MEETING AT THE TABERNACLE—THE EDMONSON SISTERS—SPEECHES OF REV. HENRY WARD BEECHER AND REV. DR. COX.
THE EDMONSON SISTERS.
Two respectable young women of light complexion, living in Washington City, had the misfortune to be born while their mother was a slave. After they had grown to womanhood, they found, a few months since, that the former owner of their parent, by virtue of the pretext which the laws of Congress give in the District of Columbia, was about to sell them to a slave dealer for exportation to New Orleans and a market. Despairing of being able to raise the exorbitant sum at which they were valued, and not knowing how to escape from or endure a doom far more dreadful than death, they risked everything by going on board the "Pearl," schooner, in the faint hope of effecting their way to a land of liberty and purity. Our readers know how unfortunately that vessel was captured and brought back to Washington, and how quickly its unhappy company, seventy-nine in number, were hurried off to Slatter's den, in Baltimore, and thence to New Orleans. By an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, these girls were brought back from New Orleans to Washington, and their sad case at length reached the ears of those who had hearts to feel and means to save. After a small sum had been pledged for their redemption, a great meeting was held in the Tabernacle, on the 23rd of October last, at which Dr. Peck, presided, and eloquent speeches were made by Dr. Dowling and Mr. Beecher, to so much effect that nearly $2000 were raised on the spot, and the whole amount demanded ($2200) soon made up, and the captives were free. It was then found that these young women, though sprightly and intelligent, were wholly without literary education; and to make an appeal in their behalf for this object, a large meeting was held at the Broadway Tabernacle, on Thursday evening, Dec. 7, and affectively addressed by Mr. Beecher and Mr. Cox.
Mr. BEECHER commenced his speech by congratulating his fellow-citizens, and expressing his satisfaction at meeting them here again. We meet each other, said he, with lighter hearts than we had a few weeks ago. Then our hearts were filled with painful anxiety in regard to the fate of these young women. We met not only to express our sympathy, but to endeavor to rescue them from a terrible doom as slaves. And to-night they are here with us FREE! If there had been no other reason for our assembling again, but just to express gratitude to God, and our congratulations to each other, it would have been a worthy occasion of meeting. Some may think us liable to the charge of attempting to make too much of a little. And if all the interest centered and terminated on these liberated girls, it would be too much. But I regard them as the exponents of a great interest; and though I would not exclude them from your sympathies, I came here to speak not only for them, but for all who like them have been or are still subject to the degradation of Slavery.
And now, as this meeting proposes to educate these girls, it naturally leads our minds to consider this topic—the elevation of the class to which they belong. On this matter, I will say, that I do not think it wise that they should be immediately thrust in where they are not welcome, or where they will be treated with indignity. That which is the main cause of the prejudice against this ostracized class has had, to a very great extent, a real existence. It will cease when that reality is taken away; and if I could, I would say to them, Do not measure yourselves by the rank you hold among the colored people around you. Let them understand that they are a race by themselves, and that they have a community of interests among themselves. There is a moral force in developed intellect which none can resist; and if colored men and women become educated and wise, there is nothing on earth that can prevent them fom standing alongside of any other race or community. Let them become of value in society, and they will take their just place. Every effort they make, therefore, to rise by instruction and other legitimate methods, ought to be encouraged by every philanthropist and Christian. We ought to prepare them to rise, so that in time they shall be benefactors and teachers to others.
My connection with the gentlemen concerned in the rescue of these girls, has brought to my knowledge so many facts relating to the domestic slave-trade, that I cannot forbear expressing a few sentiments on this subject. Remember, then, that the fundamental law of Slavery is this—that men and women "held to service," as it is dexterously worded, are not persons, but chattels. They are things—thinking things to be sure, feeling things, responsible things, at the bar of God moral things destined to live as long as God lives. But in the eye of the law, they are after all mere chattels.
