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The Narrative of Sojourner Truth

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This book is put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative
at the Celebration of Women Writers through the combined work of
Laura LeVine, Margaret Sylvia, and Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850)
Dictated by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883);
Edited by Olive Gilbert


Written by Olive Gilbert, based on information
provided by Sojourner Truth.







THE subject of this biography, SOJOURNER TRUTH, as she now calls
herself-but whose name, originally, was Isabella-was born, as near as
she can now calculate, between the years 1797 and 1800. She was the
daughter of James and Betsey, slaves of one Colonel Ardinburgh, Hurley,
Ulster County, New York.

Colonel Ardinburgh belonged to that class of people called Low Dutch.

Of her first master, she can give no account, as she must have been a
mere infant when he died; and she, with her parents and some ten or
twelve other fellow human chattels, became the legal property of his
son, Charles Ardinburgh. She distinctly remembers hearing her father
and mother say, that their lot was a fortunate one, as Master Charles
was the best of the family,-being, comparatively speaking, a kind
master to his slaves.

James and Betsey having, by their faithfulness, docility, and
respectful behavior, won his particular regard, received from him
particular favors-among which was a lot of land, lying back on the
slope of a mountain, where, by improving the pleasant evenings and
Sundays, they managed to raise a little tobacco, corn, or flax; which
they exchanged for extras, in the articles of food or clothing for
themselves and children. She has no remembrance that Saturday
afternoon was ever added to their own time, as it is by some masters in
the Southern States.


Among Isabella's earliest recollections was the removal of her master,
Charles Ardinburgh, into his new house, which he had built for a hotel,
soon after the decease of his father. A cellar, under this hotel, was
assigned to his slaves, as their sleeping apartment,-all the slaves he
possessed, of both sexes, sleeping (as is quite common in a state of
slavery) in the same room. She carries in her mind, to this day, a
vivid picture of this dismal chamber; its only lights consisting of a
few panes of glass, through which she thinks the sun never shone, but
with thrice reflected rays; and the space between the loose boards of
the floor, and the uneven earth below, was often filled with mud and
water, the uncomfortable splashings of which were as annoying as its
noxious vapors must have been chilling and fatal to health. She
shudders, even now, as she goes back in memory, and revisits this
cellar, and sees its inmates, of both sexes and all ages, sleeping on
those damp boards, like the horse, with a little straw and a blanket;
and she wonders not at the rheumatisms, and fever-sores, and palsies,
that distorted the limbs and racked the bodies of those fellow-slaves
in after-life. Still, she does not attribute this cruelty-for cruelty
it certainly is, to be so unmindful of the health and comfort of any
being, leaving entirely out of sight his more important part, his
everlasting interests,-so much to any innate or constitutional cruelty
of the master, as to that gigantic inconsistency, that inherited habit
among slaveholders, of expecting a willing and intelligent obedience
from the slave, because he is a MAN-at the same time every thing
belonging to the soul-harrowing system does its best to crush the last
vestige of a man within him; and when it is crushed, and often before,
he is denied the comforts of life, on the plea that he knows neither
the want nor the use of them, and because he is considered to be little
more or little less than a beast.


Isabella's father was very tall and straight, when young, which gave
him the name of 'Bomefree'-low Dutch for tree-at least, this is
SOJOURNER's pronunciation of it-and by this name he usually went. The
most familiar appellation of her mother was 'Mau-mau Bett.' She was
the mother of some ten or twelve children; though Sojourner is far from
knowing the exact number of her brothers and sisters; she being the
youngest, save one, and all older than herself having been sold before
her remembrance. She was privileged to behold six of them while she
remained a slave.

Of the two that immediately preceded her in age, a boy of five years,
and a girl of three, who were sold when she was an infant, she heard
much; and she wishes that all who would fain believe that slave parents
have not natural affection for their offspring could have listened as
she did, while Bomefree and Mau-mau Bett,-their dark cellar lighted by
a blazing pine-knot,-would sit for hours, recalling and recounting
every endearing, as well as harrowing circumstance that taxed memory
could supply, from the histories of those dear departed ones, of whom
they had been robbed, and for whom their hearts still bled. Among the
rest, they would relate how the little boy, on the last morning he was
with them, arose with the birds, kindled a fire, calling for his
Mau-mau to 'come, for all was now ready for her'-little dreaming of the
dreadful separation which was so near at hand, but of which his parents
had an uncertain, but all the more cruel foreboding. There was snow on
the ground, at the time of which we are speaking; and a large
old-fashioned sleigh was seen to drive up to the door of the late Col.
Ardinburgh. This event was noticed with childish pleasure by the
unsuspicious boy; but when he was taken and put into the sleigh, and
saw his little sister actually shut and locked into the sleigh box, his
eyes were at once opened to their intentions; and, like a frightened
deer he sprang from the sleigh, and running into the house, concealed
himself under a bed. But this availed him little. He was re-conveyed
to the sleigh, and separated for ever from those whom God had
constituted his natural guardians and protectors, and who should have
found him, in return, a stay and a staff to them in their declining
years. But I make no comments on facts like these, knowing that the
heart of every slave parent will make its own comments, involuntarily
and correctly, as soon as each heart shall make the case its own.
Those who are not parents will draw their conclusions from the
promptings of humanity and philanthropy:-these, enlightened by reason
and revelation, are also unerring.


Isabella and Peter, her youngest brother, remained, with their parents,
the legal property of Charles Ardinburgh till his decease, which took
place when Isabella was near nine years old.

After this event, she was often surprised to find her mother in tears;
and when, in her simplicity, she inquired, 'Mau-mau, what makes you
cry?' she would answer, 'Oh, my child, I am thinking of your brothers
and sisters that have been sold away from me.' And she would proceed
to detail many circumstances respecting them. But Isabella long since
concluded that it was the impending fate of her only remaining
children, which her mother but too well understood, even then, that
called up those memories from the past, and made them crucify her heart

In the evening, when her mother's work was done, she would sit down
under the sparkling vault of heaven, and calling her children to her,
would talk to them of the only Being that could effectually aid or
protect them. Her teachings were delivered in Low Dutch, her only
language, and, translated into English, ran nearly as follows:-

'My children, there is a God, who hears and sees you.' 'A God, mau-mau!
Where does he live?' asked the children. 'He lives in the sky,' she
replied; 'and when you are beaten, or cruelly treated, or fall into any
trouble, you must ask help of him, and he will always hear and help
you.' She taught them to kneel and say the Lord's Prayer. She
entreated them to refrain from lying and stealing, and to strive to
obey their masters.

At times, a groan would escape her, and she would break out in the
language of the Psalmist-'Oh Lord, how long?' 'Oh Lord, how long?' And
in reply to Isabella's question-'What ails you, mau-mau?' her only
answer was, 'Oh, a good deal ails me'-'Enough ails me.' Then again,
she would point them to the stars, and say, in her peculiar language,
'Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down
upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to
them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.'

Thus, in her humble way, did she endeavor to show them their Heavenly
Father, as the only being who could protect them in their perilous
condition; at the same time, she would strengthen and brighten the
chain of family affection, which she trusted extended itself
sufficiently to connect the widely scattered members of her precious
flock. These instructions of the mother were treasured up and held
sacred by Isabella, as our future narrative will show.


At length, the never-to-be-forgotten day of the terrible auction
arrived, when the 'slaves, horses, and other cattle' of Charles
Ardinburgh, deceased, were to be put under the hammer, and again change
masters. Not only Isabella and Peter, but their mother, were now
destined to the auction block, and would have been struck off with the
rest to the highest bidder, but for the following circumstance: A
question arose among the heirs, 'Who shall be burdened with Bomefree,
when we have sent away his faithful Mau-mau Bett?' He was becoming
weak and infirm; his limbs were painfully rheumatic and distorted-more
from exposure and hardship than from old age, though he was several
years older than Mau-mau Bett: he was no longer considered of value,
but must soon be a burden and care to some one. After some contention
on the point at issue, none being willing to be burdened with him, it
was finally agreed, as most expedient for the heirs, that the price of
Mau-mau Bett should be sacrificed, and she receive her freedom, on
condition that she take care of and support her faithful James,-
faithful, not only to her as a husband, but proverbially faithful as a
slave to those who would not willingly sacrifice a dollar for his
comfort, now that he had commenced his descent into the dark vale of
decrepitude and suffering. This important decision was received as
joyful news indeed to our ancient couple, who were the objects of it,
and who were trying to prepare their hearts for a severe struggle, and
one altogether new to them, as they had never before been separated;
for, though ignorant, helpless, crushed in spirit, and weighed down
with hardship and cruel bereavement, they were still human, and their
human hearts beat within them with as true an affection as ever caused
a human heart to beat. And their anticipated separation now, in the
decline of life, after the last child had been torn from them, must
have been truly appalling. Another privilege was granted them-that of
remaining occupants of the same dark, humid cellar I have before
described: otherwise, they were to support themselves as they best
could. And as her mother was still able to do considerable work, and
her father a little, they got on for some time very comfortably. The
strangers who rented the house were humane people, and very kind to
them; they were not rich, and owned no slaves. How long this state of
things continued, we are unable to say, as Isabella had not then
sufficiently cultivated her organ of time to calculate years, or even
weeks or hours. But she thinks her mother must have lived several
years after the death of Master Charles. She remembers going to visit
her parents some three or four times before the death of her mother,
and a good deal of time seemed to her to intervene between each visit.

At length her mother's health began to decline-a fever-sore made its
ravages on one of her limbs, and the palsy began to shake her frame;
still, she and James tottered about, picking up a little here and
there, which, added to the mites contributed by their kind neighbors,
sufficed to sustain life, and drive famine from the door.


One morning, in early autumn, (from the reason above mentioned, we
cannot tell what year,) Mau-mau Bett told James she would make him a
loaf of rye-bread, and get Mrs. Simmons, their kind neighbor, to bake
it for them, as she would bake that forenoon. James told her he had
engaged to rake after the cart for his neighbors that morning; but
before he commenced, he would pole off some apples from a tree near,
which they were allowed to gather; and if she could get some of them
baked with the bread, it would give a nice relish for their dinner. He
beat off the apples, and soon after, saw Mau-mau Bett come out and
gather them up.

