A VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES IN 1841
BY JOSEPH STURGE
BOSTON: DEXTER S. KING, NO. 1 CORNHILL. "'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume; And we are weeds without it. All constraint, Except what wisdom lays on evil men, Is evil; hurts the faculties, impedes Their progress in the road of science; blinds The eyesight of discovery; and begets, In those that suffer it, a sordid mind."
Preface to the American Edition
Preface to the English Edition
A Visit, &c.
Appendix A: ANTI-SLAVERY EPISTLE OF "FRIENDS" IN GREAT BRITAIN.
Appendix B: EARLY EFFORTS OF "FRIENDS" IN BEHALF OF NEGRO
Appendix C: Report of the Committee of the Yearly Meeting of Friends, &c.
Appendix D: ELISHA TYSON.
Appendix E: THE "AMISTAD CAPTIVES"
Appendix F: Extract from an Essay by WILLIAM JAY
Appendix G: OPIUM WAR WITH CHINA.
Appendix H: LETTER OF A.L. PENNOCK.
Appendix I: GERRIT SMITH'S SLAVES.
Appendix K: The Society of Friends in America and the Colonization Society
Appendix L: Memorial of citizens of Boston, United States, to the Lords of the Admiralty, Great Britain.
TO THE AMERICAN EDITION.
Within a few years past, several of our visitors from the other side of the Atlantic, have published their views of our country and her institutions. Basil Hall, Hamilton and others, in their attempts to describe the working of the democratic principle in the United States, have been unfavorably influenced by their opposite political predilections. On the other hand, Miss Martineau, who has strong republican sympathies, has not, at all times, been sufficiently careful and discriminating in the facts and details of her spirited and agreeable narrative.
The volume of Mr. Sturge, herewith presented, is unlike any of its predecessors. Its author makes no literary pretensions. His style, like his garb, is of the plainest kind; shorn of every thing like ornament, it has yet a truthful, earnest simplicity, as rare as it is beautiful. The reader will look in vain for those glowing descriptions of American scenery, and graphic delineations of the peculiarities of the American character with which other travellers have endeavored to enliven and diversify their journals. Coming among us on an errand of peace and good will—with a heart oppressed and burdened by the woes of suffering humanity—he had no leisure for curious observations of men and manners, nor even for the gratification of a simple and unperverted taste for the beautiful in outward nature. His errand led him to the slave-jail of the negro-trafficker—the abodes of the despised and persecuted colored man—the close walls of prisons. His narrative, like his own character, is calm, clear, simple; its single and manifest aim, to do good.
Although this volume is mainly devoted to the subject of emancipation, and to his intercourse with the religious Society of which he is a member, yet the friends of peace, of legal reform, and of republican institutions, will derive gratification from its perusal. The liberal spirit of Christian philanthropy breathes through it. The author's deep and settled detestation of our slavery, and of the hypocrisy which sustains and justifies it, does not render him blind to the beauty of the republican principle of popular control, nor repress in any degree his pleasure in recording its beneficent practical fruits in the free States.
The labors of Mr. Sturge in the cause of emancipation have given him the appellation of the "Howard of our days." The author of the popular "History of Slavery," page 600, thus notices his arduous personal investigations of the state of things in the West India Islands, under the apprenticeship system. "The idea originated with Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham, a member of that religious body, the FRIENDS, who have ever stood pre-eminent in noiseless but indefatigable exertions in the cause of the negro; and who seem to possess a more thorough practical understanding than is generally possessed by statesmen and politicians, of the axiom that the shortest communication between two given points, is a straight line. While others were speculating, and hoping that the worst reports from the West Indies might not be true, and that the evils would work their own cure, this generous and heroic philanthropist, resolved to go himself and ascertain the facts and the remedy required." On his return, Mr. Sturge, with his companion, Thomas Harvey, published a full account of their investigations into the working of the apprenticeship system; and his testimony before the Parliamentary Committee, occupied seven days. His disclosures sealed the fate of the apprenticeship system. Such a demonstration of popular sentiment was called forth against it, that the Colonies, one after another, felt themselves under the necessity of abandoning it for unconditional emancipation. It was a remark of Brougham, in the House of Lords, that the abolition of the apprenticeship was the work of one man, and that man was Joseph Sturge.
Mr. Sturge's benevolent labors have not been confined to the abolition of slavery. He is a prominent member of the Anti-corn Law League. He is an active advocate of the cause of universal peace. He has given all his influence to the cause of the oppressed and laboring classes of his own countrymen: and his name is at this moment, the rallying-word of millions, as the author and patron of the "Suffrage Declaration," which is now in circulation in all parts of the United Kingdom, pledging its signers to the great principle of universal suffrage—a full, fair and free representation of the people. It was reserved for the untitled Quaker of Birmingham to take the lead in the great and good work of uniting, for the first time, the middle and the working classes of his countrymen, and in so doing, to infuse hope and newness of life into the dark dwellings of the English peasant and artisan. The Editor of the London Non-Conformist, speaking of this movement of Mr. Sturge, says: "The Declaration is put forth by a man, who, perhaps, in a higher degree than any other individual, has the confidence of both the middle class and the working men. The former can trust to his prudence; the latter have faith in his sincerity."
Such is the man, who, prompted by his untiring benevolence, visited our shores during the past year. This volume is the brief record of his visit, and of the impressions produced upon his mind by our conflicting interests and institutions. It is now republished, in the belief that the opinions of its author will be received with candor and respect by all classes of our citizens, and that they are calculated to make a permanent and salutary impression, in favor of the great cause of universal freedom.
Boston, May, 1842.
TO THE ENGLISH EDITION.
In visiting the United States, the objects which preferred the chief claim to my attention were the universal abolition of slavery, and the promotion of permanent international peace. Deeply impressed with the conviction that the advancement of these is intimately connected with the progress of right views among professing Christians in that country, it was my desire not only to inform myself of the actual state of feeling and opinion among this important class, but if possible, to contribute my mite of encouragement and aid to those who are bearing the burden and heat of the day, in an arduous contest, on whose issue the alternative of a vast amount of human happiness or misery depends. This general outline of my motives included several specific, practical objects, which will be found detailed in the ensuing pages.
For obvious reasons, the abolition of slavery in the United States is the most prominent topic in my narrative; but I have freely interspersed observations on other subjects of interest and importance, as they came under consideration. Short notices are introduced of some of the prominent abolitionists of America; and, though sensible how imperfectly I have done justice to exertions, which, either in degree or kind, have scarcely a parallel in the annals of self-denying benevolence, I fear I shall occasionally have hurt the feelings of the individuals referred to, by what they may deem undeserved or unseasonable praise; yet I trust they will pardon the act for the sake of the motive, which is to introduce the English anti-slavery reader to a better acquaintance with his fellow laborers in the United States. My short stay, and the limited extent of my visit, prevented my becoming acquainted with many who are equally deserving of notice.
Less than twelve months have elapsed since I embarked on this "visit;" and though, with the help of steam by sea and land, an extensive journey may now be performed in a comparatively short time, yet, during this brief interval, my own engagements would have prevented my placing the following narrative so early before the public without assistance. It is right to state that a large portion of the work has been prepared for the press from a rough transcript of my journal, from my correspondence, and other documents, by the friend who accompanied me on a former journey to the West Indies, and who then compiled the account of our joint labors.
Nearly the whole of the narrative portion of this publication has been sent to America, to different individuals who were concerned in, or present at the transactions related, and has been returned to me with their verification of the facts; so that the reader has the strongest guaranty for their accuracy. The inferences and comments I am solely responsible for, and I leave them to rest on their own merits.
In undertaking this journey, I was careful not to shackle my individual liberty by appearing as the representative of any society, whether religious or benevolent; and, on the other hand, none of those friends, who kindly furnished me with letters of introduction, are in any way responsible for my proceedings in the United States, or for any thing which this volume contains.
In conclusion,—should these pages come under the notice of any, who, though well wishers to their species, are not yet identified with anti-slavery effort, I would entreat such to "come over and help us." If they are ambitious of a large and quick return for their outlay of money, of time, of labor,—for their painful sympathies and self-denying prayers,—where will they find a cause where help is more needed, or where it would be rewarded more surely and abundantly? Let them reflect on what has been effected, within a few short years, in the British West Indies, so recently numbered among "the dark places of the earth, full of the habitations of cruelty,"—but now scenes of light, gladness, and prosperity, temporal and spiritual. To show what remains to be accomplished for the universal abolition of slavery—a field in which the laborers are few indeed, in proportion to its extent—I may be allowed to quote the following comprehensive statement, from the preface to one of the most important volumes that ever issued from the press on the subject of slavery:[A]
[Footnote A: "Proceedings of the London Anti-Slavery Convention."]
"The extent of these giant evils may be gathered from a brief statement of facts. In the United States of America, the slave population is estimated to be 2,750,000; in Brazil, 2,500,000; in the Spanish Colonies, 600,000; in the French Colonies, 265,000; in the Dutch Colonies, 70,000; in the Danish and Swedish Colonies, 30,000; and in Texas, 25,000; besides those held in bondage by Great Britain, in the East Indies, and the British Settlements of Ceylon, Malacca, and Penang; and by France, Holland, and Portugal, in various parts of Asia and Africa; amounting in all to several millions more; and exclusive also of those held in bondage by the native powers of the East, and other parts of the world, of whose number it is impossible to form a correct estimate.
