Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Written by Herself.
by Harriet Ann Jacobs
nothing at all about Slavery.
They think it is perpetual
bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of
in that word, SLAVERY; if they had, they would never
cease their efforts until
so horrible a system was overthrown."
A WOMAN OF NORTH CAROLINA.
"Rise up, ye women
that are at ease! Hear
my voice, ye careless daughters!
Give ear unto my
ISAIAH xxxii. 9.
EDITED BY L. MARIA CHILD.
PUBLISHED FOR THE AUTHOR.
Entered, according to
Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
L. MARIA CHILD.
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court
of the District of Massachusetts.
I wish I were more competent to the task I have
undertaken. But I trust my readers will excuse deficiencies
in consideration of circumstances. I was born and reared in
Slavery; and I remained in a Slave State twenty-seven
Years. Since I have been at the North, it has been necessary
for me to work diligently for my own support, and the
education of my children. This has not left me much leisure
to make up for the loss of early opportunities to improve
myself; and it has compelled me to write these pages at
irregular intervals, whenever I could snatch
an hour from household duties.
When I first arrived in Philadelphia, Bishop Paine
advised me to publish a sketch of my life, but I
told him I was altogether incompetent to such an
undertaking. Though I have improved my mind
somewhat since that time, I still remain of the same
opinion; but I trust my motives will excuse what
might otherwise seem presumptuous. I have not
written my experiences in order to attract attention
to myself; on the contrary, it would have been more
pleasant to me to have been silent about my own
history. Neither do I care to excite sympathy for my
own sufferings. But I do earnestly desire to arouse
the women of the North a realizing sense of the
condition of two millions of women at the South,
still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most
of them far worse. I want to add my testimony to
that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free
States what Slavery really is. Only by experience
can any one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is
that pit of abominations. May the blessing of God
rest on this imperfect effort in behalf of my
INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITOR.
THE author of the following autobiography is
personally known to me, and her conversation and
manners inspire me with confidence. During the last
seventeen years, she has lived the greater part of
the time with a distinguished family in New York,
and has so deported herself as to be highly esteemed
by them. This fact is sufficient, without further
credentials of her character. I believe those who know
her will not be disposed to doubt her veracity,
though some incidents in her story are more
romantic than fiction.
At her request, I have revised her manuscript; but
such changes as I have made have been mainly for
purposes of condensation and orderly arrangement. I
have not added any thing to the incidents, or changed
the import of her very pertinent remarks. With
trifling exceptions, both the ideas and the language
are her own. I pruned excrescences a little, but
otherwise I had no reason for changing her lively
and dramatic way of telling her own story. The
names of both persons and places are known to me;
but for good reasons I suppress them.
It will naturally excite surprise that a woman reared
in Slavery should be able to write so well. But circumstances will explain this. In the first place,
nature endowed her with quick perceptions. Secondly,
the mistress, with whom she lived till she was twelve
years old, was a kind, considerate friend, who taught
her to read and spell. Thirdly, she was placed in
favorable circumstances after she came to the North;
having frequent intercourse with intelligent persons,
who felt a friendly interest in her welfare, and were
disposed to give her opportunities for self-improvement.
I am well aware that many will accuse me of indecorum
for presenting these pages to the public; for
the experiences of this intelligent and much-injured
woman belong to a class which some call delicate
subjects, and others indelicate. This peculiar phase of
Slavery has generally been kept veiled; but the public
ought to be made acquainted with its monstrous
features, and I willingly take the responsibility of
presenting them with the veil withdrawn. I do this for
the sake of my sisters in bondage, who are suffering
wrongs so foul, that our ears are too delicate to listen
to them. I do it with the hope of arousing conscientious
and reflecting women at the North to a
sense of their duty in the exertion of moral influence
on the question of Slavery, on all possible occasions.
I do it with the hope that every man who
reads this narrative will swear solemnly before God
that, so far as he has power to prevent it, no fugitive
from Slavery shall ever be sent back to suffer in
that loathsome den of corruption and cruelty.
L. MARIA CHILD.
LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL,
SEVEN YEARS CONCEALED.
I WAS born a slave; but I never knew it till six
years of happy childhood had passed away. My father
was a carpenter, and considered so intelligent and
skilful in his trade, that, when buildings out of the
common line were to be erected, he was sent for from
long distances, to be head workman. On condition
of paying his mistress two hundred dollars a year, and
supporting himself, he was allowed to work at his
trade, and manage his own affairs. His strongest
wish was to purchase his children; but, though he
several times offered his hard earnings for that purpose,
he never succeeded. In complexion my parents
were a light shade of brownish yellow, and were
termed mulattoes. They lived together in a comfortable
home; and, though we were all slaves, I was so
fondly shielded that I never dreamed I was a piece of merchandise, trusted to them for safe keeping, and
liable to be demanded of them at any moment. I had
one brother, William, who was two years younger
than myself--a bright, affectionate child. I had also
a great treasure in my maternal grandmother, who
was a remarkable woman in many respects. She was
the daughter of a planter in South Carolina, who, at
his death, left her mother and his three children free,
with money to go to St. Augustine, where they had
relatives. It was during the Revolutionary War; and
they were captured on their passage, carried back, and
sold to different purchasers. Such was the story my
grandmother used to tell me; but I do not remember
all the particulars. She was a little girl when she was
captured and sold to the keeper of a large hotel. I
have often heard her tell how hard she fared during
childhood. But as she grew older she evinced so
much intelligence, and was so faithful, that her master
and mistress could not help seeing it was for their
interest to take care of such a valuable piece of property.
She became an indispensable personage in the
household, officiating in all capacities, from cook and
wet nurse to seamstress. She was much praised for
her cooking; and her nice crackers became so famous
in the neighborhood that many people were desirous
of obtaining them. In consequence of numerous
requests of this kind, she asked permission of her mistress
to bake crackers at night, after all the household
work was done; and she obtained leave to do it, provided
she would clothe herself and her children from
the profits. Upon thee terms, after working hard all
day for her mistress, she began her midnight bakings, assisted by her two oldest children. The business
proved profitable; and each year she laid by a little,
which was saved for a fund to purchase her children.
Her master died, and the property was divided among
his heirs. The widow had her dower in the hotel,
which she continued to keep open. My grandmother
remained in her service as a slave; but her children
were divided among her master's children. As she
had five, Benjamin, the youngest one, was sold, in
order that each heir might have an equal portion of
dollars and cents. There was so little difference in
our ages that he seemed more like my brother than
my uncle. He was a bright, handsome lad, nearly
white; for he inherited the complexion my grandmother
had derived from Anglo-Saxon ancestors.
Though only ten years old, seven hundred and twenty
dollars were paid for him. His sale was a terrible
blow to my grandmother; but she was naturally hopeful,
and she went to work with renewed energy, trusting
in time to be able to purchase some of her children.
She had laid up three hundred dollars, which her
mistress one day begged as a loan, promising to pay
her soon. The reader probably knows that no promise
or writing given to a slave is legally binding; for,
according to Southern laws, a slave, being property,
can hold no property. When my grandmother lent
her hard earnings to her mistress, she trusted solely
to her honor. The honor of a slaveholder to a slave!
To this good grandmother I was indebted for many
comforts. My brother Willie and I often received
portions of the crackers, cakes, and preserves, she
made to sell; and after we ceased to be children we were indebted to her for many more important
Such were the unusually fortunate circumstances
of my early childhood. When I was six years old, my
mother died; and then, for the first time, I learned,
by the talk around me, that I was a slave. My mother's
mistress was the daughter of my grandmother's mistress.
She was the foster sister of my mother; they
were both nourished at my grandmother's breast. In
fact, my mother had been weaned at three months
old, that the babe of the mistress might obtain sufficient
food. They played together as children; and,
when they became women, my mother was a most
faithful servant to her whiter foster sister. On her
death-bed her mistress promised that her children
should never suffer for any thing; and during her
lifetime she kept her word. They all spoke kindly
of my dead mother, who had been a slave merely in
name, but in nature was noble and womanly. I
grieved for her, and my young mind was troubled
with the thought who would now take care of me and
my little brother. I was told that my home was now
to be with her mistress; and I found it a happy one.
No toilsome or disagreeable duties were imposed upon
me. My mistress was so kind to me that I was always
glad to do her bidding, and proud to labor for her as
much as my young years would permit. I would sit
by her side for hours, sewing diligently, with a heart
as free from care as that of any free-born white child.
When she thought I was tired, she would send me out
to run and jump; and away I bounded, to gather
berries or flowers to decorate her room. Those were happy days--too happy to last. The slave child had
no thought for the morrow; but there came that blight,
which too surely waits on every human being born to
be a chattel.
When I was nearly twelve years old, my kind mistress
sickened and died. As I saw the cheek grow
paler, and the eye more glassy, how earnestly I prayed
in my heart that she might live! I loved her; for she
had been almost like a mother to me. My prayers
were not answered. She died, and they buried her
in the little churchyard, where, day after day, my tears
fell upon her grave.
I was sent to spend a week with my grandmother.
I was now old enough to begin to think of the future;
and again and again I asked myself what they would
do with me. I felt sure I should never find another
mistress so kind as the one who was gone. She had
promised my dying mother that her children should
never suffer for any thing; and when I remembered
that, and recalled her many proofs of attachment to
me, I could not help having some hopes that she had
left me free. My friends were almost certain it would
be so. They thought she would be sure to do it, on
account of my mother's love and faithful service.
But, alas! we all know that the memory of a faithful
slave does not avail much to save her children from
the auction block.
After a brief period of suspense, the will of my
mistress was read, and we learned that she had
bequeathed me to her sister's daughter, a child of five
years old. So vanished our hopes. My mistress had
taught me the precepts of God's Word: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." "Whatsoever ye would
that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto
them." But I was her slave, and I suppose she did
not recognize me as her neighbor. I would give much
to blot out from my memory that one great wrong.
As a child, I loved my mistress; and, looking back on
the happy days I spent with her, I try to think with
less bitterness of this act of injustice. While I was
with her, she taught me to read and spell; and for
this privilege, which so rarely falls to the lot of a
slave, I bless her memory.
She possessed but few slaves; and at her death
those were all distributed among her relatives. Five
of them were my grandmother's children, and had
shared the same milk that nourished her mother's
children. Notwithstanding my grandmother's long
and faithful service to her owners, not one of her
children escaped the auction block. These God-breathing
machines are no more, in the sight of their masters,
than the cotton they plant, or the horses they tend.
THE NEW MASTER AND MISTRESS.
DR. FLINT, a physician in the neighborhood, had
married the sister of my mistress, and I was now the
property of their little daughter. It was not without
murmuring that I prepared for my new home; and
what added to my unhappiness, was the fact that my
brother William was purchased by the same family.
My father, by his nature, as well as by the habit of
transacting business as a skilful mechanic, had more
of the feelings of a freeman than is common among
slaves. My brother was a spirited boy; and being
brought up under such influences, he early detested
the name of master and mistress. One day, when his
father and his mistress both happened to call him at
the same time, he hesitated between the two; being
perplexed to know which had the strongest claim upon
his obedience. He finally concluded to go to his mistress.
When my father reproved him for it, he said,
"You both called me, and I didn't know which I
ought to go to first."
"You are my child," replied our father, "and when
I call you, you should come immediately, if you have
to pass through fire and water."
Poor Willie! He was now to learn his first lesson
of obedience to a master. Grandmother tried to cheer
us with hopeful words, and they found an echo in the
credulous hearts of youth.
When we entered our new home we encountered cold looks, cold words, and cold treatment. We were
glad when the night came. On my narrow bed I
moaned and wept, I felt so desolate and alone.
I had been there nearly a year, when a dear little
friend of mine was buried. I heard her mother sob,
as the clods fell on the coffin of her only child, and I
turned away from the grave, feeling thankful that I
still had something left to love. I met my grandmother,
who said, "Come with me, Linda;" and from
her tone I knew that something sad had happened.
She led me apart from the people, and then said, "My
child, your father is dead." Dead! How could I
believe it? He had died so suddenly I had not
even heard that he was sick. I went home with my
grandmother. My heart rebelled against God, who
had taken from me mother, father, mistress, and
friend. The good grandmother tried to comfort me.
"Who knows the ways of God?" said she. "Perhaps
they have been kindly taken from the evil days to
come." Years afterwards I often thought of this.
She promised to be a mother to her grandchildren, so
far as she might be permitted to do so; and strengthened
by her love, I returned to my master's. I thought
I should be allowed to go to my father's house the next
morning; but I was ordered to go for flowers, that my
mistress's house might be decorated for an evening
party. I spent the day gathering flowers and weaving
them into festoons, while the dead body of my father
was lying within a mile of me. What cared my
owners for that? he was merely a piece of property.
Moreover, they thought he had spoiled his children, by
teaching them to feel that they were human beings. This was blasphemous doctrine for a slave to teach;
presumptuous in him, and dangerous to the masters.
The next day I followed his remains to a humble
grave beside that of my dear mother. There were
those who knew my father's worth, and respected his
My home now seemed more dreary than ever. The
laugh of the little slave-children sounded harsh and
cruel. It was selfish to feel so about the joy of others.
My brother moved about with a very grave face. I
tried to comfort him, by saying, "Take courage,
Willie; brighter days will come by and by."
"You don't know any thing about it, Linda," he replied.
"We shall have to stay here all our days; we
shall never be free."
I argued that we were growing older and stronger,
and that perhaps we might, before long, be allowed to
hire our own time, and then we could earn money to
buy our freedom. William declared this was much
easier to say than to do; moreover, he did not intend
to buy his freedom. We held daily controversies upon
Little attention was paid to the slaves' meals in Dr.
Flint's house. If they could catch a bit of food while
it was going, well and good. I gave myself no trouble
on that score, for on my various errands I passed my
grandmother's house, where there was always something
to spare for me. I was frequently threatened
with punishment if I stopped there; and my grandmother,
to avoid detaining me, often stood at the gate
with something for my breakfast or dinner. I was indebted
to her for all my comforts, spiritual or temporal. It was her labor that supplied my scanty wardrobe. I
have a vivid recollection of the linsey-woolsey dress
given me every winter by Mrs. Flint. How I hated it! It
was one of the badges of slavery.
While my grandmother was thus helping to support
me from her hard earnings, the three hundred dollars
she had lent her mistress were never repaid. When her
mistress died, her son-in-law, Dr. Flint, was appointed
executor. When grandmother applied to him for
payment, he said the estate was insolvent, and the law
prohibited payment. It did not, however, prohibit him
from retaining the silver candelabra, which had been
purchased with that money. I presume they will be
handed down in the family, from generation to
My grandmother's mistress had always promised
her that, at her death, she should be free; and it was
said that in her will she made good the promise. But
when the estate was settled, Dr. Flint told the faithful
old servant that, under existing circumstances, it was
necessary she should be sold.
On the appointed day, the customary advertisement
was posted up, proclaiming that there would be a
"a public sale of negroes, horses, &c." Dr. Flint called to
tell my grandmother that he was unwilling to wound
her feelings by putting her up at auction, and that he
would prefer to dispose of her at private sale. My
grandmother saw through his hypocrisy; she
understood very well that he was ashamed of the job.
She was a very spirited woman, and if he was base
enough to sell her, when her mistress intended she
should be free, she was determined the public should know it. She had for a long time supplied many families
with crackers and preserves; consequently, "Aunt
Marthy," as she was called, was generally known, and
every body who knew her respected her intelligence
and good character. Her long and faithful service in the
family was also well known, and the intention of her
mistress to leave her free. When the day of sale came,
she took her place among the chattels, and at the first
call she sprang upon the auction-block. Many voices
called out, "Shame! Shame! Who is going to sell you,
aunt Marthy? Don't stand there! That is no place for
you." Without saying a word, she quietly awaited her
fate. No one bid for her. At last, a feeble voice said,
"Fifty dollars." It came from a maiden lady, seventy
years old, the sister of my grandmother's deceased
mistress. She had lived forty years under the same roof
with my grandmother; she knew how faithfully she had
served her owners, and how cruelly she had been
defrauded of her rights; and she resolved to protect her.
The auctioneer waited for a higher bid; but her wishes
were respected; no one bid above her. She could
neither read nor write; and when the bill of sale was
made out, she signed it with a cross. But what
consequence was that, when she had a big heart
overflowing with human kindness? She gave the old
servant her freedom.
At that time, my grandmother was just fifty years
old. Laborious years had passed since then; and now
my brother and I were slaves to the man who had
defrauded her of her money, and tried to defraud her
of her freedom. One of my mother's sisters, called
Aunt Nancy, was also a slave in his family. She was a
kind, good aunt to me; and supplied the place of both housekeeper and waiting maid to her
mistress. She was, in fact, at the beginning and end
of every thing.
Mrs. Flint, like many southern women, was totally
deficient in energy. She had not strength to superintend
her household affairs; but her nerves were so
strong, that she could sit in her easy chair and see a
woman whipped, till the blood trickled from every
stroke of the lash. She was a member of the church;
but partaking of the Lord's supper did not seem
to put her in a Christian frame of mind. If dinner
was not served at the exact time on that particular
Sunday, she would station herself in the kitchen, and
wait till it was dished, and then spit in all the kettles
and pans that had been used for cooking. She
did this to prevent the cook and her children from
eking out their meagre fare with the remains of the
gravy and other scrapings. The slaves could get
nothing to eat except what she chose to give them.
Provisions were weighed out by the pound and ounce,
three times a day. I can assure you she gave them
no chance to eat wheat bread from her flour barrel.
She knew how many biscuits a quart of flour would
make, and exactly what size they ought to be.
Dr. Flint was an epicure. The cook never sent a
dinner to his table without fear and trembling; for if
there happened to be a dish not to his liking, he would
either order her to be whipped, or compel her to eat
every mouthful of it in his presence. The poor, hungry
creature might not have objected to eating it; but
she did object to having her master cram it down her
throat till she choked.
They had a pet dog, that was a nuisance in the house. The cook was ordered to make some Indian mush for
him. He refused to eat, and when his head was held
over it, the froth flowed from his mouth into the basin.
He died a few minutes after. When Dr. Flint came
in, he said the mush had not been well cooked, and
that was the reason the animal would not eat it. He
sent for the cook, and compelled her to eat it. He
thought that the woman's stomach was stronger than
the dog's; but her sufferings afterwards proved that he
was mistaken. This poor woman endured many cruelties
from her master and mistress; sometimes she was
locked up, away from her nursing baby, for a whole
day and night.
When I had been in the family a few weeks, one of the
plantation slaves was brought to town, by order of his
master. It was near night when he arrived, and Dr. Flint
ordered him to be taken to the work house, and tied up
to the joist, so that his feet would just escape the ground.
In that situation he was to wait till the doctor had taken
his tea. I shall never forget that night. Never before,
in my life, had I heard hundreds of blows fall, in succession,
on a human being. His piteous groans, and his
"O, pray don't, massa," rang in my ear for months
afterwards. There were many conjectures as to the
cause of this terrible punishment. Some said master
accused him of stealing corn; others said the slave had
quarrelled with his wife, in presence of the overseer, and
had accused his master of being the father of her child.
They were both black, and the child was very fair.
I went into the work house next morning, and saw
the cowhide still wet with blood, and the boards all
covered with gore. The poor man lived, and continued
to quarrel with his wife. A few months afterwards, Dr. Flint handed them both over to a slave-trader.
The guilty man put their value into his
pocket, and had the satisfaction of knowing that they
were out of sight and hearing. When the mother was
delivered into the trader's hands, she said, "You
promised to treat me well." To which he replied,
"You have let your tongue run too far; damn you!"
She had forgotten that it was a crime for a slave to
tell who was the father of her child.
From others than the master persecution also comes
in such cases. I once saw a young slave girl dying
soon after the birth of a child nearly white. In her
agony she cried out, "O Lord, come and take me!"
Her mistress stood by, and mocked at her like an
incarnate fiend. "You suffer, do you?" she exclaimed.
"I am glad of it. You deserve it all, and
The girl's mother said, "The baby is dead, thank
God; and I hope my poor child will soon be in
"Heaven!" retorted the mistress. "There is no
such place for the like of her and her bastard."
The poor mother turned away, sobbing. Her dying
daughter called her, feebly, and as she bent over her,
I heard her say, "Don't grieve so, mother; God knows
all about it; and HE will have mercy upon me."
Her sufferings, afterwards, became so intense, that
her mistress felt unable to stay; but when she left
the room, the scornful smile was still on her lips. Seven
children called her mother. The poor black woman
had but the one child, whose eyes she saw closing in
death, while she thanked God for taking her away
from the greater bitterness of life.
THE SLAVES' NEW YEAR'S DAY.
DR. FLINT owned a fine residence in town, several
farms, and about fifty slaves, besides hiring a number
by the year.
Hiring-day at the south takes place on the 1st of
January. On the 2d, the slaves are expected to go to
their new masters. On a farm, they work until the
corn and cotton are laid. They then have two holidays.
Some masters give them a good dinner under
the trees. This over, they work until Christmas
eve. If no heavy charges are meantime brought
against them, they are given four or five holidays,
whichever the master or overseer may think proper.
Then comes New Year's eve; and they gather together
their little alls, or more properly speaking, their little
nothings, and wait anxiously for the dawning of day.
At the appointed hour the grounds are thronged with
men, women, and children, waiting, like criminals, to
hear their doom pronounced. The slave is sure to
know who is the most humane, or cruel master, within
forty miles of him.
It is easy to find out, on that day, who clothes and
feeds his slaves well; for he is surrounded by a crowd,
begging, "Please, massa, hire me this year. I will
work very hard, massa."
If a slave is unwilling to go with his new master,
he is whipped, or locked up in jail, until he consents
to go, and promises not to run away during the year. Should he chance to change his mind, thinking it
justifiable to violate an extorted promise, woe unto him
if he is caught! The whip is used till the blood flows at
his feet; and his stiffened limbs are put in chains, to
be dragged in the field for days and days!
If he lives until the next year, perhaps the same
man will hire him again, without even giving him an
opportunity of going to the hiring-ground. After those
for hire are disposed of, those for sale are called up.
O, you happy free women, contrast your New
Year's day with that of the poor bond-woman! With
you it is a pleasant season, and the light of the day is
blessed. Friendly wishes meet you every where, and
gifts are showered upon you. Even hearts that have
been estranged from you soften at this season, and
lips that have been silent echo back, "I wish you a
happy New Year." Children bring their little offerings,
and raise their rosy lips for a caress. They are
your own, and no hand but that of death can take
them from you.
But to the slave mother New Year's day comes
laden with peculiar sorrows. She sits on her cold
cabin floor, watching the children who may all be
torn from her the next morning; and often does she
wish that she and they might die before the day dawns.
She may be an ignorant creature, degraded by the
system that has brutalized her from childhood; but
she has a mother's instincts, and is capable of feeling
a mother's agonies.
On one of these sale days, I saw a mother lead seven
children to the auction-block. She knew that some of
them would be taken from her; but they took all. The children were sold to a slave-trader, and their mother
was bought by a man in her own town. Before night
her children were all far away. She begged the trader
to tell her where he intended to take them; this he
refused to do. How could he, when he knew he would
sell them, one by one, wherever he could command the
highest price? I met that mother in the street, and
her wild, haggard face lives to-day in my mind. She
wrung her hands in anguish, and exclaimed, "Gone!
All gone! Why don't God kill me?" I had no
words wherewith to comfort her. Instances of this
kind are of daily, yea, of hourly occurrence.
Slaveholders have a method, peculiar to their institution,
of getting rid of old slaves, whose lives have
been worn out in their service. I knew an old woman,
who for seventy years faithfully served her master.
She had become almost helpless, from hard labor and
disease. Her owners moved to Alabama, and the old
black woman was left to be sold to any body who
would give twenty dollars for her..
THE SLAVE WHO DARED TO FEEL LIKE
TWO years had passed since I entered Dr. Flint's
family, and those years had brought much of the
knowledge that comes from experience, though they
had afforded little opportunity for any other kinds of
My grandmother had, as much as possible, been a
mother to her orphan grandchildren. By perseverance
and unwearied industry, she was now mistress
of a snug little home, surrounded with the necessaries
of life. She would have been happy could her children
have shared them with her. There remained but
three children and two grandchildren, all slaves.
Most earnestly did she strive to make us feel that it
was the will of God: that He had seen fit to place us
under such circumstances; and though it seemed hard,
we ought to pray for contentment.
It was a beautiful faith, coming from a mother who
could not call her children her own. But I, and Benjamin,
her youngest boy, condemned it. We reasoned
that it was much more the will of God that we should
be situated as she was. We longed for a home like
hers. There we always found sweet balsam for our
troubles. She was so loving, so sympathizing! She
always met us with a smile, and listened with patience
to all our sorrows. She spoke so hopefully, that unconsciously the clouds gave place to sunshine. There
was a grand big oven there, too, that baked bread and
nice things for the town, and we knew there was
always a choice bit in store for us.
But, alas! even the charms of the old oven failed to
reconcile us to our hard lot. Benjamin was now a
tall, handsome lad, strongly and gracefully made, and
with a spirit too bold and daring for a slave. My
brother William, now twelve years old, had the same
aversion to the word master that he had when he was
an urchin of seven years. I was his confidant. He
came to me with all his troubles. I remember one
instance in particular. It was on a lovely spring
morning, and when I marked the sunlight dancing
here and there, its beauty seemed to mock my sadness.
For my master, whose restless, craving, vicious nature
roved about day and night, seeking whom to devour,
had just left me, with stinging, scorching words;
words that scathed ear and brain like fire. O, how I
despised him! I thought how glad I should be, if
some day when he walked the earth, it would open
and swallow him up, and disencumber the world of a
When he told me that I was made for his use, made
to obey his command in every thing; that I was nothing
but a slave, whose will must and should surrender
to his, never before had my puny arm felt half so
So deeply was I absorbed in painful reflections afterwards,
that I neither saw nor heard the entrance of
any one, till the voice of William sounded close beside
me. "Linda," said he, "what makes you look so sad? I love you. O, Linda, isn't this a bad world? Every
body seems so cross and unhappy. I wish I had died
when poor father did."
I told him that every body was not cross, or unhappy;
that those who had pleasant homes, and kind
friends, and who were not afraid to love them, were
happy. But we, who were slave-children, without
father or mother, could not expect to be happy. We
must be good; perhaps that would bring us contentment.
"Yes," he said, "I try to be good; but what's the
use? They are all the time troubling me." Then he
proceeded to relate his afternoon's difficulty with
young master Nicholas. It seemed that the brother
of master Nicholas had pleased himself with making
up stories about William. Master Nicholas said he
should be flogged, and he would do it. Whereupon
he went to work; but William fought bravely, and the
young master, finding he was getting the better of him,
undertook to tie his hands behind him. He failed in
that likewise. By dint of kicking and fisting, William
came out of the skirmish none the worse for a few
He continued to discourse on his young master's
meanness; how he whipped the little boys, but was a
perfect coward when a tussle ensued between him and
white boys of his own size. On such occasions he
always took to his legs. William had other charges to
make against him. One was his rubbing up pennies
with quicksilver, and passing them off for quarters of a
dollar on an old man who kept a fruit stall. William
was often sent to buy fruit, and he earnestly inquired of me what he ought to do under such circumstances.
I told him it was certainly wrong to deceive the old
man, and that it was his duty to tell him of the impositions
practised by his young master. I assured him the
old man would not be slow to comprehend the whole,
and there the matter would end. William thought it
might with the old man, but not with him. He said
he did not mind the smart of the whip, but he did not
like the idea of being whipped.
While I advised him to be good and forgiving I was
not unconscious of the beam in my own eye. It was
the very knowledge of my own shortcomings that
caged me to retain, if possible, some sparks of my
brother's God-given nature. I had not lived fourteen
years in slavery for nothing. I had felt, seen, and
heard enough, to read the characters, and question the
motives, of those around me. The war of my life had
begun; and though one of God's most powerless creatures,
I resolved never to be conquered. Alas, for
If there was one pure, sunny spot for me, I believed
it to be in Benjamin's heart, and in another's, whom I
loved with all the ardor of a girl's first love. My
owner knew of it, and sought in every way to render
me miserable. He did not resort to corporal punishment,
but to all the petty, tyrannical ways that human
ingenuity could devise.
I remember the first time I was punished. It was
in the month of February. My grandmother had
taken my old shoes, and replaced them with a new
pair. I needed them; for several inches of snow had
fallen, and it still continued to fall. When I walked through Mrs. Flint's room, their creaking grated
harshly on her refined nerves. She called me to her,
and asked what I had about me that made such a
horrid noise. I told her it was my new shoes. "Take
them off," said she; "and if you put them on again,
I'll throw them into the fire."
I took them off, and my stockings also. She then
sent me a long distance, on an errand. As I went
through the snow, my bare feet tingled. That night I
was very hoarse; and I went to bed thinking the next
day would find me sick, perhaps dead. What was
my grief on waking to find myself quite well!
I had imagined if I died, or was laid up for some
time, that my mistress would feel a twinge of remorse
that she had so hated "the little imp," as she styled
me. It was my ignorance of that mistress that gave
rise to such extravagant imaginings.
Dr. Flint occasionally had high prices offered for
me; but he always said, "She don't belong to me. She
is my daughter's property, and I have no right to sell
her." Good, honest man! My young mistress was
still a child, and I could look for no protection from
her. I loved her, and she returned my affection. I
once heard her father allude to her attachment to me;
and his wife promptly replied that it proceeded from
fear. This put unpleasant doubts into my mind. Did
the child feign what she did not feel? or was her
mother jealous of the mite of love she bestowed on
me? I concluded it must be the latter. I said to
myself, "Surely, little children are true."
One afternoon I sat at my sewing, feeling unusual
depression of spirits. My mistress had been accusing me of an offense, of which I assured her I was perfectly
innocent; but I saw, by the contemptuous curl
of her lip, that she believed I was telling a lie.
I wondered for what wise purpose God was leading
me through such thorny paths, and whether still
darker days were in store for me. As I sat musing
thus, the door opened softly, and William came in.
"Well, brother," said I, "what is the matter this
"O Linda, Ben and his master have had a dreadful
time!" said he.
My first thought was that Benjamin was killed.
"Don't be frightened, Linda," said William; "I will
tell you all about it."
It appeared that Benjamin's master had sent for
him, and he did not immediately obey the summons.
When he did, his master was angry, and began to
whip him. He resisted. Master and slave fought,
and finally the master was thrown. Benjamin had
cause to tremble; for he had thrown to the ground his
master--one of the richest men in town. I anxiously
awaited the result.
That night I stole to my grandmother's house, and
Benjamin also stole thither from his master's. My
grandmother had gone to spend a day or two with an
old friend living in the country.
"I have come," said Benjamin, "to tell you good
by. I am going away."
I inquired where.
"To the north," he replied.
I looked at him to see whether he was in earnest. I
saw it all in his firm, set mouth. I implored him not to go, but he paid no heed to my words. He said he
was no longer a boy, and every day made his yoke
more galling. He had raised his hand against his
master, and was to be publicly whipped for the offense.
I reminded him of the poverty and hardships he must
encounter among strangers. I told him he might be
caught and brought back; and that was terrible to
He grew vexed, and asked if poverty and hardships
with freedom, were not preferable to our treatment in
slavery. "Linda," he continued, "we are dogs here;
foot-balls, cattle, every thing that's mean. No, I will
not stay. Let them bring me back. We don't die
He was right; but it was hard to give him up.
"Go," said I, "and break your mother's heart."
I repented of my words ere they were out.
"Linda," said he, speaking as I had not heard him
speak that evening, "how could you say that? Poor
mother! be kind to her, Linda; and you, too, cousin
Cousin Fanny was a friend who had lived some
years with us.
Farewells were exchanged, and the bright, kind boy,
endeared to us by so many acts of love, vanished from
It is not necessary to state how he made his escape.
Suffice it to say, he was on his way to New York when
a violent storm overtook the vessel. The captain said
he must put into the nearest port. This alarmed Benjamin,
who was aware that he would be advertised in
every port near his own town. His embarrassment was noticed by the captain. To port they went. There
the advertisement met the captain's eye. Benjamin so
exactly answered its description, that the captain laid
hold on him, and bound him in chains. The storm passed,
and they proceeded to New York. Before
reaching that port Benjamin managed to get off his
chains and throw them overboard. He escaped from
the vessel, but was pursued, captured, and carried back
to his master.
When my grandmother returned home and found
her youngest child had fled, great was her sorrow;
but, with characteristic piety, she said, "God's will be
done." Each morning, she inquired if any news had
been heard from her boy. Yes, news was heard. The
master was rejoicing over a letter, announcing the
capture of his human chattel.
That day seems but as yesterday, so well do I
remember it. I saw him led through the streets in
chains, to jail.. His face was ghastly pale, yet full of
determination. He had begged one of the sailors to
go to his mother's house and ask her not to meet him.
He said the sight of her distress would take from him
all self-control. She yearned to see him, and she went;
but she screened herself in the crowd, that it might be
as her child had said.
We were not allowed to visit him; but we had
known the jailer for years, and he was a kind-hearted
man. At midnight he opened the jail door for my
grandmother and myself to enter, in disguise. When
we entered the cell not a sound broke the stillness.
"Benjamin, Benjamin!" whispered my grandmother.
No answer. "Benjamin!" she again faltered. There was a jingle of chains. The moon had just risen, and
cast an uncertain light through the bars of the window.
We knelt down and took Benjamin's cold hands in
ours. We did not speak. Sobs were heard, and
Benjamin's lips were unsealed; for his mother was
weeping on his neck. How vividly does memory bring
back that sad night! Mother and son talked together.
He had asked her pardon for the suffering he had caused
her. She said she had nothing to forgive; she could not
blame his desire for freedom. He told her that when
he was captured, he broke away, and was about
casting himself into the river, when thoughts of her
came over him, and he desisted. She asked if he did
not also think of God. I fancied I saw his face grow
fierce in the moonlight. He answered, "No, I did not
think of him. When a man is hunted like a wild beast
he forgets there is a God, a heaven. He forgets every
thing in his struggle to get beyond the reach of the
"Don't talk so, Benjamin," said she. "Put your trust
in God. Be humble, my child, and your master will
"Forgive me for what, mother? For not letting him
treat me like a dog? No! I will never humble myself
to him. I have worked for him for nothing all my life,
and I am repaid with stripes and imprisonment. Here
I will stay till I die, or till he sells me."
The poor mother shuddered at his words. I think he
felt it; for when he next spoke, his voice was
calmer. "Don't fret about me, mother. I ain't worth it,"
said he. "I wish I had some of your goodness. You
bear every thing patiently, just as though you thought it
was all right. I wish I could."
She told him she had not always been so; once, she
was like him; but when sore troubles came upon her,
and she had no arm to lean upon, she learned to call
on God, and he lightened her burdens. She besought
him to do likewise.
We overstaid our time, and were obliged to hurry
from the jail.
Benjamin had been imprisoned three weeks,
when my grandmother went to intercede for him with
his master. He was immovable. He said Benjamin
should serve as an example to the rest of his slaves;
he should be kept in jail till he was subdued, or be sold
if he got but one dollar for him. However, he
afterwards relented in some degree. The chains were
taken off, and we were allowed to visit him.
As his food was of the coarsest kind, we carried
him as often as possible a warm supper, accompanied
with some little luxury for the jailer.
Three months elapsed, and there was no prospect
of release or of a purchaser. One day he was heard to
sing and laugh. This piece of indecorum was told to his
master, and the overseer was ordered to re-chain him.
He was now confined in an apartment with other
prisoners, who were covered with filthy rags.
Benjamin was chained near them, and was soon
covered with vermin. He worked at his chains till he
succeeded in getting out of them. He passed them
through the bars of the window, with a request that
they should be taken to his master, and he should be
informed that he was covered with vermin.
This audacity was punished with heavier chains,
and prohibition of our visits.
My grandmother continued to send him fresh
changes of clothes. The old ones were burned up.
The last night we saw him in jail his mother still
begged him to send for his master, and beg his pardon.
Neither persuasion nor argument could turn him from
his purpose. He calmly answered, "I am waiting his
Those chains were mournful to hear.
Another three months passed, and Benjamin left his
prison walls. We that loved him waited to bid him a
long and last farewell. A slave trader had bought
him. You remember, I told you what price he
brought when ten years of age. Now he was more
than twenty years old, and sold for three hundred dollars.
The master had been blind to his own interest.
Long confinement had made his face too pale, his
form too thin; moreover, the trader had heard something
of his character, and it did not strike him as
suitable for a slave. He said he would give any price
if the handsome lad was a girl. We thanked God
that he was not.
Could you have seen that mother clinging to her
child, when they fastened the irons upon his wrists;
could you have heard her heart-rending groans, and
seen her bloodshot eyes wander wildly from face to
face, vainly pleading for mercy; could you have
witnessed that scene as I saw it, you would exclaim,
Slavery is damnable!
Benjamin, her youngest, her pet, was forever gone!
She could not realize it. She had had an interview
with the trader for the purpose of ascertaining if
Benjamin could be purchased. She was told it was impossible, as he had given bonds not to sell him till
he was out of the state. He promised that he would
not sell him till he reached New Orleans.
With a strong arm and unvaried trust, my grandmother
began her work of love. Benjamin must be free.
If she succeeded, she knew they would still be separated;
but the sacrifice was not too great. Day and
night she labored. The trader's price would treble
that he gave; but she was not discouraged.
She employed a lawyer to write to a gentleman,
whom she knew, in New Orleans. She begged him to
interest himself for Benjamin, and he willingly favored
her request. When he saw Benjamin, and stated his
business, he thanked him; but said he preferred to
wait a while before making the trader an offer. He
knew he had tried to obtain a high price for him, and
had invariably failed. This encouraged him to make
another effort for freedom. So one morning, long before
day, Benjamin was missing. He was riding over
the blue billows, bound for Baltimore.
For once his white face did him a kindly service.
They had no suspicion that it belonged to a slave;
otherwise, the law would have been followed out to
the letter, and the thing rendered back to slavery.
The brightest skies are often overshadowed by the darkest
clouds. Benjamin was taken sick, and compelled
to remain in Baltimore three weeks. His strength
was slow in returning; and his desire to continue his
journey seemed to retard his recovery. How could he
get strength without air and exercise? He resolved
to venture on a short walk. A by-street was selected,
where he thought himself secure of not being met by any one that knew him; but a voice called out,
"Halloo, Ben, my boy! what are you doing here?"
His first impulse was to run; but his legs trembled
so that he could not stir. He turned to confront his
antagonist, and behold, there stood his old master's
next door neighbor! He thought it was all over with
him now; but it proved otherwise. That man was a
miracle. He possessed a goodly number of slaves,
and yet was not quite deaf to that mystic clock, whose
ticking is rarely heard in the slaveholder's breast.
"Ben, you are sick," said he. "Why, you look like
a ghost. I guess I gave you something of a start.
Never mind, Ben, I am not going to touch you. You
had a pretty tough time of it, and you may go on
your way rejoicing for all me. But I would advise
you to get out of this place plaguy quick, for there
are several gentlemen here from our town." He
described the nearest and safest route to New York, and
added, "I shall be glad to tell your mother I have
seen you. Good by, Ben."
Benjamin turned away, filled with gratitude, and
surprised that the town he hated contained such a
gem--a gem worthy of a purer setting.
This gentleman was a Northerner by birth, and had
married a southern lady. On his return, he told my
grandmother that he had seen her son, and of the
service he had rendered him.
Benjamin reached New York safely, and concluded
to stop there until he had gained strength enough to
proceed further. It happened that my grandmother's
only remaining son had sailed for the same city on
business for his mistress. Through God's providence, the brothers met. You may be sure it was a happy
meeting. "O Phil," exclaimed Benjamin, "I am here
at last." Then he told him how near he came to
dying, almost in sight of free land, and how he prayed
that he might live to get one breath of free air. He
said life was worth something now, and it would
be hard to die. In the old jail he had not valued it;
once, he was tempted to destroy it; but something,
he did not know what, had prevented him; perhaps it
was fear. He had heard those who profess to be
religious declare there was no heaven for self-murderers;
and as his life had been pretty hot here, he did not
desire a continuation of the same in another world. "If
I die now," he exclaimed, "thank God, I shall die a
He begged my uncle Phillip not to return south; but
stay and work with him, till they earned enough to
buy those at home. His brother told him it would
kill their mother if he deserted her in her trouble.
She had pledged her house, and with difficulty had
raised money to buy him. Would he be bought?
"No, never!" he replied. "Do you suppose, Phil,
when I have got so far out of their clutches, I will
give them one red cent? No! And do you suppose
I would turn mother out of her home in her old age?
That I would let her pay all those hard-earned dollars
for me, and never to see me? For you know she will
stay south as long as her other children are slaves.
What a good mother! Tell her to buy you, Phil. You
have been a comfort to her, and I have been a trouble.
And Linda, poor Linda; what'll become of her? Phil,
you don't know what a life they lead her. She has told me something about it, and I wish old Flint was dead,
or a better man. When I was in jail, he asked her if
she didn't want him to ask my master to forgive me,
and take me home again. She told him, No; that
I didn't want to go back. He got mad, and said we
were all alike. I never despised my own master half
as much as I do that man. There is many a worse
slaveholder than my master; but for all that I would
not be his slave."
While Benjamin was sick, he had parted with nearly
all his clothes to pay necessary expenses. But he did
not part with a little pin I fastened in his bosom when
we parted. It was the most valuable thing I owned,
and I thought none more worthy to wear it. He
had it still.
His brother furnished him with clothes, and gave
him what money he had.
They parted with moistened eyes; and as Benjamin
turned away, he said, "Phil, I part with all my kindred."
And so it proved. We never heard from him
Uncle Phillip came home; and the first words he
uttered when he entered the house were, "Mother,
Ben is free! I have seen him in New York." She
stood looking at him with a bewildered air. "Mother,
don't you believe it?" he said, laying his hand softly
upon her shoulder. She raised her hands, and exclaimed,
"God be praised! Let us thank him." She
dropped on her knees, and poured forth her heart in
prayer. Then Phillip must sit down and repeat to her
every word Benjamin had said. He told her all; only
he forbore to mention how sick and pale her darling looked. Why should he distress her when she could
do him no good?
The brave old woman still toiled on, hoping to rescue
some of her other children. After a while she
succeeded in buying Phillip. She paid eight hundred
dollars, and came home with the precious document
that secured his freedom. The happy mother and son
sat together by the old hearthstone that night, telling
how proud they were of each other, and how they
would prove to the world that they could take care of
themselves, as they had long taken care of others. We
all concluded by saying, "He that is willing to be a
slave, let him be a slave."
THE TRIALS OF GIRLHOOD.
DURING the first years of my service in Dr. Flint's
family, I was accustomed to share some indulgences
with the children of my mistress. Though this seemed
to me no more than right, I was grateful for it, and
tried to merit the kindness by the faithful discharge of
my duties. But I now entered on my fifteenth year--a
sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began
to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I
could not remain ignorant of their import. I tried to
treat them with indifference or contempt. The
master's age, my extreme youth, and the fear that his
conduct would be reported to my grandmother, made
him bear this treatment for many months. He was a
crafty man, and resorted to many means to
accomplish his purposes. Sometimes he had stormy,
terrific ways, that made his victims tremble;
sometimes he assumed a gentleness that he thought
must surely subdue. Of the two, I preferred his
stormy moods, although they left me trembling. He
tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my
grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young
mind with unclean images, such as only a vile
monster could think of. I turned from him with
disgust and hatred. But he was my master. I was
compelled to live under the same roof with
him--where I saw a man forty years my senior
daily violating the most sacred commandments of nature. He told me I was his property; that I
must be subject to his will in all things. My soul
revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I
turn for protection? No matter whether the slave girl
be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In
either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her
from insult, from violence, or even from death; all
these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of
men. The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless
victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of
jealousy and rage. The degradation, the wrongs, the
vices, that grow out of slavery, are more than I can
describe. They are greater than you would willingly
believe. Surely, if you credited one half the truths that
are told you concerning the helpless millions suffering
in this cruel bondage, you at the north would not help
to tighten the yoke. You surely would refuse to do for
the master, on your own soil, the mean and cruel work
which trained bloodhounds and the lowest class of
whites do for him at the south.
