Plunder and Murder of the Blacks at Philadelphia. --Their Forbearance and Resignation. --How to prevent Riots. --Advice to the Victims. --Results to be seen at Columbia. --John Randolph's Last Moments. --His Will disputed.
ON the 26th, I went to Philadelphia, where I made inquiries into the causes of those riots, that had taken place in the city during my absence. They were similar, in their origin and objects, to what had previously occurred at New York; and were clearly the result of a preconcerted organized plan --the end aimed at, being the expulsion of the blacks; and the plot embracing many, whose rank in society would secure concealment, while it gave facilities to the conspiracy.
I will give the facts, as far as I was enabled to ascertain them, in the exact order in which they occurred. On the 14th of July, the Pennsylvania Enquirer and Courier, speaking of the New York riots, made use of the following words: "With regard to Philadelphia, we have not the slightest apprehension; for no public journalist in this city would, under existing circumstances, give place to a call for a meeting of abolitionists: and we feel assured that the proper authorities will be fully sustained by the community in preventing, by force if necessary, the circulation of any hand-bills having reference to an abolition meeting."
On the 29th, the same paper had the following paragraph. "We perceive that the Journal of Commerce has charged the Courier and Enquirer and Commercial Advertiser*
with provoking the riots. This charge is in a certain sense true; but we, nevertheless, rather approve than disapprove of the course pursued by those journals, when we consider the circumstances. The papers, alluded to, observing the movements of the fanatics, saw that unless they were indignantly checked by the people, --unless some strong and decided demonstration of public feeling was made against them, the people of the South would take the alarm, and a disruption of the Union be the result. Hence it became the object --the commendable object --of the presses alluded to, to obtain a decided expression of sentiment; and, in order to obtain it, they perhaps went too far, appealed too warmly to public opinion and feelings. At all events they accomplished their object. A popular demonstration upon the subject of amalgamation was given --a demonstration that the fanatics are not likely soon to forget; and, though our contemporaries in New York cannot but regret the excesses committed by the mob, --cannot but deprecate the recurrence of any similar scenes, and more the necessity for them, still they must feel conscious of having discharged a duty --of having stepped between a band of wild and erring enthusiasts, who were rapidly urging on a civil revolution, or a dissolution of this beautiful Union." After these hints followed a direct appeal to the ferocious passions of the populace; and the next day the rabble, who had thus been tutored and prepared, rushed upon their prey with the savage delight of well-trained blood-hounds, and the hope of plenary indulgence and perfect impunity.
* These are all New York papers.
The riots took place on the 12th of August; on the 11th the following communication appeared in the Commercial Herald: "Among the evils to which our good citizens are subjected, there is none more universally complained of, than the conduct of the black porters who infest our markets*;
it being the business of these colored gentlemen, for the most part, to market for the public-houses. Is there no way, Mr. Editor, in which the persons of our citizens can be protected from their assaults? Is them no way in which the rudeness and violence of these ruffians can be prevented? If not, it is high time for the ladies at least to retire, and give up the privilege of marketing to those with whom might is right?"
* Forty years ago a colored man appeared, for the first time, as a carman at Philadelphia. Great jealousy was excited among that class of men; and every expedient was tried to get rid of a competitor whose success would draw others into the business. Threats and insults were followed by a report that he had been detected in stealing. The Quakers came forward to to support him. They inquired into the grounds of the charge, and published its refutation. Their patronage maintained him in his situation, and encouraged others to follow his example. There are now plenty of them thus employed. At New York, a license cannot be obtained for them; and a black carman in that city is as rare as a black swan. This little anecdote ought to call up a blush on the cheek of many a "Friend." It tells him, in language as plain as his garb, that he might have protected these unfortunate men from rapine and murder, if he had acted in conformity to the practice of his forefathers, and his own professions.
It is evident from
this diabolical calumny, that the attack, which followed next day, was
preconcerted The colored porters are remarkable every where for their civility.
