Friendly Reception. -- "Immediate" and "gradual" Abolition. -Deplorable State of Liberia. --Amalgamation-mob versus the Blacks. --Outrages encouraged by the Press, --Dr. Cox threatened with indelible "Blacking." --Episcopal Interference. -- Indelicate Delicacy. --Heterodox Marriages. --History of James Forten. --Fair Mount Water-works. --Hospital. --Penitentiary.
I WAS very fortunate, while at Philadelphia, in meeting, through the introduction of a friend, with a private boarding-house, where I received every attention that the most polite and obliging disposition could bestow. The apartment assigned me was spacious and well furnished, a cold bath in an adjoining room supplied a welcome remedy for the lassitude produced by an unusually sultry season, and a very agreeable society completed the sum total of my "comforts."
The next morning, the man, who had waited at table, was missing; and the lady of the house expressed her apprehensions that he had been kidnapped, an event of too frequent occurrence to be thought improbable. I was on my way to the poor fellow's lodging in search of him, when he made his appearance and accounted for his absence by an indisposition which had seized him. He soon overtook me, and I returned with him to the house. Like so many others I had seen, he had been indebted to himself alone for his freedom, and that of his wife, whom he had left in Virginia, and who would, if she were delayed or detained there but a short time longer, exceed the term allowed by law to the emancipated, and again become a slave.
From some letters put into my hand by his present employer, I found his character for honesty and industry stood as high as that of any one in any sphere of life. The attestations to his respectability were evidently unbiassed opinions, and reflected as much honor on the writers as on the subject of the testimonials. In one of the letters I read, the writer declared that he was willing and ready to perform his part of the engagement which had been entered into between his father and the slave; and that he trusted in the "integrity" of the latter, that he would fulfil his part also. The writer of another certified that he had known him for fifteen years, during the whole of which time he had sustained an irreproachable character. "His reputation," he added, "in the place of his residence, is that of being a man of honesty, probity, and good demeanor." "Since he has obtained his freedom, he has resided in Charleston, Jefferson County, and by his correct deportment and industry, he has secured the respect and esteem of all the inhabitants, and has been enabled to pay two-thirds of the purchase money --which he realized by his energy, frugality, and application to business."
I obtained a great deal of information from this man on the subject of slavery; which he painted exactly in the same colors as those employed by all who have seen or felt it.
I may here state that I was cautious in believing any thing on "hearsay," though the good character of the witness was not always so easy to be ascertained. He came from the western part of Virginia, where, as I have before said, the system is less severe than in the rest of the State. When a master is dissatisfied with his slave, he generally threatens to sell him to the traders; the fate that impends over the victims of this infernal traffic being well known to be of the most dreadful description. "I'll put you in my pocket" is the phrase on these occasions. The horror they feel in moving further to the South, may be seen even in the ballads they are said to sing before the whites. The following is an extract from one of them, in the mouth of an emigrant slave from South Carolina:
"I born in Sout Calina,This threat of selling a discontented or refractory slave to those who are sure to treat him cruelly, is practised in the French colonies, and in fact wherever the system that gives it efficacy exists. M. Tanc, formerly a magistrate at Guadeloupe, (see Revue des Colonies, No. 7, p.17,) says, speaking of one of the planters, that the dread of being sold to him was employed as a motive to obedience throughout the island." Cet homme est si connu par son humeur féroce, que deux ateliers se soot révoltés pour ne pas lui être vendus. Quand on veut effrayer un nègre dont on est mécontent, on le menace de le vendre à cet habitant; eels suffit pour le corriger." Hence it is, perhaps, that the, perpetrators of the most brutal atrocities are protected by slave-owners from punishment: they are "scarecrow for poor nigger."
Fine country ebber seen,
I guine from Sout Calina,
I guine to New Orlean.
Old boss, he discontentum
He take de mare, black Fanny,
He buy a pedlar wagon,
And he boun' for Lousy-Anna.
He boun' for Lousy-Anna,
Old Debble, Lousy-Anna!
"He gone five day in Georgy,
Fine place for egg and ham;
When he get among the Ingens,
And he push for Alabam.
He look 'bout 'pon de prairie,
Where de hear de cotton grow;
But he spirit stilt contrary,
And he must fudder go.
He boun' for Lousy-Anna, &c.
He look at Mrs. Seapy [Mississippi],
Good lady 'nough dey say;
But he tink de State look sleepy,
And so he 'fuse to stay.
When once he leff Calina,
And on he mare, black Fanny,
He take not off he bridle-bit,
Till he get to Lousy-Anna.
'Old debble, Lousy-Anna,
Dat scarecrow for poor nigger,
Where de sugar-cane grow to pine-tree,
And de pine-tree turn to sugar," &c.
The separation that takes place between the objects of a mutual affection --whether wives and husbands, or parents and children, is attended with circumstances of distress and despair, that no one can look upon unmoved, whose heart has not been hardened by familiarity with such scenes. Cases sometimes occur of what may be literally termed "broken hearts "--instant death from the shock of contending emotions. Other facts I became acquainted with must be suppressed from a regard to decency. I have alluded to them in reporting my Conversation with Mr. Rankin at Ripley. It is well known that slavery injures the morals of the master: delicacy has hitherto concealed its effects upon those who are most nearly and tenderly connected with him.
Forged papers of freedom are often obtained from white men, who make it a business to sell them to the slaves. Detection is impossible, as the matter is arranged through the medium of free blacks, who take care never to be seen by any other white man than the scrivener. All other evidence against the latter would be rejected; and every attempt to prevent or punish these practices serves only to increase their number, by binding still closer the tie that connects the offender with his clients. It is, in fact, a regular profession, carried on by men who thus endeavor to extract some profit from the system which has impoverished them --making the oppressor himself heal some of the wounds he has inflicted.
It is to freedom that the slave looks, amidst the toils of the field, and the torments of the lash. This is a refuge from his griefs and his wrong, that he never loses sight of, however difficult of attainment; ---a hope that "quits him but with life". Hence it is, that when he has at last obtained his object, he proves more industrious than many who, born free, have no inducements to exertion; because they are deprived of those motives which the prospect of rising inspires. I could generally distinguish, among the free blacks, those who had inherited, from those who had acquired, their freedom. The latter had a much quicker perception, more energy of character, and a more anxious wish to rise in the world.
The inference that is commonly drawn from the condition of the slave, is extremely fallacious. A little reflection will detect the error; and a slight acquaintance with the emancipated will confirm its condemnation. That labor with wages would be hated by those who have been forced to work without, is a conclusion unwarranted by reason and experience. The facts that seem to support it may be explained by others that are purposely kept out of sight. How far the policy adopted or suggested, of introducing large masses of European labor into our West Indian colonies*,
--for the purpose, or with the effect, of keeping down the rate of wages by which the blacks would and ought to profit, --may be classed among the facts alluded to, I leave to the conscience of every honest man to decide. This importation is worse than the statute of wages; because it is encouraged by those who formerly made its supposed inefficiency a ground for refusing the very treasure which, they now tell us, imperatively calls for it. It is easy to say that the manumitted black will not work; and the most effectual way to prove the assertion is, to lessen the inducement, by lowering the remuneration. Freedom is a mere name, where the buyer of labor is to decide upon its price, on the plea that the seller asks too much: and slavery still continues, if a man is to be punished because he will not submit to be cheated.
