THREE YEARS IN EUROPE;
Or, Places I Have Seen and People I Have Met
W. WELLS BROWN A Fugitive Slave.
A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR
WILLIAM FARMER, Esq.
London: Charles Gilpin, 5, Bishopsgate Street, Without. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.
MEMOIR OF WILLIAM WELLS BROWN, Page ix-xxix
AUTHOR'S PREFACE, xxxi-xxxii
Departure from Boston—the Passengers—Halifax—the Passage— First Sight of Land—Liverpool, 1-9
Trip to Ireland—Dublin—Her Majesty's Visit—Illumination of the City—the Birth-Place of Thomas Moore—a Reception, 9-21
Departure from Ireland—London—Trip to Paris—Paris—The Peace Congress: first day—Church of the Madeleine—Column Vendome— the French, 21-38
Versailles—The Palace—Second Session of the Congress—Mr. Cobden—Henry Vincent—M. Girardin—Abbe Duguerry—Victor Hugo: his Speech, 38-49
M. de Tocqueville's Grand Soiree—Madame de Tocqueville—Visit of the Peace Delegates to Versailles—The Breakfast—Speechmaking— The Trianons—Waterworks—St. Cloud—The Fete, 50-59
The Tuileries—Place de la Concorde—The Egyptian Obelisk—Palais Royal—Residence of Robespierre—A Visit to the Room in which Charlotte Corday killed Marat—Church de Notre Dame—Palais de Justice—Hotel des Invalids—National Assembly—The Elysee, 59-73
The Chateau at Versailles—Private Apartments of Marie Antoinette—The Secret Door—Paintings of Raphael and David— Arc de Triomphe—Beranger the Poet, 73-82
Departure from Paris—Boulogne—Folkstone—London—Geo. Thompson, Esq., M.P.—Hartwell House—Dr. Lee—Cottage of the Peasant—Windsor Castle—Residence of Wm. Penn—England's First Welcome—Heath Lodge—The Bank of England, 83-104
The British Museum—A Portrait—Night Reading—A Dark Day—A Fugitive Slave on the Streets of London—A Friend in the time of need, 104-116
The Whittington Club—Louis Blanc—Street Amusements—Tower of London—Westminster Abbey—National Gallery—Dante—Sir Joshua Reynolds, 117-134
York-Minster—The Great Organ—Newcastle-on-Tyne—The Labouring Classes—The American Slave—Sheffield—James Montgomery, 134-145
Kirkstall Abbey—Mary the Maid of the Inn—Newstead Abbey: Residence of Lord Byron—Parish Church of Hucknall—Burial Place of Lord Byron—Bristol: "Cook's Folly"—Chepstow Castle and Abbey—Tintern Abbey—Redcliffe Church, 145-162
Edinburgh—The Royal Institute—Scott's Monument—John Knox's Pulpit—Temperance Meeting—Glasgow—Great Meeting in the City Hall, 163-176
Stirling—Dundee—Dr. Dick—Geo. Gilfillan—Dr. Dick at home, 177-184
Melrose Abbey—Abbotsford—Dryburgh Abbey—The Grave of Sir Walter Scott—Hawick—Gretna Green—Visit to the Lakes, 185-196
Miss Martineau—"The Knoll"—"Ridal Mount"—"The Dove's Nest"—Grave of William Wordsworth, Esq.—The English Peasant, 196-207
A Day in the Crystal Palace, 207-219
The London Peace Congress—Meeting of Fugitive Slaves— Temperance Demonstration—The Great Exhibition: Last Visit, 219-226
Oxford—Martyrs' Monument—Cost of the Burning of the Martyrs— The Colleges—Dr. Pusey—Energy, the Secret of Success, 227-235
Fugitive Slaves in England, 236-250
A Chapter on American Slavery, 250-273
A Narrative of American Slavery, 273-305
Aberdeen—Passage by Steamer—Edinburgh—Visit to the College—William and Ellen Craft, 305-312
MEMOIR OF WILLIAM WELLS BROWN.
A narrative of the life of the author of the present work has been most extensively circulated in England and America. The present memoir will, therefore, simply comprise a brief sketch of the most interesting portion of Mr. Brown's history while in America, together with a short account of his subsequent cisatlantic career. The publication of his adventures as a slave, and as a fugitive from slavery in his native land, has been most valuable in sustaining a sound anti-slavery spirit in Great Britain. His honourable reception in Europe may be equally serviceable in America, as another added to the many practical protests previously entered from this side of the Atlantic, against the absolute bondage of three millions and a quarter of the human race, and the semi-slavery involved in the social and political proscription of 600,000 free coloured people in that country.
William Wells Brown was born at Lexington, in the state of Kentucky, as nearly as he can tell in the autumn of 1814. In the Southern States of America, the pedigree and age of a horse or a dog are carefully preserved, but no record is kept of the birth of a slave. All that Mr. Brown knows upon the subject is traditionally, that he was born "about corn-cutting time" of that year. His mother was a slave named Elizabeth, the property of Dr. Young, a physician. His father was George Higgins, a relative of his master.
The name given to our author at his birth, was "William"—no second or surname being permitted to a slave. While William was an infant, Dr. Young removed to Missouri, where, in addition to his profession as a physician, he carried on the—to European notions—incongruous avocations of miller, merchant, and farmer. Here William was employed as a house servant, while his mother was engaged as a field hand. One of his first bitter experiences of the cruelties of slavery, was his witnessing the infliction of ten lashes upon the bare back of his mother, for being a few minutes behind her time at the field—a punishment inflicted with one of those peculiar whips in the construction of which, so as to produce the greatest amount of torture, those whom Lord Carlisle has designated "the chivalry of the South" find scope for their ingenuity.
Dr. Young subsequently removed to a farm near St. Louis, in the same State. Having been elected a Member of the Legislature, he devolved the management of his farm upon an overseer, having, what to his unhappy victims must have been the ironical name of "Friend Haskall." The mother and child were now separated. The boy was levied to a Virginian named Freeland, who bore the military title of Major, and carried on the plebeian business of a publican. This man was of an extremely brutal disposition, and treated his slaves with most refined cruelty. His favourite punishment, which he facetiously called "Virginian play," was to flog his slaves severely, and then expose their lacerated flesh to the smoke of tobacco stems, causing the most exquisite agony. William complained to his owner of the treatment of Freeland, but, as in almost all similar instances, the appeal was in vain. At length he was induced to attempt an escape, not from that love of liberty which subsequently became with him an unconquerable passion, but simply to avoid the cruelty to which he was habitually subjected. He took refuge in the woods, but was hunted and "traced" by the blood-hounds of a Major O'Fallon, another of "the chivalry of the South," whose gallant occupation was that of keeping an establishment for the hire of ferocious dogs with which to hunt fugitive slaves. The young slave received a severe application of "Virginia play" for his attempt to escape. Happily the military publican soon afterwards failed in business, and William found a better master and a more congenial employment with Captain Cilvers, on board a steam-boat plying between St. Louis and Galena. At the close of the sailing season he was levied to an hotel-keeper, a native of a free state, but withal of a class which exist north as well as south—a most inveterate negro hater. At this period of William's history, a circumstance occurred, which, although a common incident in the lives of slaves, is one of the keenest trials they have to endure—the breaking up of his family circle. Her master wanted money, and he therefore sold Elizabeth and six of her children to seven different purchasers. The family relationship is almost the only solace of slavery. While the mother, brothers, and sisters are permitted to meet together in the negro hut after the hour of labour, the slaves are comparatively content with their oppressed condition; but deprive them of this, the only privilege which they as human beings are possessed of, and nothing is left but the animal part of their nature—the living soul is extinguished within them. With them there is nothing to love—everything to hate. They feel themselves degraded to the condition not only of mere animals, but of the most ill-used animals in the creation.
Not needing the services of his young relative, Dr. Young hired him to the proprietor of the St. Louis Times, the best master William ever had in slavery. Here he gained the scanty amount of education he acquired at the South. This kind treatment by his editorial master appears to have engendered in the heart of William a consciousness of his own manhood, and led him into the commission of an offence similar to that perpetrated by Frederick Douglass, under similar circumstances—the assertion of the right of self-defence. He gallantly defended himself against the attacks of several boys older and bigger than himself, but in so doing was guilty of the unpardonable sin of lifting his hand against white lads; and the father of one of them, therefore, deemed it consistent with his manhood to lay in wait for the young slave, and beat him over the head with a heavy cane till the blood gushed from his nose and ears. From the effects of that treatment the poor lad was confined to his bed for five weeks, at the end of which time he found that, to his personal sufferings, were superadded the calamity of the loss of the best master he ever had in slavery.
