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´╗┐Title: Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, Late a Slave in the United States of America
Author: Grandy, Moses
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, Late a Slave in the United States of America" ***

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     "Slavery is a mass, a system of enormities, which
     incontrovertibly bids defiance to every regulation which
     ingenuity can devise, or power effect, but a TOTAL
     EXTINCTION. Why ought slavery to be abolished? Because
     _it is incurable injustice_. Why is injustice to remain
     for a single hour?"
                                          WILLIAM PITT.






*** It is not improbable that some of the proper names in the
following pages are incorrectly spelled. M.G., through the laws of the
slave states, is perfectly illiterate; his pronunciation being the
only guide.


About a fortnight ago, the subject of the following brief Memoir came
to me, bearing with him a letter from a dear friend and distinguished
abolitionist in the United States, from which the following is an
extract:--'I seize my pen in haste to gratify a most worthy colored
friend of mine, by giving him a letter of introduction to you, as he
intends sailing this week (August 8th, 1842) for Liverpool and London,
_via_ New Orleans. His name is Moses Grandy. He knows what it is to
have been a slave, and what are the tender mercies of the southern
slave-drivers. His history is not only authentic, but most
extraordinary, and full of thrilling interest. Could it be published,
it would make a deep sensation in every quarter. He was compelled to
buy his freedom _three times over_! He paid for it $1,850. He has
since bought his wife, and one or two of his children; and before
going to England will first go to New Orleans, to purchase some of his
other children, if he can find them, who are still held in captivity.
His benevolence, affection, kindness of heart, and elasticity of
spirit, are truly remarkable. He has a good head, a fine countenance,
and a great spirit, notwithstanding his education has been obtained in
the horrible school of slavery. Just get him to tell you his
narrative, and if you happen to have an anti-slavery meeting, let him
tell his tale to a British audience.' In the letter of another highly
esteemed friend, he is spoken of as 'unsurpassed for faithfulness and
perseverance;' in the letter of a third, as a 'worthy and respectable
man.' On examining a book containing a list of the donations made him
by American friends, in aid of his noble design to rescue from the
miseries of slavery his relations, I found the names and certificates
of persons of the highest respectability. It will be amply sufficient
with those who are acquainted with the Abolitionists of the United
States, for me to name General Fessenden, and Nathan Winslow, Esq., of
Portland, Maine; the Rev. A.A. Phelps, Ellis Gray Loring, and Samuel
E. Sewall, Esqs., of Boston, Massachusetts. Being satisfied, by these
indubitable vouchers, of Moses Grandy's title to credit, I listened to
his artless tale with entire confidence, and with a feeling of
interest which all will participate who peruse the following pages.
Considering his Narrative calculated to promote a more extensive
knowledge of the workings of American slavery, and that its sale might
contribute to the object which engages so entirely the mind of Moses,
namely, the redemption of those who are in bonds, belonging to his
family, I resolved to commit it to the press, as nearly as possible in
the language of Moses himself. I have carefully abstained from casting
a single reflection or animadversion of my own. I leave the touching
story of the self-liberated captive to speak for itself, and the wish
of my heart will be gratified, and my humble effort on his behalf be
richly rewarded, if this little book is the means of obtaining for my
colored brother the assistance which he seeks, or of increasing the
zeal of those who are associated for the purpose of 'breaking every
yoke and setting the oppressed free.'

                                           GEORGE THOMPSON.

  _9, Blandford Place, Regent's Park_,
  _October 18th, 1842._


My name is Moses Grandy. I was born in Camden county, North Carolina.
I believe I am fifty-six years old. Slaves seldom know exactly how old
they are; neither they nor their masters set down the time of a birth;
the slaves, because they are not allowed to write or read, and the
masters, because they only care to know what slaves belong to them.

The master, Billy Grandy, whose slave I was born, was a hard-drinking
man; he sold away many slaves. I remember four sisters and four
brothers; my mother had more children, but they were dead or sold away
before I can remember. I was the youngest. I remember well my mother
often hid us all in the woods, to prevent master selling us. When we
wanted water, she sought for it in any hole or puddle formed by
falling trees or otherwise. It was often full of tadpoles and insects.
She strained it, and gave it round to each of us in the hollow of her
hand. For food, she gathered berries in the woods, got potatoes, raw
corn, &c. After a time, the master would send word to her to come in,
promising he would not sell us. But, at length, persons came who
agreed to give the prices he set on us. His wife, with much to be
done, prevailed on him not to sell me; but he sold my brother, who was
a little boy. My mother, frantic with grief, resisted their taking her
child away. She was beaten, and held down; she fainted; and, when she
came to herself, her boy was gone. She made much outcry, for which the
master tied her up to a peach-tree in the yard, and flogged her.

Another of my brothers was sold to Mr. Tyler, Dewan's Neck, Pasquotank
county. This man very much ill treated many colored boys. One very
cold day, he sent my brother out, naked and hungry, to find a yoke of
steers; the boy returned without finding them, when his master flogged
him, and sent him out again. A white lady, who lived near, gave him
food, and advised him to try again; he did so, but, it seems, again
without success. He piled up a heap of leaves, and laid himself down
in them, and died there. He was found through a flock of turkey
buzzards hovering over him; these birds had pulled his eyes out.

My young master and I used to play together; there was but two days'
difference in our ages. My old master always said he would give me to
him. When he died, all the colored people were divided amongst his
children, and I fell to young master; his name was James Grandy. I was
then about eight years old. When I became old enough to be taken away
from my mother and put to field work, I was hired out for the year, by
auction, at the court house, every January: this is the common
practice with respect to slaves belonging to persons who are under
age. This continued till my master and myself were twenty-one years

The first who hired me was Mr. Kemp, who used me pretty well; he gave
me plenty to eat, and sufficient clothing.

The next was old Jemmy Coates, a severe man. Because I could not learn
his way of hilling corn, he flogged me naked with a severe whip, made
of a very tough sapling; this lapped round me at each stroke; the
point of it at last entered my belly and broke off, leaving an inch
and a half outside. I was not aware of it until, on going to work
again, it hurt my inside very much, when, on looking down, I saw it
sticking out of my body. I pulled it out, and the blood spouted after
it. The wound festered, and discharged very much at the time, and hurt
me for years after.

In being hired out, sometimes the slave gets a good home, and
sometimes a bad one: when he gets a good one, he dreads to see January
come; when he has a bad one, the year seems five times as long as it

I was next with Mr. Enoch Sawyer, of Camden county. My business was to
keep ferry, and do other odd work. It was cruel living. We had not
near enough of either victuals or clothes. I was half starved for half
my time. I have often ground the husks of Indian corn over again in a
hand-mill, for the chance of getting something to eat out of it which
the former grinding had left. In severe frosts, I was compelled to go
into the fields and woods to work, with my naked feet cracked and
bleeding from extreme cold: to warm them, I used to rouse an ox or
hog, and stand on the place where it had lain. I was at that place
three years, and very long years they seemed to me. The trick by which
he kept me so long was this: the court house was but a mile off. At
hiring day, he prevented me from going till he went himself and bid
for me. On the last occasion, he was detained for a little while by
other business; so I ran as quickly as I could, and got hired before
he came up.

Mr. George Furley was my next master; he employed me as a car-boy in
the Dismal Swamp; I had to drive lumber, &c. I had plenty to eat and
plenty of clothes. I was so overjoyed at the change, that I then
thought I would not have left the place to go to heaven.

