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´╗┐Title: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Author: Gilbert, Olive, Truth, Sojourner
Language: English
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The Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850)
Dictated by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883);
Edited by Olive Gilbert


Written by Olive Gilbert, based on information
provided by Sojourner Truth.







THE subject of this biography, SOJOURNER TRUTH, as she now calls
herself-but whose name, originally, was Isabella-was born, as near as
she can now calculate, between the years 1797 and 1800.  She was the
daughter of James and Betsey, slaves of one Colonel Ardinburgh, Hurley,
Ulster County, New York.

Colonel  Ardinburgh belonged to that class of people called Low Dutch.

Of her first master, she can give no account, as she must have been a
mere infant when he died; and she, with her parents and some ten or
twelve other fellow human chattels, became the legal property of his
son, Charles Ardinburgh.  She distinctly remembers hearing her father
and mother say, that their lot was a fortunate one, as Master Charles
was the best of the family,-being, comparatively speaking, a kind
master to his slaves.

James and Betsey having, by their faithfulness, docility, and
respectful behavior, won his particular regard, received from him
particular favors-among which was a lot of land, lying back on the
slope of a mountain, where, by improving the pleasant evenings and
Sundays, they managed to raise a little tobacco, corn, or flax; which
they exchanged for extras, in the articles of food or clothing for
themselves and children.  She has no remembrance that Saturday
afternoon was ever added to their own time, as it is by some masters in
the Southern States.


Among Isabella's earliest recollections was the removal of her master,
Charles Ardinburgh, into his new house, which he had built for a hotel,
soon after the decease of his father.  A cellar, under this hotel, was
assigned to his slaves, as their sleeping apartment,-all the slaves he
possessed, of both sexes, sleeping (as is quite common in a state of
slavery) in the same room.  She carries in her mind, to this day, a
vivid picture of this dismal chamber; its only lights consisting of a
few panes of glass, through which she thinks the sun never shone, but
with thrice reflected rays; and the space between the loose boards of
the floor, and the uneven earth below, was often filled with mud and
water, the uncomfortable splashings of which were as annoying as its
noxious vapors must have been chilling and fatal to health.  She
shudders, even now, as she goes back in memory, and revisits this
cellar, and sees its inmates, of both sexes and all ages, sleeping on
those damp boards, like the horse, with a little straw and a blanket;
and she wonders not at the rheumatisms, and fever-sores, and palsies,
that distorted the limbs and racked the bodies of those fellow-slaves
in after-life.  Still, she does not attribute this cruelty-for cruelty
it certainly is, to be so unmindful of the health and comfort of any
being, leaving entirely out of sight his more important part, his
everlasting interests,-so much to any innate or constitutional cruelty
of the master, as to that gigantic inconsistency, that inherited habit
among slaveholders, of expecting a willing and intelligent obedience
from the slave, because he is a MAN-at the same time every thing
belonging to the soul-harrowing system does its best to crush the last
vestige of a man within him; and when it is crushed, and often before,
he is denied the comforts of life, on the plea that he knows neither
the want nor the use of them, and because he is considered to be little
more or little less than a beast.


Isabella's father was very tall and straight, when young, which gave
him the name of 'Bomefree'-low Dutch for tree-at least, this is
SOJOURNER's pronunciation of it-and by this name he usually went.  The
most familiar appellation of her mother was 'Mau-mau Bett.'  She was
the mother of some ten or twelve children; though Sojourner is far from
knowing the exact number of her brothers and sisters; she being the
youngest, save one, and all older than herself having been sold before
her remembrance.  She was privileged to behold six of them while she
remained a slave.

Of the two that immediately preceded her in age, a boy of five years,
and a girl of three, who were sold when she was an infant, she heard
much; and she wishes that all who would fain believe that slave parents
have not natural affection for their offspring could have listened as
she did, while Bomefree and Mau-mau Bett,-their dark cellar lighted by
a blazing pine-knot,-would sit for hours, recalling and recounting
every endearing, as well as harrowing circumstance that taxed memory
could supply, from the histories of those dear departed ones, of whom
they had been robbed, and for whom their hearts still bled.  Among the
rest, they would relate how the little boy, on the last morning he was
with them, arose with the birds, kindled a fire, calling for his
Mau-mau to 'come, for all was now ready for her'-little dreaming of the
dreadful separation which was so near at hand, but of which his parents
had an uncertain, but all the more cruel foreboding.  There was snow on
the ground, at the time of which we are speaking; and a large
old-fashioned sleigh was seen to drive up to the door of the late Col.
Ardinburgh.  This event was noticed with childish pleasure by the
unsuspicious boy; but when he was taken and put into the sleigh, and
saw his little sister actually shut and locked into the sleigh box, his
eyes were at once opened to their intentions; and, like a frightened
deer he sprang from the sleigh, and running into the house, concealed
himself under a bed.  But this availed him little. He was re-conveyed
to the sleigh, and separated for ever from those whom God had
constituted his natural guardians and protectors, and who should have
found him, in return, a stay and a staff to them in their declining
years.  But I make no comments on facts like these, knowing that the
heart of every slave parent will make its own comments, involuntarily
and correctly, as soon as each heart shall make the case its own.
Those who are not parents will draw their conclusions from the
promptings of humanity and philanthropy:-these, enlightened by reason
and revelation, are also unerring.


