Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman
by Austin Steward
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

When he had listened to the suggestions and expressed desires of the planter, he offered his arguments in favor of the West India Islands; and it was decided to send them to Hayti, as their future place of residence.

Six weeks were allowed for preparations; then Mr. Lundy was to return and take charge of them on the voyage, and see them settled in their new homes.

When the appointed time arrived, Mr. Lundy was there to accompany them on board a vessel bound for Hayti; on which was furnished as comfortable quarters, as the kindness of their conscientious master and his own benevolent heart could suggest. When all was ready, the Christian master came on board, to take leave of those faithful servants,—many of whom had served him from their childhood, and all of whom he had bound to his heart by kindness and Christian benevolence. It was a sad parting; not because the slaves did not love liberty, but because they appreciated their master's kind forbearance, and solicitude for their future welfare. He had ever been a humane and indulgent master; one who lightened the burthen of the poor slave, all in his power. A moment's reflection will show, that it is invariably this conscientious kind of slaveholders, who are induced to emancipate their slaves; and not the avaricious, cruel tyrant, who neither fears God nor regards his fellow man.

The master of the slaves had kindly informed them of his intentions,—of the probable length of the voyage, and the unavoidable sickness they would experience, &c.; but now, they were gazing up into his kind face for the last time, as he knelt in prayer, commending that numerous flock—raised on his own plantation—to the care and protection of Almighty God, beseeching Him to protect them in the storm and dangers of the ocean; to guide them through this life, and save them in the world to come; until the sobs and cries of the poor slaves drowned his utterance. He at length took his final leave of them, and of Mr. Lundy; and the ship sailed immediately. They, however, met storms and adverse winds, which detained them; and then the poor, ignorant slaves began to believe what they had before suspected: that this was only some wicked plan of Mr. Lundy's, laid to entice them away from a kind master, and to plunge them into some dreadful degradation and suffering. "Master" had not told them of the adverse winds, and they were certain that some mischief was intended; they grew sullen and disobedient; and notwithstanding the kindness of Mr. Lundy, they murmured and complained, until his kind heart sank within him; still he pursued the even tenor of his way, trusting in God for deliverance. He watched over them in sickness, and administered to all their wants; but his tender solicitude for their health and comfort, only excited suspicion, and increased their ungrateful ill humor.

One pleasant evening, Mr. Lundy paced the deck in deep thought. He was sad, and well nigh hopeless. He had seen enough in the fierce look and sullen scowl; and had heard enough of the bitterness, and threatening anger of the negroes, to know that a storm was gathering, which must soon burst in all its wild fury over his devoted head. He was a small, feeble man, compared with those who watched his every movement, and gnashed their teeth upon him so fiercely. None but the Almighty could save him now; and to Him who "rides upon the wings of the wind, and maketh the clouds His chariot," he drew near in fervent prayer; after which he retired in peace and confidence to his berth. During the night, a fine breeze sprang up; and when he went on deck the next morning, they were in sight of the luxuriant shore of Hayti! The officers of the island boarded the ship; but their language was unintelligible to the negroes, who still looked daggers at every one who spoke. They landed; but the fearful, and ungrateful slaves continued sullen and forbidding. Mr. Lundy left them, however, and went into the country, where he selected their future residence; and made every preparation for their comfort and convenience in his power; saw them conveyed to their neat, pleasant homes, and all happily settled. This work was accomplished; and he merely called to bid adieu to his ungrateful charge, when he found that one of the slaves had been appointed to speak to him, in behalf of the whole number, and confess how deeply they had wronged him. While they were conversing, the others gathered around, with tears and prayers for forgiveness; and finally fell at his feet, imploring pardon for themselves, and blessings on the kind, patient and humane Benjamin Lundy. He hurried from the affecting scene, and soon after returned to America.

Thus that cold evening passed more pleasantly away in our rude cabin; and our Canandaigua gentlemen, after an agreeable acquaintance, and pleasant chat with Mr. Lundy, retired for the night—not like savages, but like gentlemen as they were; and I doubt not, with a more exalted opinion of "the deaf old devil in the corner"



Soon after settling in Wilberforce, I found that the rumor I had heard in the States, concerning the refusal to sell land to colored persons, was literally correct, and my farm being too small to yield a support for my family, and knowing it would be useless to apply for more land, I engaged to carry packages for different merchants in the adjoining villages, as well as to and from the settlement. Possessing a pair of excellent horses and a good wagon, I found it a profitable business, and the only one I could well do, to eke out the proceeds of my farm, and meet my expenses.

One day as I was returning from the village, one of my horses was taken suddenly ill. I took him to a tavern near by, and as I could discover no cause for his illness, I concluded to leave him a few days, supposing rest would soon restore him. I accordingly hired another horse, and returned to the colony. In a day or two after, I collected my packages as usual, and started on my route, designing to leave the hired horse and take my own; but when I arrived at the tavern, I found some Indians engaged in taking off the hide and shoes of my poor, dead horse. This was indeed, a great loss to me; but I consoled myself with the thought that I had one good horse left, yet he would hardly be sufficient to accomplish alone, the labor I had engaged to perform; nor had I the means to spare, to purchase another. I therefore hired one, and commenced business again, with the determination to make up my loss by renewed diligence and perseverance.

I started in good spirits; but had proceeded but a few miles, when my remaining horse, which I had supposed perfectly sound, reeled and fell in the harness! And before I could relieve him of it, my noble animal and faithful servant, had breathed his last! Without a struggle or a movement he lay lifeless on the cold earth. I was sad. I deplored the loss of my good, and valuable team; but more the mystery and suspicion that hung over the event. I returned home and sat down to devise some plan of procedure. What could I do? Half the means of our support had been suddenly and mysteriously snatched from us. What could I do next? While thus ruminating, I arose to answer a summons at the door, and who should enter but Mr. B. Paul, a brother to our foreign agent, who had so long absented himself from our house, that I was indeed surprised to see him at this time. He, however, seated himself, with great apparent concern for my recent loss, which he soon made the subject of conversation and the object of his visit.

"There has been," said he, "a great deal of unpleasant feeling, and injudicious speaking on both sides, for which I am heartily sorry. The colony is too weak to sustain a division of feelings; and now, that your recent losses have left you in a far less favorable condition to sustain yourself and family, I have called to make a settlement of our former difficulties, and to offer you two hundred and fifty dollars out of the collections for the colony."

I saw through the plan at once, and considered it only a bribe, to prevent my exposing the iniquity of others. Should I consent to take a part of the ill-gotten spoils, with what confidence could I attempt to stay the hand of the spoiler. I wanted money very much, it is true; but after a moment's reflection, not enough to sanction the manner in which it had been obtained; and though I confess, the offer presented to me a strong temptation, I am thankful that I was enabled to resist it. I refused to accept the money; and after sending away the tempter and his offered gain, I felt my heart lighter, and my conscience more peaceful than is often the lot of sinful, erring man in this world of trial and conflict; and yet I could but feel that the mystery in which the death of my horses was involved, was partially at least, explained.



During our residence in Canada, we were often visited by the Indians, which gave us an opportunity to learn their character, habits and disposition; and some incidents illustrative of the peculiarities of that abused people, I will here mention.

I recollect one bitter cold night, about eleven o'clock, I happened to awake, and looking out toward the fire, I was surprised to see standing there, erect and quiet, a tall, brawny Indian, wrapped in his blanket; his long hunting knife and tomahawk dangling from his belt; and his rifle in his hand. Had he been in his own wigwam, he could not have looked about him with more satisfaction and independence. I instantly sprang to my feet, and demanded his errand.

"Me lost in the woods, and me come to stay all night," was his grave reply.

"Then," said I, "give me your weapons, and I will make no objection."