* The Jamaica legislature has granted a bounty of £15 per head to laborers from Europe --a measure of which the results are more doubtful than the motives.
There are many persons who object to "immediate" emancipation, from a misconception of its purport. They are not, perhaps, aware that the term is used in contradistinction to "gradual" abolition; and is no more open to the charge of precipitancy, than the other of endless protraction. It simply means, that the slave should be placed under the protection and control of the same government to which other men are subject, and should be transferred immediately from the power of the master --who makes the law which he enforces --to that of the magistrate, who enforces the law which the general legislature makes for the whole community.
The American abolitionists have no intention to follow the example of England. They do not acknowledge a right in any community to compel men, by the terrors of the cart-whip, to toil for the benefit of those who have been already "compensated" for the loss of that power by which they plundered and tortured them. They cannot see why any one who has been exposed, against his consent, to the burning rays of the sun, should have half as much more injustice done him than another who has been sheltered from them, and be compelled to toil six years while the other toils but four. They think there is but little difference between the slave and the apprentice; and that both have the same rights, whether they be "praedial" or "non-praedial". In fine, they would blush for their country, if she boasted of having abolished slavery, while such paragraphs as the following appeared in any journal in any part of her dominions:.
"On Thursday last, when Mr. Jerdan, the special magistrate, was speaking to the apprentices on Golden Grove about taking off the crop, the women, as usual, made a great noise; and after being repeatedly told to be quiet, without effect, Mr. J. ordered one, who seemed most clamorous, to be put in confinement; on which the whole gang declared 'they would go in the dark room too'. When they got near it they rescued her; and, to shew their defiance of the king's magistrate and of the law, they gave three cheers, and continued 'hurraing' for some time. After this, they all went to their work; but as it was necessary to put a proper check upon such rebellious conduct, the magistrate brought thirteen of the police and seven soldiers to the estate that evening. On the following morning the whole of the people were assembled, when nine men were flogged; and two of those, with six women, were sent to the house of correction."-Jamaica Royal Gazette, October 25,1834.
There are others who recommend some modification of the feudal services in lieu of compulsory labor. There is not sufficient analogy, however, between North American bondage and the feudal subjection, to warrant the experiment. The serfs have never been robbed of their property, or deprived of their inheritance: the land they till is the country of their ancestors: their claims are rather the claims of humanity than of justice: their situation is diversified by an acknowledged scale of services to be rendered: their servitude is in some measure political as well as personal, and varies with the varying legislation of the country. As they emerge from their hard lot, they are imperceptibly absorbed into the social mass; and no brand remains upon them, to remind them of their former degradation, and rivet the chains of their former associates. While in a state of vassalage they are human beings, not mere cattle, in the eye of the law: enumerated as "souls", not as fractions of men: every one an integral, not three-fifths of an unit. The American slave, on the other hand, presents a picture the very reverse of the one just described. He possesses not one solitary "incident" on which the superstructure of free action can be legally erected. He bears to his owner the relation of unqualified, unlimited submission. All that his friends demand for him at present is, that he should be to his master what the laborer is to the employer in every free country. His condition is not the result of that natural development which civil society has undergone everywhere, but has arisen from the forced union of barbarism and civilization, --the result of that power which unprincipled knowledge has obtained over helpless ignorance, by subjecting the physical force of one race to the avarice of another more enlightened. All that is required is, that these unfortunate beings may be allowed to employ their own limbs for the promotion of their own happiness; that they may be as free to sell their labor, as their owner is to use it without paying for it; and that wages may take place of the whip. No more is wanted than the application of that principle which stimulates industry by connecting it with profit; and which may be seen in full operation, wherever those who have been used to work "by the day" undertake to work "by the piece ". Let but the slave-owner give signs of the will, and the slave-legislature will find the way, to emancipate the bond from his wrongs, and the master from his fears. The matter would easily be settled, if the oppressor were as ready to grant freedom as the oppressed to receive it; for as a French writer (M. de Passemans) says of the Russian serfs "Un people est toujours mûr pour la liberté; main les hommes qui oppriment le people, ne sont pas toujours mûrs pour la justice et l'humanité."
I had another opportunity, while at Philadelphia, of ascertaining the true state of Liberia. From Mr. Temple, who had been sent thither as a missionary by the western Presbyterian board of Pittsburg, I received an account that fully confirmed what Jones had told me. He had resided there four or five months, and had not long been returned when I saw him. His health, had suffered so much from the effects of the climate, that he was compelled to quit the colony. Of six others, who went out with him, all died, in addition to two of the Methodist and Presbyterian persuasion who had arrived previously. In fact, all the missionaries, who had gone from the United States to that part of Africa, had died, with the exception of one who was then on his way home. The conduct of those colonists who were employed in the interior as religious teachers was highly blameable. They had all become traders, and were carrying on a traffic, the profits of which were at the expense both of the natives and the settlers. They supplied the one with goods at their own prices, as they had obtained them from the other, by imposing upon their ignorance. The whole settlement was one mass of chicanery and corruption, extending even to the aborigines, as far as they had the means of retaliating on the strangers, or of practising the same frauds on one another.
Temple drew the same picture as Jones, of the idleness that had neglected agriculture, and transferred all the hard work of the colony to the natives. Two thirds of the inhabitants at Monrovia were in a state of starvation; no statistical return was made of deaths to the local authorities; and the decent performance of funeral rights was often denied. With the exception of eight or ten recaptured slaves, no conversions had been effected among the native tribes. Temple, though he had suffered so much from the climate, and was fully resolved to have no kind of connexion with the colony, was willing, he said, to go as a missionary into the interior. The Colonization Society, to whom he had communicated his wishes, had taken no public notice of his offer. They were highly offended with him for having given, in his letters from Liberia, such a discouraging representation of what he had witnessed. They urged him to contradict it by the publication of a more favorable statement, alleging as a reason for the request and a motive for compliance, that their funds were exhausted, and little hope of a further supply remained, till the distrust in the public mind was removed. Every artifice that cunning could suggest --every inducement that might be likely to work on a timid or a mercenary disposition, was used to enlist him in their cause. Though worn down by illness, and exposed to all the obloquy which hatred of color can inflict, he firmly refused to participate in the guilt of deceiving his fellow countrymen, in a matter involving their health, their comfort, and their lives.
