American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. ALLAN is a son of the Rev. Dr. Allan, a slaveholder and pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Huntsville, Alabama. He has recently become the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Chatham, Illinois.

  “I was born and have lived most of my life in the slave states, mainly in the village of Huntsville, Alabama, where my parents still reside. I seldom went to a plantation, and as my visits were confined almost exclusively to the families of professing Christians, my personal knowledge of slavery, was consequently a knowledge of its fairest side, (if fairest may be predicated of foul.)

  “There was one plantation just opposite my father's house in the suburbs of Huntsville, belonging to Judge Smith, formerly a Senator in Congress from South Carolina, now of Huntsville. The name of his overseer was Tune. I have often seen him flogging the slaves in the field, and have often heard their cries. Sometimes, too, I have met them with the tears streaming down their faces, and the marks of the whip, ('whelks,') on their bare necks and shoulders. Tune was so severe in his treatment, that his employer dismissed him after two or three years, lest, it was said, he should kill off all the slaves. But he was immediately employed by another planter in the neighborhood. The following fact was stated to me by my brother, James M. Allan,


now residing at Richmond, Henry county, Illinois, and clerk of the circuit and county courts. Tune became displeased with one of the women who was pregnant, he made her lay down over a log, with her face towards the ground, and beat her so unmercifully, that she was soon after delivered of a dead child.

  “My brother also stated to me the following, which occurred near my father's house, and within sight and hearing of the academy and public garden. Charles, a fine active negro, who belonged to a bricklayer in Huntsville, exchanged the burning sun of the brickyard to enjoy for a season the pleasant shade of an adjacent mountain. When his master got him back, he tied him by his hands so that his feet could just touch the ground—stripped off his clothes, took a paddle, bored full of holes, and paddled him leisurely all day long. It was two weeks before they could tell whether he would live or die. Neither of these cases attracted any particular notice in Huntsville.

  “While I lived in Huntsville a slave was killed in the mountain near by. The circumstances were these. A white man (James Helton) hunting in the woods, suddenly came upon a black man, and commanded him to stop, the slave kept on running, Helton fired his rifle and the negro was killed.*

  “Mrs. BARR, wife of Rev. H. Barr of Carrollton, Illinois, formerly from Courtland, Alabama, told me last spring, that she has very often stopped her ears that she might not hear the screams of slaves who were under the lash, and that sometimes she has left her house, and retired to a place more distant, in order to get away from their agonizing cries.

  “I have often seen groups of slaves on the public squares in Huntsville, who were to be sold at auction, and I have often seen their tears gush forth and their countenances distorted with anguish. A considerable number were generally sold publicly every month.

  “The following facts I have just taken down from the lips of Mr. L. Turner, a regular and respectable member of the Second Presbyterian Church in Springfield, our county town. He was born and brought up in Caroline county, Virginia. He says that the slaves are neither considered nor treated as human beings. One of his neighbors whose name was Barr, he says, on one occasion stripped a slave and lacerated his back with a handeard (for cotton or wool) and then washed it with salt and water, with pepper in it. Mr. Turner saw this. He further remarked that he believed there were many slaves there in advanced life whose backs had never been well since they began to work.

  “He stated that one of his uncles had killed a woman—broke her skull with an ax helve: she had insulted her mistress! No notice was taken of the affair. Mr. T. said, further, that slaves were frequently murdered.

   “He mentioned the case of one slaveholder, whom he had seen lay his slaves on a large log, which he kept for the purpose, strip them, tie them with the face downward, then have a kettle of hot water brought—take the paddle, made of hard wood, and perforated with holes, dip it into the hot water and strike—before every blow dipping it into the water—every hole at every blow would raise a 'whelk.' This was the usual punishment for running away.”

  “Another slaveholder had a slave who had often run away, and often been severely whipped. After one of his floggings he burnt his master's barn: this so enraged the man, that when he caught him he took a pair of pincers and pulled his toe nails out. The negro then murdered two of his master's children. He was taken after a desperate pursuit, (having been shot through the shoulder) and hung.

   “One of Mr. Turner's cousins, was employed as overseer on a large plantation in Mississippi. On a certain morning he called the slaves together, to give some orders. While doing it, a slave came running out of his cabin, having a knife in his hand and eating his breakfast. The overseer seeing him coming with the knife, was somewhat alarmed, and instantly raised his gun and shot him dead. He said afterwards, that he believed the slave was perfectly innocent of any evil intentions, he came out hastily to hear the orders whilst eating. No notice was taken of the killing.

  “Mr. T. related the whipping habits of one of his uncles in Virginia. He was a wealthy man, had a splendid house and grounds. A tree in his front yard, was used as a whipping post. When a slave was to be punished, he would frequently invite some of his friends, have a table, cards and wine set out under the shade; he would then flog his slave a little while, and then play cards and drink with his friends, occasionally taunting the slave, giving him the privilege of confessing such and such things, at his leisure, after a while flog him again, thus keeping it up for hours or half the day, and sometimes all day. This was his habit .

  “February 4th.—Since writing the preceding, I have been to Carrollton, on a visit to my uncle, Rev. Hugh Barr, who was originally from Tennessee, lived 12 or 14 years in Courtland, Lawrence county, Alabama, and moved to Illinois in 1835. In conversation with the family, around the fireside, they stated a multitude of horrid facts, that were perfectly notorious in the neighborhood of Courtland.

  “William P. Barr, an intelligent young man, and member of his father's church in Carrollton, stated the following. Visiting at a Mr. Mosely's, near Courtland, William Mosely came in with a bloody knife in his hand, having just stabbed a negro man. The negro was sitting quietly in a house in the village, keeping a woman company who had been left in charge of the house,—when Mosely, passing along, went in and demanded his business there. Probably his


answer was not as civil as slaveholding requires, and Mosely rushed upon him and stabbed him. The wound laid him up for a season. Mosely was called to no account for it. When he came in with the bloody knife, he said he wished he had killed him.

  “John Brown, a slaveholder, and a member of the Presbyterian church in Courtland, Alabama, stated the following a few weeks since, in Carrollton. A man near Courtland, of the name of Thompson, recently shot a negro woman through the head; and put the pistol so close that her hair was singed. He did it in consequence of some difficulty in his dealings with her as a concubine. He buried her in a log heap; she was discovered by the buzzards gathering around it.

  “William P. Barr stated the following, as facts well known in the neighborhood of Courtland, but not witnessed by himself. Two men, by the name of Wilson, found a fine looking negro man at 'Dandridge's Quarter,' without a pass; and flogged him so that he died in a short time. They were not punished.

  “Col. Blocker's overseer attempted to flog a negro—he refused to be flogged; whereupon the overseer seized an axe, and cleft his skull. The Colonel justified it.

  “One Jones whipped a woman to death for 'grabbling' a potato hill. He owned 80 or 100 negroes. His own children could not live with him.

