Prayers were read; and during the reading of the Lord's prayer, at the words "Thy will be done," the hardened wretch was launched into eternity.
No room was left to doubt the fact, that Severin with his own hand destroyed the life of his unhappy and abused wife, and also that of his helpless family. Yet in one sense, may we say with the murderer, it was not he who committed the awful and inhuman deed, but boldly and truthfully charge it to man's bitterest foe—Rum! What but the maddening effects of spirituous liquors, could so demoralize, so demonize a man, as to convert the once loving husband and proud father, into a reckless fiend, a heartless savage? Oh, Rum! earth contains not another so fell a foe!
Should any who may read these humble pages, find an effectual warning in the unhappy end of Severin, one which shall induce them to pause in their course, or at once and forever abandon the use of alcoholic drinks, I shall gratefully feel that I have not written this incident in vain.
Before I left Wilberforce, the Rev. S.E. Cornish, made a visit, and preached the Word of Life to the colony, greatly to the satisfaction and comfort of the settlers. After distributing liberally of his abundance, to his poor brethren, he departed for the States, attended by the prayers and blessings of the Wilberforce colonists.
CHARACTER AND DEATH OF I. LEWIS.
I have spoken in the preceding chapter, of a visit from the Rev. S.E. Cornish, to the colony. He had previously written me, concerning the object of his proposed visit, which was to obtain the depositions of the board of managers, relative to all the money received through their agents for the colony. He was sent to Canada then, and once afterwards, for and at the expense of A. Tappan, on business pertaining to the law-suit instituted by I. Lewis against that gentleman, for defamation of character. The depositions taken in the colony, with the expense of twice sending an agent to Canada, must have made a round sum for that kind gentleman to pay, merely for telling a truth already known!
Mr. Cornish had also been informed of my intention to leave the colony, and that my family were already gone. He, knowing something concerning the state of things, urged me to remain at least, until his arrival, as will be seen by a reference to his letter in the appendix.
As I look back on those scenes of labor and trial, I find cause for deep humiliation and gratitude to God, for His goodness and gracious protection, over my frail life, through unseen dangers of various kinds, and for his continued favors and unmerited blessings. Many of my fellow men have fallen in death's cold embrace since that time, while my health and life has been mercifully preserved.
Three of the leading characters of the Wilberforce colony are now dead. Rev. Benjamin Paul, lies in the silent grave-yard in Wilberforce, C.W. His brother, Rev. Nathaniel Paul, also sleeps the dreamless sleep of death, and his dust rests in the beautiful cemetery in Albany, N.Y.
Israel Lewis has also finished his earthly career after robbing the poor of their just dues, and persecuting those who endeavored to defend them; after living in extravagance—"faring sumptuously every day,"—he became reduced in circumstances; despised and dishonored, his proud spirit was at last broken. His health gave way; when at length, unattended and alone, he found his way to a hospital in Montreal, where he soon after died, leaving not enough of all his gains to afford him a decent burial!
Oh, what a reward "for all his labor under the sun!" His fame, his wealth, and his law-suits, all have perished with his memory. Poor man!
Israel Lewis was born a slave, raised on a Southern plantation, and subjected to all the cruelties and deprivations of a bondman. His natural abilities were above mediocrity, but having never had the advantages of an education, or the privileges of a society calculated to cultivate and refine his natural aspiring intellect, and to direct his indomitable will in the acquirement of the more imperishable graces of the human heart, he had come to manhood with a determined, selfish disposition, to accomplish whatever gratified his vanity or administered to the wants of his animal nature.
And may we not, with propriety here inquire, whether our common Father, who has declared himself to be "no respecter of persons," has endowed men with enlarged capacities for the attainment of that knowledge and wisdom, so requisite to the elevation of character,—for the express purpose of seeing them made beasts of burden, and their superior faculties prostituted by the sensuality imposed by Slavery, and to be sold as chattels, with impunity? I tell you, nay. The day when Almighty God will avenge the work of his own hands, hasteth greatly! Were it not so, we might rejoice in the ignorance of the poor slaves, and pray that none of them may ever be endowed with a superior intellect to that of the brutes they are made to resemble. Then would the proud spirit no longer chafe, and manhood writhe in the unbroken chain; but, like the ox to the yoke or the horse to the harness, they might submit, without a conscious violation of their dearest and God given rights. But we were speaking of Israel Lewis.
A natural energy and strength of character, he had inherited; a malicious, selfish, and consequently a deceptive disposition, his life as a slave had undoubtedly bestowed upon him. Intellect must have scope, and when nothing is left within its grasp but vice, can we wonder that the slave possessing the most talent, should generally prove the greatest villain.
Uneducated as was Lewis, his quick perception, his ungoverned passions, and his native independence, not only made him a dangerous slave, but an unfaithful and overbearing companion. He, however, took a wife—a slave like himself,—whose devotedness and good sense, cannot be made manifest, more than in her willingness to leave all that was dear to her on earth, and flee from their birth-place, she knew not whither; but confiding in the professed love and protection of her husband, she cheerfully followed him to the dense forest, in search of that freedom, denied them in their native country,—submitting herself gladly to all the hardships and fearful anxieties of a fugitive slave. What to her were horsemen, armed with dirk and rifle! What though the trained and inhuman blood-hound bayed upon their track! Was not he who had sworn a life-long allegiance to her by her side! Should he be killed or retaken, what could she desire, but to be his companion still! Slavery even, bitter as was the cup, might contain for her one sweet drop, while connubial love lighted up their rude cabin, and sweetened their daily toil; but the additional anticipation of LIBERTY, to their domestic happiness—oh blessed hope! How it quickened their weary footsteps, and, with fixed eyes upon the star of the North, they pressed forward through every difficulty, until they finally reached Cincinnati, O. There they lived quietly, and with others, suffered the terrors of the mob, where also he was chosen agent, to seek a more safe and quiet home for his afflicted and outcast countrymen. The office was accepted, and Lewis became the founder of the Wilberforce colony.
The personal appearance of Israel Lewis was prepossessing; his manner and address easy and commanding. To those unacquainted with his private life, his ungoverned passions, and his unprincipled, revengeful disposition, he could appear the gentleman, the philanthropist, and the Christian.
His education was limited; yet he had managed to gather a sufficient knowledge of the sciences to enable him to read and write, together with quite a fund of general information; and then his shrewdness and tact accomplished all the rest. To strangers he could appear a ripe scholar, if left unquestioned. He was a good speaker, and once spake with eloquence and marked effect before the Legislature, assembled in the Senate Chamber, at Albany, N.Y.
Had the childhood of Mr. Lewis been passed under more favorable auspices; had his intellectual faculties been so cultivated as to predominate over his animal propensities, and his towering aspirations directed toward the accomplishment of acts, lofty in their benevolence, noble in their sacrifice, high in their honorable purpose, and great in their purity; I can but believe that his powerful intellect would have achieved the fame of a Lundy, or would have bequeathed to his brethren a memory like that of a Clarkson. Instead, we have found him devoting his energies to the gratification of his avarice, pride, and ambition—characteristics directly opposed to the deportment of the humble Christian, and such as our Heavenly Father has never promised to prosper. How truly has "the wise man" said, "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live." How strikingly has this passage been verified in the course of Lewis! For a few paltry sums of gain, could he consent, not alone to rob the poor, for whom it was kindly given as unto the Lord, but to turn scornfully away from that poor, illiterate, and humble slave wife, whom he had, in their mutual adversity, vowed to cherish in prosperity as well as in all other circumstances through life. That wife, who had borne with him the sorrows of Slavery—the humble choice of a bondman! She, who fled with him anticipating additional happiness in a life of freedom! Poor woman! Disappointment is of an earthly growth, yet God is merciful; notwithstanding we have the same authority as above, for saying that "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished."
In the hands of a righteous Judge we leave him, who, for the wealth that perisheth,—who, for worldly honor and selfish gratification, could barter his honesty and integrity, as "Esau, who sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage."
