Jacksonian Miscellanies, #94 
August 29, 2000

Abdy on Race Issues, Indiana and Ohio

Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Hopatcong, NJ 2000.
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The following is a second excerpt from Chapter 23 of Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States of North America, from April, 1833, to October, 1834. by Edward S. Abdy (London: Murray, 1835).  As usual, it is somewhat rambling and full of digressions, but interesting digressions.

He had just completed a visit to a small farming community of African Americans near Madison, IN, and now goes on to talk about the sending of slaves too old to work, across the Ohio River, and of others who were able to trade lifetime slavery in the south for a fixed term in Indiana, and of some laws regulating such practice, based on white fears.

The next scene is his arrival by steam boat in Cincinnati, Ohio, leading to some asides on the Ohio black laws, and descriptions of two major riots against blacks in that town; another aside speaks of "indecent prints and engravings, chiefly of French manufacture on the walls of barber shops and taverns] to gratify the perverted taste of the Kentuckians and Virginians (italics mine)".

He quotes some lewd insinuations from Judge Hall's western Monthly Magazine, about the motives of the Lane student's work in the African American community there.

Abdy also describes a black man who became legally free through some error in judgement of his master who was using him in Ohio.  He was nearly killed in the attempt to force him back to Virginia, and his young daughter was fatally injured because she jumped into the fray.

The last part is a heavily ironic description of a Colonization speech, which (in Abdy's words) claimed that "Kings and chieftains from afar, whose names, like the coruscations of distant planets, had not yet reached us, had come down, by thousands, to see the wonderful strangers" (the colonists, or in his opinion, exiles).

THE INBOX         (Keep those cards and letters coming):
Mark Lause, labor historian at U. of Cincinnati, sent me these two emails, which I think are at least as interesting as the stuff I usually put in Jacksonian Miscellanies.
Do you know the black Indiana settlement of Cathagenia?  It was established by the abolitionist faction after the breakup of Lane Seminary in the 1830s here in Cincinnati.  Augustus Wattles was the key organizer of it.  His brother was John O. Wattles, the Fourierist-utopian-anarchist founder of "Utopia" on the Ohio river.
This was a strange corner of Indiana.  In the 1870s, the minister at Farmer's
Retreat became a public supporter of the Socialistic Labor Party.
Also, the road's haven't improved very much at all.

But let me see pass on some more material on Augustus.  He and his brother
(John O.) were abolitionists who did not go north to found Oberlin with the more
famous veterans of the battle at Lane Seminary. Augustus was active in the resettlement of runaway and manumitted slaves from Kentucky and points south. It was in this connection that he planted several of these little black towns in the Midwest. I think Cathagena was in Indiana, but let me check my notes and see if I can give you an exact location.
More famously in these parts, the two set up a school in Cincinnati for blacks--the
first.  One of their students was Peter H. Clark who later went on to learn Josiah Warren's stereotyping techniques from Thomas and Marie Varney. Clark later became the first prominent black socialist in the US and ran for state office in Ohio on the Workingmen's ticket in the late 1870s. (and a good friend, btw, of West Virginian William Haller, another very prominent radical in these parts).
...But the Wattles... The clan figures figure prominently in the manuscript I'm getting psyched up to have rejected (once more). Augustus, John O. and (apparently) another brother Stephen H. Wattles went west in the mid-1850s, the first two to Kansas and the last to Nebraska.  The first two were associates of John Brown.

Augustus wrote about Indians in Cincinnati, advocating an end to removal through dual citizenship.  He became critical of the Office of Indian Affairs before the war and was appointed something of a troubleshooter for the Lincoln administration in Indian affairs.  A proponent of recruitment of Indians, Wattles was one of the key figures in arming nonwhites in the early years of the Civil War.  Stephen H. Wattles, btw, commanded one of the  Indian regiments and, briefly, the entire Indian brigade.