"To supply the slave-markets of the Western world, 120,000 native Africans are, on the most moderate calculation, annually required; whilst the slave-markets of the East require 50,000 more. In procuring these victims of a guilty traffic, to be devoted to the rigors of perpetual slavery, it is computed that 280,000 perish in addition, and under circumstances the most revolting and afflicting.
"But this is not all. In the Southern section of the United States, and in British India, a vast internal slave-trade is carried on, second only in horror and extent to that which has so long desolated and degraded Africa.
"These facts exhibit, also, the magnitude of the responsibility which devolves upon abolitionists; in view of it they may well be allowed to disclaim, as they do, all sectarian motive, all party feeling: 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will to man,' is their aim: consistently with the blessed character of this gospel anthem, they recognize no means as allowable for them, in the prosecution of their holy enterprise, than those which are of a moral, religious, and pacific nature; in the diligent use of these means, and trusting in God, they cherish the hope that, under His blessing, they may be permitted to accomplish the great work to which they are devoted; and thus be made instrumental in advancing the sacred cause of freedom, and its attendant blessings, civilization and religion, throughout the earth."
Edgbaston, near Birmingham, Second Month, 1st, 1842.
A VISIT, &c.
I embarked at Portsmouth, on board the British Queen steam packet, commanded by Captain Franklin, on the 10th of the 3d Month, (March,) 1841. During the first two or three days, the weather was unusually fine for the season of the year, and gave us the prospect of a quick and prosperous voyage. The passengers, about seventy in number, were of various nations, including English, French, German and American.
The very objectionable custom of supplying the passengers with intoxicating liquors without limit and without any additional charge, thus compelling the temperate or abstinent passenger to contribute to the expenses of the intemperate, was done away. Each individual paid for the wine and spirits he called for, a circumstance which greatly promoted sobriety in the ship; but I am sorry to say three or four, and these my own countrymen, were not unfrequently in a state of intoxication. On one occasion, after dinner, one of these addressed an intelligent black steward, who was waiting, by the contemptuous designation of "blackey;" the man replied to him in this manner:—"My name is Robert; when you want any thing from me please to address me by my name; there is no gentleman on board who would have addressed me as you have done; we are all the same flesh and blood; I did not make myself; God made me." This severe and public rebuke commended itself to every man's conscience, and my countryman obtained no sympathy even from the most prejudiced slaveholder on board. Several of my fellow passengers stood in this relation; and I found I could freely converse with a native American slaveholder not only with less risk of giving offence, but that he was more ready to admit the inherent evils of slavery than the Europeans who had become inured to the system by residence in the Southern States of America, or than the American merchants residing in the Northern cities, whose participation in the commerce of the Slave States had imbued them with pro-slavery views and feelings. One of them, a French merchant of New Orleans, went so far as to assure me, that in his opinion it would be as reasonable to class the negroes with monkeys, as to place them on an equality with the whites.
On the nights of the 14th and 15th the Aurora Borealis was very beautiful and vivid, which is said to be, in these latitudes, an indication of stormy weather. Accordingly on the 16th the weather became less favorable, with an increased swell in the sea, wind more ahead, and occasional squalls. On the night of the 18th we encountered one of the most awful hurricanes ever witnessed by the oldest sailor on board; and from this date to the 24th inst. we experienced a succession of storms of indescribable violence and severity, which at some intervals caused great and I believe very just alarm for the safety of the ship. The President steamer, coming in the opposite direction, is known to have encountered the same weather, and was doubtless lost, not having since been heard of. Our escape, under Divine Providence, must be attributed to the great strength of the vessel, which had been thoroughly repaired since her last voyage, and to the skill and indefatigable attention of the Captain. On the 25th the wind abated, and the greater number of the floats or propelling boards of the paddle wheels having been carried away, and our stock of coals very much reduced, the Captain decided to make for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we arrived on the evening of the 30th. After a stay of twenty-four hours, for repairs and supplies, we again left for New York, where we arrived safely on the night of 4th Month, (April,) 3d.
The following day, being the first of the week, I landed about the time of the gathering of the different congregations, and inquired my way to the meeting of the orthodox section of the Society of Friends, and afterwards took up my abode at the Carlton Hotel. Here I met, for the first time, my friend J.G. Whittier, whom I had been anxious to associate with myself in my future movements, and who kindly consented to be my companion as far as his health would permit. The next morning, on returning to the vessel to get my luggage passed, a custom-house officer manifested his disapproval of my character and objects as an abolitionist, by giving me much unnecessary trouble, and by being the means of my paying duty on a small machine for copying letters for my own private use, and other articles which I believe are usually passed free. Ordinarily at this port, the luggage of respectable passengers is passed with little examination, on an assurance that it comprises no merchandise. This was almost the only instance of discourteous treatment I met with in the United States. We remained in New York from the 4th to the 10th of this month, which time was occupied in visiting different friends of the anti-slavery cause, and in receiving calls at our hotel.
I had much pleasure and satisfaction in my intercourse here with several individuals distinguished in the anti-slavery cause, some of whom I had met in 1837, during a short visit to New York on my way from the West Indies. Among these, ought particularly to be mentioned the brothers Arthur and Lewis Tappan. The former was elected president of the American Anti-Slavery Society on its formation, and remained at its head until the division which took place last year, when he became president of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. His name is not more a byeword of reproach, than a watchword of alarm throughout the slave states; and the slave holders have repeatedly set a high price upon his head by advertisement in the public papers. In the just estimation of the pro-slavery party, Arthur Tappan is abolition personified; and truly the cause needs not to be ashamed of its representative, for a more deservedly honored and estimable character it would be difficult to find. In personal deportment he is unobtrusive and silent; his sterling qualities are veiled by reserve, and are in themselves such as make the least show—clearness and judgment, prudence and great decision. He is the head of an extensive mercantile establishment, and the high estimation in which he is held by his fellow citizens, notwithstanding the unpopularity of his views on slavery, is the result of a long and undeviating career of public spirit and private integrity, and of an uninterrupted succession of acts of benevolence. During a series of years of commercial prosperity, his revenues were distributed with an unsparing hand through the various channels which promised benefit to his fellow creatures; and in this respect, his gifts, large and frequent though they were, were probably exceeded in usefulness by the influence of his example as a man and a Christian.
His brother Lewis, with the same noble and disinterested spirit in the application of his pecuniary resources, possesses the rare faculty of incessant labor; which, when combined, as in his case, with great intellectual and physical capacity, eminently qualifies for a leading position in society. He unites in a remarkable degree, the apparently incompatible qualities of versatility and concentration; and his admirable endowments have been applied in the service of the helpless and the oppressed with corresponding success. He has been from the beginning one of the most active members of the central Anti-Slavery Committee in New York, a body that has directed the aggressive operations against slavery, on a national scale, with a display of resources, and an untiring and resolute vigor, that have attracted the admiration of all, who, sympathizing in their object, have had the privilege of watching their proceedings. Of those who have impressed the likeness of their own character on these proceedings, Lewis Tappan is one of the chief; and he has shared with his brother the most virulent attacks from the pro-slavery party. Some years ago he had the ear of a negro sent to him by post, in an insulting anonymous letter. During the past year, though marked by a severe domestic affliction, in addition to his engagements as a merchant, in partnership with his brother Arthur, and his various public and private duties as a man and as a citizen, in the performance of which I believe he is punctual and exemplary, he has edited, almost without assistance, the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, and has also been one of the most active members of a committee of benevolent individuals formed to watch over the interest of the Amistad captives. Besides superintending the maintenance, education, and other interests of these Africans, it was necessary to defend their cause against the whole power of the United States' Government, to raise funds for these objects, to interest foreign Governments in their welfare, and more than all, to keep them constantly before the public, not only for their own sakes, but that a portion of the sympathy and right feeling which was elicited in their favor might be reflected towards the native slave population of the country, whose claim to freedom rests upon the same ground of natural and indefeasible right. With what success this interesting cause has been prosecuted is well expressed in a single sentence by a valued transatlantic correspondent of mine, who, writing at the most critical period of the controversy, says:—"We, or rather Lewis Tappan, has made the whole nation look the captives in the face."
Joshua Leavitt, proprietor and editor of the New York Emancipator, a large weekly abolition newspaper, and secretary of the American and Foreign Anti-slavery Society, is another remarkable man, clear and sound in judgment, and efficient in action. He is justly regarded by American abolitionists as one of their ablest supporters.
La Roy Sunderland, member of the Executive Committee, and editor of "Zion's Watchman," a Methodist, religious, and anti-slavery newspaper, with his slight figure, dark intellectual face, and earnest manner, is pointed out to the anti-slavery visitor from the Old World as the most prominent advocate of emancipation among the Wesleyans. His boldness and faithfulness have combined against him the leading influences of his denomination, but notwithstanding he has been several times tried by ecclesiastical councils, they have always failed to substantiate the charges against him, and his vindication has been complete.
Theodore S. Wright, member of the committee, is a colored presbyterian preacher in this city—an amiable man, much and deservedly respected.
