the air, and over the beasts of
40the field?" It is obscured and almost concealed by the grossest ignorance. Can it then be said, that the southern slave needs none of our assistance, so long as the thraldom of the mind exists, the greatest of all curses, and the fruitful source from which many lesser evils arise? "The present owners have obtained their slaves by inheritance, or have paid their money for them; they are therefore their property as much as our cattle are ours; and what right have we to interfere with our neighbors' rights ?" Particular stress has been laid upon the right of inheritance, an argument founded on the principle that "might makes right," an argument that may be summed, up in these few words: The heir of a robber is the lawful inheritor of all his spoils; while the right of the individual robbed, ceases to exist after the death of the robber; though the property remain, and he can prove his claim; — that were I possessed of a fortune, and some person should rob me of that fortune, his children would thereby be possessed of a just right to it; while mine, by the same act, would justly inherit poverty and want. They forget that there are two rights to be considered: the right of the slave, as well as that of the master. It cannot be denied that the ancestors of every slave in the Union were once free, and that this freedom was not voluntarily relinquished; that they did not bargain away their rights: that they were stolen, were forced from them. It matters not then by what means the present owners became possessed of them, still they are a stolen property. By the laws of our country, the owner of property that has been stolen or his heirs, can claim that property wherever it can be found, whether in the hands of the thief or of some other person. The slave is his own proper owner. His rights are declared in the preamble to the declaration of independence, in these words: "All mankind are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" The slave is now sueing for his rights, but the inheritors of the robber are strong, and they continue that unjust practice which their ancestors founded.
Those people who think (and they are right) that when they interfere with their neighbor's affairs to his injury, they do unjustly, will not scruple to interfere if they are conscious they are doing him a benefit. To such I would say, the slave too is your neighbor. That your neighbors who are