THE courteous reader, (supposing one has got thus far)—should know that during the period embraced by our story, railroads were to be; and that electrical wire-workers were only something to be laughed at; in which time even turnpikes were not everywhere, and some such ought to have been no-where. Hence, travelling in express stages was done by the day, and might, therefore, last a week or more; while mail stages stopped at every tavern to liquor-up; and at every post-office to change bags; and as such stations averaged one to the mile, letters would come to hand only every now and then, and dear at that.
News was not common in the good old times; and a little was made to go
a great way and lasted a long time, like a good pickle. Indeed, with judicious
handling a respectable crime—(only about half
as excellent as the daily ones at present)—a murder, a burning of only half a dozen women and little babies in a steamboat for instance, would last a whole year!
And newspapers were few, and indeed, very far between; and so for want of spice, old articles of interest—hangings and the like, were hashed up and served over and over, till the whole union had learned the thing by heart! How unlike our high-pressure civilization! Sheets of news flood our streets chin-deep! Runners in seven-league boots step over two or three times a day to every village and hamlet, with news fresh squeezed, by labyrinthical machines driven by all sorts of hot and cold airs, and vapors, and thunder, and lightning! Pitch into the hoppers any old inexpressibles—and fizz!—whack!—squish!—out comes a newspaper, large as an old-fashioned quilt, and with columns for each and every separate kind of sort of news! The want column—the murder column—the rowdy fight—the divorce—the nameless disorder—the quack—the dreadful-accident columns! Of late a special column is set apart for steamboat disasters!
Manifestly partisan papers had of old a decided advantage; they found their
account in representing a thing their own way, it being long before the impression
could be erased by any counter statements, and decided action often took
place before that was done.
Of course all after narratives were false, prejudiced, malicious; and firm men adhered to what was done; and a fellow that had told a lie, stuck to it, on the principle that consistency was a jewel.
Perhaps, Conservatism sprang from a desire to wait a little and see what Truth was; for to follow a newspaper in those days was to follow a story, and that the first told. A Conservator loves neither a high pressure nor a low pressure paper or press; but he loves a medium pressure machine; because the first squeezes out more truth than the matter contains, the second less than the truth, and the medium just truth enough. It presents, in other words, the subject just in that state and form that admits the Union and Action of Good yet Imperfect Men! The Purist, the Perfectionist, the Psuedo-Philanthropist, hate the just medium—it pukes them like warm water—but only because their stomach is foul.
The Boston Truth Teller was a paper on the highest pressure principle, and could squeeze truth out of a false story—it could find lemonade in a pumpkin. Here is a touch of its quality—the editorial laid by Dr. Sharpinton before the Committee of the Philanthropic Society, at the meeting announced in the last chapter:
"HORRIBLE! HORRIBLE!! MOST HORRIBLE!!!
"Do we live in the Nineteenth? Are we Christians? Is this Freedom's land?
Oh! tremble, blush,
mourn, hide your face, while we tell! Hear it, look at it!—The Press is no longer free!
"Do we live to write it! Alas, we do! Better lie in the grave, than live to record it! Last Sunday week, a devilish mob at Look-Out-Point, on the Mississippi, led on by a reprobate wretch, called Ketchem, a notorious slaver, collected around the office of the Scarifier and Renovator, and simply because the editor, C. Somerville, Esq., refused to give the name of a writer, who with manly, noble, fearless independence, had been exposing the diabolical arts and practices of the man-stealer, in enticing a whole family of Free blacks into a boat, and then running them off to bondage and slavery—this infernal crew advanced to pull down the building!
"On this the brave, noble, fearless, independent Somerville, surrounded by a party of resolute and well-armed friends, resolved to stand on the defence. In a few moments, several shots were fired from the crowd, which our heroic party returned; on which Somerville, who headed his party, rushing forward to a window for a better shot, received several rifle balls in his body; one of which, passing through his heart—his grand heart—his freeman's heart—he fell dead!