It would be easy to magnify any accident, that might happen from a man
carrying a heavy load through a crowded market, into an intentional insult;
and thousands would be ready to give credit and circulation to the complaint. All
doubt upon the subject will be removed by reference to what occurred on
the night of the ninth. One of Mr. Forten's sons, a boy about fifteen years
of age, who had been sent out on an errand, was attacked, on his return,
about nine o'clock, by a gang of fifty or sixty young men in blue jackets
and trowsers, and low-crowned straw hats. They were armed with cudgels,
which they made use of to strike him as he lay stunned by a blow he had
received from one of them. Their eagerness to get at him enabled him to
escape; as their sticks crossed one another in the confusion, and he ran
neighbor --a white man, --followed the gang, out of regard for the lad's
father, and was present when they were dismissed in an adjoining street
by their leader. They were thanked for their services, and informed that
they were to meet on the same spot, and at the same time on the 11th, the
next day being Sunday. "We will then," he exclaimed, "attack the niggers." On
the Monday, Mr. Forten communicated what had passed to the mayor, who sent
a police force to the place of rendezvous, and took seven of the gang into
custody: one of whom had unguardedly displayed a bludgeon, vowing vengeance
against the blacks. The rest made their escape. The culprits were bound
over to keep the peace, in recognizances of 300 dollars each.
The city was thus prepared against the meditated assault; and the outrages were confined to the districts out of the mayor's jurisdiction. Having however, obtained authority from the sheriff, the chief officer of the city proceeded to the scene of action with constables, rushed into the mob with great courage, and dispersed the rioters, having taken several prisoners. Mr. Forten's life was threatened; and both the mayor and the sheriff, by whom he is most deservedly respected, promised to protect him. His house was guarded by a horse patrol, who continued in their rounds to pass it at short intervals; and the posse comitatus, amounting to 5000 men, well armed, were called out, as the municipal authorities were determined to put down the disturbances at once in their district, by shooting the offenders, should they persevere in their nefarious proceedings. Had not these energetic measures been timely taken, the whole city might have been a prey to thieves and vagabonds.
An Irishman, of the name of Hogan, behaved most nobly on this occasion. Having heard that Mr. Forten's house was likely to be attacked, he offered his services to defend it. "Whoever," said he, "would enter at this door, to injure you or your family, my friend, must pass over my dead body." These facts I had from Mr. Forten himself. Another person, --a benevolent Quaker, --whom the blacks, as one of them told me, almost adore for his kindness to them, related to me what he had himself witnessed. He went among the mob, and listened to their menaces, and imprecations against the colored people. The leader, with whom he entered into conversation, (he had not his Quaker dress on,) producing a long knife he had concealed in his bosom, swore he would bury it in the heart's blood of the first black he could get at. The objects of their blind fury, determined to defend themselves with what weapons they could find, had taken refuge, to the number of fifty or sixty, in a building that belongs to them, and is known by the name of Benezet Hall. The staff officers of the besieging army lay concealed in an alley close by, where they consulted together, and issued their orders, or encouraged the troop to "march forward;" --shouts, that had but little effect, as the party to whom they were addressed moved to and fro in one mass, propelled by those behind, and receding as their fears increased with their proximity to the enemy. The "friend" alluded to succeeded at last in persuading the besieged to re-enter the house, from which they had sallied out; and, with the assistance of a constable, they made their escape by a back-way. The mayor was present, and harangued both sides, exhorting the besieged to remain passive, and not to exhibit any marks of opposition to the other, on pain of forfeiting the chance they had of his protection. This communication was loudly cheered by the rioters: --one of whom called out, "D__n that nigger --see how he insults us! --he is smoking a cigar." My informant, who had marked one of the leaders, delivered him over to a constable; and they proceeded with him to a magistrate. But the latter declined acting. Other cases occurred, where both magistrates and constables shrunk from their duty. Three constables declared before two magistrates, after the Quaker had retired, that they would not protect his house, if it were attacked or set on fire The authority of the law, in fact, was gone; and the peace of the community was at the mercy of a ferocious rabble.
