« AnteriorContinuar »
bottomed boat, drew up on the road where I persuaded the driver to wait until we had witnessed the crossing of the river by the gang,' as it was called."
The great piece of crape swathing the white-hat is a stroke of art. The notion that these monsters could mourn for any thing is curious in itself, and seems to be taken up as a set-off against the current practice of their lives. Perhaps it is only a decoy to make the world think that they are human, and that they are conscious of their humanity, and not unaware of mortality, nor unpitying when it comes. What a mass of hardened hypocrisybare-faced and shudderingly callous—is this whole institution of slavery!
The custom of driving the slaves in gangs through the country to the southern markets is not practised now to so great extent as it used to be. It was found to be attended with some risks. The drivers the humane gentlemen with the crape on their hatssometimes in the gloomy prairie, or on the borders of some mighty solitude, would take advantage of their delegated authority, and in a sublime spirit of wickedness, growing out of long impunity, inflict such outrages on the slaves as even their patient and suffering natures could not endure. And it has happened in such places and under such circumstances, where the eye of the Creator alone witnessed the retributive deed, that the manacled wretches have risen in their chains and slaughtered their tyrants out of sheer horror and despair. Aware of these instances, and always on the watch to guard against a recurrence of them, the drivers are especially careful when they come to lonely districts, or the passage of a river, skilfully endeavouring to stifle the feelings of the unfortunate negroes by feeding them well, and encouraging them to sing Old Virginny never tire' to the banjo!
At a subsequent part of his journey, Mr. Featherstonhaugh saw the gang encamped for the night in a forest. The scene is striking:
"Before we stopped for the night, but long after sunset, we came to a place where numerous fires were gleaming through the forest: it was the bivouac of the gang. Having prevailed upon the driver to wait balf-an-hour, I went with Pompey, who was to take leave of us here,— into the woods, where they were all encamped. There were a great many blazing fires around, at which the female slaves were warming themselves; the children were asleep in some tents; and the males in chains were lying on the ground in groups of about a dozen each. The white men who were the partners of Pompey's master, were standing about with whips in their hands; and the complete,' was, I suppose, in her tent; for I judged, from the attendants being busy in packing the utensils away, that they had taken their evening's repast. It was a fearful and irritating spectacle, and I could not bear long to look at it."
But the reader ought to know this Pompey and his master-an explanation which will clear up to his entire contentment the mystery of the crape. Travelling by the stage-coach to Blountsville in Tennessee, our traveller found five persons in the inside, two South Carolinians, a stout man very insolent in his manner, and a strangelooking white man with a negro (our friend Pompey) sitting opposite to him. The white man, Pompey's master, was a queer tall animal, with dark black hair cut short like a methodist preacher, immense black whiskers, and features remarkably sharp, piratical and repulsive. His clothes were black, and his hat was white, with a huge broad brim, and a piece of crape that covered it almost to the top of the crown. From this goodly company, Mr. Featherstonhaugh experienced all kinds of annoyance and insult, which they carried so far as to exhibit their pistols and bowie-knives, throwing out broad hints that they weren't going to be put upon by no man,' and that 'leetle pitchers would carry water as well as big ones.' The end of all this was that Mr. Featherstonhaugh, finding himself at last grossly insulted by one of these fellows in the public room of an hotel where they rested for the night, and remembering some useful instructions he had received in his youth from Gentleman Jackson, knocked him down. There was a plunge for bowie-knives, but it was too late, and the impudent bravo was from that moment an altered man in his demeanour. The dark white man, his friend, affected for the rest of the journey a certain tone of style-spoke of Washington and glory-hinted about a niece and a barouche that was coming to meet him on the road-all in such a way as to provoke our traveller's curiosity. Mark the sequel.