Next year I was hired by Mr. John Micheau, of the same county, who
married my young mistress, one of the daughters of Mr. Grandy, and
sister of my present owner. This master gave us very few clothes, and
but little to eat. I was almost naked. One day he came into the field,
and asked why no more work was done. The older people were afraid of
him; so I said that the reason was, we were so hungry we could not
work. He went home and told the mistress to give us plenty to eat, and
at dinner-time we had plenty. We came out shouting for joy, and went
to work with delight. From that time we had food enough, and he soon
found that he had a great deal more work done. The field was quite
alive with people striving who should do most.

He hired me for another year. He was a great gambler. He kept me up
five nights together, without sleep night or day, to wait on the
gambling table. I was standing in the corner of the room, nodding for
want of sleep, when he took up the shovel and beat me with it; he
dislocated my shoulder, and sprained my wrist, and broke the shovel
over me. I ran away, and got another person to hire me.

This person was Mr. Richard Furley, who, after that, hired me at the
court house every year till my master came of age. He gave me a pass
to work for myself; so I obtained work by the piece where I could, and
paid him out of my earnings what we had agreed on; I maintained myself
on the rest, and saved what I could. In this way I was not liable to
be flogged and ill used. He paid seventy, eighty, or ninety dollars a
year for me, and I paid him twenty or thirty dollars a year more than

When my master came of age, he took all his colored people to himself.
Seeing that I was industrious and persevering, and had obtained plenty
of work, he made me pay him almost twice as much as I had paid Mr.
Furley. At that time the English blockaded the Chesapeake, which made
it necessary to send merchandise from Norfolk to Elizabeth City by the
Grand Canal, so that it might get to sea by Pamlico Sound and Ocracock
Inlet. I took some canal boats on shares; Mr. Grice, who married my
other young mistress, was the owner of them. I gave him one half of
all I received for freight; out of the other half I had to victual and
man the boats, and all over that expense was my own profit.

Some time before this, my brother Benjamin returned from the West
Indies, where he had been two years with his master's vessel. I was
very glad to hear of it, and got leave to go see him. While I was
sitting with his wife and him, his wife's master came and asked him to
fetch a can of water; he did so, and carried it into the store. While
I was waiting for him, and wondering at his being so long away, I
heard the heavy blows of a hammer: after a little while I was
alarmed, and went to see what was going on. I looked into the store,
and saw my brother lying on his back on the floor, and Mr. Williams,
who had bought him, driving staples over his wrists and ankles; an
iron bar was afterwards put across his breast, which was also held
down by staples. I asked what he had been doing, and was told that he
had done nothing amiss, but that his master had failed, and he was
sold towards paying the debts. He lay in that state all that night;
next day he was taken to jail, and I never saw him again. This is the
usual treatment under such circumstances. I had to go by my mother's
next morning, but I feared to tell her what had happened to my
brother. I got a boy to go and tell her. She was blind and very old,
and was living in a little hut, in the woods, after the usual manner
of old, worn-out slaves; she was unable to go to my brother before he
was taken away, and grieved after him greatly.

It was some time after this that I married a slave belonging to Mr.
Enoch Sawyer, who had been so hard a master to me. I left her at home,
(that is, at his house,) one Thursday morning, when we had been
married about eight months. She was well, and seemed likely to be so.
We were nicely getting together our little necessaries. On the Friday,
as I was at work, as usual, with the boats, I heard a noise behind me,
on the road which ran by the side of the canal. I turned to look, and
saw a gang of slaves coming. When they came up to me, one of them
cried out, 'Moses, my dear!' I wondered who among them should know me,
and found it was my wife. She cried out to me, 'I am gone!' I was
struck with consternation. Mr. Rogerson was with them, on his horse,
armed with pistols. I said to him, 'For God's sake, have you bought my
wife?' He said he had; when I asked him what she had done, he said she
had done nothing, but that her master wanted money. He drew out a
pistol, and said that, if I went near the wagon on which she was, he
would shoot me. I asked for leave to shake hands with her, which he
refused, but said I might stand at a distance and talk with her. My
heart was so full that I could say very little. I asked leave to give
her a dram. He told Mr. Burgess, the man who was with him, to get down
and carry it to her. I gave her the little money I had in my pocket,
and bade her farewell. I have never seen or heard of her from that day
to this. I loved her as I loved my life.

Mr. Grice found that I served him faithfully. He and my young
mistress, his wife, advised me, as I was getting money fast, to try to
buy myself. By their advice, I asked my master what he would take for
me. He wanted $800; and, when I said that was too much, he replied, he
could get $1000 for me any minute. Mr. Grice afterwards went with me
to him; he said to him that I had already been more profitable to him
than any five others of his negroes, and reminded him that we had been
playfellows. In this way he got him to consent to take $600 for me. I
then went heartily to work, and, whenever I paid him for my time, I
paid him something, also, towards my freedom, for which he gave me
receipts. When I made him the last payment of the $600 for my freedom,
he tore up all the receipts. I told him he ought not to have done so;
he replied it did not signify, for, as soon as court day came, he
should give me my free papers. On Monday, in court week, I went to
him; he was playing at billiards, and would not go with me, but told
me to come again the next day; the next day he did the same, and so on
daily. I went to his sister, Mrs. Grice, and told her I feared that he
did not mean to give them to me; she said she feared so too, and sent
for him. He was a very wicked young man; he came, and cursed her, and
went out of the house. Mr. Grice was from home; on his return, he went
to my master, and told him he ought to give me my free papers; that I
had paid for myself, and it was court week, so that there was no
excuse. He promised he would; instead of which, he rode away and kept
away till court was over. Before the next court came, he sold me to
Mr. Trewitt for $600.

The way in which Mr. Trewitt came to buy me was this: I had left the
boats, and had gone with a schooner collecting lumber in Albemarle
Sound for the merchants. Coming to Elizabeth City, I found a new store
had been opened by Mr. Grice, which Mr. Sutton was keeping: the latter
gentleman was glad to see me, and was desirous that I should return to
my old employment with the canal boats, as lumber was in great demand
at Norfolk. I did so, and sold some cargoes to Mr. Moses Myers, of
Norfolk. As I was waiting at the door of his store for settlement, he
came up with Mr. Trewitt, whom I did not then know. Mr. Myers said to
Mr. Trewitt, 'Here is a captain doing business for you.' Mr. Trewitt
then asked me who had chartered the boats, and to whom I belonged. I
told him Mr. Sutton had chartered me, and that I had belonged to Mr.
James Grandy, but had bought myself. He said he would buy me; on which
Mr. Myers told him he could not, as I had already bought myself, and
further said I was one of their old war captains, and had never lost a
single thing of the property intrusted to me. Mr. Trewitt said he
would buy me, and would see about it as soon as he got to Elizabeth
City. I thought no more about it. On my return voyage, I delivered a
cargo at Elizabeth City, for Mr. Trewitt. I had been at Mr. Grice's,
the owner of the boats; and, on my going away from him to meet Mr.
Trewitt for settlement, he said he would go with me, as he wanted
money. Opposite the custom house we met Mr. Trewitt, who said, 'Well,
captain, I have bought you.' Mr. Grice said, 'Let us have no nonsense;
go and settle with him.' Angry words passed between them, one saying
he had bought me, and the other denying that he had or could, as I had
bought myself already. We all went to Mr. Grice's dwelling house;
there Mr. Trewitt settled with me about the freight, and then, jumping
up, said, 'Now I will show you, Mr. Grice, whether I am a liar or
not.' He fetched the bill of sale; on reading it, Mr. Grice's color
changed, and he sent for Mrs. Grice. When she read it, she began to
cry; seeing that, I began to cry too. She sent me to her brother, who
was at Mr. Wood's boarding house. He was playing at billiards. I said
to him, 'Master James, have you sold me?' He said, 'No.' I said he
had; when he turned round and went into another room, crying; I
followed him. All the gentlemen followed us, saying, 'Captain Grandy,
what is the matter?' I told them Master James had sold me again. They
asked him why he had done it; he said it was because people had jeered
him by saying I had more sense than he had. They would not suffer him
to remain in the boarding house, but turned him out, there and then,
with all his trunks and boxes. Mrs. Grice, his sister, sued him in my
name for my liberty, but he gained the cause. The court maintained
that I, and all I could do, belonged to him, and that he had a right
to do as he pleased with me and all my earnings, as his own property,
until he had taken me to the court house, and given me my free papers,
and until, besides that, I had been a year and a day in the Northern
States to gain my residence.

