[My friend, A. Freeman North, having read the foregoing, returned it with a hasty note, in pencil, saying, "Please send me the Aunt's reply, if you have it, or can procure it." I accordingly sent it, and we have it here.]
MY DEAR NEPHEW,—
Your letter came while we had gone into the country for a fortnight. Hattie is much improved, and I trust will soon be well. I gave her your letter to read. She told me that she could not find it in her heart to wonder at you for it; for once she should probably have written very much in the same strain.
It was Easter Monday afternoon when our steamboat reached the wharf. We took an open carriage and drove toward the hotel. As we reached the centre of the city, the place seemed to be full of colored people, who evidently had just come out of their meeting-houses. This was our first view of the blacks. Our driver had to stop frequently while they were crossing the streets, and we had full opportunity to enjoy the sight. Hattie exclaimed, after looking at them a few moments,—
"Why, Uncle, they are human beings!"
"What did you suppose they were?" said he.
"Uncle," said she, "these cannot be slaves. Where do you suppose the yokes are?"
"Now, Hattie," said he, "you were not so simple as to suppose that they wore yokes, like wild cows and swine."
"Why," said she, "our papers are always telling about their being 'reduced to a level with brutes,' and every Sabbath since I was a child, it seems to me, I have heard the prayer, 'Break every yoke!' Last Sabbath our minister, you remember, said, 'Abraham was a slave-holder, David a murderer, and Peter lied and swore.' Why, Uncle, these black people look like gentlemen and ladies! If slave-holders are like murderers and thieves, these cannot be their slaves!"
"Ask that elderly gentleman," said your Uncle. He was stopping for our carriage to pass,—a portly man, with a ruffled shirt, and a rich-looking cane, the end of which he kept on the ground, holding the top of it at some distance from him.
"Please, sir, will you tell me if these are the slaves?" said Hattie.
He looked round, while he kept his arm and the top of his cane describing large arcs of a circle.
"They are our colored people, Miss," said he, exchanging a smile with your Uncle and me.
"Well, sir," said Hattie, more earnestly than before, "are they slaves?"
He politely nodded assent, but was apparently interested by something which caught his eye. He then took out a snuff-box, and, looking round about him while opening it, said,—
"Some of them dress too much, Miss,—too much, altogether."
"Kid gloves of all colors," said Hattie, soliloquizing. "Red morocco Bibles and hymn-books. What a white cloud of a turban! Part of the choir, I take it,—those, with their singing-books. Elegant spruce young fellow, isn't he, Aunt? with the violoncello. Venerable old couple, there! over eighty, both of them. Well," continued Hattie, "I will give up, if these are the slaves."
"Don't make up your mind too suddenly," said your Uncle; "you will see other things."
"Uncle," said she, "what I have seen here in fifteen minutes shows me that at least one half of that which I have learned at the North about the slaves is false. Our novels and newspapers are all the time misleading us."
"And yet," said your Uncle, "perhaps everything they say may be true by itself; it may have happened."
"Why, Aunt," said she, "such a load is gone from my mind since looking upon these colored people that I feel almost well. Why, there's a wedding!" said she. "Driver, do stop! Uncle, please let us go in."
They left me, and went into a meeting-house, where a black bridegroom, in a blue broadcloth suit, white waistcoat, kid gloves, patent-leather shoes, and white hose, and an ebony bride, in white muslin caught up with jessamines, and a myrtle wreath on her head, had gone in, followed by a train of colored people. The white people, invited guests, it seems, were already assembled. The sexton told your Uncle that the parties were servants, each to a respectable family. This was a new picture to Hattie. She said that in looking back to the steamboat, an hour ago, the revelations made to her by what she had seen and heard, in that short time, all new, all surprising and delightful, afforded her some idea of the sensations of a soul after it has been one hour within the veil. We sat in the carriage, and saw the procession pass out, when the choir, who had been in the church before the wedding, practising tunes, resumed their singing.
"Now the idea," said Hattie, after we had listened awhile, "that they can forget that they are slaves long enough to meet and practise psalm-tunes!"
"You evidently think," said your Uncle, "that they would not sing the Lord's songs, if this were to them a strange land."
"They certainly have not hung their harps upon the willows by these rivers of Babylon," said Hattie.
"Why, some of our people at the North are to-day writhing in anguish, because of these slaves, and are imprecating God's vengeance, and praying that the slaves may get their liberty, even by violence, while the slaves themselves are practising psalm-tunes!"—
"And getting married," said your Uncle.
"Yes, Sir," said Hattie, "and this week our —— paper will come to us from New York loaded with articles about 'bondage' and 'sum of all villanies,' and 'poor, toil-worn slaves.' Toil-worn! I never saw such a lively set of people. Do see that little mite of a round black child, in black jacket and pants; he looks like a drop of ink; Oh, isn't he cunning! Little boy! what is your"—
"Come, come!" said your Uncle, "you are getting too much excited; you will pay for all this to-morrow with one of your headaches."
But a new surprise awaited us. The driver stopped opposite a large, plain-looking building, and told us that we had better step in. On entering, we involuntarily started back, for I never saw a house more densely filled; and all were blacks. It was a sable cloud; but the sun was in it. The choir were singing a select piece. The principal soprano, an elegant-looking black girl, dressed in perfect taste, held her book from her in her very small hand covered with a straw-colored glove. The singing was charming. We asked a white-headed negro in the vestibule what was going on.
"Why, it is Easter Monday, Missis."
"Is this an Episcopal church?"
"What are all these people here for?" said your Uncle.
"Why, to worship, Sir, I hope. It's holiday."
"Do they go to church, holidays?"
"Why," said he, with a smile and bow, "some of the best of 'em, p'raps."
We returned to the carriage.
"Think," said your uncle, "of two thousand people at the North spending a part of 'Artillery Election Day' in Boston, for example, in going to church!"
"Well," said Hattie, "if I were not to live another day, I would bless God for having let me live to see these things. I am so glad to find people happy who I had supposed were weeping and wailing."
We admonished her that she had not seen the whole of slavery.
A very interesting coincidence happened to us the next day. We took tea at Rev. Mr. ——'s. A splendid bride-cake adorned the table. As Hattie was admiring the ornaments on the cake, the lady of the clergyman smiled and said,—
"This is from a colored wedding."
Sure enough, that black bride whom we saw the day before had sent her minister's wife this loaf. Said Miss ——, "I was hurrying to get a silk dress made last week, but my dressmaker put me off, because she was working for Phillis B.'s wedding."
We both gave a glance at Hattie. She sat gazing at Miss ——, her lips partly open, her eyes moistened,—a picture in which delight and incredulity were in pleasant strife.
* * * * *
We have been in the interior a fortnight. One thing filled me with astonishment, soon after I came here, namely, to find widow ladies and their daughters, all through the interior of Southern States, living remote from other habitations, surrounded by twenty, fifty, or a hundred slaves. Hattie and I spent a week with a widow lady, whose head slave was her overseer. There was not a white man within a mile of the house. More than twenty black men, slaves, were in the negro quarter. I awoke the first night, and said to Hattie,—
"Do you know that you are 'sleeping on a volcano'?"
"What do you mean, Aunt? You frighten me."
"Well, it will not make an eruption to-night," said I. "We will examine into it to-morrow."
At breakfast I asked the lady how she dared to live so. I told her that we at the North generally fancied Southern people sleeping on their arms, expecting any night to be murdered by their slaves.
"It ought to be so, ought it not?" said she, "according to your Northern theory of slavery; and it may get to be so, if your people persist in some of their ways. My only fear is of some white men who live about two miles off. I keep two of my men-servants in the house at night as a protection against white depredators."
"But," said Hattie, "there have been insurrections. Are you not afraid that your slaves will rise and assert their liberty?"
The lady smiled and was evidently hesitating whether to answer seriously or not, when Hattie continued,—
"Aunt! now I see what you meant by our sleeping on a volcano."
"Yes," said I, "we at the North often speak of you Southerners as sleeping on a volcano. Our idea is that the blacks here are prisoners, stealing about in a sulky mood, vengeance brooding in their hearts, and that they wait for their time of deliverance, as prisoners in our state-prison watch their chance to escape."
