I was far from feeling satisfied with Ellen's situation. She was
not well cared for. She sometimes came to New York to visit
me; but she generally brought a request from Mrs. Hobbs
that I would buy her a pair of shoes, or some article of
clothing. This was accompanied by a promise of payment
when Mr. Hobbs's salary at the Custom House became due;
but some how or other the pay-day never came. Thus many
dollars of my earnings were expended to keep my child
comfortably clothed. That, however, was a slight trouble,
compared with the fear that their pecuniary embarrassments
might induce them to sell my precious young daughter. I
knew they were in constant communication with
Southerners, and had frequent opportunities to do it. I have
stated that when Dr. Flint put Ellen in jail, at two years old,
she had an inflammation of the eyes, occasioned by
measles. This disease still troubled her; and kind Mrs.
Bruce proposed that she should come to New York for a
while, to be under the care of Dr. Elliott, a well known
oculist. It did not occur to me that there was any thing
improper in a mother's making such a request; but Mrs.
Hobbs was very angry, and refused to let her go. Situated
as I was, it was not politic to insist upon it. I made no
complaint, but I longed to be entirely free to act a mother's
part towards my children. The next time I went over to
Brooklyn, Mrs. Hobbs, as if to apologize for her anger, told
me she had employed her own physician to attend to Ellen's
eyes, and that she had refused my request because she did
not consider it safe to trust her in New York. I accepted the
explanation in silence; but she had told me that my child
belonged to her daughter, and I suspected
that her real motive was a fear of my conveying her
property away from her. Perhaps I did her injustice; but my
knowledge of Southerners made it difficult for me to feel otherwise.
Sweet and bitter were mixed in the cup of my life, and I
was thankful that it had ceased to be entirely bitter.
I loved Mrs. Bruce's babe. When it laughed and crowed in
my face, and twined its little tender arms confidingly about
my neck, it made me think of the time when Benny and
Ellen were babies, and my wounded heart was soothed.
One bright morning, as I stood at the window, tossing baby
in my arms, my attention was attracted by a young man in
sailor's dress, who was closely observing every house as he passed.
I looked at him earnestly. Could it be my brother William? It must be
he - and yet, how changed! I placed the baby safely, flew
down stairs, opened the front door, beckoned to the sailor,
and in less than a minute I was clasped in my brother's
arms. How much we had to tell each other! How we
laughed, and how we cried, over each other's adventures! I
took him to Brooklyn, and again saw him with Ellen, the
dear child whom he had loved and tended so carefully,
while I was shut up in my miserable den. He staid in New
York a week. His old feelings of affection for me and Ellen
were as lively as ever. There are no bonds so strong as
those which are formed by suffering together.
THE OLD ENEMY AGAIN.
MY young mistress, Miss Emily Flint, did not return
any answer to my letter requesting her to consent
to my being sold. But after a while, I received a reply,
which purported to be written by her younger brother.
In order rightly to enjoy the contents of this letter, the
reader must bear in mind that the Flint family supposed
I had been at the north many years. They had
no idea that I knew of the doctor's three excursions
to New York in search of me; that I had heard his
voice, when he came to borrow five hundred dollars
for that purpose; and that I had seen him pass on his
way to the steamboat. Neither were they aware that
all the particulars of aunt Nancy's death and burial
were conveyed to me at the time they occurred. I
have kept the letter, of which I herewith subjoin a
"Your letter to sister was received a few days ago.
I gather from it that you are desirous of returning to
your native place, among your friends and relatives.
We were all gratified with the contents of your letter;
and let me assure you that if any members of the
family have had any feeling of resentment towards you,
they feel it no longer. We all sympathize with you in
your unfortunate condition, and are ready to do all in
our power to make you contented and happy. It is
difficult for you to return home as a free person. If
you were purchased by your grandmother, it is doubtful
whether you would be permitted to remain, although
it would be lawful for you to do so. If a servant should
be allowed to purchase herself, after absenting herself
so long from her owners, and return free, it would
have an injurious effect. From your letter, I think
your situation must be hard and uncomfortable. Come
home. You have it in your power to be reinstated in
our affections. We would receive you with open arms
and tears of joy. You need not apprehend any unkind
treatment, as we have not put ourselves to any
trouble or expense to get you. Had we done so,
perhaps we should feel otherwise. You know my sister
was always attached to you, and that you were
never treated as a slave. You were never put to hard
work, nor exposed to field labor. On the contrary, you
were taken into the house, and treated as one of us,
and almost as free; and we, at least, felt that you were
above disgracing yourself by running away. Believing
you may be induced to come home voluntarily has
induced me to write for my sister. The family will be
rejoiced to see you; and your poor old grandmother
expressed a great desire to have you come, when she
heard your letter read. In her old age she needs the
consolation of having her children round her. Doubtless
you have heard of the death of your aunt. She
was a faithful servant, and a faithful member of the
Episcopal church. In her Christian life she taught us
how to live - and, O, too high the price of knowledge,
she taught us how to die! Could you have seen
us round her death bed, with her mother, all mingling
our tears in one common stream, you would have
thought the same heartfelt tie existed between a master
and his servant, as between a mother and her child.
But this subject is too painful to dwell upon. I must
bring my letter to a close. If you are contented to stay
away from your old grandmother, your child, and the
friends who love you, stay where you are. We shall
never trouble ourselves to apprehend you. But should
you prefer to come home, we will do all that we can to
make you happy. If you do not wish to remain in the
family, I know that father, by our persuasion, will be
induced to let you be purchased by any person you
may choose in our community. You will please answer
this as soon as possible, and let us know your
decision. Sister sends much love to you. In the
mean time believe me your sincere friend and well
This letter was signed by Emily's brother, who was
as yet a mere lad. I knew, by the style, that it was
not written by a person of his age, and though the
writing was disguised, I had been made too unhappy by
it, in former years, not to recognize at once the hand
of Dr. Flint. O, the hypocrisy of slaveholders! Did
the old fox suppose I was goose enough to go into such
a trap? Verily, he relied too much on "the stupidity
of the African race." I did not return the family of
Flints any thanks for their cordial invitation - a
remissness for which I was, no doubt, charged with base
Not long afterwards I received a letter from one of
my friends at the south, informing me that Dr. Flint
was about to visit the north. The letter had been
delayed, and I supposed he might be already on the
way. Mrs. Bruce did not know I was a fugitive. I
told her that important business called me to Boston,
where my brother then was, and asked permission to
bring a friend to supply my place as nurse, for a fortnight.
I started on my journey immediately; and as
soon as I arrived, I wrote to my grandmother that if
Benny came, he must be sent to Boston. I knew she
was only waiting for a good chance to send him north,
and, fortunately, she had the legal power to do so, without
asking leave of any body. She was a free woman;
and when my children were purchased, Mr. Sands preferred
to have the bill of sale drawn up in her name.
It was conjectured that he advanced the money, but it
was not known. At the south, a gentleman may have
a shoal of colored children without any disgrace; but
if he is known to purchase them, with the view of setting
them free, the example is thought to be dangerous
to their "peculiar institution," and he becomes
There was a good opportunity to send Benny in a
vessel coming directly to New York. He was put on
board with a letter to a friend, who was requested to
see him off to Boston. Early one morning, there was
a loud rap at my door, and in rushed Benjamin, all
out of breath. "O mother!" he exclaimed, "here
I am! I run all the way; and I come all alone. How
O reader, can you imagine my joy? No, you cannot,
unless you have been a slave mother. Benjamin
rattled away as fast as his tongue could go. "Mother,
why don't you bring Ellen here? I went over to
Brooklyn to see her, and she felt very bad when I bid
her good by. She said, 'O Ben, I wish I was going
too.' I thought she'd know ever so much; but she
don't know so much as I do; for I can read, and she
can't. And, mother, I lost all my clothes coming.
