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

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


  AT different times, doubt has been expressed whether the scenes and characters pourtrayed in “Uncle Tom's Cabin” convey a fair representation of slavery as it at present exists. This work, more, perhaps, than any other work of fiction that ever was written, has been a collection and arrangement of real incidents, of actions really performed, of words and expressions really uttered, grouped together with reference to a general result, in the same manner that the mosaic artist groups his fragments of various stones into one general picture. His is a mosaic of gems—this is a mosaic of facts.

  Artistically considered, it might not be best to point out in which quarry and from which region each fragment of the mosaic picture had its origin; and it is equally unartistic to disentangle the glittering web of fiction, and show out of what real warp and woof it is woven, and with what real colouring dyed. But the book had a purpose entirely transcending the artistic one, and accordingly encounters at the hands of the public demands not usually made on fictitious works. It is treated as a reality—sifted, tried, and tested, as a reality; and therefore as a reality it may be proper that it should be defended.

  The writer acknowledges that the book is a very inadequate representation of slavery; and it is so, necessarily, for this reason—that slavery, in some of its workings, is too dreadful for the purposes of art. A work which should represent it strictly as it is would be a work which could not be read; and all works which ever mean to give pleasure must draw a veil somewhere, or they cannot succeed.

  The author will now proceed along the course of the story, from the first page, and develop, as far as possible, the incidents by which different parts were suggested.

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



  IN the very first chapter of the book we encounter the character of the negro-trader, Mr. Haley. His name stands at the head of this chapter as the representative of all the different characters introduced in the work which exhibit the trader, the kidnapper, the negro-catcher, the negro-whipper, and all the other inevitable auxiliaries and indispensable appendages of what is often called the “divinely-instituted relation” of slavery. The author's first personal observation of this class of beings was somewhat as follows:

  Several years ago, while one morning employed in the duties of the nursery, a coloured woman was announced. She was ushered into the nursery, and the author thought, on first survey, that a more surly, unpromising face she had never seen. The woman was thoroughly black, thickset, firmly built, and with strongly-marked African features. Those who have been accustomed to read the expressions of the African face know what a peculiar effect is produced by a lowering, desponding expression upon its dark features. It is like the shadow of a thunder-cloud. Unlike her race generally, the woman did not smile when smiled upon, nor utter any pleasant remark in reply to such as were addressed to her. The youngest pet of the nursery, a boy about three years old, walked up, and laid his little hand on her knee, and seemed astonished not to meet the quick smile which the negro almost always has in reserve for the little child. The writer thought her very cross and disagreeable, and, after a few moments' silence, asked, with perhaps a little impatience, “Do you want anything of me to-day?”

  “Here are some papers,” said the woman, pushing them towards her; “perhaps you would read them.”

  The first paper opened was a letter from a negro-trader in Kentucky, stating concisely that he had waited about as long as he could for her child; that he wanted to start for the South, and must get it off his hands; that, if she would send him two hundred dollars before the end of the week, she should have it;


if not, that he would set it up at auction, at the court-house door on Saturday. He added, also, that he might have got more than that for the child, but that he was willing to let her have it cheap.

  “What sort of man is this?” said the author to the woman, when she had done reading the letter.

  “Dunno, ma'am; great Christian I know—member of the Methodist church, anyhow.”

  The expression of sullen irony with which this was said was a thing to be remembered.

  “And how old is this child?” said the author to her.

  The woman looked at the little boy who had been standing at her knee with an expressive glance, and said, “She will be three years old this summer.”

  On further inquiry into the history of the woman, it appeared that she had been set free by the will of her owners; that the child was legally entitled to freedom, but had been seized on by the heirs of the estate. She was poor and friendless, without money to maintain a suit, and the heirs, of course, threw the child into the hands of the trader. The necessary sum, it may be added, was all raised in the small neighbourhood which then surrounded the Lane Theological Seminary, and the child was redeemed.

  If the public would like a specimen of the correspondence which passes between these worthies, who are the principal reliance of the community for supporting and extending the institution of slavery, the following may be interesting as a matter of literary curiosity. It was forwarded by Mr. M. J. Thomas, of Philadelphia, to the National Era, and stated by him to be “a copy taken verbatim from the original, found among the papers of the person to whom it was addressed, at the time of his arrest and conviction, for passing a variety of counterfeit banknotes:”—

  Poolsville, Montgomery Co., Md., March 24, 1831.

  DEAR SIR,—I arrived home in safety with Louisa, John having been rescued from me, out of a two-storey window, at twelve o'clock at night. I offered a reward of fifty dollars, and have him here safe in jail. The persons who took him, brought him to Fredericktown jail. I wish you to write to no person in this State but myself. Kephart and myself are determined to go the whole hog for any negro you can find, and you must give me the earliest information, as soon as you do find any. Enclosed you will receive a handbill, and I can make a good bargain if you can find them. I will, in all cases, as soon as a negro runs off, send you a handbill immediately, so that you may be on the look-out. Please tell the constable to go on with the sale of John's property; and, when the money is


made, I will send on an order to you for it. Please attend to this for me; likewise write to me, and inform me of any negro you think has run away—no matter where you think he has come from, nor how far—and I will try to find out his master. Let me know where you think he is from, with all particular marks, and if I don't find his master, Joe's dead!

  Write to me about the crooked-fingered negro, and let me know which hand and which finger, colour, &c.; likewise any mark the fellow has who says he got away from the negro-buyer, with his height and colour, or any other you think has run off.

  Give my respects to your partner, and be sure you write to no person but myself. If any person writes to you, you can inform me of it, and I will try to buy from them. I think we can make money, if we do business together; for I have plenty of money, if you can find plenty of negroes. Let we know if Daniel is still where he was, and if you have heard anything of Francis since I left you. Accept for myself my regard and esteem. REUBEN B. CARLLEY. John C. Saunders.

  This letter strikingly illustrates the character of these fellow-patriots with whom the great men of our land have been acting in conjunction, in carrying out the beneficent provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law.

  With regard to the Kephart named in this letter, the community of Boston may have a special interest to know further particulars, as he was one of the dignitaries sent from the South to assist the good citizens of that place in the religious and patriotic enterprise of 1851, at the time that Shadrach was unfortunately rescued. It, therefore, may be well to introduce somewhat particularly JOHN KEPHART, as sketched by RICHARD H. DANA, Jun., one of the lawyers employed in the defence of the perpetrators of the rescue:—

  I shall never forget John Caphart. I have been eleven years at the bar, and in that time have seen many developments of vice and hardness, but I never met with anything so cold-blooded as the testimony of that man. John Caphart is a tall, sallow man, of about fifty, with jet-black hair, a restless, dark eye, and an anxious, care-worn look, which, had there been enough of moral element in the expression, might be called melancholy. His frame was strong, and in youth he had evidently been powerful, but he was not robust. Yet there was a calm, cruel look, a power of will and a quickness of muscular action, which still render him a terror in his vocation.

  In the manner of giving in his testimony, there was no bluster or outward show of insolence. His contempt for the humane feelings of the audience and community about him was too true to require any assumption of that kind. He neither paraded nor attempted to conceal the worst features of his calling. He treated it as a matter of business, which he knew the community shuddered at, but the moral nature of which he was utterly indifferent to, beyond a certain secret pleasure in thus indirectly inflicting a little torture on his hearers.


  I am not, however, altogether clear, to do John Caphart justice, that he is entirely conscience-proof. There was something in his anxious look which leaves one not without hope.

  At the first trial we did not know of his pursuits, and he passed merely as a policeman of Norfolk, Virginia. But, at the second trial, some one in the room gave me a hint of the occupations many of these policemen take to, which led to my cross-examination.

  From the Examination of John Caphart, in the “Rescue Trials,” at Boston, in June and November, 1851, and October, 1852.

  Question. Is it a part of your duty, as a policeman, to take up coloured persons who are out after hours in the streets?

  Answer. Yes, sir.

  Q. What is done with them?

  A. We put them in the lock-up, and in the morning they are brought into court and ordered to be punished—those that are to be punished.

  Q. What punishment do they get?

  A. Not exceeding thirty-nine lashes.

  Q. Who gives them these lashes?

  A. Any of the officers. I do sometimes.

  Q. Are you paid extra for this? How much?

  A. Fifty cents a head. It used to be sixty-two cents. Now it is fifty. Fifty cents for each one we arrest, and fifty more for each one we flog.

  Q. Are these persons you flog men and boys only, or are they women and girls also?

  A. Men, women, boys, and girls, just as it happens.

  [The government interfered, and tried to prevent any further examination; and said, among other things, that he only performed his duty as police-officer under the law. After a discussion, Judge Curtis allowed it to proceed.]

  Q. Is your flogging confined to these cases? Do you not flog slaves at the request of their masters?

  A. Sometimes I do. Certainly, when I am called upon.

  Q. In these cases of private flogging, are the negroes sent to you? Have you a place for flogging?

  A. No. I go round, as I am sent for.

  Q. Is this part of your duty as an officer?

  A. No, sir.

  Q. In these cases of private flogging, do you inquire into the circumstances, to see what the fault has been, or if there is any?

  A. That's none of my business. I do as I am requested. The master is responsible.

  Q. In these cases, too, I suppose you flog women and girls, as well as men?

  A. Women and men.

  Q. Mr. Caphart, how long have you been engaged in this business?

  A. Ever since 1836.

  Q. How many negroes do you suppose you have flogged, in all, women and children included?

  A. [Looking calmly round the room.] I don't know how many niggers you


have got here in Massachusetts, but I should think I had flogged as many as you've got in the State.

  [The same man testified that he was often employed to pursue fugitive slaves. His reply to the question was, “I never refuse a good job in that line.”]

  Q. Don't they sometimes turn out bad jobs?

  A. Never, if I can help it.

  Q. Are they not sometimes discharged after you get them?

  A. Not often. I don't know that they ever are, except those Portuguese the counsel read about.

  [I had found, in a Virginia report, a case of some two hundred Portuguese negroes, whom this John Caphart had seized from a vessel, and endeavoured to get condemned as slaves, but whom the Court discharged.]

  Hon. John P. Hale, associated with Mr. Dana as counsel for the defence in the Rescue Trials, said of him in his closing argument:—

  Why, gentlemen, he sells agony! Torture is his stock-in-trade! He is a walking scourge! He hawks, peddles, retails, groans and tears about the streets of Norfolk!

  See also the following correspondence between the two traders, one in North Carolina, the other in New Orleans: with a word of comment by Bishop Wilberforce, of Oxford:—

  Halifax, N. C., Nov. 16, 1839.

  DEAR SIR,—I have shipped in the brig Addison—prices are below:

No. 1. Caroline Ennis 650.00
2. Silvy Holland 625.00
3. Silvy Booth 487.50
4. Maria Pollock 475.00
5. Emeline Pollock 475.00
6. Delia Averit 475.00

  The two girls that cost 650 dollars, and 625 dollars, were bought before I shipped my first. I have a great many negroes offered to me, but I will not pay the prices they ask, for I know they will come down. I have no opposition in market. I will wait until I hear from you before I buy, and then I can judge what I must pay. Goodwin will send you the bill of lading for my negroes, as he shipped them with his own. Write often, as the times are critical, and it depends on the prices you get to govern me in buying. Yours, &c.Mr. Theophilus Freeman, New Orleans. G. W. BARNES.

  The above was a small but choice invoice of wives and mothers. Nine days before, namely, 7th November, Mr. Barnes advised Mr. Freeman of having shipped a lot, of forty-three men and women. Mr. Freeman, informing one of his correspondents of the state of the market, writes (Sunday, 21st Sept., 1839), “I bought a boy yesterday, sixteen years old, and likely, weighing one


hundred and ten pounds, at 700 dollars. I sold a likely girl, twelve years old, at 500 dollars. I bought a man yesterday, twenty years old, six feet high at 820 dollars; one to-day, twenty-four years old, at 850 dollars, black and sleek as a mole.”

  The writer has drawn in this work only one class of the negro-traders. There are all varieties of them, up to the great wholesale purchasers, who keep their large trading-houses; who are gentlemanly in manners and courteous in address; who, in many respects, often perform actions of real generosity; who consider slavery a very great evil, and hope the country will at some time be delivered from it, but who think that so long as clergyman and layman, saint and sinner, are all agreed in the propriety and necessity of slave-holding, it is better that the necessary trade in the article be conducted by men of humanity and decency, than by swearing, brutal men, of the Tom Loker school. These men are exceedingly sensitive with regard to what they consider the injustice of the world, in excluding them from good society, simply because they undertake to supply a demand in the community, which the bar, the press, and the pulpit, all pronounce to be a proper one. In this respect, society certainly imitates the unreasonableness of the ancient Egyptians, who employed a certain class of men to prepare dead bodies for embalming, but flew at them with sticks and stones the moment the operation was over, on account of the sacrilegious liberty which they had taken. If there is an ill-used class of men in the world, it is certainly the slave-traders; for, if there is no harm in the institution of slavery—if it is a divinely-appointed and honourable one, like civil government and the family state, and like other species of property relation—then there is no earthly reason why a man may not as innocently be a slave trader as any other kind of trader.


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



  IT was the design of the writer, in delineating the domestic arrangements of Mr. and Mrs. Shelby, to show a picture of the fairest side of slave-life, where easy indulgence and good-natured forbearance are tempered by just discipline and religious instruction, skilfully and judiciously imparted.

  The writer did not come to her task without reading much upon both sides of the question, and making a particular effort to collect all the most favourable representations of slavery which she could obtain. And, as the reader may have a curiosity to examine some of the documents, the writer will present them quite at large. There is no kind of danger to the world in letting the very fairest side of slavery be seen; in fact, the horrors and barbarities which are necessarily inherent in it are so terrible that one stands absolutely in need of all the comfort which can be gained from incidents like the subjoined, to save them from utter despair of human nature. The first account is from Mr. J. K. Paulding's Letters on Slavery; and is a letter from a Virginia planter, whom we should judge, from his style, to be a very amiable, agreeable man, and who probably describes very fairly the state of things on his own domain.

  DEAR SIR,—As regards the first query, which relates to the “rights and duties of the slave,” I do not know how extensive a view of this branch of the subject is contemplated. In its simplest aspect, as understood and acted on in Virginia, I should say that the slave is entitled to an abundance of good plain food; to coarse but comfortable apparel; to a warm but humble dwelling; to protection when well, and to succour when sick; and, in return, that it is his duty to render to his master all the service he can consistently with perfect health, and to behave submissively and honestly. Other remarks suggest themselves, but they will be more appropriately introduced under different heads.

  2nd. The domestic relations of master and slave.—These relations are much misunderstood by many persons at the North, who regard the terms as synonymous with oppressor and oppressed. Nothing can be further from the fact. The condition of the negroes in this State has been greatly ameliorated. The proprietors


were formerly fewer and richer than at present. Distant quarters were often kept up to support the aristocratic mansion. They were rarely visited by their owners; and heartless overseers, frequently changed, were employed to manage them for a share of the crop. These men scourged the land, and sometimes the slaves. Their tenure was but for a year, and of course they made the most of their brief authority. Owing to the influence of our institutions, property has become subdivided, and most persons live on or near their estates. There are exceptions to be sure, and particularly among wealthy gentlemen in the towns; but these last are almost all enlightened and humane, and alike liberal to the soil and to the slave who cultivates it. I could point out some noble instances of patriotic and spirited improvement among them. But, to return to the resident proprietors: most of them have been raised on the estates; from the older negroes they have received in infancy numberless acts of kindness; the younger ones have not unfrequently been their playmates (not the most suitable, I admit), and much good-will is thus generated on both sides. In addition to this, most men feel attached to their property; and this attachment is stronger in the case of persons than of things. I know it, and feel it. It is true there are harsh masters; but there are also bad husbands and bad fathers. They are all exceptions to the rule, not the rule itself. Shall we therefore condemn in the gross those relations, and the rights and authority they imply, from their occasional abuse? I could mention many instances of strong attachment on the part of the slave, but will only adduce one or two, of which I have been the object. It became a question whether a faithful servant, bred up with me from boyhood, should give up his master, or his wife and children, to whom he was affectionately attached, and most attentive and kind. The trial was a severe one, but he determined to break those tender ties, and remain with me. I left it entirely to his discretion, though I would not, from considerations of interest, have taken for him quadruple the price I should probably have obtained. Fortunately, in the sequel, I was enabled to purchase his family, with the exception of a daughter, happily situated; and nothing but death shall henceforth part them. Were it put to the test, I am convinced that many masters would receive this striking proof of devotion. A gentleman but a day or two since informed me of a similar, and even stronger case, afforded by one of his slaves. As the reward of assiduous and delicate attention to a venerated parent, in her last illness, I proposed to purchase and liberate a healthy and intelligent woman, about thirty years of age, the best nurse, and, in all respects, one of the best servants in the State, of which I was only part owner; but she declined to leave the family, and has been since rather better than free. I shall be excused for stating a ludicrous case I heard of some time ago. A favourite and indulged servant requested his master to sell him to another gentleman. His master refused to do so, but told him he was at perfect liberty to go to the North, if he were not already free enough. After a while he repeated the request; and, on being urged to give an explanation of his singular conduct, told his master that he considered himself consumptive, and would soon die; and he thought Mr. B— was better able to bear the loss than his master. He was sent to a medicinal spring, and recovered his health, if, indeed, he had ever lost it, of which his master had been unapprised. It may not be amiss to describe my deportment towards my servants, whom I endeavour to render happy while I make them profitable. I never turn a deaf ear, but listen patiently to their communications. I chat fami-


liarly with those who have passed service, or have not begun to render it. With the others I observe a more prudent reserve, but I encourage all to approach me without awe. I hardly ever go to town without having commissions to execute for some of them; and think they prefer to employ me, from a belief that, if their money should not quite hold out, I would add a little to it; and I not unfrequently do, in order to get a better article. The relation between myself and my slaves is decidedly friendly. I keep up pretty exact discipline, mingled with kindness, and hardly ever lose property by thievish, or labour by runaway slaves. I never lock the outer doors of my house. It is done, but done by the servants; and I rarely bestow a thought on the matter. I leave home periodically for two months, and commit the dwelling-house, plate, and other valuables, to the servants, without even an enumeration of the articles.

  3rd. The duration of the labour of the slave.—The day is usually considered long enough. Employment at night is not exacted by me, except to shell corn once a week for their own consumption, and on a few other extraordinary occasions. The people, as we generally call them, are required to leave their houses at daybreak, and to work until dark, with the intermission of half an hour to an hour at breakfast, and one to two hours at dinner, according to the season and sort of work. In this respect I suppose our negroes will bear a favourable comparison with any labourers whatever.

  4th. The liberty usually allowed the slave—his holidays and amusements, and the way in which they usually spend their evenings and holidays.—They are prohibited from going off the estate without first obtaining leave; though they often transgress, and with impunity, except in flagrant cases. Those who have wives on other plantations visit them on certain specified nights, and have an allowance of time for going and returning, proportioned to the distance. My negroes are permitted, and indeed, encouraged, to raise as many ducks and chickens as they can; to cultivate vegetables for their own use, and a patch of corn for sale; to exercise their trades, when they possess one, which many do; to catch muskrats and other animals for the fur or the flesh; to raise bees; and, in fine, to earn an honest penny in any way which chance or their own ingenuity may offer. The modes specified are, however, those most commonly resorted to, and enable provident servants to make from five to thirty dollars a-piece. The corn is a different sort from that which I cultivate, and is all bought by me. A great many fowls are raised; I have this year known ten dollars' worth sold by one man at one time. One of the chief sources of profit is the fur of the muskrat; for the purpose of catching which the marshes on the estate have been parcelled out and appropriated from time immemorial, and held by a tenure little short of fee-simple. The negroes are indebted to Nat Turner* and Tappan for a curtailment of some of their privileges. As a sincere friend to the blacks, I have much regretted the reckless interference of these persons, on account of the restrictions it has become, or been thought, necessary to impose. Since the exploit of the former hero, they have been forbidden to preach, except to their fellow slaves, the property of the same owner; to have public funerals, unless a white person officiates; or to be taught to read and write. Their funerals formerly gave them great satisfaction, and it was customary here to


furnish the relations of the deceased with bacon, spirit, flour, sugar, and butter, with which a grand entertainment, in their way, was got up. We were once much amused by a hearty fellow requesting his mistress to let him have his funeral during his lifetime, when it would do him some good. The waggish request was granted; and I venture to say there never was a funeral the subject of which enjoyed it so much. When permitted, some of our negroes preached with great fluency. I was present a few years since, when an Episcopal minister addressed the people, by appointment. On the conclusion of an excellent sermon, a negro preacher rose and thanked the gentleman kindly for his discourse, but frankly told him the congregation “did not understand his lingo.” He then proceeded himself, with great vehemence and volubility, coining words where they had not been made to his hand, or rather his tongue, and impressing his hearers, doubtless, with a decided opinion of his superiority over his white co-labourer in the field of grace. My brother and I, who own contiguous estates, have lately erected a chapel on the line between them, and have employed an acceptable minister of the Baptist persuasion, to which the negroes almost exclusively belong, to afford them religious instruction. Except as a preparatory step to emancipation, I consider it exceedingly impolitic, even as regards the slaves themselves, to permit them to read and write: “Where ignorance is bliss, `tis folly to be wise.” And it is certainly impolitic as regards their masters, on the principle that “knowledge is power.” My servants have not as long holidays as those of most other persons. I allow three days at Christmas, and at each of three other periods, besides a little time to work their patches; or, if very busy, I sometimes prefer to work them myself. Most of the ancient pastimes have been lost in this neighbourhood, and religion, mock or real, has succeeded them. The banjo, their national instrument, is known but in name or in a few of the tunes which have survived. Some of the younger negroes sing and dance, but the evenings and holidays are usually occupied in working, in visiting, and in praying and singing hymns. The primitive customs and sports are, I believe, better preserved further south, where slaves were brought from Africa long after they ceased to come here.

  6th. The provision usually made for their food and clothing, for those who are too young or too old to labour.—My men receive twelve quarts of Indian meal (the abundant and universal allowance in this State), seven salted herrings, and two pounds of smoked bacon or three pounds of pork, a-week; the other hands proportionally less. But, generally speaking, their food is issued daily, with the exception of meal, and consists of fish or bacon for breakfast, and meat, fresh or salted, with vegetables whenever we can provide them, for dinner; or for a month or two in the spring, fresh fish cooked with a little bacon. This mode is rather more expensive to me than that of weekly rations, but more comfortable to the servants. Superannuated or invalid slaves draw their provisions regularly once a-week; and the moment a child ceases to be nourished by its mother, it receives eight quarts of meal (more than it can consume) and one half-pound of lard. Besides the food furnished by me, nearly all the servants are able to make some addition from their private stores; and there is among the adults hardly an instance of one so improvident as not to do it. He must be an unthrifty fellow, indeed, who cannot realise the wish of the famous Henry IV. in regard to the French peasantry, and enjoy his fowl on Sunday. I always keep on hand, for the use of


the negroes, sugar, molasses, &c., which, though not regularly issued, are applied for on the slightest pretexts, and frequently no pretext at all, and are never refused except in cases of misconduct. In regard to clothing: the men and boys receive a winter coat and trousers of strong cloth, three shirts, a stout pair of shoes and socks, and a pair of summer pantaloons, every year; a hat about every second year, and a great-coat and blanket every third year. Instead of great-coats and hats, the women have large capes to protect the bust in bad weather, and handkerchiefs for the head. The articles furnished are good and serviceable; and, with their own acquisitions, make their appearance decent and respectable. On Sunday these are even fine. The aged and invalid are clad as regularly as the rest, but less substantially. Mothers receive a little raw cotton, in proportion to the number of children, with the privilege of having the yarn, when spun, woven at my expense. I provide them with blankets. Orphans are put with careful women, and treated with tenderness. I am attached to the little slaves, and encourage familiarity among them. Sometimes, when I ride near the quarters, they come running after me with the most whimsical requests, and are rendered happy by the distribution of some little donation. The clothing described is that which is given to the crop hands. Home-servants, a numerous class in Virginia, are of course clad in a different and very superior manner. I neglected to mention, in the proper place, that there are on each of my plantations a kitchen, an oven, and one or more cooks; and that each hand is furnished with a tin bucket for his food, which is carried into the field by little negroes, who also supply the labourers with water.

  6th. Their treatment when sick.—My negroes go, or are carried, as soon as they are attacked, to a spacious and well-ventilated hospital, near the mansion-house. They are there received by an attentive nurse, who has an assortment of medicine, additional bed-clothing, and the command of as much light food as she may require, either from the table or the store-room of the proprietor. Wine, sago, rice, and other little comforts appertaining to such an establishment, are always kept on hand. The condition of the sick is much better than that of the poor whites or free coloured people in the neighbourhood.

  7th. Their rewards and punishments.—I occasionally bestow little gratuities for good conduct, and particularly after harvest; and hardly ever refuse a favour asked by those who faithfully perform their duty. Vicious and idle servants are punished with stripes, moderately inflicted; to which, in the case of theft, is added privation of meat, a severe punishment to those who are never suffered to be without it on any other account. From my limited observation, I think that servants to the North work much harder than our slaves. I was educated at a college in one of the free States, and, on my return to Virginia, was struck with the contrast. I was astonished at the number of idle domestics, and actually worried my mother, much to my contrition since, to reduce the establishment: I say to my contrition, because, after eighteen years' residence in the good Old Dominion, I find myself surrounded by a troop of servants about as numerous as that against which I formerly so loudly exclaimed. While on this subject it may not be amiss to state a case of manumission which occurred about three years since. My nearest neighbour, a man of immense wealth, owned a favourite servant, a fine fellow, with polished manners and excellent disposition, who reads and writes, and is thoroughly versed in the duties of a


butler and housekeeper, in the performance of which he was trusted without limit. This man was, on the death of his master, emancipated with a legacy of 6,000 dollars, besides about 2,000 dollars more which he had been permitted to accumulate, and had deposited with his master, who had given him credit for it. The use that this man, apparently so well qualified for freedom, and who has had an opportunity of travelling and of judging for himself, makes of his money and his time, is somewhat remarkable. In consequence of his exemplary conduct, he has been permitted to reside in the State, and for very moderate wages occupies the same situation he did in the old establishment, and will probably continue to occupy it as long as he lives. He has no children of his own, but has put a little girl, a relation of his, to school. Except in this instance, and in the purchase of a few plain articles of furniture, his freedom and his money seem not much to have benefited him. A servant of mine who is intimate with him, thinks he is not as happy as he was before his liberation. Several other servants were freed at the same time, with smaller legacies, but I do not know what has become of them.

  I do not regard negro slavery, however mitigated, as a Utopian system, and have not intended so to delineate it. But it exists, and the difficulty of removing it is felt and acknowledged by all, save the fanatics, who, like “fools, rush in where angels dare not tread.” It is pleasing to know that its burdens are not too heavy to be borne. That the treatment of slaves in this State is humane, and even indulgent, may be inferred from the fact of their rapid increase and great longevity. I believe that, constituted as they are, morally and physically, they are as happy as any peasantry in the world; and I venture to affirm, as the result of my reading and inquiry, that in no country are the labourers so liberally and invariably supplied with bread and meat as are the negro slaves of the United States. However great the dearth of provisions, famine never reaches them.

  P.S. It might have been stated above that on this estate there are about one hundred and sixty blacks. With the exception of infants, there has been, in eighteen months, but one death, that I remember—that of a man fully sixty-five years of age. The bill for medical attendance, from the second day of last November, comprising upwards of a year, is less than forty dollars.

  The following accounts are taken from “Ingraham's Travels in the South-west,” a work which seems to have been written as much to show the beauties of slavery as anything else. Speaking of the state of things on some Southern plantations, he gives the following pictures, which are presented without note or comment:

  The little candidates for “field honours” are useless articles on a plantation during the first five or six years of their existence. They are then to take their first lesson in the elementary part of their education. When they have learned their manual alphabet tolerably well, they are placed in the field to take a spell at cotton-picking. The first day in the field is their proudest day. The young negroes look forward to it with as much restlessness and impatience as school-boys to a vacation. Black children are not put to work so young as many children of poor parents in the North. It is often the case that the children of the domestic servants become pets in the house and the playmates of the white children of the family. No scene can be


livelier or more interesting to a Northerner, than that which the negro quarters of a well-regulated plantation present on a Sabbath morning, just before church hours. In every cabin the men are shaving and dressing; the women, arrayed in their gay muslins, are arranging their frizzly hair—in which they take no little pride—or investigating the condition of their children; the old people, neatly clothed, are quietly conversing or smoking about the doors; and those of the younger portion who are not undergoing the infliction of the wash-tub are enjoying themselves in the shade of the trees, or around some little pond, with as much zest as though slavery and freedom were synonymous terms. When all are dressed, and the hour arrives for worship, they lock up their cabins, and the whole population of the little village proceeds to chapel, where divine service is performed, sometimes by an officiating clergyman, and often by the planter himself, if a church member. The whole plantation is also frequently formed into a Sabbath class, which is instructed by the planter, or some member of his family; and often, such is the anxiety of the master that they should perfectly understand what they are taught—a hard matter in the present state of their intellect—that no means calculated to advance their progress are left untried. I was not long since shown a manuscript catechism, drawn up with great care and judgment by a distinguished planter, on a plan admirably adapted to the comprehension of the negroes.

  It is now popular to treat slaves with kindness; and those planters who are known to be inhumanly rigorous to their slaves are scarcely countenanced by the more intelligent and humane portion of the community. Such instances, however, are very rare; but there are unprincipled men everywhere, who will give vent to their ill-feelings and bad passions, not with less good-will upon the back of an indented apprentice than upon that of a purchased slave. Private chapels are now introduced upon most of the plantations of the more wealthy, which are far from any church; Sabbath-schools are instituted for the black children, and Bible-classes for the parents, which are superintended by the planter, a chaplain, or some of the female members of the family.

  Nor are planters indifferent to the comfort of their grey-headed slaves. I have been much affected at beholding many exhibitions of their kindly feeling towards them. They always address them in a mild and pleasant manner, as “Uncle,” or “Aunty,” titles as peculiar to the old negro and negress as “boy” and “girl” to all under forty years of age. Some old Africans are allowed to spend their last years in their houses, without doing any kind of labour; these, if not too infirm, cultivate little patches of ground, on which they raise a few vegetables—for vegetables grow nearly all the year round in this climate—and make a little money to purchase a few extra comforts. They are also always receiving presents from their masters and mistresses, and the negroes on the estate, the latter of whom are extremely desirous of seeing the old people comfortable. A relation of the extra comforts which some planters allow their slaves would hardly obtain credit at the North. But you must recollect that Southern planters are men, and men of feeling, generous and high-minded, and possessing as much of the “milk of human kindness” as the sons of colder climes—although they may have been educated to regard that as right which a different education has led Northerners to consider wrong.

  With regard to the character of Mrs. Shelby, the writer must say a few words. While travelling in Kentucky, a few years


since, some pious ladies expressed to her the same sentiments with regard to slavery which the reader has heard expressed by Mrs. Shelby.

  There are many whose natural sense of justice cannot be made to tolerate the enormities of the system, even though they hear it defended by clergymen from the pulpit, and see it countenanced by all that is most honourable in rank and wealth.

  A pious lady said to the author, with regard to instructing her slaves, “I am ashamed to teach them what is right; I know that they know as well as I do that it is wrong to hold them as slaves, and I am ashamed to look them in the face.” Pointing to an intelligent mulatto woman who passed through the room, she continued, “Now, there's B—: she is as intelligent and capable as any white woman I ever knew, and as well able to have her liberty and take care of herself; and she knows it isn't right to keep her as we do, and I know it too; and yet I cannot get my husband to think as I do, or I should be glad to set them free.”

  A venerable friend of the writer, a lady born and educated a slaveholder, used to the writer the very words attributed to Mrs. Shelby: “I never thought it was right to hold slaves. I always thought it was wrong when I was a girl, and I thought so still more when I came to join the church.” An incident related by this friend of her examination for the church, shows in a striking manner what a difference may often exist between theoretical and practical benevolence.

  A certain class of theologians in New England have advocated the doctrine of disinterested benevolence with such zeal, as to make it an imperative article of belief, that every individual ought to be willing to endure everlasting misery, if by doing so they could, on the whole, produce a greater amount of general good in the universe; and the inquiry was sometimes made of candidates for church-membership, whether they could bring themselves to this point as a test of their sincerity. The clergyman who was to examine this lady, was particularly interested in these speculations. When he came to inquire of her with regard to her views as to the obligations of Christianity, she informed him decidedly that she had brought her mind to the point of emancipating all her slaves, of whom she had a large number. The clergyman seemed rather to consider this as an excess of zeal, and recommended that she should take time to reflect upon it. He was, however, very urgent to know whether, if it should appear for the greatest good of the universe, she would be willing to be damned. Entirely unaccustomed to theological specula-


tions, the good woman answered, with some vehemence, that “she was sure she was not;” adding, naturally enough, that if that had been her purpose, she need not have come to join the church. The good lady, however, was admitted, and proved her devotion to the general good by the more tangible method of setting all her slaves at liberty, and carefully watching over their education and interests after they were liberated.

  Mrs. Shelby is a fair type of the very best class of Southern women; and while the evils of the institution are felt and deplored, and while the world looks with just indignation on the national support and patronage which is given to it, and on the men who, knowing its nature, deliberately make efforts to perpetuate and extend it, it is but justice that it should bear in mind the virtues of such persons.

  Many of them, surrounded by circumstances over which they can have no control, perplexed by domestic cares, of which women in free States can have very little conception, loaded down by duties and responsibilities which wear upon the very springs of life, still go on bravely and patiently from day to day, doing all they can to alleviate what they cannot prevent, and, as far as the sphere of their own immediate power extends, rescuing those who are dependent upon them from the evils of the system.

  We read of Him who shall at last come to judgment, that “His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner.” Out of the great abyss of national sin he will rescue every grain of good and honest purpose and intention. His eyes, which are as a flame of fire, penetrate at once those intricate mazes where human judgment is lost, and will save and honour at last the truly good and sincere, however they may have been involved with the evil; and such souls as have resisted the greatest temptations, and persisted in good under the most perplexing circumstances, are those of whom he has written, “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”

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



  THE character of George Harris has been represented as overdrawn, both as respects personal qualities and general intelligence. It has been said, too, that so many afflictive incidents happening to a slave are improbable, and present a distorted view of the institution.

  In regard to person, it must be remembered that the half-breeds often inherit, to a great degree, the traits of their white ancestors. For this there is abundant evidence in the advertisements of the papers. Witness the following from the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Gazette, October 5th, 1852.


  Run away from the subscriber, on the 25th May, a VERY BRIGHT MULATTO BOY, about 20 or 22 years old, named WASH. Said boy, without close observation, might pass himself for a white man, as he is very bright—has sandy hair, blue eyes, and a fine set of teeth. He is an excellent bricklayer; but I have no idea that he will pursue his trade, for fear of detection. Although he is like a white man in appearance, he has the disposition of a negro, and delights in comic songs and witty expressions. He is an excellent house servant, very handy about a hotel—tall, slender, and has rather a down look, especially when spoken to, and is sometimes inclined to be sulky. I have no doubt that he has been decoyed off by some scoundrel, and I will give the above reward for the apprehension of the boy and thief, if delivered at Chattanooga. Or, I will give 200 dollars for the boy alone; or 100 dollars if confined in any jail in the United States, so that I can get him.


  Chattanooga, June 15, 1852.

  From the Capitolian Vis-à-vis, West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 1, 1852:


  Run away about the 15th of August last, Joe, a yellow man; small, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, and about twenty years of age. Has a Roman nose, was raised in New Orleans, and speaks French and English. He was bought last winter of Mr. Digges, Banks Arcade, New Orleans.


  In regard to general intelligence, the reader will recollect that the writer stated it as a fact which she learned while on a journey through Kentucky, that a young coloured man invented a machine for cleaning hemp, like that alluded to in her story.

  Advertisements, also, occasionally propose for sale artisans of different descriptions. Slaves are often employed as pilots for vessels, and highly valued for their skill and knowledge. The following are advertisements from recent newspapers.

  From the South Carolinian (Columbia), December 4th, 1852.



  WILL be Sold, on MONDAY, the 6th Day of December, the following valuable NEGROES:—

  Andrew, 24 years of age, a bricklayer and plasterer, and thorough workman.

  George, 22 years of age, one of the best barbers in the State.

  James, 19 years of age, an excellent painter.

  These boys were raised in Columbia, and are exceptions to most of boys, and are sold for no fault whatever.

  The terms of sale are one-half cash, the balance on a credit of six months, with interest, for notes payable at bank, with two or more approved endorsers.

  Purchasers to pay for necessary papers.


  November 27, 36.

  From the same paper of November 18th, 1852.

  Will be sold at private sale, a LIKELY MAN, boat hand, and good pilot; is well acquainted with all the inlets between here and Savannah and Georgetown.

  With regard to the incidents of George Harris's life, that he may not be supposed a purely exceptional case, we propose to offer some parallel facts from the lives of slaves of our personal acquaintance.

  Lewis Clark is an acquaintance of the writer. Soon after his escape from slavery, he was received into the family of a sister-in-law of the author, and there educated. His conduct during this time was such as to win for him uncommon affection and respect, and the author has frequently heard him spoken of in the highest terms by all who knew him.

  The gentleman in whose family he so long resided, says of him, in a recent letter to the writer, “I would trust him, as the saying is, with untold gold.”

  Lewis is a quadroon, a fine-looking man, with European features, hair slightly wavy, and with an intelligent, agreeable expression of countenance.


  The reader is now desired to compare the following incidents of his life, part of which he related personally to the author, with the incidents of the life of George Harris.

  His mother was a handsome quadroon woman, the daughter of her master, and given by him in marriage to a free white man, a Scotchman, with the express understanding that she and her children were to be free. This engagement, if made sincerely at all, was never complied with. His mother had nine children, and on the death of her husband, came back, with all these children, as slaves in her father's house.

  A married daughter of the family, who was the dread of the whole household, on account of the violence of her temper, had taken from the family, upon her marriage, a young girl. By the violence of her abuse she soon reduced the child to a state of idiocy, and then came imperiously back to her father's establishment, declaring that the child was good for nothing, and that she would have another, and, as poor Lewis' evil star would have it, fixed her eye upon him.

  To avoid one of her terrible outbreaks of temper, the family offered up this boy as a pacificatory sacrifice. The incident is thus described by Lewis, in a published narrative:—

  Every boy was ordered in, to pass before this female sorceress, that she might select a victim for her unprovoked malice, on whom to pour the vials of her wrath for years. I was that unlucky fellow. Mr. Campbell, my grandfather, objected, because it would divide a family, and offered her Moses; * * * but objections and claims of every kind were swept away by the wild passion and shrill-toned voice of Mrs. B. Me she would have, and none else. Mr. Campbell went out to hunt, and drive away bad thoughts; the old lady became quiet, for she was sure none of her blood ran in my veins, and if there was any of her husband's there, it was no fault of hers. Slave-holding women are always revengeful toward the children of slaves that have any of the blood of their husbands in them. I was too young—only seven years of age—to understand what was going on. But my poor and affectionate mother understood and appreciated it all. When she left the kitchen of the mansion-house, where she was employed as cook, and came home to her own little cottage, the tear of anguish was in her eye, and the image of sorrow upon every feature of her face. She knew the female Nero whose rod was now to be over me. That night sleep departed from her eyes. With the youngest child clasped firmly to her bosom, she spent the night in walking the floor, coming ever and anon to lift up the clothes and look at me and my poor brother, who lay sleeping together. Sleeping, I said. Brother slept, but not I. I saw my mother when she first came to me, and I could not sleep. The vision of that night—its deep, ineffaceable impression—is now before my mind with all the distinctness of yesterday. In the morning I was put into the carriage with Mrs. B. and her children, and my weary pilgrimage of suffering was fairly begun.


  Mrs. Banton is a character that can only exist where the laws of the land clothe with absolute power the coarsest, most brutal and violent-tempered, equally with the most generous and humane.

  If irresponsible power is a trial to the virtue of the most watchful and careful, how fast must it develop cruelty in those who are naturally violent and brutal!

  This woman was united to a drunken husband, of a temper equally ferocious. A recital of all the physical torture which this pair contrived to inflict on a hapless child, some of which have left ineffaceable marks on his person, would be too trying to humanity, and we gladly draw a veil over it.

  Some incidents, however, are presented in the following extracts:—

  A very trivial offence was sufficient to call forth a great burst of indignation from this woman of ungoverned passions. In my simplicity, I put my lips to the same vessel, and drank out of it, from which her children were accustomed to drink. She expressed her utter abhorrence of such an act by throwing my head violently back, and dashing into my face two dippers of water. The shower of water was followed by a heavier shower of kicks; but the words, bitter and cutting, that followed, were like a storm of hail upon my young heart. “She would teach me better manners than that; she would let me know I was to be brought up to her hand; she would have one slave that knew his place; if I wanted water, go to the spring, and not drink there in the house.” This was new times for me; for some days I was completely benumbed with my sorrow.

* * * * *

  If there be one so lost to all feeling as even to say that the slaves do not suffer when families are separated, let such a one go to the ragged quilt which was my couch and pillow, and stand there night after night, for long, weary hours, and see the bitter tears streaming down the face of that more than orphan boy, while with half-suppressed sighs and sobs he calls again and again upon his absent mother.

“Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son?
Wretch even then! life's journey just begun.”

  He was employed till late at night in spinning flax or rocking the baby, and called at a very early hour in the morning; and if he did not start at the first summons, a cruel chastisement was sure to follow. He says:—

  Such horror has seized me, lest I might not hear the first shrill call, that I have often in dreams fancied I heard that unwelcome voice, and have leaped from my couch and walked through the house and out of it before I awoke. I have gone and called the other slaves, in my sleep, and asked them if they did not hear master call. Never, while I live, will the remembrance of those long bitter nights of fear pass from my mind.


  He adds to these words which should be deeply pondered by those who lay the flattering unction to their souls that the oppressed do not feel the sundering of family ties.

  But all my severe labour, and bitter and cruel punishments, for these ten years of captivity with this worse than Arab family, all these were as nothing to the sufferings I experienced by being separated from my mother, brothers, and sisters; the same things, with them near to sympathise with me, to hear my story of sorrow, would have been comparatively tolerable.

  They were distant only about thirty miles, and yet, in ten long lonely years of childhood, I was only permitted to see them three times.

  My mother occasionally found an opportunity to send me some token of remembrance and affection—a sugar-plum or an apple; but I scarcely ever ate them; they were laid up, and handled, and wept over, till they wasted away in my hand.

  My thoughts continually by day, and my dreams by night, were of mother and home; and the horror experienced in the morning, when I awoke and behold it was a dream, is beyond the power of language to describe.

  Lewis had a beautiful sister by the name of Delia, who, on the death of her grandfather, was sold, with all the other children of his mother, for the purpose of dividing the estate. She was a pious girl, a member of the Baptist church. She fell into the hands of a brutal, drunken man, who wished to make her his mistress. Milton Clark, a brother of Lewis, in the narrative of his life, describes the scene where he, with his mother, stood at the door while this girl was brutally whipped before it for wishing to conform to the principles of her Christian profession. As her resolution was unconquerable, she was placed in a coffle and sent down to the New Orleans market. Here she was sold to a Frenchman named Coval; he took her to Mexico, emancipated and married her. After residing some time in France and the West Indies with him, he died, leaving her a fortune of twenty or thirty thousand dollars. At her death she endeavoured to leave this by will to purchase the freedom of her brothers; but, as a slave cannot take property, or even have it left in trust for him, they never received any of it.

  The incidents of the recovery of Lewis' freedom are thus told:—

  I had long thought and dreamed of LIBERTY; I was now determined to make an effort to gain it. No tongue can tell the doubt, the perplexities, the anxiety, which a slave feels when making up his mind upon this subject. If he makes an effort and is not successful, he must be laughed at by his fellows, he will be beaten unmercifully by the master, and then watched and used the harder for it all his life.

  And then, if he gets away, who, what will he find? He is ignorant of the


world. All the white part of mankind that he has ever seen are enemies to him and all his kindred. How can he venture where none but white faces shall greet him? The master tells him that abolitionists decoy slaves off into the free States to catch them and sell them to Louisiana or Mississippi; and, if he goes to Canada, the British will put him in a mine under ground, with both eyes put out, for life. How does he know what or whom to believe? A horror of great darkness comes upon him, as he thinks over what may befall him. Long, very long time did I think of escaping before I made the effort.

  At length the report was started that I was to be sold for Louisiana. Then I thought it was time to act. My mind was made up.

* * * * * * * * *

  What my feelings were when I reached the free shore can be better imagined than described. I trembled all over with deep emotion, and I could feel my hair rise up on my head. I was on what was called a free soil, among a people who had no slaves. I saw white men at work, and no slave smarting beneath the lash. Everything was indeed new and wonderful. Not knowing where to find a friend, and being ignorant of the country, unwilling to inquire lest I should betray my ignorance, it was a whole week before I reached Cincinnati. At one place where I put up, I had a great many more questions put to me than I wished to answer. At another place I was very much annoyed by the officiousness of the landlord, who made it a point to supply every guest with newspapers. I took the copy handed me, and turned it over in a somewhat awkward manner, I suppose. He came to me to point out a veto, or some other very important news. I thought it best to decline his assistance, and gave up the paper, saying my eyes were not in a fit condition to read much.

  At another place, the neighbours, on learning that a Kentuckian was at the tavern, came in great earnestness to find out what my business was. Kentuckians sometimes came there to kidnap their citizens. They were in the habit of watching them close. I at length satisfied them by assuring them that I was not, nor my father before me, any slaveholder at all; but, lest their suspicions should be excited in another direction, I added my grandfather was a slaveholder.

* * * * * * * * *

  At daylight we were in Canada. When I stepped ashore here, I said, Sure enough I AM FREE. Good Heavens! what a sensation, when it first visits the bosoms of a full-grown man; one born to bondage; one who had been taught from early infancy that this was his inevitable lot for life! Not till then did I dare to cherish for a moment the feeling that one of the limbs of my body was my own. The slaves often say, when cut in the hand or foot, “Plague on the old foot,” or “the old hand! It is master's, let him take care of it; nigger don't care if he never get well.” My hands, my feet were now my own.

  It will be recollected that George, in conversing with Eliza, gives an account of a scene in which he was violently beaten by his master's young son. This incident was suggested by the following letter from John M. Nelson to Mr. Theodore Weld, given in Slavery As It Is, p. 51.

  Mr. Nelson removed from Virginia to Highland County,


Ohio, many years since, where he is extensively known and respected. The letter is dated January 3rd, 1839.

  I was born and raised in Augusta County, Virginia; my father was an elder in the Presbyterian church, and was “owner” of about twenty slaves; he was what was generally termed a “good master.” His slaves were generally tolerably well fed and clothed, and not over-worked; they were sometimes permitted to attend church, and called in to family worship; few of them, however, availed themselves of these privileges. On some occasions I have seen him whip them severely, particularly for the crime of trying to obtain their liberty, or for what was called “running away.” For this they were scourged more severely than for anything else. After they have been retaken, I have seen them stripped naked and suspended by the hands, sometimes to a tree, sometimes to a post, until their toes barely touched the ground, and whipped with a cowhide until the blood dripped from their backs. A boy named Jack, particularly, I have seen served in this way more than once. When I was quite a child, I recollect it grieved me very much to see one tied up to be whipped, and I used to intercede with tears in their behalf, and mingle my cries with theirs, and feel almost willing to take part of the punishment; I have been severely rebuked by my father for this kind of sympathy. Yet, such is the hardening nature of such scenes, that from this kind of commiseration for the suffering slave I became so blunted that I could not only witness their stripes with composure, but myself inflict them, and that without remorse. One case I have often looked back to with sorrow and contrition, particularly since I have been convinced that “negroes are men.” When I was perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age, I undertook to correct a young fellow named Ned, for some supposed offence, I think it was leaving a bridle out of its proper place; he, being larger and stronger than myself, took hold of my arms and held me, in order to prevent my striking him. This I considered the height of insolence, and cried for help, when my father and mother both came running to my rescue. My father stripped and tied him, and took him into the orchard, where switches were plenty, and directed me to whip him; when one switch wore out, he supplied me with others. After I had whipped him a while, he fell on his knees to implore forgiveness, and I kicked him in the face; my father said, “Don't kick him, but whip him;” this I did until his back was literally covered with welts. I know I have repented, and trust I have obtained pardon for these things.

  My father owned a woman we used to call Aunt Grace; she was purchased in Old Virginia. She has told me that her old master, in his will, gave her her freedom, but at his death his sons had sold her to my father. When he bought her she manifested some unwillingness to go with him; when she was put in irons and taken by force. This was before I was born; but I remember to have seen the irons, and was told that was what they had been used for. Aunt Grace is still living, and must be between seventy and eighty years of age; she has, for the last forty years, been an exemplary Christian. When I was a youth, I took some pains to learn her to read; this is now a great consolation to her. Since age and infirmity have rendered her of little value to her “owners,” she is permitted to read as much as she pleases; this she can do, with the aid of glasses, in the old family Bible, which is almost the only book she has ever looked into. This, with some little mending for the black children, is all she does; she is still


held as a slave. I well remember what a heart-rending scene there was in the family when my father sold her husband; this was, I suppose, thirty-five years ago. And yet my father was considered one of the best of masters. I know of few who were better, but of many who were worse.

  With regard to the intelligence of George, and his teaching himself to read and write, there is a most interesting and affecting parallel to it in the “Life of Frederick Douglass”—a book which can be recommended to anyone who has a curiosity to trace the workings of an intelligent and active mind through all the squalid misery, degradation and oppression, of slavery. A few incidents will be given.

  Like Clark, Douglass was the son of a white man. He was a plantation slave in a proud old family; his situation, probably, may be considered as an average one; that is to say, he led a life of dirt, degradation, discomfort of various kinds, made tolerable as a matter of daily habit, and considered as enviable in comparison with the lot of those who suffer worse abuse. An incident which Douglass relates of his mother is touching; he states that it is customary at an early age to separate mothers from their children, for the purpose of blunting and deadening natural affection. When he was three years old his mother was sent to work on a plantation eight or ten miles distant, and after that he never saw her except in the night. After her day's toil she would occasionally walk over to her child, lie down with him in her arms, hush him to sleep in her bosom, then rise up and walk back again to be ready for her field-work by daylight. Now, we ask the highest-born lady in England or America, who is a mother, whether this does not show that this poor field-labourer had in her bosom, beneath her dirt and rags, a true mother's heart?

  The last and bitterest indignity which had been heaped on the head of the unhappy slaves has been the denial to them of those holy affections which God gives alike to all. We are told, in fine phrase, by languid ladies of fashion, that “it is not to be supposed that those creatures have the same feelings that we have,” when, perhaps, the very speaker could not endure one tithe of the fatigue and suffering which the slave-mother often bears for her child. Every mother who has a mother's heart within her ought to know that this is blasphemy against nature, and, standing between the cradle of her living and the grave of her dead child, should indignantly reject such a slander on all motherhood.

  Douglass thus relates the account of his learning to read, after he had been removed to the situation of house-servant in Baltimore.


  It seems that his mistress, newly-married and unaccustomed to the management of slaves, was very kind to him, and, amongst other acts of kindness, commenced teaching him to read. His master, discovering what was going on, he says,

  At once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further, he said, “If you give a nigger an inch he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would for ever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.” These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.

  After this, his mistress was as watchful to prevent his learning to read as she had before been to instruct him. His course after this he thus describes:—

  From this time I was most narrowly watched. If I was in a separate room any considerable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book, and was at once called to give an account of myself; all this, however, was too late—the first step had been taken. Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell.

  The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could I converted into teachers. With their kindly aid, obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in learning to read. When I was sent of errands I always took my book with me, and by going one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and to which I was always welcome, for I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighbourhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the poor hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge. I am strongly tempted to give the names of two or three of those little boys, as a testimonial of the gratitude and affection I bear them, but prudence forbids; not that it would injure me, but it might embarrass them, for it is almost an unpardonable offence to teach slaves to read in this Christian country. It is enough to say of the dear little fellows, that they lived in Philpot-street, very near Durgin and Bailey's ship-yard. I used to talk this matter of slavery over with them. I would sometimes say to them, I wished I could be free as they would be when they got to be men. “You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I am a slave for life! Have not I as good a right


to be free as you have?” These words used to trouble them; they would express for me the liveliest sympathy, and console me with the hope that something would occur by which I might be free.

  I was now about twelve years old, and the thought of being a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart. Just about this time I got hold of a book entitled the “Columbian Orator.” Every opportunity I got I used to read this book. Among much of other interesting matter, I found in it a dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave was represented as having run away from his master three times. The dialogue represented the conversation which took place between them when the slave was retaken the third time. In this dialogue the whole argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward by the master, all of which was disposed of by the slave. The slave was made to say some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to his master— things which had the desired though unexpected effect; for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master.

  In the same book I met with one of Sheridan's mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again, with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance. The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights. The reading of these documents enabled me to utter my thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but while they relieved me of one difficulty, they brought on another still more painful than the one of which I was relieved. The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes and gone to Africa and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony I envied my fellow slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own: anything, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me: there was no getting rid of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more for ever. It was heard in every sound and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.

  I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead;


and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed. While in this state of mind I was eager to hear any one speak of slavery. I was a ready listener. Every little while I could hear something about the abolitionists. It was some time before I found what the word meant. It was always used in such connexions as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did anything very wrong in the mind of a slave-holder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connexion very often, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found it was “the act of abolishing;” but then I did not know what was to be abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not care to ask anyone about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted me to know very little about. After a patient waiting, I got one of our city papers, containing an account of the number of petitions from the North praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and of the slave-trade between the States. From this time I understood the words abolition and abolitionist, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow- slaves. The light broke in upon me by degrees. I went one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters, and seeing two Irishmen unloading a scow of stone, I went, unasked, and helped them. When we had finished, one of them came to me and asked me if I was a slave. I told him that I was. He asked, “Are ye a slave for life?” I told him that I was. The good Irishman seemed to be deeply affected by the statement. He said to the other that it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should be a slave for life. He said it was a shame to hold me. They both advised me to run away to the North; that I should find friends there, and that I should be free. I pretended not to be interested in what they said, and treated them as if I did not understand them; for I feared they might be treacherous. White men have been known to encourage slaves to escape, and then, to get the reward, catch them and return them to their masters. I was afraid that these seemingly good men might use me so; but I nevertheless remembered their advice, and from that time I resolved to run away. I looked forward to a time at which it would be safe for me to escape. I was too young to think of doing so immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I consoled myself with the hope that I should one day find a good chance. Meanwhile I would learn to write.

  The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey's ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship-carpenters, after hewing and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timber the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended. When a piece of timber was intended for the larboard-side it would be marked thus—“L.” When a piece for the starboard-side it would be marked thus—“S.” A piece for the larboard-side forward would be marked thus—“L. F.” When a piece was for starboard-side forward it would be marked thus—“S. F.” For larboard-aft it would be marked thus—“L. A.” For starboard-aft it would be marked thus—“S. A.” I soon learned the names of these letters, and for what they were intended when placed upon a piece of timber in the ship-yard. I immediately commenced copying them, and in a short time was able to make the four letters named. After that,


when I met with any boy who I knew could write, I would tell him I could write as well as he. The next word would be, “I don't believe you. Let me see you try it.” I would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many lessons in writing, which it was quite possible I should never have gotten in any other way. During this time my copy-book was the board fence, brick wall, and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With this I learned mainly how to write. I then commenced and continued copying the Italics in Webster's Spelling-Book, until I could make them all without looking on the book. By this time my little master Thomas had gone to school and learned how to write, and had written over a number of copy-books. These had been brought home, and shown to some of our neighbours, and then laid aside. My mistress used to go to class-meeting at the Wilk-street meeting-house every Monday afternoon, and leave me to take care of the house. When left thus I used to spend the time in writing in the spaces left in Master Thomas's copying-book, copying what he had written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very similar to that of Master Thomas. Thus, after a long, tedious effort for years, I finally succeeded in learning how to write.

  These few quoted incidents will show that the case of George Harris is by no means so uncommon as might be supposed.

  Let the reader peruse the account which George Harris gives of the sale of his mother and her children, and then read the following account given by the venerable Josiah Henson, now pastor of the missionary settlement at Dawn, in Canada.

  After the death of his master, he says, the slaves of the plantation were all put up at auction, and sold to the highest bidder.

  My brothers and sisters were bid off one by one, while my mother, holding my hand, looked on in an agony of grief, the cause of which I but ill understood at first, but which dawned on my mind with dreadful clearness as the sale proceeded. My mother was then separated from me and put up in her turn. She was bought by a man named Isaac R., residing in Montgomery County [Maryland], and then I was offered to the assembled purchasers. My mother, half distracted with the parting for ever from all her children, pushed through the crowd, while the bidding for me was going on, to the spot where R. was standing. She fell at his feet, and clung to his knees, entreating him, in tones that a mother only could command, to buy her baby as well as herself, and spare to her one of her little ones at least. Will it, can it be believed, that this man, thus appealed to, was capable, not merely of turning a deaf ear to her supplication, but of disengaging himself from her with such violent blows and kicks as to reduce her to the necessity of creeping out of his reach, and mingling the groan of bodily suffering with the sob of a breaking heart?

  Now all these incidents that have been given are real incidents of slavery, related by those who know slavery by the best of all tests—experience; and they are given by men who


have earned a good character in freedom, which makes their word as good as the word of any man living.