Isabella and Peter, her youngest brother, remained, with their parents,
the legal property of Charles Ardinburgh till his decease, which took
place when Isabella was near nine years old.

After this event, she was often surprised to find her mother in tears;
and when, in her simplicity, she inquired, 'Mau-mau, what makes you
cry?' she would answer, 'Oh, my child, I am thinking of your brothers
and sisters that have been sold away from me.'  And she would proceed
to detail many circumstances respecting them.  But Isabella long since
concluded that it was the impending fate of her only remaining
children, which her mother but too well understood, even then, that
called up those memories from the past, and made them crucify her heart

In the evening, when her mother's work was done, she would sit down
under the sparkling vault of heaven, and calling her children to her,
would talk to them of the only Being that could effectually aid or
protect them.  Her teachings were delivered in Low Dutch, her only
language, and, translated into English, ran nearly as follows:-

'My children, there is a God, who hears and sees you.' 'A God, mau-mau!
Where does he live?' asked the children.  'He lives in the sky,' she
replied; 'and when you are beaten, or cruelly treated, or fall into any
trouble, you must ask help of him, and he will always hear and help
you.'  She taught them to kneel and say the Lord's Prayer.  She
entreated them to refrain from lying and stealing, and to strive to
obey their masters.

At times, a groan would escape her, and she would break out in the
language of the Psalmist-'Oh Lord, how long?' 'Oh Lord, how long?' And
in reply to Isabella's question-'What ails you, mau-mau?' her only
answer was, 'Oh, a good deal ails me'-'Enough ails me.'  Then again,
she would point them to the stars, and say, in her peculiar language,
'Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down
upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to
them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.'

Thus, in her humble way, did she endeavor to show them their Heavenly
Father, as the only being who could protect them in their perilous
condition; at the same time, she would strengthen and brighten the
chain of family affection, which she trusted extended itself
sufficiently to connect the widely scattered members of her precious
flock.  These instructions of the mother were treasured up and held
sacred by Isabella, as our future narrative will show.


At length, the never-to-be-forgotten day of the terrible auction
arrived, when the 'slaves, horses, and other cattle' of Charles
Ardinburgh, deceased, were to be put under the hammer, and again change
masters.  Not only Isabella and Peter, but their mother, were now
destined to the auction block, and would have been struck off with the
rest to the highest bidder, but for the following circumstance: A
question arose among the heirs, 'Who shall be burdened with Bomefree,
when we have sent away his faithful Mau-mau Bett?'  He was becoming
weak and infirm; his limbs were painfully rheumatic and distorted-more
from exposure and hardship than from old age, though he was several
years older than Mau-mau Bett: he was no longer considered of value,
but must soon be a burden and care to some one.  After some contention
on the point at issue, none being willing to be burdened with him, it
was finally agreed, as most expedient for the heirs, that the price of
Mau-mau Bett should be sacrificed, and she receive her freedom, on
condition that she take care of and support her faithful James,-
faithful, not only to her as a husband, but proverbially faithful as a
slave to those who would not willingly sacrifice a dollar for his
comfort, now that he had commenced his descent into the dark vale of
decrepitude and suffering.  This important decision was received as
joyful news indeed to our ancient couple, who were the objects of it,
and who were trying to prepare their hearts for a severe struggle, and
one altogether new to them, as they had never before been separated;
for, though ignorant, helpless, crushed in spirit, and weighed down
with hardship and cruel bereavement, they were still human, and their
human hearts beat within them with as true an affection as ever caused
a human heart to beat.  And their anticipated separation now, in the
decline of life, after the last child had been torn from them, must
have been truly appalling.  Another privilege was granted them-that of
remaining occupants of the same dark, humid cellar I have before
described: otherwise, they were to support themselves as they best
could.  And as her mother was still able to do considerable work, and
her father a little, they got on for some time very comfortably.  The
strangers who rented the house were humane people, and very kind to
them; they were not rich, and owned  no slaves.  How long this state of
things continued, we are unable to say, as Isabella had not then
sufficiently cultivated her organ of time to calculate years, or even
weeks or hours.  But she thinks her mother must have lived several
years after the death of Master Charles.  She remembers going to visit
her parents some three or four times before the death of her mother,
and a good deal of time seemed to her to intervene between each visit.