At the blowing of the horn for dinner, he groped his way into his
cellar, anticipating his humble, but warm and nourishing meal; when,
lo! instead of being cheered by the sight and odor of fresh-baked bread
and the savory apples, his cellar seemed more cheerless than usual, and
at first neither sight nor sound met eye or ear. But, on groping his
way through the room, his staff, which he used as a pioneer to go
before, and warn him of danger, seemed to be impeded in its progress,
and a low, gurgling, choking sound proceeded from the object before
him, giving him the first intimation of the truth as it was, that
Mau-mau Bett, his bosom companion, the only remaining member of his
large family, had fallen in a fit of the palsy, and lay helpless and
senseless on the earth! Who among us, located in pleasant homes,
surrounded with every comfort, and so many kind and sympathizing
friends, can picture to ourselves the dark and desolate state of poor
old James-penniless, weak, lame, and nearly blind, as he was at the
moment he found his companion was removed from him, and he was left
alone in the world, with no one to aid, comfort, or console him? for
she never revived again, and lived only a few hours after being
discovered senseless by her poor bereaved James.


Isabella and Peter were permitted to see the remains of their mother
laid in their last narrow dwelling, and to make their bereaved father a
little visit, ere they returned to their servitude. And most piteous
were the lamentations of the poor old man, when, at last, they also
were obliged to bid him "Farewell!" Juan Fernandes, on his desolate
island, was not so pitiable an object as this poor lame man. Blind and
crippled, he was too superannuated to think for a moment of taking care
of himself, and he greatly feared no persons would interest themselves
in his behalf. 'Oh,' he would exclaim, 'I had thought God would take me
first,-Mau-mau was so much smarter than I, and could get about and take
care of herself;-and I am so old, and so helpless. What is to become
of me? I can't do anything any more-my children are all gone, and here
I am left helpless and alone.' 'And then, as I was taking leave of
him,' said his daughter, in relating it, 'he raised his voice, and
cried aloud like a child-Oh, how he DID cry! I HEAR it now -and
remember it as well as if it were but yesterday-poor old man!!! He
thought God had done it all-and my heart bled within me at the sight of
his misery. He begged me to get permission to come and see him
sometimes, which I readily and heartily promised him.' But when all
had left him, the Ardinburghs, having some feeling left for their
faithful and favorite slave, 'took turns about' in keeping him-
permitting him to stay a few weeks at one house, and then a while at
another, and so around. If, when he made a removal, the place where he
was going was not too far off, he took up his line of march, staff in
hand, and asked for no assistance. If it was twelve or twenty miles,
they gave him a ride. While he was living in this way, Isabella was
twice permitted to visit him. Another time she walked twelve miles,
and carried her infant in her arms to see him, but when she reached
the place where she hoped to find him, he had just left for a place
some twenty miles distant, and she never saw him more. The last time
she did see him, she found him seated on a rock, by the road side,
alone, and far from any house. He was then migrating from the house of
one Ardinburgh to that of another, several miles distant. His hair was
white like wool-he was almost blind-and his gait was more a creep than
a walk-but the weather was warm and pleasant, and he did not dislike
the journey. When Isabella addressed him, he recognized her voice, and
was exceeding glad to see her. He was assisted to mount the wagon, was
carried back to the famous cellar of which we have spoken, and there
they held their last earthly conversation. He again, as usual,
bewailed his loneliness,-spoke in tones of anguish of his many
children, saying, "They are all taken away from me! I have now not
one to give me a cup of cold water-why should I live and not die?"
Isabella, whose heart yearned over her father, and who would have made
any sacrifice to have been able to be with, and take care of him, tried
to comfort, by telling him that 'she had heard the white folks say,
that all the slaves in the State would be freed in ten years, and that
then she would come and take care of him.' 'I would take just as good
care of you as Mau-mau would, if she was here'-continued Isabel. 'Oh,
my child,' replied he, 'I cannot live that long.' 'Oh, do, daddy, do
live, and I will take such good care of you,' was her rejoinder. She
now says, 'Why, I thought then, in my ignorance, that he could live, if
he would. I just as much thought so, as I ever thought any thing in my
life-and I insisted on his living: but he shook his head, and insisted
he could not.'

But before Bomefree's good constitution would yield either to age,
exposure, or a strong desire to die, the Ardinburghs again tired of
him, and offered freedom to two old slaves-Caesar, brother of Mau-mau
Bett, and his wife Betsy-on condition that they should take care of
James. (I was about to say, 'their brother-in-law'-but as slaves are
neither husbands nor wives in law, the idea of their being
brothers-in-law is truly ludicrous.) And although they were too old
and infirm to take care of themselves, (Caesar having been afflicted
for a long time with fever-sores, and his wife with the jaundice), they
eagerly accepted the boon of freedom, which had been the life-long
desire of their souls-though at a time when emancipation was to them
little more than destitution, and was a freedom more to be desired by
the master than the slave. Sojourner declares of the slaves in their
ignorance, that 'their thoughts are no longer than her finger.'


A rude cabin, in a lone wood, far from any neighbors, was granted to
our freed friends, as the only assistance they were now to expect.
Bomefree, from this time, found his poor needs hardly supplied, as his
new providers were scarce able to administer to their own wants.
However, the time drew near when things were to be decidedly worse
rather than better; for they had not been together long, before Betty
died, and shortly after, Caesar followed her to 'that bourne from
whence no traveller returns'-leaving poor James again desolate, and
more helpless than ever before; as, this time, there was no kind family
in the house, and the Ardinburghs no longer invited him to their homes.
Yet, lone, blind and helpless as he was, James for a time lived on.
One day, an aged colored woman, named Soan, called at his shanty, and
James besought her, in the most moving manner, even with tears, to
tarry awhile and wash and mend him up, so that he might once more be
decent and comfortable; for he was suffering dreadfully with the filth
and vermin that had collected upon him.

Soan was herself an emancipated slave, old and weak, with no one to
care for her; and she lacked the courage to undertake a job of such
seeming magnitude, fearing she might herself get sick, and perish there
without assistance; and with great reluctance, and a heart swelling
with pity, as she afterwards declared, she felt obliged to leave him in
his wretchedness and filth. And shortly after her visit, this faithful
slave, this deserted wreck of humanity, was found on his miserable
pallet, frozen and stiff in death. The kind angel had come at last,
and relieved him of the many miseries that his fellow-man had heaped
upon him. Yes, he had died, chilled and starved, with none to speak a
kindly word, or do a kindly deed for him, in that last dread of hour of

The news of his death reached the ears of John Ardinburgh, a grandson
of the old Colonel; and he declared that 'Bomefree, who had ever been a
kind and faithful slave, should now have a good funeral.' And now,
gentle reader, what think you constituted a good funeral? Answer-some
black paint for the coffin, and-a jug of ardent spirits! What a
compensation for a life of toil, of patient submission to repeated
robberies of the most aggravated kind, and, also, far more than
murderous neglect!! Mankind often vainly attempts to atone for
unkindness or cruelty to the living, by honoring the same after death;
but John Ardinburgh undoubtably meant his pot of paint and jug of
whisky should act as an opiate on his slaves, rather than on his own
seared conscience.


Having seen the sad end of her parents, so far as it relates to this
earthly life, we will return with Isabella to that memorable auction
which threatened to separate her father and mother. A slave auction is
a terrible affair to its victims, and its incidents and consequences
are graven on their hearts as with a pen of burning steel.

At this memorable time, Isabella was struck off, for the sum of one
hundred dollars, to one John Nealy, of Ulster County, New York; and she
has an impression that in this sale she was connected with a lot of
sheep. She was now nine years of age, and her trials in life may be
dated from this period. She says, with emphasis, 'Now the war begun. '
She could only talk Dutch-and the Nealys could only talk English. Mr.
Nealy could understand Dutch, but Isabel and her mistress could neither
of them understand the language of the other-and this, of itself, was a
formidable obstacle in the way of a good understanding between them,
and for some time was a fruitful source of dissatisfaction to the
mistress, and of punishment and suffering to Isabella. She says, 'If
they sent me for a frying-pan, not knowing what they meant, perhaps I
carried them pot-hooks and trammels. Then, oh! how angry mistress
would be with me!' Then she suffered 'terribly-terribly ', with the
cold. During the winter her feet were badly frozen, for want of
proper covering. They gave her a plenty to eat, and also a plenty of
whippings. One Sunday morning, in particular, she was told to go to
the barn; on going there, she found her master with a bundle of rods,
prepared in the embers, and bound together with cords. When he had
tied her hands together before her, he gave her the most cruel whipping
she was ever tortured with. He whipped her till the flesh was deeply
lacerated, and the blood streamed from her wounds-and the scars remain
to the present day, to testify to the fact. 'And now,' she says, 'when
I hear 'em tell of whipping women on the bare flesh, it makes my flesh
crawl, and my very hair rise on my head! Oh! my God!' she continues,
'what a way is this of treating human beings?' In those hours of her
extremity, she did not forget the instructions of her mother, to go to
God in all her trials, and every affliction; and she not only
remembered, but obeyed: going to him, 'and telling him all-and asking
Him if He thought it was right,' and begging him to protect and shield
her from her persecutors.

She always asked with an unwavering faith that she should receive just
what she pleaded for,-'And now,' she says, 'though it seems curious, I
do not remember ever asking for any thing but what I got it. And I
always received it as an answer to my prayers. When I got beaten, I
never knew it long enough to go beforehand to pray; and I always
thought that if I only had had time to pray to God for help, I should
have escaped the beating.' She had no idea God had any knowledge of
her thoughts, save what she told him; or heard her prayers, unless they
were spoken audibly. And consequently, she could not pray unless she
had time and opportunity to go by herself, where she could talk to God
without being overheard.


When she had been at Mr. Nealy's several months, she began to beg God
most earnestly to send her father to her, and as soon as she commenced
to pray, she began as confidently to look for his coming, and, ere it
was long, to her great joy, he came. She had no opportunity to speak
to him of the troubles that weighed so heavily on her spirit, while he
remained; but when he left, she followed him to the gate, and
unburdened her heart to him, inquiring if he could not do something to
get her a new and better place. In this way the slaves often assist
each other, by ascertaining who are kind to their slaves,
comparatively; and then using their influence to get such an one to
hire or buy their friends; and masters, often from policy, as well as
from latent humanity, allow those they are about to sell or let, to
choose their own places, if the persons they happen to select for
masters are considered safe pay. He promised to do all he could, and
they parted. But, every day, as long as the snow lasted, (for there
was snow on the ground at the time,) she returned to the spot where
they separated, and walking in the tracks her father had made in the
snow, repeated her prayer that 'God would help her father get her a new
and better place.'

A long time had not elapsed, when a fisherman by the name of Scriver
appeared at Mr. Nealy's, and inquired of Isabel 'if she would like to
go and live with him.' She eagerly answered 'Yes,' and nothing
doubting but he was sent in answer to her prayer; and she soon started
off with him, walking while he rode; for he had bought her at the
suggestion of her father, paying one hundred and five dollars for her.
He also lived in Ulster County, but some five or six miles from Mr.

