While other portions of the community were in like manner propitiating the mob, the few but faithful abolitionists of the city calmly but firmly maintained their principles, even at the peril of life and estate. On the morning after the burning of the Hall, the State Anti-Slavery Society, pursuant to adjournment, met at the ruins of the Hall, and, amidst the smoking walls, and with the mob lingering about them, they proceeded to their business—Abraham L. Pennock, the Vice President of the Society, presiding. The editor of the Pennsylvania Freeman, John G. Whittier, whose publication office and papers had been destroyed by the mob, in his next paper published the following editorial article, which I have copied simply to show that while the abolitionists on this occasion maintained their sentiments in a clear and unequivocal manner, they did not indulge in the language of revenge or anger.
"We perhaps need offer no apology to our distant readers, for the want of variety in our present number. Ours must be this week a record of violence—a story of persecution and outrage. We hardly dare trust ourselves to speak upon this matter. It is our desire to do so, if at all, in a tone of calmness,—to hold ourselves aloof, as far as possible, from the present excitement,—to utter our abiding testimony, now dearer than ever to our hearts, not in the language of passion, but firmly and decidedly.
"Our readers will gather from the statements made in the different extracts in our paper, and especially from the Address of the Executive Committee of the State Anti-Slavery Society, the leading facts of the outrage. Of the course pursued by the civil authorities, we leave the community to judge. Our own reliance for protection has been upon that Providence whose mercy is over all,—in the justice of our cause, and in our conscious innocence of heart and integrity of purpose. We rejoice, and in so doing, the abolitionists of Pennsylvania unite with us, that human life was not sacrificed in defence of our Hall, our persons, and our property. We know, indeed, that had the attack been made upon the United States Bank, or any similar institution in this city, the civil authorities would have met its fury, not as now, with a speech only, but with loaded firelocks and fixed bayonets. We know, it is true, that the mob were in a great measure left free to work their mischievous will upon us. But if those in authority have, upon their own principles, treated us with neglect in the hour of our peril, upon them let the responsibility rest. We have thus far survived the onset. Under God, for to him alone are we indebted for protection, we are still left to bear our testimony to the truth. Our consciences are in this matter void of offence. In cheerful serenity of spirit, and not in the tone of menace or boasting, we declare our faith in the principles of emancipation unfaltering—our zeal undiminished—our determination to persevere unaltered. Our confidence in the triumphant and glorious issue of the present struggle remains firm.
'Truth smote to Earth revives again; The eternal years of God are hers— But error wounded, shrieks with pain, And dies among her worshippers.'
"From this time henceforward, Pennsylvania must become the great battle-field of opinion on the subject of slavery. The light of that evening's sacrifice has reached already every portion of our State. Men are every where inquiring why the sacrifice was made? Why a mighty city was convulsed with violence? Why a noble hall was burned by incendiaries in the view of gazing thousands? Why the 'shelter for orphan children' was set on fire, and why the houses of our citizens were surrounded by a ruffian mob? They may be told now by the perpetrators of these outrages, that all has been occasioned by the conduct of the abolitionists. But the delusion cannot last. Truth will make its way to the abused ear of the community; and it will be known that the scenes which have disgraced our city, are directly attributable to the influence of southern slavery. The spirit of free inquiry, now fairly awakened, will never again slumber in this state. Like the Greek fire, it will blaze with fiercer intensity for every attempt to extinguish it."
The proceedings of the authorities and the public at large, consequent upon this act of incendiarism and outrageous violence, were truly characteristic. It is supposed that the destruction of the Hall was planned beforehand, and there is some evidence to show that strangers from the South were implicated in the conspiracy; but, as usual, the old drama of the wolf accusing the lamb was enacted over again, and a pretext was laid hold of, that, in the peculiar state of feeling existing in the community, was almost deemed a justification of all that had happened; though, in truth, it was in the last degree ridiculous. It was asserted that colored men had been seen walking arm in arm with white ladies, and that white men had handed colored females out of their carriages at the door of the Hall, as politely as if they had not belonged to the proscribed class. In several instances, if not in all, these reports were untrue in point of fact, and originated in the existing paradox, that colored men and women are sometimes white, and that white gentlemen and ladies are not unfrequently of dark complexion. As an illustration, I quote the following scene from a letter addressed to me by Robert Purvis, an intelligent and educated man of color, and the son-in-law of James Forten, a wealthy and venerable colored citizen of Philadelphia, recently deceased.
"In regard to my examination before the jury in the Pennsylvania Hall case, I have to say, that it was both a painful and ludicrous affair. At one time the fulness of an almost bursting heart was ready to pour forth in bitter denunciation—then the miserable absurdity of the thing, rushing into my mind, would excite my risible propensities. You know the county endeavored to defend itself against the award of damages, by proving that the abolitionists were the cause of the destruction of the building, in promoting promiscuous intermingling, in doors and out, of blacks and whites, thereby exciting public feeling, &c. A witness, whose name I now forget, in proof of this point, stated, that upon a certain day, hour, &c., a 'negress' approached the Hall, in a carriage, when a white man assisted her in getting out, offered his arm, which was instantly accepted, and he escorted her to the saloon of the building! In this statement he was collected, careful, and solemn—minutely describing the dress, appearance of the parties, as well as the carriage, the exact time, &c.—the clerks appointed for the purpose taking down every word, and the venerable jurors looking credulous and horror-stricken. Upon being called to rebut the testimony I, in truth and simplicity, confirmed his testimony in every particular!! The attorney, on our behalf, David Paul Brown, Esq., a gentleman, scholar, and philanthropist, in a tone of irony peculiarly severe, demanded, 'whether I had the unblushing impudence, in broad day-light, to offer my arm to my wife?' I replied, in deep affectation of the criminality involved, that the only palliation I could offer, for conduct so outrageous was, that it was unwittingly done, it seemed so natural. This, as you might well suppose, produced some merriment at the expense of the witness for the county, and of all others, whose gullibility and prejudice had given credit to what would have been considered, had I been what is called a white man, an awful story."
The proceedings in the case are, I believe, still pending. My friend, Samuel Webb, in a letter dated "11th Month 16th, 1841," says:
"Last 7th day, after several years incessant struggle, we brought the case of the Pennsylvania Hall before the Court of Criminal Sessions. George M. Dallas, Counsel for the County, in opposing the award of the appraisers, (thirty-three thousand dollars, not one-third of what it ought to have been,) spoke for about one hour—the purport of his speech was—that here was no mob at all, (!) that the jury appointed to ascertain the facts had reported to the Court, that the mob, if mob it might be called, was composed of orderly, respectable citizens; and of, course, orderly, respectable citizens could not be a mob. After this I should not be surprised to hear it doubted whether there ever was such a building, or if there was, whether it was ever destroyed; but unluckily the ruined walls are still standing, and if I had my way, there they should stand, until slavery shall be abolished, which it will be, soon after your East India possessions can grow cotton for six cents per lb. by free labor."
To resume the narrative: I paid a visit to the widow of Joseph Lancaster, who, with her three children by a former husband, are living in great obscurity in the suburbs of this city.
I returned to New York on the 10th, for the purpose of being in the city at the time when the religious and benevolent anniversaries are held, and of meeting parties who attend them. Here I had the pleasure of meeting with several warm-hearted abolitionists from distant parts of the country. The first meeting I attended was the anniversary of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, which, though held at a distance from the centre of the city, in consequence of the pre-engagement of the New York Tabernacle, was well attended, and I believe gave general satisfaction. I was present also at two other of its meetings. I attended several adjourned sittings of a convention called for the purpose of organizing a political "Liberty party," on the grand principle of the abolition of slavery. The chief business in hand was to nominate a President and Vice President of the United States, for the next election, and the choice fell upon my friend James G. Birney, for President, and Thomas Morris, late United States Senator from Ohio, for Vice President. A plan was arranged for putting in nomination abolition candidates for every office in the free States, down to that of constable.