At length her mother's health began to decline-a fever-sore made its
ravages on one of her limbs, and the palsy began to shake her frame;
still, she and James tottered about, picking up a little here and
there, which, added to the mites contributed by their kind neighbors,
sufficed to sustain life, and drive famine from the door.


One morning, in early autumn, (from the reason above mentioned, we
cannot tell what year,) Mau-mau Bett told James she would make him a
loaf of rye-bread, and get Mrs. Simmons, their kind neighbor, to bake
it for them, as she would bake that forenoon.  James told her he had
engaged to rake after the cart for his neighbors that morning; but
before he commenced, he would pole off some apples from a tree near,
which they were allowed to gather; and if she could get some of them
baked with the bread, it would give a nice relish for their dinner.  He
beat off the apples, and soon after, saw Mau-mau Bett come out and
gather them up.

At the blowing of the horn for dinner, he groped his way into his
cellar, anticipating his humble, but warm and nourishing meal; when,
lo! instead of being cheered by the sight and odor of fresh-baked bread
and the savory apples, his cellar seemed more cheerless than usual, and
at first neither sight nor sound met eye or ear.  But, on groping his
way through the room, his staff, which he used as a pioneer to go
before, and warn him of danger, seemed to be impeded in its progress,
and a low, gurgling, choking sound proceeded from the object before
him, giving him the first intimation of the truth as it was, that
Mau-mau Bett, his bosom companion, the only remaining member of his
large family, had fallen in a fit of the palsy, and lay helpless and
senseless on the earth!  Who among us, located in pleasant homes,
surrounded with every comfort, and so many kind and sympathizing
friends, can picture to ourselves the dark and desolate state of poor
old James-penniless, weak, lame, and nearly blind, as he was at the
moment he found his companion was removed from him, and he was left
alone in the world, with no one to aid, comfort, or console him? for
she never revived again, and lived only a few hours after being
discovered senseless by her poor bereaved James.


Isabella and Peter were permitted to see the remains of their mother
laid in their last narrow dwelling, and to make their bereaved father a
little visit, ere they returned to their servitude.  And most piteous
were the lamentations of the poor old man, when, at last, they also
were obliged to bid him "Farewell!"  Juan Fernandes, on his desolate
island, was not so pitiable an object as this poor lame man.  Blind and
crippled, he was too superannuated to think for a moment of taking care
of himself, and he greatly feared no persons would interest themselves
in his behalf. 'Oh,' he would exclaim, 'I had thought God would take me
first,-Mau-mau was so much smarter than I, and could get about and take
care of herself;-and I am so old, and so helpless.  What is to become
of me?  I can't do anything any more-my children are all gone, and here
I am left helpless and alone.'  'And then, as I was taking leave of
him,' said his daughter, in relating it, 'he raised his voice, and
cried aloud like a child-Oh, how he DID cry!  I HEAR it now -and
remember it as well as if it were but yesterday-poor old man!!!  He
thought God had done it all-and my heart bled within me at the sight of
his misery.  He begged me to get permission to come and see him
sometimes, which I readily and heartily promised him.'  But when all
had left him, the Ardinburghs, having some feeling left for their
faithful and favorite slave, 'took turns about' in keeping him-
permitting him to stay a few weeks at one house, and then a while at
another, and so around.  If, when he made a removal, the place where he
was going was not too far off, he took up his line of march, staff in
hand, and asked for no assistance.  If it was twelve or twenty miles,
they gave him a ride.  While he was living in this way, Isabella was
twice permitted to visit him.  Another time she walked twelve miles,
and carried her infant in her arms to see him, but when she reached
the place where she hoped to find him, he had just left for a place
some twenty miles distant, and she never saw him more.  The last time
she did see him, she found him seated on a rock, by the road side,
alone, and far from any house.  He was then migrating from the house of
one Ardinburgh to that of another, several miles distant.  His hair was
white like wool-he was almost blind-and his gait was more a creep than
a walk-but the weather was warm and pleasant, and he did not dislike
the journey.  When Isabella addressed him, he recognized her voice, and
was exceeding glad to see her.  He was assisted to mount the wagon, was
carried back to the famous cellar of which we have spoken, and there
they held their last earthly conversation.  He again, as usual,
bewailed his loneliness,-spoke in tones of anguish of his many
children, saying, "They are all taken away from me!  I have now not
one to give me a cup of cold water-why should I live and not die?"
Isabella, whose heart yearned over her father, and who would have made
any sacrifice to have been able to be with, and take care of him, tried
to comfort, by telling him that 'she had heard the white folks say,
that all the slaves in the State would be freed in ten years, and that
then she would come and take care of him.'  'I would take just as good
care of you as Mau-mau would, if she was here'-continued Isabel.  'Oh,
my child,' replied he, 'I cannot live that long.'  'Oh, do, daddy, do
live, and I will take such good care of you,' was her rejoinder.  She
now says, 'Why, I thought then, in my ignorance, that he could live, if
he would.  I just as much thought so, as I ever thought any thing in my
life-and I insisted on his living: but he shook his head, and insisted
he could not.'

