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An Englishman's Travels in America by John Benwell

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Another of the many cruel laws put in force after the _emeute_ of the
negroes, was to prohibit any coloured person from walking on the
pavements, and forcing all males to salute every white they met. These
distinctions, although falling into disuse, are not even yet abolished,
but still, with many others equally odious, disgrace the Carolinean
statute book. I saw several negroes from the plantation districts,
walking in the road instead of on the pavement, in accordance with this
law, touching their hats to every white passer-by; they were
consequently obliged to be continually lifting their hands to their
heads, for they passed white people at every step. Although I believe
no punishment is now enforced for the omission of this humiliating
homage to colour, the men I have referred to were doubtless afraid to
disregard the ceremony.

A partiality exists in every part of America for music; indeed, so
strongly is this developed, that in almost all the towns, and even in
some hamlets in the western states, subscription bands are kept
up--these play every evening, when the weather admits, in the centre of
the public square, the citizens the while promenading round with their
wives and families.

But, although a decided penchant prevails for music, the preference is
given by the mass to a few ordinary airs, calculated to inspire that
love of country which every reminiscence of the struggle for
independence calls forth. The favourite air is the so-called national
one of "Hail, Columbia," although this is but second to the fantastic
drollery of "Yankee Doodle;" the latter is vociferously called for at
all places of amusement, and excites in the audience, at such places of
resort, almost frantic sensations. This is the more remarkable, as it
was originally composed by an Englishman, and, as it is so intimately
connected with Americanism, I shall, perhaps, be excused for introducing
here what may be termed its history.

In the attacks made upon the French posts in America, in 1755, those
against Niagara and Frontenac were made by Governor Shirley, of
Massachusetts, and General Jackson, of New York. Their army during the
summer lay on the eastern bank of the Hudson, a little south of Albany.
Early in June, the troops of the eastern provinces began to pour in
company after company, and such an assemblage never before thronged
together on such an occasion. "It would have relaxed the gravity of an
anchorite," says the historian, "to see the descendants of the Puritans
marching through the streets of the ancient city, and taking their
stations on the left of the British army--some with long coats, and
others with no coats at all, and with colours as various as the rainbow;
some with their hair cropped like the army of Cromwell, and others with
wigs, the locks of which floated with grace round their shoulders. Their
march, their accoutrements, and the whole arrangement of the troops,
furnished matter of amusement to the British army. The music played the
airs of two centuries ago; and the _tout ensemble_, upon the whole,
exhibited a sight to the wondering strangers to which they had been

Among the club of wits that belonged to the British army, there was a
Doctor Shackburg attached to the staff, who combined with his knowledge
of surgery the skill and talent of a musician. To please the new-comers,
he composed a tune, and, with much gravity, recommended it to the
officers as one of the most celebrated airs of martial music. The joke
took, to the no small amusement of the British. Brother Jonathan
exclaimed, it was "nation fine;" and in a few days, nothing was heard in
the provincial camp but the air of "Yankee Doodle."

Little did the author, in his composition, then suppose, that an air,
made for the purpose of levity and ridicule, should be marked for such
high destinies. In twenty years from that time, the national march--now
universally recognized by the patriots--inspired the heroes of Bunker's
Hill; and, in less than thirty, Lord Cornwallis and his army marched
into the American lines to the tune of "Yankee Doodle."


"Woe worth the hour when it is crime
To plead the poor dumb bondman's cause,
When all that makes the heart sublime,
The glorious throbs that conquer time,
Are traitors to our cruel laws."--LOWELL

The general appearance of the majority of the coloured people in the
streets of Charleston denoted abject fear and timidity, some of them as
I passed looking with servile dread at me (as they did at almost every
one who happened to pass), so that I could read in many of their looks a
suspicion of interference, which, commiserating their condition as I
did, was quite distressing.

It is impossible to form a correct estimate of what the perpetuators of
slavery have to expect, if once the coloured population obtain a
dominant position. The acknowledged gradual depopulation of the whites
in the slave states, through sickness, exhaustion of the land, and
consequent emigration, united with other causes, there is no doubt will
eventually result in a great preponderance of coloured people, who,
aroused by the iniquitous treatment they undergo, will rise under some
resolute leader, and redress their wrongs. I was quite struck to see in
Charleston such a disproportion of the colours, and, without
exaggerating, I can say, that almost if not quite three-fourths of those
I met in the streets were, if not actually of the negro race, tinged in
a greater or less degree with the hue.

Pursuing my perambulations, I came to the slave and general cotton place
of vendue, to the left of the General Post-office, which building is a
very substantial edifice of stone. Here a dozen or twenty auctioneers
were loudly holding forth to the assembled crowds, and cracking up their
wares in New York style. The most indescribable scene of bustle and
confusion prevailed, the whole street being covered with open bales and
boxes of goods. In one part of the street was a slave warehouse, and
advertisements were placarded outside of the particulars of the various
lots to be offered for competition, and now on view. As the privilege of
viewing in this instance was confined to those who possessed tickets, I
did not apply for one, as I knew that the wish would be attributed to
curiosity, and possibly a worse construction be put upon it, through my
being a stranger in the place.

