MRS. H. B. STOWE,
AS A TRIBUTE OF ADMIRATION FOR
AND OF THAT PURE PHILANTHROPY, WHICH HAS IMPELLED
HER TO DEVOTE HER POWERS AND ENERGIES
TO THE CAUSE OF THE OPRESSED AND DOWN-TRODDEN NEGRO.
IS, BY PERMISSION, RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY
At the present juncture, when anti-slavery books are so rife, and, as it would, appear, so acceptable to the reading public, it is scarcely necessary to apologize for the issue of a work like the present. It was projected, and partly written, some time prior to the appearance of that wonderful picture of "Life among the Lowly," by Mrs. Stowe; which has become a classic in almost every European language, and given such an impetus to the movement against Negro Slavery, as it, perhaps, never received before — never certainly from the operation of one mind and intellect. Other pressing engagements obliged the Editor to put his little work aside, from time to time, and at length to complete it more hastily than he could have wished. The subject is one which will amply repay a very careful and lengthened investigation — one which might well engage, to the full extent of its capacity, both the philosophic and philanthropic mind.
To those who have had an opportunity at reading that costly and elaborate volume, entitled "A Tribute for the Negro," by Wilson Armistead, Esq., this book will afford little information that is fresh: as comparatively few, however, could have had this opportunity, it seems desirable to place before the public, in a cheap and easily accessible form, some of the most striking facts that could be collected, in refutation of the opinion, entertained, or at least urged, by some, that the Negro is essentially, and unalterably, an inferior being to those who "Find him guilty of a darker skin."
iiand therefore deny him the right of freedom, which is inalienably his.
One word as to the title of this book, to which we anticipate some objections. "God's Image cut, or carved in Ebony," was a phrase first used, we believe, by the English Church Historian, Fuller, — a sayer of sententious things; and assuredly this phrase is among the most striking of the graphic sentences which he stamped so deeply into the walls of the republic of letters. There it stands, this beautiful and appropriate piece of imagery, and there it will stand, as long as those walls endure: and although to some it may appear to border upon irreverence, yet, with all due respect for those who think so, we must defend it as a powerful conception of a vigorous mind, and a lively illustration, applied to a particular case, of the scripture declaration — "In the image of God created he him."
It will be seen, then, that ours is an anti-slavery book, and something more; it aims at disabusing a certain portion of the public mind of what we conceive to be a pernicious error, by shewing that the Negro is morally and intellectually, as well as physically, the equal of the white man. If it be urged that our examples are mere isolated vases, and prove nothing as to the capacities of the whole Negro race, we say that they are too numerous to be taken as such, and that if they were not half so numerous as they are, they would fully prove that our position is correct. For we are to look at the depressing circumstances out of which these black brothers and sisters of ours have arisen; at the almost insurmountable difficulties through which they have forced their way.
But we are anticipating the arguments more fully urged in the introductory chapter, and other portions of our work, to which we invite the reader's serious attention. A few lines, suggested by the present aspect of the great anti-slavery struggle, may perhaps be here introduced as an appropriate conclusion of our Preface: —
The black night of Slavery? Wanes it apace?
Do you see in the East the faint dawnings of light,
Which tell that the darkness to day will give place?
Do you hear the trees rustle, awoke by the breeze?
Do you catch the faint prelude of music to come?
Are there voices that swell like the murmur of seas,
When the gale of the morning first scatters the foam?
And what of the fight, Watchman, what of the fight —
The battle for Freedom — how goeth it on?
Is there hope for the Truth — is there hope for the Right?
Have Wrong and Oppression the victory won?
Through the long hours of darkness we've listened in fear,
To the sounds of the struggle, the groans and the cries,
Anon they were far, and anon they were near,
Now dying away, and now filling the skies.
Say, what of the night, Watchman, what of the fight?
Doth gloom yet the bright Sun of Freedom enshroud?
Are the strongholds of Slavery yet on the height?
Is the back of the Negro yet broken and bowed?
Then send forth a voice to the nations around;
Bid the peoples arise, many millions as one,
And say — "This our brother no more shall be bound —
This wrong to God's children no more shall be done!"
There's a flush in the East, though the West is yet dark;
Creation hath heard the Eternal command,
And light — glorious light — cometh on: Brothers, hark!
There's a jubilant sound, there's a myriad hum!
All nature is waking, and praising the Lord,
And the voices of men to the listening ear come,
Crying — "Up, Watchman! send the glad tidings abroad!"
And the heel of Oppression treads down the poor Slave;
But his eye sees the dawning of daylight afar,
And he knows there are hands stretched to succour and save:
The Standard of Freedom, all bloody and torn,
And trampled, and hidden awhile from the view,
Upraised by the hand of a Woman, is borne
In the thick of the fight, and hope liveth anew.
Oh, joy to the Watchman! whose eye can discern,
Through clouds and thick darkness the breaking of day!
And, joy to the Negro! whose glances may turn
To the quarter whence cometh the life-giving ray.
It cometh — that Freedom for which we have striven!
We have seen the light gilding the hill-tops, and heard
The promise of One by whom fetters are riven:
Tis as sure as His high and immutable Word!
A Short Sketch of the Past History and the Present Position of the Slavery Question in America.
The history of "the peculiar institution" in the United States of America since the Declaration of Independence, is one fraught with the most astounding wickedness. That a people who had engaged in a successful struggle for their political rights; — who had boasted throughout the long and exciting period of the Revolutionary War that their cause was that of universal Justice and Liberty; and who had asserted in their Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal," — that such a people should legalise a slavery which reduces its victims to the condition of "chattels personal to all intents, purposes, and constructions whatsoever;" that, in after years, instead of seeking to abolish it, or to narrow its boundaries, they should be constantly aiming at, and in too many instances securing, its extension; and that they should be seeking to establish it on a permanent basis, and to prevent agitation against it by Compromise Measures and Fugitive Slave Laws; that, in short, they should thus perpetuate and strengthen a tyranny ten thousand-fold worse than the British yoke which they burnt asunder, is a national hypocrisy so terrible, that history fails to furnish a parallel; and is a depth of moral degradation lower than that into which any other country has fallen. Well may the poet Whittier, speaking of his native land, exclaim —
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the soil whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?
Are we the sons by whom are borne
The mantles which the dead have worn?"
There is no doubt that during, and immediately after, the Revolutionary era, the gradual emancipation of every
vislave on the soil of the new Republic, was regarded as an event which would not be delayed for many years. Public opinion was then, unquestionably, in favour of such a course; although, unfortunately for American honour and the cause of the down-trodden, the immediate emancipation doctrine of the revered Dr. Samuel Hopkins was entertained but by few. From the time of the first American Congress in 1774 until the adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1788, several legislative bodies, and numerous associations, conventions, ecclesiastical organizations, and public meetings, reiterated the sentiments endorsed by the Virginian Convention of '74, which were, in substance, as follows: — "The Abolition of American Slavery is the greatest object of desire in these colonies." By an Act of Congress passed in 1787, Slavery was abolished in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa; and in the Convention that prepared the draft of the Constitution, the most thorough Anti-Slavery sentiments were freely expressed and cordially received. But, strange to say, notwithstanding these facts, and the testimonies given against Slavery by statesmen no less illustrious than Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Jay, the Federal Constitution provided for the reclamation of Fugitive Slaves, empowered the use of the United States army and navy to put down outbreaks of the Slaves, and bestowed three votes to the Slaveholder for every four Slaves he possesses. The subsequent history of "the peculiar institution" is most lamentable. True it was that in course of time Slavery ceased to exist in those States that are north of Mason and Dixon's line; but it has increased in strength at the South; it has been fortified by the recreant public opinion of the North; it has widely extended its boundaries; and it has added millions to its victims. With the exception of Cassius Clay, in Kentucky, a few Anti-Slavery Wesleyans in North Carolina, the National Era newspaper at Washington, and solitary individuals scattered here and there, where is to be heard the voice of Anti-Slavery truth on the Slavery-cursed soil of the South?
And if we look at the North what do we see? We find the great political parties chained to the ear of
viiSlavery: "The Union and Southern rights" is their battle-cry. To be an Abolitionist is to be a "traitor" — to talk of "the rights of the coloured race," is to speak in the language of "madmen" — to deny that the Bible sanctions compulsory servitude, is to be unpardonably heterodox. Look, too, at the sordid, ambitious, never-satisfied desire of the Slaveholders for fresh soil upon which to plant the upas tree of Slavery. Their limits are being constantly widened; but still they ask for more territory, heeding not the coming day of retribution, nor the warning voice of a just God. Since the adoption of the Constitution, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, and, lastly, Texas (all Slave States) have been added to the Union to weaken the strength of Freedom, and to add fresh power to that institution which has somewhere been called "the corner-stone of the Republican edifice;" and while in 1776 the number of Slaves in the Southern States was but four hundred and fifty-six thousand, it is now more than three million two hundred thousand. But many earnest voices, and many brave hearts, were protesting against the Pro-Slavery course of American statesmen during the dark years to which we have hastily referred. Truth was not without its witnesses; men, and women too, who were ready not only to devote their lives to the Anti-Slavery work, despite the storm of obloquy to which they were exposed, but to meet death itself if such a testimony were needed. Among the early pioneers of the Anti-Slavery movement, none deserve more respectful mention than President Edwards, and Dr. Samuel Hopkins, men who in their day fought the battles of Freedom with holy faithfulness. Among the greatest of the heroes of the cause of Abolitionism, William Lloyd Garrison must ever hold a front rank. It was he who, at a time when his fellow-countrymen seemed to be wholly prostrate at the feet of the Slave power, stepped forward, and boldly grappled almost single-handed with the monster, and, in reply to the threats of his enemies, declared that he "would be heard;" he "would not be put down;" but would wage war against Slavery until either he or it perished in the conflict. The annals of history do not
viiipresent a brighter example of disinterested and self-denying devotion to a noble principle. Beautifully appropriate was the language of the great Anti-Slavery poet addressed to him: —
Oppression's iron hand,
In view of penury, hate, and death,
I see thee fearless stand;
Still bearing up thy lofty brow
In the steadfast strength of truth,
In manhood sealing well the vow
And promise of thy youth."
Garrison was peculiarly the man for the times. Although one of the people, he possessed a rich and cultivated intellect, a vigorous and eloquent pen, that accustomed itself to write the truth with transparent clearness, and in language terribly just. His powers as an orator, although inferior to those of his brilliant colleague, the "golden-mouthed" Wendell Phillips, were of no mean order, and those who have heard him know how convincing is his logic, and how scathing ia his invective; and above all he possessed that enthusiastic love of right principles, which eminently fitted him for the post of a great moral reformer. We have not space fully to trace the course of Mr. Garrison and his friends, since he became associated with Benjamin Lundy in the publication of The Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore. While occupying this important post, he was imprisoned for his energetic denunciations of a particular instance of Pro-Slavery wickedness, but, after fifty days confinement, he was released, through the generous aid of Mr. Arthur Tappan. In January, 1832, the New England Anti-Slavery Society commenced its important career; shortly afterwards other societies were organized, and the Anti-Slavery cause began to exhibit a vitality and a power that alarmed the Slaveholders and their abettors. Then came the time of trial and persecution, Rewards were offered for the heads of William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur Tappan, and other leaders of the Abolition movement. Riots took place in New York, and Tappan's house was sacked. Garrison was dragged through the streets of Boston with a halter
ixround his neck. George Thompson was secreted that he might escape assassination. The devoted Lovejoy was murdered for editing an Anti-Slavery newspaper in Alton, Illinois. Pennsylvania Hall was burned down by an infuriated gang of Pro-Slavery ruffians. The coloured people of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and other places, were shamefully maltreated. Then with regard to those who, from their high position, ought to have been the first to stem the torrent of popular passion, it is a fact that the legislatures of several Southern States passed resolutions similar to one adopted by the legislature of North Carolina, which was as follows: — "Resolved that our sister States are respectfully requested to enact penal laws, prohibiting the printing, within their respective limits, of all such publications as may have a tendency to make our Slaves discontented." To the disgrace of several of the Northern States, they assented to the propriety of these demands, which happily, however, were not enforced. An attempt was then made to prevent Anti-Slavery documents from being transmitted to the South by post. Then the right of the Abolitionists to petition Congress against Slavery was, for a time, successfully assailed; but, mainly through the labours of John Quincy Adams, in 1845 the right was restored. But, throughout these long years of the most unscrupulous opposition, the friends of the Slave stood by the cause they had taken in hand with unflinching courage. Some desertions, produced by eccleciastical influences, political ambition, love of gain, or cowardice, have unquestionably taken place, but the Stantons have been but few in number, while the great mass of the Abolitionists, like Garrison, Jackson, Quincy, Mrs. Chapman, and others, have proved faithful always. The persecutions with which the Abolitionists were attacked, necessarily helped to increase their numbers and to strengthen their agitation, by rallying around them multitudes of thinking, right-minded persons, whose dormant consciences were awakened by the violence of the advocates of Slavery. Such is the aid that persecution ever renders to truth.
In 1848 and 1849, an exciting controversy agitated Congress on what is known as the Wilmot Proviso, which
xproposed to prevent the existence of Slavery in any territories that might be annexed to the United States after it was paused. It was the time of an Anti-Slavery revival in the Free States; and no less than fourteen States "protested, through their legislatures, against any enlargement of the area of Slavery." This vigorous agitation caused the Pro-Slavery conspirators to plot mischief; and the result was an attempt to introduce into the Union the territory of California as a State, without Slavery being interdicted on its soil. This "non-intervention policy met with the favour of all the great party leaders, as well as of the Cabinet, as it was confidently believed that a majority of the citizens of California would vote for the legalization of Slavery in the State. California was accordingly urged to apply for admission into the Confederacy; but, to the horror of the South, and the astonishment of the whole country, the Constitutional Convention determined that one of the articles of the new Constitution, should be as follows: — "Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crime, shall be tolerated in this State;" and this article was ratified by the votes of the people. A furious reaction took place at the South: with black inconsistency, the Pro-Slavery party in Congress, headed by that embodiment of despotism, John C. Calhoun, demanded that the application of California should be rejected! Then followed one of the fiercest struggles in American history. The writer was in the United States during this eventful era, and never shall he forget the intense excitement that prevailed.
Inspired by the noble example of California, New Mexico framed an Anti-Slavery Constitution, and asked for admission into the Union. The advocates of the South then demanded a compromise — they required that the equilibrium of political power should be restored. They felt that their influence in the national councils was imperiled — that a spirit of freedom was being evoked which, if not speedily quelled, would endanger the very existence of Slavery itself. Then came the midnight time of the Anti-Slavery cause. A dissolution of the Union was threatened by the Slaveholders unless their demands were
xicomplied with. Never was there a cry more unreal — never was empty bombast carried to a higher pitch; for if the Union were dissolved, the fugitive Slave would find the road to freedom some hundreds of miles shorter than it is now; no Fugitive Slave Law could then reach him in the Free States; Northern soldiers could no longer be employed to suppress Slave insurrections, or to extend the area of Slavery, as in the case of Texas; and how could thirty thousand Slaveholders put down a rising of their victims, who are numbered by millions, if they were unable to appeal to the North for aid? But the miserable cry of "disunion" answered its base purpose. Symptoms of treachery and cowardice, dressed up in the borrowed garb of patriotism, appeared at the North. "Our glorious Union is in danger;" "the Compromises of the Constitution must be fulfilled;" "the rights of our Southern brethren must be protected;" and similar cries were shouted by Northern merchants who held mortgages on slave-property; who dealt largely in the Southern markets; who had many Slaveholders among their best customers; or who had friends and relations possessing a large stake in the man-merchandise of the peculiar institution; and who for these and other reasons sold their souls, and allowed their consciences to be gagged.
Henry Clay — the statesman who said that "a hundred years' legislation had sanctified Slavery" — early in 1850 successfully played his part in the national tragedy. He proposed a "Compromise." It was accepted, not, however, without a severe struggle on the part of a noble band of Free Soilers, who, in a spirit, and with a courage, more God-like than that of the ancient Spartans, defended "the Anti-Slavery Thermopylae." Their championship of freedom was in vain: Slavery again triumphed. By "the Compromise," California was received into the Union as a Free State. New Mexico and Utah, while they continued territories, and when they were formed into States, were to maintain or prohibit Slavery, as they pleased. The importation of Slaves into the District of Columbia for sale was interdicted. Such were the benefits conferred on the cause of freedom by "the Compromise;" but now
xiifor the dark side of the picture. Ten millions of dollars were paid into the Treasury of Texas; and ninety thousand square miles of free soil were given to that State, upon which the accursed institution of Slavery was to be established; and the Fugitive Slave Law was granted to the South — a measure whose atrocity language utterly fails to depict; and whose manifestly flagrant violation of the first principles of justice was so great that, had not the Congress that passed it, and the President who sanctioned it, been utterly devoid of moral integrity and the common feelings of humanity, it would, from the first moment it was brought forward, have been treated as a proposal fit only to be entertained by a nation of savages. This law, which is supplementary to that of the law of 1793, gives extraordinary facilities for the reclamation of Fugitive Slaves who have found a refuge in the Free States. It vests all the powers of judge and jury in Commissioners, who, in the majority of instances, are appointed in consequence of their Pro-Slavery tendencies, and who receive ten dollars if they convict the supposed fugitive, while five dollars only is their fee if they declare him innocent of the crime of running away with himself; and, as the Hon. Horace Mann says, "the law provides that evidence taken in a Southern State, at any time or place which a claimant may select, without any notice, or any possibility of knowledge on the part of the person to be robbed and enslaved by it, may be clandestinely carried or sent to any place where it is to be used, and there spring upon its victim, as a wild beast springs from its jungle on the passer-by; and it provides that this evidence, thus surreptitiously taken and used, shall be conclusive proof of the facts, and of escape from slavery. It does not submit the sufficiency of the evidence to the judgment of the tribunal, but it arbitrarily makes it conclusive whether sufficient or not." The consequence was that four, out of the first eight persons who were enslaved under this law, were free men. We have it on the authority of the Hon. Horace Mann that, "in a case in Philadelphia, Commissioner Ingraham decided some points directly against law and authority; and when the
xiiidecision of a judge of the United States Court was brought against him, he coolly said he differed from the judge, made out the certificate, pocketed the ten dollars, and sent a human being to bondage. There could be no appeal from this iniquity, for the law allows none."
The Fugitive Slave Law also renders all persons aiding in the escape of Slaves liable to a fine of two thousand dollars, and six months imprisonment. A reaction, however, took place. The arrests of Hamlet, Long, William and Ellen Crafts, and other Fugitive Slaves, caused an intense excitement in the Northern mind, which induced thousands to rally around the standard of liberty, who had never previously been identified with the cause of the oppressed. The Abolitionists everywhere openly avowed their intention to violate the law. Numerous mass meetings were held, at which resolutions were passed denouncing the measure in the fiercest language. The authorities in some towns refused to aid in its execution. Some, though not many, ministers, like Henry Ward Beecher and Theodore Parker, advised their congregations to obey the "higher law," and protect the fugitive even at the risk of imprisonment and death. The Slave-hunters wherever they went were the subjects of the most unmitigated public opprobrium and contempt. A panic at first seized the coloured population, but their courage did not long fail them. They provided themselves with revolvers; and hundreds, if not thousands, of Fugitive Slaves, armed to the teeth, fled into Canada to seek that security under the flag of Queen Victoria which was denied them in the model Republic. The reaction was so great that, in the language of the Fifteenth Report of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society,
xivfollowing statistics, carefully prepared by the Rev. Edward Mathews, the excellent agent to the American Free Mission Baptists, show that Slavery has not gained much by the Fugitive Slave Law, while it has lost a great deal of its power in the North by the outrageous character of the enactment: —
It will be seen that the total number of Slaves is 50; rescued, 6; shot, 1; purchased, 5; set free after trial, 5; now held in Slavery, 33."
Although the Fugitive Slave Law has almost become a nullity, it does not necessarily follow that all who oppose it are equally arrayed against Slavery itself. On the contrary, we have great reason to believe that a very large proportion of those who have been strenuous in their hostility to a measure which converts the Free States into a hunting-ground on which fugitive Slaves are to be pursued, do not take any decided action against the "peculiar institution," but, on the contrary, are disposed to allow it to continue undisturbed within its present
xvboundaries. We have even heard a New York audience cheer a Southern senator when he was boasting that he was the owner of the largest amount of slave-property in that part of the South in which he resided; and not a few meetings have we attended at which speeches in favour of maintaining the Compromise Measures and the Fugitive Slave Law were enthusiastically cheered by large assemblages of persons, in which all classes were represented, not even excepting the clergy. Everywhere, too, in the North is the foul prejudice against colour manifested. The most remote connexion by birth with the African race is sufficient to render a man an outcast from society; to prevent him from filling any office of trust or honour; to make him an object of degradation and contempt; and to place him in the Negro pew in the very church of God, so that he may not pollute by his touch the white believers in that Great Teacher (Himself dark-complexioned!) who said, "As ye would that others should do unto you, do ye even so unto them."
Such are some of the usages of society in the Free States; and they apply to such men even as Professor Allen, Frederick Douglas, Dr. Pennington, Charles L. Remond, and William Wells Brown, men who, by their characters and talents, would adorn any society, and who are infinitely elevated above their miserable oppressors in everything that constitutes true dignity and moral worth. It is sometimes imagined that universal suffrage exists in the Free States. This is entirely a mistake; for no coloured man is allowed the right to vote unless he possesses a certain amount of property, which varies in different States; and as every possible obstacle short of Slavery itself is placed in the way of his success in life, it follows that if he enjoys the elective franchise he is one of the very few exceptions to the general rule. The Illinois Legislature has recently passed a law against coloured persons which is equal in its infamy to its accursed predecessor, the Fugitive Slave Law. This measure declares that any Negro or Mulatto entering the State, and remaining there a longer period than ten days, shall be fined; and if unable to pay the fine, he shall be
xvisold on an auction-block, and the proceeds shall be devoted to charitable purposes. What execrable villainy! The money raised by the sale of MEN, created in the image of God, and endowed with noble intelligences and a still nobler immortality, to be appropriated to benevolent objects — perhaps to the conversion of the heathen! Judas Iscariot has many successors. An enactment somewhat similar was previously passed by the Legislature of Indiana; so that custom and law are alike the enemies of that unfortunate race — whose colour is made a crime — in the Free States of a land boasting of her liberty, and of the number of her churches. And then, after having sought to keep them as low as possible in the social scale, hypocritical apologists for Slavery point, with malevolent exultation, to their backward condition as a proof that they are a very imperfect and degraded type of humanity!
The mercantile influences existing at the North in favour of Slavery, or of neutrality on the question, are among its mightiest supporters. The cotton merchants and manufacturers are averse to any interference with "the exciting topic," because it harmonises with their sordid interest to be on good terms with their "Southern brethren." "The agitation of Slavery at the North endangers the security of the Union," say they in effect. "It might provoke a civil war; it might lead to a general revolt of the Slaves; in short, twenty things prejudicial to trade might ensue. Let the South alone: she knows best what to do with her own institutions. And besides, are we not seeking to elevate the coloured race by our support of the Colonization Society? and may not Slavery, after all, be a Missionary Institution?" — (as the Rev. W. Hooker, of Philadelphia, says it is) — "the object of which is through the Colonization Society, to evangelise the dark regions of Africa in due time." We are not now putting the case unfairly; we are giving the ideas which are almost daily expressed in that time-serving paper, the New York Journal of Commerce, the organ of the Pro-Slavery merchants of the North. We know not to what extent any of these individuals may be owners, or part
xviiowners, of Southern cotton plantations; but we do know that many a Northern merchant, bearing a high character for piety, possesses mortgages on slave-estates, and does not scruple, if his sordid interests demand it, to bring them to the hammer; and, like a Theological Synod in North Carolina, who sold eight Slaves to assist in the education of some Presbyterian ministers, the merchants who thus dispose of the liberties of their fellow-creatures can, with the pride of a Pharisee, subscribe towards the conversion of the inhabitants of Madagascar, or talk of intervention by force of arms in the affairs of Hungary against the Austrian oppressor, as did that creature of Slavery, General Cass.
Never did these men of "property and standing" show their subserviency to the South more clearly than after the passing of the Compromise Measures. In New York, we remember, some thousands of them signed a requisition convening a meeting to consider those measures, and to adopt means for the due execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. We attended this meeting. Of course the Abolitionists were there regarded as most detestable characters, being especially the enemies of "the Union" and the Church. A "Union Safety Committee" was formed, and some thousands of dollars were subscribed to its funds; but, with the exception of publishing the names of all who signed the requisition, and endeavouring to effect the conviction of a few Fugitive Slaves, we believe that all their bluster has gone for nothing. The publication of the names of the requisitionisits was a commercial speculation, inasmuch as Southern traders were advised not to do business with any merchant in New York whose name was not printed in the list; indeed at one time it was proposed that the names of all persons who refused to sign the document "should be prominently published, so that their enmity to "Southern rights" might become more widely known, and their "stores" more generally shunned by the friends of "the Union." This was actually done in the case of Messrs. Bowen and Mc' Namee, the proprietors of that excellent journal, the New York Independent, and in one or
xviiitwo other instances. But it was almost too disgraceful even for the depravity of New York Pro-Slavery morals. These facts serve to show what a powerful instrumentality in favour of Slavery the great commercial party of the North forms.
As would be anticipated, the two chief political parties — the Whig and the Democratic — do not essentially differ from each other in their action on the Slavery question, excepting that perhaps the greatest number of "fillibusters," or annexationists, exist among the Democrats. The Democratic platform adopted at Baltimore in June, 1850, declared that that party "will abide by and adhere to a faithful execution of the acts known as the Compromise Measures settled by the last Congress — the act for reclaiming fugitives from service or labour included — which act being designed to carry out an express provision of the Constitution, cannot with fidelity thereto be repealed, or so changed as to restore or impair its efficiency. Resolved that the Democratic party will resist all attempts at renewing in Congress, or out of it, the agitation of the Slavery question, under whatever shape or colour the attempts may be made." Shortly after the adoption of these principles by the Democratic party, the Whig Convention was held at Baltimore also, and a resolution was passed which, after approving of the Compromise Measures, declared that, "so far as the Fugitive Slave Law is concerned, we will maintain the same, and insist on its strict enforcement, until time and experience shall demonstrate the necessity of future legislation against evasion and abuse, but not impairing its present efficiency."
Enough has been quoted to show that both parties are deeply involved in Pro-Slavery guilt; and yet many men professing Anti-Slavery principles (some of whom we could name,) blinded by party feeling, voted for Pierce, or Scott, as the case might be, although there was a Free Soil Candidate in the field in the person of John P. Hale. But although General Pierce is unquestionably as unsound on the Slavery question as a man can be, we cannot but rejoice at the defeat of the Candidature for the Presidency in their respective party Conventions, of Webster, Cass,
xixand Douglass, men who had sought to raise themselves into the highest office of the State by their support of the Compromise measures. They utterly failed to secure the prize which had caused them to sacrifice their consciences, and to blast their characters for ever. The first died broken-hearted — miserably disappointed in the great object of his ambition just as he thought he had it within his grasp, and conscious that his fame was darkened with a stain that time could never obliterate. Thus does judgment sometimes descend on the stateman who, for the sake of power, dares to trifle with the sacred rights of humanity, and to act as if he were a God. But let us
A snare for all;
And pitying tears, not scorn and wrath,
Befit his fall!
When he who might
Have lighted up, and led his age,
Falls back in night.
A bright soul driven,
Fiend — goaded, down the endless dark,
From hope and Heaven?"
Franklin Pierce, the present President of the United States, in his inaugural address, plainly described the policy on the Slavery question, that would guide him. He said "I believe that involuntary servitude as it exists in different states in this confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the states where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the Constitutional Provisions. I hold that the laws of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, are strictly constitutional, and to be unhesitatingly carried into effect. I believe that the constituted authorities of this Republic are bound to regard the rights of the South in this respect, as they would any other legal and constitutional right, and that the laws to enforce them should be respected and
xxobeyed; not with a reluctance encouraged by abstract opinions as to their propriety in a different state of society, but cheerfully and according to the doctrines of the tribunals to which their expositions belong. Such have been and are my convictions, and upon them I shall act." It is well known that he is in favour of the annexation of Cuba, and of the conquest of Mexico.
We have glanced at some of the causes of the retrogression of America as regards Slavery, and of the present powerful position of the Slaveholders; but we have not yet given that prominence to the primary cause which it deserves. We have no hesitation in pointing to the recreancy of the American Church as the principal reason why Slavery was not abolished years ago. Is not trading in human bodies and immortal souls justified in her pulpits, and sanctioned in her synods and assemblies? Do not Doctors of Divinity, like Moses Stuart and Gardiner Spring, blasphemously assert that the righteousness of American Slavery is proved by the Mosaic law, and allowed by the religion of Him who said "I come to break the bonds of the oppressor." And when the professed ministers of the Most High, speaking with all the authority of their sacred office, assert with the Reverend Doctor Joel Parker, (the threatened prosecutor of Mrs. Stowe,) that "Slavery is a good — a great good," who can wonder that church members should prove false to the Slave; and that men whose God is Mammon, should sacrifice the rights of their fellow-man on its altars! To prove the guilt of the Southern Church, we need not quote from the sermons of its ministers, or the resolutions of its synods. The following figures, compiled with great care by the Rev. Edward Matthews, speak for themselves: —
Six hundred and sixty thousand five hundred and sixty-three Slaves held by members of Christian Churches in the South! How frightful is the iniquity perpetrated within the pale of what professes to be the Church of Christ! Comparing Slavery to a fearful fire that has been raging for a long time, Mrs. Stowe admirably remarks "The Church of Christ burns with that awful fire! Evermore burning, burning! Burning over church and altar; burning over senate-house and forum; burning up liberty, burning up religion! No earthly hands kindled that fire. From its sheeted flame and wreaths of sulphurous smoke glares out upon thee the eye of that enemy who was a murderer from the beginning. It is a fire that burns to the lowest hell!"
But it would naturally be supposed that however the Southern Churches may have apostatised from the true faith, yet the religious bodies of the Free States would remain steadfast in supporting the cause of the oppressed. The ministers and churches of the South exist amid the contaminating influences of Slavery itself; but in the North the church of God can plead no such extenuating circumstances. How fearful, then, is the fact that many prominent ministers of the North, defend Slavery as a religious institution; that a still larger number support the Fugitive Slave Law; and that the leading ecclesiastical organizations either openly avow their Pro-Slavery predilections, or endeavour to take a neutral course; in which latter policy, however, they invariably fail, as silence on such a question is impossible. Since the Declaration of Independence, the action of the American Church on Slavery has more and more retrogressed. At that period the testimonies against Slavery, in the pulpit and the synod, were very general; but gradually they have become less and less in number and faithfulness. The Episcopalian Church in the North, admits Slaveholders within its pale; and its principal organ, the New York Churchman, is notorious for its hostility to the Abolitionists. An important body of Anti-Slavery men exists among the Congregationalists, but the vast majority are either Pro-Slavery, or they adopt a temporizing course. In 1851, Mr. Fisk, who
xxiidelivered a sermon in favour of the Fugitive Slave Law, was appointed by the Maine Congregational Conference, as a delegate to a kindred religious society. Many prominent divines of this denomination, (as, for example, Dr. Moses Stuart,) have distinguished themselves by their advocacy of Slavery. The Baptist Churches, by their general subserviency to the Slave power, as well as by the admission of Slaveholders into their Missionary Society, have earned a dark reputation. The Presbyterian and the Methodist Episcopal Churches, are notorious for their unblushing recreancy on the Slavery question.
Dr. Gardiner Spring, an eminent Presbyterian minister, whose evangelical works are well known in this country, said, in a sermon which he preached in defence of the atrocious Fugitive Slave Act, in 1850, that "If by one prayer he could liberate every Slave in the world, he would not dare to offer it." We heard him offer up a prayer, just before an oration was delivered on General Washington, in which he dared to ask the Almighty to stop the mouths of the agitators — meaning, of course, the Abolitionists. The orator was no other than General Foote, then a Senator for the Slave State of Mississippi, who a few weeks before had pointed a loaded pistol at the breast of Colonel Benton, the Free Soil Senator for Missouri, on the floor of the Senate itself; and would, in all probability, have shot him, had not the deadly weapon been snatched from his grasp. Dr. Moses Stuart, the celebrated Professor of Andover College, Massachusetts, says in relation to the Fugitive Slave Law, that "Though we may pity the fugitive, yet the Mosaic law does not authorize the rejection of the claims of the Slaveholders to their lost or strayed property." The Right Rev. Bishop Hopkins, of Vermont, after having asked "What effect had the Gospel in doing away with Slavery?" answers to the satisfaction of his Pro-Slavery heart, "None whatever;" as if Christianity was responsible for the infamous deeds of her professed disciples! — as if the glory of Christ should be tarnished by the dark teachings of an oppression-loving Bishop! The Rev. W. Hooker, in a pamphlet recently written, again presents Slavery in the aspect in
xxiiiwhich Calhoun was wont to describe it: — "Allow it then," says he, "to be asked of the Christian who duly prices this highest freedom, to consider of Southern Slavery as a Missionary institution for the conversion of the heathen. In this light let it be candidly looked on for a passing moment, and you cannot fail to contemplate it, for ever, hereafter, with other feelings than Abolitionism would excite in you." But similar quotations might be multiplied without end. The leading religious journals, with the exception of the New York Independent, and one or two others, indulge in a similar strain.
Dr. Bond, the Editor of the Christian Advocate and Journal, the principal organ of the Methodist Episcopal Church, recently described the Abolition movement as a "senseless agitation." The infamous character of the chief Presbyterian newspaper, the New York Observer, is well known. As the most virulent antagonist of Mrs. Stowe, and the coarse and malignant traducer of the Abolitionists, this paper has obtained one of the darkest places in the foul Pro-Slavery literature of the day. At the recent meeting of the Presbyterian New School General Assembly, held at Buffalo, a letter was read from the Oswego Presbytery, in which that body refused to send a delegate to it until it took improved action with regard to Slavery. The Buffalo Christian Advocate says of this matter, "The Slavery question of course had to be disposed of, for whoever knew a body of Christian ministers to convene in latter times, when a fire-brand was not thrown into their midst in the form of this agitation."
Slavery is an institution which its advocates cannot bear to be touched; it shuns the light of investigation. And why? Because its "deeds are evil." A severe rebuke was administered by the Assembly to its refractory auxiliary, and Dr. Cox talked very glibly about "kicking" the memorial under the table. Slaveholding, it was true, was declared an "offence;" but then it was not so if the Slaves were held from humane motives, or in trust for others, or if the law would not permit their emancipation; so that this resolution might just as well not have been passed at all. It was true also that a
xxivCommittee of Inquiry into the number and condition of the Slaves held by Presbyterians in the South was talked about; but the matter was left in the hands of the Slaveholding Presbyteries! the criminals were left to convict themselves! At the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held a short time ago, the committee appointed to report on the Slavery question, in reply to certain Anti-Slavery memorials, recommended that no action should be taken to keep Slaveholders out of the church. We think these facts show the guiltiness of the churches of the North in the frightful sin of Slavery; that both ministers and people have been fearfully unfaithful to the cause of the down-trodden. And how greatly is their criminality increased by the fact that if they had aided the Anti-Slavery cause as they might have done, the "peculiar institution" "would now, in all probability, have ceased to exist; and at any rate Texas would not have been added to the area, and the Fugitive Slave Law to the power of Slavery.
When William Lloyd Garrison and his coadjutors first commenced the Anti-Slavery movement, it was with the conviction that their cause would very soon be warmly espoused by the churches of the North; but their glowing anticipations quickly vanished. With some honourable exceptions, those churches, instead of helping the good work, gave nothing but opposition; and so they who ought to have been first to engage in the strife with Slavery, were foremost in the ranks of its friends. It is our pleasing duty, however, to present some gratifying facts in juxtaposition to these unpleasant ones. In most of the churches a powerful Anti-Slavery minority exists, who are constantly agitating the question; but it is a great pity, and, as we think, a serious neglect of duty, that they do not at once and for ever come out from these perfidious religions denominations. There are, however, several important and growing accessions from the great Pro-Slavery churches. The Wesleyan Methodists, numbering upwards of twenty thousand members, have seceded from the Methodist Episcopal Church, and taken thoroughly Anti-Slavery ground. "No communion with
xxvSlaveholders," is one of their fundamental principles; and their weekly organ, the Wesleyan, edited by the Rev. Lucius Matlack, is an able advocate of Abolitionism. The American Baptist Free Missionary Society is equally faithful. The Presbyterian Secession, the Friends, the Free Will Baptists, and a few other churches, are also conspicuous for their Anti-Slavery character.
There are some ministers of commanding talents and influence, such as Henry Ward Beecher and Theodore Parker, who are on the side of the Slave; but, generally speaking, the great men and the great churches are to be found in the ranks of his enemies. It is in what Theodore Parker calls the "little churches," where "the pulpits of commerce" do not exist, that the true Anti-Slavery spirit is commonly to be found, and as he truly says, "In little country towns, in the bye-ways and alleys of great cities, silently and unseen they are sowing the seeds of a piety, which will spring up justice, and bear philanthropic fruit." It is our happiness to know some of the members of these "little churches," and we can testify to the important assistance they are rendering to the enslaved. If a fugitive is to be tried, they are ever ready to assist him with a competent counsel, or, if necessary, to aid in his escape; nobody is better acquainted with the mysteries of "the underground railroad," than they; and in all practical operations for the Abolition of Slavery, they are always up to the mark. Would that the great bulk of their co-religionists would follow their example! If they did, the doom of Slavery would soon be sealed for ever.
But what are the signs of the times in America? — what the prospects for the future? This is a question that proceeds from many lips, and few can solve the problem to their own satisfaction. This much, however, is gratifying, that the progress that has taken place since the American Anti-Slavery Society was first originated has been very great. The friends of freedom could then be numbered by scores only; but now they form a mighty host. Sorry are we that they are somewhat divided among themselves as to the proper course of action to be taken;
xxviand still more deeply do we regret that in some instances these dissensions, which are sure to exist in every great movement, have assumed the form of personal animosities, which must have done injury to the cause. The Anti-Slavery movement should he essentially unsectarian: men of all creeds said parties, who are willing to subscribe to the doctrine of "immediate and unconditional emancipation," should be admitted to its fellowship. Such has been the course of the American Anti-Slavery Society
xxviiutterly failed to do so. No; Christianity has not been attacked, and they know it full well; but a Church that professes to be the Christian Church, but which tramples under foot every precept of Christ — every law of God, has been denounced by that Society as false to its mission, and hypocritical in its course. And is not this true? The seven hundred thousand Slaveholders who are members of religious denominations in the Southern States, the Pro-Slavery action of most of the ecclesiastical assemblies of the North, the Negro pews that exist in almost every Church, and the sermons that have been preached in favour of Slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law from multitudes of pulpits, supply an answer in the affirmative, terribly convincing in its truthfulness. What, then, is the duty of every honest Abolitionist — of every one, too, who has the interest of the Christian Church at heart? Is it not to pull down the unfaithful Church, and to raise in its stead a noble edifice in which, trumpet-tongued, the wickedness of Slavery shall be preached, and in which the nation shall be commanded to cease the practice of this great iniquity, not in mild, honied phrases, but with the same fidelity that characterized the Saviour's denunciations of Pharasaical hypocrisy? And if such a Church as this be raised, not less certainly will Slavery pass away, than did the darkness of the middle ages disappear before the light of advancing civilization.
But it is urged against the American Anti-Slavery Society that it refuses to take political action: hence ensues the absurd charge that it is opposed to civil government altogether. The United States' Constitution consists of a foul compromise. It directly sanctions Slavery; it provides for the capture of Fugitive Slaves; it vests political power in the Slaveholder according to the amount of slave-property he possesses. True, the Liberty party hold that the Constitution is an Anti-Slavery instrument; but all the great American lawyers put an opposite construction upon it; and their view seems to us to be clearly proved. With this belief then, how can an Abolitionist by his vote sanction this Constitution; for be it remembered that every member of Congress is required to swear obedience
xxviiito it. Moral honesty requires of the thorough Abolitionist that he should abstain from declaring allegiance by his lips to a Pro-Slavery institution, which he spurns with indignant contempt and hatred in his heart. Then, again, it is said to the supposed disparagement of the American Anti-Slavery Society that it is in favour of a dissolution of the American Union. But if that Union can only be maintained by a gross sacrifice of principle, can it be honestly supported by the Abolitionist? Besides, is it not a disgraceful anomaly that States professing to love and to support freedom, should live under the same government with other States who are in the constant practice of an infamous slavery, and who claim the right to hunt down its fugitives who seek refuge on Northern soil? If the American Union is to be kept up on no other terms than those of subserviency to the slave-power, then we earnestly trust that the federal compact may be speedily torn in pieces and scattered to the winds. A Union based upon such a foundation is what Garrison termed it — "a covenant with death" and "an agreement hell;" and with him we would say, "Henceforth the watchword of every uncompromising Abolitionist, of every friend of God and liberty, must be, both in a religious and a political sense, ‘No Union with Slaveholders.’ "
Meanwhile this Society is performing its work most vigorously, and with great success. Various attempts have been made to hold its Anniversary Meetings in New York, the great Northern centre of the cotton party; but hitherto, Pro-Slavery mobs have prevented them. This year, however, they were succcessful; and the magnificent oration of Wendell Phillips (grand as a master-piece of eloquence, but more admirable still for its Christ-like faithfulness) and the glowing speeches of William Lloyd Garrison, Edmund Quincy, Henry Ward Beecher, Frederic Douglas, and other apostles of the Anti-Slavery cause, were listened to with breathless attention by enthusiastic thousands. The Empire City is awaking; and we hope soon to hear that neither the power of party platforms, of the cotton pulpits and newspapers, or of Southern merchants and planters, can prevent the rapid progress
xxixof genuine Anti-Slavery principles in its midst.
There are other gleams of light to be seen just now besides those to which we have alluded. The next to political annihilation of the great Whig party must do good, as its members who are favourably disposed towards Anti-Slavery principles will not have the same temptation to continue their allegiance to it that they have hitherto had. And some Whig journals are even now speaking after the fashion of the Forest City, published in Cleveland, Ohio: — "We feel as Christian did in the Pilgrim's Progress, when the load of sin was taken off his back. We repudiate the Baltimore platform — spit upon it, and return to the Whig principles of 1847: — ‘No executive usurpation, no more Slave territory, no further extension of Slavery, no more Slave States, but free soil for free men.’ "Such is the repudiation of the Baltimore platform, which we hope to see become general in the ranks of the Whigs. Similar action has been taken by the Loco-focos, or Democrats, in Ohio. At their late State Convention the former Anti-Slavery position of the party was resumed The important testimonies of Pro-Slavery journals as to the progress of Abolitionism is equally gratifying. A rabid Pro-Slavery paper called the New York Express said very recently, "That Abolitionism is recovering from the heavy blows struck at it both in the Whig and the Democratic Baltimore Conventions, we have not a doubt, as an evening contemporary intimates, and that it is about to present a formidable front in the moral and political field, we feel sure. The signs of the times all about us indicate this fact. The men that sustained the Compromise Bill in Congress in 1850, and so saved the Union from intestine strife, are struck down both North and South." "If the increase of Abolitionism goes on, we have no hesitation in saying no Northern public man can stand against it." The tone of the principal organs of the South is precisely similar. "The South," says the Charleston Mercury the ablest paper in that part of the country, "has no hope beyond itself — has no help out of its own dominions. The world is against it." Speaking of the Fugitive Slave
xxxLaw the Savannah Georgian says, "The only hope of enforcing this law, without an expense of time, money, and peace more valuable than the Slaves which will be captured, is to be found in a change, thorough and radical, of the principles and convictions of the Northern people in relation to Slavery. Is there any probability of such a change? None whatever." Another indication of progress exists in the fact that Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is doing so much to create a right public sentiment in the North, is being read very extensively in the South.