Every where the years bring to all enough of sin
and sorrow; but in slavery the very dawn of life is
darkened by these shadows. Even the little child, who
is accustomed to wait on her mistress and her
children, will learn, before she is twelve years old,
why it is that her mistress hates such and such a one
among the slaves. Perhaps the child's own mother is
among those hated ones. She listens to violent outbreaks of
jealous passion, and cannot help understanding what is
the cause. She will become prematurely knowing in
evil things. Soon she will learn to tremble when she hears
her master's footfall. She will be compelled to realize that she is no longer a
child. If God has bestowed beauty upon her, it will
prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration
in the white woman only hastens the degradation
of the female slave. I know that some are too
much brutalized by slavery to feel the humiliation of
their position; but many slaves feel it most acutely,
and shrink from the memory of it. I cannot tell how
much I suffered in the presence of these wrongs, nor
how I am still pained by the retrospect. My master
met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged
to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he
would compel me to submit to him. If I went out for
a breath of fresh air, after a day of unwearied toil, his
footsteps dogged me. If I knelt by my mother's grave,
his dark shadow fell on me even there. The light
heart which nature had given me became heavy with
sad forebodings. The other slaves in my master's
house noticed the change. Many of them pitied me;
but none dared to ask the cause. They had no need
to inquire. They knew too well the guilty practices
under that roof; and they were aware that to speak
of them was an offence that never went unpunished.
I longed for some one to confide in. I would have
given the world to have laid my head on my grandmother's
faithful bosom, and told her all my troubles.
But Dr. Flint swore he would kill me, if I was not as
silent as the grave. Then, although my grandmother
was all in all to me, I feared her as well as loved her.
I had been accustomed to look up to her with a respect
bordering upon awe. I was very young, and
felt shamefaced about telling her such impure things, especially as I knew her to be very strict on such subjects.
Moreover, she was a woman of a high spirit.
She was usually very quiet in her demeanor; but if
her indignation was once roused, it was not very
easily quelled. I had been told that she once chased
a white gentleman with a loaded pistol, because he
insulted one of her daughters. I dreaded the consequences
of a violent outbreak; and both pride and
fear kept me silent. But though I did not confide in
my grandmother, and even evaded her vigilant watchfulness
and inquiry, her presence in the neighborhood
was some protection to me. Though she had been a
slave, Dr. Flint was afraid of her. He dreaded her
scorching rebukes. Moreover, she was known and
patronized by many people; and he did not wish to
have his villany made public. It was lucky for me
that I did not live on a distant plantation, but in a
town not so large that the inhabitants were ignorant
of each other's affairs. Bad as are the laws and customs
in a slaveholding community, the doctor, as a
professional man, deemed it prudent to keep up some
outward show of decency.
O, what days and nights of fear and sorrow that
man caused me! Reader, it is not to awaken sympathy
for myself that I am telling you truthfully what
I suffered in slavery. I do it to kindle a flame of
compassion in your hearts for my sisters who are still
in bondage, suffering as I once suffered.
I once saw two beautiful children playing together.
One was a fair white child; the other was her slave,
and also her sister. When I saw them embracing
each other, and heard their joyous laughter, I turned sadly away from the lovely sight. I foresaw the inevitable
blight that would fall on the little slave's heart.
I knew how soon her laughter would be changed to
sighs. The fair child grew up to be a still fairer
woman. From childhood to womanhood her pathway
was blooming with flowers, and overarched by a sunny
sky. Scarcely one day of her life had been clouded
when the sun rose on her happy bridal morning.
How had those years dealt with her slave sister, the
little playmate of her childhood? She, also, was very
beautiful; but the flowers and sunshine of love were
not for her. She drank the cup of sin, and shame,
and misery, whereof her persecuted race are
compelled to drink.
In view of these things, why are ye silent, ye free
men and women of the north? Why do your tongues
falter in maintenance of the right? Would that I had
more ability! But my heart is so full, and my pen is
so weak! There are noble men and women who
plead for us, striving to help those who cannot help
themselves. God bless them! God give them strength
and courage to go on! God bless those, every where,
who are laboring to advance the cause of humanity!
THE JEALOUS MISTRESS.
I WOULD ten thousand times rather that my children
should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to
be the most pampered among the slaves of America.
I would rather drudge out my life on a cotton plantation,
till the grave opened to give me rest, than to live
with an unprincipled master and a jealous mistress.
The felon's home in a penitentiary is preferable. He
may repent, and turn from the error of his ways, and
so find peace; but it is not so with a favorite slave.
She is not allowed to have any pride of character. It
is deemed a crime in her to wish to be virtuous.
Mrs. Flint possessed the key to her husband's character
before I was born. She might have used this
knowledge to counsel and to screen the young and the
innocent among her slaves; but for them she had no
sympathy. They were the objects of her constant suspicion
and malevolence. She watched her husband
with unceasing vigilance; but he was well practiced in
means to evade it. What he could not find opportunity
to say in words he manifested in signs. He invented
more than were ever thought of in a deaf and
dumb asylum. I let them pass, as if I did not understand
what he meant; and many were the curses and
threats bestowed on me for my stupidity. One day he
caught me teaching myself to write. He frowned, as
if he was not well pleased, but I suppose he came to the conclusion that such an accomplishment might
help to advance his favorite scheme. Before long,
notes were often slipped into my hand. I would
return them, saying, "I can't read them, sir." "Can't
you?" he replied; "then I must read them to you."
He always finished the reading by asking, "Do you
understand?" Sometimes he would complain of the
heat of the tea room, and order his supper to be placed
on a small table in the piazza. He would seat himself
there with a well-satisfied smile, and tell me to stand
by and brush away the flies. He would eat very
slowly, pausing between the mouthfuls. These intervals
were employed in describing the happiness I was
so foolishly throwing away, and in threatening me
with the penalty that finally awaited my stubborn
disobedience. He boasted much of the forbearance he
had exercised towards me, and reminded me that there
was a limit to his patience. When I succeeded in
avoiding opportunities for him to talk to me at home,
I was ordered to come to his office, to do some errand.
When there, I was obliged to stand and listen to such
language as he saw fit to address to me. Sometimes
I so openly expressed my contempt for him that he
would become violently enraged, and I wondered why
he did not strike me. Circumstanced as he was, he
probably thought it was better policy to be forbearing.
But the state of things grew worse and worse daily.
In desperation I told him that I must and would apply
to my grandmother for protection. He threatened me
with death, and worse than death, if I made any
complaint to her. Strange to say, I did not despair. I
was naturally of a buoyant disposition, and always I had hope of somehow getting out of his clutches.
Like many a poor, simple slave before me, I trusted
that some threads of joy would yet be woven into my
I had entered my sixteenth year, and every day it
became more apparent that my presence was intolerable
to Mrs. Flint. Angry words frequently passed
between her and her husband. He had never punished
me himself, and he would not allow any body else to
punish me. In that respect, she was never satisfied;
but, in her angry moods, no terms were too vile for her
to bestow upon me. Yet I, whom she detested so
bitterly, had far more pity for her than he had, whose
duty it was to make her life happy. I never wronged
her, or wished to wrong her; and one word of kindness
from her would have brought me to her feet.
After repeated quarrels between the doctor and his
wife, he announced his intention to take his youngest
daughter, then four years old, to sleep in his apartment.
It was necessary that a servant should sleep in
the same room, to be on hand if the child stirred. I
was selected for that office, and informed for what
purpose that arrangement had been made. By managing
to keep within sight of people, as much as possible
during the day time, I had hitherto succeeded in
eluding my master, though a razor was often held to
my throat to force me to change this line of policy.
At night I slept by the side of my great aunt, where I
felt safe. He was too prudent to come into her room.
She was an old woman, and had been in the family
many years. Moreover, as a married man, and a professional
man, he deemed it necessary to save appearances in some degree. But he resolved to remove the
obstacle in the way of his scheme; and he thought he
had planned it so that he should evade suspicion. He
was well aware how much I prized my refuge by the
side of my old aunt, and he determined to dispossess
me of it. The first night the doctor had the little
child in his room alone. The next morning, I was
ordered to take my station as nurse the following
night. A kind Providence interposed in my favor.
During the day Mrs. Flint heard of this new arrangement,
and a storm followed. I rejoiced to hear it
After a while my mistress sent for me to come to
her room. Her first question was, "Did you know
you were to sleep in the doctor's room?"
"Who told you?"
"Will you answer truly all the questions I ask?"
"Tell me, then, as you hope to be forgiven, are you
innocent of what I have accused you?"
She handed me a Bible, and said, "Lay your hand
on your heart, kiss this holy book, and swear before
God that you tell me the truth."
I took the oath she required, and I did it with a
"You have taken God's holy word to testify your
innocence," said she. "If you have deceived me, beware!
Now take this stool, sit down, look me directly
in the face, and tell me all that has passed between
your master and you."
I did as she ordered. As I went on with my account
her color changed frequently, she wept, and
sometimes groaned. She spoke in tones so sad, that I
was touched by her grief. The tears came to my
eyes; but I was soon convinced that her emotions
arose from anger and wounded pride. She felt that her
marriage vows were desecrated, her dignity insulted,
but she had no compassion for the poor victim
of her husband's perfidy. She pitied herself as
a martyr; but she was incapable of feeling for the
condition of shame and misery in which her
unfortunate, helpless slave was placed.
Yet perhaps she had some touch of feeling for me;
for when the conference was ended, she spoke kindly,
and promised to protect me. I should have been much
comforted by this assurance if I could have had
confidence in it; but my experiences in slavery had
filled me with distrust. She was not a very refined
woman, and had not much control over her passions.
I was an object of her jealousy, and, consequently, of
her hatred; and I know I could not expect kindness
or confidence from her under the circumstances in
which I was placed. I could not blame her. Slave-holders'
wives feel as other women would under similar
circumstances. The fire of her temper kindled
from small sparks, and now the flame became so
intense that the doctor was obliged to give up his
I knew I had ignited the torch, and I expected to
suffer for it afterwards; but I felt too thankful to my
mistress for the timely aid she rendered me to care
much about that. She now took me to sleep in a room adjoining her own. There I was an object of her
especial care, though not of her especial comfort, for
she spent many a sleepless night to watch over me.
Sometimes I woke up, and found her bending over me.
At other times she whispered in my ear, as though it
was her husband who was speaking to me, and
listened to hear what I would answer. If she startled
me, on such occasions, she would glide stealthily away;
and the next morning she would tell me I had been
talking in my sleep, and ask who I was talking to. At
last, I began to be fearful for my life. It had been often
threatened; and you can imagine, better than I can
describe, what an unpleasant sensation it must produce
to wake up in the dead of night and find a jealous
woman bending over you. Terrible as this experience
was, I had fears that it would give place to one more
My mistress grew weary of her vigils; they did not
prove satisfactory. She changed her tactics. She now
tried the trick of accusing my master of crime, in my
presence, and gave my name as the author of the
accusation. To my utter astonishment, he replied, "I
don't believe it; but if she did acknowledge it, you
tortured her into exposing me." Tortured into exposing
him! Truly, Satan had no difficulty in distinguishing the
color of his soul! I understood his object in making this
false representation. It was to show me that I gained
nothing by seeking the protection of my mistress; that
the power was still all in his own hands. I pitied Mrs.
Flint. She was a second wife, many years the junior
of her husband; and the hoary-headed miscreant
was enough to try the patience of a wiser and better woman. She was completely
foiled, and knew not how to proceed. She would
gladly have had me flogged for my supposed false
oath; but, as I have already stated, the doctor never
allowed any one to whip me. The old sinner was
politic. The application of the lash might have led to
remarks that would have exposed him in the eyes of
his children and grandchildren. How often did I
rejoice that I lived in a town where all the inhabitants
knew each other! If I had been on a remote
plantation, or lost among the multitude of a crowded city,
I should not be a living woman at this day.
The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of
the Inquisition. My master was, to my knowledge, the
father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to
tell who was the father of their children? Did the
other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers
among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too
well the terrible consequences.
My grandmother could not avoid seeing things
which excited her suspicions. She was uneasy about
me, and tried various ways to buy me; but the
never-changing answer was always repeated: "Linda does
not belong to me. She is my daughter's property, and
I have no legal right to sell her." The conscientious
man! He was too scrupulous to sell me; but he had
no scruples whatever about committing a much
greater wrong against the helpless young girl placed under his
guardianship, as his daughter's property. Sometimes
my persecutor would ask me whether I would like to
be sold. I told him I would rather be sold to any
body than to lead such a life as I did. On such occasions he would assume the air of a very injured
individual, and reproach me for my ingratitude.
"Did I not take you into the house, and make you
the companion of my own children?" he would say.
"Have I ever treated you like a negro? I have never
allowed you to be punished, not even to please your
mistress. And this is the recompense I get, you ungrateful
girl!" I answered that he had reasons of his
own for screening me from punishment, and that the
course he pursued made my mistress hate me and
persecute me. If I wept, he would say, "Poor child!
Don't cry! don't cry! I will make peace for you with
your mistress. Only let me arrange matters in my
own way. Poor, foolish girl! you don't know what is
for your own good. I would cherish you. I would
make a lady of you. Now go, and think of all I have
I did think of it.
Reader, I draw no imaginary pictures of southern
homes. I am telling you the plain truth. Yet when
victims make their escape from this wild beast of
Slavery, northerners consent to act the part of bloodhounds,
and hunt the poor fugitive back into his den,
"full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness."
Nay, more, they are not only willing, but proud, to
give their daughters in marriage to slaveholders. The
poor girls have romantic notions of a sunny clime, and
of the flowering vines that all the year round shade a
happy home. To what disappointments are they
destined! The young wife soon learns that the husband
in whose hands she has placed her happiness pays no
regard to his marriage vows. Children of every shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too
well she knows that they are born unto him of his own
household. Jealousy and hatred enter the flowery
home, and it is ravaged of its loveliness.
Southern women often marry a man knowing that
he is the father of many little slaves. They do not
trouble themselves about it. They regard such children
as property, as marketable as the pigs on the
plantation; and it is seldom that they do not make
them aware of this by passing them into the slave-trader's
hands as soon as possible, and thus getting
them out of their sight. I am glad to say there are
some honorable exceptions.
I have myself known two southern wives who exhorted
their husbands to free those slaves towards
whom they stood in a "parental relation;" and their
request was granted. These husbands blushed before
the superior nobleness of their wives' natures. Though
they had only counselled them to do that which it was
their duty to do, it commanded their respect, and
rendered their conduct more exemplary. Concealment
was at an end, and confidence took the place of
Though this bad institution deadens the moral sense,
even in white women, to a fearful extent, it is not altogether
extinct. I have heard southern ladies say of
Mr. Such a one, "He not only thinks it no disgrace
to be the father of those little niggers, but he is not
ashamed to call himself their master. I declare, such
things ought not to be tolerated in any decent society!"
WHY does the slave ever love? Why allow the tendrils
of the heart to twine around objects which may
at any moment be wrenched away by the hand of
violence? When separations come by the hand of death,
the pious soul can bow in resignation, and say, "Not
my will, but thine be done, O Lord!" But when the
ruthless hand of man strikes the blow, regardless of
the misery he causes, it is hard to be submissive. I
did not reason thus when I was a young girl. Youth
will be youth. I loved, and I indulged the hope that
the dark clouds around me would turn out a bright
lining. I forgot that in the land of my birth the
shadows are too dense for light to penetrate. A land
laughter is not mirth; nor thought the mind;
words a language; nor e'en men mankind.
cries reply to curses, shrieks to blows,
each is tortured in his separate hell."
There was in the
neighborhood a young colored
carpenter; a free born man. We had been well
acquainted in childhood, and frequently met together
afterwards. We became mutually attached, and he
proposed to marry me. I loved him with all the ardor
of a young girl's first love. But when I reflected that
I was a slave, and that the laws gave no sanction to
the marriage of such, my heart sank within me. My
lover wanted to buy me; but I knew that Dr. Flint was too wilful and arbitrary a man to consent to that
arrangement. From him, I was sure of experiencing
all sorts of opposition, and I had nothing to hope
from my mistress. She would have been delighted to
have got rid of me, but not in that way. It would
have relieved her mind of a burden if she could have
seen me sold to some distant state, but if I was married
near home I should be just as much in her husband's
power as I had previously been,--for the husband of a
slave has no power to protect her. Moreover, my mistress,
like many others, seemed to think that slaves had
no right to any family ties of their own; that they
were created merely to wait upon the family of the
mistress. I once heard her abuse a young slave girl,
who told her that a colored man wanted to make her
his wife. "I will have you peeled and pickled, my
lady," said she, "if I ever hear you mention that subject
again. Do you suppose that I will have you tending my children with the children of that nigger?"
The girl to whom she said this had a mulatto child,
of course not acknowledged by its father. The poor
black man who loved her would have been proud to
acknowledge his helpless offspring.
Many and anxious were the thoughts I revolved in
my mind. I was at a loss what to do. Above all
things, I was desirous to spare my lover the insults
that had cut so deeply into my own soul. I talked with
my grandmother about it, and partly told her my fears.
I did not dare to tell her the worst. She had long
suspected all was not right, and if I confirmed her
suspicions I knew a storm would rise that would prove
the overthrow of all my hopes.
This love-dream had been my support through many
trials; and I could not bear to run the risk of having
it suddenly dissipated. There was a lady in the
neighborhood, a particular friend of Dr. Flint's, who often
visited the house. I had a great respect for her, and
she had always manifested a friendly interest in me.
Grandmother thought she would have great influence
with the doctor. I went to this lady, and told her my
story. I told her I was aware that my lover's being a
free-born man would prove a great objection; but he
wanted to buy me; and if Dr. Flint would consent to
that arrangement, I felt sure he would be willing
to pay any reasonable price. She knew that Mrs. Flint
disliked me; therefore, I ventured to suggest that perhaps
my mistress would approve of my being sold, as
that would rid her of me. The lady listened, with
kindly sympathy, and promised to do her utmost to
promote my wishes. She had an interview with the
doctor, and I believe she pleaded my cause earnestly;
but it was all to no purpose.
How I dreaded my master now! Every minute I
expected to be summoned to his presence; but the day
passed, and I heard nothing from him. The next
morning, a message was brought to me: "Master
wants you in his study." I found the door ajar, and
I stood a moment gazing at the hateful man who
claimed a right to rule me, body and soul. I entered,
and tried to appear calm. I did not want him to
know how my heart was bleeding. He looked fixedly
at me, with an expression which seemed to say, "I
have half a mind to kill you on the spot." At last
he broke the silence, and that was a relief to both of us.
"So you want to be married, do you?" said he,
"and to a free nigger."
"Well, I'll soon convince you whether I am your
master, or the nigger fellow you honor so highly. If
you must have a husband, you may take up with one
of my slaves."
What a situation I should be in, as the wife of one
of his slaves, even if my heart had been interested!
I replied, "Don't you suppose, sir, that a slave can
have some preference about marrying? Do you
suppose that all men are alike to her?"
"Do you love this nigger?" said he, abruptly.
"How dare you tell me so!" he exclaimed, in great
wrath. After a slight pause, he added, "I supposed
you thought more of yourself; that you felt above the
insults of such puppies."
"I replied, "If he is a puppy I am a puppy, for
we are both of the negro race. It is right and honorable
for us to love each other. The man you call a
puppy never insulted me, sir; and he would not love
me if he did not believe me to be a virtuous woman."
He sprang upon me like a tiger, and gave me a
stunning blow. It was the first time he had ever
struck me; and fear did not enable me to control my
anger. When I had recovered a little from the effects,
I exclaimed, "You have struck me for answering you
honestly. How I despise you!"
There was silence for some minutes. Perhaps he
was deciding what should be my punishment; or, perhaps,
he wanted to give me time to reflect on what I had said, and to whom I had said it. Finally, he
asked, "Do you know what you have said?"
"Yes, sir; but your treatment drove me to it."
"Do you know that I have a right to do as I like
with you,--that I can kill you, if I please?"
"You have tried to kill me, and I wish you had;
but you have no right to do as you like with me."
"Silence!" he exclaimed, in a thundering voice.
"By heavens, girl, you forget yourself too far! Are
you mad? If you are, I will soon bring you to your
senses. Do you think any other master would bear
what I have borne from you this morning? Many
masters would have killed you on the spot. How
would you like to be sent to jail for your insolence?"
"I know I have been disrespectful, sir," I replied;
"but you drove me to it; I couldn't help it. As for
the jail, there would be more peace for me there than
there is here."
"You deserve to go there," said he, "and to be
under such treatment, that you would forget the
meaning of the word peace. It would do you good. It
would take some of your high notions out of you.
But I am not ready to send you there yet, notwithstanding
your ingratitude for all my kindness and forbearance.
You have been the plague of my life. I
have wanted to make you happy, and I have been repaid
with the basest ingratitude; but though you have
proved yourself incapable of appreciating my kindness,
I will be lenient towards you, Linda. I will give
you one more chance to redeem your character. If
you behave yourself and do as I require, I will forgive
you and treat you as I always have done; but if you disobey me, I will punish you as I would the meanest
slave on my plantation. Never let me hear that fellow's
name mentioned again. If I ever know of your
speaking to him, I will cowhide you both; and if
I catch him lurking about my premises, I will shoot
him as soon as I would a dog. Do you hear what I
say? I'll teach you a lesson about marriage and free
niggers! Now go, and let this be the last time I have
occasion to speak to you on this subject."
Reader, did you ever hate? I hope not. I never
did but once; and I trust I never shall again. Somebody
has called it "the atmosphere of hell;" and I
believe it is so.
For a fortnight the doctor did not speak to me. He
thought to mortify me; to make me feel that I had
disgraced myself by receiving the honorable addresses
of a respectable colored man, in preference to the base
proposals of a white man. But though his lips disdained
to address me, his eyes were very loquacious.
No animal ever watched its prey more narrowly than
he watched me. He knew that I could write, though
he had failed to make me read his letters; and he was
now troubled lest I should exchange letters with
another man. After a while he became weary of
silence; and I was sorry for it. One morning, as he
passed through the hall, to leave the house, he contrived
to thrust a note into my hand. I thought I had
better read it, and spare myself the vexation of having
him read it to me. It expressed regret for the blow
he had given me, and reminded me that I myself was
wholly to blame for it. He hoped I had become convinced
of the injury I was doing myself by incurring his displeasure. He wrote that he had made up his
mind to go to Louisiana; that he should take several
slaves with him, and intended I should be one of the
number. My mistress would remain where she was;
therefore I should have nothing to fear from that
quarter. If I merited kindness from him, he assured me
that it would be lavishly bestowed. He begged me to
think over the matter, and answer the following day.
The next morning I was called to carry a pair of
scissors to his room. I laid them on the table with the
letter beside them. He thought it was my answer, and
did not call me back. I went as usual to attend my
young mistress to and from school. He met me in the
street, and ordered me to stop at his office on my way
back. When I entered, he showed me his letter, and
asked me why I had not answered it. I replied, "I am
your daughter's property, and it is in your power to
send me, or take me, wherever you please." He said
he was very glad to find me so willing to go, and that
we should start early in the autumn. He had a large
practice in the town, and I rather thought he had
made up the story merely to frighten me. However
that might be, I was determined that I would never go
to Louisiana with him.
Summer passed away, and early in the autumn Dr.
Flint's eldest son was sent to Louisiana to examine the
country, with a view to emigrating. That news did not
disturb me. I knew very well that I should not be sent
with him. That I had not been taken to the
plantation before this time, was owing to the fact
that his son was there. He was jealous of his son;
and jealousy of the overseer had kept him from
punishing me by sending me into fields to work. Is it strange that I was
not proud of these protectors? As for the overseer,
he was a man for whom I had less respect than I
had for a bloodhound.
Young Mr. Flint did not bring back a favorable report
of Louisiana, and I heard no more of that scheme.
Soon after this, my lover met me at the corner of the
street, and I stopped to speak to him. Looking up, I saw
my master watching us from his window. I hurried home,
trembling with fear. I was sent for, immediately, to
go to his room. He met me with a blow. "When is
mistress to be married?" said he, in a sneering tone. A
shower of oaths and imprecations followed. How
thankful I was that my lover was a free man! that my
tyrant had no power to flog him for speaking to me in
Again and again I revolved in my mind how all this
would end. There was no hope that the doctor would
consent to sell me on any terms. He had an iron will,
and was determined to keep me, and to conquer me.
My lover was an intelligent and religious man. Even if
he could have obtained permission to marry me while
I was a slave, the marriage would give him no power to
protect me from my master. It would have made
him miserable to witness the insults I should have
been subjected to. And then, if we had children, I
knew they must "follow the condition of the mother."
What a terrible blight that would be on the heart of a
free, intelligent father! For his sake, I felt that I
ought not to link his fate with my own unhappy destiny.
He was going to Savannah to see about a little property left him
by an uncle; and hard as it was to bring my feelings to it, I earnestly
entreated him not to come back. I advised him to go
to the Free States, where his tongue would not be tied,
and where his intelligence would be of more avail to
him. He left me, still hoping the day would come
when I could be bought. With me the lamp of hope
had gone out. The dream of my girlhood was over.
I felt lonely and desolate.
Still I was not stripped of all. I still had my good
grandmother, and my affectionate brother. When he
put his arms round my neck, and looked into my eyes,
as if to read there the troubles I dared not tell, I felt
that I still had something to love. But even that
pleasant emotion was chilled by the reflection that he
might be torn from me at any moment, by some sudden
freak of my master. If he had known how we
loved each other, I think he would have exulted in
separating us. We often planned together how we
could get to the north. But, as William remarked,
such things are easier said than done. My movements
were very closely watched, and we had no means of
getting any money to defray our expenses. As for
grandmother, she was strongly opposed to her children's
undertaking any such project. She had not forgotten
poor Benjamin's sufferings, and she was afraid
that if another child tried to escape, he would have a
similar or a worse fate. To me, nothing seemed more
dreadful than my present life. I said to myself,
"William must be free. He shall go to the north, and
I will follow him." Many a slave sister has formed
the same plans.
WHAT SLAVES ARE TAUGHT TO THINK OF
SLAVEHOLDERS pride themselves upon being honorable
men; but if you were to hear the enormous lies
they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for
their veracity. I have spoken plain English. Pardon
me. I cannot use a milder term. When they visit
the north, and return home, they tell their slaves of
the runaways they have seen, and describe them to be
in the most deplorable condition. A slaveholder once
told me that he had seen a runaway friend of mine in
New York, and that she besought him to take her back
to her master, for she was literally dying of starvation;
that many days she had only one cold potato to
eat, and at other times could get nothing at all. He
said he refused to take her, because he knew her
master would not thank him for bringing such a miserable
wretch to his house. He ended by saying to
me, "This is the punishment she brought on herself
for running away from a kind master."
This whole story was false. I afterwards staid with
that friend in New York, and found her in comfortable
circumstances. She had never thought of such
a thing as wishing to go back to slavery. Many of
the slaves believe such stories, and think it is not worth
while to exchange slavery for such a hard kind of freedom.
It is difficult to persuade such that freedom could make them useful men, and enable them to protect
their wives and children. If those heathen in our
Christian land had as much teaching as some Hindoos,
they would think otherwise. They would know that
liberty is more valuable than life. They would begin
to understand their own capabilities, and exert
themselves to become men and women.
But while the Free States sustain a law which hurls
fugitives back into slavery, how can the slaves resolve
to become men? There are some who strive to protect
wives and daughters from the insults of their
masters; but those who have such sentiments have had
advantages above the general mass of slaves. They
have been partially civilized and Christianized by favorable
circumstances. Some are bold enough to utter
such sentiments to their masters. O, that there were
more of them!
Some poor creatures have been so brutalized by the
lash that they will sneak out of the way to give their
masters free access to their wives and daughters. Do
you think this proves the black man to belong to an
inferior order of beings? What would you be, if you
had been born and brought up a slave, with generations
of slaves for ancestors? I admit that the black
man is inferior. But what is it that makes him so?
It is the ignorance in which white men compel him to
live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out
of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the South, and
the scarcely less cruel human bloodhounds of the
north, who enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. They do
Southern gentlemen indulge in the most contemptuous expressions about the Yankees, while they, on
their part, consent to do the vilest work for them, such
as the ferocious bloodhounds and the despised
negro-hunters are employed to do at home. When
southerners go to the north, they are proud to do them
honor; but the northern man is not welcome south of
Mason Dixon's line, unless he suppresses every
thought and feeling at variance with their "peculiar
institution." Nor is it enough to be silent. The masters
are not pleased, unless they obtain a greater degree
of subservience than that; and they are generally
accommodated. Do they respect the northerner
for this? I trow not. Even the slaves despise "a
northern man with southern principles;" and that is
the class they generally see. When northerners go to
the south to reside, they prove very apt scholars.
They soon imbibe the sentiments and disposition of
their neighbors, and generally go beyond their teachers.
Of the two, they are proverbially the hardest masters.
They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine
that God created the Africans to be slaves. What
a libel upon the heavenly Father, who "made of one
blood all nations of men!" And then who are Africans?
Who can measure the amount of Anglo-Saxon
blood coursing in the veins of American slaves?
I have spoken of the pains slaveholders take to give
their slaves a bad opinion of the north; but, notwithstanding
this, intelligent slaves are aware that they
have many friends in the Free States. Even the most
ignorant have some confused notions about it. They
knew that I could read; and I was often asked if I
had seen any thing in the newspapers about white folks over in the big north, who were trying to get their
freedom for them. Some believe that the abolitionists
have already made them free, and that it is established
by law, but that their masters prevent the law from
going into effect. One woman begged me to get a
newspaper and read it over. She said her husband
told her that the black people had sent word to the
queen of 'Merica that they were all slaves; that she
didn't believe it, and went to Washington city to see
the president about it. They quarrelled; she drew
her sword upon him, and swore that he should help
her to make them all free.
That poor, ignorant woman thought that America
was governed by a Queen, to whom the President was
subordinate. I wish the President was subordinate to
SKETCHES OF NEIGHBORING SLAVEHOLDERS.
THERE was a planter in the country, not far from us,
whom I will call Mr. Litch. He was an ill-bred,
uneducated man, but very wealthy. He had six hundred
slaves, many of whom he did not know by sight.
His extensive plantation was managed by well-paid
overseers. There was a jail and a whipping post on
his grounds; and whatever cruelties were perpetrated
there, they passed without comment. He was so
effectually screened by his great wealth that he was
called to no account for his crimes, not even for
Various were the punishments resorted to. A favorite
one was to tie a rope round a man's body, and
suspend him from the ground. A fire was kindled
over him, from which was suspended a piece of fat
pork. As this cooked, the scalding drops of fat continually
fell on the bare flesh. On his own plantation,
he required very strict obedience to the eighth
commandment. But depredations on the neighbors were
allowable, provided the culprit managed to evade
detection or suspicion. If a neighbor brought a charge
of theft against any of his slaves, he was browbeaten
by the master, who assured him that his slaves had
enough of every thing at home, and had no inducement
to steal. No sooner was the neighbor's back
turned, than the accused was sought out, and whipped for his lack of discretion. If a slave stole from him
even a pound of meat or a peck of corn, if detection
followed, he was put in chains and imprisoned, and so
kept till his form was attenuated by hunger and
A freshet once bore his wine cellar and meat house
miles away from the plantation. Some slaves followed,
and secured bits of meat and bottles of wine. Two
were detected; a ham and some liquor being found in
their huts. They were summoned by their master.
No words were used, but a club felled them to the
ground. A rough box was their coffin, and their
interment was a dog's burial. Nothing was said.
Murder was so common on his plantation that he
feared to be alone after nightfall. He might have
believed in ghosts.
His brother, if not equal in wealth, was at least
equal in cruelty. His bloodhounds were well trained.
Their pen was spacious, and a terror to the slaves.
They were let loose on a runaway, and, if they tracked
him, they literally tore the flesh from his bones. When
this slaveholder died, his shrieks and groans were so
frightful that they appalled his own friends. His last
words were, "I am going to hell; bury my money
After death his eyes remained open. To press the
lids down, silver dollars were laid on them. These
were buried with him. From this circumstance, a
rumor went abroad that his coffin was filled with
money. Three times his grave was opened, and his
coffin taken out. The last time, his body was found
on the ground, and a flock of buzzards were pecking at it. He was again interred, and a sentinel set over
his grave. The perpetrators were never discovered.
Cruelty is contagious in uncivilized communities.
Mr. Conant, a neighbor of Mr. Litch, returned from
town one evening in a partial state of intoxication.
His body servant gave him some offence. He was
divested of his clothes, except his shirt, whipped, and
tied to a large tree in front of the house. It was a
stormy night in winter. The wind blew bitterly cold,
and the boughs of the old tree crackled under falling
sleet. A member of the family, fearing he would
freeze to death, begged that he might be taken down;
but the master would not relent. He remained there
three hours; and, when he was cut down, he was
more dead than alive. Another slave, who stole a pig
from this master, to appease his hunger, was terribly
flogged. In desperation, he tried to run away. But
at the end of two miles, he was so faint with loss of
blood, he thought he was dying. He had a wife, and
he longed to see her once more. Too sick to walk,
he crept back that long distance on his hands and
knees. When he reached his master's, it was night.
He had not strength to rise and open the gate. He
moaned, and tried to call for help. I had a friend
living in the same family. At last his cry reached her.
She went out and found the prostrate man at the gate.
She ran back to the house for assistance, and two men
returned with her. They carried him in, and laid
him on the floor. The back of his shirt was one clot
of blood. By means of lard, my friend loosened it
from the raw flesh. She bandaged him, gave him cool
drink, and left him to rest. The master said he deserved a hundred more lashes. When his own labor
was stolen from him, he had stolen food to appease
his hunger. This was his crime.
Another neighbor was a Mrs. Wade. At no hour of
the day was there cessation of the lash on her
premises. Her labors began with the dawn, and did
not cease till long after nightfall. The barn was her
particular place of torture. There she lashed the slaves
with the might of a man. An old slave of hers once
said to me, "It is hell in missis's house. 'Pears I can
never get out. Day and night I prays to die."
The mistress died before the old woman, and, when
dying, entreated her husband not to permit any one
of her slaves to look on her after death. A slave who
had nursed her children, and had still a child in her
care, watched her chance, and stole with it in her
arms to the room where lay her dead mistress. She
gazed a while on her, then raised her hand and dealt
two blows on her face, saying, as she did so, "The
devil is got you now!" She forgot that the child was
looking on. She had just begun to talk; and she said
to her father, "I did see ma, and mammy did
strike ma, so," striking her own face with her little
hand. The master was startled. He could not imagine
how the nurse could obtain access to the room where
the corpse lay; for he kept the door locked. He
questioned her. She confessed that what the child had
said was true, and told how she had procured the
key. She was sold to Georgia.
In my childhood I knew a valuable slave, named
Charity, and loved her, as all children did. Her young
mistress married, and took her to Louisiana. Her little boy, James, was sold to a good sort of master.
He became involved in debt, and James was sold again
to a wealthy slaveholder, noted for his cruelty. With
this man he grew up to manhood, receiving the
treatment of a dog. After a severe whipping, to save
himself from further infliction of the lash, with which
he was threatened, he took to the woods. He was in
a most miserable condition--cut by the cowskin, half
naked, half starved, and without the means of
procuring a crust of bread.
Some weeks after his escape, he was captured,
tied, and carried back to his master's plantation. This
man considered punishment in his jail, on bread and water,
after receiving hundreds of lashes, too mild for
the poor slave's offence. Therefore he decided, after
the overseer should have whipped him to his
satisfaction, to have him placed between the screws
of the cotton gin, to stay as long as he had been in the
woods. This wretched creature was cut with the
whip from his head to his foot, then washed with
strong brine, to prevent the flesh from mortifying, and
make it heal sooner than it otherwise would. He
was then put into the cotton gin, which was screwed down,
only allowing him room to turn on his side when he
could not lie on his back. Every morning a slave was
sent with a piece of bread and bowl of water, which
were placed within reach of the poor fellow. The
slave was charged, under penalty of severe
punishment, not to speak to him.
Four days passed, and the slave continued to
carry the bread and water. On the second morning,
he found the bread gone, but the water untouched. When he had been in the press four days and five
nights, the slave informed his master that the water
had not been used for four mornings, and that a horrible
stench came from the gin house. The overseer
was sent to examine into it. When the press was
unscrewed, the dead body was found partly eaten by
rats and vermin. Perhaps the rats that devoured his
bread had gnawed him before life was extinct. Poor
Charity! Grandmother and I often asked each other
how her affectionate heart would bear the news, if she
should ever hear of the murder of her son. We had
known her husband, and knew that James was like
him in manliness and intelligence. These were the
qualities that made it so hard for him to be a plantation
slave. They put him into a rough box, and
buried him with less feeling than would have been
manifested for an old house dog. Nobody asked any
questions. He was a slave; and the feeling was that
the master had a right to do what he pleased with his
own property. And what did he care for the value of
a slave? He had hundreds of them. When they
had finished their daily toil, they must hurry to eat
their little morsels, and be ready to extinguish their
pine knots before nine o'clock, when the overseer went
his patrol rounds. He entered every cabin, to see that
men and their wives had gone to bed together, lest the
men, from over-fatigue, should fall asleep in the chimney
corner, and remain there till the morning horn
called them to their daily task. Women are considered
of no value, unless they continually increase their
owner's stock. They are put on a par with animals.
This same master shot a woman through the head, who had run away and been brought back to him. No
one called him to account for it. If a slave resisted
being whipped, the bloodhounds were unpacked, and
set upon him, to tear his flesh from his bones. The
master who did these things was highly educated, and
styled a perfect gentleman. He also boasted the name
and standing of a Christian, though Satan never had
a truer follower.
I could tell of more slaveholders as cruel as those I
have described. They are not exceptions to the general
rule. I do not say there are no humane slaveholders.
Such characters do exist, notwithstanding
the hardening influences around them. But they are
"like angels' visits--few and far between."
I knew a young lady who was one of these rare
specimens. She was an orphan, and inherited as
slaves a woman and her six children. Their father
was a free man. They had a comfortable home of
their own, parents and children living together. The
mother and eldest daughter served their mistress
during the day, and at night returned to their dwelling,
which was on the premises. The young lady was
very pious, and there was some reality in her religion.
She taught her slaves to lead pure lives, and wished
them to enjoy the fruit of their own industry. Her
religion was not a garb put on for Sunday, and laid
aside till Sunday returned again. The eldest daughter
of the slave mother was promised in marriage to a
free man; and the day before the wedding this good
mistress emancipated her, in order that her marriage
might have the sanction of law.
Report said that this young lady cherished an unrequited affection for a man who had resolved to
marry for wealth.. In the course of time a rich uncle
of hers died. He left six thousand dollars to his two
sons by a colored woman, and the remainder of his
property to this orphan niece. The metal soon attracted
the magnet. The lady and her weighty purse
became his. She offered to manumit her slaves--telling
them that her marriage might make unexpected
changes in their destiny, and she wished to insure
their happiness. They refused to take their freedom,
saying that she had always been their best friend, and
they could not be so happy any where as with her. I
was not surprised. I had often seen them in their
comfortable home, and thought that the whole town
did not contain a happier family. They had never felt
slavery; and, when it was too late, they were convinced
of its reality.
When the new master claimed this family as his
property, the father became furious, and went to his
mistress for protection. "I can do nothing for you
now, Harry," said she. "I no longer have the power
I had a week ago. I have succeeded in obtaining the
freedom of your wife; but I cannot obtain it for your
children." The unhappy father swore that nobody
should take his children from him. He concealed
them in the woods for some days; but they were
discovered and taken. The father was put in jail, and
the two oldest boys sold to Georgia. One little girl,
too young to be of service to her master, was left with
the wretched mother. The other three were carried
to their master's plantation. The eldest soon became
a mother; and, when the slaveholder's wife looked at the babe, she wept bitterly. She knew that her own
husband had violated the purity she had so carefully
inculcated. She had a second child by her master,
and then he sold her and his offspring to his brother.
She bore two children to the brother, and was sold
again. The next sister went crazy. The life she was
compelled to lead drove her mad. The third one
became the mother of five daughters. Before the
birth of the fourth the pious mistress died. To the
last, she rendered every kindness to the slaves that
her unfortunate circumstances permitted. She passed
away peacefully, glad to close her eyes on a life which
had been made so wretched by the man she loved.
This man squandered the fortune he had received,
and sought to retrieve his affairs by a second marriage;
but, having retired after a night of drunken debauch,
he was found dead in the morning. He was called a
good master; for he fed and clothed his slaves better
than most masters, and the lash was not heard on his
plantation so frequently as on many others. Had it
not been for slavery, he would have been a better man,
and his wife a happier woman.
No pen can give an adequate description of the
all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave
girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and
fear. The lash and the foul talk of her master and
his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or
fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or
perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents.
If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped
or starved into submission to their will. She may
have had religious principles inculcated by some pious mother or grandmother, or some good mistress; she
may have a lover, whose good opinion and peace of
mind are dear to her heart; or the profligate men who
have power over her may be exceedingly odious to
her. But resistance is hopeless.
prove her contest vain. Life's little day
pass, and she is gone!"
The slaveholder's sons
are, of course, vitiated, even
while boys, by the unclean influences every where
around them. Nor do the master's daughters always
escape. Severe retributions sometimes come upon him
for the wrongs he does to the daughters of the slaves.
The white daughters early hear their parents quarrelling
about some female slave. Their curiosity is
excited, and they soon learn the cause. They are
attended by the young slave girls whom their father
has corrupted; and they hear such talk as should
never meet youthful ears, or any other ears. They
know that the women slaves are subject to their
father's authority in all things; and in some cases they
exercise the same authority over the men slaves. I
have myself seen the master of such a household whose
head was bowed down in shame; for it was known in
the neighborhood that his daughter had selected one
of the meanest slaves on his plantation to be the father
of his first grandchild. She did not make her
advances to her equals, nor even to her father's more
intelligent servants. She selected the most brutalized,
over whom her authority could be exercised with less
fear of exposure. Her father, half frantic with rage,
sought to revenge himself on the offending black man; but his daughter, foreseeing the storm that would
arise, had given him free papers, and sent him out of
In such cases the infant is smothered, or sent where
it is never seen by any who know its history. But if
the white parent is the father, instead of the mother,
the offspring are unblushingly reared for the market.
If they are girls, I have indicated plainly enough what
will be their inevitable destiny.
You may believe what I say; for I write only that
whereof I know. I was twenty-one years in that cage
of obscene birds. I can testify, from my own experience
and observation, that slavery is a curse to the
whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white
fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious;
it contaminates the daughters, and makes the
wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs
an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of
their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.
Yet few slaveholders seem to be aware of the widespread
moral ruin occasioned by this wicked system.
Their talk is of blighted cotton crops--not of the
blight on their children's souls.
If you want to be fully convinced of the abominations
of slavery, go on a southern plantation, and call
yourself a negro trader. Then there will be no
concealment; and you will see and hear things that will
seem to you impossible among human beings with
A PERILOUS PASSAGE IN THE SLAVE GIRL'S
AFTER my lover went away, Dr. Flint contrived a
new plan. He seemed to have an idea that my fear of
my mistress was his greatest obstacle. In the blandest
tones, he told me that he was going to build a small
house for me, in a secluded place, four miles away from
the town. I shuddered; but I was constrained to
listen, while he talked of his intention to give me a
home of my own, and to make a lady of me. Hitherto,
I had escaped my dreaded fate, by being in the midst
of people. My grandmother had already had high
words with my master about me. She had told him
pretty plainly what she thought of his character, and
there was considerable gossip in the neighborhood
about our affairs, to which the open-mouthed jealousy
of Mrs. Flint contributed not a little. When my master
said he was going to build a house for me, and that
he could do it with little trouble and expense, I was in
hopes something would happen to frustrate his scheme;
but I soon heard that the house was actually begun.
I vowed before my Maker that I would never enter it.