He disarmed himself, and gave his weapons to me, with an air of haughty disdain for my fears. I put them in a place of safety and then prepared his bed, which was nothing more than the floor, where they choose to sleep, with their head to the fire. My offer of anything different from this he proudly resented as an insult to his powers of endurance, and would say, "beds for pale faces and women; hard board for Indians." He threw himself down, drew his blanket about him, and was soon sleeping soundly. As soon as the day began to dawn, he was up, called for his arms, and after thanking me in the brief Indian style of politeness, departed for the forest. He had found our doors all fastened, save a low back door, through which he entered, passing through a back room so full of miscellaneous articles, that it was difficult to go through it in the day time without upsetting something; but the Indian understood all this, he made no noise, nor would he have spoken at all, had I not awakened; and yet, he would have scorned to injure any one beneath the roof that gave him shelter, unless he had been intoxicated.

One sabbath afternoon, one of my children was sitting in the door, when a tall, emaciated Indian came up and said, "Will my little lady please to give me a drink of water?" While she went for it, I invited him to a seat within. There was something dignified and commanding in his appearance, and something in his voice and countenance, that won my confidence and respect at once. He remained in the place some time, and I learned his history.

In his younger days he had been a great warrior; and even now, when recounting, as he often did, the scenes of the battle field, his eye would burn with savage fire, lighting up his whole countenance with the fiercest kind of bravery, and often with a hideous yell that would startle our very souls, he would burst from the room and bound over the fields and forest, with the fleetness of a deer—making the woods ring with his frightful war-cry, until the blood seemed ready to curdle in our veins. He had also been one of the famous Tecumseh's braves; and had stood by him when he fell on the fifth of October, 1813. This old brave, whenever he called the name of Tecumseh, bowed his head reverently; and would often try to tell us how very deeply they mourned when it could no longer be doubted that the brave heart of Tecumseh, brother of the celebrated Wabash prophet, had ceased to beat.

"Had an arrow pierced the sun and brought it to my feet," said the old warrior, "I could not have been more astounded than at the fall of Tecumseh." Then he told us that once, after a great and victorious battle, Tecumseh, in his war paint and feathers, stood in the midst of his braves, when a little pale faced girl made her way weeping to him and said, "My mother is very ill, and your men are abusing her, and refuse to go away." "Never," said the Indian, "did I see a frown so terrible on the face of Tecumseh, as at that moment; when he with one hand clutched his tomahawk, and with the other led the little girl to the scene of riot. He approached the unruly savages with uplifted tomahawk, its edge glittering like silver, and with one shout of 'begone!' they scattered as though a thunderbolt had fallen in their midst."

But the old warrior at Wilberforce fought no more battles, except in imagination those of the past. After peace was declared he bought a valuable piece of land, with the intention of spending the remainder of his life more quietly; but unfortunately there lived not far from him a man who had once been the possessor of that farm, and had lost it in some way, and was now in reduced circumstances.

He was both envious and vicious; and because he could not himself buy the land, he was determined that the old Indian should not have it. After having tried many ways to get it from him, he finally complained of him, for fighting for the British and against the country where he now resided. This was successful; he was arrested and thrown into prison, and without a trial, removed from one prison to another, until he, with several others, was sent South to be tried as traitors. While on the way, the keeper of this Indian wished to call on his mother, who lived in a little cottage by the roadside, to bid her farewell. She was an aged woman, and when her son left her to join his companions, she followed him to the door weeping, wringing her hands in great distress, and imploring the widow's God to protect her only son. She had had four; all of whom went forth, with an American mother's blessing, to fight in defence of their country; and this one alone, returned alive from the field of battle. Now as he took his final departure for the South, she clasped her hands, raised her tearful eyes to heaven, and while large drops rolled over her wrinkled cheeks, she cried, "Oh, God, protect my only one, and return him to me in safety, ere I die." This scene, the imprisoned, and as some supposed, heartless Indian, watched with interest; no part of it escaped his attention; but they passed on, and safely reached Detroit. The prisoners were conducted to a hotel and secured for the night; our Indian hero being consigned to an attic, which they supposed a safe place for him. There happened to be on that night, a company of showmen stopping at that hotel, and exhibiting wax-work; among the rest, was a figure of General Brock, who fell at Queenston Heights, and a costly cloak of fur, worn by the General previous to his death. Nothing of this escaped the eagle-eye and quick ear of the Indian. When all was quiet in the hotel, he commenced operations, for he had made up his mind to leave, which with the red man is paramount to an accomplishment of his design. He found no great difficulty in removing the window of his lofty apartment, out of which he clambered, and with the agility of a squirrel and the caution of a cat, he sprang for the conductor and on it he slid to the ground. He was now free to go where he pleased; but he had heard something about the cloak of Gen. Brock; he knew too, that the friends of the General had offered fifty guineas for it, and now he would just convey it to them.

With the sagacity of his race, he surveyed the hotel, and determined the exact location of the show-room. Stealthily and noiselessly, he entered it; found the cloak—took it and departed, chuckling at his good fortune. As he was creeping out of the apartment with his booty, a thought struck him, which not only arrested his footsteps, but nearly paralized his whole being. Would not his keeper be made to answer, and perhaps to suffer for his escape and theft? Of course he would. "Then in the darkness I saw again," said the old brave, "that old pale-faced mother, weeping for the loss of her only son," when he immediately returned the cloak to its place, and with far more difficulty than in his descent, he succeeded in reaching his attic prison, where he laid himself down, muttering to himself, "not yet,—poor old pale-face got but one."

They took him to Virginia, where, instead of a trial, they gave him about the same liberty they do their slaves. He staid one winter; but when the spring opened, the fire of the red man took possession of him, and when sent to the forest to chop wood, he took a bee-line for his former residence. But what was he to do for food? With a rifle, he could live happily in the woods, but he had none; so after considering the matter, he said to himself, "Me must get a rifle," and instantly started for the highway. The first cabin he saw, he entered in great apparent excitement, and told the woman of the house, that he had seen a "big deer in the woods, and wanted a rifle to shoot it. When you hear my gun," he said, "then you come and get big deer." She gave him her husband's excellent rifle and a few bullets; he looked at them, and said he must have more, for "it was a big deer;" so she gave him the bullet-mould and a piece of lead, with which he departed, after repeating his former injunction, to come when she heard the rifle; but, said he, "she no hear it yet."

He at length arrived at his own farm, from which he had been so cruelly driven, and concealed himself behind a log in sight of his own house, to watch the inmates. He soon learned that it was occupied by the man who had persecuted him in order to obtain it, his wife and one child. All day until midnight, he watched them from his hiding place, then assuming all the savage ferocity of his nature, and giving himself the most frightful appearance possible, he entered the house, and noiselessly passed to their sleeping room, where he placed himself before them with a long knife in his hand. Having assumed this frightful attitude, he commanded them in a voice of thunder, to get up and give him some supper. They were awake now. Oh, horror! what a sight for a guilty man, and a timid woman! "Me come to kill you!" said the Indian, as he watched their blanched cheeks and quivering lips. They tottered about on their trembling limbs to get everything he asked for, imploring him for God's sake to take all, but spare their lives. "Me will have scalps," he answered fiercely; but when he had eaten all he desired, he adjusted his blanket, and putting on a savage look, he remarked as if to himself, "Me go now get my men and kill him, kill he wife, and kill he baby!" and left the house for his post of observation.

The frightened inmates lost no time, but hastily collecting some provisions, fled to the frontier, and were never heard of afterwards.

The Indian immediately took possession of his own and quite an addition left by the former tenants.

While the kind-hearted old Indian repeated to me the story of his wrongs, it reminded me of the injustice practised on myself, and the colored race generally. Does a colored man by hard labor and patient industry, acquire a good location, a fine farm, and comfortable dwelling, he is almost sure to be looked upon by the white man, as an usurper of his rights and territory; a robber of what he himself should possess, and too often does wrong the colored man out of,—yet, I am happy to acknowledge many honorable exceptions.

I have often wondered, when looking at the remnant of that once powerful race, whether the black man would become extinct and his race die out, as have the red men of the forest; whether they would wither in the presence of the enterprising Anglo-Saxon as have the natives of this country. But now I have no such wondering inquiries to make; being persuaded that the colored man has yet a prominent part to act in this highly-favored Republic,—of what description the future must determine.