  The case of Lewis Clark might be called a harder one than common. The case of Douglass is probably a very fair average specimen.

  The writer had conversed, in her time, with a very considerable number of liberated slaves, many of whom stated that their own individual lot had been comparatively a mild one; but she never talked with one who did not let fall, first or last, some incident which he had observed, some scene which he had witnessed, which went to show some most horrible abuse of the system; and what was most affecting about it, the narrator often evidently considered it so much a matter of course as to mention it incidentally, without any particular emotion.

  It is supposed by many that the great outcry among those who are opposed to slavery comes from a morbid reading of unauthenticated accounts got up in abolition papers, &c. This idea is a very mistaken one. The accounts which tell against the slave-system are derived from the continual living testimony of the poor slave himself; often from that of the fugitives from slavery who are continually passing through our Northern cities.

  As a specimen of some of the incidents, thus developed, is given the following fact of recent occurrence, related to the author by a lady in Boston. This lady, who was much in the habit of visiting the poor, was sent for, a month or two since, to see a mulatto woman, who had just arrived at a coloured boarding-house near by, and who appeared to be in much dejection of mind. A little conversation showed her to be a fugitive. Her history was as follows: She, with her brother, were, as is often the case, both the children and slaves of their master. At his death, they were left to his legitimate daughter as her servants, and treated with as much consideration as very common kind of people might be expected to show those who were entirely and in every respect at their disposal.

  The wife of her brother ran away to Canada; and as there was some talk of selling her and her child, in consequence of some embarrassment in the family affairs, her brother, a fine-spirited young man, determined to effect her escape, also, to a land of liberty. He concealed her for some time in the back part of an obscure dwelling in the city, till he could find an opportunity to send her off. While she was in this retreat, he was indefatigable in his attentions to her, frequently bringing


her fruit and flowers, and doing everything he could to beguile the weariness of her imprisonment.

  At length, the steward of a vessel, whom he had obliged, offered to conceal him on board the ship, and give him a chance to escape. The noble-hearted fellow, though tempted by an offer which would enable him immediately to join his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached, preferred to give this offer to his sister, and during the absence of the captain of the vessel she and her child were brought on board and secreted.

  The captain, when he returned and discovered what had been done, was very angry, as the thing, if detected, would have involved him in very serious difficulties. He declared at first, that he would send the woman up into town to jail; but, by her entreaties and those of the steward, was induced to wait till evening, and send word to her brother to come and take her back. After dark the brother came on board, and, instead of taking his sister away, began to appeal to the humanity of the captain in the most moving terms. He told his sister's history and his own, and pleaded eloquently his desire for her liberty. The captain had determined to be obdurate, but, alas! he was only a man. Perhaps he had himself a wife and child—perhaps he felt that, were he in the young man's case, he would do just so for his sister. Be it as it may, he was at last overcome. He said to the young man, “I must send you away from my ship; I'll put off a boat and see you get into it, and you must row off, and never let me see your faces again; and if, after all, you should come back and get on board, it will be your fault and not mine.”

  So, in the rain and darkness, the young man and his sister and child were lowered over the side of the vessel, and rowed away. After a while the ship weighed anchor, but before she reached Boston it was discovered that the woman and child were on board.

  The lady to whom this story was related, was requested to write a letter, in certain terms, to a person in the city whence the fugitive had come, to let the brother know of her safe arrival.

  The fugitive was furnished with work, by which she could support herself and child, and the lady carefully attended to her wants for a few weeks.

  One morning she came in, with a good deal of agitation, exclaiming, “O ma'am, he's come! George is come!” And in a few minutes the young man was introduced.


  The lady who gave this relation belongs to the first circles of Boston society; she says that she never was more impressed by the personal manners of any gentleman than by those of this fugitive brother. So much did he have the air of a perfect, finished gentleman, that she felt she could not question him with regard to his escape with the familiarity with which persons of his condition are commonly approached; and it was not till he requested her to write a letter for him, because he could not write himself, that she could realize that this fine specimen of manhood had been all his life a slave.

  The remainder of the history is no less romantic. The lady had a friend in Montreal, whither George's wife had gone; and, after furnishing money to pay their expenses, she presented them with a letter to this gentleman, requesting the latter to assist the young man in finding his wife. When they landed at Montreal, George stepped on shore and presented this letter to the first man he met, asking him if he knew to whom it was directed. The gentleman proved to be the very person to whom the letter was addressed. He knew George's wife, brought him to her without delay, so that, by return mail, the lady had the satisfaction of learning the happy termination of the adventure.

  This is but a specimen of histories which are continually transpiring; so that those who speak of slavery can say, “We speak that which we do know, and testify that we have seen.”

  But we shall be told the slaves are all a lying race, and that these are lies which they tell us. There are some things, however, about these slaves, which cannot lie. Those deep lines of patient sorrow upon the face; that attitude of crouching and humble subjection; that sad, habitual expression of hope deferred in the eye, would tell their story if the slave never spoke.

  It is not long since the writer has seen faces such as might haunt one's dreams for weeks.

  Suppose a poor, worn-out mother, sickly, feeble, and old— her hands worn to the bone with hard, unpaid toil, whose nine children have been sold to the slave trader, and whose tenth soon is to be sold, unless by her labour as a washerwoman she can raise nine hundred dollars! Such are the kind of cases constantly coming to one's knowledge, such are the witnesses which will not let us sleep.

  Doubt has been expressed whether such a thing as an advertisement for a man “dead or alive,” like the advertisement for George Harris, was ever published in the Southern States. The scene of the story in which that occurs is supposed to be laid a


few years back, at the time when the black laws of Ohio were passed. That at this time such advertisements were common in the newspapers, there is abundant evidence. That they are less common now, is a matter of hope and gratulation.

  In the year 1839, Mr. Theodore D. Weld made a systematic attempt to collect and arrange the statistics of slavery. A mass of facts and statistics was gathered, which was authenticated with the most unquestionable accuracy. Some of the “one thousand” witnesses, whom he brings upon the stand, were ministers, lawyers, merchants, and men of various other callings, who were either natives of the slave States, or had been residents there for many years of their life. Many of these were slaveholders. Others of the witnesses were, or had been, slave-drivers, or officers of coasting-vessels engaged in the slave-trade.

  Another part of his evidence was gathered from public speeches in Congress, in the State legislatures, and elsewhere. But the majority of it was taken from recent newspapers.

  The papers from which these facts were copied were preserved and put on file in a public place, where they remained for some years for the information of the curious. After Mr. Weld's book was completed, a copy of it was sent, through the mail, to every editor from whose paper such advertisements had been taken, and to every individual of whom any facts had been narrated, with the passage concerning them marked.

  It is quite possible that this may have had some influence in rendering such advertisements less common. Men of sense often go on doing a thing which is very absurd, or even inhuman, simply because it has always been done before them, and they follow general custom, without much reflection. When their attention, however, is called to it by a stranger who sees the thing from another point of view, they become immediately sensible of the impropriety of the practice, and discontinue it. The reader will, however, be pained to notice, when he comes to the legal part of the book, that, even in some of the largest cities of our slave States, this barbarity had not been entirely discontinued in the year 1850.

  The list of advertisements in Mr. Weld's book is here inserted, not to weary the reader with its painful details, but that, by running his eye over the dates of the papers quoted, and the places of their publication, he may form a fair estimate of the extent to which this atrocity was publicly practised.

  The Wilmington (North Carolina) Advertiser, of July 13, 1838, contains the following advertisement:


  “100 dollars will be paid to any person who may apprehend, and safely confine in any jail in this State, a certain negro man, named ALFRED. And the same reward will be paid if satisfactory evidence is given of his having been KILLED. He has one or more scars on one of his hands, caused by his having been shot.


  “Richlands, Onslow Co. May 16, 1838.”

  In the same column with the above, and directly under it, is the following.

  “RAN AWAY, my negro man RICHARD. A reward of 25 dollars will be paid for his apprehension, DEAD or ALIVE. Satisfactory proof will only be required of his being KILLED. He has with him, in all probability, his wife ELIZA, who ran away from Col. Thompson, now a resident of Alabama, about the time he commenced his journey to that State.


  In the Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, May 28, is the following.

  “About the first of March last the negro man RANSON left me without the least provocation whatever; I will give a reward of twenty dollars for said negro if taken, DEAD OR ALIVE; and if killed in any attempt, an advance of five dollars will be paid.


  “Crawford Co., Georgia.”

  See the Newbern (North Carolina) Spectator, Jan. 5, 1838, for the following.

  “RAN AWAY from the subscriber, a negro man, named SAMPSON. Fifty dollars reward will be given for the delivery of him to me, or his confinement in any jail, so that I get him; and should he resist in being taken, so that violence is necessary to arrest him, I will not hold any person liable to damages should the slave be killed.


  “Jones Co., N. C.

  From the Charleston (South Carolina) Courier, Feb. 20, 1836.

  “300 DOLLARS REWARD. Ran away from the subscriber, in November last, his two negro men, named BILLY and POMPEY.

  “Billy is 25 years old, and is known as the patroon of my boat for many years. In all probability he may resist; in that event, 50 dollars will be paid for his HEAD.”


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



  THE writer stated in her book that Eliza was a portrait drawn from life. The incident which brought the original to her notice may be simply narrated.

  While the writer was travelling in Kentucky, many years ago, she attended church in a small country town. While there, her attention was called to a beautiful quadroon girl, who sat in one of the slips of the church, and appeared to have charge of some young children. The description of Eliza may suffice for a description of her. When the author returned from the church, she inquired about the girl, and was told that she was as good and amiable as she was beautiful; that she was a pious girl, and a member of the Church; and, finally, that she was owned by Mr. So-and-so. The idea that this girl was a slave struck a chill to her heart, and she said earnestly, “Oh, I hope they treat her kindly.”

  “Oh, certainly,” was the reply; “they think as much of her as of their own children.”

  “I hope they will never sell her,” said a person in the company.

  “Certainly they will not; a Southern gentleman, not long ago, offered her master a thousand dollars for her; but he told him that she was too good to be his wife, and he certainly should not have her for a mistress.”

  That is all the writer knows of that girl.

  With regard to the incident of Eliza's crossing the river on the ice—as the possibility of the thing has been disputed—the writer gives the following circumstance in confirmation.

  Last spring, while the author was in New York, a Presbyterian clergyman of Ohio came to her, and said, “I understand they dispute that fact about the woman's crossing the river. Now, I know all about that, for I got the story from the very man that helped her up the bank. I know it is true, for she is now living in Canada.”

  It has been objected that the representation of the scene in which the plan for kidnapping Eliza is concocted by Haley, Marks,


and Loker, at the tavern, is a gross caricature on the state of things in Ohio.

  What knowledge the author has had of the facilities which some justices of the peace, under the old fugitive law of Ohio, were in the habit of giving to kidnapping, may be inferred by comparing the statement in her book with some in her personal knowledge.

  “Ye see,” said Marks to Haley, stirring his punch as he did so, “ye see, we has justices convenient at all p'ints along shore, that does up any little jobs in our line quite reasonable. Tom, he does the knockin' down, and that ar; and I come in all dressed up—shining boots—everything first chop—when the swearin's to be done. You oughter see me, now!” said Marks, in a glow of professional pride, “how I can tone it off. One day I'm Mr. Twickem, from New Orleans; 'nother day, I'm just come from my plantation on Pearl river, where I works seven hundred niggers; then, again, I come out a distant relation to Henry Clay, or some old cock in Kentuck. Talents is different, you know. Now, Tom's a roarer when there's any thumping or fighting to be done; but at lying he an't good, Tom an't; ye see it don't come natural to him; but, Lord! if thar's a feller in the country that can swear to anything and everything, and put in all the circumstances and flourishes with a longer face, and carry't through better'n I can, why, I'd like to see him, that's all! I b'lieve, my heart, I could get along, and snake through, even if justices were more particular than they is. Sometimes I rather wish they was more particular; 'twould be a heap more relishin' if they was—more fun, yer know.”

  In the year 1839, the writer received into her family, as a servant, a girl from Kentucky. She had been the slave of one of the lowest and most brutal families, with whom she had been brought up, in a log-cabin, in a state of half-barbarism. In proceeding to give her religious instruction, the author heard, for the first time in her life, an inquiry which she had not supposed possible to be made in America—“Who is Jesus Christ, now, anyhow?”

  When the author told her the history of the love and life and death of Christ, the girl seemed wholly overcome; tears streamed down her cheeks, and she exclaimed piteously, “Why didn't nobody never tell me this before?”

  “But,” said the writer to her, “haven't you ever seen the Bible?”

  “Yes, I have seen Missus a-readin' on't sometimes; but, law sakes! she's just a readin' on't 'cause she could; don't s'pose it did her no good, no way.”

  She said she had been to one or two camp-meetings in her life, but “didn't notice very particular.”

  At all events, the story certainly made great impression on her, and had such an effect in improving her conduct, that the writer had great hopes of her.


  On inquiring into her history, it was discovered that, by the laws of Ohio, she was legally entitled to her freedom, from the fact of her having been brought into the State, and left there, temporarily, by the consent of her mistress. These facts being properly authenticated before the proper authorities, papers attesting her freedom were drawn up, and it was now supposed that all danger of pursuit was over. After she had remained in the family for some months, word was sent, from various sources, to Professor Stowe, that the girl's young master was over, looking for her, and that, if care were not taken, she would be conveyed back into slavery.

  Professor Stowe called on the magistrate who had authenticated her papers, and inquired whether they were not sufficient to protect her. The reply was, Certainly they are, in law, if she could have a fair hearing; but they will come to your house in the night, with an officer and a warrant; they will take her before Justice D—, and swear to her. He's the man that does all this kind of business, and he'll deliver her up, and there'll be an end of it.

  Mr. Stowe then inquired what could be done; and was recommended to carry her to some place of security till the inquiry for her was over. Accordingly, that night, a brother of the author, with Professor Stowe, performed for the fugitive that office which the senator is represented as performing for Eliza. They drove about ten miles on a solitary road, crossed the creek at a very dangerous fording, and presented themselves, at mid-night, at the house of John Van Zandt, a noble-minded Kentuckian, who had performed the good deed which the author, in her story, ascribes to Van Tromp.

  After some rapping at the door, the worthy owner of the mansion appeared, candle in hand, as has been narrated.

  “Are you the man that would save a poor coloured girl from kidnappers?” was the first question.

  “Guess I am,” was the prompt response; “where is she?”

  “Why, she's here.”

  “But how did you come?”

  “I crossed the creek.”

  “Why, the Lord helped you!” said he; “I shouldn't dare cross it myself in the night. A man and his wife, and five children were drowned there, a little while ago.”

  The reader may be interested to know that the poor girl was never re-taken: that she married well in Cincinnati, is a very respectable woman, and the mother of a large family of children.


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



  THE character of Uncle Tom has been objected to as improbable; and yet the writer has received more confirmations of that character, and from a great variety of sources, than of any other in the book.

  Many people have said to her, “I knew an Uncle Tom in such-and-such a Southern State.” All the histories of this kind which have thus been related to her would of themselves, if collected, make a small volume. The author will relate a few of them.

  While visiting in an obscure town in Maine, in the family of a friend, the conversation happened to turn upon this subject, and the gentleman with whose family she was staying related the following. He said, that when on a visit to his brother in New Orleans, some years before, he found in his possession a most valuable negro man, of such remarkable probity and honesty that his brother literally trusted him with all he had. He had frequently seen him take out a handful of bills, without looking at them, and hand them to this servant, bidding him go and provide what was necessary for the family, and bring him the change. He remonstrated with his brother on this imprudence; but the latter replied that he had had such proofs of this servant's impregnable conscientiousness that he felt it safe to trust him to any extent.

  The history of the servant was this. He had belonged to a man in Baltimore, who, having a general prejudice against all the religious exercises of slaves, did all that he could to prevent his having any time for devotional duties, and strictly forbade him to read the Bible and pray, either by himself or with the other servants; and because, like a certain man of old, named Daniel, he constantly disobeyed this unchristian edict, his master inflicted upon him that punishment which a master always has in his power to inflict—he sold him into perpetual exile from his wife and children, down to New Orleans.


  The gentleman who gave the writer this information says that, although not a religious man at the time, he was so struck with the man's piety, that he said to his brother, “I hope you will never do anything to deprive this man of his religious privileges, for I think a judgment will come upon you if you do.” To this his brother replied that he should be very foolish to do it, since he had made up his mind that the man's religion was the root of his extraordinary excellences.

  Some time since there was sent to the writer from the South, through the mail, a little book, entitled “Sketches of Old Virginia Family Servants,” with a preface by Bishop Meade. The book contains an account of the following servants: African Bella, Old Milly, Blind Lucy, Aunt Betty, Springsfield Bob, Mammy Chris, Diana Washington, Aunt Margaret, Rachel Parker, Nelly Jackson, My Own Mammy, Aunt Beck.

  The following extract from Bishop Meade's preface may not be uninteresting:—

  The following sketches were placed in my hands with a request that I would examine them with a view to publication.

  After reading them, I could not but think that they would be both pleasing and edifying.

  Very many such examples of fidelity and piety might be added from the old Virginia families. These will suffice as specimens, and will serve to show how interesting the relation between master and servant often is.

  Many will doubtless be surprised to find that there was so much intelligence as well as piety in some of the old servants of Virginia, and that they had learned to read the Sacred Scriptures, so as to be useful in this way among their fellow-servants. It is, and always has been true, in regard to the servants of the Southern States, that although public schools may have been prohibited, yet no interference has been attempted, where the owners have chosen to teach their servants, or permit them to learn in a private way how to read God's word. Accordingly, there always have been some who were thus taught. In the more Southern States the number of these has most abounded. Of this fact I became well assured about thirty years since, when visiting the Atlantic States, with a view to the formation of auxiliary colonization societies, and the selection of the first colonists for Africa. In the city of Charleston, South Carolina, I found more intelligence and character among the free coloured population than anywhere else. The same was true of some of those in bondage. A respectable number might be seen in certain parts of the Episcopal churches which I attended, using their prayer-books, and joining in the responses of the church.

  Many purposes of convenience and hospitality were subserved by this encouragement of cultivation in some of the servants, on the part of the owners.

  When travelling many years since with a sick wife, and two female relatives, from Charleston to Virginia, at a period of the year when many of the families from the country resort to the town for health, we were kindly urged to call at


the seat of one of the first families in South Carolina; and a letter from the mistress, then in the city, was given us, to her servant, who had charge of the house in the absence of the family. On reaching there, and delivering the letter to a most respectable-looking female servant, who immediately read it, we were kindly welcomed and entertained, during a part of two days, as sumptuously as though the owner had been present. We understood that it was no uncommon thing in South Carolina for travellers to be thus entertained by the servants in the absence of the owners, on receiving letters from the same.

  Instances of confidential and affectionate relationship between servants and their masters and mistresses, such as are set forth in the following sketches, are still to be found in all the slave-holding States. I mention one, which has come under my own observation. The late Judge Upshur, of Virginia, had a faithful house-servant (by his will now set free), with whom he used to correspond on matters of business when he was absent on his circuit. I was dining at his house, some years since, with a number of persons, himself being absent, when the conversation turned on the subject of the presidential election, then going on through the United States, and about which there was an intense interest; when his servant informed us that he had that day received a letter from his master, then on the western shore, in which he stated that the friends of General Harrison might be relieved from all uneasiness, as the returns already received made his election quite certain.

  Of course it is not to be supposed that we design to convey the impression that such instances are numerous, the nature of the relationship forbidding it; but we do mean emphatically to affirm that there is far more of kindly and Christian intercourse than many at a distance are apt to believe. That there is a great and sad want of Christian instruction, notwithstanding the more recent efforts put forth to impart it, we most sorrowfully acknowledge.

  Bishop Meade adds that these sketches are published with the hope that they might have the effect of turning the attention of ministers and heads of families more seriously to the duty of caring for the souls of their servants.

  With regard to the servant of Judge Upshur, spoken of in this communication of Bishop Meade, his master has left, in his last will, the following remarkable tribute to his worth and excellence of character:—

  I emancipate and set free my servant, David Rice, and direct my executors to give him one hundred dollars. I recommend him in the strongest manner to the respect, esteem, and confidence of any community in which he may happen to live. He has been my slave for twenty-four years, during all which time he has been trusted to every extent, and in every respect; my confidence in him has been unbounded; his relation to myself and family has always been such as to afford him daily opportunities to deceive and injure us; yet he has never been detected in any serious fault, nor even in an unintentional breach of decorum of his station. His intelligence is of a high order, his integrity


above all suspicion, and his sense of right and propriety correct, and even refined. I feel that he is justly entitled to carry this certificate from me in the new relations which he must now form; it is due to his long and most faithful services, and to the sincere and steady friendship which I bear to him. In the uninterrupted confidential intercourse of twenty-four years, I have never given him, nor had occasion to give him, one unpleasant word. I know no man who has fewer faults or more excellences than he.

  In the free States there have been a few instances of such extraordinary piety among negroes, that their biography and sayings have been collected in religious tracts, and published for the instruction of the community.

  One of these was, before his conversion, a convict in a State-prison in New York, and there received what was, perhaps, the first religious instruction that had ever been imparted to him. He became so eminent an example of humility, faith, and, above all, fervent love, that his presence in the neighbourhood was esteemed a blessing to the church. A lady has described to the writer the manner in which he would stand up and exhort in the church-meetings for prayer, when, with streaming eyes and the deepest abasement, humbly addressing them as his masters and misses, he would nevertheless pour forth religious exhortations which were edifying to the most cultivated and refined.

  In the town of Brunswick, Maine, where the writer lived when writing “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” may now be seen the grave of an aged coloured woman, named Phebe, who was so eminent for her piety and loveliness of character, that the writer has never heard her name mentioned except with that degree of awe and respect which one would imagine due to a saint. The small cottage where she resided is still visited and looked upon as a sort of shrine, as the spot where old Phebe lived and prayed. Her prayers and pious exhortations were supposed to have been the cause of the conversion of many young people in the place. Notwithstanding that the unchristian feeling of caste prevails as strongly in Maine as anywhere else in New England, and the negro, commonly speaking, is an object of aversion and contempt, yet, so great was the influence of her piety and loveliness of character, that she was uniformly treated with the utmost respect and attention by all classes of people. The most cultivated and intelligent ladies of the place esteemed it a privilege to visit her cottage; and when she was old and helpless, her wants were most tenderly provided for. When the news of her death was spread abroad in the place, it excited a general and very tender sensation of regret. “We have lost Phebe's prayers,” was the


remark frequently made afterwards by members of the church, as they met one another. At her funeral, the ex-governor of the State and the professors of the college officiated as pall-bearers, and a sermon was preached, in which the many excellences of her Christian character were held up as an example to the community. A small religious tract, containing an account of her life, was published by the American Tract Society, prepared by a lady of Brunswick. The writer recollects that on reading the tract, when she first went to Brunswick, a doubt arose in her mind whether it was not somewhat exaggerated. Some time afterwards she overheard some young persons conversing together about the tract, and saying that they did not think it gave exactly the right idea of Phebe. “Why, is it too highly coloured?” was the inquiry of the author. “Oh, no, no, indeed!” was the earnest response; “it doesn't begin to give an idea of how good she was.”

  Such instances as these serve to illustrate the words of the Apostle, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”

  John Bunyan says, that although the valley of humiliation be unattractive in the eyes of the men of this world, yet the very sweetest flowers grow there. So it is with the condition of the lowly and poor in this world. God has often, indeed always, shown a particular regard for it, in selecting from that class the recipients of his grace. It is to be remembered that Jesus Christ, when he came to found the Christian dispensation, did not choose his apostles from the chief priests and the scribes, learned in the law and high in the church; nor did he choose them from philosophers and poets, whose educated and comprehensive minds might be supposed best able to appreciate his great designs; but he chose twelve plain, poor fishermen, who were ignorant, and felt that they were ignorant, and who, therefore, were willing to give themselves up with all simplicity to his guidance. What God asks of the soul more than anything else is faith and simplicity, the affection and reliance of the little child. Even these twelve fancied too much that they were wise, and Jesus was obliged to set a little child in the midst of them, as a more perfect teacher.

  The negro race is confessedly more simple, docile, childlike, and affectionate, than other races; and hence the divine graces of love and faith, when in-breathed by the Holy Spirit, find in their natural temperament a more congenial atmosphere.


  A last instance parallel with that of Uncle Tom is to be found in the published memoirs of the venerable Josiah Henson, now, as we have said, a clergyman in Canada. He was “raised” in the State of Maryland. His first recollections were of seeing his father mutilated and covered with blood, suffering the penalty of the law for the crime of raising his hand against a white man—that white man being the overseer, who had attempted a brutal assault upon his mother. This punishment made his father surly and dangerous, and he was subsequently sold South, and thus parted for ever from his wife and children. Henson grew up in a state of heathenism, without any religious instruction, till, in a camp-meeting, he first heard of Jesus Christ, and was electrified by the great and thrilling news that He had tasted death for every man, the bond as well as the free. This story produced an immediate conversion, such as we read of in the Acts of the Apostles, where the Ethiopian eunuch, from one interview, hearing the story of the cross, at once believes and is baptized. Henson forthwith not only became a Christian, but began to declare the news to those about him; and, being a man of great natural force of mind and strength of character, his earnest endeavours to enlighten his fellow-heathen were so successful, that he was gradually led to assume the station of a negro preacher; and though he could not read a word of the Bible or hymn-book, his labours in this line were much prospered. He became immediately a very valuable slave to his master, and was intrusted by the latter with the oversight of his whole estate, which he managed with great judgment and prudence. His master appears to have been a very ordinary man in every respect,—to have been entirely incapable of estimating him in any other light than as exceedingly valuable property, and to have had no other feeling excited by his extraordinary faithfulness than the desire to make the most of him. When his affairs became embarrassed, he formed the design of removing all his negroes into Kentucky, and intrusted the operation entirely to his overseer. Henson was to take them alone, without any other attendant, from Maryland to Kentucky, a distance of some thousands of miles, giving only his promise as a Christian that he would faithfully perform this undertaking. On the way thither they passed through a portion of Ohio, and there Henson was informed that he could now secure his own freedom and that of all his fellows, and he was strongly urged to do it. He was exceedingly tempted and tried, but his Christian principle was invulnerable. No inducements could lead him to feel that it was right for a Christian to violate a pledge solemnly


given, and his influence over the whole band was so great that he took them all with him into Kentucky. Those causists among us who lately seem to think and teach that it is right for us to violate the plain commands of God, whenever some great national good can be secured by it, would do well to contemplate the inflexible principle of this poor slave, who, without being able to read a letter of the Bible, was yet enabled to perform this most sublime act of self-renunciation in obedience to its commands. Subsequently to this, his master, in a relenting moment, was induced by a friend to sell him his freedom for four hundred dollars; but, when the excitement of the importunity had passed off, he regretted that he had suffered so valuable a piece of property to leave his hands for so slight a remuneration. By an unworthy artifice, therefore, he got possession of his servant's free papers, and condemned him still to hopeless slavery. Subsequently, his affairs becoming still more involved, he sent his son down the river with a flat boat loaded with cattle and produce for the New Orleans market, directing him to take Henson along, and sell him after they had sold the cattle and the boat. All the depths of the negro's soul were torn up and thrown into convulsion by this horrible piece of ingratitude, cruelty and injustice; and, while outwardly calm, he was struggling with most bitter temptations from within, which, as he could not read the Bible, he could repel only by a recollection of its sacred truths, and by earnest prayer. As he neared the New Orleans market, he says that these convulsions of soul increased, especially when he met some of his old companions from Kentucky, whose despairing countenances and emaciated forms told of hard work and insufficient food, and confirmed all his worst fears of the lower country. In the transports of his despair, the temptation was more urgently presented to him to murder his young master and the other hand on the flat boat in their sleep, to seize upon the boat, and make his escape. He thus relates the scene where he was almost brought to the perpetration of this deed:—

  One dark, rainy night, within a few days of New Orleans, my hour seemed to have come. I was alone on the deck; Mr. Amos and the hands were all asleep below, and I crept down noiselessly, got hold of an axe, entered the cabin, and looking by the aid of the dim light there for my victims, my eye fell upon Master Amos, who was nearest to me; my hand slid along the axe-handle, I raised it to strike the fatal blow, when suddenly the thought came to me, “What! commit murder! and you a Christian?” I had not called it murder before. It was self-defence—it was preventing others from murdering me—it was justifiable, it was even praiseworthy. But now, all at once, the truth burst upon me that it was a crime. I was going to kill a young man, who had done nothing to injure me, but obey commands which he could not resist; I was about


to lose the fruit of all my efforts at self-improvement, the character I had acquired, and the peace of mind which had never deserted me. All this came upon me instantly, and with a distinctness which made me almost think I heard it whispered in my ear; and I believe I even turned my head to listen. I shrunk back, laid down the axe, crept up on deck again, and thanked God, as I have done every day since, that I had not committed murder.

  My feelings were still agitated, but they were changed. I was filled with shame and remorse for the design I had entertained, and with the fear that my companions would detect it in my face, or that a careless word would betray my guilty thoughts. I remained on deck all night, instead of rousing one of the men to relieve me; and nothing brought composure to my mind, but the solemn resolution I then made to resign myself to the will of God, and take with thankfulness, if I could, but with submission, at all events, whatever he might decide should be my lot. I reflected that if my life were reduced to a brief term, I should have less to suffer, and that it was better to die with a Christian's hope, and a quiet conscience, than to live with the incessant recollection of a crime that would destroy the value of life, and under the weight of a secret that would crush out the satisfaction that might be expected from freedom, and every other blessing.

  Subsequently to this, his young master was taken violently down with the river fever, and became as helpless as a child. He passionately entreated Henson not to desert him, but to attend to the selling of the boat and produce, and put him on board the steamboat, and not to leave him, dead or alive, till he had carried him back to his father.

  The young master was borne in the arms of his faithful servant to the steamboat, and there nursed by him with unremitting attention during the journey up the river; nor did he leave him till he had placed him in his father's arms.

  Our love for human nature would lead us to add, with sorrow, that all this disinterestedness and kindness was rewarded only by empty praises, such as would be bestowed upon a very fine dog; and Henson indignantly resolved no longer to submit to the injustice. With a degree of prudence, courage, and address, which can scarcely find a parallel in any history, he managed, with his wife and two children, to escape into Canada. Here he learned to read, and by his superior talent and capacity for management, laid the foundation of the fugitive settlement of Dawn, which is understood to be one of the most flourishing in Canada.

  It would be well for the most cultivated of us to ask, whether our ten talents in the way of religious knowledge have enabled us to bring forth as much fruit to the glory of God, to withstand temptation as patiently, to return good for evil as disinterestedly, as this poor ignorant slave. A writer in England has sneeringly


remarked that such a man as Uncle Tom might be imported as a missionary to teach the most cultivated in England or America the true nature of religion. These instances show that what has been said with a sneer is in truth a sober verity; and it should never be forgotten that out of this race whom man despiseth have often been chosen of God true messengers of his grace, and temples for the indwelling of his Spirit.

  “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

  The vision attributed to Uncle Tom introduces quite a curious chapter of psychology with regard to the negro race, and indicates a peculiarity which goes far to show how very different they are from the white race. They are possessed of a nervous organisation peculiarly susceptible and impressible. Their sensations and impressions are very vivid, and their fancy and imagination lively. In this respect the race has an Oriental character, and betrays its tropical origin. Like the Hebrews of old and the Oriental nations of the present, they give vent to their emotions with the utmost vivacity of expression, and their whole bodily system sympathises with the movements of their minds. When in distress, they actually lift up their voices to weep, and “cry with an exceeding bitter cry.” When alarmed, they are often paralysed, and rendered entirely helpless. Their religious exercises are all coloured by this sensitive and exceedingly vivacious temperament. Like Oriental nations, they incline much to outward expressions, violent gesticulations, and agitating movements of the body. Sometimes in their religious meetings they will spring from the floor many times in succession, with a violence and rapidity which is perfectly astonishing. They will laugh, weep, and embrace each other convulsively, and sometimes become entirely paralysed and cataleptic. A clergyman from the North once remonstrated with a Southern clergyman for permitting such extravagances among his flock. The reply of the Southern minister was, in effect, this: “Sir, I am satisfied that the races are so essentially different that they cannot be regulated by the same rules. I at first felt as you do; and though I saw that genuine conversions did take place, with all this outward manifestation, I was still so much annoyed by it as to forbid it among my negroes, till I was satisfied that the repression of it was a serious hindrance to real religious feeling; and then I became certain that all men cannot be regulated in their religious exercises by one model. I am assured that con-


versions produced with these accessories are quite as apt to be genuine, and to be as influential over the heart and life, as those produced in any other way.” The fact is, that the Anglo-Saxon race—cool, logical, and practical—have yet to learn the doctrine of toleration for the peculiarities of other races; and perhaps it was with a foresight of their peculiar character and dominant position in the earth, that God gave the Bible to them in the fervent language and with the glowing imagery of the more susceptible and passionate Oriental races.

  Mesmerists have found that the negroes are singularly susceptible to all that class of influences which produce catalepsy, mesmeric sleep, and partial clairvoyant phenomena.

  The African race, in their own climate, are believers in spells, in “fetish and obi,” in “the evil eye,” and other singular influences, for which probably there is an origin in this peculiarity of constitution. The magicians in scriptural history were Africans; and the so-called magical arts are still practised in Egypt, and other parts of Africa, with a degree of skill and success which can only be accounted for by supposing peculiarities of nervous constitution quite different from those of the whites. Considering those distinctive traits of the race, it is no matter of surprise to find in their religious histories, when acted upon by the powerful stimulant of the Christian religion, very peculiar features. We are not surprised to find almost constantly, in the narrations of their religious histories, accounts of visions, of heavenly voices, of mysterious sympathies and transmissions of knowledge from heart to heart without the intervention of the senses, or what the Quakers call being “baptized into the spirit” of those who are distant.

  Cases of this kind are constantly recurring in their histories. The young man whose story was related to the Boston lady, and introduced above in the chapter on George Harris, stated this incident concerning the recovery of his liberty: That after the departure of his wife and sister, he for a long time, and very earnestly, sought some opportunity of escape, but that every avenue appeared to be closed to him. At length, in despair, he retreated to his room, and threw himself upon his bed, resolving to give up the undertaking, when just as he was sinking to sleep, he was roused by a voice saying in his ear, “Why do you sleep now? Rise up, if you ever mean to be free!” He sprang up, went immediately out, and in the course of two hours discovered the means of escape which he used.

  A lady whose history is known to the writer resided for some time on a Southern plantation, and was in the habit of imparting


religious instruction to the slaves. One day a woman from a distant plantation called at her residence, and inquired for her. The lady asked in surprise, “How did you know about me?” The old woman's reply was, that she had long been distressed about her soul; but that, several nights before, some one had appeared to her in a dream, told her to go to this plantation and inquire for the strange lady there, and that she would teach her the way to heaven.

  Another specimen of the same kind was related to the writer, by a slave-woman who had been through the whole painful experience of a slave's life. She was originally a young girl of pleasing exterior and gentle nature, carefully reared as a seamstress and nurse to the children of a family in Virginia, and attached with all the warmth of her susceptible nature to these children. Although one of the tenderest of mothers when the writer knew her, yet she assured the writer that she had never loved a child of her own as she loved the dear little young mistress who was her particular charge. Owing, probably, to some pecuniary difficulty in the family, this girl, whom we call Louisa, was sold to go on to a Southern plantation. She has often described the scene when she was forced into a carriage, and saw her dear young mistress leaning from the window, stretching her arms towards her, screaming and calling her name with all the vehemence of childish grief. She was carried in a coffle, and sold as cook on a Southern plantation. With the utmost earnestness of language she has described to the writer her utter loneliness, and the distress and despair of her heart, in this situation, parted for ever from all she held dear on earth, without even the possibility of writing letters or sending messages, surrounded by those who felt no kind of interest in her, and forced to a toil for which her more delicate education had entirely unfitted her. Under these circumstances, she began to believe that it was for some dreadful sin she had thus been afflicted. The course of her mind after this may be best told in her own simple words:—

  “After that, I began to feel awful wicked—oh, so wicked, you've no idea! I felt so wicked that my sins seemed like a load on me, and I went so heavy all the day! I felt so wicked that I didn't feel worthy to pray in the house, and I used to go way off in the lot and pray. At last one day, when I was praying, the Lord he came and spoke to me.”

  “The Lord spoke to you? What do you mean, Louisa?”

  With a face of the utmost earnestness she answered, “Why, ma'am, the Lord Jesus he came and spoke to me, you know; and I never, till the last day of my life, shall forget what he said to me.”


  “What was it?” said the writer.

  “He said, `Fear not, my little one; thy sins are forgiven thee;'” and she added to this some verses, which the writer recognized as those of a Methodist hymn.

  Being curious to examine more closely this phenomenon, the author said,

  “You mean that you dreamed this, Louisa?”

  With an air of wounded feeling, and much earnestness, she answered,

  “O no, Mrs. Stowe; that never was a dream; you'll never make me believe that.”

  The thought at once arose in the writer's mind, If the Lord Jesus is indeed everywhere present, and if he is as tender-hearted and compassionate as he was on earth—and we know he is— must he not sometimes long to speak to the poor desolate slave, when he knows that no voice but His can carry comfort and healing to his soul?

  This instance of Louisa is so exactly parallel to another case, which the author received from an authentic source, that she is tempted to place the two side by side.

  Among the slaves who were brought into the New England States, at the time when slavery was prevalent, was one woman, who immediately on being told the history of the love of Jesus Christ, exclaimed, “He is the one; this is what I wanted!”

  This language causing surprise, her history was inquired into. It was briefly this:—While living in her simple hut in Africa, the kidnappers one day rushed upon her family, and carried her husband and children off to the slave-ship, she escaping into the woods. On returning to her desolate home, she mourned with the bitterness of “Rachel weeping for her children.” For many days her heart was oppressed with a heavy weight of sorrow; and, refusing all sustenance, she wandered up and down the desolate forest.

  At last, she says, a strong impulse came over her to kneel down and pour out her sorrows into the ear of some unknown Being whom she fancied to be above her, in the sky.

  She did so; and to her surprise, found an inexpressible sensation of relief. After this, it was her custom daily to go out to this same spot, and supplicate this unknown Friend. Subsequently, she was herself taken and brought over to America; and when the story of Jesus and his love was related to her, she immediately felt in her soul that this Jesus was the very friend who had spoken comfort to her yearning spirit in the distant forest of Africa.


  Compare now these experiences with the earnest and beautiful language of Paul: “He hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation, that THEY SHOULD seek the Lord, if haply they might FEEL AFTER HIM AND FIND HIM, though he be not far from every one of us.”

  Is not this truly “feeling after God and finding Him?” And may we not hope that the yearning, troubled, helpless heart of man, pressed by the insufferable anguish of this short life, or wearied by its utter vanity, never extends its ignorant pleading hand to God in vain? Is not the veil which divides us from an almighty and most merciful Father much thinner than we, in the pride of our philosophy, are apt to imagine? and is it not the most worthy conception of Him to suppose that the more utterly helpless and ignorant the human being is that seeks His aid, the more tender and the more condescending will be His communication with that soul?

  If a mother has among her children one whom sickness has made blind, or deaf, or dumb, incapable of acquiring knowledge through the usual channels of communication, does she not seek to reach its darkened mind by modes of communication tenderer and more intimate than those which she uses with the stronger and more favoured ones? But can the love of any mother be compared with the infinite love of Jesus? Has He not described himself as that good Shepherd who leaves the whole flock of secure and well-instructed ones, to follow over the mountains of sin and ignorance the one lost sheep; and when He hath found it, rejoicing more over that one than over the ninety and nine that went not astray? Has He not told us that each of these little ones has a guardian angel that doth always behold the face of his Father which is in heaven? And is it not comforting to us to think that His love and care will be in proportion to the ignorance and the wants of His chosen ones?

* * * * *

  Since the above was prepared for the press the author has received the following extract from a letter written by a gentleman in Missouri to the editor of the Oberlin (Ohio) Evangelist:

  I really thought, while reading “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” that the authoress, when describing the character of Tom, had in her mind's eye a slave whose acquaintance I made some years since, in the State of Mississippi, called “Uncle Jacob.” I was staying a day or two with a planter, and in the evening, when out in the yard, I heard a well-known hymn and tune sung in one of the “quarters,” and


then the voice of prayer; and oh, such a prayer! what fervour! what unction! nay, the man “prayed right up;” and when I read of Uncle Tom, how “nothing could exceed the touching simplicity, the child-like earnestness, of his prayer, enriched with the language of Scripture, which seemed so entirely to have wrought itself into his being as to have become a part of himself,” the recollections of that evening prayer were strangely vivid. On entering the house, and referring to what I had heard, his master replied, “Ah, sir, if I covet anything in this world, it is Uncle Jacob's religion. If there is a good man on earth, he certainly is one.” He said Uncle Jacob was a regulator on the plantation; that a word or a look from him, addressed to younger slaves, had more efficiency than a blow from the overseer.

  The next morning Uncle Jacob informed me he was from Kentucky, opposite Cincinnati; that his opportunities for attending religious worship had been frequent; that at about the age of forty he was sold South, was set to picking cotton; could not, when doing his best, pick the task assigned him; was whipped and whipped, he could not possibly tell how often; was of opinion that the overseer came to the conclusion that whipping could not bring one more pound out of him, for he set him to driving a team. At this and other work he could “make a hand;” had changed owners three or four times. He expressed himself as well pleased with his present situation as he expected to be in the South, but was yearning to return to his former associations in Kentucky.


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



  MISS OPHELIA stands as the representative of a numerous class of the very best of Northern people; to whom perhaps, if our Lord should again address his churches a letter, as he did those of old time, he would use the same words as then: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars; and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”

  There are in this class of people, activity, zeal, unflinching conscientiousness, clear intellectual discriminations between truth and error, and great logical and doctrinal correctness; but there is a want of that spirit of love, without which, in the eye of Christ, the most perfect character is as deficient as a wax flower —wanting in life and perfume.

  Yet this blessed principle is not dead in their hearts, but only sleepeth; and so great is the real and genuine goodness, that when the true magnet of divine love is applied, they always answer to its touch.

  So when the gentle Eva, who is an impersonation in childish form of the love of Christ, solves at once, by a blessed instinct, the problem which Ophelia has long been unable to solve by dint of utmost hammering and vehement effort, she at once, with a good and honest heart, perceives and acknowledges her mistake, and is willing to learn even of a little child.

  Miss Ophelia, again, represents one great sin, of which, unconsciously, American Christians have allowed themselves to be guilty. Unconsciously it must be, for nowhere is conscience so predominant as among this class, and nowhere is there a more honest strife to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

  One of the first and most declared objects of the gospel has


been to break down all those irrational barriers and prejudices which separate the human brotherhood into diverse and contending clans. Paul says, “In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.” The Jews at that time were separated from the Gentiles by an insuperable wall of prejudice. They could not eat and drink together, nor pray together. But the apostles most earnestly laboured to show them the sin of this prejudice. St. Paul says to the Ephesians, speaking of this former division, “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

  It is very easy to see that, although slavery has been abolished in the New England States, it has left behind it the most baneful feature of the system—that which makes American worse than Roman slavery—the prejudice of caste and colour. In the New England States the negro has been treated as belonging to an inferior race of beings; forced to sit apart by himself in the place of worship; his children excluded from the schools; himself excluded from the railroad-car and the omnibus, and the peculiarities of his race made the subject of bitter contempt and ridicule.

  This course of conduct has been justified by saying that they are a degraded race. But how came they degraded? Take any class of men, and shut them from the means of education, deprive them of hope and self-respect, close to them all avenues of honourable ambition, and you will make just such a race of them as the negroes have been among us.

  So singular and so melancholy is the dominion of prejudice over the human mind, that professors of Christianity in our New England States have often, with very serious self-denial to themselves, sent the gospel to heathen as dark-complexioned as the Africans, when in their very neighbourhood were persons of dark complexion, who, on that account, were forbidden to send their children to the schools and discouraged from entering the churches. The effect of this has been directly to degrade and depress the race; and then this very degradation and depression has been pleaded as the reason for continuing this course.

  Not long since the writer called upon a benevolent lady, and during the course of the call the conversation turned upon the incidents of a fire which had occurred the night before in the neighbourhood. A deserted house had been burned to the ground. The lady said it was supposed it had been set on fire. “What could be any one's motive for setting it on fire?” said the writer.

  “Well,” replied the lady, “it was supposed that a coloured


family was about to move into it, and it was thought that the neighbourhood wouldn't consent to that. So it was supposed that was the reason.”

  This was said with an air of innocence and much unconcern.

  The writer inquired, “Was it a family of bad character?”

  “No, not particularly, that I know of,” said the lady; “but then they are negroes, you know.”

  Now, this lady is a very pious lady. She probably would deny herself to send the gospel to the heathen; and if she had ever thought of considering this family a heathen family, would have felt the deepest interest in their welfare, because on the subject of duty to the heathen she had been frequently instructed from the pulpit, and had all her religious and conscientious sensibilities awake. Probably she had never listened from the pulpit to a sermon which should exhibit the great truth, that “in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.”

  Supposing our Lord was now on earth, as he was once, what course is it probable that he would pursue with regard to this unchristian prejudice of colour?

  There was a class of men in those days as much despised by the Jews as the negroes are by us; and it was a complaint made of Christ that he was a friend of publicans and sinners. And if Christ should enter, on some communion season, into a place of worship, and see the coloured man sitting afar off by himself, would it not be just in his spirit to go there and sit with him, rather than to take the seats of his richer and more prosperous brethren?

  It is, however, but just to our Northern Christians to say that this sin has been committed ignorantly and in unbelief, and that within a few years signs of a much better spirit have begun to manifest themselves. In some places, recently, the doors of school-houses have been thrown open to the children, and many a good Miss Ophelia has opened her eyes in astonishment to find that, while she has been devouring the Missionary Herald, and going without butter on her bread and sugar in her tea to send the gospel to the Sandwich Islands, there is a very thriving colony of heathen in her own neighbourhood at home; and, true to her own good and honest heart, she has resolved not to give up her prayers and efforts for the heathen abroad, but to add thereunto labours for the heathen at home.

  Our safety and hope in this matter is this: that there are multitudes in all our churches who do most truly and sincerely love Christ above all things, and who, just so soon as a little re-


flection shall have made them sensible of their duty in this respect, will most earnestly perform it.

  It is true that, if they do so, they may be called Abolitionists; but the true Miss Ophelia is not afraid of a hard name in a good cause, and has rather learned to consider “the reproach of Christ a greater treasure than the riches of Egypt.”

  That there is much already for Christians to do in enlightening the moral sense of the community on this subject, will appear if we consider that even so well-educated and gentlemanly a man as Frederick Douglass was recently obliged to pass the night on the deck of a steamer, when in delicate health, because this senseless prejudice deprived him of a place in the cabin; and that that very laborious and useful minister, Dr. Pennington, of New York, has, during the last season, been often obliged seriously to endanger his health, by walking to his pastoral labours, over his very extended parish, under a burning sun, because he could not be allowed the common privilege of the omnibus, which conveys every class of white men, from the most refined to the lowest and most disgusting.

  Let us consider now the number of professors of the religion of Christ in New York; and consider also that, by the very fact of their profession, they consider Dr. Pennington the brother of their Lord, and a member with them of the body of Christ.

  Now, these Christians are influential, rich and powerful; they can control public sentiment on any subject that they think of any particular importance; and they profess, by their religion, that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”

  It is a serious question, whether such a marked indignity offered to Christ and his ministry, in the person of a coloured brother, without any remonstrance on their parts, will not lead to a general feeling that all that the Bible says about the union of Christians is a mere hollow sound, and means nothing.

  Those who are anxious to do something directly to improve the condition of the slave can do it in no way so directly as by elevating the condition of the free coloured people around them, and taking every pains to give them equal rights and privileges.

  This unchristian prejudice has doubtless stood in the way of the emancipation of hundreds of slaves. The slaveholder, feeling and acknowledging the evils of slavery, has come to the North, and seen evidences of this unkindly and unchristian state of feeling towards the slave, and has thus reflected within himself:—

  “If I keep my slave at the South, he is, it is true, under the dominion of a very severe law; but then he enjoys the advan-


tage of my friendship and assistance, and derives, through his connexion with me and my family, some kind of a position in the community. As my servant, he is allowed a seat in the car, and a place at the table. But if I emancipate and send him North, he will encounter substantially all the disadvantages of slavery, with no master to protect him.”

  This mode of reasoning has proved an apology to many a man for keeping his slaves in a position which he confesses to be a bad one; and it will be at once perceived that, should the position of the negro be conspicuously reversed in our Northern States, the effect upon the emancipation of the slave would be very great. They, then, who keep up this prejudice may be said to be, in a certain sense, slaveholders.

  It is not meant by this that all distinctions of society should be broken over, and that people should be obliged to choose their intimate associates from a class unfitted by education and habits to sympathise with them.

  The negro should not be lifted out of his sphere of life because he is a negro; but he should be treated with Christian courtesy in his sphere. In the railroad-car, in the omnibus and steam-boat, all ranks and degrees of white persons move with unquestioned freedom side by side; and Christianity requires that the negro have the same privilege.

  That the dirtiest and most uneducated foreigner or American, with breath redolent of whisky, and clothes foul and disordered, should have an unquestioned right to take a seat next to any person in a railroad-car or steam-boat, and that the respectable, decent, and gentlemanly negro, should be excluded simply because he is a negro, cannot be considered otherwise than as an irrational and unchristian thing; and any Christian who allows such things done in his presence without remonstrance and the use of his Christian influence, will certainly be made deeply sensible of his error when he comes at last to direct and personal interview with his Lord.

  There is no hope for this matter if the love of Christ is not strong enough, and if it cannot be said, with regard to the two races, “He is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

  The time is coming rapidly when the upper classes in society must learn that their education, wealth, and refinement, are not their own; that they have no right to use them for their own selfish benefit; but that they should hold them rather, as Fenelon expresses it, as “a ministry,” a stewardship, which they hold in trust for the benefit of their poorer brethren.


  In some of the very highest circles in England and America, we begin to see illustrious examples of the commencement of such a condition of things.

  One of the merchant princes of Boston, whose funeral has lately been celebrated in our city, afforded in his life a beautiful example of this truth. His wealth was the wealth of thousands. He was the steward of the widow and the orphan. His funds were a savings' bank, wherein were laid up the resources of the poor; and the mourners at his funeral were the scholars of the schools which he had founded, the officers of literary institutions which his munificence had endowed, the widows and orphans whom he had counselled and supported, and the men, in all ranks and conditions of life, who had been made by his benevolence to feel that his wealth was their wealth. May God raise up many men in Boston to enter into the spirit and labours of Amos Lawrence!

  This is the true socialism, which comes from the spirit of Christ, and, without breaking down existing orders of society, by love makes the property and possessions of the higher class the property of the lower.

  Men are always seeking to begin their reforms with the outward and physical. Christ begins his reforms in the heart. Men would break up all ranks of society, and throw all property into a common stock; but Christ would inspire the higher class with that Divine Spirit by which all the wealth, and means, and advantages of their position are used for the good of the lower.

  We see, also, in the highest aristocracy of England instances of the same tendency.

  Among her oldest nobility there begin to arise lecturers to mechanics and patrons of ragged-schools; and it is said that even on the throne of England is a woman who weekly instructs her class of Sunday-school scholars from the children in the vicinity of her country residence.

  In this way, and not by an outward and physical division of property, shall all things be had in common. And when the white race shall regard their superiority over the coloured one only as a talent intrusted for the advantage of their weaker brother, then will the prejudice of caste melt away in the light of Christianity.


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



  MARIE ST. CLARE is the type of a class of women not peculiar to any latitude, nor any condition of society. She may be found in England or in America. In the northern free States we have many Marie St. Clares, more or less fully developed.

  When found in a northern latitude, she is for ever in trouble about her domestic relations. Her servants never do anything right. Strange to tell, they are not perfect, and she thinks it a very great shame. She is fully convinced that she ought to have every moral and Christian virtue in her kitchen for a little less than the ordinary wages; and when her cook leaves her, because she finds she can get better wages and less work in a neighbouring family, she thinks it shockingly selfish, unprincipled conduct. She is of opinion that servants ought to be perfectly disinterested; that they ought to be willing to take up with the worst rooms in the house, with very moderate wages, and very indifferent food, when they can get much better elsewhere, purely for the sake of pleasing her. She likes to get hold of foreign servants, who have not yet learned our ways, who are used to working for low wages, and who will be satisfied with almost anything; but she is often heard to lament that they soon get spoiled, and want as many privileges as anybody else—which is perfectly shocking. Marie often wishes that she could be a slaveholder, or could live somewhere where the lower class are kept down, and made to know their place. She is always hunting for cheap seamstresses, and will tell you, in an under-tone, that she has discovered a woman who will make linen shirts beautifully, stitch the collars and wristbands twice, all for thirty-seven cents, when many seamstresses get a dollar for it; says she does it because she's poor, and has no friends; thinks you had better be careful in your conversation, and not let her know what prices are, or else she will get spoiled, and go to raising her price—these sewing-women are so selfish. When Marie St. Clare has the misfortune to live in a free State, there is no end to her troubles. Her cook is always going off for


better wages and more comfortable quarters; her chambermaid, strangely enough, won't agree to be chambermaid and seamstress both for half wages, and so she deserts. Marie's kitchen-cabinet, therefore, is always in a state of revolution; and she often declares, with affected earnestness, that servants are the torment of her life. If her husband endeavour to remonstrate, or suggest another mode of treatment, he is a hard-hearted, unfeeling man; “he doesn't love her, and she always knew he didn't;” and so he is disposed of.

  But when Marie comes under a system of laws which gives her absolute control over her dependants, which enables her to separate them, at her pleasure, from their dearest family connexions, or to inflict upon them the most disgraceful and violent punishments, without even the restraint which seeing the execution might possibly produce—then it is that the character arrives at full maturity. Human nature is no worse at the South than at the North; but law at the South distinctly provides for and protects the worst abuses to which that nature is liable.

  It is often supposed that domestic servitude in slave-states is a kind of paradise; that house-servants are invariably pets; that young mistresses are always fond of their “mammies,” and young masters always handsome, good-natured, and indulgent.

  Let anyone in Old England or New England look about among their immediate acquaintances, and ask how many there are who would use absolute despotic power amiably in a family, especially over a class degraded by servitude, ignorant, indolent, deceitful, provoking, as slaves almost necessarily are, and always must be.

  Let them look into their own hearts, and ask themselves if they would dare to be trusted with such a power. Do they not find in themselves temptations to be unjust to those who are inferiors and dependants? Do they not find themselves tempted to be irritable and provoked, when the service of their families is negligently performed? And if they had the power to inflict cruel punishments, or to have them inflicted by sending the servant out to some place of correction, would they not be tempted to use that liberty?

  With regard to those degrading punishments to which females are subjected, by being sent to professional whippers, or by having such functionaries sent for to the house—as John Caphart testifies that he has often been in Baltimore—what can be said of their influence both on the superior and on the inferior class? It is very painful indeed to contemplate this


subject. The mind instinctively shrinks from it; but still it is a very serious question whether it be not our duty to encounter this pain, that our sympathies may be quickened into more active exercise. For this reason we give here the testimony of a gentleman whose accuracy will not be doubted, and who subjected himself to the pain of being an eye-witness to a scene of this kind in the calaboose in New Orleans. As the reader will perceive from the account, it was a scene of such every-day occurrence as not to excite any particular remark, or any expression of sympathy from those of the same condition and colour with the sufferer.

  When our missionaries first went to India, it was esteemed a duty among Christian nations to make themselves acquainted with the cruelties and atrocities of idolatrous worship, as a means of quickening our zeal to send them the gospel.

  If it be said that we in the free States have no such interest in slavery, as we do not support it, and have no power to prevent it, it is replied that slavery does exist in the district of Columbia, which belongs to the whole United States; and that the free States are, before God, guilty of the crime of continuing it there, unless they will honestly do what in them lies for its extermination.

  The subjoined account was written by the benevolent Dr. Howe, whose labours in behalf of the blind have rendered his name dear to humanity, and was sent in a letter to the Hon. Charles Summer. If anyone think it too painful to be perused, let him ask himself if God will hold those guiltless who suffer a system to continue, the details of which they cannot even read. That this describes a common scene in the calaboose we shall by and by produce other witnesses to show.