I had rather toil on the plantation from dawn till dark;
I had rather live and die in jail, than drag on, from
day to day, through such a living death. I was determined
that the master, whom I so hated and loathed,
who had blighted the prospects of my youth, and made my life a desert, should not, after my long struggle
with him, succeed at last in trampling his victim under
his feet. I would do any thing, every thing, for the sake
of defeating him. What could I do? I thought and
thought, till I became desperate, and made a plunge
into the abyss.
And now, reader, I come to a period in my unhappy life,
which I would gladly forget if I could. The remembrance
fills me with sorrow and shame. It pains
me to tell you of it; but I have promised to tell you
the truth, and I will do it honestly, let it cost me what
it may. I will not try to screen myself behind
the plea of compulsion from a master; for it was
not so. Neither can I plead ignorance or thoughtlessness.
For years, my master had done his utmost
to pollute my mind with foul images, and to destroy
the pure principles inculcated by my grandmother,
and the good mistress of my childhood. The influences
of slavery had had the same effect on me that
they had on other young girls; they had made me
prematurely knowing, concerning the evil ways of
the world. I know what I did, and I did it with
But, O, ye happy women, whose purity has been
sheltered from childhood, who have been free to choose
the objects of your affection, whose homes are protected
by law, do not judge the poor desolate slave girl too
severely! If slavery had been abolished, I, also, could
have married the man of my choice; I could have had
a home shielded by the laws; and I should have been
spared the painful task of confessing what I am now
about to relate; but all my prospects had been blighted by slavery. I wanted to keep myself pure; and,
under the most adverse circumstances, I tried hard to
preserve my self-respect; but I was struggling alone in
the powerful grasp of the demon Slavery; and the
monster proved too strong for me. I felt as if I was
forsaken by God and man; as if all my efforts must be
frustrated; and I became reckless in my despair.
I have told you that Dr. Flint's persecutions and his
wife's jealousy had given rise to some gossip in the
neighborhood. Among others, it chanced that a white
unmarried gentleman had obtained some knowledge of
the circumstances in which I was placed. He knew
my grandmother, and often spoke to me in the street.
He became interested for me, and asked questions
about my master, which I answered in part. He
expressed a great deal of sympathy, and a wish to aid
me. He constantly sought opportunities to see me, and
wrote to me frequently. I was a poor slave girl, only
fifteen years old.
So much attention from a superior person was, of
course, flattering; for human nature is the same in all.
I also felt grateful for his sympathy, and encouraged
by his kind words. It seemed to me a great thing to
have such a friend. By degrees, a more tender feeling
crept into my heart. He was an educated and eloquent
gentleman; too eloquent, alas, for the poor slave girl
who trusted in him. Of course I saw whither all this
was tending. I knew the impassable gulf between us;
but to be an object of interest to a man who is not
married, and who is not her master, is agreeable to the
pride and feelings of a slave, if her miserable
situation has left her any pride or sentiment. It
seems less degrading to give one's self, than to submit to compulsion.
There is something akin to freedom in having a lover
who has no control over you, except that which he gains by
kindness and attachment. A master may treat you
as rudely as he pleases, and you dare not speak;
moreover, the wrong does not seem so great with an
unmarried man, as with one who has a wife to be
made unhappy. There may be sophistry in all this; but
the condition of a slave confuses all principles of
morality, and, in fact, renders the practice of them
When I found that my master had actually begun
to build the lonely cottage, other feelings mixed with
those I have described. Revenge, and calculations of
interest, were added to flattered vanity and sincere
gratitude for kindness. I knew nothing would enrage
Dr. Flint so much as to know that I favored another;
and it was something to triumph over my tyrant even in
that small way. I thought he would revenge himself by
selling me, and I was sure my friend, Mr. Sands,
would buy me. He was a man of more generosity and
feeling than my master, and I thought my freedom could
be easily obtained from him. The crisis of my fate now
came so near that I was desperate. I shuttered to think
of being the mother of children that should be owned by
my old tyrant. I knew that as soon as a new fancy took
him, his victims were sold far off to get rid of them;
especially if they had children. I had seen several women
sold, with his babies at the breast. He never allowed
his offspring by slaves to remain long in sight of himself
and his wife. Of a man who was not my master I could
ask to have my children well supported; and in this case, I felt confident I should obtain the boon. I
also felt quite sure that they would be made free. With
all these thoughts revolving in my mind, and seeing
no other way of escaping the doom I so much dreaded,
I made a headlong plunge. Pity me, and pardon me,
O virtuous reader! You never knew what it is to be
a slave; to be entirely unprotected by law or custom;
to have the laws reduce you to the condition of a
chattel, entirely subject to the will of another. You
never exhausted your ingenuity in avoiding the snares,
and eluding the power of a hated tyrant; you never
shuddered at the sound of his footsteps, and trembled
within hearing of his voice. I know I did wrong. No
one can feel it more sensibly than I do. The painful
and humiliating memory will haunt me to my dying
day. Still, in looking back, calmly, on the events of my
life, I feel that the slave woman ought not to be judged
by the same standard as others.
The months passed on. I had many unhappy hours.
I secretly mourned over the sorrow I was bringing on
my grandmother, who had so tried to shield me from
harm. I knew that I was the greatest comfort of her
old age, and that it was a source of pride to her that I
had not degraded myself, like most of the slaves. I
wanted to confess to her that I was no longer worthy
of her love; but I could not utter the dreaded words.
As for Dr. Flint, I had a feeling of satisfaction and
triumph in the thought of telling him. From time to
time he told me of his intended arrangements, and I
was silent. At last, he came and told me the cottage
was completed, and ordered me to go to it. I told him
I would never enter it. He said, "I have heard enough of such talk as that. You shall go, if you are
carried by force; and you shall remain there."
I replied, "I will never go there. In a few months
I shall be a mother."
He stood and looked at me in dumb amazement, and
left the house without a word. I thought I should be
happy in my triumph over him. But now that the
truth was out, and my relatives would hear of it, I felt
wretched. Humble as were their circumstances, they
had pride in my good character. Now, how could I
look them in the face? My self-respect was gone! I
had resolved that I would be virtuous, though I was a
slave. I had said, "Let the storm beat! I will brave
it till I die." And now, how humiliated I felt!
I went to my grandmother. My lips moved to make
confession, but the words stuck in my throat. I sat
down in the shade of a tree at her door and began to
sew. I think she saw something unusual was the
matter with me. The mother of slaves is very watchful.
She knows there is no security for her children.
After they have entered their teens she lives in daily
expectation of trouble. This leads to many questions.
If the girl is of a sensitive nature, timidity keeps her
from answering truthfully, and this well-meant course
has a tendency to drive her from maternal counsels.
Presently, in came my mistress, like a mad woman,
and accused me concerning her husband. My grandmother,
whose suspicions had been previously awakened,
believed what she said. She exclaimed, "O
Linda! has it come to this? I had rather see you
dead than to see you as you now are. You are a
disgrace to your dead mother." She tore from my fingers my mother's wedding ring and her silver thimble.
"Go away!" she exclaimed, "and never come to my
house, again." Her reproaches fell so hot and heavy,
that they left me no chance to answer. Bitter tears,
such as the eyes never shed but once, were my only
answer. I rose from my seat, but fell back again,
sobbing. She did not speak to me; but the tears were
running down her furrowed cheeks, and they scorched
me like fire. She had always been so kind to me! So
kind! How I longed to throw myself at her feet, and
tell her all the truth! But she had ordered me to go,
and never to come there again. After a few minutes,
I mustered strength, and started to obey her. With
what feelings did I now close that little gate, which I
used to open with such an eager hand in my childhood!
It closed upon me with a sound I never
Where could I go? I was afraid to return to my master's.
I walked on recklessly, not caring where I went,
or what would become of me. When I had gone four
or five miles, fatigue compelled me to stop. I sat
down on the stump of an old tree. The stars were
shining through the boughs above me. How they
mocked me, with their bright, calm light! The hours
passed by, and as I sat there alone a chilliness and
deadly sickness came over me. I sank on the ground.
My mind was full of horrid thoughts. I prayed to die;
but the prayer was not answered. At last, with great
effort I roused myself, and walked some distance further,
to the house of a woman who had been a friend of my
mother. When I told her why I was there, she spoke
soothingly to me; but I could not be comforted. I thought I could bear my shame if I could only be
reconciled to my grandmother. I longed to open my
heart to her. I thought if she could know the real
state of the case, and all I had been bearing for years,
she would perhaps judge me less harshly. My friend
advised me to send for her. I did so; but days of
agonizing suspense passed before she came. Had she
utterly forsaken me? No. She came at last. I knelt
before her, and told her the things that had poisoned
my life; how long I had been persecuted; that I saw
no way of escape; and in an hour of extremity I had
become desperate. She listened in silence. I told her
I would bear any thing and do any thing, if in time
I had hopes of obtaining her forgiveness. I begged
of her to pity me, for my dead mother's sake. And
she did pity me. She did not say, "I forgive you;"
but she looked at me lovingly, with her eyes full of
tears. She laid her old hand gently on my head, and
murmured, "Poor child! Poor child!"
THE NEW TIE TO LIFE.
I RETURNED to my good grandmother's house. She
had an interview with Mr. Sands. When she asked
him why he could not have left her one ewe lamb,--whether there were not plenty of slaves who did not
care about character,--he made no answer; but he
spoke kind and encouraging words. He promised to
care for my child, and to buy me, be the conditions
what they might.
I had not seen Dr. Flint for five days. I had never
seen him since I made the avowal to him. He talked
of the disgrace I had brought on myself; how I had
sinned against my master, and mortified my old
grandmother. He intimated that if I had accepted his
proposals, he, as a physician, could have saved me from
exposure. He even condescended to pity me. Could
he have offered wormwood more bitter? He, whose
persecutions had been the cause of my sin!
"Linda," said he, "though you have been criminal
towards me, I feel for you, and I can pardon you
if you obey my wishes. Tell me whether the fellow
you wanted to marry is the father of your child. If
you deceive me, you shall feel the fires of hell."
I did not feel as proud as I had done. My strongest
weapon with him was gone. I was lowered in my
own estimation, and had resolved to bear his abuse in
silence. But when he spoke contemptuously of the lover who had always treated me honorably; when I
remembered that but for him I might have been a
virtuous, free, and happy wife, I lost my patience.
"I have sinned against God and myself," I replied;
"but not against you."
He clinched his teeth, and muttered, "Curse you!"
He came towards me, with ill-suppressed rage, and
exclaimed, "You obstinate girl! I could grind your
bones to powder! You have thrown yourself away on
some worthless rascal. You are weak-minded, and
have been easily persuaded by those who don't care a
straw for you. The future will settle accounts between
us. You are blinded now; but hereafter you will be
convinced that your master was your best friend. My
lenity towards you is a proof of it. I might have
punished you in many ways. I might have had you
whipped till you fell dead under the lash. But I
wanted you to live; I would have bettered your
condition. Others cannot do it. You are my slave..
Your mistress, disgusted by your conduct, forbids you
to return to the house; therefore I leave you here for
the present; but I shall see you often. I will call
He came with frowning brows, that showed a
dissatisfied state of mind. After asking about my health,
he inquired whether my board was paid, and who
visited me. He then went on to say that he had neglected
his duty; that as a physician there were certain
things that he ought to have explained to me.
Then followed talk such as would have made the most
shameless blush. He ordered me to stand up before
him. I obeyed. "I command you," said he, "to tell me whether the father of your child is white or black."
I hesitated. "Answer me this instant!" he exclaimed.
I did answer. He sprang upon me like a wolf, and
grabbed my arm as if he would have broken it. "Do
you love him?" said he, in a hissing tone.
"I am thankful that I do not despise him," I
He raised his hand to strike me; but it fell again.
I don't know what arrested the blow. He sat down,
with lips tightly compressed. At last he spoke. "I
came here," said he, "to make you a friendly proposition;
but your ingratitude chafes me beyond endurance.
You turn aside all my good intentions towards
you. I don't know what it is that keeps me from killing
you." Again he rose, as if he had a mind to
But he resumed. "On one condition I will forgive
your insolence and crime. You must henceforth
have no communication of any kind with the father
of your child. You must not ask any thing from him,
or receive any thing from him. I will take care of
you and your child. You had better promise this at
once, and not wait till you are deserted by him. This
is the last act of mercy I shall show towards you."
I said something about being unwilling to have my
child supported by a man who had cursed it and me
also. He rejoined, that a woman who had sunk to my
level had no right to expect any thing else. He asked,
for the last time, would I accept his kindness? I
answered that I would not.
"Very well," said he; "then take the consequences
of your wayward course. Never look to me for help. You are my slave, and shall always be my slave. I
will never sell you, that you may depend upon."
Hope died away in my heart as he closed the door
after him. I had calculated that in his rage he would
sell me to a slave-trader; and I knew the father of my
child was on the watch to buy me.
About this time my uncle Phillip was expected to
return from a voyage. The day before his departure
I had officiated as bridesmaid to a young friend. My
heart was then ill at ease, but my smiling countenance
did not betray it. Only a year had passed; but what
fearful changes it had wrought! My heart had grown
gray in misery. Lives that flash in sunshine, and lives
that are born in tears, receive their hue from
circumstances. None of us know what a year may bring
I felt no joy when they told me my uncle had come.
He wanted to see me, though he knew what had
happened. I shrank from him at first; but at last consented
that he should come to my room. He received
me as he always had done. O, how my heart smote
me when I felt his tears on my burning cheeks! The
words of my grandmother came to my mind,--"Perhaps
your mother and father are taken from the evil
days to come." My disappointed heart could now
praise God that it was so. But why, thought I, did
my relatives ever cherish hopes for me? What was
there to save me from the usual fate of slave girls?
Many more beautiful and more intelligent than I had
experienced a similar fate, or a far worse one. How
could they hope that I should escape?
My uncle's stay was short, and I was not sorry for it. I was too ill in mind and body to enjoy my friends
as I had done. For some weeks I was unable to leave
my bed. I could not have any doctor but my master,
and I would not have him sent for. At last, alarmed
by my increasing illness, they sent for him. I was very
weak and nervous; and as soon as he entered the
room, I began to scream. They told him my state
was very critical. He had no wish to hasten me out
of the world, and he withdrew.
When my babe was born, they said it was premature.
It weighed only four pounds; but God let it live. I
heard the doctor say I could not survive till morning.
I had often prayed for death; but now I did not want
to die, unless my child could die too. Many weeks
passed before I was able to leave my bed. I was a
mere wreck of my former self. For a year there was
scarcely a day when I was free from chills and fever.
My babe also was sickly. His little limbs were often
racked with pain. Dr. Flint continued his visits, to
look after my health; and he did not fail to remind me
that my child was an addition to his stock of slaves.
I felt too feeble to dispute with him, and listened to
his remarks in silence. His visits were less frequent;
but his busy spirit could not remain quiet. He
employed my brother in his office, and he was made the
medium of frequent notes and messages to me. William
was a bright lad, and of much use to the doctor.
He had learned to put up medicines, to leech, cup, and
bleed. He had taught himself to read and spell. I
was proud of my brother; and the old doctor suspected
as much. One day, when I had not seen him
for several weeks, I heard his steps approaching the door. I dreaded the encounter, and hid myself. He
inquired for me, of course; but I was nowhere to be
found. He went to his office, and despatched William
with a note. The color mounted to my brother's face
when he gave it to me; and he said, "Don't you hate
me, Linda, for bringing you these things?" I told
him I could not blame him; he was a slave, and
obliged to obey his master's will. The note ordered
me to come to his office. I went. He demanded to
know where I was when he called. I told him I was
at home. He flew into a passion, and said he knew
better. Then he launched out upon his usual themes,--my crimes against him, and my ingratitude for his
forbearance. The laws were laid down to me anew, and
I was dismissed. I felt humiliated that my brother
should stand by, and listen to such language as would
be addressed only to a slave. Poor boy! He was
powerless to defend me; but I saw the tears, which he
vainly strove to keep back. This manifestation of feeling
irritated the doctor. William could do nothing to
please him. One morning he did not arrive at the
office so early as usual; and that circumstance
afforded his master an opportunity to vent his spleen.
He was put in jail. The next day my brother sent a
trader to the doctor, with a request to be sold. His
master was greatly incensed at what he called his
insolence. He said he had put him there to reflect upon
his bad conduct, and he certainly was not giving any
evidence of repentance. For two days he harassed
himself to find somebody to do his office work; but
every thing went wrong without William. He was
released, and ordered to take his old stand, with many threats, if he was not careful about his future
As the months passed on, my boy improved in health.
When he was a year old, they called him beautiful.
The little vine was taking deep root in my existence,
though its clinging fondness excited a mixture of love
and pain. When I was most sorely oppressed I found
a solace in his smiles. I loved to watch his infant
slumbers; but always there was a dark cloud over my
enjoyment. I could never forget that he was a slave.
Sometimes I wished that he might die in infancy. God
tried me. My darling became very ill. The bright
eyes grew dull, and the little feet and hands were so
icy cold that I thought death had already touched
them. I had prayed for his death, but never so earnestly
as I now prayed for his life; and my prayer was
heard. Alas, what mockery it is for a slave mother
to try to pray back her dying child to life! Death is
better than slavery. It was a sad thought that I had
no name to give my child. His father caressed him
and treated him kindly, whenever he had a chance to
see him. He was not unwilling that he should bear
his name; but he had no legal claim to it; and if I
had bestowed it upon him, my master would have
regarded it as a new crime, a new piece of insolence,
and would, perhaps, revenge it on the boy. O, the
serpent of Slavery has many and poisonous fangs!
FEAR OF INSURRECTION.
NOT far from this time Nat Turner's insurrection
broke out; and the news threw our town into great
commotion. Strange that they should be alarmed
when their slaves were so "contented and happy"!
But so it was.
It was always the custom to have a muster every
year. On that occasion every white man shouldered
his musket. The citizens and the so-called country
gentlemen wore military uniforms. The poor whites
took their places in the ranks in every-day dress, some
without shoes, some without hats. This grand occasion
had already passed; and when the slaves were
told there was to be another muster, they were surprised
and rejoiced. Poor creatures! They thought
it was going to be a holiday. I was informed of the
true state of affairs, and imparted it to the few I could
trust. Most gladly would I have proclaimed it to
every slave; but I dared not. All could not be relied
on. Mighty is the power of the torturing lash.
By sunrise, people were pouring in from every quarter
within twenty miles of the town. I knew the
houses were to be searched; and I expected it would
be done by country bullies and the poor whites. I
knew nothing annoyed them so much as to see colored
people living in comfort and respectability; so I made
arrangements for them with especial care. I arranged every thing in my grandmother's house as neatly as
possible. I put white quilts on the beds, and decorated
some of the rooms with flowers. When all was
arranged, I sat down at the window to watch. Far as
my eye could reach, it rested on a motley crowd of
soldiers. Drums and fifes were discoursing martial
music. The men were divided into companies of sixteen,
each headed by a captain. Orders were given,
and the wild scouts rushed in every direction, wherever
a colored face was to be found.
It was a grand opportunity for the low whites, who
had no negroes of their own to scourge. They exulted
in such a chance to exercise a little brief authority,
and show their subserviency to the slaveholders; not
reflecting that the power which trampled on the colored
people also kept themselves in poverty, ignorance,
and moral degradation. Those who never witnessed
such scenes can hardly believe what I know was
inflicted at this time on innocent men, women, and children,
against whom there was not the slightest ground
for suspicion. Colored people and slaves who lived in
remote parts of the town suffered in an especial manner.
In some cases the searchers scattered powder and shot
among their clothes, and then sent other parties to find
them, and bring them forward as proof that they were
plotting insurrection. Every where men, women, and
children were whipped till the blood stood in puddles
at their feet. Some received five hundred lashes;
others were tied hands and feet, and tortured with a
bucking paddle, which blisters the skin terribly. The
dwellings of the colored people, unless they happened
to be protected by some influential white person, who was nigh at hand, were robbed of clothing and every
thing else the marauders thought worth carrying away.
All day long these unfeeling wretches went round, like
a troop of demons, terrifying and tormenting the helpless.
At night, they formed themselves into patrol
bands, and went wherever they chose among the colored
people, acting out their brutal will. Many women
hid themselves in woods and swamps, to keep out of
their way. If any of the husbands or fathers told of
these outrages, they were tied up to the public whipping
post, and cruelly scourged for telling lies about
white men. The consternation was universal. No
two people that had the slightest tinge of color in their
faces dared to be seen talking together.
I entertained no positive fears about our household,
because we were in the midst of white families who
would protect us. We were ready to receive the
soldiers whenever they came. It was not long before
we heard the tramp of feet and the sound of voices.
The door was rudely pushed open; and in they tumbled,
like a pack of hungry wolves. They snatched
at every thing within their reach. Every box, trunk,
closet, and corner underwent a thorough examination.
A box in one of the drawers containing some silver
change was eagerly pounced upon. When I stepped
forward to take it from them, one of the soldiers turned
and said angrily, "What d'ye foller us fur? D'ye
s'pose white folks is come to steal?"
I replied, "You have come to search; but you have
searched that box, and I will take it, if you please."
At that moment I saw a white gentleman who was
friendly to us; and I called to him, and asked him to have the goodness to come in and stay till the search
was over. He readily complied. His entrance into
the house brought in the captain of the company,
whose business it was to guard the outside of the
house, and see that none of the inmates left it. This
officer was Mr. Litch, the wealthy slaveholder whom I
mentioned, in the account of neighboring planters, as
being notorious for his cruelty. He felt above soiling
his hands with the search. He merely gave orders;
and, if a bit of writing was discovered, it was carried
to him by his ignorant followers, who were unable to
My grandmother had a large trunk of bedding and
table cloths. When that was opened, there was a great
shout of surprise; and one exclaimed, "Where'd the
damned niggers git all dis sheet an' table clarf?"
My grandmother, emboldened by the presence of our
white protector, said, "You may be sure we didn't
pilfer 'em from your houses."
"Look here, mammy," said a grim-looking fellow
without any coat, "you seem to feel mighty gran'
'cause you got all them 'ere fixens. White folks
oughter have 'em all."
His remarks were interrupted by a chorus of voices
shouting, "We's got 'em! We's got 'em! Dis 'ere
yaller gal's got letters!"
There was a general rush for the supposed letter,
which, upon examination, proved to be some verses
written to me by a friend. In packing away my
things, I had overlooked them. When their captain
informed them of their contents, they seemed much
disappointed. He inquired of me who wrote them. I told him it was one of my friends. "Can you read
them?" he asked. When I told him I could, he
swore, and raved, and tore the paper into bits.
"Bring me all your letters!" said he, in a
commanding tone. I told him I had none. "Don't be
afraid," he continued, in an insinuating way. "Bring
them all to me. Nobody shall do you any harm."
Seeing I did not move to obey him, his pleasant tone
changed to oaths and threats. "Who writes to you?
half free niggers?" inquired he. I replied, "O, no;
most of my letters are from white people. Some
request me to burn them after they are read, and
some I destroy without reading."
An exclamation of surprise from some of the
company put a stop to our conversation. Some silver
spoons which ornamented an old-fashioned buffet had
just been discovered. My grandmother was in the
habit of preserving fruit for many ladies in the town,
and of preparing suppers for parties; consequently
she had many jars of preserves. The closet that contained
these was next invaded, and the contents tasted.
One of them, who was helping himself freely, tapped
his neighbor on the shoulder, and said, "Wal done!
Don't wonder de niggers want to kill all de white
folks, when dey live on 'sarves" [meaning preserves].
I stretched out my hand to take the jar, saying, "You
were not sent here to search for sweetmeats."
"And what were we sent for?" said the captain,
bristling up to me. I evaded the question.
The search of the house was completed, and nothing
found to condemn us. They next proceeded to
the garden, and knocked about every bush and vine with no better success. The captain called his men
together, and, after a short consultation, the order to
march was given. As they passed out of the gate, the
captain turned back, and pronounced a malediction on
the house. He said it ought to be burned to the ground,
and each of its inmates receive thirty-nine lashes. We
came out of this affair very fortunately; not losing any
thing except some wearing apparel.
Towards evening the turbulence increased. The
soldiers, stimulated by drink, committed still greater
cruelties. Shrieks and shouts continually rent the air.
Not daring to go to the door, I peeped under the
window curtain. I saw a mob dragging along a number
of colored people, each white man, with his musket
upraised, threatening instant death if they did not stop
their shrieks. Among the prisoners was a respectable
old colored minister. They had found a few parcels of
shot in his house, which his wife had for years used to
balance her scales. For this they were going to shoot
him on Court House Green. What a spectacle was
that for a civilized country! A rabble, staggering under
intoxication, assuming to be the administrators of
The better class of the community exerted their
influence to save the innocent, persecuted people; and
in several instances they succeeded, by keeping them
shut up in jail till the excitement abated. At last the
white citizens found that their own property was not
safe from the lawless rabble they had summoned to
protect them. They rallied the drunken swarm, drove
them back into the country, and set a guard over the
The next day, the town patrols were commissioned
to search colored people that lived out of the city; and
the most shocking outrages were committed with
perfect impunity. Every day for a fortnight, if I looked
out, I saw horsemen with some poor panting negro
tied to their saddles, and compelled by the lash to keep
up with their speed, till they arrived at the jail yard.
Those who had been whipped too unmercifully to
walk were washed with brine, tossed into a cart, and
carried to jail. One black man, who had not fortitude
to endure scourging, promised to give information
about the conspiracy. But it turned out that he knew
nothing at all. He had not even heard the name of Nat
Turner. The poor fellow had, however, made up a
story, which augmented his own sufferings and those
of the colored people.
The day patrol continued for some weeks, and at
sundown a night guard was substituted. Nothing at all
was proved against the colored people, bond or free.
The wrath of the slaveholders was somewhat
appeased by the capture of Nat Turner. The
imprisoned were released. The slaves were sent to
their masters, and the free were permitted to return to
their ravaged homes. Visiting was strictly forbidden
on the plantations. The slaves begged the privilege of
again meeting at their little church in the woods, with
their burying ground around it. It was built by the
colored people, and they had no higher happiness than
to meet there and sing hymns together, and pour out
their hearts in spontaneous prayer. Their request was
denied, and the church was demolished. They were
permitted to attend the white churches, a certain portion of the galleries being appropriated to their use.
There, when every body else had partaken of the
communion, and the benediction had been pronounced,
the minister said, "Come down, now, my colored
friends." They obeyed the summons, and partook of
the bread and wine, in commemoration of the meek
and lowly Jesus, who said, "God is your Father, and
all ye are brethren."
THE CHURCH AND SLAVERY.
AFTER the alarm caused by Nat Turner's insurrection
had subsided, the slaveholders came to the conclusion
that it would be well to give the slaves enough of
religious instruction to keep them from murdering their
masters. The Episcopal clergyman offered to hold a
separate service on Sundays for their benefit. His
colored members were very few, and also very respectable--a fact which I presume had some weight with
him. The difficulty was to decide on a suitable place
for them to worship. The Methodist and Baptist
churches admitted them in the afternoon, but their
carpets and cushions were not so costly as those at the
Episcopal church. It was at last decided that they
should meet at the house of a free colored man, who
was a member.
I was invited to attend, because I could read. Sunday
evening came, and, trusting to the cover of night,
I ventured out. I rarely ventured out by daylight,
for I always went with fear, expecting at every turn to
encounter Dr. Flint, who was sure to turn me back, or
order me to his office to inquire where I got my bonnet,
or some other article of dress. When the Rev. Mr. Pike
came, there were some twenty persons present.
The reverend gentleman knelt in prayer, then
seated himself, and requested all present, who could
read, to open their books, while he gave out the
portions he wished them to repeat or respond to.
His text was, "Servants, be obedient to them that
are your masters according to the flesh, with fear
and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto
Pious Mr. Pike brushed up his hair till it stood upright,
and, in deep, solemn tones, began: "Hearken,
ye servants! Give strict heed unto my words. You
are rebellious sinners. Your hearts are filled with all
manner of evil. 'Tis the devil who tempts you. God
is angry with you, and will surely punish you, if you
don't forsake your wicked ways. You that live in
town are eye-servants behind your master's back.
Instead of serving your masters faithfully, which is
pleasing in the sight of your heavenly Master, you are
idle, and shirk your work. God sees you. You tell
lies. God hears you. Instead of being engaged in
worshipping him, you are hidden away somewhere,
feasting on your master's substance; tossing
coffee-grounds with some wicked fortuneteller, or
cutting cards with another old hag. Your masters may not
find you out, but God sees you, and will punish you.
O, the depravity of your hearts! When your master's
work is done, are you quietly together, thinking of the
goodness of God to such sinful creatures? No; you
are quarrelling, and tying up little bags of roots to
bury under the door-steps to poison each other with.
God sees you. You men steal away to every grog
shop to sell your master's corn, that you may buy
rum to drink. God sees you. You sneak into the
back streets, or among the bushes, to pitch coppers.
Although your masters may not find you out, God
sees you; and he will punish you. You must forsake your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your
old master and your young master--your old mistress
and your young mistress. If you disobey your earthly
master, you offend your heavenly Master. You must
obey God's commandments. When you go from here,
don't stop at the corners of the streets to talk, but go
directly home, and let your master and mistress see
that you have come."
The benediction was pronounced. We went home,
highly amused at brother Pike's gospel teaching, and
we determined to hear him again. I went the next
Sabbath evening, and heard pretty much a repetition
of the last discourse. At the close of the meeting,
Mr. Pike informed us that he found it very inconvenient
to meet at the friend's house, and he should be
glad to see us, every Sunday evening, at his own
I went home with the feeling that I had heard the
Reverend Mr. Pike for the last time. Some of his
members repaired to his house, and found that the
kitchen sported two tallow candles; the first time, I
am sure, since its present occupant owned it, for the
servants never had any thing but pine knots. It was
so long before the reverend gentleman descended from
his comfortable parlor that the slaves left, and went to
enjoy a Methodist shout. They never seem so happy
as when shouting and singing at religious meetings.
Many of them are sincere, and nearer to the gate of
heaven than sanctimonious Mr. Pike, and other long-faced
Christians, who see wounded Samaritans, and
pass by on the other side.
The slaves generally compose their own songs and hymns, and they do not trouble their heads much about
the measure. They often sing the following verses:
Satan is one busy ole man;
rolls dem blocks all in my way;
Jesus is my bosom friend;
rolls dem brooks away.
I had died when I was young,
how my stam'ring tongue would have sung;
I am ole, and now I stand
narrow chance for to tread dat heavenly land."
I well remember one
occasion when I attended a
Methodist class meeting. I went with a burdened
spirit, and happened to sit next a poor, bereaved
mother, whose heart was still heavier than mine.
The class leader was the town constable--a man who
bought and sold slaves, who whipped his brethren and
sisters of the church at the public whipping post, in
jail or out of jail. He was ready to perform that
Christian office any where for fifty cents. This white-faced,
black-hearted brother came near us, and said to
the stricken woman, "Sister, can't you tell us how the
Lord deals with your soul? Do you love him as you
She rose to her feet, and said, in piteous tones,
"My Lord and Master, help me! My load is more
than I can bear. God has hid himself from me, and
I am left in darkness and misery." Then, striking
her breast, she continued, "I can't tell you what is in
here! They've got all my children. Last week they
took the last one. God only knows where they've
sold her. They let me have her sixteen years, and
then--O! O! Pray for her brothers and sisters! I've got nothing to live for now. God make my time
She sat down, quivering in every limb. I saw that
constable class leader become crimson in the face with
suppressed laughter, while he held up his handkerchief,
that those who were weeping for the poor woman's
calamity might not see his merriment. Then,
with assumed gravity, he said to the bereaved mother,
"Sister, pray to the Lord that every dispensation of
his divine will may be sanctified to the good of your
poor needy soul!"
The congregation struck up a hymn, and sung as
though they were as free as the birds that warbled
Satan thought he had a mighty aim;
missed my soul, and caught my sins.
Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!
took my sins upon his back;
muttering and grumbling down to hell.
Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!
Satan's church is here below.
to God's free church I hope to go.
Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!"
Precious are such
moments to the poor slaves. If
you were to hear them at such times, you might think
they were happy. But can that hour of singing and
shouting sustain them through the dreary week, toiling
without wages, under constant dread of the lash?
The Episcopal clergyman, who, ever since my earliest
recollection, had been a sort of god among the
slaveholders, concluded, as his family was large, that
he must go where money was more abundant. A very different clergyman took his place. The change
was very agreeable to the colored people, who said,
"God has sent us a good man this time." They loved
him, and their children followed him for a smile or a
kind word. Even the slaveholders felt his influence.
He brought to the rectory five slaves. His wife taught
them to read and write, and to be useful to her and
themselves. As soon as he was settled, he turned his
attention to the needy slaves around him. He urged
upon his parishioners the duty of having a meeting
expressly for them every Sunday, with a sermon
adapted to their comprehension. After much argument
and importunity, it was finally agreed that they
might occupy the gallery of the church on Sunday
evenings. Many colored people, hitherto unaccustomed
to attend church, now gladly went to hear the
gospel preached. The sermons were simple, and they
understood them. Moreover, it was the first time they
had ever been addressed as human beings. It was not
long before his white parishioners began to be dissatisfied.
He was accused of preaching better sermons to
the negroes than he did to them. He honestly confessed
that he bestowed more pains upon those sermons
than upon any others; for the slaves were reared in
such ignorance that it was a difficult task to adapt himself
to their comprehension. Dissensions arose in the
parish. Some wanted he should preach to them in
the evening, and to the slaves in the afternoon. In the
midst of these disputings his wife died, after a very
short illness. Her slaves gathered round her dying
bed in great sorrow. She said, "I have tried to do
you good and promote your happiness; and if I have failed, it has not been for want of interest in your
welfare. Do not weep for me; but prepare for the
new duties that lie before you. I leave you all free.
May we meet in a better world." Her liberated slaves
were sent away, with funds to establish them comfortably.
The colored people will long bless the memory
of that truly Christian woman. Soon after her death
her husband preached his farewell sermon, and many
tears were shed at his departure.
Several years after, he passed through our town and
preached to his former congregation. In his afternoon
sermon he addressed the colored people. "My
friends," said he, "it affords me great happiness to
have an opportunity of speaking to you again. For
two years I have been striving to do something for the
colored people of my own parish; but nothing is yet
accomplished. I have not even preached a sermon to
them. Try to live according to the word of God, my
friends. Your skin is darker than mine; but God
judges men by their hearts, not by the color of their
skins." This was strange doctrine from a southern
pulpit. It was very offensive to slaveholders. They
said he and his wife had made fools of their slaves,
and that he preached like a fool to the negroes.
I knew an old black man, whose piety and childlike
trust in God were beautiful to witness. At fifty-three
years old he joined the Baptist church. He had
a most earnest desire to learn to read. He thought he
should know how to serve God better if he could only
read the Bible. He came to me, and bogged me to
teach him. He said he could not pay me, for he had no money, but he would bring me nice fruit when the
season for it came. I asked him if he didn't know it
was contrary to law; and that slaves were whipped
and imprisoned for teaching each other to read. This
brought the tears into his eyes. "Don't be troubled
uncle Fred," said I. "I have no thoughts of refusing to
teach you. I only told you of the law, that you might
know the danger, and be on your guard." He thought
he could plan to come three times a week without its
being suspected. I selected a quiet nook, where no
intruder was likely to penetrate, and there I taught him
his A, B, and C. Considering his age, his progress was
astonishing. As soon as he could spell in two syllables
he wanted to spell out words in the Bible. The happy
smile that illuminated his face put joy into my heart.
After spelling out a few words, he paused, and said,
"Honey, it 'pears when I can read dis good book I shall
be nearer to God. White man is got all de sense. He
can larn easy. It ain't easy for ole black man like me. I
only wants to read dis book, dat I may know how to
live, den I hab no fear 'bout dying."
I tried to encourage him by speaking of the rapid
progress he had made. "Hab patience, child," he
replied. "I larns slow."
I had no need of patience. His gratitude, and the
happiness I imparted, were more than a recompense
for all my trouble.
At the end of six months he had read through the
New Testament, and could find any text in it. One
day, when he had recited unusually well, I said, "Uncle Fred, how do you manage to get your
lessons so well?"
"Lord bress you, chile," he replied. "You nebber
gibs me a lesson dat I don't pray to God to help me to
understan' what I spells and what I reads. And he
does help me, chile. Bress his holy name!"
There are thousands, who, like good uncle Fred, are
thirsting for the water of life; but the law forbids it,
and the churches withhold it. They send the Bible to
heathen abroad, and neglect the heathen at home. I am
glad that missionaries go out to the dark corners of the
earth; but I ask them not to overlook the dark corners
at home. Talk to American slaveholders as you talk
to savages in Africa. Tell them it is wrong to traffic in
men. Tell them it is sinful to sell their own children,
and atrocious to violate their own daughters.. Tell them
that all men are brethren, and that man has no right to
shut out the light of knowledge from his brother. Tell
them they are answerable to God for sealing up the
Fountain of Life from souls that are thirsting for it.
There are men who would gladly undertake such
missionary work as this; but, alas! their number is
small. They are hated by the south, and would be
driven from its soil, or dragged to prison to die, as
others have been before them. The field is ripe for the
harvest, and awaits the reapers. Perhaps the great
grandchildren of uncle Fred may have freely imparted
to them the divine treasures, which he sought by
stealth, at the risk of the prison and the scourge.
Are doctors of divinity blind, or are they hypocrites? I suppose some are the one, and some the
other; but I think if they felt the interest in the poor
and the lowly, that they ought to feel, they would not
be so easily blinded. A clergyman who goes to the
south, for the first time, has usually some feeling,
however vague, that slavery is wrong. The slaveholder
suspects this, and plays his game accordingly.
He makes himself as agreeable as possible; talks on
theology, and other kindred topics. The reverend
gentleman is asked to invoke a blessing on a table
loaded with luxuries. After dinner he walks round
the premises, and sees the beautiful groves and flowering
vines, and the comfortable huts of favored household
slaves. The southerner invites him to talk with
these slaves. He asks them if they want to be free,
and they say, "O, no, massa." This is sufficient to
satisfy him. He comes home to publish a "South-Side
View of Slavery," and to complain of the exaggerations
of abolitionists. He assures people that he
has been to the south, and seen slavery for himself;
that it is a beautiful "patriarchal institution;" that
the slaves don't want their freedom; that they have
hallelujah meetings, and other religious privileges.
What does he know of the half-starved wretches toiling
from dawn till dark on the plantations? of mothers
shrieking for their children, torn from their arms
by slave traders? of young girls dragged down into
moral filth? of pools of blood around the whipping
post? of hounds trained to tear human flesh? of men
screwed into cotton gins to die? The slaveholder
showed him none of these things, and the slaves dared
not tell of them if he had asked them.
There is a great difference between Christianity and
religion at the south. If a man goes to the communion
table, and pays money into the treasury of the
church, no matter if it be the price of blood, he is
called religious. If a pastor has offspring by a woman
not his wife, the church dismiss him, if she is a white
woman; but if she is colored, it does not hinder his
continuing to be their good shepherd.
When I was told that Dr. Flint had joined the
Episcopal church, I was much surprised. I supposed
that religion had a purifying effect on the character
of men; but the worst persecutions I endured from
him were after he was a communicant. The conversation
of the doctor, the day after he had been confirmed,
certainly gave me no indication that he had
"renounced the devil and all his works." In answer
to some of his usual talk, I reminded him that he had
just joined the church. "Yes, Linda," said he. "It
was proper for me to do so. I am getting in years,
and my position in society requires it, and it puts an
end to all the damned slang. You would do well to
join the church, too, Linda."
"There are sinners enough in it already," rejoined I.
"If I could be allowed to live like a Christian, I should be glad."
"You can do what I require; and if you are
faithful to me, you will be as virtuous as my wife," he
I answered that the Bible didn't say so.
His voice became hoarse with rage. "How dare
you preach to me about your infernal Bible!" he exclaimed. "What right have you, who are my
negro, to talk to me about what you would like, and
what you wouldn't like? I am your master, and you
shall obey me."
No wonder the slaves
Satan's church is here below;
to God's free church I hope to go."
ANOTHER LINK TO LIFE.
I HAD not returned to my master's house since the
birth of my child. The old man raved to have me
thus removed from his immediate power; but his wife
vowed, by all that was good and great, she would kill
me if I came back; and he did not doubt her word.
Sometimes he would stay away for a season. Then
he would come and renew the old threadbare discourse
about his forbearance and my ingratitude. He labored,
most unnecessarily, to convince me that I had
lowered myself. The venomous old reprobate had no
need of descanting on that theme. I felt humiliated
enough. My unconscious babe was the ever-present
witness of my shame. I listened with silent contempt
when he talked about my having forfeited his good
opinion; but I shed bitter tears that I was no longer
worthy of being respected by the good and pure.
Alas! slavery still held me in its poisonous grasp.
There was no chance for me to be respectable. There
was no prospect of being able to lead a better life.
Sometimes, when my master found that I still
refused to accept what he called his kind offers, he
would threaten to sell my child. "Perhaps that will
humble you," said he.
Humble me! Was I not already in the dust? But
his threat lacerated my heart. I knew the law gave
him power to fulfil it; for slaveholders have been cunning enough to enact that "the child shall follow
the condition of the mother," not of the father; thus
taking care that licentiousness shall not interfere with
avarice. This reflection made me clasp my innocent
babe all the more firmly to my heart. Horrid visions
passed through my mind when I thought of his liability
to fall into the slave trader's hands. I wept
over him, and said, "O my child! perhaps they will
leave you in some cold cabin to die, and then throw
you into a hole, as if you were a dog."
When Dr. Flint learned that I was again to be a
mother, he was exasperated beyond measure. He
rushed from the house, and returned with a pair of
shears. I had a fine head of hair; and he often
railed about my pride of arranging it nicely. He cut
every hair close to my head, storming and swearing
all the time. I replied to some of his abuse, and he
struck me. Some months before, he had pitched me
down stairs in a fit of passion; and the injury I received
was so serious that I was unable to turn myself
in bed for many days. He then said, "Linda, I swear
by God I will never raise my hand against you again;"
but I knew that he would forget his promise.
After he discovered my situation, he was like a
restless spirit from the pit. He came every day; and
I was subjected to such insults as no pen can describe.
I would not describe them if I could; they were too
low, too revolting. I tried to keep them from my
grandmother's knowledge as much as I could. I
knew she had enough to sadden her life, without
having my troubles to bear. When she saw the
doctor treat me with violence, and heard him utter oaths terrible enough to palsy a man's tongue, she
could not always hold her peace. It was natural and
motherlike that she should try to defend me; but it
only made matters worse.
When they told me my new-born babe was a girl,
my heart was heavier than it had ever been before.
Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible
for women. Superadded to the burden common to
all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications
peculiarly their own.
Dr. Flint had sworn that he would make me suffer,
to my last day, for this new crime against him, as he
called it; and as long as he had me in his power he
kept his word. On the fourth day after the birth of my
babe, he entered my room suddenly, and commanded
me to rise and bring my baby to him. The nurse who
took care of me had gone out of the room to prepare
some nourishment, and I was alone. There was no
alternative. I rose, took up my babe, and crossed the
room to where he sat. "Now stand there," said he,
"till I tell you to go back!" My child bore a strong
resemblance to her father, and to the deceased Mrs.
Sands, her grandmother. He noticed this; and while
I stood before him, trembling with weakness, he heaped
upon me and my little one every vile epithet he could
think of. Even the grandmother in her grave did not
escape his curses. In the midst of his vituperations
I fainted at his feet. This recalled him to his senses.
He took the baby from my arms, laid it on the bed,
dashed cold water on my face, took me up, and shook
me violently, to restore my consciousness before any
one entered the room. Just then my grandmother came in, and he hurried out of the house. I suffered
in consequence of this treatment; but I begged my
friends to let me die, rather than send for the doctor.
There was nothing I dreaded so much as his presence.
My life was spared; and I was glad for the sake of my
little ones. Had it not been for these ties to life, I
should have been glad to be released by death, though
I had lived only nineteen years.
Always it gave me a pang that my children had no
lawful claim to a name. Their father offered his; but,
if I had wished to accept the offer, I dared not while
my master lived. Moreover, I knew it would not be
accepted at their baptism. A Christian name they
were at least entitled to; and we resolved to call my
boy for our dear good Benjamin, who had gone far
away from us.