Being under the necessity of referring again to the difficulties existing in the Wilberforce colony, I shall here introduce a circular, published in New York city, which will give the reader an understanding of the real cause of our embarrassments, and the character of our agent, Israel Lewis.


New York, May 9th, 1836.

The committee of colored citizens of the city of New York, as servants of the public, sincerely regret the necessity of bringing the within subject before the public. Their duty to God, to society, and to themselves, only actuates them in this matter.

The fact that many individuals in different sections of the country, have long suspected the integrity of Israel Lewis, but possessing no authentic documentary evidence, they have been prevented from making an effort, to counteract his too successful attempts and those of his agents, in the collection of funds from the public, has induced us to transmit this circular.


* * * * *


Wilberforce, U.C., March 28th, 1836.

The board of managers of the Wilberforce settlement, met and passed unanimously the following resolutions—Present, Austin Steward, Philip Harris, Peter Butler, William Bell, John Whitehead, Samuel Peters.

Resolved, 1st. That we deeply regret the manner in which our friends in the States have been imposed upon by Israel Lewis; and that we hereby inform them, as a board of managers or otherwise, that we have received less than one hundred dollars of all the money borrowed and collected in the States.

Resolved, 2d. That although we have not received one hundred dollars from said Lewis, yet, when we shall have received the funds collected by our agent, the Rev. Nathan Paul, in England, we will refund as far as our abilities will allow and our friends may require, the money contributed for our supposed benefit, by them in the States.

Resolved, 3d. That we tender our sincere thanks to our beloved friends, Arthur Tappan and others, who have taken such deep interest in the welfare of our little colony.

Resolved, 4th. That the foregoing resolutions be signed by the whole board, and sent to the States to be published in the New York Observer and other papers.

AUSTIN STEWARD, President, PETER BUTLER, Treasurer, JOHN HALMES, Secretary.


* * * * *

New York, April 25th, 1836.

At a public meeting of the colored citizens of New York city, held in Phoenix Hall, Thomas L. Jennings in the Chair, and Charles B. Ray, Secretary, the following resolutions were passed unanimously:

Resolved, That the thanks of this meeting be tendered to the Rev. Samuel E. Cornish, for the able and satisfactory report of his mission to Upper Canada, especially to the Wilberforce settlement.

Resolved, That this meeting deem it their imperative duty, to announce to the public, that in view of facts before them, Israel Lewis [1] has abused their confidence, wasted their benevolence, and forfeited all claim to their countenance and respect.

Resolved, That a committee of ten, be appointed to give publicity to the foregoing resolutions; also, to the communication from the managers of the Wilberforce settlement, as they may deem necessary in the case.

THOMAS L. JENNINGS, Chairman, CHARLES B. RAY, Secretary.

[Footnote 1: It necessarily follows that the public should withhold their money from his subordinate agents.]

It will now appear that I was not the only unfortunate individual who had difficulty with Mr. Lewis. Mr. Arthur Tappan made known through the press, about this time, that Israel Lewis was not a man to be fully relied upon in his statements regarding the Wilberforce colony; and also, if money was placed in his hands for the benefit of the sick and destitute among the settlers, it would be doubtful whether it was faithfully applied according to the wishes of the donors.

For this plain statement of facts, Mr. Lewis commenced a suit against Mr. Tappan, for defamation of character; laying the damages at the round sum of ten thousand dollars. It appeared that Lewis valued his reputation highly now that he had elevated himself sufficiently to commence a suit against one of the best and most respectable gentlemen in New York city; a whole souled abolitionist withal; one who had suffered his name to be cast out as evil, on account of his devotion to the colored man's cause— both of the enslaved and free; one who has, moreover, seen his own dwelling entered by an infuriated and pro-slavery mob; his expensive furniture thrown into the street as fuel for the torch of the black man's foe; and, amid the crackling flame which consumed it, to hear the vile vociferations of his base persecutors, whose only accusation was his defence of the colored man. This noble hearted, Christian philanthropist, who took "joyfully the spoiling of his goods" for the cause of the oppressed, was the chosen victim of Lewis' wrath and violent vituperation; and that too, where he was well known as a most honorable, humane gentleman; and all for naming facts which were quite generally known already.

Lewis returned to Wilberforce, flushed and swaggering with the idea of making his fortune in this speculation of a law-suit against Mr. Tappan; and to remove all obstacles, he sent a man to me, to say that if I would publish nothing, and would abandon the interests of the colonists, he would give me a handsome sum of money. I soon gave him to understand that he had applied to the wrong person for anything of that kind; and he then laid a plan to accomplish by fraud and perjury, what he had failed to do by bribery.

I have before mentioned the fact of my having taken up a note of twenty-five dollars for Mr. Lewis, on condition that he would soon refund the money. I did it as a favor, and kept the note in my possession, until about a year afterward, when I sued him to recover my just due on the note. We had then began to differ in our public business, which led to other differences in our transaction of both public and private matters relating to the colony. He of course gave bail for his appearance at court, and it ran along for some time until he found he could not bribe me to enter into his interests, and then for the first time, he declared that I had stolen the note! And finally succeeded in getting me indicted before the grand jury!

In this I suppose Lewis and his confederates had two objects: first, to get rid of me; secondly, that they might have a chance to account for my continued hostility, by saying that it arose in consequence of a private quarrel, and not for any true interest I had in their collecting money deceptively.

Lewis appeared so bent on my destruction, that he forgot it was in my power to show how I came by the note. The Court of King's Bench met, but in consequence of the cholera, was adjourned, and of course, the case must lie over until another year.

When the time for the trial drew near, I was, in the midst of my preparations to attend it, counseled and advised by different persons to flee from the country, which I had labored so hard and so conscientiously to benefit, and received in return nothing but detraction and slander. But conscious of my innocence, I declared I would not leave; I knew I had committed no crime; I had violated no law of the land,—and I would do nothing to imply guilt. He who hath formed the heart, knoweth its intent and purpose, and to Him I felt willing to commit my cause. True, the court might convict, imprison, and transport me away from my helpless family of five small children; if so, I was determined they should punish an innocent man. Nevertheless, it was a dark time; I was not only saddened and perplexed, but my spirit was grieved, and I felt like one "wounded in the house of his friends,"—ready to cry out, "had it been an enemy I could have borne it," but to be arraigned, for the first time in my life, as a criminal, by one of the very people I had spent my substance to benefit, was extremely trying. Guiltless as I knew myself to be, still, I was aware that many incidents had transpired, which my enemies could and would construe to my disadvantage; moreover, Lewis had money, which he would freely distribute to gain his point right or wrong, and to get me out of his way.

In due time the trial came on, and I was to be tried for theft! Lewis had reported all through the settlement that on a certain time I had called at his house, and from a bundle of papers which his wife showed me, I had purloined the note, which had caused me so much trouble. To prove this it was necessary to get his wife to corroborate the statement. This was not an easy matter. Mrs. Lewis, indignant and distressed by her husband's unkindness, had left him and taken up her abode in the family of a hospitable Englishman. After Lewis had been sent out as an agent for the colony, finding himself possessed of sufficient funds to cut a swell, he associated and was made a great deal of, by both ladies and gentlemen in high stations of life; the consequence of which was, he looked now with disdain upon his faithful, but illiterate wife, who like himself had been born a slave, and bred on a Southern plantation; and who had with him escaped from the cruel task-master, enduring with him the hardships and dangers of the flying fugitive.

Now her assistance was necessary to carry forward his plans, and he endeavored in various ways to induce her to return, but in vain. When he sent messengers to inform her how sorry he felt for his past abuse, she said she feared it was only some wicked plot to entice her away from the peaceable home she had found. Lewis saw that he must devise some other method to obtain her evidence. He therefore called on the brother of the Englishman in whose family Mrs. Lewis was, and in a threatening manner told him that he understood his brother was harboring his wife, and that he intended to make him pay dear for it. The brother, to save trouble, said he would assist him to get his wife, and that night conducted Lewis to her residence. No better proof can be given that Mrs. Lewis possessed the true heart of a woman, than that the moment her husband made humble concessions, and promised to love and protect her henceforth, she forgave him all his past infidelity and neglect, and looked with hope to a brighter future. In return Lewis presented her with a note, telling her to take it to a certain person and present it, and he would give her twenty dollars on it. This would, he doubtless thought, leave her in his power.