  “A man in the neighborhood of Courtland, Alabama, by the name of Puryear, was so proverbially cruel that among the negroes he was usually called 'the Devil.' Mrs. Barr, wife of Rev. H. Barr, was at Puryear's house, and saw a negro girl about 13 years old, waiting around the table, with a single garment—and that in cold weather; arms and feet bare—feet wretchedly swollen— arms burnt, and full of sores from exposure. All the negroes under his care made a wretched appearance.

  “Col. Robert H. Watkins had a runaway slave, who was called Jim Dragon. Before he was caught the last time, he had been out a year, within a few miles of his master's plantation. He never stole from any one but his master, except when necessity compelled him. He said he had a right to take from his master; and when taken, that he had, whilst out, seen his master a hundred times. Having been whipped, clogged with irons, and yoked, he was set at work in the field. Col. Watkins worked about 300 hands— generally had one negro out hunting runaways. After employing a physician for some time among his negroes, he ceased to do so, alleging as the reason, that it was cheaper to lose a few negroes every year than to pay a physician. He was a Presidential elector in 1836.

  “Col. Ben Sherrod, another large planter in that neighborhood, is remarkable for his kindness to his slaves. He said to Rev. Mr. Barr, that he had no doubt he should be rewarded in heaven for his kindness to his slaves; and yet his overseer, Walker, had to sleep with loaded pistols, for fear of assassination. Three of the slaves attempted to kill him once, because of his treatment of their wives.

   “Old Major Billy Watkins was noted for his severity. I well remember, when he lived in Madison county, to have often heard him yell at his negroes with the most savage fury. He would stand at his house, and watch the slaves picking cotton; and if any of them straitened their backs for a moment, his savage yell would ring, 'bend your backs.'

  “Mrs. Barr stated that Mrs. H—, of Courtland, a member of the Presbyterian church, sent a little negro girl to jail, suspecting that she had attempted to put poison into the water pail. The fact was, that the child had found a vial, and was playing in the water. This same woman (in high standing too,) told the Rev. Mr. McMillan, that she could 'cut Arthur Tappan's throat from ear to ear.'

  “The clothing of slaves is in many cases comfortable, and in many it is far from being so. I have very often seen slaves, whose tattered rags were neither comfortable nor decent.

  “Their huts are sometimes comfortable, but generally they are miserable hovels, where male and female are herded promiscuously together.

   “As to the usual allowance of food on the plantations in North Alabama, I cannot speak confidently, from personal knowledge. There was a slave named Hadley, who was in the habit of visiting my father's slaves occasionally. He had run away several times. His reason was, as he stated, that they would not give him any meat— said he could not work without meat. The last time I saw him, he had quite a heavy iron yoke on his neck, the two prongs twelve or fifteen inches long, extending out over his shoulders and bending upwards.

  “Legal marriage is unknown among the slaves, they sometimes have a marriage form—generally, however, none at all. The pastor of the Presbyterian church in Huntsville, had two families of slaves when I left there. One couple were married by a negro preacher—the man was robbed of his wife a number of months afterwards, by her 'owner.' The other couple just 'took up together,' without any form of marriage. They are both members of churches—the man a Baptist deacon, sober and correct in his deportment. They have a large family of children—all children of concubinage—living in a minister's family.

  “If these statements are deemed of any value by you, in forwarding your glorious enterprize, you are at liberty to use them as you please. The great wrong is enslaving a man; all other wrongs are pigmies, compared with that. Facts might be gathered abundantly, to show that it is slavery itself, and not cruelties merely, that make slaves unhappy. Even those that are most kindly treated, are generally far from being happy. The slaves in my father's family are almost as kindly treated as slaves can be, yet they pant for liberty.

  “May the Lord guide you in this great move ment.

In behalf of the perishing, Your friend and brother,



American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. Leftwich is a grandson of Gen. Jabez Leftwich, who was for some years a member of Congress from Virginia. Though born in Virginia, he has resided most of his life in Alabama. He now lives in Delhi, Hamilton county, Ohio, near Cincinnati.

  As an introduction to his letter, the reader is furnished with the following testimonial to his character, from the Rev. Horace Bushnell, pastor of the Presbyterian church in Delhi. Mr. B. says:

  “Mr. Leftwich is a worthy member of this church, and is a young man of sterling integrity and veracity. H. BUSHNELL .”

  The following is the letter of Mr. Leftwich, dated Dec. 26, 1838.


  Though I am not ranked among the abolitionists, yet I cannot, as a friend of humanity, withhold from the public such facts in relation to the condition of the slaves, as have fallen under my own observation. That I am somewhat acquainted with slavery will be seen, as I narrate some incidents of my own life. My parents were slaveholders, and moved from Virginia to Madison county, Alabama, during my infancy. My mother soon fell a victim to the climate. Being the youngest of the children, I was left in the care of my aged grandfather, who never held a slave, though his sons owned from 90 to 100 during the time I resided with him. As soon as I could carry a hoe, my uncle, by the name of Neely, persuaded my grandfather that I should be placed in his hands, and brought up in habits of industry. I was accordingly placed under his tuition. I left the domestic circle, little dreaming of the horrors that awaited me. My mother's own brother took me to the cotton field, there to learn habits of industry, and to be benefited by his counsels. But the sequel proved, that I was there to feel in my own person, and witness by experience many of the horrors of slavery. Instead of kind admonition, I was to endure the frowns of one, whose sympathies could neither be reached by the prayers and cries of his slaves, nor by the entreaties and sufferings of a sister's son. Let those who call slaveholders kind, hospitable and humane, mark the course the slaveholder pursues with one born free, whose ancestors fought and bled for liberty; and then say, if they can without a blush of shame, that he who robs the helpless of every right, can be truly kind and hospitable.

  “In a short time after I was put upon the plantation, there was but little difference between me and the slaves, except being white, I ate at the master's table. The slaves were my companions in misery, and I well learned their condition, both in the house and field. Their dwellings are log huts, from ten to twelve feet square; often without windows, doors or floors. They have neither chairs, tables or bedsteads. These huts are occupied by eight, ten or twelve persons each. Their bedding generally consists of two old blankets. Many of them sleep night after night sitting upon their blocks or stools; others sleep in the open air. Our task was appointed, and from dawn till dark all must bend to their work. Their meals were taken without knife or plate, dish or spoon. Their food was corn pone, prepared in the coarsest manner, with a small allowance of meat. Their meals in the field were taken from the hands of the carrier, wherever he found them, with no more ceremony than in the feeding of swine. My uncle was his own overseer. For punishing in the field, he preferred a large hickory stick; and wo to him whose work was not done to please him, for the hickory was used upon our heads as remorselessly as if we had been mad dogs. I was often the object of his fury, and shall bear the marks of it on my body till I die. Such was my suffering and degradation, that at the end of five years, I hardly dared to say I was free. When thinning cotton, we went mostly on our knees. One day, while thus engaged, my uncle found my row behind; and, by way of admonition, gave me a few blows with his hickory, the marks of which I carried for weeks. Often I followed the example of the fugitive slaves, and betook myself to the mountains; but hunger and fear drove me back, to share with the wretched slave his toil and stripes. But I have talked enough about my own bondage; I will now relate a few facts, showing the condition of the slaves generally .