For History, Politics & Possibilities, visit Lause's Links

The State of Indiana is burthened with a class of people, who are sent to it from the other side of the Ohio, in return for its "comity" in hunting up their runaways. When a slave is past work and good for nothing, his master sets him free, and gives him a few dollars to take him across the river. There he soon "comes upon the parish," and is buried at the expense of the community. There were no less than five of this description within the six weeks that preceded my visit, who found a, grave, as they had received their support, in the land of their adoption. This may seem a hard case; yet it is but a part --and a very small part --of that system by which the whole Union, directly or indirectly, in its domestic or its foreign policy, is rendered subservient to the interest of the slave-holder. There is too much reason to believe that this practice is very common. An act was passed in 1821, by the legislature of Pennsylvania to the following effect:--
"Any person or persons who shall, after the passage of this act, bring or cause to be brought into this commonwealth, any black or colored indentured servant above the age of twenty-eight years, such person, his or her heirs, executors, or administrators and assigns, &c., shall be liable to the overseers of the poor of the city, township, &c., to which such negro, &c., shall become chargeable, for such necessary expense, with costs of suit thereon, as such overseers may be put to for the maintenance," &c. It would be very easy to convert slaves into indentured servants. Here we see how the slave's old age is provided for by his benevolent owner, and how it is that the black man is "a curse and a nuisance" to the country. I have no doubt, from what I heard at Philadelphia, that a "settlement" is often gained in this way, while the pauper comes upon the list of the charitable societies supported by the colored people.
So much is "help" wanted in this new State, that it is not an uncommon thing for the settlers to purchase slaves and convert them into redemptioners, --that is, to make it the price of their freedom, that they should serve their purchasers a certain number of years. Objections have been made to this system; but it seems a fair bargain, if both parties to it be voluntary agents, and observant of its conditions. It sometimes happens that the manumitted leave their employment, before the period of their apprenticeship has expired. It will probably be found, in these cases, that the arrangement was made without their consent, or enforced in a manner that was never stipulated. Fraud is more likely to occur in the other party, who might take advantage of the disqualifying statute, and sell the unsuspecting apprentice into second slavery.

On the first of June, I left the pretty town of Madison, at four o'clock in the afternoon, and reached Cincinnati, by a steam-boat, at five the next morning; the distance being about 100 miles. As we entered, there were no less than eleven double decked steamboats, and a smaller one lying there, on their way up or down the river.

As soon as we had reached the land, a rush of draymen and porters was made upon the passengers and the luggage. I looked out, as I invariably did when I wanted a job done, for one of the despised caste, and, espying three or four standing at a distance, apparently unmoved and uninterested in the result of the contest, I procured the services of one of them, who had come in search of employment, which respect for decency, or fear of insult, had restrained him from asking in the crowd of boisterous intruders. And here I had an opportunity of seeing how completely the lawyer at Lewisburgh had been misinformed, when he said there were no blacks in Ohio.

Brutal and ungrateful as the whole Union has shewn itself to these people, who, so far from injuring, have enriched and defended it, not one State had dared, till lately, to push its hatred so far, as to expel them by violence. An attempt was, however, made at Cincinnati, to enforce a statute, that was passed in 1807, and had fallen into disuse. Notice was given by the trustees or overseers, to the colored part of the population, that they must find securities, to the amount of 500 dollars, for their good behavior, --on the pretence that they might become a burthen to the city; but in reality, to gratify the jealousy of the working class, and break up an asylum, which the fugitives from Kentucky, amounting to the number of two or three hundred every year, are sure to find there, on crossing the river. An answer was made to this communication, that there was neither possibility of producing the securities required, nor intention of yielding to the expulsion threatened; and preparations were made to resist, to the last drop of blood, a savage attack meditated by some of "the baser sort." The attack was made by about 300; and the resistance sustained by somewhat more than a tenth of that number, who entrenched themselves in their houses, and fired on their assailants from the windows, sallying out as the enemy fled, and shooting them down with a spirit, as much superior to that on the other side, as the cause they fought in. The result was, that the whites gave up the contest, after two or three had been killed, and several wounded; while the blacks lost not a man, and received no wounds of any consequence, but a broken arm, which an accident, during the pursuit, occasioned to one of their party. An authentic "return of the killed and wounded" was never published, for as several persons engaged in this disgraceful proceeding belonged to respectable families, their fate was concealed by their relatives, and it was agreed, on all hands, to throw over the circumstances of the defeat that veil, which could not be found for those of the attack.