"Instantly, the incarnate rabble rushed in, and succeeded in demolishing
all the furniture and fixtures, and then proceeded to demolish the building!
And all the while, it is said, several magistrates stood by, and without a word of remonstrance, saw the mob complete their work!
"Emancipators! Philanthropists! awake! arise! To your posts! Do your duty! No Republic! No Union! No anything! If we must have Slavery—Liberty or Death!"
In due time, but too late to stop what was intended and done by the Truth Teller, the sifted truth was found to be this:—
That the office was attacked and demolished, and the editor, Mr. S., killed and in defence of his property, were all strictly true; but, other important matters had been slightly warped, and some items of truth had fallen out or been overlooked. For instance, no family of blacks had been enticed into a boat; but several negroes, slaves already of Colonel Kertchin, had been solicited by Mr. S. to settle in the north, and advised to bring off any little nic-knackery of spoons, watches, and jewelry, (providentially around,) a lawful plunder from the Egyptian task-masters; but said blacks had foolishly declined the invitation, and after a day of special jollification had voluntarily returned with the Colonel to his plantation, some thirty miles from Lookout Point.
On this, an article very abusive had appeared in the Scarifier; in which
a Mr. Ketchem (a nickname for Col. Kertchin)—was charged with negro steal-
ing—the slaves being represented as free negroes. The Colonel demanded the name of the writer, saying, of course, the editor was held responsible. The name was withheld, and the Colonel's letter published with insulting comments; while other offensive articles over different signatures appeared—all of which, on good authority, were believed to be from the editorial pen.
At this, the editor was informed that if within twenty-four hours the names were withheld, his office would be destroyed. To which he had boldly answered and laconically—"We are ready!" Shortly after on came the mob and with hostile intention, beyond doubt; but they were greeted with a shower of balls by which several were wounded and one man killed in the storming party. Patience is not the chief virtue of mobs, and retaliation is deemed no sin; so that the assailants fired in return with a will and a vengeance; and then Charles Somerville, Esq., alias, the Rev. Philander Tibbets, died as he had lived—an Emancipator, and—something else.
The charge against the magistrates had—we are sorry to state—much truth
in it; but then this class being elected by the people do not like unnecessarily
to offend them, at least in places. But so far from looking on were the magistrates,
that they were all absent accidentally from the village—at some camp-
meeting, they said:—and on their return, they all expressed themselves sincerely sorry for the riot, hoping, however, that the emancipators would do less hereafter at coaxing off negroes and abusing the owners.
Justice is blind enough sometimes—that is certain; hence a weight, often unperceived, slips out of the scales!
Lynch law is, unquestionably, a very gingerly thing to handle; and where applied with some show of reason, it is yet a cat with more than nine tails. Still cases may happen, where it would be dangerous to do without the judge, although his presence may even then be an evil. Perhaps the most atrocious of all crimes may be committed under cover of law, when the law itself instead of preventing is compelled to aid; and of course, such law must be modified or repealed. But till then, society or individuals must stand on the defensive, and repel what would, unresisted, be destructive of everything else.
For instance, the mail is for a national benefit; but it cannot, therefore,
be lawfully used to carry packages of explosive powders; therefore, any driver
of a mail or traveller with it, may very properly pitch such mail-bag into
the water, though in destroying the powder packages, he may injure some packages
not explosive. Peril to life and limb made
the destruction a duty; the law never designed that any body should be blown up by the mail. If, then, said mail be used to excite one part of the community to rise and massacre another, the people in jeopardy might without any great breach of etiquette, pitch said mail-bag into the fire. Of course, the powder-packers and massacre-mongers would be very angry, and give pages of constitutional law and other legal flummydiddle; but such would never convince an unsophisticated citizen that he ought to sit still and be killed.
Hence while an unmuzzled press is a very great blessing, yet if a press foment treason, and rebellion, and in connection, promote rape, arson, and murder, it is a direful necessity, and yet somewhat excusable if the people to be destroyed throw the types into pi and compel the rascal to be off with his devil.