"Well," said she, "believe I am the only slave on the premises. I am sure that no one but myself is watching for a chance to escape. I would run away from these people if I could. But what shall I do with them? I am not willing to sell them, for when I have hinted at leaving, there is such entreaty for me to remain, and such demonstrations of affection and attachment, that I give it up.
"Here," said she, "are seven house-servants, large and small, to do work which at the North a man and two capable girls would easily do. I have to devise ways to subdivide work and give each a share. My husband carried it so far that he had one boy to black boots and another shoes, and these two 'bureaus' were kept separate."
"Oh," said I, "what a curse slavery is to you!"
"As to that," said she, "it is the negroes who are a curse, not their slavery. So long as they are on the same soil with us, the subordination which slavery establishes makes it the least of two evils. If there is any curse in the case, it is the blacks themselves, not their slavery. Were it not for their enslavement to us, we should hate them and drive them away, like Indiana and Illinois and Oregon and Kansas. Now we cherish them, and their interests are ours.
"Two distinct races," said she, "never have been able to live together unless one was subordinate and dependent. This, you know, all history teaches. Your fanatics say it should not be so; they talk about liberty, equality, and fraternity, and put guns and pikes into the hands of the inferior race, here, to help them 'rise in the scale of being,' as they term it. What God means to accomplish in this matter of slavery I do not see.
"Suppose, merely for illustration," said she, "that cotton should be superseded. Vast numbers of our slaves might then be useless here. What would become of them? We should implore the North to relieve us of them, in part. Then would rise up the Northern antipathy to the negro, stronger, probably, in the abolitionist than in the pro-slavery man; and as we sought to remove the negroes northward and westward, the Free States would invoke the Supreme Court, and the Dred Scott decision, and then we should see, with a witness, whether the black man has 'any rights' on free soil 'which the' original settlers 'are bound to respect.' Think of bleeding Kansas, even, refusing to incorporate negro-suffrage in her constitution, when left free to follow the dictates of common sense, and a wise self-interest. I sometimes think that that one thing, as a philosophical fact, is worth all the trouble which Kansas has cost. It cannot be 'unholy prejudice against color.' It is human nature asserting the laws which God has established in it.
"I never," said she, "find abolitionists quoting the whole of the verse which says: 'and hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth.'"
"What," said I, "do they leave out?"
"'And hath fixed the bounds of their habitations,' are some of the next words," said she.
But you will tire of this. I will resume my story. I will only say that I told the lady that some of my gentleman friends would call her a strong-minded woman.
* * * * *
Your letter made me think of something which happened to a lady, a fellow-traveller of ours, a few weeks, ago. She came here to visit a lady whose husband owns one hundred and fifty slaves. The morning after she reached the plantation, as she told me, she was awaked by the cracking of whips. She listened; human voices, raised above the ordinary pitch, were mingling with the sounds. She lay till she could endure it no longer. Coming down to the piazza, she saw a white man mending a harness on a horse. "Those whips," said she, inquiringly,—"they have rather interfered with my peace. Any of the colored people been doing wrong?" He hesitated, and kept on fixing his harness, till, finally, he turned round,—for he had been standing with his back to her and, as she supposed, to hide his chagrin at being questioned on so trying a subject. "Truth is, Madam," said he, taking a large piece of tobacco and a knife from his pocket, and helping himself slowly,—"truth is, we have so much of this work to do, we have to begin early. Sorry it disturbed you;" and he gathered up the reins and drove off.
The whips kept up their racket. "Here," said she to herself, "is the house of Bondage. How can I spend a month here?" She thought that she would peep round the house. Yet she feared that she should be considered as intruding into things which she had better not meddle with. But the screams became so fearful that she could no longer restrain herself. She rushed round the corner of the house, and came full against a black woman rinsing some fustian clothes in a tub near the rain-spout. "Do dear tell me," said she, "what they are doing to those people. Who is whipping them? What have they done?" The black woman stopped, and looked round without taking her hands from her tub, and then said, as she went on rinsing, "Lorfull help you, Missis, dem's de young uns scaring de birds out of de grain."
What bliss there was to her in that moment of relief! Six or eight little negroes were sauntering about at their morning work, each having a rude whip, with tape for a snapper, interrupting the hungry birds at their breakfast.
I expected to see a wretched, down-trodden, alms-house looking set of creatures; for the word slave, and all the changes which are rung on that word, made me think only of people who are convicts, such as you see in the state-prison yard at Charlestown, Mass. I never expected that they would look me in the face, but would skulk by me as a spy or enemy. A Christian heart is overjoyed to find what religion and society have done for these colored people. If one who had never heard of "slavery" should be set down here, the Northern idea of "bondage" would not soon occur to him.
In the Presbytery which includes Charleston, S.C., there are two thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine church-members, and of these one thousand six hundred-and thirty-seven, more than one half, are colored. In State Street, Mobile, there is a colored Methodist Church who pay their minister, from their own money, twelve hundred dollars a year. Not long since they took up a voluntary contribution for Home Missions, amounting to one hundred and twenty dollars. Their preacher was sent by the Conference, according to rotation, into another field, and the blacks presented him with a valuable suit of clothes.
You see things here, good and evil, side by side, and mixed up together, one thing counterbalancing another. If you reason theoretically upon this subject, as you do "about the moon," to quote from your letter, it is enough to make one almost a lunatic, and I do not wonder that some of our good people at the North, who pore over this subject in this way, are on the borders of insanity.
My great mistake at the North with regard to this subject of slavery was, I reasoned about it in the abstract, instead of considering it in connection with those who are slaves under our laws, bound up with us in our civil constitution. Things might be true or false, right or wrong, in connection with the enslavement of a race who had never been slaves, which cannot be applied to the colored people of the South. Hence, the arguments and the appeals founded on the wrongfulness of reducing you or me to slavery are obviously misapplied when used to urge the emancipation of these slaves. Moreover, my thoughts about slavery were governed by my associations with the word slave, in its worst sense. This is wholly wrong, and it is the source of most of our mistakes on this subject.
Dreadful things happen here to some of the slaves in the hands of passionate men. One slave who had run away was caught, and was beaten for a long time, and melted turpentine was then poured upon his wounds. He lingered for several hours. But the horror and execration which this deed met with were no greater at the North than at the South. It cannot be denied that slavery, as well as marriage, affords peculiar provocations and facilities for cruel deeds,—according to the doctrine of your friend and fellow-Sophomore. But in which section there is the more of unpunished wickedness, I am slow to pronounce, for I do not wish to condemn my own people, nor to justify others in their sins. An excellent minister in Cincinnati not long since preached a sermon on murder, in which he stated that "during his residence in that city, there had been more than one hundred murders, or an average of two a month, while in no instance had the perpetrator been executed." Reading lately of a husband at the North throwing oil of vitriol from a bottle, filled for the purpose, over his wife's face and neck, and of a Northern clergyman feeding his young wife, as she sat on his knee, with apple on which he had sprinkled arsenic, I questioned whether human nature were not about the same everywhere. The theoretical right of a master, in certain cases, to put his slave to death, without judge or jury, is controlled by the self-interest of the owner who, of course, does not recklessly destroy his own property. The slave-codes are no just exponent of the actual state of things in slavery. For example,—by law a master may not furnish his slave with less than a peck of corn a week. This has a barbarous look. But to see the slaves feasting on the fat of the land you certainly would not be reminded of the "peck of corn," except by contrast. There must be some legal standard, below which if an inhuman master falls in providing for his servant, he can be prosecuted. Hence the "peck of corn." By the will of an eminent citizen at the North, establishing courses of lectures for all coming time, the pay of each lecturer is to be determined by the market value, at the time, of a bushel of wheat. This is a fair standard for the unit of measure.
In arguing with one who should insist that the abuses in slavery are a reason for breaking up the institution in this country, I should feel justified in maintaining that there are as many instances of a happy relation between, master and servant in the Southern country as there are happy marriages in the same number of households anywhere. Let there be four millions of an inferior, dependent race mixed up with a superior race, anywhere on earth, and of course, while human nature is what it is, there will be hardships, wrong-doings, oppressions, and barbarisms. At the North, we get scraps of anguish in the newspapers relating to hardships at the South; and many pore upon them till they make themselves half-crazed. All the circumstances serving to qualify the narrative are sometimes withheld, and the stories are told with dramatic art. There is sorrow enough everywhere to furnish material for such kind of writing, especially to those who make it their calling, or find it for their interest, to publish it. But the goings-on of life, at the South, with its alleviations and comforts, the practical mitigations of an oppressive system, theoretical evils qualified by difference of color, constitution, and history, and all the goodness and mercy which Christianity and a well-ordered state of society provide, we at the North do not see. Nor do our people consider that running away, and the complaints of the slaves, are partly chargeable to the discontent and restlessness of human nature; but we seem to take it for granted that every one who flees from the South is as though he had escaped from a prison-ship.
