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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 8, No. 46, August, 1861 by Various

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"What is that?" said he, surprised.

"A Papist,--a Catholic!"

"Ah!" he returned, sighing, "once I was _bon Catholique_,--once in my
gone youth; after then I was nothing but the poor man who bats for his
life; now I am of the religion that shelters the stranger and binds up
the broken poor."

Monsieur was a diplomatist. This melted Miss Lucinda's orthodoxy right
down; she only said,--

"Then you will go to church with me?"

"And to the skies above, I pray," said Monsieur, kissing her knotty hand
like a lover.

So in the earliest autumn they were married, Monsieur having previously
presented Miss Lucinda with a delicate plaided gray silk for her wedding
attire, in which she looked almost young; and old Israel was present
at the ceremony, which was briefly performed by Parson Hyde in Miss
Manners's parlor. They did not go to Niagara, nor to Newport; but that
afternoon Monsieur Leclerc brought a hired rockaway to the door, and
took his bride a drive into the country. They stopped beside a pair of
bars, where Monsieur hitched his horse, and, taking Lucinda by the
hand, led her into Farmer Steele's orchard, to the foot of his biggest
apple-tree. There she beheld a little mound, at the head and foot of
which stood a daily rose-bush shedding its latest wreaths of bloom, and
upon the mound itself was laid a board on which she read,

"Here lie the bones of poor Piggy."

Mrs. Lucinda burst into tears, and Monsieur, picking a bud from the
bush, placed it in her hand, and led her tenderly back to the rockaway.

That evening Mrs. Lucinda was telling the affair to old Israel with so
much feeling that she did not perceive at all the odd commotion in his
face, till, as she repeated the epitaph to him, he burst out with,--"He
didn't say what become o' the flesh, did he?"--and therewith fled
through the kitchen-door. For years afterward Israel would entertain a
few favored auditors with his opinion of the matter, screaming till the
tears rolled down his cheeks,--

"That was the beateree of all the weddin'-towers I ever heerd tell on.
Goodness! it's enough to make the Wanderin' Jew die o' larfin'!"

* * * * *


When Nadir asked a princess for his son,
And Delhi's throne required his pedigree,
He stared upon the messenger as one
Who should have known his birth of bravery.

"Go back," he cried, in undissembled scorn,
"And bear this answer to your waiting lord:--
'My child is noble! for, though lowly born,
He is the son and grandson of the _Sword_!'"


There are not a few timid souls who imagine that England is falling into
decay. Our Cousin John is apt to complain. He has been accustomed to
enlarge upon his debts, his church-rates and poor-rates, his taxes on
air, light, motion, "everything, from the ribbons of the bride to the
brass nails of the coffin," upon the wages of his servants both on the
land and the water, upon his Irish famine and exodus, and his vast
expenses at home and abroad. And when we consider how small is his
homestead, a few islands in a high latitude inferior to those of Japan
in size and climate, and how many of his family have left him to better
their condition, one might easily conclude that he had passed his
meridian, and that his prospects were as cloudy as his atmosphere.

But our Cousin John, with a strong constitution, is in a green old age,
and still knows how to manage his property.

Within the last two years he has quietly extinguished sixty millions of
his debts in terminable annuities. He has improved his outlying lands
of Scotland and Ireland, ransacked the battle-fields of Europe for
bone-dust and the isles of the Pacific for guano, and imported enough to
fertilize four millions of acres, and, not content with the produce of
his home-farm, imports the present year more than four millions of tons
of grain and corn to feed nineteen millions of his people.

He has carried his annual exports up to six hundred and thirty millions
of dollars, and importing more than he exports still leaves the world
his debtor. He has a strong fancy for new possessions, and selects the
most productive spots for his plantations. When he desired muslin,
calico, and camel's-hair shawls for his family, he put his finger on
India; and when he called for those great staples of commerce, indigo,
saltpetre, jute, flax, and linseed, India sent them at his bidding. When
he required coffee, he found Ceylon a Spice Island, and at his demand
it furnished him with an annual supply of sixty millions of pounds. He
required more sugar for his coffee, and by shipping a few coolies from
Calcutta and Bombay to the Mauritius, once the Isle of France, it yields
him annually two hundred and forty million pounds of sugar, more than
St. Domingo ever yielded in the palmy days of slavery. He wanted wool,
and his flocks soon overspread the plains of Australia, tendering him
the finest fleeces, and his shepherds improved their leisure not in
playing like Tityrus on the reed, but in opening for him mines of copper
and gold. He had his eye on California, but Fremont was too quick for
him, and he now contents himself with pocketing a large proportion of
her gold, to say nothing of the silver of Mexico and Peru.

Wherever there is a canal to be excavated, a railway to be built, or a
line of steamers to be established, our Cousin John is ready with a full
purse to favor the enterprise. He turns even his sailors and soldiers to
good account: the other day he subdued one hundred and fifty millions of
rebels in the Indies, and then we find him dictating a treaty of
peace and a tribute to the Emperor of China from the ruins of his
summer-palace and the walls of Pekin. Although generally well disposed,
especially towards his kith and kin this side the water, he is choleric,
and if his best customers treat him ill, he does not hesitate to knock
them down. Although dependent on Russia for his hemp and naval
stores, and on China for his raw silk and teas, he suffers no such
considerations to deter him from fighting, and usually gets some
advantage when he comes to terms. He is belting the world with colonies,
and forming agencies for his children wherever he can send the
messengers of his commerce. At this very moment he is considering
whether he shall transport coolies from China to Australia, Natal, or
the Feegee Islands, to raise his cotton and help put down Secession and
export-duties, or whether he shall give a new stimulus to India cotton
by railways and irrigation. He seems to prosper in all his business;
for the "Edinburgh Review" reports him worth six thousand millions of
pounds, at least,--a very comfortable provision for his family.

The wealth and power of Great Britain are supposed to rest upon her
mines of iron and coal. These undoubtedly help to sustain the fabric.
With her iron and coal, she fashions and propels the winged Mercuries
of her commerce; with these and the clay that underlies her soil, she
erects her factories and workshops; these form the Briarean arms by
which she fabricates her tissues. But it is by more minute columns than
these, it is by the hollow tubes revealed by the microscope, the fibres
of silk, wool, and flax, hemp, jute, and cotton, that she sustains the
great structure of her wealth. These she spins, weaves, and prints into
draperies which exact a tribute from the world. During the year 1860
Great Britain imported or produced a million tons of such fibres, an
amount equal to five million bales of cotton, more than one-half of
which were in cotton alone. These fibres it is our purpose to examine.

* * * * *

The thread of the silk-worm came early into use. The Chinese ascribe its
introduction to the wife of one of their emperors, to whom divine honors
were subsequently paid. Until the Christian era silk was little known in
Europe or Western Asia. It is mentioned but three times in the common
version of the Old Testament, and in each case the accuracy of the
translation is questioned by German critics. It is, however, distinctly
alluded to by St. John, by Aristotle, and by the poets who flourished at
the court of Augustus, Virgil, Horace, and Tibullus, and is referred to
by the writers of the first four centuries. Tertullian, in his homily on
Female Attire, tells the ladies,--"Clothe yourselves with the silk of
truth, with the fine linen of sanctity, and the purple of modesty." The
golden-mouthed St. Chrisostom writes in his Homilies,--"Does the rich
man wear silken shawls? His soul is in tatters." "Silken shawls are
beautiful, but they are the production of worms."

The silken thread was early introduced. Galen recommends it for tying
blood-vessels in surgical operations, and remarks that the rich ladies
in the cities of the Roman Empire generally possessed such thread; he
alludes also to shawls interwoven with gold, the material of which is
brought from a distance, and is called _Sericum_, or silk. Down to the
time of the Emperor Aurelian silk was of great value, and used only by
the rich. His biographer informs us that Aurelian neither had himself
in his wardrobe a garment composed wholly of silk, nor presented any to
others, and when his own wife begged him to allow her a single shawl
of purple silk, he replied,--"Far be it from me to permit thread to be
balanced with its weight in gold!"--for a pound of gold was then the
price of a pound of silk.

Silk is mentioned in some very ancient Arabic inscriptions; but down to
the reign of the Emperor Justinian was imported into Europe from the
country of the Seres, a people of Eastern Asia, supposed to be the
Chinese, from, whom it derived its name. During the reign of Justinian
two monks brought the eggs of the silkworm to Byzantium from Serinda in
India, and the manufacture of silk became a royal monopoly of the Roman

From Greece the culture of silk was gradually carried into Italy and
Spain, and English abbots and bishops often returned from Rome with
vestments of silk and gold. Silken threads are attached to the covers of
ancient English manuscripts. Silk in the form of velvet may be seen on
some of the ancient armor in the Tower of London; and portions of silk
garments were found in 1827 in the Cathedral of Durham, on opening the
tomb of St. Cuthbert. The use of silk, however, was so rare in England
down to the time of the Tudors, that a pair of silk hose formed an
acceptable present to Queen Elizabeth.

The principal supply of raw silk is now derived from China, where silks
are much worn, and there Marco Polo several centuries since found silk
robes in very general use. Japan also abounds in silk, and the late
Japanese embassy and suite were arrayed in garments of that material.

The annual consumption of raw silk in Great Britain now averages seven
millions of pounds, and the value of the annual export of silk fabrics
is not far from ten millions of dollars.

The manufacture of silk was introduced into England by the French
Protestants who were driven into exile on the revocation of the Edict of
Nantes. Their descendants are still found in London and Coventry, where
the silk-trade has been long established, and is now going through the
ordeal to which it has been exposed by the new treaty with France.

The French undoubtedly take the lead in silk fabrics, for which they are
admirably qualified by exquisite taste and great artistic skill; but
the silk manufacture in England is now so interwoven, in many of its
branches, with the manufacture of wool and cotton, and aided by improved
machinery, that it may be considered as firmly established.

Our own climate is well adapted to the silk-worm, and we have had our
_Morus-multicaulis_ fever; but so light is the freight on silk compared
with its value, that we must defer our hope of any extended growth until
the price of labor in Europe approaches nearer to our own, or until the
excess of production in other branches shall divert genius into this
channel, in which it will eventually cheapen production by machinery as
it has done in other enterprises.

* * * * *

We read in the classics of the Colchian and Milesian fleeces, of the
soft wools of Italy, and of the transfer of sheep from Italy to Bastica,
in Spain. Italy and Spain were both adapted to sheep husbandry. Virgil

"Hic gelidi fontes, hie mollia prata, Lycori";

while Spain, with her alternations of hill and dale and her varying
climate, was eminently fitted for the pasturage of sheep. Even in
ancient times Spain furnished wool of great fineness and of various
colors, and cloths like the modern plaids were woven there from wool of
different shades. Sometimes the Spanish sheep was immersed alive in the
Tyrian purple.

In modern times, the sheep of Spain have been introduced into France
and Germany, and from them have sprung the French merino and Saxony
varieties. These again have been exported to Natal and Australia.

Before the American Revolution, the sheep of this country furnished a
wool so coarse that English travellers reported that America could never
compete with England in broadcloth. But when the French armies overran
Spain, the vast flocks of merinos which annually traversed the country
in search of fresh pasturage were driven into Portugal, and by the
enterprise of Messrs. Jarvis, Derby, and Humphrey, large numbers of them
were imported into our Northern States. These have improved our wool,
until now it surpasses the English in fineness.

The fine-wool sheep thrive most in a dry climate and elevated country.
We learn from Strabo, Columella, and Martial, that the fine wool
of Italy was raised principally among the Apennines; and in Spain,
Estremadura, a part of the ancient Baetica, is still famous for its
wool. There the Spanish flocks winter, and thence in spring are sent to
pasture in the mountains of Leon and Asturias. Other flocks are led
in the same season from great distances to the heights of the Sierra
Morena, where the vegetation is remarkably favorable to improvement of
the wool.