  I have passed ten days in New Orleans, not unprofitably, I trust, in examining the public institutions—the schools, asylums, hospitals, prisons, &c. With the exception of the first, there is little hope of amelioration. I know not how much merit there may be in their system; but I do know that, in the administration of the penal code, there are abominations which should bring down the fate of Sodom upon the city. If Howard or Mrs. Fry ever discovered so ill-administered a den of thieves as the New Orleans prison, they never described it. In the negroes' apartment I saw much which made me blush that I was a white man, and which, for a moment, stirred up an evil spirit in my animal nature. Entering a large paved court-yard, around which ran galleries filled with slaves of all ages, sexes, and colours, I heard the snap of a whip, every stroke of which sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol. I turned my head, and beheld a sight which absolutely chilled me to the marrow of my bones, and gave me, for the first time in my life, the sensation of my hair stiffening at the roots. There lay a black girl flat upon her face, on a board, her two thumbs tied, and fastened to one end, her


feet tied and drawn tightly to the other end, while a strap passed over the small of her back, and, fastened around the board, compressed her closely to it. Below the strap she was entirely naked. By her side, and six feet off, stood a huge negro, with a long whip, which he applied with dreadful power and wonderful precision. Every stroke brought away a strip of skin, which clung to the lash, or fell quivering on the pavement, while the blood followed after it. The poor creature writhed and shrieked, and, in a voice which showed alike her fear of death and her dreadful agony, screamed to her master who stood at her head, “Oh, spare my life! don't cut my soul out!” But still fell the horrid lash; till strip after strip peeled off from the skin; gash after gash was cut in her living flesh, until it became a livid and bloody mass of raw and quivering muscle. It was with the greatest difficulty I refrained from springing upon the torturer, and arresting his lash; but, alas! what could I do, but turn aside to hide my tears for the sufferer, and my blushes for humanity? This was in a public and regularly-organised prison; the punishment was one recognised and authorised by the law. But think you the poor wretch had committed a heinous offence, and had been convicted thereof, and sentenced to the lash? Not at all. She was brought by her master to be whipped by the common executioner, without trial, judge or jury, just at his beck or nod, for some real or supposed offence, or to gratify his own whim or malice. And he may bring her day after day, without cause assigned, and inflict any number of lashes he pleases, short of twenty-five, provided only he pays the fee. Or, if he choose, he may have a private whipping-board on his own premises, and brutalise himself there. A shocking part of this horrid punishment was its publicity, as I have said; it was in a court-yard surrounded by galleries, which were filled with coloured persons of all sexes—runaways, slaves committed for some crime, or slaves up for sale. You would naturally suppose they crowded forward, and gazed, horror-stricken, at the brutal spectacle below; but they did not; many of them hardly noticed it, and many were entirely indifferent to it. They went on in their childish pursuits, and some were laughing outright in the distant parts of the galleries; so low can man, created in God's image, be sunk in brutality.


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



  IT is with pleasure that we turn from the dark picture just presented, to the character of the generous and noble-hearted St. Clare, wherein the fairest picture of our Southern brother is presented.

  It has been the writer's object to separate carefully, as far as possible, the system from the men. It is her sincere belief that, while the irresponsible power of slavery is such that no human being ought ever to possess it, probably that power was never exercised more leniently than in many cases in the Southern States. She has been astonished to see how, under all the disadvantages which attend the early possession of arbitrary power, all the temptations which every reflecting mind must see will arise from the possession of this power in various forms, there are often developed such fine and interesting traits of character. To say that these cases are common, alas! is not in our power. Men know human nature too well to believe us if we should. But the more dreadful the evil to be assailed, the more careful should we be to be just in our apprehensions, and to balance the horror which certain abuses must necessarily excite, by a consideration of those excellent and redeeming traits which are often found in individuals connected with the system.

  The twin brothers, Alfred and Augustine St. Clare, represent two classes of men which are to be found in all countries. They are the radically aristocratic and democratic men. The aristocrat by position is not always the aristocrat by nature, and vice versâ; but the aristocrat by nature, whether he be in a higher or lower position in society, is he who, though he may be just, generous, and humane, to those whom he considers his equals, is entirely insensible to the wants and sufferings, and common humanity of those whom he considers the lower orders. The sufferings of a countess would make him weep, the sufferings of a seamstress are quite another matter.

  On the other hand, the democrat is often found in the highest position of life. To this man, superiority to his brother is a thing which he can never boldly and nakedly assert without a


secret pain. In the lowest and humblest walk of life, he acknowledges the sacredness of a common humanity; and however degraded by the opinions and institutions of society any particular class may be, there is an instinctive feeling in his soul which teaches him that they are men of like passions with himself. Such men have a penetration which at once sees through all the false shows of outward custom which make one man so dissimilar to another, to those great generic capabilities, sorrows, wants, and weaknesses, wherein all men and women are alike; and there is no such thing as making them realize that one order of human beings have any prescriptive right over another order, or that the tears and sufferings of one are not just as good as those of another order.

  That such men are to be found at the South in the relation of slave-masters, that when so found they cannot and will not be deluded by any of the shams and sophistry wherewith slavery has been defended, that they look upon it as a relic of a barbarous age, and utterly scorn and contemn all its apologists, we can abundantly show. Many of the most illustrious Southern men of the Revolution were of this class, and many men of distinguished position of later day have entertained the same sentiments.

  Witness the following letter of Patrick Henry, the sentiments of which are so much an echo of those of St. Clare that the reader might suppose one to be a copy of the other:—


  Hanover, January 18th, 1773.

  DEAR SIR,—I take this opportunity to acknowledge the receipt of Anthony Benezet's book against the slave-trade; I thank you for it. Is it not a little surprising that the professors of Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart, in cherishing and improving its finer feelings, should encourage a practice so totally repugnant to the first impressions of right and wrong? What adds to the wonder is, that this abominable practice has been introduced in the most enlightened ages. Times that seem to have pretensions to boast of high improvements in the arts and sciences, and refined morality, have brought into general use, and guarded by many laws, a species of violence and tyranny which our more rude and barbarous but more honest ancestors detested. Is it not amazing that at a time when the rights of humanity are defined and understood with precision, in a country above all others fond of liberty—that in such an age and in such a country we find men professing a religion the most mild, humane, gentle, and generous, adopting such a principle, as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible, and destructive to liberty? Every thinking, honest man rejects it in speculation. How free in practice from conscientious motives!

  Would anyone believe that I am master of slaves of my own purchase? I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them. I


will not, I cannot justify it. However culpable my conduct, I will so far pay my devoir to Virtue as to own the excellence and rectitude of her precepts, and lament my want of conformity to them.

  I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we can do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot, and an abhorrence for slavery. If we cannot reduce this wished-for reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity. It is the furthest advance we can make towards justice. It is a debt we owe to the purity of our religion, to show that it is at variance with that law which warrants slavery.

  I know not when to stop. I could say many things on the subject, a serious view of which gives a gloomy prospect to future times!

  What a sorrowful thing it is that such men live an inglorious life, drawn along by the general current of society, when they ought to be its regenerators! Has God endowed them with such nobleness of soul, such clearness of perception, for nothing? Should they, to whom he has given superior powers of insight and feeling, live as all the world live?

  Southern men of this class have often risen up to reprove the men of the North, when they are drawn in to apologize for the system of slavery. Thus, on one occasion, a representative from one of the Northern States, a gentleman now occupying the very highest rank of distinction and official station, used in Congress the following language:—

  The great relation of servitude, in some form or other, with greater or less departure from the theoretic equality of men, is inseparable from our nature. Domestic slavery is not, in my judgment, to be set down as an immoral or irreligious relation. The slaves of this country are better clothed and fed than the peasantry of some of the most prosperous states of Europe.

  He was answered by Mr. Mitchell, of Tennessee, in these words:—

  Sir, I do not go the length of the gentleman from Massachusetts, and hold that the existence of slavery in this country is almost a blessing. On the contrary, I am firmly settled in the opinion that it is a great curse—one of the greatest that could have been interwoven in our system. I, Mr. Chairman, am one of those whom these poor wretches call masters. I do not task them; I feed and clothe them well; but yet, alas! they are slaves, and slavery is a curse in any shape. It is no doubt true that there are persons in Europe far more degraded than our slaves—worse fed, worse clothed, &c.; but, sir, this is far from proving that negroes ought to be slaves.

  The celebrated John Randolph, of Roanoke, said in Congress, on one occasion:—

  Sir, I envy neither the heart nor the head of that man from the North who rises here to defend slavery on principle.


  The following lines from the will of this eccentric man show that this clear sense of justice, which is a gift of superior natures, at last produced some appropriate fruits in practice:—

  I give to my slaves their freedom, to which my conscience tells me they are justly entitled. It has a long time been a matter of the deepest regret to me, that the circumstances under which I inherited them, and the obstacles thrown in the way by the laws of the land, have prevented my emancipating them in my lifetime, which it is my full intention to do in case I can accomplish it.

  The influence on such minds as these of that kind of theological teaching which prevails in the majority of the pulpits at the South, and which justifies slavery directly from the Bible, cannot be sufficiently regretted. Such men are shocked to find their spiritual teachers less conscientious than themselves; and if the Biblical argument succeeds in bewildering them, it produces scepticism with regard to the Bible itself. Professor Stowe states that, during his residence in Ohio, he visited at the house of a gentleman who had once been a Virginian planter, and during the first years of his life was an avowed sceptic. He stated that his scepticism was entirely referable to this one cause —that his minister had constructed a scriptural argument in defence of slavery which he was unable to answer, and that his moral sense was so shocked by the idea that the Bible defended such an atrocious system, that he became an entire unbeliever, and so continued until he came under the ministration of a clergyman in Ohio, who succeeded in presenting to him the true scriptural view of the subject. He immediately threw aside his scepticism and became a member of a Christian church.

  So we hear the Baltimore Sun, a paper in a slave State, and no way suspected of leaning towards abolitionism, thus scornfully disposing of the scriptural argument:—

  Messrs. Burgess, Taylor, and Co., Sun Iron Building, send us a copy of a work of imposing exterior, a handsome work of nearly six hundred pages, from the pen of the Rev. Josiah Priest, A.M., and published by Rev. W. S. Brown, M.D., at Glasgow, Kentucky, the copy before us conveying the assurance that it is the “fifth edition, stereotyped.” And we have no doubt it is; and the fiftieth edition may be published, but it will amount to nothing, for there is nothing in it. The book comprises the usually quoted facts associated with the history of slavery, as recorded in the Scriptures, accompanied by the opinions and arguments of another man in relation thereto. And this sort of thing may go on to the end of time. It can accomplish nothing towards the perpetuation of slavery. The book is called “Bible Defence of Slavery; and Origin, Fortunes, and History of the Negro Race.” Bible defence of slavery! There is no such thing as a Bible defence of slavery at the present day. Slavery in the United States is a social institution, originating in the convenience and cupidity of our ancestors, existing by State


laws, and recognised to a certain extent—for the recovery of slave property—by the constitution. And nobody would pretend that, if it were inexpedient and unprofitable for any man or any State to continue to hold slaves, they would be bound to do so on the ground of a “Bible defence” of it. Slavery is recorded in the Bible, and approved, with many degrading characteristics. War is recorded in the Bible, and approved, under what seems to us the extreme of cruelty. But are slavery and war to endure for ever because we find them in the Bible? or are they to cease at once and for ever because the Bible inculcates peace and brotherhood?

  The book before us exhibits great research, but is obnoxious to severe criticism, on account of its gratuitous assumptions. The writer is constantly assuming this, that, and the other. In a work of this sort a “doubtless” this, and “no doubt” the other, and “such is our belief,” with respect to important premises, will not be acceptable to the intelligent reader. Many of the positions assumed are ludicrous; and the fancy of the writer runs to exuberance in putting words and speeches into the mouths of the ancients, predicated upon the brief record of Scripture history. The argument from the curse of Ham is not worth the paper it is written upon. It is just equivalent to that of Blackwood's Magazine, we remember examining some years since, in reference to the admission of Rothschild to Parliament. The writer maintained the religious obligation of the Christian public to perpetuate the political disabilities of the Jews because it would be resisting the Divine will to remove them, in view of the “curse” which the aforesaid Christian Pharisee understood to be levelled against the sons of Abraham. Admitting that God has cursed both the Jewish race and the descendants of Ham, He is able to fulfil His purpose, though the “rest of mankind” should in all things act up to the benevolent precepts of the “Divine law.” Man may very safely cultivate the highest principles of the Christian dispensation, and leave God to work out the fulfilment of His curse.

  According to the same book and the same logic, all mankind being under a “curse,” none of us ought to work out any alleviation for ourselves, and we are sinning heinously in harnessing steam to the performance of manual labour, cutting wheat by McCormick's diablerie, and laying hold of the lightning to carry our messages for us, instead of footing it ourselves, as our father Adam did. With a little more common sense, and much less of the uncommon sort, we should better understand Scripture, the institutions under which we live, the several rights of our fellow-citizens in all sections of the country, and the good, sound, practical, social relations which ought to contribute infinitely more than they do to the happiness of mankind.

  If the reader wishes to know what kind of preaching it is that St. Clare alludes to, when he says he can learn what is quite as much to the purpose from the Picayune, and that such scriptural expositions of their peculiar relations don't edify him much, he is referred to the following extract from a sermon preached in New Orleans, by the Rev. Theophilus Clapp. Let our reader now imagine that he sees St. Clare seated in the front slip, waggishly taking notes of the following specimen of ethics and humanity:—


  Let all Christian teachers show our servants the importance of being submissive, obedient, industrious, honest, and faithful to the interests of their masters. Let their minds be filled with sweet anticipations of rest eternal beyond the grave. Let them be trained to direct their views to that fascinating and glorious futurity where the sins, sorrows, and troubles of earth will be contemplated under the aspect of means indispensable to our everlasting progress in knowledge, virtue, and happiness. I would say to every slave in the United States, “You should realise that a wise, kind, and merciful Providence has appointed for you your condition in life; and, all things considered, you could not be more eligibly situated. The burden of your care, toils, and responsibilities is much lighter than that which God has imposed on your master. The most enlightened philanthropists, with unlimited resources, could not place you in a situation more favourable to your present and everlasting welfare than that which you now occupy. You have your troubles; so have all. Remember how evanescent are the pleasures and joys of human life.

  But, as Mr. Clapp will not, perhaps, be accepted as a representation of orthodoxy, let him be supposed to listen to the following declarations of the Rev. James Smylie, a clergyman of great influence in the Presbyterian Church, in a tract upon slavery, which he states in the introduction to have been written with particular reference to removing the conscientious scruples of religious people in Mississippi and Louisiana with regard to its propriety.

  If I believed, or was of opinion, that it was the legitimate tendency of the gospel to abolish slavery, how would I approach a man, possessing as many slaves as Abraham had, and tell him I wished to obtain his permission to preach to his slaves?

  Suppose the man to be ignorant of the gospel, and that he would inquire of me what was my object; I would tell him candidly (and every minister ought to be candid) that I wished to preach the gospel, because its legitimate tendency is to make his slaves honest, trusty, and faithful; not serving “with eye-service, as men-pleasers,” “not purloining, but showing all good fidelity.” “And is this,” he would ask, “really the tendency of the gospel?” I would answer, “Yes.” Then I might expect that a man who had a thousand slaves, if he believed me, would not only permit me to preach to his slaves, but would do more. He would be willing to build me a house, furnish me a garden, and ample provision for a support; because he would conclude, verily that this preacher would be worth more to him than a dozen overseers. But suppose, them, he would tell me that he understood the tendency of the gospel was to abolish slavery, and inquire of me if that was the fact. Ah! this is the rub. He has now cornered me. What shall I say? Shall I, like a dishonest man, twist and dodge, and shift and turn, to evade an answer? No; I must, Kentuckian like, come out broad, flat-footed, and tell him that abolition is the tendency of the gospel. What am I now to calculate upon? I have told the man that it is the tendency of the gospel to make him so poor as to oblige him to take hold of the maul and wedge himself; he must catch, curry, and saddle his own horse; he must black his own brogans (for he will not be able to buy boots). His wife must go herself to the wash-tub, take


hold of the scrubbing-broom, wash the pots, and cook all that she and her rail- mauler will eat.

  Query.—Is it to be expected that a master, ignorant heretofore of the tendency of the gospel, would fall so desperately in love with it, from knowledge of its tendency, that he would encourage the preaching of it among his slaves? Verily, NO.

  But suppose, when he put the last question to me as to its tendency, I could and would, without a twist or quibble, tell him plainly and candidly that it was a slander on the gospel to say that emancipation or abolition was its legitimate tendency. I would tell him that the commandments of some men, and not the commandments of God, made slavery a sin.—Smylie on Slavery, p. 71.

  One can imagine the expression of countenance and tone of voice with which St. Clare would receive such expositions of the gospel. It is to be remarked that this tract does not contain the opinions of one man only, but that it has in its appendix a letter from two ecclesiastical bodies of the Presbyterian Church, substantially endorsing its sentiments.

  Can any one wonder that a man like St. Clare should put such questions as these?

  “Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath.”

  The character of St. Clare was drawn by the writer with enthusiasm and with hope. Will this hope never be realised? Will those men at the South, to whom God has given the power to perceive and the heart to feel the unutterable wrong and injustice of slavery, always remain silent and inactive? What nobler ambition to a Southern man than to deliver his country from this disgrace? From the South must the deliverer arise. How long shall he delay? There is a crown brighter than any earthly ambition has ever worn—there is a laurel which will not fade: it is prepared and waiting for that hero who shall rise up for liberty at the South, and free that noble and beautiful country from the burden and disgrace of slavery.


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



  AS St. Clare and the Shelbys are the representatives of one class of masters, so Legree is the representative of another; and, as all good masters are not as enlightened, as generous, and as considerate, as St. Clare and Mr. Shelby, or as careful and successful in religious training as Mrs. Shelby, so all bad masters do not unite the personal ugliness, the coarseness and profaneness, of Legree.

  Legree is introduced not for the sake of vilifying masters as a class, but for the sake of bringing to the minds of honourable Southern men, who are masters, a very important feature in the system of slavery, upon which, perhaps, they have never reflected. It is this: that no Southern law requires any test of CHARACTER from the man to whom the absolute power of master is granted.

  In the second part of this book it will be shown that the legal power of the master amounts to an absolute despotism over body and soul, and that there is no protection for the slave's life or limb, his family relations, his conscience, nay, more, his eternal interests, but the CHARACTER of the master.

  Rev. Charles C. Jones, of Georgia, in addressing masters, tells them that they have the power to open the kingdom of heaven, or to shut it, to their slaves (Religious Instruction of the Negroes, p. 158); and a South Carolinian, in a recent article in Frazer's Magazine, apparently in a very serious spirit, thus acknowledges the fact of this awful power: “Yes, we would have the whole South to feel that the soul of the slave is in some sense in the master's keeping, and to be charged against him hereafter.”

  Now, it is respectfully submitted to men of this high class, who are the law-makers, whether this awful power to bind and to loose, to open and to shut the kingdom of heaven, ought to be intrusted to every man in the community, without any other qualification than that of property to buy. Let this gentleman of South Carolina cast his eyes around the world. Let him travel for one week through any district of country


either in the South or the North, and ask himself how many of the men whom he meets are fit to be trusted with this power,— how many are fit to be trusted with their own souls, much less with those of others?

  Now, in all the theory of government as it is managed in our country, just in proportion to the extent of power is the strictness with which qualification for the proper exercise of it is demanded. The physician may not meddle with the body, to prescribe for its ailments, without a certificate that he is properly qualified. The judge may not decide on the laws which relate to property, without a long course of training, and most abundant preparation. It is only this office of MASTER, which contains the power to bind and to loose, and to open and shut the kingdom of heaven, and involves responsibility for the soul as well as the body, that is thrown out to every hand, and committed without inquiry to any man of any character. A man may have made all his property by piracy upon the high seas, as we have represented in the case of Legree, and there is no law whatever to prevent his investing that property in acquiring this absolute control over the souls and bodies of his fellow- beings. To the half-maniac drunkard, to the man notorious for hardness and cruelty, to the man sunk entirely below public opinion, to the bitter infidel and blasphemer, the law confides this power, just as freely as to the most honourable and religious man on earth. And yet, men who make and uphold these laws think they are guiltless before God, because, individually, they do not perpetrate the wrongs which they allow others to perpetrate!

  To the Pirate Legree the law gives a power which no man of woman born, save One, ever was good enough to exercise.

  Are there such men as Legree? Let any one go into the low districts and dens of New York, let them go into some of the lanes and alleys of London, and will they not there see many Legrees? Nay, take the purest district of New England, and let people cast about in their memory and see if there have not been men there, hard, coarse, unfeeling, brutal, who, if they had possessed the absolute power of Legree, would have used it in the same way; and that there should be Legrees in the Southern States, is only saying that human nature is the same there that it is everywhere. The only difference is this—that in free States Legree is chained and restrained by law; in the slave States, the law makes him an absolute, irresponsible despot.


  It is a shocking task to confirm by fact this part of the writer's story. One may well approach it in fear and trembling. It is so mournful to think that man, made in the image of God, and by his human birth a brother of Jesus Christ, can sink so low, can do such things as the very soul shudders to contemplate—and to think that the very man who thus sinks is our brother—is capable, like us, of the renewal by the Spirit of grace, by which he might be created in the image of Christ and be made equal unto the angels. They who uphold the laws which grant this awful power, have another heavy responsibility, of which they little dream. How many souls of masters have been ruined through it! How has this absolute authority provoked and developed wickedness which otherwise might have been suppressed! How many have stumbled into everlasting perdition over this stumbling-stone of IRRESPONSIBLE POWER!

  What facts do the judicial trials of slave-holding States occasionally develope! What horrible records defile the pages of the law-book, describing unheard-of scenes of torture and agony, perpetrated in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, by the irresponsible despot who owns the body and soul! Let any one read, if they can, the ninety-third page of Weld's Slavery As It Is, where the Rev. Mr. Dickey gives an account of a trial in Kentucky for a deed of butchery and blood too repulsive to humanity to be here described. The culprit was convicted, and sentenced to death. Mr. Dickey's account of the finale is thus:—

  The Court sat—Isham was judged to be guilty of a capital crime in the affair of George. He was to be hanged at Salem. The day was set. My good old father visited him in the prison—two or three times talked and prayed with him; I visited him once myself. We fondly hoped that he was a sincere penitent. Before the day of execution came, by some means, I never knew what, Isham was missing. About two years after, we learned that he had gone down to Natchez, and had married a lady of some refinement and piety. I saw her letters to his sisters, who were worthy members of the church of which I was pastor. The last letter told of his death. He was in Jackson's army, and fell in the famous battle of New Orleans.

I am, sir, your friend, WM. DICKEY.

  But the reader will have too much reason to know of the possibility of the existence of such men as Legree, when he comes to read the records of the trials and judicial decisions in Part II.

  Let not the Southern country be taunted as the only country in the world which produces such men; let us in sorrow and


in humility concede that such men are found everywhere; but let not the Southern country deny the awful charge that she invests such men with absolute, irresponsible power over both the body and the soul.

  With regard to that atrocious system of working up the human being in a given time on which Legree is represented as conducting his plantation, there is unfortunately too much reason to know that it has been practised and is still practised.

  In Mr. Weld's book, Slavery As It Is, under the head of Labour, p. 39, are given several extracts from various documents, to show that this system has been pursued on some plantations to such an extent as to shorten life, and to prevent the increase of the slave population, so that, unless annually renewed, it would of itself die out. Of these documents we quote the following:—

  The Agricultural Society of Baton Rouge, La., in its report published in 1829, furnishes a laboured estimate of the amount of expenditure necessarily incurred in conducting “a well-regulated sugar estate.” In this estimate, the annual net loss of slaves, over and above the supply by propagation, is set down at TWO AND A HALF PER CENT.! The late Hon. Josiah S. Johnson, a member of Congress from Louisiana, addressed a letter to the Secretary of the United States Treasury in 1830, containing a similar estimate, apparently made with great care, and going into minute details. Many items in this estimate differ from the preceding; but the estimate of the annual decrease of the slaves on a plantation was the same—TWO AND A HALF PER CENT.!

  In September, 1834, the writer of this had an interview with James G. Birney, Esq., who then resided at Kentucky, having removed with his family from Alabama the year before. A few hours before that interview, and on the morning of the same day, Mr. B. had spent a couple of hours with Hon. Henry Clay, at his residence, near Lexington. Mr. Birney remarked that Mr. Clay had just told him he had lately been led to mistrust certain estimates as to the increase of the slave population in the far South-west—estimates which he had presented, I think, in a speech before the Colonization Society. He now believed that the births among the slaves in that quarter were not equal to the deaths; and that, of course, the slave population, independent of immigration from the slave-selling States, was not sustaining itself.

  Among other facts stated by Mr. Clay was the following, which we copy verbatim from the original memorandum made at the time by Mr. Birney, with which he has kindly furnished us.

  “Sept. 16, 1834.—Hon. H. Clay, in a conversation at his own house on the subject of slavery, informed me that Hon. Outerbridge Horsey—formerly a senator in Congress from the State of Delaware, and the owner of a sugar plantation in Louisiana—declared to him that his overseer worked his hands so closely that one of the women brought forth a child whilst engaged in the labours of the field.

  “Also that, a few years since, he was at a brick-yard in the environs of New Orleans, in which a hundred hands were employed; among them were from twenty to


thirty young women,
in the prime of life. He was told by the proprietor that there had not been a child born among them for the last two or three years, although they all had husbands.”

  The late Mr. Samuel Blackwell, a highly respectable citizen of Jersey City, opposite the city of New York, and a member of the Presbyterian church, visited many of the sugar plantations in Louisiana a few years since; and having, for many years, been the owner of an extensive sugar refinery in England, and subsequently in this country, he had not only every facility afforded him by the planters for personal inspection of all parts of the process of sugar-making, but received from them the most unreserved communications as to their management of their slaves. Mr. B—, after his return, frequently made the following statement to gentlemen of his acquaintance:—“That the planters generally declared to him that they were obliged so to overwork their slaves, during the sugar-making season (from eight to ten weeks), as to use them up in seven or eight years. For, said they, after the process is commenced, it must be pushed, without cessation, night and day; and we cannot afford to keep a sufficient number of slaves to do the extra work at the time of sugar-making, as we could not profitably employ them the rest of the year.”

  Dr. Demming, a gentleman of high respectability, residing in Ashland, Richland County, Ohio, stated to Professor Wright, of New York city—“That, during a recent tour at the South, while ascending the Ohio river on the steam-boat `Fame,' he had an opportunity of conversing with a Mr. Dickinson, a resident of Pittsburg, in company with a number of cotton-planters and slave-dealers from Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Mr. Dickinson stated as a fact, that the sugar-planters upon the sugar-coast in Louisiana had ascertained that, as it was usually necessary to employ about twice the amount of labour during the boiling season that was required during the season of raising, they could, by excessive driving, day and night, during the boiling season, accomplish the whole labour with one set of hands. By pursuing this plan, they could afford to sacrifice a set of hands once in seven years! He further stated that this horrible system was now practised to a considerable extent! The correctness of this statement was substantially admitted by the slave-holders then on board.”

  The following testimony of the Rev. Dr. Channing, of Boston, who resided some time in Virginia, shows that the over-working of slaves, to such an extent as to abridge life, and cause a decrease of population, is not confined to the far South and South-west:—

  “I heard of an estate managed by an individual who was considered as singularly successful, and who was able to govern the slaves without the use of the whip. I was anxious to see him, and trusted that some discovery had been made favourable to humanity. I asked him how he was able to dispense with corporal punishment. He replied to me, with a very determined look, `The slaves know that the work must be done, and that it is better to do it without punishment than with it.' In other words, the certainty and dread of chastisement were so impressed on them that they never incurred it.

  “I then found that the slaves on this well-managed estate decreased in number. I asked the cause. He replied, with perfect frankness and ease, `The gang is not large enough for the estate.' In other words, they were not equal to the work of the plantation, and yet were made to do it, though with the certainty of abridging life.


  “On this plantation the huts were uncommonly convenient. There was an unusual air of neatness. A superficial observer would have called the slaves, happy. Yet they were living under a severe, subduing discipline, and were over-worked to a degree that shortened life.”

Channing on Slavery, p. 162, first edition.

  A friend of the writer—the Rev. Mr. Barrows, now officiating as teacher of Hebrew in Andover Theological Seminary—stated as following, in conversation with her:—That, while at New Orleans, some time since, he was invited by a planter to visit his estate, as he considered it to be a model one. He found good dwellings for the slaves, abundant provision distributed to them, all cruel punishments superseded by rational and reasonable ones, and half a day, every week, allowed to the negroes to cultivate their own grounds. Provision was also made for their moral and religious instruction. Mr. Barrows then asked the planter,

  “Do you consider your estate a fair specimen?” The gentleman replied, “There are two systems pursued among us. One is, to make all we can out of a negro in a few years, and then supply his place with another; and the other is, to treat him as I do. My neighbour on the next plantation pursues the opposite system. His boys are hard worked and scantily fed; and I have had them come to me, and get down on their knees to beg me to buy them.”

  Mr. Barrows says he subsequently passed by this plantation, and that the woe-struck, dejected aspect of its labourers fully confirmed the account. He also says that the gentleman who managed so benevolently told him, “I do not make much money out of my slaves.”

  It will be easy to show that such is the nature of slavery, and the temptations of masters, that such well-regulated plantations are, and must be, infinitely in the minority, and exceptional cases.

  The Rev. Charles C. Jones, a man of the finest feelings of humanity, and for many years an assiduous labourer for the benefit of the slave, himself the owner of a plantation, and qualified, therefore, to judge, both by experience and observation, says, after speaking of the great improvidence of the negroes, engendered by slavery:—

  And, indeed, once for all, I will here say that the wastes of the system are so great, as well as the fluctuation in prices of the staple articles for market, that it is difficult, nay, impossible, to indulge in large expenditures on plantations, and make them savingly profitable.

Religious Instruction, p. 116.

  If even the religious and benevolent master feels the difficulty


of uniting any great consideration for the comfort of the slave with prudence and economy, how readily must the moral question be solved by minds of the coarse style of thought which we have supposed in Legree!

  “I used to, when I fust begun, have considerable trouble fussin' with 'em, and trying to make 'em hold out—doctorin' on 'em up when they's sick, and givin' on 'em clothes, and blankets, and what not, trying to keep 'em all sort o' decent and comfortable. Law, 't want no sort o' use; I lost money on 'em, and 't was heaps o' trouble. Now, you see, I just put'm straight through, sick or well. When one nigger's dead, I buy another; and I find it comes cheaper and easier every way.”

  Added to this, the peculiar mode of labour on the sugar plantation is such that the master, at a certain season of the year, must over-work his slaves, unless he is willing to incur great pecuniary loss. In that very gracefully written apology for slavery, Professor Ingraham's “Travels in the South-west,” the following description of sugar-making is given. We quote from him in preference to anyone else, because he speaks as an apologist, and describes the thing with the grace of a Mr. Skimpole.

  When the grinding has once commenced, there is no cessation of labour till it is completed. From beginning to end a busy and cheerful scene continues. The negroes,

“—Whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week,”

  work from eighteen to twenty hours,

“And make the night joint labourer with the day;”

  though, to lighten the burden as much as possible, the gang is divided into two watches, one taking the first and the other the last part of the night; and, notwithstanding this continued labour, the negroes improve in appearance, and appear fat and flourishing. They drink freely of cane-juice, and the sickly among them revive, and become robust and healthy.

  After the grinding is finished, the negroes have several holidays, when they are quite at liberty to dance and frolic as much as they please; and the cane-song— which is improvised by one of the gang, the rest all joining in a prolonged and unintelligible chorus—now breaks, night and day, upon the ear, in notes “most musical, most melancholy.”

  The above is inserted as a specimen of the facility with which the most horrible facts may be told in the genteelest phrase. In a work entitled “Travels in Louisiana in 1802” is the following extract (see Weld's Slavery As It Is, p. 134), from which it appears that this cheerful process of labouring night and day lasts three months!

  “At the rolling of sugars, an interval of from two to three


they (the slaves in Louisiana) work both night and day. Abridged of their sleep, they scarcely retire to rest during the whole period.”—P. 81.

  Now, let any one learn the private history of seven hundred blacks—men and women—compelled to work day and night under the lash of a driver, for a period of three months!

  Possibly, if the gentleman who wrote the account were employed, with his wife and family, in this “cheerful scene” of labour—if he saw the woman that he loved, the daughter who was dear to him as his own soul, forced on in the general gang, in this toil which

“Does not divide the Sabbath from the week,
And makes the night joint labourer with the day,'

  —possibly, if he saw all this, he might have another opinion of its cheerfulness; and it might be an eminently salutary thing if every apologist for slavery were to enjoy some such privilege for a season, particularly as Mr. Ingraham is careful to tell us that its effect upon the general health is so excellent that the negroes improve in appearance, and appear fat and flourishing, and that the sickly among them revive, and become robust and healthy. One would think it a surprising fact, if working slaves night and day, and giving them cane-juice to drink, really produces such salutary results, that the practice should not be continued the whole year round; though, perhaps, in this case, the negroes would become so fat as to be unable to labour. Possibly, it is because this healthful process is not longer continued that the agricultural societies of Louisiana are obliged to set down an annual loss of slaves on sugar plantations to the amount of two and a half per cent. This ought to be looked into by philanthropists. Perhaps working them all night for six months, instead of three, might remedy the evil.

  But this periodical pressure is not confined to the making of sugar. There is also a press in the cotton season, as any one can observe by reading the Southern newspapers. At a certain season of the year, the whole interest of the community is engaged in gathering in the cotton crop. Concerning this Mr. Weld says (Slavery as It is, p. 34):—

  In the cotton and sugar region there is a fearful amount of desperate gambling, in which, though money is the ostensible stake and forfeit, human life is the real one. The length to which this rivalry is carried at the South and South-west, the multitude of planters who engage in it, and the recklessness of human life exhibited in driving the murderous game to its issue, cannot well be imagined by one who has not lived in the midst of it. Desire of gain is only one of the motives that stimulates them; the éclat of having made the largest crop with a given


number of hands is also a powerful stimulant; the Southern newspapers, at the crop season, chronicle carefully the “cotton brag,” and the “crack cotton- picking,” and unparalleled driving,&c. Even the editors of professedly religious papers cheer on the mélée, and sing the triumphs of the victor. Among these we recollect the celebrated Rev. J. N. Maffit, recently editor of a religious paper at Natchez, Mississippi, in which he took care to assign a prominent place and capitals to “THE COTTON BRAG.”

  As a specimen, of recent date, of this kind of affair, we subjoin the following from the Fairfield Herald, Winsboro, S. C., November 4, 1852:—


  We find in many of our southern and western exchanges notices of the amount of cotton picked by hands, and the quantity by each hand; and, as we have received a similar account, which we have not seen excelled, so far as regards the quantity picked by one hand, we with pleasure furnish the statement, with the remark that it is from a citizen of this district, overseeing for Major H. W. Parr.

  Broad River, October 12, 1852.

  “MESSRS. EDITORS,—By way of contributing something to your variety (provided it meets your approbation), I send you the return of a day's picking of cotton, not by picked hands, but the fag-end of a set of hands on one plantation, the able-bodied hands having been drawn out for other purposes. Now for the result of a day's picking, from sun-up until sun-down, by twenty-two hands—women, boys, and two men:—4,880 lbs. of clean-picked cotton from the stalk.

  “The highest, 350 lbs., by several; the lowest, 115 lbs. One of the number has picked in the last seven and a-half days (Sunday excepted), eleven hours each day, 1,900 lbs. clean cotton. When any of my agricultural friends beat this, in the same time, and during sunshine, I will try again.


  It seems that this agriculturist professes to have accomplished all these extraordinary results with what he very elegantly terms the “fag-end” of a set of hands; and, the more to exalt his glory in the matter, he distinctly informs the public that there were no “able-bodied” hands employed; that this whole triumphant result was worked out of women and children, and two disabled men; in other words, he boasts that out of women and children, and the feeble and sickly, he has extracted 4,880 pounds of clean-picked cotton in a day; and that one of these same hands has been made to pick 1,900 pounds of clean cotton in a week! and adds, complacently, that, when any of his agricultural friends beat this, in the same time, and during sunshine, he “will try again.”

  Will any of our readers now consider the forcing up of the hands on Legree's plantation an exaggeration? Yet see how complacently this account is quoted by the editor, as a most praiseworthy and laudable thing!



  That the representations of the style of dwelling-house, modes of housekeeping, and, in short, the features of life generally, as described on Legree's plantation, are not wild and fabulous drafts on the imagination, or exaggerated pictures of exceptional cases, there is the most abundant testimony before the world, and has been for a long number of years. Let the reader weigh the following testimony with regard to the dwellings of the negroes, which has been for some years before the world, in the work of Mr. Weld. It shows the state of things in this respect, at least up to the year 1838.

  Mr. Stephen E. Maltby, Inspector of Provisions, Skaneateles, New York, who has lived in Alabama.—“The huts where the slaves slept generally contained but one apartment, and that without floor.”

  Mr. George A. Avery, elder of the 4th Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York, who lived four years in Virginia.—“Amongst all the negro cabins which I saw in Virginia, I cannot call to mind one in which there was any other floor than the earth; anything that a Northern labourer, or mechanic, white or coloured, would call a bed, nor a solitary partition to separate the sexes.”

  William Ladd, Esq., Minot, Maine, President of the American Peace Society, formerly a slaveholder in Florida.—“The dwellings of the slaves were palmetto huts, built by themselves of stakes and poles, thatched with the palmetto-leaf. The door, when they had any, was generally of the same materials, sometimes boards found on the beach. They had no floors, no separate apartments; except the Guinea negroes had sometimes a small enclosure for their `god houses.' These huts the slaves built themselves after task and on Sundays.”

  Rev. Joseph M. Sadd, Pastor of Presbyterian Church, Castile, Greene County, New York, who lived in Missouri five years previous to 1837.—“The slaves live generally in miserable huts, which are without floors; and have a single apartment only, where both sexes are herded promiscuously together.”

  Mr. George W. Westgate, member of the Congregational Church in Quincy, Illinois, who has spent a number of years in slave States.—“On old plantations the negro quarters are of frame and clapboards, seldom affording a comfortable shelter from wind or rain; their size varies from eight by ten, to ten by twelve feet, and six or eight feet high; sometimes there is a hole cut for a window, but I never saw a sash, or glass, in any. In the new country, and in the woods, the quarters are generally built of logs, of similar dimensions.”

  Mr. Cornelius Johnson, a member of a Christian Church in Farmington, Ohio. Mr. J. lived in Mississippi in 1837-38.—“Their houses were commonly built of logs; sometimes they were framed, often they had no floor; some of them have two apartments, commonly but one; each of those apartments contained a family. Sometimes these families consisted of a man and his wife and children, while in


other instances persons of both sexes were thrown together, without any regard to family relationship.”

  The Western Medical Reformer, in an article on the Cachexia Africana, by a Kentucky physician, thus speaks of the huts of the slaves: “They are crowded together in a small hut, and sometimes having an imperfect, and sometimes no floor, and seldom raised from the ground, ill-ventilated, and surrounded with filth.”

  Mr. William Leftwich, a native of Virginia, but has resided most of his life in Madison County, Alabama.—“The dwellings of the slaves are log huts, from ten to twelve feet square, often without windows, doors, or floors; they have neither chairs, table, nor bedstead.”

  Reuben L. Macy, of Hudson, New York, a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He lived in South Carolina in 1818-19.—“The houses for the field-slaves were about fourteen feet square, built in the coarsest manner, with one room, without any chimney or flooring, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.”

  Mr. Lemuel Sapington, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a native of Maryland, formerly a slave-holder.—“The descriptions generally given of negro quarters are correct; the quarters are without floors, and not sufficient to keep off the inclemency of the weather; they are uncomfortable both in summer and winter.”

  Rev. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee.—“When they return to their miserable huts at night, they find not there the means of comfortable rest; but on the cold ground they must lie without covering, and shiver while they slumber.”

  Philemon Bliss, Esq., Elyria, Ohio, who lived in Florida in 1835.—“The dwellings of the slaves are usually small open log huts, with but one apartment, and very generally without floors.”

Slavery as It is, p. 43.

  The Rev. C. C. Jones, to whom we have already alluded, when taking a survey of the condition of the negroes considered as a field for missionary effort, takes into account all the conditions of their external life. He speaks of a part of Georgia where as much attention had been paid to the comfort of the negro as in any part of the United States. He gives the following picture:—

  Their general mode of living is coarse and vulgar. Many negro-houses are small, low to the ground, blackened with smoke, often with dirt floors, and the furniture of the plainest kind. On some estates the houses are framed, weather-boarded, neatly whitewashed, and made sufficiently large and comfortable in every respect. The improvement in the size, material, and finish of negro-houses is extending. Occasionally they may be found constructed of tabby or brick.

Religious Instruction of the Negroes, p. 116.

  Now, admitting what Mr. Jones says, to wit, that improvements with regard to the accommodation of the negroes are continually making among enlightened and Christian people, still, if we take into account how many people there are who are neither enlightened nor Christian, how unproductive of any benefit to the master all these improvements are, and how entirely, therefore, they must be the result either of native


generosity or of Christian sentiment, the reader may fairly conclude that such improvements are the exception, rather than the rule.

  A friend of the writer, travelling in Georgia during the last month, thus writes:—

  Upon the long line of rice and cotton plantations extending along the railroad from Savannah to this city, the negro quarters contain scarcely a single hut which a Northern farmer would deem fit shelter for his cattle. They are all built of poles, with the ends so slightly notched that they are almost as open as children's cob-houses (which they very much resemble), without a single glazed window, and with only one mud chimney to each cluster of from four to eight cabins. And yet our fellow-travellers were quietly expatiating upon the negro's strange inability to endure cold weather.

  Let this modern picture be compared with the account given by the Rev. Horace Moulton, who spent five years in Georgia between 1817 and 1824, and it will be seen, in that State at least, there is some resemblance between the more remote and more recent practice:—

  The huts of the slaves are mostly of the poorest kind. They are not as good as those temporary shanties which are thrown up beside railroads. They are erected with posts and crotchets, with but little or no frame-work about them. They have no stoves or chimneys; some of them have something like a fire-place at one end, and a board or two off at that side, or on the roof, to let off the smoke. Others have nothing like a fire-place in them; in these the fire is sometimes made in the middle of the hut. These buildings have but one apartment in them; the places where they pass in and out serve both for doors and windows; the sides and roofs are covered with coarse, and in many instances with refuse, boards. In warm weather, especially in the spring, the slaves keep up a smoke, or fire and smoke, all night, to drive away the gnats and mosquitoes, which are very troublesome in all the low country of the South; so much so, that the whites sleep under frames with nets over them, knit so fine that the mosquitoes cannot fly through them.

Slavery As It Is, p. 19.

  The same Mr. Moulton gives the following account of the food of the slaves, and the mode of procedure on the plantation on which he was engaged. It may be here mentioned that at the time he was at the South he was engaged in certain business relations which caused him frequently to visit different plantations, and to have under his control many of the slaves. His opportunities for observation, therefore, were quite intimate. There is a homely matter-of-fact distinctness in the style that forbids the idea of its being a fancy sketch:—

  It was a general custom, wherever I have been, for the master to give each of his slaves, male and female, one peck of corn per week for their food. This, at


fifty cents per bushel, which was all that it was worth when I was there, would amount to twelve and a half cents per week for board per head.

  It cost me, upon an average, when at the South, one dollar per day for board—the price of fourteen bushels of corn per week. This would make my board equal in amount to the board of forty-six slaves! This is all that good or bad masters allow their slaves, round about Savannah, on the plantations. One peck of gourd-seed corn is to be measured out to each slave once every week. One man with whom I laboured, however, being desirous to get all the work out of his hands he could, before I left (about fifty in number), bought for them every week, or twice a week, a beef's head from market. With this they made a soup in a large iron kettle, around which the hands came at meal-time, and dipping out the soup, would mix it with their hominy, and eat it as though it were a feast. This man permitted his slaves to eat twice a day while I was doing a job for him. He promised me a beaver hat, and as good a suit of clothes as could be bought in the city, if I would accomplish so much for him before I returned to the North; giving me the entire control over his slaves. Thus you may see the temptations overseers sometimes have, to get all the work they can out of the poor slaves. The above is an exception to the general rule of feeding. For, in all other places where I worked and visited, the slaves had nothing from the masters but the corn, or its equivalent in potatoes or rice; and to this they were not permitted to come but once a day. The custom was to blow the horn early in the morning, as a signal for the hands to rise and go to work. When commenced, they continue work until about eleven o'clock A.M., when, at the signal, all hands left off, and went into their huts, made their fires, made their corn-meal into hominy or cake, ate it, and went to work again at the signal of the horn, and worked until night, or until their tasks were done. Some cooked their breakfast in the field while at work. Each slave must grind his own corn in a hand-mill after he has done his work at night. There is generally one hand-mill on every plantation for the use of the slaves.

  Some of the planters have no corn; others often get out. The substitute for it is the equivalent of one peck of corn, either in rice or sweet potatoes, neither of which is as good for the slaves as corn. They complain more of being faint when fed on rice or potatoes than when fed on corn. I was with one man a few weeks who gave me his hands to do a job of work, and, to save time, one cooked for all the rest. The following course was taken:—Two crotched sticks were driven down at one end of the yard, and a small pole being laid on the crotches, they swung a large iron kettle on the middle of the pole; then made up a fire under the kettle, and boiled the hominy; when ready, the hands were called around this kettle with their wooden plates and spoons. They dipped out and ate, standing around the kettle, or sitting upon the ground, as best suited their convenience. When they had potatoes, they took them out with their hands, and ate them.

Slavery As It Is, p. 18.

  Thomas Clay, Esq., a slaveholder of Georgia, and a most benevolent man, and who interested himself very successfully in endeavouring to promote the improvement of the negroes, in his address before the Georgia Presbytery, 1833, says of their food, “The quantity allowed by custom is a peck of corn a week.”


  The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, May 30, 1788, says, “A single peck of corn, or the same measure of rice, is the ordinary provision for a hard-working slave, to which a small quantity of meat is occasionally though rarely added.”

  Captain William Ladd, of Minot, Maine, formerly a slave- holder in Florida, says, “The usual allowance of food was a quart of corn a day to a full-task hand, with a modicum of salt. Kind masters allowed a peck of corn a week.”

  The law of North Carolina provides that the master shall give his slave a quart of corn a day, which is less than a peck a week by one quart.—Haywood's Manual, 525; Slavery as It is, p. 29. The master, therefore, who gave a peck a week would feel that he was going beyond the law, and giving a quart for generosity.

  This condition of things will appear far more probable in the section of country where the scene of the story is laid. It is in the South-western States, where no provision is raised on the plantations, but the supply for the slaves is all purchased from the more Northern States.

  Let the reader now imagine the various temptations which might occur to retrench the allowance of the slaves, under these circumstances; scarcity of money, financial embarrassment, high price of provisions, and various causes of the kind, bring a great influence upon the master or overseer.

  At the time when it was discussed whether the State of Missouri should be admitted as a slave State, the measure, like all measures for the advancement of this horrible system, was advocated on the good old plea of humanity to the negroes. Thus Mr. Alexander Smyth, in his speech on the slavery question, January 21, 1820, says—

  By confining the slaves to the Southern States, where crops are raised for exportation, and bread and meat are purchased, you doom them to scarcity and hunger. It is proposed to hem in the blacks where they are ILL FED.

Slavery as It is, p. 28.

  This is a simple recognition of the state of things we have adverted to. To the same purport, Mr. Asa A. Stone, a theological student, who resided near Natchez, Mississippi, in 1834-5, says—

  On almost every plantation, the hands suffer more or less from hunger at some seasons of almost every year. There is always a good deal of suffering from hunger. On many plantations, and particularly in Louisiana, the slaves are in a condition of almost utter famishment during a great portion of the year.


  Mr. Tobias Baudinot, St. Albans, Ohio, a member of the Methodist Church, who for some years was a navigator on the Mississippi, says:—

  The slaves down the Mississippi are half-starved. The boats, when they stop at night, are constantly boarded by slaves, begging for something to eat.


  On the whole, while it is freely and cheerfully admitted that many individuals have made most commendable advances in regard to the provision for the physical comfort of the slave, still it is to be feared that the picture of the accommodations on Legree's plantation has yet too many counterparts. Lest, however, the author should be suspected of keeping back anything which might serve to throw light on the subject, she will insert in full the following incidents on the other side, from the pen of the accomplished Professor Ingraham. How far these may be regarded as exceptional cases, or as pictures of the general mode of providing for slaves, may safely be left to the good sense of the reader. The professor's anecdotes are as follows:—

  “What can you do with so much tobacco?” said a gentleman—who related the circumstance to me—on hearing a planter, whom he was visiting, give an order to his teamster to bring two hogsheads of tobacco out to the estate from the “Landing.”

  “I purchase it for my negroes; it is a harmless indulgence, which it gives me pleasure to afford them.”

  “Why are you at the trouble and expense of having high-post bedsteads for your negroes?” said a gentleman from the North, while walking through the handsome “quarters,” or village, for the slaves, then in progress on a plantation near Natchez—addressing the proprietor.

  “To suspend their 'bars' from, that they may not be troubled with mosquitoes.”

  “Master, me would like, if you please, a little bit gallery front my house.”

  “For what, Peter?”

  “'Cause, master, the sun too hot (an odd reason for a negro to give) that side, and when he rain, we no able to keep de door open.”

  “Well, well, when a carpenter gets a little leisure, you shall have one.”

  A few weeks after, I was at the plantation, and riding past the quarters one Sabbath morning, beheld Peter, his wife and children, with his old father, all sunning themselves in the new gallery.

  “Missus, you promise me a Chrismus gif'.”

  “Well, Jane, there is a new calico frock for you.”

  “It werry pretty, missus,” said Jane, eyeing it at a distance without touching it, “but me prefer muslin, if you please: muslin de fashion dis Chrismus.”

  “Very well, Jane, call to-morrow, and you shall have a muslin.”

  The writer would not think of controverting the truth of these anecdotes. Any probable amount of high-post bedsteads and


mosquito “bars,” of tobacco distributed as gratuity, and verandahs constructed by leisurely carpenters for the sunning of fastidious negroes, may be conceded, and they do in no whit impair the truth of the other facts. When the reader remembers that the “gang” of some opulent owners amounts to from 500 to 700 working hands, besides children, he can judge how extensively these accommodations are likely to be provided. Let them be safely thrown into the account for what they are worth.

  At all events, it is pleasing to end off so disagreeable a chapter with some more agreeable images. (See Appendix.)


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



  IN this chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin were recorded some of the most highly-wrought and touching incidents of the slave- trade. It will be well to authenticate a few of them.

  One of the first sketches presented to view is an account of the separation of a very old decrepit negro woman from her young son, by a sheriff's sale. The writer is sorry to say that not the slightest credit for invention is due to her in this incident. She found it, almost exactly as it stands, in the published journal of a young Southerner, related as a scene to which he was eye-witness. The only circumstance which she has omitted in the narrative was one of additional inhumanity and painfulness which he had delineated. He represents the boy as being bought by a planter, who fettered his hands, and tied a rope round his neck which he attached to the neck of his horse, thus compelling the child to trot by his side. This incident alone was suppressed by the author.

  Another scene of fraud and cruelty, in the same chapter, is described as perpetrated by a Kentucky slave-master, who sells a woman to a trader, and induces her to go with him by the deceitful assertion that she is to be taken down the river a short distance, to work at the same hotel with her husband. This was an instance which occurred under the writer's own observation, some years since, when she was going down the Ohio river. The woman was very respectable, both in appearance and dress. The writer recalls her image now with distinctness, attired with great neatness in a white wrapper, her clothing and hair all arranged with evident care, and having with her a prettily-dressed boy about seven years of age. She had also a hair-trunk of clothing, which showed that she had been carefully and respectably brought up. It will be seen, in perusing the account, that the incident is somewhat altered to suit the purpose of the story, the woman being there represented as carrying with her a young infant.

  The custom of unceremoniously separating the infant from its


mother, when the latter is about to be taken from a Northern to a Southern market, is a matter of every-day notoriety in the trade. It is not done occasionally and sometimes, but always, whenever there is occasion for it; and the mother's agonies are no more regarded than those of a cow when her calf is separated from her.

  The reason of this is, that the care and raising of children is no part of the intention or provision of a Southern plantation. They are a trouble; they detract from the value of the mother as a field-hand, and it is more expensive to raise them than to buy them ready raised; they are therefore left behind in making up of a coffle. Not longer ago than last summer, the writer was conversing with Thomas Strother, a slave minister of the gospel in St. Louis, for whose emancipation she was making some effort. He incidentally mentioned to her a scene which he had witnessed but a short time before, in which a young woman of his acquaintance came to him almost in a state of distraction, telling him that she had been sold to go South with a trader, and leave behind her a nursing infant.

  In Lewis Clark's narrative he mentions that a master in his neighbourhood sold a woman and child to a trader, with the charge that he should not sell the child from its mother. The man, however, traded off the child in the very next town, in payment of his tavern-bill.

  The following testimony is from a gentleman who writes from New Orleans to the National Era.

  This writer says:—

  While at Robinson, or Eyree Springs, twenty miles from Nashville, on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee, my hostess said to me, one day, “Yonder comes a gang of slaves chained.” I went to the road-side and viewed them. For the better answering my purpose of observation, I stopped the white man in front, who was at his ease in a one-horse waggon, and asked him if those slaves were for sale. I counted them and observed their position. They were divided by three one-horse waggons, each containing a man-merchant, so arranged as to command the whole gang. Some were unchained; sixty were chained in two companies, thirty in each, the right hand of the one to the left hand of the other opposite one, making fifteen each side of a large ox-chain, to which every hand was fastened, and necessarily compelled to hold up—men and women promiscuously, and about in equal proportions—all young people. No children here, except a few in a waggon behind, which were the only children in the four gangs. I said to a respectable mulatto woman in the house, “Is it true that the negro-traders take mothers from their babies?” “Massa, it is true; for here, last week, such a girl (naming her), who lives about a mile off, was taken after dinner— knew nothing of it in the morning—sold, put into the gang, and her baby given away to a neighbour. She was a stout young woman, and brought a good price.”


  Nor is the pitiful lie to be regarded which says that these unhappy mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, do not feel when the most sacred ties are thus severed. Every day and hour bears living witness of the falsehood of this slander, the more false because spoken of a race peculiarly affectionate, and strong, vivacious and vehement, in the expression of their feelings.

  The case which the writer supposed of the woman's throwing herself overboard is not by any means a singular one. Witness the following recent fact, which appeared under the head of


  The editorial correspondent of the Oneida (N. Y.) Telegraph, writing from a steamer on the Mississippi river, gives the following sad story:—

  “At Louisville, a gentleman took passage, having with him a family of blacks —husband, wife, and children. The master was bound for Memphis, Tennessee, at which place he intended to take all except the man ashore. The latter was handcuffed, and although his master said nothing of his intention, the negro made up his mind, from appearances, as well as from the remarks of those around him, that he was destined for the Southern market. We reached Memphis during the night, and whilst within sight of the town, just before landing, the negro caused his wife to divide their things, as though resigned to the intended separation, and then, taking a moment when his master's back was turned, ran forward and jumped into the river. Of course he sank, and his master was several hundred dollars poorer than a moment before. That was all; at least, scarcely any one mentioned it the next morning. I was obliged to get my information from the deck hands, and did not hear a remark concerning it in the cabin. In justice to the master, I should say that, after the occurrence, he disclaimed any intention to separate them. Appearances, however, are quite against him, if I have been rightly informed. This sad affair needs no comment. It is an argument, however, that I might have used to-day, with some effect, whilst talking with a highly-intelligent Southerner of the evils of slavery. He had been reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, and spoke of it as a novel, which, like other romances, was well calculated to excite the sympathies, by the recital of heart-touching incidents which never had an existence, except in the imagination of the writer.”

  Instances have occurred where mothers, whose children were about to be sold from them, have, in their desperation, murdered their own offspring, to save them from this worst kind of orphanage. A case of this kind has been recently tried in the United States, and was alluded to, a week or two ago, by Mr. Giddings, in his speech on the floor of Congress.

  An American gentleman from Italy, complaining of the effect of Uncle Tom's Cabin on the Italian mind, states that images of fathers dragged from their families to be sold into slavery, and of babes torn from the breasts of weeping mothers, are constantly presented before the minds of the people as scenes of


every-day life in America. The author can only say, sorrowfully, that it is only the truth which is thus presented.

  These things are, every day, part and parcel of one of the most thriving trades that is carried on in America. The only difference between us and foreign nations is, that we have got used to it, and they have not. The thing has been done, and done again, day after day, and year after year, reported and lamented over in every variety of way; but it is going on this day with more briskness than ever before, and no doubt; the other, and such scenes as we have described are enacted oftener, as the author will prove when she comes to the chapter on the internal slave-trade.

  The incident in this same chapter which describes the scene where the wife of the unfortunate article, catalogued as “John, aged 30,” rushed on board the boat and threw her arms around him, with moans and lamentations, was a real incident. The gentleman who related it was so stirred in his spirit at the sight, that he addressed the trader in the exact words which the writer represents the young minister as having used in her narrative.

  My friend, how can you, how dare you, carry on a trade like this? Look at those poor creatures! Here I am, rejoicing in my heart that I am going home to my wife and child; and the same bell which is the signal to carry me onward towards them will part this poor man and his wife for ever. Depend upon it, God will bring you into judgment for this.

  If that gentleman has read the work, as perhaps he has before now, he has probably recognised his own words. One affecting incident in the narrative, as it really occurred, ought to be mentioned. The wife was passionately bemoaning her husband's fate, as about to be for ever separated from all that he held dear, to be sold to the hard usage of a Southern plantation. The husband, in reply, used that very simple but sublime expression which the writer has placed in the mouth of Uncle Tom, in similar circumstances:—“There'll be the same God there that there is here.”

  One other incident mentioned in Uncle Tom's Cabin may, perhaps, be as well verified in this place as in any other.

  The case of old Prue was related by a brother and sister of the writer as follows:—She was the woman who supplied rusks and other articles of the kind at the house where they boarded. Her manners, appearance, and character were just as described. One day another servant came in her place, bringing the rusks. The sister of the writer inquired what had become of Prue. She seemed reluctant to answer for some time, but at last said that they had taken her into the


cellar and beaten her, and that the flies had got at her and she was dead!

  It is well known that there are no cellars, properly so called, in New Orleans, the nature of the ground being such as to forbid digging. The slave who used the word had probably been imported from some State where cellars were in use, and applied the term to the place which was used for the ordinary purposes of a cellar. A cook who lived in the writer's family, having lived most of her life on a plantation, always applied the descriptive terms of the plantation to the very limited enclosures and retinue of a very plain house and yard.

