NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF J.D. GREEN, A RUNAWAY SLAVE, FROM KENTUCKY,
CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF HIS THREE ESCAPES, In 1839, 1846, and 1848.
HUDDERSFIELD: PRINTED BY HENRY FIELDING, PACK HORSE YARD. 1864
[Transcriber's Note: This project was transcribed from a contemporary printing of the work, not from the 1864 edition. Certain spellings may have been modernized and typographic and printer's errors changed from the original.]
Jacob Green, a coloured man and an escaped slave, has lectured in my hearing, on American Slavery, in Springfield School-room, and I was much pleased with the propriety with which he was able to express himself, and with the capabilities which he seemed to possess to interest an audience.
GILBERT Mc.CALLUM. Minister of Springfield Independent Chapel, Dewsbury. Sept 2, 1863.
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Hopton House, Sept. 10, 1863.
I have much pleasure in bearing my testimony in favour of Mr. Jacob Green, as a lecturer on the subject of American Slavery, having been present when he gave an able and efficient lecture here about a month ago. Having himself witnessed and experienced the fearful effects of that accursed "institution," he is well fitted to describe its horrors, and I have no doubt that amongst certain classes, his labours in the anti-slavery cause may be more telling and efficient than those of more highly educated lecturers who do not profess his peculiar advantages. I shall be well pleased to hear of him being employed by any anti-slavery society.
JAMES CAMERON, Minister of Hopton Chapel.
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Eccleshill, Sept. 11, 1863.
Mr. Jacob Green gave a lecture on Slavery, in our School-room here, about two months ago, which I considered a very able one; and it was so considered by my people.
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I certify that Mr. Jacob Green has delivered two lectures in the Foresters' Hall, Denholm, to a very numerous audience; and on each occasion has given great satisfaction. The subjects were, first—Slavery,—second, the American War. He lectures remarkably well, and has a powerful voice; and I have not the least doubt would give satisfaction in lecturing elsewhere. The chair on each occasion was taken—first, by myself as incumbent—second, by the Rev. T. Roberts, Independent Minister.
J.F.N. EYRE. Incumbent of Denholm. Oct. 18th, 1863.
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I can thoroughly endorse the sentiments of the Rev. J.F.N. Eyre, herein recorded.
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Mr. J.D. Green has lectured four times in our Schoolrooms, and each time he has given very great satisfaction to a large assembly. From what I have seen of him, I believe him to be worthy of public sympathy and support.
WILLIAM INMAN, Minister. Ovenden, Nov. 14, 1863.
My father and mother were owned by Judge Charles Earle, of Queen Anne's County, Maryland, and I was born on the 24th of August, 1813.
From eight to eleven years of age I was employed as an errand boy, carrying water principally for domestic purposes, for 113 slaves and the family. As I grew older, in the mornings I was employed looking after the cows, and waiting in the house, and at twelve years I remember being in great danger of losing my life in a singular way. I had seen the relish with which master and friends took drink from a bottle, and seeing a similar bottle in the closet, I thought what was good for them would be good for me, and I laid hold of the bottle and took a good draught of (Oh, horror of horrors) oxalic acid, and the doctor said my safety was occasioned by a habit I had of putting my head in the milk pail and drinking milk, as by doing so the milk caused me to vomit and saved my life. About this time my mother was sold to a trader named Woodfork, and where she was conveyed I have not heard up to the present time. This circumstance caused serious reflections in my mind, as to the situation of slaves, and caused me to contrast the condition of a white boy with mine, which the following occurrence will more vividly pourtray. One morning after my mother was sold, a white boy was stealing corn out of my master's barn, and I said for this act we black boys will be whipped until one of us confesses to have done that we are all innocent of, as such is the case in every instance; and I thought, Oh, that master was here, or the overseer, I would then let them see what becomes of the corn. But, I saw he was off with the corn to the extent of half a bushel, and I will say nothing about it until they miss it, and if I tell them they wont believe me if he denies it, because he is white and I am black. Oh! how dreadful it is to be black! Why was I born black? It would have been better had I not been born at all. Only yesterday, my mother was sold to go to, not one of us knows were, and I am left alone, and I have no hope of seeing her again. At this moment a raven alighted on a tree over my head, and I cried, "Oh, Raven! if I had wings like you, I would soon find my mother and be happy again." Before parting she advised me to be a good boy, and she would pray for me, and I must pray for her, and hoped we might meet again in heaven, and I at once commenced to pray, to the best of my knowledge, "Our Father art in Heaven, be Thy name, kingdom come.—Amen." But, at this time, words of my master obtruded into my mind that God did not care for black folks, as he did not make them, but the d—-l did. Then I thought of the old saying amongst us, as stated by our master, that, when God was making man, He made white man out of the best clay, as potters make china, and the d—-l was watching, and he immediately took up some black mud and made a black man, and called him a nigger. My master was continually impressing upon me the necessity of being a good boy, and used to say, that if I was good, and behaved as well to him as my mother had done, I should go to Heaven without a question being asked. My mother having often said the same, I determined from that day to be a good boy, and constantly frequented the Meeting-house attended by the blacks where I learned from the minister, Mr. Cobb, how much the Lord had done for the blacks and for their salvation; and he was in the habit of reminding us what advantages he had given us for our benefit, for when we were in our native country, Africa, we were destitute of Bible light, worshipping idols of sticks and stones, and barbarously murdering one another, God put it into the hearts of these good slaveholders to venture across the bosom of the hazardous Atlantic to Africa, and snatch us poor negroes as brands from the eternal burning, and bring us where we might sit under the droppings of his sanctuary, and learn the ways of industry and the way to God. "Oh, niggers! how happy are your eyes which see this heavenly light; many millions of niggers desired it long, but died without the sight. I frequently envy your situations, because God's special blessing seems to be ever over you, as though you were a select people, for how much happier is your position than that of a free man, who, if sick, must pay his doctor's bill; if hungry, must supply his wants by his own exertions; if thirsty, must refresh himself by his own aid. And yet you, oh, niggers! your master has all this care for you. He supplies your daily wants; your meat and your drink he provides; and when you are sick he finds the best skill to bring you to health as soon as possible, for your sickness is his loss, and your health his gain; and, above all when you die (if you are obedient to your masters, and good niggers), your black faces will shine like black jugs around the throne of God." Such was the religious instruction I was in the habit of receiving until I was about seventeen years old; and told that when at any time I happened to be offended, or struck by a white boy I was not to offend or strike in return, unless it was another black, then I might fight as hard as I chose in my own defence. It happened about this time there was a white boy who was continually stealing my tops and marbles, and one morning when doing so I caught him, and we had a battle, and I had him down on the ground when Mr. Burmey came up. He kicked me away from the white boy, saying if I belonged to him he would cut off my hands for daring to strike a white boy; this without asking the cause of the quarrel, or of ascertaining who was to blame. The kick was so severe that I was sometime before I forgot it, and created such a feeling of revenge in my bosom that I was determined when I became a man I would pay him back in his own coin. I went out one day, and measured myself by a tree in the wood, and cut a notch in the tree to ascertain how fast I grew. I went at different times for the space of two months and found I was no taller, and I began to fear he would die before I should have grown to man's estate, and I resolved if he did I would make his children suffer by punishing them instead of their father. At this time my master's wife had two lovers, this same Burmey and one Rogers, and they despised each other from feelings of jealousy. Master's wife seemed to favour Burmey most, who was a great smoker, and she provided him with a large pipe with a German silver bowl, which screwed on the top; this pipe she usually kept on the mantel piece, ready filled with tobacco. One morning I was dusting and sweeping out the dining-room, and saw the pipe on the mantel-piece. I took it down, and went to my young master William's powder closet and took out his powder horn, and after taking half of the tobacco out of the pipe filled it nearly full with powder, and covered it over with tobacco to make it appear as usual when filled with tobacco, replaced it, and left. Rogers, came in about eight o'clock in the morning, and remained until eleven, when Mr. Burmey came, and in about an hour I saw a great number running about from all parts of the plantation. I left the barn where I was thrashing buck-wheat, and followed the rest to the house, where I saw Mr. Burmey lying back in the arm chair in a state of insensibility, his mouth bleeding profusely and from particulars given it appeared he took the pipe as usual and lighted it, and had just got it to his mouth when the powder exploded, and the party suspected was Rogers, who had been there immediately preceding; and Burmey's son went to Rogers and they fought about the matter. Law ensued, which cost Rogers 800 dollars, Burmey 600 dollars and his face disfigured; and my master's wife came in for a deal of scandal, which caused further proceedings at law, costing the master 1400 hundred dollars, and I was never once suspected or charged with the deed.