His description of the emigrants, who went out with him, was truly distressing. Some of them were in a complete state of destitution --without a blanket to lie on, or a change of clothes. They had left many things behind, having been assured that they would get every thing they might want during the passage, and on their arrival. There was one woman without her husband, and a little girl who had neither parents, nor relatives, nor friends to take care of her. On his return, the scene he witnessed was heartrending: the colonists imploring the captain on their knees to take them with him. Though he wanted hands, he was not permitted to give them a passage. A passport was necessary; the Governor was applied to: but he refused one on various pretences, and at last concealed himself to escape importunity. Such is the condition of this "flourishing settlement" --grass growing in the streets of Monrovia --vermin destroying the vegetation --the settlers dying and desponding --unprotected from foreign vessels that intercept their trade with the native tribes --a prey to every sort of abuse, without a possibility of removing the impressions which the suppression of facts and the fabrications of falsehoods have produced at home: --a colony without a mother-country --a horde of semi-civilized helpless beings, without an acknowledged government --a mere band of buccaniers, with no regular commission to make peace or war with the nations around, and without any security against the vengeance or justice of barbarous or civilized communities --a set of intruders on a foreign soil, living under the hybrid and anomalous rule of a pseudo-philanthropic society, in conjunction with a hypocritical congress of States, which distrusts the power it grants and doubts its own privileges --liable to be exterminated by the savages in the neighborhood, or to be dispersed by the first maritime power of any part of the globe, that may call in question, the title-deeds of its possessions, and the charter of its political incorporation.
While the rival societies were carrying on their literary warfare with all the zeal and energy that the importance of the cause could inspire, the mob at New York took up the cudgels in good earnest on one side, and gave convincing proofs that the friends of the Colonization Society are not always the friends of those whose welfare it professes to promote. They attacked the churches and houses of the colored people, and demolished both to an extent of damage, which, according to the lowest estimate, could not be repaired for less than 20,000 dollars. Many of these unfortunate people, who were afterwards acknowledged, even by their enemies, to have been as patient during these outrages as they had been inoffensive before their infliction, were compelled to remove their families and furniture, and seek refuge in flight. For three days the city was completely at the mercy of these marauders, who were each day becoming more formidable by their numbers, and the audacity which the connivance, if not the co-operation, of the more opulent classes, had instilled into their minds.
According to the Courier and Enquirer, there were not above ten or a dozen men and twenty or thirty boys, that committed all the mischief. "It is true," adds this firebrand, "that, whilst the acts of the mob went to shew an abhorrence of the conduct and doctrines of the immediate abolitionists, they were encouraged by the general voice of those present; but the majority, and, indeed, almost all of these were of too respectable a character, to take part themselves in any act of violence." The three days, during which Bristol was given up to fire and plunder, do not reflect more disgrace on the authorities of that place, than the same period of time which the magistrates of New York permitted to elapse, while their fellow citizens were suffering in their persons and property for no offence political or religious. There was no excuse for the outrages that would not have involved the apologist in greater criminality than the perpetrator. The only crime imputed was an excess of charity and liberty, beyond what a superstitious tyrannical people had been accustomed to; and the only motive for violence was the dread of an event, which had been passing before their eyes to a much greater extent, and with more disgusting accompaniments, than the doctrines imputed to their opponents could by any possibility bring about. With all this the chief sufferers were the innocent; and vengeance fell upon those who had done nothing to excite it.
A silly cry of "amalgamation" had exasperated the public mind; and so completely obstructed the perception of truth, that it was believed, not only that the abolitionists wished the two races to mingle their abhorrent and abhorred embrace, but that the instrument of their unhallowed project, was to be the adoption of measures which would necessarily set limits to the dreaded evil, by raising both master and slave from the vices of their condition; while they would rescue the one from violence and the other from a brutal and factitious passion. Never was any nation exhibited in a more contemptible fight! Never did pride, and prejudice, and presumption gain more thorough mastery over the heart and the intellect. It makes one blush for the inhumanity and folly of mankind. We are lost in astonishment to see how little influence either religion or philosophy is able to exercise over men who boast of their attainments in both! How slow is the progress of truth even among the most favored people! We look back to the kindred superstitions of past ages, and we can scarcely believe that civilization could ever have overcome such obstacles to its advancement.
While these disgraceful scenes were going on, the daily press was adding fuel to the flame it had created The Times of New York said, "The spirit which pervaded the throng had been aroused into action by a long and aggravating course of reckless proceedings, contrary to the first principles of public justice." --"In our judgment," said the Albany Argus, "the abolitionists, by their mad measures and insane obstinacy, are endangering the peace and safety of the country. In this view, we regret that the laws have not armed the executive with authority to banish them from the country, upon the same principle that dogs are muzzled in hot weather, and foreign voyagers compelled to undergo quarantine."
The New York American, the editor of which acknowledged to Lewis Tappan that the abolition cause was a just one, thus expressed himself, "They (the rioters) did, indeed, in their proceedings at the Chatham Chapel, shew that they were actuated by a spirit which one cannot help admiring; and their conduct, considering all the circumstances, would be contemplated with more pride than blame by their fellow citizens: but this spirit, so admirable, is a most delicate spirit to deal with; and the conduct, so laudable in one instance, most dangerous as a precedent." A whole book might be filled with similar quotations from the journals of the day.
When at last an effort was made to save the city from pillage and conflagration, the mayor thought fit to act the partisan as well as the magistrate; and to rebuke the philanthropists while he denounced the incendiaries. In the first proclamation issued by this equitable functionary of the first city in the Union, the good people under his care and control were told, that, "however repugnant to the good sense of the community are the doctrines and measures of a few misguided individuals, on the subject which has led to the existing excitement of the public mind, their conduct affords no justification for popular commotion. The laws are sufficient to restrain whatever is subversive of public morals, and to prevent all violation of public decorum. On them alone must the citizen rely; and misjudging and imprudent men, as well as the most temperate and discrete, must be protected in their undoubted right of persons and property." In his second proclamation he said: "I caution, in the most friendly spirit, all those who, to resent an offensive difference of opinion, have allowed themselves to usurp the authority of the laws, against inciting or abetting further commotion:' This was the "pulveris exigui jactus" of Cornelius W. Lawrence, Mayor of New York!
Many estimable and harmless blacks were most cruelly beaten during these disturbances, by men who make it a matter of boast that they have got rid of slavery themselves, and yet are incensed against those who would have the Southern States follow their example: men who vent their anger against the mere accident of an accident, --a participation in the color of an oppressed race. What was the persecution of the Salem witches, of the Jews, of the Protestants, compared to this indiscriminate hatred of a people, whom no peculiarity, religious, intellectual. or political, has separated from their savage tormentors? To call any country, where such abominations are perpetrated, encouraged, and defended, as far as commendation openly bestowed on the spirit from which they sprang, can encourage and defend them, --to call such a country free or enlightened, is an insult to the common sense of mankind.