My grandmother belonged to the church; and she
was very desirous of having the children christened.
I knew Dr. Flint would forbid it, and I did not
venture to attempt it. But chance favored me. He
was called to visit a patient out of town, and was
obliged to be absent during Sunday. "Now is the
time," said my grandmother; "we will take the children
to church, and have them christened."
When I entered the church, recollections of my
mother came over me, and I felt subdued in spirit.
There she had presented me for baptism, without any
reason to feel ashamed. She had been married, and
had such legal rights as slavery allows to a slave.
The vows had at least been sacred to her, and she had
never violated them. I was glad she was not alive, to
know under what different circumstances her grandchildren were presented for baptism. Why had my
lot been so different from my mother's? Her master
had died when she was a child; and she remained
with her mistress till she married. She was never
in the power of any master; and thus she escaped
one class of the evils that generally fall upon slaves.
When my baby was about to be christened, the
former mistress of my father stepped up to me, and
proposed to give it her Christian name. To this I
added the surname of my father, who had himself no
legal right to it; for my grandfather on the paternal
side was a white gentleman. What tangled skeins
are the genealogies of slavery! I loved my father;
but it mortified me to be obliged to bestow his name
on my children.
When we left the church, my father's old mistress
invited me to go home with her. She clasped a gold
chain round my baby's neck. I thanked her for this
kindness; but I did not like the emblem. I wanted
no chain to be fastened on my daughter, not even if
its links were of gold. How earnestly I prayed that
she might never feel the weight of slavery's chain,
whose iron entereth into the soul!
MY children grew finely; and Dr. Flint would often
say to me, with an exulting smile, "These brats
will bring me a handsome sum of money one of these
I thought to myself that, God being my helper, they
should never pass into his hands. It seemed to me
I would rather see them killed than have them given
up to his power. The money for the freedom of myself
and my children could be obtained; but I derived
no advantage from that circumstance. Dr. Flint
loved money, but he loved power more. After much
discussion, my friends resolved on making another trial.
There was a slaveholder about to leave for Texas, and
he was commissioned to buy me. He was to begin with
nine hundred dollars, and go up to twelve. My master
refused his offers. "Sir," said he, "she don't belong
to me. She is my daughter's property, and I have no
right to sell her. I mistrust that you come from her
paramour. If so, you may tell him that he cannot
buy her for any money; neither can he buy her
The doctor came to see me the next day, and my
heart beat quicker as he entered. I never had seen the
old man tread with so majestic a step. He seated himself
and looked at me with withering scorn. My children
had learned to be afraid of him. The little one would shut her eyes and hide her face on my shoulder
whenever she saw him; and Benny, who was now
nearly five years old, often inquired, "What makes that
bad man come here so many times? Does he want to
hurt us?" I would clasp the dear boy in my arms,
trusting that he would be free before he was old
enough to solve the problem. And now, as the doctor
sat there so grim and silent, the child left his play and
came and nestled up by me. At last my tormentor
spoke. "So you are left in disgust, are you?" said he.
"It is no more than I expected. You remember I told
you years ago that you would be treated so. So he is
tired of you? Ha! ha! ha! The virtuous madam
don't like to hear about it, does she? Ha! ha! ha!"
There was a sting in his calling me virtuous madam.
I no longer had the power of answering him as I had
formerly done. He continued: "So it seems you are
trying to get up another intrigue. Your new paramour
came to me, and offered to buy you; but you may be
assured you will not succeed. You are mine; and you
shall be mine for life. There lives no human being that
can take you out of slavery. I would have done it; but
you rejected my kind offer."
I told him I did not wish to get up any intrigue;
that I had never seen the man who offered to buy me.
"Do you tell me I lie?" exclaimed he, dragging me
from my chair. "Will you say again that you never
saw that man?"
I answered, "I do say so."
He clinched my arm with a volley of oaths. Ben
began to scream, I told him to go to his grandmother.
"Don't you stir a step, you wretch!" said he.
The child drew nearer to me, and put his arms round
me, as if he wanted to protect me. This was too much
for my enraged master. He caught him up and hurled
him across the room. I thought he was dead, and
rushed towards him to take him up.
"Not yet!" exclaimed the doctor. "Let him lie
there till he comes to."
"Let me go! Let me go!" I screamed, "or I will
raise the whole house." I struggled and got away;
but he clinched me again. Somebody opened the door,
and he released me. I picked up my insensible child,
and when I turned my tormentor was gone. Anxiously
I bent over the little form, so pale and still; and when
the brown eyes at last opened, I don't know whether I
was very happy.
All the doctor's former persecutions were renewed.
He came morning, noon, and night. No jealous lover
ever watched a rival more closely than he watched me
and the unknown slaveholder, with whom he accused
me of wishing to get up an intrigue. When my grandmother
was out of the way he searched every room to
In one of his visits, he happened to find a young girl,
whom he had sold to a trader a few days previous.
His statement was, that he sold her because she had
been too familiar with the overseer. She had had a
bitter life with him, and was glad to be sold. She had
no mother, and no near ties. She had been torn from
all her family years before. A few friends had entered
into bonds for her safety, if the trader would allow her
to spend with them the time that intervened between her sale and the gathering up of his human stock.
Such a favor was rarely granted. It saved the trader
the expense of board and jail fees, and though the
amount was small, it was a weighty consideration in a
Dr. Flint always had an aversion to meeting slaves
after he had sold them. He ordered Rose out of the
house; but he was no longer her master, and she took
no notice of him. For once the crushed Rose was the
conqueror. His gray eyes flashed angrily upon her;
but that was the extent of his power. "How came
this girl here?" he exclaimed." What right had you
to allow it, when you knew I had sold her?"
I answered "This is my grandmother's house, and
Rose came to see her. I have no right to turn any
body out of doors, that comes here for honest purposes."
He gave me the blow that would have fallen upon
Rose if she had still been his slave. My grandmother's
attention had been attracted by loud voices, and
she arrived in time to see a second blow dealt. She
was not a woman to let such an outrage, in her own
house, go unrebuked. The doctor undertook to explain
that I had been insolent. Her indignant feelings
rose higher and higher, and finally boiled over in words.
"Get out of my house!" she exclaimed. "Go home,
and take care of your wife and children, and you will
have enough to do, without watching my family."
He threw the birth of my children in her face, and
accused her of sanctioning the life I was leading. She
told him I was living with her by compulsion of his wife;
that he needn't accuse her, for he was the one
to blame; he was the one who had caused all the trouble. She grew more and more excited as she
went on. "I tell you what, Dr. Flint," said she, "you
ain't got many more years to live, and you'd better be
saying your prayers. It will take 'em all, and more
too, to wash the dirt off your soul."
"Do you know whom you are talking to?" he exclaimed.
She replied, "Yes, I know very well who I am talking
He left the house in a great rage. I looked at my
grandmother. Our eyes met. Their angry expression
had passed away, but she looked sorrowful and
weary--weary of incessant strife. I wondered that it
did not lessen her love for me; but if it did she never
showed it. She was always kind, always ready to
sympathize with my troubles. There might have been
peace and contentment in that lovable home if it had
not been for the demon Slavery.
The winter passed undisturbed by the doctor. The
beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her
loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. My
drooping hopes came to life again with the flowers. I
was dreaming of freedom again; more for my children's
sake than my own. I planned and I planned. Obstacles
hit against plans. There seemed no way of
overcoming them; and yet I hoped.
Back came the wily doctor. I was not at home when
he called. A friend had invited me to a small party,
and to gratify her I went. To my great consternation,
a messenger came in haste to say that Dr. Flint was at
my grandmother's, and insisted on seeing me. They
did not tell him where I was, or he would have come and raised a disturbance in my friend's house. They
sent me a dark wrapper; I threw it on and hurried
home. My speed did not save me; the doctor had gone
away in anger. I dreaded the morning, but I could
not delay it; it came, warm and bright. At an early
hour the doctor came and asked me where I had been
last night. I told him. He did not believe me, and
sent to my friend's house to ascertain the facts. He
came in the afternoon to assure me he was satisfied
that I had spoken the truth. He seemed to be in a
facetious mood, and I expected some jeers were coming.
"I suppose you need some recreation," said he, "but
I am surprised at your being there, among those negroes.
It was not the place for you. Are you allowed to visit
I understood this covert fling at the white gentleman
who was my friend; but I merely replied, "I went to
visit my friends, and any company they keep is good
enough for me."
He went on to say, "I have seen very little of you
of late, but my interest in you is unchanged. When
I said I would have no more mercy on you I was rash.
I recall my words. Linda, you desire freedom for yourself
and your children, and you can obtain it only
through me. If you agree to what I am about to propose,
you and they shall be free. There must be no
communication of any kind between you and their
father. I will procure a cottage, where you and the
children can live together. Your labor shall be light,
such as sewing for my family. Think what is offered
you, Linda--a home and freedom! Let the past be
forgotten. If I have been harsh with you at times, your wilfulness drove me to it. You know I exact
obedience from my own children, and I consider you
as yet a child."
He paused for an answer, but I remained silent.
"Why don't you speak?" said he. "What more
do you wait for?"
"Then you accept my offer?"
His anger was ready to break loose; but he succeeded
in curbing it, and replied, "You have answered without
thought. But I must let you know there are two
sides to my proposition; if you reject the bright side,
you will be obliged to take the dark one. You must
either accept my offer, or you and your children shall
be sent to your young master's plantation, there to
remain till your young mistress is married; and your
children shall fare like the rest of the negro children.
I give you a week to consider of it."
He was shrewd; but I knew he was not to be trusted.
I told him I was ready to give my answer now.
"I will not receive it now," he replied. "You act
too much from impulse. Remember that you and your
children can be free a week from to-day if you choose."
On what a monstrous chance hung the destiny of
my children! I knew that my master's offer was a
snare, and that if I entered it escape would be impossible.
As for his promise, I knew him so well that I
was sure if he gave me free papers, they would be so
managed as to have no legal value. The alternative
was inevitable. I resolved to go to the plantation.
But then I thought how completely I should be in his power, and the prospect was apalling. Even if I should
kneel before him, and implore him to spare me, for the
sake of my children, I knew he would spurn me with
his foot, and my weakness would be his triumph.
Before the week expired, I heard that young Mr.
Flint was about to be married to a lady of his own
stamp. I foresaw the position I should occupy in his
establishment. I had once been sent to the plantation
for punishment, and fear of the son had induced the
father to recall me very soon. My mind was made up;
I was resolved that I would foil my master and save
my children, or I would perish in the attempt. I kept
my plans to myself; I knew that friends would try to
dissuade me from them, and I would not wound their
feelings by rejecting their advice.
On the decisive day the doctor came, and said he
hoped I had made a wise choice.
"I am ready to go to the plantation, sir," I replied.
"Have you thought how important your decision is
to your children?" said he.
I told him I had.
"Very well. Go to the plantation, and my curse go
with you," he replied. "Your boy shall be put to
work, and he shall soon be sold; and your girl shall be
raised for the purpose of selling well. Go your own
ways!" He left the room with curses, not to be repeated.
As I stood rooted to the spot, my grandmother came
and said, "Linda, child, what did you tell him?"
I answered that I was going to the plantation.
"Must you go?" said she. "Can't something be
done to stop it?"
I told her it was useless to try; but she begged me not
to give up. She said she would go to the doctor, and
remind him how long and how faithfully she had served
in the family, and how she had taken her own baby
from her breast to nourish his wife. She would tell
him I had been out of the family so long they would
not miss me; that she would pay them for my time,
and the money would procure a woman who had more
strength for the situation than I had. I begged her
not to go; but she persisted in saying, "He will listen
to me, Linda." She went, and was treated as I expected.
He coolly listened to what she said, but denied
her request. He told her that what he did was for my
good, that my feelings were entirely above my situation,
and that on the plantation I would receive treatment
that was suitable to my behavior.
My grandmother was much cast down. I had my
secret hopes; but I must fight my battle alone. I had
a woman's pride, and a mother's love for my children;
and I resolved that out of the darkness of this hour a
brighter dawn should rise for them. My master had
power and law on his side; I had a determined will.
There is might in each.
SCENES AT THE PLANTATION.
EARLY the next morning I left my grandmother's
with my youngest child. My boy was ill, and I left
him behind. I had many sad thoughts as the old
wagon jolted on. Hitherto, I had suffered alone; now,
my little one was to be treated as a slave. As we
drew near the great house, I thought of the time when
I was formerly sent there out of revenge. I wondered
for what purpose I was now sent. I could not tell. I
resolved to obey orders so far as duty required; but
within myself, I determined to make my stay as short
as possible. Mr. Flint was waiting to receive us, and
told me to follow him up stairs to receive orders for
the day. My little Ellen was left below in the kitchen.
It was a change for her, who had always been so carefully
tended. My young master said she might amuse
herself in the yard. This was kind of him, since the
child was hateful to his sight. My task was to fit up
the house for the reception of the bride. In the midst
of sheets, tablecloths, towels, drapery, and carpeting,
my head was as busy planning, as were my fingers
with the needle. At noon I was allowed to go to
Ellen. She had sobbed herself to sleep. I heard
Mr. Flint say to a neighbor, "I've got her down here,
And I'll soon take the town notions out of her head.
My father is partly to blame for her nonsense. He
ought to have broke her in long ago." The remark was made within my hearing, and it would have been
quite as manly to have made it to my face. He had
said things to my face which might, or might not, have
surprised his neighbor if he had known of them. He
was "a chip of the old block."
I resolved to give him no cause to accuse me of
being too much of a lady, so far as work was
concerned. I worked day and night, with
wretchedness before me. When I lay down beside my
child, I felt how much easier it would be to see her die
than to see her master beat her about, as I daily saw
him beat other little ones. The spirit of the mothers
was so crushed by the lash, that they stood by, without
courage to remonstrate. How much more must I
suffer, before I should be "broke in" to that degree?
I wished to appear as contented as possible.
Sometimes I had an opportunity to send a few lines
home; and this brought up recollections that made it
difficult, for a time, to seem calm and indifferent to
my lot. Notwithstanding my efforts, I saw that Mr.
Flint regarded me with a suspicious eye. Ellen broke
down under the trials of her new life. Separated from
me, with no one to look after her, she wandered about,
and in a few days cried herself sick. One day, she
sat under the window where I was at work, crying
that weary cry which makes a mother's heart bleed. I
was obliged to steel myself to bear it. After a while it
ceased. I looked out, and she was gone. As it was
near noon, I ventured to go down in search of her. The
great house was raised two feet above the ground.
I looked under it, and saw her about midway, fast
asleep. I crept under and drew her out. As I held her in my
arms, I thought how well it would be for her if she
never waked up; and I uttered my thought aloud. I
was startled to hear some one say, "Did you speak to
me?" I looked up, and saw Mr. Flint standing beside
me. He said nothing further, but turned, frowning, away.
That night he sent Ellen a biscuit and a cup of sweetened milk.
This generosity surprised me. I learned afterwards, that in the
afternoon he had killed a large snake, which crept from under the
house; and I supposed that incident had prompted his
The next morning the old cart was loaded with
shingles for town. I put Ellen into it, and sent her to
her grandmother. Mr. Flint said I ought to have asked
his permission. I told him the child was sick, and
required attention which I had no time to give. He let
it pass; for he was aware that I had accomplished
much work in a little time.
I had been three weeks on the plantation, when I
planned a visit home. It must be at night, after every
body was in bed. I was six miles from town, and the
road was very dreary. I was to go with a young man,
who, I knew, often stole to town to see his mother.
One night, when all was quiet, we started. Fear gave
speed to our steps, and we were not long in
performing the journey. I arrived at my
grandmother's. Her bed room was on the first floor,
and the window was open, the weather being warm. I
spoke to her and she awoke. She let me in and closed
the window, lest some late passer-by should see me. A
light was brought, and the whole household
gathered round me, some smiling and some crying. I went to look at my children, and
thanked God for their happy sleep. The tears fell as
I leaned over them. As I moved to leave, Benny
stirred. I turned back, and whispered, "Mother is
here." After digging at his eyes with his little fist,
they opened, and he sat up in bed, looking at me
curiously. Having satisfied himself that it was I, he
exclaimed, "O mother! you ain't dead, are you?
They didn't cut off your head at the plantation, did
My time was up too soon, and my guide was waiting
for me. I laid Benny back in his bed, and dried his
tears by a promise to come again soon. Rapidly we
retraced our steps back to the plantation. About half
way we were met by a company of four patrols. Luckily
we heard their horse's hoofs before they came in sight,
and we had time to hide behind a large tree. They
passed, hallooing and shouting in a manner that indicated
a recent carousal. How thankful we were
that they had not their dogs with them! We hastened
our footsteps, and when we arrived on the plantation
we heard the sound of the hand-mill. The slaves were
grinding their corn. We were safely in the house before
the horn summoned them to their labor. I divided
my little parcel of food with my guide, knowing that
he had lost the chance of grinding his corn, and must
toil all day in the field.
Mr. Flint often took an inspection of the house, to
see that no one was idle. The entire management of
the work was trusted to me, because he knew nothing
about it; and rather than hire a superintendent he
contented himself with my arrangements. He had often urged upon his father the necessity of having me
at the plantation to take charge of his affairs, and
make clothes for the slaves; but the old man knew
him too well to consent to that arrangement.
When I had been working a month at the plantation,
the great aunt of Mr. Flint came to make him a visit.
This was the good old lady who paid fifty dollars for
my grandmother, for the purpose of making her free,
when she stood on the auction block. My grandmother
loved this old lady, whom we all called Miss
Fanny. She often came to take tea with us. On such
occasions the table was spread with a snow-white cloth,
and the china cups and silver spoons were taken from
the old-fashioned buffet. There were hot muffins, tea
rusks, and delicious sweetmeats. My grandmother
kept two cows, and the fresh cream was Miss Fanny's
delight. She invariably declared that it was the best
in town. The old ladies had cosey times together. They
would work and chat, and sometimes, while talking
over old times, their spectacles would get dim with
tears, and would have to be taken off and wiped.
When Miss Fanny bade us good by, her bag was filled
with grandmother's best cakes, and she was urged to
come again soon.
There had been a time when Dr. Flint's wife came
to take tea with us, and when her children were also
sent to have a feast of "Aunt Marthy's" nice cooking.
But after I became an object of her jealousy and spite,
she was angry with grandmother for giving a shelter
to me and my children. She would not even speak to
her in the street. This wounded my grandmother's
feelings, for she could not retain ill will against the woman whom she had nourished with her milk when a
babe. The doctor's wife would gladly have prevented
our intercourse with Miss Fanny if she could have
done it, but fortunately she was not dependent on the
bounty of the Flints. She had enough to be
independent; and that is more than can ever be gained
from charity, however lavish it may be.
Miss Fanny was endeared to me by many recollections,
and I was rejoiced to see her at the plantation.
The warmth of her large, loyal heart made the house
seem pleasanter while she was in it. She staid a week,
and I had many talks with her. She said her principal
object in coming was to see how I was treated,
and whether any thing could be done for me. She inquired
whether she could help me in any way. I told
her I believed not. She condoled with me in her own
peculiar way; saying she wished that I and all my
grandmother's family were at rest in our graves, for
not until then should she feel any peace about us. The
good old soul did not dream that I was planning to
bestow peace upon her, with regard to myself and
my children; not by death, but by securing our
Again and again I had traversed those dreary twelve
miles, to and from the town; and all the way, I was
meditating upon some means of escape for myself and
my children. My friends had made every effort that
ingenuity could devise to effect our purchase, but all
their plans had proved abortive. Dr. Flint was suspicious,
and determined not to loosen his grasp upon us.
I could have made my escape alone; but it was more
for my helpless children than for myself that I longed for freedom. Though the boon would have been
precious to me, above all price, I would not have taken
it at the expense of leaving them in slavery. Every
trial I endured, every sacrifice I made for their
sakes, drew them closer to my heart, and gave me
fresh courage to beat back the dark waves that rolled
and rolled over me in a seemingly endless night of
The six weeks were nearly completed, when Mr.
Flint's bride was expected to take possession of her
own home. The arrangements were all completed,
and Mr. Flint said I had done well. He expected to
leave home on Saturday, and return with his bride the
following Wednesday. After receiving various orders
from him, I ventured to ask permission to spend Sunday
in town. It was granted; for which favor I was
thankful. It was the first I had ever asked of him,
and I intended it should be the last. It needed more
than one night to accomplish the project I had in view;
but the whole of Sunday would give me an opportunity.
I spent the Sabbath with my grandmother. A calmer,
more beautiful day never came down out of heaven.
To me it was a day of conflicting emotions. Perhaps
it was the last day I should ever spend under that dear,
old sheltered roof! Perhaps these were the last talks
I should ever have with the faithful old friend of my
whole life! Perhaps it was the last time I and my
children should be together! Well, better so, I
thought, than that they should be slaves. I
knew the doom that awaited my fair baby in slavery, and I
determined to save her from it, or perish in the attempt.
I went to make this vow at the graves of my poor parents, in the burying-ground of the slaves. "There
the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary
be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they
hear not the voice of the oppressor; the servant is
free from his master." I knelt by the graves of my
parents, and thanked God, as I had often done before,
that they had not lived to witness my trials, or to
mourn over my sins. I had received my mother's
blessing when she died; and in many an hour of tribulation
I had seemed to hear her voice, sometimes
chiding me, sometimes whispering loving words into
my wounded heart. I have shed many and bitter
tears, to think that when I am gone from my children
they cannot remember me with such entire satisfaction
as I remembered my mother.
The graveyard was in the woods, and twilight was
coming on. Nothing broke the death-like stillness except
the occasional twitter of a bird. My spirit was
overawed by the solemnity of the scene. For more
than ten years I had frequented this spot, but never
had it seemed to me so sacred as now. A black stump,
at the head of my mother's grave, was all that remained
of a tree my father had planted. His grave
was marked by a small wooden board, bearing his
name, the letters of which were nearly obliterated.
I knelt down and kissed them, and poured forth a
prayer to God for guidance and support in the perilous
step I was about to take. As I passed the wreck of
the old meeting house, where, before Nat Turner's
time, the slaves had been allowed to meet for worship,
I seemed to hear my father's voice come from it, bidding
me not to tarry till I reached freedom or the grave. I rushed on with renovated hopes. My trust
in God had been strengthened by that prayer among
My plan was to conceal myself at the house of a
friend, and remain there a few weeks till the search
was over. My hope was that the doctor would get discouraged,
and, for fear of losing my value, and also of
subsequently finding my children among the missing,
he would consent to sell us; and I knew somebody
would buy us. I had done all in my power to make
my children comfortable during the time I expected to
be separated from them. I was packing my things,
when grandmother came into the room, and asked
what I was doing. "I am putting my things in order," I
replied. I tried to look and speak cheerfully;
but her watchful eye detected something beneath the
surface. She drew me towards her, and asked me to
sit down. She looked earnestly at me, and said,
"Linda, do you want to kill your old grandmother?
Do you mean to leave your little, helpless children?
I am old now, and cannot do for your babies as I once
did for you."
I replied, that if I went away, perhaps their father
would be able to secure their freedom.
"Ah, my child," said she, "don't trust too much to
him. Stand by your own children, and suffer with
them till death. Nobody respects a mother who forsakes her
children; and if you leave them, you will
never have a happy moment. If you go, you will
make me miserable the short time I have to live. You
would be taken and brought back, and your sufferings
would be dreadful. Remember poor Benjamin. Do give it up, Linda. Try to bear a little longer. Things
may turn out better than we expect."
My courage failed me, in view of the sorrow I should
bring on that faithful, loving old heart. I promised
that I would try longer, and that I would take nothing
out of her house without her knowledge.
Whenever the children climbed on my knee, or laid
their heads on my lap, she would say, "Poor little
souls! what would you do without a mother? She
don't love you as I do." And she would hug them to
her own bosom, as if to reproach me for my want of
affection; but she knew all the while that I loved them
better than my life. I slept with her that night, and
it was the last time. The memory of it haunted me
for many a year.
On Monday I returned to the plantation, and busied
myself with preparations for the important day. Wednesday
came. It was a beautiful day, and the faces
of the slaves were as bright as the sunshine. The poor
creatures were merry. They were expecting little
presents from the bride, and hoping for better times
under her administration. I had no such hopes for
them. I knew that the young wives of slaveholders
often thought their authority and importance would be
best established and maintained by cruelty; and what
I had heard of young Mrs. Flint gave me no reason to
expect that her rule over them would be less severe
than that of the master and overseer. Truly, the
colored race are the most cheerful and forgiving people
on the face of the earth. That their masters sleep
in safety is owing to their superabundance of heart;
and yet they look upon their sufferings with less pity than they would bestow on those of a horse or
I stood at the door with others to receive the bridegroom
and bride. She was a handsome, delicate-looking girl,
and her face flushed with emotion at sight of
her new home. I thought it likely that visions of a
happy future were rising before her. It made me sad;
for I knew how soon clouds would come over her sunshine.
She examined every part of the house, and
told me she was delighted with the arrangements I
had made. I was afraid old Mrs. Flint had tried to
prejudice her against me and I did my best to please
All passed off smoothly for me until dinner time
arrived. I did not mind the embarrassment of waiting
on a dinner party, for the first time in my life,
half so much as I did the meeting with Dr. Flint and
his wife, who would be among the guests. It was a
mystery to me why Mrs. Flint had not made her
appearance at the plantation during all the time I was
putting the house in order. I had not met her, face to
face, for five years, and I had no wish to see her now.
She was a praying woman, and, doubtless, considered
my present position a special answer to her prayers.
Nothing could please her better than to see me humbled
and trampled upon. I was just where she would
have me--in the power of a hard, unprincipled master.
She did not speak to me when she took her seat
at the table; but her satisfied, triumphant smile, when I
handed her plate, was more eloquent than words.
The old doctor was not so quiet in his demonstrations.
He ordered me here and there, and spoke with peculiar emphasis when he said "your mistress." I was
drilled like a disgraced soldier. When all was over,
and the last key turned, I sought my pillow thankful
that God had appointed a season of rest for the
The next day my new mistress began her housekeeping.
I was not exactly appointed maid of all work;
but I was to do whatever I was told. Monday evening
came. It was always a busy time. On that night the
slaves received their weekly allowance of food. Three
pounds of meat, a peck of corn, and perhaps a dozen
herring were allowed to each man. Women received
a pound and a half of meat, a peck of corn, and the
same number of herring. Children over twelve years
old had half the allowance of the women. The meat
was cut and weighed by the foreman of the field hands,
and piled on planks before the meat house. Then the
second foreman went behind the building, and when
the first foreman called out, "Who takes this piece of
meat?" he answered by calling somebody's name.
This method was resorted to as a means of preventing
partiality in distributing the meat. The young mistress
came out to see how things were done on her
plantation, and she soon gave a specimen of her character.
Among those in waiting for their allowance
was a very old slave, who had faithfully served the
Flint family through three generations. When he
hobbled up to get his bit of meat, the mistress said he
was too old to have any allowance; that when niggers
were too old to work, they ought to be fed on grass.
Poor old man! He suffered much before he found
rest in the grave.
My mistress and I got along very well together. At
the end of a week, old Mrs. Flint made us another
visit, and was closeted a long time with her daughter-in-law.
I had my suspicions what was the subject of
the conference. The old doctor's wife had been informed
that I could leave the plantation on one condition, and
she was very desirous to keep me there. If
she had trusted me, as I deserved to be trusted by
her, she would have had no fears of my accepting
that condition. When she entered her carriage to return
home, she said to young Mrs. Flint, "Don't neglect
to send for them as quick as possible." My heart
was on the watch all the time, and I at once concluded
that she spoke of my children. The doctor came the
next day, and as I entered the room to spread the tea
table, I heard him say, "Don't wait any longer. Send
for them to-morrow." I saw through the plan. They
thought my children's being there would fetter me to
the spot, and that it was a good place to break us all
in to abject submission to our lot as slaves. After the
doctor left, a gentleman called, who had always manifested
friendly feelings towards my grandmother and
her family. Mr. Flint carried him over the plantation
to show him the results of labor performed by men and
women who were unpaid, miserably clothed, and half
famished. The cotton crop was all they thought of.
It was duly admired, and the gentleman returned with
specimens to show his friends. I was ordered to carry
water to wash his hands. As I did so, he said, "Linda
how do you like your new home?" I told him I liked
it as well as I expected. He replied, "They don't
think you are contented, and to-morrow they are going to bring your children to be with you. I am sorry for
you, Linda. I hope they will treat you kindly." I
hurried from the room, unable to thank him. My
suspicions were correct. My children were to be
brought to the plantation to be "broke in."
To this day I feel grateful to the gentleman who
gave me this timely information. It nerved me to
MR. FLINT was hard pushed for house servants, and
rather than lose me he had restrained his malice. I
did my work faithfully, though not, of course, with a
willing mind. They were evidently afraid I should
leave them. Mr. Flint wished that I should sleep
in the great house instead of the servants' quarters.
His wife agreed to the proposition, but said I mustn't
bring my bed into the house, because it would scatter
feathers on her carpet. I knew when I went there
that they would never think of such a thing as furnishing
a bed of any kind for me and my little one. I
therefore carried my own bed, and now I was forbidden
to use it. I did as I was ordered. But now that I
was certain my children were to be put in their
power, in order to give them a stronger hold on me, I
resolved to leave them that night. I remembered the
grief this step would bring upon my dear old grandmother;
and nothing less than the freedom of my children
would have induced me to disregard her advice.
I went about my evening work with trembling steps.
Mr. Flint twice called from his chamber door to inquire
why the house was not locked up. I replied that
I had not done my work. "You have had time enough
to do it," said he. "Take care how you answer me!"
I shut all the windows, locked all the doors, and
went up to the third story, to wait till midnight. How long those hours seemed, and how fervently I prayed
that God would not forsake me in this hour of utmost
need! I was about to risk every thing on the throw
of a die; and if I failed, O what would become of me
and my poor children? They would be made to suffer
for my fault.
At half past twelve I stole softly down stairs. I
stopped on the second floor, thinking I heard a noise.
I felt my way down into the parlor, and looked out of
the window. The night was so intensely dark that I
could see nothing. I raised the window very softly
and jumped out. Large drops of rain were falling,
and the darkness bewildered me. I dropped on my
knees, and breathed a short prayer to God for guidance
and protection. I groped my way to the road, and
rushed towards the town with almost lightning speed.
I arrived at my grandmother's house, but dared not
see her. She would say, "Linda, you are killing me;"
and I knew that would unnerve me. I tapped softly
at the window of a room, occupied by a woman, who
had lived in the house several years. I knew she was
a faithful friend, and could be trusted with my secret.
I tapped several times before she heard me. At last
she raised the window, and I whispered, "Sally, I have
run away. Let me in, quick." She opened the door
softly, and said in low tones, "For God's sake, don't.
Your grandmother is trying to buy you and de chillern.
Mr. Sands was here last week. He tole her he was
going away on business, but he wanted her to go ahead
about buying you and de chillern, and he would help
her all he could. Don't run away, Linda. Your
grandmother is all bowed down wid trouble now."
I replied, "Sally, they are going to carry my children
to the plantation to-morrow; and they will never
sell them to any body so long as they have me in their
power. Now, would you advise me to go back?"
"No, chile, no," answered she. "When dey finds
you is gone, dey won't want de plague ob de chillern;
but where is you going to hide? Dey knows ebery
inch ob dis house."
I told her I had a hiding-place, and that was all it
was best for her to know. I asked her to go into my
room as soon as it was light, and take all my clothes
out of my trunk, and pack them in hers; for I knew
Mr. Flint and the constable would be there early to
search my room. I feared the sight of my children
would be too much for my full heart; but I could not
go out into the uncertain future without one last look.
I bent over the bed where lay my little Benny and baby
Ellen. Poor little ones! fatherless and motherless!
Memories of their father came over me. He wanted
to be kind to them; but they were not all to him, as
they were to my womanly heart. I knelt and prayed
for the innocent little sleepers. I kissed them lightly,
and turned away.
As I was about to open the street door, Sally laid
her hand on my shoulder, and said, "Linda, is you
gwine all alone? Let me call your uncle."
"No Sally," I replied, "I want no one to be brought
into trouble on my account."
I went forth into the darkness and rain. I ran
on till I came to the house of the friend who was
to conceal me.
Early the next morning Mr. Flint was at my grandmother's inquiring for me. She told him she had not
seen me, and supposed I was at the plantation. He
watched her face narrowly, and said, "Don't you
know any thing about her running off?" She assured
him that she did not. He went on to say, "Last night
she ran off without the least provocation. We had
treated her very kindly. My wife liked her. She will
soon be found and brought back. Are her children with
you?" When told that they were, he said, "I am
very glad to hear that. If they are here, she cannot
be far off. If I find out that any of my niggers have
had any thing to do with this damned business, I'll give
'em five hundred lashes." As he started to go to his
father's, he turned round and added, persuasively, "Let
her be brought back, and she shall have her children
to live with her."
The tidings made the old doctor rave and storm at
a furious rate. It was a busy day for them. My
grandmother's house was searched from top to bottom.
As my trunk was empty, they concluded I had taken
my clothes with me. Before ten o'clock every vessel
northward bound was thoroughly examined, and the
law against harboring fugitives was read to all on
board. At night a watch was set over the town.
Knowing how distressed my grandmother would be, I
wanted to send her a message; but it could not be
done. Every one who went in or out of her house
was closely watched. The doctor said he would take
my children, unless she became responsible for them;
which of course she willingly did. The next day was
spent in searching. Before night, the following
advertisement was posted at every corner, and in every
public place for miles round:--
"$300 REWARD! Ran away from the subscriber,
an intelligent, bright, mulatto girl, named Linda, 21
years age. Five feet four inches high. Dark
eyes, and black hair inclined to curl; but it can
be made straight. Has a decayed spot on a front
tooth. She can read and write, and in all probability
will try to get to the Free States. All persons are forbidden,
under penalty of the law, to harbor or employ
said slave. $150 will be given to whoever takes her
in the state, and $300 if taken out of the state and
delivered to me, or lodged in jail.
MONTHS OF PERIL.
THE search for me was kept up with more perseverence
than I had anticipated. I began to think that
escape was impossible. I was in great anxiety lest I
should implicate the friend who harbored me. I knew the consequences would be frightful; and much as I dreaded being caught, even that seemed better than causing an innocent person to suffer for kindness to me. A week had passed in terrible suspense, when my pursuers came into such close vicinity that I concluded they had tracked me to my hiding-place. I flew out of the house, and concealed myself in a thicket of bushes. There I remained in an agony of fear for two hours. Suddenly, a reptile of some kind seized my leg. In my fright, I struck a blow which loosened its hold, but I could not tell whether I had killed it; it was so dark, I could not see what it was; I only knew it was something cold and slimy. The pain I felt soon indicated that the bite was poisonous. I was compelled to leave my place of concealment, and I groped my way back into the house. The pain had become intense, and my friend was startled by my look of anguish. I asked her to prepare a poultice of warm ashes and vinegar, and I applied it to my leg, which was already much swollen. The application gave me some relief, but the swelling did not abate. The dread of being disabled was greater than the physical pain I endured. My friend asked an old woman, who doctored among the slaves, what was good for the bite of a snake or a lizard. She told her to steep a dozen coppers in vinegar, over night, and apply the cankered vinegar to the inflamed part.*
I had succeeded in cautiously conveying some messages
to my relatives. They were harshly threatened,
and despairing of my having a chance to escape, they
advised me to return to my master, ask his forgiveness,
and let him make an example of me. But such counsel
had no influence on me. When I started upon
this hazardous undertaking, I had resolved that, come
what would, there should be no turning back. "Give
me liberty, or give me death," was my motto. When
my friend contrived to make known to my relatives the
painful situation I had been in for twenty-four hours,
they said no more about my going back to my master.
Something must be done, and that speedily; but where
to turn for help, they knew not. God in his mercy
raised up "a friend in need."
Among the ladies who were acquainted with my
grandmother, was one who had known her from childhood,
and always been very friendly to her. She had
also known my mother and her children, and felt interested
for them. At this crisis of affairs she called to
see my grandmother, as she not unfrequently did. She
observed the sad and troubled expression of her face,
and asked if she knew where Linda was, and whether she was safe. My grandmother shook her head, without
answering. "Come, Aunt Martha," said the kind lady, "tell
me all about it. Perhaps I can do something to help you."
The husband of this lady held many slaves, and bought and
sold slaves. She also held a number in her own name; but
she treated them kindly, and would never allow any of them
to be sold. She was unlike the majority of slaveholders'
wives. My grandmother looked earnestly at her. Something in
the expression of her face said "Trust me!" and she did
trust her. She listened attentively to the details of my story,
and sat thinking for a while. At last she said, "Aunt Martha,
I pity you both. If you think there is any chance of Linda's
getting to the Free States, I will conceal her for a time. But
first you must solemnly promise that my name shall never be
mentioned. If such a thing should become known, it would
ruin me and my family. No one in my house must know of it,
except the cook. She is so faithful that I would trust my own
life with her; and I know she likes Linda. It is a great risk; but
I trust no harm will come of it. Get word to Linda to be ready
as soon as it is dark, before the patrols are out. I will send the
housemaids on errands, and Betty shall go to meet Linda."
The place where we were to meet was designated and agreed
upon. My grandmother was unable to thank the lady for this
noble deed; overcome by her emotions, she sank on her
knees and sobbed like a child.
I received a message to leave my friend's house at such
an hour, and go to a certain place where a friend would be
waiting for me. As a matter of prudence no names were
mentioned. I had no means of conjecturing who I was to meet, or where I was going. I did
not like to move thus blindfolded, but I had no choice.
It would not do for me to remain where I was. I disguised
myself, summoned up courage to meet the worst,
and went to the appointed place. My friend Betty was
there; she was the last person I expected to see. We
hurried along in silence. The pain in my leg was so
intense that it seemed as if I should drop; but fear
gave me strength. We reached the house and entered
unobserved. Her first words were: "Honey, now you is safe.
Dem devils ain't coming to search dis house.
When I get you into missis' safe place, I will bring
some nice hot supper. I specs you need it after all dis
skeering." Betty's vocation led her to think eating
the most important thing in life. She did not realize
that my heart was too full for me to care much about
The mistress came to meet us, and led me up stairs
to a small room over her own sleeping apartment.
"You will be safe here, Linda," said she; "I keep this
room to store away things that are out of use. The
girls are not accustomed to be sent to it, and they will
not suspect anything unless they hear some noise. I
always keep it locked, and Betty shall take care of the
key. But you must be very careful, for my sake as
well as your own; and you must never tell my secret;
for it would ruin me and my family. I will keep the
girls busy in the morning, that Betty may have a chance
to bring your breakfast; but it will not do for her to
come to you again till night. I will come to see you
sometimes. Keep up your courage. I hope this state
of things will not last long." Betty came with the "nice hot supper," and the mistress hastened down
stairs to keep things straight till she returned. How
my heart overflowed with gratitude! Words choked
in my throat; but I could have kissed the feet of my
benefactress. For that deed of Christian womanhood
may God forever bless her!
I went to sleep that night with the feeling that I was
for the present the most fortunate slave in town.
Morning came and filled my little cell with light. I
thanked the heavenly Father for this safe retreat.
Opposite my window was a pile of feather beds. On
the top of these I could lie perfectly concealed, and
command a view of the street through which Dr. Flint
passed to his office. Anxious as I was, I felt a gleam
of satisfaction when I saw him. Thus far I had outwitted him,
and I triumphed over it. Who can blame slaves for being
cunning? They are constantly compelled to resort to it.
It is the only weapon of the weak and oppressed against the
strength of their tyrants.
I was daily hoping to hear that my master had sold
my children; for I knew who was on the watch to buy
them. But Dr. Flint cared even more for revenge
than he did for money. My brother William, and the
good aunt who had served in his family twenty years,
and my little Benny, and Ellen, who was a little over
two years old, were thrust into jail, as a means of compelling
my relatives to give some information about me.
He swore my grandmother should never see one of
them again till I was brought back. They kept these
facts from me for several days. When I heard that my
little ones were in a loathsome jail, my first impulse was to go to them. I was encountering dangers for
the sake of freeing them, and must I be the cause of
their death? The thought was agonizing. My benefactress
tried to soothe me by telling me that my aunt would
take good care of the children while they remained in
jail. But it added to my pain to think that the good
old aunt, who had always been so kind to her sister's
orphan children, should be shut up in prison for no
other crime than loving them. I suppose my friends
feared a reckless movement on my part, knowing, as
they did, that my life was bound up in my children.
I received a note from my brother William. It was
scarcely legible, and ran thus: "Wherever you are,
dear sister, I beg of you not to come here. We are
all much better off than you are. If you come, you
will ruin us all. They would force you to tell where
you had been, or they would kill you. Take the advice
of your friends; if not for the sake of me and
your children, at least for the sake of those you would
Poor William! He also must suffer for being my
brother. I took his advice and kept quiet. My aunt
was taken out of jail at the end of a month, because
Mrs. Flint could not spare her any longer. She was
tired of being her own housekeeper. It was quite too
fatiguing to order her dinner and eat it too. My
children remained in jail, where brother William did
all he could for their comfort. Betty went to see them
sometimes, and brought me tidings. She was not permitted
to enter the jail; but William would hold them
up to the grated window while she chatted with them.
When she repeated their prattle, and told me how they wanted to see their ma, my tears would flow. Old
Betty would exclaim, "Lors, chile! what's you crying
'bout? Dem young uns vil kill you dead. Don't be
so chick'n hearted! If you does, you vil nebber git
thro' dis world."
Good old soul! She had gone through the world
childless. She had never had little ones to clasp their
arms round her neck; she had never seen their soft
eyes looking into hers; no sweet little voices had called
her mother; she had never pressed her own infants to
her heart, with the feeling that even in fetters there
was something to live for. How could she realize my
feelings? Betty's husband loved children dearly, and
wondered why God had denied them to him. He
expressed great sorrow when he came to Betty with the
tidings that Ellen had been taken out of jail and
carried to Dr. Flint's. She had the measles a short
time before they carried her to jail, and the disease
had left her eyes affected. The doctor had taken her
home to attend to them. My children had always been
afraid of the doctor and his wife. They had never
been inside of their house. Poor little Ellen cried all
day to be carried back to prison. The instincts of
childhood are true. She knew she was loved in the
jail. Her screams and sobs annoyed Mrs. Flint. Before
night she called one of the slaves, and said, "Here,
Bill, carry this brat back to the jail. I can't stand
her noise. If she would be quiet I should like to
keep the little minx. She would make a handy waiting
maid for my daughter by and by. But if she
staid here, with her white face, I suppose I should either
kill her or spoil her. I hope the doctor will sell them as far as wind and water can carry them.
As for their mother, her ladyship will find out yet
what she gets by running away. She hasn't so much
feeling for her children as a cow has for its calf. If
she had, she would have come back long ago, to get
them out of jail, and save all this expense and trouble.
The good-for-nothing hussy! When she is caught, she
shall stay in jail, in irons, for one six months, and then
be sold to a sugar plantation. I shall see her broke in
yet. What do you stand there for, Bill? Why don't
you go off with the brat? Mind, now, that you don't
let any of the niggers speak to her in the street!"
When these remarks were reported to me, I smiled
at Mrs. Flint's saying that she should either kill my
child or spoil her. I thought to myself there was very
little danger of the latter. I have always considered
it as one of God's special providences that Ellen
screamed till was carried back to jail.
That same night, Dr. Flint was called to a patient,
and did not return till near morning. Passing my
grandmother's, he saw a light in the house, and thought
to himself, "Perhaps this has something to do with
Linda." He knocked and the door was opened.