Meanwhile the supporters of Slavery are also doing their best. Again are they turning their avaricious eyes towards Mexico, hoping to make the refusal of Santa Anna to permit the Americans to open the River Tehuantepic a pretext for war. That river is the nearest route to the Pacific; but it runs through the richest provinces of Mexico. With the fate of Texas before his eyes, it is no wonder that Santa Anna declines compliance with the request of the American Cabinet, Cuba is another object of slave-holding desire; and again do we hear of piratical expeditions to rob Spain of her wealthy colony. But she will lose it, and justly too, unless she at once takes steps to abolish the Slave-trade and emancipate the Slaves. The policy of the British Cabinet has been energetically directed in favour of such a result. This is held by a great Democratic writer as a sufficient reason why General Pierce should take the initiative by the immediate seizure of Cuba!
Henry Clay, in the pride of his heart, imagined that his Compromise Measures would put down Abolitionism, and give the country peace; but the great statesman was miserably mistaken. He acted as if he had forgotten that there was a God of Infinite Justice, who can, with a breath, blast the schemes of cabinets, and cause the most powerful to bow tremblingly before His authority. Clay did not perceive the power of an enlightened public opinion, guided by the finger of Him who is the foe of tyrants, and the hater of iniquity; and who said by His Son, eighteen centuries ago, that the Oppressed should go free. If he had done so, he never would have
xxxiproposed those measures which have gained him eternal infamy, without in the least degree benefitting the cause he sought to uphold. For they have awakened the conscience of the North from the deep sleep into which it had fallen; and by the blessing of God, that conscience shall never slumber again. They have aroused the Abolitionists to an activity unparalleled in their history. They have affected the Church, and the ministers of the God of liberty are increasing in number; and in short they show that the last struggles of the monster which has made the boasted liberty of the Great Republic a delusion and a lie, have at length come, and that the era of a glorious freedom is not far distant.
F. W. C.
God's Image in Ebony.
Chapter I. Introductory
Ethnology, or the science of races, has of late years occupied much of the attention of the learned. Many books have been written on the subject, and many theories pro-pounded, to account for the diversities observable in the physical and mental characteristics of the dwellers upon the various portions of the habitable globe. Some, in direct opposition to scripture, have asserted that these distinct tribes and nations, so diverse in stature, in colour, in language, and in physical conformation, could not all have descended from one common parent — that the peculiarities now observable in the structural anatomy of the different human races, have always existed, and separated those races as distinctly, as one tribe of animals is divided from another. Climate and circumstances are not believed to have had any influence in these matters, and yet the very author who advances this opinion,
2is meant our Heavenly Creator only, then are we brothers with the soulless brutes also, and we look in vain for the symbol and pledge of our humanity; which, although fallen and degraded, has still lingering about it some faint traces of the god-like and divine.
Those who contend that the Negro race is essentially and unalterably inferior to any other of the distinct races, to we the ethnologist's term, which occupy the different divisions of the globe, do so in the face of proofs to the contrary, which one would think ought to convince them of their error; some of these proofs it will presently be our task to adduce; just now we have a few more observations to offer upon the general bearing of our subject, and aspect of the slavery question.
That slave-holders, and all who would trample on and oppress their weaker fellow-men, are advocates for this theory, is not to be wondered at, they find in it an excuse for their acts of cruelty and oppression; it places the slave upon the same low ground as that occupied by their dogs and horses, and, although the humane man (and we do not mean to deny that there are many such proprietors of human chattels) would not overtask or torture even these, yet, the consideration and respect which is due to every being with an immortal soul, is lost sight of, and so that the physical wants of his slaves are satisfied, the master has little care for the imperishable part of their nature. And this is the most crying evil of the whole system: bodily torture, cold, hunger, taunts, revilings, toil beneath the lash of the overseer, nay, death itself, are as nothing in comparison with this annihilation of every glimmering spark of the divine light within, (which should be as a lamp to lead the soul to a Saviour's feet) which generally ensues in that state of brutal ignorance in which the slave is allowed to remain, if he be not, as in most instances he is, kept and bound there.
Education for the slave is a thing not to be thought of, not to be tolerated; and so we hear of heavy fines and penalties, and other punishments, inflicted on those who attempt to teach the benighted African, dwelling in a so-called Christian land, the way of salvation; and why? because the freedom of the soul from the thraldom of ignorance, and superstition, and sensuality, must soon be followed by the freedom of the body. If once your slave gets but a revelation of divine truth, he is a slave no longer; he knows that other than an earthly master hath bought
3him at a high price; and bind him as securely, watch him as closely, and torture him as severely as you may; oh, haughty southern planter! there is a part of him — the more noble part — which you cannot hold, nor frighten, nor maltreat. This truth is nowhere more forcibly demonstrated than in Mrs. Stowe's admirable work: poor Tom dying under the lash of the fiend-like Legree, was more free than the sin-bound and embruted creature who owned his body, because
To mansions in the skies."
Though life its common gifts deny —
Though with a crushed and bleeding heart,
And spurned of man, he goes to die!
For God hath marked each sorrowing day,
And numbered every bitter tear;
And heaven's long years of bliss shall pay
for all his children suffer here."
The educated and spiritually enlightened slave, we say, knows all this, and fears not the stripes and injuries which man can inflict; if he attempt not to escape from his earthly bondage, which he generally will do, being conscious of his right to freedom, he will shew by his aspect and demeanour, that he claims a recognition of that common humanity which he shares with his owner; he is no longer a brute, but a man. And what so galling to the pride of a tyrannical master, as for that being of an assumed inferior nature to rise up and claim brotherhood with him, the delicately nurtured, the highly educated, and refined lord of broad lands, and human chattels.
To us it seems that no science can be true science, no philosophy other than spurious, that does not recognise in every human being, whether his skin be white or sable, a man and a brother. "The Christian philosopher," says Dr. Chalmors, "sees in every man a partaker of his own nature, and a brother of his own species. He contemplates the human mind in the generality of its great elements. He enters upon a wide field of benevolence, and disdains the geographical barriers by which little men would shut out
4one half of the species from the kind offices of the other. Let man's localities be what they may, it is enough for his large and noble heart, that be is bone of the same bone."
Let us add to this the testimony of the pious Richard Watson, which we find quoted in Wilson Armistead's "Tribute for the Negro," a noble volume, to which we are indebted for much of the information contained in the following pages; pointing to the scripture passage which tells how our Saviour became incarnate, "that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Watson says, ‘Behold then the foundation of the fraternity of our race, however coloured, and however scattered. Essential distinctions of inferiority and superiority had been, in almost every part of the Gentile World, adopted as the palliation or the justification of the wrongs inflicted by man on man; but against this notion, Christianity; from its first promulgation, has lifted up its voice. God hath made the varied tribes of men ‘of one blood.’ Dost thou wrong a human being? He is thy brother. Art thou a murderer by war, private malice, or a wasting and exhausting oppression? ‘The voice, of thy brother's blood crieth to God from the ground.’ Dost thou, because of some accidental circumstance of rank, opulence, or power, on thy part, treat him with scorn and contempt? He is thy ‘brother for whom Christ died;’ the incarnate Redeemer assumed his nature as well as thine. He came into the world to seek and to save him, as well as thee; and it was in reference to him also, that he went through the scenes of the garden and the cross. There is not then a man on earth who has not a father in heaven, and to whom Christ is not an advocate and patron; nay, more, because of our common humanity, to whom he is not a brother.’
Hear this, ye slave-holding churches of America! and tremble for the account which you will have to render at the great day of judgment, when the question shall be asked — What hast thou done with that poor benighted African — that talent that was given thee to improve? Hast thou squandered it? Hast thou hidden it in a napkin; or hast thou used it in any way so that it shall redound to the glory of God and the good of man? Alas, no! to a use thou hast put it; but to how base a use! Thou hast made it subservient to thine own pride, and avarice, and sensuality; and thus hast done thy best to efface the glorious image of its and thy Maker, with which it was
5stamped in the mint of heaven, and to substitute a figure and a superscription which shall make it pass current in the exchange of hell. This thou hast done, oh, false professor of a creed of brotherhood! This thou continuest to do; and what avails it in the sight of heaven, that thou makest long prayers, and givest alms to the poor, and teachest and preachest with such fervency and unction, the holy precepts of Christianity, with which thine actions have so little agreement?
How fearful, when thou standest before thy Father, and thy Judge, to give an account of all that thou hast done in the flesh, will be the question — "Cain, where is thy brother Abel?" Will thy trembling lips then dare to ask — "Am I my brother's keeper?" No, for thou wilt know that thou oughtest to have been his helper, and instructor, and protector. Will you babble then about the Old Testament law? Will ye point to the Gospel, and say that Paul sent Onesimus back to bondage; ye, who have dwelt in the full blaze of a new dispensation, and who knew, or ought to have known, that the only bondage referred to by the Apostle, was, that of Christian fellowship, into which the poor disciple was to be received "as a brother." How vain will be all such subterfuges; and how vain do they seem even now; well may the poor slave exclaim —
Till some reason ye shall find,
Worthier of regard and stronger,
Than the colour of our kind.
Tarnish all your boasted powers,
Prove that you have human feelings,
Ere you proudly question ours!"
It would be well for those who contend for the inferiority of the Negro race, and point to the present degraded condition of the poor Africans, as a proof of that inferiority, to glance for a moment at Ceasar's description of their own ancestors. — "In their domestic and social habits, the Britons are as degraded as the most savage nations. They are clothed with skins; wear the hair of their heads unshaven and long, and shave the rest of their bodies, except their upper lip; and stain themselves a blue colour, with woad, which gives them a horrible aspect in battle." Deeply sunken as they were in ignorance and superstition, uncouth in appearance, rude in manners,
6savage in war, and in their religious rites cruel and bloody, if we wish for a parallel picture, we must look to the countries watered by the Senegal or the Gambia; we shall see there but the reflex of our own primitive state, and it may well be questioned whether, if the same opportunities of civilization and improvement which the aborigines of Britain enjoyed, were given to the woolly-headed tribes of Africa, they would not make more rapid advances than did the woad-stained dwellers in these islands, proud as is the position which they now occupy in the scale of intellect and morality.
The Roman orator, Cicero, urges his friend Atticus "not to buy slaves from Britain, on account of their stupidity, and inaptitude to learn music and other accomplishments." And he adds, that the ugliest and most stupid slaves came from this country. No doubt, to the highly civilized and powerful Romans, the barbarous Angles appeared like an inferior race, whom it was alike philosophical and humane to keep in a state of dependence and degradation. In the correspondence of Dr. Philip, there is an instructive passage on this head, which we cannot refrain from quoting — "Seated one day in the house of a friend, at Cape Town, with a bust on Cicero on my right hand, and of Sir Isaac Newton on my left, I accidentally opened a book on the table, at that passage in Cicero's letter to Atticus, in which the philosopher speaks so contemptuously of the natives of Great Britain. Struck with the curious coincidence arising from the circumstances in which I found myself; pointing to the bust of Cicero, and then to that of Sir Isaac Newton, I could not help exclaiming — Hear what that man says of that man's country." Dr. Philip goes on to observe, very truly, that "The Romans might have found an image of their own ancestors in the representation they have give of ours. And we may form not an imperfect idea of what our ancestors were at the time when Caesar invaded Britain, by the present condition of some of the African tribes. By them we may perceive, as in a mirror, the features of our progenitors; and by our own history, we may learn the extent to which such tribes may be elevated by means favourable to their improvement." To this, we may add, the testimony of Dr. Prichard, who in his celebrated "Researches into the Physical History of Mankind," says. "The ancient Britons were nearly on a level with the New Zealanders, or Tahitians of the present day, or perhaps not very superior to the Austrailians." And,
7again, "Of all pagan nations, the Gauls and Britons appear to have had the most sanguinary rites. They may well be compared, in this respect, to the Ashante, Dahomehs, and other nations of Western Africa." Let us talk no longer then of inferiority of race. —
Just such our sires appeared in Caesar's eyes."
Instances might be cited, in which, what are generally considered as the distinctive marks of the negro race, have become greatly modified under the influence of change of climate and circumstances, in the course of one or two generations; and even in the same individual a wonderful change has been observed to take place, after his shackles have been loosed, his mind enlightened, his physical wants satisfied, and his natural feelings and affections studied and respected. Frederick Douglass, cowering under the lash of Covey, the slave-breaker, half-starved and scantily clothed, and beaten like a dog, is a very different being from he who lately stood up before a British audience, in a land of freedom, himself as free as any there, and electrified thousands by his thrilling eloquence. Gilbert, like a true artist as he is, has finely depicted this difference in "Uncle Tom's Cabin Almanack." Let our readers look on the two pictures, and ask themselves, admirably as the likeness is preserved, if it can be the same individual, here grovelling on the earth, and terror-stricken at the expected punishment, like the mere animal; there upright, as a man should be, with flashing eyes, and a countenance lighted with intelligence.
Look again at poor Pennington, the scared run-away, when he entered with a trembling heart and hesitating steps, the presence of the benevolent Quaker, who sheltered and fed him for awhile; and again ask yourselves — Can this be he who afterwards became so efficient a minister of the Gospel of Christ; who stood up on the platform at the Paris Peace Convention, and delivered so beautiful and impressive a speech; "whose amiable and gentlemanly deportment, pliant and elegant mind, and culture and power of intellect, have won for him the esteem of very many, while his eloquence and pathos have touched the hearts of multitudes who have been privileged to hear him;" and on whom, a German University, from whose venerable walls have gone forth masters in the loftiest departments of human lore, has conferred the honourable distinction of D. D.?
8Look again at Josiah Henson, at William Wells Brown, and others, whose biographies will be presently given, in their enslaved and free state; mark the difference, and then ask yourselves another question: — Can these noble specimens of God's handiworks — these enlightened, high-souled Christian men, belong to an inferior race? Can we believe this? no, the rather let us agree with the wise and benevolent Dr. Channing, who addresses his countrymen thus: —
"We are holding in bondage one of the best races of the human family. The Negro is among the mildest and gentlest of men. He is singularly susceptible of improvement from abroad. His children, it is said, receive more rapidly than ours the elements of knowledge. How far he can originate improvements, time alone can teach. His nature is affectionate, easily touched; and hence he is more open to religions impressions than the white man. The European races have manifested more courage, enterprise, invention; but in the dispositions which Christianity particularly honours, how inferior are they to the African! When I cast my eyes over our southern region, the land of bowie knives, Lynch law and duels — of chivalry, honour, and revenge — and when I consider that Christianity is declared to be a spirit of charity, ‘which seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and endureth all things.’ — can I hesitate in deciding to which of the races in that land Christianity is most adapted, and in which its noblest disciples are likely to be reared."
Elsewhere this eloquent advocate of the oppressed Negro makes the following forcible observations: — "The moral influence of slavery is to destroy the proper consciousness and spirit of a man. The slave, regarded and treated as property, bought and sold like a brute, denied the rights of humanity, unprotected against insult, made a tool, and systematically subdued, that he may be a manageable useful tool, how can he help regarding himself as fallen below his race? How must his spirit be crushed? How can he respect himself? He becomes bowed to servility. This word, borrowed from his condition, expresses the ruin wrought by slavery within him. The idea that he was made for his own virtue and happiness scarcely dawns on his mind. To be an instrument of the physical, material good of another, whose will is his highest law, he is taught to regard as the great purpose of his being. The whips and imprisonment of slavery, and even the horrors of the middle passage from Africa to America, these are not to be named in comparison with
9this extinction of the proper consciousness of a human being, with the degradation of a man into a brute.
It may be said that the slave is used to his yoke; that his sensibilities are blunted; and that he receives, without a pang or a thought, the treatment which would sting other men to madness. And to what does this apology amount? It virtually declares that slavery has done its perfect work — has quenched the spirit of humanity — that the Man is dead within the Slave. It is not, however, true that this work of abasement is ever so effectually done as to extinguish all feeling. Man is too great a creature to be wholly ruined by Man. When he seems dead he only sleeps. There are occasionally some sullen murmurs in the calm of slavery, showing that life still beats in the soul, that the idea of rights cannot be wholly effaced from the human being. It would be too painful, and it is not needed, to detail the process by which the spirit is broken in slavery. I refer to one only, the selling of slaves. The practice of exposing fellow-creatures for sale, of having markets for men as for cattle, of examining the limbs and muscles of a man and woman as of a brute, of putting human beings under the hammer of an auctioneer, and delivering them, like any other article of merchandise, to the highest bidder, all this is such an insult to our common nature, and so infinitely degrading to the poor victim, that it is hard to conceive of its existence except in a barbarous country. The violation of his own rights to which he is inured from birth, must throw confusion over his ideas of all human rights. He cannot comprehend them; or, if he does, how can he respect them, seeing them, as he does, perpetually trampled on in his own person?"
Other demoralizing, we had almost said demonizing, influences, which the system of slavery calls into play, might be dwelt upon, were they not of too dark and impure a character to admit of more than a passing hint. Any properly constituted and instructed mind must shrink with horror at even a distant contemplation of those violations of virtue and decency, and the best and holiest affections of humanity, which are of daily, hourly occurrence in the slave states of America, if the testimony of a "thousand witnesses," many of them favourable to this accursed system, is to be believed.
We may now quote a few remarks apropos to our subject, by an authority of some weight in this country. In an article in "Chambers' Edinburgh Journal," on a work published some years since in one of the slave states, the professed object on which was to prove that Negroes are not human beings
10in the full sense of the term, but a sort of intermediate link between the larger of the ape tribe and the white races of man, it is said, in conclusion, "The answer to all these arguments is, we think, not difficult. Supposing the Negroes differ in all the alleged respects from the whites, the difference we would say, is not such as to justify, the whites in making a property of them, and treating them with cruelty. But the Negroes are not, in reality, beyond the pale of humanity, either physically or mentally. Their external conformation is not greatly different from that of whites. Their being the same mentally, is shewn by the fact, that many Negroes have displayed intellectual and moral features equal to those of whites of high endowment. We might instance Carey, Jenkins, Cuffee, Gustavus Vasa, Toussaint, and many others.
If any one Negro has shewn a character identical with that of the white race, the whole family must be the same, though in general inferior. The inferiority is shewn to be not in kind, but in degree; and it would be just as proper for the clever whites to seize and enslave the stupid ones, as for the whites in general to enslave the blacks in general. The blacks, moreover, have shewn a capacity of improvement. They have shewn that, as in many districts of even our island of Great Britain, many parts of mind appear absent only when not brought out or called into exercise, and that by education the dormant faculties can be awakened and called into strength, if not in one generation, at least in the course of several. The tendency of slavery is to keep down, at nearly the level of brutes, beings who might be brightened into intellectual and moral beauty."
Further, in their "Tract on Intelligent Negroes," the Messrs. Chambers either give utterance, or the sanction of their names, to this sentiment — "Such men as Jenkins and Carey at once close the mouths of those who, from ignorance or something worse, allege an absolute difference, or specific character, between the two races, and justify the consignment of the black to a fate which only proves the lingering barbarism of the white."
Yes, we are all stones from one quarry, dark of hue and rugged of form as some may be, while others are white and beautifully polished; coloured and shapen in accordance with the will of the "Divine Architect, we shall form eventually one grand and symmetrical whole — a temple that shall redound to the glory of Him who designed and fashioned it. What,
11then; shall the richly sculptured capital of the slender column, or the embossed key-stone of the stately arch, despise the dark and rugged mass which helps to form the basement? nay, not so; for it performs an important work in the economy of the whole structure, and might by labour and skill have been rendered worthy a place in its more ornamental parts. But dropping the metaphor, truly may we say to the Negro —
From the full tide that warmed one mother's heart, Thy veins and ours received the genial flow."
It is plain, from the accounts which travellers give us, that the great varieties, or races, into which ethnologists have divided the human family, are not by any means so distinctly marked as they would have us believe. The main distinctions of these races are their geographical boundaries, for they melt, and, as it were, run into each other in almost imperceptible gradations: and but for the mountains, and seas, and rivers, which divide them, there would be really no clear lines of demarcation. The woolly hair, protuberent lips, and other physical characteristics, an they are generally considered, of the Negro race, are not found in all of them, and one or other, sometimes several of these characteristics, are found in other tribes. There are Negroes which the most inveterate hater of a black skin could not but acknowledge to be beautiful — perfect models of grace and elegance; and there are white men, aye, men of the great dominant Anglo-saxon race, whose appearance would indicate a very near approach to the lower grade of animals. That the structural anatomy of all races closely approximates, even Dr. Knox admits, for he says — "Strip off the outer garments of Venus, and compare her to a bushwoman, (one of the most degraded of the African tribes,) and the difference would be seen to be very slight." These distinctions of race then, on which so much stress is laid, are not organic, but merely superficial, and therefore, as we must believe, variable according to climate and circumstances.
Wilson Armistead, whose volume contains a vast amount of information on this head, tells us that "Professor Blumenbach, the great German physiologist, bestowed much labour and research on the question of Negro capacity. He collected a large number of skulls, and also a numerous library of the works of persons of African blood or descent, (which
12library it is said would bear out the assertion, that there is not a single department of taste or science, in which some Negro has not distinguished himself.) Blumenbach is perhaps, the greatest authority, in favour of the identity of species, and equality of intellect in the black and white races. It is to him that we are indebted for the most complete body of information on this subject, which he illustrated most successfully by his unrivalled collection of the Craniae of different nations, from all parts of the globe.
From the results of the observations of Blumenbach, and others, it appears then, that there is no characteristic whatever in the organization of the skull or brain of the Negro which affords a presumption of inferior endowment, either of the intellectual or moral faculties. If it be asserted that the African nations are inferior to the rest of mankind, from historical facts, because they may be thought not to have contributed their share to the advancement of human arts and sciences, the Mandingoes may be instanced as a people evidently susceptible of high mental culture and civilization. They have not, indeed, contributed much towards the advancement of human arts and sciences, but they have evinced themselves willing and able to profit by these advantages, when introduced among them." And what more could the so-called superior races have done? They have availed themselves of the means and opportunities of improvement offered to them, and become elevated above the dark region of ignorance and superstition, in which the poor Negro yet lies groveling; let them lend him a helping hand, and lift him up to the same height of civilization and knowledge as that on which they now stand, and which he is as capable of occupying and enjoying as themselves.
Who can tell what a bright and glorious future may yet be in store for this now degraded and persecuted race; how high a position they may yet attain in the scale of humanity. In the revolutions of past ages, what nations and races have arisen from a state of barbarism, grown great and flourished for awhile, and then declined; and it may be that we ourselves have reached, and passed, our culminating point of power and earthly glory; and that when we are far down the descent which leads to extinction, or subjugation, the dark-skinned dwellers in that far western continent, may be great, and powerful, and famous; lifting aloft the lamp of Christianity — "That light which lighteneth every one that cometh into the world;" cherishing the arts and sciences which can no longer find a place in our deserted
13schools and halls of learning; and, enriched by that commerce which once crowded our ports with shipping, and filled our marts to overflowing. Who can say what God in His inscrutable wisdom, hath in store for this Negro race. We can scarcely imagine that beneath the depth in which they now lie bound, hand and foot, there is a lower deep still for them; the light of knowledge and civilization, and above all, of Christianity, must reach their benighted souls; with knowledge will come power, with power freedom; it is, it must be so ordained. Let us then be fellow-workers with God, whose image we recognize in this black brother of ours, crying out for help amid the embers of his burning kraal, in the desolate karoo, across which he journeys, faint and bleeding; on the wide waters of the intermediate passage, nearly stifled in the hold of the pestiferous slave ship; and in that boasted land of liberty, where the true dignity of man is so much talked about, but so little understood, and where independence would appear to mean a total disregard of all the claims and rights of human brotherhood! Listen, oh, listen, with pity and sympathy, to
For me and for mine;
I hear the glad tidings.
I see the light skin;
But it shineth afar yet,
The hill-tops are bright,
While the vale where the slave lies
Is gloomy as night;
And the voice of deliverance
Sounds faint, when the cries
And the groans of the scourged,
And the fettered arise.
The tyrants are strong,
Ye have giants to cope with —
Oppression and Wrong:
Be brave, my white brothers!
Your work is of love;
All good men pray for you,
And God is above;
And the poor slave he crieth
Unto ye for aid
Oh, be not discouraged!
Oh, be not afraid!
The rice-swamp, the mill,
The cane-field, the workshop,
The cry cometh still; —
Oh! save us, and shield us,
We groan, and we faint;
No words can our sorrows,
Our miseries paint;
Our souls are our masters'.
They sport with our lives,
They torture and scourge us
With whips, and with gyves.
On every hand;
We bear on our persons,
The marks of the brand;
We're fed, and we're cared for,
Like horses and hogs,
We're cut, and we're shot at,
And hunted with dogs;
Like goods we are bartered,
And given, and sold;
And the rights of our race
There are none to uphold; —
In freedom's great cause;
Save ye, loud proclaimers
Of God's righteous laws,
Who call us your brothers,
Though black be our skin,
And own we have hearts
Those dark bosoms within
Like feelings, emotions,
And passions, with these
Who spurn us, and scorn us,
And scoff at our woes.
The good coming time,
When the hue of the skin
Shall no more be a crime;
When a man, though a Negro,
May fearless give birth
To his thoughts, and his hopes,
With the proudest on earth;
When no master shall own him,
Nor tear him apart,
From the wife of his bosom,
The child of his heart.
I'm sure 'twill be here,
For the voice of a prophet
Hath sung in mine ear —
"Make ready the way
For the advent of Him,
In whose presence the splendours
Of earth shall grow dim;
All pride shall be humbled,
Oppression shall cease,
And men, like true brethren,
Shall sojourn in peace."
Of light — shall those eyes
Behold the bright sun
In its glory arise?
Shall these hands grasp the freedom
For which I and mine,
In the depths of our misery,
Languish and pine?
Life waneth apace —
I am feeble and cold —
Oh hasten to snatch me
From slavery's hold!
We have hope that the question will arise in the minds of some of our readers — What can I do in this matter? how can I forward the work of Negro emancipation? To such we say, watch and seek for opportunities of rendering your aid, and they will certainly come; until they do, let the following forcible words of that gifted woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, be ever before you: — "There is one thing that every individual can do — they can see to it that they feel right. An atmosphere of sympathetic influence encircles every human being, and the man or woman who feels strongly, healthily, and justly, on the great interests of humanity, is a constant benefactor to the human race. See, then, to your sympathies on this matter! Are they in harmony with the sympathies of Christ? or are they swayed and perverted by the sophistries of worldly policy? Let, too, the good sentiments embodied in these lines by Pollok, be borne in memory as a stimulant for your sympathy and exertion: —
Of right inherited, or else acquired,
Of loss or profit, or what plea you name
To buy and sell, to barter, whip, and hold
In chains, a being of celestial make,
Of kindred bone, of kindred faculties,
Of kindred feelings, passions, thoughts, desires;
Born free, born heir of an immortal hope!"
Chapter II. Biographical Sketches. Toussaint L'Overture.
We need look no farther for a contradiction of the alleged inferiority of the Negro race, than the subject of this sketch. Here was a man — a true "image of God cut in ebony" — black, and all black; with no drop of other than African blood flowing in his veins; but one generation removed from the wild and savage state of an unreclaimed son of the forest and the desert; a man, too, who passed the first fifty years of his life in a state of slavery, which, although of a mild form, admitted of but few means and opportunities of mental improvement; and yet, by the mere force of the moral and intellectual powers within him, he achieved a greatness, little, if at all inferior to that of any white-skinned warrior or legislator of his own, or any other age of the world's history. If we were among those who would set up the military hero as the highest type of human excellence, we should probably find sufficient in the career of this Toussaint L'Overture to justify our largest meed of praise and admiration; he might indeed well be called the "Napoleon of the Blacks," only that his patriotism was purer, his aims more noble and unselfish, his heart far less hard and cruel, and his mind too benevolent and solicitous for the good of his fellow-men, to allow of the full and appropriate application of such a title. Did we admit that the magnanimous ruler, the framer and administrator of just and wholesome laws, the calmer of unruly passions, the reconciler of conflicting interests, and the reducer of chaotic elements into harmonious and symmetrical order, were entitled to the highest pinnacle of earthly glory and greatness, then might we also claim for this erewhile chief of a black-skinned community a lofty place in the estimation of the world. But it is neither as the warrior nor to the legislator, great as he undoubtedly was in both these capacities, that we look upon Toussaint L'Overture with the greatest admiration. Rather do we prefer to view him in his social and domestic relations — as the attached and devoted servant, the tender and affectionate husband and father, the faithful friend, the strict observer of his promises and engagements, "the Man who never told a lie," and scorned to act meanly or
16disingenuously even to an enemy. These are the traits in his character, we say, which it best pleases us to contemplate, although they are not those, perhaps, which have contributed most to exalt him in the eyes of the world at large — which have, by the blaze of his achievements, and the loud blast of his renown, been attracted to that beautiful island of St. Domingo, or Hayti, (the land of mountains,) as it was originally, and is now again usually called — that island which has furnished us with so striking an example of Negro capacity, both mental and physical, and shown that the black man is not a whit inferior to his fair-skinned brother, either in the qualities which win for him the esteem and affection of all true hearts, or in those which are generally allowed to constitute real greatness of character.
Let us take a brief survey of the career of this extraordinary man, and see if we can find it that which will establish his right to the lofty position in which, by almost common consent, he has been placed; he having been, as the "Biographie Universelle" states, the model upon which, as Dictator and General, Napoleon formed himself. "We shall take up our hero's history at the very earliest period of which a record can be found, in order to show how little he was removed from the barbarous and savage state in which the African tribes unhappily exist. Gaou Guinou, king of one of the most powerful of these tribes, had a second son, who was taken prisoner in war by a hostile people, and sold, as is customary in these cases, to some white traffickers in human merchandise. These civilized (?) and Christian (?) merchants having a cargo of sable brothers and sisters to dispose of, brought them to the shores of St. Domingo, into which island a large annual importation of slaves was then taking place. The African prince was purchased by the Count de Noe, a French proprietor of an extensive plantation situated a few miles inland from Cape Francois. Here the royal slave was kindly treated, and seems altogether to have led as happy a life as one in a state of bondage could well do; he married a maiden of his own colour and country — a fellow-slave on the same plantation — and by her had eight children, of whom Toussaint, born May 17th., 1743, was the eldest. To the parent, as nothing very remarkable is recorded of him, we need make no further allusion; it is to the illustrious son that our attention must now be directed.
Here, in this "Queen of the Anitilles," as Hayti has been poetically called, beneath the balmy sky and amid the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics, the Negro boy seems to
17have grown up to manhood without experiencing any of those hardships, and privations, and sufferings, to which the slave is most commonly exposed. It appears to have been a point of honour with most of the French proprietors of this island, to treat their Negroes with kindness and consideration, and hence they were held in more regard and affection than the haughty Spaniards, who occupied, by a more ancient tenure of possession, the larger portion of the island, and looked upon these colonists from France with aversion and distrust. Bayon de Libertas, the agent or manager for Toussaint's master, who is called in some histories the Count de Breda, was no exception to this rule, and verily he had his reward; for, although in the sanguinary war of races or colours which by and by deluged the beautiful island, his property was destroyed, yet was his person and family protected, and conveyed beyond the reach of danger, and the means furnished him, out of the wreck of the property, to establish and maintain himself in a land of peace and safety, and it was by Negro hands, obeying the promptings of a warm, generous, and grateful heart, that this was effected.
The weakly lad Toussaint, whose back had not been made to bow beneath the burden, nor lacerated with stripes; whose little strength had not been tasked beyond what it would bear; but who had been allowed to lie about in the sunshine, taking care of the cattle, and performing such light duties as best suited him, had grown up then into a strong and energetic man. Always thoughtful and serious beyond his years, he had early attracted the attention of M. do Libertas, who, as some authorities say, had him taught to read and write; but this is unlikely; for, with all their affability and kindness to their slaves, these French masters still looked upon them as an inferior order of beings, on whom it would be useless, if not dangerous, to bestow mental instruction. The most probable account is that the young Toussaint gained such slight elementary knowledge as he possessed from one Pierre Baptiste, a shrewd and intelligent Negro on his master's estate, whose naturally good abilities had been cultivated and improved by some benevolent missionaries. Be this as it may, certain it is that our hero did, during the season of his by no means heavy bondage, snatch a few sprigs from the tree of knowledge; and so rich was the soil of the mind in which he planted them, that when he cast aside his shackles, came forth from his prison-house, and stood before the world as the champion and director of his lately enslaved, but now free brethren, all were
18astonished at the abundance and maturity of the fruits there displayed.
The thoughtful and intelligent, though somewhat weakly Negro youth, had, we say, grown up into a sturdy man. Sober, honest, industrious, and religiously disposed, it was soon seen that he was one in whom dependence might be placed; he was first advanced to the office of coachman to M. de Libertas, whose entire confidence he enjoyed; he was then appointed to the responsible post of foreman of the sugar works, and he now thought it well to choose for himself a wife, in which choice he manifested his sense by preferring to mere personal attractions, the qualities which distinguish a good housewife and a faithful bosom friend. Here is a beautiful picture which he once gave of conjugal happiness and of simple earnest piety: — "We went to labour in our fields with hand clasped in hand; we returned in the same manner; scarcely did we feel the fatigues of the day. Heaven bestowed a blessing on our toil; not only we swam in abundance, but we had the pleasure of giving provisions to Blacks who were in want. On the Sunday, and on holidays, my wife, my relatives, and myself went to church. Returning to our cottage, after an agreeable repast, we spent the rest of the day in family intercourse, and we terminated it by a prayer, in which we all joined."
Surely, amid the toils of state and harassing cares of his after life, even in his hours of greatest triumph, — his scenes of short-lived power and prosperity, this good man must have looked back on such a picture, painted by memory, with a yearning regret, even although he gazed from the broad sunshine of freedom into the dark night of slavery; for that night to him had many beautiful stars, that beamed down in placid loveliness, and shed a mild radiance around his path, such as few behold who dwell there. But it was duty which called him forth; in the first place loyalty to the French King, whom he had never seen, nor was ever likely to see, but whom he had been taught to consider as the rightful claimant of his fealty and allegiance.
Although it be not shined upon,"
19alone possible to keep men in a state of slavery. Loyalty, we say, at first to the King of France, caused Toussaint to assume the upright attitude of a free man, and once in that position, it was not long before the conviction, which his previous reading had frequently suggested, flashed upon his mind, that freedom was as much the right of himself and those of his own colour, as it was of those fair-skinned declaimers about liberty and equality, who, in selling forth their famous declaration, that "All men are born and continue free and equal as to their rights," did not probably consider that the Negroes who were held in bondage in the various French colonies, were entitled to the benefit of its application "All men" did not include them, because they were not men, being by nature placed below the lowest in the scale of humanity. Not so, however, thought the Negroes themselves; and when this declaration of the assembled representatives of the French people, uttered amid the bloody throes of a struggle for freedom such as the world never saw before, was proclaimed in St. Domingo. Toussaint felt that it was a grand truth, such as the human mind conceives and utters only when stirred to its most profound depths by those feelings and emotions which approach the nearest to inspiration; and he felt, too, that it was not a truth, but a specious and delusive fallacy, if it did not apply to himself, and his sable brethren, and to every being to whom God had given an immortal soul.
Miss Martineau, in her fine historical romance, "The Hour and the Man," in which the character of Toussaint is no doubt correctly drawn, gives this revelation of the state of his mind, before the conviction, to which we have alluded, came like a ray of morning, and flashed light into its inmost recesses. This was soon after the breaking out of the Negro insurrection, which, commencing in a plantation contiguous to that belonging to Toussaint's master, had spread like wildfire through the colony, and involved the whole property of the French planters in one wide scene of ruin and devastation, amid which many of the owners and their families perished. In this insurrection Toussaint had refused to join, because he saw nothing great or worthy in the motives which prompted the rising of the slaves. He assisted his kind master to escape, and to save as much of the property as could be borne off and rendered available for future subsistence, and when he had made every possible effort to mitigate the evils attendant on the state of anarchy and lawless violence into which the French settlements in St. Domingo were
20plunged, and found that he could not stay the tide of revolution, he withdrew, with such of the Negroes as chose to accompany him, to the Spanish part of the island, and placed himself and his followers under the command of the Spanish general, who sided with the French royalists, and consequently, as Toussaint then considered, had a claim to his service and assistance.
Alluding to the sons of our hero, who, with all the ardour of youth, were commencing their course of military discipline, Miss Martineau says, "The strong and busy years on which they were entering, had been all spent by him in acquiring one habit of mind, to which his temperament and training alike conduced — a habit of endurance. It was at this time that he acquired the power of reading enough to seek for books; and the books that he had got hold of were Epictetus, and some fragments of Fenelon. With all the force of youth, he had been by turns the stoic and the quietist; and while busied in submitting himself to the pressure of the present, he had turned from the past, and scarcely dreamed of the future. If his imagination glanced back to the court of the royal grandfather, held under the palm shades, or pursuing the lion-hunt among the jungles of Africa, he had hastily withdrawn his mind's eye from scenes which might create impatience of his lot; and if he ever wondered whether a long succession of ignorant and sensual Blacks were to be driven into the field by the whip every day in St. Domingo, for evermore, he had cut short the speculation as inconsistent with his stoical habit of endurance, and his Christian principle of Trust. It was not till his youth was past that he had learned anything of the revolutions of the world — too late to bring them into his speculations and his hopes. He had read from year to year of the conquests of Alexander and of Caesar; he had studied the wars of France, and drawn the plans of campaigns in the sand before his door till he knew them by heart; but it had not occurred to him that while empire were overthrown in Asia, and Europe was traversed by powers which gave and took its territories, as he saw the Negroes barter their cocoa nuts and plantains on Saturday nights — while such things had happened in another hemisphere, it had not occurred to him that change would ever happen to St. Domingo. He had heard of earthquakes taking place at intervals of hundreds of years, and he knew that the times of the hurricane were not calculable; but, patient and still as was his own existence, he had never thought whether there might not be a convulsion
21of human affections, a whirlwind of human passions, preparing under the grim order of society in the colony. If a master died, his heir succeeded him: if the "force" of any plantation was by any conjuncture of circumstances dispersed or removed, another Negro company was on the shore, ready to re-people the slave-quarter. The mutabilities of human life had seemed to him to be appointed to the Whites — to be their privilege and their discipline; while he doubted not that the eternal command of the Blacks was to bear raid forbear."
But then far across the waters came sounding that glorious declaration of universal liberty, which was to Toussaint like a voice from heaven proclaiming the freedom of his enslaved brethren. He at once saw that his loyalty had mistaken its object, and that in fighting against the republic, he had been but serving the cause of oppression and despotism: hence-forward his course must be different. He resigned the high command which he held under the Spanish general, and was about to retire to the obscurity of private life, there to abide patiently until providence by some unmistakeable sign should call him forth to the work of establishing the full and entire freedom of his race; and for this sign he had not to wait. The greater portion of the Negroes who had acted with him as the allies of the Spaniards, also deserted the royalist cause; others flocked to him from all quarters; and Toussaint was proclaimed by common consent the General-in-chief of these dusky forces — the emancipator of the Blacks. And it soon became evident that a master mind was among them. Neither the Mulattoes, a powerful body in the island, who had refused to recognise the right to liberty of those whose skin was but a few shades darker than their own; nor the Spaniards, who then held possession of about two-thirds of the land, were able to stand against the power of the Negroes, organized and directed by this Toussaint L' Overture, (the man who made an opening every where,) as the French republican general, after he had gladly accepted his alliance, admiringly called him.
Soon, under the firm, judicious, and temperate rule of the Negro chief, the island of St. Domingo began to assume an aspect very different from what it had lately presented. The devastated plantations, which had become overgrown with the rank vegetation, and converted into perfect wildernesses, were again brought under cultivation, on a system which ensured to the cultivators, no longer toiling for the profit alone of exacting masters, a sufficient remuneration for their labour, while it rendered a considerable sum for the purposes of
22government. The White and Mulatto planters were invited to return and take possession of their estates, under certain conditions of allegiance to the ruling powers, and of payment to their free labourers. Outrages were repressed, whether committed by Blacks or Whites, and a feeling of peace and security began to take the place of the universal terror and distrust which had lately prevailed. Wherever his presence was most required, there was the Negro chief, calm, yet energetic; resolute, yet gentle and urbane. Of all plots and conspiracies he seemed to be made aware by some mysterious intuition, and he was in the midst of the plotters, sometimes alone and unarmed, to subdue them by the dignity of his moral courage and mild persuasion; sometimes with an overpowering force, to awe them into submission.
The French commissioner deemed it expedient to make him Governer-general of the island, of which he was in fact King, long ere he had thrown off the yoke of France, and declared his independence of all foreign power. Spain retired from the contest with him, and gave up the possession of that large portion of the island which she had held ever since its first discovery by Columbus. The British, who had for some time maintained a footing there, were also obliged to evacuate their posts, and leave him undisputed master of the fortifications. An anecdote, which exhibits the character of Toussaint in so honourable a light that we cannot refrain from quoting it, is related in reference to this period of his career. General Maitland: who commanded the British forces, before he finally left the island, was desirous that an interview should take place between himself and the Negro chief, and for this purpose did not hesitate to visit his camp, and thus place himself completely in the power of those with whom he had lately been at mortal enmity. Nothing could show more strongly a perfect confidence in Toussaint's integrity; which confidence the event fully justified. The Black general had received from Roume, the French commissioner, a letter urging him to take this opportunity of serving the government at home, by seizing the person of the British officer, who, while on the way to the camp, had some intimation of this. He proceeded, nevertheless, and having reached Toussaint's quarters, had to wait some considerable time before the Black chief appeared. When he did so, he bore in his hand two letters, which be requested General Maitland to read. One was the treacherous proposal from the commissioner, the other the answer to it, just written, and containing an indignant refusal to act in so base a manner. "I am," he
23said in conclusion, "faithfully devoted to the republic, but will not serve it at the expense of my conscience and my honour."