I listened to the discussions that took place with considerable interest, as there are some valuable friends to the cause, men, whose opinions justly carry great weight, who do not think this the best means of bringing political influence to bear upon the question, but who would prefer voting for such anti-slavery candidates, as might be nominated by either of the two great parties already existing, or in the absence of any such candidate would decline voting at all. My own bias was in favor of this course, since it was the one pursued in Great Britain, and which had been so eminently successful in the general election of 1833. I became convinced, however, that the "third party" has strong reasons in its favor, and that in various important respects the abolitionists of the United States are differently circumstanced in regard to elections from those of my own country; and it must not be forgotten that many of the men who pledged themselves on the hustings in England were not faithful at the time of trial. At the last sitting of the Convention, I stated the advantage we had found in England, when we wished to carry any specific measure, of a personal interview with the members of the legislature, who might state facts to them and answer their objections. It was immediately suggested to send a deputation to Albany, where the senate and assembly of the State of New York were then in session, to promote the repeal of two iniquitous laws affecting people of color, and which were to be brought before the consideration of the Houses. One of them is known as the "nine months law." By its provisions a slave-holder could bring his negro "with his own consent" into this free State, and keep him there in slavery for nine months! At the expiration of the time it was of course very easy by a short journey to a neighboring State, to obtain a new license, and thus perpetuate slave-holding in the State of New York. The other law was an act restricting the elective franchise of men of color, to those possessing a fixed amount of property, no such restriction existing in the case of white men. This suggestion was adopted by the Convention, and a deputation appointed, with what success will be seen hereafter.
In order to give a general idea of the course pursued by the "Liberty party," I subjoin a statement of the plan of operation issued by a Philadelphia committee.
"PLAN OF OPERATION.
"A national committee to meet at Utica, to have a general care and oversight of the cause throughout the nation, and to act as a central corresponding committee.—State committees, to perform similar duties, in their States.—County committees, the same in their respective counties.—City and district committees, the same in their respective cities and districts.—Township and ward committees, to have the particular charge of their respective townships or wards.
"This duty may be performed by their appointing a sub-committee, to consist of one member for each block, square, section, sub-division, or neighborhood, whose duty it will be to endeavor to abolitionize his sub-division; or, at least, ascertain, as far as practicable, how many of the legal voters will vote the Liberty ticket, and transmit the number to his city or county committee, which is to forward the number of voters in their city or county to their Stale committee, and the State committee is to forward the number of voters in their State to the national committee; and also to distribute, or cause to be distributed, in his sub-division, such tracts, circulars, notices, tickets, &c., as shall be furnished by his superior committee for that purpose.
"Each committee is to communicate with its next superior committee once a year, or oftener, if required, and to meet at such time and place not less than once a month, as shall be agreed upon between it and its superior committee."
I afterwards was present at one of a series of meetings, held for the purpose of introducing to the public the Amistad captives, Africans of the Mendi country, who had recently regained their freedom. The case of these people is so singularly interesting, that, though some of my readers may be already well acquainted with it, I venture to introduce a brief statement of their history in the Appendix.[A]
[Footnote A: See Appendix E.]
On this occasion a very crowded and miscellaneous assembly attended, to see and hear the Mendians, although the admission had been fixed as high as half a dollar, with the view of raising a fund, to carry them to their native country. Fifteen of them were present, including one little boy and three girls. Cinque their chief, spoke with great fluency in his native language; and his action and manner were very animated and graceful. Not much of his speech was translated, yet he greatly interested his audience. The little boy could speak our language with facility; and each of them read without hesitation one or two verses in the New Testament. It was impossible for any one to go away with the impression, that in native intellect these people were inferior to the whites. The information which I privately received, from their tutor and others who had full opportunities of appreciating their capacities and attainments, fully confirmed my own very favorable impressions.
One evening during my stay, I took tea with twelve or fifteen colored gentlemen, at the house of a colored family. The refined manners and great intelligence of many of them would have done credit to any society. The whites have a monopoly of prejudice, but not a monopoly of intellect; nor of education and accomplishments; nor even of those more trivial, yet fascinating graces, which throw the charm of elegance and refinement over social life.
I found from the conversation I had with my colored friends, on different occasions, that the prejudice against them was steadily, and not very slowly, giving way; yet several instances were mentioned, of recent occurrence, which show that it is still strong: I will quote one only. A colored gentleman informed me that last winter a near female relative being about to take a journey by railway to Philadelphia, she was compelled, though in delicate health, to travel in the comfortless, exposed car, expressly provided for negroes, though he offered to pay double fare for a place in the regular carriage. A lady, not of the proscribed class, who has long resided in New York, mentioned to me as a marked indication of a favorable change in regard to color, the holding of such meetings as those at which the Amistad captives were introduced. Such an exhibition, instead of causing a display of benevolent interest among all classes, would, some years ago, have excited the malignant passions of the multitude, and probably caused a popular out-break. Another sign of the times was, that white and colored children might be seen walking in procession without distinction, on the anniversaries of the charity schools. The same lady, in whose veracity I place full confidence, informed me that there is now residing in this city, a native of Cuba, formerly a slave-holder at the Havana, who had narrowly escaped assassination from a negro. He had threatened the slave with punishment the following day, but the desperate man concealed himself in his master's room, and in the night, stabbed and killed his mistress by mistake, instead of his master. Three negroes were executed as principal and accessories; but their intended victim was so terrified that he left Havana for New York. His fears, not his conscience, were alarmed, for he still carries on his diabolical traffic between Africa and Cuba, and is reported to have gained by it, last year, one hundred thousand dollars. He lives in great splendor, and has the character of a liberal and generous man, but with the most implacable hatred to the blacks. "One murder makes a villain, thousands a hero." How wide the distinction between this man and the wretches who paid the forfeit of their lives for a solitary murder![A]
[Footnote A: Sir F. Buxton has shown that two lives at least are sacrificed for every slave carried off from Africa.]
On the evening of the 17th, in company with several of my abolition friends, I started for Albany, where the State legislature was then in session. The distance from New York is about a hundred and fifty-five miles, and is frequently performed by the steamers, on the noble river Hudson, in nine hours and a half up the stream, and in eight hours down. On these steamers there is accommodation for several hundred passengers to lodge, and the fare is only one dollar, with an extra charge for beds and meals. For an additional dollar, two persons may secure a state room to themselves.
As night drew on, and the deck began to be cleared, I observed a well-dressed black man and woman sitting apart, and supposing they could obtain no berths on account of their color, I went and spoke to them. I told them I and several others on board were abolitionists. The man then informed us they were escaping from slavery, and had left their homes little more than two days before. They appeared very intelligent, though they could neither read nor write, and described to us how they had effected their escape. They had obtained leave to go to a wedding, from which they were not expected to return till the evening of the day following. Having procured forged certificates of freedom, for which they paid twenty-five dollars, each, they came forward with expedition by railway and steam boat. They had heard of emancipation in the British West Indies, and the efforts of the abolitionists in the States, but they were unacquainted with the existence of vigilance committees, to facilitate the escape of runaway slaves. We assisted them to proceed to the house of a relative of one of our party, out of the track of the pursuer, should they be followed. There is little doubt that they have safely reached Canada, for I was told at Albany, public opinion had become so strong in favor of self-emancipation, that if a runaway were seized in the city, it is probable he would be rescued by the people.
I would also point attention to the fact, which is brought to light by this relation, that the slave-holders have not only to contend with the honest and open-handed means which the abolitionists most righteously employ,[A] to facilitate the escape of slaves, but with the mercenary acts of members of their own community, who live by the manufacture and sale of forged free papers.
[Footnote A: See Deut. xxiii, 15, 16.]
During my stay in Albany, I waited upon William H. Seward, the Governor, and on Luther Bradish, the Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York. It will, I trust, be considered no breach of confidence, if I state that I found their sentiments on the true principles of liberty, worthy of the enlightened legislators and first magistrates of a free republic. They concur in the general sentiment that public opinion in this metropolitan State is making rapid progress in favor of full and impartial justice to the people of color, a movement to which their own example in the high stations which they adorn has given a powerful impulse.