His next employment was that of waiter on board a steam-boat plying on the Mississippi. Here his occupation again was pleasant, and his treatment good; but the freedom of action enjoyed by the passengers in travelling whithersoever they pleased, contrasted strongly in his mind with his own deprivation of will as a slave. The natural result of this comparison was an intense desire for freedom—a feeling which was never afterwards eradicated from his breast. This love of liberty was, however, so strongly counteracted by affection for his mother and sisters, that although urgently entreated by one of the latter to take advantage of his present favourable opportunity for escape, he would not bring himself to do so at the expense of a separation for life from his beloved relatives.
His period of living on board the steamer having expired, he was again remitted to field labour, under a burning sun. From that labour, from which he suffered severely, he was soon removed to the lighter and more agreeable occupation of house-waiter to his master. About this time Dr. Young, in the conventional phraseology of the locality, "got religion." The fruit of his alleged spiritual gain, was the loss of many material comforts to the slaves. Destitute of the resources of education, they were in the habit of employing their otherwise unoccupied minds on the Sunday in fishing and other harmless pursuits; these were now all put an end to. The Sabbath became a season of dread to William: he was required to drive the family to and from the church, a distance of four miles either way; and while they attended to the salvation of their souls within the building, he was compelled to attend to the horses without it, standing by them during divine service under a burning sun, or drizzling rain. Although William did not get the religion of his master, he acquired a family passion which appears to have been strongly intermixed with the devotional exercises of the household of Dr. Young—a love of sweet julep. In the evening, the slaves were required to attend family worship. Before commencing the service, it was the custom to hand a pitcher of the favourite beverage to every member of the family, not excepting the nephew, a child of between four and five years old. William was in the habit of watching his opportunity during the prayer and helping himself from the pitcher, but one day letting it fall, his propensity for this intoxicating drink was discovered, and he was severely punished for its indulgence.
In 1830, being then about sixteen years of age, William was hired to a slave-dealer named Walker. This change of employment led the youth away south and frustrated, for a time, his plans for escape. His experience while in this capacity furnishes some interesting, though painful, details of the legalized traffic in human beings carried on in the United States. The desperation to which the slaves are driven at their forced separation from husband, wife, children, and kindred, he found to be a frequent cause of suicide. Slave-dealers he discovered were as great adepts at deception in the sale of their commodity as the most knowing down-easter, or tricky horse dealer. William's occupation on board the steamer, as they steamed south, was to prepare the stock for the market, by shaving off whiskers and blacking the grey hairs with a colouring composition.
At the expiration of the period of his hiring with Walker, William returned to his master rejoiced to have escaped an employment so repugnant to his feelings. But this joy was not of long duration. One of his sisters who, although sold to another master had been living in the same city with himself and mother, was again sold to be sent away south, never in all probability to meet her sorrowing relatives. Dr. Young also, wanting money, intimated to his young kinsman that he was about to sell him. This intimation determined William, in conjunction with his mother, to attempt their escape. For ten nights they travelled northwards, hiding themselves in the woods by day. The mother and son at length deemed themselves safe from re-capture, and, although weary and foot-sore, were laying down sanguine plans for the acquisition of a farm in Canada, the purchase of the freedom of the six other members of the family still in slavery, and rejoicing in the anticipated happiness of their free home in Canada. At that moment three men made up to and seized them, bound the son and led him, with his desponding mother, back to slavery. Elizabeth was sold and sent away south, while her son became the property of a merchant tailor named Willi. Mr. Brown's description of the final interview between himself and his mother, is one of the most touching portions of his narrative. The mother, after expressing her conviction of the speedy escape from slavery by the hand of death, enjoined her child to persevere in his endeavours to gain his freedom by flight. Her blessing was interrupted by the kick and curse bestowed by her dehumanized master upon her beloved son.
After having been hired for a short time to the captain of the steam-boat Otto, William was finally sold to Captain Enoch Price for 650 dollars. That the quickness and intelligence of William rendered him very valuable as a slave, is favoured by the evidence of Enoch Price himself, who states that he was offered 2000 dollars for Sanford (as he was called), in New Orleans. William was strongly urged by his new mistress to marry. To facilitate this object, she even went so far as to purchase a girl for whom she fancied he had an affection. He himself, however, had secretly resolved never to enter into such a connexion while in slavery, knowing that marriage, in the true and honourable sense of the term, could not exist among slaves. Notwithstanding the multitude of petty offences for which a slave is severely punished, it is singular that one crime—bigamy—is visited upon a white with severity, while no slave has ever yet been tried for it. In fact, the man is allowed to form connections with as many women, and the women with as many men, as they please.
At St. Louis, William was employed as coachman to Mr. Price; but when that gentleman subsequently took his family up the river to Cincinnati, Sanford acted as appointed steward. While lying off this city, the long-looked-for opportunity of escape presented itself; and on the 1st of January, 1834—he being then almost twenty years of age—succeeded in getting from the steamer to the wharf, and thence to the woods, where he lay concealed until the shades of night had set in, when he again commenced his journey northwards. While with Dr. Young, a nephew of that gentleman, whose christian name was William, came into the family: the slave was, therefore, denuded of the name of William, and thenceforth called Sanford. This deprivation of his original name he had ever regarded as an indignity, and having now gained his freedom he resumed his original name; and as there was no one by whom he could be addressed by it, he exultingly enjoyed the first-fruits of his freedom by calling himself aloud by his old name "William!" After passing through a variety of painful vicissitudes, on the eighth day he found himself destitute of pecuniary means, and unable, from severe illness, to pursue his journey. In that condition he was discovered by a venerable member of the Society of Friends, who placed him in a covered waggon and took him to his own house. There he remained about fifteen days, and by the kind treatment of his host and hostess, who were what in America are called "Thompsonians," he was restored to health, and supplied with the means of pursuing his journey. The name of this, his first kind benefactor, was "Wells Brown." As William had risen from the degradation of a slave to the dignity of a man, it was expedient that he should follow the customs of other men, and adopt a second name. His venerable friend, therefore, bestowed upon him his own name, which, prefixed by his former designation, made him "William Wells Brown," a name that will live in history, while those of the men who claimed him as property would, were it not for his deeds, have been unknown beyond the town in which they lived. In nine days from the time he left Wells Brown's house, he arrived at Cleveland, in the State of Ohio, where he found he could remain comparatively safe from the pursuit of the man-stealer. Having obtained employment as a waiter, he remained in that city until the following spring, when he procured an engagement on board a steam-boat plying on Lake Erie. In that situation he was enabled, during seven months, to assist no less than sixty-nine slaves to escape to Canada. While a slave he had regarded the whites as the natural enemies of his race. It was, therefore, with no small pleasure that he discovered the existence of the salt of America, in the despised Abolitionists of the Northern States. He read with assiduity the writings of Benjamin Lundy, William Lloyd Garrison, and others; and after his own twenty years' experience of slavery, it is not surprising that he should have enthusiastically embraced the principles of "total and immediate emancipation," and "no union with slaveholders."
In proportion as his mind expanded under the more favourable circumstances in which he was placed, he became anxious, not merely for the redemption of his race from personal slavery, but for the moral elevation of those among them who were free. Finding that habits of intoxication were too prevalent amongst his coloured brethren, he, in conjunction with others, commenced a temperance reformation in their body. Such was the success of their efforts that in three years, in the city of Buffalo alone, a society of upwards of 500 members was raised out of a coloured population of 700. Of that society Mr. Brown was thrice elected President.
The intellectual powers of our author, coupled with his intimate acquaintance with the workings of the slave system, recommended him to the Abolitionists as a man eminently qualified to arouse the attention of the people of the Northern States to the great national sin of America. In 1843 he was engaged as a lecturer by the Western New-York Anti-Slavery Society. From 1844 to 1847 he laboured in the anti-slavery cause in connection with the American Anti-Slavery Society, and from that period up to the time of his departure for Europe, in 1849, he was an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. The records of those societies furnish abundant evidence of the success of his labours. From the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society he early received the following testimony:—
"Since Mr. Brown became an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, he has lectured in very many of the towns of this Commonwealth, and won for himself general respect and approbation. He combines true self-respect with true humility, and rare judiciousness with great moral courage. Himself a fugitive slave, he can experimentally describe the situation of those in bonds as bound with them; and he powerfully illustrates the diabolism of that system which keeps in chains and darkness a host of minds, which, if free and enlightened, would shine among men like stars in a firmament."