It was not long after this that he sent his two sons, Isaac and Placide, to France, that they might be there educated under the eye of the Directory, and serve as hostages for his good faith and fidelity; and what a return he met with for his misplaced confidence! Every means were taken to attach these youths to the interests of France, and when Buonaparte, urged, partly by the misrepresentations of the enemies of Toussaint and the Blacks, who had been obliged to leave St. Domingo, and partly, it seems more than probable, by jealousy of a growing greatness that might one day overshadow his own, determined on sending an expedition against the island, these sons of the Negro chief were sent with it, as instruments to be used in any way that might best conduce to the overthrow of their father's power and influence. Twenty-five thousand men, the flower of the French army, were embarked on board this squadron, of more than fifty sail, and the leader of the expedition, Le Clerc, seems to have been fettered by no just feelings, nor honourable scruples, in his dealings and negotiations with the ruling powers of the colony. He had proclamations for the people, full of fine-sounding words which meant nothing, and false representations of the good intentions of the home government towards the colony and the Negroes, for the generals to whom Toussaint had entrusted the defence of the various divisions of the island, some of whom were induced to betray the trust reposed in them, and to join their forces with those of the invaders; and, as a last resource, he had well-trained Cuba blood-hounds, which he did not fail to use when opportunity offered, for hunting down such of the Negroes as could neither be threatened nor cajoled into a desertion of the cause of freedom.
The first sight of the formidable French fleet assured Toussaint of the determination of Buonaparte to crush or subdue himself and his adherents, and bitter indeed was the disappointment to his noble heart, to find that one on whom he had looked as the champion of liberty — whose meteor-like career he had watched with intense admiration, and to whom he had repeatedly sent fraternal greetings and proffers of service and devotion — that he, above all others, should put forth his powerful arm to dash to the earth the cup of liberty, of which the long oppressed African had juat begun to taste. This, we say, was a sore blow to Toussaint; yet
24was he neither daunted by it, nor urged, by the menacing aspect of this new danger, into any acts of rashness or cruelty towards the Whites in the island. His strict injunction to his emancipated countrymen had ever been "No retaliation for former wrongs and sufferings," and his severest punishments had fallen upon those of his followers who disregarded this command. He had his own nephew, a promising young officer, shot, for no other fault than a show of lenity towards some Negro rioters, who, in the district under his command, had risen to revenge their old grudges against their cruel masters; and there is no doubt that he greatly weakened his influence with the Black leaders, by his mild and merciful bearing towards the Whites and Mulattoes. And this was the man whom Le Clerc, after he had in vain endeavoured by all the arts of diplomacy to deceive or intimidate, proclaimed an outlaw; obliging him to take refuge, with his family, among the mountain-fastnesses of the island, where, surrounded by devoted friends and followers, he might have set at defiance the whole power of the French army, until the climate, which was making fearful ravages among them, had wrought for him the work of deliverance.
After the war had been carried on for some time with great loss to the French, a truce was proffered by Le Clerc, which Toussaint, grieved to the heart at the miseries and ravage of war, gladly accepted. This led to a pretended treaty, by which the Negro chief was assured of the continuance of his governorship of the island, and the retention of their respective ranks to all the officers of his army. Le Clerc was to act simply as the French deputy, and to take such a share in the regulation of affairs as the former representatives of the mother country had been accustomed to do. L'Overture was to retire for awhile to one of his country seats, and seek that repose which he so much needed. This treaty was the cause of great rejoicing throughout the island; the Blacks and the Whites mingled together amicably; all set about repairing the ravages of war; smiles were on every face, and hope in every heart, except those which harboured treachery, and knew that the treaty was all a delusion. Having thus lulled to sleep the vigilance of Toussaint and his devoted friends, the French set about contriving how they might entrap the mighty African, whom they dared not seize openly, and take him, as the First Consul had commanded, a prisoner to France. Nothing more infamous than this order, and his whole treatment of Toussaint L'Overture, is recorded of Napoleon, dark and bloody as
25are the spots upon the escutcheon of his glory, and his brother-in-law, Le Clerc, was a fit instrument for the carrying out of his nefarious design. With the oath on his lips — "I swear before the Supreme Being to respect the liberty of the people of St. Domingo" — with which he had concluded the treaty, he was plotting in his heart how best to compass the overthrow of the man by whom that liberty had been achieved, and in whom the coloured population of the island, numbering at least nine-tenths of the whole, trusted for its continuance. He instructed General Brunet, one of his officers, to overcharge one of the divisions, or cantonments of the island with troops; this, as was expected, called forth a remonstrance from the inhabitants, and Toussaint was invited from his secure retreat to meet the French general, and arrange the affair in a manner satisfactory to all parties. Generously confiding in the professions of his pretended friends, he came to the spot indicated with the specified number of attendants, and while the conference was in progress, was surrounded by a superior force, led on by an Admiral of France — no doubt "an honourable man" — and he and all the members of his family that could be readily laid hands on, were made prisoners, and hurried on board a ship of war, which instantly set sail, and conveyed him from the shores of that beautiful island on which he had hoped to show to the world how peaceful, how orderly, how great and prosperous, might become a commonwealth of Negroes, properly governed and instructed.
Before we lose sight of St. Domingo altogether, and accompany the unhappy Toussaint to his bleak prison and grave among the Jura Mountains, in the land of everlasting snow, let us put together a few of the most important dates which stand as milestones on the road of his extraordinary career. His birth we have already said occurred in the year 1743, so that at the breaking out of the first insurrection of the Blacks, in August, 1791, he had reached the ripe age of forty-eight years. At the end of 1703, when the British made an attempt to obtain a footing on the island, we find him occupying a leading rank in the Negro forces, and beginning to exercise that influence over his countrymen which he afterwards employed to such good purpose. The Blacks were then, with few exceptions, anti-republican, although they for awhile held aloof from either of the two parties, which here waged almost as fierce a contention, was that which was going on between royalty and republicanism in the mother country. The royalist tendencies
26of the Negroes may perhaps be accounted for by the fact, that the great body of the French planters, against whom they had revolted, were declared democrats.
It may assist us somewhat in forming a right estimate of Toussaint's mental capacity, if we contemplate for a moment the discordant elements which he was presently to reduce to order and subjection. The state of parties — the conflict of interests and opinions — in St. Domingo was most strange and unprecedented. There were the Spaniards, looking upon themselves as, by right of discovery and antiquity of possession, the only true lords of the soil, with their proud chivalrous notions of "the right divine of Kings," and their haughty contempt of the people and institutions of today; these, of course, were royalists to the back-bone. There were the French planters, who sang revolutionary songs, and shouted "Liberty and equality! Down with tyranny!" and all that sort of thing, who yet had been in their time, and would fain be again, the greatest tyrants breathing; who were bitterly incensed against the Blacks for attempting to carry out the doctrines which they preached, and were watching their opportunity to bring them again under the yoke of bondage, and take a terrible vengeance for the losses and indignities which they had suffered in the late revolt, against what they called, and perhaps considered, "God-constituted authority" — this impious seizure of liberty, and presumptious assertion of equality. There were the Mulattoes, a mixed breed of every shade of blackness, both in heart and countenance; denied by the Whites the rights of citizenship, and hating them; the holders of considerable property, and therefore powerful in the island, for evil if not for good. These free men looked down upon the lately enslaved Negroes as something infinitely lower than themselves in the scale of humanity, treated them with contempt, and, when opportunity served, with cruelty; they injured and therefore hated them, and were heartily hated in return. There were the English, who are pretty sure to be found in troubled waters all over the world, adding to the confusion worse confounded by the thunder of their cannon and the rattle of their musquetry; they, of course, were Bourbonites, although they did not side with the Spaniards, who looked on their intrusion with jealousy, nor indeed with any other considerable party on the island, of which they had been urged to take possession by some of the French royalists, who had fled for refuge to Jamaica and other of our Went India dependencies; and so they had come, although with a force miserably deficient,
27to see what sort of a chance they had. And last, though far from least, there were the Negroes, numbering about five hundred thousand, in all the delirium of newly acquired freedom, ignorant and rude, as men must be in a state of slavery, with their hatreds and animosities, the growth of generations of wrong and suffering, liable to be led or provoked into the commission of all sorts of follies and crimes. "It was at this moment," says an authority that we have consulted with much pleasure and advantage,
Early in 1794, intelligence of the decree of the convention, confirming the abolition of Negro slavery throughout the French colonies, reached St. Domingo, and opened the eyes of Toussaint, who was then a lieutenant-general under the Spanish commander, to whom he had rendered signal service; having attacked and taken many strong posts held by the republican forces, and given occasion, by his activity and success, to the memorable saying of the French commissioner Polverel, Cet homme fait overture purtout — That man makes an opening every where — and adopted the name given him by common consent of Toussaint L'Overture. In 1795, occurred an insurrection of Mulattoes at the town of Cape Francois, the head-quarters of the French general Laveaux, who was seized and imprisoned by the insurgents. This afforded the Negro chief an opportunity of proving his devotion to the republic, to which he had but recently sent in his adhesion. He marched at the head of ten thousand Blacks to the city, then held by the Mulattoes, whom he reduced to submission, thus rescuing the French general from his perilous position, and reinstating him in his command of the colony, of which the Negro chief was soon after made Lieutenant-governor by Laveaux, who was not slow to discover and acknowledge his extraordinary capacity, "It is this Black," said he, "this Sparticus predicted by Raynal, who is destined to avenge the wrongs done to his race;" to which saying we may as well here add the admission made by another French general, Lacroix,
28who wrote an account of the Revolution in the island, in terms by no means favourable to the Negroes — "It must be allowed that if St. Domingo still carried the colours of France, it was solely owing to an old Negro, who seemed to bear a commission from heaven to unite its dilacerated members." In 1795, a new commission arrived from the mother country, and Toussaint was loaded with compliments and expressions of obligation for his services; and in 1796, Laveaux being obliged to return to France, the Black general was made Commander-in-chief of the French forces; thus the whole authority of the colony, civil and military, was placed in his hands.
For the next five years we find Toussaint managing, with singular ability and address, the discordant elements submitted to his control. A French biographer states, that "he laid the foundation of a new state with the foresight of a mind that could discover what would decay, and what would endure. St. Domingo rose from its ashes; the right of law and justice was established; those who had been slaves were now citizens. Religion again reared her altars; and on the sites of ruins were built new edifices." Whether the idea of a separation from the mother country was entertained by Toussaint during this period, we cannot say; for one so devoted to the interests of his race, and so well able to guide and govern them, it was very natural to conceive a wish, at least, to found an independent kingdom, where the full power and capacity of the Negro character, in a state of freedom and enlightenment, might be developed. We do not find, however, that he gave expression to such a wish, although he acted with perfect independence towards the French commissioners, and even sent some of them, who interfered mischievously with his government of the island, back to France, but thither also he sent his two eldest sons to be educated, and that did not look as if he entertained any designs of a rapture with the mother country. In 1801, however, rumours reached the colony that Buonaparte, who had never condescended to answer, except by vague messages, the several letters which Toussaint had addressed to him, contemplated the re-establishment of slavery in St. Domingo; and then we have the first hint of an independent government. An assembly of representatives from all parts of the island was convened, and the draft of a constitution carefully drawn up and presented to them, by which the whole executive civil power, and the command of the forces, was to be placed in the hands of a governor-general. Toussaint
29was to hold this office for life, and to nominate the first of his successors, whose term of rule was to be limited to five years. This constitution, which gave to St. Domingo a virtual independence, under the guardianship of France, was proclaimed on the 1st. of May, in the above year.
It was perhaps the news of this movement in the direction of freedom, which, at once determined Napoleon to crush the power which might one day interfere with his ambitious designs. He had just concluded a treaty of peace with England, and having, as he told his minister Forfait, who remonstrated with him on the projected invasion of St. Domingo, sixty thousand troops that he wanted to get rid of, as they would be troublesome to him at home, he fitted out this expedition of ships, on board which there embarked, in addition to the fighting men, his sister Pauline, the wife of Le Clerc, the commander, and a great number of French noblemen and gentlemen, with their ladies, to share the rich spoils which they expected to take, and to revel in the glories and delights of a tropical clime. How many of them found a grave amid the sands and swamps of the island, carried off by the fever and the pestilence which at certain seasons prevail, it is not necessary for us to say. Of the troops, although repeatedly reinforced, but a wretched remna returned to tell the tale of their discomfiture. The treacherous seizure of Toussaint and his family, exasperated the Negroes to a pitch of phrenzy; such of them as had been deceived into a coalition with the French, at once saw their error, and turned against them. There was no longer truce, but war to the knife; unheard of cruelties were perpetrated on both sides; and the struggle terminated in the total defeat of the French, and the proclamation of the independence of St. Domingo, or Hayti, the original name of the island.
And what became of Toussaint L'Overture, whom we left heavily ironed, and confined in a cabin, apart from his family, on board the French man-of-war? When he arrived in the harbour of Brest, a few moments only were allowed him to say farewell for ever to his wife and children. According to some accounts he was first taken to Paris, and confined in the prison of the Temple, and there meanly persecuted by inquiries about much treasure, which it was supposed he had buried in St. Domingo. Finding that he would not, or, as it really appears, could not, make any revelations on this head, Napoleon had him conveyed with great secrecy to a solitary fortress in the Jura Mountains, where, after
30an imprisonment of ten months, in a miserable dungeon, whose stone walls and roof were glassy and beaded with moisture, the strong constitution of this child of the tropics yielded to the wasting influences of cold, hunger, and confinement; and he died, as surely, and more cruelly murdered, than if he had been shot, or hanged, like the vilest criminal.
In the "Quarterly Review," No. 42., will be found an able and elaborate article on "The Past and Present Condition of Hayti," in which full justice is done to the character of Toussaint, as well as to that of Henri Christophe and others associated with him in the work of delivering his race from bondage. This Christophe himself afforded a remarkable instance of Negro capacity, as did Dessalines, who shared with him for awhile the government of Hayti; but the good qualities of the latter were obscured by his sanguinary disposition, and intense hatred of the Whites. Of Toussaint's family nothing more is known than that they remained in France; his younger son died of decline soon after his father, and his wife in 1816; the second son, Isaac, wrote a brief memoir of Toussaint, which appeared in 1825.
A fine sonnet, penned by Wordsworth about the time of Toussaint's disappearance, will serve to show how his lot was regarded by the thoughtful and generous spirit of the period: —
Whether the whistling rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den: —
O miserable chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee — air, earth, and skies;
There's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee — thou hast great allies,
Thy friends are exuitations, agonies,
And love, and Man's unconquerable mind."
Chapter III. Biographical Sketches. Jan Tzatzoe, Andreas Stoffles, Etc.
The two individuals whose names are here associated, accompanied Dr. Philip, superintendent of the London Missionary Society in South Africa, when, in the spring of 1836, he returned to England to testify, before a committee of the House of Commons, to the injuries inflicted on the Aborigines of the Cape by the Dutch and English settlers. The manner in which these intelligent men conducted themselves, and gave their evidence, which they were several times called on to do, before the committee, convinced all who saw and heard them, that the tribe or nation to which they belonged, however sunk and degraded by ignorance and superstition, wanted only the advantages of instruction, to enable them to bear a comparison with any people, however powerful and enlightened.
From an article in the "Christian Keepsake," we learn that Jan Tzatzoe was born in the year 1791, being the son of a powerful chief, who held sway over a tribe of Amakosa Kaffirs, whose territories bordered closely on those formerly occupied by the Hottentots. The elder Tzatzoe was nearly related to Habaki, the grandfather of Gaika, and consequently belonged to one of the most ancient of the reigning families of the country; he appears to have been held in high estimation by the other chiefs for his wisdom and integrity, and to have preserved, in a remarkable manner, peace and good order among his people, with whom he left the possessions of his forefathers, and settled in a portion of the country called the Zuirveld, principally occupied by the Dutch. Here he was residing when the London Missionary Society established an institution for the spiritual instruction of the natives at Bethelsdorp, and into this the young Tzatzoe entered as a student.
Wild and untutored as he was — a perfect child of the wilderness — he yet evinced so much mildness and docility of disposition, was so patient of the restraints imposed upon him, so attentive and tractable, that he soon won the affection and regard of those entrusted with his education, and filled them with high hopes of his future usefulness, which his after career did not disappoint.
32The venerable Dr. Vanderkemp, a true friend to the Aborigines, who, in conjunction with the Rev. James Read, conducted the affairs of the Missionary station, loved and treated the African youth as his own child, and laboured earnestly and successfully to instill into his mind those principles of truth and justice, which are in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel. At Bethelsdorp, Tzatzoe acquired a knowledge of the Dutch language, and other branches of learning, calculated to fit him for governing and instructing his own countrymen, and for intercourse with the colonists. At the age of twenty-four it is believed that he experienced that entire and decided change of mind and spirit, which is the effect of divine grace, and the mark of true Christianity; and he immediately became possessed with a desire to bear the tidings of salvation to those of his race and nation, who were groveling in the darkness and delusion of heathenism. Hence he eagerly sought to improve his opportunities of mental instruction, and, in order to increase his influence, he turned his attention also to those mechanical arts most likely to prove useful and acceptable to a rude and barbarous people.
Having married a pious female of the Hottentot nation, who had long been connected with the institution at Bethelsdorp, Tzatzoe accompanied that devoted servant of Christ, John Williams, on a mission to the Kaffirs, and remained for awhile engaged in the good work, in the neighbourhood of the residence, or "great place" of his relative Gaika, who was chief of the tribes in the vicinity of the Kat River. With this chief, Lord Charles Somerset, governor of the Cape Colony, when he visited the frontier in 1817, entered into a treaty, on which occasion Tzatzoe acted as interpreter. Soon after the death of Williams, Tzatzoe returned to Bethelsdorp, and was appointed by the people one of the local authorities for hearing complaints, and adjusting the differences which arose between the colonists and the natives. We are told that "his conduct in discharging the duties of this office, which has ever been found of great importance to the harmony and order of the settlement, was distinguished by great shrewdness, and the most scrupulous adherence to integrity and justice."
From 1817 to 1826 Tzatzoe assisted in the establishment of various missionary stations among his countrymen, and the missionaries Williams, Brownlee, Shaw, and others, have borne testimony to his sound judgment, earnest zeal, sincere piety, and extensive usefulness. The last mission which he
33assisted in establishing, was in the territories of his aged father, who had long wished that the light of Christianity might be introduced among his people. At this station, on the Buffalo River, Tzatzoe remained, acting as assistant missionary under John Brownlee; his intimate knowledge of the manners and superstitions of the people, and his practical acquaintance with revealed truth, rendered him a most valuable auxiliary in the work of enlightenment and conversion; he assisted in translating the scriptures into his native tongue; preached the Gospel, prayed, exhorted, advised, and comforted; and not only in spiritual matters did he exert his beneficial influence, but in civil affairs also, both of his own people, then governed by his elder brother, and of the neighbouring tribes, was he frequently consulted, and requested to decide and arbitrate on matters in dispute; and such was the confidence inspired by his known integrity and justice, that his awards were seldom or ever disputed. On one occasion, it is said, that two Kaffirs appeared before him, each claiming a colt which they led to the place, and each affirming in support of his claim, that he had in his possession the dam of the colt. After listening to their conflicting statements, Tzatzoe desired that the mares might, be brought, and turned loose with the disputed property, which directly repaired to one of them, and was recognised in so unmistakable a manner, as to decide the question of ownership at once. This anecdote reminds us of the celebrated judgment of Solomon, and affords, to say the least, a proof that our hero possessed a mind of great shrewdness and intelligence.
On the breaking out of a disastrous war between the Kaffirs and the colonists, Tzatzoe successfully exerted his influence with the people of his tribe to prevent their uniting with other tribes, in an invasion of the colony; and afterwards, when called on to assist the colonial government, he came forth with four hundred followers, and rendered such aid as lay in his power, until the cessation of hostilities, when he returned again to his peaceful home; but only to find it in the occupancy of his white allies, who had taken possession of his house and lands, well stocked and cultivated by the assiduous labour of many years, whose fruits he was thus deprived of, and compelled to commence a new settlement in an uncultivated part of his own hereditary domains.
This, and other flagrant injuries, inflicted on himself and his countrymen, made a deep impression on Tzatzoe's mind, and feeling convinced that the home government could not
34be aware of the maladministration of affairs in the colony, he resolved on visiting the mother country, partly to endeavour to obtain a restitution of his rightful property, and redress for the wrongs of those who had similar causes of complaint with himself; and partly to solicit such assistance, as would enable him to carry out his plans for the moral and physical improvement of the South African tribes.
This design he was enabled to put in execution in the spring of 1836, when a select committee of the British House of Commons was prosecuting an inquiry as to "What measures ought to be adopted with regard to the native inhabitants of countries where British settlements were made, and to the neighbouring tribes, in order to secure to them the due observance of justice, and the protection of their rights, to promote the spread of civilization, and to lead them to the peaceful, voluntary reception of the Christian religion."
One of the answers given by Tzatzoe to the numerous queries of the committee deserves to be recorded here, because it shows what effect the reception of real, living Christianity has upon the mind, with regard to a much disputed question. When asked why, in the war to which we have already alluded, he did not take any part with his countrymen against the colony, he replied, "In the first place I am a Christian, and the scriptures tell us not to fight, or to shed blood; and that is the first reason why I remained quiet."
It would have been certainly better for the consistency of Tzatzoe's Christian character if he had remained in this mind; then would not he, an occasional preacher of the gospel of the Prince of Peace, have appeared before the committee, and the British public, in a military uniform, indicating his rank of Field-cornet in the colonial servile. This was surely a strange anomaly!
However, we can scarcely wonder that, when surrounded by the provocations and incitements of war in his native land, the Kaffir chief prevailed for once over the Christian missionary; it was perhaps impossible for him to keep his people from joining in the war on one side or the other, and therefore he led them to espouse the side which he considered that of order and right. Whether he was justified in the sight of God for taking arms on this occasion, we presume not to say; but we cannot help observing that it does seem at variance with his own acknowledgmement of the plain teaching of the scriptures, which he truly says "Tell us not to fight."
However, let us pass on to observe, that his candid and straight-forward statements so convinced the British Parliament of the truth of his complaints, that restitution to him and his people was ordered to be made. "The Kaffir chief," said the late Edward Baines, Esq., M. P. for Leeds, "had given his evidence with an artlessness and dignity which proved that he was indeed a chief. There was that about his evidence which showed that he had the interest of his nation at heart; that he came here imbued with a truly noble spirit, and the desire of communicating that spirit to others, and of teaching us how we might make the Aborigines of Africa happy, instead of rendering their country desolate. He had told that, by doing justice to the people of Africa, we should induce them to become our customers and friends. In this way the African chief had imparted knowledge to the British senate."
Tzatzoe, while in England, produced a most favourable impression upon all who had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with him. "Truly anxious to benefit his countrymen," as Wilson Armistead observes, "he took back to Africa, not, as has been too often the case, arms and ammunition for annihilating the human race, but implements of husbandry — the axe and the spade, the pruning-hook and the plough — emblems of peace! with a large supply of books, and all the aparatus for schools. He was welcomed with the most cordial affection by the chiefs and people of his nation, who were in a state of intense anxiety about his return; and he was followed by the prayers and benedictions of all good men, who must feel a deep interest in all that tends to the civilization of Africa, and the accomplishment of the promise which declares that ‘Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God!’"
Of Tzatzoe's later career we have met with no distinct record; in 1839 he was seen by Joseph Backhouse, a Missionary of the Society of Friends, who, in his "Narrative of a Visit to the Mauritius and South Africa," mentions meeting him at the chief's own house, when he says, "I was comforted, while sitting a short time with him, in a very perceptible feeling of the love of our Heavenly Father, uniting our hearts in Gospel fellowship."
One of the Missionaries to Kaffirland, to whom he appears to have been well known, tells us that "Tzatzoe possesses considerable talent; his addresses are pointed and powerful, and always command the attention of his hearers. As a preacher, his perfect knowledge of the Kaffir character, and his acquaintance with their customs, give him an advantage
36which few Europeans can attain in preaching to Kaffirs. But the tact which he displays in combating Kaffir prejudices and superstitions is really surprising. I have often listened with delight and astonishment to his discourses, which are so full, so simple, and yet so powerful. The ease, too, with which he can effectually arrest the attention of his countrymen is a matter of admiration. Here is a specimen of the great power of God, in reclaiming a savage, and making him an instrument in reclaiming others."
Thomas Pringle, in his "African Sketches," has furnished a picture of the home of Tzatzoe on the Buffalo River, which our readers will perhaps be glad to look upon. It will be remembered that this was the missionary station which he assisted to establish at the request of his aged father, and where, in conjunction with John Brownlee, he laboured for the conversion of souls in his younger days.
The eagle sailed, or heaved the thunder-cloud,
Poured from its cloven breast a gurgling brook,
Which down the glassy grades its journey took;
Oft bending round to lave, with rambling tide,
The groves of evergreens on either side.
Fast by this stream, where yet its course was young,
And stooping from the heights, the forest flung
A grateful shadow o'er the, narrow dell,
Appeared the missionary's hermit cell.
Woven of wattled boughs, and thatched with leaves,
The wild sweet jasmine clustering to its eaves,
It stood, with its small casement gleaming through
Between two ancient cedars. Round it grew
Clumps of aescias and young orange bowers,
Pomegranate hedges, gay with scarlet flowers;
And pale-stemmed fig-trees, with their fruit yet green,
And apple-blossoms waving light between.
All musical it seemed with humming bees,
And bright-plumed sugar-birds among the trees
Fluttering like living blossoms. In the shade
Of a gray rock, that midst the leafy glade,
Stood like a giant sentinel, we found
The habitant of this fair spot of ground —
A plain tall Scottish man, of thoughtful mien;
Grave, but not gloomy. By his side was seen
An ancient Chief of Amakons race,
With javelin armed, for conflict or for chase;
And, seated at his feet upon the sod,
A Youth was reading from the Word of God,
Of Him who came for sinful men to die,
Of every race and tongue beneath the sky.
Unnoticed, towards them we softly stept;
Our Friend was wrapped in prayer; — the Warrior wept,
Leaning upon his hand; the Youth read on.
And then we hailed the group; the Chieftain's Son,
Training to be his country's Christian guide —
And Brownlee, and old Tzatzoe by his side."
Between the Gamtoos and the Great Fish River, in Southern Africa, is situated a somewhat extensive tract of country, called the Zuirveld; this was originally inhabited by Hottentots of the Genah tribe, but is now chiefly in possession of the Dutch settlers, who have dispossessed the natives, and given the country its present name. Here, in or about the year 1776, was born Andreas Stoffles, of Hottentot parents; here he grew up in all the freedom of a savage life — in all the degradation and ignorance of a heathen state; hunted and fished, and fought with his Dutch and other foes; and scrambled his way through the thorny paths of existence as best he could, with no light to guide him, save that of a naturally sound judgment; no power to sustain him, save the innate energy of an active mind, and a sanguine temperament. He had many perilous adventures, and two or three narrow escapes of his life, and was at last made prisoner by a marauding party of Kaffirs, and carried off into their own territory. And in this event, it appears to us, that we may very clearly trace the finger of Providence, directing a soul chosen for salvation into the way thereof.
We have lately spoken of Bethelsdorp; in the year 1810, there came to that fountain of truth, springing forth in the wilderness of error, a Kaffir chief, for what purpose we know not, but he brought with him, as interpreter, a being arrayed like himself, in a dressed cow-skin, thrown loosely over his shoulders, bearing the round shield and pointed assagai, and having his body smeared with grease and red ochre; altogether as unlikely looking a receptacle for the light of Divine grace as one could well imagine. When he first attended the celebration of God's worship, he thought the people had assembled to receive rations, or presents of beads and buttons, so ignorant was he of all which related to spiritual matters. But there came a light to his benighted soul — a gleam which penetrated into its inmost recesses, and for awhile dazzled and confounded him. He became restless and unhappy. There was a weight upon his mind, and a terror in his heart, for which he knew not how to account. He returned to the Kaffirs, and shared in the dances, and mirth, and idle merriment, and all the excitements of a life of heathen barbarism, hoping by this means to shake off the depression of his spirits, but in vain; a sense of conscious guilt weighed him down. God was too merciful to let his
38soul so escape to perdition, but twined around it, more and more closely, the silken meshes of a Saviour's love; and after two or three years of violent struggling, faith came, and quietly smoothed its ruffled pinions, and healed its bruised limbs, and gave it assurance of safety and everlasting peace. And thus Andreas Stoffles became a true convert to the Christian religion. The wild Hottentot was changed into the gentle, self-denying, peaceable follower of Him, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. "Truly, this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
"Turned from darkness to light, Stoffles," we are told, "believed himself called upon to testify of the grace of God to those around him, manifesting the utmost anxiety for the salvation of his fellow-men. His conversations, addresses, and prayers, deeply impressed all who heard him. Often were whole assemblies of natives and Europeans melted into tears, when he spoke to them of the dying love of the Saviour. This was the subject ever uppermost in his mind, and on dwelling upon it, his flow of language was peculiar to himself. His wife and many of his relatives became converted."
Stoffles appears to have remained awhile at the Bethelsdorp Institution, and as Tzatzoe must have been also there at that time, it is likely that they were fellow-students, drinking together at the fountain of Divine truth, and enjoying the pleasures of Christian fellowship. We are told of Stoffles, that, "Some time after his conversion, a magistrate residing at a distance from Bethelsdorp, applied to the station for a few men to assist in some public works. Stoffles volunteered to go; but no sooner arrived in the locality, than he began to preach to the Hottentots and slaves with great effect. There was much weeping, and it was said that he would drive all the people mad. He was forbidden to preach; but he continued to do so, believing it right to obey God, and he was consequently imprisoned. He now begun preaching to the prisoners, who were numerous, with similar effect; so that the only alternative was to release him, and send him back to Bethelsdorp. He even considered it an honour to have been in bonds for Christ's sake."
This anecdote is very characteristic of the man — ardent, energetic; ever seeking opportunities of proclaiming the great mercy which he had himself experienced, and of drawing others into the fold of salvation. Was there a missionary
39station to be established far out in the wilds, where the foot of a white man had scarcely ever penetrated, he was ready to act as pioneer, not only into the pathless and stony wilderness, but also into the hearts of the benighted savages who dwelt there. He accompanied the Missionaries for Lattakoo, through the country of the wild Bushmen, to their place of destination, and remained with them for three or four years, until they had familiarized themselves with the habits and manners of the people around them, and obtained a hold on their confidence and affection. He travelled with the bringers of good tidings through the towns and villages of the Bechuanas. Campbell, in his second journey to Kurachana and Miles, through Kaffraria, to the country of the Tambookies, had his good company and thoughtful counsel; and Dr. Philips, in his journeyings hither and thither among the native tribes, was often cheered and encouraged, by the hopeful words and earnest prayers of the pious Hottentot, who was as true a patriot, as he was a faithful servant of Christ. Keenly alive to the degraded condition of his countrymen, he lost no opportunity of endeavouring to arouse and enlighten them; and when civil liberty was proclaimed for the scattered Hottentots, and a tract of country in the vicinity of Kat River was offered them by the colonial government, where they might settle, and practice tine arts of peaceful industry, he was the first to go and take possession of "the Hottentot's Land of Canaan," as he loved to call it; and for many years he devoted himself entirely to the welfare and prosperity of the settlement, of the people of which, and the several locations around, he came to be regarded as the leader, the friend, and the adviser in all matters, temporal as well as spiritual. Before any authorized teacher of the Word came to that part of Africa, Stoffles, with the assistance of other pious natives, conducted the Sabbath and week-day services with marked propriety and decorum. He collected large and attentive audiences at his prayer-meetings, and with his fervent addresses, moved many a heart to repentance, and convinced many a mind of the reasonableness, and the delightfulness, and the safety of Christianity. He promoted education, and from him, as from a fountain, flowed forth religious instruction, beautifying and refreshing the arid wilderness around.
Such was Andreas Stoffles — a man of a dark skin and a despised race; what Knox contemptuously describes as "a simple, feeble race of men, living in little groups, almost indeed in families, tending their fat-tailed sheep and dreaming away their
One great object which Stoffles had in view in visiting England, was to obtain a remission of the decree issued by the governor of the colony, by which the Missionaries were denied the privilege of returning to the Hottentot settlements on the Kat River, after the termination of the war with the Kaffirs, which had obliged them to leave the scene of their useful labours. Besides this, he wished, as he said, "to see and become acquainted with the people by whom the Gospel had been sent to their heathen land, and to express his gratitude to them for the inestimable blessing." Armistead says that "Before the Aborigines Committee of the House of Commons he stated the grievances of his afflicted countrymen, and produced a strong impression in favour of their claims and his own. To the friends of missions, in various parts of the kingdom, his animated and eloquent addresses, joined with his fervent, unaffected piety, afforded the highest interest, and the most hallowed delight."
On one occasion of a public meeting in Exeter Hall, London, in addressing a crowded assembly on the effects of the Gospel, he thus spake: — "I wish to tell you what the Bible has done for Africa. When the Bible came amongst us we were naked; we lived in caves and on the tops of the mountains; we had no clothes, but painted our bodies. At first we were surprised to hear the truths of the Bible, which charmed us out of the caves and from the tops of the mountains; made us throw away all our old customs and practices, and live among civilized men. We are civilized now; we know there is a God. I have travelled with the Missionaries in taking the Bible to the Bushmen, and other nations. When the Word of God has been preached, the Bushman has thrown away his bow and arrows. I have accompanied the Bible to the Kaffir nation; and when the Bible spoke, the Kaffir nation threw away its shield and all its vain customs. I went to Lattakoo, and they forsook all their evil works; they threw away their assagais; and became the children of God. The only way to reconcile man to man, is to instruct him in the truths of the Bible. I say, again, where the Bible comes, the minds of men are
41enlightened; where it is not, there is nothing but darkness," What nobler testimony than this to the influence of the Gospel, could be borne by the most gifted and enlightened of men, however fair might be his skin, however perfect, according to our ideas of perfection, his physical conformation?
The death of Stoffles, which occurred in 1837, immediately after his return to Africa, was felt and mourned as a great affliction, not only by his relatives, and those of his own nation, but also by many of the Kaffirs and the colonists, to whom his good qualities and active benevolence had greatly endeared him. He died, quite calm and resigned, before he could reach the Hottentot settlements, expressing some regret that he "had not been spared to go and tell his people what he had seen and heard in England. He would, however, go and tell his story in heaven, although he doubted not that they knew more than he could tell them there."
That hath its course beneficently run.
In Stoffles and Tzatzoe, more properly, we believe, spelled Tshatshu, we have examples of great ability, united with high moral worth; intellectual power was here, if not of the highest order, yet, to say the least, very far removed from the lowest; conscientiousness was here; integrity; love of truth; devotedness to a good cause; and some of the noblest gifts and qualities with which the Creator has endowed the human mind; and yet these, too, were men of the so-called inferior races, the one a Hottentot, the other a Kaffir. Neither of them, it is true, were, strictly speaking, Negroes, that term being more usually, and perhaps correctly, applied to the natives of Central Africa. As, however, even Knox admits that the Kaffirs, or Caffres, "are closely allied to the Negro race, and probably graduate, as it were into them;" and as, moreover, he includes both Kaffirs and Hottentots in his category of the dark, and as he considers, inferior races, we think that we are quite justified in adducing these examples of coloured men with great and good qualities, in refutation of the sweeping charge of positive and unchangeable inferiority of nature. That the Kaffirs are no despicable foes, recent events at the Cape have sufficiently shown.
We hear much of their treachery, cruelty, falsehood, and disregard of all moral ties and obligations, but it should be remembered that they are yet in a state of barbarism, and
42that wrong and oppression are not exactly the best teachers of virtue and morality. Instances, however, might be cited of generosity and magnanimity even among these savages, driven and hunted as they are from the lands of their fathers, and dispossessed of the means of subsistence, and of all which they most love and cherish. Thus we are told that Capt. Strockinstrom, who formed one of a commando or expedition against Meekanna, a Kaffir chief, being taken ill while on the march, and left behind unnoticed, observed a solitary native approaching him armed with a bundle of arrows. The Captain, who was too unwell to retreat or offer any resistance, expected at once to be put to death: great therefore was his surprise to see his foe, when he had approached very near to him, lay down his mantle and arms, and dart off at full speed. In about an hour he returned, and brought with him a Dutch settler mounted, and leading a spare horse. Then resuming his arrows and cow-skin, without waiting for thanks or reward, he disappeared in the jungle. When the peace was concluded, Capt. S. sought to discover his generous preserver, whom he knew to be a Kaffir by unmistakable signs; but no one came forward to claim the reward, which was publicly offered for the service thus nobly rendered in a time of emergency.
Knox says, and he has good authority for his assertion, that it is only since their contest with Europeans, that the Kaffirs have become "treacherous, bloody, and thoroughly savage;" before that period, although rude and barbarous; wanting in all the arts of civilization, they were "mild, and to a certain extent trustworthy." It is humiliating to learn that such an effect should have been produced upon the dark Aboriginal races, by contact with white man — educated men — Christian men! But so it is, and so it ever will be while the sword is used to open a way for the Bible. If the warrior and the missionary go hand in hand, the latter preacheth and teacheth for the most part in vain; some good he will do, but how little good, compared with what he might do, if he went forth relying only upon the promises of God, and the sure word of salvation. Those missions have ever been the most successful which have been planted in the desert and the wilderness, wherein no sword or bayonet has ever flashed, no drop of human blood been spilled; those Missionaries the most beloved, and the most influential for good, who have leaned the least upon the arm of earthly power. —
It is love, and not fear, which must prepare the way for the Gospel of Love. The foaming and impetuous cataract may sweep away all before it, and open a channel through mountain barriers for the fertilizing waters to flow; but it leaves wrecks and ruins, and rugged places, which long fret and retard the progress of these waters of life. But the gentle streamlet glides noiselessly into the arid plain, and freshens and beautifies it without raising a single obstacle to its calm and peaceful progress. We know that God overrules even bad means, and makes them subservient to a good end — here is a proof of his infinite mercy! — but we cannot think that he looks with pleasure upon such violent means, as are too often used to open a way for the introduction of the Gospel to a heathen people.
But we were speaking of the Kaffirs, many of whom, especially of those to whom the knowledge of salvation has been imparted, have exhibited traits of character worthy of our highest admiration. The wife of the devoted Missionary Williams relates, that on the day before her husband's decease, she asked one of the Kaffir converts if he had no wish to see his teacher before his departure from this life, "Yes," he replied, "but I do not like to ask you, because I think it will make your heart sore." On being admitted to the side of the death-bed, he was asked if he prayed, and what he prayed for; his reply was, "I pray the Lord, as he hath brought us a teacher over the great sea, and hath thus long spared him to tell us His Word, that he would be pleased to raise him up again to tell us more of the Great Word," Mrs. Williams then said, "Do you pray for me?" "Yes," he replied. "And what," she again questioned, "do you ask when you pray for me?" "I pray," continued the convert, "that if the Lord should take away your husband from you, he would support and protect you and your little ones in the midst of this wild and barbarous people." In relating this incident afterwards, Mrs. Williams adds, "This was to me a precious sermon, at such a season, from the mouth of a Kaffir."
Among the Christian converts of South Africa, were several who sealed their faith with their blood, and died like true martyrs, glorifying God, and forgiving those who slew them. Of this number were Jacob and Peter Lines; and Joannes Jaager, who left his home on the Karree mountains and came one hundred miles to the nearest Missionary station, to hear the glad tidings of the Gospel, in which he found a healing balm, and a peace which "passeth understanding."
44He and two other zealous converts to Christianity, named Joannes and Jacob Links, were cruelly murdered in the vicinity of Fish River, by the natives whom they had hoped to instruct in the ways of salvation. A striking example of the subduing and humanizing power of the Gospel is afforded in the case of Afrikaner, a Namacqua chief, of whom the Missionary Campbell gives an account: — Previous to his conversion he was a lawless and resolute robber, a terror to his country, so much dreaded that a thousand dollars were offered to any one who could shoot him; afterwards he became an ornament to the profession of Christianity. One of the fiercest spirits that ever trod the burning sands of Africa, grew beneath the influence of redeeming mercy and grace, meek, and humble, and teachable as a little child.
If acuteness of intellect be an indication of great mental capacity, then may the Kaffirs well lay claim to such. In the late wars and negotiations with the colonial authorities, many of them have shewn themselves to be the most subtle casuists that ever argued a point of logic, or twisted a simple fact into all manner of shapes. Mrs. Ward, in her one-sided book called "The Cape and the Kaffirs," gives some amusing instances of this. It as "a great mistake for Sir Harry Smith, when he assumed the governorship of the colony, to play the farce that he did, declaring before the assembled chiefs, with a vast deal of parade and theatrical bluster, that be, the great Inkosi Enkulu — the representative of the Queen of England, and so forth, would teach them who should henceforth be their master; and if they failed to obey his word, he would sweep the disobedient from the land. They knew perfectly well the value of both his threats and promises, and no doubt laughed within themselves at this foolish piece of bombast, although all the while looking very grave and penitent. There was a deal of quiet irony, as well as cautious sagacity, in the reply of one of them to the question of what he thought of the proceedings on that occasion — "The day was stormy, the wind blew strong." The authoress of the above work tells us that "One secret of Sir Harry Smith's success, (query, what, success?) is that he does not suffer the Kaffirs to parley with him. He looks upon them as unworthy to be listened to, and they feel this; they make no attempt to reply. As for reasoning with them, it were but lost time; they are the cleverest logicians in the world, and have always an answer more suitable to their purpose than we could possibly anticipate."
Among the primitive races of Southern Africa, those to whom the Dutch gave the name of Bosjemen, or Bushmen, have generally been considered the lowest in the scale of intelligence. These Knox describes as "smaller in stature than the Hottentots; less civilized, if such a term could possibly be so used or misapplied; living without flocks or herds; employing the bow and poisoned arrow; children of the desert." Yet even from amid these Troglodites — dwellers beneath rocks and in holes in the earth — have come forth bright examples of moral goodness and intellectual capacity, to vindicate their claim to a place among the improveable races of mankind. We may adduce two or three of these examples, as given in Dr. Philip's "African Researches" and quoted in Armistead's volume. After stating his opinion that "the civilization of this degraded people is not only practicable, but might be easily attained;" he says, "In a journey undertaken into the interior of a colony in 1819, we had two Bushmen in our train. One of them had only been a few months in the service of our missionary when he joined us; and we had not in our party any one that was more teachable, faithful, and obliging."
Sir J. Brenton, Bart., in a letter dated November 24th., 1825, gives an account of a Bosjeman boy brought by him to England from the Cape of Good Hope, who "possessed the sweetest disposition and the strongest attachments possible," and who seems to have "attained a most extraordinary degree of knowledge in religion." "His memory," says the narrator, "is wonderful; he brings home every sermon he hears, and comments upon it with extraordinary exactness." Colonel Collins, in his report to government in 1809, speaks of the Bushmen as being most liberally gifted by nature with talents, and expresses his belief that "there is not upon the face of the globe a people possessed of better natural abilities, or more susceptible of mental or moral improvement." Much additional testimony on this head might be produced were it desirable, but we apprehend that the above will be found sufficient for our present purpose. As a fitting conclusion to this chapter, we append the following characteristic sketches by Pringle: —
Tending another's flocks upon the fields,
His father's once, where now the White Man builds
His home, and issues forth his proud commands.
His dark eye flashes not, his listless hands
The Libyan bow — but the oppressor yields
Submissively his freedom and his lands.
Has he no courage! Once he had — but, lo!
