The National Era
Unsigned Article
Washington, D.C.: 15 December 1853


  The Southern papers continue to supply proofs of the truthfulness of Mrs. Stowe's picture of Slavery as it is. The Baltimore Times contains the following particulars of a case of horrible barbarity:

  "A private letter, received from Walterborough, gives the subjoined account of the trial of the case of the State vs. Thomas Motley, for the murder of a slave, before Judge O'Neall at that place, on Wednesday last, noticed in last Saturday's Charleston Courier. We unite with the writer in his strong approval of the verdict, as not only imperatively called for by the enormities of the case, but as indicating public sentiment as to the propriety of visiting with condign punishment the felon and cowardly murderer of the lowly and defenceless slave.

  "The jury brought in a verdict, after a half hour's deliberation, against Motley, for the murder of a slave, near Parker's Ferry, in July last. The evidence was clear and unquestionable, though in part circumstantial, and comprised a history of a most diabolical and atrocious murder, perpetrated on a poor defenceless and unoffending slave, and through a process of cruel and protracted murder, which his Honor declared exceeded any savage barbarity he had ever heard of! Two other prisoners, charged as participators in the same horrible and unheard-of barbarity and murder, are yet to be tried. The reputation of the jury and the district (Colleton) have been nobly vindicated by the verdict, which receives the general, if not the universal, approbation of the community.

  "Since the foregoing was written, we have learned that the murdered slave was a runaway, whose owner was unknown; that the demons in human shape, who murdered him, first shot and whipped him-then put him in a vice and tortured and lacerated him with unexampled barbarities; next set him loose, and ran him down with bloodhounds; and finally, as was supposed, cut him up and fed the dogs with his flesh.

  "The heart sickens at the very mention of such demoniac cruelty and hellish enormities.

  "We have heard of no motive, nor any provocation on the part of the poor slave, assigned for these unparalleled atrocities; and we are told that the murderers were a band of runaway hunters from the middle or upper part of the State, and that one of them is a man of considerable property."

  It is worthy of remark that this is the second case within a year, in South Carolina, in which the sentence of death has been pronounced on a white man convicted of the murder of a slave. It may be that such an offence has been similarly punished in other slave States, but we recollect no such instance.

  The supporters of Slavery may denounce Uncle Tom's Cabin as much as they please; we know that since its publication, and the general controversy which has been provoked in regard to its truthfulness, the Southern press has been more alive to cases of cruelty to slaves, and more out-spoken in their condemnation.

  This is precisely what might have been expected. The people of this county, North and South, are too highly civilized to tolerate flagrant acts of inhumanity, if their attention be directed to them. The Anti-Slavery agitation concentrates the public gaze upon the workings of the slave system, so that deeds of cruelty can hardly escape observation. The result is, that we see Southern papers themselves taking the lead in exposing and denouncing them.

  We find in the Richmond (Va.) Examiner a writer pleading strongly for legislation to punish the cruel treatment of slaves. "The very few," he says, who treat them cruelly, and feed and clothe them badly, excite odium against the institution abroad, and beget wrong consciences at home! The objection often urged, that any interference by law to protect the slave, would only aggravate the evil, by provoking the resentment of the master, he must by remarking that, although in the particular case the slave might be the loser, still the dread of exposure and a legal examination would impose a general restraint upon the masters. It will not do, he argues, while all else is advancing, to stand still on this question. It is the Stuarts and the Bourbons who are the real authors of revolutions. A wise conservation is anxious to make all needful reform:

  "Diffidence of the justice of Slavery, and apprehensions of its permanence, deter some from discussing or legislating on what they think a delicate subject. Those who have most confidence in its propriety and durability are often the most ready to regulate it by law."

  When such sentiments as these appear in an extreme pro-slavery journal, we may justly infer that the South is not at peace on this subject of Slavery. But, after all, what sufficient remedy can law provide for cruelty to the slave, so long as he is held as property, and no evidence but that of white men is admitted in a Court of Justice? Who is to oversee the overseer on the plantation, crowded with negroes, with no whiteman to observe the tasks he may impose, or the punishments he may inflict? Will the cruel man invite witnesses to the inflictions of his vengeance?

  The other day, a respectable white mechanic, of this place, called upon us to ascertain whether there was any law for the protection of a poor old slave, who had just been committed as a runaway. His master lives in an adjoining county of Maryland, and, provoked by the protracted absence of the slave, who was on a visit to his wife and children, he flogged him unmercifully on his return, cursed him, and told him to "clear out." The poor fellow took him at his word, came to Washington, and found employment. He showed his back, which was horribly scarred. This same citizen proposed to his owner, subsequently, to buy him—but the answer was—"no, not now—I must catch the rascal again, and give him another flogging, and then you may have him; but I tell you he'll not be worth anything then." Where is the law that could baffle the diabolical malice of this man?

  So long as the law of Slavery is maintained the only protection of the slave is in the humanity and vigilance of the master.