PERSONAL MEMOIR Of DANIEL DRAYTON,
For Four Years And Four Months
A PRISONER (FOR CHARITY'S SAKE) IN WASHINGTON JAIL
Including A Narrative Of The
VOYAGE AND CAPTURE OF THE SCHOONER PEARL.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, In the year 1853, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts
Considering the large share of the public attention which the case of the schooner Pearl attracted at the time of its occurrence, perhaps the following narrative of its origin, and of its consequences to himself, by the principal actor in it, may not be without interest. It is proper to state that a large share of the profits of the sale are secured to Captain Drayton, the state of whose health incapacitates him from any laborious employment.
I was born in the year 1802, in Cumberland County, Downs Township, in the State of New Jersey, on the shores of Nantuxet Creek, not far from Delaware Bay, into which that creek flows. My father was a farmer,—not a very profitable occupation in that barren part of the country. My mother was a widow at the time of her marriage with my father, having three children by a former husband. By my father she had six more, of whom I was the youngest but one. She was a woman of strong mind and marked character, a zealous member of the Methodist church; and, although I had the misfortune to lose her at an early age, her instructions—though the effect was not apparent at the moment—made a deep impression on my youthful mind, and no doubt had a very sensible influence over my future life.
Just previous to, or during the war with Great Britain, my father removed still nearer to the shore of the bay, and the sight of the vessels passing up and down inspired me with a desire to follow the life of a waterman; but it was some years before I was able to gratify this wish. I well remember the alarm created in our neighborhood by the incursions of the British vessels up the bay during the war, and that, at these times, the women of the neighborhood used to collect at our house, as if looking up to my mother for counsel and guidance.
I was only twelve years old when this good mother died; but, so strong was the impression which she left upon my memory, that, amid the struggles and dangers and cares of my subsequent life, I have seldom closed my eyes to sleep without some thought or image of her.
As my father soon after married another widow, with four small children, it became necessary to make room in the house for their accommodation; and, with a younger brother of mine, I was bound out an apprentice in a cotton and woollen factory at a place called Cedarville. Manufactures were just then beginning to be introduced into the country, and great hopes were entertained of them as a profitable business. My employer,—or bos, as we called him,—had formerly been a schoolmaster, and he did not wholly neglect our instructions in other things besides cotton-spinning. Of this I stood greatly in need; for there were no public schools in the neighborhood in which I was born, and my parents had too many children to feed and clothe to be able to pay much for schooling. We were required on Sundays, by our employer, to learn two lessons, one in the forenoon, the other in the afternoon; after reciting which we were left at liberty to roam at our pleasure. Winter evenings we worked in the factory till nine o'clock, after which, and before going to bed, we were required to recite over one of our lessons These advantages of education were not great, but even these I soon lost. Within five months from the time I was bound to him, my employer died. The factories were then sold out to three partners. The one who carried on the cotton-spinning took me; but he soon gave up the business, and went back to farming, which had been his original occupation. I remained with him for a year and a half, or thereabouts, when my father bound me out apprentice to a shoe-maker.
My new bos was, in some respects, a remarkable man, but not a very good sort of one for a boy to be bound apprentice to. He paid very little attention to his business, which he seemed to think unworthy of his genius. He was a kind-hearted man, fond of company and frolics, in which he indulged himself freely, and much given to speeches and harangues, in which he had a good deal of fluency. In religion he professed to be a Universalist, holding to doctrines and opinions very different from those which my mother had instilled into me. He ridiculed those opinions, and argued against them, but without converting me to his way of thinking; though, as far as practice went, I was ready enough to imitate his example. My Sundays were spent principally in taverns, playing at dominos, which then was, and still is, a favorite game in that part of the country; and, as the unsuccessful party was expected to treat, I at times ran up a bill at the bar as high as four or six dollars,—no small indebtedness for a young apprentice with no more means than I had.
As I grew older this method of living grew less and less satisfactory to me; and as I saw that no good of any kind, not even a knowledge of the trade he had undertaken to teach me, was to be got of my present bos, I bought my time of him, and went to work with another man to pay for it. Before I had succeeded in doing that, and while I was not yet nineteen, I took upon myself the still further responsibility of marriage. This was a step into which I was led rather by the impulse of youthful passion than by any thoughtful foresight. Yet it had at least this advantage, that it obliged me to set diligently to work to provide for the increasing family which I soon found growing up around me.
I had never liked the shoe-making business, to which my father had bound me an apprentice. I had always desired to follow the water. The vessels which I had seen sailing up and down the Delaware Bay still haunted my fancy; and I engaged myself as cook on board a sloop, employed in carrying wood from Maurice river to Philadelphia. Promotion in this line is sufficiently rapid; for in four months, after commencing as cook, I rose to be captain. This wood business, in which I remained for two years, is carried on by vessels of from thirty to sixty tons, known as bay-craft. They are built so as to draw but little water, which is their chief distinction from the coasters, which are fit for the open sea. They will carry from twenty-five to fifty cords of wood, on which a profit is expected of a dollar and upwards. They have usually about three hands, the captain, or skipper, included. The men used to be hired, when I entered the business, for eight or ten dollars the month, but they now get nearly or quite twice as much. The captain usually sails the vessel on shares (unless he is himself owner in whole, or in part), victualling the vessel and hiring the men, and paying over to the owner forty dollars out of every hundred. During the winter, from December to March, the navigation is impeded by ice, and the bay-craft seldom run. The men commonly spend this long vacation in visiting, husking-frolics, rabbiting, and too often in taverns, to the exhaustion of their purses, the impoverishment of their families, and the sacrifice of their sobriety. Yet the watermen, if many of them are not able always to resist the temptations held out to them, are in general an honest and simple-hearted set, though with little education, and sometimes rather rough in their manners. The extent of my education when I took to the water—and in this respect I was not, perhaps, much inferior to the generality of my brother watermen—was to read with no great fluency, and to sign my name; nor did I ever learn much more than this till my residence in Washington jail, to be related hereafter.
Having followed the wood business for two years, I aspired to something a little higher, and obtained the command of a sloop engaged in the coasting business, from Philadelphia southward and eastward. At this time a sloop of sixty tons was considered a very respectable coaster. The business is now mostly carried on by vessels of a larger class; some of them, especially the regular lines of packets, being very handsome and expensive. The terms on which these coasters were sailed were very similar to those already stated in the case of the bay-craft. The captain victualled the vessel, and paid the hands, and received for his share half the net profits, after deducting the extra expenses of loading and unloading. It was in this coasting business that the best years of my life were spent, during which time I visited most of the ports and rivers between Savannah southward, and St. John, in the British province of New Brunswick, eastward;—those two places forming the extreme limits of my voyagings. As Philadelphia was the port from and to which I sailed, I presently found it convenient to remove my family thither, and there they continued to live till after my release from the Washington prison.
I was so successful in my new business, that, besides supporting my family, I was able to become half owner of the sloop Superior, at an expense of over a thousand dollars, most of which I paid down. But this proved a very unfortunate investment. On her second trip after I had bought into her, returning from Baltimore to Philadelphia by the way of the Delaware and Chesapeake canal, while off the mouth of the Susquehannah, she struck, as I suppose, a sunken tree, brought down by a heavy freshet in that river. The water flowed fast into the cabin. It was in vain that I attempted to run her ashore. She sunk in five minutes. The men saved themselves in the boat, which was on deck, and which floated as she went down. I stood by the rudder till the last, and stepped off it into the boat, loath enough to leave my vessel, on which there was no insurance.