While at the North, I remember reading an article, signed with initials, in a prominent Massachusetts magazine, which contained this sentence: "Arsenic is universally in possession of the negroes; but it is considered the part of wisdom, where families are poisoned, that the fact should be kept as secret as possible." This was brought very powerfully to my mind one day on passing through King Street, in Charleston, and seeing for a painted sign over an apothecary's shop, a tall, benevolent-looking negro, in his shirt sleeves, behind a golden mortar, with the pestle in his hands, as though at work.
Now, I thought with myself, as I stood and enjoyed the sight, what a palpable and eloquent, though undesigned and silent, refutation that is, of all such Northern chimeras. If poisons are mixed with articles of food or medicine by the negroes with any noticeable frequency, the sign of a negro compounding medicines for public sale would surely be, to customers, the most detersive sign which an apothecary could erect over his premises. That little incident, and things like it, which are meeting you at every turn, show the state of things here to be in pleasing contrast to the horrors with which the imaginations of many of us Northerners are peopled. I find, in the "Charleston Mercury," a good cut of this "negro and golden mortar," and I send it to you as an appropriate answer to much of your letter.
Our landlord, driving us about the country the other day, and needing silver change, came to a gang of slaves in a field, and cried out, "Boys, got any silver for a five dollar gold piece?" Several hands went into as many pockets, at once, and a lively fellow among them getting the start, jumped over the fence, and changed the money. I had been here a month when I received your letter, and when I read it I at first laughed as heartily, I suspect, as "the pro-slavery Senior" did. Then I pitied you, and I pitied myself for my own former ignorance, and I pitied very many of our Northern people, and, not the least, such persons as poor "Isaiah," who I know are honest, but are grievously misled. The word slavery is, to us, an awful word. Very much of our anti-slavery feeling is a perfectly natural instinct. You cannot see Java sparrows in a cage, nor even a mother-hen tied to her coop, without a lurking wish to give them liberty. On thinking of being "a slave," we immediately make the case our own, and imagine what it would be for us to be in bondage to the will of another. We cannot easily be convinced that this is not exactly parallel with being one of the slaves at the South, nor that to be a slave does not have these things for its inseparable conditions, which, we imagine, are always obtruding their direful visages; namely, "auction-block," "overseer," "whip," "chattelism," "separations," "down-trodden," "cattle." Hence it is easy for orators and preachers to work on our sympathies. There are scattered facts enough to justify any tale which any public speaker chooses to relate. I confess that my respect for many of our Northern people has not risen, as I see them from this point of view. They ought not to be so easily duped, so ready to believe evil, so quickly carried away by partial representations, and so unwilling to take comprehensive views of such a subject as this. I condemn myself in speaking thus; I partly blame the novel-writers, and the editors of party papers, and political leaders. But we ought at the North to understand this subject better, to listen willingly to information from great and good men who have spent their lives among the slaves, and to discriminate between the evil and the good. The result may be that we shall not change our inbred views, nor cease to dissent from those who advocate slavery as a necessary means of civilization in its highest forms; but we shall certainly differ from those who declare it to be, practically, an unmitigated curse to all concerned. I am often made to wish that the Southerners could be relieved of our Northern hostility and its effects upon them, just to see them laboring, as they then would, to correct certain evils which ought to be redressed. We are all apt to neglect our duty, more or less, when we are suffering abuse.
Educate this people, some years longer, in the way in which they are going on, and they cannot be slaves in any objectionable sense. Tens of thousands of them, now, are not slaves in any such sense, and they never can be; they could not be recklessly sold at auction; the owners would revolt at it, and those in want of servants would meet with great competition in obtaining such as these. A church-member who should separate husband and wife for no fault, would be disciplined at the South as surely as for inhumanity at the North. But oh, we say at the North, only to think, that all those fine-looking people whom Hattie saw from the barouche, that Monday afternoon, were liable on Tuesday morning to have their kid gloves and finery taken from them, and to be marched off to the auction-block! Hence our commiseration. And it is a most groundless commiseration.
One thing is especially impressed on my mind. There being sins and evils in slavery, as all confess, there are men and women here who are perfectly competent to manage them without our help. There is nothing that seems to me more offensive than our self-righteousness, as I must call it, at the North, in exalting ourselves above our fathers and brethren of all Christian denominations at the South; as though there were no conscience, no Christian sensibility, no piety here, but it must all be supplied from the North. When I hear these Southern ministers preach and pray, and see them laboring for the colored people, and then think of our designation of ourselves at the North, "friends of the slave," and remember that all our anti-slavery influence has been positively injurious to the best interests of the slave at the South, I have frequently been led to exclaim, What an inestimable blessing it would be to this colored race, and to our whole land, if anti-slavery, in the offensive sense of that word, could at once and forever cease! and I have as often questioned in my own mind whether slavery has not been, and is not now, the occasion of more sin at the North than at the South, and whether we at the North are not more displeasing in the sight of God for the things which are said and done there, in connection with anti-slavery, than the South with all the sins and evils incident to slave-holding. I am coming to this belief.
The people who most frequently excite my commiseration are the free blacks. They are "scattered and peeled." The Free States dread their coming; they cannot rise in the Slave States. Even the slaves look down upon them, sometimes. "Who are you?" said a slave to a free black, in my hearing; "you don't belong to anybody!" Some States have given them notice to quit, within a specified time, or they must be sold. Some here insist that slavery is the only proper condition for the blacks, and they would reduce them back to bondage. Others remonstrate at this as cruel. Surely it is a choice of evils for them, to be free, or to be slaves, if they remain here. There is one thought that affords a ray of consolation,—they are better off, in either condition, than they once were in Africa. It is unquestionable to my mind that their relation to the whites, even in bondage, is, as the general rule, mercy to them, while they are on the same soil with the whites. Allow it to be theoretically wrong to be a slave,—it is, under existing circumstances, protection and a blessing, compared with any arrangement which has yet been proposed. I have not sufficient patience to argue with those, North or South, who contend for slavery as a normal condition. I should be called at the North "pro-slavery;" but the North is in a passion on this subject. I am not, and I never can be, an advocate for this relation, in itself, but as a present necessity.
I once heard a speaker at an anti-slavery meeting at home say, "They tell us how elevated the blacks are, how intelligent, how pious; that shows how fit they are for freedom, how wrong it is to hold such people in bondage. As much as you raise the slaves in our opinion, you deepen the guilt of the slave-holder."
This used to dwell much on my mind. I see the thing differently now. You remember your Uncle Enoch, from Madras, who made your first Malay kite. I remember a fable which he told you when he was flying the kite for the first time. "A kite," he said, "high in the air, reasoned thus: If, notwithstanding this string, I fly so high, what would I not do, if I could break away! It gave a dash and became free, and was soon in the woods." I do not mean to strain the comparison; but, certainly, a string has raised, and now keeps up, the colored race, here. How they would do, if the string were cut, let wiser heads than mine decide. They cannot have my scissors, at present.
The way to be friends of the slave, I now see, is to be the real friends of their masters, and to pray that the influences of truth and love may fill their hearts. Where this is the case, the slaves, as a laboring class, are better off than any separate class of laboring people on earth, both for this world and the next.
As to setting them free at once and indiscriminately, it would be as unjust to them as it originally was to steal them from Africa. So it appears to me. What God means to do with them, no one can tell. That He has been doing a marvellous work of mercy for the poor creatures is manifest. They were slaves at home; they have changed their situation to their benefit. I have made up my mind to leave this great problem—the destiny of the blacks—to my Maker, and, in the mean time, pray in behalf of the owners, that they may have a heart to act toward them according to the golden rule. I am glad that I am not oppressed with the responsibility of ownership. Those who assume it should be encouraged by us to treat their charge as a trust committed to them for a season. I do not argue, much less plead, for the continuance of this system; it may be abolished very soon, but that is with Providence. I have acquired no feelings toward the institution which would not lead me to rejoice in emancipation the moment that it would be for the good of the colored people.