The rioters, not contented with destroying the furniture of Lewis Tappan's house, threatened to dip his brother Arthur and Dr. Cox in indelible ink. It was generally believed that they had prepared a tub for the purpose, --a method of curing the abolition mania highly applauded by all, who thought the disorder required a strong remedy, --on the Homaeopathic principle --"Take a hair of the animal that has bitten you". This is "going the whole hog" with a vengeance!
Among those who lost their little all on this melancholy occasion, were two colored females, who lived together; one of them the widowed mother of a young man of the name of Smith, who has distinguished himself at Glasgow by his literary acquirements and exemplary conduct; having won one prize, and contended for another, if not for more, and being highly respected by every one who knows him.
When the mayor ordered the rioters to disperse, they shouted out, "Three cheers for James Watson Webb, of the Courier!" The Board of Managers of the Colonization Society of New York published certain resolutions disapproving of these tumultuous assemblages, which they declared "were held without any previous knowledge on their part." Disavowal does not always exonerate. "Qui s'excuse s'accuse". The objects of the Society had been favored with the formal approbation of these disowned coadjutors in the "good cause". The daily papers announced to the public the intention of the Antislavery Society to meet, and pointed out the time and place, though no such intention existed as to either. The Courier and Enquirer is the organ of the planters, who know full well what string to touch, when they would rouse the great "leviathan". "Amalgamation" is the cry in the North; and "the rights of property" in the South. Each is admirably adapted to its purpose; while neither would succeed out of its appropriate sphere. The slave-owners must laugh in their sleeves, to see how easily their dupes are led to do their bidding, whether on the floor of congress or in the streets of New York.
"Admit Missouri as she is into the Union", says a slavebreeder, who is looking out for a new market, to the manufacturer, "and you shall have the tariff." "Mob and muzzle the fanatics", says the slave-owner, surrounded by his tawney brats, to the sensitive Caucasian of the North, "or your women will undergo the fate of the Sabines, and darkness will cover the land." The appeal succeeds in both cases, and the national welfare is sacrificed to mean avarice and meaner pride. Plectuntur Achivi! --"Uncle Sam" pays for all. He struts and talks big, while he is paying a double price for the coat he wears, and is laughed at by the whole world for the care he takes of his skin.
It is supposed that 20,000 persons had collected together, in various parts of the city, for the purposes of mischief and plunder. Of the rioters, 150 were committed to prison for want of bail. Three were subsequently condemned to one year's imprisonment, with hard labor; and five to six months', in the penitentiary.
"We trust", said the Courier, "the immediate abolitionists and amalgamators will see, in the proceedings of the last few days, sufficient proof that the people of New York have determined to prevent the propagation among them of their wicked and absurd doctrines, --much less to permit the practice of them. If we have been instrumental in producing this desirable state of public feeling, we take pride in it." Singular state of public feeling, that is "much less determined" to "permit the practice", than to "prevent the propagation", of certain doctrines! That there should be any determination to permit what was never contemplated, is as remarkable as the resolution to stifle opinions that were never taught. Such are the instigators of an insane populace.
"They praise, and they admire, they know not what,When order and tranquillity were restored by the presence of the military, so little were the inhabitants disposed to investigate the cause, or prevent the recurrence, of the danger from which they had just escaped, that they threw the whole blame upon the Antislavery Society, rather than confess that it originated in the wish they felt to answer argument by force. They urged their opponents to recant their humanity, instead of repenting and reforming themselves. What took place afterwards reflected more dishonor on the nation than all the violence which had marked the exploits of the memorable three days. Charges were laid against the leading members of the emancipation party, that never would have been thought of by men of ordinary candor, and could not have gained credence with any one not prepared to believe the most preposterous accusations. What motives could the Tappans, or Dr. Cox, have had for increasing the number of mulattoes in the United States? Was it likely that Arthur Tappan, a man remarkable for his piety and benevolence, had resolved to marry his daughter, against her consent, to a negro; or, that Dr. Cox, when he said in the pulpit, that we could not be certain what were the form and color of that body in which the Lord of life appeared on earth, meant more than that the distinction of caste had no existence in the divine mind?
And know not whom --but as one leads the other."
Yet it was imputed and believed that these men had entered into a conspiracy against the human species, by promoting marriage between the blacks and whites! The intention was taken for granted; and condemned as a crime! The population of a vast city arose in their might and majesty, to protest against a scheme so wicked and unnatural! and the accused, in deference to this monster of folly, entered a public disclaimer of the unpopular proposition! The advocates of slavery, under which the two races are fast blending their distinctive colors, proclaim their abhorrence of an intermixture which they are striving to perpetuate; while the friends of freedom think fit to disavow a project which the measures they recommend are the least calculated to promote!
The disgusting and indecent discussions with which New York is agitated and inflamed, are extended to the remotest corners of the Union; and the peace of a whole community is disturbed, because the earthly tabernacles of our immortal souls have not been cast in the same mould, and covered with the same clay! Even the Church steps forward to support the State in this emergency; and religion is called in to heal the wounds she ought to have prevented. Bishop Onderdonk invites Peter Williams, whose church had been damaged in the late shock, to come out from the evil thing; and Peter Williams, in obedience to the injunctions of his diocesan, disconnects himself from the managing committee of the Anti-slavery Society, and places himself, by his moderation and Christian feeling, far above the authors and abettors of the outrage which had separated him from his congregation. Whether the Bishop exceeded the limits of his spiritual authority on this occasion, remains for future discussion: but he certainly had no right to mutilate the letter of his subordinate; and, by omitting some of the most important passages, make the writer appear in a character the very reverse of that which he had assumed. He had no right to place an amiable, but timid man, in such a position that he could not vindicate his character without offending either the church of which he is a minister, or the congregation of which he is the pastor. The result has been, that he has sacrificed his personal feelings to what he considers the welfare of his flock; and is now abused by his former friends, because the Episcopalians are too strong or too cunning for him.
I was astonished that the young women would not see, if they could not feel, the indelicacy of discussing the subject of "amalgamation." To found objections to the matrimonial union on physical, not on moral grounds, betrays an impurity of ideas which could never gain admittance into a well regulated mind. Swift says, "The nicest people have the nastiest ideas;" and what I witnessed in America bears out his assertion. The same people, who scrupulously avoid the use of certain innocent words, because they are sometimes applied in an indecent way, were talking, from morning to night, about the sexual passion, with a vehemence of manner, and in a tone of earnestness, utterly abhorrent from the generally received notions of propriety.
