Aunt Phillis's Cabin
Mary Eastman
Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co, 1852


  ARTHUR WESTON is in his college-room in that far-famed city, New Haven. He is in the act of replacing his cigar in his mouth, after having knocked the ashes off it, when we introduce to him the reader. Though not well employed, his first appearance must be prepossessing; he inherited his mother's clear brunette complexion, and her fine expressive eyes. His very black hair he had thrown entirely off his forehead, and he is now reading an Abolition paper which had fallen into his hands. There are two other young men in the room, one of them Arthur's friend, Abel Johnson; and the other, a young man by the name of Hubbard.

  "Who brought this paper into my room?" said Arthur, after laying it down on the table beside him.

  "I was reading it," said Mr. Hubbard, "and threw it aside."

  "Well, if it makes no difference to you, Mr. Hubbard, I'd prefer not seeing any more of these publications about me. This number is a literary curiosity, and deserves to be preserved; but as I do not file papers at present, I will just return it, after expressing my thanks to you for affording me the means of obtaining valuable information about the Southern country."

  "What is it about, Arthur," said Abel Johnson, "it is too hot to read this morning, so pray enlighten me?"

  "Why, here," said Arthur, opening the paper again, "here is an advertisement, said to be copied from a Southern paper, in which, after describing a runaway slave, it says: 'I will give four hundred dollars for him alive, and the same sum for satisfactory proof that he has been


killed.' Then the editor goes on to say, 'that when a planter loses a slave, he becomes so impatient at not capturing him, and is so angry at the loss, that he then does what is equivalent to inducing some person to murder him by way of revenge.' Now, is not this infamous?"

  "But it is true, I believe," said Mr. Hubbard.

  "It is not true, sir," said Arthur, "it is false, totally and entirely false. Why, sir, do you mean to say, that the life of a slave is in the power of a master, and that he is not under the protection of our laws?"

  "I am told that is the case," said Mr. Hubbard.

  "Then you are told what is not true; and it seems to me, you are remarkably ignorant of the laws of your country."

  "It is not my country," said Mr. Hubbard, "I assure you. I lay no claims to that part of the United States where slavery is allowed."

  "Then if it is not your country, for what reason do you concern yourself so much about its affairs?"

  "Because," replied Mr. Hubbard, "every individual has the right to judge for himself, of his own, and of other countries."

  "No, not without proper information," said Arthur. "And as you have now graduated and intend to be a lawyer, I trust you will have consideration enough for the profession, not to advance opinions until you are sufficiently informed to enable you to do so justly. Every country must have its poor people; you have yours at the North, for I see them—we have ours; yours are white, ours are black. I say yours are white; I should except your free blacks, who are the most miserable class of human beings I ever saw. They are indolent, reckless, and impertinent. The poorer classes of society, are proverbially improvident—and yours, in sickness, and in old age, are often victims of want and suffering. Ours in such circumstances, are kindly cared for, and are never considered a burden;


our laws are, generally speaking, humane and faithfully administered. We have enactments which not only protect their lives, but which compel their owners to be moderate in working them, and to ensure them proper care as regards their food."

  "But," said Mr. Hubbard, "you have other laws, police-laws, which deprive them of the most innocent recreations, such as are not only necessary for their happiness, but also for their health."

  "And if such laws do exist," said Arthur, "where is the cause? You may trace it to the interference of meddling, and unprincipled men. They excite the minds of the slaves, and render these laws necessary for the very protection of our lives. But without this interference, there would be no such necessity. In this Walsh's Appeal, which is now open before me, you will find, where Abel left off reading, these remarks, which show that not only the health and comfort of the slaves, but also their feelings, are greatly considered. 'The master who would deprive his negro of his property—the product of his poultry-house or his little garden; who would force him to work on holidays, or at night; who would deny him common recreations, or leave him without shelter and provision, in his old age, would incur the aversion of the community, and raise obstacles to the advancement of his own interest and external aims.'"