What can I do to get some more? I 'spose free boys
can get along here at the north as well as white boys."
I did not like to tell the sanguine, happy little fellow
how much he was mistaken. I took him to a
tailor, and procured a change of clothes. The rest
of the day was spent in mutual asking and answering
of questions, with the wish constantly repeated that
the good old grandmother was with us, and frequent
injunctions from Benny to write to her immediately,
and be sure to tell her every thing about his voyage,
and his journey to Boston.
Dr. Flint made his visit to New York, and made
every exertion to call upon me, and invite me to return
with him; but not being able to ascertain where I was,
his hospitable intentions were frustrated, and the affectionate
family, who were waiting for me with "open
arms," were doomed to disappointment.
As soon as I knew he was safely at home, I placed
Benjamin in the care of my brother William, and
returned to Mrs. Bruce. There I remained through the
winter and spring, endeavoring to perform my duties
faithfully, and finding a good degree of happiness in
the attractions of baby Mary, the considerate kindness
of her excellent mother, and occasional interviews
with my darling daughter.
But when summer came, the old feeling of insecurity
haunted me. It was necessary for me to take
little Mary out daily, for exercise and fresh air, and
the city was swarming with Southerners, some of
whom might recognize me. Hot weather brings out
snakes and slaveholders, and I like one class of the
venomous creatures as little as I do the other. What
a comfort it is, to be free to say so!
PREJUDICE AGAINST COLOR.
IT was a relief to my mind to see preparations for
leaving the city. We went to Albany in the steamboat
Knickerbocker. When the gong sounded for tea, Mrs.
Bruce said, "Linda, it is late, and you and baby had
better come to the table with me." I replied, "I know
it is time baby had her supper, but I had rather not go
with you, if you please. I am afraid of being insulted."
"O no, not if you are with me," she said. I saw several
white nurses go with their ladies, and I ventured
to do the same. We were at the extreme end of the
table. I was no sooner seated, than a gruff voice said,
"Get up! You know you are not allowed to sit here."
I looked up, and, to my astonishment and indignation,
saw that the speaker was a colored man. If his office
required him to enforce the by-laws of the boat, he
might, at least, have done it politely. I replied, "I
shall not get up, unless the captain comes and takes
me up." No cup of tea was offered me, but Mrs.
Bruce handed me hers and called for another. I looked
to see whether the other nurses were treated in a similar
manner. They were all properly waited on.
Next morning, when we stopped at Troy for breakfast,
every body was making a rush for the table.
Mrs. Bruce said, "Take my arm, Linda, and we'll go
in together." The landlord heard her, and said,
"Madam, will you allow your nurse and baby to take
breakfast with my family?" I knew this was to be
attributed to my complexion; but he spoke courteously,
and therefore I did not mind it.
At Saratoga we found the United States Hotel
crowded, and Mr. Bruce took one of the cottages
belonging to the hotel. I had thought, with gladness, of
going to the quiet of the country, where I should meet
few people, but here I found myself in the midst of
a swarm of Southerners. I looked round me with fear
and trembling, dreading to see some one who would
recognize me. I was rejoiced to find that we were to
stay but a short time.
We soon returned to New York, to make arrangements
for spending the remainder of the summer at
Rockaway. While the laundress was putting the clothes
in order, I took an opportunity to go over to Brooklyn to
see Ellen. I met her going to a grocery store, and the
first words she said, were, "O, mother, don't go to Mrs.
Hobbs's. Her brother, Mr. Thorne, has come from the
south, and may be he'll tell where you are." I accepted the
warning. I told her I was going away with
Mrs. Bruce the next day, and would try to see her
when I came back.
Being in servitude to the Anglo-Saxon race, I was
not put into a "Jim Crow car," on our way to Rockaway,
neither was I invited to ride through the streets
on the top of trunks in a truck; but every where I
found the same manifestations of that cruel prejudice,
which so discourages the feelings, and represses the
energies of the colored people. We reached Rockaway
before dark, and put up at the Pavilion - a large hotel,
beautifully situated by the sea-side - a great resort of
the fashionable world. Thirty or forty nurses were
there, of a great variety of nations. Some of the ladies
had colored waiting-maids and coachmen, but I was
the only nurse tinged with the blood of Africa. When
the tea bell rang, I took little Mary and followed the
other nurses. Supper was served in a long hall.
A young man, who had the ordering of things, took the
circuit of the table two or three times, and finally
pointed me to a seat at the lower end of it. As there
was but one chair, I sat down and took the child in my
lap. Whereupon the young man came to me and said,
in the blandest manner possible, "Will you please to
seat the little girl in the chair, and stand behind it and
feed her? After they have done, you will be shown to
the kitchen, where you will have a good supper."
This was the climax! I found it hard to preserve
my self-control, when I looked round, and saw women
who were nurses, as I was, and only one shade lighter
in complexion, eyeing me with a defiant look, as if my
presence were a contamination. However, I said
nothing. I quietly took the child in my arms, went to
our room, and refused to go to the table again. Mr.
Bruce ordered meals to be sent to the room for little
Mary and I. This answered for a few days; but the
waiters of the establishment were white, and they soon
began to complain, saying they were not hired to wait
on negroes. The landlord requested Mr. Bruce to send
me down to my meals, because his servants rebelled
against bringing them up, and the colored servants of
other boarders were dissatisfied because all were not
My answer was that the colored servants ought to be
dissatisfied with themselves, for not having too much
self-respect to submit to such treatment; that there was
no difference in the price of board for colored and white
servants, and there was no justification for difference
of treatment. I staid a month after this, and finding
I was resolved to stand up for my rights, they concluded
to treat me well. Let every colored man and woman
do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled
under foot by our oppressors.
THE HAIRBREADTH ESCAPE.
AFTER we returned to New York, I took the earliest
opportunity to go and see Ellen. I asked to have her
called down stairs; for I supposed Mrs. Hobbs's southern
brother might still be there, and I was desirous to
avoid seeing him, if possible. But Mrs. Hobbs came
to the kitchen, and insisted on my going up stairs.
"My brother wants to see you," said she, "and he is
sorry you seem to shun him. He knows you are living
in New York. He told me to say to you that he owes
thanks to good old aunt Martha for too many little
acts of kindness for him to be base enough to betray
This Mr. Thorne had become poor and reckless long
before he left the south, and such persons had much
rather go to one of the faithful old slaves to borrow a
dollar, or get a good dinner, than to go to one whom
they consider an equal. It was such acts of kindness
as these for which he professed to feel grateful to my
grandmother. I wished he had kept at a distance, but
as he was here, and knew where I was, I concluded
there was nothing to be gained by trying to avoid him;
on the contrary, it might be the means of exciting his
ill will. I followed his sister up stairs. He met me
in a very friendly manner, congratulated me on my
escape from slavery, and hoped I had a good place,
where I felt happy.
I continued to visit Ellen as often as I could. She,
good thoughtful child, never forgot my hazardous situation,
but always kept a vigilant lookout for my safety.
She never made any complaint about her own inconveniences
and troubles; but a mother's observing eye
easily perceived that she was not happy. On the occasion
of one of my visits I found her unusually
serious. When I asked her what was the matter, she
said nothing was the matter. But I insisted upon
knowing what made her look so very grave. Finally,
I ascertained that she felt troubled about the
dissipation that was continually going on in the house. She
was sent to the store very often for rum and brandy,
and she felt ashamed to ask for it so often, and Mr.
Hobbs and Mr. Thorne drank a great deal, and their
hands trembled so that they had to call her to pour out
the liquor for them. "But for all that," said she, "Mr.