By this unfortunate accident I lost everything except the clothes I had on, and was obliged to commence anew. I accordingly obtained the command of the new sloop Sarah Henry, of seventy tons burden, and continued to sail her for several years, on shares. While in her I made a voyage to Savannah; and while under sail from that city for Charleston, I was taken with the yellow fever. I lay for a week quite unconscious of anything that was going on about me and came as near dying as a man could do and escape. The religious instructions of my mother had from time to time recurred to my mind, and had occasioned me some anxiety. I was now greatly alarmed at the idea of dying in my sins, from which I seemed to have escaped so narrowly. My mind was possessed with this fear; and, to relieve myself from it, I determined, if it were a possible thing, to get religion at any rate. The idea of religion in which I had been educated was that of a sudden, miraculous change, in which a man felt himself relieved from the burden of his sins, united to God, and made a new creature. For this experience I diligently sought, and tried every way to get it. I set up family prayers in my house, went to meetings, and conversed with experienced members of the church; but, for nine months or more, all to no purpose. At length I got into an awful state, beginning to think that I had been so desperate a sinner that there was no forgiveness for me. While I was in this miserable condition, I heard of a camp-meeting about to be held on Cape May, and I immediately resolved to attend it, and to leave no stone unturned to accomplish the object which I had so much at heart. I went accordingly, and yielded myself entirely up to the dictation of those who had the control of the meeting. I did in everything as I was told; went into the altar, prayed, and let them pray over me. This went on for several days without any result. One evening, as I approached the altar, and was looking into it, I met a captain of my acquaintance, and asked him what he thought of these proceedings; and, as he seemed to approve them, I invited him to go into the altar with me. We both went in accordingly, and knelt down. Pretty soon my friend got up and walked away, saying he had got religion. I did not find it so easily. I remained at the altar, praying, till after the meeting broke up, and even till one o'clock,—a few acquaintances and others remaining with me, and praying round me, and over me, and for me;—till, at last, thinking that I had done everything I could, I told them pray no more, as evidently there was no forgiveness for me. So I withdrew to a distance, and sat down upon an old tree, lamenting my hard case very seriously. I was sure I had committed the unpardonable sin. A friend, who sat down beside me, and of whom I inquired what he supposed the unpardonable sin was, endeavored comfort me by suggesting that, whatever it might be, it would take more sense and learning than ever I had to commit it. But I would not enter into his merriment. All the next day, which was Sunday, I passed in a most miserable state. I went into the woods alone. I did not think myself worthy or fit to associate with those who had religion, while I was anxious to avoid the company of those who made light of it. Sometimes I would sit down, sometimes I would stand up, sometimes I would walk about. Frequently I prayed, but found no comfort in it.
About sun-set I met a friend, who said to me, "Well, our camp-meeting is about ended." What a misery those few words struck to my heart! "About ended!" I said to myself; "about ended, and I not converted!" A little later, as I was passing along the camp-ground, I saw a woman before me kneeling and praying. An acquaintance of mine, who was approaching her in an opposite direction, called out to me, "Daniel, help me pray for this woman!" I had made up my mind to make one more effort, and I knelt down and commenced praying; but quite as much for myself as for her. Others gathered about us and joined in, and the interest and excitement became so great, that, after a vain effort to call us off, the regular services of the evening were dispensed with, and the ground was left to us. Things went on in this way till about nine o'clock, when, as suddenly as if I had been struck a heavy blow, I felt a remarkable change come over me. All my fears and terrors seemed to be instantaneously removed, and my whole soul to be filled with joy and peace. This was the sort of change which I had been taught to look for as the consequence of getting that religion for which I had been struggling so hard. I instantly rose up, and told those about me that I was a converted man; and from that moment I was able to sing and shout and pray with the best of them. In the midst of my exultation who should come up but my old master in the shoe-making trade, of whom I have already given some account. He had heard that I was on the camp-ground in pursuit of religion, and had come to find me out. "Daniel," he said, addressing me by my Christian name, "what are you doing here? Don't make a fool of yourself." To which I answered, that I had got to be just such a fool as I had long wanted to be; and I took him by the arm, and endeavored to prevail upon him to kneel down and allow us to pray over him, assuring him that I knew his convictions to be much better than his conduct; that he must get religion, and now was the time. But he drew back, and escaped from me, with promises to do better, which, however, he did not keep.
As for myself, considering, and, as I thought, feeling that I was a converted man, I now enjoyed for some time an extraordinary satisfaction, a sort of offset to the months of agony and misery which I had previously endured. But, though regarding myself as now truly converted, I delayed some time before uniting myself with any particular church. I did not know which to join. This division into so many hostile sects seemed to me unaccountable. I thought that all good Christians should love each other, and be as one family. Yet it seemed necessary to unite myself with some body of Christians; and, as I had been educated a Methodist, I concluded to join them.
I have given the account of my religious experience exactly as it seemed to me at the time, and as I now remember it. It corresponded with the common course of religious experiences in the Methodist church, except that with me the struggle was harder than commonly happens. I did not doubt at the time that it was truly a supernatural change, as much the work of the Spirit as the sudden conversions recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Others can form their own opinion about it. I will only add that subsequent experience has led me to the belief that the reality of a man's religion is more to be judged of by what he does than by how he feels or what he says.
The change which had taken place in me, however it is to be regarded, was not without a decided influence on my whole future life. I no longer considered myself as living for myself alone. I regarded myself as bound to do unto others as I would that they should do unto me; and it was in attempting to act up to this principle that I became involved in the difficulties to be hereafter related.
Meanwhile I resumed my voyages in the Sarah Henry, in which I continued to sail, on shares, for several years, with tolerable success. Afterwards I followed the same business in the schooner Protection, in which I suffered another shipwreck. We sailed from Philadelphia to Washington, in the District of Columbia, laden with coal, proceeding down the Delaware, and by the open sea; but, when off the entrance of the Chesapeake, we encountered a heavy gale, which split the sails, swept the decks, and drove us off our course as far south as Ocracoke Inlet, on the coast of North Carolina. I took a pilot, intending to go in to repair damages; but, owing to the strength of the current, which defeated his calculations, the pilot ran us on the bar. As soon as the schooner's bow touched the ground, she swung round broadside to the sea, which immediately began to break over her in a fearful manner. She filled immediately,—everything on deck was swept away; and, as our only chance of safety, we took to the main-rigging. This was about seven o'clock in the evening. Towards morning, by reason of the continual thumping, the mainmast began to work through the vessel, and to settle in the sand, so that it became necessary for us to make our way to the fore-rigging; which we did, not without danger, as one of the men was twice washed off.
About a quarter of a mile inside was a small, low island, on which lay five boats, each manned by five men, who had come down to our assistance; but the surf was so high that they did not venture to approach us; so we remained clinging with difficulty to the rigging till about half-past one, when the schooner went to pieces. The mast to which we were clinging fell, and we were precipitated into the raging surf, which swept us onward towards the island already mentioned. The men there, anticipating what had happened, had prepared for its occurrence; and the best swimmers, with ropes tied round their waists, the other end of which was held by those on shore, plunged in to our assistance. One of our unfortunate company was drowned,—the rest of us came safely to the shore; but we lost everything except the clothes we stood in. The fragments saved from the wreck were sold at auction for two hundred dollars. The people of that neighborhood treated us with great kindness, and we presently took the packet for Elizabeth city, whence I proceeded to Norfolk, Baltimore, and so home.
I had made up my mind to go to sea no more; but, after remaining on shore for three weeks, and not finding anything else to do, as it was necessary for me to have the means of supporting my increasing family, I took the command of another vessel, belonging to the same owners, the sloop Joseph B. While in this vessel, my voyages were to the eastward. I was engaged in the flour-trade, in conjunction with the owners of the vessel. We bought flour and grain on a sixty days' credit, which I carried to the Kennebec, Portsmouth, Boston, New Bedford, and other eastern ports, calculating upon the returns of the voyage to take up our notes. I was so successful in this business as finally to become the owner of the Joseph B., which vessel I exchanged away at Portsmouth for the Sophronia, a top-sail schooner of one hundred and sixty tons, worth about fourteen hundred dollars. In this vessel I made two trips to Boston,—one with coal, and the other with timber. Having unloaded my timber, I took in a hundred tons of plaster, purchased on my own account, intending to dispose of it in the Susquehanna. But on the passage I encountered a heavy storm, which blew the masts out of the vessel, and drove her ashore on the south side of Long Island. We saved our lives; but I lost everything except one hundred and sixty dollars, for which I sold what was left of the vessel and cargo.