So I was forced to go to Mr. Trewitt. He agreed that, if I would pay
him the same wages as I paid my late master, and the $600 he gave for
me, he would give me my free papers. He bought two canal boats, and,
taking me out of Mr. Grice's employment, set me to work them on the
same terms as I did for my former master. I was two years and a half
in earning $600 to pay for myself the second time. Just when I had
completed the payment, he failed. On Christmas eve he gave me a letter
to take to Mr. Mews, at Newbegun Creek. I was rather unwilling to take
it, wishing to go to my wife; I told him, too, I was going to his
office to settle with him. He offered to give me two dollars to take
the letter, and said he would settle when I came back: then Mr. Shaw
came from another room, and said his vessel was ready loaded, but he
had nobody he could trust with his goods; he offered me five dollars
to take the vessel down, and deliver the goods to Mr. Knox, who also
was at Newbegun Creek. The wind was fair, and the hands on board, so I
agreed; it being Christmas eve, I was glad of something to carry to my
wife. I ran the vessel down to the mouth of the creek, and anchored;
when the moon rose, I went up the river. I reached the wharf, and
commenced taking out the goods that night, and delivered them all
safely to Mr. Knox next morning. I then took the letter to Mr. Mews,
who read it, and, looking up at me, said, 'Well, you belong to me.' I
thought he was joking, and said, 'How? What way?' He said, 'Don't you
recollect when Trewitt chartered Wilson Sawyer's brig to the West
Indies?' I said, I did. He told me Trewitt then came to him to borrow
$600, which he would not lend, except he had a mortgage on me: Trewitt
was to take it up at a certain time, but never did. I asked him
whether he really took the mortgage on me. He replied that he
certainly thought Trewitt would have taken up the mortgage, but he had
failed, and was not worth a cent, and he, Mews, must have his money. I
asked him whether he had not helped me and my young mistress in the
court house, when master James fooled me before. He said he did help
me all he could, and that he should not have taken a mortgage on me,
but that he thought Trewitt would take it up. Trewitt must have
received some of the last payments from me, after he had given the
mortgage, and knew he should fail; for the mortgage was given two
months before this time.

My head seemed to turn round and round; I was quite out of my senses;
I went away towards the woods; Mr. Mews sent his waiter after me to
persuade me to go back. At first I refused, but afterwards went. He
told me he would give me another chance to buy myself, and I certainly
should have my freedom that time. He said Mr. Enoch Sawyer wanted to
buy me, to be his overseer in the Swamp. I replied I would never try
again to buy myself, and that they had already got $1,200 from me. My
wife[1] (this was my second wife) belonged to Mr. Sawyer; he told me
that her master would not allow me to go to see her, if I would not
consent to what he now proposed; for any colored person going on the
grounds of a white man, after being warned off, is liable to be
flogged, or even shot. I thus found myself forced to go, although no
colored man wishes to live at the house where his wife lives, for he
has to endure the continual misery of seeing her flogged and abused,
without daring to say a word in her defence.

In the service of Mr. Sawyer, I got into a fair way of buying myself
again; for I undertook the lightering of shingles or boards out of the
Dismal Swamp, and hired hands to assist me. But my master had become
security for his two sons-in-law at Norfolk, who failed; in
consequence of which he sold eighteen colored people, his share of the
Swamp, and two plantations. I was one of the slaves he kept, and after
that had to work in the corn-field the same as the rest. The overseer
was a bad one; his name was Brooks. The horn was blown at sunrise; the
colored people had then to march before the overseer to the field, he
on horseback. We had to work, even in long summer days, till twelve
o'clock, before we tasted a morsel, men, women, and children all being
served alike. At noon the cart appeared with our breakfast. It was in
large trays, and was set on the ground. There was bread, of which a
piece was cut off for each person; then there was small hominy boiled,
that is, Indian-corn, ground in the hand-mill, and besides this two
herrings for each of the men and women, and one for each of the
children. Our drink was the water in the ditches, whatever might be
its state; if the ditches were dry, water was brought to us by the
boys. The salt fish made us always thirsty, but no other drink than
water was ever allowed. However thirsty a slave may be, he is not
allowed to leave his employment for a moment to get water; he can only
have it when the hands in working have reached the ditch, at the end
of the rows. The overseer stood with his watch in his hand, to give us
just an hour; when he said, 'Rise,' we had to rise and go to work
again. The women who had children laid them down by the hedge-row, and
gave them straws and other trifles to play with; here they were in
danger from snakes; I have seen a large snake found coiled round the
neck and face of a child, when its mother went to suckle it at
dinner-time. The hands work in a line by the side of each other; the
overseer puts the swiftest hands in the fore row, and all must keep up
with them. One black man is kept on purpose to whip the others in the
field; if he does not flog with sufficient severity, he is flogged
himself; he whips severely, to keep the whip from his own back. If a
man have a wife in the same field with himself, he chooses a row by
the side of hers, that, with extreme labor, he may, if possible, help
her. But he will not be in the same field if he can help it; for, with
his hardest labor, he often cannot save her from being flogged, and he
is obliged to stand by and see it; he is always liable to see her
taken home at night, stripped naked, and whipped before all the men.
On the estate I am speaking of, those women who had sucking children
suffered much from their breasts becoming full of milk, the infants
being left at home; they therefore could not keep up with the other
hands. I have seen the overseer beat them with raw hide, so that blood
and milk flew mingled from their breasts. A woman who gives offence in
the field, and is large in the family way, is compelled to lie down
over a hole made to receive her corpulency, and is flogged with the
whip, or beat with a paddle, which has holes in it; at every hole
comes a blister. One of my sisters was so severely punished in this
way, that labor was brought on, and the child was born in the field.
This very overseer, Mr. Brooks, killed in this manner a girl named
Mary; her father and mother were in the field at the time. He killed,
also, a boy about twelve years old. He had no punishment, or even
trial, for either.

There was no dinner till dark, when he gave the order to knock off and
go home. The meal then was the same as in the morning, except that we
had meat twice a week.

On very few estates are the colored people provided with any bedding:
the best masters give only a blanket; this master gave none; a board,
which the slave might pick up any where on the estate, was all he had
to lie on. If he wished to procure bedding, he could only do so by
working at nights. For warmth, therefore, the negroes generally sleep
near a large fire, whether in the kitchen, or in their log huts; their
legs are often in this way blistered and greatly swelled, and
sometimes badly burnt: they suffer severely from this cause.