The advocates of "Higher Law," will, we presume, have some respect for "Lynch Law."
But we are forgetting the Committee. After deliberation the present was
deemed an opportunity of doing an immensity of good; indeed, it would be
like throwing away a providential gift, to neglect it; and hence, it was
unanimously resolved to have a special meeting of the Philanthropic Society.
It was hoped by a judicious use of this lucky affair and before the misrepresentations
of the facts should be set afloat, that the number and influence of the sons
of liberty and humanity would be prodigiously increased. And what time more fit for introducing to the public Mr. Freeman!
Accordingly, within a few hours, hand-bills were posted and distributed in all quarters; of which the following is a true copy:
"A special meeting of the North American Anti-Slavery and Philanthropic Society will be held tomorrow night in the North-East Church. All persons in favor of the Freedom of the Press and the Rights of Man, and opposed to the murder of editors, are respectfully invited to attend. Several addresses will be made by distinguished citizens; and Dr. Sharpinton will introduce Mr. Frank Freeman, a gentleman of color, lately from the South. It is hoped Mr. Freeman may be induced also to address the meeting. This distinguished person narrowly escaped death some years ago, with sixty of his countrymen,—who were all martyred in the sacred cause of liberty."
This notice Mr. Freeman never saw. He was yet in the country, 20 miles
from Boston, whence Dr. S. would, in person, bring him next day, and only
in time for the meeting; and the narrative in the Truth Teller was all Mr.
Freeman would ever read or hear about, while under the care of the Emancipators.
Truth in sufficient doses, and adroitly administered, would keep Mr. F. in a frame of mind in which he would do and say what would be of most advantage for the benevolent designs of his friends.
In due season, the old North-East Church was jammed, and mostly by white citizens—a little contrivance having assembled there rather sooner than the black citizens could come, owing to their official relations to society, as waiters, cooks, &c., &c. But at last they came like a flock of crows, and as noisy; and as the galleries only remained and a few outside seats and corners below, the assembly was like a man dressed in white with crape on his hat, or milk in a black pan.
At the hour appointed, the meeting was called to order by the President; when a gentleman on the stage arose, and, with a copy of the Truth Teller in his hand, thus addressed the meeting:
"FELLOW CITIZENS—It would be an insult on your understanding, to inform you why we are assembled. No man that has read this paper, and knows what dreadful act has been done—the appalling murder committed, asks why? No—the spontaneous outcry of all hearts demands a public meeting!
"We all felt then—we all feel now—that outrages may be so horrible, and
crimes so atrocious, and blows at liberty so violent, that men, not as politicians
or sectarians, or as cliques and parties, but because
they are men, and fellow-citizens and brothers, must now meet as one—merging all in the common and grand interest! We must unite to preserve, not our parties, but our homes and liberties and lives—a common land, where danger over, we may have a place to differ about secondary matters, and to follow our conscience!
"True—Rome was not built in a day—nor was Rome destroyed in a day. And our liberties may not be all lost in a day! Fellow-citizens, were this the only act of outrage and murder; if it were the last—base as would be the want of public disapproval, and such dereliction of our duty, we might yet have a country and a wounded liberty left; but when this horrible act only crowns a series of wicked acts, showing what the enemies of Liberty and of New England mean to do, when they get the power, and that they will, to the letter, execute all their threats, and beyond the letter, then it is high time for New England—for the people to awake!
"To-day, our sons travelling in the South, are apprehended on groundless
suspicions—and one is tied to a tree and lashed till he faints; another
is cast into prison; and another is banished from slave soil, as if we had
no rights out of our own country! Next, our free black citizens are taken
from our ships that dare visit the South, and locked in dungeons, and terrified
with threats of being sold! Then our
mails are stopped and robbed! and our post-offices are searched for our letters and papers! And now—oh! spirits of our pilgrim fathers! spirits that rose from the bloody heights of Bunker Hill!— our sons! whose fathers died on that sacred battle-field, in defence of our common land—hear it—our sons are murdered! See! they are shot down like brutes, and because they had the assurance to utter in Slavery's ears the free voice of American and New England citizens! (Great applause.)