Having returned to my family, with but little disposition to try my fortune again in the coasting-trade, one day, being in the horse-market, I purchased a horse and wagon; and, taking in my wife and some of the younger children, I went to pay a visit to the neighborhood in which I was born. Here I traded for half of a bay-craft, of about sixty tons burden, in which I engaged in the oyster-trade, and other small bay-traffic. Having met at Baltimore the owner of the other half, I bought him out also. The whole craft stood me in about seven hundred dollars. I then purchased three hundred bushels of potatoes, with which I sailed for Fredericksburg, in Virginia; but this proved a losing trip, the potatoes not selling for what they cost me. At Fredericksburg I took in flour on freight for Norfolk; but my ill-luck still pursued me. In unloading the vessel, the cargo forward being first taken out, she settled by the stern and sprang a leak, damaging fifteen barrels of flour, which were thrown upon my hands. I then sailed for the eastern shore of Virginia, and at a place called Cherrystone traded off my damaged flour for a cargo of pears, with which I sailed for New York. I proceeded safely as far as Barnegat, when I encountered a north-east storm, which drove me back into the Delaware, obliging me to seek refuge in the same Maurice river from which I had commenced my sea-faring life in the wood business. But by this time the pears were spoiled, and I was obliged to throw them overboard. At Cherrystone I had met the owner of a pilot-boat, who had seemed disposed to trade with me for my vessel; and I now returned to that place, and completed the trade; after which I loaded the pilot-boat with oysters and terrapins, and sailed for Philadelphia. This boat was an excellent sailer, but too sharp, and not of burden enough for my business; and I soon exchanged her for half a little sloop, in which I carried a load of water-melons to Baltimore.
By this time I was pretty well sick of the water; and, having hired out the sloop, I set up a shop, at Philadelphia, for the purchase and sale of junk, old iron, &c. &c. But, after continuing in this business for about two years,—my health being bad, and the doctor having advised me to try the water again,—I bought half of another sloop, and engaged in trading up and down Chesapeake Bay. Returning home, towards the close of the season, with the proceeds of the summer's business, I encountered, in the upper part of Chesapeake Bay, a terrible snow-storm which proved fatal to many vessels then in the bay. In attempting to make a harbor, the vessel struck the ground, and knocked off her rudder; and, in order to get her off, we were obliged to throw over the deck-load. We drifted about all day, it still blowing and snowing, and at night let go both anchors. So we lay for a night and a day; but, having neither boat, rudder nor provisions, I was finally obliged to slip the anchors and run ashore. I sold my half of her, as she lay, for ninety dollars, which was all that remained to me of my investment and my summer's work.
Not having the means to purchase a boat, my health also continuing quite infirm, the next summer I hired one, and continued the same trade up and down the bay which I had followed the previous summer.
My trading up and down the bay, in the way which I have described, of course brought me a good deal into contact with the slave population. No sooner, indeed, does a vessel, known to be from the north, anchor in any of these waters—and the slaves are pretty adroit in ascertaining from what state a vessel comes—than she is boarded, if she remains any length of time, and especially over night, by more or less of them, in hopes of obtaining a passage in her to a land of freedom. During my earlier voyagings, several years before, in Chesapeake Bay, I had turned a deaf ear to all these requests. At that time, according to an idea still common enough, I had regarded the negroes as only fit to be slaves, and had not been inclined to pay much attention to the pitiful tales which they told me of ill-treatment by their masters and mistresses. But my views upon this subject had undergone a gradual change. I knew it was asserted in the Declaration of Independence that all men are born free and equal, and I had read in the Bible that God had made of one flesh all the nations of the earth. I had found out, by intercourse with the negroes, that they had the same desires, wishes and hopes, as myself. I knew very well that I should not like to be a slave even to the best of masters, and still less to such sort of masters as the greater part of the slaves seemed to have. The idea of having first one child and then another taken from me, as fast as they grew large enough, and handed over to the slave-traders, to be carried I knew not where, and sold, if they were girls, I knew not for what purposes, would have been horrible enough; and, from instances which came to my notice, I perceived that it was not less horrible and distressing to the parties concerned in the case of black people than of white ones. I had never read any abolition books, nor heard any abolition lectures. I had frequented only Methodist meetings, and nothing was heard there about slavery. But, for the life of me, I could not perceive why the golden rule of doing to others as you would wish them to do to you did not apply to this case. Had I been a slave myself,—and it is not a great while since the Algerines used to make slaves of our sailors, white as well as black,—I should have thought it very right and proper in anybody who would have ventured to assist me in escaping out of bondage; and the more dangerous it might have been to render such assistance, the more meritorious I should have thought the act to be. Why had not these black people, so anxious to escape from their masters, as good a light to their liberty as I had to mine?
I know it is sometimes said, by those who defend slavery or apologize for it, that the slaves at the south are very happy and contented, if left to themselves, and that this idea of running away is only put into their heads by mischievous white people from the north. This will do very well for those who know nothing of the matter personally, and who are anxious to listen to any excuse. But there is not a waterman who ever sailed in Chesapeake Bay who will not tell you that, so far from the slaves needing any prompting to run away, the difficulty is, when they ask you to assist them, to make them take no for an answer. I have known instances where men have lain in the woods for a year or two, waiting for an opportunity to escape on board some vessel. On one of my voyages up the Potomac, an application was made to me on behalf of such a runaway; and I was so much moved by his story, that, had it been practicable for me at that time, I should certainly have helped him off. One or two attempts I did make to assist the flight of some of those who sought my assistance; but none with success, till the summer of 1847, which is the period to which I have brought down my narrative.
I was employed during that summer, as I have mentioned already in trading up and down the Chesapeake, in a hired boat, a small black boy being my only assistant. Among other trips, I went to Washington with a cargo of oysters. While I was lying there, at the same wharf, as it happened, from which the Pearl afterwards took her departure, a colored man came on board, and, observing that I seemed to be from the north, he said he supposed we were pretty much all abolitionists there. I don't know where he got this piece of information, but I think it likely from some southern member of Congress. As I did not check him, but rather encouraged him to go on, he finally told me that he wanted to get passage to the north for a woman and five children. The husband of the woman, and father of the children, was a free colored man; and the woman, under an agreement with her master, had already more than paid for her liberty; but, when she had asked him for a settlement, he had only answered by threatening to sell her. He begged me to see the woman, which I did; and finally I made an arrangement to take them away. Their bedding, and other things, were sent down on board the vessel in open day, and at night the woman came on board with her five children and a niece. We were ten days in reaching Frenchtown, where the husband was in waiting for them. He took them under his charge, and I saw them no more; but, since my release from imprisonment in Washington, I have heard that the whole family are comfortably established in a free country, and doing well.
Having accomplished this exploit,—and was it not something of an exploit to bestow the invaluable gift of liberty upon seven of one's fellow-creatures—the season being now far advanced, I gave up the boat to the owner, and returned to my family at Philadelphia. In the course of the following month of February, I received a note from a person whom I had never known or heard of before, desiring me to call at a certain place named in it. I did so, when it appeared that I had been heard of through the colored family which I had brought off from Washington. A letter from that city was read to me, relating the case of a family or two who expected daily and hourly to be sold, and desiring assistance to get them away. It was proposed to me to undertake this enterprise; but I declined it at this time, as I had no vessel, and because the season was too early for navigation through the canal. I saw the same person again about a fortnight later, and finally arranged to go on to Washington, to see what could be done. There I agreed to return again so soon as I could find a vessel fit for the enterprise. I spoke with several persons of my acquaintance, who had vessels under their control; but they declined, on account of the danger. They did not appear to have any other objection, and seemed to wish me success. Passing along the street, I met Captain Sayres, and knowing that he was sailing a small bay-craft, called the Pearl, and learning from him that business was dull with him, I proposed the enterprise to him, offering him one hundred dollars for the charter of his vessel to Washington and back to Frenchtown where, according to the arrangement with the friends of the passengers, they were to be met and carried to Philadelphia. This was considerably more than the vessel could earn in any ordinary trip of the like duration, and Sayres closed with the offer. He fully understood the nature of the enterprise. By our bargain, I was to have, as supercargo, the control of the vessel so far as related to her freight, and was to bring away from Washington such passengers as I chose to receive on board; but the control of the vessel in other respects remained with him. Captain Sayres engaged in this enterprise merely as a matter of business. I, too, was to be paid for my time and trouble,—an offer which the low state of my pecuniary affairs, and the necessity of supporting my family, did not allow me to decline. But this was not, by any means, my sole or principal motive. I undertook it out of sympathy for the enslaved, and from my desire to do something to further the cause of universal liberty. Such being the different ground upon which Sayres and myself stood, I did not think it necessary or expedient to communicate to him the names of the persons with whom the expedition had originated; and, at my suggestion, those persons abstained from any direct communication with him, either at Philadelphia or Washington. Sayres had, as cook and sailor, on board the Pearl, a young man named Chester English. He was married, and had a child or two, but was himself as inexperienced as a child, having never been more than thirty miles from the place where he was born. I remonstrated with Sayres against taking this young man with us. But English, pleased with the idea of seeing Washington, desired to go; and Sayres, who had engaged him for the season, did not like to part with him. He went with us, but was kept in total ignorance of the real object of the voyage. He had the idea that we were going to Washington for a load of ship-timber.