When the water-mill did not supply meal enough, we had to grind with
the hand-mill. The night was employed in this work, without any thing
being taken from the labor of the day. We had to take turn at it,
women as well as men; enough was to be ground to serve for the
following day.

I was eight months in the field. My master, Mr. Sawyer, agreed to
allow me eight dollars a month, while so employed, towards buying
myself; it will be seen he did not give me even that. When I first
went to work in the corn-field, I had paid him $230 towards this third
buying of my freedom. I told him, one night, I could not stand his
field work any longer; he asked, why; I said I was almost starved to
death, and had long been unaccustomed to this severe labor. He wanted
to know why I could not stand it as well as the rest. I told him he
knew well I had not been used to it for a long time; that his overseer
was the worst that had ever been on the plantation, and that I could
not stand it. He said he would direct Mr. Brooks to give each of us a
pint of meal or corn every evening, which we might bake, and which
would serve us next morning, till our breakfast came at noon. The
black people were much rejoiced that I got this additional allowance
for them. But I was not satisfied; I wanted liberty.

On Sunday morning, as master was sitting in his porch, I went to him,
and offered to give him the $230 I had already paid him, if, beside
them, he would take for my freedom the $600 he had given for me. He
drove me away, saying I had no way to get the money. I sat down for a
time, and went to him again. I repeated my offer to procure the $690,
and he again said I could not. He called his wife out of the room to
the porch, and said to her, 'Don't you think Moses has taken to
getting drunk?' She asked me if it was so; I denied it, when she
inquired what was the matter. Master replied, 'Don't you think he
wants me to sell him?' She said, 'Moses, we would not take any money
for you. Captain Cormack put a thousand dollars for you on the supper
table last Friday night, and Mr. Sawyer would not touch it; he wants
you to be overseer in the Dismal Swamp.' I replied, 'Captain Cormack
never said any thing to me about buying me; I would cut my throat from
ear to ear rather than go to him. I know what made him say so; he is
courting Miss Patsey, and he did it to make himself look big.'
Mistress laughed and turned away, and slammed to the door; master
shook himself with laughing, and put the paper he was reading before
his face, knowing that I spoke the truth. Captain Cormack was an old
man who went on crutches. Miss Patsey was the finest of master's
daughters. Master drove me away from him again.

On Monday morning, Mr. Brooks, the overseer, blew the horn as usual
for all to go to the field. I refused to go. I went to master, and
told him that if he would give me a paper, I would go and fetch the
$600; he then gave me a paper, stating that he was willing to take
that sum for my freedom: so I hired an old horse and started for
Norfolk, fifty miles off.

When I reached Deep Creek, I went to the house of Captain Edward
Minner. He was very glad to see me, for in former days I had done much
business for him; he said how sorry he had been to hear that I was at
field work. He inquired where I was going. I said, to Norfolk, to get
some of the merchants to let me have money to buy myself. He replied,
'What did I always say to you? Was it not, that I would let you have
the money at any time, if you would only tell me when you could be
sold?' He called Mrs. Minner into the room, and told her I could be
sold for my freedom; she was rejoiced to hear it. He said, 'Put up
your horse at Mr. Western's tavern, for you need go no farther; I have
plenty of old rusty dollars, and no man shall put his hand on your
collar again to say you are a slave. Come and stay with me to-night,
and in the morning I will get Mr. Garret's horse, and go with you.'

Next morning we set off, and found master at Major Farrence's, at the
cross canal, where I knew he was to be that day, to sell his share of
the canal. When I saw him, he told me to go forward home, for he would
not sell me. I felt sick and sadly disappointed. Captain Minner
stepped up to him, and showed him the paper he had given me, saying,
'Mr. Sawyer, is not this your hand-writing?' He replied, 'Mistress
said, the last word when I came away, I was not to sell him, but send
him home again.' Captain Minner said, 'Mind, gentlemen, I do not want
him for a slave; I want to buy him for freedom. He will repay me the
money, and I shall not charge him a cent of interest for it. I would
not have a colored person, to drag me down to hell, for all the money
in the world.' A gentleman who was by said it was a shame I should be
so treated; I had bought myself so often that Mr. Sawyer ought to let
me go. The very worst man as an overseer over the persons employed in
digging the canal, Mr. Wiley M'Pherson, was there; he was never known
to speak in favor of a colored person; even he said that Mr. Sawyer
ought to let me go, as I had been sold so often. At length, Mr. Sawyer
consented I should go for $650, and would take no less. I wished
Captain Minner to give the extra $50, and not stand about it. I
believe it was what M'Pherson said that induced my master to let me
go; for he was well known for his great severity to colored people; so
that after even he had said so, master could not stand out. The Lord
must have opened M'Pherson's heart to say it.

I have said this M'Pherson was an overseer where slaves were employed
in cutting canals. The labor there is very severe. The ground is often
very boggy; the negroes are up to the middle, or much deeper, in mud
and water, cutting away roots and baling out mud; if they can keep
their heads above water, they work on. They lodge in huts, or, as they
are called, camps, made of shingles or boards. They lie down in the
mud which has adhered to them, making a great fire to dry themselves,
and keep off the cold. No bedding whatever is allowed them; it is only
by work done over his task that any of them can get a blanket. They
are paid nothing, except for this overwork. Their masters come once a
month to receive the money for their labor; then, perhaps, some few
very good masters will give them $2 each, some others $1, some a pound
of tobacco, and some nothing at all. The food is more abundant than
that of field slaves: indeed, it is the best allowance in America--it
consists of a peck of meal and six pounds of pork per week; the pork
is commonly not good; it is damaged, and is bought, as cheap as
possible, at auctions.

M'Pherson gave the same task to each slave; of course, the weak ones
often failed to do it. I have often seen him tie up persons and flog
them in the morning, only because they were unable to get the previous
day's task done; after they were flogged, pork or beef brine was put
on their bleeding backs to increase the pain; he sitting by, resting
himself, and seeing it done. After being thus flogged and pickled, the
sufferers often remained tied up all day, the feet just touching the
ground, the legs tied, and pieces of wood put between the legs. All
the motion allowed was a slight turn of the neck. Thus exposed and
helpless, the yellow flies and musquitoes in great numbers would
settle on the bleeding and smarting back, and put the sufferer to
extreme torture. This continued all day, for they were not taken down
till night. In flogging, he would sometimes tie the slave's shirt over
his head, that he might not flinch when the blow was coming; sometimes
he would increase his misery, by blustering, and calling out that he
was coming to flog again, which he did or did not, as happened. I have
seen him flog them with his own hands till their entrails were
visible; and I have seen the sufferers dead when they were taken down.
He never was called to account in any way for it.

It is not uncommon for flies to blow the sores made by flogging; in
that case, we get a strong weed growing in those parts, called the Oak
of Jerusalem; we boil it at night, and wash the sores with the
liquor, which is extremely bitter. On this the creepers or maggots
come out. To relieve them in some degree, after severe flogging, their
fellow-slaves rub their backs with part of their little allowance of
fat meat.

For fear the slaves should run away, while unable to work from
flogging, he kept them chained till they could work again. This man
had from 500 to 700 men under his control. When out of other
employment, I sometimes worked under him, and saw his doings. I
believe it was the word of this man which gained my freedom. He is
dead, but there are yet others like him on public works.

