During the last war his princely mansion was ever open to the officers of the army, and many a wounded soldier has been cheered and comforted by his hospitality. But now he is regarded as no better than his poorest slave, and lies as lowly as they, in the narrow house appointed for all the living.
My old master had two brothers: the oldest, Thomas Helm, was a Captain in the United States Army, and had been in many hard-fought battles. His younger brother, William, was a Captain also; but Thomas was the man to awaken curiosity. I have lived with him, but never knew of his going unarmed for an hour, until he left Virginia and came to Steuben County, where he died. When at the South, I have seen strangers approach him, but they were invariably commanded to "stand" and to "approach him at their peril." He finally came to the State of New York, bringing with him his "woman" with whom he lived, and two children, with whom he settled on a piece of land given him by my old master, where the old soldier lived, died, and was buried on one of his small "clearings" under an old apple tree. He owned a few slaves, but at his death his "woman" collected every thing she could, and among the rest, two or three slave children, to whom she had no right or claim whatever, and made her way to Kentucky. About a year ago I visited the spot where the brave old defender of his country had been buried, but found very little to mark the resting place of the brother of my old master. They had passed away. Their wealth, power and bravery had come to nought; and no tribute was now paid to the memory of one of "Old Virginia's best families." The blood of which they were wont to boast, was now no more revered than that which commingled with the African and circulated in the veins of his despised and downtrodden slaves.
BRITISH EMANCIPATION OF SLAVERY.
As time passed on I found myself progressing in a profitable business. I had paid for my house and lot, and purchased another adjoining, on which I had erected a valuable brick building. The Lord prospered all my undertakings and I felt grateful for my good fortune. I kept all kinds of groceries and grain, which met a ready sale; and now I began to look about me for a partner in life, to share my joys and sorrows, and to assist me on through the tempestuous scenes of a life-long voyage. Such a companion I found in the intelligent and amiable Miss B——, to whom I was married on the eleventh of May, 1825. She was the youngest daughter of a particular friend, who had traveled extensively and was noted for his honesty and intelligence.
About this time, too, "Sam Patch" made his last and fatal leap from a scaffold twenty five feet above the falls of Genesee, which are ninety-six feet in height. From thence he plunged into the foaming river to rise no more in life. The following spring the body of the foolish man was found and buried, after having lain several months in the turbulent waters of the Genesee.
This year was also rendered memorable by the efficient labors of Professor Finney, through whose faithful preaching of the gospel, many were brought to a saving knowledge of the truth.
The "Emancipation Act" had now been passed, and the happy time for it to take effect was drawing nigh. Slavery could no longer exist in the Empire State nor receive the protection of her laws. Would to God it had so continued to be what it professed—the refuge of the bondman and the home of the free. But alas! Now the flying fugitive from Slavery finds no security within her borders; he must flee onward, to the dominion of Queen Victoria, ere he rests, lest the exaction of the odious "Fugitive Slave Law" return him to the house of bondage.
But the Emancipation Bill had been passed, and the colored people felt it to be a time fit for rejoicing. They met in different places and determined to evince their gratitude by a general celebration. In Rochester they convened in large numbers, and resolved to celebrate the glorious day of freedom at Johnson's Square, on the fifth day of July. This arrangement was made so as not to interfere with the white population who were everywhere celebrating the day of their independence—"the Glorious Fourth,"—for amid the general and joyous shout of liberty, prejudice had sneeringly raised the finger of scorn at the poor African, whose iron bands were loosed, not only from English oppression, but the more cruel and oppressive power of Slavery.
They met according to previous appointment, Mr. A. H——, having been chosen president, Mr. H. E——, marshal, and Mr. H. D——, reader of the "Act of Emancipation," and "The Declaration of Independence." A large audience of both white and colored people assembled, and the day which had been ushered in by the booming cannon, passed by in the joyous realization that we were indeed free men. To the music of the band the large procession marched from the square to the hotel, where ample provision was made for dinner, after listening to the following oration, which I had been requested to deliver.
I must not omit to mention that on the morning of that happy day, a committee of colored men waited upon the Hon. Matthew Brown, and in behalf of the citizens of Monroe County, presented their thanks for his noble exertions in the Legislature, in favor of the Act by which thousands were made free men.
They were received by that worthy gentleman with grateful and pleasing assurances of his continued labor in behalf of freedom.
Now I will lay before the reader my address to the audience on that eventful day.
ORATION—TERMINATION OF SLAVERY.
The age in which we live is characterised in no ordinary degree, by a certain boldness and rapidity in the march of intellectual and political improvements. Inventions the most surprising; revolutions the most extraordinary, are springing forth, and passing in quick succession before us,—all tending most clearly to the advancement of mankind towards that state of earthly perfection and happiness, from which they are yet so far distant, but of which their nature and that of the world they inhabit, are most certainly capable. It is at all times pleasing and instructive to look backward by the light of history, and forward by the light of analogical reasoning, to behold the gradual advancement of man from barbarism to civilization, from civilization toward the higher perfections of his nature; and to hope—nay, confidently believe, that the time is not far distant when liberty and equal rights being everywhere established, morality and the religion of the gospel everywhere diffused,—man shall no longer lift his hand for the oppression of his fellow man; but all, mutually assisting and assisted, shall move onward throughout the journey of human life, like the peaceful caravan across the burning sands of Arabia. And never, on this glorious anniversary, so often and so deservedly celebrated by millions of free men, but which we are to-day for the first time called to celebrate—never before, has the eye been able to survey the past with so much satisfaction, or the future with hopes and expectations so brilliant and so flattering; it is to us a day of two-fold joy. We are men, though the strong hand of prejudice and oppression is upon us; we can, and we will rejoice in the advancement of the rapidly increasing happiness of mankind, and especially of our own race. We can, and we will rejoice in the growing power and glory of the country we inhabit. Although Almighty God has not permitted us to remain in the land of our forefathers and our own, the glories of national independence, and the sweets of civil and religious liberty, to their full extent; but the strong hand of the spoiler has borne us into a strange land, yet has He of His great goodness given us to behold those best and noblest of his gifts to man, in their fairest and loveliest forms; and not only have we beheld them, but we have already felt much of their benignant influence. Most of us have hitherto enjoyed many, very many of the dearest rights of freemen. Our lives and personal liberties have been held as sacred and inviolable; the rights of property have been extended to us, in this land of freedom; our industry has been, and still is, liberally rewarded; and so long as we live under a free and happy government which denies us not the protection of its laws, why should we fret and vex ourselves because we have had no part in framing them, nor anything to do with their administration. When the fruits of the earth are fully afforded us, we do not wantonly refuse them, nor ungratefully repine because we have done nothing towards the cultivation of the tree which produces them. No, we accept them with lively gratitude; and their sweetness is not embittered by reflecting upon the manner in which they were obtained. It is the dictate of sound wisdom, then, to enjoy without repining, the freedom, privileges, and immunities which wise and equal laws have awarded us—nay, proudly to rejoice and glory in their production, and stand ready at all times to defend them at the hazard of our lives, and of all that is most dear to us.