Scriver, besides being a fisherman, kept a tavern for the
accommodation of people of his own class-for his was a rude,
uneducated family, exceedingly profane in their language, but, on the
whole, an honest, kind and well-disposed people.

They owned a large farm, but left it wholly unimproved; attending
mainly to their vocations of fishing and inn-keeping. Isabella
declares she can ill describe the kind of life she led with them. It
was a wild, out-of-door kind of lief. She was expected to carry fish,
to hoe corn, to bring roots and herbs from the woods for beers, go to
the Strand for a gallon of molasses or liquor as the case might
require, and 'browse around,' as she expresses it. It was a life that
suited her well for the time-being as devoid of hardship or terror as
it was of improvement; a need which had not yet become a want. Instead
of improving at this place, morally, she retrograded, as their example
taught her to curse; and it was here that she took her first oath.
After living with them for about a year and a half, she was sold to one
John J. Dumont, for the sum of seventy pounds. This was in 1810. Mr.
Dumont lived in the same county as her former masters, in the town of
New Paltz, and she remained with him till a short time previous to her
emancipation by the State, in 1828.


Had Mrs. Dumont possessed that vein of kindness and consideration for
the slaves, so perceptible in her husband's character, Isabella would
have been as comfortable here, as one had best be, if one must be a
slave. Mr. Dumont had been nursed in the very lap of slavery, and
being naturally a man of kind feelings, treated his slaves with all the
consideration he did his other animals, and more, perhaps. But Mrs.
Dumont, who had been born and educated in a non-slaveholding family,
and, like many others, used only to work-people, who, under the most
stimulating of human motives, were willing to put forth their every
energy, could not have patience with the creeping gait, the dull
understanding, or see any cause for the listless manners and careless,
slovenly habits of the poor down-trodden outcast-entirely forgetting
that every high and efficient motive had been removed far from him; and
that, had not his very intellect been crushed out of him, the slave
would find little ground for aught but hopeless despondency. From this
source arose a long series of trials in the life of our heroine, which
we must pass over in silence; some from motives of delicacy, and
others, because the relation of them might inflict undeserved pain on
some now living, whom Isabel remembers only with esteem and love;
therefore, the reader will not be surprised if our narrative appears
somewhat tame at this point, and may rest assured that it is not for
want of facts, as the most thrilling incidents of this portion of her
life are from various motives suppressed.

One comparatively trifling incident she wishes related, as it made a
deep impression on her mind at the time-showing, as she thinks, how God
shields the innocent, and causes them to triumph over their enemies,
and also how she stood between master and mistress. In her family,
Mrs. Dumont employed two white girls, one of whom, named Kate, evinced
a disposition to 'lord it over' Isabel, and, in her emphatic language,
'to grind her down '. Her master often shielded her from the attacks
and accusations of others, praising her for her readiness and ability
to work, and these praises seemed to foster a spirit of hostility to
her, in the minds of Mrs. Dumont and her white servant, the latter of
whom took every opportunity to cry up her faults, lessen her in the
esteem of her master and increase against her the displeasure of her
mistress, which was already more than sufficient for Isabel's comfort.
Her master insisted that she could do as much work as half a dozen
common people, and do it well, too; whilst her mistress insisted that

first was true, only
because it ever came from her hand but half performed. A good
deal of feeling arose from this difference of opinion, which was
getting to rather an uncomfortable height, when, all at once, the
potatoes that Isabel cooked for breakfast assumed a dingy, dirty
look. Her mistress blamed her severely, asking her master to
observe 'a fine specimen of Bell's work!'-adding, 'it is the
way all her work is done.' Her master scolded also this time, and
commanded her to be more careful in future. Kate joined with
zest in the censures, and was very hard upon her. Isabella
thought that she had done all she well could to have them nice;
and became quite distressed at their appearances, and wondered
what she should do to avoid them. In this dilemma, Gertrude
Dumont (Mr. D.'s eldest child, a good, kind-hearted girl of ten
years, who pitied Isabel sincerely), when she heard them all
blame her so unsparingly, came forward, offering her sympathy
and assistance; and when about to retire to bed, on the night of
Isabella's humiliation, she advanced to Isabel, and told her, if she
would wake her early next morning, she would get up and
attend to her potatoes for her, while she (Isabella) went to
milking, and they would see if they could not have them nice,
and not have 'Poppee,' her word for father, and 'Matty,' her
word for mother, and all of 'em, scolding so terribly.

Isabella gladly availed herself of this kindness, which touched
her to the heart, amid so much of an opposite spirit. When
Isabella had put the potatoes over to boil, Getty told her she
would herself tend the fire, while Isabel milked. She had not
long been seated by the fire, in performance of her promise,
when Kate entered, and requested Gertrude to go out of the
room and do something for her, which she refused, still keeping
her place in the corner. While there, Kate came sweeping about
the fire, caught up a chip, lifted some ashes with it, and dashed
them into the kettle. Now the mystery was solved, the plot
discovered! Kate was working a little too fast at making her
mistress's words good, at showing that Mrs. Dumont and herself
were on the right side of the dispute, and consequently at gaining
power over Isabella. Yes, she was quite too fast, inasmuch as
she had overlooked the little figure of justice, which sat in the
comer, with scales nicely balanced, waiting to give all their dues.

But the time had come when she was to be overlooked no
longer. It was Getty's turn to speak now. 'Oh Poppee! oh
Poppee!' said she, 'Kate has been putting ashes in among the
potatoes! I saw her do it! Look at those that fell on the outside
of the kettle! You can now see what made the potatoes so dingy
every morning, though Bell washed them clean!' And she repeated
her story to every new comer, till the fraud was made as
public as the censure of Isabella had been. Her mistress looked
blank, and remained dumb-her master muttered something
which sounded very like an oath-and poor Kate was so chop-fallen, she
looked like a convicted criminal, who would gladly
have hid herself, (now that the baseness was out,) to conceal her
mortified pride and deep chagrin.

It was a fine triumph for Isabella and her master, and she
became more ambitious than ever to please him; and he stimulated
her ambition by his commendation, and by boasting of her
to his friends, telling them that 'that wench' (pointing to Isabel)
'is better to me than a man-for she will do a good family's
washing in the night, and be ready in the morning to go into the
field, where she will do as much at raking and binding as my best
hands.' Her ambition and desire to please were so great, that she
often worked several nights in succession, sleeping only short
snatches, as she sat in her chair; and some nights she would not
allow herself to take any sleep, save what she could get resting
herself against the wall, fearing that if she sat down, she would
sleep too long. These extra exertions to please, and the praises
consequent upon them, brought upon her head the envy of her
fellow-slaves, and they taunted her with being the 'white folks'
nigger.' On the other hand, she received the larger share of the
confidence of her master, and many small favors that were by
them unattainable. I asked her if her master, Dumont, ever
whipped her? She answered, 'Oh yes, he sometimes whipped
me soundly, though never cruelly. And the most severe whipping
he ever give me was because I was cruel to a cat.' At this
time she looked upon her master as a God; and believed that he
knew of and could see her at all times, even as God himself. And
she used sometimes to confess her delinquencies, from the conviction
that he already knew them, and that she should fare
better if she confessed voluntarily: and if any one talked to her
of the injustice of her being a slave, she answered them with
contempt, and immediately told her master. She then firmly
believed that slavery was right and honorable. Yet she now sees
very clearly the false position they were all in, both masters and
slaves; and she looks back, with utter astonishment, at the absurdity
of the claims so arrogantly set up by the masters, over
beings designed by God to be as free as kings; and at the perfect
stupidity of the slave, in admitting for one moment the validity
of these claims.

In obedience to her mother's instructions, she had educated
herself to such a sense of honesty, that, when she had become a
mother, she would sometimes whip her child when it cried to
her for bread, rather than give it a piece secretly, lest it should
learn to take what was not its own! And the writer of this knows,
from personal observation, that the slaveholders of the South feel
it to be a religious duty to teach their slaves to be honest, and
never to take what is not their own! Oh consistency, art thou not
a jewel? Yet Isabella glories in the fact that she was faithful and
true to her master; she says, 'It made me true to my God'-meaning,
that it helped to form in her a character that loved
truth, and hated a lie, and had saved her from the bitter pains
and fears that are sure to follow in the wake of insincerity and

As she advanced in years, an attachment sprung up between
herself and a slave named Robert. But his master, an Englishman
by the name of Catlin, anxious that no one's property but his
own should be enhanced by the increase of his slaves, forbade
Robert's visits to Isabella, and commanded him to take a wife
among his fellow-servants. Notwithstanding this interdiction,
Robert, following the bent of his inclinations, continued his
visits to Isabel, though very stealthily, and, as he believed, without
exciting the suspicion of his master; but one Saturday afternoon,
hearing that Bell was ill, he took the liberty to go and see
her. The first intimation she had of his visit was the appearance
of her master, inquiring 'if she had seen Bob.' On her answering
in the negative, he said to her, 'If you see him, tell him to
take care of himself, for the Catlins are after him.' Almost at that
instant, Bob made his appearance; and the first people he met
were his old and his young masters. They were terribly enraged
at finding him there, and the eldest began cursing, and calling
upon his son to 'Knock down the d-d black rascal'; at the
same time, they both fell upon him like tigers, beating him with
the heavy ends of their canes, bruising and mangling his head
and face in the most awful manner, and causing the blood, which
streamed from his wounds, to cover him like a slaughtered beast,
constituting him a most shocking spectacle. Mr. Dumont interposed
at this point, telling the ruffians they could no longer thus
spill human blood on his premises-he would have 'no niggers
killed there.' The Catlins then took a rope they had taken with
them for the purpose, and tied Bob's hands behind him in such
a manner, that Mr. Dumont insisted on loosening the cord,
declaring that no brute should be tied in that manner, where he
was. And as they led him away, like the greatest of criminals, the
more humane Dumont followed them to their homes, as Robert's
protector; and when he returned, he kindly went to Bell,
as he called her, telling her he did not think they would strike
him any more, as their wrath had greatly cooled before he left
them. Isabella had witnessed this scene from her window, and
was greatly shocked at the murderous treatment of poor Robert,
whom she truly loved, and whose only crime, in the eye of his
persecutors, was his affection for her. This beating, and we know
not what after treatment, completely subdued the spirit of its
victim, for Robert ventured no more to visit Isabella, but like an
obedient and faithful chattel, took himself a wife from the house
of his master. Robert did not live many years after his last visit
to Isabel, but took his departure to that country, where 'they
neither marry nor are given in marriage,' and where the oppressor
cannot molest.