  “My uncle wishing to purchase what is called a good 'house wench,' a trader in human flesh soon produced a woman, recommending her as highly as ever a jockey did a horse. She was purchased, but on trial was found wanting in the requisite qualifications. She then fell a victim to the disappointed rage of my uncle; innocent or guilty, she suffered greatly from his fury. He used to tie her to a peach tree in the yard, and whip her till there was no sound place to lay another stroke, and repeat it so often that her back was kept continually sore. Whipping the females around the legs, was a favorite mode of punishment with him. They must stand and hold up their clothes, while he plied his hickory. He did not, like some of his neighbors, keep a pack of hounds for hunting runaway negroes, but he kept one dog for that purpose, and when he came up with a runaway, it would have been death to attempt to fly, and it was nearly so to stand. Sometimes, when my uncle attempted to whip the slaves, the dog would rush upon them and relieve them of their rags, if not of their flesh. One object of my uncle's special hate was "Jerry," a slave of a proud spirit. He defied all the curses, rage and stripes of his tyrant. Though he was often overpowered—for my uncle would frequently wear out his stick upon his head—yet he would never submit. As he was not expert in picking cotton, he would sometimes run away in the fall, to escape abuse. At one time, after an absence of some months, he was arrested and brought back. As is customary, he was


stripped, tied to a log, and the cow-skin applied to his naked body till his master was exhausted. Then a large log chain was fastened around one ankle, passed up his back, over his shoulders, then across his breast, and fastened under his arm. In this condition he was forced to perform his daily task. Add to this he was chained each night, and compelled to chop wood every Sabbath, to make up lost time. After being thus manacled for some months, he was released—but his spirit was unsubdued. Soon after, his master, in a paroxysm of rage, fell upon him, wore out his staff upon his head, loaded him again with chains, and after a month, sold him farther south. Another slave, by the name of Mince, who was a man of great strength, purloined some bacon on a Christmas eve. It was missed in the morning, and he being absent, was of course suspected. On returning home, my uncle commanded him to come to him, but he refused. The master strove in vain to lay hands on him; in vain he ordered his slaves to seize him—they dared not. At length the master hurled a stone at his head sufficient to have felled a bullock—but he did not heed it. At that instant my aunt sprang forward, and presenting the gun to my uncle, exclaimed, 'Shoot him! shoot him!' He made the attempt, but the gun missed fire, and Mince fled. He was taken eight or ten months after that, while crossing the Ohio. When brought back, the master, and an overseer on another plantation, took him to the mountain and punished him to their satisfaction in secret; after which he was loaded with chains and set to his task.

  “I have spent nearly all my life in the midst of slavery. From being the son of a slaveholder, I descended to the condition of a slave, and from that condition I rose (if you please to call it so,) to the station of a 'driver.' I have lived in Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky; and I know the condition of the slaves to be that of unmixed wretchedness and degradation. And on the part of slaveholders, there is cruelty untold. The labor of the slave is constant toil, wrung out by fear. Their food is scanty, and taken without comfort. Their clothes answer the purposes neither of comfort nor decency. They are not allowed to read or write. Whether they may worship God or not, depends on the will of the master. The young children, until they can work, often go naked during the warm weather. I could spend months in detailing the sufferings, degradation and cruelty inflicted upon slaves. But my soul sickens at the remembrance of these things.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. Sapington, is a repentant “soul driver” or slave trader, now a citizen of Lancaster, Pa. He gives the following testimony in a letter dated, Jan. 21, 1839.

  “I was born in Maryland, afterwards moved to Virginia, where I commenced the business of farming and trafficking in slaves. In my neighborhood the slaves were 'quartered.' The description generally given of negro quarters is correct. The quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather, they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter. The food there consists of potatoes, pork, and corn, which were given to them daily, by weight and measure. The sexes were huddled together promiscuously. Their clothing is made by themselves after night, though sometimes assisted by the old women who are no longer able to do out door work, consequently it is harsh and uncomfortable. I have frequently seen those of both sexes who have not attained the age of twelve years go naked. Their punishments are invariably cruel. For the slightest offence, such as taking a hen's egg, I have seen them stripped and suspended by their hands, their feet tied together, a fence rail of ordinary size placed between their ankles, and then most cruelly whipped, until, from head to foot, they were completely lacerated, a pickle made for the purpose of salt and water, would then be applied by a fellow-slave, for the purpose of healing the wounds as well as giving pain. Then taken down and without the least respite sent to work with their hoe.

  Pursuing my assumed right of driving souls, I went to the Southern part of Virginia for the purpose of trafficking in slaves. In that part of the state, the cruelties practised upon the slaves, are far greater than where I lived. The punishments there often resulted in death to the slave. There was no law for the negro, but that of the overseer's whip. In that part of the country, the slaves receive nothing for food, but corn in the ear, which has to be prepared for baking after working hours, by grinding it with a hand-mill. This they take to the fields with them, and prepare it for eating, by holding it on their hoes, over a fire made by a stump. Among the gangs, are often young women, who bring their children to the fields, and lay them in a fence corner, while they are at work, only being permitted to nurse them at the option of the overseer. When a child is three weeks old, a woman is considered in working order. I have seen a woman, with her young child strapped to her back, laboring the whole day, beside a man, perhaps the father of the child, and he not being permitted to give her any assistance, himself being under the whip. The uncommon humanity of the driver allowing her the comfort of doing so. I was then selling a drove of slaves, which I had brought by water from Baltimore, my conscience not allowing me to drive, as was generally the case uniting the slaves by collars and chains, and thus driving them under the whip. About that time an unaccountable something, which I now know was an interposition of Providence, prevented me from prosecuting any farther this unholy traffic; but though I had quitted it, I still continued to live in a slave state, witnessing every day its evil effects upon my fellow beings.


Among which was a heart-rending scene that took place in my father's house, which led me to leave a slave state, as well as all the imaginary comforts arising from slavery. On preparing for my removal to the state of Pennsylvania, it became necessary for me to go to Louisville, in Kentucky, where, if possible, I became more horrified with the impositions practiced upon the negro than before. There a slave was sold to go farther south, and was hand-cuffed for the purpose of keeping him secure. But choosing death rather than slavery, he jumped overboard and was drowned. When I returned four weeks afterwards his body, that had floated three miles below, was yet unburied. One fact; it is impossible for a person to pass through a slave state, if he has eyes open, without beholding every day cruelties repugnant to humanity.

Respectfully Yours, LEMUEL SAPINGTON .

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mrs. Lowry, is a member of the non-conformist church in Osnaburg, Stark County, Ohio., she is a native of Kentucky. We have received from her the following testimony.