But are we alone shut out and excluded from any share in the administration of government? Are not the clergy, a class of men equally ineligible to office? A class of men almost idolized by their countrymen, ineligible to office! And are we alone excluded from what the world chooses to denominate polite society? And are not a vast majority of the polar race excluded? I know not why, but mankind of every age, nation, and complexion have had lower classes; and, as a distinction, they have chosen to arrange themselves in the grand spectacle of human life, like seats in a theater—rank above rank, with intervals between them. But if any suppose that happiness or contentment is confined to any single class, or that the high or more splendid order possesses any substantial advantage in those respects over their more lowly brethren, they must be wholly ignorant of all rational enjoyment. For what though the more humble orders cannot mingle with the higher on terms of equality. This, if rightly considered, is not a curse but a blessing. Look around you, my friends: what rational enjoyment is not within your reach? Your homes are in the noblest country in the world, and all of that country which your real happiness requires, may at any time be yours. Your industry can purchase it; and its righteous laws will secure you in its possession. But, to what, my friends, do you owe all these blessings? Let not the truth be concealed. You owe them to that curse, that bitter scourge of Africa, whose partial abolishment you are this day convened to celebrate. Slavery has been your curse, but it shall become your rejoicing. Like the people of God in Egypt, you have been afflicted; but like them too, you have been redeemed. You are henceforth free as the mountain winds. Why should we, on this day of congratulation and joy, turn our view upon the origin of African Slavery? Why should we harrow up our minds by dwelling on the deceit, the forcible fraud and treachery that have been so long practised on your hospitable and unsuspecting countrymen? Why speak of fathers torn from the bosom of their families, wives from the embraces of their husbands, children from the protection of their parents; in fine, of all the tender and endearing relations of life dissolved and trampled under foot, by the accursed traffic in human flesh? Why should we remember, in joy and exultation, the thousands of our countrymen who are to-day, in this land of gospel light, this boasted land of civil and religious liberty, writhing under the lash and groaning beneath the grinding weight of Slavery's chain? I ask, Almighty God, are they who do such things thy chosen and favorite people? But, away with such thoughts as these; we will rejoice, though sobs interrupt the songs of our rejoicing, and tears mingle in the cup we pledge to Freedom; our harps though they have long hung neglected upon the willows, shall this day be strung full high to the notes of gladness. On this day, in one member at least of this mighty Republic, the Slavery of our race has ceased forever! No more shall the insolent voice of a master be the main-spring of our actions, the sole guide of our conduct; no more shall their hands labor in degrading and profitless servitude. Their toils will henceforth be voluntary, and be crowned with the never failing reward of industry. Honors and dignities may perhaps never be ours; but wealth, virtue, and happiness are all within the compass of our moderate exertions. And how shall we employ a few moments better than in reflecting upon the means by which these are to be obtained. For what can be more proper and more profitable to one who has just gained an invaluable treasure, than to consider how he may use it to the best possible advantage? And here I need not tell you that a strict observance to all the precepts of the gospel ought to be your first and highest aim; for small will be the value of all that the present world can bestow, if the interests of the world to come are neglected and despised. None of you can be ignorant of what the gospel teaches. Bibles may easily be obtained; nor can there be a greater disgrace, or a more shameful neglect of duty than for a person of mature age, and much more, for any father of a family to be without that most precious of all books—the Bible. If, therefore, any of you are destitute of a Bible, hasten to procure one. Will any of you say that it can be of no use to you, or that you cannot read it? Look then to that noblest of all remedies for this evil, the Sunday School—that most useful of all institutions. There you may learn without loss of time or money, that of which none should be ignorant—to read.
Let me exhort you with earnestness to give your most sincere attention to this matter. It is of the utmost importance to every one of you. Let your next object be to obtain as soon as may be, a competency of the good things of this world; immense wealth is not necessary for you, and would but diminish your real happiness. Abject poverty is and ought to be regarded as the greatest, most terrible of all possible evils. It should be shunned as a most deadly and damning sin. What then are the means by which so dreadful a calamity may be avoided? I will tell you, my friends, in these simple words—hear and ponder on them; write them upon the tablets of your memory; they are worthy to be inscribed in letters of gold upon every door-post—"industry, prudence, and economy." Oh! they are words of power to guide you to respectability and happiness. Attend, then, to some of the laws which industry impose, while you have health and strength. Let not the rising sun behold you sleeping or indolently lying upon your beds. Rise ever with the morning light; and, till sun-set, give not an hour to idleness. Say not human nature cannot endure it. It can—it almost requires it. Sober, diligent, and moderate labor does not diminish it, but on the contrary, greatly adds to the health, vigor, and duration of the human frame. Thousands of the human race have died prematurely of disease engendered by indolence and inactivity. Few, very few indeed, have suffered by the too long continuance of bodily exertion. As you give the day to labor, so devote the night to rest; for who that has drunk and reveled all night at a tippling shop, or wandered about in search of impious and stolen pleasures, has not by so doing not only committed a most heinous and damning sin in the sight of Heaven, but rendered himself wholly unfit for the proper discharge of the duties of the coming day. Nor think that industry or true happiness do not go hand in hand; and to him who is engaged in some useful avocation, time flies delightfully and rapidly away. He does not, like the idle and indolent man, number the slow hours with sighs—cursing both himself and them for the tardiness of their flight. Ah, my friends, it is utterly impossible for him who wastes time in idleness, ever to know anything of true happiness. Indolence, poverty, wretchedness, are inseparable companions,—fly them, shun idleness, as from eminent and inevitable destruction. In vain will you labor unless prudence and economy preside over and direct all your exertions. Remember at all times that money even in your own hands, is power; with it you may direct as you will the actions of your pale, proud brethren. Seek after and amass it then, by just and honorable means; and once in your hand never part with it but for a full and fair equivalent; nor let that equivalent be something which you do not want, and for which you cannot obtain more than it cost you. Be watchful and diligent and let your mind be fruitful in devises for the honest advancement of your worldly interest. So shall you continually rise in respectability, in rank and standing in this so late and so long the land of your captivity.
Above all things refrain from the excessive use of ardent spirits. There is no evil whose progress is so imperceptible; and at the same time so sure and deadly, as that of intemperance; and by slow degrees it undermines health, wealth, and happiness, till all at length tumble into one dreadful mass of ruin. If God has given you children, he has in so doing imposed upon you a most fearful responsibility; believe me, friends, you will answer to God for every misfortune suffered, and every crime committed by them which right education and example could have taught them to avoid. Teach them reverence and obedience to the laws both of God and man. Teach them sobriety, temperance, justice, and truth. Let their minds be rightly instructed—imbued with kindness and brotherly love, charity, and benevolence. Let them possess at least so much learning as is to be acquired in the common schools of the country. In short, let their welfare be dearer to you than any earthly enjoyment; so shall they be the richest of earthly blessings.
My countrymen, let us henceforth remember that we are men. Let us as one man, on this day resolve that henceforth, by continual endeavors to do good to all mankind, we will claim for ourselves the attention and respect which as men we should possess. So shall every good that can be the portion of man, be ours—this life shall be happy, and the life to come, glorious.
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The opinion of the public regarding the celebration and performances of that day, together with the behavior of the colored people, will be seen by the following short extract from the Rochester Daily Advertiser, published soon after the occurrence of those events:
"ABOLITION OF SLAVERY.
"The extinction of that curse by the laws of our State, was marked with appropriate rejoicings on the part of the African race in this neighborhood. A procession of considerable length and respectable appearance, preceded by a band of music, moved from Brown's Island through the principal streets to the public square, yesterday forenoon, where a stage and seats were erected, for the speakers and audience. The throne of Grace was addressed by the Rev. Mr. Allen, a colored clergyman. The act declaring all slaves free in this State, on the fourth day of July, 1827, was read, which was succeeded by the reading of the Declaration of Independence and delivery of an oration by Mr. Steward. We have heard but one opinion from several gentlemen who were present, and that was highly complimentary to the composition and delivery of the same.
"The exercises were concluded by a short discourse from the Rev. Mr. Allen, and the procession moved off to partake of an entertainment prepared for the occasion. The thing was got up in good order, and passed off remarkably well. The conduct of the emancipated race was exemplary throughout, and if their future enjoyment of freedom be tinctured with the prudence that characterised their celebration of its attainment, the country will have no reason to mourn the philanthropy that set them free."
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Thus ended our first public celebration of our own and our country's freedom. All conducted themselves with the strictest propriety and decorum, retiring to their homes soberly and in proper season.
CONDITION OF FREE COLORED PEOPLE.
Pursuant to a call given in the summer of 1830, by the colored residents of Philadelphia, for a National Convention of their race, I started in company with a friend to attend it; having previously engaged seats inside Mr. Coe's stage-coach as far as Utica, N.Y., to which place we had paid our fare the same as other passengers.
We rode on to Auburn very pleasantly, but when at that place, we with others moved to resume our seats; we were met by a stern rebuke for presuming to seat ourselves on the inside, and were ordered to ride on the outside of the coach. In vain we expostulated; in vain we reminded the driver of the agreement, and of our having paid for an inside seat; we were told to take the outside of the coach or remain behind.
