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The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus by American Anti-Slavery Society

Part 14 out of 52

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protect the masters in the District against their slaves. What part of
the constitution gives the power? The clause so often quoted,--"power of
legislation in all cases whatsoever," equally in the "_case_" of
defending blacks against whites, as in that of defending whites against
blacks. The power is also conferred by Art. 1, Sec. 8, clause
15--"Congress shall have power to suppress insurrections"--a power to
protect, as well blacks against whites, as whites against blacks. If the
constitution gives power to protect _one_ class against the other, it
gives power to protect _either_ against the other. Suppose the blacks in
the District should seize the whites, drive them into the fields and
kitchens, force them to work without pay, flog them, imprison them, and
sell them at their pleasure, where would Congress find power to restrain
such acts? Answer; a _general_ power in the clause so often cited, and
an _express_ one in that cited above--"Congress shall have power to
suppress insurrections." So much for a supposed case. Here follows a
real one. The whites in the District are _perpetrating these identical
acts_ upon seven thousand blacks daily. That Congress has power to
restrain these acts in _one_ case, all assert, and in so doing they
assert the power "in _all_ cases whatsoever." For the grant of power to
suppress insurrections, is an _unconditional_ grant, not hampered by
provisos as to the color, shape, size, sex, language, creed, or
condition of the insurgents. Congress derives its power to suppress this
_actual_ insurrection, from the same source whence it derived its power
to suppress the _same_ acts in the case supposed. If one case is an
insurrection, the other is. The _acts_ in both are the same; the
_actors_ only are different. In the one case, ignorant and
degraded--goaded by the memory of the past, stung by the present, and
driven to desperation by the fearful looking for of wrongs for ever to
come. In the other, enlightened into the nature of _rights_, the
principles of justice, and the dictates of the law of love, unprovoked
by wrongs, with cool deliberation, and by system, they perpetrate these
acts upon those to whom they owe unnumbered obligations for _whole
lives_ of unrequited service. On which side may palliation be pleaded,
and which party may most reasonably claim an abatement of the rigors of
law? If Congress has power to suppress such acts _at all_, it has power
to suppress them _in_ all.

It has been shown already that _allegiance_ is exacted of the slave. Is
the government of the United States unable to grant _protection_ where
it exacts _allegiance_? It is an axiom of the civilized world, and a
maxim even with savages, that allegiance and protection are reciprocal
and correlative. Are principles powerless with us which exact homage of
barbarians? _Protection is the_ CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT _of every human.
being under the exclusive legislation of Congress who has not forfeited
it by crime_.

In conclusion, I argue the power of Congress to abolish slavery in the
District, from Art. 1, sec. 8, clause 1, of the constitution; "Congress
shall have power to provide for the common defence and the general
welfare of the United States." Has the government of the United States
no power under this grant to legislate within its own exclusive
jurisdiction on subjects that vitally affect its interest? Suppose the
slaves in the district should rise upon their masters, and the United
States' government, in quelling the insurrection, should kill any number
of them. Could their masters claim compensation of the government?
Manifestly not; even though no proof existed that the particular slaves
killed were insurgents. This was precisely the point at issue between
those masters, whose slaves were killed by the State troops at the time
of the Southampton insurrection, and the Virginia Legislature: no
evidence was brought to show that the slaves killed by the troops were
insurgents; yet the Virginia Legislature decided that their masters were
_not entitled to compensation._ They proceeded on the sound principle,
that the government may in self-protection destroy the claim of its
subjects even to that which has been recognized as property by its own
acts. If in providing for the common defence, the United States'
government, in the case supposed, would have power to destroy slaves
both as _property_ and _persons_, it surely might stop _half-way_,
destroy them _as property_ while it legalized their existence as
_persons_, and thus provided for the common defence by giving them a
personal and powerful interest in the government, and securing their
strength for its defence.

Like other Legislatures, Congress has power to abate nuisances--to
remove or tear down unsafe buildings--to destroy infected cargoes--to
lay injunctions upon manufactories injurious to the public health--and
thus to "provide for the common defence and general welfare" by
destroying individual property, when such property puts in jeopardy the
public weal.

Granting, for argument's sake, that slaves are "property" in the
District of Columbia--if Congress has a right to annihilate property
there when the public safety requires it, it may annihilate its
existence _as_ property when the public safety requires it, especially
if it transform into a _protection_ and _defence_ that which as
_property_ perilled the public interests. In the District of Columbia
there are, besides the United States' Capitol, the President's house,
the national offices, and archives of the Departments of State,
Treasury, War, and Navy, the General Post-office, and Patent office. It
is also the residence of the President, of all the highest officers of
the government, of both houses of Congress, and of all the foreign
ambassadors. In this same District there are also seven thousand slaves.
Jefferson, in his Notes on Va. p. 241, says of slavery, that "the State
permitting one half of its citizens to trample on the rights of the
other, transforms them into _enemies_;" and Richard Henry Lee, in the
Va. House of Burgesses in 1758, declared that to those who held them,
"_slaves must be natural enemies_." Is Congress so impotent that it
_cannot_ exercise that right pronounced both by municipal and national
law, the most sacred and universal--the right of self-preservation and
defence? Is it shut up to the _necessity_ of keeping seven thousand
"enemies" in the heart of the nation's citadel? Does the iron fiat of
the constitution doom it to such imbecility that it _cannot_ arrest the
process that _made_ them "enemies," and still goads to deadlier hate by
fiery trials, and day by day adds others to their number? Is _this_
providing for the common defence and general welfare? If to rob men of
rights excites their hate, freely to restore them and make amends, will
win their love.

By emancipating the slaves in the District, the government of the United
States would disband an army of "enemies," and enlist "for the common
defence and general welfare," a body guard of _friends_ seven thousand
strong. In the last war, a handful of British soldiers sacked Washington
city, burned the capitol, the President's house, and the national
offices and archives; and no marvel, for thousands of the inhabitants of
the District had been "TRANSFORMED INTO ENEMIES." Would _they_ beat back
invasion? If the national government had exercised its constitutional
"power to provide for the common defence and to promote the general
welfare," by turning those "enemies" into friends, then, instead of a
hostile ambush lurking in every thicket inviting assault, and secret
foes in every house paralyzing defence, an army of allies would have
rallied in the hour of her calamity, and shouted defiance from their
munitions of rocks; whilst the banner of the republic, then trampled in
dust, would have floated securely over FREEMEN exulting amidst bulwarks
of strength.

To show that Congress can abolish slavery in the District, under the
grant of power "to provide for the common defence and to promote the
general welfare," I quote an extract from a speech of Mr. Madison, of
Va., in the first Congress under the constitution, May 13, 1789.
Speaking of the abolition of the slave trade, Mr. Madison says: "I
should venture to say it is as much for the interests of Georgia and
South Carolina, as of any state in the union. Every addition they
receive to their number of slaves tends to _weaken_ them, and renders
them less capable of self-defence. In case of hostilities with foreign
nations, they will be the means of _inviting_ attack instead of
repelling invasion. It is a necessary duty of the general government to
protect every part of the empire against danger, as well _internal_ as
external. _Every thing, therefore, which tends to increase this danger,
though it may be a local affair, yet if it involves national expense or
safety, it becomes of concern to every part of the union, and is a
proper subject for the consideration of those charged with the general
administration of the government._" Cong. Reg. vol. 1, p. 310, 11.



My apology for adding a _postscript_, to a discussion already perhaps
too protracted, is the fact that the preceding sheets were in the hands
of the printer, and all but the concluding pages had gone through the
press, before the passage of Mr. Calhoun's late resolutions in the
Senate of the United States. A proceeding so extraordinary,--if indeed
henceforward _any_ act of Congress in derogation of freedom and in
deference to slavery, can be deemed extraordinary,--should not be passed
in silence at such a crisis as the present; especially as the passage of
one of the resolutions by a vote of 36 to 9, exhibits a shift of
position on the part of the South, as sudden as it is unaccountable,
being nothing less than the surrender of a fortress which until then,
they had defended with the pertinacity of a blind and almost infuriated
fatuity. Upon the discussions during the pendency of the resolutions,
and upon the vote, by which they were carried, I make no comment, save
only to record my exultation in the fact there exhibited, that great
emergencies are _true touchstones_, and that henceforward, until this
question is settled, whoever holds a seat in Congress will find upon,
and around him, a pressure strong enough to test him--a focal blaze that
will find its way through the carefully adjusted cloak of fair
pretension, and the sevenfold brass of two faced political intrigue, and
_no_-faced _non-committalism_, piercing to the dividing asunder of
joints and marrow. Be it known to every northern man who aspires to a
seat in our national councils, that hereafter congressional action on
this subject will be a MIGHTY REVELATOR--making secret thoughts public
property, and proclaiming on the house-tops what is whispered in the
ear--smiting off masks, and bursting open sepulchres beautiful
outwardly, and up-heaving to the sun their dead men's bones. To such we
say,--_Remember the Missouri Question, and the fate of those who then
sold the free states and their own birthright!_

Passing by the resolutions generally without remark--the attention of
the reader is specially solicited to Mr. Clay's substitute for Mr.
Calhoun's fifth resolution.

"Resolved, That when the District of Columbia was ceded by the states of
Virginia and Maryland to the United States, domestic slavery existed in
both of these states, including the ceded territory, and that, as it
still continues in both of them, it could not be abolished within the
District without a violation of that good faith, which was implied in
the cession and in the acceptance of the territory; nor, unless
compensation were made to the proprietors of slaves, without a manifest
infringement of an amendment to the constitution of the United States;
nor without exciting a degree of just alarm and apprehension in the
states recognizing slavery, far transcending in mischievous tendency,
any possible benefit which could be accomplished by the abolition."

By advocating this resolution, the south shifted its mode of defence,
not by taking a position entirely new, but by attempting to refortify an
old one--abandoned mainly long ago, as being unable to hold out against
assault however unskillfully directed. In the debate on this resolution,
the southern members of Congress silently drew off from the ground
hitherto maintained by them, viz.--that Congress has no power by the
constitution to abolish slavery in the District.

The passage of this resolution--with the vote of every southern senator,
forms a new era in the discussion of this question. We cannot join in
the lamentations of those who bewail it. We hail it, and rejoice in it.
It was as we would have had it--offered by a southern senator, advocated
by southern senators, and on the ground that it "was no
compromise"--that it embodied the true southern principle--that "this
resolution stood on as high ground as Mr. Calhoun's."--(Mr.
Preston)--"that Mr. Clay's resolution was as strong as Mr.
Calhoun's"--(Mr. Rives)--that "the resolution he (Mr. Calhoun) now
refused to support, was as strong as his own, and that in supporting it,
there was no abandonment of principle by the south."--(Mr. Walker, of
Mi.)--further, that it was advocated by the southern senators generally
as an expression of their views, and as setting the question of slavery
in the District on its _true_ ground--that finally, when the question
was taken, every slaveholding senator, including Mr. Calhoun himself,
voted for the resolution.

By passing this resolution, and with such avowals, the south has
unwittingly but explicitly, conceded the main point argued in the
preceding pages, and surrendered the whole question at issue between
them and the petitioners for abolition in the District.

The _only_ ground taken against the right of Congress to abolish slavery
in the District is, that it existed in Maryland and Virginia when the
cession was made, and "_as it still continues in both of them_, it could
not be abolished without a violation of that good faith which was
implied in the cession," &c. The argument is not that exclusive
_sovereignty_ has no power to abolish slavery within its jurisdiction,
nor that the powers of even ordinary legislation cannot do it, nor that
the clause granting Congress "exclusive legislation in all cases what
soever over such District," gives no power to do it; but that the
_unexpressed expectation_ of one of the parties that the other would not
"in all cases" use the power which said party had consented might be
used "_in all cases," prohibits_ the use of it. The only cardinal point
in the discussion, is here not only yielded, but formally laid down by
the South as the leading article in their creed on the question of
Congressional jurisdiction over slavery in the District. The reason
given why Congress should not abolish, and the sole evidence that if it
did, such abolition would be a violation of "good faith," is that
"_slavery still continues in those states_,"--thus admitting, that if
slavery did _not_ "still continue" in those States, Congress could
abolish it in the District. The same admission is made also in the
_premises_, which state that slavery existed in those states _at the
time of the cession_, &c. Admitting that if it had not existed there
then, but had grown up in the District under United States' laws,
Congress might constitutionally abolish it. Or that if the ceded parts
of those states had been the _only_ parts in which slaves were held
under their laws, Congress might have abolished in such a contingency
also. The cession in that case leaving no slaves in those states,--no
"good faith" would be "implied" in it, nor any "violated" by an act of
abolition. The resolution makes virtually this further admission, that
if Maryland and Virginia should at once abolish their slavery, Congress
might at once abolish it in the District. The principle goes even
further than this, and _requires_ Congress in such case to abolish
slavery in the District "by the _good faith implied_ in the cession and
acceptance of the territory." Since, according to the spirit and scope
of the resolution, this "implied good faith" of Maryland and Virginia
in making the cession, was, that Congress would do nothing within the
District which should counteract the policy, or discredit the
"institutions," or call in question the usages, or even in any way
ruffle the prejudices of those states, or do what _they_ might think
would unfavorably bear upon their interests; _themselves_ of course
being the judges.

