Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman
by Austin Steward
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What are your present prospects in regard to crops; your political advantages or disadvantages.

We would also respectfully ask you to inform us, what number of settlers might emigrate there each year, without injuring the Settlement. Also, what kind of machines you most need; also, what are the terms for which laborers are contracted for and how paid.

The board have been thus particular, because they rely with full confidence on your patriotism and capability, which have been unanimously assigned to you.

You will perceive our object is, to contribute, as far as lays in our power, pecuniary_ aid, and assist in securing you such _agricultural_ and _mechanical_ emigrants as, in your opinion, the Settlement may need; and in all our recommendations to you, we shall endeavor to have an eye to character, knowing full well that by that alone you must _stand_ or _fall_.

We have been informed here by a letter (purporting to be written by a Mr. Stover), that the Canada Company actually refuses to sell land to colored persons; and that they are anxious to buy out the colored settlers at Wilberforce.

Be pleased to inform me if that be a fact, with its particulars; and if there be any disadvantages in purchasing land by colored emigrants.

The board would be happy to know if you have had any news from your agent in England. If any, what are his prospects?

You will please be particular and candid in stating your wants (as well as disadvantages) to us, as we will do our utmost to satisfy them, as well as promote the happiness of the settlers, and the prosperity of the Settlement.

Be pleased to answer as soon as possible, for we as brothers in common, feel deeply interested.

With sentiments of sincere friendship,

I remain, yours,


A true copy from the record.

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At a meeting of the Board of Managers, held September 30th, 1831, to call the Agents to an account:

Resolved, That the Report of N. Paul be accepted, and unanimously agreed to.

At a meeting of the Board of Directors, all the members present, March 18th, 1832:

Resolved, That we disapprove of the conduct of Israel Lewis, in his being absent so long, and also his not communicating with the Board of Directors, and not informing them from time to time, how he is prosecuting his agency.

Resolved, That the chairman of this board be instructed to write to said Lewis, to return home, and lay before this board his doings.

At a meeting of the Board, held April 1st, 1832, all the members and Israel Lewis present with them, he made the following Report, and resigned his office as agent, which was accepted:

Lewis said that seven hundred dollars was all that he had collected. That he paid one hundred and fifty dollars for board in New York, thirty-five dollars for clothes, and two hundred dollars to N. Paul, as an out-fit for England.

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To the Christians and Philanthropists in the United States:

We, the undersigned inhabitants and Board of Managers for the Colony of Wilberforce, beg leave to state that the frost cut off the crops in this part of the country last year, and some of the colonists are in great need of assistance. And we flatter ourselves that when the peculiar circumstances of this infant Settlement are duly considered, this appeal, to a generous and discriminating public, will not be made in vain.

The board are sensible from the cause above stated, that the inhabitants of Wilberforce will be compelled to ask aid from the friends of humanity in the States, or they must suffer.

Under these circumstances they commissioned the Rev. James Sharp, as their agent, and sent him to the States; but owing to the opposition of Israel Lewis,—who had been formerly employed as agent, but was removed from the agency—his labors were almost wholly lost to the board.

We would simply say, that Lewis was acting for a certain company here; but we have made inquiries, and find but one man in Wilberforce that belongs to said company, and he is an old man, in his dotage. That man is Simon Wyatt. We might say more, but we think there has been enough written to satisfy the public.

In consequence of the unfaithfulness of Israel Lewis, and the numerous agents that may be looking around the country after him, the board have come to the conclusion to dispense with a traveling agent for the present.

And we would humbly request Lyman A. Spalding, Esq., of Lockport; E. Peck, Esq., of Rochester; Rev. Dr. Budd, of Auburn; Charles Davis, Esq., of Ludlowville, Tompkins County, N.Y.; Arthur Tappan, Esq., city of New York; to act as receivers for the Colony. The above named gentlemen, will see that the funds which they may receive, be faithfully applied according to the wishes of the donors.

All money placed in each of the banks at Rochester and a duplicate sent on to the Colony, may be cashed here without any discount.