"What calls you up so early?" said he. "I saw your
light, and I thought I would just stop and tell you that
I have found out where Linda is. I know where to
put my hands on her, and I shall have her before
twelve o'clock." When he had turned away, my
grandmother and my uncle looked anxiously at each
other. They did not know whether or not it was
merely one of the doctor's tricks to frighten them. In
their uncertainty, they thought it was best to have a message conveyed to my friend Betty. Unwilling to
alarm her mistress, Betty resolved to dispose of me
herself. She came to me, and told me to rise and
dress quickly. We hurried down stairs, and across
the yard, into the kitchen. She locked the door, and
lifted up a plank in the floor. A buffalo skin and a
bit of carpet were spread for me to lie on, and a quilt
thrown over me. "Stay dar," said she, "till I sees if
dey know 'bout you. Dey say dey vil put thar hans
on you afore twelve o'clock. If day did know whar
you are, dey won't know now. Dey'll be disapinted
dis time. Dat's all I got to say. If dey comes rummagin
'mong my tings, dey'll get one bressed sarssin
from dis 'ere nigger." In my shallow bed I had but
just room enough to bring my hands to my face to
keep the dust out of my eyes; for Betty walked over
me twenty times in an hour, passing from the dresser
to the fireplace. When she was alone, I could hear
her pronouncing anathemas over Dr. Flint and all his
tribe, every now and then saying, with a chuckling
laugh, "Dis nigger's too cute for 'em dis time."
When the housemaids were about, she had sly ways
of drawing them out, that I might hear what they
would say. She would repeat stories she had heard
about my being in this, or that, or the other place. To
which they would answer, that I was not fool enough
to be staying round there; that I was in Philadelphia
or New York before this time. When all were abed
and asleep, Betty raised the plank, and said, "Come
out, chile; come out. Dey don't know nottin 'bout
you. 'Twas only white folks' lies, to skeer de niggers."
Some days after this adventure I had a much worse fright. As I sat very still in my retreat above stairs,
cheerful visions floated through my mind. I thought
Dr. Flint would soon get discouraged, and would be
willing to sell my children, when he lost all hopes of
making them the means of my discovery. I knew
who was ready to buy them. Suddenly I heard a voice
that chilled my blood. The sound was too familiar to
me, it had been too dreadful, for me not to recognize
at once my old master. He was in the house, and I
at once concluded that he had come to seize me. I looked
round in terror. There was no way of escape. The
voice receded. I supposed the constable was with him,
and they were searching the house. In my alarm I did not
forget the trouble I was bringing on my generous
benefactress. It seemed as if I were born to bring
sorrow on all who befriended me, and that was the
bitterest drop in the bitter cup of my life. After a
while I heard approaching footsteps; the key was
turned in my door. I braced myself against the wall
to keep from falling I ventured to look up, and there
stood my kind benefactress. I was too much
overcome to speak, and sunk down upon the floor.
"I thought you would hear your master's voice,"
she said; "and knowing you would be terrified, I
came to tell you there is nothing to fear.
You may even indulge in a laugh at the old gentleman's
expense. He is so sure you are in New York, that he
came to borrow five hundred dollars to go in pursuit
of you. My sister had some money to loan on interest.
He has obtained it, and proposes to start for New York
to-night. So, for the present, you see you are safe.
The doctor will merely lighten his pocket hunting after
the bird he has left behind."
THE CHILDREN SOLD.
THE doctor came back from New York, of course
without accomplishing his purpose. He had expended
considerable money, and was rather disheartened. My
brother and the children had now been in jail two
months, and that also was some expense. My friends
thought it was a favorable time to work on his discouraged
feelings. Mr. Sands sent a speculator to
offer him nine hundred dollars for my brother William,
and eight hundred for the two children. These
were high prices, as slaves were then selling; but the
offer was rejected. If it had been merely a question
of money, the doctor would have sold any boy of
Benny's age for two hundred dollars; but he could
not bear to give up the power of revenge. But he
was hard pressed for money, and he revolved the matter
in his mind. He knew that if he could keep Ellen till
she was fifteen, he could sell her for a high price; but
I presume he reflected that she might die, or might be
stolen away. At all events, he came to the conclusion
that he had better accept the slave-trader's offer.
Meeting him in the street, he inquired when he would
leave town. "To-day, at ten o clock," he replied.
"Ah, do you go so soon?" said the doctor; "I have
been reflecting upon your proposition, and I have concluded
to let you have the three negroes if you will
say nineteen hundred dollars." After some parley, the trader agreed to his terms. He wanted the bill of
sale drawn up and signed immediately, as he had a
great deal to attend to during the short time he remained
in town. The doctor went to the jail and told
William he would take him back into his service if he
would promise to behave himself; but he replied that he
would rather be sold. "And you shall be sold, you ungrateful
rascal!" exclaimed the doctor. In less than
an hour the money was paid, the papers were signed,
sealed, and delivered, and my brother and children
were in the hands of the trader.
It was a hurried transaction; and after it was over,
the doctor's characteristic caution returned. He went
back to the speculator, and said, "Sir, I have come to
lay you under obligations of a thousands dollars not to
sell any of those negroes in this state." "You come
too late," replied the trader; "our bargain is closed."
He had, in fact, already sold them to Mr. Sands, but
he did not mention it. The doctor required him to
put irons on "that rascal, Bill," and to pass through
the back streets when he took his gang out of town.
The trader was privately instructed to concede to his
wishes. My good old aunt went to jail to bid the children
good by, supposing them to be the speculator's
property, and that she should never see them
again. As she held Benny in her lap, he said, "Aunt
Nancy, I want to show you something." He led her
to the door and showed her a long row of marks, saying
"Uncle Will taught me to count. I have made a
mark for every day I have been here, and it is sixty
days. It is a long time; and the speculator is going
to take me and Ellen away. He's a bad man. It's wrong for him to take grandmother's children. I want
to go to my mother."
My grandmother was told that the children would
be restored to her, but she was requested to act as if
they were really to be sent away. Accordingly, she
made up a bundle of clothes and went to the jail.
When she arrived, she found William handcuffed
among the gang, and the children in the trader's cart.
The scene seemed too much like a reality. She was
afraid there might have been some deception or mistake.
She fainted, and was carried home.
When the wagon stopped at the hotel, several gentlemen
came out and proposed to purchase William, but
the trader refused their offers, without stating that he
was already sold. And now came the trying hour for
that drove of human beings, driven away like cattle, to
be sold they knew not where. Husbands were torn from
wives, parents from children, never to look upon each
other again this side the grave. There was wringing
of hands and cries of despair.
Dr. Flint had the supreme satisfaction of seeing the
wagon leave town, and Mrs. Flint had the gratification
of supposing that my children were going "as far as
wind and water would carry them." According to the
agreement, my uncle followed the wagon some miles,
until they came to an old farm house. There the
trader took the irons from William, and as he did so,
he said, "You are a damned clever fellow. I should
like to own you myself. Them gentlemen that wanted
to buy you said you was a bright, honest chap, and I
must git you a good home. I guess your old master
will swear to-morrow, and call himself an old fool for selling the children. I reckon he'll never git their
mammy back agin. I expect she's made tracks for
the north. Good by, old boy. Remember, I have
done you a good turn. You must thank me by coaxing
all the pretty gals to go with me next fall. That's
going to be my last trip. The trading in niggers is a
bad business for a fellow that's got any heart. Move
on you fellows!" And the gang went on, God alone
Much as I despise and detest the class of slave-traders,
whom I regard as the vilest wretches on earth, I must do
this man the justice to say that he seemed to have some
feeling. He took a fancy to William in the jail,
and wanted to buy him. When he heard the story of
my children, he was willing to aid them in getting out
of Dr. Flint's power, even without charging the
My uncle procured a wagon and carried William
and the children back to town. Great was the joy
in my grandmother's house! The curtains were
closed, and the candles lighted. The happy grandmother
cuddled the little ones to her bosom. They
hugged her, and kissed her, and clapped their hands,
and shouted. She knelt down and poured forth one
of her heartfelt prayers of thanksgiving to God. The
father was present for awhile; and though such a
"parental relation" as existed between him and my
children takes slight hold of the heart or consciences
of slaveholders, it must be that he experienced some
moments of pure joy in witnessing the happiness he
I had no share in the rejoicings of that evening. The events of that day had not come to my knowledge.
And now I will tell you something that happened to
me; though you will, perhaps, think it illustrates the
superstition of slaves. I sat in my usual place on the
floor near the window, where I could hear much that
was said in the street without being seen. The family
had retired for the night, and all was still. I sat there
thinking of my children, when I heard a low strain of
music. A band of serenaders were under the window,
playing "home sweet home." I listened till the
sounds did not seem like music, but like the moaning
of children. It seemed as if my heart would burst.
I rose from my sitting posture, and knelt. A streak
of moonlight was on the floor before me, and in the
midst of it appeared the forms of my two children.
They vanished; but I had seen them distinctly. Some
will call it a dream, others a vision. I know not how
to account for it, but it made a strong impression on
my mind, and I felt certain something had happened
to my little ones.
I had not seen Betty since morning. Now I heard her
softly turning the key. A soon as she entered, I
clung to her, and begged her to let me know whether
my children were dead. Or whether they were sold; for
I had seen their spirits in my room, and I was sure
something had happened to them,"Lor, chile," said
she, putting her arms round me, "you's got de highsterics.
I'll sleep wid you to-night, 'cause you'll make
a noise, and ruin missis. Something has stirred you
up mightily. When you is done cryin, I'll talk wid you.
De chillern is well, and mighty happy. I seed 'em
myself. Does dat satisfy you? Dar, chile, be still! Somebody vill hear you." I tried to obey her. She lay
down and was soon sound asleep; but no sleep would
come to my eyelids.
At dawn, Betty was up and off to the kitchen. The
hours passed on, and the vision of the night kept constantly
recurring to my thought. After a while I
heard the voices of two women in the entry. In one
of them I recognized the housemaid. The other said
to her, "Did you know Linda Brent's children was sold
to the speculator yesterday. They say ole massa Flint
was mighty glad to see 'em drove out of town; but
they say they've come back agin. I 'spect it's all their
daddy's doings. They say he's bought William too.
Lor! how it will take hold of ole massa Flint! I'm
going roun' to aunt Marthy's to see 'bout it."
I bit my lips till the blood came to keep from crying
out. Were my children with their grandmother,
or had the speculator carried them off? The suspense
was dreadful. Would Betty never come, and tell me
the truth about it? At last she came, and I eagerly
repeated what I had overheard. Her face was one
broad bright smile. "Lor, you foolish ting!" said
she. "I'se gwine to tell you all bout it. De gals is
eating thar breakfast, and missus tole me to let her tell
you; but, poor creeter! t'aint right to keep you waitin',
and I'se gwine to tell you. Brudder, chillern, all is
bought by de daddy! I'se laugh more dan nuff, tinking
'bout ole massa Flint. Lor, how he vill swar!
He's got ketched dis time, and how; but I must be getting
out o' dis, or dem gals vill come and ketch me."
Betty went off laughing; and I said to myself, "Can
it be true that my children are free? I have not suffered
for them in vain. Thank God!"
Great surprise was expressed when it was known
that my children had returned to their grandmother's.
The news spread through town, and many a kind
word was bestowed on the little ones.
Dr. Flint went to my grandmother's to ascertain who
was the owner of my children, and she informed him.
"I expected as much," said he. "I am glad to hear
it. I have had news from Linda lately, and I shall
soon have her. You need never expect to see her free.
She shall be my slave as long as I live, and when I am
dead she shall be the slave of my children. If I ever
find out that you or Phillip had any thing to do with
her running off I'll kill him. And if I meet William
in the street, and he presumes to look at me, I'll flog
him within an inch of his life. Keep those brats out
of my sight!"
As he turned to leave, my grandmother said
something to remind him of his own doings. He looked
back upon her, as if he would have been glad to strike
her to the ground.
I had my season of joy and thanksgiving. It was
the first time since my childhood that I had experienced
any real happiness. I heard of the old
doctor's threats, but they no longer had the same
power to trouble me. The darkest cloud that hung
over my life had rolled away. Whatever slavery might
do to me, it could not shackle my children. If I fell a
sacrifice, my little ones were saved. It was well for
me that my simple heart believed all that had been
promised for their welfare. It is always better to trust
than to doubt.
THE doctor, more exasperated than ever, again tried
to revenge himself on my relatives. He arrested uncle
Phillip on the charge of having aided my flight. He
was carried before a court, and swore truly that he
knew nothing of my intention to escape, and that he
had not seen me since I left my master's plantation.
The doctor then demanded that he should give bail for
five hundred dollars that he would have nothing to do
with me. Several gentlemen offered to be security for
him; but Mr. Sands told him he had better go back to
jail, and he would see that he came out without giving
The news of his arrest was carried to my grandmother,
who conveyed it to Betty. In the kindness of her heart,
she again stowed me away under the
floor; and as she walked back and forth, in the performance
of her culinary duties, she talked apparently
to herself, but with the intention that I should hear
what was going on. I hoped that my uncle's imprisonment
would last but few days; still I was anxious. I
thought it likely that Dr. Flint would do his utmost
to taunt and insult him, and I was afraid my uncle might
lose control of himself, and retort in some way that
would be construed into a punishable offence; and I
was well aware that in court his word would not be taken
against any white man's. The search for me was renewed. Something had excited suspicions that
I was in the vicinity. They searched the house I was
in. I heard their steps and their voices At night,
when all were asleep, Betty came to release me from
my place of confinement. The fright I had undergone,
the constrained posture, and the dampness of
the ground, made me ill for several days. My uncle
was soon after taken out of prison; but the movements
of all my relatives, and of all our friends, were very
We all saw that I could not remain where I was
much longer. I had already staid longer than was
intended, and I knew my presence must be a source
of perpetual anxiety to my kind benefactress. During
this time, my friends had laid many plans for my
escape, but the extreme vigilance of my persecutors
made it impossible to carry them into effect.
One morning I was much startled by hearing somebody
trying to get into my room. Several keys were
tried, but none fitted. I instantly conjectured it was
one of the housemaids; and I concluded she must either
have heard some noise in the room, or have noticed
the entrance of Betty. When my friend came, at her
usual time, I told her what had happened. "I knows
who it was," said she. "'Pend upon it, 'twas dat
Jenny. Dat nigger allers got de debble in her." I
suggested that she might have seen or heard something
that excited her curiosity.
"Tut! tut! chile!" exclaimed Betty, "she ain't
seen notin', nor hearn notin'. She only 'spects something.
Dat's all. She wants to fine out who hab cut
and make my gownd. But she won't nebber know.
Dat's sartin. I'll git missis to fix her."
I reflected a moment, and said, "Betty, I must leave
"Do as you tink best, poor chile," she replied.
"I'se might 'fraid dat 'ere nigger vill pop on you
She reported the incident to her mistress, and received
orders to keep Jenny busy in the kitchen till
she could see my uncle Phillip. He told her he would
send a friend for me that very evening. She told him
she hoped I was going to the north, for it was very
dangerous for me to remain any where in the vicinity.
Alas, it was not an easy thing, for one in my situation,
to go to the north. In order to leave the coast quite
clear for me, she went into the country to spend the
day with her brother, and took Jenny with her. She
was afraid to come and bid me good by, but she left
a kind message with Betty. I heard her carriage roll
from the door, and I never again saw her who had so
generously befriended the poor, trembling fugitive!
Though she was a slaveholder, to this day my heart
I had not the slightest idea where I was going.
Betty brought me a suit of sailor's clothes,--jacket,
trousers, and tarpaulin hat. She gave me a small
bundle, saying I might need it where I was going. In
cheery tones, she exclaimed, "I'se so glad you is gwine
to free parts! Don't forget ole Betty. P'raps I'll come
'long by and by.
I tried to tell her how grateful I felt for all her kindness,
But she interrupted me. "I don't want no tanks,
honey. I'se glad I could help you, and I hope de
good Lord vill open de path for you. I'se gwine wid you to de lower gate. Put your hands in your pockets,
and walk ricketty, like de sailors."
I performed to her satisfaction. At the gate I found
Peter, a young colored man, waiting for me. I had
known him for years. He had been an apprentice to
my father, and had always borne a good character. I
was not afraid to trust to him. Betty bade me a hurried
good by, and we walked off. "Take courage,
Linda," said my friend Peter. "I've got a dagger,
and no man shall take you from me, unless he passes
over my dead body."
It was a long time since I had taken a walk out of
doors, and the fresh air revived me. It was also pleasant
to hear a human voice speaking to me above a whisper.
I passed several people whom I knew, but they
did not recognize me in my disguise. I prayed internally that,
for Peter's sake, as well as my own, nothing
might occur to bring out his dagger. We walked on
till we came to the wharf. My aunt Nancy's husband
was a seafaring man, and it had been deemed necessary
to let him into our secret. He took me into his
boat, rowed out to a vessel not far distant, and hoisted
me on board. We three were the only occupants of
the vessel. I now ventured to ask what they proposed
to do with me. They said I was to remain on board
till near dawn, and then they would hide me in Snaky
Swamp, till my uncle Phillip had prepared a place of
concealment for me. If the vessel had been bound
north, it would have been of no avail to me, for it
would certainly have been searched. About four
o'clock, we were again seated in the boat, and rowed
three miles to the swamp. My fear of snakes had been increased by the venomous bite I had received, and I
dreaded to enter this hiding-place. But I was in no
situation to choose, and I gratefully accepted the best
that my poor, persecuted friends could do for me.
Peter landed first, and with a large knife cut a path
through bamboos and briers of all descriptions. He
came back, took me in his arms, and carried me to a
seat made among the bamboos. Before we reached it,
we were covered with hundreds of mosquitos. In an
hour's time they had so poisoned my flesh that I was
a pitiful sight to behold. As the light increased, I saw
snake after snake crawling round us. I had been
accustomed to the sight of snakes all my life, but these
were larger than any I had ever seen. To this day I
shudder when I remember that morning. As evening
approached, the number of snakes increased so much
that we were continually obliged to thrash them with
sticks to keep them from crawling over us. The bamboos
were so high and so thick that it was impossible
to see beyond a very short distance. Just before it
became dark we procured a seat nearer to the entrance
of the swamp, being fearful of losing our way back to
the boat. It was not long before we heard the paddle
of oars, and the low whistle, which had been agreed
upon as a signal. We made haste to enter the boat,
and were rowed back to the vessel. I passed a wretched
night; for the heat of the swamp, the mosquitos, and
the constant terror of snakes, had brought on a burning
fever. I had just dropped asleep, when they came
and told me it was time to go back to that horrid
swamp. I could scarcely summon courage to rise.
But even those large, venomous snakes were less dreadful to my imagination than the white men in that
community called civilized. This time Peter took a
quantity of tobacco to burn, to keep off the mosquitos.
It produced the desired effect on them, but gave
me nausea and severe headache. At dark we returned
to the vessel. I had been so sick during the day, that
Peter declared I should go home that night, if the
devil himself was on patrol. They told me a place of
concealment had been provided for me at my grandmother's.
I could not imagine how it was possible to
hide me in her house, every nook and corner of which
was known to the Flint family. They told me to wait
and see. We were rowed ashore, and went boldly
through the streets, to my grandmother's. I wore my
sailor's clothes, and had blackened my face with charcoal.
I passed several people whom I knew. The
father of my children came so near that I brushed
against his arm; but he had no idea who it was.
"You must make the most of this walk," said my
friend Peter, "for you may not have another very
I thought his voice sounded sad. It was kind of
him to conceal from me what a dismal hole was to be
my home for a long, long time.
THE LOOPHOLE OF RETREAT.
A SMALL shed had been added to my grandmother's
house years ago. Some boards were laid across the
joists at the top, and between these boards and the roof
was a very small garret, never occupied by any thing
but rats and mice. It was a pent roof, covered with
nothing but shingles, according to the southern custom
for such buildings. The garret was only nine feet
long, and seven wide. The highest part was three
feet high, and sloped down abruptly to the loose board
floor. There was no admission for either light or air.
My uncle Philip, who was a carpenter, had very skillfully
made a concealed trap door, which communicated
with the storeroom. He had been doing this while I
was waiting in the swamp. The storeroom opened
upon a piazza. To this hole I was conveyed as soon as
I entered the house. The air was stifling; the darkness total.
A bed had been spread on the floor. I could sleep quite comfortably
on one side; but the slope was so sudden that I could not turn on the other
without hitting the roof. The rats and mice ran over my
bed; but I was weary, and I slept such sleep as the
wretched may, when a tempest has passed over them.
Morning came. I knew it only by the noises I heard;
for in my small den day and night were all the same.
I suffered for air even more than for light. But I was
not comfortless. I heard the voices of my children. There was joy and there was sadness in the sound. It
made my tears flow. How I longed to speak to them!
I was eager to look on their faces; but there was no
hole, no crack, through which I could peep. This continued
darkness was oppressive. It seemed horrible to
sit or lie in a cramped position day after day, without one
gleam of light. Yet I would have chosen this, rather
than my lot as a slave, though white people considered
it an easy one; and it was so compared with the fate
of others. I was never cruelly over-worked; I was
never lacerated with the whip from head to foot; I was
never so beaten and bruised that I could not turn from
one side to the other; I never had my heel-strings cut
to prevent my running away; I was never chained to
a log and forced to drag it about, while I toiled in the
fields from morning till night; I was never branded
with hot iron, or torn by bloodhounds. On the contrary,
I had always been kindly treated, and tenderly
cared for, until I came into the hands of Dr. Flint.
I had never wished for freedom till then. But though
my life in slavery was comparatively devoid of hardships,
God pity the woman who is compelled to lead
such a life!
My food was passed up to me through the trap-door
my uncle had contrived; and my grandmother, my
uncle Phillip, and aunt Nancy would seize such opportunities
as they could, to mount up there and chat with
me at the opening. But of course this was not safe in
the daytime. It must all be done in darkness. It was
impossible for me to move in an erect position, but I
crawled about my den for exercise. One day I hit my
head against something, and found it was a gimlet. My uncle had left it sticking there when he made the
trap-door. I was as rejoiced as Robinson Crusoe could
have been in finding such a treasure. It put a lucky
thought into my head. I said to myself, "Now I will
have some light. Now I will see my children." I did
not dare to begin my work during the daytime, for fear
of attracting attention. But I groped round; and having
found the side next the street, where I could frequently see
my children, I stuck the gimlet in and waited for evening.
I bored three rows of holes, one above another; then I
bored out the interstices between.
I thus succeeded in making one hole about an inch long
and an inch broad. I sat by it till late into the night,
to enjoy the little whiff of air that floated in. In the morning
I watched for my children. The first person
I saw in the street was Dr. Flint. I had a shuddering,
superstitious feeling that it was a bad omen. Several
familiar faces passed by. At last I heard the merry
laughing of children, and presently two sweet little faces
were looking up at me, as though they knew I was
there, and were conscious of the joy they imparted.
How I longed to tell them I was there!
My condition was now a little improved. But for weeks
I was tormented by hundreds of little red insects, fine as a
needle's point, that pierced through my skin, and produced
an intolerable burning. The good grandmother
gave me herb teas and cooling medicines, and finally I
got rid of them. The heat of my den was intense,
for nothing but thin shingles protected me from the
scorching summer's sun. But I had my consolations.
Through my peeping-hole I could watch the children, and
when they were near enough, I could hear their talk. Aunt Nancy brought me all the news she could hear at Dr.
Flint's. From her I learned that the doctor had written to New
York to a colored woman, who had been born and raised in
our neighborhood, and had breathed his contaminating
atmosphere. He offered her a reward if she could find out
any thing about me. I know not what was the nature of her
reply; but he soon after started for New York in haste, saying
to his family that he had business of importance to transact.
I peeped at him as he passed on his way to the steamboat. It
was a satisfaction to have miles of land and water between
us, even for a little while; and it was a still greater
satisfaction to know that he believed me to be in the Free
States. My little den seemed less dreary than it had done. He
returned, as he did from his former journey to New York,
without obtaining any satisfactory information. When he
passed our house next morning, Benny was standing at the
gate. He had heard them say that he had gone to find me,
and he called out, "Dr. Flint, did you bring my mother home?
I want to see her." The doctor stamped his foot at him in a
rage, and exclaimed, "Get out of the way, you little damned
rascal! If you don't, I'll cut off your head."
Benny ran terrified into the house, saying, "You can't put
me in jail again. I don't belong to you now." It was well that
the wind carried the words away from the doctor's ear. I told
my grandmother of it, when we had our next conference at
the trap-door; and begged of her not to allow the children
to be impertinent to the irascible old man.
Autumn came, with a pleasant abatement of heat. My eyes had become accustomed to the dim light,
and by holding my book or work in a certain position near the
aperture I contrived to read and sew. That was a great relief
to the tedious monotony of my life. But when winter
came, the cold penetrated through the thin shingle roof,
and I was dreadfully chilled. The winters there are not so
long, or so severe, as in northern latitudes; but the houses
are not built to shelter from cold, and my little den was
peculiarly comfortless. The kind grandmother brought me
bed-clothes and warm drinks. Often I was obliged to lie in
bed all day to keep comfortable; but with all my
precautions, my shoulders and feet were frostbitten. O,
those long, gloomy days, with no object for my eye to rest
upon, and no thoughts to occupy my mind, except the
dreary past and the uncertain future! I was thankful when
there came a day sufficiently mild for me to wrap myself up
and sit at the loophole to watch the passers by.
Southerners have the habit of stopping and talking in the
streets, and I heard many conversations not intended to
meet my ears. I heard slave-hunters planning how to catch
some poor fugitive. Several times I heard allusions to Dr.
Flint, myself, and the history of my children, who, perhaps,
were playing near the gate. One would say, "I wouldn't
move my little finger to catch her, as old Flint's property."
Another would say, "I'll catch any nigger for the reward.
A man ought to have what belongs to him, if he is
a damned brute." The opinion was often expressed that I
was in the Free States. Very rarely did any one suggest
that I might be in the vicinity. Had the least suspicion
rested on my grandmother's house, it would have been
burned to the ground. But it was the last place they thought of. Yet there
was no place, where slavery existed, that could have
afforded me so good a place of concealment.
Dr. Flint and his family repeatedly tried to coax and
bribe my children to tell something they had heard said
about me. One day the doctor took them into a shop,
and offered them some bright little silver pieces and
gay handkerchiefs if they would tell where their
mother was. Ellen shrank away from him, and would
not speak; but Benny spoke up, and said, "Dr. Flint,
I don't know where my mother is. I guess she's in
New York; and when you go there again, I wish you'd
ask her to come home, for I want to see her; but if
you put her in jail, or tell her you'll cut her head off,
I'll tell her to go right back."
CHRISTMAS was approaching. Grandmother brought
me materials, and I busied myself making some new
garments and little playthings for my children. Were
it not that hiring day is near at hand, and many families
are fearfully looking forward to the probability of
separation in a few days, Christmas might be a happy
season for the poor slaves. Even slave mothers try to
gladden the hearts of their little ones on that occasion.
Benny and Ellen had their Christmas stockings filled.
Their imprisoned mother could not have the privilege
of witnessing, their surprise and joy. But I had the
pleasure of peeping at them as they went into the
street with their new suits on. I heard Benny ask a
little playmate whether Santa Claus brought him any
thing. "Yes," replied the boy; "but Santa Claus
ain't a real man. It's the children's mothers that put
things into the stockings." "No, that can't be," replied
Benny, "for Santa Claus brought Ellen and me
these new clothes, and my mother has been gone this
How I longed to tell him that his mother made
those garments, and that many a tear fell on them
while she worked!
Every child rises early on Christmas morning to see
the Johnkannaus. Without them, Christmas would be shorn of its greatest attraction. They consist of
companies of slaves from the plantations, generally of
the lower class. Two athletic men, in calico wrappers,
have a net thrown over them, covered with all manner
of bright-colored stripes. Cows' tails are fastened
to their backs, and their heads are decorated with
horns. A box, covered with sheepskin, is called the
gumbo box. A dozen beat on this, while others strike
triangles and jawbones, to which bands of dancers
keep time. For a month previous they are composing
songs, which are sung on this occasion. These companies,
of a hundred each, turn out early in the morning,
and are allowed to go round till twelve o'clock,
begging for contributions. Not a door is left unvisited
where there is the least chance of obtaining a penny
or a glass of rum. They do not drink while they are
out, but carry the rum home in jugs, to have a carousal.
These Christmas donations frequently amount to twenty
or thirty dollars. It is seldom that any white man or
child refuses to give them a trifle. If he does, they
regale his ears with the following song:--
massa, so dey say;
in de heel, so dey say;
no money, so dey say;
one shillin, so dey say;
A'mighty bress you, so dey say."
Christmas is a day of
feasting, both with white and
colored people. Slaves, who are lucky enough to have
a few shillings, are sure to spend them for good eating;
and many a turkey and pig is captured, without saying
"By your leave, sir." Those who cannot obtain these, cook a 'possum, or a raccoon, from which savory
dishes can be made. My grandmother raised poultry
and pigs for sale; and it was her established custom
to have both a turkey and a pig roasted for Christmas
On this occasion, I was warned to keep extremely
quiet, because two guests had been invited. One was
the town constable, and the other was a free colored
man, who tried to pass himself off for white, and who
was always ready to do any mean work for the sake
of currying favor with white people. My grandmother
had a motive for inviting them. She managed to take
them all over the house. All the rooms on the lower
floor were thrown open for them to pass in and out;
and after dinner, they were invited up stairs to look at
a fine mocking bird my uncle had just brought home.
There, too, the rooms were all thrown open, that they
might look in. When I heard them talking on the
piazza, my heart almost stood still. I knew this colored
man had spent many nights hunting for me. Every
body knew he had the blood of a slave father in his
veins; but for the sake of passing himself off for white,
he was ready to kiss the slaveholders' feet. How I
despised him! As for the constable, he wore no false
colors. The duties of his office were despicable, but he
was superior to his companion, inasmuch as he did not
pretend to be what he was not. Any white man, who
could raise money enough to buy a slave, would have
considered himself degraded by being a constable; but
the office enabled its possessor to exercise authority.
If he found any slave out after nine o'clock, he could whip him as much as he liked; and that was a privilege
to be coveted. When the guests were ready to
depart, my grandmother gave each of them some of
her nice pudding, as a present for their wives. Through
my peep-hole I saw them go out of the gate, and I
was glad when it closed after them. So passed the
first Christmas in my den.
STILL IN PRISON.
WHEN spring returned, and I took in the little patch
of green the aperture commanded, I asked myself how
many more summers and winters I must be condemned
to spend thus. I longed to draw in a plentiful draught
of fresh air, to stretch my cramped limbs, to have room
to stand erect, to feel the earth under my feet again.
My relatives were constantly on the lookout for a
chance of escape; but none offered that seemed practicable,
and even tolerably safe. The hot summer came
again, and made the turpentine drop from the thin
roof over my head.
During the long nights, I was restless for want of
air, and I had no room to toss and turn. There was
but one compensation; the atmosphere was so stifled
that even mosquitos would not condescend to buzz in
it. With all my detestation of Dr. Flint, I could hardly
wish him a worse punishment, either in this world or
that which is to come, than to suffer what I suffered in
one single summer. Yet the laws allowed him to be
out in the free air, while I, guiltless of crime, was pent
up in here, as the only means of avoiding the cruelties
the laws allowed him to inflict upon me! I don't
know what kept life within me. Again and again, I
thought I should die before long; but I saw the leaves
of another autumn whirl through the air, and felt the
touch of another winter. In summer the most terrible thunder storms were acceptable, for the rain came
through the roof, and I rolled up my bed that it might
cool the hot boards under it. Later in the season,
storms sometimes wet my clothes through and through,
and that was not comfortable when the air grew chilly.
Moderate storms I could keep out by filling the chinks
But uncomfortable as my situation was, I had
glimpses of things out of doors, which made me thankful
for my wretched hiding-place. One day I saw a
slave pass our gate, muttering, "It's his own, and he
can kill it if he will." My grandmother told me that
woman's history. Her mistress had that day seen her
baby for the first time, and in the lineaments of its fair
face she saw a likeness to her husband. She turned
the bondwoman and her child out of doors, and forbade
her ever to return. The slave went to her master,
and told him what had happened. He promised
to talk with her mistress, and make it all right. The
next day she and her baby were sold to a Georgia
Another time I saw a woman rush wildly by, pursued
by two men. She was a slave, the wet nurse of
her mistress's children. For some trifling offence her
mistress ordered her to be stripped and whipped. To
escape the degradation and the torture, she rushed to
the river, jumped in, and ended her wrongs in death.
Senator Brown, of Mississippi, could not be ignorant
of many such facts as these, for they are of frequent
occurrence in every Southern State. Yet he stood up
in the Congress of the United States, and declared that
slavery was "a great moral, social, and political blessing; a blessing to the master, and a blessing to the
I suffered much more during the second winter than
I did during the first. My limbs were benumbed by
inaction, and the cold filled them with cramp. I had
a very painful sensation of coldness in my head; even
my face and tongue stiffened, and I lost the power of
speech. Of course it was impossible, under the
circumstances, to summon any physician. My brother
William came and did all he could for me. Uncle
Phillip also watched tenderly over me; and poor grandmother
crept up and down to inquire whether there
were any signs of returning life. I was restored to
conscientiousness by the dashing of cold water in my face,
and found myself leaning against my brother's arm,
while he bent over me with streaming eyes. He afterwards
told me he thought I was dying, for I had been
in an unconscious state sixteen hours. I next became
delirious, and was in great danger of betraying myself
and my friends. To prevent this, they stupefied me
with drugs. I remained in bed six weeks, weary in
body and sick at heart. How to get medical advice
was the question. William finally went to a Thompsonian
doctor, and described himself as having all my
pains and aches. He returned with herbs, roots, and
ointment. He was especially charged to rub on the
ointment by a fire; but how could a fire be made in my
little den? Charcoal in a furnace was tried, but there
was no outlet for the gas, and it nearly cost me my life.
Afterwards coals, already kindled, were brought up in
and iron pan, and placed on bricks. I was so weak, and
it was so long since I had enjoyed the warmth of a fire, that those few coals actually made me weep. I think
the medicines did me some good; but my recovery was
very slow. Dark thoughts passed through my mind
as I lay there day after day. I tried to be thankful for
my little cell, dismal as it was, and even to love it, as
part of the price I had paid for the redemption of my
children. Sometimes I thought God was a compassionate
Father, who would forgive my sins for the sake of
my sufferings. At other times, it seemed to me there
was no justice or mercy in the divine government. I
asked why the curse of slavery was permitted to exist,
and why I had been so persecuted and wronged from
youth upward. These things took the shape of mystery,
which is to this day not so clear to my soul as I
trust it will be hereafter.
In the midst of my illness, grandmother broke down
under the weight of anxiety and toil. The idea of
losing her, who had always been my best friend and a
mother to my children, was the sorest trial I had yet
had. O, how earnestly I prayed that she might recover!
How hard it seemed, that I could not tend
upon her, who had so long and so tenderly watched
One day the screams of a child nerved me with
strength to crawl to my peeping-hole, and I saw my
son covered with blood. A fierce dog, usually kept
chained, had seized and bitten him. A doctor was
sent for, and I heard the groans and screams of my child
while the wounds were being sewed up. O, what
torture to a mother' heart, to listen to this and be
unable to go to him!
But childhood is like a day in spring, alternately shower and sunshine. Before night Benny was bright
and lively, threatening the destruction of the dog; and
great was his delight when the doctor told him the
next day that the dog had bitten another boy and been
shot. Benny recovered from his wounds; but it was
long before he could walk.
When my grandmother's illness became known,
many ladies, who were her customers, called to bring
her some little comforts, and to inquire whether she
had every thing she wanted. Aunt Nancy one night
asked permission to watch with her sick mother, and
Mrs. Flint replied, "I don't see any need of your going.
I can't spare you." But when she found other
ladies in the neighborhood were so attentive, not wishing
to be outdone in Christian charity, she also sallied
forth, in magnificent condescension, and stood by the
bedside of her who had loved her in her infancy, and
who had been repaid by such grievous wrongs. She
seemed surprised to find her so ill, and scolded uncle
Phillip for not sending for Dr. Flint. She herself sent
for him immediately, and he came. Secure as I was in
my retreat, I should have been terrified if I had known
he was so near me. He pronounced my grandmother
in a very critical situation, and said if her attending
physician wished it, he would visit her. Nobody wished
to have him coming to the house at all hours, and we
were not disposed to give him a chance to make out a
As Mrs. Flint went out, Sally told her the reason Benny
was lame was, that a dog had bitten him. "I'm glad
of it," she replied. "I wish he had killed him. It would
be good news to send to his mother. Her day will come. The dogs will grab her yet." With these Christian
words she and her husband departed, and, to my great
satisfaction, returned no more.
I heard from uncle Phillip, with feelings of unspeakable
joy and gratitude, that the crisis was passed and
grandmother would live. I could now say from my
heart, "God is merciful. He has spared me the anguish
of feeling that I caused her death."
THE CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS.
THE summer had nearly ended, when Dr. Flint
made a third visit to New York, in search of me.
Two candidates were running for Congress, and he
returned in season to vote. The father of my children
was the Whig candidate. The doctor had hitherto been
a stanch Whig; but now he exerted all his energies
for the defeat of Mr. Sands. He invited large parties
of men to dine in the shade of his trees, and supplied
them with plenty of rum and brandy. If any poor
fellow drowned his wits in the bowl, and, in the openness
of his convivial heart, proclaimed that he did not
mean to vote the Democratic ticket, he was shoved into
the street without ceremony.
The doctor expended his liquor in vain. Mr. Sands
was elected; an event which occasioned me some
anxious thoughts. He had not emancipated my children
and if he should die, they would be at the mercy
of his heirs. Two little voices, that frequently met
my ear, pleaded with me not to let their father
depart without striving to make their freedom secure.
Years had passed since I had spoken to him. I had
not even seen him since the night I passed him,
unrecognized in my disguise of a sailor. I supposed he
would call before he left, to say something to my grandmother
concerning the children, and I resolved what
course to take.
The day before his departure for Washington I
made arrangements, towards evening, to get from my
hiding-place into the storeroom below. I found myself
so stiff and clumsy that it was with great difficulty
I could hitch from one resting place to another.
When I reached the storeroom my ankles gave way
under me, and I sank exhausted on the floor. It
seemed as if I could never use my limbs again. But
the purpose I had in view roused all the strength I
had. I crawled on my hands and knees to the window,
and, screened behind a barrel, I waited for his coming.
The clock struck nine, and I knew the steamboat would
leave between ten and eleven. My hopes were failing.
But presently I heard his voice, saying to some one,
"Wait for me a moment. I wish to see aunt Martha."
When he came out, as he passed the window, I said,
"Stop one moment, and let me speak for my children."
He started, hesitated, and then passed on, and went
out of the gate. I closed the shutter I had partially
opened, and sank down behind the barrel. I had suffered
much; but seldom had I experienced a leaner
pang than I then felt. Had my children, then, become
of so little consequence to him? And had he
so little feeling for their wretched mother that he
would not listen a moment while she pleaded for
them? Painful memories were so busy within me,
that I forgot I had not hooked the shutter, till I heard
some one opening it. I looked up. He had come
back. "Who called me?" said he, in a low tone.
"I did," I replied. "Oh, Linda," said he, "I knew
your voice; but I was afraid to answer, lest my friend
should hear me. Why do you come here? Is it possible you risk yourself in this house? They are mad
to allow it. I shall expect to hear that you are all
ruined." I did not wish to implicate him, by letting
him know my place of concealment; so I merely said,
"I thought you would come to bid grandmother good
by, and so I came here to speak a few words to you
about emancipating my children. Many changes may
take place during the six months you are gone to
Washington and it does not seem right for you to
expose them to the risk of such changes. I want nothing
for myself; all I ask is, that you will free my
children, or authorize some friend to do it, before you go."
He promised he would do it, and also expressed a
readiness to make any arrangements whereby I could
I heard footsteps approaching, and closed the shutter
hastily. I wanted to crawl back to my den, without
letting the family know what I had done; for I knew
they would deem it very imprudent. But he stepped
back into the house to tell my grandmother that he
had spoken with me at the storeroom window, and to
beg of her not to allow me to remain in the house over
night. He said it was the height of madness for me
to be there; that we should certainly all be ruined.
Luckily, he was in too much of a hurry to wait for a
reply, or the dear old woman would surely have told
I tried to go back to my den, but found it more
difficult to go up than I had to come down. Now that
my mission was fulfilled, the little strength that had
supported me through it was gone, and I sank helpless on the floor. My grandmother, alarmed at the
risk I had run, came into the storeroom in the dark,
and locked the door behind her. "Linda," she whispered,
"where are you?"
"I am here by the window," I replied. "I couldn't
have him go away without emancipating the children.
Who knows what may happen?"
"Come, come, child," said she, "it won't do for
you to stay here another minute. You've done wrong;
but I can't blame you, poor thing!"
I told her I could not return without assistance, and
she must call my uncle. Uncle Phillip came, and pity
prevented him from scolding me. He carried me back
to my dungeon, laid me tenderly on the bed, gave me
some medicine, and asked me if there was any thing
more he could do. Then he went away, and I was left
with my own thoughts--starless as the midnight darkness
My friends feared I should become a cripple for life;
and I was so weary of my long imprisonment that,
had it not been for the hope of serving my children, I
should have been thankful to die; but, for their sakes,
I was willing to bear on.
COMPETITION IN CUNNING.
DR. FLINT had not given me up. Every now and then
he would say to my grandmother that I would
yet come back, and voluntarily surrender myself; and
that when I did, I could be purchased by my relatives,
or any one who wished to buy me. I knew his cunning
nature too well not to believe that this was a trap
laid for me; and so all my friends understood it. I
resolved to match my cunning against his cunning.
In order to make him believe that I was in New York,
I resolved to write him a letter dated from that place.
I sent for my friend Peter, and asked him if he knew
any trustworthy seafaring person, who would carry
such a letter to New York, and put it in the post office
there. He said he knew one that he would trust with
his own life to the ends of the world. I reminded
him that it was a hazardous thing for him to undertake.
He said he knew it, but he was willing to do
any thing to help me. I expressed a wish for a New
York paper, to ascertain the names of some of the
streets. He run his hand into his pocket, and said,
"Here is half a one, that was round a cap I bought of
a pedler yesterday." I told him the letter would be
ready the next evening. He bade me good by, adding,
"Keep up your spirits, Linda; brighter days will
come by and by."
My uncle Phillip kept watch over the gate until our brief interview was over. Early the next morning,
I seated myself near the little aperture to examine
the newspaper. It was a piece of the New York Herald;
and, for once, the paper that systematically abuses
the colored people, was made to render them a service.
Having obtained what information I wanted concerning
streets and numbers, I wrote two letters, one to
my grandmother, the other to Dr. Flint. I reminded
him how he, a gray-headed man, had treated a helpless
child, who had been placed in his power, and what
years of misery he had brought upon her. To my
grandmother, I expressed a wish to have my children
sent to me at the north, where I could teach them to
respect themselves, and set them a virtuous example;
which a slave mother was not allowed to do at the
south. I asked her to direct her answer to a certain
street in Boston, as I did not live in New York, though
I went there sometimes. I dated these letters ahead,
to allow for the time it would take to carry them, and
sent a memorandum of the date to the messenger.
When my friend came for the letters, I said, "God
bless and reward you, Peter, for this disinterested kindness.
Pray be careful. If you are detected, both you
and I will have to suffer dreadfully. I have not a
relative who would dare to do it for me." He replied,
"You may trust to me, Linda. I don't forget that
your father was my best friend, and I will be a friend
to his children so long as God lets me live."
It was necessary to tell my grandmother what I
had done, in order that she might be ready for the
letter, and prepared to hear what Dr. Flint might say
about my being at the north. She was sadly troubled. She felt sure mischief would come of it. I also told
my plan to aunt Nancy, in order that she might report
to us what was said at Dr. Flint's house. I
whispered it to her through a crack, and she whispered
back, "I hope it will succeed. I shan't mind being a
slave all my life, if I can only see you and the children
I had directed that my letters should be put into the
New York post office on the 20th of the month. On
that evening of the 24th my aunt came to say that Dr.