But let us dissect another limb of the resolution. What is to be
understood by "that good faith which was IMPLIED?" It is of course an
admission that such a condition was not _expressed_ in the acts of
cession--that in their terms there is nothing restricting the power of
Congress on the subject of slavery in the District. This "implied
faith," then, rests on no clause or word in the United States'
Constitution, or in the acts of cession, or in the acts of Congress
accepting the cession, nor on any declarations of the legislatures of
Maryland and Virginia, nor on any _act_ of theirs, nor on any
declaration of the _people_ of those states, nor on the testimony of the
Washingtons, Jeffersons, Madisons, Chases, Martins, and Jennifers, of
those states and times. The assertion rests _on itself alone!_ Mr. Clay
_guesses_ that Maryland and Virginia _supposed_ that Congress would by
no means _use_ the power given them by the Constitution, except in such
ways as would be well pleasing in the eyes of those states; especially
as one of them was the "Ancient Dominion!" And now after half a century,
this _assumed expectation_ of Maryland and Virginia, the existence of
which is mere matter of conjecture with the 36 senators, is conjured up
and duly installed upon the judgment-seat of final appeal, before whose
nod constitutions are to flee away, and with whom, solemn grants of
power and explicit guaranties are, when weighed in the balance,
altogether lighter than vanity!

But survey it in another light. Why did Maryland and Virginia leave so
much to be "_implied?_?" Why did they not in some way _express_ what lay
so near their hearts? Had their vocabulary run so low that a single word
could not be eked out for the occasion? Or were those states so bashful
of a sudden that they dare not speak out and tell what they wanted? Or
did they take it for granted that Congress would always know their
wishes by intuition, and always take them for law? If, as honorable
senators tell us, Maryland and Virginia did verily travail with such
abounding _faith_, why brought they forth no _works_?

It is as true in legislation as in religion, that the only evidence of
"faith" is works, and that "faith" _without_ works is _dead_, i.e. has
no _power_. But here, forsooth, a blind implication with nothing
_expressed_, an "implied" faith without works, is omnipotent! Mr. Clay
is lawyer enough to know that Maryland and Virginia notions of
constitutional power, _abrogate no grant_, and that to plead them in a
court of law, would be of small service, except to jostle "their
Honors'" gravity! He need not be told that the Constitution gives
Congress "power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases
whatsoever over such District;" nor that Maryland and Virginia
constructed their acts of cession with this clause _before their eyes_,
and declared those acts made "in _pursuance_" of it. Those states knew
that the U.S. Constitution had left nothing to be "_implied_" as to the
power of Congress over the District; an admonition quite sufficient, one
would think, to put them on their guard, and lead them to eschew vague
implications, and to resort to _stipulations_. They knew, moreover, that
those were times when, in matters of high import, _nothing_ was left to
be "implied." The colonies were then panting from a twenty years'
conflict with the mother country, about bills of rights, charters,
treaties, constitutions, grants, limitations, and _acts of cession_. The
severities of a long and terrible discipline had taught them to guard at
all points _legislative grants_, that their exact import and limit might
be self-evident--leaving no scope for a blind "faith" that _somehow_ in
the lottery of chances, every ticket would turn up a prize. Toil,
suffering, blood, and treasure outpoured like water over a whole
generation, counselled them to make all sure by the use of explicit
terms, and well chosen words, and just enough of them. The Constitution
of the United States, with its amendments, those of the individual
states, the national treaties, and the public documents of the general
and state governments at that period, show the universal conviction of
legislative bodies, that nothing should be left to be "implied," when
great public interests were at stake.

Further: suppose Maryland and Virginia had expressed their "implied
faith" in _words_, and embodied it in their acts of cession as a
proviso, declaring that Congress should not "exercise exclusive
legislation in _all_ cases whatsoever over the District," but that the
"case" of _slavery_ should be an exception: who does not know that
Congress, if it had accepted the cession on those terms, would have
violated the Constitution; and who that has studied the free mood of
those times in its bearings on slavery--proofs of which are given in
scores on the preceding pages--[See pp. 25-37.] can be made to believe
that the people of the United States would have re-modelled their
Constitution for the purpose of providing for slavery an inviolable
sanctuary; that when driven in from its outposts, and everywhere
retreating discomfited before the march of freedom, it might be received
into everlasting habitations on the common homestead and hearth-stone of
the republic? Who can believe that Virginia made such a condition, or
cherished such a purpose, when Washington, Jefferson, Wythe, Patrick
Henry, St. George Tucker, and all her most illustrious men, were at that
moment advocating the abolition of slavery by law; when Washington had
said, two years before, that Maryland and Virginia "must have laws for
the gradual abolition of slavery, and at a period _not remote_;" and when
Jefferson in his letter to Dr. Price, three years before the cession,
had said, speaking of Virginia, "This is the next state to which we may
turn our eyes for the interesting spectacle of justice in conflict with
avarice and oppression--a conflict in which THE SACRED SIDE IS GAINING
DAILY RECRUITS;" when voluntary emancipations on the soil were then
progressing at the rate of between one and two thousand annually, (See
Judge Tucker's "Dissertation on Slavery," p. 73;) when the public
sentiment of Virginia had undergone, so mighty a revolution that the
idea of the continuance of slavery as a permanent system could not be
tolerated, though she then contained about half the slaves in the Union.
Was this the time to stipulate for the _perpetuity_ of slavery under the
exclusive legislation of Congress? and that too when at the _same_
session _every one_ of her delegation voted for the abolition of slavery
in the North West Territory; a territory which she herself had ceded to
the Union, and surrendered along with it her jurisdiction over her
citizens, inhabitants of that territory, who held slaves there--and
whose slaves were emancipated by that act of Congress, in which all her
delegation with one accord participated?

Now in view of the universal belief then prevalent, that slavery in this
country was doomed to short life, and especially that in Maryland and
Virginia it would be _speedily_ abolished--must we adopt the monstrous
conclusion that those states _designed_ to bind Congress _never_ to
terminate it?--that it was the _intent_ of the Ancient Dominion thus to
_bind_ the United States by an "implied faith," and that when the
national government _accepted_ the cession, she did solemnly thus plight
her troth, and that Virginia did then so _understand_ it? Verily,
honorable senators must suppose themselves deputed to do our _thinking_
for us as well as our legislation, or rather, that they are themselves
absolved from such drudgery by virtue of their office!

Another absurdity of this "implied faith" dogma is, that where there was
no power to exact an _express_ pledge, there was none to demand an
_implied_ one, and where there was no power to give the one, there was
none to give the other. We have shown already that Congress could not
have accepted the cession with such a condition. To have signed away a
part of its constitutional grant of power would have been a _breach_ of
the Constitution. The Congress which accepted the cession was competent
to pass a resolution pledging itself not to _use all_ the power over the
District committed to it by the Constitution. But here its power ended.
Its resolution could only bind _itself_. It had no authority to bind a
subsequent Congress. Could the members of one Congress say to those of
another, because we do not choose to exercise all the authority vested
in us by the Constitution, therefore you _shall_ not? This would, have
been a prohibition to do what the Constitution gives power to do. Each
successive Congress would still have gone to THE CONSTITUTION for its
power, brushing away in its course the cobwebs stretched across its path
by the officiousness of an impertinent predecessor. Again, the
legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, had no power to bind Congress,
either by an express or an implied pledge, never to abolish slavery in
the District. Those legislatures had no power to bind _themselves_ never
to abolish slavery within their own territories--the ceded parts
included. Where then would they get power to bind _another_ not to do
what they had no power to bind _themselves_ not to do? If a legislature
could not in this respect control the successive legislatures of its own
State, could it control the successive Congresses of the United States?

But perhaps we shall be told, that the "implied faith" of Maryland and
Virginia was _not_ that Congress should _never_ abolish slavery in the
District, but that it should not do it until _they_ had done it within
their bounds! Verily this "faith" comes little short of the faith of
miracles! Maryland and Virginia have "good faith" that Congress will not
abolish until _they_ do; and then just as "good faith" that Congress
_will_ abolish _when_ they do! Excellently accommodated! Did those
states suppose that Congress would legislate over the national domain,
for Maryland and Virginia alone? And who, did they suppose, would be
judges in the matter?--themselves merely? or the whole Union?

This "good faith implied in the cession" is no longer of doubtful
interpretation. The principle at the bottom of it, when fairly stated,
is this:--That the Government of the United States are bound in "good
faith" to do in the District of Columbia, without demurring, just what
and when, Maryland and Virginia do within their own bounds. In short,
that the general government is eased of all the burdens of legislation
within its exclusive jurisdiction, save that of hiring a scrivener to
copy off the acts of the Maryland and Virginia legislatures as fast as
they are passed, and engross them, under the title of "Laws of the
United States for the District of Columbia!" A slight additional expense
would also be incurred in keeping up an express between the capitols of
those States and Washington city, bringing Congress from time to time
its "_instructions_" from head quarters!

What a "glorious Union" this doctrine of Mr. Clay bequeaths to the
people of the United States! We have been permitted to set up at our own
expense, and on our own territory, two great _sounding-boards_ called
"Senate Chamber" and "Representatives' Hall," for the purpose of sending
abroad "by authority" _national_ echoes of _state_ legislation!
--permitted also to keep in our pay a corps of pliant _national_
musicians, with peremptory instructions to sound on any line of the
staff according as Virginia and Maryland may give the sovereign
key note!

A careful analysis of Mr. Clay's resolution and of the discussions upon
it, will convince every fair mind that this is but the legitimate
carrying out of the _principle_ pervading both. They proceed virtually
upon the hypothesis that the will and pleasure of Virginia and Maryland
are paramount to those of the Union. If the original design of setting
apart a federal district had been for the sole accommodation of the
south, there could hardly have been higher assumption or louder
vaunting. The only object of _having_ such a District was in effect
totally perverted in the resolution of Mr. Clay, and in the discussions
of the entire southern delegation, upon its passage. Instead of taking
the ground, that the benefit of the whole Union was the sole _object_ of
a federal district, and that it was to be legislated over _for this
end_--the resolution proceeds upon an hypothesis totally the reverse. It
takes a single point of _state_ policy, and exalts it above NATIONAL
interests, utterly overshadowing them; abrogating national rights;
making void a clause of the Constitution; humbling the general
government into a subject crouching for favors to a superior, and that
too within its own exclusive jurisdiction. All the attributes of
sovereignty vested in Congress by the Constitution, it impales upon the
point of an alleged _implication_. And this is Mr. Clay's
peace-offering, to the lust of power and the ravenings of state
encroachment! A "compromise," forsooth! that sinks the general
government on _its own territory_, into a mere colony, with Virginia and
Maryland for its "mother country!" It is refreshing to turn from these
shallow, distorted constructions and servile cringings, to the high
bearing of other southern men in other times; men, who as legislators
and lawyers, scorned to accommodate their interpretations of
constitutions and charters to geographical lines, or to bend them to the
purposes of a political canvass. In the celebrated case of Cohens _vs._
the State of Virginia, Hon. William Pinkney, late of Baltimore, and Hon.
Walter Jones, of Washington city, with other eminent constitutional
lawyers, prepared an elaborate opinion, from which the following is an
extract: "Nor is there any danger to be apprehended from allowing to
Congressional legislation with regard to the District of Columbia, its
FULLEST EFFECT. Congress is responsible to the States, and to the people
for that legislation. It is in truth the legislation of the states over
a district placed under their control FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT, not for
that of the District, except as the prosperity of the District is
involved, and _necessary to the general advantage_."--[Life of
Pinkney, p. 612.]