To Christians we appeal: by the brotherhood of Christ, and by their own hopes of being united in him, to extend to us the means of obtaining bread; give us, in the name of Jesus, of your abundance; give us, as God has blessed you, for the poor among us want bread and clothing.

It is to be hoped that every clergyman in the States, will lay this circular before their respective congregations, and give every person an opportunity to throw in their mite into the treasury of the Lord!



* * * * *



I have ever taken a great degree of interest in the welfare of your colony, and have in various ways, brought it before the public.

It has pained me deeply to learn that there are divisions among you. The whole deportment and manner of Lewis, who has been here, has evidently impressed the public in his favor. Although I do not wish to take ground as his advocate, to the extinction of others, I am not inclined to think him dishonest from the testimony now before me.

But, apart from him, my present impression is that the most effectual way for you to promote the cause of the Colony, is not, at this stage of the business, to appear before the public in a hostile attitude to Lewis.

I know some excellent and prominent gentlemen in this quarter, who think he is unkindly treated; at any rate, while the investigation, lately commenced at Albany, is going on, it appears to me not wise in you to put forth any further publication reflecting upon Lewis. He may have acted imprudently; but he has excited himself very much, and should the idea prevail that you and he are in a state of collision, it would be very bad for you.

I consider your Colony as a very important matter, and will do all in my power to promote your welfare, but it is very material not to prejudice the public against you.

Before I move in the matter, I wish to know the real state of the matter between Lewis and the Colony. As soon as I can know that he has defrauded you and deceived the public, I will not hesitate to give my views on the subject, and put forth any efforts in my power for your advancement.

There should no sectarian or party feeling be allowed to creep into your institution.

I thank you for naming me as a receiver for your Colony, and should anything come to me, I shall hand it over to James S. Seymour, Esq., Cashier of the Bank of Auburn, who should have been named instead of me. I hope you will put his name in my place, or at any rate, name him with me, for he has been from the first, much interested in your behalf.

If you will allow me, I will briefly say, that my opinion is, your best way to relieve your immediate wants, would be to issue a brief circular, stating the failure of your crops, your newness of settlement, &c., &c.; and call upon the public for help, without naming Lewis or alluding to your difficulty with him; let your papers be properly authorized, and say that the agent you employ is not engaged in getting funds to pay for land, found schools, &c., but to get immediate provisions for the Colony.

If you will send an agent here and prepare your circular in this way—let it be short—and I will print it and give copies of it to him for circulation, free of charge.

With many prayers for the prosperity of your Colony,

I am your Friend,


Auburn, N.Y., May, 1833.

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Sir:—We feel under renewed obligation to you, for you friendly advice; but we have already sent out several copies of our circular to different places, and probably some of them have been printed before this time.

We have no object in view, but truth, justice,—the greatest good of the Settlement, and of our brethren in general. Israel Lewis has, however, collected large sums of money, for our relief, of which we have not had the benefit. Nearly two years ago, he was appointed agent for the Colony, to collect funds to build a meeting-house, to endow schools, &c. In less than one year he received more than two thousand dollars, which he squandered; and we have neither meeting-house nor schools, nor never will have, so long as the money goes into the hands of Lewis. All that we would have forgiven him gladly, if he would consent to be still and not usurp the agency against the wishes of the people.

Sir, is it not expected that he would appear well; as you say, that "the whole deportment and manner of Lewis, who has been in this place, evidently have impressed the people in his favor,"—while collecting money with the eye of the public upon him. But follow him home into another kingdom, and there see the man in his true character; stripped of his borrowed plumage,—and we will guarantee that you would agree with us, in believing that he is an arch hypocrite.

We should be sorry to prejudice the public against our Settlement, more especially when we are actuated by the purest motives,—that of preventing the Christian public from being imposed upon, by drawing large sums from them for us, as they suppose, when in truth such sums never reach us at all.

Sir, we know that you are actuated by the purest motives, but you are deceived in the character of the man, (Lewis). When I was living in the States and only saw him there, collecting money for the poor, I thought him honest as you now do; but two or three years' residence in Wilberforce Colony, has abundantly satisfied me that his object is to get money, that he may live in a princely style, and not for the benefit of the poor as he pretends.

