During his recent sojourn in the United States, the Author did not conceive the intention of writing a book on the subject. All he comtemplated was the publication of a few letters in a London Journal on which he had been accustomed to rely for intelligence from Europe when residing in Berbice. So much he was disposed to attempt for several reasons.
Having entered the States by their most Southern port — that of New Orleans, and finding himself at once in the midst of Slavery, he had oppotunities of observing that system not often enjoyed by a British "Abolitionist." As the Pastor, also, of a large congregation of whom a great number were but a few yaers ago held in cruel bondage, he would naturally look upon the treatment of the same race in America with keener eyes and feelings more acute than if he had not stood in that relation.
Identified, too, with those persons who represent the
ivprinciples of the old Puritans and Nonconformists in England, he would survey the growth and spread of the those principles in their new soil and climate with a more than common interest. New England especially, on whose sods the foot-prints of the pilgrims had been impressed, and on whose rocks their early altars had been reared, would be to him hallowed ground.
Travelling, leisurely, as he did, at his own expense, northward from New Orleans to Boston, and westward as far as Utica, — making a tour of more than four thousand miles, sometimes known and sometimes unkown, just as inclination prompted, — representing no public body, bound to no party, a "Deputation sent by himself," — he was completely free and independent in thought and action, and enjoyed advantages for observation which do not often meet.
It was natural that he should wish to tell his friends in Great Britain, and in the West Indies, what he had seen and heard. To denounce what is evil and to commend what is good is at all times gratifying; in doing which, he sought to describe the men and the manners of America just as they appeared to him.
Several letters, containing the narrative of a few days spent in New Orleans, appeared in the Patriot. Their favourable reception by the readers of that journal led to the preparation of the present volume, in which the letters referred to, having undergone a careful revision,
vre-appear, followed by nearly thirty others descriptive of the Author's tour.
Our Transatlantic friends are morbidly sensitive as to the strictures of strangers. They hate the whole tribe of Travelers and Tourists, Roamers and Ramblers, Peepers and Proclaimers, and affect to ridicule the idea of men who merely pass through the country, presuming to give opinions on things which it is alleged so cursory a view cannot qualify them fully to understand. Our cousins have, doubtless, had occasional provocations from the detested race in question; but their feeling on this point amounts to a national weakness. It is always worth knowing how we appear to the eyes of others, and what impression the first sight of us is apt to produce; and this knowledge none can communicate but the stranger, the tourist, the passer-by. What faults and failings soever we may have in England, and their "name is legion," by all means let them be unsparingly exposed by every foreign tourist that treads upon our soil. Let us be satirized, ridiculed, laughed at, caricatured, anything, so that we may be shamed out of all that is absurd and vicious in our habits and customs. In the present instance our Western kinsmen are described by one, if they will believe his own testimony, of the most candid and truthful of travellers, — one who has viewed them and all their institutions, except one, with the most friendly eye, and how deeply
viregrets that so much of what is lovely and of good report should be marred and blotted by so much of what is disgraceful to a great and enlightened people.
As to the performance in a literary point of view, the Author will say nothing. The public will form their own judgment. If they like it, they will read; if not, the most seductive preface would not tempt them.
LONDON, January 1, 1849
Letter I. — Occasion of Visit to the United States — First Impressions of the Mississippi — Magnitude of that River — Impediment at its Entrance — The New Harbour — The "Great" and "Fat" Valley — High-Pressure Steam-Tug Frolics — Slave-Auction Facetiae.
THE ill health of my wife, occasioned by long residence amid the sultry swamps of Guiana, compelled me a few months ago to accompany her on a visit to the United States of America. Having taken our passage in a ship to New Orleans, we found ourselves in fifteen days on the far-famed Mississippi, — the "father of waters." On gazing around, our first feeling was one of awe, to find ourselves actually ascending that majestic stream, that great artery of the greatest valley in the world, leading into the very heart of a continent. The weather was very cold; the trees on the river's bank were leafless; and the aspect of nature on every hand told it was winter. What a change! But a fortnight before we were panting under an almost vertical sun.
We found the Mississippi much narrower than we had anticipated. In some places it is only about half a mile wide; while below New Orleans it never, I should say, exceeds a mile in width. This is remarkable, since not less than fifty-seven large navigable rivers contribute to swell its waters. It is, however, very deep,
2and, even at the distance of 500 miles above New Orleans, is navigated by vessels of 300 tons; nay, at 1,364 miles from its mouth, it attains an average depth of fifteen feet. In its course, it waters 2,500 miles of country. Among the rivers that pour themselves into this immense stream are — the Missouri, which has first traversed a space of 2,000 miles; the Arkansas, 1,300 miles; the Red River, 1,000 miles; and the Ohio, 700 miles.
Unfortunately, at the entrance of this noble river, there is a bar called the Balize, so shallow as hitherto to have seriously interfered with the navigation of large and deeply-laden vessels. Even for the cotton trade, a particular construction of ship has been found needful, with a flatter bottom than usual, in order to pass easily over this bar, any effort to remove which the rapidity of the stream would render fruitless. This circumstance, with the want of harbour at the mouth of the Mississippi, has hitherto operated greatly against the trade with New Orleans, which is 110 miles up the river. Recently, however, a magnificent harbour has been discovered between Cat Island and Isle Apitre, within Lake Borgne, and only ten miles from the coast of the mainland. This new harbour, easily accessible from the sea, at all times contains a depth of water varying from thirty to fifty feet, and is so protected on all sides that vessels may ride with the greatest safety in the worst weather. From this harbour to Bayou on the mainland the distance is only twelve miles, and from Bayou to New Orleans forty-six miles, — making
3altogether only fifty-eight miles from Cat Island Harbour to New Orleans; whereas, by the difficult and dangerous route of the Mississippi, the distance is 110 miles. The importance and value of such a harbour it is difficult to over-estimate. Its beneficial effect on the future destiny of the great valley will be prodigious.
I have said the "great valley," and well it deserves the appellation. It contains as many square miles, with more tillable ground than the whole continent of Europe. It measures about 1,341,649 square miles, and is therefore six times larger than France. And this valley is as rich as it is extensive. It is the "fat" valley. Never did human eye behold a finer soil, or more luxuriant productions. The treasures beneath the surface are as precious as those above. The lead and copper mines are among the best in the world. Iron and coal also abound. Building materials, of beauty and strength, adapted to form cottages for the poor or palaces for the rich, are not wanting. Nature has here furnished in lavish profusion everything necessary for converting the wilderness into smiling fields, studded with populous cities.
But we are not yet within the great valley. We are only at its entrance, sailing up the "father of waters," against the stream, at the rate of four or five miles an hour. It is usual for sailing-vessels to be towed by steam-tugs to their destination; but, having a fair breeze, and no tug at hand, we were indebted to our sails alone. The motion was exceedingly pleasant, after the tossings we had had in the Gulf of Mexico. The
4vessel glided smoothly along, and new objects presented themselves continually on either hand.
My enjoyment of the scenery, however, was soon marred by an attack of fever and ague, which sent me below. While I was down, several steam-tugs towing vessels down the river met us. Their unearthly groans filled me with terror. Their noise was not that of puff — puff — puff — puff, like all the other steamers that I had ever heard, but something composed of a groan, a grunt, and a growl — deep-drawn, as from the very caverns of Vulcan, and that at awfully-solemn intervals, — grunt — grunt — grunt — grunt! This peculiarity, I was told, arose from their "high-pressure" engines. The sound, thus explained, brought to my recollection all the dreadful stories of boiler explosions with which the very name of the Mississippi had become associated in my mind. But (thought I) they have surely learned wisdom from experience, and are become more skilful or more cautious than they used to be!
While I was engaged with these reflections, our captain came down, and handed me a couple of New Orleans papers, which he had just received from the pilot. Here was a treat; and, feeling a little better, I began with eagerness to open one of them out. It was the New Orleans Bee of January 23: and, horresco referens, the first thing that caught my eye was the following paragraph: —
"STEAM-BOAT EXPLOSION. — LOSS OF LIFE. — Captain Haviland, of the steam-ship ‘Galveston,’ from Galveston,
reports that the tow-boat ‘Phoenix,’ Captain Crowell, burst her boilers when near the head of the South-west Pass [which we had but just passed], killing and wounding about twenty-five in number, seven of whom belonged to the boat, the balance to a barque she had alongside; carrying away the foremast of the barque close to her deck, and her mainmast above her cross-trees, together with all her fore-rigging, bulwarks, and injuring her hull considerably. The ship ‘Manchester,’ which she had also alongside, was seriously injured, having her bulwarks carried away, her longboat destroyed," &c.
Such was the paragraph, with not a syllable of note or comment on cause or consequences. It was evidently an every-day occurrence. What recklessness was here indicated! and how comforting to a sick and nervous man, now near the very spot of the occurrence, and in a vessel about to be placed in the same pleasant relation to one of those grunting monsters as the unfortunate "barque" had but three days before occupied, with the trifling "balance" of eighteen of her crew "killed and wounded!"
The fever having left me, I ventured on deck. At this moment one of these infernal machines came in sight, towing down three large ships. Instead of having them behind, as on the Thames and Mersey, she (like the "Phoenix" ) had one on either side, closely lashed to herself, and the other only behind. This terrific monster seemed to be carrying them away arm-in-arm, like
6two prisoners, to destruction. At all events, it was a position of familiarity and friendship with the "Sprite of Steam" of which I did not at all like the idea; and yet we ourselves were by-and-by to be placed in its perilous embrace!
The dreaded monster gone by, I resumed the perusal of my New Orleans papers. Now (thought I) I am in a slave country! I wonder whether these papers will give any indication of the fact. In a little while my eye, surveying the Bee of January 21, caught sight of an advertisement signed "N. St. Martin, Sheriff, Parish of St. Charles," and containing a list of 112 human beings offered for sale! The miserable catalogue was full of instruction. In drawing it up the humane sheriff became quite facetious, telling the public that "Frank, 35 years old, American negro, [was] good for everything;" while "Stephen, 46 years old, [was] fit for nothing at all;" that "Salinette, 60 years old, hospital-nurse, [was] a good subject, subject to rheumatisms;" and that "Peter, American negro-man, 38 years old, [was] a good cook, having had two fits of madness." I will back this against the Dublin Hue and Cry.
Letter II. — American Oysters — Becalmed in the Mississippi — Anchor raised — Ship ashore — Taken off by a Steam-Tug — Slave-Sale Advertisements — Runaway Negroes — Return of Fever — Terrific Storm — Frightful Position — Ashore at New Orleans — A Ship-Chandler's Store — American Wheels — A Joltification — The St. Charles's Hotel.
THE evening closed upon us, sailing pleasantly up the Mississippi. Having a beautiful moonlight night, we kept on our way. About seven o'clock we overtook a small fishing-boat laden with oysters. In consideration of our allowing them — not the oysters, but the boatmen — to fasten a rope to our vessel, to help them on, they gave us a generous and refreshing supply. But such oysters! In neither size nor shape did they resemble those of the Old World. As to size, they were gigantic, — as to shape, not unlike the human foot. They abound not far from the mouth of the river, and many men obtain a livelihood by carrying them up to the New Orleans market. The mode of cooking adopted in this instance was that of putting them on the fire till the shells opened. To our taste, they were not in flavour to be compared to the London oysters; but we did not venture to tell our American captain so. We had yet, however, to taste the deliciously-cooked oysters of the northern cities.
About 10 p.m., the breeze having in a great measure died away, our captain thought it imprudent to attempt to "go a-head" further that night, and the anchor was cast. We were now fifty miles above the entrance of the river.
Early next day the anchor was raised, the sails were unfurled, and we again moved along. About 8 a.m., through the narrowness of the river, the rapidity of the stream, and other causes, our "smart" captain, who had chuckled vastly on passing all other ships in the river, — and especially British ships, — ran his own vessel right ashore! There we were in a complete "fix," till one of the grunting monsters (coming up with two vessels — one on each arm, as usual, — and letting them go for a few minutes,) came to our rescue. Forbidding as was his aspect, we were very glad to feel a little of his giant power. Of this one I had, of course, a better view than I had had of any other of the species. It had, like the rest, two chimneys in front, like perpendicular tusks, with a ladder between them. The ladder was for the purpose of ascent, — the ascent for the purpose of elevation, — and the elevation for the purpose of "look out." The top of the ladder, in short, rendered the same service as the top of a ship's mast at sea. This "tug" had also, a little further aft, a funnel-like sort of chimney, for the emission of steam. The whole structure was — like a forge below, and a palace above. In the lower story were the boiler, engine, fuel, &c., all exposed to view; while the upper contained splendid apartments for the captain,
9the engineer, and other officers. The engineer of that vessel, I understood, had a salary of 250 dollars (50 guineas) per month!
Released from our stranded position, we found ourselves in a few minutes lashed to the monster's side, and completely in his power. Here we were, in the same dread position in winch the day before we felt horrified to see others! From some of the officers, our captain obtained another newspaper. It was the New Orleans Daily Picayune for January 26. Getting hold of it, I found whole columns of slave-sale advertisements. A few specimens will illustrate better than any description the state of things in this "land of liberty!"
"NEGROS FOR SALE. — The subscribers No. 56, Esplanade-street, have just received a lot of valuable Slaves from Virginia and Maryland, consisting of Mechanics, Farm Hands, and House Servants, and have made arrangements not to be surpassed in this market for a regular supply from the above markets, as also Alabama. We hazard nothing in saying, if our former friends, and others wishing to purchase good servants or hands, will give us a call, they shall not be disappointed."
"N.B. All Negroes sold by the undersigned are fully guaranteed."
"SLATTER & LOCKETT,"
"n11 — 6m." "56,
"FOR SALE. — A likely Mulatto Negress, aged twenty-two years, — she is a first-rate cook, and a good washer and ironer, besides being a tolerable good seamstress."
"ANDERSON & BURNET,"
"SLAVES FOR SALE. — I have just received, and offer for sale, a very likely lot of Virginia Negroes. Those wishing to purchase will do well to give me a call at my office, No. 157, Gravier-street, between Carondelet and Baronne streets. I will be constantly receiving Negroes from Virginia and North Carolina during the winter."
"n13 — 6m."
"SLAVES FOR SALE. — No. 165, Gravier-street. — The subscriber has always on hand a number of Slaves, consisting of House Servants, Field Hands, and Mechanics, which will be sold low for cash or negotiable paper. Persons desirous of purchasing will find it to their interest to call and examine. The subscriber will also receive and sell on consignment any Negro that may be intrusted to his care."
"He would also respectfully notify persons engaged in the Slave Trade, that he is prepared to board them and their Slaves on the most reasonable terms."
"WM. H. MERRITT."
"o1 — 6m."
"References — J. A. Barelli, C. J. Mansoni."
"ONE HUNDRED NEGROES. — For Sale at No. 13, Moreau-street. — All of which have just been received from Maryland and Virginia. My old friends, and others wishing to purchase Slaves, will find it to their interest to call on me before purchasing elsewhere."
Also will receive large shipments during the season from the above States.
"d31 — 3m."
Runaway slaves seem to be constantly advertised, with (as in the case of ship advertisements) a small woodcut figure representing them in the very act of making their escape. Indeed, almost everything advertised is accompanied by its picture, — ships, houses, bonnets, boots, leeches, oysters, and so forth. Even a strayed horse or a strayed cow is advertised with a picture representing the animal in the very act of going astray. On the same principle, and in like manner, human chattels assuming their natural right to go where they please, are advertised with a woodcut representing them as bending forward in the act of running, and carrying with them a small bundle containing their scanty wardrobe, — a pitiable figure! And yet this is done, not to awaken sympathy, but to excite vigilance, as in the following instances, which I have picked out of the Picayune: —
"ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR REWARD. — The aforesaid sum will be given to any person who will bring back
to the undersigned the negro-girl Eugenia, and her mulatto child aged two years. Said slave has been purloined or enticed away by her former owner, Madame Widow Decaux, who secretly went out of this State on the 12th December, 1846. Said Widow Decaux is well known in New Orleans as a notorious swindler, having been prosecuted for having pawned logs of wood to a merchant of this city instead of dry goods. She has a scar on her forehead, and several others on her neck, and is accompanied by her aged mother, and her boy aged ten years."
"J. B. DUPEIRE."
"j7 — 15t*."
"RAN away from the subscriber, on the 20th November last, a negro man named Sandy, about twenty-five years of age, five feet five inches high, very dark complexion, speaks both French and English, shows the mark of the whip very much. A liberal reward will be paid for his apprehension, either by confining in any gaol, so that I can secure him, or his delivery to me at Plaquemine, La."
"j20 — 3tW."
And yet the editor of this very paper, in his leading article, reviewing the past, (that day being the tenth anniversary of its own existence,) coolly says, "In entering upon our eleventh anniversary, how different the spectacle! Industry in every quarter of the land
13receives its meet reward; Commerce is remunerated by wholesome gains; Comfort blesses the toil of the labourer(!) and Hope encourages the enterprise of all the industrial classes of our citizens."