To me the lesson is an impressive one, and I am thinking it would be well for us all to examine the foundation on which we stand. If based upon the solid and broad foundation of christianity, doing to others in all things as we would they should do to us, sacrificing on all occasions our own ease, and worldly honor, for the benefit of our fellow-men, and the good of our country, then indeed, we need fear no evil; if the winds of adversity howl about our dwelling, we shall find it will stand, being founded on a ROCK. But if we build upon "the sands" of fame or self-aggrandizement, and, like the towering oak, lift our insignificant heads in proud defiance of the coming storm, we may expect that our superstruction will fall! "And great will be the fall of it!"
MY RETURN TO ROCHESTER.
Having closed my business in Wilberforce, I prepared to leave on the expiration of my term of office as township clerk, which was now near at hand. Notwithstanding, I ever felt a sensation of relief and pleasure, when I thought of returning to my old home and friends in the States, yet as often as I look abroad over the settlement and remember all my glowing hopes,—all my delightful anticipations of a prosperous future for those poor, struggling colonists; when I recollected with what zeal and honest purpose, with what sincerity and sacrifice I had prosecuted my labor among them,—a dark shadow of disappointment would flit across my mind, however welcome it might be. That I had firm and tried friends in the colony, I had never the least reason to doubt, not to suppose their number less after a five years residence with them; but our expectations had not been realized. Our hope of settling a township, to be represented in Parliament by one of our own people, was now forever blasted. I remembered too, that many of the colonists had been unjustly incited against my course; but in the retrospect my heart did not condemn me. Errors many, no doubt I had committed; but I was grateful, when reviewing the whole ground, for a conscience void of offence toward God and man; and I finally took my leave of all, craving the choicest blessings of Heaven to rest upon that infant colony and its interests.
On the nineteenth day of January, 1837, I left Wilberforce, passing through Brantford, Hamilton, Queenston, Lewiston, and from thence to Rochester. During my journey, I could not avoid feeling sad and despondent, as my mind incessantly returned to the review of my mission, upon which I could look with no other decision than that of an entire failure. I had spent my time, wasted my substance for naught, and was now returning to my dependant family,—that, with myself, had been stripped of nearly every means of comfort and support.
What would my Rochester friends think of my conduct? Notwithstanding all my despondency and evil foreboding at that time, I am now well satisfied that my labor was not all in vain, but that some good did result from it.
As I drew near the city, a gloom like thick darkness overshadowed me: I thought of the unfavorable transactions which had occurred between the directors of the colony and my friends in Rochester, and fell to wondering how they would receive me.
On the twenty-third of January, 1837, I finally re-entered the city penniless; but as I soon found, not so friendless as my fears would have it. Among, the first to welcome me back to my old home, was that friend of "blessed memory," Everard Peck, who had been apprised of some of the losses I had met and the trials I had passed through. This gentleman was also one of the first to propose to be one of five men, who should loan me one hundred dollars each, for five years. Through the disinterested kindness of this worthy gentleman, I was in a few days after my arrival, well established in a store of provisions and groceries. The five kind gentlemen, to whom I was so deeply indebted for the loan, were: Everard Peck, George A. Avery, Samuel D. Porter, Levi W. Sibley, and Griffith, Brother & Co.
This noble act of generosity and kindness, on the part of my friends, to furnish me with the means to commence business, especially when their prospect was anything but flattering, regarding my ever being able to refund their well-timed and gracious liberality,—affected me more deeply than all the censure and persecution I had elsewhere received. Their frown and displeasure, I was better prepared to meet than this considerate act of Christian sympathy, which I am not ashamed to say melted me to tears, and I resolved to show my appreciation of their kindness by an industry and diligence in business hitherto unsurpassed.
E. Bardwell, then a merchant on Exchange Street, next laid me under a lasting obligation by offering to sell me goods on credit; others proffered assistance by promising their continual patronage, which was to me the same as cash,—and soon the store I had opened on Main Street, was doing an extensive business. My profits were small to be sure, and I had a heavy rent to pay for my store and dwelling, yet I was making a comfortable living for my family, and laying by something to reimburse the kind friends who had helped me in the time of need, when I found that the health of my family required more of my time and assistance than ever before. My oldest daughter, who, I have before mentioned, having taken a violent cold on Lake Erie, was now confined to her bed. All that could be done to save the life of a darling child—our first born—was done; and if we sometimes went beyond our means, it was a satisfaction to us to see her enjoy some of the comforts of life of which my mission to Canada had deprived her. One physician after another was employed to stay the approach of the destroyer: some said they could cure her, if paid in advance; to all of which I cheerfully acceded, but only to see our beloved sink lower, and patiently pine away.
No one but a parent who has watched the rapid decline of a darling child, and marked with a bursting heart the approaching footsteps of the spoiler, can imagine how powerless we felt at that time. The wealth of the Indias, had we possessed it, would have been freely given, although it would have been unavailing, to shield that loved and gentle form from pain, and we were obliged to look hopelessly on, while our little patient, suffering daughter sank lower and lower every day. In vain were our parental arms outstretched for her protection; from death we could not save her. She had long since ceased to glide about the house, and soothe with her silvery tones all the childish fears of the little ones. Helpless she now lay, burning with fever, and wasting from our sight, "till soft as the dew on the twilight descending," the cold damps of death gathered on her youthful brow. One pleasant morning after passing a restless night, I observed her to gaze earnestly upward, and a moment after I called her name but received no answer.
"Her languishing head was at rest; Its thinkings and achings were o'er; Her quiet, immoveable breast, Was heaved by affliction no more."
On the fifteenth day of April, 1837, she sweetly fell asleep, aged eleven years. Sorrowfully we followed her remains to Mount Hope, where we laid her down to rest until the resurrection morning. Death had now made its first inroad in our family circle, and since then we have laid two other loved ones by her side. We sorrowed, but not without hope.
My business continued to prosper, and I concluded to buy a small variety store, containing some three or four hundred dollars worth of goods on the corner of Main and North Streets, formerly owned by Mr. Snow, but, having two stores on my hands, I did not make much by the trade.
The first summer after I returned to Rochester, the friends of temperance made a fine celebration, and gave me the privilege of providing the dinner.
I considered it not only a privilege, but an honor, and felt very grateful to the committee who conferred the favor upon me.
The celebration came off on the Fourth of July, and was indeed a splendid affair. The multitude were addressed on the public square, by some of the best speakers in the country. I laid in a large quantity of provisions of every available kind, built a bower, hired waiters, and prepared seats for five hundred to dine; but when the oration was over, and the multitude came to the table, I found that as many more seats were wanted. We, however, accommodated as many as we could, at one dollar each, and all passed off well, to the great satisfaction of all concerned.
When all was over, and the friends learned that I had on hand a large amount of cooked provision, they continued their kindness by purchasing it, thus preventing any loss on my part.
My store on the corner of Main and North Streets, was at the head of the market, and I was enabled to supply both of my stores with country produce on the best possible terms. I kept two clerks at each store, and all seemed prosperous for a time, when from some cause, which I could never understand, my business began to fail. My family had ever lived prudently, and I knew that was not the cause. I thought to better my circumstances by taking a store in the Rochester House, but that proved to be a bad stand for my business, and after one year, I removed to Buffalo Street, opposite the Court House. I ought to say, that as soon as I found that my income was getting less than my expenses, I went to the gentlemen who had loaned me the five hundred dollars, and showed them the true state of my affairs, and they kindly agreed to take fifty per cent., which I paid them.
After locating on Buffalo Street, I took in a partner, named John Lee, a young man, active and industrious, who paid into the firm three hundred dollars, with which we bought goods. With what I had on hand, this raised the joint stock to about a thousand dollars, on which we were making frequent additions, and on which we had an insurance of six hundred dollars. Our business was now more prosperous than at any previous time, and we began to look up with hope and confidence in our final success. One night I returned to my home as usual, leaving Lee in the store. About twelve o'clock, Mr. Morris awoke me with a few loud raps, and the announcement that my store was on fire and a part of my goods in the street! I hastened to the place, where I found, as he had said, what was saved from the fire piled up in the street and the fire extinguished. The building was greatly damaged and the goods they rescued were nearly ruined. Now we were thrown out of business, and the firm was dissolved. With the assistance of W.S. Bishop, a lawyer, we made out the amount of damage, which was readily paid by the agent for the insurance company.