Another member of that Society speaks thus of him:—"I need not attempt any description of the ability and efficiency which characterized his speaking throughout the meetings. To you who know him so well, it is enough to say that his lectures were worthy of himself. He has left an impression on the minds of the people, that few could have done. Cold, indeed, must be the heart that could resist the appeals of so noble a specimen of humanity, in behalf of a crushed and despised race."
Notwithstanding the celebrity Mr. Brown had acquired in the north, as a man of genius and talent, and the general respect his high character had gained him, the slave spirit of America denied him the rights of a citizen. By the constitution of the United States, he was every moment liable to be seized and sent back to slavery. He was in daily peril of a gradual legalized murder, under a system one of whose established economical principles is, that it is more profitable to work up a slave on a plantation in a short time, by excessive labour and cheap food, than to obtain a lengthened remuneration by moderate work and humane treatment. His only protection from such a fate was the anomaly of the ascendancy of the public opinion over the law of the country. So uncertain, however, was that tenure of liberty, that even before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, it was deemed expedient to secure the services of Frederick Douglass to the anti-slavery cause by the purchase of his freedom. The same course might have been taken to secure the labours of Mr. Brown, had he not entertained an unconquerable repugnance to its adoption. On the 10th of January, 1848, Enoch Price wrote to Mr. Edmund Quincy offering to sell Mr. Brown to himself or friends for 325 dollars. To this communication the fugitive returned the following pithy and noble reply:—
"I cannot accept of Mr. Price's offer to become a purchaser of my body and soul. God made me as free as he did Enoch Price, and Mr. Price shall never receive a dollar from me or my friends with my consent."
There were, however, other reasons besides his personal safety which led to Mr. Brown's visit to Europe. It was thought desirable always to have in England some talented man of colour who should be a living lie to the doctrine of the inferiority of the African race: and it was moreover felt that none could so powerfully advocate the cause of "those in bonds" as one who had actually been "bound with them." This had been proved in the extraordinary effect produced in Great Britain by Frederick Douglass in 1845 and 1846. The American Committee in connection with the Peace Congress were also desirous of sending to Europe coloured representatives of their Society, and Mr. Brown was selected for that purpose, and duly accredited by them to the Paris Congress.
On the 18th of July, 1849, a large meeting of the coloured citizens of Boston was held in Washington Hall to bid him farewell. At that meeting the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:—
"Resolved,—That we bid our brother, William Wells Brown, God speed in his mission to Europe, and commend him to the hospitality and encouragement of all true friends of humanity.
"Resolved,—That we forward by him our renewed protest against the American Colonization Society; and invoke for him a candid hearing before the British public, in reply to the efforts put forth there by the Rev. Mr. Miller, or any other agent of said Society."
Two days afterwards he sailed for Europe, encountering on his voyage his last experience of American prejudice against colour.
On the 28th of August he landed at Liverpool, a time and place memorable in his life as the first upon which he could truly call himself a free man upon God's earth. In the history of nations, as of individuals, there is often singular retributive mercy as well as retributive justice. In the seventeenth century the victims of monarchical tyranny in Great Britain found social and political freedom when they set foot upon Plymouth Rock in New England: in the nineteenth century the victims of the oppressions of the American Republic find freedom and social equality upon the shores of monarchical England. Liverpool, which seventy years back was so steeped in the guilt of negro slavery that Paine expressed his surprise that God did not sweep it from the face of the earth, is now to the hunted negro the Plymouth Rock of Old England. From Liverpool he proceeded to Dublin where he was warmly received by Mr. Haughton, Mr. Webb, and other friends of the slave, and publicly welcomed at a large meeting presided over by the first named gentleman.
The reception of Mr. Brown at the Peace Congress in Paris was most flattering. In a company, comprising a large portion of the elite of Europe, he admirably maintained his reputation as a public speaker. His brief address, upon that "war spirit of America which holds in bondage three million of his brethren," produced a profound sensation. At its conclusion the speaker was warmly greeted by Victor Hugo, the Abbe Duguerry, Emile de Girardin, the Pastor Coquerel, Richard Cobden, and every man of note in the Assembly. At the soiree given by M. De Tocqueville, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the other fetes given to the Members of the Congress, Mr. Brown was received with marked attention.
Having finished his Peace mission in France, he commenced an Anti-slavery tour in England and Scotland. With that independence of feeling which those who are acquainted with him know to be his chief characteristic, he rejected the idea of anything like eleemosynary support. He determined to maintain himself and family by his own exertions—by his literary labours, and the honourable profession of a public lecturer. His first metropolitan reception in England was at a large, influential, and enthusiastic meeting in the Music Hall, Stone Street. The members of the Whittington Club—an institution numbering nearly 2000 members, among whom are Lords Brougham, Dudley Coutts Stuart, and Beaumont; Charles Dickens, Douglass Jerrold, Martin Thackeray, Charles Lushington, M.P., Monckton Milnes, M.P., and several other of the most distinguished legislators and literary men and women in this country—elected Mr. Brown an honorary member of the Club, as a mark of respect to his character; and, as the following extract from the Secretary, Mr. Stundwicke, will show, as a protest against the distinctions made between man and man on account of colour in America:—"I have much pleasure in conveying to you the best thanks of the managing committee of this institution for the excellent lecture you gave here last evening on the subject of 'Slavery in America,' and also in presenting you in their names with an honorary membership of the Club. It is hoped that you will often avail yourself of its privileges by coming amongst us. You will then see, by the cordial welcome of the members, that they protest against the odious distinctions made between man and man, and the abominable traffic of which you have been the victim."
For the last three years Mr. Brown has been engaged in visiting and holding meetings in nearly all the large towns in the kingdom upon the question of American Slavery, Temperance, and other subjects. Perhaps no coloured individual, not excepting that extraordinary man, Frederick Douglass, has done more good in disseminating anti-slavery principles in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
In the spring of 1851, two most interesting fugitives, William and Ellen Craft, arrived in England. They had made their escape from the South, the wife disguised in male attire, and the husband in the capacity of her slave. William Craft was doing a thriving business in Boston, but in 1851 was driven with his wife from that city by the operation of the Fugitive Slave Law. For several months they travelled in company with Mr. Brown in this country, deepening the disgust created by Mr. Brown's eloquent denunciation of slavery by their simple but touching narrative. At length they were enabled to gratify their thirst for education by gaining admission to Lady Byron's school at Oakham, Surrey. In the month of May, Mr. Brown and Mr. and Mrs. Craft were taken by a party of anti-slavery friends to the Great Exhibition. The honourable manner in which they were received by distinguished persons to whom their history was known, and the freedom with which they perambulated the American department, was a salutary rebuke to the numerous Americans present, in regard to the great sin of their country—slavery; and its great folly—prejudice of colour. A curious circumstance occurred during the Exhibition. Among the hosts of American visitors to this country was Mr. Brown's late master, Enoch Price, who made diligent inquiry after his lost piece of property—not, of course, with any view to its reclamation—but, to the mutual regret of both parties, without success. It is gratifying to state that the master spoke highly of, and expressed a wish for the future prosperity of, his fugitive slave; a fact which tends to prove that prejudice of colour is to a very great extent a thing of locality and association. Had Mr. Price, however, left behind him letters of manumission for Mr. Brown, enabling him, if he chose, to return to his native land, he would have given a more practical proof of respect, and of the sincerity of his desire for the welfare of Mr. Brown.
It would extend these pages far beyond their proposed length were anything like a detailed account of Mr. Brown's anti-slavery labours in this country to be attempted. Suffice it to say that they have everywhere been attended with benefit and approbation. At Bolton an admirable address from the ladies was presented to him, and at other places he has received most honourable testimonials.
Since Mr. Brown left America, the condition of the fugitive slaves in his own country has, through the operation of the Fugitive Slave Law, been rendered so perilous as to preclude the possibility of return without the almost certain loss of liberty. His expatriation has, however, been a gain to the cause of humanity in this country, where an intelligent representative of the oppressed coloured Americans is constantly needed, not only to describe, in language of fervid eloquence, the wrongs inflicted upon his race in the United States, but to prevent their bonds being strengthened in this country by holding fellowship with slave-holding and slave-abetting ministers from America. In his lectures he has clearly demonstrated the fact, that the sole support of the slavery of the United States is its churches. This knowledge of the standing of American ministers in reference to slavery has, in the case of Dr. Dyer, and in many other instances, been most serviceable, preventing their reception into communion with British churches. Last year Mr. Brown succeeded in getting over to this country his daughters, two interesting girls twelve and sixteen years of age respectively, who are now receiving an education which will qualify them hereafter to become teachers in their turn—a description of education which would have been denied them in their native land. In 1834 Mr. Brown married a free coloured woman, who died in January of the present year.
