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The Narrative of Sojourner Truth

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Her son Peter was, at the time of which we are speaking, just at that
age when no lad should be subjected to the temptations of such a place,
unprotected as he was, save by the feeble arm of a mother, herself a
servant there. He was growing up to be a tall, well-formed, active
lad, of quick perceptions, mild and cheerful in his disposition, with
much that was open, generous and winning about him, but with little
power to withstand temptation, and a ready ingenuity to provide himself
with ways and means to carry out his plans, and conceal from his mother
and her friends, all such as he knew would not meet their approbation.
As will be readily believed, he was soon drawn into a circle of
associates who did not improve either his habits or his morals.

Two years passed before Isabella knew what character Peter was
establishing for himself among his low and worthless comrades-passing
under the assumed name of Peter Williams; and she began to feel a
parent's pride in the promising appearance of her only son. But, alas!
this pride and pleasure were shortly dissipated, as distressing facts
relative to him came one by one to her astonished ear. A friend of
Isabella's, a lady, who was much pleased with the good humor,
ingenuity, and open confessions of Peter, when driven into a corner,
and who, she said, 'was so smart, he ought to have an education, if any
one ought,'-paid ten dollars, as tuition fee, for him to attend a
navigation school. But Peter, little inclined to spend his leisure
hours in study, when he might be enjoying himself in the dance, or
otherwise, with his boon companions, went regularly and made some
plausible excuses to the teacher, who received them as genuine, along
with the ten dollars of Mrs -, and while his mother and her friend
believed him improving at school, he was, to their latent sorrow,
improving in a very different place or places, and on entirely opposite
principles. They also procured him an excellent place as a coachman.
But, wanting money, he sold his livery, and other things belonging to
his master; who, having conceived a kind regard for him, considered his
youth, and prevented the law from falling, with all its rigor, upon his
head. Still he continued to abuse his privileges, and to involve
himself in repeated difficulties, from which his mother as often
extricated him. At each time, she talked much, and reasoned and
remonstrated with him; and he would, with such perfect frankness, lay
open his whole soul to her, telling her he had never intended doing
harm,-how he had been led along, little by little, till, before he was
aware, he found himself in trouble-how he had tried to be good-and how,
when he would have been so, 'evil was present with him,'-indeed he knew
not how it was.

His mother, beginning to feel that the city was no place for him, urged
his going to sea, and would have shipped him on board a man-of-war; but
Peter was not disposed to consent to that proposition, while the city
and its pleasures were accessible to him. Isabella now became a prey
to distressing fears, dreading lest the next day or hour come fraught
with the report of some dreadful crime, committed or abetted by her
son. She thanks the Lord for sparing her that giant sorrow, as all his
wrong doings never ranked higher, in the eye of the law, than
misdemeanors. But as she could see no improvement in Peter, as a last
resort, she resolved to leave him, for a time, unassisted, to bear the
penalty of his conduct, and see what effect that would have on him. In
the trial hour, she remained firm in her resolution. Peter again fell
into the hands of the police, and sent for his mother, as usual; but
she went not to his relief. In his extremity, he sent for Peter
Williams, a respectable colored barber, whose name he had been
wearing, and who sometimes helped young culprits out of their troubles,
and sent them from city dangers, by shipping them on board of whaling

The curiosity of this man was awakened by the culprit's bearing his own
name. He went to the Tombs and inquired into his case, but could not
believe what Peter told him respecting his mother and family. Yet he
redeemed him, and Peter promised to leave New York in a vessel that was
to sail in the course of a week. He went to see his mother, and
informed her of what had happened to him. She listened incredulously,
as to an idle tale. He asked her to go with him and see for herself.
She went, giving no credence to his story till she found herself in the
presence of Mr. Williams, and heard him saying to her, 'I am very glad
I have assisted your son; he stood in great need of sympathy and
assistance; but I could not think he had such a mother here, although
he assured me he had.'

Isabella's great trouble now was, a fear lest her son should deceive
his benefactor, and be missing when the vessel sailed; but he begged
her earnestly to trust him, for he said he had resolved to do better,
and meant to abide by the resolve. Isabella's heart gave her no peace
till the time of sailing, when Peter sent Mr. Williams and another
messenger whom she knew, to tell her he had sailed. But for a month
afterwards, she looked to see him emerging from some by-place in the
city, and appearing before her; so afraid was she that he was still
unfaithful, and doing wrong. But he did not appear, and at length she
believed him really gone. He left in the summer of 1839, and his
friends heard nothing further from him till his mother received the
following letter, dated 'October 17 1840';-


'I take this opportunity to write to you and inform you that I am well,
and in hopes for to find you the same. I am got on board the same
unlucky ship Done, of Nantucket. I am sorry for to say, that I have
been punished once severely, by shoving my head in the fire for other
folks. We have had bad luck, but in hopes to have better. We have
about 230 on board, but in hopes, if do n't kave good luck, that my
parents will receive me with thanks. I would like to know how my
sisters are. Does my cousins live in New York yet? Have you got my
letter? If not, inquire to Mr. Pierce Whiting's. I wish you would
write me an answer as soon as possible. I am your only son, that is so
far from your home, in the wide briny ocean. I have seen more of the
world than ever I expected, and if I ever should return home safe, I
will tell you all my troubles and hardships. Mother, I hope you do not
forget me, your dear and only son. I should like to know how Sophia,
and Betsey, and Hannah, come on. I hope you all will forgive me for
all that I have done.

Another letter reads as follows, dated 'March 22, 1841':-


'I take this opportunity to write to you, and inform you that I have
been well and in good health. I have wrote you a letter before, but
have received no answer from you, and was very anxious to see you. I
hope to see you in a short time. I have had very hard luck, but are in
hopes to have better in time to come. I should like if my sisters are
well, and all the people round the neighborhood. I expect to be home in
twenty-two months or thereabouts. I have seen Samuel Laterett.
Beware! There has happened very bad news to tell you, that Peter
Jackson is dead. He died within two days' sail of Otaheite, one of the
Society Islands. The Peter Jackson that used to live at Laterett's; he
died on board the ship Done, of Nantucket, Captain Miller, in the
latitude 15 53, and longitude 148 30 W. I have no more to say at
present, but write as soon as possible.

'Your only son,

Another, containing the last intelligence she has had from her son,
reads as follows, and was dated 'Sept. 19, 1841':-


'I take the opportunity to write to you and inform you that I am well
and in good health, and in hopes to find you in the same. This is the
fifth letter that I have wrote to you, and have received no answer, and
it makes me very uneasy. So pray write as quick as you can, and tell
me how all the people is about the neighborhood. We are out from home
twenty-three months, and in hope to be home in fifteen months. I have
not much to say; but tell me if you have been up home since I left or
not. I want to know what sort of a time is at home. We had very bad
luck when we first came out, but since we have had very good; so I am
in hopes to do well yet; but if I do n't do well, you need not expect
me home these five years. So write as quick as you can, won't you? So
now I am going to put an end to my writing, at present. Notice-when
this you see, remember me, and place me in your mind.

Get me to my home, that's in the far distant west,
To the scenes of my childhood, that I like the best;
There the tall cedars grow, and the bright waters flow,
Where my parents will greet me, white man, let me go!
Let me go to the spot where the cateract plays,
Where oft I have sported in my boyish days;
And there is my poor mother, whose heart ever flows,
At the sight of her poor child, to her let me go, let me go!

'Your only son,

Since the date of the last letter, Isabella has heard no tidings from
her long-absent son, though ardently does her mother's heart long for
such tidings, as her thoughts follow him around the world, in his
perilous vocation, saying within herself-'He is good now, I have no
doubt; I feel sure that he has persevered, and kept the resolve he made
before he left home;-he seemed so different before he went, so
determined to do better.' His letters are inserted here for
preservation, in case they prove the last she ever hears from him in
this world.


When Isabella had obtained the freedom of her son, she remained in
Kingston, where she had been drawn by the judicial process, about a
year, during which time she became a member of the Methodist Church
there: and when she went to New York, she took a letter missive from
that church to the Methodist Church in John street.
Afterwards, she withdrew her connection with that church, and joined
Zion's Church in Church street, composed entirely of colored people.
With the latter church she remained until she went to reside with Mr.
Pierson, after which, she was gradually drawn into the 'kingdom' set up
by the prophet Matthias, in the name of God the Father; for he said the
spirit of God the Father dwelt in him.