At this time two or three negroes had escaped, and I heard so much about the free States of the north that I was determined to be free. So I began to study what we call the north star, or astronomy, to guide me to the free States. I was in the habit of driving the master; and on one occasion I had to drive him to Baltimore where two of his sons were studying law; and while there, I stole some sweet potatoes to roast when I got home; and how master got to know I had them I never knew; but when I got home he gave me a note to Mr. Cobb, the overseer, and told me to tell Dick, (another slave on the plantation) to come to Baltimore to him on the following evening, and as soon as I took the note in my hand I was certain there was a flogging in it for me, though he said nothing to me. I held the note that night and following day, afraid to give it to Mr. Cobb, so confident was I of what would be the result. Towards evening I began to reason thus—If I give Cobb the note I shall be whipped; if I withhold the note from him I shall be whipped, so a whipping appears plain in either case. Now Dick having arranged to meet his sweetheart this night assumed sickness, so that he could have an excuse for not meeting master at Baltimore, and he wanted me to go instead of him. I agreed to go, providing he would take the note I had to Mr. Cobb, as I had forgot to give it him, to which he consented, and off I went; and I heard that when he delivered the note to Mr. Cobb, he ordered him to go to the whipping-post, and when he asked what he had done he was knocked down, and afterwards put to the post and thirty-nine lashes were administered, and failed seeing his sweetheart as well. When I arrived at Baltimore my master and young master took their seats and I drove away without any question until we had gone three miles, when he asked what I was doing there that night. I very politely said Dick was not well, and I had come in his place. He then asked me if Mr. Cobb got his note, I answered, yes, sir. He then asked me how I felt, and I said first rate, sir. "The d—-l you do," said he. I said, yes sir. He said "nigger, did Mr. Cobb flog you?" No sir. I have done nothing wrong. "You never do," he answered; and said no more until he got home. Being a man who could not bear to have any order of his disobeyed or unfulfilled, he immediately called for Mr. Cobb, and was told he was in bed; and when he appeared, the master asked if he got the note sent by the nigger. Mr. Cobb said "Yes." "Then why," said master, "did you not perform my orders in the note?" "I did, sir," replied Cobb; when the master said, "I told you to give that nigger thirty-nine lashes," Mr. Cobb says, "So I did, sir;" when master replied, "He says you never licked him at all." Upon which Cobb said, "He is a liar;" when my master called for me (who had been hearing the whole dialogue at the door), I turned on my toes and went a short distance, and I shouted with a loud voice that I was coming, (to prevent them knowing that I had been listening) and appeared before them and said "here I am master, do you want me?" He said "Yes. Did you not tell me that Mr. Cobb had not flogged you," and I said "yes I did; he has not flogged me to-day, sir." Mr. Cobb answered, "I did not flog him. You did not tell me to flog him. You told me to flog that other nigger." "What other nigger," enquired Master. Cobb said, "Dick." Master then said, "I did not. I told you to flog this nigger here." Cobb then produced the letter, and read it as follows:
"Mr. Cobb will give the bearer 39 lashes on delivery." R.T. EARLE.
I then left the room and explanations took place. When I was again called in. "How came Dick to have had the letter," and I then said I had forgot to deliver it until Dick wanted me to go to Baltimore in his place, and I agreed providing he would take the letter. Master then said "you lie, you infernal villain," and laid hold of a pair of tongs and said he would dash my brains out if I did not tell him the truth. I then said I thought there was something in the note that boded no good to me, and I did not intend to give it to him. He said, "you black vagabond, stay on this plantation three months longer, and you will be master and I the slave; no wonder you said you felt first rate when I asked you, but I will sell you to go to Georgia the first chance I get." Then laying the tongs down he opened the door and ordered me out. I knew he had on heavy cow-hide boots, and I knew he would try to assist me in my outward progress, and though expecting it and went as quick as I could, I was materially assisted by a heavy kick from my master's foot. This did not end the matter, for when Dick found out I had caused his being flogged, we had continual fightings for several months.
When I was fourteen years old my master gave me a flogging, the marks of which will go with me to my grave, and this was for a crime of which I was completely innocent. My master's son had taken one of his pistols out, and by some accident it burst. When enquiry was made about the damaged pistol William told his father that he had seen me have it; this, of course, I denied, when master tied me up by my thumbs and gave me 60 lashes, and also made me confess the crime before he would release me. From this flogging my back was raw and sore for three months; the shirt that I wore was made of rough tow linen, and when at work in the fields it would so chafe the sores that they would break and run, and the hot sun over me would bake the shirt fast to my back, and for four weeks I wore that shirt, unable to pull it off, and when I did pull it off it brought with it much of my flesh, leaving my back perfectly raw. Some time after this my master found out the truth about the pistol, and when I saw that he did not offer me any apology for the beating he had given me, and the lie he had made me confess, I went to him and said—now, master, you see that you beat me unjustly about that pistol, and made me confess to a lie—but all the consolation I got was—clear out, you black rascal; I never struck a blow amiss in my life, except when I struck at you and happened to miss you; there are plenty of other crimes you have committed and did not let me catch you at them, so that flogging will do for the lot.
Master had an old negro in the family called Uncle Reuben. This good old man and his wife were very good friends of my mother's, and before she was sold they often met and sung and prayed, and talked about religion together. Uncle Reuben fell sick in the middle of the harvest, and his sickness was very severe; but master having a grudge against uncle Reuben, and his old wife aunt Dinah, respecting a complaint that aunt Dinah had made to mistress about his having outraged and violated her youngest daughter, his spite was carried out by Mr. Cobb, the overseer, who forced Uncle Reuben into the field amongst the rest of us, and I was ordered to cradle behind him to make him keep up with the rest of the gang. The poor old man worked until he fell, just ahead of me, upon the cradle. Mr. Cobb came over and told him to get up, and that he was only playing the old soldier, and when the old man did not move to get up Mr. Cobb gave him a few kicks with his heavy boots and told Reuben, sick as he was, that he would cure him. He ordered us to take off his shirt, and the poor old man was stripped, when Mr. Cobb, with his hickory cane, laid on him till his back bled freely; but still the old man seemed to take no notice of what Mr. Cobb was doing. Mr. Cobb then told us to put on his shirt and carry him in, for he appeared convinced that Reuben could not walk. The next morning I went to see him but he did not seem to know anybody. Master came in along with the Doctor, and master swore at Reuben, telling him that as soon as he was well enough he should have a good flogging for having, by his own folly, caught his sickness. The doctor here checked his master's rage by telling him, as he felt at Reuben by the wrist, he could not live many minutes longer; at this master was silent, and a few minutes Reuben was dead. Poor Aunt Dinah came in out of the kitchen and wept fit to break her poor heart. She had four sons and three daughters, and they all joined in mournful lamentation.
When I was sixteen I was very fond of dancing, and was invited privately to a negro shindy or dance, about twelve miles from home, and for this purpose I got Aunt Dinah to starch the collars for my two linen shirts, which were the first standing collars I had ever worn in my life; I had a good pair of trousers, and a jacket, but no necktie, nor no pocket handkerchief, so I stole aunt Dinah's checked apron, and tore it in two—one part for a necktie, the other for a pocket handkerchief. I had twenty-four cents, or pennies which I divided equally with fifty large brass buttons in my right and left pockets. Now, thought I to myself, when I get on the floor and begin to dance—oh! how the niggers will stare to hear the money jingle. I was combing my hair to get the knots out of it: I then went and looked in an old piece of broken looking-glass, and I thought, without joking, that I was the best looking negro that I had ever seen in my life. About ten o'clock I stole out to the stable when all was still; and while I was getting on one of my master's horses I said to myself—Master was in here at six o'clock and saw all these horses clean, so I must look out and be back time enough to have you clean when he gets up in the morning. I thought what a dash I should cut among the pretty yellow and Sambo gals, and I felt quite confident, of course, that I should have my pick among the best looking ones, for my good clothes, and my abundance of money, and my own good looks—in fact, I thought no mean things of my self.