  “I resided in the family of Reuben Long, the principal part of the time, from seven to twenty-two years of age. Mr. Long had 16 slaves, among whom were three who were treated with severity, although Mr. Long was thought to be a very humane master. These three, namely John, Ned, and James, had wives; John and Ned had theirs at some distance, but James had his with him. All three died a premature death, and it was generally believed by his neighbors, that extreme whipping was the cause. I believe so too. Ned died about the age of 25 and John 34 or 35. The cause of their flogging was commonly staying a little over the time, with their wives. Mr. Long would tie them up by the wrist, so high that their toes would just touch the ground, and then with a cow-hide lay the lash upon the naked back, until he was exhausted, when he would sit down and rest. As soon as he had rested sufficiently, he would ply the cow-hide again, thus he would continue until the whole back of the poor victim was lacerated into one uniform coat of blood. Yet he was a strict professor of the Christian religion, in the southern church. I frequently washed the wounds of John, with salt water, to prevent putrefaction. This was the usual course pursued after a severe flogging; their backs would be full of gashes, so deep that I could almost lay my finger in them. They were generally laid up after the flogging for several days. The last flogging Ned got, he was confined to the bed, which he never left till he was carried to his grave. During John's confinement in his last sickness on one occasion while attending on him, he exclaimed, 'Oh, Nancy, Miss Nancy, I haven't much longer in this world, I feel as if my whole body inside and all my bones were beaten into a jelly.' Soon after he died. John and Ned were both professors of religion.

  “John Ruffner, a slaveholder, had one slave named Piney, whom he as well as Mrs. Ruffner would often flog very severely. I frequently saw Mrs. Ruffner flog her with the broom, shovel, or any thing she could seize in her rage. She would knock her down and then kick and stamp her most unmercifully, until she would he apparently so lifeless, that I more than once thought she would never recover. Often Piney would try to shelter herself from the blows of her mistress, by creeping under the bed, from which Mrs. Ruffner would draw her by the feet, and then stamp and leap on her body, till her breath would be gone. Often Piney, would cry, 'Oh Missee, don't kill me!” “Oh Lord, don't kill me!' 'For God's sake don't kill me!' But Mrs. Ruffner would beat and stamp away, with all the venom of a demon. The cause of Piney's flogging was, not working enough, or making some mistake in baking, &c. &c. Many a night Piney had to lie on the bare floor, by the side of the cradle, rocking the baby of her mistress, and if she would fall asleep, and suffer the child to cry, so as to waken Mrs. Ruffner, she would be sure to receive a flogging.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. W. C. GILDERSLEEVE, a native of Georgia, is an elder of the Presbyterian Church at Wilkesbarre, Pa.

  “Acts of cruelty, without number, fell under my observation while I lived in Georgia. I will mention but one. A slave of a Mr. Pinkney, on his way with a wagon to Savannah, 'camped' for the night by the road side. That night, the nearest hen-roost was robbed. On his return, the hen-roost was again visited, and the fowl counted one less in the morning. The oldest son, with some attendants made search, and came upon the poor fellow, in the act of dressing his spoil. He was too nimble for them, and made his retreat good into a dense swamp. When much effort to start him from his hiding place had proved unsuccessful, it was resolved to lay an ambush for him, some distance ahead. The wagon, meantime, was in charge of a lad, who accompanied the teamster as an assistant. The little boy lay still till nearly night, (in the hope probably that the teamster would return,) when he started with his wagon. After travelling some distance, the lost one made his appearance, when the ambush sprang upon him. The poor fellow was conducted back to the plantation. He expected little mercy. He begged for himself, in the most suplicating manner, 'pray massa give me 100 lashes and let me go.' He was then tied by the hands, to a limb of a large mulberry tree, which grew in the yard, so that his


feet were raised a few inches from the ground, while a sharpened stick was driven underneath, that he might rest his weight on it, or swing by his hands. In this condition 100 lashes were laid on his bare body. I stood by and witnessed the whole, without as I recollect, feeling the least compassion. So hardening is the influence of slavery, that it very much destroys feeling for the slave.”

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mr. WHITE resided thirty-two years in Chatham county, North Carolina, and is now a member of the Baptist Church, at Otter Creek Prairie, Illinois.

  About the 20th December, 1830, a report was raised that the slaves in Chatham county, North Carolina, were going to rise on Christmas day,” in consequence of which a considerable commotion ensued among the inhabitants; orders were given by the Governor to the militia captains, to appoint patrolling captains in each district, and orders were given for every man subject to military duty to patrol as their captains should direct. I went two nights in succession, and after that refused to patrol at all. The reason why I refused was this, orders were given to search every negro house for books or prints of any kind, and Bibles and Hymn books were particularly mentioned. And should we find any, our orders were to inflict punishment by whipping the slave until he informed who gave them to him, or how they came by them.

  As regards the comforts of the slaves in the vicinity of my residence, I can say they had nothing that would bear that name. It is true, the slaves in general, of a good crop year, were tolerably well fed, but of a bad crop year, they were, as a general thing, cut short of their allowance. Their houses were pole cabins, without loft or floor. Their beds were made of what is there called “broom-straw.” The men more commonly sleep on benches. Their clothing would compare well with their lodging. Whipping was common. It was hardly possible for a man with a common pair of ears, if he was out of his house but a short time on Monday mornings, to miss of hearing the sound of the lash, and the cries of the sufferers pleading with their masters to desist. These scenes were more common throughout the time of my residence there, from 1799 to 1831.

  Mr. HEDDING of Chatham county, held a slave woman. I traveled past Heddings as often as once in two weeks during the winter of 1828, and always saw her clad in a single cotton dress, sleeves came half way to the elbow, and in order to prevent her running away, a child, supposed to be about seven years of age, was connected with her by a long chain fastened round her neck, and in this situation she was compelled all the day to grub up the roots of shrubs and sapplings to prepare ground for the plough. It is not uncommon for slaves to make up on Sundays what they are not able to perform through the week of their tasks.

  At the time of the rumored insurrection above named, Chatham jail was filled with slaves who were said to have been concerned in the plot. Without the least evidence of it, they were punished in divers ways; some were whipped, some had their thumbs screwed in a vice to make them confess, but no proof satisfactory was ever obtained that the negroes had ever thought of an insurrection, nor did any so far as I could learn, acknowledge that an insurrection had ever been projected. From this time forth, the slaves were prohibited from assembling together for the wor ship of God, and many of those who had previously been authorized to preach the gospel were prohibited.

  Amalgamation was common. There was scarce a family of slaves that had females of mature age where there were not some mulatto children.


  Otter Creek Prairie, Jan. 22, 1839.

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Extract of a letter, dated January 3, 1839, from John M. Nelson Esq., of Hillsborough. Mr. Nelson removed from Virginia to Highland county, Ohio, many years since, where he is extensively known and respected.