While Isabella was in New York, her sister Sophia came from Newburg to
reside in the former place. Isabel had been favored with occasional
interviews with this sister, although at one time she lost sight of her
for the space of seventeen years-almost the entire period of her being
at Mr. Dumont's-and when she appeared before her again, handsomely
dressed, she did not recognize her, till informed who she was. Sophia
informed her that her brother Michael-a brother she had never seen-was
in the city; and when she introduced him to Isabella, he informed her
that their sister Nancy had been living in the city, and had deceased a
few months before. He described her features, her dress, her manner,
and said she had for some time been a member in Zion's Church, naming
the class she belonged to. Isabella almost instantly recognized her as
a sister in the church, with whom she had knelt at the altar, and with
whom she had exchanged the speaking pressure of the hand, in
recognition of their spiritual sisterhood; little thinking, at the
time, that they were also children of the same earthly parents-even
Bomefree and Mau-mau Bett. As inquiries and answers rapidly passed, and
the conviction deepened that this was their sister, the very sister
they had heard so much of, but had never seen, (for she was the
self-same sister that had been locked in the great old fashioned
sleigh-box, when she was taken away, never to behold her mother's face
again this side the spirit-land, and Michael, the narrator, was the
brother who had shared her fate,) Isabella thought, 'D-h! here she was;
we met; and was I not, at the time, struck with the peculiar feeling of
her hand-the bony hardness so just like mine? and yet I could not know
she was my sister; and now I see she looked so like my mother.' And
Isabella wept, and not alone; Sophia wept, and the strong man,
Michael, mingled his tears with theirs. 'Oh Lord,' inquired Isabella,
'what is this slavery, that it can do such dreadful things? what evil
can it not do?' Well may she ask, for surely the evils it can and does
do, daily and hourly, can never be summed up, till we can see them as
they are recorded by him who writes no errors, and reckons without
mistake. This account, which now varies so widely in the estimate of
different minds, will be viewed alike by all.

Think you, dear reader, when that day comes, the most 'rapid
abolitionist' will say-'Behold, I saw all this while on the earth?'
Will he not rather say, 'Oh, who has conceived the breadth and depth of
this moral malaria, this putrescent plague-spot?' Perhaps the pioneers
in the slave's cause will be as much surprised as any to find that with
all their looking, there remained so much unseen.


There are some hard things that crossed Isabella's life while in
slavery, that she has no desire to publish, for various reasons.
First, because the parties from whose hands she suffered them have
rendered up their account to a higher tribunal, and their innocent
friends alone are living, to have their feelings injured by the
recital; secondly, because they are not all for the public ear, from
their very nature; thirdly, and not least, because, she says, were she
to tell all that happened to her as a slave-all that she knows is
'God's truth'-it would seem to others, especially the uninitiated, so
unaccountable, so unreasonable, and what is usually called so
unnatural, (though it may be questioned whether people do not always
act naturally,) they would not easily believe it. 'Why, no!' she says,
'they'd call me a liar! they would, indeed! and I do not wish to say
anything to destroy my own character for veracity, though what I say is
strictly true.' Some things have been omitted through forgetfulness,
which not having been mentioned in their places, can only be briefly
spoken of here;-such as, that her father Bomefree had had two wives
before he took Mau mau Bett; one of whom, if not both, were torn from
him by the iron hand of the ruthless trafficker in human flesh;-that
her husband, Thomas, after one of his wives had been sold away from
him, ran away to New York City, where he remained a year or two, before
he was discovered and taken back to the prison-house of slavery;-that
her master Dumont, when he promised Isabella one year of her time,
before the State should make her free, made the same promise to her
husband, and in addition to freedom, they were promised a log cabin for
a home of their own; all of which, with the one-thousand-and-one
day-dreams resulting therefrom, went into the repository of unfulfilled
promises and unrealized hopes;-that she had often heard her father
repeat a thrilling story of a little slave-child, which, because it
annoyed the family with its cries, was caught up by a white man, who
dashed its brains out against the wall. An Indian (for Indians were
plenty in that region then) passed along as the bereaved mother washed
the bloody corpse of her murdered child, and learning the cause of its
death, said, with characteristic vehemence, 'If I had been here, I
would have put my tomahawk in his head!' meaning the murderer's.

Of the cruelty of one Hasbrouck.-He had a sick slave-woman, who was
lingering with a slow consumption, whom he made to spin, regardless of
her weakness and suffering; and this woman had a child, that was unable
to walk or talk, at the age of five years, neither could it cry like
other children, but made a constant, piteous moaning sound. This
exhibition of helplessness and imbecility, instead of exciting the
master's pity, stung his cupidity, and so enraged him, that he would
kick the poor thing about like a foot-ball.

Isabella's informant had seen this brute of a man, when the child was
curled up under a chair, innocently amusing itself with a few sticks,
drag it hence, that he might have the pleasure of tormenting it. She
had see him, with one blow of his foot, send it rolling quite across
the room, and down the steps at the door. Oh, how she wished it might
instantly die! 'But,' she said, 'it seemed as tough as a moccasin.'
Though it did die at last, and made glad the heart of its friends; and
its persecutor, no doubt, rejoiced with them, but from very different
motives. But the day of his retribution was not far off-for he
sickened, and his reason fled. It was fearful to hear his old slave
soon tell how, in the day of his calamity, she treated him.

She was very strong, and was therefore selected to support her master,
as he sat up in bed, by putting her arms around, while she stood behind
him. It was then that she
did her best to wreak her vengeance on him. She would clutch his
feeble frame in her iron grasp, as in a vice; and, when her mistress
did not see, would give him a squeeze, a shake, and lifting him up, set
him down again, as hard as possible. If his breathing betrayed too
tight a grasp, and her mistress said, 'Be careful, don't hurt him,
Soan!' her every-ready answer was, 'Oh no, Missus, no,' in her most
pleasant tone-and then, as soon as Missus's eyes and ears were engaged
away, another grasp-another shake-another bounce. She was afraid the
disease alone would let him recover,-an event she dreaded more than to
do wrong herself. Isabella asked her, if she were not afraid his
spirit would haunt her. 'Oh, no,' says Soan; 'he was so wicked, the
devil will never let him out of hell long enough for that.'

Many slaveholders boast of the love of their slaves. How would it
freeze the blood of some of them to know what kind of love rankles in
the bosoms of slaves for them! Witness the attempt to poison Mrs.
Calhoun, and hundreds of similar cases. Most 'surprising ' to every
body, because committed by slaves supposed to be so grateful for their

These reflections bring to mind a discussion on this point, between the
writer and a slaveholding friend in Kentucky, on Christmas morning,
1846. We had asserted, that until mankind were far in advance of what
they are now, irresponsible power over our fellow-beings would be, as
it is, abused. Our friend declared it was his conviction, that the
cruelties of slavery existed chiefly in imagination, and that no person
in D- County, where we then were, but would be above ill-treating a
helpless slave. We answered, that if his belief was well-founded, the
people in Kentucky were greatly in advance of the people of New
England-for we would not dare say as much as that of any
school-district there, letting alone counties. No, we would not
answer for our own conduct even on so delicate a point.

The next evening, he very magnanimously overthrew his own position and
established ours, by informing us that, on the morning previous, and as
near as we could learn, at the very hour in which we were earnestly
discussing the probabilities of the case, a young woman of fine
appearance, and high standing in society, the pride of her husband, and
the mother of an infant daughter, only a few miles from us, ay, in D-
County, too, was actually beating in the skull of a slave-woman called
Tabby; and not content with that, had her tied up and whipped, after
her skull was broken, and she died hanging to the bedstead, to which
she had been fastened. When informed that Tabby was
dead, she answered, 'I am glad of it, for she has worried my life out
of me.' But Tabby's highest good was probably not the end proposed by
Mrs. M-, for no one supposed she meant to kill her. Tabby was
considered quite lacking in good sense, and no doubt belonged to that
class at the South, that are silly enough to 'die of moderate

A mob collected around the house for an hour or two, in that manner
expressing a momentary indignation. But was she treated as a
murderess? Not at all! She was allowed to take boat (for her
residence was near the beautiful Ohio) that evening, to spend a few
months with her absent friends, after which she returned and remained
with her husband, no one to 'molest or make her afraid.'

Had she been left to the punishment of an outraged conscience from
right motives, I would have 'rejoiced with exceeding joy'. But to see
the life of one woman, and she a murderess, put in the balance against
the lives of three millions of innocent slaves, and to contrast her
punishment with what I felt would be the punishment of one who was
merely suspected of being an equal friend of all mankind, regardless of
color or condition, caused my blood to stir within me, and my heart to
sicken at the thought. The husband of Mrs. M- was absent from home, at
the time alluded to; and when he arrived, some weeks afterwards,
bringing beautiful presents to his cherished companion, he beheld his
once happy home deserted, Tabby murdered and buried in the garden, and
the wife of his bosom, and the mother of his child, the doer of a
dreadful deed, a murderess!

When Isabella went to New York City, she went in company with a Miss
Grear, who introduced her to the family of Mr. James Latourette, a
wealthy merchant, and a Methodist in religion; but who, the latter part
of his life, felt that he had outgrown ordinances, and advocated free
meetings, holding them at his own dwelling-house for several years
previous to his death. She worked for them, and they generously gave
her a home while she labored for others, and in their kindness made her
as one of their own.

At that time, the 'moral reform' movement was awakening the attention
of the benevolent in that city. Many women, among whom were Mrs.
Latourette and Miss Grear, became deeply interested in making an
attempt to reform their fallen sisters, even the most degraded of them;
and in this enterprise of labor and danger, they enlisted Isabella and
others, who for a time put forth their most zealous efforts, and
performed the work of missionaries with much apparent success.
Isabella accompanied those ladies to the most wretched abodes of vice
and misery, and sometimes she went where they dared not follow. They
even succeeded in establishing prayer-meetings in several places, where
such a thing might least have been expected.