We proceeded down the Delaware, and by the canal into the Chesapeake, making for the mouth of the Potomac. As we ascended that river we stopped at a place called Machudock, where I purchased, by way of cargo and cover to the voyage, twenty cords of wood; and with that freight on board we proceeded to Washington, where we arrived on the evening of Thursday, the 13th of April, 1848.
As it happened, we found that city in a great state of excitement on the subject of emancipation, liberty and the rights of man. A grand torch-light procession was on foot, in honor of the new French revolution, the expulsion of Louis-Philippe, and the establishment of a republic in France. Bonfires were blazing in the public squares, and a great out-door meeting was being held in front of the Union newspaper office, at which very enthusiastic and exciting speeches were delivered, principally by southern democratic members of Congress, which body was at that time in session. A full account of these proceedings, with reports of the speeches, was given in the Union of the next day. According to this report, Mr. Foote, the senator from Mississippi, extolled the French revolution as holding out "to the whole family of man a bright promise of the universal establishment of civil and religious liberty." He declared, in the same speech, "that the age of tyrants and of slavery was rapidly drawing to a close, and that the happy period to be signalized by the universal emancipation of man from the fetters of civic oppression, and the recognition in all countries of the great principles of popular sovereignty, equality and brotherhood, was at this moment visibly commencing." Mr. Stanton, of Tennessee, and others, spoke in a strain equally fervid and philanthropic. I am obliged to refer to the Union newspaper for an account of these speeches, as I did not hear them myself. I came to Washington, not to preach, nor to hear preached, emancipation, equality and brotherhood, but to put them into practice. Sayres and English went up to see the procession and hear the speeches. I had other things to attend to.
The news of my arrival soon spread among those who had been expecting it, though I neither saw nor had any direct communication with any of those who were to be my passengers. I had some difficulty in disposing of my wood, which was not a very first-rate article, but finally sold it, taking in payment the purchaser's note on sixty days, which I changed off for half cash and half provisions. As the trader to whom I passed the note had no hard bread, Sayres and myself went in the steamer to Alexandria to purchase a barrel,—a circumstance of which it was afterwards attempted to take advantage against us.
It was arranged that the passengers should come on board after dark on Saturday evening, and that we should sail about midnight. I had understood that the expedition, had principally originated in the desire to help off a certain family, consisting of a woman, nine children and two grand-children, who were believed to be legally entitled to their liberty. Their case had been in litigation for some time; but, although they had a very good case,—the lawyer whom they employed (Mr. Bradley, one of the most distinguished members of the bar of the district) testified, in the course of one of my trials, that he believed them to be legally free,—yet, as their money was nearly exhausted, and as there seemed to be no end to the law's delay and the pertinacity of the woman who claimed them, it was deemed best by their friends that they should get away if they could, lest she might seize them unawares, and sell them to some trader. In speaking of this case, the person with whom I communicated at Washington informed me that there were also quite a number of others who wished to avail themselves of this opportunity of escaping, and that the number of passengers was likely to be larger than had at first been calculated upon. To which I replied, that I did not stand about the number; that all who were on board before eleven o'clock I should take,—the others would have to remain behind.
Saturday evening, at supper, I let English a little into the secret of what I intended. I told him that the sort of ship-timber we were going to take would prove very easy to load and unload; that a number of colored people wished to take passage with us down the bay, and that, as Sayres and myself would be away the greater part of the evening, all he had to do was, as fast as they came on board, to lift up the hatch and let them pass into the hold, shutting the hatch down upon them. The vessel, which we had moved down the river since unloading the wood, lay at a rather lonely place, called White-house Wharf, from a whitish-colored building which stood upon it. The high bank of the river, under which a road passed, afforded a cover to the wharf, and there were only a few scattered buildings in the vicinity. Towards the town there stretched a wide extent of open fields. Anxious, as might naturally be expected, as to the result, I kept in the vicinity to watch the progress of events. There was another small vessel that lay across the head of the same wharf, but her crew were all black; and, going on board her just at dusk, I informed the skipper of my business, intimating to him, at the same time, that it would be a dangerous thing for him to betray me. He assured me that I need have no fears of him—that the other men would soon leave the vessel, not to return again till Monday, and that, for himself, he should go below and to sleep, so as neither to hear nor to see anything.
Shortly after dark the expected passengers began to arrive, coming stealthily across the fields, and gliding silently on board the vessel. I observed a man near a neighboring brick-kiln, who seemed to be watching them. I went towards him, and found him to be black. He told me that he understood what was going on, but that I need have no apprehension of him. Two white men, who walked along the road past the vessel, and who presently returned back the same way, occasioned me some alarm; but they seemed to have no suspicions of what was on foot, as I saw no more of them. I went on board the vessel several times in the course of the evening, and learned from English that the hold was fast filling up. I had promised him, in consideration of the unusual nature of the business we were engaged in, ten dollars as a gratuity, in addition to his wages.
Something past ten o'clock, I went on board, and directed English to cast off the fastenings and to get ready to make sail. Pretty soon Sayres came on board. It was a dead calm, and we were obliged to get the boat out to get the vessel's head round. After dropping down a half a mile or so, we encountered the tide making up the river; and, as there was still no wind, we were obliged to anchor. Here we lay in a dead calm till about daylight. The wind then began to breeze up lightly from the northward, when we got up the anchor and made sail. As the sun rose, we passed Alexandria. I then went into the hold for the first time, and there found my passengers pretty thickly stowed. I distributed bread among them, and knocked down the bulkhead between the hold and the cabin, in order that they might get into the cabin to cook. They consisted of men and women, in pretty equal proportions, with a number of boys and girls, and two small children. The wind kept increasing and hauling to the westward. Off Fort Washington we had to make two stretches, but the rest of the way we run before the wind.
Shortly after dinner, we passed the steamer from Baltimore for Washington, bound up. I thought the passengers on board took particular notice of us; but the number of vessels met with in a passage up the Potomac at that season is so few, as to make one, at least for the idle passengers of a steamboat, an object of some curiosity. Just before sunset, we passed a schooner loaded with plaster, bound up. As we approached the mouth of the Potomac, the wind hauled to the north, and blew with such stiffness as would make it impossible for us to go up the bay, according to our original plan. Under these circumstances, apprehending a pursuit from Washington, I urged Sayres to go to sea, with the intention of reaching the Delaware by the outside passage. But he objected that the vessel was not fit to go outside (which was true enough), and that the bargain was to go to Frenchtown. Having reached Point Lookout, at the mouth of the river, and not being able to persuade Sayres to go to sea, and the wind being dead in our teeth, and too strong to allow any attempt to ascend the bay, we came to anchor in Cornfield harbor, just under Point Lookout, a shelter usually sought by bay-craft encountering contrary winds when in that neighborhood.