I asked a gentelman who was intimately acquainted with this whole matter of the domestic slave-trade, whether I could properly say that whatever would be true of a jockey in trading horses, is strictly true in relation to the Southern traffic in human flesh. He replied "yes;" and I think truly. But my friend, Bruin, the late "owner" of these girls, took it hard that he was held up to public criticism at the former meeting; and being sorely offended, has taken me to task. He thought it necessary to say that the matter was not rightly understood here—that no distinction had been made between slave-traders—that if a man was known as a slave-trader he was regarded at the North as of one common stripe with the whole; and although he might be a magnanimous, noble, most christian slave-trader, if he should come here, we would not touch him with a ten-foot-pole. I think we would.
But Mr. Bruin seems humbled in view of the ignominy and disgrace attached to the business, and wishes to shoulder it upon others. I never saw a culprit but wished to extenuate his criminality, by pointing to the deeper criminality of others. Men felicitate themselves that they are not so bad, because, somebody below them is worse. I do not know what the devil does when it comes to him; though, by the by, I think he is the most honest of the crew.
Now, my friends, Mr. Bruin wishes it to be understood that the slave-traders are not all such unmitigated rascals. For instance, his partner was the scamp in this case, and he himself the man that had all the honor of the concern. And in some respects he has shown some honor. If he had been better brought up, had followed a better trade, and in all other respects done better, he would have been a better man.
Now I know something of jockeys. It has sometimes been thought that I must have gone through all grades of mischief myself, to be acquainted with so much iniquity. I assure you, however, I never traded horses. But I had a friend in Indiana who could tell me of every likely colt in the country. He knew of every fine racer in Indiana, to say nothing of Kentucky, and other States. Now a real domestic slave-trader is a man who looks round with the eye of a connoisseur upon all the little slave-children growing up around him, and marks their qualities. He notes them when they are boys, just as one of our traders would a fine Durham steer growing up, or a Saxony sheep, or a Berkshire pig, or any other improved breed. And if a man wants a slave to order—if he wants a woman of a particular hue—he calls on the trader. The trader says, "Let's see, there is a man has a boy will suit you," or "Squire Peters has a woman that he will sell, and who is just of the quality you describe," discussing the particulars of each case with all the nonchalance of a practiced cattle-dealer or horse-jockey. To say that a slave is a chattel is enough, but to view the system in its practical workings makes the blood boil. A butcher does not seize his cattle by the horns when he takes them to the shambles, but entices them with hay; so the slave-trader decoys the poor victim by artifice. It is arranged to seize her at the pump. As she draws near, two or three brutes of men—no, brutes, (I leave off the "men")— seize her, her mouth is gagged, and she is whirled away like an animal for the market. It would be inhuman to disturb her mistress with her screams.
I should like to tell you the story of Mrs. Madison's nurse and her daughter, if the time would permit. But all these things merely graze the surface. They do not go down into the merits of the matter. It is not a single hard case, but the fate of thousands; it occurs day by day.
Sometimes a scene occurs in the roads like the chase of a flock of partridges, or the hunting of cattle by dogs. Again, the high-spirited slave has a bridle put in his mouth, and thus he is regularly broken in like a wild horse. Those who do not like the trouble of this process, send their slaves out to professional breakers—persons who know, how, by special severity, to render them supple and obedient. They are then, brought back fit to be servants—fit to be slaves. And all this is done under the sanction of the Bible and the church. O! to think that men sell their own blood, or the members of their own church, with whom they commune as brothers! There are no sufferings known in the middle-passage more intense, more inhuman, than those that are tolerated in our own domestic slave-traffic.
There are slave-traders in our national capital. They assemble the slaves bought from individuals around, into large gangs, and travel as if taking a drove of males across Tennesse to the sugar States. A man has a slave that is fractious. He comes to the drove, and makes a swap to obtain one more docile; and so the driver goes on, buying, selling, trading, and exchanging all the way. So it was that these girls were to be treated. They had already taken their final leave of friends, expecting on Monday morning to begin their tramp, when they were rescued.