As the day advanced, my fever returned: and I was obliged to go below. A furious tempest arose, so that even our "monster" could scarcely get along. The lightning flashed, the thunder roared, and the rain fell in torrents. It was a terrific day! As night approached, our captain told us the vessel could not then be got any further, — it was about two miles from the city; and if we particularly wished to go ashore, we must get ready directly, and go with him in the steam-tug. Anxious for a good night's rest, on shore we resolved to go. I had to turn out in that state of profuse perspiration which always succeeds the fever, and my wife hurriedly selected a few necessary things. Poor thing! she was almost overwhelmed with the trying circumstances in which she was placed, — thousands of miles from home — about to enter a place in which she knew not a single soul — her husband ill, and herself an invalid! But there was no help for it. Amidst torrents of rain, we made the fearful transition from the ship to the tug, while both vessels were in violent agitation. It was done. And now we were in the "monster's" own bosom, expecting every moment his bowels to burst, and send us into eternity. The noise of the engine, the grunting of the steam, the raging of the wind, the pelting of the rain, and the roaring of the thunder, made it almost impossible to
14hear anything besides; but I managed to shout in my wife's ear the natural, though not very consolatory question, "Were we ever in so fearful a position before?" "Never!" (and we had had some experience of storms by both land and sea) was her awe-stricken reply.
We detached ourselves from the sailing-vessel; but, with all the power of steam, we could scarcely get along. At last the "monster's" bellowing was hushed, — the tremor ceased, — we were there! But how to get ashore was still a difficulty. It was about 100 yards off. Planks, however, were eventually placed so as to enable us to descend from our lofty "tug" into a ship at anchor, from that into another, from that again into a third, and from that at length on terra firma.
The hour was between 7 and 8 p.m.; and we were taken to a ship-chandler's store, while our kind captain went to get a chaise for us. The store was closed; but the owner and three other gentlemen were there, seated before a comfortable coal fire, apparently enjoying themselves after the business of the day. They received us very courteously, and gave us chairs by the fireside. The storm of that day they told us had done much harm to the shipping, and was severer than any other they had experienced during the last seven years. While the conversation was going on, plash made one, plash made another, plash made a third, by spurting a certain brownish secretion on the floor! I had often heard of this as an American habit,
15but always thought our cousins in this matter (as in many others) were caricatured. Here, however, was the actual fact, and that in the presence of a lady! Yet these were apparently very respectable men.
Having waited about a quarter of an hour, anxiously listening for the rumbling of the expected wheels, I heard in the distance a strange kind of noise, resembling that of a fire-shovel, a pair of tongs, a poker, and an iron hoop tied loosely together with a string, and drawn over the pavement! "What in the world is that?" said I. "It is the chaise," was the answer. The vehicle was quickly at the door. In we were bundled, and orders given to drive us to the "St. Charles's." We scarcely knew what this "St. Charles's" was; but, as all with whom we had conversed seemed to take it for granted that we should go thither, and as any one saint was to us as good as any other, we echoed, "To the St. Charles's." And now began such a course of jolting as we had never before experienced. It seemed as if all the gutters and splash-holes in the universe had been collected together, and we had to drive over the whole. This continued about half an hour, by which we learned that we were at first much further from the "St. Charles's" than we supposed. The machine at last stopped, and we alighted, thankful to have escaped a complete stoppage of our breath.
We were there. A waiter (he was not to be mistaken, — he bore a family resemblance to all the waiters of the world) was instantly at the coach-door, to help us out and to help us in. He conducted us into a
16lobby, up a flight of stairs, and through a long passage, to a large saloon, where about 150 ladies and gentlemen were assembled, — some sitting, some standing, some talking, some laughing, and some playing with their fingers. But, no! we shrunk back. Thither we would not be led, all wet and dirty as we were. We begged to be shown into a private room. The waiter stared, and said he had none to take us to, except I would first go to the "office." But what was to become of my fellow-traveller in the meantime? No woman belonging to the establishment made her appearance, and there my wife was obliged to stand alone in the passage, whilst I followed the waiter through aisles and passages, and turnings and twistings and ups and downs, to a large saloon, where about 200 gentlemen were smoking cigars! What a sight! and what a smell! Who can realize the vast idea of 200 mouths, in one room, pouring forth the fumes of tobacco? I was directed to the high-priest of the establishment in the "office," or (as I should say) at the "bar." Without verbally replying to my application, he handed me a book in which to record my name. Having obeyed the hint, I again asked my taciturn host if myself and wife could be accommodated. He then, with manifest reluctance, took the cigar out of his mouth, and said he had only one room to spare, and that was at the top of the house. It was "Hobson's choice," and I accepted it. And now for a journey! Talk of ascending the Monument on Fish-street Hill! what is that compared to ascending
17the St. Charles's, at New Orleans? No. 181 was reached at last. The next task was to find my wife, which after another long and circuitous journey was accomplished. In process of time fire was made, and "tea for two" brought up. Let me, therefore, close my letter and enjoy it.
Letter III. — New Orleans — The Story of Pauline — Adieu to the St. Charles's — Description of that Establishment — First Sight of Slaves for Sale — Texts for Southern Divines — Perilous Picture.
FROM No. 181 of the "St. Charles's," we descended, after a good night's rest, to see some of the lions of the place. Here we are (thought I) in New Orleans — the metropolis of a great slave country, — a town in which exist many depôts for the disposal of human beings, — the very city where, a few months ago, poor Pauline was sacrificed as the victim of lust and cruelty! Unhappy girl! What a tragedy! On the 1st of August last, I told the horrid tale to my emancipated people in Berbice. Here it is, as extracted from the Essex (United States) Transcript. Read it, if you please; and then you will have a notion of the feelings with which I contemplated a city rendered infamous by such a transaction.
"MANY of our readers have probably seen a paragraph stating that a young slave girl was recently hanged at New Orleans for the crime of striking and abusing her mistress. The religious press of the north has not, so far as we are aware, made any comments upon this execution. It is too busy pulling the mote
out of the eye of the heathen, to notice the beam in our nominal Christianity at home. Yet this case, viewed in all its aspects, is an atrocity which has (God be thanked) no parallel in heathen lands. It is a hideous offshoot of American Republicanism and American Christianity! It seems that Pauline — a young and beautiful girl — attracted the admiration of her master, and being (to use the words of the law) his "chattel personal to all intents and purposes whatsoever," became the victim of his lust. So wretched is the condition of the slave woman, that even the brutal and licentious regard of her master is looked upon as the highest exaltation of which her lot is susceptible. The slave girl in this instance evidently so regarded it; and as a natural consequence, in her new condition, triumphed over and insulted her mistress, — in other words, repaid in some degree the scorn and abuse with which her mistress had made her painfully familiar. The laws of the Christian State of Mississippi inflict the punishment of death upon the slave who lifts his or her hand against a white person. Pauline was accused of beating her mistress, — tried, found guilty, and condemned to die! But it was discovered on the trial that she was in a condition to become a mother, and her execution was delayed until the birth of the child. She was conveyed to the prison cell. There, for many weary months, uncheered by the voice of kindness, alone, hopeless, desolate, she waited for the advent of the new and quickening life within her, which was to be the signal of her own miserable death. And the bells
there called to mass and prayer-meeting, and Methodists sang, and Baptists immersed, and Presbyterians sprinkled, and young mothers smiled through tears upon their new-born children, — and maidens and matrons of that great city sat in their cool verandahs, and talked of love, and household joys, and domestic happiness; while, all that dreary time, the poor slave girl lay on the scanty straw of her dungeon, waiting — with what agony the great and pitying God of the white and black only knows — for the birth of the child of her adulterous master. Horrible! Was ever what George Sand justly terms ‘the great martyrdom of maternity’ — that fearful trial which love alone converts into joy unspeakable — endured under such conditions? What was her substitute for the kind voices and gentle soothings of affection? The harsh grating of her prison lock, — the mockings and taunts of unfeeling and brutal keepers! What, with the poor Pauline, took the place of the hopes and joyful anticipations which support and solace the white mother, and make her couch of torture happy with sweet dreams? The prospect of seeing the child of her sorrow, of feeling its lips upon her bosom, of hearing its feeble cry — alone, unvisited of its unnatural father; and then in a few days — just when the mother's affections are strongest, and the first smile of her infant compensates for the pangs of the past — the scaffold and the hangman! Think of the last terrible scene, — the tearing of the infant from her arms, the death-march to the gallows, the rope around her delicate neck, and her long and dreadful struggles, (for,
attenuated and worn by physical suffering and mental sorrow, her slight frame had not sufficient weight left to produce the dislocation of her neck on the falling of the drop,) swinging there alive for nearly half an hour — a spectacle for fiends in the shape of humanity! Mothers of New England! such are the fruits of slavery. Oh! in the name of the blessed God, teach your children to hate it, and to pity its victims. Petty politicians and empty-headed Congress debators are vastly concerned, lest the ‘honour of the country’ should be compromised in the matter of the Oregon Boundary. Fools! One such horrible atrocity as this murder of poor Pauline ‘compromises’ us too deeply to warrant any further display of their patriotism. It would compromise Paradise itself! An intelligent and philanthropic European gentleman, who was in New Orleans at the time of the execution, in a letter to a friend in this vicinity, after detailing the circumstances of the revolting affair, exclaims, ‘God of goodness! God of justice! There must be a future state to redress the wrongs of this. I am almost tempted to say — there must be a future state, or no God!’"
On Saturday, the 30th, we set off to seek private lodgings. Led by a board having on it in large letters the words "Private Boarding," we "inquired within," found what we wanted, and engaged for eight dollars per week each. We then went to pay our bill at the "St. Charles's," and to bring away our carpet-bag. We had been there two nights, had had one dinner,
22two teas, and two breakfasts. These meals, as we did not like to join the hundreds at the "ordinary," were served to us (in a very ordinary way however) in our bedroom. In fact, the waiting was miserably done. And yet, for this we had the pleasure of paying eleven dollars, — say Å2. 6s.! We gladly bade adieu to the "St. Charles's." It suited neither our taste nor our pocket. Nevertheless, it is a magnificent concern. The edifice was finished in 1838 by a company, and cost 600,000 dollars. The gentlemen's dining-room is 129 feet by 50, and is 22 feet high; having four ranges of tables, capable of accommodating 500 persons. The ladies' dining-room is 52 feet by 36. The house contains 350 rooms, furnishing accommodation for between 600 and 700 guests; and it was quite full when we were there. The front is adorned with a projecting portico, supported by six fine Corinthian columns, resting upon a rustic basement. The edifice is crowned with a large dome, forty-six feet in diameter, having a beautiful Corinthian turret on the top. This dome is the most conspicuous object in the city. Viewed from a distance, it seems to stand in the same relation to New Orleans as St. Paul's to London. The furniture of this immense establishment cost 150,000 dollars. A steam-engine, producing a very disagreeable tremor, is constantly at work in the culinary department.
While on our way to get the remainder of our baggage from the ship, we came upon a street in which a long row, or rather several rows, of black and coloured people were exposed in the open air (and under a smiling
23sun) for sale! There must have been from 70 to 100, all young people, varying from 15 to 30 years of age. All (both men and women) were well dressed, to set them off to the best advantage, as is always the case at these sales. Several of the coloured girls — evidently the daughters of white men — had their sewing-work with them, as evidence of their skill in that department. The whole were arranged under a kind of verandah, having a foot-bench (about six inches high) to stand upon, and their backs resting against the wall. None were in any way tied or chained; but two white men ( "soul-drivers," I suppose) were sauntering about in front of them, each with a cigar in his mouth, a whip under his arm, and his hands in his pockets, looking out for purchasers. In its external aspect, the exhibition was not altogether unlike what I have sometimes seen in England, when some wandering Italian has ranged against a wall his bronzed figures of distinguished men, — Shakspeare, Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson, &c. It was between twelve and one in the day; but there was no crowd, not even a single boy or girl looking on, — so common and every-day was the character of the scene. As we moved along in front of this sable row, one of the white attendants (though my wife had hold of my arm) said to me, with all the nonchalance of a Smithfield cattle-drover, "Looking out for a few niggers this morning?" Never did I feel my manhood so insulted. My indignation burned for expression. But I endeavoured to affect indifference, and answered in a don't care sort of tone, "No, I am not particularly in want
24of any to-da— ." I could scarcely finish the sentence. Emotion choked my utterance. I passed on, gazing at the troop of degraded human beings, till my eyes became so filled with tears that I was compelled to turn my face another way. Though I anticipated such scenes, and had tried to prepare my mind for them, yet (now that they were actually before me) I was completely overcome, and was obliged to seek a place to sit down while I composed my feelings. With what sentiments my companion beheld the scene, I will leave you to conjecture!
It was Saturday morning; and with my professional habits, I naturally thought of the many divines in that very city, who were at that moment shut up in their studies, preparing their discourses for the morrow. I wished I had them all before me. I could have given every one of them a text to preach upon. I would have said, "Gentlemen, see there! and blush for your fellow-citizens. See there! and never again talk of American liberty. See there! and lift up your voices like so many trumpets against this enormity. See there! and in the face of persecution, poverty, imprisonment, and (if needs be) even death itself, bear your faithful testimony, and cease not until this foul stain be wiped away from your national escutcheon. Dr. S— , to-morrow morning let this be your text, —‘Where is Abel, thy brother?’ Dr. H— , let your discourse be founded on Exod. xxi. 16: ‘And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.’ You, the
25Rev. Mr. C— , let your gay and wealthy congregation be edified with a solemn and impressive sermon on Is. lviii. 6: ‘Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?’ And you, the Rev. Mr. H— , let your hearers have a full and faithful exposition of that law which is ‘fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’"
In the afternoon of the same day, as I walked along one of the principal streets, I saw a flag issue from a fine large public building to invite "ladies and gentlemen" to see "the magnificent picture of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt," — the canvas containing 2,000 square feet, and 2,000,000 of figures! How significant! It would have been still more so, if the number of "figures" had been 3,000,000 instead of 2,000,000. What an "abolition" picture! It must have been worse than "Jacob and his Sons," which was expunged from a catalogue of the American Sunday-School Union, because, in reprehending the sale of Joseph to the merchants, it reflected upon the internal slave-trade! Surely such exhibitions will affect the safety of the "peculiar institution!"
Letter IV. — A Sabbath in New Orleans — The First Presbyterian Church — Expectoration — A Negro Pew — The Sermon.
THINK of a Sabbath in New Orleans! Curious to know how people did really pray and preach, with slavery and slave-trading in their vilest forms around them, I set off in search of the "First Presbyterian Church." It is a beautiful building: seldom, if ever, had I seen a place of worship the exterior of which I liked so much. Being a quarter of an hour too soon, I had opportunity for some preliminary researches. Wishing to see whether there was a "Negro Pew," I went into the gallery, and took a seat on the left side of the organ. The "church" I found as beautiful inside as out. Instead of a pulpit, there was a kind of platform lined with crimson, which looked very nice. Most of the pews below, and some above, were lined with the same material. A splendid chandelier, having many circles of glass brilliants, was suspended from the ceiling. Altogether, the "church" was a very neat and graceful structure, — capable, as I learned, of accommodating about 1,500 people. But the floor — the floor! What a drawback! It was stained all over with tobacco juice! Faugh! Those Southern men are
27the most filthy people in that respect I ever met with. They are a great "spitting" community. To make it still more revolting to luckless travellers, this nasty habit is generally attended with noises in the throat resembling the united growling of a dozen mastiffs.
While the congregation was assembling, a grey-headed, aristocratic-looking old negro came up into the gallery, walked along "as one having authority," and placed himself in a front pew on the right-hand side of the pulpit. Two black women shortly followed, taking their seats in the same region. Others succeeded, till ultimately there were from forty to fifty of the sable race in that part of the gallery. Not one white was to be seen among the blacks, nor one black among the whites. There, then, was the "Negro Pew!" It was the first time even my West India eyes ever beheld a distinction of colour maintained in the house of God!
At eleven o'clock precisely, a man of tall but stooping figure and dark complexion, about forty years of age, muffled up in a cloak, took his stand at the bottom of the pulpit or platform stairs. It was Dr. S— . He appeared to beckon to some one in the congregation. A tall, lank old gentleman, with a black cravat, and shirt-collar turned over it Å l' Américain, stepped forward, and, ascending the steps before the Doctor, occupied one of the two chairs with which the rostrum was furnished, the Doctor taking the other. I supposed him to be one of the elders, going to give out, the hymns, or to assist in the devotional exercises. At
28this moment the organ — a fine-toned instrument — struck up, and the choir sang some piece — known, I presume, only to themselves, for no others joined in it. This prelude I have since found is universal in America. In all places of worship provided with an organ, a "voluntary" on that instrument is the first exercise. In the present instance the choir had no sooner ceased than the Doctor stood up, having his cloak still resting upon his shoulders, and stretched forth his right hand. At this signal all the people stood up, and he offered a short prayer. "Where is Abel, thy brother?" thought I, during this address to the Father of the spirits of all flesh. He then read the 23rd and 24th Psalms. "Where is Abel, thy brother?" was still ringing in my ears. The 33rd Psalm was then sung. "Where is Abel, thy brother?" was still heard (by me at least) louder than the swelling tones of the organ. The singing done, of which the choir still had an entire monopoly, the Doctor read the 14th chapter of Mark; and as he read the awful story of our Lord's betrayal, I could not help thinking that the only difference between some of the Southern slave-dealers and Judas was, that had they been in his place, they would have made a "smarter" bargain. The reading, though free from affectation, was not by any means in the best style. The chapter finished, the tall elder (as I took him to be) prayed, — the congregation standing. The prayer was short and appropriate, and the language tolerably correct; but the tone and pronunciation were queer. I supposed them to indicate some provincialism
29with which I was not acquainted. Along with that peculiar nasal sound for which nearly all Americans are distinguished, there was in the voice a mixture of coaxing and familiarity which was a little offensive; still, as a "layman's" exercise, it was very good. He prayed for "every grace and Christian virtue." Amen, ejaculated I, — then your slaves will soon be free. He prayed for "our nation and rulers," He prayed that "the great blessings of Civil and Religious Liberty which we enjoy may be handed down to future generations." "Looking out for a few niggers this morning?" thought I. He also prayed for "the army and navy, and our fellow-citizens now on the field of battle," in allusion to the Mexican War. — The prayer ended, Dr. S— gave out another hymn. During the whole of the service, I may here remark, there was a good deal of going in and out, talking, whispering, spitting, guttural turbulence, &c. At first there were about a dozen white boys in my neighbourhood, who seemed as if they belonged to the Sabbath-school; but, having no teacher to look after them, and enjoying the full swing of liberty, they had before sermon all disappeared.
