Part 3 out of 5
The colony was comprised of some fourteen or fifteen families, and
numbered some over fifty persons in all. The first business done after
my arrival, was to appoint a board of managers, to take the general
oversight of all the public business of the colony. The board consisted of
seven men, chosen by the settlers, and as I was now one of them, they gave
me the office of President. It was also resolved by the board, to send out
two agents for the purpose of soliciting aid for the erection of houses
for worship, and for the maintenance of schools in the colony.
The Rev. N. Paul was chosen one of their agents, and he received from me a
power of attorney, authorising him to collect funds for the above purposes
in England, Ireland, and Scotland; the other, I. Lewis was empowered to
solicit and collect funds for the same objects in the United States.
Preparations were immediately made to fit Mr. Paul out for his mission to
England, from whence he was to remit any funds he might receive to Arthur
Tappan, of New York City; first to pay for his outfit, and afterwards to
the treasurer of the board of managers, for the support of schools in
Wilberforce. Mr. Paul, however, still lacked money to proceed to England,
and therefore went to Rochester, where he found my old and tried friend
Everard Peck; who was ever known as the poor man's friend, and the support
of the weak everywhere. To this good man, whose memory is still dear to
thousands, Mr. Paul showed his power of attorney, at the same time
informing him of the condition and wants of the colony; and as was ever
his wont, when help was needed, his purse, (though not one of the
heaviest), was at his service. Through the kind influence of Mr. Peck, and
some of the colored friends in that city, a note for seven hundred dollars
was drawn up, signed by Mr. P. and cashed at the Bank, which enabled the
agent to make the voyage without further delay. He reached England, and
collected quite large sums of money, but entirely failed in the remittance
of any sums, either to Mr. Tappan or myself. When the note of seven
hundred dollars became due, Mr. Peck was obliged to pay, and lose it. It
was out of my power, nor had any of the friends the means to do any thing
towards paying it, inasmuch as they had assisted Paul all they could and
got nothing in return. There was one thing, however, that the reverend
gentleman did do,--he wrote me from time to time, to keep me advised of
the success of his mission, and once informed me that he had then twelve
hundred dollars on hand; but not a farthing could we get. We wrote him
again and again, reminding him of the bank debt, and the uneasiness of his
friends on account of it, but all to no purpose,--the Atlantic was between
us, and he was making money too easily, to like to be interrupted. He
never paid one dollar.
Let us now look after the other agent, who had likewise been fitted
out, to prosecute his mission in the States. That he collected money
professedly for the assistance of the colony, is too well known to
require proof, but how much, we could not determine; we had reason to
believe, however, that he retained quite a large sum. He would neither pay
it over to the board, nor give any account of his proceedings. Very little
did he ever pay over to the aid of the colony as designed. He was
frequently written to, and every means in our power used, to induce him to
give some account of his mission, but in vain; he would do nothing of the
kind. Things went on in this way for two years, when it became evident
that he had no intention of satisfying the minds of the settlers; and
farther, that he meant to collect what he could, and use it as he pleased.
We learned too, that when abroad, he lived extravagantly,--putting up at
the most expensive hotels, giving parties, and doing many things, not only
beyond his means, but that brought dishonor on the cause and colony. When
he returned to the settlement, he would, if he had funds, make presents to
his particular friends instead of paying it to the treasurer, as he was
pledged to do, until the majority of the colony became thoroughly
disgusted with his heartlessness and dishonesty. It was also perceivable
that Lewis and Paul both, were getting weary of the solicitations of the
board and complaints of the settlers, and were anxious to be rid of them,
and enjoy their ill gotten gains in their own way.
It was never intended by the managers, to send out agents to beg money to
be divided among the colonists; but to support schools, &c. Most of the
settlers were able to work and did so; and were now getting along quite
Finally, after we had tried every means in vain, to get a settlement with
Lewis, and to obtain his papers, there was nothing more we could do, but
to warn the public against him, by publishing the facts in the case; this
we did in various newspapers of Canada and in the States. An article
inserted in the "Rochester Observer," to that effect, was like throwing a
lighted match into a keg of powder. The excitement was intense on the part
of Lewis and his friends, who were joined by the friends of N. Paul, to
destroy, if they could, the board of managers. I, however, being the only
member of that devoted board, who happened to be extensively known in the
States, their anathemas were all poured out on me, and all their energies
brought forward to insure my destruction. They were few in number, it is
true, but they had money, and I had little to spend in litigation;
besides, Lewis was in debt, and his creditors did not like to see his
means of paying them swept away. The Canadians seemed to think there was
no harm done if Lewis did get money out of the "Yankees," as long as it
came into their hands at last, and so, on the whole, they raised a
tremendous storm, designed, however, to sweep nobody away but myself; and
I have continued to this day, notwithstanding all their artful malignity.
Nothing, I am persuaded, could have saved me from imprisonment at that
time, had I not possessed a high reputation for truth and honesty during
my previous sojourn in the colony.
Lewis had dealt somewhat extensively with Mr. Jones, who was the principal
agent for the Canada Company; but failing to fulfil his agreement,
regarding the payment for a large tract of land, it so exasperated Mr.
Jones, that he declared he would have nothing to do with any of the
colored people; and so when I wanted to buy a lot of land, he would not
sell it to me because he so despised Lewis.
How much harm can one wicked man do! and yet it cannot be right to judge
the character of a whole class or community by that of one person.
ROUGHING IT IN THE WILDS OF CANADA.
The "Canada Company," of which I have so frequently spoken, was an
association of wealthy gentlemen, residing in England; something like the
East India Company, especially regarding the title of lands. They had sent
on their agent and purchased a large tract of land known as the "Huron
Tract," extending from London to Lake Huron, where they laid out a
village, named Goderich, sixty miles distant from Wilberforce. With this
company, Mr. Lewis had contracted for a township of land, as agent for the
Cincinnati refugees; but failing to meet the demand, the company kindly
extended the time of payment; but when that time also passed without
receiving any thing from Lewis, the general agent, Mr. Jones became so
indignant, that he utterly refused to sell a foot of land to any colored
person whatever. This proved to be one of the greatest detriments to the
prosperity of the colony it ever met.
The Society of Friends at this time, however, with commendable sympathy
for the oppressed and abused colored residents of Cincinnati, and with
their proverbial liberality, raised a sum of money sufficient to purchase
eight hundred acres of land of the Canada Company for the benefit of the
colony. The funds were placed in the hands of one of their number,
Frederick Stover, who went to Canada as their agent, purchased the land,
and settled colored people upon it, which comprised nearly all of the
Wilberforce settlement. This occurred before I settled in Canada, and
the consequence was, when I desired to purchase land, none could be
obtained. At the time, however, of which I am speaking, the Canada Company
were constructing a road through their possessions, some seventy miles in
length, and the principal contractor, Mr. Ingersoll, had agreed to take
land in part payment for his services on the road. In accordance with this
agreement, he accepted one lot of land situated within the Wilberforce
settlement, which he agreed to sell to Mr. Lewis for twenty-five dollars.
Mr. Lewis, knowing that I was anxious to purchase, accepted the offer,
and then came and showed the contract, offering it to me on condition that
I paid him the twenty-five dollars which he had just paid Mr. Ingersoll.
This I was glad to do; I paid the demand; took an assignment on the back
of the receipt, and passed into immediate possession of the land. He at
the same time requested me to take up a note of twenty-five dollars for
him; which I did, on his promising to refund the money in a short time.
I commenced laboring on the wild land I had purchased; cleared some ten
acres, which in consequence of its being so heavily timbered, cost me at
least twenty-five dollars per acre; built a house and barn--supposing
myself its legal possessor,--until I chanced to meet Mr. Ingersoll, who
informed me that Mr. Jones had refused to sell him the land to be disposed
of to a colored person; that he had duly informed Lewis of the fact, and
had returned to him the twenty-five dollars received. Not a word of this,
had Lewis communicated to me, though he knew I was making expensive
improvements, in the faith that I was its only owner. Instead of atoning
for the wrong already done me, he made it the basis of a deeper injury.
After one year's residence in Wilberforce, I found it necessary to return
to Rochester to settle some unfinished business; and when on my way
thither I stopped at London, where I found Lewis, who had not only
preceded me but had taken out a _capias_, for forty pounds currency. I was
therefore obliged to get bail for my appearance at court, after which I
pursued my journey.
On my arrival in Rochester, I found business at a stand; and the community
in a state of excitement and alarm, on account of that fell destroyer, the
cholera. This was its first visit to the United States, and the fearful
havoc it was making, spread terror and consternation throughout the land.
I returned to Canada; but found on my arrival at London, that "the
pestilence that walketh at noon-day," had preceded me, and taken from that
village my friend, Mr. Ingersoll, with several others. So great had been
the alarm, that instead of my appearing at court as I expected to do, I
found it adjourned, and the judge returned to his home.
I hastened on to Wilberforce, which had fortunately escaped the fearful
scourge, with terrible apprehensions.
Having a little spare time, I went out with my rifle, in search of deer;
but soon came upon a large wolf, which I wounded with the first shot; he,
however, sprang aside and was gone. On looking about for him I espied
another!--reloading my rifle, I fired, and he fell dead at my feet, while
my dog at the same time I heard barking furiously. Having dispatched this
second intruder, I saw that my dog had the first one, entangled in the
branches of a fallen tree. I searched for my balls, and was vexed to find
that I had left them at home. In this predicament I cut with my knife, a
knot from a beech limb, put it in my rifle, and took deadly aim at the
enraged wolf. The wooden ball struck him between the eyes and killed him
on the spot.
The two dead animals, with their skins, I sold for nine dollars and a
half,--making pretty good wages for a few hours labor.
Hunting was very generally pursued by the settlers, with great earnestness
and considerable skill. The forest abounded with deer, wolves, bears, and
other wild animals. Bears were plenty, and very troublesome because so
dangerously tame. One day, our children had built for themselves a
play-house, a few rods from the door, and were enjoying their play when
they were called in to dinner. A moment after, I observed one of the
settlers gazing intently at the play-house; I called to know what so
attracted his attention, and he informed me that an old bear, with three
cubs, had just then taken possession of the playhouse. And sure enough
there they were! knocking about among the dishes, and munching the crumbs
of bread which the children had left. The man was supplied with a loaded
rifle and urged to shoot them, but he begged to be excused from a pitched
battle with so many; and the bears leisurely took their departure for the
woods without molestation. The play-house, however, was soon deserted by
the children after these unbidden guests had made so free with it; and
we were ourselves somewhat alarmed for the safety of our children, who
were accustomed to roam in the edge of the forest, and make swings of the
luxuriant grape vines.
But such incidents are common in a new country, surrounded as we were by a
NARROW ESCAPE OF A SMUGGLER.
From the time I first settled in Wilberforce, my house had ever been open
to travelers and strangers; but a conversation I happened to overhear,
led me to take a course different from what I had at first intended. I was
at a public house about twenty miles from home, when I heard the landlord
advising his guest to eat heartily, for, said he, "you will find nothing
more worthy of your attention, until you reach Wilberforce. When you
arrive at that settlement, inquire for A. Steward, from the States, and he
will give you a meal fit for a prince." I began to reflect on the subject
and concluded, inasmuch as people would send company to me, it would be
better to make some preparation for entertaining them. I had plenty of
furniture, and all I needed was a larger supply of food, to commence
keeping a tavern. This was easily obtained, and I opened a public house
which was well patronized.