The condition of escaped slaves has engaged much of his attention while in this country. He found that in England no anti-slavery organization existed whose object was to aid fugitive slaves in obtaining an honourable subsistence in the land of their exile. In most cases they are thrown upon the support of a few warm-hearted anti-slavery advocates in this country, pre-eminent among whom stands Mr. Brown's earliest friend, Mr. George Thompson, M.P., whose house is rarely free from one or more of those who have acquired the designation of his "American constituents." This want has recently been attempted to be supplied, partly through Mr. Brown's exertions, and partly by the establishment of the Anglo-American Anti-Slavery Association.
On the 1st of August, 1851, a meeting of the most novel character was held at the Hall of Commerce, London, being a soiree given by fugitive slaves in this country to Mr. George Thompson, on his return from his American mission on behalf of their race. That meeting was most ably presided over by Mr. Brown, and the speeches made upon the occasion by fugitive slaves were of the most interesting and creditable description. Although a residence in Canada is infinitely preferable to slavery in America, yet the climate of that country is uncongenial to the constitutions of the fugitive slaves, and their lack of education is an almost insuperable barrier to their social progress. The latter evil Mr. Brown attempted to remedy by the establishment of a Manual Labour School in Canada.
A public meeting, attended by between 3000 and 4000 persons, was convened by Mr. Brown, on the 6th of January, 1851, in the City Hall, Glasgow, presided over by Mr. Hastie, one of the representatives of that city, at which meeting a resolution was unanimously passed approving of Mr. Brown's scheme, which scheme, however, never received that amount of support which would have enabled him to bring it into practice; and the plan at present only remains as an evidence of its author's ingenuity and desire for the elevation of his depressed race. Mr. Brown subsequently made, through the columns of the Times newspaper, a proposition for the emigration of American fugitive slaves, under fair and honourable terms, to the West Indies, where there is a great lack of that tillage labour which they are so capable of undertaking. This proposition has hitherto met with no better fate than its predecessor.
Mr. Brown's literary abilities may be partly judged of from the following pages. The amount of knowledge and education he has acquired under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, is a striking proof of what can be done by combined genius and industry. His proficiency as a linguist, without the aid of a master, is considerable. His present work is a valuable addition to the stock of English literature. The honour which has hitherto been paid, and which, so long as he resides upon British soil, will no doubt continue to be paid to his character and talents, must have its influence in abating the senseless prejudice of colour in America, and hastening the time when the object of his mission, the abolition of the slavery of his native country, shall be accomplished, and that young Republic renouncing with penitence its national sin, shall take its proper place amongst the most free, civilized, and Christian nations of the earth.
While I feel conscious that most of the contents of these Letters will be interesting chiefly to American readers, yet I may indulge the hope, that the fact of their being the first production of a Fugitive Slave, as a history of travels, may carry with them novelty enough to secure for them, to some extent, the attention of the reading public of Great Britain. Most of the letters were written for the private perusal of a few personal friends in America; some were contributed to "Frederick Douglass's paper," a journal published in the United States. In a printed circular sent some weeks since to some of my friends, asking subscriptions to this volume, I stated the reasons for its publication: these need not be repeated here. To those who so promptly and kindly responded to that appeal, I tender my most sincere thanks. It is with no little diffidence that I lay these letters before the public; for I am not blind to the fact, that they must contain many errors; and to those who shall find fault with them on that account, it may not be too much for me to ask them kindly to remember, that the author was a slave in one of the Southern States of America, until he had attained the age of twenty years; and that the education he has acquired, was by his own exertions, he never having had a day's schooling in his life.
W. WELLS BROWN.
22, CECIL STREET, STRAND, LONDON.
Departure from Boston—the Passengers—Halifax—the Passage—First Sight of Land—Liverpool.
LIVERPOOL, July 28.
On the 18th July, 1849, I took passage in the steam-ship Canada, Captain Judkins, bound for Liverpool. The day was a warm one; so much so, that many persons on board, as well as several on shore, stood with their umbrellas up, so intense was the heat of the sun. The ringing of the ship's bell was a signal for us to shake hands with our friends, which we did, and then stepped on the deck of the noble craft. The Canada quitted her moorings at half-past twelve, and we were soon in motion. As we were passing out of Boston Bay, I took my stand on the quarter-deck, to take a last farewell (at least for a time), of my native land. A visit to the old world, up to that time had seemed but a dream. As I looked back upon the receding land, recollections of the past rushed through my mind in quick succession. From the treatment that I had received from the Americans as a victim of slavery, and the knowledge that I was at that time liable to be seized and again reduced to whips and chains, I had supposed that I would leave the country without any regret; but in this I was mistaken, for when I saw the last thread of communication cut off between me and the land, and the dim shores dying away in the distance, I almost regretted that I was not on shore.
An anticipated trip to a foreign country appears pleasant when talking about it, especially when surrounded by friends whom we love; but when we have left them all behind, it does not seem so pleasant. Whatever may be the fault of the government under which we live, and no matter how oppressive her laws may appear, yet we leave our native land (if such it be) with feelings akin to sorrow. With the steamer's powerful engine at work, and with a fair wind, we were speedily on the bosom of the Atlantic, which was as calm and as smooth as our own Hudson in its calmest aspect. We had on board above one hundred passengers, forty of whom were the "Viennese children"—a troop of dancers. The passengers represented several different nations, English, French, Spaniards, Africans, and Americans. One man who had the longest pair of mustaches that mortal man was ever doomed to wear, especially attracted my attention. He appeared to belong to no country in particular, but was yet the busiest man on board. After viewing for some time the many strange faces around me, I descended to the cabin to look after my luggage, which had been put hurriedly on board. I hope that all who take a trip of so great a distance may be as fortunate as I was, in being supplied with books to read on the voyage. My friends had furnished me with literature, from "Macaulay's History of England" to "Jane Eyre," so that I did not want for books to occupy my time.
A pleasant passage of about thirty hours, brought us to Halifax, at six o'clock in the evening. In company with my friend the President of the Oberlin Institute, I took a stroll through the town; and from what little I saw of the people in the streets, I am sure that the taking of the Temperance pledge would do them no injury. Our stay at Halifax was short. Having taken in a few sacks of coals, the mails, and a limited number of passengers, we were again out, and soon at sea. After a pleasant run of seven days more, and as I was lying in my bed, I heard the cry of "Land a-head." Although our passage had been unprecedentedly short, yet I need not inform you that this news was hailed with joy by all on board. For my own part, I was soon on deck. Away in the distance, and on our larboard quarter, were the grey hills of Ireland. Yes! we were in sight of the land of Emmett and O'Connell. While I rejoiced with the other passengers at the sight of land, and the near approach to the end of the voyage, I felt low spirited, because it reminded me of the great distance I was from home. But the experience of above twenty years' travelling, had prepared me to undergo what most persons must lay their account with, in visiting a strange country. This was the last day but one that we were to be on board; and as if moved by the sight of land, all seemed to be gathering their different things together—brushing up their old clothes and putting on their new ones, as if this would bring them any sooner to the end of their journey.
The last night on board was the most pleasant, apparently, that we had experienced; probably, because it was the last. The moon was in her meridian splendour, pouring her broad light over the calm sea; while near to us, on our starboard side, was a ship with her snow-white sails spread aloft, and stealing through the water like a thing of life. What can present a more picturesque view, than two vessels at sea on a moonlight night, and within a few rods of each other? With a gentle breeze, and the powerful engine at work, we seemed to be flying to the embrace of our British neighbours.
The next morning I was up before the sun, and found that we were within a few miles of Liverpool. The taking of a pilot on board at eleven o'clock, warned us to prepare to quit our ocean palace and seek other quarters. At a little past three o'clock, the ship cast anchor, and we were all tumbled, bag and baggage, into a small steamer, and in a few moments were at the door of the Custom-House. The passage had only been nine days and twenty-two hours, the quickest on record at that time, yet it was long enough. I waited nearly three hours before my name was called, and when it was, I unlocked my trunks and handed them over to one of the officers, whose dirty hands made no improvement on the work of the laundress. First one article was taken out, and then another, till an Iron Collar that had been worn by a female slave on the banks of the Mississippi, was hauled out, and this democratic instrument of torture became the centre of attraction; so much so, that instead of going on with the examination, all hands stopped to look at the "Negro Collar."