Such are the true facts in the case. We should be glad to have the name of James S. Seymour, Esq., added to the list, and any other prominent citizen you may think would help the cause.

In regard to the investigation at Albany, we do not see how the public are to arrive at the facts in the case from any statement Lewis may make; for all his statements that I have seen in print, are positively void of truth, in the most essential part, so that they are of little or no importance at all unless substantiated by other testimony.

The circular contains no testimony that has not been heretofore laid before the public. Mr. Benjamin Paul recently wrote a letter to the editors of "The Baptist Register," in which he stated that Lewis had fed and clothed the colonists like a father, which is not true; and so sensible was Paul of the fact, that when the letter reached here, together with the surprise it created wherever Lewis was known, that Paul cheerfully contradicted it, confessed that he was mistaken, and thus made it known to the public.

We certainly have no sectional feelings in the matter, though Lewis has labored hard to impress the public with a contrary belief; and he has even brought false charges of the basest kind against our more respectable citizens, all to draw the attention of the public from the true facts in the case.

It is a general time of health here in the Colony. The season is very favorable; our crops look well, and with the blessings of God we shall raise enough to supply our wants this year.

Yours, with due respect,

In behalf of the Colonists,


Wilberforce, June, 1833.

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I have received a communication through your corresponding secretary, Mr. James C. Brown, and I hasten to answer it. The last communication I have received from Mr. N. Paul, was in December, 1833, at which time he was vigorously prosecuting his mission, as will more fully appear by the annexed copy of said letter, which I cheerfully send you. His return is expected daily.



When I last addressed you, I informed you that I expected to leave this country before a return letter from you could be expected. I therefore stated, if I remember correctly, that you need not write.

I now find that I shall be detained much longer than I then calculated; and this detention is owing to the Slavery question. The friends of the cause, advised me to forego my object, until that question was settled; and then they would turn their attention to my cause, and render me what assistance they could.

All their united strength was needed now, while that question was pending. But thanks be to God, that is now settled. On the first day of August next, will be the proudest day that ever Britain knew; for from that time henceforth, there will not remain a single slave throughout His Majesty's dominions.

The friends of the cause are now turning their attention to Slavery in the United States, and are about to form a society for the abolition of Slavery throughout the world. They all think highly of our Settlement, and will give it their cordial support.

The leading abolitionists have given me letters of recommendation throughout the Kingdom, and have appointed one of their most effective men to travel with me,—his name is John Scoble, a very ready, intelligent, earnest, and an eloquent speaker. I think I can do more now in one month, than I could in three before the question was settled in regard to their own slaves.

You will at once see that although the people concluded my object to be an important one, yet, they generally thought that they ought to lend all their aid in removing the stain from their own land first This stain is now effectually effaced, and my meetings are exceedingly crowded. I addressed an audience at Norwich of from three to four thousand persons, week before last, when about five hundred dollars was collected. So you see I am getting on. I start, the Lord willing, next week for Scotland, and shall spend the winter there and in the North of England. In the spring I shall return and take passage for Canada. I doubt not, that you are anxiously looking for my return; yet, you cannot want to see me more than I want to return; but I tell you now as I have told you before, that I shall not return until I have done all that can be done by my labor.




The above copy will give you all the recent information we have received concerning the mission of our foreign agent.

Please accept my kindest regards, with my acknowledgments of your distinguished consideration, while I remain,

Yours truly,


Wilberforce, U.C.

* * * * *



We are glad to acknowledge your favor of October last, and to hear of your safe arrival in England, your health and fair prospects.

Since my removal to Wilberforce, I have opened a school, which Mrs. Steward has engaged to teach for one year; while I shall probably devote my time to traveling through the States, for the benefit of the Colony, which is indeed poor, and in want of some assistance; and yet, not a dollar have we in the treasury to help them with.

Mr. Paul has not returned, though we are daily expecting him. Our friends in New York, still have confidence in his pledge to do right; and we are anxiously expecting its fulfilment.

