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fectly, and do not wish to hear any very minute description of it. To check the flow of his reminiscences we ask him whether he will not have some more to drink.
“Thank you ; if you don't mind, I don't care if I do liquor up again ;” and therewith he calls for a tumbler of oh-be-joyful. “But, you see,” he continues, “ fact is, our citizens don't like niggers ; and our laws don't either. If a man complains that any nigger in his service is lazy or disorderly, or won't do what he tells him, the nigger gets a whipping, by sentence of the Court. I've seen that done myself many times. And we've got a law against niggers dancing, or anything of that kind, in any barn or outhouse. We don't like their noise. Tell you we had a case of that only last week. There was a Southern gentleman, from Missouri I believe, came to look after a place he got left him in our State, and he brought some niggers with him, both men and women. Wal, not long after he came in, there was some day which is made a good deal of in his family-wedding-day, or something of that sort. So he gives his niggers soine money to get some whisky and a fiddle, and lets them have a spree. In the middle of it all, as they were dancing and making a pretty tall noise, the constables, who guessed something was likely to be going on, comes up and
ketches 'em at it. There was some ten or a dozen of 'em, and as not more than three are allowed to be together like that, they were taken up and brought before the judges. The master got fined twenty dollars for letting 'em do it. As for the darkies, they got sarved out with thirty-nine lashes apiece. You never heard such a screeching as they made.”
“For a free State, then, this can be no very pleasant abode for persons of colour.”
“No, it isn't; and that's a fact. We don't want it to be. We don't mind slaves so much—that is, if they come with their masters. But free niggers don't suit us nohow. They are the most disreputable, drunken, demoralised set that you can see. If you wanted to find anything as bad, you may jest start and circumnavigate the airth, and you won't find anything to set alongside of 'em from the time you leave San Francisco to the time you get to New York. We do all we can to keep the critters out. Look yer! It's about ten years since we made a State law that no nigger, free or slave, should come in on their own hook. If they did, they were to be fined, that's what the bill said ; and if they couldn't pay the fine, as was most likely, the law provided that they were to be sold, and obliged to work their fine out.”
“What! even if they were free ?"
“Yes ; even if they were free. And that's our law still.”
“Your law is somewhat surprising," we say. “But now, if a nigger, as you call them, does not come in on his own hook, but is brought in by his master, and set free while in the State, what happens then?”
"I guess we take pretty good care of that. If a fellow brings any of his niggers in here, he is bound over for a thousand dollars not to emancipate any of them, or, at least, to take care that they shan't be a burden on us. How can he prevent their being a burden unless he takes them away when he goes? And how can he do that if he makes 'em free? If the fellow steals a march on us, and slips, giving us his bond, he gets pretty smartly fined.”
“Why, you could not have a law more opposed to negro liberty if you were on the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Guess not. By the by, talking of that puts me in mind. A man from one of the Gulf States whom I met last time I was transacting business in Chicago, told me that they have laws in the States down there to prevent their carrying off free niggers to make slaves of 'em. If a fellow is found out doing it in South Carolina, he gets larrupped just as if he was a nigger. It seems kinder curis, don't it ?”
“So it seems that in the South they punish those who turn freemen into slaves, and in the North they punish those who turn slaves into freemen?”
“Wal, I would not say that,” says our friend, who does not like seeing the thing put quite in this way; “ but you don't liquor-up yourself. As you say you are a Britisher, maybe you don't know our evangelist's shin-scraper. I reckon you'll find it an almighty good drink; it fixes a fellow up pretty considerable.”
So we call for an evangelist's shin-scraper for ourselves and one for him, which he drinks in order to keep us company. We pronounce his eulogium on that beverage to be merited, and the conversation turns for a while upon American drinks. But we return to the charge.
“Is not the President one of your citizens? Surely the man who has proclaimed the freedom of the Southern negroes cannot approve the laws of his own State, if they are as you have described them ?”
“Ha! ha! Old Abe! Wal, stranger, mayhap you wouldn't think it, but we're kinder proud of Old Abe. He is a 'cute old hoss. He has got, at least for the present, all the Abolitionist votes, by declaring that the slaves were free in just those States where his proclamation wasn't of no 'count, and nowhere else. One of our citizens was at Norfolk when it came out. They got all the niggers in the place together, made speeches to 'em, and set 'em going procession, with flags and music and all them fixings, and then, after it was all over, told them that, as their masters were loyal citizens of the United States, they were not free just yet, but must go back to them— ha! ha!”
In spite of our principles, we cannot help laughing too.
“So you don't believe that your President is an honest man?”
“Wal, I wouldn't say that, now. He was quite square about saying he meant it as a 'war measure.' That was to please the War Democrats, who didn't want free niggers, but didn't mind setting the black cusses on to rise against their masters, and cut their throats if they could; and they didn't mind if the masters cut their throats instead.”
“But the Abolitionists,” say we; “surely they must have understood the proclamation to mean something else besides that?”
“Maybe they did, and maybe they didn't. Anyway, if they chose to believe our President meant more than he said, guess you oughtn't to lay that against him. But the Abolition coons are just like the others; they want the niggers for the same reason the War Democrats do. They want to kill rebels, and they think they'll do it all the more