Desiring to attend the convention, we concluded to go on, submitting to this rank injustice and dishonesty, until our return, when we determined to sue the proprietor of that line of stages. An opportunity was offered soon after, when I commenced a suit for damages against Mr. Sherwood, who was the great stage proprietor of those days. He, however, cleared himself by declaring that he was in no way responsible for the failures of Mr. Coe, to whom I must look for remuneration. I never found it convenient to sue Mr. Coe, and so the matter ended.
We passed through New York City to the place of our destination, where we found many of our brethren already assembled.
Philadelphia, which I now saw for the first time, I thought the most beautiful and regularly laid out city I ever beheld. Here had lived the peaceable, just, and merciful William Penn; and here many of his adherents still reside. Here, too, was the place where the Rt. Rev. Bishop Allen, the first colored American bishop in the United States, had labored so successfully. When the Methodists sought to crush by cruel prejudice the poor African, he stepped boldly forward in defence of their cause, which he sustained, with a zeal and talent ever to be revered.
Thousands were brought to a knowledge of the truth, and induced "to seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness," through his instrumentality. Through the benign influence of this good man, friends and means were raised for his poor brethren, to build houses of worship, where they would no more be dragged from their knees when in prayer, and told to seat themselves by the door. Oh, how much good can one good and faithful man do, when devoted to the cause of humanity—following in the footsteps of the blessed Christ; doing unto others as they would be done by; and remembering those in bonds as bound with them. What though his skin be black as ebony, if the heart of a brother beats in his bosom? Oh, that man could judge of character as does our Heavenly Father; then would he judge righteous judgment, and cease to look haughtily down upon his afflicted fellow, because "his skin is colored not like his own."
We convened at the specified time, and organized by appointing Rev. R. Allen, president, A. Steward, vice-president, and J.C. Morrell, secretary. The convention which continued in session three days, was largely attended by all classes of people, and many interesting subjects were ably discussed; but the most prominent object was the elevation of our race. Resolutions were passed calculated to encourage our brethren to take some action on the subjects of education and mechanism. Agricultural pursuits were also recommended;—and here allow me to give my opinion in favor of the latter, as a means of sustenance and real happiness.
I knew many colored farmers, all of whom are well respected in the neighborhood of their residence. I wish I could count them by hundreds; but our people mostly flock to cities where they allow themselves to be made "hewers of wood and drawers of water;" barbers and waiters,—when, if they would but retire to the country and purchase a piece of land, cultivate and improve it, they would be far richer and happier than they can be in the crowded city. It is a mistaken idea that there is more prejudice against color in the country. True, it exists everywhere, but I regard it less potent in the country, where a farmer can live less dependant on his oppressors. The sun will shine, the rains descend, and the earth bring forth her increase, just as readily for the colored agriculturist as for his pale face neighbor. Yes, and our common mother Earth will, when life is ended, as readily open her bosom to receive your remains in a last embrace, as that of the haughty scorner of our rights.
In the city, however, there is no escape from the crushing weight of prejudice, to ramble over fields of your own cultivation; to forget your sorrows in the refreshing air that waves the loaded branches of an orchard of your own planting; nor to solace yourself with a gambol over the green meadow with your little ones. It is all toil, toil, with a burthened heart until shadows fall across the hearth-stone, and dismal forebodings darken the fireside, from whence the weary wife retires to refresh herself in broken slumber for the renewed toil of another day. Will not my friends think of these and many other advantages in favor of a country life, and practice accordingly?
After the close of the convention, I returned to my business in Rochester.
Until the discussion, which commenced about this time on the subject of temperance, I had been engaged, as most other grocers were at that time, in the sale of spirituous liquors somewhat extensively. My attention had never before been called especially to the subject, though I had witnessed some of its direst evils; but now, when I saw the matter in its true light, I resolved to give it up. I was doing well and making handsome profits on the sale of alcoholic beverages. I had also experienced a good deal of trouble with it. My license allowed me to sell any quantity less than five gallons; but it was a fine of twenty-five dollars if drunk on the premises,—one half of the sum to go to the complainant. If a vicious man got out of funds it became both easy and common for him to give some person a sixpence, half of which was to be spent for whisky, which made him a witness for the other, who would make immediate complaint, and collect his share of the fine. Nor could I prevent men who came with bottles, and purchased whisky, from drinking it where they pleased; consequently I was often called to answer to such complaints.
One morning a man entered my store and called for liquor, which the clerk gave him. After drinking it, he went directly to the office of A. House, Esq., and entered a complaint against the clerk who had served him; then stepped out for consultation with his counsel. At that moment I arrived at the office of the magistrate to whom I immediately made complaint against myself, relating to him also just how the event happened. In a few minutes the original complainant returned, to whom 'Squire House explained that he should have arraigned the proprietor of the store, and not the clerk as he had done. Determined on making a speculation, however, he demanded a precept for myself. The 'Squire, laughing most heartily, informed him that he was too late,—that Mr. Steward had the start of him, having just entered a complaint against himself, by which he saves one half of the fine. The man walked out, looking rather "cheap," nor did he or others annoy me afterwards by making complaints of that kind.
But now I saw, as never before, the sin of selling that which would make beasts of men, and only stopped to inquire what was duty in the matter. All the arguments in favor of its sale were more forcible then than now. All classes of persons used and drank the article; and it required more moral courage, to relinquish the business than it does now. Nevertheless, it appeared plain to my mind, that duty to God and my fellow-men required it, and I cheerfully gave it up forever.
I could not conscientiously, nor do I see how any man can, continue to traffic in this most fruitful source of pauperism and crime. No benefit whatever arises from its use as a beverage or from its sale. It is a curse to the drinker, to the seller, and to the community. Those who are licensed venders take from the government fifty dollars for every one put into the treasury. The money paid for licenses is a very meager compensation for the beggary, crime, and bloodshed which rum produces. All who have any knowledge of the statistics of the State, or of our prison and police records know, that intemperance has done more to fill the prisons, work-houses, alms-houses, and asylums of the State than all other influences combined; and yet men uphold the traffic. Their favors are for those who love its use and sale, and their anathemas for him, who is striving to save a nation of drunkards from swift destruction; yea, their own sires, sons, and brothers from the grave of the inebriate.
When in Rochester a short time since, soliciting subscribers for this work, I stepped into a distillery and asked a man to subscribe for it. He hesitated in his decision until he took a tumbler and filling it with brandy, invited me to drink. I thanked him, saying I never drink brandy. "Never drink!" he growled, "then I tell you, sir, that you stand a much better chance of being struck by lightning than of getting a subscriber here." Oh, very well; most likely had he agreed to take a copy, he would have been sorely displeased with my views of the liquor traffic, and perhaps with the compliment I have here paid him.
But in the foregoing remarks I have said but a tithe of what my heart feels, when I think of the sufferings occasioned by drunkenness.
Even the cup of the burthened slave, writhing in his chains and toiling under the lash, is not full of bitterness until the demon rum throws in its dregs and fills it to overflowing.
How often does it occur that a passionate master, heated with wine,—mad with himself and all about him, pours out his vengeful ire on the head and back of some helpless slave, and leaves him weltering in his blood! How often may be heard the agonized wail of the slave mother, deploring the departure of some innocent child that has been lost in gambling, while the master was intoxicated!
How often do the shrieks of the poor but virtuous slave girl, ring through the midnight air, as she, pleading for death rather than life, rushes screaming away from a brutal master, infuriated and drunk! If it is a fact, and certainly it is, that the master is thus affected by his costly wine; what, think you, will be the temper and condition of the coarse and heartless overseer who drinks his miserable whisky or bad brandy? It is horrible, beyond description. I have often myself seen a drunken overseer, after pouring down dram after dram, mount his horse and ride furiously among the slaves, beating, bruising, mangling with his heavy cowhide every one he chanced to meet, until the ground presented the appearance of a battlefield.
PERSECUTION OF THE COLORED PEOPLE.
While the colored population of New York were rejoicing in the measure of freedom allowed them by the more wholesome laws of that State, our brethren in Ohio were being oppressed and maltreated by the unjust and odious "black laws" of that professedly free State, enacted with special reference to the disposition of the colored race.
In Cincinnati, O., within sight of the slave land of Kentucky, a terrible persecution had commenced, and an effort was made to drive all colored persons from the place.