I attended part of the sittings of the Senate and Assembly, and conversed with a number of members of both houses. The public business was transacted with at least as much order and decorum as in the Lords and Commons of Great Britain. I left Albany the same evening, and had the satisfaction of hearing, a few days afterwards, that the repeal of "the nine months law" had passed both houses, and was ratified by the Governor; and that in the Assembly upwards of fifty members had voted for it, although it was thought not ten would have done so two years since. By this change of the law any slave brought by his master within the limits of the State, even with his own consent, is not obliged to return to slavery.
I proceeded by way of New York to Hartford in Connecticut, in order to be present at an anti-slavery meeting of the State Society, to which I had been invited. On my arrival, on the afternoon of the 19th, I found the meeting assembled, and in the chair my friend J.T. Norton, a member of the Connecticut legislature, a munificent and uncompromising friend to the anti-slavery cause, and one of the delegates to the London Convention. A black minister of religion addressed the meeting in an able and interesting manner. Soon after the close of his speech, a circumstance, quite unexpected to me, introduced a discussion on the right of women to vote and publicly act, conjointly with men. The chairman decided that the motion in favor of it was negatived, but the minority required the names on both sides to be taken down; this consumed much time, and disturbed the harmony of the meeting. I attended in the evening a committee of the legislature, which was sitting at the court house, to hear the speeches of persons who were allowed to address the committee in support of a petition that the word "white" should be expunged from the constitution of Connecticut. This change would of course give equal rights to the colored class. When I entered, the same colored minister I had heard in the afternoon, was addressing the committee. He was listened to with great attention, not only by the members, but by near two hundred of the inhabitants, who were present. He was followed on the same side, by a white gentleman in a very strong and uncompromising speech. The next day I paid my respects to William W. Ellsworth, the Governor of the State, and to one of the judges of the court; and afterwards attended the adjourned meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society. The vexed question of "women's rights" was again brought forward in another shape; the names on both sides again called for, with the same result as before. My belief was fully confirmed, that those who differ so widely in sentiment, have no alternative but to meet and act in distinct organizations.
The Amistad captives arrived at Hartford on the afternoon of the same day, and were to address a meeting in the evening. An anti-slavery bazaar or fair which I visited this day, furnished ample testimony of the zeal of the female friends of the oppressed slave in this district. I returned the same evening to New Haven, and subsequently received a copy of two resolutions, approving the proceedings of the general Anti-Slavery Convention, in which it is stated by the Connecticut anti-slavery committee, "they have abundant evidence that the cause of the slave has been essentially promoted thereby;" also recommending "that a convention of men from all parts of the world, friendly to the cause of immediate emancipation, be again called in London, in the summer of 1842."
On the 21st, I proceeded to the residence of Judge Jay, where I was very kindly received by his wife and family, the Judge himself being from home. On his return the next day, I had much interesting conversation with him on the prospects of our cause. He is convinced that it is making steady progress, notwithstanding the schism in the anti-slavery ranks. He said also, that of the runaway slaves who called at his house, some have told him that their condition had improved of late years; others saw no change in their treatment; not one has complained that they suffered more than formerly, in consequence of the discussions at the North about abolition. With regard to the free blacks, he fears that the persecution of them by the slave-holders has increased; though at the North the prejudice against them has unquestionably, in his opinion, been much mitigated by the efforts of the abolitionists. It is an interesting fact, and one that ought to encourage the humble and retired laborer in the cause of truth and righteousness, that this able and distinguished advocate of the claims of the oppressed slaves and people of color, was converted to his present views by Elizabeth Heyrick's pamphlet, "Immediate, not Gradual, Abolition of West India Slavery." Let me for a moment pause to render a tribute of justice to the memory of that devoted woman. Few will deny that the long and heart-sickening interval that occurred between the abolition of the slave-trade of Great Britain, and the emancipation of her slaves, was owing to the false, but universal notion, that the slaves must be gradually prepared for freedom: a notion that we now confess is as contrary to reason and Christian principle as it is opposed to the past experience of our colonies. Yet a generation passed away while the abolitionists of Great Britain were trying to make ropes of sand—to give practical effect to an impracticable theory; pursuing a delusion, which this honored woman was the first to detect; and that less by force and subtlety of argument, than by the statement of self-evident truths, and by the enforcement of the simple and grand principle that Christianity admits of no compromise with sin. This was an easy lesson, yet it was one which our senators and statesmen, our distinguished philanthropists, and our whole anti-slavery host were slow to learn. The pamphlet produced little immediate effect, but to cause its writer to be regarded as an amiable enthusiast and visionary. It now remains a monument of the indestructible nature, and the irresistible power of truth, even when wielded by feeble and despised hands.
Judge Jay read to me part of a very interesting and important manuscript, which he had prepared on the preservation of international peace. He suggests that any two nations, entering into an alliance, should embody in their treaty a clause mutually binding them to refer any dispute or difficulty that may arise, to the arbitration of one or more friendly powers. As he has concluded to publish his pamphlet, I trust it will shortly be in the hands of the friends of peace in this country, as well as in America. This idea is beautifully simple, and of easy application. Through the kindness of the author, I have been furnished with a long and important extract from his manuscript, which I am permitted to lay before the British public by anticipation, in the Appendix to the present work.[A] On returning from his hospitable mansion, he obligingly sent his carriage with me to Sing Sing, but the steamboat had started earlier than we expected, and I hired a carriage and a pair of horses, with the driver, who was also the proprietor, to convey me the remainder of the way to New York. The distance for which I engaged it, was thirty-six miles, for the moderate sum of five dollars. On the road, the man pointed out the place where Major Andre was taken, whose tragical end excites sympathy even to this day, in the breast of the Americans. On entering the city, we passed a man in livery, and my driver remarked, "There, that is English; I would not wear that for a hundred dollars a day." Long may the American, who lives by his daily labor, preserve this feeling of honorable independence.
[Footnote A: See Appendix F.]
During my stay at New York this time, I was the guest of my friend William Shotwell, Jr., at whose hospitable dwelling, I afterwards took up my abode, whenever I lodged in the city. From the 24th to the 28th, I was chiefly occupied in attending the sittings of the Friends' Yearly Meeting of this State; and, during the intervals, in seeing many Friends in private company. I was much encouraged to find among them, a considerable number thoroughly imbued with anti-slavery sentiments; especially, from the western parts of the State. The subject of slavery was introduced, in the Yearly Meeting, by reading the Epistle from the Society in England, which is elsewhere quoted.[A] This was followed on the part of many, by expressions of deep feeling; and the question was referred to a committee, for practical consideration. In consequence of the report of this committee, at a subsequent sitting, five hundred copies of the English address were directed to be printed, and circulated among Friends, within the compass of the Yearly Meeting; and the whole subject was referred to its "meeting for sufferings," with an earnest recommendation, that they should embrace every right opening for furthering the great object. The clerk of the Yearly Meeting expressed his firm conviction, that the work was on the wheel, and that nothing would be permitted to stop its progress, until, either in mercy or in judgment, the bonds of every slave should be broken. He spoke in a very powerful manner. In most of the epistles sent out from this Yearly Meeting, as well as from that of Philadelphia, the subject of slavery was introduced, and commended to the earnest consideration of the body, here and elsewhere. Previous to the assembling of the Yearly Meeting, I had placed in the hands of one of its members, the following letter:
[Footnote A: See Appendix A.]
My Dear Friend,—Wilt thou have the kindness to ask the Friends with whom it rests to grant such a request, to permit the use of the meeting house at a convenient time, either during the Yearly Meeting, or before those who attend from the country leave the city, for the purpose of affording my friend John Candler an opportunity of giving Friends some outline of emancipation in Jamaica. I should like at the same time to give a little information on the state of the anti-slavery question in other parts of the world. John Candler, it is I believe generally known, visited Jamaica with the full sanction of the "meeting for sufferings," in London. My visit to this country had no particular reference to the members of our Society, but my friends in England kindly furnished me with the enclosed documents.