  This same lady, while living in the same place, used frequently to have her compassion excited by hearing the wailings of a sickly baby in a house adjoining their own, as also the objurgations and tyrannical abuse of a ferocious virago upon its mother. She once got an opportunity to speak to its mother, who appeared heart-broken and dejected, and inquired what was the matter with her child. Her answer was, that she had had a fever, and that her milk was all dried away; and that her mistress was set against her child, and would not buy milk for it. She had tried to feed it on her own coarse food, but it pined and cried continually; and in witness of this she brought the baby to her. It was emaciated to a skeleton. The lady took the little thing to a friend of hers in the house who had been recently confined, and who was suffering from a redundancy of milk, and begged her to nurse it. The miserable sight of the little, famished, wasted thing affected the mother so as to overcome all other considerations, and she placed it to her breast, when it revived, and took food with an eagerness which showed how much it had suffered. But the child was so reduced that this proved only a transient alleviation. It was after this almost impossible to get sight of the woman, and the violent temper of her mistress was such as to make it difficult to interfere in the case. The lady secretly afforded what aid she could, though, as she confessed, with a sort of misgiving that it was a cruelty to try to hold back the poor little sufferer from the refuge of the grave; and it was a relief to her when at last its wailings ceased, and it went where the weary are at rest. This is one of those cases which go to show that the interest of the owner will not always insure kind treatment of the slave.

  There is one other incident, which the writer interwove into the history of the mulatto woman who was bought by Legree for his plantation. The reader will remember that, in telling her story to Emmeline, she says:—


  “My mas'r was Mr. Ellis—lived in Levee-street. P'raps you've seen the house.”

  “Was he good to you?” said Emmeline.

  “Mostly, till he tuk sick. He's lain sick, off and on, more than six months, and been orful oneasy. 'Pears like he warn't willin' to have nobody rest, day nor night; and got so cur'ous, there couldn't nobody suit him. 'Pears like he just grew crosser every day; kep me up nights till I got fairly beat out, and couldn't keep awake no longer; and 'cause I got to sleep one night, Lors! he talk so orful to me, and he tell me he'd sell me to just the hardest master he could find; and he'd promised me my freedom, too, when he died!”

  An incident of this sort came under the author's observation in the following manner. A quadroon slave family, liberated by the will of the master, settled on Walnut Hills, near her residence, and their children were received into her family school, taught in her house. In this family was a little quadroon boy, four or five years of age, with a sad, dejected appearance, who excited their interest.

  The history of this child, as narrated by his friends, was simply this: his mother had been the indefatigable nurse of her master, during a lingering and painful sickness which at last terminated his life. She had borne all the fatigue of the nursing both by night and by day, sustained in it by his promise that she should be rewarded for it by her liberty, at his death. Overcome by exhaustion and fatigue, she one night fell asleep, and he was unable to rouse her. The next day, after violently upbraiding her, he altered the directions of his will, and sold her to a man who was noted in all the region round as a cruel master, which sale, immediately on his death, which was shortly after, took effect. The only mitigation of her sentence was that her child was not to be taken with her into this dreaded lot, but was given to this quadroon family to be brought into a free State.

  The writer very well remembers hearing this story narrated among a group of liberated negroes, and their comments on it. A peculiar form of grave and solemn irony often characterises the communications of this class of people. It is a habit engendered in slavery to comment upon proceedings of this kind in language apparently respectful to the perpetrators, and which is felt to be irony only by a certain peculiarity of manner, difficult to describe. After the relation of this story, when the writer expressed her indignation in no measured terms, one of the oldest of the sable circle remarked, gravely—

  “The man was a mighty great Christian, anyhow.”

  The writer warmly expressed her dissent from this view, when another of the same circle added—


  “Went to glory, anyhow.”

  And another continued—

  “Had the greatest kind of a time when he was a-dyin'; said he was goin' straight into heaven.”

  And when the writer remarked that many people thought so who never got there, a singular smile of grim approval passed round the circle, but no further comments were made. This incident has often recurred to the writer's mind, as showing the danger to the welfare of the master's soul from the possession of absolute power. A man of justice and humanity when in health, is often tempted to become unjust, exacting, and exorbitant in sickness. If, in these circumstances, he is surrounded by inferiors, from whom law and public opinion have taken away the rights of common humanity, how is he tempted to the exercise of the most despotic passions, and, like this unfortunate man, to leave the world with the weight of these awful words upon his head: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”


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



  TOPSY stands as the representative of a large class of the children who are growing up under the institution of slavery—quick, active, subtle and ingenious, apparently utterly devoid of principle and conscience, keenly penetrating, by an instinct which exists in the childish mind, the degradation of their condition, and the utter hopelessness of rising above it; feeling the black skin on them, like the mark of Cain, to be a sign of reprobation and infamy, and urged on by a kind of secret desperation to make their “calling and election” in sin “sure.”

  Christian people have often been perfectly astonished and discouraged, as Miss Ophelia was, in the attempt to bring up such children decently and Christianly, under a state of things which takes away every stimulant which God meant should operate healthfully on the human mind.

  We are not now speaking of the Southern States merely, but of the New England States; for, startling as it may appear, slavery is not yet wholly abolished in the free States of the North. The most unchristian part of it, that which gives to it all the bitterness and all the sting, is yet, in a great measure, unrepealed; it is the practical denial to the negro of the rights of human brotherhood. In consequence of this, Topsy is a character which may be found at the North as well as at the South.

  In conducting the education of negro, mulatto, and quadroon children, the writer has often observed this fact—that, for a certain time, and up to a certain age, they kept equal pace with, and were often superior to, the white children with whom they were associated; but that there came a time when they became indifferent to learning, and made no further progress. This was invariably at the age when they were old enough to reflect upon life, and to perceive that society had no place to offer them for which anything more would be requisite than the rudest and most elementary knowledge.

  Let us consider how it is with our own children; how few


of them would ever acquire an education from the mere love of learning.

  In the process necessary to acquire a handsome style of handwriting, to master the intricacies of any language, or to conquer the difficulties of mathematical study, how often does the perseverance of the child flag, and need to be stimulated by his parents and teachers by such considerations as these: “It will be necessary for you, in such or such a position in life, to possess this or that acquirement or accomplishment. How could you ever become a merchant without understanding accounts? How could you enter the learned professions without understanding languages? If you are ignorant and uninformed, you cannot take rank as a gentleman in society.”

  Does not everyone know that, without the stimulus which teachers and parents thus continually present, multitudes of children would never gain a tolerable education? And is it not the absence of all such stimulus which has prevented the negro child from an equal advance?

  It is often objected to the negro race that they are frivolous and vain, passionately fond of show, and are interested only in trifles. And who is to blame for all this? Take away all high aims, all noble ambition, from any class, and what is left for them to be interested in but trifles?

  The present Attorney-General of Liberia, Mr. Lewis, is a man who commands the highest respect for talent and ability in his position; yet, while he was in America, it is said that, like many other young coloured men, he was distinguished only for foppery and frivolity. What made the change in Lewis after he went to Liberia? Who does not see the answer? Does anyone wish to know what is inscribed on the seal which keeps the great stone over the sepulchre of African mind? It is this—which was so truly said by poor Topsy—“NOTHING BUT A NIGGER!”

  It is this, burnt into the soul by the branding-iron of cruel and unchristian scorn, that is a sorer and deeper wound than all the physical evils of slavery together.

  There never was a slave who did not feel it. Deep, deep down in the dark still waters of his soul is the conviction, heavier, bitterer than all others, that he is not regarded as a man. On this point may be introduced the testimony of one who has known the wormwood and the gall of slavery by bitter experience. The following letter has been received from Dr. Pennington, in relation to some inquiries of the author:—


  New York, 50, Laurens-street, November 30, 1852.

  ESTEEMED MADAM,—I have duly received your kind letter in answer to mine of the 15th instant, in which you state that you “have an intense curiosity to know how far you have rightly divined the heart of the slave.” You give me your idea in these words: “There lies buried down in the heart of the most seemingly careless and stupid slave a bleeding spot that bleeds and aches, though he could scarcely tell why; and that this sore spot is the degradation of his position.”

  After escaping from the plantation of Dr. Tilghman, in Washington County, Md., where I was held as a slave, and worked as a blacksmith, I came to the State of Pennsylvania, and, after experiencing there some of the vicissitudes referred to in my little published narrative, I came into New York State, bringing in my mind a certain indescribable feeling of wretchedness. They used to say of me at Dr. Tilghman's, “That blacksmith Jemmy is a 'cute fellow; still water runs deep.” But I confess that “blacksmith Jemmy” was not 'cute enough to understand the cause of his own wretchedness. The current of the still water may have run deep, but it did not reach down to that awful bed of lava.

  At times I thought it occasioned by the lurking fear of betrayal. There was no Vigilance Committee at the time—there were but anti-slavery men. I came North with my counsels in my own cautious breast. I married a wife, and did not tell her I was a fugitive. None of my friends knew it. I knew not the means of safety, and hence I was constantly in fear of meeting with some one who would betray me.

  It was fully two years before I could hold up my head; but still that feeling was in my mind. In 1846, after opening my bosom as a fugitive to John Hooker, Esq., I felt this much relief—“Thank God, there is one brother man in hard old Connecticut that knows my troubles.”

  Soon after this, when I sailed to the island of Jamaica, and on landing there saw coloured men in all the stations of civil, social, commercial life, where I had seen white men in this country, that feeling of wretchedness experienced a sensible relief, as if some feverish sore had been just reached by just the right kind of balm. There was before my eye evidence that a coloured man is more than “a nigger.” I went into the House of Assembly at Spanishtown, where fifteen out of forty-five members were coloured men. I went into the courts, where I saw in the jury-box coloured and white men together, coloured and white lawyers at the bar. I went into the Common Council of Kingston; there I found men of different colours. So in all the counting-rooms,&c.&c.

  But still there was this drawback. Somebody says, “This is nothing but a nigger island.” Now, then, my old trouble came back again, “a nigger among niggers is but a nigger still.”

  In 1849, when I undertook my second visit to Great Britain, I resolved to prolong and extend my travel and intercourse with the best class of men, with a view to see if I could banish that troublesome old ghost entirely out of my mind. In England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium, and Prussia, my whole power has been concentrated on this object: “I'll be a man, and I'll kill off this enemy which has haunted me these twenty years and more.” I believe I have succeeded in some good degree; at least, I have now no more trouble on the score of equal manhood with the whites. My European tour was certainly useful,


because there the trial was fair and honourable. I had nothing to complain of. I got what was due to man, and I was expected to do what was due from man to man. I sought not to be treated as a pet. I put myself into the harness, and wrought manfully in the first pulpits, and the platforms in peace congresses, conventions, anniversaries, commencements, &c.; and in these exercises that rusty old iron came out of my soul, and went “clean away.”

  You say again you have never seen a slave, however careless and merryhearted, who had not this sore place, and that did not shrink or get angry if a finger was laid on it. I see that you have been a close observer of negro nature.

  So far as I understand your idea, I think you are perfectly correct in the impression you have received, as explained in your note.

  O Mrs. Stowe, slavery is an awful system! It takes man as God made him; it demolishes him, and then mis-creates him, or perhaps I should say mal-creates him!

  Wishing you good health and good success in your arduous work,

I am yours, respectfully, J. W. C. PENNINGTON.

  Mrs. H. B. Stowe.

  People of intelligence, who have had the care of slaves, have often made this remark to the writer: “They are a singular, whimsical people; you can do a great deal more with them by humouring some of their prejudices than by bestowing on them the most substantial favours.” On inquiring what these prejudices were, the reply would be, “They like to have their weddings elegantly celebrated, and to have a good deal of notice taken of their funerals, and to give and go to parties dressed and appearing like white people; and they will often put up with material inconveniences, and suffer themselves to be worked very hard, if they are humoured in these respects.”

  Can anyone think of this without compassion? Poor souls! willing to bear with so much for simply this slight acknowledgment of their common humanity. To honour their weddings and funerals is, in some sort, acknowledging that they are human, and therefore they prize it. Hence we see the reason of the passionate attachment which often exists in a faithful slave to a good master; it is, in fact, a transfer of his identity to his master. A stern law, and an unchristian public sentiment, has taken away his birthright of humanity, erased his name from the catalogue of men, and made him an anomalous creature—neither man nor brute. When a kind master recognises his humanity, and treats him as a humble companion and a friend, there is no end to the devotion and gratitude which he thus excites. He is to the slave a deliverer and a saviour from the curse which lies on his hapless race. Deprived of all legal rights and privileges, all opportunity or hope of personal advancement or honour, he transfers, as it were, his whole


existence into his master's, and appropriates his rights, his position, his honour, as his own; and thus enjoys a kind of reflected sense of what it might be to be a man himself. Hence it is that the appeal to the more generous part of the negro character is seldom made in vain.

  An acquaintance of the writer was married to a gentleman in Louisiana, who was the proprietor of some eight hundred slaves. He, of course, had a large train of servants in his domestic establishment. When about to enter upon her duties, she was warned that the servants were all so thievish that she would be under the necessity, in common with all other housekeepers, of keeping everything under lock and key. She, however, announced her intention of training her servants in such a manner as to make this unnecessary. Her ideas were ridiculed as chimerical, but she resolved to carry them into practice. The course she pursued was as follows:—She called all the family servants together; told them that it would be a great burden and restraint upon her to be obliged to keep everything locked from them; that she had heard that they were not at all to be trusted, but that she could not help hoping that they were much better than they had been represented. She told them that she should provide abundantly for all their wants, and then that she should leave her stores unlocked, and trust to their honour.

  The idea that they were supposed capable of having any honour struck a new chord at once in every heart. The servants appeared most grateful for the trust, and there was much public spirit excited, the older and graver ones exerting themselves to watch over the children, that nothing might be done to destroy this new-found treasure of honour.

  At last, however, the lady discovered that some depredations had been made on her cake by some of the juvenile part of the establishment; she, therefore, convened all the servants, and stated the fact to them. She remarked that it was not on account of the value of the cake that she felt annoyed, but that they must be sensible that it would not be pleasant for her to have it indiscriminately fingered and handled, and that, therefore, she should set some cake out upon a table, or some convenient place, and beg that all those who were disposed to take it would go there and help themselves, and allow the rest to remain undisturbed in the closet. She states that the cake stood upon the table and dried, without a morsel of it being touched, and that she never afterwards had any trouble in this respect.

  A little time after, a new carriage was bought, and one night the leather boot of it was found to be missing. Before her


husband had time to take any steps on the subject, the servants of the family had called a convention among themselves, and instituted an inquiry into the offence. The boot was found and promptly restored, though they would not reveal to their master and mistress the name of the offender.

  One other anecdote which this lady related illustrates that peculiar devotion of a slave to a good master, to which allusion has been made. Her husband met with his death by a sudden and melancholy accident. He had a personal attendant and confidential servant who had grown up with him from childhood. This servant was so overwhelmed with grief as to be almost stupified. On the day of the funeral a brother of his deceased master inquired of him if he had performed a certain commission for his mistress. The servant said that he had forgotten it. Not perceiving his feelings at the moment, the gentleman replied, “I am surprised that you should neglect any command of your mistress, when she is in such affliction.”

  This remark was the last drop in the full cup. The poor fellow fell to the ground entirely insensible, and the family were obliged to spend nearly two hours employing various means to restore his vitality. The physician accounted for his situation by saying that there had been such a rush of all the blood in the body towards the heart, that there was actual danger of a rupture of that organ—a literal death by a broken heart.

  Some thoughts may be suggested by Miss Ophelia's conscientious but unsuccessful efforts in the education of Topsy.

  Society has yet need of a great deal of enlightening as to the means of restoring the vicious and degraded to virtue.

  It has been erroneously supposed that with brutal and degraded natures only coarse and brutal measures could avail; and yet it has been found, by those who have most experience, that their success with this class of society has been just in proportion to the delicacy and kindliness with which they have treated them.

  Lord Shaftesbury, who has won so honourable a fame by his benevolent interest in the efforts made for the degraded lower classes of his own land, says, in a recent letter to the author:—

  You are right about Topsy; our ragged schools will afford you many instances of poor children, hardened by kicks, insults and neglect, moved to tears and docility by the first word of kindness. It opens new feelings, developes, as it were a new nature, and brings the wretched outcast into the family of man.

  Recent efforts which have been made among unfortunate females in some of the worst districts of New York show the


same thing. What is it that rankles deepest in the breast of fallen woman, that makes her so hopeless and irreclaimable? It is that burning consciousness of degradation which stings worse than cold or hunger, and makes her shrink from the face of the missionary and the philanthropist. They who have visited these haunts of despair and wretchedness have learned that they must touch gently the shattered harp of the human soul, if they would string it again to divine music; that they must encourage self-respect, and hope, and sense of character, or the bonds of death can never be broken.

  Let us examine the gospel of Christ, and see on what principles its appeals are constructed. Of what nature are those motives which have melted our hearts and renewed our wills? Are they not appeals to the most generous and noble instincts of our nature? Are we not told of One fairer than the sons of men—One reigning in immortal glory, who loved us so that he could bear pain, and want, and shame, and death itself, for our sake?

  When Christ speaks to the soul, does he crush one of its nobler faculties? Does he taunt us with our degradation, our selfishness, our narrowness of view, and feebleness of intellect, compared with his own? Is it not true that he not only saves us from our sins, but saves us in a way most considerate, most tender, most regardful of our feelings and sufferings? Does not the Bible tell us that, in order to fulfil his office of Redeemer the more perfectly, he took upon him the condition of humanity, and endured the pains, and wants, and temptations of a mortal existence, that he might be to us a sympathising, appreciating friend, “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” and cheering us gently on in the hard path of returning virtue?

  Oh, when shall we, who have received so much of Jesus Christ, learn to repay it in acts of kindness to our poor brethren? When shall we be Christ-like, and not man-like, in our efforts to reclaim the fallen and wandering?


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



  THE writer's sketch of the character of this people has been drawn from personal observation. There are several settlements of these people in Ohio; and the manner of living, the tone of sentiment, and the habits of life, as represented in her book, are not at all exaggerated.

  These settlements have always been refuges for the oppressed and outlawed slave. The character of Rachel Halliday was a real one, but she has passed away to her reward. Simeon Halliday, calmly risking fine and imprisonment for his love to God and man, has had in this country many counterparts among the sect.

  The writer had in mind, at the time of writing, the scenes in the trial of John Garret, of Wilmington, Delaware, for the crime of hiring a hack to convey a mother and four children from Newcastle jail to Wilmington, a distance of five miles.

  The writer has received the facts in this case, in a letter from John Garret himself, from which some extracts will be made.

  Wilmington, Delaware,, 1st month 18th, 1853.

  MY DEAR FRIEND, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE,—I have this day received a request from Charles K. Whipple, of Boston, to furnish thee with a statement, authentic and circumstantial, of the trouble and losses which have been brought upon myself and others of my friends from the aid we had rendered to fugitive slaves, in order, if thought of sufficient importance, to be published in a work thee is now preparing for the press.

  I will now endeavour to give thee a statement of what John Hunn and myself suffered by aiding a family of slaves, a few years since. I will give the facts as they occurred, and thee may condense and publish so much as thee may think useful in thy work, and no more.

  In the 12th month, year 1846, a family, consisting of Samuel Hawkins, a freeman, his wife Emeline, and six children, who were afterwards proved slaves, stopped at the house of a friend named John Hunn, near Middletown, in this State, in the evening about sunset, to procure food and lodging for the night. They were seen by some of Hunn's pro-slavery neighbours, who soon came with a constable, and had them taken before a magistrate. Hunn had left the slaves in his kitchen when he went to the village of Middletown, half a mile distant. When the officer came with a warrant for them, he met Hunn at the kitchen-door, and asked for the


blacks. Hunn, with truth, said he did not know where they were. Hunn's wife, thinking they would be safer, had sent them up stairs during his absence, where they were found. Hunn made no resistance, and they were taken before the magistrate, and from his office direct to Newcastle jail, where they arrived about one o'clock on 7th day morning.

  The sheriff and his daughter, being kind, humane people, inquired of Hawkins and wife the facts of their case; and his daughter wrote to a lady here, to request me to go to Newcastle and inquire into the case, as her father and self really believed they were most of them, if not all, entitled to their freedom. Next morning I went to Newcastle; had the family of coloured people brought into the parlour, and the sheriff and myself came to the conclusion that the parents and four youngest children were by law entitled to their freedom. I prevailed on the sheriff to show me the commitment of the magistrate, which I found was defective, and not in due form according to law. I procured a copy, and handed it to a lawyer. He pronounced the commitment irregular, and agreed to go next morning to Newcastle, and have the whole family taken before Judge Booth, Chief Justice of the State, by habeas corpus, when the following admission was made by Samuel Hawkins and wife: they admitted that the two eldest boys were held by one Charles Glaudin, of Queen Anne County, Maryland, as slaves; that after the birth of these two children, Elizabeth Turner, also of Queen Anne, the mistress of their mother, had set her free, and permitted her to go and live with her husband, near twenty miles from her residence, after which the four youngest children were born; that her mistress during all that time, eleven or twelve years, had never contributed one dollar to their support, or come to see them. After examining the commitment in their case, and consulting with my attorney, the judge set the whole family at liberty. The day was wet and cold; one of the children, three years old, was a cripple from white swelling, and could not walk a step; another, eleven months old, at the breast; and the parents being desirous of getting to Wilmington, five miles distant, I asked the judge if there would be any risk or impropriety in my hiring a conveyance for the mother and four young children to Wilmington. His reply, in the presence of the sheriff and my attorney, was, there would not be any. I then requested the sheriff to procure a hack to take them over to Wilmington.

  The whole family escaped. John Hunn and John Garret were brought up to trial for having practically fulfilled those words of Christ, which read, “I was a stranger and ye took me in, I was sick and in prison and ye came unto me.” For John Hunn's part of this crime he was fined two thousand five hundred dollars, and John Garret was fined five thousand four hundred. Three thousand five hundred of this was the fine for hiring a hack for them, and one thousand nine hundred was assessed on him as the value of the slaves! Our European friends will infer from this that it costs something to obey Christ in America, as well as in Europe.

  After John Garret's trial was over, and this heavy judgment had been given against him, he calmly rose in the court-room,


and requested leave to address a few words to the court and audience.

  Leave being granted, he spoke as follows:—

  I have a few words which I wish to address to the court, jury, and prosecutors, in the several suits that have been brought against me during the sittings of this court, in order to determine the amount of penalty I must pay for doing what my feelings prompted me to do as a lawful and meritorious act; a simple act of humanity and justice, as I believed, to eight of that oppressed race, the people of colour, whom I found in the Newcastle jail, in the 12th month, 1845. I will now endeavour to state the facts of those cases, for your consideration and reflection after you return home to your families and friends. You will then have time to ponder on what has transpired here since the sitting of this court, and I believe that your verdict will then be unanimous, that the law of the United States, as explained by our venerable judge, when compared with the act committed by me, was cruel and oppressive, and needs remodelling.

  Here follows a very brief and clear statement of the facts in the case, of which the reader is already apprised.

  After showing conclusively that he had no reason to suppose the family to be slaves, and that they had all been discharged by the judge, he nobly adds the following words:—

  Had I believed every one of them to be slaves, I should have done the same thing. I should have done violence to my convictions of duty, had I not made use of all the lawful means in my power to liberate those people, and assist them to become men and women, rather than leave them in the condition of chattels personal.

  I am called an Abolitionist; once a name of reproach, but one I have ever been proud to be considered worthy of being called. For the last twenty-five years I have been engaged in the cause of this despised and much-injured race, and consider their cause worth suffering for; but, owing to a multiplicity of other engagements, I could not devote so much of my time and mind to their cause as I otherwise should have done.

  The impositions and persecutions practised on those unoffending and innocent brethren are extreme beyond endurance. I am now placed in a situation in which I have not so much to claim my attention as formerly; and I now pledge myself, in the presence of this assembly, to use all lawful and honourable means to lessen the burdens of this oppressed people, and endeavour, according to ability furnished, to burst their chains asunder, and set them free; not relaxing my efforts on their behalf while blessed with health and a slave remains to tread the soil of the State of my adoption—Delaware.

  After mature reflection, I can assure this assembly it is my opinion at this time that the verdicts you have given the prosecutors against John Hunn and myself, within the past few days, will have a tendency to raise a spirit of inquiry throughout the length and breadth of the land, respecting this monster evil (slavery), in many minds that have not heretofore investigated the subject. The reports of those trials will be published by editors from Maine to Texas, and the far West; and what must be the effect produced? It will, no doubt, add hundreds, perhaps


thousands, to the present large and rapidly increasing army of Abolitionists. The injury is great to us who are the immediate sufferers by your verdict; but I believe the verdicts you have given against us within the last few days will have a powerful effect in bringing about the abolition of slavery in this country—this land of boasted freedom, where not only the slave is fettered at the South by his lordly master, but the white man at the North is bound as in chains to do the bidding of his Southern masters.

  In his letter to the writer John Garret adds that, after this speech, a young man who had served as juryman came across the room, and taking him by the hand, said—

  “Old gentleman, I believe every statement that you have made. I came from home prejudiced against you, and I now acknowledge that I have helped to do you injustice.”

  Thus calmly and simply did this Quaker confess Christ before men, according as it is written of them of old—“He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.”

  Christ has said, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed.” In our days it is not customary to be ashamed of Christ personally, but of his words many are ashamed. But when they meet Him in judgment they will have cause to remember them; for heaven and earth shall pass away, but his words shall not pass away.

  Another case of the same kind is of a more affecting character.

  Richard Dillingham was the son of a respectable Quaker family in Morrow County, Ohio. His pious mother brought him up in the full belief of the doctrine of St. John, that the love of God and the love of man are inseparable. He was diligently taught in such theological notions as are implied in such passages as these: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.—But whoso hath this world's goods and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?—My little children, let us not love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

  In accordance with these precepts, Richard Dillingham, in early manhood, was found in Cincinnati teaching the coloured people, and visiting in the prisons, and doing what in him lay to “love in deed and in truth.”

  Some unfortunate families among the coloured people had dear friends who were slaves in Nashville, Tennessee. Richard was so interested in their story, that when he went into Tennessee


he was actually taken up and caught in the very fact of helping certain poor people to escape to their friends.

  He was seized and thrown into prison. In the language of this world he was imprisoned as a “negro-stealer.” His own account is given in the following letter to his parents:—

  Nashville Jail, 12th mo: 15th, 1849.

  DEAR PARENTS,—I presume you have heard of my arrest and imprisonment in the Nashville jail, under a charge of aiding in an attempted escape of slaves from the city of Nashville, on the 5th inst. I was arrested by M. D. Maddox (district constable), aided by Frederick Marshal, watchman at the Nashville Inn, and the bridge-keeper, at the bridge across the Cumberland river. When they arrested me, I had rode up to the bridge on horseback and paid the toll for myself and for the hack to pass over, in which three coloured persons, who were said to be slaves, were found by the men who arrested me. The driver of the hack (who is a free coloured man of this city), and the persons in the hack, were also arrested; and after being taken to the Nashville Inn and searched, we were all taken to jail. My arrest took place about eleven o'clock at night.

  In another letter he says:—

  At the bridge, Maddox said to me, “You are just the man we wanted. We will make an example of you.” As soon as we were safe in the bar-room of the Inn, Maddox took a candle and looked me in the face, to see if he could recognise my countenance; and looking intently at me a few moments, he said, “Well, you are too good-looking a young man to be engaged in such an affair as this.” The by-standers asked me several questions, to which I replied that, under the present circumstances, I would rather be excused from answering any questions relating to my case; upon which they desisted from further inquiry. Some threats and malicious wishes were uttered against me by the ruffian part of the assembly, being about twenty-five persons. I was put in a cell which had six persons in it, and I can assure thee that they were very far from being agreeable companions to me, although they were kind. But thou knows that I do not relish cursing and swearing, and, worst of all, loathsome and obscene blasphemy and of such was most of the conversation of my prison mates when I was first put in here. The jailors are kind enough to me, but the jail is so constructed that it cannot be warmed, and we have either to warm ourselves by walking in our cell, which is twelve by fifteen feet, or by lying in bed. I went out on my trial on the 16th of last month, and put it off till the next term of the court, which will be commenced on the second of next 4th month. I put it off on the ground of excitement.

  Dear brother, I have no hopes of getting clear of being convicted and sentenced to the Penitentiary; but do not think that I am without comfort in my afflictions, for I assure thee that I have many reflections that give me sweet consolation in the midst of my grief. I have a clear conscience before my God, which is my greatest comfort and support through all my troubles and afflictions. An approving conscience none can know but those who enjoy it. It nerves us in the hour of trial to bear our sufferings with fortitude and even with cheerfulness. The greatest affliction I have is the reflection of the sorrow and anxiety my friends will


have to endure on my account. But I can assure thee, brother, that, with the exception of this reflection, I am far, very far, from being one of the most miserable of men. Nay, to the contrary, I am not terrified at the prospect before me, though I am grieved about it; but all have enough to grieve about in this unfriendly wilderness of sin and woe. My hopes are not fixed in this world, and therefore I have a source of consolation that will never fail me, so long as I slight not the offers of mercy, comfort, and peace, which my blessed Saviour constantly privileges me with.

  One source of almost constant annoyance to my feelings is the profanity and vulgarity, and the bad, disagreeable temper, of two or three fellow-prisoners of my cell. They show me considerable kindness and respect; but they cannot do otherwise, when treated with the civility and kindness with which I treat them. If it be my fate to go to the Penitentiary for eight or ten years, I can, I believe, meet my doom without shedding a tear. I have not yet shed a tear, though there may be many in store. My bail-bonds were set at seven thousand dollars, If I should be bailed out, I should return to my trial, unless my security were rich, and did not wish me to return; for I am Richard yet, although I am in the prison of my enemy, and will not flinch from what I believe to be right and honourable. These are the principles which, in carrying out, have lodged me here; for there was a time, at my arrest, that I might have, in all probability, escaped the police, but it would have subjected those who were arrested with me to punishment, perhaps even to death, in order to find out who I was; and if they had not told more than they could have done in truth, they would probably have been punished without mercy; and I am determined no one shall suffer for me. I am now a prisoner, but those who were arrested with me are all at liberty, and I believe without whipping. I now stand alone before the Commonwealth of Tennessee to answer for the affair. Tell my friends I am in the midst of consolation here.

  Richard was engaged to a young lady of amiable disposition and fine mental endowments.

  To her he thus writes:—

  Oh, dearest! Canst thou upbraid me? canst thou call it crime? wouldst thou call it crime, or couldst thou upbraid me, for rescuing, or attempting to rescue, thy father, mother, or brother and sister, or even friends, from a captivity among a cruel race of oppressors? Oh, couldst thou only see what I have seen, and hear what I have heard, of the sad, vexatious, degrading, and soul-trying situation of as noble minds as ever the Anglo-Saxon race were possessed of, mourning in vain for that universal heaven-born boon of freedom which an all-wise and beneficent Creator has designed for all, thou couldst not censure, but wouldst deeply sympathise with me! Take all these things into consideration, and the thousands of poor mortals who are dragging out far more miserable lives than mine will be, even at ten years in the Penitentiary, and thou wilt not look upon my fate with so much horror as thou would at first thought.

  In another letter he adds:—

  Have happy hours here, and I should not be miserable if I could only know you were not sorrowing for me at home. It would give me more satisfaction to hear that you were not grieving about me than anything else.


  The nearer I live to the principle of the commandment, “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” the more enjoyment I have of this life. None can know the enjoyments that flow from feelings of good-will towards our fellow-beings, both friends and enemies, but those who cultivate them. Even in my prison-cell I may be happy, if I will. For the Christian's consolation cannot be shut out from him by enemies or iron gates.

  In another letter to the lady before alluded to he says:—

  By what I am able to learn, I believe thy “Richard” has not fallen altogether unlamented; and the satisfaction it gives me is sufficient to make my prison life more pleasant and desirable than even a life of liberty without the esteem and respect of my friends. But it gives bitterness to the cup of my afflictions to think that my dear friends and relatives have to suffer such grief and sorrow for me.

* * * * *

  Though persecution ever so severe be my lot, yet I will not allow my indignation ever to ripen into revenge even against my bitterest enemies; for there will be a time when all things must be revealed before Him who has said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Yes, my heart shall ever glow with love for my poor fellow- mortals, who are hastening rapidly on to their final destination—the awful tomb and the solemn judgment.

  Perhaps it will give thee some consolation for me to tell thee that I believe there is a considerable sympathy existing in the minds of some of the better portion of the citizens here, which may be of some benefit to me. But all that can be done in my behalf will still leave my case a sad one. Think not, however, that it is all loss to me, for by my calamity I have learned many good and useful lessons, which I hope may yet prove both temporal and spiritual blessings to me.

“Behind a frowning Providence
He hides a smiling face.”

  Therefore, I hope thou and my dear distressed parents will be somewhat comforted about me, for I know you regard my spiritual welfare far more than anything else.

  In his next letter to the same friend, he says:—

  Since I wrote my last, I have had a severe moral conflict, in which, I believe, the right conquered, and has completely gained the ascendancy. The matter was this:—A man with whom I have become acquainted since my imprisonment offered to bail me out and let me stay away from my trial, and pay the bail-bonds for me, and was very anxious to do it. [Here he mentions that the funds held by this individual had been placed in his hands by a person who obtained them by dishonest means.] But having learned the above facts, which he in confidence made known to me, I declined accepting his offer, giving him my reasons in full. The matter rests with him, my attorneys, and myself. My attorneys do not know who he is; but, with his permission, I in confidence informed them of the nature of the case, after I came to a conclusion upon the subject, and had determined not to accept the offer; which was approved by them. I also had an offer of iron saws, and files, and other tools, by which I could break jail; but I refused them


also, as I do not wish to pursue any such underhanded course to extricate myself from my present difficulties; for when I leave Tennessee—if ever I do—I am determined to leave it a free man. Thou need not fear that I shall ever stoop to dishonourable means to avoid my severe impending fate. When I meet thee again, I want to meet thee with a clear conscience, and a character unspotted by disgrace.

  In another place he says, in view of his nearly approaching trial:—

  O dear parents! The principles of love for my fellow-beings which you have instilled into my mind are some of the greatest consolations I have in my imprisonment, and they give me resignation to bear whatever may be inflicted upon me without feeling any malice or bitterness toward my vigilant prosecutors. If they show me mercy, it will be accepted by me with gratitude; but if they do not, I will endeavour to bear whatever they may inflict with Christian fortitude and resignation, and try not to murmur at my lot; but it is hard to obey the commandment, “Love your enemies.”

  The day of his trial at length came.

  His youth, his engaging manners, frank address, and invariable gentleness to all who approached him, had won many friends, and the trial excited much interest.

  His mother and her brother, Asa Williams, went a distance of 750 miles to attend his trial. They carried with them a certificate of his character, drawn up by Dr. Brisbane, and numerously signed by his friends and acquaintances, and officially countersigned by civil officers. This was done at the suggestion of his counsel, and exhibited by them in court. When brought to the bar it is said “that his demeanour was calm, dignified, and manly.” His mother sat by his side. The prosecuting attorney waived his plea, and left the ground clear for Richard's counsel. Their defence was eloquent and pathetic. After they closed, Richard rose, and in a calm and dignified manner spoke extemporaneously as follows:—

  “By the kind permission of the court, for which I am sincerely thankful, I avail myself of the privilege of adding a few words to the remarks already made by my counsel. And although I stand, by my own confession, as a criminal in the eyes of your violated laws, yet I feel confident that I am addressing those who have hearts to feel; and in meting out the punishment that I am about to suffer, I hope you will be lenient; for it is a new situation in which I am placed. Never before, in the whole course of my life, have I been charged with a dishonest act. And from my childhood, kind parents, whose names I deeply reverence, have instilled into my mind a desire to be virtuous and honourable; and it has ever been my aim so to conduct myself as to merit the confidence and esteem of my fellow-men. But, gentlemen, I have violated your laws. This offence I did commit; and I now stand before you, to my sorrow and regret, as a criminal. But I was prompted to it by feelings of humanity. It has been suspected, as I was informed, that I am leagued with a fraternity who are combined for the purpose of committing such offences as the one with which I am charged. But


gentlemen, the impression is false. I alone am guilty—I alone committed the offence—and I alone must suffer the penalty. My parents, my friends, my relatives, are as innocent of any participation in or knowledge of my offence as the babe unborn. My parents are still living,* though advanced in years, and, in the course of nature, a few more years will terminate their earthly existence. In their old age and infirmity they will need a stay and protection; and, if you can, consistently with your ideas of justice, make my term of imprisonment a short one, you will receive the lasting gratitude of a son who reverences his parents, and the prayers and blessings of an aged father and mother who love their child.”

  A great deal of sensation now appeared in the court-room, and most of the jury are said to have wept. They retired for a few moments, and refurned a verdict for three years' imprisonment in the Penitentiary.

  The Nashville Daily Gazette of April 13, 1849, contains the following notice:—


  “Richard Dillingham, who was arrested on the 5th day of September last, having in his possession three slaves, whom he intended to convey with him to a free State, was arraigned yesterday and tried in the Criminal Court. The prisoner confessed his guilt, and made a short speech in palliation of his offence. He avowed that the act was undertaken by himself without instigation from any source, and he alone was responsible for the error into which his education had led him. He had, he said, no other motive than the good of the slaves, and did not expect to claim any advantage by freeing them. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in the Penitentiary, the least time the law allows for the offence committed. Mr. Dillingham is a Quaker from Ohio, and has been a teacher in that State. He belongs to a respectable family, and he is not without the sympathy of those who attended the trial. It was a fool-hardy enterprise in which he embarked, and dearly has he paid for his rashness.”

  His mother, before leaving Nashville, visited the governor, and had an interview with him in regard to pardoning her son. He gave her some encouragement, but thought she had better postpone her petition for the present. After the lapse of several months, she wrote to him about it; but he seemed to have changed his mind, as the following letter will show:—

  Nashville, August 29, 1849

  “DEAR MADAM,—Your letter of the 6th of the 7th mo. was received, and would have been noticed earlier but for my absence from home. Your solicitude for your son is natural, and it would be gratifying to be able to reward it by releasing him, if it were in my power. But the offence for which he is suffering was clearly made out, and its tendency here is very hurtful to our rights, and our peace as a people. He is doomed to the shortest period known to our statute. And, at all events, I could not interfere with his case for some time to come; and, to be frank with you, I do not see how his time can be lessened at all. But my term of office will expire soon, and the Governor elect, Gen. William Trousdale, will take my place. To him you will make any future appeal.

“Yours,&c., “N. L. BROWN.”


  The warden of the Penitentiary, John McIntosh, was much prejudiced against him. He thought the sentence was too light, and, being of a stern bearing, Richard had not much to expect from his kindness. But the same sterling inegrity and ingenuousness which had ever, under all circumstances, marked his conduct, soon wrought a change in the minds of his keepers, and of his enemies generally. He became a favourite with McIntosh and some of the guard. According to the rules of the prison, he was not allowed to write oftener than once in three months, and what he wrote had, of course, to be inspected by the warden.

  He was at first put to sawing and scrubbing rock; but, as the delicacy of his frame unfitted him for such labours, and the spotless sanctity of his life won the reverence of his jailors, he was soon promoted to be steward of the prison hospital. In a letter to a friend he thus announces this change in his situation:

  I suppose thou art, ere this time, informed of the change in my situation, having been placed in the hospital of the Penitentiary as steward..... I feel but poorly qualified to fill the situation they have assigned me, but will try to do the best I can..... I enjoy the comforts of a good fire and a warm room, and am allowed to sit up evenings and read, which I prize as a great privilege..... I have now been here nearly nine months, and have twenty-seven more to stay. It seems to me a long time in prospect. I try to be as patient as I can, but sometimes I get low-spirited. I throw off the thoughts of home and friends as much as possible; for, when indulged in, they only increase my melancholy feelings. And what wounds my feelings most is the reflection of what you all suffer of grief and anxiety for me. Cease to grieve for me, for I am unworthy of it; and it only causes pain for you, without availing aught for me..... As ever, thine in the bonds of affection,

R. D.

  He had been in prison little more than a year when the cholera invaded Nashville, and broke out among the inmates; Richard was up day and night in attendance on the sick, his disinterested and sympathetic nature leading him to labours to which his delicate constitution, impaired by confinement, was altogether inadequate.

Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, grief, and pain, by turns dismayed,
The youthful champion stood: at his control
Despair and anguish fled the trembling soul,
Comfort came down the dying wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whispered praise.

  Worn with these labours, the gentle, patient lover of God and of his brother sank at last overwearied, and passed peacefully away to a world where all are lovely and loving.

  Though his correspondence with her he most loved was in-


terrupted, from his unwillingness to subject his letters to the surveillance of the warden, yet a note reached her, conveyed through the hands of a prisoner whose time was out. In this letter, the last which any earthly friend ever received, he says:—

  I oft-times, yea, all times, think of thee; if I did not, I should cease to exist.

  What must that system be which makes it necessary to imprison with convicted felons a man like this, because he loves his brother man, “not wisely but too well?”

  On his death Whittier wrote the following:—

“Si crucem libenter portes, te portabit.”— Imit. Christ.

“The Cross, if freely borne, shall be
No burthen, but support, to thee.”
So, moved of old time for our sake,
The holy man of Kempen spake.
Thou brave and true one, upon whom
Was laid the Cross of Martyrdom,
How didst thou, in thy faithful youth,
Bear witness to this blessed truth!
Thy cross of suffering and of shame
A staff within thy hands became,
In paths where Faith alone could see
The Master's steps upholding thee.
Thine was the seed-time: God alone
Beholds the end of what is sown;
Beyond our vision, weak and dim,
The harvest-time is hid with Him.
Yet, unforgotten where it lies,
That seed of generous sacrifice,
Though seeming on the desert cast,
Shall rise with bloom and fruit at last.

  Amesbury, Second mo. 18th, 1852.


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


  THE general tone of the press and of the community in the slave States, so far as it has been made known at the North, has been loudly condemnatory of the representations of “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” Still, it would be unjust to the character of the South to refuse to acknowledge that she has many sons with candour enough to perceive, and courage enough to avow, the evils of her “peculiar institutions.” The manly independence exhibited by these men, in communities where popular sentiment rules despotically, either by law or in spite of law, should be duly honoured. The sympathy of such minds as these is a high encouragement to philanthropic effort.

  The author inserts a few testimonials from Southern men, not without some pride in being thus kindly judged by those who might have been naturally expected to read her book with prejudice against it.

  The Jefferson Inquirer, published at Jefferson City, Missouri, October 23, 1852, contains the following communication:—


  I have lately read this celebrated book, which, perhaps, has gone through more editions, and been sold in greater numbers, than any work from the American press, in the same length of time. It is a work of high literary finish, and its several characters are drawn with great power and truthfulness, although, like the characters in most novels and works of fiction, in some instances too highly coloured. There is no attack on slave-holders as such, but, on the contrary, many of them are represented as highly noble, generous, humane, and benevolent. Nor is there any attack upon them as a class. It sets forth many of the evils of slavery, as an institution established by law, but without charging these evils on those who hold the slaves, and seems fully to appreciate the difficulties in finding a remedy. Its effect upon the slave-holder is to make him a kinder and better master; to which none can object. This is said without any intention to indorse everything contained in the book, or, indeed, in any novel or work of fiction. But, if I mistake not, there are few, excepting those who are greatly prejudiced, that will rise from a perusal of the book without being a truer and better Christian, and a more humane and benevolent man. As a slave-holder, I


do not feel the least aggrieved. How Mrs. Stowe, the authoress, has obtained her extremely accurate knowledge of the negroes, their character, dialect, habits,&c., is beyond my comprehension, as she never resided—as appears from the preface—in a slave State, or among slaves or negroes. But they are certainly admirably delineated. The book is highly interesting and amusing, and will afford a rich treat to its reader.


  The opinion of the editor himself is given in these words:—


  Well, like a good portion of “the world and the rest of mankind,” we have read the book of Mrs. Stowe bearing the above title.

  From numerous statements, newspaper paragraphs and rumours, we supposed the book was all that fanaticism and heresy could invent, and were, therefore, greatly prejudiced against it. But, on reading it, we cannot refrain from saying that it is a work of more than ordinary moral worth, and is entitled to consideration. We do not regard it as a “corruption of moral sentiment,” and a gross “libel on a portion of our people.” The authoress seems disposed to treat the subject fairly, though, in some particulars, the scenes are too highly coloured, and too strongly drawn from the imagination. The book, however, may lead its readers at a distance to misapprehend some of the general and better features of “Southern life as it is” (which, by the way, we, as an individual, prefer to Northern life); yet it is a perfect mirror of several classes of people we have in our mind's eye, who are not free from “all the ills that flesh is heir to.” It has been feared that the book would result in injury to the slaveholding interests of the country; but we apprehend no such thing, and hesitate not to recommend it to the perusal of our friends and the public generally.

  Mrs. Stowe has exhibited a knowledge of many peculiarities of Southern society which is really wonderful when we consider that she is a Northern lady by birth and residence.

  We hope, then, before our friends form any harsh opinions of the merits of “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” and make up any judgment against us for pronouncing in its favour (barring some objections to it), that they will give it a careful perusal; and, in so speaking, we may say that we yield to no man in his devotion to Southern rights and interests.

  The editor of the St. Louis (Missouri) Battery pronounces the following judgment:—

  We took up this work, a few evenings since, with just such prejudices against it as we presume many others have, and commenced reading it. We have been so much in contact with ultra abolitionists—have had so much evidence that their benevolence was much more hatred for the master than love for the slave, accompanied with a profound ignorance of the circumstances surrounding both, and a most consummate, supreme disgust for the whole negro race—that we had about concluded that anything but rant and nonsense was out of the question from a Northern writer on the subject of slavery.

  Mrs. Stowe, in these delineations of life among the lowly, has convinced us to the contrary.


  She brings to the discussion of her subject a perfectly cool, calculating judgment, a wide, all-comprehending intellectual vision, and a deep, warm, sea-like woman's soul, over all of which is flung a perfect iris-like imagination, which makes the light of her pictures stronger and more beautiful, as their shades are darker and terror-striking.

  We do not wonder that the copy before us is of the seventieth thousand. And seventy thousand more will not supply the demand, or we mistake the appreciation of the American people of the real merits of literary productions. Mrs. Stowe has, in “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” set up for herself a monument more enduring than marble. It will stand amid the wastes of slavery as the Memnon stands amid the sands of the African desert, telling both the white man and the negro of the approach of morning. The book is not an abolitionist work, in the offensive sense of the word. It is, as we have intimated, free from everything like fanaticism, no matter what amount of enthusiasm vivifies every page, and runs like electricity along every thread of the story. It presents at one view the excellences and the evils of the system of slavery, and breathes the true spirit of Christian benevolence for the slave, and charity for the master.

  The next witness gives his testimony in a letter to the New York Evening Post:


  The subjoined communication comes to us post-marked New Orleans, June 19, 1852.

  “I have just been reading 'Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Scenes in Lowly Life,' by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. It found its way to me through the channel of a young student, who purchased it at the North, to read on his homeward passage to New Orleans. He was entirely unacquainted with its character; he was attracted by its title, supposing it might amuse him while travelling. Through his family it was shown to me, as something that I would probably like. I looked at the author's name, and said, 'Oh, yes; anything from that lady I will read;' otherwise I should have disregarded a work of fiction without such a title.

  “The remarks from persons present were, that it was a most amusing work, and the scenes most admirably drawn to life. I accepted the offer of a perusal of it, and brought it home with me. Although I have not read every sentence, I have looked over the whole of it, and I now wish to bear my testimony to its just delineation of the position that the slave occupies. Colourings in the work there are, but no colourings of the actual and real position of the slave worse than really exist. Whippings to death do occur; I know it to be so. Painful separations of master and slave, under circumstances creditable to the master's feelings of humanity, do also occur. I know that, too; many families, after having brought up their children in entire dependence on slaves to do everything for them, and after having been indulged in elegances and luxuries, have exhausted all their means; and the black people only being left, whom they must sell for further support. Running away, everybody knows, is the worst crime a slave can commit, in the eyes of his master, except it be a humane master; and from such few slaves care to run away.

  “I am a slaveholder myself. I have long been dissatisfied with the system particularly since I have made the Bible my criterion for judging of it. I am con-


vinced, from what I read there, slavery is not in accordance with what God delights to honour in his creatures. I am altogether opposed to the system; and I intend always to use whatever influence I may have against it. I feel very bold in speaking against it, though living in the midst of it, because I am backed by a powerful man, that can overturn and overrule the strongest efforts that the determined friends of slavery are now making for its continuance.

  “I sincerely hope that more of Mrs. Stowes may be found, to show up the reality of slavery. It needs master minds to show it as it is, that it may rest upon its own merits.

  “Like Mrs. Stowe, I feel that, since so many and good people, too, at the North have quietly consented to leave the slave to his fate, by acquiescing in and approving the late measures of government, those who do feel differently should bestir themselves. Christian effort must do the work; and soon it would be done if Christians would unite, not to destroy the Union States, but honestly to speak out, and speak freely, against that they know is wrong. They are not aware what countenance they give to slaveholders to hold on to their prey. Troubled consciences can be easily quieted by the sympathies of pious people, particularly when interest and inclination come in as aids.

  “I am told there is to be a reply made to 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' entitled 'Uncle Tom's Cabin as It is.' I am glad of it. Investigation is what is wanted.

  “You will wonder why this communication is made to you by an unknown. It is simply made to encourage your heart, and strengthen your determination to persevere, and do all you can to put the emancipation of the slave in progress. Who I am you will never know; nor do I wish you to know, nor anyone else. I am a


  The following facts make the fiction of “Uncle Tom's Cabin” appear tame in the comparison. They are from the New York Evangelist.


  MR. EDITOR,—I see in your paper that some persons deny the statements of Mrs. Stowe. I have read her book, every word of it. I was born in East Tennessee, near Knoxville, and, we thought, in an enlightened part of the Union, much favoured in our social, political, and religious privileges,&c.&c. Well, I think about the year 1829, or, perhaps '28, a good old German Methodist owned a black man named Robin, a Methodist preacher, and the manager of farm, distillery,&c., salesman and financier. This good old German Methodist had a son named Willey, a schoolmate of mine, and, as times were, a first-rate fellow. The old man also owned a keen, bright-eyed mulatto girl; and Willey—the naughty boy— became enamoured of the poor girl. The result was soon discovered; and our good German Methodist told his brother Robin to flog the girl for her wickedness. Brother Robin said he could not and would not perform such an act of cruelty as to flog the girl for what she could not help; and for that act of disobedience old Robin was flogged by the good old German brother until he could not stand. He was carried to bed; and some three weeks thereafter, when my father left the State, he was still confined to his bed from the effects of that flogging.

  Again: in the fall of 1836, I went South for my health, stopped at a village in Mississippi, and obtained employment in the largest house in the


county, as a book-keeper, with a firm from Louisville, Kentucky. A man residing near the village—a bachelor, thirty years of age—became embarrassed, and executed a mortgage to my employer on a fine, likely boy, weighing about two hundred pounds—quick-witted, active, obedient, and remarkably faithful, trusty, and honest; so much so, that he was held up as an example. He had a wife that he loved; his owner cast his eyes upon her, and she became his paramour. His boy remonstrated with his master; told him that he tried faithfully to perform his every duty, that he was a good and faithful “nigger” to him; and it was hard, after he had toiled hard all day, and till ten o'clock at night, for him to have his domestic relations broken up and interfered with. The white man denied the charge, and the wife also denied it. One night, about the first of September, the boy came home earlier than usual, say about nine o'clock. It was a wet, dismal night; he made a fire in his cabin, went to get his supper, and found ocular demonstration of the guilt of his master. He became enraged, as I suppose any man would, seized a butcher-knife, and cut his master's throat, stabbed his wife in twenty-seven places, came to the village, and knocked at the office door. I told him to come in. He did so, and asked for my employer. I called him. The boy then told him that he had killed his master and his wife, and what for. My employer locked him up, and he, a doctor and myself, went out to the house of the old bachelor, and found him dead, and the boy's wife nearly so; she, however, lived. We (my employer and myself) returned to the village, watched the boy until about sunrise, left him locked up, and went to get our breakfasts, intending to take the boy to jail (as it was my employer' interest, if possible, to save the boy, having one thousand dollars at stake in him) but whilst we were eating, some persons who had heard of the murder broke open the door, took the poor fellow, put a log-chain round his neck, and started him for the woods at the point of the bayonet, marching by where we were eating, with a great deal of noise. My employer hearing it, ran out, and rescued the boy. The mob again broke in and took the boy, and marched him, as before stated, out of town.

  My employer then begged them not to disgrace their town in such a manner, but to appoint a jury of twelve sober men to decide what should be done. And twelve as sober men as could be found (I was not sober) said he must be hanged. They then tied a rope round his neck, and set him on an old horse. He made a speech to the mob, which I at the time thought, if it had come from some senator, would have been received with rounds of applause; and, withal, he was more calm than I am now in writing this. And after he had told all about the deed and its causes, he then kicked the horse out from under him, and was launched into eternity. My employer has often remarked that he never saw anything more noble in his whole life than the conduct of that boy.

  Now, Mr. Editor, I have given you facts, and can give you names and dates. You can do what you think is best for the cause of humanity. I hope I have seen the evil of my former practices, and will endeavour to reform.

Very respectfully, JAMES L. HILL.

  Springfield, Illinois, Sept. 17th, 1852.

  “The opinion of a Southerner,” given below, appeared in the National Era, published at Washington. This is an anti-slavery


journal, but by its generous tone and eminent ability it commands the respect and patronage of many readers in the slave States:

  The following communication comes enclosed in an envelope from Louisiana.— Ed. Era.


  To the Editor of the National Era.

  I have just been reading, in the New York Observer of the 12th of August, an article from the Southern Free Press, headed by an editorial one from the Observer, that has for its caption, “Progress in the Right Quarter.”

  The editor of the New York Observer says that the Southern Free Press has been an able and earnest defender of Southern institutions, but that he now advocates the passage of a law to prohibit the separation of families, and recommends instruction to a portion of slaves that are most honest and faithful. The Observer further adds: “It was such language as this that was becoming common before Northern fanaticism ruined the prospects of emancipation.” It is not so! Northern fanaticism, as he calls it, has done everything that has been done for bettering the condition of the slave. Every one who knows anything of slavery for the last thirty years will recollect that about that time since, the condition of the slave in Louisiana—for about Louisiana only do I speak, because about Louisiana only do I know—was as depressed and miserable as any of the accounts of the abolitionists that ever I have seen have made it. I say abolitionists; I mean friends and advocates of freedom in a fair and honourable way. If any doubt my assertion, let them seek for information; let them get the black laws of Louisiana, and read them; let them get facts from individuals of veracity, on whose statements they would rely.

  This wretched condition of slaves roused the friends of humanity, who, like men and Christian men, came fearlessly forward and told truths, indignantly expressing their abhorrence of their oppressors. Such measures of course brought forth strife, which caused the cries of humanity to sound louder and louder throughout the land. The friends of freedom gained the ascendancy in the hearts of the people, and the slaveholders were brought to a stand. Some, through fear of consequences, lessened their cruelties, while others were made to think that, perhaps, were not unwilling to do so when it was urged upon them. Cruelties were not only refrained from, but the slave's comforts were increased. A retrograde treatment now was not practicable; fears of rebellion kept them to it. The slaves had found friends, and they were watchful. It was, however, soon discovered, that too many privileges, too much leniency, and giving knowledge, would destroy the power to keep down the slave, and tend to weaken, if not destroy the system. Accordingly, stringent laws had to be passed, and a penalty attached to them. No one must teach, or cause to be taught, a slave, without incurring the penalty. The law is now in force. These necessary laws, as they are called, are all put down to the account of the friends of freedom; to their interference. I do suppose that they do justly belong to their interference; for who that studies the history of the world's transactions does not know that in all contests with power the weak, until successful, will be dealt with more rigorously? Lose not sight, however, of their former condition. Law after law has since been passed to draw the cord


tighter around the poor slave, and all attributed to the abolitionists. Well, anyhow, progress is being made. Here comes out the Southern Press, and make some honourable concessions. He says: “The assaults upon slavery, made for the last twenty years by the North, have increased the evils of it. The treatment of slaves has undoubtedly become a delicate and difficult question. The South has a great and moral conflict to wage; and it is for her to put on the most invulnerable moral panoply.” He then thinks the availability of slave property would not be injured by passing a law to prohibit the separation of slave families; for he says, “Although cases sometimes occur which we observe are seized by these Northern fanatics as characteristic of the system,”&c. Nonsense! there are no “cases sometimes” occurring; no such thing! They are every day's occurrences, though there are families that form the exception, and many, I would hope, that would not do it. While I am writing, I can call before me three men that were brought here by negro traders from Virginia, each having left six or seven children, with their wives, from whom they have never heard. One other died here a short time since, who left the same number in Carolina, from whom he had never heard.