But before Bomefree's good constitution would yield either to age,
exposure, or a strong desire to die, the Ardinburghs again tired of
him, and offered freedom to two old slaves-Caesar, brother of Mau-mau
Bett, and his wife Betsy-on condition that they should take care of
James. (I was about to say, 'their brother-in-law'-but as slaves are
neither husbands nor wives in law, the idea of their being
brothers-in-law is truly ludicrous.)  And although they were too old
and infirm to take care of themselves, (Caesar having been afflicted
for a long time with fever-sores, and his wife with the jaundice), they
eagerly accepted the boon of freedom, which had been the life-long
desire of their souls-though at a time when emancipation was to them
little more than destitution, and was a freedom more to be desired by
the master than the slave.  Sojourner declares of the slaves in their
ignorance, that 'their thoughts are no longer than her finger.'


A rude cabin, in a lone wood, far from any neighbors, was granted to
our freed friends, as the only assistance they were now to expect.
Bomefree, from this time, found his poor needs hardly supplied, as his
new providers were scarce able to administer to their own wants.
However, the time drew near when things were to be decidedly worse
rather than better; for they had not been together long, before Betty
died, and shortly after, Caesar followed her to 'that bourne from
whence no traveller returns'-leaving poor James again desolate, and
more helpless than ever before; as, this time, there was no kind family
in the house, and the Ardinburghs no longer invited him to their homes.
Yet, lone, blind and helpless as he was, James for a time lived on.
One day, an aged colored woman, named Soan, called at his shanty, and
James besought her, in the most moving manner, even with tears, to
tarry awhile and wash and mend him up, so that he might once more be
decent and comfortable; for he was suffering dreadfully with the filth
and vermin that had collected upon him.

Soan was herself an emancipated slave, old and weak, with no one to
care for her; and she lacked the courage to undertake a job of such
seeming magnitude, fearing she might herself get sick, and perish there
without assistance; and with great reluctance, and a heart swelling
with pity, as she afterwards declared, she felt obliged to leave him in
his wretchedness and filth.  And shortly after her visit, this faithful
slave, this deserted wreck of humanity, was found on his miserable
pallet, frozen and stiff in death.  The kind angel had come at last,
and relieved him of the many miseries that his fellow-man had heaped
upon him.  Yes, he had died, chilled and starved, with none to speak a
kindly word, or do a kindly deed for him, in that last dread of hour of

The news of his death reached the ears of John Ardinburgh, a grandson
of the old Colonel; and he declared that 'Bomefree, who had ever been a
kind and faithful slave, should now have a good funeral.'  And now,
gentle reader, what think you constituted a good funeral?  Answer-some
black paint for the coffin, and-a jug of ardent spirits!  What a
compensation for a life of toil, of patient submission to repeated
robberies of the most aggravated kind, and, also, far more than
murderous neglect!!  Mankind often vainly attempts to atone for
unkindness or cruelty to the living, by honoring the same after death;
but John Ardinburgh undoubtably meant his pot of paint and jug of
whisky should act as an opiate on his slaves, rather than on his own
seared conscience.


Having seen the sad end of her parents, so far as it relates to this
earthly life, we will return with Isabella to that memorable auction
which threatened to separate her father and mother.  A slave auction is
a terrible affair to its victims, and its incidents and consequences
are graven on their hearts as with a pen of burning steel.

At this memorable time, Isabella was struck off, for the sum of one
hundred dollars, to one John Nealy, of Ulster County, New York; and she
has an impression that in this sale she was connected with a lot of
sheep.  She was now nine years of age, and her trials in life may be
dated from this period.  She says, with emphasis, 'Now the war begun. '
She could only talk Dutch-and the Nealys could only talk English.  Mr.
Nealy could understand Dutch, but Isabel and her mistress could neither
of them understand the language of the other-and this, of itself, was a
formidable obstacle in the way of a good understanding between them,
and for some time was a fruitful source of dissatisfaction to the
mistress, and of punishment and suffering to Isabella.  She says, 'If
they sent me for a frying-pan, not knowing what they meant, perhaps I
carried them pot-hooks and trammels.  Then, oh! how angry mistress
would be with me!'  Then she suffered 'terribly-terribly ', with the
cold.  During the winter her feet were badly frozen, for want of
proper covering.  They gave her a plenty to eat, and also a plenty of
whippings.  One Sunday morning, in particular, she was told to go to
the barn; on going there, she found her master with a bundle of rods,
prepared in the embers, and bound together with cords.   When he had
tied her hands together before her, he gave her the most cruel whipping
she was ever tortured with.  He whipped her till the flesh was deeply
lacerated, and the blood streamed from her wounds-and the scars remain
to the present day, to testify to the fact.  'And now,' she says, 'when
I hear 'em tell of whipping women on the bare flesh, it makes my flesh
crawl, and my very hair rise on my head!  Oh! my God!' she continues,
'what a way is this of treating human beings?'  In those hours of her
extremity, she did not forget the instructions of her mother, to go to
God in all her trials, and every affliction; and she not only
remembered, but obeyed: going to him, 'and telling him all-and asking
Him if He thought it was right,' and begging him to protect and shield
her from her persecutors.