As Mrs. Lewis could not read, the unsuspecting wife presented the paper all in good faith. The gentleman looked at her sharply, suspiciously,—and then asked her, if she was not aware that she was presenting him a paper completely worthless! The poor woman was mortified and astonished; and instead of returning to her husband, fled to Wilberforce, and called at our house. Knowing how disastrous to me would be her false statement, and ignorant of her state of mind, I asked her if she had come to assist Mr. Lewis by swearing against me. I saw at once, that she had not yet been informed of her husband's design.

"Swear against you, Mr. Steward!" said she. "I know nothing to swear that would injure you; I have always known you as an honest, upright man, and you need not fear my turning against an innocent person, for the benefit of one I know to be guilty. Nor would I have left my place, had I known what I now do." So all help and fear was ended in that quarter.

When at length the appointed morning arrived, I arose early, but with a saddened heart. I looked upon my wife and helpless family, reflecting that possibly this might be the last time we should all assemble around the breakfast table in our hitherto quiet home, and I could scarcely refrain from weeping. I, however, took my leave, and a lad with me, to bring back a message of the result, if the court found sufficient cause to detain me for trial. But when I found that I must be tried, I felt too unhappy to make others so, and kept out of the lad's way. He returned without a message; and I took my seat in the prisoner's box. I had just taken a letter out of the post office, from Rochester, containing recommendations and attestations from the first men in the city, of my good character, which relieved my feelings somewhat: nevertheless, my heart was heavy, and especially when, soon after I took my seat, a trap-door was opened and a murderer was brought up and seated by my side!

Chief Justice Robinson, made his appearance in great pomp—dressed in the English court style-then the crier, in a shrill voice, announced the opening of the court, and finished by exclaiming, "God save the King!" His lordship then called the attention of the jury to the law of the land; particularly to that portion relating to their present duty; and the grand jury presented me to the court, for feloniously taking a certain promissory note from the house of Israel Lewis. The King's Attorney had but one witness, and that was Lewis. He was called to the stand, permitted to relate his story, and retire without any cross-examination on the part of my Attorney; but that gentleman called up three respectable white men, all of whom swore that they would not believe Israel Lewis under oath! Then submitted the case to the jury without remark or comment, and the jury, without leaving their seats, brought in a verdict of "NOT GUILTY." Thus ended my first and last trial for theft! Oh, how my very soul revolted at the thought of being thus accused; but now that I stood justified before God and my fellow-men, I felt relieved and grateful; nor could I feel anything but pity for Lewis, who, like Hainan, had been so industriously engaged in erecting "a gallows fifty cubits high" for me, but found himself dangling upon it He raved like a madman, clutched the arm of the Judge and demanded a new trial, but he shook him off with contempt and indignation, as though he had been a viper. In his wild fury and reckless determination to destroy my character, he had cast a foul stain upon his own, never to be effaced. I had felt bound to preserve my reputation when unjustly assailed, but it had been to me a painful necessity to throw a fellow-being into the unenviable and disgraceful attitude in which Lewis now stood; and yet, he would not, and did not yield the point, notwithstanding his ignominious defeat.

He very soon began to gather his forces for another attack upon me, and followed the same direction for his accusation,—the land purchase.

The reader will recollect without further repetition, that as I could purchase no land of the Canada Company, because of their indignation against Lewis, I was glad to accept of the contract he had made with Mr. Ingersoll, for lot number four in the colony; that I paid the sum demanded, and took his assignment on the back of the contract, and as we then were on good terms, it never occurred to me that a witness was necessary to attest to the transaction. But after his failure to prove me a thief; his next effort was to convict me of forgery! It will be remembered that Lewis after selling out to me, returned the contract to Mr. Ingersoll, and that I had lost by the means, the land, and at least five hundred dollars' worth of improvements. Then I brought a suit against Lewis, to recover the money I had paid him for the contract; and then it was that he asserted and attempted to prove, that I had forged the assignment, and therefore, had no just claim on him for the amount paid. But in this, as in the other case, he met a defeat and made an entire failure. I recovered all that I claimed, which, was only my just due. One would suppose that after so many unsuccessful attempts to ruin me, he would have left me alone,—but not so with Lewis: he had the ambition of a Bonaparte; and doubtless had he possessed the advantages of an education, instead of having been born and bred a slave, he might, like an Alexander or Napoleon, have astonished the world with his deeds of daring. I am, however, no admirer of what the world call "great men,"—one humble, self-sacrificing Christian, like Benjamin Lundy, has far greater claim on my respect and reverence.

Lewis, failing in his second attack, backed up as he had been in all his wicked course, by a friend wearing the sacred garb of a minister of the gospel, cooled off, and it became evident to all, that he was meditating some different mode of warfare. To this concealed confederate, I must attach great blame, on account of the influence his station and superior learning gave him, not only over Mr. Lewis, but the colonists generally, and which should have been exerted for the good of all, in truth and honesty.



We had as yet received no funds from our foreign agent, N. Paul, and the board of managers had resolved to send a man after him. An Englishman and a white man named Nell, would gladly undertake the mission, leaving his wife and five children among the settlers. Again was I under the necessity of returning to New York, to obtain the funds required to send out Mr. Nell after our agent in England.

The night before I left home, I had a singular dream which I will briefly relate. I dreamed of journeying on a boat to Albany, and of stopping at a house to take tea. Several persons, I thought, were at the table, and as a cup of tea was handed me, I saw a woman slyly drop something into it. I, however, drank the tea, and dreamed that it made me very sick.

I found it difficult to drive from my mind the unpleasant impression this dream had made upon it, but finally succeeded in doing so, attributing it to the many and malicious threatenings which had been made by Lewis and his associates. They had boldly asserted, that "if I went to the States, I would never return alive," and several other threats equally malignant. I, however, started with Mr. Nell for Rochester, where we made an effort to raise money to aid in defraying the expenses of the voyage, and succeeded in collecting about a hundred dollars. From thence we passed on to Albany, where we fell in company with a number of Mr. Paul's friends, who appeared to be terribly indignant, and accused me of coming there to expose their friends,—Paul and Lewis. We had some warm words and unpleasant conversation, after which they left me very unceremoniously, and appeared to be very angry. A short time after, one of them returned, and in the most friendly manner invited me to his house to tea. I was glad of an opportunity to show that I harbored no unpleasant feelings toward them, and immediately accompanied him home. The moment that we were all seated at the table, an unpleasant suspicion flashed through, my mind. The table, the company—all seemed familiar to me, and connected with some unpleasant occurrence which I could not then recall. But when the lady of the house poured out a cup of tea, and another was about to pass it, I heard her whisper, "I intended that for Mr. Steward," my dream for the first time, flashed through my mind, with all the vivid distinctness of a real incident. I endeavored to drive it from my thoughts, and did so. Pshaw! I said to myself; I will not be suspicious nor whimsical, and I swallowed the tea; then took my leave for the steamboat, on our way to New York city.

When we had passed a few miles out of Albany, the boat hove to, and there came on board four men—one of the number a colored man. The white men repaired to their state-rooms, leaving the colored man on deck, after the boat had returned to the channel. He attracted my attention, by his dejected appearance and apparent hopeless despair. He was, I judged, about forty years of age; his clothing coarse and very ragged; and the most friendless, sorrowful looking being I ever saw. He spake to no one, but silently paced the deck; his breast heaving with inaudible sighs; his brow contracted with a most terrible frown; his eyes dreamily fastened on the floor, and he appeared to be considering on some hopeless undertaking, I watched him attentively, as I walked to and fro on the same deck, and could clearly discover that some fearful conflict was taking place in his mind; but as I afterwards repassed him he looked up with a happy, patient smile, that lighted up his whole countenance, which seemed to say plainly, I see a way of escape, and have decided on my course of action. His whole appearance was changed; his heart that before had beat so wildly was quiet now as the broad bosom of the Hudson, and he gazed alter me with a look of calm deliberation, indicative of a settled, but desperate purpose. I walked hastily forward and turned around, when, Oh, my God! what a sight was there! Holding still the dripping knife, with which he had cut his throat! and while his life-blood oozed from the gaping wound and flowed over his tattered garments to the deck, the same exultant smile beamed on his ghastly features!