Mr. Beecher then read the deed of sale from Bruin & Hill, and commented in the most scathing terms upon the disgusting features of such a document. He said he had another document, which he considered as equal to that of Bruin & Hill. This was the late Message of Gov. Johnson, of South Carolina, which was written with an eye on the proceedings of this and the preceding meetings. In commenting on this production, Mr. Beecher maintained that Slavery is a state of suppressed war—that the slave is justified in regarding his master as a belligerent enemy, and in seizing from him whatever reprisals are necessary to aid him in effecting a retreat. He put this proposition in the strongest possible light. He concluded by reading a letter from the Rev. Dr. Dowling, apologizing for his unavoidable absence from the meeting.
EXTRACT FROM DR. DOWLING'S LETTER.
"The remembrance of the former meeting, at which the funds were so cheerfully contributed to liberate these interesting girls, I shall ever cherish as one of the most interesting reminiscences of my life, and if any remarks of mine on that occasion contributed to this result, I have already been richly repaid by the privilege of taking them by the hand as sisters in a common Savior, and welcoming them to freedom and to happiness. They attended last Sunday morning at my church in Bedford street, and as I marked their grateful happy countenance, and their pious devotional behavior as they united in offering, up thanks to God for their deliverance—I could not help thinking of that glorious time when all who have been slaves to sin and to Satan, shall meet in the Zion above; and I saw in the position of these two redeemed captives from temporal bondage, an emblem and an illustration of the text from which I preached, Isaiah 35: 10—"the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with sons, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sighing and sorrow shall flee away."
"I have sometimes been accused of indifference to the wrongs of the slave, because I could not sympathize with some existing organizations on this subject, which, in professedly prosecuting their object, take occasion to trample on everything that is sacred and holy, and dear in the eyes of Americans, and of Christians. Permit me to say, that I believe most firmly that Slavery is a flagrant wrong—and that it must and will come to an end; and I believe too, the time is rapidly approaching, when good men of every name—South as well as North—shall see its injustice; shall "break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free." This result, however, is not to be brought about my fierce denunciation. "Leviathan is not so tamed." Nor is it to be effected by wholesale abuse of the Christian Church, the Ministry, or the Constitution of the United States. I believe that one such demonstration as this successful effort for the liberation of the Edmonson girls, will do more to advance the abolition of Slavery, and to show the people of America the true nature of that iniquitous system, than years of denunciation and abuse.
"The noble enthusiasm and general liberality of the last meeting for the "Edmonson girls," is a proof that the pulse of New York (may I not say of the whole northern states?) beats right on this subject, and that the northern church and ministry are not that pro-slavery, corrupt, and time-serving body that they have been charged with being. That meeting was got up by the action of a committee of the Methodist Episcopal Church—and christian ministers, and christian laymen of every name, forgeting their denominational differences, united in carrying it out to a successful and triumphant issue. Yes, Sir, the Christian Church in the free states, with scarcely one exception, is right on this subject! A glorious millenium is approaching; and it cannot come, and will not come, till Slavery with all its abominations shall be numbered with the things that were. Once more, then I say, in burning words, quoted in my former address,
"Let Mammon hold, while Mammon can,
I remain yours respectfully, J. DOWLING."
Rev. Dr. Cox was then called up and spoke in substance, as follows:
I was very sorry, Ladies and Gentlemen, that a previous and imperious engagement prevented my atendance here, on that eventful evening, when an appeal was made in behalf of the interesting young persons whom we welcome here to-night, to rescue them from bondage. It was my pleasure to welcome to my study, with some ladies of my church, those two girls. I regarded them with interest, and conversed with them. I was well aware of the impropriety of saying anything that would cater to the susceptible feelings of human vanity. My object was to ascertain two things; first, whether they had a sense of gratitude for their rescue from slavery. On that point, I can only say, my satisfaction was entire. Their gratitude seemed to be profound, unutterable, from the heart in its deepest depths. My other object was to ascertain their cast and calibre of mind, and I asked several questions to elicit the quantum of their thought. And I am happy to say, that had they been similarly, circumstanced, I could not have expected the daughters of Queen Victoria to answer with any more propriety.