She always asked with an unwavering faith that she should receive just
what she pleaded for,-'And now,' she says, 'though it seems curious, I
do not remember ever asking for any thing but what I got it.  And I
always received it as an answer to my prayers.  When I got beaten, I
never knew it long enough to go beforehand to pray; and I always
thought that if I only had had time to pray to God for help, I should
have escaped the beating.'  She had no idea God had any knowledge of
her thoughts, save what she told him; or heard her prayers, unless they
were spoken audibly.  And consequently, she could not pray unless she
had time and opportunity to go by herself, where she could talk to God
without being overheard.


When she had been at Mr. Nealy's several months, she began to beg God
most earnestly to send her father to her, and as soon as she commenced
to pray, she began as confidently to look for his coming, and, ere it
was long, to her great joy, he came.  She had no opportunity to speak
to him of the troubles that weighed so heavily on her spirit, while he
remained; but when he left, she followed him to the gate, and
unburdened her heart to him, inquiring if he could not do something to
get her a new and better place.  In this way the slaves often assist
each other, by ascertaining who are kind to their slaves,
comparatively; and then using their influence to get such an one to
hire or buy their friends; and masters, often from policy, as well as
from latent humanity, allow those they are about to sell or let, to
choose their own places, if the persons they happen to select for
masters are considered safe pay.  He promised to do all he could, and
they parted.  But, every day, as long as the snow lasted, (for there
was snow on the ground at the time,) she returned to the spot where
they separated, and walking in the tracks her father had made in the
snow, repeated her prayer that 'God would help her father get her a new
and better place.'

A long time had not elapsed, when a fisherman by the name of Scriver
appeared at Mr. Nealy's, and inquired of Isabel 'if she would like to
go and live with him.'  She eagerly answered  'Yes,' and nothing
doubting but he was sent in answer to her prayer; and she soon started
off with him, walking while he rode; for he had bought her at the
suggestion of her father, paying one hundred and five dollars for her.
He also lived in Ulster County, but some five or six miles from Mr.

Scriver, besides being a fisherman, kept a tavern for the
accommodation of people of his own class-for his was a rude,
uneducated family, exceedingly profane in their language, but, on the
whole, an honest, kind and well-disposed people.

They owned a large farm, but left it wholly unimproved; attending
mainly to their vocations of fishing and inn-keeping.  Isabella
declares she can ill describe the kind of life she led with them.  It
was a wild, out-of-door kind of lief.  She was expected to carry fish,
to hoe corn, to bring roots and herbs from the woods for beers, go to
the Strand for a gallon of molasses or liquor as the case might
require, and 'browse around,' as she expresses it.  It was a life that
suited her well for the time-being as devoid of hardship or terror as
it was of improvement; a need which had not yet become a want.  Instead
of improving at this place, morally, she retrograded, as their example
taught her to curse; and it was here that she took her first oath.
After living with them for about a year and a half, she was sold to one
John J. Dumont, for the sum of seventy pounds.  This was in 1810.  Mr.
Dumont lived in the same county as her former masters, in the town of
New Paltz, and she remained with him till a short time previous to her
emancipation by the State, in 1828.


Had Mrs. Dumont possessed that vein of kindness and consideration for
the slaves, so perceptible in her husband's character, Isabella would
have been as comfortable here, as one had best be, if one  must be a
slave.  Mr. Dumont had been nursed in the very lap of slavery, and
being naturally a man of kind feelings, treated his slaves with all the
consideration he did his other animals, and more, perhaps.  But Mrs.
Dumont, who had been born and educated in a non-slaveholding family,
and, like many others, used only to work-people, who, under the most
stimulating of human motives, were willing to put forth their every
energy, could not have patience with the creeping gait, the dull
understanding, or see any cause for the listless manners and careless,
slovenly habits of the poor down-trodden outcast-entirely forgetting
that every high and efficient motive had been removed far from him; and
that, had not his very intellect been crushed out of him, the slave
would find little ground for aught but hopeless despondency.  From this
source arose a long series of trials in the life of our heroine, which
we must pass over in silence; some from motives of delicacy, and
others, because the relation of them might inflict undeserved pain on
some now living, whom Isabel remembers only with esteem and love;
therefore, the reader will not be surprised if our narrative appears
somewhat tame at this point, and may rest assured that it is not for
want of facts, as the most thrilling incidents of this portion of her
life are from various motives suppressed.