  I spent the summer of 1845 in Nashville. During the month of September six hundred slaves passed through that place, in four different gangs, for New Orleans; final destination, probably, Texas. A goodly proportion were women; young women, of course; many mothers must have left not only their children, but their babies. One gang only had a few children. I made some excursions to the different watering-places around Nashville; and while at Robinson or Tyree Springs, twenty miles from Nashville, on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee, my hostess said to me one day, “Yonder comes a gang of slaves chained.” I went to the road-side, and viewed them. For the better answering my purpose of observation, I stopped the white man in front, who was at his ease in a one-horse waggon, and asked him if those slaves were for sale. I counted them and observed their position. They were divided by three one-horse waggons, each containing a man-merchant, so arranged as to command the whole gang. Some were unchained; sixty were chained in two companies, thirty in each, the right hand of one to the left hand of the other opposite one, making fifteen each side of a large ox-chain, to which every hand was fastened, and necessarily compelled to hold up—men and women promiscuously, and about in equal proportions—all young people. No children here, except a few in a waggon behind, which were the only children in the four gangs. I said to a respectable mulatto woman in the house, “Is it true that the negro traders take mothers from their babies?” “Missis, it is true; for here, last week, such a girl (naming her), who lives about a mile off, was taken after dinner—knew nothing of it in the morning—sold, put into the gang, and her baby was given away to a neighbour. She was a stout young woman and brought a good price.”

  The annexation of Texas induced the spirited traffic that summer. Coming down home in a small boat, water low, a negro trader on board had forty-five men and women crammed into a little spot, some handcuffed. One respectable-looking man had left a wife and seven children in Nashville. Near Memphis the boat stopped at a plantation by previous arrangement, to take in thirty more. An hour's delay was the stipulated time with the captain of the boat. Thirty young men and women came down the bank of the Mississippi, looking Wretcheduess personified, just from the field; in appearance dirty, disconsolate and oppressed


some with an old shawl under their arm; a few had blankets; some had nothing at all—looked as though they cared for nothing. I calculated, while looking at them coming down the bank, that I could hold in a bundle all that the whole of them had. The short notice that was given them, when about to leave, was in consequence of the fears entertained that they would slip one side. They all looked distressed, leaving all that was dear to them behind, to be put under the hammer, for the property of the highest bidder. No children here! The whole seventy-five were crammed into a little space on the boat, men and women all together.

  I am happy to see that morality is rearing its head with advocates for slavery, and that a “most invulnerable moral panoply” is thought to be necessary. I hope it may not prove to be like Mr. Clay's compromises. The Southern Press says: As, for caricatures of slavery in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and the 'White Slave,' all founded in imaginary circumstances, &c., we consider them highly incendiary. He who undertakes to stir up strife between two individual neighbours, by detraction, is justly regarded, by all men and all moral codes, as a criminal.” Then he quotes the Ninth Commandment, and adds: “But to bear false witness against whole States, and millions of people,&c., would seem to be a crime as much deeper in turpitude as the mischief is greater and the provocation less.” In the first place, I will put the Southern Press upon proof that Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe has told one falsehood. If she has told truth, she has, indeed, a powerful engine of “assault on slavery,” such as these Northern fanatics have made for the “last twenty years.” The number against whom she offends, in the editor's opinion, seems to increase the turpitude of her crime. This is good reasoning! I hope the editor will be brought to feel that wholesale wickedness is worse than single-handed, and is infinitely harder to reach, particularly if of long standing. It gathers boldness and strength when it is sanctioned by the authority of time, and aided by numbers that are interested in supporting it. Such is slavery; and Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe deserves the gratitude of “States and millions of people” for her talented work, in showing it up in its true light. She has advocated truth, justice, and humanity, and they will back her efforts. Her work will be read by “States and millions of people;” and when the Southern Press attempts to malign her, by bringing forward her own avowal, “that the subject of slavery had been so painful to her, that she had abstained from conversing on it for several years,” and that, in his opinion, “it accounts for the intensity of the venom of her book,” his really envenomed shafts will fall harmless at her feet; for readers will judge for themselves, and be very apt to conclude that more venom comes from the Southern Press than from her. She advocates what is right, and has a straight road, which “few get lost on;” he advocates what is wrong, and has, consequently, to tack, concede, deny, slander, and all sorts of things.

  With all due deference to whatever of just principles the Southern Press may have advanced in favour of the slave, I am a poor judge of human nature, if I mistake in saying that Mrs. Stowe has done much to draw from him those concessions; and the putting forth of this “most invulnerable moral panoply,” that has just come into his head as a bulwark of safety for slavery, owes its impetus to her and other like efforts. I hope the Southern Press will not imitate the spoiled child, who refused to eat his pie for spite.

  The “White Slave” I have not seen. I guess its character; for I made a pas-


sage to New York, some fourteen or fifteen years since, in a packet-ship, with a young woman whose face was enveloped in a profusion of light-brown curls, and who sat at the table with the passengers all the way as a white woman. When at the quarantine, Staten Island, the captain received a letter, sent by express mail, from a person in New Orleans, claiming her as his slave, and threatening the captain with the penalty of the existing law if she was not immediately returned. The streaming eyes of the poor unfortunate girl told the truth, when the captain reluctantly broke it to her. She unhesitatingly confessed that she had run away, and that a friend had paid her passage. Proper measures were taken, and she was conveyed to a packet-ship that was at Sandy Hook, bound for New Orleans.

  “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” I think, is a just delineation of slavery. The incidents are coloured, but the position that the slave is made to hold is just. I did not read every page of it, my object being to ascertain what position the slave occupied. I could state a case of whipping to death that would equal Uncle Tom's; still, such cases are not very frequent.

  The stirring up of strife between neighbours, that the Southern Press complains of, deserves notice. Who are neighbours? The most explicit answer to this question will be found in the reply Christ made to the lawyer, when he asked it of him. Another question will arise, Whether, in Christ's judgment, Mrs. Stowe would be considered a neighbour or an incendiary? As the Almighty Ruler of the universe and the Maker of man has said that He has made all the nations of the earth of one blood, and man in His own image, the black man, irrespective of his colour, would seem to be a neighbour who has fallen among his enemies, that have deprived him of the fruits of his labour, his liberty, his right to his wife and children, his right to obtain the knowledge to read, or to anything that earth holds dear, except such portions of food and raiment as will fit him for his despoiler's purposes. Let not the apologists for slavery bring up the isolated cases of leniency, giving instruction, and affectionate attachment, that are found among some masters, as specimens of slavery! It is unfair! They form exceptions, and much do I respect them; but they are not the rules of slavery. The strife that is being stirred up is not to take away anything that belongs to another—neither their silver nor gold, their fine linen or purple, their houses or land, their horses or cattle, or anything that is their property; but to rescue a neighbour from their unmanly cupidity.


  No introduction is necessary to explain the following correspondence, and no commendation will be required to secure for it a respectful attention from thinking readers:—

  Washington City, D. C., Dec. 6, 1852.

  DEAR SIR,—I understand that you are a North Carolinian, and have always resided in the South; you must, consequently, be acquainted with the workings of the institution of slavery. You have doubtless also read that world-renowned book, “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” by Mrs. Stowe. The apologists for slavery deny that this book is a truthful picture of slavery. They say that its representations are exaggerated, its scenes and incidents unfounded, and, in a word, that the whole book is a caricature. They also deny that families are separated—that children


are sold from parents, wives from their husbands,&c. Under these circumstances, I am induced to ask your opinion of Mrs. Stowe's book, and whether or not, in your opinion, her statements are entitled to credit.

I have the honour to be, yours truly, A. M. GANGEWER.

  D. R. Goodloe, Esq.

  Washington, Dec. 8, 1852.

  DEAR SIR,—Your letter of the 6th inst., asking my opinion of “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” has been received; and there being no reason why I should withhold unless it be the fear of public opinion (your object being, as I understand, the publication of my reply), I proceed to give it in some detail.

  A book of fiction, to be worth reading, must necessarily be filled with rare and striking incidents, and the leading characters must be remarkable, some for great virtues—others, perhaps, for great vices or follies. A narrative of the ordinary events in the lives of common-place people would be insufferably dull and insipid, and a book made up of such materials would be, to the elegant and graphic pictures of life and manners which we have in the writings of Sir Walter Scott and Dickens, what a surveyor's plot of a ten-acre field is to a painted landscape, in which the eye is charmed by a thousand varieties of hill and dale, of green shrubbery and transparent water, of light and shade, at a glance. In order to determine whether a novel is a fair picture of society, it is not necessary to ask if its chief personages are to be met with every day; but whether they are characteristic of the times and country—whether they embody the prevalent sentiments, virtues, vices, follies, and peculiarities—and whether the events, tragic or otherwise, are such as may and do occasionally occur.

  Judging “Uncle Tom's Cabin” by these principles, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a faithful portraiture of Southern life and institutions. There is nothing in the book inconsistent with the laws and usages of the slave-holding States; the virtues, vices, and peculiar hues of character and manners are all Southern, and must be recognised at once by everyone who reads the book. I may never have seen such depravity in one man as that exhibited in the character of Legree, though I have ten thousand times witnessed the various shades of in different individuals. On the other hand, I have never seen so many perfections concentrated in one human being as Mrs. Stowe has conferred upon the daughter of a slave-holder. Evangeline is an image of beauty and goodness which can never be effaced from the mind, whatever may be its prejudices; yet her whole character is fragrant of the South: her generous sympathy, her beauty and delicacy, her sensibility, are all Southern. They are “to the manner born,” and embodying as they do the Southern ideal of beauty and loveliness, cannot be ostracised from Southern hearts, even by the power of the Vigilance Committees.

  The character of St. Clare cannot fail to inspire love and admiration. He is the beau idéal of a Southern gentleman—honourable, generous, and humane—of accomplished manners, liberal education, and easy fortune. In his treatment of his slaves, he errs on the side of lenity, rather than rigour; and is always their kind protector, from a natural impulse of goodness, without much reflection upon what may befall them when death or misfortune shall deprive them of his friendship.


  Mr. Shelby, the original owner of Uncle Tom, and who sells him to a trader from the pressure of a sort of pecuniary necessity, is by no means a bad character his wife and son are whatever honour and humanity could wish; and, in a word, the only white persons who make any considerable figure in the book to a disadvantage are the villain Legree, who is a Vermonter by birth, and the oily-tongued slave-trader Haley, who has the accent of a Northerner. It is, therefore, evident that Mrs. Stowe's object in writing “Uncle Tom's Cabin” has not been to disparage Southern character. A careful analysis of the book would authorise the opposite inference—that she had studied to shield the Southern people from opprobrium, and even to convey an elevated idea of Southern society, at the moment of exposing the evils of the system of slavery. She directs her batteries against the institution, not against individuals; and generously makes a renegade Vermonter stand for her most hideous picture of a brutal tyrant.

  Invidious as the duty may be, I cannot withhold my testimony to the fact that families of slaves are often separated. I know not how any man can have the hardihood to deny it. The thing is notorious, and is often the subject of painful remark in the Southern States. I have often heard the practice of separating husband and wife, parent and child, defended, apologised for, palliated in a thousand ways, but have never heard it denied. How could it be denied, in fact, when probably the very circumstance which elicited the conversation was a case of cruel separation then transpiring? No, sir! the denial of this fact by mercenary scribblers may deceive persons at a distance, but it can impose upon no one at the South.

  In all the slaveholding States the relation of matrimony between slaves, or between a slave and free person, is merely voluntary. There is no law sanctioning it, or recognising it in any shape, directly or indirectly. In a word, it is illicit, and binds no one—neither the slaves themselves nor their masters. In separating husband and wife, or parent and child, the trader or owner violates no law of the State—neither statute nor common law. He buys or sells at auction or privately, that which the majesty of the law has declared to be property. The victims may writhe in agony, and the tender-hearted spectator may look on with gloomy sorrow and indignation, but it is to no purpose. The promptings of mercy and justice in the heart are only in rebellion against the law of the land.

  The law itself not unfrequently performs the most cruel separations of families, almost without the intervention of individual agency. This happens in the case of persons who die insolvent, or who become so during life-time. The estate, real and personal, must be disposed of at auction to the highest bidder; and the executor, administrator, sheriff, trustee, or other person whose duty it is to dispose of the property, although he may possess the most humane intentions in the world, cannot prevent the final severance of the most endearing ties of kindred. The illustration given by Mrs. Stowe, in the sale of Uncle Tom by Mr. Shelby, is a very common case. Pecuniary embarrassment is a most fruitful source of misfortune to the slave as well as the master; and instances of family ties broken from this cause are of daily occurrence.

  It often happens that great abuses exist in violation of law, and in spite of the efforts of the authorities to suppress them; such is the case with drunkenness gambling, and other vices. But here is a law common to all the slaveholding States, which upholds and gives countenance to the wrongdoer, while its blackest terrors are reserved for those who would interpose to protect the innocent


Statesmen of elevated and honourable characters, from a vague notion of state necessity, have defended this law in the abstract, while they would, without hesitation, condemn every instance of its application as unjust.

  In one respect I am glad to see it publicly denied that the families of slaves are separated; for while it argues a disreputable want of candour, it at the same time evinces a commendable sense of shame, and induces the hope that the public opinion at the South will not much longer tolerate this most odious, though not essential part, of the system of slavery.

  In this connection I will call to your recollection a remark of the editor of the Southern Press, in one of the last numbers of that paper, which acknowledges the existence of the abuse in question, and recommends its correction. He says:—

  “The South has a great moral conflict to wage; and it is for her to put on the most invulnerable moral panoply. Hence it is her duty, as well as interest, to mitigate or remove whatever of evil that results incidentally from the institution. The separation of husband and wife, parent and child, is one of these evils, which we know is generally avoided and repudiated there—although cases sometimes occur which we observe are seized by these Northern fanatics as characteristic illustrations of the system. Now, we can see no great evil or inconvenience, but much good, in the prohibition by law of such occurrences. Let the husband and wife be sold together, and the parents and minor children. Such a law would affect but slightly the general value or availability of slave property, and would prevent in some cases the violence done to the feelings of such connections by sales either compulsory or voluntary. We are satisfied that it would be beneficial to the master and slave to promote marriage, and the observance of all its duties and relations.”

  Much as I have differed from the editor of the Southern Press in his general views of public policy, I am disposed to forgive him past errors in consideration of his public acknowledgment of this “incidental evil,” and his frank recommendation of its removal. A Southern newspaper less devoted than the Southern Press to the maintenance of slavery would be seriously compromised by such a suggestion, and its advice would be far less likely to be heeded; I think, therefore, that Mr. Fisher deserves the thanks of every good man, North and South, for thus boldly pointing out the necessity of reform.

  The picture which Mrs. Stowe has drawn of slavery as an institution is anything but favourable. She has illustrated the frightful cruelty and oppression that must result from a law which gives to one class of society almost absolute and irresponsible power over another. Yet the very machinery she has employed for this purpose shows that all who are parties to the system are not necessarily culpable. It is a high virtue in St. Clare to purchase Uncle Tom. He is actuated by no selfish or improper motive. Moved by a desire to gratify his daughter, and prompted by his own humane feelings, he purchases a slave, in order to rescue him from a hard fate on the plantations. If he had not been a slave- holder before, it was now his duty to become one; this, I think, is the moral to be drawn from the story of St. Clare, and the South have a right to claim the authority of Mrs. Stowe in defence of slave-holding to this extent.

  It may be said that it was the duty of St. Clare to emancipate Uncle Tom, but the wealth of the Rothschilds would not enable a man to act out his benevolent instincts at such a price; and if such was his duty, it is not equally the duty of every monied man in the free States to attend the New Orleans slave-mart


with the same benevolent purpose in view? It seems to me that to purchase a slave with the purpose of saving him for a hard and cruel fate, and without any view to emancipation, is itself a good action. If the slave should subsequently become able to redeem himself, it would doubtless be the duty of the owner to emancipate him, and it would be but even-handed justice to set down every dollar of the slave's earnings, above the expense of his maintenance, to his credit, until the price paid for him should be fully restored. This is all that justice could exact of the slave-holder.

  Those who have railed against “Uncle Tom's Cabin” as an incendiary publication, have singularly (supposing that they have read the book) overlooked the moral of the hero's life. Uncle Tom is the most faithful of servants. He literally “obeyed in all things” his “masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God.” If his conduct exhibits the slightest departure from a literal fulfillment of this injunction of Scripture, it is in a case which must command the approbation of the most rigid casuist, for the injunction of obedience extends, of course, only to lawful commands. It is only when the monster Legree commands him to inflict undeserved chastisement upon his fellow-servants that Uncle Tom refuses obedience. He would not listen to a proposition of escaping into Ohio with the young woman Eliza, on the night after they were sold by Mr. Shelby to the trader Haley. He thought it would be bad faith to his late master, whom he had nursed in his arms, and might be the means of bringing him into difficulty. He offered no resistance to Haley, and obeyed even Legree in every legitimate command; but when he was required to be the instrument of his master's cruelty, he chose rather to die, with the courage and resolution of a Christian martyr, than to save his life by a guilty compliance. Such was Uncle Tom—not a bad example for the imitation of man or master.

I am, sir, very respectfully, Your ob't serv't, DANIEL R. GOODLOE.

  A. M. Gangewer, Esq., Washington, D. C.

  The writer has received permission to publish the following extract from a letter received by a lady at the North from the editor of a Southern paper. The mind and character of the author will speak for themselves, in the reading of it:

  Charleston, Sunday, 25th July, 1852.

  * * * The books, I infer, are Mrs. Beecher Stowe's “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” The book was furnished me by— —, about a fortnight ago, and you may be assured I read it with an attentive interest. “Now, what is your opinion of it?” you will ask; and, knowing my preconceived opinions upon the question of slavery, and the embodiment of my principles, which I have so long supported, in regard to that peculiar institution, you may be prepared to meet an indirect answer. This my own consciousness of truth would not allow in the present instance. The book is a truthful picture of life, with the dark outlines beautifully portrayed. The life (the characteristics, incidents, and the dialogues) is life itself reduced to paper. In her Appendix she rather evades the question whether it was taken from actual scenes, but says there are many counterparts.


In this she is correct beyond doubt. Had she changed the picture of Legree, on Red River, for — —, on—Island, South Carolina, she could not have drawn a more admirable portrait. I am led to question whether she had not some knowledge of this beast, as he is known to be, and made the transposition for effect.

  My position in connexion with the extreme party, both in Georgia and South Carolina, would constitute a restraint to the full expression of my feelings upon several of the governing principles of the institution. I have studied slavery in all its different phases—have been thrown in contact with the negro in different parts of the world, and made it my aim to study his nature, so far as my limited abilities would give me light—and, whatever my opinions have been, they were based upon what I supposed to be honest convictions.

  During the last three years you well know what my opportunities have been to examine all the sectional bearings of an institution which now holds the great and most momentous question of our federal well-being. These opportunities I have not let pass, but have given myself, body and soul, to a knowledge of its vast intricacies—to its constitutional compact and its individual hardships. Its wrongs are in the constituted rights of the master, and the blank letter of those laws which pretend to govern the bondman's rights. What legislative act, based upon the construction of self-protection for the very men who contemplate the laws—even though their intention was amelioration—could be enforced, when the legislated object is held as the bond property of the legislator? The very fact of constituting a law for the amelioration of property becomes an absurdity so far as carrying it out is concerned. A law which is intended to govern, and gives the governed no means of seeking its protection, is like the clustering together of so many useless words for vain show. But why talk of law? That which is considered the popular rights of a people, and every tenacious prejudice set forth to protect its property interest, creates its own power against every weaker vessel. Laws which interfere with this become unpopular, repugnant to a forcible will, and a dead letter in effect. So long as the voice of the governed cannot be heard, and his wrongs are felt beyond the jurisdiction or domain of the law, as nine-tenths are, where is the hope of redress? The master is the powerful vessel; the negro feels his dependence, and, fearing the consequences of an appeal for his rights, submits to the cruelty of his master in preference to the dread of something more cruel. It is in those dissected cases of cruelty we find the wrongs of slavery, and in those governing laws which give power to bad Northern men to become the most cruel task-masters. Do not judge from my observations that I am seeking consolation for the Abolitionists. Such is not my intention; but truth to a cause which calls loudly for reformation constrains me to say that humanity calls for some law to govern the force and absolute will of the master, and to reform no part is more requisite than that which regards the slave's food and raiment. A person must live years at the South before he can become fully acquainted with the many workings of slavery. A Northern man, not prominently interested in the political and social weal of the South, may live for years, in it, and pass from town to town in his every-day pursuits, and yet see but the polished side of slavery. With me it has been different. Its effect upon the negro himself, and its effect upon the social and commercial well-being of Southern society has been laid broadly open to me, and I have seen more of its workings within the past year than was disclosed to me all the time before. It is with these feel-


ings that I am constrained to do credit to Mrs. Stowe's book, which I consider must have been written by one who derived the materials, from a thorough acquaintance with the subject. The character of the slave-dealer, the bankrupt owner in Kentucky, and the New Orleans merchant, are simple every-day occurrences in these parts. Editors may speak of the dramatic effect as they please; the tale is not told them, and the occurrences of common reality would form a picture more glaring. I could write a work, with date and incontrovertible facts, of abuses which stand recorded in the knowledge of the community in which they were transacted, that would need no dramatic effect, and would stand out ten-fold more horrible than anything Mrs. Stowe has described.

  I have read two columns in the Southern Press of Mrs. Eastman's “Aunt Phillis's Cabin, or Southern Life as It is,” with the remarks of the editor. I have no comments to make upon it, that being done by itself. The editor might have saved himself being writ down an ass by the public if he had withheld his nonsense. If the two columns are a specimen of Mrs. Eastman's book, I pity her attempt and her name as an author.

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

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


  THE New York Courier and Inquirer, of November 5th, contained an article which has been quite valuable to the author, as summing up, in a clear, concise, and intelligible form, the principal objections which may be urged to “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” It is here quoted in full, as the foundation of the remarks in the following pages.

  The author of “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” that writer states, has committed false witness against thousands and millions of her fellow-men.

  She has done it [he says] by attaching to them as slaveholders, in the eyes of the world, the guilt of the abuses of an institution of which they are absolutely guiltless. Her story is so devised as to present slavery in three dark aspects: first, the cruel treatment of the slaves; second, the separation of families; and, third, their want of religious instruction.

  To show the first, she causes a reward to be offered for the recovery of a runaway slave, “dead or alive,” when no reward with such an alternative was ever heard of, or dreamed of, south of Mason and Dixon's line, and it has been decided over the over again in Southern courts that “a slave who is merely flying away cannot be killed.” She puts such language as this into the mouth of one of her speakers:—“The master who goes furthest and does the worst only uses within limits the power that the law gives him;” when, in fact, the civil code of the very State where it is represented the language was uttered—Louisiana—declares that—

  “The slave is entirely subject to the will of his master, who may correct and chastise him, though not with unusual rigour, nor so as to maim or mutilate him, on to expose him to the danger of loss of life, or to cause his death.”

  And provides for a compulsory sale—

  “When the master shall be convicted of cruel treatment of his slaves, and the judge shall deem proper to pronounce, besides the penalty established for such cases, that the slave be sold at public auction, in order to place him out of the reach of the power which the master has abused.”


  “If any person whatsoever shall wilfully kill his slave, or the slave of another person, the said person, being convicted thereof, shall be tried and condemned agreeably to the laws.”

  In the General Court of Virginia, last year, in the case of Souther v. Commonwealth, it was held that the killing of a slave by his master and owner, by wilful and excessive whipping, is murder in the first degree, though it may not have been the purpose of the master and owner to kill the slave! And it is not six months since Governor Johnson, of Virginia, pardoned a slave who killed his master, who was beating him with brutal severity.

  And yet, in the face of such laws and decisions as these, Mrs. Stowe winds up a long series of cruelties upon her other black personages, by causing her faultless hero, Tom, to be literally whipped to death in Louisiana, by his master, Legree; and these acts, which the laws make criminal, and punish as such, she sets forth in the most repulsive colours, to illustrate the institution of slavery.

  So, too, in reference to the separation of children from their parents. A considerable part of the plot is made to hinge upon the selling, in Louisiana, of the child Eliza, “eight or nine years old,” away from her mother; when, had its inventor looked in the statute-book of Louisiana, she would have found the following language:—

  “Every person is expressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers the children who shall not have attained the full age of ten years.

  “Be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall sell the mother of any slave child or children under the age of ten years, separate from said child or children, or shall, the mother living, sell any slave child or children of ten years of age, or under, separate from said mother, said person or persons shall be fined not less than one thousand nor more than two thousand dollars, and be imprisoned in the public jail for a period of not less than six months nor more than one year.”

  The privation of religious instruction, as represented by Mrs. Stowe, is utterly unfounded in fact. The largest churches in the Union consist entirely of slaves. The first African church in Louisville, which numbers fifteen hundred persons, and the first African church in Augusta, which numbers thirteen hundred, are specimens. On multitudes of large plantations in the different parts of the South, the ordinances of the gospel are as regularly maintained, by competent ministers, as in any other communities, north or south. A larger proportion of the slave population are in communion with some Christian church than of the white population in any part of the country. A very considerable portion of every Southern congregation, either in city or country, is sure to consist of blacks; whereas, of our Northern churches, not a coloured person is to be seen in one out of fifty.

  The peculiar falsity of this whole book consists in making exceptional or impossible cases the representatives of the system. By the same process which she has used, it would not be difficult to frame a fatal argument against the relation of husband and wife, or parent and child, or of guardian and ward; for thousands of wives and children, and wards, have been maltreated, and even murdered. It is wrong, unpardonably wrong, to impute to any relation of life those enormities which spring only out of the worst depravity of human nature. A ridiculously extravagant spirit of generalisation pervades this fiction from beginning to end. The Uncle Tom of the authoress is a perfect angel, and her blacks generally are


half angels; her Simon Legree is a perfect demon, and her whites generally are half demons. She has quite a peculiar spite against the clergy; and, of the many she introduces at different times into the scenes, all, save an insignificant exception, are Pharisees or hypocrites. One who could know nothing of the United States and its people, except by what he might gather from this book, would judge that it was some region just on the confines of the infernal world. We do not say that Mrs. Stowe was actuated by wrong motives in the preparation of this work, but we do say that she has done a wrong which no ignorance can excuse, and no penance can expiate.

  A much valued correspondent of the author, writing from Richmond, Virginia, also uses the following language:—

  I will venture this morning to make a few suggestions which have occurred to me in regard to future editions of your work, “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” which I desire should have all the influence of which your genius renders it capable, not only abroad, but in the local sphere of slavery, where it has been hitherto repudiated. Possessing already the great requisites of artistic beauty and of sympathetic affection, it may yet be improved in regard to accuracy of statement, without being at all enfeebled. For example, you do less than justice to the formalised laws of the Southern States, while you give more credit than is due to the virtue of public or private sentiment in restricting the evil which the laws permit.

  I enclose the following extracts from a Southern paper:—

  “ 'I'll manage that ar; they's young in the business, and must 'spect to work cheap,' said Marks, as he continued to read. 'Thar's three on 'em easy cases, 'cause all you've got to do is to shoot 'em, or swear they is shot; they couldn't, of course, charge much for that.'

  “The reader will observe that two charges against the South are involved in this precious discourse; one, that it is the habit of Southern masters to offer a reward, with the alternative of 'dead or alive,' for their fugitive slaves; and the other, that it is usual for pursuers to shoot them. Indeed, we are led to infer that, as the shooting is the easier mode of obtaining the reward, it is the more frequently employed in such cases. Now, when a Southern master offers a reward for his runaway slave, it is because he has lost a certain amount of property, represented by the negro which he wishes to recover. What man of Vermont, having an ox or an ass that had gone astray, would forthwith offer half the full value of the animal, not for the carcass, which might be turned to some useful purpose, but for the unavailing satisfaction of its head? Yet are the two cases exactly parallel. With regard to the assumption that men are permitted to go about, at the South, with double-barrelled guns, shooting down runaway negroes, in preference to apprehending them, we can only say that it is as wicked and wilful as it is ridiculous. Such Thugs there may have been as Marks and Loker, who have killed negroes in this unprovoked manner; but, if they have escaped the gallows, they are probably to be found within the walls of our State Penitentiaries, where they are comfortably provided for at public expense. The laws of the Southern States, which are designed, as in all good governments, for the protection of persons and property, have not been so loosely framed as to fail of their object where person and property are one.

  “The law with regard to the killing of runaways is laid down with so much


clearness and precision by a South Carolina judge, that we cannot forbear quoting his dictum as directly in point. In the case of Witsell v. Earnest and Parker Colcock, J., delivered the opinion of the court:

  “By the statute of 1740, any white man may apprehend, and moderately correct, any slave who may be found out of the plantation at which he is employed; and if the slave assaults the white person, he may be killed; but a slave who is merely flying away cannot be killed. Nor can the defendants be justified by the common law if we consider the negro as a person; for they were not clothed with the authority of the law to apprehend him as a felon, and without such authority he could not be killed.'

  [Jan. Term, 1818. 1 Nott. & M'Cord's S. C. Rep., 182.]

  “ 'It's commonly supposed that the property interest is a sufficient guard in these cases. If people choose to ruin their possessions, I don't know what's to be done. It seems the poor creature was a thief and a drunkard; and so there won't be much hope to get up sympathy for her.'

  “ 'It is perfectly outrageous—it is horrid, Augustine! It will certainly bring down vengeance upon you.'

  “ 'My dear cousin, I didn't do it, and I can't help it; I would, if I could. If low-minded, brutal people will act like themselves, what am I to do? They have absolute control; they are irresponsible despots. There would be no use in interfering; there is no law that amounts to anything practically, for such a case. The best we can do is to shut our eyes and ears, and let it alone. It's the only re source left us.'

  “In a subsequent part of the same conversation St. Clare says—

  “ 'For pity's sake, for shame's sake, because we are men born of women, and not savage beasts, many of us do not, and dare not—we would scorn to use the full power which our savage laws put into our hands. And he who goes furthest and does the worst only uses within limits the power that the law gives him.'

  “Mrs. Stowe tells us, through St. Clare, that 'there is no law that amounts to anything' in such cases, and that he who goes furthest in severity towards his slave—that is, to the deprivation of an eye or a limb, or even the destruction of life—'only uses within limits the power that the law gives him.' This is an awful and tremendous charge, which, lightly and unwarrantably made, must subject the maker to a fearful accountability. Let us see how the matter stands upon the statute-book of Louisiana. By referring to the civil code of that State, chapter 3rd, article 173, the reader will find this general declaration:—

  “ 'The slave is entirely subject to the will of his master, who may correct and chastise him, though not with unusual rigour, nor so as to maim or mutilate him, or to expose him to the danger of loss of life, or to cause his death.'

  “On a subsequent page of the same volume and chapter, article 192, we find provision made for the slave's protection against his master's cruelty, in the statement that one of two cases, in which a master can be compelled to sell his slave, is—

  “ 'When the master shall be convicted of cruel treatment of his slave, and the judge shall deem proper to pronounce, besides the penalty established for such cases, that the slave shall be sold at public auction, in order to place him out of the reach of the power which the master has abused.'

  “A code thus watchful of the negro's safety in life and limb confines not its guardianship to inhibitory clauses, but proscribes extreme penalties in case of


their infraction. In the Code Noir (Black Code) of Louisiana, under head of Crimes and Offences, No. 55, sec. xvi., it is laid down that—

  “ 'If any person whatsoever shall wilfully kill his slave, or the slave of another person, the said person, being convicted thereof, shall be tried and condemned agreeably to the laws.'

  “And because negro testimony is inadmissible in the court of the State, an therefore the evidence of such crimes might be with difficulty supplied, it is further provided that—

  “ 'If any slave be mutilated, beaten, or ill-treated, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this Act, when no one shall be present, in such case the owner, or other person having the management of said slave thus mutilated, shall be deemed responsible and guilty of the said offence, and shall be prosecuted without further evidence, unless the said owner, or other person so as aforesaid, can prove the contrary by means of good and sufficient evidence, or can clear himself by his own oath, which said oath every court, under the cognisance of which such offence shall have been examined and tried, is by this Act authorised to administer.'

  [Code Noir. Crimes and Offences, 56, xvii.]

  “Enough has been quoted to establish the utter falsity of the statement, made by our authoress through St. Clare, that brutal masters are 'irresponsible despots' —at least, in Louisiana. It would extend our review to a most unreasonable length, should we undertake to give the law, with regard to the murder of slaves, as it stands in each of the Southern States. The crime is a rare one, and therefore the reporters have had few cases to record. We may refer, however, to two. In Fields v. The State of Tennessee, the plaintiff in error was indicted in the Circuit Court of Maury county for the murder of a negro slave. He pleaded not guilty; and at the trial was found guilty of wilful and felonious slaying of the slave. From this sentence he prosecuted his writ of error, which was disallowed by the court affirming the original judgment. The opinion of the court, as given by Peck J. overflows with the spirit of enlightened humanity. He concludes thus:—

  “ 'It is well said by one of the judges of North Carolina, that the master has a right to exact the labour of his slave; thus far, the rights of the slave are suspended; but this gives the master no right over the life of his slave. I add to the saying of the judge, that law which says Thou shalt not kill, protects the slave; and he is within its very letter. Law, reason, Christianity, and common humanity, all point but one way.'

  [1 Yerger's Tenn. Rep. 156.]

  “In the General Court of Virginia, June Term, 1851, in Souther v. The Commonwealth, it was held that 'the killing of a slave by his master and owner, by wilful and excessive whipping, is murder in the first degree; though it may not have been the purpose of the master and owner to kill the slave. The writer shows, also, an ignorance of the law of contracts, as it affects slavery in the South, in making George's master take him from the factory against the proprietor's consent. George, by virtue of the contract of hiring, had become the property of the proprietor for the time being, and his master could no more have taken him away forcibly than the owner of a house in Massachusetts can dispossess his lessee, at any moment, from mere whim or caprice. There is no court in Kentucky, where the hirer's rights, in this regard, would not be enforced.

  [7 Grattan's Rep. 673.]

  “ 'No. Father bought her once, in one of his trips to New Orleans, and


brought her up as a present to mother. She was about eight or nine years old then. Father would never tell mother what he gave for her; but, the other day, in looking over his old papers, we came across the bill of sale. He paid an extravagant sum for her, to be sure. I suppose, on account of her extraordinary beauty.'

  “ 'George sat with his back to Cassy, and did not see the absorbed expression of her countenance, as he was giving these details.

  “ 'At this point in the story, she touched his arm, and, with a face perfectly white with interest, said, 'Do you know the names of the people he bought her of?'

  “ 'A man of the name of Simmons, I think, was the principal in the transaction. At least, I think that was the name in the bill of sale.'

  “ 'O my God!' said Cassy, and fell insensible on the floor of the cabin.'

  “Of course Eliza turns out to be Cassy's child, and we are soon entertained with the family meeting in Montreal, where George Harris is living, five or six years after the opening of the story, in great comfort.

  “Now, the reader will perhaps be surprised to know that such an incident as the sale of Cassy apart from Eliza, upon which the whole interest of the foregoing narrative hinges, never could have taken place in Louisiana, and that the bill of sale for Eliza would not have been worth the paper it was written on. Observe. George Shelby states that Eliza was eight or nine years old at the time his father purchased her in New Orleans. Let us again look at the statute-book of Louisiana.

  “In the Code Noir we find it set down that—

  “ 'Every person is expressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers the children who shall not have attained the full age of ten years.'

  “And this humane provision is strengthened by a statute, one clause of which runs as follows:—

  “ 'Be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall sell the mother of any slave child or children under the age of ten years, separate from said child or children, or shall, the mother living, sell any slave child or children of ten years of age or under, separate from said mother, such person or persons shall incur the penalty of the sixth section of this Act.'

  “This penalty is a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than two thousand dollars, and imprisonment in the public jail for a period of not less than six months, nor more than one year.—Vide Act of Louisiana, 1 Session, 9th Legislature, 1828, 1829, No. 24, Section 16.”

  The author makes here a remark. Scattered through all the Southern States are slaveholders who are such only in name. They have no pleasure in the system, they consider it one of wrong altogether, and they hold the legal relation still, only because not yet clear with regard to the best way of changing it, so as to better the condition of those held. Such are most earnest advocates for State emancipation, and are friends of anything, written in a right spirit, which tends in that direction. From such the author ever receives criticisms with pleasure.

  She has endeavoured to lay before the world, in the fullest


manner all that can be objected to her work, that both sides may have an opportunity of impartial hearing.

  When writing “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” though entirely unaware and unexpectant of the importance which would be attached to its statements and opinions, the author of that work was anxious, from love of consistency, to have some understanding of the laws of the slave system. She had on hand for reference, while writing, the Code Noir of Louisiana, and a sketch of the laws relating to slavery in the different States, by Judge Stroud of Philadelphia. This work, professing to have been compiled with great care from the latest editions of the statute-books of the several States, the author supposed to be a sufficient guide for the writing of a work of fiction.* As the accuracy of those statements which relate to the slave-laws has been particularly contested, a more especial inquiry has been made in this direction. Under the guidance and with the assistance of legal gentlemen of high standing, the writer has proceeded to examine the statements of Judge Stroud with regard to statute-law, and to follow them up with some inquiry into the decisions of Courts. The result has been an increasing conviction on her part that the impressions first derived from Judge Stroud's work were correct; and the author now can only give the words of St. Clare, as the best possible expression of the sentiments and opinion which this course of reading has awakened in her mind.

  This cursed business, accursed of God and man—what is it? Strip it of all its ornament, run it down to the root and nucleus of the whole, and what is it? Why, because my brother Quashy is ignorant and weak, and I am intelligent and strong —because I know how, and can do it—therefore I may steal all he has, keep it, and give him only such and so much as suits my fancy! Whatever is too hard, too dirty, too disagreeable for me, I may set Quashy to doing. Because I don't like work, Quashy shall work. Because the sun burns me, Quashy shall stay in the sun. Quashy shall earn the money, and I will spend it. Quashy shall lie down in every puddle, that I may walk over dry-shod. Quashy shall do my will, and not his, all the days of his mortal life, and have such a chance of getting to heaven at last as I find convenient. This I take to be about what slavery is. I defy anybody on earth to read our slave-code, as it stands in our law books, and make anything else of it. Talk of the abuses of slavery! Humbug! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse. And the only reason why the land don't sink under it, like Sodom and Gomorrah, is because it is used in a way infinitely better than it is. For pity's sake, for shame's sake, because we are men born of women, and not


savage beasts, many of us do not, and dare not—we would scorn to use the full power which our savage laws put into our hands. And he who goes the furthest, and does the worst, only uses within limits the power that the law gives him!

  The author still holds to the opinion that slavery in itself, as legally defined in law-books and expressed in the records of Courts, is the SUM AND ESSENCE OF ALL ABUSE; and she still clings to the hope that there are many men at the South infinitely better than their laws; and after the reader has read all the extracts which she has to make, for the sake of a common humanity they will hope the same. The author must state, with regard to some pages which she must quote, that the language of certain enactments was so incredible that she would not take it on the authority of any compilation whatever, but copied it with her own hand from the latest edition of the statute-book where it stood and still stands.


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



  THE author will now enter into a consideration of slavery as it stands revealed in slave law.

  What is it according to the definition of law-books and legal interpreters? “A slave,” says the law of Louisiana, “is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry, and his labour; he can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything, but what must belong to his master. [Civil Code, Art. 35.] ” South Carolina says: “Slaves shall be deemed, sold, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law, to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, TO ALL INTENTS, constructions and purposes whatsoever. [2 Brev. Dig. 229 Prince's Digest, 446.] ” The law of Georgia is similar.

  Let the reader reflect on the extent of the meaning in this last clause. Judge Ruffin, pronouncing the opinion of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, says a slave is “one doomed in his own person, and his posterity, to live without knowledge, and without the capacity to make anything his own, and to toil that another may reap the fruits.' [Wheeler's Law of Slavery, 246, State v. Mann.]

  This is what slavery is, this is what it is to be a slave! The slave-code, then, of the Southern States, is designed to keep millions of human beings in the condition of chattels personal; to keep them in a condition in which the master may sell them, dispose of their time, person, and labour; in which they can do nothing, possess nothing, and acquire nothing, except for the benefit of the master; in which they are doomed in themselves and in their posterity to live without knowledge, without the power to make anything their own, to toil that another may reap. The laws of the slave-code are designed to work out this problem, consistently with the peace of the community, and the safety of that superior race which is constantly to perpetrate this outrage.


  From this simple statement of what the laws of slavery are designed to do—from a consideration that the class thus to be reduced, and oppressed, and made the subjects of a perpetual robbery, are men of like passions with our own, men originally made in the image of God as much as ourselves, men partakers of that same humanity of which Jesus Christ is the highest ideal and expression—when we consider that the material thus to be acted upon is that fearfully explosive element, the soul of man; that soul elastic, upspringing, immortal, whose free will even the Omnipotence of God refuses to coerce, we may form some idea of the tremendous force which is necessary to keep this mightiest of elements in the state of repression which is contemplated in the definition of slavery.

  Of course, the system necessary to consummate and perpetuate such a work, from age to age, must be a fearfully stringent one; and our readers will find that it is so. Men who make the laws, and men who interpret them, may be fully sensible of their terrible severity and inhumanity; but if they are going to preserve the THING, they have no resource but to make the laws and to execute them faithfully after they are made. They may say with the Hon. Judge Ruffin, of North Carolina, when solemnly from the bench announcing this great foundation principle of slavery, that "THE POWER OF THE MASTER MUST BE ABSOLUTE, TO RENDER THE SUBMISSION OF THE SLAVE PERFECT—they may say with him, “I most freely confess my sense of the harshness of this proposition; I feel it as deeply as any man can; and, as a principle of moral right, every person in his retirement must repudiate it;” but they will also be obliged to add, with him, “But in the actual condition of things IT MUST BE SO. * * This discipline belongs to the state of slavery. * * * It is INHERENT in the relation of master and slave.”

  And, like Judge Ruffin, men of honour, men of humanity, men of kindest and gentlest feelings, are obliged to interpret these severe laws with inflexible severity. In the perpetual reaction of that awful force of human passion and human will, which necessarily meets the compressive power of slavery—in that seething, boiling tide, never wholly repressed, which rolls its volcanic stream underneath the whole framework of society so constituted, ready to find vent at the least rent or fissure or unguarded aperture—there is a constant necessity which urges to severity of law, and inflexibility of execution. So Judge Ruffin says, “We cannot allow the right of the master to be brought into discussion in the courts of justice. The slave, to remain a slave, must be made sensible that there is NO AP-


PEAL FROM HIS MASTER.” Accordingly, we find in the more southern States, where the slave population is most accumulated, and slave property most necessary and valuable, and, of course, the determination to abide by the system the most decided, there the enactments are most severe, and the interpretation of Courts the most inflexible.* And, when legal decisions of a contrary character begin to be made, it would appear that it is a symptom of leaning towards emancipation. So abhorrent is the slave-code to every feeling of humanity, that just as soon as there is any hesitancy in the community about perpetuating the institution of slavery, judges begin to listen to the voice of their more honourable nature, and by favourable interpretations to soften its necessary severities.

  Such decisions do not commend themselves to the professional admiration of legal gentlemen. But in the workings of the slave system, when the irresponsible power which it guarantees comes to be used by men of the most brutal nature, cases sometimes arise for trial where the consistent exposition of the law involves results so loathsome and frightful that the judge prefers to be illogical, rather than inhuman. Like a spring out-gushing in the desert, some noble man, now and then, from the fulness of his own better nature, throws out a legal decision, generously inconsistent with every principle and precedent of slave jurisprudence, and we bless God for it. All we wish is that there were more of them, for then should we hope that the day of redemption was drawing nigh.

  The reader is now prepared to enter with us on the proof of this proposition: That the slave-code is designed only for the security of the master, and not with regard to the welfare of the slave.

  This is implied in the whole current of law-making and law-administration, and is often asserted in distinct form, with a precision and clearness of legal accuracy which, in a literary point of view, are quite admirable. Thus, Judge Ruffin, after stating that considerations restricting the power of the master had often been drawn from a comparison of slavery with the relation of parent and child, master and apprentice, tutor and pupil, says distinctly:

  The Court does not recognise their application. There is no likeness between the cases. They are in opposition to each other, and there is an impassable gulf between them. * * * In the one [case], the end in view is the


happiness of the youth, born to equal rights with that governor on whom the duty devolves of training the young to usefulness, in a station which he is afterwards to assume among freemen. [Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 246.] * * * With slavery it is far otherwise. The end is the profit of the master his security and the public safety.

  Not only is this principle distinctly asserted in so many words, but it is more distinctly implied in multitudes of the arguings and reasonings which are given as grounds of legal decisions. Even such provisions as seem to be for the benefit of the slave we often find carefully interpreted so as to show that it is only on account of his property value to his master that he is thus protected, and not from any consideration of humanity towards himself. [Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 239.] Thus it has been decided that a master can bring no action for assault and battery on his slave, unless the injury be such as to produce a loss of service.

  The spirit in which this question is discussed is worthy of remark. We give a brief statement of the case, as presented in Wheeler, p. 239.

  It was an action for assault and battery committed by Dale on one Cornfute's slave. It was contended by Cornfute's counsel that it was not necessary to prove loss of service, in order that the action should be sustained [Cornfute v. Dale, April Term, 1800. 1 Har. and Johns. Rep. 4.]; that an action might be supported for beating plaintiff's horse; and that the lord might have an action for the battery of his villein, which is founded on this principle, that, as the villein could not support the action, the injury would be without redress unless the lord could [2 Lutw. 1481. 20 Viner's Abr. 454.]. On the other side, it was said that Lord Chief Justice Raymond had decided that an assault on a horse was no cause of action, unless accompanied with a special damage of the animal, which would impair his value.

  Chief Justice Chase decided that no redress could be obtained in the case, because the value of the slave had not been impaired; without injury or wrong to the master no action could be sustained; and assigned this among other reasons for it, that there was no reciprocity in the case, as the master was not liable for assault and battery committed by his slave, neither could he gain redress for one committed upon his slave.

  Let any reader now imagine what an amount of wanton cruelty and indignity may be heaped upon a slave man or woman or child without actually impairing their power to do service to the master, and he will have a full sense of the cruelty of this decision.


  In the same spirit it has been held in North Carolina that patrols (night watchmen) are not liable to the master for inflicting punishment on the slave, unless their conduct clearly demonstrates malice against the master. [Tate v. O'Neal, 1 Hawks, 418, U.S. Dig. Sup. 2, p. 797, s. 121.]

  The cool-bloodedness of some of these legal discussions is forcibly shown by two decisions in Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 243. On the question whether the criminal offence of assault and battery can be committed on a slave, there are two decisions of the two States of South and North Carolina [State v. Maner, 2 Hill's Rep. 453. Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 243.]; and it is difficult to say which of these decisions has the pre-eminence for cool legal inhumanity. That of South Carolina reads thus. Judge O'Neill says:

  The criminal offence of assault and battery cannot, at common law, be committed upon the person of a slave. For notwithstanding (for some purposes) a slave is regarded by law as a person, yet generally he is a mere chattel personal, and his right or personal protection belongs to his master, who can maintain an action of trespass for the battery of his slave. There can be therefore no offence against the State for a mere beating of a slave unaccompanied with any circumstances of cruelty(!!), or an attempt to kill and murder. The peace of the State is not thereby broken; for a slave is not generally regarded as legally capable of being within the peace of the State. He is not a citizen, and is not in that character entitled to her protection.

  What declaration of the utter indifference of the State to the sufferings of the slave could be more elegantly cool and clear? [See State v. Hale. Wheeler, p. 239. 2 Hawk. N.C. Rep. 582.] But in North Carolina it appears that the case is argued still more elaborately.

  Chief Justice Taylor thus shows that, after all, there are reasons why an assault and battery upon the slave may, on the whole, have some such general connection with the comfort and security of the community, that it may be construed into a breach of the peace, and should be treated as an indictable offence.

  The instinct of a slave may be, and generally is, tamed into subservience to his master's will, and from him he receives chastisement, whether it be merited or not, with perfect submission; for he knows the extent of the dominion assumed over him, and that the law ratifies the claim. But when the same authority is wantonly usurped by a stranger, Nature is disposed to assert her rights, and to prompt the slave to a resistance, often momentarily successful, sometimes fatally so. The public peace is thus broken, as much as if a free man had been beaten; for the party of the aggressor is always the strongest, and such contests usually terminate by overpowering the slave, and inflicting on him a severe chastisement, without regard to the original cause of the conflict. There is, consequently, as much reason for making such offences indictable as if a white man had been the victim. A wanton injury committed on a slave is a great provocation to the owner.


awakens his resentment, and has a direct tendency to a breach of the peace, by inciting him to seek immediate vengeance. If resented in the heat of blood, it would probably extenuate a homicide to manslaughter, upon the same principle with the case stated by Lord Hale that if, A riding on the road, B had whipped his horse out of the track, and then A had alighted and killed B. These offences are usually committed by men of dissolute habits, hanging loose upon society, who, being repelled from association with well-disposed citizens, take refuge in the company of coloured persons and slaves, whom they deprave by their example, embolden by their familiarity, and then beat, under the expectation that a slave dare not resent a blow from a white man. If such offences may be committed with impunity, the public peace will not only be rendered extremely insecure, but the value of slave property must be much impaired, for the offenders can seldom make any reparation in damages. Nor is it necessary, in any case, that a person who has received an injury, real or imaginary, from a slave, should carve out his own justice; for the law has made ample and summary provision [1 Rev. Code, 448.] for the punishment of all trivial offences committed by slaves, by carrying them before a justice, who is authorised to pass sentence for their being publicly whipped. This provision, while it excludes the necessity of private vengeance, would seem to forbid its legality, since it effectually protects all persons from the insolence of slaves, even where their masters are unwilling to correct them upon complaint being made. The common law has often been called into efficient operation, for the punishment of public cruelty inflicted upon animals, for needless and wanton barbarity exercised even by masters upon their slaves, and for various violations of decency, morals, and comfort. Reason and analogy seem to require that a human being, although the subject of property, should be so far protected as the public might be injured through him.

  For all purposes necessary to enforce the obedience of the slave, and to render him useful as property, the law secures to the master a complete authority over him, and it will not lightly interfere with the relation thus established. It is a more effectual guarantee of his right of property, when the slave is protected from wanton abuse from those who have no power over him; for it cannot be disputed that a slave is rendered less capable of performing his master's service, when he finds himself exposed by the law to the capricious violence of every turbulent man in the community.

  If this is not a scrupulous disclaimer of all humane intention in the decision, as far as the slave is concerned, and an explicit declaration that he is protected only out of regard to the comfort of the community, and his property value to his master, it is difficult to see how such a declaration could be made. After all this cold-blooded course of remark, it is somewhat curious to come upon the following certainly most unexpected declaration, which occurs in the very next paragraph:—

  Mitigated as slavery is by the humanity of our laws, the refinement of manners, and by public opinion, which revolts at every instance of cruelty towards them, it would be an anomaly in the system of police which affects them, if the offence stated in the verdict were not indictable.


  The reader will please to notice that this remarkable declaration is made of the State of North Carolina. We shall have occasion again to refer to it by and by, when we extract from the statute-book of North Carolina some specimens of these humane laws.

  In the same spirit it is decided, under the law of Louisiana, that if an individual injures another's slave so as to make him entirely useless,— and the owner recovers from him the full value of the slave, the slave by that act becomes thenceforth the property of the person who injured him.

  [Jourdain v. Patton, July Term, 1818. 5 Martin's Louis. Rep. 615.] A decision to this effect is given in Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 249. A woman sued for an injury done to her slave by the slave of the defendant. The injury was such as to render him entirely useless, his only eye being put out. The parish court decreed that she should recover 1200 dollars, that the defendant should pay a further sum of 25 dollars a month from the time of the injury; also the physician's bill, and 200 dollars for the sustenance of the slave during his life, and that he should remain for ever in the possession of his mistress.

  The case was appealed. The judge reversed the decision, and delivered the slave into the possession of the man whose slave had committed the outrage. In the course of the decision, the judge remarks, with that calm legal explicitness for which many decisions of this kind are remarkable, that

  The principle of humanity, which would lead us to suppose that the mistress, whom he had long served, would treat her miserable blind slave with more kindness than the defendant, to whom the judgment ought to transfer him, cannot be taken into consideration in deciding this case.

  [Jan. Term, 1828. 9 Martin La. Rep. 350.] Another case reported in Wheeler's Law, p. 198, the author thus summarily abridges. It is Dorothee v. Coquillon et al. A young girl, by will of her mistress, was to have her freedom at twenty-one; and it was required by the will that in the mean time she should be educated in such a manner as to enable her to earn her living when free, her services in the mean time being bequeathed to the daughter of the defendant. Her mother (a free woman) entered complaint that no care was taken of the child's education, and that she was cruelly treated. The prayer of the petition was that the child be declared free at twenty-one, and in the mean time hired out by the sheriff. The suit was decided against the mother, on this ground—that she could not sue for her daughter in a case where the daughter could not sue for herself were she


of age—the object of the suit being relief from ill treatment during the time of her slavery, which a slave cannot sue for.

  Observe, now, the following case of Jennings v. Fundeberg [Jan. Term, 1827. 4 M'Cord's Rep. 161. Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 201.]. It seems Jennings brings an action of trespass against Fundeberg for killing his slave. The case was thus:—Fundeberg, with others, being out hunting runaway negroes, surprised them in their camp, and, as the report says, “fired his gun towards them, as they were running away, to induce them to stop.” One of them being shot through the head was thus induced to stop— and the master of the boy brought action for trespass against the firer for killing his slave.

  The decision of the inferior Court was as follows:—

  The Court “thought the killing accidental, and that the defendant ought not to be made answerable as a trespasser. * * * * When one is lawfully interfering with the property of another, and accidentally destroys it, he is no trespasser, and ought not to be answerable for the value of the property. In this case, the defendant was engaged in a lawful and meritorious service, and if he really fired his gun in the manner stated, it was an allowable act.”

  The superior judge reversed the decision, on the ground that in dealing with another person's property one is responsible for any injury which he could have avoided by any degree of circumspection. “The firing * * * was rash and incautious.” Does not the whole spirit of this discussion speak for itself?

  [Jan. Term, 1827. 4 M'Cord's Rep. 156.]

  See also the very next case in Wheeler's Law. Richardson v. Dukes, p. 202.

  Trespass for killing the plaintiff's slave. It appeared the slave was stealing potatoes from a bank near the defendant's house. The defendant fired upon him with a gun loaded with buckshot, and killed him. The jury found a verdict for plaintiff for one dollar. Motion for a new trial.

  The Court, Nott J., held, there must be a new trial; that the jury ought to have given the plaintiff the value of the slave. That if the jury were of opinion the slave was of bad character, some deduction from the usual price ought to be made, but the plaintiff was certainly entitled to his actual damage for killing his slave. Where property is in question, the value of the article, as nearly as it can be ascertained, furnishes a rule from which they are not at liberty to depart.

  It seems that the value of this unfortunate piece of property was somewhat reduced from the circumstance of his “stealing potatoes [Wheeler's Law of Slavery. p. 220.].” Doubtless he had his own best reasons for this; so, at least, we should infer from the following remark, which occurs in one of the reasonings of Judge Taylor of North Carolina.


  The act of 1786 (Iredell's Revisal, p. 588) does, in the preamble, recognise the fact, that many persons, by cruel treatment to their slaves, cause them to commit crimes for which they are executed. * * * The cruel treatment here alluded to must consist in withholding from them the necessaries of life; and the crimes thus resulting are such as are calculated to furnish them with food and raiment.

  Perhaps “stealing potatoes” in this case was one of the class of crimes alluded to.

  Again we have the following case:—

  [Whitsell v. Earnest & Parker. Wheeler, p. 202.]

  The defendants went to the plantation of Mrs. Whitsell for the purpose of hunting for runaway negroes; there being many in the neighbourhood, and the place in considerable alarm. As they approached the house with loaded guns, a negro ran from the house, or near the house, towards a swamp, when they fired and killed him.

  The judge charged the jury, that such circumstances might exist, by the excitement and alarm of the neighbourhood, as to authorise the killing of a negro without the sanction of the magistrate.

  This decision was reversed in the Superior Court, in the following language:

  By the statute of 1740, any white man may apprehend and moderately correct any slave who may be found out of the plantation at which he is employed, and if the slave assaults the white person, he may be killed; but a slave who is merely flying away cannot be killed. Nor can the defendants be justified by common law, IF we consider the negro as a person; for they were not clothed with the authority of the law to apprehend him as a felon, and without such authority he could not be killed.

  IF we consider the negro a person, says the judge; and, from his decision in the case, he evidently intimates that he has a strong leaning to his opinion, though it has been contested by so many eminent legal authorities that he puts forth his sentiments modestly, and in an hypothetical form. The reader, perhaps, will need to be informed that the question whether the slave is to be considered a person or a human being in any respect has been extensively and ably argued on both sides in legal courts, and it may be a comfort to know that the balance of legal opinion inclines in favour of the slave. Judge Clarke, of Mississippi, is quite clear on the point, and argues very ably and earnestly, [Wheeler, p. 252. June T. 1820. Walker's Rep. 83.] though, as he confesses, against very respectable legal authorities, that the slave is a person—that he is a reasonable creature. The reasoning occurs in the case State of Mississippi v. Jones, and is worthy of attention as a literary curiosity.