You are looking for my letter to furnish you with details of horrors in slavery. Wherever poor human nature is, there you will find imperfection and sin; and of course power over others is always liable to great abuses. If I were to follow the plan of those who collect the horrors of slavery and spread them out before our Northern friends, but should gather merely the beautiful and touching incidents which I meet with, and which are related to me, I could make people think that slavery is not an evil. But I have not seen an intelligent Southerner who, admitting all that we had said about the happiness of the slaves as a class, did not go far beyond me in declaring that the presence of a subject, abject race, cannot fail to be an evil. There is not an ultraist at the North, whom, if he had their confidence, and were not put in antagonism to him, the Southerners could not make ashamed, and put to silence, by telling him evil things about slavery, which he had never contemplated, and by admitting most fully things which he would expect them to deny. But they are placed in a false position by his clamor and anger, which set them against him and his doctrines. They say, "Allowing all that the North asserts, here are the colored people on our hands; what are we to do with them?" Not one of the Northern "friends of the slave," nor all of them together, have ever proposed a feasible plan with regard to the disposal of the slaves, which would be kind or even humane to the blacks. Moreover, theoretical arguments against slavery, and representations of it, from many quarters, are so palpably wrong, that replies to them and refutations are counted by us at the North as defences of "oppression;" which they were never designed to be. I am surprised at the extent and depth of real anti-slavery feeling at the South. Sometimes I question whether Providence is not permitting the antagonism of the North and South to continue just to compel the South to hold these colored people in connection with themselves for their good, until God's purposes of mercy for them are accomplished, and "the time, times and half a time" of their captivity is fulfilled. If Northern resistance to slavery had ceased, perhaps the South would have rid herself of the blacks sooner than would have been for their good.
I hope that you will not think me "a strong-minded woman" in what I here repeat to you of the opinions and expressions which I have gathered in listening to the conversation of intelligent people on this subject. I write these things for your instruction, and also as memoranda for my own future use.
It is a cherished idea with many excellent people that the time will come when there will not be a slave in this land, nor on the earth. If they mean by this that the time will come when every man in every face will see a brother and a friend, it is certainly true. But if they mean by it that ownership in man will come to an end, their opinion and prophecy are as good as those of men who should undertake to differ from them, and no better; while both would be entirely presumptuous in being positive on such a subject. Some people seem to think that, in the good time coming, it is as though we should dwell out-of-doors, among flowers and fruits, with few wants, these being supplied by the spontaneous offerings of nature.
Others, however, suppose that we shall still need some to shovel, take care of horses, work over the fire the greater part of the day in preparing food, go of errands, and, in short, be a serving class. They suppose that the same sovereign God which distributes instincts, and wisdom, variously, to animals, and gifts of understanding to men, will, in the same sovereign way, create men and women with such degrees of capacity and susceptibility as will lead inevitably to their being superiors and inferiors, and that this will be, as it is now where love and kindness reign, the source of the greatest happiness to all concerned.
This being so, none of us will venture to say that no one of the existing races of men will, to the end of time, be of such gentle, dependent natures as to find their highest happiness and welfare in being, generally, in the capacity of servants. Some of all races, we do not object, may be servants to the end of time. No one will say to his Maker that it will be unjust for Him to put a whole race of men forever in that serving condition, making them, according to their capacity, most happy in being so. For "Who hath been His counsellor?" That the Africans are under a cloud of God's mysterious providence, no one denies. I will not dictate to my Maker when He shall remove that cloud, while I still endeavor to mitigate the effects of it upon my fellow-creatures, the blacks. I do not know that he may not perpetuate, to the end of time, a relationship of dependency to other races in this African race. I know nothing about it. But I always feel impelled to say these things, when I hear good men confidently predicting that ownership in man will soon and forever come to an end. I reply, It may be in the highest measure necessary to the happiness of the human family, at its best estate, that one race, or that races, should be in the relation of inferiors, finding their very best advantage in the relative place which a sovereign God has assigned them in the scale of intelligence, by holding that relation to the end of time. Of course it would cease to be a curse; it would become one of those subordinate parts in the great orchestral music of life which subdue and soften it for the highest effect. If any one gets angry at such an idea, I leave him to his folly; for he is angry without a cause at me, who have, in this idea, expressed no wish that it may be true; and he is angry that his Maker should do a thing which contradicts his pet notions about "freedom." But the singular fact of slavery in this land, continued and defended under all political changes, and now having the prospect of being more firmly established than ever by means of our great national commotion on this subject, is enough to make a serious mind reflect whether it be wholly the work of Satan, or whether the providence of God be not concerned in this great and difficult problem.
It is certainly remarkable that religion, which once gained such a footing in Africa, so soon and entirely died out there, but that the Africans, transported to our land, are of all races the most susceptible to religious influences. If we should visit a foreign missionary field, and learn that the mission had been blessed to the extent which has characterized the labors of Christians at the South for their slaves, of whom, according to the "Educational Journal," Forsyth, Ga., there are now four hundred and sixty-five thousand connected with the churches of all denominations, we should regard it as the chief of all the works of God in connection with modern missions. It is this providential and Christian view of slavery which quiets my mind. Now, suppose that, contemplating a foreign missionary field where such results should be found, one should object: "But there are evils there; people do not all treat their dependants as they ought; hardships, cruelties, and some barbarisms remain;"—we should not, I apprehend, proceed to scuttle such a ship to drown the vermin. But I can see that Satan must be in great wrath to find himself spoiled of so many subjects. One stronger than he has brought here hundreds of thousands, who, in Africa, would have perished forever, but who are now civilized and Christianized. Satan would be glad, I think, to see American slavery come to an end. We have no right to go and steal people in order to convert them; the salvation of these slaves will not, in one iota, extenuate the guilt and punishment of those who were engaged in the slave-trade. But "the wrath of men shall praise Thee." In the writings of anti-slavery men I do not remember to have met with cordial acknowledgments of what religion has done for the slaves at the South. They coldly admit the fact, but often they speak disparagingly of the negro's religion, which is full as good as that of converts in our foreign missionary fields, as good, judging from some things in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, as that of some converts to whom he wrote. Our Northern anti-slavery people cannot bear to have anything good discovered or praised in connection with slavery.
My own hopeful persuasion is, that great and marvellous works of Divine Providence and grace are in reserve for the African people in their own land, and that we are to prove to have been their educators. Most sincerely do I hope, however, that the number of scholars and future propagators of religion and civilization, imported here from Africa, will not need to be increased, considering that one hundred and fifty per cent. of deaths by violence take place in procuring a given number of slaves. This is but one objection; others are sufficiently obvious. Both parts of that passage of Scripture are exceedingly interesting: "Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God." Egypt, the basest of kingdoms, shall yet send forth first-rate men; and Ethiopia, even, shall be the worshipper of God. I hope that these prophecies, though fulfilled once, are yet to have their great accomplishment. This is my persuasion, and I trust that every nation will be independent; but I shall not discard the Bible, if my interpretation and hope should fail. Ethiopia is certainly stretching out her hands unto God in our Southern country.
Hattie received some papers for children from a young friend at the North, last week. After attending the colored Sabbath-school in ——, and teaching a class of nicely-dressed, bright little "slave" girls, and hearing the school sing their beautiful songs, with melodious voices, such as, I can truly say, I never heard surpassed at the North, and after looking upon the teachers, who represented the very flower of Southern society, the superintendent being a man who would adorn any station, you cannot fully conceive with what feelings I read, in one of Hattie's little papers from the North, these lines, set to music for the use of Northern children:
"I dwell where the sun shines gayly and bright, Where flowers of rich beauty are ever in sight; Here blooms the magnolia, here orange-trees wave; But oh, not for me,—I'm a poor little slave.
"They say 'Sunny South' is the name of my home; 'Tis here that your robins and blue-birds are come, While snows cover nests up, and angry winds rave; They may rest here,—not I; I'm a poor little slave.
"Here beautiful mothers, 'mid splendors untold. Their fairy-like babes to their fond bosoms fold; My mammy's worked out, and lies here in the grave; There's none to kiss me,—I'm a poor little slave.