I asked them in relation to their attainments in literature, and they told me, with simplicity and honesty, that Mary almost knew her letters, having taken lessons after that wonderful manuscript (the Bill of Sale), which has been read to you, took effect. Emily had also begun to learn hers; before their rescue, neither of them knew their alphabet.
I can easily conceive of some political conditions in the social state, in which it could not be very safe, as in the opinion of Gov. Johnson, to have a knowledge of the alphabet widely difused.
When the question comes up of the propriety of giving those girls an education, I have only to say aye, they are susceptible of it. They have too much modesty to ask it, overwhelmed as they are by the benificence of this community; but they have a little sister, almost in her teens, and therefore, I quote the language of the guardian of their imbecile owner—"her market price is only four hundred dollars," but when she jingles for three or four years in her teens, it will be twelve hundred—for what reason, I need not say. The Doctor then gave an interesting account of the remainder of the Endmonson family, and their experience of Slavery.
He wished to direct the consideration of the audience to two questions—first, whether the colored man has the capacity for education, and the other is, whether—he—veritably—belongs to the species.
In answer to the first question, he gave an interesting account of the life of the Rev. Mr. Penington, a colored clergyman, formerly a member of his own church, and now the respected pastor of a colored Presbyterian church in this city.
Upon the second point, he remarked, that he came here particuarly to give some proof from the Bible of the identity of the human race. I am going to prove, said he, if I can, that a man is a man—a very hard thing to prove. Some things are too obvious for proof. I hardly like to insult a fellow-being by attempting to prove them.
It is an interesting fact to know first, that true liberty, as I really believe it is, is the growth of genuine Christianity. I believe it. I believe that our Declaration of Independence would never have been fulminated, but for the teachings of the Gospel. Jefferson acknowldged that he got some of the best thoughts embodied in the instrument from a preacher. I believe that a clear view of the identity of the human race is as essential to the true religion, as is the knowledge that Jesus Christ came on earth, and died for man.
But there is a sentiment that is going the rounds of our infected literature, and sometimes disgracing the professor's chair, not only of a university, but even of the theological seminary. It has sometimes shed its poison upon writers on the prophecies. I will not give the names. It would hurt their fames. But I would say, that I am grieved, and astonished, when I read, in many books, such sentiments as these: "The slave-trade, gentlemen, don't be frightened at it, is only accomplishing the prophecies,—don't you know that the history of the Gold Coast, and kidnapping, and murders, and bartering in flesh, and blood, and bodies, and souls—all that is accomplishing the prophecies and providences of God? How wonderfully are these prophecies fulfilled!"
I was once attending the examination of a Young Ladies' School before a large audience. The lady in charge asked me to examine a class in Biblical History. I was hearing these girls illustrate the fulfilment of prophecy. One of them said the present condition of the slaves in this country illustrates the truth of Scripture. "Will you please to say how you arrive at that?" "Why," she said "the cursed seed of Ham!" I said, "I have heard that some of those slave-holders down South have got all that Scripture by heart, especially that part of it which is not there. If you will look at the text, in the ninth of Genesis, you will find, "Cursed be Canaan;" not Ham. Where did Canaan live? On the Gold Coast of Africa, or near the Mozambique Channel? Pretty little parots dressed off for the scene, they didn't recollect, they had lost their cue; their memories would not give them any help to answer that question. I begged them to look at their Bibles. They read "Cursed be Canaan." Who was Canaan? They could not tell. They knew nothing more of his relation to Noah or to Ham, than they did of his relation to gammon. I will not say what I said afterwards, but I will say here, in reference to Ethnology, the science which teaches the origin and migration of parent nations, it is so valuable a science, that we ought to have a professorship, and teach it in every University. Every educated man, at least, ought to know the origin of each stream, and the confluence of the streams that make great nations. It is astonishing to see what ignorance prevails, and how unlike the prevailing belief is from what the Scriptures say, when catechized. We are all descended from Adam no more than from Noah. And here I would remark, that general declaimers talk loosely about thousands of generations; and learned men, unless they have thought on the subject, are liable to the same mistake. Noah was the great Patriarch of the post-diluvian world. He was the tenth from Adam. How many links do you think there are between us and Adam! certainly not two hundred. Moses was the 10th from Noah, and the 20th from Adam. After him there are 15 centuries to Christ—eighteen-and-a-half since. Allow three generations for a century, and there are just a hundred generations from Moses, or say 126, from Adam to the present time—at any rate, much fewer than 200 generations. In the whole world, with all the varieties of condition, it is not probable you will find one instance in which there are two hundred links in the chain of a man's ancestry.