  "Then," said Mr. Hubbard, "you mean to say, he is kind from self-interest alone."

  "No, I do not," replied Arthur; "that undoubtedly actuates men at the South, as it does men at the North; but I mean to say, so universal is it with us to see our slaves well treated, that when an instance of the contrary nature occurs, the author of it is subject to the dislike and odium of his acquaintances."

  "But," said Mr. Hubbard, "that does not always protect the slaves—which shows that your laws are sometimes


ineffectual. They are not always secure from ill-treatment."

  "But, do your laws always secure you from ill-treatment?" said Arthur.

  "Of course," said Mr. Hubbard, "the poorest person in New England is as safe from injustice and oppression, as the highest in the land."

  "Nonsense," said Arthur, "don't you think I can judge for myself, as regards that? Abel, do tell Mr. Hubbard of our little adventure in the bakehouse."

  "With pleasure," said Abel, "especially as you two have not let me say a word yet. Well, Mr. Hubbard, Arthur and I having nothing else to do, got hungry, and as it was a fine evening, thought we would walk out in search of something to satisfy our appetites, and there being a pretty girl in Brown's bakehouse, who waits on customers, we took that direction. Arthur, you know, is engaged to be married, and has no excuse for such things, but I having no such ties, am free to search for pretty faces, and to make the most of it when I find them. We walked on, arm-in-arm, and when we got to the shop, there stood Mrs. Brown behind the counter, big as all out doors, with a very red face, and in a violent perspiration; there was some thing wrong with the old lady 'twas easy to see.

  "'Well, Mrs. Brown,' said Arthur, for I was looking in the glass cases and under the counter for the pretty face, 'have you any rusk?'

  "'Yes, sir, we always have rusk,' said Mrs. Brown, tartly.

  "'Will you give us some, and some cakes, or whatever you have? and then we will go and get some soda water, Abel.'

  "Mrs. Brown fussed about like a 'bear with a sore head,' and at last she broke out against that gal.

  "'Where on earth has she put that cake?' said she. 'I


sent her in here with it an hour ago; just like her, lazy, good-for-nothing Irish thing. They're nothing but white niggers, after all, these Irish. Here, Ann,' she bawled out, 'come here!'

  "'Coming,' said Ann, from within the glass door.

  "'Come this minute,' said the old woman, and Ann's pretty Irish face showed itself immediately.

  "'Where's that 'lection cake I told you to bring here?"

  "'You didn't tell me to bring no cake here, Mrs. Brown,' said Ann.

  "'I did, you little liar, you,' said Mrs. Brown. 'You Irish are born liars. Go, bring it here.'

  "Ann disappeared, and soon returned, looking triumphant. 'Mr. Brown says he brought it in when you told him, and covered it in that box—so I aint such a liar, after all.'

  "'You are,' said Mrs. Brown, 'and a thief too.'

  "Ann's Irish blood was up.

  "'I'm neither,' said she; 'but I'm an orphan, and poor; that's why I'm scolded and cuffed about.'

  "Mrs. Brown's blood was up too, and she struck the poor girl in the face, and her big, hard hand was in an instant covered with blood, which spouted out from Ann's nose.

  "'Now take that for your impudence, and you'll get worse next time you go disputing with me.'

  "'I declare, Mrs. Brown,' said Arthur, 'this is, I thought, a free country. I did not know you could take the law into your own hands in that style.'

  "'That gal's the bother of my life,' said Mrs. Brown. 'Mr. Brown, he was in New York when a ship come, and that gal's father and mother must die of the ship-fever, and the gal was left, and Mr. Brown calculated she could be made to save us hiring, by teaching her a little. She's smart enough, but she's the hard-headedest, obstinatest thing I ever see. I can't make nothin' of her. You might as well try to draw blood out of a turnip as to get any good out of her.'