Passing onwards through the assembled throng, I got into a more secluded
part of the city, and came upon a large burial-ground, in which many of
the monuments erected to the memory of the dead were of a very expensive
description. One in particular attracted my notice; this, on inquiry of
a gentlemanly-looking man, who, like myself, was inclined to "meditate
among the tombs," I ascertained had been erected by the relatives of a
planter, who had resided in an adjoining state, but who had several
cotton plantations within ten miles of Charleston; these he occasionally
visited, but in general confided to the care of an overseer, who lived
with his family on one of them. The season anterior to his last visit
had been a very unpropitious one, and he was much dissatisfied with the
management. To prevent a recurrence of this loss, and, under the strong
impression that the hands were not worked as they should be, he resolved
to inspect the plantations himself, and administer some wholesome
discipline in _propria persona;_ for this purpose, he visited one of the
plantations, intending afterwards to proceed to the others in rotation.
It so happened that he arrived when not expected; and, finding his
overseer absent, and many of the hands not as closely engaged as he
wished, he became violently enraged. Summoning the overseer, he ordered
all hands in front of the house to witness a punishment, and causing
eight or ten of those whom he pointed out to be tied up at once and well
whipped, stood by the while in uncontrollable anger to give directions.
In the midst of the scene, and while urging greater severity, he was
seized with a fit of apoplexy, which was of such a nature, that it at
once closed his career, and he died instantaneously. Directly the man
fell, the negroes collected round him and uttered cries and
lamentations, and the poor wretch who was at the moment the victim of
his brutality, on being untied, which was immediately done, joined in
it. Notwithstanding that my companion had a decided leaning towards the
extinction of slavery, (although he started various objections to its
abolition,) I was quite inclined to believe his relation, having, when
in Florida, met with a somewhat similar instance of the devotedness of
the negro race, in an old woman who was bitterly bewailing the loss of
her deceased mistress. The latter was an English lady, but not over kind
to her, and reflected no credit on her countrywomen. The poor creature
in touching strains enlarged upon her beauty and accomplishments, but
when I questioned her as to her treatment of the negroes in general
belonging to the estates, would say little on the subject, and shook
her head; in it was plain that, like most females living in the south,
she was a pampered worldling, entirely engrossed by principles of
self-interest, and little regarding the welfare of her dependents, if
not, as I have before observed, very severe towards them. She died
prematurely, from the effects of one of those virulent fevers, that in
southern latitudes are so often fatal to the inhabitants, especially to
those who have been nurtured in Europe. Her encoffined remains were
shipped on board a vessel, to be conveyed to England for burial, in
accordance with her expressed wish. When the poor creature came to that
part of her piteous tale, when, as she called her, her "beautiful angel
of a mistress" was put in the coffin, and the estate hands were called
in to take a last view of her (a custom in vogue there sometimes), she
was overpowered with grief, and her utterance was so choked, that she
could scarcely proceed.

During my stay in Charleston, I became acquainted with a gentleman of
colour, who followed a lucrative business as a dealer of some kind, and
who had formerly been a slave. The introduction arose in rather a
singular way, it being through a proposition made to open a school for
the education of coloured children, in which I took an interest.

Great opposition was offered to the scheme by the white rulers of the
place, who declared the project illegal, the enactments passed
subsequent and prior to the insurrection stringently forbidding it, or
any attempt to impart secular knowledge to the slaves. Notwithstanding
the violent threats used to prevent it, a meeting was however convened
to be held at the house of the gentleman referred to, and which I
resolved, though not unaccompanied with danger to my person, to take an
active part in. I accordingly went to his home on the evening appointed;
this was a spacious house, furnished in sumptuous style, with extensive
premises adjoining, contiguous to the north end of the levee. I noticed
that the walls were hung with good oil paintings gorgeously framed,
principally family portraits, but the most prominent in position was
that of the unfortunate Haytian chief, Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose
cruel end, at the instigation of the vindictive Bonaparte, will for ever
reflect shame on the French name as long as a sense of justice and love
of virtue and probity exists in the bosom of mankind. Far be it from me
to trample on the name of one whom retributive justice has consigned to
the dust, but the cruelty of Napoleon towards this magnanimous prince,
and his final barbarity in consigning him to a damp dungeon in a
fastness amongst the Alps, where he perished in exile from his subjects
and family after ten months' miserable endurance of the hardships
wrongfully imposed on him, almost causes a feeling of exultation at the
downfall of a despot, who, aiming at the sovereignty of the world,
scrupled not to sacrifice virtue and good faith at the shrine of
ambition. The fate of both chiefs was similar, for both perished in
captivity--the one the victim, perhaps, of inordinate ambition, the
other of unscrupulous avarice and envious malignity. The misfortunes of
Toussaint L'Ouverture have indeed with justice been pronounced the
"history of the negro race," for, in almost every instance where
coloured men have pushed themselves above the common level, they have
incurred the envy of white men, and, in too many instances, have been
crushed by their overbearing tyranny.

The meeting was conducted with religious decorum, most, if not all, of
the coloured gentlemen present being members of the Wesleyan connection.
I was pleased with the temperate spirit in which their wrongs were
discussed; and, after drawing up the rules, forming a committee, and
arranging other necessary preliminaries, the meeting broke up.

On reaching my hotel on my return, I was at once waited upon by the
landlord, who, in certainly a respectful manner, informed me that the
interest I had the day before incautiously expressed regarding the
school, had led to my being watched to the house where the meeting was
held; and that, to avoid the unpleasantness which would result from my
continuing to take any steps in the matter, and which might ensue, he
said, from the suspicions excited, he strongly advised that I should the
next day address a letter to the editor of the principal newspaper in
the city, repudiating all connection with a movement calculated, he
said, to disturb the public mind, and, perhaps, cause disturbance. This
I refused to do, but told him I did not intend to figure prominently in
the matter, and that my stay in the city would be very limited. He then
related several instances of mob law, which had been enacted-within the
twelve months preceding, which, he said, were quite necessary to
maintain southern rights, and which he did not fail to let me know he
fully concurred in. After this hint, conveyed, I must say, in a friendly
spirit, whatever my private opinion was as to the occasion of it, I
mingled, during the remainder of my stay, very little with the
frequenters of his establishment--a policy which I considered necessary
from personal considerations; and, owing to this cautious behaviour, I
was not afterwards interfered with, though often eyed with suspicion.

The school was opened during my stay, but continued so but a short
time, the virulent conduct of the constables, supported by some of the
citizens and the civil authorities, compelling its discontinuance. This
is not to be wondered at, when it is remembered that the old statute law
of South Carolina prohibits the education of negroes, bond or free,
under a penalty of fine and imprisonment; and, although before the
recent _emeute_ it was falling into disuse, that event revived its
enforcement with ancient malignity.