"I shall never feel satisfied with my country, while this absurdity of Slavery remains. I love my country, as Cowper loved England,
"With all thy faults I love thee still."
Was not this a large charity enough in Cowper? But I do not love my country's faults. I love myself, but I do not love my own faults—I hate them. I do not believe a man can love himself properly, unless he hates his faults. You preach so, Mr. Beecher, and so did your father before you. The way to love one's country is to look at its faults, to probe its ulcers, in order to heal them. If they are left to work inwardly, and are not examined and brought to light, they will destroy the system, like that internal cancer which slew Napoleon. As Horace, a heathen poet, says, in Cowper's translation,
"If fools have ulcers, and their pride conceal 'em,
Slavery immedicated, will destroy this nation. By the memory of Plymouth Rock, and of Independence Hall, and by the Hopes of California, let that not be!
The map was here displayed, and explained in detail. The initial letters in the margin stand for Noah and his posterity. Next to him are Japeth, Ham, and Shem. The perpendicular line of letters is simply to evince the lineage of Moses, as the 20th from Adam. They stand for Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses. Shem has precedency only as the ancestor of Christ; though the youngest of the three. This is remarkable throughout the Old Testament. The laws of primogeniture, honored universally there, are always modified, in every generation, to distinguish that branch from whom the Messiah descended. Abraham is put before Nahor and Haram; Judah before his three elder brethren; and in the house of Jesse, all his sons must give place to that ruddy lad, who was keeping the sheep in Bethlehem. In the house of David, Absalom and Adonijah lost their lives by attempting to violate the order of Providence, and Solomon succeeded. So of many others, by a wisdom which, always anticipating the lineage of Christ, demonstrates the inspiration of God.
In the 10th chapter of Genesis, the three sons of Noah, as the Patriarchs of the species, are given in the order of their ages; Japeth, Ham, and Shem. From Japeth are we whites descended, with the immense majority of all the inhabitants of Europe and America; the Asiatics generally from Shem; the Africans generally from Ham. His sons where four, Cush, Misraim, Phut, and Canaan. The last of these inherited the special curse, denounced by Noah, written by Moses, and executed by Joshua. We all know for what unparalleled wickedness the judgements of God overwhelmed the Canaanites. Their indictments are written throughout the Pentateuch, but especially in the 18th chapter of Leviticus. It was well that the curse should be written where it was, and when it was, that the invading tribes might be legititmately encouraged in God to do his work, in the extermination of those abominable natives. Here, then, the curse has its accomplishment, and its locality. Canaan was the only son of Ham who did not go to Africa. He kept the curse for his posterity to illustrate and to extend its careeer down the tide of coming ages. See Carthage fall, and Rome, severe, exult in triumph over the ruins of that city, that was never to rise again. Japeth, in universal history, rules over them, and servants of servants are they to their brethren.
Misraim is the father of the Egyptians. Wherever you find Egypt in our English version, it is Misraim in the Hebrew. It is supposed, that old Ham emigrated thither, died there, and was deified by his posterity. Omit the letter H, and their supreme deity is AM, or AMMAH, and therefore called subsequently by the Greeks after Alexander's conquest, JUPITER AMMON.
His brother, Phut, settled to the west, and became the father of the Mauritanians or Moors.
The oldest son of Ham is CUSH, and he is the father of the present negro world. He was the father of Nimrod, the first king, and the first great hero that figures in history. He made Babylon his capital; then crossed the Tigris, conquered Asyria, and founded Ninevah, that "great city," that became great before Babylon was, and that had to fall before Babylon became great under Nebuchadnezzar. In this line, old Cush appears as respectable as noble, and as grand as any father of murderers ever chronicled in history.