Since that period, the victors have been suffered to reside in the place unmolested. There are nearly 3000 of them, --a larger proportion, probably, to the whole population, than their brethren in New York bear to the inhabitants of that city. Three-fourths out of the whole number consist of manumitted slaves from Virginia and Kentucky; the greater part having purchased their own freedom. Some of them possess a good deal of property; and all of them, with such exceptions as are to be found in the other race, are industrious in their habits, and respectable in their conduct. Though they derive no benefit from the school fund, are excluded from the orphan asylum, have no political privileges, and cannot, even in this "free" State, as it is called, give evidence in any case against a white; yet they are subject to the same taxes. One of them had his house broken into, a short time back, and sixteen dollars, besides several articles of clothing, stolen; yet, though the thief was taken, and the evidence irresistibly clear against him, the plea put in by the prisoner's counsel, that the testimony of the complainant could not be received, because he was a colored man, prevailed, and the trial resulted in an acquittal. About the same time, one of these unfortunate men was killed by a white man, in the presence of five or six of his own race; and the same impediment to justice protected the murderer from punishment. I had these anecdotes from a white, who was in court during the trial which the last case gave rise to.

A few years ago, when more than a thousand sought an asylum in Canada to escape persecution, a subscription to assist them, amounting to eight or nine hundred dollars, was raised among those who remained. Two-thirds of them are now saving what little they can earn by their labor, to redeem their relatives and friends from the bonds they have got rid of themselves. One of them, who had paid 800 dollars for his own freedom, had been twice to New Orleans to buy his son, but was unable to raise so large a sum as 1200 dollars, demanded for him by his mistress. "He is now in Canada," he added "he was here not three weeks ago, having made his escape. I have still a daughter there, for whom I feel great anxiety." This man had been employed as a silversmith; but the skill which had enabled him to obtain his liberty, was now useless to him. No one would encourage him in his business, or work with him; and he was compelled to subsist by the few jobs he could get, now and then, on board the steamboats, or in the city. I was astonished at the acuteness of his perception, and the extent of his information. His language and address were both marked by a degree of propriety and correctness that I seldom saw among the whites. I was observing to one of the latter, that I had not expected to find, in the houses of a class who are said to be brutalized and irreclaimable, so much taste exhibited in the selection of furniture and ornaments. "I assure you", he replied, "that the elegancies of life are so well understood by those who have been in the way of acquiring or observing them, that it is a very common thing in the south to consult them on the disposal of draperies, and the details of the toilette." It was hard upon this poor fellow, that his industry and good conduct could not secure him a comfortable retreat for his old age in the land of his birth. He could not remain in Virginia when he became free. He spoke in high terms of Dr. Patterson, of Charlotteville: he was remarkable, he said, for his humanity and gentleness.

There are many circumstances observable in Indiana and Ohio that assimilate them to the slave States. The barbers' shops and the coffee-houses are filled with the same indecent prints and engravings, chiefly of French manufacture, that are to be seen stuck on the walls, to gratify the perverted taste of the Kentuckians and Virginians. The proprietors of these houses excused their conformity to these vicious practices, by declaring that they were necessary to attract, by amusing customers. The newspapers, too, are polluted with advertisements for runaway slaves, such as the following.

"One hundred dollars reward. Run away from the subscriber, living in Bracken County, Kentucky, on the 21st instant, a negro man, named Jarret, between thirty-five and forty years of age, five feet nine or ten inches high, an active-looking fellow, rather slender made, thin sharp visage for a negro, has a proud lofty carriage: not very black negro. He had some years ago a small round scar on each elbow, also two scars on the right arm above the elbow, and one on the right hand near the joint of the fore finger: they may have disappeared at this time. He is given to intoxication. Had on, when he went away, an old fur hat, and an old blue coat. He stabbed a negro man in the neighborhood; and, fearing the consequences, absconded. The above reward will be given for the apprehension of said negro, so that I get him, and all reasonable expenses, if brought to me, or I will give one half of him, if bro't to me, if taken out of the State of Kentucky. Any communication addressed to Mr. James Fleming, in Augusta, Bracken County, Kentucky, will be promptly attended to. Elizabeth Fee."
I never met with any advertisement of this kind in the northern and middle States.