Subsequently, Isabella was married to a fellow-slave, named
Thomas, who had previously had two wives, one of whom, if
not both, had been torn from him and sold far away. And it is
more than probable, that he was not only allowed but encouraged
to take another at each successive sale. I say it is probable,
because the writer of this knows from personal observation, that
such is the custom among slaveholders at the present day; and
that in a twenty months' residence among them, we never knew
any one to open the lip against the practice; and when we
severely censured it, the slaveholder had nothing to say; and the
slave pleaded that, under existing circumstances, he could do no

Such an abominable state of things is silently tolerated, to say
the least, by slaveholders-deny it who may. And what is that
religion that sanctions, even by its silence, all that is embraced in
the 'Peculiar Institution? ' If there can be any thing more
diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus, than the working of
soul-killing system-which is as truly sanctioned by the religion
of America as are her ministers and churches-we wish to be
shown where it can be found.

We have said, Isabella was married to Thomas-she was,
after the fashion of slavery, one of the slaves performing the
ceremony for them; as no true minister of Christ can perform, as
in the presence of God, what he knows to be a mere farce, a mock
marriage, unrecognised by any civil law, and liable to be annulled
any moment, when the interest or caprice of the master
should dictate.

With what feelings must slaveholders expect us to listen to
their horror of amalgamation in prospect, while they are well
aware that we know how calmly and quietly they contemplate
the present state of licentiousness their own wicked laws have
created, not only as it regards the slave, but as it regards the more
privileged portion of the population of the South?

Slaveholders appear to me to take the same notice of the vices
of the slave, as one does of the vicious disposition of his horse.
They are often an inconvenience; further than that, they care
not to trouble themselves about the matter.


In process of time, Isabella found herself the mother of five
children, and she rejoiced in being permitted to be the instrument
of increasing the property of her oppressors! Think, dear
reader, without a blush, if you can, for one moment, of a mother
thus willingly, and with pride, laying her own children, the 'flesh
of her flesh,' on the altar of slavery-a sacrifice to the bloody
Moloch! But we must remember that beings capable of such
sacrifices are not mothers; they are only 'things,'
'chattels,' 'property.'

But since that time, the subject of this narrative has made
some advances from a state of chattelism towards that of a
woman and a mother; and she now looks back upon her
thoughts and feelings there, in her state of ignorance and
as one does on the dark imagery of a fitful dream. One
moment it seems but a frightful illusion; again it appears a terrible
reality. I would to God it were but a dreamy myth, and not, as
it now stands, a horrid reality to some three millions of chattelized
human beings.

I have already alluded to her care not to teach her children
to steal, by her example; and she says, with groanings that cannot
be written, 'The Lord only knows how many times I let my
children go hungry, rather than take secretly the bread I liked
not to ask for.' All parents who annul their preceptive teachings
by their daily practices would do well to profit by her example.

Another proof of her master's kindness of heart is found in
the following fact. If her master came into the house and found
her infant crying, (as she could not always attend to its wants and
the commands of her mistress at the same time,) he would turn
to his wife with a look of reproof, and ask her why she did not
see the child taken care of; saying, most earnestly, 'I will not
hear this crying; I can't bear it, and I will not hear any child cry
so. Here, Bell, take care of this child, if no more work is done
for a week.' And he would linger to see if his orders were
obeyed, and not countermanded.

When Isabella went to the field to work, she used to put her
infant in a basket, tying a rope to each handle, and suspending
the basket to a branch of a tree, set another small child to swing
it. It was thus secure from reptiles and was easily administered to,
and even lulled to sleep, by a child too young for other labors.
I was quite struck with the ingenuity of such a baby-tender, as
I have sometimes been with the swinging hammock the native
mother prepares for her sick infant-apparently so much easier
than aught we have in our more civilized homes; easier for the
child, because it gets the motion without the least jar; and easier
for the nurse, because the hammock is strung so high as to
supersede the necessity of stooping.


After emancipation had been decreed by the State, some years
before the time fixed for its consummation, Isabella's master told
her if she would do well, and be faithful, he would give her 'free
papers,' one year before she was legally free by statute. In the
year 1826, she had a badly diseased hand, which greatly diminished
her usefulness; but on the arrival of July 4, 1827, the time
specified for her receiving her 'free papers,' she claimed the
fulfilment of her master's promise; but he refused granting it, on
account (as he alleged) of the loss he had sustained by her hand.
She plead that she had worked all the time, and done many
things she was not wholly able to do, although she knew she had
been less useful than formerly; but her master remained inflexible.
Her very faithfulness probably operated against her now,
and he found it less easy than he thought to give up the profits
of his faithful Bell, who had so long done him efficient service.

But Isabella inwardly determined that she would remain quietly
with him only until she had spun his wool-about one
hundred pounds-and then she would leave him, taking the rest
of the time to herself. 'Ah!' she says, with emphasis that cannot
be written, 'the slaveholders are TERRIBLE for promising to give
you this or that, or such and such a privilege, if you will do thus
and so; and when the time of fulfilment comes, and one claims
the promise, they, forsooth, recollect nothing of the kind: and
you are, like as not, taunted with being a LIAR; or, at best, the
slave is accused of not having performed his part or condition of
the contract.' 'Oh!' said she, 'I have felt as if I could not live
through the operation sometimes. Just think of us! so eager for our
pleasures, and just foolish enough to keep feeding and feeding
ourselves up with the idea that we should get what had been thus
fairly promised; and when we think it is almost in our hands, find
ourselves flatly denied! Just think! how could we bear it? Why,
there was Charles Brodhead promised his slave Ned, that when
harvesting was over, he might go and see his wife, who lived
some twenty or thirty miles off. So Ned worked early and late,
and as soon as the harvest was all in, he claimed the promised
boon. His master said, he had merely told him he 'would see if
he could go, when the harvest was over; but now he saw that
he could not go.' But Ned, who still claimed a positive promise,
on which he had fully depended, went on cleaning his shoes. His
master asked him if he intended going, and on his replying 'yes,'
took up a sled-stick that lay near him, and gave him such a blow
on the head as broke his skull, killing him dead on the spot. The
poor colored people all felt struck down by the blow.' Ah! and
well they might. Yet it was but one of a long series of bloody,
and other most effectual blows, struck against their liberty and
their lives. * But to return from our digression.

The subject of this narrative was to have been free July 4,
1827, but she continued with her master till the wool was spun,
and the heaviest of the 'fall's work' closed up, when she concluded
to take her freedom into her own hands, and seek her
fortune in some other place.

*Yet no official notice was taken of his more than brutal murder.


The question in her mind, and one not easily solved, now was,
'How can I get away?' So, as was her usual custom, she 'told
God she was afraid to go in the night, and in the day every body
would see her.' At length, the thought came to her that she
could leave just before the day dawned, and get out of the
neighborhood where she was known before the people were
much astir. 'Yes,' said she, fervently, 'that's a good thought!
Thank you, God, for that thought!' So, receiving it as coming
direct from God, she acted upon it, and one fine morning, a little
before day-break, she might have been seen stepping stealthily
away from the rear of Master Dumont's house, her infant on one
arm and her wardrobe on the other; the bulk and weight of
which, probably, she never found so convenient as on the present
occasion, a cotton handkerchief containing both her clothes
and her provisions.

As she gained the summit of a high hill, a considerable distance
from her master's, the sun offended her by coming forth
in all his pristine splendor. She thought it never was so light
before; indeed, she thought it much too light. She stopped to
look about her, and ascertain if her pursuers were yet in sight.
No one appeared, and, for the first time, the question came up
for settlement, 'Where, and to whom, shall I go?' In all her
thoughts of getting away, she had not once asked herself whither
she should direct her steps. She sat down, fed her infant, and
again turning her thoughts to God, her only help, she prayed
him to direct her to some safe asylum. And soon it occurred
to her, that there was a man living somewhere in the direction
she had been pursuing, by the name of Levi Rowe, whom she
had known, and who, she thought, would be likely to befriend
her. She accordingly pursued her way to his house, where she
found him ready to entertain and assist her, though he was then
on his death-bed. He bade her partake of the hospitalities of his
house, said he knew of two good places where she might get in,
and requested his wife to show her where they were to be found.
As soon as she came in sight of the first house, she recollected
having seen it and its inhabitants before, and instantly exclaimed,
'That's the place for me; I shall stop there.' She went there, and
found the good people of the house, Mr. and Mrs. Van Wagener,
absent, but was kindly received and hospitably entertained
by their excellent mother, till the return of her children.
When they arrived, she made her case known to them. They
listened to her story, assuring her they never turned the needy
away, and willingly gave her employment.

She had not been there long before her old master, Dumont,
appeared, as she had anticipated; for when she took French leave
of him, she resolved not to go too far from him, and not put him
to as much trouble in looking her up-for the latter he was sure
to do-as Tom and Jack had done when they ran away from
him, a short time before. This was very considerate in her, to say
the least, and a proof that 'like begets like.' He had often
considered her feelings, though not always, and she was equally

When her master saw her, he said, 'Well, Bell, so you've run
away from me.' 'No, I did not run away; I walked away by
day-light, and all because you had promised me a year of my
time.' His reply was, 'You must go back with me.' Her decisive
answer was, 'No, I won't go back with you.' He said, 'Well,
I shall take the child.' This also was as stoutly negatived.

Mr. Isaac S. Van Wagener then interposed, saying, he had
never been in the practice of buying and selling slaves; he did not
believe in slavery; but, rather than have Isabella taken back by
force, he would buy her services for the balance of the year-for
which her master charged twenty dollars, and five in addition for
the child. The sum was paid, and her master Dumont departed;
but not till he had heard Mr. Van Wagener tell her not to call
him master-adding, 'there is but one master; and he who is your
master is my master.' Isabella inquired what she should call him?
He answered, 'call me Isaac Van Wagener, and my wife is Maria
Van Wagener.' Isabella could not understand this, and thought
it a mighty change, as it most truly was from a master whose word
was law, to simple Isaac S. Van Wagener, who was master to no
one. With these noble people, who, though they could not be
the masters of slaves, were undoubtedly a portion of God's
nobility, she resided one year, and from them she derived the
name of Van Wagener; he being her last master in the eye of the
law, and a slave's surname is ever the same as his master; that is,
if he is allowed to have any other name than Tom, Jack, or
Guffin. Slaves have sometimes been severely punished for adding
their master's name to their own. But when they have no
particular title to it, it is no particular offence.