New York, 5th Month 17th, 1841.
This request was kindly complied with. The large meeting house was granted for the evening of the 27th. The clerks of the men's and women's meetings gave public notice of it in their respective assemblies. The former, the venerable and worthy Richard Mott, encouraged Friends to be present, and said, as a thinking and reasoning people, they need fear no harm from a calm consideration of the subject. The attendance was large, including, I believe, most of those Friends who were from the country. The following brief notice of it in the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, will explain the character of the meeting.
"On Thursday evening of last week, the members of the Society of Friends (Orthodox,) assembled in this city at their Annual Meeting, met at their meeting house in Orchard street, to listen to the statements of John Candler, of England, lately returned from a visit to the West India Islands, as to the results of emancipation in those Islands, and also of our esteemed friend, Joseph Sturge, in reference to the general subject of emancipation throughout the world.
"The meeting was largely attended. The successful and happy results of the immediate emancipation of the slaves of the colonies, as detailed by John Candler, were calculated to strengthen the conviction that to do justice is always expedient. Joseph Sturge gave a history of the progress of the anti-slavery cause in Great Britain from the time of the old abolition society, of which Thomas Clarkson was a member, and of which he is sole survivor. He also glanced at the state of the cause in other quarters of the globe—at the efforts for East India emancipation, and at late movements in France, Brazil and Spain, in favor of emancipation; concluding with a most affecting appeal to the members of his religious society to omit no right opportunity for pleading for the slave, and for hastening the day of his deliverance.
"We take pleasure in recording such evidences that the good old testimony of the Society of Friends, on this subject, is still maintained among them. The Friends of the past generation set a noble example to other Christian sects, by emancipating their slaves, from a sense of religious duty; and it seems to us, that those of the present day have great responsibilities resting upon them; and that it especially becomes them to see to it that their light is not hidden in this hour of darkness and prejudice, on the subject of human rights. The slaveholder and his victim both look to them;—the one with deprecating gesture, and words of flattery—the other in beseeching and half reproachful earnestness. We cannot doubt that the agonizing appeal of the latter is listened to by all who truly feel the weight of their religious testimonies resting upon them; and we trust there will be found among them, an increasing zeal to secure to these unhappy victims of avarice and the lust of power, that liberty which George Fox, two centuries in advance of his contemporaries, declared to be 'the right of all men.'"
When the assembly broke up, the clerk of the Yearly Meeting, who sat by us, expressed to me his entire satisfaction with the proceedings, as did others present. One influential member of the Society, however, who met me the next day in the street, stated very decidedly his disapprobation of the tenor of certain parts of my address; but I found that he condemned me on hearsay evidence, not having attended the meeting himself. On the 29th, I was favored with a call from Lieutenant Governor Cunningham, of St. Kitts, on his way to England, who gave a very favorable account of the continued good conduct of the emancipated slaves in that Island. It is surely an eminent token of the divine blessing on a national act of justice and mercy, that evidence of this kind should have been so abundantly and uniformly supplied from every colony where slavery has been abolished. A fine black man was brought to me about this time, who showed me papers by which it appeared he had lately given one thousand five hundred dollars for his freedom. He had since been driven from the State in which he lived, by the operation of a law, enacted to prevent the continued residence of free people of color, and has thus been banished from a wife and family, who are still slaves. He has agreed with their owner, that if he can pay two thousand five hundred dollars, in six years, his wife and six children shall be free, and he was then trying to get employment in New York, in the hope of being able to raise this large sum within the specified time.
On the 29th, I proceeded to Burlington; while I was there five or six Friends drew up and presented me with a resolution, expressive of their readiness and desire to join with other members of their religious society in active efforts for the abolition of slavery.
On the 30th, I paid a second visit to my venerable friend John Cox. The next morning his grandson kindly accompanied me to Mount Holly, to see the humble dwelling of the late John Woolman. I afterwards received from John Cox a letter, from which I quote the following extract relating to this remarkable man, whose character confers interest even on the most trivial incidents of his life which can now be remembered:
"Since our separation on the morning of the 31st ultimo, when my grandson accompanied thee to Mount Holly, I have been there, it having been previously reported that the ancient, humble dome, which passed under thy inspection as the residence of John Woolman, he never inhabited, though that he built the house (as Solomon built the temple,) is admitted. With a view to remove this erroneous impression, I sought and obtained an interview with the only man now living in the town, who was contemporary with John Woolman, (now eighty years of age,) and in habits of occasional intercourse with him. He informed me that John Woolman's daughter (an only child,) and her husband resided in the house when her father embarked for London, which was in the year 1772, as recorded in his journal. The fact of residence is corroborated by the circumstance of the search for and destruction of caterpillars in the apple orchard, which I think, was related to thee.
"The sage historian of by-gone days, whom I met at Mount Holly, spake of his being at John Woolman's little farm, in the season of harvest, when it was customary, and so remains to the present time, for farmers to slay a young calf or a lamb; the common mode is by bleeding in the jugular vein; but with a view to mitigate the sufferings of the animal in that mode, he had prepared, and kept by him for that express purpose, a large block of wood with a smooth surface, and after confining the limbs of the animal, it was laid gently thereon, and the head severed from the body at one stroke."
While in this neighborhood, I made a call on Nathan Dunn, the proprietor of the "Chinese collection." He resided many years at Canton, and since his return has built himself a mansion in the Chinese style. His museum of Chinese curiosities is by far the most extensive and valuable which has ever been seen out of that country, and forms one of the most attractive and instructive exhibitions in Philadelphia; one whose character and arrangement are quite unique, and which has some pretensions to the title of "China in miniature." It occupies the whole of the lower saloon of that splendid building recently erected at the corner of Ninth and George streets, by the Philadelphia Museum Company. The visitor's notice is first attracted by a series of groups of figures, representing Chinese of nearly every grade in society, engaged in the actual business of life. The figures, in their appropriate costume, are modeled in a peculiarly fine clay, by Chinese artists, with exquisite skill and effect. All are accurate likenesses of originals, most of whom are now living. The following enumeration of one of the cases, expanded in the subsequent description, which I quote from the catalogue, will give an idea of the manner in which Chinese life and manners are illustrated:
"CASE VIII.—No. 21. Chinese Gentleman.—22. Beggar asking alms.—23. Servant preparing breakfast.—24. Purchaser.—25. Purchaser examining a piece of black silk. The proprietor behind the counter making calculations on his counting board.—Clerk entering goods.—Circular table, with breakfast furniture.
"This has been arranged so as to afford an exact idea of a Chinese retail establishment. Two purchasers have been placed by the counter: one of whom is scrutinizing a piece of black silk that lies before him. The owner, behind the counter, is carelessly bending forward, and intent on casting an account on the 'calculating dish,' while his clerk is busy making entries in the book, in doing which he shows us the Chinese mode of holding a pen, or rather brush, which is perpendicularly between the thumb and all the fingers. A servant is preparing breakfast. A circular eight-legged table, very similar to those used by our great grandfathers, is spread in the centre of the shop. Among its furniture, the ivory chopsticks are the most novel. On the visitor's right hand sits a gentleman, with a pipe, apparently a chance comer, 'just dropped in' about meal time; on the left, a blind beggar stands, beating two bamboo sticks against each other, an operation with which he continues to annoy all whom he visits, till he is relieved by some trifling gratuity, usually a single cash. A gilt image of Fo is inserted in the front part of the counter, and a small covered tub, filled with tea, with a few cups near by, standing on the counter, from which customers are always invited to help themselves.
"The merchants and shop-keepers of Canton are prompt, active, obliging, and able. They can do an immense business in a short time, and without noise, bustle, or disorder. Their goods are arranged in the most perfect manner, and nothing is ever out of its place. These traits assimilate them to the more enterprising of the Western nations, and place them in prominent contrast with the rest of the Asiatics. It is confidently asserted by those who have had the best opportunities of judging, that as business men, they are in advance of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese merchants.