Hobbs is good to me, and I can't help liking him. I
feel sorry for him." I tried to comfort her, by telling
her that I had laid up a hundred dollars, and that
before long I hoped to be able to give her and Benjamin
a home, and send them to school. She was always
desirous not to add to my troubles more than she could
help, and I did not discover till years afterwards that
Mr. Thorne's intemperance was not the only annoyance
she suffered from him. Though he professed too
much gratitude to my grandmother to injure any of
her descendants, he had poured vile language into the
ears of her innocent great-grandchild.
I usually went to Brooklyn to spend Sunday afternoon.
One Sunday, I found Ellen anxiously waiting
for me near the house. "O, mother," said she, "I've
been waiting for you this long time. I'm afraid Mr.
Thorne has written to tell Dr. Flint where you are.
Make haste and come in. Mrs. Hobbs will tell you all
The story was soon told. While the children were
playing in the grape-vine arbor, the day before, Mr.
Thorne came out with a letter in his hand, which he
tore up and scattered about. Ellen was sweeping the
yard at the time, and having her mind full of suspicions
of him, she picked up the pieces and carried them
to the children, saying, "I wonder who Mr. Thorne has
been writing to."
"I'm sure I don't know, and don't care," replied the
oldest of the children;" and I don't see how it concerns you."
"But it does concern me," replied Ellen; "for I'm
afraid he's been writing to the south about my mother."
They laughed at her, and called her a silly thing,
but good-naturedly put the fragments of writing together,
in order to read them to her. They were no
sooner arranged, than the little girl exclaimed, "I declare,
Ellen, I believe you are right."
The contents of Mr. Thorne's letter, as nearly as I
can remember, were as follows: "I have seen your
slave, Linda, and conversed with her. She can be
taken very easily, if you manage prudently. There are
enough of us here to swear to her identity as your
property. I am a patriot, a lover of my country, and
I do this as an act of justice to the laws." He concluded
by informing the doctor of the street and number
where I lived. The children carried the pieces to
Mrs. Hobbs, who immediately went to her brother's
room for an explanation. He was not to be found.
The servants said they saw him go out with a letter in
his hand, and they supposed he had gone to the post
office. The natural inference was, that he had sent
to Dr. Flint a copy of those fragments. When he
returned, his sister accused him of it, and he did not
deny the charge. He went immediately to his room,
and the next morning he was missing. He had gone
over to New York, before any of the family were astir.
It was evident that I had no time to lose; and I
hastened back to the city with a heavy heart. Again
I was to be torn from a comfortable home, and all my
plans for the welfare of my children were to be frustrated
by that demon Slavery! I now regretted that
I never told Mrs. Bruce my story. I had not concealed
it merely on account of being a fugitive; that
would have made her anxious, but it would have
excited sympathy in her kind heart. I valued her
good opinion, and I was afraid of losing it, if I told
her all the particulars of my sad story. But now I
felt that it was necessary for her to know how I was
situated. I had once left her abruptly, without explaining
the reason, and it would not be proper to do
it again. I went home resolved to tell her in the
morning. But the sadness of my face attracted her
attention, and, in answer to her kind inquiries, I poured
out my full heart to her, before bed time. She listened
with true womanly sympathy, and told me she would do
all she could to protect me. How my heart blessed her!
Early the next morning, Judge Vanderpool and
Lawyer Hopper were consulted. They said I had better
leave the city at once, as the risk would be great
if the case came to trial. Mrs. Bruce took me in a
carriage to the house of one of her friends, where she
assured me I should be safe until my brother could
arrive, which would be in a few days. In the interval
my thoughts were much occupied with Ellen. She
was mine by birth, and she was also mine by Southern
law, since my grandmother held the bill of sale that
made her so. I did not feel that she was safe unless
I had her with me. Mrs. Hobbs, who felt badly about
her brother's treachery, yielded to my entreaties, on
condition that she should return in ten days. I avoided
making any promise. She came to me clad in very
thin garments, all outgrown, and with a school satchel
on her arm, containing a few articles. It was late in
October, and I knew the child must suffer; and not
daring to go out in the streets to purchase any thing,
I took off my own flannel skirt and converted it into
one for her. Kind Mrs. Bruce came to bid me good
by, and when she saw that I had taken off my clothing
for my child, the tears came to her eyes. She said,
"Wait for me, Linda," and went out. She soon returned
with a nice warm shawl and hood for Ellen.
Truly, of such souls as hers are the kingdom of heaven.
My brother reached New York on Wednesday. Lawyer
Hopper advised us to go to Boston by the Stonington
route, as there was less Southern travel in that
direction. Mrs. Bruce directed her servants to tell all
inquirers that I formerly lived there, but had gone from
We reached the steamboat Rhode Island in safety.
That boat employed colored hands, but I knew that
colored passengers were not admitted to the cabin. I
was very desirous for the seclusion of the cabin, not
only on account of exposure to the night air, but also
to avoid observation. Lawyer Hopper was waiting
on board for us. He spoke to the stewardess, and
asked, as a particular favor, that she would treat us
well. He said to me, "Go and speak to the captain
yourself by and by. Take your little girl with you,
and I am sure that he will not let her sleep on deck."
With these kind words and a shake of the hand he
The boat was soon on her way, bearing me rapidly
from the friendly home where I had hoped to find
security and rest. My brother had left me to purchase
the tickets, thinking that I might have better success
than he would. When the stewardess came to me, I
paid what she asked, and she gave me three tickets
with clipped corners. In the most unsophisticated
manner I said, "You have made a mistake; I asked
you for cabin tickets. I cannot possibly consent to sleep
on deck with my little daughter." She assured me
there was no mistake. She said on some of the routes
colored people were allowed to sleep in the cabin, but
not on this route, which was much travailed by the
wealthy. I asked her to show me to the captain's
office, and she said she would after tea. When the
time came, I took Ellen by the hand and went to the
captain, politely requesting him to change our tickets,
as we should be very uncomfortable on deck. He said
it was contrary to their custom, but he would see that
we had berths below; he would also try to obtain
comfortable seats for us in the cars; of that he was not
certain, but he would speak to the conductor about it,
when the boat arrived. I thanked him, and returned
to the ladies' cabin. He came afterwards and told
me that the conductor of the cars was on board, that
he had spoken to him, and he had promised to take
care of us. I was very much surprised at receiving
so much kindness. I don't know whether the pleasing,
face of my little girl had won his heart, or whether the
stewardess inferred from Lawyer Hopper's manner that I
was a fugitive, and had pleaded with him in my behalf.
When the boat arrived at Stonington, the conductor
kept his promise, and showed us to seats in the first
car, nearest the engine. He asked us to take seats
next the door, but as he passed through, we ventured
to move on toward the other end of the car. No incivility
was offered us, and we reached Boston in safety.
The day after my arrival was one of the happiest
of my life. I felt as if I was beyond the reach of
the bloodhounds; and, for the first time during
many years, I had both my children together with me.
They greatly enjoyed their reunion, and laughed and
chatted merrily. I watched them with a swelling
heart. Their every motion delighted me.
I could not feel safe in New York, and I accepted
the offer of a friend, that we should share expenses
and keep house together. I represented to Mrs.
Hobbs that Ellen must have some schooling, and must
remain with me for that purpose. She felt ashamed
of being unable to read or spell at her age, so instead
of sending her to school with Benny, I instructed her
myself till she was fitted to enter an intermediate school.
The winter passed pleasantly, while I was busy with
my needle, and my children with their books.
A VISIT TO ENGLAND.
