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
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.