This profound legal opinion asserts, 1st, that Congressional legislation
over the District, is "the legislation of the _states_ and the
_people_." (not of _two_ states, and a mere _fraction_ of the people;)
2d. "Over a District placed under _their_ control," i.e. under the
control of _all_ the States, not of _two twenty-sixths_ of them. 3d.
That it was thus put under their control "_for_ THEIR OWN _benefit_."
4th. It asserts that the design of this exclusive control of Congress
over the District was "not for the benefit of the _District_," except as
that is _connected_ with, and _a means of promoting_ the _general_
advantage. If this is the case with the _District_, which is _directly_
concerned, it is pre-eminently so with Maryland and Virginia, which are
but _indirectly_ interested. The argument of Mr. Madison in the Congress
of '89, an extract from which has been given on a preceding page, lays
down the same principle; that though any matter "_may be a local affair,
yet if it involves national_ EXPENSE or SAFETY, _it becomes of concern
to every part of the union, and is a proper subject for the
consideration of those charged with the general administration of the
government_."--Cong. Reg. vol. 1. p. 310.

But these are only the initiatory absurdities of this "good faith
_implied_." Mr. Clay's resolution aptly illustrates the principle, that
error not only conflicts with truth, but is generally at issue with
itself: For if it would be a violation of "good faith" to Maryland and
Virginia, for Congress to abolish slavery in the District, it would be
_equally_ a violation for Congress to do it _with the consent_, or even
at the unanimous petition of the people of the District: yet for years
it has been the southern doctrine, that if the people of the District
demand of Congress relief in this respect, it has power, as their local
legislature, to grant it, and by abolishing slavery there, carry out the
will of the citizens. But now new light has broken in! The optics of Mr.
Clay have pierced the millstone with a deeper insight, and discoveries
thicken faster than they can be telegraphed! Congress has no power, O
no, not a modicum! to help the slaveholders of the District, however
loudly they may clamor for it. The southern doctrine, that Congress is
to the District a mere local Legislature to do its pleasure, is tumbled
from the genitive into the vocative! Hard fate--and that too at the
hands of those who begat it! The reasonings of Messrs. Pinckney and
Wise, are now found to be wholly at fault, and the chanticleer rhetoric
of Messrs. Glascock and Garland stalks featherless and crest-fallen. For
the resolution sweeps by the board all those stereotyped common-places,
such as "Congress a local Legislature," "consent of the District,"
"bound to consult the wishes of the District," with other catch phrases,
which for the last two sessions of Congress have served to eke out
scanty supplies. It declares, that as slavery existed in _Maryland and
Virginia at the time of the cession, and as_ it still continues _in both
those states_, it could not be abolished in the District without a
violation of "that good faith," &c.

But let us see where this principle will lead us. If "implied faith" to
Maryland and Virginia _restrains_ Congress from the abolition of slavery
in the District, because those states have not abolished _their_
slavery, it _requires_ Congress to do in the District what those states
have done within their own limits, i.e., restrain _others_ from
abolishing it. Upon the same principle Congress is _bound_ to _prohibit
emancipation_ within the District. There is no _stopping place_ for this
plighted "faith." Congress must not only refrain from laying violent
hands on slavery, and see to it that the slaveholders themselves do not,
but it is bound to keep the system up to the Maryland and Virginia
standard of vigor!

Again, if the good faith of Congress to Virginia and Maryland requires
that slavery should exist in the District, while it exists in those
states, it requires that it should exist there as it exists in those
states. If to abolish _every_ form of slavery in the District would
violate good faith, to abolish _the_ form existing in those states, and
to substitute a different one, would also violate it. The Congressional
"good faith" is to be kept not only with _slavery_, but with the
_Maryland and Virginia systems_ of slavery. The faith of those states
being not that Congress would maintain a system, but _their_ system;
otherwise instead of _sustaining_, Congress would counteract their
policy--principles would be brought into action there conflicting with
their system, and thus the true sprit of the "implied" pledge would be
violated. On this principle, so long as slaves are "chattels personal"
in Virginia and Maryland, Congress could not make them _real estate_ in
the District, as they are in Louisiana; nor could it permit slaves to
read, nor to worship God according to conscience; nor could it grant
them trial by jury, nor legalize marriage; nor require the master to
give sufficient food and clothing; nor prohibit the violent sundering of
families--because such provisions would conflict with the existing
slave laws of Virginia and Maryland, and thus violate the "good faith
implied," &c. So the principle of the resolution binds Congress in all
these particulars: 1st. Not to abolish slavery in the District _until_
Virginia and Maryland abolish. 2d. Not to abolish any _part_ of it that
exists in those states. 3d. Not to abolish any _form_ or _appendage_ of
it still existing in those states. 4th. To _abolish_ when they do. 5th.
To increase or abate its rigors _when, how,_ and _as_ the same are
modified by those states. In a word, Congressional action in the
District is to float passively in the wake of legislative action on the
subject in those states.

But here comes a dilemma. Suppose the legislation of those states should
steer different courses--then there would be _two_ wakes! Can Congress
float in both? Yea, verily! Nothing is too hard for it! Its
obsequiousness equals its "power of legislation in _all_ cases
whatsoever." It can float _up_ on the Virginia tide, and ebb down on the
Maryland. What Maryland does, Congress will do in the Maryland part.
What Virginia does, Congress will do in the Virginia part. Though it
might not always be able to run at the bidding of both _at once_,
especially in different directions, yet if it obeyed orders cheerfully,
and "kept in its place," according to its "good faith implied,"
impossibilities might not be rigidly exacted. True, we have the highest
sanction for the maxim that no _man_ can serve two masters--but if
"corporations have no souls," analogy would absolve Congress on that
score, or at most give it only a _very small soul_--not large enough to
be at all in the way, as an exception to the universal rule laid down in
the maxim!

In following out the absurdities of this "implied good faith," it will
be seen at once that the doctrine of Mr. Clay's Resolution extends to
_all the subjects of legislation_ existing in Maryland and Virginia,
which exist also within the District. Every system, "institution," law,
and established usage there, is placed beyond Congressional control
equally with slavery, and by the same "implied faith." The abolition of
the lottery system in the District as an immorality, was a flagrant
breach of this "good faith" to Maryland and Virginia, as the system
"still continued in those states." So to abolish imprisonment for debt,
or capital punishment, to remodel the bank system, the power of
corporations, the militia law, laws of limitation, &c., in the District,
_unless Virginia and Maryland took the lead,_ would violate the "good
faith implied in the cession."

That in the acts of cession no such "good faith" was "implied" by
Virginia and Maryland as is claimed in the Resolution, we argue from the
fact, that in 1784 Virginia ceded to the United States all her
north-west territory, with the special proviso that her citizens
inhabiting that territory should "have their _possessions_ and _titles_
confirmed to them, and be _protected_ in the enjoyment of their _rights_
and liberties." (See Journals of Congress, vol. 9, p. 63.) The cession
was made in the form of a deed, and signed by Thomas Jefferson, Samuel
Hardy, Arthur Lee, and James Munroe. Many of these inhabitants _held
slaves._ Three years after the cession, the Virginia delegation in
Congress _proposed_ the passage of an ordinance which should abolish
slavery, in that territory, and declare that it should never thereafter
exist there. All the members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland
voted for this ordinance. Suppose some member of Congress had during the
passage of the ordinance introduced the following resolution: "Resolved,
that when the northwest territory was ceded by Virginia to the United
States, domestic slavery existed in that State, including the ceded
territory, and as it still continues in that State, it could not be
abolished within the territory without a violation of that good faith,
which was implied in the cession and in the acceptance of the
territory." What would have been the indignant response of Grayson,
Griffin, Madison, and the Lees, in the Congress of '87, to such a
resolution, and of Carrington, Chairman of the Committee, who reported
the ratification of the ordinance in the Congress of '89, and of Page
and Parker, who with every other member of the Virginia delegation
supported it?

But to enumerate all the absurdities into which those interested for
this resolution have plunged themselves, would be to make a quarto
inventory. We decline the task; and in conclusion merely add, that Mr.
Clay, in presenting it, and each of the thirty-six Senators who voted
for it, entered on the records of the Senate, and proclaimed to the
world, a most unworthy accusation against the millions of American
citizens who have during nearly half a century petitioned the national
legislature to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia,--charging
them either with the ignorance or the impiety of praying the nation to
violate its "Plighted Faith." The resolution virtually indicts at the
bar of public opinion, and brands with odium, all the early Manumission
Societies, the _first_ petitioners for the abolition of slavery in the
District, and for a long time the only ones, petitioning from year to
year through evil report and good report, still petitioning, by
individual societies and in their national conventions.

But as if it were not enough to table the charge against such men as
Benjamin Rush, William Rawle, John Sergeant, Roberts Vaux, Cadwallader
Colden, and Peter A. Jay,--to whom we may add Rufus King, James
Hillhouse, William Pinkney, Thomas Addis Emmett, Daniel D. Tompkins, De
Witt Clinton, James Kent, and Daniel Webster, besides eleven hundred
citizens of the District itself, headed by their Chief Justice and
Judges--even the sovereign States of Pennsylvania, New-York,
Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut, whose legislatures have either
memorialized Congress to abolish slavery in the District, or instructed
their Senators to move such a measure, must be gravely informed by
Messrs. Clay, Norvell, Niles, Smith, Pierce, Benton, Black, Tipton, and
other honorable Senators, either that their perception is so dull, they
know not whereof they affirm, or that their moral sense is so blunted
they can demand without compunction a violation of the nation's faith!

We have spoken already of the concessions unwittingly made in this
resolution to the true doctrine of Congressional power over the
District. For that concession, important as it is; we have small thanks
to render. That such a resolution, passed with such an _intent_, and
pressing at a thousand points on relations and interests vital to the
free states, should be hailed, as it has been, by a portion of the
northern press as a "compromise" originating in deference to northern
interests, and to be received by us as a free-will offering of
disinterested benevolence, demanding our gratitude to the mover,--may
well cover us with shame. We deserve the humiliation and have well
earned the mockery. Let it come!

If, after having been set up at auction in the public sales-room of the
nation, and for thirty years, and by each of a score of "compromises,"
treacherously knocked off to the lowest bidder, and that without money
and without price, the North, plundered and betrayed, _will not_, in
this her accepted time, consider the things that belong to her peace
before they are hidden from her eyes, then let her eat of the fruit of
her own way, and be filled with her own devices! Let the shorn and
blinded giant grind in the prison-house of the Philistines, till taught
by weariness and pain the folly of entrusting to Delilahs the secret and
the custody of his strength.

Have the free States bound themselves by an oath never to profit by the
lessons of experience? If lost to reason, are they dead to _instinct_
also? Can nothing rouse them to cast about for self preservation? And
shall a life of tame surrenders be terminated by suicidal sacrifice?

A "COMPROMISE!" Bitter irony! Is the plucked and hoodwinked North to be
wheedled by the sorcery of another Missouri compromise? A compromise in
which the South gained all, and the North lost all, and lost it forever.
A compromise which embargoed the free laborer of the North and West,
and, clutched at the staff he leaned upon, to turn it into a bludgeon
and fell him with its stroke. A compromise which wrested from liberty
her boundless birthright domain, stretching westward to the sunset,
while it gave to slavery loose reins and a free coarse, from the
Mississippi to the Pacific.

The resolution, as it finally passed, is here inserted.

"Resolved, That the interference by the citizens of any of the states,
with the view to the abolition of slavery in the District, is
endangering the rights and security of the people of the District; and
that any act or measure of Congress designed to abolish slavery in the
District, would be a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by
the states of Virginia and Maryland, a just cause of alarm to the people
of the slaveholding states, and have a direct and inevitable tendency to
disturb and endanger the Union."