What sort of people inhabit the western valley, may be seen from the tone and style of the western Monthly Magazine, edited by Judge Hall, --a publication that marks the character of those "it lives to please", by its open hostility to emancipation. The following is an extract from an article in the June number, 1834. "The prejudice of color is not confined to the white man: the negro is equally jealous of those who differ from him in complexion to (a singular confession-founded, however, on what is not true,) and will never receive the white missionary with the same confidence which will be reposed in the civilized black emigrant. The feeling is mutual, because it is inherent. Nature herself has drawn the line, and has created distinctions between these races, so palpable as to be instantly obvious, whenever the respective parties meet, to more than one of the senses. It is true that certain young gentlemen in the neighborhood of this city, some of whose sayings and doings we noticed in our last number, have arrived at the sage conclusion, that Nature is wrong in that matter, and have determined, with a gallantry, which is certainly very becoming in persons of their profession, that the sable part of the softer sex shall not continue 'to waste their fragrance on the desert air,' but shall be elevated to a moral and political equality with other young ladies, and --what will be much easier --with their champions. They have accordingly commenced leaving their cards at the doors of the daughters of Africa. One of them was seen a few days ago, if we are rightly informed, politely escorting a black young lady through our streets, and another has taken his lodgings in a colored family,

In colder weather we should not be so much surprised at these singular freaks of monomania; but with the thermometer at eighty-six, we must confess, that they seem to us to be in wretched bad taste. We have not heard whether any practical results have grown out of these party-colored flirtations; whether any matches are talked of, or how far these young theologians intend to carry their tender intercourse with 'Afric's sunbrown'd daughters'. We hope their intentions are honorable, &c."

I need not quote any further. I would not have inserted such disgusting language, if I had not wished to shew how little practical liberty there can be in any country where the most praiseworthy and innocent actions are thus distorted, and their authors pointed out to popular insult and violence. The persons here alluded to, are two students of Lane seminary, near Cincinnati, who had dedicated their time to the benevolent task of qualifying their fellow citizens, by instruction in the elementary branches of science and sound principles of religion, to perform their duties to themselves and their native country. They had given up their academical studies, and were boarding with some of those whom they had made such sacrifices to benefit. "This was the head and front of their offending." Not contented with this indecent and unprovoked attack upon the privacies of domestic life, the judge stigmatizes the whole body of students, merely because they are abolitionists, (that is, because they prefer their own judgement to his,) as "stipendiaries" who are "subsisting upon public charity," and affects to see, in the objects they are aiming at, an attempt to "unite Church and State" --a bugbear that has the same sort of influence over the American people, that the charge of trying to separate them once had in England; where the antislavery society was accused of a wish to divide the throne from the altar. Abolition doctrines must be of a strange nature, when their tendency is to create an ecclesiastical establishment in one country, and destroy it in another. As for the other "parties," I had, before I stumbled upon the Western Magazine, been several times in the house of one of them, and the only crimes that he had committed were that he could not "change his skin;" that he had purchased his freedom with his own hands for 600 dollars; --that he had come to Cincinnati, a few years before, without a dollar in his pocket, and was then possessed of property worth 3000 dollars; --that he had a well-behaved decent family and a comfortable home to shelter them, and that he was a friend to the distressed and an enemy to injustice.

I had a most convincing proof of that kindness to the unfortunate which I have mentioned. At the back of the house, where one of these students was boarding, were some hot and cold baths, belonging to the landlord. Here I found an elderly man at work, who had been in the town about five weeks. His head was cut and disfigured by many dreadful wounds, which were hardly yet cicatrized. The sight of these was very painful. His story was soon related. He had been sent from Virginia to Ohio by his master, with a written promise that he would give him his freedom if he would pay him seventy-five dollars. With this object in view, he had been working for fifteen months with his master's son; when he was told that he was free by the laws of the State. To prevent the assertion of his claim, his employer hired three ruffians to carry him off to the south --the mart of every thing villainous, and diabolical. When they arrived, in the night time, at his hut, they found he had armed himself with a dirk, and was determined upon resistance. After vainly, attempting to seize his person by entering the door, which they had forced, they attacked him through the window with stones and other missiles, till he was reduced to a state of insensibility, by repeated blows on the head. They then took possession of his person, and carried him down the river in chains. His wife, who was living at Cincinnati, heard of his arrival in the port, and with the assistance of the person on whose premises I saw him at work, a writ of habeas corpus was obtained and he was rescued. As his evidence would not be legally valid, this horrible outrage remains unpunished. One of his children, a girl of twelve or thirteen years of Age, was so much injured by the wounds she received while clinging to her father, with the view of affording protection, or obtaining mercy, that she has since died. The report of her medical attendant was, that her death was caused by the blows inflicted upon her in the course of this barbarous affair. The rest of his children were still in bondage, while the mother was toiling to purchase their freedom.

