Frank Freeman's Barber Shop
Rev. Baynard R. Hall, D.D.
New York: Charles Scribner, 1852



  OF all the lounging places in Philadelphia, Frank Freeman's barber shop was the place. His rooms were large, convenient, and airy. There was for everything a place, and everything was in its place; for everything a time, and everything in time. Order reigned, all was neat, clean, comfortable. It was cool in summer and warm in winter. The paraphernalia were pre-eminently barbarish. There also you always found the best newspapers and the best company.

  When you went in you felt at once homeish, and did not want to go out again—you had half a notion to stay and learn barbering; and on taking the chair to be beautified, the handling was so artistic, so tasteful, so gentlemanly, you wished to be shaved all day; or secretly hoped your hair would grow up


as fast as it was cut off! Frank was just the very dandy!

  Freeman's customers were all white folks; but ever and anon came the Rev. Absalom Jones, D.D.—a man of Frank's own blackness—to have his wig rectified. What said wig was curled out of, the author never could find out; though he has seen and wondered at it many a time. But it was absolutely a—negro wig! Be it as it may, the class of white gentlemen that patronized this shop were Philadelphians, and of the old style; and such did not frown; for Dr. Jones was Freeman's parson, and Frank was a vestry-man!

  Frank, moreover, did up and made smooth a large number of orthodox quakers; indeed, the Hicksites never came, because the real quaker-quakers came—a deadly strife, in friends' style, just then having commenced. But the orthodox sort admired our hero-barber as much almost as they did neighbor Penn; for though Frank was rather too warlike in his sentiments, yet it seemed to them rather on the George Washington principle; and at that they knew how to wink, and so would say while under the lather;——

  "Why, Friend Frank, thee after all is nearly a peace man; and thee was very right in not wishing thy countrymen to commit murder and theft."


  One day a Friend, (alias a quaker;)—and a very large friend he was too, both physically and morally, after having been squeezed into the biggest chair—a pretty tight fit—and being tucked around with the largest napkin, evidently desiring a long shave and a long talk, began rather abruptly,

  "Thee is really free, isn't thee, friend Frank?"

  "I'm no runaway, at least, sir——"

  "But has thee what they call a master, Frank?"

  "Do not deem me impolite, Mr. Felix, but why do you ask?"

  "Because, if thee wants money to buy thyself, thee can have it."

  Frank did not answer; but he very suddenly ceased lathering the great moon of a face that was beaming benignantly upon his own; and before he could stay or intercept it, a tear plumped right down upon the well-soaped visage beneath; on which Friend Felix said,

  "Thee need not shave me now, friend Freeman—thee is too much moved—but thee shall have the money, if 'tis ten thousand dollars!"—saying which the quaker, and in spite of Frank's remonstrance in a low tone, worked out of the chair; and taking a razor, he went to a glass and commenced the operation himself.

  Our barber left the shop, whither, after a while returning self-possessed, he found the friend had


finished shaving, and was now standing with the containing part of his system protruded from between the curves of an enormous coat, and under a hat larger than a parasol, but less than an umbrella; and thus evidently awaiting the barber's incoming.

  Motioning Frank to a small room, or office, just now empty, our quaker friend there taking him by the hand, said,

  "Friend Freeman, thee is making money, and thee is honestly earning it—but thee needs more, I know; and thee can be free, if thee isn't free, any day. But this land is not thy place. Thee is the very man to aid in founding a new republic—thee should go to Liberia."

  "Mr. Felix," answered Frank, "I thank you from my very heart; but I cannot accept your kind offer of assistance, till you know my whole history; and that, if you please, I will tell you to-night at your own house. If after knowing all, you will loan me what money I may require, and on your own terms, I will gladly accept your aid, and will joyously prepare to emigrate to my proper land and home."

  "I know some of thy history, and maybe more than thy thinks, Frank; but I would like to hear the whole from thyself to-night; and thee shall have the necessary money, even if thee chooses to stay in Philadelphia; only I advise thee to go to Liberia."


  "I had long ago resolved to go there, sir; but I had also resolved never to go till I owed no man in this land—I would go legally and morally free."

  "Thee is honest, friend Frank; and thee shall not want friends among my people: and we want all thy southern people to be paid for their risks and their losses."

  "Excuse me, Mr. Felix!—would to God I had met you before—"

  "Stay! thee mustn't be so vehement, Frank."