I had always thought that there was something dignified and decorous about marriage, --something in the intercourse between the sexes, to raise it above the grovelling appetite of the brute creation, --some little admixture of mental and moral qualities, to charm the imagination, and give play to our love of the gentle virtues; --but, from all I could make out of the innumerable debates I heard on the subject, it appeared to be almost an universal feeling, that the whole matter was to be decided upon by physical considerations alone; that the sole avenue to the heart was through the eye, as it rested on the skin; that the circle, within which the taste and the affections were suffered to range, was circumscribed by boundaries, from which it is exempt when applied to other objects in all their diversified forms and colors; and that, in short, the whole affair was purely sensual, in its most disgusting and degrading grossness. This may, for aught I know, be very true; but the opposite error is at least complimentary to our nature, and may elevate where it fails to enlighten.
What are we to think of a country, where concubinage is considered less criminal than marriage; and where a preacher of the gospel can declare publicly, that neither the victim nor the offspring of an illicit intercourse shall ever be protected against injustice and want by the civil power, or rescued from demoralization by the sanction of religious rites? "The fact", says Dr. Reese, of New York, in a pamphlet on this subject , --"The fact, that no white person would consent to marry a negro, without having previously forfeited all character with the whites; and even profligate sexual intercourse between the races everywhere meets with the execration of the respectable and virtuous among the whites, as the most despicable form of licentiousness, is of itself irrefragable proof that equality in any respect, in this country, is neither practicable nor desirable." He goes on to say, "Amalgamation may and does exist among the most degraded of the species: but Americans" --(in the name of the Prophet!) --"will never yield the sanction of law and religion to an equality incongruous and unnatural."
The reverend author, it may be observed, asserts, in the one place, that equality cannot exist, because the Americans will not sanction it; and, in the other, that the Americans will not sanction it, although it does exist. The holy man turns away his face from an "incongruous" equality, because it is "impracticable". Silly as the objection to abolition is, from its supposed tendency to amalgamation, one feels at a loss how to answer it properly: for whether, as an abolitionist, you profess to prevent, or promote an intermixture, you give up the very principle for which you are contending; and admit the inequality, while you deny its existence. Why, indeed, should you trouble yourself about the matter? Indifference is the natural state of mind in contemplating a contingency in which you can have no interest, and ought to have no influence.
In the Philadelphia Directory, the names of the colored inhabitants have a cross prefixed to them. In the Boston Guide you may hunt a long time for them in vain: they are placed at the end of the book by themselves. No place is too high or too low to shelter them from insult. If the European blood were really purer than the African, there ought to be a graduated scale of dishonor corresponding to the degrees of intermixture, and apportioning to every tint, whether full or fading, its appropriate place in public estimation. Such is, or was, the rule in other countries, where human rights were invaded or curtailed. But here the low-minded, vulgar pride of the whites defeats its own object, and tumbles into the ludicrous by leaping at the sublime. How can one fluid be superior in quality to another, when the smallest quantity of the latter can totally destroy its virtues? If Folly ever took counsel of Common Sense, she would not give such an advantage to her adversary. She would tremble for herself, when she saw every feather, plucked from her cap, turned against her, shorn of its beauty, and disfigured by the very thing she abominates.
It appears, by an act of the Maryland legislature, passed in 1663, that there was less sensitiveness on this point formerly than at present. The second section says, "Forasmuch as divers free-born English women, forgetful of their free condition, and to the disgrace of our nation, do intermarry with negro slaves; by which also divers suits may arise, touching the issue of such women, and a great damage doth befall the master of such negroes; for preservation whereof, &c., be it enacted, that whatsoever free-born woman shall intermarry with any slave, from and after the last day of this present assembly, shall serve the master of such slave during the life of her husband; and that all the issue of such freeborn women so married shall be slaves, as their fathers were." The planters took advantage of this law, to compel those white women they had bought as redemptioners to marry their slaves, for the purpose of adding the wives and the children to their live-stock.
Among the numerous colored citizens, whose respectability is "the glory and the shame" of Philadelphia, is one who is well known throughout the Union for the wealth he possesses, and the probity and urbanity which mark his character, in public and private life. The history of James Forten, such as I had it from his own lips, while sitting at his hospitable board, is somewhat remarkable. He is descended from a family that has resided in Pennsylvania 170 years; and does not, as far as he has been able to ascertain, number one slave among its members. He himself took an active part in the revolutionary war, and fell into the hands of the enemy, while serving in the Royal Louis, under the father of the celebrated Decatur. It was in 1780 that this vessel was captured by the Amphion, commanded by Sir John Beazley. Sir John's son, who was then a midshipman, about the same age with young Forten, was one day playing at marbles on the deck, when the latter, who had been employed to pick them up, exhibited such superior skill, after the game was over, in "knuckling down" and hitting the object aimed at, that the young Englishman was delighted with him. The acquaintance soon ripened into a sort of intimacy; and his generous friend offered, if he would accompany him to England, to provide for his education, and assist him in procuring some respectable occupation. The young Africo-American, however, preferred serving his country, small as the chance was that he would ever recover his liberty, to the brilliant career thus placed before him; and he was ultimately transferred to the prison-ship, the old Jersey, of sixty-four guns, then lying in the East river, where the New York navy-yard now is. Sir John's son was so affected at parting, that he shed tears; and having obtained from his father a protection for him against enlistment, saved him from the wretched fate which befell many of his brethren, who were carried by their captors to the West Indies, and sold there as slaves. He remained in confinement seven months, till he was sent home in exchange. During the period of his detention, no less than 3500 prisoners fell victims to an epidemic, which the crowded state of the vessel occasioned.The average number on board was 1500. When the war was over, Forten went to London, where he remained a year; and, on his return to his native land, obtained employment in the sail-loft which is now his own property, and which has witnessed his industry and enterprise for upwards of forty-six years. In his business, as a sail-maker, he is generally considered to stand above competition.
No citizen ought to be more honored in his own country than James Forten, if to be instrumental in saving human life give a title to respect. No less than twelve fellow creatures owe their existence to him; for that is the number of persons he has saved with his own hands from drowning --I believe they were all whites. That circumstance, however, would have had no influence upon his humanity. His work-shop being on the banks of the river, he has frequent opportunity of exercising his philanthropy at the risk of his life. There was hanging up in his sitting-room, in a gilt frame, an honorable testimony to his successful efforts in rescuing four men from a watery grave. This heir-loom, for which he would not take a thousand dollars, was presented to him, in 1821, by the Humane Society of Philadelphia. It consists of an engraving, in which is represented the rescue of a female from the waves, and a written attestation, signed by the President and Secretary, with the dates of the cases, which the Society thus thought deserving of its "honorary certificate."
Mr. Forten, while I was in the city; gave a strong proof of his disregard for self-interest, in a case where the happiness of his fellow-man was concerned. He refused a commission to supply a ship in the harbour with sails, because it had been employed in the slave-trade, and was likely to be engaged again in the same abominable traffic. He is now a wealthy man; and has given his family, consisting of eight children, an excellent education, adapted to the fortunes they will one day have, and (I hope I may add) to the station they will one day fill: --for the time cannot be distant, when virtues and accomplishments, that would be respected in every other part of the world, will raise their possessors in America above the insults and vexations of the Pariah State.