The free negro gentleman, at whose house the preliminaries for opening
the school referred to were gone through, informed me, on a subsequent
occasion, that the constant vexations and annoyances he was subjected
to, owing to the prejudice in the minds of southern people regarding
colour, would compel him to relinquish his business, and proceed either
to Canada or to the free states. He deplored the alternative much, as he
had been born and bred a slave in Carolina, and, by untiring assiduity,
had saved money enough to emancipate himself and his wife; "In fact," he
added, "I feel this is my country, and leaving it will come hard." He
had a numerous family, which he maintained in great respectability, and
his business being a profitable one made him more reluctant to abandon
it and the advantages that otherwise would attend his continuance in
Charleston. He hospitably entertained me at his home, and appeared
highly gratified at meeting with a white man who felt disposed to regard
him with equality.

After dining at his house one day, he took me a ride round the suburbs
of the city, which I noticed were flat and exceedingly uninteresting. We
returned by way of the Marine Parade, which is certainly a _chef
d'oeuvre_ of its kind. This is on the south side of the city, and
commands a magnificent sea-view. It is raised far above the sea, and
laid out with carriage-drives and paths for pedestrians. Far out,
looking towards Cape Hatteras, is a fort on an island; this is always
garrisoned by a detachment of U.S. troops, and of late years has been
used as a receptacle for those daring chiefs among the Indians, who, by
their indomitable courage, have been the terror of the United States
frontier. Here that hero Oceola, chief of the Seminoles, died not long
before, in captivity, from excessive grief, caused by the treachery of
certain American officers, who, under a pretended truce, seized him and
his attendant warriors. Below us in the bay we could see the fins of
several sharks, ploughing the waves in search of prey; while the
constant sailing to and fro of Cuba fruit-boats, laden with bananas,
pawpaws, pine-apples, and every luxury that and contiguous islands
afford, enlivened the scene, which altogether was one of extraordinary

There was a large assemblage of ladies and gentlemen promenading, and,
as I rode with my friend, I had some very furtive glances from the
crowd, which were intended, no doubt, to remind me that my keeping such
company was _infra dig_., if not open to suspicion. There was in truth
no little hazard in riding about in public with a man against whose
acquaintance I had a short time before been cautioned, and I felt my
position rather an uncomfortable one.

Had some of the young blood of Charleston been up, there is little doubt
but that I must have left the place _sans ceremonie._ Possessed of a
natural urbanity, or, what in elevated society amongst white people,
would be termed true politeness, the manner of the well-bred negro is
prepossessing. This was very remarkable in my coloured friend, who was
well informed, and possessed a refinement and intelligence I had never
before met with in any of his race. On the subject of enslavement he
would at first venture few observations, confining himself to those
inconveniences and annoyances that affected him individually; he,
however, became, after a time, more communicative.

On the whole, at first, I was not a little apprehensive that my
coloured acquaintance was under the impression that my friendship was
not sincere, although he did not say as much in his conversation; the
impression, however, soon left me, after a further intimacy. I
considered then, and do now, that the suspicion was quite excusable, the
Jesuitical practices and underhand trickery descended to by the white
population in the slave states, in order to ascertain how individuals
stand affected, are so numerous, that the coloured people are obliged to
be wary of those they either suspect, or of whom, being strangers, they
know little.

I remember well, whilst riding with him on the occasion I have already
referred to, we drove past a white man on horseback, who (as is common
in Charleston), was correcting his negro in the street. The poor fellow
was writhing under the cruel infliction of a flagellation with a
raw-hide, and rent the air with his cries. This only increased the rage
of his master, who seemed to take delight in striking his face and ears.
I eagerly watched the scene, and, as we passed, leaned over the back of
the gig. My companion, fearing, I suppose, lest the sight might provoke
in me some exclamation, and thus get us into notice, nudged me violently
with his elbow, saying at the same time, hurriedly, "Don't heed, don't
heed." My blood was getting hot, and but for my companion, my passion
would, in all probability, have got the better of my discretion, and I
should without remedy have been involved in a dispute, if not
immediately apprehended. As we rode on, I adverted to this barefaced
exhibition of tyranny in an open thoroughfare, which, I remarked, was
sufficient proof of the iniquity of the system, in spite of the
assertions made by the southerners to the contrary. In reply to this,
all my companion remarked was, "Did you never see that done before?" My
answer was, I had seen negroes cruelly treated on estates, and
elsewhere, but that this scene was the more revolting from its being
enacted in the open highway. Seeing that he was anxious to avoid the
subject, and that the observations he had made were drawn from him by my
remarks, I remained silent, and, wrapped in deep reflections on the
outrage we had witnessed, at length reached his dwelling. The occurrence
I suppose somewhat affected my spirits, for soon after we got into the
drawing-room, no one else being present, my friend addressed me, no
doubt observing my depression, nearly as follows. "Sir, you seem to have
a tender compassion for my poor countrymen; would to God white men were
all as feeling here. The system is an accursed one, but what can we do
but bear it patiently? Every hand seems against us, and we dare not
speak for ourselves." I told him I deeply sympathised with his
oppressed countrymen, and lived in hope that before long the public mind
in America would be aroused from its apathy, and the accumulated wrongs
of the race be redressed. His only reply was, "God grant it, I hope so

In Charleston there exist several charitable institutions, but these, I
believe, with only one exception, are for the benefit of poor white
people. The innate benevolence of the human heart is thus, in the midst
of dire oppression, wont to hold its sway, notwithstanding the poisonous
influences that surround. But the pro-slavery business neutralizes these
would-be benefactors, and taints all their endeavours, under the cloak
of benevolence, to remove the odium it so justly incurs. "Liberate your
slaves, and then I will talk to you about religion and charity," were
the emphatic words of an eminent northern divine in his correspondence
with the committee of a benevolent institution in the south, some years
ago, and the admonition speaks as forcibly now as it did then.