Flint and his wife had been talking in a low voice
about a letter he had received, and that when he went
to his office he promised to bring it when he came to
tea. So I concluded I should hear my letter read the
next morning. I told my grandmother Dr. Flint
would be sure to come, and asked her to have him sit
near a certain door, and leave it open, that I might
hear what he said. The next morning I took my
station within sound of that door, and remained
motionless as a statue. It was not long before I heard
the gate slam, and the well-known footsteps enter the
house. He seated himself in the chair that was
placed for him, and said, "Well, Martha, I've brought
you a letter from Linda. She has sent me a letter
also. I know exactly where to find her; but I don't
choose to go to Boston for her. I had rather she
would come back of her own accord, in a respectable
manner. Her uncle Phillip is the best person to go
for her. With him, she would feel perfectly free to
act. I am willing to pay his expenses going and
returning. She shall be sold to her friends. Her
children are free; at least I suppose they are; and when you obtain her freedom, you'll make a happy
family. I suppose, Martha, you have no objection to
my reading to you the letter Linda has written to
He broke the seal, and I heard him read it. The old
villian! He had suppressed the letter I wrote to
grandmother, and prepared a substitute of his own,
the purport of which was as follows:--
"Dear Grandmother: I have long wanted to write to
you; but the disgraceful manner in which I left you
and my children made me ashamed to do it. If you
knew how much I have suffered since I ran away,
you would pity and forgive me. I have purchased
freedom at a dear rate. If any arrangement could be
made for me to return to the south without being a
slave, I would gladly come. If not, I beg of you to
send my children to the north. I cannot live any longer
without them. Let me know in time, and I will meet
them in New York or Philadelphia, whichever place
best suits my uncle's convenience. Write as soon as
possible to your unhappy daughter,
"It is very much as I expected it would be," said
the old hypocrite, rising to go. "You see the foolish girl
has repented of her rashness, and wants to return.
We must help her to do it, Martha. Talk with Phillip
about it. If he will go for her, she will trust to him, and
come back. I should like an answer tomorrow. Good
As he stepped out on the piazza, he stumbled over my little girl. "Ah, Ellen, is that you?" he said, in his most
gracious manner. "I didn't see you. How do you do?"
"Pretty well, sir," she replied. "I heard you tell
grandmother that my mother is coming home. I want
to see her."
"Yes, Ellen, I am going to bring her home very
soon," rejoiced he; "and you shall see her as much
as you like, you little curly-headed nigger."
This was as good as a comedy to me, who had
heard it all; but grandmother was frightened and
distressed, because the doctor wanted my uncle to go
The next evening Dr. Flint called to talk the matter
over. My uncle told him that from what he had heard
of Massachusetts, he judged he should be mobbed if
he went there after a runaway slave. "All stuff and nonsense,
Phillip!" replied the doctor. "Do you suppose I
want you to kick up a row in Boston? The business
can all be done quietly. Linda writes that she wants to
come back. You are her relative, and she would trust
you. The case would be different if I went. She might
object to coming with me; and the damned
abolitionists, if they knew I was her master, would
not believe me, if I told them she had begged to go
back. They would get up a row; and I should not like to
see Linda dragged through the streets like a common
negro. She has been very ungrateful to me for all my
kindness; but I forgive her, and want to act the part of a
friend towards her. I have no wish to hold her as
my slave. Her friends can buy her as soon as she
Finding that his arguments failed to convince my
uncle, the doctor "let the cat out of the bag," by saying
that he had written to the mayor of Boston, to ascertain
whether there was a person of my description
at the street and number from which my letter was
dated. He had omitted this date in the letter he had
made up to read to my grandmother. If I had dated
from New York, the old man would probably have
made another journey to that city. But even in that
dark region, where knowledge is so carefully excluded
from the slave, I had heard enough about Massachusetts
to come to the conclusion that slaveholders did
not consider it a comfortable place to go to in search
of a runaway. That was before the Fugitive Slave
Law was passed; before Massachusetts had consented
to become a "nigger hunter" for the south.
My grandmother, who had become skittish by seeing
her family always in danger, came to me with a very
distressed countenance, and said, "What will you do
if the mayor of Boston sends him word that you
haven't been there? Then he will suspect the letter
was a trick; and maybe he'll find out something about
it, and we shall all get into trouble. O Linda, I wish
you had never sent the letters."
"Don't worry yourself, grandmother," said I.
"The mayor of Boston won't trouble himself to hunt
niggers for Dr. Flint. The letters will do good in the
end. I shall get out of this dark hole some time or
"I hope you will, child," replied the good, patient
old friend. "You have been here a long time; almost
five years; but whenever you do go, it will break your old grandmother's heart. I should be expecting every
day to hear that you were brought back in irons
and put in jail. God help you, poor child! Let
us be thankful that some time or other we shall
go "where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest." My heart responded, Amen.
The fact that Dr. Flint had written to the mayor
of Boston convinced me that he believed my letter
to be genuine, and of course that he had no suspicion
of my being any where in the vicinity. It
was a great object to keep up this delusion, for
it made me and my friends feel less anxious, and
it would be very convenient whenever there was a
chance to escape. I resolved, therefore, to continue
to write letters from the north from time to time.
Two or three weeks passed, and as no news came
from the mayor of Boston, grandmother began to
listen to my entreaty to be allowed to leave my
cell, sometimes, and exercise my limbs to prevent
my becoming a cripple. I was allowed to slip down
into the small storeroom, early in the morning,
and remain there a little while. The room was all
filled up with barrels, except a small open space
under my trap-door. This faced the door, the upper
part of which was of glass, and purposely left
uncurtained that the curious might look in. The
air of this place was close; but it has so much
better than the atmosphere of my cell, that I dreaded
to return. I came down as soon as it was light,
and remained till eight o'clock, when people began
to be about, and there was danger that some one
might come on the piazza. I had tried various applications to bring warmth and feeling into my
limbs, but without avail. They were so numb and
stiff that it was a painful effort to move; and had
my enemies come upon me during the first mornings
I tried to exercise them a little in the small unoccupied
space of the storeroom, it would have been
impossible for me to have escaped.
IMPORTANT ERA IN MY BROTHER'S LIFE
I MISSED the company and kind attentions of my
brother William, who had gone to Washington with his
master, Mr. Sands. We received several letters from
him, written without any allusion to me, but expressed
in such a manner that I knew he did not forget me.
I disguised my hand, and wrote to him in the same
manner. It was a long session; and when it closed,
William wrote to inform us that Mr. Sands was going
to the north, to be gone some time, and that he was
to accompany him. I knew that his master had promised to
give him his freedom, but no time had been
specified. Would William trust to a slave's chances?
I remembered how we used to talk together, in our
young days, about obtaining our freedom, and I thought
it very doubtful whether he would come back to us.
Grandmother received a letter from Mr. Sands saying
that William had proved a most faithful servant,
and he would also say a valued friend; that no mother
had ever trained a better boy. He said he had travelled
through the Northern States and Canada; and though
the abolitionists had tried to decoy him away, they had
never succeeded. He ended by saying they should be
at home shortly.
We expected letters from William, describing the
novelties of his journey, but none came. In time, it
was reported that Mr. Sands would return late in the autumn, accompanied by a bride. Still no letters from
William. I felt almost sure I should never see him
again on southern soil; but had he no word of comfort
to send to his friends at home? to the poor captive in
her dungeon? My thoughts wandered through the
dark past, and over the uncertain future. Alone in my
cell, where no eye but God's could see me, I wept bitter
tears. How earnestly I prayed to him to restore
me to my children, and enable me to be a useful
woman and a good mother!
At last the day arrived for the return of the travellers.
Grandmother had made loving preparations to welcome
her absent boy back to the old hearthstone. When the
dinner table was laid, William's plate occupied its old
place. The stage coach went by empty. My grandmother
waited dinner. She thought perhaps he was
necessarily detained by his master. In my prison I
listened anxiously, expecting every moment to hear my
dear brother's voice and step. In the course of the afternoon
a lad was sent by Mr. Sands to tell grandmother
that William did not return with him; that the abolitionists
had decoyed him away. But he begged her
not to feel troubled about it, for he felt confident she
would see William in a few days. As soon as he had
time to reflect he would come back, for he could never
expect to be so well off at the north as he had been
If you had seen the tears, and heard the sobs, you
would have thought the messenger had brought tidings
of death instead of freedom. Poor old grandmother
felt that she should never see her darling boy again.
And I was selfish. I thought more of what I had lost, than of what my brother had gained. A new anxiety
began to trouble me. Mr. Sands had expended a
good deal of money, and would naturally feel irritated
by the loss he had incurred. I greatly feared this
might injure the prospects of my children, who were
now becoming valuable property. I longed to have
their emancipation made certain. The more so, because their
master and father was now married. I was
too familiar with slavery not to know that promises
made to slaves, though with kind intentions, and sincere
at the time, depend upon many contingencies for
Much as I wished William to be free, the step he had
taken made me sad and anxious. The following Sabbath
was calm and clear; so beautiful that it seemed
like a Sabbath in the eternal world. My grandmother
brought the children out on the piazza, that I might
hear their voices. She thought it would comfort me
in my despondency; and it did. They chatted merrily,
as only children can. Benny said, "Grandmother,
do you think uncle Will has gone for good? Won't
he ever come back again? May be he'll find mother.
If he does, won't she be glad to see him! Why
don't you and uncle Phillip, and all of us, go and live
where mother is? I should like it; wouldn't you,
"Yes, I should like it," replied Ellen; "but how
could we find her? Do you know the place, grandmother?
I don't remember how mother looked--do
Benny was just beginning to describe me when they
were interrupted by an old slave woman, a near neighbor, named Aggie. This poor creature had witnessed
the sale of her children, and seen them carried off to
parts unknown, without any hopes of ever hearing from
them again. She saw that my grandmother had been
weeping, and she said, in a sympathizing tone, "What's
the matter, aunt Marthy?"
"O Aggie," she replied, "it seems as if I shouldn't
have any of my children or grandchildren left to hand
me a drink when I'm dying, and lay my old body in
the ground. My boy didn't come back with Mr. Sands.
He staid at the north."
Poor old Aggie clapped her hands for joy. "Is dat
what you's crying fur?" she exclaimed. "Git down
on your knees and bress de Lord! I don't know whar
my poor chillern is, and I nebber 'spect to know.
You don't know whar poor Linda's gone to; but you do
know whar her brudder is. He's in free parts; and
dat's de right place. Don't murmur at de Lord's doings,
but git down on your knees and tank him for
My selfishness was rebuked by what poor Aggie said.
She rejoiced over the escape of one who was merely her
fellow-bondman, while his own sister was only thinking
what his good fortune might cost her children. I knelt
and prayed God to forgive me; and I thanked him from
my heart, that one of my family was saved from the
grasp of slavery.
It was not long before we received a letter from William.
He wrote that Mr. Sands had always treated
him kindly, and that he had tried to do his duty to
him faithfully. But ever since he was a boy, he had
longed to be free; and he had already gone through enough to convince him he had better not lose the
chance that offered. He concluded by saying, "Don't
worry about me, dear grandmother. I shall think of
you always, and it will spur me on to work hard and
try to do right. When I have earned money enough to
give you a home, perhaps you will come to the north,
and we call all live happy together."
Mr. Sands told my uncle Phillip the particulars
about William's leaving him. He said, "I trusted
him as if he were my own brother, and treated him as
kindly. The abolitionists talked to him in several
places; but I had no idea they could tempt him.
However, I don't blame William. He's young and
inconsiderate, and those Northern rascals decoyed him.
I must confess the scamp was very bold about it. I met
him coming down the steps of the Astor House with
his trunk on his shoulder, and I asked him where he
was going. He said he was going to change his old
trunk. I told him it was rather shabby, and asked if
he didn't need some money. He said, No, thanked
me, and went off. He did not return so soon as I
expected; but I waited patiently. At last I went to see if
our trunks were packed, ready for our journey. I
found them locked, and a sealed note on the table
informed me where I could find the keys. The fellow
even tried to be religious. He wrote that he hoped
God would always bless me, and reward me for my kindness;
that he was not unwilling to serve me; but
he wanted to be a free man; and that if I thought he
did wrong, he hoped I would forgive him. I intended
to give him his freedom in five years. He might have
trusted me. He has shown himself ungrateful; but I shall not go for him, or send for him. I feel confident
that he will soon return to me."
I afterwards heard an account of the affair from
William himself. He had not been urged away by
abolitionists. He needed no information they could
give him about slavery to stimulate his desire for
freedom. He looked at his hands, and remembered
that they were once in irons. What security had he
that they would not be so again? Mr. Sands was kind
to him; but he might indefinitely postpone the promise
he had made to give him his freedom. He might come
under pecuniary embarrassments, and his property be
seized by creditors; or he might die, without making
any arrangements in his favor. He had too often
known such accidents to happen to slaves who
had kind masters, and he wisely resolved to make sure
of the present opportunity to own himself. He was
scrupulous about taking any money from his master
on false pretences; so he sold his best clothes to pay
for his passage to Boston. The slaveholders
pronounced him a base, ungrateful wretch, for thus
requiting his master's indulgence. What would they
have done under similar circumstances?
When Dr. Flint's family heard that William had
deserted Mr. Sands, they chuckled greatly over the
news. Mrs. Flint made her usual manifestations of
Christian feeling, by saying, "I'm glad of it. I hope he'll
never get him again. I like to see people paid back in
their own coin. I reckon Linda's children will have to
pay for it. I should be glad to see them in the
speculator's hands again, for I'm tired of seeing
those little niggers march about the streets."
NEW DESTINATION FOR THE CHILDREN.
MRS. FLINT proclaimed her intention of informing
Mrs. Sands who was the father of my children. She
likewise proposed to tell her what an artful devil I
was; that I had made a great deal of trouble in her
family; that when Mr. Sands was at the north, she didn't
doubt I had followed him in disguise, and persuaded
William to run away. She had some reason to
entertain such an idea; for I had written from the
north, from time to time, and I dated my letters from
various places. Many of them fell into Dr. Flint's
hands, as I expected they would; and he must have
come to the conclusion that I travelled about a good
deal. He kept a close watch over my children,
thinking they would eventually lead to my detection.
A new and unexpected trial was in store for me. One
day, when Mr. Sands and his wife were walking in the
street, they met Benny. The lady took a fancy
to him and exclaimed, "What a pretty little negro!
Whom does he belong to?
Benny did not hear the answer; but he came
home very indignant with the stranger lady, because
she had called him a negro. A few days afterwards, Mr.
Sands called on my grandmother, and told her
he wanted her to take the children to his house. He
said he had informed his wife of his relation to
them, and told her they were motherless; and she
wanted to see them.
When he had gone, my grandmother came and asked
what I would do. The question seemed a mockery.
What could I do? They were Mr. Sands's slaves, and
their mother was a slave, whom he had represented to
be dead. Perhaps he thought I was. I was too much
pained and puzzled to come to any decision; and the
children were carried without my knowledge.
Mrs. Sands had a sister from Illinois staying with
her. This lady, who had no children of her own, was
so much pleased with Ellen, that she offered to adopt
her, and bring her up as she would a daughter. Mrs.
Sands wanted to take Benjamin. When grandmother
reported this to me, I was tried almost beyond endurance.
Was this all I was to gain by what I had suffered
for the sake of having my children free? True,
the prospect seemed fair; but I knew too well how
lightly slaveholders held such "parental relations."
If pecuniary troubles should come, or if the new wife
required more money than could conveniently be
spared, my children might be thought of as a convenient
means of raising funds. I had no trust in
thee, O Slavery! Never should I know peace till my
children were emancipated with all due formalities of
I was too proud to ask Mr. Sands to do any thing for
my own benefit; but I could bring myself to become a
supplicant for my children. I resolved to remind him
of the promise he had made me, and to throw myself
upon his honor for the performance of it. I persuaded
my grandmother to go to him, and tell him I was not dead,
and that I earnestly entreated him to keep the
promise he had made me; that I had heard of the recent proposals concerning my children, and did not
feel easy to accept them; that he had promised to
emancipate them, and it was time for him to redeem
his pledge. I know there was some risk in thus betraying
that I was in the vicinity; but what will not a
mother do for her children? He received the message
with surprise, and said, "The children are free. I
have never intended to claim them as slaves. Linda
may decide their fate. In my opinion, they had better
be sent to the north. I don't think they are quite
safe here. Dr. Flint boasts that they are still in his
power. He says they were his daughter's property,
and as she was not of age when they were sold, the
contract is not legally binding."
So, then, after all I had endured for their sakes, my
poor children were between two fires; between my old
master and their new master! And I was powerless.
There was no protecting arm of the law for me to invoke.
Mr. Sands proposed that Ellen should go, for
the present, to some of his relatives, who had removed
to Brooklyn, Long Island. It was promised that she
should be well taken care of, and sent to school. I
consented to it, as the best arrangement I could make
for her. My grandmother, of course, negotiated it all;
and Mrs. Sands knew of no other person in the transaction.
She proposed that they should take Ellen with
them to Washington and keep her till they had a good
chance of sending her, with friends, to Brooklyn. She
had an infant daughter. I had a glimpse of it, as
the nurse passed with it in her arms. It was not a
pleasant thought to me, that the bondwoman's child
should tend her free-born sister; but there was no alternative. Ellen was made ready for the journey.
O, how it tried my heart to send her away, so young, alone,
among strangers! Without a mother's love to shelter
her from the storms of life; almost without memory
of a mother! I doubted whether she and Benny would
have for me the natural affection that children feel for
a parent. I thought to myself that I might perhaps
never see my daughter again, and I had a great desire
that she should look upon me, before she went, that
she might take my image with her in her memory. It
seemed to me cruel to have her brought to my dungeon.
It was sorrow enough for her young heart to
know that her mother was a victim of slavery, without
seeing the wretched hiding place to which it had driven
her. I begged permission to pass the last night in one
of the open chambers, with my little girl. They
thought I was crazy to think of trusting such a young
child with my perilous secret. I told them I had
watched her character, and I felt sure she would not
betray me; that I was determined to have an interview,
and if they would not facilitate it, I would take
my own way to obtain it. They remonstrated against
the rashness of such a proceeding; but finding they
could not change my purpose, they yielded. I slipped
through the trap-door into the storeroom, and my uncle
kept watch at the gate, while I passed into the piazza
and went up stairs, to the room I used to occupy. It
was more than five years since I had seen it; and how
the memories crowded on me! There I had taken
shelter when my mistress drove me from her house;
there came my old tyrant, to mock, insult, and curse
me; there my children were first laid in my arms; there I had watched over them, each day with a deeper
and sadder love; there I had knelt to God, in anguish
of heart, to forgive the wrong I had done. How vividly
it all came back! And after this long, gloomy
interval, I stood there such a wreck!
In the midst of these meditations, I heard footsteps
on the stairs. The door opened, and my uncle Phillip
came in, leading Ellen by the hand. I put my arms
round her, and said, "Ellen, my dear child, I am your
mother." She drew back a little, and looked at me;
then, with sweet confidence, she laid her cheek against
mine, and I folded her to the heart that had been so
long desolated. She was the first to speak. Raising
her head, she said, inquiringly, "You really are my
mother?" I told her I really was; that during all
the long time she had not seen me, I had loved her
most tenderly; and that now she was going away, I
wanted to see her and talk with her, that she might
remember me. With a sob in her voice, she said,
"I'm glad you've come to see me; but why didn't you
ever come before? Benny and I have wanted so much
to see you! He remembers you, and sometimes he
tells me about you. Why didn't you come home when
Dr. Flint went to bring you?"
I answered, "I couldn't come before, dear. But
now that I am with you, tell me whether you like to
go away." "I don't know," said she, crying. "Grandmother
says I ought not to cry; that I am going to a
good place, where I can learn to read and write, and
that by and by I can write her a letter. But I shan't
have Benny, or grandmother, or uncle Phillip, or any
body to love me. Can't you go with me? O, do go,
I told her I couldn't go now, but sometime I would
come to her, and then she and Benny and I would live
together, and have happy times. She wanted to run
and bring Benny to see me now. I told her he was
going to the north, before long, with uncle Phillip,
and then I would come to see him before he went
away. I asked if she would like to have me stay all
night and sleep with her. "O, yes," she replied.
Then, turning to her uncle, she said, pleadingly, "May
I stay? Please, uncle! She is my own mother."
He laid his hand on her head, and said, solemnly,
"Ellen, this is the secret you have promised grandmother
never to tell. If you ever speak of it to any
body, they will never let you see your grandmother
again, and your mother can never come to Brooklyn."
"Uncle," she replied, "I will never tell." He told
her she might stay with me; and when he had gone, I
took her in my arms and told her I was a slave, and
that was the reason she must never say she had seen
me. I exhorted her to be a good child, to try to please
the people where she was going, and that God would
raise her up friends. I told her to say her prayers,
and remember always to pray for her poor mother, and
that God would permit us to meet again. She wept,
and I did not check her tears. Perhaps she would
never again have a chance to pour her tears into a
mother's bosom. All night she nestled in my arms,
and I had no inclination to slumber. The moments
were too precious to lose any of them. Once, when I
thought she was asleep, I kissed her forehead softly,
and she said, "I am not asleep, dear mother."
Before dawn they came to take me back to my den. I drew aside the window curtain, to take a last look of
my child. The moonlight shone on her face, and I
bent over her, as I had done years before, that wretched
night when I ran away. I hugged her close to my
throbbing heart; and tears, too sad for such young
eyes to shed, flowed down her cheeks, as she gave her
her last kiss, and whispered in my ear, "Mother, I will
never tell." And she never did.
When I got back to my den, I threw myself on the
bed and wept there alone in the darkness. It seemed
as if my heart would burst. When the time for Ellen's
departure drew nigh, I could hear neighbors and
friends saying to her, "Good by, Ellen. I hope your
poor mother will find you out. Won't you be glad to
see her!" She replied, "Yes, ma'am;" and they
little dreamed of the weighty secret that weighed down
her young heart. She was an affectionate child, but
naturally very reserved, except with those she loved,
and I felt secure that my secret would be safe with her.
I heard the gate close after her, with such feelings as
only a slave mother can experience. During the day
my meditations were very sad. Sometimes I feared I
had been very selfish not to give up all claim to her,
and let her go to Illinois, to be adopted by Mrs. Sands's
sister. It was my experience of slavery that decided
me against it. I feared that circumstances might arise
that would cause her to be sent back. I felt confident
that I should go to New York myself; and then I
should be able to watch over her, and in some degree
Dr. Flint's family knew nothing of the proposed
arrangement till after Ellen was gone, and the news displeased them greatly. Mrs. Flint called on Mrs.
Sands's sister to inquire into the matter. She
expressed her opinion very freely as to the respect Mr.
Sands's showed for his wife, and for his own character,
in acknowledging those "young niggers." And as for
sending Ellen away, she pronounced it to be just as
much stealing as it would be for him to come and take
a piece of furniture out of her parlor. She said her
daughter was not of age to sign the bill of sale, and
the children were her property; and when she became
of age, or was married, she could take them, wherever
she could lay hands on them.
Miss Emily Flint, the little girl to whom I had been
bequeathed, was now in her sixteenth year. Her
mother considered it all right and honorable for her,
or her future husband, to steal my children; but she
did not understand how any body could hold up their
heads in respectable society, after they had purchased
their own children, as Mr. Sands had done. Dr. Flint
said very little. Perhaps he thought that Benny would
be less likely to be sent away if he kept quiet. One
of my letters, that fell into his hands, was dated from
Canada; and he seldom spoke of me now. This state
of things enabled me to slip down into the storeroom
more frequently, where I could stand upright and
move my limbs more freely.
Days, weeks, and months passed, and there came no
news of Ellen. I sent a letter to Brooklyn, written in
my grandmother's name, to inquire whether she had
arrived there. Answer was returned that she had not.
I wrote to her in Washington; but no notice was taken
of it. There was one person there, who ought to have had some sympathy with the anxiety of the child's
friends at home; but the links of such relations as he
had formed with me, are easily broken and cast away
as rubbish. Yet how protectively and persuasively
he once talked to the poor, helpless slave girl! And
how entirely I trusted him! But now suspicions darkened
my mind. Was my child dead, or had they deceived me,
and sold her?
If the secret memoirs of many members of Congress
should be published, curious details would be unfolded.
I once saw a letter from a member of Congress to a
slave, who was the mother of six of his children. He
wrote to request that she would send her children away
from the great house before his return, as he expected
to be accompanied by friends. The woman could not
read, and was obliged to employ another to read the
letter. The existence of the colored children did not
trouble this gentleman, it was only the fear that
friends might recognize in their features a
resemblance to him.
At the end of six months, a letter came to my grandmother,
from Brooklyn. It was written by a young
lady in the family, and announced that Ellen had just
arrived. It contained the following message from her:
"I do try to do just as you told me to, and I pray for
you every night and morning." I understood that
these words were meant for me; and they were a
balsam to my heart. The writer closed her letter by
saying, "Ellen is a nice girl, and we shall like to have to
have her with us. My cousin, Mr. Sands, has given
her to me, to be my little waiting maid. I shall send
her to school, and I hope some day she will write to you herself." This letter perplexed and troubled me.
Had my child's father merely placed her there till she
was old enough to support herself? Or had he given
her to his cousin, as a piece of property? If the last
idea was correct, his cousin might return to the south
at any time, and hold Ellen as a slave. I tried to put
away from me the painful thought that such a foul
wrong could have been done to us. I said to myself,
"Surely there must be some justice in man;" then I
remembered, with a sigh, how slavery perverted all
the natural feelings of the human heart. It gave me
a pang to look on my light-hearted boy. He believed
himself free; and to have him brought under the yoke
of slavery, would be more than I could bear. How I
longed to have him safely out of the reach of its power!
I HAVE mentioned my great-aunt, who was a slave in
Dr. Flint's family, and who had been my refuge during
the shameful persecutions I suffered from him. This
aunt had been married at twenty years of age; that is,
as far as slaves can marry. She had the consent of
her master and mistress, and a clergyman performed
the ceremony. But it was a mere form, without any
legal value. Her master or mistress could annul it any
day they pleased. She had always slept on the floor
in the entry, near Mrs. Flint's chamber door, that she
might be within call. When she was married, she was
told that she might have the use of a small room in an outhouse.
Her mother and her husband furnished it.
He was a seafaring man, and was allowed to sleep there
when he was at home. But on the wedding evening,
the bride was ordered to her old post on the entry floor.
Mrs Flint, at that time, had no children; but she was
expecting to be a mother, and if she should want a drink
of water in the night, what could she do without her
slave to bring it? So my aunt was compelled to lie at
her door, until one midnight she was forced to leave,
to give premature birth to a child. In a fortnight she
was required to resume her place on the entry floor,
because Mrs. Flint's babe needed her attentions. She
kept her station there through the summer and winter,
until she had given premature birth to six children; and all the while she was employed as night-nurse to
Mr. Flint's children. Finally, toiling all day, and being
deprived of rest at night, completely broke down
her constitution, and Dr. Flint declared it was impossible
she could ever become the mother of a living child.
The fear of losing so valuable a servant by death, now
induced them to allow her to sleep in her little room in
the out-house, except when there was sickness in the
family. She afterwards had two feeble babes, one of
whom died in a few days, and the other in four weeks.
I well remember her patient sorrow as she held the last
dead baby in her arms. "I wish it could have lived,"
she said; "it is not the will of God that any of my
children should live. But I will try to be fit to meet
their little spirits in heaven."
Aunt Nancy was housekeeper and waiting-maid in
Dr. Flint's family. Indeed, she was the factotum of
the household. Nothing went on well without her.
She was my mother's twin sister, and, as far as was in
her power, she supplied a mother's place to us orphans.
I slept with her all the time I lived in my old master's
house, and the bond between us was very strong.
When my friends tried to discourage me from running
away, she always encouraged me. When they thought
I had better return and ask my master's pardon, because
there was no possibility of escape, she sent me
word never to yield. She said if I persevered I might,
perhaps, gain the freedom of my children; and
even if I perished in doing it, that was better than
to leave them to groan under the same persecutions
that had blighted my own life. After I was shut up in
my dark cell, she stole away, whenever she could, to bring me the news and say something cheering. How
often did I kneel down to listen to her words of consolation,
whispered through a crack! "I am old, and
have not long to live," she used to say; "and I could
die happy if I could only see you and the children free.
You must Pray to God, Linda, as I do for you, that he
will lead you out of this darkness." I would beg her
not to worry herself on my account; that there was an
end of all the suffering sooner or later, and that whether
I lived in chains or in freedom, I should always remember
her as the good friend who had been the comfort
of my life. A word from her always strengthened
me; and not me only. The whole family relied upon
her judgment, and were guided by her advice.
I had been in my cell six years when my grandmother
was summoned to the bedside of this, her last
remaining daughter. She was very ill, and they said
she would die. Grandmother had not entered Dr.
Flint's house for several years. They had treated her
cruelly, but she thought nothing of that now. She
was grateful for permission to watch by the death-bed
of her child. They had always been devoted to each
other; and now they sat looking into each other's eyes,
longing to speak of the secret that had weighed so much
on them both. My aunt had been stricken with
paralysis. She lived two days, and the last day
she was speechless. Before she lost the power of utterance,
she told her mother not to grieve if she could
not speak to her, that she would try to hold up her
hand, to let her know that all was well with her.
Even the hard-heartened doctor was a little softened
when he saw the dying woman try to smile on the aged mother, who was kneeling by her side. His eyes
moistened for a moment, as he said she had always been
a faithful servant, and they should never be able to
supply her place. Mrs. Flint took to her bed, quite
overcome by the shock. While my grandmother sat
alone with the dead, the doctor came in, leading his
youngest son, who had always been a great pet with
aunt Nancy, and was much attached to her. "Martha,"
said he, "aunt Nancy loved this child, and when he
comes where you are, I hope you will be kind to him,
for her sake." She replied, "Your wife was my
foster-child, Dr. Flint, the foster-sister of my poor
Nancy, and you little know me if you think I can feel
any thing but good will for her children."
"I wish the past could be forgotten, and that we
might never think of it," said he; "and that Linda
would come to supply her aunt's place. She would be
worth more to us than all the money that could be paid
for her. I wish it for your sake also, Martha. Now
that Nancy is taken away from you, she would be a
great comfort to your old age."
He knew he was touching a tender chord. Almost
choking with grief, my grandmother replied, "It was
not I that drove Linda away. My grandchildren are
gone; and of my nine children only one is left. God
To me, the death of this kind relative was an inexpressible
sorrow. I knew that she had been slowly
murdered; and I felt that my troubles had helped to
finish the work. After I heard of her illness, I listened
constantly to hear what news was brought from the
great house; and the thought that I could not go to her made me utterly miserable. At last, as uncle
Phillip came into the house, I heard some one inquire,
"How is she?" and he answered, "She is dead."
My little cell seemed whirling round, and I knew nothing
more till I opened my eyes and found uncle Phillip
big over me. I had no need to ask any questions.
He whispered, "Linda, she died happy." I could not
weep. My fixed gaze troubled him. "Don't look
so," he said. "Don't add to my poor mother's
trouble. Remember how much she has to bear, and
that we ought to do all we can to comfort her." Ah,
yes, that blessed old grandmother, who for seventy-three
years had borne the pelting storms of a slave-mother's
life. She did indeed need consolation!
Mrs. Flint had rendered her poor foster-sister childless,
apparently without any compunction; and with
cruel selfishness had ruined her health by years of incessant,
unrequited toil, and broken rest. But now she
became very sentimental. I suppose she thought it
would be a beautiful illustration of the attachment existing
between slaveholder and slave, if the body of
her old worn-out servant was buried at her feet. She
sent for the clergyman and asked if we had any
objection to burying aunt Nancy in the doctor's family
burial place. No colored person had ever been allowed
interment in the white people's burying-ground, and
the minister knew that all the deceased of our family
reposed together in the old graveyard of the slaves.
He therefore replied, "I have no objection to complying
with your wish; but perhaps aunt Nancy's mother
may have some choice as to where her remains shall be
It had never occurred to Mrs. Flint that slaves could
have any feelings. When my grandmother was consulted,
she at once said she wanted Nancy to lie with
all the rest of her family, and where her own old body
would be buried. Mrs. Flint graciously complied with
her wish, though she said it was painful to her to have
Nancy buried away from her. She might have added
with touching pathos, "I was so long used to sleep with
her lying near me, on the entry floor."
My uncle Phillip asked permission to bury his sister
at his own expense; and slaveholders are always ready
to grant such favors to slaves and their relatives. The
arrangements were very plain, but perfectly respectable.
She was buried on the Sabbath, and Mrs. Flint's
minister read the funeral service. There was a large
concourse of colored people, bond and free, and a few
white persons who had always been friendly to our
family. Dr. Flint's carriage was in the procession;
and when the body was deposited in its humble resting
place, the mistress dropped a tear, and returned to
her carriage, probably thinking she had performed her
It was talked of by the slaves as a mighty grand
funeral. Northern travellers, passing through the place,
might have described this tribute of respect to the
humble dead as a beautiful feature in the "patriarchal
institution;" a touching proof of the attachment
between slaveholders and their servants; and tender-hearted
Mrs. Flint would have confirmed this impression,
with handkerchief at her eyes. We could have
told them a different story. We could have given them
a chapter of wrongs and sufferings, that would have touched their hearts, if they had any hearts to feel for
the colored people. We could have told there how the
poor old slave-mother had toiled, year after year, to
earn eight hundred dollars to buy her son Phillip's right
to his own earnings; and how that same Phillip paid
the expenses of the funeral, which they regarded as doing
so much credit to the master. We could also have
told them of a poor, blighted young creature, shut up
in a living grave for years, to avoid the tortures that
would be inflicted on her, if she ventured to come out
and look on the face of her departed friend.
All this, and much more, I thought of, as I sat at my
loophole, waiting for the family to return from the
grave; sometimes weeping, sometimes falling asleep,
drowning strange dreams of the dead and the living.
It was sad to witness the grief of my bereaved grandmother.
She had always been strong to bear, and now,
as ever, religious faith supported her. But her dark
life had become still darker, and age and trouble were
leaving deep traces on her withered face. She had
four places to knock for me to come to the trap-door,
and each place had a different meaning. She now
came oftener than she had done, and talked to me of
her dead daughter, while tears trickled slowly down her
furrowed cheeks. I said all I could to comfort her;
but it was a sad reflection, that instead of being able
to help her, I was a constant source of anxiety and
trouble. The poor old back was fitted to its burden.
It bent under it, but did not break.
PREPARATIONS FOR ESCAPE.
I HARDLY expect that the reader will credit me,
when I affirm that I lived in that little dismal hole,
almost deprived of light and air, and with no space
to move my limbs, for nearly seven years. But it is
a fact; and to me a sad one, even now; for my body
still suffers from the effects of that long imprisonment,
to say nothing of my soul. Members of my
family, now living in New York and Boston, can testify
to the truth of what I say.
Countless were the nights that I sat late at the little
loophole scarcely large enough to give me a glimpse
of one twinkling star. There, I heard the patrols and
slave-hunters conferring together about the capture of
runaways, well knowing how rejoiced they would be
to catch me.
Season after season, year after year, I peeped at my
children's faces, and heard their sweet voices, with a
heart yearning all the while to say, "Your mother is
here." Sometimes it appeared to me as if ages had
rolled away since I entered upon that gloomy, monotonous
existence. At times, I was stupefied and listless;
at other times I became very impatient to know when
these dark years would end, and I should again be
allowed to feel the sunshine, and breathe the pure air.
After Ellen left us, this feeling increased. Mr.
Sands had agreed that Benny might go to the north whenever his uncle Phillip could go with him; and
I was anxious to be there also, to watch over my
children, and protect them so far as I was able. Moreover,
I was likely to be drowned out of my den, if I
remained much longer; for the slight roof was getting
badly out of repair, and uncle Phillip was afraid to remove
the shingles, lest some one should get a glimpse
of me. When storms occurred in the night, they
spread mats and bits of carpet, which in the morning
appeared have been laid out to dry; but to cover
the roof in the daytime might have attracted attention.
Consequently, my clothes and bedding were
often drenched; a process by which the pains and
aches in my cramped and stiffened limbs were greatly
increased. I revolved various plans of escape in my
mind, which I sometimes imparted to my grandmother,
when she came to whisper with me at the trap-door.
The kind-hearted old woman had an intense sympathy
for runaways. She had known too much of the
cruelties inflicted on those who were captured. Her
memory always flew back at once to the sufferings of her
bright and handsome son, Benjamin, the youngest and
dearest of her flock. So, whenever I alluded to the
subject, she would groan out, "O, don't think of it,
child. You'll break my heart." I had no good old
aunt Nancy now to encourage me; but my brother
William and my children were continually beckoning
me to the north.
And now I must go back a few months in my story.
I have stated that the first of January was the time
for selling slaves, or leasing them out to new masters.
If time were counted by heart-throbs, the poor slaves might reckon years of suffering during that festival so
joyous to the free. On the New Year's day preceding
my aunt's death, one of my friends, named Fanny, was
to be sold at auction to pay her master's debts. My
thoughts were with her during all the day, and at
night I anxiously inquired what had been her fate. I
was told that she had been sold to one master, and her
four little girls to another master, far distant; that she
had escaped from her purchaser, and was not to be
found. Her mother was the old Aggie I have spoken of.
She lived in a small tenement belonging to my
grandmother, and built on the same lot with her own
house. Her dwelling was searched and watched, and
that brought the patrols so near me that I was obliged
to keep very close in my den. The hunters were
somehow eluded; and not long afterwards Benny
accidentally caught sight of Fanny in her mother's hut.
He told his grandmother, who charged him never to
speak of it, explaining to him the frightful
consequences; and he never betrayed the trust. Aggie
little dreamed that my grandmother knew where her
daughter was concealed, and that the stooping form of
her old neighbor was bending under a similar burden of
anxiety and fear; but these dangerous secrets
deepened the sympathy between the two old
My friend Fanny and I remained many weeks
hidden within call of each other; but she was
unconscious of the fact. I longed to have her share
my den, which seemed a more secure retreat than
her own; but I had brought so much trouble on my
grandmother, that it seemed wrong to ask her to incur
greater risks. My restlessness increased. I had lived too long in bodily
pain and anguish of spirit. Always I was in dread
that by some accident, or some contrivance, slavery
would succeed in snatching my children from me.
This thought drove me nearly frantic, and I determined to
steer for the North Star at all hazards. At this crisis,
Providence opened an unexpected way for me to escape.
My friend Peter came one evening, and asked
to speak with me. "Your day has come, Linda," said
he. "I have found a chance for you to go to the Free
States. You have a fortnight to decide." The news
seemed too good to be true; but Peter explained his
arrangements, and told me all that was necessary was
for me to say I would go. I was going to answer him
with a joyful yes, when the thought of Benny came
to my mind. I told him the temptation was exceedingly
strong, but I was terribly afraid of Dr. Flint's
alleged power over my child, and that I could not go
and leave him behind. Peter remonstrated earnestly.
He said such a good chance might never occur again;
that Benny was free, and could be sent to me; and
that for the sake of my children's welfare I ought not
to hesitate a moment. I told him I would consult with
uncle Phillip. My uncle rejoiced in the plan, and
bade me to go by all means. He promised, if his life
was spared, that he would either bring or send my son
to me as soon as I reached a place of safety. I resolved
to go, but thought nothing had better be said to
my grandmother till very near the time of departure.
But my uncle thought she would feel it more keenly
if I left her so suddenly. "I will reason with her,"
said he, "and convince her how necessary it is, not only for your sake, but for hers also. You cannot be
blind to the fact that she is sinking under her burdens."
I was not blind to it. I knew that my concealment was
an ever-present source of anxiety, and
that the older she grew the more nervously fearful
she was of discovery. My uncle talked with her, and
finally succeeded in persuading her that it was absolutely
necessary for me to seize the chance so unexpectedly
The anticipation of being a free woman proved almost
too much for my weak frame. The excitement
stimulated me, and at the same time bewildered me.
I made busy preparations for my journey, and for my
son to follow me. I resolved to have an interview with
him before I went, that I might give him cautions and
advice, and tell him how anxiously I should be waiting
for him at the north. Grandmother stole up to me as
often as possible to whisper words of counsel. She
insisted upon my writing to Dr. Flint, as soon as I
arrived in the Free States, and asking him to sell me to
her. She said she would sacrifice her house, and all
she had in the world, for the sake of having me safe
with my children in any part of the world. If she
could only live to know that she could die in peace.
I promised the dear old faithful friend that I would
write to her as soon as I arrived, and put the letter in
a safe way to reach her; but in my own mind I resolved
that not another cent of her hard earnings
should be spent to pay rapacious slaveholders for what
they called their property. And even if I had not
been unwilling to buy what I had already a right to
possess, common humanity would have prevented me from accepting the generous offer, at the expense of
turning my aged relative out of house and home, when
she was trembling on the brink of the grave.
I was to escape in a vessel; but I forbear to mention
any further particulars. I was in readiness, but the
vessel was unexpectedly detained several days. Meantime,
news came to town of a most horrible murder
committed on a fugitive slave, named James. Charity,
the mother of this unfortunate young man, had been
an old acquaintance of ours. I have told the shocking
particulars of his death, in my description of some
of the neighboring slaveholders. My grandmother,
always nervously sensitive about runaways, was terribly
frightened. She felt sure that a similar fate awaited
me, if I did not desist from my enterprise. She sobbed,
and groaned, and entreated me not to go. Her excessive
fear was somewhat contagious, and my heart was
not proof against her extreme agony. I was grievously
disappointed, but I promised to relinquish my project.
When my friend Peter was apprised of this, he was
disappointed and vexed. He said, that judging
from our past experience, it would be a long time
before I has such another chance to
throw away. I told him it need not be thrown away; that I had
a friend concealed near by, who would be glad
enough to take to the place that had been provided
for me. I told him about poor Fanny, and the
kind-hearted, noble fellow, who never turned his back
upon any body in distress, white or black, expressed his
readiness to help her. Aggie was much
surprised when she found that we knew her secret.
She was rejoiced to hear of such a chance for Fanny, and arrangements were made for her to go on board
the vessel the next night. They both supposed that I
had long been at the north, therefore my name was not
mentioned in the transaction. Fanny was carried on
board at the appointed time, and stowed away in
a very small cabin. This accommodation had been
purchased at a price that would pay for a voyage to
England. But when one proposes to go to fine old
England, they stop to calculate whether they can afford
the cost of the pleasure; while in making a bargain to
escape from slavery, the trembling victim is ready to
say, "Take all I have, only don't betray me!"
The next morning I peeped through my loophole,
and saw that it was dark and cloudy. At night I
received news that the wind was ahead, and the vessel
had not sailed. I was exceedingly anxious about
Fanny, and Peter too, who was running a tremendous
risk at my instigation. Next day the wind and weather
remained the same. Poor Fanny had been half dead
with fright when they carried her on board, and I could
readily imagine how she must be suffering now.
Grandmother came often to my den, to say how thankful
she was I did not go. On the third morning she
rapped for me to come down to the storeroom. The
poor old sufferer was breaking down under her weight
of trouble. She was easily flurried now. I found her
in a nervous, excited state, but I was not aware that
she had forgotten to lock the door behind her, as usual.
She was exceedingly worried about the detention of
the vessel. She was afraid all would be discovered,
and then Fanny, and Peter, and I, would all be
tortured to death, and Phillip should be utterly ruined, and her house would be torn down. Poor Peter! If
he should die such a horrible death as the poor slave
James had lately done, and all for his kindness in
trying to help me, how dreadful it would be for us all!
Alas, the thought was familiar to me, and had sent
many a sharp pang through my heart. I tried to suppress
my own anxiety, and speak soothingly to her.