Our people had settled there in large numbers, but now a mob had assembled in that city with the determination to drive them, not only from their homes and city, but from the State. A bloody conflict ensued, in which the white and black man's blood mingled freely. So great had been the loss of property; and go horrid and fearful had been the scene, that our people chose to leave, rather than remain under such untoward circumstances. They lived in constant fear of the mob which had so abused and terrified them. Families seated at the fireside started at every breath of wind, and trembled at the sound of every approaching footstep. The father left his family in fear, lest on his return from his daily labor, he should find his wife and children butchered, and his house left desolate.
Meetings were held to devise plans and means for leaving the place where they had been so cruelly treated. But where should they go? And why should they be compelled to leave the State of Ohio? The fact is, that the African race there, as in all parts of this nominally free Republic, was looked down upon by the white population as being little above the brute creation; or, as belonging to some separate class of degraded beings, too deficient in intellect to provide for their own wants, and must therefore depend on the superior ability of their oppressors, to take care of them. Indeed, both the time and talents of eminent men have been wasted in unsuccessful research for the line of demarcation, between the African and the highest order of animals,—such for instance as the monkey or the ourang-outang. Some even, have advanced the absurd idea, that wicked Cain transmitted to them the "mark" which the Almighty set upon him for the murder of his brother; and that he, (who then must have survived the deluge), is the progenitor of that despised and inferior race—the negro slave of the United States of America!
If it be true, that the natural inferiority of the black man, connects him so closely with the animal creation, it looks passing strange to me that he should be made responsible for the violation of laws which he has been declared too imbecile to aid in framing or of comprehending. Nor is it less strange to see him enslaved and compelled by his labor to maintain both his master and himself, after having declared him incapable of doing either. Why not let him go then? Why hold with an unyielding grasp, so miserable and useless a piece of property? Is it benevolence that binds him with his master's chain? Judge ye. Stranger still is the fact of attaching such vast influence to his presence and so much concern regarding his movements, when in a state of freedom, if indeed, he is of so little worth and consequence, and so nearly related to the brutes that perish.
Surely, the Legislature of Ohio, or of any other State, would never feel called upon to sit in grave counsel, for the purpose of framing laws which would impose fine and imprisonment on a monkey, should one chance to locate within its jurisdiction; nor would they think it advisable for the court to assemble, or a jury to be empanelled, to drive from their midst an ourang-outang. And yet this and more must be done to get rid of the hated negro, who has been born in that State, or has fled to it for protection from the manstealer.
When strangers pass hastily through this country, and after a careless glance at the colored population, report them to be "an indolent, improvident, and vicious class of persons," they should consider some of the many obstacles thrown in the way of the most favored of that race. Knowing as they do, the rigor of the law, and feeling as they do, the oppressive power of prejudice, it becomes almost impossible for them to rise to that station they were designed to fill, and for which their natural abilities as certainly qualify them, as though they had never been robbed of their God-given rights. But let us return to our tried friends in Cincinnati.
They finally resolved to collect what they could of their possessions and establish a colony in Canada. In accordance with this resolution, they agreed to first send an agent to obtain liberty to settle there, and if successful to select and purchase a large tract of land, making such arrangements as he thought best for their speedy removal to their new home. Israel Lewis was their appointed agent, who departed immediately for Upper Canada to perform his mission; and there for the present we will leave him and return to Rochester.
Our more favored brethren in New York felt a deep sympathy for their outraged countrymen in Cincinnati; a sympathy equaled only by their indignation at the cause of such demand.
A meeting expressive of their views and feelings on that subject, was convened in the city of Rochester during which, the following preamble and resolutions were read and unanimously adopted:
Whereas, The city of Cincinnati has again become the scene of another dreadful mob and bloodshed, where nothing but terror and confusion reigned for a number of hours together.
And Whereas, Our brethren and fellow citizens were left exposed to the fury of an ungovernable mob, made up of the base, the ignorant, and vile, the very dregs of society; and probably led on by slaveholders, who of all men are the most execrable; while boasting of liberty, he tramples on the dearest rights of men and in the greatest robber of it on earth.
Resolved, That we deprecate an appeal to arms by any class of our fellow citizens, except in extreme cases, and we think that such a case has been presented in the late outrage at Cincinnati.
Resolved, That when a class of men so far forget the duty they owe to God, their fellow men, and their country, as to trample under their feet the very laws they have made, and are in duty bound to obey and execute, we believe it to be the duty of our brethren and fellow citizens, to protect their lives against such lawless mobs; and if in the conflict, any of the mobocrats perish, every good citizen should say Amen.
Resolved, That we do truly sympathize with the friends of God's poor; the friends of the oppressed, throughout this boasted land of liberty, in the losses they have sustained in consequence of the mob.
Resolved, That we believe the time is not far distant, when the Queen City of the West, shall be redeemed from the hateful influence of the slaveholder; redeemed from that cruel prejudice of caste which, hangs like a mill-stone around the neck of our people; redeemed from all those unequal laws, which have a tendency to make the strong stronger and the weak weaker; redeemed from their falsehearted friends, whose sarcastic smile is more to be feared than the frowns of an open enemy.
Resolved, That the untiring exertions of our friends, and the indefatigable industry of our brethren, are sure guarantees that the State of Ohio will not long be what she now is,—a hissing and by-word on account of her iniquitous laws; but that she will rise above every narrow minded prejudice, and raise up her sable sons and daughters and place them on an equality with the rest of her citizens.
Resolved, That we deeply deplore the loss our friends have sustained in the destruction of their printing press in Cincinnati.
Resolved, That we as an oppressed people, feel it our duty to give our undivided support to the press and the laborers in our cause.
* * * * *
Mr. Israel Lewis made his way to Canada, and having obtained permission to establish a colony, he bargained with the Canada Company for one township of land, for which he agreed to pay the money demanded, in a few days, and then returned to Cincinnati, by way of Rochester. The poor, persecuted colored people, had in the mean time made ready for their flight from their homes, their native land, and from this boasted free Republic, to seek a residence in the cold and dreary wilds of Canada; to claim that protection from the English government which had been denied them in the land of their birth; and like the overtasked Israelites, "they went out with their wives and their little ones," but with smaller possessions.
During the stay of Mr. Lewis in Rochester, he reported there and elsewhere, that eleven hundred persons were then in the dense woods of Canada in a state of actual starvation, and called upon the humane everywhere, to assist them in such extreme suffering.
To me he also told the story of their destitution, which affected me deeply. I had at that time just made a public profession of my faith in the Christian religion and my determination to be governed by its holy precepts, I felt for the distressed and suffering everywhere; but particularly for those who had fled, poor and destitute, from cruel task-masters, choosing rather the sufferings of cold and hunger, with liberty, than the meager necessities of life and Slavery. I concluded to go to Canada and try to do some good; to be of some little service in the great cause of humanity.
As soon as practicable therefore, I left Rochester for Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada, which I found quite a thriving town, and containing some fine brick buildings, and some I saw were built of mud, dried in the sun, wearing rather a poor than pretty appearance. At Toronto we hired a team to take us on to Ancaster, fifty miles distant. We traveled now through a new country; the roads were very bad, and the inhabitants few. We, however, reached Ancaster, a small village, where we remained one night and next morning pursued our journey to the settlement of the poor fugitives from Cincinnati. After some hard traveling, we finally arrived at the place where we found our brethren, it is true, but in quite destitute circumstances. Our fare was poor indeed, but as good as they could get. The township was one unbroken wilderness when purchased for the colony, and of course their lands must be cleared of the heavy timber before crops could be got in, hence, there was a great deal of destitution and suffering before their harvest could ripen after the land was prepared for the seed.
The day after I arrived at the settlement, which consisted of a few rude log cabins, a meeting was called to give the township a name. Several were suggested, but I at length motioned to name it in honor of the great philanthropist, Wilberforce. This was carried, and the township from that time has been known by that name. It is situated on what is known as the Huron Tract, Kent County, London District, and is the next north of the township of London. Our neighbors on the south, were a company of Irish people, who owned the township, and on the west side were a township of Welshmen, a hardy, industrious and enterprising people.