"There is a variety of amusing inscriptions on the scrolls hung up in the interior of some of the shops, which serve at the same time to mark the thrifty habits of the traders. A few specimens are subjoined:—'Gossipping and long sitting injure business.' 'Former customers have inspired caution—no credit given.' 'A small stream always flowing.' 'Genuine goods; prices true.' 'Trade circling like a wheel,' et cet."
In addition to the above models, the collection includes an almost innumerable variety of specimens of the fine arts and manufactures, comprising almost every article of use and luxury—furniture, modern and antique porcelain, models houses, pagodas, boats, junks, and bridges; pieces of silk, linen, cotton, grass-cloth, and other fabrics manufactured in China for home consumption; books and drawings, costume, idols, and appendages of worship; weapons, musical instruments, signs, mottoes, and entablatures, and numerous paintings, which last, it is justly observed, "will satisfy every candid mind that great injustice has been done to the Chinese artists, in the notion hitherto entertained respecting their want of skill. They paint insects, birds, fishes, fruits, flowers, with great correctness and beauty; and the brilliancy and variety of their colors cannot be surpassed. They group with considerable taste and effect, and their perspective—a department of the art in which they have been thought totally deficient—is often very good."
Many of the paintings represent actual scenes and occurrences; and thus, like the models before mentioned, bring living China before the mind's eye. The following is a good example.
"910. View of the interior of the Consoo House, with the court in session, for the final decision of the charge of piracy committed by the crew of a Chinese junk on a French captain and sailors, at a short distance from Macao.
"The French ship, Navigatre, put in to Cochin China in distress. Having disposed of her to the government, the captain, with his crew, took passage for Macao in a Chinese junk belonging to the province of Fokien. Part of their valuables consisted of about 100,000 dollars in specie. Four Chinese passengers bound for Macao, and one for Fokien, were also on board. This last apprised the Frenchmen in the best manner he could, that the crew of the junk had entered into a conspiracy to take their lives and seize their treasure. He urged that an armed watch should be kept. On reaching the Ladrone Islands, the poor Macao passengers left the junk. Here the Frenchmen believed themselves out of danger, and exhausted by sickness and long watching, yielded to a fatal repose. They were all massacred but one, a youth of about nineteen years of age, who escaped by leaping into the sea, after receiving several wounds. A fishing boat picked him up and landed him at Macao, where information was given to the officers of government, and the crew of the junk, with their ill-gotten gains, were seized, on their arrival at the port of destination in Fokien.
"Having been found guilty by the court, in their own district, they were sent down to Canton, by order of the Emperor, to the Unchat-see, (criminal judge) to be confronted with the young French sailor. This trial is represented in the painting. The prisoners were taken out of their cages, as is seen in the foreground. The Frenchman recognized seventeen out of the twenty-four; but when the passenger, who had been his friend, was brought in, the two eagerly embraced each other, which scene is also portrayed in the painting. An explanation of this extraordinary act was made to the judge, and the man forthwith set at liberty. A purse was made up for him by the Chinese and foreigners, and he was soon on his way homeward. The seventeen were decapitated, in a few days, in the presence of the foreigners; the captain, was to be put to a 'lingering death,' the punishment of traitors, and the stolen treasures were restored."
I do not quote the above for the sake of the anecdote, though the relation is authentic, but as, affording a striking illustration of the advanced civilization of the Chinese. It shows that the supremacy of the law is universal, and its administration efficient. The criminals, in this instance, are promptly seized, tried, and condemned on strong evidence; but, before they are executed, reference is made to the distant metropolis, Pekin. Here it is observed, that the most important witness was not 'confronted with the prisoners,' and they are forthwith directed to be conveyed to Canton, to be examined in his presence. Seventeen are recognized by him and are executed. The rest escape. Now this is just what might have taken place under the best ordered governments of Europe. The humane maxims of British jurisprudence, if not acknowledged in theory, may be here witnessed in practical operation, and the single circumstance of referring capital convictions to the Emperor, in his distant metropolis, for confirmation, before they are carried into effect, shows a respect for human life, even in the persons of criminals, which is one of the surest tokens of a high state of civilization. Such is the criminal jurisprudence of China, in practice; in theory, its just praise has been awarded, some years ago, by an able writer in the Edinburgh Review. He says:—
"The most remarkable thing in this code, is its great reasonableness, clearness, and consistency; the businesslike brevity and directness of the various provisions, and the plainness and moderation of the language in which they are expressed. It is a clear, concise, and distinct series of enactments, savoring throughout of practical judgment and European good sense. When we turn from the ravings of the Zendavesta, or the Puranas, to the tone of sense and of business of this Chinese collection, we seem to be passing from darkness to light—from the drivellings of dotage to the exercise of an improved understanding; and, redundant and minute as these laws are in many particulars, we scarcely know any European code that is at once so copious and so consistent, or that is nearly so free from intricacy, bigotry and fiction."
In addition to what have been noticed, the Chinese exhibition includes a copious and very interesting collection of specimens of the natural history of China.
I trust the extended notice I have given to the subject, will at least prove that this is not an ordinary exhibition, but a representation of a distant country and remarkable people, in which amusement is most skilfully and philosophically made subservient to practical instruction. A beneficent Creator has implanted within us a thirst for information about other scenes and people. To be totally devoid of this feeling would argue, perhaps, not merely intellectual but moral deficiency. Such being the case, the founder of the "Chinese collection" deserves to be regarded as a public benefactor, for, by spending a few hours in his museum, with the aid of the descriptive catalogue, one may learn more of the Chinese than by the laborious perusal of all the works upon them that have ever been written.[A]
[Footnote A: While the above was passing through the press, I have learned that this interesting Collection has arrived for exhibition in this country.]
I cannot dismiss this subject without expressing my deep regret that the British public should appear to view with indifference, or complacency, the cruel and unjust war which our Government is now waging against this highly cultivated and unoffending people, at the instigation of a handful of men, who have acquired wealth and importance in the vigorous pursuit of an immoral and unlawful traffic, by means the most criminal and detestable. I have attempted, since my return from the United States, to give some expression to my sentiments, in a letter which has been widely circulated, and which will be found reprinted in the Appendix.[A] I trust none under whose notice this subject may come will endeavor to evade their share of responsibility. If the present war with China were the sole consideration, perhaps no course would be left to the Christian citizen, but to record his protest and mourn in silence; but the conclusion of the war per se would not terminate the difficulty, for trade and mutual intercourse between the two countries, on the basis of a reciprocation of interests, can never be restored till the EAST INDIA COMPANY'S OPIUM TRADE, a traffic, like the slave trade, hateful in the sight of God and man, is suppressed; or at least, until British connection with it is severed; If asked who are the guilty persons, I would say, in the first instance, the East India Company; secondly, the opium smugglers; thirdly, the British government, and lastly, the British people, who, by silent acquiescence, make the whole guilt, and the whole responsibility their own.
[Footnote A: See Appendix G.]
The author of the most popular modern work on China, who long superintended the interests of the British merchants at Canton, and whose work, to a considerable extent, reflects their views, after stating the increasing discouragements imposed by the authorities on foreign commerce, the effect for the most part of opium smuggling, and other lawless proceedings, observes:—"These (discouragements) are their (the British merchants) real subjects of complaint in China; and whenever the accumulation of wrong shall have proved, by exact calculation, that it is more profitable, according to merely commercial principles, to remonstrate than submit, these will form a righteous and equitable ground of quarrel!!"[A]
[Footnote A: Davis's China and the Chinese, (Murray's Family Library,) vol. i. p. 195.]