When the great kindness of Captain Minner had set me clear of Mr.
Sawyer, I went to my old occupation of working the canal boats. These
I took on shares, as before. After a time, I was disabled for a year
from following this employment by a severe attack of rheumatism,
caught by frequent exposure to severe weather. I was anxious, however,
to be earning something towards the repayment of Captain Minner, lest
any accident, unforeseen by him or me, should even yet deprive me of
the liberty for which I so longed, and for which I had suffered so
much. I therefore had myself carried in a lighter up a cross canal in
the Dismal Swamp, and to the other side of Drummond's Lake. I was left
on the shore, and there I built myself a little hut, and had
provisions brought to me as opportunity served. Here, among snakes,
bears, and panthers, whenever my strength was sufficient, I cut down a
juniper-tree, and converted it into cooper's timber. The camp, like
those commonly set up for negroes, was entirely open on one side; on
that side a fire is lighted at night, and a person sleeping puts his
feet towards it. One night I was awoke by some animal smelling my
face, and snuffing strongly; I felt its cold muzzle. I suddenly thrust
out my arms, and shouted with all my might; it was frightened, and
made off. I do not know whether it was a bear or a panther; but it
seemed as tall as a large calf. I slept, of course, no more that
night. I put my trust in the Lord, and continued on the spot; I was
never attacked again.

I recovered, and went to the canal boats again; by the end of three
years from the time he laid down the money, I entirely repaid my very
kind and excellent friend. During this time he made no claim whatever
on my services; I was altogether on the footing of a free man, as far
as a colored man can there be free.

When, at length, I had repaid Captain Minner, and had got my free
papers, so that my freedom was quite secure, my feelings were greatly
excited. I felt to myself so light, that I could almost think I could
fly; in my sleep I was always dreaming of flying over woods and
rivers. My gait was so altered by my gladness, that people often
stopped me, saying, 'Grandy, what is the matter?' I excused myself as
well as I could; but many perceived the reason, and said, 'O! he is so
pleased with having got his freedom.' Slavery will teach any man to be
glad when he gets freedom.

My good master, Captain Minner, sent me to Providence, in Rhode
Island, to stay a year and a day, in order to gain my residence. But I
staid only two months. Mr. Howard's vessel came there laden with corn.
I longed much to see my master and mistress, for the kindness they had
done me, and so went home in the schooner. On my arrival, I did not
stop at my own house, except to ask my wife at the door how she and
the children were in health, but went up the town to see Captain and
Mrs. Minner. They were very glad to see me, and consulted with me
about my way of getting a living. I wished to go on board the New York
and Philadelphia packets, but feared I should be troubled for my
freedom. Captain Minner thought I might venture, and I therefore
engaged myself. I continued in that employment till his death, which
happened about a year alter my return from Providence. Then I returned
to Boston; for, while he lived, I knew I could rely on his protection;
but when I lost my friend, I thought it best to go wholly to the
Northern States.

At Boston I went to work at sawing wood, sawing with the whip-saw,
laboring in the coal-yards, loading and unloading vessels, &c. After
laboring in this way for a few months, I went a voyage to St. John's,
in Porto Rico, with Captain Cobb, in the schooner _New Packet_. On the
return voyage, the vessel got ashore on Cape Cod; we left her, after
doing in vain what we could to right her: she was afterwards
recovered. I went several other voyages, and particularly two to the
Mediterranean: the last was to the East Indies, in the ship _James
Murray_, Captain Woodbury, owner Mr. Gray. My entire savings, up to
the period of my return from this voyage, amounted to $300; I sent it
to Virginia, and bought my wife. She came to me at Boston. I dared not
go myself to fetch her, lest I should be again deprived of my liberty,
as often happens to free colored people.

At the time, called the time of the Insurrection, about eight years
ago, when the whites said the colored people were going to rise, and
shot, hanged, and otherwise destroyed many of them, Mrs. Minner
thought she saw me in the street, and fainted there. The soldiers were
seizing all the blacks they could find, and she knew, if I were there,
I should be sure to suffer with the rest. She was mistaken; I was not

My son's master, at Norfolk, sent a letter to me at Boston, to say,
that if I could raise $450, I might have his freedom; he was then
fifteen years old. I had again saved $300. I knew the master was a
drinking man, and was therefore very anxious to get my son out of his
hands. I went to Norfolk, running the risk of my liberty, and took my
$300 with me, to make the best bargain I could. Many gentlemen in
Boston, my friends, advised me not to go myself; but I was anxious to
get my boy's freedom, and I knew that nobody in Virginia had any cause
of complaint against me. So, notwithstanding their advice, I
determined to go.

When the vessel arrived there, they said it was against the law for me
to go ashore. The mayor of the city said I had been among the cursed
Yankees too long; he asked me whether I did not know that it was
unlawful for me to land, to which I replied, that I did not know it,
for I could neither read nor write. The merchants for whom I had
formerly done business came on board, and said they cared for neither
the mare (mayor) nor the horse, and insisted that I should go ashore.
I told the mayor the business on which I came, and he gave me leave to
stay nine days, telling me that if I were not gone in that time, he
would sell me for the good of the state.

I offered my boy's master the $300; he counted the money, but put it
back to me, refusing to take less than $450. I went on board to return
to Boston. We met with head winds, and put back three times to
Norfolk, anchoring each time just opposite the jail. The nine days had
expired, and I feared the mayor would find me on board and sell me. I
could see the jail, full of colored people, and even the
whipping-post, at which they were constantly enduring the lash. While
we were lying there by the jail, two vessels came from Eastern Shore,
Virginia, laden with cattle and colored people. The cattle were lowing
for their calves, and the men and women were crying for their
husbands, wives, or children. The cries and groans were terrible,
notwithstanding there was a whipper on board each vessel, trying to
compel the poor creatures to keep silence. These vessels lay close to
ours. I had been a long time away from such scenes; the sight affected
me very much, and added greatly to my fears.

One day I saw a boat coming from the shore with white men in it. I
thought they were officers coming to take me; and such was my horror
of slavery, that I twice ran to the ship's waist to jump overboard
into the strong ebb tide then running, to drown myself; but a strong
impression on my mind restrained me each time.

Once more we got under way for New York; but, meeting again with head
winds, we ran into Maurice's River, in Delaware Bay. New Jersey, in
which that place lies, is not a slave state. So I said to the captain,
'Let me have a boat, and set me on the free land once more; then I
will travel home over land; for I will not run the risk of going back
to Virginia any more. The captain said there was no danger, but I
exclaimed, 'No, no! captain, I will not try it; put my feet on free
land once again, and I shall be safe.' When I once more touched the
free land, the burden of my mind was removed; if two ton weight had
been taken off me, the relief would not have seemed so great.

From Maurice's Creek I travelled to Philadelphia, and at that place
had a letter written to my wife, at Boston, thanking God that I was on
free land again. On arriving at Boston, I borrowed $150 of a friend,
and, going to New York, I obtained the help of Mr. John Williams to
send the $450 to Norfolk; thus, at length, I bought my son's freedom.
I met him at New York, and brought him on to Boston.