When the Fourth of July came round again, the temperance men resolved on having another demonstration, and as before, I was requested to supply the dinner, which I did, after the same manner as the year previous.
Having been thrown out of business by the fire, I began to examine my pecuniary matters, and found that I was some three or four hundred dollars in debt, which I had no means of paying. True, I had met with a great misfortune, but I felt that to be an honest man I must meet all obligations, whether legally bound to do so or not; yet it was beyond my power at that time, and I finally concluded to leave the city, and try to better my condition by some other business, or at least to clear myself from debt.
BISHOP BROWN—DEATH OF MY DAUGHTER.
I removed with my family to the village of Canandaigua, where I commenced teaching a school for colored children, assisted by my daughter. The school was sustained partly by the liberality of the citizens of the village, and partly by donations from abroad. It was continued two years, and the children made rapid progress while they were under our tuition.
Soon after I left Rochester, I visited New York city, and while there, I joined "The African Methodist Episcopal Conference." Bishop Brown, of Philadelphia, presided over the deliberations of that body, and appeared to be a man of deep piety, as well as apt in business, and was a native of one of the Carolinas. I found a pleasing acquaintance also, with Bishop Walters of Baltimore, Md. He was small in stature; but a powerful speaker, and discharged every duty with "an eye single to the glory of God." He has now gone to give an account of his stewardship, and I pray that "his mantle may fall" upon one as capable of leading our people as he. The conference consisted of some sixty or seventy ministers of the gospel, with these two Bishops at their head. The conference continued its session ten days. When it was closed, Bishop Brown, with several others, started on a visit to the West. They called at Rochester, and then passed over to Canada, where a conference was to be holden. We arrived, after a pleasant journey, at Hamilton, where the English government have a regiment of black soldiers stationed. It was common, in passing through the streets of Hamilton, to meet every few rods, a colored man in uniform, with a sword at his side, marching about in all the military pomp allowed only to white men in this free republic.
All being in readiness, Bishop Brown opened the conference under the authority of Her Britannic Majesty, with great solemnity, which seemed to be felt by the whole assembly. This meeting appeared to me far more interesting than the one we had attended in New York city. The colored people were much more numerous in Hamilton, and in far better circumstances than in New York. It is a hard case to be poor in any large city, but to be both poor and black, as was the condition of the majority of our friends in New York, was indeed a terrible calamity. Every class, no matter how worthless they might be, would be allowed to rent a house in preference to a colored man. The consequence was, our people were crowded back into the most unhealthy alleys, in old dilapidated tenements unfit for human beings to dwell in, and such as could not be disposed of to any other class of people. I am happy to say, however, that a favorable change has taken place in New York, since the time of which I am speaking. Capitalists have noted the good reputation of the colored people as tenants, and have of late erected good dwellings for their accommodation. In Hamilton there was none of that wretchedness and squalid poverty, nor any of that drunken rowdyism so common in Eastern cities, perceivable among the colored people.
Our conference was largely attended by all classes, both black and white, —many of the latter invited the Bishop with his associates to their dwellings to dine, indeed we seldom took a meal at our lodgings, so constantly were we solicited by friends to accompany them home.
We also found many fugitive slaves in that city, many of whom were intelligent mechanics. Some of them took us about the place, showing us the different buildings they were engaged in erecting; quite a number were employed in building a church which appeared to be done in a workman-like manner.
In the meantime our meeting was progressing in a very interesting manner, and when the closing services were commenced, the house was filled to overflowing; still many could not be accommodated. The preaching was solemn and impressive, and it really seemed to me that the glory of God filled the house in which we worshipped; saints rejoiced and shouted "glory to God, in the highest," while sinners trembled and cried out, "what must we do to be saved from the wrath to come." There were several hopeful conversions during the session of conference; and after its close we spent one day in making social calls, and viewing the city and its surroundings.
Burlington Bay makes an excellent harbor for shipping, while Burlington Heights loom up on the north in all their wild and terrific grandeur. Near the bay resides Mr. McNab, so notorious in the history of the Canadian revolution. We went in a large company to look at his beautiful grounds and residence, over which we were politely conducted by his amiable lady.
It was indeed a lordly mansion, with its surroundings laid out in the English style of princely magnificence.
On our return to the city at evening, we were invited to attend a grand soiree, got up in honor of the Bishop's first visit to that place. Several families of colored people combined to provide the splendid entertainment, while one lady presided at the board. She was very beautiful and very dark; but a complete model of grace and elegance, conversing with perfect ease and intelligence with all, both black and white ministers, who surrounded the festive board, as well as our Irish friends, not a few of whom were present. One honest son of the Emerald Isle entered, and not understanding the matter, inquired of his brother "Pat," in rather a loud whisper, "What's all them nagurs setting to that table for?" He, however, soon satisfied himself, and all passed off quietly and in excellent order. At a late hour the company, after a benediction, withdrew and dispersed.
We left Hamilton the following morning, feeling grateful and pleased with our meeting and visit.
It was a beautiful morning; the lake was still, no sound was heard but the rushing waves, as our boat moved on through its placid waters, toward our destination, then called Fort George, now Niagara, where we took stage for the Falls.
At that place of resort, we stopped to view the stupendous work of Almighty God, and listen to the ceaseless thundering of the cataract. How tame appear the works of art, and how insignificant the bearing of proud, puny man, compared with the awful grandeur of that natural curiosity. Yet there, the rich from all parts of the world, do congregate! There you will find the idle, swaggering slaveholder, blustering about in lordly style; boasting of his wealth; betting and gambling; ready to fight, if his slightest wish is not granted, and lavishing his cash on all who have the least claim upon him. Ah, well can he afford to be liberal,—well can he afford to spend thousands yearly at our Northern watering places; he has plenty of human chattels at home, toiling year after year for his benefit. The little hoe-cake he gives them, takes but a mill of the wealth with which they fill his purse; and should his extravagance lighten it somewhat, he has only to order his brutal overseer to sell—soul and body —some poor creature; perchance a husband, or a wife, or a child, and forward to him the proceeds of the sale. While the wretched slave marches South with a gang, under the lash, he lavishes his funds in extravagant living,—funds gathered from the tears and blood of a helpless human being. Have you, dear reader, ever watched the slaveholder at such places as I have, gliding through the shady groves, or riding in his splendid carriage, dressed in the richest attire, and with no wish ungratified that gold can purchase; and have you ever been guilty of envying him, or of wishing yourself in his condition? If so, think of the curse which rests on him who grinds the face of the poor. Think of his doom in the day of final retribution, when he shall receive at the bar of a righteous Judge, "according to the deeds done in the body," and not according to his wealth and power. Think you, that the prayers, cries, and pleadings of the down-trodden slave that for years have been ascending to the throne of a just God, will never be avenged? Yea, verily, the day of reckoning hastens on apace, and though, "He bear long with them; He will surely avenge them of their adversaries; and that speedily!"
As we pursued our journey to Buffalo, we passed Grand Island, from whence Mordecai Emanuel Noah, some years ago issued a proclamation, calling on the Jews to come and build on that island the "City of Refuge," but which I believe was not responded to, as I saw it remained in its native wildness. He had also a monument erected there at the time, which might be seen from the highway and canal, consisting of a white marble slab, six feet in height, with a suitable inscription upon it, to direct the poor Jew to the City of Refuge.
It was quite conspicuous, but not so magnificent as Gen. Brock's at Queenston Heights.
Arrived at Buffalo, we held several meetings which were very interesting. The colored people were then numerous in that city, and owned one of the largest churches in Western New York. We found a large and prosperous society under the superintendence of Elder Weir, who was a good and talented man, setting a godly example for his flock to imitate. At Buffalo I parted with my pleasant and instructive traveling companion, Bishop Brown, never to meet again on the shores of time. Soon after that pleasant journey he died, and passed from his labor to reward.
Buffalo was then, as now a great place for business. Vessels from all parts of the country crowded the docks, and I then thought that it must in time become one of the largest cities in the Union. After a pleasant visit with our people there, I returned to my home in Canandaigua, where I now began to feel quite settled.