Your wife, Mrs. Nell, and the children are well, and we are still doing all in our power for their comfort; but my means, in consequence of having been so much abroad the past season, are limited; by which you will see, my dear Sir, the necessity of remitting funds to me, that I may make your family more comfortable in all things, without distressing my own.

The settlers are well, and are looking with hopeful expectancy for you to do something handsome for them, in which I do hope they may not be disappointed. Lewis is still in New York. We have appointed another agent, named Scott, but who is doing nothing for the Colony now.

May the blessings of God rest upon you, and your endeavors; your good deportment put to silence your enemies; may they who foresee that you will cheat the poor colored children, be sadly mistaken, and your good deeds finally enrol your name on the proud list of philanthropists, headed by a Wilberforce and a Clarkson.

Yours, in great haste,


Wilberforce, Dec., 1835.

* * * * *



I have received a letter from Israel Lewis, New York, requesting me to forward fifty dollars to the treasurer of the Wilberforce Colony, which I will do at the first convenience. I sent fifty dollars some time since, which I presume was received.

I have also received a letter from B. Lundy, who speaks very flatteringly of the Settlement; but gives me some information relating to Lewis, which will injure you, unless you act wisely.

Now I suggest for your consideration, whether it would not be best to keep perfectly quiet relative to him, until after he returns and settles with the directors. If he cannot then satisfy you, he will no doubt surrender up his documents and agency like a man, and leave you to appoint another.

By all means you must agree among yourselves, not suffering any difference of opinion to become public. Your enemies will seize upon this, and injure your prospects; besides, you gain nothing by it. Your friends too, could then say that you acted imprudently. I hope to have a good account of the settlement of your difficulties if any should exist.

Respectfully your Friend,



Lockport, N.Y., 2d Mo., 4th, 1832.

* * * * *



I have this day received your letter, and God willing, I will be with you in the course of ten or twelve days. Please to keep your people together, until I come. I will see that they be not oppressed by that notorious Israel Lewis. I believe him to be one of the worst men living, whose deeds will yet come to light. Do stay in the Colony and keep all things as they are until I come.

Yours, with high esteem,


P.S.—I am glad that Mrs. Steward is in Rochester; your Colony is by no means suited to her talents and refined mind. She never could be happy there. My love to all the Colonists; I will do every thing for them in my power. S.E.C.

* * * * *



Again I take this method of communicating some private information to my personal friends, relative to my proceedings in Mexico. My last visit to that country, (like the one preceding), having been prolonged far beyond the time which I had anticipated, I feel it incumbent on me to explain the causes thereof especially to such as take an interest in the enterprize in which I have engaged, and those who have kindly assisted me with, means to defray the expenses of my journey, &c.

Soon after the date of my last printed letter, which was issued from this place, I went to New Orleans, with the intention of taking a passage by sea, to some port in Mexico; but after waiting in that city about two weeks, and finding no opportunity to obtain one, I proceeded up the Red River, and journeyed through Texas again by land. My health continued very good for some length of time; but when I reached the middle part of the Texas country, it was my misfortune to come again in contact with the direful "cholera," and again I was the subject of its virulent attacks. My detention was great, and affliction severe; though I finally expelled the disorder as I had done before. My sufferings were somewhat aggravated in several instances, by the fearful prejudices of the people among whom I traveled. I was very anxious to get through my journey, and often assayed to travel before I was in fact well enough. The consequence was, that I frequently took relapses, and sometimes had to lie out under trees, even in time of rain, within sight of houses, the people being unwilling to give me shelter therein, fearing that my disorder was contagious.