Several of my countrymen who were standing by, were not a little displeased at answers which I gave to questions on the subject of Slavery; but they held their peace. The interest created by the appearance of the Iron Collar, closed the examination of my luggage. As if afraid that they would find something more hideous, they put the Custom-House mark on each piece, and passed them out, and I was soon comfortably installed at Brown's Temperance Hotel, Clayton Square.
No person of my complexion can visit this country without being struck with the marked difference between the English and the Americans. The prejudice which I have experienced on all and every occasion in the United States, and to some extent on board the Canada, vanished as soon as I set foot on the soil of Britain. In America I had been bought and sold as a slave, in the Southern States. In the so-called free States, I had been treated as one born to occupy an inferior position,—in steamers, compelled to take my fare on the deck; in hotels, to take my meals in the kitchen; in coaches, to ride on the outside; in railways, to ride in the "negro car;" and in churches, to sit in the "negro pew." But no sooner was I on British soil, than I was recognised as a man, and an equal. The very dogs in the streets appeared conscious of my manhood. Such is the difference, and such is the change that is brought about by a trip of nine days in an Atlantic steamer.
I was not more struck with the treatment of the people, than with the appearance of the great seaport of the world. The grey appearance of the stone piers and docks, the dark look of the magnificent warehouses, the substantial appearance of every thing around, causes one to think himself in a new world instead of the old. Every thing in Liverpool looks old, yet nothing is worn out. The beautiful villas on the opposite side of the river, in the vicinity of Birkenhead, together with the countless number of vessels in the river, and the great ships to be seen in the stream, give life and animation to the whole scene.
Every thing in and about Liverpool seems to be built for the future as well as the present. We had time to examine but few of the public buildings, the first of which was the Custom-House, an edifice that would be an ornament to any city in the world.
For the first time in my life, I can say "I am truly free." My old master may make his appearance here, with the Constitution of the United States in his pocket, the Fugitive Slave Law in one hand and the chains in the other, and claim me as his property, but all will avail him nothing. I can here stand and look the tyrant in the face, and tell him that I am his equal! England is, indeed, the "land of the free, and the home of the brave."
Trip to Ireland—Dublin—Her Majesty's Visit—Illumination of the City—the Birth-Place of Thomas Moore—a Reception.
DUBLIN, August 6.
After remaining in Liverpool two days, I took passage in the little steamer Adelaide for this city. The wind being high on the night of our voyage, the vessel had scarcely got to sea ere we were driven to our berths; and though the distance from Liverpool to Dublin is short, yet, strange to say, I witnessed more effects of the sea and rolling of the steamer upon the passengers, than was to be seen during the whole of our voyage from America. We reached Kingstown, five miles below Dublin, after a passage of nearly fifteen hours, and were soon seated on a car, and on our way to the city. While coming into the bay, one gets a fine view of Dublin and the surrounding country. Few sheets of water make a more beautiful appearance than Dublin Bay. We found it as still and smooth as a mirror, with a soft mist on its surface—a strange contrast to the boisterous sea that we had left a moment before.
The curious phrases of the Irish sounded harshly upon my ear, probably, because they were strange to me. I lost no time on reaching the city in seeking out some to whom I had letters of introduction, one of whom gave me an invitation to make his house my home during my stay, an invitation which I did not think fit to decline.
Dublin, the Metropolis of Ireland, is a city of above two hundred thousand inhabitants, and is considered by the people of Ireland to be the second city in the British Empire. The Liffey, which falls into Dublin Bay a little below the Custom-House, divides the town into two nearly equal parts. The streets are—some of them—very fine, especially upper Sackville Street, in the centre of which stands a pillar erected to Nelson, England's most distinguished Naval Commander. The Bank of Ireland, to which I paid a visit, is a splendid building, and was formerly the Parliament House. This magnificent edifice fronts College Green, and near at hand stands a bronze statue of William III. The Bank and the Custom-House are two of the finest monuments of architecture in the city; the latter of which stands near the river Liffey, and its front makes an imposing appearance, extending to three hundred and seventy-five feet. It is built of Portland stone, and is adorned with a beautiful portico in the centre, consisting of four Doric columns supporting an enriched entablature, decorated with a group of figures in alto-relievo, representing Hibernia and Britannia presenting emblems of peace and liberty. A magnificent dome, supporting a cupola, on whose apex stands a colossal figure of Hope, rises nobly from the centre of the building to a height of one hundred and twenty-five feet. It is, withal, a fine specimen of what man can do.
From this noble edifice, we bent our steps to another part of the city, and soon found ourselves in the vicinity of St. Patrick's, where we had a heart-sickening view of the poorest of the poor. All the recollections of poverty which I had ever beheld, seemed to disappear in comparison with what was then before me. We passed a filthy and noisy market, where fruit and vegetable women were screaming and begging those passing by to purchase their commodities; while in and about the market-place were throngs of beggars fighting for rotten fruit, cabbage stocks, and even the very trimmings of vegetables. On the side walks, were great numbers hovering about the doors of the more wealthy, and following strangers, importuning them for "pence to buy bread." Sickly and emaciated-looking creatures, half naked, were at our heels at every turn. After passing through a half dozen, or more, of narrow and dirty streets, we returned to our lodgings, impressed with the idea that we had seen enough of the poor for one day.
In our return home, we passed through a respectable looking street, in which stands a small three storey brick building, which was pointed out to us as the birth-place of Thomas Moore, the poet. The following verse from one of Moore's poems was continually in my mind while viewing this house:—
"Where is the slave, so lowly, Condemn'd to chains unholy, Who, could he burst His bonds at first, Would pine beneath them slowly?"
* * * * *
Yesterday was the Sabbath, but it had more the appearance of a holiday than a day of rest. It had been announced the day before, that the Royal fleet was expected, and at an early hour on Sunday, the entire town seemed to be on the move towards Kingstown, and as the family with whom I was staying followed the multitude, I was not inclined to remain behind, and so went with them. On reaching the station we found it utterly impossible to get standing room in any of the trains, much less a seat, and therefore determined to reach Kingstown under the plea of a morning's walk; and in this we were not alone, for during the walk of five miles the road was filled with thousands of pedestrians and a countless number of carriages, phaetons, and vehicles of a more humble order.
We reached the lower town in time to get a good dinner, and rest ourselves before going to make further searches for Her Majesty's fleet. At a little past four o'clock, we observed the multitude going towards the pier, a number of whom were yelling at the top of their voices, "It's coming, it's coming;" but on going to the quay, we found that a false alarm had been given. However, we had been on the look-out but a short time, when a column of smoke rising as it were out of the sea, announced that the Royal fleet was near at hand. The concourse in the vicinity of the pier was variously estimated at from eighty to one hundred thousand.
It was not long before the five steamers were entering the harbour, the one bearing Her Majesty leading the way. As each vessel had a number of distinguished persons on board, the people appeared to be at a loss to know which was the Queen; and as each party made its appearance on the promenade deck, they were received with great enthusiasm, the party having the best looking lady being received with the greatest applause. The Prince of Wales, and Prince Alfred, while crossing the deck were recognised and greeted with three cheers; the former taking off his hat and bowing to the people, showed that he had had some training as a public man although not ten years of age. But not so with Prince Alfred; for, when his brother turned to him and asked him to take off his hat and make a bow to the people, he shook his head and said, "No." This was received with hearty laughter by those on board, and was responded to by the thousands on shore. But greater applause was yet in store for the young prince; for the captain of the steamer being near by, and seeing that the Prince of Wales could not prevail on his brother to take off his hat, stepped up to him and undertook to take it off for him, when, seemingly to the delight of all, the prince put both hands to his head and held his hat fast. This was regarded as a sign of courage and future renown, and was received with the greatest enthusiasm—many crying out, "Good, good: he will make a brave king when his day comes."
After the greetings and applause had been wasted on many who had appeared on deck, all at once, as if by some magic power, we beheld a lady rather small in stature, with auburn or reddish hair, attired in a plain dress, and wearing a sky-blue bonnet, standing on the larboard paddle-box, by the side of a tall good-looking man, with mustaches. The thunders of applause that now rent the air, and cries of "The Queen, the Queen," seemed to set at rest the question of which was Her Majesty. But a few moments were allowed to the people to look at the Queen, before she again disappeared; and it was understood that she would not be seen again that evening. A rush was then made for the railway, to return to Dublin.
* * * * *
Yesterday was a great day in Dublin. At an early hour the bells began their merry peals, and the people were soon seen in groups in the streets and public squares. The hour of ten was fixed for the procession to leave Kingstown, and it was expected to enter the city at eleven. The windows of the houses in the streets through which the Royal train was to pass, were at a premium, and seemed to find ready occupants.