The remonstrance here alluded to is WAR, as is apparent from the context of the passage, as well as from the fact, that by the author's own showing no other kind of remonstrance remained to be tried. The true "casus belli" is set forth by anticipation in this passage without disguise, and by one who knew well, and has clearly described the causes that were operating to produce a rupture. The opium merchants have discovered that now, in the fulness of time, it is profitable to go to war with China, and forthwith the vast power of Great Britain, obedient to their influence, is put in motion to sustain their unrighteous quarrel, to the unspeakable degradation of the character of this professedly Christian nation. The morality of the war on our side, is the morality of the highwayman; that morality by which the strong in all ages have preyed upon the weak. And though a handful of unprincipled men find their account in it, before the people of Great Britain have paid the expenses of the war, and the losses from derangement and interruption of commerce, it will cost millions more than all the profit that has ever accrued to them from the opium trade. From what motive then, do we uphold a traffic, which is the curse of China, the curse of India, and a calamity to Great Britain? Such a war may be fruitful in trophies of military glory, if such can be gained by the slaughter of the most pacific people in the world; but to expect that it will promote the reputation, the prosperity, or the happiness of this country, would be to look for national wickedness to draw down the Divine blessing. The descriptive catalogue of the "Ten thousand Chinese things," concludes with sentiments on this subject which do equal honor to the head and heart of the writer.
"Alas for missionary efforts, so long as the grasping avarice of the countries, whence the missionaries go, sets at nought every Christian obligation before the very eyes of the people whom it is sought to convert! Most devoutly do we long for the auspicious day, when the pure religion, that distilled from the heart, and was embodied in the life of Jesus, shall shed its sacred influence on every human being; but, in our inmost soul we believe it will not come, till the principles of religion shall take a firmer hold on the affections of those who profess to receive it, and rear a righteous embankment around their sordid and stormy passions. When the missionary shall find an auxiliary in the stainless life of every compatriot who visits the scene of his labors, for purposes of pleasure or of gain,—when he can point not only to the pure maxims and sublime doctrines proclaimed by the Founder of his faith, but to the clustering graces that adorn its professors,—then indeed will the day dawn, and the day star of the millennium arise upon the world."
During my short stay in Philadelphia on this occasion, I visited several of its prisons, philanthropic institutions, et cet. These are pre-eminently the glory of this beautiful city; yet as they have been often described, I shall pass them by in silence, with the exception of two, the Refuge, and the Penitentiary; which I briefly notice because I may offer a few general remarks in another place, on the important subject of prison discipline. The Refuge is an asylum for juvenile delinquents, founded on the just and benevolent principle that offences against society, committed by very young persons, should be disciplined by training and education, rather than by punishment. In this establishment there are from eighty to ninety boys, and from forty to fifty girls, of ages varying from eight to twenty-one years. The former are employed in various light handicraft trades, and the latter in domestic services, and both spend a portion of their time in school. They remain from six months to four years. From the statements of the superintendent and matron, it appeared that about three-fourths of the male, and four-fifths of the female inmates become respectable members of society, and the remainder are chiefly such as are fifteen or sixteen years of age when first admitted into the Refuge, an age at which character may be considered as in a great measure formed. The labor of the children pays about one-fifth of the expense of the establishment, the rest being defrayed by the legislature.
The prejudice of color intrudes even here, no children of that class being admitted into the Refuge. Colored delinquency is left to ripen into crime, with little interference from public or private philanthropy. As might have been expected, colored are more numerous than white criminals, in proportion to relative population; and this is appealed to as a proof of their naturally vicious and inferior character; when in fact the government and society at large are chargeable with their degradation.
The Penitentiary contained, at the time of my visit, about three hundred and forty male, and thirty-five female prisoners. In this celebrated prison, hard labor is combined with solitary confinement, an arrangement which is technically known as the "separate system." Silence and seclusion are so strictly enforced as to be almost absolute and uninterrupted; even the minister who addresses the prisoners on the Sabbath is known to them only by his voice. A marked feature of this institution is security without the aid of any deadly weapon, none being allowed in the possession of the attendants, or indeed upon the premises. As compared with the "silent system," exhibited in the not less famed prisons of the State of New York, this is much less economical, as the mode of employing the prisoners, in their solitary cells, greatly lessens the power of a profitable application of their labor. If prisoners exceed their allotted task, one-half of their surplus earnings is given to them on being set at liberty. My visit was too cursory to enable me to give a decisive opinion on the "separate system," but I confess my impression is, that the punishment is one of tremendous and indiscriminating severity, and I find it difficult to believe that either the safety of society, or the welfare of the prisoner, can require the infliction of so much suffering. Criminals are sometimes condemned for very long periods, or for life; and in these cases, I was informed, occasionally manifested great recklessness and carelessness of their existence. I am also not quite convinced that the reformation of prisoners is effected to the extent sometimes inferred from the small number of recommittals. A statistical conclusion cannot be drawn from this datum, unsupported by other proofs.
On the 2d of the 6th Month, (June,) I proceeded to Wilmington, Delaware, with my friend John G. Whittier. Here we met a company of warm-hearted and intelligent abolitionists, with whom we discussed the prospects of the cause. It was calculated that if compensation were conceded, to which many would on principle object, a tax of less than one dollar per acre would buy up all the slaves in the State for emancipation. It was admitted by all, that the abolition of slavery would advance the price of land in a far greater ratio; probably ten or twenty dollars per acre.
We went forward the same evening to Baltimore, accompanied by one of our Wilmington acquaintance, and in the railway carriage was a member of the Society of Friends from North Carolina, who, though a colonizationist, appeared to be a man of candor. He gave it as his opinion that the majority of the free people of that State are in favor of the abolition of slavery. We also had the company, a part of the way, of Samuel E. Sewall, Counsellor at Law, in Boston, an early and tried abolitionist, and a faithful friend and legal adviser of the free people of color.
The next morning, we left Baltimore for Washington, two hours' ride by railway. The railroads of this country being often extremely narrow, the trains frequently pass almost close to the piers of the bridges and viaducts, a circumstance which explains the following printed notice in the carriages: "Passengers are cautioned not to put their arms, head, or legs out of the window."
In passing from a free to a slave State, the most casual observer is struck with the contrast. The signs of industry and prosperity on the broad face of the country are universally in favor of the former, and that to a degree which none but an eye witness can conceive. This fact has been often noticed, and has been affirmed by slaveholders themselves, in the most emphatic terms. In cities the difference is not less remarkable, and was forcibly brought to our notice in the hotel at which we took up our residence on arriving at Washington, and which, though the first in the city, and the temporary residence of many members of Congress, was greatly deficient in the cleanliness, comfort, and order, which prevail in the well-furnished and well-conducted establishments of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, &c. At this house, I understood, some of the servants were free, and others slaves.
We were now in the District of Columbia, the seat of this powerful Federal Government, and in the city of Washington, the metropolis of the United States. Here are concentrated as it were into one focus, the associations of the past, connected with the great struggle for independence, and the memory of those names and events which already belong to history. Whatever may be our political principles, or the opinions of those who like myself consider all resort to arms as forbidden under the Christian dispensation, it is impossible to recall without emotion, transactions which have exerted and will continue to exert, so marked an influence on the destinies of mankind. This city was not the scene of those events, but it was erected to be a perpetual monument of them, and in the limited district of ten miles square, in which it stands, the Government which was then called into existence reigns sole and supreme. If a stranger were to inquire here for the monuments of the fathers of the Revolution, the American would proudly point to the Capitol, with the national Congress in full session, and to the levee of the President, crowded by free citizens, and representatives of foreign nations. The United States were thirteen dependent colonies, they are now twenty-six sovereign States, rich and populous, covering the face of this vast continent, and compacted into one powerful confederacy. But notwithstanding the glowing emotions which seem naturally called forth by the locality, there is many an American who bitterly feels that the District of Columbia is the shame, rather than the glory of his country. Here is proclaimed to the whole world by the united voice of the American people, "We hold these truths to be self-evident—that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" and here also by a majority of the same people expressing their deliberate will, through their representatives, this declaration is trampled under foot, and turned into derision.[A]
[Footnote A: "Large establishments have grown up upon the national domain, provided with prisons for the safe keeping of negroes till a full cargo is procured; and should, at any time, the factory prisons be insufficient, the public ones, erected by Congress, are at the service of the dealers, and the United States Marshal becomes the agent of the slave trade."—Judge Jay's View of the action of the Federal Government in behalf of Slavery, page 93. "But the climax of infamy is still untold. This trade in blood,—this buying, imprisoning, and exporting of boys and girls eight years old,—this tearing asunder of husbands and wives, parents and children,—is all legalized, in virtue of authority delegated by Congress!! The 249th page of the laws of the city of Washington is polluted by the following enactment, bearing date 28th July, 1838:—'For a license to trade or traffic in slaves for profit, four hundred dollars.'"—Ibid, page 98.]