"A vague idea had once or twice crossed my mind, that I had seen this man before, but where I could not imagine. On coming, however, to a long hill, where I got out to walk, I took occasion to ask the driver if he knew who the passenger was who had two barouches on before. Why,' said that man, 'don't you know it's Armfield, the negur-driver?' 'Negur-driver,' thought I, and immediately the mystery was cleared up. I remembered the white hat, the crape, the black short-cut round hair, and the barouches. It was one of the identical slave-drivers I had seen on the 6th of September, crossing his gang of chained slaves over New River. On re-entering the vehicle I looked steadily at the fellow, and recollecting him, found no longer any difficulty in accounting for such a compound of every thing vulgar and revolting, and totally without education. I had now a key both to his manners and the expression of his countenance, both of them formed in those dens of oppression and despair, the negro prisons, and both of them indicating his abominable vocation.
"As he had endeavoured to impose himself upon us for a respectable man, I was determined to let him know before we parted, that I had found him out; but being desirous first of discovering what was the source of that sympathy which united his hat with General Jackson, I
asked him plump who he was in mourning for. Upon this, drawing his physiognomy down to the length of a moderate horse's face, Marcus Layfeeyate,' (Marquis Lafayette) was his answer. 'Do you mean General Lafayette?' I inquired. I reckon that's what I mean,' said he. Why General Lafayette,' I replied, 'gloried in making all men free, without respect of colour; and what are you, who I understand are a negrodriver, in mourning for him for? Such men as you ought to go into mourning only when the price of black men falls. I remember seeing you cross your gang in chains at New River; and I should not be at all surprised if Lafayette's ghost was to set every one of your negroes free one of these nights.'
Soon after this, the fellow, pretending to be taken suddenly ill, was glad to abandon the stage-coach, and stop at a tavern at the road-side. But Pompey remained, and from Pompey further particulars were gleaned concerning slavery and the slave-driver.
Pompey now told us a great many things that served to confirm abhorrence of this brutal land-traffic in slaves. As to his master, he said, he really thought he was ill; Master's mighty fond of ingeons,' said he, and de doctors in Alexandria tells him not to eat sich lots of ingeons; but when he sees 'em he can't stand it, and den he eats 'em, and dey makes him sick, and den he carries on just like a house on fire; and den he drinks brandy upon 'em, and dat makes him better; and den he eats ingeons agin, and so he keeps a carrying on.' From which it would appear, that the sum total of enjoyment of a negro-driver, purchased at such a profligate expense of humanity, is an unlimited indulgence in onions and brandy."
These are traits of character and evidences of a state of society which all humanity is interested in desiring to reform.
That a slave-driver should go into mourning at all, is a strange thing in itself. That he should recognise any thing so tender, any thing so sacred as human sorrow, is scarcely intelligible. But that he should go into mourning for Lafayette-the apostle of universal liberty-is not to be accounted for on any principle short of that mystical creed of citizenship which mixes stars and stripes in such ludicrous and tragical confusion.
There is another class of persons, besides the drivers, who earn a sort of professional livelihood by slavery. These fellows are associated in a fraternity, and contrive to make money by carrying on a system of frauds against the greatest fraud that was ever invented by the cunning of man. Their avocations consist in cheating the slave-owners, by what is called 'running a negro;' and one would be disposed to wish them all possible success in their human swindling, only that the poor negro who is thus run,' generally purchases his freedom with his life.
"To run a negro,' it is necessary to have a good understanding with an intelligent male slave on some plantation; and if he is a mechanic, he is always the more valuable. At a time agreed upon, the slave runs
away from his master's premises, and joins the man who has instigated him to do it; they then proceed to some quarter where they are not known, and the negro is sold for seven or eight hundred dollars, or more, to a new master. A few days after the money has been paid, he runs away again, and is sold a second time, and as often as the trick can be played with any hope of safety. The negro, who does the harlequinade part of the manoeuvre, has an agreement with his friend, in virtue of which he supposes he is to receive part of the money; but the poor devil, in the end, is sure to be cheated; and when he becomes dangerous to the fraternity is, as I am well assured, first cajoled and put off his guard, and then, on crossing some river, or reaching a secret place, shot, before he suspects their intention, or otherwise made away with."