I had been requested to act as agent for the "Anti-Slavery Standard," with which I complied, and leaving my daughter to teach the school, I spent the most of my time in traveling through the country to advance the interests of that paper.
When I returned from Buffalo, she was complaining of poor health, nor was it long before we saw that she was rapidly declining.
This beloved daughter, I had spared no pains nor money to educate and qualify for teaching. I had encountered all the trials and difficulties that every colored man meets, in his exertions to educate his family. I had experienced enough to make me fear that I should not always be able to get my children, into good schools, and therefore determined at whatever cost, to educate this child thoroughly, that she might be able, not only to provide for her own wants, but to teach her younger brothers and sisters, should they be deprived of the advantages of a good school. Well had she rewarded my labor; well had she realized all my fondest hopes and expectations,—but alas! for human foresight and worldly wisdom! The accomplishments and qualifications of a teacher were attained; and proudly we looked for the achievement of our long-contemplated design. How hard to believe that the fell destroyer was upon her track! Her education had qualified her for teaching the sciences; but now I saw, that her faith in the religion of the blessed Christ, was assisting her to teach her own heart a lesson of patience, and quiet submission to the will of Him who holds the issues of life,—and Oh, how difficult for us to learn the solemn lesson, that her wasting form, her gradual sinking away, was hourly setting before us.
Slowly her strength failed; she, however, saw our sorrowful anxiety, and would try to relieve it with a cheerful appearance. One day perhaps she would be able to walk about, which would revive our wavering hope; the next she was prostrate and suffering; then hope died and we were sad! All the spring time she languished; the summer came, the roses bloomed, and the grain began to ripen, but she was wasting away. The orchard yielded its golden harvest; the birds sang merrily on the trees, but a dark shadow had fallen on our hearthstone, and a gloom, like the pall of death, rested on our household. Her place at table was already vacant; no longer she called the little ones about her to hear them repeat their tasks,—all of which admonished us, that soon the bed where we could now see her, would be vacated; and we should no longer witness her patient smile, and know that she was still with us. The pastor of the Baptist church often called to pray with, and for, the quiet sufferer, which she appreciated very highly, for she was a Christian in every sense of the word.
On the thirtieth day of August, at about eleven o'clock, A.M., without a struggle or a groan, her spirit returned to God who gave it. "Sweetly as babes sleep," she sank into the embrace of death. Happily, triumphantly, had she seen the grim messenger approach; but she knew whom she had believed, and that He was able to keep that which she had committed to Him, unto the resurrection of the just.
She had previously made a confession of her faith in Christ, and had been buried with Him in baptism. A few days after her demise, a long, sad train wound its way to the village church yard, where we deposited the remains of our beloved,—Patience Jane Steward, in the eighteenth year of her age; and then returned to our desolate house, to realize that she had left a world of pain and sorrow, where the fairest rose conceals a thorn, the sweetest cup a bitter drop, for a home where the flowers would never fade, and where pain, sorrow and death will never come. We all felt the solemn and impressive warning, "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh."
As often as I recalled her triumphant, peaceful death, her firm reliance on God, and sweet submission to His will, I could not forbear contrasting her departure with that of Mrs. Helm, whose death I have elsewhere described; and could fervently pray, that I might live the life of the righteous, that my last end might be like hers.
"Behold the Western evening light, It melts in deep'ning gloom; So calmly Christians sink away, Descending to the tomb.
The winds breathe low, the withering leaf Scarce whispers from the tree,— So gently flows the parting breath, When good folks cease to be.
How beautiful on all the hills, The crimson light is shed; 'Tis like the peace the Christian gives, To mourners round his bed.
How mildly on the wandering cloud, The sunset beam is cast,— 'Tis like the mem'ry left behind, When loved ones breathe their last.
And now above the dews of night, The yellow star appears; So faith springs in the breast of those, Whose eyes are bathed in tears.
But soon the morning's happier light, Its glory shall restore; And eyelids that are sealed in death, Shall wake to close no more."
CELEBRATION OF THE FIRST OF AUGUST.
The anti-slavery friends in Canandaigua, had resolved to celebrate the anniversary of the West India emancipation, in suitable manner in that village, for which funds had been unsparingly collected, to defray the expenses of the coming demonstration. The first of August, 1847, fell on Sunday, and our people concluded to devote that day to religious meetings, and the second to their proposed celebration.
Frederick Douglass and Mr. Van Loon, from Poughkeepsie, addressed the people on the Sabbath; and also, on the same evening, a large concourse at the Court House. The day following, there were not less than ten thousand people assembled on the beautiful grounds, belonging to the village Academy-attentive listeners all to the eloquent speeches delivered, and interested spectators of the imposing exercises.
When the vast multitude had convened, the exercises were commenced by the Rev. S.R. Ward, who addressed the throne of grace, after which, Mr. Frederick Douglass delivered an oration, in a style of eloquence which only Mr. Douglass himself can equal, followed by a song from the Geneva choir, and music by Barring's band. Rev. H.H. Garnet, editor of "The National Watchman," next spake, and with marked effect, followed by Messrs. Ward and Douglass; after which, the assemblage formed a procession, and marching to the Canandaigua Hotel, partook of a sumptuous dinner, provided by the proprietor of that house. At six P.M., they again assembled on the square, and were most eloquently addressed by both Ward and Garnet; at the close, they repaired to the ladies' fair, where they found everything in a condition which spake well for the enterprise and industry of our colored sisters. Their articles for sale, were of a choice and considerate selection, and such as sold rapidly and at fair prices. When all was pleasantly over, the ladies contributed twenty dollars toward paying the speakers present.
A most beautiful ode was composed by a warm and generous friend of the cause, which was sung in the grove, in a spirit which produced a thrilling interest. Gladly would I give the reader the whole composition, but its length makes it objectionable for this place, but should they happen to hear a soul-stirring and sublime ode, commencing with,
"Hail! to this day returning; Let all to Heaven aspire," &c.,
they may know it is the one to which I refer.
It was indeed, a glorious day for the colored population generally; and many were the indications of a diminution of that prejudice so prevalent everywhere. Some, who had supposed the colored man so inferior to themselves as to be incapable of making an interesting speech, were convinced of their error, after hearing Messrs. Douglass, Ward and Garnet. Mr. Van Loon was a white clergyman, but a brother indeed; his soul illumined by the pure light of the gospel of peace; his heart full of sympathy for the oppressed; his tongue pleading eloquently for equal rights; and his hands busily engaged in breaking every yoke, resting on the necks of poor humanity. So vigorously, so zealously did he unfold the horrors of the slave system; so truthfully and faithfully did he expose the treachery of northern politicians, and so pathetically did he appeal to the humanity of every professed Christian to speak out boldly for the dumb; to shield, by the holy principles of their religion, the poor, bound, illiterate slave, from Southern cruelty and bondage,—that some of our aristocratic citizens, some of our white savans, repaid his truthful eloquence, by visiting upon him the bitterest maledictions. From the negro, said they, we will accept these statements as true,—from him, they are pertinent and forcible; but when such unpalatable truths are uttered by a white clergyman, we cannot abide, nor will we listen to them!
Let consistency blush, and justice hang down its head! Is not truth the same, whether proclaimed by black or white,—bond or free? Is a falsehood to be pardoned because uttered by a negro? If indeed, as was admitted, the sentiments expressed by our eloquent colored speakers, were true, could they be false, when enforced by our intellectual friend, Van Loon? Certainly not; nor would the case have been so decided by these Solons, in any other case: or where the prejudice against color had not warped and blinded their otherwise good judgments. Our speaker, however, performed his duty faithfully, and with great satisfaction to the colored people and their true friends present.
The remains of this fearless champion of liberty; this humble disciple of the despised Nazarene, now sleeps in death, beside the placid waters of the Hudson, while his cherished memory lives in the affections of thousands, who "are ready to perish," and is honored by the pure in heart, wherever his name has been known throughout the land. In the day of final reckoning, think you, he will regret having plead the cause of the bondman? Ah, no; nor can we doubt that to him will be rendered the welcome plaudits: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee a ruler over many things." What then are the few light afflictions endured in this life, when compared with "an eternal weight of glory," awarded to the faithful in that which is to come?