Six other of my children, three boys and three girls, were sold to New
Orleans. Two of these daughters have bought their own freedom. The
eldest of them, Catherine, was sold three times after she was taken
away from Virginia; the first time was by auction. Her last master but
one was a Frenchman; she worked in his sugar-cane and cotton fields.
Another Frenchman inquired for a girl, on whom he could depend, to
wait on his wife, who was in a consumption. Her master offered him my
daughter; they went into the field to see her, and the bargain was
struck. Her new master gave her up to his sick wife, on whom she
waited till her death. As she had waited exceedingly well on his wife,
her master offered her a chance of buying her freedom. She objected to
his terms as too high; for he required her to pay him $4 a week out of
her earnings, and $1,200 for her freedom. He said he could get more
for her, and told her she might get plenty of washing, at a dollar a
dozen: at last she agreed. She lived near the river side, and
obtained plenty of work. So anxious was she to obtain her freedom,
that she worked nearly all her time, days and nights, and Sundays. She
found, however, she gained nothing by working on Sundays, and
therefore left it off. She paid her master punctually her weekly hire,
and also something towards her freedom, for which he gave her
receipts. A good stewardess was wanted for a steamboat on the
Mississippi; she was hired for the place at $30 a month, which is the
usual salary; she also had liberty to sell apples and oranges on
board; and, commonly, the passengers give from twenty-five cents to a
dollar to a stewardess who attends them well. Her entire incoming,
wages and all, amounted to about sixty dollars a month. She remained
at this employment till she had paid the entire sum of $ 1,200 for her

As soon as she obtained her free papers, she left the steamboat,
thinking she could find her sister Charlotte. Her first two trials
were unsuccessful; but on the third attempt she found her at work in
the cane-field. She showed her sister's master her own free papers,
and told him how she had bought herself; he said that, if her sister
would pay him as much as she paid her master, she might go too. They
agreed, and he gave her a pass. The two sisters went on board a
steamboat, and worked together for the wages of one, till they had
saved the entire $1,200 for the freedom of the second sister. The
husband of Charlotte was dead; her children were left behind in the
cotton and cane-fields; their master refuses to take less than $2,400
for them; their names and ages are as follows: Zeno, about fifteen;
Antoinette, about thirteen; Joseph, about eleven; and Josephine,
about ten years old. Of my other children, I only know that one, a
girl, named Betsey, is a little way from Norfolk, in Virginia. Her
master, Mr. William Dixon, is willing to sell her for $500.

I do not know where any of my other four children are, nor whether
they be dead or alive. It will be very difficult to find them out: for
the names of slaves are commonly changed with every change of master:
they usually bear the name of the master to whom they belong at the
time: they have no family name of their own by which they can be
traced. Through this circumstance, and their ignorance of reading and
writing, to which they are compelled by law, all trace between parents
and children, who are separated from them in childhood, is lost in a
few years. When, therefore, a child is sold away from its mother, she
feels that she is parting from it forever; there is little likelihood
of her ever knowing what of good or evil befalls it. The way of
finding out a friend or relative who has been sold away for any length
of time, or to any great distance, is to trace them, if possible, to
one master after another, or if that cannot be done, to inquire about
the neighborhood where they are supposed to be, until some one is
found who can tell that such or such a person belonged to such or such
a master; and the person supposed to be the one sought for, may,
perhaps, remember the names of the persons to whom his father and
mother belonged: there is little to be learned from his appearance,
for so many years may have passed away that he may have grown out of
the memory of his parents, or his nearest relations. There are thus no
lasting family ties to bind relations together, not even the nearest,
and this aggravates their distress when they are sold from each other.
I have little hope of finding my four children again.

I have lived in Boston ever since I bought my freedom, except during
the last year, which I have spent at Portland, in the state of Maine.

I have yet said nothing of my father. He was often sold through the
failure of his successive owners. When I was a little boy, he was sold
away from us to a distance: he was then so far off that he could not
come to see us oftener than once a year. After that, he was sold to go
still farther away, and then he could not come at all. I do not know
what has become of him.

When my mother became old, she was sent to live in a little lonely
log-hut in the woods. Aged and worn-out slaves, whether men or women,
are commonly so treated. No care is taken of them, except, perhaps,
that a little ground is cleared about the hut, on which the old slave,
if able, may raise a little corn. As far as the owner is concerned,
they live or die, as it happens: it is just the same thing as turning
out an old horse. Their children, or other near relations, if living
in the neighborhood, take it by turns to go at night with a supply
saved out of their own scanty allowance of food, as well as to cut
wood and fetch water for them: this is done entirely through the good
feelings of the slaves, and not through the masters' taking care that
it is done. On these night-visits, the aged inmate of the hut is often
found crying on account of sufferings from disease or extreme
weakness, or from want of food or water in the course of the day: many
a time, when I have drawn near to my mother's hut, I have heard her
grieving and crying on these accounts: she was old and blind too, and
so unable to help herself. She was not treated worse than others: it
is the general practice. Some few good masters do not treat their old
slaves so: they employ them in doing light jobs about the house and

My eldest sister is in Elizabeth City. She has five children, who, of
course, are slaves. Her master is willing to sell her for $100: she is
growing old. One of her children, a young man, cannot be bought under

My sister Tamar, who belonged to the same master with myself, had
children very fast. Her husband had hard owners, and lived at a
distance. When a woman who has many children belongs to an owner who
is under age, as ours was, it is customary to put her and the children
out yearly to the person who will maintain them for the least money,
the person taking them having the benefit of whatever work the woman
can do. But my sister was put to herself in the woods. She had a bit
of ground cleared, and was left to hire herself out to labor. On the
ground she raised corn and flax; and obtained a peck of corn, some
herrings, or a piece of meat, for a day's work among the neighboring
owners. In this way she brought up her children. Her husband could
help her but little. As soon as each of the children became big
enough, it was sold away from her.

After parting thus with five, she was sold along with the sixth,
(about a year and a half old,) to the speculators; these are persons
who buy slaves in Carolina and Virginia, to sell them in Georgia and
New Orleans. After travelling with them more than one hundred miles,
she made her escape, but could not obtain her child to take it with
her. On her journey homeward she travelled by night, and hid herself
in thick woods by day. She was in great danger on the road, but in
three weeks reached the woods near us: there she had to keep herself
concealed: I, my mother, and her husband, knew where she was: she
lived in a den she made for herself. She sometimes ventured down to my
mother's hut, where she was hid in a hollow under the floor. Her
husband lived ten miles off; he would sometimes set off after his
day's work was done, spend part of the night with her, and get back
before next sunrise: sometimes he would spend Sunday with her. We all
supplied her with such provisions as we could save. It was necessary
to be very careful in visiting her; we tied pieces of wood or bundles
of rags to our feet, that no track might be made.

In the wood she had three children born; one of them died. She had not
recovered from the birth of the youngest when she was discovered and
taken to the house of her old master.

She was afterwards sold to Culpepper, who used her very cruelly. He
was beating her dreadfully, and the blood was streaming from her head
and back one day when I happened to go to his house. I was greatly
grieved, and asked his leave to find a person to buy her: instead of
answering me, he struck at me with an axe, and I was obliged to get
away as fast as I could. Soon after this he failed, and she was
offered for sale in Norfolk; there Mr. Johnson bought her and her two
children, out of friendship for me: he treated her exceedingly well,
and she served him faithfully; but it was not long before she was
claimed by a person to whom Culpepper had mortgaged her before he sold
her to Johnson. This person sold her to Long, of Elizabeth City, where
again she was very badly treated. After a time, this person sold her
to go to Georgia: she was very ill at the time, and was taken away in
a cart. I hear from her sometimes, and am very anxious to purchase her
freedom, if ever I should be able. Two of her children are now in
North Carolina, and are longing to obtain their freedom. I know
nothing of the others, nor am I likely ever to hear of them again.