All the above mentioned individuals, who have from an early period been among the most zealous and laborious members of the anti-slavery committee, found themselves placed by the events of last year in the position of seceders from the American Anti-Slavery Society, though their opinions had undergone no change. They now belong to the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, or as it is technically called the "new organization," a distinction which will be afterwards explained.
James M'Cune Smith, a young colored physician, I had known in England, where he studied for his profession, having been shut out of the colleges of his own country by the prejudice against his complexion. Notwithstanding this prejudice he is now practising, I understand, with success, and has fair prospects.
I had a pleasant interview with Isaac T. Hopper, whom also I had met in 1837. He belongs to the American Anti-Slavery Society, or "old organization," and has been a zealous and fearless abolitionist for half a century. He has been recently disowned by the "Hicksite Friends" for his connection with the newspaper called the "National Anti-Slavery Standard."
Early on the morning of the 10th, we left for Burlington by railroad, where we were most kindly received by our venerable friends Stephen Grellett and his wife. On the following day, we took tea with John Cox, residing about three miles from Burlington, at a place called Oxmead, where formerly that eminent minister of the Society of Friends, George Dillwin, resided. J.C. is now in his eighty-seventh year, enjoying a green and cheerful old age, and feeling all the interest of his youth in the anti-slavery cause. It was cheering and animating to witness the serene spirit of this venerable man, and deeply were we interested in the reminiscences of his youth. He well remembered John Woolman, whose former residence, Mount Holly, is within a few miles of Oxmead, and of whom he related various particulars characteristic of the simplicity, humanity, and great circumspection of his life and conversation. When John Woolman first brought the subject of slavery before the yearly meeting of the Society of Friends at Philadelphia, at a time when its members were deeply implicated both in slave-holding and in slave-dealing, he stood almost alone in his anti-slavery testimony, which he expressed in few and appropriate words. Some severe remarks were made by others in reply, on this and on successive similar occasions, when he introduced the subject, but such treatment provoked no rejoinder from John Woolman, who would quietly resume his seat and weep in silent submission.
He was not deterred by this discouraging reception from again and again bringing the subject before the next Yearly Meeting, and finally his unwearied efforts, always prosecuted in the "meekness of wisdom," resulted in the Society of Friends entirely wiping away the reproach of this abomination.
The great qualification of John Woolman for pleading the cause of the oppressed was the same which has been ascribed with equal truth and beauty to his contemporary and co-worker, Anthony Benezet: "a peculiar capacity for being profoundly sensible of their wrongs." The biographer of the latter has described another occurrence in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting at a subsequent stage of this momentous controversy, which may prove an interesting counterpart to the foregoing relation.
"On one occasion during the annual convention of the Society at Philadelphia, when that body was engaged on the subject of slavery, as it related to its own members, some of whom had not wholly relinquished the practice of keeping negroes in bondage, a difference of sentiment arose as to the course which ought to be pursued. For a moment it appeared doubtful which opinion would preponderate. At this critical juncture Benezet left his seat, which was in an obscure part of the house, and presented himself weeping at an elevated door in the presence of the whole congregation, whom he thus addressed—'Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.' He said no more: under the solemn impression which succeeded this emphatic quotation, the proposed measure received the united sanction of the assembly."[A]
[Footnote A: Life of Anthony Benezet, by Roberts Vaux.]
Even the passing observer is aware how closely the Society of Friends is identified with the anti-slavery cause, and if such an one were to make this fact the subject of historical investigation, he would probably find it one of considerable interest.—He would learn that some years before the call of Thomas Clarkson in his early manhood, by a series of distinct and remarkable Providences, into this field of labor, this Society in America had been pervaded by a noiseless agitation on the subject of slavery, which resulted in the abandonment of the slave-trade, in the liberation of their slaves, and in the adoption of a rule of discipline excluding slaveholders from religious fellowship; so that for many years past, the sins in question have been not so much as to be named among them, or the possibility of their commission hinted at, by any one bearing the name and professing the principles of a "Friend." The change described, was effected, not by "pressure from without," but by the constraining influence of the love of Christ. The chief instruments in the hands of Divine Providence in bringing about so remarkable a reformation, were John Woolman and Anthony Benezet, of whom the former was the earlier in the field and broke up the fallow ground, under circumstances of the greatest discouragement, of which the instance above related is an example.
The life of this ever-memorable man was a pattern of apostolic Christianity—pure, patient, self-denying, meek. Love was the element he breathed. His heart not only yearned towards the oppressed of the human family, but his compassion extended to the brute creation, under whose sufferings in the service of man, to use his own expression, "creation at this day doth loudly groan." Though dependent on his own labor for a livelihood, he was careful in a most exemplary degree, "not to entangle himself with affairs of this life, that he might please Him who had called him to be a soldier;" and the reader of his life will find that this unworldly man took similar pains to avoid wealth, which others do to acquire it. Perhaps I may be excused for dwelling a moment on this theme, when I state that one of the latest public acts of my beloved and lamented father-in-law, James Cropper, was to cause John Woolman's auto-biography and writings to be re-edited, and a large and cheap edition to be struck off, which has appeared since his decease.[A] This work is well known to the Society of Friends, but should any other reader be induced by these desultory remarks to peruse it, he will find himself richly repaid. In the picturesque simplicity of its style, refined literary taste has found an inimitable charm,[B] but the spiritually minded reader will discover beauties of a far higher order.
[Footnote A: A Journal of the Life, Gospel Labors, and Christian Experience, &c. &c. of John Woolman. Warrington, Thomas Hurst.]
[Footnote B: See Charles Lamb's Works.]
Taking leave for the present of our venerable friends at Oxmead and Burlington, we proceeded on the 12th to Philadelphia, where we remained several days, at the Union Hotel. During this brief stay, we received visits from a large number of the friends of the anti-slavery cause, and made some calls in return. Among others, I had the pleasure of seeing James Forten, an aged and opulent man of color, whose long career has been marked by the display of capacity and energy of no common kind. The history of his life is interesting and instructive, affording a practical demonstration of the absurdity, as well as injustice, of that prejudice which would stamp the mark of intellectual inferiority on his complexion and race.
I returned to New York on the 15th, in company with several anti-slavery friends. One of these, Dr. Bartholomew Fussell, resided on the borders of the State of Maryland, and had afforded relief and aid to many negroes escaping from slavery. He had kept no account of the number thus assisted till last year, when there were thirty-four, being fewer he thought than the average of several years preceding. The same individual related some interesting particulars of the late Elisha Tyson, of Baltimore, an abolitionist of the old school, who had rescued many negroes from illegal bondage. Dr. Fussell was an eye witness of the following occurrence: A poor woman had been seized by the agents of Woolfolk, the notorious Maryland slave dealer, and was carried along the street in which Elisha Tyson lived. When they arrived opposite his house, she demanded to see "Father Tyson." A crowd collected about the party, and she so far moved their pity, that they insisted that her wish should be complied with. One of the men hereupon went to inform his employer, who galloped off, pistol in hand, and found Elisha Tyson standing at his own door. Woolfolk with an oath declared he would "send him to hell for interfering with his property." Elisha Tyson coolly exposed his breast, telling him that he dared not shoot, and that he (Woolfolk) "was in hell already, though he did not know it." An investigation followed; the poor woman was proved to be illegally detained, and was set at liberty.[A] It is generally allowed that so bold and uncompromising an advocate of the negroes' right as Elisha Tyson does not now remain in the slave States.
[Footnote A: See Appendix D for a brief account of this ancient philanthropist.]
As the old school of abolitionists has been mentioned, and will occasionally be referred to hereafter, the following historical statement of its rise and decline, and of the commencement of the present abolition movement, will probably be interesting to the anti-slavery reader on this side of the Atlantic. It is from the pen of my valued coadjutor John G. Whittier.
"The old Anti-Slavery Societies, established about the period of the American Revolution, and of which the late Judge Jay, Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Rush, and other distinguished statesmen were members, were composed mainly of the Religious Society of Friends. These societies were for many years active and energetic in their labors for the slave, and the free people of color; and little, if any, serious opposition was made to their exertions, which indeed seem to have been confined to the particular states in which they were located. They rendered essential service in promoting the gradual abolition of slavery in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
"In 1819 commenced the discussion of what is now known as the 'Missouri Question.' The Anti-Slavery Societies took ground against the admission into the Union of the territory of Missouri as a slave state. They succeeded in arousing the public attention; and for two sessions the subject was warmly debated in Congress; the slave-holders finally carrying their point by working upon the fears of a few Northern members, by means of that old threat of dissolving the Union, which in the very outset of the Government had extorted from the Convention which framed the Constitution, a clause legalizing the Foreign Slave Trade for twenty years. The admission of Missouri as a slave State was a fatal concession to the South: the abolitionists became disheartened: their societies lingered on a few years longer, and nearly all were extinct previous to 1830. The colonization scheme had in the mean time, in despite of the earnest and almost unanimous rejection of it by the colored people, obtained a strong hold on the public mind, and had especially enlisted the favorable regard of some of the leading influences of the Society of Friends. Here and there over the country, might be found still a faithful laborer, like Elisha Tyson, of Baltimore, Thomas Shipley, of Philadelphia, and Moses Brown, of Rhode Island, holding up the good old testimony against prejudice and oppression in the midst of a wide spread apostacy. I should mention in this connection, Benjamin Lundy, a member of the Society of Friends, who devoted his whole life to the cause of freedom, travelling on foot thousands of miles, visiting every part of the slave States, Mexico and the Haytian Republic. About the year 1828, he visited Boston, and enlisted the sympathies of William Lloyd Garrison, then a very young man. Not long after, he was joined by the latter as an associate editor of The Genius of Universal Emancipation, an anti-slavery paper which he had established at Baltimore. After a residence in Baltimore of about six months, Garrison was thrown into prison for an alledged libel upon a northern slave-trader, whence he was liberated on the payment of his fine by the benevolent Arthur Tappan. Lundy continued his paper some time longer in Baltimore, where he was subjected to brutal personal violence from the notorious Woolfolk, the great slave-dealer of that city. He afterwards removed it to Philadelphia; and in 1834 made a tour through the South Western States and Texas, in which he encountered great dangers, and suffered extreme hardships from sickness and destitution. This journey was deemed by many an unprofitable and hazardous experiment, but it proved of great importance. He collected an immense amount of facts, developing beforehand the grand slave-holding conspiracy for revolutionizing Texas, and annexing it to the American Union, as a slave territory. These he published to the world on his return; and it has justly been said of him, by John Quincy Adams, that his exertions alone, under Providence, prevented the annexation of Texas to the United States. This bold and single-hearted pioneer died not long since in the State of Illinois, whither he repaired to take the place of the lamented Lovejoy, who was murdered by a mob in that State, in 1837.