  "'You got some good blood out of her,' said I, 'at any rate,' for Mrs. Brown was wiping her hands, and the blood looked red and healthy enough; 'but she is not a turnip, that's one thing to be considered.'

  "'Well, Mrs. Brown, good evening,' said Arthur. 'I shall tell them at the South how you Northern people treat your white niggers.'

  "'I wish to the Lord," said Mrs. Brown, 'we had some real niggers. Here I am sweatin, and workin, and bakin, all these hot days, and Brown he's doin nothin from morning 'till night but reading Abolition papers, and tendin Abolition meetings. I'm not much better than a nigger myself, half the time.'"

  "Now," said Arthur, "Mr. Hubbard, I have been fortunate in my experience. I have never seen a slave woman struck in my life, though I've no doubt such things are done; and I assure you when I saw Mrs. Brown run the risk of spoiling that pretty face for life, I wondered your laws did not protect 'these bound gals,' or 'white niggers,' as she calls them."

  "You see, Hubbard," said Abel, "your philanthropy and Arthur's is very contracted. He only feels sympathy for a pretty white face, you for a black one, while my enlarged benevolence induces me to stand up for all female 'phizmahoganies,' especially for the Hottentot and the Madagascar ones, and the fair sex of all the undiscovered islands on the globe in general."

  "You don't think, then," said Mr. Hubbard, argumentatively, "that God's curse is on slavery, do you?"

  "In what sense?" asked Arthur. "I think that slavery is, and always was a curse, and that the Creator intended what he said, when he first spoke of it, through Noah."

  "But, I mean," said Mr. Hubbard, "that it will bring a curse on those who own slaves."

  "No, sir," said Arthur, "God's blessing is, and always has been on my father, who is a slaveholder; on his


father, who was one; and on a good many more I could mention. In fact, I could bring forward quite a respectable list who have died in their beds, in spite of their egregious sin in this respect. There are Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall, Calhoun, Henry Clay, and not a few others. In this case, the North, as has been said, says to her sister South, 'Stand aside, for I am holier than thou!' that is, you didn't need them, and got rid of them."

  "We were all born free and equal," said Mr. Hubbard, impressively.

  "Equal!" said Abel, "there is that idiot, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, across the street: was he born equal with you?"

  "It strikes me," said Arthur, "that our slaves are not born free."

  "They ought to be so, then," said Mr. Hubbard.

  "Ah! there you arraign the Creator," said Arthur; "I must stop now."

  "What do you think is the meaning of the text 'Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,' Hubbard?" said Abel.

  "I don't think it justifies slavery," said Hubbard.

  "Well, what does it mean?" said Abel. "It must mean something. Now I am at present between two doctrines; so I am neither on your nor on Arthur's side. If I can't live one way I must another; and these are hard times. If I can't distinguish myself in law, divinity, or physic, or as an artist, which I would prefer, I may turn planter, or may turn Abolition agent. I must do something for my living. Having no slaves I can't turn planter; therefore there is more probability of my talents finding their way to the Abolition ranks; so give me all the information you can on the subject."

  "Go to the Bible," said Mr. Hubbard, "and learn your duty to your fellow-creatures."

  "Well, here is a Bible my mother sent here for Arthur


and myself, with the commentaries. This is Scott's Commentary. Where is Canaan?" said he, turning over the leaves; "he is very hard to be got at."

  "You are too far over," said Arthur, laughing, "you are not in the habit of referring to Scott."

  "Here it is," said Abel, 'Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.' And in another verse we see 'God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.' So we are Japheth and Shem, and the colored population are Canaan. Is that it, Arthur?" said Abel.

  "See what Scott says, Abel," said Arthur; "I'm not a commentator."