Pleasant, happy, and beneficial, as had been the reunion of old and tried friends, to celebrate a glorious event, yet, like all earthly enjoyments, it was brought to a termination, reluctant as were the friends to separate. Since that day, many have been the demonstrations of grateful joy and gladness on the glorious anniversary of the emancipation of slaves on the West India Islands; and yet, in this boasted "land of the free, and home of the brave;" this famous and declared free Republic,—the American slave still clanks his heavy chain, and wears the galling yoke of the bondman!
For several years past, anti-slavery truth has been spreading, and in proportion as light has shone upon the "peculiar institution," exposing to the world its crimes and blood,—enstamping upon its frontlet, "THE SUM OF ALL VILLAINIES,"—has the wrath of the impious slaveholder been kindled, and his arm outstretched to strengthen the chain, and press closer the yoke upon the helpless slave, proving conclusively that he loves darkness because his deeds are evil. Nor is this all; he and his apologists will insolently tell you, that you are the guilty ones who have tightened the bonds of the slave, increased his hardships, and blighted his prospect of freedom, by your mistaken kindness, in showing the slaveholder the enormity of his sin! Can this be so? Have we any direct influence over his human chattels? None. Then who is it that rivets the chain and increases the already heavy burden of the crushed slave, but he who has the power to do with him as he wills? He it is, who has been thrust, unwillingly perhaps, into sufficient light to show him his moral corruption, and the character of the sin he is daily committing; he it is, whose avarice and idleness induces to hold fast that which is to him a source of wealth,— and by no means to allow the same light to fall in upon the darkened intellect of his slave property, lest his riches "take to themselves wings;" or, as may be more properly said, take to themselves legs and run away.
What stronger proof can we ask in favor of our position, than the intolerant spirit of the South? If the system and practice of Slavery is a righteous one, instituted by an All-wise God, certainly no human power— especially one so impotent and futile as the abolition power is said to be —can ever overthrow it. Why then are the mails so closely examined, and fines imposed on prohibited anti-slavery documents? Is it beyond their power to confute the arguments adduced, or are they fearful that a ray of Northern light may fall on the mind of some listening slave, and direct him to the depot of an under-ground railroad? Judge ye!
What but this same fearful and intolerant spirit,—this over-bearing, boasting spirit, was it, that cowardly attacked a Christian Senator, while seated unsuspectingly at his desk, and felled him to the floor, bleeding and senseless? Was not the villainous blow which fell upon the honored head of CHARLES SUMNER, dealt by the infamous Brooks of South Carolina, aimed at the free speech of the entire North? Was it, think you, a personal enmity that the cowardly scoundrel had toward our worthy Northern Senator, which induced the attack? No, no. Brooks spake for the South, and boldly has it responded—Amen!
It has said through its representatives, that you Northerners are becoming too bold in speaking of our sin, and we will use brute force to repel it— an argument with which we are familiar. You have told us that we ought not to hold slaves, nor extend slave territory, which will in a measure destroy our slave market, and prove injurious to our slave-breeding population. You have told us we have no right to usurp Kansas,—no right to murder "Free State men," and no right to sustain there, a set of "ruffians" to make Kansas a slave State. You have told us, that we have no right to live on the unrequited toil of our slaves; nor to sell them to the highest bidder; nor spend the proceeds of the sale in idle extravagance. Now know, all ye Northerners, by this cowardly blow on the devoted head of your honored and respected Senator, that we shall no longer permit you to tell us such unpalatable truths, nor allow you the privilege of free speech! We have too long held the balance of power in the government to yield it now; and we give you to know, that whatever we ask of this government, we expect to obtain; nor will we hear any of your objections. When we desire you to turn blood-hound, and hunt for us our fugitive slaves, we expect you to do it, and to see them returned to their masters, without a murmur on your part. Should you object or dare refuse, we shall certainly cane somebody, or else do what we have threatened for the last quarter of a century,—"DISSOLVE THE UNION!" Bah!
My house has ever been open to the fugitive slaves; but more particularly when I resided in Rochester, did I have occasion to see and feel the distresses of that class of persons; and it appears to me, that the heart must be of adamant, that can turn coldly away from the pleadings of the poor, frightened, flying fugitive from Southern bondage.
For many years past, I have been a close and interested observer of my race, both free and enslaved. I have observed with great pleasure, the gradual improvement in intelligence and condition of the free colored people of the North. In proportion as prejudice has diminished, they have gradually advanced; nor can I believe that there is any other great impediment in the way to a higher state of improvement. That prejudice against color is not destroyed, we very well know. Its effects may be seen in our down-cast, discouraged, and groveling countrymen, if no where else. Notwithstanding the late diminution, it exists in many of our hotels: some of them would as soon admit the dog from his kennel, at table, as the colored man; nevertheless, he is sought as a waiter; allowed to prepare their choicest dishes, and permitted to serve the white man, who would sneer and scorn to eat beside him. Prejudice is found also, in many of our schools,—even in those to which colored children are admitted; there is so much distinction made by prejudice, that the poor, timid colored children might about as well stay at home, as go to a school where they feel that they are looked upon as inferior, however much they may try to excel.
Nor is that hateful prejudice—so injurious to the soul, and all the best interests of the negro—excluded from the professed church of Christ. Oh, no; we often find it in the house of worship, in all its cruel rigor. Where people assemble to worship a pure and holy God, who can look upon no sin with allowance—the creator of all, both white and black,—and where people professing to walk in the footsteps of the meek and quiet Jesus, who has taught us to esteem others better than ourselves; we often see the lip of some professed saint, curled in scorn at a dusky face, or a scowl of disapprobation if a colored person sits elsewhere than by the door or on the stairs. How long, O Lord, must these things be!
Of my enslaved brethren, nothing so gratifies me, as to hear of their escape from bondage; and since the passage of that iniquitous "Fugitive Slave Bill," I have watched with renewed interest the movements of the fugitives, not only from Slavery direct, but those who have been compelled to flee from the nominally free States, and ask the protection of a monarchial government, to save them from their owners in a land of boasted liberty!
The knowledge I have of the colored men in Canada, their strength and condition, would cause me to tremble for these United States, should a war ever ensue between the English and American governments, which I pray may never occur. These fugitives may be thought to be a class of poor, thriftless, illiterate creatures, like the Southern slaves, but it is not so. They are no longer slaves; many of whom have been many years free men, and a large number were never slaves. They are a hardy, robust class of men; very many of them, men of superior intellect; and men who feel deeply the wrongs they have endured. Driven as they have been from their native land; unprotected by the government under which they were born, and would gladly have died,—they would in all probability, in case of a rupture, take up arms in defense of the government which has protected them and the country of their adoption. England could this day, very readily collect a regiment of stalwart colored men, who, having felt the oppression of our laws, would fight with a will not inferior to that which actuated our revolutionary forefathers.
And what inducement, I ask, have colored men to defend with their lives the United States in any case; and what is there to incite them to deeds of bravery?
Wherever men are called upon to take up arms in defense of a country, there is always a consciousness of approaching wrong and oppression, which arouses their patriotism and incites to deeds of daring. They look abroad over fields of their own cultivation; they behold too, churches, schools, and various institutions, provided by their labor, for generations yet to come; they see their homes, their cherished hearthstone, about to be desecrated, and their wives and little ones, with their aged sires, exposed to the oppression of a ruthless foe. Then, with what cheerful and thrilling enthusiasm, steps forward the husband, the father, the brother, and bares his bosom to the sword,—his head to the storm of the battle-field, in defence of his country's freedom, and the God-given rights of himself and family! But what sees the oppressed negro? He sees a proud and haughty nation, whose Congressmen yearly meet to plot his ruin and perpetuate his bondage! He beholds, it is true, a few Christ-like champions, who rise up with bleeding hearts to defend his cause; but while his eye kindles with grateful emotion, he sees the bludgeon of the South— already reeking in the blood of freemen—raised and ready to fall with murderous intent upon the head of any one, who, like the illustrious Sumner, dare open his mouth in defence of Freedom, or speak of the wrongs of the poor negro, and the sins of the Southern autocrat!