"In 1831, Wm. Lloyd Garrison commenced, under great difficulties and discouragements, the publication of the Liberator, in Boston; and by the energy and earnestness of his appeals, roused the attention of many minds to the subject of slavery. Shortly after, a society was formed in Boston in favor of immediate emancipation. It consisted at first, if I remember right, of only twelve members. Previous to this, however, a society, embracing very similar principles, had been formed in Pennsylvania. In 1833, upwards of sixty delegates from several of the free States, met at Philadelphia; among them were Elizur Wright and Beriah Green, (who had been compelled to give up their Professorships in Western Reserve [Ohio] College, for their attachment to freedom,) Lewis Tappan, William Lloyd Garrison, Charles W. Denison, Arnold Buffum, Amos A. Phelps, and John G. Whittier. This Convention organized the American Anti-Slavery Society, proposing to make use of the common instrumentalities afforded by the Government and laws, for the abolition of slavery; at the same time, disavowing a design to use any other than peaceful and lawful measures."
In some of the Southern States there are professing Christian churches who permit slave-holding, but disallow the selling of slaves, except with their own consent. Dr. Fussell informed me how this fair-seeming rule of discipline was frequently evaded. First, a church member wishing to turn his negroes into cash, begins by making their yoke heavier, and their life a burden. Next they are thrown in the way of decoy slaves, belonging to Woolfolk, or some other dealer, who introduce themselves to the intended victims, for the purpose of expatiating on the privileges enjoyed by the slaves of so indulgent a master as theirs; and thus the poor unhappy dupes would be persuaded to go and petition to be sold, and so the rule of discipline, above cited, would be literally complied with. So great, generally, is the dread of being sold to the South, that my informant said the larger number of runaways escape when the price is high, as the danger of being sold is then most imminent. The greater proportion of those who thus emancipate themselves are domestics, owing to their superior intelligence, and their opportunities of ascertaining the best mode of escape.
On the 16th, I met the Executive Committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, at their office, No. 128 Fulton street, New York. The chair was taken by the President of the Society. The subject under discussion was the best time and place of holding another Convention of the friends of the anti-slavery cause from all parts of the world. After deliberate consideration, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted.
Resolved,—"That this Committee fully recognise and adopt the principles upon which the General Anti-Slavery Convention, held in London last year, was convened, and upon which it acted; that we feel greatly encouraged by the results of its meetings, and that we would strongly recommend our transatlantic friends to summon a second Convention in London, at about the same period in 1842; and that in the event of their doing so, we will use our best exertions to promote a good representation of American abolitionists on the occasion."
Resolved,—"That we deeply sympathize with the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, in their noble efforts for the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade; that we assure them of our hearty co-operation in their well devised plans and energetic labors; and that so long as the slave question—in connection with the promotion of the rights of the free people of color—and nothing else, is admitted to a place in anti-slavery meetings, they may expect the co-operation of all true-hearted abolitionists throughout the world, in carrying forward the great objects of our associations to a glorious consummation."
I returned to Philadelphia on the afternoon of the 17th, but before leaving my hotel in New York, informed one of the proprietors that I intended being in that city on the week of the anniversaries of the Religious and Benevolent Institutions; that as I took a lively interest in the anti-slavery question, it was probable some of my friends among the people of color would call upon me, and that if he, or any of his southern customers objected to this, I would go elsewhere; he answered that he had no objection, and even intimated his belief that public opinion was undergoing a favorable change in reference to this prejudice. Although I did not arrive in Philadelphia till near midnight, I found my kind friends, Samuel Webb and wife waiting to receive me, whose hospitable dwelling I made my home, whenever I afterwards lodged in this city. Samuel Webb is one of the few on whose shoulders the burden of the anti-slavery cause mainly rests in Philadelphia. He is a practical man, conversant with business, thoroughly acquainted with the anti-slavery subject in all its phases, and a strenuous advocate for bringing political influence to bear upon the question. He was one of the most active in promoting the erection of Pennsylvania Hall, a beautiful edifice designed to be open to the use of the anti-slavery societies; which was no sooner so appropriated than it was destroyed by a mob in the 5th Month, (May,) 1838. The fire-scathed ruin of this building yet stands a conspicuous token that the principles of true liberty, though loudly vaunted, are neither understood nor enjoyed in this Capital of a free republic. If freedom of thought, of speech, of the press, and the right of petition had been realities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Hall would have been yet standing. Samuel Webb has since taken the chief labor of an appeal to the legal tribunals for compensation for this infamous destruction of property, and a jury have at length awarded damages, though to a very inadequate amount.
During the ensuing week I was chiefly occupied in attending the Philadelphia Friends' Yearly Meeting. In the intervals of the sittings, I had many opportunities of meeting "Friends" from whom I received much kindness, and many more invitations than it was possible for me to accept.
There are many "Friends" of this city who take a deep interest in the anti-slavery cause; among whom I may mention Thomas Wistar, an aged and influential individual, who, like his venerable contemporary, John Cox, has been an abolitionist from his youth up, and a member of the original society; and one who has been accustomed to bear his testimony on behalf of the oppressed, on suitable occasions, in the presence of his brethren in religious fellowship, and whose communications of this kind, are always weighty, solemn, and impressive. Dr. Caspar Wistar, son of Thomas Wistar, is a warm hearted, active abolitionist, a liberal contributor of his pecuniary means, and deeply solicitous that "Friends" in the United States should be induced to engage earnestly in the cause of emancipation. Edward Needles, a kind and open hearted man, a native of Maryland, and President of the "old Abolition Society," is a devoted friend to the anti-slavery cause.
The subject of slavery was introduced in the Yearly Meeting by the reading of certain minutes of the Meeting for Sufferings, from which it appeared that meeting, (the executive Committee of the Society,) had taken up the question of the foreign slave-trade, but had not yet entertained the consideration of the slavery and internal slave-trade of their own country. On the subject of the latter, a very faithful minute from the Meeting for Sufferings in London was received and read.
As this term will sometimes occur in the ensuing pages, it may be necessary to state for the information of the general reader, that the Society of Friends is distributed into various "Yearly Meetings," of which there are several on the Continent of North America. Within the compass of each an annual assembly is held to regulate all the affairs and discipline of that section of the body. There is also in each Yearly Meeting a permanent committee called the "Meeting for Sufferings" for administering the affairs of the Societies, in the intervals of its annual assemblies. The technical name of this committee is an expressive memorial of those times of trial, when its chief employment was to record "sufferings" and persecutions, and to afford such succor and alleviation as circumstances admitted.
An address from the Yearly Meeting of London on slavery was also read,[A] which was followed by observations from several, which evinced great exercise of mind on the subject. Three thousand copies of it were ordered to be printed for distribution among Friends of Pennsylvania, and the whole subject of slavery and the slave-trade was referred to their Meeting for Sufferings, with a recommendation that an account should be drawn up and printed of the former abolition of slavery within the limits of the Society of Friends. I need hardly state how much these measures were in unison with my own feelings, and that I heartily rejoiced at signs of an awakening zeal in my American brethren. Let them but ask for the ancient ways, and follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, whose memorials are their precious inheritance, and once more shall they be made a blessing to mankind, and messengers of mercy and deliverance to the oppressed.[B]
[Footnote A: See Appendix A.]
[Footnote B: See Appendix B.]