As you walk the streets of Charleston, rows of greedy vultures, with
sapient look, sit on the parapets of the houses, watching for offal.
These birds are great blessings in warm climates, and in Carolina a fine
of ten dollars is inflicted for wantonly destroying them. They appeared
to be quite conscious of their privileges, and sailed down from the
house-tops into the streets, where they stalked about, hardly caring to
move out of the way of the horses and carriages passing. They were of an
eagle-brown colour, and many of them appeared well conditioned, even to
obesity. At night scores of dogs collect in the streets, and yelp and
bark in the most annoying manner. This it is customary to remedy by a
gun being fired from a window at the midnight interlopers, when they
disperse in great terror. I should remark that this is a common nuisance
in warm latitudes. Some of these animals live in the wilds, and, like
jackals, steal into the towns at night to eke out a scanty subsistence.
At first my rest was greatly disturbed by their noisy yelpings, but I
soon became accustomed to the inconvenience, and thought little of it.

The warmth of the climate induces great lassitude and indisposition to
exertion, _alias_ indolence. I began to experience this soon after
arriving in the south. This, which in England would be called laziness,
is encouraged by the most trifling offices being performed by slaves.
The females in particular give way to this inertness, and active women
are seldom to be met with, the wives of men in affluent circumstances
being in general like pampered children, and suffering dreadfully from
_ennui_. On one occasion an English gentleman at Charleston, with whom I
became acquainted, and whose hospitality I shall never forget, when
conversing on the subject, addressed me thus: "Good, active wives are
seldom to be met with in this state, amongst the natives; I may say,
hardly ever; the females are nurtured in indolence, and in seeking what
they term a settlement, look more to the man's means than the likelihood
of living happily with him. There is no disguising it--the
considera--with them is a _sine qua non_. Few girls would refuse a man
who possessed a goodly number of slaves, though they were sure his
affections would be shared by some of the best-looking of the females
amongst them, and his conduct towards the remainder that of a very
demon." These sentiments I very soon ascertained to be in no way
libellous. A southern wife, if she is prodigally furnished with dollars
to "go shopping," apparently considers it no drawback to her happiness
if some brilliant mulatto or quadroon woman ensnares her husband. Of
course there are exceptions, but the patriarchal usage is so engrafted
in society there, that it elicits little notice or comment. Nor, from
what I gleaned, are the ladies themselves immaculate, as may be inferred
from the occasional quadroon aspect of their progeny.

The Jews are a very numerous and influential body in Charleston, and
monopolize many of its corporate honours. They were described as very
haughty and captious; this, however, is saying no more of the stock of
Israel than is observable all over the world, hen they are in prosperous
circumstances, although, when this is not the case, perhaps none of the
human family are so abject and servile, not excepting slaves themselves.
In process of time, these people bid fair to concentrate in themselves
most of the wealth and influence of Charleston. If their perseverance
(which is here indomitable) should attain this result, they will be in
pretty much the same position there that Pharaoh occupied over their
race in Egypt in olden time, and, if reports speak true, will wield the
sceptre of authority over their captives in a somewhat similar style.
Avarice is the besetting sin of the Israelite, and here his slaves are
taxed beyond endurance. To exact the utmost from his labour is the
constant aim, and I was informed that many of the slaves belonging to
Jews were sent out, and compelled on the Saturday night to bring in a
much larger sum than it was reasonably possible the poor creatures could
earn, and if not successful, they were subjected to the most cruel

Not long after my arrival in Charleston, I several times met a young
coloured man, who was of so prepossessing an appearance, that I felt
desirous to become acquainted with him, and, as I was at a loss to find
my way to the residence of the mayor, a good opportunity one day
offered, and I addressed him. He very courteously took me to the street
in which the house was situated, and we talked on general topics as we
went--in the course of which he stated, he was saving money for his
ransom, and in two years intended to proceed to Montreal, in Canada. I
could see, however, that the free manner in which we conversed attracted
the attention of three or four individuals as we passed them--these
would stop as if to satisfy their curiosity, some even took the trouble
to watch us out of sight; looking back, I several times saw one more
impertinent-looking than some others eyeing us intently, and once I
fancied I saw him turn as if to overtake us. This curiosity I had often
perceived before, but, as disagreeable results might follow, I
invariably made a practice to take no notice of it when in the company
of a coloured individual. A smile played upon the features of my dusky
companion, as I turned to observe the inquisitive fellows I have
referred to; perhaps I was taken for a negro-stealer, but, as I treated
my companion with equality, I was most likely set down as one of those
dangerous personages, who, through zeal in the cause of emancipation,
sometimes penetrate, into the slave districts, and are accused (with
what degree of justice I cannot tell) of infusing into the minds of the
slaves discontented notions and agrarian principles.

As I met, on the occasion I have just referred to, an individual who
knew I had felt an interest in endeavouring to establish the school for
the education of negro children, the result of which I have already
mentioned, I was apprehensive that the _contretemps_ would have exposed
me to the unpleasantness of at least being shunned afterwards as a man
entertaining principles inimical to southern interests--and, however
resolute I felt to pursue an independent course while I remained in
Charleston, I could not shake off a fear I vaguely entertained of a
public recognition by a deeply prejudiced and ignorant populace, who,
once set on, do not hesitate to proceed to disagreeable extremes. This
fear was enhanced in no little degree by the operation I had witnessed,
of the tarring and feathering process practised by enraged citizens in
the Missouri country, which I have before described.