But these meetings soon became the most noisy, shouting, ranting, and
boisterous of gatherings; where they became delirious with excitement,
and then exhausted from over-action. Such meetings Isabel had not much
sympathy with, at best. But one evening she attended one of them,
where the members of it, in a fit of ecstasy, jumped upon her cloak in
such a manner as to drag her to the floor-and then, thinking she had
fallen in a spiritual trance, they increased their glorifications on
her account,-jumping, shouting, stamping, and clapping of hands;
rejoicing so much over her spirit, and so entirely overlooking her
body, that she suffered much, both from fear and bruises; and ever
after refused to attend any more such meetings, doubting much whether
God had any thing to do with such worship.


We now come to an eventful period in the life of Isabella, as
identified with one of the most extraordinary religious delusions of
modern times; but the limits prescribed for the present work forbid a
minute narration of all the occurrences that transpired in relation to

After she had joined the African Church in Church street, and during
her membership there, she frequently attended Mr. Latourette's
meetings, at one of which, Mr. Smith invited her to go to a
prayer-meeting, or to instruct the girls at the Magdalene Asylum,
Bowery Hill, then under the protection of Mr. Pierson, and some other
persons, chiefly respectable females. To reach the Asylum, Isabella
called on Katy, Mr. Pierson's colored servant, of whom she had some
knowledge. Mr. Pierson saw her there, conversed with her, asked her if
she had been baptized, and was answered, characteristically, 'by the
Holy Ghost.' After this, Isabella saw Katy several times, and
occasionally Mr. Pierson, who engaged her to keep his house while Katy
went to Virginia to see her children. This engagement was considered
an answer to a prayer by Mr. Pierson, who had both fasted and prayed on
the subject, while Katy and Isabella appeared to see in it the hand of

Mr. Pierson was characterized by a strong devotional spirit, which
finally became highly fanatical. He assumed the title of Prophet,
asserting that God had called him in an omnibus, in these words:-'Thou
are Elijah, the Tishbite. Gather unto me all the members of Israel at
the foot of Mount Carmel'; which he understood as meaning the gathering
of his friends at Bowery Hill. Not long afterward, he became
acquainted with the notorious Matthias, whose career was as
extraordinary as it was brief. Robert Matthews, or Matthias (as he was
usually called), was of Scotch extraction, but a native of Washington
County, New York, and at that time about forty-seven years of age. He
was religiously brought up, among the Anti-Burghers, a sect of
Presbyterians; the clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Bevridge, visiting the
family after the manner of the church, and being pleased with Robert,
put his hand on his head, when a boy, and pronounced a blessing, and
this blessing, with his natural qualities, determined his character;
for he ever after thought he should be a distinguished man. Matthias
was brought up a farmer till nearly eighteen years of age, but
acquired indirectly the art of a carpenter, without any regular
apprenticeship, and showed considerable mechanical skill. He obtained
property from his uncle, Robert Thompson, and then he went into
business as a store-keeper, was considered respectable, and became a
member of the Scotch Presbyterian Church. He married in 1813, and
continued in business in Cambridge. In 1816, he ruined himself by a
building speculation, and the derangement of the currency which denied
bank facilities, and soon after he came to New York with his family,
and worked at his trade. He afterwards removed to Albany, and became a
hearer at the Dutch Reformed Church, then under Dr. Ludlow's charge.
He was frequently much excited on religious subjects.

In 1829, he was well known, if not for street preaching, for loud
discussions and pavement exhortations, but he did not make set sermons.
In the beginning of 1830, he was only considered zealous; but in the
same year he prophesied the destruction of the Albanians and their
capital, and while preparing to shave, with the Bible before him, he
suddenly put down the soap and exclaimed, 'I have found it! I have
found a text which proves that no man who shaves his beard can be a
true Christian;' and shortly afterwards, without shaving, he went to
the Mission House to deliver an address which he had promised, and in
this address, he proclaimed his new character, pronounced vengeance on
the land, and that the law of God was the only rule of government, and
that he was commanded to take possession of the world in the name of
the King of kings. His harangue was cut short by the trustees putting
out the lights. About this time, Matthias laid by his implements of
industry, and in June, he advised his wife to fly with him from the
destruction which awaited them in the city; and on her refusal, partly
on account of Matthias calling himself a Jew, whom she was unwilling to
retain as a husband, he left her, taking some of the children to his
sister in Argyle, forty miles from Albany. At Argyle he entered the
church and interrupted the minister, declaring the congregation in
darkness, and warning them to repentance. He was, of course, taken out
of the church, and as he was advertised in the Albany papers, he was
sent back to his family. His beard had now obtained a respectable
length, and thus he attracted attention, and easily obtained an
audience in the streets. For this he was sometimes arrested, once by
mistake for Adam Paine, who collected the crowd, and then left Matthias
with it on the approach of the officers. He repeatedly urged his wife
to accompany him on a mission to convert the world, declaring that food
could be obtained from the roots of the forest, if not administered
otherwise. At this time he assumed the name of Matthias, called
himself a Jew, and set out on a mission, taking a western course, and
visiting a brother at Rochester, a skillful mechanic, since dead.
Leaving his brother, he proceeded on his mission over the Northern
States, occasionally returning to Albany.

After visiting Washington, and passing through Pennsylvania, he came to
New York. His appearance at that time was mean, but grotesque, and his
sentiments were but little known.

On May the 5th, 1832, he first called on Mr. Pierson, in Fourth street,
in his absence. Isabella was alone in the house, in which she had
lived since the previous autumn. On opening the door, she, for the
first time, beheld Matthias, and her early impression of seeing Jesus
in the flesh rushed to her mind. She heard his inquiry, and invited
him into the parlor; and being naturally curious, and much excited, and
possessing a good deal of tact, she drew him into conversation, stated
her own opinions, and heard his replies and explanations. Her faith
was at first staggered by his declaring himself a Jew; but on this
point she was relieved by his saying, 'Do you not remember how Jesus
prayed?' and repeated part of the Lord's Prayer, in proof that the
Father's kingdom was to come, and not the Son's. She then understood
him to be a converted Jew, and in the conclusion she says she 'felt as
if God had sent him to set up the kingdom.' Thus Matthias at once
secured the good will of Isabella, and we may supposed obtained from
her some information in relation to Mr. Pierson, especially that Mrs.
Pierson declared there was no true church, and approved of Mr.
Pierson's preaching. Matthias left the house, promising to return on
Saturday evening. Mr. P. at this time had not seen Matthias.

Isabella, desirous of hearing the expected conversation between
Matthias and Mr. Pierson on Saturday, hurried her work, got it
finished, and was permitted to be present. Indeed, the sameness of
belief made her familiar with her employer, while her attention to her
work, and characteristic faithfulness, increased his confidence. This
intimacy, the result of holding the same faith, and the principle
afterwards adopted of having but one table, and all things in common,
made her at once the domestic and the equal, and the depositary of very
curious, if not valuable information. To this object, even her color
assisted. Persons who have traveled in the South know the manner in
which the colored people, and especially slaves, are treated; they are
scarcely regarded as being present. This trait in our American
character has been frequently noticed by foreign travelers. One
English lady remarks that she discovered, in course of conversation
with a Southern married gentleman, that a colored girl slept in his
bedroom, in which also was his wife; and when he saw that it occasioned
some surprise, he remarked, 'What would he do if he wanted a glass of
water in the night?' Other travelers have remarked that the presence
of colored people never seemed to interrupt a conversation of any kind
for one moment. Isabella, then, was present at the first interview
between Matthias and Pierson. At this interview, Mr. Pierson asked
Matthias if he had a family, to which he replied in the affirmative; he
asked him about his beard, and he gave a scriptural reason, asserting
also that the Jews did not shave, and that Adam had a beard. Mr.
Pierson detailed to Matthias his experience, and Matthias gave his, and
they mutually discovered that they held the same sentiments, both
admitting the direct influence of the Spirit, and the transmission of
spirits from one body to another. Matthias admitted the call of Mr.
Pierson, in the omnibus in Wall street, which, on this occasion, he
gave in these words:-'Thou art Elijah the Tishbite, and thou shalt go
before me in the spirit and power of Elias, to prepare my way before
me.' And Mr. Pierson admitted Matthias' call, who completed his
declaration on the 20th of June, in Argyle, which, by a curious
coincidence, was the very day on which Pierson had received his call in
the omnibus. Such singular coincidences have a powerful effect on
excited minds. From that discovery, Pierson and Matthias rejoiced in
each other, and became kindred spirits-Matthias, however, claiming to
be the Father, or to possess the spirit of the Father-he was God upon
the earth, because the spirit of God dwelt in him; while Pierson then
understood that his mission was like that of John the Baptist, which
the name Elias meant. This conference ended with an invitation to
supper, and Matthias and Pierson washing each other's feet. Mr.
Pierson preached on the following Sunday, but after which, he declined
in favor of Matthias, and some of the party believed that the 'kingdom
had then come.'