"I've heard mistress telling her sweet little son, What Jesus, the loving, for children has done; Perhaps little black ones he also will save; I ask him to take me, a poor little slave!"
No wonder, Gustavus, that you write such letters as your last, fed and nourished as you are on such things as this. I took it with me that evening to a missionary party at the house of Judge ——. I read the lines. The ladies said nothing for a time, till at last one said to me, "Such things have helped us in seceding." The Judge took the lines, looked them over, and, smiling, handed them back to me, saying, "Madam, is Massachusetts a dark place?" "Yes," said a young gentleman, "and the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." "Oh," said I, "how prejudiced you all are!" Whereupon they all laughed. "Now," said I, "you think, no doubt, that the author of such a piece is malign. I know nothing of its origin, but I venture to say it was written by one whose heart overflows with love to everybody, but who is 'laboring under a delusion.'" I did not tell them of the "delusion" which you were "under," in the Senior's room, but I said, "I have a nephew in a New England college who has the Northern evil very badly. But he is so very kind. Set him to write poetry about the South and he would produce just such lamentable stanzas." Nothing will cure these fancies, about oranges and magnolias not blooming for the little negroes, so well as to bring these good people where they can see them pelting one another with oranges, such as these poets never dreamed of, and making money by selling magnolias to passengers at the railway stations.
"Here beautiful mothers, 'mid splendors untold," etc. I went with the wife of a planter to her "Maternal Association" of slave-mothers. She gathers the fifteen mothers among her servants once a fortnight, and spends an afternoon talking to them about the education of their children, and reading to them; and when she knelt with them and prayed, I cried so all the time that I hardly heard anything. Oh what a tale of love was that Maternal Association! "Here beautiful mothers 'mid splendors untold," etc.;—those words kept themselves in my thoughts. Now tell this to some great "friend of the slave," in Massachusetts, and what will he say?—"All very good, I dare say; hope she will go a little further, and give those fifteen their liberty." I sometimes say, "Must I go back to the North, and hear and read such things?"
Yes, it is such things as these, simple and inconsiderable as you may deem them, which are dividing us irreconcilably, and breaking up the Union. It is not Messrs. ——, nor their frenzy, but it is Christian brethren who allow their Sabbath-school children, for example, to say and sing, "I've heard mistress telling her sweet little son, what Jesus, the loving, for children has done," making the impression that such a Christian mother leaves a colored child in her house, without instruction, to draw the inference, if it will, that Jesus, perhaps, will love a "poor little slave!" There are no words to depict the feeling of injustice and cruelty which this conveys to the hearts of our Christian friends at the South. "Let us go out of the Union!" they cry, in their blind grief; but where will they go? for while our Northern people write and publish and sing and teach their children to sing such things, we can have nothing but mutual hatred, and perhaps exterminating wars. We must change. If our Northern people would discriminate, and, while retaining all their natural feelings against oppression and man-stealing, would admit that "ownership in man" is not necessarily oppression nor man-stealing, they would do themselves justice and contribute to the peace of the country. "But O!" they say, "look at the iniquitous system. If separating families, and destroying marriage, and liberty to chastise at pleasure, and to kill, are not sin, what is sin?" So they impute the system, and everything in it, to the people who live under it. How a system can be a sin, it would puzzle some of them, who say that all sin consists in action, to explain. And when they came to look into the system itself, they would find, that if slavery is to exist, some laws regulating it are, of necessity, self-protective, and must be coercive. Even in Illinois, it is enacted that a black man shall not be a witness against a white man. But if the slaves could swear in court, every one sees that the whites must be at the mercy of their servants. The testimony of the honest among them is procured, though indirectly, and it has weight with juries; but it is a wise provision to exclude them as sworn witnesses. So of other things, which theoretically are oppressive, but practically right; while many things in the system which are rigorous are as little used as the equipments in an arsenal in times of peace.
When you quote John Wesley's words and apply them to the South: "Slavery is the sum of all villanies," you unconsciously utter a fearful slander. Whatever may have been true of British slavery, in foreign plantations, in Wesley's day, the good man never would utter such words about our Southern people could he see and enjoy that which gladdens every Christian heart. If slavery be, necessarily, "the sum of all villanies," as you and many use the expression, the relation cannot exist without making each slave-holder a villain, in all the degrees of villany. You will do well to look into the cant phrases of "freedom," before you indulge in the use of them. The bishops and clergy of the noble army of Methodists in the South would not sustain their great chief in applying the phrase in question to the actual state of things in the Southern country. Wesley used those words concerning slavery in foreign colonies; he had not seen it mixed up with society in England, as it is in the South.
Taking the blacks as they are, and comparing them also with what they would be in Africa, or if set free, to remain in connection with the whites, slavery is not a curse. To be free is, of course, in itself a blessing. But it depends on many things whether, under existing circumstances, being a slave here is practically a curse. Our people generally insist that it must be, and therefore that it is. Here they are mistaken, as I now view the subject. The British people and the French, looking at the blacks in a colony, settle the question of emancipation in their own minds without much difficulty. But it would be found to be a different thing to emancipate the colored race, to live side by side with the English people in the mother-country. In that case, a contest between the two races for the possession of power, and innumerable offences and practical difficulties, would, in time, lead to the extermination, or expatriation, of one of the two races, or to their intermarriage, if the universal history of such conjunction of races is any guide.
I do not wonder that the good lady with the "marsh-mallow" exclaimed so at your groundless commiseration of the sick among the slaves. You have no more idea of the practical relation between the whites and the blacks, the owners and the slaves, than most of the English people, who have never been here, have of our Federal and State relations.
I will tell you an incident which I know to be literally true.
A lady from a free state was visiting at the South. Calling upon a married lady, a near relative of one who has been Vice-President of the United States, she found her with a little sick black babe at her breast.
The Northern lady started with astonishment. I am not informed whether she was what is called among us a "friend of the slave;" the eminent lady friend whom she visited certainly was such, in the best sense. The Northern lady's feelings of repugnance would not be found to be peculiar to her among our Northern people. The little babe died on the lap of the Southern lady.
So you see that there are more things here than are dreamed of in your philosophy. When you stigmatize the Southerners as oppressors, my only consolation for you is that you know not what you do. Imagine, now, the Rev. Mr. Blank, at the North, relating that little incident: "Behold and see this monstrous picture of infinite hypocrisy: The Slave-power with a slave at its breast! Yes, rather than lose one or two hundred dollars' worth of human "property," a distinguished lady slave-holder will give her nourishment to a slave-infant. So they fatten the accursed system out of their own bodies and souls." Such is a fair specimen of this man's frenzy; and there are multitudes all over the Free States who will listen to such language and applaud it. But how cruel it is, how low and wicked! I pray Heaven to deliver you from being an abolitionist in the cast of your mind, your temper, and spirit. Nothing gives me such an idea of the world of despair as when I read ultra anti-slavery speeches. I see how the lost will hate God's mysterious providence, and revile it; and how they will fight with each other, and pour out their furious invective and sarcasm and vituperation, and scourge one another with their fiery tongues, as they now do, when some one of the party appears to falter. If there were not something truly good in connection with slavery amid all its evils, I think such men would not oppose it.
Pray, who are these gentlemen, and who are their extremely zealous anti-slavery friends of more respectable standing, that they should have such immense instalments of sympathy and pity for the "poor slave"? Their neighbors are as susceptible as they to every form of human sorrow; they know as much, their judgments are as sound, their motives are as good as theirs. Had these zealous people made new discoveries, or, were the subject of slavery new, we might give them credit for being on the hill-tops, while we were in the vales. This passionate sympathy, on the part of some, for "the down-trodden," as they call the negroes, is not like zeal for a theological, or a political, or a scientific, doctrine, which would justify its adherents in rebuking the error and indifference of others; for if slavery be as they represent it, the proofs of it must be as self-evident as starvation. What if a class of men among us should rage against those who do not contribute largely to the Syrian sufferers, as the zealous anti-slavery people reproach and even revile those who do not see slavery with their eyes? We should then say, "Friends, who are you, that you should claim to have all the virtuous sensibility?"
But more than this,—I doubt, I venture to deny, and that on philosophical grounds, the true philanthropy of these people. For true love and kindness always create something of their own kind where they have full power. Are there any words or acts of love, kindness, gentleness, mercy, toward others, in the speeches and doings of the zealous anti-slavery people?