IN the spring, sad news came to me. Mrs. Bruce
was dead. Never again, in this world, should I see
her gentle face, or hear her sympathizing voice. I had
lost an excellent friend, and little Mary had lost a
tender mother. Mr. Bruce wished the child to visit
some of her mother's relatives in England, and he was
desirous that I should take charge of her. The little
motherless one was accustomed to me, and attached to
me, and I thought she would be happier in my care
than in that of a stranger. I could also earn more
in this way than I could by my needle. So I put
Benny to a trade, and left Ellen to remain in the house
with my friend and go to school.
We sailed from New York, and arrived in Liverpool
after a pleasant voyage of twelve days. We proceeded
directly to London, and took lodgings at the Adelaide
Hotel. The supper seemed to me less luxurious than
those I had seen in American hotels; but my situation
was indescribably more pleasant. For the first time
in my life I was in a place where I was treated according
to my deportment, without reference to my complexion.
I felt as if a great millstone had been lifted
from my breast. Ensconced in a pleasant room, with
my dear little charge, I laid my head on my pillow, for
the first time, with the delightful consciousness of
pure, unadulterated freedom.
As I had constant care of the child, I had little
opportunity to see the wonders of that great city; but I
watched the tide of life that flowed through the streets, and
found it a strange contrast to the stagnation in our
Southern towns. Mr. Bruce took his little daughter to
spend some days with friends in Oxford Crescent, and of
course it was necessary for me to accompany her. I had
heard much of the systematic method of English education,
and I was very desirous that my dear Mary should steer
straight in the midst of so much propriety. I closely
observed her little playmates and their nurses, being ready
to take any lessons in the science of good management.
Thc children were more rosy than American children, but
I did not see that they differed materially in other respects.
They were like all children - sometimes docile and
We next went to Steventon, in Berkshire. It was a small
town, said to be the poorest in the county. I saw men
working in the fields for six shillings, and seven shillings, a
week, and women for sixpence, and sevenpence, a day, out
of which they boarded themselves. Of course they lived in
the most primitive manner; it could not be otherwise, where
a woman's wages for an entire day were not sufficient to
buy a pound of meat. They paid very low rents, and their
clothes were made of the cheapest fabrics, though much
better than could have been procured in the United States
for the same money. I had heard much about the oppression
of the poor in Europe. The people I saw around me were,
many of them, among the poorest poor. But when I visited
them in their little thatched cottages, I felt that
the condition of even the meanest and most ignorant among
them was vastly superior to the condition of the most
favored slaves in America. They labored hard; but they
were not ordered out to toil while the stars were in the sky,
and driven and slashed by an overseer, through heat and
cold, till the stars shone out again. Their homes were very
humble; but they were protected by law. No insolent patrols
could come, in the dead of night, and flog them at their
pleasure. The father, when he closed his cottage door, felt
safe with his family around him. No master or overseer
could come and take from him his wife, or his daughter.
They must separate to earn their living; but the parents
knew where their children were going, and could
communicate with them by letters. The relations of
husband and wife, parent and child, were too sacred for the
richest noble in the land to violate with impunity. Much was
being done to enlighten these poor people. Schools were
established among them, and benevolent societies were
active in efforts to ameliorate their condition. There was no
law forbidding them to learn to read and write; and if they
helped each other in spelling out the Bible, they were in no
danger of thirty-nine lashes, as was the case with myself
and poor, pious, old uncle Fred. I repeat that the most
ignorant and the most destitute of these peasants was a
thousand fold better off than the most pampered American
I do not deny that the poor are oppressed in Europe. I
am not disposed to paint their condition so rose-colored
as the Hon. Miss Murray paints the condition of the slaves
in the United States. A small portion
of my experience would enable her to read her own
pages with anointed eyes. If she were to lay aside her
title, and, instead of visiting among the fashionable,
become domesticated, as a poor governess, on some
plantation in Louisiana or Alabama, she would see
and hear things that would make her tell quite a
My visit to England is a memorable event in my life,
from the fact of my having there received strong
religious impressions. The contemptuous manner in
which the communion had been administered to colored
people, in my native place; the church membership
of Dr. Flint, and others like him; and the buying and
selling of slaves, by professed ministers of the gospel,
had given me a prejudice against the Episcopal church.
The whole service seemed to me a mockery and a sham.
But my home in Steventon was in the family of a
clergyman, who was a true disciple of Jesus. The beauty
of his daily life inspired me with faith in the gentleness
of Christian professions. Grace entered my heart,
and I knelt at the communion table, I trust, in true
humility of soul.
I remained abroad ten months, which was much
longer than I had anticipated. During all that time,
I never saw the slightest symptom of prejudice against
color. Indeed, I entirely forgot it, till the time came
for us to return to America.
RENEWED INVITATIONS TO GO SOUTH.
We had a tedious winter passage, and from the
distance spectres seemed to rise up on the shores of
the United States. It is a sad feeling to be afraid of
one's native country. We arrived in New York safely,
and I hastened to Boston to look after my children. I
found Ellen well, and improving at her school; but
Benny was not there to welcome me. He had been
left at a good place to learn a trade, and for several
months every thing worked well. He was liked by
the master, and was a favorite with his fellow apprentices;
but one day they accidentally discovered a fact
they had never before suspected - that he was colored!
This at once transformed him into a different being.
Some of the apprentices were Americans, others
American-born Irish; and it was offensive to their
dignity to have a "nigger" among them, after they
had been told that he was a "nigger." They began
by treating him with silent scorn, and finding that he
returned the same, they resorted to insults and abuse.
He was too spirited a boy to stand that, and he went
off. Being desirous to do something to support himself,
and having no one to advise him, he shipped for
a whaling voyage. When I received these tidings I
shed many tears, and bitterly reproached myself for
having left him so long. But I had done it for the
best, and now all I could do was to pray to the
heavenly Father to guide and protect him.
Not long after my return, I received the following
letter from Miss Emily Flint, now Mrs. Dodge: -
"In this you will recognize the hand of your friend
and mistress. Having heard that you had gone with
a family to Europe, I have waited to hear of your
return to write to you. I should have answered the
letter you wrote to me long since, but as I could not
then act independently of my father, I knew there
could be nothing done satisfactory to you. There
were persons here who were willing to buy you and
run the risk of getting you. To this I would not consent.
I have always been attached to you, and would
not like to see you the slave of another, or have unkind
treatment. I am married now, and can protect
you. My husband expects to move to Virginia this
spring, where we think of settling. I am very anxious
that you should come and live with me. If you are
not willing to come, you may purchase yourself; but
I should prefer having you live with me. If you come,
you may, if you like, spend a month with your grandmother
and friends, then come to me in Norfolk, Virginia. Think
this over, and write as soon as possible,
and let me know the conclusion. Hoping that your
children are well, I remain you friend and mistress."
Of course I did not write to return thanks for this
cordial invitation. I felt insulted to be thought stupid
enough to be caught by such professions.
'Come up into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly;
the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.'"
It was plain that Dr. Flint's family were apprised
of my movements, since they knew of my voyage to
Europe. I expected to have further trouble from
them; but having eluded them thus far, I hoped to be
as successful in future. The money I had earned, I
was desirous to devote to the education of my children,
and to secure a home for them. It seemed not only
hard, but unjust, to pay for myself. I could not possibly
regard myself as a piece of property. Moreover, I had
worked many years without wages, and during that
time had been obliged to depend on my grandmother
for many comforts in food and clothing. My children
certainly belonged to me; but though Dr. Flint had
incurred no expense for their support, he had received
a large sum of money for them. I knew the law
would decide that I was his property, and would
probably still give his daughter a claim to my children;
but I regarded such laws as the regulations of
robbers, who had no rights that I was bound to respect.