When subscriptions were solicited, after a temporary calm had taken place, to repair the damages done by this frightful whirlwind, some of the citizens refused to give anything for such an object; observing, that they should have no objection to contribute something, if a fund were raised to send the blacks out of the country --thus openly avowing a participation in that brutal antipathy, which had occasioned the loss both of property and of life. Two at least were killed. One of them was so severely beaten, that he was found at the back of his house covered with blood --he was taken insensible to the hospital, where he soon after expired. The other was drowned in attempting to cross the river with his child. He was seized with cramp or with fear, and had but just time to deliver the infant into the hands of his wife, who was standing on the bank, when he sank beneath the water, and yielded to a death less cruel than the destiny which awaits so many of his race. The blood of the former victim I saw on the ground where he fell. Near the spot stood a tub, into which a woman put her infant children, while she concealed herself behind it from her pursuers, who were hunting for her in the yard. She declared afterwards that the tub, on which she kept her eyes fixed, moved convulsively, as the babes within trembled with fear. Not a cry or a sound issued from it. She had cautioned them to be quiet; and they lay silent as their mangled neighbor.
The furniture of one of the houses I visited was broken to pieces. Chairs, looking-glasses, tables --nothing was spared. The owner escaped almost by miracle, leaving his wife and child up stairs.
The rioters were under the command of a leader, and were searching for plunder; as the master of the house was known to have money upon the premises. He had just built a house, and one reason for attacking it was, that he had employed colored men. Another house I saw, had every thing --windows, staircase, bedsteads, doors --demolished. The proprietor concealed himself in the chimney. His wife was beaten. They had thirty dollars stolen from them. It was a good substantial house.
The mob consisted chiefly of young men --many of them tradesmen. One of the sufferers, a man of wealth and great respectability, was told afterwards by a white, that he would not have been molested, if he had not, by refusing to go to Liberia, prevented others from leaving the country.
I was astonished to meet with so much patience and resignation, under such a series of injuries --equally unexpected and undeserved. Several of these kind-hearted creatures observed to me, that what had happened was designed by the Almighty for their good; as it had brought out friends whom they had never seen before. It appeared, from all I could learn, during two or three visits I paid to the sufferers, that the Irish laborers were actively employed in this vile conspiracy against a people of whom they were jealous, because they were more industrious, orderly, and obliging than themselves. They were but instruments, however, in the hands of a higher power. An elderly woman, who possessed considerable acuteness and observation, gave me a very clear account of what passed in her own dwelling, where I saw her. The door and the windows were forced in; and she hid herself in a closet, whence she heard and saw all that took place. Some money, that she had left on the chimney-piece, was the first thing seized. The furniture was then destroyed while several men in black masks, and disguised with shabby coats and aprons, searched about the room to see if any one lay there concealed. She recognised one man's voice, reproving a lad with an oath, for saying they had done enough. This man she washed for. The next day he told her he should not employ her any longer. She laid her complaint before the mayor; and the party accused was bound over to appear at the proper time, while in court, she saw a well dressed man step up to the mayor, and whisper something in his ear. The colored people were immediately ordered out of court. This distinction, before the very seat of justice, however disgraceful to the country, had an object beyond the degradation it implied. The parties, most interested in investigating the truth, were to be excluded; because they had been eye-witnesses of the transaction, or were most competent to understand its details. This woman was remarkably shrewd, and equally quick in seeing the drift of a question, and giving point to the answer. One remark she made with regard to something that had recently occurred, more than once, to herself and other women, confirmed the view that Solon took of human nature, when he omitted parricide in his penal code, ne non tam prohibere quam admonere videretur. The same may be said of the discussions upon the subject of amalgamation.