I wish that you had been with me, one evening, in a corner of the Methodist meeting-house, where I sat and enjoyed the slaves' prayer-meeting. I had been filled with distress that day by reading, in Northern papers, the doings and speeches at excited meetings called to sympathize with servile insurrection. In this prayer-meeting the slaves rose one after another, went in front, and repeated each a hymn, then resumed their seats, while some one, moved by the sentiments of the hymn, would lead in prayer. A white gentleman presided, according to custom, and I was the only other white person present. Going to that meeting with the impressions upon my heart of the terrible excitements which you were witnessing at home, and saying to myself, "O my soul, thou hast heard the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war!" you cannot imagine what my feelings were when the largest negro that I ever saw rose and stood before the desk, and repeated the following hymn by Rev. Charles Wesley. The first lines, you may well suppose, startled me, and made me think that the insurrection had reached even here.
"Equip me for the war, And teach my hands to fight; My simple, upright heart prepare, And guide my words aright.
"Control my every thought, My whole of sin remove; Let all my works in thee be wrought, Let all be wrought in love.
"Oh, arm me with the mind, Meek Lamb! that was in thee; And let my knowing zeal be join'd With perfect charity.
"With calm and temper'd mind Let me enforce thy call; And vindicate thy gracious will, Which offers life to all.
"Oh, may I love like thee, In all thy footsteps tread; Thou hatest all iniquity, But nothing thou hast made.
"Oh, may I learn the art, With meekness to reprove; To hate the sin with all my heart, But still the sinner love."
You must read this hymn to "Isaiah," and tell him about the prayer-meeting. While the "friends of the slave," as you call them, are holding such humiliating meetings as you describe, in behalf of the slaves, and are vexing themselves and chafing under the imagination of their unmitigated sorrows and "oppression," the slaves themselves, all over the South, are holding prayer-meetings, and are blessing God that they are "raised 'way up to heaven's gate in privilege." As I sat in that prayer-meeting I could almost have risen and asked the prayers of the slaves in behalf of many at the North who are making themselves and others nearly insane on their behalf. But I thought of my former ignorance and prejudice, and said, "And such were some of you."
I will tell you some of the little incidents which meet one every day, and which give you impressions respecting the relations between the whites and blacks, full as instructive as those received in any other way.
Crossing a public street, which is steep, in the city of ——, a truckle-cart came by me at great speed, drawn by a white boy, with another white boy pushing, and seated in it, erect and laughing, was a fine-looking black boy of about the same age as his white playmates. Around the corner of another street there came by me, with a skip-and-jump step, two white girls, about thirteen years old, and between them—the arms of the three all intertwined—was another girl of the same age, as black as ebony. On they went jumping, and keeping step, and singing.
I had not been accustomed to such sights in Beacon Street, on my visits to Boston. "Friends of the slave," as we most surely are, and some of us being decorated with that name by way of distinction, significant of our all-absorbing business "to raise the black man at the South to the condition of a human being," when we get them there we are not greeted in the streets with pictures of white and black children on such terms as appeared in these two casual incidents. Nothing at first struck me with greater wonder at the South than to see the most fashionably dressed ladies in the most public streets stop to help a black woman with a burden on her head, if she needed assistance, or to hold a gate open for a man with a wheelbarrow.
One white boy cried to another across a street, "Come along, it's most time to be in school." The other answered, in a petulant tone, "I a'n't going to school." A tall, white-headed negro was passing; his black surtout nearly touched the ground; he had on his arm a very nice market-basket, covered with a snow-white napkin, and in his right hand a long cane. Hearing what the last boy said, he came to a full stand, put down his basket, clasped his long cane with both hands, and brought it down on the brick sidewalk with three quick raps, and then a rap at each of these points of admiration: "What! what! what!" said he, drawing himself up to express surprise, and calling out with magisterial voice; "Go to school! my son! go to school! and larn! a heap!" the cane making emphasis at every expression. The white boy retreated under the impression of a well-deserved, though kind, rebuke. He did not call the old man "nigger," nor in any way insult him.
But here is an incident of a different kind.
Standing to talk with a man who had charge of my baggage, in the passage-way between the baggage-room and the colored passengers' apartment. I saw a white man with a pert, flurried manner and coarse look ascend the steps of the cars, and behind him a tall graceful black man, a little older than the other, with signs of gentleness and dignity in his appearance. As he stooped and turned, his air and carriage would have commanded attention anywhere. The white man, seeing him enter the wrong door, cried out to him with an impudent voice, ordered him back, pointed him to the proper room, and told him to go in there and make himself "oneasy," with a laugh at his own attempt at inaccurate talk as he cast a glance at some white men standing by. The black man was his slave. The natural and proper order of things was reversed in their relation to each other.
I looked at the black man as he took his seat, and, without being observed, I kept my eye on his face. He cast his eye out of the window, as though to relieve a struggle of emotions, but a calm expression settled down upon his features.
A Southern gentleman, a slave-holder, witnessing the scene with me, said,—
"Disgusting! There, madam, you have one of the great evils of slavery,—irresponsible power in the hands of men who are not fit to be intrusted with authority over others. No man, I sometimes think, ought to be allowed to hold slaves till he has submitted to examination as to character, or brings certificates of a good disposition. I know that man. His father was from —— [a New England State.] He is what we call a torn-down character. His neighbors all"—but the signal was given for starting, and the conversation was broken off.
My first thought was, How glad I would be to set that man free from such bondage! The next thought was, Where would I send him to be free from "the power of the dog?" I had been reading, in a Boston paper, a lecture delivered in Boston, by a distinguished "friend of the slave," against Mr. Webster and Mr. Choate, before an "immense audience." I thought, How much better it is to be a Christian slave, even to this master, than to sit in the seat of the scornful, applauding such a lecture!
The poor slave was having his probation and discipline, as we all have ours, and he was suffering, as we all do in our turns, from an impudent tongue. Little did he think that a fellow-creature, looking at him at that moment, was reminded, by his meekness under insult, of Him, our example, who, under such provocation, opened not his mouth, and that I was made to remember, as I stood there and received instruction from him, that the best alleviation and cure of anguished sensibility under ill-treatment is in this same silence, and in thoughts of Jesus.
After the cars had started, I took my Bible from my carpet-bag, and read these passages: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." Then this is enforced by the example of our incarnate God and Saviour, who is held up to Christian slaves as their example; and in this connection, not only in this passage, but elsewhere in speaking to slaves, the Apostle brings in the most sublime truths relating to redemption. You will be struck with this in reading what is said to slaves, that in several cases, the train of thought proceeds directly from their condition and its duties, to the most sublime and beautiful truths of salvation. How divinely wise did these exhortations to slaves appear to me, that morning, in contrast with the spirit of the Northern abolitionist, and his talk about "Bunker Hill," "'76," and his "grandfather's old gun over the mantel-piece," and his injunctions to slaves as to the duty of stealing, and even murdering, if necessary, to effect their liberty. This is not the spirit of the New Testament. The idea of submission on the part of "servants" to "masters," of "pleasing them well in all things," of "fear and trembling," "not purloining but showing good fidelity in all things," is not found in the Gospel of the abolitionist. He complains that we do not send the true Gospel to the South. There are passages in the Epistles addressed to slaves, which, if faithfully regarded, would make fugitive slave laws for the most part needless. No wonder that the New Testament, with its exhortations to meekness and patience under suffering, and the duty of those who are "under the yoke," and of masters as being "worthy of honor," and the caution that the slave do not take undue liberty where his master is a believer, nor assert the doctrine of equality in Christ as a ground for undue familiarity, or disobedience, is repudiated by the vengeful spirit of the abolitionist. How well the Apostle understood him! "If any man teach otherwise," that is, contrary to these injunctions as to the duty of slaves who have believing masters, "he is proud, (that is the leading feature of his error) he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings." What an anomaly it would be to have an abolition convention opened with reading a collect of Paul's inspired directions to masters and slaves.
But we never hear anything quoted from the Bible on the subject but "break every yoke!" "let the oppressed go free!" "undo the heavy burdens!" I was telling a slave-holder of the frequency with which we hear these expressions in public prayer. "I could join in every one of them," said he; "I am for breaking every yoke, South and North, unbinding every heavy burden, and destroying every form of oppression. But they must be actual, not theoretical, nor imaginary."