In Wilberforce there were no white inhabitants; the land appeared level and handsome, with but one stream of any magnitude running through it; this was the Oxsable, which was dry during a part of the year. All was one vast forest of heavy timber, that would compare well with that of Western New York. Beech, maple, ash, elm, oak, whitewood, bass, balm of gilead, &c. The soil was good for corn, wheat, rye, oats, and most kinds of the grain and vegetables raised in New York, and was a superior grazing country, about fifteen miles from London. This was a village containing perhaps thirty dwellings, and two hundred inhabitants; a court-house and jail all under one roof, built of stone and plastered; small doors and windows in the style of some of the old English castles. London was built in the forks, or between the east and west branches of the river Thames; hence, you would hear people speak of "going to the forks," instead of the village; it is about two hundred miles from Buffalo, and the nearest port between the two is Port Stanley, thirty miles from London.
I returned from Canada, where I had seen an oppressed people struggling with the hardships and privations of a new settlement; I had seen wretchedness in some places, but by no means sufficient to justify the report made by Mr. Lewis, and I determined I would remove there with my family, and do all in my power to assist the colored people in Canada.
I had witnessed a disposition on the part of some to prevent our brethren from settling in Wilberforce, while the colonizationists made a grand argument of it in favor of their wicked policy. All must see that it became a necessity with those who fled to Canada to save themselves from constant abuse or from Slavery, and in some instances their lives; and not because they admitted the justice of one portion of American citizens driving another from their native land; nor their right to colonize them anywhere on the habitable globe.
All these things taken into consideration, determined me to join them in the enterprize of building up an asylum for the oppressed, where our colored friends could obtain a home, and where, by their industry they could obtain a competency for themselves, besides providing a safe retreat for the weary fugitive from Slavery; guiding by its beacon light of liberty, the destitute and oppressed everywhere, to home and plenty.
I felt willing to make any sacrifice in my power to serve my Lord, by administering to the necessities of my down-trodden countrymen. How far my desire has been accomplished God only knows, but I do know that the purest motives influenced me, and an honest purpose directed my steps in removing to Wilberforce. Not so with all, however. Some there were, Judas-like, who "cared not for the poor; but because he was a thief and had the bag, and bore what was put therein," made great exertions for a time in favor of the settlement. It too soon became apparent that to make money was the prominent object with by far too great a number of the colonists; hence, our future difficulties.
REMOVAL TO CANADA.
In 1830, I closed my business in Rochester, preparatory to leaving for Canada. Some of my friends thought I had better remain in the States and direct emigrants to Wilberforce; while others were certain I could benefit them more by going myself at once,—the latter I had determined to do; but as the time drew near for me to start, an unaccountable gloominess and forebodings of evil took possession of my mind. Doubts of the practicability of the undertaking began to arise, though nothing unfavorable had occurred. To the throne of grace, I often bore the subject and besought my Heavenly Father to enlighten my mind, and direct my steps in duty's path regarding it; but to confess the truth, I never received any great encouragement from that source, though it occupied my mind constantly. During the hours of slumber I was continually being startled by frightful dreams,—sometimes I thought I saw a monstrous serpent as large as a log stretched across the road between Rochester and the Genesee River; at another I thought myself in the air so high that I could have a full view of the shores of Lake Ontario, and they were alive with snakes; and then I saw a large bird like an eagle, rise up out of the water and fly toward the south.
Notwithstanding these omens, I turned my steps toward Wilberforce. In May, 1831, we bid adieu to our friends in Rochester, and taking passage to Buffalo on a canal boat, we arrived in due time, and from whence we sailed for Port Stanley, or as it is sometimes called, Kettle Creek. It took a week to make this trip, which, with favorable wind might have been made in two days. The mouth of the creek makes a safe harbor at that place, where there is also a dock, one ware-house and several farm houses. The place was then very wild and picturesque in its appearance; we did not stop long, however, to admire its beauty, but engaged a farmer to take us on to London.
Ten miles on our way, and we came to a newly laid out village, called St. Thomas, from whence we pursued our journey through a new country to London, where we arrived tired and hungry, and put up for the night with a Mr. Faden. There I purchased a span of horses for one hundred and fifty dollars, and putting them before a new lumber wagon brought on from Rochester, we started for our wild and new home in good spirits, at which we arrived in good time.
The colony was comprised of some fourteen or fifteen families, and numbered some over fifty persons in all. The first business done after my arrival, was to appoint a board of managers, to take the general oversight of all the public business of the colony. The board consisted of seven men, chosen by the settlers, and as I was now one of them, they gave me the office of President. It was also resolved by the board, to send out two agents for the purpose of soliciting aid for the erection of houses for worship, and for the maintenance of schools in the colony.
The Rev. N. Paul was chosen one of their agents, and he received from me a power of attorney, authorising him to collect funds for the above purposes in England, Ireland, and Scotland; the other, I. Lewis was empowered to solicit and collect funds for the same objects in the United States.
Preparations were immediately made to fit Mr. Paul out for his mission to England, from whence he was to remit any funds he might receive to Arthur Tappan, of New York City; first to pay for his outfit, and afterwards to the treasurer of the board of managers, for the support of schools in Wilberforce. Mr. Paul, however, still lacked money to proceed to England, and therefore went to Rochester, where he found my old and tried friend Everard Peck; who was ever known as the poor man's friend, and the support of the weak everywhere. To this good man, whose memory is still dear to thousands, Mr. Paul showed his power of attorney, at the same time informing him of the condition and wants of the colony; and as was ever his wont, when help was needed, his purse, (though not one of the heaviest), was at his service. Through the kind influence of Mr. Peck, and some of the colored friends in that city, a note for seven hundred dollars was drawn up, signed by Mr. P. and cashed at the Bank, which enabled the agent to make the voyage without further delay. He reached England, and collected quite large sums of money, but entirely failed in the remittance of any sums, either to Mr. Tappan or myself. When the note of seven hundred dollars became due, Mr. Peck was obliged to pay, and lose it. It was out of my power, nor had any of the friends the means to do any thing towards paying it, inasmuch as they had assisted Paul all they could and got nothing in return. There was one thing, however, that the reverend gentleman did do,—he wrote me from time to time, to keep me advised of the success of his mission, and once informed me that he had then twelve hundred dollars on hand; but not a farthing could we get. We wrote him again and again, reminding him of the bank debt, and the uneasiness of his friends on account of it, but all to no purpose,—the Atlantic was between us, and he was making money too easily, to like to be interrupted. He never paid one dollar.
Let us now look after the other agent, who had likewise been fitted out, to prosecute his mission in the States. That he collected money professedly for the assistance of the colony, is too well known to require proof, but how much, we could not determine; we had reason to believe, however, that he retained quite a large sum. He would neither pay it over to the board, nor give any account of his proceedings. Very little did he ever pay over to the aid of the colony as designed. He was frequently written to, and every means in our power used, to induce him to give some account of his mission, but in vain; he would do nothing of the kind. Things went on in this way for two years, when it became evident that he had no intention of satisfying the minds of the settlers; and farther, that he meant to collect what he could, and use it as he pleased. We learned too, that when abroad, he lived extravagantly,—putting up at the most expensive hotels, giving parties, and doing many things, not only beyond his means, but that brought dishonor on the cause and colony. When he returned to the settlement, he would, if he had funds, make presents to his particular friends instead of paying it to the treasurer, as he was pledged to do, until the majority of the colony became thoroughly disgusted with his heartlessness and dishonesty. It was also perceivable that Lewis and Paul both, were getting weary of the solicitations of the board and complaints of the settlers, and were anxious to be rid of them, and enjoy their ill gotten gains in their own way.
It was never intended by the managers, to send out agents to beg money to be divided among the colonists; but to support schools, &c. Most of the settlers were able to work and did so; and were now getting along quite pleasantly.