In this country, the elevated lands of Texas and New Mexico are
admirably adapted to the fine-wool sheep; and upon the head-waters of
the Missouri and the Yellowstone is another district much resembling the
Spanish sheep-walks, where the mountain-sheep and the antelope still

When Caesar invaded England he found there great numbers of flocks, and
for many centuries wool was the great staple of English exports; but
during the reign of Queen Elizabeth numerous artisans were driven from
Brabant and Flanders by the Duke of Alva, and the manufacture of wool,
which had enriched the Low Countries, was permanently established in

With the progress of agriculture, the turnip-culture enabled Great
Britain to increase the number of her sheep; but they were raised more
for the market than for their fleeces, which were rarely fine, and the
demand for wool soon exceeded the supply. England then opened her ports
to the free importation of wool from every region, and now annually
manufactures two hundred millions of pounds, twice the amount
manufactured in this country, of which two-thirds are drawn from distant
lands, and her export of woollens for 1860 exceeded one hundred millions
of dollars.

The same policy which has built up this vast manufacture, namely, the
free importation of the raw material and of every article used in its
manufacture, with a moderate duty on foreign cloths, will enable us to
compete with England. Our farmers' wives prefer the sheep-husbandry to
the care of the dairy; much of our land furnishes cheap pasturage, and
the prices of mutton are remunerative; but many of the low grades of
wool come from abroad, and the mill-owner will not embark largely in
the manufacture, unless he can purchase his materials as cheaply as his
foreign competitor.

* * * * *

Cotton is mentioned by Herodotus five centuries before the Christian
era. He alludes to the cotton-trees of India, and describes a cuirass
sent from Egypt to the King of Sparta embellished with gold and with
fleeces from trees. Theophrastus, the disciple of Aristotle, notices
the growth of cotton both in India and Arabia, and observes that the
cotton-plants of India have a leaf like the black mulberry, and are set
on the plains in rows, resembling vines in the distance. On the Persian
Gulf he noticed that they bore no fruit, but a capsule about the size of
a quince, which, when ripe, expanded so as to set free the wool, which
was woven into cloth of various kinds, both very cheap and of great

The cotton-plant was observed by the Greeks who accompanied Alexander
in his march to India: and his officers have left a description of the
cotton dress and turban which formed the costume of the natives at that
remote period.

Cotton early found its way into Egypt, then the seat of arts and of
commerce; for Pliny in his "Natural History" informs us that "in Upper
Egypt, towards Arabia, there grows a shrub which some call _Gossypion_
and others _Xylon_. It is small, and bears a fruit resembling the
filbert, within which is a downy wool that is spun into thread. There
is nothing to be preferred to these stuffs for whiteness or softness.
Beautiful garments are made from them for the priests of Egypt."

The troops of Anthony wore cotton when he visited Cleopatra, and she
was arrayed in vestments of fine muslin. It was soon after used for the
sails of vessels, and the Romans employed it for awnings in the Forum
and the Amphitheatres.

It was cultivated at an early period in the Levant, whence it was
gradually introduced into Sicily, France, and England.

Arabian travellers who reached China in the ninth century did not
observe the cotton-plant in that country, but found the natives clad in

The cotton-plant, although indigenous in India, has also been found
growing spontaneously in many parts of Africa. It was discovered by
Columbus in Hispaniola, and among the presents sent by Cortes to Charles
V. were cotton mantles, vests, and carpets of various figures, and in
the conquest of Mexico the Indian allies wore armor of quilted cotton,
impervious to arrows.

The plant of India resembles that of America in most particulars. It
is there often placed in alternate rows with rice, and after the
rice-harvest is over puts forth a beautiful yellow flower with a crimson
eye in each petal; this is succeeded by a green pod filled with a white
pulp, which as it ripens turns brown, and then separates into several
divisions containing the cotton. A luxuriant field, says Forbes in his
"Oriental Memoirs," "exhibits at the same time the expanding blossom,
the bursting capsule, and the snowy fleeces of pure cotton, and is one
of the most beautiful objects in the agriculture of Hindostan."

The manufacture of cotton in India, with very simple machinery, was
early brought to high perfection. Travellers in the ninth century
describe muslins in India which were of such fineness that they might be
drawn through a ring of moderate size; and Tavernier speaks of turbans,
composed of thirty-five ells of the cloth, which would weigh but four
ounces. Muslin has been sold in India for five hundred rupees the piece,
so fine, that, when laid upon the grass after the dew had fallen, it
was no longer visible. The patience, the nice sense of touch, and the
flexible fingers of the Hindoos have with the simplest means achieved
results in this branch of manufacture which have not been surpassed by
any people.

But this manufacture is now breathing its last; the cotton-gin, the
spinning-frame, the mule with its countless spindles, and the power-loom
are fearful competitors; and although British India still produces quite
as much cotton as our Southern States, and while she exports at least
eight hundred thousand bales annually to England and China, continues at
the same time to make the larger part of her own clothing, flourishing
cities, like Dacca and Delhi, once the seat of manufactures, are going
to decay, and a large proportion of her people, willing to toil at six
cents per day in occupations that have been transmitted for centuries
in the same families, are either driven to the culture of the fields or
compelled to spin and weave for a pittance the jute which is converted
into gunny-cloth.

When India muslins and calicoes were first imported into England, they
met with a formidable opposition. They had suddenly become fashionable,
and threatened to supersede the long-established woollens; and the
nation, in its wisdom, first prohibited the importation of these
fabrics, and then subjected them to a duty of sixpence per yard. In
France, Amiens, Rouen, and Paris protested against cotton as ruinous
to the country. But it has surmounted all these obstacles, is firmly
established in both nations, and now its manufacture gives support to
one-seventh part of the population of Great Britain, employs there
thirty-four millions of spindles, consumes annually two and a half
million bales of the raw material, and sends abroad, in addition to
thread and yarn, twenty-eight hundred million yards of fabrics, of the
aggregate value of two hundred and thirty millions of dollars.

In 1856, Great Britain derived her supply of cotton from the following
countries, namely:--

From the United States 71 per cent.
" the East Indies 19 " "
" Brazil 5 " "
" Egypt 4-1/2 " "
" the West Indies 1/2 " "

But while her supply from India in the twelve years from 1845 to 1857
increased nearly two hundred per cent, namely, from two hundred thousand
to six hundred thousand bales, she has increased her exports of cotton
fabrics to that country to such an extent, that, for every pound she
imports, she returns a pound of thread and cloth enhanced at least
fourfold in value, while she returns to the United States in cotton
fabrics less than three per cent, of the cotton she receives from them.
And since 1857 such improvements have been made in the cotton-mills of
New England, that we now consume more than a million of bales annually,
and our production and export are rapidly increasing.

Some curious alternations have attended the growth and manufacture of
cotton. As machinery has improved and the cost of goods diminished, the
price of cotton has advanced and a strong stimulus been given to its

New States have consequently been opened to its culture, and the
alluvial lands of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas
have been devoted to the plant. Slaves have thus been attracted from the
Middle States and diverted from the less profitable culture of wheat and
tobacco to the cotton-fields. Half a century since, the Middle States
contained two-thirds of the negroes of the Union; but under the census
of 1860 two millions and a half of slaves are now found south of North
Carolina, and but a million and a half north of the Cotton States. In
the Cotton States the negroes nearly equal the white population; in the
Border States the whites are at least four to one. In the Cotton States
the slaves and the culture of cotton are increasing at the rate of at
least five per cent.; in the Border States the slave population is
either stationary or retrograde, and the future of those States is
clearly indicated. Down to a recent period the march of the planter and
his forces across the Cotton States has been like that of an invading
army. Vast forests of heavy timber have been felled, land rapidly
exhausted and abandoned, and new fields opened and soon deserted for a
virgin soil.

But with the increased demand of the last seven years for cotton, and
with the enhanced price of the slave, which rises at least one hundred
dollars with each advance of a cent per pound on cotton, more permanent
improvements have been made, railways have been opened, and at least
fifty thousand tons of guano and cotton-seed have been annually applied
to the exhausted cotton-fields of the Carolinas and Georgia. Under
these appliances the crops of the United States have kept pace with
the manufacture, and in 1859 rose to the amount of twenty-one hundred
millions of pounds, thus replenishing the markets that had been recently
exhausted, and actually exceeding the entire consumption for the same
year of both Europe and America.

But the crops fluctuate from year to year, and a less favorable season
for 1860, accompanied by an increase of at least ten per cent. in
spindles, leaves the supply barely equal to the demand, while the
diminished crop, and the cry of Secession at the South, with the
introduction of an export-duty, have alarmed the spinners of England and
led them to consider the effects of a deficiency and to seek new sources
of supply.

With the progress of trade the price of the middling cotton of America
for the last fifteen years has varied at Liverpool from fourpence to
ninepence per pound, and now stands at seven and a halfpence by the last
quotations. As the stock accumulates or the sale of goods is checked,
the price naturally declines, and a check is given to production. As
the stock declines or goods advance, an impetus is given to prices, the
culture is extended, and cotton flows in from Egypt and India. When the
cotton of Bombay commands more than fivepence per pound at Liverpool,
it flows in a strong current from India to Manchester. Should the
export-duty be levied in the Cotton States, it may well be presumed
that the burden will fall principally upon the planter, and give an
additional stimulus to the growth of India, and a new incentive to the
British Government to start the culture in other colonies.

The gentlemen of the South sometimes imagine that Old England, as well
as New England, is entirely dependent upon cotton, and that society
there would be disintegrated, if the crop in the Cotton States should
be withheld for a single year. But the Northern mills have usually six
months' supply; and Great Britain holds upon an average enough for three
months in her ports, for two months at her mills, and as much more
upon the ocean. The English spinner, too, can not only reduce his time
one-fourth without stopping, but can reduce his consumption another
fourth by raising his numbers and increasing the fineness of his cloth;
and as he draws one-fourth of his supply from other countries, it is
obvious that he might hold out for nearly two years without a bale from

Could the cotton-planter hold out any longer? Let it not be forgotten
that the Embargo was voted to bring England to terms by withholding
rice, cotton, wheat, and naval stores, but proved a signal failure. We
reaped from it no harvests, and were put back by it at least six years
in our national progress; while England enjoyed the carrying-trade of
the world, which we had abandoned, and drew her supplies from Russia and
India while our crops perished in our own warehouses.

The vast export of cotton goods from Great Britain to India has now
liberated at least half a million bales of cotton for the supply of
England in addition to what India previously furnished; and as the
export of goods to India and China continues to increase, the surplus of
cotton must rise with it. But India is able to treble her production. It
is true that the staple of her cotton suffers from the dry summers, that
her land is but half tilled by ploughs consisting of a simple beam of
wood with two prongs and a single handle, that she has been destitute
of roads and facilities for transportation, that her lands are held at
oppressive rents, that American planters there have failed to make good
cotton, and that the annual yield of her soil is as small as that of the
exhausted fields of South Carolina. But still she produces at least four
million bales of cotton, and great changes are now in progress: railways
are pervading the country; canals are being dug for irrigating, and
irrigation quadruples the crop, while it improves the staple; and the
diversion of a few districts from the ordinary crops, with improved
tillage, will increase the production to an indefinite extent.

The latest intelligence from India apprises us that in one large cotton
district the American planters have at length succeeded, and American
cotton is now growing there on one hundred and forty-six thousand acres.


_In American Cotton. In Native Kupas. Total._
1851 31,688 acres 223,314 acres 255,002
1860 146,320 " 230,677 " 377,003

In Africa, also, the export of cotton is on the increase; and Egypt is
erecting new works to retain and direct the overflow of the Nile, which
will augment her exports.

There is a belt around the earth's surface of at least sixty degrees in
width, adapted in great part to the culture of cotton. Great Britain now
commands capital, while China and India overflow with labor. Let Great
Britain divert a few millions of this capital and but half a million of
coolies to any fertile area of five thousand square miles within this
belt, and she can in a few years double her supply of cotton, and
command the residue of her importation at reasonable prices.

Among these spots none is more promising than Central America, where the
cotton-plant is perennial, and a single acre, as we are assured by Mr.
Squier, yields semiannually a bale of superior cotton. But let us hope
that the South may abandon her dream of a Southern Empire, and the
chimera which now haunts her, that the Northerner is hostile to the
Southerner, when in reality he has no such feeling, but merely recoils
from institutions which he believes to be at variance with moral and
material progress.

Hemp, or _Cannabis sativa_, from which we possibly derive the modern
term canvas, was known to the ancients and used by them for rope and
cordage and occasionally for cloth. It was found early in Thrace, in
Caria, and upon the Rhone. Herodotus says that garments were made of it
by the Thracians "so much like linen that none but an experienced person
could tell whether they were made of hemp or of flax."