Harsh servitude hath worn him to the bone.
No enterprise! Alas! the brand, the blow,
Have bumbled him to dust even hope is gone!
"He's a base-hearted hound — not worth his food"
His master cries — "he has no gratitude!"
Eyeing the farmer's lowing herds afar;
Impatient watching till the Evening Star
Leads forth the Twilight dim, that he may glide
Like panther to the prey. With freeborn pride
He scorns the herdsman, nor regards the scar
Of recent wound, but burnishes for war
His assagai and targe of buffalo-hide.
He is a Robber! True; it is a strife
Between the black-skinned bandit and the white.
A savage! — Yes; though both to aim at life,
Evil for evil fierce he doth requite.
A Heathen! — Teach him then, thy better creed,
Christian! if thou deserv'st that name indeed.
In the lone wilderness, around him lie
His wife and little ones unfearingly —
For they are far away from ‘Christian Men.’
No herds, loud-lowing, call him down the glen,
He fears no foe but famine; and may try
To wear away the hot noon slumberingly;
Then rise to search for roots — and dance again.
But he shall dance no more! His secret lair,
Surrounded, echoes to the thundering gun,
And the wild shriek of anguish and despair!
He dies — yet, ere life's ebbing sands are run.
Leaves to his sons a curse, should they be friends
With the proud ‘Christian Men’ — for they are fiends.
Chapter IV. Biographical Sketches. Testimony of the Abbe Gregoire.
A pious and enlightened Frenchman, named Gregoire, well known in the learned societies of his day, having been Bishop of Blois, a member of the Conservative Senate, of the National Institute, the Royal Society of Gottingen, etc., collected an immense mass of information, illustrative of the moral qualities and intellectual capacities of Negroes, which he published in a work entitled "De la Litterature des Negros, ou Recherches sur leur Facultes lntellectuelles, leur Qualites Morales, et leur Littreature." From this valuable and interesting work, of which a translation by Gerrit Smith has been published in America, is derived the information contained in the present chapter: the particulars of the several memoirs are more fully given in Armistead's "Tribute for the Negro," already several times referred to.
This African was the son of the Mahomedan King of Bunda, on the Gambia, who, in 1730, while travelling across the countries of Zagra, with a servant and some cattle, was seized and carried to Jour, and then sold to one Captain Pyke, who brought him to America, and re-sold him to a Maryland planter. With this master, who treated him with unusual kindness, Solliman remained for about a year, when, by a train of extraordinary circumstances, he was enabled to leave America and come to England, where his perfect knowledge of the Arabic tongue having become known to Sir Hans Sloane, he was employed in translating manuscripts, inscriptions on coins, medals, etc. He seems to have acquired English during his short servitude and his passage across the Atlantic, and to have been altogether a man of great mental capacity. Being recommended by Sir Hans to the Duke of Montague, that nobleman was so pleased with the sweetness of his temper and disposition, the dignified case of his manners, and his evident genius and ability, that he introduced him at court, where he was graciously
48received by the royal family and many of the nobility, who bestowed upon him distinguished marks of favour. After remaining in this country for about eighteen mouths. Solliman was very desirous of returning to his native land, to see his father, the King of Bunda, once more.
Many presents and marks of esteem were given to him by Queen Caroline, the Dukes of Northumberland and Montague, and other nobles and ladies of the court, as well as by the African Company, whose agents were ordered to show him great respect, and afford him all facilities for his return to Bunda. He reached his home in safety, and his restoration from the bondage of the white man was thought a wonderful event. "During sixty years," said one of his uncles, embracing him, "thou art the first slave I have ever seen return from America." Many letters were written by Solliman to his friends both in Europe and the American colony, and thus the interest in him was kept alive: at his father's death he became King, and seems to have been much beloved by his subjects. He was remarkable for a most retentive memory. Gregoire states that he knew the Koran by heart, and his assertion is borne out by the fact that, while in England, he wrote in Arabic a copy of this sacred book of the Mahomedans entirely from remembrance. A portrait of this erudite Negro will be found in the "Gentleman's Magazine", vol. xx., date; 1750.
was a native of Guinea, from which country he was brought into Europe when very young. The Princess of Brunswick having become interested in him, took charge of his education. He pursued his studies first at Halle, in Saxony, and afterwards at Wittenberg, at which place he so distintguished himself as to gain a public letter of congratulation from the Rector and Council of the University. Amo appears to have possessed a thorough knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages; he also knew Hebrew, French, Dutch, and German, and was versed in Astronomy. He published several learned dissertations, which obtained the approbation of the heads of the college, the president of which gave him the honourable designation of "vir no hilissime et clarissime;" thus, as Armistead observes, "evincing no belief in the absurd prejudice which exists against the coloured portions of mankind."
Admired, honoured, and respected, Amo might have remained at the court of Berlin, where he occupied the position of counsellor of state; but death having deprived him of his benefactress, the Princess of Brunswick, he fell into a desponding melancholy state, and — what a proof is here of how closely interwoven into the very fibres of the human heart are the ties of relationship and the associations of home! — he, the learned, the polished, the enlightened man, earnestly longed to return to the place of his birth, from which he had been absent thirty years, wild and barbarous as it was, and possessing, one would think, few attractions for a cultivated and studious mind. To Axim, then, on the Gold Coast, he returned, and there, in the year 1753. Amo being then about fifty years of age, he was visited by an intelligent traveller named Gallandat, who alludes to him in the Memoirs of the Academy of Flessingue, of which he was a member. The learned Negro was then living a secluded life; one brother and a sister were with him; another brother was at the time a slave in Surinam. Some time after he appears to have left Axim, and settled at Chama, where we lose all traces of his subsequent history.
was a Mulatto officer of artillery in the Isle of France, of the depot of maps and plans of which inland he was also the authorized guardian. His historian does not inform us where or when he was born, but we learn that he never visited Europe, and therefore could not hare availed himself of those facilities for education, and opportunities of improving his taste, and acquiring a knowledge of men and things, which are there offered to the student; that he was, however, a man exceedingly well versed in most branches of physical science there can be no doubt. In 1786 we learn that he was named a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences, to which learned body he regularly transmitted meteorological observations, and occasionally hydrographical journals. His maps of the Isles of France, founded upon careful astronomical observations, were acknowledged to be the best that had over appeared; they were first published, with other plans, in 1791, by order of the French Minister of Marine; and in 1802 was issued a new edition, corrected from drawings which the author transmitted to Paris. L'Islet
50contributed several papers to the Almanac of the Isle of France, among others a description of that remarkable natural phenomenon, the Pitrebot Mountain, one of the highest in the island.
In the archives of the Academy of Sciences here deposited a collection of L'Islet's manuscript memoirs, the most interesting of which is an account of a voyage which he made to the Bay of St. Luce, an island of Madagascar; to this is attached a good map of the Bay and of the coast. The author enters somewhat fully into the natural resources, exchangeable commodities, etc., of Madagascar, and gives a very curious description of the manners and customs of the people. He points out how much better it would be to encourage the arts of peace, and promote habits of industry among the natives, than to stimulate them to war for the purpose of obtaining slaves. Nor is this the only proof that he was a man of an enlightened mind — something more than a mere savan. He seems to have struggled manfully against the prejudices of colour and caste. He established a scientific society in the Isle of France, which several Whites refused to join because its founder had a skin a few shades darker than their own; "a proof," as the Abbe Gregoire pithily observes, "that they were unworthy of such an honour."
On the borders of the River St. Andre, in Africa; was born James E. J. Capitien, so named by a benevolent individual, to whom he was presented when quite young by a Negro trader. By his kind master Capitien was instructed in the truths of Christianity, baptized, and brought to Holland, where he acquired the Dutch language. At the Hague, where he commenced his studies, a pious and learned lady is said to have first taught him Latin and the elements of the Greek, Hebrew, and Chaldean tongues. From the Hague he went to the University of Leyden, where he devoted himself mainly to theology, intending there to fit himself for a preacher of the Gospel to his heathen countrymen. In 1742, after he had studied four years, and taken his degree, he left the University, and went as a missionary to Elmina, on the Gold Coast, and since that date nothing seems to have been heard of him, excepting a report which reached Europe in 1802 of his having abjured Christianity,
51and returned to the idolatry of his fathers. This, however, wants confirmation: Blumenback, who, in his work on the Varieties of the Human Race, has a portrait of Capitien, could find no authentic information against him, nor, we believe, has any since transpired.
An elegy in Latin on the death of his friend and preceptor, Manger, minister at the Hague, was Capitien's first published work; it exhibits good scholarship and considerable poetic genius. A Latin dissertation on the calling of the Gentiles he produced on his admission to the University of Leydens. In this work, which is entitled "De Vocatione Ethnicorum," he argues logically, forcibly, and, as it has been thought, successfully, to establish, upon the authority, of the Holy Scriptures, the certainty of the promise of the Gospel, and its comprehensiveness as embracing all nations: he recommends, as a means of co-operating with the Almighty, the cultivation of the language of those nations to whom the blessings of Christianity are yet unknown. Among these nations, he says, missionaries should be sent, who, by the mild voice of persuasion, might win their affections, and so dispose them to receive the truths of the Gospel. Verily this is the right sort of teaching, although some would tell us that the bayonet and the musket are the best instructors of the Saviour's testament of love and mercy. In this dissertation too he observes that "The Spaniards and Portugese exercise a mild and gentle treatment of their slaves, establishing no superiority of colour, etc. In other countries planters have prevented their Negroes from being instructed in a religion which proclaims the equality of men, all proceeding from a common stock, and equally entitled to the benefits of a kind Providence, who is no respecter of persons.
This was very unpalatable to the Dutch planters, who somehow afterwards contrived to make Capitien the apologist of a bad system and to prostitute his learning to the purpose of proving that slavery is not incompatible with Christian freedom. His politico-philosophical dissertation in Latin, composed to this end, was translated into Dutch, and went through four editions. It was embellished with a portrait of the author in the garb of a preacher, in which character he delivered several discourses at different towns in Holland: these were collected and published in a quarto volume at Amsterdam in 1742.
Of the life and character of this Negro nothing appears to have been known to Gregoire beyond the fact, that he published in the year 1788, at Baltimore, an essay against the slavery of his race, in which he depicts, in strong colours and with great force of language, the wretchedness of a state of slavery, and the cruelty and injustice of those who keep in bondage the unhappy children of Africa. We give an extract from this remarkable production, and ask if the man who could write thus was likely to be inferior in mental capacity to those whom he addresses with such power and eloquence: — "The European powers ought to unite in abolishing the infernal commerce in slaves; it is they who have covered Africa with desolation. They declaim against the people of Algiers, and they vilify, as barbarous, those who inhabit a corner of that portion of the globe where ferocious Europeans travel to purchase men, and carry them away for the purpose of torture. These are the people who pretend they are Christians, whilst they degrade themselves by acting the part of an executioner." Then applying his remarks more particularly to the Americans, the indignant Negro continues, "Is not your conduct, when compared with your principles, a sacreligious irony? When you dare to talk of civilization and the Gospel, you pronounce your anathema. In you the superiority of power produces nothing but a superiority of brutality and barbarism. Weakness which calls for protection, appears to provoke your inhumanity. Your fine political systems are sullied by the outrages committed against human nature and the Divine Majesty. When America opposed the pretensions of England, she declared that all men have the same rights of freedom and equality. After having manifested her hatred against tyrants, ought she to have abandoned her principles? Whilst we should bless the measures pursued in Pennsylvania in favour of the Negroes, we must execrate those of South Carolina, which even prevent the slaves from learning to read. To whom can these unfortunates then address themselves? The law either neglects or chastises them."
was originally a slave in Philadelphia; his owner was a medical man, who employed him as an assistant in the preparation of his compounds. After passing through other hands, he came into those of Dr. Dove, of New Orleans, of which place he afterwards became one of the most distinguished physicians. He was practising there in 1788, being then about twenty-one years of age. Dr. Rush says, "I conversed with him on medicine and found him very learned. I thought I could give him information concerning the treatment of disease; but I learned more from him than he could expect from me."
Dr. Derham spoke with ease and fluency the English, French, and Spanish languages. The chief particulars concerning him were obtained by Gregoire from an account published in 1789 by the Pennsylvanian Society, which was established to aid and countenance the people of colour. It does not seem quite clear whether Derham was the discoverer of the cure for the bite of a rattlesnake, published by Buchan in his Domestic Medicine, and also by Duplaint; certain it is that one of his colour received his freedom, and an annuity of one hundred pounds, from the general assembly of Carolina for this important discovery.
This was a man for whom education did but little, but who nevertheless evinced great natural talent, and a high sense of the obligations of Christian duty. Like his more learned countryman Othello, he too wrote a work against slavery; and although it was neither so eloquent nor argumentative as the former production of the Negro mind, yet was there much in it to convince the understanding, and awaken the feelings of the heart.
The birth-place of Cugoano — who, unlike most of the other kidnapped Negroes, appears to have retained his native appellation — was Agimaque, on the coast of Fantin, from whence he was dragged, with twenty other children of both sexes, by European robbers, who, with brandished arms, threatened to kill them if they made any resistance. Being taken to Grenada and sold into slavery, our hero was rescued from his degraded condition by Lord Hoth, who
54brought him to England, where, in 1788, we find him in the service of Cosway, painter to the prince of Wales. An Italian author named Piatole having, while residing in London, become acquainted with him, speaks in strong terms of his piety, mildness of character, modesty, integrity, and talents. The Negro was then about forty years of age. His work, "Reflections on the Slave-trade and the Slavery of Negroes," opens with a touching account of the sufferings endured by those who are torn from their native country, and forced to bid an eternal adieu to all that is dear to them. "The spectane," he says, "calculated to move the hearts of monsters does not that of the slave-dealer." He relates how, at Grenada. he saw Negroes lacerated by the whip, because instead of working, they went to church on the Sabbath; and how others had their teeth broken, because they dared to suck the sugar-cane. He endeavours to prove, from the Scriptures, that the stealing, selling, and purchase of men, and their retention in a state of slavery, were crimes of the deepest dye; goes somewhat into the causes of difference of colour in the human species; and asks whether these differences give one race a right to presume inferiority, and to enslave another. He observes that "The Negroes have never crossed the seas to steal white men," and tells the Europeans that, "while complaining of the barbarism of the Negroes, their conduct towards them is horribly barbarous;" and further — listen. Oh ye white teachers of Christianity! to this untaught sable teacher — he says, that to steal men — to rob them of their liberty — is worse than to plunder them of their goods, and that "for national crimes heaven sometimes inflicts national punishments; besides, injustice is, sooner or later, fatal to its author."
Between ancient and modern slavery Cugoano makes a striking comparison, which is worthy of especial attention from those who rest their defence of the system upon the Old Testament Scriptures. "The Hebrews did not steal men to enslave them, nor sell them without their consent, neither did they put a fine upon the head of a fugitive. In Deuteronomy it is expressly said, ‘Thou shalt not deliver up to his master a fugitive slave who has sought in thy house an asylum.’" And passing from the Old to the New Testament, the simple Negro is greatly puzzled how to reconcile the inconsistency of pro-slavery Christians with the command of Christ, to do to others as we would they should do to us.
The subject of this brief memoir was born in the year 1732, in Baltimore county, state of Maryland, of coloured parents, who, although free, were of pure African descent. Their circumstances were very humble, yet they managed to send their boy, when of sufficient age to a school where nothing more than the mere elements of learning were taught, and they left him at their decease a few acres of land, acquired by honest toil. On this small farm, for which, we are told, seven thousand pounds of tobacco, at one time the common currency of the southern English colonies in America, was paid, Banneker, or Bannsky, as the name was then spelled, remained until his death, leading the simple and secluded life of a peasant and a student; cultivating the soil by day, watching the planets by night, and at all hours and seasons closely observing the changed and aspects of nature, and collecting those facts, on a comparison and careful arrangement of which, was founded the wide-spread reputation of "the Negro almanac-maker."
For many years of his unobtrusive existence, Banneker worked on unnoticed, digesting and applying the few simple rules of arithmetic which he had acquired at school, and slowly and laboriously making his way, step by step, into the realms of physical science, unaided by books or any other of those appliances, which render the acquisition of knowledge comparatively easy to the more favoured student. It was only by very stow degrees that he became known in his own neighbourhood as a man of considerable general information, and great readiness in arithmetical calculations, so much so, as to excite the wonder of the illiterate people about him; this wonder of course was vastly increased when, being then about thirty years of age, Banneker, constructed a clock, for which he had no model, such a thing being unknown in the rural district where he lived, which was about ten miles from Baltimore, not then a large and flourishing city, but a straggling assemblage of some twenty or thirty houses. Our mechanician had only the rudest tools to work with, and for his guidance but the recollection of a watch which he had once examined. His work was one of great difficulty; he had many failures; but he persevered, and at length success crowned his efforts: the clock was finished, and kept excellent time; and it did more than this, for it widened the circle of its maker's fame, until it reached the Ellicotts, an intelligent and ingenious
56family, who loved to encourage humble merit. They lent Banneker books, and these opened new worlds to his delighted gaze; they lent him also some astronomical instruments, which he soon learned to apply. And now his studies began to assume a more regular and methodical form; he made calculations of the motions of the heavenly bodies, and after awhile felt so satisfied of their accuracy, as to entertain the idea of completing a set for a whole year, and thus constructing an almanac, and was so encouraged by the success of his first attempt as to carry on the calculations to subsequent years.
"Of the labour and difficulty of such a work," says a recent biographer of Banneker's,
In the first of Banneker's published almanacks, which was calculated for the year 1792, is a long letter to Mr. Jefferson, then President of the United States. It is a composition which evinces considerable literary ability, and it is valuable as giving free and unreserved expression to the feelings of
57the injured Negro on the score of his presumed inferiority to the white man. The writer reminds Mr. Jefferson of that standing reproach of American slavery, the celebrated passage in the Declaration of Independence, which informs the world that "all men are created and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and then goes on to remark (Jefferson, be it remembered, was the author of that noble declaration,) "You were then impressed with proper ideas of the great valuation of liberty, and the free possession of those blessings to which you were entitled by nature; but, Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges which he had conferred upon them, you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression; that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act which you professedly detest in others."
The reply of the President to this plain-spoken letter is so honourable to himself, and to his dark-skinned brothers, that we cannot forbear quoting it entire.
Philadelphia, August 30th., 1791.
Mr. Benjamin Banneker.
Sir, I thank you sincerely for your letter of the 19th. instant. and for the almanac which it contained. Nobody wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colours of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing only to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa and America. I can add with truth that no one wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body and mind to what it ought to be, as fast as the imbecility of their present existence, and other circumstances which cannot be neglected, will admit. I have taken the liberty of sending your almanac to Mons de Condorect, secretary to the Academy of Sciences at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic Society, because I considered it a document to which your whole colour
58had a right, for their justification against the doubts which have been entertained of them.
I am, with great esteem, Sir,
Your most obedient Servant,
Banneker died in 1809, and his almanacks, which were in much request, were continued until 1802; their calculations were so thorough and exact as to have won the approbation of such men as Pitt, Fox, and Wilberforce: one of them was produced in the British House of Commons as an argument in favour of the mental capacity of the coloured people, and of their emancipation.
Much more that is interesting might be told about this Negro mathematician, did our space permit; fuller particulars of his life will be found in the article from which we have already quoted (Leisure Hour,) most of the facts embodied in which are derived, we are told, from a memoir read before the Maryland Historical Society a few years ago, these facts, although not generally known in America, being perfectly well authenticated.
was a native of Jamaica, where he was born in the year 1700; when quite young he gave such manifestation of ability that the Duke of Montague, who was then Governor of the island, determined on trying whether, if placed in the same circumstances of improvement, he would be found equal to one of a fairer skin, the impression being generally adverse to such an opinion. This interesting psychological experiment was successfully carried out; Williams was sent to England, and, after passing through his elementary studies at a private school, entered the University of Cambridge, where his progress in mathematics and other branches of science was highly satisfactory. Having, while in Europe, published a poem which obtained considerable popularity, an attempt was made by certain persons, who were enraged that a Negro should obtain any literary pre-eminence, to show that it was not entirely his own production; in this, however, they were unsuccessful.
When Williams returned to Jamaica, his patron offered to obtain for him a place in the Government Council; this
59he declined, and preferred opening a school under the patronage of the Governor. He appears to have been an accomplished classical and mathematical scholar; it was his custom to present a Latin poem to each successor to the Governorship of the island, and of one of these finished productions of his muse a translation in French is given by the Abbe Gregoire, and one in English by Long, in his History of Jamaica, published in 1774, that is, about four years after the death of Williams, which took place at the ripe age of seventy years. The Negro schoolmaster had prepared to succeed him in his educational duties, a young man of his own race and colour, who unfortunately became deranged: a proof, says the historian Long, that African heads are incapable of following out a course of abstruse study: as if European heads had never become unsettled by such means, even admitting that this was the cause of the derangement of intellect in Williams's pupil. Long was much prejudiced against the Negroes, and he accuses Williams of imitation and servility in his poetical offerings to the Governors, because he compares them to the heroes of antiquity, forgetting that some of our own greatest poets are open to the same reproach. On the publication of the particular "Carmen" addressed to George Haldane, Esq., of which Long gives a versified translation, the Dean of Middleham, alluding to those who would class the Negroes with monkeys, indignantly observed, "I never heard it said that an orang-outang had composed a poem, nor do we find among the defenders nf slavery one-half of the literary merit of Phillis Wheatley and Francis Williams."
It was of this man that Roccho Pirro, author of the "Sicilia Sacra," wrote, "His body was black, but it pleased God to testify by miracles the whiteness of his soul," Several other historians speak of him in the like terms of admiration, and in Palermo, where he died in 1589, his tomb and memory, we are told, are generally revered. Of his life we have no other particulars to record, than that there shone around it the light of an assemblage of eminent virtues; that he was a Negro born of a slave mother; and, in addition to the name above given, was sometimes called Benoit of St. Philadelphia or Santo Fratello, and that he was the son of a slave negress.
sometimes called Annibal, was a Negro of great ability, who became known to the Czar Peter I. during his travels, and was by him raised to the rank of Lieutenant-General and Director of Artillery, and invested with the red riband of the order of St. Alexander Neuski. In 1784 his son, a Mulatto, was in the Russian service as Lieutenant-General of Artillery. St. Perre and La Harpe both say that he had the reputation of great talent, under the orders of Prince Potemkin, minister of war, he established a port and fortress at Cnerson, near the mouth of the Dnieper.
We must here bring the testimony of the learned and pious Frenchman to a conclusion, having yet many witnesses to cite, in support of our assertion of the mental capability of the Negro race. With such facts as these before us, we may well exclaim with Bishop Warburton, "Gracious God! to talk of men as herds of cattle; of property in rational creatures, creatures endowed with all our faculties, possessing all our qualities but that of colour, our brethren both by nature and by grace, shocks all the feelings of humanity, and the dictates of common sense!"
And well too may we repeat, with a quickened sense of their truth and beauty, the noble lines of Milton: —
Above his brethren, to himself assuming
Authority usurpt from God, not given;
He only gave us over beast, fish, fowl,
Dominion absolute; that right we hold
By his donation; but man o'er man
He made not lord, such title to himself
Reserving, human left from human free."
Chapter V. Biographical Sketches. Olaudah Equiano.
This intelligent Negro, who had conferred upon him the name of Gustavus Vasa, published, about 1787, a narrative of his somewhat eventful life, which went through several editions, and exhibited considerable talent in the composition, as well as a large amount of general information in the mind from which it emanated. The dedication of this book to the British Houses of Parliament is so remarkable a document, that we are glad to give our readers an opportunity of perusing it. — "To the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons and Parliament of Great Britain.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
Permit me, with the greatest deference and respect, to lay at your feet the following genuine narrative; the chief design of which is to excite in your august assemblies a sense of compassion for the miseries which the slave-trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen. By the horrors of this trade was I first torn away from all the tender connexions that were naturally dear to my heart; but these, through the mysterious ways of Providence, I ought to regard as infinitely more than compensated by the introduction I have thence obtained to the knowledge of the Christian religion, and of a nation, which, by its liberal sentiments, its humanity, the glorious freedom of its government, and its proficiency in arts and sciences, has exalted the dignity of Human nature. I am sensible I ought to entreat your pardon for addressing to you a work so wholly devoid of literary merit; but, as the production of an unlettered African, who is actuated by the hope of becoming an instrument towards the relief of his suffering countrymen, I trust that such a man, pleading in such a cause, will be acquitted of boldness and presumption. May the God of heaven inspire your hearts with peculiar benevolence in that important day when the question of abolition is to be discussed, when thousands, in consequence of your decision, are to look for happiness or misery.
I am &c.&c.
Who shall say that the prayers of this enlightened and pious Negro, as he really appeared to have been, sent up to the footstool of the God of heaven, had no effect in bringing about the emancipation of his dark-skinned brothers and sisters in the British colonies? What unsuspected influence they may have had in the great work afterwards accomplished by Clarkson, Wilberforce, Granville, Sharpe, George Thompson, and the other noble champions of freedom, who can tell? They went up like incense; they may have fallen like dew, strengthening and refreshing those who bore the heat and the burden of the anti-slavery contest; softening and disporing to pity those whom interest, or prejudice, or other cause, rendered their sturdiest opponents. The prayer of a righteous man, we are told, "availeth much;" and doubtless poor Olaudah, in a strange land, far away from his native palm groves, and all that, as he says, was "naturally dear to his heart," often prayed for those who were in exile like herself, and far worse than himself, in harsh and cruel bondage.
But let us return to the "Narrative," of which the second edition, in two volumes, bearing date 1789, is now before us. It has a goodly list of subscribers, among whom are the Prince of Wales, the Bishop of London, several dukes, earls, and others of the English nobility, showing that this child of Africa was considered worthy of powerful patronage and countenance, and affording some guarantee for the truth of his statements.
In his opening chapter, after some naive remarks upon the motives which are generally attributed to those who write their own memoirs, and the contemptuous way in which the lives of obscure individuals like himself are commonly received, our author goes on to say, "If then the following narrative does not prove sufficiently interesting to engage general attention, let my motive be some excuse for its publication. I am not so foolishly vain as to expect from it either immortality or literary reputation. If it affords any satisfaction to my numerous friends, at whose request it has been written, or in the smallest degree promotes the interests of humanity, the end for which it was undertaken will be fully attained, and every wish of my heart gratified. Let it therefore be remembered, that in wishing to avoid censure, I do not aspire to praise."
An interesting account is then given of Equiano's birthplace, of which we quote the opening paragraph as a good example of the author's simple, yet nervous style of description.
63"That part of Africa known by the name of Guinea, in which the trade for slaves is carried on, extends along the coast above three thousand four hundred miles, from Senegal to Angola, and includes a variety of kingdoms. Of these the most considerable is the kingdom of Benin, both as to extent and wealth, the richness and cultivation of the soil, the power of its king, and the number and warlike disposition of the inhabitants. It is situated nearly under the line, and extends along the Coast about one hundred and seventy miles, but runs back into the interior part of Africa to a distance hitherto, I believe, unexplored by any traveller; and seems only terminated by the empire of Abyssinia, nearly fifteen hundred miles from its first boundaries. In a charming and fruitful vale, called Essaka, in one of the most remote and fertile provinces of this kingdom, I was born in the year 1745."
After dwelling awhile upon the memory of his youthful days, and telling us that he, the youngest of several sons of a man of rank, was an especial favourite with his mother. Equiano thus relates the method of his abdication from home and kindred, which took place when he was eleven years old: — "One day when our people were gone to their work, and only my dear sister (he had but one) and myself were left to watch the house, two men and a woman came, and seizing us both, stopped our mouths that we should not make a noise, ran off with us into the woods, where they tied our hands, and took us to some distance to a small house, where the robbers halted for refreshment, and spent the night. We were then unbound, but were unable to take any food, and being quite overpowered by fatigue and grief, our only relief was some sleep, which allayed our misfortune for a short time. The next morning, after keeping the woods some distance, we came to an opening where we saw some people at work. I began to cry out for their assistance, but my cries had no other effect than to make them tie us faster, and again stop our mouths, and they put us into a sack until we got out of sight of these people. When they offered us food we could not eat, often bathing each other in tears. Our only respite was sleep — but alas! even the privilege of weeping together was soon denied us. The next day proved a day of greater sorrow than I had yet experienced, for my sister and I were torn asunder while clasping in each other's arms; it was in vain that we besought them not to part us; she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state
64of distraction not to be described. I wept and groaned continually, and for several days did not eat anything but what they forced into my mouth."
The poor captive travels a great way, and suffers many hardships, before he and his sister are again brought together; they do however meet, and enjoy the luxury of weeping in each other's arms, but after a brief period they are again separated, and this time for ever.
Footsore and weary, and with a despairing heart, the African youth is forced to travel onward to the coast, leaving farther and farther behind him at every step his childhood's home, and relatives, and friends; he passes into many strange hands, makes a fruitless attempt to escape, and after six or seven months journeying through dreary wastes, and dismal woods, arrives at the sea-shore, where, he says, "The first object that met my sight was a slave-ship riding at anchor, waiting for her cargo! I was filled with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror, which I am quite at a loss to describe.
When I was taken on board, being roughly handled and closely examined by these men, whose complexion and language differed so much from any I had seen or heard before, I apprehended I had got into a world of bad spirits. When I looked around the ship too, and saw the multitude of black people of all descriptions chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted my fate; and being quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I recovered a little, the horrible faces of the white men frightened me again exceedingly. But I had not time to think much about it, before I was, with many of my poor country people, put under deck in a loathsome and horrible place. In this situation we wished for death, and sometimes refused to eat; and for this we were beaten. Such were now my horrors and fears, that if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all, to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country."
The horrors of "the middle passage" have been so often described, that we need not sicken and disgust our readers with the account here given of them; suffice it that Equiano, and such of his fellow-captives as survive their sufferings and privations, are landed at Barbadoes, and in the slave-market of that island, sold like cattle, singly or in lots, as best suited the convenience of purchasers. "In this manner,"
65says the narrator, "without scruple are relations and friends separated, most of them never to see each other again. I remember in the vessel in which I was brought over, there ware several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see and hear their cries at parting. O ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice? Are the dearest friends and relations, how rendered more dear by their separation from their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery with the small comfort of being together, and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery."
The trafficker in human flesh and blood, muscle and sinew, would doubtless tell our black philanthropist that this rending asunder of the ties of kindred and affection has its profits and advantages, or it would not be done; and no doubt Equiano himself, when he got into Virginia, where it was his lot soon after to be carried, saw enough of the working of the slavery system to convince him of this, although the then English colony did but a very small amount of business in black cattle, compared with what is done at the present time by the free, enlightened, and independent state.
In America our hero remains but a short time before he is shipped to England as a present, like a monkey or raccoon, or any other curious animal might be. On his passage to this country, the name of the renowned warrior of Sweden, Gustavus Vasa, is given to him by the ship's crew, probably out of derision, and this, which was at first but a nick-name, he retained through life. He also at this time received some elementary instruction from a youth, five or six years older than himself, who took a liking to him, and did him many good turns. Speaking of the death of this kind friend, which happened at an early age, Equiano says, "I lost at once a kind interpreter, an agreeable companion, and a faithful friend, who, at the age of fifteen, discovered a mind superior to prejudice, and who was not ashamed to notice,
66to associate with, and to be the friend and instructor of me, who was ignorant, a stranger of a different complexion, and a slave."
Equiano's master being an officer in the British navy, much of the Negro's time is spent on board different ships of war, not at any time the best school of morality, and at that time; namely, from 1757 to 1761, certainly a much worse school than it is now; nevertheless, during that period some religious impressions seem to have reached our hero's mind; he became, nominally at least, a member of the Christian church, receiving the rite of baptism, and conforming in some degree to its requirements; nor does this seem to have been altogether outward profession merely. We gather from his narrative that even thus early in life, he felt the quickening of those seeds of piety, which were afterwards to produce fruit, and decidedly influence his character for good; and here we may observe that the Negro mind seems to be peculiarly susceptible of religions impressions, and that much may be hoped and looked for from planting of the Christianity in a soil so favourable to its growth and development.
Naturally the Negro is gentle, teachable, and mild; humble and simple as a very child; with no pride of intellect to stand in the way of his belief in a dying Saviour's love, or a glorified Redeemer's power. The faith which hopeth all things, believeth all things, loveth all things, he embraces readily, because it best accords with his warm overflowing sympathies, and his unsuspecting, kindly nature. To him the moral code of the New Testament does not appear like an abstract theory, incapable of application to the affairs of everyday life, nor its sublimer revelations of divine truth as something too mysterious and incomprehensible for human credence. Whether with greater cultivation of his intellectual powers will come the hardness of heart, and the skepticism of mind, which so fatally impede the growth in grace of what are generally considered the more favoured races of mankind, has yet to be seen; at present he is very low in the valley of humiliation, the most favourable position, as Rowland Hill tells us, for observing the height of the hill of God's goodness. We, however, have better hopes for him, and are inclined to think that the greatest supporters and exemplars of Christianity among men, will be found among the now abused and despised Negroes.
As militating somewhat against our theory, we shall be reminded perhaps of the fetish and the slave-hunt, of the horrible superstitions, and the barbarous wars of the native
67Africans; of the duplicity, the dishonesty, the often-times fierce revengeful spirits, and sullen morose tempers, of the enslaved portions of the race. In reply to the first part of the objection, we would observe, that among all uncivilized people rites and customs prevail, which are abhorent to the better instructed Christian; and with regard to the latter we would ask, what can be expected to result from a system which so degrades and brutifies a class of men, repressing everything that is noble and generous in them, and encouraging the growth of all that is vicious and mischievous in their merely animal nature. If there had not been in the Negro character, a large admixture of the gentler elements of patience, and endurance, and love, and submission, we should have seen long ere this a servile war of a most disasterous and bloody character, or a series of isolated struggles, burnings, and assassinations, only equalled in number, and atrocity to the cruelties practised upon the unhappy slaves by their unscrupulous white masters, and only ended with the destruction of the slavery system.
We must now give a brief summary of the other leading events of Equiano's life. At the conclusion of the war, when he had got tired, or no longer required the services of his Negro attendant, the British officer, doubtless "an honourable man" in the estimation of the world, had the poor youth, to whom he had promised his freedom, conveyed on board one of a fleet of Indiamen then waiting for convoy, with instructions to the captain to sell him in the West Indies, whither the fleet was bound. On arrival at Montserrat these instructions were complied with, notwithstanding the prayers and remonstrances of the Negro, and he became the property of one Mr. King, a charitable and humane merchant, whose settled residence was in Philadelphia. Equiano here gives some revelations of the dreadful treatment of the slaves in the West Indies, a perusal of the record of which should make every Englishman blush for shame, and teach him to be charitable and forbearing in his strictures upon those who are still entangled in the meshes of that frightful system of wrong and oppression, which we have happily shaken off as a thing too hideous to be longer borne or tolerated. We see that not only the slaves, but the masters also, become embruted under its influence, and we scarcely wonder at any atrocities which men may commit, who are placed within that sphere of temptation and moral contamination, which is involved in the legalized existence of slavery.
In the service of Mr. King, Equiano spends several years, mostly in one or other of the trading vessels, of which his master is owner, passing backwards and forwards between the West India Islands and America; he meets with many strange adventures, which are related in such a simple, artless style, that the reader is impressed at once with a conviction of their truthfulness. Both the merchant and the captain, with whom he sails, are unusually kind to the Negro, who proves himself a useful and faithful servant; he is allowed to trade a little on his own account, and eventually realizes sufficient to repay his owner the sum which he originally cost, that is £40, and thus procures his freedom; his value was at this time much greater, but in consideration of his faithful services, and out of regard for a pledge which he had formerly given to that effect, Mr. King, more conscientious than the British officer, signs his paper of manumission; and so poor Olaudah is a free man. We should like to describe in his own words the joy, the ecstacy, with which he is filled at the almost unhoped-for result of his toils and sufferings. His heart overflows with gratitude to God and his kind master, to whom he continues for awhile to devote his best energies, although he earnestly longs to return to England, and acquaint those who had formerly befriended him, with his good fortune. The trading vessel in which he now sails is wrecked on one of the Keys of the Bahamas, and our hero has there and elsewhere several narrow escapes of his life; after which he returns to Montserrat, bids adieu to his good friend and ever kind master, and finally sailed for England, fully convinced that the West Indies was no safer place for a black man, although nominally free, to reside in; there, as now in the southern states of America, the laws afforded little or no protection to the Negro, who might be abused and misused in every way, without the possibility of obtaining redress; his evidence was not taken in a court of justice; and consequently his property, and even his life was at the mercy of every scoundrel with a white skin, who chose to appropriate the one, or threaten the other. Well then might Equiano rejoice to turn his back upon such a region of wrong and suffering to the African, and set his face steadily towards the land of refuge for the oppressed of every crime and colour — of real freedom, for the poet as well said —
They touch our country, and their shackles fall."
After what the narrator calls a prosperous voyage of seven weeks, and an absence altogether of about four years, the feet of Olaudah once more press the British soil, and his old master, Capt. Pascal, who had caused him to be sold into slavery, has a quiet ramble in Greenwich Park somewhat unpleasantly interrupted by the apparition of his black-faced cabin-boy, who reminds him of certain faithful services, and their ill requital; the noble captain is also told of prize-money due to the poor Negro, of which he denies all knowledge, at the same time asserting that if the Negro's prize-money had been £10,000, he, the captain, had a right to it all. It would perhaps have been difficult for him to have proved this right; however, he was not called on to do so, for Olaudah thought it best to put up with the loss, if loss there were, and turn his attention to some honest calling for his subsistence. He learns hair-dressing, also the French horn, and arithmetic, all at the same time; and having in these requirements expended the little sum of money which he brought ashore with him, he hires himself to assist one Dr. Charles Irving, who was celebrated in his day and generation for a process by which he converted salt water into fresh. Our hero finds the Dr. an excellent master; has time to pursue his studies, which he esteems a great blessing, thanks God, and uses all diligence to improve his opportunity of gaining knowledge. His wages, however, are small, not above £12 per annum; and after awhile finding this insufficient for his wants, mental and bodily, he resolves to go to sea again, and so takes service under one John Jolly, "a neat, smart, good humoured man," who has a ship going to Italy and Turkey, and wants a man who can dress hair well. For about three years Equiano seems to have passed his time pleasantly enough in this service, making three voyages, one to the above-named places, one to Portugal, and another to various ports in the Mediterranean.
In 1771 he becomes steward of a ship bound for the West Indies, and visits Barbadoes and the Granadas Islands, which he had not seen before; and directly on his return from this voyage enters another ship bound for the same part of the world, but not the same island — Nevis and Jamaica being the ports entered; and this completes the round of his observations of nearly the whole of the West India group of islands; in all of which he finds the same cruelty and disregard of the rights of humanity in reference to the treatment of the Negro slaves; and some of the
70scenes which he witnessed, or heard of, are harrowing and disgusting in the extreme. Everywhere it is the same — irresponsible power! unbridled passions! degradation and misery, and death on the one hand; pride, insolence, cupidity, and disregard of suffering on the other; a terrible catalogue of crime for the present, and a fearful amount of retribution for the future.
Once more back to England, our hero returns to the service of Dr. Irving, but does not remain long on land, for on the fitting out of an expedition designed to discover a northeast passage to India, he joins it with his master, the Dr., whom he attends on board the Race-Horse, sloop-of-war, in May, 1773. Here he is thrown into new scenes of perilous adventure, and has more hair-breadth escapes, which however do not deter him from venturing on the sea again; for soon after his return from this arctic expedition, we find him on board a ship fitting out for Turkey, for which country and its people he seems to have had a great liking, in this ship he also procured the entry, as cook of a coloured man, who was claimed, and forcibly taken away by a West India proprietor. Equiano made great efforts to rescue this poor fellow, who it seems was by right a free man, but in vain; he was conveyed to St. Kitts, and there cruelly punished, obtaining release from his bondage only by death. About this time our hero is much troubled and depressed by convictions of sin, and concern for the state of his soul; and he set about earnestly inquiring the way of salvation, into which, after much wrestling, and praying, and searching of the scriptures, he is directed by that light of divine grace, which lighteneth every one who seeks it in the true spirit of penitent humility.
In March, 1775, our author embarks for Cadiz, in the bay of which place he is near being wrecked; he next visits Gibraltar and Malaga, and then returns to London, meeting in his short voyage with many displays of providential mercy. In November of the same year he sails with his old master, Dr. Irving, for Jamaica and the Musquito shore, where the Dr. has determined to settle, and cultivate a plantation. On the passage out Equiano earnestly endeavours to instruct in the truths of Christianity four Musquito Indians, who were chiefs in their own country, one of them being the son of a king; these were returning to their native land, from whence they had been brought by some English traders for selfish purposes, at the government expense. The profane habits of the nominal Christians are great stumbling-blocks
71in the way of the conversion of the heathen. The Musquito prince asks his instructor, "How come it that all the white men on board, who can read, and write, and observe the sun, and know all things, yet swear, and get drunk, only excepting yourself?" "The reason is," replied the sable teacher, "that they do not fear God," and he does his best to improve this and every other opportunity of spiritually enlightening the Indian's mind.
Equiano remains with Dr. Irving at the African settlement until the middle of the year 1776, when being disgusted with this heathenish mode of life, he applies for, and obtains, his discharge, and with it a certificate of good conduct and ability. He now goes on board a vessel bound for Jamaica, from which, after being cruelly used by one of the owners on board, who threatens to sell him into slavery, and is very near shooting him, he is glad to escape back to the shore. By and by, he agrees for a passage to Jamaica in another vessel, and is again deceived, being taken to the southward along the Musquito coast, and obliged to assist in cutting logwood to load the vessel. Falling in, while thus employed, with a sloop bound, as her captain told him, for the desired port, he begs to be permitted to go on board of her, and after much difficulty, accomplishes his wish, and here again disappointment meets him; the sloop goes still farther to the south, trading along the coast, instead of returning to Jamaica, where, however, after long delay and much suffering he eventually arrives. His demand upon the captain of the sloop for wages, according to agreement, is as useless as are all his efforts to obtain redress; not one of the nine magistrates in Kingstone could do anything for him, because his oath could not be admitted against a white man.
To escape a severe beating threatened by his debtor. Equiano takes refuge on board the Squirrel man-of-war, and soon after returns to England, reaching Plymouth in January, 1777. In that town and Excter he remains a little time with some pious friends, and then goes to London "with a heart replete with thanks to God for past mercies."
In 1779 he enters the service of Governor Macnamara, who had been a considerable time on the coast of Africa, and finding him to be of a religious turn of mind, and thinking that he might be of service in converting his countrymen to the faith of the gospel, advises him to apply to the Bishop of London for ordination as a missionary. The Bishop, however, declines to ordain him; and after serving a nobleman in the Dorsetshire Militia, and then
72visiting, from motives of curiosity, eight counties of England he, in the spring of 1784, once more embarks upon the ocean.