The vote upon the resolution stood as follows:

_Yeas_.--Messrs. Allen, Bayard, Benton, Black, Buchanan, Brown, Calhoun,
Clay of Alabama, Clay of Kentucky, Clayton, Crittenden, Cuthbert,
Fulton, Grundy, Hubbard, King, Lumpkin, Lyon, Nicholas. Niles, Norvell,
Pierce, Preston, Rives, Roane, Robinson, Sevier, Smith, of Connecticut,
Strange, Tallmadge, Tipton, Walker, White, Williams, Wright, Young--36.

SMITH, of Indiana, SWIFT, WEBSTER--9.

* * * * *




* * * * *


"American Slavery," said the celebrated John Wesley, "is the _vilest_
beneath the sun!" Of the truth of this emphatic remark, no other proof
is required, than an examination of the statute books of the American
slave states. Tested by its own laws, in all that facilitates and
protects the hateful process of converting a man into a "_chattel
personal_;" in all that stamps the law-maker, and law-upholder with
meanness and hypocrisy, it certainly has no present rival of its "bad
eminence," and we may search in vain the history of a world's despotism
for a parallel. The civil code of Justinian never acknowledged, with
that of our democratic despotisms, the essential equality of man. The
dreamer in the gardens of Epicurus recognized neither in himself, nor in
the slave who ministered to his luxury, the immortality of the spiritual
nature. Neither Solon nor Lycurgus taught the inalienability of human
rights. The Barons of the Feudal System, whose maxim was emphatically
that of Wordsworth's robber,

"That he should take who had the power,
And he should keep who can."

while trampling on the necks of their vassals, and counting the life of
a man as of less value than that of a wild beast, never appealed to God
for the sincerity of their belief, that all men were created equal. It
was reserved for American slave-holders to present to the world the
hideous anomaly of a code of laws, beginning with the emphatic
declaration of the inalienable rights of all men to life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness, and closing with a deliberate and systematic
denial of those rights, in respect to a large portion of their
countrymen; engrossing on the same parchment the antagonist laws of
liberty and tyranny. The very nature of this unnatural combination has
rendered it necessary that American slavery, in law and in practice,
should exceed every other in severity and cool atrocity. The masters of
Greece and Rome permitted their slaves to read and write and worship the
gods of paganism in peace and security, for there was nothing in the
laws, literature, or religion of the age to awaken in the soul of the
bondman a just sense of his rights as a man. But the American
slaveholder cannot be thus lenient. In the excess of his benevolence, as
a political propagandist, he has kindled a fire for the oppressed of the
old world to gaze at with hope, and for crowned heads and dynasties to
tremble at; but a due regard to the safety of his "peculiar
institution," compels him to put out the eyes of his own people, lest
they too should see it. Calling on all the world to shake off the
fetters of oppression, and wade through the blood of tyrants to freedom,
he has been compelled to smother, in darkness and silence, the minds of
his own bondmen, lest they too should hear and obey the summons, by
putting the knife to his own throat.--Proclaiming the truths of Divine
Revelation, and sending the Scriptures to the four quarters of the
earth, he has found it necessary to maintain heathenism at home by
special enactments; and to make the second offence of teaching his
slaves the message of salvation punishable with _death_!

What marvel then that American slavery even on the _statute book_
assumes the right to transform moral beings into brutes:[A] that it
legalizes man's usurpation of Divine authority; the substitution of the
will of the master, for the moral government of God: that it annihilates
the rights of conscience; debars from the enjoyment of religious rights
and privileges by specific enactments; and enjoins disobedience to the
Divine lawgiver: that it discourages purity and chastity, encourages
crime, legalizes concubinage; and, while it places the slave entirely in
the hands of his master, provides no real protection for his life or
his person.

[Footnote A: The _cardinal principle_ of slavery, that a slave is not to
be ranked among sentient beings, but among things, as an article of
property, a chattel personal, obtains as undoubted law, in all the slave
states. (Judge Stroud's Sketch of Slave Laws, p. 22.)]

But it may be said, that these laws afford no certain evidence of the
actual condition of the slaves: that, in judging the system by its code,
no allowance is made for the humanity of individual masters. It was a
just remark of the celebrated Priestley, that "_no people ever were
found to be better than their laws, though many have been known to be
worse._" All history and common experience confirm this. Besides,
admitting that the legal severity of a system may be softened in the
practice of the humane, may it not also be aggravated by that of the
avaricious and cruel?

But what are the testimony and admissions of slaveholders themselves on
this point? In an Essay published in Charleston, S.C., in 1822, and
entitled "A Refutation of the Calumnies circulated against the Southern
and Western States," by the late Edwin C. Holland, Esq., it is stated,
that "all slaveholders have laid down non-resistance, and perfect and
uniform _obedience_ to their orders as fundamental principles in the
government of their slaves:" that this is "a _necessary_ result of the
relation," and "_unavoidable_." Robert J. Turnbull, Esq., of South
Carolina, in remarking upon the management of slaves, says, "The only
principle upon which may authority over them, (the slaves,) can be
maintained is _fear_, and he who denies this has little knowledge of
them." To this may be added the testimony of Judge Ruffin, of North
Carolina, as quoted in Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 217. "The slave, to
remain a slave, must feel that there is _no appeal from his master_. No
man can anticipate the provocations which the slave would give, nor the
consequent wrath of the master, prompting him to BLOODY VENGEANCE on the
turbulent traitor, a vengeance _generally_ practised with impunity by
reason of its _privacy_."

In an Essay on the "improvement of negroes on plantations," by Rev.
Thomas S. Clay, a slaveholder of Bryan county, Georgia, and Printed at
the request of the Georgia Presbytery, in 1833, we are told "that the
present economy of the slave system is _to get all you can_ from the
slave, and give him in return _as little as will barely support him in a
working condition_!" Here, in a few words, the whole enormity of slavery
is exposed to view: "to _get all you can_ from the slave"--by means of
whips and forks and irons--by every device for torturing the body,
without destroying its capability of labor; and in return give him as
little of his coarse fare as will keep him, like a mere beast of burden,
in a "_working condition_;" this is slavery, as explained by the
slaveholder himself. Mr. Clay further says: "_Offences against the
master_ are more severely punished than violations of the law of God, a
fault which affects the slave's personal character a good deal. As
examples we may notice, that _running away_ is more severely punished
than adultery." "He (the slave) only knows his master as lawgiver and
executioner, and the _sole object of punishment_ held up to his view, is
to make him _a more obedient and profitable slave_."

Hon. W.B. Seabrook, in an address before the Agricultural Society of St.
John's, Colleton, published by order of the Society, at Charleston, in
1834, after stating that "as Slavery exists in South Carolina, the
action of the citizens should rigidly conform to that state of things:"
and, that "no _abstract opinions of the rights of man_ should be allowed
in any instance to modify the _police system of a plantation_," proceeds
as follows. "_He_ (the slave) _should be practically treated as a
slave_; and thoroughly taught the true cardinal principle on which our
peculiar institutions are founded, viz.; that to his owner he is bound
by the law of God and man; and that no human authority can sever the
link which unites them. The great aim of the slaveholder, then, should
be to keep his people in strict _subordination_. In this, it may in
truth be said, lies his _entire duty_." Again, in speaking of the
punishments of slaves, he remarks: "If to our army the disuse of THE
LASH has been prejudicial, to the slaveholder it would operate to
deprive him of the MAIN SUPPORT of his authority. For the first class of
offences, I consider imprisonment in THE STOCKS[A] at night, with or
without hard labor by day, as a powerful auxiliary in the cause of
_good_ government." "_Experience_ has convinced me that there is no
punishment to which the slave looks with more horror, than that upon
which I am commenting, (the stocks,) and none which has been attended
with happier results."

[Footnote A: Of the nature of this punishment in the stocks, something
may be learned by the following extract of a letter from a gentleman in
Tallahassee, Florida, to the editor of the Ohio Atlas, dated June 9,
1835: "A planter, a professer of religion, in conversing upon the
universality of whipping, remarked, that a planter in G____, who had
whipped a great deal, at length got tired of it, and invented the
following _excellent_ method of punishment, which I saw practised while
I was paying him a visit. The negro was placed in a sitting position,
with his hands made fast above his head, and his feet in the stocks, so
that he could not move any part of the body. The master retired,
intending to leave him till morning, but we were awakened in the night
by the groans of the negro, which were so doleful that we feared he was
dying. We went to him, and found him covered with a cold sweat, and
almost gone. He could not have lived an hour longer. Mr. ---- found the
'stocks' such an effective punishment, that it almost superseded
the whip."]

There is yet another class of testimony quite as pertinent as the
foregoing, which may at any time be gleaned from the newspapers of the
slave states--the advertisements of masters for their runaway slaves,
and casual paragraphs coldly relating cruelties, which would disgrace a
land of Heathenism. Let the following suffice for a specimen:

* * * * *

To the Editors of the Constitutionalist.

_Aiken, S.C., Dec._ 20, 1836.

I have just returned from an inquest I held over the dead body of a
negro man, a runaway, that was shot near the South Edisto, in this
district, (Barnwell,) on Saturday morning last. He came to his death by
his own recklessness. He refused to be taken alive; and said that other
attempts to take him had been made, and he was determined that he would
not be taken. When taken he was nearly naked--had a large dirk or knife
and a heavy club. He was at first, (when those who were in pursuit of
him found it absolutely necessary,) shot at with small shot, with the
intention of merely crippling him. He was shot at several times, and at
last he was so disabled as to be compelled to surrender. He kept in the
run of a creek in a very dense swamp all the time that the neighbors
were in pursuit of him. As soon as the negro was taken, the best medical
aid was procured, but he died on the same evening. One of the witnesses
at the inquisition stated that the negro boy said that he was from
Mississippi, and belonged to so many persons he did not know who his
master was; but again he said his master's name was _Brown_. He said his
own name was Sam; and when asked by another witness who his master was,
he muttered something like Augusta or Augustine. The boy was apparently
above 35 or 40 years of age--about six feet high--slightly yellow in the
face--very long beard or whiskers--and very stout built, and a stern
countenance; and appeared to have been run away a long time.


_Coroner, (ex officio,) Barnwell Dist., S.C._

The Mississippi and other papers will please copy the above.--_Georgia

* * * * *

$100 REWARD.--Ran away from the subscriber, living on Herring Bay, Ann
Arundel county, Md., on Saturday, 28th January, negro man Elijah, who
calls himself Elijah Cook, is about 21 years of age, well made, of a
very dark complexion has an impediment in his speech, and _a scar on his
left cheek bone, apparently occasioned by a shot_.

J. SCRIVENER. Annapolis (Md.) Rep., Feb., 1837.

* * * * *

$40 REWARD.--Ran away from my residence near Mobile, two negro men,
Isaac and Tim. Isaac is from 25 to 30 years old, dark complexion, scar
on the right side of the head, and also one on the right side of the
body, occasioned by BUCK SHOT. Tim is 22 years old, dark complexion,
scar on the right cheek, as also another on the back of the neck.
Captains and owners of steamboats, vessels, and water crafts of every
description, are cautioned against taking them on board under the
penalty of the law; and all other persons against harboring or in any
manner favoring the escape of said negroes under like penalty.

_Mobile, Sept_. 1. SARAH WALSH. Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, Sept. 29,

* * * * *

$200 REWARD.--Ran away from the subscriber, about three years ago, a
certain negro man named Ben, (commonly known by the name of Ben Fox.) He
is about five feet five or six inches high, chunky made, yellow
complexion, and has but one eye. Also, one other negro, by the name of
Rigdon, who ran away on the 8th of this month. He is stout made, tall,
and very black, with large lips.

I will give the reward of one hundred dollars for each of the above
negroes, to be delivered to me or confined in the jail of Lenoir or
Jones county, or _for the killing of them so that I can see them_.
Masters of vessels and all others are cautioned against harboring,
employing, or carrying them away, under the penalty of the law.

W.D. COBB. _Lenoir county, N.C., Nov_. 12, 1836.

* * * * *

"A negro who had absconded from his master, and for who a reward was
offered of $100, has been apprehended and committed to prison in
Savannah, Georgia. The Editor who states the fact, adds, with as much
coolness as though there was no barbarity in the matter, that he did not
surrender until he was considerably _maimed by the dogs_[A] that had
been set on him,--desperately fighting them, one of which he cut badly
with a sword."