"Heaven forbid! fellow citizens, any poor words of mine should stir any improper feelings—indeed, that is not necessary. I have rather to labor to keep down your virtuous indignation. Were our enemies near, I should cry—'Show them mercy! although they did not show mercy to your poor brothers under the lash, when poor honest Gordon and Johnston fainted, while their blood was sprinkled by the lacerating scourge on the mocking fiends around!' (Cries—infernal rascals—down with them.) Ah! citizens, that may be justice, but mercy is our boast, and characterises all sons of New England, and sons of freedom. Slavers, that buy and sell their brothers, are merciless; and one of those incarnate devils led the mob! Listen to the narrative. (Here Mr. Boilover read from the Truth Teller.)
"Fellow-citizens! I almost forget mercy, myself, at such an outrage! ('They
don't deserve mercy,'
shouted some.) Poor Somerville! I remember him, when he offered to go on a service, how he consented to die! He had his faults—as we all have; his zeal for the poor degraded and insulted black made him indiscreet! Poor fellow! I remember hearing him lament that, by misinterpreting some directions of the Committee, he had unintentionally committed an error in the South, and how he just escaped death by the noble intrepidity of a gentleman on this very platform! (Immense cheers for Frank—the speaker having pointed to him.) But where now that manly form? Mutilated, and in a bloody grave! (Great sensation.) Where his grand heart? Torn by the assassin's hand! (We'll avenge him!) Oh! no! no! never! But imitate him rather; let not his death be in vain; for from his bloody bed he calls to his countrymen of New England—
"'Avenge me not! Carry on my work! Free your poor oppressed fellow citizens! I willingly die for them!' (Loud cries—'We will! we will! they shall be free!')
"But, fellow-citizens, I make way for others."
The speaker sat down in a thunder of applause. And Mr. Freeman felt himself
more moved against slave-holders than he had once deemed possible; while pity
towards Somerville, mingled with some admiration, was stealing into his breast.
He saw that, possibly, Somerville may not have seen his
incendiarism in its worst light, under the influence of good feelings and some misconception of some advice alluded to. The fact was, feeling with Frank was preponderating against logic; and abstract truth was swaying him away from truth, real, and modified by circumstances. He was admitting the indiscriminate which ever inclines men to pull up tares although they jerk out the wheat.
The emancipators did not wish just now to become actual extirpators; their main design was to enlarge their bounds and augment their funds, that under their benign influences and secret aid, the negroes might free themselves; the consequences of which they would leave to providence and contemplate with thanksgiving in their snug retreats, north-east and elsewhere. The times were marked by all sorts of excitement, things religious and charitable being done by pressure and punches, and eloquence of a sort usurping the place of reason:—indeed, crusades were voted at all meetings and would have been carried into effect, if folks had not always cooled off when the fire went down that was kindled by impassioned speeches. Many a fellow promised in public, lots of money—but never paid a copper.
Indignation meetings are, perhaps, always popular; the luxury to the speaker
of doing the agony is indescribable! and it is so exhilarating to vote your
foot on the neck of the enemy! Everybody shoots
up there a head and shoulders taller than everybody else! Dr. S., therefore, was not surprised when Mr. Boilover sat down, that somebody in the audience who mistook the play on the stage for reality, went at it hammer and tongs,—as follows:—
"I want to know, Mr. President, if a man had'nt ought to speak now on this here diabolical outrage in public, even though he never spoke, before? That's his duty, sir; he ought to. Why, sir, this here is enough to make the dumb speak; yes, sir, it would make a brute hisself speak. (It did.) No! sir, I cannot keep my seat, sir! Vengeance here, sir, is the law, sir—they had ought to be hung up, sir, without judge or jury, sir. That vile institution, sir, is a disgrace to America! Am I a citizen of such a country, sir—no sir!—I want to know! Therefore, I move you, sir, that a committee had ought to retire and bring in some strong resolutions, sir, expressive of the indignation of this here meeting, sir."