I heard so many accounts here of the frauds and the cruelties exercised upon these unoffending people, that I felt sick at heart, and disgusted with human nature. Some of them are too revolting to be detailed --men selling their own daughters for the vilest purposes, and women enriching themselves by the vices and thefts of their slaves: and these enormities are committed by persons who have not the plea of poverty to urge as an excuse for their guilt. At New Orleans, the poor creatures are turned out into the street, of a night, with a basket of fruit or cakes; and they must return with a specified sum, or they are flogged in a most savage manner. The whole system of iniquity was explained to me by a man, who obtained his information from one of its unfortunate victims. He was remonstrating with her on the wicked life she led, when she stripped her gown from her shoulders, and, exhibiting the bleeding marks of the stripes she had just received from her mistress, convinced him that vice could have no better palliation than such a reward for virtue. He afterwards watched her himself, and saw her stealing wood for her owner's kitchen. Her sister, she told him, often stole poultry or any thing else she could lay her hands on, and carried the booty home to her mistress.

A most horrible case of barbarity occurred last year at New Orleans. The Mercantile Advertiser of that city, after stating that a fire had broken out in a house, where several slaves were supposed to be confined in chains, adds: "the crowd rushed in to their deliverance, and amongst others, Mr. Canonge, Judge of the criminal court, who demanded of Mr. and Mrs. Lalaurie where these poor creatures were kept, which they obstinately refused to disclose, when Mr. Canonge, with a manly and praiseworthy zeal, rushed into the kitchen, which was on fire, followed by two or three young men, and brought forth a negro woman, found there chained. She was covered with bruises and wounds from severe flogging. All the apartments were then forced open. In a room on the ground-floor, two more were found chained, and in a deplorable condition. Up stairs, and in the garret, four more were found chained; some so weak as to be unable to walk, and all covered with wounds and sores. One, a mulatto boy, declares himself to have been chained for five months, being fed daily with only a handful of meal, and receiving every morning the most cruel treatment." I was informed by persons who were there at the time, that these poor creatures were gagged, to prevent their cries; that the perpetrators of these enormities were never punished; and that, when the excitement of the moment was over, public opinion threw obstacles in the way of justice, and palliated what had been done. The judge afterwards published a deposition, that "all the persons present were apparently indifferent to the result," and that Mr. Lalaurie said to him "in an insulting tone," "that there were persons who would do much better by remaining at home, than visiting others to dictate to them laws in the quality of officious friends."

In one district of Cincinnati, property amounting in value to 50,000 dollars, and belonging to colored persons, is taxed for public and local purposes. When a petition was presented lately to the legislature, praying that the owners might be admitted to a share in the benefits of the common school fund, the Committee, appointed to inquire into the subject, reported against the claim. "The decision might," they said, "at first view appear unnatural, and unbecoming a charitable, high-minded, and intelligent community;" "but when," they added, "we take into view that the security of our government rests and remains in the morality, virtue, and wisdom of our free white citizens; and that by the education of them, by means of a public fund, the government is only strengthening her own resources, and providing for her own security, honor, and elevation, the fact will be readily yielded, that the common school fund is not the offspring of the offices of charity; but that the principal and interest is amply repaid by the exercise of those functions which the government itself imposes upon all her free white citizens." The representatives have certainly done their duty to their constituents. A stronger plea for educating all the "free whites" than this jargon offers, could not have been made out.

I attended, while at Cincinnati, a meeting of "The Colonization Society"; and my patience was put to the most severe test, in listening to the nasal twang and monotonous voice of the speaker, that fell, with isochronous pauses, on the ear, like the lugubrious sounds sent forth in the silent hour of the night, by the steam-monster on the Ohio. Mr. Finley (an agent of the Society) began by eulogizing the principles and objects of the "benevolent institution," for which he was pleading, and proceeded to paint, in glowing colors, the flourishing state of the colony it had planted on the benighted shores of Africa.