The Fugitive Slave Law had not then passed. The
judges of Massachusetts had not then stooped under
chains to enter her courts of justice, so called. I knew
my old master was rather skittish of Massachusetts. I
relied on her love of freedom, and felt safe on her soil.
I am now aware that I honored the old Commonwealth
beyond her deserts.
For two years my daughter and I supported
ourselves comfortably in Boston. At the end of that
time, my brother William offered to send Ellen to a
boarding school. It required a great effort for me to
consent to part with her, for I had few near ties, and
it was her presence that made my two little rooms seem
home-like. But my judgment prevailed over my selfish
feelings. I made preparations for her departure.
During the two years we had lived together I had
often resolved to tell her something about her father;
but I had never been able to muster sufficient courage.
I had a shrinking dread of diminishing my child's
love. I knew she must have curiosity on the subject,
but she had never asked a question. She was always
very careful not to say any thing to remind me of my
troubles. Now that she was going from me, I thought
if I should die before she returned, she might hear
my story from some one who did not understand the
palliating circumstances; and that if she were entirely
ignorant on the subject, her sensitive nature might
receive a rude shock.
When we retired for the night, she said, "Mother,
it is very hard to leave you alone. I am almost sorry
I am going, though I do want to improve myself.
But you will write to me often; won't you, mother?"
I did not throw my arms round her. I did not anwer
her. But in a calm, solemn way, for it cost me
great effort, I said, "Listen to me, Ellen; I have something
to tell you!" I recounted my early sufferings
in slavery, and told her how nearly they had crushed
me. I began to tell her how they had driven me into
a great sin, when she clasped me in her arms, and
exclaimed, "O, don't, mother! Please don't tell me any
I said, "But, my child, I want you to know about
"I know all about it, mother," she replied; "I am
nothing to my father, and he is nothing to me. All
my love is for you. I was with him five months in
Washington, and he never cared for me. He never
spoke to me as he did to his little Fanny. I knew all
the time he was my father, for Fanny's nurse told me
so; but she said I must never tell any body, and I
never did. I used to wish he would take me in his
arms and kiss me, as he did Fanny; or that he would
sometimes smile at me, as he did at her. I thought if
he was my own father, he ought to love me. I was a
little girl then, and didn't know any better. But now
I never think any thing about my father. All my
love is for you." She hugged me closer as she spoke,
and I thanked God that the knowledge I had so much
dreaded to impart had not diminished the affection of
my child. I had not the slightest idea she knew that
portion of my history. If I had, I should have spoken
to her long before; for my pent-up feelings had often
longed to pour themselves out to some one I could
trust. But I loved the dear girl better for the delicacy
she had manifested towards her unfortunate mother.
The next morning, she and her uncle started on
their journey to the village in New York, where she
was to be placed at school. It seemed as if all the
sunshine had gone away. My little room was dreadfully
lonely. I was thankful when a message came
from a lady, accustomed to employ me, requesting me
to come and sew in her family for several weeks. On
my return, I found a letter from brother William. He
thought of opening an anti-slavery reading room in
Rochester, and combining with it the sale of some
books and stationery; and he wanted me to unite with
him. We tried it, but it was not successful. We
found warm anti-slavery friends there, but the feeling
was not general enough to support such an establishment.
I passed nearly a year in the family of Isaac
and Amy Post, practical believers in the Christian doctrine
of human brotherhood. They measured a man's
worth by his character, not by his complexion. The
memory of those beloved and honored friends will
remain with me to my latest hour.
THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW.
My brother, being disappointed in his project,
concluded to go to California; and it was agreed that
Benjamin should go with him. Ellen liked her school,
and was a great favorite there. They did not know
her history, and she did not tell it, because she had no
desire to make capital out of their sympathy. But
when it was accidentally discovered that her mother
was a fugitive slave, every method was used to increase
her advantages and diminish her expenses.
I was alone again. It was necessary for me to be
earning money, and I preferred that it should be among
those who knew me. On my return from Rochester,
I called at the house of Mr. Bruce, to see Mary, the
darling little babe that had thawed my heart, when it
was freezing into a cheerless distrust of all my fellow-beings.
She was growing a tall girl now, but I loved
her always. Mr. Bruce had married again, and it was
proposed that I should become nurse to a new infant.
I had but one hesitation, and that was my feeling of
insecurity in New York, now greatly increased by the
passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. However, I resolved
to try the experiment. I was again fortunate
in my employer. The new Mrs. Bruce was an American,
brought up under aristocratic influences and still
living in the midst of them; but if she had any prejudice
against color, I was never made aware of it;
and as for the system of slavery, she had a most hearty
dislike of it. No sophistry of Southerners could blind
her to its enormity. She was a person of excellent
principles and a noble heart. To me, from that hour
to the present, she has been a true and sympathizing
friend. Blessings be with her and hers!
About the time that I reëntered the Bruce family,
an event occurred of disastrous import to the colored
people. The slave Hamlin, the first fugitive that came
under the new law, was given up by the bloodhounds
of the north to the bloodhounds of the south. It was
the beginning of a reign of terror to the colored population.
The great city rushed on in its whirl of excitement,
taking no note of the "short and simple annals of the
poor." But while fashionables were
listening to the thrilling voice of Jenny Lind in Metropolitan
Hall, the thrilling voices of poor hunted
colored people went up, in an agony of supplication, to
the Lord, from Zion's church. Many families, who had
lived in the city for twenty years, fled from it now.
Many a poor washerwoman, who, by hard labor, had
made herself a comfortable home, was obliged to
sacrifice her furniture, bid a hurried farewell to friends,
and seek her fortune among strangers in Canada.
Many a wife discovered a secret she had never known
before - that her husband was a fugitive, and must
leave her to insure his own safety. Worse still, many
a husband discovered that his wife had fled from slavery
years ago, and as "the child follows the condition of its mother,"
the children of his love were liable to be seized and carried
into slavery. Every where, in those humble homes, there
was consternation and
anguish. But what cared the legislators of the "dominant
race" for the blood they were crushing out of
When my brother William spent his last evening
with me, before he went to California, we talked nearly
all the time of the distress brought on our oppressed
people by the passage of this iniquitous law; and never
had I seen him manifest such bitterness of spirit,
such stern hostility to our oppressors. He was himself
free from the operation of the law; for he did not
run from any Slaveholding State, being brought into
the Free States by his master. But I was subject to it;
and so were hundreds of intelligent and industrious
people all around us. I seldom ventured into the
streets; and when it was necessary to do an errand for
Mrs. Bruce, or any of the family, I went as much as
possible through back streets and by-ways. What a
disgrace to a city calling itself free, that inhabitants,
guiltless of offence, and seeking to perform their duties
conscientiously, should be condemned to live in such
incessant fear, and have nowhere to turn for protection!
This state of things, of course, gave rise to many impromptu
vigilance committees. Every colored person,
and every friend of their persecuted race, kept their
eyes wide open. Every evening I examined the newspapers
carefully, to see what Southerners had put up
at the hotels. I did this for my own sake, thinking
my young mistress and her husband might be among
the list; I wished also to give information to others,
if necessary; for if many were "running to and fro,"
I resolved that "knowledge should be increased."
This brings up one of my Southern reminiscences,
which I will here briefly relate. I was somewhat
acquainted with a slave named Luke, who belonged to a
wealthy man in our vicinity. His master died, leaving
a son and daughter heirs to his large fortune. In the
division of the slaves, Luke was included in the son's
portion. This young man became a prey to the vices
growing out of the "patriarchal institution," and when
he went to the north, to complete his education, he
carried his vices with him. He was brought home,
deprived of the use of his limbs, by excessive dissipation.