This gentle slave in the cars, we will suppose, refuses opportunities to escape, but complies with the exhortations of the New Testament, "enduring grief, suffering wrongfully." His master is at last touched by his meekness, his "not answering again." I should relate only that which I know to have happened, should I say, that one day this master is filled with distress on account of sin. He goes out into the cotton-field and finds Jacob.
"Jacob," he says, "I am a great sinner. Jacob, I feel that I am sinking into hell. Jacob, pray for me. I mean to turn about, if I live."
"Dats jest what I've sought de Lord for, massa, dis six months coming New Year. Let's go up into de loft; it's whar I've wrastled for you in prayer."
He leads the way. The floor of the loft is covered with cotton-seed. A wheelbarrow is in the middle of the floor. Jacob takes off his jacket, and with it brushes the cotton-seed away from one side of the wheelbarrow, lays the jacket down for his master to kneel upon, and goes to the other side. Like Jacob at Peniel, he has power over the angel, and prevails; he weeps and makes supplication unto him. The master breaks out in prayer. He rises and says,—
"Jacob, forgive me if I've been unkind to you; I've seen that you are a Christian; now if you want to leave me for anybody else, say so."
"Thank you, massa; only sarve de Lord with gladness for all de good things he has done for you, and I'll sarve you de same. Please go home and tell missis; she told me to pray for you; 'twill finish up her joy."
This is better than running away and going to Canada. Those Christians who send the Gospel to the South by missionaries and religious tracts, to promote such scenes as this, do a better work than though they withheld missionaries and tracts from one half of the nation, and called it "Standing up for Jesus."
I am sometimes inclined to put down all that I see and hear, good and bad, and publish a book to satisfy my truly candid but mistaken friends at the North as to the real truth on this subject. But I have in mind the way in which similar works have already been received and treated by an unreasoning, passionate North. I have amused myself sometimes in imagining what certain writers would say to some of the incidents which I have related in this letter. Let me attempt to show you the spirit and manner of our Northern reviewers when one ventures to state favorable things relating to slavery. I will take some of the incidents already related in this letter and let these men review them. I am perfectly familiar with their style, from having been employed in helping your uncle prepare the notices of new publications for the "—— Review." Here, then, I will give you first a supposed notice of my little book, should I make one, from a Northern religious newspaper, quoting, in all cases, the identical expressions from articles which I have read:—
"'The authoress, it seems, is yet in her Paradise of slavery.' Her 'opulent friends' and the slave-holders generally, it would appear, got up little tableaux for her, to impose on her good-nature. Knowing the times when she took her daily walks, they put the fattest and sleekest black boy whom they could find, into a truckle-cart, and made two of the sons of the 'most opulent' citizens race down hill with him. Slavery, therefore, is not the bad thing she and we had supposed. The female teacher of a school in the neighborhood of her daily walk was suborned, most probably, by the 'opulent' ladies of the place, to practise another pleasing trick. Two white girls and a black girl were made to practise running with their arms interlocked, and one day, as our friend came in sight, they were pushed out to astonish her with one instance of white girls hugging a negro slave-child. No doubt our friend, on seeing these three together, soliloquized as follows:—
"See Truth, Love, and Mercy in triumph descending, All nature now glowing in Eden's first bloom."
The old negro, respectable and well off, was one of those rare exceptions to surrounding degradation which you now and then see in Southern cities. The poor slave in the cars, gentle, timid, quivering, was the true exponent of slavery. Had our authoress filled her book with such illustrations exclusively, she would have written more truthfully, more for her reputation with the real 'friends of the slave,' and, we confess, more in accordance with our taste."
A writer in a very respectable publication at the North, already referred to, gave us several years ago a curious piece of criticism on some publication which he regarded as too favorable to slavery. His pages, some of them, were crowded with daggers, in the shape of exclamation marks,—two, three, four, and, in one instance, five, at the end of quotations from the book under review. It was he that made the assertion about the "arsenic," as being "universally in the hands of the slaves."
I shall now let him review my little stories. I quote many of his words:—
"'To show the ignorance and simplicity of our travelling' lady, we give the following,—and what will the North say to this new argument in favor of slavery? namely, a truckle-cart! a black boy riding!! two white boys giving him a ride!!! and three girls, one of them black! arm in arm!! romping. 'It is not the fault of this writer, that she cannot understand a principle;' 'she is a New England Orthodox,'—'and a fair specimen of the limitations of that type of mankind.' 'But does not the lady know,' why negro boys are put in truckle-carts? 'If not, any of her Southern friends could have told her.' We can tell her; 'we have lived at the South.' These white boys were sent on an errand with their cart, and to increase its momentum down hill, and, withal, to tease and worry a fellow-creature, with a skin not colored like their own, they made this poor slave-boy get in. She should have seen the poor creature trudging home, up hill, under a Southern sun, after the little white tyrants had done with him, unless it was the case, which we more than half suspect, that the ride was a stratagem to convey the poor child to the auction-block. 'How the merry dogs,' the white boys, must have laughed at this Northern lady's complacent looks at them. She had no tears for the poor old white-headed negro, who, hearing the word 'school' from the lips of his white young masters, had such a rush of sorrow come over his soul at the thought of the midnight ignorance in which the slave-driver's whip had kept him, that he actually dropped his burden in the public street, and uttered incautious words, for which, no doubt, old as he was, he caught a terrible flogging. "Why, in the name of humanity, did not the authoress load her pages, as she might so easily have done, with scenes like that in the cars? There is slavery! patent! undisguised! In the other cases it is slavery, indeed, but covered with the pro-slavery lady's snow-white napkin."
Here is a review of me and of my little stories, by a distinguished New England divine, and author. He has written much on slavery. Having prepared notices of some of his writings on this subject, I am familiar with his turns of thought and modes of expression. I have great regard for him, and always read him with pleasure and profit, not excepting when he writes as follows, in doing which he has the approbation of large numbers among the Northern clergy of all denominations, except the Episcopalians,—who, more than other Northern ministers, are remarkably free from ultraisms.
"Concerning the truckle-cart, 'we would say this,' that unquestionably 'the moral power' of the incident was all which the writer assumes, but its 'logical sequences' 'we utterly deny.' Slavery is evil, and only evil, and that continually; now, to infer that agreeable relations can subsist between the children of masters and the children of slaves under the 'immense, malignant, and all-pervading influence of slavery,' abhorred of Heaven and all good men, does violence to all sound principles of reasoning, and is at war with 'the manifest rules of Providence.'
"And as to the three girls 'we are prepared to say' that the author 'did not look deep enough' into the philosophy of human motives under the controlling power of slavery. For slavery makes men improvident, and their children also; (see 'Judge Jay,' 'Weld on Slavery,' etc.) These white girls, therefore, probably had no money in their pockets; it was the time of recess; they were hungry; the black child we presume had money in her pocket, for by the authoress's own showing (in the story of a slave changing a gold piece for the landlord), slaves may have money of their own. Had our authoress followed her trio down to the confectioner's, there she might have seen these white children cajoling the poor black, and making her treat them; in preparation for which they affected to put their arms around her; but, in the true diabolical spirit of slavery, it was only to devour.
"We have no space to enter philosophically into the instruction afforded us by the old negro and the schoolboys; but there is deep meaning in it, which the true friends of the slave, who may read it, will do well to ponder. The old negro is the prophetic representation of his down-trodden race, crying with bewildered accents, he heeds not where, 'Go to school! boys; go to school!' Let a united North echo back his words, suiting their political action to them, and saying to the colored children, with an authority which shall shake the very pillars of the Union, 'Go to school, boys! go to school!'
"Nor can we, for the tears which dim our sight, speak as we would of the wretched master and his amiable slave in the cars. The sketch reminded us of the best in 'Uncle Tom.' We need books filled with such pictures, to electrify the slumbering sensibilities of the North. Wanton candor in speaking of slavery, is the most unpardonable of sins. There is a time to tell the whole truth; but the wise man says. There is 'a time to keep silence.'"
I did not pretend, Gentlemen Reviewers, that my little, pleasing incidents were arguments in favor of slavery; you should not have been so alarmed; you are really rude; I almost feel disposed to say to you, for each of my tales, as the Rosemary said to the Wild Boar,—
"Sus, apage! haud tibi spiro;"
which, not having a poetical friend near to translate for me, I venture to render as follows:—
"Thus to the Boar replied the Rosemary: O swine, depart! I do not breathe for thee."