As a specimen of Matthias' preaching and sentiments, the following is
said to be reliable:

'The spirit that built the Tower of Babel is now in the world-it is the
spirit of the devil. The spirit of man never goes upon the clouds; all
who think so are Babylonians. The only heaven is on earth. All who
are ignorant of truth are Ninevites. The Jews did not crucify Christ-
it was the Gentiles. Every Jew has his guardian angel attending him in
this world. God don't speak through preachers; he speaks through me,
his prophet.

' " John the Baptist," (addressing Mr. Pierson), "read the tenth
chapter of Revelations." After the reading of the chapter, the prophet
resumed speaking, as follows:-

'Ours is the mustard-seed kingdom which is to spread all over the
earth. Our creed is truth, and no man can find truth unless he obeys
John the Baptist, and comes clean into the church.

'All real men will be saved; all mock men will be damned. When a
person has the Holy Ghost, then he is a man, and not till then. They
who teach women are of the wicked. The communion is all nonsense; so
is prayer. Eating a nip of bread and drinking a little wine won't do
any good. All who admit members into their church, and suffer them to
hold their lands and houses, their sentence is, "Depart, ye wicked, I
know you not." All females who lecture their husbands, their sentence
is the same. The sons of truth are to enjoy all the good things of
this world, and must use their means to bring it about. Every thing
that has the smell of woman will be destroyed. Woman is the capsheaf
of the abomination of desolation-full of all deviltry. In a short
time, the world will take fire and dissolve; it is combustible
already. All women, not obedient, had better become so as soon as
possible, and let the wicked spirit depart, and become temples of
truth. Praying is all mocking. When you see any one wring the neck of
a fowl, instead of cutting off its head, he has not got the Holy Ghost.
(Cutting gives the least pain.)

'All who eat swine's flesh are of the devil; and just as certain as he
eats it, he will tell a lie in less than half an hour. If you eat a
piece of pork, it will go crooked through you, and the Holy Ghost will
not stay in you, but one or the other must leave the house pretty soon.
The pork will be as crooked in you as ram's horns, and as great a
nuisance as the hogs in the street.

'The cholera is not the right word; it is choler, which means God's
wrath. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are now in this world; they did not
go up in the clouds, as some believe-why should they go there? They
don't want to go there to box the compass from one place to another.
The Christians now-a-days are for setting up the Son's kingdom. It is
not his; it is the Father's kingdom. It puts me in mind of a man in
the country, who took his son in business, and had his sign made,
"Hitchcock & Son;" but the son wanted it "Hitchcock & Father"-and that
is the way with your Christians. They talk of the Son's kingdom
first, and not the Father's kingdom.'

Matthias and his disciples at this time did not believe in a
resurrection of the body, but that the spirits of the former saints
would enter the bodies of the present generation, and thus begin heaven
on earth, of which he and Mr. Pierson were the first fruits.

Matthias made the residence of Mr. Pierson his own; but the latter,
being apprehensive of popular violence in his house, if Matthias
remained there, proposed a monthly allowance to him, and advised him to
occupy another dwelling. Matthias accordingly took a house in Clarkson
street, and then sent for his family at Albany, but they declined
coming to the city. However, his brother George complied with a
similar offer, bringing his family with him, where they found very
comfortable quarters. Isabella was employed to do the housework. In
May, 1833, Matthias left his house, and placed the furniture, part of
which was Isabella's, elsewhere, living himself at the hotel corner of
Marketfield and West streets. Isabella found employment at Mr.
Whiting's, Canal street, and did the washing for Matthias by Mrs.
Whiting's permission.

Of the subsequent removal of Matthias to the farm and residence of Mr.
B. Folger, at Sing Sing, where he was joined by Mr. Pierson, and others
laboring under a similar religious delusion-the sudden, melancholy and
somewhat suspicious death of Mr. Pierson, and the arrest of Matthias on
the charge of his murder, ending in a verdict of not guilty-the
criminal connection that subsisted between Matthias, Mrs. Folger, and
other members of the 'Kingdom,' as 'match-spirits'-the final dispersion
of this deluded company, and the voluntary exilement of Matthias in the
far West, after his release-&c. &c., we do not deem it useful or
necessary to give any particulars. Those who are curious to know what
there transpired are referred to a work published in New York in 1835,
entitled 'Fanaticism; its Sources and Influence; illustrated by the
simple Narrative of Isabella, in the case of Matthias, Mr. and Mrs. B.
Folger, Mr. Pierson, Mr. Mills, Catharine, Isabella, &c. &c. By G.
Vale, 84 Roosevelt street.' Suffice it to say, that while Isabella was
a member of the household at Sing Sing, doing much laborious service in
the spirit of religious disinterestedness, and gradually getting her
vision purged and her mind cured of its illusions, she happily escaped
the contamination that surrounded her,-assiduously endeavoring to
discharge all her duties in a becoming manner.


When Isabella resided with Mr. Pierson, he was in the habit of fasting
every Friday; not eating or drinking anything from Thursday evening to
six o'clock on Friday evening.

Then, again, he would fast two nights and three days, neither eating
nor drinking; refusing himself even a cup of cold water till the third
day at night, when he took supper again, as usual.

Isabella asked him why he fasted. He answered, that fasting gave him
great light in the things of God; which answer gave birth to the
following train of thought in the mind of his auditor:-'Well, if
fasting will give light inwardly and spiritually, I need it as much as
any body,-and I'll fast too. If Mr. Pierson needs to fast two nights
and three days, then I, who need light more than he does, ought to fast
more, and I will fast three nights and three days.'

This resolution she carried out to the letter, putting not so much as a
drop of water in her mouth for three whole days and nights. The fourth
morning, as she arose to her feet, not having the power to stand, she
fell to the floor; but recovering herself sufficiently, she made her
way to the pantry, and feeling herself quite voracious, and fearing
that she might now offend God by her voracity, compelled herself to
breakfast on dry bread and water-eating a large six-penny loaf before
she felt at all stayed or satisfied. She says she did get light, but
it was all in her body and none in her mind-and this lightness of body
lasted a long time. Oh! she was so light, and felt so well, she could
'skim around like a gull.'


The first years spent by Isabella in the city, she accumulated more
than enough to satisfy all her wants, and she placed all the overplus
in the Savings' Bank. Afterwards, while living with Mr. Pierson, he
prevailed on her to take it all thence, and invest it in a common fund
which he was about establishing, as a fund to be drawn from by all the
faithful; the faithful, of course, were the handful that should
subscribe to his peculiar creed. This fund, commenced by Mr. Pierson,
afterwards became part and parcel of the kingdom of which Matthias
assumed to be head; and at the breaking up of the kingdom, her little
property was merged in the general ruin-or went to enrich those who
profited by the loss of others, if any such there were. Mr. Pierson
and others had so assured her, that the fund would supply all her
wants, at all times, and in all emergencies, and to the end of life,
that she became perfectly careless on the subject-asking for no
interest when she drew her money from the bank, and taking no account
of the sum she placed in the fund. She recovered a few articles of the
furniture from the wreck of the kingdom, and received a small sum of
money from Mr. B. Folger, as the price of Mrs. Folger's attempt to
convict her of murder. With this to start upon, she commenced anew her
labors, in the hope of yet being able to accumulate a sufficiency to
make a little home for herself, in her advancing age. With this
stimulus before her, she toiled hard, working early and late, doing a
great deal for a little money, and turning her hand to almost anything
that promised good pay. Still, she did not prosper, and somehow, could
not contrive to lay by a single dollar for a 'rainy day.'

When this had been the state of her affairs some time, she suddenly
paused, and taking a retrospective view of what had passed, inquired
within herself, why it was that, for all her unwearied labors, she had
nothing to show; why it was that others, with much less care and labor,
could hoard up treasures for themselves and children? She became more
and more convinced, as she reasoned, that every thing she had
undertaken in the city of New York had finally proved a failure; and
where her hopes had been raised the highest, there she felt the failure
had been the greatest, and the disappointment most severe.

After turning it in her mind for some time, she came to the conclusion,
that she had been taking part in a great drama, which was, in itself,
but one great system of robbery and wrong. 'Yes,' she said, 'the rich
rob the poor, and the poor rob one another.' True, she had not
received labor from others, and stinted their pay, as she felt had been
practised against her; but she had taken their work from them, which
was their only means to get money, and was the same to them in the end.
For instance-a gentleman where she lived would give her a dollar to
hire a poor man to clear the new-fallen snow from the steps and
side-walks. She would arise early, and perform the labor herself,
putting the money into her own pocket. A poor man would come along,
saying she ought to have let him have the job; he was poor, and needed
the pay for his family. She would harden her heart against him, and
answer-'I am poor too, and I need it for mine.' But, in her
retrospection, she thought of all the misery she might have been adding
to, in her selfish grasping, and it troubled her conscience sorely; and
this insensibility to the claims of human brotherhood, and the wants of
the destitute and wretched poor, she now saw, as she never had done
before, to be unfeeling, selfish and wicked. These reflections and
convictions gave rise to a sudden revulsion of feeling in the heart of
Isabella, and she began to look upon money and property with great
indifference, if not contempt-being at that time unable, probably, to
discern any difference between a miserly grasping at and hoarding of
money and means, and a true use of the good things of this life for
one's own comfort, and the relief of such as she might be enabled to
befriend and assist. One thing she was sure of-that the precepts, 'Do
unto others as ye would that others should do unto you,' 'Love your
neighbor as yourself,' and so forth, were maxims that had been but
little thought of by herself, or practised by those about her.