Luke was appointed to wait upon his bed-ridden master,
whose despotic habits were greatly increased by
exasperation at his own helplessness. He kept a cowhide
beside him, and, for the most trivial occurrence,
he would order his attendant to bare his back, and
kneel beside the couch, while he whipped him till his
strength was exhausted. Some days he was not allowed
to wear any thing but his shirt, in order to be
in readiness to be flogged. A day seldom passed without
his receiving more or less blows. If the slightest
resistance was offered, the town constable was sent for
to execute the punishment, and Luke learned from
experience how much more the constable's strong arm
was to be dreaded than the comparatively feeble one
of his master. The arm of his tyrant grew weak,
and was finally palsied; and then the constable's
services were in constant requisition. The fact that he
was entirely dependent on Luke's care, and was obliged
to be tended like an infant, instead of inspiring any
gratitude or compassion towards his poor slave, seemed
only to increase his irritability and cruelty. As he,
lay there on his bed, a mere disgraced wreck of manhood,
he took into his head the strangest freaks of despotism;
and if Luke hesitated to submit to his orders,
the constable was immediately sent for. Some of these
freaks were of a nature too filthy to be repeated.
When I fled from the house of bondage, I left poor
Luke still chained to the bedside of this cruel and
One day, when I had been requested to do an errand
for Mrs. Bruce, I was hurrying through back streets,
as usual, when I saw a young man approaching, whose
face was familiar to me. As he came nearer, I recognized
Luke. I always rejoiced to see or hear of any
one who had escaped from the black pit; but, remembering
this poor fellow's extreme hardships, I was
peculiarly glad to see him on Northern soil, though I
no longer called it free soil. I well remembered what
a desolate feeling it was to be alone among strangers,
and I went up to him and greeted him cordially. At
first, he did not know me; but when I mentioned my
name, he remembered all about me. I told him of
the Fugitive Slave Law, and asked him if he did not
know that New York was a city of kidnappers.
He replied, "De risk ain't so bad for me, as 'tis fur
you. 'Cause I runned away from de speculator, and
you runned away from de massa. Dem speculators
vont spen dar money to come here fur a runaway, if
dey ain't sartin sure to put dar hans right on him. An
I tell you I's tuk good car 'bout dat. I had too hard
times down dar, to let 'em ketch dis nigger."
He then told me of the advice he had received, and
the plans he had laid. I asked if he had money
enough to take him to Canada. " 'Pend upon it, I
hab," he replied. "I tuk car fur dat. I'd bin workin
all my days fur dem cussed whites, an got no pay but
kicks and cuffs. So I tought dis nigger had a right to
money nuff to bring him to de Free States. Massa
Henry he lib till ebery body vish him dead; an ven
he did die, I knowed de debbil would hab him, an
vouldn't vant him to bring his money 'long too. So
I tuk some of his bills, and put 'em in de pocket of
his ole trousers. An ven he was buried, dis nigger
ask fur dem ole trousers, an dey gub 'em to me."
With a low, chuckling laugh, he added, "You see I
didn't steal it; dey gub it to me. I tell you, I had
mighty hard time to keep de speculator from findin
it; but he didn't git it."
This is a fair specimen of how the moral sense is
educated by slavery. When a man has his wages
stolen from him, year after year, and the laws sanction
and enforce the theft, how can he be expected to have
more regard to honesty than has the man who robs
him? I have become somewhat enlightened, but I
confess that I agree with poor, ignorant, much-abused
Luke, in thinking he had a right to that money, as a
portion of his unpaid wages. He went to Canada forthwith,
and I have not since heard from him.
All that winter I lived in a state of anxiety. When
I took the children out to breathe the air, I closely
observed the countenances of all I met. I dreaded
the approach of summer, when snakes and slaveholders
make their appearance. I was, in fact, a slave in New York,
as subject to slave laws as I had been in a
Slave State. Strange incongruity in a State called free!
Spring returned, and I received warning from the
south that Dr. Flint knew of my return to my old
place, and was making preparations to have me caught.
I learned afterwards that my dress, and that of Mrs.
Bruce's children, had been described to him by some
of the Northern tools, which slaveholders employ for
their base purposes, and then indulge in sneers at their
cupidity and mean servility.
I immediately informed Mrs. Bruce of my danger,
and she took prompt measures for my safety. My
place as nurse could not be supplied immediately, and
this generous, sympathizing lady proposed that I should
carry her baby away. It was a comfort to me to have
the child with me; for the heart is reluctant to be
torn away from every object it loves. But how few
mothers would have consented to have one of their
own babes become a fugitive, for the sake of a poor,
hunted nurse, on whom the legislators of the country
had let loose the bloodhounds! When I spoke of the
sacrifice she was making, in depriving herself of her
dear baby, she replied, "It is better for you to have
baby with you, Linda; for if they get on your track,
they will be obliged to bring the child to me; and then,
if there is a possibility of saving you, you shall be
This lady had a very wealthy relative, a benevolent
gentleman in many respects, but aristocratic and pro-slavery.
He remonstrated with her for harboring a
fugitive slave; told her she was violating the laws of
her country; and asked her if she was aware of the
penalty. She replied, "I am very well aware of it.
It is imprisonment and one thousand dollars fine
Shame on my country that it is so! I am ready to
incur the penalty. I will go to the state's prison,
rather than have any poor victim torn from my house,
to be carried back to slavery."
The noble heart! The brave heart! The tears are
in my eyes while I write of her. May the God of the
helpless reward her for her sympathy with my
I was sent into New England, where I was sheltered
by the wife of a senator, whom I shall always hold in
grateful remembrance. This honorable gentleman
would not have voted for the Fugitive Slave Law, as
did the senator in "Uncle Tom's Cabin;" on the
contrary, he was strongly opposed to it; but he was
enough under its influence to be afraid of having me
remain in his house many hours. So I was sent into
the country, where I remained a month with the baby.
When it was supposed that Dr. Flint's emissaries had
lost track of me, and given up the pursuit for the
present, I returned to New York.
FREE AT LAST.
MRS. BRUCE, and every member of her family, were
exceedingly kind to me. I was thankful for the blessings of my lot,
yet I could not always wear a cheerful
countenance. I was doing harm to no one; on the
contrary, I was doing all the good I could in my
small way; yet I could never go out to breathe God's
free air without trepidation at my heart. This seemed
hard; and I could not think it was a right state of
things in any civilized country.
From time to time I received news from my good
old grandmother. She could not write; but she employed
others to write for her. The following is an extract from one
of her last letters: -
"Dear Daughter: I cannot hope to see you again on
earth; but I pray to God to unite us above, where
pain will no more rack this feeble body of mine;
where sorrow and parting from my children will be no
more. God has promised these things if we are faithful
unto the end. My age and feeble health deprive
me of going to church now; but God is with me here
at home. Thank your brother for his kindness. Give
much love to him, and tell him to remember the
Creator in the days of his youth, and strive to meet
me in the Father's kingdom. Love to Ellen and Benjamin.
Don't neglect him. Tell him for me, to be a
good boy. Strive, my child, to train them for God's
children. May he protect and provide for you, is the
prayer of your loving old mother."
These letters both cheered and saddened me. I was
always glad to have tidings from the kind, faithful old
friend of my unhappy youth; but her messages of
love made my heart yearn to see her before she died,
and I mourned over the fact that it was impossible.
Some months after I returned from my flight to New
England, I received a letter from her, in which she
wrote, "Dr. Flint is dead. He has left a distressed
family. Poor old man! I hope he made his peace
I remembered how he had defrauded my grandmother
of the hard earnings she had loaned; how he
had tried to cheat her out of the freedom her mistress
had promised her, and how he had persecuted her children;
and I thought to myself that she was a better
Christian than I was, if she could entirely forgive him.