Another woman, on opening her door when summoned by the rioters, saw, in the first person who entered, a tradesman to whom she was well known. He made some excuse and retired, calling off the "pack". On the following day her windows were repaired; and her neighbors, to whom she had related the events of the preceding night, missed her, --and she had not returned when I was there. She would most likely make her appearance again, when her evidence could be no longer useful. These persecuted, inoffensive people were driven from their dwellings into the fields and lanes, where many passed the night in a state of destitution and apprehension. The municipal authorities refused to admit them into the almshouse, though application was made for the purpose by a respectable man, a physician, from whom I had the information, and though the establishment was untenanted. The mayor, when requested to grant them the place for an asylum, declared that, as an individual, he had no objection to assist them; but that, as chief magistrate, he was afraid to let them in, lest the building should be torn down. He recommended that they should be got in clandestinely. About a dozen procured a retreat there, through the exertions and upon the responsibility of the person to whom I allude. He himself assisted them in his own house to the utmost of his power. Having observed to him how much I had been shocked at the brutality I had witnessed and heard of against the blacks, --"You have not", said he, "seen one-tenth of the horrors that are constantly practised here. I myself have frequently men brought to me with bruises and broken heads, inflicted for no other reason than that they have not made way in time for the white lords of the creation. There," he added, pointing to a little girl who was in the room, "that poor child was sweeping the pavement in front of the house a few days back, when a ruffian struck her a violent blow on the head, and she fell into the street, where her mistress found her in a state of stupor, unable to move, and afraid to cry for help." After this assault the poor creature was afraid to venture out by night, --though she said, that if her master wanted any thing, she would go for it. She was a very good girl; extremely diligent and trustworthy. There was a little colored boy in the house, remarkable for his sensitive feelings. If any thing was said to him that implied inattention on his part, he would shed tears, and redouble his exertions to please his benevolent protectors.
Every one bore testimony to the good conduct and forbearance of the blacks under these severe trials. The Pennsylvania Enquirer and Courier, a strong anti-abolition paper, expressed itself in the following manner: "The scene of action lay within the district of Moyamensing; and the magistrates there declined any interference, on the ground, as they alleged, of their exertions in quelling the riot on the preceding night having met with the disapprobation of the inhabitants of the district. This appears to be a very singular reason for not attempting to quell a disturbance, more disgraceful than any that our citizens have ever witnessed; but, as we received it from one of the magistrates himself, we are bound to give it to our readers, as the only reason we can give them why the disturbance was not immediately suppressed.
"From the same source, as well as through other channels, we are assured that, notwithstanding the fearful height which the riot reached, and the great destruction of property that followed, the whole affair might have been effectually suppressed by the exertions of twenty or thirty resolute and determined men. This, however, was not done; and the dwellings of unoffending blacks, against whom not a shadow of offence was even alleged, were shamefully abused, --the inmates compelled to flee for safety, and their furniture broken up and scattered about the streets."
I was assured by a person of the strictest veracity, who had conversed with many of the inhabitants of the district after the riots had ceased, that an extraordinary degree of apathy and indifference prevailed among them with regard to the injury inflicted upon the sufferers, the punishment of the offenders, and the reparation to be made for the damage done. The proprietors of the houses in that quarter seemed anxious to get rid of a population, the presence of which they considered prejudicial to their interests, by preventing the introduction of a more wealthy class of people.
A committee was appointed by the inhabitants of Philadelphia, to inquire into the causes and consequences of these riots. I have extracted a few passages from their elaborate report, as I think they evince a degree of pusillanimous partiality irreconcileable with the duties they had undertaken to perform. "They came" --such are the words they use --"to a determination to avoid, so far as a faithful discharge of duty would permit, the vexing and distracting questions and opinions which influence the minds of a large portion of our citizens in relation to recent events." This, one would have thought, amply sufficient for the purpose; --but, no, --they must add --"The committee are sensible of the importance attached to the opinions and questions to which they allude, and of their probable momentous and extensive influence on the peace and welfare not only of this district but of the whole United States."