I was anxious to see the water-works at Fair Mount, of which I had heard so much; and my visit was productive of great pleasure to me from the beautiful scenery in the midst of which they are placed, and the ingenuity displayed in supplying a populous city with the means of providing for its health, its cleanliness, and its security against fire. The Schuylkill, on the banks of which the buildings are placed, is raised twelve feet at low tide above its natural level by means of a dam; and the power thus obtained, acting on a series of wheels, puts into motion a corresponding number of double horizontal forcing pumps, and throws up into two basins that are elevated ninety-six feet above the river, more than a sufficient quantity of water to meet any demand that may be made upon it by the population of the city below. There are at present five pumps of sixteen and a half inches diameter each; and another is about to be laid down. Each throws up 1000 gallons of water in a minute; and all are in operation except at high tide, when a cessation, averaging two hours, takes place.
Nothing can surpass this contrivance in beautiful simplicity of principle. The waters of the Schuylkill, in seeking, through the pipes from the reservoir, the level to which they have raised themselves by their own weight, find their way into every house, that chooses to pay for the accommodation. During the summer about four and a half millions of gallons are used by the city in the course of twenty-four hours. The pipes, already laid down, exclusive of the collateral branches introduced for private purposes, are eighty-three miles in extent. Every family pays five dollars yearly for the supply its domestic wants may require, and three for the additional privilege of a bath. The net annual revenue derived from the water rents exceeds 30,000 dollars. The cost of these admirable and useful works, which have been in operation abort twelve years, was, in 1830, 432,512 dollars; which sum, added to the previous expenditure occasioned by the steam engines and apparatus before employed, amounted to 1,443,585 dollars. It is supposed that the Corporation, under whose control it is, will in a short time derive from the establishment a revenue of 100,000 dollars a year. Great difficulties were experienced in carrying the plan suggested into effect, from the opposition, which the fear of incurring an unprofitable expense, created against it in the public mind; and the resolution to complete the design was carried, in Common Council, by a majority of one only.
The various districts that enjoy their own charters, and are not incorporated with the city, refused to contribute their share towards its completion, and are, in consequence, charged higher prices for the benefit they derive from it, than those who cooperated with their money, and have a share in electing the officers entrusted with its management. The great utility of these works was seen during the oppressive heats of last year. While twenty-five persons died in New York from the effects of drinking cold water from the springs, there were but three cases of the same kind in Philadelphia, where the fluid was at a higher temperature from its previous exposure to the sun and air.
Of the public institutions I visited at Philadelphia, one afforded me a higher gratification than the hospital and the penitentiary; --practical testimonies to the deep interest felt by its inhabitants, in the misfortunes and crimes of their fellow-men, and to the successful exertions they have made in alleviating the are, and reforming the other.
The Pennsylvania hospital, to which I was conducted by one of the physicians, (Dr. Parrish, jun.,) is a handsome building, presenting, with the wings and the principal edifice, a front of 281 feet. The centre is appropriated to the female patients; the western wing to the insane; and the eastern to the men; with the addition of a ward for surgical cases. The spacious garden that surrounds it, with its venerable trees, its well-trimmed parterres, and its neat walks, gives an air of cheerfulness and salubrity to the establishment, with which the cleanliness of the apartments within, and the well-contrived arrangegents throughout, for light and ventilation, and the comfort of the inmates, fully correspond. Below is a medical library; while the room opposite is occupied by a dispensary. The former is kept up, as it was originally endowed, by the fees which the students pay for the instruction they receive from the physicians, who not only attend the institution gratuitously, but thus make their disinterested charity contribute to the improvement of their profession; setting an example of liberality which is more likely to find admirers than imitators elsewhere. The establishment is under the care of a Board of Managers who are chosen annually by the contributors, and who are invested with the power of appointing the officers and servants. With them also rests the election, annually, of the medical and surgical attendants, the number of each being three, as well as two for the lying-in department; --a regulation that seems less liable to abuse, than where the governors have votes in proportion to their subscriptions, and where the success of a candidate for office depends more on his skill in canvassing than his professional qualifications. It is generally found that the responsibility of an improper choice is in an inverse ratio to the number among whom it is shared; while those who are most likely to practise intrigue or corruption themselves, are least likely to overlook it in others.
Of 983 patients admitted in 1833, 500 were foreigners. This proportion is nearly the same with that between the "pay" patients and the "poor" patients; as, out of 31,641, (the total number admitted from 1752, the year of its establishment, to 1834,) 16,469 were maintained out of the funds of the hospital.
The first object of the institution is, the accommodation of the poor. Those who can afford it pay from three to six dollars a-week. The receipts from this source form part of the revenue of the establishment; admittance to which, on these terms, must be obtained under the guarantee of some respectable resident of the city. There were 235 patients in the house in April 1834. The number of insane was 120, of both sexes. The treatment they receive is mild and conciliatory; coercion being rarely used, and then with great precaution and prudence. They have a garden for recreation, but no ground for work. A room is set apart for manual labor; but it did not appear to afford occupation or diversion to many. I was informed by the attendant, that the proportion of insane among the society of Friends was supposed to be greater than in other sects. This peculiarity has been found, or said, to prevail in England, and has been attributed to the custom of confining matrimonial connexions within their own society. In the rules of discipline for the American Quakers, "Friends are advised to be very cautious in changing their places of residence, it having been observed that the dissolving of old, and the forming of new; connexions, have, in many instances, been attended with effects prejudicial to a growth in the truth and service thereof, both in the heads and younger branches of families." He was of opinion, that intemperance is not often the cause of mental aberration. A contrary belief is generally entertained. The Scotch seem to take it for granted; for they call a drunkard by the same name that the French bestow upon a madman. They say he is "fou".
There is one feature observable in almost every case of insanity, that the patient is more irritated by the presence of a relative than by that of any other person. Care is taken to limit or exclude the visits of such persons; as experience has shewn that the disorder is usually exasperated by them. This is easily accounted for, --not by the vulgar notion, that the affections are influenced by the imagination, and the objects most beloved and trusted become the most hated and suspected, --but because the sympathy which is sought for in the early stages, is refused by those who are expected to afford it, and are most able to exercise it beneficially: because the complaints of the patient are met with ridicule or indifference: because the daily intercourse, that might soothe and solace, is employed to upbraid and annoy: because the forbearance, which the rules of courtesy impose upon strangers, is little practised where habits of familiarity have blinded the parent or the brother to the symptoms of a disordered mind, or have rendered him insensible to ailments which impatience and despair are gradually converting into confirmed mania. The querulousness that accompanies excess of suffering, deadens the sympathy of the spectator, who in his turn affects incredulity, as an excuse for indifference, and thus adds to the sense of pain the bitter feeling of injustice and unkindness. Hence, perhaps, it is, that dyspeptics often recover when removed from home.