After the singing, Dr. S— made several announcements, — amongst others, that the monthly concert to pray for the success of Foreign Missions would be held there to-morrow evening, when several speakers would address the meeting. By all means (said I to myself), and I'll try to be present. He also told his people that the Rev. — . — , (from some place in Kentucky, —
30the particulars I did not catch,) was in the city, as a deputation from the ladies, to solicit subscriptions for the erection of a new church that was greatly needed.
The tall man in the black neckcloth then rose, and, to my surprise and disappointment, read a text. It was I Cor. iii. 21: "For all things are yours." I imagine he was the deputation from the Kentuckian ladies.
After a few introductory remarks explanatory of the context, he proposed to inquire what are the things which "enter into" ("constitute," we should say) the inheritance of God's people. Slaves (said I to myself) are a part of the inheritance of "God's people," both here and in Kentucky: I wonder if he will notice that.
The first thing, I observe (said he), that enters into the inheritance of God's people, is the living ministry — "Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." To illustrate the value of this blessing, he referred to the imaginary Elixir of Life, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Universal Panacea. If such things really existed, what a high value would men set upon them! But here was something of incomparably higher worth. In order to form an estimate of its value, he led his hearers to imagine the entire loss of the living ministry. Secondly, the "world" belongs to God's people. It is sustained for their sake, and therefore sinners are indebted to God's people for the preservation of their lives. To prove this he referred to the words of our Lord, "Ye are the salt of the earth." In speaking of the preserving nature of salt, he supposed the sea to be without salt.
31How pestilential then! But as it is, how salubrious the air that has swept over it! He also referred to another case. There was once (said he) a ship in a tremendous storm; the crew and passengers — about 270 in number — were at their wits' end; nothing appeared before them but a watery grave. On board of that ship was a poor prisoner, bound in chains. He was deemed to be of the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things. To that poor prisoner the angel of the Lord came, and told him what must be done to save the life of every one on board. The angel's directions were obeyed, and all were preserved. Thus, for the sake of one of God's people, were 270 lives spared. He offered another illustration. Three men came to converse with Abraham, on the plains of Mamre. They told him that God was about to destroy five cities. Abraham began to intercede for them. The preacher recapitulated the wondrous story of this intercession and its success, as further proving that ungodly men owe the preservation of their lives to the presence and prayers of the people of God. The parable of the tares was also cited, as illustrating the same position. "Let both grow together until the harvest." Imagine (said he) all the people of God removed from the face of the earth — no heart to love Him — no tongue to praise Him, — there would be no reason why the earth should be continued in existence another moment. In the light of this subject, see how great, a privilege it is to have pious relatives. "Life" also was, in the third place, a part of the inheritance of the child of God,
32because during it he makes a provision for eternity. He dwelt on the richness of the treasure which God's people are laying up. Suppose (said he) any of you were making money at the rate of fifty dollars an hour, — (I dare say you do so sometimes, reflected I, when you get a good price for your "niggers," ) — how rich you would soon be! and how anxious that not a single hour should be lost! But the child of God is laying up treasure at a faster rate than this. Every time he works for God, he is laying it up. The Christian's treasure is also of the right kind, and laid up in the right place. If any of you were going to emigrate to another country, you would be anxious to know what sort of money was current in that country, and to get your's changed into it. The Christian's treasure is the current coin of eternity. It is also in the right place. Where would you like to have your treasure? Why, at home. The Christian's treasure is at home — in his Father's house. Life is his also, because during it he fights the battles of the Lord. Here the preacher made an approving reference to the war against the Mexicans; and I strongly suspect that this view of the Christian's inheritance was dragged in for the very purpose. We fight (said he) under the eye of the General. We fight with a certainty of victory. Death too was, in the fourth place, a portion of the Christian's inheritance. To the people of God curses are made blessings, and to those who are not his people blessings are made curses. So sickness, persecution, and death are made blessings to the saints. Death to the Christian is like
33an honourable discharge to the soldier after the toil and the danger of the field of strife. But that illustration (said he) is too feeble: I will give you another. Imagine, on a bleak and dreary mountain, the humble dwelling of two old people. They are bending under the weight of years. Amidst destitution and want, they are tottering on the verge of the grave. A messenger comes, and tells them of a relative who has died, and left them a large inheritance, — one by which every want will be supplied, and every desire realized, — one that will, the moment they touch it with the soles of their feet, make them young again: he points, moreover, to the very chariot that is to convey them thither. Would this be bad news to those old people? Now, such is death to the child of God. The cord is cut, and the spirit takes its flight to the abodes of the blest. Or take another illustration. A stage-coach was once upset. Many of the passengers were in great danger. One man snatched a little babe from among the wheels, and laid it down in a place of safety on the roadside. Twenty years after the same man was travelling in a stage, on the same road, and telling those around him about the accident which had taken place a long time before. A young lady, sitting opposite, was listening to the narrative with eager interest, and at last she burst out with rapture, "Is it possible that I have at last found my deliverer? I was that little babe you rescued!" Something like this will be the disclosures that death will make. Having thus illustrated the inheritance of the people of God, let me ask you (said
34he) who are not his people — what will all these things be to you, if you die without Christ? The living ministry? The world? Life? Death? Having spoken briefly, with power and pathos, on each of these particulars, he very coolly and deliberately turned to Rev. xxii. 17, and read, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come," &c., &c., and closed abruptly, with neither an Amen nor an invocation of any kind.
Such was the first sermon I heard in the United States. It was thoroughly evangelical and good; but I listened to it with mingled feelings. It was painful to think that such a ministry could co-exist with slavery. The creed it is evident may be evangelical, while there is a woful neglect of the duties of practical piety.
Letter V. — First Religious Service in America (continued) — A Collection "taken up" — Rush out — Evening Service — Sketch of the Sermon — Profanation of the Sabbath — The Monthly Concert for Prayer.
AFTER sermon Dr. S. gave out a hymn, and told the congregation that the collection for the support of the "beneficiaries" of that church would be "taken up" that morning; adding that, in consequence of this collection not having been made at the usual time (in May last), some of the young men who were preparing for the ministry, and dependent on that congregation for food and clothing, were now in great want. He also suggested that, if any present were unprepared with money, they might put in a slip of paper, with their name, address, and the amount of their contribution, and some one would call upon them.
The collection was "taken up" during the singing. At the last verse the congregation stood up. The benediction was pronounced, with outstretched arm, by the Doctor; and the moment he uttered the "Amen!" all rushed out of the place as fast as they could. This rushing is a characteristic of the Americans. It is seen in their approach to the dining-table, as well as in a hundred other instances. I suppose it is what they call being "smart," and "going a-head."
In the evening I went again to the same "church." The introductory part was shorter and more simple than in the morning. The Doctor's prayer (seven or eight minutes long) was admirable. I wished some dry, prosy petitioners in England could have heard it. It was devout, comprehensive, and to the point. All classes of men — but one — were remembered in it. The slaves were not mentioned, — their freedom was not prayed for!
The Doctor gave us to understand that he was about to deliver the fifth of a series of lectures to young men in great cities. The text was, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath;" the subject, "The importance of the Sabbath to young men in great cities."
The text (he observed) involved the principle, that man was not made to observe certain ceremonies and obey certain precepts, but that the observance of rites and laws was enjoined for man's own sake. This principle applied to the institution of the Sabbath. The body, the intellect, the affections — all required the rest which the Sabbath affords. The experiment had been abundantly tried; and it had been invariably found that more could be done, in every department of labour, with the regular observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest than without it. The farmer, the student, the legislator, had all tried it. Man could no more do without the Sabbath than he could do without sleep. Writers on slavery, however they differed on other points, were all agreed on this, — that the withholding
37of the Sabbath from the slaves in the West Indies, together with the other cruelties inflicted upon them, had materially shortened their lives! (How telescopic, by the way, are our views with regard to evils at a distance! West India slavery never wore the hideous features which slavery presents in the Southern States of America. Slavery even in Cuba, with all its horrors, is far milder than in the United States.) France once presented a fearful example of what a nation would be without a Sabbath. The testimonies of Drs. Spurzheim and Rush were cited in confirmation; also that of a respectable merchant in New York, well known to the preacher, who, after the observation and experience of twenty-five years in that city, declared that of those who kept their counting-houses open on the Sabbath not one had escaped insolvency. A poor boy was apprenticed to an apothecary in a large city. To increase his wages and encourage his efforts, his master gave him a recipe and materials for making blacking on his own account. The blacking was made, and placed in pots in the shop window; but day after day passed, and no purchaser appeared. One Sunday morning, while the shop was open for medicine, before the hour of public service, a person came in, and asked for a pot of blacking. The boy was in the very act of stretching out his hand to reach it, when he reflected it was the Lord's-day. Falteringly, he told the customer it was the Sabbath, and he could not do it. After this the boy went to church. The Tempter there teased him about his folly in losing a customer
38for his blacking: the boy held in reply that he had done right, and, were the case to occur again, he would do just the same. On Monday morning, as soon as he had taken down the shutters, a person came in, and bought every pot of blacking there was; and the boy found that, after deducting the cost of materials, he had cleared one dollar. With more faith and fortitude than some of you possess (said the preacher), he went and took that dollar — the first he had ever earned — to the Bible Society. That poor boy is still living, and is now a wealthy man.
The preacher said he knew a man, in his own native State of Tennessee, who on his arrival in America had nothing but a pocket Bible; but he made two resolutions, — 1st. That he would honour the Sabbath; 2nd. That he would remember his mother. The first dollar he got he sent to her, and declared that he would never forget the Sabbath and his mother. He also was now a wealthy man.
The punishment of Sabbath-breaking was sure, though not immediate. Like the punishment of intemperance or impurity, it would come. Here the celebrated testimony of Sir Matthew Hale was adduced. Dr. Johnson's rules respecting the Sabbath were read, with the observation that no doubt he owed much of his celebrity to their observance. Wilberforce had declared that, at one period of his life, parliamentary duties were so heavy that he would certainly have sunk under them, had it not been for the rest the Sabbath afforded. But the Sabbath was not merely a day of
39rest, — it was a day for improvement. Where there was no Sabbath, all was bad. The inhabitants of Scotland and New England were distinguished for industry and mental vigour; and they were equally distinguished for observance of the Sabbath. The universal observance of the same day was of great importance. It guarded against neglect. It told upon the ungodly, as was shown by an eloquent induction of circumstances, — the shops closed — the sound of the church-going bell — the throngs of decent worshippers going to and fro, &c.
Young men in great cities (it was observed) were in great danger, chiefly from example. They met with those who were older in sin than themselves — who prided themselves on knowing where the best oysters were sold, the cheapest horses to be hired, or the cheapest boats to be engaged for the Sunday's excursion. Young men were ready to think, "If I don't do this, I may do something worse." The fallacy and danger of this mode of reasoning were exposed. It might be employed to excuse any sin. Public places of amusement were highways to destruction. Ah! how those old people in that little cottage — surrounded with a stone wall — on the hill side — far away — would weep, if they knew their son was treading on the verge of these burning craters! Familiarity with Sabbath-breaking destroyed the sense of guilt. The young medical student when he first visited the dissecting-room, and the soldier when he first stood on the field of battle, were sensible of misgivings, against which
40repetition only made them proof, — each gradually losing his first sensations.
The desecration of the Sabbath was a greater evil to society than any tyrant could inflict. How would any infringement of civil rights be resisted! Here was an infringement with consequences infinitely more injurious; and yet the press were dumb dogs, and the pulpit itself was not guiltless!
This masterly discourse was read, but read in such a manner as to lose none of its effect. It occupied upwards of an hour. My irresistible impression as I listened was, There is a man of God! Truly a light shining in a dark place; for, as I returned to my lodgings, I found the coffee-houses, oyster-saloons, and theatres all open, just as on any other day, only more thronged with customers. How much such discourses are needed in this place, I leave you to judge from the following extract from the New Orleans Guide: —
"The greatest market-day is Sunday. At break of day the gathering commences, — youth and age — beauty and not so beautiful — all colours, nations, and tongues are co-mingled in one heterogeneous mass of delightful confusion. The traveller who leaves the city without visiting one of the popular markets on Sunday morning has suffered a rare treat to escape him."
On the evening of the next day, being the first Monday in the month, I went to the "Concert" for prayer, which had been announced the day before. It was held in a vestry or a school-room under the church. About sixty or seventy persons were in attendance.
41When I got there, they were singing the last verse of
A gentleman then gave an address. His object was to show that extensive fields were open in various parts of the world for the introduction of the Gospel. There was nothing clerical in his appearance, and he boggled a great deal; but, as he said "We, the ministers of the Gospel," I inferred that he was the pastor of some other Presbyterian church in the city. Behind the desk, where sat Dr. S— , was hung up a missionary map of the world, drawn on canvas, and illuminated from behind. It was an excellent device. All missionary prayer-meetings should be furnished with one. Those parts where the Gospel is already preached were light, the realms of Heathenism dark, the lands of Popery red, and so forth.
After the address, the pastor called upon "Brother Franklin" to "lead in prayer." The phrase was new to me, but I liked it, — it was appropriate. The prayer was scriptural and good, as was that also of another brother. The second prayed that the war, in which they were then as a nation engaged, might be overruled for good, and "be the means of introducing the Gospel and free institutions to a neighbouring republic." Free institutions, indeed! (I said to myself): if you conquer, I fear it will be the means of introducing slavery where now it is not! After this prayer the pastor, having delivered a very short address, gave out
42a hymn, and said that while they were singing Brother such-a-one would "take up the collection," — a phrase which seems to indicate a greater degree of preparation on the part of the people than our "make a collection." The Americans suppose it to be already made, and nothing remains but to take it up. The good brother came round with an old hat to receive contributions for the cause of missions. The pastor then closed with a short prayer and the benediction. Upon the whole, there were indications of a considerable degree of warm-heartedness in reference to the missionary cause, and especially of tender sympathy and affection towards missionaries themselves. As one of the tribe, I found it rather difficult to preserve my incog. There were present about half-a-dozen black people, some on the right and some on the left of the pastor — "the place of honour!"
Letter VI. — "Jack Jones" — A Public Meeting for Ireland — Henry Clay — Other Speakers — American Feeling in reference to the Irish Famine — A Slave-Auction.
ON that dreadful day, the 28th of January on which we arrived in New Orleans, Jack Jones, a Welchman, was drowned in the Mississippi, in a generous effort to save another man from a watery grave. In that effort he succeeded, but at the cost of his own life. On the 2nd of February there was an advertisement in the papers, in which his friends offered a reward for the recovery of the body. Where was the corporation, or some one of the municipalities? for the papers make a continual reference to first, second, and third municipalities. Was there no public body, either civil or humane, to come forward on such an occasion? Had "Jack Jones" gone to the war, and butchered a score or two of harmless Mexicans, he would have been loaded with honours; but he saved a human being, close to the metropolis of the South, and his body was left to perish like that of a dog — for aught the citizens cared. I felt proud of my countryman. All honour to "Jack Jones!" May none of Cambria's sons perish in a cause less noble!
On the evening of the 4th of February I attended a
44public meeting for the relief of the Irish. It was held in the New Commercial Exchange, and was the first public meeting I had had an opportunity of attending in America. The Commercial Exchange is a fine large building, supported by pillars, and containing an area on the ground floor that would accommodate about 1,500 people. It is but ill-adapted for a public meeting, having no seats or benches. I found about 800 gentlemen present, but no ladies. Nor was that to be wondered at; for out of the 800, about 799 were spitting, 600 smoking cigars, 100 chewing tobacco, and perhaps 200 both chewing and smoking at the same time, for many of those people chew one end of the cigar while burning the other. There was a large platform, and a great number of gentlemen were upon it. Governor Johnson was the president, assisted by lots of vice-presidents. When I entered, a tall old gentleman, with rather high cheek bones, and a voice somewhat tremulous and nasal, was speaking. He descanted, in a second or third rate style, on the horrors of famine in Ireland, — its horrors especially as seen in the family. Coming to a period, he said, "It is under these circumstances that I want you to put your hands into your pockets, and pull out something, and throw it into the lap of starving Ireland!" This caused the most tremendous cheering I ever heard, — "bravo — bravo — bravo, — whoo — hoo — whoo!" The last sound was to me altogether new. Not having learned phonography, I can give you no adequate notion of it; but it was a combination of the owl's screech and the
45pig's scream. The favoured orator continued his speech a little longer, and at the close there was a storm of applause ten times more terrific than the former. And who was the speaker? It was none other, as I subsequently ascertained, than the celebrated Henry Clay! In departing from the tone of eulogy in which it is fashionable to speak of him, I may be charged with a want of taste and discrimination. That I cannot help. My simple object in these letters is to tell how Transatlantic men and manners appeared to my eye or ear. Before I went to America my respect for Henry Clay was very great. I am sorry to say it is not so now. I have closely examined his conduct in reference to "the peculiar institution," and find it to have been that — not of a high-minded statesman and true philanthropist — but of a trimming, time-serving partisan. He has been a main pillar of slavery; and as the idol of the Whig party, a great stumbling-block in the way of those who sought the overthrow of that system. The man of whom I have thus freely, yet conscientiously expressed myself, is nevertheless thus spoken of in the New Englander, a quarterly review of high character now open before me: — "We intend to speak in the praise of Henry Clay. His place among the great men of our country is permanently fixed. He stands forth prominent above the politicians of the hour, in the midst of the chosen few who are perpetual guardians of the interest and of the honour [slavery?] of the nation. The foundations of his fame are laid deep and imperishable, and the superstructure is already
46erected. It only remains that the mild light of the evening of life be shed around it."