One comparatively trifling incident she wishes related, as it made a
deep impression on her mind at the time-showing, as she thinks, how God
shields the innocent, and causes them to triumph over their enemies,
and also how she stood between master and mistress.  In her family,
Mrs. Dumont employed two white girls, one of whom, named Kate, evinced
a disposition to 'lord it over' Isabel, and, in her emphatic language,
'to grind her down '.  Her master often shielded her from the attacks
and accusations of others, praising her for her readiness and ability
to work, and these praises seemed to foster a spirit of hostility to
her, in the minds of Mrs. Dumont and her white servant, the latter of
whom took every opportunity to cry up her faults, lessen her in the
esteem of her master and increase against her the displeasure of her
mistress, which was already more than sufficient for Isabel's comfort.
Her master insisted that she could do as much work as half a dozen
common people, and do it well, too; whilst her mistress insisted that

first was true, only
because it ever came from her hand but half performed. A good
deal of feeling arose from this difference of opinion, which was
getting to rather an uncomfortable height, when, all at once, the
potatoes that Isabel cooked for breakfast assumed a dingy, dirty
look. Her mistress blamed her severely, asking her master to
observe 'a fine specimen of Bell's work!'-adding, 'it is the
way all her work is done.' Her master scolded also this time, and
commanded her to be more careful in future. Kate joined with
zest in the censures, and was very hard upon her. Isabella
thought that she had done all she well could to have them nice;
and became quite distressed at their appearances, and wondered
what she should do to avoid them. In this dilemma, Gertrude
Dumont (Mr. D.'s eldest child, a good, kind-hearted girl of ten
years, who pitied Isabel sincerely), when she heard them all
blame her so unsparingly, came forward, offering her sympathy
and assistance; and when about to retire to bed, on the night of
Isabella's humiliation, she advanced to Isabel, and told her, if she
would wake her early next morning, she would get up and
attend to her potatoes for her, while she (Isabella) went to
milking, and they would see if they could not have them nice,
and not have 'Poppee,' her word for father, and 'Matty,' her
word for mother, and all of 'em, scolding so terribly.

Isabella gladly availed herself of this kindness, which touched
her to the heart, amid so much of an opposite spirit. When
Isabella had put the potatoes over to boil, Getty told her she
would herself tend the fire, while Isabel milked. She had not
long been seated by the fire, in performance of her promise,
when Kate entered, and requested Gertrude to go out of the
room and do something for her, which she refused, still keeping
her place in the corner. While there, Kate came sweeping about
the fire, caught up a chip, lifted some ashes with it, and dashed
them into the kettle. Now the mystery was solved, the plot
discovered! Kate was working a little too fast at making her
mistress's words good, at showing that Mrs. Dumont and herself
were on the right side of the dispute, and consequently at gaining
power over Isabella. Yes, she was quite too fast, inasmuch as
she had overlooked the little figure of justice, which sat in the
comer, with scales nicely balanced, waiting to give all their dues.

But the time had come when she was to be overlooked no
longer. It was Getty's turn to speak now. 'Oh Poppee! oh
Poppee!' said she, 'Kate has been putting ashes in among the
potatoes! I saw her do it! Look at those that fell on the outside
of the kettle! You can now see what made the potatoes so dingy
every morning, though Bell washed them clean!' And she repeated
her story to every new comer, till the fraud was made as
public as the censure of Isabella had been. Her mistress looked
blank, and remained dumb-her master muttered something
which sounded very like an oath-and poor Kate was so chop-fallen, she
looked like a convicted criminal, who would gladly
have hid herself, (now that the baseness was out,) to conceal her
mortified pride and deep chagrin.

It was a fine triumph for Isabella and her master, and she
became more ambitious than ever to please him; and he stimulated
her ambition by his commendation, and by boasting of her
to his friends, telling them that 'that wench' (pointing to Isabel)
'is better to me than a man-for she will do a good family's
washing in the night, and be ready in the morning to go into the
field, where she will do as much at raking and binding as my best
hands.' Her ambition and desire to please were so great, that she
often worked several nights in succession, sleeping only short
snatches, as she sat in her chair; and some nights she would not
allow herself to take any sleep, save what she could get resting
herself against the wall, fearing that if she sat down, she would
sleep too long. These extra exertions to please, and the praises
consequent upon them, brought upon her head the envy of her
fellow-slaves, and they taunted her with being the 'white folks'
nigger.'  On the other hand, she received the larger share of the
confidence of her master, and many small favors that were by
them unattainable. I asked her if her master, Dumont, ever
whipped her? She answered, 'Oh yes, he sometimes whipped
me soundly, though never cruelly. And the most severe whipping
he ever give me was because I was cruel to a cat.' At this
time she looked upon her master as a God; and believed that he
knew of and could see her at all times, even as God himself. And
she used sometimes to confess her delinquencies, from the conviction
that he already knew them, and that she should fare
better if she confessed voluntarily: and if any one talked to her
of the injustice of her being a slave, she answered them with
contempt, and immediately told her master. She then firmly
believed that slavery was right and honorable. Yet she now sees
very clearly the false position they were all in, both masters and
slaves; and she looks back, with utter astonishment, at the absurdity
of the claims so arrogantly set up by the masters, over
beings designed by God to be as free as kings; and at the perfect
stupidity of the slave, in admitting for one moment the validity
of these claims.