The history of the poor, dejected creature was now revealed: he had escaped from his cruel task-master in Maryland; but in the midst of his security and delightful enjoyment, he had been overtaken by the human blood-hound, and returned to his avaricious and tyrannical master, now conducting him back to a life of Slavery, to which he rightly thought death was far preferable.

The horrors of slave life, which he had so long endured, arose in all their hideous deformity in his mind, hence the conflict of feeling which I had observed,—and hence the change in his whole appearance, when he had resolved to endure a momentary pain, and escape a life-long scene of unrequited toil and degradation.

There happened to be on the boat at the time, several companies of citizen soldiers, who, shocked by the awful spectacle, expressed their decided abhorrence of the institution of Slavery, declaring that it was not for such peculiar villainy, that their fathers fought and bled on the battle field. So determined were they in their indignation; so loudly demanded they a cessation of such occurrences on board our boats, and the soil of a free State, that the slaveholders became greatly alarmed, and with all possible dispatch they hurriedly dragged the poor bleeding slave into a closet, and securely locked the door; nor have I ever been able to learn his final doom. Whether the kindly messenger of death released him from the clutches of the man-stealer, or whether he recovered to serve his brutal master, I have never been informed.

After this exciting scene had passed, I began to realize that I was feeling quite ill; an unusual load seemed to oppress my stomach, and by the time we had reached New York city, I was exceedingly distressed. I hastened to a boarding house, kept by a colored woman, who did everything in her power to relieve me; but I grew worse until I thought in reality, I must die. The lady supposed I was dying of cholera, sent to Brooklyn after Mr. Nell; but having previously administered an emetic, I began to feel better; and when I had finally emptied my stomach of its contents, tea and all, by vomiting, I felt into a profound sleep, from which I awoke greatly relieved. The kindness of that lady I shall not soon forget. She had a house full of boarders, who would have fled instantly, had they known that, as she supposed, I was suffering from cholera; and instead of sending me to the hospital, as she might have done, she kept all quiet until it was over, doing all she could for my relief and comfort; yet, it was a scene of distress which I hope may never be repeated.

On the following morning, I saw in the city papers, "A Card," inserted by the owner of the poor slave on board the steamboat, informing the public that he was returning South with a fugitive slave, who, when arrested, evinced great willingness to return; who had confessed also, that he had done very wrong in leaving his master, for which he was sorry,—but he supposed that the abolitionists had been tampering with him. That was all! Not a word about his attempt to take his life! Oh no, he merely wished to allay the excitement, that the horrid deed had produced on the minds of those present.

I was indignant at the publication of such a deliberate falsehood, and immediately wrote and published that I too was on board the same boat with the fugitive; that I had witnessed an exhibition of his willingness to return to Slavery, by seeing him cut his throat, and lay on the deck wallowing in his blood; that the scene had so excited the sympathies of the soldiers present, that his owner had been obliged to hurry him out of their sight, &c.

When this statement appeared in the newspapers, it so exasperated the friends of the slaveholder, that I was advised to flee from the city, lest I might be visited with personal violence; but I assured my advisers that it was only the wicked who "flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion." I therefore commenced the business that brought me to that city. Messrs. Bloss, Nell, and myself, made an effort, and raised between three and four hundred dollars for the purpose of sending Mr. Nell after Rev. N. Paul.

Most of the funds collected, we gave to Mr. Nell, who sailed from New York, and arrived safely in England, just as N. Paul was boarding a vessel to return to New York.

Had Mr. Nell acted honorably, or in accordance with his instructions, he would have returned with the agent; but he remained in England, and for aught I know is there yet. He was sent expressly after Mr. Paul, and when he left that kingdom, Nell's mission was ended. He proved himself less worthy of confidence than the agent, for he did return when sent for, and he did account for the money he had collected, though he retained it all; but Mr. Nell accounted for nothing of the kind; and if he has ever returned, I have not seen him. Mr. N. Paul arrived in New York in the fall of 1834, and remained there through the winter, to the great disappointment and vexation of the colonists. I wrote him concerning our condition and wants, hoping it would induce him to visit us immediately; but he had married while in England, an English lady, who had accompanied aim to New York, where they were now living; nor did he appear to be in any haste about giving an account of himself to the board of managers who had employed him.



During my absence in New York city, Lewis and his confederates were prophesying that I would never trouble them more, and shaking their heads quite ominously at the happy riddance. One day, our hired man entered the house and inquired of my wife, when I was expected home. She told him she did not know, having received no intelligence from me. He assured her that a letter had been received by some one in the colony; that he had seen it, and had heard Mr. Lewis speak of conveying it to her,—but as it did not come, she gave it up, supposing some mistake had been made. I had, however, written, naming the time when she might expect me; but no letter of mine reached her, during my long absence, for which she could not account. A short time before that specified for my return, a woman, whose husband was an associate of Mr. Lewis, came to my house, and urged my wife "to leave word at the village of London, to have Mr. Steward detained there, should he arrive toward evening, and by no means allow him to start for the colony after dark." My family had so often been alarmed by such warnings, and had so frequently been annoyed by the violent threatenings of Lewis, that they ceased to regard them, and paid little attention, to this one.

I arrived at London on the day I had appointed for my return, but was detained there until a late hour; feeling anxious, however, to get home that night, supposing that I was expected,—I therefore hired a horse to ride the remaining fifteen miles to the settlement.

The road from London to Wilberforce led through a swamp, known as "McConnell's Dismal Swamp," and it was indeed, one of the most dreary places in all that section of country. I am certain that a hundred men might conceal themselves within a rod of the highway, without being discovered.

The horse I had engaged, was a high spirited animal, and to that fact, I doubtless owe my life. The moon shone brightly, and nothing broke the stillness of the night, as I rode onward, but the clatter of my horse's hoofs, and an occasional "bow-wow" of some faithful watch-dog.

When I reached the swamp and entered its darkened recesses, the gloom and stillness was indeed fearful; my horse started at every rustling leaf or crackling brush, until I attempted to pass a dense thicket, when I was started by the sharp crack of a rifle, and a bullet whizzed past me, close to my ear! The frightened horse reared and plunged, and then springing as if for life, he shot off like an arrow, amid the explosion of fire arms discharged at me as I rode away. I lost my balance at first, and came near falling, but recovering it I grasped the rein tightly, while my fiery steed flew over the ground with lightning speed; nor did I succeed in controlling him until he had run two miles, which brought me to my own door.

I found my family well, and very grateful that I had arrived safely after so fearful an encounter.

When morning came I sent a person out to inquire whether any of the settlers were out the night previous, and the report was, "Israel Lewis and two other men were out all night; that they had been seen near the Dismal Swamp;" moreover, Lewis was seen to come in that morning with his boots covered with swamp mud,—these the Rev. Mr. Paul's boys cleaned for him, all of which was evidence that he it was, who had way-laid me with criminal intent.

I afterwards learned, that those three men left the settlement at dusk, for the swamp; that they stationed themselves one rod apart, all on one side of the road, each man with a loaded rifle,—the poorest marksman was to fire first, and if he did not bring me down, probably the second would; but Lewis being the best shot of the three, was to reserve his fire until the last, which they supposed I could not escape. It was quite dark in the thicket, and my spirited horse plunged in every direction so furiously, that they could take no aim at me, until he had started to run, when we were soon beyond their reach.

We had already had so much difficulty in our little colony that we were getting heartily sick of it. I was well aware that Lewis was thirsting for revenge; that he wished to do me a great wrong; and yet I was thankful on his account, as well as on my own, that he had been prevented from imbruing his hands in the blood of a fellow being.