The cheering at the close of Mr. Clay's speech merged into an awful tempest of barking. I could compare it to nothing else, — 500 men barking with all their might! I thought it was all up with the meeting — that all was lost in incurable confusion; and yet the gentlemen on the platform looked down upon the raging tempest below with calmness and composure, as a thing of course. Amidst the noise I saw a middle-aged gentleman, rising on the platform, deliberately take off his top-coat, and all was hushed — except at the outskirts of the assembly, where a great trade in talking and tobacco was constantly carried on. This gentleman's name was S. S. Prentiss, Esq.; and the barking, it was now evident, consisted of calling out Prentiss! — Prentiss! — Prentiss! with all their might, on the top of the voice, and with an accent, sharp and rising, on the first syllable.
This gentleman gave us to understand that he was a lawyer — that he had often appeared before his fellow-citizens on former occasions (those occasions he briefly enumerated); but that the present was the most painful of all. He expatiated largely, and with great vehemence of tone and action, on the miseries of famine as experienced in Ireland, — talked much of their own glorious and free country — ( "Looking out for a few niggers this morning?" occurred to me), — and made some severe reflections — not, I admit, altogether undeserved — on the Government of England. This man was
47fluent, though turgid. He seemed resolved to act the orator throughout, and certainly to me appeared in point of talent far — far a-head of Henry Clay. Bravos and hoohoos in abundance greeted Mr. Prentiss. He spoke long; but the noise of the suburbs prevented my hearing so perfectly as I wished.
The cheering at the close of this speech merged into barking as before. In this instance it was Hunt! — Hunt! — Hunt! that they called for. The president (standing) showed them a sheet of paper, containing probably a list of subscriptions, and smiled coaxingly to intimate that he wished that to be read. But it would not do. Hunt! — Hunt! — Hunt! was still the cry; and the democracy, as before, carried the day.
By this time the atmosphere of the room had become so poisoned with smoking that I could endure it no longer. I had not only the general atmosphere to bear, but special puffs, right in my face, accompanying the questions and remarks which, in that free meeting, of free citizens, in a free country, were freely put to me by the free-and-easy gentlemen around. The meeting resulted in the raising of 15,000 dollars for the relief of the Irish. The sum was handed by the American Minister in London to Lord John Russell; and a note from his Lordship, acknowledging the gift, has gone the round of the papers on both sides of the Atlantic. The subject of relief to Ireland was subsequently, in many ways and places, brought under my notice; and while I have been delighted in many instances with the display of pure and noble generosity,
48it was too evident that much of what was done was done in a spirit of self-glorification over a humbled and afflicted rival. It was a fine opportunity to feed the national vanity, and to deal hard blows to England. Not that I was sorry to see those blows, or to feel them. They drew no blood, and were a hundred times more efficacious than if they had. I felt that there was much in the conduct of England towards her unhappy sister-isle for which she deserved the severest castigation. But I must protest against the form of putting the case, which was very common throughout the United States: "You are shocked at our slavery; and yet you have horrors of ten times greater magnitude, in the Irish famine at your own doors." In this way the Irish famine, was a God-sent sort of a salvo for the slave-holder's conscience, so soothing and grateful to his tortured feelings that he was but too happy to pay for it by a contribution for the relief of Ireland.
In consequence of the following advertisement in the Picayune, I screwed up my feelings, and resolved for once at least in my life to see a slave-auction. I was the more disposed to attend this, as it was distinctly stated that they would be sold in families. I should not therefore have to behold the wife torn away from the husband, the husband from the wife, the parent from the child, or the child from the parent, as is so commonly done.
"COTTON-FIELD HANDS. — By Beard, Calhoun, and Co., auctioneers. — Will be sold at auction, on Friday,
the 5th inst., at 12 o'clock, at Bank's Arcade, thirty-seven Field Slaves; comprising eighteen from one plantation, and fourteen from another. All acclimated Negroes. To be sold in Families. Full particulars at sale."
Setting off a few minutes before 12, after about half-a-dozen inquiries, and as many "guessing" answers, I found "Bank's Arcade." It was very near the Presbyterian church, in which I had heard such excellent sermons on the preceding Sabbath. It was a large open building: one side occupied as a bar for the retail of strong drinks, and the other fitted up for auctioneering purposes, — there being conveniences for three or four of the trade to exercise their vocation at the same time. One end was used for the sale of books and other publications, chiefly novels; and the other for the exhibition of fancy goods.
As I got in at one end, I heard a voice — with that peculiar, twirling, rapid, nasal twang, which marks the Transatlantic auctioneer — say, "400 dollars for this fine young woman — only 400 dollars — 420, only 420 — 430 — 440, only 440 dollars offered for this fine young woman." By this time I had got in front of the performer, and had a full view of the whole affair. And sure enough she was a "fine young woman," about twenty-three years of age, neatly dressed, not quite — But the scene shall form the subject of my next letter.
Letter VII. — The Slave-Auction (continued) — "A Fine Young Woman" — A Man and his Wife — Jim, the Blacksmith — A Family — A Ploughboy — Cornelia — Another Jim — Tom, the House-Boy — Edmund — Tom, and "his reserved rights" — A Carriage Driver — Margaret and her Child.
YES, she was a "fine young woman," about 23 years of age, neatly dressed, not black, but slightly coloured. The auctioneer was a sleek-looking fellow, with a face that indicated frequent and familiar intercourse with the brandy-bottle. He stood upon a platform, about four feet high. Behind him was a table, at which a clerk sat to record the sales. High above was a semicircular board, on which were written in large letters "Beard, Calhoun, and Co." In front, standing upon a chair, exposed to the gaze of a crowd of men, stood the "fine young woman." She had an air of dignity even in that degrading position. Around were twenty or thirty more of the sable race, waiting their turn.
"440 dollars only offered," continued the coarse and heartless auctioneer; "450, thank you; 460, 460 dollars only offered for this excellent young woman — 470 only, 470 — 480, 480 dollars only offered — 490 — 500 dollars offered — going for 500 dollars — once, going for 500 dollars — 503 dollars — going for 503 dollars —
51going — once — twice — gone for 503 dollars. She is yours, sir," pointing to the highest bidder. She stepped down, and disappeared in the custody of her new proprietor.
A man and his wife, both black, were now put up. They were made to ascend the platform. "Now, how much for this man and his wife? Who makes an offer? What say you for the pair? 550 dollars offered — 560 dollars only; 560 dollars," &c., &c., till some one bidding 600 dollars — he added, "Really, gentlemen, it is throwing the people away — going for 600 dollars; going — once — twice — gone for 600 dollars. They are yours, sir."
Jim, a blacksmith, about 30 years of age, was the next. He stood on the chair in front. "Now, who bids for Jim? He is an excellent blacksmith; can work on a plantation, and make his own tools; in fact, can turn his hand to anything. The title is good," — (Is it, indeed? breathed I,) — "and he is guaranteed free from all the vices and maladies provided against by law. Who bids for him? 600 dollars bid for him — 625 dollars — 650 dollars," and so on to 780. "'Pon my soul, gentlemen, this is throwing the man away; he is well worth 1,200 dollars of anybody's money; 790 dollars only offered for him — going for 790 dollars; — going — once — twice — gone for 790 dollars."
The next "lot" was a family, consisting of the husband, a man slightly coloured, about 30 years of age, the wife about 25, quite black, and reminding me forcibly of an excellent woman in my own congregation,
52a little girl about 4 years of age, and a child in the arms. They were told to mount the platform. As they obeyed, I was attracted by a little incident, which had well nigh caused my feelings to betray me. Never shall I forget it. Parents of England, let me tell it you, and enlist your sympathies on behalf of oppressed and outraged humanity. It was that of a father helping up, by the hand, his own little girl to be exposed for sale! "Now, who bids for this family? Title good — guaranteed free from the vices and maladies provided against by law. The man is an excellent shoemaker — can turn his hand to anything, — and his wife is a very good house-servant. Who bids for the lot? 500 dollars bid for them — 600 dollars — only 600 dollars — 700 dollars offered for them." But the price ultimately mounted up to 1,125 dollars. — "Going for 1,125 dollars — once — twice — gone for 1,125 dollars."
The next was a black boy, 16 years of age. He mounted the chair, not the platform. "Now, gentlemen, here is an excellent ploughboy. Who bids for him? Thank you, — 400 dollars bid for him — 425," and so on to 550 dollars. "Why, look at him; he is a powerful-limbed boy; he will make a very large strong man." He was knocked down at 625 dollars.
"The next I have to put up, gentlemen, is a young piece of city goods — the girl Cornelia. She is 18 years of age, a good washer and ironer, but not a very good cook. She is well known in the city, and has always belonged to some of the best families." By
53this time Cornelia was standing upon the chair, "Now, gentlemen, who bids for this girl? She is sold for no fault, but simply for want of money. Who bids for this excellent washer and ironer?" At this moment one of the "gentlemen," standing in front of her, deliberately took his walking-stick, and, with the point of it, lifted up her clothes as high as the knee. I afterwards saw this same man walking arm-in-arm with his white wife in the street. "500 dollars offered for her — 530 dollars." She went for 580.
Here let me state, once for all, that I took notes on the spot. Those around me no doubt thought I was deeply interested in the state of the slave-market, and wishful to convey the most accurate information to my slave-breeding and soul-driving correspondents at a distance. Had my real object and character been discovered, I gravely doubt whether I should have left that "great" and "free" city alive!
The next "lot" were Jim, his wife, and two children, one about three, and the other about two years of age, — all on the platform. They were said to be excellent cotton-field hands, title good, and so forth; but, somehow, there were no bidders.
A boy about ten years of age, a fine intelligent looking little fellow, was now made to mount the chair. "Now, who bids for Tom? an excellent house-boy, a ‘smart’ young lad; can wait well at table — title good — guaranteed free from all the vices and maladies provided against by law. Who bids for him?" The bidding began at 350 dollars, and ended at 425.
"I have now to put up the boy Edmund, thirty-two years of age, an excellent cotton-field hand. Who bids for the boy Edmund?" At this moment a gentleman, who, like most of those present, appeared to be a sort of speculator in slaves, stepped forward, and examined with his hands the boy's legs, especially about the ankles, just as I have seen horse-dealers do with those animals at fairs. There were, however, no bidders; and Edmund was put down again.
The next that mounted the chair was a shrewd-looking negro, about thirty-five years of age. "Now, gentlemen, who bids for Tom? He is an excellent painter and glazier, and a good cook besides; title good; sold for no fault, except that his owner had hired him at 25 dollars a month, and Tom would not work. An excellent painter and glazier, and a good cook besides. His only fault is that he has a great idea of his own reserved rights, to the neglect of those of his master." This was said with a waggish kind of a leer, as if he thought he had said a very smart thing in a very smart way. 300 dollars were first offered for him; but poor Tom went for 350. "Now, sir," said the man-seller to Tom, with a malicious look, "you'll go into the country." He was bought by one of the speculators, who no doubt would sell him again for double the amount. Tom, as he descended from the chair, gave a look which seemed to say, "I care not whither I go; but my own reserved rights shall not be forgotten!"
A girl of seventeen years of age, somewhat coloured,
55was the next put up. She was "an excellent washer and getter-up of linen." She was also "a tolerably good cook." But there were no bidders; and the auctioneer said, "Really, gentlemen, I have a great deal of business to do in my office: I cannot lose any more time here, as you are not disposed to bid." And so ended the exhibition.
I was now at leisure to observe that a strange noise which I had heard for some time proceeded from another auctioneer, engaged in the same line of business at the other end of the room. As I approached, I saw him with a young coloured man of about twenty-two years of age, standing on his left hand on the platform. What a sight! Two men standing together, and the one offering the other for sale to the highest bidder! In the young man's appearance there was something very good and interesting. He reminded me forcibly of an excellent young man of the same colour in my own congregation. 430 dollars were offered for him; but, as he was a good carriage driver, and worth a great deal more, only he had not had time to dress himself for the sale, being industrious, sober, and no runaway (said with significant emphasis), the bidding ran up to 660 dollars. Here one of the bidders on the auctioneer's right hand asked him something aside; to which he answered, loudly and emphatically, "Fully guaranteed in every respect;" and then said to the young man, "Turn this way, and let the gentleman see you." He was sold for 665 dollars.
The next was a very modest-looking young mulatto girl, of small features and slender frame, with a little child (apparently not more than a year old) in her arms, evidently the daughter of a white man. "Now, who bids for Margaret and her child?" Margaret! my own dear mother's name. "Margaret and her child!" What should I have been this day, if that Margaret "and her child" Ebenezer had been so treated? Who can think of his own mother, and not drop a tear of sympathy for this mother — so young, so interesting, and yet so degraded? "Now, gentlemen, who bids for Margaret and her child? She is between sixteen and seventeen years of age, and is six months gone in pregnancy of her second child: I mention the last circumstance, because you would not think it to look at her, — it is right, however, that you should know. She cooks well, sews well, washes well, and irons well. Only 545 dollars! Really, gentlemen, it's throwing the girl away; she is well worth 800 dollars of any man's money. She'll no doubt be the mother of a great many children; and that is a consideration to a purchaser who wants to raise a fine young stock. Only 545 dollars offered for her!" No higher offer being made, she was sent down, — it was no sale. Let us breathe again.
Letter VIII. — St. Louis Exchange — Inspection of Human Chattels — Artizan Slaves — Scenes and Proceedings of the Auction — Sale of the Men.
FINDING that another slave-auction was to be held at noon next day in the St. Louis Exchange, I resolved to attend. The day was dull and dirty. "Please, sir," said I to the first man I met, "to tell me where St. Louis Exchange is?" "Don't know, sir." I walked on a little further, and tried again. "Please to direct me to St. Louis Exchange?" "Can't; but it's somewhere in that direction," pointing with his finger. "Is this the way to St. Louis Exchange?" I asked a third. "I guess it is," was the curt and characteristic reply. "How far is it?" "Three blocks further on; then turn to your right; go a little way down, and you will find it on your left." I went as directed, and came to an immense building — a kind of hotel. There were nearly a dozen entrances, all leading into one vast saloon, where I found about 200 gentlemen, — some drinking, some eating, some smoking, some reading, some talking, and all spitting. One end of the saloon was fitted up as a refreshment place, similar to those on railway stations in England. But I could see nothing like preparations for a sale.
58On looking around I perceived a large door in two halves, with spring hinges, leading as it were further into the building. I pushed one half open, and found myself in a spacious circular hall, — its roof, ending in a dome, supported by a suitable number of massive columns. The floor was tastefully paved with black and white marble, and all the light came from the dome. Some 100 gentlemen were sauntering about, and now and then turning to several groupes of black people to ask them questions. This place was evidently fitted up for auctioneering purposes, and seemed peculiarly adapted for man-selling. At equal distances were a dozen elevated desks for the chief actors, each with a small platform in front for the exhibition of the articles of sale.
It was a quarter to twelve, by the clock that faced the entrance door, when I got in. Anxious to know what kind of questions were put to the slaves, I pushed myself into the knots of intending purchasers, just as if I had been one of them. The inquiries, I found, related to place of birth, subsequent removals, competency for work, and so forth. The answers presented a fearful view of the extent to which the internal slave-trade is carried on. Most of the slaves said they had been "raised" in Virginia and Kentucky. To avoid the suspicion of being a spy, I resolved to put a few questions too. I found myself at the establishment where those named in the advertisement which had drawn me thither were to be disposed of. A pile of handbills — each containing an exact copy of the advertisement,
59and a French translation — was lying on the platform. Taking one up, I observed the name of "Squires, a carpenter." Assuming all the confidence I could muster, I said, "Which is Squires?" "I'm here, sir." "You are a carpenter, are you not?" "Yes, sir," (with a very polite bow). "And what can you do?" "I can trim a house, sir, from top to bottom." "Can you make a panelled door?" "Yes, sir." "Sash windows?" "Yes, sir." "A staircase?" "Yes, sir." I gave a wise and dignified nod, and passed on to another groupe. In my progress, I found by one of the platforms a middle-aged black woman, and a mulatto girl of perhaps eighteen crouching by her side. "Are you related to each other?" I said. "No, sir." "Have you lived long in the city?" I said to the younger. "About two years, sir; but I was ‘raised’ in South Carolina." "And why does your owner sell you?" "Because I cannot cut — she wants a cutter — I can only sew." I then returned to the groupe at platform No. 1.