Finally, after we had tried every means in vain, to get a settlement with Lewis, and to obtain his papers, there was nothing more we could do, but to warn the public against him, by publishing the facts in the case; this we did in various newspapers of Canada and in the States. An article inserted in the "Rochester Observer," to that effect, was like throwing a lighted match into a keg of powder. The excitement was intense on the part of Lewis and his friends, who were joined by the friends of N. Paul, to destroy, if they could, the board of managers. I, however, being the only member of that devoted board, who happened to be extensively known in the States, their anathemas were all poured out on me, and all their energies brought forward to insure my destruction. They were few in number, it is true, but they had money, and I had little to spend in litigation; besides, Lewis was in debt, and his creditors did not like to see his means of paying them swept away. The Canadians seemed to think there was no harm done if Lewis did get money out of the "Yankees," as long as it came into their hands at last, and so, on the whole, they raised a tremendous storm, designed, however, to sweep nobody away but myself; and I have continued to this day, notwithstanding all their artful malignity. Nothing, I am persuaded, could have saved me from imprisonment at that time, had I not possessed a high reputation for truth and honesty during my previous sojourn in the colony.
Lewis had dealt somewhat extensively with Mr. Jones, who was the principal agent for the Canada Company; but failing to fulfil his agreement, regarding the payment for a large tract of land, it so exasperated Mr. Jones, that he declared he would have nothing to do with any of the colored people; and so when I wanted to buy a lot of land, he would not sell it to me because he so despised Lewis.
How much harm can one wicked man do! and yet it cannot be right to judge the character of a whole class or community by that of one person.
ROUGHING IT IN THE WILDS OF CANADA.
The "Canada Company," of which I have so frequently spoken, was an association of wealthy gentlemen, residing in England; something like the East India Company, especially regarding the title of lands. They had sent on their agent and purchased a large tract of land known as the "Huron Tract," extending from London to Lake Huron, where they laid out a village, named Goderich, sixty miles distant from Wilberforce. With this company, Mr. Lewis had contracted for a township of land, as agent for the Cincinnati refugees; but failing to meet the demand, the company kindly extended the time of payment; but when that time also passed without receiving any thing from Lewis, the general agent, Mr. Jones became so indignant, that he utterly refused to sell a foot of land to any colored person whatever. This proved to be one of the greatest detriments to the prosperity of the colony it ever met.
The Society of Friends at this time, however, with commendable sympathy for the oppressed and abused colored residents of Cincinnati, and with their proverbial liberality, raised a sum of money sufficient to purchase eight hundred acres of land of the Canada Company for the benefit of the colony. The funds were placed in the hands of one of their number, Frederick Stover, who went to Canada as their agent, purchased the land, and settled colored people upon it, which comprised nearly all of the Wilberforce settlement. This occurred before I settled in Canada, and the consequence was, when I desired to purchase land, none could be obtained. At the time, however, of which I am speaking, the Canada Company were constructing a road through their possessions, some seventy miles in length, and the principal contractor, Mr. Ingersoll, had agreed to take land in part payment for his services on the road. In accordance with this agreement, he accepted one lot of land situated within the Wilberforce settlement, which he agreed to sell to Mr. Lewis for twenty-five dollars. Mr. Lewis, knowing that I was anxious to purchase, accepted the offer, and then came and showed the contract, offering it to me on condition that I paid him the twenty-five dollars which he had just paid Mr. Ingersoll. This I was glad to do; I paid the demand; took an assignment on the back of the receipt, and passed into immediate possession of the land. He at the same time requested me to take up a note of twenty-five dollars for him; which I did, on his promising to refund the money in a short time.
I commenced laboring on the wild land I had purchased; cleared some ten acres, which in consequence of its being so heavily timbered, cost me at least twenty-five dollars per acre; built a house and barn—supposing myself its legal possessor,—until I chanced to meet Mr. Ingersoll, who informed me that Mr. Jones had refused to sell him the land to be disposed of to a colored person; that he had duly informed Lewis of the fact, and had returned to him the twenty-five dollars received. Not a word of this, had Lewis communicated to me, though he knew I was making expensive improvements, in the faith that I was its only owner. Instead of atoning for the wrong already done me, he made it the basis of a deeper injury.
After one year's residence in Wilberforce, I found it necessary to return to Rochester to settle some unfinished business; and when on my way thither I stopped at London, where I found Lewis, who had not only preceded me but had taken out a capias, for forty pounds currency. I was therefore obliged to get bail for my appearance at court, after which I pursued my journey.
On my arrival in Rochester, I found business at a stand; and the community in a state of excitement and alarm, on account of that fell destroyer, the cholera. This was its first visit to the United States, and the fearful havoc it was making, spread terror and consternation throughout the land. I returned to Canada; but found on my arrival at London, that "the pestilence that walketh at noon-day," had preceded me, and taken from that village my friend, Mr. Ingersoll, with several others. So great had been the alarm, that instead of my appearing at court as I expected to do, I found it adjourned, and the judge returned to his home.
I hastened on to Wilberforce, which had fortunately escaped the fearful scourge, with terrible apprehensions.
Having a little spare time, I went out with my rifle, in search of deer; but soon came upon a large wolf, which I wounded with the first shot; he, however, sprang aside and was gone. On looking about for him I espied another!—reloading my rifle, I fired, and he fell dead at my feet, while my dog at the same time I heard barking furiously. Having dispatched this second intruder, I saw that my dog had the first one, entangled in the branches of a fallen tree. I searched for my balls, and was vexed to find that I had left them at home. In this predicament I cut with my knife, a knot from a beech limb, put it in my rifle, and took deadly aim at the enraged wolf. The wooden ball struck him between the eyes and killed him on the spot.
The two dead animals, with their skins, I sold for nine dollars and a half,—making pretty good wages for a few hours labor.
Hunting was very generally pursued by the settlers, with great earnestness and considerable skill. The forest abounded with deer, wolves, bears, and other wild animals. Bears were plenty, and very troublesome because so dangerously tame. One day, our children had built for themselves a play-house, a few rods from the door, and were enjoying their play when they were called in to dinner. A moment after, I observed one of the settlers gazing intently at the play-house; I called to know what so attracted his attention, and he informed me that an old bear, with three cubs, had just then taken possession of the playhouse. And sure enough there they were! knocking about among the dishes, and munching the crumbs of bread which the children had left. The man was supplied with a loaded rifle and urged to shoot them, but he begged to be excused from a pitched battle with so many; and the bears leisurely took their departure for the woods without molestation. The play-house, however, was soon deserted by the children after these unbidden guests had made so free with it; and we were ourselves somewhat alarmed for the safety of our children, who were accustomed to roam in the edge of the forest, and make swings of the luxuriant grape vines.
But such incidents are common in a new country, surrounded as we were by a dense wilderness.
NARROW ESCAPE OF A SMUGGLER.
From the time I first settled in Wilberforce, my house had ever been open to travelers and strangers; but a conversation I happened to overhear, led me to take a course different from what I had at first intended. I was at a public house about twenty miles from home, when I heard the landlord advising his guest to eat heartily, for, said he, "you will find nothing more worthy of your attention, until you reach Wilberforce. When you arrive at that settlement, inquire for A. Steward, from the States, and he will give you a meal fit for a prince." I began to reflect on the subject and concluded, inasmuch as people would send company to me, it would be better to make some preparation for entertaining them. I had plenty of furniture, and all I needed was a larger supply of food, to commence keeping a tavern. This was easily obtained, and I opened a public house which was well patronized.
One day while I was absent from home, a man drove to the door the finest span of horses, I think I ever saw,—black as jet, with proudly arched necks, and glossy tails that nearly swept the ground. The gentleman sprang from his carriage, bounded through the open door, and in the most excited manner, began to inquire "who owns this establishment? When will he return? Can I be accommodated? Can I see your barn?" &c. The stable boy took him to the barn, from whence he soon returned; his face flushed, and breathing so heavily as to be heard all through the apartment; trembling so violently that he could scarcely speak at all,—but made out to inquire, "if there was not some place besides the barn where he could put his horses?" He was told that there was a small shelter built for cows, in bad weather, and the next moment he was examining it. In a very short time he had his horses and carriage stowed away in the cow-shed. He acted like a crazy man; but when he had secured his horses, he re-entered the house and frankly apologized for his conduct. "I may as well tell you the truth," said he; "I am suspected of smuggling goods; a reward is offered for my arrest, and the constables are on my track, in pursuit of me. My name is Cannouse, and I am from M——, in Ontario County."
But perhaps they can not prove you guilty of smuggling, said I, in an after conversation.