When I arrived at the place where the dance was, it was at an old house in the woods, which had many years before been a negro meeting-house; there was a large crowd there, and about one hundred horses tied round the fence—for some of them were far from home, and, like myself, they were all runaways, and their horses, like mine, had to be home and cleaned before their masters were up in the morning. In getting my horse close up to the fence a nail caught my trousers at the thigh, and split them clean up to the seat; of course my shirt tail fell out behind, like a woman's apron before. This dreadful misfortune almost unmanned me, and curtailed both my pride and pleasure for the night. I cried until I could cry no more. However, I was determined I would not be done out of my sport after being at the expense of coming, so I went round and borrowed some pins, and pinned up my shirt tail as well as I could. I then went into the dance, and told the fiddler to play me a jig. Che, che, che, went the fiddle, when the banjo responded with a thrum, thrum, thrum, with the loud cracking of the bone player. I seized a little Sambo gal, and round and round the room we went, my money and my buttons going jingle, jingle, jingle, seemed to take a lively part with the music, and to my great satisfaction every eye seemed to be upon me, and I could not help thinking about what an impression I should leave behind upon those pretty yellow and Sambo gals, who were gazing at me, thinking I was the richest and handsomest nigger they had ever seen: but unfortunately the pins in my breeches gave way, and to my great confusion my shirt tail fell out; and what made my situation still more disgraceful was the mischievous conduct of my partner, the gal that I was dancing with, who instead of trying to conceal my shame caught my shirt tail behind and held it up. The roar of laughter that came from both men and gals almost deafened me, and I would at this moment have sunk through the floor, so I endeavoured to creep out as slily as I could; but even this I was not permitted to do until I had undergone a hauling around the room by my unfortunate shirt tail: and this part of the programme was performed by the gals, set on by the boys—every nigger who could not stand up and laugh, because laughing made them weak, fell down on the floor and rolled round and round. When the gals saw their own turn they let me go and I hurried outside and stood behind the house, beneath a beautiful bright moon, which saw me that night the most wretched of all negroes in the land of Dixie; and what made me feel, in my own opinion, that my humiliation was just as complete as the triumph of the negroes inside was glorious, was that the gals had turned my pockets out, and found that the hundreds of dollars they had thought my pockets contained, consisted of 24 cents or pennies, and 50 brass buttons. Everything was alive and happy inside the room, but no one knew or cared how miserable I was—the joy and life of the dance that night seemed entirely at my expense, all through my unfortunate shirt tail. The first thing I thought of now was revenge. Take your comfort, niggers now, said I to myself, for sorrow shall be yours in the morning, so I took out my knife and went round the fence and cut every horse loose, and they all ran away. I then got on my horse and set off home. As I rode on I thought to myself—I only wish I could be somewhere close enough to see how those negroes will act when they come out and find all their horses gone. And then I laughed right out when I thought of the sport they had had out of my misfortune, and that some were ten to twelve, and some fifteen miles away from home. Well, thought I, your masters will have to reckon with you to-morrow; you have had glad hearts to-night at my expense, but you will have sore backs to-morrow at your own. Now, when I got home, the stable was in a very bad situation, and I was afraid to bring my horse in until I could strike a light. When this was done, I took the saddle and bridle off outside. No sooner had I done this than my horse reared over the bars and ran away into the meadow. I chased him till daylight, and for my life I could not catch him. My feelings now may be better imagined than described. When the reader remembers that this horse, with all the rest, master had seen clean at six o'clock the night before, and all safe in the stable, and now to see him in the meadow, with all the marks of having been driven somewhere and by somebody, what excuse could I make, or what story could I invent in order to save my poor back from that awful flogging which I knew must be the result of the revelation of the truth. I studied and tried, but could think of no lie that would stand muster. At last I went into the stable and turned all the rest out, and left the stable door open, and creeping into the house, took off my fine clothes and put on those which I had been wearing all the week, and laid myself down on my straw. I had not lain long before I heard master shouting for me, for all those horses, eight in number, were under my care; and although he shouted for me at the top of his voice, I lay still and pretended not to hear him; but soon after I heard a light step coming up stairs, and a rap at my door—then I commenced to snore as loud as possible, still the knocking continued. At last I pretended to awake, and called out, who's there—that you, Lizzy? oh my! what's up, what time is it, and so on. Lizzy said master wanted me immediately; yes, Lizzy, said I, tell master I'm coming. I bothered about the room long enough to give colour to the impression that I had just finished dressing myself; I then came and said, here I am, master, when he demanded of me, what were my horses doing in the meadow? Here I put on an expression of such wonder and surprise—looking first into the meadow and then at the stable door, and to master's satisfaction, I seemed so completely confounded that my deception took upon him the desired effect. Then I affected to roar right out, crying, now master, you saw my horses all clean last night before I went to bed, and now some of those negroes have turned them out so that I should have them to clean over again: well, I declare! it's too bad, and I roared and cried as I went towards the meadow to drive them up; but master believing what I said, called me back and told me to call Mr. Cobb, and when Mr. Cobb came master told him to blow the horn; when the horn was blown, the negroes were to be seen coming from all parts of the plantation, and forming around in front of the balcony. Master then came out and said, now I saw this boy's horses clean last night and in the stable, so now tell me which of you turned them out? Of course they all denied it, then master ordered them all to go down into the meadow and drive up the horses and clean them, me excepted; so they went and drove them up and set to work and cleaned them. On Monday morning we all turned out to work until breakfast, when the horn was blown, and we all repaired to the house. Here master again demanded to know who turned the horses loose, and when they all denied it, he tied them all up and gave them each 39 lashes. Not yet satisfied, but determined to have a confession, as was always his custom on such occasions, he came to me and asked me which one I had reason to suspect. My poor guilty heart already bleeding for the suffering I had caused my fellow slaves, was now almost driven to confession. What must I do, select another victim for further punishment, or confess the truth and bear the consequence? My conscience now rebuked me, like an armed man; but I happened to be one of those boys who, among all even of my mother's children loved myself best, and therefore had no disposition to satisfy my conscience at the expense of a very sore back, so I very soon thought of Dick, a negro who, like Ishmael, had his hand out against every man, and all our hands were out against him; this negro was a lickspittle or tell-tale, as little boys call them—we could not steal a bit of tea or sugar, or any other kind of nourishment for our sick, or do anything else we did not want to be known, but if he got to know it he would run and tell master or mistress, or the overseer, so we all wanted him dead; and now I thought of him—he was just the proper sacrifice for me to lay upon the altar of confession, so I told master I believed that it was Dick: moreover, I told him that I had seen him in and out of the stable on Saturday night, so master tied Dick up and gave him 39 lashes more, and washed his back down with salt and water, and told him that at night if he did not confess, he would give him as much more; so at night, when master went out to Dick again, he asked if he had made up his mind to tell him the truth, Dick said, yes, master;—well, said master, let me hear it. Well master, said Dick, I did turn the horses out; but will never do so again. So master, satisfied with this confession, struck Dick no more, and ordered him to be untied; but Dick had a sore back for many weeks. And now to return to the negroes I had left at the dance, when they discovered that their horses were gone there was the greatest consternation amongst them, the forebodings of the awful consequences if they dared to go home induced many that night to seek salvation in the direction and guidance of the north star. Several who started off on that memorable night I have since shook hands with in Canada. They told me there were sixteen of them went off together, four of them were shot or killed by the bloodhounds, and one was captured while asleep in a barn; the rest of those who were at the dance either went home and took their floggings, or strayed into the woods until starved out, and then surrendered. One of those I saw in Toronto, is Dan Patterson; he has a house of his own, with a fine horse and cart, and he has a beautiful Sambo woman for his wife, and four fine healthy-looking children. But, like myself, he had left a wife and six children in slavery. When I was about seventeen, I was deeply smitten in love with a yellow girl belonging to Doctor Tillotson. This girl's name was Mary, of whose lovliness I dreamt every night. I certainly thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen in my life. Her colour was very fair, approaching almost to white; her countenance was frank and open, and very inviting; her voice was as sweet as the dulcimer, her smiles to me were like the May morning sunbeams in the spring, one glance of her large dark eyes broke my heart in pieces, with a stroke like that of an earthquake. O, I thought, this girl would make me a paradise, and to enjoy her love I thought would be heaven. In spite of either patrols or dogs, who stood in my way, every night nearly I was in Mary's company. I learned from her that she had already had a child to her master in Mobile, and that her mistress had sold her down here for revenge; and she told me also of the sufferings that she had undergone from her mistress on account of jealousy—her baby she said her mistress sold out of her arms, only eleven months old, to a lady in Marysville, Kentucky. Having never before felt a passion like this, or of the gentle power, so peculiar to women, that, hard as I worked all day, I could not sleep at night for thinking of this almost angel in human shape. We kept company about six weeks, during which time I was at sometimes as wretched as I was happy at others. Much to my annoyance Mary was adored by every negro in the neighbourhood, and this excited my jealousy and made me miserable. I was almost crazy when I saw another negro talking to her. Again and again I tried my best to get her to give up speaking to them, but she refused to comply. There was one negro who was in the habit of calling on Mary whom I dreaded more than all the rest of them put together, this negro