  It seems that a case of murder of a slave had been clearly made out and proved in the lower Court, and that judgment was


arrested, and the case appealed on the ground whether, in that State, murder could be committed on a slave. Judge Clarke thus ably and earnestly argues:—

  The question in this case is, whether murder can be committed on a slave. Because individuals may have been deprived of many of their rights by society, it does not follow that they have been deprived of all their rights. In some respects, slaves may be considered as chattels; but in others they are regarded as men. The law views them as capable of committing crimes. This can only be upon the principle, that they are men and rational beings. The Roman law has been much relied on by the counsel of the defendant. That law was confined to the Roman empire, giving the power of life and death over captives in war, as slaves; but it no more extended here, than the similar power given to parents over the lives of their children. Much stress has also been laid, by the defendant's counsel, on the case cited from Taylor's Reports, decided in North Carolina; yet, in that case, two judges against one were of opinion, that killing a slave was murder. Judge Hall, who delivered the dissenting opinion in the above case, based his conclusions, as we conceive, upon erroneous principles, by considering the laws of Rome applicable here. His inference, also, that a person cannot be condemned capitally, because he may be liable in a civil action, is not sustained by reason or authority, but appears to us to be in direct opposition to both. At a very early period in Virginia, the power of life over slaves was given by statute; but Tucker observes, that as soon as these statutes were repealed, it was at once considered by their Courts that the killing of a slave might be murder. (Commonwealth v. Dolly Chapman: indictment for maliciously stabbing a slave, under a statute.) It has been determined in Virginia that slaves are persons. In the constitution of the United States, slaves are expressly designated as “persons.” In this State the legislature have considered slaves as reasonable and accountable beings; and it would be a stigma upon the character of the State, and a reproach to the administration of justice, if the life of a slave could be taken with impunity, or if he could be murdered in cold blood, without subjecting the offender to the highest penalty known to the criminal jurisprudence of the country. Has the slave no rights, because he is deprived of his freedom? He is still a human being, and possesses all those rights of which he is not deprived by the positive provisions of the law; but in vain shall we look for any law passed by the enlightened and philanthropic legislature of this State, giving even to the master, much less to a stranger, power over the life of a slave. Such a statute would be worthy the age of Draco or Caligula, and would be condemned by the unanimous voice of the people of this State, where even cruelty to slaves, much [more] the taking away of life, meets with universal reprobation. By the provisions of our law, a slave may commit murder, and be punished with death; why, then, is it not murder to kill a slave? Can a mere chattel commit murder, and be subject to punishment?

* * * * * *

  The right of the master exists not by force of the law of nature or nations, but by virtue only of the positive law of the State; and although that gives to the master the right to command the services of the slave, requiring the master to feed and clothe the slave from infancy till death, yet it gives the master no right


to take the life of the slave; and, if the offence be not murder, it is not a crime, and subjects the offender to no punishment.

  The taking away the life of a reasonable creature, under the king's peace, with malice aforethought, expressed or implied, is murder at common law. Is not a slave a reasonable creature—is he not a human being? And the meaning of this phrase, “reasonable creature,” is a human being. For the killing a lunatic, an idiot, or even a child unborn, is murder, as much as the killing a philosopher; and has not the slave as much reason as a lunatic, an idiot, or an unborn child?

  Thus triumphantly, in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, and in the State of Mississippi, has it been made to appear that the slave is a reasonable creature—a human being!

  What sort of system, what sort of a public sentiment, was that which made this argument necessary!

  And let us look at some of the admissions of this argument with regard to the nature of slavery. According to the judge, it is depriving human beings of many of their rights. Thus he says: “Because individuals may have been deprived of many of their rights by society, it does not follow that they have been deprived of all their rights.” Again, he says of the slave: “He is still a human being, and possesses all those rights of which he is not deprived by positive provisions of the law.” Here he admits that the provisions of law deprive the slave of natural rights. Again he says: “The right of the master exists not by force of the law of nature or of nations, but by virtue only of the positive law of the State.” According to the decision of this judge, therefore, slavery exists by the same right that robbery or oppression of any kind does—the right of ability. A gang of robbers associated into a society have rights over all the neighbouring property that they can acquire, of precisely the same kind.

  With the same unconscious serenity does the law apply that principle of force and robbery which is the essence of slavery, and show how far the master may proceed in appropriating another human being as his property.

  The question arises, May a master give a woman to one person, and her unborn children to another one? [Wheeler, p. 28. Banks, Adm'r v. Marksbury. Spring T., 1823. 3 Little's Rep. 275] Let us hear the case argued. The unfortunate mother, selected as the test point of this interesting legal principle, comes to our view in the will of one Samuel Marksbury, under the style and denomination of “my negro wench, Pen.” Said Samuel states in his will that, for the good-will and love he bears to his own children, he gives said negro wench, Pen, to son Samuel, and all her future increase to daughter Rachael. When daughter Rachael,


therefore, marries, her husband sets up a claim for this increase, as it is stated, quite off-hand, that the “wench had several children.” Here comes a beautifully interesting case, quite stimulating to legal acumen. Inferior Court decides that Samuel Marksbury could not have given away unborn children, on the strength of the legal maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet”—i. e., “Nobody can give what he has not got”—which certainly one should think sensible and satisfactory enough. The case, however, is appealed, and reversed in the superior Court; and now let us hear the reasoning.

  The judge acknowledges the force of the maxim above quoted —says, as one would think any man might say, that it is quite a correct maxim—the only difficulty being that it does not at all apply to the present case. Let us hear him:

  He who is the absolute owner of a thing owns all its faculties for profit or increase; and he may, no doubt, grant the profits or increase, as well as the thing itself. Thus, it is every day's practice to grant the future rents or profits of real estate; and it is held that a man may grant the wool of a flock of sheep for years.

  See also p. 33, Fanny v. Bryant, 4 J. J. Marshall's Rep., 368. In this almost precisely the same language is used. If the reader will proceed, he will find also this principle applied with equal clearness to the hiring, selling, mortgaging of unborn children; and the perfect legal nonchalance of these discussions is only comparable to running a dissecting-knife through the course of all the heart-strings of a living subject, for the purpose of demonstrating the laws of nervous contraction.

  Judge Stroud, in his sketch of the slave-laws, page 99, lays down for proof the following assertion:—That the penal codes of the slave States bear much more severely on slaves than on white persons. He introduces his consideration of this proposition by the following humane and sensible remarks:—

  A being, ignorant of letters, unenlightened by religion, and deriving but little instruction from good example, cannot be supposed to have right conceptions as to the nature and extent of moral or political obligations. This remark, with but a slight qualification, is applicable to the condition of the slave. It has been just shown that the benefits of education are not conferred upon him, while his chance of acquiring a knowledge of the precepts of the gospel is so remote as scarcely to be appreciated. He may be regarded, therefore, as almost without the capacity to comprehend the force of laws; and, on this account, such as are designed for his government should be recommended by their simplicity and mildness.

  His condition suggests another motive for tenderness on his behalf in these particulars. He is unable to read; and holding little or no communication with those who are better informed than himself, how is he to become acquainted with the fact that a law for his observance has been made? To exact obedience to a


law which has not been promulgated, which is unknown to the subject of it, has ever been deemed most unjust and tyrannical. The reign of Caligula, were it obnoxious to no other reproach than this, would never cease to be remembered with abhorrence.

  The lawgivers of the slave-holding States seem, in the formation of their penal codes, to have been uninfluenced by these claims of the slave upon their compassionate consideration. The hardened convict moves their sympathy, and is to be taught the laws before he is expected to obey them; yet the guiltless slave is subjected to an extensive system of cruel enactments, of no part of which probably has he ever heard.

  Parts of this system apply to the slave exclusively, and for every infraction a large retribution is demanded; while with respect to offences for which whites as well as slaves are amenable, punishments of much greater severity are inflicted upon the latter than upon the former.

  This heavy charge of Judge Stroud is sustained by twenty pages of proof, showing the very great disproportion between the number of offences made capital for slaves, and those that are so for whites. Concerning this, we find the following cool remark in Wheeler's Law of Slavery, page 222, note.

  Much has been said of the disparity of punishment between the white inhabitants and the slaves and negroes of the same State; that slaves are punished with much more severity, for the commission of similar crimes, by white persons, than the latter. The charge is undoubtedly true to a considerable extent. It must be remembered that the primary object of the enactment of penal laws is the protection and security of those who make them. The slave has no agency in making them. He is, indeed, one cause of the apprehended evils to the other class, which those laws are expected to remedy. That he should be held amenable for a violation of those rules established for the security of the other is the natural result of the state in which he is placed. And the severity of those rules will always bear a relation to that danger, real or ideal, of the other class.

  It has been so among all nations, and will ever continue to be so, while the disparity between bond and free remains.

  [The State v. Mann, Dec. Term, 1829. 2 Devereux's N. Carolina Rep. 263.]

  A striking example of a legal decision to this purport is given in Wheeler's Law of Slavery, page 224. The case, apart from legal technicalities, may be thus briefly stated:—

  The defendant, Mann, had hired a slave-woman for a year. During this time the slave committed some slight offence, for which the defendant undertook to chastise her. While in the act of doing so, the slave ran off, whereat he shot at and wounded her. The judge in the inferior Court charged the jury that if they believed the punishment was cruel and unwarrantable, and disproportioned to the offence, in law the defendant was guilty, as he had only a special property in the slave. The jury finding evidence that the punishment had been cruel, un-


warrantable, and disproportioned to the offence, found verdict against the defendant. But on what ground? Because, according to the law of North Carolina, cruel, unwarrantable, disproportionate punishment of a slave from a master, is an indictable offence? No. They decided against the defendant, not because the punishment was cruel and unwarrantable, but because he was not the person who had the right to inflict it, “as he had only a SPECIAL right of property in the slave.”

  The defendant appealed to a higher Court, and the decision was reversed, on the ground that the hirer has for the time being all the rights of the master. The remarks of Judge Ruffin are so characteristic, and so strongly express the conflict between the feelings of the humane judge and the logical necessity of a strict interpreter of slave-law, that we shall quote largely from it. One cannot but admire the unflinching calmness with which a man, evidently possessed of honourable and humane feelings, walks through the most extreme and terrible results and conclusions, in obedience to the laws of legal truth. Thus he says:—

  A judge cannot but lament when such cases as the present are brought into judgment. It is impossible that the reasons on which they go can be appreciated, but where institutions similar to our own exist, and are thoroughly understood. The struggle, too, in the judge's own breast, between the feelings of the man and the duty of the magistrate, is a severe one, presenting strong temptations to put aside such questions, if it be possible. It is useless, however, to complain of things inherent in our political state; and it is criminal in a Court to avoid any responsibility which the laws impose. With whatever reluctance, therefore, it is done, the Court is compelled to express an opinion upon the extent of the dominion of the master over the slave in North Carolina. The indictment charges a battery on Lydia, a slave of Elizabeth Jones. * * * The inquiry here is, whether a cruel and unreasonable battery on a slave by the hirer is indictable. The judge below instructed the jury that it is. He seems to have put it on the ground that the defendant had but a special property. Our laws uniformly treat the master, or other person having the possession and command of the slave, as entitled to the same extent of authority. The object is the same, the service of the slave; and the same powers must be confided. In a criminal proceeding, and, indeed, in reference to all other persons but the general owner, the hirer and possessor of the slave, in relation to both rights and duties, is, for the time being, the owner. * * * But upon the general question whether the owner is answerable criminaliter for a battery upon his own slave, or other exercise of authority of force not forbidden by the statute, the Court entertains but little doubt. That he is so liable has never been decided; nor, as far as is known, been hitherto contended. There has been no prosecution of the sort. The established habits and uniform practice of the country in this respect is the best evidence of the portion of power deemed by the whole community requisite to the preservation of the master's dominion. If we thought differently, we could not set our notions in array against


the judgment of everybody else, and say that this or that authority may be safely lopped off. This has indeed been assimilated at the bar to the other domestic relations; and arguments drawn from the well-established principles, which confer and restrain the authority of the parent over the child, the tutor over the pupil, the master over the apprentice, have been pressed on us.

  The Court does not recognise their application; there is no likeness between the cases; they are in opposition to each other, and there is an impassable gulf between them. The difference is that which exists between freedom and slavery, and a greater cannot be imagined. In the one, the end in view is the happiness of the youth, born to equal rights with that governor on whom the duty devolves of training the young to usefulness in a station which he is afterwards to assume among freemen. To such an end, and with such a subject, moral and intellectual instruction seem the natural means, and, for the most part, they are found to suffice. Moderate force is superadded only to make the others effectual. If that fail, it is better to leave the party to his own headstrong passions, and the ultimate correction of the law, than to allow it to be immoderately inflicted by a private person. With slavery it is far otherwise. The end is the profit of the master, his security, and the public safety; the subject, one doomed, in his own person and his posterity, to live without knowledge, and without the capacity to make anything his own, and to toil that another may reap the fruits. What moral considerations shall be addressed to such a being to convince him, what it is impossible but that the most stupid must feel and know can never be true, that he is thus to labour upon a principle of natural duty, or for the sake of his own personal happiness? Such services can only be expected from one who has no will of his own; who surrenders his will in implicit obedience to that of another. Such obedience is the consequence only of uncontrolled authority over the body. There is nothing else which can operate to produce the effect. THE POWER OF THE MASTER MUST BE ABSOLUTE, TO RENDER THE SUBMISSION TO THE SLAVE PERFECT. I most freely confess my sense of the harshness of this proposition. I feel it as deeply as any man can; and as a principle of moral right, every person in his retirement must repudiate it; but, in the actual condition of things, it must be so; there is no remedy. This discipline belongs to the state of slavery. They cannot be disunited without abrogating at once the rights of the master, and absolving the slave from his subjection. It constitutes the curse of slavery to both the bond and the free portions of our population; but it is inherent in the relation of master and slave. That there may be particular instances of cruelty and deliberate barbarity, where in conscience the law might properly interfere, is most probable. The difficulty is to determine where a Court may properly begin. Merely in the abstract, it may well be asked which power of the master accords with right. The answer will probably sweep away all of them. But we cannot look at the matter in that light. The truth is, that we are forbidden to enter upon a train of general reasoning on the subject. We cannot allow the right of the master to be brought into discussion in the courts of justice. The slave, to remain a slave, must be made sensible that there is no appeal from his master; that his power is, in no instance, usurped on, is conferred by the laws of man at least, if not by the law of God. The danger would be great, indeed, if the tribunals of justice should be called on to graduate the punishment appropriate to every temper and every dereliction of menial duty.


  No man can anticipate the many and aggravated provocations of the master which the slave would be constantly stimulated by his own passions, or the instigation of others, to give; or the consequent wrath of the master, prompting him to bloody vengeance upon the turbulent traitor; a vengeance generally practised with impunity, by reason of its privacy. The Court, therefore, disclaims the power of changing the relation in which these parts of our people stand to each other.

* * * * * * * * *

  I repeat, that I would gladly have avoided this ungrateful question; but being brought to it, the Court is compelled to declare that while slavery exists amongst us in its present state, or until it shall seem fit to the legislature to interpose express enactments to the contrary, it will be the imperative duty of the judges to recognise the full dominion of the owner over the slave, except where the exercise of it is forbidden by statute.

  And this we do upon the ground that this dominion is essential to the value of slaves as property, to the security of the master and the public tranquillity, greatly dependant upon their subordination; and, in fine, as most effectually securing the general protection and comfort of the slaves themselves. Judgment below reversed; and judgment entered for the defendant.

  No one can read this decision, so fine and clear in expression, so dignified and solemn in its earnestness, and so dreadful in its results, without feeling at once deep respect for the man and horror for the system. The man, judging him from this short specimen, which is all the author knows,* has one of


that high order of minds which looks straight through all verbiage and sophistry to the heart of every subject which it encounters. He has, too, that noble scorn of dissimulation, that straightforward determination not to call a bad thing by a good name, even when most popular, and reputable, and legal, which it is to be wished could be more frequently seen, both in our Northern and Southern States. There is but one sole regret; and that is, that such a man, with such a mind, should have been merely an expositor, and not a reformer of law.


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



"Yet in the face of such laws and decisions as these, Mrs. Stowe," &c.
Courier and Enquirer.

  THE case of Souther v. the Commonwealth has been cited by the Courier and Enquirer as a particularly favourable specimen of judicial proceedings under the slave code, with the following remark:—

  And yet, in the face of such laws and decisions as these, Mrs. Stowe winds up a long series of cruelties upon her other black personages, by causing her faultless hero, Tom, to be literally whipped to death in Louisiana, by his master, Legree; and these acts, which the laws make criminal, and punish as such, she sets forth in the most repulsive colours, to illustrate the institution of slavery!

  By the above language the author was led into the supposition that this case had been conducted in a manner so creditable to the feelings of our common humanity as to present a fairer side of criminal jurisprudence in this respect. She accordingly took the pains to procure a report of the case, designing to publish it as an offset to the many barbarities which research into this branch of the subject obliges one to unfold. A legal gentleman has copied the case from Grattan's Reports, and it is here given. If the reader is astounded at it, he cannot be more so than was the writer.

  Souther v. The Commonwealth. 7 Grattan, 673, 1851.

  The killing of a slave by his master and owner, by wilful and excessive whipping, is murder in the first degree; though it may not have been the purpose and intention of the master and owner to kill the slave.

  Simeon Souther was indicted at the October Term, 1850, of the Circuit Court for the County of Hanover, for the murder of his own slave. The indictment contained fifteen counts, in which the various modes of punishment and torture by which the homicide was charged to have been committed were stated singly, and in various combinations. The fifteenth count unites them all: and, as the Court certifies that the indictment was sustained by the evidence, the giving the


facts stated in that count will show what was the charge against the prisoner, and what was the proof to sustain it.

  The count charged that on the 1st day of September, 1849, the prisoner tied his negro slave, Sam, with ropes about his wrists, neck, body, legs, and ankles, to a tree. That whilst so tied, the prisoner first whipped the slave with switches. That he next beat and cobbed the slave with a shingle, and compelled two of his slaves, a man and a woman, also to cob the deceased with the shingle. That whilst the deceased was so tied to the tree, the prisoner did strike, knock, kick, stamp, and beat him upon various parts of his head, face, and body; that he applied fire to his body; * * * that he then washed his body with warm water, in which pods of red pepper had been put and steeped; and he compelled his two slaves aforesaid to wash him with this same preparation of warm water and red pepper. That after the tying, whipping, cobbing, striking, beating, knocking, kicking, stamping, wounding, bruising, lacerating, burning, washing, and torturing, as aforesaid, the prisoner untied the deceased from the tree, in such a way as to throw him with violence to the ground; and he then and there did knock, kick, stamp, and beat the deceased upon his head, temples, and various parts of his body. That the prisoner then had the deceased carried into a shed-room of his house, and there he compelled one of his slaves, in his presence, to confine the deceased's feet in stocks, by making his legs fast to a piece of timber, and to tie a rope about the neck of the deceased, and fasten it to a bed-post in the room, thereby strangling, choking, and suffocating the deceased. And that whilst the deceased was thus made fast in stocks as aforesaid, the prisoner did kick, knock, stamp, and beat him upon his head, face, breast, belly, sides, back, and body; and he again compelled his two slaves to apply fire to the body of the deceased, whilst he was so made fast as aforesaid. And the count charged, that from these various modes of punishment and torture the slave Sam then and there died. It appeared that the prisoner commenced the punishment of the deceased in the morning, and that it was continued throughout the day; and that the deceased died in the presence of the prisoner, and one of his slaves, and one of the witnesses, whilst the punishment was still progressing.

  Field, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

  The prisoner was indicted and convicted of murder in the second degree, in the Circuit Court of Hanover, at its April term last past, and was sentenced to the Penitentiary for five years, the period of time ascertained by the jury. The murder consisted in the killing of a negro man-slave by the name of Sam, the property of the prisoner, by cruel and excessive whipping and torture, inflicted by Souther, aided by two of his other slaves, on the 1st day of September, 1849 The prisoner moved for a new trial, upon the ground that the offence, if any, amounted only to manslaughter. The motion for a new trial was overruled, and a bill of exceptions taken to the opinion of the Court, setting forth the facts proved, or as many of them as were deemed material for the consideration of the application for a new trial. The bill of exception states: That the slave Sam, in the indictment mentioned, was the slave and property of the prisoner. That for the purpose of chastising the slave for the offence of getting drunk, and dealing as the slave confessed and alleged with Henry and Stone, two of the witnesses for the Commonwealth, he caused him to be tied and punished in the presence of the said witnesses, with the exception of slight whipping with peach or apple-tree switches, before the said witnesses arrived at the scene after they were sent for


by the prisoner (who were present by request from the defendant), and of several slaves of the prisoner, in the manner and by the means charged in the indictment; and the said slave died under and from the infliction of the said punishment, in the presence of the prisoner, one of his slaves, and one of the witnesses for the Commonwealth. But it did not appear that it was the design of the prisoner to kill the said slave, unless such design be properly inferable from the manner, means, and duration of the punishment. And, on the contrary, it did appear that the prisoner frequently declared, while the said slave was undergoing the punishment, that he believed the said slave was feigning, and pretending to be suffering and injured when he was not. The judge certifies that the slave was punished in the manner and by the means charged in the indictment. The indictment contains fifteen counts, and sets forth a case of the most cruel and excessive whipping and torture.*


* * * * * * * *

  It is believed that the records of criminal jurisprudence do not contain a case of more atrocious and wicked cruelty than was presented upon the trial of Souther; and yet it has been gravely and earnestly contended here by his counsel that his offence amounts to manslaughter only.

  It has been contended by the counsel of the prisoner that a man cannot be indicted and prosecuted for the cruel and excessive whipping of his own slave. That it is lawful for the master to chastise his slave, and that if death ensues from such chastisement, unless it was intended to produce death, it is like the case of homicide which is committed by a man in the performance of a lawful act, which is manslaughter only. It has been decided by this Court in Turner's case, 5 Rand, that the owner of a slave, for the malicious, cruel, and excessive beating of his own slave, cannot be indicted; yet it by no means follows, when such malicious, cruel, and excessive beating results in death, though not intended and premeditated, that the beating is to be regarded as lawful for the purpose of reducing the crime to manslaughter, when the whipping is inflicted for the sole purpose of chastisement. It is the policy of the law, in respect to the relation of master and slave, and for the sake of securing proper subordination and obedience on the part of the slave, to protect the master from prosecution in all such cases, even if the whipping and punishment be malicious, cruel, and excessive. But in so inflicting punishment for the sake of punishment, the owner of the slave acts at his peril; and if death ensues in consequence of such punishment, the relation of master and slave affords no ground of excuse or palliation. The principles of the common law, in relation to homicide, apply to his case without qualification or exception; and according to those principles, the act of the prisoner, in the case under consideration, amounted to murder. * * * * The crime of the prisoner is not manslaughter, but murder in the first degree.


  On the case now presented there are some remarks to be made.

  This scene of torture, it seems, occupied about twelve hours. It occurred in the State of Virginia, in the county of Hanover. Two white men were witnesses to nearly the whole proceeding, and, so far as we can see, made no effort to arouse the neighbourhood, and bring in help to stop the outrage. What sort of an education, what habits of thought, does this presuppose in these men?

  The case was brought to trial. It requires no ordinary nerve to read over the counts of this indictment. Nobody, one would suppose, could willingly read them twice. One would think that it would have laid a cold hand of horror on every heart— that the community would have risen, by an universal sentiment, to shake out the man, as Paul shook the viper from his hand. It seems, however, that they were quite self-possessed; that lawyers calmly sat, and examined, and cross-examined, on particulars known before only in the records of the Inquisition; that it was “ably and earnestly argued” by educated intelligent American men, that this catalogue of horrors did not amount to a murder! and, in the cool language of legal precision, that “the offence, IF ANY, amounted to manslaughter;” and that an American jury found that the offence was murder in the second degree. Anyone who reads the indictment will certainly think that, if this be murder in the second degree, in Virginia, one might earnestly pray to be murdered in the first degree to begin with. Had Souther walked up to the man, and shot him through the head with a pistol, before white witnesses, that would have been murder in the first degree. As he preferred to spend twelve hours in killing him by torture, under the name of “chastisement,” that, says the verdict, is murder in the second degree; “because,” says the bill of exceptions, with admirable coolness, “it did not appear that it was the design of the prisoner to kill the slave, UNLESS SUCH DESIGN BE PROPERLY INFERABLE FROM THE MANNER, MEANS, AND DURATION OF THE PUNISHMENT.”

  The bill evidently seems to have a leaning to the idea that twelve hours spent in beating, stamping, scalding, burning, and mutilating a human being might possibly be considered as presumption of something beyond the limits of lawful chastisement. So startling an opinion, however, is expressed cautiously, and with a becoming diffidence, and is balanced by the very striking fact, which is also quoted in this remarkable paper, that the prisoner frequently declared, while the slave was undergoing


the punishment, that he believed the slave was feigning and pretending to be suffering, when he was not. This view appears to have struck the Court as eminently probable—as going a long way to prove the propriety of Souther's intentions, making it at least extremely probable that only correction was intended.

  It seems also that Souther, so far from being crushed by the united opinion of the community, found those to back him who considered five years in the Penitentiary an unjust severity for his crime, and hence the bill of exceptions from which we have quoted, and the appeal to the Superior Court; and hence the form in which the case stands in law-books, “Souther v. the Commonwealth.” Souther evidently considers himself an ill-used man, and it is in this character that he appears before the Superior Court.

  As yet there has been no particular overflow of humanity in the treatment of the ease. The manner in which it has been discussed so far reminds one of nothing so much as of some discussions which the reader may have seen quoted from the records of the Inquisition, with regard to the propriety of roasting the feet of children who have not arrived at the age of thirteen years, with a view to eliciting evidence.

  Let us now come to the decision of the Superior Court, which the editor of the Courier and Enquirer thinks so particularly enlightened and humane. Judge Field thinks that the case is a very atrocious one, and in this respect he seems to differ materially from judge, jury, and lawyers of the Court below. Furthermore, he doubts whether the annals of jurisprudence furnish a case of equal atrocity, wherein certainly he appears to be not far wrong; and he also states unequivocally the principle that killing a slave by torture under the name of correction is murder in the first degree; and here too, certainly, everybody will think that he is also right; the only wonder being that any man could ever have been called to express such an opinion, judicially. But he states, quite as unequivocally as Judge Ruffin, that awful principle of slave-laws, that the law cannot interfere with the master for any amount of torture inflicted on his slave which does not result in death. The decision, if it establishes anything, establishes this principle quite as strongly as it does the other. Let us hear the words of the decision:—

  It has been decided by this Court, in Turner's case, that the owner of a slave, for the malicious, cruel, and excessive beating of his own slave, cannot be indicted.

* * * * * *

  It is the policy of the law, in respect to the relation of master and slave, and for


the sake of securing proper subordination and obedience on the part of the slave, to protect the master from prosecution in all such cases, even if the whipping and punishment be malicious, cruel, and excessive

  What follows as a corollary from this remarkable declaration is this—that if the victim of this twelve hours' torture had only possessed a little stronger constitution, and had not actually died under it, there is no law in Virginia by which Souther could even have been indicted for misdemeanour.

  If this is not filling out the measure of the language of St. Clare, that “he who goes the furthest, and does the worst, only uses within limits the power which the law gives him,” how could this language be verified? Which is “the worst,” death outright, or torture indefinitely prolonged? This decision, in so many words, gives every master the power of indefinite torture, and takes from him only the power of terminating the agony by merciful death. And this is the judicial decision which the Courier and Enquirer cites as a perfectly convincing specimen of legal humanity. It must be hoped that the editor never read the decision, else he never would have cited it. Of all who knock at the charnel-house of legal precedents, with the hope of disinterring any evidence of humanity in the slave system, it may be said, in the awful words of the Hebrew poet:

He knoweth not that the dead are there,
And that her guests are in the depths of hell.

  The upshot of this case was, that Souther, instead of getting off from his five years' imprisonment, got simply a judicial opinion from the Superior Court that he ought to be hung; but he could not be tried over again, and as we may infer from all the facts in the case that he was a man of tolerably resolute nerves and not very exquisite sensibility, it is not likely that the opinion gave him any very serious uneasiness. He has probably made up his mind to get over his five years with what grace he may. When he comes out, there is no law in Virginia to prevent his buying as many more negroes as he chooses, and going over the same scene with any one of them at a future time, if only he profit by the information which has been so explicitly conveyed to him in this decision, that he must take care and stop his tortures short of the point of death—a matter about which, as the history of the Inquisition shows, men, by careful practice, can be able to judge with considerable precision. Probably, also, the next time, he will not be so foolish as to send out and request the attendance of two white witnesses, even though they may be so complacently interested in the proceeding


as to spend the whole day in witnessing them without effort at prevention.

  Slavery, as defined in American law, is no more capable of being regulated in its administration by principles of humanity than the torture system of the Inquisition. Every act of humanity of every individual owner is an illogical result from the legal definition; and the reason why the slave-code of America is more atrocious than any ever before exhibited under the sun, is that the Anglo-Saxon race are a more coldly and strictly logical race, and have an unflinching courage to meet the consequences of every premise which they lay down, and to work out an accursed principle, with mathematical accuracy, to its most accursed results. The decisions in American law-books show nothing so much as this severe, unflinching accuracy of logic. It is often and evidently, not because judges are inhuman or partial, but because they are logical and truthful, that they announce from the bench, in the calmest manner, decisions which one would think might make the earth shudder, and the sun turn pale.

  The French and the Spanish nations are, by constitution, more impulsive, passionate, and poetic, than logical; hence it will be found that while there may be more instances of individual barbarity, as might be expected among impulsive and passionate people, there is in their slave-code more exhibition of humanity. The code of the State of Louisiana contains more really humane provisions, were there any means of enforcing them, than that of any other state in the Union.

  It is believed that there is no code of laws in the world which contains such a perfect cabinet crystallisation of every tear and every drop of blood which can be wrung from humanity, so accurately, elegantly, and scientifically arranged, as the slave-code of America. It is a case of elegant surgical instruments for the work of dissecting the living human heart; every instrument wrought with exactest temper and polish, and adapted with exquisite care, and labelled with the name of the nerve or artery or muscle which it is designed to sever. The instruments of the anatomist are instruments of earthly steel and wood, designed to operate at most on perishable and corruptible matter; but these are instruments of keener temper, and more ethereal workmanship, designed in the most precise and scientific manner to DESTROY THE IMMORTAL SOUL, and carefully and gradually to reduce man from the high position of a free agent, a social, religious, accountable being, down to the condition of the brute, or of inanimate matter.


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



Apprentices protected. Outlawry. Melodrama of Prue in the Swamp. Harry the Carpenter, a Romance of Real Life.

  BUT the question now occurs, Are there not protective statutes, the avowed object of which is the protection of the life and limb of the slave? We answer, there are; and these protective statutes are some of the most remarkable pieces of legislation extant.

  That they were dictated by a spirit of humanity, charity, which hopeth all things, would lead us to hope; but no newspaper stories of bloody murders and shocking outrages convey to the mind so dreadful a picture of the numbness of public sentiment caused by slavery as these so-called protective statutes. The author copies the following from the statutes of North Carolina. Section 3rd of the Act passed in 1798 runs thus:—

  Whereas by another Act of the Assembly, passed in 1774, the killing of a slave, however wanton, cruel, and deliberate, is only punishable in the first instance by imprisonment, and paying the value thereof to the owner, which distinction of criminality between the murder of a white person and one who is equally a human creature, but merely of a different complexion, is DISGRACEFUL TO HUMANITY, AND DEGRADING IN THE HIGHEST DEGREE TO THE LAWS AND PRINCIPLES OF A FREE, CHRISTIAN, AND ENLIGHTENED COUNTRY; Be it enacted,&c., That if any person shall hereafter be guilty of wilfully and maliciously killing a slave such offender shall, upon the first conviction thereof, be adjudged guilty of murder, and shall suffer the same punishment as if he had killed a free man: Provided always, this Act shall not extended to the person killing a slave OUTLAWED BY VIRTUE OF ANY ACT OF ASSEMBLY OF THIS STATE, or to any slave in the act of resistance to his lawful owner or master, or to any slave dying under moderate correction.

  A law with a like proviso, except the outlawry clause, exists in Tennessee. See Caruthers and Nicholson's Compilation, 1836, p. 676.


  The language of the constitution of Georgia, art. iv, sec. 12, is as follows:

  Any person who shall maliciously dismember, or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case the like offence had been committed on a free white person, and on the like proof, except in case of insurrection by such slave, and unless such death should happen by accident in giving such slave moderate correction. —Cobb's Dig., 1851, p. 1125.

  Let now any Englishman or New Englander imagine that such laws with regard to apprentices had ever been proposed in Parliament or State Legislature under the head of protective acts;—laws which in so many words permit the killing of the subject in three cases, and those comprising all the acts which would generally occur under the law; namely, if the slave resist, if he be outlawed, or if he die under moderate correction.

  What rule in the world will ever prove correction immoderate, if the fact that the subject dies under it is not held as proof? How many such “accidents” would have to happen in Old England or New England, before Parliament or Legislature would hear from such a protective law?

  “But,” some one may ask, “what is the outlawry spoken of in this Act? The question is pertinent, and must be answered. The author has copied the following from the Revised Statutes of North Carolina, chap. cxi, sec. 22. It may be remarked in passing that the preamble to this law presents rather a new view of slavery to those who have formed their ideas from certain pictures of blissful contentment and Arcadian repose, which have been much in vogue of late.

  Whereas, MANY TIMES slaves run away and lie out, hid and lurking in swamps, woods, and other obscure places, killing cattle and hogs, and committing other injuries to the inhabitants of this State; in all such cases, upon intelligence of any slave or slaves lying out as aforesaid, any two justices of the peace for the county wherein such slave or slaves is or are supposed to lurk or do mischief, shall, and they are hereby empowered and required to issue proclamation against such slave or slaves (reciting his or their names, and the name or names of the owner or owners, if known), thereby requiring him or them, and every of them, forthwith to surrender him or themselves; and also to empower and require the sheriff of the said county to take such power with him as he shall think fit and necessary for going in search and pursuit of, and effectually apprehending, such outlying slave or slaves; which proclamation shall be published at the door of the court-house, and at such other places as said justices shall direct. And if any slave or slaves, against whom proclamation hath been thus issued stay out, and do not immediately return home, it shall be lawful for any person or persons whatsoever to kill and destroy such slave or slaves by such ways and means as he shall think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime for the same.


  What ways and means have been thought fit, in actual experience, for the destruction of the slave? What was done with the negro McIntosh, in the streets of St. Louis, in open daylight, and endorsed at the next sitting of the Supreme Court of the State, as transcending the sphere of law, because it was “an act of the majority of her most respectable citizens?”* If these things are done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry? If these things have once been done in the open streets of St. Louis, by “a majority of her most respectable citizens,” what will be done in the lonely swamps of North Carolina, by men of the stamp of Souther and Legree?

  This passage of the Revised Statutes of North Carolina is more terribly suggestive to the imagination than any particulars into which the author of “Uncle Tom's Cabin” has thought fit to enter. Let us suppose a little melodrama quite possible to have occurred under this Act of the Legislature. Suppose some luckless Prue or Peg, as in the case we have just quoted, in State v. Mann, getting tired of the discipline of whipping, breaks from the overseer, clears the dogs, and gets into the swamp, and there “lies out,” as the Act above graphically says. The Act which we are considering says that many slaves do this, and doubtless they have their own best reasons for it. We all know what fascinating places to “lie out” in these Southern swamps are. What with alligators and moccasin snakes, mud and water, and poisonous vines, one would be apt to think the situation not particularly eligible; but still Prue “lies out” there. Perhaps in the night some husband or brother goes to see her, taking a hog or some animal of the plantation stock, which he has ventured his life in killing, that she may not perish with hunger. Master overseer walks up to master proprietor, and reports the accident; master proprietor mounts his horse, and assembles to his aid two justices of the peace.

  In the intervals between drinking brandy and smoking cigars a proclamation is duly drawn up, summoning the contumacious Prue to surrender, and requiring sheriff of said county to take such power as he shall think fit to go in search and pursuit of said slave; which proclamation, for Prue's further enlightenment, is solemnly published at the door of the court-house, and “at such other places as said justices shall direct.”* Let us suppose,


now, that Prue, given over to hardness of heart and blindness of mind, pays no attention to all these means of grace, put forth to draw her to the protective shadow of the patriarchal roof. Suppose, further, as a final effort of long-suffering, and to leave her utterly without excuse, the worthy magistrate rides forth in full force—man, horse, dog, and gun—to the very verge of the swamp, and there proclaims aloud the merciful mandate. Suppose that, hearing the yelping of the dogs and the proclamation of the sheriffs mingled together, and the shouts of Loker, Marks, Sambo and Quimbo, and other such posse, black and white, as a sheriff can generally summon on such a hunt, this very ignorant and contumacious Prue only runs deeper into the swamp, and continues obstinately “lying out,” as aforesaid; now she is by Act of the Assembly outlawed, and, in the astounding words of the Act, “it shall be lawful for any person or persons whatsoever to kill and destroy her, by such ways and means as he shall think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime for the same.” What awful possibilities rise to the imagination under the fearfully suggestive clause, “by such ways and means as he shall think fit!” Such ways and means as ANY man shall think fit, of any character, of any degree of fiendish barbarity!! Such a permission to kill even a dog, by “any ways and means which anybody should think fit,” never ought to stand on the law-books of a Christian nation; and yet this stands against one bearing that same humanity which Jesus Christ bore—against one, perhaps, who, though blinded, darkened, and ignorant, he will not be ashamed to own, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, and all his holy angels with him!

  That this law has not been a dead letter there is sufficient proof. In 1836 the following proclamation and advertisement appeared in the “Newbern (N. C.) Spectator.”


  Whereas complaint hath been this day made to us, two of the justices of the peace for the said county, by William D. Cobb, of Jones County, that two negro slaves belonging to him, named Ben (commonly known by the name of Ben Fox), and Rigdon, have absented themselves from their said master's service, and are lurking about in the Counties of Lenoir and Jones, committing acts of felony; these are, in the name of the State, to command the said slaves forthwith to surrender themselves and turn home to their said master. And we do hereby also require the sheriff of said County of Lenoir to make diligent search and pursuit after the above-mentioned slaves. * * * And we do hereby, by virtue of an Act


of Assembly of this State concerning servants and slaves, intimate and declare, if the said slaves do not surrender themselves and return home to their master immediately after the publication of these presents, that any person may kill or destroy said slaves by such means as he or they may think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime or offence for so doing, or without incurring any penalty or forfeiture thereby.

  Given under our hands and seals, this 12th of November, 1836.

B. COLEMAN, J. P. [Seal.]

JAS. JONES, J. P. [Seal.]

  200 DOLLARS REWARD.—Ran away from the subscriber, about three years ago, a certain negro man, named Ben, commonly known by the name of Ben Fox; also one other negro, by the name of Rigdon, who ran away on the 8th of this month.

  I will give the reward of 100 dollars for each of the above negroes, to be delivered to me, or confined in the jail of Lenoir or Jones County, or for the killing of them, so that I can see them.

  Nov. 12, 1836.


  That this Act was not a dead letter, also, was plainly implied in the protective Act first quoted. If slaves were not, as a matter of fact, ever outlawed, why does the Act formally recognise such a class?—“provided that this Act shall not extend to the killing of any slave outlawed by any Act of the Assembly.” This language sufficiently indicates the existence of the custom.

  Further than this, the statute-book of 1821 contained two Acts: the first of which provides that all masters in certain counties, who have had slaves killed in consequence of outlawry, shall have a claim on the treasury of the State for their value, unless cruel treatment of the slave be proved on the part of the master: the second Act extends the benefits of the latter provision to all the counties in the State.*

  Finally, there is evidence that this Act of outlawry was executed so recently as the year 1850, the year in which “Uncle Tom's Cabin” was written. See the following from the Wilmington Journal of December 13, 1850:—



  Whereas complaint upon oath has this day been made to us, two of the justices of the peace for the said State and county aforesaid, by Guilford Horn, of Edgecombe County, that a certain male slave belonging to him, named Harry, a carpenter by trade, about forty years old, five feet five inches high, or thereabouts; yellow complexion; stout built; with a scar on his left leg (from the cut of an axe); has very thick lips; eyes deep sunk in his head; forehead very square; tolerably loud voice; has lost one or two of his upper teeth; and has a very dark spot on his jaw, supposed to be a mark—hath absented himself from his master's service, and is supposed to be lurking about in this county, committing acts of felony or other misdeeds; these are, therefore, in the name of the State aforesaid, to command the said slave forthwith to surrender himself, and return home to his said master; and we do hereby, by virtue of the Act of Assembly in such cases made and provided, intimate and declare, that if the said slave Harry doth not surrender himself and return home immediately after the publication of these presents, that any person or persons may KILL and DESTROY the said slave by such means as he or they may think fit, without accusation or impeachment of any crime or offence for so doing, and without incurring any penalty or forfeiture thereby.

  Given under our hands and seals, this 29th day of June, 1850.

JAMES T. MILLER, J. P. [Seal.]

W. C. BETTENCOURT, J. P. [Seal.]

  ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS REWARD will be paid for the delivery of the said Harry to me at Tosnott Depot, Edgecombe County, or for his confinement in any jail in the State, so that I can get him; or One Hundred and Fifty Dollars will be given for his head.

  He was lately heard from in Newbern, where he called himself Henry Barnes (or Burns), and will be likely to continue the same name, or assume that of Copage or Farmer. He has a free mulatto woman for a wife, by the name of Sally Bozeman, who has lately removed to Wilmington, and lives in that part of the town called Texas, where he will likely be lurking.

  Masters of vessels are particularly cautioned against harbouring or concealing the said negro on board their vessels, as the full penalty of the law will be rigorously enforced.

  June 29th, 1850. GUILFORD HORN.

  There is an inkling of history and romance about the description of this same Harry, who is thus publicly set up to be killed in any way that any of the negro-hunters of the swamps may think the most piquant and enlivening. It seems he is a carpenter—a powerfully-made man, whose thews and sinews might be a profitable acquisition to himself. It appears also


that he has a wife, and the advertiser intimates that possibly he may be caught prowling about somewhere in her vicinity. This indicates sagacity in the writer, certainly. Married men generally have a way of liking the society of their wives; and it strikes us, from what we know of the nature of carpenters here in New England, that Harry was not peculiar in this respect. Let us further notice the portrait of Harry:—“Eyes deep sunk in his head; forehead very square.” This picture reminds us of what a persecuting old ecclesiastic once said in the days of the Port-Royalists, of a certain truculent abbess, who stood obstinately to a certain course, in the face of the whole power, temporal and spiritual, of the Romish Church, in spite of fining, imprisoning, starving, whipping, beating, and other enlightening argumentative processes, not wholly peculiar, it seems, to that age. “You will never subdue that woman,” said the ecclesiastic, who was a phrenologist before his age; “she's got a square head, and I have always noticed that people with square heads never can be turned out of their course.” We think it very probable that Harry, with his “square head,” is just one of this sort. He is probably one of those articles which would be extremely valuable, if the owner could only get the use of him. His head is well enough, but he will use it for himself. It is of no use to anyone but the wearer; and the master seems to symbolise this state of things, by offering twenty-five dollars more for the head without the body, than he is willing to give for head, man, and all. Poor Harry! We wonder whether they have caught him yet; or whether the impenetrable thickets, the poisonous miasma, the deadly snakes, and the unwieldy alligators of the swamps, more humane than the slave-hunter, have interposed their uncouth and loathsome forms to guard the only fastness in Carolina where a slave can live in freedom.

  It is not, then, in mere poetic fiction that the humane and graceful pen of Longfellow has drawn the following picture:—

In the dark fens of the Dismal Swamp
The hunted negro lay;
He saw the fire of the midnight camp,
And heard at times the horse's tramp,
And a bloodhound's distant bay.
Where will-o'-the-wisps and glow-worms shine,
In bulrush and in brake;
Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine
Is spotted like the snake;


Where hardly a human foot could pass,
Or a human heart would dare,—
On the quaking turf of the green morass
He crouched in the rank and tangled grass,
Like a wild beast in his lair.
A poor old slave! infirm and lame,
Great scars deformed his face;
On his forehead he bore the brand of shame,
And the rags that hid his mangled frame
Were the livery of disgrace.
All things above were bright and fair,
All things were glad and free;
Lithe squirrels darted here and there,
And wild birds filled the echoing air
With songs of liberty!
On him alone was the doom of pain,
From the morning of his birth;
On him alone the curse of Cain*
Fell like the flail on the garnered grain,
And struck him to the earth.

  The civilized world may and will ask, in what State this law has been drawn, and passed, and revised, and allowed to appear at the present day on the revised statute-book, and to be executed in the year of Our Lord 1850, as the above-cited extracts from its most respectable journals show. Is it some heathen, Kurdish tribe, some nest of pirates, some horde of barbarians, where destructive gods are worshipped, and libations to their honour poured from human skulls? The civilized world will not believe it, but it is actually a fact, that this law has been made, and is still kept in force, by men in every other respect than what relates to their slave code, as high-minded, as enlightened, as humane, as any men in Christendom; by citizens of a State which glories in the blood and hereditary Christian institutions of Scotland. Curiosity to know what sort of men the legislators of North Carolina might be, led the writer to examine with some attention the proceedings and debates of the convention of that State, called to amend its constitution, which assembled at Raleigh, June 4th, 1835. It is but justice to say that in these proceedings, in which all the different and perhaps conflicting interests of the various parts of the State were discussed, there was an exhibition of candour, fairness, and


moderation, of gentlemanly honour and courtesy in the treatment of opposing claims, and of an overruling sense of the obligations of law and religion, which certainly have not always been equally conspicuous in the proceedings of deliberative bodies in such cases. It simply goes to show that one can judge nothing of the religion or of the humanity of individuals from what seems to us objectionable practice, where they have been educated under a system entirely incompatible with both. Such is the very equivocal character of what we call virtue.

  It could not be for a moment supposed that such men as Judge Ruffin, or many of the gentlemen who figure in the debates alluded to, would ever think of availing themselves of the savage permissions of such a law. But what then? It follows that the law is a direct permission, letting loose upon the defenceless slave that class of men who exist in every community, who have no conscience, no honour, no shame; who are too far below public opinion to be restrained by that, and from whom accordingly this provision of the law takes away the only available restraint of their fiendish natures. Such men are not peculiar to the South. It is unhappily too notorious that they exist everywhere—in England, in New England, and the world over; but they can only arrive at full maturity in wickedness under a system where the law clothes them with absolute and irresponsible power.


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



  THUS far by way of considering the protective Acts of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.

  Certain miscellaneous protective Acts of various other States will now be cited, merely as specimens of the spirit of legislation.

  In South Carolina, the Act of 1740 punished the wilful, deliberate murder of a slave by disfranchisement, and by a fine of seven hundred pounds current money, or, in default of payment, imprisonment for seven years. [Stroud, p. 39. 2 Brevard's Digest, p.241.] But the wilful murder of a slave, in the sense contemplated in this law, is a crime which would not often occur. The kind of murder which was most frequent among masters or overseers was guarded against by another section of the same Act—how adequately the reader will judge for himself from the following quotation:—

  [Stroud's Sketch, p. 40. 2 Brevard's Digest, 241. James' Digest, 392.] If any person shall, on a sudden heat or passion, or by undue correction, kill his own slave, or the slave of any other person, he shall forfeit the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds current money.

  In 1821 the Act punishing the wilful murder of the slave only with fine or imprisonment was mainly repealed, and it was enacted that such crime should be punished by death; but the latter section, which relates to killing the slave in sudden heat or passion, or by undue correction, has been altered only by diminishing the pecuniary penalty to a fine of five hundred dollars, authorising also imprisonment for six months.

  The next protective statute to be noticed is the following from the Act of 1740, South Carolina:—


  In case any person shall wilfully cut out the tongue, put out the eye, * * *

  Stroud, p.240 2 Brevard's Digest, 241.

  or cruelly scald, burn, or deprive any slave of any limb or member, or shall inflict any other cruel punishment, other than by whipping or beating with a horsewhip, cow-skin, switch, or small stick, or by putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such slave, every such person shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.

  The language of this law, like many other of these protective enactments, is exceedingly suggestive. The first suggestion that occurs is, What sort of an institution, and what sort of a state of society is it, that called out a law worded like this? Laws are generally not made against practices that do not exist, and exist with some degree of frequency.

  The advocates of slavery are very fond of comparing it to the apprentice system of England and America. Let us suppose that in the British Parliament, or in a New England Legislature, the following law is proposed, under the title of “An Act for the Protection of Apprentices,” &c.:—

  In case any person shall wilfully cut out the tongue, put out the eye, or cruelly scald, burn, or deprive any apprentice of any limb or member, or shall inflict any other cruel punishment, other than by whipping or beating with a horsewhip, cow-skin, switch, or small stick, or by putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such apprentice, every such person shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.

  What a sensation such a proposed law would make in England may be best left for Englishmen to say; but in New England it would simply constitute the proposer a candidate for Bedlam. Yet that such a statute is necessary in South Carolina is evident enough, if we reflect that, because there is no such statute in Virginia, it has been decided that a wretch who perpetrates all these enormities on a slave cannot even be indicted for it, unless the slave dies.

  But let us look further. What is to be the penalty when any of these fiendish things are done?

  Why, the man forfeits a hundred pounds, current money. Surely he ought to pay as much as that for doing so very unnecessary an act, when the Legislature bountifully allows him to inflict any torture which revengeful ingenuity could devise, by means of horsewhip, cowskin, switch, or small stick, or putting irons on, or confining and imprisoning. One would surely think that here was sufficient scope and variety of legalised means of torture to satisfy any ordinary appetite for vengeance. It would appear decidedly that any more piquant varieties of


agony ought to be an extra charge. The advocates of slavery are fond of comparing the situation of the slave with that of the English labourer. We are not aware that the English labourer has been so unfortunate as to be protected by any enactment like this since the days of villeinage.

  Judge Stroud says that the same law, substantially, has been

  Stroud's Sketch, p.41.

  1 Mar. Digest, 654.

  adopted in Louisiana. It is true that the civil code of Louisiana thus expresses its humane intentions:—

  The slave is entirely subject to the will of his master, who may correct and chastise him, though not with unusual rigour, nor so as to maim or mutilate him, or to expose him to the danger of loss of life, or to cause his death. —Civil Code of Louisiana, Article 173.

  The expression “unusual rigour” is suggestive again. It will afford large latitude for a jury, in States where slaves are in the habit of dying under moderate correction; where outlawed slaves may be killed by any means which any person thinks fit; and where laws have to be specifically made against scalding, burning, cutting out the tongue, putting out the eye,&c. What will be thought unusual rigour? This is a question, certainly, upon which persons in States not so constituted can have no means of forming an opinion.

  In one of the newspaper extracts with which we prefaced our account, the following protective Act of Louisiana is alluded to as being particularly satisfactory and efficient. We give it as quoted by Judge Stroud in his Sketch, p. 58, giving his reference:—

  No master shall be compelled to sell his slave, but in one of two cases, to wit: the first, when, being only co-proprietor of the slave, his co-proprietor demands the sale, in order to make partition of the property; second, when the master shall be CONVICTED of cruel treatment of his slave, AND THE JUDGE SHALL DEEM IT PROPER TO PRONOUNCE, besides the penalty established for such cases, that the slave shall be sold at public auction, in order to place him out of the reach of the power which his master has abused. —Civil Code, Article 192.

  The question for a jury to determine in this case is, What is cruel treatment of a slave? Now, if all these barbarities which have been sanctioned by the legislative Acts which we have quoted are not held to be cruel treatment, the question is, What is cruel treatment of a slave?

  Everything that fiendish barbarity could desire can be effected under the protection of the law of South Carolina, which, as we have just shown, exists also in Louisiana. It is true the law


restrains from some particular forms of cruelty. If any person has a mind to scald or burn his slave—and it seems, by the statute, that there have been such people—these statutes merely provide that he shall do it in decent privacy; for, as the very keystone of Southern jurisprudence is the rejection of coloured, testimony, such an outrage, if perpetrated most deliberately in the presence of hundreds of slaves, could not be proved upon the master.

  It is to be supposed that the fiendish people whom such statutes have in view will generally have enough of common sense not to perform it in the presence of white witnesses, since this simple act of prudence will render them entirely safe in doing whatever they have a mind to. We are told, it is true, as we have been reminded by our friend in the newspaper before quoted, that in Louisiana the deficiency caused by the rejection of negro testimony is supplied by the following most remarkable provision of the Code Noir:—

  If any slave be mutilated, beaten, or ill-treated, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this section, when no one shall be present, in such case the owner or other person having the charge or management of said slave thus mutilated, shall be deemed responsible and guilty of the said offence, and shall be prosecuted without further evidence, unless the said owner, or other person so as aforesaid, can prove the contrary by means of good and sufficient evidence, or can clear himself by his own oath, which said oath every Court under the cognizance of which such offence shall have been examined and tried is by this Act authorised to administer. —Code Noir. Crimes and Offences, 56, xvii. Rev. Stat. 1852, p. 550, s. 141.

  Would one have supposed that sensible people could ever publish as a law such a specimen of utter legislative nonsense—so ridiculous on the very face of it!

  The object is to bring to justice those fiendish people who burn, scald, mutilate,&c. How is this done? Why, it is enacted that the fact of finding the slave in this condition shall be held presumption against the owner or overseer, unless—unless what? Why, unless he will prove to the contrary—or swear to the contrary, it is no matter which—either will answer the purpose. The question is, If a man is bad enough to do these things, will he not be bad enough to swear falsely? As if men who are the incarnation of cruelty, as supposed by the deeds in question, would not have sufficient intrepidity of conscience to compass a false oath!

  What was this law ever made for? Can any one imagine?

  Upon this whole subject we may quote the language of Judge


Stroud, who thus sums up the whole amount of the protective laws for the slave in the United States of America:—

  Upon a fair review of what has been written on the subject of this proposition, the result is found to be—that the master's power to inflict corporal punishment to any extent, short of life and limb, is fully sanctioned by law, in all the slave-holding States; that the master, in at least two States, is expressly protected in using the horse-whip and cowskin as instruments for beating his slave; that he may with entire impunity, in the same States, load his slave with irons, or subject him to perpetual imprisonment, whenever he may so choose; that, for cruelly scalding, wilfully cutting out the tongue, putting out an eye, and for any other dismemberment, if proved, a fine of one hundred pounds currency only is incurred in South Carolina; that, though in all the States the wilful, deliberate, and malicious murder of the slave is now directed to be punished with death, yet, as in the case of a white offender, none except whites can give evidence, a conviction can seldom, if ever, take place.—Stroud's Sketch, p. 43.

  One very singular antithesis of two laws of Louisiana will still further show that deadness of public sentiment on cruelty to the slave which is an inseparable attendant on the system. It will be recollected that the remarkable protective law of South Carolina, with respect to scalding, burning, cutting out the tongue, and putting out the eye of the slave, has been substantially enacted in Louisiana; and that the penalty for a man's doing these things there, if he has not sense enough to do it privately, is not more than five hundred dollars.

  Now, compare this other statute of Louisiana (Rev. Stat. 1852, p. 552, § 151):—

  If any person or persons,&c., shall cut or break any iron chain or collar, which any master of slaves shall have used, in order to prevent the running away or escape of any such slave or slaves, such person or persons so offending shall, on conviction,&c., be fined not less than two hundred dollars, nor exceeding one thousand dollars [Stroud, p. 41.]; and suffer imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, nor less than six months.—Act of Assembly of March 6, 1819. Pamphlet, p. 64.

  Some Englishmen may naturally ask, “What is this iron collar which the Legislature have thought worthy of being protected by a special Act?” On this subject will be presented the testimony of an unimpeachable witness, Miss Sarah M. Grimké, a personal friend of the author. “Miss Grimké is a daughter of the late Judge Grimké, of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, and sister of the late Hon. Thomas S. Grimké.” She is now a member of the Society of Friends, and resides in Bellville, New Jersey. The statement given is of a kind that its author did not mean to give, nor wish to give, and never would have given, had it not been made necessary to illustrate this


passage in the slave-law. The account occurs in a statement which Miss Grimké furnished to her brother-in-law, Mr. Weld, and has been before the public ever since 1839, in his work entitled Slavery as It is, p. 22.

  A handsome mulatto woman, about eighteen or twenty years of age, whose independent spirit could not brook the degradation of slavery, was in the habit of running away: for this offence she had been repeatedly sent by her master and mistress to be whipped by the keeper of the Charleston workhouse. This had been done with such inhuman severity as to lacerate her back in a most shocking manner; a finger could not be laid between the cuts. But the love of liberty was too strong to be annihilated by torture; and, as a last resort, she was whipped at several different times, and kept a close prisoner. A heavy iron collar, with three long prongs projecting from it, was placed round her neck, and a strong and sound front tooth was extracted, to serve as a mark to describe her, in case of escape. Her sufferings at this time were agonizing; she could lie in no position but on her back, which was sore from scourgings, as I can testify from personal inspection; and her only place of rest was the floor, on a blanket. These outrages were committed in a family where the mistress daily read the Scriptures, and assembled her children for family worship. She was accounted, and was really, so far as alms-giving was concerned, a charitable woman, and tender-hearted to the poor; and yet this suffering slave, who was the seamstress of the family, was continually in her presence, sitting in her chamber to sew, or engaged in her other household work, with her lacerated and bleeding back, her mutilated mouth, and heavy iron collar, without, so far as appeared, exciting any feelings of compassion.

  This iron collar the author has often heard of from sources equally authentic.* That one will meet with it every day in walking the streets, is not probable; but that it must have been used with some great degree of frequency, is evident from the fact of a law being thought necessary to protect it. But look at the penalty of the two protective laws! The fiendish cruelties described in the Act of South Carolina cost the perpetrator not more than five hundred dollars, if he does them before white people. The act of humanity costs from two hundred to one thousand dollars, and imprisonment from six months to two years, according to discretion of Court! What public sentiment was it which made these laws?


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



  Illustrative Drama of Tom v. Legree, under the Law of South Carolina.— Separation of Parent and Child.