To leave his home is recommended to the hypochondriac by the very persons who send its inmates to comfort him when he is in confinement. While he is nervous --i.e. while he is but half insane --he is to quit his family and get rid of all the associations that are connected with it; and, when he is altogether deprived of reason, he is to be reminded of them by the presence of those whose ignorance or inattention has been the chief cause of his irritation and wretchedness. If we took as much care of our children as of our dogs and horses, fretfulness would be ascribed to the right cause, and the bodily health would be restored by the same hand that now converts indisposition into chronic disorder, and drives the patient through the various stages of suspicion and resentment, into insanity. Who ever conversed with a dyspeptic that he did not perceive, in the narrative of his griefs and grievances, the marks of alienated affection, and the bitter remembrance of unkindness, real or imaginary, received from his family.
The popular prejudice against dissection is less prevalent in Philadelphia than probably in any other city in the Union. Subjects can easily be obtained for about eight dollars each, by means of the public institutions, from which the bodies of those who die unclaimed, may be had through a channel that is well understood by the parties interested, and need not be more particularly described. The surgical schools at New York and Boston are occasionally supplied from this quarter. But two cases of exhumation have been publicly known for the last seven years; and they were both the acts of professional men, who were anxious to get possession of bodies that had been committed to the grave from the effects of some peculiar disease.
The Penitentiary at Cherry Hill I visited, in company with two Canadians, who had been commissioned by the government of the Lower Province to inspect some of the prisons in the United States. The arrangements of this establishment are made upon the most simple principles; the corridors, into which the cells open, radiating, to the number of seven, from a common centre; and the discipline to which their inmates are subjected, having unity of design for its object. As each convict is to be completely separated from the rest, sufficient room is allowed him both for work and exercise. The former is considered as an indulgence, the privation or suspension of which is imposed as a punishment for insubordination. As the county, however, by which the prisoner is sent to the penitentiary, is, in order to exclude idle or impotent persons, debited with his board at the rate of twenty cents per day, including all expenses, he must perform a proportionate quantity of work, or be contented with a diet of bread eight ounces per day) and water.
"Attached to every cell on the ground floor is a small yard, where exercise is allowed for one hour in the day; the summit of the pavilion in the centre enabling the warden, or any one of the keepers, to see that the indulgence is not abused. The rooms are well ventilated, and supplied with water from the Fair Mount works, by means of pipes. Each is provided with a bible and religious tracts. At stated times divine service is performed in such a manner, that it can be heard along the corridor through the open doors of the cells; while a curtain that traverses the passage, prevents the convicts from seeing their opposite neighbors. Occasional visits are also paid by ministers, as opportunity offers.
As no remission of the sentence is granted for good behavior, no hope is entertained or encouraged of shortening the term of confinement by increased assiduity to work, or a display of devotion and reformation. Time is giver for reflection: but no bounty is offered to hypocrisy.
If the duration of imprisonment were to depend upon conduct, the rule should be applied both ways. Confinement should be lengthened to the refractory, whose bad actions cannot have good motives, while it is shortened to the obedient whose good actions may have bad motives. Reformation should be suggested and rewarded by conscience alone. Both its purity and its permanence will be affected by any inducement or expectation from other sources. Professions of amendment, like professions of faith, are less to be relied on in proportion to the worldly advantages they bring with them. "La sauce vaut mieux que le Poisson."
Of all those who have completed their term of confinement in this prison since the year 1822, but three have been recommitted for crime ; and of these two were old offenders, and were sent to other establishments. A very fallacious test, however, is afforded by this fact of the state of crime in a community under the jurisdiction of independent governments. There are altogether 560 cells. The whole, however, is not finished. There were several workmen employed while we were there. The number under confinement was 180. Three of the corridors have one story only --the others have two; and, as there is no yard attached to the cells above, they are generally occupied by prisoners who have been sentenced for short terms, or whose work is light. While there are so many spare cells, two might be allotted for each convict, who would thus be able to work in the one and sleep in the other, and enjoy the advantages which a change of objects as well as of air would thus afford. No injury, however, to health has occurred to those in the upper story for want of a yard in the open air.
Out of the whole number (averaging 124) but one death had occurred during the past year. There was not one in the infirmary at the time of our visit. The mean number of deaths in the city for ten years was, annually, one in 42.3, according to Emerson's Medical Statistics.
No chains, or whips, or armed guards are employed. It is on the mind alone that the discipline employed operates; and its instruments are all those considerations which can be suggested by kindness, and may work on the conscience. The prisoner can see nothing vindictive in the sentence that condemns him, and nothing suspicious in the system that confines him. Those who approach him, exhibit neither fear nor secrecy. His confidence is gradually won by the sympathy expressed for him; and the better part of his nature has room to develop itself --while the indulgence of his evil propensities would carry its own punishment with it, without the possibility of inflicting pain or gratifying resentment. Two or three, with whom I was left alone, assured me that they were well treated and contented; that they had sufficient to eat, and were in good health; and that they trusted the leisure they had for repentance would conduce to their welfare both here and hereafter. One of them said he should return to his former place of abode, where the crime he had committed was known, that the consciousness of being watched might be an additional motive to good conduct. As the offence was of a minor nature, he hoped he should regain the good opinion of his neighbors, and wipe away the remembrance of his guilt by an honest and virtuous life. All of them attributed their misconduct to habits of drinking, which had led them into bad company; where gambling --a vice that seems to be on the increase, accelerated their ruin. Intemperance, they said, made a man indifferent to character.
They spoke in the highest terms of Mr. Wood, the Warden, whose mild and kind manner had removed from their minds those angry feelings which had been engendered by a residence in other prisons, where mutual corruption is suffered to go on to a frightful extent.
Mr. Wood sometimes sends meat to the sick convicts from his own table. It is much to be feared that party intrigue, which has driven so many good men in this country from the public service, will not much longer permit these well-merited eulogies to be heard within the walls of the Cherry Hill penitentiary.
As it is impossible for the prisoners to hold any kind of intercourse with one another, they are neither diverted from thoughts of repentance by the hope of conspiring together, nor deterred from honest industry, on their release, by the fear of recognition. If this good effect alone resulted from the system pursued here, its superiority to the Auburn plan would be at once apparent.
Amendment of life is no easy matter to a man, whose good resolutions are thwarted by the solicitations of his former associates in iniquity, and their threats to expose him as a "jail-bird " if he refuses compliance.