The treatment of slaves is mildest near the borders, where the free
and slave states join: it becomes more severe, the farther we go from
the free states. It is more severe in the west and south than where I
lived. The sale of slaves most frequently takes place from the milder
to the severer parts: there is great traffic in slaves in that
direction, which is carried on by the speculators. On the frontier
between the slave and free States there is a guard; no colored person
can go over a ferry without a pass. By these regulations, and the
great numbers of patrols, escape is made next to impossible.

Formerly slaves were allowed to have religious meetings of their own;
but after the insurrection which I spoke of before, they were
forbidden to meet even for worship. Often they are flogged if they are
found singing or praying at home. They may go to the places of worship
used by the whites; but they like their own meetings better. My wife's
brother Isaac was a colored preacher. A number of slaves went
privately into a wood to hold meetings; when they were found out, they
were flogged, and each was forced to tell who else was there. Three
were shot, two of whom were killed and the other was badly wounded.
For preaching to them, Isaac was flogged, and his back pickled; when
it was nearly well, he was flogged and pickled again, and so on for
some months; then his back was suffered to get well, and he was sold.
A little while before this, his wife was sold away with an infant at
her breast; and out of six children, four had been sold away by one at
a time. On the way with his buyers he dropped down dead; his heart was

Having thus narrated what has happened to myself, my relatives and
near friends, I will add a few matters about slaves and colored people
in general.

Slaves are under fear in every word they speak. If, in their master's
kitchen, they let slip an expression of discontent, or a wish for
freedom, it is often reported to the master or mistress by the
children of the family who may be playing about: severe flogging is
often the consequence.

I have already said that it is forbidden by law to teach colored
persons to read or write. A few well-disposed white young persons, of
the families to which the slaves belonged, have ventured to teach
them, but they dare not let it be known they have done so.

The proprietors get new land cleared in this way. They first 'dead' a
piece of ground in the woods adjoining the plantation: by 'deading' is
meant killing the trees, by cutting a nick all round each, quite
through the bark. Out of this ground each colored person has a piece
as large as he can tend after his other work is done; the women have
pieces in like manner. The slave works at night, cutting down the
timber and clearing the ground; after it is cleared, he has it for his
own use for two or three years, as may be agreed on. As these new
clearings lie between the woods and the old cultivated land, the
squirrels and raccoons first come at the crops on them, and thus those
on the planter's land are saved from much waste. When the negro has
had the land for the specified time, and it has become fit for the
plough, the master takes it, and he is removed to another new piece.
It is no uncommon thing for the land to be taken from him before the
time is out, if it has sooner become fit for the plough. When the crop
is gathered, the master comes to see how much there is of it; he then
gives the negro an order to sell that quantity; without that order, no
storekeeper dare buy it. The slave lays out the money in something
tidy to go to meeting in, and something to take to his wife.

The evidence of a black man, or of ever so many black men, stands for
nothing against that of one white; in consequence of it the free
negroes are liable to great cruelties. They have had their dwellings
entered, their bedding and furniture destroyed, and themselves, their
wives and children, beaten; some have even been taken, with their
wives, into the woods, and tied up, flogged, and left there. There is
nothing which a white man may not do against a black one, if he only
takes care that no other white man can give evidence against him.

A law has lately been passed in New Orleans prohibiting any free
colored person from going there.

The coasting packets of the ports on the Atlantic commonly have
colored cooks. When a vessel goes from New York or Boston to a port in
the slaveholding states, the black cook is usually put in jail till
the vessel sails again.

No colored person can travel without a pass. If he cannot show it, he
may be flogged by any body; in such a case he often is seized and
flogged by the patrols. All through the slave states there are
patrols; they are so numerous that they cannot be easily escaped.

The only time when a man can visit his wife, when they are on
different estates, is Saturday evening and Sunday. If they be very
near to each other, he may sometimes see her on Wednesday evening. He
must always return to his work by sunrise; if he fail to do so, he is
flogged. When he has got together all the little things he can for his
wife and children, and has walked many miles to see them, he may find
that they have all been sold away, some in one direction, and some in
another. He gives up all hope of seeing them again, but he dare not
utter a word of complaint.

It often happens that, when a slave wishes to visit his wife on
another plantation, his own master is busy or from home, and therefore
he cannot get a pass. He ventures without it. If there be any little
spite against his wife or himself, he may be asked for it when he
arrives, and, not having it, he may be beaten with thirty-nine
stripes, and sent away. On his return, he may be seized by the patrol,
and flogged again for the same reason; and he will not wonder if he is
again seized and beaten for the third time.

If a negro has given offence to the patrol, even by so innocent a
matter as dressing tidily to go to a place of worship, he will be
seized by one of them, and another will tear up his pass; while one is
flogging him, the others will look another way; so when he or his
master makes complaint of his having been beaten without cause, and he
points out the person who did it, the others will swear they saw no
one beat him. His oath, being that of a black man, would stand for
nothing; but he may not even be sworn; and, in such a case, his
tormentors are safe, for they were the only whites present.

In all the slave states there are men who make a trade of whipping
negroes; they ride about inquiring for jobs of persons who keep no
overseer; if there is a negro to be whipped, whether man or woman,
this man is employed when he calls, and does it immediately; his fee
is half a dollar. Widows and other females, having negroes, get them
whipped in this way. Many mistresses will insist on the slave who has
been flogged begging pardon for her fault on her knees, and thanking
her for the correction.

A white man, who lived near me in Camden county, Thomas Evidge,
followed this business. He was also sworn whipper at the court house.
A law was passed that any white man detected in stealing should be
whipped. Mr. Dozier frequently missed hogs, and flogged many of his
negroes on suspicion of stealing them; when he could not, in his
suspicions, fix on any one in particular, he flogged them all round,
saying that he was sure of having punished the right one. Being one
day shooting in his woods, he heard the report of another gun, and
shortly after met David Evidge, the nephew of the whipper, with one of
his hogs on his back, which had just been shot. David was sent to
prison, convicted of the theft, and sentenced to be flogged. His
uncle, who vapored about greatly in flogging slaves, and taunted them
with unfeeling speeches while he did it, could not bear the thought of
flogging his nephew, and hired a man to do it. The person pitched on
chanced to be a sailor; he laid it well on the thief; pleased enough
were the colored people to see a white back for the first time
subjected to the lash.

Another man of the same business, George Wilkins, did no greater
credit to the trade. Mr. Carnie, on Western Branch, Virginia, often
missed corn from his barn. Wilkins, the whipper, was very officious in
pointing out this slave and that, as very likely to be the thief; with
nothing against them but his insinuations, some were very severely
punished, being flogged by this very Wilkins, and others, at his
instigation, were sold away. One night, Mr. Carnie, unknown to his
colored people, set a steel trap in the barn; some of the negroes,
passing the barn before morning, saw Wilkins standing there, but were
not aware he was caught. They called the master, that he might seize
the thief before he could escape; he came and teased Wilkins during
the night; in the morning, he exposed him to the view of the
neighbors, and then set him at liberty without further punishment.

The very severe punishments to which slaves are subjected, for
trifling offences, or none at all, their continued liability to all
kinds of ill usage, without a chance of redress, and the agonizing
feelings they endure at being separated from the dearest connections,
drive many of them to desperation, and they abscond. They hide
themselves in the woods, where they remain for months, and, in some
cases, for years. When caught, they are flogged with extreme
severity, their backs are pickled, and the flogging repeated as before
described: after months of this torture, the back is allowed to heal,
and the slave is sold away. Especially is this done when the slave has
attempted to reach a free state.

