From the Anti-Slavery Bugle
THE LATE JAMES W. WALKER--LETTER FROM ABBY KELLEY FOSTER.
WOLCOTT'S MILLS, (Indiana,) April 25, 1854.
DEAR FRIEND: As I am in a field of labor never before tried by the anti-slavery lecturer, you will not be surprised when I say that it was not till within a few days that the Bugle of the 8th inst. came into my hand. When my eye rested on the letter from New Lyme, announcing the sudden death of our gifted and devoted J. W. Walker, I felt that it could not be. I read it again and again, and still again. But still I could not bring myself to believe the dreadful intelligence. Since then, a few days have passed, and as I got no later paper, and am here among those who have never known our friend, and therefore cannot sympathize with me, I must speak of him to you. It may relieve me. Ever since he threw himself into the ant-slavery cause, I have valued him highly, and considered his services above all price. But I have never been able so fully to appreciate him, as during the past winter. We attended several Conventions with him in Michigan. Mr. Foster and myself were equally surprised and delighted to find how powerful a speaker he was. We often remarked to our friends, that he had made greater improvement within the three last years, than any other peson within the circle of our acquaintance. Not unfrequently his power over his audiences was absolutely irresistible. He carried friends and foes all along together, whether they would or no, and compelled them to do homage to his cause. After such triumphs, my husband would go to his chamber, and when we were alone, say to me, that he felt that he was never made for a public speaker. He realized so deeply his lack of ability, when listening to such eloquence. For myself, I always felt that the one talent must not be withheld from such a work as must be performed before the slaves shall be free.
Yet one word about his spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice. I need not speak of more than one instance, to illustrate this trait in his character. His family was large. He was in need of funds. Still, when, last winter, an offer of $18 per week, with all expenses borne, was made him, to accompany a Diorama of Uncle Tom's Cabin, as delineator, he declined the offer, though he was then receiving after the rate of $500 per year, and bearing his own travelling expenses, as agent of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society. We must remember that he only lectured a part of the year, and received pay only for the time he lectured. Again, his health was poor, and his lecturing labors were far, very far more severe than was the labor of delineating. But he decided that he could be more useful in the former than in the latter service, and therefore declined what would have been to him more than double the salary he was then receiving.
The last time I saw him, he was full of hope and bright anticipations--laying plans for his family, and for the advancement of the cause to which he had so long and ardently devoted himself. The Michigan friends were urging him to remove there. How much they were all expecting of him! Yes, how much we were all expecting of him! How often, as I have lain my weary head on my pillow, and felt how little I could endure now, compared with former years, have I thanked God that our friend, instead of failing, was strengthening and increasing in ability. And is it possible he is called away? Oh, who shall rise to fill his place in the great warfare for freedom? Let our young friends answer this question. How much talent is wrapped in a napkin! Would to God our young men and women would each one cry out, in that agony of spirit which the present anti-slavery crisis demands, 'Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?' The harvest is already perishing for lack of reapers.
But, if the anti-slavery cause has lost so much in the early departure of our friend, what has not his family lost? That lone mother and those little children! No relatives in this country, and but a small circle of acquaintances. Mr. Walker has been so much engaged abroad that his family has been very much retired, and therefore can have but few acquaintances. He was to them their all. My heart bleeds for them. Anti-Slavery lecturers don't grow rich. Don't let us forget the widow and the fatherless.
I am still in Northern Indiana, having been here some eight weeks. Mr. Foster was here about three weeks, before returning to attend to our spring's work on the farm. I am to leave next Monday on my way to the anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Did my strength permit, I should remain in Indiana during the entire summer, and lecture in the villages during the busy season and the short evenings. I have never been in any new field where there was a more candid spirit of inquiry than here. Then, though it is a newly settled section, and therefore possessed of little wealth, it puts to shame many of our older fields, in its generous contributions to a fund to be appropriated to the diffusion of our glorious principles within this State. Nearly $200 have been put into our hands for the treasury, and upwards of eighty anti-slavery papers have been subscribed for. The people, at large, are eager to investigate the whole question, and, I doubt not, that Indiana will be as ready to wipe out the black code as was Ohio, when the American Society shall have done in her what was done in Ohio some eight years since. The farther we go South, the greater will be the opposition, of course, as there we find so large an admixture of the 'poor trash,' which, with all its moral and intellectual degradation, slavery, after cursing with its heaviest curses, has crowded north of the Ohio. Still, there is a sufficiently large element of intelligence in the northern and central portions of the State, when called into action by a thorough agitation, to relieve the State of its execrable black code. After the coming harvest, we must have a large corps in Indiana.
In sorrow yet in hope,
Yours very truly, A. K. FOSTER.