A little previous to Isabel's leaving her old master, he had sold
her child, a boy of five years, to a Dr. Gedney, who took him
with him as far as New York city, on his way to England; but
finding the boy too small for his service, he sent him back to his
brother, Solomon Gedney. This man disposed of him to his
sister's husband, a wealthy planter, by the name of Fowler, who
took him to his own home in Alabama.

This illegal and fraudulent transaction had been perpetrated
some months before Isabella knew of it, as she was now living
at Mr. Van Wagener's. The law expressly prohibited the sale of
any slave out of the State,-and all minors were to be free at
twenty-one years of age; and Mr. Dumont had sold Peter with
the express understanding, that he was soon to return to the State
of New York, and be emancipated at the specified time.

When Isabel heard that her son had been sold South, she
immediately started on foot and alone, to find the man who had
thus dared, in the face of all law, human and divine, to sell her
child out of the State; and if possible, to bring him to account
for the deed.

Arriving at New Paltz, she went directly to her former mistress,
Dumont, complaining bitterly of the removal of her son.
Her mistress heard her through, and then replied-'Ugh! a fine
fuss to make about a little nigger! Why, haven't you as many of
'em left as you can see to, and take care of? A pity 'tis, the niggers
are not all in Guinea!! Making such a halloo-balloo about the
neighborhood; and all for a paltry nigger!!!' Isabella heard her
through, and after a moment's hesitation, answered, in tones of
deep determination-'I'll have my child again.' 'Have your child
again!' repeated her mistress-her tones big with contempt, and
scorning the absurd idea of her getting him. 'How can you get
him? And what have you to support him with, if you could?
Have you any money?' 'No,' answered Bell, 'I have no
money, but God has enough, or what's better! And I'll have my
child again.' These words were pronounced in the most slow,
solemn, and determined measure and manner. And in speaking
of it, she says, 'Oh my God! I know'd I'd have him agin. I was
sure God would help me to get him. Why, I felt so tall within-I
felt as if the power of a nation was with me!'

The impressions made by Isabella on her auditors, when
moved by lofty or deep feeling, can never be transmitted to
paper, (to use the words of another,) till by some Daguerrian act,
we are enabled to transfer the look, the gesture, the tones of
voice, in connection with the quaint, yet fit expressions used,
and the spirit-stirring animation that, at such a time, pervades all
she says.

After leaving her mistress, she called on Mrs. Gedney, mother
of him who had sold her boy; who, after listening to her lamentations,
her grief being mingled with indignation at the sale of
her son, and her declaration that she would have him again-said,
'Dear me! What a disturbance to make about your child!
What, is your child, better than my child? My child is gone out
there, and yours is gone to live with her, to have enough of
every thing, and be treated like a gentleman!' And here she
laughed at Isabel's absurd fears, as she would represent them to
be. 'Yes,' said Isabel, 'your child has gone there, but she is
married, and my boy has gone as a slave, and he is too little to go
so far from his mother. Oh, I must have my child.' And here the
continued laugh of Mrs. G. seemed to Isabel, in this time of
anguish and distress, almost demoniacal. And well it was for Mrs.
Gedney, that, at that time, she could not even dream of the
awful fate awaiting her own beloved daughter, at the hands of
him whom she had chosen as worthy the wealth of her love
and confidence, and in whose society her young heart had
calculated on a happiness, purer and more elevated than was ever
conferred by a kingly crown. But, alas! she was doomed to
disappointment, as we shall relate by and by. At this point,
Isabella earnestly begged of God that he would show to those
about her that He was her helper; and she adds, in narrating,
'And He did; or, if He did not show them, he did me.'


This homely proverb was illustrated in the case of our sufferer;
for, at the period at which we have arrived in our narrative, to
her the darkness seemed palpable, and the waters of affliction
covered her soul; yet light was about to break in upon her.

Soon after the scenes related in our last chapter, which had
harrowed up her very soul to agony, she met a man, (we would
like to tell you who, dear reader, but it would be doing him no
kindness, even at the present day, to do so,) who evidently
sympathized with her, and counselled her to go to the Quakers,
telling her they were already feeling very indignant at the fraudulent
sale of her son, and assuring her that they would readily
assist her, and direct her what to do. He pointed out to her two
houses, where lived some of those people, who formerly, more
than any other sect, perhaps, lived out the principles of the
gospel of Christ. She wended her way to their dwellings, was
listened to, unknown as she personally was to them, with patience,
and soon gained their sympathies and active co-operation.

They gave her lodgings for the night; and it is very amusing
to hear her tell of the 'nice, high, clean, white, beautiful bed'
assigned her to sleep in, which contrasted so strangely with her
former pallets, that she sat down and contemplated it, perfectly
absorbed in wonder that such a bed should have been appropriated
to one like herself. For some time she thought that she
would lie down beneath it, on her usual bedstead, the floor. 'I
did, indeed,' says she, laughing heartily at her former self. However,
she finally concluded to make use of the bed, for fear that
not to do so might injure the feelings of her good hostess. In the
morning, the Quaker saw that she was taken and set down near
Kingston, with directions to go to the Court House, and enter
complaint to the Grand Jury.

By a little inquiry, she found which was the building she
sought, went into the door, and taking the first man she saw of
imposing appearance for the grand jury, she commenced her
complaint. But he very civilly informed her there was no Grand
Jury there; she must go up stairs. When she had with some
difficulty ascended the flight through the crowd that filled them,
she again turned to the 'grandest ' looking man she could select,
telling him she had come to enter a complaint to the Grand Jury.
For his own amusement, he inquired what her complaint was;
but, when he saw it was a serious matter, he said to her, 'This
is no place to enter a complaint-go in there,' pointing in a
particular direction.

She then went in, where she found the Grand Jurors indeed
sitting, and again commenced to relate her injuries. After holding
some conversation among themselves, one of them rose, and
bidding her follow him, led the way to a side office, where he
heard her story, and asked her 'if she could swear that the child
she spoke of was her son?' 'Yes,' she answered, 'I swear it's my
son.' 'Stop, stop!' said the lawyer, 'you must swear by this
book'-giving her a book, which she thinks must have been the
Bible. She took it, and putting it to her lips, began again to swear
it was her child. The clerks, unable to preserve their gravity any
longer, burst into an uproarious laugh; and one of them inquired
of lawyer Chip of what use it could be to make her swear. 'It
will answer the law,' replied the officer. He then made her
comprehend just what he wished her to do, and she took a
lawful oath, as far as the outward ceremony could make it one.
All can judge how far she understood its spirit and meaning.

He now gave her a writ, directing her to take it to the
constable at New Paltz, and have him serve it on Solomon
Gedney. She obeyed, walking, or rather trotting, in her haste,
some eight or nine miles.

But while the constable, through mistake, served the writ on
a brother of the real culprit, Solomon Gedney slipped into a
boat, and was nearly across the North River, on whose banks
they were standing, before the dull Dutch constable was aware
of his mistake. Solomon Gedney, meanwhile, consulted a lawyer,
who advised him to go to Alabama and bring back the boy,
otherwise it might cost him fourteen years' imprisonment, and
a thousand dollars in cash. By this time, it is hoped he began to
feel that selling slaves unlawfully was not so good a business as
he had wished to find it. He secreted himself till due preparations
could be made, and soon set sail for Alabama. Steamboats and
railroads had not then annihilated distance to the extent they
now have, and although he left in the fall of the year, spring
came ere he returned, bringing the boy with him-but holding
on to him as his property. It had ever been Isabella's prayer, not
only that her son might be returned, but that he should be
delivered from bondage, and into her own hands, lest he should
be punished out of mere spite to her, who was so greatly annoying
and irritating to her oppressors; and if her suit was gained,
her very triumph would add vastly to their irritation.

She again sought advice of Esquire Chip, whose counsel was,
that the aforesaid constable serve the before-mentioned writ
upon the right person. This being done, soon brought Solomon
Gedney up to Kingston, where he gave bonds for his appearance
at court, in the sum of $600.

Esquire Chip next informed his client, that her case must
now lie over till the next session of the court, some months in
the future. 'The law must take its course,' said he.

'What! wait another court! wait months?' said the persevering
mother. 'Why, long before that time, he can go clear off,
and take my child with him-no one knows where. I cannot
wait; I must have him now, whilst he is to be had.' 'Well,' said
the lawyer, very coolly, 'if he puts the boy out of the way, he
must pay the $600-one half of which will be yours'; supposing,
perhaps, that $300 would pay for a 'heap of children,' in
the eye of a slave who never, in all her life, called a dollar her
own. But in this instance, he was mistaken in his reckoning. She
assured him, that she had not been seeking money, neither
would money satisfy her; it was her son, and her son alone she
wanted, and her son she must have. Neither could she wait
court, not she. The lawyer used his every argument to convince
her, that she ought to be very thankful for what they had done
for her; that it was a great deal, and it was but reasonable that she
should now wait patiently the time of the court.

Yet she never felt, for a moment, like being influenced by
these suggestions. She felt confident she was to receive a full and
literal answer to her prayer, the burden of which had been-'O
Lord, give my son into my hands, and that speedily! Let not the
spoilers have him any longer.' Notwithstanding, she very distinctly
saw that those who had thus far helped her on so kindly
were wearied of her, and she feared God was wearied also. She had
a short time previous learned that Jesus was a Saviour, and an
intercessor; and she thought that if Jesus could but be induced to
for her in the present trial, God would listen to him, though he
were wearied of her importunities. To him, of course, she applied.
As she was walking about, scarcely knowing whither she went,
asking within herself, 'Who will show me any good, and lend a
helping hand in this matter,' she was accosted by a perfect
stranger, and one whose name she has never learned, in the
following terms: 'Halloo, there; how do you get along with your
boy? do they give him up to you?' She told him all, adding that
now every body was tired, and she had none to help her. He said,
'Look here! I'll tell you what you'd better do. Do you see that
stone house yonder?' pointing in a particular direction. 'Well,
lawyer Demain lives there, and do you go to him, and lay your
case before him; I think he'll help you. Stick to him. Don't give him
peace till he does. I feel sure if you press him, he'll do it for you.'
She needed no further urging, but trotted off at her peculiar gait in
the direction of his house, as fast as possible,-and she was not
encumbered with stockings, shoes, or any other heavy article of
dress. When she had told him her story, in her impassioned
manner, he looked at her a few moments, as if to ascertain if he
were contemplating a new variety of the genus homo, and then
told her, if she would give him five dollars, he would get her son
for her, in twenty-four hours. 'Why,' she replied, 'I have no
money, and never had a dollar in my life!' Said he, 'If you will go
to those Quakers in Poppletown, who carried you to court, they
will help you to five dollars in cash, I have no doubt; and you shall
have your son in twenty-four hours, from the time you bring me
that sum.' She performed the journey to Poppletown, a distance
of some ten miles, very expeditiously; collected considerable
more than the sum specified by the barrister; then, shutting the
money tightly in her hand, she trotted back, and paid the lawyer a
larger fee than he had demanded. When inquired of by people
what she had done with the overplus, she answered, 'Oh, I got it
for lawyer Demain, and I gave it to him. ' They assured her she was
a fool to do so; that she should have kept all over five dollars, and
purchased herself shoes with it. 'Oh, I do not want money or
clothes now, I only want my son; and if five dollars will get him,
more will surely get him. ' And if the lawyer had returned it to her,
she avers she would not have accepted it. She was perfectly willing
he should have every coin she could raise, if he would but restore
her lost son to her. Moreover, the five dollars he required were for
the remuneration of him who should go after her son and his
master, and not for his own services.