The most degrading phrase that can be applied in the south to those
white individuals who sympathize in the wrongs inflicted on the African
race, I soon found to be, that "he associates with niggers." Thus a
kind-hearted individual at once "loses caste" among his fellow citizens
and, invidious though it certainly is, many slave-owners are deterred
by this consideration, blended with a politic regard for their own
safety, from exercising that benevolence towards their dependents which
they sincerely feel; placed, as it were, under a sort of social ban,
such men artfully conceal their sentiments from the public, and, by a
more lenient treatment of their own hands, quiet their consciences;
while, at the same time, they blunt their sense of what is honest,
upright, just, and manly. Instances have occasionally occurred where men
of correct principles have so far succumbed to this sense of duty, as to
liberate their slaves. These are, however, rare occurrences, and, when
they do happen, are usually confined to men of sterling religious
principles, who, like that great exception, the respectable class of
people called Quakers, in America, refuse, from a conviction of the
enormity of the evil, to recognize as members those who hold or traffic
in slaves.

It is through the influence of such men that the iniquities of the
system become exposed to public view, and remedies are sometimes, in
flagrant cases of cruelty, applied. The legislatures of the several
slave states, however, have given such absolute dominion, by a rigorous
code of laws, to the owner, that the greatest enormities may be
committed almost with impunity, or at least with but a remote chance of
justice having its legitimate sway.

The mass of slave-owners are interested in concealing enormities
committed by their fellows, and are backed by a venal press, which,
whether bribed or not (and there is every reason to suspect that this is
often the case), puts such a construction on _outrage_, by garbled
_reports_, as to turn the tide of sympathy from the victim to the
perpetrator. No editor, possessing the least leaven of anti-slavery
principles, would be patronized; and it not infrequently happens that
such men are mobbed and driven perforce to leave the slave, for the more
northern or free, states. Here they stand a better chance, but, in many
instances, the prejudice, it is said, follows their course, and southern
influence occasions their bankruptcy or non-success.

The practice, so common in the slave states, of the citizens
congregating at the bars of hotels or cafes in the towns and cities to
while away the time, renders attendance at such places the readiest
means of ascertaining the state of the public mind on any engrossing
subject, opinions being here freely discussed, not, however, without
bias and anger; on the contrary, the practice is most sectarian, and
frequently involves deadly feuds and personal encounters, these latter
being of every-day occurrence. Ever since I had been in the southern
states, my attention had been attracted to the swarms of well-dressed
loungers at cafes and hotels. At first, like many other travellers, I
was deluded by the notion that these idlers were men of independent
means, but my mind was soon disabused of this fallacy. I ascertained
that the greater portion of these belong to that numerous class in
America known as sporting gentlemen; in plainer terms, gamblers. Some of
these men had belonged to the higher walks of life; these were the more
"retiring few" who (probably through a sense of shame not quite
extinguished) felt rather disposed to shrink from than to attract
attention. The majority of these idlers were impudent-looking braggarts,
who, with jaunty air and coxcombical show of superiority, endeavoured to
enforce their own opinions, and to silence those of every one else.

There was also another class of frequenters at such places; this
consisted of tradesmen who pass much of their time hanging about at such
resorts, to the great detriment of their individual affairs; and,
lastly, such travellers as might be stopping in the town, who, through
_ennui_ and inveterate habit, had left their hotels, and sauntered "up
town" (as they call gadding about), to hear the news of the day.

Soon ascertaining that such places were the best, and, excepting the
public prints, the only resort to ascertain the latest intelligence, and
to collect information respecting the movements of the black
population, and the company, however exceptionable, being termed there
respectable, I adopted the plan, on several successive evenings, of
quietly smoking a cigar and listening to passing observations and
remarks. Some of these were disgusting enough; so much so, that I will
not offend my readers by repeating them. Suffice it to say, that any
individual possessing the slightest pretensions to the name of
gentleman, in any hotel I had visited in England, on indulging in the
indecorous language I heard at these places, would, by a very summary
process, have met with ejectment, without ceremony. Here, however, a
laxity of moral feeling prevails, that stifles all sense of propriety;
and scurrility, obscene language, and filthy jests, of which the
coloured population are, I suppose, per force of habit, the principal
butts, form the chief attractions of such places of resort to their
vitiated frequenters.

In the course of these visits I was present at some angry altercations;
one of these referred to the recent visit of an individual who was
termed by the disputants an "incendiary abolitionist," and who, it
appeared, had been detected in the act of distributing tracts, which had
been published at Salem, in Massachusetts, exposing the disabilities the
African race were labouring under. Extracts from one of these tracts
were read, and appeared very much to increase the violence of the
contending parties, one of whom insisted that the publication contained
nothing but what might be read by every slave in the sacred Scriptures,
and that, therefore, it could not be classed as dangerous, although he
admitted that it contained notions of "human rights" that were
calculated to imbue the mind of the "niggers" with unbecoming ideas.
These sentiments did not at all accord with those of the company, and
several expressions of doubt as to the soundness of the speaker's own
pro-slavery principles, together with the increasing excitement, caused
him to withdraw from the contest. His immediate antagonist, who was
evidently the leading man on the occasion, enlarged on the danger
attending the sufferance of such men at large in the slave states, and
proceeded, with great volubility, to quote various passages from the
Black Code to show that the Legislature had contemplated the intrusion
of such pestilent fellows, and had, in fact, given full power to remedy
the evil, if the citizens chose to exercise it; and went on to observe,
that the rights of southern people were now-a-days invaded on every
hand, and it behoved them to stand in their own defence, his advice, he
said, was, if the municipal authorities let the fellow go, to form a
committee of justice to adjudicate on the case, and if it was
considered conducive to the public weal, to administer salutary
punishment. This proposal was uproariously applauded, and four of the
citizens present, with the last speaker for chairman, were named on the
spot to watch the case. "And now," added this gentleman, "we'll have a
gin sling round for success." I heard the day following that the
individual who was the subject of the foregoing proceedings, was accused
before the mayor, who dismissed the case with a caution, advising him to
leave the city with all dispatch, to avoid disagreeable consequences.
This the man, by the aid of a constable, managed to do, that
functionary, no doubt for a consideration, taking him to the city
prison, and locking him up until nightfall, when he was assisted to
leave the place, disguised as a soldier. This, I was informed by a
friend, to whom I afterwards related it, was one of those commotions
that occur almost daily in southern towns and cities.