Her next decision was, that she must leave the city; it was no place
for her; yea, she felt called in spirit to leave it, and to travel east
and lecture. She had never been further east than the city, neither
had she any friends there of whom she had particular reason to expect
any thing; yet to her it was plain that her mission lay in the east,
and that she would find friends there. She determined on leaving; but
these determinations and convictions she kept close locked in her own
breast, knowing that if her children and friends were aware of it, they
would make such an ado about it as would render it very unpleasant, if
not distressing to all parties. Having made what preparations for
leaving she deemed necessary,-which was, to put up a few articles of
clothing in a pillow-case, all else being deemed an unnecessary
incumbrance,-about an hour before she left, she informed Mrs. Whiting,
the woman of the house where she was stopping, that her name was no
longer Isabella, but SOJOURNER; and that she was going east. And to
her inquiry, 'What are you going east for?' her answer was, 'The Spirit
calls me there, and I must go.'

She left the city on the morning of the 1st of June, 1843, crossing
over to Brooklyn, L.I.; and taking the rising sun for her only compass
and guide, she 'remembered Lot's wife,' and hoping to avoid her fate,
she resolved not to look back till she felt sure the wicked city from
which she was fleeing was left too far behind to be visible in the
distance; and when she first ventured to look back, she could just
discern the blue cloud of smoke that hung over it, and she thanked the
Lord that she was thus far removed from what seemed to her a second

She was now fairly started on her pilgrimage; her bundle in one hand,
and a little basket of provisions in the other, and two York shillings
in her purse-her heart strong in the faith that her true work lay
before her, and that the Lord was her director; and she doubted not he
would provide for and protect her, and that it would be very censurable
in her to burden herself with any thing more than a moderate supply for
her then present needs. Her mission was not merely to travel east, but
to 'lecture,' as she designated it; 'testifying of the hope that was in
her'-exhorting the people to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin, the
nature and origin of which she explained to them in accordance with her
own most curious and original views. Through her life, and all its
chequered changes, she has ever clung fast to her first permanent
impressions on religious subjects.

Wherever night overtook her, there she sought for lodgings-free, if she
might-if not, she paid; at a tavern, if she chanced to be at one-if
not, at a private dwelling; with the rich, if they would receive her-if
not, with the poor.

But she soon discovered that the largest houses were nearly always
full; if not quite full, company was soon expected; and that it was
much easier to find an unoccupied corner in a small house than in a
large one; and if a person possessed but a miserable roof over his
head, you might be sure of a welcome to part of it.

But this, she had penetration enough to see, was quite as much the
effect of a want of sympathy as of benevolence; and this was also very
apparent in her religious conversations with people who were strangers
to her. She said, 'she never could find out that the rich had any
religion. If I had been rich and accomplished, I could; for the rich
could always find religion in the rich, and I could find it among the

At first, she attended such meetings as she heard of, in the vicinity
of her travels, and spoke to the people as she found them assembled.
Afterwards, she advertised meetings of her own, and held forth to large
audiences, having, as she said, 'a good time.'

When she became weary of travelling, and wished a place to stop a while
and rest herself, she said some opening for her was always near at
hand; and the first time she needed rest, a man accosted her as she was
walking, inquiring if she was looking for work. She told him that was
not the object of her travels, but that she would willingly work a few
days, if any one wanted. He requested her to go to his family, who
were sadly in want of assistance, which he had been thus far unable to
supply. She went to the house where she was directed, and was received
by his family, one of whom was ill, as a 'Godsend;' and when she felt
constrained to resume her journey, they were very sorry, and would fain
have detained her longer; but as she urged the necessity of leaving,
they offered her what seemed in her eyes a great deal of money as a
remuneration for her labor, and an expression of their gratitude for
her opportune assistance; but she would only receive a very little of
it; enough, as she says, to enable her to pay tribute to Caesar, if it
was demanded of her; and two or three York shillings at a time were all
she allowed herself to take; and then, with purse replenished, and
strength renewed, she would once more set out to perform her mission.


As she drew near the center of the Island, she commenced, one evening
at nightfall, to solicit the favor of a night's lodging. She had
repeated her request a great many, it seemed to her some twenty times,
and as many times she received a negative answer. She walked on, the
stars and the tiny horns of the new moon shed but a dim light on her
lonely way, when she was familiarly accosted by two Indians, who took
her for an acquaintance. She told them they were mistaken in the
person; she was a stranger there, and asked them the direction to a
tavern. They informed her it was yet a long way-some two miles or so;
and inquired if she were alone. Not wishing for their protection, or
knowing what might be the character of their kindness, she answered,
'No, not exactly,' and passed on. At the end of a weary way, she came
to the tavern,-or rather, to a large building, which was occupied as a
court-house, tavern, and jail,-and on asking for a night's lodging, was
informed she could stay, if she would consent to be locked in. This to
her mind was an insuperable objection. To have a key turned on her was
a thing not to be thought of, at least not to be endured, and she again
took up her line of march, preferring to walk beneath the open sky, to
being locked up by a stranger in such a place. She had not walked far,
before she heard the voice of a woman under an open shed;

she ventured to accost her, and inquired if she knew where she
could get in for the night. The woman answered, that she did
not, unless she went home with them; and turning to her 'good
man,' asked him if the stranger could not share their home for
the night, to which he cheerfully assented. Sojourner thought it
evident he had been taking a drop too much, but as he was civil
and good-natured, and she did not feel inclined to spend the
night alone in the open air, she felt driven to the necessity of
accepting their hospitality, whatever it might prove to be. The
woman soon informed her that there was a ball in the place, at
which they would like to drop in a while, before they went to
their home.

Balls being no part of Sojourner's mission, she was not desirous
of attending; but her hostess could be satisfied with nothing
short of a taste of it, and she was forced to go with her, or
relinquish their company at once, in which move there might be
more exposure than in accompanying her. She went, and soon
found herself surrounded by an assemblage of people, collected
from the very dregs of society, too ignorant and degraded to
understand, much less entertain, a high or bright idea,-in a
dirty hovel, destitute of every comfort, and where the fumes of
whiskey were abundant and powerful.

Sojourner's guide there was too much charmed with the
combined entertainments of the place to be able to tear herself
away, till she found her faculties for enjoyment failing her, from
a too free use of liquor; and she betook herself to bed till she
could recover them. Sojourner, seated in a corner, had time for
many reflections, and refrained from lecturing them, in obedience
to the recommendation, 'Cast not your pearls,' &c. When
the night was far spent, the husband of the sleeping woman
aroused the sleeper, and reminded her that she was not very
polite to the woman she had invited to sleep at her house, and
of the propriety of returning home. They once more emerged
into the pure air, which to our friend Sojourner, after so long
breathing the noisome air of the ball-room, was most refreshing
and grateful. Just as day dawned, they reached the place they
called their home. Sojourner now saw that she had lost nothing
in the shape of rest by remaining so long at the ball, as their
miserable cabin afforded but one bunk or pallet for sleeping; and
had there been many such, she would have preferred sitting up
all night to occupying one like it. They very politely offered her
the bed, if she would use it; but civilly declining, she waited for
morning with an eagerness of desire she never felt before on the
subject, and was never more happy than when the eye of day
shed its golden light once more over the earth. She was once
more free, and while daylight should last, independent, and
needed no invitation to pursue her journey. Let these facts teach
us, that every pedestrian in the world is not a vagabond, and that
it is a dangerous thing to compel any one to receive that hospitality
from the vicious and abandoned which they should have
received from us,-as thousands can testify, who have thus been
caught in the snares of the wicked.

The fourth of July, Isabella arrived at Huntingdon; from
thence she went to Cold Springs, where she found the people
making preparations for a mass temperance-meeting. With her
usual alacrity, she entered into their labors, getting up dishes a la
New York, greatly to the satisfaction of those she assisted. After
remaining at Cold Springs some three weeks, she returned to
Huntingdon, where she took boat for Connecticut. Landing at
Bridgeport, she again resumed her travels towards the north-east,
lecturing some, and working some, to get wherewith to pay
tribute to Caesar, as she called it; and in this manner she presently
came to the city of New Haven, where she found many meetings,
which she attended-at some of which, she was allowed to
express her views freely, and without reservation. She also called
meetings expressly to give herself an opportunity to be heard;
and found in the city many true friends of Jesus, as she judged,
with whom she held communion of spirit, having no preference
for one sect more than another, but being well satisfied with all
who gave her evidence of having known or loved the Saviour.

After thus delivering her testimony in this pleasant city, feeling
she had not as yet found an abiding place, she went from
thence to Bristol, at the request of a zealous sister, who desired
her to go to the latter place, and hold a religious conversation
with some friends of hers there. She went as requested, found
the people kindly and religiously disposed, and through them
she became acquainted with several very interesting persons.