Moschion, who flourished two centuries before the Christian era, states
that the celebrated ship Syracusia built by Hiero II. was provided with
rope made from the hemp of the Rhone. Although the plant is indigenous
in Northern India, where it is cultivated for its narcotic qualities, it
is adapted to a southern climate; and we may safely infer that it was
not a native of either Italy, Greece, or Asia Minor, but was doubtless
introduced into Caria by the active trade between the Euxine and
Miletus. Cloth of hemp is still worn by boatmen upon the Danube; but
although its fibre is nearly as delicate as that of flax and cotton, it
is used principally for cordage, for which purpose it is imported from
the interior of Russia into England and the United States. In 1858 the
entire importation into Great Britain was forty-four thousand tons.
A large amount is now raised in Missouri and Kentucky, whose soil is
admirably adapted to the hemp-plant. Hemp grows freely in Bologna,
Romagna, and Naples, and the Italians have a saying, that "it may be
grown everywhere, but cannot be produced fit for use in heaven or on
earth without manure." The Italian hemp is aided by irrigation.

The plant is annual, and attains a height of three to ten feet,
according to the soil and climate. Its stalk is hollow, filled with a
soft pith, and surrounded by a cellular texture coated with a delicate
membrane which runs parallel to the stalk and is covered by a thin
cuticle. In Russia the seed is sown in June and gathered in September.

The Manila hemp (_Musa textilis_) does not appear to have been known to
the ancients, and is now found in the Philippine Islands, the Indian
Archipelago, and Japan, regions unexplored by the ancients. It is also
found at the base of the Himalaya Mountains. It is a large herbaceous
plant, which requires a warm climate, and is cut after a growth of
eighteen months. The outer layers or fibres of the plant are called the
_bandola_, which is used in the fabrication of cordage; the inner layers
have a more delicate fibre called the _lupis_, which is woven into fine
fabrics; while the intermediate layers, termed _tupoz_, are made into
cloth of different degrees of fineness.

The filaments, after they are gathered, are separated by a knife, and
rendered soft and pliable by beating them with a mallet; their ends are
then gummed together, after which they are wound into balls, and the
finer qualities are woven without going through the process of spinning.
With the produce of this plant the natives pay their tribute, purchase
the necessaries of life, and provide themselves with clothing.

The imports of this article into Great Britain in 1859 were very
considerable, while the United States also imported a very large amount.
It is used for cordage by the ships of both countries. In one respect
it differs from wool, cotton, and hemp, the fibres of all of which are
found by the microscope to consist of tubes, while the filaments of
the _Musa textilis_, although often fine, are in no case hollow, and
consequently are less flexible and divisible than other fibres.

Within the last twenty years, a new export from India, in the shape of
Jute and its fabrics, has grown up from insignificance into commercial
importance, and is now among the chief exports of the country. This
article demands our particular attention, as it requires but four months
for its production, furnishes a very large supply of textile material,
is raised at one-fifth the expense of cotton, and has been sold in India
as low as one cent per pound.

Jute is generally grown as an after-crop in India upon high ground, and
flourishes best in a hot and rainy season. The seed is sown broadcast in
April or May, when there is sufficient rain to moisten the ground. When
the plant is a foot and a half high it is weeded. It rises on good soil
to the height of twelve feet, and flowers between August and September.
The stems are usually three-fourths of an inch in diameter. The leaves
have long foot-stalks, the flowers are small and yellow, and the
capsules short and globose, containing five cells for the seed. The
fruit ripens in September and October. The average yield in fibre to
the acre is from four hundred to seven hundred pounds. When the crop is
ripe, the stems are cut close to the root, made up into bundles, and
deposited for a week in some neighboring pond or stream.

The process of separating the fibre from the stem is thus described by
Mr. Healy in the "Journal of Agriculture for India";--

"The native operator, standing up to his middle in water, takes as many
of the sticks in his hands as he can grasp, and removing a small portion
of the bark from the end next the roots, and grasping them together, he
with a little management strips off the whole from end to end, without
breaking either stem or fibre. He then, swinging the bark around his
head, dashes it repeatedly against the surface of the water, drawing it
towards him to wash off the impurities."

The filaments are then hung up to dry in the sun, often in lengths of
twelve feet, and when dried the jute is ready for the market.

The color at first is a pure white, but gradually changes to yellow. The
fibre, which is fine and delicate, is tubular, like that of flax and
cotton, and is easily wrought; but its tenacity is not equal to that of
other textile materials, although it is substituted in many fabrics
for wool, flax, and cotton. A large portion of the crop, which already
exceeds two hundred thousand tons, is exported to England as it comes
from the field, and is there used in the manufacture both of wool and
cotton to cheapen the fabric. The vigilant eye will often detect it in
woollen manufactures, in shawls, and even in sail-cloths; but when spun
with cotton or wool, it is very difficult to discover its presence.

A few years since, there was a great reduction in the price of plaid
shawls from England, which took the dealers by surprise, as the cost
was previously supposed to have reached the lowest point; but a close
examination of the threads elicited the fact that the manufacturer had
adroitly twisted in with his wool a liberal allowance of jute, costing
but two or three cents a pound when wool cost thirty, and thus reduced
the price of the fabric.

By the use of shoddy in the manufacture of woollens, and of jute in both
cotton and woollen fabrics, the English artisan saves many millions
of pounds both of wool and cotton. In those districts of India where
British skill and commercial enterprise have checked the manufacture of
muslin and calicoes, the Hindoos of all classes find in the culture and
manufacture of jute employment for all, "from the palanquin-bearer and
husbandman down to the Hindoo widow, saved by the interposition of
England from the funeral pile, but condemned by custom for the residue
of her days literally to sackcloth and ashes." The fine and long-stapled
jute is reserved for the export trade, for which it bears a
comparatively high price; the residue is spun and woven by these classes
as a domestic manufacture; it is made into gunny-cloth, which is
circulated through the globe, forms the bagging for our corn, wheat,
and cotton on their voyage to distant ports, and finally makes its last
appearance as paper.

The long stems of the jute are highly esteemed in India; they resemble
willow wands, are useful for basket-work and fencing, for trellis-work
and the support of vines, and to make a charcoal which is valued for the
manufacture of gunpowder.

The export of jute from India to England for 1859 was sixty thousand
tons. The export of gunny-cloth from India to the United States in the
same year amounted to several millions of pieces.

Why should not this valuable plant be introduced into America? It
requires the same season and soil as our Indian corn, and would
doubtless flourish in the rich alluvial lands of the West, and furnish a
very cheap and useful domestic manufacture for our Western farmers.

The term Linen is doubtless derived from _Linum_, the classic and
botanic name of flax. In Holy Writ, Moses called down the hail upon the
growing flax of Lower Egypt, and Isaiah speaks of those "that work in
fine flax." According to Herodotus, the ancient Egyptians wore linen.
Plutarch informs us that the priests of Isis wore linen on account of
its purity, and mentions a tradition that flax was used for clothing
"because the color of its blossom resembles the ethereal blue which
surrounds the world"; and he adds, that the priests of Isis were buried
in their sacred vestments. An eminent cotton-spinner, who subjected four
hundred specimens of mummy-cloth to the microscope, has ascertained that
they were all linen; and even now, when aspiring cotton has contested
its superiority, and claimed to be more healthful and more beneficial
to the human frame, the choicest drapery of our tables and couches, and
many of our most costly and elegant articles of dress, are fabricated
from flax.

Flax is sown in the spring and harvested in the summer, and requires but
three months for its growth. While cotton grows in hot climates only,
flax grows both under the tropics and in temperate climates, and as far
north as Russia, Ireland, and Canada; and while at the South it runs
mostly to seed, the best varieties are produced in Normandy, Belgium,
and Poland.

In another particular flax has the advantage over cotton. While the
latter, under the ordinary course of cultivation in South Carolina,
yields but one bale to four acres, and in virgin soil rarely more than
one bale to two acres, flax yields in good soil from five to eight
hundred pounds of fibre to the acre, which may be converted into
flax-cotton by modern machinery; and as the product has but three per
cent. waste, while cotton loses eleven per cent. in its manufacture, the
flax-cotton which is produced from a single acre is the equivalent of
one to two bales of cotton.

With these important advantages, namely, its adaptation to a northern
climate where the white man can labor, and a capacity for yielding so
large an amount of fibre, flax holds a high place in the list of textile

Flax can be raised with very moderate expense up to the time of harvest.
If the soil is free from weeds, it requires little more preparation,
care, or expense for its culture than wheat or barley. But from this
point onward a large expenditure of labor is requisite, which greatly
enhances the cost, carrying it up as high as ten to twenty cents per
pound, according to the degree of fineness; for the filaments must be
separated from the stem by immersion in water, must be kept in parallel
lines, and prepared for the spindle by skilful and long-continued labor.

To insure the best quality, it must be pulled and bound in bundles
before it is entirely ripe, thus impairing the value of the seed, while
the edible and nutritious portion of the stalk is lost or injured in the

For many years it was spun on the little wheel, but of late years
improved machinery has been applied at Belfast, Leeds, Dundee, and other
cities of Great Britain; yet nearly a third of the value is lost in the
broken filaments, which are reduced to tow in its preparation for the
spindle. With a fibre at least as fine and delicate as that of cotton,
its full value to the world will not be demonstrated until it is
effectually cottonized.

In its present state, however, it has come into very extensive use. More
than eighty thousand tons were, in 1859, imported into Great Britain,
and many acres are there devoted to its culture. The consumption in that
country is estimated to exceed one hundred and sixty thousand tons,
a quantity equivalent to eight hundred thousand bales of cotton. In
addition to this, ten millions of bushels of flax-seed are annually
crushed in Great Britain, a large portion of which is drawn from India.

The culture of flax was introduced into this country early in the last
century by the Scotch, who crossed over to Ireland under Elizabeth and
Cromwell, and soon after the siege of Derry transferred their arts and
their industry to this country. Several colonies of these were planted
in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, and a large colony was established at
Natfield, New Hampshire, upon a tract twelve miles square, one of the
best sections of the State, situate in the area between Manchester,
Lowell, Lawrence, and Exeter. Here every farmer cultivated his field of
barley and flax, here every woman had her little wheel, and the
article formed the currency of the place;--notes were given payable in
spinning-wheels. Girls were seen beetling the linen on the grass;
and when the harvest over, the men mounted their horses, and with
well-filled saddle-bags threaded the by-roads of the forest to find
a market in Boston, Lynn, Salem, or Newburyport. Fortunes were thus
accumulated and a flourishing academy and two Presbyterian societies are
now sustained by funds thus acquired by the Pinkerton family. But as the
wages of girls gradually rose from two shillings to two dollars per
week with the invention of the cotton-gin, the power-loom, and the
spinning-jenny, the culture of flax was gradually abandoned, the seat
of manufactures removed from the hills to the waterfalls, and the
flax-fields converted into market-gardens or milk-farms. The town
of Derry, once the great seat of New-England manufactures, is now
principally distinguished for the Stark, Rogers, and Reed it gave to the
French War and the Revolution, for the Bells, Dinsmores, Wilsons, and
Pattersons it has given to the halls of legislation, and the McKeens,
McGregors, Morisons, and Nesmiths it has furnished to commerce or the

At the present rates of labor, the culture of flax cannot be revived in
this region until the mode of curing and dressing it is cheapened; and
there is reason to hope that this revolution is at hand.

At the present moment flax is raised both in India and Ohio for the seed
alone. An acre of ripened flax yields from ten to twenty bushels
of seed, and each bushel affords nearly or quite two gallons of
linseed-oil. The well-ripened seed is most prolific in oil.

It has been supposed by some that flax exhausts the soil. It is
undoubtedly true that it does best under a rotation of crops, and
that the ingredients it withdraws from the soil should be restored to
preserve its fertility. But the reduction of the plant to ashes shows
that its chemical components can be restored at a cost of three dollars
per acre, while the properties withdrawn by the seed can be easily
supplied by returning in other fertilizers the equivalent for half a ton
of flax-seed. If the oil-cake be consumed upon the farm, little more
than the above and its product in manure will be required.