Had he succeeded in taking my life, as he undoubtedly intended to do, he would have been arrested immediately, and most likely punished as a murderer. He had boldly threatened my life, and the colonists were expecting something of the kind to take place. Had I not arrived at the colony, it was known at London that I had started for the settlement that night, and an immediate search would have been instituted; nor could the wicked deed have brought the least peace to the mind of Lewis or his companions,

"No peace of mind does that man know, Who bears a guilty breast; His conscience drives him to and fro, And never lets him rest."



The bold and wicked attempt to take my life, recorded in the preceding chapter, aroused a feeling of indignation in the community against Lewis, and completely destroyed the little influence he had left; moreover, he had now been so extensively published as an impostor, that he could collect no more money on the false pretense of raising it for the benefit of the colony. As soon as his money was gone and his influence destroyed, —many who had been his firmest friends, turned against him, and among this class was the Rev. Benjamin Paul. He had ever professed the greatest friendship for, and interest in the success of Mr. Lewis. Heretofore, whenever he went to the States he was commissioned by that gentleman's family, to purchase a long list of expensive articles, which the poor colonists were seldom able to buy; and he generally returned to them richly laden with goods, purchased with, money given to the poor, sick, and destitute in the colony.

Mr. B. Paul had ever been a very proud man, but not a very healthy one. He was inclined to pulmonary diseases; but had kept up pretty well, until Lewis was effectually put down, and his own character involved in many of his notorious proceedings, together with the disappointment occasioned by his brother remaining so long in England, when his health failed, and he sank rapidly under accumulating disasters, to the grave.

The Welshmen had partially engaged him to preach for them the ensuing year, but something they had heard of him changed their minds, and they were about appointing a meeting to investigate his conduct, when they were informed of his illness, and concluded to let it pass. His son, with whom he lived, became deranged, and his oldest daughter on whom he was greatly dependent, had been dismissed from school, where she had been for some time engaged in teaching. All these unpleasant circumstances in his sickly state weighed heavily upon his proud heart; and he not only declined in health, but sank into a state of melancholy and remorse for his past course of living. As he lay pining and murmuring on his death bed, I could but reflect how different the scene from that of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who could exclaim, when about to be offered, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."

I called to see him as he lay writhing in agony, his sunken eyes gleaming wildly, rolling and tossing from side to side, while great drops of perspiration stood upon his forehead, continually lamenting his misspent time, and the life he had led! He took my hand in his cold, bony fingers, thanking me that I did not so despise him, that I could not come to see him in his sorrow and affliction. Generally, however, when he raved and talked of his wicked life, his family excluded all persons from his room except his attendants.

Pride, which had ever been his besetting sin, displayed itself in his conduct to the last, for he had a lengthy will made, dispensing some sixteen hundred dollars to different individuals, when he must have known that his whole possessions would not amount to half that sum. As I looked upon him I could but reflect on the mysterious ways of Providence. Before me lay a man, who had for years arrayed himself against me, using all his influence as a man and a minister to injure me, by setting Lewis forward in his wickedness; his family living in extravagance and a style far beyond their means, while mine had labored hard and were sometimes destitute, often harassed and perplexed on every side by himself and party. And for what? Because I would not join hands with iniquity, and deeds of darkness. Notwithstanding the contrast, when I heard his bitter lamentations and self-reproaches, I could lift my heart to God, in gratitude for His protecting goodness, which had preserved me an honest man. I had often erred no doubt, but it had never been designedly; and never did I value a good conscience more than when standing by the death-bed of Benjamin Paul, who now had passed the Jordan of death; and it is enough to know that his future, whether of joy or woe, will be meted out to him, by a merciful and just God,—nevertheless, his last moments on earth were such as ought to arouse every professed Christian, to redoubled diligence in watchfulness and prayer, lest they fall into temptation,— lest they determine to become rich, and thereby fall into diverse and hurtful lusts, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows.

Soon after the event above narrated, a law was passed in the Province, allowing each township to elect three commissioners, whose duty it should be, to transact the public business pertaining to the township. Each township should also elect one township clerk, whose business it should be, to hold and keep all moneys, books, and papers belonging to said town; with power to administer oaths, and in fact, he, with the commissioners, were to constitute a board, possessing all the power of a court, in relation to township business.

In our colony, located in the township of Bidulph, the colored people were a large majority of the inhabitants, which gave us the power to elect commissioners from our own settlement, and therefore, three black men where duly chosen, who entered on the duties of their office, while your humble servant, A. Steward, was elected township clerk, with all the responsibility of the office resting upon him and the same power given him as though he had been born in Her Britannic Majesty's dominion, with a face as white as the driven snow. I felt the responsibility of my office, but not more deeply than I did this assurance of entire confidence, and respect shown me by my townsmen, after all the cruel persecutions I had met; after all the accusations of theft, forgery, &c., that vicious person could bring against me.

The Rev. Nathaniel Paul, with his lady, arrived at Wilberforce in the spring of 1835, to the great joy of the colonists, to find that his brother had gone the way of all the earth, and his remains quietly resting on his own premises, where his afflicted family still resided.

In the colony there was a great deal of excitement regarding the course our agent would pursue, and all waited with anxious expectancy to see him enrich the treasury with his long-promised collections.

We had agreed, on sending him forth as an agent for the colony, to give him fifty dollars per month for his services, besides bearing his expenses.

The reverend gentleman, charged, on his return to the colony, the sum specified, for four years, three months and twenty days. We spent several days in auditing his account, with increased fearful forebodings. We found his receipts to be, in the United Kingdoms of Great Britain, one thousand six hundred and eighty-three pounds, nineteen shillings; or, eight thousand and fifteen dollars, eighty cents. His expenditures amounted to one thousand four hundred and three pounds, nineteen shillings; or, seven thousand and nineteen dollars, eighty cents. Then his wages for over four years, at fifty dollars per month, left a balance against the board of several hundred dollars, which we had no funds to cancel, inasmuch as the reverend gentleman had paid us nothing of all he had collected in Europe, nor even paid a farthing toward liquidating the debts incurred for his outfit and expenses.

There was also in Mr. Paul's charge against the board of managers, an item of two hundred dollars, which he had paid to Wm. Loyd Garrison, while that gentleman was also in England; but by whose authority he had paid or given it, it was hard to determine. We gave him no orders to make donations of any kind. To take the liberty to do so, and then to charge it to our poor and suffering colony, seemed hard to bear; still we allowed the charge. Had we, in our straitened and almost destitute circumstances, made a donation of that, to us, large sum of money to Mr. Garrison or any body else, certainly we should, at least, have had the credit of it; and as Mr. Garrison had made no acknowledgment of the receipt, I wrote him on the subject, and his answer will be found, heading our correspondence, in this volume.

Not a dollar did the treasurer ever receive of the Rev. N. Paul, unless we call the donations he had made without our permission, a payment. He did, it is true, award to the board, the sum of two hundred dollars, paid by him to Mr. Garrison, and fifty dollars more given by himself to Mr. Nell, on his departure from England. Not a farthing could we get of him; and in short, as far as the monied interest of the colony was concerned, his mission proved an entire failure. How much good the reverend gentleman may have done in spreading anti-slavery truth, during his stay in Europe, is not for me to say. The English, at that time held slaves; and report speaks well of his labors and endeavors to open the eyes of that nation to the sin of slavery and the injustice of the colonization scheme. It is said that he continually addressed crowded and deeply interested audiences, and that many after hearing him, firmly resolved to exert themselves, until every chain was broken and every bondman freed beneath the waving banner of the British Lion. Perhaps his arduous labors assisted in freeing the West India islands of the hateful curse of Slavery; if so, we shall not so much, regret the losses and severe trials, it was ours to bear at that time.