Such lawless frequenters of hotels, taverns, and cafes, form a kind of
social police, and scarcely a stranger visits the place without his
motives for the visit being canvassed, and his business often exposed,
much to his great annoyance and inconvenience.

So accustomed do American travellers in the south appear, to this system
of internal surveillance, that I several times noticed strangers at the
hotel or cafe counters openly explaining the object of their visits, and
if there is nothing to conceal, however annoying the alternative
appears, I am convinced the policy is not had, a host of suspicions
being silenced by such a course.

In my travels on the whole route from New York to Charleston, I
discovered a most unjustifiable and impertinent disposition to pry into
the business of others. If I was questioned once, I am sure I was at
least fifty times, by my fellow--travellers from time to time as to my
motive for visiting America, and my intended proceedings. I found,
however', that a certain reserve was an efficient remedy. Captain
Waterton, of South American celebrity, as an ornithologist, and who
visited North America in his travels, mentions that if you confide your
affairs and intentions when questioned, the Americans reciprocate that
confidence by relating their own. My own experience, however, did not
corroborate this view of the case, for, though loquacious in the
extreme, and gifted, so that to use a Yankee phrase, they would "talk a
dog's hind-leg off," they are in general cautious not to divulge their
secrets. To say the least of it, the habit of prying into the business
of others, is one totally unbecoming a well-ordered state of society,
which the American, speaking generally, is decidedly not. It is
extremely annoying, from the unpleasant feeling it excites, that you are
suspected if not watched (this applies forcibly to the slave districts);
and it is a habit that has arisen purely from the incongruity of society
at large on the American continent, and a want of that subdivision of
class that exists in Europe.

During my visits to the various hotels while I remained in Charleston,
for the purpose of collecting information, I was several times
interrogated in a barefaced manner by the visitors who frequent those
places, as to my politics, and especially as to my principles in regard
to the institution of slavery; now, as I was not unaware that my
intimacy with the gentleman of colour, which I have already referred to,
had got abroad, I was obliged to be extremely guarded in my replies on
such occasions. It was on one of these that I felt myself in great
hazard, for two individuals in the company were discussing with much
energy, the question of amalgamation (that is, marriage, contracted
between black and white men and women), and I was listening intently to
their altercation, when suddenly one of them, eyeing me with malicious
gaze, no doubt having noticed my attention to the colloquy, said,

"Your opinion, stranger, on this subject; I guess you understand it
torrably well, as you seem to be pretty hard on B----'s eldest
daughter." This unexpected sally rather alarmed me, for the name he
mentioned was that of my coloured friend I have before alluded to, and
whose daughter I had only met once, and that at her father's house.

I scarcely knew what to reply, but thought it best to put on a bold
face, so facing the man, I thanked him with much irony for the inuendo,
and said, it was a piece of impudence I thought very much like him from
what I had overheard.

This was said in a resolute tone, and the fellow quailed before it, his
reply being, "Now stranger, don't get angry, I saw you the other day at
B----'s house, and could not tell what to make of it, but I hope you
don't think that I was in arnest."

I replied to this, that I knew best what business I had at B----'s
house, and that his plan was to mind his own business. I then left him,
apparently highly indignant, but in fact glad to make my escape. Like
bullies all the world over, the southern ones are cowards; there is,
however, great danger here in embroiling yourself with such characters,
the pistol and bowie knife being instantly resorted to if the quarrel
becomes serious. I saw this braggart on several occasions afterwards,
but he evidently kept aloof, and was disinclined to venture in the part
of the room I occupied. I ascertained that he kept a dry goods store in
King-street, and was a boisterous fellow, often involved in quarrels.

The discussion on amalgamation, which is a very vexed one, was again
introduced on a subsequent occasion; a planter from the north of the
state having (as is sometimes the case) sold off everything he
possessed, and removed to the State of Maine, taking with him a young
quadroon woman, with the intention of making her his lawful wife, and
living there retired. After the expression of a variety of opinions as
to what this man deserved, some being of opinion that the subject ought
to be mooted in the legislature at Washington--others, that his whole
effects ought to be escheated, for the benefit of the public
treasury--and by far the greater number that he ought to be summarily
dealt with at the hands of the so-considered outraged citizens, which,
in other language, meant "lynched,"--it was stated, by a very loquacious
Yankee-looking fellow present, who made himself prominent in the
discussion, that it was the opinion of the company, that any man
marrying a woman with negro blood in her veins, should be hanged, as a
traitor to southern interests and a bad citizen. This sentiment was
loudly applauded, and, had the unfortunate subject of it been in
Charleston or near it, he would, in all probability, have been called
to account. To me it appeared remarkable, that men, who are always
boasting of the well-ordered institutions of their country (slavery
being a very important one, be it remembered), should be ever ready to
set aside all law, and, as it were, by _ex parte_ evidence alone,
inflict summary vengeance on the offender; I was, however, always of
opinion, when amongst them, that four-fifths of the men would rejoice if
all law were abrogated, and the passions of the people allowed to govern
the country, thus constituting themselves judges in their own case, and
trampling under foot every semblance of justice, equity, and common
propriety. As it is, in many parts of the Union, the judges and
magistrates are notoriously awed by the people, and the most perfidious
wretches are suffered to escape the hands of justice. A full
confirmation of this is to be found in the frequent outrages against law
and order reported in the newspapers, and which there elicit little