The ashes of the flax-plant have been analyzed. Dr. Royle, of England, a
distinguished writer upon fibrous plants, assures us that the following
compound will supply to one acre all that the plant requires, and leave
the land as fertile as before the flax was gathered:--

_lbs. s. d._
Muriate of Potash 30 cost 2 6
Common Salt 28 " 0 3
Burned Plaster of Paris 34 " 0 6
Bone-Dust 54 " 3 3
Epsom Salts 56 " 4 0
10 6

It has been ascertained by the microscope that wool, cotton, hemp, jute,
and flax are composed of minute fibres, each of which forms a hollow
tube, and there is a close resemblance between the tubes of each,--the
tube of the cotton, however, collapsing as it ripens. These tubes in the
jute and flax are closely cemented together, and the term _Fibrilia_ has
been applied to fibres of the plant when reduced to a short staple
like cotton. The process for effecting this result is very accurately
described in a work just published, entitled "Fibrilia." The patentees
of this invention claim that their process, in the space of twenty-four
hours, converts the flax and tow, as they come from the threshing-mill,
into an article which may be spun and woven by the same machinery as
cotton. The article produced and lately exhibited at public meetings
resembles cotton in its appearance and qualities, with the advantage
that it wastes less in the manufacture, has more lustre, and receives a
superior color. The patentees and their friends further claim that this
cotton can be raised in all temperate latitudes, at the rate of four to
eight hundred pounds per acre, and profess within the past year to have
manufactured twelve thousand pounds.

These statements have been confidently made at public meetings in
the State House of Massachusetts, and it is understood that a mill
containing one hundred looms, half of which are now in operation, has
been erected at Roxbury, under the direction of gentlemen who are
familiar with the manufacture. Should the same results be obtained on a
large scale which have attended the manufacture of the first few bales,
the first step in a great revolution will be effected.

By the process of Mr. S.M. Allen of Boston, the great outlay of labor
which has usually attended the culture and preparation of flax is
avoided. When the plant has attained its full height of twenty to thirty
inches, and its seed is ripened, it is harvested like grass with a
mowing-machine, dried like hay or oats in the field, and then carried
to the threshing-mill. After the seed is separated, the stalk is
transferred to a patent brake, moved by two or four horses, and costing
from three to four hundred dollars. This machine is composed of several
sets of fluted iron rollers, between which the stalk passes from one set
to another, the rollers gradually diminishing in size, but increasing in
rapidity of motion, by means of which the woody texture of the plant is
effectually broken and separated. The filaments are then carried through
a coarse card or picker. The shives are thus separated, and two tons of
stalks reduced to half a ton of linten, which may be either taken at
once to the retort or baled for shipment. When the flax is thus reduced
by the farmer to linten, the article is reputed to be worth to the
manufacturer four cents a pound, or at least twenty dollars for the
product of an acre yielding a single ton of flax-straw.

According to this statement the farmer would realize from his crop at
least as follows:--

Estimated value of seed, 14 bushels,
at $1.25 $17.50
Estimated value of 500 lbs. of linten,
at 4 cts. 20.00
Estimated value of 3/4 of a ton of shives
from unrotted stems, valuable for
cattle, at $8.00 per ton 6.00

Produce of an acre $43.50

And this produce would be realized with little more labor than a crop
of oats or wheat, returning less than twenty-five dollars to the acre.
Unless the soil should be foul, no weeding would be required, while the
breaking would cost little more than a second threshing, and a second
crop of turnips can be taken from the same soil.

From the patent brake and the picker the linten is carried to a retort,
which may hold from five hundred to three thousand pounds of fibre,--the
capacity of one hundred cubic feet being required for each thousand
pounds; and the retort, which may be made from boiler-plates, costs from
three hundred to fifteen hundred dollars. Here the linten is put into
a hot bath of air forced through heated water, and thus charged with
moisture, which softens the filaments and diminishes the cohesion of
the fibres. After this air-bath, pure water of the temperature of one
hundred and forty to one hundred and sixty degrees is admitted into the
retort, and the linten is immersed in it for five or six hours.

After this steeping process is completed, the water is let off from
below, and pure water admitted from above under pressure, until the
color begins to change; the fibre is then steeped for three or four
hours in a weak solution of soda-ash; the alkali is washed out by the
admission of pure water alternating with steam, and, if necessary to
complete the bleaching, a weak solution of chlorine is applied. All this
may be effected without removing the linten from the retort. The product
is then dried as in ordinary drying-rooms.

When dried, it is carried again through a set of cards, and a piece of
machinery termed a railway-head, with positive draught, which can be set
so as to give any length of staple, and to present the flax-cotton thus
produced in any form required for spinning, either separately or mixed
with cotton or wool, and thus adapted to the machinery used in the
manufacture of either of these articles. The cost of this process, from
the brake to the final production of the cotton, is set by the patentee,
after leaving him a fair profit, at three cents per pound of cotton;
and if we add this to the cost of the linten, and allow for freight and
storage, the entire cost of the fibrilia is but eight cents per pound,
or two-thirds of the present price of middling cotton.

The idea of modifying the filaments of flax and hemp so as to convert
them into cotton is by no means a new one. As long ago as 1747 it was
proposed to convert flax into cotton by boiling it in a solution of
caustic potash, and subsequently washing it with soap; and in 1775 Lady
Moira, aided by T.B. Bailey, actually converted some refuse flax into
cotton by boiling it in alkali. The result was, that the fibres seemed
to be set at liberty from each other; after which it was carded on
cotton cards, spun, and woven as cotton.

The Chevalier Claussen, as recently as 1850, claimed to have discovered
the process, and actually took out a patent; but his invention, which
consisted in boiling the cut and crushed stems of the flax in a solution
of caustic soda, turned out a failure,--the cutting, crushing, and
boiling processes proving alike defective.

New discoveries are the result of repeated trials; perseverance usually
prevails; and if States are to secede at pleasure and withhold their
cotton, and no other good uses can be found for flax or hemp, why should
not their fibres secede also,--be set at liberty and resolve themselves
into a cotton state?

We might pass from the fibrous plants, and the metamorphosis of flax
into cotton, to the _Pinna_, whose fibres grow in the sea on the coast
of Italy, and anchor the huge shell-fish to the rock or the sand. These
fibres are brought up by divers, and woven into beautiful fabrics. We
might repeat the tale of the crab which lives with this shell-fish,
and apprises his blind housekeeper of the approach of danger,--a tale
confirmed by ancient and modern naturalists,--for there are strange
doings in the sea as well as upon the land. We might also dilate upon
China grass, which is manufactured in the East into delicate fabrics.
But our limits compel us to defer these topics.


During the year 1831, up to the twenty-third of August, the Virginia
newspapers were absorbed in the momentous problems which then occupied
the minds of intelligent American citizens:--What General Jackson should
do with the scolds, and what with the disreputables,--Should South
Carolina be allowed to nullify? and would the wives of Cabinet Ministers
call on Mrs. Eaton? It is an unfailing opiate, to turn over the drowsy
files of the "Richmond Enquirer", until the moment when those dry and
dusty pages are suddenly kindled into flame by the torch of Nat Turner.
Then the terror flares on increasing, until the remotest Southern States
are found shuddering at nightly rumors of insurrection,--until far-off
European colonies, Antigua, Martinique, Caraccas, Tortola, recognize by
some secret sympathy the same epidemic alarms,--until the very boldest
words of freedom are reported as uttered in the Virginia House of
Delegates with unclosed doors,--until an obscure young man named
Garrison is indicted at Common Law in North Carolina, and has a price
set upon his head by the Legislature of Georgia. The insurrection
revived in one agonizing reminiscence all the distresses of Gabriel's
Revolt, thirty years before; and its memory endures still fresh, now
that thirty added years have brought the more formidable presence of
General Butler. It is by no means impossible that the very children or
even confederates of Nat Turner may be included at this moment among the
contraband articles of Fort Monroe.

Near the southeastern border of Virginia, in Southampton County, there
is a neighborhood known as "The Cross Keys". It lies fifteen miles from
Jerusalem, the county-town or "court-house", seventy miles from Norfolk,
and about as far from Richmond. It is some ten or fifteen miles from
Murfreesboro in North Carolina, and about twenty-five from the Great
Dismal Swamp. Up to Sunday, the twenty-first of August, 1831, there was
nothing to distinguish it from any other rural, lethargic, slipshod
Virginia neighborhood, with the due allotment of mansion-houses and
log-huts, tobacco-fields and "old-fields", horses, dogs, negroes, "poor
white folks", so called, and other white folks, poor without being
called so. One of these last was Joseph Travis, who had recently married
the widow of one Putnam Moore, and had unfortunately wedded to himself
her negroes also.

In the woods on the plantation of Joseph Travis, upon the Sunday just
named, six slaves met at noon for what is called in the Northern States
a picnic and in the Southern a barbecue. The bill of fare was to be
simple: one brought a pig, and another some brandy, giving to the
meeting an aspect so cheaply convivial that no one would have imagined
it to be the final consummation of a conspiracy which had been for six
months in preparation. In this plot four of the men had been already
initiated,--Henry, Hark or Hercules, Nelson, and Sam. Two others were
novices, Will and Jack by name. The party had remained together from
twelve to three o'clock, when a seventh man joined them,--a short,
stout, powerfully built person, of dark mulatto complexion and
strongly-marked African features, but with a face full of expression and
resolution. This was Nat Turner.

He was at this time nearly thirty-one years old, having been born on
the second of October, 1800. He had belonged originally to Benjamin
Turner,--whence his last name, slaves having usually no patronymic,--had
then been transferred to Putnam Moore, and then to his present owner.
He had, by his own account, felt himself singled out from childhood for
some great work; and he had some peculiar marks on his person, which,
joined to his great mental precocity, were enough to occasion, among his
youthful companions, a superstitious faith in his gifts and destiny.
He had great mechanical ingenuity also, experimentalized very early in
making paper, gunpowder, pottery, and in other arts which in later life
he was found thoroughly to understand. His moral faculties were very
strong, so that white witnesses admitted that he had never been known to
swear an oath, to drink a drop of spirits, or to commit a theft. And in
general, so marked were his early peculiarities, that people said "he
had too much sense to be raised, and if he was, he would never be of
any use as a slave." This impression of personal destiny grew with his
growth;--he fasted, prayed, preached, read the Bible, heard voices when
he walked behind his plough, and communicated his revelations to the
awe-struck slaves. They told him in return, that, "if they had his
sense, they would not serve any master in the world."

The biographies of slaves can hardly be individualized; they belong to
the class. We know bare facts; it is only the general experience of
human beings in like condition which can clothe them with life. The
outlines are certain, the details are inferential. Thus, for instance,
we know that Nat Turner's young wife was a slave; we know that she
belonged to a different master from himself; we know little more than
this, but this is much. For this is equivalent to saying that by day or
by night that husband had no more power to protect her than the man who
lies bound upon a plundered vessel's deck has power to protect his wife
on board the pirate-schooner disappearing in the horizon; she may be
reverenced, she may be outraged; it is in the powerlessness that the
agony lies. There is, indeed, one thing more which we do know of this
young woman: the Virginia newspapers state that she was tortured under
the lash, after her husband's execution, to make her produce his papers:
this is all.

What his private experiences and special privileges or wrongs may have
been, it is therefore now impossible to say. Travis was declared to be
"more humane and fatherly to his slaves than any man in the county"; but
it is astonishing how often this phenomenon occurs in the contemporary
annals of slave insurrections. The chairman of the county court also
stated, in pronouncing sentence, that Nat Turner had spoken of his
master as "only too indulgent"; but this, for some reason, does not
appear in his printed Confession, which only says, "He was a kind
master, and placed the greatest confidence in me." It is very possible
that it may have been so, but the printed accounts of Nat Turner's
person look suspicious: he is described in Governor Floyd's proclamation
as having a scar on one of his temples, also one on the back of his
neck, and a large knot on one of the bones of his right arm, produced by
a blow; and although these were explained away in Virginia newspapers
as being produced by fights with his companions, yet such affrays are
entirely foreign to the admitted habits of the man. It must, therefore,
remain an open question, whether the scars and the knot were produced by
black hands or by white.