After performing two voyages to America, and visiting New York and Philadelphia, where "he was much pleased to see the worthy Quakers freeing and easing the burdens of his oppressed African brethren," he, in 1786, is recommended to the commissioners of the Royal Navy as a proper person to act as commisary for the English government in an expedition then preparing to sail, the object of which was to restore to their native country the coloured persons congregated in London, of which there seems to have been at that time a considerable number. This expedition, from a concurrence of adverse circumstances, proves unfortunate; and in conducting his part of the duty, Equiano makes many enemies by the decided opposition which he offers to the peculation and flagrant abuses of the government agent and others, whose powerful influence is successfully used to obtain his dismissal from office. The memorial which he drew up on this occasion, and presented to the commissioners, was favourably received, and a repayment made of the amount which he expended in his preparation for the voyage, as well as of that due for wages, and something over, — a plain proof that he was not considered culpable in this matter.
In March, 1788, Equiano had the honour of presenting to the Queen a petition, which he had drawn up in behalf of his African brethren. This was graciously received, and no doubt gave some impetus to the anti-slavery movement which was just then commencing.
Heartily must we all join in the prayer uttered by this intelligent Negro towards the conclusion of his interesting narrative, "May heaven make British senators the dispensers of light, liberty, and science, to the uttermost parts of the earth; then will be ‘glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good-will to men.’ ‘It is righteousness that exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people; destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity, and the wicked shall fall by their own wickedness.’ May the blessing of the Lord be upon the heads of all those who commiserate the case of the oppressed Negroes, and the fear of God prolong their days; and may their expectations be filled with gladness! ‘The liberal divise liberal things, and by liberal things shall they stand.’ They can say with pious Job, ‘Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?’"
Equiano tells us that he was named Olaudah, which signifies vicissitude, and truly a life of vicissitude was his; reading it we may well confess that truth is "stranger than fiction;" and we ought to confess too that this black brother of ours was manifestly as much the object of God's providential care, as the most gifted and powerful of human beings. Yes, this child of a despised race, and a dark skin, he too had a soul to be cared for, and to be saved.
Of the later events of Equiano's life, we have no other record than that given by Abbe Gregoire, who says that he married in London, and had a son named Suncho, to whom he gave so good an education, that he was qualified to become assistant librarian to Sir Joseph Banks, and secretary to the committee for Vaccination.
One more extract from the narrative before us we must make in conclusion, as it bears especially upon the main argument of this work. After alluding to the prejudice which exists in the minds of many against a coloured skin, our author says, "Are there not causes enough to which the apparent inferiority of an African may be ascribed, without limiting the goodness of God, and supposing he forebore to stamp understanding on certainly his own image, because ‘carved in ebony,’ might it not naturally be ascribed to their situation. When they come among Europeans they are ignorant of their language, religion, manners, and customs. Are any pains taken to teach them these? Are they treated as men? Does not slavery itself depress the mind, and extinguish all its fire and every noble sentiment? But, above all, what advantages do not a refined people possess over those who are rude and uncultivated? Let the polished and haughty European recollect that his ancestors were once, like the African, uncivilized and even barbarous. Did Nature make them inferior to their sons? and should they too have been made slaves? Every rational mind answers, No! Let such reflections as these melt the pride of their superiority into sympathy for the wants and miseries of their sable brethren, and compel them to acknowledge that understanding is not confined to feature or colour. If, when they look around the world, they feel exultation, let it be tempered with benevolence to others, and gratitude to God, who hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth; and whose wisdom in not our wisdom, neither are our ways his way."
Chapter VI. Biographical Sketches. Phillis Wheatley, Etc.
We gather the particulars contained in this chapter from No. 63 of "Chambers's Miscellany of Useful and Entertaining Tracts," the interesting information contained in which we have necessarily given in a condensed form. The tract, to which we have previously referred, is entitled "Intelligent Negroes;" and perhaps the most remarkable of those there instanced as proofs of great mental capacity in the Negro race, is the young woman whose name is given above. Purchased in the slave-market of Boston, in the year 1761, by a benevolent lady, who selected her from a number of more robust and healthy-looking children, on account of her apparent intelligence and modesty, the little Phillis, as she was afterwards called, with nothing to cover her nakedness but a ragged strip of dirty carpet, was taken from the human cattle-fold to the house which was henceforward to be her home, she being then between seven and eight years of age. In sixteen months from this period what a change has taken place in the poor African girl! the uncouth gibberish of her native tongue, and the wild gesticulations of untaught barbarism, are changed for a language smooth and intelligible to all around, and a carriage and demeanour suitable to European ideas of propriety and decorum. So rapid had been her progress in knowledge, under the tuition of the daughter of her mistress, that she had not only mastered the elements of the English tongue, but could read with ease the most difficult parts of holy writ. Her extraordinary aptitude for learning, and her general intelligence and amiability of character, had so won upon the affections of Mrs. Wheatley, that, instead of putting her to the common household occupations for which she was at first intended, she kept her about her own person to perform such light duties as were there required, and which to the grateful Phillis were rather offices of love than services of mere mercenary attachment. She soon learned to write as well as read, and excited the astonishment of all around by her extraordinary acquirements. How could it be? A poor little Negro slave, who but a few years ago was running wild in the African forests — one of an inferior order of beings —
75of a despised, a degraded race! How could it be? Why she knew more than half the people about her, though they had white skins and she a black one — they were free and she in bondage. How could it be? But Phillis astonished them yet more when, at the early age of fourteen, she began to write verses, aye, and very polished verses too — highly-finished compositions, some of which would have done no discredit to Pope himself, whom she seems to have taken for her model. It is not often we meet with lines like these from the pen of a tyro in the art of poesy, however great have been the advantages offered of moral and intellectual culture in youth; they are from a long poem on the Providence of God, remarkable alike for great reach of thought, and powers of expression: —
So may we trace him in the night's repose.
Say what is sleep! and dreams, how passing strange!
When action ceases and ideas range
Licentious and unbounded o'er the plains,
Where fancy's queen in giddy triumph reigns.
Hear in soft strains a dreaming lover sigh
To a kind fair, and rave in jealousy;
On pleasure now, and now on vengeance bent,
The labouring passions struggle for a vent.
What power, Oh man! thy reason then restores,
So long suspended in nocturnal hours!
What secret hand returns the mental train,
And gives improved thine active powers again?
From thee, Oh man? what gratitude should rise!
And when from balmy sleep thou ope'st thine eyes,
Let thy first thoughts be praises to the skies.
How merciful our God, who thus imparts
O'erflowing tides of joy to human hearts,
When wants and woes might be our righteous lot,
Our God, forgetting, by our God forgot."
"We have no hesitation," says the author of the tract before referred to, "in stating our opinion, and we believe that many will concur in it, that these lines, written by the African slave girl at the age of fifteen or sixteen, are quite equal to a great number of the verses that appear in all standard collections of English poetry under the names of Halifax, Dorset, and others of ‘the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease.’ Phillis Wheatley's lines are, if anything, superior in harmony, and are not inferior in depth of thought; the faults are those which characterize the models she copied from." A less polished and more natural order of composition might well have been expected from such a source, and the wonder is how this young Negro girl could have obtained such a command of an acquired language, as to express her thoughts in this elaborate and finished style.
The mistress of Phillis, Mrs. Wheatley, treated her interesting protegee as her own child, and introduced her into the best society of Boston. Notwithstanding these honours, we are told that "she never for a moment departed from the humble and unassuming deportment which distinguished her when she stood, a little trembling alien, to be sold like a beast of the field, in the slave-market" At the age of nineteen, when, in consequence of her fluctuating and delicate state of health, a sea voyage had been recommended by her physicians, she came to England, in company with a son of Mrs. Wheatley, who had business of a commercial nature in this country. Here she was well received, and much noticed by those of the higher classes. An edition of her poems was published, with a portrait attached, which is said to have exhibited a pleasing countenance and a highly intellectual formation of head. Mrs. Wheatley, to whom a copy of the engraving was transmitted, used to exhibit it with great satisfaction to her visitors, exclaiming "See! look at my Phillis; does she not seem as if she would speak to me?" The modest humility of the Negro poetess stood well the severe test to which it was here subjected; the flattery and attention of the great and the gifted does not appear to have unbalanced her well-regulated mind; and when her kind mistress in America became sick, and expressed a wish to see her gentle attendant once more, she directly departed for what had ever been to her a true home; within a short time after her arrival at which, she had the melancholy satisfaction of soothing the last moments of her greatest friend and benefactor.
From this time sorrow seems to have clouded the path of this gifted young woman. Amid the desolation of her bereavement she received an offer of marriage from a man of colour, named Peters, which she accepted, probably because she could by this means secure a home and honourable protection. Peters was, however, it seems, no vulgar or ordinary man, being a fluent writer, a ready speaker, and altogether intelligent and well educated. His great fault was extreme indolence; this and pride, which prevented his paying proper attention to his business, which was that of a grocer, proved his ruin, and caused the misery, and ultimate death, of his gentle, unrepining wife, and the three infants which she bore to him. A relative of her late lamented mistress, we are told, discovered poor Phillis, who had long been lost sight of, in a state of absolute want; two of her children were dead, and the third was dying by the side of its then
77perishing mother, who soon closed her eyes for ever upon the cares and sorrows of this world.
"Thus perished a woman who, by a fortunate accident, was rescued from the degraded condition to which those of her race who are brought to the slave-market are too often condemned, as if for the purpose of showing to the world what care and education could effect, in elevating the character of the benighted Africans. The example is sufficient to impress us with the conviction, that, out of the countless millions to whom no similar opportunities have been presented, many might be found fitted by the endowments of nature, and wanting only the blessings of education, to make them ornaments, like Phillis Wheatley, not only to their race, but to humanity."
was the son of an African king, and unmistakably a Negro, having, fully developed, all the physical peculiarities of the race. His father reigned over a considerable tract of country on the coast of Guinea, which was much resorted to by dealers in slaves. King Cock-eye, as the sailors called the Negro sovereign, on account of his obliquity of vision, having noticed that the superior intelligence of the Europeans gave them great advantage over the Africans in their traffic, resolved to send his son to Britain, which he had been informed was the focus of enlightenment, for education. Accordingly the young prince was formally consigned to the care of a British trader, who promised to return him some years afterwards, with as much learning in his head as it could conveniently carry; but death prevented the fulfillment of this promise. The captain died suddenly soon after his return to England, and before the necessary arrangements for the commencement of the education of his charge could be made; so Thomas Jenkins, as his guardian had somewhat capriciously chosen to call him, was left without a friend in a strange land.
It was at an inn in Hawick, a town in Scotland, that poor Tom watched by the death-bed of Captain Swanstone, and faithfully performed for him the necessary duties, although almost perishing with the cold of a northern winter; and there he remained awhile, after his guardian had expired,
78doing what he could to make himself useful, and to show his gratitude for the food, and lodging, and kind treatment of the landlady of the house. He was then taken charge of by a farmer of Teviot-head, who was a near relative of his deceased guardian, and employed in such humble duties about the house and farm as he was able to perform. After awhile he was advanced to the office of cow-herd, and driver of peats to Hawick for sale, and discharged these duties in a very satisfactory manner. His next change was into the service of Mr. Laidlaw, of Falnash, a respectable and intelligent gentleman, who took a fancy to Black Tom, as he was called, and prevailed on his former protector to relinquish the charge of him. He was now a stout lad, and could turn his hand to almost anything; he spoke the provincial dialect like a native, and, but for his sable skin, woolly hair, and Negro features, might have been taken for a Scottish peasant.
Now it was that Tom began to show some taste for learning, snatching up very eagerly all the crumbs of knowledge that came within his reach. It was observed that he had a strange liking for candle ends, carefully preserving every scrap of wick and tallow that was left about the farm-house. Suspicions were aroused, the boy was watched, and in his loft was seen with book and slate, employing the hours usually devoted to rest, in making rude imitations of the letters of the alphabet. The liberal-minded Mr. Laidlaw did not discourage these attempts of the poor lad to acquire knowledge; on the contrary, he sent him to an evening school kept by a rustic pedagogue, where he made such rapid progress as to astonish all the neighbourhood. Not content with English, and the mere elementary branches of knowledge, this farm servant, by and by, in the intervals of his daily toil, began to instruct himself in Latin and Greek. In the rural district where he lived, no regular instruction in the classics could be obtained; but the Laidlaws, and other kind friends, lent him some books, and did all they could to encourage and assist his praiseworthy efforts; which were so far successful, that he obtained a tolerable acquaintance with the two ancient languages named, and something of an insight into mathematics. With twelve shillings, saved out of his wages, and a little assistance from a friend, he was enabled to purchase a Greek Dictionary. This was a great event in Tom's life; Oh, what a prize was that dictionary to him! How triumphantly did he bear it from the auction, where we are told that "All present
79stared with wonder when they saw a Negro, clad in the gray cast-off surtout of a private soldier, and the No. xcvi. still glaring in white oil paint on his back, competing for a book, which could only be useful to a student in a considerably advanced stage."
And equally astonished, a few years later, were the members of the "Committee of the Presbytery of Jedburgh," appointed to examine the qualifications of the candidates for the mastership of the school of Teviot-head, when the same black farm-servant of Falnash appeared before them, clad in the same serviceable coat, with a bundle of books under his arm, to be examined as to his fitness for the work of instructing the bare-breeched callants of the wide mountain district around. Tom's qualifications were undoubtedly superior to any other of the candidates; but then his black skin! How could the gude folk of the presbytery entrust their children to the care of such as he? Tom lost his election, because he could not, when improving his mind, also whiten his body, and assimilate his features more nearly to the lines of Celtic beauty. Our hero, who was then twenty years of age, felt keenly the disappointment of this rejection on account of caste and colour — it seemed to dam for ever the current of his hopes of further advancement, and condemn him to a life of lasting servitude.
But there were some in the district who had enlightened views, and they, feeling indignant at Tom's rejection, resolved to set him up in opposition to the chosen of the presbytery. Several of the heritors therefore, headed by the then Duke of Buccleuch, fitted up for the Negro schoolmaster an old smiddy, and engaged to pay him an annual stipend, equal to that of his more regularly appointed rival. Tom turned out an excellent teacher, and became an immense favourite with both parents and children; he had a way of communicating knowledge, which rendered severity unnecessary; his school was soon filled, while the other was deserted, and matters went on swimmingly. He was both learner and teacher, and every Saturday used to walk to Hawkick, a distance of eight miles, to make an exhibition to the master of an academy there, of what he had himself acquired during the week. On Sunday he was always back to divine service at his parish church, of which he was a regular attendant.
But Oh, the ambition of man! Tom sighed far academical honours; and having obtained a person to perform his school duties, and leave from his patrons, the heritors, to be absent during the requisite period, he presented himself, when
80the winter session was about to commence, at the Edinburgh University, in the identical grey coat before spoken of, and requested admission to the Latin, Greek, and mathematical classes; much to the astonishment of the professors, two of whom, to their honour be it spoken, would not accept of the fees which he tendered, out of the twenty pounds which he had managed to save, and which constituted his whole stock of money. A gentleman named Monerieff, however, an old and steady friend of Tom, had given him an order upon a merchant of Edinburgh, for whatever further sum he might require to support him at college during the winter. Tom fully justified the confidence reposed in him, and returned this order unused, when he resumed his school duties at Teviot-head in the spring.
We give the conclusion to his history in the words of the tract from which we have gleaned these particulars: — "It is obvious, we think, that Mr. Jenkins should have been returned, by some benevolent society, to his native country; where he might have been expected to do wonders in civilizing and instructing his father or his own subjects. Unfortunately, about ten years ago, a gentleman of the neighbourhood, animated by the best intentions, introduced him to the Christian Knowledge Society, as a proper person to be a missionary among the colonial slaves; and he was induced to go out as a teacher to the Mauritius — a scene entirely unworthy of his exertions. There he has attained eminence as a teacher, and we believe he is still living."
was another self-taught African, who exhibited powers and capacities of mind, and qualities of heart and understanding, which fully entitle him to a place in our gallery of Negro worthies. He was the only child of slave parents, and a native of Virginia state, being born on a plantation about thirty miles from the town of Richmond; at which town we find him in 1804, employed at a warehouse as a common labourer. His parents were seriously disposed, although uneducated people, and appear to have sown in his mind the seeds of piety, which received a quickening impulse from a sermon which he heard, while employed at the warehouse. He procured a copy of the New Testament, and by dint of perseverance, after awhile, taught himself to read; making himself at the same time acquainted with the religious truths
81contained in that precious book. He next managed to acquire the art of writing, and these acquisitions, by rendering him more useful to his employers, tended to raise him greatly in the scale of remuneration; so that with diligence and frugality, he was enabled, eventually, to save a sum sufficient to purchase his own freedom, and that of two children born to him by a bond woman on his master's estate, whom he had married and lost by death.
At Richmond, Cary was chiefly employed in shipping tobacco. "Of the real value of his services, while in this employment," says the author of an American publication, from whence the particulars given in Chamber's Tract are gathered, "it has been remarked that no one but a dealer in tobacco can form an idea. Notwithstanding the hundreds of hogsheads which were committed to his charge, he could produce any one the moment it was called for; and the shipment's were made with a promptness and correctness such as no person, either white or coloured, has equalled in the same situation."
Cary's employers, it seems, were not slow to acknowledge and reward his valuable services. In addition to his regular salary, which at last amounted to eight hundred dollars yearly, they frequently presented him with a five dollar note, besides allowing him to sell for his own benefit small parcels of damaged tobacco occasionally. He employed much of his leisure time in reading, and his books, when not of a religious character, were such solid works as "Smith's Wealth of Nations," and the like.
As early as 1815, the subject of African Missions had occupied the mind of this self-emancipated, and self-educated Negro, and it was mainly through his efforts, that the African Missionary Society was established, at Richmond, in that year. He, too, was among the earliest of the emigrant colonists, whose object was to introduce civilization and Christianity among the barbarous tribes, among whom his ancestors were to be looked for. The settlement at Cape Montserado was formed in the face of appalling difficulties, and Cary appears to have been the leading spirit in its foundation, protection, and management. "Here he saw before him a wide and interesting field, demanding various and powerful talents, and the most devoted piety. His intellectual ability, firmness of purpose, unbending integrity, correct judgment. and disinterested benevolence, soon placed him in a conspicuous station, and gave him wide and commanding influence."
82It is to be deeply deplored that the means which this devoted man employed for the defence of the colony, were not such as true Christianity would sanction. He trusted rather to the arm of fleshly power, than to that of Divine Providence; and the consequence was his death by the ignition of some loose powder, causing the explosion of a large stock of ammunition, during the preparation of cartridges, to resist an expected attack from slave dealers. Previous to this event, which occurred in 1828, he had been made vice-agent of the colony; for which he also for a long time acted as chief physician, having made himself acquainted with the diseases of the climate, and their remedies, for this purpose.
"On the coast of Africa," again to quote our authority, "the memory of this coloured apostle of civilization will long continue to be cherished. The career which he pursued, and the intelligence which marked his character, might prove to the satisfaction of all impartial thinkers, that the miserable race of Blacks is not destitute of moral worth and innate genius; and that their culture would liberally produce an abundant harvest of the best principles, and their results which dignify human nature."
Without pretending to claim for the subject of the present sketch a very high place in the scale of intellectual endowment, we may adduce him as an example of great mental energy, perseverance, and enterprise. Few white men have ever struggled with, and overcome, greater difficulties than Paul Cuffee, whose career is instructive, not only as showing that there is no inherent defect or weakness in the Negro mind, but also as an example of what may be done by a determined will and sound judgment, to ensure worldly prosperity, and assist our fellow-creatures, even with scanty means and limited opportunities.
Paul was the fourth son of a native African, who, having been brought as a slave to Boston, was enabled, by great industry and economy, to save a sufficient sum to purchase, first his freedom, and then a farm of one hundred acres, which was situated at Westport, in Massachusetts. He married a woman of Indian descent, by whom he had a family of ten children. The date of Paul's birth is 1759, and in 1773
83his father died, and after assisting his brothers for awhile in the cultivation of their land, which was not very productive, he resolved to forsake agriculture for commerce, and to cast in his lot with those who "go down to the sea in ships, and do their business upon the mighty waters." His first voyage was a whaling expedition; his second a trip to the West Indies; and in both of these he served an a common sailor before the mast. In the year 1776, when Britain and America were at war, he set out on his third voyage, and had the misfortune to be taken prisoner and carried to New York, where he was detained three months. At the end of that time, being released, he returned to Westport, and there remained for several years, occupied in his old pursuits. It was at this time, while he was yet under the age of twenty, that Paul, who, we are told, felt deeply the injustice done to his race by their exclusion from the rights of citizenship, resolved on making an effort to obtain those rights, and accordingly drew up, with the assistance of his brothers, and presented to the state legislature, a petition on the subject, which had the desired effect, and procured for the free Negroes of this state all the privileges of white citizens, and not of this alone, for others soon followed the example of Massachusetts, and thus Paul Cuffee became a benefactor to the whole coloured population of North America.
When about twenty years old, the idea of opening a commercial intercourse with the state of Connecticut occurred to Paul, and his brother David having consented to join him in the venture, the two set out in an open boat, which was all their limited means would allow them to procure. The perils of the voyage in this small vessel discouraged the elder brother, who was quite unaccustomed to the sea, and he greatly disappointed Paul by resolving to return and abandon the enterprise. By dint of hard labour and strict economy, the more fearless brother, after awhile, was enabled to purchase a boat for himself: in this he embarked; but the fates were unpropitious, and Paul lost the whole of his hard-earned treasures. Again he set to work, and again saved some money, and buying only the materials, constructed a boat with his own hands. Behold him now in his deckless vessel once more launched on the treacherous sea, steering for the Elizabeth Isles, to consult one of his brothers residing there, as to his future plans. He is beset by pirates, who take his boat and its contents, and send him back to Westport a penniless, but not a disheartened man. With the help of David, he constructs yet another boat, and having now gained
84a character for energy and trustworthiness, he obtains a cargo on credit, which, after a narrow escape from the pirates, he lands safety at Nantucket, and there disposes of it to advantage. He returns, and again ventures forth upon the waters with another cargo, which is seized by his old enemies, who this time do not deprive him of his boat. Nothing daunted, Paul loads her again, sets sail, and this time succeeds in reaching the destined port without casualties. The profits of this voyage enable him to purchase a decked vessel of twelve tons burden, with which he made several successful voyages to the Connecticut coasts, so that he became a man of some substance, and now thought that he might venture upon taking a wife. He chose a descendant of the same tribe of Indians as that to which his mother belonged, and for some years after his marriage remained on shore, engaged in agriculture. The wants of an increasing family again sent him forth upon the sea; with a larger vessel than he had yet possessed, he engaged in cod-fishing, and thus increased his means so much, as to be enabled to build a brig of forty two tons burden, which was navigated by himself and several nephews, who had also become sailors.
Paul now began to be looked up to as a leading man in his community, and to interest himself about the mental improvement of the people around him, who were chiefly mariners and fishermen, who depended greatly upon him for the means of support. He was himself, in a great measure, an uneducated man, and feeling the want of education, was desirous that others should not be so deprived of its advantages; he therefore built a school-house on his own ground, and threw it open to the public. Still increasing in prosperity as years rolled on, he became owner of several ships, in one of which he came to England in the year 1811, and made a very favourable impression upon all with whom he had intercourse. In the "Liverpool Mercury" published at the time of his visit, there appeared a memoir of him, from which we quote the following description of his mental and physical characteristics: — "A sound understanding, united with indomitable energy and perseverance, are the prominent features of Paul Cuffee's character. Born under peculiar disadvantages, deprived of the benefits of early education, and his meridian spent in toil and vicissitudes, he has struggled under disadvantages which have seldom occurred in the career of any individual. Yet, under the pressure of these difficulties, he seems to have fostered dispositions of mind which qualify him for any station of life to which he is introduced. His person
85is tall, well-formed, and athletic; his deportment conciliating, yet dignified and serene. His prudence, strengthened by parental care and example, no doubt guarded him in his youth, when exposed to the dissolute company which unavoidably attends a seafaring life; whilst religion, influencing his mind by its secret guidance in silent reflection, has in advancing manhood added to the brightness of his character, and instituted or confirmed his disposition to practical good. Latterly he made application and was received into membership with the respectable Society of Friends."
As a proof of the disposition for practical good here spoken of, it may be mentioned, that the scheme of establishing colonies of free Blacks on the coast of Africa excited in him the deepest interest. He visited in person the parts proposed for colonization, and it was while he was at Sierra Leone for this purpose, in 1811, that he was induced by the agents of the British African Institute to determine on visiting England, with a cargo of African produce. His brig, navigated by eight men and a boy, all Negroes, excited a great deal of attention on reaching Liverpool, and he himself obtained much notice and respect from men of all classes. He had left his nephew behind him at Sierra Leone, to prosecute his benevolent inquiries, and had brought away a native youth, in order to educate and fit him for a teacher of his benighted brethren. To the council of the African Institute, who consulted him as to the best method of carrying out their philanthropic views, he imparted valuable information and advice, and, after visiting London twice, he returned to America, to spend the remainder of his days in the enjoyment of that competency which be had so well earned, and which enabled him to obey the promptings of his warm and generous heart. Of the date of his death we have no record: most of the members of his family are still, we believe, engaged in those commercial pursuits in which he was so enterprising and successful.
A great deal of excitement was caused in the United States, in the year 1839, by the seizure, by a government ship, of a suspicious-looking schooner, manned by about forty Africans; this turned out to be the Amistad, a Spanish vessel, into which the Negroes, previously brought from their own
86country and sold as slaves, had been put at Havannah by their purchasers, two Spaniards, to be conveyed to Cuba, where the estates of their masters were situated. On the passage they overpowered the captain and crew of the vessel, killing part of them in the struggle; put their would-be owners into confinement; and in the attempt to effect their escape back to Africa, were captured by the American cruiser and brought into port. The Spaniards, Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montez, who claimed them for their property, had them indicted for piracy and murder, but the indictment was declared not recognizable in an American court; the alleged offence having been committed in a vessel under the Spanish flag. The reputed culprits were, however, kept in confinement, although great efforts were made by the friends of the Negro to obtain their release; and it was finally decided by the senate at Washington, to deliver them up, either as property or murderers. The order, however, to this effect, was disregarded; the judge of the district in which they were confined, deciding that they were free men, unlawfully kidnapped in Africa, and therefore entitled to their liberty: they were accordingly released from confinement. Many persons volunteered their assistance to these homeless and destitute Negroes; they were taken by the hand by the friends of emancipation, and their wants and wishes made known to the public, by means of interesting exhibitions of native manners and customs, etc., in which they appeared, and related their history and adventures.
Cinque, as their leader was called, appears to have been a man of great intelligence, and natural ability; he was a powerful orator, and although speaking in a tongue foreign to his audience, by the grace and energy of his motions and attitudes, the changeful expression of his features, and the intonations of his voice, made them understand the main incidents of his narrative, and swayed their minds in an extraordinary manner. Alluding to that point of his history at which Cinque described how, when on board the Spanish vessel, he, with the help of a nail, first relieved himself of his manacles, then assisted his countrymen to get rid of theirs, and then led them to the attack of the Spaniards, Lewis Tappan, in the account of the whole proceedings connected with these Amistad captives, which he published, says — "It is not in my power to give an adequate description of Cinque when he showed how he did this, and led his comrades to the conflict, and achieved their freedom. In my younger years I have seen Kemble and Siddons, and the
87representation of ‘Othello,’ at Covent Garden; but no acting that I have ever witnessed, came near that to which I allude."
Many other members of this interesting group of Africans, exhibited proofs of great mental capabilities; one in particular, named Kali, a boy of eleven years old, who astonished his auditors by the readiness with which he learned and repeated words and sentences in the English language, with which he could have had no previous acquaintance. In this language, most of them were enabled to address an audience after they had been in America a very short time. The leading truths of Christianity, which were presented to their minds now, for the first time, they seemed to comprehend with astonishing quickness. One of them, on being asked "What is faith?" replied, "Believing in Jesus Christ, and trusting in him." Another said, "We owe everything to God; He keeps us alive, and makes us free; when we go home to Mundi, we will tell our brethren about God, Jesus Christ, and heaven." And home to Mundi, to which country the greater part of them belonged, after a lapse of about three years, from the time of their being brought into New Haven, they did go; a sufficient sum having being raised to charter a ship for their conveyance, and furnish the necessary means for their subsistence, and that of five white missionaries and teachers who accompanied them. They were landed at Sierra Leone, and the British authorities there afforded them every facility for reaching their native country; on the borders of which it was proposed to form a Missionary station or settlement, from whence the light of the blessed Gospel might be gradually introduced into the dark interior.
The Mundians, we learn, are an exceedingly warlike tribe, much given to slave hunting and other abominations. They do not appear, however, to be idolaters; and it is a singular fact that they abstain from labour one day in every seven, and have so from time immemorial; they have no religious observance on that day, but their Sabbath observance, if we may so call it, consists in dressing, and feasting, and taking their pleasure; pretty much as many nominal Christians do.
This is the next intelligent Negro whom we find included in the tract before us; he was born, at what date we do
88not learn, on board a slave vessel bound for Carthagens, in South America, his father and mother being destined for the slave-market of that place, shortly after their arrival at which, the child lost both its parents, the one dying and the other committing suicide in despair. The little black orphan was carried to England and presented by his master to three maiden sisters resident at Greenwich, in whose service he appears to have remained until their death broke up the establishment, when Sancho, who had earned this name, it seems, by his drollery and humour, was taken by the Duchess of Montague in the capacity of butler, so that altogether his lines appear to have fallen in pleasant places. When the Duchess died, she left her Negro butler an annuity of thirty pounds, and this, with a considerable sum which he had saved out of his salary, ought to have made him pretty comfortable for life. But Sancho had the reputation of a wit and a humourist, which has proved fatal to many, and he led for awhile the life of a man about town, haunting the tavern and the green room of the theatre, and living beyond his means. He had quite a passion for theatrical representations, and was a great admirer of Garrick, who took much notice of him. It was at one time proposed that he should go upon the stage to perform Negro characters, but this project had to be abandoned, on account of his imperfect articulation.
After awhile he sobered down somewhat, married an interesting West Indian girl, got a family about him, and lived a more regular life. He still, however, kept up his acquaintance with many of his former friends, some of whom were of the higher classes; his letters to these and others, after his death, were published in two volumes, with a portrait of the author. Several of them are on the subject of Negro slavery, for the abolition of which Sancho was, during a good part of his life, an earnest and effectual advocate; he seemed to feel deeply the wrongs and sufferings of his coloured brethren, and omitted no opportunity of pleading their cause. There is a letter of his to Sterne on this subject, which elicited a very characteristic reply; we would fain quote both letter and answer, but our limited space will not admit of this; our readers will find both in the tract to which we have frequently referred. It only remains to add that about the latter end of the last century was the period of Ignatius Sancho's most active exertions in behalf of his enslaved countrymen.
This was a Negro Queen of Angola, who flourished in the sixteenth century, at a time when the Portuguese were settling as planters and traders on the African coast, and making great encroachments upon the territories of the native chiefs. In this Negress we have power of mind and strength of character developed, as well as acuteness of intellect. The more lofty and refined of the mental qualities were scarcely to be looked for in one who, although surrounded with the pomp of barbaric splendour, was never brought under the influence of true civilization. This African queen rendered herself famous by acts of daring, and a carriage and deportment at all times marked with a kind of rude imperial dignity. She was proud imperious, cruel, and unscrupulous; yet does she in some way command our respect for a certain magnanimity of character, which, if she had been properly trained and instructed — Christianized, would have made her truly great. Sent, when about forty years of age, by her brother, the King of Angola, to Loanda, the seat of the Portuguese viceroy, she was received with the honours due to her rank; but the proud ambassadress was offended, on entering the presence chamber, by perceiving that the seat prepared for her, although rich with gold and velvet, was on the floor, while that of the viceregent, with whom she came to treat, was elevated on a magnificent chair of state: disdaining the costly cushion on account of its lowly place, she gave a sign to one of her attendant women, who immediately knelt down, supporting herself on her hands and knees, and supporting, too, during the whole of the interview, the weight of her imperious mistress, who chose this strange way of vindicating her right to be considered on an equality with the representative of the foreign king. When Zhinga arose from her living throne, and was leaving the presence hand-in-hand with the viceroy, he remarked that her attendant still remained kneeling. "I have no further use for the woman. It is not fit that the ambassadress of a great king should be twice served with the same seat," was the haughty reply.
Zhinga remained awhile at Loanda, and there pretended to embrace Christianity, being baptized, and conforming somewhat to European customs. It is plain, however, that of vital Christianity she was quite ignorant, for shortly after, her brother having died, she ascended the throne of Angola, and had her nephew strangled to make sure of the succession.
90She then became involved in a war with the Portuguese, which, assisted by the Dutch and some native chiefs, she carried on for a time most vigorously, but was eventually defeated, and refusing the proffered retention of her throne on condition of paying an annual tribute to the conquerors, was obliged to flee for her life, while her kingdom was given to another. Throwing off her Christianity as easily as a loom garment, because it was the religion of her enemies, she rallied around her a band of faithful Negroes, and for eighteen years did she defy and harass the Portuguese, demanding the unconditional restoration of her throne. Advancing age, however, brought its weaknesses, its regrets, its desires for rest and reconciliation, even to this proud woman, whose heart was softened by affliction, which visited her in the death of a beloved sister. After the storm and the whirlwind came the still small voice; she was haunted by remorse on account of her apostacy from the Christian faith, and was persuaded by some Portuguese priests, whom she had taken prisoners, again to declare herself a convert thereto. This led to her restoration to power, which on the whole she exercised with discretion, and as much clemency as could be expected from one used to absolute and despotic sway. She propagated her new religion among her subjects, martyring, as has been the fashion with "Most Christian" monarchs, some who refused to receive it. She passed several salutary laws, one forbidding polygamy, another abolishing human sacrifices; her treaties with the Portuguese she faithfully observed, but never would acknowledge their supremacy — never would allow herself to be called the vassal of any foreign power. She died in 1663, aged eighty-two, having up to this period retained her bodily strength and mental vigour. In any age and country she must have been considered a woman of remarkable powers.
Whenever an anti-slavery martyrology is written, as one day we hope it will be, Placedo, the Cuban Poet, will assuredly have a place therein. This Negro, whose real name was Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes, was executed at Havannah, in July, 1844, with several other persons, for inciting the slaves to revolt against their Spanish masters,
91who had perpetrated on them the most horrible cruelties, and rendered their yoke unbearably galling.
But few particulars appear to be known of the life of Placedo, previous to his appearance at the place of execution, where his manly and heroic bearing excited the sympathy and admiration of all who saw him. He walked to the fatal spot with as much calmness as if it had been to some ordinary resort of business or pleasure; reciting, as he went, a beautiful hymn, which he had composed on the previous night in prison. When arrived there, he sat down as directed, to await the necessary preparations; which being made, he arose, and turning to the shrinking soldiers, his face wearing an expression of almost superhuman courage, he said in Spanish, "Adieu, O world; here is no pity for me. Soldiers, fire!" Five balls entered his body, but did not deprive him of life. Still unsubdued, again he spoke, pointing to his breast, and saying, "Here, fire here!" Two more balls then entered his breast, and he fell dead.
The Heraldo, a Madrid paper, in giving an account of his execution, speaks of him as the celebrated Cuban Poet, and says "This man was born with great natural genius, and was beloved and appreciated by the most respectable young men of Havannah, who united to purchase his release from slavery." Some years ago, a volume of "Poems by a Cuban slave," whose name for ‘certain reasons’ the translator did not deem it advisable to append, was published in this country; and it is now generally believed that these poems were by Placedo. Dr. Madden, who edited the volume, stated that the poems, with which was a memoir of the author, written by himself, were placed in his hands by a gentleman of Havannah, in 1838; at which time it is probable that the purchased release from slavery of Placedo, spoken of in the Heraldo, had not taken place. Many interesting particulars are given in the memoir, which, if we were sure they referred to Placedo, we might be tempted to quote; they exhibit a frightful picture of Negro slavery in Cuba, and leave us no room to wonder at any efforts which might be made by the unfortunate Africans to free themselves.
The poems display a very high order of intellect, and are prefaced by Dr. Madden with these remarks: — "I am sensible that I have not done justice to these poems, but I trust that I have done enough to vindicate, in some degree, the character of Negro intellect; at least the attempt affords me the opportunity of recording my conviction, that the blessings of education and good government are alone wanting
92to make the natives of Africa, intellectually and morally, equal to the people of any nation on the surface of the globe."
We cannot more fitly conclude this chapter than with the hymn composed by Placedo on the night previous to his execution, and recited as he walked to the place of death. Several translations of this hymn have been given; the following is perhaps as close to the original as any; it appeared in the "Anti-Slavery Reporter," for Sept. 6th., 1844, with the initials A. P. attached.
"Almighty God! whose goodness knows no bound,
To thee I flee in my severe distress;
O let thy potent arm my wrongs redress,
And read the odious veil by slander wound
About my brow. The base world's arm confound,
Who on my front would now the seal of shame impress.
Be thou alone my shield, protect me now.
All power in His, to whom the sea doth owe
Hit countless stores; who clothed with light heaven's field,
And made the sun, and air, and polar seas congeal'd;
All plants with life endow'd, and made the rivers flow.
This godly frame of things from chaos brought,
Which unsustain'd by thee would still be nought;
As erst it lay deep in the womb of night,
Ere thy dread word first called it into light;
Obedient to thy call it lived, and moved, and thought.
Thine eye, all-seeing, cannot be deceived;
By thee mine inmost soul is clear perceived.
As objects gross are through transparent skies
By mortal ken. Thy mercy exercise,
Lest slander foul exult o'er innocence aggrieved.
That I must bear the pain of guilt and shame.
And that my foes this cold and senseless frame
Shall rudely treat with scorn and shouts malign;
Give thou the word, and I my breath resign,
Obedient to thy will; blest be thy holy name!"
Chapter VII. Voices From the Past.
Of intellect in Afric's sable sons?
Are there no records of antiquity,
Which tell of learning and of noble gifts
Inherited, or gained by patient toil,
By those, who, had they lived in these our days
Of knowledge and enlightenment, had been
Reproached and scorned, and trodden in the dust,
As beings of a quite inferior race,
By those of whiter skins? Yes, let us turn
Awhile the historic page, and gather thence
A refutation of the lying creed
Which dooms a brother man to slavery.
It appears to be quite forgotten by those who contend for the inferiority of the Negro race, that Africa was once the nursery of science and literature; the fountain head from whence copious streams of learning and civilization flowed forth to other parts of the world. It is asserted by some writers, that the ancient Greeks represented their goddess of wisdom, Minerva, as a Negro princess; and certain it is that Solon, Plato, Pythagoras, and others of their master spirits, made pilgrimages into Africa, in search of knowledge. Three hundred years before the commencement of the Christian Era, one Euclid, a dark-skinned teacher, was at the head of the most celebrated mathematical school in the world; and that same Negro still continues to teach in our schools; possibly his name may be familiar to some, even in Georgia and South Carolina, who would think it a degradation to sit in the same pew at church with one of his thick-lipped countrymen. They should remember, however, that the words of wisdom have been uttered by thick lips as well as thin ones; and that the light of intellect has often illumined a face black as ever burned in the suns of Ethiopia, that land which we are told in the language of unerring truth, shall "soon stretch out her hand unto God."
Ye who would bar the doors of schools and colleges against the African thirsting for knowledge, and assign him a place of inferiority in your churches, think of the great repositories of learning, and the gorgeous temples which once adorned the land of his fathers, when she was the seat of a mighty empire able to contend with Rome for the sovereignty of the world. Has not Africa been called the cradle of the primitive church? was she not the asylum of the infant
94Saviour? Do not such names as Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Cyril, put to shame the worldly wisdom of those pastors and teachers, (blind guides surely!) who strive to reconcile Christian fellowship with the holding of a brother in bondage, and quote precedents for Negro slavery out of the Mosaic law, forgetting what the Apostle hath said, that "love is the fulfilling of the law." In the words of Wilson Armistead, let us ask, "Can the enlightened Negrophobists of America tell us why these tawny bishops of Africa, of apostolic renown, were not colonized into a Negro pew when attending the ecclesiastical councils of their day? and how they reconcile their actions with the example of the Evangelist Philip, who, in compliance with the intimation of the Spirit, went and joined the Ethiopian in his chariot, preached to him the gospel of Christ, and baptized him in His Name?"
Great in his way was Hannibal, the Carthagenian; and great in his, the African poet Terrence, the friend and associate of Hannibal's conqueror. Science, learning, religion, war, poetry, have here their Negro representatives; the list of famous names might be greatly increased, were it desirable. What more then is required to prove the fallacy of the opinion, or of the assertion, not at all times as we may well believe, founded in a sincere belief, of Negro inferiority? Surely nothing, it may be replied, except to show that these great names that you have mentioned, really belonged to Negroes.
It is the generally received opinion of the most eminent historians and ethnologists, that the Ethiopians were really Negroes, although in them the physical characteristics of the race were exhibited in a less marked manner than in those dwelling on the coast of Guinea, from whence the stock of American slaves has been chiefly derived. That in the earliest periods of history the Ethiopians had attained a high degree of civilization, there is every reason to believe; and that to the learning and science derived from them we must ascribe those wonderful monuments which still exist to attest the power and skill of the Ancient Egyptians, whose physical history is involved in considerable doubt. The opinion of those who would assign to this remarkable people a Negro origin, is much strengthened by the testimony of Herodotus, who states that they were "woolly-haired blacks with projecting lips." Now Herodotus travelled
95in Egypt, and was well acquainted, from personal observation, with the appearance of the people. Other writers concur in this testimony, and Volney considers the evidence on this point too strong to be refuted. Dr. Prichard considers that the Ancient Egyptians were certainly marked with the Negro characteristics; and although it can scarcely be asserted that they were like the Ethiopians — decidedly black, they were undoubtedly of a very dark complexion, as were the Copts, their descendants, and as are, though in a less degree, the Egyptians of the present day. A slight glance at the statue of the Memnon and other sculptures, in which the human face appears, will serve to shew that there was at least a great similarity between the features of those who were of old dwellers by the mysterious Nile, and those whom we now call Negroes.
History informs us that Egypt and Ethiopia were originally and contemporaneously peopled by the brothers Misraim and Cush, and that they were long confederately governed; and in proof of the truth of this, Herodotus states that down to the time at which he wrote, eighteen out of the list of Egyptian sovereigns recorded, had been Ethiopians. From these two streams it is at least probable that the whole of Africa was peopled; and who shall say that she has not, despised and degraded as she is, a noble array of great names wherewith to emblazon her heraldry? Her present inhabitants, to use the words of the pious Richard Watson, are the "offshoots — wild and untrained it is true, but still the offshoots of a stem which was once proudly luxuriant in the fruits of learning and taste; whilst that from which the Goths, their calumniators, have sprung, remained hard, and knotted, and barren."
Not, however, to rest one plea for the admission of Africa, or rather the Negro race, into the brotherhood of intellectual equality, upon what some may consider doubtful grounds, let us adduce a few examples, in addition to those given in the previous chapters, of persons of unquestionable Negro origin, who have exhibited great or good qualities or capacities. A mere catalogue is all that our limited space will allow us to give, and this we quote almost verbatim from Armistead's volume, to which we have so frequently had occasion to allude. We omit the reference to authorities, which are in all cases given, and shew that the author must have taken great pains to verify his statements. We also omit those names to which we have made a previous reference.