It will be interesting to some of my English readers to be informed, that both the sale and use of spirituous liquors come within the scope of discipline among "Friends" in America. In this Yearly Meeting it is required that the subordinate meetings should report the number of their members, who continue to sell, use, or give ardent spirits. If I remember rightly the number of cases reported was fifty-nine. At present the moderate use of spirits subjects to admonition, but it was discussed at this time whether the rule of discipline should not be rendered more stringent, and this practice made a disownable offence. Finally it was resolved to make no alteration at present, but to recommend the local meetings of Friends to use further labor in the line of reproof and persuasion. I am informed that some of the American Yearly Meetings of Friends go still farther on this subject. It will scarcely be questioned that public sentiment both in the United States, and in England, condemns even the moderate use of ardent spirits as a beverage, though some difference of opinion will exist as to the propriety of a religious society making it a cause of disownment or exclusion. In this case of the Philadelphia Meeting, however, it may be remarked, that in a community of many thousand members, the practice may be regarded as almost eradicated by the milder methods of persuasion. It is a fact deserving of notice, that the same worthies of the last century, Woolman, Benezet, and others, who raised the standard of anti-slavery testimony, also by the same process of independent thinking, and single-minded, unhesitating obedience to convictions of duty, anticipated the verdict of public opinion on this subject. Woolman found that even the most moderate use of ardent spirits, was unfavorable to that calm religious meditation, which was the habit of his mind, and has left his views on record in various characteristic passages. I shall also, I trust, be excused for introducing the following anecdote of two of his contemporaries.
"Jacob Lindley, to adopt his own designation of himself was a 'stripling' when he attended a Yearly Meeting of Friends held at Philadelphia; his mind had been for some time much afflicted with an observation of the pernicious effects of spirituous liquors, and he was anxious that the religious society to which he belonged, should cease to use, and prevent any of its members from being instrumental in manufacturing or vending them. He therefore rose and developed his feelings to the assembly, in the energetic and pathetic manner for which he was peculiarly remarkable. When the meeting adjourned, he observed a stranger pressing through the crowd towards him, who took him by the hand in the most affectionate manner, and said, 'My dear young friend, I was very glad to hear thy voice on the subject of spirituous liquors; I have much unity with thy concern, and hope that no discouragement may have been received from its not being farther noticed; and now I want thee to go home, and take dinner with me, having something farther to say to thee on the subject.' Lindley accepted the invitation, and after they had dined, Benezet introduced his young guest into a little room used as a study, where he produced a manuscript work on the subject of spirituous liquors, in an unfinished state; he opened the book and laid it on a table before them, saying, 'This is a treatise which I have been for some time engaged in writing, on the subject of thy concern in meeting to-day; and now if thou hast a mind to sit down, and write a paragraph or two, I will embody it in the work, and have it published.'"[A]
[Footnote A: Life of Anthony Benezet, p. 107-109.]
These eminent men, John Woolman and Anthony Benezet, had much in common; yet their characters were as unlike as opposite temperaments, and as alike as similarity of views, could make them. So marked was their coincidence of sentiment in opposition to the prevailing opinions and practices of that day, that it might be surmised one was a disciple of the other, yet there is no reason to suppose such was the case. Each had the single eye; both learned in the same school, and sat at the feet of the same Divine Master. It is an interesting fact that on the subject last noticed, their labors should have been comparatively fruitless, and for a long interval almost forgotten, while their views on slavery rapidly spread, and produced extensive and permanent results. Does not this illustrate the lesson long ago taught by a great master of wisdom: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they shall both be alike good." May we not infer from this, that even those labors, rightly undertaken, which do not immediately prosper, are yet owned and accepted in the Divine sight?
To return from this digression to our attendance of the Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia: one interesting part of the business was the annual report on education; from which it appeared, that the whole number of children, of an age for education, within the compass of this Yearly Meeting, was eighteen hundred and fourteen, and of these ninety-eight were temporarily absent, though most of them had been receiving instruction during part of the year.
I was also deeply interested in the statements made relative to the wicked expatriation of the Indians living within this Yearly Meeting's limits, by the United States Government, from lands which had been secured to them by treaty in the most solemn manner, to the Western wilderness, under plea of a fraudulently obtained cession of their lands, by a few of their number. What greatly aggravates the case is the fact, that these Indians were making rapid progress in civilization, and from a nation of hunters had generally become an agricultural people. Their whole history is a reproach and blot on the American Government, and shews either that public and private virtue amongst the people is at a low ebb, or that "the wicked bear rule." On behalf of this injured people, "Friends" appear to have made strenuous efforts, but have failed in producing any decidedly favorable impression on the Government. The report on this subject, embodied a very affecting letter from the chiefs of this tribe, describing their grief and distress at the prospect of a cruel removal from the homes of their ancestors.[A]
[Footnote A: See Appendix C.]
During this week, my valued friends, John and Maria Candler, arrived from Hayti, after a stay of many months in Jamaica. At the close of the Yearly Meeting, a meeting was held, and attended by about three hundred "Friends," to whom John Candler gave much interesting information, detailing the results of emancipation in that Island, from his own extensive observations and inquiries. At the request of some individuals present I added a few observations at the close, on the principles and objects of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.
I visited at this time the celebrated Schuylkill waterworks, which are beautifully situated on the river of that name. The water is raised to large reservoirs, at a higher level than the tops of the houses, by pumps worked by the current of the river. The supply not only suffices for the domestic use of the inhabitants, but is abundant for every public purpose of ornament or utility. My kind host, Samuel Webb, who accompanied me, pointed out a plot of land, presented by William Penn to a friend, to enable him to keep a cow, which is now worth many hundred thousand dollars for building purposes. He also showed me a mansion, the late proprietor of which had received a large accession of wealth from the quantities of plate which had been shipped to him in coffee barrels from St. Domingo, on the eve of the revolution in that Island, and whose owners are supposed to have subsequently perished, as they never appeared, with one solitary exception, to claim their property.
It will be necessary, in order to make certain passages of the succeeding narrative intelligible to my readers in this country, that some account should be given of the schism which has recently taken place in the once united and compact organizations of the abolitionists.
The American Anti-Slavery Society, whose origin has been already described, acted with great unity and efficiency for several years; auxiliaries were formed in all the free States; it scattered its publications over the land like the leaves of autumn, and at times had thirty or forty lecturers in the field. It kept a steady and vigilant eye upon the movements of the pro-slavery party, and wherever a vulnerable point was discovered, it directed its attacks. In its executive committee were such men as Judge Jay, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, La Roy Sunderland, Simeon S. Jocelyn, (the early laborer on behalf of the free colored people,) Joshua Leavitt, Henry B. Stanton, and the late Dr. Follen, a German political refugee, equally distinguished for his literary attainments and his love of liberty.
Until the last three or four years, entire union of purpose and concert of action existed among the American abolitionists. This harmony was first disturbed by the course pursued in the Boston Liberator. The editor of that paper, William Lloyd Garrison, whose early anti-slavery career has already been alluded to, and who was deservedly honored by the great body of the abolitionists, for his sufferings in their cause, and for his triumphant exposure of the oppressive tendencies of the colonization scheme, had always refused to share with any society or committee, the editorial responsibility of his journal. About the time referred to, several pieces were inserted in the Liberator, questioning the generally received opinions on the first day of the week. These were followed by others on other subjects, and he continued to keep his readers apprised of the new views of ethics and theology, which from time to time were presented to his own mind. His paper was not the special organ of any anti-slavery society, yet it was regarded, by general consent of the friends and enemies of the cause, as the organ of the anti-slavery movement. The discussion in its columns of new and startling doctrines, on subjects unconnected with slavery, occasioned many of the former much uneasiness and embarrassment, while it furnished the latter with new excuses for their enmity, and with the pretence that under cover of abolition, lurked a design of assailing institutions and opinions justly held in regard throughout the Christian world.
In the summer of 1837, Sarah and Angelina Grimke visited New England for the purpose of advocating the cause of the slave, with whose condition they were well acquainted, being natives of South Carolina, and having been themselves at one time implicated in the system. Their original intention was to confine their public labors to audiences of their own sex, but they finally addressed promiscuous assemblies. Their intimate knowledge of the true character of slavery; their zeal, devotion, and gifts as speakers, produced a deep impression, wherever they went. They met with considerable opposition from colonizationists, and also from a portion of the New England clergy, on the ground of the impropriety of their publicly addressing mixed audiences. This called forth in the Liberator, which at that time, I understand, was under the patronage, though I believe not under the control of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, a discussion of the abstract question of the entire equality of the rights and duties of the two sexes. Here was a new element of discord. In 1838, at the annual New England convention of abolitionists, a woman was for the first time placed on committees with men, an innovation upon the general custom of the community, which excited much dissatisfaction in the minds of many.
About this time the rightfulness of civil and church government began to be called in question, through the columns of the Liberator, by its editor and correspondents. These opinions were concurrently advocated with the doctrine of non-resistance. Those who hold these opinions, while they deny that civil and ecclesiastical government are of divine authority, are yet passively submissive to the authority of the former, though they abstain from exercising the political rights of citizenship. There were not wanting those, among the opponents of abolition, to charge the anti-slavery body at large with maintaining these views, and in consequence serious embarrassments were thrown in the way of a successful prosecution of the cause. The executive committee of the Society at New York were placed in a difficult position, but as far as I am able to judge, they endeavored to hold on the steady tenor of their way, without, on the one hand, countenancing the introduction of extraneous matters upon the anti-slavery platform; or, on the other hand, yielding to the clamor of the pro-slavery party, whether in church or state.