Whatever Nat Turner's experiences of slavery might have been, it is
certain that his plans were not suddenly adopted, but that he had
brooded over them for years. To this day there are traditions among the
Virginia slaves of the keen devices of "Prophet Nat". If he was
caught with lime and lamp-black in hand, conning over a half-finished
county-map on the barn-door, he was always "planning what to do, if he
were blind", or "studying how to get to Mr. Francis's house." When he
had called a meeting of slaves, and some poor whites came eavesdropping,
the poor whites at once became the subjects for discussion; he
incidentally mentioned that the masters had been heard threatening to
drive them away; one slave had been ordered to shoot Mr. Jones's pigs,
another to tear down Mr. Johnson's fences. The poor whites, Johnson and
Jones, ran home to see to their homesteads, and were better friends than
ever to Prophet Nat.

He never was a Baptist preacher, though such vocation has often been
attributed to him. The impression arose from his having immersed
himself, during one of his periods of special enthusiasm, together with
a poor white man named Brantley. "About this time", he says in his
Confession, "I told these things to a white man, on whom it had a
wonderful effect, and he ceased from his wickedness, and was attacked
immediately with a cutaneous eruption, and the blood oozed from the
pores of his skin, and after praying and fasting nine days he was
healed. And the Spirit appeared to me again, and said, as the Saviour
had been baptized, so should we be also; and when the white people
would not let us be baptized by the Church, we went down into the water
together, in the sight of many who reviled us, and were baptized by the
Spirit. After this I rejoiced greatly and gave thanks to God."

The religious hallucinations narrated in his Confession seem to have
been as genuine as the average of such things, and are very well
expressed. It reads quite like Jacob Behmen. He saw white spirits and
black spirits contending in the skies, the sun was darkened, the thunder
rolled. "And the Holy Ghost was with me, and said, 'Behold me as I stand
in the heavens!' And I looked and saw the forms of men in different
attitudes. And there were lights in the sky, to which the children of
darkness gave other names than what they really were; for they were the
lights of the Saviour's hands, stretched forth from east to west, even
as they were extended on the cross on Calvary, for the redemption of
sinners." He saw drops of blood on the corn: this was Christ's blood,
shed for man. He saw on the leaves in the woods letters and numbers and
figures of men,--the same symbols which he had seen in the skies. On May
12, 1828, the Holy Spirit appeared to him and proclaimed that the yoke
of Jesus must fall on him, and he must fight against the Serpent when
the sign appeared. Then came an eclipse of the sun in February, 1831:
this was the sign; then he must arise and prepare himself, and slay his
enemies with their own weapons; then also the seal was removed from his
lips, and then he confided his plans to four associates.

When he came, therefore, to the barbecue on the appointed Sunday, and
found, not these four only, but two others, his first question to the
intruders was, How they came thither. To this Will answered manfully,
that his life was worth no more than the others, and "his liberty was as
dear to him." This admitted him to confidence, and as Jack was known to
be entirely under Hark's influence, the strangers were no bar to their
discussion. Eleven hours they remained there, in anxious consultation:
one can imagine those terrible dusky faces, beneath the funereal woods,
and amid the flickering of pine-knot torches, preparing that stern
revenge whose shuddering echoes should ring through the land so long.
Two things were at last decided: to begin their work that night, and to
begin it with a massacre so swift and irresistible as to create in a
few days more terror than many battles, and so spare the need of future
bloodshed. "It was agreed that we should commence at home on that night,
and, until we had armed and equipped ourselves and gained sufficient
force, neither age nor sex was to be spared: which was invariably
adhered to."

John Brown invaded Virginia with nineteen men, and with the avowed
resolution to take no life but in self-defence. Nat Turner attacked
Virginia from within, with six men, and with the determination to spare
no life until his power was established. John Brown intended to pass
rapidly through Virginia, and then retreat to the mountains. Nat Turner
intended to "conquer Southampton County as the white men did in the
Revolution, and then retreat, if necessary, to the Dismal Swamp." Each
plan was deliberately matured; each was in its way practicable; but each
was defeated by a single false step, as will soon appear.

We must pass over the details of horror, as they occurred during the
next twenty-four hours. Swift and stealthy as Indians, the black men
passed from house to house,--not pausing, not hesitating, as their
terrible work went on. In one thing they were humaner than Indians
or than white men fighting against Indians,--there was no gratuitous
outrage beyond the death-blow itself, no insult, no mutilation; but
in every house they entered, that blow fell on man, woman, and
child,--nothing that had a white skin was spared. From every house they
took arms and ammunition, and from a few, money; on every plantation
they found recruits: those dusky slaves, so obsequious to their master
the day before, so prompt to sing and dance before his Northern
visitors, were all swift to transform themselves into fiends of
retribution now; show them sword or musket and they grasped it, though
it were an heirloom from Washington himself. The troop increased from
house to house,--first to fifteen, then to forty, then to sixty. Some
were armed with muskets, some with axes, some with scythes; some came on
their masters' horses. As the numbers increased, they could be divided,
and the awful work was carried on more rapidly still. The plan then was
for an advanced guard of horsemen to approach each house at a gallop,
and surround it till the others came up. Meanwhile what agonies of
terror must have taken place within, shared alike by innocent and by
guilty! what memories of wrongs inflicted on those dusky creatures, by
some,--what innocent participation, by others, in the penance! The
outbreak lasted for but forty-eight hours; but during that period
fifty-five whites were slain, without the loss of a single slave.

One fear was needless, which to many a husband and father must have
intensified the last struggle. These negroes had been systematically
brutalized from childhood; they had been allowed no legalized
or permanent marriage; they had beheld around them an habitual
licentiousness, such as can scarcely exist except in a Slave State; some
of them had seen their wives and sisters habitually polluted by the
husbands and the brothers of these fair white women who were now
absolutely in their power. Yet I have looked through the Virginia
newspapers of that time in vain for one charge of an indecent outrage
on a woman against these triumphant and terrible slaves. Wherever they
went, there went death, and that was all. Compare this with ordinary
wars; compare it with the annals of the French Revolution. No one,
perhaps, has yet painted the wrongs of the French populace so terribly
as Dickens in his "Tale of Two Cities"; yet what man, conversant with
slave-biographies, can read that narrative without feeling it weak
beside the provocations to which fugitive slaves testify? It is
something for human nature that these desperate insurgents revenged such
wrongs by death alone. Even that fearful penalty was to be inflicted
only till the object was won. It was admitted in the "Richmond Enquirer"
of the time, that "indiscriminate massacre was not their intention,
after they obtained foothold, and was resorted to in the first instance
to strike terror and alarm. Women and children would afterwards have
been spared, and men also who ceased to resist."

It is reported by some of the contemporary newspapers, that a portion
of this abstinence was the result of deliberate consultation among the
insurrectionists; that some of them were resolved on taking the white
women for wives, but were overruled by Nat Turner. If so, he is the only
American slave-leader of whom we know certainly that he rose above the
ordinary level of slave vengeance, and Mrs. Stowe's picture of Dred's
purposes is then precisely typical of his. "Whom the Lord saith unto us,
'Smite,' them will we smite. We will not torment them with the scourge
and fire, nor defile their women as they have done with ours. But we
will slay them utterly, and consume them from off the face of the

When the number of adherents had increased to fifty or sixty, Nat Turner
judged it time to strike at the county-seat, Jerusalem. Thither a
few white fugitives had already fled, and couriers might thence
be despatched for aid to Richmond and Petersburg, unless promptly
intercepted. Besides, he could there find arms, ammunition, and money;
though they had already obtained, it is dubiously reported, from eight
hundred to one thousand dollars. On the way it was necessary to pass the
plantation of Mr. Parker, three miles from Jerusalem. Some of the
men wished to stop here and enlist some of their friends. Nat Turner
objected, as the delay might prove dangerous; he yielded at last, and it
proved fatal.

He remained at the gate with six or eight men; thirty or forty went to
the house, half a mile distant. They remained too long, and he went
alone to hasten them. During his absence a party of eighteen white men
came up suddenly, dispersing the small guard left at the gate; and when
the main body of slaves emerged from the house, they encountered, for
the first time, their armed masters. The blacks halted, the whites
advanced cautiously within a hundred yards and fired a volley; on its
being returned, they broke into disorder, and hurriedly retreated,
leaving some wounded on the ground. The retreating whites were pursued,
and were saved only by falling in with another band of fresh men from
Jerusalem, with whose aid they turned upon the slaves, who in their turn
fell into confusion. Turner, Hark, and about twenty men on horseback
retreated in some order; the rest were scattered. The leader still
planned to reach Jerusalem by a private way, thus evading pursuit;
but at last decided to stop for the night, in the hope of enlisting
additional recruits.

During the night the number increased again to forty, and they
encamped on Major Ridley's plantation. An alarm took place during the
darkness,--whether real or imaginary does not appear,--and the men
became scattered again. Proceeding to make fresh enlistments with the
daylight, they were resisted at Dr. Blunt's house, where his slaves,
under his orders, fired upon them, and this, with a later attack from a
party of white men near Captain Harris's, so broke up the whole force
that they never reunited. The few who remained together agreed to
separate for a few hours to see if anything could be done to revive the
insurrection, and meet again that evening at their original rendezvous.
But they never reached it.

Sadly came Nat Turner at nightfall into those gloomy woods where
forty-eight hours before he had revealed the details of his terrible
plot to his companions. At the outset all his plans had succeeded;
everything was as he predicted: the slaves had come readily at his call,
the masters had proved perfectly defenceless. Had he not been persuaded
to pause at Parker's plantation, he would have been master before now
of the arms and ammunition at Jerusalem; and with these to aid, and the
Dismal Swamp for a refuge, he might have sustained himself indefinitely
against his pursuers.

Now the blood was shed, the risk was incurred, his friends were killed
or captured, and all for what? Lasting memories of terror, to be sure,
for his oppressors; but on the other hand, hopeless failure for the
insurrection, and certain death for him. What a watch he must have kept
that night! To that excited imagination, which had always seen spirits
in the sky and blood-drops on the corn and hieroglyphic marks on the dry
leaves, how full the lonely forest must have been of signs and solemn
warnings! Alone with the fox's bark, the rabbit's rustle, and the
screech-owl's scream, the self-appointed prophet brooded over his
despair. Once creeping to the edge of the wood, he saw men stealthily
approach on horseback. He fancied them some of his companions; but
before he dared to whisper their ominous names, "Hark" or "Dred,"--for
the latter was the name, since famous, of one of his more recent
recruits,--he saw them to be white men, and shrank back stealthily
beneath his covert.

There he waited two weary days and two melancholy nights,--long
enough to satisfy himself that no one would rejoin him, and that the
insurrection had hopelessly failed. The determined, desperate spirits
who had shared his plans were scattered forever, and longer delay would
be destruction for him also. He found a spot which he judged safe, dug
a hole under a pile of fence-rails in a field, and lay there for six
weeks, only leaving it for a few moments at midnight to obtain water
from a neighboring spring. Food he had previously provided, without
discovery, from a house near by.

Meanwhile an unbounded variety of rumors went flying through the State.
The express which first reached the Governor announced that the militia
were retreating before the slaves. An express to Petersburg further
fixed the number of militia at three hundred, and of blacks at eight
hundred, and invented a convenient shower of rain to explain the
dampened ardor of the whites. Later reports described the slaves as
making three desperate attempts to cross the bridge over the Nottoway
between Cross Keys and Jerusalem, and stated that the leader had been
shot in the attempt. Other accounts put the number of negroes at three
hundred, all well mounted and armed, with two or three white men as
leaders. Their intention was supposed to be to reach the Dismal Swamp,
and they must be hemmed in from that side.

Indeed, the most formidable weapon in the hands of slave-insurgents is
always this blind panic they create, and the wild exaggerations which
follow. The worst being possible, every one takes the worst for granted.
Undoubtedly a dozen armed men could have stifled this insurrection, even
after it had commenced operations; but it is the fatal weakness of a
slaveholding community, that it can never furnish men promptly for such
a purpose, "My first intention was," says one of the most intelligent
newspaper narrators of the affair, "to have attacked them with thirty or
forty men; but those who had families here were strongly opposed to it."