We were all sleepy with being up all the night before, and, soon after dropping anchor, we all turned in. I knew nothing more till, waking suddenly, I heard the noise of a steamer blowing off steam alongside of us. I knew at once that we were taken. The black men came to the cabin, and asked if they should fight. I told them no; we had no arms, nor was there the least possibility of a successful resistance. The loud shouts and trampling of many feet overhead proved that our assailants were numerous. One of them lifted the hatch a little, and cried out, "Niggers, by G—d!" an exclamation to which the others responded with three cheers, and by banging the buts of their muskets against the deck. A lantern was called for, to read the name of the vessel; and it being ascertained to be the Pearl, a number of men came to the cabin-door, and called for Captain Drayton. I was in no great hurry to stir; but at length rose from my berth, saying that I considered myself their prisoner, and that I expected to be treated as such. While I was dressing, rather too slowly for the impatience of those outside, a sentinel, who had been stationed at the cabin-door, followed every motion of mine with his gun, which he kept pointed at me, in great apprehension, apparently, lest I should suddenly seize some dangerous weapon and make at him. As I came out of the cabin-door, two of them seized me, took me on board the steamer and tied me; and they did the same with Sayres and English, who were brought on board, one after the other. The black people were left on board the Pearl, which the steamer took in tow, and then proceeded up the river.
To explain this sudden change in our situation, it is necessary to go back to Washington. Great was the consternation in several families of that city, on Sunday morning, to find no breakfast, and, what was worse, their servants missing. Nor was this disaster confined to Washington only. Georgetown came in for a considerable share of it, and even Alexandria, on the opposite side of the river, had not entirely escaped. The persons who had taken passage on board the Pearl had been held in bondage by no less than forty-one different persons. Great was the wonder at the sudden and simultaneous disappearance of so many "prime hands," roughly estimated, though probably with considerable exaggeration, as worth in the market not less than a hundred thousand dollars,—and all at "one fell swoop" too, as the District Attorney afterwards, in arguing the case against me, pathetically expressed it! There were a great many guesses and conjectures as to where these people had gone, and how they had gone; but it is very doubtful whether the losers would have got upon the right track, had it not been for the treachery of a colored hackman, who had been employed to carry down to the vessel two passengers who had been in hiding for some weeks previous, and who could not safely walk down, lest they might be met and recognized. Emulating the example of that large, and, in their own opinion at least, highly moral, religious and respectable class of white people, known as "dough-faces," this hackman thought it a fine opportunity to feather his nest by playing cat's-paw to the slave-holders. Seeing how much the information was in demand, and anticipating, no doubt, a large reward, he turned informer, and described the Pearl as the conveyance which the fugitives had taken; and, it being ascertained that the Pearl had actually sailed between Saturday night and Sunday morning, preparations were soon made to pursue her. A Mr. Dodge, of Georgetown, a wealthy old gentleman, originally from New England, missed three or four slaves from his family, and a small steamboat, of which he was the proprietor, was readily obtained. Thirty-five men, including a son or two of old Dodge, and several of those whose slaves were missing, volunteered to man her; and they set out about Sunday noon, armed to the teeth with guns, pistols, bowie-knives, &c., and well provided with brandy and other liquors. They heard of us on the passage down, from the Baltimore steamer and the vessel loaded with plaster. They reached the mouth of the river, and, not having found the Pearl, were about to return, as the steamer could not proceed into the bay without forfeiting her insurance. As a last chance, they looked into Cornfield harbor, where they found us, as I have related. This was about two o'clock in the morning. The Pearl had come to anchor about nine o'clock the previous evening. It is a hundred and forty miles from Washington to Cornfield harbor.
The steamer, with the Pearl in tow, crossed over from Point Lookout to Piney Point, on the south shore of the Potomac, and here the Pearl was left at anchor, a part of the steamer's company remaining to guard her, while the steamer, having myself and the other white prisoners on board, proceeded up Coan river for a supply of wood, having obtained which, she again, about noon of Monday, took the Pearl in tow and started for Washington.
The bearing, manner and aspect of the thirty-five armed persons by whom we had been thus seized and bound, without the slightest shadow of lawful authority, was sufficient to inspire a good deal of alarm. We had been lying quietly at anchor in a harbor of Maryland; and, although the owners of the slaves might have had a legal right to pursue and take them back, what warrant or authority had they for seizing us and our vessel? They could have brought none from the District of Columbia, whose officers had no jurisdiction or authority in Cornfield harbor; nor did they pretend to have any from the State of Maryland. Some of them showed a good deal of excitement, and evinced a disposition to proceed to lynch us at once. A man named Houver, who claimed as his property two of the boys passengers on board the Pearl, put me some questions in a very insolent tone; to which I replied, that I considered myself a prisoner, and did not wish to answer any questions; whereupon one of the bystanders, flourishing a dirk in my face, exclaimed, "If I was in his place, I'd put this through you!" At Piney Point, one of the company proposed to hang me up to the yard-arm, and make me confess; but the more influential of those on board were not ready for any such violence, though all were exceedingly anxious to get out of me the history of the expedition, and who my employers were. That I had employers, and persons of note too, was taken for granted on all hands; nor did I think it worth my while to contradict it, though I declined steadily to give any information on that point. Sayres and English very readily told all that they knew. English, especially, was in a great state of alarm, and cried most bitterly. I pitied him much, besides feeling some compunctions at getting him thus into difficulty; and, upon the representations which I made, that he came to Washington in perfect ignorance of the object of the expedition, he was finally untied. As Sayres was obliged to admit that he came to Washington to take away colored passengers, he was not regarded with so much favor. But it was evidently me whom they looked upon as the chief culprit, alone possessing a knowledge of the history and origin of the expedition, which they were so anxious to unravel. They accordingly went to work very artfully to worm this secret out of me. I was placed in charge of one Orme, a police-officer of Georgetown, whose manner towards me was such as to inspire me with a certain confidence in him; who, as it afterwards appeared from his testimony on the trial, carefully took minutes—but, as it proved, very confused and incorrect ones—of all that I said, hoping thus to secure something that might turn out to my disadvantage. Another person, with whom I had a good deal of conversation, and who was afterwards produced as a witness against me, was William H. Craig, in my opinion a much more conscientious person than Orme, who seemed to think that it was part of his duty, as a police-officer, to testify to something, at all hazards, to help on a conviction. But this is a subject to which I shall have occasion to return presently.
In one particular, at least, the testimony of both these witnesses was correct enough. They both testified to my expressing pretty serious apprehensions of what the result to myself was likely to be. What the particular provisions were, in the District of Columbia, as to helping slaves to escape, I did not know; but I had heard that, in some of the slave-states, they were very severe; in fact, I was assured by Craig that I had committed the highest crime, next to murder, known in their laws. Under these circumstances, I made up my mind that the least penalty I should be apt to escape with was confinement in the penitentiary for life; and it is quite probable that I endeavored to console myself, as these witnesses testified, with the idea that, after all, it might, in a religious point of view, be all for the best, as I should thus be removed from temptation, and have ample time for reflection and repentance. But my apprehensions were by no means limited to what I might suffer under the forms of law. From the temper exhibited by some of my captors, and from the vindictive fury with which the idea of enabling the enslaved to regain their liberty was, I knew, generally regarded at the south, I apprehended more sudden and summary proceedings; and what happened afterwards at Washington proved that these apprehensions were not wholly unfounded. The idea of being torn in pieces by a furious mob was exceedingly disagreeable. Many men, who might not fear death, might yet not choose to meet it in that shape. I called to mind the apology of the Methodist minister, who, just after a declaration of his that he was not afraid to die, ran away from a furious bull that attacked him,—"that, though not fearing death, he did not like to be torn in pieces by a mad bull." I related this anecdote to Craig, and, as he testified on the trial, expressed my preference to be taken on the deck of the steamer and shot at once, rather than to be given up to a Washington mob to be baited and murdered. I talked pretty freely with Orme and Craig about myself, the circumstances under which I had undertaken this enterprise, my motives to it, my family, my past misfortunes, and the fate that probably awaited me; but they failed to extract from me, what they seemed chiefly to desire, any information which would implicate others. Orme told me, as he afterwards testified, that what the people in the District wanted was the principals; and that, if I would give information that would lead to them, the owners of the slaves would let me go, or sign a petition for my pardon. Craig also made various inquiries tending to the same point. Though I was firmly resolved not to yield in this particular, yet I was desirous to do all I could to soften the feeling against me; and it was doubtless this desire which led me to make the statements sworn to by Orme and Craig, that I had no connection with the persons called abolitionists,—which was true enough; that I had formerly refused large offers made me by slaves to carry them away; and that, in the present instance, I was employed by others, and was to be paid for my services.