I cannot say, with truth, that the news of my old
master's death softened my feelings towards him.
There are wrongs which even the grave does not bury.
The man was odious to me while he lived, and his
memory is odious now.
His departure from this world did not diminish my
danger. He had threatened my grandmother that his
heirs should hold me in slavery after he was gone;
that I never should be free so long as a child of his
survived. As for Mrs. Flint, I had seen her in deeper
afflictions than I supposed the loss of her husband
would be, for she had buried several children; yet I
never saw any signs of softening in her heart. The
doctor had died in embarrassed circumstances, and had
little to will to his heirs, except such property as he
was unable to grasp. I was well aware what I had to
expect from the family of Flints; and my fears were
confirmed by a letter from the south, warning me to
be on my guard, because Mrs. Flint openly declared
that her daughter could not afford to lose so valuable
a slave as I was.
I kept close watch of the newspapers for arrivals; but
one Saturday night, being much occupied, I forgot to
examine the Evening Express as usual. I went down
into the parlor for it, early in the morning, and found
the boy about to kindle a fire with it. I took it from
him and examined the list of arrivals. Reader, if you
have never been a slave, you cannot imagine the acute
sensation of suffering at my heart, when I read the
names of Mr. and Mrs. Dodge, at a hotel in Courtland
Street. It was a third-rate hotel, and that circumstance
convinced me of the truth of what I had heard,
that they were short of funds and had need of my
value, as they valued me; and that was by dollars and
cents. I hastened with the paper to Mrs. Bruce. Her
heart and hand were always open to every one in distress,
and she always warmly sympathized with mine.
It was impossible to tell how near the enemy was. He
might have passed and repassed the house while we
were sleeping. He might at that moment be waiting
to pounce upon me if I ventured out of doors. I had
never seen the husband of my young mistress, and
therefore I could not distinguish him from any other
stranger. A carriage was hastily ordered; and, closely
veiled, I followed Mrs. Bruce, taking the baby again
with me into exile. After various turnings and crossings
and returnings, the carriage stopped at the house
of one of Mrs. Bruce's friends, where I was kindly
received. Mrs. Bruce returned immediately, to instruct
the domestics what to say if any one came to inquire
It was lucky for me that the evening paper was not
burned up before I had a chance to examine the list of
arrivals. It was not long after Mrs. Bruce's return to
her house, before several people came to inquire for
me. One inquired for me, another asked for my
daughter Ellen, and another said he had a letter from
my grandmother, which he was requested to deliver in
They were told, "She has lived here, but she has
"How long ago?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Do you know where she went?"
"I do not, sir." And the door was closed.
This Mr. Dodge, who claimed me as his property,
was originally a Yankee pedler in the south; then he
became a merchant, and finally a slaveholder. He
managed to get introduced into what was called the
first society, and married Miss Emily Flint. A quarrel
arose between him and her brother, and the brother
cowhided him. This led to a family feud, and he
proposed to remove to Virginia. Dr. Flint left him no
property, and his own means had become
circumscribed, while a wife and children depended
upon him for support. Under these circumstances, it
was very natural that he should make an effort to put
me into his pocket.
I had a colored friend, a man from my native place,
in whom I had the most implicit confidence. I sent for
him, and told him that Mr. and Mrs. Dodge had arrived
in New York. I proposed that he should call upon them
to make inquiries about his friends at the south, with
whom Dr. Flint's family were well acquainted. He
thought there was no impropriety in his doing so, and
he consented. He went to the hotel, and knocked at
the door of Mr. Dodge's room, which was opened by
the gentleman himself, who gruffly inquired, "What
brought you here? How came you to know I was in
"Your arrival was published in the evening papers,
sir; and I called to ask Mrs. Dodge about my friends
at home. I didn't suppose it would give any offence."
"Where's that negro girl, that belongs to my wife?"
"What girl, sir?"
"You know well enough. I mean Linda, that ran
away from Dr. Flint's plantation, some years ago. I
dare say you've seen her, and know where she is."
"Yes, sir, I've seen her, and know where she is.
She is out of your reach, sir."
"Tell me where she is, or bring her to me, and I will
give her a chance to buy her freedom."
"I don't think it would be of any use, sir. I have
heard her say she would go to the ends of the earth,
rather than pay any man or woman for her freedom,
because she thinks she has a right to it. Besides, she
couldn't do it, if she would, for she has spent her
earnings to educate her children."
This made Mr. Dodge very angry, and some high
words passed between them. My friend was afraid to
come where I was; but in the course of the day I
received a note from him. I supposed they had not
come from the south, in the winter, for a pleasure
excursion; and now the nature of their business was
Mrs. Bruce came to me and entreated me to leave
the city the next morning. She said her house was
watched, and it was possible that some clew to me might
be obtained. I refused to take her advice. She pleaded
with an earnest tenderness, that ought to have moved
me; but I was in a bitter, disheartened mood. I was
weary of flying from pillar to post. I had been chased
during half my life, and it seemed as if the chase was
never to end. There I sat, in that great city, guiltless
of crime, yet not daring to worship God in any of the
churches. I heard the bells ringing for afternoon service,
and, with contemptuous sarcasm, I said, "Will
the preachers take for their text, 'Proclaim liberty to
the captive, and the opening of prison doors to them
that are bound'? or will they preach from the text,
'Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you'?"
Oppressed Poles and Hungarians could find a safe
refuge in that city; John Mitchell was free to proclaim
in the City Hall his desire for "a plantation well stocked
with slaves;" but there I sat, an oppressed American,
not daring to show my face. God forgive the black and
bitter thoughts I indulged on that Sabbath day! The
Scripture says, "Oppression makes even a wise man
mad;" and I was not wise.
I had been told that Mr. Dodge said his wife had never
signed away her right to my children, and if he could
not get me, he would take them. This it was, more
than any thing else, that roused such a tempest in my
soul. Benjamin was with his uncle William in California,
but my innocent young daughter had come to
spend a vacation with me. I thought of what I had
suffered in slavery at her age, and my heart was like a
tiger's when a hunter tries to seize her young.
Dear Mrs. Bruce! I seem to see the expression of
her face, as she turned away discouraged by my obstinate
mood. Finding her expostulations unavailing, she
sent Ellen to entreat me. When ten o'clock in the
evening arrived and Ellen had not returned, this watchful
and unwearied friend became anxious. She came
to us in a carriage, bringing a well-filled trunk for my
journey - trusting that by this time I would listen to
reason. I yielded to her, as I ought to have done
The next day, baby and I set out in a heavy snow
storm, bound for New England again. I received letters
from the City of Iniquity, addressed to me under
an assumed name. In a few days one came from Mrs.
Bruce, informing me that my new master was still
searching for me, and that she intended to put an end
to this persecution by buying my freedom. I felt grateful
for the kindness that prompted this offer, but the
idea was not so pleasant to me as might have been
expected. The more my mind had become enlightened,
the more difficult it was for me to consider myself an
article of property; and to pay money to those who
had so grievously oppressed me seemed like taking
from my sufferings the glory of triumph. I wrote to
Mrs. Bruce, thanking her, but saying that being sold
from one owner to another seemed too much like
slavery; that such a great obligation could not be
easily cancelled; and that I preferred to go to my
brother in California.
Without my knowledge, Mrs. Bruce employed a gentleman
in New York to enter into negotiations with
Mr. Dodge. He proposed to pay three hundred dollars
down, if Mr. Dodge would sell me, and enter into
obligations to relinquish all claim to me or my children
forever after. He who called himself my master said
he scorned so small an offer for such a valuable servant.