She brought in some allusion to aunt Nancy, the dear
daughter she had recently buried, and then she lost all
control of herself. As she stood there, trembling and
sobbing, a voice from the piazza called out, "Whar is
you, aunt Marthy?" Grandmother was startled, and
in her agitation opened the door, without thinking of
me. In stepped Jenny, the mischievous housemaid,
who had tried to enter my room, when I was concealed
in the house of my white benefactress. "I's bin huntin
ebery whar for you, aunt Marthy," said she. "My
missis wants you to send her some crackers." I had
slunk down behind a barrel, which entirely screened
me, but I imagined that Jenny was looking directly at
the spot, and my heart beat violently. My grandmother
immediately thought what she had done, and
went out quickly with Jenny to count the crackers
locking the door behind her. She returned to me, in a
few minutes, the perfect picture of despair. "Poor
child!" she exclaimed, "my carelessness has ruined
you. The boat ain't gone yet, Get ready immediately,
and go with Fanny. I ain't got another word to
say against it now; for there's no telling what may happen
Uncle Phillip was sent for, and he agreed with his
mother in thinking that Jenny would inform Dr. Flint in less than twenty-four hours. He advised getting
me on board the boat, if possible; if not, I had better
keep very still in my den, where they could not find
me without tearing the house down. He said it would
not do for him to move in the matter, because suspicion
would be immediately excited; but he promised to
communicate with Peter. I felt reluctant to apply to
him again, having implicated him too much already;
but there seemed to be no alternative. Vexed as Peter
had been by my indecision, he was true to his generous
nature, and said at once that he would do his best to
help me, trusting I should show myself a stronger
woman this time.
He immediately proceeded to the wharf, and found
that the wind had shifted, and the vessel was slowly
beating down stream. On some pretext of urgent
necessity, he offered two boatmen a dollar apiece to
catch up with her. He was of lighter complexion than
the boatmen he hired, and when the captain saw them
coming so rapidly, he thought officers were pursuing
his vessel in search of the runaway slave he had on
board. They hoisted sails, but the boat gained upon
them, and the indefatigable Peter sprang on board.
The captain at once recognized him. Peter asked
him to go below, to speak about a bad bill he had given
him. When he told his errand, the captain replied,
"Why, the woman's here already; and I've put her
where you or the devil would have a tough job to find
"But it is another woman I want to bring," said
Peter. "She is in great distress, too, and you shall
be paid any thing within reason, if you'll stop and take
"What's her name?" inquired the captain.
"Linda," he replied.
"That's the the name of the woman already here,"
rejoined the captain. "By George! I believe you
mean to betray me."
"O!" exclaimed Peter, "God knows I wouldn't
harm a hair of your head. I am too grateful to you.
But there really is another woman in great danger.
Do have the humanity to stop and take her!"
After a while they came to an understanding. Fanny,
not dreaming I was any where about in that region,
had assumed my name, though she called herself Johnson.
"Linda is a common name," said Peter, "and
the woman I want to bring is Linda Brent."
The captain agreed to wait at a certain place till
evening, being handsomely paid for his detention.
Of course, the day was an anxious one for us all.
But we concluded that if Jenny had seen me, she
would be too wise to let her mistress know of it; and
that she probably would not get a chance to see Dr.
Flint's family till evening, for I knew very well what
were the rules in that household. I afterwards believed
that she did not see me; for nothing ever came
of it, and she was one of those base characters that
would have jumped to betray a suffering fellow being
for the sake of thirty pieces of silver.
I made all my arrangements to go on board as soon
as it was dusk. The intervening time I resolved to
spend with my son. I had not spoken to him for seven
years, though I had been under the same roof, and
seen him every day, when I was well enough to sit at
the loophole. I did not dare to venture beyond the storeroom; so they brought him there, and locked us
up together, in a place concealed from the piazza door.
It was an agitating interview for both of us. After we
had tallied and wept together for a little while, he said,
"Mother, I'm glad you're going away. I wish I could
go with you. I knew you was here; and I have been
so afraid they would come and catch you!"
I was greatly surprised, and asked him how he had
found it out.
He replied, "I was standing under the eaves, one
day, before Ellen went away, and I heard somebody
cough up over the wood shed. I don't know what
made me think it was you, but I did think so. I
missed Ellen, the night before she went away; and
grandmother brought her back into the room in the
night; and I thought maybe she'd been to see you, before
she went, for I heard grandmother whisper to her,
'Now go to sleep; and remember never to tell.'"
I asked him if he ever mentioned his suspicions to
his sister. He said he never did; but after he heard
the cough, if he saw her playing with other children
on that side of the house, he always tried to coax her
round to the other side, for fear they would hear me
cough, too. He said he had kept a close lookout for
Dr. Flint, and if he saw him speak to a constable, or
a patrol, he always told grandmother. I now recollected
that I had seen him manifest uneasiness, when
people were on that side of the house, and I had at
the time been puzzled to conjecture a motive for his
actions. Such prudence may seem extraordinary in a
boy of twelve years, but slaves, being surrounded by
mysteries, deceptions, and dangers, early learn to be suspicious and watchful, and prematurely cautious and
cunning. He had never asked a question of grandmother,
or uncle Phillip, and I had often heard him
chime in with other children, when they spoke of my
being at the north.
I told him I was now really going to the free States,
and if he was a good, honest boy, and a loving child to
his dear old grandmother, the Lord would bless him,
and bring him to me, and we and Ellen would live
together. He began to tell me that grandmother had
not eaten any thing all day. While he was speaking,
the door was unlocked, and she came in with a small
bag of money, which she wanted me to take. I begged
her to keep a part of it, at least, to pay for Benny's
being sent to the north; but she insisted, while her
tears were falling fast, that I should take the whole.
"You may be sick among strangers," she said, "and
they would send you to the poorhouse to die." Ah,
that good grandmother!
For the last time I went up to my nook. Its desolate
appearance no longer chilled me, for the light of
hope had risen in my soul. Yet, even with the blessed
prospect of freedom before me, I felt very sad at leaving
forever that old homestead, where I had been sheltered
so long by the dear old grandmother; where I
had dreamed my first young dream of love; and where,
after that had faded away, my children came to twine
themselves so closely round my desolate heart. As
the hour approached for me to leave, I again descended
to the storeroom. My grandmother and Benny were
there. She took me by the hand, and said, "Linda,
let us pray." We knelt down together, with my child pressed to my heart, and my other arm round the faithful,
loving old friend I was about to leave forever.
On no other occasion has it ever been my lot to listen
to so fervent a supplication for mercy and protection.
It thrilled through my heart, and inspired me with trust
Peter was waiting for me in the street. I was soon
by his side, faint in body, but strong of purpose. I
did not look back upon the old place, though I felt
that I should never see it again.
I NEVER could tell how we reached the wharf. My
brain was all of a whirl, and my limbs tottered under
me. At an appointed place we met my uncle Phillip,
who had started before us on a different route, that he
might reach the wharf first, and give us timely warning
if there was any danger. A row-boat was in readiness.
As I was about to step in, I felt something pull
me gently, and turning round I saw Benny, looking
pale and anxious. He whispered in my ear, "I've been
peeping into the doctor's window, and he's at home.
Don't cry; I'll come." He hastened
away. I clasped the hand of my good uncle, to
whom I owed so much, and of Peter, the brave, generous
friend who had volunteered to run such terrible
risks to secure my safety. To this day I remember
how bright his face beamed with joy, when he told me
he had discovered a safe method for me to escape. Yet
that intelligent, enterprising, noble-hearted man was a
chattel! liable, by the laws of a country that calls
itself civilized, to be sold with horses and pigs! We
parted in silence. Our hearts were all too full for
Swiftly the boat glided over the water. After a
while, one of the sailors said, "Don't be down-hearted,
madam. We will take you safely to your husband, in
-----." At first I could not imagine what he meant; but I had presence of mind to think that it probably
referred to something the captain had told him; so I
thanked him, and said I hoped we should have pleasant
When I entered the vessel the captain came forward
to meet me. He was an elderly man, with a pleasant
countenance. He showed me to a little box of a cabin,
where sat my friend Fanny. She started as if she had
seen a spectre. She gazed on me in utter astonishment,
and exclaimed, "Linda, can this be you? or is it your
ghost?" When we were locked in each other's arms,
my overwrought feelings could no longer be restrained.
My sobs reached the ears of the captain, who came and
very kindly reminded us, that for his safety, as well as
our own, it would be prudent for us not to attract any
attention. He said that when there was a sail in sight
he wished us to keep below; but at other times, he had
no objection to our being on deck. He assured us that
he would keep a good lookout, and if we acted prudently,
he thought we should be in no danger. He
had represented us as women going to meet our husbands
in -----. We thanked him, and promised to
observe carefully all the directions he gave us.
Fanny and I now talked by ourselves, low and quietly,
in our little cabin. She told me of the sufferings
she had gone through in making her escape, and of her
terrors while she was concealed in her mother's house.
Above all, she dwelt on the agony of separation from
all her children on that dreadful auction day. She
could scarcely credit me, when I told her of the place
where I had passed nearly seven years. "We have the
same sorrows," said I. "No," replied she, "you are going to see your children soon, and there is no hope
that I shall ever even hear from mine."
The vessel was soon under way, but we made slow
progress. The wind was against us. I should not
have cared for this, if we had been out of sight of the
town; but until there were miles of water between us
and our enemies, we were filled with constant apprehension
that the constables would come on board.
Neither could I feel quite at ease with the captain and
his men. I was an entire stranger to that class of people,
and I had heard that sailors were rough, and sometimes
cruel. We were so completely in their power,
that if they were bad men, our situation would be
dreadful. Now that the captain was paid for our passage,
might he not be tempted to make more money by
giving us up to those who claimed us as property? I
was naturally of a confiding disposition, but slavery
had made me suspicious of every body. Fanny did not
share my distrust of the captain or his men. She said
she was afraid at first, but she had been on board three
days while the vessel lay in the dock, and nobody had
betrayed her, or treated her otherwise than kindly.
The captain soon came to advise us to go on deck
for fresh air. His friendly and respectful manner,
combined with Fanny's testimony, reassured me, and
we went with him. He placed us in a comfortable seat,
and occasionally entered into conversations. He told us
he was a Southerner by birth, and had spent the greater
part of his life in the Slave States, and that he had recently
lost a brother who traded in slaves. "But,"
said he, "it is a pitiable and degrading business, and I
always felt ashamed to acknowledge my brother in connection with it." As we passed Snaky Swamp, he
pointed to it, and said, "There is a slave territory that
defies all the laws." I though of the terrible days I
had spent there, and though it was not called Dismal
Swamp, it made me feel very dismal as I looked at it.
I shall never forget that night. The balmy air of
spring was so refreshing! And how shall I describe
my sensations when we were fairly sailing on Chesapeake
Bay? O, the beautiful sunshine! the exhilarating
breeze! and I could enjoy them without fear or
restraint. I had never realized what grand things air
and sunlight are till I had been deprived of them.
Ten days after we left land we were approaching
Philadelphia. The captain said we should arrive there
in the night, but he thought we had better wait till
morning, and go on shore in broad daylight, as the best
way to avoid suspicion.
I replied, "You know best. But will you stay on
board and protect us?"
He saw that I was suspicious, and he said he was
sorry, now that he had brought us to the end of our
voyage, to find I had so little confidence in him. Ah,
if he had ever been a slave he would have known how
difficult it was to trust a white man. He assured us
that we might sleep through the night without fear;
that he would take care we were not left unprotected.
Be it said to the honor of this captain, Southerner as
he was, that if Fanny and I had been white ladies, and
our passage lawfully engaged, he could not have treated
us more respectfully. My intelligent friend, Peter, had
rightly estimated the character of the man to whose
honor he had intrusted us.
The next morning I was on deck as soon as the day
dawned. I called Fanny to see the sunrise, for the
first time in our lives, on free soil; for such I then
believed it to be. We watched the reddening sky, and
saw the great orb come up slowly out of the water, as
it seemed. Soon the waves began to sparkle, and
every thing caught the beautiful glow. Before us lay
the city of strangers. We looked at each other, and
the eyes of both were moistened with tears. We had
escaped from slavery, and we supposed ourselves to be
safe from the hunters. But we were alone in the world,
and we had left dear ties behind us; ties cruelly
sundered by the demon Slavery.
INCIDENTS IN PHILADELPHIA.
I HAD heard that the poor slave had many friends at
the north. I trusted we should find some of them.
Meantime, we would take it for granted that all were
friends, till they proved to the contrary. I sought out
the kind captain, thanked him for his attentions, and
told him I should never cease to be grateful for the
service he had rendered us. I gave him a message to
the friends I had left at home, and he promised to
deliver it. We were placed in a row-boat, and in about
fifteen minutes were landed on a wood wharf in Philadelphia.
As I stood looking round, the friendly captain touched
me on the shoulder, and said, "There is
a respectable-looking colored man behind you. I will
speak to him about the New York trains, and tell him
you wish to go directly on." I thanked him, and asked
him to direct me to some shops where I could buy
gloves and veils. He did so, and said he would talk
with the colored man till I returned. I made what
haste I could. Constant exercise on board the vessel,
and frequent rubbing with salt water, had nearly restored
the use of my limbs. The noise of the great
city confused me, but I found the shops, and bought
some double veils and gloves for Fanny and myself.
The shopman told me they were so many levies. I
had never heard the word before, but I did not tell
him so. I thought if he knew I was a stranger he might ask me where I came from. I gave him a gold
piece, and when he returned the change, I counted it,
and found out how much a levy was. I made my way
back to the wharf, where the captain introduced me to
the colored man, as the Rev. Jeremiah Durham,
minister of Bethel church. He took me by the hand, as
if I had been an old friend. He told us we were too
late for the morning cars to New York, and must wait
until the evening, or the next morning. He invited
me to go home with him, assuring me that his wife
would give me a cordial welcome; and for my friend he
would provide a home with one of his neighbors. I
thanked him for so much kindness to strangers, and
told him if I must be detained, I should like to hunt
up some people who formerly went from our part of
the country. Mr. Durham insisted that I should dine
with him, and then he would assist me in finding my
friends. The sailors came to bid us good by. I shook
their hardy hands, with tears in my eyes. They had
all been kind to us, and they had rendered us a greater
service than they could possibly conceive of.
I had never seen so large a city, or been in contact
with so many people in the streets. It seemed as if
those who passed looked at us with an expression of
curiosity. My face was so blistered and peeled by
sitting on deck, in wind and sunshine, that I thought
they could not easily decide to what nation I belonged.
Mrs. Durham met me with a kindly welcome, without
asking any questions. I was tired, and her friendly
manner was a sweet refreshment. God bless her! I
was sure that she had comforted other weary hearts,
before I received her sympathy. She was surrounded by her husband and children, in a home made sacred
by protecting laws. I thought of my own children
After dinner Mr. Durham went with me in quest of
the friends I had spoken of. They went from my native
town, and I anticipated much pleasure in looking
on familiar faces. They were not at home, and we
retraced our steps through streets delightfully clean.
On the way, Mr. Durham observed that I had spoken
to him of a daughter I expected to meet; that he was
surprised, for I looked so young he had taken me for
a single woman. He was approaching a subject on
which I was extremely sensitive. He would ask about
my husband next, I thought, and if I answered him
truly, what would he think of me? I told him I had
two children, one in New York the other at the south..
He asked some further questions, and I frankly told
him some of the most important events of my life. It
was painful for me to do it; but I would not deceive
him. If he was desirous of being my friend, I thought
he ought to know how far I was worthy of it. "Excuse me,
if I have tried your feelings," said he. "I
did not question you from idle curiosity. I wanted to
understand your situation, in order to know whether
I could be of any service to you, or your little girl.
Your straight-forward answers do you credit; but
don't answer every body so openly. It might give
some heartless people a pretext for treating you with
That word contempt burned me like coals of fire. I
replied, "God alone knows how I have suffered; and
He, I trust, will forgive me. If I am permitted to have my children, I intend to be a good mother, and
to live in such a manner that people cannot treat me
"I respect your sentiments," said he. "Place your
trust in God, and be governed by good principles, and
you will not fail to find friends."
When we reached home, I went to my room, glad to
shut out the world for a while. The words he had
spoken made an indelible impression upon me. They
brought up great shadows from the mournful past. In
the midst of my meditations I was startled by a knock
at the door. Mrs. Durham entered, her face all beaming
with kindness, to say that there was an anti-slavery
friend down stairs, who would like to see me. I overcame
my dread of encountering strangers, and went with her.
Many questions were asked concerning my
experiences, and my escape from slavery; but I observed
how careful they all were not to say any thing
that might wound my feelings. How gratifying this
was, can be fully understood only by those who have
been accustomed to be treated as if they were not included
within the pale of human beings. The anti-slavery friend had
come to inquire into my plans, and
to offer assistance, if needed. Fanny was comfortably
established, for the present, with a friend of Mr. Durham.
The Anti-Slavery Society agreed to pay her expenses to New York.
The same was offered to me but I declined to accept it; telling them
that my grandmother had given me sufficient to pay my expenses to
the end of my journey. We were urged to remain in
Philadelphia a few days, until some suitable escort
could be found for us. I gladly accepted the proposition, for I had a dread of meeting slaveholders, and
some dread also of railroads. I had never entered a
railroad car in my life, and it seemed to me quite an
That night I sought my pillow with feelings I had
never carried to it before. I verily believed myself to
be a free woman. I was wakeful for a long time, and I
had no sooner fallen asleep, than I was roused by fire-bells.
I jumped up, and hurried on my clothes. Where
I came from, every body hastened to dress
themselves on such occasions. The white people
thought a great fire might be used as a good
opportunity for insurrection, and that it was best to be
in readiness; and the colored people were ordered out
to labor in extinguishing the flames. There was but
one engine in our town, and colored women and
children were often required to drag it to the river's
edge and fill it. Mrs. Durham's daughter slept in the
same room with me, and seeing that she slept through
all the din, I thought it was my duty to wake her. "What's
the matter?" said she, rubbing her eyes.
"They're screaming fire in the streets, and the bells
are ringing," I replied.
"What of that?" said she, drowsily. "We are used
to it. We never get up, without the fire is very near.
What good would it do?"
I was quite surprised that it was not necessary for
us to go and help fill the engine. I was an ignorant
child, just beginning to learn how things went on in
At daylight, I heard women crying fresh fish,
berries, radishes, and various other things. All this was new to me. I dressed myself at an early hour, and sat at
the window to watch that unknown tide of life.
Philadelphia seemed to be a wonderfully great place.
At the breakfast table, my idea of going out to drag
the engine was laughed over, and I joined in the mirth.
I went to see Fanny, and found her so well
contented among her new friends that she was in no
haste to leave. I was also very happy with my kind
hostess. She had had advantages for education, and
was vastly my superior. Every day, almost every hour,
I was adding to my little stock of knowledge. She took
me out to see the city as much as she deemed
prudent. One day she took me to an artist's room, and
showed me the portraits of some of her children. I had
never seen any paintings of colored people before,
and they seemed to me beautiful.
At the end of five days, one of Mrs. Durham's
friends offered to accompany us to New York the
following morning. As I held the hand of my good
hostess in a parting clasp, I longed to know whether
her husband had repeated to her what I had told him.
I supposed he had, but she never made any allusion to
it. I presume it was the delicate silence of womanly
When Mr. Durham handed us our tickets, he said
"I am afraid you will have a disagreeable ride, but I
could not procure tickets for the first class cars."
Supposing I had not given him money enough, I
offered more. "O, no," said he, "they could not be
had for any money. They don't allow colored people
to go in the first-class cars."
"This was the first chill to my enthusiasm about the
Free States. Colored people were allowed to ride in a filthy box, behind white people, at the south, but there
they were not required to pay for the privilege. It
made me sad to find how the north aped the customs
We were stowed away in a large, rough car, with
windows on each side, too high for us to look out without
standing up. It was crowded with people, apparently
of all nations. There were plenty of beds and
cradles, containing screaming and kicking babies.
Every other man had a cigar or pipe in his mouth,
and jugs of whiskey were handed round freely. The
fumes of the whiskey and the dense tobacco smoke
were sickening to my senses, and my mind was equally
nauseated by the coarse jokes and ribald songs around
me. It was a very disagreeable ride. Since that time
there has been some improvement in these matters.
THE MEETING OF MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.
When we arrived in New York, I was half crazed
by the crowd of coachmen calling out, "Carriage,
ma'am?" We bargained with one to take us to
Sullivan Street for twelve shillings. A burly Irishman
stepped up and said, "I'll tak' ye for sax shillings."
The reduction of half the price was an object to us,
and we asked if he could take us right away. "Troth
an I will, ladies," he replied. I noticed that the hackmen
smiled at each other, and I inquired whether his
conveyance was decent. "Yes, it's dacent it is, marm.
Devil a bit would I be after takin' ladies in a cab that
was not dacent." We gave him our checks. He went
for the baggage, and soon reappeared, saying, "This
way, if you plase, ladies." We followed, and found
our trunks on a truck, and we were invited to take
our seats on them. We told him that was not what we
bargained for, and he must take the trunks off. He
swore they should not be touched till we had paid him
six shillings. In our situation it was not prudent to
attract attention, and I was about to pay him what he
required, when a man near by shook his head for me
not to do it. After a great ado we got rid of the
Irishman, and had our trunks fastened on a hack.
We had been recommended to a boarding-house in
Sullivan Street, and thither we drove. There Fanny
and I separated. The Anti-Slavery Society provided a home for her, and I afterwards heard of her in
prosperous circumstances. I sent for an old friend from
my part of the country, who had for some time been
doing business in New York. He came immediately.
I told him I wanted to go to my daughter, and asked
him to aid me in procuring an interview.
I cautioned him not to let it be known to the family
that I had just arrived from the south, because they
supposed I had been at the north seven years. He
told me there was a colored woman in Brooklyn who
came from the same town I did, and I had better go
to her house, and have my daughter meet me there.
I accepted the proposition thankfully, and he agreed
to escort me to Brooklyn. We crossed Fulton ferry,
went up Myrtle Avenue, and stopped at the house he
designated. I was just about to enter, when two girls
passed. My friend called my attention to them. I
turned, and recognized in the eldest, Sarah, the
daughter of a woman who used to live with my
grandmother, but who had left the south years ago.
Surprised and rejoiced at this unexpected meeting, I
threw my arms round her, and inquired concerning
"You take no notice of the other girl," said my
friend. I turned, and there stood my Ellen! I pressed
her to my heart, then held her away from me to take
a look at her. She had changed a good deal in the
two years since I parted from her. Signs of neglect
could be discerned by eyes less observing than a
mother's. My friend invited us all to go into the
house; but Ellen said she had been sent of an errand,
which she would do as quickly as possible, and go home and ask Mrs. Hobbs to let her come and
see me. It was agreed that I should send for her the
next day. Her companion, Sarah, hastened to tell her
mother of my arrival. When I entered the house, I
found the mistress of it absent, and I waited for her
return. Before I saw her, I heard her saying, "Where
is Linda Brent? I used to know her father and
mother." Soon Sarah came with her mother. So
there was quite a company of us, all from my grandmother's
neighborhood. These friends gathered round
me and questioned me eagerly. They laughed, they
cried, and they shouted. They thanked God that I
had got away from my persecutors and was safe on
Long Island. It was a day of great excitement.
How different from the silent days I had passed in
my dreary den!
The next morning was Sunday. My first waking
thoughts were occupied with the note I was to send to
Mrs. Hobbs, the lady with whom Ellen lived. That I
had recently come into that vicinity was evident;
otherwise I should have sooner inquired for my
daughter. It would not do to let them know I had
just arrived from the south, for that would involve the
suspicion of my having been harbored there, and
might bring trouble, if not ruin, on several people.
I like a straightforward course, and am always reluctant
to resort to subterfuges. So far as my ways
have been crooked, I charge them all upon slavery.
It was that system of violence and wrong which now
left me no alternative but to enact a falsehood. I
began my note by stating that I had recently arrived
from Canada, and was very desirous to have my daughter come to see me. She came and brought a
message from Mrs. Hobbs, inviting me to her house,
and assuring me that I need not have any fears. The
conversation I had with my child did not leave my mind
at ease. When I asked if she was well treated, she
answered yes; but there was no heartiness in the
tone, and it seemed to me that she said it from an
unwillingness to have me troubled on her account.
Before she left me, she asked very earnestly, "Mother,
when will you take me to live with you?" It made
me sad to think that I could not give her a home till
I went to work and earned the means; and that
might take me a long time. When she was placed
with Mrs. Hobbs, the agreement was that she should
be sent to school. She had been there two years,
and was now nine years old, and she scarcely knew
her letters. There was no excuse for this, for there
were good public schools in Brooklyn, to which she
could have been sent without expense.
She staid with me till dark, and I went home with
her. I was received in a friendly manner by the
family, and all agreed in saying that Ellen was a
useful, good girl. Mrs. Hobbs looked me coolly in the
face, and said, "I suppose you know that my cousin,
Mr. Sands, has given her to my eldest daughter. She
will make a nice waiting-maid for her when she grows
up." I did not answer a word. How could she, who
knew by experience the strength of a mother's love,
and who was perfectly aware of the relation Mr. Sands
bore to my children,--how could she look me in the
face, while she thrust such a dagger into my heart?
I was no longer surprised that they had kept her in
such a state of ignorance. Mr. Hobbs had formerly been wealthy, but he had failed, and afterwards
obtained a subordinate situation in the Custom House.
Perhaps they expected to return to the south some day;
and Ellen's knowledge was quite sufficient for a slave's
condition.. I was impatient to go to work and earn
money, that I might change the uncertain position of
my children. Mr. Sands had not kept his promise to
emancipate them. I had also been deceived about
Ellen. What security had I with regard to Benjamin?
I felt that I had none.
I returned to my friend's house in an uneasy state
of mind. In order to protect my children, it was
necessary that I should own myself. I called myself
free, and sometimes felt so; but I knew I was insecure.
I sat down that night and wrote a civil letter to Dr
Flint, asking him to state the lowest terms on which he
would sell me; and as I belonged by law to his daughter,
I wrote to her also, making a similar request.
Since my arrival at the north I had not been
unmindful of my dear brother William. I had made
diligent inquiries for him, and having heard of him
in Boston, I went thither. When I arrived there, I
found he had gone to New Bedford. I wrote to that
place, and was informed he had gone on a whaling
voyage, and would not return for some months. I
went back to New York to get employment near Ellen.
I received an answer from Dr. Flint, which gave me
no encouragement. He advised me to return and
submit myself to my rightful owners, and then any
request I might make would be granted. I lent this
letter to a friend, who lost it; otherwise I would
present a copy to my readers.
A HOME FOUND.
MY greatest anxiety now was to obtain employment.
My health was greatly improved, though my limbs
continued to trouble me with swelling whenever I walked
much. The greatest difficulty in my way was, that
those who employed strangers required a recommendation;
and in my peculiar position, I could, of course,
obtain no certificates from the families I had so faithfully
One day an acquaintance told me of a lady who
wanted a nurse for her babe, and I immediately
applied for the situation. The lady told me she preferred
to have one who had been a mother, and accustomed
to the care of infants. I told her I had nursed two
babes of my own. She asked me many questions, but,
to my great relief, did not require a recommendation
from my former employers. She told me she was an
English woman, and that was a pleasant circumstance
to me, because I had heard they had less prejudice
against color than Americans entertained. It was
agreed that we should try each other for a week. The
trial proved satisfactory to both parties, and I was
engaged for a month.
The heavenly Father had been most merciful to me in
leading me to this place. Mrs. Bruce was a kind and
gentle lady, and proved a true and sympathizing friend.
Before the stipulated month expired, the necessity of passing up and down stairs frequently, caused my limbs
to swell so painfully, that I became unable to perform
my duties. Many ladies would have thoughtlessly
discharged me; but Mrs. Bruce made arrangements to
save me steps, and employed a physician to attend upon
me. I had not yet told her that I was a fugitive slave.
She noticed that I was often sad, and kindly inquired
the cause. I spoke of being separated from my children,
and from relatives who were dear to me; but I
did not mention the constant feeling of insecurity which
oppressed my spirits. I longed for some one to confide
in; but I had been so deceived by white people, that I
had lost all confidence in them. If they spoke kind
words to me, I thought it was for some selfish purpose.
I had entered this family with the distrustful feelings
I had brought with me out of slavery; but ere six
months had passed, I found that the gentle deportment
of Mrs. Bruce and the smiles of her lovely babe were
thawing my chilled heart. My narrow mind also began
to expand under the influences of her intelligent conversation,
and the opportunities for reading, which were
gladly allowed me whenever I had leisure from my duties.
I gradually became more energetic and more cheerful.
The old feeling of insecurity, especially with regard
to my children, often threw its dark shadow across my
sunshine. Mrs. Bruce offered me a home for Ellen;
but pleasant as it would have been, I did not dare to
accept it, for fear of offending the Hobbs family. Their
knowledge of my precarious situation placed me in
their power; and I felt that it was important for me to
keep on the right side of them, till, by dint of labor
and economy, I could make a home for my children. I was far from feeling satisfied with Ellen's situation. She was
not well cared for. She sometimes came to New York to visit
me; but she generally brought a request from Mrs. Hobbs
that I would buy her a pair of shoes, or some article of
clothing. This was accompanied by a promise of payment
when Mr. Hobbs's salary at the Custom House became due;
but some how or other the pay-day never came. Thus many
dollars of my earnings were expended to keep my child
comfortably clothed. That, however, was a slight trouble,
compared with the fear that their pecuniary embarrassments
might induce them to sell my precious young daughter. I
knew they were in constant communication with
Southerners, and had frequent opportunities to do it. I have
stated that when Dr. Flint put Ellen in jail, at two years old,
she had an inflammation of the eyes, occasioned by
measles. This disease still troubled her; and kind Mrs.
Bruce proposed that she should come to New York for a
while, to be under the care of Dr. Elliott, a well known
oculist. It did not occur to me that there was any thing
improper in a mother's making such a request; but Mrs.
Hobbs was very angry, and refused to let her go. Situated
as I was, it was not politic to insist upon it. I made no
complaint, but I longed to be entirely free to act a mother's
part towards my children. The next time I went over to
Brooklyn, Mrs. Hobbs, as if to apologize for her anger, told
me she had employed her own physician to attend to Ellen's
eyes, and that she had refused my request because she did
not consider it safe to trust her in New York. I accepted the
explanation in silence; but she had told me that my child
belonged to her daughter, and I suspected that her real motive was a fear of my conveying her
property away from her. Perhaps I did her injustice; but my
knowledge of Southerners made it difficult for me to feel otherwise.
Sweet and bitter were mixed in the cup of my life, and I
was thankful that it had ceased to be entirely bitter.
I loved Mrs. Bruce's babe. When it laughed and crowed in
my face, and twined its little tender arms confidingly about
my neck, it made me think of the time when Benny and
Ellen were babies, and my wounded heart was soothed.
One bright morning, as I stood at the window, tossing baby
in my arms, my attention was attracted by a young man in
sailor's dress, who was closely observing every house as he passed.
I looked at him earnestly. Could it be my brother William? It must be
he--and yet, how changed! I placed the baby safely, flew
down stairs, opened the front door, beckoned to the sailor,
and in less than a minute I was clasped in my brother's
arms. How much we had to tell each other! How we
laughed, and how we cried, over each other's adventures! I
took him to Brooklyn, and again saw him with Ellen, the
dear child whom he had loved and tended so carefully,
while I was shut up in my miserable den. He staid in New
York a week. His old feelings of affection for me and Ellen
were as lively as ever. There are no bonds so strong as
those which are formed by suffering together.
THE OLD ENEMY AGAIN.
MY young mistress, Miss Emily Flint, did not return
any answer to my letter requesting her to consent
to my being sold. But after a while, I received a reply,
which purported to be written by her younger brother.
In order rightly to enjoy the contents of this letter, the
reader must bear in mind that the Flint family supposed
I had been at the north many years. They had
no idea that I knew of the doctor's three excursions
to New York in search of me; that I had heard his
voice, when he came to borrow five hundred dollars
for that purpose; and that I had seen him pass on his
way to the steamboat. Neither were they aware that
all the particulars of aunt Nancy's death and burial
were conveyed to me at the time they occurred. I
have kept the letter, of which I herewith subjoin a
"Your letter to sister was received a few days ago.
I gather from it that you are desirous of returning to
your native place, among your friends and relatives.
We were all gratified with the contents of your letter;
and let me assure you that if any members of the
family have had any feeling of resentment towards you,
they feel it no longer. We all sympathize with you in
your unfortunate condition, and are ready to do all in
our power to make you contented and happy. It is
difficult for you to return home as a free person. If you were purchased by your grandmother, it is doubtful
whether you would be permitted to remain, although
it would be lawful for you to do so. If a servant should
be allowed to purchase herself, after absenting herself
so long from her owners, and return free, it would
have an injurious effect. From your letter, I think
your situation must be hard and uncomfortable. Come
home. You have it in your power to be reinstated in
our affections. We would receive you with open arms
and tears of joy. You need not apprehend any unkind
treatment, as we have not put ourselves to any
trouble or expense to get you. Had we done so,
perhaps we should feel otherwise. You know my sister
was always attached to you, and that you were
never treated as a slave. You were never put to hard
work, nor exposed to field labor. On the contrary, you
were taken into the house, and treated as one of us,
and almost as free; and we, at least, felt that you were
above disgracing yourself by running away. Believing
you may be induced to come home voluntarily has
induced me to write for my sister. The family will be
rejoiced to see you; and your poor old grandmother
expressed a great desire to have you come, when she
heard your letter read. In her old age she needs the
consolation of having her children round her. Doubtless
you have heard of the death of your aunt. She
was a faithful servant, and a faithful member of the
Episcopal church. In her Christian life she taught us
how to live--and, O, too high the price of knowledge,
she taught us how to die! Could you have seen
us round her death bed, with her mother, all mingling
our tears in one common stream, you would have thought the same heartfelt tie existed between a master
and his servant, as between a mother and her child.
But this subject is too painful to dwell upon. I must
bring my letter to a close. If you are contented to stay
away from your old grandmother, your child, and the
friends who love you, stay where you are. We shall
never trouble ourselves to apprehend you. But should
you prefer to come home, we will do all that we can to
make you happy. If you do not wish to remain in the
family, I know that father, by our persuasion, will be
induced to let you be purchased by any person you
may choose in our community. You will please answer
this as soon as possible, and let us know your
decision. Sister sends much love to you. In the
mean time believe me your sincere friend and well
This letter was signed by Emily's brother, who was
as yet a mere lad. I knew, by the style, that it was
not written by a person of his age, and though the
writing was disguised, I had been made too unhappy by
it, in former years, not to recognize at once the hand
of Dr. Flint. O, the hypocrisy of slaveholders! Did
the old fox suppose I was goose enough to go into such
a trap? Verily, he relied too much on "the stupidity
of the African race." I did not return the family of
Flints any thanks for their cordial invitation--a
remissness for which I was, no doubt, charged with base
Not long afterwards I received a letter from one of
my friends at the south, informing me that Dr. Flint
was about to visit the north. The letter had been
delayed, and I supposed he might be already on the way. Mrs. Bruce did not know I was a fugitive. I
told her that important business called me to Boston,
where my brother then was, and asked permission to
bring a friend to supply my place as nurse, for a fortnight.
I started on my journey immediately; and as
soon as I arrived, I wrote to my grandmother that if
Benny came, he must be sent to Boston. I knew she
was only waiting for a good chance to send him north,
and, fortunately, she had the legal power to do so, without
asking leave of any body. She was a free woman;
and when my children were purchased, Mr. Sands preferred
to have the bill of sale drawn up in her name.
It was conjectured that he advanced the money, but it
was not known. At the south, a gentleman may have
a shoal of colored children without any disgrace; but
if he is known to purchase them, with the view of setting
them free, the example is thought to be dangerous
to their "peculiar institution," and he becomes
There was a good opportunity to send Benny in a
vessel coming directly to New York. He was put on
board with a letter to a friend, who was requested to
see him off to Boston. Early one morning, there was
a loud rap at my door, and in rushed Benjamin, all
out of breath. "O mother!" he exclaimed, "here
I am! I run all the way; and I come all alone. How
O reader, can you imagine my joy? No, you cannot,
unless you have been a slave mother. Benjamin
rattled away as fast as his tongue could go. "Mother,
why don't you bring Ellen here? I went over to
Brooklyn to see her, and she felt very bad when I bid her good by. She said, 'O Ben, I wish I was going
too.' I thought she'd know ever so much; but she
don't know so much as I do; for I can read, and she
can't. And, mother, I lost all my clothes coming.
What can I do to get some more? I 'spose free boys
can get along here at the north as well as white boys."
I did not like to tell the sanguine, happy little fellow
how much he was mistaken. I took him to a
tailor, and procured a change of clothes. The rest
of the day was spent in mutual asking and answering
of questions, with the wish constantly repeated that
the good old grandmother was with us, and frequent
injunctions from Benny to write to her immediately,
and be sure to tell her every thing about his voyage,
and his journey to Boston.
Dr. Flint made his visit to New York, and made
every exertion to call upon me, and invite me to return
with him; but not being able to ascertain where I was,
his hospitable intentions were frustrated, and the affectionate
family, who were waiting for me with "open
arms," were doomed to disappointment.
As soon as I knew he was safely at home, I placed
Benjamin in the care of my brother William, and
returned to Mrs. Bruce. There I remained through the
winter and spring, endeavoring to perform my duties
faithfully, and finding a good degree of happiness in
the attractions of baby Mary, the considerate kindness
of her excellent mother, and occasional interviews
with my darling daughter.
But when summer came, the old feeling of insecurity
haunted me. It was necessary for me to take
little Mary out daily, for exercise and fresh air, and the city was swarming with Southerners, some of
whom might recognize me. Hot weather brings out
snakes and slaveholders, and I like one class of the
venomous creatures as little as I do the other. What
a comfort it is, to be free to say so!
PREJUDICE AGAINST COLOR.
IT was a relief to my mind to see preparations for
leaving the city. We went to Albany in the steamboat
Knickerbocker. When the gong sounded for tea, Mrs.
Bruce said, "Linda, it is late, and you and baby had
better come to the table with me." I replied, "I know
it is time baby had her supper, but I had rather not go
with you, if you please. I am afraid of being insulted."
"O no, not if you are with me," she said. I saw several
white nurses go with their ladies, and I ventured
to do the same. We were at the extreme end of the
table. I was no sooner seated, than a gruff voice said,
"Get up! You know you are not allowed to sit here."
I looked up, and, to my astonishment and indignation,
saw that the speaker was a colored man. If his office
required him to enforce the by-laws of the boat, he
might, at least, have done it politely. I replied, "I
shall not get up, unless the captain comes and takes
me up." No cup of tea was offered me, but Mrs.
Bruce handed me hers and called for another. I looked
to see whether the other nurses were treated in a similar
manner. They were all properly waited on.
Next morning, when we stopped at Troy for breakfast,
every body was making a rush for the table.
Mrs. Bruce said, "Take my arm, Linda, and we'll go
in together." The landlord heard her, and said,
"Madam, will you allow your nurse and baby to take breakfast with my family?" I knew this was to be
attributed to my complexion; but he spoke courteously,
and therefore I did not mind it.
At Saratoga we found the United States Hotel
crowded, and Mr. Bruce took one of the cottages
belonging to the hotel. I had thought, with gladness, of
going to the quiet of the country, where I should meet
few people, but here I found myself in the midst of
a swarm of Southerners. I looked round me with fear
and trembling, dreading to see some one who would
recognize me. I was rejoiced to find that we were to
stay but a short time.
We soon returned to New York, to make arrangements
for spending the remainder of the summer at
Rockaway. While the laundress was putting the clothes
in order, I took an opportunity to go over to Brooklyn to
see Ellen. I met her going to a grocery store, and the
first words she said, were, "O, mother, don't go to Mrs.
Hobbs's. Her brother, Mr. Thorne, has come from the
south, and may be he'll tell where you are." I accepted the
warning. I told her I was going away with
Mrs. Bruce the next day, and would try to see her
when I came back.
Being in servitude to the Anglo-Saxon race, I was
not put into a "Jim Crow car," on our way to Rockaway,
neither was I invited to ride through the streets
on the top of trunks in a truck; but every where I
found the same manifestations of that cruel prejudice,
which so discourages the feelings, and represses the
energies of the colored people. We reached Rockaway
before dark, and put up at the Pavilion--a large hotel,
beautifully situated by the sea-side--a great resort of the fashionable world. Thirty or forty nurses were
there, of a great variety of nations. Some of the ladies
had colored waiting-maids and coachmen, but I was
the only nurse tinged with the blood of Africa. When
the tea bell rang, I took little Mary and followed the
other nurses. Supper was served in a long hall.
A young man, who had the ordering of things, took the
circuit of the table two or three times, and finally
pointed me to a seat at the lower end of it. As there
was but one chair, I sat down and took the child in my
lap. Whereupon the young man came to me and said,
in the blandest manner possible, "Will you please to
seat the little girl in the chair, and stand behind it and
feed her? After they have done, you will be shown to
the kitchen, where you will have a good supper."
This was the climax! I found it hard to preserve
my self-control, when I looked round, and saw women
who were nurses, as I was, and only one shade lighter
in complexion, eyeing me with a defiant look, as if my
presence were a contamination. However, I said
nothing. I quietly took the child in my arms, went to
our room, and refused to go to the table again. Mr.
Bruce ordered meals to be sent to the room for little
Mary and I. This answered for a few days; but the
waiters of the establishment were white, and they soon
began to complain, saying they were not hired to wait
on negroes. The landlord requested Mr. Bruce to send
me down to my meals, because his servants rebelled
against bringing them up, and the colored servants of
other boarders were dissatisfied because all were not
My answer was that the colored servants ought to be dissatisfied with themselves, for not having too much
self-respect to submit to such treatment; that there was
no difference in the price of board for colored and white
servants, and there was no justification for difference
of treatment. I staid a month after this, and finding
I was resolved to stand up for my rights, they concluded
to treat me well. Let every colored man and woman
do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled
under foot by our oppressors.
THE HAIRBREADTH ESCAPE.
AFTER we returned to New York, I took the earliest
opportunity to go and see Ellen. I asked to have her
called down stairs; for I supposed Mrs. Hobbs's southern
brother might still be there, and I was desirous to
avoid seeing him, if possible. But Mrs. Hobbs came
to the kitchen, and insisted on my going up stairs.
"My brother wants to see you," said she, "and he is
sorry you seem to shun him. He knows you are living
in New York. He told me to say to you that he owes
thanks to good old aunt Martha for too many little
acts of kindness for him to be base enough to betray
This Mr. Thorne had become poor and reckless long
before he left the south, and such persons had much
rather go to one of the faithful old slaves to borrow a
dollar, or get a good dinner, than to go to one whom
they consider an equal. It was such acts of kindness
as these for which he professed to feel grateful to my
grandmother. I wished he had kept at a distance, but
as he was here, and knew where I was, I concluded
there was nothing to be gained by trying to avoid him;
on the contrary, it might be the means of exciting his
ill will. I followed his sister up stairs. He met me
in a very friendly manner, congratulated me on my
escape from slavery, and hoped I had a good place,
where I felt happy.
I continued to visit Ellen as often as I could. She,
good thoughtful child, never forgot my hazardous situation,
but always kept a vigilant lookout for my safety.
She never made any complaint about her own inconveniences
and troubles; but a mother's observing eye
easily perceived that she was not happy. On the occasion
of one of my visits I found her unusually
serious. When I asked her what was the matter, she
said nothing was the matter. But I insisted upon
knowing what made her look so very grave. Finally,
I ascertained that she felt troubled about the
dissipation that was continually going on in the house. She
was sent to the store very often for rum and brandy,
and she felt ashamed to ask for it so often, and Mr.
Hobbs and Mr. Thorne drank a great deal, and their
hands trembled so that they had to call her to pour out
the liquor for them. "But for all that," said she, "Mr.
Hobbs is good to me, and I can't help liking him. I
feel sorry for him." I tried to comfort her, by telling
her that I had laid up a hundred dollars, and that
before long I hoped to be able to give her and Benjamin
a home, and send them to school. She was always
desirous not to add to my troubles more than she could
help, and I did not discover till years afterwards that
Mr. Thorne's intemperance was not the only annoyance
she suffered from him. Though he professed too
much gratitude to my grandmother to injure any of
her descendants, he had poured vile language into the
ears of her innocent great-grandchild.
I usually went to Brooklyn to spend Sunday afternoon.
One Sunday, I found Ellen anxiously waiting
for me near the house. "O, mother," said she, "I've been waiting for you this long time. I'm afraid Mr.
Thorne has written to tell Dr. Flint where you are.