One day while I was absent from home, a man drove to the door the finest
span of horses, I think I ever saw,--black as jet, with proudly arched
necks, and glossy tails that nearly swept the ground. The gentleman sprang
from his carriage, bounded through the open door, and in the most excited
manner, began to inquire "who owns this establishment? When will he
return? Can I be accommodated? Can I see your barn?" &c. The stable boy
took him to the barn, from whence he soon returned; his face flushed, and
breathing so heavily as to be heard all through the apartment; trembling
so violently that he could scarcely speak at all,--but made out to
inquire, "if there was not some place besides the barn where he could put
his horses?" He was told that there was a small shelter built for cows, in
bad weather, and the next moment he was examining it. In a very short time
he had his horses and carriage stowed away in the cow-shed. He acted like
a crazy man; but when he had secured his horses, he re-entered the house
and frankly apologized for his conduct. "I may as well tell you the
truth," said he; "I am suspected of smuggling goods; a reward is offered
for my arrest, and the constables are on my track, in pursuit of me. My
name is Cannouse, and I am from M----, in Ontario County."
But perhaps they can not prove you guilty of smuggling, said I, in an
"Ah," said he, "there is for me no such hope or probability; I have
been engaged for the last few months in the sale of dress-goods and
broad-cloths, and my exposure and flight is the consequence of my own
folly. While in the village of St. Catharines, I took a young girl out to
ride, after she had engaged to accompany another young fellow, which of
course offended him; and he being too well posted up on my affairs, went
directly to the custom house officer and informed against me. I was
sitting in the parlor, perfectly at ease, when a young man, a relative of
the young lady in question, burst into the room, shouting, 'Fly! fly! for
your life! The officers are upon you!' And I did fly; with barely time to
reach the woods, for as I sprang through the back door, the officers
entered through the front door. My horses were my first consideration;
they had been raised by my father, and should I lose them, I should never
dare to meet him again. In my hasty flight, I engaged the young man to
conceal them till night, and then to drive them to a certain place where I
would meet him. This he did, and I kept on my flight until I came to the
house of a friend, where I halted to make inquiries. The gentleman had
just come from London, and had seen handbills at every conspicuous place,
describing me and my horses. I asked him what I should do? He said, 'you
are not safe a moment; there is no hope but in flight; avoid the main
road, and get to the colony if you can; if you succeed, go to A. Steward;
he is an upright man and will never betray you for money,' And here I
am: if I am arrested, six months imprisonment, three hundred dollars fine,
and the forfeiture of my father's valuable and favorite horses, will be
my portion. I have had no regular meal for the last three days, and my
head aches violently."
We gave him some refreshment, and conducted him to a room, assuring him
that he should have it to himself. All remained quiet until midnight, when
a man knocked cautiously at our door. I opened it myself, and a gentleman,
looking carefully about the place, inquired,
"Are you full?"
"No," said I.
"Have you any travelers here to night?"
"Where are they?"
"In this room; walk in, sir."
He took the light from my hand, and stepping lightly up to a bed, where
two travelers were quietly sleeping, he closely examined their faces. He
soon returned the light, and without further inquiry retired from the
house. When his companions came up, I distinctly heard him tell them that
the smuggler was not there.
"You may be mistaken," said the other, "and we must search the barn for
This they did thoroughly, after procuring a lantern; but without finding
any thing to reward their diligent search; and they finally drove off.
When they had gone, Cannouse groaned most bitterly, and trembled from head
to foot at the thought of his narrow escape. The next day an officer rode
up to where the children were playing, with a handbill which he read, and
inquired if they had seen a person bearing that description, pass _that
day?_ They answered negatively, and he rode on. The poor frightened
Cannouse stayed with us a week; and nearly every day during the time, the
house and barn were searched for him. The children kept watch, and when
they saw any one coming they would let him know, in time to take himself
and horses into a thicket near by. When he thought pursuit was over, he
started to leave; but when, in a half hour after, a _posse_ of men drove
up to my door, flourishing their handbills, I thought it all over with
Cannouse. I told them that he was not there; but they chose to have
another search, and when they found nothing, the officer sprang into his
carriage, exclaiming, "come on, boys; we'll soon have him now; we have
tracked him here, and he can't be far off."
Cannouse had left us, feeling quite secure; but he had traveled but a
short distance, when he observed a horse shoe loose, and to get it
fastened he drove down to a blacksmith's shop, which happened to stand
at the foot of a hill; and between it and the highway there had been left
standing a clump of trees which nearly hid it from view. While there,
getting his horse shod, the officers passed him unobserved, and he
Some time after, a gentleman called on us who had seen Cannouse in
Michigan, where he was doing well. He had succeeded in reaching Detroit,
from whence he passed safely to his home; but probably learned a lesson
not to be forgotten. He was a talented young man--one who would have felt
deeply the disgrace of imprisonment,--and it was indeed a pleasure to me
to do what I could, to effect his release from an unenviable position. I
would never have betrayed him; but happily I was not asked directly for
him, until he was gone from my house and protection.
NARRATIVE OF TWO FUGITIVES FROM VIRGINIA.
The settlers in Wilberforce, were in general, industrious and thrifty
farmers: they cleared their land, sowed grain, planted orchards, raised
cattle, and in short, showed to the world that they were in no way
inferior to the white population, when given an equal chance with them. In
proof of this let me say, that it was uniformly the practice of persons
traveling from London to Goderich, to remain in our settlement over night,
in preference to going on to find entertainment among their own class of
people. And we believe that the whites are bound to admit, that the
experiment of the Wilberforce colony proves that the colored man can not
only take care of himself, but is capable of improvement; as industrious
and intelligent as themselves, when the yoke is taken from off their
necks, and a chance given them to exercise their abilities. True, many of
them had just escaped from cruel task-masters; ignorant of almost every
thing but the lash,--but the air of freedom so invigorated and put new
life into their weary bodies, that they soon became intelligent and
Among the settlers might be gathered many a thrilling narrative, of
suffering and hair-breadth escapes from the slave-land,--one of which I
will tell as 'twas told to me.
In a small rude cabin, belonging to one of the large plantations in
Virginia, sat at a late hour of the night, an afflicted slave-man and his
devoted wife, sad and weeping. At length the husband repeated what he
before had been saying:
"I tell you, wife, we must flee from this place, without delay. Oh, I
cannot endure the idea of seeing you sold for the Southern market, to say
nothing of myself; and we shall most likely be separated, which I can't
bear! Oh, Rosa, the thought distracts me,--I can't bear it!"
"Are you sure," said Rosa, "that master thinks of such a frightful doom
"Oh yes, I know it; I heard master to-day making a bargain with the slave
dealer that has been hanging about here so long; and when it was finished,
I heard him reading over the list, and our names, wife, are the first on
"Oh, dear!" sobbed the wife, "we shall certainly be retaken and whipped
to death; or else we shall starve in the wilderness! Oh, it is very hard
to be compelled to leave all our friends and the old plantation where we
"Yes; it is both hard and unjust," said Joe, and an indignant frown
contracted his brow,--"here is our birth-place, and here, for forty years
have I toiled early and late to enrich my master; and you, my poor wife, a
few years less; and now we are to be sold, separated, and all without a
choice of our own. We must go, Rosa. If we die, let us die together!"
"It shall be as you say, Joe," she replied, "but it frightens me to think
of the hardships of the way, and the danger of being recaptured."
"Courage, wife: no fate can be worse than the one designed for us; and we
have no time to lose. Tomorrow night, then, we must make the first effort
to gain our liberty, and leave all that is dear to us except each other!"
And they retired to rest, but not to sleep.
The following night was very dark; and as soon as all was quiet on the
plantation, they stole out of their cabin and stealthily crept over the
ground until they reached the highway; and then, guided only by the north
star, they made their way to the nearest woods. So fearful had they been
of being suspected, that they took no provision of any kind with them. All
night they plunged forward through the tangled thicket and under-brush,
surrounded by thick darkness, glancing now and then upward to their only
"Star of the North! though night winds drift the fleecy
drapery of the sky,
Between thy lamp and thee, I lift, yea, lift with hope
my sleepless eye."
When day dawned they threw their weary bodies on the ground, famished
and thirsty, and waited for the darkness to again conceal them while they
pursued their journey. The second day of their flight, the pain of hunger
became almost beyond endurance. They found a few roots which relieved them
a little; but frequently they lost their way, and becoming bewildered,
knew not which way to go; they pushed on, however, determined to keep as
far from their pursuers as possible. Their shoes were soon worn out; but
bare-footed, bare-headed, and famishing with hunger, they pressed forward,
until the fourth day, when they found themselves too weak to proceed
farther. Hope, the anchor of the soul, had failed them! They were starving
in a dense forest! No track or path could they find, and even had they
seen a human being, they would have been more terrified than at the sight
of a wild beast!
Poor Rosa, could go no farther--her strength was all gone--and as her
emaciated husband laid her on the cold earth, he exclaimed, "Oh, dear God!
_must_ we, after all our efforts, starve in this dark wilderness! Beside
his fainting wife, he finally stretched himself, sheltered only by a few
bushes, and tried to compose himself to die! but resting a few moments
revived him, and he aroused himself, to make one more effort for life!
Stay you here, wife, and I will try once more to find the highway; it
cannot be far from here; and if I am taken, I will submit to my fate
without a struggle; we can but die." So saying, he left her, and began to
reconnoitre the country around them. Much sooner than he expected
he emerged from the wood, and not far distant he saw a house in the
direction from whence he came; being, however, as most of the slaves are,
superstitious, he thought it would be a bad omen to turn backward, and so
continued to look about him. It seemed, he said, that some unseen power
held him, for though starving as he was, he could not take a step in that
direction; and at last as he turned around, to his great joy, he saw
another dwelling a little way off, and toward that he hastened his now
lightened footsteps. With a palpitating heart, he approached the door and
knocked cautiously. The man of the house opened it, and as soon as he saw
him, he said, "You are a fugitive slave, but be not alarmed, come in; no
harm shall befall you here; I shall not inquire from whence you came; it
is enough for me to know that you are a human being in distress; consider
me your friend, and let me know your wants."
"Bread! Oh, for a morsel of bread!" said the famished creature, while his
hitherto wild and sunken eyes, began to distil grateful tears. The "good
Samaritan" stepped to another apartment and brought him a piece of bread,
which he expected to see him devour at once, but instead, he looked at
it wistfully, literally devouring it with his eyes; turned it over and
over, and at last stammered out, "my good master, without a piece of bread
for my poor starving wife, I can never swallow this, tempting as it is."
"Poor man," said his benefactor, "can it be that you have a wife with you,
wretched as yourself?" He brought out a loaf of bread, some cheese and
meat, and while the fugitive was preparing to return, the kind gentleman
said, "I am glad you came to me; had you called at the house you first
saw, you would have been betrayed, and immediately arrested. You must
remember," he continued, "that you are young and valuable slaves, and that
your master will make every effort in his power to find you, especially
since he has made a sale of you. To-day and to-night, remain in the woods,
and the next morning you may come to me, if all is quiet; should I see
danger approaching you, I will warn you of it by the crack my rifle. Go
now, to your poor wife, and listen for the signal of danger; if you hear
none, come to me at the appointed time." He returned, and after feeding
his helpless Rosa, she revived, and soon felt quite comfortable and
When the morning came for them to leave their retreat, they listened
intently, but hearing nothing, Joe started for the residence of his
friend. He had been gone but a short time, when his wife, who lay in
the bushes, thought she heard the tramp of horses,--she crept nearer
the highway, and peeping through the bush--Oh, horror! what was her
consternation and sickening fear, to find herself gazing upon the
well-known features of her old master, and two of his neighbors, all armed
to the teeth! Her heart seemed to stand still, and the blood to chill in
her veins. Had she been discovered she would have been an easy prey, for
she declared that she could not move a step. In the meantime her husband
had got about half way to the residence of his preserver, when his quick
ear detected the sound made by the feet of horses, and as he stopped to
listen more intently, the sharp crack of a rifle sent him bounding back to
his concealment in the forest.