In subsequent anti-slavery meetings in Boston, New York, and elsewhere, it became manifest that there was a radical difference of opinion on the subject of political action; the non-resistant and no-government influence, operating decidedly against the employment of the elective franchise in the anti-slavery cause; and the agitation of this question, as well as that of the rights of women, in their meetings, gave to them a discordant and party character, painfully contrasting with the previous peaceful and harmonious action of the societies. That some of both parties began to overlook the great subject of the slaves' emancipation, in zealous advocacy of, or opposition to, these new measures, I cannot well doubt, judging from the testimony of those, who, not fully sympathizing with either, endeavored to bring all back to the single object of the anti-slavery association. In addition to these intestine troubles, the pro-slavery party made strenuous exertions to fasten upon the society the responsibility of the opinions and proceedings of its non-resistant and no-government members. Under these circumstances it is easy to understand the interruption, for a season, of the unity of feeling and action which had previously characterized the assemblies of the abolitionists. The actual separation in the societies took place in the Spring of 1840. The members of the executive committee at New York, with one exception, seceded and became members of the committee of the "new organization," under the name of the "American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society." There are, therefore, now two central or national anti-slavery societies; the "old organization," retaining the designation of the "American Anti-Slavery Society." The State Societies have, for the most part, taken up a position of neutrality, or independence of both. It is important to add that the division took place on the "women's rights" question, and that this is the only one of the controverted points which the American Anti-Slavery Society has officially affirmed; and it is argued, on behalf of their view of this question, that since, in the original "constitution" of the society, the term, describing its members, officers, et cet., is "persons," that women are plainly invested with the same eligibility to appointments, and the same right to vote and act as the other sex. I need not say how this "constitutional" argument is met on the other side. The other new views are held by comparatively few persons, and neither anti-slavery society in America is responsible for them. In conclusion, I rejoice to be able to add, that the separation, in its effects, appears to have been a healing measure; a better and kinder feeling is beginning to pervade all classes of American abolitionists; the day of mutual crimination seems to be passing away, and there is strong reason to hope that the action of the respective societies will henceforward harmoniously tend to the same object. That such may be the result is my sincere desire. It is proper in this connection to state that a considerable number of active and prominent abolitionists do not entirely sympathize with either division of the anti-slavery society; and there are comparatively few who make their views, for or against the question on which the division took place, a matter of conscience.
I have now given a brief, and I trust an impartial account of the origin of these dissensions. Some may possibly regard the views and proceedings above referred to, as the natural growth of abolitionism, but as well might the divisions among the early reformers be charged upon the doctrines of the Reformation, or the "thirty years' war" upon the preaching of Luther.
On the evening of the 14th instant, we met at a social party the leading abolitionists of Philadelphia of the "old organization." There were present all but one of the delegates from Pennsylvania to the London Convention. I availed myself of the opportunity of briefly and distinctly stating the unanimous conclusion of the London Anti-Slavery Committee, in which I entirely concurred, on the points at issue. I observed, in substance, that in the struggle for the liberation of the slaves in the British Colonies, one great source of our moral strength was, the singleness of our object, and our not allowing any other subject, however important or unexceptionable, to be mixed up with it; that though the aid of our female coadjutors had been of vital importance to the success of the anti-slavery enterprize, yet that their exertions had been uniformly directed by separate committees of their own sex, and that the abolitionists of Europe had no doubt that their united influence was most powerful in this mode of action: that the London Committee being convinced that no female delegate had crossed the Atlantic, under the belief that the "call" or invitation was intended to include women, felt themselves called upon, without in the slightest degree wishing to interfere with private opinion on this, or any other subject, to withhold their assent to the reception of such delegates, as members of the Convention, and that their decision, when appealed against, had been ratified in the Convention itself, by an overwhelming majority, after a protracted discussion: finally, that those whose views I represented, could not be parties to the introduction, in any future convention, of this or any other question, which we deemed foreign to our cause, and therefore that for those with whom it was a point of conscience to carry out what they deemed "women's rights," I saw no alternative but a separate organization, in which I wished that their efforts on behalf of the oppressed colored race, might be crowned with the largest measure of success. I observed, in conclusion, that my object was simply to state the decision of those with whom I acted in Great Britain, and that I must decline discussion, being fully convinced that it was better that the now separate societies should aim at the common object, in a spirit of kind and friendly co-operation, each in its own sphere, rather than that they should waste their energies in mutual contentions, and in the unprofitable discussion of topics not legitimately belonging to the great question of the abolition of slavery.
Although I had to address a company almost unanimously opposed on these points to myself, my communication was received in a kind and friendly spirit, and I was courteously informed that it would be taken into consideration at the next meeting of the Committee.
My friend, Daniel Neall, at whose house this interview took place, is a venerable looking man, a native of Delaware, and son-in-law of the excellent Warner Mifflin. He has been an abolitionist from his boyhood. Two years ago, he was dragged from the house of a friend in Delaware, and tarred and feathered, and otherwise mal-treated by a mob of slave-holders and their abettors; he mildly told those near him that if they would call at his house at Philadelphia, he would treat them in a very different manner. He was president of the Pennsylvania Hall Association, and in the terrible mobs of 1838, manifested a calm, quiet courage, as rare as it is commendable.
I remained in Philadelphia until the morning of the 28th, and during this interval paid many visits, and obtained much information, on the state of the anti-slavery feeling in this city, and more particularly amongst the members of the religious community to which I belong. On one occasion an esteemed individual kindly invited a number of "Friends" to meet me at his house, including some who object to uniting in anti-slavery effort with those of other denominations. I was introduced by the reading of a certificate of membership from the monthly meeting to which I belong, and also a document from a number of "Friends" in England, well known to those in America, commending me, and the cause in which I was engaged, to their kind and favorable consideration.
I then briefly related the leading objects of my visit to America, and that it was my anxious wish the members of my own religious society in this land, could see it their place to take the same active and prominent part in the anti-slavery cause, as their brethren in England had done, especially as the principles on which the British and Foreign and the American and Foreign Societies were founded, were entirely in accordance with the views of the Society of Friends. Those who spoke in reply mostly vindicated the course pursued in the United States. From this interview, as well as from others of a more private nature, with leading "Friends," I came to the conclusion, that a number of these would continue, by their influence and advice, to oppose their fellow members joining anti-slavery societies, though it is not probable that any disciplinary proceedings would be taken against such who might act in opposition to this counsel, so long as the recognized principles of the Society were not compromised. On this, to me, painfully interesting subject, I could dwell at length, but I will simply remark that, while it is evident that anti-slavery feeling is at too low an ebb among "Friends" here, yet doubtless, many of those who thus excuse themselves from active and effective service in the cause, still deeply sympathize with their oppressed fellow-men, and are not quite at ease in view of the apathy and inaction of the body to which they belong.
On the 28th we arrived at Baltimore; during a stay of two or three days, we found several persons who were friendly to our cause. There are computed to be five thousand slaves in this city, but of course slavery does not obtrude itself on the casual observer. Here, as in other countries, he who would see it as it is, must view it on the plantations.
The free people of color in Baltimore, are alive to the importance of education. One individual told us, that in distributing about two hundred and fifty religious books, which had been sent to be gratuitously supplied to the poor of this class, he found only five or six families, in which the children were not learning to read and write.
While in Baltimore, the inquiries I made respecting Elisha Tyson, fully confirmed the impression I have attempted to convey of his extraordinary character; perhaps no one has so good a claim to be considered the Granville Sharp of North America, and I have inserted in another place some particulars drawn from his biography, which will be found full of interest.[A] I am glad also to state, that if there is no one citizen of Baltimore on whom his mantle rests, there are yet some who are active in preventing the illegal detention of negroes, and of bringing such cases before the proper tribunal. One of these related the following case of recent occurrence. A woman, who was the wife of a free man, and the mother of four children, and who had long believed herself legally free, was claimed by the heir of her former master. The case was tried, and his right of property in her and her children affirmed. He then sold the family to a slave dealer for a thousand dollars; of whom the husband of the woman re-purchased them, (his own wife and children,) for eleven hundred dollars, to repay which he bound himself to labor for the person from whom it was borrowed, for twelve years. Yet this is but a mitigated instance of oppression in this Christian country.
[Footnote A: See Appendix D.]
The religious public of this city appear to be doing nothing collectively, to abolish or ameliorate slavery, and with the exception of "Friends," and the body who have lately seceded from them, I fear that all are more or less implicated in its actual guilt. I was informed not long since, even the Roman Catholics, who are more free from the contamination than many other religious bodies, had, in some part of the State, sold several of their own church members, and applied the proceeds to the erection of a place of worship. We called upon the Roman Catholic Bishop to inquire into the truth of this, but he was from home. When at Philadelphia afterwards, in conversation with a priest, I gave the particulars, and said I should be glad to be furnished with the means of contradicting it. I have not heard from him since.
I am informed that the Yearly Meeting of "Friends" has advised its members not to unite with the anti-slavery societies, and has latterly discontinued petitioning the legislature for the abolition of the internal slave trade, and the amelioration of the slave code; such is the prevailing influence of a pro-slavery atmosphere. The code in question has of late years been rendered more severe, and the legal emancipation of slaves more difficult; yet I was pleased to learn that public opinion has in this respect counteracted legislative tyranny; that slavery has in fact become milder, and the number of manumissions has not lessened.
The mischievous influence of the Colonization Society is very extensive among professing Christians in Baltimore, and is paramount in the legislature of the State.