  HAVING finished the consideration of the laws which protect the life and limb of the slave, the reader may feel a curiosity to know something of the provisions by which he is protected in regard to food and clothing, and from the exactions of excessive labour. It is true, there are multitudes of men in the Northern States who would say, at once, that such enactments, on the very face of them, must be superfluous and absurd. “What!” they say, “are not the slaves property? and is it likely that any man will impair the market value of his own property by not giving them sufficient food or clothing, or by overworking them?” This process of reasoning appears to have been less convincing to the legislators of Southern States than to gentlemen generally at the North; since, as Judge Taylor says, [Wheeler, p. 220. State v. Sue, Cameron & Norwood's C. Rep. 54.] “the Act of 1786 (Iredell's Revisal, p. 588) does, in the preamble, recognise the fact, that many persons, by cruel treatment of their slaves, cause them to commit crimes for which they are executed; and the judge further explains this language, by saying, “The cruel treatment here alluded to must consist in withholding from them the necessaries of life; and the crimes thus resulting are such as are necessary to furnish them with food and raiment.”

  The State of South Carolina, in the Act of 1740 (see Stroud's Sketch, p. 28), had a section with the following language in its preamble: [Stroud, p. 29] —

  Whereas many owners of slaves, and others who have the care, management, and overseeing of slaves, do confine them so closely to hard labour that they have not sufficient time for natural rest;—

  and the law goes on to enact that the slave shall not work more than fifteen hours a day in summer, and fourteen in winter.


Judge Stroud makes it appear that in three of the slave States the time allotted for work to convicts in prison, whose punishment is to consist in hard labour, cannot exceed ten hours, even in the summer months.

  This was the protective Act of South Carolina, designed to reform the abusive practices of masters who confined their slaves so closely that they had not time for natural rest! What sort of habits of thought do these humane provisions show, in the makers of them? In order to protect the slave from what they consider undue exaction, they humanely provide that he shall be obliged to work only four or five hours longer than the convicts in the prison of the neighbouring State! In the Island of Jamaica, besides many holidays which were accorded by law to the slave, ten hours a day was the extent to which he was compelled by law ordinarily to work.—See Stroud, p. 29.

  With regard to protective Acts concerning food and clothing, Judge Stroud gives the following example from the legislation of South Carolina. The author gives it as quoted by Stroud, p. 32.

  In case any person,&c., who shall be the owner or who shall have the care, government, or charge of any slave or slaves, shall deny, neglect, or refuse to allow such slave or slaves,&c., sufficient clothing, covering, or food, it shall and may be lawful for any person or persons, on behalf of such slave or slaves, to make complaint to the next neighbouring justice in the parish where such slave or slaves live, or are usually employed, * * * and the said justice shall summon the party against whom such complaint shall be made, and shall inquire of, hear, and determine the same; and if the said justice shall find the said complaint to be true, or that such person will not exculpate or clear himself from the charge, by his or her own oath, which such person shall be at liberty to do in all cases where positive proof is not given of the offence, such justice shall and may make such orders upon the same, for the relief of such slave or slaves, as he in his discretion shall think fit; and shall and may set and impose a fine or penalty on any person who shall offend in the premises, in any sum not exceeding twenty pounds current money, for each offence. —2 Brevard's Dig. 241. Also Cobb's Dig. 827.

  A similar law obtains in Louisiana.—(Rev. Stat. 1852, p. 557, § 166.)

  Now, would not anybody think, from the virtuous solemnity and gravity of this Act, that it was intended in some way to amount to something? Let us give a little sketch, to show how much it does amount to. Angelina Grimké Weld, sister to Sarah Grimké, before quoted, gives the following account of the situation of slaves on plantations:*


  And here let me say, that the treatment of plantation slaves cannot be fully known, except by the poor sufferers themselves, and their drivers and overseers. In a multitude of instances, even the master can know very little of the actual condition of his own field-slaves, and his wife and daughters far less. A few facts concerning my own family will show this. Our permanent residence was in Charleston; our country seat (Bellemont) was two hundred miles distant, in the north-western part of the State, where, for some years, our family spent a few months annually. Our plantation was three miles from this family mansion. There all the field-slaves lived and worked. Occasionally—once a month, perhaps —some of the family would ride over to the plantation; but I never visited the fields where the slaves were at work, and knew almost nothing of their condition; but this I do know, that the overseers who had charge of them were generally unprincipled and intemperate men. But I rejoice to know that the general treatment of slaves in that region of country was far milder than on the plantations in the lower country.

  Throughout all the eastern and middle portions of the State, the planters very rarely reside permanently on their plantations. They have almost invariably two residences, and spend less than half the year on their estates. Even while spending a few months on them, politics, field-sports, races, speculations, journeys, visits, company, literary pursuits,&c., absorb so much of their time, that they must, to a considerable extent, take the condition of their slaves on trust, from the reports of their overseers. I make this statement, because these slaveholders (the wealthier class) are, I believe, almost the only ones who visit the North with their families; and Northern opinions of slavery are based chiefly on their testimony.

  With regard to overseers, Miss Grimké's testimony is further borne out by the universal acknowledgment of Southern owners. A description of this class of beings is furnished by Mr. Wirt, in his life of Patrick Henry, page 34. “Last and lowest,” he says [of different classes of society], “a feculum of beings called overseers—a most abject, degraded, unprincipled race.” Now, suppose, while the master is in Charleston, enjoying literary leisure, the slaves on some Bellemont or other plantation, getting tired of being hungry and cold, form themselves into a committee of the whole, to see what is to be done. A broad-shouldered, courageous fellow, whom we will call Tom, declares it is too bad, and he won't stand it any longer; and having by some means become acquainted with this benevolent protective Act, resolves to make an appeal to the horns of this legislative altar. Tom talks stoutly, having just been bought on to the place, and been used to better quarters elsewhere. The women and children perhaps admire, but the venerable elders of the plantation— Sambo, Cudge, Pomp, and old Aunt Dinah—tell him, “he better mind himself, and keep clar o' dat ar.” Tom, being young and progressive, does not regard these conservative


maxims; he is determined that, if there be such a thing as justice to be got, he will have it. After considerable research, he finds some white man in the neighbourhood verdant enough to enter the complaint for him. Master Legree finds himself, one sun-shiny, pleasant morning, walked off to some Justice Dogberry's, to answer to the charge of not giving his niggers enough to eat and wear. We will call the infatuated white man who has undertaken this fool's errand Master Shallow. Let us imagine a scene: Legree standing carelessly with his hands in his pockets, rolling a quid of tobacco in his mouth; Justice Dogberry, seated, in all the majesty of law, reinforced by a decanter of whiskey and some tumblers, intended to assist in illuminating the intellect in such obscure cases.

  Justice Dogberry. Come, gentlemen, take a little something, to begin with. Mr. Legree, sit down; sit down, Mr.—a what's-your-name?—Mr. Shallow.

  Mr. Legree and Mr. Shallow each sit down, and take their tumbler of whiskey and water. After some little conversation, the justice introduces the business as follows:—

  “Now, about this nigger business. Gentlemen, you know the Act of —um—um—where the deuce is that Act? [Fumbling an old law-book.] How plagued did you ever hear of that Act, Shallow? I'm sure I'm forgot all about it; Oh! here 'tis. Well, Mr. Shallow, the Act says you must make proof, you observe.

  Mr. Shallow. [Stuttering and hesitating.] Good laud! why, don't everybody see that them ar niggers are most starved? Only see how ragged they are!

  Justice. I can't say as I've observed it particular. Seem to be very well contented.

  Shallow. [Eagerly.] But just ask Pomp, or Sambo, or Dinah, or Tom!

  Justice Dogberry. [With dignity.] I'm astonished at you, Mr. Shallow! You think of producing negro testimony? I hope I know the law better than that! We must have direct proof, you know.

  Shallow is posed; Legree significantly takes another tumbler of whiskey and water, and Justice Dogberry gives a long ahe-a-um. After a few moments the justice speaks:—

  “Well, after all, I suppose, Mr. Legree, you wouldn't have any objections to swarin' off; that settles it all, you know.”

  As swearing is what Mr. Legree is rather more accustomed to do than anything else that could be named, a more appropriate termination of the affair could not be suggested; and he


swears, accordingly, to any extent, and with any fulness and variety of oath that could be desired; and thus the little affair terminates. But it does not terminate thus for Tom or Sambo, Dinah, or any others who have been alluded to for authority. What will happen to them, when Mr. Legree comes home, had better be left to conjecture.

  It is claimed, by the author of certain paragraphs quoted at the commencement of Part II., that there exist in Louisiana ample protective Acts to prevent the separation of young children from their mothers. This writer appears to be in the enjoyment of an amiable ignorance and unsophisticated innocence with regard to the workings of human society generally, which is, on the whole, rather refreshing. For, on a certain incident in “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” which represented Cassy's little daughter as having been sold from her, he makes the following naïve remark:—

  Now, the reader will perhaps be surprised to know that such an incident as the sale of Cassy apart from Eliza, upon which the whole interest of the foregoing narrative hinges, never could have taken place in Louisiana, and that the bill of sale for Eliza would not have been worth the paper it was written on. Observe, George Shelby states that Eliza was eight or nine years old at the time his father purchased her in New Orleans. Let us again look at the statute-book of Louisiana.

  In the Code Noir we find it set down that—

  “Every person is expressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers the children who shall not have attained the full age of ten years.”

  And this humane provision is strengthened by a statute, one clause of which runs as follows:—

  “Be it further enacted, that if any person or persons shall sell the mother of any slave child or children under the age of ten years, separate from said child or children, or shall, the mother living, sell any slave child or children of ten years of age or under, separate from said mother, such person or persons shall incur the penalty of the sixth section of this Act.”

  This penalty is a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than two thousand dollars, and imprisonment in the public jail for a period of not less than six months nor more than one year. —Vide Acts of Louisiana, 1 Session, 9th Legislature, 1828-9, No. 24, section 16. (Rev. Stat. 1850, p. 550, sec. 143.)

  What a charming freshness of nature is suggested by this assertion! A thing could not have happened in a certain State, because there is a law against it!

  Has there not been for two years a law forbidding to succour fugitives, or to hinder their arrest? and has not this thing been done thousands of times in all the Northern States, and is not it more and more likely to be done every year? What is a law


against the whole public sentiment of society? and will anybody venture to say that the public sentiment of Louisiana practically goes against separation of families?

  But let us examine a case more minutely, remembering the bearing on it of two great foundation principles of slave jurisprudence: namely, that a slave cannot bring a suit in any case, except in a suit for personal freedom, and this in some States must be brought by a guardian; and that a slave cannot bear testimony in any case in which whites are implicated.

  Suppose Butler wants to sell Cassy's child of nine years. There is a statute forbidding to sell under ten years; what is Cassy to do? She cannot bring suit. Will the State prosecute? Suppose it does; what then? Butler says the child is ten years old; if he pleases, he will say she is ten and a half, or eleven. What is Cassy to do? She cannot testify; besides, she is utterly in Butler's power. He may tell her that if she offers to stir in the affair, he will whip the child within an inch of its life; and she knows he can do it, and that there is no help for it; he may lock her up in a dungeon, sell her on to a distant plantation, or do any other despotic thing he chooses, and there is nobody to say—Nay.

  How much does the protective statute amount to for Cassy? It may be very well as a piece of advice to the public, or as a decorous expression of opinion; but one might as well try to stop the current of the Mississippi with a bulrush as the tide of trade in human beings with such a regulation.

  We think that, by this time, the reader will agree with us that the less the defenders of slavery say about protective statutes the better.


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



State v. Eliza Rowand.—The “Ægis of Protection” to the Slave's Life.

"We cannot but regard the fact of this trial as a salutary occurrence."
Charleston Courier.

  HAVING given some account of what sort of statutes are to be found on the law-books of slavery, the reader will hardly be satisfied without knowing what sort of trials are held under them. We will quote one specimen of a trial, reported in the Charleston Courier of May 6th, 1847. The Charleston Courier is one of the leading papers of South Carolina, and the case is reported with the utmost apparent innocence that there was anything about the trial that could reflect in the least on the character of the State for the utmost legal impartiality. In fact, the Charleston Courier ushers it into public view with the following flourish of trumpets, as something which is for ever to confound those who say that South Carolina does not protect the life of the slave:—


  Our community was deeply interested and excited yesterday, by a case of great importance and also of entire novelty in our jurisprudence. It was the trial of a lady of respectable family and the mother of a large family, charged with the murder of her own or her husband's slave. The court-house was thronged with spectators of the exciting drama, who remained, with unabated interest and undiminished numbers, until the verdict was rendered acquitting the prisoner. We cannot but regard the fact of this trial as a salutary, although in itself lamentable occurrence, as it will show to the world that, however panoplied in station and wealth, and although challenging those sympathies which are the right and inheritance of the female sex, no one will be suffered, in this community, to escape the most sifting scrutiny, at the risk of even an ignominious death, who stands charged with the suspicion of murdering a slave—to whose life our law now extends the ægis of protection, in the same manner as it does to that of the white man, save only in the character of the evidence necessary for conviction or defence. While evil-disposed persons at home are thus taught that they may expect rigorous trial and condign punishment, when, actuated by malignant passions, they invade the life of the humble slave, the enemies of our domestic institution abroad will


find, their calumnies to the contrary notwithstanding, that we are resolved in this particular to do the full measure of our duty to the laws of humanity. We subjoin a report of the case.

  The proceedings of the trial are thus given:—

  TRIAL FOR THE MURDER OF A SLAVE.State v. Eliza Rowand.—Spring Term, May 5, 1847. Tried before his Honour Judge O'Neall.

  The prisoner was brought to the bar and arraigned, attended by her husband and mother, and humanely supported, during the trying scene, by the sheriff, J. B. Irving, Esq. On her arraignment she pleaded “Not Guilty,” and for her trial, placed herself upon “God and her country.” After challenging John M. Deas, James Bancroft, H. F. Harbers, C. J. Beckman, E. R. Cowperthwaite, Parker J. Holland, Moses D. Hyams, Thomas Glaze, John Lawrence, B. Archer, J. S. Addison, B. P. Colburn, B. M. Jenkins, Carl Houseman, George Jackson, and Joseph Coppenberg, the prisoner accepted the subjoined panel, who were duly sworn, and charged with the case: 1. John L. Nowell, foreman; 2. Elias Whilden; 3. Jesse Coward; 4. Effington Wagner; 5. William Whaley; 6. James Culbert; 7. R. L. Baker; 8. S. Wiley; 9. W. S. Chisholm; 10. T. M. Howard; 11. John Bickley; 12. John Y. Stock.

  The following is the indictment on which the prisoner was arraigned for trial:—

The State v. Eliza Rowand.—Indictment for Murder of a Slave.

Charleston District,
to wit:

  At a Court of General Sessions, begun and holden in and for the district of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina, at Charleston, in the district and State aforesaid, on Monday, the third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven:

  The jurors of and for the district of Charleston aforesaid, in the State of South Carolina aforesaid, upon their oath present, that Eliza Rowand, the wife of Robert Rowand Esq., not having the fear of God before her eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the sixth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven, with force and arms, at Charleston, in the district of Charleston, and State aforesaid, in and upon a certain female slave of the said Robert Rowand, named Maria, in the peace of God, and of the said State, then and there being feloniously, maliciously, wilfully, deliberately, and of her malice aforethought, did make an assault; and that a certain other slave of the said Robert Rowand, named Richard, then and there, being then and there in the presence and by the command of the said Eliza Rowand, with a certain piece of wood, which he the said Richard in both his hands then and there had and held, the said Maria did beat and strike in and upon the head of her the said Maria, then and there giving to her the said Maria, by such striking and beating as aforesaid, with the piece of wood aforesaid, divers mortal bruises on the top, back, and sides of the head of her the said Maria, of which


several mortal bruises she, the said Maria, then and there instantly died; and that the said Eliza Rowand was then and there present, and then and there feloniously, maliciously, wilfully, deliberately, and of her malice aforethought, did order, command, and require the said slave named Richard the murder and felony aforesaid, in manner and form aforesaid, to do and commit. And as the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do say, that the said Eliza Rowand, her the said slave named Maria, in the manner and by the means aforesaid, feloniously, maliciously, wilfully, deliberately, and of her malice aforethought, did kill and murder, against the form of the Act of the General Assembly of the said State in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the same State aforesaid.

  And the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do further present, that the said Eliza Rowand, not having the fear of God before her eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the sixth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven, with force and arms, at Charleston, in the district of Charleston, and State aforesaid, in and upon a certain other female slave of Robert Rowand, named Maria, in the peace of God, and of the said State, then and there being, feloniously, maliciously, wilfully, deliberately, and of her malice aforethought, did make an assault; and that the said Eliza Rowand, with a certain piece of wood, which she, the said Eliza Rowand, in both her hands then and there had and held, her the said last-mentioned slave named Maria did then and there strike, and beat, in and upon the head of her the said Maria, then and there giving to her the said Maria, by such striking and beating aforesaid, with the piece of wood aforesaid, divers mortal bruises, on the top, back, and side of the head, of her the said Maria, of which said several mortal bruises she the said Maria then and there instantly died. And so the jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do say, that the said Eliza Rowand her the said last-mentioned slave named Maria, in the manner and by the means last mentioned, feloniously, maliciously, wilfully, deliberately, and of her malice aforethought, did kill and murder, against the form of the Act of the General Assembly of the said State in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the same State aforesaid.

  H. BAILEY, Attorney-General.

  As some of our readers may not have been in the habit of endeavouring to extract anything like common sense or information from documents so very concisely and luminously worded, the author will just state her own opinion that the above document is intended to charge Mrs. Eliza Rowand with having killed her slave Maria, in one of two ways: either with beating her on the head with her own hands, or having the same deed performed by proxy, by her slave-man Richard. The whole case is now presented. In order to make the reader clearly understand the arguments, it is necessary that he bear in mind that the law of 1740, as we have before shown, punished the murder of the slave only with fine and disfranchisement, while the law of 1821 punishes it with death.


  On motion of Mr. Petigru, the prisoner was allowed to remove from the bar, and take her place by her counsel; the Judge saying he granted the motion only because the prisoner was a woman, but that no such privilege would have been extended by him to any man.

  The Attorney-General, Henry Bailey, Esq., then rose and opened the case for the State, in substance as follows: he said that, after months of anxiety and expectation, the curtain had at length risen, and he and the jury were about to bear their part in the sad drama of real life, which had so long engrossed the public mind. He and they were called to the discharge of an important, painful, and solemn duty. They were to pass between the prisoner and the State—to take an inquisition of blood; on their decision hung the life or death, the honour or ignominy of the prisoner; yet he trusted he and they would have strength and ability to perform their duty faithfully; and, whatever might be the result, their consciences would be consoled and quieted by that reflection. He bade the jury pause and reflect on the great sanctions and solemn responsibilities under which they were acting. The constitution of the State invested them with power over all that affected the life, and was dear to the family of the unfortunate lady on trial before them. They were charged too, with the sacred care of the law of the land; and to their solution was submitted one of the most solemn questions ever intrusted to the arbitrament of man. They should pursue a direct and straightforward course, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left—influenced neither by prejudice against the prisoner, nor by a morbid sensibility in her behalf. Some of them might practically and personally be strangers to their present duty; but they were all familiar with the laws, and must be aware of the responsibilities of jurymen. It was scarcely necessary to tell them that, if evidence fixed guilt on this prisoner, they should not hesitate to record a verdict of guilty, although they should write that verdict in tears of blood. They should let no sickly sentimentality, or morbid feeling on the subject of capital punishments, deter them from the discharge of their plain and obvious duty. They were to administer, not to make, the law; they were called on to enforce the law, by sanctioning the highest duty to God and to their country. If any of them were disturbed with doubts or scruples on this point, he scarcely supposed they would have gone into the jury-box. The law had awarded capital punishment as the meet retribution for the crime under investigation, and they were sworn to administer that law. It had, too, the full sanction of Holy Writ; we were there told that “the land cannot be cleansed of the blood shed therein, except by the blood of him that shed it.” He felt assured, then, that they would be swayed only by a firm resolve to act on this occasion in obedience to the dictates of sound judgments and enlightened consciences. The prisoner, however, had claims on them, as well as the community; she was entitled to a fair and impartial trial. By the wise and humane principles of our law, they were bound to hold the prisoner innocent, and she stood guiltless before them, until proved guilty, by legal, competent, and satisfactory evidence. Deaf alike to the voice of sickly humanity and heated prejudice, they should proceed to their task with minds perfectly equipoised and impartial; they should weigh the circumstances of the case with a nice and careful hand; and if, by legal evidence circumstantial and satisfactory, although not positive, guilt be established, they should unhesitatingly, fearlessly, and faithfully record the result of their convictions. He would next call their attention to certain legal distinctions, but would not say


a word of the facts; he would leave them to the lips of the witnesses, unaffected by any previous comments of his own. The prisoner stood indicted for the murder of a slave. This was supposed not be murder at common law. At least, it was not murder by our former statute; but the Act of 1821 had placed the killing of the white man and the black man on the same footing. He read the Act of 1821, declaring that “any person who shall wilfully, deliberately, and maliciously murder a slave, shall, on conviction thereof, suffer death without benefit of clergy.” The rules applicable to murder at common law were generally applicable, however, to the present case. The inquiries to be made may be reduced to two. 1. Is the party charged guilty of the fact of killing? This must be clearly made out by proof. If she be not guilty of killing, there is an end to the case. 2. The character of that killing, or of the offence. Was it done with malice aforethought? Malice is the essential ingredient of the crime. Where killing takes place, malice is presumed, unless the contrary appear; and this must be gathered from the attending circumstances. Malice is a technical term, importing a different meaning from that conveyed by the same word in common parlance. According to the learned Michael Foster, it consists not in “malevolence to particulars,” it does not mean hatred to any particular individual, but is general in its import and application. But even killing, with intention to kill, is not always murder; there may be justifiable and excusable homicide, and killing in sudden heat and passion is so modified to manslaughter. Yet there may be murder when there is no ill-feeling—nay, perfect indifference to the slain—as in the case of the robber who slays to conceal his crime. Malice aforethought is that depraved feeling of the heart, which makes one regardless of social duty, and fatally bent on mischief. It is fulfilled by that recklessness of law and human life which is indicated by shooting into a crowd, and thus doing murder on even an unknown object. Such a feeling the law regards as hateful, and visits, in its practical exhibition, with condign punishment, because opposed to the very existence of law and society. One may do fatal mischief without this recklessness; but when the act is done, regardless of consequences, and death ensues, it is murder in the eye of the law. If the facts to be proved in this case should not come up to these requisitions, he implored the jury to acquit the accused, as at once due to law and justice. They should note every fact with scrutinising eye, and ascertain whether the fatal result proceeded from passing accident or from brooding revenge, which the law stamped with the odious name of malice. He would make no further preliminary remarks, but proceed at once to lay the facts before them, from the mouths of the witnesses.


  J. Porteous Deveaux sworn.—He is the coroner of Charleston district; held the inquest on the 7th of January last, on the body of the deceased slave, Maria, the slave of Robert Rowand, at the residence of Mrs. T. C. Bee (the mother of the prisoner), in Logan-street. The body was found in an out-building—a kitchen; it was the body of an old and emaciated person, between fifty and sixty years of age; it was not examined in his presence by physicians; saw some few scratches about the face; adjourned to the City Hall. Mrs. Rowand was examined; her examination was in writing; it was here produced and read, as follows:—

  “Mrs. Eliza Rowand sworn.—Says Maria is her nurse, and had misbe-


haved on yesterday morning; deponent sent Maria to Mr. Rowand's house, to be corrected by Simon; deponent sent Maria from the house about seven o'clock, A.M.; she returned to her about nine o'clock; came into her chamber; Simon did not come into the chamber at any time previous to the death of Maria; deponent says Maria fell down in the chamber; deponent had her seated up by Richard, who was then in the chamber, and deponent gave Maria some asafoetida; deponent then left the room; Richard came down and said Maria was dead; deponent says Richard did not strike Maria, nor did any one else strike her in deponent's chamber. Richard left the chamber immediately with deponent; Maria was about fifty-two years of age; deponent sent Maria by Richard to Simon, to Mr. Rowand's house, to be corrected; Mr. Rowand was absent from the city; Maria died about twelve o'clock; Richard and Maria were on good terms; deponent was in the chamber all the while that Richard and Maria were there together.


  “Sworn to before me this seventh January, 1847. “J. P. DEVEAUX, Coroner, D.C.”

  Witness went to the chamber of prisoner, where the death occurred; saw nothing particular; some pieces of wood in a box set in the chimney; his attention was called to one piece in particular, eighteen inches long, three inches wide, and about one and a half inch thick; did not measure it; the jury of inquest did; it was not a light-wood knot; thinks it was of oak; there was some pine-wood and some split oak. Doctor Peter Porcher was called to examine the body professionally, who did so out of witness's presence.

  Before this witness left the stand, B. F. Hunt, Esq., one of the counsel for the prisoner, rose and opened the defence before the Jury, in substance as follows:—

  He said that the scene before them was a very novel one, and whether for, good or evil he would not pretend to prophesy. It was the first time in the history of this State that a lady of good character and respectable connexions stood arraigned at the bar, and had been put on trial for her life, on facts arising out of her domestic relations to her own slave. It was a spectacle consoling and cheering, perhaps, to those who owed no good-will to the institutions of our country, but calculated only to excite pain and regret among ourselves. He would not state a proposition so revolting to humanity as that crime should go unpunished; but judicial interference between the slave and the owner was a matter at once of delicacy and danger. It was the first time he had ever stood between a slave-owner and the public prosecutor, and his sensations were anything but pleasant. This is an entirely different case from homicide between equals in society. Subordination is indispensable where slavery exists, and in this there is no new principle involved. The same principle prevails in every country; on shipboard and in the army a large discretion is always left to the superior. Charges by inferiors against their superiors were always to be viewed with great circumspection at least, and especially when the latter are charged with cruelty or crime against subordinates. In the relation of owner and slave there is an absence of the usual motives for murder, and strong inducements against it on the part of the former. Life is usually taken from avarice or passion. The master gains nothing, but loses much, by the death of a slave; and when he takes the life of the latter deli-


berately, there must be more than ordinary malice to instigate the deed. The policy of altering the old law of 1740, which punished the killing of a slave with fine and political disfranchisement, was more than doubtful. It was the law of our colonial ancestors; it conformed to their policy, and was approved by their wisdom; and it continued undisturbed by their posterity until the year 1821. It was engrafted on our policy in counteraction of the schemes and machinations, or in deference to the clamours, of those who formed plans for our improvement, although not interested in nor understanding our institutions, and whose interference led to the tragedy of 1822. He here adverted to the views of Chancellor Harper on this subject, who, in his able and philosophical Memoir on Slavery, said —“It is a somewhat singular fact, that when there existed in our State no law for punishing the murder of a slave, other than a pecuniary fine, there were, I will venture to say, at least ten murders of freemen for one murder of a slave. Yet it is supposed that they are less protected than their masters. The change was made in subserviency to the opinions and clamour of others, who were utterly incompetent to form an opinion on the subject; and a wise act is seldom the result of legislation in this spirit. From the fact I have stated it is plain they need less protection. Juries are, therefore, less willing to convict, and it may sometimes happen that the guilty will escape all punishment. Security is one of the compensations of their humble position. We challenge the comparison, that with us there have been fewer murders of slaves than of parents, children, apprentices, and other murders, cruel and unnatural, in society where slavery does not exist.”

  Such was the opinion of Chancellor Harper on this subject, who had profoundly studied it, and whose views had been extensively read on this continent and in Europe. Fortunately, the jury, he said, were of the country, acquainted with our policy and practice; composed of men too independent and honourable to be led astray by the noise and clamour out of doors. All was now as it should be; at least a Court of justice had assembled to which his client had fled for refuge and safety. Its threshold was sacred; no profane clamours entered there; but legal investigation was had of facts derived from the testimony of sworn witnesses. And this should teach the community to shut their bosoms against sickly humanity, and their ears to imaginary tales of blood and horror, the food of a depraved appetite. He warned the jury that they were to listen to no testimony but that of free white persons, given on oath in open Court. They were to imagine none that came not from them. It was for this that they were selected, their intelligence putting them beyond the influence of unfounded accusations, unsustained by legal proof; of legends of aggravated cruelty, founded on the evidence of negroes, and arising from weak and wicked falsehoods. Were slaves permitted to testify against their owner, it would cut the cord that unites them in peace and harmony, and enable them to sacrifice their masters to their ill-will or revenge. Whole crews had been often leagued to charge captains of vessels with foulest murder, but judicial trial had exposed the falsehood. Truth has been distorted in this case, and murder manufactured out of what was nothing more than ordinary domestic discipline. Chastisement must be inflicted until subordination is produced; and the extent of the punishment is not to be judged by one's neighbours, but by himself. The event in this case has been unfortunate and sad, but there was no motive for the taking of life. There is no pecuniary interest in the owner to destroy his slave; the murder of his slave can only happen from ferocious passions


of the master, filling his own bosom with anguish and contrition. This case has no other basis but unfounded rumour, commonly believed, on evidence that will not venture here, the offspring of that passion and depravity which makes up falsehood. The hope of freedom, of change of owners, revenge, are all motives with slave-witnesses to malign their owners; and to credit such testimony would be to dissolve human society. Where deliberate, wilful, and malicious murder is done, whether by male or female, the retribution of the law is a debt to God and man; but the jury should beware lest it fall upon the innocent. The offence charged was not strictly murder at common law. The Act of 1740 was founded on the practical good sense of our old planters, and its spirit still prevails. The Act of 1821 is, by its terms, an Act only to increase the punishment of persons convicted of murdering a slave; and this is a refinement in humanity of doubtful policy. But, by the Act of 1821, the murder must be wilful, deliberate, and malicious; and, when punishment is due to the slave, the master must not be held to strict account for going an inch beyond the mark; whether for doing so he shall be a felon is a question for the jury to solve. The master must conquer a refractory slave; and deliberation, so as to render clear the existence of malice, is necessary to bring the master within the provisions of the Act. He bade the jury remember the words of Him who spake as never man spake—“Let him that has never sinned throw the first stone.” They, as masters, might regret excesses to which they have themselves carried punishment. He was not at all surprised at the course of the Attorney-General, it was his wont to treat every case with perfect fairness. He (Colonel H.) agreed that the inquiry should be—

  1. Into the fact of the death.

  2. The character or motive of the act.

  The examination of the prisoner showed conclusively that the slave died a natural death, and not from personal violence. She was chastised with a lawful weapon; was in weak health, nervous, made angry by her punishment; excited. The story was then a plain one; the community had been misled by the creations of imagination, or the statements of interested slaves. The negro came into her mistress's chamber; fell on the floor; medicine was given her; it was supposed she was asleep, but she slept the sleep of death. To show the wisdom and policy of the old Act of 1740 (this indictment is under both Acts, the punishment only altered by that of 1821), he urged that a case like this was not murder at common law, nor is the same evidence applicable at common law. There, murder was presumed from killing; not so in the case of a slave. The Act of 1740 permits a master, when his slave is killed in his presence, there being no other white person present, to exculpate himself by his own oath; and this exculpation is complete, unless clearly contravened by the evidence of two white witnesses. This is exactly what the prisoner has done; she has, as the law permits, by calling on God, exculpated herself. And her oath is good, at least against the slander of her own slaves. Which, then, should prevail—the clamours of others, or the policy of the law established by our colonial ancestors? There would not be a tittle of positive evidence against the prisoner, nothing but circumstantial evidence; and ingenious combination might be made to lead to any conclusion. Justice was all that his client asked. She appealed to liberal and high-minded men, and she rejoiced in the privilege of doing so, to accord her that justice they would demand for themselves.

  Mr. Deveaux was not cross-examined.


Evidence resumed.

  Dr. E. W. North sworn.—(Cautioned by Attorney-General to avoid hearsay evidence.) Was the family physician of Mrs. Rowand. Went on the 6th January, at Mrs. Rowand's request, to see her at her mother's, in Logan-street; found her down stairs in sitting-room; she was in a nervous and excited state; had been so for a month before; he had attended her; she said nothing to witness of slave Maria; found Maria in a chamber, up stairs, about one o'clock P.M.; she was dead; she appeared to have been dead about an hour and a half; his attention was attracted to a piece of pine-wood on a trunk or table in the room; it had a large knot on one end; had it been used on Maria it must have caused considerable contusion; other pieces of wood were in a box, and much smaller ones; the corpse was lying one side in the chamber; it was not laid out; presumed she died there; the marks on the body were, to witness's view, very slight, some scratches about the face; he purposely avoided making an examination; observed no injuries about the head; had no conversation with Mrs. Rowand about Maria; left the house; it was on the 6th January last, the day before the inquest; knew the slave before, but had never attended her.

  Cross-examined.—Mrs. Rowand was in feeble health, and nervous; the slave Maria was weak and emaciated in appearance; sudden death of such a person, in such a state, from apoplexy or action of nervous system, not unlikely; her sudden death would not imply violence; had prescribed asafoetida for Mrs. Rowand on a former visit; it is an appropriate remedy for nervous disorders; Mrs. Rowand was not of bodily strength to handle the pine knot so as to give a severe blow; Mrs. Rowand has five or six children, the elder of them large enough to have carried pieces of the wood about the room; there must have been a severe contusion, and much extravasation of blood, to infer death from violence in this case; apoplexy is frequently attended with extravasation of blood; there were two Marias in the family.

  In reply.—Mrs. Rowand could have raised the pine knot, but could not have struck a blow with it; such a piece of wood could have produced death, but it would have left its mark; saw the fellow Richard; he was quite capable of giving such a blow.

  Dr. Peter Porcher.—Was called in by the coroner's jury to examine Maria's body; found it in the wash-kitchen; it was the corpse of one feeble and emaciated; partly prepared for burial; had the clothes removed; the body was lacerated with stripes; abrasions about face and knuckles; skin knocked of; passed his hand over the head; no bone broken; on request opened her thorax, and examined the viscera; found them healthy; heart unusually so for one of her age; no particular odour; some undigested food; no inflammation; removed the scalp, and found considerable extravasation between scalp and skull; scalp bloodshot; just under the scalp, found the effects of a single blow, just over the right ear; after removing the scalp, lifted the bone; no rupture of any blood-vessel; some softening of the brain in the upper hemisphere; there was considerable extravasation under the scalp, the result of a succession of blows on the top of the head; this extravasation was general, but that over the ear was a single spot; the buttend of a cow-hide would have sufficed for this purpose; an ordinary stick, a heavy one, would have done it; a succession of blows on the head, in a feeble woman, would lead to death, when, in a stronger one, it would not; saw


no other appearance about her person to account for her death, except those blows.

  Cross-examined.—To a patient in this woman's condition the blows would probably cause death; they were not such as were calculated to kill an ordinary person; witness saw the body twenty-four hours after her death; it was winter, and bitter cold; no disorganisation, and the examination was therefore to be relied on; the blow behind the ear might have resulted from a fall, but not the blow on the top of the head, unless she fell head foremost; came to the conclusion of a succession of blows, from the extent of the extravasation; a single blow would have shown a distinct spot, with a gradual spreading or diffusion; one large blow could not account for it, as the head was spherical; no blood on the brain; the softening of the brain did not amount to much; in an ordinary dissection would have passed it over; anger sometimes produces apoplexy, which results in death; blood between the scalp and the bone of the skull; it was evidently a fresh extravasation; twenty-four hours would scarcely have made any change; knew nothing of this negro before; even after examination, the cause of death is sometimes inscrutable; not usual, however.

  In reply.—Does not attribute the softening of the brain to the blows; it was slight, and might have been the result of age; it was some evidence of impairment of vital powers by advancing age.

  Dr. A. P. Hayne.—At request of the coroner, acted with Dr. Porcher; was shown into an out-house; saw on the back of the corpse evidences of contusion; arms swollen and enlarged; laceration of body; contusions on head and neck; between scalp and skull extravasation of blood, on the top of head, and behind the right ear; a burn on the hand; the brain presented healthy appearance; opened the body, and no evidences of disease in the chest or viscera; attributed the extravasation of blood to external injury from blows—blows from a large and broad and blunt instrument; attributes the death to those blows; supposes they were adequate to cause death, as she was old, weak, and emaciated.

  Cross-examined.—Would not have caused death in a young and robust person.

  The evidence for the prosecution here closed, and no witnesses were called for the defence.

  The jury were then successively addressed, ably and eloquently, by J. L. Petigru and James S. Rhett, Esqrs., on behalf of the prisoner, and H. Bailey, Esq., on behalf of the State; and by B.F. Hunt, Esq., in reply. Of those speeches, and also of the judge's charge, we have taken full notes, but have neither time nor space to insert them here.

  His Honour, Judge O'Neall, then charged the jury eloquently and ably on the facts, vindicating the existing law, making death the penalty for the murder of a slave; but, on the law, intimated to the jury that he held the Act of 1740 so far still in force as to admit of the prisoner's exculpation by her own oath, unless clearly disproved by the oaths of two witnesses; and that they were, therefore, in his opinion, bound to acquit; although he left it to them, wholly, to say whether the prisoner was guilty of murder, killing in sudden heat and passion, or not guilty.

  The jury then retired, and, in about twenty or thirty minutes, returned with a verdict of “Not Guilty.”


  There are some points which appear in this statement of the trial, especially in the plea for the defence. Particular attention is called to the following passage:—

  Fortunately (said the lawyer), the jury were of the country; acquainted with our policy and practice; composed of men too honourable to be led astray by the noise and clamour out of doors. All was now as it should be; at least, a court of justice had assembled to which his client had fled for refuge and safety; its threshold was sacred; no profane clamours entered there; but legal investigation was had of facts.

  From this it plainly appears that the case was a notorious one; so notorious and atrocious as to break through all the apathy which slave-holding institutions tend to produce, and to surround the court-house with noise and clamour.

  From another intimation in the same speech, it would appear that there was abundant testimony of slaves to the direct fact— testimony which left no kind of doubt on the popular mind. Why else does he thus earnestly warn the jury?

  He warned the jury that they were to listen to no evidence but that of free white persons, given on oath in open Court; they were to imagine none that came not from them. It was for this that they were selected; their intelligence putting them beyond the influence of unfounded accusations, unsustained by legal proof; of legends of aggravated cruelty, founded on the evidence of negroes, and arising from weak and wicked falsehoods.

  See also this remarkable admission: “Truth had been distorted in this case, and murder manufactured out of what was nothing more than ORDINARY DOMESTIC DISCIPLINE.” If the reader refers to the testimony, he will find it testified that the woman appeared to be about sixty years old; that she was much emaciated; that there had been a succession of blows on the top of her head, and one violent one over the ear; and that, in the opinion of a surgeon, these blows were sufficient to cause death. Yet the lawyer for the defence coolly remarks that “murder had been manufactured out of what was ordinary domestic discipline.” Are we to understand that beating feeble old women on the head, in this manner, is a specimen of ordinary domestic discipline in Charleston? What would have been said if any anti-slavery newspaper at the North had made such an assertion as this? Yet the Charleston Courier reports this statement without comment or denial. But let us hear the lady's lawyer go still further in vindication of this ordinary domestic discipline: “Chastisement must be inflicted until subordination is produced; and the extent of the punishment


is not to be judged by one's neighbours, but by himself. The event, IN THIS CASE, has been unfortunate and sad.” The lawyer admits that the result of thumping a feeble old woman on the head has, in this case, been “unfortunate and sad.” The old thing had not strength to bear it, and had no greater regard for the convenience of the family and the reputation of “the institution” than to die, and so get the family and the community generally into trouble. It will appear from this that in most cases where old women are thumped on the head, they have stronger constitutions—or more consideration.

  Again he says, “When punishment is due to the slave, the master must not be held to strict account for going an inch beyond the mark.” And finally, and most astounding of all, comes this: “He bade the jury remember the words of Him who spake as never man spake—LET HIM THAT HATH NEVER SINNED THROW THE FIRST STONE. They, as masters, might regret excesses to which they themselves might have carried punishment.”

  What sort of an insinuation is this? Did he mean to say that almost all the jurymen had probably done things of the same sort, and therefore could have nothing to say in this case? and did no member of the jury get up and resent such a charge? From all that appears, the jury acquiesced in it as quite a matter of course; and the Charleston Courier quotes it without comment, in the record of a trial which it says “will show to the world HOW the law extends the ægis of her protection alike over the white man and the humblest slave.”

  Lastly, notice the decision of the judge, which has become law in South Carolina. What point does it establish? That the simple oath of the master, in face of all circumstantial evidence to the contrary, may clear him, when the murder of a slave is the question. And this trial is paraded as a triumphant specimen of legal impartiality and equity! “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

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



"A refinement in humanity of doubtful policy."
— B. F. HUNT.

  THE author takes no pleasure in presenting to her readers the shocking details of the following case. But it seems necessary to exhibit what were the actual workings of the ancient law of South Carolina, which has been characterised as one “conformed to the policy, and approved by the wisdom,” of the fathers of that State, and the reform of which has been called “a refinement in humanity of doubtful policy.”

  It is well, also, to add the charge of Judge Wilds, partly for its intrinsic literary merit and the nobleness of its sentiments, but principally because it exhibits such a contrast as could scarcely be found elsewhere between the judge's high and indignant sense of justice and the shameful impotence and imbecility of the laws under which he acted.

  The case was brought to the author's knowledge by a letter from a gentleman of Pennsylvania, from which the following is an extract:—

  Some time between the years 1807 and 1810, there was lying in the harbour of Charleston a ship commanded by a man named Slater. His crew were slaves; one of them committed some offence, not specified in the narrative. The captain ordered him to be bound and laid upon the deck; and there, in the harbour of Charleston, in the broad daylight, compelled another slave-sailor to chop off his head. The affair was public—notorious. A prosecution was commenced against him; the offence was proved beyond all doubt—perhaps, indeed, it was not denied—and the judge, in a most eloquent charge or rebuke of the defendant, expressed his sincere regret that he could inflict no punishment, under the laws of the State.

  I was studying law when the case was published in “Hall's American Law Journal,” vol. i. I have not seen the book for twenty-five or thirty years. I may be in error as to names,&c., but while I have life and my senses the facts of the case cannot be forgotten.

  The following is the “charge” alluded to in the above letter.


It was pronounced by the Honourable Judge Wilds, of South Carolina, and is copied from Hall's Law Journal, i. 67:—

  John Slater! You have been convicted by a jury of your country of the wilful murder of your own slave; and I am sorry to say, the short, impressive, and uncontradicted testimony on which that conviction was founded, leaves but too little room to doubt its propriety.

  The annals of human depravity might be safely challenged for a parallel to this unfeeling, bloody, and diabolical transaction.

  You caused your unoffending, unresisting slave to be bound hand and foot, and, by a refinement in cruelty, compelled his companion, perhaps the friend of his heart, to chop his head with an axe, and to cast his body, yet convulsing with the agonies of death, into the water! And this deed you dared to perpetrate in the very harbour of Charleston, within a few yards of the shore, unblushingly, in the face of open day. Had your murderous arm been raised against your equals, whom the laws of self-defence and the more efficacious law of the land unite to protect, your crimes would not have been without precedent, and would have seemed less horrid. Your personal risk would at least have proved that, though a murderer, you were not a coward. But you too well knew that this unfortunate man, whom chance had subjected to your caprice, had not, like yourself, chartered to him by the laws of the land the sacred rights of nature; and that a stern but necessary policy had disarmed him of the rights of self-defence. Too well you knew that to you alone he could look for protection; and that your arm alone could shield him from oppression, or avenge his wrongs; yet that arm you cruelly stretched out for his destruction.

  The counsel who generously volunteered his services in your behalf, shocked at the enormity of your offence, endeavoured to find a refuge, as well for his own feelings as for those of all who heard your trial, in a derangement of your intellect. Several witnesses were examined to establish this fact; but the result of their testimony, it is apprehended, was as little satisfactory to his mind as to those of the jury to whom it was addressed. I sincerely wish this defence had proved successful, not from any desire to save you from the punishment which awaits you, and which you so richly merit, but from the desire of saving my country from the foul reproach of having in its bosom such a monster.

  From the peculiar situation of this country, our fathers felt themselves justified in subjecting to a very slight punishment he who murders a slave. Whether the present state of society require a continuation of this policy, so opposite to the apparent rights of humanity, it remains for a subsequent legislature to decide. Their attention would ere this have been directed to this subject, but, for the honour of human nature, such hardened sinners as yourself are rarely found to disturb the repose of society. The grand jury of this district, deeply impressed with your daring outrage against the laws both of God and man, have made a very strong expression of their feelings on the subject to the legislature; and, from the wisdom and justice of that body, the friends of humanity may confidently hope soon to see this blackest in the catalogue of human crimes pursued by appropriate punishment.

  In proceeding to pass the sentence which the law provides for your offence, I confess I never felt more forcibly the want of power to make respected the laws of


my country, whose minister I am. You have already violated the majesty of those laws. You have profanely pleaded the law under which you stand convicted, as a justification of your crime. You have held that law in one hand, and brandished your bloody axe in the other, impiously contending that the one gave a license to the unrestrained use of the other.

  But, though you will go off unhurt in person, by the present sentence, expect not to escape with impunity. Your bloody deed has set a mark upon you, which I fear the good actions of your future life will not efface. You will be held in abhorrence by an impartial world, and shunned as a monster by every honest man. Your unoffending posterity will be visited, for your iniquity, by the stigma of deriving their origin from an unfeeling murderer. Your days, which will be but few, will be spent in wretchedness; and if your conscience be not steeled against every virtuous emotion, if you be not entirely abandoned to hardness of heart, the mangled, mutilated corpse of your murdered slave will ever be present in your imagination, obtrude itself into all your amusements, and haunt you in the hours of silence and repose.

  But, should you disregard the reproaches of an offended world, should you hear with callous insensibility the gnawings of a guilty conscience, yet remember, I charge you, remember, that an awful period is fast approaching, and with you is close at hand, when you must appear before a tribunal whose want of power can afford you no prospect of impunity; when you must raise your bloody hands at the bar of an impartial omniscient Judge! Remember, I pray you, remember, whilst yet you have time, that God is just, and that his vengeance will not sleep for ever!

  The penalty that followed this solemn denunciation was a fine of seven hundred pounds, current money, or, in default of payment, imprisonment for seven years.

  And yet it seems that there have not been wanting those who consider the reform of this law “a refinement in humanity of doubtful policy!” To this sentiment, so high an authority as that of Chancellor Harper is quoted, as the reader will see by referring to the speech of Mr. Hunt in the last chapter. And, as is very common in such cases, the old law is vindicated as being, on the whole, a surer protection to the life of the slave than the new one. From the results of the last two trials, there would seem to be a fair show of plausibility in the argument; for under the old law it seems that Slater had at least to pay seven hundred pounds, while under the new Eliza Rowand comes off with only the penalty of “a most sifting scrutiny.”

  Thus it appears that the penalty of the law goes with the murderer of the slave.

  How is it executed in the cases which concern the life of the master? Look at this short notice of a recent trial of this kind, which is given in the Alexandria (Virginia) Gazette of October 23, 1852, as an extract from the Charleston (Virginia) Free Press:



  The trial of this slave for an attack, with intent to kill, on the person of Mr. Harrison Anderson, was commenced on Monday and concluded on Tuesday evening. His Honour, Braxton Davenport, Esq., chief justice of the county, with four associate gentlemen justices, composed the Court.

  The commonwealth was represented by its attorney, Charles B. Harding, Esq., and the accused ably and eloquently defended by Wm. C. Worthington, and John A. Thompson, Esqrs. The evidence of the prisoner's guilt was conclusive. A majority of the Court thought that he ought to suffer the extreme penalty of the law; but, as this required a unanimous agreement, he was sentenced to receive 500 lashes, not more than thirty-nine at one time. The physician of the gaol was instructed to see that they should not be administered too frequently, and only when, in his opinion, he could bear them.

  In another paper we are told that the Free Press says:—

  A majority of the Court thought that he ought to suffer the extreme penalty of the law; but, as this required a unanimous agreement, he was sentenced to receive 500 lashes, not more than thirty-nine at any one time. The physician of the gaol was instructed to see that they should not to be administered too frequently, and only when, in his opinion, he could bear them. This may seem to be harsh and inhuman punishment; but when we take into consideration that it is in accordance with the law of the land, and the further fact that the insubordination among the slaves of that State has become truly alarming, we cannot question the righteousness of the judgment.

  Will anybody say that the master's life is in more danger from the slave than the slave's from the master, that this disproportionate retribution is meted out? Those who countenance such legislation will do well to ponder the solemn words of an ancient book, inspired by One who is no respecter of persons:—

“If I have refused justice to my man-servant or maid-servant,
When they had a cause with me,
What shall I do when God riseth up?
And when He visiteth, what shall I answer him?
Did not He that made me in the womb make him?
Did not the same God fashion us in the womb?”
JOB xxxi. 13—1


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



  THE author remarks that the record of the following trial was read by her a little time before writing the account of the death of Uncle Tom. The shocking particulars haunted her mind and were in her thoughts when the following sentence was written:—

  What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear. What brother man and brother Christian must suffer, cannot be told us, even in our secret chamber, it so harrows up the soul. And yet, O my country, these things are done under the shadow of thy laws! O Christ, thy church sees them almost in silence!

  It is given precisely as prepared by Dr. G. Bailey, the very liberal and fair-minded editor of the National Era.

  From the “National Era,” Washington, November 6, 1851. HOMICIDE CASE IN CLARKE COUNTY, VIRGINIA.

  Some time since, the newspapers of Virginia contained an account of a horrible tragedy, enacted in Clarke County, of that State. A slave of Colonel James Castleman, it was stated, had been chained by the neck, and whipped to death by his master, on the charge of stealing. The whole neighbourhood in which the transaction occurred was incensed; the Virginia papers abounded in denunciations of the cruel act; and the people of the North were called upon to bear witness to the justice which would surely be meted in a slave State to the master of a slave. We did not publish the account. The case was horrible; it was, we were confident, exceptional; it should not be taken as evidence of the general treatment of slaves; we chose to delay any notice of it till the courts should pronounce their judgment, and we could announce at once the crime and its punishment, so that the State might stand acquitted of the foul deed.

  Those who were so shocked at the transaction will be surprised and mortified to hear that the actors in it have been tried and acquitted; and when they read the following account of the trial and verdict published at the instance of the friends of the accused, their mortification will deepen into bitter indignation.


  From the “Spirit of Jefferson.”

  “COLONEL JAMES CASTLEMAN.—The following statement, understood to have been drawn up by counsel, since the trial, has been placed by the friends of this gentleman in our hands for publication.

  “At the Circuit Superior Court of Clarke County, commencing on the 13th of October, Judge Samuels presiding, James Castleman and his son Stephen D. Castleman were indicted jointly for the murder of negro Lewis, property of the latter. By advice of their counsel, the parties elected to be tried separately, and the attorney for the commonwealth directed that James Castleman should be tried first.

  “It was proved on this trial, that for many months previous to the occurrence the money drawer of the tavern kept by Stephen D. Castleman, and the liquors kept in large quantities in his cellar, had been pillaged from time to time, until the thefts had attained to a considerable amount. Suspicion had, from various causes, been directed to Lewis, and another negro, named Reuben (a blacksmith), the property of James Castleman; but by the aid of two of the house-servants they had eluded the most vigilant watch.

  “On the 20th of August last, in the afternoon, S. D. Castleman accidentally discovered a clue, by means of which, and through one of the house-servants implicated, he was enabled fully to detect the depredators, and to ascertain the manner in which the theft had been committed. He immediately sent for his father, living near him, and after communicating what he had discovered, it was determined that the offenders should be punished at once, and before they should know of the discovery that had been made.

  “Lewis was punished first; and in a manner, as was fully shown, to preclude all risk of injury to his person, by stripes with a broad leathern strap. He was punished severely, but to an extent by no means disproportionate to his offence; nor was it pretended in any quarter that this punishment implicated either his life or health. He confessed the offence, and admitted that it had been effected by false keys furnished by the blacksmith Reuben.

  “The latter servant was punished immediately afterwards. It was believed that he was the principal offender, and he was found to be more obdurate and contumacious than Lewis had been in reference to the offence. Thus it was proved, both by the prosecution and the defence, that he was punished with greater severity than his accomplice. It resulted in a like confession on his part, and he produced the false key, one fashioned by himself, by which the theft had been effected.

  “It was further shown, on the trial, that Lewis was whipped in the upper room of a warehouse, connected with Stephen Castleman's store, and near the public road, where he was at work at the time; that after he had been flogged, to secure his person, whilst they went after Reuben, he was confined by a chain around his neck, which was attached to a joist above his head. The length of this chain, the breadth and thickness of the joist, its height from the floor, and the circlet of chain on the neck, were accurately measured; and it was thus shown that the chain unoccupied by the circlet and the joist was a foot and a half longer than the space between the shoulders of the man and the joist above, or to that extent the chain hung loose above him; that the circlet (which was fastened


so as to prevent its contraction) rested on the shoulders and breast, the chain being sufficiently drawn only to prevent being slipped over his head, and that there was no other place in the room to which he could be fastened, except to one of the joists above. His hands were tied in front; a white man who had been at work with Lewis during the day was left with him by the Messrs. Castleman, the better to insure his detention, whilst they were absent after Reuben. It was proved by this man (who was a witness for the prosecution) that Lewis asked for a box to stand on, or for something that he could jump off from; that after the Castlemans had left him he expressed a fear that when they came back he would be whipped again; and said, if he had a knife, and could get one hand loose, he would cut his throat. The witness stated that the negro 'stood firm on his feet,' that he could turn freely in whatever direction he wished, and that he made no complaint of the mode of his confinement. This man stated that he remained with Lewis about half an hour, and then left there to go home.

  “After punishing Reuben, the Castlemans returned to the warehouse, bringing him with them; their object being to confront the two men, in the hope that by further examination of them jointly, all their accomplices might be detected.

  “They were not absent more than half an hour. When they entered the room above, Lewis was found hanging by the neck, his feet thrown behind him, his knees a few inches from the floor, and his head thrown forward—the body warm and supple (or relaxed), but life was extinct.

  “It was proved by the surgeons who made a post-mortem examination before the coroner's inquest, that the death was caused by strangulation by hanging; and other eminent surgeons were examined to show, from the appearance of the brain and its blood-vessels after death (as exhibited at the post-mortem examination), that the subject could not have fainted before strangulation.

  “After the evidence was finished on both sides, the jury from their box and of their own motion, without a word from counsel on either side, informed the Court that they had agreed upon their verdict. The counsel assented to its being thus received, and a verdict of “Not Guilty” was immediately rendered. The attorney for the commonwealth then informed the Court that all the evidence for the prosecution had been laid before the jury; and as no new evidence could be offered on the trial of Stephen D. Castleman, he submitted to the Court the propriety of entering a nolle prosequi. The judge replied that the case had been fully and fairly laid before the jury upon the evidence; that the Court was not only satisfied with the verdict, but, if any other had been rendered, it must have been set aside; and that if no further evidence was to be adduced on the trial of Stephen, the attorney for the commonwealth would exercise a proper discretion in entering a nolle prosequi as to him, and the Court would approve of its being done. A nolle prosequi was entered accordingly, and both gentlemen discharged.

  “It may be added that two days were consumed in exhibiting the evidence, and that the trial was by a jury of Clarke County. Both the parties had been on bail from the time of their arrest, and were continued on bail whilst the trial was depending.'

  Let us admit that the evidence does not prove the legal crime of homicide: what candid man can doubt, after reading this ex parte version of it, that the slave died in consequence of the punishment inflicted upon him?

  In criminal prosecutions the federal constitution guarantees to the accused the right to a public trial by an impartial jury; the right to be informed of the nature


and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witness in his favour; and to have the assistance of counsel; guarantees necessary to secure innocence against hasty or vindictive judgment—absolutely necessary to prevent injustice. Grant that they were not intended for slaves; every master of a slave must feel that they are still morally binding upon him. He is the sole judge; he alone determines the offence, the proof requisite to establish it, and the amount of the punishment. The slave, then, has a peculiar claim upon him for justice. When charged with a crime, common humanity requires that he should be informed of it—that he should be confronted with the witnesses against him—that he should be permitted to show evidence in favour of his innocence.

  But how was poor Lewis treated? The son of Castleman said he had discovered who stole the money; and it was forthwith “determined that the offenders should be punished at once, and before they should know of the discovery that had been made.” Punished without a hearing! Punished on the testimony of a house-servant, the nature of which does not appear to have been inquired into by the Court! Not a word is said which authorises the belief that any careful examination was made as it respects their guilt. Lewis and Reuben were assumed, on loose evidence, without deliberate investigation, to be guilty; and then, without allowing them to attempt to show their evidence, they were whipped until a confession of guilt was extorted by bodily pain.

  Is this Virginia justice?

  Lewis was punished with a “broad leathern strap;” he was “punished severely:” this we do not need to be told. A “broad leathern strap” is well adapted to severity of punishment. “Nor was it pretended,” the account says, “in any quarter that this punishment implicated either his life or his health.” This is false; it was expressly stated in the newspaper accounts at the time, and such was the general impression in the neighbourhood, that the punishment did very severely implicate his life. But more of this anon.

  Lewis was left. A chain was fastened around his neck, so as not to choke him, and secured to the joist above, leaving a slack of about a foot and a half. Remaining in an upright position, he was secure against strangulation, but he could neither sit nor kneel; and should he faint he would be choked to death. The account says that they fastened him thus for the purpose of securing him. If this had been the sole object, it could have been accomplished by safer and less cruel methods, as every reader must know. This mode of securing him was intended probably to intimidate him, and, at the same time, afforded some gratification to the vindictive feeling which controlled the actors in this foul transaction. The man whom they left to watch Lewis said that, after remaining there about half an hour, he went home; and Lewis was then alive. The Castlemans say that, after punishing Reuben, they returned, having been absent not more than half an hour, and they found him hanging by the neck, dead. We direct attention to this part of the testimony to show how loose the statements were which went to make up the evidence.

