The North Star
Frederick Douglass
Rochester: 27 October 1848

The Hutchinson Family.—Hunkerism.

  The circumstances attending the visit paid last week to our youthful and beautiful city, by these mountain songsters, makes it deserving of special notice. The pro-slavery and narrow-souled demon had preceded them.—Old Hunkerism, filled with pride and selfishness, dreaded the presence of these high-souled mountaineers in Rochester. It had no taste for their soul-enlarging and heart-melting melody. To defeat what it could not enjoy, was its first object. The Hutchinsons were described as poor performers; their popularity was said to be on the wane; abolitionism had ruined them. Other modes were meanly adopted to disparage them in the estimation of the people of Rochester. In this mean work of detraction, we scarcely need say that the miserable dough-face who edits the Cass paper in this city, and through whom our daughter was basely excluded from "Seward Seminary," on account of her complexion, very appropriately took the lead. This self-elected umpire of taste in the city of Rochester, claims as much skill in matters relating to the harmony of sounds, as he assumes with respect to the harmony of colors. We warn the good people of Rochester against attending either seminaries or concerts, on pain of being expelled from respectable and refined society, should they venture to do so before obtaining the opinion of this "most learned judge" whose word is sufficient to set at defiance and veto the wishes of a whole seminary of young ladies and misses. We believe he does not object to the "Virginia Minstrels," "Christy's Minstrels," the "Ethiopian Serenaders," or any of the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow-citizens. Those performers are undoubtedly in harmony with his refined and elegant taste! Then those beautiful and highly sentimental songs which they sing, such as "Ole Zip Coon," "Jim Crow," "Ole Dan Tucker," "Jim along Josey," and a few other of such specimens of American musical genius, must spread over his spirit a charm, and awaken in his bosom a rapture only equalled by that celestial transport which thrills his noble heart on witnessing a TREMENDOUS SQUASH!

  We ought perhaps to feel less indignation than compassion for any man to whom the songs of our mountain warblers are disagreeable. Such a fact betrays an unenviable state of mind, more to be deplored than blamed.—It might not be an uninteresting investigation, had we time to pursue it, to ascertain whether the fault really be in this man's organization; or in other words, whether his tastes are natural or acquired. But for this we have no time. We understand that he says that their songs would do well enough, were there (to use his own diction) less of "nigger" in them. Poor soul! this tells the whole story. We wonder what has excited within his heart this intense and burning hatred of niggers. Has he ever been eclipsed by a nigger? Was he ever refused the society of niggers? Has he ever been robbed by a nigger? Did a nigger ever steal and enslave a white man! were his children ever excluded from school by a nigger? If so, there may be some extenuation of his burning hatred. We were a little surprised to find so unhappy a specimen of colorphobia seated in a room as large as Minerva Hall, on equal terms with niggers. It may be, after all, that he is repenting of his old pro-slavery, and that this is the first fruit of his repentance. We shall therefore let him rest for the present, at least until we shall have other developments from that quarter.

  As to the concerts, we doubt if two musical entertainments were ever more successful in Rochester than those given by the Hutchinson Family on Thursday and Saturday evenings of last week, in Minerva Hall. A more unpropitious evening than that of Thursday, could not well have been selected. The streets were exceedingly muddy, and therefore greatly against the attendance of ladies—the night was cold, dark and rainy, and the price of tickets of admission was just double that asked by the most popular singers, and yet they had a crowded house.

  It is not, however, of their pecuniary success that we would speak, but of the real good done to their hearers. When we entered Minerva Hall, there was evidently some ill feeling towards the colored part of the audience; but as the glorious harmony proceeded, caste stood abashed—the iron heart of prejudice, pride and scorn, seemed to melt away, and the general expression of the audience, among white and black, confessed the truth of a common origin and a common brotherhood. We all looked and felt alike. Our hearts were touched and saddened by the "Slave Mother's Lament"—cheered and delighted with the "Good time coming"—wrapped in admiration of "Excelsior"—filled with indefinable associations by the "Old Church Bell"—softened to tears by the "Bridge of Sighs"—inspired with a dauntless courage by the "Psalm of Life," and terror-stricken at the "Ship on Fire." The singing of this piece, by "John," exceeded anything of the kind to which we ever listened. Its value is not to be estimated by dollars and cents. We thought we had heard John sing his best, but never did we hear anything from him equal to the "Ship on Fire." He needed this song to call forth and bring into exercise his magnificent vocal powers. In a few brief moments he dropped us in the midst of "the wide waste of waters," and in sympathy thrilled our hearts with almost the horror of the inmates of a "ship on fire." The stifled cry of "Fire! fire!!" from the hold of the ship, bursting up through smoke and flame, and the wild screams of a frantic mother, clinging to her sweet infant, the long night spent on the shattered fragments of the ship, on the mad dashing billows, the gratitude with which the light of day was hailed, and the ecstacy of delight at the prospect of deliverance, were all most powerfully brought out. This one performance was worth more than double the price of admission. They sung, as usual, the family song, and brought into it the cause of temperance and anti-slavery, singing the latter in the spirit as well as the understanding.

  They have now left for the West. We anticipate for them a brilliant career, great success, and great good to those who may be so fortunate as to hear their sweet mountain warbling.—F.D.