_New-York Commercial Advertiser, June_, 8, 1827.

[Footnote A: In regard to the use of bloodhounds, for the recapture of
runaway slaves, we insert the following from the New-York Evangelist,
being an extract of a letter from Natchez (Miss.) under date of January
31, 1835: "An instance was related to me in Claiborne County, in
Mississippi. A runaway was heard about the house in the night. The hound
was put upon his track, and in the morning was found watching the dead
body of the negro. The dogs are trained to this service when young. A
negro is directed to go into the woods and secure himself upon a tree.
When sufficient time has elapsed for doing this, the hound is put upon
his track. The blacks are compelled to worry them until they make them
their implacable enemies: and it is common to meet with dogs which will
take no notice of whites, though entire strangers, but will suffer no
blacks beside the house servants to enter the yard."]

* * * * *

From the foregoing evidence on the part of slaveholders themselves, we
gather the following facts:

1. That perfect obedience is required of the slave--that he is made to
feel that there is no appeal from his master.

2. That the authority of the master is only maintained by fear--a
"_reign of terror_."

3. That "the economy of slavery is to _get all you can_ from the slave,
and give him in return as little as will barely support him in a working

4. That runaway slaves may be shot down with impunity by any white

5. That masters offer rewards for "_killing_" their slaves, "_so that
they may see them_!"

6. That slaves are branded with hot irons, and very much scarred with
the whip.

7. That _iron collars_, with projecting prongs, rendering it almost
impossible for the wearer to lie down, are fastened upon the _necks
of women_.

8. That the LASH is the MAIN SUPPORT of the slaveholder's authority:
but, that the _stocks_ are "a powerful auxiliary" to his government.

9. That runaway slaves are chased with dogs--men hunted like beasts of

Such is American Slavery in practice.

The testimony thus far adduced is only that of the slaveholder and
wrong-doer himself: the admission of men who have a direct interest in
keeping out of sight the horrors of their system. It is besides no
voluntary admission. Having "framed iniquity by law," it is out of their
power to hide it. For the recovery of their runaway property, they are
compelled to advertise in the public journals, and that it may be
identified, they are under the necessity of describing the marks of the
whip on the backs of women, the iron collars about the neck--the
gun-shot wounds, and the traces of the branding-iron. Such testimony
must, in the nature of things, be partial and incomplete. But for a full
revelation of the secrets of the prison-house, we must look to the slave
himself. The Inquisitors of Goa and Madrid never disclosed the peculiar
atrocities of their "hall of horrors." It was the escaping heretic, with
his swollen and disjointed limbs, and bearing about him the scars of
rack and fire, who exposed them to the gaze and abhorrence of

The following pages contain the simple and unvarnished story of an
AMERICAN SLAVE,--of one, whose situation, in the first place, as a
favorite servant in an aristocratic family in Virginia; and afterwards
as the sole and confidential driver on a large plantation in Alabama,
afforded him rare and peculiar advantages for accurate observation of
the practical workings of the system. His intelligence, evident candor,
and grateful remembrance of those kindnesses, which in a land of
Slavery, made his cup of suffering less bitter; the perfect accordance
of his statements, (made at different times, and to different
individuals),[B] one with another, as well as those statements
themselves, all afford strong confirmation of the truth and accuracy of
his story. There seems to have been no effort, on his part to make his
picture of Slavery one of entire darkness--he details every thing of a
mitigating character which fell under his observation; and even the
cruel deception of his master has not rendered him unmindful of his
early kindness.

[Footnote B: The reader is referred to JOHN G. WHITTIER, of
Philadelphia, or to the following gentlemen, who have heard the whole,
or a part of his story, from his own lips: Emmor Kimber, of Kimberton,
Pa., Lindley Coates, of Lancaster Co., do.; James Mott, of Philadelphia,
Lewis Tappan, Elizur Wright Jun., Rev. Dr. Follen, and James G. Birney,
of New York. The latter gentleman, who was a few years ago, a citizen of
Alabama, assures us that the statements made to him by James Williams,
were such as he had every reason to believe, from his own knowledge of
slavery in that State.]

The editor is fully aware that he has not been able to present this
affecting narrative in the simplicity and vivid freshness with which it
fell from the lips of the narrator. He has, however, as closely as
possible, copied his manner, and in many instances his precise language.
THE SLAVE HAS SPOKEN FOR HIMSELF. Acting merely as his amanuensis, he
has carefully abstained from comments of his own.[A]

[Footnote A: As the narrator was unable to read or write, it is quite
possible that the orthography of some of the names of individuals
mentioned in his story may not be entirely correct. For instance, the
name of his master may have been either Larrimer, or Larrrimore.]

The picture here presented to the people of the free states, is, in many
respects, a novel one. We all know something of Virginia and Kentucky
Slavery. We have heard of the internal slave trade--the pangs of
separation--the slave ship with its "cargo of despair" bound for the
New-Orleans market--the weary journey of the chained Coffle to the
cotton country. But here, in a great measure, we have lost sight of the
victims of avarice and lust. We have not studied the dreadful economy of
the cotton plantation, and know but little of the secrets of its
unlimited despotism.

But in this narrative the scenes of the plantation rise before us, with
a distinctness which approaches reality. We hear the sound of the horn
at daybreak, calling the sick and the weary to toil unrequited. Woman,
in her appealing delicacy and suffering, about to become a mother, is
fainting under the lash, or sinking exhausted beside her cotton row. We
hear the prayer for mercy answered with sneers and curses. We look on
the instruments of torture, and the corpses of murdered men. We see the
dogs, reeking hot from the chase, with their jaws foul with human blood.
We see the meek and aged Christian scarred with the lash, and bowed down
with toil, offering the supplication of a broken heart to his Father in
Heaven, for the forgiveness of his brutal enemy. We hear, and from our
inmost hearts repeat the affecting interrogatory of the aged slave,
_"How long, Oh Lord! how long!"_

The editor has written out the details of this painful narrative with
feelings of sorrow. If there be any who feel a morbid satisfaction in
dwelling upon the history of outrage and cruelty, he at least is not one
of them. His taste and habits incline him rather to look to the pure and
beautiful in our nature--the sunniest side of humanity--its kindly
sympathies--its holy affections--its charities and its love. But, it is
because he has seen that all which is thus beautiful and excellent in
mind and heart, perishes in the atmosphere of slavery: it is because
humanity in the slave sinks down to a level with the brute and in the
master gives place to the attributes of a fiend--that he has not felt at
liberty to decline the task. He cannot sympathize with that abstract and
delicate philanthropy, which hesitates to bring itself in contact with
the sufferer, and which shrinks from the effort of searching out the
extent of his afflictions. The emblem of Practical Philanthropy is the
Samaritan stooping over the wounded Jew. It must be no fastidious hand
which administers the oil and the wine, and binds up the
unsightly gashes.

Believing, as he does, that this narrative is one of truth; that it
presents an unexaggerated picture of Slavery as it exists on the cotton
plantations of the South and West, he would particularly invite to its
perusal, those individuals, and especially those professing Christians
at the North, who have ventured to claim for such a system, the sanction
and approval of the Religion of Jesus Christ. In view of the facts here
presented, let these men seriously inquire of themselves, whether in
advancing such a claim, they are not uttering a higher and more
audacious blasphemy than any which ever fell from the pens of Voltaire
and Paine. As if to cover them with confusion, and leave them utterly
without excuse for thus libelling the character of a just God, these
developments are making, and the veil rising, which for long years of
sinful apathy has rested upon the abominations of American Slavery.
Light is breaking into it's dungeons, disclosing the wreck of buried
intellect--of hearts broken--of human affections outraged--of souls
ruined. The world will see it as God has always seen it; and when He
shall at length make inquisition for blood, and His vengeance kindle
over the habitations of cruelty, with a destruction more terrible than
that of Sodom and Gomorrah, His righteous dealing will be justified of
man, and His name glorified among the nations, and there will be a voice
of rejoicing in Earth and in Heaven. ALLELUIA!--THE PROMISE IS

It is the earnest desire of the Editor, that this narrative may be the
means, under God, of awakening in the hearts of all who read it, a
sympathy for the oppressed which shall manifest itself in immediate,
active, self-sacrificing exertion for their deliverance; and, while it
excites abhorrence of his crimes, call forth pity for the oppressor. May
it have the effect to prevent the avowed and associated friends of the
slave, from giving such an undue importance to their own trials and
grievances, as to forget in a great measure the sorrows of the slave.
Let its cry of wo, coming up from the plantations of the South, suppress
every feeling of selfishness in our hearts. Let our regret and
indignation at the denial of the right of petition, be felt only because
we are thereby prevented from pleading in the Halls of Congress for the
"suffering and the dumb." And let the fact, that we are shut out from
half the territory of our country, be lamented only because it prevents
us from bearing personally to the land of Slavery, the messages of hope
for the slave, and of rebuke and warning for the oppressor.

_New-York, 24th 1st mo._, 1838.

* * * * *


I was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, on the plantation of George
Larrimore. Sen., at a place called Mount Pleasant, on the 16th of May
1805. May father was the slave of an orphan family whose name I have
forgotten, and was under the care of a Mr. Brooks, guardian of the
family. He was a native of Africa, and was brought over when a mere
child, with his mother. My mother was the slave of George Larrimore,
Sen. She was nearly white, and is well known to have been the daughter
of Mr. Larrimore himself. She died when myself and my twin brother
Meshech were five years of age--I can scarcely remember her. She had in
all eight children, of whom only five are now living. One, a brother,
belongs to the heirs of the late Mr. Brockenbrough of Charlottesville;
of whom he hires his time, and pays annually $120 for it. He is a member
of the Baptist church, and used to preach occasionally. His wife is a
free woman from Philadelphia, and being able to read and write, taught
her husband. The whites do not know that he can write, and have often
wondered that he could preach so well without learning. It is the
practice when a church is crowded, to turn the blacks out of their
seats. My brother did not like this, and on one occasion preached a
sermon from a text, showing that all are of one blood. Some of the
whites who heard it, said that such preaching would raise an
insurrection among the negroes. Two of them told him that if he would
prove his doctrine by Scripture, they would let him go, but if he did
not, he should have nine and thirty lashes. He accordingly preached
another sermon and spoke with a great deal of boldness. The two men who
were in favor of having him whipped, left before the sermon was over;
those who remained, acknowledged that he had proved his doctrine, and
preached a good sermon, and many of them came up and shook hands with
him. The two opposers, Scott and Brockley, forbid my brother, after
this, to come upon their estates. They were both Baptists, and my
brother had before preached to their people. During the cholera at
Richmond, my brother preached a sermon, in which he compared the
pestilence to the plagues, which afflicted the Egyptian slaveholders,
because they would not let the people go. After the sermon some of the
whites threatened to whip him. Mr. Valentine, a merchant on Shocko Hill
prevented them; and a young lawyer named Brooks said it was wrong to
threaten a man for preaching the truth. Since the insurrection of Nat.
Turner he has not been allowed to preach much.

My twin brother was for some time the property of Mr. John Griggs, of
Richmond, who sold him about three years since, to an Alabama Cotton
Planter, with whom he staid one year, and then ran away and in all
probability escaped into the free states or Canada, as he was seen near
the Maryland line. My other brother lives in Fredericksburg, and belongs
to a Mr. Scott, a merchant formerly of Richmond. He was sold from Mr.
Larrimore's plantation because his wife was a slave of Mr. Scott. My
only sister is the slave of John Smith, of King William. Her husband was
the slave of Mr. Smith, when the latter lived in Powhatan county, and
when he removed to King William, she was taken with her husband.

