The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Boston: Jewett, 1854


  AMONG those unfortunates guilty of loving freedom too well was a beautiful young quadroon girl, named Emily Russell, whose mother is now living in New York. The writer has seen and conversed with her. She is a pious woman, highly esteemed and respected, a member of a Christian church.

  By the avails of her own industry she purchased her freedom, and also redeemed from bondage some of her children. Emily was a resident of Washington, D. C., a place which belongs not to any State, but to the United States; and there, under the laws of the United States, she was held as a slave. She was of a gentle disposition and amiable manners; she had been early touched with a sense of religious things, and was on the very point of uniting herself with a Christian church; but her heart yearned after her widowed mother and after freedom, and so, on the fatal night when all the other poor victims sought the Pearl, the child Emily went also among them.

  How they were taken has already been told. The sin of the poor girl was inexpiable. Because she longed for her mother's arms and for liberty, she could not be forgiven. Nothing would do for such a sin, but to throw her into the hands of the trader. She also was thrown into Bruin and Hill's gaol, in Alexandria. Her poor mother in New York received the following letter from her. Read it, Christian mother, and think what if your daughter had written it to you!—

  Alexandria, Jan. 22, 1850.

  MY DEAR MOTHER—I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines, to inform you that I am in Bruin's Jail, and Aunt Sally and all of her children, and Aunt Hagar and all her children, and grandmother is almost crazy. My dear mother, will you please to come on as soon as you can? I expect to go away very shortly. O mother! my dear mother! come now and see your distressed and heart-broken daughter once more. Mother! my dear mother! do not forsake me, for I feel desolate! Please to come now.

Your daughter, EMILY RUSSELL.

  To Mrs. Nancy Cartwright, New York.

  P.S.—If you do not come as far as Alexandria, come to Washington, and do what you can.


  That letter, blotted and tear-soiled, was brought by this poor washerwoman to some Christian friends in New York, and shown to them. “What do you suppose they will ask for her?” was her question. All that she had—her little house, her little furniture, her small earnings—all these poor Nancy was willing to throw in; but all these were but as a drop to the bucket.

  The first thing to be done, then, was to ascertain what Emily could be redeemed for; and, as it may be an interesting item of American trade, we give the reply of the traders in full:—

  Alexandria, Jan. 31, 1850.

  DEAR SIR,—When I received your letter I had not bought the negroes you spoke of, but since that time I have bought them. All I have to say about the matter is, that we paid very high for the negroes, and cannot afford to sell the girl Emily for less than EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. This may seem a high price to you, but, cotton being very high, consequently slaves are high. We have two or three offers for Emily from gentlemen from the South. She is said to be the finest-looking woman in this country. As for Hagar and her seven children, we will take two thousand five hundred dollars for them. Sally and her four children, we will take for them two thousand eight hundred dollars. You may seem a little surprised at the difference in prices, but the difference in the negroes makes the difference in price. We expect to start South with the negroes on the 8th February, and if you intend to do anything, you had better do it soon.

Yours respectfully, BRUIN AND HILL.

  This letter came to New York before the case of the Edmondsons had called the attention of the community to this subject. The enormous price asked entirely discouraged effort, and before anything of importance was done they heard that the coffle had departed, with Emily in it.

  Hear, O heavens! and give ear, O earth! Let it be known, in all the countries of the earth, that the price of a beautiful Christian girl in America, when she is set up to be sold to a life of shame, is from EIGHTEEN HUNDRED TO TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS; and yet, judicatories in the church of Christ have said, in solemn conclave, that AMERICAN SLAVERY AS IT IS IS NO EVIL!*

  From the table of the Sacrament and from the sanctuary of the church of Christ this girl was torn away, because her beauty was a saleable article in the slave-market in New Orleans!

  Perhaps some Northern apologist for slavery will say she was


kindly treated here—not handcuffed by the wrist to a chain, and forced to walk, as articles less choice are; that a waggon was provided, and that she rode; and that food abundant was given her to eat, and that her clothing was warm and comfortable, and therefore no harm was done. We have heard it told us, again and again, that there is no harm in slavery, if one is only warm enough, and full-fed, and comfortable. It is true that the slave-woman has no protection from the foulest dishonour and the utmost insult that can be offered to womanhood—none whatever in law or gospel; but so long as she has enough to eat and wear, our Christian fathers and mothers tell us it is not so bad!

  Poor Emily could not think so. There was no eye to pity, and none to help. The food of her accursed lot did not nourish her; the warmest clothing could not keep the chill of slavery from her heart. In the middle of the overland passage, sick, weary, heart-broken, the child laid her down and died. By that lonely pillow there was no mother; but there was one Friend, who loveth at all times, who is closer than a brother. Could our eyes be touched by the seal of faith, where others see only the lonely wilderness and the dying girl, we, perhaps, should see one closed in celestial beauty, waiting for that short agony to be over, that He might redeem her from all iniquity, and present her faultless before the presence of his Grace with exceeding joy.