Much of the success that has attended the "Philadelphia system," may be traced to this suppression of the name. The convict feels, on his discharge, that he is unknown; that the tie which bound him to his fellowman is not entirely broken by scorn or distrust: and that he may yet be a respectable and useful member of society. A contrary sentiment in the French convicts who are subject, when released from prison, to the surveillance of the police, has been productive of great evil. It is difficult for those, who have undergone the reformative process, according to the Auburn plan, to obtain employment or escape the discouragements that await them. While it is deemed disgraceful to work or associate with a reformed criminal, the progress of social improvement must be retarded. With desperate offenders, and an unforgiving world, how is crime to be arrested in its career? Yet where is he who might say with Boerhaave, --"That man, who is going to his execution, is perhaps less guilty in the sight of God than I."
At Singsing the chief object seems to be, to extract the greatest quantity of labor out of its unfortunate inmates and to swell the profits above the expenditure. At Cherry-hill the physical exertion of the prisoner for the benefit of the community are less attended to than his moral efforts for his own. The good of the individual is the good of society; but it may well be questioned whether the pecuniary interest of the latter may not be promoted at the expense of the former; whether the list of criminals is not enlarged with the revenue derived from their compulsory labor. The cat-o'-nine-tails is an equivocal preventive of crime. The recollection of its infliction, for transgressing an arbitrary rule, serves but as an incentive to a breach of moral duty. The enforcement of silence by stripes, prepares the mind for any delinquency that want or vice may whisper. The whipped convict returns to a scornful world with the scars of his dishonor on his person, and the determination to be avenged in his heart. He has lost all feeling of self-respect; and his only security against crime is his dread of detection.
At the Philadelphia penitentiary any inclination, after the first few days, to communicate with the occupants of the adjoining cells, is likely to be given up, except in very bad cases; the discovery being soon made, that the interests of all are better promoted by concealment and privacy. At their discharge, the convicts receive four dollars each, to provide for their immediate wants. Their names are unknown to the officers of the establishment; as they are designated in the register, on their entrance, by numbers, which with the letter indicating the gallery, are placed over the dormitories. The manufactures carried on in the prison are shoe-making, iron-work, &c. The proceeds are not disposed of by contract, but are sold on the spot to any one who is disposed to purchase them; the price being regulated by the competition of the buyers, so as to be pretty much on a level with the market value. No complaint has been made on this head by the mechanics, as in the State of New York, where the ignorant prejudices of the working classes are likely to obstruct, if not to destroy, the operation of a system which depends for its success on the quantity of goods it sells.
When the French Commissioners (Messrs. de Tocqueville and de Beaumont) visited this place, they told Mr. Wood, that they should have limited their inquiries to the first inspection, had they not been permitted, and even solicited, to view the cells and converse alone with the convicts. Having been refused this indulgence at Singsing, they felt little anxiety to prosecute an investigation, which could have led to few practical results under similar restrictions.
An attempt was once made to bribe the physician, by the father of one of the prisoners. He had been condemned for forgery; and a thousand dollars were offered for a certificate, declaring that his life would be endangered by the confinement. The fact became known on the refusal of the bribe.
Admirable as this system appears to be, it may be doubted whether the principle, on which it is founded, would not require considerable modifications, when applied to an old country; where the restraining influences of self-respect have been weakened by the habit, or the example, of receiving parish relief; where liberty, with potatoes and water, has less charms than incarceration with bread and meat; and where total solitude and seclusion would be thought by many a relief from sorrow and suffering. A different treatment must be adopted, according as the disease has been brought on by vice or by poverty: and the chances of a relapse must mainly depend upon the patient's constitution, and the atmosphere he breathes.
I should have observed, that five days are found sufficient to reduce the most refractory to obedience, by the discipline generally employed. To active minds, solitary confinement, without work, is found to be more irksome with light than without it.
This institution is popular with the legislature, who are disposed to grant whatever may be required for its completion. 200,000 dollars were expended before a cell was made. Each of these cost 500, on an average, including water-pipes, &c. There will be sufficient accommodation for 586 convicts, when the whole is finished. There are ten acres within the walls, and three outside, belonging to the establishment.
It is supposed that the whole cost will be half a million of dollars.
While I was at the penitentiary, one of the discharged convicts called to pay Mr. Wood part of some money (five dollars) he had lent him, on his leaving the prison, three weeks previously. Another had borrowed ten dollars on a similar occasion; and the warden had no doubt he would discharge the obligation, as soon as he could. He was gone to Cincinnati. I conversed alone with eight of the colored prisoners. The greater part had fallen into crime through want and ignorance. Two of them had taken no more than was necessary to satisfy the exigencies of the moment. One had been convicted of receiving goods, knowing them to have been stolen. His account was, that he had been requested by some strangers, to assist in carrying a bundle. He owned he had committed petty depredations occasionally; so that he was condemned, in all probability, in consequence of his bad character. He seemed fully aware of this, and promised, without any canting professions, to amend his life. He was a mere boy, deprived of parental care --his mother being dead, and his father at a distance. Another had been sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for an offence, which any unprincipled woman might fasten on any man. He declared his innocence, and ascribed his misfortune to a spirit of revenge in his master's wife, whose bad character he had exposed. If it was true, as he asserted, that his master owed him 150 dollars for work, a better reason might be found for the charge. It is hardly probable, however, that the jury would come, unbiassed by prejudice, to the examination of a question, involving considerations peculiarly odious to their feelings. Mr. Wood, who had known him from a boy, spoke very favorably of his character. One young man had been committed for cutting and stabbing, when detected in an attempt to steal. He seemed an old offender, and a bad subject. One, an elderly man, had passed a considerable part of his life in different gaols. He had, however, had "a call," and was sure he should be preserved in future from temptation. Though he stuttered very much, he had made up his mind to turn preacher, on his discharge. He seemed to think the Lord would open his mouth. Whatever the amount of his own faith might be, the keepers had but little in his sincerity. Another of these convicts, who had been a slave, declared that he had been so much insulted in the North, that he would rather return to his former condition, than again undergo so many mortifications. Another was a runaway slave, who had stolen a suit of clothes in the depth of winter, to supply the place of the worn-out garments he had on at the time.
Such is the history
of these cases, as they presented themselves indiscriminately to my inquiries.
Most of them were, I believe, as they were narrated. One or two, the keeper,
to whom I repeated what had been told me, declared to be falsely stated.
In general, however, there was an air of candor and sincerity about the
men, that could not well have been assumed. At least it was unaccompanied
with canting or professions. One of them corrected me when I said to him
--"This, then, is your second offence." "No, Sir!" was his reply --"it
is my third." The keepers spoke well of them. The colored prisoners, he
told me, were generally quiet and well-behaved. From what I saw on this
occasion, I am led to believe that want of work, ignorance, and the difficulty
of finding unprejudiced witnesses and juries, are the chief causes that
have led so many of this unfortunate race to the prisons and penitentiaries
of the country. I would not draw a hasty or sweeping conclusion from the
few isolated facts thus brought under my notice: but I would submit it
to the consideration of any candid man, whether it is just to ascribe any
given circumstance to a physical peculiarity, when the common motives that
actuate human beings are sufficient to account for it.