The lawyer now renewed his promise, that she should have
her son in twenty-four hours. But Isabella, having no idea of this
space of time, went several times in a day, to ascertain if her son
had come. Once, when the servant opened the door and saw
her, she said, in a tone expressive of much surprise, 'Why, this
woman's come again!' She then wondered if she went too
often. When the lawyer appeared, he told her the twenty-four
hours would not expire till the next morning; if she would call
then, she would see her son. The next morning saw Isabel at the
lawyer's door, while he was yet in his bed. He now assured her
it was morning till noon; and that before noon her son would
be there, for he had sent the famous 'Matty Styles' after him,
who would not fail to have the boy and his master on hand in
due season, either dead or alive; of that he was sure. Telling her
she need not come again; he would himself inform her of their

After dinner, he appeared at Mr. Rutzer's, (a place the lawyer
had procured for her, while she awaited the arrival of her boy,)
assuring her, her son had come; but that he stoutly denied having
any mother, or any relatives in that place; and said, 'she must go
over and identify him.' She went to the office, but at sight of
her the boy cried aloud, and regarded her as some terrible being,
who was about to take him away from a kind and loving friend.
He knelt, even, and begged them, with tears, not to take him
away from his dear master, who had brought him from the
dreadful South, and been so kind to him.

When he was questioned relative to the bad scar on his
forehead, he said, 'Fowler's horse hove him.' And of the one
on his cheek, 'That was done by running against the carriage.'
In answering these questions, he looked imploringly at his master,
as much as to say, 'If they are falsehoods, you bade me say
them; may they be satisfactory to you, at least.'

The justice, noting his appearance, bade him forget his master
and attend only to him. But the boy persisted in denying his
mother, and clinging to his master, saying his mother did not live
in such a place as that. However, they allowed the mother to
identify her son; and Esquire Demain pleaded that he claimed
the boy for her, on the ground that he had been sold out of the
State, contrary to the laws in such cases made and provided-spoke of
the penalties annexed to said crime, and of the sum of
money the delinquent was to pay, in case any one chose to
prosecute him for the offence he had committed. Isabella, who
was sitting in a corner, scarcely daring to breathe, thought within
herself, 'If I can but get the boy, the $200 may remain for
whoever else chooses to prosecute-I have done enough to
make myself enemies already'-and she trembled at the thought
of the formidable enemies she had probably arrayed against
herself-helpless and despised as she was. When the pleading
was at an end, Isabella understood the Judge to declare, as the
sentence of the Court, that the 'boy be delivered into the hands
of the mother-having no other master, no other controller, no
other conductor, but his mother.' This sentence was obeyed; he
was delivered into her hands, the boy meanwhile begging, most
piteously, not to be taken from his dear master, saying she was
not his mother, and that his mother did not live in such a place
as that. And it was some time before lawyer Demain, the clerks,
and Isabella, could collectively succeed in calming the child's
fears, and in convincing him that Isabella was not some terrible
monster, as he had for the last months, probably, been trained to
believe; and who, in taking him away from his master, was
taking him from all good, and consigning him to all evil.

When at last kind words and bon-bons had quieted his fears,
and he could listen to their explanations, he said to Isabella-
'Well, you do look like my mother used to'; and she was soon
able to make him comprehend some of the obligations he was
under, and the relation he stood in, both to herself and his
master. She commenced as soon as practicable to examine the
boy, and found, to her utter astonishment, that from the crown
of his head to the sole of his foot, the callosities and indurations
on his entire body were most frightful to behold. His back she
described as being like her fingers, as she laid them side by side.

'Heavens! what is all this? ' said Isabel. He answered, 'It is
where Fowler whipped, kicked, and beat me.' She exclaimed,
'Oh, Lord Jesus, look! see my poor child! Oh Lord, "render
unto them double" for all this! Oh my God! Pete, how did you
bear it?'

'Oh, this is nothing, mammy-if you should see Phillis, I
guess you'd scare! She had a little baby, and Fowler cut her till
the milk as well as blood ran down her body. You would scare
to see Phillis, mammy.'

When Isabella inquired, 'What did Miss Eliza * say, Pete,
when you were treated so badly?' he replied, 'Oh, mammy, she
said she wished I was with Bell. Sometimes I crawled under the
stoop, mammy, the blood running all about me, and my back
would stick to the boards; and sometimes Miss Eliza would
come and grease my sores, when all were abed and asleep.'

*Meaning Mrs. Eliza Fowler.


As soon as possible she procured a place for Peter, as tender of
locks, at a place called Wahkendall, near Greenkills. After he
was thus disposed of, she visited her sister Sophia, who resided
at Newberg, and spent the winter in several different families
where she was acquainted. She remained some time in the family
of a Mr. Latin, who was a relative of Solomon Gedney; and
the latter, when he found Isabel with his cousin, used all his
influence to persuade him she was a great mischief-maker and a
very troublesome person,-that she had put him to some hundreds
of dollars expense, by fabricating lies about him, and
especially his sister and her family, concerning her boy, when the
latter was living so like a gentleman with them; and, for his part,
he would not advise his friends to harbor or encourage her.
However, his cousins, the Latins, could not see with the eyes of
his feelings, and consequently his words fell powerless on them,
and they retained her in their service as long as they had aught
for her to do.

She then went to visit her former master, Dumont. She had
scarcely arrived there, when Mr. Fred. Waring entered, and
seeing Isabel, pleasantly accosted her, and asked her 'what she
was driving at now-a-days.' On her answering 'nothing particular,'
he requested her to go over to his place, and assist his folks,
as some of them were sick, and they needed an extra hand. She
very gladly assented. When Mr. W. retired, her master wanted
to know why she wished to help people, that called her the
'worst of devils,' as Mr. Waring had done in the courthouse-for he was
the uncle of Solomon Gedney, and attended the trial
we have described-and declared 'that she was a fool to; he
wouldn't do it.' 'Oh,' she told him, 'she would not mind that,
but was very glad to have people forget their anger towards her.'
She went over, but too happy to feel that their resentment was
passed, and commenced her work with a light heart and a strong
will. She had not worked long in this frame of mind, before a
young daughter of Mr. Waring rushed into the rooms exclaiming,
with uplifted hands-'Heavens and earth, Isabella! Fowler's
murdered Cousin Eliza!' 'Ho,' said Isabel, 'that's nothing-he
liked to have killed my child; nothing saved him but God.'
Meaning, that she was not at all surprised at it, for a man whose
heart was sufficiently hardened to treat a mere child as hers had
been treated, was, in her opinion, more fiend than human, and
prepared for the commission of any crime that his passions might
prompt him to. The child further informed her that a letter had
arrived by mail bringing the news.

Immediately after this announcement, Solomon Gedney and
his mother came in, going direct to Mrs. Waring's room, where
she soon heard tones as of some one reading. She thought
something said to her inwardly, 'Go up stairs and hear.' At first
she hesitated, but it seemed to press her the more-'Go up and
hear!' She went up, unusual as it is for slaves to leave their work
and enter unbidden their mistress's room, for the sole purpose of
seeing or hearing what may be seen or heard there. But on this
occasion, Isabella says, she walked in at the door, shut it, placed
her back against it, and listened. She saw them and heard them
read-'He knocked her down with his fist, jumped on her with
his knees, broke her collar-bone, and tore out her wind-pipe!
He then attempted his escape, but was pursued and arrested, and
put in an iron bank for safe-keeping!' And the friends were
requested to go down and take away the poor innocent children
who had thus been made in one short day more than orphans.

If this narrative should ever meet the eye of those innocent
sufferers for another's guilt, let them not be too deeply affected
by the relation; but, placing their confidence in Him who sees
the end from the beginning, and controls the results, rest secure
in the faith, that, although they may physically suffer for the sins
of others, if they remain but true to themselves, their highest and
more enduring interests can never suffer from such a cause. This
relation should be suppressed for their sakes, were it not even
now so often denied, that slavery is fast undermining all true
regard for human life. We know this one instance is not a
demonstration to the contrary; but, adding this to the lists of
tragedies that weekly come up to us through the Southern mails,
may we not admit them as proofs irrefragable? The newspapers
confirmed this account of the terrible affair.

When Isabella had heard the letter, all being too much absorbed
in their own feelings to take note of her, she returned to
her work, her heart swelling with conflicting emotions. She was
awed at the dreadful deed; she mourned the fate of the loved
Eliza, who had in such an undeserved and barbarous manner
been put away from her labors and watchings as a tender mother;
and, 'last though not least,' in the development of her character
and spirit, her heart bled for the afflicted relatives; even those of
them who 'laughed at her calamity, and mocked when her fear
came.' Her thoughts dwelt long and intently on the subject, and
the wonderful chain of events that had conspired to bring her
that day to that house, to listen to that piece of intelligence-to that
house, where she never was before or afterwards in her
life, and invited there by people who had so lately been hotly
incensed against her. It all seemed very remarkable to her, and
she viewed it as flowing from a special providence of God. She
thought she saw clearly, that their unnatural bereavement was a
blow dealt in retributive justice; but she found it not in her heart
to exult or rejoice over them. She felt as if God had more than
answered her petition, when she ejaculated, in her anguish of
mind, 'Oh, Lord, render unto them double!' She said, 'I dared
not find fault with God, exactly; but the language of my heart
was, 'Oh, my God! that's too much-I did not mean quite so
much, God!' It was a terrible blow to the friends of the deceased;
and her selfish mother (who, said Isabella, made such a
'to-do about her boy, not from affection, but to have her own
will and way') went deranged, and walking to and fro in her
delirium, called aloud for her poor murdered daughter-'Eliza!
Eliza! '

The derangement of Mrs. G. was a matter of hearsay, as
Isabella saw her not after the trial; but she has no reason to doubt
the truth of what she heard. Isabel could never learn the subsequent
fate of Fowler, but heard, in the spring of '49, that his
children had been seen in Kingston-one of whom was spoken
of as a fine, interesting girl, albeit a halo of sadness fell like a
about her.