was Dan, he belonged to Rogers; and notwithstanding I believed myself to be the best looking negro to be found anywhere in the neighbourhood, still I was aware that I was not the best of talkers. Dan was a sweet and easy talker, and a good bone and banjo player. I was led to fear that he would displace me in Mary's affections, and in this I was not mistaken. One night I went over to see Mary, and in looking through the window, saw Mary—my sweet and beloved Mary—sitting upon Dan's knee; and here it is impossible to describe the feeling that came over me at this unwelcome sight. My teeth clenched and bit my tongue—my head grew dizzy, and began to swim round and round, and at last I found myself getting up from the ground, having stumbled from the effects of what I had seen. I wandered towards home, and arriving there threw myself on the straw and cried all night. My first determination was to kill Dan; but then I thought they would hang me and the devil would have us both, and some other negro will get Mary, then the thought of killing Dan passed away. Next morning, when the horn blew for breakfast, I continued my work, my appetite having left me; at dinner time it was the same. At sun-down I went to the barn and got a rope and put it under my jacket, and started off to see Mary, whom I found sitting in the kitchen, smoking her pipe, for smoking was as common among the girls as among the men. Mary, said I, I was over here last night and saw you through the window sitting on Dan's knee. Now, Mary, I want you to tell me at once whose you mean to be—mine or Dan's? Dan's, she replied, with an important toss of her head, which went through my very soul, like the shock from a galvanic battery. I rested for a minute or so on an old oak table that stood by. Mary's answer had unstrung every nerve in me, and left me so weak that I could scarcely keep from falling. Now I was not at that time, and don't think I ever shall be one of those fools who would cut off his nose to spite his face, much less kill myself because a girl refused to love me. Life to me was always preferable, under any circumstances; but in this case I played the most dexterous card I had. Mary, said I sternly, if you don't give Dan up and sware to be mine, I will hang myself this night. To this she replied, hang on if you are fool enough, and continued smoking her pipe as though not the least alarmed. I took out the rope from under my jacket, and got upon a three-legged stool, and putting the rope first over the beam in the ceiling, then made a slip-knot, and brought it down round my neck, taking good care to have it short enough that it would not choke me, and in this way I stood upon the stool for some considerable time, groaning and struggling, and making every kind of noise that might make her believe that I was choking or strangling; but still Mary sat deliberately smoking her pipe with the utmost coolness, and seemed to take no notice of me or what I was doing. I thought my situation worse now than if I had not commenced this job at all. My object in pretending to hang myself was to frighten Mary into compliance with my demand, and her conduct turned out to be everything but what I had expected. I had thought that the moment I ascended the stool she would have clung to me and tried to dissuade me from committing suicide, and in this case my plan was to persist in carrying it out, unless she would consent to give Dan up; but instead of this she sat smoking her pipe apparently at ease and unmoved. Now I found I had been mistaken—what was I to do, to hang or kill myself was the last thing I meant to do—in fact I had not the courage to do it for five hundred Marys. But now, after mounting the stool and adjusting the rope round my neck, I was positively ashamed to come down without hanging myself, and then I stood like a fool. At this moment in came the dog carlow, racing after the cat, right across the kitchen floor, and the dog coming in contact with the stool, knocked it right away from under my feet, and brought my neck suddenly to the full length of the rope, which barely allowed my toes to touch the floor. Here I seized the rope with both hands to keep the weight of my whole body off my neck, and in this situation I soon found I must hang, and that dead enough, unless I had some assistance, for the stool had rolled entirely out of the reach of my feet, and the knot I had tied behind the beam I could not reach for my life. My arms began to tremble with holding on to the rope, and still my mortification and pride for some time refused to let me call on Mary for assistance. Such a moment of terror and suspense! heaven forbid that I should ever see or experience again. Thoughts rushed into my mind of every bad deed that I had done in my life; and I thought that old cloven foot, as we called the devil, was waiting to nab me. The stretch upon my arms exhausted me, with holding on by the rope, nothing was left me but despair; my pride and courage gave up the ghost, and I roared out, Mary! for God's sake cut the rope! No, answered Mary, you went up there to hang yourself, so now hang on. Oh! Mary, Mary! I did not mean to hang! I was only doing so to see what you would say. Well, then, said Mary; you hear what I have to say—hang on. Oh, Mary! for heaven's sake cut this rope, or I shall strangle to death!—oh, dear, good Mary, save me this time: and I roared out like a jackass, and must too have fainted, for when I came round Doctor Tillotson and his wife and Mary stood over me as I lay on the floor. How I got upon the floor, or who cut the rope I never knew. Doctor Tillotson had hold of my wrist, feeling my pulse; while mistress held a camphor bottle in one hand and a bottle of hartshorn in the other. The doctor helped me up from the floor and set me in a chair, when I discovered that I was bleeding very freely from the nose and mouth. He called for a basin and bled me in my left arm, and then sent me over home by two of his men. Next day my neck was dreadfully swollen, and my throat was so sore that it was with difficulty that I could swallow meat for more than a week. At the end of a fortnight, master having learnt all the particulars respecting my sickness, called me to account, and gave me seventy-eight lashes, and this was the end of my crazy love and courtship with Mary.
Shortly after this, Mary was one Sunday down in her master's barn, where she had been sent by her mistress to look for new nests where a number of the hens were supposed to have been laying, as the eggs had not been found elsewhere. While in the barn, Mary was surprised by William Tillotson, her master's son, who ordered her to take her bed among the hay and submit to his lustful passion. This she strenuously refused to do, telling him of the punishment she had already suffered from her former mistress for a similar act of conduct, and reminding him at the same time of his wife, whose vengeance she would have to dread; but William was not to be put off, nor his base passion to go unsatisfied, by any excuse that Mary could make, so he at once resorted to force. Mary screamed at the top of her voice. Now the negro Dan was just in the act of passing the barn at the time, when he heard Mary's voice he rushed into the barn, and demanded in a loud voice what was the matter? when, to his horror, he beheld William upon the barn floor, and Mary struggling but in vain to rise. William, instead of desisting from his brutal purpose, with a dreadful oath ordered Dan to clear out; but the sight of the outrage on her whom, I now firmly believe he loved better than his own soul, made poor Dan completely forget himself—and made him forget too, in that fatal moment what he afterwards wished he had remembered. Dan seized a pitchfork and plunged it into young Tillotson's back; the prongs went in between his shoulders, and one of them had penetrated the left lung. Young Tillotson expired almost immediately, and Dan seeing what he had done, ran off at once to the woods and swamps, and was seen no more for about two months. Mrs. Tillotson, who had heard Mary scream, was on the balcony, and called out to Dan to know the cause, Dan made no reply but took to his heels. Mrs. Tillotson alarmed at this, and suspecting at once that something was wrong, hastened to the barn, followed by William's wife who happened to be there, and when they saw poor William's corpse, and Mary standing by, they both fainted. Poor Mary, frightened to death, turned into the house and informed her young mistress, Susannah, of what had happened. Miss Susannah spread the alarm, and called some of the slaves to her assistance. She went to the barn and found her mother and sister-in-law lying in a state of insensibility, and her brother William dead. With the assistance of old Aunt Hannah and several of the female servants, the two ladies were somewhat restored to consciousness; and William was carried into the house by the servants. The Doctor himself was away from home attending one of his patients, who was very sick. When Mrs. Tillotson had somewhat recovered, she sent for Mary and enquired as to how William came by his death in the barn. Mary told the whole story as previously related in the presence of about sixty or seventy of the neighbours, who had collected together on hearing of the murder. Of course Mary's story met with no credit from her mistress, and poor Mary stood in the eyes of all as an accomplice in the conspiracy to murder young Tillotson. When the doctor arrived it was dark, and after seeing the corpse and hearing from his wife the story that she had made up for him, he called for Mary, but she was nowhere to be found. The house and plantation were searched in all directions, but no Mary was discovered. At last, when they had all given over looking for her, towards midnight, a cart drove up to the door. Doctor, said the driver, I have a dead negro here, and I'm told she belongs to you. The Doctor came out with a lantern, and as I stood by my master's carriage, waiting for him to come out and go home, the Doctor ordered me to mount the cart and look at the corpse; I did so, and looked full in that face by the light of the lantern, and saw and knew, notwithstanding the horrible change that had been effected by the work of death, upon those once beautiful features, it was Mary. Poor Mary, driven to distraction by what had happened, she had sought salvation in the depths of the Chesapeake Bay that night. Next day the neighbourhood was searched throughout, and the country was placarded for Dan; and Doctor Tillotson and Mr. Burmey, young William's father-in-law, offered one thousand dollars for him alive, and five hundred for him dead; and although every blackleg in the neighbourhood was on the alert, it was full two months before he was captured. At length poor Dan was caught and brought by the captors to Mr. Burmey's, where he was tried principally by Burmey's two sons, Peter and John, and that night was kept in irons in Burmey's cellar. The next day Dan was led into the field in the presence of about three thousand of us. A staple was driven into the stump of a tree, with a chain attached to it, and one of his handcuffs was taken off and brought through the chain, and then fastened on his hand again. A pile of pine wood was built around him. At eight o'clock the wood was set on fire, and when the flames blazed round upon the wretched man, he began to scream and struggle in a most awful manner. Many of our women fainted, but not one of us was allowed to leave until the body of poor Dan was consumed. The unearthly sounds that came from the blazing pile, as poor Dan writhed in the agonies of death, it is beyond the power of my pen to describe. After a while all was silent, except the cracking of the pine wood as the fire gradually devoured it with the prize that it contained. Poor Dan had ceased to struggle—he was at rest.