In obedience to her mother's instructions, she had educated
herself to such a sense of honesty, that, when she had become a
mother, she would sometimes whip her child when it cried to
her for bread, rather than give it a piece secretly, lest it should
learn to take what was not its own! And the writer of this knows,
from personal observation, that the slaveholders of the South feel
it to be a religious duty to teach their slaves to be honest, and
never to take what is not their own! Oh consistency, art thou not
a jewel? Yet Isabella glories in the fact that she was faithful and
true to her master; she says, 'It made me true to my God'-meaning,
that it helped to form in her a character that loved
truth, and hated a lie, and had saved her from the bitter pains
and fears that are sure to follow in the wake of insincerity and

As she advanced in years, an attachment sprung up between
herself and a slave named Robert. But his master, an Englishman
by the name of Catlin, anxious that no one's property but his
own should be enhanced by the increase of his slaves, forbade
Robert's visits to Isabella, and commanded him to take a wife
among his fellow-servants. Notwithstanding this interdiction,
Robert, following the bent of his inclinations, continued his
visits to Isabel, though very stealthily, and, as he believed, without
exciting the suspicion of his master; but one Saturday afternoon,
hearing that Bell was ill, he took the liberty to go and see
her. The first intimation she had of his visit was the appearance
of her master, inquiring 'if she had seen Bob.' On her answering
in the negative, he said to her, 'If you see him, tell him to
take care of himself, for the Catlins are after him.' Almost at that
instant, Bob made his appearance; and the first people he met
were his old and his young masters. They were terribly enraged
at finding him there, and the eldest began cursing, and calling
upon his son to 'Knock down the d-d black rascal'; at the
same time, they both fell upon him like tigers, beating him with
the heavy ends of their canes, bruising and mangling his head
and face in the most awful manner, and causing the blood, which
streamed from his wounds, to cover him like a slaughtered beast,
constituting him a most shocking spectacle. Mr. Dumont interposed
at this point, telling the ruffians they could no longer thus
spill human blood on his premises-he would have 'no niggers
killed there.' The Catlins then took a rope they had taken with
them for the purpose, and tied Bob's hands behind him in such
a manner, that Mr. Dumont insisted on loosening the cord,
declaring that no brute should be tied in that manner, where he
was. And as they led him away, like the greatest of criminals, the
more humane Dumont followed them to their homes, as Robert's
protector; and when he returned, he kindly went to Bell,
as he called her, telling her he did not think they would strike
him any more, as their wrath had greatly cooled before he left
them. Isabella had witnessed this scene from her window, and
was greatly shocked at the murderous treatment of poor Robert,
whom she truly loved, and whose only crime, in the eye of his
persecutors, was his affection for her. This beating, and we know
not what after treatment, completely subdued the spirit of its
victim, for Robert ventured no more to visit Isabella, but like an
obedient and faithful chattel, took himself a wife from the house
of his master. Robert did not live many years after his last visit
to Isabel, but took his departure to that country, where 'they
neither marry nor are given in marriage,' and where the oppressor
cannot molest.


Subsequently, Isabella was married to a fellow-slave, named
Thomas, who had previously had two wives, one of whom, if
not both, had been torn from him and sold far away. And it is
more than probable, that he was not only allowed but encouraged
to take another at each successive sale. I say it is probable,
because the writer of this knows from personal observation, that
such is the custom among slaveholders at the present day; and
that in a twenty months' residence among them, we never knew
any one to open the lip against the practice; and when we
severely censured it, the slaveholder had nothing to say; and the
slave pleaded that, under existing circumstances, he could do no

Such an abominable state of things is silently tolerated, to say
the least, by slaveholders-deny it who may. And what is that
religion that sanctions, even by its silence, all that is embraced in
the 'Peculiar Institution? ' If there can be any thing more
diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus, than the working of
soul-killing system-which is as truly sanctioned by the religion
of America as are her ministers and churches-we wish to be
shown where it can be found.