  I was born and raised in Augusta county, Virginia; my father was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and was “owner” of about twenty slaves; he was what was generally termed a “good master.” His slaves were generally tolerably well fed and clothed, and not over worked, they were sometimes permitted to attend church, and called in to family worship; few of them, however, availed themselves of these privileges. On some occasions I have seen him whip them severely, particularly for the crime of trying to obtain their liberty, or for what was called, “running away.” For this they were scourged more severely than for any thing else. After they have been retaken, I have seen them stripped naked and suspended by the hands, sometimes to a tree, sometimes to a post, until their toes barely touched the ground, and whipped with a cowhide until the blood dripped from their backs. A boy named Jack, particularly, I have seen served in this way more than once. When I was quite a child, I recollect it grieved me very much to see one tied up to be whipped, and I used to intercede with tears in their behalf, and mingle my cries with theirs, and feel almost willing to take part of the punishment; I have been severely rebuked by my father for this kind of sympathy. Yet, such is the hardening nature of such scenes, that from this kind of commisseration for the suffering slave. I became so blunt


ed that I could not only witness their stripes with composure, but myself inflict them, and that without remorse. One case I have often looked back to with sorrow and contrition, particularly since I have been convinced that “negroes are men.” When I was perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age, I undertook to correct a young fellow named Ned, for some supposed offence; I think it was leaving a bridle out of its proper place; he being larger and stronger than myself took hold of my arms and held me, in order to prevent my striking him; this I considered the height of insolence, and cried for help, when my father and mother both came running to my rescue. My father stripped and tied him, and took him into the orchard, where switches were plenty, and directed me to whip him; when one switch wore out he supplied me with others. After I had whipped him a while, he fell on his knees to implore forgiveness, and I kicked him in the face; my father said, “don't kick him, but whip him;” this I did until his back was literally covered with welts. I know I have repented, and trust I have obtained pardon for these things.

  My father owned a woman, (we used to call aunt Grace,) she was purchased in Old Virginia. She has told me that her old master, in his will, gave her her freedom, but at his death, his sons had sold her to my father: when he bought her she manifested some unwillingness to go with him, when she was put in irons and taken by force. This was before I was born; but I remember to have seen the irons, and was told that was what they had been used for. Aunt Grace is still living, and must be between seventy and eighty years of age; she has, for the last forty years, been an exemplary Christian. When I was a youth I took some pains to learn her to read; this is now a great consolation to her. Since age and infirmity have rendered her of little value to her “owners,” she is permitted to read as much as she pleases; this she can do, with the aid of glasses, in the old family Bible, which is almost the only book she has ever looked into. This with some little mending for the black children, is all she does; she is still held as a slave. I well remember what a heart-rending scene there was in the family when my father sold her husband; this was, I suppose, thirty-five years ago. And yet my father was considered one of the best of masters. I know of few who were better, but of many who were worse.

  The last time I saw my father, which was in the fall of 1832, he promised me that he would free all his slaves at his death. He died however without doing it; and I have understood since, that he omitted it, through the influence of Rev. Dr. Speece, a Presbyterian minister, who lived in the family, and was a a warm friend of the Colonization Society.

  About the year 1809 or 10, I became a student of Rev. George Bourne; he was the first abolitionist I had ever seen, and the first I had ever heard pray or plead for the oppressed, which gave me the first misgivings about the innocence of slaveholding. I received impressions from Mr. Bourne which I could not get rid of,* and determined in my own mind that when I settled in life, it should be in a free state; this determination I carried into effect in 1813, when I removed to this place, which I supposed at that time, to be all the opposition to slavery that was necessary, but the moment I became convinced that all slaveholding was in itself sinful, I became an abolitionist, which was about four years ago.

American Slavery As It Is
Theodore Weld
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839


  Mrs. Weld is the youngest daughter of the late Judge Grimké, of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, and a sister of the late Hon. Thomas S. Grimké, of Charleston.

  FORT LEE, Bergen Co., New Jersey, Fourth month 6th, 1839.{

  I sit down to comply with thy request, preferred in the name of the Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The responsibility laid upon me by such a request, leaves me no option. While I live, and slavery lives, I must testify against it. If I should hold my peace, “the stone would cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber would answer it.” But though I feel a necessity upon me, and “a woe unto me,” if I withhold my testimony, I give it with a heavy heart. My flesh crieth out, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” but, “Father, thy will be done,” is, I trust, the breathing of my spirit. Oh, the slain of the daughter of my people! they lie in all the ways; their tears fall as the rain, and are their meat day and night; their blood runneth down like water; their plundered hearths are desolate; they weep for their husbands and children, because they are not; and the proud waves do continually go over them, while no eye pitieth, and no man careth for their souls.

  But it is not alone for the sake of my poor brothers and sisters in bonds, or for the cause of truth, and righteousness, and humanity, that I testify; the deep yearnings of affection for the mother that bore me, who is still a slaveholder, both in fact and in heart; for my brothers and sisters, (a large family circle,) and for my numerous other slaveholding kindred in South Carolina, constrain me to speak: for even were slavery no curse to its victims, the exercise of arbitrary power works such fearful ruin upon the hearts of slaveholders, that I should feel impelled to labor and pray for its overthrow with my last energies and latest breath.

  I think it important to premise, that I have seen almost nothing of slavery on plantations. My testimony will have respect exclusively to the treatment of “house-servants,” and chiefly those belonging to the first families in the city of Charleston, both in the religious and in the fashionable world. And here let me say, that the


treatment of plantation slaves cannot be fully known, except by the poor sufferers themselves, and their drivers and overseers. In a multitude of instances, even the master can know very little of the actual condition of his own field-slaves, and his wife and daughters far less. A few facts concerning my own family will show this. Our permanent residence was in Charleston; our country-seat (Bellemont,) was 200 miles distant, in the north-western part of the state; where, for some years, our family spent a few months annually. Our plantation was three miles from this family mansion. There, all the field-slaves lived and worked. Occasionally, once a month, perhaps, some of the family would ride over to the plantation, but I never visited the fields where the slaves were at work, and knew almost nothing of their condition; but this I do know, that the overseers who had charge of them, were generally unprincipled and intemperate men. But I rejoice to know, that the general treatment of slaves in that region of country, was far milder than on the plantations in the lower country.

  Throughout all the eastern and middle portions of the state, the planters very rarely reside permanently on their plantations. They have almost invariably two residences, and spend less than half the year on their estates. Even while spending a few months on them, politics, field-sports, races, speculations, journeys, visits, company, literary pursuits, &c., absorb so much of their time, that they must, to a considerable extent, take the condition of their slaves on trust, from the reports of their overseers. I make this statement, because these slaveholders (the wealthier class,) are, I believe, almost the only ones who visit the north with their families;—and northern opinions of slavery are based chiefly on their testimony.