Among the Turks, Negroes have sometimes arrived at the most eminent offices. Different writers have given the same account of Keslar Aga, who in 1730, was chief of the black ennuchs of the Porte; he is described as a man of great wisdom and profound knowledge.
In 1765, the English papers cited, as a remarkable event, the ordination of a Negro by Dr. Keppel, Bishop of Exeter. Among the Spaniards and Portuguese, such an event is of common occurrence. The history of Cingo gives an account of a black bishop who studied at Rome. Corria de Serra, a secretary of the Academy of Portugal, informs us that several Negroes have been learned lawyers, preachers, and professors; and that many of these in the Portuguese possessions have been signalized by their talent. In 1717, the Negro Don Juan Latino, taught the Latin language at Seville. He lived to the age of one hundred and seventeen.
An African prince, and many young Africans of quality, sent into Portugal in the time of king Immanuel, were distinguished at the universities, and some of them were promoted to the priesthood. Near the close of the seventeenth century, Admiral du Quesue, saw at the Cape Verd Islands, a catholic clergy, all Negroes, with the exception of two, the bishop and curate of St. Jago.
According to the statements of Leo Africanus, who visited the city of Timbuctoo, on the Niger, in the sixteenth century, the progress of learning must have been considerable in its locality at that period. "In this city," observes Leo, "there are a great number of judges, of teachers, and of very learned men, who are amply supported by royal bounty. An infinite quantity of manuscript books are brought hither from Barbery; and much more money is derived from the traffic in these than in all the other articles of merchandise." As if to guard us against giving the Moors the credit of this, Leo makes especial mention of the king's brother, with whom he was well acquainted; this was Abubuker, surnamed Bargama, "a man very black in complexion, but most fair in mind and disposition."
Dr. Steetzen speaks of Abdallah, a native of Guber, in West Africa, as by no means inferior to Europeans: he is described as possessing a very intelligent countenance, although he had the true Negro features and colour.
The capacity of the Negro for the mathematical and physical sciences, is fully proved by Hannibal, a colonel in the Russian artillery; Lislet, of the Isle of France; and Richard Banneker, the almanack maker of Maryland;
97of these we have already furnished some particulars. There was also in the last-named American state an African named Fuller, who, although he could neither read nor write, displayed extraordinary quickness in mental calculation. Being asked in company, for the purpose of trying his powers, how many seconds a person had lived who was seventy years and some months old, he gave the answer in a minute and a half. On reckoning it up in figures a different result was obtained: "have you not forgotten the leap years?" asked the Negro: the omission was supplied, and it was found that the answer was perfectly correct.
Boerhaave and De Haen have given the strongest testimony that our coloured fellow-men possess no mean insight into practical medicine; and several have been known as very dexterous surgeons. A Negress at Yverdun, is mentioned by Blumenbach as being celebrated for real knowledge and "a fine experienced hand." James Derham, too, as our readers may remember, was one of the most distinguished physicians in New Orleans. The son of the king of Nimbana, came to England to study, acquired a proficiency in the sciences, and learnt Hebrew that he might read the bible in the original. Stedman was acquainted with a Negro who knew the Koran by heart. Higiemondo was an able artist: if the painter's business is to impart life to nature, he was a master of this, according to the testimony of Sandrart.
In proof of the musical talent of the Negro, it may be mentioned that slaves in America have been known to earn enough by the exercise of this talent to purchase their freedom, and to amass considerable property. The young Freidig in Vienna, was an excellent performer on both the violin and violoncello; he was also skilled in painting. Dr. Madden speaks very highly of Zadiki, a learned slave in Jamaica, who was redeemed through his intercession, dwelling principally upon his good conduct, his great discernment and sound discretion.
Amongst learned Mulattoes, Castaing may be mentioned as exhibiting poetic genius; his compositions adorn various editions of collected poetry. Barbaud-Royer Boisroud, the author of Precis des Gemissements des Sang-meles, announces himself as belonging to this class; and Michael Mina, (called also Miliscent,) was a Mulatto of St. Domingo. Julien Raymond, likewise a Mulatto, associated himself with the class of moral and political sciences, for the section of legislation. Without being able to justify his conduct in every
98respect, we may praise the energy with which he defended men of colour and free Negroes: he published many works, the greater part of which relate to the history of St. Domingo, and may serve as an antidote to the calumnies circulated by the colonists. We have already named the Cuban poet Placedo, and Phillis Wheatley, let us add to these the name of Caesar, a Negro of North Carolina, several of whose poems have been published, and become popular, like those of Bloomfield.
Duraud and Demanet, who resided a long time in Guinea, found Negroes with a keen and penetrating mind, a sound judgment, taste, and delicacy. On different parts of the coast of Africa, says Clarkson, there are Negroes who speak two or three languages, and act as interpreters. Vaillant and other travellers have remarked, that in general they possess very retentive memories. Adamson, astonished to hear the Negroes of Senegal mention a great number of stars, and converse pertinently concerning them, expresses a belief that if they had good instruments, they would become good astronomers.
Henry Diaz, who is extolled in all the histories of Brazil, was a Negro: once a slave, he became colonel of a regiment of soldiers of his own colour. A Negro was also Mentor, born at Martinico, in 1771. Being made a prisoner of war by the English, he managed to take possession of the vessel which was bearing him to this country, and carry her into Brest. To a noble physiognomy he united an amenity of character and a cultivated mind. He occupied a seat in the legislative assembly by the side of the estimable Temany. He was killed at St. Domingo, having sullied his brilliant reputation by his latter conduct. Ciqne, the chief of the Mendian Negroes, described under the head of the Amisted captives, was a man of uncommon natural capacity.
In addition to those already named, many Negroes have written good poetry. Blumenbach possessed poems in English, Dutch, and Latin, written by coloured persons. This learned and philosophic man observes, that entire and large provinces of Europe might be named in which it would be difficult to meet with such good writers, poets, philosophers, and correspondents of the French Academy; and that, moreover, there is no savage people who have distinguished themselves by such examples of perfectability and capacity for scientific cultivation; and consequently that none can approach more nearly to the polished nations of the globe than the Negro.
A few more names added to our catalogue of remarkable and illustrious Negroes, will serve to strengthen our position, although not perhaps to convince those who are too blinded by interest or prejudice to agree with us, even if what we advance be indeed
The examples which we shall now offer, will chiefly illustrate the Negro's susceptibility to religious influences, and to the more kindly and generous feelings of humanity — his natural goodness, rather than his intellectual capacity, will here be brought into view; this is the other, and, as we are inclined to view it, the brighter half of his character — the more hopeful aspect of his present condition, and promising sign of his future advancement. From soil of such a moral nature, what an abundant and enduring intellectual growth may we look for; what a golden fruitage to be ripened and gathered in the sunshine of freedom and Christianity. We shall continue to follow somewhat closely the valuable record of facts collected and arranged by the Negro's friend Wilson Armistead.
Major Laing was astonished at the wisdom and goodness of Be Seuiera, king of Kooranko; who sent his minstrel to play before the traveller, and welcome him with a song. The same traveller gives an account of Assana Yeera, a Negro king of strict probity, and universally beloved by his subjects. Lucy Cardwell, a free Negress of Virginia, was a remarkable instance of the power of religion operating on the mind. The lucid intervals of her latter days were chiefly occupied with prayer and praise.
The possession of an enlarged and noble heart is evinced in the history of Joseph Rachel, of Barbados, of whom philanthropists take pleasure in speaking. Having become rich he consecrated all his fortune to acts of benevolence; the unfortunate, without distinction of colour, had a claim on his affections; he gave to the indigent, lent to those who could not make a return, visited prisoners, gave them good advice, and endeavoured to bring back the guilty to virtue. John Williams, a coloured man of New Jersey, naturally intelligent, was brought by conviction to the knowledge of the truth, and ended his days in prayer and thanksgiving to God. Zilpha Montjoy, an aged Negress of New York, afforded a pattern of exemplary conduct. Her pious and circumspect life rendered her an object of peculiar interest
100to many. Alice, a female slave in Pennsylvania, attained to the advanced age of one hundred and sixteen years, zealously attending divine worship till she was ninety-five years old. The honesty, love of truth, temperance, and industry of this Negress have been highly commended.
George Hardy, a coloured youth, discovered in his earliest years a quickness of discernment and readiness of apprehension rarely surpassed; he was able to read the bible when four years old. Though furnished with scanty means of obtaining information, he exhibited a vigour of intellect and originality of thought which a protracted and enervating disease never subdued. Quashi, a Negro slave, in the history of his tragical death, affords an illustration of the exalted gratitude, friendship, and honour, which the despised race are capable of entertaining. Moses, a Negro of Virginia, was a remarkable pattern of piety; his prayers seemed to make all feel that the Almighty was present. The interesting and deeply affecting history of Zangara, stolen from Africa when very young, demonstrates in the Negro the possession of the finer feelings of our nature. Respecting the capabilities of two African youths, named Charles Knight and Joseph May, educated at the Borough Road School, a high testimony is given in the Minutes of Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, on the West Coast of Africa.
Maquama, a Negro slave stolen from his native country, gives a touching account of his sufferings when discarded in a blind and helpless condition. His was evidently an intelligent and reflective mind, and one imbued with the true spirit of piety; witness this expression: — "The prospect of eternal happiness which events have led to, infinitely overpays all my sufferings." Jacob Hodges, a Negro of Canandaigua, furnishes one of the finest illustrations of the power of divine truth, in the most ignorant and wretched of mankind. Who has not been delighted in perusing the narrative of the Negro servant related by Leigh Richmond, who testifies of him: — "The more I conversed with this African convert, the more satisfactory were the evidences of his mind being spiritually enlightened, and his heart effectually wrought upon by the grace of God. He bore the impression of the Saviour's image in his heart, and exhibited the marks of converting grace in his life and conversation, accompanied with singular simplicity and unfeigned sincerity."
Belinda Lucas, was stolen from Africa when a child. She purchased her freedom from slavery, and lived to about a
101hundred years of age: her narrative affords a striking instance of honest, persevering industry, and careful frugality. Augelo Soliman was also carried away from his home early in life; he was the son of an African prince, and died at Vienna in 1796. He was distinguished by a high degree of mental culture, and extensive learning, but more for his morality and excellence of character Jupiter Hammon, a Negro slave of Long Island, attained to considerable advancement both in an intellectual and religious point of view. He published an address to the Negroes of New York, which contains much sound advice, embodied in such excellent language, that were its genuineness not well attested, considerable doubt might be entertained on this head.
A very beautiful example of gratitude and affection towards a former master, is afforded by one Gomez, spoken of by Chambers; and also by Eustache, the noble black of St. Domingo, of whom Miss Martineau gives a picture no less pleasing than it appears to be historically true. But the most touching example of this kind that we have ever heard or read, is embodied in an address delivered by the Hon. Edward Everett, at the annual meeting of the American Colonization Society, held at Washington in January, 1853. This address contains so much that is honourable alike to the heart and understanding of the speaker, and to the coloured race whose cause we have undertaken to plead, that we are tempted to make a long extract from it, feeling assured that our space cannot be more usefully occupied, nor this chapter more worthily concluded. After alluding to the doubts entertained by some, as to whether there is in the native races of Africa, "a basis of improvability;" and shewing by a reference to both ancient and modern history, that such doubts cannot be reasonably entertained, the eloquent speaker goes on to say: —
"We are led into error by contemplating things too much in the gross. There are tribes in Africa which have made no contemptible progress in various branches of human improvement. On the other hand, if we look closely at the condition of the mass of the population in Europe, from Lisbon to Archangel, from the Hebrides to the Black Sea — if we turn from the few who possess wealth or competence, education, culture, and that lordship over nature and all her forces which belongs to instructed mind — if we turn from these to the benighted, destitute, oppressed, superstitious, abject millions whose lives are passed in the hopeless toils of the field, the factory, the mine — whose
102inheritance is beggary, whose education is stolid ignorance — at whose daily table hunger and thirst are the stewards — whose rare festivity is brutal intemperance — if we could count their number, gather into one aggregate their destitution of the joys of life, and thus estimate the full extent of the practical barbarism of the nominally civilized world, we should be inclined, perhaps, to doubt the essential superiority of the present improved European race. If it be essentially superior, why did it remain so long unimproved? The Africans, you say, persevered in their original barbarism for five thousand years. Well, the Anglo-Saxon race did the same thing for nearly four thousand years; and in the great chronology of Providence, a thousand years are but as one day. A little more than ten centuries ago, and our Saxon ancestors were not more civilized than some of the African tribes of the present day. They were a savage, warlike people — pirates by sea, bandits on shore, enslaved by the darkest superstitions, worshipping divinities as dark and cruel as themselves; and the Slave trade was carried on in Great Britain eight hundred years ago as ruthlessly as upon the coast of Africa at the present day. But it pleased Divine Providence to pour the light of Christianity upon this midnight darkness. By degrees, civilization, law, liberty, letters. And arts came in, and at the end of eight centuries we talk of the essential inborn superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race, and look down with disdain on those portions of the human family who have lagged a little behind us in the march of civilization.
At the present day Africa is not the abode of utter barbarism. Here, again, we do not discriminate — we judge in the gross. Some of her tribes are, indeed, hopelessly broken down by internal wars and the foreign Slave trade; and the situation of the whole continent is exceedingly adverse to any progress in culture. But they are not savages — the mass of the population live by agriculture; there is some traffic between the coast and the interior, there is a rude architecture, gold dust is collected, iron is smelted, weapons and utensils of husbandry and household use are wrought, cloth is manufactured and dyed, palm oil is expressed, and schools are taught. Among the Mahomedan tribes the Koran is read. I have seen a native African in this city who had passed forty years of his life as a slave in the field, who, at the age of seventy, wrote the Arabic character with the elegance of a scribe. And Mungo Park tells us that lawsuits are argued with as much ability, fluency, and
103at as much length, in the interior of Africa, as at Edinburgh I certainly am aware that the condition of the most advanced tribes of Central Africa is wretched, mainly in consequence of the Slave trade, which exists among them in the most deplorable form. The only wonder is, that, with this cancer eating into their vitals from age to age, any degree of civilization can exist.
But I think it may be said, without exaggeration, that, degraded as are the ninety millions of Africans, ninety millions exist in Europe, to which each country contributes her quota, not much less degraded. The difference is, and certainly an all-important difference, that in Europe, intermingled with those ninety millions, are fifteen to twenty millions possessed of all degrees of culture, up to the very highest; while in Africa there is not an individual who, according to our own standard, has attained a high degree of intellectual cultivation; but if obvious causes for this can be shown, it is unphilosophical to infer from it essential incapacity. But all doubts of the incapacity of the African race for self-government, and of their improvability under favourable circumstances, seem to me to be removed by what we witness at the present day, both in our own country and on the coast of that continent. Notwithstanding the disadvantages of their condition in this country, specimens of intellectual ability, the talent of writing and speaking, capacity for business, for the ingenious and mechanical arts, for accounts, for the ordinary branches of academical learning, have been exhibited by our coloured brethren which would do no discredit to Anglo-Saxons. Paul Cuffee, well recollected in New England, was a person of great energy. His father was an African slave — his mother an Indian of the Elizabeth Islands, Mass. I have already alluded to the extraordinary attainments of Abderrahaman — a man of better manners or more respectable appearance I never saw. The learned blacksmith of Alabama, now in Liberia, has attained a celebrity scarcely inferior to that of his white brother known by the same designation. I frequently attended the examinations at a school in Cambridge, at which Beverly Williams was a pupil. Two youths from Georgia and a son of my own were his fellow pupils. Beverly was a born slave in Mississippi, and apparently of pure African blood. He was one of the best scholars — perhaps the best Latin scholar — in his class. These are indications of intellectual ability, afforded under discouraging circumstances at home.
On the coast of Africa, the success of Liberia (the creation of this society,) ought to put to rest all doubts on this question. The affairs of this interesting settlement, under great difficulties and discouragements, have been managed with a discretion, an energy, and I must say, all things considered, with a success, which authorize the most favourable inferences as to the capacity of the coloured races for self-government. It is about thirty years since the settlement began, and I think it must be allowed that its progress will compare very favourably with that of Virginia or Plymouth, after an equal length of time. They have established a well-organized constitution of republican government. It is administered with ability; the courts of justice are modelled after our own; they have schools and churches. The soil is tilled, the country is explored, the natives are civilized, the Slave trade is banished, a friendly intercourse is maintained with foreign powers, and England and France have acknowledged their independent sovereignty. Would a handful of Anglo-Americans from the humblest classes of society here, do better than this? The truth is, Mr. President, and with this I conclude, an influence has been, and I trust ever will be, at work through the agency of the colony of Liberia, and other similar agencies, I trust hereafter to be added, abundantly competent to effect this great undertaking, and that is the sovereign power of Christian love. Ah! sir, this after all is sometimes resisted and subdued — commercial enterprise becomes bankrupt, state policy is outwitted, but in the long run, pure, manly, rather let me say heavenly, love can never fail. It is the moral sentiment, principally under the guidance and impulse of religious zeal, that has civilized the world. Arms, and craft, and mammon, seize their opportunity and mingle in the work, but cannot kill its vitality.
That our coloured brethren, equally with ourselves, are susceptible of the moral sentiments, it would be an affront to your discernments to argue. I read last year in a newspaper, an anecdote which seemed to put this point in so beautiful and affecting a light, that, with your permission, I will repeat it. A citizen of Rapides, in Louisiana, with his servant started for California, hoping to improve his not prosperous circumstances by sharing the golden harvest of that region. For a while they were successful, but the health of the master at length failed. What, in that distant region, under a constitution forbidding Slavery, and in that new and scarcely organized society — what was the conduct of the
105the slave? Priest and Levite, as the master lay ill of typhus fever, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But the faithful servant tended, watched, protected his stricken master, by day and by night — his companion, nurse, and friend. At length the master died. What, then, was the conduct of the slave, as he stood on those lonely wastes, by the remains of him who, when living, he had served? He dug his decent grave in the golden sands, gathered up the fruits of their joint labours, (these he considered the sacred property of his master's family,) toiled a few more weeks under the burning sun of a Californian summer, to accumulate the means of paying his passage to the States, and then returned to the family of his master, in Louisiana. I cannot vouch, for the truth of the story. I have heard of tales which, if not true, were well invented. This, sir, is too good to be invented. I believe, I know, it must be true; and such a fact proves far more the possession by the African race of the moral sentiments by which the land of their fathers is to be civilized, than volumes of argument. Sir, that master and that slave ought to be in marble and brass. If a person so humble as myself, so soon to pass away and be forgotten, dare promise it, I would say their memory shall never perish. O! fortunati ambro; siquid mea carmina possint nulla dies unquam memoris vos eximet ava. There is a moral wealth in that incident beyond the treasures of California. If all the gold she has already yielded to the indomitable industry of the adventurer, and all that she yet locks from the cupidity of man in the virgin chambers of her snow-clad sierras, were all molten into one ingot, it would not buy the moral worth of that scene. Sir, I leave you to make the application. I have told you — you knew it well before — how Africa is to be civilized, and who are to do the work. And what remains but to bid God speed to the undertaking?"
Chapter VIII. Living Witnesses.
With intellectual powers as high, with minds
As cultivated and refined, with hearts
As warm, as full of feeling and affection
Tender and pure, as ever found a place
Within the whitest bosom? Have we not
OUR LIVING WITNESSES to prove the truth
Of our assertion — that tike Negro race
May claim equality and brotherhood
With all the Great Creator ever made
In His own image, and pronounced it good!
Most, if not all, of those whom we have noticed in the foregoing pages, have passed away from the stage of life; we can but refer to their histories — to their deeds and recorded words — in support of our argument: but others there are, and not a few, to whom we may point as LIVING WITNESSES, and examples of the truth of our argument. Remarkable and highly-gifted men in every way are many of these dark-skinned brothers of ours, who are now labouring for oppressed humanity, and doing good service to the cause of truth and freedom: faithful and eloquent ones, strong in their advocacy of whatsoever is just, and holy, and pure, and of good repute; men of sound piety, of deep learning, and of great intellectual wealth, are among them, to give the lie to the charge of inferiority: men of wonderful acquirements, considering the difficulties under which they have laboured in their early days of ceaseless toil and cruel bondage: men of warm hearts and generous natures, with a firm faith in the goodness of God, and a tender love for their fellow-men, notwithstanding their hardships and their sufferings, and all the blunting, and deadening, and depraving influences to which they have been subjected: men who, though they have been hunted from their own shores, where they were liable to be chained, and scourged, and maimed, and shot like very beasts, and come to us in nakedness and destitution, we are proud to own as brothers, to take by the hand and introduce into the bosoms of our families, our halls of science and learning, our places of worship, and wherever our purest, noblest, and holiest thoughts, feelings, and aspirations abide. A brief — a very brief — sketch of the lives of a few of these LIVING WITNESSES, is all we have space to give, and this we the less regret, because they are most of them easily accessible in one or other of the cheap
107books which have been published to meet the increasing demand for anti-slavery literature, which has of late assumed so important a position in the world of letters.
The narrative of Frederick Douglass, published in this country in the year 1845, is one calculated to excite our strongest feelings of pity, and sympathy, and admiration for the man, and of horror and detestation of the system which would make him something less than a man. The following are a few of the leading incidents in the life of this highly-gifted champion of his suffering and oppressed race: — He was born a slave on a plantation of Maryland, about the year 1817; few slaves know exactly their own age; Douglass says that he never met with one who could tell the date of his birthday. If an owner were to be asked how old such and such a slave might be, he would reply, "Oh, about so and so last fall," just as he would speak of a horse or a dog; and this fact alone speaks loudly for the debasing influence of the system, both upon slave and master. The father of Douglass was a white man, and, as it seems more than probable, his mother's owner. This double relation is not unfrequently sustained by the same person in the southern states, so that a parent often sells his own children, which, Douglass says, he is frequently compelled to do out of deference for the feelings of his white wife; "and cruel as the deed may appear, it is often the dictate of humanity for him to do so; for unless he does this, he must not only whip him himself, but must stand by and see one white son tie up his brother of but a few shades darker complexion than himself, and ply the gory lash on his naked back."
Douglass was separated from his mother when quite an infant: of her he has only a faint recollection of some few stealthy visits paid by night: the frightened, tearful woman bending over her child, whom she must not nurse and fondle, bidden to repress the maternal instincts and yearnings of her womanly nature, driven to labour, tasked beyond her strength, and worn out ere half her natural course was run, she died when her boy was but seven years of age, and the young Mulatto was soon after sent to live with a relative of his master at Baltimore, and here it was that he first begun to acquire the rudiments of knowledge: his new mistress, to whose little
108boy he was intended as a sort of humble companion and protector, taught him the alphabet, and to know the beauty of a white face when lit up with the smile of kindness. She was proceeding with her good work of instruction, when her husband found out what was going on, and interposed his authority, pointing out that it was not only unlawful, but also unsafe, to teach a slave to read; "a nigger," said he, "should know nothing but to obey his master: if you teach him to read, he will become discontented and unhappy, and for ever unfit to be a slave." These words, spoken in the hearing of the lad, awoke a train of thought in his breast which did not again slumber. The secret of the white man's power was revealed to him — knowledge, he found, was the key to freedom — and he resolved to win it, and steadily he kept this resolution in view, omitting no opportunity of adding to his little store. Truly interesting is it to follow him through the seven years of his Baltimore life; to notice the shifts and expedients, in no ways disgraceful or dishonourable, by which, with great toil and perseverance, he enriched his mind with that wealth which, slave as he was, eventually placed him far above many of the rich and the free. One or two instances of his ardour and ingenuity in "the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties" we cannot help alluding to. He was accustomed to make friends of all the little white boys whom he met within the streets, and to convert them into teachers, carrying in his pocket pieces of bread saved from his allowance, with which he rewarded them for their trouble. He constantly carried a book in his pocket, and seldom went on an errand without at the same time learning a lesson therefrom. His master, and his mistress too, when told of her error, threw every impediment possible in the way of his acquisition of learning, but all in vain; the lamp was kindled and would burn on.
This is how he learned to write: — Being some time employed in a ship-yard, he noticed that the timbers — prepared, it may be, for one of those "Baltimore clippers" of "middle passage" celebrity — had certain letters marked on them, to denote the position which they were to occupy, by inquiry of the men, he found out what these letters were called, and what they stood for, and then learned to imitate them in chalk, rather awkwardly at first you may be sure. Carrying his piece of chalk in his pocket, if he fell in with a boy whom he knew was a more expert calligraphist than himself, he would say, after giving a specimen of his best style, on the wall or pavement as it might be, "There, beat that if
109you can!" Of course the urchin thus challenged did his best to beat it, and so little black Freddy, all the while attentively observing him, got a writing lesson gratis. We will let him tell in his own words how he perfected himself in this important art: — "By this time my little Master Thomas had gone to school, and learned how to write, and had written over a number of copy-books. These had been brought home and shown to some of our near neighbours, and then thrown aside. My mistress used to go to class-meeting every Monday afternoon, and leave me to take care of the house. When left thus, I used to spend the time in writing in the spaces left in Master Thomas's copy-book, crossing what he had written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very similar to Master Thomas. Thus, after a long and tedious effort, I finally succeeded in learning to write."
The death of Douglass' owner causing a division of the property, he fell to the share of Miss Lucretia, the daughter, and herein was fortunate; for the son, Master Andrew, was a brutal wretch. "I once saw him," says the narrator, "take my little brother by the throat, throw him on the ground, and with the heel of his boot stamp upon his head, until the blood gushed forth from his nose and ears." Before he left Baltimore to return once more to the place of his birth, a compilation called the Columbian Orator had fallen into the hands of our young slave. In it were Sheridan's speeches on Catholic Emancipation: there he read bold denunciations of slavery of every kind, and a noble vindication of human rights, which stirred his spirit like a trumpet call. Henceforth, we are told, he had but one aim in life — freedom for himself and his race! This he determined, if possible, to achieve, and the determination was no doubt strengthened by what took place at the valuation of his late master's property. "We were all ranked together. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and all subjected to the same narrow examination. Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, maids and matrons, had to undergo the same indelicate inspection. At this moment I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery, upon both slave and slaveholder."
Neither Miss Lucretia nor Master Andrew lived long to enjoy their share of the property, which was dispersed here and there into strange hands. Frederick's poor old grand-mother, who had been a faithful servant in her master's
110family throughout the whole of her lengthened existence — "who had rocked him in infancy, attended him in childhood, served him through life, and in death wiped from his icy brow the cold death sweat and closed his eyes forever, was nevertheless left a slave in the hands of strangers; and in their hands she saw her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren divided — divided like so many sheep, without being gratified with the small privilege of a single word as to them or their own destiny." We would fain quote the whole of the feeling and eloquent description of this poor old servant, turned out to die lonely and unaided, as a reward for her faithful devotion to this ungrateful family, but our limited space will not allow of this; we have already dwelt at too great a length upon the early period of Douglass' history, and must now hasten on to complete our outline sketch.
In 1832, that human chattel called Frederick Douglass fell into the hands of Mr. Thomas Auld, of St. Michaels, "a pious and converted man, but withal excessively mean and cruel, giving his slaves food in scanty proportions, but, to make up for it, blows in abundance — a great religious professor, and a great stumbling-block in the way of true religion." The remarks of Douglass upon this man, and upon the class which he represents, are extremely forcible; but we must pass on to state that Mr. Auld, finding that his servant had an inconvenient appetite, and some other serious faults, determined on letting him out to a "Nigger broker" for twelve months. Covey was the name of this person, whose mission it was to "break in" obstreperous Negroes; and in the process, as may well be imagined, some unamiable traits of human character were fully developed. Covey believed in the whip, indeed it appears that he believed in nothing else, and he used it most unsparingly. We have in our first chapter called the attention of our readers to Gilbert's picture
111it could never rain, blow, or snow too hard for us to work in the field. Work, work, work was scarcely more the order of the day than the night. The longest days were too short for him. I was somewhat unmanageable when I first went there, but a few months of this discipline soon tamed me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit; my natural elasticity was crushed; my intellect languished; the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me."
But crushed and depressed as he was, his noble spirit was not wholly subdued — his aspirations not altogether quenched; at times there broke through the clouds and thick darkness that surrounded him, gleams of hope — flashes of light from that heaven of freedom for which his soul panted. As he looked upon the noble ships spreading their white sails in the bay of Chesapeake, near which his master's house stood, his soul cast off its trammels; his resolution to be one day free returned, and he looked for the better time that he felt sure was coming for his recompense for all past woes and sufferings. And that better day did at length arrive, when Douglass stood upright and unabashed as a true man should, before God and his fellow-men upon the shores of Great Britain. Here he was kindly received, and heartily welcomed, and after going through the length and breadth of the land, and addressing public meetings out of number on behalf of his countrymen in chains, with a power of eloquence which captivated his auditors, and brought the cause which he pleaded home to their hearts, he returned to America, and by means of the subscriptions raised in this country, his freedom was purchased of his legal master; and an Anti-Slavery paper called the North Star, was established, this he still continues to conduct with great ability and success; and by lecturing and other means, promotes the work which he has so much at heart.
We have taken a long leap out of the deep slough of despondence and degradation into which Douglass was at one time plunged, to the high ground of his eventual freedom. Many interesting and affecting incidents of his career lie between, for which we refer our readers to his published narrative. The following extract from an address delivered by William Lloyd Garrison, at Boston, in 1846, is powerfully descriptive of the manner of his first appearance on a public platform: — "In the month of August, 1841," says he, "I attended an anti-slavery convention in Nantuket, at which it was my happiness to become acquainted with Frederick Douglass.
He was a stranger to nearly every member of this body, but having recently made his escape from the southern house of bondage, and feeling his curiosity excited to ascertain the principles and measures of the abolitionists — of whom he had heard a somewhat vague description while he was a slave — he was induced to give his attendance on the occasion alluded to, though at that time a resident in New Bedford.
Fortunate, most fortunate occurrence! fortunate for the millions of his manacled brethren yet panting for deliverance from their awful thraldom! fortunate for the cause of Negro emancipation and of universal liberty! fortunate for the land of his birth, which he has done much to save and bless! fortunate for the large circle of friends and acquaintances whose sympathy and affection he has strongly secured by the many sufferings be has endured, by his virtuous traits of character, by his ever abiding remembrances of those who are in bonds, as being bound with him! fortunate for the multitudes in various parts of our republic, whose minds he has enlightened on the subject of Negro slavery, and who have been melted to tears by his pathos, or roused to virtuous indignation by his stirring eloquence against the enslavers of men! fortunate for himself, as it at once brought him into the field of public usefulness, ‘gave the assurance of a MAN,’ quickened the slumbering energies of his soul, and consecrated him to the great work of breaking the rod of the oppressor, and letting the oppressed go free.
I shall never forget his first speech at the convention; the extraordinary emotion it excited in my own mind, the powerful impression it created upon a crowded auditory, completely taken by surprise; the applause which followed from the beginning to the end of his felicitous remarks. I think I never hated slavery so intensely as at that moment; certainly my perception of the enormous outrage which is inflicted by it on the godlike nature of its victims, was rendered far more clear than ever. There stood one, in physical proportion and stature commanding and erect, in natural eloquence a prodigy, in soul manifestly ‘created but a little lower than the angels,’ yet a slave, aye, a fugitive slave, trembling for his safety, hardly daring to believe that on the American soil, a single white person could be found who would befriend him at all hazards, for the love of God and humanity. Capable of high attainments as an intellectual and moral being, needing nothing but a comparatively small amount of cultivation to make him an ornament to society and a blessing to his race. By the law of the land, by the
113voice of the people, by the terms of the slave code, he was only a piece of property, a beast of burden, a chattel personal, nevertheless!
was born in the slave-breeding state of Maryland, on the estate of Col. Gordon, who was considered, on the whole, to be a kind and considerate master, and a good man; his goodness, however, we imagine, was only comparative, and not positive; at all events, some of his recorded acts and deeds seem to us those of an extremely bad man. This, perhaps, is owing to our anti-slavery prejudices, and foolish notions about Negro equality. Pennington's father and mother were the chattels of different owners, either of whom could sever when he pleased, the holy bond of matrimony, and so put asunder that which God had joined.
The narrative of James Pennington, "the Fugitive Black smith," as he is sometimes called, was published here in 1849, and from it we gather the particulars given in this sketch, it is a plain unvarnished tale, and bears the impress of truth. Our hero gives no date to his birth, probably because, like Douglass, he knew it not; the first event in his slave life which is recorded, was being given with his mother and an elder brother, to a son of his master, who had married, and was about to settle two-hundred miles away, in Washington county. Here was an early breaking up of family ties; the father was left behind, in Maryland, and might at any time be commanded to take another wife, of his master's choosing; as the mother might be forced to connect herself with another husband. This trial, however, was spared them; the father was after a while purchased by the owner of the rest of the family, and so they were reunited. In Pennington's childhood there was little on which he could look back in after years with any degree of pleasure; as soon as his tender limbs could bear the yoke, it was placed upon him, and woe be to him when his strength failed to bear the allotted burden; curses and stripes from the overseer, and petty persecutions, amounting often to acts of cruelty, from his master's children, were the chief incidents of this period of his existence. Well might the prospect of coming years be to him dark and dismal. With uninstructed mind, and passions checked but hot subdued, he grew to maturity a
114"first-rate blacksmith," warranted to do a certain amount of skilled labour, and to be satisfied with just so much sustenance as would suffice to keep him from sinking under it.
His market value was so many hundred dollars, according to the demand there might be for such an article; kind treatment, comfortable clothing, and such like, were merely extras to be thrown in as the interest or caprice of the owner might dictate: as for the mind, that was not wanted, so the less said about that the better — let it sleep: machines with minds are apt to have a will of their own, which might run counter to their owner's will — by no means enlighten that! State laws say you must not do it; so keep the mind in ignorance by all means: do not let the machine suspect that it has one. What! a soul to be saved? Ah, well, time enough to think about that when the physical powers decay — when the article is worn out and thrown by like old lumber; then awake the dying spark, and if you can, fan it into a flame; teach it to aspire to immortality and heaven. Such glorious themes will no doubt be strange to the poor benighted soul, pressed down beneath a load of good feelings crushed and withered, and of evil passions stimulated to rank luxuriance of growth; but it may be awoke — it may be saved; if not, why it must go; the body is "the property" that we value, the soul is quite a secondary affair; our temporal interests are of more consequence to us than the eternal interests of all the Negroes that were ever created. So say the slave-holders, in effect, if not in words.
But we are forgetting Pennington, who, when about twenty-one years old, was sold for the sum of seven hundred dollars, but soon afterwards re-purchased, and taken back to work upon the estate, where his knowledge of handicrafts made him very useful. With Pennington it seems that the man was never wholly lost in the slave; he had a certain degree, perhaps we should say a proper degree, of pride in the skill of his hands, and the due performance of the work entrusted to him; there was something of manly independence left about him in spite of the scourgings, and taunts, and revilings, and cruel usage which he had received when a boy. Since he had reached mature years, he had, from the nature of his occupation, been less subjected to this sort of usage than the common field hands, who are constantly in fear of the overseer's whip. He tells us that he delighted in giving a neatness and finish to his workings in iron, and in making little articles of use and ornament out of the common way: his intellect was evidently awakening.
Perhaps his master, who we are told was, as respects discipline, "a thorough slave-holder, a perpetualist, who would do anything to secure unqualified obedience," saw this, and thought it dangerous to the stability of the "peculiar institution." At all events he took effectual means to check the growing spirit of independence, and to let not only the young blacksmith, but his whole family, feel that they were slaves, subject to his absolute will. He flogged the father, who seems to have been a useful, industrious, and inoffensive old man; and he flogged the son for no real offence that we can learn; and then by a series of annoyances, and a tyrannical exercise of his power, strove to break their spirits. But in this he failed, as far as the hero of our sketch was concerned; by him an attempt to escape was determined on and successfully carried out, though not without many struggles and heartaches at leaving his parents. His brother had some years previously passed into the hands of another master — a stonemason in a town, to whom he had been put to learn the trade, and with whom he was pretty comfortable.
We cannot follow Pennington through the toils and terrors of his flight; he had many narrow escapes of a recapture, but finally reached Pennsylvania, where he was secreted and cared for by some members of the Society of Friends, who in America, as elsewhere, are ever foremost in works of mercy and benevolence. With them he remained upwards of a year; learned to read, acquired a knowledge of the truths of salvation, became impressed with deep religious convictions, and then went to New York, where he joined a church, and entered upon a course of study with a view to qualify himself for the ministry, on which his hopes and desires were fixed. What an ambition this for the poor uninstructed Negro — the slave fleeing for life and liberty would fain instruct others in those truths which make all men free. The means by which he acquired the knowledge necessary for his high vocation, are set forth in his narrative in the simple and earnest language of truth; and if we can there read aright the heart of the man, we may say that he is animated with the true apostolic spirit of Christian love and charity. His testimony against slavery is full of points which merit the serious attention of all who defend, on any ground, that accursed system; and how forcibly and touchingly is it uttered: — "It is a sin and a wrong which I can never forgive. It robbed me of my education; the injury is irreparable — I feel the embarrassment more seriously now
116than ever I did before. It cost me two years' hard labour after I had fled, to unshackle my mind; it was three years before I purged my language of slavery's idioms; it was four years before I had thrown off the crouching aspect of slavery; and now the evil that besets me is a great lack of that general information, the foundation of which is most effectully laid in that part of life which I served as a slave. When I consider how much more — more than ever — depends upon sound and thorough education among coloured men, I am grievously overwhelmed with a sense of my deficiency, and more especially as I can never hope to make it up. If I know my own heart, I have no ambition but to serve the cause of suffering humanity; all that I have deserved or sought has been to make me more efficient for good. So far I have some consciousness that I have done my utmost; and should my future days be few or many, I am reconciled to meet the last account, hoping to be acquitted of any willful neglect of duty: but I shall have to go to my last account with this charge against the system of slavery, — ‘Vile monster, thou has hindered me of my usefulness by robbing me of my early education!’"
In our opening chapter, we have made some allusion to Pennington's eloquence, and to his justly earned academical honours. He has been now for several years the settled minister of the first coloured Presbyterian church in New York. He is besides a member of the Presbytery, and of various other religious and educational bodies.
Truly a man tried and found faithful was Josiah Henson, "raised," like the subjects of our two previous sketches, in Maryland, it was his lot to suffer in early life some of the most aggravated evils of the slavery system. While yet a mere child, he was horrified by the sight of the mangled and bleeding body of his father, who was cruelly scourged for resenting a brutal assault committed on his mother by the overseer of the estate on which the family lived. The sale of the elder Henson followed soon after his punishment, which appears to have so embittered his mind, that he became sullen and morose, and comparatively useless. Then came the death of Dr. Mc' Pherson, who owned Josiah and his mother, and, being a kind-hearted man, treated his slaves
117well. The human stock on the estate being sold, the mother and child passed into the hands of one Riley, who is described as a coarse, vulgar, and licentious man. Notwithstanding the youth of suffering and privation which Josiah passed in the hands of such an owner, he yet seems to have been diligent and faithful, and even ambitious to excel. In his published narrative of his life he says, in relation to this period. "My objects were to be first in the field, whether we were hoeing, mowing, or reaping; to surpass those of my own age, or indeed any age, in athletic exercises; and to obtain, if possible, the favourable regard of the petty despot who owned us."
Henson's zeal and assiduity, however, in the service of his master, gave him no higher claims to consideration than those which arose from his increased marketable value, and the slave worked on, to Riley's profit and advantage, without experiencing much of the sunshine of that favour which should have rewarded his efforts. Thus repelled from the object towards which they were at first directed, his feelings and sympathies expanded around those more immediately on his own level — his fellow-slaves and sufferers; and he began to awake to a perception of his and their debased condition. Being a strong, steady, useful hand, in whom confidence might be reposed, he came by degrees to be a sort of leading man on the estate, and he contrived to use his limited power so as, without exciting the jealousy or suspicion of those above him, to mitigate some of the evils under which the slaves groaned; thus he won their love and confidence, and by his persuasions could induce them to labour more earnestly and heartily than they would for all the curses and stripes of the overseer. This functionary happening to die, Henson was appointed to succeed him from motives of policy, and the advantage of the change was soon apparent in the increase of the crops and the general improvement of the whole aspect of things on the estate. The owner's extravagant intemperate habits, however, were fast bringing him to ruin; in vain did the poor slaves sweat and toil, and the overseer stimulate them to increased exertion; the money was spent in the gambling-house and the tavern, and other places of profligate resort; and thither had Henson frequently to repair to bring home his brutal master, rendered incapable by drink of leaving massisted the scene of debauchery. On one of these occasions, finding Riley engaged in a fight, when it is always considered the slave's duty to rush in and save the master at any risk of life or limb, Henson, in performing this duty, had the misfortune to overturn a drunken white man who was staggering
118about, and required but little to complete his prostration. This was an offence not to be overlooked, and dearly did the faithful Negro pay for it; he was waylaid by the offended person, assisted by three slaves over whom he had control, and so severely beaten, that he was left weltering in his blood, with both his shoulder blades and one arm broken. The miscreant who inflicted these injuries, which rendered Henson a cripple for life, was not punished: no white man witnessed the transaction, and he had only to swear that he acted in self-defence.
For five months did Henson lie upon the earthen door of his hut, too weak and agonized to leave it; his fractured limbs were merely bound up by a female ignorant of surgery, and permanent distortion was the consequence: he was still, however, retained on the estate, as his skilful management of the hands and crops could not well be dispensed with. He had some time previously been persuaded by his mother to attend the preaching of a pious layman, who was accustomed to address the Negroes on the great concerns of a life hereafter; the text was from Hebrews, ii. 9 — "That He by the grace of God should taste of death for every man," and the speaker dwelt especially upon the fact of the Saviour having died for every man, whether slave or master. This made a great impression upon Henson's mind, and gave him new ideas of the importance of a human soul. The text taught him to set a higher value upon himself and his fellow-slaves; it set him thinking upon subjects high and solemn, and had a wonderful effect in lifting him out of the darkness and degradation of his state of slavery. He became at once a man and a Christian; and well would it be if every one to whom the light of divine truth has been vouchsafed had followed its guidance as faithfully and earnestly as this poor despised and ill used Negro. At the age of twenty-four Henson married a Negro girl who, like himself, was impressed with religious convictions, and who loved him none the less for his elevated shoulders and distorted arms: the union seems to have been a happy one; and we may as well state here that, with this beloved wife and the two children which she bore to him, Henson afterwards effected his escape to Canada. But before this happy period arrived, he had great trials of his integrity to encounter, and wrongs and sufferings to undergo. To a few of these we must allude as briefly as possible.