"Ah," said he, "there is for me no such hope or probability; I have been engaged for the last few months in the sale of dress-goods and broad-cloths, and my exposure and flight is the consequence of my own folly. While in the village of St. Catharines, I took a young girl out to ride, after she had engaged to accompany another young fellow, which of course offended him; and he being too well posted up on my affairs, went directly to the custom house officer and informed against me. I was sitting in the parlor, perfectly at ease, when a young man, a relative of the young lady in question, burst into the room, shouting, 'Fly! fly! for your life! The officers are upon you!' And I did fly; with barely time to reach the woods, for as I sprang through the back door, the officers entered through the front door. My horses were my first consideration; they had been raised by my father, and should I lose them, I should never dare to meet him again. In my hasty flight, I engaged the young man to conceal them till night, and then to drive them to a certain place where I would meet him. This he did, and I kept on my flight until I came to the house of a friend, where I halted to make inquiries. The gentleman had just come from London, and had seen handbills at every conspicuous place, describing me and my horses. I asked him what I should do? He said, 'you are not safe a moment; there is no hope but in flight; avoid the main road, and get to the colony if you can; if you succeed, go to A. Steward; he is an upright man and will never betray you for money,' And here I am: if I am arrested, six months imprisonment, three hundred dollars fine, and the forfeiture of my father's valuable and favorite horses, will be my portion. I have had no regular meal for the last three days, and my head aches violently."
We gave him some refreshment, and conducted him to a room, assuring him that he should have it to himself. All remained quiet until midnight, when a man knocked cautiously at our door. I opened it myself, and a gentleman, looking carefully about the place, inquired,
"Are you full?"
"No," said I.
"Have you any travelers here to night?"
"Where are they?"
"In this room; walk in, sir."
He took the light from my hand, and stepping lightly up to a bed, where two travelers were quietly sleeping, he closely examined their faces. He soon returned the light, and without further inquiry retired from the house. When his companions came up, I distinctly heard him tell them that the smuggler was not there.
"You may be mistaken," said the other, "and we must search the barn for his horses."
This they did thoroughly, after procuring a lantern; but without finding any thing to reward their diligent search; and they finally drove off.
When they had gone, Cannouse groaned most bitterly, and trembled from head to foot at the thought of his narrow escape. The next day an officer rode up to where the children were playing, with a handbill which he read, and inquired if they had seen a person bearing that description, pass that day? They answered negatively, and he rode on. The poor frightened Cannouse stayed with us a week; and nearly every day during the time, the house and barn were searched for him. The children kept watch, and when they saw any one coming they would let him know, in time to take himself and horses into a thicket near by. When he thought pursuit was over, he started to leave; but when, in a half hour after, a posse of men drove up to my door, flourishing their handbills, I thought it all over with Cannouse. I told them that he was not there; but they chose to have another search, and when they found nothing, the officer sprang into his carriage, exclaiming, "come on, boys; we'll soon have him now; we have tracked him here, and he can't be far off."
Cannouse had left us, feeling quite secure; but he had traveled but a short distance, when he observed a horse shoe loose, and to get it fastened he drove down to a blacksmith's shop, which happened to stand at the foot of a hill; and between it and the highway there had been left standing a clump of trees which nearly hid it from view. While there, getting his horse shod, the officers passed him unobserved, and he finally escaped.
Some time after, a gentleman called on us who had seen Cannouse in Michigan, where he was doing well. He had succeeded in reaching Detroit, from whence he passed safely to his home; but probably learned a lesson not to be forgotten. He was a talented young man—one who would have felt deeply the disgrace of imprisonment,—and it was indeed a pleasure to me to do what I could, to effect his release from an unenviable position. I would never have betrayed him; but happily I was not asked directly for him, until he was gone from my house and protection.
NARRATIVE OF TWO FUGITIVES FROM VIRGINIA.
The settlers in Wilberforce, were in general, industrious and thrifty farmers: they cleared their land, sowed grain, planted orchards, raised cattle, and in short, showed to the world that they were in no way inferior to the white population, when given an equal chance with them. In proof of this let me say, that it was uniformly the practice of persons traveling from London to Goderich, to remain in our settlement over night, in preference to going on to find entertainment among their own class of people. And we believe that the whites are bound to admit, that the experiment of the Wilberforce colony proves that the colored man can not only take care of himself, but is capable of improvement; as industrious and intelligent as themselves, when the yoke is taken from off their necks, and a chance given them to exercise their abilities. True, many of them had just escaped from cruel task-masters; ignorant of almost every thing but the lash,—but the air of freedom so invigorated and put new life into their weary bodies, that they soon became intelligent and thrifty.
Among the settlers might be gathered many a thrilling narrative, of suffering and hair-breadth escapes from the slave-land,—one of which I will tell as 'twas told to me.
In a small rude cabin, belonging to one of the large plantations in Virginia, sat at a late hour of the night, an afflicted slave-man and his devoted wife, sad and weeping. At length the husband repeated what he before had been saying:
"I tell you, wife, we must flee from this place, without delay. Oh, I cannot endure the idea of seeing you sold for the Southern market, to say nothing of myself; and we shall most likely be separated, which I can't bear! Oh, Rosa, the thought distracts me,—I can't bear it!"
"Are you sure," said Rosa, "that master thinks of such a frightful doom for us?"
"Oh yes, I know it; I heard master to-day making a bargain with the slave dealer that has been hanging about here so long; and when it was finished, I heard him reading over the list, and our names, wife, are the first on it."
"Oh, dear!" sobbed the wife, "we shall certainly be retaken and whipped to death; or else we shall starve in the wilderness! Oh, it is very hard to be compelled to leave all our friends and the old plantation where we were born!"
"Yes; it is both hard and unjust," said Joe, and an indignant frown contracted his brow,—"here is our birth-place, and here, for forty years have I toiled early and late to enrich my master; and you, my poor wife, a few years less; and now we are to be sold, separated, and all without a choice of our own. We must go, Rosa. If we die, let us die together!"
"It shall be as you say, Joe," she replied, "but it frightens me to think of the hardships of the way, and the danger of being recaptured."
"Courage, wife: no fate can be worse than the one designed for us; and we have no time to lose. Tomorrow night, then, we must make the first effort to gain our liberty, and leave all that is dear to us except each other!" And they retired to rest, but not to sleep.
The following night was very dark; and as soon as all was quiet on the plantation, they stole out of their cabin and stealthily crept over the ground until they reached the highway; and then, guided only by the north star, they made their way to the nearest woods. So fearful had they been of being suspected, that they took no provision of any kind with them. All night they plunged forward through the tangled thicket and under-brush, surrounded by thick darkness, glancing now and then upward to their only light,
"Star of the North! though night winds drift the fleecy drapery of the sky,
Between thy lamp and thee, I lift, yea, lift with hope my sleepless eye."
When day dawned they threw their weary bodies on the ground, famished and thirsty, and waited for the darkness to again conceal them while they pursued their journey. The second day of their flight, the pain of hunger became almost beyond endurance. They found a few roots which relieved them a little; but frequently they lost their way, and becoming bewildered, knew not which way to go; they pushed on, however, determined to keep as far from their pursuers as possible. Their shoes were soon worn out; but bare-footed, bare-headed, and famishing with hunger, they pressed forward, until the fourth day, when they found themselves too weak to proceed farther. Hope, the anchor of the soul, had failed them! They were starving in a dense forest! No track or path could they find, and even had they seen a human being, they would have been more terrified than at the sight of a wild beast!
Poor Rosa, could go no farther—her strength was all gone—and as her emaciated husband laid her on the cold earth, he exclaimed, "Oh, dear God! must we, after all our efforts, starve in this dark wilderness! Beside his fainting wife, he finally stretched himself, sheltered only by a few bushes, and tried to compose himself to die! but resting a few moments revived him, and he aroused himself, to make one more effort for life! Stay you here, wife, and I will try once more to find the highway; it cannot be far from here; and if I am taken, I will submit to my fate without a struggle; we can but die." So saying, he left her, and began to reconnoitre the country around them. Much sooner than he expected he emerged from the wood, and not far distant he saw a house in the direction from whence he came; being, however, as most of the slaves are, superstitious, he thought it would be a bad omen to turn backward, and so continued to look about him. It seemed, he said, that some unseen power held him, for though starving as he was, he could not take a step in that direction; and at last as he turned around, to his great joy, he saw another dwelling a little way off, and toward that he hastened his now lightened footsteps. With a palpitating heart, he approached the door and knocked cautiously. The man of the house opened it, and as soon as he saw him, he said, "You are a fugitive slave, but be not alarmed, come in; no harm shall befall you here; I shall not inquire from whence you came; it is enough for me to know that you are a human being in distress; consider me your friend, and let me know your wants."