  Even the hard-hearted trader was touched with her sad fate, and we are credibly informed that he said he was sorry he had taken her.

  Bruin and Hill wrote to New York that the girl Emily was dead. The Quaker, William Harned, went with the letter, to break the news to her mother. Since she had given up all hope of redeeming her daughter from the dreadful doom to which she had been sold, the helpless mother had drooped like a stricken woman. She no longer lifted up her head, or seemed to take any interest in life.

  When Mr. Harned called on her, she asked eagerly,

  “Have you heard anything from my daughter?”

  “Yes, I have,” was the reply—“a letter from Bruin and Hill.”

  “And what is the news?”

  He thought best to give a direct answer—“ Emily is dead.”

  The poor mother clasped her hands, and, looking upwards, said, “The Lord be thanked! He has heard my prayers at last!”

  And, now, will it be said this is an exceptional case—it hap-


pens one time in a thousand? Though we know that this is the foulest of falsehoods, and that the case is only a specimen of what is acting every day in the American slave-trade, yet, for argument's sake, let us, for once, admit it to be true. If only once in this nation, under the protection of our law, a Christian girl had been torn from the altar and the communion-table, and sold to foulest shame and dishonour, would that have been a light sin? Does not Christ say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me?” Oh, words of woe for thee, America! words of woe for thee, church of Christ! Hast thou trod them under foot and trampled them in the dust so long that Christ has forgotten them? In the day of judgment everyone of these words shall rise up, living and burning, as accusing angels to witness against thee. Art thou, O church of Christ! praying daily, “Thy kingdom come?” Darest thou pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly?” Oh, what if He should come? What if the Lord, whom ye seek, should suddenly come into his temple? If his soul was stirred within him when he found within his temple of old those that changed money, and sold sheep, and oxen, and doves, what will he say now, when he finds them selling body, blood, and bones of his own people? And is the Christian church, which justifies this enormous system—which has used the awful name of her Redeemer to sanction the buying, selling, and trading in the souls of men—is this church the bride of Christ? Is she one with Christ, even as Christ is one with the Father? Oh, bitter mockery! Does this church believe that every Christian's body is a temple of the Holy Ghost? Or does she think those solemn words were idle breath, when, a thousand times, every day and week, in the midst of her, is this temple set up and sold at auction, to be bought by any godless, blasphemous man who has money to pay for it!

  As to poor Daniel Bell and his family, whose contested claim to freedom was the beginning of the whole trouble, a few members of it were redeemed, and the rest were plunged into the abyss of slavery. It would seem as if this event, like the sinking of a ship, drew into its Maelstrom the fate of every unfortunate being who was in its vicinity. A poor, honest, hard-working slave-man, of the name of Thomas Ducket, had a wife who was on board the Pearl. Tom was supposed to know the men who countenanced the enterprise, and his master, therefore, determined to sell him. He brought him to Washington for the purpose. Some in Washington doubted his legal right to bring a slave from Maryland for the purpose of selling him, and


commenced legal proceedings to test the matter. While they were pending, the counsel for the master told the men who brought action against his client, that Tom was anxious to be sold; that he preferred being sold to the man who had purchased his wife and children rather than to have his liberty. It was well known that Tom did not wish to be separated from his family, and the friends here, confiding in the representation made to them, consented to withdraw the proceedings.

  Some time after this they received letters from poor Tom Ducket, dated ninety miles above New Orleans, complaining sadly of his condition, and making piteous appeals to hear from them respecting his wife and children. Upon inquiry, nothing could be learned respecting them. They had been sold and gone—sold and gone—no one knew whither; and as a punishment to Tom for his contumacy in refusing to give the name of the man who had projected the expedition of the Pearl, he was denied the privilege of going off the place, and was not allowed to talk with the other servants, his master fearing a conspiracy. In one of his letters he says, “I have seen more trouble here in one day than I have in all my life.” In another, “I would be glad to hear from her (his wife), but I should be more glad to hear of her death than for her to come here.”

  In his distress, Tom wrote a letter to Mr. Bigelow, of Washington. People who are not in the habit of getting such documents have no idea of them. We give a fac simile of Tom's letter, with all its poor spelling, all its ignorance, helplessness, and misery.












  February 18, 1852.

  Mr. BIGELOW.—DEAR SIR,—I write to let you know how I am getting along. Hard times here. I have not had one hour to go outside the place since I have been on it. I put my trust in the Lord to help me. I long to hear from you all. I written to hear from you all. Mr. Bigelow, I hope you will not forget me. You know it was not my fault that I am here. I hope you will name me to Mr. Geden, Mr. Chaplin, Mr. Bailey, to help me out of it. I believe that if they would make the least move to it that it could be done. I long to hear from my family how they are getting along. You will please to write to me just to let me know how they are getting along. You can write to me.

I remain your humble servant, THOMAS DUCKET.

  You can direct your letters to Thomas Ducket, in care of Mr. Samuel T. Harrison, Louisiana, near Bayou Goula. For God's sake, let me hear from you all My wife and children are not out of my mind, day nor night.