Being invited the day previous to occupy part of a window in Upper Sackville Street, I was stationed at my allotted place, at an early hour, with an out-stretched neck and open eyes. My own colour differing from those about me, I attracted not a little attention from many; and often, when gazing down the street to see if the Royal procession was in sight, would find myself eyed by all around. But neither while at the window, or in the streets, was I once insulted. This was so unlike the American prejudice, that it seemed strange to me. It was near twelve o'clock before the procession entered Sackville Street, and when it did all eyes seemed to beam with delight. The first carriage contained only Her Majesty and the Prince Consort; the second, the Royal children; and the third, the Lords in Waiting. Fifteen carriages were used by those that made up the Royal party. I had a full view of the Queen and all who followed in the train. Her Majesty—whether from actual love for her person, or the novelty of the occasion, I know not which—was received everywhere with the greatest enthusiasm. One thing, however, is certain, and that is—Queen Victoria is beloved by her subjects.
But the grand fete was reserved for the evening. Great preparations had been made to have a grand illumination on the occasion, and hints were thrown out that it would surpass anything ever witnessed in London. In this they were not far out of the way; for all who witnessed the scene admitted that it could scarcely have been surpassed. My own idea of an illumination, as I had seen it in the backwoods of my own native land, dwindled into nothing when compared with this magnificent affair.
In company with a few friends, and a lady under my charge, I undertook to pass through Sackville and one or two other streets, about eight o'clock in the evening, but we found it utterly impossible to proceed. Masses thronged the streets, and the wildest enthusiasm seemed to prevail. In our attempt to cross the bridge, we were wedged in and lost our companions; and on one occasion I was separated from the lady, and took shelter under a cart standing in the street. After being jammed and pulled about for nearly two hours, I returned to my lodgings, where I found part of my company, who had come in one after another. At eleven o'clock we had all assembled, and each told his adventures and "hairbreadth escapes;" and nearly every one had lost a pocket handkerchief or something of the kind: my own was among the missing. However, I lost nothing; for a benevolent lady, who happened to be one of the company, presented me with one which was of far more value than the one I had lost.
Every one appeared to enjoy the holiday which the Royal visit had caused. But the Irish are indeed a strange people. How varied their aspect—how contradictory their character. Ireland, the land of genius and degradation—of great resources and unparalleled poverty—noble deeds and the most revolting crimes—the land of distinguished poets, splendid orators, and the bravest of soldiers—the land of ignorance and beggary! Dublin is a splendid city, but its splendour is that of chiselled marble rather than real life. One cannot behold these architectural monuments without thinking of the great men that Ireland has produced. The names of Burke, Sheridan, Flood, Grattan, O'Connell, and Shiel, have become as familiar to the Americans as household words. Burke is known as the statesman; Sheridan for his great speech on the trial of Warren Hastings; Grattan for his eloquence; O'Connell as the agitator; and Shiel as the accomplished orator.
But of Ireland's sons, none stands higher in America than Thomas Moore, the Poet. The vigour of his sarcasm, the glow of his enthusiasm, the coruscations of his fancy, and the flashing of his wit, seem to be as well understood in the new world as the old; and the support which his pen has given to civil and religious liberty throughout the world, entitled the Minstrel of Erin to this elevated position.
Before leaving America I had heard much of the friends of my enslaved countrymen residing in Ireland; and the reception I met with on all hands while in public, satisfied me that what I had heard had not been exaggerated. To the Webbs, Allens, and Haughtons, of Dublin, the cause of the American slave is much indebted.
I quitted Dublin with a feeling akin to leaving my native land.
Departure from Ireland—London—Trip to Paris—Paris—The Peace Congress: first day—Church of the Madeleine—Column Vendome—the French.
PARIS, August 23.
After a pleasant sojourn of three weeks in Ireland, I took passage in one of the mail steamers for Liverpool, and arriving there was soon on the road to the metropolis. The passage from Dublin to Liverpool was an agreeable one. The rough sea that we passed through on going to Ireland had given way to a dead calm, and our noble little steamer, on quitting the Dublin wharf, seemed to understand that she was to have it all her own way. During the first part of the evening, the boat appeared to feel her importance, and, darting through the water with majestic strides, she left behind her a dark cloud of smoke suspended in the air like a banner; while, far astern in the wake of the vessel, could be seen the rippled waves sparkling in the rays of the moon, giving strength and beauty to the splendour of the evening.
On reaching Liverpool, and partaking of a good breakfast, for which we paid double price, we proceeded to the railway station, and were soon going at a rate unknown to those accustomed to travel on one of our American railways. At a little past two o'clock in the afternoon, we saw in the distance the out-skirts of London. We could get but an indistinct view, which had the appearance of one architectural mass, extending all round to the horizon, and enveloped in a combination of fog and smoke; and towering above every other object to be seen, was the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.
A few moments more, and we were safely seated in a "Hansom's Patent," and on our way to Hughes's—one of the politest men of the George Fox stamp we have ever met. Here we found forty or fifty persons, who, like ourselves, were bound for the Peace Congress. The Sturges, the Wighams, the Richardsons, the Allens, the Thomases, and a host of others not less distinguished as friends of peace, were of the company—many of whom I had heard of, but none of whom I had ever seen; yet I was not an entire stranger to many, especially to the abolitionists. In company with a friend, I sallied forth after tea to take a view of the city. The evening was fine—the dense fog and smoke having to some extent passed away, left the stars shining brightly, while the gas light from the street lamps and the brilliant shop windows gave it the appearance of day-light in a new form. "What street is this?" we asked. "Cheapside," was the reply. The street was thronged, and every body seemed to be going at a rapid rate, as if there was something of importance at the end of the journey. Flying vehicles of every description passing each other with a dangerous rapidity, men with lovely women at their sides, children running about as if they had lost their parents—all gave a brilliancy to the scene scarcely to be excelled. If one wished to get jammed and pushed about, he need go no farther than Cheapside. But every thing of the kind is done with a degree of propriety in London, that would put the New Yorkers to blush. If you are run over in London, they "beg your pardon;" if they run over you in New York, you are "laughed at:" in London, if your hat is knocked off it is picked up and handed to you; if, in New York, you must pick it up yourself. There is a lack of good manners among Americans that is scarcely known or understood in Europe. Our stay in the great metropolis gave us but little opportunity of seeing much of the place; for in twenty-four hours after our arrival we joined the rest of the delegates, and started on our visit to our Gallic neighbours.
We assembled at the London Bridge Railway Station on Tuesday morning the 21st, a few minutes past nine, to the number of 600. The day was fine, and every eye seemed to glow with enthusiasm. Besides the delegates, there were probably not less than 600 more, who had come to see the company start. We took our seats and appeared to be waiting for nothing but the iron-horse to be fastened to the train, when all at once, we were informed that we must go to the booking-office and change our tickets. At this news every one appeared to be vexed. This caused great trouble; for on returning to the train many persons got into the wrong carriages; and several parties were separated from their friends, while not a few were calling out at the top of their voices, "Where is my wife? Where is my husband? Where is my luggage? Who's got my boy? Is this the right train?" "What is that lady going to do with all these children?" asked the guard. "Is she a delegate: are all the children delegates?" In the carriage where I had taken my seat was a good-looking lady who gave signs of being very much annoyed. "It is just so when I am going anywhere: I never saw the like in my life," said she. "I really wish I was at home again."
An hour had now elapsed, and we were still at the station. However, we were soon on our way, and going at express speed. In passing through Kent we enjoyed the scenery exceedingly, as the weather was altogether in our favour; and the drapery which nature hung on the trees, in the part through which we passed, was in all its gaiety. On our arrival at Folkstone, we found three steamers in readiness to convey the party to Boulogne. As soon as the train stopped, a general rush was made for the steamers; and in a very short time the one in which I had embarked was passing out of the harbour. The boat appeared to be conscious that we were going on a holy mission, and seemed to be proud of her load. There is nothing in this wide world so like a thing of life as a steamer, from the breathing of her steam and smoke, the energy of her motion, and the beauty of her shape; while the ease with which she is managed by the command of a single voice, makes her appear as obedient as the horse is to the rein.
When we were about half way between the two great European Powers, the officers began to gather the tickets. The first to whom he applied, and who handed out his "Excursion Ticket," was informed that we were all in the wrong boat. "Is this not one of the boats to take over the delegates?" asked a pretty little lady, with a whining voice. "No, Madam," said the captain. "You must look to the committee for your pay," said one of the company to the captain. "I have nothing to do with committees," the captain replied. "Your fare, Gentlemen, if you please."