The American slave trade is carried on in the most open manner in this city. We paid a visit to the establishment of an extensive slave dealer, a large new building in one of the principal streets. The proprietor received us with great courtesy, and permitted us to inspect the premises. Cleanliness and order were every where visible, and, might we judge from the specimens of food shewn us, the animal wants of the slaves are not neglected. There were only five or six negroes in stock, but the proprietor told us he had sometimes three or four hundred there, and had shipped off a cargo to New Orleans a few days before. That city is the market where the highest price is generally obtained for them. The premises are strongly secured with bolts and bars, and the rooms in which the negroes are confined, surround an open court yard, where they are permitted to take the air. We were accompanied and kindly introduced by an individual who has often been engaged in preventing negroes from being illegally enslaved; and the proprietor of the establishment expressed his approval of his efforts, and that when such cases come before himself in the way of trade, he was accustomed to send them to our friend for investigation; he added that slaves would often come to him, and ask him to purchase them, and that he was the means of transferring them from worse masters to better; that he never parted families, though of course he could not control their fate, either before they came into his hands, or after they left him. He said he frequently left his concerns for weeks together, under the care of his head slave, whose wife he had made free, and promised the same boon to him, if he conducted himself well a few years longer. I thought it right to intimate my view of the nature of slavery and the slave trade, and that I deemed it wholly inconsistent with the plain precept "do unto others as ye would they should do unto you." This he did not attempt to controvert, yet he stated in extenuation, that the law permitted the trade in slaves, though he should be as willing as any one to have the system abolished, if the State would grant them compensation for their property. He farther said, that he was born in a slave State, that his mother had been for fifty years a member of the Wesleyan body, and that though he had not joined a Christian church himself, he had never sworn an oath, nor committed an immoral act in his life. He also shewed, I think, convincingly, that dealing in slaves was not worse than slave holding. On leaving the premises, we found the door of his office had been locked upon us during this conference. I subsequently learned that this person, though living in considerable style, was not generally received in respectable society, and that a lady whom he had lately married, was shunned by her former acquaintance. Such is the testimony of the slave-holders of Baltimore against slave dealing, by which they condemn themselves in the sight of God and man, and add the guilt of hypocrisy to their own sin. Some time afterwards I addressed the following letter to this individual, which was published in many of the American papers:
"To HOPE H. SLAUGHTER, Slave Trader, Baltimore:
"Since thou courteously allowed me, in company with my friend, J.G. Whittier, to visit thy slave establishment in the city of Baltimore, some weeks since, I have often felt a desire to address a few lines to thee. I need not, perhaps, say that my feelings were painfully exercised in looking over thy buildings, fitted up with bolts and bars, for the reception of human beings for sale. A sense of the misery and suffering of the unfortunate slaves, who have been from time to time confined there—of their separation from home and kindred—and of the dreary prospect before them of a life of unrequited toil in the South and South West—rested heavily upon me. I could there realize the true nature of the system of slavery. I was in a market-house for human flesh, where humanity is degraded to a level with the brute; and where children of our common Father in Heaven, and for whom our blessed Redeemer offered up the atoning sacrifice of his blood, were bargained for and sold like beasts that perish. And when I regarded thee as the merchant in this dreadful traffic, and heard thee offer remarks, which might in some degree be considered as an apology for thy business, calling our attention to the cleanly state of the apartments, the wholesome provisions, et cet.; and especially when I heard thee declare that thou hadst been educated by a pious mother—that thou wast never addicted to swearing or other immoralities—and that thy business was a legalized one—that thou didst nothing contrary to law—and that, while in thy possession, the poor creatures were treated kindly—that families were not separated,[A] et cet.,—I was glad to perceive some evidence that the nature of thy employment had not extinguished the voice of conscience within thee. In thy sentiments, and in the manner of their utterance, I thought I could see that truth had not left itself without a witness in thy breast, and that a sense of the wrongfulness of thy occupation still disturbed thee.
[Footnote A: "The latter remark, of course, applies only to the time they remained with thee. For, on the day we visited thy establishment, a friend with whom I was dining informed me, that a few days before a woman and child had been sold to thee, whose husband and father was a free man, who, in his distress, had been offering to bind himself for a term of years, in order to raise the sum (I think $800) demanded for them; but, as he had been unable to do so, my friend had no doubt they had been sent off with the very lot of slaves, which, we were told by thyself had just been forwarded to New Orleans from thy prison. Who is most guilty in this atrocious transaction—the slave owner, who sold thee the woman and child at Baltimore—thou, the transporter of them for ever from their husband and parent—the purchasers of the mother and child at New Orleans, where they may be for ever separated from each other—or the citizen who, by his vote and influence, creates and upholds enactments which legalize this monstrous system, is known only to Him before whom the secrets of all hearts are unfolded."]
"To thy remark that thy business was necessary to the system of slavery, and an essential part of it—and if slave-holding were to be justified at all, the slave-trade must be also—I certainly can offer no valid objection; for I have never been able to discover any moral difference between the planter of Virginia and the slave dealer of Baltimore, Richmond, and Washington. Each has his part to act in the system, and each is necessary to the other. And if the matter were not, in all its bearings, painfully serious, it would be amusing to witness the absurd contempt with which the slave owner of Maryland or Virginia professes to look upon the trader, whose purchase of his surplus slaves alone enables him to retain the residue in his possession; for it seems very evident that the only profitable part of the system in those States, at the present time, is the sale of the annual increase of the slaves.
"In passing from thy premises, we looked in upon the Triennial Convention of the Baptists of the United States, then in session in the city of Baltimore, where I found slave-holding ministers of high rank in the church, urging successfully the exclusion from the Missionary Board of that Society, of all those who, in principle and practice, were known to be decided abolitionists; and the results of their efforts satisfied me that the darkest picture of slavery is not to be found in the jail of the slave-trader, but rather in a convocation of professed ministers of the Gospel of Christ, expelling from the Board of a Society formed to enlighten the heathen of other nations, all who consistently labor for the overthrow of a system which denies a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures to near three millions of heathen at home!
"But allow me, in a spirit, as I trust, of Christian kindness, to entreat thee not to seek excuses for thy own course in the evil conduct of others. Thou hast already reached the middle period of life—the future is uncertain. By thy hopes of peace here and hereafter, let me urge thee to abandon this occupation. It is not necessary to argue its intrinsic wickedness, for thou knowest it already. I would therefore beseech thee to listen to that voice which, I am persuaded, sometimes urges thee to 'put away the evil of thy doings,' to 'do justice and love mercy,' and thus cease to draw upon thyself the curse which fell upon those merchants of Tyre, who 'traded in the persons of men.' That these warnings of conscience may not longer be neglected on thy part, is the sincere wish of one who, while he abhors thy occupation, feels nothing but kindness and good will towards thyself.
"New York, 6th Month 30th, 1841."
The Baptist Convention alluded to in the foregoing letter was one whose proceedings I regarded with considerable interest, for it had been generally understood that the ministers delegated from the South, as well as some of those from the Northern States, intended to exclude abolitionists from every office on the missionary board, and especially to remove my friend, Elon Galusha, a distinguished Baptist minister, from the station of vice-president, for the offence of attending the London Anti-Slavery Convention, and more particularly for supporting the following resolutions of that assembly:
"1. That it is the deliberate and deeply-rooted conviction of this Convention, which it thus publicly and solemnly expresses to the world, that slavery, in whatever form, or in whatever country it exists, is contrary to the eternal and immutable principles of justice, and the spirit and precepts of Christianity; and is, therefore a sin against God, which acquires additional enormity when committed by nations professedly Christian, and in an age when the subject has been so generally discussed, and its criminality so thoroughly exposed.
"2. That this Convention cannot but deeply deplore the fact, that the continuance and prevalence of slavery are to be attributed in a great degree to the countenance afforded by many Christian churches, especially in the Western world, which have not only withheld that public and emphatic testimony against the crime which it deserves, but have retained in their communion, without censure, those by whom it is notoriously perpetrated.
"3. That this Convention, while it disclaims the intention or desire of dictating to Christian communities the terms of their fellowship, respectfully submits that it is their incumbent duty to separate from their communion all those persons who, after they have been faithfully warned in the spirit of the gospel, continue in the sin of enslaving their fellow-creatures, or holding them in slavery—a sin, by the commission of which, with whatever mitigating circumstances it may be attended in their own particular instance, they give the support of their example to the whole system of compulsory servitude, and the unutterable horrors of the slave trade.
"4. That it be recommended to the Committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, in the name of this Convention, to furnish copies of the above resolutions to the ecclesiastical authorities of the various Christian churches throughout the world."
On entering the meeting, we found the question was already before them, previous to balloting for the officers for the ensuing three years. The pro-slavery party were anxious to prevent all discussion, but some on the other side proposed questions which compelled their notice. Among the rest it was plainly asked, if the southern delegates did not come pledged against the re-election of Elon Galusha. This was denied, but certain resolutions which had appeared in the public papers were appealed to in proof of the fact. The inquiry becoming more searching, an expedient was resorted to, which, though quite novel to me, was, I am told, not unfrequently adopted when discussions assume a shape not quite satisfactory to the controlling powers of a synod. It was proposed that they should pray, and then proceed at once to the ballot. The ministers called upon were R. Fuller and Elon Galusha, who were considered to represent the opposite sides of the discussion. The former individual is a large slave-holder, an influential leader in his denomination, and had canvassed and condemned Elon Galusha's views and conduct in the public newspapers. I must avow, this whole proceeding was little calculated to remove my objection to the practice of calling upon any individual to offer supplication in a public assembly. After prayer had been offered, they proceeded to the ballot, and we left the meeting, deeply impressed with the profanation of employing the most solemn act of devotion to serve the exigencies of controversy.