Mr. Burmey's two sons, Peter and John, were the ringleaders in this execution, and the pair of them hardly ever saw a sober day from one month to another; and at the execution of Dan, Peter was so drunk that he came nigh sharing the same fate. It was not a year after the roasting of Dan that the two brothers were thrashing wheat in the barn, which stood about a quarter of a mile from the house, and being in March, and an uncommon windy day, they had taken their demijohn full of brandy in order to keep the cold out of their bones, as it was their belief that a dram or two had that effect; so they were drinking and thrashing and drinking again until they reeled over dead drunk upon the floor. That same night the barn took fire over them. The first thing that excited the alarm of my master's negroes on Tillotson's plantation was a black smoke issuing from the barn. Suddenly there was a rush from all parts of the plantation, but it was all to no purpose, for scarcely had we got half way before we saw the flames bursting out on every side of the barn, still we continued to run as fast as we could. When we arrived we found the barn door shut and fastened inside. This Mr. Peter and Mr. John had done to keep out the wind which was very high. When old Mr. Burmey arrived with his daughter-in-law, Peter's wife, the first thing demanded was, where is your masters?—oh, my children! my children! while Mrs. Peter screamed, my husband! my husband! oh, pa! oh, pa! The strength of the flames inside at length burst open the barn door, when we beheld through the red flames the figures of the two wretched brothers lying side by side dead drunk and helpless upon the floor. The fire rapidly seized upon everything around. At this moment Mrs. Peter Burmey rushed into the flames to save her husband, but just as she attempted to enter, the beam over the door fell in upon her head, and struck her back senseless and suffocated to the ground; but, notwithstanding the most intense hatred to Burmey and his family, we negroes rushed forward to rescue them—but all in vain. After getting miserably scorched we were compelled to retreat and give them over, and with bleeding hearts to behold the fire consume their bodies. The barn was rapidly consigned to ashes, which being speedily swept away by the violence of the wind, left the victims side by side crisped skeletons on the ground. This was the dreadful end of the two chief actors in the roasting of poor Dan.
When I arrived at the age of 20, my master told me I must marry Jane, one of the slaves. We had been about five months married when she gave birth to a child, I then asked who was the father of the child, and she said the master, and I had every reason to believe her, as the child was nearly white, had blue eyes and veins, yet notwithstanding this we lived happily together, and I felt happy and comfortable, and I should never have thought of running away if she had not been sold. We lived together six years and had two children. Shortly after my marriage my master's wife died, and when he fixed upon Tillotson's daughter as his future wife, she made a condition that all female slaves whom he had at any time been intimate with must be sold, and my wife being one was sold with the children as well as any other female slaves. My wife was sold while I was away on an errand at Centreville, and any one situated as I was may imagine my feelings when I say that I left them in the morning all well and happy, in entire ignorance of any evil, and returned to find them all sold and gone away, and from then until now I have never seen any of them. I went to my master and complained to him, when he told me he knew nothing about it, as it was all done by his wife. I then went to her and she said she knew nothing about, as it was all done by my master, and I could obtain no other satisfaction; I then went to my master to beg him to sell me to the same master as he had sold my wife, but he said he could not do that, as she was sold to a trader.
From 18 to 27 I was considered one of the most devout Christians among the whole Black population, and under this impression I firmly believed to run away from my master would be to sin against the Holy Ghost—for such we are taught to believe—but from the time of my wife's being sent away, I firmly made up my mind to take the first opportunity to run away. I had learned that if a Black man wished to escape he will have no chance to do so unless he be well supplied with money; to attain this I arranged with a Dutchman to steal small pigs, chickens, and any poultry that was possible to lay my hands on, and thus I proceeded for nine or ten months, when I found my accumulation to be 124 dollars. Among the plantations I visited was Mr. Rogers', and he had three large bloodhounds let loose about nine at night, but I had made them acquainted with me by feeding them at intervals quietly, unknown to him or his people, and this enabled me to carry on my depredations on his plantation quietly and unmolested. Rogers having suspected these depredations, and not being able to find the thief, set a patrol to watch, who, armed with a double-barreled gun, fixed himself under a fence about seven feet high, surrounded with bushes; but this happened to be my usual way of going to his plantation, and as I made my usual spring to go over, I fell right on the top of his head, and he shouted lustily, and I shouted also, neither of us knowing what really had occurred, and our fears imagining the worst and causing him to run one way and me another. After travelling about a quarter of a mile I thought of my bag, which had been dropped during my fright, and knowing that my master's initials were on the bag, and the consequences of the bag being found would be fearful, I determined to return for the bag and recover it, or die in the attempt. I searched for and found a club, then I returned to the spot and found the bag there, and by the side of it lay the gun of the patrol, and I picked the bag up and went home, and this narrow escape caused me to determine to give up my thieving expeditions for the obtaining of money from that time. About one week after the occurrence with the patrol, I took one of my master's horses to go to a negro dance, and on my return the patrols were so numerous on the road that I was unable to return home without observation, and it being past the usual hour for being at home, I was so afraid that when two of them observed me I left the horse and took to my feet, and made my way to the woods, where I remained all day, afraid to go home for fear of the consequences. But at night I returned to the barn, where my money was hid in the hay, and having recovered it, I started for Dr. Tillotson's (my master's father-in-law), and told him my master had sent for a horse which he had lent him a few weeks before. After enquiring of the overseer if the horse had not gone home, and finding it had not, he ordered it to be given up to me. I mounted the horse and rode off for Baltimore, a distance of 37 miles, where I arrived early in the morning, when I abandoned the horse and took to the woods, and remained there all day. At night I ventured to a farm-house, and having a club with me, I knocked over two barn fowl, and took them to my place in the woods; I struck a light with the tinder, made a fire of brushwood, roasted them before the fire, and enjoyed a hearty meal without seasoning or bread.