My old master, George Larrimore, married Jane Roane, the sister of a
gentleman named John Roane, one of the most distinguished men in
Virginia, who in turn married a sister of my master. One of his sisters
married a Judge Scott, and another married Mr. Brockenbrough of
Charlottesville. Mr. Larrimore had three children; George, Jane, and
Elizabeth. The former was just ten days older than myself; and I was his
playmate and constant associate in childhood. I used to go with him to
his school, and carry his books for him as far as the door, and meet him
there when the school was dismissed. We were very fond of each other,
and frequently slept together. He taught me the letters of the alphabet,
and I should soon have acquired a knowledge of reading, had not George's
mother discovered her son in the act of teaching me. She took him aside
and severely reprimanded him. When I asked him, not long after, to tell
me more of what he had learned at school, he said that his mother had
forbidden him to do so any more, as her father had a slave, who was
instructed in reading and writing, and on that account proved very
troublesome. He could, they said, imitate the hand-writing of the
neighboring planters, and used to write passes and certificates of
freedom for the slaves, and finally wrote one for himself, and went off
to Philadelphia, from whence her father received from him a saucy
letter, thanking him for his education.

The early years of my life went by pleasantly. The bitterness of my lot
I had not yet realized. Comfortably clothed and fed, kindly treated by
my old master and mistress and the young ladies, and the playmate and
confidant of my young master, I did not dream of the dark reality of
evil before me.

When he was fourteen years of age, master George went to his uncle
Brockenbrough's at Charlottesville, as a student of the University.
After his return from College, he went to Paris and other parts of
Europe, and spent three or four years in study and travelling. In the
mean time I was a waiter in the house, dining-room servant, &c. My old
master visited and received visits from a great number of the principal
families in Virginia. Each summer, with his family, he visited the
Sulphur Springs and the mountains. While George was absent, I went with
him to New-Orleans, in the winter season, on account of his failing
health. We spent three days in Charleston, at Mr. McDuffie's, with whom
my master was on intimate terms. Mr. McDuffie spent several days on one
occasion at Mt. Pleasant. He took a fancy to me, and offered my master
the servant whom he brought with him and $500 beside, for me. My master
considered it almost an insult, and said after he was gone, that Mr.
McDuffie needed money to say the least, as much as he did.

He had a fine house in Richmond, and used to spend his winters there
with his family, taking me with him. He was not there much at other
times, except when the Convention of 1829 for amending the State
Constitution, was held in that city. He had a quarrel with Mr. Neal of
Richmond Co., in consequence of some remarks upon the subject of
Slavery. It came near terminating in a duel. I recollect that during the
sitting of the Convention, my master asked me before several other
gentlemen, if I wished to be free and go back to my own country. I
looked at him with surprise, and inquired what country?

"Africa, to be sure," said he, laughing.

I told him that was not my country--that I was born in Virginia.

"Oh yes," said he, "but your father was born in Africa." He then said
that there was a place on the African coast called Liberia where a great
many free blacks were going; and asked me to tell him honestly, whether
I would prefer to be set free on condition of going to Africa, or live
with him and remain a slave. I replied that I had rather be as I was.

I have frequently heard him speak against slavery to his visitors. I
heard him say on one occasion, when some gentlemen were arguing in favor
of sending the free colored people to Africa, that this was as really
the black man's country as the white's, and that it would be as humane
to knock the free negroes, at once, on the head, as to send them to
Liberia. He was a kind man to his slaves. He was proud of them, and of
the reputation he enjoyed of feeding and clothing them well. They were
as near as I can judge about 300 in number. He never to my knowledge
sold a slave, unless to go with a wife or husband, and at the slave's
own request. But all except the very wealthiest planters in his
neighborhood sold them frequently. John Smoot of Powhatan Co. has sold a
great number. Bacon Tait[A] used to be one of the principal purchasers.
He had a jail at Richmond where he kept them. There were many others who
made a business of buying and selling slaves. I saw on one occasion
while travelling with my master, a gang of nearly two hundred men
fastened with chains. The women followed unchained and the children in
wagons. It was a sorrowful sight. Some were praying, some crying, and
they all had a look of extreme wretchedness. It is an awful thing to a
Virginia slave to be sold for the Alabama and Mississippi country. I
have known some of them to die of grief, and others to commit suicide,
on account of it.

[Footnote A: Bacon Tait's advertisement of "new and commodious
buildings" for the keeping of negroes, situated at the corner of 15th
and Carey streets, appears in the Richmond Whig of Sept. 1896.--EDITOR.]

In my seventeenth year, I was married to a girl named Harriet, belonging
to John Gatewood, a planter living about four miles from Mr. Pleasant.
She was about a year younger than myself--was a tailoress, and used to
cut out clothes for the hands.

We were married by a white clergyman named Jones; and were allowed to or
three weeks to ourselves, which we spent in visiting and other

The field hands are seldom married by a clergyman. They simply invite
their friends together, and have a wedding party.

Our two eldest children died in their infancy: two are now living. The
youngest was only two months old when I saw him for the last time. I
used to visit my wife on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

My young master came back from Europe in delicate health. He was advised
by his physicians to spend the winter in New-Orleans, whither he
accordingly went, taking me with him. Here he became acquainted with a
French lady of one of the first families in the city. The next winter he
also spent in New-Orleans, and on his third visit, three years after his
return from Europe, he was married to the lady above mentioned. In May
he returned to Mt. Pleasant, and found the elder Larrimore on his sick
bed, from which he never rose again. He died on the 14th of July. There
was a great and splendid funeral, as his relatives and friends
were numerous.

His large property was left principally in the hands of his widow until
her decease, after which it was to be divided among the three children.
In February Mrs. Larrimore also died. The administrators upon the estate
were John Green, Esq., and Benjamin Temple. My young master came back
from Europe in delicate health. He way advised by his physicians to
spend the winter in New-Orleans, whither he accordingly went, taking me
with him. Here he became acquainted with a French lady of one of the
first families in the city. The next winter he also spent in
New-Orleans, and on his third visit, three years after his return from
Europe, he was married to the lady above mentioned. In May he returned
to Mt. Pleasant, and found the elder Larrimore on his sick bed, from
which he never rose again. He died on the 14th of July. There was a
great and splendid funeral, as his relatives and friends were numerous.

His large property was left principally in the hands of his widow until
her decease, after which it was to be divided among the three children.
In February Mrs. Larrimore also died. The administrators upon the estate
were John Green, Esq., and Benjamin Temple.

My young mistresses, Jane and Elizabeth, were very kind to the servants.
They seemed to feel under obligations to afford them every comfort and
gratification, consistent with the dreadful relation of ownership which
they sustained towards them. Whipping was scarcely known on the estate;
and, whenever it did take place, it was invariably against the wishes of
the young ladies.

But the wife of master George was of a disposition entirely the reverse.
Feeble, languid, and inert, sitting motionless for hours at her window,
or moving her small fingers over the strings of her guitar, to some soft
and languishing air, she would have seemed to a stranger incapable of
rousing herself from that indolent repose, in which mind as well as body
participated. But, the slightest disregard of her commands--and
sometimes even the neglect to anticipate her wishes, on the part of the
servants; was sufficient to awake her. The inanimate and delicate beauty
then changed into a stormy virago. Her black eyes flawed and sparkled
with a snaky fierceness, her full lips compressed, and her brows bent
and darkened. Her very voice, soft and sweet when speaking to her
husband, and exquisitely fine and melodious, when accompanying her
guitar, was at such times, shrill, keen, and loud. She would order the
servants of my young mistresses upon her errands, and if they pleaded
their prior duty to obey the calls of another, would demand that they
should be forthwith whipped for their insolence. If the young ladies
remonstrated with her, she met them with a perfect torrent of invective
and abuse. In these paroxysms of fury she always spoke in French, with a
vehemence and volubility, which strongly contrasted with the calmness
and firmness of the young ladies. She would boast of what she had done
in New-Orleans, and of the excellent discipline of her father's slaves.
She said she had gone down in the night to the cell under her father's
house, and whipped the slaves confined there with her own hands. I had
heard the same thing from her father's servants at New-Orleans, when I
was there with my master. She brought with her from New-Orleans a girl
named Frances. I have seen her take her by the ear, lead her up to the
side of the room, and beat her head against it. At other times she would
snatch off her slipper and strike the girl on her face and head with it.

She seldom manifested her evil temper before master George. When she
did, he was greatly troubled, and he used to speak to his sisters about
it. Her manner towards him was almost invariably that of extreme
fondness. She was dark complexioned, but very beautiful; and the smile
of welcome with which she used to meet him was peculiarly fascinating. I
did not marvel that _he_ loved her; while at the same time, in common
with all the house servants, I regarded her as a being possessed with an
evil spirit,--half woman, and half fiend.

Soon after the settlement of the estate, I heard my master speak of
going out to Alabama. His wife had 1500 acres of wild land in Greene
County in that State: and he had been negociating for 500 more. Early in
the summer of 1833, he commenced making preparations for removing to
that place a sufficient number of hands to cultivate it. He took great
pains to buy up the wives and husbands of those of his own slaves who
had married out of the estate, in order, as he said, that his hands
might be contented in Alabama, and not need chaining together while on
their journey. It is always found necessary by the regular
slave-traders, in travelling with their slaves to the far South, to
handcuff and chain their wretched victims, who have been bought up as
the interest of the trader, and the luxury or necessities of the planter
may chance to require, without regard to the ties sundered or the
affections made desolate, by these infernal bargains. About the 1st of
September, after the slaves destined for Alabama had taken a final
farewell of their old home, and of the friends they were leaving behind,
our party started on their long journey. There were in all 214 slaves,
men, women and children. The men and women travelled on foot--the small
children in the wagons, containing the baggage, &c. Previous to my
departure, I visited my wife and children at Mr. Gatewood's. I took
leave of them with the belief that I should return with my master, as
soon as he had seen his hands established on his new plantation. I took
my children in my arms and embraced them; my wife, who was a member of
the Methodist church, implored the blessing of God upon me, during my
absence, and I turned away to follow my master.

Our journey was a long and tedious one, especially to those who were
compelled to walk the whole distance. My master rode in a sulky, and I,
as his body servant, on horseback: When we crossed over the Roanoke, and
were entering upon North Carolina, I remember with what sorrowful
countenances and language the poor slaves looked back for the last time
upon the land of their nativity. It was their last farewell to Old
Virginia. We passed through Georgia, and crossing the Chattahoochee,
entered Alabama. Our way for many days was through a sandy tract of
country, covered with pine woods, with here and there the plantation of
an Indian or a half-breed. After crossing what is called Line Creek, we
found large plantations along the road, at intervals of four or five
miles. The aspect of the whole country was wild and forbidding, save to
the eye of a cotton-planter. The clearings were all new, and the houses
rudely constructed of logs. The cotton fields, were skirted with an
enormous growth of oak, pine, and other wood. Charred stumps stood
thickly in the clearings, with here and there a large tree girdled by
the axe and left to decay. We reached at last the place of our
destination. It was a fine tract of land with a deep rich soil. We
halted on a small knoll, where the tents were pitched, and the wagons
unladen. I spent the night with my master at a neighboring plantation,
which was under the care of an overseer named Flincher.

The next morning my master received a visit from a man named Huckstep,
who had undertaken the management of his plantation as an overseer. He
had been an overseer on cotton plantations many years in Georgia and
North Carolina. He was apparently about forty years of age, with a
sunburnt and sallow countenance. His thick shock of black hair was
marked in several places with streaks of white, occasioned as he
afterwards told me by blows received from slaves whom he was chastising.

After remaining in the vicinity for about a week, my master took me
aside one morning--told me he was going to Selma in Dallas County, and
wished me to be in readiness on his return the next day, to start for
Virginia. This was to me cheering news. I spent that day and the next
among my old fellow servants who had lived with me in Virginia. Some of
them had messages to send by me to their friends and acquaintances. In
the afternoon of the second day after my master's departure, I
distributed, among them all the money which I had about me, viz.,
fifteen dollars. I noticed that the overseer Huckstep laughed at this
and called me a fool: and that whenever I spoke of going home with my
master, his countenance indicated something between a smile and a sneer.

Night came; but contrary to his promise, my master did not come. I still
however expected him the next day. But another night came, and he had
not returned. I grew uneasy, and inquired of Huckstep where be thought
my master was.

"On his way to Old Virginia," said he, with a malicious laugh.

"But," said I. "Master George told me that he should come back and take
me with him to Virginia."

"Well, boy," said the overseer, "I'll now tell ye what master George, as
you call him, told me. You are to stay here and act as driver of the
field hands. That was the order. So you may as well submit to it
at once."