  Why was Lewis chained at all, and a man left to watch him? “To secure him,” say the Castlemans. Is it customary to chain slaves in this manner, and set a watch over them, after severe punishment, to prevent their running away? If the punishment of Lewis had not been unusual, and if he had not been threatened with another infliction on their return, there would have been no necessity for chaining him.


  The testimony of the man left to watch represents him as desperate, apparently with pain and fright. “Lewis asked for a box to stand on.” Why? Was he not suffering from pain and exhaustion, and did he not wish to rest himself without danger of slow strangulation? Again: he asked for “something he could jump off from.” “After the Castlemans left, he expressed a fear when they came back that he would be whipped again; and said, if he had a knife, and could get one hand loose, he would cut his throat.”

  The punishment that could drive him to such desperation must have been horrible.

  How long they were absent we know not, for the testimony on this point is contradictory. They found him hanging by the neck, dead, “his feet thrown behind him, his knees a few inches from the floor, and his head thrown forward;” just the position he would naturally fall into had he sunk from exhaustion. They wish it to appear that he hung himself. Could this be proved (we need hardly say that it is not) it would relieve but slightly the dark picture of their guilt. The probability is that he sank, exhausted by suffering, fatigue, and fear. As to the testimony of “surgeons,” founded upon a post-mortem examination of the brain and blood-vessels, “that the subject could not have fainted before strangulation,” it is not worthy of consideration. We know something of the fallacies and fooleries of such examinations.

  From all we can learn; the only evidence relied on by the prosecution was that white man employed by the Castlemans. He was dependent upon them for work. Other evidence might have been obtained; why it was not is for the prosecuting attorney to explain. To prove what we say, and to show that justice has not been done in this horrible affair, we publish the following communication from an old and highly-respectable citizen of this place, and who is very far from being an Abolitionist. The slaveholders whom he mentions are well known here, and would have promptly appeared in the case had the prosecution, which was aware of their readiness, summoned them.

  “To the Editor of the Era.

  “I see that Castleman, who lately had a trial for whipping a slave to death, in Virginia, was 'triumphantly acquitted'—as many expected. There are three persons in this city, with whom I am acquainted, who stayed at Castleman's the same night in which this awful tragedy was enacted. They heard the dreadful lashing and the heart-rending screams and entreaties of the sufferer. They implored the only white man they could find on the premises, not engaged in the bloody work, to interpose; but for a long time he refused, on the ground that he was a dependant, and was afraid to give offence; and that, moreover, they had been drinking, and he was in fear for his own life, should he say a word that would be displeasing to them. He did, however, venture, and returned and reported the cruel manner in which the slaves were chained, and lashed, and secured in a blacksmith's vice. In the morning, when they ascertained that one of the slaves was dead, they were so shocked and indignant that they refused to eat in the house, and reproached Castleman with his cruelty. He expressed his regret that the slave had died, and especially as he had ascertained that he was innocent of the accusation for which he had suffered. The idea was that he had fainted from exhaustion; and, the chain being round his neck, he was strangled. The persons I refer to are themselves slaveholders—but their feelings were so


harrowed and lacerated that they could not sleep (two of them are ladies); and for many nights afterwards their rest was disturbed, and their dreams made frightful, by the appalling recollection.

  “These persons would have been material witnesses, and would have willingly attended on the part of the prosecution. The knowledge they had of the case was communicated to the proper authorities, yet their attendance was not required. The only witness was that dependant who considered his own life in danger.

“Yours,&c., J. F.”

  The account, as published by the friends of the accused parties, shows a case of extreme cruelty. The statements made by our correspondent prove that the truth has not been fully revealed, and that justice has been baffled. The result of the trial shows how irresponsible is the power of a master over his slave; and that, whatever security the latter has, is to be sought in the humanity of the former, not in the guarantees of law. Against the cruelty of an inhuman master he has really no safeguard.

  Our conduct in relation to this case, deferring all notice of it in our columns till a legal investigation could be had, shows that we are not disposed to be captious towards our slaveholding countrymen. In no unkind spirit have we examined this lamentable case; but we must expose the utter repugnance of the slave system to the proper administration of justice. The newspapers of Virginia generally publish the account from the “Spirit of Jefferson,” without comment. They are evidently not satisfied that justice was done; they, doubtless, will deny that the accused were guilty of homicide, legally; but they will not deny that they were guilty of an atrocity which should brand them for ever in a Christian country.


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



  FROM a review of all the legal cases which have hitherto been presented, and of the principles established in the judicial decisions upon them, the following facts must be apparent to the reader:—

  First. That masters do, now and then, kill slaves by the torture.

  Second. That the fact of so killing a slave is not of itself held presumption of murder in slave jurisprudence.

  Third. That the slave in the act of resistance to his master may always be killed.

  From these things it will be seen to follow that, if the facts of the death of Tom had been fully proved by two white witnesses in open court, Legree could not have been held by any consistent interpreter of slave-law to be a murderer, for Tom was in the act of resistance to the will of his master. His master had laid a command on him in the presence of other slaves. Tom had deliberately refused to obey the command. The master commenced chastisement, to reduce him to obedience. And it is evident, at the first glance, to every one, that if the law does not sustain him in enforcing obedience in such a case, there is an end of the whole slave power. No Southern Court would dare to decide that Legree did wrong to continue the punishment as long as Tom continued the insubordination. Legree stood by him every moment of the time, pressing him to yield, and offering to let him go as soon as he did yield. Tom's resistance was insurrection. It was an example which could not be allowed for a moment on any Southern plantation. By the express words of the constitution of Georgia, and by the understanding and usage of all slave-law, the power of life and death is always left in the hands of the master, in exigencies like this. This is not a case like that of Souther v. the Commonwealth. The victim of Souther was not in a state of resistance or insur-


rection. The punishment, in his case, was a simple vengeance for a past offence, and not an attempt to reduce him to subordination.

  There is no principle of slave jurisprudence by which a man could be pronounced a murderer, for acting as Legree did, in his circumstances. Everybody must see that such an admission would strike at the foundations of the slave system. To be sure, Tom was in a state of insurrection for conscience's sake. But the law does not, and cannot, contemplate that the negro shall have a conscience independent of his master's. To allow that the negro may refuse to obey his master whenever he thinks that obedience would be wrong, would be to produce universal anarchy. If Tom had been allowed to disobey his master in this case, for conscience's sake, the next day Sambo would have had a case of conscience, and Quimbo the next. Several of them might very justly have thought that it was a sin to work as they did. The mulatto woman would have remembered that the command of God forbade her to take another husband. Mothers might have considered that it was more their duty to stay at home and take care of their children, when they were young and feeble, than to work for Mr. Legree in the cotton-field. There would be no end to the havoc made upon cotton-growing operations, were the negro allowed the right of maintaining his own conscience on moral subjects. If the slave system is a right system, and ought to be maintained, Mr. Legree ought not to be blamed for his conduct in this case; for he did only what was absolutely essential to maintain the system; and Tom died in fanatical and foolhardy resistance to “the powers that be, which are ordained of God.” He followed a sentimental impulse of his desperately depraved heart, and neglected those “solid teachings of the written word,” which, as recently elucidated, have proved so refreshing to eminent political men.

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



  HAVING been obliged to record so many trials in which justice has been turned away backward by the hand of law, and equity and common humanity have been kept out by the bolt and bar of logic, it is a relief to the mind to find one recent trial recorded in North Carolina, in which the nobler feelings of the human heart have burst over formalised limits, and where the prosecution appears to have been conducted by men who were not ashamed of possessing in their bosoms that very dangerous and most illogical agitator, a human heart. It is true that, in giving this trial, very sorrowful but inevitable inferences will force themselves upon the mind, as to that state of public feeling which allowed such outrages to be perpetrated in open daylight, in the capital of North Carolina, upon a hapless woman. It would seem that the public were too truly instructed in the awful doctrine pronounced by Judge Ruffin, that “THE POWER OF THE MASTER MUST BE ABSOLUTE,” to think of interfering while the poor creature was dragged barefoot and bleeding at a horse's neck, at the rate of five miles an hour, through the streets of Raleigh. It seems, also, that the most horrible brutalities and enormities that could be conceived of were witnessed, without any efficient interference, by a number of the citizens, among whom we see the name of the Hon. W. H. Haywood, of Raleigh. It is a comfort to find the Attorney-General in this case speaking as a man ought to speak. Certainly there can be no occasion to wish to pervert or overstate the dread workings of the slave system, or to leave out the few comforting and encouraging features, however small the encouragement of them may be.

  The case is now presented, as narrated from the published reports by Dr. Bailey, editor of the National Era, a man whose candour and fairness need no indorsing, as every line that he writes speaks for itself.

  The reader may at first be surprised to find slave testimony in the Court, till he recollects that it is a slave that is on trial, the testimony of slaves being only null when it concerns whites,



  We find in one of the Raleigh (North Carolina) papers, of June 5, 1851, a report of an interesting trial, at the spring term of the Superior Court. Mima, a slave, was indicted for the murder of her master, William Smith, of Johnston County, on the night of the 29th of November, 1850. The evidence for the prosecution was Sydney, a slave-boy, twelve years old, who testified that, in the night, he and a slave-girl, named Jane, were roused from sleep by the call of their master, Smith, who had returned home. They went out, and found Mima tied to his horse's neck, with two ropes, one round her neck, the other round her hands. Deceased carried her into the house, jerking the rope fastened to her neck, and tied her to a post. He called for something to eat, threw her a piece of bread, and, after he had done, beat her on her naked back with a large piece of light-wood, giving her many hard blows. In a short time, deceased went out of the house, for a special purpose, witness accompanying him with a torch-light, and hearing him say that he intended “to use the prisoner up.” The light was extinguished, and he re-entered the house for the purpose of lighting it. Jane was there; but the prisoner had been untied, and was not there. While lighting his torch, he heard blows outside, and heard the deceased cry out, two or three times, “O Leah! O Leah!” Witness and Jane went out, saw the deceased bloody and struggling, were frightened, ran back, and shut themselves up. Leah, it seems, was mother of the prisoner, and had run off two years, on account of cruel treatment by the deceased.

  Smith was speechless and unconscious till he died, the following morning, of the wounds inflicted on him.

  It was proved on the trial that Carroll, a white man, living about a mile from the house of the deceased, and whose wife was said to be the illegitimate daughter of Smith, had in his possession, the morning of the murder, the receipt given the deceased by Sheriff High the day before, for jail fees, and a note for thirty-five dollars, due deceased from one Wiley Price, which Carroll collected a short time thereafter; also the chest-keys of the deceased; and no proof was offered to show how Carroll came into possession of these articles.

  The following portion of the testimony discloses facts so horrible, and so disgraceful to the people who tolerated, in broad daylight, conduct which would have shamed the devil, that we copy it just as we find it in the Raleigh paper. The scene, remember, is the city of Raleigh.

  “The defence was then opened. James Harris, C. W. D. Hutchings and Hon. W. H. Haywood, of Raleigh; John Cooper, of Wake; Joseph Hane and others, of Johnston, were examined for the prisoner. The substance of their testimony was as follows:—On the forenoon of Friday, 29th of November last, deceased took prisoner from Raleigh jail, tied her round the neck and wrist; ropes were then latched to the horse's neck; he cursed the prisoner several times, got on his horse, and started off. When he got opposite the Telegraph-office, on Fayetteville-street, he pulled her shoes and stockings off, cursed her again, went off in a swift trot, the prisoner running after him, doing apparently all she could to keep up; passed round by Peck's store; prisoner seemed very humble and submissive; took down the street east of the Capitol, going at the rate of five miles an hour; continued this gait until he passed O. Rork's corner, about half or three-quarters of a mile from the Capitol; that he reached Cooper's (one of the witnesses), thir-


teen miles from Raleigh, about four o'clock, P.M.; that it was raining very hard; deceased got off his horse, turned it loose with prisoner tied to its neck; witness went to take deceased's horse to stable; heard great lamentations at the house; hurried back; saw his little daughter running through the rain from the house, much frightened; got there; deceased was gouging prisoner in the eyes, and she making outcries; made him stop; became vexed, and insisted upon leaving; did leave in a short time, in the rain, sun about an hour high; when he left prisoner was tied as she was before; her arms and fingers were very much swollen; the rope around her wrist was small, and had sunk deep into the flesh, almost covered with it; that around the neck was large, and tied in a slip-knot; deceased would jerk it every now and then; when jerked it would choke prisoner; she was barefoot and bleeding; deceased was met some time after dark, in about six miles of home, being twenty-four or twenty-five from Raleigh.”

  Why did they not strike the monster to the earth, and punish him for his infernal brutality?

  The Attorney-general conducted the prosecution with evident loathing. The defence argued, first, that the evidence was insufficient to fasten the crime upon the prisoner; secondly, that, should the jury be satisfied beyond a rational doubt that the prisoner committed the act charged, it would yet be only manslaughter.

  “A single blow between equals would mitigate a killing instanter from murder to manslaughter. It could not, in law, be anything more, if done under the furor brevis of passion; but the rule was different as between master and slave. It was necessary that this should be, to preserve the subordination of the slave. The prisoner's counsel then examined the authorities at length, and contended that the prisoner's case came within the rule laid down in the State v. Will (1 Dev. and Bat. 121). The rule there given by Judge Gaston is this: 'If a slave, in defence of his life, and under circumstances strongly calculated to excite his passions of terror and resentment, kill his overseer or master, the homicide is, by such circumstances, mitigated to manslaughter.' The cruelties of the deceased to the prisoner were grievous and long-continued; they would have shocked a barbarian. The savage loves and thirsts for blood, but the arts of civilized life have not afforded him such refinement of torture as was here exhibited.”

  The Attorney-general, after discussing the law, appealed to the jury “not to suffer the prejudice which the counsel for the defence had attempted to create against the deceased (whose conduct he admitted was disgraceful to human nature) to influence their judgments in deciding whether the act of the prisoner was criminal or not, and what degree of criminality attached to it. He desired the prisoner to have a fair and impartial trial. He wished her to receive the benefit of every rational doubt. It was her right, however humble her condition; he hoped he had not that heart, as he certainly had not the right, by virtue of his office, to ask in her case for anything more than he would ask for the highest and proudest of the land on trial, that the jury should decide according to the evidence, and vindicate the violated law.”

  These were honourable sentiments.

  After an able charge by Judge Ellis, the jury retired, and after having remained out several hours, returned with a verdict of NOT GUILTY. Of course, we see not how they could hesitate to come to this verdict at once.

  The correspondent who furnishes the Register with a report of the case, says,

  “It excited an intense interest in the community in which it occurred, and, although it developes a series of cruelties shocking to human nature, the result of


the trial, nevertheless, vindicates the benignity and justice of our laws towards that class of our population whose condition Northern fanaticism has so carefully and grossly misrepresented, for their own purposes of selfishness, agitation, and crime.”

  We have no disposition to misrepresent the condition of the slaves, or to disparage the laws of North Carolina; but we ask, with a sincere desire to know the truth, Do the laws of North Carolina allow a master to practise such horrible cruelties upon his slaves as Smith was guilty of? and would the public sentiment of the city of Raleigh permit a repetition of such enormities as were perpetrated in its streets, in the light of day, by that miscreant?

  In conclusion, as the accounts of these various trials contain so many shocking incidents and particulars, the author desires to enter a caution against certain mistaken uses which may be made of them, by well-intending persons. The crimes themselves, which form the foundation of the trials, are not to be considered and spoken of as specimens of the common working of the slave system. They are, it is true, the logical and legitimate fruits of a system which makes every individual owner an irresponsible despot. But the actual number of them, compared with the whole number of masters, we take pleasure in saying, is small. It is an injury to the cause of freedom to ground the argument against slavery upon the frequency with which such scenes as these occur. It misleads the popular mind as to the real issue of the subject. To hear many men talk, one would think that they supposed that unless negroes actually were whipped or burned alive, at the rate of two or three dozen a week, there was no harm in slavery. They seem to see nothing in the system, but its gross bodily abuses. If these are absent, they think there is no harm in it. They do not consider that the twelve hours' torture of some poor victim, bleeding away his life, drop by drop, under the hands of a SOUTHER, is only a symbol of that more atrocious process by which the divine, immortal soul is mangled, burned, lacerated, thrown down, stamped upon, and suffocated, by the fiend-like force of the tyrant Slavery. And as, when the torturing work was done, and the poor soul flew up to the judgment-seat, to stand there in awful witness, there was not a vestige of humanity left in that dishonoured body, nor anything by which it could be said, “See, this was a man!”—so, when Slavery has finished her legitimate work upon the soul, and trodden out every spark of manliness, and honour, and self-respect, and natural affection, and conscience, and religious sentiment, then there is nothing left in the soul, by which to say, “This was a man!”— and it becomes necessary for judges to construct grave legal arguments to prove that the slave is a human being.


  Such extreme cases of bodily abuse from the despotic power of slavery are comparatively rare. Perhaps they may be paralleled by cases brought to light in the criminal jurisprudence of other countries. They might, perhaps, have happened anywhere; at any rate, we will concede that they might. But where under the sun did such TRIALS, of such cases, ever take place, in any nation professing to be free and Christian? The reader of English history will, perhaps, recur to the trials under Judge Jeffreys as a parallel. A moment's reflection will convince him that there is no parallel between the cases. The decisions of Jeffreys were the decisions of a monster, who violently wrested law from its legitimate course to gratify his own fiendish nature. The decisions of American slave-law have been, for the most part, the decisions of honourable and humane men, who have wrested from their natural course the most humane feelings, to fulfil the mandates of a cruel law.

  In the case of Jeffreys, the sacred forms of the administration of justice were violated. In the case of the American decisions, every form has been maintained. Revolting to humanity as these decisions appear, they are strictly logical and legal.

  Therefore, again, we say, Where, ever, in any nation professing to be civilised and Christian, did such TRIALS of such cases take place? When were ever such legal arguments made? When, ever, such legal principles judicially affirmed? Was ever such a trial held in England as that in Virginia, of SOUTHER v. THE COMMONWEALTH? Was it ever necessary in England for a judge to declare on the bench, contrary to the opinion of a lower Court, that the death of an apprentice, by twelve hours' torture from his master, did amount to murder in the first degree? Was such a decision, if given, accompanied by the affirmation of the principle, that any amount of torture inflicted by the master, short of the point of death, was not indictable? Not being read in English law, the writer cannot say; but there is strong impression from within that such a decision as this would have shaken the whole island of Great Britain; and that such a case as Souther v. The Commonwealth would never have been forgotten under the sun. Yet it is probable that very few persons in the United States ever heard of the case, or ever would have heard of it, had it not been quoted by the New York Courier and Enquirer as an overwhelming example of legal humanity.

  The horror of the whole matter is, that more than one such case should ever need to happen in a country, in order to make the whole community feel, as one man, that such power ought


not to be left in the hands of a master. How many such cases do people wish to have happen?—how many must happen, before they will learn that utter despotic power is not to be trusted in any hands? If one white man's son or brother had been treated in this way, under the law of apprenticeship, the whole country would have trembled, from Louisiana to Maine, till that law had been altered. They forget that the black man has also a Father. It is “He that sitteth upon the circle of the heavens, who bringeth the princes to nothing, and maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” He hath said that, “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he FORGETTETH NOT the cry of the humble.” That blood which has fallen so despised to the earth—that blood which lawyers have quibbled over, in the quiet of legal nonchalance, discussing in great ease whether it fell by murder in the first or second degree—HE will one day reckon for as the blood of his own child. He “is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to usward;” but the day of vengeance is surely coming, and the year of his redeemed is in his heart.

  Another Court will sit upon these trials, when the Son of Man shall come in his glory. It will be not alone Souther, and no doubt the other, and such as he, that will be arraigned there; but all those in this nation, North and South, who have abetted the system, and made the laws which MADE Souther what he was. In that Court negro testimony will be received, if never before; and the judges, and the counsellors, and the chief men, and the mighty men, marshalled to that awful bar, will say to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”

  The wrath of the Lamb! Think of it! Think that Jesus Christ has been present, a witness—a silent witness through every such scene of torture and anguish—a silent witness in every such Court, calmly hearing the evidence given in the lawyers pleading, the bills filed, and cases appealed! And think what a heart Jesus Christ has, and with what age-long patience he has suffered! What awful depths are there in that word LONG-SUFFERING! and what must be that wrath, when, after ages of endurance, this dread accumulation of wrong and anguish comes up at last to judgment!


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



  THE writer has expressed the opinion that the American law of slavery, taken throughout, is a more severe one than that of any other civilised nation, ancient or modern, if we except, perhaps, that of the Spartans. She has not at hand the means of comparing French and Spanish slave-codes; but, as it is a common remark that Roman slavery was much more severe than any that has ever existed in America, it will be well to compare the Roman with the American law. We therefore present a description of the Roman slave-law, as quoted by William Jay, Esq., from Blair's “Inquiry into the State of Slavery among the Romans,” giving such references to American authorities as will enable the reader to make his own comparison, and to draw his own inferences.

  I. The slave had no protection against the avarice, rage, or lust of the master, whose authority was founded in absolute property; and the bondman was viewed less as a human being subject to arbitrary dominion, than as an inferior animal dependent wholly on the will of his owner.

  See law of South Carolina, in Stroud's “Sketch of the Laws of Slavery,” p. 23.

  Slaves shall be deemed, sold, taken, reputed and adjudged in law to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatever. [2 Brev. Dig. 219. Prince's Dig. 446. Cobb's Dig. 971.]

  A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. [Lou. Civil Code, art. 35. Stroud's Sketch, p. 22.]

  Such obedience is the consequence only of uncontrolled authority over the body. There is nothing else which can operate to produce the effect. The power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect. [Judge Ruffin's Decision in the Case of The State v. Mann. Wheeler's Law of Slavery, 246.]


  II. At first, the master possessed the uncontrolled power of life and death. At a very early period in Virginia, the power of life over slaves was given by statute. [Judge Clarke, in case of State of Miss. v. Jones. Wheeler, 252.]

  III. He might kill, mutilate, or torture his slaves, for any or no offence; he might force them to become gladiators or prostitutes.

  The privilege of killing is now somewhat abridged; as to mutilation and torture, see the case of Souther v. The Commonwealth, 7 Grattan, 673, quoted in Chapter III. above. Also, State v. Mann, in the same chapter, from Wheeler, p. 244.

  IV. The temporary unions of male with female slaves were formed and dissolved at his command; families and friends were separated when he pleased.

  See the decision of Judge Mathews, in the case of Girod v. Lewis, Wheeler, 199:

  It is clear that slaves have no legal capacity to assent to any contract. With the consent of their master, they may marry, and their moral power to agree to such a contract or connexion as that of marriage cannot be doubted; but whilst in a state of slavery it cannot produce any civil effect, because slaves are deprived of all civil rights.

  See also the chapter below on “the Separation of Families,” and the files of any Southern newspaper, passim.

  V. The laws recognised no obligation upon the owners of slaves, to furnish them with food and clothing, or to take care of them in sickness.

  The extent to which this deficiency in the Roman law has been supplied in the American, by “protective Acts,” has been exhibited above.*

  VI. Slaves could have no property but by the sufferance of their master, for whom they acquired everything, and with whom they could form no engagements which could be binding on him.

  The following chapter will show how far American legislation is in advance of that of the Romans, in that it makes it a penal offence on the part of the master to permit his slave to hold property, and a crime on the part of the slave to be so permitted. For the present purpose, we give an extract from the Civil Code of Louisiana, as quoted by Judge Stroud:—


  A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry and his labour; he can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything but what must belong to his master. [Civil Code, Article 35. Stroud, p. 22.]

  According to Judge Ruffin, a slave is “one doomed in his own person, and his posterity, to live without knowledge, and without the capacity to make anything his own, and to toil that another may reap the fruits.” [Wheeler's Law of Slavery, p. 246. State v. Mann.]

  With reference to the binding power of engagements between master and slave, the following decisions from the United States Digest are in point (7, p. 449):—

  All the acquisitions of the slave in possession are the property of his master,

  Gist v. Toohey, 2 Rich. 424.

  notwithstanding the promise of his master that the slave shall have certain of them.

  A slave paid money which he had earned over and above his wages, for


  the purchase of his children, into the hands of B, and B purchased such children with the money. Held that the master of such slave was entitled to recover the money of B.

  VII. The master might transfer his rights by either sale or gift, or might bequeath them by will.

  Slaves shall be deemed, sold, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law, to be chattelspersonal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever. [Law of S. Carolina. Cobb's Digest, 971.]

  VIII. A master selling, giving, or bequeathing a slave, sometimes made it a provision that he should never be carried abroad, or that he should be manumitted on a fixed day; or that, on the other hand, he should never be emancipated, or that he should be kept in chains for life.

  We hardly think that a provision that a slave should never be emancipated, or that he should be kept in chains for life, would be sustained. A provision that the slave should not be carried out of the State, or sold, and that on the happening of either event he should be free, has been sustained. [Williams v. Ash, 1 How, U. S. Rep. 1. 5 U. S. Dig. 792, s. 5.]

  The remainder of Blair's account of Roman slavery is devoted rather to the practices of masters than the state of the law itself. Surely the writer is not called upon to exhibit in the society of enlightened, republican and Christian America, in the nineteenth century, a parallel to the atrocities committed in pagan Rome, under the sceptre of the persecuting Cæsars, when the amphitheatre was the favourite resort of the most refined of her citizens, as well as the great “school of morals” for the multitude. A few references only will show, as far as we desire


to show, how much safer it is now to trust man with absolute power over his fellow, than it was then.

  IX. While slaves turned the handmill they were generally chained, and had a broad wooden collar, to prevent them from eating the grain. The FURCA, which in later language means a gibbet, was, in older dialect, used to denote a wooden fork or collar, which was made to bear upon their shoulders, or around their necks, as a mark of disgrace, as much as an uneasy burden.

  The reader has already seen in Chapter V., that this instrument of degradation has been in use in our own day, in certain of the slave States, under the express sanction and protection of statute laws; although the material is different, and the construction doubtless improved by modern ingenuity.

  X. Fetters and chains were much used for punishment or restraint, and were, in some instances, worn by slaves during life, through the sole authority of the master. Porters at the gates of the rich were generally chained. Field-labourers worked for the most part in irons posterior to the first ages of the republic.

  The legislature of South Carolina specially sanctions the same practices, by excepting them in the “protective enactment,” which inflicts the penalty of one hundred pounds “in case any person shall wilfully cut out the tongue,” &c., of a slave, “or shall inflict any other cruel punishment other than by whipping or beating with a horse-whip, cowskin, switch, or small stick, or by putting irons on, or confining or imprisoning such slave.”

  XI. Some persons made it their business to catch runaway slaves.

  That such a profession, constituted by the highest legislative authority in the nation, and rendered respectable by the commendation expressed or implied of statesmen and divines, and of newspapers political and religious, exists in our midst, especially in the free States, is a fact which is, day by day, making itself too apparent to need testimony. The matter seems, however, to be managed in a more perfectly open and business-like manner in the State of Alabama than elsewhere. Mr. Jay cites the following advertisement from the Sumpter County (Ala.) Whig:


  The undersigned having bought the entire pack of Negro Dogs (of the Hay and Allen Stock), he now proposes to catch runaway negroes. His charges will be Three Dollars per day for hunting, and Fifteen Dollars for catching a runaway. He resides three and one-half miles north of Livingston, near the lower Jones Bluff-road.

WILLIAM GAMBEL. Nov. 6, 1845. 6m.


  The following is copied, verbatim et literatim, from the Dadeville (Ala.) Banner, of November, 1852. The Dadeville Banner is “devoted to politics, literature, education, agriculture, &c.”


  The undersigned having an excellent pack of Hounds, for trailing and catching runaway slaves, informs the public that his prices in future will be as follows for such services:—


For each day employed in hunting or trailing 2.50
For catching each slave 10.00
For going over ten miles and catching slaves 20.00

  If sent for, the above prices will be exacted in cash. The subscriber resides one mile and a half south of Dadeville, Ala.

B. BLACK. Dadeville, Sept. 1, 1852. 1tf.

  XII. The runaway, when taken, was severely punished by authority of the master, or by the judge at his desire; sometimes with crucifixion, amputation of a foot, or by being sent to fight as a gladiator with wild beasts; but most frequently by being branded on the brow with letters indicative of his crime.

  That severe punishment would be the lot of the recaptured runaway, every one would suppose, from the “absolute power” of the master to inflict it. That it is inflicted in many cases, it is equally easy and needless to prove. The peculiar forms of punishment mentioned above are now very much out of vogue, but the following advertisement by Mr. Micajah Ricks, in the Raleigh (N. C.) Standard of July 18th, 1838, shows that something of classic taste in torture still lingers in our degenerate days.

  Run away, a negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off, I burnt her with a hot iron, on the left side of her face. I tried to make the letter M.

  It is charming to notice the naïf betrayal of literary pride on the part of Mr. Ricks. He did not wish that letter M to be taken as a specimen of what he could do in the way of writing. The creature would not hold still, and he fears the M may be illegible.

  The above is only one of a long list of advertisements of maimed, cropped, and branded negroes, in the book of Mr. Weld, entitled American Slavery as It is, p. 77.

  XIII. Cruel masters sometimes hired torturers by profession, or had such persons in their establishments, to assist them in punishing their slaves. The noses and ears, and teeth of slaves, were often in danger from an enraged owner; and sometimes the eyes of a great offender were put out. Crucifixion was very frequently made the fate of a wretched slave for a trifling misconduct, or from mere caprice.

  For justification of such practices as these, we refer again to


that horrible list of maimed and mutilated men, advertised by slaveholders themselves, in Weld's American Slavery as It is, p. 77. We recall the reader's attention to the evidence of the monster Kephart, given in Part I. As to crucifixion, we presume that there are wretches whose religious scruples would deter them from this particular form of torture, who would not hesitate to inflict equal cruelties by other means; as the Greek pirate, during a massacre in the season of Lent, was conscience-striken at having tasted a drop of blood. We presume?—Let any one but read again, if he can, the sickening details of that twelve hours' torture of Souther's slave, and say how much more merciful is American slavery than Roman.

  The last item in Blair's description of Roman slavery is the following:—

  By a decree passed by the Senate, if a master was murdered when his slaves might possibly have aided him, all his household within reach were held as implicated, and deserving of death; and Tacitus relates an instance in which a family of four hundred were all executed.

  To this alone, of all the atrocities of the slavery of old heathen Rome, do we fail to find a parallel in the slavery of the United States of America.

  There are other respects, in which American legislation has reached a refinement in tyranny of which the despots of those early days never conceived. The following is the language of Gibbon:—

  Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was not denied to the Roman slave; and if he had any opportunity of rendering himself either useful or agreeable, he might very naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom. * * * Without destroying the distinction of ranks, a distant prospect of freedom and honours was presented even to those whom pride and prejudice almost disdained to number among the human species.*

  The youths of promising genius were instructed in the arts and sciences, and their price was ascertained by the degree of their skill and talents. Almost every profession, either liberal or mechanical, might be found in the household of an opulent senator.*

  The following chapter will show how “the best comfort” which Gibbon knew for human adversity is taken away from the American slave; how he is denied the commonest privileges of education and mental improvement, and how the whole tendency of the unhappy system, under which he is in bondage, is to take from him the consolations of religion itself, and to degrade him from our common humanity, and common brotherhood with the Son of God.


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



Judgment is turned away backward,
And Justice standeth afar off;
For Truth is fallen in the street,
And Equity cannot enter.
Yea, Truth faileth;
ISAIAH lix. 14, 15.

  THERE is one very remarkable class of laws yet to be considered.

  So full of cruelty and of unmerciful severity is the slave-code—such an atrocity is the institution of which it is the legal definition—that there are multitudes of individuals too generous and too just to be willing to go to the full extent of its restrictions and deprivations.

  A generous man, instead of regarding the poor slave as a piece of property, dead, and void of rights, is tempted to regard him rather as a helpless younger brother, or as a defenceless child, and to extend to him, by his own good right arm, that protection and those rights which the law denies him. A religious man, who, by the theory of his belief, regards all men as brothers, and considers his Christian slave, with himself, as a member of Jesus Christ—as of one body, one spirit, and called in one hope of his calling—cannot willingly see him “doomed to live without knowledge,” without the power of reading the written Word, and to raise up his children after him in the same darkness.

  Hence, if left to itself, individual humanity would, in many cases, practically abrogate the slave-code. Individual humanity would teach the slave to read and write, would build school-houses for his children, and would, in very, very many cases, enfranchise him.

  The result of all this has been foreseen. It has been foreseen that the result of education would be general intelligence; that the result of intelligence would be a knowledge of personal


rights; and that an inquiry into the doctrine of personal rights would be fatal to the system. It has been foreseen, also, that the example of disinterestedness and generosity, in emancipation, might carry with it a generous contagion, until it should become universal; that the example of educated and emancipated slaves would prove a dangerous excitement to those still in bondage.

  For this reason, the American slave-code, which, as we have already seen, embraces, substantially, all the barbarities of that of ancient Rome, has added to it a set of laws more cruel than any which ancient and heathen Rome ever knew—laws designed to shut against the slave his last refuge—the humanity of his master. The master, in ancient Rome, might give his slave whatever advantages of education he chose, or at any time emancipate him, and the State did not interfere to prevent.*

  But in America the laws, throughout all the slave States, most rigorously forbid, in the first place, the education of the slave. We do not profess to give all these laws, but a few striking specimens may be presented. Our authority is Judge Stroud's “Sketch of the Laws of Slavery.”

  The legislature of South Carolina, in 1740, enounced the following preamble:

  [Stroud's Sketch, p. 88.]

  “Whereas, the having of slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences;” and enacted that the crime of teaching a slave to write, or of employing a slave as a scribe, should be punished by a fine of one hundred pounds, current money. If the reader will turn now to the infamous “protective” statute, enacted by the same legislature, in the same year, he will find that the same penalty has been appointed for the cutting out of the tongue, putting out of the eye, cruel scalding,&c., of any slave, as for the offence of teaching him to write! That is to say, that to teach him to write, and to put out his eyes, are to be regarded as equally reprehensible.

  That there might be no doubt of the “great and fundamental policy” of the State, and that there might be full security against the “great inconveniences” of “having of slaves taught to write,” it was enacted, in 1800, “That assemblies of slaves, free negroes,&c., * * * * * * * for the purpose of mental instruction, in a confined or secret place,&c.&c., is [are] declared to be an unlawful meeting;”


and the officers are required to enter such confined places, and disperse the “unlawful assemblage,” inflicting, at their discretion, “such corporal punishment, not exceeding twenty lashes, upon such slaves, free negroes,&c., as they may judge necessary for deterring them from the like unlawful assemblage in future.” [Stroud's Sketch, p. 89. 2 Brevard's Digest, pp. 254-5.]

  The statute-book of Virginia is adorned with a law similar to the one last quoted. [Stroud, pp. 88, 89.]

  The offence of teaching a slave to write was early punished, in Georgia as in South Carolina, by a pecuniary fine. But the city of Savannah seems to have found this penalty insufficient to protect it from “great inconveniences,” and we learn, by a quotation in the work of Judge Stroud, from a number of The Portfolio, that “the city has passed an ordinance, [Stroud's Sketch, pp. 89, 90.] by which any person that teaches any person of colour, slave or free, to read or write, or causes such person to be so taught, is subjected to a fine of thirty dollars for each offence; and every person of colour who shall keep a school, to teach reading or writing, is subject to a fine of thirty dollars, or to be imprisoned ten days, and whipped thirty-nine lashes.”

  Secondly. In regard to religious privileges:—

  The State of Georgia has enacted a law, “to protect religious societies in the exercise of their religious duties.” This law, after appointing rigorous penalties for the offence of interrupting or disturbing a congregation of white persons, concludes in the following words:—

  No congregation or company of negroes, shall, under pretence of divine worship, assemble themselves, contrary to the Act regulating patrols. [Stroud, p. 92. Prince's Digest, p. 342.]

  “The Act regulating patrols,” as quoted by the editor of Prince's Digest, empowers every justice of the peace to disperse ANY assembly or meeting of slaves which may disturb the peace,&c., of His Majesty's subjects, and permits that every slave found at such a meeting shall “immediately be corrected, WITHOUT TRIAL, by receiving on the bare back twenty-five stripes with a whip, switch, or cow-skin.” [Stroud, p. 93. Prince's Digest, p. 447.]

  The history of legislation in South Carolina is significant. An Act was passed in 1800, containing the following section:—

  [Stroud, p. 93. 2 Brevard's Digest, 254, 255.]

  It shall not be lawful for any number of slaves, free negroes, mulattoes, or mestizoes, even in company with white persons, to meet together and assemble for the purpose of mental instruction or religious worship, either before the rising of the sun, or after the going down of the same. And all magistrates, sheriffs, militia officers&c.,&c., are hereby invested with power, &c., for dispersing such assemblies,&c.


  The law just quoted seems somehow to have had a prejudicial effect upon the religious interests of the “slaves, free negroes,” &c., specified in it; for, three years afterwards, on the petition of certain religious societies, a “protective Act,” was passed, which should secure them this great religious privilege; to wit, that it should be unlawful, before nine o'clock, “to break into a place of meeting, wherein shall be assembled the members of any religious society of this State, provided a majority of them shall be white persons, or otherwise to disturb their devotion, unless such person shall have first obtained * * * a warrant,&c.”

  Thirdly. It appears that many masters, who are disposed to treat their slaves generously, have allowed them to accumulate property, to raise domestic animals for their own use, and, in the case of intelligent servants, to go at large, to hire their own time, and to trade upon their own account. Upon all these practices the law comes down with unmerciful severity. A penalty is inflicted on the owner, but, with a rigour quite accordant with the tenor of slave-law, the offence is considered, in law, as that of the slave, rather than that of the master; so that, if the master is generous enough not to regard the penalty which is imposed upon himself, he may be restrained by the fear of bringing a greater evil upon his dependant. These laws are, in some cases, so constructed as to make it for the interest of the lowest and most brutal part of society that they be enforced, by offering half the profits to the informer. We give the following, as specimens of slave legislation on this subject:—

  The law of South Carolina.

  It shall not be lawful for any slave to buy, sell, trade,&c., for any goods, &c., without a license from the owner,&c.; nor shall any slave be permitted to keep any boat, periauger,* or canoe, or raise and breed, for the benefit of such slave, any horses, mares, cattle, sheep, or hogs, under pain of forfeiting all the goods, &c., and all the boats, periaugers, or canoes, horses, mares, cattle, sheep, or hogs. [Stroud, pp. 46, 47. James' Digest, 385, 386, Act of 1740.] And it shall be lawful for any person whatsoever to seize and take away from any slave all such goods, &c., boats, &c., &c., and to deliver the same into the hands of any justice of the peace, nearest to the place where the seizure shall be made; and no doubt the other, and such justice shall take the oath of the person making such seizure concerning the manner thereof; and if the said justice shall be satisfied that such seizure has been made according to law, he shall pronounce and declare the goods so seized to be forfeited, and order the same to be sold at public outcry, one half of the money arising from such sale to go to the State, and the other half to him or them that sue for the same.


  The laws in many other States are similar to the above; but the State of Georgia has an additional provision [2 Cobbs, Sig. 284.], against permitting the slave to hire himself to another for his own benefit; a penalty of thirty dollars is imposed for every weekly offence on the part of the master, unless the labour be done on his own premises. Savannah, Augusta, and Sunbury, are places excepted.

  In Virginia, “if the master shall permit his slave to hire himself out,” the slave is to be apprehended,&c. [Stroud, p 47.], and the master to be fined.

  In an early Act of the Legislature of the orthodox and Presbyterian State of North Carolina, it is gratifying to see how the judicious course of public policy is made to subserve the interests of Christian charity—how, in a single ingenious sentence, provision is made for punishing the offender against society, rewarding the patriotic informer, and feeding the poor and destitute:—

  All horses, cattle, hogs, or sheep that, one month after the passing of this Act, shall belong to any slave, or be of any slave's mark, in this State, shall be seized and sold by the county wardens, and by them applied, the one half to the support of the poor of the county, and the other half to the informer. [Stroud's Sketch, 47.]

  In Mississippi, a fine of fifty dollars is imposed upon the master who permits his slave to cultivate cotton for his own use; or who licences his slave to go at large and trade as a freeman; or who is convicted of permitting his slave to keep “stock of any description.” [Stroud, p. 48.]

  To show how the above law has been interpreted by the highest judicial tribunal of the sovereign State of Mississippi, we repeat here a portion of a decision of Chief Justice Sharkey, which we have elsewhere given more in full.

  Independent of the principles laid down in adjudicated cases, our statute-law prohibits slaves from owning certain kinds of property; and it may be inferred that the legislature supposed they were extending the Act as far as it could be necessary to exclude them from owning any property, as the prohibition includes that kind of property which they would most likely be permitted to own without interruption, to wit: hogs, horses, cattle, &c. They cannot be prohibited from holding such property, in consequence of its being of a dangerous or offensive character, but because it was deemed impolitic for them to hold property of any description.

  It was asserted, at the beginning of this head, that the permission of the master to a slave to hire his own time is, by law, considered the offence of the slave; the slave being subject to


prosecution therefore, not the master. This is evident from the tenor of some of the laws quoted and alluded to above. It will be still further illustrated by the following decisions of the Courts of North Carolina. They are copied from the Supplement to the U.S. Digest, vol. ii. p. 798:—

  139. An indictment charging that a certain negro did hire her own time [The State v. Clarissa, 5 Iredell,221.], contrary to the form of the statute,&c., is defective, and must be quashed, because it was omitted to be charged that she was permitted by her master to go at large, which is one essential part of the offence.

  140. Under the first clause of the thirty-first section of the 111th chapter of the Revised Statutes, prohibiting masters from hiring to slaves their own time, the master is not indictable; he is only subject to a penalty of forty dollars. Nor is the master indictable under the second clause of that section; the process being against the slave, not against the master.—Ib.

  142. To constitute the offence under section 32 (Rev. Stat. c. xi. § 32) it is not necessary that the slave should have hired his time; it is sufficient if the master permits him to go at large as a freeman.

  This is maintaining the ground that “the master can do no wrong” with great consistency and thoroughness. But it is in perfect keeping, both in form and spirit, with the whole course of slave-law, which always upholds the supremacy of the master, and always depresses the slave.

  Fourthly. Stringent laws against emancipation exist in nearly all the slave States.

  [Stroud, 147. Prince's Dig. 456. James' Dig. 98. Toulmin's Dig. 632. Miss. Rev. Code, 386.]

  In four of the States—South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi—emancipation cannot be effected, except by a special act of the legislature of the State.

  In Georgia, the offence of setting free “any slave, or slaves, in any other manner and form than the one prescribed,” was punishable, according to the law of 1801, by the forfeiture of two hundred dollars, to be recovered by action or indictment; the slaves in question still remaining, “to all intents and purposes, as much in a state of slavery as before they were manumitted.”

  Believers in human progress will be interested to know that since the law of 1801 there has been a reform introduced into this part of the legislation of the republic of Georgia. In 1818 a new law was passed, which, as will be seen, contains a grand remedy for the abuses of the old. In this it is provided, with endless variety of specifications and synonyms, as if to “let suspicion double-lock the door” against any possible evasion, that, “All and every will, testament, and deed, whether by way


of trust or otherwise, contract, or agreement, or stipulation, or other instrument in writing or by parole, made and executed for the purpose of effecting, or endeavouring to effect, the manumission of any slave or slaves, either directly * * * or indirectly, or virtually,&c.,&c., shall be, and the same are hereby declared to be, utterly null and void.” And the guilty author of the outrage against the peace of the State, contemplated in such deed, &c., &c., “and all and every person or persons concerned in giving or attempting to give effect thereto * * * in any way or manner whatsoever, shall be severally liable to a penalty not exceeding one thousand dollars.”

  It would be quite anomalous in slave-law, and contrary to the “great and fundamental policy” of slave States, if the negroes who, not having the fear of God before their eyes, but being instigated by the devil, should be guilty of being thus manumitted, were suffered to go unpunished; accordingly, the law very properly and judiciously provides [Stroud's Sketch, pp. 147-8. Prince's Dig. 466.] that “each and every slave or slaves in whose behalf such will or testament, &c., &c., shall have been made, shall be liable to be arrested by warrant, &c.; and, being thereof convicted,&c., shall be liable to be sold as a slave or slaves by public outcry; and the proceeds of such slaves shall be appropriated, &c., &c.”

  Judge Stroud gives the following account of the law of Mississippi:—

  The emancipation must be by an instrument in writing, a last will or deed, &c., under seal attested by at least two credible witnesses, or acknowledged in the court of the county or corporation where the emancipator resides [Stroud's Sketch, p. 149. Miss. Rev. Code, p. 385-6 (Act June 18, 1822).]; proof satisfactory to the General Assembly must be adduced that the slave has done some meritorious act for the benefit of his master, or rendered some distinguished service to the State; all which circumstances are but prerequisites, and are of no efficacy until a special Act of Assembly sanctions the emancipation; to which may be added, as has been already stated, a saving of the rights of creditors, and the protection of the widow's thirds.

  The same pre-requisite of “meritorious services, to be adjudged of and allowed by the county court,” is exacted by an Act of the General Assembly of North Carolina; and all slaves emancipated contrary to the provisions of this Act are to be committed to the jail of the county, and at the next court held for that county are to be sold to the highest bidder.

  But the law of North Carolina does not refuse opportunity for repentance, even after the crime has been proved: accordingly—


  The sheriff is directed [Stroud's Sketch, 148. Haywood's Manual, 525, 526, 529, 537.], five days before the time for the sale of the emancipated negro, to give notice, in writing, to the person by whom the emancipation was made, to the end—

  and with the hope that, smitten by remorse of conscience, and brought to a sense of his guilt before God and man—

  such person may, if he thinks proper, renew his claim to the negro so emancipated by him; on failure to do which, the sale is to be made by the sheriff, and one-fifth part of the net proceeds is to become the property of the freeholder by whom the apprehension was made, and the remaining four-fifths are to be paid into the public treasury.

  It is proper to add that we have given examples of the laws of States whose legislation on this subject has been most severe. [Stroud, pp. 148-154.] The laws of Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, and Louisiana, are much less stringent.

  A Striking case, which shows how inexorably the law contends with the kind designs of the master, is on record in the reports of legal decisions in the State of Mississippi. The circumstances of the case have been thus briefly stated in the New York Evening Post, edited by Mr. William Cullen Bryant. They are a romance of themselves.

  A man of the name of Elisha Brazealle, a planter in Jefferson County, Mississippi, was attacked with a loathsome disease. During his illness he was faithfully nursed by a mulatto slave, to whose assiduous attentions he felt that he owed his life. He was duly impressed by her devotion, and soon after his recovery took her to Ohio, and had her educated. She was very intelligent, and improved her advantages so rapidly that when he visited her again he determined to marry her. He executed a deed for her emancipation, and had it recorded both in the States of Ohio and Mississippi, and made her his wife.

  Mr. Brazealle returned with her to Mississippi, and in process of time had a son. After a few years he sickened and died, leaving a will, in which, after reciting the deed of emancipation, he declared his intention to ratify it, and devised all his property to this lad, acknowledging him in the will to be such.

  Some poor and distant relations in North Carolina, whom he did not know, and for whom he did not care, hearing of his death, came on to Mississippi, and claimed the property thus devised. They instituted a suit for its recovery, and the case (it is reported in Howard's Mississippi Reports, vol. ii.,.p. 837) came before Judge Sharkey, our new consul at Havana. He decided it, and in that decision declared the act of emancipation an offence against morality, and pernicious and detestable as an example. He set aside the will; gave the property of Brazealle to his distant relations, condemned Brazealle's son, and his wife, that son's mother, again to bondage, and made them the slaves of these North Carolina kinsmen, as part of the assets of the estate.

  Chief Justice Sharkey, after narrating the circumstances of


the case, declares the validity of the deed of emancipation to be the main question in the controversy. He then argues that, although according to principles of national comity “contracts are to be construed according to the laws of the country or State where they are made,” yet these principles are not to be followed when they lead to conclusions in conflict with “the great and fundamental policy of the State.” What this “great and fundamental policy” is, in Mississippi, may be gathered from the remainder of the decision, which we give in full.

  Let us apply these principles to the deed of emancipation. To give it validity would be, in the first place, a violation of the declared policy, and contrary to a positive law of the State.

  The policy of a State is indicated by the general course of legislation on a given subject; and we find that free negroes are deemed offensive, because they are not permitted to emigrate to or remain in the State. They are allowed few privileges, and subject to heavy penalties for offences. They are required to leave the State within thirty days after notice, and in the meantime give security for good behaviour; and those of them who can lawfully remain must register and carry with them their certificates, or they may be committed to jail. It would also violate a positive law, passed by the legislature, expressly to maintain this settled policy, and to prevent emancipation. No owner can emancipate his slave, but by deed or will properly attested, or acknowledged in Court, and proof to the legislature that such slave has performed some meritorious act for the benefit of the master, or some distinguished service for the State; and the deed or will can have no validity until ratified by special act of legislature. It is believed that this law and policy are too essentially important to the interests of our citizens to permit them to be evaded.

  The state of the case shows conclusively that the contract had its origin in an offence against morality, pernicious and detestable as an example. But, above all, it seems to have been planned and executed with a fixed design to evade the rigour of the laws of the State. The acts of the party in going to Ohio with the slaves, and there executing the deed, and his immediate return with them to this State, point with unerring certainty to his purpose and object. The laws of this State cannot be thus defrauded of their operation by one of our own citizens. If we could have any doubts about the principle, the case reported in 1 Randolph, 15, would remove them.

  As we think the validity of the deed must depend upon the laws of this State, it becomes unnecessary to inquire whether it could have any force by the laws of Ohio. If it were even valid there, it can have no force here. The consequence is, that the negroes, John Monroe and his mother, are still slaves, and a part of the estate of Elisha Brazealle. They have not acquired a right to their freedom under the will; for, even if the clause in the will were sufficient for that purpose, their emancipation has not been consummated by an act of the legislature.

  John Monroe, being a slave, cannot take the property as devisee; and I apprehend it is equally clear that it cannot be held in trust for him. 4 Desans. Rep. 266. Independent of the principles laid down in adjudicated cases, our statute law prohibits slaves from owning certain kinds of property; and it may be


inferred that the legislature supposed they were extending the act as far as it could be necessary to exclude them from owning any property, as the prohibition includes that kind of property which they would most likely be permitted to own without interruption, to wit, hogs, horses, cattle,&c. They cannot be prohibited from holding such property in consequence of its being of a dangerous or offensive character, but because it was deemed impolitic for them to hold property of any description. It follows, therefore, that his heirs are entitled to the property.

  As the deed was void, and the devisee could not take under the will, the heirs might, perhaps, have had a remedy at law; but, as an account must be taken for the rents and profits, and for the final settlement of the estate, I see no good reason why they should be sent back to law. The remedy is, doubtless, more full and complete than it could be at law. The decree of the Chancellor overruling the demurrer must be affirmed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings.

  The Chief Justice Sharkey who pronounced this decision is stated by the Evening Post to have been a principal agent in the passage of the severe law under which this horrible inhumanity was perpetrated.

  Nothing more forcibly shows the absolute despotism of the slave-law over all the kindest feelings and intentions of the master, and the determination of courts to carry these severities to their full length, than this cruel deed, which precipitated a young man who had been educated to consider himself free, and his mother, an educated woman, back into the bottomless abyss of slavery. Had this case been chosen for the theme of a novel, or a tragedy, the world would have cried out upon it as a plot of monstrous improbability. As it stands in the law-book, it is only a specimen of that awful kind of truth, stranger than fiction, which is all the time evolving, in one form or another, from the workings of this anomalous system.

  This view of the subject is a very important one, and ought to be earnestly and gravely pondered by those in foreign countries, who are too apt to fasten their condemnation and opprobrium rather on the person of the slave-holder than on the horrors of the legal system. In some slave States it seems as if there was very little that the benevolent owner could do which should permanently benefit his slave, unless he should seek to alter the laws. Here it is that the highest obligation of the Southern Christian lies. Nor will the world or God hold them guiltless who, with the elective franchise in their hands, and the full power to speak, write, and discuss, suffer this monstrous system of legalised cruelty to go on from age to age.


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



  HAVING compared the American law with the Roman, we will now compare it with one other code of slave-laws, to wit, the Hebrew.

  This comparison is the more important, because American slavery has been defended on the ground of God's permitting Hebrew slavery.

  The inquiry now arises, What kind of slavery was it that was permitted among the Hebrews? for in different nations very different systems have been called by the general name of slavery.

  That the patriarchal state of servitude which existed in the time of Abraham was a very different thing from American slavery, a few graphic incidents in the Scripture narrative show; for we read that when the angels came to visit Abraham, although he had three hundred servants born in his house, it is said that Abraham hasted, and took a calf, and killed it, and gave it to a young man to dress; and that he told Sarah to take three measures of meal and knead it into cakes; and that when all was done, he himself set it before his guests.

  From various other incidents which appear in the patriarchal narrative, it would seem that these servants bore more the relation of the members of a Scotch clan to their feudal lord than that of an American slave to his master; thus it seems that if Abraham had died without children his head servant would have been his heir.—Gen. xv. 3.

  Of what species, then, was the slavery which God permitted among the Hebrews? By what laws was it regulated?

  In the New Testament the whole Hebrew system of administration is spoken of as a relatively imperfect one, and as superseded by the Christian dispensation.—Heb. viii. 13.

  We are taught thus to regard the Hebrew system as an


educational system, by which a debased, half-civilised race, which had been degraded by slavery in its worst form among the Egyptians, was gradually elevated to refinement and humanity.

  As they went from the land of Egypt, it would appear that the most disgusting personal habits, the most unheard-of and unnatural impurities, prevailed among them; so that it was necessary to make laws with relations to things of which Christianity has banished the very name from the earth.

  Beside all this, polygamy, war, and slavery, were the universal custom of nations.

  It is represented in the New Testament that God, in educating this people, proceeded in the same gradual manner in which a wise father would proceed with a family of children.

  He selected a few of the most vital points of evil practice, and forbade them by positive statute, under rigorous penalties.

  The worship of any other god was, by the Jewish law, constituted high treason, and rigorously punished with death.

  As the knowledge of the true God and religious instruction could not then, as now, be afforded by printing and books, one day in the week had to be set apart for preserving in the minds of the people a sense of His being, and their obligations to Him. The devoting of this day to any other purpose was also punished with death; and the reason is obvious, that its sacredness was the principal means relied on for preserving the allegiance of the nation to their king and God, and its desecration, of course, led directly to high treason against the head of the State.

  With regard to many other practices which prevailed among the Jews, as among other heathen nations, we find the Divine Being taking the same course which wise human legislators have taken.

  When Lycurgus wished to banish money and its attendant luxuries from Sparta, he did not forbid it by direct statute-law, but he instituted a currency so clumsy and uncomfortable that, as we are informed by Rollin, it took a cart and pair of oxen to carry home the price of a very moderate estate.

  In the same manner the Divine Being surrounded the customs of polygamy, war, blood-revenge, and slavery, with regulations which gradually and certainly tended to abolish them entirely.

  No one would pretend that the laws which God established in relation to polygamy, cities of refuge, &c., have any application to Christian nations now.

  The following summary of some of these laws of the Mosaic code is given by Dr. C. E. Stowe, Professor of Biblical Literature in Andover Theological Seminary:—



  1. It commanded a Hebrew, even though a married man, with wife and children living, to take the childless widow of a deceased brother, and beget children with her.—Deut. xxv. 5-10.

  2. The Hebrews, under certain restrictions, were allowed to make concubines, or wives for a limited time, of women taken in war.—Deut. xxi. 10-19.

  3. A Hebrew who already had a wife was allowed to take another also, provided he still continued his intercourse with the first as her husband, and treated her kindly and affectionately.—Exodus xxi. 9-11.

  4. By the Mosaic law, the nearest relative of a murdered Hebrew could pursue and slay the murderer, unless he could escape to the city of refuge; and the same permission was given in case of accidental homicide.—Num. xxxv. 9-39.

  5. The Israelites were commanded to exterminate the Canaanites, men, women, and children.—Deut. ix. 12; xx. 16-18.

Any one, or all, of the above practices, can be justified by the Mosaic Law, as well as the practice of slaveholding.

  Each of these laws, although in its time it was an ameliorating law, designed to take the place of some barbarous abuse, and to be a connecting link by which some higher state of society might be introduced, belongs confessedly to that system which St. Paul says made nothing perfect. They are a part of the commandment which he says was annulled for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof, and which, in the time which he wrote, was waxing old, and ready to vanish away. And Christ himself says, with regard to certain permissions of this system, that they were given on account of the “hardness of their hearts”—because the attempt to enforce a more stringent system at that time, owing to human depravity, would have only produced greater abuses.

  The following view of the Hebrew laws of slavery is compiled from Barnes' work on slavery, and from Professor Stowe's manuscript lectures.

  The legislation commenced by making the great and common source of slavery—kidnapping—a capital crime.

  The enactment is as follows: “He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”—Exodus xxi. 16.

  The sources from which slaves were to be obtained were thus reduced to two: first, the voluntary sale of an individual by himself, which certainly does not come under the designation of involuntary servitude; second, the appropriation of captives taken in war, and the buying from the heathen.