  "Well, here it is,—'There is no authority for altering the text, and reading, as some do, Cursed be Ham, the father of Canaan, yet the frequent mention of Ham, as the father of Canaan, suggests the thought that the latter was also criminal. Ham is thought to be second, and not the youngest son of Noah; and if so, the words, 'Knew what his younger son had done,' refers to Canaan, his grandson. Ham must have felt it a very mortifying rebuke, when his own father was inspired on this occasion to predict the durable oppression and slavery of his posterity. Canaan was also rebuked, by learning that the curse would especially rest on that branch of the family which should descend from him; for his posterity were no doubt principally, though not exclusively, intended.'"

  "Now," continued Abel,"I shall have to turn planter, and get my niggers as I can; for I'll be hanged if it wasn't a curse, and a predicted one, too."

  "That does not make it right," said Mr. Hubbard.

  "Don't it," said Abel; "well, if it should be fated for me to turn parson, I shan't study divinity with you, for my mother has told me often, that God's prophecies were right, and were fulfilled, too; as I think this one has been."


  "I suppose, then, you think slavery will always continue, Mr. Weston?" said Hubbard.

  "Well, I am only a man, and cannot prophesy, but I think, probably not. Slavery is decreasing throughout the world. The slave trade is about being abolished on the coast of Africa. You Abolitionists are getting a good many off from our southern country, and our planters are setting a number of theirs free, and sending them to Africa. I know a gentleman in Georgia who liberated a number, and gave them the means to start in Liberia as free agents and men. He told me he saw them on board, and watched the ship as she disappeared from his sight. At last he could not detect the smallest trace of her, and then such a feeling of intense satisfaction occupied his breast as had been a stranger there until that time. 'Is it possible that they are gone, and I am no longer to be plagued with them? They are free, and I am free, too.' He could hardly give vent to his feelings of relief on the occasion."

  "And are they such trouble to you, Arthur?" asked Abel.

  "No, indeed," said Arthur, "not the least. My father treats them well, and they appear to be as well off as the working classes generally are. I see rules to regulate the conduct of the master and slave in Scripture, but I see no where the injunction to release them; nor do I find laid down the sin of holding them. The fact is, you northern people are full of your isms; you must start a new one every year. I hope they will not travel south, for I am tired of them. I should like to take Deacon and Mrs. White back home with me. Our servants would be afraid of a man who has worked sixteen hours a day half his lifetime."

  "Deacon White is worth twenty thousand dollars," said Abel, "every cent of which he made mending and making common shoes."


  "What does he do with it?" said Arthur.

  "Hoards it up," said Abel, "and yet an honester man never lived. Did I not tell you of the time I hired his horse and chaise? I believe not; well, it is worth waiting for. The deacon's old white horse is as gray and as docile as himself; the fact is, the stable is so near the house, that the horse is constantly under the influence of 'Old Hundred;' he has heard the good old tune so often, that he has a solemn way of viewing things. Two or three weeks ago I wanted to take my sister to see a relative of ours, who lives seven or eight miles from here, and my mother would not consent to my driving her, unless I hired the deacon's horse and chaise—the horse, she said, could not run if he wanted to. So I got him, and Harriet asked Kate Laune to go too, as the chaise was large enough for all three; and we had a good time. We were gone all day, and after I took the girls home, I drove round to the deacon's house and jumped out of the chaise to pay what I owed.

  "You know what a little fellow the deacon is, and he looked particularly small that evening, for he was seated in his arm-chair reading a large newspaper which hid him all but his legs. These are so shrunken that I wonder how his wife gets his stockings small enough for him.

  "'Good evening, Mrs. White,' said I, for the old lady was sitting on the steps knitting.

  "'Mercy's sake, deacon,' said she, 'put down your newspaper; don't you see Mr. Johnson?'

  "The deacon did not even give me a nod until he had scrutinized the condition of the horse and chaise, and then he said, 'How are you?'

  "'Not a screw loose in me, or the horse and chaise either, for I had two girls with me, and I'm courting one of them for a quarter, so I drove very carefully. I am in a hurry now, tell me what I am to pay you?'


  "'Twelve and a half cents,' said the deacon, slowly raising his spectacles from his nose.

