OUT OF JAIL.
THE BLACK MAN WHO WAS IMPRISONED FOR READING UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
I am asked to make an appeal for a poor man—a criminal, just out of jail. He was convicted for three offences:—first, because a black skin covered his face; second, because the English alphabet came and sat upon his tongue; and third, because he had read the story of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
For these crimes he was tried and convicted by a Maryland Court in 1857, and sentenced to the Baltimore Penitentiary for ten years. After wearing out five years of this long penalty, the gate of his cell was opened a few weeks ago by the new Governor of Maryland, who told him that he might quit the jail, if he would quit also the United States. He immediately promised to go to Canada, and is now in New York on his way thither.
The culprit's name is Samuel Green. He is 62 years of age, though, except for his gray hair, he seems younger; good-looking, intelligent, and amiable; showing in his face God's plain handwriting of a good character; a man whom a stranger would trust at first sight.
He was born a slave in Maryland, and wore the chain for 30 years, until his master died, bequeathing him freedom at the end of five years. The slave, kindled with this hope of becoming a man, worked extra hours, and earned in one year enough money to buy his service for the remaining four. While a slave, he had married a slave-woman, the property of a kind master, who, after her husband had so handsomely worked out his freedom, sold him his wife for 25 cents! Mr. Green says, "My wife was worth more, but I was willing to take her for that!"
They had two children—son and daughter—both slaves of one master. Eight or nine years ago, the son, after praying long for freedom got it at last, after the manner of Frederick Douglass, who "prayed with his legs." The boy Green started on a moonlight night, and ran away to Canada. His master, fearing the sister would follow, sold her straightway to Missouri; breaking her heart by separating her from her husband and two little children.
About this time, when almost everybody was laughing and crying over the pages of Uncle Tom, one morning while Samuel Green was going to the mill, a blacksmith came out of his shop at the roadside—himself a black man, and since a Methodist clergyman—exclaiming:—
"Sam Green, would you like to see Uncle Tom's Cabin?"
"What is it?" asked Sam, who thought it was some new shanty put up in the neighborhood.
"It's a book," replied the blacksmith; "it's the story of a slave, and it goes for Abolition."
"Yes, I'd like to read it," said Sam; and he took home the story, in two volumes, and began to read. But before he finished, he received a letter from the boy in Canada, saying, "Come and bring mother, and let us all live together here." It was a good idea, but the old man, before venturing to take all his little property to a foreign country, to see what was the prospect of earning a livelihood in the high latitudes. Meanwhile, the story of his absence made noise enough to reach the attentive ears of the civil officers. On his return, a constable knocked at his door, and said, "You are suspected of holding correspondence with the North, and I shall search your house."
"Come in, sir," said Mr. Green; "it is a small cottage; you can soon search it through; but you will find nothing, for there is nothing to find."
But Samuel Green—unsuspecting man!—found to his cost that he was a great rogue, and that the proof of it was in his own house. The constable found three guilty things: first, Uncle Tom's Cabin; second, a map of Canada; third, a picture of a hotel at Niagara Falls. These were all, but were they not enough? What constable in Maryland would have asked for more? What Court in the State would have given less than ten years in the State-prison after such proofs? Besides, even out of Maryland, does not Gov. Stanly, and the editor of the Herald, and other good men, call it a crime for a black man to know how to read?
But without palliating Samuel Green's crime, if any kind-hearted person can be persuaded to show kindness to the criminal, by giving a little money to help the old man off to the penal colony of Canada, it will reach him if sent to
Office of The Independent, No. 5 Beekman street, N. Y.