A spiritually-minded brother in Bristol, becoming interested
in her new views and original opinions, requested as a favor that
she would go to Hartford, to see and converse with friends of his
there. Standing ready to perform any service in the Lord, she
went to Hartford as desired, bearing in her hand the following
note from this brother:-

'SISTER,-I send you this living messenger, as I believe
her to be one that God loves. Ethiopia is stretching forth
her hands unto God. You can see by this sister, that God
does by his Spirit alone teach his own children things to
come. Please receive her, and she will tell you some new
things. Let her tell her story without interrupting her, and
give close attention, and you will see she has got the lever
of truth, that God helps her to pry where but few can. She
cannot read or write, but the law is in her heart.

'Send her to brother -, brother -, and where she can do
the most good.
'From your brother, H. L. B.'


As soon as Isabella saw God as an all-powerful, all-pervading
spirit, she became desirous of hearing all that had been written
of him, and listened to the account of the creation of the world
and its first inhabitants, as contained in the first chapters of
Genesis, with peculiar interest. For some time she received it all
literally, though it appeared strange to her that 'God worked by
the day, got tired, and stopped to rest,' &c. But after a little time,
she began to reason upon it, thus-'Why, if God works by the
day, and one day's work tires him, and he is obliged to rest,
either from weariness or on account of darkness, or if he waited
for the "cool of the day to walk in the garden," because he was
inconvenienced by the heat of the sun, why then it seems that
God cannot do as much as I can; for I can bear the sun at noon,
and work several days and nights in succession without being
much tired. Or, if he rested nights because of the darkness, it is
very queer that he should make the night so dark that he could
not see himself. If I had been God, I would have made the night
light enough for my own convenience, surely.' But the moment
she placed this idea of God by the side of the impression
she had once so suddenly received of his inconceivable greatness
and entire spirituality, that moment she exclaimed mentally,
'No, God does not stop to rest, for he is a spirit, and cannot tire;
he cannot want for light, for he hath all light in himself. And if
"God is all in all," and "worketh all in all," as I have heard them
read, then it is impossible he should rest at all; for if he did, every
other thing would stop and rest too; the waters would not flow,
and the fishes could not swim; and all motion must cease. God
could have no pauses in his work, and he needed no Sabbaths of
rest. Man might need them, and he should take them when he
needed them, whenever he required rest. As it regarded the
worship of God, he was to be worshipped at all times and in all
places; and one portion of time never seemed to her more holy
than another.'

These views, which were the results of the workings of her
own mind, assisted solely by the light of her own experience and
very limited knowledge, were, for a long time after their adoption,
closely locked in her own breast, fearing lest their avowal
might bring upon her the imputation of 'infidelity,'-the usual
charge preferred by all religionists, against those who entertain
religious views and feelings differing materially from their own.
If, from their own sad experience, they are withheld from shouting
the cry of 'infidel,' they fail not to see and to feel, ay, and
to say, that the dissenters are not of the right spirit, and that their
spiritual eyes have never been unsealed.

While travelling in Connecticut, she met a minister, with
whom she held a long discussion on these points, as well as on
various other topics, such as the origin of all things, especially the
origin of evil, at the same time bearing her testimony strongly
against a paid ministry. He belonged to that class, and, as a matter
of course, as strongly advocated his own side of the question.

I had forgotten to mention, in its proper place, a very important
fact, that when she was examining the Scriptures, she wished
to hear them without comment; but if she employed adult
persons to read them to her, and she asked them to read a passage
over again, they invariably commenced to explain, by giving her
their version of it; and in this way, they tried her feelings
In consequence of this, she ceased to ask adult persons to
read the Bible to her, and substituted children in their stead.
Children, as soon as they could read distinctly, would re-read the
same sentence to her, as often as she wished, and without
comment; and in that way she was enabled to see what her own
mind could make out of the record, and that, she said, was what
she wanted, and not what others thought it to mean. She wished
to compare the teachings of the Bible with the witness within
her; and she came to the conclusion, that the spirit of truth spoke
in those records, but that the recorders of those truths had
intermingled with them ideas and suppositions of their own.
This is one among the many proofs of her energy and independence
of character.

When it became known to her children, that Sojourner had
left New York, they were filled with wonder and alarm. Where
could she have gone, and why had she left? were questions no
one could answer satisfactorily. Now, their imaginations painted
her as a wandering maniac-and again they feared she had been
left to commit suicide; and many were the tears they shed at the
loss of her.

But when she reached Berlin, Conn., she wrote to them by
amanuensis, informing them of her whereabouts, and waiting an
answer to her letter; thus quieting their fears, and gladdening
their hearts once more with assurances of her continued life and
her love.


In Hartford and vicinity, she met with several persons who
believed in the 'Second Advent' doctrines; or, the immediate
personal appearance of Jesus Christ. At first she thought she had
never heard of 'Second Advent.' But when it was explained to
her, she recollected having once attended Mr. Miller's meeting
in New York, where she saw a great many enigmatical pictures
hanging on the wall, which she could not understand, and
which, being out of the reach of her understanding, failed to
interest her. In this section of country, she attended two
camp-meetings of the believers in these doctrines-the 'second advent'
excitement being then at its greatest height. The last
meeting was at Windsor Lock. The people, as a matter of course,
eagerly inquired of her concerning her belief, as it regarded their
most important tenet. She told them it had not been revealed to
her; perhaps, if she could read, she might see it differently.
Sometimes, to their eager inquiry, 'Oh, don't you believe the
Lord is coming?' she answered, 'I believe the Lord is as near as
he can be, and not be it.' With these evasive and non-exciting
answers, she kept their minds calm as it respected her unbelief,
till she could have an opportunity to hear their views fairly
stated, in order to judge more understandingly of this matter,
and see if, in her estimation, there was any good ground for
expecting an event which was, in the minds of so many, as it
were, shaking the very foundations of the universe. She was
invited to join them in their religious exercises, and accepted the
invitation-praying, and talking in her own peculiar style, and
attracting many about her by her singing.

When she had convinced the people that she was a lover of
God and his cause, and had gained a good standing with them,
so that she could get a hearing among them, she had become
quite sure in her own mind that they were laboring under a
delusion, and she commenced to use her influence to calm the
fears of the people, and pour oil upon the troubled waters. In
one part of the grounds, she found a knot of people greatly
excited: she mounted a stump and called out, 'Hear! hear!'
When the people had gathered around her, as they were in a
state to listen to any thing new, she addressed them as 'children,'
and asked them why they made such a 'To-do;-are you
not commanded to "watch and pray?" You are neither watching
nor praying.' And she bade them, with the tones of a kind
mother, retire to their tents, and there watch and pray, without
noise or tumult, for the Lord would not come to such a scene
of confusion; 'the Lord came still and quiet.' She assured them,
'the Lord might come, move all through the camp, and go away
again, and they never know it,' in the state they then were.

They seemed glad to seize upon any reason for being less
agitated and distressed, and many of them suppressed their noisy
terror, and retired to their tents to 'watch and pray;' begging
others to do the same, and listen to the advice of the good sister.
She felt she had done some good, and then went to listen further
to the preachers. They appeared to her to be doing their utmost
to agitate and excite the people, who were already too much
excited; and when she had listened till her feelings would let her
listen silently no longer, she arose and addressed the preachers.
The following are specimens of her speech:-

'Here you are talking about being "changed in the twinkling
of an eye." If the Lord should come, he'd change you to nothing!
for there is nothing to you.

'You seem to be expecting to go to some parlor away up
somewhere, and when the wicked have been burnt, you are
coming back to walk in triumph over their ashes-this is to
be your New Jerusalem!! Now, I can't see any thing so very
nice in that, coming back to such a muss as that will be, a
world covered with the ashes of the wicked! Besides, if the Lord
comes and burns-as you say he will-I am not going away; I
am going to stay here and stand the fire, like Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego! And Jesus will walk with me through the fire,
and keep me from harm. Nothing belonging to God can burn,
any more than God himself; such shall have no need to go away
to escape the fire! No, I shall remain. Do you tell me that God's
children can't stand fire?' And her manner and tone spoke louder
than words, saying, 'It is absurd to think so!'

The ministers were taken quite aback at so unexpected an
opposer, and one of them, in the kindest possible manner,
commenced a discussion with her, by asking her questions, and
quoting scripture to her; concluding, finally, that although she
had learned nothing of the great doctrine which was so exclusively
occupying their minds at the time, she had learned much
that man had never taught her.

At this meeting, she received the address of different persons,
residing in various places, with an invitation to visit them. She
promised to go soon to Cabotville, and started, shaping her
course for that place. She arrived at Springfield one evening at
six o'clock, and immediately began to search for a lodging for
the night. She walked from six till past nine, and was then on the
road from Springfield to Cabotville, before she found any one
sufficiently hospitable to give her a night's shelter under their
roof. Then a man gave her twenty-five cents, and bade her
go to a tavern and stay all night. She did so, returning in the
morning to thank him, assuring him she had put his money to
its legitimate use. She found a number of the friends she had seen
at Windsor when she reached the manufacturing town of Cabotville,
(which has lately taken the name of Chicopee,) and
with them she spent a pleasant week or more; after which, she
left them to visit the Shaker village in Enfield. She now began
to think of finding a resting place, at least, for a season; for she
had performed quite a long journey, considering she had walked
most of the way; and she had a mind to look in upon the
Shakers, and see how things were there, and whether there was
any opening there for her. But on her way back to Springfield,
she called at a house and asked for a piece of bread; her request
was granted, and she was kindly invited to tarry all night, as it
was getting late, and she would not be able to stay at every house
in that vicinity, which invitation she cheerfully accepted. When
the man of the house came in, he recollected having seen her at
the camp-meeting, and repeated some conversations, by which
she recognized him again. He soon proposed having a meeting
that evening, went out and notified his friends and neighbors,
who came together, and she once more held forth to them in her
peculiar style. Through the agency of this meeting, she became
acquainted with several people residing in Springfield, to whose
houses she was cordially invited, and with whom she spent some
pleasant time.