The party of horsemen rode on to the dwelling of the kind hearted
gentleman, and inquired whether he had seen any fugitive slaves pass that
"I saw," said he, "a man and woman passing rapidly along the road, but do
not know whether they were fugitives, as I did not see their faces." The
human blood-hound, thanked the gentleman for the information, and
immediately set out in pursuit; but, just as the informant had intended,
in a direction _opposite_ to that the slaves had taken. That night, Joe
and Rosa visited the house of their benefactor, where they were supplied
with clothing and as much food as they could carry; and next day they went
on their way rejoicing. They settled in Cincinnati, where they lived
happily, until the mob drove them with others, to the Wilberforce
settlement, where they are in no danger of the auction block, or of a
Southern market; and are as much devoted to each other as ever.
PLEASANT RE-UNION OF OLD AND TRIED FRIENDS.
It is well known to those who have assisted in clearing land in a new
country, that bears, who are not Jews, are very troublesome, and levy a
heavy tax on the settlers, to supply themselves with pork-their favorite
food. One old bear in particular, had for a long time annoyed the
colonists, by robbing their hog-stys almost every night. We failed in all
our plans to destroy his life, until a woman saw him one day, walking at
ease through the settlement. A half dozen of us gave chase immediately,
and came up with him after traveling two miles. So anxious was I to kill
him, that I fired at first sight and missed him, which gave us another
two miles chase. When, however, we came up, he was seated on a branch of a
tree, leisurely surveying us and the dogs, with great complacency. The
contents of my rifle brought him to the ground, and stirred his blood for
battle. One blow from his powerful paw, sent my fine greyhound some yards
distant, sprawling upon the ground, and when he renewed the attack, Bruin
met him with extended jaws, taking and munching his head in his mouth. My
rifle was now reloaded, and the second shot killed him on the spot. We
tied his legs together, and lifting him on a pole, marched in triumph into
the settlement, where guns were discharged and cheers given, in
approbation of our success.
One winter's evening we had drawn closely around the blazing fire, for the
air was piercing cold without, and the snow four feet deep on a level. Now
and then, a traveler might be seen on snow-shoes; but though our cabin was
situated on the king's highway, we seldom saw company on such a night as
this. While the wind whistled, and the snow drifted about our dwelling, we
piled the wood higher in our ample fire-place, and seated ourselves again,
to resume the conversation, when I was startled by a loud and furious
knocking at the door. I opened it to what I supposed to be three Indians.
Their costume was that of the red man; but the voice of him who addressed
me was not that of an Indian. "Can you keep three poor devils here
to-night?" said he, and when I made farther inquiry, he repeated the same
question; "we can sleep," he continued, "on the soft side of a board; only
give us poor devils a shelter."
I told him we were not accustomed to turn away any one on such a night;
that they were welcome to come in; and they were soon seated around our
large and cheerful fire.
They had laid aside their snow-shoes and knapsacks, and the heat of the
fire soon made their blankets uncomfortable; but as one of them made a
move to throw it off, another was heard to whisper, "wait a little; we are
among strangers, you know; so do not make a display of yourself." The
fellow drew his blanket about him; but we had heard and seen enough to
awaken curiosity, if not suspicion. In passing out of the room soon after,
I heard one of these pretended Indians say to his companion, "I know these
folks are from the States, for I smell coffee." When they finally sat down
to table, and saw silver upon it, they cast surprised and knowing glances
at each other, all of which we closely observed, and were convinced, that
they were not red men of the forest, but belonged to that race who had so
long looked haughtily down upon the colored people; that the least
exhibition of comfort, or show of refinement astonished them beyond
In the meantime, my wife had whispered to me that she was sure that the
principal speaker was no other than the aristocratic Mr. G----, of
Canandaigua. I could not believe it; I could not recognize in that
savage costume, one who had been bred in affluence, and "the star" of
genteel society. But my wife soon developed the affair to our mutual
satisfaction: G----, on taking from her a cup of coffee, remarked, "this
looks good; and I have had no good coffee since I left my mother's house."
"Does your mother still reside in C----?" asked Mrs. Steward.
"My mother! my mother! what do you know of my mother!" said he, looking
sharply at her; but observing that they were recognized, they began to
laugh, and we had a hearty congratulation all round; while G----,
starting-up from table, exclaimed,
"Come, boys, off with this disguise; we are among friends now."
Our Indian guests, now appeared in costume more like "Broadway dandies,"
than savages. Dressed in the finest cloth, with gold chains and repeaters;
and all that constituted the toilet of a gentleman. After tea they
requested to dry some costly furs, which they took from their knapsacks
and hung around the fire. The following day they took their leave, with
many apologies and explanations, regarding their appearance and conduct.
They were in the wilderness, they said, trading for very valuable furs;
they had money, jewelry and rich goods, which they had taken that method
During all this time, there had been another visitor in the house, who was
sitting in a corner, absorbed in writing. Our mock Indians had noticed him,
and not knowing who he was, expressed a determination "to quiz that deaf
old devil," after supper. We all seated ourselves around the fire, and
our Canandaigua friends, though no longer savages, had not forgotten the
silent man in the corner; they began to question him, and he aroused
himself for conversation; nor was it long before they forgot their design
to quiz him, and found themselves charmed listeners to the brilliant
conversation, of that world-renowned champion of humanity, Benjamin Lundy,
for he it was.
On this particular evening, he gave us a sketch of his journey to Hayti;
to accompany there and settle some emancipated slaves; which I thought
very interesting, and as I have never seen it in print I will here relate
it, as near as I can, in his own words:
In the State of Maryland, there lived a slaveholder the proprietor of some
sixty slaves, and being somewhat advanced in years, he determined to free
them, in accordance with the laws of that State, which required that they
be sent out of it.
He had thought the matter over, but being undecided where to send them, he
sent for Mr. Lundy to assist him in his proposed plan; who was only too
glad to comply with a request calculated to carry out his own plans of
philanthropy and equal rights.
When he had listened to the suggestions and expressed desires of the
planter, he offered his arguments in favor of the West India Islands; and
it was decided to send them to Hayti, as their future place of residence.
Six weeks were allowed for preparations; then Mr. Lundy was to return and
take charge of them on the voyage, and see them settled in their new
When the appointed time arrived, Mr. Lundy was there to accompany them on
board a vessel bound for Hayti; on which was furnished as comfortable
quarters, as the kindness of their conscientious master and his own
benevolent heart could suggest. When all was ready, the Christian master
came on board, to take leave of those faithful servants,--many of whom
had served him from their childhood, and all of whom he had bound to his
heart by kindness and Christian benevolence. It was a sad parting; not
because the slaves did not love liberty, but because they appreciated
their master's kind forbearance, and solicitude for their future welfare.
He had ever been a humane and indulgent master; one who lightened the
burthen of the poor slave, all in his power. A moment's reflection will
show, that it is invariably this conscientious kind of slaveholders, who
are induced to emancipate their slaves; and not the avaricious, cruel
tyrant, who neither fears God nor regards his fellow man.
The master of the slaves had kindly informed them of his intentions,--of
the probable length of the voyage, and the unavoidable sickness they would
experience, &c.; but now, they were gazing up into his kind face for the
last time, as he knelt in prayer, commending that numerous flock--raised
on his own plantation--to the care and protection of Almighty God,
beseeching Him to protect them in the storm and dangers of the ocean; to
guide them through this life, and save them in the world to come; until
the sobs and cries of the poor slaves drowned his utterance. He at length
took his final leave of them, and of Mr. Lundy; and the ship sailed
immediately. They, however, met storms and adverse winds, which detained
them; and then the poor, ignorant slaves began to believe what they had
before suspected: that this was only some wicked plan of Mr. Lundy's, laid
to entice them away from a kind master, and to plunge them into some
dreadful degradation and suffering. "Master" had not told them of the
adverse winds, and they were certain that some mischief was intended; they
grew sullen and disobedient; and notwithstanding the kindness of Mr.
Lundy, they murmured and complained, until his kind heart sank within
him; still he pursued the even tenor of his way, trusting in God for
deliverance. He watched over them in sickness, and administered to all
their wants; but his tender solicitude for their health and comfort, only
excited suspicion, and increased their ungrateful ill humor.
One pleasant evening, Mr. Lundy paced the deck in deep thought. He was
sad, and well nigh hopeless. He had seen enough in the fierce look and
sullen scowl; and had heard enough of the bitterness, and threatening
anger of the negroes, to know that a storm was gathering, which must soon
burst in all its wild fury over his devoted head. He was a small, feeble
man, compared with those who watched his every movement, and gnashed their
teeth upon him so fiercely. None but the Almighty could save him now; and
to Him who "rides upon the wings of the wind, and maketh the clouds His
chariot," he drew near in fervent prayer; after which he retired in peace
and confidence to his berth. During the night, a fine breeze sprang up;
and when he went on deck the next morning, they were in sight of the
luxuriant shore of Hayti! The officers of the island boarded the ship; but
their language was unintelligible to the negroes, who still looked daggers
at every one who spoke. They landed; but the fearful, and ungrateful
slaves continued sullen and forbidding. Mr. Lundy left them, however, and
went into the country, where he selected their future residence; and made
every preparation for their comfort and convenience in his power; saw them
conveyed to their neat, pleasant homes, and all happily settled. This work
was accomplished; and he merely called to bid adieu to his ungrateful
charge, when he found that one of the slaves had been appointed to speak
to him, in behalf of the whole number, and confess how deeply they had
wronged him. While they were conversing, the others gathered around, with
tears and prayers for forgiveness; and finally fell at his feet, imploring
pardon for themselves, and blessings on the kind, patient and humane
Benjamin Lundy. He hurried from the affecting scene, and soon after
returned to America.
Thus that cold evening passed more pleasantly away in our rude cabin; and
our Canandaigua gentlemen, after an agreeable acquaintance, and pleasant
chat with Mr. Lundy, retired for the night--not like savages, but like
gentlemen as they were; and I doubt not, with a more exalted opinion of
"the deaf old devil in the corner"
PRIVATE LOSSES AND PRIVATE DIFFICULTIES.
Soon after settling in Wilberforce, I found that the rumor I had heard in
the States, concerning the refusal to sell land to colored persons, was
literally correct, and my farm being too small to yield a support for my
family, and knowing it would be useless to apply for more land, I engaged
to carry packages for different merchants in the adjoining villages, as
well as to and from the settlement. Possessing a pair of excellent horses
and a good wagon, I found it a profitable business, and the only one I
could well do, to eke out the proceeds of my farm, and meet my expenses.
One day as I was returning from the village, one of my horses was taken
suddenly ill. I took him to a tavern near by, and as I could discover no
cause for his illness, I concluded to leave him a few days, supposing rest
would soon restore him. I accordingly hired another horse, and returned to
the colony. In a day or two after, I collected my packages as usual, and
started on my route, designing to leave the hired horse and take my own;
but when I arrived at the tavern, I found some Indians engaged in taking
off the hide and shoes of my poor, dead horse. This was indeed, a great
loss to me; but I consoled myself with the thought that I had one good
horse left, yet he would hardly be sufficient to accomplish alone, the
labor I had engaged to perform; nor had I the means to spare, to purchase
another. I therefore hired one, and commenced business again, with the
determination to make up my loss by renewed diligence and perseverance.
I started in good spirits; but had proceeded but a few miles, when my
remaining horse, which I had supposed perfectly sound, reeled and fell in
the harness! And before I could relieve him of it, my noble animal and
faithful servant, had breathed his last! Without a struggle or a movement
he lay lifeless on the cold earth. I was sad. I deplored the loss of my
good, and valuable team; but more the mystery and suspicion that hung over
the event. I returned home and sat down to devise some plan of procedure.