The indignant and disappointed colonists, however, took no such view of his mission; and knowing as they did, that he had paid not a cent of cash into the treasury, nor liquidated one debt incurred on his account, they became excited well nigh to fury,—so much so, that at one time we found it nearly impossible to restrain them from having recourse to Lynch law. They thought that the reverend gentleman must have large sums of money at his command somewhere—judging from his appearance and mode of living, and that a little wholesome punishment administered to his reverence, by grave Judge Lynch, enthroned upon a "cotton bale," might possibly bring him to terms, and induce him to disgorge some of his ill-gotten wealth, which he so freely lavished upon himself, and was withholding from those to whose wants it had been kindly contributed.

Just, as was their dissatisfaction, I was satisfied by the examination of his accounts, that he had spent nearly all of the money collected for us; his expenses had been considerable; beside, he had fallen in love, during his stay in England, with a white woman, and I suppose it must have required both time and money to woo and win so fine and fair an English lady, said also to possess quite a little sum of money, that is, several thousand dollars, all of which our poor, little suffering colony must pay for,—the reverend gentleman's statement to the contrary notwithstanding.

We succeeded at last, after a tedious effort, in satisfying the minds of the settlers to the extent, that a violent outbreak was no longer to be feared or dreaded. When all was quiet in the colony, I ventured to make my first call on the wife of N. Paul, who was then stopping with the widow of the late Rev. B. Paul, residing some three miles from us.

The houses of the colonists were generally built of logs, hewn on both sides, the spaces chinked with mortar, and the roof constructed of boards. The lower part was generally left in one large room, and when another apartment was desired, it was made by drawing a curtain across it. When we arrived at the residence of Mrs. Paul, we were immediately ushered into the presence of Mrs. Nathaniel Paul, whom we found in an inner apartment, made by drawn curtains, carpeted in an expensive style, where she was seated like a queen in state,—with a veil floating from her head to the floor; a gold chain encircling her neck, and attached to a gold watch in her girdle; her fingers and person sparkling with costly jewelry. Her manners were stiff and formal nor was she handsome, but a tolerably fair looking woman, of about thirty years of age: and this was the wife of our agent for the poor Wilberforce colony!

N. Paul had now settled his business with the colonists, and being about to leave for the States, we appealed to his honor as a man and a Christian, to call at Rochester and pay the seven hundred dollar bank debt, for which he was justly and legally holden, and relieve honorably, those kind gentlemen who had raised the money for him. He well knew the condition of our friend E. Peck, and that the names of some of our colored friends were also attached to the note; all of whom were relying implicitly on his or our honor to pay the obligation. That we had no funds in the treasury he was well aware; also, that all were deeply concerned about that debt. All this he knew; and in answer to our earnest and repeated injunction, he promised most faithfully and solemnly that he would call at Rochester, and take up the note. On those conditions he was allowed to leave the colony, and when parting with me, no more to meet in this life, his last assurance was, that he would cancel that obligation. What then could we think of his word, when we learned soon after that he passed Rochester, without calling, direct to Albany; nor did he ever return, or make any explanation of his conduct; nor give any reason why his promise was not redeemed and the money paid.

He preached in Albany until his health failed, then he was obliged to live the best way he could, and at last to depend on charity.

His disease was dropsy, from which he suffered deeply, being unable to lie down for some time previous to his death. I have been told that his domestic life was far from a peaceable or happy one, and that in poverty, sorrow and affliction, he lingered on a long time, till death at last closed the scene.



I was now seriously meditating a return to Rochester. My purpose in going to Canada, has already been made known to the reader, as well as some of the disappointments I met, and some of the trials and difficulties I had to encounter.

Now, after laboring, and suffering persecution for about five years, my way was comparatively clear; still I wished to leave the Province and return to the States, in which prospect my family greatly rejoiced. Doubtless most persons in the position I then occupied, would have chosen to remain; but for several reasons, I did not.

Notwithstanding I had been during my youth, a poor, friendless, and illiterate slave, I had, through the mercy of God and the kindness of friends, not only obtained my freedom, but I had by the industry and perseverance of a few years, acquired a tolerable English education, established a profitable business, built for myself a good and extensive business reputation, and had laid the foundation for increasing wealth and entire independence.

Indeed, so far as a competency is concerned, I possessed that when I left Rochester. My house and land was paid for; my store also, and the goods it contained were free from debt; beside, I had several hundred dollars in the bank for future use,—nor do I boast, when I say that the comfort and happiness of myself and family, required no further exertion on my part to better our worldly condition. We were living in one of the best countries on the earth, surrounded by friends,—good and intelligent society, and some of the noblest specimens of Christian philanthropy in the world. My wife and children, had not only been accustomed to the comforts, if not the luxuries of life, but also to associate with persons of refinement and cultivation; and although they had willingly accompanied me to Canada, where they had experienced little less than care, labor and sorrow, it cannot be thought very strange that they should desire to return. We were colored people to be sure, and were too often made to feel the weight of that cruel prejudice, which small minds with a perverted education, know so well how to heap upon the best endeavors of our oppressed race. Yet truth and justice to my friends, compel me to say, that after a short acquaintance, I have usually been treated with all that kindness and confidence, which should exist between man and man.

At my house of entertainment in Canada, it was not uncommon for gentlemen of my former acquaintances, to stop for a friendly chat; merchants, journeying through our settlement, after goods, would frequently call, with their money, watches, and other valuables, carefully concealed about their persons; but when they learned our name, and had become acquainted a little, they would not only freely expose their wealth, but often place all their money and valuables in my hands, for safe keeping; nor was their confidence ever misplaced to my knowledge.

Another thing: when I went to Wilberforce, I supposed that the colonists would purchase the whole township of Bidulph, and pay for it, which might have been done, had they been fortunate enough to put forward better men. Then when we had a sufficient number of inhabitants, we could have sent a member to Parliament, one of our own race, to represent the interests of our colony. In all this we were disappointed. The Canada Company, in their unjust judgment of a whole people, by one dishonest man, had stopped the sale of lands to colored persons, which of course, put an end to the emigration of respectable and intelligent colored men to that place; nor was there any prospect of a favorable change. Moreover, the persecutions which gave rise to the colony, had in a great measure ceased; anti-slavery truth was taking effect on the minds of the people, and God was raising up many a friend for the poor slave, to plead with eloquent speech and tears, the cause of the dumb and down-trodden.

These, with other considerations, influenced me in my decision to leave Canada. As soon, however, as my intentions were made known, I was importuned on all sides, by persons both in and out of the settlement, to remain awhile longer, at least. This will be seen by a reference to the appendix.

After due deliberation, I concluded to send my family to the States, and remain myself, until my year should terminate, for which I had been elected township clerk. In accordance with this determination, I made preparation to take my family to Port Stanley, forty miles distant. But what a contrast was there between our leaving Rochester, five years before, and our removing from the colony! Then, we had five two-horse wagon loads of goods and furniture, and seven in family; now, our possessions were only a few articles, in a one-horse wagon, with an addition of two members to our household! The settlers collected about us, to take an affectionate leave of my wife and children; but tears and sobs, prevented an utterance of more than a "God bless you," and a few like expressions. The scene was indeed an affecting one: all the weary days of our labor; all the trials and difficulties we had passed; all the sweet communion we had enjoyed in our religious and social meetings; all the acts of neighborly kindness, seemed now to be indelibly impressed on every memory, and we felt that a mutual regard and friendship had bound us closer to each other, in the endearing bonds of Christian brotherhood— bonds not to be broken by the adverse scenes incident to frail human life.

Arrived at Port Stanley, we were kindly entertained by a Mr. White, a fugitive slave from Virginia, who owned a snug little farm on the bank of Kettle Creek, and who appeared to be in a good and prosperous condition. Being detained there, waiting for a boat, on which I was anxious to see my family comfortably situated before I left them, I was aroused at an early hour on the second morning of our stay, by a loud rapping at the door; and hearing myself inquired for, I dressed myself immediately, and followed Mr. White into the sitting room, where I saw two strange men, armed with bludgeons! I soon learned, however, that one of them was the under-sheriff, who had come to arrest me for a debt of about forty dollars, and the other armed man had come to assist him, I assured them I was ready to accompany them back to London, which I was obliged to do, a prisoner, leaving my family among comparative strangers. The debt had become due to a man who had worked for us in the building of a saw-mill. I arranged the matter without going to jail, but before I could return to Port Stanley, my family, kindly assisted by Mr. White, had departed for Buffalo. The weather was cold and the lake very rough, but they safely arrived in Rochester, after a journey of three days. During their passage up the lake my oldest daughter took a severe cold, from which she never recovered.