"Second the motion," was shouted in a dozen quarters and above and below. On which Dr. S. convinced the feeling was at boiling point and ready for the next move in the game, with his usual tact, replied.
"Aware fellow citizens, that the state of the public would require some
such course, several gentlemen,
I understand, have ready certain resolutions; which, however, I fear may possibly be too strong."
"Let them be read," was cried by many, interrupting the president.
"They can't be strong enough!" exclaimed several.
On this, a gentleman, a well-known attorney, a candidate for next assembly, and having in view, some thought, higher stations, stepped forward with a written paper in his hand, the reading of which he prefaced thus:—
"Thank God! fellow citizens—there is in New England freedom of speech!—(shouts of applause.) Aye! hear it!—hear it!—if a man were a slave, before, when his foot touches this soil, it turns him to a freeman!—(tremendous cheering.) The first glimpse of the hill! the first breath of its atmosphere wakes him into true life!—(yells of delight, in which Frank actually joined.)
"Our venerated and clerical president, actuated by the benevolence of that gospel he so eloquently preaches, fears our resolutions may be too strong—" Interrupted by—
"No! they can't—read them!—let's have 'em!"
"Well," said the attorney, "here they are—judge for yourselves."
"Resolved, That a Free Press is the Palladium of
American Liberty,—(Furious yells mixed with whist-
ling.) Hence any attempt to intimidate editors, or others, from liberty or speech, is treason.
"Resolved, That traitors deserve the execration of all patriots, and are unfit to live; (uproar,) hence, when masses or states aid and abet traitors, they destroy the Union. (Cries—'What's the Union worth!')
"Resolved, That an Institution forcing States to muzzle the press—gag speakers—chain down editors—frown on freedom—and connive at deeds of violence—renders it imperative such Institution be done away; and makes it impossible for free soils to have with slave soils any political, and above all, any religious intercourse!" ("That's your sort—leave consequences to God!"—from several parts of the house.)
Other similar resolutions were passed, amidst yells and bellowings, accompanied with pounding of canes, stamping of feet, and slamming of pew-doors, unanimously, as the Truth Teller, reported; the votes of some dozen conservatives being disregarded at the time, and left out of the report. The power of a majority is always great; but now, as in many other cases, it turned a lie into a truth—i.e., whitewashed Satan into an angel. At all events, the voice of Boston was declared the vox Dei.
At length Dr. S. arose, and stated he wished to introduce the gentleman
lately from the south, who
had been prevailed upon to make a few remarks. "I could easily enough," added the Doctor, "occupy much time by a true narrative, relative to the gentleman; but this will not be allowed by his modesty; and yet one thing I must say—and that is a volume of itself—it must turn this vast assembly all into his friends—Mr. Frank Freeman, the gentleman of color, I now introduce, fellow citizens, fifteen years ago, at the hazard, the imminent hazard of his own life, saved the life of our martyred friend and brother—Charles Somerville!"
A perfect storm—a very hurricane followed this last remark; and Frank, called by a thousand voices, amidst tossing hats and waving handkerchiefs, and clapping hands, stood before the People—he knew not how—he cared not how—an altered man!
O! breath of popular applause!—let those that have had their soul's-depth's
never stirred by thee, sneer at thy power! Dead! doubly dead to the noble,
generous, poetic, disinterested, chivalric, is that miserable manikin—that
artificial make-believe of a man—who wakes not, and thrills not at thy inspiration!
Who, but must then yield himself, fired and borne onward to the grand, the
lofty, the impassioned?—despising rewards—fearless of danger—doing and
daring for their own sake! Breath! indeed! And so
the spark is but—a spark! Yet that spark may fire a world! Aye! and that
can fan the soul—flame till it would burn a universe! The impassioned sees a vision—he is wrapt! His soul is alive to its immortality, and grapples and flames with the Ideal!