Walking for a stroll, a day or two after, in the vicinity of the
Marine-promenade, I saw a strange-looking cavalcade approaching. Two
armed overseers were escorting five negroes, recently captured, to the
city gaol. The poor creatures were so heavily shackled, that they could
walk but slowly, and their brutal conductors kept urging them on,
chiefly by coarse language and oaths, now and then accompanied by a
severe stroke with a slave-whip carried by one of them. The recovered
fugitives looked very dejected, and were, no doubt, brooding over the
consequences of their conduct. The elder of the party, a stout fellow of
about forty-five years old, of very sullen look, had a distinct brand on
his forehead of the initials S.T.R. I afterwards inquired what these
brand-marks signified, supposing, naturally, that they were the initials
of the name of his present or former owner. My informant, who was a
by-stander, stated that he was, no doubt, an incorrigibly bad fellow,
and that the initials S.T.R. were often used in such cases. I inquired
their signification, when, to my astonishment, he replied it might be,
"Stop the rascal," and added that private signals were in constant use
among the inland planters, as he called them, who, he said, suffered so
much by their hands running away, that it was absolutely necessary to
adopt a plan of the kind for security. He further stated, that such
incorrigibles, when caught, were never allowed to leave the plantations,
so that if they ventured abroad, they carried the warrant for their
immediate arrest with them. "But," he went on, "people are beginning to
dislike such severity, and a new code of regulations, backed by the
Legislature, is much talked of by the innovators, as we call them, to
prevent such practices." I have no doubt this man owned slaves himself.

I said I thought myself that the policy of kindness would answer better
than such severities, and it would be well if slave-holders generally
were to try it.

"Ah, stranger," he replied, "I see you don't understand things here,
down south. Don't you know that people who are over kind get imposed on?
This is specially the case with slaves; treat them well, and you'll soon
find them running off, or complaining. The only way to manage niggers is
to keep them down, then you can control them, but not else."

It has been urged a thousand times in defence of the upholders of
slavery in its various ramifications, that they are in reality, as a
body, opposed to the system, and would readily conform to any change
that would be sufficiently comprehensive to indemnify them from present
and future loss. From conversations heard in South Carolina, and other
slave districts, I am quite satisfied that this is a misrepresentation,
and that the generality of proprietors regard any change as a dangerous
innovation, and that, far from reluctantly following the occupation of
traders in flesh and blood, it is quite congenial to the vitiated tastes
of the greater portion of southern citizens, whose perverted notions of
justice and propriety are clamorously expressed on the most trivial
occasions. In whatever sphere of society amongst them you go, you find
the subject of "protecting their rights" urged with impetuosity; the
same rancorous feeling towards men of abolitionist sentiments, and the
same deprecation of the slave race. To decry the negroes in public
opinion is one of their constant rules of action, and if an individual
attempts to assert their equal rights with mankind at large, he is
considered as disaffected towards southern interests, and, if not openly
threatened, as I have before observed in this work, is unceremoniously
talked down.' It is thus often dangerous to broach the subject, and if
an individual, more daring than people generally are when in the
plague-infected latitudes of slavery, attempts to repudiate the views so
unhesitatingly expressed by the pro-slavery advocates, that the negro
race is but the connecting link between man and the brute creation, he
is looked upon with disgust, and his society contemned. This overbearing
conduct is so ingrained, that it shows itself on the most trifling
occasions, in their intercourse with their fellow-citizens.

Argumentative facts might be produced _ad infinitum_ to prove that the
legal enactments for the government of the slave states of America have
been framed so as to vest in the proprietor as much control over the
lives and persons of those they hold in servitude as any animal in the
category of plantation stock. This in my tour through that region of
moral darkness and despair, the state of Louisiana, I had numberless
opportunities of observing, which would not fail to convince the most
sceptical; and if I have passed over many of these in the foregoing
pages, it is because the incidents themselves (though proving that the
slightest approach to independent action, or opposition to the depraved
wills of their tyrannical superiors, is at once visited with
consequences that make me shudder to reflect upon) were of too trivial a
nature to interest the general reader. I will, however, copy here an
extract from a paper published in Virginia, the _Richmond Times_ for
August, 1852, which must, I think, tend to remove any doubts, if they
exist in the mind of the reader, that the conclusions I have come to
from personal observation are correct, and sufficient to prove that the
despotic Nicholas of Russia himself does not exercise more absolute
control over the lives and liberties of the degraded serfs he rules,
than the slave-appropriators of America do over their victims.

The newspaper in question is a highly popular one with the
aristocratical slave-owners of Virginia, and the editor one of those
champions of the unjust and iniquitous system who invariably meet with
extensive patronage in every part of the southern states.

"A FIELD-HAND SHOT.--A gentleman named Ball, overseer to Mr. Edward T.
Taylor, finding it necessary to chastise a field-hand, attempted to do
so in the field. The negro resisted, and made fight, and, being the
stronger of the two, gave the overseer a beating, and then betook
himself to the woods. Mr. Ball, as soon as he could do so, mounted his
horse, and, proceeding to Mr. Taylor's residence, informed him of what
had occurred. Taylor, in company with Ball, repaired to the corn-field,
to which the negro had returned, and demanded to know the cause of his
conduct. The negro replied that Ball attempted to flog him, and he would
not submit to it. Taylor said he should, and ordered him to cross his
hands, at the same time directing Ball to seize him. Ball did so, but
perceiving the negro had attempted to draw a knife, told Mr. Taylor of
it, who immediately sprang from his horse, and, drawing a pistol, shot
the negro dead at his feet."

The _Richmond Reporter_, a contemporary of the _Times_, commented on
this impious affair as follows:--"Mr. Taylor did what every man who has
the management of negroes ought to do; enforce obedience, or kill them."

It is the practice of the inhabitants of Charleston, in common, I
believe, with all owners of slaves in towns or cities in the slave
states, who have not employment sufficient for them at home, or when the
slave is a cripple, to send them out to seek their own maintenance. In
such cases the slave is compelled to give an account of what he has
earned during the week, at his owner's house, where he attends on
Saturday evenings for the purpose. A fixed sum is generally demanded, in
proportion to the average value of such labour at the time. I was
informed that it frequently happens, that the master exacts the utmost
the slave can earn, so that the miserable pittance left is scarcely
sufficient to sustain nature; this, no doubt, accounts for the haggard,
care-worn appearance of such labourers, for, with few exceptions, I
found hands thus sent out, more miserably clad and less hale than the
common run of slaves. On the other hand, if a slave is a good
handicraftsman, he is able to earn more than his master demands; such
instances are, however, rare. These are the men who, by dint of hard
work and thrifty habits, accumulate sufficient eventually to obtain
manumission. There is, in most cases, a strict eye kept on such hands,
and if the boon is attained, it is in general by stealthy means.