What could I do? Half the means of our support had been suddenly
and mysteriously snatched from us. What could I do next? While thus
ruminating, I arose to answer a summons at the door, and who should enter
but Mr. B. Paul, a brother to our foreign agent, who had so long absented
himself from our house, that I was indeed surprised to see him at this
time. He, however, seated himself, with great apparent concern for my
recent loss, which he soon made the subject of conversation and the
object of his visit.
"There has been," said he, "a great deal of unpleasant feeling, and
injudicious speaking on both sides, for which I am heartily sorry. The
colony is too weak to sustain a division of feelings; and now, that your
recent losses have left you in a far less favorable condition to sustain
yourself and family, I have called to make a settlement of our former
difficulties, and to offer you two hundred and fifty dollars out of the
collections for the colony."
I saw through the plan at once, and considered it only a bribe, to prevent
my exposing the iniquity of others. Should I consent to take a part of the
ill-gotten spoils, with what confidence could I attempt to stay the hand
of the spoiler. I wanted money very much, it is true; but after a moment's
reflection, not enough to sanction the manner in which it had been
obtained; and though I confess, the offer presented to me a strong
temptation, I am thankful that I was enabled to resist it. I refused to
accept the money; and after sending away the tempter and his offered gain,
I felt my heart lighter, and my conscience more peaceful than is often the
lot of sinful, erring man in this world of trial and conflict; and yet I
could but feel that the mystery in which the death of my horses was
involved, was partially at least, explained.
INCIDENTS AND PECULIARITIES OF THE INDIANS.
During our residence in Canada, we were often visited by the Indians,
which gave us an opportunity to learn their character, habits and
disposition; and some incidents illustrative of the peculiarities of that
abused people, I will here mention.
I recollect one bitter cold night, about eleven o'clock, I happened to
awake, and looking out toward the fire, I was surprised to see standing
there, erect and quiet, a tall, brawny Indian, wrapped in his blanket;
his long hunting knife and tomahawk dangling from his belt; and his rifle
in his hand. Had he been in his own wigwam, he could not have looked
about him with more satisfaction and independence. I instantly sprang to
my feet, and demanded his errand.
"Me lost in the woods, and me come to stay all night," was his grave
"Then," said I, "give me your weapons, and I will make no objection."
He disarmed himself, and gave his weapons to me, with an air of haughty
disdain for my fears. I put them in a place of safety and then prepared
his bed, which was nothing more than the floor, where they choose to
sleep, with their head to the fire. My offer of anything different from
this he proudly resented as an insult to his powers of endurance, and
would say, "beds for pale faces and women; hard board for Indians." He
threw himself down, drew his blanket about him, and was soon sleeping
soundly. As soon as the day began to dawn, he was up, called for his arms,
and after thanking me in the brief Indian style of politeness, departed
for the forest. He had found our doors all fastened, save a low back door,
through which he entered, passing through a back room so full of
miscellaneous articles, that it was difficult to go through it in the day
time without upsetting something; but the Indian understood all this, he
made no noise, nor would he have spoken at all, had I not awakened; and
yet, he would have scorned to injure any one beneath the roof that gave
him shelter, unless he had been intoxicated.
One sabbath afternoon, one of my children was sitting in the door, when a
tall, emaciated Indian came up and said, "Will my little lady please to
give me a drink of water?" While she went for it, I invited him to a seat
within. There was something dignified and commanding in his appearance,
and something in his voice and countenance, that won my confidence and
respect at once. He remained in the place some time, and I learned his
In his younger days he had been a great warrior; and even now, when
recounting, as he often did, the scenes of the battle field, his eye would
burn with savage fire, lighting up his whole countenance with the fiercest
kind of bravery, and often with a hideous yell that would startle our very
souls, he would burst from the room and bound over the fields and forest,
with the fleetness of a deer--making the woods ring with his frightful
war-cry, until the blood seemed ready to curdle in our veins. He had also
been one of the famous Tecumseh's braves; and had stood by him when he
fell on the fifth of October, 1813. This old brave, whenever he called the
name of Tecumseh, bowed his head reverently; and would often try to tell
us how very deeply they mourned when it could no longer be doubted that
the brave heart of Tecumseh, brother of the celebrated Wabash prophet,
had ceased to beat.
"Had an arrow pierced the sun and brought it to my feet," said the old
warrior, "I could not have been more astounded than at the fall of
Tecumseh." Then he told us that once, after a great and victorious battle,
Tecumseh, in his war paint and feathers, stood in the midst of his braves,
when a little pale faced girl made her way weeping to him and said, "My
mother is very ill, and your men are abusing her, and refuse to go away."
"Never," said the Indian, "did I see a frown so terrible on the face of
Tecumseh, as at that moment; when he with one hand clutched his tomahawk,
and with the other led the little girl to the scene of riot. He approached
the unruly savages with uplifted tomahawk, its edge glittering like
silver, and with one shout of 'begone!' they scattered as though a
thunderbolt had fallen in their midst."
But the old warrior at Wilberforce fought no more battles, except in
imagination those of the past. After peace was declared he bought a
valuable piece of land, with the intention of spending the remainder of
his life more quietly; but unfortunately there lived not far from him a
man who had once been the possessor of that farm, and had lost it in some
way, and was now in reduced circumstances.
He was both envious and vicious; and because he could not himself buy the
land, he was determined that the old Indian should not have it. After
having tried many ways to get it from him, he finally complained of him,
for fighting for the British and against the country where he now resided.
This was successful; he was arrested and thrown into prison, and without
a trial, removed from one prison to another, until he, with several
others, was sent South to be tried as traitors. While on the way, the
keeper of this Indian wished to call on his mother, who lived in a
little cottage by the roadside, to bid her farewell. She was an aged
woman, and when her son left her to join his companions, she followed him
to the door weeping, wringing her hands in great distress, and imploring
the widow's God to protect her only son. She had had four; all of whom
went forth, with an American mother's blessing, to fight in defence of
their country; and this one alone, returned alive from the field of
battle. Now as he took his final departure for the South, she clasped her
hands, raised her tearful eyes to heaven, and while large drops rolled
over her wrinkled cheeks, she cried, "Oh, God, protect my only one, and
return him to me in safety, ere I die." This scene, the imprisoned, and as
some supposed, heartless Indian, watched with interest; no part of it
escaped his attention; but they passed on, and safely reached Detroit.
The prisoners were conducted to a hotel and secured for the night; our
Indian hero being consigned to an attic, which they supposed a safe place
for him. There happened to be on that night, a company of showmen
stopping at that hotel, and exhibiting wax-work; among the rest, was a
figure of General Brock, who fell at Queenston Heights, and a costly cloak
of fur, worn by the General previous to his death. Nothing of this escaped
the eagle-eye and quick ear of the Indian. When all was quiet in the
hotel, he commenced operations, for he had made up his mind to leave,
which with the red man is paramount to an accomplishment of his design. He
found no great difficulty in removing the window of his lofty apartment,
out of which he clambered, and with the agility of a squirrel and the
caution of a cat, he sprang for the conductor and on it he slid to the
ground. He was now free to go where he pleased; but he had heard
something about the cloak of Gen. Brock; he knew too, that the friends of
the General had offered fifty guineas for it, and now he would just convey
it to them.
With the sagacity of his race, he surveyed the hotel, and determined the
exact location of the show-room. Stealthily and noiselessly, he entered
it; found the cloak--took it and departed, chuckling at his good fortune.
As he was creeping out of the apartment with his booty, a thought struck
him, which not only arrested his footsteps, but nearly paralized his whole
being. Would not his keeper be made to answer, and perhaps to suffer for
his escape and theft? Of course he would. "Then in the darkness I saw
again," said the old brave, "that old pale-faced mother, weeping for the
loss of her only son," when he immediately returned the cloak to its
place, and with far more difficulty than in his descent, he succeeded in
reaching his attic prison, where he laid himself down, muttering to
himself, "not yet,--poor old pale-face got but one."
They took him to Virginia, where, instead of a trial, they gave him about
the same liberty they do their slaves. He staid one winter; but when the
spring opened, the fire of the red man took possession of him, and when
sent to the forest to chop wood, he took a bee-line for his former
residence. But what was he to do for food? With a rifle, he could live
happily in the woods, but he had none; so after considering the matter, he
said to himself, "Me _must_ get a rifle," and instantly started for the
highway. The first cabin he saw, he entered in great apparent excitement,
and told the woman of the house, that he had seen a "big deer in the
woods, and wanted a rifle to shoot it. When you hear my gun," he said,
"then you come and get big deer." She gave him her husband's excellent
rifle and a few bullets; he looked at them, and said he must have more,
for "it was a big deer;" so she gave him the bullet-mould and a piece of
lead, with which he departed, after repeating his former injunction, to
come when she heard the rifle; but, said he, "she no hear it yet."
He at length arrived at his own farm, from which he had been so cruelly
driven, and concealed himself behind a log in sight of his own house, to
watch the inmates. He soon learned that it was occupied by the man who had
persecuted him in order to obtain it, his wife and one child. All day
until midnight, he watched them from his hiding place, then assuming all
the savage ferocity of his nature, and giving himself the most frightful
appearance possible, he entered the house, and noiselessly passed to their
sleeping room, where he placed himself before them with a long knife in
his hand. Having assumed this frightful attitude, he commanded them in a
voice of thunder, to get up and give him some supper. They were awake now.
Oh, horror! what a sight for a guilty man, and a timid woman! "Me come to
kill you!" said the Indian, as he watched their blanched cheeks and
quivering lips. They tottered about on their trembling limbs to get
everything he asked for, imploring him for God's sake to take all, but
spare their lives. "Me will have scalps," he answered fiercely; but when
he had eaten all he desired, he adjusted his blanket, and putting on a
savage look, he remarked as if to himself, "Me go now get my men and kill
him, kill he wife, and kill he baby!" and left the house for his post of
The frightened inmates lost no time, but hastily collecting some
provisions, fled to the frontier, and were never heard of afterwards.
The Indian immediately took possession of his own and quite an addition
left by the former tenants.
While the kind-hearted old Indian repeated to me the story of his wrongs,
it reminded me of the injustice practised on myself, and the colored race
generally. Does a colored man by hard labor and patient industry, acquire
a good location, a fine farm, and comfortable dwelling, he is almost sure
to be looked upon by the white man, as an usurper of _his_ rights and
territory; a robber of what he himself should possess, and too often does
wrong the colored man out of,--yet, I am happy to acknowledge many
I have often wondered, when looking at the remnant of that once powerful
race, whether the black man would become extinct and his race die out, as
have the red men of the forest; whether they would wither in the presence
of the enterprising Anglo-Saxon as have the natives of this country. But
now I have no such wondering inquiries to make; being persuaded that the
colored man has yet a prominent part to act in this highly-favored
Republic,--of what description the future must determine.
OUR DIFFICULTIES WITH ISRAEL LEWIS.
Being under the necessity of referring again to the difficulties existing
in the Wilberforce colony, I shall here introduce a circular, published in
New York city, which will give the reader an understanding of the real
cause of our embarrassments, and the character of our agent, Israel Lewis.
_New York, May 9th_, 1836.
The committee of colored citizens of the city of New York, as servants of
the public, sincerely regret the necessity of bringing the within subject
before the public. Their duty to God, to society, and to themselves, only
actuates them in this matter.
The fact that many individuals in different sections of the country, have
long suspected the integrity of Israel Lewis, but possessing no authentic
documentary evidence, they have been prevented from making an effort,
to counteract his too successful attempts and those of his agents, in the
collection of funds from the public, has induced us to transmit this
THEODORE S. WRIGHT,
CHARLES B. RAY,
WILLIAM P. JOHNSON,
SAMUEL E. CORNISH.
* * * * *
_Wilberforce, U.C., March 28th, 1836._
The board of managers of the Wilberforce settlement, met and passed
unanimously the following resolutions--Present, Austin Steward, Philip
Harris, Peter Butler, William Bell, John Whitehead, Samuel Peters.
_Resolved_, 1st. That we deeply regret the manner in which our friends in
the States have been imposed upon by Israel Lewis; and that we hereby
inform them, as a board of managers or otherwise, that we have received
less than one hundred dollars of all the money borrowed and collected in
_Resolved_, 2d. That although we have not received one hundred dollars
from said Lewis, yet, when we shall have received the funds collected by
our agent, the Rev. Nathan Paul, in England, we will refund as far as our
abilities will allow and our friends may require, the money contributed
for our supposed benefit, by them in the States.
_Resolved_, 3d. That we tender our sincere thanks to our beloved friends,
Arthur Tappan and others, who have taken such deep interest in the
welfare of our little colony.
_Resolved_, 4th. That the foregoing resolutions be signed by the whole
board, and sent to the States to be published in the _New York Observer_
and other papers.
AUSTIN STEWARD, _President_,
PETER BUTLER, _Treasurer_,
JOHN HALMES, _Secretary_.
PHILIP HARRIS, }
WILLIAM BELL, }
JOHN WHITEHEAD, } _Managers._
SAMUEL PETERS, }
* * * * *
_New York, April 25th, 1836._
At a public meeting of the colored citizens of New York city, held in
Phoenix Hall, Thomas L. Jennings in the Chair, and Charles B. Ray,
Secretary, the following resolutions were passed unanimously:
_Resolved_, That the thanks of this meeting be tendered to the Rev.
Samuel E. Cornish, for the able and satisfactory report of his mission
to Upper Canada, especially to the Wilberforce settlement.
_Resolved_, That this meeting deem it their imperative duty, to announce
to the public, that in view of facts before them, Israel Lewis  has
abused their confidence, wasted their benevolence, and forfeited all claim
to their countenance and respect.
_Resolved_, That a committee of ten, be appointed to give publicity to the
foregoing resolutions; also, to the communication from the managers of the
Wilberforce settlement, as they may deem necessary in the case.
THOMAS L. JENNINGS, _Chairman_,
CHARLES B. RAY, _Secretary_.
[Footnote 1: It necessarily follows that the public should withhold their
money from his subordinate agents.]
It will now appear that I was not the only unfortunate individual who had
difficulty with Mr. Lewis. Mr. Arthur Tappan made known through the press,
about this time, that Israel Lewis was not a man to be fully relied upon
in his statements regarding the Wilberforce colony; and also, if money
was placed in his hands for the benefit of the sick and destitute among
the settlers, it would be doubtful whether it was faithfully applied
according to the wishes of the donors.
For this plain statement of facts, Mr. Lewis commenced a suit against Mr.
Tappan, for defamation of character; laying the damages at the round sum
of ten thousand dollars. It appeared that Lewis valued his reputation
highly now that he had elevated himself sufficiently to commence a suit
against one of the best and most respectable gentlemen in New York city;
a whole souled abolitionist withal; one who had suffered his name to be
cast out as evil, on account of his devotion to the colored man's cause--
both of the enslaved and free; one who has, moreover, seen his own
dwelling entered by an infuriated and pro-slavery mob; his expensive
furniture thrown into the street as fuel for the torch of the black man's
foe; and, amid the crackling flame which consumed it, to hear the vile
vociferations of his base persecutors, whose only accusation was his
defence of the colored man. This noble hearted, Christian philanthropist,
who took "joyfully the spoiling of his goods" for the cause of the
oppressed, was the chosen victim of Lewis' wrath and violent vituperation;
and that too, where he was well known as a most honorable, humane
gentleman; and all for naming facts which were quite generally known
Lewis returned to Wilberforce, flushed and swaggering with the idea of
making his fortune in this speculation of a law-suit against Mr. Tappan;
and to remove all obstacles, he sent a man to me, to say that if I would
publish nothing, and would abandon the interests of the colonists, he
would give me a handsome sum of money. I soon gave him to understand that
he had applied to the wrong person for anything of that kind; and he then
laid a plan to accomplish by fraud and perjury, what he had failed to do
I have before mentioned the fact of my having taken up a note of
twenty-five dollars for Mr. Lewis, on condition that he would soon refund
the money. I did it as a favor, and kept the note in my possession, until
about a year afterward, when I sued him to recover my just due on the
note. We had then began to differ in our public business, which led to
other differences in our transaction of both public and private matters
relating to the colony. He of course gave bail for his appearance at
court, and it ran along for some time until he found he could not bribe me
to enter into his interests, and then for the first time, he declared that
I had stolen the note! And finally succeeded in getting me indicted before
the grand jury!
In this I suppose Lewis and his confederates had two objects: first, to
get rid of me; secondly, that they might have a chance to account for my
continued hostility, by saying that it arose in consequence of a private
quarrel, and not for any true interest I had in their collecting money
Lewis appeared so bent on my destruction, that he forgot it was in my
power to show how I came by the note. The Court of King's Bench met, but
in consequence of the cholera, was adjourned, and of course, the case
must lie over until another year.
When the time for the trial drew near, I was, in the midst of my
preparations to attend it, counseled and advised by different persons to
flee from the country, which I had labored so hard and so conscientiously
to benefit, and received in return nothing but detraction and slander. But
conscious of my innocence, I declared I would not leave; I knew I had
committed no crime; I had violated no law of the land,--and I would do
nothing to imply guilt. He who hath formed the heart, knoweth its intent
and purpose, and to Him I felt willing to commit my cause. True, the court
might convict, imprison, and transport me away from my helpless family of
five small children; if so, I was determined they should punish an
innocent man. Nevertheless, it was a dark time; I was not only saddened
and perplexed, but my spirit was grieved, and I felt like one "wounded in
the house of his friends,"--ready to cry out, "had it been an enemy I
could have borne it," but to be arraigned, for the _first_ time in my
life, as a _criminal_, by one of the very people I had spent my substance
to benefit, was extremely trying. Guiltless as I knew myself to be, still,
I was aware that many incidents had transpired, which my enemies could
and would construe to my disadvantage; moreover, Lewis had money, which he
would freely distribute to gain his point right or wrong, and to get me
out of his way.
In due time the trial came on, and I was to be tried for _theft_! Lewis
had reported all through the settlement that on a certain time I had
called at his house, and from a bundle of papers which his wife showed me,
I had purloined the note, which had caused me so much trouble. To prove
this it was necessary to get his wife to corroborate the statement. This
was not an easy matter. Mrs. Lewis, indignant and distressed by her
husband's unkindness, had left him and taken up her abode in the family of
a hospitable Englishman. After Lewis had been sent out as an agent for the
colony, finding himself possessed of sufficient funds to cut a swell, he
associated and was made a great deal of, by both ladies and gentlemen in
high stations of life; the consequence of which was, he looked now with
disdain upon his faithful, but illiterate wife, who like himself had been
born a slave, and bred on a Southern plantation; and who had with him
escaped from the cruel task-master, enduring with him the hardships and
dangers of the flying fugitive.
Now her assistance was necessary to carry forward his plans, and he
endeavored in various ways to induce her to return, but in vain. When he
sent messengers to inform her how sorry he felt for his past abuse, she
said she feared it was only some wicked plot to entice her away from the
peaceable home she had found. Lewis saw that he must devise some other
method to obtain her evidence. He therefore called on the brother of the
Englishman in whose family Mrs. Lewis was, and in a threatening manner
told him that he understood his brother was harboring his wife, and that
he intended to make him pay dear for it. The brother, to save trouble,
said he would assist him to get his wife, and that night conducted Lewis
to her residence. No better proof can be given that Mrs. Lewis possessed
the true heart of a woman, than that the moment her husband made humble
concessions, and promised to love and protect her henceforth, she forgave
him all his past infidelity and neglect, and looked with hope to a
brighter future. In return Lewis presented her with a note, telling her to
take it to a certain person and present it, and he would give her twenty
dollars on it. This would, he doubtless thought, leave her in his power.
As Mrs. Lewis could not read, the unsuspecting wife presented the paper
all in good faith. The gentleman looked at her sharply, suspiciously,--and
then asked her, if she was not aware that she was presenting him a paper
completely worthless! The poor woman was mortified and astonished; and
instead of returning to her husband, fled to Wilberforce, and called at
our house. Knowing how disastrous to me would be her false statement, and
ignorant of her state of mind, I asked her if she had come to assist Mr.
Lewis by swearing against me. I saw at once, that she had not yet been
informed of her husband's design.
"Swear against you, Mr. Steward!" said she. "I know nothing to swear that
would injure you; I have always known you as an honest, upright man, and
you need not fear my turning against an innocent person, for the benefit
of one I know to be guilty. Nor would I have left my place, had I known
what I now do." So all help and fear was ended in that quarter.
When at length the appointed morning arrived, I arose early, but with a
saddened heart. I looked upon my wife and helpless family, reflecting that
possibly this might be the last time we should all assemble around the
breakfast table in our hitherto quiet home, and I could scarcely refrain
from weeping. I, however, took my leave, and a lad with me, to bring back
a message of the result, if the court found sufficient cause to detain me
for trial. But when I found that I must be tried, I felt too unhappy to
make others so, and kept out of the lad's way. He returned without a
message; and I took my seat in the prisoner's box. I had just taken a
letter out of the post office, from Rochester, containing recommendations
and attestations from the first men in the city, of my good character,
which relieved my feelings somewhat: nevertheless, my heart was heavy, and
especially when, soon after I took my seat, a trap-door was opened and a
murderer was brought up and seated by my side!
Chief Justice Robinson, made his appearance in great pomp--dressed in the
English court style-then the crier, in a shrill voice, announced the
opening of the court, and finished by exclaiming, "God save the King!"
His lordship then called the attention of the jury to the law of the land;
particularly to that portion relating to their present duty; and the grand
jury presented me to the court, for feloniously taking a certain
promissory note from the house of Israel Lewis. The King's Attorney had
but one witness, and that was Lewis. He was called to the stand, permitted
to relate his story, and retire without any cross-examination on the part
of my Attorney; but that gentleman called up three respectable white men,
all of whom swore that they would not believe Israel Lewis under oath!
Then submitted the case to the jury without remark or comment, and the
jury, without leaving their seats, brought in a verdict of "NOT GUILTY."
Thus ended my first and last trial for theft! Oh, how my very soul
revolted at the thought of being thus accused; but now that I stood
justified before God and my fellow-men, I felt relieved and grateful; nor
could I feel anything but pity for Lewis, who, like Hainan, had been so
industriously engaged in erecting "a gallows fifty cubits high" for me,
but found himself dangling upon it He raved like a madman, clutched the
arm of the Judge and demanded a new trial, but he shook him off with
contempt and indignation, as though he had been a viper. In his wild fury
and reckless determination to destroy my character, he had cast a foul
stain upon his own, never to be effaced. I had felt bound to preserve my
reputation when unjustly assailed, but it had been to me a painful
necessity to throw a fellow-being into the unenviable and disgraceful
attitude in which Lewis now stood; and yet, he would not, and did not
yield the point, notwithstanding his ignominious defeat.
He very soon began to gather his forces for another attack upon me, and
followed the same direction for his accusation,--the land purchase.
The reader will recollect without further repetition, that as I could
purchase no land of the Canada Company, because of their indignation
against Lewis, I was glad to accept of the contract he had made with Mr.
Ingersoll, for lot number four in the colony; that I paid the sum
demanded, and took his assignment on the back of the contract, and as we
then were on good terms, it never occurred to me that a witness was
necessary to attest to the transaction. But after his failure to prove me
a thief; his next effort was to convict me of forgery! It will be
remembered that Lewis after selling out to me, returned the contract to
Mr. Ingersoll, and that I had lost by the means, the land, and at least
five hundred dollars' worth of improvements. Then I brought a suit against
Lewis, to recover the money I had paid him for the contract; and then it
was that he asserted and attempted to prove, that I had forged the
assignment, and therefore, had no just claim on him for the amount paid.
But in this, as in the other case, he met a defeat and made an entire
failure. I recovered all that I claimed, which, was only my just due. One
would suppose that after so many unsuccessful attempts to ruin me, he
would have left me alone,--but not so with Lewis: he had the ambition of a
Bonaparte; and doubtless had he possessed the advantages of an education,
instead of having been born and bred a slave, he might, like an Alexander
or Napoleon, have astonished the world with his deeds of daring. I am,
however, no admirer of what the world call "great men,"--one humble,
self-sacrificing Christian, like Benjamin Lundy, has far greater claim on
my respect and reverence.
Lewis, failing in his second attack, backed up as he had been in all his
wicked course, by a friend wearing the sacred garb of a minister of the
gospel, cooled off, and it became evident to all, that he was meditating
some different mode of warfare. To this concealed confederate, I must
attach great blame, on account of the influence his station and superior
learning gave him, not only over Mr. Lewis, but the colonists generally,
and which should have been exerted for the good of all, in truth and
DESPERATION OF A FUGITIVE SLAVE.
We had as yet received no funds from our foreign agent, N. Paul, and the
board of managers had resolved to send a man after him. An Englishman and
a white man named Nell, would gladly undertake the mission, leaving his
wife and five children among the settlers. Again was I under the necessity
of returning to New York, to obtain the funds required to send out Mr.
Nell after our agent in England.
The night before I left home, I had a singular dream which I will briefly
relate. I dreamed of journeying on a boat to Albany, and of stopping at a
house to take tea. Several persons, I thought, were at the table, and as a
cup of tea was handed me, I saw a woman slyly drop something into it. I,
however, drank the tea, and dreamed that it made me very sick.
I found it difficult to drive from my mind the unpleasant impression this
dream had made upon it, but finally succeeded in doing so, attributing it
to the many and malicious threatenings which had been made by Lewis and
his associates. They had boldly asserted, that "if I went to the States, I
would never return alive," and several other threats equally malignant.
I, however, started with Mr. Nell for Rochester, where we made an effort
to raise money to aid in defraying the expenses of the voyage, and
succeeded in collecting about a hundred dollars. From thence we passed on
to Albany, where we fell in company with a number of Mr. Paul's friends,
who appeared to be terribly indignant, and accused me of coming there to
expose their friends,--Paul and Lewis. We had some warm words and
unpleasant conversation, after which they left me very unceremoniously,
and appeared to be very angry. A short time after, one of them returned,
and in the most friendly manner invited me to his house to tea. I was glad
of an opportunity to show that I harbored no unpleasant feelings toward
them, and immediately accompanied him home. The moment that we were all
seated at the table, an unpleasant suspicion flashed through, my mind.
The table, the company--all seemed familiar to me, and connected with
some unpleasant occurrence which I could not then recall. But when the
lady of the house poured out a cup of tea, and another was about to pass
it, I heard her whisper, "I intended that for Mr. Steward," my dream for
the first time, flashed through my mind, with all the vivid distinctness
of a real incident. I endeavored to drive it from my thoughts, and did so.
Pshaw! I said to myself; I will not be suspicious nor whimsical, and I
swallowed the tea; then took my leave for the steamboat, on our way to
New York city.
When we had passed a few miles out of Albany, the boat hove to, and there
came on board four men--one of the number a colored man. The white men
repaired to their state-rooms, leaving the colored man on deck, after the
boat had returned to the channel. He attracted my attention, by his
dejected appearance and apparent hopeless despair. He was, I judged,
about forty years of age; his clothing coarse and very ragged; and the
most friendless, sorrowful looking being I ever saw. He spake to no one,
but silently paced the deck; his breast heaving with inaudible sighs; his
brow contracted with a most terrible frown; his eyes dreamily fastened on
the floor, and he appeared to be considering on some hopeless undertaking,
I watched him attentively, as I walked to and fro on the same deck, and
could clearly discover that some fearful conflict was taking place in his
mind; but as I afterwards repassed him he looked up with a happy, patient
smile, that lighted up his whole countenance, which seemed to say plainly,
I see a way of escape, and have decided on my course of action. His whole
appearance was changed; his heart that before had beat so wildly was quiet
now as the broad bosom of the Hudson, and he gazed alter me with a look of
calm deliberation, indicative of a settled, but desperate purpose. I
walked hastily forward and turned around, when, Oh, my God! what a sight
was there! Holding still the dripping knife, with which he had cut his
throat! and while his life-blood oozed from the gaping wound and flowed
over his tattered garments to the deck, the same exultant smile beamed on
his ghastly features!
[Illustration: "I walked hastily forward and turned around, when, Oh, my
God! what a sight was there! He still held the dripping knife, with which
he had cut his throat."]
The history of the poor, dejected creature was now revealed: he had
escaped from his cruel task-master in Maryland; but in the midst of his
security and delightful enjoyment, he had been overtaken by the human
blood-hound, and returned to his avaricious and tyrannical master, now
conducting him back to a life of Slavery, to which he rightly thought
death was far preferable.
The horrors of slave life, which he had so long endured, arose in all
their hideous deformity in his mind, hence the conflict of feeling which I
had observed,--and hence the change in his whole appearance, when he had
resolved to endure a momentary pain, and escape a life-long scene of
unrequited toil and degradation.
There happened to be on the boat at the time, several companies of citizen
soldiers, who, shocked by the awful spectacle, expressed their decided
abhorrence of the institution of Slavery, declaring that it was not for
such peculiar villainy, that their fathers fought and bled on the battle
field. So determined were they in their indignation; so loudly demanded
they a cessation of such occurrences on board our boats, and the soil of
a free State, that the slaveholders became greatly alarmed, and with all
possible dispatch they hurriedly dragged the poor bleeding slave into a
closet, and securely locked the door; nor have I ever been able to learn
his final doom. Whether the kindly messenger of death released him from
the clutches of the man-stealer, or whether he recovered to serve his
brutal master, I have never been informed.
After this exciting scene had passed, I began to realize that I was
feeling quite ill; an unusual load seemed to oppress my stomach, and by
the time we had reached New York city, I was exceedingly distressed. I
hastened to a boarding house, kept by a colored woman, who did everything
in her power to relieve me; but I grew worse until I thought in reality, I
must die. The lady supposed I was dying of cholera, sent to Brooklyn after
Mr. Nell; but having previously administered an emetic, I began to feel
better; and when I had finally emptied my stomach of its contents, _tea
and all_, by vomiting, I felt into a profound sleep, from which I awoke
greatly relieved. The kindness of that lady I shall not soon forget. She
had a house full of boarders, who would have fled instantly, had they
known that, as she supposed, I was suffering from cholera; and instead of
sending me to the hospital, as she might have done, she kept all quiet
until it was over, doing all she could for my relief and comfort; yet, it
was a scene of distress which I hope may never be repeated.
On the following morning, I saw in the city papers, "A Card," inserted by
the owner of the poor slave on board the steamboat, informing the public
that he was returning South with a fugitive slave, who, when arrested,
evinced great willingness to return; who had confessed also, that he had
done very wrong in leaving his master, for which he was sorry,--but he
supposed that the abolitionists had been tampering with him. That was all!
Not a word about his attempt to take his life! Oh no, he merely wished to
allay the excitement, that the horrid deed had produced on the minds of
I was indignant at the publication of such a deliberate falsehood, and
immediately wrote and published that I too was on board the same boat with
the fugitive; that I had witnessed an exhibition of his willingness to
return to Slavery, by seeing him cut his throat, and lay on the deck
wallowing in his blood; that the scene had so excited the sympathies of
the soldiers present, that his owner had been obliged to hurry him out of
their sight, &c.
When this statement appeared in the newspapers, it so exasperated the
friends of the slaveholder, that I was advised to flee from the city, lest
I might be visited with personal violence; but I assured my advisers that
it was only the wicked who "flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous
are bold as a lion." I therefore commenced the business that brought me
to that city. Messrs. Bloss, Nell, and myself, made an effort, and raised
between three and four hundred dollars for the purpose of sending Mr. Nell
after Rev. N. Paul.
Most of the funds collected, we gave to Mr. Nell, who sailed from New York,
and arrived safely in England, just as N. Paul was boarding a vessel to
return to New York.
Had Mr. Nell acted honorably, or in accordance with his instructions, he
would have returned with the agent; but he remained in England, and for
aught I know is there yet. He was sent expressly after Mr. Paul, and when
he left that kingdom, Nell's mission was ended. He proved himself less
worthy of confidence than the agent, for he _did_ return when sent for,
and he did account for the money he had collected, though he retained it
all; but Mr. Nell accounted for nothing of the kind; and if he has ever
returned, I have not seen him. Mr. N. Paul arrived in New York in the
fall of 1834, and remained there through the winter, to the great
disappointment and vexation of the colonists. I wrote him concerning our
condition and wants, hoping it would induce him to visit us immediately;
but he had married while in England, an English lady, who had accompanied
aim to New York, where they were now living; nor did he appear to be in
any haste about giving an account of himself to the board of managers who
had employed him.
A NARROW ESCAPE FROM MY ENEMIES.
During my absence in New York city, Lewis and his confederates were
prophesying that I would never trouble them more, and shaking their heads
quite ominously at the happy riddance. One day, our hired man entered the
house and inquired of my wife, when I was expected home. She told him she
did not know, having received no intelligence from me. He assured her that
a letter had been received by some one in the colony; that he had seen it,
and had heard Mr. Lewis speak of conveying it to her,--but as it did not
come, she gave it up, supposing some mistake had been made. I had,
however, written, naming the time when she might expect me; but no letter
of mine reached her, during my long absence, for which she could not
account. A short time before that specified for my return, a woman, whose
husband was an associate of Mr. Lewis, came to my house, and urged my
wife "to leave word at the village of London, to have Mr. Steward detained
there, should he arrive toward evening, and by no means allow him to start
for the colony after dark." My family had so often been alarmed by such
warnings, and had so frequently been annoyed by the violent threatenings
of Lewis, that they ceased to regard them, and paid little attention, to
I arrived at London on the day I had appointed for my return, but was
detained there until a late hour; feeling anxious, however, to get home
that night, supposing that I was expected,--I therefore hired a horse to
ride the remaining fifteen miles to the settlement.
The road from London to Wilberforce led through a swamp, known as
"McConnell's Dismal Swamp," and it was indeed, one of the most dreary
places in all that section of country. I am certain that a hundred men
might conceal themselves within a rod of the highway, without being
The horse I had engaged, was a high spirited animal, and to that fact, I
doubtless owe my life. The moon shone brightly, and nothing broke the
stillness of the night, as I rode onward, but the clatter of my horse's
hoofs, and an occasional "bow-wow" of some faithful watch-dog.
When I reached the swamp and entered its darkened recesses, the gloom and
stillness was indeed fearful; my horse started at every rustling leaf or
crackling brush, until I attempted to pass a dense thicket, when I was
started by the sharp crack of a rifle, and a bullet whizzed past me, close
to my ear! The frightened horse reared and plunged, and then springing as
if for life, he shot off like an arrow, amid the explosion of fire arms
discharged at me as I rode away. I lost my balance at first, and came near
falling, but recovering it I grasped the rein tightly, while my fiery
steed flew over the ground with lightning speed; nor did I succeed in
controlling him until he had run two miles, which brought me to my own
I found my family well, and very grateful that I had arrived safely after
so fearful an encounter.
When morning came I sent a person out to inquire whether any of the
settlers were out the night previous, and the report was, "Israel Lewis
and two other men were out all night; that they had been seen near the
Dismal Swamp;" moreover, Lewis was seen to come in that morning with his
boots covered with swamp mud,--these the Rev. Mr. Paul's boys cleaned for
him, all of which was evidence that he it was, who had way-laid me with
I afterwards learned, that those three men left the settlement at dusk,
for the swamp; that they stationed themselves one rod apart, all on one
side of the road, each man with a loaded rifle,--the poorest marksman was
to fire first, and if he did not bring me down, probably the second
would; but Lewis being the best shot of the three, was to reserve his fire
until the last, which they supposed I could not escape. It was quite dark
in the thicket, and my spirited horse plunged in every direction so
furiously, that they could take no aim at me, until he had started to run,
when we were soon beyond their reach.
We had already had so much difficulty in our little colony that we were
getting heartily sick of it. I was well aware that Lewis was thirsting for
revenge; that he wished to do me a great wrong; and yet I was thankful on
his account, as well as on my own, that he had been prevented from
imbruing his hands in the blood of a fellow being.
Had he succeeded in taking my life, as he undoubtedly intended to do, he
would have been arrested immediately, and most likely punished as a
murderer. He had boldly threatened my life, and the colonists were
expecting something of the kind to take place. Had I not arrived at the
colony, it was known at London that I had started for the settlement that
night, and an immediate search would have been instituted; nor could the
wicked deed have brought the least peace to the mind of Lewis or his
"No peace of mind does that man know,
Who bears a guilty breast;
His conscience drives him to and fro,
And never lets him rest."
DEATH OF B. PAUL, AND RETURN OF HIS BROTHER.
The bold and wicked attempt to take my life, recorded in the preceding
chapter, aroused a feeling of indignation in the community against Lewis,
and completely destroyed the little influence he had left; moreover, he
had now been so extensively published as an impostor, that he could
collect no more money on the false pretense of raising it for the benefit
of the colony. As soon as his money was gone and his influence destroyed,
--many who had been his firmest friends, turned against him, and among
this class was the Rev. Benjamin Paul. He had ever professed the greatest
friendship for, and interest in the success of Mr. Lewis. Heretofore,
whenever he went to the States he was commissioned by that gentleman's
family, to purchase a long list of expensive articles, which the poor
colonists were seldom able to buy; and he generally returned to them
richly laden with goods, purchased with, money given to the poor, sick,
and destitute in the colony.
Mr. B. Paul had ever been a very proud man, but not a very healthy one. He
was inclined to pulmonary diseases; but had kept up pretty well, until
Lewis was effectually put down, and his own character involved in many of
his notorious proceedings, together with the disappointment occasioned by
his brother remaining so long in England, when his health failed, and he
sank rapidly under accumulating disasters, to the grave.
The Welshmen had partially engaged him to preach for them the ensuing
year, but something they had heard of him changed their minds, and they
were about appointing a meeting to investigate his conduct, when they were
informed of his illness, and concluded to let it pass. His son, with whom
he lived, became deranged, and his oldest daughter on whom he was greatly
dependent, had been dismissed from school, where she had been for some
time engaged in teaching. All these unpleasant circumstances in his sickly
state weighed heavily upon his proud heart; and he not only declined in
health, but sank into a state of melancholy and remorse for his past
course of living. As he lay pining and murmuring on his death bed, I
could but reflect how different the scene from that of an apostle of the
Lord Jesus Christ, who could exclaim, when about to be offered, "I have
fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;
henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."
I called to see him as he lay writhing in agony, his sunken eyes gleaming
wildly, rolling and tossing from side to side, while great drops of
perspiration stood upon his forehead, continually lamenting his misspent
time, and the life he had led! He took my hand in his cold, bony fingers,
thanking me that I did not so despise him, that I could not come to see
him in his sorrow and affliction. Generally, however, when he raved and
talked of his wicked life, his family excluded all persons from his room
except his attendants.
Pride, which had ever been his besetting sin, displayed itself in his
conduct to the last, for he had a lengthy will made, dispensing some
sixteen hundred dollars to different individuals, when he must have known
that his whole possessions would not amount to half that sum. As I looked
upon him I could but reflect on the mysterious ways of Providence. Before
me lay a man, who had for years arrayed himself against me, using all his
influence as a man and a minister to injure me, by setting Lewis forward
in his wickedness; his family living in extravagance and a style far
beyond their means, while mine had labored hard and were sometimes
destitute, often harassed and perplexed on every side by himself and
party. And for what? Because I would not join hands with iniquity, and
deeds of darkness. Notwithstanding the contrast, when I heard his bitter
lamentations and self-reproaches, I could lift my heart to God, in
gratitude for His protecting goodness, which had preserved me an _honest
man_. I had often erred no doubt, but it had never been designedly; and
never did I value a good conscience more than when standing by the
death-bed of Benjamin Paul, who now had passed the Jordan of death; and it
is enough to know that his future, whether of joy or woe, will be meted
out to him, by a merciful and just God,--nevertheless, his last moments on
earth were such as ought to arouse every professed Christian, to redoubled
diligence in watchfulness and prayer, lest they fall into temptation,--
lest they determine to become rich, and thereby fall into diverse and
hurtful lusts, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows.
Soon after the event above narrated, a law was passed in the Province,
allowing each township to elect three commissioners, whose duty it should
be, to transact the public business pertaining to the township. Each
township should also elect one township clerk, whose business it should
be, to hold and keep all moneys, books, and papers belonging to said town;
with power to administer oaths, and in fact, he, with the commissioners,
were to constitute a board, possessing all the power of a court, in
relation to township business.
In our colony, located in the township of Bidulph, the colored people were
a large majority of the inhabitants, which gave us the power to elect
commissioners from our own settlement, and therefore, three black men
where duly chosen, who entered on the duties of their office, while your
humble servant, A. Steward, was elected township clerk, with all the
responsibility of the office resting upon him and the same power given him
as though he had been born in Her Britannic Majesty's dominion, with a
face as white as the driven snow. I felt the responsibility of my office,
but not more deeply than I did this assurance of entire confidence, and
respect shown me by my townsmen, after all the cruel persecutions I had
met; after all the accusations of theft, forgery, &c., that vicious person
could bring against me.
The Rev. Nathaniel Paul, with his lady, arrived at Wilberforce in the
spring of 1835, to the great joy of the colonists, to find that his
brother had gone the way of all the earth, and his remains quietly resting
on his own premises, where his afflicted family still resided.
In the colony there was a great deal of excitement regarding the course
our agent would pursue, and all waited with anxious expectancy to see him
enrich the treasury with his long-promised collections.
We had agreed, on sending him forth as an agent for the colony, to give
him fifty dollars per month for his services, besides bearing his expenses.
The reverend gentleman, charged, on his return to the colony, the sum
specified, for four years, three months and twenty days. We spent several
days in auditing his account, with increased fearful forebodings. We found
his receipts to be, in the United Kingdoms of Great Britain, one thousand
six hundred and eighty-three pounds, nineteen shillings; or, eight
thousand and fifteen dollars, eighty cents. His expenditures amounted to
one thousand four hundred and three pounds, nineteen shillings; or, seven
thousand and nineteen dollars, eighty cents. Then his wages for over four
years, at fifty dollars per month, left a balance against the board of
several hundred dollars, which we had no funds to cancel, inasmuch as the
reverend gentleman had paid us nothing of all he had collected in Europe,
nor even paid a farthing toward liquidating the debts incurred for his
outfit and expenses.
There was also in Mr. Paul's charge against the board of managers, an item
of two hundred dollars, which he had paid to Wm. Loyd Garrison, while that
gentleman was also in England; but by whose authority he had paid or given
it, it was hard to determine. We gave him no orders to make donations of
any kind. To take the liberty to do so, and then to charge it to our poor
and suffering colony, seemed hard to bear; still we allowed the charge.
Had we, in our straitened and almost destitute circumstances, made a
donation of that, to us, large sum of money to Mr. Garrison or any body
else, certainly _we_ should, at least, have had the credit of it; and as
Mr. Garrison had made no acknowledgment of the receipt, I wrote him on
the subject, and his answer will be found, heading our correspondence, in
Not a dollar did the treasurer ever receive of the Rev. N. Paul, unless we
call the donations he had made without our permission, a payment. He did,
it is true, award to the board, the sum of two hundred dollars, paid by
him to Mr. Garrison, and fifty dollars more given by himself to Mr. Nell,
on his departure from England. Not a farthing could we get of him; and in
short, as far as the monied interest of the colony was concerned, his
mission proved an entire failure. How much good the reverend gentleman
may have done in spreading anti-slavery truth, during his stay in Europe,
is not for me to say. The English, at that time held slaves; and report
speaks well of his labors and endeavors to open the eyes of that nation
to the sin of slavery and the injustice of the colonization scheme. It
is said that he continually addressed crowded and deeply interested
audiences, and that many after hearing him, firmly resolved to exert
themselves, until every chain was broken and every bondman freed beneath
the waving banner of the British Lion. Perhaps his arduous labors assisted
in freeing the West India islands of the hateful curse of Slavery; if so,
we shall not so much, regret the losses and severe trials, it was ours to
bear at that time.
The indignant and disappointed colonists, however, took no such view of
his mission; and knowing as they did, that he had paid not a cent of cash
into the treasury, nor liquidated one debt incurred on his account, they
became excited well nigh to fury,--so much so, that at one time we found
it nearly impossible to restrain them from having recourse to Lynch law.
They thought that the reverend gentleman must have large sums of money at
his command somewhere--judging from his appearance and mode of living, and
that a little wholesome punishment administered to his reverence, by grave
Judge Lynch, enthroned upon a "cotton bale," might possibly bring him to
terms, and induce him to disgorge some of his ill-gotten wealth, which he
so freely lavished upon himself, and was withholding from those to whose
wants it had been kindly contributed.
Just, as was their dissatisfaction, I was satisfied by the examination of
his accounts, that he had spent nearly all of the money collected for us;
his expenses had been considerable; beside, he had fallen in love, during
his stay in England, with a white woman, and I suppose it must have
required both time and money to woo and win so fine and fair an English
lady, said also to possess quite a little sum of money, that is, several
thousand dollars, all of which our poor, little suffering colony must pay
for,--the reverend gentleman's statement to the contrary notwithstanding.
We succeeded at last, after a tedious effort, in satisfying the minds of
the settlers to the extent, that a violent outbreak was no longer to be
feared or dreaded. When all was quiet in the colony, I ventured to make my
first call on the wife of N. Paul, who was then stopping with the widow of
the late Rev. B. Paul, residing some three miles from us.
The houses of the colonists were generally built of logs, hewn on both
sides, the spaces chinked with mortar, and the roof constructed of boards.
The lower part was generally left in one large room, and when another
apartment was desired, it was made by drawing a curtain across it. When
we arrived at the residence of Mrs. Paul, we were immediately ushered into
the presence of Mrs. Nathaniel Paul, whom we found in an inner apartment,
made by drawn curtains, carpeted in an expensive style, where she was
seated like a queen in state,--with a veil floating from her head to the
floor; a gold chain encircling her neck, and attached to a gold watch in
her girdle; her fingers and person sparkling with costly jewelry. Her
manners were stiff and formal nor was she handsome, but a tolerably fair
looking woman, of about thirty years of age: and this was the wife of our
agent for the poor Wilberforce colony!