The District of Columbia is the chief seat of the American slave trade; commercial enterprize has no other object! Washington is one of the best supplied and most frequented slave marts in the world. The adjoining and once fertile and beautiful States of Virginia and Maryland, are now blasted with sterility, and ever-encroaching desolation. The curse of the first murderer rests upon the planters, and the ground will no longer yield to them her strength. The impoverished proprietors find now their chief source of revenue in what one of themselves expressly termed, their "crop of human flesh." Hence the slave-holding region is now divided into the "slave-breeding," and "slave-consuming" States. From its locality, and, from its importance as the centre of public affairs, the District of Columbia has become the focus of this dreadful traffic, which almost vies with the African slave trade itself in extent and cruelty, besides possessing aggravations peculiarly its own.[A] Its victims are marched to the south in chained coffles, overland, in the face of day, and by vessels coastwise. Those who protest against these abominations are the abolitionists; a body whose opinions are so unpopular that no term of reproach is deemed vile enough for their desert; yet if these should hold their peace, the very stones would surely cry out. The state of things in this District has one peculiar feature; being under the supreme local government of Congress, it presents almost the only tangible point for the political efforts of those hostile to slavery. Against slavery in any but their own States, the abolitionists have neither the power nor the wish to exert that constitutional interference which they rightfully employ in the States of which they are citizens; but with respect to the District of Columbia, they are, in common with the whole republic, responsible for the exercise of political influence for the abolition of slavery within its limits. Hence this is the grand point of attack. They have experienced a succession of repulses, but their eventual success is certain; the political influence of the slave-holding interest, which is now paramount, and which controls and dictates the entire policy of the general Government will be destroyed. Then will the abolition of American slavery be speedily consummated.
[Footnote A: "Human flesh is now the great staple of Virginia, In the legislature of this State, in 1833, Thomas Jefferson Randolph declared that Virginia had been converted into 'one grand menagerie, where men are reared for the market, like oxen for the shambles.' This same gentleman thus compared the foreign with the domestic traffic: 'The trader (African) receives the slave, a stranger in aspect, language and manner, from the merchant who brought him from the interior. But here, sir, individuals whom the master has known from infancy,—whom he has seen sporting in the innocent gambols of childhood,—who have been accustomed to look to him for protection,—he tears from the mother's arms, exiles into a foreign country, among a strange people, subject to cruel task-masters. In my opinion, it is much worse.'—Mr. Gholson, of Virginia, in his speech in the legislature of that State, January 18, 1831, says: 'The master forgoes the service of the female slave, has her nursed and attended during the period of her gestation, and raises the helpless and infant offspring. The value of the property justifies the expense; and I do not hesitate to say, that in its increase consists much of our wealth.'—Professor Dew, now President of the College of William and Mary, Virginia, in his review of the debate in the Virginia legislature, 1831-3, speaking of the revenue arising from the trade, says: 'A full equivalent being thus left in the place of the slave, this emigration becomes an advantage to the State, and does not check the black population as much as at first view we might imagine; because it furnishes every inducement to the master to attend to the negroes, to encourage breeding, and to cause the greatest number possible to be raised. Virginia is, in fact, a negro-raising State, for other States.'—Mr. C.F. Mercer asserted, in the Virginia Convention of 1829, 'The tables of the natural growth of the slave population demonstrate; when compared with the increase of its numbers in the commonwealth for twenty years past, that an annual revenue of not less than a million and a half of dollars is derived from the exportation of a part of this population.'"—Judge Jay's View, pages 88, 89.]
Very soon after our arrival, we proceeded to the House of Representatives, then sitting, and were favored, by introductions from a member, with seats behind the Speaker's chair. The subject before the House was, of course, peculiarly interesting to me, being the proposed re-enactment of the "gag;" a rule of the House, by which petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, are laid upon the table, without being read or referred, and thus are virtually rejected. One of the speakers, William Slade, of Vermont, who was opposed to the "gag," told the pro-slavery members that they were greatly mistaken in supposing that such a measure would suppress the anti-slavery feeling of the country. They might, for a time, block up the Potomac, but it would only be to direct its waters into a new channel; in the same way as the rejection of anti-slavery petitions had resulted in the formation of a third abolition political party, which was now regularly organized and in the field. Having previously heard much of the virulence of the pro-slavery members, I was particularly impressed with the silence and attention with which they listened to this speech, and with the feeling which seemed evidently to prevail, that the subject could no longer be met with contempt and ridicule. One of the liberal members told me afterwards, that they felt themselves in a different atmosphere to what they did two years ago, both in the House and in the city, when touching upon this subject. Before the debate closed, the House divided on the question, whether ex-president Adams, the veteran defender of the constitutional right of petition, and who had brought forward this motion for the repeal of the "gag," was entitled to the right of reply. This was decided in his favor, and the House adjourned till the beginning of the following week.
In the afternoon, I proceeded, by a steam packet, with one of my friends, to Alexandria, about six miles distant, on the other side of the Potomac. A merchant, to whom I had an introduction, kindly accompanied us to a slave-trading establishment there, which is considered the principal one in the District. The proprietor was absent; but the person in charge, a stout, middle-aged man, with a good-natured countenance, that little indicated his employment, readily consented to show us over the establishment. On passing behind the house, we looked through a grated iron door, into a square court or yard, with very high walls, in which were about fifty slaves. Some of the younger ones were dancing to a fiddle, an affecting proof, in their situation, of the degradation caused by slavery. There were others, who seemed a prey to silent dejection. Among these was a woman, who had run away from her master twelve years ago, and had married and lived ever since as a free person. She was at last discovered, taken and sold, along with her child, and would shortly be shipped to New Orleans, unless her husband could raise the means of her redemption, which we understood he was endeavoring to do. If he failed, they are lost to him for ever. Another melancholy looking woman was here with her nine children, the whole family having been sold away from their husband and father, to this slave-dealer, for two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars. This unfeeling separation is but the beginning of their sorrows. They will, in all probability, be re-sold at New Orleans, scattered and divided, until not perhaps two of them are left together. The most able-bodied negro I saw, cost the slave-dealer six hundred and eighty-five dollars.
Our guide told us that they sometimes sent from this house from fifteen hundred to two thousand slaves to the South in a year, and that they occasionally had three hundred to four hundred at once in their possession. That the trade was not now so brisk, but that prices were rising. The return and profits of this traffic appear to be entirely regulated by the fluctuations in the value of the cotton. Women are worth one-third less than men. But one instance of complete escape ever occurred from these premises, though some of the slaves were occasionally trusted out in the fields. He showed us the substantial clothing, shoes, &c., with which the slaves were supplied when sent to the South; a practice, I fear, enforced more by the cupidity of the buyers, than the humanity of the seller. Our informant stated, in answer to inquiries, that by the general testimony of the slaves purchased, they were treated better by the planters than was the case ten years ago. He also admitted the evils of the system, and said, with apparent sincerity, he wished it was put an end to.