I returned to the colony to attend to the duties of my office, and to close my business with the colony, preparatory to joining my family, who were now settled in Rochester, but in very different circumstances from those in which they had left it. I had deposited quite a sum of money in the Rochester Bank; but our continual expenditures at Wilberforce, in my journeyings for the benefit of the colony, and in the transacting of business pertaining to its interests, had left not one dollar for the support of my family, or to give me another start in business. Nevertheless, I felt willing to submit the case to Him who had known the purity of my intentions, and who had hitherto "led me through scenes dark and drear," believing he would not forsake me now, in this time of need.

Consoling myself with these reflections, I renewed my endeavors to do my best, leaving the event with my God.



I have named, I believe, that all the colored people, who purchased lands of Lewis, could get no deed nor any remuneration for their improvements. This they thought hard and unfair. Some had built a house and barn, cleared land, &c.; but when they wished to pay for their farms, they could get no deed, and were obliged to lose all their labor.

This raised such a general complaint against the land agents, that they finally agreed to pay the squatters for their improvements, if they would leave their farms. An opportunity was soon offered to test their sincerity in this agreement. A shrewd fellow, who had been many years a sailor, named William Smith, had made valuable improvements on land, for which he could get no deed, and then he wished to leave it. His wife, also, died about this time, leaving him with eight children, which determined him to leave the colony, and after providing homes for his children, to return to his former occupation on the high seas; but he also determined not to leave without receiving the pay which the agents had agreed to give for his improvements.

"Oh yes," said they, in answer to his repeated solicitations, "you shall be paid, certainly, certainly; you shall be paid every farthing." But when the appointed day came for the pompous land agents to ride through the settlement, you might see Smith station himself at first one and then another conspicuous place on the road, hoping they would have the magnanimity to stop and pay him, especially, as he had informed them of his destitute and almost desperate condition, with eight young children to maintain, and no means to do so, after giving up to them the farm. Before them as usual rode their body servant, of whom Smith would inquire at what hour the agents might be expected. And most blandly would he be informed of some particular hour, when perhaps, within the next ten minutes, the lordly agent would fly past him, on their foaming steeds, with the speed of a "lightning train." This course they repeated again and again. One day, when all of the land agents rode through the settlement in this manner, Smith followed them on foot over fifty miles. He at last intercepted them, and they promised with the coolest indifference, that on a certain day, not far distant, they would certainly pay him all he claimed, if he would meet them at a certain hotel in London. To this he agreed; and the poor fellow returned to the colony almost exhausted.

His funds were nearly all spent, and he wished to take his children to New York; yet his only hope was in the integrity and honor of the land agents.

On the day appointed, he was at London long before the hour to meet, had arrived. He entered the village with a determined air, and saw the agents just riding up to a hotel,—but not the one they had told him to call at. He, however, waited for no invitation, but entered the hotel and inquired of the servant for his master. He said his master was not there!

"I know he is," said Smith, "and I want to see him."

The servant withdrew, but soon returned to say that his master was engaged and could not see him that day. Smith followed the servant into the hall, calling out to him in the most boisterous manner, demanding to be told the reason why he could not see his master. The noise which Smith purposely made, soon brought into the hall one of the agents, a Mr. Longworth, a short, fat man,—weighing in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds! When he saw Smith, he strutted about, assuring him that this disgraceful uproar was quite uncalled for, and finally putting on a severe look, told him that he could not have anything for his improvements; of course not,— he really could not expect; certainly not, &c. Smith plainly assured the agent that his "blarney" would avail him nothing; he had come by their own appointment to get his pay, and that he certainly should have—if not in the way they themselves agreed upon, he would choose his own method of getting it! Thus saying, he stepped back, threw down his woolly head, and goat fashion, let drive into the fat Englishman's "bread basket!" He sprawled about and soon recovered his standing, but continued to scream and halloo with rage and mortification, more than with pain, until he had brought to the spot landlord, boarders, and servants, to witness the affray; but Smith, nothing daunted, administered two or three more effectual butts with his hard head into the lordly agent, when the subdued and now silent English gentleman, drew from his pocket book, and carefully counted out, every dollar Smith had at first demanded. Smith accepted it pleasantly, thanked him and withdrew, amid the shouts and jeers of the spectators, which the agent was more willing to avoid than he. That was the way the land agent paid the squatter.

It seemed, however, a little too bad, to make a fine English gentleman, feel as "flat" as Longworth appeared to feel; yet it was undoubtedly the only method by which Smith could recover a farthing. The agents, it was supposed, did not design to pay for any improvements; indeed, some very hard and unjust incidents occurred in connection with, that matter, and probably Smith was about the only one, who ever received the full value of his claim.

There was committed about this time, a most shocking murder, in the London district. A farmer who had a respectable family, consisting of a wife and several children, became so addicted to the use of spirituous liquors, that he neglected both his family and farm so much, that his friends felt called upon to request the distiller, who was his near neighbor, to furnish him with no more intoxicating drink. This, so exasperated the poor, ruined and besotted wretch, that he raved like a madman—such as he undoubtedly was—crazed and infuriated, by the contents of the poisoned cup of liquid damnation, held to his lips by a neighboring distiller; a fellow-being, who for the consideration of a few shillings, could see his neighbor made a brute and his family left in destitution and sorrow. Perhaps, however, he did not anticipate a termination so fearful; yet that is but a poor excuse for one who lives by the sale of rum. When a rumseller gives that to a man, which he knows will "steal away his brains," and make him a maniac, how can he anticipate his future conduct? And who is responsible? Ah, who?

When Severin found he could get no more intoxicating beverage, he in his demoniacal rage, conceived the idea of despatching his whole family, and set about his purpose by first snatching the young babe and casting it into the fire! When the poor wife and mother came shrieking to the rescue of her darling infant, he with one furious blow, laid her a bleeding corpse at his feet! Two other young children he next murdered, and left them mingling their blood with that of their mother's, while he ran furiously after the two older ones, who were endeavoring to escape to a neighbor's for assistance; and overtaking, killed them both! When the miserable wretch had completed his hellish design, he started for his nearest neighbor, named Smith, and told him that there was a black and a white man at his house, murdering his family, requesting him to go to their assistance. Mrs. Smith, believing that Severin designed to murder her husband, insisted on his calling his young men to assist him, which he did; and on arriving at the scene of slaughter, a most horrid spectacle was before them: five dead bodies weltering in blood, aside from that of the innocent babe, whose little form lay roasted and charred, on the fatal and bloody hearthstone of the drunkard! Victims all, of an intoxicated husband and father! When the guilty man saw the mangled remains of his household, he only increased his depravity by trying to make others responsible for the wicked deed,—exclaiming in feigned anguish, "my dear wife! my poor children! I was afraid they would murder you! Oh, my lost family!" &c. Community was soon alarmed; Severin, arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to suffer the extreme penalty of the law.

It is sufficient for us to say, that the evidence was clear and conclusive, that he was the only murderer of his family; nor was it doubted that Mrs. Smith's suspicion was correct; yet, with all the array of positive testimony brought against him, he denied the commission of the crime to the last moment of his life! When brought out for execution, he was placed under the gallows, and the rope with its fatal noose adjusted around his neck, when one of the attorneys arose, and with great solemnity, addressed him, in the most impressive manner: "We have done," said he, "all in our power to save your life; but you are justly condemned, and in a few minutes more, will enter the presence of the All-seeing eye of Jehovah; now let me beseech you, in the name of God, to tell the truth, before you die." Severin declared himself innocent of the crime, for which he was about to suffer; but was consoled, he said, with the belief that he should, in a few short moments, meet in blissful re-union his dear, murdered wife and children in heaven, to part no more!

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse