LIFE OF A
WRITTEN BY HERSELF.
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.
PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR.
READER, be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am
aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but
they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated
the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my
descriptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the
names of places, and given persons fictitious names. I had
no motive for secrecy on my own account, but I deemed it
kind and considerate towards others to pursue this course.
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.
- CHILDHOOD . . . . . 11
- THE NEW MASTER AND MISTRESS . . . . . 17
- THE SLAVES' NEW YEAR'S DAY . . . . . 25
- THE SLAVE WHO DARED TO FEEL LIKE A MAN . . . . . 28
- THE TRIALS OF GIRLHOOD . . . . . 44
- THE JEALOUS MISTRESS . . . . . 49
- THE LOVER . . . . . 58
- WHAT SLAVES ARE TAUGHT TO THINK OF THE NORTH . . . . . 67
- SKETCHES OF NEIGHBORING SLAVEHOLDERS . . . . . 71
- A PERILOUS PASSAGE IN THE SLAVE GIRL'S LIFE . . . . . 82
- THE NEW TIE TO LIFE . . . . . 90
- FEAR OF INSURRECTION . . . . . 97
- THE CHURCH AND SLAVERY . . . . . 105
- ANOTHER LINK TO LIFE . . . . . 117
- CONTINUED PERSECUTIONS . . . . .122
- SCENES AT THE PLANTATION . . . . . 131
- THE FLIGHT . . . . . 145
- MONTHS OF PERIL . . . . . 150
- THE CHILDREN SOLD . . . . . 160
- NEW PERILS . . . . . 167
- THE LOOPHOLE OF RETREAT . . . . . 173
- CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES . . . . . 179
- STILL IN PRISON . . . . . 183
- THE CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS . . . . . 189
- COMPETITION IN CUNNING . . . . . 193
- IMPORTANT ERA IN MY BROTHER'S LIFE . . . . . 201
- NEW DESTINATION FOR THE CHILDREN . . . . . 207
- AUNT NANCY . . . . . 217
- PREPARATIONS FOR ESCAPE . . . . . 224
- NORTHWARD BOUND . . . . . 237
- INCIDENTS IN PHILADELPHIA . . . . . 242
- THE MEETING OF MOTHER AND DAUGHTER . . . . . 249
- A HOME FOUND . . . . . 254
- THE OLD ENEMY AGAIN . . . . . 258
- PREJUDICE AGAINST COLOR . . . . . 264
- THE HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPE . . . . . 268
- A VISIT TO ENGLAND . . . . . 275
- RENEWED INVITATION TO GO SOUTH . . . . . 279
- THE CONFESSION . . . . . 282
- THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW . . . . . 285
- FREE AT LAST . . . . . 293
- APPENDIX . . . . . 304
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 wore 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