On arriving off Fort Washington, the steamer anchored for the night, as the captors preferred to make their triumphant entry into the city by daylight. Sayres and myself were watched during the night by a regular guard of two men, armed with muskets, who were relieved from time to time. Before getting under weigh again,—which they did about seven o'clock in the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 18,—Sayres and myself were tied together arm-and-arm, and the black people also, two-and-two, with the other arm bound behind their backs. As we passed Alexandria, we were all ordered on deck, and exhibited to the mob collected on the wharves to get a sight of us, who signified their satisfaction by three cheers. When we landed at the steamboat-wharf in Washington, which is a mile and more from Pennsylvania Avenue, and in a remote part of the city, but few people had yet assembled. We were marched up in a long procession, Sayres and myself being placed at the head of it, guarded by a man on each side; English following next, and then the negroes. As we went along, the mob began to increase; and, as we passed Gannon's slave-pen, that slave-trader, armed with a knife, rushed out, and, with horrid imprecations, made a pass at me, which was very near finding its way through my body. Instead of being arrested, as he ought to have been, this slave-dealer was politely informed that I was in the hands of the law, to which he replied, "D—n the law!—I have three negroes, and I will give them all for one thrust at this d—d scoundrel!" and he followed along, waiting his opportunity to repeat the blow. The crowd, by this time, was greatly increased. We met an immense mob of several thousand persons coming down Four-and-a-half street, with the avowed intention of carrying us up before the capitol, and making an exhibition of us there. The noise and confusion was very great. It seemed as if the time for the lynching had come. When almost up to Pennsylvania Avenue, a rush was made upon us,—"Lynch them! lynch them! the d—n villains!" and other such cries, resounded on all sides. Those who had us in charge were greatly alarmed; and, seeing no other way to keep us from the hands of the mob, they procured a hack, and put Sayres and myself into it. The hack drove to the jail, the mob continuing to follow, repeating their shouts and threats. Several thousand people surrounded the jail, filling up the enclosure about it.
Our captors had become satisfied, from the statements made by Sayres and myself, and from his own statements and conduct, that the participation of English in the affair was not of a sort that required any punishment; and when the mob made the rush upon us, the persons having him in charge had let him go, with the intention that he should escape. After a while he had found his way back to the steamboat wharf; but the steamer was gone. Alone in a strange place, and not knowing what to do, he told his story to somebody whom he met, who put him in a hack and sent him up to the jail. It was a pity he lacked the enterprise to take care of himself when set at liberty, as it cost him four months' imprisonment and his friends some money. I ought to have mentioned before that, on arriving within the waters of the District, Sayres and myself had been examined before a justice of the peace, who was one of the captors; and who had acted as their leader. He had made out a commitment against us, but none against English; so that the persons who had him in charge were right enough in letting him go.
Sayres and myself were at first put into the same cell, but, towards night, we were separated. A person named Goddard, connected with the police, came to examine us. He went to Sayres first. He then came to me, when I told him that, as I supposed he had got the whole story out of Sayres, and as it was not best that two stories should be told, I would say nothing. Goddard then took from me my money. One of the keepers threw me in two thin blankets, and I was left to sleep as I could. The accommodations were not of the most luxurious kind. The cell had a stone floor, which, with the help of a blanket, was to serve also for a bed. There was neither chair, table, stool, nor any individual piece of furniture of any kind, except a night-bucket and a water-can. I was refused my overcoat and valise, and had nothing but my water-can to make a pillow of. With such a pillow, and the bare stone floor for my bed, looked upon by all whom I saw with apparent abhorrence and terror,—as much so, to all appearance, as if I had been a murderer, or taken in some other desperate crime,—remembering the execrations which the mob had belched forth against me, and uncertain whether a person would be found to express the least sympathy for me (which might not, in the existing state of the public feeling, be safe), it may be imagined that my slumbers were not very sound.
Meanwhile the rage of the mob had taken, for the moment, another direction. I had heard it said, while we were coming up in the steamboat, that the abolition press must be stopped; and the mob accordingly, as the night came on, gathered about the office of the National Era, with threats to destroy it. Some little mischief was done; but the property-holders in the city, well aware how dependent Washington is upon the liberality of Congress, were unwilling that anything should occur to place the District in bad odor at the north. Some of them, also, it is but justice to believe, could not entirely give in to the slave-holding doctrine and practice of suppressing free discussion by force; and, by their efforts, seconded by a drenching storm of rain, that came on between nine and ten o'clock, the mob were persuaded to disperse for the present. The jail was guarded that night by a strong body of police, serious apprehensions being entertained, lest the mob, instigated by the violence of many southern members of Congress, should break in and lynch us. Great apprehension, also, seemed to be felt at the jail, lest we might be rescued; and we were subject, during the night, to frequent examinations, to see that all was safe. Great was the terror, as well as the rage, which the abolitionists appeared to inspire. They seemed to be thought capable, if not very narrowly watched, of taking us off through the roof, or the stone floor, or out of the iron-barred doors; and, from the half-frightened looks which the keepers gave me from time to time, I could plainly enough read their thoughts,—that a fellow who had ventured on such an enterprise as that of the Pearl was desperate and daring enough to attempt anything. For a poor prisoner like me, so much in the power of his captors, and without the slightest means, hopes, or even thoughts of escape, it was some little satisfaction to observe the awe and terror which he inspired.
Of the prison fare I shall have more to say, by and by. It is sufficient to state here that it was about on a par with the sleeping accommodations, and hardly of a sort to give a man in my situation the necessary physical vigor. However, I thought little of this at that moment, as I was too sick and excited to feel much disposition to eat.
The Washington prison is a large three-story stone building, the front part of the lower story of which is occupied by the guard-room, or jail-office, and by the kitchen and sleeping apartments for the keepers. The back part, shut off from the front by strong grated doors, has a winding stone stair-case, ascending in the middle, on each side of which, on each of the three stories, are passage-ways, also shut off from the stair-case, by grated iron doors. The back wall of the jail forms one side of these passages, which are lighted by grated windows. On the other side are the cells, also with grated iron doors, and receiving their light and air entirely from the passages. The passages themselves have no ventilation except through the doors and windows, which answer that purpose very imperfectly. The front second story, over the guard-room, contains the cells for the female prisoners. The front third story is the debtors' apartment.
The usage of the jail always has been—except in cases of insubordination or attempted escape, when locking up in the cells by day, as well as by night, has been resorted to as a punishment—to allow the prisoners, during the day-time, the use of the passages, for the benefit of light, air and exercise. Indeed, it is hard to conceive a more cruel punishment than to keep a man locked up all the time in one of these half-lighted, unventilated cells. On the morning of the second day of our confinement, we too were let out into the passage. But we were soon put back again, and not only into separate cells, but into separate passages, so as to be entirely cut off from any communication with each other. It was a long time before we were able to regain the privilege of the passage. But, for the present, I shall pass over the internal economy and administration of the prison, and my treatment in it, intending, further on, to give a general sketch of that subject.