We will now turn from the outward and temporal to the inward
and spiritual life of our subject. It is ever both interesting and
instructive to trace the exercises of a human mind, through the
trials and mysteries of life; and especially a naturally powerful
mind, left as hers was almost entirely to its own workings, and
the chance influences it met on its way; and especially to note
its reception of that divine 'light, that lighteth every man that
cometh into the world.'

We see, as knowledge dawns upon it, truth and error
strangely commingled; here, a bright spot illuminated by truth-and
there, one darkened and distorted by error; and the state of
such a soul may be compared to a landscape at early dawn, where
the sun is seen superbly gilding some objects, and causing others
to send forth their lengthened, distorted, and sometimes hideous

Her mother, as we have already said, talked to her of God.
From these conversations, her incipient mind drew the conclusion,
that God was 'a great man'; greatly superior to other men
in power; and being located 'high in the sky,' could see all that
transpired on the earth. She believed he not only saw, but noted
down all her actions in a great book, even as her master kept a
record of whatever he wished not to forget. But she had no idea
that God knew a thought of hers till she had uttered it aloud.

As we have before mentioned, she had ever been mindful of
her mother's injunctions, spreading out in detail all her troubles
before God, imploring and firmly trusting him to send her
deliverance from them. Whilst yet a child, she listened to a story
of a wounded soldier, left alone in the trail of a flying army,
helpless and starving, who hardened the very ground about him
with kneeling in his supplications to God for relief, until it
arrived. From this narrative, she was deeply impressed with the
idea, that if she also were to present her petitions under the open
canopy of heaven, speaking very loud, she should the more
readily be heard; consequently, she sought a fitting spot for this,
her rural sanctuary. The place she selected, in which to offer up
her daily orisons, was a small island in a small stream, covered
with large willow shrubbery, beneath which the sheep had made
their pleasant winding paths; and sheltering themselves from the
scorching rays of a noon-tide sun, luxuriated in the cool shadows
of the graceful willows, as they listened to the tiny falls of the
silver waters. It was a lonely spot, and chosen by her for its
beauty, its retirement, and because she thought that there, in the
noise of those waters, she could speak louder to God, without
being overheard by any who might pass that way. When she had
made choice of her sanctum, at a point of the island where the
stream met, after having been separated, she improved it by
pulling away the branches of the shrubs from the centre, and
weaving them together for a wall on the outside, forming a
circular arched alcove, made entirely of the graceful willow. To
this place she resorted daily, and in pressing times much more

At this time, her prayers, or, more appropriately, 'talks with
God,' were perfectly original and unique, and would be well
worth preserving, were it possible to give the tones and manner
with the words; but no adequate idea of them can be written
while the tones and manner remain inexpressible.

She would sometimes repeat, 'Our Father in heaven,' in her
Low Dutch, as taught her by her mother; after that, all was from
the suggestions of her own rude mind. She related to God, in
minute detail, all her troubles and sufferings, inquiring, as she
proceeded, 'Do you think that's right, God?' and closed by
begging to be delivered from the evil, whatever it might be.

She talked to God as familiarly as if he had been a creature
like herself; and a thousand times more so, than if she had been
in the presence of some earthly potentate. She demanded, with
little expenditure of reverence or fear, a supply of all her more
pressing wants, and at times her demands approached very near
to commands. She felt as if God was under obligation to her,
much more than she was to him. He seemed to her benighted
vision in some manner bound to do her bidding.

Her heart recoils now, with very dread, when she recalls
those shocking, almost blasphemous conversations with great
Jehovah. And well for herself did she deem it, that, unlike earthly
potentates, his infinite character combined the tender father
with the omniscient and omnipotent Creator of the universe.

She at first commenced promising God, that if he would help
her out of all her difficulties, she would pay him by being very
good; and this goodness she intended as a remuneration to God.
She could think of no benefit that was to accrue to herself or her
fellow-creatures, from her leading a life of purity and generous
self-sacrifice for the good of others; as far as any but God was
concerned, she saw nothing in it but heart-trying penance, sustained
by the sternest exertion; and this she soon found much
more easily promised than performed.

Days wore away-new trials came-God's aid was invoked,
and the same promises repeated; and every successive night
found her part of the contract unfulfilled. She now began to
excuse herself, by telling God she could not be good in her
present circumstances; but if he would give her a new place, and
a good master and mistress, she could and would be good; and
she expressly stipulated, that she would be good one day to show
God how good she would be all of the time, when he should
surround her with the right influences, and she should be delivered
from the temptations that then so sorely beset her. But, alas!
when night came, and she became conscious that she had yielded
to all her temptations, and entirely failed of keeping her word
with God, having prayed and promised one hour, and fallen into
the sins of anger and profanity the next, the mortifying reflection
weighed on her mind, and blunted her enjoyment. Still, she did
not lay it deeply to heart, but continued to repeat her demands
for aid, and her promises of pay, with full purpose of heart, at
each particular time, that that day she would not fail to keep her
plighted word.

Thus perished the inward spark, like a flame just igniting,
when one waits to see whether it will burn on or die out, till the
long desired change came, and she found herself in a new place,
with a good mistress, and one who never instigated an otherwise
kind master to be unkind to her; in short, a place where she had
literally nothing to complain of, and where, for a time, she was
more happy than she could well express. 'Oh, every thing there
was so pleasant, and kind, and good, and all so comfortable;
enough of every thing; indeed, it was beautiful!' she exclaimed.

Here, at Mr. Van Wagener's,-as the reader will readily
perceive she must have been,-she was so happy and satisfied,
that God was entirely forgotten. Why should her thoughts turn
to him, who was only known to her as a help in trouble? She had
no trouble now; her every prayer had been answered in every
minute particular. She had been delivered from her persecutors
and temptations, her youngest child had been given her, and the
others she knew she had no means of sustaining if she had them
with her, and was content to leave them behind. Their father,
who was much older than Isabel, and who preferred serving his
time out in slavery, to the trouble and dangers of the course she
pursued, remained with and could keep an eye on them-though it is
comparatively little that they can do for each other
while they remain in slavery; and this little the slave, like persons
in every other situation of life, is not always disposed to perform.
There are slaves, who, copying the selfishness of their superiors
in power, in their conduct towards their fellows who may be
thrown upon their mercy, by infirmity or illness, allow them to
suffer for want of that kindness and care which it is fully in their
power to render them.

The slaves in this country have ever been allowed to celebrate
the principal, if not some of the lesser festivals observed by
the Catholics and Church of England;-many of them not being
required to do the least service for several days, and at Christmas
they have almost universally an entire week to themselves, except,
perhaps, the attending to a few duties, which are absolutely
required for the comfort of the families they belong to. If much
service is desired, they are hired to do it, and paid for it as if they
were free. The more sober portion of them spend these holidays
in earning a little money. Most of them visit and attend parties
and balls, and not a few of them spend it in the lowest dissipation.
This respite from toil is granted them by all religionists, of
whatever persuasion, and probably originated from the fact that
many of the first slaveholders were members of the Church of

Frederick Douglass, who has devoted his great heart and
noble talents entirely to the furtherance of the cause of his
down-trodden race, has said-'From what I know of the effect
of their holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the
most effective means, in the hands of the slaveholder, in keeping
down the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to
abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would
lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays
serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious
spirit of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would
be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the
slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation
of those conductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a
spirit will go forth in their midst, more to be dreaded than the
most appalling earthquake.'

When Isabella had been at Mr. Van Wagener's a few months,
she saw in prospect one of the festivals approaching. She knows
it by none but the Dutch name, Pingster, as she calls it-but
I think it must have been Whitsuntide, in English. She says she
'looked back into Egypt,' and every thing looked 'so pleasant
there,' as she saw retrospectively all her former companions
enjoying their freedom for at least a little space, as well as their
wonted convivialities, and in her heart she longed to be with
them. With this picture before her mind's eye, she contrasted the
quiet, peaceful life she was living with the excellent people of
Wahkendall, and it seemed so dull and void of incident, that the
very contrast served but to heighten her desire to return, that, at
least, she might enjoy with them, once more, the coming festivities.
These feelings had occupied a secret corner of her breast for
some time, when, one morning, she told Mrs. Van Wagener that
her old master Dumont would come that day, and that she
should go home with him on his return. They expressed some
surprise, and asked her where she obtained her information. She
replied, that no one had told her, but she felt that he would

It seemed to have been one of those 'events that cast their
shadows before'; for, before night, Mr. Dumont made his appearance.
She informed him of her intention to accompany him
home. He answered, with a smile, 'I shall not take you back
again; you ran away from me.' Thinking his manner contradicted
his words, she did not feel repulsed, but made herself and
child ready; and when her former master had seated himself in
the open dearborn, she walked towards it, intending to place
herself and child in the rear, and go with him. But, ere she
reached the vehicle, she says that God revealed himself to her,
with all the suddenness of a flash of lightning, showing her, 'in
the twinkling of an eye, that he was all over'-that he pervaded
the universe-'and that there was no place where God was
not.' She became instantly conscious of her great sin in forgetting
her almighty Friend and 'ever-present help in time of
trouble.' All her unfulfilled promises arose before her, like a
vexed sea whose waves run mountains high; and her soul, which
seemed but one mass of lies, shrunk back aghast from the 'awful
look' of him whom she had formerly talked to, as if he had been
a being like herself; and she would now fain have hid herself in
the bowels of the earth, to have escaped his dread presence. But
she plainly saw there was no place, not even in hell, where he
was not; and where could she flee? Another such 'a look,' as she
expressed it, and she felt that she must be extinguished forever,
even as one, with the breath of his mouth, 'blows out a lamp,'
so that no spark remains.

A dire dread of annihilation now seized her, and she waited
to see if, by 'another look,' she was to be stricken from
up, even as the fire licketh up the oil with
which it comes in contact.