The clock was striking twelve; and, before it had finished, the vast dome reverberated with the noise of half-a-dozen man-sellers bawling at once, disposing of God's images to the highest bidders. It was a terrible din. But, at our platform, business proceeded rather leisurely. Two gentlemen ascended the desk: the one of a light complexion, about fifty-five years of age, rather fat, whiskers and beard smoothly shaven off; the other, a Frenchified-looking young man, about twenty-five years of age, of dark complexion, with
60green spectacles to hide some deformity of the eye, no whiskers, but a large quantity of beard on the lower chin. The elderly man, whom I took to be the notary public mentioned in the advertisement, read the terms of sale; then the dark auctioneer, stroking his bearded chin, proceeded to business.
"Now, gentlemen, let me sell you Jacob. He is twenty-six years of age — a first-rate carpenter and wheelwright — Jacob âgé d'environ 26 ans, charpentier et charron de la premiÄre ordre — guaranteed free from the vices and maladies provided against by law — garanti exempt des vices et des maladies prévus par la loi. How much for Jacob? Combien pour Jacob?" He was run up from 1,000 dollars, and was going for 1,175, when the fat old gentleman offered 1,200, at which he was knocked down. "Now, gentlemen," said the fat man, with deliberation and emphasis, "the 1,200 dollars was my bid, and therefore Jacob is not sold. He is well worth 1,800 dollars."
At this performance, be it observed, the chief actor uttered everything first in English, and then in French, in the same breath, thereby giving the proceedings a most strange and comical sound.
Abraham, although on the advertisement, was not present.
Sancho, a black man, twenty-seven years of age, was the next in order. He was described as "an excellent carpenter — excellent charpentier — can do anything but fine work — fully guaranteed free from the maladies and vices provided against by law;" and, as nobody would
61bid higher, he also was bought in by the fat man at 1,025 dollars.
George, a black man, twenty-seven years of age, was the next to mount the platform. George kept his eyes fixed upon the dome, as if he felt above looking down on the grovelling creatures beneath him. He was a stout-built, thick-set man, who evidently felt to the very core the degradation to which he was exposed. "Now, gentlemen, let me sell you George — a first-rate bricklayer — excellent poseur de briques — bears an excellent character — only he absconded once from his master for a few days. How much do you offer for him?" The bidding began at 500 dollars; but George, like his predecessors, was bought in at 980 by the fat man, who protested him to be well worth 1,500.
Squires — whom I questioned about doors, sash-windows, and staircases — was next put up. He was said to be twenty-eight years of age; but I think he was nearer forty. On his forehead was a deep scar, occasioned by some severe cut. He appeared to be a very good-tempered man, and by his smiling looks seemed to say, "Buy me, and I'll serve you well." "What will you offer for Squires, gentlemen? — an excellent carpenter — can trim a house — all but the very fine work — bears an excellent character — is fully guaranteed," &c. &c. "Who bids for Squires?" Poor fellow! he was sold for 900 dollars.
Sancho was put up again, the fat man observing that he had made a mistake in offering a reserve bid for him — that he would be sold without reserve. He
62was put up at 600 dollars. The biddings gradually ascended to 900, and there stood, till, after a considerable expenditure of the Frenchman's breath and talent, Sancho was knocked down at 900 dollars, though when first put up 1,025 had been offered for him.
John, a black man, twenty-five years of age, "an excellent French and American cook — excellent cuisinier Français et Américain," was put up at 600 dollars, and, after the usual quantity of the Frenchman's eloquence, (accompanied, as in all other cases, by the constant rubbing of his tuft of chin-beard with the left hand, while in the right he flourished a fine massive gold pencil-case and a sheet of paper,) fetched 775 dollars, at which price he was knocked down to one Robert Murphy.
Silas also, a black boy, fifteen years of age, a house-servant, with a large scar on the right cheek, was sold for 670 dollars to Robert Murphy; who likewise became the purchaser of Scipio, a black man about twenty-four years of age, "an excellent cook, fully warranted in every respect," for 705 dollars.
"Now, gentlemen," resumed the green-spectacled auctioneer, still stroking his cherished tuft of long black beard, — "now, gentlemen, let me sell you Samson! He is twenty-six years of age — an excellent house-servant — guaranteed free," &c. &c. "What do you offer for Samson?" Poor Samson fell into the hands of the Philistines at 710 dollars.
Sam, the next on the list, was not present. Ben was therefore put up. He was a fine buckish young fellow, about twenty-one. His complexion was lighter than
63that of a mulatto, and his hair was not at all crisped, but straight, and of a jet black. He was dressed in a good cloth surtout coat, and looked altogether far more respectable and intelligent than most of the bidders. He was evidently a high-minded young man, who felt deeply the insulting position he was made to occupy. Oh! that I could have whispered in his ear a few words of sympathy and comfort. He stood on the platform firm and erect, his eyes apparently fixed on the clock opposite. "Now, gentlemen, what do you offer for Ben?" said the Frenchified salesman; "a first-rate tailor — only twenty-one years of age." 700 dollars proved to be the estimated value of this "excellent tailor."
Charles (not in the catalogue) was now offered. He was a black man, of great muscular power, said to be twenty-eight years of age. He had, it was admitted, absconded once from his master! At this intelligence the countenances of the bidders fell. He had evidently gone down at least 20 per cent. in value. Though offered at 300 dollars, however, he rose to 640, at which price he was sold.
The "ladies" were yet to be exhibited. "Elizabeth" (my own dear sister's name) was the first. But I reserve this part of the scene for another letter.
Letter IX. — Sale of Women — Second Sabbath in New Orleans — Cricket in front of the Presbyterian "Church" — The Baptist "Church" — A Peep at an American Sabbath-School — Proceedings in "Church" — A Sermon on "The New Birth" — Nut-cracking during Sermon — "Close Communion."
You shall now learn how men buy and sell women in America. "Elizabeth" was the first who was made to mount the platform. She was a very genteel-looking girl, about eighteen years of age, evidently the daughter of a white man, and said to be "a good seamstress and house-servant — excellente couturiÄrs et domestique de maison." 600 dollars was the first bid, and 810 the last, at which price (about 170l.) Elizabeth — so young and so interesting — was sold!
"Susan," too, was a mulatto — the daughter of a white man. She was short, dumpy, and full-faced, about sixteen years of age, "a plain seamstress and house-servant." She appeared exceedingly modest, and kept her eyes on the floor in front of the platform. On that floor, as usual, the filthy dealers in human flesh were ever and anon pouring forth immense quantities of tobacco juice. For Susan the first bid was 500 dollars, and the highest 700 (nearly 150l.), at which she was "knocked down." But the fat old man, as
65before, in his peculiar drawling nasal tones, said, "The 700 dollars was my bid, and therefore Susan is not sold." Poor Susan was very sad and gloomy.
"Betsy," another "plain seamstress and house-servant," about sixteen years of age, also the daughter of a white man, had a fine intelligent eye, and her effort to restrain her feelings was evidently great. The offers, however, not suiting, the auctioneer closed the exhibition, which had lasted an hour.
The next day being the Sabbath, I took it into my head to find out the Baptist Church. They are all "churches" in America. It was not far from the Presbyterian place of worship. In passing the latter, I saw (as on the previous Sabbath) about forty or fifty boys in the square in front playing at cricket. A number of grave-looking gentlemen were standing under the portico of the church, looking on with apparent complacency, — not one attempting either to check these juvenile Sabbath-breakers, or to allure them to occupations more suitable to the day.
The Baptist Church is a small place, about 60 feet by 30, without galleries, except a little one for the singers. When we arrived, a small Sabbath-school was being conducted in the body of the chapel. About fifty children were present, of whom not one was coloured. One of the teachers kindly led us to a pew. It was the third or fourth from the door. The school, which occupied the part next to the pulpit, was about to be dismissed. The superintendent got into the "table-pew" to address the scholars. It was the
66first time I had had an opportunity of hearing an address to children in America. In the land of the Todds, the Abbotts, and the Gallaudets, I expected something very lively and interesting. But grievous was my disappointment. The address was dull and lifeless. There was in it neither light nor heat. When the superintendent had done, an elderly gentleman, shrewd and busy-looking, having in his hand a black walking-stick and on his neck a black stock, with shirt-collar turned over it like a white binding (the national fashion of the Americans), came up, and told the school that the proprietor of the splendid picture, "The Departure of the Israelites from Egypt," had requested him to deliver a lecture upon it; that he had engaged to do so on Monday a-week; and that the scholars and teachers of that school would be admitted free. I should like (said I to myself) to hear you: a lecture on the emancipation of those poor slaves cannot fail to be interesting in the slave-holding city of New Orleans. The school was now dismissed, and the scholars left to enjoy their full swing of lawless liberty.
The elderly gentleman descended from his elevation, and walked about the "church," backwards and forwards, whispering a few words to one, and then to another, in a very bustling manner. As I looked down the aisle, I saw on one side of it, near the pulpit end, a leg projecting about eighteen inches, in a pendent position, at an angle of about forty-five degrees. This leg attracted my notice by its strange and solitary appearance. It seemed as if it had got astray from its
67owner. In America gentlemen's legs do get sometimes most strangely astray, — on the chair arms, on the tables, on the chimney-pieces, and into all sorts of out-of-the-way places. While other people generally try how high they can carry their heads, the ambition of the Americans is to try how high they can carry their heels! Observing the leg in question a little more attentively, I found that behind it (in the adjoining pew), and in close and intimate connection with it, was a man dressed in black. The bustling old gentleman came by, tapped him on the shoulder, and beckoned him forward, along with himself, to the rostrum. Here they were met by a tall man of grave appearance, about thirty years of age, with a pale face and bald forehead, wearing a white cravat, with corners about ten inches long, stretching out on either side towards the shoulders. He was made to take the central position at the desk; while the man with the leg took the right, and the elderly gentleman the left.
The elderly gentleman (who, from his I'm-at-home kind of air, was evidently the pastor) offered up a short prayer, and then gave out a hymn, which some few friends in the gallery (standing up) sang; all the rest of the congregation sitting down, and very few joining at all in the psalmody. This exercise over, the central gentleman arose, and, having first read a few verses of Scripture, offered up a very suitable prayer about eight or ten minutes long. The man on the right then gave out another hymn, which was sung as before.
The central gentleman now, in a very low don't-care-whether-you-hear-or-not tone of voice, gave out a text. It was John iii.7: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." I will give you a sketch of his sermon. He observed that of all subjects on which men might be addressed, religious subjects were the most important; and that of all religious subjects, that to which the text referred was the most momentous. Having noticed the context, he proposed to inquire, first, into the necessity of being born again. This change (he observed) was necessary, in order to enjoy heaven. It was a common observation, that "society seeks its level." The Indian, for example, could not be happy amidst the refinements of civilization. The gambler and the swearer could not be happy in the society of the pious and devout. If so in this world, amidst imperfect holiness, how much more so in the pure society of the celestial state!
During these remarks, I was much annoyed by the cracking of nuts not very far off. I looked around, and actually found it was a mother cracking them for her two boys, one of whom might be seven and the other five years of age, — one by her side, and the other in the next pew behind. To the latter she deliberately handed over the kernels in a pocket-handkerchief; and yet, to look at her, you would have thought her a woman of sense and piety!
The preacher noticed, in the second place, the nature of this change. It was spiritual, not physical, — a "revolution" (!) of the mind, rather than a mere
69change of opinion or of outward deportment. The third observation related to the evidence of the change. Its existence might be ascertained by our own experience, and by the Word of God. The former was not to be trusted without a reference to the latter. This change destroyed the love of the world. It led man to abandon his favourite sins, and to live and labour to do good. It also created in him new desires and enjoyments. These topics were variously and suitably illustrated, and the whole was a very good sermon on the subject.
At the close the man on the right offered an appropriate prayer. The pastor then made several announcements; among them, that a meeting to pray for the success of Sabbath-schools would be held on the morrow evening. In connection with that announcement, he said: "I am a very plain man, and my God is a very plain God. He is so in all his dealings with men. He always acts on the plain common-sense principle, that, if a favour is worth bestowing, it is worth asking for." He also intimated that there would be a Church-meeting immediately after the service, preparatory to the ordinance of the Lord's Supper in the afternoon, inviting at the same time any members of other Baptist Churches who might be present to participate with them in that privilege. This form of invitation led me to understand that they were "close communionists;" and such I have ascertained to be the case, not only with them, but also with all the regular Baptists in America. The influence of Robert
70Hall and others was not felt so powerfully on that side of the Atlantic as on this. I suppose that, while this worthy pastor would have freely admitted to the Lord's Supper any immersed slave-holder, he would have sternly refused that privilege to me — a sprinkled missionary from a distant land. You will readily believe, however, that the anti-slavery missionary — the pastor of a large congregation of black and coloured people — was not very ambitious of Christian fellowship with slave-holders.
Letter X. — Interview with a Baptist Minister — Conversation with a Young Man in the Baptist Church — The Presbyterian Church, and Dr. Scott again — A Peep at the House of Representatives of Louisiana — Contrast between the French and the Americans in the Treatment of their Slaves — Dinner Table in New Orleans — American Manners.
THE decided part acted by the Baptist missionaries in the British Colonies, in reference to slavery, made me anxious to know the whereabouts of the Baptist minister in New Orleans on that subject; and I therefore visited his place of worship again in the afternoon. They were engaged in celebrating the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. A very clean and neatly-dressed black woman was standing in the portico, looking in, and watching the proceedings with deep interest. She evidently wished to enter, but dared not. At the close I introduced myself to the minister as Davies, from British Guiana, attached to the ministry of the missionaries of the London Society. He was very kind and cordial, and pressed my wife and myself to go home with him to tea. We accepted the invitation. Among other questions, he asked how our negroes worked, now that they were free? I told him, "Very well indeed; and you may very safely venture to emancipate your slaves as soon as you please." This led us
72at once in medias res. His views I found to be simply as follows: how pious! how plausible! how convenient! how extensively prevalent in reference to other evils than slavery! "Slavery is a political institution. As a Christian minister, I have nothing to do with politics. My business is to preach the Gospel, and try to save men's souls. In this course I am sanctioned by the example of the Apostle Paul. Slavery existed in his day; but he turned not aside from the great object to attempt its overthrow. He simply told masters and slaves their duty, without at all interfering with the relation subsisting between them. Besides, the opposite of this course would render us and our churches unpopular, and thereby destroy our usefulness." He also seemed very sore at the idea of the Christianity of slave-holders being at all called in question. "People," said he, or words to the same effect, "may spare themselves the trouble to pass resolutions of non-fellowship with us; we wish for no fellowship with those who are so uncharitable as to question our piety." I began now to understand why the Abolitionists call the American churches "the bulwark of slavery."
Subsequently, on the same day, I had conversation with a young man, whom I had that afternoon seen sitting down at the Lord's Table in the Baptist Church. He told me that there were in New Orleans two Baptist Churches of coloured people, presided over by faithful and devoted pastors of their own colour. "And does your pastor," I inquired, "recognise them, and have fellowship with them?" "Oh! yes, he has often
73preached to them. He feels very anxious, I can assure you, for the conversion of the slaves." "And do those coloured preachers, ever occupy your pulpit?" "Oh, dear me, no!" with evident alarm. "Why not? You say they are good men, and sound in doctrine." "Oh! they would not be tolerated. Besides, they are accustomed to speak in broken English, and in very familiar language; otherwise the slaves could not understand them. The slaves, you know, cannot read, and are not allowed to learn." This he said in a tone of voice which indicated an entire acquiescence in that state of things, as if he thought the arrangement perfectly right. But what iniquity! To come between the Word of God and his rational creature! To interpose between the light of Heaven and the soul of man! To withhold the lamp of life from one-sixth of the entire population! Of all the damning features of American slavery, this is the most damning!
"I suppose," continued I, "if any of the black people come to your churches, they have to sit by themselves?"
Young Man. — "Of course: I have never seen it otherwise."
Myself. — "And I have never before seen it so. With us, in British Guiana, blacks and whites mingle together indiscriminately in the worship of our common Father."
Young Man (with amazement). — "There must be a great change here before it comes to that. It must appear very strange."
Myself. — "Very much like heaven, where they shall come together from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, &c. Why, we have black deacons, who, at the celebration of the Lord's Supper, carry the bread and wine, and give them even to white people."
Young Man (with more astonishment than ever, and in a tone of offended dignity). — "I don't think I could stand that — I don't! A great change must take place in my feelings before I could. I don't like to mingle Ham and Japhet together for my part — I don't!"
Myself. — "Why, they were mingled together in the ark."
Young Man. — "Yes; but old Noah quarrelled with Ham soon after he came out, and cursed him."
Myself. — "Granted; but you and your pastor profess to be anxious for the slaves' conversion to God, and thereby to roll away the curse." Here the dialogue ended.