At length I reached the Mexican town of San Antonio de Bexar, and there I tarried, until I had got pretty well rid of the cholera. I then pursued my journey to Monclova, the seat of government for the State of Coahuila and Texas, in company with several Mexican gentlemen and foreigners. Previous to this time, I had traveled several hundred miles entirely alone, and generally encamped in the woods or plains at night. On my arrival at Monclova, I was doomed to encounter "misfortune" of a very different character. Here I found that the Englishman, (mentioned in my other letter), with whom I had contracted to petition for two grants of land, had totally failed in his application. The petition had been laid before the Governor, and he was about issuing the grants, when he received a decree from the Legislature—which was then in session—forbidding him to grant any more land, under any pretext. This measure was taken to prevent the great land speculators from carrying on their swindling operations in Texas. An act was soon after passed by that body, repealing all their Colonization laws; and thus every hope that I had so fondly entertained, and each fair prospect, seemingly so near its realization, was instantly blasted and utterly destroyed! If ever the fortitude of man was tried, mine was then. If ever stoic philosophy might be successfully called to the aid of human courage, I felt the necessity of invoking it upon that occasion. Nearly two years of toil, privation and peril, have been wasted. My sufferings had been great, though my spirit soared on the bouyancy of hope. Now the fair superstructure of an important enterprise, whose ideal magnitude had employed my mind, to the exclusion of many hardships endured, suddenly vanished from my sight, and left before me a hideous and gloomy void with no other encouragement than total disappointment, conscious poverty and remediless despair! What should I then have done? My health was restored, but my detention and consequent expenses had been so great that my funds were nearly exhausted. I came to the country for an important purpose; and I reasoned with myself thus; although my way is closed in this State, cannot something be done elsewhere? I will not boast of the stoutest heart among men, but mine must not quail. Something further must be done if possible, and I will try.

In the course of my travels, I had seen a part of the adjoining State of Tamaulipas, and had been informed that the colonization laws thereof were liberal. I was even aware that some parts of it are more suitable for the culture of the sugar cane, than any tract I could have obtained in Coahuila and Texas. And upon a little reflection, I determined to make further investigations in Tamaulipas, and had been informed of the State. As soon as my horse was a little rested, I set out, alone, on a journey of between four and five hundred miles, part of the way through an awfully mountainous region, and much of it an uninhabited wilderness. I encamped out almost every night, during the whole journey; very seldom near any human habitation. I had no fire-arms nor anything to defend myself against the ferocious beasts of the forest, which I had evidence to convince me were frequently numerous, and not far distant. In two weeks I reached the city of Matamoras, in the State of Tamaulipas, quite destitute of funds, after parting with almost every disposable article belonging to my wardrobe, &c. The people of this place being all perfect strangers to me, I did not for a while unfold to them the real object of my visit; but instead thereof, I opened a shop, and commenced working at my old trade— the saddling business. I soon got as much work as I could do—supported myself, replenished my pocket, made some acquaintance with a number of people, and obtained more information respecting the Colonization laws of the State. A few weeks elapsed, while I was employed in this way. I then mounted my horse again, and proceeded to the capital of the State; and after negotiating for some time with the Governor and Council of the State, I succeeded in obtaining a grant of land, upon advantageous terms. I then performed another journey of almost two hundred and fifty miles, "alone," to Matamoras again; and soon thereafter embarked for the United States.

My friends will thus perceive that I have not been idle; though much time has been occupied in my last expedition. I shall not attempt to excite their sympathy by exhibiting the twentieth part of what I have suffered. I do not even like to look back upon some of the scenes through which I have passed. But thanks to a kind and all-sustaining Providence, complete success has at last crowned my exertions. I strove hard to command it; and I leave it to others to say whether I have deserved it or not.

The terms upon which I have obtained my grant of land will be noticed in a public address, which I shall forward with this letter.

Since my arrival in this place, I have been confined by sickness; but am now convalescent, and shall visit my friends to the eastward, as soon as circumstances will permit. I cannot close this communication without an expression of my sincere thanks to those kind friends who rendered me assistance in defraying the expenses of my last Mexican tour. Their favors will be most gratefully remembered, and I shall feel myself under additional obligations to labor for the melioration of the condition of the poor and suffering slave.

In the next number of the "Genius of Universal Emancipation," I shall insert the names of those who contributed to aid me in the prosecution of my enterprise; and correct information relative to all proceedings therein, will be given in the pages of that work, as the business connected with it progresses.

I am, most respectfully, your Friend,



Nashville, 5th Mo., 1835.


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