One of these friends, writing of her arrival there, speaks as
follows. After saying that she and her people belonged to that
class of persons who believed in the second advent doctrines; and
that this class, believing also in freedom of speech and action,
often found at their meetings many singular people, who did not
agree with them in their principal doctrine; and that, being thus
prepared to hear new and strange things, 'They listened eagerly
to Sojourner, and drank in all she said;'-and also, that she
'soon became a favorite among them; that when she arose to
speak in their assemblies, her commanding figure and dignified
manner hushed every trifler into silence, and her singular and
sometimes uncouth modes of expression never provoked a
laugh, but often were the whole audience melted into tears by
her touching stories.' She also adds, 'Many were the lessons of
wisdom and faith I have delighted to learn from her.' . . . . 'She
continued a great favorite in our meetings, both on account of
her remarkable gift in prayer, and still more remarkable talent for
singing, . . . and the aptness and point of her remarks, frequently
illustrated by figures the most original and expressive.

'As we were walking the other day, she said she had often
thought what a beautiful world this would be, when we should
see every thing right side up. Now, we see every thing topsy-turvy, and
all is confusion.' For a person who knows nothing of
this fact in the science of optics, this seemed quite a remarkable

'We also loved her for her sincere and ardent piety, her
unwavering faith in God, and her contempt of what the world
calls fashion, and what we call folly.

'She was in search of a quiet place, where a way-worn
traveller might rest. She had heard of Fruitlands, and was
inclined to go there; but the friends she found here thought it
best for her to visit Northampton. She passed her time, while
with us, working wherever her work was needed, and talking
where work was not needed.

'She would not receive money for her work, saying she
worked for the Lord; and if her wants were supplied, she
received it as from the Lord.

'She remained with us till far into winter, when we introduced
her at the Northampton Association.' . . . . 'She wrote to
me from thence, that she had found the quiet resting place she
had so long desired. And she has remained there ever since.'


When Sojourner had been at Northampton a few months, she
attended another camp-meeting, at which she performed a very
important part.

A party of wild young men, with no motive but that of
entertaining themselves by annoying and injuring the feelings of
others, had assembled at the meeting, hooting and yelling, and
in various ways interrupting the services, and causing much
disturbance. Those who had the charge of the meeting, having
tried their persuasive powers in vain, grew impatient and tried

The young men, considering themselves insulted, collected
their friends, to the number of a hundred or more, dispersed
themselves through the grounds, making the most frightful
noises, and threatening to fire the tents. It was said the authorities
of the meeting sat in grave consultation, decided to have the
ring-leaders arrested, and sent for the constable, to the great
displeasure of some of the company, who were opposed to such
an appeal to force and arms. Be that as it may, Sojourner, seeing
great consternation depicted in every countenance, caught the
contagion, and, ere she was aware, found herself quaking with

Under the impulse of this sudden emotion, she fled to the
most retired corner of a tent, and secreted herself behind a trunk.
saying to herself, 'I am the only colored person here, and on me,
probably, their wicked mischief will fall first, and perhaps fatally.'
But feeling how great was her insecurity even there, as the
very tent began to shake from its foundations, she began to
soliloquise as follows:-

'Shall I run away and hide from the Devil? Me, a servant of
the living God? Have I not faith enough to go out and quell that
mob, when I know it is written-"One shall chase a thousand,
and two put ten thousand to flight"? I know there are not a
thousand here; and I know I am a servant of the living God. I'll
go to the rescue, and the Lord shall go with and protect me.

'Oh,' said she, 'I felt as if I had three hearts! and that they
were so large, my body could hardly hold them!'

She now came forth from her hiding-place, and invited several
to go with her and see what they could do to still the raging
of the moral elements. They declined, and considered her wild
to think of it.

The meeting was in the open fields-the full moon shed its
saddened light over all-and the woman who was that evening
to address them was trembling on the preachers' stand. The
noise and confusion were now terrific. Sojourner left the tent
alone and unaided, and walking some thirty rods to the top of
a small rise of ground, commenced to sing, in her most fervid
manner, with all the strength of her most powerful voice, the
hymn on the resurrection of Christ-

It was early in the morning-it was early in the morning,
Just at the break of day-
When he rose-when he rose-when he rose,
And went to heaven on a cloud.'

All who have ever heard her sing this hymn will probably
remember it as long as they remember her. The hymn, the tune,
the style, are each too closely associated with to be easily
separated from herself, and when sung in one of her most animated
moods, in the open air, with the utmost strength of her most
powerful voice, must have been truly thrilling.

As she commenced to sing, the young men made a rush
towards her, and she was immediately encircled by a dense body
of the rioters, many of them armed with sticks or clubs as their
weapons of defence, if not of attack. As the circle narrowed
around her, she ceased singing, and after a short pause, inquired,
in a gentle but firm tone, 'Why do you come about me with
clubs and sticks? I am not doing harm to any one.' 'We ar'n't
a going to hurt you, old woman; we came to hear you sing,'
cried many voices, simultaneously. 'Sing to us, old woman,'
cries one. 'Talk to us, old woman,' says another. 'Pray, old
woman,' says a third. 'Tell us your experience,' says a fourth.
'You stand and smoke so near me, I cannot sing or talk,' she

'Stand back,' said several authoritative voices, with not the
most gentle or courteous accompaniments, raising their rude
weapons in the air. The crowd suddenly gave back, the circle
became larger, as many voices again called for singing, talking,
or praying, backed by assurances that no one should be allowed
to hurt her-the speakers declaring with an oath, that they
would 'knock down ' any person who should offer her the
least indignity.

She looked about her, and with her usual discrimination, said
inwardly-'Here must be many young men in all this assemblage,
bearing within them hearts susceptible of good impressions.
I will speak to them.' She did speak; they silently heard,
and civilly asked her many questions. It seemed to her to be
given her at the time to answer them with truth and wisdom
beyond herself. Her speech had operated on the roused passions
of the mob like oil on agitated waters; they were, as a whole,
entirely subdued, and only clamored when she ceased to speak
or sing. Those who stood in the back ground, after the circle was
enlarged, cried out, 'Sing aloud, old woman, we can't hear.'
Those who held the sceptre of power among them requested
that she should make a pulpit of a neighboring wagon. She said,
'If I do, they'll overthrow it.' 'No, they sha'n't-he who dares
hurt you, we'll knock him down instantly, d-n him,' cried
the chiefs. 'No we won't, no we won't, nobody shall hurt you,'
answered the many voices of the mob. They kindly assisted her
to mount the wagon, from which she spoke and sung to them
about an hour. Of all she said to them on the occasion, she
remembers only the following:-

'Well, there are two congregations on this ground. It is
written that there shall be a separation, and the sheep shall be
separated from the goats. The other preachers have the sheep,
I have the goats. And I have a few sheep among my goats, but
they are very ragged.' This exordium produced great laughter.
When she became wearied with talking, she began to cast about
her to contrive some way to induce them to disperse. While she
paused, they loudly clamored for 'more,' 'more,'-'sing,'
'sing more.' She motioned them to be quiet, and called out to
them: 'Children, I have talked and sung to you, as you asked
me; and now I have a request to make of you; will you grant it?'
'Yes, yes, yes,' resounded from every quarter. 'Well, it is this,'
she answered; 'if I will sing one more hymn for you, will you
then go away, and leave us this night in peace?' 'Yes, yes,'
came faintly, feebly from a few. 'I repeat it,' says Sojourner,
'and I want an answer from you all, as of one accord. If I will
sing you one more, will you go away, and leave us this night in
peace?' 'Yes, yes, yes,' shouted many voices, with hearty emphasis.
'I repeat my request once more,' said she, 'and I want
you all to answer.' And she reiterated the words again. This time
a long, loud 'Yes-yes-yes,' came up, as from the multitudinous mouth
of the entire mob. 'AMEN! it is SEALED,' repeated
Sojourner, in the deepest and most solemn tones of her powerful
and sonorous voice. Its effect ran through the multitude, like an
electric shock; and the most of them considered themselves
bound by their promise, as they might have failed to do under
less imposing circumstances. Some of them began instantly to
leave; others said, 'Are we not to have one more hymn?'
'Yes,' answered their entertainer, and she commenced to sing:

'I bless the Lord I've got my seal-to-day and to-day-
To slay Goliath in the field-to-day and to-day;
The good old way is a righteous way,
I mean to take the kingdom in the good old way.'