Finding himself on the verge of ruin, Henson's master, in order thus to save the most valuable part of his property,
119requested his overseer to conduct his slaves, eighteen a number, to Kentucky, where his brother resided. The commission was a difficult one to execute, but Henson performed it faithfully, passing through a thousand miles of unknown country in the depth of winter without losing a single slave. When in the state of Ohio, it was suggested to him that he had now an opportunity of becoming free, and of liberating his companions in captivity. But no! he had pledged himself to the performance of a certain duty, and no consideration of personal advantage could turn him aside. What was his reward? Listen! After taking care of Riley's Negroes for three years, and conducting their operations on the Kentucky farm with his accustomed skill and success, he, when orders were received to sell them, obtained leave to visit his master in Maryland, and on the way, having previously much improved himself by practice in religious exercises, he managed, by preaching in several pulpits, and stating the object in view, to raise money for the purchase of his release. The price demanded by Riley was four hundred and fifty dollars, and three hundred and fifty were at once paid down. His master had previously endeavoured to dispossess the poor Negro of the pass which authorized his return to Kentucky, and being defeated in this attempt, resorted to another stratagem to prevent his manumission. He made out the certificate of freedom, but affecting great solicitude for its safety, sealed it up and directed it to his brother Amos, telling Henson that, as to break a seal was felony, nobody would dare deprive him of the precious document. This placed Henson entirely in the hands of Riley's brother, by whom alone the packet might be legally opened. What was Henson's astonishment to be told on reaching home that he had yet six hundred and fifty dollars to pay, Riley having advised his brother that the price fixed on was a thousand dollars! Thus was the poor Negro tricked and disappointed. After all his exertions, all his reasonable hopes and expectations, he had lost his all and was still a slave! "But," said he (and mark the Christian spirit of the declaration,) "I consoled myself as well as I could, and set about my work again, with as quiet a mind as I could command, resolved to trust in God and never despair."
Soon after this Amos Riley, who wanted money, and, like his brother, was restrained by no scruples of conscience, determined on an act of the blackest ingratitude and direst cruelty; this was to send Henson to the New Orleans market for sale. He was accordingly bidden to prepare for a voyage
120for his master's soon, who was to act as salesman, and the poor Negro's heart sank within him when he thought of the separation from his wife and children, and of the dreadful fate which generally awaits the slave who is sold south. On his way to the southern market, thoughts of revenge and plans of escape frequently came into the Negro's mind: on one occasion he resolved upon an act of wholesale murder, and the opportunity was afforded him of carrying his plan into effect; but his affrighted conscience shrunk back from the deed of blood which his phrenzy had suggested, and his arm was mercifully stayed. And now came a crisis in which his character shone out like gold tried in the furnace. Even while he was in treaty for the gate of the injured Negro, Riley was smitten with fever, and brought near to death's door, and was only saved by the unremitting care and attention of his slave, who, instead of escaping, as he might have done, watched over the young man like a brother, and conveyed him, as soon as he was able to bear the voyage, safely back to his home.
This is a beautiful incident, and it ought to convince the most prejudiced reader that there are elements of good in the Negro character, which only require to be quickened and stimulated by religion, to produce an abundant growth of virtues and Christian graces. Henson's life all through is a proof of this. Since his escape to Canada he has devoted himself entirely to the service of his fellow-sufferers in the house of bondage, out of which he has been the principal means of delivering, it is said, no less than one hundred and eighteen persons. He has undergone incredible hardships, and several times risked his life and liberty to effect this. He is earnest and untiring in his efforts to spread the knowledge of the gospel among his brethren, and, notwithstanding his defective education, is both a successful and eloquent teacher and preacher. He was one of the chief movers in the establishment of the Dawa Institute in Canada, a portion of land on which are erected schools and other educational buildings, where coloured people are encouraged to settle and instructed in the useful and industrial arts. It was in aid of the funds of this establishment that Henson and his son came to England a short time since; he addressed several large audiences, preached in the pulpits and sat at the tables of some of our most distinguished ministers and philanthropists. And this is the man who once stood, a poor little trembling piece of sable humanity, on the sale platform of the slave mart, ready to be knocked down to the highest bidder!
Here is one of the earnest experiences of his life, taken from his published narrative: — "My brothers and sisters were bid off one by one, while my mother, holding my hand, looked on in an agony of grief, the cause of which I but little understood at first, but which dawned on my mind, with dreadful clearness, as the sale proceeded. My mother was then separated from me, and put up in her turn. She was bought by a man named Isaac Riley, residing in Montgomery county, and then I was offered to the assembled purchasers. My mother, half distracted with parting for ever from all her children, pushed through the crowd, while the bidding for me was going on, to the spot where her new master was standing. She fell at his feet, and clung to his knees, entreating him, in tones that a mother only could command, to buy her baby as well as herself, and to spare her one of her little ones at least. Will it, can it be believed, that this man, thus appealed to, was capable not merely of turning a deaf ear to her supplication, but to disengage himself from her with such violent blows and kicks, as to reduce her to the necessity of creeping out of his reach, and mingling the groan of bodily suffering with the sob of a breaking heart? Yet this was one of my earnest observations of men, and experience which has been common to me with thousands of my race, the bitterness of which its frequency cannot diminish to any individual who suffers it, while it is dark enough to overshadow the whole after-life with something blacker than a funeral pall."
was born in Lexington city, Kentucky state, in or about the year 1820; his mother's owner was Dr. Young, a tobacco planter, his father a white man, a near relative of that gentleman, whose disposition, if we may judge from the treatment of his slaves, was cruel and vindictive. "My mother," says Brown, "was a field hand, and many a time has my heart bled to witness the stripes to which she was subjected." One morning, he tells us, was particularly impressed upon his memory, when his mother being ten minutes behind her time in the field, that time being half-past four, he heard, as he lay in bed, the crack of the whip of plaited cow-hide and wire as it fell upon her naked back, and listened chilled with horror to her agonizing cry for mercy.
When Brown was about fifteen years old, a stout and hearty
122lad, Dr. Young sold off his tobacco plantation, and removed to the city of St. Louis, soon after which removal he hired out his Negro lad to a Major Freeland, who kept a public house, and was a horse-racer, cock-fighter, gambler, and drunkard. He had about twenty slaves in his house, and used to amuse himself with what he called Virginia play; this consisted in tying up in the smoke-house one of the miserable creatures placed in his power, and whipping him severely, then nearly suffocating him with a fire of tobacco stems which he caused to be lighted around him. The Major had a son named Robert, aged about eighteen, and by him too this exciting sport was much relished. Many were the scenes of horrible cruelty witnessed by Brown while in this man's house and service, from which he attempted to escape, but being taken, had to undergo his share of whipping and smoking. A failure in business led to a transfer of the Negro's service from Freeland to the master of a Mississippi steam-boat named Culver, who appears to have been a humane master; with him, however, Brown did not remain long, his engagement only lasting till the close of the navigation season. His next master was Mr. John Colburn, keeper of the Missouri Hotel, a true "nigger hater," although a native of a free state. While in his employment Brown's mother, brothers, and sisters were sold by Dr. Young to different persons in St. Louis, and thus the family were permanently divided.
After remaining awhile at the Hotel, our hero was engaged by Mr. Lovejoy to assist in the printing office of the St. Louis Times, of which he was proprietor. Here he was well treated and allowed leisure for recreation and instruction, of which he did not fail to avail himself; being naturally sharp and intelligent, he acquired considerable knowledge, and would no doubt have done much more to improve his natural gifts, had not an unfortunate accident put an end to his engagement with Mr. Lovejoy, when he had not been above a year in his service. Having to convey a form of types from another printing office to that of his master, Brown was set upon by a number of white boys, who had seen with jealousy the confidence reposed in the young nigger, and his opportunities of self-instruction. He was so severely handled as to be obliged to fly and leave his types in the street; nor was this all, for having presumed in self-defence to strike, as it was asserted, one of his assailants, the father of the lad inflicted on him so severe a chastisement as to lay him on a sick bed for five weeks, in which space his place at the printing office had to be filled up.
When sufficiently recovered to be actively employed, he again went on board a Mississippi steamer, this time as waiter: here the idea of attempting his escape seems to have occupied his mind; his thoughts upon this subject were communicated to his mother and sister, and pledged himself not to make the attempt without them. No opportunity, however, occurring before the end of the season, Brown went back to his owner, Dr. Young, and resumed his employment on the farm; he was then hired out to one Walker, a Negro speculator, or "soul driver," as the slaves emphatically called him, and as he tells us, his soul would often sicken at the sights he was obliged to witness and take part in, and indeed well it might. His resolution to escape was revived and strengthened: still he waited for an opportunity of taking his mother with him, and at the end of another year, which was the term of his engagement with Walker, went back to Dr. Young, who stated his intention to sell him, and stating that his price would be five hundred dollars, gave him a week's liberty to endeavour to find a purchaser. This was a chance not to be thrown away: his sister was in safe keeping, and could not join him, but his mother shared in the hardships and perils of the undertaking; for ten days they pushed on with hopes that grew brighter at each step, but, alas! on the eleventh they were taken and led back to bondage: the poor mother was sent off to New Orleans with a gang of fifty or sixty slaves going south to be "used up" on the plantations, and her heart-broken son never set eyes on her again.
Brown himself was soon after sold to a Mr. Willie, from whom he passed into the hands of Captain Price, whose lady, for whom he filled the office of coachman, took considerable interest in his welfare; she persuaded him to marry a coloured protegee and slave of hers named Eliza, which he did the better to disguise his intention of ultimate escape. At length the wished-for opportunity came: he took advantage of a dark night and fled, guided by the north star, the fugitive slave's only true and safe guide, through innumerable dangers and difficulties. How many a trembling runaway has looked up to that bright speck in the dusky heavens with hope and confidence, as though it had been the finger of God pointing out the way to freedom and safety. Beautifully has Pierpont, in his Ode to the North Star, expressed the thoughts which may well be supposed to arise in the breast of the flying slave at the sight of this harbinger of hope. We are tempted to quote one stanza of this spirited poem: —
Pours round me its full tide of light,
And hides thy pale and faithful ray,
I, too, lie hid, and long for night.
For night — I dare not walk at noon,
Nor dare I trust the faithless moon,
Nor faithless man, whose burning lust
For gold hath riveted my chain:
No other leader can I trust
But thee, of even the starry train;
For all the boot around thee burning,
Like faithless man, keep turning, turning."
After long and tedious journeying in darkness, and hunger, and terrors of all kinds, our fugitive, who was essentially assisted by a good man named Wells Brown, reached Canada, and penetrated with gratitude, adopted the name of his benefactor, adding to it the surname of William, by which he had been hitherto chiefly known.
Since the recovery of his freedom, Brown has devoted his best energies to the cause of emancipation, in which cause he has laboured and is still labouring, with extraordinary zeal and assiduity. He has also made great efforts to remedy the defects of his early life with regard to education, and that these have not been unsuccessful we have sufficient proof in the volumes published by him in this country, the one being a narrative of his life and escape from slavery, and the other bearing the title "Three years in Europe; or Places I have seen, and People I have met." A fine intelligent looking man is W. W. Brown, who is, or was very lately, frequently to be seen in the busy thoroughfares of London, he having come to this country, like Henson, Pennington, and others, to plead the cause of his coloured brethren. His grand motto is "Slavery cannot be let alone. It is aggressive; and must either be succumbed to or put down."
Henry Bibb was the eldest of seven brothers, all sons of the bondwoman, and sufferers of some of the worst evils and cruel inflictions of American Slavery, which, as Mrs. Stowe fully proves in the fourteenth chapter of her "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin," is a very different system from that sanctioned under the Mosaic law, on which pro-slavery writers and preachers are accustomed to base their arguments in defence of the "peculiar institution." Henry Bibb does not know who
125his father was; that his mother was a slave was sufficient to decide his lot, and to send him, under fear of the lash, while yet a mere infant, to labour on his master's farm: when sufficiently old to be of much use to any one, he was hired out to one person and another for the space of eight or ten years, the proceeds of his labour going, we are told, to defray the expense of educating his owner's daughters. The year of Henry Bibb's birth was a memorable one — 1815; little, however, know he of European struggles; he had a great battle of his own to fight against tremendous odds, and he seems to have fought it bravely. He formed the determination to be free at a very early age, and nothing could shake it; starvation, imprisonment, scourging, lacerating, punishments of every kind, and of every degree of severity short of actual death, were tried in vain; they could not subdue his indomitable spirit.
His first attempt to escape was made when he was about ten years of age, and from that time to 1840 his life was a constant series of flights and recaptures, the narrative of which makes one thrill and shudder at the sufferings endured and the barbarities inflicted. It is not our purpose to enter into any detail of these, as they can be found in an easily accessible form elsewhere,
Tell us not of high, chivalrous deeds — of the courage, and prowess, and daring of those excited by the smiles of beauty or the expectation of renown, but look at this poor Negro, friendless and alone, venturing back into that horrible pit
126of suffering out of which he had barely escaped with his life; — he who had passed through such a fiery ordeal of misery, who had been sank so deeply into the slough of moral degradation, that one would have supposed that every gentler affection, every noble feeling, must have been destroyed within him, even if such had ever been able to struggle into birth, — think of such as he turning back from his place of security, and — not casting away fear; he could not do this; he was in deadly terror the whole time — but led by a love stronger than even that absorbing fear, going back to the spot where his capture was almost certain, and his cruel and ignominious death more than probable. Verily, in all the records of high-souled humanity we know of nothing more sublime than this. And Henry Bibb is not the only Negro by many, of whom as much might be said, as will have been observed by those who have perused the previous chapters of this work. Pity that such love and devotion did not meet with its appropriate regard; all his efforts to rescue Malinda were unsuccessful, and although for a long time she bore stripes and imprisonments and many cruel inflictions rather than prove unfaithful to him, yet in the end was her virtue overcome, by what means we are left to conjecture. The last time Bibb returned to the scene of his former bondage and sufferings, which was in 1845, she was living a life of shame and infamy in the house of a white man who had become her owner by purchase; her child was with her, and now between them and her husband there was a great gulf which he, nobly and true-hearted as he was, could not attempt to pass.
Another incident in the life of our hero should be mentioned, as it throws a strong light upon his integrity of character. His last owner was an Indian of the Cherokee tribe, who bought him for nine hundred dollars of a party of sportsmen whose slave and attendant he was for a time. This Indian was a humane and indulgent master, and although a poor benighted heathen, seemed to understand more of the great law of humanity than the Christian (?) men whose tender mercies Bibb had experienced. He placed great confidence in his slave, gave him a horse to ride, and entrusted him with a money-bag full of gold and silver. And these were chains which the Negro could by no means find it in his heart to break. He had previously made up his mind to escape, but the good Cherokee defeated his purpose by giving him the means and affording him the opportunity to do so. Strange this! but a truth nevertheless: ponder on it. Oh,
127slaveholder of the south! and believe that there is something of goodness even in the breast of a Negro!
The old chief fell ill, and Bibb watched over him day and night, soothed his last hour's and after he was dead prepared his body for the tomb. Then, and not till then, did he commence once more his oft-interrupted pilgrimage towards the land of freedom. Through the wild Indian country he went, and amid the painted savages: here he was comparatively safe, for the slave-hunter came not here, and no one thought of betraying him for a base bribe. We must not however, longer dwell upon his history. Henry Bibb is now a free man — a Christian man — devoting his best energies to the cause of his countrymen in chains. He too has been in this country to convince us that the prejudice which exists, even here, in many minds against a black skin is as unreasonable as it is unscriptural. He is one of the LIVING WITNESSES who now stand upon the great platform of universal humanity demanding, in language as dignified as it is convincing, a recognition of the right of the Negro to be admitted into the family circle of nations upon terms of equality. Other examples we might adduce — many others — did space permit! there is
This tall, fine-looking, gentlemanly man of colour; the eloquent preacher and debater; the ordained minister of the gospel, who is, or was lately, in this country — once a slave, and still a slave in the eye of American law. When about eight years of age, his father, mother, sister, and himself, with eight other escaped slaves, found an asylum in the free state of New York; there they remained about seven years, at the end of which time the family circle was broken up by the intrusion of the man-stealers, who had discovered their hiding-place; they all, however, escaped, but there was no longer rest nor safety for them there. Henry happened at the time to be away in a vessel, on board of which he served as cabin-boy, and did not receive the intelligence of the persecution of his family until his return from the voyage. He shortly after entered the African Free School at New York, where, we are told, he soon reached the highest class. Ha was then admitted into a school of a more advanced character, but here the coloured boys were not permitted to mingle with those of fairer skins, and consequently their opportunities of acquiring knowledge were limited. Garnet, in 1835, travelled to New Hampshire, and entered Canaan
128Academy, from whence he and some other Negroes were driven in a mob, who burned the home in which they resided. The next year he repaired to the Oneida Institute, desiring to prepare himself for the Gospel ministry; he was well received by the professors and students, and soon won their esteem for his character, and admiration for his abilities. Having graduated at the Whilestown School in 1840, and received his diploma, he was finally ordained a minister of the Presbyterian Church, from which church, however, he retired in 1847, on account of its connexion with slavery.
This is a very brief outline of his career. He is a man undoubtedly of high intellectual powers; his pulpit discourses have in them much of real poetry as well as fervent piety; and his political and other addresses are described as most powerful to sway the hearts of his hearers, especially those of his own kindred and complexion, on whose past and present condition and future destiny, he has published an able treatise. He is a strenuous advocate for freedom, temperance, education, and all that can elevate and refine the human mind; and may be looked upon as altogether one of the choice spirits of the age. The island of Jamaica is understood to be his future field of missionary operations; to free, enlightened, republican America, while the Fugitive Slave Law is in existence, it would not be safe for him to return.
we may just allude to, although we have some doubts if he is yet living; he came to this country, as a place of refuge, in 1835. His published narrative, the truth of which there seems no reason to doubt, is full of the most thrilling and startling incidents. He was a native of Caswell county, North Carolina, in which state and South Carolina, his slave-life was passed. Mary Howitt sweetly sings —
Bravely may it grow;
Bearing in its seed pod
Cotton white as snow."
But, oh! how deeply is that cotton dyed in human blood before it reaches the Manchester market; there is a stain in it which no bleaching will ever take out. Nothing has so forcibly impressed us with this truth as the perusal of Roper's
129narrative. Well might the poor slave make the most desperate efforts to escape from such a Pandemonium as the cotton plantation is represented to be. Roper's run-away excursions were even more numerous than those of Garnet, and the punishments, consequent on them, of course more frequent. One wonders how the human frame could sustain such a merciless infliction of tortures of every kind; assuredly a horse or a dog must have died under them; but wonderful are the powers of endurance in man, especially Negroes! Moses Roper tells us that on one occasion, when he was overtaken by his pursuers, and unmercifully beaten near a planters residence, the lady of the house came out, and begged that he might not be killed so near the house: killed he might be, so that it were out of sight, and with a due regard to public decency. All planters' ladies, however, are not so sensitive; according to the testimony of Roper, and other sufferers, the mistress sometimes directs in person the most degrading and brutal punishment of her slaves, if she does not inflict it with her own hand. Roper's woolly hair was the only indication of his being a Negro; his skin was as fair as that of many white men.
is another coloured gentleman, who has lately been amongst us, preaching and lecturing, and otherwise appealing to the British public in behalf of the Canada Anti-Slavery Society. He, too, is a Gospel minister, and his services are, we apprehend, none the less acceptable to God on account of his dark complexion. Great moral worth and intellectual powers are undoubtedly his.
with whom we must close our list — leaving unnoticed many Living Witnesses of Negro ability — is a pure African, and a striking example of what such can become by religious and literary culture. He is one of the only four Episcopally-ordained coloured clergymen of the United States. In 1848 he visited England, and spoke at the annual meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in London. He also, by permission of the Bishop of the diocese, preached, in St. George's Church, Liverpool,
130a sermon on the text "That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works." (Titus, iii. 8,) and filled his numerous auditors with wonder at his attainments, and admiration at his Christian and philanthropic views.
We cannot better conclude this chapter than by quoting a portion of his noble "Eulogy on the Life and Character of Thomas Clarkson," which was delivered at New York in 1847, and afterwards published in a pamphlet extending to forty closely-printed octavo pages. The man who could utter such sentiments in such language belongs to no inferior race. Listen to him and be convinced, oh, doubters of Negro capacity! Addressing his coloured brethren he says, "Let us not be unmindful of the prerogatives and obligations arising from the fact, that the exhibition of the greatest talent, and the development of the most enlarged philanthropy in the nineteenth century have been bestowed upon our race. The names of the great lights of the age — Statesmen, Poets, and Divines, in all the great countries of Europe, and in this country, too, are inseparably connected with the cause and destiny of the African race. This has been the theme whence most of them have reaped honour and immortality. This cause has produced the development of the most noble character of modern times: — has given the world a Wilberforce and a Clarkson. Lowly and depressed as we have been, and as we now are, yet our interests, and our welfare, have agitated the chief countries of the world, and are now before all other questions, shaking this nation to its very centre. The providences of God have placed the Negro race before Europe and America in the most commanding position. From the sight of us, no nation, no statesman, no ecclesiastic, and no ecclesiastical institution, can escape. And by us and our cause the character and greatness of individuals and of nations in this day and generation of the world are to be decided, either for good or evil: — and so, in all coming times, the memory and the fame of the chief actors now on the stage will be decided by their relation to our cause. The discoveries of Science, the unfoldings of Literature, the dazzlings of Genius, all fade before the demands of this cause. This is the age of BROTHERHOOD AND HUMANITY, and the Negro race is its most distinguished test and criterion.
And for what are all these providences? For nothing? He who thinks so must be blinded — must be demented. In these facts are wound up a most distinct significance, and with them are connected most clear and emphatic obligations and responsibilities. The clear-minded and thoughtful coloured
131men of America must mark the significance of these facts, and begin to feel their weight. For more than two centuries we have been working our way from the deep and dire degradation into which Slavery had plunged us. We have made considerable headway. By the vigorous use of the opportunities of our partial freedom we have been enabled, with the Divine blessing, to reach a position of respectability and character. We have pressed somewhat into the golden avenues of Science, Intelligence, and Learning. We have made impressions there; and some few of our foot-prints have we left behind. The mild light of Religion has illumined our pathway, and Superstition and Error have fled apace. The greatest parodoxes are evinced by us. Amid the decay of nations, a rekindled light starts up in us. Burdens under which others expire, seem to have lost their influence upon us; and while they are ‘driven to the wall,’ destruction keeps far from us its blasting hand. We live in the region of death, yet seem hardly mortal. We cling to life in the midst of all reverses; and our nerveful grasp thereon cannot easily be relaxed. History reverses its mandates in our behalf: — our dotage is in the past. Time writes not its wrinkles on our brow; our juvenescence is in the future. All this, with the kindly nature which is acknowledgedly ours — with gifts of freedom vouchsafed us by the Almighty in this land, in part, and in the West Indies; with the intellectual desire everywhere manifesting itself, and the exceeding interest exhibited for Africa by her own children, and by the Christian nations of the world, are indications from which we may not gather a trivial meaning, nor a narrow significance.
The teaching of God in all these things, is, undoubtedly, that ours is a great destiny, and that we should open our eyes to it. God is telling us all that whereas the past has been dark, grim, and repulsive, the future shall be glorious; that the horrid traffic shall yet be entirely staunched; that the whips and brands, the shackles and fetters of slavery shall be cast down to oblivion; that the shades of ignorance and superstition that have so long settled down upon the mind of Africa shall be dispelled; and that all her sons on her own broad continent, in the Western Isles, and in this Republic, shall yet stand erect beneath the heavens;
132in the possession of an enlarged and glorious Liberty.
May we be equal to these providences, may we prove deserving of such a destiny! God grant that when at some future day our ransomed and cultivated posterity shall stand where we now stand, and bear the burdens that we now bear, they may reap the fruits of our foresight, our virtues, and our high endeavours. And may they have the proud satisfaction of knowing that we, their ancestors, uncultured and unlearned, amid all trials and temptations, were men of integrity, recognized with gratefulness their truest friends dishonoured and in peril — were enabled to resist the seductions of ease and the intimidations of power — were true to themselves, the age in which they lived, their abject race, and the cause of man — shrank not from trial, nor from suffering; but conscious of responsibility, and impelled by duty, gave themselves up to the vindication of the high hopes and the lofty aims of TRUE HUMANITY."
Concluding Chapter of Additional Evidence, Communicated in a Letter to the Editor, by Wilson Armistead.
My Dear Friend;
Very gladly do I acquiesce in thy request to furnish a concluding chapter of additional evidence in support of the position that all mankind, of whatever clime or colour, are originally endowed with those mental capabilities which, by cultivation, are not only amply sufficient to obtain the comforts and conveniences of civilized life, but also to enable them to fulfil those social, civil, and religions duties which attach to man, as the only accountable being on earth — whether towards his fellow-being as a citizen of the world, or to that Supreme Being who has conferred upon him those noble faculties.
Greatly shall I rejoice if I can add anything from my own observation, or from any other source, that shall assist in removing that unfounded prejudice which is manifested towards the most maligned and maltreated portion of the human family, — that stigma which has fixed itself so inveterately upon the Negro race, the result of which is continued hatred and oppression.
Man is the creature of circumstances, as we may perceive from the almost infinite variety of character which everywhere prevails. Yet, however great this diversity, the true Christian feels the bond of brotherhood in his fellow-man, of whatever country, clime, or colour; as possessing the same tendencies in his nature, the same sympathies, hopes, and fears, the same susceptibility of pleasure and pain; and, what binds him closer than all, having the same origin, and the same Almighty Redeemer.
Any open or more latent prejudice which may exist or be cherished on account of a difference in the colour of the skin, or indeed on account of any other circumstance over which he has no control, is unworthy the character of the true Christian, the Philanthropist, or the Philosopher; and the more we become practically acquainted with mankind, the more we shall find that there is in reality no existing cause for such a prejudice.
134But it is alleged the coloured people are degraded and inferior. To this I would reply, their present equality we do not vindicate, but their capability we assert without any doubt. The marvel is that the Negro race is not now more degraded than it is, taking into account the depressing circumstances to which it has been subjected. Think of a people for above two hundred years patiently enduring the bitter infliction of slavery: —
Whose load man totters down to death,
Is that which plucks the regal crown
Of Freedom from his forehead down,
And snatches from his powerless hand
The sceptred sign of self-command;
Effacing with its chain and rod
The image and the seal of God:
While from his changed nature, day by day,
The manly virtues fade away —
Pride — honour's instinct — self-respect —
Till the man, no more erect,
Creeps earthward, naked, blind, and mute,
The God-like merging in the brute."
That the Negro should so remarkably maintain the moral and intellectual character, when so long subjected to the crushing influences of slavery, is a matter that may well make other than black men marvel. It is not saying too much to assert that the coloured race in the United States have surmounted difficulties and discouragements which the pride and wickedness of the Old World never, in its worst periods, employed to arrest the progress of human improvement.
What branch of the European family, if held in the same condition as the Negro in America for two centuries, would not be equally degraded? If the Whites had themselves been slaves to a civilized community of Blacks, and had, when emancipated, been subjected to the same social excommunication to which they have condemned the free Blacks, it may well be doubted whether they would not at this moment have been sunk to a level of civilization and respectability below that to which the latter have risen.
Be this as it may, instances of the attainment of a high degree of intelligence and refinement, although surrounded by the greatest impediments, exist everywhere in proof of the entire manhood of the Negro. The truth of an old and oft-repeated saying, that "Knowledge is Power," has been proved again and again. It is by a dissemination of a knowledge of the real facts of the case, that the claims of this race to full equality must be substantiated. This
135will do more to destroy hatred towards the coloured people, by removing the prejudicial feelings entertained against them, than any theoretical declamation. This volume is already replete with such facts; The few I shall now furnish in addition, chiefly as narrated by eye-witnesses, will throw some further weight into the right scale. May they hasten to the proscribed a restoration to their proper social and civil position in society.
The Negro race have exhibited many remarkable instances of courage and bravery. They have always evinced a readiness to exchange domestic slavery for the milder servitude and more exciting scenes of the army, having less fear of bullets than stripes. The history of the revolutions in North and South America — but especially the latter — furnish sufficient proofs of the truth of this. Being a "peacemaker," I have little to say in praise of anything of a warlike nature, but the military character is a trait which, it must be allowed, cannot be exhibited by persons of either mental or moral imbecility. I have recently perused a work entitled "Services of Coloured Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812," by W. C. Nell, (himself a coloured American,) which contains ample proof that the free coloured men of the United States bore their full proportion of the sacrifices and trials of the revolutionary war.
It is a fact that in the revolutionary war, the war between England and the American colonies, half a million of Negroes were engaged, and they placed their bosoms to the British musketry and cannon as bravely as any who fought. Among those who shielded the person of George Washington was a trusty Negro, in whom the general greatly confided. In the battle of Bunker's Hill, there was a brave Negro who jumped on the ramparts, and fired nineteen shots, and, as the Yankees tell, killed a man each time. There was a corps of soldiers from the state of Pennsylvania, in which was a Negro, James Forten, (of whom I shall speak again shortly,) who did his part bravely. In Rhode Island, a British regiment attacked a white company near where some Blacks were working. The British were too strong for the Whites, but the brave Blacks bore down upon and conquered them. This evinced bravery, and bravery is admired even in an enemy. Andrew Jackson twice called out a regiment of Blacks.
When Mr. Pakenham was our minister, he was called upon to dine in Louisiana, and the Negro who waited upon him took an occasion, stealthily in the passage, to ask Mr.
136Pakenham whether he was any relation to Sir Edward Pakenham? On being told that he was his brother, he informed Mr. Pakenham that he was in the engagement in which Sir Edward Pakenham fell. The master, on being spoken to, was quite annoyed that the Negro had addressed Mr. Pakenham, but said it was quite true, — "Sam was in that engagement, and did noble deeds." Mr. Pakenham sent a note with a card for Sam to dine with him the following day. He did so; and Mr. Pakenham heard from him particulars which he could obtain from no other source. That Sam was and is now a slave! for those Negroes who fought bravely were returned back to slavery.
My friend, Samuel R. Ward, of Canada, in relating this circumstance in a lecture he recently delivered before the Cheltenham Literary and Philosophical Society, makes the following justly indignant comment: — "Here is Anglo-Saxon honour to the Negro race; these are the people who are so superior to the race of Ham; these are the people who are offended when a Negro comes ‘between the wind and their mobility!’ They ask their assistance in times that try men's souls and carcasses too, but when the smoke of battle has rolled over, then the Negro is only fit for a hewer of wood and drawer of water, and quite inferior to any of the human family!"
It is well known that in 1837, when our country was much disturbed by a rebellion, which called out soldiers in behalf of the British Government, the Blacks of Canada did their full share under Colonels Prince and Mc'Nab. It is admitted that these black soldiers acted their part as bravely as any other men in the British Canadian army.
Let us now pass southward. For some account of the Negro General. Toussaint, the hero of St. Domingo, the reader must refer to previous pages of this volume, where may also be found a passing notice of Henry Diaz, who, though like Toussaint, once a Negro slave, became Colonel of a regiment of soldiers of his own colour. Diaz was certainly one of the most remarkable men of his age, and as his case affords strong evidence in support of our position, I may include the following particulars, as given by an American writer: —
In the course of a long and harassing war with their Dutch masters, the Brazilians had become fatigued, and their resources nearly exhausted. In the midst of their despondency, a stout, active, negro slave, named Henry Diaz, presented himself in the Brazilian camp. With the air and tone of
137one whose purpose had been deliberately formed, he proposed to the Commander, John Fernandez, to raise a regiment of his own colour, and bring them to the rescue of their common country. Although the Portuguese, and other nations of the south of Europe, had never indulged toward the coloured race those rancorous prejudices which exist in the United States, yet the sudden appearance, and singular proposal of this intrepid negro, occasioned no small surprise among the Portuguese officers. The arrival of Joan of Arc in the camp of Charles the Seventh could scarcely have produced more wonder. But Diaz, though an enthusiast, made no pretension to miracles. He was well acquainted with the character of his race; and he relied upon his own influence, and tact, to develop the great qualities which he well knew they possessed. Their situation was indeed wretched and degraded in the extreme; but he had occasionally seen in them, as he felt within himself, a capacity for high and noble deeds.
When a beggar is offered silver, he is not likely to be very fastidious about the stamp of the coin; and thus it was with the Portuguese Commander. He readily accepted the proposal of Diaz; but with an incredulous smile, that plainly implied he considered it no harm for the blackies to try; just as a father looks and speaks to little boys, when they ask to hold the plough.
Diaz returned triumphantly to his companions, to communicate the success of his mission. He exhibited the parchment he had received; and though few could read the words, all were able to appreciate the magnitude of the seals, and the magnificence of the flourishes. The regiment was soon full, and organized into regular batallions and companies. Such was the talent and energy of Diaz, and such effective use had he made of the hours he was enabled to steal from labour and from sleep, that in less than two months his troops were completely equipped, and in as perfect a state of discipline as the oldest corps of the army. From miserable, ragged, servile creatures, they had suddenly started up into brave and stout men, their faces animated with intelligence and hope, and their eyes glistening like the flashing of the sun upon their bright muskets.
By the fierce and unyielding courage of this regiment, and the genius and skill of its commander, the Dutch were repeatedly defeated, after the most severe contests. The soldiers were never but once known to waver from the rock-like firmness said to distinguish coloured troops. Once,
138when struggling against a vast superiority of numbers, there was a momentary relaxation of their efforts, and some symptoms of dismay. Their Colonel rushed into the midst of the breaking ranks, and exclaiming "Are these the brave companions of Henry Diaz!" he restored their confidence, and secured the victory. By a new and desperate charge, the enemy was completely routed.
After eight years of almost constant warfare, the Dutch were driven from that vast territory, which now forms the empire of Brazil. Of all those rich possessions, which they had expended millions to conquer, by land and by sea, — and which their avarice and cruelty had too long desolated, — nothing finally remained, but one large, and apparently impregnable fortress, called Cinco Pontas, near Pernambuco. It commanded the whole city and neighbourhood, and was well provisioned, and garrisoned by an army of five thousand men. Many useless attempts were made to get possession of this important post. It was defended by high and massive walls, and by deep and wide ditches, containing twelve feet of water; and provisions being constantly supplied from Dutch ships, there was no hope of reducing it by famine. Every fresh attack upon it was immediately punished by pouring its powerful batteries on the city and surrounding country. While the enemy possessed this strong-hold the Brazilians were subject to continual irritations and alarm, and could never regard their dear-bought independence as secure.
Here was a subject fit to employ the bold genius and unwearied energy of Henry Diaz! He sent an officer to the Commander in Chief, requesting an audience, that he might communicate a plan for taking the Cinco Pontas. The General readily granted this request; but with a still smaller hope of any favourable result, than he had entertained, when the slave first proposed his recruiting scheme.
Diaz detailed his plan with characteristic earnestness. The superior officers listened respectfully; for his well earned reputation effectually protected the speaker from open derision. The result of the conference was, that the General declined adopting the measures proposed, but had no objection that Diaz himself should carry them into effect, with the troops under his command. "Then," replied the brave Colonel, "tomorrow at sunrise, you shall see the Portuguese flag wave on the tower of Cinco Pontas!"
As Diaz retired he overheard his commander say to one of the officers, "It is a nigger plan." Diaz took no notice of the scornful remark, but made preparations for his
139hazardous enterprise with all possible secrecy and despatch. His men were ordered to lay aside their muskets, to retain their side-arms, — to take a pair of pistols in their belts, and to carry upon their shoulders a heap of wood tightly bound together with osier bands. Thus prepared, at two o'clock in the morning, he gave directions to march towards the fort. The night was dark, and the column arrived at their destination in perfect safety. Silently and rapidly they deposited their bundles in the deep trench, beginning at the outer margin, and building successive layers towards the wall. As fast as this operation was performed, they filed off, and formed companies, in readiness to scale the wall, as soon as this combined bridge and ladder should be completed. They were obliged to wait but a brief period. The Roman warriors could not have buried the parricide woman under their shields with more celerity, than the soldiers of Diaz filled up the fosse, and formed an ascent to the wall.
Diaz was the first, to leap upon the ramparts. The first sentinel he met he laid dead at his feet. The garrison were sleeping; and before they were completely roused, the Brazilians had gained the greater part of the fortress. As soon as the Dutch recovered a little from their first surprise and confusion, they formed a compact phalanx, and offered desperate resistance. Diaz received a sabre wound, which shattered the bones of his arm about the wrist. It was necessary to staunch the blood, which flowed profusely. Finding that it would take the surgeon some time to adjust the bones, and arrange the dressing, he bade him cut off the hand, saying, "It is of less consequence to me than a few moments time, just now." This being done, he again rushed into the hottest of the fight; and although the Dutch had greatly the advantage in the use of their artillery and muskets, they could not long withstand the determined bravery of their assailants. Fighting hand to hand, they soon killed or captured the whole garrison, and took possession of their immense stores of provision and ammunition.
When the darkness and smoke cleared away, the Portuguese flag was seen waving from the tower of Cinco Pontas! The Commander-in-Chief could scarcely believe the evidence of his own senses. The intrepid Diaz sent an aid-de-camp to say that the fort and provisions were at the disposition of his Excellency. In a few hours the General, with a numerous suit, entered the fortress, and was saluted by the victorious troops. They found Colonel Diaz reclining on his camp bed, enfeebled by exertion and loss of blood. He
140however raised himself to a sitting posture, and received the thanks and congratulations of his commanding and brother officers, with the grave and placid air habitual to him. Then looking up archly, and not having forgotten the General's scornful remark, he said, "It was a nigger plan General, but the fort was taken."
At the request of John the Fourth, Colonel Diaz visited Portugal, where he was received with great distinction. The king desired him to choose any reward within his power to bestow. Diaz merely requested that his regiment might be perpetuated, and none admitted to its ranks but those of his own colour. This was granted; and a considerable town and territory were appropriated to secure pensions to these brave men and their successors. The town is called Estaneia, and is situated a short distance from Pernambuco.
The king conferred knighthood upon Diaz, and caused a medal to be struck in commemoration of the capture of Cinco Pontas. It was likewise ordained that the regiment should for ever bear the name of its first commander. It still exists in Pernambuco. Its uniform is white, faced with red, and embroidered with gold. The decorations which Diaz received from John the Fourth, are transmitted to the commander of the regiment to this day; and at royal audiences they have the privilege of being the first to kiss the sovereign's hand.
Leaving the New World for a while, allow me to introduce a Negro whose courage was tested in the milder climes of Europe, General Dumas, the father of the present Alexandre Dumas, one of Napoleon's best and bravest generals, was a Mulatto. Near Lisle, Dumas, with four men, attacked a post of fifty Austrians, killed six, and made sixteen prisoners. For a long time he commanded a legion of horse, composed of Blacks and Mulattoes, who were the terror of their enemies. General Dumas was with the army which Napoleon drove over the Alps; Napoleon crossed it in June, Marshall Mc'Donald in December. The latter sent to Dumas to say it was impossible to pass in the winter, when great avalanches of snow were falling down, threatening to destroy the army. Napoleon's reply was, — "Go, and tell Marshall Mc'Donald, where one man can pass over, an army can pass over in single file; the order is not to be countermanded." The order was obeyed, though at the cost of many lives. One of the generals that made the pass was the black General Dumas, who ascended the St. Bernard, which was defended by a number
141of fortifications, took possession of the cannon, and immediately directed them against the enemy.
The son of this brave General of Napoleon's, the present Alexandre Dumas, is the most prolific romance writer of the age. He is now above fifty years old, and for some thirty years has been known as a writer. During this time he has published more novels, plays, travels, and historical sketches than any other man that ever lived. It is well understood that he is not the author of all the works that appear under his name, but that young writers gain a living by working out the plots and situations that his fecund brain suggests; when the novel or the play is complete, Dumas gives it a revision, touches up the dialogue, dashes in here and there a spirited scene of his own, and then receives from the publisher an enormous sum, which he incontinently squanders.
Undeniably a man of genius, endowed with true fertility of imagination, and masterly power of expression, it must be acknowledged that we look in vain through the whole range of his productions for a noble work of art. Corrupt in ideas, and unscrupulous and reckless in purpose, he has impressed upon his plays and romances the melancholy stamp of a dissolute civilization; they glitter in the tinsel of theatrical sentiment, that sets off, but does not pretend to hide the most monstrous, and often the most repulsive conceptions. Always writing slap-dash for publication next morning, the haste of composition does not allow him to elaborate or to correct his work into artistic proportion and consistency, and it launches upon the world as crude and faulty as the hastily combined products of half a dozen pens, all driven at railroad speed to earn the writer's stipend and the employer's profit, needs must be. But at the same time, such is the vivacity of his descriptions, such the entrain of his narrative, such the boldness of his invention, such the point of his dialogue, and the rapidity of his incidents, so matchless often the felicity and skill of particular passages, that he always inflames the interest of the reader to the end. You may be angry with him, you may find him guilty of every literary and every personal fault, but you will confess that he is the opposite of tedious. Certainly no writer fills a more prominent place in the literature of his country; and none has exercised a more potent if not always pernicious influence upon its recent development than this son of the Negro General Dumas.
"Dumas," says Ward, "was once asked by an impertinent
142fellow who his ancestors were. What his father was? He said a Mulatto. And what was your grandfather? A Negro. And what was your great grandfather? An ape; — my paternity begins where yours has ended."
Among the numerous coloured citizens, whose respectability was "the glory and the shame" of Philadelphia, was one well known throughout the Union for the wealth he possessed, and the probity and urbanity which marked his character in public and private life. "The history of James Forten," writes E. S. Abdy, "such as I had from his own lips, while sitting at his hospitable board, is somewhat remarkable. He is descended from a family that has resided in Pennsylvania one hundred and seventy years; and does not, so far as he has been able to ascertain, number one slave among its members. He himself took an active part in the revolutionary war, and fell into the hands of the enemy, while serving in the Royal Louis, under the father of the celebrated Decatur. It was in 1780 that this vessel was captured by the Amphion, commanded by Sir John Beezley. Sir John's son, who was then a midshipman, about the same age as young Forten, was one day playing at marbles on the deck, when the latter, who had been employed to pick them up, exhibited such superior skill, after the game was over, in knuckling down, and hitting the object aimed at, that the young Englishman was delighted with him. The acquaintance soon ripened into a sort of intimacy; and his generous friend offered, if he would accompany him to England, to provide for his education, and assist him in procuring some respectable occupation.
"The young Africo-American, however, preferred serving his country, small as the chance was that he would ever recover his liberty, to the brilliant career thus placed before him; and he was ultimately transferred to the prison ship the Old Jersey, of sixty-four guns, then lying in the East River, where the New York navy-yard now is. Sir John's son was so affected at parting, that he shed tears; and having obtained from his father ,a protection for him against enlistment, saved him from the wretched fate which befel many of his brethren, who were carried by their captors to the West Indies, and sold there as slaves. He remained in confinement seven months, till he was sent home in exchange. During the period of his detention, no less than three thousand five hundred prisoners fell victims to an epidemic, which the crowded state of the vessel occasioned. The average number on board was one thousand five hundred.
143When the war was over, Forten went to London, where he remained a year; and on his return to his native land, obtained employment in the sail loft which is now his own property, and which has witnessed his industry and enterprise for more than forty-six years. In his business as a sail-maker, he is generally considered to stand above competition.