  "Well—then—I do from my heart thank God, that all men called Abolitionists are not bad men and hypocrites—"

  "Frank!—stay!—thee is too severe!"

  "Judge me to-night, Mr. Felix."

  "Friend Frank, thee has, indeed, fallen among the north-eastern men, and has some cause for what thee says; but thee is somewhat of a warlike man, thee knows."

  "General Washington was a warlike man, Mr. Felix."

  "General Washington was—a—lover of his country and people; and so is thee, Frank; and thee is the sort for Liberia, where thee can help to make thy people a nation, and be a blessing to all generations."

  "I will go, I will!—the Lord willing; and I thank


the Holy One for that land! I thank you and all the excellent Colonization men of the United States for what you have done for my people! Mr. Felix, I am ready to go the moment I am free in the legal sense."

  "And God will be with thee, Frank."

  "Amen," answered Frank, episcopally. Neighbor Felix responded in his heart.

  The quaker now went home, but when in the street, his eyes became so watery and his nose so troublesome, that he used a vast silk bandana for a whole square. Meanwhile Frank, taking up a newspaper brought in while he was talking with Mr. Felix, went to his wife's apartment; where he, full of joy, began to tell her what had just passed, as she was plaiting and crimping a dress. Carrie had wonderfully improved in English grammar and orthoëpy since her marriage; and mainly because she was determined a little curly headed, round-faced, and soft-eyed ebony cherub (to her) should talk like his father; and specially as he looked so much like him now, that Master Edward L. Freeman seemed Mr. F. Freeman thrown into distance by a diminishing glass.

  "I knew," said Mrs. F., "God would reward you, husband."

  "Help me to be thankful, wife! Only think, little Edward here may live to be Governor!"


  "I would rather he became a missionary," answered she.

  "It is you God rewards, Carrie!" said he—"not me. Well, let our boy become useful among our people as a free nation, and the Lord may direct how. Suppose I read you the paper, while you work on? I have an hour to spare now—Jerry is in the shop."

  "I don't wish to hear the Truth Teller, Frank—"

  "Truth Teller!—I ordered the rascally Slashup long ago not to send it; I told him it was not fit for shaving paper; but the scamp keeps on sending, and I regularly tear it up. No, no,—this is a southern paper—I lately ordered it through the Colonization Society."

  Frank now opened his paper—but what!—black broad lines each side the columns! Ah, poor Frank!—thy joy is all dashed and darkened! No wonder thy bosom shakes in convulsion—that cries of an anguished soul terrify thy wife and child! Too true! He is no more—God hath taken him! Yes!—it is his name—his own loved name!

  "Edward Leamington—dead!"——

  The wife, alarmed, picked up the fallen paper—she had learned to read; and when her eyes saw to what her husband pointed, but would not then look at—she threw her arms around Frank's neck, and utter-


ed one of those cries of a wounded spirit we would hear only once!

  Again and again, Frank hushing himself and wife, took up the paper to read the column, but "Edward Leamington—dead!" was all they saw: those words fixed them into an intent gaze like the charm of a serpent! Those words appalled their souls! Why!—what was this? A sense of guilt!—Conscience suddenly waked to its full energy and loudly accusing! And now—what else could Christians do?—they both fell on their knees—the mother clasping their child—and with sobs and tears, and groans, they prayed God, for his Son's sake, to have mercy and forgive! And when they arose, it was with some sense of forgiveness, and they did—with many interruptions, read the whole; of which the following are extracts.


"The Rev. Edward Leamington is Dead!"

* * * * * *

  " * * A loss indeed!—a loss not only to his parish, and the negroes of that parish, but to our State! Yes, to our country—to the world! * * The Colonization Society will rarely find such a friend and advocate; and, although the Society must greatly rejoice in the existence of the Branch Society, which arose on the islands through his ex-


ertions, they will bitterly and long mourn the irretrievable loss!