  But not to dwell on preliminaries, I wish to record my testimony to the faithfulness and accuracy with which my beloved sister, Sarah M. Grimké, has, in her 'narrative and testimony,' on a preceding page, described the condition of the slaves, and the effect upon the hearts of slaveholders, (even the best,) caused by the exercise of unlimited power over moral agents. Of the particular acts which she has stated, I have no personal knowledge, as they occurred before my remembrance; but of the spirit that prompted them, and that constantly displays itself in scenes of similar horror, the recollections of my childhood, and the effaceless imprint upon my riper years, with the breaking of my heart-strings, when, finding that I was powerless to shield the victims, I tore myself from my home and friends, and became an exile among strangers—all these throng around me as witnesses, and their testimony is graven on my memory with a pen of fire.

  Why I did not become totally hardened, under the daily operation of this system, God only knows; in deep solemnity and gratitude, I say, it was the Lord's doing, and marvellous in mine eyes. Even before my heart was touched with the love of Christ, I used to say, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove, that I might flee away and be at rest;' for I felt that there could be no rest for me in the midst of such outrages and pollutions. And yet I saw nothing of slavery in its most vulgar and repulsive forms. I saw it in the city, among the fashionable and the honorable, where it was garnished by refinement, and decked out for show. A few facts will unfold the state of society in the circle with which I was familiar, far better than any general assertions I can make.

  I will first introduce the reader to a woman of the highest respectability—one who was foremost in every benevolent enterprise, and stood for many years, I may say, at the head of the fashionable élite of the city of Charleston, and afterwards at the head of the moral and religious female society there. It was after she had made a profession of religion, and retired from the fashionable world, that I knew her; therefore I will present her in her religious character. This lady used to keep cowhides, or small paddles, (called 'pancake sticks,') in four different apartments in her house; so that when she wished to punish, or to have punished, any of her slaves, she might not have the trouble of sending for an instrument of torture. For many years, one or other, and often more of her slaves, were flogged every day; particularly the young slaves about the house, whose faces were slapped, or their hands beat with the 'pancake stick,' for every trifling offence—and often for no fault at all. But the floggings were not all; the scoldings and abuse daily heaped upon them all, were worse: 'fools' and 'liars,' 'sluts' and 'husseys,' 'hypocrites' and 'good-for-nothing creatures,' were the common epithets with which her mouth was filled, when addressing her slaves, adults as well as children. Very often she would take a position at her window, in an upper story, and scold at her slaves while working in the garden, at some distance from the house, (a large yard intervening,) and occasionally order a flogging. I have known her thus on the watch, scolding for more than an hour at a time, in so loud a voice that the whole neighborhood could hear her; and this without the least apparent feeling of shame. Indeed, it was no disgrace among slaveholders, and did not in the least injure her standing, either as a lady or a Christian, in the aristocratic circle in which she moved. After the 'revival' in Charleston, in 1825, she opened her house to social prayer-meetings. The room in which they were held in the evening, and where the voice of prayer was heard around the family altar, and where she herself retired for private devotion thrice each day, was the very place in which, when her slaves were to be whipped with the cowhide, they were taken to receive the infliction; and the wail of the sufferer would be heard, where, perhaps only a few hours previous, rose the voices of prayer and praise. This mistress would occasionally send her slaves, male and female, to the Charleston work-house to be punished. One poor girl, whom she sent there to be flogged, and who was accordingly stripped naked and whipped, showed me the deep gashes on her back—I might have laid my whole finger in them—large pieces of flesh had actually been cut out by the torturing lash. She sent another female slave there, to be imprisoned and worked on the tread-mill. This girl was confined several days, and forced to work the mill while in a state of suffering from another cause. For ten days or two weeks after her return, she was lame, from


the violent exertion necessary to enable her to keep the step on the machine. She spoke to me with intense feeling of this outrage upon her, as a woman. Her men servants were sometimes flogged there; and so exceedingly offensive has been the putrid flesh of their lacerated backs, for days after the infliction, that they would be kept out of the house—the smell arising from their wounds being too horrible to be endured. They were always stiff and sore for some days, and not in a condition to be seen by visitors.

  This professedly Christian woman was a most awful illustration of the ruinous influence of arbitrary power upon the temper—her bursts of passion upon the heads of her victims were dreaded even by her own children, and very often, all the pleasure of social intercourse around the domestic board, was destroyed by her ordering the cook into her presence, and storming at him, when the dinner or breakfast was not prepared to her taste, and in the presence of all her children, commanding the waiter to slap his face. Fault-finding, was with her the constant accompaniment of every meal, and banished that peace which should hover around the social board, and smile on every face. It was common for her to order brothers to whip their won sisters, and sisters their own brothers, and yet no woman visited among the poor more than she did, or gave more liberally to relieve their wants. This may seem perfectly unaccountable to a northerner, but these seeming contradictions vanish when we consider that over them she possessed no arbitrary power, they were always presented to her mind as unfortunate sufferers, towards whom her sympathies most freely flowed; she was ever ready to wipe the tears from their eyes, and open wide her purse for their relief, but the others were her vassals, thrust down by public opinion beneath her feet, to be at her beck and call, ever ready to serve in all humility, her, whom God in his providence had set over them—it was their duty to abide in abject submission, and hers to compel them to do so—it was thus that she reasoned . Except at family prayers, none were permitted to sit in her presence, but the seamstresses and waiting maids, and they, however delicate might be their circumstances, were forced to sit upon low stools, without backs, that they might be constantly reminded of their inferiority. A slave who waited in the house, was guilty on a particular occasion of going to visit his wife, and kept dinner waiting a little, (his wife was the slave of a lady who lived at a little distance.) When the family sat down to the table, the mistress began to scold the waiter for the offence—he attempted to excuse himself—she ordered him to hold his tongue—he ventured another apology; her son then rose from the table in a rage, and heat the face and ears of the waiter so dreadfully that the blood gushed from his mouth, and nose, and ears. This mistress was a professor of religion; her daughter who related the circumstance, was a fellow member of the Presbyterian church with the poor outraged slave—instead of feeling indignation at this outrageous abuse of her brother in the church, she justified the deed, and said “he got just what he deserved.” I solemnly believe this to be a true picture of slaveholding religion.

  The following is another illustration of it:

  A mistress in Charleston sent a grey headed female slave to the workhouse, and had her severely flogged. The poor old woman went to an acquaintance of mine and begged her to buy her, and told her how cruelly she had been whipped. My friend examined her lacerated back, and out of compassion did purchase her. The circumstance was mentioned to one of the former owner's relatives, who asked her if it were true. The mistress told her it was, and said that she had made the severe whipping of this aged woman a subject of prayer, and that she believed she had done right to have it inflicted upon her. The last 'owner' of the poor old slave, said she, had no fault to find with her as a servant.

  I remember very well that when I was a child, our next door neighbor whipped a young woman so brutally, that in order to escape his blows she rushed through the drawing-room window in the second story, and fell upon the street pavement below and broke her hip. This circumstance produced no excitement or inquiry.