While singing, she heard some enforcing obedience to their
promise, while a few seemed refusing to abide by it. But before
she had quite concluded, she saw them turn from her, and in the
course of a few minutes, they were running as fast as they well
could in a solid body; and she says she can compare them to
nothing but a swarm of bees, so dense was their phalanx, so
straight their course, so hurried their march. As they passed with
a rush very near the stand of the other preachers, the hearts of
the people were smitten with fear, thinking that their entertainer
had failed to enchain them longer with her spell, and that they
were coming upon them with redoubled and remorseless fury.
But they found they were mistaken, and that their fears were
groundless; for, before they could well recover from their surprise,
every rioter was gone, and not one was left on the
grounds, or seen there again during the meeting. Sojourner was
informed that as her audience reached the main road, some
distance from the tents, a few of the rebellious spirits refused to
go on, and proposed returning; but their leaders said, 'No-we
have promised to leave-all promised, and we must go, all go,
and you shall none of you return again.'

She did not fall in love at first sight with the Northampton
Association, for she arrived there at a time when appearances did
not correspond with the ideas of associationists, as they had been
spread out in their writings; for their phalanx was a factory, and
they were wanting in means to carry out their ideas of beauty
and elegance, as they would have done in different circumstances.
But she thought she would make an effort to tarry with
them one night, though that seemed to her no desirable affair.
But as soon as she saw that accomplished, literary, and refined
persons were living in that plain and simple manner, and submitting
to the labors and privations incident to such an infant
institution, she said, 'Well, if these can live here, I can.'
Afterwards, she gradually became pleased with, and attached to, the
place and the people, as well she might; for it must have been no
small thing to have found a home in a 'Community composed
of some of the choicest spirits of the age,' where all was
by an equality of feeling, a liberty of thought and speech,
and a largeness of soul, she could not have before met with, to
the same extent, in any of her wanderings.

Our first knowledge of her was derived from a friend who
had resided for a time in the 'Community,' and who, after
describing her, and singing one of her hymns, wished that we
might see her. But we little thought, at that time, that we should
ever pen these 'simple annals' of this child of nature.

When we first saw her, she was working with a hearty good
will; saying she would not be induced to take regular wages,
believing, as once before, that now Providence had provided her
with a never-failing fount, from which her every want might be
perpetually supplied through her mortal life. In this, she had
calculated too fast. For the Associationists found, that, taking
every thing into consideration, they would find it most expedient
to act individually; and again, the subject of this sketch found
her dreams unreal, and herself flung back upon her own resources
for the supply of her needs. This she might have found
more inconvenient at her time of life-for labor, exposure, and
hardship had made sad inroads upon her iron constitution, by
inducing chronic disease and premature old age-had she not
remained under the shadow of one,* who never wearies in
doing good, giving to the needy, and supplying the wants of the
destitute. She has now set her heart upon having a little home
of her own, even at this late hour of life, where she may feel a
greater freedom than she can in the house of another, and where
she can repose a little, after her day of action has passed by. And
for such a 'home' she is now dependant on the charities of the
benevolent, and to them we appeal with confidence.

Through all the scenes of her eventful life may be traced the
energy of a naturally powerful mind-the fearlessness and child-like
simplicity of one untrammelled by education or conventional
customs-purity of character-an unflinching adherence
to principle-and a native enthusiasm, which, under different
circumstances, might easily have produced another Joan of Arc.

With all her fervor, and enthusiasm, and speculation, her
religion is not tinctured in the least with gloom. No doubt, no
hesitation, no despondency, spreads a cloud over her soul; but
all is bright, clear, positive, and at times ecstatic. Her trust is in
God, and from him she looks for good, and not evil. She feels
that 'perfect love casteth out fear.'

Having more than once found herself awaking from a mortifying
delusion,-as in the case of the Sing-Sing kingdom,-and
resolving not to be thus deluded again, she has set suspicion to
guard the door of her heart, and allows it perhaps to be aroused
by too slight causes, on certain subjects-her vivid imagination
assisting to magnify the phantoms of her fears into gigantic
proportions, much beyond their real size; instead of resolutely
adhering to the rule we all like best, when it is to be applied to
ourselves-that of placing every thing we see to the account of
the best possible motive, until time and circumstance prove that
we were wrong. Where no good motive can be assigned, it may
become our duty to suspend our judgment till evidence can be

In the application of this rule, it is an undoubted duty to
exercise a commendable prudence, by refusing to repose any
important trust to the keeping of persons who may be strangers
to us, and whose trustworthiness we have never seen tried. But
no possible good, but incalculable evil may and does arise from
the too common practice of placing all conduct, the source of
which we do not fully understand, to the worst of intentions.
How often is the gentle, timid soul discouraged, and driven
perhaps to despondency, by finding its 'good evil spoken of;'
and a well-meant but mistaken action loaded with an evil design!

If the world would but sedulously set about reforming itself
on this one point, who can calculate the change it would
produce-the evil it would annihilate, and the happiness it would
confer! None but an all-seeing eye could at once embrace so vast
a result. A result, how desirable! and one that can be brought
about only by the most simple process-that of every individual
seeing to it that he commit not this sin himself. For why should
we allow in ourselves, the very fault we most dislike, when
committed against us? Shall we not at least aim at consistency?

Had she possessed less generous self-sacrifice, more knowledge of
the world and of business matters in general, and had she
failed to take it for granted that others were like herself, and
would, when her turn came to need, do as she had done, and
find it 'more blessed to give than to receive,' she might have
laid by something for the future. For few, perhaps, have ever
possessed the power and inclination, in the same degree, at one
and the same time, to labor as she has done, both day and night,
for so long a period of time. And had these energies been
well-directed, and the proceeds well husbanded, since she has
been her own mistress, they would have given her an independence
during her natural life. But her constitutional biases, and
her early training, or rather want of training, prevented this
result; and it is too late now to remedy the great mistake. Shall
she then be left to want? Who will not answer. 'No!'



In the spring of 1849, Sojourner made a visit to her eldest
daughter, Diana, who has ever suffered from ill health, and
remained with Mr. Dumont, Isabella's humane master. She
found him still living, though advanced in age, and reduced in
property, (as he had been for a number of years,) but greatly
enlightened on the subject of slavery. He said he could then see
that 'slavery was the wickedest thing in the world, the greatest
curse the earth had ever felt-that it was then very clear to his
mind that it was so, though, while he was a slaveholder himself,
he did not see it so, and thought it was as right as holding any
other property.' Sojourner remarked to him, that it might be
the same with those who are now slaveholders. 'O, no,'
replied he, with warmth, 'it cannot be. For, now, the sin of
slavery is so clearly written out, and so much talked against,-(why,
the whole world cries out against it!)-that if any one says
he don't know, and has not heard, he must, I think, be a liar. In
my slaveholding days, there were few that spoke against it, and
these few made little impression on any one. Had it been as it
is now, think you I could have held slaves? No! I should not
have dared to do it, but should have emancipated every one of
them. Now, it is very different; all may hear if they will.'

Yes, reader, if any one feels that the tocsin of alarm, or the
anti-slavery trump, must sound a louder note before they can
hear it, one would think they must be very hard of hearing,-yea, that
they belong to that class, of whom it may be truly said,
'they have stopped their ears that they may not hear.'

She received a letter from her daughter Diana, dated Hyde
Park, December 19, 1849, which informed her that Mr. Dumont had
'gone West' with some of his sons-that he had
taken along with him, probably through mistake, the few articles
of furniture she had left with him. 'Never mind,' says Sojourner,
'what we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord.' She
thanked the Lord with fervor, that she had lived to hear her
master say such blessed things! She recalled the lectures he used
to give his slaves, on speaking the truth and being honest, and
laughing, she says he taught us not to lie and steal, when he was
stealing all the time himself, and did not know it! Oh! how sweet
to my mind was this confession! And what a confession for a
master to make to a slave! A slaveholding master turned to a
brother! Poor old man, may the Lord bless him, and all slave-holders
partake of his spirit!


HURLEY, ULSTER Co., Oct. 13th, 1834

This is to certify, that I am well acquainted with Isabella,
this colored woman; I have been acquainted with her from
her infancy; she has been in my employ for one year, and
she was a faithful servant, honest, and industrious; and have
always known her to be in good report by all who employed her.


NEW PALTZ, ULSTER Co., Oct. 13th, 1834

This is to certify, that Isabella, this colored woman, lived
with me since the year 1810, and that she has always been
a good and faithful servant; and the eighteen years that she
was with me, I always found her to be perfectly honest. I
have always heard her well spoken of by every one that has
employed her.



We, the undersigned having known Isabella (or Sojourner
Truth) for several years, most cheerfully bear testimony to
her uniform good character, her untiring industry, kind
deportment, unwearied benevolence, and the many social
and excellent traits which make her worthy to bear her
adopted name.


BOSTON, March, 1850

My acquaintance with the subject of the accompanying
Narrative, Sojourner Truth, for several years past, has led
me to form a very high appreciation of her understanding,
moral integrity, disinterested kindness, and religious sincerity
and enlightenment. Any assistance or co-operation
that she may receive in the sale of her Narrative, or in any
other manner, I am sure will be meritoriously bestowed.


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