In the evening I met a number of the anti-slavery members of the Convention, from whom I learned that the vote had excluded Elon Galusha and all other known abolitionists from official connection with the board, by an hundred and twenty-four to an hundred and seventeen, which being a much smaller majority than was expected, they considered the result a triumph rather than a defeat.
On the 1st of the 5th Month, (May) we returned to Wilmington, in Delaware, where we remained at the hospitable residence of our friend Samuel Hilles, till the 3d instant, and met a number of "Friends," and others, who treated us with great kindness and hospitality, inspected one of the flour mills on the Brandywine river, and the process of drying Indian corn before it is ground; these are some of the oldest flour mills in the State. A. large peach orchard of one of my friends in the neighborhood, was beautifully in bloom. Great quantities of this delicious fruit are raised in Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland. Here, as in other parts of the States, much money, has been lost by a silk, or rather mulberry tree, mania. Young mulberry trees rose to a dollar and a quarter each, though they can be multiplied almost without limit in a single year. As might have been expected, a re-action took place, many parties were ruined, and berry trees may now be had for the trouble of digging them up.
The number of slaves in this small State is now reduced to four or five thousand, and from all the information I could collect, I feel convinced that if those who are friendly to emancipation were to exert themselves, they would succeed, without much difficulty, in procuring the abolition of slavery within its limits.
My friend, John G. Whittier, being, from increase of indisposition, unable to go forward, I left Wilmington alone, and arrived in New York in time to be present at a Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention, which I had been invited to attend, and at which I was called upon to make a few observations on the present state of the question. Several important resolutions were unanimously adopted, containing a cordial approval of the principles of proceeding of the London Convention, a recommendation that another Convention should be held at the same place in 1842, and an assurance that exertions should be used to promote a good delegation from the Baptist anti-slavery body.
On that respecting Christian fellowship with slave-holding churches, Dr. Brisbane spoke in a touching manner, and said he must support it, though his friends and relations were in the South, and some of those dearest to him still countenanced slavery, or were themselves slave-holders.
On the 6th I returned to Philadelphia, and that evening attended, by invitation, a meeting of the Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society, but took no part in the proceedings. This Society is one of the most efficient in the State; it is entirely confined to young men. I also received a formal invitation to attend other meetings about to be held, which I felt under the necessity of declining, from a belief that I could not participate in the discussions of the meetings with advantage to the cause which we all had at heart, and from the fact that previous to receiving the invitation I had made other arrangements which would occupy most of my time.
The present organized anti-slavery societies in Pennsylvania insist upon the mixed action of men and women in committees, et cet. Those who do not hold with their views have either silently withdrawn, avoid participating in measures which they disapprove, or do not attend meetings when it is expected any such measures will be brought forward. Among such measures may be reckoned the censures which in a few instances have been passed on the London Convention, and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society; censures sometimes more decided in sentiment than temperate in expression. My own inclination would have led me to attend several of these meetings, when my other engagements would have permitted, if I could have done so as an ordinary spectator and hearer; but on considering that I might appear on the one hand to give a tacit sanction to acts and sentiments which I disapproved, or on the other hand, that I might be drawn into controversy by explaining my objections, I concluded to forego the gratification which the proceedings might have afforded me, and I subsequently saw no reason to repent the decision I came to.
During this visit to Philadelphia, I made calls upon various individuals who are deeply interested in the anti-slavery cause, but who have not joined any anti-slavery society. Among these I must instance Professor Charles D. Cleveland, an excellent individual, of the Presbyterian persuasion, a man of fine talents and an accomplished scholar, who is the editor of a paper called the American Intelligencer, in which he has reprinted a very large edition of J.J. Gurney's "Letters from the West Indies," and has extensively distributed it through the post office. This effort of judicious zeal, will probably make hundreds of emancipationists, and disarm hostility and rouse indifference to a great extent. No impartial and benevolent mind can read these authentic details of the results of emancipation in the British Colonies, and remain unconvinced of its safety and blessed fruits to every class of the community. The Professor has published and circulated Dr. Channing's "Emancipation," in the same shape. I also called upon the late Governor of Illinois, Edward Coles, who was born in a slave State, but in early life, while at college, from a conviction of the sinfulness of slave-holding, he resolved upon liberating the negroes which would come into his possession on the death of his father. This he faithfully performed, removed the people to Illinois, and presented them; with lands for their subsistence. He himself soon removed there and became Governor of the territory. It was owing to his determined and vigorous efforts that slavery was made unconstitutional in that State. He was a friend of President Jefferson, and corresponded with him on the subject of slavery. All his liberated slaves prospered, all learned to read and write, two are now ministers of the gospel, and one is the Governor's agent, and a man of property. The number thus freed were between thirty and forty, and their value amounted to half his property; but a, blessing has followed the sacrifice, and he has now retired to Philadelphia with a handsome competence. In the course of conversation, the Governor spoke of the prejudice, against color prevailing here as much stronger than in the slave States, I may add, from my own observation, and much concurring testimony, that Philadelphia appears to be the metropolis of this odious prejudice, and that there is probably no city in the known world, where dislike, amounting to hatred of the colored population, prevails more than in the city of brotherly love!
Among the proofs of this, and of the same feeling in the State at large, it may be noticed that two or three years since, a convention was called for amending the State constitution, which among other changes, formally deprived men of color of the elective franchise. Practically this was of little importance, for it was taking away a right, the exercise of which, if attempted, would have roused popular indignation to the peril of their lives. A yet more obvious sign to the stranger in Philadelphia, are the ruins of "Pennsylvania Hall," which most of my readers are probably aware was destroyed by a pro-slavery mob in the spring of 1838. It stood near the centre of the city, and was sixty-two feet front by one hundred deep, and fifty-two feet to the eaves: the large saloon in the second story with its galleries being capable of holding three thousand persons. On the occasion of its opening, a large number of the friends of emancipation assembled in the city, to attend the anniversary of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, and some other meetings connected with the cause. Letters of congratulation on the opening of the hall were received by the managers from ex-president Adams, William Slade and Francis James, members of Congress, Thomas Morris of the U.S. Senate, Judge Jay, Gerritt Smith, and other distinguished friends of equal rights. The letter of the venerable ex-president is written with his characteristic energy, and I quote an extract from it in further proof of the sentiments already expressed on the state of feeling in the land of Penn and Benezet, Pemberton and Franklin, on the subject of slavery.
"The right of discussion upon slavery, and an indefinite extent of topics connected with it, is banished from one-half the States of this Union. It is suspended in both houses of Congress; opened and closed at the pleasure of the slave representation; opened for the promulgation of nullification sophistry; closed against the question, What is slavery? at the sound of which the walls of the capitol staggered like a drunken man.
"For this suppression of the freedom of speech and press, and the right of petition, the people of the free States of this Union are responsible, and the people of Pennsylvania most of all. Of this responsibility, I say it with a pang, sharper than language can express, the city of Philadelphia must take herself the largest share."
The meetings of the first day passed without disturbance. On the evening of the second day, a meeting of the Female Anti-Slavery Society was held in the hall, the proceedings of which were greatly disturbed by a mob of from 1500 to 2000 persons, assembled without. The windows on all sides were beaten in by stones and other missiles, and one or two persons severely injured. The next day the mob lingered about the building, no effort being made by the pro-slavery authorities to disperse them. In the evening the building was attacked, the doors burst open, and fire communicated to the interior; and in the midst of at least 20,000 persons, the noble and costly hall was consumed, with the exception of its bare walls. My friend John G. Whittier, who was present at the time, states that the most dreadful threats were uttered by the rioters against the prominent abolitionists. The house of Samuel Webb was particularly marked for destruction; and as the mob assembled nightly for several days, it is scarcely possible to conceive a more trying situation than that in which the abolitionists were placed. The "Friends" asylum for colored orphans, a small but useful institution, was attacked by a portion of the mob, and the next day the association to which it belongs publicly disclaimed any connection with the abolition societies. One of the daily papers also contained the following, headed "Communication."
"An opinion having become prevalent that a considerable number of the society of Orthodox Friends were present at the late meetings in Pennsylvania Hall, taking an active part in the proceedings, and that they still uphold the principles in relation to slavery and the colored race there promulgated, it is but justice to this respectable body of people to correct public opinion in relation to the subject, by observing that very few if any attended the meetings; that among the society it is doubtful whether twenty individuals are to be found in this city who embrace their doctrines, and that they, as a body, are opposed to the indiscreet course which has been taken by the ultra abolitionists. Had their views been understood in relation to the subject, their property in Thirteenth street would, no doubt, have been spared the violence it has suffered, being in no way connected with abolitionism, but merely designed as a shelter for an unfortunate class of children who have large claims upon the community; and who, upon application made in their behalf for the purposes for which this asylum was designed, even to the mob, I have no hesitation in saying that, as human beings, they would not oppose it."