N. Paul had now settled his business with the colonists, and being about
to leave for the States, we appealed to his honor as a man and a
Christian, to call at Rochester and pay the seven hundred dollar bank
debt, for which he was justly and legally holden, and relieve honorably,
those kind gentlemen who had raised the money for him. He well knew the
condition of our friend E. Peck, and that the names of some of our colored
friends were also attached to the note; all of whom were relying
implicitly on his or our honor to pay the obligation. That we had no funds
in the treasury he was well aware; also, that all were deeply concerned
about that debt. All this he knew; and in answer to our earnest and
repeated injunction, he promised most faithfully and solemnly that he
would call at Rochester, and take up the note. On those conditions he was
allowed to leave the colony, and when parting with me, no more to meet in
this life, his last assurance was, that he would cancel that obligation.
What then could we think of his word, when we learned soon after that he
passed Rochester, without calling, direct to Albany; nor did he ever
return, or make any explanation of his conduct; nor give any reason why
his promise was not redeemed and the money paid.
He preached in Albany until his health failed, then he was obliged to live
the best way he could, and at last to depend on charity.
His disease was dropsy, from which he suffered deeply, being unable to lie
down for some time previous to his death. I have been told that his
domestic life was far from a peaceable or happy one, and that in poverty,
sorrow and affliction, he lingered on a long time, till death at last
closed the scene.
MY FAMILY RETURN TO ROCHESTER.
I was now seriously meditating a return to Rochester. My purpose in going
to Canada, has already been made known to the reader, as well as some of
the disappointments I met, and some of the trials and difficulties I had
Now, after laboring, and suffering persecution for about five years, my
way was comparatively clear; still I wished to leave the Province and
return to the States, in which prospect my family greatly rejoiced.
Doubtless most persons in the position I then occupied, would have chosen
to remain; but for several reasons, I did not.
Notwithstanding I had been during my youth, a poor, friendless, and
illiterate slave, I had, through the mercy of God and the kindness of
friends, not only obtained my freedom, but I had by the industry and
perseverance of a few years, acquired a tolerable English education,
established a profitable business, built for myself a good and extensive
business reputation, and had laid the foundation for increasing wealth and
Indeed, so far as a competency is concerned, I possessed that when I left
Rochester. My house and land was paid for; my store also, and the goods it
contained were free from debt; beside, I had several hundred dollars in
the bank for future use,--nor do I boast, when I say that the comfort and
happiness of myself and family, required no further exertion on my part to
better our worldly condition. We were living in one of the best countries
on the earth, surrounded by friends,--good and intelligent society, and
some of the noblest specimens of Christian philanthropy in the world. My
wife and children, had not only been accustomed to the comforts, if not
the luxuries of life, but also to associate with persons of refinement and
cultivation; and although they had willingly accompanied me to Canada,
where they had experienced little less than care, labor and sorrow, it
cannot be thought very strange that they should desire to return. We were
colored people to be sure, and were too often made to feel the weight of
that cruel prejudice, which small minds with a perverted education, know
so well how to heap upon the best endeavors of our oppressed race. Yet
truth and justice to my friends, compel me to say, that after a short
acquaintance, I have usually been treated with all that kindness and
confidence, which should exist between man and man.
At my house of entertainment in Canada, it was not uncommon for gentlemen
of my former acquaintances, to stop for a friendly chat; merchants,
journeying through our settlement, after goods, would frequently call,
with their money, watches, and other valuables, carefully concealed about
their persons; but when they learned our name, and had become acquainted
a little, they would not only freely expose their wealth, but often place
all their money and valuables in my hands, for safe keeping; nor was their
confidence ever misplaced to my knowledge.
Another thing: when I went to Wilberforce, I supposed that the colonists
would purchase the whole township of Bidulph, and pay for it, which might
have been done, had they been fortunate enough to put forward better men.
Then when we had a sufficient number of inhabitants, we could have sent a
member to Parliament, one of our own race, to represent the interests of
our colony. In all this we were disappointed. The Canada Company, in their
unjust judgment of a whole people, by one dishonest man, had stopped the
sale of lands to colored persons, which of course, put an end to the
emigration of respectable and intelligent colored men to that place; nor
was there any prospect of a favorable change. Moreover, the persecutions
which gave rise to the colony, had in a great measure ceased; anti-slavery
truth was taking effect on the minds of the people, and God was raising up
many a friend for the poor slave, to plead with eloquent speech and tears,
the cause of the dumb and down-trodden.
These, with other considerations, influenced me in my decision to leave
Canada. As soon, however, as my intentions were made known, I was
importuned on all sides, by persons both in and out of the settlement,
to remain awhile longer, at least. This will be seen by a reference to the
After due deliberation, I concluded to send my family to the States, and
remain myself, until my year should terminate, for which I had been
elected township clerk. In accordance with this determination, I made
preparation to take my family to Port Stanley, forty miles distant. But
what a contrast was there between our leaving Rochester, five years
before, and our removing from the colony! Then, we had five two-horse
wagon loads of goods and furniture, and seven in family; now, our
possessions were only a few articles, in _a one-horse wagon_, with an
addition of two members to our household! The settlers collected about us,
to take an affectionate leave of my wife and children; but tears and sobs,
prevented an utterance of more than a "God bless you," and a few like
expressions. The scene was indeed an affecting one: all the weary days
of our labor; all the trials and difficulties we had passed; all the sweet
communion we had enjoyed in our religious and social meetings; all the
acts of neighborly kindness, seemed now to be indelibly impressed on every
memory, and we felt that a mutual regard and friendship had bound us
closer to each other, in the endearing bonds of Christian brotherhood--
bonds not to be broken by the adverse scenes incident to frail human life.
Arrived at Port Stanley, we were kindly entertained by a Mr. White, a
fugitive slave from Virginia, who owned a snug little farm on the bank of
Kettle Creek, and who appeared to be in a good and prosperous condition.
Being detained there, waiting for a boat, on which I was anxious to see
my family comfortably situated before I left them, I was aroused at an
early hour on the second morning of our stay, by a loud rapping at the
door; and hearing myself inquired for, I dressed myself immediately, and
followed Mr. White into the sitting room, where I saw two strange men,
armed with bludgeons! I soon learned, however, that one of them was the
under-sheriff, who had come to arrest me for a debt of about forty
dollars, and the other armed man had come to assist him, I assured them
I was ready to accompany them back to London, which I was obliged to do, a
prisoner, leaving my family among comparative strangers. The debt had
become due to a man who had worked for us in the building of a saw-mill. I
arranged the matter without going to jail, but before I could return to
Port Stanley, my family, kindly assisted by Mr. White, had departed for
Buffalo. The weather was cold and the lake very rough, but they safely
arrived in Rochester, after a journey of three days. During their passage
up the lake my oldest daughter took a severe cold, from which she never
I returned to the colony to attend to the duties of my office, and to
close my business with the colony, preparatory to joining my family, who
were now settled in Rochester, but in very different circumstances from
those in which they had left it. I had deposited quite a sum of money in
the Rochester Bank; but our continual expenditures at Wilberforce, in my
journeyings for the benefit of the colony, and in the transacting of
business pertaining to its interests, had left not one dollar for
the support of my family, or to give me another start in business.
Nevertheless, I felt willing to submit the case to Him who had known the
purity of my intentions, and who had hitherto "led me through scenes dark
and drear," believing he would not forsake me now, in this time of need.
Consoling myself with these reflections, I renewed my endeavors to do my
best, leaving the event with my God.
THE LAND AGENT AND THE SQUATTER.
I have named, I believe, that all the colored people, who purchased lands
of Lewis, could get no deed nor any remuneration for their improvements.
This they thought hard and unfair. Some had built a house and barn,
cleared land, &c.; but when they wished to pay for their farms, they could
get no deed, and were obliged to lose all their labor.
This raised such a general complaint against the land agents, that they
finally agreed to pay the squatters for their improvements, if they would
leave their farms. An opportunity was soon offered to test their sincerity
in this agreement. A shrewd fellow, who had been many years a sailor,
named William Smith, had made valuable improvements on land, for which he
could get no deed, and then he wished to leave it. His wife, also, died
about this time, leaving him with eight children, which determined him to
leave the colony, and after providing homes for his children, to return to
his former occupation on the high seas; but he also determined not to
leave without receiving the pay which the agents had agreed to give for
"Oh yes," said they, in answer to his repeated solicitations, "you shall
be paid, certainly, certainly; you shall be paid every farthing." But when
the appointed day came for the pompous land agents to ride through the
settlement, you might see Smith station himself at first one and then
another conspicuous place on the road, hoping they would have the
magnanimity to stop and pay him, especially, as he had informed them of
his destitute and almost desperate condition, with eight young children to
maintain, and no means to do so, after giving up to them the farm. Before
them as usual rode their body servant, of whom Smith would inquire at what
hour the agents might be expected. And most blandly would he be informed
of some particular hour, when perhaps, within the next ten minutes, the
lordly agent would fly past him, on their foaming steeds, with the speed
of a "lightning train." This course they repeated again and again. One
day, when all of the land agents rode through the settlement in this
manner, Smith followed them on foot over fifty miles. He at last
intercepted them, and they promised with the coolest indifference, that on
a certain day, not far distant, they would certainly pay him all he
claimed, if he would meet them at a certain hotel in London. To this he
agreed; and the poor fellow returned to the colony almost exhausted.
His funds were nearly all spent, and he wished to take his children to New
York; yet his only hope was in the integrity and honor of the land agents.
On the day appointed, he was at London long before the hour to meet, had
arrived. He entered the village with a determined air, and saw the agents
just riding up to a hotel,--but not the one they had told him to call at.
He, however, waited for no invitation, but entered the hotel and inquired
of the servant for his master. He said his master was not there!
"I know he is," said Smith, "and I want to see him."
The servant withdrew, but soon returned to say that his master was engaged
and could not see him that day. Smith followed the servant into the hall,
calling out to him in the most boisterous manner, demanding to be told the
reason _why_ he could not see his master. The noise which Smith purposely
made, soon brought into the hall one of the agents, a Mr. Longworth, a
short, fat man,--weighing in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds!
When he saw Smith, he strutted about, assuring him that this disgraceful
uproar was quite uncalled for, and finally putting on a severe look, told
him that he could not have anything for his improvements; of course not,--
he really could not expect; certainly not, &c. Smith plainly assured the
agent that his "blarney" would avail him nothing; he had come by their own
appointment to get his pay, and that he certainly should _have_--if not in
the way they themselves agreed upon, he would choose his own method of
getting it! Thus saying, he stepped back, threw down his woolly head, and
goat fashion, let drive into the fat Englishman's "bread basket!" He
sprawled about and soon recovered his standing, but continued to scream
and halloo with rage and mortification, more than with pain, until he had
brought to the spot landlord, boarders, and servants, to witness the
affray; but Smith, nothing daunted, administered two or three more
effectual butts with his hard head into the lordly agent, when the subdued
and now silent English gentleman, drew from his pocket book, and carefully
counted out, every dollar Smith had at first demanded. Smith accepted it
pleasantly, thanked him and withdrew, amid the shouts and jeers of the
spectators, which the agent was more willing to avoid than he. That was
the way the land agent paid the squatter.
It seemed, however, a little too bad, to make a fine English gentleman,
feel as "flat" as Longworth appeared to feel; yet it was undoubtedly the
only method by which Smith could recover a farthing. The agents, it was
supposed, did not design to pay for any improvements; indeed, some very
hard and unjust incidents occurred in connection with, that matter, and
probably Smith was about the only one, who ever received the full value of