The last accounts that had been received of the settlers, were of the most gratifying description. They had a prosperous and increasing trade, were welcomed, by the vast and numerous tribes in the interior of that mysterious continent, as benefactors and bearers of every thing good and holy. Kings and chieftains from afar, whose names, like the coruscations of distant planets, had not yet reached us, had come down, by thousands, to see the wonderful strangers; --to cast their sceptres at their feet, and to break the chains of their captives --past, present, and future: and to implore their Christian brethren that they would send schoolmasters and preachers to instruct the rising, and civilize the present, generation. They had embraced the new comers with transports of joy: --they had shed tears of gratitude over the hardships they had suffered, and the benefits they meditated, for the unenlightened descendants of their common ancestors. Already had they built a church and appointed a pastor from their own community, and with their own funds. The whole history of colonization, from the stretching of the cow-hide to the loves of Pocohontas, presented nothing parallel, analogous, or comparable, to the success which had attended this first effort to remove the "colored population" of the United States to their "native land." As for the colonists themselves, the whole current of their wicked and disgusting habits had been suddenly turned into pious and wholesome channels. The blasphemer, while inhaling the pure air of Liberia, had forgotten his oaths and imprecations: the drunkard, in contemplating the beautiful scenery that surrounded him, had become temperate and abstemious: --the waters of the Atlantic had washed away all the impurities, and removed all the infirmities, of his nature; and the vile outcast of America --the plague and curse of its virtuous and generous citizen --had cast off the slime of his former iniquities, and now stands erect and elated, disenthralled of his vices, and disencumbered of his crimes. The poisonous exotic of Virginia is now a luxuriant plant in Monrovia:--

A sea captain, who had recently visited those highly-favored shores, had declared in a letter, which the orator read or quoted to his attentive auditors, that no place he had ever seen presented such scenes of contentment, good order, and happiness. No where was the sabbath observed with a greater degree of solemnity and decorum. No where were the churches so well attended, or the service better performed. The foreign trade amounted to 150,000 dollars a year, and the soil was capable of producing sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants. The harbor was thronged with vessels, entering, unloading, or departing; and the docks resounded with the hammer and the handsaw. A new territory of 400 miles square had been purchased, not for rum; but a few hard dollars. A new expedition was about to set out; and the unmanacled slave would soon drive his own ploughshare over his own acres. It was in contemplation to send out none but temperance people to this recently acquired plantation; every emigrant was to give a pledge of abstinence from strong drinks; and Ohio was to witness the miraculous influence of honor on those whom an oath could not bind. The same man, against whose unhappy propensity to perjury no court of justice can be secure in Columbus or Cincinnati, will be strictly observant in Liberia of his promise: and he, whom neither the frown of the sheriff, nor the thunders of heaven, can now terrify, is to tremble at a glass of toddy, and be conscience stricken at the sight of a punch-bowl. Whatever the pretended friend of the black man may tell him, the place, where he is born, is not his native country: like the Israelite of old, he is but a sojourner in a strange land; and, as a noble minded slave once said to Mr. Finley, "he is not a Virginian but an African." The orator went on to say that the proceedings of the society had been opposed, and its motives misrepresented, by certain fanatics and enthusiasts, who had hired agents to traverse the country, and persuade the colored people, that the climate of the torrid zone was less suited to their constitutions, and those of their children, than that which they had been breathing from their birth; and that the prejudice, under which they suffered, would be encouraged by their removal and softened by their remaining.

Much more was said to the same effect and in the same spirit. There were some of those present for whom the scheme of deportation had been planned, but who had too much sagacity to be deluded by its fallacies, and too much spirit to accept its insulting offers. Before these men, as if in defiance of decency, and in scorn of those rules which every man who respects himself, and is unwilling to be classed with the lowest vulgar, observes, the "hired agent" of the Colonization Society made use of the word "nigger," an expression peculiarly expressive of contempt and abhorrence. After asserting, with unblushing effrontery, that the free blacks were anxious to emigrate, and that their sympathies and affections were naturally centered in the home of their fathers, he concluded by reminding them, that they would there escape from the tyranny of public opinion, and enjoy those privileges which were denied them in America.

I did not stay to hear the next speaker --Dr. Beecher, the President of Lane Seminary, as my patience was down, and I had not courage enough to wind it up again.
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