The following night I went to the city, and meeting with some blacks I entered into conversation with them, and I asked if they had heard of any runaways at Baltimore, they said they had heard of one Jake having run from Eastern shore, and showed me the bill at the corner which had been put up that evening. I knew it was no other than me, so I bid them good evening, and left them saying I was going to church. I took a back road for Milford, in Delaware, and travelled all night; towards morning I met four men, who demanded to know to whom I belonged, my answer was taking to my heels, and the chase was hot on my part for about half-an-hour, when I got into a swamp surrounded by young saplings, where I remained about two hours, and as soon as it was sufficiently dark to venture out, I made my way to a barn where I secreted myself all day, and in the morning I watched the house to prevent a surprise. At night I again commenced travelling, and at one o'clock in the morning arrived at Milford, where finding no means of crossing the bridge into the town, without being seen by the patrol, I was forced to swim across the river. I passed through Milford, and was ten miles on my road to Wilmington before daybreak, where I again made for the woods, and got into a marshy part and was swamped. I was struggling the whole night to liberate myself, but in vain, until the light appeared, when I saw some willows, and by laying hold of them I succeeded in extricating myself about seven o'clock in the morning. I then made my way to a pond of water, and pulled my clothes off, and washed the mud from them, and hung them up to dry; and as soon as they were dry and night arrived, I put them on, and continued my journey that night in the woods, as the moon was so bright; though I did not progress much on my way, it was more safe. Towards morning I saw a farm-house, and being hungry I resolved to venture to ask for something to eat. Waiting my opportunity, I saw three men leave the house, and judging there then only remained women, I went up and asked if they would please to give me something to eat. They invited me in, and gave me some bread and milk, pitying my condition greatly, one of them telling me that her husband was an Abolitionist, and if I would wait until his return he would place me out of the reach of my pursuers. I did not then understand what was an Abolitionist, and said I would rather not stay. She then saw my feet, which were awful from what I had undergone, and asked me if I should not like to have a pair of shoes, and I said I should. They went in search of a pair up the stairs, and I heard one say to the other, "He answers the description of a slave for which 200 dollars are offered." When they returned I was sitting still in the position I was in before they went up stairs. She said to the other, "I will go and see after the cows;" and the other answered, "Dont be long." But my suspicion was confirmed that going after the cows was only a pretence; and when I thought the other had got far enough away, I laid hold of the remaining one and tied her to the bedstead; went into the closet and took a leg of mutton, and other articles, such as bread and butter, and made my way out as quick as possible; and when I got outside I rubbed my feet in some cow dung to prevent the scent of the bloodhounds, and took to the woods, where I found a sand hole, in which I remained all day. The night was dark, with a drizzling rain; being very fit for travelling, I started again on my journey, but being very cautious, I only managed about 24 miles that night. Towards morning I met with a black, who told me that to Chester, in Pennsylvania, was only twenty-six miles. During the day I again remained in the woods, where I met a black man of the name of Geordie, whom I knew, belonging to Rogers, and who had left two months before me, and he said he had been in those woods five weeks. His appearance was shocking, and from his long suffering and hardships he was difficult to know; and, as he was hungry, I divided with him my leg of mutton and bread and butter, and I was telling him how unwise it was to remain so long in one place, when we were suddenly aroused by the well-known sounds of the hounds. In my fear and surprise I was attempting for a tree, but was unable to mount before they were upon me. In this emergency I called out the name of one of the dogs, who was more familiar with me than the others, called Fly, and hit my knee to attract her attention and it had the desired effect. She came fondling towards me, accompanied by another called Jovial. I pulled out my knife and cut the throat of Fly, upon which Jovial made an attempt to lay hold of me and I caught him by the throat, which caused me to lose my knife, but I held him fast by the windpipe, forcing my thumbs with as much force as possible, and anxiously wishing for my knife to be in hands. I made a powerful effort to fling him as far away as possible, and regained my knife; but when I had thrown him there he lay, throttled to death. Not so, Fly, who weltered in blood, and rolled about howling terribly, but not killed. The other two hounds caught Geordie, and killed him. After this terrible escape I went to a barn, and was looking through a hole and saw two men come to where Geordie's body lay, when a knot of people gathered round, and about ten or eleven o'clock he was buried. I shortly went to sleep among the hay, and slept so soundly that it was the morning after before I was awoke by a boy coming to get hay for the horses, and the prong of the fork caught me by the thigh, which caused me to jump up and stare at the boy, and he at me, when he dropped the fork and ran away. As soon as I recovered, I slipped down the hay-rack, and met six men and the boy, who demanded who I was and what I was doing there. Not knowing what to say, I stood speechless for a long time, and thought my hopes of freedom were now at an end. They again repeated their question, but I made no reply. I was then taken before a magistrate, when I was accused of being in the barn for some unlawful purpose; and as I made no answer to any questions put to me, they concluded I was dumb. When I remembered I had not given evidence of speech, I determined to act as if I was dumb; and when the magistrate called to me, I also thought deafness was often united with dumbness, and I made my mind up to act both deaf and dumb, and when he called "Boy, come here," I took no notice, and did not appear to hear, until one of the officers led me from the box nearer to the magistrate, who demanded my name, where from, and to whom I belonged, and what I was doing in the barn, which I still appeared not to hear, and merely looked at him, and at last acted as if I was deaf and dumb, and so effectually that he discharged me, convinced I was a valueless deaf and dumb nigger; and when told by the officer to go, I dared not move for fear of being found out in my acting, and would not move until I was forced out of the door, and for some time (for fear of detection) I acted deaf and dumb in the streets, to the fear of women and children, until it was dark, when I made for the woods, where I remained until eleven o'clock at night, when I again resumed my journey to Chester (Pennsylvania), which I had been told was only twenty-six miles. Shortly after resuming my journey, I saw four horses in the field, and I determined, if possible to possess one of them, and I chased them two hours, but did not succeed in catching one; so I was obliged to go on walking again, but shortly met with a gentleman's horse on the road which I mounted, and rode into Chester, and let the horse go where he liked. In Chester I met with a quaker, named Sharpies, who took me to his house, gave me the best accommodation, and called his friends to see me, never seemed weary of asking questions of negro life in the different plantations. I let them see the money I had, which was in notes, and much damaged by my swimming across the river, but they kindly passed it for me, and I got other money for it; and I was presented with two suits of clothes. He sent in a waggon to Philadelphia and recommended me to a gentleman (who being alive, I wish not to reveal), where I remained in his employ about five weeks. This kind friend persuaded me to make for Canada; and it was with much reluctance I at last complied. My reluctance was in consequence of understanding that Canada was a very cold place, and I did not relish the idea of going on that account; and as a gentleman said he could find employment for me at Derby, near Philadelphia, I went and worked there three years, during which time I was a regular attendant at the Methodist Free Church, consisting entirely of colored people; at which place I heard the scriptures expounded in a different way by colored ministers—as I found that God had made colored as well as white people: as He had made of one blood all the families of the earth, and that all men were free and equal in his sight; and that he was no respecter of persons whatever the color: but whoever worked righteousness was accepted of Him. Being satisfied that I had not sinned against the Holy Ghost by obtaining my freedom, I enlisted in the church, and became one of the members thereof.
About this time, Mr. Roberts, for whom I worked, failed in business, and his property was seized for debt and sold, thereby throwing me out of employment. I was arrested and taken back to Maryland, where I was placed in prison, with a collar round my neck for eleven days.
On the twelfth day my master came to see me, and of course I begged of him to take me home and let me go to work. No, nigger, said master—I have no employment for a vagabond of your stamp; but I'm going to order that collar off your neck, not because I think that you are sufficiently punished, but because there are some gentlemen coming through the jail to-morrow, and they want to purchase some negroes, so you had better do your best to get a master amongst them—and mind you don't tell them that ever you ran away, for if you do none of them will buy you. Now I will give you a good character, notwithstanding you have done your best to injure me, a good master, and you have even tried to rob me by running away—still I'll do my best to get you a good master, for my bible teaches me to do good for evil. The next day I was called out with forty other slaves, belonging to different owners in the County, and we were marched into the doctor's vestry for examination; here the doctor made us all strip—men and women together naked, in the presence of each other while the examination went on. When it was concluded, thirty-eight of us were pronounced sound, and three unsound; certificates were made out and given to the auctioneer to that effect. After dressing ourselves we were all driven into the slave sty directly under the auction block, when the jail warder came and gave to every slave a number, my number was twenty. Here, let me explain, for the better information of the reader, that in the inventory of the slaves to be sold all go by number—one, two, three, and so on; and if a man and his family are to be sold in one lot, then one number covers them all; but if separate, then they have all different numbers. An old friend of mine, belonging to William Steel, was also with his wife and six children in the same sty, all to be sold. The youngest was a babe in arms, the other five were large enough to walk; his number was twenty-one, but his wife's number was thirty-three, and notwithstanding the mournful idea of parting with relations and friends on the plantation, up to this moment they had indulged a hope of being sold as a family, together; but the numbers revealed the awful disappointment. Even in this hoped for consolation, the painful distress into which this poor woman was thrown, it is beyond my ability to describe. The anguish of her soul, evinced by the mournful gaze first at her children and then at her husband, made me forget for the time being, my own sufferings and sorrows. Her looks seemed to say to her husband—these are your children, I am their mother—there is no other being in this world that I have to look to for love and protection; cant you help me? I am very much mistaken if these were not the thoughts running through that poor broken-hearted mother's mind. Reuben, for that was his name, called his wife and children into one corner of the sty, and repeated a verse of a hymn which may be found in Watts' hymn book:—
"Ah, whither shall I go, Burthened, or sick, or faint; To whom shall I my troubles show, And pour out my complaint."