I stood silent and horror-struck. Could it be that the man whom I had
served faithfully from our mutual boyhood, whose slightest wish had been
my law, to serve whom I would have laid down my life, while I had
confidence in his integrity--could it be that he had so cruelly and
wickedly deceived me? I looked at the overseer. He stood laughing at me
in my agony.

"Master George gave you no such orders," I exclaimed, maddened by the
overseer's look and manner.

The overseer looked at me with a fiendish grin. "None of your
insolence," said he, with a dreadful oath. "I never saw a Virginia
nigger that I couldn't manage, proud as they are. Your master has left
you in my hands, and you must obey my orders. If you don't, why I shall
have to make you '_hug the widow there_,'" pointing to a tree, to which I
afterwards found the slaves were tied when they were whipped.

That night was one of sleepless agony. Virginia--the hills and the
streams of my birth-place; the kind and hospitable home; the
gentle-hearted sisters, sweetening with their sympathy the sorrows of
the slave--my wife--my children--all that had thus far made up my
happiness, rose in contrast with my present condition. Deeply as he has
wronged me, may my master himself never endure such a night of misery!

At daybreak, Huckstep told me to dress myself, and attend to his
directions. I rose, subdued and wretched, and at his orders handed the
horn to the headmen of the gang, who summoned the hands to the field.
They were employed in clearing land for cultivation, cutting trees and
burning. I was with them through the day, and at night returned once
more to my lodgings to be laughed at by the overseer. He told me that I
should do well, he did not doubt, by and by, but that a Virginia driver
generally had to be whipped a few times himself before he could be
taught to do justice to the slaves under his charge. They were not equal
to those raised in North Carolina, for keeping the lazy hell-hounds, as
he called the slaves, at work.

And this was my condition!--a driver set over more than one hundred and
sixty of my kindred and friends, wish orders to apply the whip
unsparingly to every one, whether man or woman, who faltered in the
task, or was careless in the execution of it, myself subject at any
moment to feel the accursed lash upon my own back, if feelings of
humanity should perchance overcome the selfishness of misery, and induce
me to spare and pity.

I lived in the same house with Huckstep,--a large log house, roughly
finished; where we were waited upon by an old woman, whom we used to
call aunt Polly. Huckstep was, I soon found, inordinately fond of peach
brandy; and once or twice in the course of a month he had a drunken
debauch, which usually lasted from two to four days. He was then full of
talk, laughed immoderately at his own nonsense and would keep me up
until late at night listening to him. He was at these periods terribly
severe to his hands, and would order me to use up the cracker of my whip
every day upon the poor creatures, who were toiling in the field, and in
order to satisfy him, I used to tear it off when returning home at
night. He would then praise me for a good fellow, and invite me to
drink with him.

He used to tell me at such times, that if I would only drink as he did,
I should be worth a thousand dollars more for it. He would sit hours
with his peach brandy, cursing and swearing, laughing and telling
stories full of obscenity and blasphemy. He would sometimes start up,
take my whip, and rush out to the slave quarters, flourish it about and
frighten the inmates and often cruelly beat them. He would order the
women to pull up their clothes, in Alabama style, as he called it, and
then whip them for not complying. He would then come back roaring and
shouting to the house, and tell me what he had done; if I did not laugh
with him, he would get angry and demand what the matter was. Oh! how
often I have laughed, at such times, when my heart ached within me; and
how often, when permitted to retire to my bed, have I found relief
in tears!

He had no wife, but kept a colored mistress in a house situated on a
gore of land between the plantation and that of Mr. Goldsby. He brought
her with him from North Carolina, and had three children by her.

Sometimes in his fits of intoxication, he would come riding into the
field, swinging his whip, and crying out to the hands to strip off their
shirts, and be ready to take a whipping: and this too when they were all
busily at work. At another time, he would gather the hands around him
and fall to cursing and swearing about the neighboring overseers. They
were, he said, cruel to their hands, whipped them unmercifully, and in
addition starved them. As for himself, he was the kindest and best
fellow within forty miles; and the hands ought to be thankful that they
had such a good man for their overseer.

He would frequently be very familiar with me, and call me his child; he
would tell me that our people were going to get Texas, a fine cotton
country, and that he meant to go out there and have a plantation of his
own, and I should go with him and be his overseer.

The houses in the "_negro quarters_" were constructed of logs, and from
twelve to fifteen feet square; they had no glass, but there were holes
to let in the light and air. The furniture consisted of a table, a few
stools, and dishes made of wood, and an iron pot, and some other cooking
utensils. The houses were placed about three or four rods apart, with a
piece of ground attached to each of them for a garden, where the
occupant could raise a few vegetables. The "quarters" were about three
hundred yards from the dwelling of the overseer.

The hands were occupied in clearing land and burning brush, and in
constructing their houses, through the winter. In March we commenced
ploughing: and on the first of April began planting seed for cotton. The
hoeing season commenced about the last of May. At the earliest dawn of
day, and frequently before that time, the laborers were roused from
their sleep by the blowing of the horn. It was blown by the headman of
the gang who led the rest in the work and acted under my direction, as
my assistant.

Previous to the blowing of the horn the hands generally rose and eat
what was called the "morning's bit," consisting of ham and bread. If
exhaustion and fatigue prevented their rising before the dreaded sound
of the horn broke upon their slumbers, they had no time to snatch a
mouthful, but were harried out at once.

It was my business to give over to each of the hands his or her
appropriate implement of labor, from the toolhouse where they were
deposited at night. After all had been supplied, they were taken to the
field, and set at work as soon as it was sufficiently light to
distinguish the plants from the grass and weeds. I was employed in
passing from row to row, in order to see that the work was well done,
and to urge forward the laborers. At 12 o'clock, the horn was blown from
the overseer's house, calling the hands to dinner, each to his own
cabin. The intermission of labor was one hour and a half to hoers and
pickers, and two hours to the ploughmen. At the expiration of this
interval, the horn again summoned them to thus labor. They were kept in
the field until dark, when they were called home to supper.

There was little leisure for any of the hands on the plantation. In the
evenings, after it was too dark for work in the field, the men were
frequently employed in burning brush and in other labors until late at
night. The women after toiling in the field by day, were compelled to
card, spin, and weave cotton for their clothing, in the evening. Even on
Sundays there was little or no respite from toil. Those who had not been
able to work out all their tasks during the week were allowed by the
overseer to finish it on the Sabbath, and thus save themselves from a
whipping on Monday morning. Those whose tasks were finished frequently
employed most of that day in cultivating their gardens.

Many of the female hands were delicate young women, who in Virginia had
never been accustomed to field labor. They suffered greatly from the
extreme heat and the severity of the toil. Oh! how often have I seen
them dragging their weary limbs from the cotton field at nightfall,
faint and exhausted. The overseer used to laugh at their sufferings.
They were, he said, Virginia ladies, and altogether too delicate for
Alabama use: but they must be made to do their tasks notwithstanding.
The recollection of these things even now is dreadful. I used to tell
the poor creatures, when compelled by the overseer to urge them forward
with the whip, that I would much rather take their places, and endure
the stripes than inflict them.

When but three months old, the children born on the estate were given up
to the care of the old women who were not able to work out of doors.
Their mothers were kept at work in the field.

It was the object of the overseer to separate me in feeling and interest
as widely as possible from my suffering brethren and sisters. I had
relations among the field hands, and used to call them my cousins. He
forbid my doing so; and told me if I acknowledged relationship with any
of the hands I should be flogged for it. He used to speak of them as
devils and hell-hounds, and ridicule them in every possible way; and
endeavoured to make me speak of them and regard them in the same manner.
He would tell long stories about hunting and shooting "runaway niggers,"
and detail with great apparent satisfaction the cruel and horrid
punishments which he had inflicted. One thing he said troubled him. He
had once whipped a slave so severely that he died in consequence of it,
and it was soon after ascertained that he was wholly innocent of the
offence charged against him. That slave, he said, had haunted him
ever since.

Soon after we commenced weeding our cotton, some of the hands who were
threatened with a whipping for not finishing their tasks, ran away. The
overseer and myself went out after them, taking with us five
bloodhounds, which were kept on the Estate for the sole purpose of
catching runaways. There were no other hounds in the vicinity, and the
overseers of the neighboring plantations used to borrow them to hunt
their runaways. A Mr. Crop, who lived about ten miles distant, had two
packs, and made it his sole business to catch slaves with them. We used
to set the dogs upon the track of the fugitives, and they would follow
them until, to save themselves from being torn in pieces, they would
climb into a tree, where the dogs kept them until we came up and
secured them.

These hounds, when young, are taught to run after the negro boys; and
being always kept confined except when let out in pursuit of runaways,
they seldom fail of overtaking the fugitive, and seem to enjoy the sport
of hunting men as much as other dogs do that of chasing a fox or a deer.
My master gave a large sum for his five dogs,--a slut and her
four puppies.

While going over our cotton picking for the last time, one of our hands
named Little John, ran away. The next evening the dogs were started on
his track. We followed them awhile, until we knew by their ceasing to
bark that they had found him. We soon met the dogs returning. Their
jaws, heads, and feet, were bloody. The overseer looked at them and
said, "he was afraid the dogs had killed the nigger." It being dark, we
could not find him that night. Early the next morning, we started off
with our neighbors, Sturtivant and Flincher; and after searching about
for some time, we found the body of Little John lying in the midst of a
thicket of cane. It was nearly naked, and dreadfully mangled and gashed
by the teeth of the dogs. They had evidently dragged it some yards
through the thicket: blood, tatters of clothes, and even the entrails of
the unfortunate man, were clinging to the stubs of the old and broken
cane. Huckstep stooped over his saddle, looked at the body, and muttered
an oath. Sturtivant swore it was no more than the fellow deserved. We
dug a hole in the cane-brake, where he lay, buried him, and
returned home.

The murdered young man had a mother and two sisters on the plantation,
by whom he was dearly loved. When I told the old woman of what had
befallen her son, she only said that it was better for poor John than to
live in slavery.

Late in the fall of this year, a young man, who had already run away
several times, was missing from his task. It was four days before we
found him. The dogs drove him at last up a tree, where he was caught,
and brought home. He was then fastened down to the ground by means of
forked sticks of wood selected for the purpose, the longest fork being
driven into the ground until the other closed down upon the neck,
ancles, and wrists. The overseer then sent for two large cats belonging
to the house. These he placed upon the naked shoulders of his victim,
and dragged them suddenly by their tails downward. At first they did not
scratch deeply. He then ordered me to strike them with a small stick
after he had placed them once more upon the back of the sufferer. I did
so; and the enraged animals extended their claws, and tore his back
deeply and cruelly as they were dragged along it. He was then whipped
and placed in the stocks, where he was kept for three days. On the third
morning as I passed the stocks, I stopped to look at him. His head hung
down over the chain which supported his neck. I spoke, but he did not
answer. _He was dead in the stocks_! The overseer on seeing him seemed
surprised, and, I thought, manifested some remorse. Four of the field
hands took him out of the stocks and buried him: and every thing went
on as usual.

It is not in my power to give a narrative of the daily occurrences on
the plantation. The history of one day was that of all. The gloomy
monotony of our slavery, was only broken by the overseer's periodical
fits of drunkenness, at which times neither life nor limb on the estate
were secure from his caprice or violence.

In the spring of 1835, the overseer brought me a letter from my wife,
written for her by her young mistress, Mr. Gateweed's daughter. He read
it to me: it stated that herself and children were well--spoke of her
sad and heavy disappointment in consequence of my not returning with my
master; and of her having been told by him that I should come back the
next fall.

Hope for a moment lightened my heart; and I indulged the idea of once
more returning to the bosom of my family. But I recollected that my
master had already cruelly deceived me; and despair again took hold
on me.