About nine or ten o'clock, Mr. Giddings, the member of Congress from Ohio, came to see us. There was some disposition, I understood, not to allow him to enter the jail; but Mr. Giddings is a man not easily repulsed, and there is nobody of whom the good people at Washington, especially the office-holders, who make up so large a part of the population, stand so much in awe as a member of Congress; especially a member of Mr. Giddings' well-known fearless determination. He was allowed to come in, bringing another person with him, but was followed into the jail by a crowd of ruffians, who compelled the turnkey to admit them into the passage, and who vented their rage in execration and threats. Mr. Giddings said that he had understood we were here in jail without counsel or friends, and that he had come to let us know that we should not want for either; and he introduced the person he had brought with him as one who was willing to act temporarily as our counsel. Not long after, Mr. David A. Hall, a lawyer of the District, came to offer his services to us in the same way. Key, the United States Attorney for the District, and who, as such, had charge of the proceedings against us, was there at the same time. He advised Mr. Hall to leave the jail and go home immediately, as the people outside were furious, and he ran the risk of his life. To which Mr. Hall replied that things had come to a pretty pass, if a man's counsel was not to have the privilege of talking with him. "Poor devils!" said the District Attorney, as he went out, "I pity them,—they are to be made scape-goats for others!" Yet the rancor, and virulence, and fierce pertinacity with which this Key afterwards pursued me, did not look much like pity. No doubt he was a good deal irritated at his ill success in getting any information out of me.
The seventy-six passengers found on board the Pearl had been committed to the jail as runaways, and Mr. Giddings, on going up to the House, by way of warning, I suppose, to the slave-holders, that they were not to be allowed to have everything their own way, moved an inquiry into the circumstances under which seventy-six persons were held prisoners in the District jail, merely for attempting to vindicate their inalienable rights. Mr. Hale also, in the Senate, in consequence of the threats held out to destroy the Era office, and to put a stop to the publication of that paper, moved a resolution of inquiry into the necessity of additional laws for the protection of property in the District. The fury which these movements excited in the minds of the slave-holders found expression in the editorial columns of the Washington Union, in an article which I have inserted below, as forming a curious contrast to the exultations of that print, only a week before, and to which I have had occasion already to refer, over the spread of the principles of liberty and universal emancipation. The violent attack upon Mr. Giddings, because he had visited us three poor prisoners in jail, and offered us the assistance of counsel,—as if the vilest criminals were not entitled to have counsel to defend them,—is well worthy of notice. The following is the article referred to.
THE ABOLITION INCENDIARIES.
Those two abolition incendiaries (Giddings and Hale) threw firebrands yesterday into the two houses of Congress. The western abolitionist moved a resolution of inquiry into the transactions now passing in Washington, which brought on a fierce and fiery debate on the part of the southern members, in the course of which Mr. Giddings was compelled to confess, on the cross-questioning of Messrs. Venable and Haskell, that he had visited the three piratical kidnappers now confined in jail, and offered them counsel. The reply of Mr. Toombs, of Georgia, was scorching to an intense degree.
The abolitionist John P. Hale threw a firebrand resolution into the Senate, calling for additional laws to compel this city to prevent riots. This also gave rise to a long and excited debate.
No question was taken, in either house, before they adjourned. But, in the progress of the discussion in both houses, some doctrines were uttered which are calculated to startle the friends of the Union. Giddings justified the kidnappers, and contended that, though the act was legally forbidden, it was not morally wrong! Mr. Toombs brought home the practical consequences of this doctrine to the member from Ohio in a most impressive manner.
Hale, of the Senate, whilst he was willing to protect the abolitionist, expressed himself willing to relax the laws and weaken the protection which is given to the slave property in this district! Mr. Davis, of Massachusetts, held the strange doctrine, that while he would not disturb the rights of the slave-holders, he would not cease to discuss those rights! As if Congress ought to discuss, or to protect a right to discuss, a domestic institution of the Southern States, with which they had no right to interfere! Why discuss, when they cannot act? Why first lay down an abstract principle, which they intend to violate in practice?
Such fanatics as Giddings and Hale are doing more mischief than they will be able to atone for. Their incessant and impertinent intermeddling with the most delicate question in our social relations is creating the most indignant feelings in the community. The fiery discussions they are exciting are calculated to provoke the very riots which they deprecate. Let these madmen forbear, if they value the tranquillity of our country, and the stability of our Union. We conjure them to forbear their maddened, parricidal hand.
An article like this in the Union was well calculated, and probably was intended, to encourage and stimulate the rioters, and accordingly they assembled that same evening in greater force than before threatening the destruction of the Era office. The publication office of the Era was not far from the Patent Office; and the dwelling-house of Dr. Bailey, the editor, was at no great distance. The mob, taking upon themselves the character of a meeting of citizens, appointed a committee to wait upon Dr. Bailey, to require him to remove his press out of the District of Columbia. Of course, as I was locked up in the jail, trying to rest my aching head and weary limbs, with a stone floor for a bed and a water-can for my pillow, I can have no personal knowledge of what transpired on this occasion. But a correspondent of the New York Tribune, who probably was an eye-witness, gives the following account of the interview between the committee and Dr. Bailey:
Clearing his throat, the leader of the committee stretched forth his hand, and thus addressed Dr. Bailey:
Mr. Radcliff.—Sir, we have been appointed as a committee to wait upon you, by the meeting of the citizens of Washington which has assembled this evening to take into consideration the circumstances connected with the late outrage upon our property, and to convey to you the result of the deliberations of that meeting. You are aware of the excitement which now prevails. It has assumed a most threatening aspect. This community is satisfied that the existence of your press among us is endangering the public peace, and they are convinced that the public interests demand its removal. We have therefore waited upon you for the purpose of inquiring whether you are prepared to remove your press by ten o'clock to-morrow morning; and we beseech you, as you value the peace of this District, to accede to our request. [Loud shouting heard at the Patent Office.]
Dr. Bailey.—Gentlemen: I do not believe you are actuated by any unkind feelings towards me personally; but you must be aware that you are demanding of me the surrender of a great constitutional right,—a right which I have used, but not abused,—in the preservation of which you are as deeply interested as I am. How can you ask me to abandon it, and thus become a party to my own degradation?
Mr. Radcliff.—We subscribe to all that you say. But you see the popular excitement. The consequences of your refusal are inevitable. Now, if you can avert these consequences by submitting to what the people request, although unreasonable, is it not your duty, as a good citizen, to submit? It is on account of the community we come here, obeying the popular feeling which you hear expressed in the distance, and which cannot be calmed, and, but for the course we have adopted, would at this moment be manifested in the destruction of your office. But they have consented to wait till they hear our report. We trust, then, that, as a good citizen, you will respond favorably to the wish of the people.
Another of the Committee.—As one of the oldest citizens, I do assure you that it is in all kindness we make this request. We come here to tell you that we cannot arrest violence in any other way than by your allowing us to say that you yield to the request of the people. In kindness we tell you that if this thing commences here we know not where it may end. I am for mild measures myself. The prisoners were in my hands, but I would not allow my men to inflict any punishment on them.
Dr. Bailey.—Gentlemen, I appreciate your kindness; but I ask, is there a man among you who, standing as I now stand, the representative of a free press, would accede to this demand, and abandon his rights as an American citizen?
One of the Committee.—We know it is a great sacrifice that we ask of you; but we ask it to appease popular excitement.
Dr. Bailey.—Let me say to you that I am a peace-man. I have taken no measures to defend my office, my house or myself. I appeal to the good sense and intelligence of the community, and stand upon my rights as an American citizen, looking to the law alone for protection.
Mr. Radcliff.—We have now discharged our duty. It has come to this,—the people say it must be done, unless you agree to go to-morrow. We now ask a categorical answer,—Will you remove your press?
Dr. Bailey.—I answer: I make no resistance, and I cannot assent to your demand. The press is there—it is undefended—you can do as you think proper.
One of the Committee.—All rests with you. We tell you what will follow your refusal, and, if you persist, all the responsibility must fall upon your shoulders. It is in your power to arrest the arm that is raised to give the blow. If you refuse to do so by a single expression, though it might cost you much, on you be all the consequences.
Dr. Bailey.—You demand the sacrifice of a great right. You—
One of the Committee (interrupting him).—I know it is a hardship; but look at the consequences of your refusal. We do not come here to express our individual opinions. I would myself leave the District to-morrow, if in your place. We now ask of you, Shall this be done? We beg you will consider this matter in the light in which we view it.