As usual, each man was pinioned to his own hearth-stone. As usual, aid
had to be summoned from a distance, and, as usual, the United States
troops were the chief reliance. Colonel House, commanding at
Fort Monroe, sent at once three companies of artillery under
Lieutenant-Colonel Worth, and embarked them on board the steamer Hampton
for Suffolk. These were joined by detachments from the United States
ships Warren and Natchez, the whole amounting to nearly eight hundred
men. Two volunteer companies went from Richmond, four from Petersburg,
one from Norfolk, one from Portsmouth, and several from North Carolina.
The militia of Norfolk, Nansemond, and Princess Anne Counties, and the
United States troops at Old Point Comfort, were ordered to scour the
Dismal Swamp, where it was believed that two or three thousand fugitives
were preparing to join the insurgents. It was even proposed to send two
companies from New York and one from New London to the same point.

When these various forces reached Southampton County, they found
all labor paralyzed and whole plantations abandoned. A letter from
Jerusalem, dated August 24th, says, "The oldest inhabitant of our county
has never experienced such a distressing time as we have had since
Sunday night last..... Every house, room, and corner in this place is
full of women and children, driven from home, who had to take the woods
until they could get to this place." "For many miles around their
track," says another, "the county is deserted by women and children."
Still another writes, "Jerusalem is full of women, most of them from
the other side of the river,--about two hundred at Vix's." Then follow
descriptions of the sufferings of these persons, many of whom had lain
night after night in the woods. But the immediate danger was at an end,
the short-lived insurrection was finished, and now the work of
vengeance was to begin. In the frank phrase of a North Carolina
correspondent,--"The massacre of the whites was over, and the white
people had commenced the destruction of the negroes, which was continued
after our men got there, from time to time, as they could fall in with
them, all day yesterday." A postscript adds, that "passengers by the
Fayetteville stage say, that, by the latest accounts, one hundred and
twenty negroes had been killed,"--this being little more than one day's

These murders were defended as Nat Turner defended his: a fearful blow
must be struck. In shuddering at the horrors of the insurrection, we
have forgotten the far greater horrors of its suppression.

The newspapers of the day contain many indignant protests against the
cruelties which took place. "It is with pain," says a correspondent
of the "National Intelligencer," September 7, 1831, "that we speak of
another feature of the Southampton Rebellion; for we have been most
unwilling to have our sympathies for the sufferers diminished or
affected by their misconduct. We allude to the slaughter of many blacks
without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity..... We met
with an individual of intelligence who told us that he himself had
killed between ten and fifteen..... We [the Richmond troop] witnessed
with surprise the sanguinary temper of the population, who evinced a
strong disposition to inflict immediate death on every prisoner."

There is a remarkable official document from General Eppes, the officer
in command, to be found in the "Richmond Enquirer" for September 6,
1831. It is an indignant denunciation of precisely these outrages; and
though he refuses to give details, he supplies their place by epithets:
"revolting,"--"inhuman and not to be justified,"--"acts of barbarity and
cruelty,"--"acts of atrocity,"--"this course of proceeding dignifies the
rebel and the assassin with the sanctity of martyrdom." And he ends by
threatening martial law upon all future transgressors. Such general
orders are not issued except in rather extreme cases. And in the
parallel columns of the newspaper the innocent editor prints equally
indignant descriptions of Russian atrocities in Lithuania, where the
Poles were engaged in active insurrection, amid profuse sympathy from

The truth is, it was a Reign of Terror. Volunteer patrols rode in all
directions, visiting plantations. "It was with the greatest difficulty,"
said General Brodnax before the House of Delegates, "and at the hazard
of personal popularity and esteem, that the coolest and most
judicious among us could exert an influence sufficient to restrain an
indiscriminate slaughter of the blacks who were suspected." A letter
from the Rev. G.W. Powell declares, "There are thousands of troops
searching in every direction, and many negroes are killed every day: the
exact number will never be ascertained." Petition after petition was
subsequently presented to the legislature, asking compensation for
slaves thus assassinated without trial.

Men were tortured to death, burned, maimed, and subjected to nameless
atrocities. The overseers were called on to point out any slaves whom
they distrusted, and if any tried to escape, they were shot down. Nay,
worse than this. "A party of horsemen started from Richmond with the
intention of killing every colored person they saw in Southampton
County. They stopped opposite the cabin of a free colored man, who
was hoeing in his little field. They called out, 'Is this Southampton
County?' He replied, 'Yes, Sir, you have just crossed the line, by
yonder tree.' They shot him dead and rode on." This is from the
narrative of the editor of the "Richmond Whig," who was then on duty in
the militia, and protested manfully against these outrages. "Some
of these scenes," he adds, "are hardly inferior in barbarity to the
atrocities of the insurgents."

These were the masters' stones. If even these conceded so much, it would
be interesting to hear what the slaves had to report. I am indebted to
my honored friend, Lydia Maria Child, for some vivid recollections of
this terrible period, as noted down from the lips of an old colored
woman, once well known in New York, Charity Bower. "At the time of the
old Prophet Nat," she said, "the colored folks was afraid to pray loud;
for the whites threatened to punish 'em dreadfully, if the least noise
was heard. The patrols was low drunken whites, and in Nat's time, if
they heard any of the colored folks praying or singing a hymn, they
would fall upon 'em and abuse 'em, and sometimes kill 'em, afore master
or missis could get to 'em. The brightest and best was killed in Nat's
time. The whites always suspect such ones. They killed a great many at
a place called Duplon. They killed Antonio, a slave of Mr. J. Stanley,
whom they shot; then they pointed their guns at him, and told him to
confess about the insurrection. He told 'em he didn't know anything
about any insurrection. They shot several balls through him, quartered
him, and put his head on a pole at the fork of the road leading to the
court." (This is no exaggeration, if the Virginia newspapers may be
taken as evidence.) "It was there but a short time. He had no trial.
They never do. In Nat's time, the patrols would tie up the free colored
people, flog 'em, and try to make 'em lie against one another, and
often killed them before anybody could interfere. Mr. James Cole, High
Sheriff, said, if any of the patrols came on his plantation, he would
lose his life in defence of his people. One day he heard a patroller
boasting how many niggers he had killed. Mr. Cole said, 'If you don't
pack up, as quick as God Almighty will let you, and get out of this
town, and never be seen in it again, I'll put you where dogs won't bark
at you.' He went off, and wasn't seen in them parts again."

These outrages were not limited to the colored population; but other
instances occurred which strikingly remind one of more recent times. An
Englishman, named Robinson, was engaged in selling books at Petersburg.
An alarm being given, one night, that five hundred blacks were marching
towards the town, he stood guard, with others, on the bridge. After the
panic had a little subsided, he happened to remark, that "the blacks, as
men, were entitled to their freedom, and ought to be emancipated."
This led to great excitement, and he was warned to leave town. He took
passage in the stage, but the stage was intercepted. He then fled to a
friend's house; the house was broken open, and he was dragged forth.
The civil authorities, being applied to, refused to interfere. The mob
stripped him, gave him a great number of lashes, and sent him on foot,
naked, under a hot sun, to Richmond, whence he with difficulty found a
passage to New York.

Of the capture or escape of most of that small band who met with Nat
Turner in the woods upon the Travis plantation little can now be known.
All appear among the list of convicted, except Henry and Will. General
Moore, who occasionally figures as second in command, in the newspaper
narratives of that day, was probably the Hark or Hercules before
mentioned; as no other of the confederates had belonged to Mrs. Travis,
or would have been likely to bear her previous name of Moore. As usual,
the newspapers state that most, if not all the slaves, were "the
property of kind and indulgent masters." Whether in any case they were
also the sons of those masters is a point ignored; but from the fact
that three out of the seven were at first reported as being white men by
several different witnesses,--the whole number being correctly given,
and the statement therefore probably authentic,--one must suppose that
there was an admixture of patrician blood in some of these conspirators.

The subordinate insurgents sought safety as they could. A free colored
man, named Will Artist, shot himself in the woods, where his hat was
found on a stake and his pistol lying by him; another was found drowned;
others were traced to the Dismal Swamp; others returned to their homes,
and tried to conceal their share in the insurrection, assuring their
masters that they had been forced, against their will, to join,--the
usual defence in such cases. The number shot down at random must, by
all accounts, have amounted to many hundreds, but it is past all human
registration now. The number who had a formal trial, such as it was, is
officially stated at fifty-five; of these, seventeen were convicted and
hanged, twelve convicted and transported, twenty acquitted, and four
free colored men sent on for further trial and finally acquitted. "Not
one of those known to be concerned escaped." Of those executed, one only
was a woman: "Lucy, slave of John T. Barrow": that is all her epitaph,
shorter even than that of Wordsworth's more famous Lucy;--but whether
this one was old or young, pure or wicked, lovely or repulsive, octroon
or negro, a Cassy, an Emily, or a Topsy, no information appears; she was
a woman, she was a slave, and she died.

There is one touching story, in connection with these terrible
retaliations, which rests on good authority, that of the Rev. M.B. Cox,
a Liberian missionary, then in Virginia. In the hunt which followed the
massacre, a slaveholder went into the woods, accompanied by a
faithful slave, who had been the means of saving his life during the
insurrection. When they had reached a retired place in the forest, the
man handed his gun to his master, informing him that he could not live a
slave any longer, and requesting him either to free him or shoot him on
the spot. The master took the gun, in some trepidation, levelled it at
the faithful negro, and shot him through the heart. It is probable that
this slaveholder was a Dr. Blunt,--his being the only plantation where
the slaves were reported as thus defending their masters. "If this
be true," said the "Richmond Enquirer," when it first narrated this
instance of loyalty, "great will be the desert of these noble minded
Africans." This "noble-minded African," at least, estimated his own
desert at a high standard: he demanded freedom,--and obtained it.

Meanwhile the panic of the whites continued; for, though all others
might be disposed of, Nat Turner was still at large. We have positive
evidence of the extent of the alarm, although great efforts were
afterwards made to represent it as a trifling affair. A distinguished
citizen of Virginia wrote three months later to the Hon. W.B. Seabrook
of South Carolina,--"From all that has come to my knowledge during and
since that affair, I am convinced most fully that every black preacher
in the country east of the Blue Ridge was in the secret." "There is much
reason to believe," says the Governor's message on December 6th, "that
the spirit of insurrection was not confined to Southampton. Many
convictions have taken place elsewhere, and some few in distant
counties." The withdrawal of the United States troops, after some ten
days' service, was a signal for fresh excitement, and an address,
numerously signed, was presented to the United States Government,
imploring their continued stay. More than three weeks after the first
alarm, the Governor sent a supply of arms into Prince William, Fauquier,
and Orange Counties. "From examinations which have taken place in other
counties," says one of the best newspaper historians of the affair,
(in the "Richmond Enquirer" of September 6th,) "I fear that the scheme
embraced a wider sphere than I at first supposed." Nat Turner himself,
intentionally or otherwise, increased the confusion by denying all
knowledge of the North Carolina outbreak, and declaring that he had
communicated his plans to his four confederates within six months;
while, on the other hand, a slave-girl, sixteen or seventeen years old,
belonging to Solomon Parker, notified that she had heard the subject
discussed for eighteen months, and that at a meeting held during the
previous May some eight or ten had joined the plot.

It is astonishing to discover, by laborious comparison of newspaper
files, how vast was the immediate range of these insurrectionary alarms.
Every Southern State seems to have borne its harvest of terror. On the
Eastern shore of Maryland great alarm was at once manifested, especially
in the neighborhood of Easton and Snowhill; and the houses of colored
men were searched for arms even in Baltimore. In Delaware, there were
similar rumors through Sussex and Dover Counties; there were arrests and
executions; and in Somerset County great public meetings were held, to
demand additional safeguards. On election-day, in Seaford, Del., some
young men, going out to hunt rabbits, discharged their guns in sport;
the men being absent, all the women in the vicinity took to flight; the
alarm spread like the "Ipswich Fright"; soon Seaford was thronged with
armed men; and when the boys returned from hunting, they found cannon
drawn out to receive them.