What inducement then, has the slave to shoulder his musket, when the American drum beats the call, "To Arms! To Arms!" Does he not remember that the wife of his bosom; the children,—"bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh,"—and the rude hearth-stone they for a time are allowed to surround, belong not to himself, but to the tyrannical master, who claims dominion over all he possesses. As his property then, let the slave owner go forth in defence of his own, and lay down his life if he please; but the poor slave has no home, no family to protect; no country to defend; nor does he care to assist in sustaining a government that instead of offering him protection, drives him from the soil which has been cultivated by his own labor,—to beg at the hand of England's Queen, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Humiliating as it is for an American citizen to name these things, they are nevertheless true; and I would to God that America would arise in her native majesty, and divest herself of the foul stain, which Slavery has cast upon her otherwise pure drapery! Then would she be no longer a hissing and by-word among the nations; but indeed what she professes to be, "the land of the free, and the home of the brave;" an asylum for the oppressed of every clime.
But should the monarchial government of England call for the services of the colored man, freely would his heart's blood be poured out in her defence,—not because he has a particular preference for that form of government; not because he has ceased to love his native country,—but because she has acknowledged his manhood, and given him a home to defend. Beneath the floating banner of the British Lion, he finds inducements to lay down his life, if need be, in defence of his own broad acres, his family and fireside,—all of which were denied him under the Stars and Stripes of his fatherland. But a short time ago, the colored men of Cincinnati, O., were promptly denied the privilege they had solicited, to join with other citizens, in celebrating the anniversary of WASHINGTON'S Birth Day! Oh, no; there must be no colored man in the company, met to honor him who still lives in the heart of every American citizen,—"the father of his country,"—and yet, who scorned not to sleep beside his faithful negro! Nor did the nephew of the illustrious General, despise the command of the black regiment, which Gen. Jackson so proudly commended for their bravery, and bestowed upon it his personal thanks, for their services on the field of battle.
Do the Northern or Free States of the Union think to clear their skirts of the abomination of Slavery, by saying that they own no slaves? Very true. But is the poor, flying fugitive from the house of bondage, safe one moment within your borders? Will he be welcomed to your homes, your tables, your firesides? Will your clergymen bid you clothe and feed him, or give him a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple of that holy Christ, who has said,—"inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these little ones, ye have done it unto me?"—Or will your own miserable Fugitive Slave Law, close the mouth of your clergy; crush down the rising benevolence of your heart; and convert you into a human blood-hound, to hunt down the panting fugitive, and return him to the hell of Slavery? Oh, my God!—the fact is too horrible to acknowledge, and yet it is a stubborn one. Not on one foot of land under the broad folds of Columbia's banner, can the slave say, "I am free!" Hungry, naked, and forlorn, he must flee onward; nor stop short of the outstretched arms of an English Queen. Yet, thanks be to our Heavenly Father, that all have not bowed the knee to the Southern autocrat or slave power. A few noble souls, thank God, remain, who, in defiance of iniquitous laws, throw open wide their doors to the trembling, fleeing bondman, whose purses are freely emptied to supply his wants, and help him on in his flight to the British dominion. But can these out-gushings of a benevolent heart—the purest impulses of a noble nature—be permitted to flow out spontaneously, in open daylight? Alas, no! You must be quiet; make no noise, lest an United States' Marshal wrest from you the object of your Christian sympathy, and impose on you a heavy fine, for your daring to do to another as you would he should do to you.
Is not the necessity of an "under ground railroad," a disgrace to the laws of any country? Certainly it is; yet I thank God, that it does afford a means of escape to many, and I pray that the blessings of Heaven may ever rest upon those who willingly superintend its interests. Oh, my country! When will thy laws, just and equal, supersede this humiliating necessity!
Is my reader about to throw the blame of our nation's wrong on England, and accuse her of first tolerating Slavery? We admit it; but did she not repent of the evil she had done, and speedily break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free? Certainly; no slave now breathes in England's atmosphere. But, say you, her white poor are slaves to the aristocracy, from which sentiment I beg leave to differ. Oppressed they may be, and doubtless are, as the poor are apt to be in any and every country; but they are not sold in the market, to the highest bidder, like beasts of burden, as are the American slaves. No Englishman, however poor, destitute, or degraded he may be, but owns himself, his wife and children; nor does he fear that they be sold and torn from his embrace, while he is laboring for their support. Poverty, my friend, does not comprise the bitterness of Slavery, no more than "one swallow makes a summer,"—nor does it consist solely in ignorance and degradation. Its bitterness arises from a consciousness of wrong; a sense of the violation of every right God has given to man, and the uncertainty of his future, over which he has no control.
If the American people flatter themselves with the idea of getting rid of the hated negro race, by colonizing them on the sickly soil of Liberia, or any other country, they will surely find themselves mistaken. They are Americans; allied to this country by birth and by misfortune; and here will they remain,—not always as now, oppressed and degraded,—for all who have any interest in the matter, well know that the free colored people, are rapidly advancing in intelligence, and improving their condition in every respect. Men of learning and genius, are now found among those with fleecy locks, and good mechanics with dusky complexion.
This marked improvement in the condition and rapid advancement in intelligence among our people, seems to have alarmed the colonizationists, and made them fearful that those very down-trodden slaves, who have for years labored for nought; whose blood and tears have fertilized the Southern soil, may, perchance, become their equals in intelligence, and take vengeance on their oppressors for the wrongs done them; and lest they should do so, they would gladly remove them to some far-off country.
Yet here, in North America, will the colored race remain, and ere long in my opinion, become a great people, equal with the proud Anglo-Saxon in all things. The African has once been a powerful nation, before Christian Englishmen invaded her coasts with rum, and incited her chiefs to war, by purchasing with gaudy, but worthless trinkets, her conquered captives; and we have every reason to believe, that though her glory as a nation has departed, that her sons will yet be acknowledged free men by the white population of this country.
There have been black generals in the world before Napoleon was born, and there may be again; and to-day, notwithstanding all the prejudice against color, that everywhere exists in this guilty nation, there are men of talent among us, inferior to none on the earth; nor are their numbers few, though rapidly increasing.
Well may the South arouse herself, form societies, replenish its treasury with a tax imposed on the free colored people, to defray the expense of sending manumitted slaves to Liberia!
Listen a moment to the cant of the colonizationist. Hear him talk of the duty he owes to Africa, and how happy, how intelligent, how prosperous everything is in Liberia. But when that delightful country asks to be taken into fellowship with the United States, and to have her independence recognized—ah, then he lifts his hands in horror and begs to be excused from so close a relation.
This is all cant, in my humble opinion; and when I see men so anxious to send the negro out of their sight, I feel quite certain that they are conscious of having deeply wronged him, and think to remove him, to atone for their guilty consciences. Would they refuse to acknowledge the independence of Liberia, if their interest in the colored people was genuine, especially when several other nations had done so? Oh, no. But that is not "the rub." How could one of our lordly nabobs of the South, sit in Congress with perhaps one of his own manumitted slaves as a representative from Liberia or Hayti! He would die of mortification. Very well then; but let him talk no more of sending colored men to that country to make them free men.
The colored people generally, I am happy to say, have a right conception of the colonization plan, and will never be induced to go to Africa, unless they go as missionaries to the heathen tribes, who certainly should have the gospel preached to them. Some, from a sense of duty, may go as teachers,—which is all well enough,—but certain it is, that no amount of prejudice or abuse, will ever induce the colored race to leave this country. Long have they been oppressed; but they are rising-coming up to an elevated standard, and are fast gathering strength and courage, for the great and coming conflict with their haughty oppressors.
That there must be ere long, a sharp contest between the friends of Freedom and the Southern oligarchy, I can no longer doubt.
When our worthy ministers of the gospel, are sent back to us from the South, clothed with a coat of tar and feathers; when our best and most sacrificing philanthropists are thrown into Southern dungeons; when our laboring men are shot down by haughty and idle Southern aristocrats, in the hotels of their employers, and under the very eye of Congress; when the press is muzzled, and every editor, who has the manliness to speak in defence of Freedom, and the wickedness of the slaveholder, is caned or otherwise insulted by some insignificant Southern bully; and when at last, our Mr. SUMNER is attacked from behind, by a Southern, cowardly scoundrel, and felled senseless on the floor of the Senate chamber, for his defence of Liberty,—then, indeed, may Northern men look about them! Well may they be aroused by the insolence and tyranny of the South!