In the evening I was desirous of hearing Dr. Hawkes, an Episcopalian minister, of whose talents and popularity I had heard much in New Orleans; but, finding that he did not preach in the evening, I went again to hear Dr. Scott at the Presbyterian Church. Having stood a considerable time at the door inside, and receiving no encouragement to advance, I ventured, along with my wife, to enter the pew next to the door. This proved a most unfortunate position. There was not light enough to take any notes; while the incessant opening and shutting of the door, with its rusty hinges,
75made it extremely difficult to hear. The discourse, however, which was again addressed to young men in great cities, was characterized by all the power and piety which distinguished the one of the previous Sabbath. I retired deeply impressed with the value of such a ministry in such a place. Dr. Scott was one of the American delegates to the Conference for the formation of the Evangelical Alliance in 1846. He is a Southern man, born and bred amidst the wilds of Tennessee, whose early educational advantages were very small. He is, in a great measure, a self-made man. Brought up in the midst of slavery, he is (I rejoice to hear) a cordial hater of the system. As a minister, he is "thoroughly furnished — a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." His knowledge of the world, as well as of the Word of God and of the human heart, is extensive, and is turned to the best account in his ministrations. In leaving New Orleans I felt no regret, but that I had not called upon this good man.
On Monday morning, the 8th of February, I had a peep at the House of Representatives of the State of Louisiana, then in session at New Orleans. The room, a dark and dingy-looking place, was fitted up with desks and seats in the form of the letter D. A desk and a spittoon were allowed to each honourable member, — the latter article being deemed as necessary as the former. Whether smoking was suffered during the hours of business or not I cannot tell, but the room smelt horribly of stale tobacco. Between fifty and sixty members were present, and never certainly, either
76in the Old World or in the New, did I see an assemblage of worse-looking men. They seemed fitted for any deeds of robbery, blood, and death. Several distinguished duellists were pointed out to me; among them Colonel Crane, an old man, who had repeatedly fought with Mr. Bowie, the inventor of the "Bowie knife," and had killed several men in personal combat! The motion before the house just at that time was for the release from prison of a Mr. Simms, who a few days before had violently assaulted one of the members in the lobby. He was released accordingly. Who will not pity the 200,000 slaves of this State, who are at the "tender mercies" of these sanguinary men? Nor let it be said, as it often is, that New Orleans and Louisiana are not a fair specimen of things even in the South, — that they are more French than American, &c. This is not the case. Nothing in New Orleans struck me more forcibly than its thoroughly American character. American usages, American influence, American laws, and American religion are there predominant. Things were much better for the black and coloured people when it was not so. The French treated their slaves incomparably kinder than the Americans do. They often married coloured women, and invariably treated their own coloured offspring, whether legitimate or illegitimate, with tenderness and regard. They had them suitably educated and adequately provided for; so that, at the present moment, a large portion of the city of New Orleans is the freehold property of coloured persons. Not so act
77the Americans. They indulge in the grossest licentiousness with coloured women, but would shudder at the idea of marrying one of them; and, instead of giving any property to their coloured offspring, they do not scruple to sell them as slaves! Had I gone to the Roman Catholic cathedral in that city, which is attended chiefly by the French and their descendants, I should have found no negro pew, but persons of all colours intermingled together in religious observances. The Southerners seem to have no heart — no feeling, except that of love to the almighty dollar.
The population of New Orleans is about 90,000. On this mass of people are brought to bear the labours of at least thirteen ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, seven Presbyterians, four Episcopalians, and three Baptists, — all professedly evangelical; — besides a considerable number of Roman Catholics, and other non-evangelical teachers. But Satan has there a large array of synagogues.
I omitted, at the proper time, to describe the scene we witnessed at our "private" lodgings the first day we sat down to dinner. Though it was called a "private" boarding-house, and we had taken the apartments as such, we found ourselves surrounded by about thirty boarders! These were all respectable men, or rather men whom, from their position in society, you would expect to be respectable. Doctors, lieutenants in the army, captains, merchants, editors, clerks of the senate, and so forth, were among them. My wife was the only lady besides the mistress of the house.
78We were all waiting in an ante-room for the summons to dinner. It came. The door of the dining-room was thrown open; and before you could have said "Jack Robinson," the whole had rushed through, were seated at table, and sending forth a forest of forks in the direction of the various dishes! I had often heard of this wolfish habit, but thought our cousins were caricatured. Here, however, was the reality. Had I not been an eye-witness, I could not have believed it. Not a single seat had been kept vacant for the only lady who had to be accommodated, and we were both left to console ourselves in the ante-room! The landlady, however, having "an eye to business," arranged for our accommodation at the table. There had been on the table a turkey, a piece of beef, some fish, and pastry, — all ready carved. Most of these things had instantly disappeared, — the knives and forks had borne them away in triumph. There was no waiting to be served: every one stuck his fork in what he liked best, or what was most within his reach. It was a regular scramble. The principle seemed to be to begin to eat as soon as possible, no matter what! Some began with nothing but potatoes, some with a bit of bread, some with a piece of beef, some with a limb of the turkey. Some, I noticed, beginning with fowl, then taking roast beef, then boiled mutton, then fish, and then some pastry, — all on the same plate, and — faugh! — portions of most of them there at the same time! No change of plate, — that would have been extravagant, and would have savoured of aristocracy. Freedom, it seemed, allowed
79every one to help himself; and that with his own knife and fork, which he had before used for all sorts of purposes. Such luxuries as salt-spoons and mustard-spoons are very rare south of the Ohio. My wife asked the lady of the house for a small slice of the ham she had before her, when the latter very politely begged Mrs. Davies to lend her her knife to cut it with! This was good society in New Orleans. Things improved as we advanced towards the North; but in most places, though the Americans provide bountifully, the cooking is not good, and they make a strange jumble of things at table. They have the appearance of a people suddenly raised in the world, and able to afford themselves nice things, but very ignorant and awkward in the use of them. With so much hurry to begin, the time occupied in eating by our company was very short. We Britishers had scarcely begun, when one and another got up from table, finishing his dinner as he walked away. They cannot bear to sit at table a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. While we remained seated, they passed before us on their way out, — one eating, one picking his teeth, one scraping his throat, one spitting on the floor. Of course, we seldom made a hearty meal under such circumstances.
Letter XI. — Farewell to New Orleans — Revolting Bargain — "The Anglo-Saxon" Steam-boat — Moderate Fare — Steam Navigation of the Mississippi — Steain-boat and Railway Literature — Parting View of the "Crescent City" — Slave Advertisements — Baton Rouge — A Sugar Estate — Fellow-Passengers — The Ladies' Cabin — A Baptist Minister — A Reverend Slave-holder.
PREPARING to leave New Orleans, on the evening of the 8th of February, we called for our bill, and found, for the nine days of our stay, a charge of eight dollars more than we had agreed for. Unwilling to be imposed upon, I remonstrated; and we split the difference with our "smart" landlady. We turned our backs upon the city, with a hearty wish that we might never see it again. It is a horrid place. Bowie knives, revolving pistols, and other deadly weapons, are exposed for sale on every side, — a pretty clear proof of an extensive demand.
Shall I tell you of a most revolting abomination, which I know, on good authority, occurred about the time we were there? A large importer of slaves from the "slave-breeding" States, having on board a considerable number of young women, made an offer of the use of their persons to a volunteer regiment of soldiers, then waiting to be conveyed to Mexico. The
81offer was accepted; and the wretch boasted that he had made 700 dollars, or 150l. sterling, by the transaction! The laws of this great and free country had, however, consigned these helpless young women to his absolute disposal! Alas! for Freedom, had she no holier home than the Southern States of the American Union! And yet of the country in which this licentious bargain was made, even John Todd, the excellent author of "Lectures to Children," thus writes, — "This land is free. The mind is here free, — and the child is to be born — if indeed he ever will be born — whose powers and faculties may not be called out and cultivated. There is no bondage to forms or precedents; but the whole mass may be seasoned, leavened, and moved, and is at liberty to do what is great and good in the way that is most convenient."
Four o'clock in the afternoon found us safely on board the "Anglo-Saxon," a fine new steam-boat, bound for Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. We booked ourselves for Cincinnati in Ohio, a distance of 1,550 miles. The fare was 12 dollars each; and the captain said we should be from six to ten days in getting to our destination. (We were, however, twelve days.) Twelve dollars, or about 2l. 10s., for the occupation of splendid apartments, sitting down at a well-furnished table, and being conveyed 1,550 miles! Scarcely believing that there was not some mistake, I asked a fellow-passenger if the 12 dollars really did include board, and was told that most certainly it did, — it was the regular fare. Travelling at this rate was literally cheaper than staying
82at home. It was just one dollar a day each for food, lodgings, and locomotion! This "Anglo-Saxon" — forge below and palace above, as all these boats appear to be — is a noble vessel. The dimensions, as given me by the "clerk" or purser, are — length of keel 182 feet, breadth of beam 26 feet, depth of hull 6 feet, length of cabin 140 feet; two engines 6 Ë feet stroke; two cylinders 18 Ë inches in diameter; height between decks 9 Ë feet; having a fire-engine and hose; berth accommodation for 73 cabin-passengers, but often has more. Unexpectedly, we had got on board the only temperance vessel on the river — the only one that kept no "bar." It belonged chiefly to Quakers. The captain and the clerk, both part-proprietors, had married sisters. The engineer also was connected with them by marriage. These circumstances encouraged the hope that we had fallen into good steady hands, who would do all in their power to avoid explosion.
The number of steam-boats which puff, and groan, and paddle up and down the Mississippi, is amazing, — probably not fewer than 1,200. Only in the year 1812 was the first seen on these western waters! The view of a long range of these splendid vessels lying against the landing-place is magnificent. Though not very substantial, they are extremely showy. Lightness of construction and elegance of accommodation are chiefly studied. The "Anglo-Saxon" is not by any means one of the largest class. These vessels are doubtless well adapted for their purpose as river boats; in the sea, they could do nothing but capsize and sink.
83In no portion of the globe should the invention of steam-boats be more highly appreciated than in the valley of the Mississippi; for nowhere else has the triumph of art over the obstacles of nature been more complete. But for this gigantic application of the power of steam, thousands of boatmen would have been slowly and laboriously warping, and rowing, and poling, and cordelling their boats, in a three months' trip up this mighty stream, which (thanks to Watt) is now ascended in ten days. This "go-a-head" country advances more in five years with steam-boats, than it could have done in fifty without them. The principal points in the Ohio and the Mississippi, which nature had separated by distances and other obstacles more formidable than attend the crossing of the Atlantic, art has brought into practical juxta-position.
On embarking on the "Anglo-Saxon," we found that we could not get off that night, and therefore made ourselves comfortable on board till morning.
February 9. — This morning, while the boat was being got ready, hawkers of light literature flocked on board. Baskets full of trashy novels were continually offered to us. Why should not the same facilities be afforded for obtaining better publications? Truly, "the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." This reproach is not peculiar to Americans. Why should there not be in England the same facilities for obtaining publications of real value and utility, as for obtaining works of mere amusement, if not something worse?
At noon our engine began to puff, and our paddles to move. The "crescent city" soon vanished in the distance; not, however, till we had enjoyed a striking view of it, and especially of the harbour. An area of many acres, covered with a grotesque variety of flat boats, keel boats, and water craft of every description, that had floated down from the valley above, lined the upper part of the shore. Steam-boats, rounding to, or (like our own) sweeping away, cast their long horizontal streams of smoke behind them; while barques and brigs, schooners and sloops, ranged below each other in order of size, and showing a forest of masts, occupied the wharfs. These and a thousand other objects, seen as they were under a brilliant sun, presented a picture of surpassing splendour; but the curse and blight of slavery were upon it!
Being now fairly under weigh, let me glance at a New Orleans paper of this morning, which I bought from one of the hawkers. How consoling the following paragraph!
"STEAM-BOAT EXPLOSION. — Captain Duncan, of the ‘Swan,’ reports that the tow-boat, ‘Daniel Webster,’ burst her larboard boiler on the 6th instant, while towing in a vessel over the South-west Bar. Mr. William Taylor, one of the Balize pilots, and one of the firemen were instantly killed. The rest of the crew of the ‘Daniel Webster’ were slightly scalded."
These explosions are of daily occurrence; and though we had a fresh boat, and good steady men to manage it, our feeling of security was very small.
The six following advertisements I found in succession in the same paper, besides many more of a like character interspersed throughout the sheet. How manly and how mysterious is the first!
"TO PLANTERS. — For Sale, a splendid Virginia woman-servant, thirty years old, who has been in this country twenty-four years; speaks French and English; good cook, washer, and ironer, and has kept store. She is of a strong constitution; has never been sick, and never had a child. She is for sale for no fault, but on account of domestic trouble. She is not for sale for any one in this city. No one but a planter need apply. For particulars apply at No. 189, Common-street."
"F 9 — t."
"MECHANICS AT PRIVATE SALE. — We have for sale 3 good Carpenters, 1 good Plasterer, 1 Plantation Blacksmith, 1 excellent Tailor, 1 superior Cabinetmaker. The above slaves are well recommended, and can be sent on trial at their respective trades."
"BEARD, CALHOUN & Co.,"
"8, Bank's Arcade."
"F 3 — 10t."
"NEGROES FOR SALE. — A young Negro man, first-rate field hand, 19 or 20 years old; also a very
likely girl, good house-servant and tolerable seamstress. Apply to"
"McMAHON & PEARSALL,"
"F 4 — 6t."
"TEN DOLLARS REWARD. — Left the steam-boat ‘Little Rock,’ on Monday morning, the 1st instant, a Mulatto boy, named Bob Malane, about 40 years of age, 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high. Any information respecting said boy will be thankfully received at the office of Williams, Phillips & Co., No. 62, Gravier-street."
"F 7 — 3t."
"FIFTY DOLLARS REWARD. — Ran away from Mrs. Shall's, in Canal-street, on the 6th instant, at 3 o'clock, P.M., the Negro-girl Eliza, aged 16 years, rather small size, very black, with a handsome face. Had on when she left a dark-coloured calico dress, low quartered shoes, and stockings; took no other clothing. It is believed she was decoyed away by a free coloured man, well known on several steam-boats, now in the city. Captains of vessels going to St. Louis are cautioned not to receive the girl on board. The above reward will be given for the apprehension of said slave, if found in the possession of any white or free coloured person, under circumstances that would lead to a conviction at law; or 10 dollars if delivered at 28, Canal-street,
New Orleans, with any reasonable expenses incurred in so doing."
"F 7 — 2t."
"ONE DOLLAR REWARD. — Will be given for the apprehension of the Negro-woman Sarah, aged 31 years, 5 feet 2 inches high, stout built; has good teeth; no scars or blemishes about her face, or marks upon her person. Speaks French, English, and Spanish."
"JOSE ANTONIO LANONDO,"
"Corner St. Thomas and Basins Streets."
"F 2 — 6t."
Against the powerful current of the "father of waters" we advanced at the rate of more than 200 miles a day! It was consequently dark when we passed Baton Rouge, 140 miles from New Orleans. Baton Rouge, now the capital of Louisiana, is situated on the first "bluff," or elevation, to be met with in ascending the river. The United States' Barracks there are built, I am told, in a very fine style.
February 10. — We began to feel the cold very keenly: the thermometer was down at 46. In the middle of the day, we had to stop at an estate to take in a large quantity of sugar and molasses. The upper parts of the valley send down flour and provisions, getting from the lower sugar and molasses in return. This stoppage affording an opportunity of going ashore, I went to see the estate buildings; and though such
88buildings as existing in Guiana were quite familiar to me, I was interested in observing the difference. Those of Guiana are incomparably superior; but these are the result of a better policy. Ours are too large and too expensive; these are rude, simple, and cheap, and yet answer the purpose. Seeing slaves at work, I addressed several questions to one of them relative to the cultivation and manufacture of sugar, and received very sensible and even polite answers.
By this time we had received an impression of the character of our fellow-passengers. The mass of the "gentlemen" were rude and filthy beyond expression. The promenade or gallery outside, which might be very pleasant, was bespattered all over with vile expectoration. No lady could venture there with safety. The men will persist in spitting on the floor, when it would be quite as convenient to spit into the water. Many of the names of places on the route ending in ville, — as Donaldsonville, Francisville, Iberville, Nashville, &c., — I could not help asking if we had not many passengers from Spitville. But this was not the worst feature in the character of our fellow-travellers, who comprised gamblers, fighters, swearers, drunkards, "soul drivers," and everything base and bad. Of these, we had about fifty as cabin passengers; but there were upwards of a hundred deck passengers below — not above, — and they were ten times worse. Among men so much resembling demons I had never before been. However, my wife being with me, I had the entrée of the ladies' cabin. This was the abode of
89quiet and decency, there being but three other ladies besides. Of these, one had her husband with her, a respectable farmer from Pennsylvania, who shipped all his last year's produce in a flat boat, came down in it with his wife, sold his cargo in New Orleans, bought there what he might want during the year, and was now on his way home again by steam. Another lady, who was from Philadelphia, had come all the way to New Orleans in the hope of having a last glance of her husband before he was ordered off to Mexico, — was just too late, — and was returning home alone, with a heavy heart and an anxious mind. The third lady was a German girl from Baden, who had lived in New Orleans for three years and was now on her way to Cincinnati to see her brother. We had also the boat's washerwoman, an old lady from New England, who sat in the ladies' cabin with as much composure as if she thought herself quite as good as any of the rest. Such is American society! So terribly afraid are they of anything that looks like aristocracy, except towards the coloured people!
I found on board a Baptist minister from the State of Maine, in New England, a thorough anti-slavery man. His testimony against the South on this subject was strong. He had lately been on a visit to a brother minister of his own denomination in North Carolina. At first, whenever the New Englander desired to go into the yard, it was necessary for his reverend brother to accompany him, and introduce him to a number of large dogs; otherwise they would have worried him.