At my boarding-house in Charleston, I often saw negro laundresses who
called for linen; one of these in particular, I noticed, seemed to be in
habitual low spirits; on one occasion she appeared to be in unusual
distress, in consequence of one of the boarders leaving the house in her
debt. She said that her owner would certainly punish her if she did not
make up the required sum, and where to procure it she could not tell. I
was touched by her tale, and immediately opened a subscription amongst
the boarders in the house, and succeeded in collecting a trifle over the
amount she had lost; this I handed her, and she went on her way

I was told by a Carolinian who lodged at this house, that the practice
of sending out slaves to earn money in the way I have described, has
been in vogue from time immemorial, and that it was such a profitable
mode of realizing by slave labour, that it was followed more extensively
in that state now than formerly.

I will conclude this part of my narration, by quoting the words of a
powerful writer on the subject of slavery as I have witnessed its
operation in America.

"Amongst the afflicting ills which the wickedness of man has established
upon earth, the greatest beyond compare is slavery. Indeed, its
consequences are so dreadful, the sins which it engenders are of such
gigantic proportions, and all its accompaniments are so loathsome and
hideous, that the minds of benevolent persons revolt from contemplating
it, as offering a spectacle of crime and cruelty, too deep for a remedy,
and too vast for sympathy. Slavery is an infinite evil, the calculations
of its murders, its rapine, its barbarities, its deeds of lust and
licentiousness, though authenticated by the most unquestionable
authorities, would produce a total of horrors too great to be believed;
and to narrate the history of these cruelties which have been
perpetrated by American slave-masters within the last five years alone,
would be to tell idle fables in the opinions of those who have not
deeply studied the tragical subject. If we take the United States of
America, where the outcry against slavery is greater than in any other
country under heaven, and where we hear more of religion and revivalism,
more of bustle and machinery of piety, a country setting itself up as a
beacon of freedom; then does slavery amongst such a people appear
transcendently wicked; a sin, which, in addition to its usual cruelty
and selfishness, is in them loaded with hypocrisy and ingratitude. With
hypocrisy, as it relates to their pretensions to liberty, and with
ingratitude, as it relates to that God who gave them to be free. This,
indeed, makes all the institutions of America, civil and religious,
little better than a solemn mockery, a tragical jest for the passers-by
of other nations, who, seeing two millions and a half of slaves held in
fetters by vaunting freemen and ostentatious patriots, wag the head at
the disgusting sight, and cry out deridingly to degraded America, 'The
worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.'"

My original intention of settling in America having been frustrated by
ill health and other causes, I embarked on board a fine barque bound for
Liverpool, where, after a favourable run of three weeks, we arrived in
safety. Nothing worth noting occurred on the passage, except a fracas
between the captain and the first mate, whom the former had discovered
to be ignorant of the art of navigation, and who had, it appeared, been
engaged in a hurry on the eve of the vessel's departure from Charleston.

One day, comparing the result of a solar observation with the mate, and
finding him out in his calculations, the captain accused him, in great
anger, of imposition, in offering his services as an efficient person to
navigate the ship. On my endeavouring to pacify him, he turned to me, in
a violent passion, and exclaimed, "This man, sir, is 400 miles out in
his reckoning--and where would you and the ship be, do you think, if I
were washed overboard!" this argument was too cogent to be combated, and
so I interfered no more. He ordered the mate to go to the forecastle,
and refused to admit him to the cabin during the remainder of the
passage. The mate was much irritated at this treatment, and, after a
violent altercation, one day rushed to his chest and brought up two
pistols, one of which he presented in the face of the captain, daring
him at the same time to utter another word. The captain, highly
incensed, instantly descended the companion-way to the cabin, and
shortly after appeared with a blunderbuss, which he proceeded to prime.
I was in a terrible state of mind at this juncture, and fully expected a
fearful tragedy; this, however, was averted by the interference of
another passenger, who stood between the parties.

A violent storm overtook us in doubling Cape Hatteras soon after we
sailed, which, besides damaging the bulwarks of the vessel, tore some of
the sails to shivers; our ship stood it, however, gallantly, and, after
that occurrence, we had favourable weather the remainder of the voyage.

I was awaked early in the morning of the twenty-first day we had been at
sea, by a cry from the man at the helm, of "Great Ormes Head," and,
hurrying on my clothes, I gained the deck. The high hills could be
indistinctly seen through the morning haze, and the sight was
accompanied with joyful feelings to all on board. This enthusiasm was
even communicated to the captain himself, who, since the affair with the
mate, had been very much disposed to be sullen and unfriendly.

I never could form a correct estimate of this man's character, but it
was very evident he wished to pass for a pious man. He was a native of
the eastern state of Massachusetts, and told me he had a family there.
As to religion, I believe he had none, though he was a Methodist by
profession. I could often hear him praying audibly in his state-room on
board, with much apparent feeling--but so little did these devotional
fits aid him in curbing his wicked temper, that, even when engaged in
this manner, he would, if anything extraordinary occurred on deck to
disturb him, rush up the companion-way, and rate and swear at the
sailors awfully.

Soon after making Ormes Head, a pilot came on board, and, with a fair
wind, we proceeded towards the river Mersey.

After my wanderings in the slave-stricken regions of the south, and my
escapes in Florida, the sight of the hospitable shores of my native
country did more, I think, to renovate my injured health, than all the
drastics of the most eminent physicians in the world; certain it is,
that, from this time, I gradually recovered, and, by the blessing of
the Great Giver of all good, have been fully restored to that greatest
of sublunary benefits--vigorous health; a consummation I at one time
almost despaired of.


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