  "'No!' said I. 'Twelve and a half cents! Why, I have had the horse all day.'

  "'That is my price,' said the deacon.

  "'For a horse and chaise, all day?' said I. Why, deacon, do charge me something that I aint ashamed to pay you.'

  "'That is my regular price, and I can't charge you any more.'

  "I remonstrated with him, and tried to persuade him to take twenty-five cents—but, no. I appealed to Mrs. White; she said the 'deacon hadn't ought to take more than the horse and chaise was worth.' However, I induced him to take eighteen and three-quarter cents, but he was uneasy about it, and said he was afraid he was imposing on me.

  "The next morning I was awakened at day-dawn—there was a man, they said, who wanted to see me on pressing business, and could not wait. I dressed in a hurry, wondering what was the cause of the demand for college- students. I went down, and there stood the deacon, looking as if his last hour were come. 'Mr. Abel,' he said, 'I have passed a dreadful restless night, and I couldn't stand it after the day broke—here's your six and a quarter cents—I hadn't ought have charged you more than my usual price.' I was angry at the old fellow for waking me up, but I could not help laughing, too."

  "'Twas very ugly of you, Mr. Abel, to persuade me to take so much,' said he; 'you're welcome to the horse and chaise whenever you want it, but twelve and a half cents is my usual price.'"

  "Now," said Mr. Hubbard, "he is like the Portuguese devils; when they are good, they are too good—I should distrust that man."

  "He is close to a farthing," said Abel, "but he is as honest as the day. Why he has the reputation of a saint.


Harriet says she wishes he wore a long-tailed coat instead of a short jacket, so that she could hang on and get to heaven that way."

  "My sister saw Mrs. White not long ago, and complimented her on her new bonnet being so very becoming to her. 'Now I want to know!' said Mrs. White; 'why I thought it made me look like a fright.'

  "'But what made you get a black one,' said Harriet, 'why did you not get a dark green or a brown one?'

  "'Why, you see,' said Mrs. White, 'the deacon's health is a failin'; he's dreadful low in the top knots lately, and I thought as his time might come very soon, I might as well get a black one while I was a getting. We're all born to die, Miss Harriet; and the deacon is dwindlin' away.'"

  The young men laughed, and Arthur said, "What will he do with his money? Mrs. White will not wear the black bonnet long if she have twenty thousand dollars; she can buy a new bonnet and a new husband with that."

  "No danger," said Abel, "Deacon White has made his will, and has left his wife the interest of five thousand dollars; at her death the principal goes, as all the rest, to aid some benevolent purpose.

  "But there are the letters; what a bundle for you, Arthur! That is the penalty of being engaged. Well I must wait for the widow White, I guess she'll let me have the use of the horse and chaise, at any rate."

  Mr. Hubbard arose to go, and Arthur handed him his newspaper. "That is a valuable document, sir, but there is one still more so in your library here; it is a paper published the same month and year of the Declaration of Independence, in which are advertised in the New England States negroes for sale! Your fathers did not think we were all born free and equal it appears."

  "We have better views now-a-days," said Mr. Hubbard; "the Rev. Mr. H. has just returned from a tour in the


Southern States, and he is to lecture to-night, won't you go and hear him?"

  "Thank you, no," said Arthur. "I have seen some of this reverend gentleman's statements, and his friends ought to advise him to drop the reverend for life. He is a fit subject for an asylum, for I can't think a man in his senses would lie so."

  "He is considered a man of veracity," said Mr. Hubbard, "by those who have an opportunity of knowing his character."

  "Well, I differ from them," said Arthur, "and shall deprive myself of the pleasure of hearing him. Good evening, sir."

  "Wouldn't he be a good subject for tar and feathers, Arthur? They'd stick, like grim death to a dead nigger," said Abel.

  "He is really such a fool," said Arthur, "that I have no patience with him; but you take your usual nap, and I will read my letters."