And for what is all this? Do not our Southern men know, that if light and truth are permitted to reach the minds of the people, that Kansas will be lost to them as slave territory, wherein the Southern slave-breeder can dispose of his own flesh to the highest bidder! Hear them talk as they do, in their pious moments, with upturned faces, in solemn mockery, of returning the negro to his native Africa! How many pure Africans, think you, can be found in the whole slave population of the South, to say nothing of their nativity? Native Africa, indeed! Who does not know, that in three-fourths of the colored race, there runs the blood of the white master,—the breeder of his own chattels! Think you, that a righteous God will fail to judge a nation for such flagrant sins? Nay, verily. If the All-wise God, who has created of one blood all nations of the earth, has designed their blood to commingle until that of the African is absorbed in that of the European,—then is it right, and amalgamation of all the different races should be universally practiced and approved. If it be right for the Southern slaveholder, to cruelly enforce the mixture of the races, to gratify his lust, and swell the enormity of his gains, certainly it cannot be wrong to amalgamate from choice and affection. Let us ask then, why did our Omnipotent Creator make the marked distinction? Certainly not for the purpose that one race might enslave and triumph over another; but evidently, that each in his own proper sphere might glorify God, to whom their respective bodies and spirits belong. Why, indeed, was the black man created, if not to fulfil his destiny as a negro, to the glory of God?
Suffer me then to exhort you, my countrymen, to cease looking to the white man for example and imitation. Stand boldly up in your own national characteristics, and show by your perseverance and industry, your honor and purity, that you are men, colored men, but of no inferior quality. The greatest lack I see among you, is unity of action, pardonable, to be sure, in the eyes of those who have seen your oppression and limited advantages; but now that many of you have resolved to gain your rights or die in the struggle, let me entreat you to band yourselves together in one indissoluble bond of brotherhood, to stand shoulder to shoulder in the coming conflict, and let every blow of yours tell for Freedom and the elevation of your race throughout the land. Speak boldly out, for the dumb and enslaved of your unfortunate countrymen, regardless of the frowns and sneers of the haughty tyrants, who may dare lift their puny arm, to frustrate the design of the Almighty, in preserving you an unmixed and powerful race on the earth.
While I would not that you depend on any human agency, save your own unyielding exertion, in the elevation of our race; still, I would not have you unmindful of, nor ungrateful for, the noble exertions of those kind white friends, who have plead the cause of the bondman, and have done all in their power to aid you, for which, may the God of the oppressed abundantly bless them.
Let your attention be given to the careful training and education of the rising generation, that they may be useful, and justly command the respect of their fellow-men. Labor for a competency, but give not your whole attention to amassing the wealth that perishes; but seek to lay up for yourselves "treasures where moth doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal."
Suppose not, my brethren, that your task is a light one, or one that can be performed without years of patient toil and unyielding perseverance. Our oppressors are not very ready to credit our exertion,—too often forgetting the effects of our long degradation, and vainly expecting to see us arise at once, to the highest standard of elevation, able to cope successfully with those who have known no such discouragements or disadvantages, as has been our lot to bear.
These and many other obstacles must be bravely met, and assiduously removed,—remembering that Slavery has robbed some of us, and prejudice many others, of that perseverance so necessary to the accomplishment of any enterprize; but in the elevation of ourselves and race, let us never falter and grow weary, until we have reached the elevated station God designed us to occupy, and have fitted the rising generation to fill and improve it after our earthly course is finished and we leave to them the stage of action.
Allow me, however, to entreat, that no success which may attend your determined efforts; no position which you may attain,—may ever so occupy your mind, as to cause you to forget for one moment, the afflictions of your countrymen, or to cease to remember the groaning millions in bonds, until every slave shall triumphantly chant the song of deliverance from Slavery's dark prison house.
Bear with me, my dear brethren, while I claim a friend's license, to say, that I would not that you place implicit confidence in any of the political organizations of the present time; but remember that the majority of those parties are diligently laboring for their own interest. Look you then to yours; are you less capable of securing your rights than they? Never was there a time when indolence and supineness among us, would be so unpardonable as now, nor when so much depended on our active and judicious exertions.
Let us not forget, that in the past, we could and did truthfully complain, that we had no helper,—bound and crushed beneath an overwhelming weight of prejudice and ignorance, we lay helpless at the feet of our political spoilers. A favorable change has since been effected in the public sentiment; and now that we see thousands who are willing to aid us, and as many more who will not hinder our labor,—shall we fold our hands in idleness?—or shall we renew our energies, in the cause of freedom and of our own advancement? Although we may not implicitly rely upon the political exertion of others, let us not fear to co-operate with the friends of liberty everywhere, as far as a good conscience will permit, and our limited privileges will allow, by our determined zeal for the right, make our influence felt in the nation. See what wrong and oppression our white brethren have met in Kansas, from the slave power; and let their noble deeds of patriotism; their liberal sacrifices for freedom, be not only our example, but an incentive to do our duty. Have they more at stake in that mighty struggle than we, that they should leave their homes of refinement and comfort, take their lives in their hands and bravely contend for their rights, surrounded by scenes of blood and carnage? Certainly not. No people on the earth can have greater incentives to arouse them to action, than the colored people of this country now have; I trust therefore, that our future independence and prosperity, will suffer nothing from the inactivity of our race.
Some may entertain the belief that the African slave trade is entirely abandoned. I think not. Often are seen strange, suspicious looking vessels, lying along the African coast, for no other purpose than that of kidnapping the poor, ignorant natives. Stealthily the slave-trader lands his wicked crew, in the vicinity of some negro village or cluster of huts, and when a favorable opportunity occurs, he and his men rush upon the frightened African, burn their huts, and amid the shrieks of the captives, and the groans of the helpless and aged, who have been trampled down in their rude haste to secure the young and able-bodied natives, bear them to the vessel, where they are stowed away in the hold of the ship, which bears them to Christian (?) America, where they are sold as slaves.
Some years ago, a woman engaged in washing clothes, near the sea coast, had a lad with her to take care of her two younger children—one a young babe—while she was at work. They wandered away a short distance, and while amusing themselves under some bushes, four men, to them strange looking creatures, with white faces, surrounded them; and when the lad attempted to run away, they threw the infant he held in his arms, on the ground, and seizing the other two children, bore them screaming with fear, to the ship. Frantic and inconsolable, they were borne to the American slave market, where they were sold to a Virginia planter, for whom they labored sorrowfully and in tears, until old age deprived them of farther exertion, when they were turned out, like an old horse, to die; and did die destitute and uncared for, in their aged infirmity, after a long life of unrequited toil. That lad, stolen from Africa's coast, was my grand-father.
It is not, however, necessary for us to look beyond our own country, to find all the horrors of the slave traffic! A tour through the Southern States will prove sufficient to satisfy any one of that fact; nor will they travel over one of them, before—if they have a heart of flesh—they will feel oppressed by the cruel outrage, daily inflicted on their fellow-beings. The tourist need not turn aside to seek evidences: he will very readily observe the red flag of the auctioneer floating over the slave pen, on which he may read in large letters, waving in the pure air of heaven, "SLAVES, HORSES, AND OTHER CATTLE, in lots to suit purchasers!" He may halt a moment, and look at the multitude, collecting under the folds of that infamous banner, where will be found a few gentlemanly appearing slave holding planters, superbly mounted, and perhaps with their servants in waiting; but the larger number he will find to be drunken, coarse, brutal looking men, swaggering about in the capacity of slave-traders.