  "His disease was hereditary; and he must have died in a very few years more: but it is believed his death was in some measure hastened by a succession of sad events, happening to the family during the last visit to his native North, one or two years ago. He was mostly confined to his house after his return till the day of his death. Among other things he felt keenly the desertion of a man, he never regarded as a slave, but for some reason cherished as a brother—(Here it was a long time before our friends could read further—if the reader has ever been unkind to parents or loving relatives, he can tell, how long.) * * *

* * * * * *

  "On his death-bed Mr. L. had a conversation with Mr. H. Wardloe, President of the Branch Society, in which he declared this man was, for many reasons, entitled to his freedom; that he had determined always to set him free, and had most solemnly vowed never to search for him himself, nor allow others to do it. He stated, moreover, that this colored person had entreated permission to repay certain moneys; which, for the sake of Mrs. Leamington and his children, he would receive, provided the man was exempted from the interest. And he assured Mr.


W. that the man would, beyond all doubt, as he obtained the means, sooner or later repay the whole; in which belief, we understand, Mr. W. fully coincides."

  Here Frank passionately cried out—"Repay it!—ten thousand times, and feel I had done nothing! Oh! master! oh! my dear master Edward!—come to me, even in the form or manner of the disembodied, and let me ask forgiveness! Miserable idiot! how could I debase myself and kill him, for such accursed hypocrites!—

  "Frank! Frank!"—interrupted his wife, "oh! remember dear master—he never cursed—he forgave—he prayed for people!"

  "I will be calm!—I myself deserve to be cursed!" said Frank.

  "We have both, dear husband," added she, "done wrong; but we do not merit all your words would say. God is raising us up friends to repay dear master's family. When we forsook—dear—master— Edward!—you never saw all. I'm not so good a scholar, dear husband, but I know we shall please dear master more by going to the black people's own land, and doing good."

  "God bless you, dear Carrie! God bless you! I know you are right. I will try to imitate dear master Edward; but I'm such a wretch."

  "Go to Jesus, dear Frank!"


  "I will," replied he, "I will! and do you help me with your prayers."

  With this, Frank retired to an inner room; from which he returned after a while, humble, but strong; a penitent, yet a better man. He felt he was forgiven, both by his master and his God.

  That evening after tea Frank Freeman went to the house of Mr. Felix in Arch Street—(the author saw his father die there in a quaker's house)—Mr. Felix, a quaker in name, a true and devout Christian in heart and life. Here Freeman narrated as briefly as possible, all the important and leading incidents of his life, without concealment, artifice, extenuation or exaggeration. And so absorbed did the friend become that he scarce noticed the black man's occasional outbursts; indeed, neighbor Felix, at places, hardly held in himself, and spite of his habitual and conventional equanimity, he would mutter now and then a little indignant word and shed a genuine and scalding tear! Nature is too much for quakerism, or any other ism! At the end of an hour or more, Mr. F. said, however, with an emphasis that scared himself—

  "Frank! Frank—thee is a right noble fellow! Thee is forgiven a thousand times—I liked thy great speech in Boston—but, Frank, when thee goes to Liberia, indeed, thee musn't fight the bad men that steal thy folks!"


  "I hope they'll keep out of the way, then—I could'nt promise—"

  "Oh! but Frank! God will protect thy people if peaceful and without carnal weapons—doesn't thee think so?"

  "We will never fight, Mr. Felix, if the Lord protects and delivers my people without fighting; but suppose Divine Providence does not so protect us?"

  "Oh! he will!"—(Mr. Felix forgot how, in the war of 1812, he left his tools, shovels, and pick-axes, and a basket of crackers and a bag of hams in a certain mill, which things we warlike boys used when we threw up the batteries below the city. He said they were all there to be sure—and if we must have them, he didn't know how to prevent our taking them.) "But," continued he to Frank—"thee must not kill, and yet thee must go any how. Frank, does thee ever pray without the book among thy Episcopal friends?"

  "Often, Mr. Felix—we have several prayer meetings, which Dr. Jones allows and encourages."

  "Well, Frank, we sometimes pray with words of the lips, specially when we feel a solemn impression on our spirits, which we both feel now; before thee goes away then, let us kneel down and thee shall pray and I will pray after thee. God's finger is here, Frank."


  Blessed scheme! God's finger does, indeed, point here. And while all the Lord's people continue to pray—the Colonization Society will flourish and do incalculable good. This beyond all doubt is the plan—or one of the plans—where all Christians, however separated by names, colors, dresses and peculiarities, whether in the North-East, or the extreme South, or the far West, may pray together and love one another, and look to God, and Hope!

  Reader, join the author in this prayer—

"God bless the Colonization Society."