"No citizen ought to be more honoured in his own country than James Forten, if to be instrumental in saving human life give a title to respect. No less than twelve fellow-creatures owe their existence to him; for that is the number of persons he has saved with his own hands from drowning — I believe they were all whites. That circumstance, however, would have no influence upon his humanity. His workshop being on the banks of the river, he has frequent opportunities of exercising his philanthropy at the risk of his life. There was hanging up in his sitting-room, an honourable testimony to his successful efforts in rescuing four men from a watery grave. This heir-loom, for which he would not take a thousand dollars, was presented to him in 1821, by the Humane Society of Philadelphia. It consists of an engraving, in which is represented the rescue of a female from the waves; and a written attestation, signed by the President and Secretary, with the dates of the cases, which the Society thus thought deserving of its ‘honorary certificate.’
"Mr. Forten, while I was in the city, gave a strong proof of his disregard for self-interest, in a case where the happiness of his fellow-man was concerned. He refused a commission to supply a ship in the harbour with sails, because it had been employed in the slave trade, and was likely to be engaged again in the same abominable traffic. He is now a wealthy man; and has given his family, consisting of eight children, an excellent education, adapted to the fortunes they will one day have, and (I hope I may had) to the station they will one day fill; — for the time cannot be far distant when virtues and accomplishments, that would be respected in every other part of the world, will raise their possessors in America above the insults and vexations of the Pariah state."
Let me now introduce a female Howard of the despised race as described by the same intelligent traveller. "I called at the house of a coloured woman," says Abdy, "who had been mentioned to me as a remarkable instance of generosity and benevolence. Her name was Hester Lane, and her age
144between fifty and sixty. She received me without affectation or reserve. The object of my visit was soon explained, and the request I made as readily complied with. She informed me that she had redeemed eleven human beings from Slavery, in Maryland, having purchased them at different times with the savings she had made out of her hard earnings. She had never had twenty dollars given to her, nor benefitted by inheritance or bequest to the amount of a dollar. The house she lived in was her own; and the room in which we sat was well furnished. The first slave redeemed by her was a girl of eleven years of age: the price was a hundred dollars. She had been present when she was born, and afterwards assisted at her marriage, at the birth of her four children, and ultimately at her death and her funeral. The next she liberated was a boy of fourteen, for two hundred dollars. The third, a man about thirty, for two hundred and eighty dollars. The fourth case was that of a man, his wife, and one child; as the parents were sickly and no longer young, she was charged but one hundred and forty dollars for the family; the former she had in a great measure to maintain. The fifth case occurred about eight years previously, and was that of a woman and three children; for these she had to pay five hundred and fifty dollars; they were bought at a public auction in Maryland, whither she went for the purpose, having received several letters on the subject. She afterwards purchased the husband for two hundred dollars and with great difficulty and trouble, as the owner insisted upon having three hundred dollars. She had the children properly educated and instructed to gain their own livelihood: the greater part of the purchase money was refunded by the objects of her bounty, when they were able to repay her. This account, which I had from her own lips, was confirmed by Mr. Curtis; most of the cases he himself knew to be as I had heard them; for the rest, he said, he would without hesitation vouch, as her word was as good as any other person's oath. When I was with her, she was teaching herself French; she was a woman of strong religious feelings and principles. By her own exertions she had obtained a comfortable competency for herself; having been successful in discovering a new mode of colouring walls, by which, and the assistance of a shop, she had realized sufficient to provide for her own wants, and those of her less fortunate fellow-creatures.
"Like all of her race with whom I had any communication, she was deeply affected by the numerous humiliations to
145which she was exposed. She never for a moment doubted, she said, that the designs of Providence were wise and good, yet it was mysterious and afflicting to think that all their nations and tribes should so long have been doomed to unmitigated and unmerited bondage; and when free, should still be subject to contempt and reproach. Her windows looked into the street, and it was most painful to her to witness the savage way in which the blacks were treated by the people, and by none worse than by the Irish, some of whom, not long before, would have murdered a man of colour, if some persons who were passing in a carriage at the time, had not assisted him to escape."
"Among the many persons of colour whom I visited at Philadelphia," continues the same writer, "was Christiana Gibbons, a woman of singular intelligence and good breeding. A friend was with me; she received us with the courtesy and easy manners of a gentle-woman. She appeared to be between thirty and forty years of age, of pure African descent, with a handsome, expressive countenance, and a graceful person. Her mother, who had been stolen from her native land at an early age, was the daughter of a King, and is now in her eighty-fifth year, the parent-stem of no less than one hundred and eighty two living branches. When taken by the slavers, she had with her a piece of gold as an ornament to denote her rank. Of this she was of course deprived; and a solid bar of the same metal, which her parent sent over to America for the purchase of her freedom, shared the same fate.
"Christiana Gibbons, who is thus the granddaughter of a prince of the Eboe tribe, was bought, when about fifteen years of age, by a woman who was struck by her interesting appearance, and emancipated her. Her benefactress left her at her death, a legacy of eight thousand dollars. The whole of this money was lost by the failure of a bank, but she had other property, acquired by her own industry, affording a rent of five hundred dollars a year. Her agent, however, Colonel Myers, though indebted to her for many attentions and marks of kindness during sickness, had neglected to remit her the money from Savannah, in Georgia, where the estate was situated; and when I saw her, she was living with her husband and son on the fruits of her labour. The former was owner of a wharf in Savannah, worth eight or ten thousand dollars.
"She had not been long resident in Philadelphia, whither she had come to escape the numerous impositions and
146annoyances to which she was exposed in Georgia. Mr. Kingsley had long been acquainted with her, and spoke of her to me in the highest terms. We found her indeed a very remarkable woman, though it is probable there are many among the despised slaves as amiable and accomplished as herself. Such, at least, was the account she gave us of their condition, that we felt convinced of the superiority possessed by many in moral worth and intellectual acuteness above their oppressors. She confirmed everything I had heard from others with regard to the characters of the slaves. She never knew one who did not long for freedom, or who felt contented with his lot. Many have taught themselves reading and writing, having acquired the requisite knowledge with astonishing rapidity. All are alive to the injustice done them: some will rather suffer death than be separated from the objects of their affection. Their firmness is so well known, that a resolution to this effect when once pronounced, will deter any one at a sale from purchasing them separately.
"Christiana had not forgotten that she had royal blood in her veins, and she shewed herself worthy of the distinction it implied, by her willingness to engage in any work that did not carry moral degradation with it. If I might judge from the tenor of her conversation, her hand and heart were never at fault, when danger or distress called for the exertion of either. She had a strong sense of religion, and the violation of its injunctions she had been so long doomed to witness in others, had taught her the necessity and value of practical attention to its duties. Her brother, who had come to Philadelphia under a promise to return to his owner, had informed her of his intention to obtain his freedom by breaking his engagement. ‘If he does so,’ said she ‘he shall never enter my house again; whatever may be his wrongs, his honour ought not to be forfeited.’ This feeling is so general and so well understood, that masters often allow their slaves to go into other states upon their promising not to abscond."
Some beautiful instances of the power of Divine grace, working upon the heart of the native Negro, are related by Miss Tucker, in her interesting volume, very appropriately entitled "Sunrise within the Tropics." Truly the light of the gospel has now broken forth on a continent long under darkness and eclipse. Amongst the most interesting of these cases, I condense the following: —
Adjai, a boy of twelve years old, along with his mother
147and sisters, was bound in chains, and sold into slavery. After suffering very greatly, being several times sold and resold, dragged from place to place, and enduring almost intolerable hardships and sorrows, Adjai was shipped, in 1822, with one hundred and eighty-seven unfortunate companions, on board a Portuguese slaver at Lagos, where the treatment he met with corresponded but too well with the frightful accounts detailed in the Parliamentary Papers. Happily it was but of short duration; for, on the very next evening, by God's good providence, the slaver fell in with two English cruisers, and was captured by them. The poor captives were now in greater despair than before, for the Portuguese had succeeded in making these simple-hearted people believe that the English thus watched for and seized the Slave ships, that they might use the blood of the Negroes to dye their scarlet cloth, and their flesh as baits for cowries.
Adjai and a few other boys were taken on board one of the English ships. But here their terror was wound up to its highest pitch, by seeing a number of cannon-balls piled upon the deck, which they took for the heads of some of their companions; while they concluded that some joints of pork hanging up to dry were their limbs. They were soon, however, re-assured; and when I inform my readers that the ship on which our young friend was now taken, was the Myrmidon, and the Commander was Captain Leeke, they will have no difficulty in recognizing the heathen Adjai under the Christian name of Samuel Crowther!
We cannot now follow Adjai in the events of the next few years, except to say, that on his arrival at Sierra Leone, he was placed under the care of an European Catechist and his wife, who shewed him every kindness. He grew in grace as he advanced in years, was baptized, and became first a student, then an instructor in the Fourah Bay Institution for the education of young men as teachers and catechists. In 1844, he stood forth an ordained minister, to proclaim the gospel of salvation in their own tongue to hundreds around him, rescued, like himself, from the slavery of body and soul; and to invite them to enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
Having established a school for boys, and one for girls, and translated several portions of the Bible into the Fourahan language, the "Rev." Samuel Crowther visited England in 1851, for the purpose of inspecting the printing of them. The "interpretation of tongues" has been one of his most
148important occupations. Besides revising a Yoruban primer, he translated the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistle to the Romans, and Watts' First Catechism.
Abdy mentions having had put into his hands a letter written by a young man, who had been brought, when a child, from the coast of Africa. By working extra time, and reducing his hours for sleep almost to the minimum required for existence, he succeeded in teaching himself to read and write, and in purchasing his freedom. For the latter he paid seven hundred dollars, including what he had given for certain portions of time to work on his own account. His name was James Bradley, aged about twenty-seven years; his skin was a very deep jet black. The paper alluded to was addressed to Lydia M. Child, of Boston, and contained a narrative of his sufferings and his exertions. As he was but two or three years of age, when he was stolen from Africa, he could remember nothing that occurred to him in that country; except that he was at play in the fields when he was carried off. The cruelties he had witnessed in South Carolina, whither be was taken, could not, he said, be described. His master bore the character of a kind and humane man towards his slaves; yet he was accustomed to knock poor Bradley about the head so cruelly, that his life was despaired of: and the whole family were equally brutal; for while the children were tormenting him with sticks and pins, the father expressed a wish, in his presence, that he was dead, as he would never be good for anything, telling him that "he would as soon knock him on the head as an opossum."
In his letter to Mrs. Child, Bradley assures her that what is said by travellers, and others who have questioned the slaves upon their wish for freedom, is not to be relied on; as it is a matter of policy with them to affect contentment, and conceal their real sentiments on the subject, since harsher treatment, and severe measures to prevent escape, would be the inevitable result of any anxiety they might show for liberty. "How strange it is" — such are Bradley's own words — "that anybody should believe that a human being could be a slave, and feel contented. I don't believe there ever was a slave who did not long for liberty."
The whole of Bradley's letter, which has been published in Mrs. Child's "Oasis," bears the stamp of a mind elevated, candid, and simple, to a degree that art would attempt in vain to imitate. Abdy mentions reading another letter from a man in Ladiona, who had in a similar manner obtained
149both his freedom and a knowledge of writing. "His sentiments and style were of a very superior order. There were not more, in a long composition, than two or three trivial errors of grammar — one of them so purely idiomatic that I have often observed it in men who profess to be well educated. The hand-writing was singularly clear, and even beautiful."
Speaking of the youths in a coloured school, E. S. Abdy says of one of the boys, "He had one of the finest heads and most intelligent countenances to be seen on human shoulders. The complexion was African, but the features were European. He was the brother of a boy whom I had examined — with others of the same race — some months before, in Latin; on which occasion they all acquitted themselves beyond what the shortness of the time they had been engaged in the study of the language, could have warranted any one to expect. Some essays, which they had composed in English, were read by them at the same time. A few of them were particularly well written; and all of them as deserving of praise as any compositions by persons of the same age."
When at Cincinatti, Abdy spent an evening in visiting some of the coloured people. "I found their houses," he observes, "furnished in a style of comfort and elegance much superior to what I had seen among whites of the same rank. At one of them was an old man, Solomon Scott, of a very advanced age. From his own statement, which was confirmed by those present, he must have been one hundred and fourteen years old. He had retained his faculties, and was strong enough to walk without assistance, though his feet were much crippled by the sufferings he had undergone; having been compelled, for six years, to drag a weight of fifty-six pounds, attached by a chain to his legs, while at work. In addition to this instrument of wearisome annoyance, he had worn an iron collar round his neck, fastened to his waist, and projecting over his head, with a bell suspended from the upper part. He was a very religious man; and it was for preaching to his fellow-slaves, that these excruciating tortures were inflicted upon him. When we asked him if he had ever been flogged, he threw his arms up wildly, and seemed to labour under an oppressive load of recollections. This was invariably his custom, when the subject was recalled to his mind — "Yes!" he exclaimed, ‘the cowhide was my breakfast, and dinner, and supper,’ meaning that he had been exposed to the lash
150at every meal. When he had completed a century of suffering and sorrow, he resolutely declared that his task was done, and he would work no more. His master then brought him from Virginia to Ohio, and left him on the banks of the river.
ln spite of his years and his infirmities, poor Solomon managed to find his way to the Cincinatti hotel; where he was earning his bread like an honest man, by cleaning shoes, and making himself useful about the house; when his owner, finding he had still a few dollars worth of labour left in him, sent his brother-in-law to bring him back. Outraged humanity, however, at last asserted her rights — the indignation of the bystanders protected the old man's gray hairs. He was subsequently rescued by the benevolence of one of his own race, who provided him a comfortable home in his declining years. His benefactor, who had realized five or six thousand dollars by his industry, to which he was indebted for his own freedom, had laid out part of his savings in procuring that blessing for others. He had redeemed a young woman from servitude for three hundred, and a man for six hundred, dollars.
"As the poor old man expressed himself very indistinctly, the mistress of the house interpreted what he said. An anecdote she had frequently heard from him, and which she related to us, while he sat by enjoying the general laugh it created, shewed what cunning and self-possession the slaves have. She had before told us a very amusing story of a lad who acted the part of Brutus so successfully, that, while his master set him down for an idiot, he had completed his preparations for a long journey; and started ‘one fine day’ with his saddle-bags well filled, and a trusty steed, for Canada; with the route to which he had made himself thoroughly acquainted, by asking one of the sons to explain the queer dots and lines on the map. He changed horses regularly as he proceeded, wherever he could do so with safety, and dismissed them in succession, to find their way home. In this manner he arrived at the place ‘where he would be,’ and is now a good loyal British subject; while his master is vowing vengeance, and literally growing twigs to scourge the rebellious boy — when he gets him again into his power; his forgiveness of a former flight, occasioned by his brutality, having, he declares, encouraged a second attempt."
But we must not forget ‘Uncle Solomon’ and his joke. "He was one Sunday at a neighbour's house, when the
151mistress returned from church, and not finding the dinner ready, began to scold the cook in no measured terms. ‘Madam,’ said the woman, ‘you gave me no orders; and you know you have always told me to do nothing without orders.’ ‘True,’ replied the mistress, ‘but your conscience might have told you that I was not to be starved.’ The cook put oh a look of stupidity. ‘What! don't you understand me?’ exclaimed the virago, ‘don't you understand what conscience is? Solomon! you know what conscience is?’ — Solomon kept his wisdom to himself. ‘Why Solomon! you must be a fool; conscience is something within us that tells when we do wrong.’ ‘Where was yours then,’ said Solomon, ‘when you cut that poor woman's back to pieces the other day?’ Before she could recover from her confusion Solomon had vanished; having very prudently followed the example of those wits who make it a point to quit the company when they have said ‘a good thing.’
The "Rev." Peter Williams was the minister of the "African" Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York, into which he was ordained by Bishop Hobart, and in spite of his lineage was much respected. His father performed, while a slave, an action so noble and disinterested that it ought to be recorded. During the revolutionary war, he rescued a Presbyterian minister of New Jersey from the enemy, who were in search of him as one of the most active promoters of the rebellion. An English officer, who suspected that Williams knew the place of the minister's retreat, threatened his life, and then offered him hip purse, to betray him. But neither the menace nor the gold had any influence on his resolution; he resisted both, to preserve a man who had no claim upon his benevolence but the danger he was in.
When Williams was emancipated he kept a tobacconist's shop, and it is remarkable that he had as his first servant the son of his former master — a double reverse of fortune that illustrates the doctrine of compensation in a very striking manner.
The "Rev." Peter Williams was a very intelligent man, of pleasing and gentlemanly manners. White clergymen and even bishops were sometimes seen in his pulpit. Abdy visited him and says, "I was much gratified with the information he gave me relative to the prospects of a people who, like the Jews, have escaped from bondage to suffer from calumny." Having attended the Africo-American Church, Abdy continues: — "The service was read by a white clergyman, and the sermon delivered by my excellent friend
152Mr. Williams. The subject of the discourse was the death of Wilberforce. After a brief narrative of the philanthropist's early career, the preacher touched upon the difficulties which surrounded him in the pursuit of that humane object, to which he had devoted his life: — the prejudice of early education, the indifference of friends, the allurements of fortune, the world's hostility and scorn. He surmounted all; and found, in the triumph which ultimately crowned his exertions, the reward of his labours, and a reputation which has identified his name with all that is celebrated in eloquence, and beloved in humanity. ‘To him,’ exclaimed the preacher, ‘our gratitude will be for ever due. To hid indefatigable zeal in our cause we owe the redress of our wrongs; to his example shall we be indebted for the recovery of our rights; when the prejudice which now separates us from our fellow-countrymen, shall yield to juster notions of religious duty, and social obligations. Let all who are now suffering under unmerited opprobrium, or the lash of the taskmaster, be patient, for the day of redemption draweth nigh. The chains of the slave have been broken by that nation which first abolished the cruel traffic that had torn him from his native land; and this example of a generous policy will not be lost upon our country.’ The congregation was exhorted by every consideration which respect for their benefactors and friends, a deep sense of duty towards their Heavenly Father and themselves, and the laudable wish to throw off the stigma of undeserved humiliation, can inspire; to cultivate their minds and dispositions, and to think no effort too great, no sacrifice too dear by which they might be enabled to vindicate their claim to equal acceptance and estimation with their white brethren; and to devote themselves to the highest level of attainments which honest industry can reach, and virtuous motives suggest. The sermon concluded with an application to the consciences of all present, of those great and momentous truths which were so strongly exemplified by their influence upon his opinions and conduct, in the venerable subject of his eulogy.
"This is but the substance of what he said. I cannot do justice to the simplicity of language, and propriety of illustration which characterized the composition. I was with an English friend, and we both remarked that all who were present were particularly attentive to their devotions, and respectable in their appearance. I can truly say that I never saw the church service better performed; more
153devotion and regularity in the responses, or a purer spirit of Christian charily and concord. And these are the people who are described by the Colonization Society as the vilest and basest of mankind. At one of the public meetings, with which these hypocritical conspirators against human freedom are striving to delude the country, the Chancellor of the State, (Walworth,) asserted that the free blacks are a wretched and degraded race, with nothing of freemen but the name; thus committing the very offence which had been imputed with so much bitterness, during the evening to Garrison — calumniating his own countrymen."
Much more might be said of the "Rev." Peter Williams. There is a beautiful native eloquence in a sermon of his I have, delivered on the death of the coloured Captain Paul Cuffe. Let me conclude this brief notice with the following appeal which he makes on behalf of his race: — "We are natives of this country, (America;) we ask only to be treated as well as foreigners. Not a few of our fathers suffered and bled to purchase its independence; we ask only to be treated as well as those who fought against it. We have toiled to cultivate it, and to raise it to its present prosperous condition; we ask only to share equal privileges with those who come from distant lands to enjoy the fruits of our labour."
Joseph J. Gurney speaks of a Negro he met within Edinbro. "John Padmore," says he, "now aged sixty, was once in slavery in Barbadoes. By dint of good conduct and industry, he saved £200, with which he purchased his freedom: he has since paid the like sum for the manumission of his aged father; and again for that of his son. He underwent dreadful sufferings from the cruelty of his master and mistress, when a slave; but they are now ruined, and Padmore has generously ministered to their necessity. He obtained a considerable property by trading at New Orleans, and other parts of the United States. He is neat, cheerful, sensible, and pious; and, with his wife, is living at Edinbro, respected by his neighbours, and in great comfort. His whole appearance and demeanour," adds J. J. Gurney, "are calculated to shew the folly and iniquity of what one of the French deputies has lately called the aristocracy of the skin."
Zilpha Elaw, a coloured female, about fifty years of age, has travelled through America, as a kind of evangelist, preaching among various sects of Christians. She is a Wesleyan minister, and in 1840 visited England, with the
154highest credentials. Her dress was similar to that of the Society of Friends. A Wesleyan preacher in Kent says "She spent twelve weeks with me in my circuit, and God owned her word as He had done in her father's land. I have no doubt her visit will be made a blessing to the British churches — God grant it, Amen. She has a musical voice, good talents as a public speaker, and, as far as mortals can see, her piety is genuine. She seems to have a deep-toned pity for mankind, a burning charity for blood-bought souls; she goes with
Having seen this coloured female when she was in England, and heard her publicly preach, I can testify to the truthfulness in the above statement.
The author of A Tour the United States, whom I have so often had the pleasure of quoting, says he was once asked with a sarcastic smile by an American lady of Hibernian descent, whether he had met with any interesting Negroes in the course of his tour. "The winter I passed in New York," says he, "furnished what this woman, (with all her contempt for a race more persecuted and less fortunate than that from wish she herself sprang.) would acknowledge to be most painfully interesting. During the frost, some ice, on which several boys were skating, in the outskirts of the city, gave way: and several of them were drowned. In the confusion and terror occasioned by this accident, a coloured boy named Peterson, whose courage and hardihood were well known, was called upon to render assistance. He immediately threw himself into the water with his skates on, and succeeded in saving two lads; but while exerting himself to rescue a third, he was drawn under the ice, and unable to extricate himself. None would risk his life for him! Soon after, the details of this melancholy event appeared in one of the newspapers, with an offer to receive subscriptions for the mother, Susannah Peterson, who was left with a sick husband and a young family deprived of the support which she had derived from her son's industry. The subscription raised did not amount to seventy dollars. When we consider that the population of the place amounted to more than two hundred and fifty thousand, including Brooklyn, it is little to its credit that the gratitude it felt for the preservation of two of its citizens, could find no
155better way to exhibit itself than by a paltry donation to the self-devoted preserver's afflicted parent of a sum scarcely exceeding one-fourth of what he might have been sold for when living, in the slave-market at New Orleans.
"As reference was made to a medical man in Park Place, I called upon him, and received a very favourable account both of the boy and his poor mother. I immediately proceeded to her house, and found that she had three children left: — the eldest about ten years of age, and the youngest an infant at the breast. In addition to these, she had undertaken the care of a little girl, five years old, the daughter of a deceased friend, whose husband had deserted his child, and refused to pay anything towards her support. ‘I consider her as my child,’ said the generous woman, ‘and while I have a crust left, she shall share it with my children.’ I made inquiries about the boy she had just lost, and was told what I had heard in Park Place — that his conduct had always been most exemplary; that he had carried his mother every cent he could save from his earnings, and had often expressed a wish that he might obtain sufficient to keep her from working so hard; her business sometimes keeping her up nearly all night."
"Such," continues the narrator, "was the history of Susannah Peterson and her heroic boy. It was told in the most simple and natural style, without any display of grief, or the slightest attempt to exhibit feeling, or excite commiseration. There was an expression of dejection, however, in the countenance that could not be mistaken; and an effort to suppress the workings of a mother's heart that I never saw so striking in any one. Everything in the furniture of the room, the decent behaviour of the children, and the general deportment of the parent; bespoke full as much propriety and respectability as I ever met with in the same class of life, whatever might be the occupation or complexion, I had frequent opportunities of seeing Mrs. Peterson, and my respect for her character increased with my acquaintance."
Although this woman was dependent on her daily labours for a livelihood, she was a member and contributor to benevolent societies in New York. Her brother, who is known in England as the African Roscius, occasionally sent her remittances of money, and had expressed in one of his letters from this country, an intention to provide for her unfortunate boy's education. I am myself acquainted with the African Roscius, as he is called, more properly
His forefathers were princes of the Foulah tribe, whose dominions were in Senegal, on the banks of the river of that name, on the west coast of Africa. To this shore one of our early Missionaries found his way, and took charge of Ira's father, Daniel Aldridge, in order to qualify him for the work of civilizing and evangelizing his countrymen. Daniel's father, the reigning prince, was more enlightened than his subjects, probably through the instruction of the missionary, and proposed that his prisoners taken in battle should be exchanged, and not, as was the custom, sold as slaves. This wish interfered with the notions and perquisites of his tribe, especially his principal chiefs: and a civil war raged among the people. During these differences, Daniel, then a promising youth, was taken to America by the missionary, and sent to Schenectady College, near New York, to receive the advantages of a Christian education. Three days after his departure the revolutionary storm which was brewing, broke out openly, and the reigning prince, the advocate of humanity, was killed.
Daniel Aldridge remained in America till the death of the rebellious chief, who had headed the conspiracy, and reigned instead of the murdered prince. During the interval Daniel had become a minister of the Gospel, and was regarded by all classes as a man of uncommon abilities. He was, however, desirous to establish himself at the head of his tribe, possess himself of his birth-right, and advance the cause of Christianity among his countrymen. For this purpose, he returned to his native country, taking with him a young wife, one of his own colour, whom he had but just married in America. To this step he was prompted by the advice of his white friends, who, doubtless looked forward to his reign as one calculated to encourage the growth of those "Gospel seeds" which had been planted among the children of the Foulah tribe. Their pious hopes and intentions were frustrated. Daniel no sooner appeared among the people of his slaughtered father, than old disagreements revived, civil war broke out, the enlightened African was defeated, barely escaping from the scene of
157strife with his life, and for some time unable to quit the country, which was watched by numerous enemies, anxious for his capture. Nine years elapsed before the proscribed family escaped to America, during the whole of which time they were concealed in the neighbourhood of their foes, enduring vicissitudes and hardships that can well be imagined, but need not be described.
On their arrival in America, Daniel returned to his ministerial duties, influencing aright the minds of people of his own complexion in that country instead of his own. He did not live in vain, as the following extract from the obituary of an American paper at the time of his decease in 1840, may testify: — "There are few individuals who have been more generally useful than the Rev. Mr. Aldridge, and whose loss will he more severely felt in New York, among his coloured brethren, to whom he was endeared by his faithful discharge of the duties incumbent on him as a Christian minister."
Ira Aldridge was born soon after his father's arrival in Senegal, and on their return to America, was intended by the latter for the church. Many a white parent has ‘chalked out’ in vain for his son a similar calling, and the best intentions have been thwarted by an early predilection quite in an opposite direction. We can well account for the father's choice in this instance, as in keeping with his own aspirations; and we can easily imagine his disappointment upon abandoning all hope of seeing one of his blood and colour following specially in the service of his great Master. The son, however, began betimes to shew his early preference and ultimate passion. At school he was awarded prizes for declamation, in which he excelled; and there his curiosity was excited by what he heard of theatrical representations, which he was told embodied all the fine ideas shadowed forth in the language he read and committed to memory. It became the wish of his heart to witness one of those performances, and that wish he soon contrived to gratify, and finally he became a candidate for histrionic fame.
Notwithstanding the progress Ira had made in learning, no qualities of the mind could compensate in the eyes of the Americans, for the dark hue of his skin. The prevailing prejudice, so strong among all classes, was against him. This induced his removal to England, where he entered at the Glassgow University, and, under Professor Sandford, obtained several premiums, and the medal for Latin composition.
158Space does not admit of our following his career. His early preference "grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength," and despite his one personal disadvantage, he has obtained a reputation which stamps his abilities as a tragic and comic actor beyond dispute. He is allowed to possess every mental and physical requisite for those parts he performs. He has a clear and flexible voice, which he uses with great judgment and taste; he can infuse great expression and feeling into his intonation; his emphasis is judicious, and his transitions natural and appropriate. Sheridan Knowles complimented and encouraged him; and Edmund Kean, in a letter of recommendation, says, "I have witnessed his performances with pleasure: he possesses wonderful versatility." Madame Malibran, in speaking of his personation of Othello, said she "never witnessed, in the course of her professional career in both hemispheres, a more interesting and powerful performance, marked throughout by that strict adherence to nature which should be the characteristic of every dramatic portraiture."
I could adduce a volume of favourable comments upon the performances of this "African Kean," as he has been called. One short one from the London Weekly Times, must suffice: — "Mr. Ira Aldridge is an African of Mulatto tint, with woolly hair. His features are capable of much expression, his action is unrestrained and picturesque, and his voice clear, full, and resonant. His powers of energetic declamation are very marked, and the whole of his acting appears impulsed by a current of feeling of no inconsiderable weight and vigour, yet controlled and guided in a manner that clearly shews the actor to be a person of much study and great stage experience."
Be it understood, I have not a word to say in favour or defence of stage entertainments, and I give them no encouragement; but to speak honestly, I have myself witnessed the performance of this specimen of a ‘distinct’ and ‘marked race,’ that I might be able to add him to the long catalogue of witnesses, as a living refutation of the assertions so frequently made as to their imbecility; and to assist in disarming the weapons with which those unfortunates are so often assailed, who wear
159fraternity it has become almost a fashion to indulge in lampoons, and to exult in caricatures of their peculiarities.
It is from the various characteristics exhibited under different aspects by the Negro race, that our conclusions must be drawn as to their capability and identity with the more favoured portion of mankind. The acquirements of a scholar, the conception of a poet, and the accomplishments of a gentleman, must be united in the individual that can signalize himself by earning a reputation in the highest walks of the drama, equal to that which the African Roscius has attained. And it is impossible to regard a man of colour, possessing a soul capable of appreciating, and endowment's equal to the representation of the immortal Shakespeare's great creations, and not sigh in serious contemplation over the wrongs of thousands of his race, treated by their paler brethren as mindless, heartless, soulless, feeling-less clay; bearing the corporeal impress of humanity, but cruelly and thoughtlessly denied its spiritual attributes! A moral lesson will present and even intrude itself with the simple facts, that as ebony may be polished, and coals emit sparks, so the swarthy race of Africa are as capable of cultivation as the fairest son of Albion.
There is a coloured female now in England, Eliza Greenfield, known as the "Black Swan," who has arrested considerable interest as a vocalist. She was poor, and had to live at service when young, but she had an eye, an ear, and soul for music, and being determined to make some progress in it, she hit upon this expedient. She would take a class of young persons to teach, and thus ground herself in the rudiments, and obtain additional money over and above what would purchase for herself further instruction. She proceeded with such success that though she commenced at the age of twenty, when she sang at Stafford House in the presence of some of the principal nobility, she astonished all who heard her. She has sung before the most brilliant circles, and in every instance has been admired. "I never heard a man," says Ward. "who could sing lower bass; and the compass of her voice extends from the highest to the lowest pitch. Sir David Brewster, after hearing her, turned to me and said ‘She has two distinct voices.’"
The Pernambucana, one of the vessels of the Brazilian Steam Packet Company, was wrecked near Saint Katherine's, towards the close of 1853, and upwards of forty of her passengers were drowned. This disaster afforded an opportunity
160for a display of heroism and bravery rarely equalled. A black sailor, belonging to the vessel, succeeded with many others in reaching the shore; numbers had perished in the attempt, and but few of the passengers remained upon the wreck. All of these, including a mother and six children, did Simao save. Twelve times had this noble fellow swam through the furious breakers on the coast, and each time returned bringing a victim from destruction; then wearied, as he well might be, from his almost superhuman efforts, he threw himself exhausted upon the sands, when a cry was raised that one human being still remained upon the wreck. No one was hardy enough to attempt the rescue of the poor passenger, a blind man, whose piteous cries for succour were faintly heard on shore. But the brave Simao again dived into the furious surf, reached the vessel, and brought the poor blind man safely to land, thus saving, by his noble and unaided exertions, no less than thirteen lives. The shipwrecked passengers, together with the saviour of so large a number of them, arrived in the Guspiassu steamer, and it is pleasing to add that the Brazilians were by no means slow in marking their appreciation of, and rewarding this heroic action. A subscription was opened in the Praca do Commercio, and the amount subscribed in two days exceeded seven contos of reis, or about £800. The Emperor and Empress, whose hands are always open for the succour of the needy, or reward of the meritorious, contributed nine hundred milreis, and the subscription soon amounted to £1,000. In addition to this a statue of the black is to be placed in the Exchange.
Some of the military services of coloured men are related in the early part of this letter. Contrasted with the "pomp and circumstance of war," let us now glance at some of the services of this people rendered voluntarily during a visitation of pestilence, as related by Wm. C. Nell.
In the autumn of 1973, the yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia with peculiar malignity. The insolent and unnatural distinctions of caste were overturned, and the coloured people solicited in the public papers to come forward and assist the perishing sick. The same mouth which had glorified against them in its prosperity, in its overwhelming adversity now implored their assistance. The coloured people of Philadelphia nobly responded. The then mayor, Matthew Clarkson, received their deputation with respect, and recommended their course. They appointed Absalom Jones and William Gray to superintend it, the
161mayor advertising the public that, by applying to them, aid could be obtained.
Soon afterwards the sickness increased so dreadfully, that it became next to impossible to remove the corpses. The coloured people volunteered this painful and dangerous duty, did it extensively, and hired help in doing it. Dr. Rush instructed the two superintendents in the proper precautions and measures to be used.
A sick white man crept to his chamber window, and entreated the passers by to bring him a drink of water. Several white men passed, but hurried on. A foreigner came up — paused — was afraid to supply the help with his own hands, but stood and offered eight dollars to whomsoever would. At length a poor black man appeared; he heard — stopped — ran for water — took it to the sick man, and then stayed by him to nurse him, steadily and mildly refusing all pecuniary compensation. Sarah Boss, a poor black widow, was active in voluntary and benevolent services. A poor black man, named Sampson, went constantly from house to house giving assistance everywhere gratuitously, until he was seized with the fever and died.
There are at this moment well-educated coloured men in the practice of the several liberal professions in different parts of the United States. J. B. Vashon, at Pittsburg, and Robert Morris, at Boston, are good lawyers: Dr. Mc Cune Smith, of New York, is an intelligent physician; and Dr. Pennington, as stated in this volume, has graduated at Heidelburg. Charles L. Reason, is a professor, a writer, and a poet; and William G. Allen, now in England, is also a professor, and an author. As an editor and an orator. Frederick Douglass is pre-eminent; and William H. Day stands on a par with the entire editorial corps. There are numerous coloured artists in the States. Says Ward, "I knew a Negro, named Smith, an historical painter, a man of loose habits, but of great talents; when sober he could earn any amount of money, even in prejudiced America. Mr. Reason, an engraver, is brother of Professor Reason. One of the best Daugerrian artists in Hartford is Mr. Washington. In Ohio there is Mr. Ball. In Philadelphia there is Mr. Brown, who has received commendations where a black man is despised more than anywhere."
With regard to the coloured race in the West Indies, the Chief Justice of Dominica, Glanville, is a Mulatto; and the Clerk to the House of Assembly, who was recently in England, is still darker; Sharp, the Attorney-General of
162Barbadoes, is a Mulatto; Garroway, Judge of the Court of Appeal, in Barbadoes, is a Mulatto; the Governor of Nevis is a Mulatto; thirty-two editors of newspapers in the British West Indian colonies, are Negroes and Mulattoes; in all the legislative Councils, and Houses of Representatives, there are no less than seventy-two Mulattoes and two Negroes, making laws for their former masters, the Whites. Two-thirds of the army or garrison in those colonies is already composed of African soldiers commanded by white officers. The church is also abundantly supplied with black and mulatto clergymen; the jurymen are almost entirely composed of Negroes and Mulattoes.
To deny the Negroes equality in face of all these facts, is a monstrous absurdity. Well may Frederick Douglass exclaim on behalf of his maligned and outraged race, "ls it not astonishing, that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses and constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, and copper, silver and gold; that while we are reading, writing, and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants, and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; that while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, breeding sheep and cattle on the hill side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave — is it not astonishing, I say, that we are called upon to prove that we are men?"
It seems almost superfluous to assert that it is in the right exercise of the faculties with which he is endowed, that man can fulfil the objects for which he had a being; become a useful member of the community, qualified to promote the happiness of his fellow-man; and what is of the greatest importance to himself — enabled to secure his own. Admitting, then, as we must do, that Negroes are men, to remove them out of the state of degradation to which they are subjected, and place them in a capacity to assert the dignity of men in a social, civil, and religious sense, must be the aspiration of every noble mind.
Thy friend, very truly,
Leeds, 3 mo., 28th., 1854.
Anti-Slavery Lines, Suggested by Baird's Picture, Entitled ‘A Scene on the Coast of Africa.’
When Wrong shall cease, and Liberty and Love,
And Faith and Right throughout the earth be known,
As in their home above."
Its blood-stained pages, one by one, unrolled;
Gaze on the pictures from oblivion won,
Of all that man hath wrought beneath the sun;
Peruse the records dark of woe and crime,
Written and left by swiftly-fleeting Time,
To tell of those who suffered and enjoyed,
And teach us what to follow and avoid:
Take up the book of history, and trace
The wrongs and sufferings of the Negro race;
Their progress mark through every changeful scene,
Bondage and stripes their lot hath ever been;
In Egypt and Phoenecia, Greece and Rome,
Wherever man hath powerful become;
Wherever he hath gathered wealth, and built
An empire up of misery and guilt,
E'en from the cradle to the silent grave,
The crouching Ethiopian was a slave.
Yet not alone was unto him assigned,
The heavy burden and the chains which bind;
His servile lot the British captive shared,
For Seythia's sons the shackles were prepared;
And other climes their children gave to be
The sharers of his sad captivity.
But modern nations — wiser, more refined, —
Against the friendless African combined;
His strong frame had a patient heart within,
And he was guilty of — a darker skin,
And hence for him no labour was too hard;
From every social privilege debarred,
'Twas his to toil as one beneath a ban,
An outcast from the family of man;
Him, like a soulless creature, bought and sold,
O'ertasked, and subject to the lash, behold!
Torn from his home, his family, and friends,
In vain the slave his clasped hands extends,
And bathes in gushing tears his galling chains
And is it so in this our later day,
When wide the Gospel hath diffused its ray;
When civilized mankind hath learned to know
The source from whence all earthly blessings flow;
To know that He, who came their souls to save,
Values alike the freeman and the slave? —
In this our age, when CLARKSON'S voice is heard,
And pity every Christian heart hath stirred;
When WILBERFORCE still pleads, and COWPER'S strain
In sweet MONTGOMERY'S verse revives again;
When orators declaim, and schoolmen write,
And of all creeds philanthropists unite
In reprobation of the cruel wrong; —
So weak is Justice, Mammon still so strong?
Unto the book now open 'neath thine eye,
Turn, questioner, and thence receive reply;
Behold, the picture bears a recent date,
Though black as midnight, horrible as hate;
Mark its details, then sickening turn away,
And for thy fellow-creatures mourn and pray!
The rolling billows break on Afric's shore
With a monotonous and sullen roar;
Night-breezes sigh palmetto leaves among,
Like spirits wailing for a deed of wrong;
And early dawn, with dank and misty wings,
As yet enshrouds all mute and living things,
And, as a mourning veil about the sun,
Hides from his view the deeds of horror done.
Lo! in the offing, like a bird of prey,
The Slave-ship rests upon the waters gray.
Prepared her living freight of woe to take,
Abroad her spreading canvass wings to shake,
And with pestiferous, air-polluting breath,
Pass on her way of misery and death.
Mark on the shore the Captain's reckless mien —
He, the presiding demon of the scene!
Armed and prepared for any ruffian deed,
That time or circumstance may seem to need;
He coolly estimates the "wear and tear"
The human cattle brought to him will bear,
Marks their good points, or had ones, at a look,
Counts up the gains, and noted them in his book;
Buys thews and sinews, muscles, flesh, and bones,
He cares not for it, — only there's a doubt
If the machine will do its work without.
Decked in the trappings of barbaric pride,
Behold the Negro-Chief!
With not a ray to light his stolid face,
And tell that mind within him hath a place;
Brute ignorance personified he looks,
And seated there, his hookah calmly smokes,
The while his countrymen — by his rude hands —
Torn from where Niger laves the golden sands;
From Gambia's banks, and plains of Senegal,
And streams that from the Moon's high mountains fall;
Through swamps and woods that girdle Timbuctoo.
O'er stony wilderness, and wild Karroo,
Dragged on with fainting hearts and bleeding feet,
Panting and thirsting in the burning heat, —
Are here consigned to life-long slavery,
Or left to die of famine by the sea,
Too sick and weak to claim the merchant's care.
And valueless to him who brought them there.
Look, where yon heap of helpless wretches lie.
Like useless lumber thrown unheeded by,
A female form reclines, the mute despair
Depicted in her aspect and her air,
Might move to pity any heart, but one
Changed by this cursed traffic into stone;
With arms outstretched, her dying looks are cast
On him for embarkation driven past —
Husband or brother; lo! he turns — the scourge
Onward his lingering steps doth faster urge;
One shriek from her — one groan from him; — 'tis o'er.
And they are parted now for evermore.
Here lies a mother by her lifeless child,
Fearing to be of all she loves despoiled,
While the rough-visaged sailor ready stands
To clasp around her limbs the iron bands.
There on a rude mat, spread upon the ground,
A stalwart Negro lieth firmly bound,
His brawny chest one brutal captor smites,
And notice to the ringing sound invites;
Another opes his mouth the teeth to show,
As cattle-dealers aye are wont to do.
Hark, to that shrill and agonising cry!
Gaze on that upturned supplicating eye!
As the initials of her owner's name,
Burn on the back of that Mandingo girl;
Yet calmly do the smoke-wreaths upward curl
From his cigar, whose right unfaltering hand
Lights with a match the cauterizing brand,
The while his left doth the round shoulder clasp,
And hold his victim in a vice-like grasp.
A stripling holds the lanthern; can the heart
Of one so young forbear to take a part
With tortured innocence? Look on his face!
Do tears of pity there each other chase?
Nay! there's no sign of pity, nor a tear;
True he hath turned aside, but 'tis to hear
What price that strong-limbed man will fetch, and know
How bargains may be made, how markets go;
Some day, he thinks, he'll speculate himself.
Command a ship, and gather ill-got pelf.
Enough! now turn from that polluted shore.
Gaze on the dreadful scene of woe no more;
Turn, pray, and labour, till the chains are riven,
And freedom unto Afric's children given!
To this end suffer all things — all endure!
The work is holy, — the reward is sure!
H. G. A.
Of brotherhood is sever'd as the flax
That falls asunder at the touch of fire.
He finds his brother guilty of a skin
Not colour'd like his own, and having pow'r
T'inforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause,
Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey."
Nor let the strong emotion rise in vain;
But may the kind contagion widely spread,
Till in its flame the unrelenting heart
Of avarice melt in softest sympathy
And one bright blaze of universal love,
In grateful incense up to Heaven."
Remorseless as the gulph that yawns below,
Is he who toils upon the wafting flood,
A Christian broker in the trade of blood;
Boisterous in speech, in action prompt and bold,
He buys, he sells, he steals, he kills for gold."