"Among the causes which originated the late riots, are two, which have had such extensive influence, that the committee feel they would be subject to censure, if they did not notice them. An opinion prevails, especially among white laborers, that certain portions of our community prefer to employ colored people, whenever they can be had, to the employing of white people; and that, in consequence of this preference, many whites, who are able and willing to work, are left without employment, while colored people are provided with work, and enabled comfortably to maintain their families; and thus many white laborers, anxious for employment, are kept idle and indigent. Whoever mixed in the crowds and groups, at the late riots, must so often have heard those complaints, as to convince them, that the feelings from which they sprang, stimulated many of the most active among the rioters. It is neither the duty nor the intention of the Committee to lay down rules for the public, or the government of individuals, but they deem it within the obligations imposed upon them, to make the statements they have made, and leave the matter for correction to the consideration and action of individuals." Whether the hated competition, or the unreasonable jealousy, be "the matter for correction," we are not informed. I may just observe, that the same people cannot well be a burthen to the rich by their idleness, and a nuisance to the poor by their industry. "The other cause, to which the Committee would refer, is the conduct of certain portions of the colored people, when any of their members are arrested as fugitives from justice," (meaning the justice of the slave owner). "It has too often happened, that, when such cases have been under the consideration of the judicial authorities of the country, the colored people have not relied on the wisdom and justice of the judiciary; on the exercise of the best talents at the bar, or on the active and untiring exertions of benevolent citizens, who promptly interest themselves in their behalf; but they have crowded the court-houses and the avenues to them, to the exclusion of almost all other persons: they have forcibly attempted the rescue of prisoners, and compelled the officers of justice to lodge them for safety in other prisons than those to which they had been judicially committed. Scenes like these have given birth to unfriendly feelings for those who have thus openly assailed the officers of justice."
This spirit of contumacy in a race remarkable (according to Dr. Channing) for want of sympathy with one another, must certainly seem unaccountable as well as vexatious. The American, who assisted Lafayette to escape from the prison at Olmutz, and the Englishmen, who performed the same friendly office for Lavalette, have been held up to the admiration of mankind. --But then the objects of their sympathy were the victims of political slavery, and had only conspired against the government of their country. Though "it is neither the duty nor the intention of this Committee to lay down rules for the government of individuals," yet they are kind enough to make an exception in favor of those who stand most in need of their paternal solicitude. "As the peace of every community," they are pleased to say, "however large and peaceably disposed, may be endangered and broken by the machinations of a few designing or turbulent persons, it is deemed a portion of the duty of this Committee, to make such suggestions as, in their opinions, may tend to avert so dreaded an event, as an irruption upon the quiet of any portion of our population. Nothing will tend to win the good opinion, and secure the good offices of the community more than a respectful and orderly deportment. It would do much good if those of the colored population, whose age and character entitled them to have influence, would take the trouble to exercise it, and impress upon their younger brethren the necessity, as well as the propriety, of behaving themselves inoffensively and with civility at all times and upon all occasions; taking care, as they pass along the streets, or assemble together, not to be obtrusive, thus giving birth to angry feelings, and fostering prejudices and evil dispositions."
The horrid murder, of which I have spoken, is thus alluded to in this singular document. "The case of Stephen James is entitled to some consideration. He was an honest, industrious, colored man, a kind husband and a good father. He had retired to rest on the night of the 14th of August, but was aroused by the clamor of the mob. The cries which met his ears soon informed him that he was in danger, and he fled for safety. He was, however, overtaken, and wounded in many places, even unto death. He never spoke, after he was found wounded in the yard. The Committee do not believe, that among all the persons who made up the mob assembled on this occasion, there was one wicked enough to contemplate taking the life of an inoffensive and unoffending aged man. --Yet in truth they did this accursed thing. These facts are stated to induce men to reflect upon the desperate deeds, which mobs, without desperate intentions, may commit."
While complaints were thus made, in a free State, that the free blacks were too industrious to please the lower classes, they were accused in a slave State of being too respectable to please the higher. "The Grand Jurors of the State of Missouri, empannelled for the county of Saint Louis," recommended, a few days before, that the law against the introduction of such persons having proved "entirely inadequate in its provisions to accomplish the object of this constitutional provision," the evil should be met "by the strongest legislative enactments with the utmost certainty and despatch." "Let not individuals of this class," they imploringly pray, "come to the State and remain for years, drawing around themselves families and property, and forming connexions, until the sympathies of the people would make them exceptions to the general enforcement of the law."