90These animals were kept to prevent his reverence's slaves from running away, and to hunt them if they did. And yet, as my travelling companion assured me, this reverend slave-holder gravely and pathetically complained of the reluctance of the slaves to attend family worship!
Letter XII. — Voyage up the Mississippi (continued) — "Patriarchal" Establishments — The Red River — Elder Wright — Lynch-Law administered by a Preacher — Natchez — Story of Mary Brown — The Flat Boats of the Mississippi.
ON the 10th of February we passed a great many sugar estates on both sides of the river, which would be agreeable objects but for the curse of slavery. For who can look with pleasure upon the foul abodes of lust, oppression, and cruelty? At the outer gate, in front of one of these "patriarchal" establishments, was a small octagonal building about 6 or 8 feet in mean diameter. The basement was of brick, pierced by small air holes, barred with iron, at the height of about 8 feet from the ground; and the upper part was of wood, terminating in a pigeon-house. Making a short stay there to take in fire-wood, we inquired into the use of the building; but all the answer we could get was, that it was a "pigeon-house." The Baptist minister from Maine asked a negro, who was helping to bring wood on board; and from him he learned the real truth, — that it was a place of punishment and torture for the oppressed slave. We have since ascertained that such buildings are very common, and generally pass under the euphemistic name of "pigeon-houses."
On the 11th of February — a fine frosty day — we came to Red River, branching on our left in the direction of Texas, with which country it forms an important means of communication. This river, even where it pours its waters into the Mississippi, is not more than from 300 to 500 feet wide, and yet is navigable by steamers for about 1,200 miles. My Baptist friend had recently been on a visit to Elder Wright, a planter and a slave-holder on that river. This Wright was a New-England man, had graduated at Yale College, and boasted that he was "a Northern man with Southern feelings." He was called Elder Wright because he was a preacher, — the Baptists here calling all preachers "elders." Now, this Elder Wright told my friend that a few years ago there was great fear in his district of the slaves rising up against their masters. To this they were supposed to be instigated by the presence and influence of some strangers. Under this apprehension, a secret committee was formed to seize and try every suspected stranger, and, if he could not clear himself to their satisfaction, to "hang him up quietly." Of this secret and murderous committee Elder Wright — an alumnus of Yale College, a professor of religion, and a preacher of the gospel — was chosen chairman; and the statement I have just made came in the way described from his own lips! It is notorious that in the South they think nothing of taking away a man's life, if he be even suspected of sympathy with the slave; and a country so thinly inhabited affords abundant opportunities of doing it as "quietly" as can be desired. America is indeed a land of "liberty!"
At night we came to Natchez, a town beautifully situated on the top of a hill, about 300 feet above the level of the river, and for this reason called "Natchez-on-the-Hill." Its population is about 5,000; and it is the largest town in the State of Mississippi. Its distance from New Orleans is 300 miles. Darkness had set in when we approached it; yet the numerous lights on shore, rising row above row to a great elevation, gave it a lively and interesting appearance. But, alas! Natchez also is a great slave market; and I can never think of it without remembering the sufferings of poor Mary Brown. Let me narrate her painful story. It may waken in some breast a feeling of sympathy for the American slave.
Mary Brown, a coloured girl, was the daughter of free parents in Washington city — the capital of the freest nation under heaven! She lived with her parents till the death of her mother. One day, when she was near the Potomac Bridge, the sheriff overtook her, and told her that she must go with him. She inquired what for? He made no reply, but told her to come along, and took her immediately to a slave-auction. Mary told him she was free; but he contradicted her, and the sale proceeded. The auctioneer soon sold her for 350 dollars to a Mississippi trader. She was first taken to jail; and after a few hours was handcuffed, chained to a man-slave, and started in a drove of about forty for New Orleans. Her handcuffs made her wrists swell so much that at night they were obliged to take them off, and put fetters round her ankles. In the
94morning the handcuffs were again put on. Thus they travelled for two weeks, wading rivers, whipped up all day, and beaten at night if they had not performed the prescribed distance. She frequently waded rivers in her chains, with water up to her waist. The month was October, and the air cold and frosty. After she had travelled thus twelve or fifteen days, her arms and ankles had become so swollen that she felt as if she could go no further. They had no beds, usually sleeping in barns, sometimes out on the naked ground; and such were her misery and pain that she could only lie and cry all night. Still she was driven on for another week; and every time the trader caught her crying he beat her, uttering fearful curses. If he caught her praying, he said, he would "give her hell." Mary was a member of the Methodist Church in Washington. There were several pious people in the company; and at night, when the driver found them melancholy and disposed to pray, he had a fiddle brought, and made them dance in their chains, whipping them till they complied. Mary at length became so weak that she really could travel on foot no further. Her feeble frame was exhausted, and sank beneath accumulated sufferings. She was seized with a burning fever; and the diabolical trader — not moved with pity, but only fearing he should lose her — placed her for the remainder of the way in a waggon. Arriving at Natchez, they were all offered for sale. Mary, being still sick, begged she might be sold to a kind master. Sometimes she made this request in the hearing of purchasers, but
95was always insulted for it, and afterwards punished by her cruel master for her presumption. On one occasion he tied her up by the hands so that she could barely touch the floor with her toes. He kept her thus suspended a whole day, whipping her at intervals. In any other country this inhuman beast would have been tried for the greatest crime, short of murder, that man can commit against woman, and transported for life. Poor Mary Brown was at length sold, at 450 dollars, as a house-servant to a wealthy man of Vicksburgh, who compelled her to cohabit with him, and had children by her, — most probably filling up the measure of his iniquity by selling his own flesh. Wrongs like these must have inspired our poet when he exclaimed, —
Should stand before Thee with a tyrant's rod
O'er creatures like himself, with souls from Thee,
Yet dare to boast of perfect liberty!
Away! away! I'd rather hold my neck
In doubtful tenure from a sultan's beck,
In climes where Liberty has scarce been named,
Nor any right but that of ruling claimed,
Than thus to live where bastard Freedom waves
Her fustain flag in mockery over slaves!"
As we advanced, we continually met with flat boats, laden with produce, and floating sluggishly down. In the vernacular phrase, these boats are called "Kentucky flats," or "broad-horns." They are curiously constructed. At a distance, they appear like large chests or trunks afloat. They are from 50 to 100 feet long, and generally about 15 or 20 feet wide. The timbers of the bottom are massive beams. The sides are
96boarded up square to the height of 6 feet above the water; the roof being slightly curved, like a trunk lid, to throw off rain. They are adapted to carry from 200 to 400 barrels. Great numbers of cattle, hogs, and horses are conveyed to market in them. Coals, too, are thus brought down from the upper parts of the valley. Some of these barges have apartments fitted up for the accommodation of a family, with a stove, beds, tables, &c. You may sometimes see in them ladies, servants, cows, horses, sheep, dogs, and poultry, — all floating on the same bottom. It was precisely in this fashion that the Pennsylvanian farmer and his wife had reached New Orleans. Indeed, most of our fellow-passengers had come as captains or crews of flat boats. Of course, no attempt is made to get these unwieldy boats back against the current. It would be impracticable. The flat boat makes but one trip during its individual existence. Arrived at New Orleans, it is sold for "lumber," and taken to pieces. In short, by this arrangement timber and produce are brought to market at the same time, the "stuff" of which the float is composed being but little injured. One cannot look at these temporary structures without being impressed with the vast importance of those water-powers which the Americans, with a wonderful tact, bring to bear in the way of saw-mills on the exhaustless resources of the forest. The very first thing looked for in settling a new district is water-power.
These flats, though destined for but a single voyage, sometimes do not reach their port, — seldom without
97more or less of danger, — and never without infinite toil. They usually carry but three or four hands. Their form and gravity render them very unmanageable. Lying flat and dead in the water, with square timbers below their bottom planks, they often run on a sandbank with a strong head-way, and bury their timbers in the soil. To get them afloat again is a great labour. Sometimes they run upon a "snag," and are instantly swallowed up with all their crew and all their cargo. Sometimes a steamer runs into one of them, and produces a catastrophe equally fatal to both. But all the toils, and dangers, and exposures connected with the long and perilous voyage of a flat boat, do not appear to the passer-by. As you cut along by the power of steam, the flat boat seems anything but a place of toil or care. One of the hands scrapes a violin, while the others dance. Affectionate greetings, or rude defiances, or trials of wit, or proffers of love to the girls on shore, or saucy messages pass between them and the spectators along the bank, or on the steam-boat. Yet, knowing the dangers to which they were really exposed, the sight of them often brought to my remembrance an appropriate verse of Dr. Watts: —
Down to the gulf of black despair;
And, whilst I listened to your song,
Your streams had e'en conveyed me there."
These boats, however, do not venture to travel by night; consequently, at any good landing-place on the Mississippi, you may see towards evening a large number
98of them assembled. They have come from regions thousands of miles apart. They have never met before, — they will probably never meet again. The fleet of flats covers, perhaps, a surface of several acres. "Fowls are fluttering over the roofs as invariable appendages. The piercing note of the chanticleer is heard. The cattle low. The horses trample as in their stables. The swine scream, and fight with each other. The turkeys jobble. The dogs of a hundred regions become acquainted. The boatmen travel about from boat to boat, to make inquiries and form acquaintances." It is a world in miniature.
Letter XIII. — Voyage up the Mississippi (continued) — Grand Gulph and Big Black River — Snags — "I belong to myself, Sir" — Vicksburg and Lynch Law — A Man Overboard — "Drove of Horses, Mules, and Niggers" — Character of Fellow-Passengers — The Sabbath — Disobedience to Conscience.
WE came on the 12th of February to the Grand Gulph and "Big Black River." The former is situated at the base of a bold and solitary "bluff." Here, a few years ago, "a negro man was condemned by the mob to be burned alive over a slow fire, which was put into execution, for murdering a black woman and her master Mr. Green, a respectable citizen of that place, who attempted to save her from the clutches of this monster." Such is the newspaper version of the affair. Had the real truth been stated, it would have appeared that this Green was the "monster," who had seduced the wretched negro's wife!
The "Big Black River" is not so very "big" after all. It is extremely narrow, although navigable for some hundreds of miles.
Besides the danger of explosion — which, I apprehend, arises from "racing" and carelessness more than from any other cause — steam-boats on the "father of waters" are exposed to "snags." These snags are
100trunks of large trees that have become fastened in the bed of the river, and are often found lying against the stream at angles of from 30 to 40 degrees. As the river varies much with regard to the quantity of water in its channel, — frequently rising or falling from 6 to 12 feet in a few hours, — these snags are sometimes so deep in the water that they can be passed over with safety; at other times, however, they are but just covered. If a boat coming — especially down the stream — with high pressure and at full speed, making between twenty and thirty miles an hour, runs against one of these firmly-fixed, immoveable snags, it sustains a fearful shock. Not unfrequently a large hole is thus made in the bottom; and boat, cargo, crew, passengers, and all, sink in an instant. The danger is greatly increased by fogs, often so dense that the helmsman, though situated on the hurricane-deck and over the fore part of the vessel, can see nothing before him. In such a case, wise and cautious men "lie to," and wait till the mist has cleared off.
May not these "snags" serve to remind us of certain characters and circumstances with which we meet on the voyage of life? Who cannot call to mind many snags — men, rugged, stubborn, and contentious, — snags by all means to be avoided? D'Israeli was the snag of Peel — Russia was the snag of Napoleon — Slavery is the snag of the Evangelical Alliance.
On board our steamer was a fine black young man, who acted as barber, waiter, and man-of-all-work. Curious to know whether he was a slave or not, I requested
101my friend from Maine to sound him. "To whom do you belong?" said the Baptist. "I belong to myself, sir," was the prompt and dignified reply. "That's right," I involuntarily exclaimed; "he is free!" In answer to further questions, he told us that he was from New Orleans, and had bought himself about two years before for 600 dollars. He could therefore truly say, "I belong to myself, sir!" Oh! that every slave in America could say the same! But how monstrous, that a man should have to pay to one of his fellow-men upwards of 120l. sterling in order to "own himself!" Land of liberty, forsooth!
In the evening we reached Vicksburg. This place, like nearly all other places in this region, is deeply stained with deeds of violence and blood. A few years ago, a set of thieves and gamblers were here put to death by Lynch law. "Gentlemen of property and standing laughed the law (the constitutional law) to scorn, rushed to the gamblers' house, put ropes round their necks, dragged them through the streets, hanged them in the public square, and thus saved the sum they had not yet paid. Thousands witnessed this wholesale murder; yet of the scores of legal officers present, not a soul raised a finger to prevent it: the whole city consented to it, and thus aided and abetted it. How many hundreds of them helped to commit the murders with their own hands does not appear; but not one of them has been indicted for it, and no one made the least effort to bring them to trial. Thus, up to the present hour, the blood of those murdered
102men rests on that whole city; and it will continue to be a CITY OF MURDERERS so long as its citizens agree together to shield those felons from punishment."
Darkness had covered the city of blood when we arrived, and therefore we could not see it. One of the passengers, in stepping on a plank to go ashore, fell into the water. It was a frightful sight to see the dark figure of a fellow-man splattering and holloing in so perilous a position. Seldom can a person be saved who falls into the Mississippi, so rapid is the current; and, moreover, the banks are so steep that, though he be a good swimmer, he cannot get up. The knowledge of these facts generally destroys in the person who falls in all hope and self-command. Fortunately, however, in the present instance a rope was instantly thrown out, and the individual was saved. He assured us, afterwards, that some one had designedly pushed him from the plank into the water.
On the 13th of February we breasted a small settlement on our left, called Providence, in Louisiana. We observed on the river's bank what a man at my elbow (a professor of religion, who had discovered a great propensity to talk about his religious experience before gamblers) coolly designated "a drove of horses, mules, and niggers." Observe the order of his enumeration! Of the "niggers" there were about 100, small and great, young and old, and of both sexes. The whole "drove" were waiting to be shipped for the New Orleans market, and were jealously guarded by several large dogs. From individual instances like this,
103one may form a clearer notion of the internal slave-trade of America. Thousands every year are thus brought down the Mississippi to supply the Natchez and New Orleans markets. "Those who are transported down the Mississippi," says a manual of American slavery, "are stowed away on the decks of steam-boats, males and females, old and young, usually chained, subject to the jeers and taunts of the passengers and navigators, and often by bribes or threats, or by the lash, made subject to abominations not to be named." On the same deck, you may see horses and human beings tenants of the same apartments, and going to supply the same market. The dumb beasts, being less manageable, are allowed the first place; while the human are forced into spare corners and vacant places. My informant saw one trader who was taking down to New Orleans 100 horses, some sheep, and between fifty and sixty slaves. The sheep and the slaves occupied the same deck. Many interesting and intelligent women were of the number. I could relate facts concerning the brutal treatment of these defenceless females, while on the downward passage, which would kindle the hot indignation of every mother, and daughter, and sister in Old England. The slaves are carried down in companies, varying in number from 20 to 500. Men of considerable capital are engaged in the traffic. Go into the principal towns on the Mississippi, and you will find these negro traders in the bar-rooms boasting of their adroitness in driving human flesh, and describing the process by which they succeed in "taming down the
104spirit of a refractory negro." Here, then, were human beings, children of our common Father, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, classed with the brutes that perish, — nay, degraded below them, and placed under the surveillance of dogs. The horrors of such a system it is impossible to exaggerate.
The majority of our fellow-passengers did nothing but gamble, eat, drink, smoke, and spit, from morning till night. In the afternoon a dispute arose between two of them about ten dollars, which the one maintained he had won from the other. One of the two quickly drew out his Bowie knife, and would certainly have stabbed the other but for the intervention of the boat's officers. When the whites have so little hesitation in shedding each other's blood, we cannot be surprised at the indifference with which negro life is put an end to. "A rencontre took place last week," says the New Orleans Delta, "between the overseer of Mr. A. Collins (a planter in our vicinity) and one of the negroes. It seems the overseer wished to chastise the negro for some offence, and the negro resisted and struck the overseer with a spade. The overseer grappled with him, and called some of the negroes to his assistance; but, perceiving that the negroes were not willing to assist him, he drew his knife, and stabbed the negro to the heart. A coroner's inquest has been held, and a verdict given in accordance with the circumstances, declaring the overseer justifiable."
The 14th of February was Sunday. My Baptist friend, when engaging his passage, had given the captain
105a hint that, when the Sabbath came, he should like to have divine service on board. Nothing, however, was now said about it. Not, I think, that the officers of the boat would have disliked it; but, considering the general character of their passengers, they perhaps thought it would have been only "casting pearls before swine." One passenger indeed, who said he was a Congregationalist, expressed to my friend a wish to have worship; but he was playing at cards every day, and was in other respects no great credit to Congregationalism. The Baptist assured me that his countrymen too generally, when they travel, leave their religion behind!