In noticing the manner in which many Northern writers, some of them amiable men, receive the candid views and statements of travellers and visitors at the South, I have been made to think of a company of the owls, such as you see in Audubon, listening to the reading of David's one hundred and fourth Psalm, in which he describes nature. Not a smile of satisfaction; on the contrary, if you
"Molest the ancient, solitary reign"
of prejudice in their minds against the South, they either mope, or make a sad noise. With regard to others, are there any limits to their anger and denunciations? You may, without difficulty, imagine how this appears to the Southerner, who knows the truthfulness of the representations which excite this passionate resentment, and how much the character of the North for ordinary candor falls in his esteem, and how little disposed he is to heed their admonitions, and how absurd their demands upon his ecclesiastical bodies to suffer their remonstrances, appear, together with their subsequent withdrawal of fellowship for the reason publicly assigned; namely, that the South will not let them admonish her "in the Lord." Indeed, whatever may be true of slavery, the South looks on the great body of zealous anti-slavery people as being in as false and unnatural a state of excitement as the Massachusetts people were in the times of witchcraft. A great delusion is over the minds of many at the North, like one of our eastern sea-fogs. It always makes a Southerner merry, when listening, in New York or Boston, for example, to a lecture, if the speaker concludes a sentence with some allusion to "freedom," and the people clap and stamp. That the blood should tingle in our veins at so slight a cause, makes him think that we are certainly in need of something worthy of our great excitability, and that we are thankful for small favors in that way. He does not think less than we of liberty where an occasion makes that name and idea appropriate; but that the condition of his slaves should reconsecrate for us all the old battle-cries of freedom, seems to him pitiably weak. It shows him how incompetent we are to deal with the acknowledged evils of slavery; and there are those at the South who are stirred up by us to take extreme views of an opposite kind, which good people there very generally deplore.
A Southern lady here tells me that some time since, being on a visit at the North, she received through the post-office anonymous letters with extracts from newspapers containing little items of woe, declared to have been experienced at the South, with here and there delirious abuse of slave-holders and frenzied words about freedom. She could have matched every one of them, she said, with wife-murders at the North, during her visit. In dealing with people like the slaves, of course men of brutal passions, provoked by their stupidity and negligence, or exasperated by their crimes, and, in cases of ungovernable anger, venting their displeasure upon their negroes under slight or merely imaginary affronts, give occasion to tales of distress which are nowhere mourned over more deeply than at the South. These cases are the natural results of a superior and inferior class of society, standing in the relation, the one to the other, of proprietor and dependant, and such evils are not peculiar to this institution. Human nature is the same everywhere. The South is willing to have the abuses of irresponsible power among them compared with abuses, discomforts, disadvantages elsewhere. Grant that an owner may abuse his liberty; ownership leads to more of care and protection than of abuse and cruelty. The slaves are here; the question is not, What would be the best possible condition for these people under the sun, but, What is best for them, being on this soil. "Set them all free," is the answer of some. Half the ministers at the North every Sabbath pray for the slaves thus: "Break every yoke; let the oppressed go free." If this means, Give the slaves their liberty, this would be their most direful calamity; they would be chased away from every free state, in process of time, and the Dred Scott decision would be invoked, even in Massachusetts, by its present most bitter opposers, and in its most misrepresented forms, as a defence of the American white race against the blacks. "Set them free and hire them!" is the reply of others. This, among other effects, would make them a far more degraded people than they now are. Slavery keeps them identified with the whites; they are more respectable and respected by far, in this relation, than they can be, in the circumstances of the case, if they are detached from the whites. There is no expression which conveys a more absolute error than this, and we often meet with it: "He ceased to be a slave, and became a man." I read lately the report of a lecture at the North, by an eminent gentleman, of great moral worth, and highly respected. He said, "A man cannot be, voluntarily, a slave, without having his manhood crushed out of him." That might be true in our case; but having seen manhood forced into benighted natures here, and splendid specimens of man as the result, I was, by this remark, reminded again of the delusiveness which there is sometimes in the best of logic. You gave us a good specimen in your admirable illustration of no water in the moon. A comparison of the slaves with the free negroes of the North, and in Canada, and with the free colored population in some of the Slave States, will satisfy any impartial spectator that manhood is full as conspicuous in the slaves, as a body, as in the free negroes.
Here are two extracts from Northern papers, which, true or false, awaken compassion in every human bosom toward the free colored people. Indeed, allowing these statements, so unfavorable to them, to be mostly false, it reveals the antipathy of the white to the colored race when the blacks come to seek equality with the whites. Let these free blacks be mixed up in large proportions with society in England and Scotland, and if Canadians feel as they are here represented, we may be sure that the present tone of the British people with regard to American slavery and the blacks, would also be modified. But here are the extracts:—
"Getting Sick of Them.—The colored persons of Toronto, having had a meeting to denounce Colonel John Prince, a member of the Canadian Parliament, for speaking against them, he publishes a reply, in which he says,—
"'It has been my misfortune, and the misfortune of my family, to live among those blacks (and they have lived upon us) for twenty-four years. I have employed hundreds of them, and with the exception of one, named Richard Hunter, not one of them has done for us a week's honest labor. I have taken them into my service, fed and clothed them, year after year, on their arrival from the States, and in return have generally found them rogues and thieves, and a graceless, worthless, thriftless set of vagabonds. This is my very plain and simple description of the darkies as a body, and it would be indorsed by all the Western white men, with very few exceptions.'"
"Underground R.R. Return Trains.—The 'Cleveland Plaindealer' states that every steamboat arriving at that place brings back from Canada families of negroes, who have formerly fled to the Provinces from the States. They are principally from Canada West. They describe the life and condition of the blacks in Canada as miserable in the extreme. The West is, therefore, likely to have large accessions to its colored population. The Canada folks do not want them, and have shown a disposition in their Parliament, and otherwise, to discourage their coming to, or remaining in the Provinces. In some instances, the question of ejecting those now resident there, has been discussed. Our Western States will be likely to experience a similar attack of the black vomito, when they shall have become satisfied with this peculiar Southern luxury. In some localities the superabundant free negro population has already become a burden, while in others they are under severe restrictions, which amount almost to an exclusion from the limits of the state.
"Should this exodus from Canada continue to any great extent, it would throw such a burden upon those states which have adopted the most liberal policy towards the negro, that it would occasion a reaction in the public sentiment which would compel them to abandon their abolition doctrine and practice, for their own self-protection. We should then hear of fewer attempts to abduct slaves from the slave-holding states; and abolitionists would be content to allow slaves to remain under the care and protection of their masters. Even though at heart sympathizing with the oppressed and task-worn negro, and yearning towards him with all the love of the professed philanthropist, he would still be permitted to toil and bleed; for now that the route to Canada has been closed, there is no alternative but to take them to their own bosoms."
Compare with this the condition of the free blacks in South Carolina. The amount of property held by them is $1,600,000; their annual taxes, $27,000; and the free blacks own slaves to the amount of $300,000 in value.
The above statements teach us that any attempts to force the Southern slaves away from their present relation, are in violation of the laws of Providence concerning them. If they become free in a natural way, and can provide for themselves, or be provided for, it is well; otherwise, the South, and their present relation to the white race, are the bounds of their habitation fixed for them by an all-wise God, till his purpose concerning them as a race shall be made manifest. The people of the Free States ought to thank God that the South is willing to keep the colored people. Instead of inflaming our passions against the abstract wrongfulness of holding fellow-men in bondage, we should consider that theoretical justice to the slaves as a whole would be practical inhumanity. The destiny of the colored race here is a dark problem. But it is not for us to penetrate the future. When God is ready to finish his purposes with regard to their continuance with us, He will open a way for their liberation; in the mean time it is our duty to protect them from their own improvidence and from the neglect and degradation which they would suffer at the hands of the Free States. Instead of aiding slaves to escape, or rejoicing when we hear of runaways, I say we should feel grateful, on our own account, and for the slaves, that the South is willing to harbor them, and we ought to consider that the very best thing to be done for them is to encourage the South in treating them well, mitigating their trials and sorrows, and, in short, complying with the Apostle's doctrine and exhortations as to the duty of masters.