Not long after this, Dr. Parrish, one of the most amiable and respected of men, was mobbed at Columbia in Pennsylvania, and his personal safety threatened, for trying to undeceive the public mind with respect to the condition of the colored citizens of Philadelphia. They had been most grossly libelled by an advocate of the Colonization Society; and the Doctor had sent home for official documents, to disprove the charge against them. A gang of young men, who came to the house where he was staying, with the intention to assault or insult him, were awed into forbearance by his mild firmness --but he judged it prudent not to address the people on the subject.
Some dreadful riots, accompanied with destruction of property, broke out at the same place in October, owing, it was said, to the marriage of a white woman with a black man. The complexion, however, of the latter was so little to be distinguished from that of his wife, that he was taken for a white in Maryland, where he was travelling with a black, whom he saved from incarceration by declaring that he knew him to be a free man. This evidence was acknowledged by the authorities to be satisfactory, and his companion was released by the intervention of one who was not recognised, even in a slave State, as subject to the same suspicion and disqualification. This account I received from a person who was well acquainted with him, and had himself been driven out of Columbia by a set of ruffians, who had got possession of all the offices in the district, and were striving to exclude the colored people from every employment. It is to this feeling that the disturbances are to be traced. At a meeting of the working men of Columbia, August 23, resolutions were passed against the blacks. The preamble, as it was published, contained the following sentiments. "The practice of others in employing the negroes to do that labor, which was formerly done entirely by whites, we consider deserving our severest animadversions." --"Must the poor honest citizens, that so long have maintained their families by their labor, fly from their native place, that a band of disorderly negroes may revel with the money that ought to support the white man and his family, &c.?" "As the negroes now pursue occupations once the sole province of the whites, may we not in course of time expect to see them engaged in every branch of mechanical business? and their known disposition to work for any price may well excite our fears, that mechanics at no distant period will scarcely be able to procure a mere subsistence." It is very singular that whites are imported into Jamaica, because the blacks ask too much for their labor, and are exported from Pennsylvania, because they ask too little.
After this bill of grievances, it was naturally enough resolved by these ill-used men, that --(I use their own words) --"we will not purchase any article (that can be procured elsewhere) or give our vote for any office whatever, to any one who employs negroes to do that species of labor white men have been accustomed to perform." "Resolved that the Colonization Society ought to be supported by all the citizens favorable to the removal of the blacks from this country." On the 26th of the same month, the citizens met and passed their resolutions --James Given, Esq. in the chair. One of them was to this effect: --"That a committee be appointed whose duty it shall be to communicate with that portion of those colored persons who hold property in this borough, and ascertain, if possible, if they would be willing to dispose of the same at a fair valuation; and it shall be the duty of the said committee, to advise the colored persons in said borough to refuse receiving any colored persons from other places as residents among them."
It is to be presumed, that the committee, appointed for these praiseworthy purposes, were unsuccessful in obtaining what they counted on, their "fair valuation"; ejectment being soon after substitute for "purchase," and the owners compelled to move without any valuation at all. One of the sufferers, writing to a friend in Philadelphia, says: "We had another severe riot in this place last night, which causes our minds to be very uneasy. The rioters began their work of destruction between 11 and 12 o'clock, and continued till about 2 o'clock, when we were alarmed by the cry of 'fire!' On looking, we beheld Mr. Cooper's (carpenter) shop enveloped in flames from top to bottom. It was entirely destroyed together with all his tools, and a large quantity of lumber of all kinds dressed out for a large building now going up in this place, together with Mr. Eddy's stable adjoining. It is supposed to have been set on fire by some incendiaries: Four houses were nearly destroyed by the rioters. One of the inmates, named James Smith, was nearly beaten to death. The rioters entered their houses and destroyed every bit of furniture that they could find --even the stoves were broken in pieces, and the flour was thrown out into the street. I feel no disposition of abandoning my house, until I have disposed of my personal property, unless they will persist a good deal further." Not one angry expression, nor even a complaint occurs in this letter. It is dated, October 3d, 1834, and is now in my possession. The report of the Philadelphia Committee, before quoted, appeared on the 17th of September. How far it was calculated to protect the black man, may be seen in the proceedings against him at Columbia.