We went afterwards to the city jail, to see a youth whose case I had heard of in Delaware, who had come to Alexandria on board a vessel, and had here been seized and imprisoned on suspicion of being a slave, not having any document to prove his freedom. He had now been incarcerated for near twelve months, and though admitted by the jailer and every one else to be free, he was about to be sold in a few days into slavery for a term, in order to pay the jail-fees, amounting to eighty dollars. In the evening on returning to Washington, we paid a visit by appointment to John Quincy Adams, ex-president of the United States; who though considerably more than seventy years of age, is yet one of the most assiduous and energetic members of the House of Representatives, and one of the most influential public men of the day. To this must be added the far higher praise that his distinguished powers are employed in the service of humanity, truth, and justice. How rare is it to witness such a union of intellectual and moral greatness! Posterity will do justice to his fame, when slavery shall exist only in the records of the past, and when it shall be related with wonder, that this venerable man, standing almost alone in his defence of the right of petition, received daily anonymous letters threatening him with assassination. He received us very kindly, and in the course of conversation expressed how much importance he attached to the late repeal of the "nine months law," in the State of New York, as a favorable indication of the current of public feeling. He did not appear sanguinely to anticipate that he should be in a majority on his pending motion for the repeal of the "gag."
One of the principal objects of my visit to Washington was to present an Address to the President, from the Committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. In the course of my inquiries of various official persons, members of Congress, et cet., I found that to obtain an audience for the express purpose would be very difficult, as no member of Congress appeared willing to undertake the unpopular service of introducing the bearer of such a document. I was not disposed to apply to the British Ambassador, who on some occasions had shown a want of sympathy with the anti-slavery cause. I found, however, that it was not contrary to etiquette, in this country, for a private individual to address a note to the President, to which, in ordinary courtesy, according to the custom of the place, he has a right to expect a reply. I would remark, however, that nothing is more easy than to gain access to the President; but I felt that to avail myself of those facilities, to place in his hands a document which he might object to receive, would be uncandid. I therefore addressed a note to him, stating that I was the bearer of a memorial from the Committee of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society, signed by Thomas Clarkson, addressed to the President of the United States, in which I said, "It may, perhaps, be right to state, that the memorial refers to slavery and the slave-trade in the United States, and that it was written before the death of General Harrison was known in Europe." I then asked permission to present it.
To this I received no reply. We were afterwards introduced to the President, by a member of Congress, who evinced an anxiety that I should make no reference to the memorial; and the President, on his part, made no allusion to it, or to my letter to himself. After this interview, we proceeded to the Senate, but it had risen just as we entered. I had a short conversation with Henry Clay, who alluded to Joseph John Gurney's work on the West Indies, which I need scarcely add, is written in a series of letters to this statesman. He said that the recent short crop of sugar in Jamaica was a proof that the author had been misled in the favorable information he had collected, and also that this deficiency in the crop was a proof not only of the idleness, but of the immorality of the negroes. He accused my companion, John G. Whittier, of deserting him, after having been his warm friend; and on J.W.'s giving his reasons for so doing, he complained that the abolitionists improperly interfered with the affairs of the South, though he made an exception in favor of the Society of Friends. He inquired if J.G. Whittier was a "Friend" in regular standing, evidently intimating a doubt on that point, on account of his being so decided an abolitionist. The praise of such men is the strongest testimony that could be adduced to the declension of the Society of Friends in anti-slavery zeal. To a great extent I fear their sentiments on this subject have been held traditionally; and that in many cases, they have not only done nothing themselves, but by example and precept have condemned the activity of others; I trust, however, a brighter day in regard to their labors is approaching. I feel disinclined to take leave of Henry Clay, without some animadversions which, on the public character of a public man, I may offer without any breach of propriety. In early life, that is in some part of the last century, he supported measures tending to the "eradication of slavery" in Kentucky, and at various periods since, he has indulged in cheap declamation against slavery, though he is not known to have committed himself by a solitary act of manumission. On the contrary, having commenced life with a single slave, he has industriously increased the number to upwards of seventy. As a statesman, his conduct on this question has been consistently pro-slavery. He indefatigably negotiated for the recovery of fugitive slaves from Canada, when Secretary of State, though without success. In the Senate he successfully carried through the admission of Missouri into the Union, as a slave State. He has resisted a late promising movement in Kentucky in favor of emancipation; and lastly, in one of his most elaborate speeches, made just before the late presidential election, the proceedings of the abolitionists were reviewed and condemned, and he utterly renounced all sympathy with their object. By way of apology for his early indiscretion, he observes, "but if I had been then, or were now, a citizen of any of the planting States—the southern or southwestern States—I should have opposed, and would continue to oppose, any scheme whatever of emancipation, gradual or immediate."
In this extract, and throughout the whole speech, slavery is treated as a pecuniary question, and the grand argument against abolition, is the loss of property that would ensue. Joseph John Gurney, who appears to have been favorably impressed by Henry Clay's professions of liberality, his courteous bearing, and consummate address, manifested a laudable anxiety that so influential a statesman should be better informed on the point on which he seemed so much in the dark; he therefore addressed to him his excellent "Letters on the West Indies," of which the great argument is, that emancipation has been followed by great prosperity to the planters, and attended with abundant blessings, temporal and spiritual, to the other classes, and that the same course would necessarily be followed by the same results in the United States. He has accumulated proof upon proof of his conclusions supplied by personal and extensive investigation in the British Colonies. But Henry Clay shews no sign of conviction. Yet though he made to us the absurd remark, already quoted, on Joseph John Gurney's work, I have too high an opinion of his understanding to think him the victim of his own sophistry. He is a lawyer and a statesman. He is accustomed to weigh evidence, and to discriminate facts. I have little doubt that all my valued friend would have taught him, he knew already. He could not be ignorant of the contrast presented by his own State of Kentucky, and the adjoining State of Ohio, and that the difference is solely owing to slavery. If J.J. Gurney could have shewn that abolition would soon be the high road to the President's chair, it is not improbable that he would have made an illustrious convert to anti-slavery principles. Henry Clay's celebrated speech before alluded to, was delivered in the character of a candidate for the Presidency just before the last election—it was prepared with great care, and rehearsed beforehand to a select number of his political friends. The whig party being the strongest, and he being the foremost man of that party, he might be looked upon as President-elect, if he could but conciliate the south, by wiping off the cloud of abolitionism that faintly obscured his reputation. He succeeded to his heart's desire in his immediate object, but eventually, by this very speech, completely destroyed his sole chance of success, and was ultimately withdrawn from the contest. Thus does ambition overleap itself.[A]
[Footnote A: As a practical commentary on Henry Clay's professions of a regard for the cause of human liberty, I append the following advertisement, which, about two years ago, was circulated in Ohio:
"THREE HUNDRED DOLLAR'S REWARD.
"Run away from James Kendall, in Bourbon County, Ky., to whom he was hired the present year, on Saturday night last, the 14th instant, a negro man, named Somerset, about twenty-six years of age, five feet, seven or eight inches high, of a dark copper color, having a deep scar on his right cheek, occasioned by a burn, stout made, countenance bold and determined, and voice coarse. His clothing it is thought unnecessary to describe, as he may have already changed it.
"From E. Muir, of the same county, on the same night, (and supposed to have gone in company,) a negro man, named Bob, about twenty-nine years old, near six feet high, weighing about 180 or 90 pounds, of a dark copper color, of a pleasant countenance, uncommonly smooth face, and a remarkable small hand for a negro of his size. He spells and reads a little. His clothing was a greenish jean coat and black cloth pantaloons.
"We will give the above reward for the delivery of said negroes to the undersigned, or their confinement in jail, so that we get them; or 150 dollars for either of them, if taken out of the State, or 100 dollars for them, or 50 dollars for either, if taken out of the county, and in the State.
"HENRY CLAY, Senior,
"Bourbon Co. Ky., Sept. 17, 1839."
On leaving the Senate House, we drove to a slave-dealer's establishment, near at hand, and within sight of the Capitol. I have given some particulars of this visit elsewhere, which I need not repeat. I cast my eye on some portraits and caricatures of abolitionists, British and American, among whom Daniel O'Connell figured in association with Arthur Tappan, and the ex-president Adams. The young man in charge of the establishment began to explain them, for our amusement; on which, one of my companions pointed to me, and informed him I was an English abolitionist. He looked uneasy at our presence, and evidently desirous we should not prolong our stay. He told us there were five or six other dealers in the city who had no buildings of their own, and who kept their slaves here, or at the public city jail, at thirty-four cents per diem, the difference in comfort being wholly on the side of the private establishments.