  The following circumstance occurred in Charleston, in 1828:

  A slaveholder, after flogging a little girl about thirteen years old, set her on a table with her feet fastened in a pair of stocks. He then locked the door and took out the key. When the door was opened she was found dead, having fallen from the table. When I asked a prominent lawyer, who belonged to one of the first families in the State, whether the murderer of this helpless child could not be indicted, he coolly replied, that the slave was Mr.—'s property, and if he chose to suffer the loss, no one else had any thing to do with it. The loss of human life, the distress of the parents and other relatives of the little girl, seemed utterly out of his thoughts: it was the loss of property only that presented itself to his mind.

  I knew a gentleman of great benevolence and generosity of character, so essentially to injure the eye of a little boy, about ten years old, as to destroy its sight, by the blow of a cowhide, inflicted whilst he was whipping him.* I have heard the same individual speak of “breaking down the spirit of a slave under the lash” as perfectly right.

  I also know that an aged slave of his, (by marriage,) was allowed to get a scanty and precarious subsistence, by begging in the streets of Charleston—he was too old to work, and therefore his allowance was stopped, and he was turned out to make his living by begging.

  When I was about thirteen years old, I attended a seminary, in Charleston, which was superintended by a man and his wife of superior education. They had under their instruction the daughters of nearly all the aristocracy. Their cruelty to their slaves, both male and female, I can never forget. I remember one day there was called into the school room to open a window, a


boy whose head had been shaved in order to disgrace him, and he had been so dreadfully whipped that he could hardly walk. So horrible was the impression produced upon my mind by his heart-broken countenance and crippled person that I fainted away. The sad and ghastly countenance of one of their female mulatto slaves who used to sit on a low stool at her sewing in the piazza, is now fresh before me. She often told me, secretly, how cruelly she was whipped when they sent her to the work house. I had known so much of the terrible scourgings inflicted in that house of blood, that when I was once obliged to pass it, the very sight smote me with such horror that my limbs could hardly sustain me. I felt as if I was passing the precincts of hell. A friend of mine who lived in the neighborhood, told me she often heard the screams of the slaves under their torture.

  I once heard a physician of a high family, and of great respectability in his profession, say, that when he sent his slaves to the work-house to be flogged, he always went to see it done, that he might be sure they were properly, i. e. severely whipped. He also related the following circumstance in my presence. He had sent a youth of about eighteen to this horrible place to be whipped and afterwards to be worked upon the tread-mill. From not keeping the step, which probably he COULD NOT do, in consequence of the lacerated state of his body; his arm got terribly torn, from the shoulder to the wrist. This physcian said, he went every day to attend to it himself, in order that he might use those restoratives, which would inflict the greatest possible pain. This poor boy, after being imprisoned there for some weeks, was then brought home, and compelled to wear iron clogs on his ankles for one or two months. I saw him with those irons on one day when I was at the house. This man was, when young, remarkable in the fashionable world for his elegant and fascinating manners, but the exercise of the slaveholder's power has thrown the fierce air of tyranny even over these.

  I heard another man of equally high standing say, that he believed he suffered far more than his waiter did, whenever he flogged him, for he felt the exertion for days afterward, but he could not let his servant go on in the neglect of his business, it was his duty to chastise him. “His duty” to flog this boy of seventeen so severely that he felt the exertion for days after! and yet he never felt it to be his duty to instruct him, or have him instructed, even in the common principles of morality. I heard the mother of this man say, it would be no surprise to her, if he killed a slave some day, for, that, when transported with passion he did not seem to care what he did. He once broke a large stick over the back of a slave, and at another time the ivory butt-end of a long coach whip over the head of another. This last was attacked with epileptic fits some months after, and has ever since been subject to them, and occasionally to violent fits of insanity.

  Southern mistresses sometimes flog their slaves themselves, though generally one slave is compelled to flog another. Whilst staying at a friend's house some years ago, I one day saw the mistress with a cow-hide in her hand, and heard her scolding in an under tone, her waiting man, who was about twenty-five years old. Whether she actually inflicted the blows I do not know, for I hastened out of sight and hearing. It was not the first time I had seen a mistress thus engaged. I knew she was a cruel mistress, and had heard her daughters disputing, whether their mother did right or wrong, to send the slave children, (whom she sent out to sweep chimneys) to the work house to be whipped if they did not bring in their wages regularly. This woman moved in the most fashionable circle in Charleston. The income of this family was derived mostly from the hire of their slaves, about one hundred in number. Their luxuries were blood-bought luxuries indeed. And yet what stranger would ever have inferred their cruelties from the courteous reception and bland manners of the parlor. Every thing cruel and revolting is carefully concealed from strangers, especially those from the north. Take an instance. I have known the master and mistress of a family send to their friends to borrow servants to wait on company, because their own slaves had been so cruelly flogged in the work house, that they could not walk without limping at every step, and their putrified flesh emitted such an intolerable smell that they were not fit to be in the presence of company. How can northerners know these things when they are hospitably received at southern tables and firesides? I repeat it, no one who has not been an integral part of a slaveholding community, can have any idea of its abominations. It is a whited sepulchre full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Blessed be God, the Angel of Truth has descended and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, and sits upon it. The abominations so long hidden are now brought forth before all Israel and the sun. Yes, the Angel of Truth sits upon this stone, and it can never be rolled back again.

  The utter disregard of the comfort of the slaves, in little things, can scarcely be conceived by those who have not been a component part of slaveholding communities. Take a few particulars out of hundreds that might be named. In South Carolina musketoes swarm in myriads, more than half the year—they are so excessively annoying at night, that no family thinks of sleeping without nets or “musketoe-bars” hung over their bedsteads, yet slaves are never provided with them, unless it be the favorite old domestics who get the cast-off pavilions; and yet these very masters and mistresses will be so kind to their horses as to provide them with fly nets. Bedsteads and bedding too, are rarely provided for any of the slaves—if the waiters and coachmen, waiting maids, cooks, washers, &c., have beds at all, they must generally get them for themselves. Commonly they lie down at night on the bare floor, with a small blanket wrapped round them in winter, and in summer a coarse osnaburg sheet, or nothing. Old slaves generally have beds, but it is because when younger they have provided them for themselves.

  Only two meals a day are allowed the house slaves—the first at twelve o'clock. If they eat before this time, it is by stealth, and I am sure there must be a good deal of suffering among them from hunger, and particularly by children. Besides this, they are often kept from their meals by way of punishment. No table is provided for


them to eat from. They know nothing of the comfort and pleasure of gathering round the social board—each takes his plate or tin pan and iron spoon and holds it in the hand or on the lap. I never saw slaves seated round a table to partake of any meal.