Dr. Parrish, of whom I have just spoken, was present at the last moments of John Randolph. This eccentric Virginian had emancipated his slaves by will in 1822, and had ten years afterwards appointed a different disposition, and ordered them to be sold. On his death bed he made a most solemn declaration, in accordance with his first intention; and, as the latter bequest was accompanied by circumstances that indicated the presence of temporary insanity, a strong hope is entertained, that the last wish he expressed may be carried into effect. The matter is now in course of litigation; and Judge Leigh, of Virginia, who is one of the executors of the last testament, by which he is to receive a legacy of 10,000 dollars, in addition to one of 5000 to his son, has, it is said, very honorably renounced his claim, from a conviction that it is inequitable if not illegal. Dr. Parrish attended both as physician and as witness, when the nuncupative will was announced. John, or Johnny --the favorite slave of the dying man, remained in the chamber the whole time; having locked the door at his master's desire, and put the key in his pocket. This was done to insure the presence of a white man; that the benefit intended for the slaves might not by any possibility be defeated for want of legal proof. The scene, as it was related to me by the Doctor, must have been singularly interesting. It took place in an hotel at Philadelphia. The invalid, who, as is well known, was remarkably tall and thin, being upwards of six feet in height, and but fourteen inches across the shoulders, raised himself up from the bed on which he was reclining, and desired his man to draw a blanket in the Indian fashion over him, so as to cover the whole of his person but the face, and to place his hat --a very shabby worn out habiliment --upon his head. He then requested that a silver button, worn by his father, should be fixed on his shirt, and John cut a hole in the linen for that purpose. When these ceremonies, by which it would seem he wished to denote his Indian blood on the mother's side, and his patrician descent on the father's, were completed, three other witnesses were called in, and he declared his intention to emancipate all his slaves, dwelling with great emphasis on that part of his will which provided for their comfortable support. The negro stood by absorbed in grief. The other witnesses were the landlord of the house, and two young men whom Dr. Parrish had invited, with the view of being prepared, not only to produce a sufficient amount of testimony, but to obviate any objections that might be made to his religious principles, which might perhaps be thought to bias the mind of a Quaker, while giving his evidence in favor of the slaves.
Every witness was distinctly asked, in succession, if he fully comprehended what he had heard. The Doctor then retired with the landlord, and, on his return about an hour after, he found several of the testator's friends in the room. His patient had, however, become incapable of utterance, and shortly after, John Randolph, of Roanoke, was no more.
I have omitted to state that the dying man exclaimed, in the presence of his physician and his slave --"Remorse! Remorse! You do not know what remorse is, Doctor. Shew me the word in a book! --look for it in a dictionary!" --It could not be found in a printed form. --"Write it down then." The Doctor wrote it down on a card "Write it on the other side too: --and let Johnny make a mark under it with a pencil." The card is now in possession of the physician, with the pencil marks upon it.
"John Randolph, of Roanoke, had about 400 slaves. Their value was estimated at 100,000 dollars. He gave them clothing enough at Christmas to last them the whole year --as coats, hats, bedding, blankets, &c., and all who took care of what they received were well dressed men. He sent food from his own kitchen to all the unmarried ones, and plenty of provisions to be cooked by those who had families in their own cabins. He had five or six nurses, whose business it was to attend to the sick. And his overseer had special directions never to inflict a blow. He punished them as we punish children --by withholding some favor, as sugar from the children, and meat from the men. Whenever he rode over the plantations, the field-servants took off their hats and he touched his. He always had some witty remark to amuse them in their labor, and conciliate their love. His body-servant had the keys of the house, and often carried his master's purse; and, though he was by no means uncommonly kind, yet they all loved him when alive, and lamented his death."
The above statement is made by a correspondent of the Salem Register, who strives hard to shew that slavery is not a "bitter draught." Yet what was the most urgent wish of this man's heart in his dying moments? What was his last act of benevolence to these grateful creatures, when about to quit them for ever, and appear before the great Father and Judge of all? --A grant of freedom, with all the forms and precautions that his sense of duty and his knowledge of the world could suggest.