And there stood Freeman. He had forgot himself—his friends—his color—the whole earth;—save one scene! And that was before and around him, and naught else;—the long line from tree to tree and from post to post where hung his early friends and comrades, all quivering in their last mortal agony! and their leader leaping from the ladder, while he cried exulting—"I die for my countrymen in chains!"
The impassioned thus broke forth—
"I was a slave! but here I stand free! None will ever seek me; the godlike man I once called master would rather die himself than even demand me! That man would stand here and say—be free! But there was a fiend, that would have chained me for life; and there are fiends like him would chain my race. With them I would war to the knife—and without the scabbard—and to the hilt!—(loud applause.)
"I am no murderer! No! There are whites in that sad land—that land of
bondage—God knows I would die to save! Yes, men are there, noble as the noblest—men
that treat a bondsman like a brother—men that follow him with love from
to the grave! There are ministers of religion like apostles in sanctity and goodness; whose life is an incessant toil for the black man's good. And that land is full of innocent women, and children, and babes. For these I could die! but I cannot see them massacred for nought—(great sensation and several ladies wept.) I accuse no man—I judge no man—but it is a crime to wake the wrath of my people unless that wrath shall set and establish them free! (wincing on the stage.)
"I will never go back a slave! and if I must be carried back—let my body be carried, but without the soul! (Immense applause). But yet I will go back, if such blessed day can come, as a leader of my people, if I may lead them as a nation to a nation's home!—(tempest of applause.) Yes! I would then lead them, if we waded through blood! and cut every foot of our path-way with the sword! (deafening shouts.)
"I understand not the Constitution of your land, nor the nature of your
union; I had, indeed, a home once—a home for comfort and happiness I shall
never, no, never, find again—that dream of life is past—but I never had
a country—I have none now!—(sensation.) Show me,
however, the way to free my race without murder and massacre; furnish me
with the means of honorable war—raise me armies sufficient, and I am ready
to lead!—or to die in the
field!—(alarm in some, their principles being carried out.)
"I hate no one but I love my race! I would destroy no one; but I would deliver them! I cannot tell what you intend to do as individuals or as states; in that you know better than myself; yet I take for granted all meetings like this are proper, and loyal, and right, and that if your laws allow one part of the land to oppress and enslave, they allow another part to deliver and defend. (All sorts of cries—the conservatives secretly tickled, however.) If so, then help me!—(we will)—help my people! (we will.) Give us a state to ourselves—(silence)—separate us as a people or unite us with yourselves! (silence—conservatives laugh in their sleeve.) But if revolution be necessary and will accomplish what some gentlemen to-night seem to think and your resolutions intimate, then add deeds to your words—(the hour will come, by some voices)—let me, as Warren, led you, let me lead on to liberty or death!—(great applause.)
"I will not threaten, for I am ready to do; and I repeat the sentiment so dear to your hearts—to all true hearts whether they beat in bosoms white or black,
"Give me liberty, or give me death!"
And Freeman, bowing right hand on his heart—retired and sat down, while
thunders of ap-
probation and admiration threatened the old Northeast Church with an overthrow. And never was a Philanthropic meeting so decided a hit; and both friends and funds were greatly increased by the operation.
Some of the more knowing in this modern handicraft, could not heartily approve the natural and unpremeditated use Frank wished to make of the principles of philanthropism; and, while all saw it would be a tough job to make his straight lines meet at right angles with their crooked policies, yet was there such freshness and originality in their hero, and he could be so adroitly used and specially across the water, to promote their earth-covered schemes, that by the wire-pullers and the major part of the outside members, it was resolved that,
Frank Freeman for a time should be used for—buncum; while Soapwell Scrawney, the attorney, should ride into Congress on the black fellow's back.