The gentleman replied, "You can do as you choose,
sir. If you reject this offer you will never get any
thing; for the woman has friends who will convey her
and her children out of the country."
Mr. Dodge concluded that "half a loaf was better
than no bread," and he agreed to the proffered terms.
By the next mail I received this brief letter from Mrs.
Bruce: "I am rejoiced to tell you that the money for
your freedom has been paid to Mr. Dodge. Come
home to-morrow. I long to see you and my sweet
My brain reeled as I read these lines. A gentleman
near me said, "It's true; I have seen the bill of sale."
"The bill of sale!" Those words struck me like a
blow. So I was sold at last! A human being sold in
the free city of New York! The bill of sale is on
record, and future generations will learn from it that
women were articles of traffic in New York, late in the
nineteenth century of the Christian religion. It may
hereafter prove a useful document to antiquaries, who
are seeking to measure the progress of civilization in
the United States. I well know the value of that bit
of paper; but much as I love freedom, I do not like to
look upon it. I am deeply grateful to the generous
friend who procured it, but I despise the miscreant who
demanded payment for what never rightfully belonged
to him or his.
I had objected to having my freedom bought, yet I
must confess that when it was done I felt as if a heavy
load had been lifted from my weary shoulders. When
I rode home in the cars I was no longer afraid to unveil
my face and look at people as they passed. I should
have been glad to have met Daniel Dodge himself; to
have had him seen me and known me, that he might
have mourned over the untoward circumstances which
compelled him to sell me for three hundred dollars.
When I reached home, the arms of my benefactress
were thrown round me, and our tears mingled. As
soon as she could speak, she said, "O Linda, I'm so
glad it's all over! You wrote to me as if you thought
you were going to be transferred from one owner to
another. But I did not buy you for your services. I
should have done just the same, if you had been going
to sail for California to-morrow. I should, at least,
have the satisfaction of knowing that you left me a
My heart was exceedingly full. I remembered how
my poor father had tried to buy me, when I was a small
child, and how he had been disappointed. I hoped his
spirit was rejoicing over me now. I remembered how
my good old grandmother had laid up her earnings to
purchase me in later years, and how often her plans
had been frustrated. How that faithful, loving old
heart would leap for joy, if she could look on me and
my children now that we were free! My relatives had
been foiled in all their efforts, but God had raised me
up a friend among strangers, who had bestowed on me
the precious, long-desired boon. Friend! It is a common
word, often lightly used. Like other good and
beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling;
but when I speak of Mrs. Bruce as my friend,
the word is sacred.
My grandmother lived to rejoice in my freedom; but
not long after, a letter came with a black seal. She
had gone "where the wicked cease from troubling, and
the weary are at rest."
Time passed on, and a paper came to me from the
south, containing an obituary notice of my uncle
Phillip. It was the only case I ever knew of such an
honor conferred upon a colored person. It was written
by one of his friends, and contained these words:
"Now that death has laid him low, they call him a good
man and a useful citizen; but what are eulogies to
the black man, when the world has faded from his
vision? It does not require man's praise to obtain rest
in God's kingdom." So they called a colored man a
citizen! Strange words to be uttered in that region!
Reader, my story ends with freedom; not in the
usual way, with marriage. I and my children are now
free! We are as free from the power of slaveholders
as are the white people of the north; and though that,
according to my ideas, is not saying a great deal, it is
a vast improvement in my condition. The dream of
my life is not yet realized. I do not sit with my children
in a home of my own. I still long for a hearthstone
of my own, however humble. I wish it for my
children's sake far more than for my own. But God
so orders circumstances as to keep me with my friend
Mrs. Bruce. Love, duty, gratitude, also bind me to
her side. It is a privilege to serve her who pities my
oppressed people, and who has bestowed the inestimable
boon of freedom on me and my children.
It has been painful to me, in many ways, to recall
the dreary years I passed in bondage. I would gladly
forget them if I could. Yet the retrospection is not
altogether without solace; for with those gloomy recollections
come tender memories of my good old grandmother,
like light, fleecy clouds floating over a dark
and troubled sea.
THE following statement is from Amy Post, a member of the
Society Friends in the State of New York, well known and
highly respected by friends of the poor and the oppressed. As has
been already stated, in the preceding pages, the author of this
volume spent some time under her hospitable roof.
L. M. C.
"The author of this book is my highly-esteemed friend. If its
readers knew her as I know her, they could not fail to be deeply
interested in her story. She was a beloved inmate of our family
nearly the whole of the year 1849. She was introduced to us by
her affectionate and conscientious brother, who had previously
related to us some of the almost incredible events in his sister's
life. I immediately became much interested in Linda, for her
appearance was prepossessing, and her deportment indicated
remarkable delicacy of feeling and purity of thought.
"As we became acquainted, she related to me, from time to time
some of the incidents in her bitter experiences as a slave-woman.
Though impelled by a natural craving for human sympathy, she
passed through a baptism of suffering, even in recounting her
trials to me, in private confidential conversations. The burden of
these memories lay heavily upon her spirit - naturally virtuous and
refined. I repeatedly urged her to consent to the publication of
her narrative; for I felt that it would arouse people to a more
earnest work for the disinthralment of millions still remaining in
that soul-crushing condition, which was so unendurable to her.
But her sensitive spirit shrank from publicity. She said, 'You
know a woman can whisper her cruel wrongs in the ear of a dear
friend much easier than she can record them for the world to read.'
Even in talking with me, she wept so much, and seemed to suffer such
mental agony, that I felt her story was too sacred to be drawn from
her by inquisitive questions, and I left her free to tell as much, or
as little, as she chose. Still, I urged upon her the duty of publishing
her experience, for the sake of the good it might do; and,
at last, she undertook the task.
"Having been a slave so large a portion of her life, she is
unlearned; she is obliged to earn her living by her own labor, and
she has worked untiringly to procure education for her children;
several times she has been obliged to leave her employments, in
order to fly from the man-hunters and woman-hunters of our land;
but she pressed through all these obstacles and overcame them.
After the labors of the day were over, she traced secretly and
wearily, by the midnight lamp, a truthful record of her eventful life.
"This Empire State is a shabby place of refuge for the oppressed;
but here, through anxiety, turmoil, and despair, the freedom
of Linda and her children was finally secured, by the exertions
of a generous friend. She was grateful for the boon; but the idea
of having been bought was always
galling to a spirit that could
never acknowledge itself to be a chattel. She wrote to us thus,
soon after the event: 'I thank you for your kind expressions in
regard to my freedom; but the freedom I had before the money
was paid was dearer to me. God gave me that
freedom; but man
put God's image in the scales with the paltry sum of three hundred
dollars. I served for my liberty as faithfully as Jacob served for
Rachel. At the end, he had large possessions; but I was robbed
of my victory; I was obliged to resign my crown, to rid myself of
"Her story, as written by herself, cannot fail to interest the
reader. It is a sad illustration of the condition of this country,
which boasts of its civilization, while it sanctions laws and customs
which make the experiences of the present more strange than any
fictions of the past.
"ROCHESTER, N. Y., Oct. 30th,
The following is from a man who is now a highly
respectable colored citizen of Boston.
contains some incidents
so extraordinary, that,
doubtless, many persons, under whose eyes it may
chance to fall,
will be ready to believe that it is colored highly, to serve a
special purpose. But, however it may be regarded by
the incredulous, I
know that it is full of living truths. I have been well acquainted
with the author from my boyhood. The circumstances recounted
in her history are perfectly familiar to me. I knew of her treatment
from her master; of the imprisonment of her children; of
their sale and redemption; of her seven years' concealment;
and of her subsequent escape to the North. I am now a resident of
Boston, and am a living witness to the truth of this interesting
GEORGE W. LOWTHER."