His will, which is dated Jan. 1,1832, bears internal evidence that the testator (a man remarkable in general for his acuteness) was at the time in a state of mental aberration. "I do hereby appoint," he says, "my friend William Leigh, of Halifax, and my brother, Henry Saint George Tucker, President of the Court of Appeals, executors of this my last will and testament; requiring them to sell all the slaves, and other personal or perishable property, and vest the proceeds in Bank Stock of the Bank of the United States, and, in default of there being such bank, (which may God grant for the safety of our liberties,) in the English three per cent. Consols; and, in case of there being no such stocks, (which also may God grant for the salvation of Old England,) then in the United States three per cent. Stock; or, in default of such stock, in mortgages or land in England."
Now, whether a man's attachment be greater to one country than to another, he can hardly be said to be of sound mind, if he wishes the property he leaves behind him to aid in injuring the welfare of either or of both --while his legatees are to profit at the expense of a whole nation --perhaps their own, or share in its downfal.
Objections to the last will have been taken on the part of the slaves, who are allowed to sue in forma pauperum --and commissions have been issued by the general court of Virginia at Richmond, to take depositions in Philadelphia and London on the matters in issue.
I must now reverse the picture, and pass from the benevolence of the departed, to an opposite disposition in the living, slave-holder. A planter's wife, who had the character of a pious Christian, upon hearing that I had said, in the warmth of discussion, that I should have no objection to my daughter's marrying a colored man, if no one could find any other objection than his complexion, declared, with great indignation, that she would not admit a man of such abominable sentiments to her presence. Yet the chief, if not the only, society this woman had, was made up of men whose daughters were married to colored men, and of women whose husbands and sons are known to be daily doing, in violation of the religion she professes, what she will not allow me to be willing should be done with its sanctions. This intolerant person was an inmate of the same house with myself.
Her character, as it was described to me, (for I never was in the same room with her,) presented a miniature representation of that lamentable condition to which the possession of unlimited power reduces both individuals and communities. She was proud, overbearing, and importunate --impatient of contradiction, greedy of attention, and highly sensitive of fancied neglect. Her mind would have afforded to the psychological anatomist the finest specimen of morbid structure and anomalous functions. She scolded her husband, spoiled her boy, flogged her slaves, boasted of her importance, set up her caprice as the standard of merit and virtue, and disgusted all about her by her vanity and querulousness, Yet she was an orthodox believer, and very zealous for the salvation of her neighbor's soul, while she was risking her own by torturing his body.Her boy (the only child of his mother) was from nine to ten years of age. He was suffered to run about the house without any one to instruct or direct him; teazing the children and servants, and calling out for the unfortunate girl who administered to his wants and his whims, --"where is my slave? --where is my Negro? She is my negro! --she is my slave!" While the "property" he thus claimed was sedulously employed in making or mending the body-linen of the family with no small degree of taste and skill, the little tyrant would spit in her face, and threaten, if she remonstrated with him, to complain of her to his parents. Had he committed any fault, or been thwarted of any indulgence, a lie to his mother brought him a sympathizer with his complaints, and an avenger of his wrongs. A threat that he would not visit her sick room (for she was an invalid) made him the master of her will, with such a disposition he was dreaded by the black girl, and detested by the children for his malice and falsehood. In short, he was an insufferable plague to all who came near him, and bade fair to be a scourge to his parents, and a curse to society.
You might see in his handsome countenance the signs of that fearlessness and self-complacency by which the Southerners are usually characterised. In the selfishness of his smile lay, not yet fully developed, that indifference to the rights of others which is complimented with the title of high-mindedness and generosity; and the fretful frown that succeeded, concealed within the deep foldings of his brow the undaunted recklessness with which he would one day grasp his dirk to avenge an insult, or brandish the cowhide to enforce a command.
As for the father
of this precocious autocrat, he, was a mere cipher --too weak to control
his wife or correct his child, --a martyr, in his old age, to conjugal
and parental dotage, --more degraded than his slaves --for even their enemies
admit, that half their manly virtue is still left to them.