Let him enter the low, dingy, filthy building, occupied by human merchandize, and he will there behold husbands and wives, parents and children, about to be sold, and perhaps separated forever! See the trader, as he examines with inhuman indifference the bones and sinews, the teeth and joints of the articles on hand, even of females, and hear him make inquiries concerning her capabilities, that would make a savage blush! And see the miserable woman lift her red and swollen eyes to the face of the heartless trader, and the next moment cast a despairing glance over the motley crowd, in search of a compassionate look—a pitying eye. Should she see one countenance wearing a kind, humane expression, it will most likely bring her frantically to his feet, where, kneeling, with uplifted hands, she pleads: "Oh, Massa, do buy me! Do buy me and little Sam! He be all of the chil'ens I got left! O, Lord! O, Lord! Do, Massa, buy me, and this one baby! Oh, do Massa!" But the weight of the cow-hide drives her to the auction block, where in mock solemnity she is represented as "an article of excellent breed, a good cook, a good seamstress, and withal a good Christian, a ra'al genewine lamb of the flock!"—and then she is struck off to the highest bidder, who declares that he "won't have the young'un any how, 'cause he's gwine to drive her down to Lousianny."
He may see, too, the wild, despairing look of some frightened young slave girl, passing under the lustful gaze of some lordly libertine, who declares himself "in search of a fancy article for his own use!"
One after another is taken from the block, until all are disposed of, amid the agonized wail of heartbroken wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, and the piercing screams of helpless children, torn from a parent's embrace, to be consigned to the care of strangers.
Nor need I inform our traveler of the inhuman method generally approved, in hunting with trained blood-hounds, kept and advertised for the purpose of recapturing any poor slave who may attempt to escape from this cruel bondage. He may perchance, come across the mangled and lifeless body of some fugitive, which has just been run down and torn in pieces by the dogs of the hunter! Should he stop a few moments, he will soon see a hole dug in the ground, and the remains of the slave pitched into it, covered sufficiently to hide the unsightly mass from view, and there will be an end of the whole matter! "Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord; and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?"
In giving to the public this unvarnished, but truthful narrative, of some of the occurrences of my humble and uneventful life, I have not been influenced by a vain desire for notoriety, but by a willingness to gratify a just and honorable request, repeatedly made by numerous and respected friends, to learn the truth concerning my connection with the Wilberforce colony; the events which there transpired during my stay, and the cause of my losing a hard-earned property. Regarding the affairs of the colony, I have, therefore, endeavored to be particular,—believing that duty to myself and brethren, required me to give them the within information; but nothing have I set down in malice. Much more might have been said relative to some of the leading characters in that settlement, had I not been fearful of its assuming the character of a personal enmity or retaliation. He who knows and will judge the actions of men, will bear me witness, that I have cherished no such feelings toward any of those who then lived, but now sleep in death.
In justification, however, of my statements regarding the character of Mr. Lewis, I will call the attention of the reader to some of the many letters received from good and eminent men, to show that I was not alone in the low estimate of his virtues. Gladly I leave that unpleasant subject, hoping that nothing in our past history will serve to becloud the bright future beginning to dawn on the prospects of our disfranchised and oppressed countrymen.
LETTER FROM A. STEWARD TO WM. L. GARRISON.
Dear Sir:—In a recent examination of the business transactions between the Board of Managers of the Wilberforce Colony, and their agent Rev. N. Paul, I find a charge made by him, and allowed by the board, of the sum of two hundred dollars, which he paid to yourself. Finding no receipt or acknowledgment from you, I write to ask you to favor me with one, or an explanation of the facts in the case, either of which will greatly oblige me, as I design to make it public. Truly Yours, &c.,
Canandaigua, N.Y., May, 1856.
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MR. GARRISON'S REPLY TO A. STEWARD.
You state that Rev. N. Paul, as agent for the Wilberforce Settlement, U.C., in rendering his accounts on his return from England, charged the Board of Managers with the sum of two hundred dollars, paid by him to me while in England; that said sum was allowed by the board; adding that you do not recollect of my acknowledging or giving credit to the Settlement for it.
In reply, I can only assure you that there must be a mistake in regard to this item. I borrowed no money, nor had I any occasion to ask a loan of my friend Paul, my expenses being defrayed by funds contributed by friends in this country; nor could I with propriety receive, nor he give me any part of the money contributed for the benefit of the Wilberforce Settlement; hence, a loan or gift from him, could have been nothing more than a personal matter between ourselves. Moreover, had he at that time or any other, given me in good faith the sum named as belonging to the Settlement, (believing that as we were laboring together, for the interest of one common cause, the board would not hesitate to allow it,) he would certainly have demanded a receipt, which it would have pleased me to give, of course, that he might satisfy the board that their liberality had been disbursed according to their wishes, or his judgment. But receiving no money from your agent, will be a sufficient reason for not acknowledging it, or giving due credit to the Settlement.
I can account for this charge on his part, in no way, except that as he was with me a part of the time I was in London, and we traveled together a part of the time, during which, he ably and effectively assisted me in exposing that most iniquitous combination, "The American Colonization Society,"—he charged to me, (that is, to my mission) sundry items of expense which he undoubtedly believed justly incurred by his helping me to open the eyes of British philanthropists to the real design of that society; and I shall ever remember with gratitude, his heartiness and zeal in the cause and in my behalf. I owe much to the success that so signally crowned my mission, to his presence, testimony, and eloquent denunciation of the colonization scheme. I, however, received no money from him, and can but think that the above explanation was the occasion of his making the charge, and which I trust will leave on his memory, no intentional [final word missing from text].
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FROM MR. BAKER TO A. STEWARD.
MR. A. STEWARD,
Dear Sir:—Israel Lewis, the former agent of your Settlement, last spring represented to me the suffering condition of your poor, and requested that I should forward some goods, for which I should be paid; I did so, and sent goods to the amount of one hundred thirty-six dollars and ninety-eight cents. The goods were sold at cost.
I am also endorsed on a note for two hundred thirteen dollars and ten cents, which falls due 24th of this month, and which I shall have to pay. This note was given by Lewis for the purpose of raising money to fit out Mr. Paul, on his mission to England. I was promised that the money should be here to meet it.
I have heard nothing from Lewis or this business since, and as I understand you are the agent, I must look to you to make provision to meet the note, and pay for the goods. Good faith requires that all contracts by your agency be fulfilled.
New York City, Dec., 1833.
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FROM MR. L.A. SPALDING TO A. STEWARD
In August last, Israel Lewis, accompanied by Rev. Nathaniel Paul called upon me and exhibited a power of attorney, signed by you as president of the trustees of the colony, authorizing Lewis to take loans, &c., for the benefit of the colony.
Feeling a deep interest in the progress of the colony, I agreed to become security with E. Peck, at the Bank of Rochester, for the payment of seven hundred dollars, which soon was raised by Lewis on the note, for the benefit of the colony. I was in hopes to have seen you. E. Peck and myself, both are willing to aid you in your noble enterprise,—and may others feel the same disposition. But as we have families and friends, who look to us for support and protection, it is proper that we should have your personal pledge to save us from embarrassment.
We know your character well, and we have also great confidence in Israel Lewis, and the others engaged with you,—but none of them are so thoroughly known to us as yourself.
Our asking for your personal pledge, does not arise from any fears that the note will not be paid; but as it was signed to aid you, we think it proper that you should respond by guaranteeing that we shall not be injured.
I accordingly copy the note in question, and write a guarantee which I wish you to sign and hand to my brother.
I feel much anxiety in regard to your progress; in your forming schools; religious and temperance societies; and in your taking every measure to elevate the unfortunate colored man who may go to your colony for protection and improvement.
Very Respectfully Yours,
LYMAN A. SPALDING.
Lockport, N.Y. 1831.
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FROM THE CONVENTIONAL BOARD, PHILADELPHIA, PA., TO A. STEWARD.
MR. AUSTIN STEWARD, Wilberforce, U.C.,
Esteemed Friend:—I am charged by the conventional board, to inform you that at the last session of the general convention, you was duly elected their General Corresponding Agent, for the Wilberforce Settlement and parts adjacent. Respectfully and in an official capacity, would I ask you to accept the appointment.
And in pursuance of the said appointment, the board would be happy to have at least a monthly correspondence from you, on all such matters as may, in your opinion, be thought conducive to the prosperity of the settlement, the elevation and future happiness of the free people of color.
In particular, we would wish you to give as accurate an account as possible, of the number of settlers; the number of acres as purchased; at what price; what number are improved and under culture; what number of houses or tenements are in the Settlement, &c., &c.