The Baptist related to me an awful story respecting a captain with whom he had sailed from New England to Guadaloupe, and thence to New Orleans. This man belonged to my friend's congregation, and professed to have been "converted" under his ministry. His pastor had frequent occasion to reprove him for his disregard of the Sabbath at sea. In New Orleans he engaged to take a cargo of Government stores to Tampico, for the supply of the army. He had to sign a bond to take in the cargo, and sail before a certain day, or forfeit the sum of 500 dollars. The Sabbath came. The pastor was at that time absent, on his visit to "Elder Wright" before mentioned, on the Red River. An agent of the "Bethel Union," who was going round to invite seamen to the "Bethel" worship, invited the said captain and his men. He excused himself and his crew on the plea that they had no time — were
106under contract — had signed a bond — and might forfeit 500 dollars, &c. "What!" said the agent, "not afford time to attend the worship of God" on his own day! "No, I really cannot — very sorry — what I have never done before — should like to go" — was the faltering reply. "Well," replied the agent with great solemnity, "God will soon call you to account for this." "I know He will," rejoined the captain with a downcast eye. The interview ended. The agent proceeded on his pious mission, and the captain to take in his cargo. The next morning, as he was looking over the side of the vessel to see how deep she was in the water, he fell overboard. His body was never found. His watch, which had been left in the cabin, and a few other personal articles, the pastor was now taking with him to the afflicted widow and family.
Letter XIV. — Voyage up the Mississippi (continued) — The Arkansas — Treatment of the Indians — M. de Tocqueville — "Napoleon" and Lynch Law — Memphis, and its Advertisements — A Scene witnessed there — The Ohio — Nashville, and Amos Dresser.
AT 4 o'clock P.M. of February the 14th, we reached the mouth of the Arkansas. This is a noble river, navigable for 2,000 miles! Not twenty years ago, the remnants of the four great Indian nations of the southern part of what is now the United States, amounting to about 75,000 souls, were urged to remove to the banks of this river, with an assurance of an undisturbed and permanent home. These four nations were the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Creeks, and the Cherokees. They were established upon a territory, which they occupied before the settlement of any Europeans in their vicinity, and which had been confirmed to them by solemn treaties again and again. The Anglo-Americans of the States of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were however annoyed at their proximity, because it was unfavourable to the "peculiar institution" of America. Slaves occasionally made their escape to these children of the forest, and found sympathy and succour. This would not do. The Indians must be removed. But how was it to be accomplished?
108Annoy them; harass them; wrong them in every possible way, so that they may be sickened with the place. Georgia, accordingly, first attempted to establish a division line for the purpose of limiting the boundaries of the Cherokees. Then, in 1829, the State of Alabama divided the Creek territory into counties, and subjected the Indian population to the power of white magistrates. And, in 1830, the State of Mississippi assimilated the Chocktaws and Chickasaws to the white population, and declared that any one who should take the title of Chief should be punished with a fine of 1,000 dollars and a year's imprisonment. Under these accumulated annoyances, the Cherokees, on the 18th of December, 1829, addressed to Congress the following powerful and touching appeal: —
"By the will of our Father in heaven, the Governor of the whole world, the red man of America has become small, and the white man great and renowned. When the ancestors of the people of the United States first came to the shores of America, they found the red man strong, though he was ignorant and savage; yet he received them kindly, and gave them dry land to rest their weary feet. They met in peace, and shook hands in token of friendship. Whatever the white man wanted and asked of the Indian, the latter willingly gave. At that time the Indian was the lord, and the white man the suppliant. But now the scene has changed. The strength of the red man has become weakness. As his neighbours increased in numbers, his power became less and less; and now, of the
109many and powerful tribes who once covered the United States, only a few are to be seen, — a few whom a sweeping pestilence has left. The northern tribes, who were once so numerous and powerful, are now nearly extinct. Thus it has happened to the red man of America. Shall we, who are remnants, share the same fate?"
"Oh, no!" was the response. "Beyond the great river Mississippi," said the President to them in 1829, "where a part of your nation has gone, your Father has provided a country large enough for all of you; and he advises you to remove to it. There your white brothers will not trouble you: they will have no claim to the land, and you can live upon it, you and your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be yours for ever."
With this assurance, many left the land of their birth and the homes of their childhood, travelled hundreds of miles, crossed the Mississippi, and settled on the banks of the Arkansas. M. de Tocqueville was "assured, towards the end of the year 1831, that 10,000 Indians had already gone to the shores of the Arkansas, and fresh detachments were constantly following them." Many, however, were unwilling to be thus expatriated. "The Indians readily discover," says M. de Tocqueville, "that the settlement which is proposed to them is merely a temporary expedient. Who can assure them that they will at length be allowed to dwell in peace in their new retreat? The United States pledge themselves to the observance of
110the obligation; but the territory which they at present occupy was formerly secured to them by the most solemn oaths of Anglo-American faith. The American Government does not, indeed, rob them of their land, but it allows perpetual incursions to be made upon them. In a few years the same white population which now flocks around them, will track them to the solitudes of the Arkansas: they will then be exposed to the same evils, without the same remedies: and as the limits of the earth will at last fail them, their only refuge is the grave."
The views of this keen French philosopher were prophetic. In vain did I strain my eyes, as we passed along, to discover any trace of these Indians. Not one representative of those noble aborigines was to be seen. In 1836 Arkansas was constituted a State, and admitted into the Union; and, if you look at a recent map of the United States, you will see the "location" of these Indians marked, not in the State of Arkansas at all, but far — far beyond, towards the setting sun, in what is called the "Western Territory," where, indeed, the river Arkansas has its source. Nor will ten years pass away before they will be again disturbed, and pushed further back.
At the mouth of the Arkansas is a village called Napoleon, of which I received, on authority not to be disputed, the following horrible account. A few years ago it was the head quarters of lawless and bloody men. They fabricated base coin, gambled, robbed, murdered. To such a pitch of wickedness had they
111arrived, and such a terror were they to the whole country, that a party of men from Memphis (a city on the eastern side of the Mississippi, 180 miles up) took the law into their own hands, armed themselves with deadly weapons, came down, scoured the country around, caught about fifty of the ringleaders, and put them to death. Some they shot, — some they hanged, — and some they threw, tied hand and foot, into the river. Of this dreadful tragedy no judicial notice was ever taken!
February 15. — I had an attack of intermittent fever, and consequently saw nothing of the scenery around. At night the fog was so dense that the officers deemed it prudent to "lie to."
February 16. — At 9 A.M. we were abreast of the city of Memphis, on the Tennessee side of the river. Higher up there is Cairo. These slave-holders, who retain their fellow-men in worse than Egyptian bondage, seem to have a great partiality for Egyptian names. Memphis is pleasantly situated on high "bluffs," and is a great point for the shipping of cotton. It does not, however, thrive by honest industry. I obtained a copy of the Daily Inquirer of that day, where — among advertisements of pianos, music, bonnets, shawls, &c., for the ladies — I found the following: —
"ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD. — Ran away from the subscriber, on the 20th of October last, two Negro Fellows of the following description. — To wit, — Evan, 25 years of age, about 5 feet 11 inches high,
complexion black, thick bristly beard, low soft voice, and apt to look down when spoken to; has a large scar on the calf of one of his legs, caused by the bite of a dog when he was 8 or 10 years old; some of his jaw-teeth missing or decayed. Ellis, 22 years of age, about 5 feet 11 inches high; complexion dark mulatto, tinged with Indian blood; beard thin and light. From information derived from a brother of these boys, who was caught in Washington County, Miss., it appeal's they intended to apply for employment as wood-choppers in the upper part of this State, until they could raise money enough to dress fine, then set off for the State of Illinois. It is highly probable they will resort to fictitious names, for the purpose of baffling pursuit."
"The above reward will be paid to any person confining them in any jail, so that I can get them again; or fifty dollars for either of them."
"SLAVE MARKET. — The subscribers have now, and will continue to keep on hand throughout the season, a large supply of choice Negroes, suited to every capacity, which they offer at the lowest market rates. They have agents abroad engaged in purchasing for them, which enables them to bid defiance to competition."
"Depôt on Adams-street, between Main and Second Streets."
"BOLTON & DICKINS."
"JAILOR'S NOTICE. — Was committed to the jail of Shelby County, on 25th January, a Negro Boy named Silas. He says he belongs to William Wise, of Fayette, County Tenne. He is about 30 years old, black complexion, about 5 feet 11 inches high; weighs about 165 lbs. The owner of said Negro is requested to come and prove property, and pay charges, or he will be dealt with according to law."
"E. W. HARREL,"
"Feb. 13. — 3tW." "Jailor."
In connection with Memphis, M. de Tocqueville narrates the following touching incident, relative to the expatriation of the Indians, to which I have already referred. "At the end of the year 1831, while I was on the left bank of the Mississippi, at a place named by Europeans Memphis, there arrived a numerous band of Choctaws. These savages [so his American translator renders it] had left their country, and were endeavouring to gain the right bank of the Mississippi, where they hoped to find an asylum which had been promised them by the American Government. It was the middle of winter, and the cold was unusually severe: the snow had frozen hard upon the ground, and the river was drifting huge masses of ice. The Indians had their families with them; and they brought in their train the wounded and the sick, with children newly born, and old men upon the verge of death. They possessed neither tents nor waggons, but only their arms and some provisions. I saw them embark to pass the mighty
114river, and never will that solemn spectacle fade from my remembrance! No cry, no sob was heard among the assembled crowd: all were silent. Their calamities were of ancient date, and they knew them to be irremediable. The Indians had all stepped into the bark that was to carry them across, but their dogs remained upon the bank. As soon as these animals perceived that their masters were finally leaving the shore, they set up a dismal howl, and, plunging all together into the icy waters of the Mississippi, they swam after the boat." So much for Memphis and its associations!
February 18th, at 5 A.M., we entered the Ohio River, and at 1 P. M. the mouth of the Tennessee; coming shortly afterwards to Smithland, at the mouth of the Cumberland River, which runs parallel with the Tennessee, and communicates directly with Nashville, the capital of that State. This city also has its association of ideas. I cannot think of it without at the same time thinking of Amos Dresser. He was a student at Lane Seminary (Dr. Beecher's), and subsequently a missionary to Jamaica. In the vacation of 1835 he undertook to sell Bibles in the State of Tennessee, with a view to raise the means of continuing his studies for the ministry. Under suspicion of being an Abolitionist, he was arrested by the "Vigilance Committee" (a Lynch-law institution), while attending a religious meeting in the neighbourhood of Nashville. After an afternoon and evening's inquisition, he was condemned to receive twenty lashes with the cow-hide on his naked body. Between 11 and 12 on Saturday night the sentence
115was executed upon him, in the presence of most of the committee, and of an infuriated and blaspheming mob. The Vigilance Committee consisted of sixty persons. Of these, twenty-seven were members of churches: one was a religious teacher, and others were elders of the Presbyterian Church, — one of whom had a few days before offered Mr. Dresser the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper. But let Amos Dresser himself describe the scene and the circumstances.
"I knelt down," says he, "to receive the punishment, which was inflicted by Mr. Braughton, the city officer, with a HEAVY COW-SKIN. When the infliction ceased, an involuntary thanksgiving to God, for the fortitude with which I had been enabled to endure it, arose in my soul, to which I began aloud to give utterance. The death-like silence that prevailed for a moment was suddenly broken with loud exclamations, — ‘G—d d—n him! Stop his praying!’ I was raised to my feet by Mr. Braughton, and conducted by him to my lodgings, where it was thought safe for me to remain but a few moments."
"Among my triers was a great portion of the respectability of Nashville; nearly half of the whole number professors of Christianity, the reputed stay of the Church, supporters of the cause of benevolence in the form of tract and missionary societies and Sabbath-schools; several members and most of the elders of the Presbyterian Church, from whose hands but a few days before I had received the emblems of the broken body and shed blood of our blessed Saviour!"
In relating this shameful circumstance, the editor of the Georgia Chronicle, a professor of religion, said that Dresser "should have been hung up as high as Haman, to rot upon the gibbet until the wind whistled through his bones. The cry of the whole South should be death, instant death, to the Abolitionist, wherever he is caught." What a great and free country!
Letter XV. — Voyage up the Ohio (continued) — Illinois — Evansville — Owensborough — Indiana — New Albany — Louisville, and its Cruel Histories — The Grave of President Harrison — Arrival in Cincinnati — First Impressions — The Congregational Minister — A Welsh Service.
THE Ohio, the "beautiful river," is a magnificent stream formed by the confluence at Pittsburg of the Allegany and Monongahela Rivers, and is 1,008 miles long, constituting the boundary of six States: Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois on the north, — all free States; and Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee on the south, — all slave States. A trip on this river, therefore, affords a fine opportunity for observing the contrast between slavery and freedom.
The Ohio is the great artery through which the inland commerce of the Eastern States flows into the valley of the Mississippi. In ascending this river, we had first on our left the State of Illinois. This territory, which contains an area of 60,000 square miles, was settled by the French in 1720, and was admitted into the Union in 1818. Its population in 1810 was 12,300; in 1840, 476,180. It is now, probably, not far short of 1,000,000!
On the 19th of February, about noon, we arrived at Evansville, on the Indiana side of the river. This was
118the prettiest place we had yet seen; and its charms were enhanced by the assurance that it was free from the taint of slavery. The rise of this little town has been rapid. Its population is about 3,000. Three "churches," with their neat and graceful spires, rising above the other buildings, were conspicuous in the distance.
At 5 P.M. we passed Owensborough, on the Kentucky side of the river. This, too, is a neat little town, with a proportionate number of places of worship. Indeed, on every hand, places of worship appear to rise simultaneously with the young settlement. The free and efficient working of the voluntary principle is the glory of America. In reference to "church" accommodation, it everywhere appears to decided advantage compared to the most favoured parts of England. On this subject Dr. Baird's book on Religion in America is very truthful.
The fever left me on entering the Ohio, and returned no more, — a clear proof that this river is healthier than the Mississippi. The latter has much fog and malaria, which tell quickly upon a constitution like mine, already predisposed by residence among the swamps of Guiana to fever and ague.
As I have already intimated, we had now Indiana, a free State, on our left. This State is rapidly advancing in wealth and population. It was settled by the French in 1730, and became an independent State in 1816. It has an area of 36,840 square miles, being by two-fifths less than its neighbour Illinois. Its population at the
119beginning of this century was only 5,640; in 1840 it was 685,860. It is now above a million! In 1840 it produced upwards of four millions of bushels of wheat, and twenty-eight millions of corn!
February 20. — The scenery was diversified. Hills covered with trees rose on either side. In the summer, when all is fresh and green, there must be here scenes of loveliness and grandeur unsurpassed. At present the country had a cold and winterly aspect. It rained, too, the whole day. At 3 P.M. we approached New Albany, on the Indiana side. It is a flourishing place, with from 5,000 to 6,000 inhabitants. Just above this town are some falls in the Ohio, that can seldom be ascended by steamers, which therefore pass through a side canal, with locks, formed (through the superior influence of the slave-power) on the Kentucky or slave bank of the river. We had to pass through three locks, which have been very foolishly made too small to receive steamers of the largest class in the navigation of the Ohio. Ours fortunately, not being of that class, could "go a-head."
At 5 P.M. we got to Louisville, a city of about 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants, on the Kentucky side. This city is a great depôt for slaves, whence they are shipped for the New Orleans market. By this means it has acquired a detestable notoriety.
"A trader was about to start from Louisville, Kentucky," says the Anti-Slavery Record, "with one hundred slaves for New Orleans. Among them were two women, with infants at the breast. Knowing that
120these infants would depreciate the value of the mothers, the trader sold them for one dollar each. Another mother was separated from her sick child about four or five years old. Her anguish was so great that she sickened and died before reaching her destination."
Take another instance, on the same authority: —
"Not very long ago, in Lincoln County, Kentucky, a female slave was sold to a Southern slaver under most afflicting circumstances. She had at her breast an infant boy three mouths old. The slaver did not want the child on any terms. The master sold the mother, and retained the child. She was hurried away immediately to the depôt at Louisville, to be sent down the river to the Southern market. The last news my informant had of her was that she was lying sick, in the most miserable condition, her breast having risen, inflamed, and burst!"
Let another case, testified by the Rev. C. S. Renshaw, add to the fame of this infamous city.
"Hughes and Neil traded in slaves down the river: they had bought up a part of their stock in the upper counties of Kentucky, and brought them down to Louisville, where the remainder of their drove was in jail waiting their arrival. Just before the steam-boat put off for the lower country, two negro women were offered for sale, each of them having a child at the breast. The traders bought them, took their babes from their arms, and offered them to the highest bidder; and they were sold for one dollar a piece, whilst the stricken parents were driven on board the
121boats, and in an hour were on their way to the New Orleans market. You are aware that a young babe diminishes the value of a field hand in the lower country, while it enhances her value in the breeding States."
February 21. — Another dreary Sabbath on board. The principal objects of interest pointed out to us on that day were the residence and the tomb of the late President Harrison. The latter is a plain brick erection, in the midst of a field on the top of a hill, about half a mile in the rear of the former. The recollection of that man, so highly elevated, and so quickly cut down, could hardly fail to suggest a train of not unprofitable reflections. He was, I suppose, a moral and well-meaning man, distinguished for qualities not often to be found in high places; but I was sorry to be obliged to infer that much of what I had heard respecting the religiousness of his character wanted confirmation.
At half-past 4 P.M. we arrived at the long-wished-for Cincinnati — the "Queen of the West." Our voyage from New Orleans had thus occupied twelve days, during which time we had been boarded and lodged, as well as conveyed over a space of 1,550 miles, for 12 dollars each, or one dollar per diem! It was the cheapest, and (apart from the companionships) the most pleasant mode of travelling we had ever experienced. As the boat stayed but a couple of hours at Cincinnati, we had to land without delay. Being a stranger in a strange land, I inquired for