  As the general rule, no lights of any kind, no firewood—no towels, basins, or soap, no tables, chairs, or other furniture, are provided. Wood for cooking and washing for the family is found, but when the master's work is done, the slave must find wood for himself if he has a fire. I have repeatedly known slave children kept the whole winter's evening, sitting on the stair-case in a cold entry, just to be at hand to snuff candles or hand a tumbler of water from the side-board, or go on errands from one room to another. It may be asked why they were not permitted to stay in the parlor, when they would be still more at hand. I answer, because waiters are not allowed to sit in the presence of their owners, and as children who were kept running all day, would of course get very tired of standing for two or three hours, they were allowed to go into the entry and sit on the staircase until rung for. Another reason is, that even slaveholders at times find the presence of slaves very annoying; they cannot exercise entire freedom of speech before them on all subjects.

  I have also known instances where seamstresses were kept in cold entries to work by the stair case lamps for one or two hours, every evening in winter—they could not see without standing up all the time, though the work was often too large and heavy for them to sew upon it in that position without great inconvenience, and yet they were expected to do their work as well with their cold fingers, and standing up, as if they had been sitting by a comfortable fire and provided with the necessary light. House slaves suffer a great deal also from not being allowed to leave the house without permission. If they wish to go even for a draught of water, they must ask leave, and if they stay longer than the mistress thinks necessary, they are liable to be punished, and often are scolded or slapped, or kept from going down to the next meal.

  It frequently happens that relatives, among slaves, are separated for weeks or months, by the husband or brother being taken by the master on a journey, to attend on his horses and himself.— When they return, the white husband seeks the wife of his love; but the black husband must wait to see his wife, until mistress pleases to let her chambermaid leave her room. Yes, such is the despotism of slavery, that wives and sisters dare not run to meet their husbands and brothers after such separations, and hours sometimes clapse before they are allowed to meet; and, at times, a fiendish pleasure is taken in keeping them asunder—this furnishes an opportunity to vent feelings of spite for any little neglect of “duty.”

  The sufferings to which slaves are subjected by separations of various kinds, cannot be imagined by those unacquainted with the working out of the system behind the curtain. Take the following instances.

  Chambermaids and seamstresses often sleep in their mistresses' apartments, but with no bedding at all. I know an instance of a woman who has been married eleven years, and yet has never been allowed to sleep out of her mistress's chamber.— This is a great hardship to slaves. When we consider that house slaves are rarely allowed social intercourse during the day, as their work generally separates them; the barbarity of such an arrangement is obvious. It is peculiarly a hardship in the above case, as the husband of the woman does not “belong” to her “owner;” and because he is subject to dreadful attacks of illness, and can have but little attention from his wife in the day. And yet her mistress, who is an old lady, gives her the highest character as a faithful servant, and told a friend of mine, that she was “entirely dependent upon her for all her comforts; she dressed and undressed her, gave her all her food, and was so necessary to her that she could not do without her.” I may add, that this couple are tenderly attached to each other.

  I also know an instance in which the husband was a slave and the wife was free: during the illness of the former, the latter was allowed to come and nurse him; she was obliged to leave the work by which she had made a living, and come to stay with her husband, and thus lost weeks of her time, or he would have suffered for want of proper attention; and yet his “owner” made her no compensation for her services. He had long been a faithful and a favorite slave, and his owner was a woman very benevolent to the poor whites.— She went a great deal among these, as a visiting commissioner of the Ladies' Benevolent Society, and was in the constant habit of paying the relatives of the poor whites for nursing their husbands, fathers, and other relations; because she thought it very hard, when their time was taken up, so that they could not earn their daily bread, that they should be left to suffer. Now, such is the stupifying influence of the “chattel principle” on the minds of slaveholders, that I do not suppose it ever occurred to her that this poor colored wife ought to be paid for her services, and particularly as she was spending her time and strength in taking care of her “property.” She no doubt only thought how kind she was, to allow her to come and stay so long in her yard; for, let it be kept in mind, that slaveholders have unlimited power to separate husbands and wives, parents and children, however and whenever they please; and if this mistress had chosen to do it, she could have debarred this woman from all intercourse with her husband, by forbidding her to enter her premises.

  Persons who own plantations and yet live in cities, often take children from their parents as soon as they are weaned, and send them into the country; because they do not want the time of the mother taken up by attendance upon her own children, it being too valuable to the mistress. As a favor, she is, in some cases, permitted to go to see them once a year. So, on the other hand, if field slaves happen to have children of an age suitable to the convenience of the master, they are taken from their parents and brought to the city. Parents are almost never consulted as to the disposition to be made of their children; they have as little control over them, as have domestic animals over the disposal of their young. Every natural


and social feeling and affection are violated with indifference; slaves are treated as though they did not possess them.

  Another way in which the feelings of slaves are trifled with and often deeply wounded, is by changing their names; if, at the time they are brought into a family, there is another slave of the same name; or if the owner happens, for some other reason, not to like the name of the new comer. I have known slaves very much grieved at having the names of their children thus changed, when they had been called after a dear relation. Indeed it would be utterly impossible to recount the multitude of ways in which the heart of the slave is continually lacerated by the total disregard of his feelings as a social being and a human creature.

  The slave suffers also greatly from being continually watched. The system of espionage which is constantly kept up over slaves is the most worrying and intolerable that can be imagined. Many mistresses are, in fact, during the absence of their husbands, really their drivers; and the pleasure of returning to their families often, on the part of the husband, is entirely destroyed by the complaints preferred against the slaves when he comes home to his meals.

  A mistress of my acquaintance asked her servant boy, one day, what was the reason she could not get him to do his work whilst his master was away, and said to him, “Your master works a great deal harder than you do; he is at his office all day, and often has to study his law cases at night.” “Master,” said the boy, “is working for himself, and for you, ma'am, but I am working for him.” The mistress turned and remarked to a friend, that she was so struck with the truth of the remark, that she could not say a word to him.

  But I forbear—the sufferings of the slaves are not only innumerable, but they are indescribable. I may paint the agony of kindred torn from each other's arms, to meet no more in time; I may depict the inflictions of the blood-stained lash, but I cannot describe the daily, hourly, ceaseless torture, endured by the heart that is constantly trampled under the foot of despotic power. This is a part of the horrors of slavery which, I believe, no one has ever attempted to delineate; I wonder not at it, it mocks all power of language. Who can describe the anguish of that mind which feels itself impaled upon the iron of arbitrary power—its living, writhing, helpless victim! every human susceptibility tortured, its sympathies torn, and stung, and bleeding—always feeling the death-weapon in its heart, and yet not so deep as to kill that humanity which is made the curse of its existence.

  In the course of my testimony I have entered somewhat into the minutiæ of slavery, because this is a part of the subject often overlooked, and cannot be appreciated by any but those who have been witnesses, and entered into sympathy with the slaves as human beings. Slaveholders think nothing of them, because they regard their slaves as property, the mere instruments of their convenience and pleasure. One who is a slaveholder at heart never recognises a human being in a slave .

  As thou hast asked me to testify respecting the physical condition of the slaves merely, I say nothing of the awful neglect of their minds and souls and the systematic effort to imbrute them. A wrong and an impiety, in comparison with which all the other unutterable wrongs of slavery are but as the dust of the balance.