In North Carolina, Raleigh and Fayetteville were put under military
defence, and women and children concealed themselves in the swamps for
many days. The rebel organization was supposed to include two thousand.
Forty-six slaves were imprisoned in Union County, twenty-five in Sampson
County, and twenty-three at least in Duplin County, some of whom were
executed. The panic also extended into Wayne, New Hanover, and Lenoir
Counties. Four men were shot without trial in Wilmington,--Nimrod,
Abraham, Prince, and "Dan the Drayman," the latter a man of
seventy,--and their heads placed on poles at the four corners of the
town. Nearly two months afterwards the trials were still continuing; and
at a still later day, the Governor in his proclamation recommended the
formation of companies of volunteers in every county.

In South Carolina, General Hayne issued a proclamation "to prove the
groundlessness of the existing alarms,"--thus implying that serious
alarms existed. In Macon, Georgia, the whole population were roused from
their beds at midnight by a report of a large force of armed negroes
five miles off. In an hour, every woman and child was deposited in the
largest building of the town, and a military force hastily collected in
front. The editor of the Macon "Messenger" excused the poor condition of
his paper, a few days afterwards, by the absorption of his workmen in
patrol duties, and describes "dismay and terror" as the condition of the
people, of "all ages and sexes." In Jones, Twiggs, and Monroe Counties,
the same alarms were reported; and in one place "several slaves were
tied to a tree, while a militia captain hacked at them with his sword."

In Alabama, at Columbus and Fort Mitchell, a rumor was spread of a joint
conspiracy of Indians and negroes. At Claiborne the panic was still
greater; the slaves were said to be thoroughly organized through that
part of the State, and multitudes were imprisoned; the whole alarm being
apparently founded on one stray copy of the "Liberator."

In Tennessee, the Shelbyville "Freeman" announced that an
insurrectionary plot had just been discovered, barely in time for
its defeat, through the treachery of a female slave. In Louisville,
Kentucky, a similar organization was discovered or imagined, and arrests
were made in consequence. "The papers, from motives of policy, do
not notice the disturbance," wrote one correspondent to the Portland
"Courier." "Pity us!" he added.

But the greatest bubble burst in Louisiana. Captain Alexander, an
English tourist, arriving in New Orleans at the beginning of September,
found the whole city in tumult. Handbills had been issued, appealing to
the slaves to rise against their masters, saying that all men were born
equal, declaring that Hannibal was a black man, and that they also might
have great leaders among them. Twelve hundred stand of weapons were said
to have been found in a black man's house; five hundred citizens were
under arms, and four companies of regulars were ordered to the city,
whose barracks Alexander himself visited.

If such were the alarm in New Orleans, the story, of course, lost
nothing by transmission to other Slave States. A rumor reached
Frankfort, Kentucky, that the slaves already had possession of the
coast, both above and below New Orleans. But the most remarkable
circumstance is, that all this seems to have been a mere revival of an
old terror, once before excited and exploded. The following paragraph
had appeared in the Jacksonville (Georgia) "Observer," during the spring

"FEARFUL DISCOVERY. We were favored, by yesterday's mail, with a letter
from New Orleans, of May 1st, in which we find that an important
discovery had been made a few days previous in that city. The following
is an extract:--'Four days ago, as some planters were digging under
ground, they found a square room containing eleven thousand stand of
arms and fifteen thousand cartridges, each of the cartridges containing
a bullet.' It is said the negroes intended to rise as soon as the sickly
season began, and obtain possession of the city by massacring the white
population. The same letter states that the mayor had prohibited the
opening of Sunday-schools for the instruction of blacks, under a penalty
of five hundred dollars for the first offence, and for the second,

Such were the terrors that came back from nine other Slave States, as
the echo of the voice of Nat Turner; and when it is also known that the
subject was at once taken up by the legislatures of other States, where
there was no public panic, as in Missouri and Tennessee,--and when,
finally, it is added that reports of insurrection had been arriving all
that year from Rio Janeiro, Martinique, St. Jago, Antigua, Caraccas, and
Tortola, it is easy to see with what prolonged distress the accumulated
terror must have weighed down upon Virginia, during the two months that
Nat Turner lay hid.

True, there were a thousand men in arms in Southampton County, to
inspire security. But the blow had been struck by only seven men before;
and unless there were an armed guard in every house, who could tell but
any house might at any moment be the scene of new horrors? They might
kill or imprison unresisting negroes by day, but could they resist their
avengers by night? "The half cannot be told," wrote a lady from another
part of Virginia, at this time, "of the distresses of the people. In
Southampton County, the scene of the insurrection, the distress beggars
description. A gentleman who has been there says that even here, where
there has been great alarm, we have no idea of the situation of those in
that county.... I do not hesitate to believe that many negroes around us
would join in a massacre as horrible as that which has taken place, if
an opportunity should offer."

Meanwhile the cause of all this terror was made the object of desperate
search. On September 17th the Governor offered a reward of five hundred
dollars for his capture, and there were other rewards swelling the
amount to eleven hundred dollars,--but in vain. No one could track or
trap him. On September 30th a minute account of his capture appeared
in the newspapers, but it was wholly false. On October 7th there was
another, and on October 18th another; yet all without foundation. Worn
out by confinement in his little cave, Nat Turner grew more adventurous,
and began to move about stealthily by night, afraid to speak to any
human being, but hoping to obtain some information that might aid his
escape. Returning regularly to his retreat before daybreak, he might
possibly have continued this mode of life until pursuit had ceased, had
not a dog succeeded where men had failed. The creature accidentally
smelt out the provisions hid in the cave, and finally led thither his
masters, two negroes, one of whom was named Nelson. On discovering the
terrible fugitive, they fled precipitately, when he hastened to retreat
in an opposite direction. This was on October 15th, and from this moment
the neighborhood was all alive with excitement, and five or six hundred
men undertook the pursuit.

It shows a more than Indian adroitness in Nat Turner to have escaped
capture any longer. The cave, the arms, the provisions were found; and
lying among them the notched stick of this miserable Robinson Crusoe,
marked with five weary weeks and six days. But the man was gone. For ten
days more he concealed himself among the wheat-stacks on Mr. Francis's
plantation, and during this time was reduced almost to despair. Once he
decided to surrender himself, and walked by night within two miles of
Jerusalem before his purpose failed him. Three times he tried to get out
of that neighborhood, but in vain: travelling by day was, of course,
out of the question, and by night he found it impossible to elude the
patrol. Again and again, therefore, he returned to his hiding-place,
and during his whole two months' liberty never went five miles from the
Cross Keys. On the 25th of October, he was at last discovered by Mr.
Francis, as he was emerging from a stack. A load of buckshot was
instantly discharged at him, twelve of which passed through his hat
as he fell to the ground. He escaped even then, but his pursuers were
rapidly concentrating upon him, and it is perfectly astonishing that he
could have eluded them for five days more.

On Sunday, October 30th, a man named Benjamin Phipps, going out for the
first time on patrol duty, was passing at noon a clearing in the woods
where a number of pine-trees had long since been felled. There was a
motion among their boughs; he stopped to watch it; and through a gap in
the branches he saw, emerging from a hole in the earth beneath, the
face of Nat Turner. Aiming his gun instantly, Phipps called on him
to surrender. The fugitive, exhausted with watching and privation,
entangled in the branches, armed only with a sword, had nothing to do
but to yield; sagaciously reflecting, also, as he afterwards explained,
that the woods were full of armed men, and that he had better trust
fortune for some later chance of escape, instead of desperately
attempting it then. He was correct in the first impression, since there
were fifty armed scouts within a circuit of two miles. His insurrection
ended where it began; for this spot was only a mile and a half from the
house of Joseph Travis.

Torn, emaciated, ragged, "a mere scarecrow," still wearing the hat
perforated with buckshot, with his arms bound to his sides, he was
driven before the levelled gun to the nearest house, that of a Mr.
Edwards. He was confined there that night; but the news had spread so
rapidly that within an hour after his arrival a hundred persons had
collected, and the excitement became so intense "that it was with
difficulty he could be conveyed alive to Jerusalem." The enthusiasm
spread instantly through Virginia; Mr. Trezvant, the Jerusalem
postmaster, sent notices of it far and near; and Governor Floyd himself
wrote a letter to the "Richmond Enquirer" to give official announcement
of the momentous capture.

When Nat Turner was asked by Mr. T.R. Gray, the counsel assigned him,
whether, although defeated, he still believed in his own Providential
mission, he answered, as simply as one who came thirty years after him,
"Was not Christ crucified?" In the same spirit, when arraigned before
the court, "he answered, 'Not guilty,' saying to his counsel that he did
not feel so." But apparently no argument was made in his favor by his
counsel, nor were any witnesses called,--he being convicted on the
testimony of Levi Waller, and upon his own confession, which was put in
by Mr. Gray, and acknowledged by the prisoner before the six justices
composing the court, as being "full, free, and voluntary." He was
therefore placed in the paradoxical position of conviction by his own
confession, under a plea of "Not guilty." The arrest took place on the
thirtieth of October, 1831, the confession on the first of November, the
trial and conviction on the fifth, and the execution on the following
Friday, the eleventh of November, precisely at noon. He met his death
with perfect composure, declined addressing the multitude assembled, and
told the sheriff in a firm voice that he was ready. Another account says
that he "betrayed no emotion, and even hurried the executioner in the
performance of his duty." "Not a limb nor a muscle was observed to
move. His body, after his death, was given over to the surgeons for

This last statement merits remark. There would he no evidence that this
formidable man was not favored during his imprisonment with that full
measure of luxury which slave-jails afford to slaves, but for a rumor
which arose after the execution, that he was compelled to sell his body
in advance, for purposes of dissection, in exchange for food. But it
does not appear probable, from the known habits of Southern anatomists,
that any such bargain could have been needed. For in the circular of the
South Carolina Medical School for that very year I find this remarkable
suggestion:--"Some advantages of a peculiar character are connected
with this institution. No place in the United States affords so great
opportunities for the acquisition of medical knowledge, subjects being
obtained among the colored population in sufficient number for every
purpose, and proper dissections carried on without offending any
individual." What a convenience, to possess for scientific purposes a
class of population sufficiently human to be dissected, but not human
enough to be supposed to take offence at it! And as the same arrangement
may be supposed to have existed in Virginia, Nat Turner would hardly
have gone through the formality of selling his body for food to those
who claimed its control at any rate.

The Confession of the captive was published under authority of Mr. Gray,
in a pamphlet, at Baltimore. Fifty thousand copies of it are said to
have been printed, and it was "embellished with an accurate likeness
of the brigand, taken by Mr. John Crawley. portrait-painter, and
lithographed by Endicott & Swett, at Baltimore." The newly published
"Liberator" said of it, at the time, that it would "only serve to rouse
up other leaders, and hasten other insurrections," and advised grand
juries to indict Mr. Gray. I have never seen a copy of the original
pamphlet, it is not to be found in any of our public libraries, and I
have heard of but one as still existing, although the Confession itself
has been repeatedly reprinted. Another small pamphlet, containing the
main features of the outbreak, was published at New York during the same
year, and this is in my possession. But the greater part of the facts
which I have given were gleaned from the contemporary newspapers.

Who now shall go back thirty years and read the heart of this
extraordinary man, who, by the admission of his captors, "never was
known to swear an oath or drink a drop of spirits,"--who, on the same
authority, "for natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension was
surpassed by few men," "with a mind capable of attaining anything,"--who
knew no book but his Bible, and that by heart,--who devoted himself
soul and body to the cause of his race, without a trace of personal hope
or fear,--who laid his plans so shrewdly that they came at last with
less warning than any earthquake on the doomed community around,--and
who, when that time arrived, took the life of man, woman, and child,
without a throb of compunction, a word of exultation, or an act of
superfluous outrage? Mrs. Stowe's "Dred" seems dim and melodramatic
beside the actual Nat Turner. De Quincey's "Avenger" is his only
parallel in imaginative literature: similar wrongs, similar retribution.
Mr. Gray, his self-appointed confessor, rises into a sort of bewildered
enthusiasm, with the prisoner before him. "I shall not attempt to
describe the effect of his narrative, as told and commented on by
himself, in the condemned-hole of the prison. The calm, deliberate
composure with which he spoke of his late deeds and intentions, the
expression of his fiend-like face when excited by enthusiasm, still
bearing the stains of the blood of helpless innocence about him, clothed
with rags and covered with chains, yet daring to raise his manacled
hands to heaven, with a spirit soaring above the attributes of man,--I
looked on him, and the blood curdled in my veins."