Here the whole party were again thrown into confusion. "Do you hear that? We are in the wrong boat." "I knew it would be so," said the Rev. Dr. Ritchie, of Edinburgh. "It is indeed a pretty piece of work," said a plain-looking lady in a handsome bonnet. "When I go travelling again," said an elderly looking gent with an eye-glass to his face, "I will take the phaeton and old Dobbin." Every one seemed to lay the blame on the committee, and not, too, without some just grounds. However, Mr. Sturge, one of the committee, being in the boat with us, an arrangement was entered into, by which we were not compelled to pay our fare the second time.
As we neared the French coast, the first object that attracted our attention was the Napoleon Pillar, on the top of which is a statue of the Emperor in the Imperial robes. We landed, partook of refreshment that had been prepared for us, and again repaired to the railway station. The arrangements for leaving Boulogne were no better than those at London. But after the delay of another hour, we were again in motion.
It was a beautiful country through which we passed from Boulogne to Amiens. Straggling cottages which bespeak neatness and comfort abound on every side. The eye wanders over the diversified views with unabated pleasure, and rests in calm repose upon its superlative beauty. Indeed, the eye cannot but be gratified at viewing the entire country from the coast to the metropolis. Sparkling hamlets spring up as the steam horse speeds his way, at almost every point—showing the progress of civilization, and the refinement of the nineteenth century.
We arrived at Paris a few minutes past twelve o'clock at night, when, according to our tickets, we should have been there at nine. Elihu Burritt, who had been in Paris some days, and who had the arrangements there pretty much his own way, was at the station waiting the arrival of the train, and we had demonstrated to us, the best evidence that he understood his business. In no other place on the whole route had the affairs been so well managed; for we were seated in our respective carriages and our luggage placed on the top, and away we went to our hotels without the least difficulty or inconvenience. The champion of an "Ocean Penny Postage" received, as he deserved, thanks from the whole company for his admirable management.
The silence of the night was only disturbed by the rolling of the wheels of the omnibus, as we passed through the dimly lighted streets. Where, a few months before was to be seen the flash from the cannon and the musket, and the hearing of the cries and groans behind the barricades, was now the stillness of death—nothing save here and there a gens d'arme was to be seen going his rounds in silence.
The omnibus set us down at the hotel Bedford, Rue de L'Arend, where, although near one o'clock, we found a good supper waiting for us; and, as I was not devoid of an appetite, I did my share towards putting it out of the way.
The next morning I was up at an early hour, and out on the Boulevards to see what might be seen. As I was passing from the Bedford to the Place de La Concord, all at once, and as if by some magic power, I found myself in front of the most splendid edifice imaginable, situated at the end of the Rue Nationale. Seeing a number of persons entering the church at that early hour, and recognising among them my friend the President of the Oberlin (Ohio) Institute, and wishing not to stray too far from my hotel before breakfast, I followed the crowd and entered the building. The church itself consisted of a vast nave, interrupted by four pews on each side, fronted with lofty fluted Corinthian columns standing on pedestals, supporting colossal arches, bearing up cupolas, pierced with skylights and adorned with compartments gorgeously gilt; their corners supported with saints and apostles in alto relievo. The walls of the church were lined with rich marble. The different paintings and figures, gave the interior an imposing appearance. On inquiry, I found that I was in the Church of the Madeleine. It was near this spot that some of the most interesting scenes occurred during the Revolution of 1848, which dethroned Louis Philippe. Behind the Madeleine is a small but well supplied market; and on an esplanade east of the edifice, a flower market is held on Tuesdays and Fridays.
* * * * *
The first session of the Peace Congress is over.
The Congress met this morning at 11 o'clock, in the Salle St. Cecile, Rue de la St. Lazare. The Parisians have no "Exeter Hall:" in fact, there is no private hall in the city of any size, save this, where such a meeting could be held. This hall has been fitted up for the occasion. The room is long, and at one end has a raised platform; and at the opposite end is a gallery, with seats raised one above another. On one side of the hall was a balcony with sofas, which were evidently the "reserved seats."
The hall was filled at an early hour with the delegates, their friends, and a good sprinkling of the French. Occasionally, small groups of gentlemen would make their appearance on the platform, until it soon appeared that there was little room left for others; and yet the officers of the Convention had not come in. The different countries were, many of them, represented here. England, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Spain, and the United States, had each their delegates. The Assembly began to give signs of impatience, when very soon the train of officials made their appearance amid great applause. Victor Hugo led the way, followed by M. Duguerry, cure of the Madeleine, Elihu Burritt, and a host of others of less note. Victor Hugo took the chair as President of the Congress, supported by Vice-presidents from the several nations represented. Mr. Richard, the Secretary, read a dry report of the names of societies, committees, &c., which was deemed the opening of the Convention.
The President then arose, and delivered one of the most impressive and eloquent appeals in favour of peace that could possibly be imagined. The effect produced upon the minds of all present was such as to make the author of "Notre Dame de Paris" a great favourite with the Congress. An English gentleman near me said to his friend, "I can't understand a word of what he says, but is it not good?" Victor Hugo concluded his speech amid the greatest enthusiasm on the part of the French, which was followed by hurrahs in the old English style. The Convention was successively addressed by the President of the Brussels Peace Society; President Mahan of the Oberlin (Ohio) Institute, U.S.; Henry Vincent; and Richard Cobden. The latter was not only the lion of the English delegation, but the great man of the Convention. When Mr. Cobden speaks, there is no want of hearers. The great power of this gentleman lies in his facts and his earnestness, for he cannot be called an eloquent speaker. Mr. Cobden addressed the Congress first in French, then in English; and, with the single exception of Mr. Ewart, M.P., was the only one of the English delegation that could speak to the French in their own language.
The Congress was brought to a close at five o'clock, when the numerous audience dispersed—the citizens to their homes, and the delegates to see the sights.
I was not a little amused at an incident that occurred at the close of the first session. On the passage from America, there were in the same steamer with me, several Americans, and among these, three or four appeared to be much annoyed at the fact that I was a passenger, and enjoying the company of white persons; and although I was not openly insulted, I very often heard the remark, that "That nigger had better be on his master's farm," and "What could the American Peace Society be thinking about to send a black man as a delegate to Paris." Well, at the close of the first sitting of the Convention, and just as I was leaving Victor Hugo, to whom I had been introduced by an M.P., I observed near me a gentleman with his hat in hand, whom I recognized as one of the passengers who had crossed the Atlantic with me in the Canada, and who appeared to be the most horrified at having a negro for a fellow passenger. This gentleman, as I left M. Hugo, stepped up to me and said, "How do you do, Mr. Brown?" "You have the advantage of me," said I. "Oh, don't you know me; I was a fellow passenger with you from America; I wish you would give me an introduction to Victor Hugo and Mr. Cobden." I need not inform you that I declined introducing this pro-slavery American to these distinguished men. I only allude to this, to show what a change comes over the dreams of my white American brother, by crossing the ocean. The man who would not have been seen walking with me in the streets of New York, and who would not have shaken hands with me with a pair of tongs while on the passage from the United States, could come with hat in hand in Paris, and say, "I was your fellow-passenger." From the Salle de St. Cecile, I visited the Column Vendome, from the top of which I obtained a fine view of Paris and its environs. This is the Bunker Hill Monument of Paris. On the top of this pillar is a statue of the Emperor Napoleon, eleven feet high. The monument is built with stone, and the outside covered with a metallic composition, made of cannons, guns, spikes, and other warlike implements taken from the Russians and Austrians by Napoleon. Above 1200 cannons were melted down to help to create this monument of folly, to commemorate the success of the French arms in the German Campaign. The column is in imitation of the Trajan pillar at Rome, and is twelve feet in diameter at the base. The door at the bottom of the pillar, and where we entered, was decorated above with crowns of oak, surmounted by eagles, each weighing 500 lbs. The bas-relief of the shaft pursues a spiral direction to the capitol, and displays, in a chronological order, the principal actions of the French army, from the departure of the troops from Boulogne to the battle of Austerlitz. The figures are near three feet high, and their number said to be two thousand. This sumptuous monument stands on a plinth of polished granite, surmounted by an iron railing; and, from its size and position, has an imposing appearance when seen from any part of the city.
Everything here appears strange and peculiar—the people not less so than their speech. The horses, carriages, furniture, dress, and manners, are in keeping with their language. The appearance of the labourers in caps, resembling nightcaps, seemed particularly strange to me. The women without bonnets, and their caps turned the right side behind, had nothing of the look of our American women. The prettiest woman I ever saw was without a bonnet, walking on the Boulevards. While in Ireland, and during the few days I was in England, I was struck with the marked difference between the appearance of the women from those of my own country. The American women are too tall, too sallow, and too long-featured to be called pretty. This is most probably owing to the fact that in America the people come to maturity earlier than in most other countries.
