From the Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter.
In the many criticisms on Mrs. Stowe's great work, no objection is so common as that of exaggeration, or overdrawing in the finale of Uncle Tom's death. All who read the newspapers agree that whippings to death do occur, but all will not or cannot believe that any one, for conscience's sake, has died by the lash here, in this glorious nineteenth century. Those 'niggers' who are whipped to death are desperate characters—persons who have worn out the patience of overseer and masters by crime and laziness.
Well, in the summer of 1839, we were in Louisville, Ky. As no great change has ever taken place in our opinion on this slavery question, we were at some loss then for a place to go to preaching, and used on the Sabbath to walk out to a grave yard, or into the fields, or up and down the streets in search of sermons. One forenoon, passing a little frame church on Walnut street, if we recollect rightly, we heard the voices of a congregation singing. Brother Samuel, who was with us,—it was farther down the street than would have been thought safe for a woman to walk alone at midday,—said it was a congregation of Methodists, and a missionary station, he thought, but assured us he had once dropped in and heard a sermon he liked.
We went in and took a seat. A plain-looking elderly man preached in the style usual for Methodist preachers in country places—all about religion—its comforts in the life and triumphs in death. Like Uncle Tom, he insisted, with great emphasis, that it was 'a great thing to be a Christian.' Religion—it made the weak strong, and the meanest most honorable. To illustrate this grand truth, he told an anecdote as something coming within the range of his own knowledge, of an old slave who had 'got religion.' His master was kind, but irreligious and reckless, and was withal much impressed by the earnestness of his servant's prayers and exhortations. But one day, one evil day, on the Sabbath, too, this same kind master was drinking and playing cards with a visiter, when the conversations turned upon the religion of slaves. The visiter boasted that he could 'whip the religion out of any "nigger" in the State in half an hour.'
The master, proud of possessing a rare specimen, boasted that he had one out of whom the religion could not be whipped. A bet was laid, and the martyr summoned. A fearful oath of recantation, and blasphemous denial of his Savior, was required of the old disciple, upon pain of being whipped to death. The answer was, 'Bress de Lord, massa! I can't!'
Threats, oaths, entreaties, and noise were tried, but he fell on his knees, and holding up his hands, pled,
'Bress de Lord, massa! I can't! Jesus, he die for me! Massa, please, massa, I can't'
The executioner summoned his aids, the old man was tied up, and the whipping commenced; but the shrieks for mercy were all intermingles with prayers and praises—prayers for his own soul and those of his murderers. When fainted and revived, the terms of future freedom from the punishment were offered again, and again he put them away with the continued exclamation. 'Jesus, he die for me! Bress de Lord, massa! I can't!'
The bet was to the full value of the property endangered. The men were flushed with wine, and the experimenter on 'nigger religion' insisted on 'trying it out.' Honor demanded he should have a fair chance to win his bet, and the old disciple died under the lash, blessing the Lord that Jesus had died for him!
The preacher gave his recital with many tears, and before he was done, we do not think there was a dry eye, except our own, in the house. Our pulses all stood still with horror, but the speaker did not appear to dream that his story had any bearing against the institution with which he was surrounded.
We cannot remember how he said the particulars came to his knowledge, but think the martyr had been under his pastoral care, and that he got the minutiae from slave witnesses in a 'love-feast.'
He gave us the story simply to show what a good thing religion was. Of those who heard it, and the many persons there to whom we related it, we found not one who appeared to doubt it. Any indignation felt and expressed was against the individual actors in the tragedy.
This, and the account we once gave of the old man 'born in Pennsylvania, and free when twenty-eight!' who told us his own story of his beautiful 'Misses Jenny' and her bad husband, who sold him South by treachery; of his telling his own story of being 'born in Pennsylvania and free,' and being subsequently sold and resold eight times; of his seven good masters, and the cruel one who gave him the scars he exhibited to make him quit going to meeting, and curse God and Jesus Christ; of his present happiness in having found Misses Jenny, and the prospect of going with her 'home to Virginny'—these things convince us that there have been more Uncle Toms in these United States than we of the North have ever dreamed of in our philosophy.
There are to-day, as there have been in all ages, thousands of wicked men, thousands of fanatics who would, if they had the power, punish with fine, imprisonment, stripes, fire and the rack, the heretic who differs from them in opinion. What then could be expected when one class holds irresponsible power over the lives of another? Just, that some of them will be very ready to use it.