When at last the second look came not, and her attention was
once more called to outward things, she observed her master had
left, and exclaiming aloud, 'Oh, God, I did not know you were
so big,' walked into the house, and made an effort to resume her
work. But the workings of the inward man were too absorbing
to admit of much attention to her avocations. She desired to
talk to God, but her vileness utterly forbade it, and she was not
able to prefer a petition. 'What!' said she, 'shall I lie again to
God? I have told him nothing but lies; and shall I speak again,
and tell another lie to God?' She could not; and now she began
to wish for some one to speak to God for her. Then a space
seemed opening between her and God, and she felt that if some
one, who was worthy in the sight of heaven, would but plead
for her in their own name, and not let God know it came from
her, who was so unworthy, God might grant it. At length a
friend appeared to stand between herself and an insulted Deity;
and she felt as sensibly refreshed as when, on a hot day, an
umbrella had been interposed between her scorching head and
a burning sun. But who was this friend? became the next inquiry.
Was it Deencia, who had so often befriended her? She
looked at her, with her new power of sight-and, lo! she, too,
seemed all 'bruises and putrifying sores,' like herself. No, it was
some one very different from Deencia.

'Who are you?' she exclaimed, as the vision brightened into
a form distinct, beaming with the beauty of holiness, and radiant
with love. She then said, audibly addressing the mysterious visitant-'I

know you, and I don't know you.' Meaning, 'You
seem perfectly familiar; I feel that you not only love me, but that
you always have loved me-yet I know you not-I cannot call
you by name.' When she said, 'I know you,' the subject of the
vision remained distinct and quiet. When she said, 'I don't
know you,' it moved restlessly about, like agitated waters. So
while she repeated, without intermission, 'I know you, I know
you,' that the vision might remain-'Who are you?' was the
cry of her heart, and her whole soul was in one deep prayer that
this heavenly personage might be revealed to her, and remain
with her. At length, after bending both soul and body with the
intensity of this desire, till breath and strength seemed failing,
and she could maintain her position no

longer, an answer came to her, saying distinctly, 'It is Jesus.'
'Yes,' she responded, 'it is Jesus.'

Previous to these exercises of mind, she heard Jesus mentioned in
reading or speaking, but had received from what she heard no impression
that he was any other than an eminent man, like a Washington or a
Lafayette. Now he appeared to her delighted mental vision as so mild,
so good, and so every way lovely, and he loved her so much! And, how
strange that he had always loved her, and she had never known it! And
how great a blessing he conferred, in that he should stand between her
and God! And God was no longer a terror and a dread to her.

She stopped not to argue the point, even in her own mind, whether he
had reconciled her to God, or God to herself, (though she thinks the
former now,) being but

too happy that God was no longer to her as a consuming fire, and Jesus
was 'altogether lovely.' Her heart was now full of joy and gladness,
as it had been of terror, and at one time of despair. In the light of
her great happiness, the world was clad in new beauty, the very air
sparkled as with diamonds, and was redolent of heaven. She
contemplated the unapproachable barriers that existed between herself
and the great of this world, as the world calls greatness, and made
surprising comparisons between them, and the union existing between
herself and Jesus-Jesus, the transcendently lovely as well as great and
powerful; for so he appeared to her, though he seemed but human; and
she watched for his bodily appearance, feeling that she should know
him, if she saw him; and when he came, she would go and dwell with him,
as with a dear friend.

It was not given to her to see that he loved any other; and she thought
if others came to know and love him, as she did, she should be thrust
aside and forgotten, being herself but a poor ignorant slave, with
little to recommend her to his notice. And when she heard him spoken
off, she said mentally-'What! others know Jesus! I thought no one knew
Jesus but me!' and she felt a sort of jealousy, lest she should be
robbed of her newly found treasure.

She conceived, one day, as she listened to reading, that she heard an
intimation that Jesus was married, and hastily inquired if Jesus had a
wife. 'What!' said the reader, 'God have a wife?' 'Is Jesus God? '
inquired Isabella. 'Yes, to be sure he is,' was the answer returned.
From this time, her conceptions of Jesus became more elevated and
spiritual; and she sometimes spoke of him as God, in accordance with
the teaching she had received.

But when she was simply told, that the Christian world was much divided
on the subject of Christ's nature-some believing him to be coequal with
the Father-to be God in and of himself, 'very God, of very God;'-some,
that he is the 'well-beloved,' 'only begotten Son of God;'-and others,
that he is, or was, rather, but a mere man-she said, 'Of that I only
know as I saw. I did not see him to be God; else, how could he stand
between me and God? I saw him as a friend, standing between me and
God, through whom, love flowed as from a fountain.' Now, so far from
expressing her views of Christ's character and office in accordance
with any system of theology extant, she says she believes Jesus is the
same spirit that was in our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the
beginning, when they came from the hand of their Creator. When they
sinned through disobedience, this pure spirit forsook them, and fled to
heaven; that there it remained, until it returned again in the person
of Jesus; and that, previous to a personal union with him, man is but a
brute, possessing only the spirit of an animal.

She avers that, in her darkest hours, she had no fear of any worse hell
than the one she then carried in her bosom; though it had ever been
pictured to her in its deepest colors, and threatened her as a reward
for all her misdemeanors. Her vileness and God's holiness and
all-pervading presence, which filled immensity, and threatened her with
constant annihilation, composed the burden of her vision of terror.
Her faith in prayer is equal to her faith in the love of Jesus. Her
language is, 'Let others say what they will of the efficacy of prayer,
I believe in it, and I shall pray. Thank God! Yes, I shall always
pray,' she exclaims, putting her hands together with the greatest

For some time subsequent to the happy change we
have spoken off, Isabella's prayers partook largely of their former
character; and while, in deep affliction, she labored for the recovery
of her son, she prayed with constancy and fervor; and the following may
be taken as a specimen:-'Oh,
God, you know how much I am distressed, for I have told you again and
again. Now, God, help me get my son. If you were in trouble, as I am,
and I could help you, as you can me, think I would n't do it? Yes,
God, you know I would do it.'
'Oh, God, you know I have no money, but you can make the people do for
me, and you must make the people do for me. I will never give you
peace till you do, God.'
'Oh, God, make the people hear me-don't let them turn me off, without
hearing and helping me.'
And she has not a particle of doubt, that God heard her, and especially
disposed the hearts of thoughtless clerks, eminent lawyers, and grave
judges and others-between whom and herself there seemed to her almost
an infinite remove-to listen to her suit with patient and respectful
attention, backing it up with all needed aid. The sense of her
nothingness in the eyes of those with whom she contended for her
rights, sometimes fell on her like a heavy weight, which nothing but
her unwavering confidence in an arm which she believed to be stronger
than all others combined could have raised from her sinking spirit.
'Oh! how little did I feel,' she repeated, with a powerful emphasis.
'Neither would you wonder, if you could have seen me, in my ignorance
and destitution, trotting about the streets, meanly clad, bare-headed,
and bare-footed! Oh, God only could have made such people hear me; and
he did it in answer to my prayers.' And this perfect trust, based on
the rock of Deity, was a soul-protecting fortress, which, raising her
above the battlements of fear, and shielding her from the machinations
of the enemy, impelled her onward in the struggle, till the foe was
vanquished, and the victory gained.

We have now seen Isabella, her youngest daughter, and her only son, in
possession of, at least, their nominal freedom. It has been said that
the freedom of the most free of the colored people of this country is
but nominal; but stinted and limited as it is, at best, it is an
immense remove from chattel slavery. This fact is disputed, I know;
but I have no confidence in the honesty of such questionings. If they
are made in sincerity, I honor not the judgment that thus decides.

Her husband, quite advanced in age, and infirm of health, was
emancipated, with the balance of the adult slaves of the State,
according to law, the following summer, July 4, 1828.

For a few years after this event, he was able to earn a scanty living,
and when he failed to do that, he was dependent on the 'world's cold
charity,' and died in a poorhouse. Isabella had herself and two
children to provide for; her wages were trifling, for at that time the
wages of females were at a small advance from nothing; and she
doubtless had to learn the first elements of economy-for what slaves,
that were never allowed to make any stipulations or calculations for
themselves, ever possessed an adequate idea of the true value of time,
or, in fact, of any material thing in the universe? To such, 'prudent
using' is meanness-and 'saving' is a word to be sneered at. Of course,
it was not in her power to make to herself a home, around whose sacred
hearth-stone she could collect her family, as they gradually emerged
from their prison-house of bondage; a home, where she could cultivate
their affection, administer to
their wants, and instil into the opening minds of her children those
principles of virtue, and that love of purity, truth and benevolence,
which must for ever form the foundation of a life of usefulness and
happiness. No-all this was far beyond her power or means, in more
senses than one; and it should be taken into the account, whenever a
comparison is instituted between the progress made by her children in
virtue and goodness, and the progress of those who have been nurtured
in the genial warmth of a sunny home, where good influences cluster,
and bad ones are carefully excluded-where 'line upon line, and precept
upon precept,' are daily brought to their quotidian tasks-and where, in
short, every appliance is brought in requisition, that self-denying
parents can bring to bear on one of the dearest objects of a parent's
life, the promotion of the welfare of their children. But God forbid
that this suggestion should be wrested from its original intent, and
made to shield any one from merited rebuke! Isabella's children are
now of an age to know good from evil, and may easily inform themselves
on any point where they may yet be in doubt; and if they now suffer
themselves to be drawn by temptation into the paths of the destroyer,
or forget what is due to the mother who has done and suffered so much
for them, and who, now that she is descending into the vale of years,
and feels her health and strength declining, will turn her expecting
eyes to them for aid and comfort, just as instinctively as the child
turns its confiding eye to its fond parent, when it seeks for succor or
sympathy-(for it is now their turn to do the work, and bear the burdens
of life, so all must bear them in turn, as the wheel of life rolls on)-
if, I say, they forget this, their duty and their happiness, and pursue
an opposite course of sin and folly, they must lose the respect of the
wise and good, and find, when too late, that 'the way of the
transgressor is hard.'


The reader will pardon this passing homily, while we return to our

We were saying that the day-dreams of Isabella and her husband-the plan
they drew of what they would do, and the comforts they thought to have,
when they should obtain their freedom, and a little home of their own-
had all turned to 'thin air,' by the postponement of their freedom to
so late a day. These delusive hopes were never to be realized, and a
new set of trials was gradually to open before her. These were the
heart-wasting trials of watching over her children, scattered, and
imminently exposed to the temptations of the adversary, with few, if
any, fixed principles to sustain them.

'Oh,' she says, 'how little did I know myself of the best way to
instruct and counsel them! Yet I did the best I then knew, when with
them. I took them to the religious meetings; I talked to, and prayed
for and with them; when they did wrong, I scolded at and whipped them.'

Isabella and her son had been free about a year, when they went to
reside in the city of New York; a place which she would doubtless have
avoided, could she have foreseen what was there in store for her; for
this view into the future would have taught her what she only learned
by bitter experience, that the baneful influences going up from such a
city were not the best helps to education, commenced as the education
of her children had been.

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