Among our hands was one whom we used to call Big Harry. He was a stout,
athletic man--very intelligent, and an excellent workman; but he was of
a high and proud spirit, which the weary and crushing weight of a life
of slavery had not been able to subdue. On almost every plantation at
the South you may find one or more individuals, whose look and air show
that they have preserved their self-respect as _men_;--that with them
the power of the tyrant ends with the coercion of the body--that the
soul is free, and the inner man retaining the original uprightness of
the image of God. You may know them by the stern sobriety of their
countenances, and the contempt with which they regard the jests and
pastimes of their miserable and degraded companions, who, like Samson,
make sport for the keepers of their prison-house. These men are always
feared as well as hated by their task-masters. Harry had never been
whipped, and had always said that he would die rather than submit to it.
He made no secret of his detestation of the overseer. While most of the
slaves took off their hats, with cowering submission, in his presence,
Harry always refused to do so. He never spoke to him except in a brief
answer to his questions. Master George, who knew, and dreaded the
indomitable spirit of the man, told the overseer, before he left the
plantation, to beware how he attempted to punish him. But, the habits of
tyranny in which Huckstep had so long indulged, had accustomed him to
abject submission, on the part of his subjects; and he could not endure
this upright and unbroken manliness. He used frequently to curse and
swear about him, and devise plans for punishing him on account of his
impudence as he called it.

A pretext was at last afforded him. Sometime in August of this year,
there was a large quantity of yellow unpicked cotton lying in the gin
house. Harry was employed at night in removing the cotton see, which has
been thrown out by the gin. The rest of the male hands were engaged
during the day in weeding the cotton for the last time, and in the nigh,
in burning brush on the new lands clearing for the next year's crop.
Harry was told one evening to go with the others and assist in burning
the brush. He accordingly went and the next night a double quantity of
seed had accumulated in the gin house: and although he worked until
nearly 2 o'clock in the morning, he could not remove it all.

The next morning the overseer came into the field, and demanded of me
why I had not whipped Harry for not removing all the cotton seed. He
then called aloud to Harry to come forward and be whipped. Harry
answered somewhat sternly that he would neither be struck by overseer
nor driver; that he had worked nearly all night, and had scarcely fallen
asleep when the horn blew to summon him to his toil in the field. The
overseer raved and threatened, but Harry paid no farther attention to
him. He then turned to me and asked me for my pistols, with a pair of
which he had furnished me. I told him they were not with me. He growled
an oath, threw himself on his horse and left us. In the evening I found
him half drunk and raving like a madman. He said he would no longer bear
with that nigger's insolence; but would whip him if it cost him his
life. He at length fixed upon a plan for seizing him; and told me that
he would go out in the morning, ride along by the side of Harry and talk
pleasantly to him, and then, while Harry was attending to him, I was to
steal upon him and knock him down, by a blow on the head, from the
loaded and heavy handle of my whip. I was compelled to promise to obey
his directions.

The next morning when we got to the field I told Harry of the overseer's
plan, and advised him by all means to be on his guard and watch my
motions. His eye glistened with gratitude. "Thank you James", said he,
"I'll take care that you don't touch me."

Huckstep came into the field about 10 o'clock. He rode along by the side
of Harry talking and laughing. I was walking on the other side. When I
saw that Harry's eye was upon me I aimed a blow at him intending however
to miss him. He evaded the blow and turned fiercely round with his hoe
uplifted, threatening to cut down any one who again attempted to strike
him. Huckstep cursed my awkwardness, and told Harry to put down his hoe
and came to him. He refused to do so and swore he would kill the first
man who tried to lay hands on him. The cowardly tyrant shrank away from
his enraged bondman, and for two weeks Harry was not again molested.

About the first of September, the overseer had one of his drunken fits.
He made the house literally an earthly hell. He urged me to drink,
quarrelled and swore at me for declining, and chased the old woman round
the house, with his bottle of peach brandy. He then told me that Harry
had forgotten the attempt to seize him, and that is the morning we must
try our old game over again.

On the following morning, as I was handing to each of the hands their
hoes from the tool house, I caught Harry's eye. "Look out," said I to
him. "Huckstep will be after you again to day." He uttered a deep curse
against the overseer and passed on to his work. After breakfast Huckstep
came riding out to the cotton field. He tied his horse to a tree, and
came towards us. His sallow and haggard countenance was flushed, and his
step unsteady. He came up by the side of Harry and began talking about
the crops and the weather; I came at the same time on the other side,
and in striking at him, beat off his hat. He sprang aside and stepped
backwards. Huckstep with a dreadful oath commanded him to stop, saying
that he had determined to whip him, and neither earth nor hell should
prevent him. Harry defied him: and said he had always done the work
allotted to him and that was enough: he would sooner die than have the
accursed lash touch him. The overseer staggered to his horse, mounted
him and rode furiously to the house, and soon made his appearance,
returning, with his gun in his hand.

"Yonder comes the devil!" said one of the women whose row was near

"Yes," said another, "He's trying to scare Harry with his gun."

"Let him try as he pleases," said Harry, in his low, deep, determined
tones, "He may shoot me, but he can't whip me."

Huckstep came swearing on: when within a few yards of Harry he stopped,
looked at him with a stare of mingled rage and drunken imbecility; and
bid him throw down his hoe and come forward. The undaunted slave refused
to comply, and continuing his work told the drunken demon to shoot if he
pleased. Huckstep advanced within a few steps of him when Harry raised
his hoe and told him to stand back. He stepped back a few paces, leveled
his gun and fired. Harry received the charge in his breast, and fell
instantly across a cotton row. He threw up his hands wildly, and
groaned, "Oh, Lord!"

The hands instantly dropped their hoes. The women shrieked aloud. For my
own part I stood silent with horror. The cries of the women enraged the
overseer, he dropped his gun, and snatching the whip from my hand, with
horrid oaths, and imprecations fell to whipping them, laying about him
like a maniac. Upon Harry's sister he bestowed his blows without mercy,
commanding her to quit her screaming and go to work. The poor girl,
whose brother had thus been murdered before her eyes, could not wrestle
down the awful agony of her feelings, and the brutal tormentor left her
without effecting his object. He then, without going to look of his
victim, told four of the hands to carry him to the house, and taking up
his gun left the field. When we got to the poor fellow, he was alive,
and groaning faintly. The hands took him up, but before they reached the
house he was dead. Huckstep came out, and looked at him, and finding him
dead, ordered the hands to bury him. The burial of a slave in Alabama is
that of a brute. No coffin--no decent shroud--no prayer. A hole is dug,
and the body (sometimes enclosed in a rude box,) is thrown in without
further ceremony.

From this time the overseer was regarded by the whole gang with
detestation and fear--as a being to whose rage and cruelty there were no
limits. Yet he was constantly telling us that he was the kindest of
overseers--that he was formerly somewhat severe in managing his hands,
but that now he was, if any thing, too indulgent. Indeed he had the
reputation of being a good overseer, and an excellent manager, when
sober. The slaves on some of the neighboring plantations were certainly
worse clothed and fed, and more frequently and cruelly whipped than
ours. Whenever the saw them they complained of over working and short
feeding. One of Flincher's, and one of Sturtivant's hands ran away,
while I was in Alabama: and after remaining in the woods awhile, and
despairing of being able to effect their escape, resolved to put an end
to their existence and their slavery together. Each twisted himself a
vine of the muscadine grape, and fastened one end around the limb of an
oak, and made a noose in the other. Jacob, Flincher's man, swung himself
off first, and expired after a long struggle. The other, horrified by
the contortions and agony of his comrade, dropped his noose, and was
retaken. When discovered, two or three days afterwards, the body of
Jacob was dreadfully torn and mangled, by the buzzards, those winged
hyenas and goules of the Southwest.

Among the slaves who were brought from Virginia, were two young and
bright mulatto women, who were always understood throughout the
plantation to have been the daughters of the elder Larrimore, by one of
his slaves. One was named Sarah and the other Hannah. Sarah, being in a
state of pregnancy, failed of executing her daily allotted task of
hoeing cotton. I was ordered to whip her, and on my remonstrating with
the overseer, and representing the condition of the woman, I was told
that my business was to obey orders, and that if I was told "to whip a
dead nigger I must do it." I accordingly gave her fifty lashes. This was
on Thursday evening. On Friday she also failed through weakness, and was
compelled to lie down in the field. That night the overseer himself
whipped her. On Saturday the wretched woman dragged herself once more to
the cotton field. In the burning sun, and in a situation which would
have called forth pity in the bosom of any one save a cotton-growing
overseer, she struggled to finish her task. She failed--nature could do
no more--and sick and despairing, she sought her cabin. There the
overseer met her and inflicted fifty more lashes upon her already
lacerated back.

The next morning was the Sabbath. It brought no joy to that suffering
woman. Instead of the tones of the church bell summoning to the house of
prayer, she heard the dreadful sound of the lash falling upon the backs
of her brethren and sisters in bondage. For the voice of prayer she
heard curses. For the songs of Zion obscene and hateful blasphemies. No
bible was there with its consolations for the sick of heart. Faint and
fevered, scarred and smarting from the effects of her cruel punishment,
she lay upon her pallet of moss--dreading the coming of her relentless
persecutor,--who, in the madness of one of his periodical fits of
drunkenness, was now swearing and cursing through the quarters.

Some of the poor woman's friends on the evening before, had attempted to
relieve her of the task which had been assigned her, but exhausted
nature, and the selfishness induced by their own miserable situation,
did not permit them to finish it and the overseer, on examination, found
that the week's work of the woman, was still deficient. After breakfast,
he ordered her to be tied up to the limb of a tree, by means of a rope
fastened round her wrists, so as to leave her feet about six inches from
the ground. She begged him to let her down for she was very sick.

"Very well!" he exclaimed with a sneer and a laugh,--"I shall bleed you
then, and take out some of your Virginia blood. You are too proud a miss
for Alabama."

He struck her a few blows. Swinging thus by her arms, she succeeded in
placing one of her feet against the body of the tree, and thus partly
supported herself, and relieved in some degree the painful weight upon
her wrists. He threw down his whip--took a rail from the garden fence,
ordered her feet to be tied together, and thrust the rail between them.
He then ordered one of the hands to sit upon it. Her back at this time
was bare, but the strings of the only garment which she wore passed over
her shoulders and prevented the full force of the whip from acting on
her flesh. These he cut off with his pen-knife, and thus left her
entirely naked. He struck her only two blows, for the second one cut
open her side and abdomen with a frightful gash. Unable to look on any
longer in silence, I entreated him to stop, as I feared he had killed
her. The overseer looked at the wound--dropped his whip, and ordered her
to be untied. She was carried into the house in a state of
insensibility, and died in three days after.

During the whole season of picking cotton, the whip was frequently and
severely plied. In his seasons of intoxication, the overseer made no
distinction between the stout man and the feeble and delicate woman--the
sick and the well. Women in a far advanced state of pregnancy were
driven out to the cotton field. At other times he seemed to have some
consideration; and to manifest something like humanity. Our hands did
not suffer for food--they had a good supply of ham and corn-meal, while
on Flincher's plantation the slaves had meat but once a year, at

Near the commencement of the weeding season of 1835, I was ordered to
whip a young woman, a light mustee, for not performing her task. I told
the overseer that she was sick. He said he did not care for that, she
should be made to work. A day or two afterwards, I found him in the
house half intoxicated. He demanded of me why I had not whipped the
girl; and I gave the same reason as before. He flew into a dreadful
rage, but his miserable situation made him an object of contempt rather
than fear. He sat shaking his fist at me, and swearing for nearly half
an hour. He said he would teach the Virginia lady to sham sickness; and
that the only reason I did not whip her was, that she was a white woman,
and I did not like to cut up her delicate skin. Some time after I was
ordered to give two of our women, named Hannah and big Sarah, 150 lashes
each, for not performing their tasks. The overseer stood by until he saw
Hannah whipped, and until Sarah had been tied up to the tree. As soon as
his back was turned I struck the tree instead of the woman, who
understanding my object, shrieked as if the whip at every blow was
cutting into her flesh. The overseer heard the blows and the woman's
cries, and supposing that all was going on according to his mind, left
the field. Unfortunately the husband of Hannah stood looking on; and
indignant that his wife should be whipped and Sarah spared, determined
to revenge himself by informing against me.

Next morning Huckstep demanded of me whether I had whipped Sarah the day
before; I replied in the affirmative. Upon this he called Sarah forward
and made her show her back, which bore no traces of recent whipping. He
then turned upon me and told me that the blows intended for Sarah should
be laid on my back. That night the overseer, with the help of three of
the hands, tied me up to a large tree--my arms and legs being clasped
round it, and my body drawn up hard against it by two men pulling at my
arms and one pushing against my back. The agony occasioned by this alone

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