But the more remarkable the personal character of Nat Turner, the
greater the amazement felt that he should not have appreciated the
extreme felicity of his position as a slave. In all insurrections, the
standing wonder seems to be that the slaves most trusted and best used
should be most deeply involved. So in this case, as usual, they resorted
to the most astonishing theories of the origin of the affair. One
attributed it to Free-Masonry, and another to free whiskey,--liberty
appearing dangerous, even in these forms. The poor whites charged it
upon the free colored people, and urged their expulsion, forgetting that
in North Carolina the plot was betrayed by one of this class, and that
in Virginia there were but two engaged, both of whom had slave-wives.
The slaveholding clergymen traced it to want of knowledge of the Bible,
forgetting that Nat Turner knew scarcely anything else. On the other
hand, "a distinguished citizen of Virginia" combined in one sweeping
denunciation "Northern incendiaries, tracts, Sunday-schools, religion,
reading, and writing."

But whether the theories of its origin were wise or foolish,
the insurrection made its mark, and the famous band of Virginia
emancipationists who all that winter made the House of Delegates ring
with unavailing eloquence--till the rise of slave-exportation to
new cotton regions stopped their voices--were but the unconscious
mouth-pieces of Nat Turner. In January, 1832, in reply to a member who
had called the outbreak a "petty affair," the eloquent James McDowell
thus described the impression it left behind:--

"Now, Sir, I ask you, I ask gentlemen, in conscience to say, was that
a 'petty affair' which startled the feelings of your whole
population,--which threw a portion of it into alarm, a portion of it
into panic,--which wrung out from an affrighted people the thrilling
cry, day after day, conveyed to your executive, '_We are in peril of our
lives; send us an army for defence_'? Was that a 'petty affair' which
drove families from their homes,--which assembled women and children in
crowds, without shelter, at places of common refuge, in every condition
of weakness and infirmity, under every suffering which want and terror
could inflict, yet willing to endure all, willing to meet death from
famine, death from climate, death from hardships, preferring anything
rather than the horrors of meeting it from a domestic assassin? Was that
a 'petty affair' which erected a peaceful and confiding portion of the
State into a military camp,--which outlawed from pity the unfortunate
beings whose brothers had offended,--which barred every door, penetrated
every bosom with fear or suspicion,--which so banished every sense of
security from every man's dwelling, that, let but a hoof or horn break
upon the silence of the night, and an aching throb would be driven to
the heart, the husband would look to his weapon, and the mother would
shudder and weep upon her cradle? Was it the fear of Nat Turner, and his
deluded, drunken handful of followers, which produced such effects?
Was it this that induced distant counties, where the very name of
Southampton was strange, to arm and equip for a struggle? No, Sir,
it was the suspicion eternally attached to the slave himself,--the
suspicion that a Nat Turner might be in every family,--that the same
bloody deed might be acted over at any time and in any place,--that the
materials for it were spread through the land, and were always ready for
a like explosion. Nothing but the force of this withering apprehension,
--nothing but the paralyzing and deadening weight with which it falls
upon and prostrates the heart of every man who has helpless dependents
to protect,--nothing but this could have thrown a brave people
into consternation, or could have made any portion of this powerful
Commonwealth, for a single instant, to have quailed and trembled."

While these things were going on, the enthusiasm for the Polish
Revolution was rising to its height. The nation was ringing with a peal
of joy, on hearing that at Frankfort the Poles had killed fourteen
thousand Russians. "The Southern Religious Telegraph" was publishing an
impassioned address to Kosciusko; standards were being consecrated for
Poland in the larger cities; heroes, like Skrzynecki, Czartoryski,
Rozyski, Kaminski, were choking the trump of Fame with their complicated
patronymics. These are all forgotten now; and this poor negro, who did
not even possess a name, beyond one abrupt monosyllable,--for even the
name of Turner was the master's property,--still lives a memory of
terror and a symbol of retribution triumphant.



The man who, in his progress through life, has listened with attention
to the conversation of human beings, who has carefully read the writings
of the best English authors, who has made himself well acquainted with
the history and usages of his native land, and who has meditated much on
all he has seen and read, must have been led to the firm conviction that
by VEAL those who speak the English language intend to denote the flesh
of calves, and that by a calf is intended an immature ox or cow. A calf
is a creature in a temporary and progressive stage of its being. It will
not always be a calf; if it live long enough, it will assuredly cease to
be a calf. And if impatient man, arresting the creature at that stage,
should consign it to the hands of him whose business it is to convert
the sentient animal into the impassive and unconscious meat, the
nutriment which the creature will afford will be nothing more than
immature beef. There may be many qualities of Veal; the calf which
yields it may die at very different stages in its physical and moral
development; but provided only it die as a calf,--provided only that its
meat can fitly be styled Veal,--_this_ will be characteristic of
it, that the meat shall be immature meat. It may be very good, very
nutritious and palatable; some people may like it better than Beef, and
may feed upon it with the liveliest satisfaction; but when it is fairly
and deliberately put to us, it must be admitted, even by such as like
Veal the best, that Veal is but an immature production of Nature. I take
Veal, therefore, as the emblem of IMMATURITY,--of that which is now in
a stage out of which it must grow,--of that which, as time goes on,
will grow older, will probably grow better, will certainly grow very
different. _That_ is what I mean by Veal.

And now, my reader and friend, you will discern the subject about which
I trust we are to have some pleasant and not unprofitable thought
together. You will readily believe that my subject is not that material
Veal which may be beheld and purchased in the butchers' shops. I am not
now to treat of its varied qualities, of the sustenance which it yields,
of the price at which it may be procured, or of the laws according to
which that price rises and falls. I am not going to take you to the
green fields in which the creature which yielded the Veal was fed, or to
discourse of the blossoming hawthorn hedges from whose midst it was reft
away. Neither shall I speak of the rustic life, the toils, cares, and
fancies of the farm-house near which it spent its brief lifetime. The
Veal of which I intend to speak is Moral Veal, or (to speak with
entire accuracy) Veal Intellectual, Moral, and Aesthetical. By Veal
I understand the immature productions of the human mind,--immature
compositions, immature opinions, feelings, and tastes. I wish to think
of the work, the views, the fancies, the emotions, which are yielded by
the human soul in its immature stages,--while the calf (so to speak)
is only growing into the ox,--while the clever boy, with his absurd
opinions and feverish feelings and fancies, is developing into the
mature and sober-minded man. And if I could but rightly set out the
thoughts which have at many different times occurred to me on this
matter, if one could catch and fix the vague glimpses and passing
intuitions of solid unchanging truth, if the subject on which one has
thought long and felt deeply were always that on which one could write
best, and could bring out to the sympathy of others what a man himself
has felt, what an excellent essay this would be! But it will not be so;
for, as I try to grasp the thoughts I would set out, they melt away and
elude me. It is like trying to catch and keep the rainbow hues you have
seen the sunshine cast upon the spray of a waterfall, when you try to
catch the tone, the thoughts, the feelings, the atmosphere of early

There can be no question at all as to the fact, that clever young men
and women, when their minds begin to open, when they begin to think for
themselves, do pass through a stage of mental development which they
by-and-by quite outgrow, and entertain opinions and beliefs, and
feel emotions, on which afterwards they look back with no sympathy or
approval. This is a fact as certain as that a calf grows into an ox, or
that veal, if spared to grow, will become beef. But no analogy between
the material and the moral must be pushed too far. There are points of
difference between material and moral Veal. A calf knows it is a calf.
It may think itself bigger and wiser than an ox, but it knows it is not
an ox. And if it be a reasonable calf, modest, and free from prejudice,
it is well aware that the joints it will yield after its demise will be
very different from those of the stately and well-consolidated ox which
ruminates in the rich pasture near it. But the human boy often thinks he
is a man, and even more than a man. He fancies that his mental stature
is as big and as solid as it will ever become. He fancies that his
mental productions--the poems and essays he writes, the political
and social views he forms, the moods of feeling with which he regards
things--are just what they may always be, just what they ought always to
be. If spared in this world, and if he be one of those whom years make
wiser, the day comes when he looks back with amazement and shame on
those early mental productions. He discerns now how immature, absurd,
and extravagant they were,--in brief, how Vealy. But at the time, he
had not the least idea that they were so. He had entire confidence in
himself,--not a misgiving as to his own ability and wisdom. You, clever
young student of eighteen years old, when you wrote your prize essay,
fancied that in thought and style it was very like Macaulay,--and not
Macaulay in that stage of Vealy brilliancy in which he wrote his essay
on Milton, not Macaulay the fairest and most promising of calves, but
Macaulay the stateliest and most beautiful of oxen. Well, read over your
essay now at thirty, and tell us what you think of it. And you, clever,
warm-hearted, enthusiastic young preacher of twenty-four, wrote your
sermon; it was very ingenious, very brilliant in style, and you never
thought but that it would be felt by mature-minded Christian people as
suiting their case, as true to their inmost experience. You could not
see why you might not preach as well as a man of forty. And if people in
middle age had complained, that, eloquent as your preaching was, they
found it suited them better and profited them more to listen to the
plainer instructions of some good man with gray hair, you would not have
understood their feeling, and you might perhaps have attributed it to
many motives rather than the true one. But now at five-and-thirty,
find out the yellow manuscript, and read it carefully over; and I will
venture to say, that, if you were a really clever and eloquent young
man, writing in an ambitious and rhetorical style, and prompted to do
so by the spontaneous fervor of your heart and readiness of your
imagination, you will feel now little sympathy even with the literary
style of that early composition,--you will see extravagance and
bombast, where once you saw only eloquence and graphic power. And as for
the graver and more important matter of the thought of the discourse,
I think you will be aware of a certain undefinable shallowness and
crudity. Your growing experience has borne you beyond it. Somehow you
feel it does not come home to you, and suit you as you would wish it
should. It will not do. That old sermon you cannot preach now, till you
have entirely recast and rewritten it. But you had no such notion when
you wrote the sermon. You were satisfied with it. You thought it even
better than the discourses of men as clever as yourself, and ten or
fifteen years older. Your case was as though the youthful calf should
walk beside the sturdy ox, and think itself rather bigger.

Let no clever young reader fancy, from what has been said, that I
am about to make an onslaught upon clever young men. I remember too
distinctly how bitter, and indeed ferocious, I used to feel, about
eleven or twelve years ago, when I heard men of more than middle age and
less than middling ability speak with contemptuous depreciation of the
productions and doings of men considerably their juniors, and vastly
their superiors,--describing them as _boys_, and as _clever lads_, with
looks of dark malignity. There are few more disgusting sights than
the envy and jealousy of their juniors, which may be seen in various
malicious, commonplace old men; as there is hardly a more beautiful and
pleasing sight than the old man hailing and counselling and encouraging
the youthful genius which he knows far surpasses his own. And I, my
young friend of two-and-twenty, who, relatively to you, may be regarded
as old, am going to assume no preposterous airs of superiority. I do not
claim to be a bit wiser than you; all I claim is to be older. I have
outgrown your stage; but I was once such as you, and all my sympathies
are with you yet. But it is a difficulty in the way of the essayist,
and, indeed, of all who set out opinions which they wish to be received
and acted on by their fellow-creatures, that they seem, by the very act
of offering advice to others, to claim to be wiser and better than those
whom they advise. But in reality it is not so. The opinions of the
essayist or of the preacher, if deserving of notice at all, are so
because of their inherent truth, and not because he expresses them.
Estimate them for yourself, and give them the weight which you think
their due. And be sure of this, that the writer, if earnest and sincere,
addressed all he said to himself as much as to any one else. This is the
thing which redeems all didactic writing or speaking from the charge of
offensive assumption and self-assertion. It is not for the preacher,
whether of moral or religious truth, to address his fellows as outside
sinners, worse than himself, and needing to be reminded of that of which
he does not need to be reminded. No, the earnest preacher preaches to
himself as much as to any in the congregation; it is from the picture
ever before him in his own weak and wayward heart that he learns to
reach and describe the hearts of others, if, indeed, he do so at all.
And it is the same with lesser things.

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