In violent thunder-storms, when the whites have got between
feather-beds to be safe from the lightning, I have often seen negroes,
the aged as well as others, go out, and, lifting up their hands, thank
God that judgment was coming at last. So cruelly are many of them
used, that judgment, they think, would be a happy release from their
horrible slavery.

The proprietors, though they live in luxury, generally die in debt:
their negroes are so hardly treated that no profit is made by their
labor. Many of them are great gamblers. At the death of a proprietor,
it commonly happens that his colored people are sold towards paying
his debts. So it must and will be with the masters while slavery
continues: when freedom is established, I believe they will begin to
prosper greatly.

Before I close this Narrative, I ought to express my grateful thanks
to the many friends in the Northern States, who have encouraged and
assisted me: I shall never forget to speak of their kindness, and to
pray for their prosperity. I am delighted in saying, that not only to
myself, but to very many other colored persons, they have lent a
benevolent and helping hand. Last year, gentlemen whom I know bought
no less than ten families from slavery; and this year they are
pursuing the same good work. But for these numerous and heavy claims
on their means and their kindness, I should have had no need to appeal
to the generosity of the British public; they would gladly have
helped me to redeem all my children and relations.

When I first went to the Northern States,--which is about ten years
ago,--although I was free, as to the law, I was made to feel severely
the difference between persons of different colors. No black man was
admitted to the same seats in churches with the whites, nor to the
inside of public conveyances, nor into street coaches or cabs: we had
to be content with the decks of steamboats in all weathers, night and
day, not even our wives or children being allowed to go below, however
it might rain, or snow, or freeze; in various other ways, we were
treated as though we were of a race of men below the whites. But the
abolitionists boldly stood up for us, and, through them, things are
much changed for the better. Now, we may sit in any part of many
places of worship, and are even asked into the pews of respectable
white families; many public conveyances now make no distinction
between white and black. We begin to feel that we are really on the
same footing as our fellow-citizens. They see we can and do conduct
ourselves with propriety, and they are now admitting us, in many
cases, to the same standing with themselves.

During the struggles which have procured for us this justice from our
fellow-citizens, we have been in the habit of looking in public places
for some well-known abolitionists, and, if none that we knew were
there, we addressed any person dressed as a Quaker; these classes
always took our part against ill usage, and we have to thank them for
many a contest in our behalf.

We were greatly delighted by the zealous efforts and powerful
eloquence in our cause of Mr. George Thompson, who came from our
English friends to aid our suffering brethren. He was hated and mobbed
by bad men amongst the whites; they put his life in great danger, and
threatened destruction to all who sheltered him. We prayed for him,
and did all we could to defend him. The Lord preserved him, and
thankful were we when he escaped from our country with his life. At
that time, and ever since, we have had a host of American friends, who
have labored for the cause night and day; they have nobly stood up for
the rights and honor of the colored man; but they did so at first in
the midst of scorn and danger. Now, thank God, the case is very
different. William Lloyd Garrison, who was hunted for his life by a
mob in the streets of New York, has lately been chairman of a large
meeting in favor of abolition, held in Faneuil Hall, the celebrated
public hall of Boston, called the 'Cradle of Liberty.'

I am glad to say also that numbers of my colored brethren now escape
from slavery; some by purchasing their freedom, others by quitting,
through many dangers and hardships, the land of bondage. The latter
suffer many privations in their attempts to reach the free states.
They hide themselves, during the day, in the woods and swamps; at
night, they travel, crossing rivers by swimming or by boats they may
chance to meet with, and passing over hills and meadows which they do
not know: in these dangerous journeys they are guided by the
north-star, for they only know that the land of freedom is in the
north. They subsist only on such wild fruit as they can gather, and as
they are often very long on their way, they reach the free states
almost like skeletons. On their arrival they have no friends but such
as pity those who have been in bondage, the number of whom, I am happy
to say, is increasing; but if they can meet with a man in a
broad-brimmed hat and Quaker coat, they speak to him without
fear--relying on him as a friend. At each place the escaped slave
inquires for an abolitionist or a Quaker, and these friends of the
colored man help them on their journey northwards, until they are out
of the reach of danger.

Our untiring friends, the abolitionists, once obtained a law that no
colored person should be seized as a slave within the free states;
this law would have been of great service to us, by ridding us of all
anxiety about our freedom while we remained there; but I am sorry to
say, that it has lately been repealed, and that now, as before, any
colored person who is said to be a slave, may be seized in the free
states and carried away, no matter how long he may have resided there,
as also may his children and their children, although they all may
have been born there. I hope this law will soon be altered again. At
present many escaped slaves are forwarded by their friends to Canada,
where, under British rule, they are quite safe. There is a body of ten
thousand of them in Upper Canada; they are known for their good order,
and loyalty to the British government; during the late troubles, they
could always be relied on for the defence of the British possessions
against the lawless Americans who attempted to invade them.

As to the settlement of Liberia, on the coast of Africa, the free
colored people of America do not willingly go to it. America is their
home: if their forefathers lived in Africa, they themselves know
nothing of that country. None but free colored people are taken
there: if they would take slaves, they might have plenty of colonists.
Slaves will go any where for freedom.

We look very much to England for help to the cause of the slaves.
Whenever we hear of the people of England doing good to black men, we
are delighted, and run to tell each other the news. Our kind friends,
the abolitionists, are very much encouraged when they hear of meetings
and speeches in England in our cause. The first of August, the day
when the slaves in the West Indies were made free, is always kept as a
day of rejoicing by the American colored free people.

I do hope and believe that the cause of freedom to the blacks is
becoming stronger and stronger every day. I pray for the time to come
when freedom shall be established all over the world. Then will men
love as brethren; they will delight to do good to one another; and
they will thankfully worship the Father of All.

And now I have only to repeat my hearty thanks to all who have done
any thing towards obtaining liberty for my colored brethren, and
especially to express my gratitude to those who have helped me to
procure for myself, my wife, and so far of my children, the blessing
of freedom--a blessing of which none can know the value, but he who
has been a slave. Whatever profit may be obtained by the sale of this
book, and all donations with which I may be favored, will be
faithfully employed in redeeming my remaining children and relatives
from the dreadful condition of slavery.


I have paid the following sums to redeem myself and relatives from
slavery, viz:

  For my own freedom,  ... $1,850
  For my wife's "      ...    300
  For my son's  "      ...    450
  Grandchild's  "      ...    400
  To redeem my kidnapped son,  60

I now wish to raise $100 to buy the freedom of my sister Mary, who is
a slave at Elizabeth City, N.C. Her master says he will take that sum
for her.

_Boston, Jan. 19, 1844._


[Footnote 1: It will be observed that the narrator married a second
wife, without having heard of the decease of the first. To explain
this fact, it is necessary to state, that the frequent occurrence of
cases where husbands and wives, members of Christian societies, were
finally separated by sale, led the ministers, some years ago, to
deliberate on the subject: they decided that such separation might be
considered as the death of the parties to each other, and they
therefore agreed to consider subsequent marriages not immoral. The
practice is general. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that a more
unequivocal and impressive proof of the heinous nature of the system
could hardly exist. It breaks up the fondest connections, it tears up
the holiest attachments, and induces the ministers of religion, as
much as in them lies, to carve the divine law to a fitting with its
own infernal exigencies.]

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