"Bread! Oh, for a morsel of bread!" said the famished creature, while his hitherto wild and sunken eyes, began to distil grateful tears. The "good Samaritan" stepped to another apartment and brought him a piece of bread, which he expected to see him devour at once, but instead, he looked at it wistfully, literally devouring it with his eyes; turned it over and over, and at last stammered out, "my good master, without a piece of bread for my poor starving wife, I can never swallow this, tempting as it is."
"Poor man," said his benefactor, "can it be that you have a wife with you, wretched as yourself?" He brought out a loaf of bread, some cheese and meat, and while the fugitive was preparing to return, the kind gentleman said, "I am glad you came to me; had you called at the house you first saw, you would have been betrayed, and immediately arrested. You must remember," he continued, "that you are young and valuable slaves, and that your master will make every effort in his power to find you, especially since he has made a sale of you. To-day and to-night, remain in the woods, and the next morning you may come to me, if all is quiet; should I see danger approaching you, I will warn you of it by the crack my rifle. Go now, to your poor wife, and listen for the signal of danger; if you hear none, come to me at the appointed time." He returned, and after feeding his helpless Rosa, she revived, and soon felt quite comfortable and grateful.
When the morning came for them to leave their retreat, they listened intently, but hearing nothing, Joe started for the residence of his friend. He had been gone but a short time, when his wife, who lay in the bushes, thought she heard the tramp of horses,—she crept nearer the highway, and peeping through the bush—Oh, horror! what was her consternation and sickening fear, to find herself gazing upon the well-known features of her old master, and two of his neighbors, all armed to the teeth! Her heart seemed to stand still, and the blood to chill in her veins. Had she been discovered she would have been an easy prey, for she declared that she could not move a step. In the meantime her husband had got about half way to the residence of his preserver, when his quick ear detected the sound made by the feet of horses, and as he stopped to listen more intently, the sharp crack of a rifle sent him bounding back to his concealment in the forest.
The party of horsemen rode on to the dwelling of the kind hearted gentleman, and inquired whether he had seen any fugitive slaves pass that way.
"I saw," said he, "a man and woman passing rapidly along the road, but do not know whether they were fugitives, as I did not see their faces." The human blood-hound, thanked the gentleman for the information, and immediately set out in pursuit; but, just as the informant had intended, in a direction opposite to that the slaves had taken. That night, Joe and Rosa visited the house of their benefactor, where they were supplied with clothing and as much food as they could carry; and next day they went on their way rejoicing. They settled in Cincinnati, where they lived happily, until the mob drove them with others, to the Wilberforce settlement, where they are in no danger of the auction block, or of a Southern market; and are as much devoted to each other as ever.
PLEASANT RE-UNION OF OLD AND TRIED FRIENDS.
It is well known to those who have assisted in clearing land in a new country, that bears, who are not Jews, are very troublesome, and levy a heavy tax on the settlers, to supply themselves with pork-their favorite food. One old bear in particular, had for a long time annoyed the colonists, by robbing their hog-stys almost every night. We failed in all our plans to destroy his life, until a woman saw him one day, walking at ease through the settlement. A half dozen of us gave chase immediately, and came up with him after traveling two miles. So anxious was I to kill him, that I fired at first sight and missed him, which gave us another two miles chase. When, however, we came up, he was seated on a branch of a tree, leisurely surveying us and the dogs, with great complacency. The contents of my rifle brought him to the ground, and stirred his blood for battle. One blow from his powerful paw, sent my fine greyhound some yards distant, sprawling upon the ground, and when he renewed the attack, Bruin met him with extended jaws, taking and munching his head in his mouth. My rifle was now reloaded, and the second shot killed him on the spot. We tied his legs together, and lifting him on a pole, marched in triumph into the settlement, where guns were discharged and cheers given, in approbation of our success.
One winter's evening we had drawn closely around the blazing fire, for the air was piercing cold without, and the snow four feet deep on a level. Now and then, a traveler might be seen on snow-shoes; but though our cabin was situated on the king's highway, we seldom saw company on such a night as this. While the wind whistled, and the snow drifted about our dwelling, we piled the wood higher in our ample fire-place, and seated ourselves again, to resume the conversation, when I was startled by a loud and furious knocking at the door. I opened it to what I supposed to be three Indians. Their costume was that of the red man; but the voice of him who addressed me was not that of an Indian. "Can you keep three poor devils here to-night?" said he, and when I made farther inquiry, he repeated the same question; "we can sleep," he continued, "on the soft side of a board; only give us poor devils a shelter."
I told him we were not accustomed to turn away any one on such a night; that they were welcome to come in; and they were soon seated around our large and cheerful fire.
They had laid aside their snow-shoes and knapsacks, and the heat of the fire soon made their blankets uncomfortable; but as one of them made a move to throw it off, another was heard to whisper, "wait a little; we are among strangers, you know; so do not make a display of yourself." The fellow drew his blanket about him; but we had heard and seen enough to awaken curiosity, if not suspicion. In passing out of the room soon after, I heard one of these pretended Indians say to his companion, "I know these folks are from the States, for I smell coffee." When they finally sat down to table, and saw silver upon it, they cast surprised and knowing glances at each other, all of which we closely observed, and were convinced, that they were not red men of the forest, but belonged to that race who had so long looked haughtily down upon the colored people; that the least exhibition of comfort, or show of refinement astonished them beyond measure.
In the meantime, my wife had whispered to me that she was sure that the principal speaker was no other than the aristocratic Mr. G——, of Canandaigua. I could not believe it; I could not recognize in that savage costume, one who had been bred in affluence, and "the star" of genteel society. But my wife soon developed the affair to our mutual satisfaction: G——, on taking from her a cup of coffee, remarked, "this looks good; and I have had no good coffee since I left my mother's house."
"Does your mother still reside in C——?" asked Mrs. Steward.
"My mother! my mother! what do you know of my mother!" said he, looking sharply at her; but observing that they were recognized, they began to laugh, and we had a hearty congratulation all round; while G——, starting-up from table, exclaimed,
"Come, boys, off with this disguise; we are among friends now."
Our Indian guests, now appeared in costume more like "Broadway dandies," than savages. Dressed in the finest cloth, with gold chains and repeaters; and all that constituted the toilet of a gentleman. After tea they requested to dry some costly furs, which they took from their knapsacks and hung around the fire. The following day they took their leave, with many apologies and explanations, regarding their appearance and conduct. They were in the wilderness, they said, trading for very valuable furs; they had money, jewelry and rich goods, which they had taken that method to conceal.
During all this time, there had been another visitor in the house, who was sitting in a corner, absorbed in writing. Our mock Indians had noticed him, and not knowing who he was, expressed a determination "to quiz that deaf old devil," after supper. We all seated ourselves around the fire, and our Canandaigua friends, though no longer savages, had not forgotten the silent man in the corner; they began to question him, and he aroused himself for conversation; nor was it long before they forgot their design to quiz him, and found themselves charmed listeners to the brilliant conversation, of that world-renowned champion of humanity, Benjamin Lundy, for he it was.
On this particular evening, he gave us a sketch of his journey to Hayti; to accompany there and settle some emancipated slaves; which I thought very interesting, and as I have never seen it in print I will here relate it, as near as I can, in his own words:
In the State of Maryland, there lived a slaveholder the proprietor of some sixty slaves, and being somewhat advanced in years, he determined to free them, in accordance with the laws of that State, which required that they be sent out of it.
He had thought the matter over, but being undecided where to send them, he sent for Mr. Lundy to assist him in his proposed plan; who was only too glad to comply with a request calculated to carry out his own plans of philanthropy and equal rights.