Not daring to sing it for fear of disturbing the sale, they both knelt down with the children, and Reuben offered up a long and fervent prayer. In the interval of his prayer nineteen of the slaves were sold, and he had not concluded when my number being twenty was called, and my master handed me out under the hammer; when, after a few preliminary remarks on the part of the auctioneer, my master mounted the auction block and recommended me as a good field hand, a good cook, waiter, hostler, a coachman, gentle and willing, and above all, free from the disease of running away. So after a short and spirited bidding I went at 1,025 dollars. Here the sale policeman, whose business it was to take charge of the negroes sold until bills were settled and papers made out, led me from the block outside the crowd, and placing me by a cart, put on a pair of iron handcuffs; but being well acquainted with me as a troublesome tricky negro, he put the handcuff on my right wrist—took the other cuff through the cart wheel and round the spoke, and then locked it on my left hand, so that if I did start to run, I should carry the cart and all with me. Number twenty-one was now called, and out came poor Reuben, and was placed under the hammer; his weight was said to be two hundred pounds, his age thirty two. Poor Sally, his wife, unable any longer to control her feelings, made her way out of the slave pen, with her babe in her arms, followed by her five small children, and she threw one of her arms around Reuben's neck; and now commenced a scene that beggars all description. Her countenance, though mild and beautiful, was by the keenest pain and sorrow distorted and disfigured: her voice soft and gentle, accompanied with heart rending gestures, appealed to the slave buyer in tones so very mournful, that I thought it might have even melted cruelty itself to some pity—coming as it did from a woman:—Oh! master, master! buy me and my children with my husband—do, pray; and this was the only crime the poor woman committed for which she suffered death on the spot. Her master stepped up from behind her, and with the butt end of his carriage whip loaded with lead, struck her a blow on the side of the head or temples, and she fell her full length to the ground. Poor Reuben stooped to raise her up, but was prevented by the jail policeman, who seized him by the neck and led him over close to where I stood: and whilst he was in the act of selecting a pair of handcuffs for Reuben, voice after voice was heard in the crowd—she is dead! she is dead! But what was the effect of these words upon Reuben—one of the most easy, good-tempered, innocent, inoffensive, and, in his way, religious slaves that I ever knew—satisfied apparently that Sally's death was a fact—he tore himself loose from the policeman and made his way through the crowd to where poor Sally lay, and exclaimed, Oh! Sally! O Lord! By this time the policeman, who had followed him, undertook to drag him back out of the crowd, but Reuben, with one blow of his fist, stretched the policeman on the ground. Reuben's pain and sorrow, mingled with his religious hope, seemed now to terminate in despair, and transformed the inoffensive man into a raging demon. He rushed to a cart which supported a great number of spectators, just opposite the auction block, and tore out a heavy cart stave, made of red oak, and before the panic-stricken crowd could arrest his arm, he struck his master to the ground, and beat his brains literally out. The crowd then tried to close upon him, but Reuben, mounted with both feet upon the dead body of his master, and with his back against the cart wheel—with the cart stave kept the whole crowd at bay for the space of two or three minutes, when a gentleman behind the cart climbed upon the outside wheel and fired the pistol at him, and shot poor Reuben through the head. He fell dead about six yards from where the dead body of his beloved Sally lay, and where his children were screaming terribly. An indescribable thrill of horror crept through my whole soul, as I gazed from the cart wheel to which I was ironed, upon the dead bodies first of Reuben and then his wife, who but a few moments before I had seen kneeling in solemn prayer, before what they considered the Throne of Grace—and their master, whom I heard that very morning calling on God not only to damn his negroes, but to damn himself, now, in less than thirty minutes, all three standing before the awful Judgment Seat. After witnessing this dreadful scene I was led into Hagerstown jail, where I remained until my new master was ready, when I went with him to Memphis, Tennessee; but the remembrance of this awful tragedy haunted my mind, and even my dreams, for many months.
Reuben was the son of old Uncle Reuben and Aunt Dinah, and had been swopped away when about twelve years old to William Steele, for a pair of horses and a splendid carriage. Like his father and mother he was very religious, and I had often been to his prayer meetings, where poor Reuben would exhort and preach. Mr. Cobb had made him a class-leader long before he died; and, in fact, we all reverenced Reuben after the death of his father as the most moderate and gifted man amongst us. I had always loved Reuben, but never knew how much until that fatal day. After I went to Memphis I composed some verses on the life and death of Reuben, which run as follows:—
Poor Reuben he fell at his post, He's gone; Like Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, Poor Reuben's gone away. He's gone where pleasure never dies, He's gone, In the golden chariot to the skies, Poor Reuben's gone away.
For many years he faced the storm, He's gone; And the cruel lash he suffered long; Poor Reuben's gone away. But now he's left the land of death, He's gone; And entered heaven's happiness; Poor Reuben's gone away.
His friends he bid a long adieu, He's gone; When heaven opened to his view, Poor Reuben's gone away; His pain and sorrow of heart are passed, He's gone; He arrived in heaven just safe at last; Poor Reuben's gone away.
Poor Sally, his wife, lays by his side, He's gone; For whom poor Reuben so nobly died; Poor Reuben's gone away; A mournful look on her he cast, He's gone, Five minutes before he breathed his last, Poor Reuben's gone away.
In Jordan the angel heard him cry, He's gone; Elijah's chariot was passing by, Poor Reuben's gone away; His body lays in the earth quite cold, He's gone, But now he walks in the streets of gold, Poor Reuben's gone away.
After working in Tennessee three years and seven months, my master hired me to Mr. Steele. This gentleman was going to New Orleans, and I was to act as his servant, but I contrived to get away from him, and went to the house of a free black, named Gibson, and after working four days on the levy (or wharf) I succeeded in secreting myself in a ship, well supplied by Mr. Gibson and friends with provisions, and in the middle hold under the cotton I remained until the ship arrived at New York; my being there was only known to two persons on board, the steward and the cook, both colored persons. When the vessel was docked in the pier thirty-eight, North river, I managed to make my way through the booby hatch on to the deck, and was not seen by the watchman on board who supposed I was a stranger, or what they call a "River Thief." I made a jump to escape over the bow and fell into the river; but before he could raise an alarm, I had reached the next dock, got out and made my way off as fast as possible. I wandered about the streets until morning, not knowing where to go, during which time my clothes had dried on my body. About ten o'clock in the forenoon I met with a colored man named Grundy, who took me to his house, and gave me something to eat, and enquired where I came from and where I belonged; I hesitated about telling my true situation, but after considerable conversation with him, I ventured to confide in him, and when I had given him, all the particulars, he took me to the underground Railway office and introduced me to the officials, who having heard my story determined to send me to Canada, forty dollars being raised to find me clothes, and pay my fare to Toronto, but I was only taken to Utica, in the State of New York, where I agreed to stop with Mr. Cleveland and coachman.