Dr. Bailey.—I am one man against many. But I cannot sacrifice any right that I possess. Those who have sent you here may do as they think proper.
One of the Committee.—The whole community is against you. They say here is an evil that threatens them, and they ask you to remove that evil. You say "No!" and of course on your head be all the consequences.
Dr. Bailey.—Let me remind you that we have been recently engaged in public rejoicings. For what have we rejoiced? Because the people in another land have arisen and triumphed over the despot, who had done—what? He did not demolish presses, but he imprisoned editors. In other words, he enslaved the press. Will you then present to America and the world—
One of the Committee (interrupting him).—If we could stop this movement, of the people, we would do it. But you make us unable to do so. We cannot tell how far it will go. After your press is pulled down, we do not know where they will go next. It is your duty, in such a case, to sacrifice your constitutional rights.
Dr. Bailey.—I presume, when they shall have accomplished their object—
Mr. Radcliff (interrupting).—We advise you to be out of the way! The people think that your press endangers their property and their lives; and they have appointed us to tell you so, and ask you to remove it to-morrow. If you say that you will do so, they will retire satisfied. If you refuse, they say they will tear it down. Here is Mr. Boyle, a gentleman of property, and one of our oldest residents. You see that we are united. If you hold out and occupy your position, the men, women and children of the District will universally rise up against you.
Dr. Bailey (addressing himself to his father, a venerable man of more than eighty years of age, who approached the doorway and commenced remonstrating with the committee).—You do not understand the matter, father; these gentlemen are a committee appointed by a meeting assembled in front of the Patent Office. You need not address remonstrances to them. Gentlemen, you appreciate my position. I cannot surrender my rights. Were I to die for it, I cannot surrender my rights! Tell those who sent you hither that my press and my house are undefended—they must do as they see proper. I maintain my rights, and make no resistance!
The committee then retired, and Dr. Bailey reentered his dwelling. Meanwhile, the shouts of the mob, as they received the reports of the committee, were reechoed along the streets. A fierce yell greeted the reaeppearance of Radcliff in front of the Patent Office. He announced the result of the interview with the editor of the Era. Shouts, imprecations, blasphemy, burst from the crowd. "Down with the Era!" "Now for it!" "Gut the office!" were the exclamations heard on all sides, and the mob rushed tumultuously to Seventh-street.
But a body of the city police had been stationed to guard the building, and the mob finally contented themselves with passing a resolution to pull it down the next day at ten o'clock, if the press was not meanwhile removed.
That same afternoon, we three prisoners had been taken before three justices, who held a court within the jail for our examination. Mr. Hall appeared as our counsel. The examination was continued till the next day, when we were, all three of us, recommitted to jail, on a charge of stealing slaves, our bail being fixed at a thousand dollars for each slave, or seventy-six thousand dollars for each of us.
Meanwhile, both houses of Congress became the scenes of very warm debates, growing out of circumstances connected with our case. In the Senate, Mr. Hale, agreeably to the notice he had given, asked leave to introduce a bill for the protection of property in the District of Columbia against the violence of mobs. This bill, as was stated in the debate, was copied, almost word for word, from a law in force in the State of Maryland (and many other states have—and all ought to have—a similar law), making the cities and towns liable for any property which might be destroyed in them by mob violence. In the House the subject came up on a question of privilege, raised by Mr. Palfrey, of Massachusetts, who offered a resolution for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the currently-reported facts that a lawless mob had assembled during the two previous nights, setting at defiance the constituted authorities of the United States, and menacing members of Congress and other persons. In both those bodies the debate was very warm, as any one interested in it will find, by reading it in the columns of the Congressional Globe.
It was upon this occasion, during the debate in the Senate, that Mr. Foote, then a senator from Mississippi, and now governor of that state, whose speech on the French revolution has been already quoted, threatened to join in lynching Mr. Hale, if he ever set foot in Mississippi, whither he invited him to come for that purpose. This part of the debate was so peculiar and so characteristic, showing so well the spirit with which the District of Columbia was then blazing against me, that I cannot help giving the following extract from Mr. Foote's speech, as contained in the official report:
"All must see that the course of the senator from New Hampshire is calculated to embroil the confederacy—to put in peril our free institutions—to jeopardize that Union which our forefathers established, and which every pure patriot throughout the country desires shall be perpetuated. Can any man be a patriot who pursues such a course? Is he an enlightened friend of freedom, or even a judicious friend of those with whom he affects to sympathize, who adopts such a course? Who does not know that such men are, practically, the worst enemies of the slaves? I do not beseech the gentleman to stop; but, if he perseveres, he will awaken indignation everywhere, and it cannot be that enlightened men, who conscientiously belong to the faction at the north of which he is understood to be the head, can sanction or approve everything that he may do, under the influence of excitement, in this body. I will close by saying that, if he really wishes glory, and to be regarded as the great liberator of the blacks,—if he wishes to be particularly distinguished in this cause of emancipation, as it is called,—let him, instead of remaining here in the Senate of the United States, or instead of secreting himself in some dark corner of New Hampshire, where he may possibly escape the just indignation of good men throughout this republic,—let him visit the good State of Mississippi, in which I have the honor to reside, and no doubt he will be received with such shouts of joy as have rarely marked the reception of any individual in this day and generation. I invite him there, and will tell him, beforehand, in all honesty, that he could not go ten miles into the interior before he would grace one of the tallest trees in the forest, with a rope around his neck, with the approbation of every virtuous and patriotic citizen; and that, if necessary, I should myself assist in the operation!"
Mr. Hale's reply was equally characteristic:
"The honorable Senator invites me to visit the State of Mississippi, and kindly informs me that he would be one of those who would act the assassin, and put an end to my career. He would aid in bringing me to public execution,—no, death by a mob! Well, in return for his hospitable invitation, I can only express the desire that he would penetrate into some of the dark corners of New Hampshire; and, if he do, I am much mistaken if he would not find that the people in that benighted region would be very happy to listen to his arguments, and engage in an intellectual conflict with him, in which the truth might be elicited. I think, however, that the announcement which the honorable Senator has made on this floor of the fate which awaits so humble an individual as myself in the State of Mississippi must convince every one of the propriety of the high eulogium which he pronounced upon her, the other day, when he spoke of the high position which she occupied among the states of this confederacy.—But enough of this personal matter."[A]
[Footnote A: The following paragraph, which has recently been going the rounds of the newspapers, will serve to show the sort of manners which prevail in the state so fitly represented by Mr. Foote, and how these southern ruffians experience in their own families the natural effect of the blood-thirsty sentiments which they so freely avow:
"THE DEATH OF MR. CARNEAL.—The Vicksburg Sentinel, of the 13th ult., gives the following account of the shooting of Mr. Thomas Carneal, son-in-law of Governor Foote:
"We have abstained thus long from giving any notice of the sad affair which resulted in the death of Mr. Thomas Carneal, the son-in-law of the governor of our state, that we might get the particulars. It seems that the steamer E.C. Watkins, with Mr. Carneal as a passenger, landed at or near the plantation of Judge James, in Washington county. Mr. Carneal had heard that the judge was an extremely brutal man to his slaves, and was likewise excited with liquor; and, upon the judge inviting him and others to take a drink with him, Carneal replied that he would not drink with a man who abused his negroes; this the judge resented as an insult, and high words ensued.
"The company took their drink, however, all but Mr. Carneal, who went out upon the bow of the boat, and took a seat, where he was sought by Judge James, who desired satisfaction for the insult. Carneal refused to make any, and asked the old gentleman if any of his sons would resent the insult if he was to slap him in the mouth; to which the judge replied that he would do it himself, if his sons would not; whereupon Mr. Carneal struck him in the month with the back of his hand. The judge resented it by striking him across the head with a cane, which stunned Mr. Carneal very much, causing the blood to run freely from the wound. As soon as Carneal recovered from the wound, he drew a bowie-knife, and attacked the judge with it, inflicting several wounds upon his person, some of which were thought to be mortal.