Make haste and come in. Mrs. Hobbs will tell you all
The story was soon told. While the children were
playing in the grape-vine arbor, the day before, Mr.
Thorne came out with a letter in his hand, which he
tore up and scattered about. Ellen was sweeping the
yard at the time, and having her mind full of suspicions
of him, she picked up the pieces and carried them
to the children, saying, "I wonder who Mr. Thorne has
been writing to."
"I'm sure I don't know, and don't
care," replied the
oldest of the children; "and I don't see how it concerns you."
"But it does concern me," replied Ellen; "for I'm
afraid he's been writing to the south about my mother."
They laughed at her, and called her a silly thing,
but good-naturedly put the fragments of writing together,
in order to read them to her. They were no
sooner arranged, than the little girl exclaimed, "I declare,
Ellen, I believe you are right."
The contents of Mr. Thorne's letter, as nearly as I
can remember, were as follows: "I have seen your
slave, Linda, and conversed with her. She can be
taken very easily, if you manage prudently. There are
enough of us here to swear to her identity as your
property. I am a patriot, a lover of my country, and
I do this as an act of justice to the laws." He concluded
by informing the doctor of the street and number
where I lived. The children carried the pieces to
Mrs. Hobbs, who immediately went to her brother's room for an explanation. He was not to be found.
The servants said they saw him go out with a letter in
his hand, and they supposed he had gone to the post
office. The natural inference was, that he had sent
to Dr. Flint a copy of those fragments. When he
returned, his sister accused him of it, and he did not
deny the charge. He went immediately to his room,
and the next morning he was missing. He had gone
over to New York, before any of the family were astir.
It was evident that I had no time to lose; and I
hastened back to the city with a heavy heart. Again
I was to be torn from a comfortable home, and all my
plans for the welfare of my children were to be frustrated
by that demon Slavery! I now regretted that
I never told Mrs. Bruce my story. I had not concealed
it merely on account of being a fugitive; that
would have made her anxious, but it would have
excited sympathy in her kind heart. I valued her
good opinion, and I was afraid of losing it, if I told
her all the particulars of my sad story. But now I
felt that it was necessary for her to know how I was
situated. I had once left her abruptly, without explaining
the reason, and it would not be proper to do
it again. I went home resolved to tell her in the
morning. But the sadness of my face attracted her
attention, and, in answer to her kind inquiries, I poured
out my full heart to her, before bed time. She listened
with true womanly sympathy, and told me she would do
all she could to protect me. How my heart blessed her!
Early the next morning, Judge Vanderpool and
Lawyer Hopper were consulted. They said I had better
leave the city at once, as the risk would be great if the case came to trial. Mrs. Bruce took me in a
carriage to the house of one of her friends, where she
assured me I should be safe until my brother could
arrive, which would be in a few days. In the interval
my thoughts were much occupied with Ellen. She
was mine by birth, and she was also mine by Southern
law, since my grandmother held the bill of sale that
made her so. I did not feel that she was safe unless
I had her with me. Mrs. Hobbs, who felt badly about
her brother's treachery, yielded to my entreaties, on
condition that she should return in ten days. I avoided
making any promise. She came to me clad in very
thin garments, all outgrown, and with a school satchel
on her arm, containing a few articles. It was late in
October, and I knew the child must suffer; and not
daring to go out in the streets to purchase any thing,
I took off my own flannel skirt and converted it into
one for her. Kind Mrs. Bruce came to bid me good
by, and when she saw that I had taken off my clothing
for my child, the tears came to her eyes. She said,
"Wait for me, Linda," and went out. She soon returned
with a nice warm shawl and hood for Ellen.
Truly, of such souls as hers are the kingdom of heaven.
My brother reached New York on Wednesday. Lawyer
Hopper advised us to go to Boston by the Stonington
route, as there was less Southern travel in that
direction. Mrs. Bruce directed her servants to tell all
inquirers that I formerly lived there, but had gone from
We reached the steamboat Rhode Island in safety.
That boat employed colored hands, but I knew that
colored passengers were not admitted to the cabin. I was very desirous for the seclusion of the cabin, not
only on account of exposure to the night air, but also
to avoid observation. Lawyer Hopper was waiting
on board for us. He spoke to the stewardess, and
asked, as a particular favor, that she would treat us
well. He said to me, "Go and speak to the captain
yourself by and by. Take your little girl with you,
and I am sure that he will not let her sleep on deck."
With these kind words and a shake of the hand he
The boat was soon on her way, bearing me rapidly
from the friendly home where I had hoped to find
security and rest. My brother had left me to purchase
the tickets, thinking that I might have better success
than he would. When the stewardess came to me, I
paid what she asked, and she gave me three tickets
with clipped corners. In the most unsophisticated
manner I said, "You have made a mistake; I asked
you for cabin tickets. I cannot possibly consent to sleep
on deck with my little daughter." She assured me
there was no mistake. She said on some of the routes
colored people were allowed to sleep in the cabin, but
not on this route, which was much travelled by the
wealthy. I asked her to show me to the captain's
office, and she said she would after tea. When the
time came, I took Ellen by the hand and went to the
captain, politely requesting him to change our tickets,
as we should be very uncomfortable on deck. He said
it was contrary to their custom, but he would see that
we had berths below; he would also try to obtain
comfortable seats for us in the cars; of that he was not
certain, but he would speak to the conductor about it, when the boat arrived. I thanked him, and returned
to the ladies' cabin. He came afterwards and told
me that the conductor of the cars was on board, that
he had spoken to him, and he had promised to take
care of us. I was very much surprised at receiving
so much kindness. I don't know whether the pleasing,
face of my little girl had won his heart, or whether the
stewardess inferred from Lawyer Hopper's manner that I
was a fugitive, and had pleaded with him in my behalf.
When the boat arrived at Stonington, the conductor
kept his promise, and showed us to seats in the first
car, nearest the engine. He asked us to take seats
next the door, but as he passed through, we ventured
to move on toward the other end of the car. No incivility
was offered us, and we reached Boston in safety.
The day after my arrival was one of the happiest
of my life. I felt as if I was beyond the reach of
the bloodhounds; and, for the first time during
many years, I had both my children together with me.
They greatly enjoyed their reunion, and laughed and
chatted merrily. I watched them with a swelling
heart. Their every motion delighted me.
I could not feel safe in New York, and I accepted
the offer of a friend, that we should share expenses
and keep house together. I represented to Mrs.
Hobbs that Ellen must have some schooling, and must
remain with me for that purpose. She felt ashamed
of being unable to read or spell at her age, so instead
of sending her to school with Benny, I instructed her
myself till she was fitted to enter an intermediate school.
The winter passed pleasantly, while I was busy with
my needle, and my children with their books.
A VISIT TO ENGLAND.
IN the spring, sad news came to me. Mrs. Bruce
was dead. Never again, in this world, should I see
her gentle face, or hear her sympathizing voice. I had
lost an excellent friend, and little Mary had lost a
tender mother. Mr. Bruce wished the child to visit
some of her mother's relatives in England, and he was
desirous that I should take charge of her. The little
motherless one was accustomed to me, and attached to
me, and I thought she would be happier in my care
than in that of a stranger. I could also earn more
in this way than I could by my needle. So I put
Benny to a trade, and left Ellen to remain in the house
with my friend and go to school.
We sailed from New York, and arrived in Liverpool
after a pleasant voyage of twelve days. We proceeded
directly to London, and took lodgings at the Adelaide
Hotel. The supper seemed to me less luxurious than
those I had seen in American hotels; but my situation
was indescribably more pleasant. For the first time
in my life I was in a place where I was treated according
to my deportment, without reference to my complexion.
I felt as if a great millstone had been lifted
from my breast. Ensconced in a pleasant room, with
my dear little charge, I laid my head on my pillow, for
the first time, with the delightful consciousness of
pure, unadulterated freedom.
As I had constant care of the child, I had little
opportunity to see the wonders of that great city; but I
watched the tide of life that flowed through the streets, and
found it a strange contrast to the stagnation in our
Southern towns. Mr. Bruce took his little daughter to
spend some days with friends in Oxford Crescent, and of
course it was necessary for me to accompany her. I had
heard much of the systematic method of English education,
and I was very desirous that my dear Mary should steer
straight in the midst of so much propriety. I closely
observed her little playmates and their nurses, being ready
to take any lessons in the science of good management.
Thc children were more rosy than American children, but
I did not see that they differed materially in other respects.
They were like all children--sometimes docile and
We next went to Steventon, in Berkshire. It was a small
town, said to be the poorest in the county. I saw men
working in the fields for six shillings, and seven shillings, a
week, and women for sixpence, and sevenpence, a day, out
of which they boarded themselves. Of course they lived in
the most primitive manner; it could not be otherwise, where
a woman's wages for an entire day were not sufficient to
buy a pound of meat. They paid very low rents, and their
clothes were made of the cheapest fabrics, though much
better than could have been procured in the United States
for the same money. I had heard much about the oppression
of the poor in Europe. The people I saw around me were,
many of them, among the poorest poor. But when I visited
them in their little thatched cottages, I felt that the condition of even the meanest and most ignorant among
them was vastly superior to the condition of the most
favored slaves in America. They labored hard; but they
were not ordered out to toil while the stars were in the sky,
and driven and slashed by an overseer, through heat and
cold, till the stars shone out again. Their homes were very
humble; but they were protected by law. No insolent patrols
could come, in the dead of night, and flog them at their
pleasure. The father, when he closed his cottage door, felt
safe with his family around him. No master or overseer
could come and take from him his wife, or his daughter.
They must separate to earn their living; but the parents
knew where their children were going, and could
communicate with them by letters. The relations of
husband and wife, parent and child, were too sacred for the
richest noble in the land to violate with impunity. Much was
being done to enlighten these poor people. Schools were
established among them, and benevolent societies were
active in efforts to ameliorate their condition. There was no
law forbidding them to learn to read and write; and if they
helped each other in spelling out the Bible, they were in no
danger of thirty-nine lashes, as was the case with myself
and poor, pious, old uncle Fred. I repeat that the most
ignorant and the most destitute of these peasants was a
thousand fold better off than the most pampered American
I do not deny that the poor are oppressed in Europe. I
am not disposed to paint their condition so rose-colored
as the Hon. Miss Murray paints the condition of the slaves
in the United States. A small portion of my experience would enable her to read her own
pages with anointed eyes. If she were to lay aside her
title, and, instead of visiting among the fashionable,
become domesticated, as a poor governess, on some
plantation in Louisiana or Alabama, she would see
and hear things that would make her tell quite a
My visit to England is a memorable event in my life,
from the fact of my having there received strong
religious impressions. The contemptuous manner in
which the communion had been administered to colored
people, in my native place; the church membership
of Dr. Flint, and others like him; and the buying and
selling of slaves, by professed ministers of the gospel,
had given me a prejudice against the Episcopal church.
The whole service seemed to me a mockery and a sham.
But my home in Steventon was in the family of a
clergyman, who was a true disciple of Jesus. The beauty
of his daily life inspired me with faith in the gentleness
of Christian professions. Grace entered my heart,
and I knelt at the communion table, I trust, in true
humility of soul.
I remained abroad ten months, which was much
longer than I had anticipated. During all that time,
I never saw the slightest symptom of prejudice against
color. Indeed, I entirely forgot it, till the time came
for us to return to America.
RENEWED INVITATIONS TO GO SOUTH.
WE had a tedious winter passage, and from the
distance spectres seemed to rise up on the shores of
the United States. It is a sad feeling to be afraid of
one's native country. We arrived in New York safely,
and I hastened to Boston to look after my children. I
found Ellen well, and improving at her school; but
Benny was not there to welcome me. He had been
left at a good place to learn a trade, and for several
months every thing worked well. He was liked by
the master, and was a favorite with his fellow apprentices;
but one day they accidentally discovered a fact
they had never before suspected--that he was colored!
This at once transformed him into a different being.
Some of the apprentices were Americans, others
American-born Irish; and it was offensive to their
dignity to have a "nigger" among them, after they
had been told that he was a "nigger." They began
by treating him with silent scorn, and finding that he
returned the same, they resorted to insults and abuse.
He was too spirited a boy to stand that, and he went
off. Being desirous to do something to support himself,
and having no one to advise him, he shipped for
a whaling voyage. When I received these tidings I
shed many tears, and bitterly reproached myself for
having left him so long. But I had done it for the
best, and now all I could do was to pray to the
heavenly Father to guide and protect him.
Not long after my return, I received the following
letter from Miss Emily Flint, now Mrs. Dodge:--
"In this you will recognize the hand of your friend
and mistress. Having heard that you had gone with
a family to Europe, I have waited to hear of your
return to write to you. I should have answered the
letter you wrote to me long since, but as I could not
then act independently of my father, I knew there
could be nothing done satisfactory to you. There
were persons here who were willing to buy you and
run the risk of getting you. To this I would not consent.
I have always been attached to you, and would
not like to see you the slave of another, or have unkind
treatment. I am married now, and can protect
you. My husband expects to move to Virginia this
spring, where we think of settling. I am very anxious
that you should come and live with me. If you are
not willing to come, you may purchase yourself; but
I should prefer having you live with me. If you come,
you may, if you like, spend a month with your grandmother
and friends, then come to me in Norfolk, Virginia. Think
this over, and write as soon as possible,
and let me know the conclusion. Hoping that your
children are well, I remain you friend and mistress."
Of course I did not write to return thanks for this
cordial invitation. I felt insulted to be thought stupid
enough to be caught by such professions.
'Come up into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly;
the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.'"
It was plain that Dr. Flint's family were apprised
of my movements, since they knew of my voyage to
Europe. I expected to have further trouble from
them; but having eluded them thus far, I hoped to be
as successful in future. The money I had earned, I
was desirous to devote to the education of my children,
and to secure a home for them. It seemed not only
hard, but unjust, to pay for myself. I could not possibly
regard myself as a piece of property. Moreover, I had
worked many years without wages, and during that
time had been obliged to depend on my grandmother
for many comforts in food and clothing. My children
certainly belonged to me; but though Dr. Flint had
incurred no expense for their support, he had received
a large sum of money for them. I knew the law
would decide that I was his property, and would
probably still give his daughter a claim to my children;
but I regarded such laws as the regulations of
robbers, who had no rights that I was bound to respect.
The Fugitive Slave Law had not then passed. The
judges of Massachusetts had not then stooped under
chains to enter her courts of justice, so called. I knew
my old master was rather skittish of Massachusetts. I
relied on her love of freedom, and felt safe on her soil.
I am now aware that I honored the old Commonwealth
beyond her deserts.
FOR two years my daughter and I supported
ourselves comfortably in Boston. At the end of that
time, my brother William offered to send Ellen to a
boarding school. It required a great effort for me to
consent to part with her, for I had few near ties, and
it was her presence that made my two little rooms seem
home-like. But my judgment prevailed over my selfish
feelings. I made preparations for her departure.
During the two years we had lived together I had
often resolved to tell her something about her father;
but I had never been able to muster sufficient courage.
I had a shrinking dread of diminishing my child's
love. I knew she must have curiosity on the subject,
but she had never asked a question. She was always
very careful not to say any thing to remind me of my
troubles. Now that she was going from me, I thought
if I should die before she returned, she might hear
my story from some one who did not understand the
palliating circumstances; and that if she were entirely
ignorant on the subject, her sensitive nature might
receive a rude shock.
When we retired for the night, she said, "Mother,
it is very hard to leave you alone. I am almost sorry
I am going, though I do want to improve myself.
But you will write to me often; won't you, mother?"
I did not throw my arms round her. I did not answer her. But in a calm, solemn way, for it cost me
great effort, I said, "Listen to me, Ellen; I have something
to tell you!" I recounted my early sufferings
in slavery, and told her how nearly they had crushed
me. I began to tell her how they had driven me into
a great sin, when she clasped me in her arms, and
exclaimed, "O, don't, mother! Please don't tell me any
I said, "But, my child, I want you to know about
"I know all about it, mother," she replied; "I am
nothing to my father, and he is nothing to me. All
my love is for you. I was with him five months in
Washington, and he never cared for me. He never
spoke to me as he did to his little Fanny. I knew all
the time he was my father, for Fanny's nurse told me
so; but she said I must never tell any body, and I
never did. I used to wish he would take me in his
arms and kiss me, as he did Fanny; or that he would
sometimes smile at me, as he did at her. I thought if
he was my own father, he ought to love me. I was a
little girl then, and didn't know any better. But now
I never think any thing about my father. All my
love is for you." She hugged me closer as she spoke,
and I thanked God that the knowledge I had so much
dreaded to impart had not diminished the affection of
my child. I had not the slightest idea she knew that
portion of my history. If I had, I should have spoken
to her long before; for my pent-up feelings had often
longed to pour themselves out to some one I could
trust. But I loved the dear girl better for the delicacy
she had manifested towards her unfortunate mother.
The next morning, she and her uncle started on
their journey to the village in New York, where she
was to be placed at school. It seemed as if all the
sunshine had gone away. My little room was dreadfully
lonely. I was thankful when a message came
from a lady, accustomed to employ me, requesting me
to come and sew in her family for several weeks. On
my return, I found a letter from brother William. He
thought of opening an anti-slavery reading room in
Rochester, and combining with it the sale of some
books and stationery; and he wanted me to unite with
him. We tried it, but it was not successful. We
found warm anti-slavery friends there, but the feeling
was not general enough to support such an establishment.
I passed nearly a year in the family of Isaac
and Amy Post, practical believers in the Christian doctrine
of human brotherhood. They measured a man's
worth by his character, not by his complexion. The
memory of those beloved and honored friends will
remain with me to my latest hour.
THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW.
MY brother, being disappointed in his project,
concluded to go to California; and it was agreed that
Benjamin should go with him. Ellen liked her school,
and was a great favorite there. They did not know
her history, and she did not tell it, because she had no
desire to make capital out of their sympathy. But
when it was accidentally discovered that her mother
was a fugitive slave, every method was used to increase
her advantages and diminish her expenses.
I was alone again. It was necessary for me to be
earning money, and I preferred that it should be among
those who knew me. On my return from Rochester,
I called at the house of Mr. Bruce, to see Mary, the
darling little babe that had thawed my heart, when it
was freezing into a cheerless distrust of all my fellow-beings.
She was growing a tall girl now, but I loved
her always. Mr. Bruce had married again, and it was
proposed that I should become nurse to a new infant.
I had but one hesitation, and that was my feeling of
insecurity in New York, now greatly increased by the
passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. However, I resolved
to try the experiment. I was again fortunate
in my employer. The new Mrs. Bruce was an American,
brought up under aristocratic influences and still
living in the midst of them; but if she had any prejudice
against color, I was never made aware of it; and as for the system of slavery, she had a most hearty
dislike of it. No sophistry of Southerners could blind
her to its enormity. She was a person of excellent
principles and a noble heart. To me, from that hour
to the present, she has been a true and sympathizing
friend. Blessings be with her and hers!
About the time that I reëntered the Bruce family,
an event occurred of disastrous import to the colored
people. The slave Hamlin, the first fugitive that came
under the new law, was given up by the bloodhounds
of the north to the bloodhounds of the south. It was
the beginning of a reign of terror to the colored population.
The great city rushed on in its whirl of excitement,
taking no note of the "short and simple annals of the
poor." But while fashionables were
listening to the thrilling voice of Jenny Lind in Metropolitan
Hall, the thrilling voices of poor hunted
colored people went up, in an agony of supplication, to
the Lord, from Zion's church. Many families, who had
lived in the city for twenty years, fled from it now.
Many a poor washerwoman, who, by hard labor, had
made herself a comfortable home, was obliged to
sacrifice her furniture, bid a hurried farewell to friends,
and seek her fortune among strangers in Canada.
Many a wife discovered a secret she had never known
before--that her husband was a fugitive, and must
leave her to insure his own safety. Worse still, many
a husband discovered that his wife had fled from slavery
years ago, and as "the child follows the condition of its mother,"
the children of his love were liable to be seized and carried
into slavery. Every where, in those humble homes, there
was consternation and anguish. But what cared the legislators of the "dominant
race" for the blood they were crushing out of trampled hearts?
When my brother William spent his last evening
with me, before he went to California, we talked nearly
all the time of the distress brought on our oppressed
people by the passage of this iniquitous law; and never
had I seen him manifest such bitterness of spirit,
such stern hostility to our oppressors. He was himself
free from the operation of the law; for he did not
run from any Slaveholding State, being brought into
the Free States by his master. But I was subject to it;
and so were hundreds of intelligent and industrious
people all around us. I seldom ventured into the
streets; and when it was necessary to do an errand for
Mrs. Bruce, or any of the family, I went as much as
possible through back streets and by-ways. What a
disgrace to a city calling itself free, that inhabitants,
guiltless of offence, and seeking to perform their duties
conscientiously, should be condemned to live in such
incessant fear, and have nowhere to turn for protection!
This state of things, of course, gave rise to many impromptu
vigilance committees. Every colored person,
and every friend of their persecuted race, kept their
eyes wide open. Every evening I examined the newspapers
carefully, to see what Southerners had put up
at the hotels. I did this for my own sake, thinking
my young mistress and her husband might be among
the list; I wished also to give information to others,
if necessary; for if many were "running to and fro,"
I resolved that "knowledge should be increased."
This brings up one of my Southern reminiscences, which I will here briefly relate. I was somewhat
acquainted with a slave named Luke, who belonged to a
wealthy man in our vicinity. His master died, leaving
a son and daughter heirs to his large fortune.. In the
division of the slaves, Luke was included in the son's
portion. This young man became a prey to the vices
growing out of the "patriarchal institution," and when
he went to the north, to complete his education, he
carried his vices with him. He was brought home,
deprived of the use of his limbs, by excessive dissipation.
Luke was appointed to wait upon his bed-ridden master,
whose despotic habits were greatly increased by
exasperation at his own helplessness. He kept a cowhide
beside him, and, for the most trivial occurrence,
he would order his attendant to bare his back, and
kneel beside the couch, while he whipped him till his
strength was exhausted. Some days he was not allowed
to wear any thing but his shirt, in order to be
in readiness to be flogged. A day seldom passed without
his receiving more or less blows. If the slightest
resistance was offered, the town constable was sent for
to execute the punishment, and Luke learned from
experience how much more the constable's strong arm
was to be dreaded than the comparatively feeble one
of his master. The arm of his tyrant grew weak,
and was finally palsied; and then the constable's
services were in constant requisition. The fact that he
was entirely dependent on Luke's care, and was obliged
to be tended like an infant, instead of inspiring any
gratitude or compassion towards his poor slave, seemed
only to increase his irritability and cruelty. As he,
lay there on his bed, a mere disgraced wreck of manhood, he took into his head the strangest freaks of despotism;
and if Luke hesitated to submit to his orders,
the constable was immediately sent for. Some of these
freaks were of a nature too filthy to be repeated.
When I fled from the house of bondage, I left poor
Luke still chained to the bedside of this cruel and
One day, when I had been requested to do an errand
for Mrs. Bruce, I was hurrying through back streets,
as usual, when I saw a young man approaching, whose
face was familiar to me. As he came nearer, I recognized
Luke. I always rejoiced to see or hear of any
one who had escaped from the black pit; but, remembering
this poor fellow's extreme hardships, I was
peculiarly glad to see him on Northern soil, though I
no longer called it free soil. I well remembered what
a desolate feeling it was to be alone among strangers,
and I went up to him and greeted him cordially. At
first, he did not know me; but when I mentioned my
name, he remembered all about me. I told him of
the Fugitive Slave Law, and asked him if he did not
know that New York was a city of kidnappers.
He replied, "De risk ain't so bad for me, as 'tis fur
you. 'Cause I runned away from de speculator, and
you runned away from de massa. Dem speculators
vont spen dar money to come here fur a runaway, if
dey ain't sartin sure to put dar hans right on him. An
I tell you I's tuk good car 'bout dat. I had too hard
times down dar, to let 'em ketch dis nigger."
He then told me of the advice he had received, and
the plans he had laid. I asked if he had money
enough to take him to Canada. " 'Pend upon it, I hab," he replied. "I tuk car fur dat. I'd bin workin
all my days fur dem cussed whites, an got no pay but
kicks and cuffs. So I tought dis nigger had a right to
money nuff to bring him to de Free States. Massa
Henry he lib till ebery body vish him dead; an ven
he did die, I knowed de debbil would hab him, an
vouldn't vant him to bring his money 'long too. So
I tuk some of his bills, and put 'em in de pocket of
his ole trousers. An ven he was buried, dis nigger
ask fur dem ole trousers, an dey gub 'em to me."
With a low, chuckling laugh, he added, "You see I
didn't steal it; dey gub it to me. I tell you, I had
mighty hard time to keep de speculator from findin
it; but he didn't git it."
This is a fair specimen of how the moral sense is
educated by slavery. When a man has his wages
stolen from him, year after year, and the laws sanction
and enforce the theft, how can he be expected to have
more regard to honesty than has the man who robs
him? I have become somewhat enlightened, but I
confess that I agree with poor, ignorant, much-abused
Luke, in thinking he had a right to that money, as a
portion of his unpaid wages. He went to Canada forthwith,
and I have not since heard from him.
All that winter I lived in a state of anxiety. When
I took the children out to breathe the air, I closely
observed the countenances of all I met. I dreaded
the approach of summer, when snakes and slaveholders
make their appearance. I was, in fact, a slave in New York,
as subject to slave laws as I had been in a
Slave State. Strange incongruity in a State called free!
Spring returned, and I received warning from the south that Dr. Flint knew of my return to my old
place, and was making preparations to have me caught.
I learned afterwards that my dress, and that of Mrs.
Bruce's children, had been described to him by some
of the Northern tools, which slaveholders employ for
their base purposes, and then indulge in sneers at their
cupidity and mean servility.
I immediately informed Mrs. Bruce of my danger,
and she took prompt measures for my safety. My
place as nurse could not be supplied immediately, and
this generous, sympathizing lady proposed that I should
carry her baby away. It was a comfort to me to have
the child with me; for the heart is reluctant to be
torn away from every object it loves. But how few
mothers would have consented to have one of their
own babes become a fugitive, for the sake of a poor,
hunted nurse, on whom the legislators of the country
had let loose the bloodhounds! When I spoke of the
sacrifice she was making, in depriving herself of her
dear baby, she replied, "It is better for you to have
baby with you, Linda; for if they get on your track,
they will be obliged to bring the child to me; and then,
if there is a possibility of saving you, you shall be
This lady had a very wealthy relative, a benevolent
gentleman in many respects, but aristocratic and pro-slavery.
He remonstrated with her for harboring a
fugitive slave; told her she was violating the laws of
her country; and asked her if she was aware of the
penalty. She replied, "I am very well aware of it.
It is imprisonment and one thousand dollars fine.
Shame on my country that it is so! I am ready to incur the penalty. I will go to the state's prison,
rather than have any poor victim torn from my house,
to be carried back to slavery."
The noble heart! The brave heart! The tears are
in my eyes while I write of her. May the God of the
helpless reward her for her sympathy with my
I was sent into New England, where I was sheltered
by the wife of a senator, whom I shall always hold in
grateful remembrance. This honorable gentleman
would not have voted for the Fugitive Slave Law, as
did the senator in "Uncle Tom's Cabin;" on the
contrary, he was strongly opposed to it; but he was
enough under its influence to be afraid of having me
remain in his house many hours. So I was sent into
the country, where I remained a month with the baby.
When it was supposed that Dr. Flint's emissaries had
lost track of me, and given up the pursuit for the
present, I returned to New York.
FREE AT LAST.
MRS. BRUCE, and every member of her family, were
exceedingly kind to me. I was thankful for the blessings of my lot,
yet I could not always wear a cheerful
countenance. I was doing harm to no one; on the
contrary, I was doing all the good I could in my
small way; yet I could never go out to breathe God's
free air without trepidation at my heart. This seemed
hard; and I could not think it was a right state of
things in any civilized country.
From time to time I received news from my good
old grandmother. She could not write; but she employed
others to write for her. The following is an extract from one
of her last letters:--
"Dear Daughter: I cannot hope to see you again on
earth; but I pray to God to unite us above, where
pain will no more rack this feeble body of mine;
where sorrow and parting from my children will be no
more. God has promised these things if we are faithful
unto the end. My age and feeble health deprive
me of going to church now; but God is with me here
at home. Thank your brother for his kindness. Give
much love to him, and tell him to remember the
Creator in the days of his youth, and strive to meet
me in the Father's kingdom. Love to Ellen and Benjamin.
Don't neglect him. Tell him for me, to be a
good boy. Strive, my child, to train them for God's children. May he protect and provide for you, is the
prayer of your loving old mother."
These letters both cheered and saddened me. I was
always glad to have tidings from the kind, faithful old
friend of my unhappy youth; but her messages of
love made my heart yearn to see her before she died,
and I mourned over the fact that it was impossible.
Some months after I returned from my flight to New
England, I received a letter from her, in which she
wrote, "Dr. Flint is dead. He has left a distressed
family. Poor old man! I hope he made his peace
I remembered how he had defrauded my grandmother
of the hard earnings she had loaned; how he
had tried to cheat her out of the freedom her mistress
had promised her, and how he had persecuted her children;
and I thought to myself that she was a better
Christian than I was, if she could entirely forgive him.
I cannot say, with truth, that the news of my old
master's death softened my feelings towards him.
There are wrongs which even the grave does not bury.
The man was odious to me while he lived, and his
memory is odious now.
His departure from this world did not diminish my
danger. He had threatened my grandmother that his
heirs should hold me in slavery after he was gone;
that I never should be free so long as a child of his
survived. As for Mrs. Flint, I had seen her in deeper
afflictions than I supposed the loss of her husband
would be, for she had buried several children; yet I
never saw any signs of softening in her heart. The
doctor had died in embarrassed circumstances, and had little to will to his heirs, except such property as he
was unable to grasp. I was well aware what I had to
expect from the family of Flints; and my fears were
confirmed by a letter from the south, warning me to
be on my guard, because Mrs. Flint openly declared
that her daughter could not afford to lose so valuable
a slave as I was.
I kept close watch of the newspapers for arrivals; but
one Saturday night, being much occupied, I forgot to
examine the Evening Express as usual. I went down
into the parlor for it, early in the morning, and found
the boy about to kindle a fire with it. I took it from
him and examined the list of arrivals. Reader, if you
have never been a slave, you cannot imagine the acute
sensation of suffering at my heart, when I read the
names of Mr. and Mrs. Dodge, at a hotel in Courtland
Street. It was a third-rate hotel, and that circumstance
convinced me of the truth of what I had heard,
that they were short of funds and had need of my
value, as they valued me; and that was by dollars and
cents. I hastened with the paper to Mrs. Bruce. Her
heart and hand were always open to every one in distress,
and she always warmly sympathized with mine.
It was impossible to tell how near the enemy was. He
might have passed and repassed the house while we
were sleeping. He might at that moment be waiting
to pounce upon me if I ventured out of doors. I had
never seen the husband of my young mistress, and
therefore I could not distinguish him from any other
stranger. A carriage was hastily ordered; and, closely
veiled, I followed Mrs. Bruce, taking the baby again
with me into exile. After various turnings and crossings and returnings, the carriage stopped at the house
of one of Mrs. Bruce's friends, where I was kindly
received. Mrs. Bruce returned immediately, to instruct
the domestics what to say if any one came to inquire
It was lucky for me that the evening paper was not
burned up before I had a chance to examine the list of
arrivals. It was not long after Mrs. Bruce's return to
her house, before several people came to inquire for
me. One inquired for me, another asked for my
daughter Ellen, and another said he had a letter from
my grandmother, which he was requested to deliver in
They were told, "She has lived here, but she has
"How long ago?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Do you know where she went?"
"I do not, sir." And the door was closed.
This Mr. Dodge, who claimed me as his property,
was originally a Yankee pedler in the south; then he
became a merchant, and finally a slaveholder. He
managed to get introduced into what was called the
first society, and married Miss Emily Flint. A quarrel
arose between him and her brother, and the brother
cowhided him. This led to a family feud, and he
proposed to remove to Virginia. Dr. Flint left him no
property, and his own means had become
circumscribed, while a wife and children depended
upon him for support. Under these circumstances, it
was very natural that he should make an effort to put
me into his pocket.
I had a colored friend, a man from my native place,
in whom I had the most implicit confidence. I sent for
him, and told him that Mr. and Mrs. Dodge had arrived
in New York. I proposed that he should call upon them
to make inquiries about his friends at the south, with
whom Dr. Flint's family were well acquainted. He
thought there was no impropriety in his doing so, and
he consented. He went to the hotel, and knocked at
the door of Mr. Dodge's room, which was opened by
the gentleman himself, who gruffly inquired, "What
brought you here? How came you to know I was in
"Your arrival was published in the evening papers,
sir; and I called to ask Mrs. Dodge about my friends
at home. I didn't suppose it would give any offence."
"Where's that negro girl, that belongs to my wife?"
"What girl, sir?"
"You know well enough. I mean Linda, that ran
away from Dr. Flint's plantation, some years ago. I
dare say you've seen her, and know where she is."
"Yes, sir, I've seen her, and know where she is.
She is out of your reach, sir."
"Tell me where she is, or bring her to me, and I will
give her a chance to buy her freedom."
"I don't think it would be of any use, sir. I have
heard her say she would go to the ends of the earth,
rather than pay any man or woman for her freedom,
because she thinks she has a right to it. Besides, she
couldn't do it, if she would, for she has spent her
earnings to educate her children."
This made Mr. Dodge very angry, and some high
words passed between them. My friend was afraid to come where I was; but in the course of the day I
received a note from him. I supposed they had not
come from the south, in the winter, for a pleasure
excursion; and now the nature of their business was
Mrs. Bruce came to me and entreated me to leave
the city the next morning. She said her house was
watched, and it was possible that some clew to me might
be obtained. I refused to take her advice. She pleaded
with an earnest tenderness, that ought to have moved
me; but I was in a bitter, disheartened mood. I was
weary of flying from pillar to post. I had been chased
during half my life, and it seemed as if the chase was
never to end. There I sat, in that great city, guiltless
of crime, yet not daring to worship God in any of the
churches. I heard the bells ringing for afternoon service,
and, with contemptuous sarcasm, I said, "Will
the preachers take for their text, 'Proclaim liberty to
the captive, and the opening of prison doors to them
that are bound'? or will they preach from the text,
'Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you'?"
Oppressed Poles and Hungarians could find a safe
refuge in that city; John Mitchell was free to proclaim
in the City Hall his desire for "a plantation well stocked
with slaves;" but there I sat, an oppressed American,
not daring to show my face. God forgive the black and
bitter thoughts I indulged on that Sabbath day! The
Scripture says, "Oppression makes even a wise man
mad;" and I was not wise.
I had been told that Mr. Dodge said his wife had never
signed away her right to my children, and if he could
not get me, he would take them. This it was, more than any thing else, that roused such a tempest in my
soul. Benjamin was with his uncle William in California,
but my innocent young daughter had come to
spend a vacation with me. I thought of what I had
suffered in slavery at her age, and my heart was like a
tiger's when a hunter tries to seize her young.
Dear Mrs. Bruce! I seem to see the expression of
her face, as she turned away discouraged by my obstinate
mood. Finding her expostulations unavailing, she
sent Ellen to entreat me. When ten o'clock in the
evening arrived and Ellen had not returned, this watchful
and unwearied friend became anxious. She came
to us in a carriage, bringing a well-filled trunk for my
journey--trusting that by this time I would listen to
reason. I yielded to her, as I ought to have done
The next day, baby and I set out in a heavy snow
storm, bound for New England again. I received letters
from the City of Iniquity, addressed to me under
an assumed name. In a few days one came from Mrs.
Bruce, informing me that my new master was still
searching for me, and that she intended to put an end
to this persecution by buying my freedom. I felt grateful
for the kindness that prompted this offer, but the
idea was not so pleasant to me as might have been
expected. The more my mind had become enlightened,
the more difficult it was for me to consider myself an
article of property; and to pay money to those who
had so grievously oppressed me seemed like taking
from my sufferings the glory of triumph. I wrote to
Mrs. Bruce, thanking her, but saying that being sold
from one owner to another seemed too much like slavery; that such a great obligation could not be
easily cancelled; and that I preferred to go to my
brother in California.
Without my knowledge, Mrs. Bruce employed a gentleman
in New York to enter into negotiations with
Mr. Dodge. He proposed to pay three hundred dollars
down, if Mr. Dodge would sell me, and enter into
obligations to relinquish all claim to me or my children
forever after. He who called himself my master said
he scorned so small an offer for such a valuable servant.
The gentleman replied, "You can do as you choose,
sir. If you reject this offer you will never get any
thing; for the woman has friends who will convey her
and her children out of the country."
Mr. Dodge concluded that "half a loaf was better
than no bread," and he agreed to the proffered terms.
By the next mail I received this brief letter from Mrs.
Bruce: "I am rejoiced to tell you that the money for
your freedom has been paid to Mr. Dodge. Come
home to-morrow. I long to see you and my sweet
My brain reeled as I read these lines. A gentleman
near me said, "It's true; I have seen the bill of sale."
"The bill of sale!" Those words struck me like a
blow. So I was sold at last! A human being sold in
the free city of New York! The bill of sale is on
record, and future generations will learn from it that
women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the
nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may
hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who
are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in
the United States. I well know the value of that bit of paper; but much as I love freedom, I do not like to
look upon it. I am deeply grateful to the generous
friend who procured it, but I despise the miscreant who
demanded payment for what never rightfully belonged
to him or his.
I had objected to having my freedom bought, yet I
must confess that when it was done I felt as if a heavy
load had been lifted from my weary shoulders. When
I rode home in the cars I was no longer afraid to unveil
my face and look at people as they passed. I should
have been glad to have met Daniel Dodge himself; to
have had him seen me and known me, that he might
have mourned over the untoward circumstances which
compelled him to sell me for three hundred dollars.
When I reached home, the arms of my benefactress
were thrown round me, and our tears mingled. As
soon as she could speak, she said, "O Linda, I'm so
glad it's all over! You wrote to me as if you thought
you were going to be transferred from one owner to
another. But I did not buy you for your services. I
should have done just the same, if you had been going
to sail for California to-morrow. I should, at least,
have the satisfaction of knowing that you left me a
My heart was exceedingly full. I remembered how
my poor father had tried to buy me, when I was a small
child, and how he had been disappointed. I hoped his
spirit was rejoicing over me now. I remembered how
my good old grandmother had laid up her earnings to
purchase me in later years, and how often her plans
had been frustrated. How that faithful, loving old
heart would leap for joy, if she could look on me and my children now that we were free! My relatives had
been foiled in all their efforts, but God had raised me
up a friend among strangers, who had bestowed on me
the precious, long-desired boon. Friend! It is a common
word, often lightly used. Like other good and
beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling;
but when I speak of Mrs. Bruce as my friend,
the word is sacred.
My grandmother lived to rejoice in my freedom; but
not long after, a letter came with a black seal. She
had gone "where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest."
Time passed on, and a paper came to me from the
south, containing an obituary notice of my uncle
Phillip. It was the only case I ever knew of such an
honor conferred upon a colored person. It was written
by one of his friends, and contained these words:
"Now that death has laid him low, they call him a good
man and a useful citizen; but what are eulogies to
the black man, when the world has faded from his
vision? It does not require man's praise to obtain rest
in God's kingdom." So they called a colored man a
citizen! Strange words to be uttered in that region!
Reader, my story ends with freedom; not in the
usual way, with marriage. I and my children are now
free! We are as free from the power of slaveholders
as are the white people of the north; and though that,
according to my ideas, is not saying a great deal, it is
a vast improvement in my condition. The dream of
my life is not yet realized. I do not sit with my children
in a home of my own. I still long for a hearthstone
of my own, however humble. I wish it for my children's sake far more than for my own. But God
so orders circumstances as to keep me with my friend
Mrs. Bruce. Love, duty, gratitude, also bind me to
her side. It is a privilege to serve her who pities my
oppressed people, and who has bestowed the inestimable
boon of freedom on me and my children.
It has been painful to me, in many ways, to recall
the dreary years I passed in bondage. I would gladly
forget them if I could. Yet the retrospection is not
altogether without solace; for with those gloomy recollections
come tender memories of my good old grandmother,
like light, fleecy clouds floating over a dark
and troubled sea.
THE following statement is from Amy Post, a member of the
Society of Friends in the State of New York, well known and
highly respected by friends of the poor and the oppressed. As has
been already stated, in the preceding pages, the author of this
volume spent some time under her hospitable roof.
L. M. C.
"The author of this book is my highly-esteemed friend. If its
readers knew her as I know her, they could not fail to be deeply
interested in her story. She was a beloved inmate of our family
nearly the whole of the year 1849. She was introduced to us by
her affectionate and conscientious brother, who had previously
related to us some of the almost incredible events in his sister's
life. I immediately became much interested in Linda, for her
appearance was prepossessing, and her deportment indicated
remarkable delicacy of feeling and purity of thought.
"As we became acquainted, she related to me, from time to time
some of the incidents in her bitter experiences as a slave-woman.
Though impelled by a natural craving for human sympathy, she
passed through a baptism of suffering, even in recounting her
trials to me, in private confidential conversations. The burden of
these memories lay heavily upon her spirit--naturally virtuous and
refined. I repeatedly urged her to consent to the publication of
her narrative; for I felt that it would arouse people to a more
earnest work for the disinthralment of millions still remaining in
that soul-crushing condition, which was so unendurable to her.
But her sensitive spirit shrank from publicity. She said, 'You know a woman can whisper her cruel wrongs in the ear of a dear
friend much easier than she can record them for the world to read.'
Even in talking with me, she wept so much, and seemed to suffer such
mental agony, that I felt her story was too sacred to be drawn from
her by inquisitive questions, and I left her free to tell as much, or
as little, as she chose. Still, I urged upon her the duty of publishing
her experience, for the sake of the good it might do; and,
at last, she undertook the task.
"Having been a slave so large a portion of her life, she is
unlearned; she is obliged to earn her living by her own labor, and
she has worked untiringly to procure education for her children;
several times she has been obliged to leave her employments, in
order to fly from the man-hunters and woman-hunters of our land;
but she pressed through all these obstacles and overcame them.
After the labors of the day were over, she traced secretly and
wearily, by the midnight lamp, a truthful record of her eventful life..
"This Empire State is a shabby place of refuge for the oppressed;
but here, through anxiety, turmoil, and despair, the freedom
of Linda and her children was finally secured, by the exertions
of a generous friend. She was grateful for the boon; but the idea
of having been bought was always
galling to a spirit that could
never acknowledge itself to be a chattel. She wrote to us thus,
soon after the event: 'I thank you for your kind expressions in
regard to my freedom; but the freedom I had before the money
was paid was dearer to me. God gave me that
freedom; but man
put God's image in the scales with the paltry sum of three hundred
dollars. I served for my liberty as faithfully as Jacob served for
Rachel. At the end, he had large possessions; but I was robbed
of my victory; I was obliged to resign my crown, to rid myself of
"Her story, as written by herself, cannot fail to interest the
reader. It is a sad illustration of the condition of this country,
which boasts of its civilization, while it sanctions laws and customs
which make the experiences of the present more strange than any
fictions of the past.
"ROCHESTER, N. Y., Oct. 30th,
The following is from a man who is now a highly
respectable colored citizen of Boston.
contains some incidents
so extraordinary, that,
doubtless, many persons, under whose eyes it may
chance to fall,
will be ready to believe that it is colored highly, to serve a
special purpose. But, however it may be regarded by
the incredulous, I
know that it is full of living truths. I have been well acquainted
with the author from my boyhood. The circumstances recounted
in her history are perfectly familiar to me. I knew of her treatment
from her master; of the imprisonment of her children; of
their sale and redemption; of her seven years' concealment;
and of her subsequent escape to the North. I am now a resident of
Boston, and am a living witness to the truth of this interesting
GEORGE W. LOWTHER."
* The poison of a snake is a powerful acid, and is counteracted by powerful alkalies, such as potash, ammonia, &c. The Indians are accustomed to apply wet ashes, or plunge the limb into strong lie. White men, employed
to lay out railroads in snaky places, often carry ammonia with
them as an antidote.--EDITOR.
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