In November I was sent to Post-street on an errand, where I saw my master, who laid hold of me, and called to his aid a dozen more, when I was taken before a magistrate, and that night I was placed in prison, and next day brought before a court, and ordered to be given up to my master. I was taken back to prison that afternoon, and irons placed on my ancles, and hand-cuffed; but, previous to leaving, Mr. Cleveland and family came to take a kind leave of me, and gave me religious advice and encouragement, telling me to put my trust in the Lord, and I was much affected at his little girl, who, when I was placed in the waggon screamed and cried as if she would fall into fits, telling her father to have me brought back, for these men intended to murder me. The waggon drove to the railway depot, and I was placed in the cars, and at three o'clock we started for Buffalo, where I was placed on the steam boat "Milwaukie," for Chicago, Illinois, on Lake Erie. The next night I arrived in Cleveland, and was taken from the boat, and placed in prison, until my master was ready to proceed. While in prison a complaint was made that a fugitive slave was placed in irons, contrary to the law of the state of Ohio, and after investigation, my irons were ordered to be taken off. On the Monday following I was taken on board the steam boat "Sultana" bound for Sandusky, Ohio, and on my way there, the Black people, in large numbers, made an attempt to rescue me, and so desperate was the attack, that several officers were wounded, and the attempt failed. I was placed in the cabin, and at dinner time the steam boat started, and had about half a mile to go before she got into the lake, and, on the way, the captain came down to me, and cautiously asked me if I could swim—I answered I could, when he told me to stand close by a window, which he pointed out, and when the paddle wheels ceased I must jump out. I stood ready, and as soon as the wheels ceased I made a spring and jumped into the water, and after going a short distance, I looked up and saw the captain standing on the promenade deck, who, when he saw I was clear of the wheels, waved a signal for the engineer to start the vessel. I had much difficulty in preventing myself from being drawn back by the suction of the wheels, and before I had gone far I saw my master and heard him shout, "Here, here, stop captain; yonder goes my nigger," which was echoed by shouts from the passengers; but the boat continued her course, while I made my way as fast as possible to Cleveland lighthouse, where I arrived in safety, and received by an innumerable company of both blacks and whites. I was then sent to a place called Oberlin, where I remained a week, and from there I went to Zanesville, Ohio, where I stopped for four months, when I was taken up on suspicion of breaking the windows of a store, and while in prison I was seen by a Mr. Donelson, who declared to the keeper that I belonged to him. I knew him well as the father-in-law of Mr. Steel, with whom I travelled to New Orleans. He was also a methodist minister. He had me discharged by paying the damage, and making affidavit that I was his slave, I was placed in prison, and kept in two weeks, when I was brought before the court for trial; and Mr. Donelson procured papers showing that he had purchased me as a runaway. I therefore saw it was of no use prolonging the matter, and I acknowledged myself. I was then taken and put into the stage and taken to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I was placed upon the steam boat, Pike, No. 3, to be taken to Louisville, Kentucky, and there placed in prison a week, and on Thursday brought out to auction and sold to Mr. Silas Wheelbanks for 1,050 dollars, with whom I remained about twelve months, and acted as coachman and waiting in the house. Upon a Saturday evening, my master came and told me to make my carriage and horses so that he could see his face in them, and be ready to take my young mistress, Mary, down to Centreville, to see her grandmother. So I prepared my horses and carriage, and on Monday was ready. The lady got in, and when about seven miles I drove into a blind road, distant about two miles from any house, where I made the horses stand still, and I ordered Miss Mary to get out: and when she asked me why, I thundered out at the top of my voice, "Get out, and ask no questions." She commenced crying, and asked if I was going to kill her. I said "No, if she made no noise," I helped her out, and having no rope, I took her shawl and fastened her to a tree by the roadside; and for fear she should untie the knot and spread the alarm, I took off her veil, and with it tied her hands behind her. I then mounted the box, and drove off in the direction of Lexington, and at a place called Elton I stripped the horses of their harness and let them go. I made my way to Louisville and arrived about 7 o'clock in the evening. I walked about the dock until Pike No. 3, the same vessel before spoken of, was nearly ready for starting and I got a gentleman's trunk on my shoulder and went on board, and when I had been paid six cents for carrying the trunk I watched a chance, and jumped down the cotton hold and stowed myself away among the cotton bags and the next day was in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I arrived about daylight in the morning. I waited until the passangers had left the boat and saw neither officer nor engineer about when I ventured to go on shore. On starting up the hill I met my master's nephew, who at once seized hold of me, and a sharp struggle ensued. He called for help but I threw him and caught a stone and struck him on the head, which caused him to let go, when I ran away as fast my legs could carry me, pursued by a numerous crowd, crying "stop thief." I mounted a fence in the street, and ran though an alley into an Irishman's yard, and through his house, knocking over the Irishman's wife and child, and the chair on which she sat, the husband at the time sat eating at the table, jumped into a cellar on the opposite side of the street without being seen by any one, I made my way into the back cellar and went up the chimney, where I sat till dark, and at night came down and slept in the cellar. In the morning the servant girl came down into the cellar, and when I saw she was black I thought it would be best to make myself known to her, which I did, and she told me I had better remain where I was and keep quiet, and she would go and tell Mr. Nickins, one of the agents of the underground Railway. She brought me down a bowl of coffee and some bread and meat, which I relished very much, and that night she opened the cellar door gently, and called to me to come out, and introduced me to Mr. Nickins and two others, who took me to a house in Sixth street, where I remained until the next night, when they dressed me in female's clothes, and I was taken to the railway depot in a carriage—was put in the car, and sent to Cleveland, Ohio where I was placed on board a steam boat called the Indiana, and carried down Lake Erie to the city of Buffalo, New York, and the next day placed on the car for the Niagara Falls, and received by a gentleman named Jones, who took me in his carriage to a place called Lewiston, where I was placed on board a steamboat called Chief Justice Robinson. I was furnished with a ticket and twelve dollars. Three hours after starting I was in Toronto, Upper Canada, where I lived for three years and sang my song of deliverance,—
* * * * *
WHAT THE "TIMES" SAID OF THE SECESSION IN 1861
(From the Liverpool Daily Post, Feb. 3, 1863.)
The following article appeared as a "Leader" in the Times on the 7th of January, 1861:—
"The State of South Carolina has seceded from the Union by a unanimous vote of her legislature, and it now remains to be seen whether any of the other Southern States will follow her example, and what course the Federal authorities will pursue under the circumstances. While we wait for further information on these points, it may be well to consider once again the cause of quarrel which has thus begun to rend asunder the mightiest confederation which the world has yet beheld. One of the prevalent delusions of the age in which we live is to regard democracy as equivalent to liberty, and the attribution of power to the poorest and worst educated citizens of the State as a certain way to promote the purest liberality of thought and the most beneficial course of action. Let those who hold this opinion examine the quarrel at present raging in the United States, and they will be aware that democracy, like other forms of government, may co-exist with any course of action or any set of principles. Between North and South there is at this moment raging a controversy which goes as deep as any controversy can into the elementary principles of human nature and the sympathies and antipathies which in so many men supply the place of reason and reflection. The North is for freedom, the South is for slavery. The North is for freedom of discussion, the South represses freedom of discussion with the tar-brush and the pine fagot. Yet the North and South are both democracies—nay, possess almost exactly similar institutions, with this enormous divergence in theory and practice. It is not democracy that has made the North the advocate of freedom, or the South the advocate of slavery. Democracy is a quality which appears on both sides, and may therefore be rejected, as having no influence over the result. From the sketch of the history of slavery which was furnished us by our correspondent in New York last week, we learn that at the time of the American Revolution slavery existed in every State in the Union except Massachusetts; but we also learn that the great men who directed that revolution—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Patrick Henry, and Hamilton—were unanimous in execrating the practice of slavery, and looked forward to the time when it would cease to contaminate the soil of free America. The abolition of the slave trade, which subsequently followed, was regarded by its warmest advocates as not only beneficial in itself, but as a long step towards the extinction of slavery altogether, it was not foreseen that certain free and democratic communities would arise which would apply themselves to the honourable office of breeding slaves, to be consumed on the free and democratic plantations of the South, and of thus replacing the African slave trade by an internal traffic in human flesh, carried on under circumstances of almost equal atrocity through the heart of a free and democratic nation. Democracy has verily a strong digestion, and one not to be interfered with by trifles.
"But the most melancholy part of the matter is, that during the seventy years for which the American confederacy has existed, the whole tone of sentiment with regard to slavery has, in the Southern States at least, undergone a remarkable change. Slavery used to be treated as a thoroughly exceptional institution—as an evil legacy of evil times—as a disgrace to a constitution founded on the natural freedom and independence of mankind. There was hardly a political leader of any note who had not some plan for its abolition. Jefferson himself, the greatest chief of the democracy, had in the early part of this century speculated deeply on the subject; but the United States became possessed of Louisiana and Florida, they have conquered Texas, they have made Arkansas and Missouri into States; and these successive acquisitions have altered entirely the view with which slavery is regarded. Perhaps as much as anything, from the long license enjoyed by the editors of the South of writing what they pleased in favour of slavery, with the absolute certainty that no one would be found bold enough to write anything on the other side, and thus make himself a mark for popular vengeance, the subject has come to be written on in a tone of ferocious and cynical extravagance, which is to an European eye absolutely appalling. The South has become enamoured of her shame. Free labour is denounced as degrading and disgraceful; the honest triumphs of the poor man who works his way to independence are treated with scorn and contempt. It is asserted that what we are in the habit of regarding as the honorable pursuits of industry incapacitate a nation for civilisation and refinement, and that no institutions can be really free and democratic which do not rest, like those of Athens and of Rome, on a broad substratum of slavery. So far from treating slavery as an exceptional institution, it is regarded by these Democratic philosophers as the natural state of a great portion of the human race; and, so far from admitting that America ought to look forward to its extinction, it is contended that the property in human creatures ought to be as universal as the property in land or in tame animals.