His other brothers were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtecha. From Raamah descended Sheba and Dedan. Remember, that of old, the names of places were first identified with the names of immigrants who first inhabited them. These five sons of Cush were distributed around the south of the peninsula of Arabia, throughout the spice-bearing regions of Arabia the Happy; thence eastward around the Persian Gulf, in Persia, and towards the great Orient. Many a vestige is found of them in these vicinities. For example, Daniel, after the death of Darius, is found in Shushan the palace, or Chushan; and so our name Susan is derived. I have a great respect for that name, and with reason; for I have known many an excellent woman who bore it—having myself a daughter Susan, a sister Susan, an aunt Susan, and a grandmother Susan. So that possibly I might succeed in tracing my own pedigree up to Cush.
Some of the Cushites settled in the north-western parts of Arabia. There Moses found a wife, a Cushite, called in our version of "an Ethiopian woman." Wherever Ethiopia is mentioned in our Bible, the original is Cush. Ethiopia means in good Greek, brown or burnt face, and is only one of many euphonious words with which, after the conquests of Alexander, the rough names of the oriental dialects were replaced from the elegant vocabulary of the Greeks.
In alluding to Moses, however, I need scarce say, that I am not advocating the principle of amalgamation. Our opposition to that is one reason why we oppose Slavery, and why we are here this evening. Look at these two rescued victims. Yet we may not forget that the sister of Moses resented the affinity in a way that was far from pleasing to God. The word Cush also means brown, dark, or blackish. And Miriam, perhaps, had made her toilet with such vanity, that she could not bear a sister-in-law who was browner than herself.—See Numbers 12: 10. On that occasion, God made her whiter than she wished to be, "as white as snow."
Some of the descendants of Cush, turning their steps south-westward, crossed the straits of Babelmandel, migrated toward the sources of the Nile, and south of the range Beggel el Kumri, or Mountains of the Moon. Thence their posterity, deploying west by south, traversed the arid plains of Africa, and extended finally to the Atlantic coast. Here we see the causes of their darkening and ultimately their black complexion. Those torrid heats, where the thermometer never falls below 70 degrees, and oftener ranges above 100 degrees their imperfect food; their nomadic habits, and accumulated hardships of existence—might well be supposed, through progressive ages, to curl their hair, blacken their skin, and account for those peculiarities which distinguish them at present as a variety of the human species.
On the north-west, the descendents of Phut extended along the Atlantic coast of Africa, darkening in cutaneous hue as they approached the line, yet retaining their tall forms and long black hair till in the vicinity of the great Slave-coast of Africa, these different branches of Ham's posterity met, but not mingled; the Moors affecting state, and a nobler origin, authorizing them generally to kidnap and sell to Christian slavers as many Cushites as they can catch. It is uncertain on which tide of emigration floated the religion of the Koran, that now in manifold corruptions obtains there, especially in the great city of Timbuctoo.
Now let us look at the curse pronounced on Canaan. It was Asiatic, and in no sense African. Hence we can relieve the consciences, as well as instruct the creeds of our pious Slave-merchants on the Gold coast. Little matters it to them whether the slave they buy has come from Phut or Cush; but we know he is no Canaanite, and we are of the opinion that the Divine purposes, whether of mercy or wrath, need not for their execution and fulfillment, any pragmatical assistance from their presence or their piety! I should not have detained you thus long, to show the locality of the curse of Canaan, had it not been for the largely prevalent abuse and wicked perversion, which the plain biblical history of the matter puts to confusion and death.
During the delivery of the address, of which the above is but a sketch, the Doctor made much use of his map, which we have copied on a very reduced scale. As a matter of course, the speech was expanded by numerous illustrations, enlivened with anecdotes, and enriched with digressive allusions and disquisitions, all of which we would gladly have given to our readers, but for the fact that our columns would hold no more, and the fear that the world would not contain the newspapers, if a habit of verbatim reporting should be encouraged by our craft, in the case of all our public speakers.