The variety of shapes in which slavery shows itself in America, are not calculated to lessen our abhorrence of its iniquity. At every turn where the traveller comes face to face with an instance, he finds a new reason for looking with increased aversion upon the system. We hear of no instance by which his objections are diminished or mitigated. On one occasion, the mail-coach from Charleston drives up with a male negro slave, about thirty years of age, chained flat on the roof!
"I had seen turtles," says Mr. Featherstonhaugh, "and venison, and wild turkeys, and things of that sort, fastened to the top of a stage-coach before, but this was the first black man I ever saw arranged in that manner. Catching a glimpse of him as the stage drew up, I thought it was a bear or some other animal on its way to the larder; but in a few minutes they handed him down from the top, holding him by the end of his chain, exactly as if he had been a baboon, and then proceeded to hoist him to the top of the stage we were to travel in, and fasten him down there just as he had been before."
And inside this very coach was a white man chained, in the custody of a deputy sheriff!
In Texas the condition of the slave is much the same as that of the horse He performs,' says our author, who treats all these matters with singular moderation, his daily task, eats his changeless provender, and is driven into his stable at night, where he is shut in, until, at earliest dawn, he is called forth again to go through the same unpitied routine until he dies.' Now slavery in Texas has generally been held up, in this country at least, as slavery in its mildest form'-as if any form of it could be mild. We may infer, therefore, what slavery is in America, where the 'institution' is based upon a grander foundation, where there is a larger amount of property invested in labour, and where, in the face of Christendom, the principle, not to speak of the necessity, of slavery, is attempted to be defended by something like argument.
Slave-owners who are liberal, or supposed to be liberal, on other subjects, are inveterate upon this, entering upon the defence of
The Gentility of owning Slaves.
slavery with a smack of patriotism and candour which might well make an European stare. Mr. Featherstonhaugh met with a South Carolinian of this caste-a very gentlemanly and intelligent man, who took up so curious a line of argument, that it really deserves to be set apart from the vulgar sophistry with which the subject is ordinarily mystified.
The North Carolinian insisted that slavery elevated the character of the master, and made him jealous of his own liberty [well it might!]-that the slave owner of the south was a gentleman, the dignity of which character was unknown in the northern states, where the division of property equally amongst children, compelled each to reconstruct his own fortune, by which a rapacious and trading spirit was necessarily generated amongst the people. This was not the case in South Carolina, where there was nothing to interrupt the repose and dignity of spirit essential to the formation of the gentleman.
This is the most original argument that ever was set up in defence of slavery-that it helps to make gentlemen. We once heard it significantly observed, that a despotism is the only government for a gentleman to live under. Our South Carolinian pushes the doctrine still further. The more perfect the power of despotism the more perfect the gentleman. The finished gentleman is the slave-driver.
How the low affectation, inseparable from habitual selfishness, betrays itself in this exulting burst of triumphant refinement. How slavery chuckles over trade-how the gentleman who traffics in human muscles scorns the sordid dealer in timber and provisions-how the gentleman in the open air, with the long whip in his hand, and his broad-brimmed hat, with weepers on it, despises the vulgar tradesman in his dusty store. This is the vice of the greater vulgarity backing up the congenial vice of slavery. The difference between the gentleman who lives upon the wear and tear of his fellow-men, and the trader who lives upon his own wear and tear, was never more clearly exemplified.
But you never hear one word about the humanity of the question from these people, who are so ready to vindicate its gentility. They look upon abolition, regarded as a matter of philanthropy, with unmixed contempt. There is nothing in their estimation lower in the scale of human reasoning than the attempt to justify manumission on benevolent principles. In short, they despise this sort of argument so utterly that they will not listen to it at all. They do wisely. They know the danger of contesting the institution of slavery on any other grounds than those of force, of legal right, and vested interests.
How slavery is to be argued as a mere question of property we frankly confess we know not. If a man says to us, this slave is