My first night in Paris was spent with interest. No place can present greater street attractions than the Boulevards of Paris. The countless number of cafes, with tables before the doors, and these surrounded by men with long moustaches, with ladies at their sides, whose very smiles give indication of happiness, together with the sound of music from the gardens in the rear, tell the stranger that he is in a different country from his own.
Versailles—The Palace—Second Session of the Congress—Mr. Cobden—Henry Vincent—M. Girardin—Abbe Duguerry—Victor Hugo: his Speech.
VERSAILLES, August 24.
After the Convention had finished its sittings yesterday, I accompanied Mrs. M. C—— and sisters to Versailles, where they are residing during the summer. It was really pleasing to see among the hundreds of strange faces in the Convention, those distinguished friends of the slave from Boston.
Mrs. C——'s residence is directly in front of the great palace where so many kings have made their homes, the prince of whom was Louis XIV. The palace is now unoccupied. No ruler has dared to take up his residence here since Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette were driven from it by the mob from Paris on the 8th of October, 1789. The town looks like the wreck of what it once was. At the commencement of the first revolution, it contained one hundred thousand inhabitants; now it has only about thirty thousand. It seems to be going back to what it was in the time of Louis XIII., when in 1624 he built a small brick chateau, and from it arose the magnificent palace which now stands here, and which attracts strangers to it from all parts of the world.
I arose this morning before the sun, and took a walk through the grounds of the Palace, and remained three hours among the fountains and statuary of this more than splendid place. But as I intend spending some days here, and shall have better opportunities of seeing and judging, I will defer my remarks upon Versailles for the present.
Yesterday was a great day in the Congress. The session was opened by a speech from M. Coquerel, the Protestant clergyman in Paris. His speech was received with much applause, and seemed to create great sensation in the Congress, especially at the close of his remarks, when he was seized by the hand by the Abbe Duguerry, amid the most deafening and enthusiastic applause of the entire multitude. The meeting was then addressed in English by a short gentleman, of florid complexion. His words seemed to come without the least difficulty, and his jestures, though somewhat violent, were evidently studied; and the applause with which he was greeted by the English delegation, showed that he was a man of no little distinction among them. His speech was one continuous flow of rapid, fervid eloquence, that seemed to fire every heart; and although I disliked his style, I was prepossessed in his favour. This was Henry Vincent, and his speech was in favour of disarmament.
Mr. Vincent was followed by M. Emile de Girardin, the editor of La Presse, in one of the most eloquent speeches that I ever heard; and his exclamation of "Soldiers of Peace," drew thunders of applause from his own countrymen. M. Girardin is not only the leader of the French press, but is a writer on politics of great distinction, and a leader of no inconsiderable party in the National Assembly; although still a young man, apparently not more than thirty-eight or forty years of age.
After a speech from Mr. Ewart, M.P., in French, and another from Mr. Cobden in the same language, the Convention was brought to a close for the day. I spent the morning yesterday, in visiting some of the lions of the French capital, among which was the Louvre. The French Government having kindly ordered, that the members of the Peace Congress should be admitted free, and without ticket, to all the public works, I had nothing to do but present my card of membership, and was immediately admitted.
The first room I entered, was nearly a quarter of a mile in length; is known as the "Long Gallery," and contains some of the finest paintings in the world. On entering this superb palace, my first impression was, that all Christendom had been robbed, that the Louvre might make a splendid appearance. This is the Italian department, and one would suppose by its appearance that but few paintings had been left in Italy. The entrance end of the Louvre was for a long time in an unfinished state, but was afterwards completed by that master workman, the Emperor Napoleon. It was long thought that the building would crumble into decay, but the genius of the great Corsican rescued it from ruin.
During our walk through the Louvre, we saw some twenty or thirty artists copying paintings; some had their copies finished and were going out, others half done, while many had just commenced. I remained some minutes near a pretty French girl, who was copying a painting of a dog rescuing a child from a stream of water into which it had fallen.
I walked down one side of the hall and up the other, and was about leaving, when I was informed that this was only one room, and that a half-dozen more were at my service; but a clock on a neighbouring church reminded me that I must quit the Louvre for the Salle de St. Cecile.
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This morning the Hall was filled at an early hour with rather a more fashionable looking audience than on any former occasion, and all appeared anxious for the Congress to commence its session, as it was understood to be the last day. After the reading of several letters from gentlemen, apologising for their not being able to attend, the speech of Elihu Burritt was read by a son of M. Coquerel. I felt somewhat astonished that my countryman, who was said to be master of fifty languages, had to get some one to read his speech in French.
The Abbe Duguerry now came forward amid great cheering, and said that "the eminent journalist, Girardin, and the great English logician, Mr. Cobden, had made it unnecessary for any further advocacy in that assembly of the Peace cause—that if the principles laid down in the resolutions were carried out, the work would be done. He said that the question of general pacification was built on truth—truth which emanated from God—and it were as vain to undertake to prevent air from expanding as to check the progress of truth. It must and would prevail."
A pale, thin-faced gentleman next ascended the platform (or tribune, as it was called) amid shouts of applause from the English, and began his speech in rather a low tone, when compared with the sharp voice of Vincent, or the thunder of the Abbe Duguerry. An audience is not apt to be pleased or even contented with an inferior speaker, when surrounded by eloquent men, and I looked every moment for manifestations of disapprobation, as I felt certain that the English delegation had made a mistake in applauding this gentleman who seemed to make such an unpromising beginning. But the speaker soon began to get warm on the subject, and even at times appeared as if he had spoken before. In a very short time, with the exception of his own voice, the stillness of death prevailed throughout the building. The speaker, in the delivery of one of the most logical speeches made in the Congress, and despite of his thin, sallow look, interested me much more than any whom I had before heard. Towards the close of his remarks, he was several times interrupted by manifestations of approbation; and finally concluded amid great cheering. I inquired the gentleman's name, and was informed that it was Edward Miall, editor of the Nonconformist.
After speeches from several others, the great Peace Congress of 1849, which had brought men together from nearly all the governments of Europe, and many from America, was brought to a final close by a speech from the President, returning thanks for the honour that had been conferred upon him. He said, "My address shall be short, and yet I have to bid you adieu! How resolve to do so? Here, during three days, have questions of the deepest import been discussed, examined, probed to the bottom; and during these discussions, counsels have been given to governments which they will do well to profit by. If these days' sittings are attended with no other result, they will be the means of sowing in the minds of those present, gems of cordiality which must ripen into good fruit. England, France, Belgium, Europe, and America, would all be drawn closer by these sittings. Yet the moment to part has arrived, but I can feel that we are strongly united in heart. But before parting I may congratulate you and myself on the result of our proceedings. We have been all joined together without distinction of country; we have all been united in one common feeling during our three days' communion. The good work cannot go back, it must advance, it must be accomplished. The course of the future may be judged of by the sound of the footsteps of the past. In the course of that day's discussion, a reminiscence had been handed up to one of the speakers, that this was the anniversary of the dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew: the rev. gentleman who was speaking turned away from the thought of that sanguinary scene with pious horror, natural to his sacred calling. But I, who may boast of firmer nerve, I take up the remembrance. Yes, it was on this day, two hundred and seventy-seven years ago, that Paris was roused from slumber by the sound of that bell which bore the name of cloche d'argent. Massacre was on foot, seeking with keen eye for its victim—man was busy in slaying man. That slaughter was called forth by mingled passions of the worst description. Hatred of all kinds was there urging on the slayer—hatred of a religious, a political, a personal character. And yet on the anniversary of that same day of horror, and in that very city whose blood was flowing like water, has God this day given a rendezvous to men of peace, whose wild tumult is transformed into order, and animosity into love. The stain of blood is blotted out, and in its place beams forth a ray of holy light. All distinctions are removed, and Papist and Huguenot meet together in friendly communion. (Loud cheers.) Who that thinks of these amazing changes can doubt of the progress that has been made? But whoever denies the force of progress must deny God, since progress is the boon of Providence, and emanated from the great Being above. I feel gratified for the change that has been effected, and, pointing solemnly to the past, I say let this day be ever held memorable—let the 24th of August, 1572, be remembered only for the purpose of being compared with the 24th of August, 1849; and when we think of the latter, and ponder over the high purpose to which it has been devoted—the advocacy of the principles of peace—let us not be so wanting in reliance on Providence as to doubt for one moment of the eventful success of our holy cause."