We have said, Isabella was married to Thomas-she was,
after the fashion of slavery, one of the slaves performing the
ceremony for them; as no true minister of Christ can perform, as
in the presence of God, what he knows to be a mere farce, a mock
marriage, unrecognised by any civil law, and liable to be annulled
any moment, when the interest or caprice of the master
should dictate.

With what feelings must slaveholders expect us to listen to
their horror of amalgamation in prospect, while they are well
aware that we know how calmly and quietly they contemplate
the present state of licentiousness their own wicked laws have
created, not only as it regards the slave, but as it regards the more
privileged portion of the population of the South?

Slaveholders appear to me to take the same notice of the vices
of the slave, as one does of the vicious disposition of his horse.
They are often an inconvenience; further than that, they care
not to trouble themselves about the matter.


In process of time, Isabella found herself the mother of five
children, and she rejoiced in being permitted to be the instrument
of increasing the property of her oppressors! Think, dear
reader, without a blush, if you can, for one moment, of a mother
thus willingly, and with pride, laying her own children, the 'flesh
of her flesh,' on the altar of slavery-a sacrifice to the bloody
Moloch! But we must remember that beings capable of such
sacrifices are not mothers; they are only 'things,'
'chattels,' 'property.'

But since that time, the subject of this narrative has made
some advances from a state of chattelism towards that of a
woman and a mother; and she now looks back upon her
thoughts and feelings there, in her state of ignorance and
as one does on the dark imagery of a fitful dream. One
moment it seems but a frightful illusion; again it appears a terrible
reality. I would to God it were but a dreamy myth, and not, as
it now stands, a horrid reality to some three millions of chattelized
human beings.

I have already alluded to her care not to teach her children
to steal, by her example; and she says, with groanings that cannot
be written, 'The Lord only knows how many times I let my
children go hungry, rather than take secretly the bread I liked
not to ask for.' All parents who annul their preceptive teachings
by their daily practices would do well to profit by her example.

Another proof of her master's kindness of heart is found in
the following fact. If her master came into the house and found
her infant crying, (as she could not always attend to its wants and
the commands of her mistress at the same time,) he would turn
to his wife with a look of reproof, and ask her why she did not
see the child taken care of; saying, most earnestly, 'I will not
hear this crying; I can't bear it, and I will not hear any child cry
so. Here, Bell, take care of this child, if no more work is done
for a week.' And he would linger to see if his orders were
obeyed, and not countermanded.

When Isabella went to the field to work, she used to put her
infant in a basket, tying a rope to each handle, and suspending
the basket to a branch of a tree, set another small child to swing
it. It was thus secure from reptiles and was easily administered to,
and even lulled to sleep, by a child too young for other labors.
I was quite struck with the ingenuity of such a baby-tender, as
I have sometimes been with the swinging hammock the native
mother prepares for her sick infant-apparently so much easier
than aught we have in our more civilized homes; easier for the
child, because it gets the motion without the least jar; and easier
for the nurse, because the hammock is strung so high as to
supersede the necessity of stooping.


After emancipation had been decreed by the State, some years
before the time fixed for its consummation, Isabella's master told
her if she would do well, and be faithful, he would give her 'free
papers,' one year before she was legally free by statute. In the
year 1826, she had a badly diseased hand, which greatly diminished
her usefulness; but on the arrival of July 4, 1827, the time
specified for her receiving her 'free papers,' she claimed the
fulfilment of her master's promise; but he refused granting it, on
account (as he alleged) of the loss he had sustained by her hand.
She plead that she had worked all the time, and done many
things she was not wholly able to do, although she knew she had
been less useful than formerly; but her master remained inflexible.
Her very faithfulness probably operated against her now,
and he found it less easy than he thought to give up the profits
of his faithful Bell, who had so long done him efficient service.

But Isabella inwardly determined that she would remain quietly
with him only until she had spun his wool-about one
hundred pounds-and then she would leave him, taking the rest
of the time to herself. 'Ah!' she says, with emphasis that cannot
be written, 'the slaveholders are TERRIBLE for promising to give
you this or that, or such and such a privilege, if you will do thus
and so; and when the time of fulfilment comes, and one claims
the promise, they, forsooth, recollect nothing of the kind: and
you are, like as not, taunted with being a LIAR; or, at best, the
slave is accused of not having performed his part or condition of
the contract.' 'Oh!' said she, 'I have felt as if I could not live
through the operation sometimes. Just think of us! so eager for our
pleasures, and just foolish enough to keep feeding and feeding
ourselves up with the idea that we should get what had been thus
fairly promised; and when we think it is almost in our hands, find
ourselves flatly denied! Just think! how could we bear it? Why,
there was Charles Brodhead promised his slave Ned, that when
harvesting was over, he might go and see his wife, who lived
some twenty or thirty miles off. So Ned worked early and late,
and as soon as the harvest was all in, he claimed the promised
boon. His master said, he had merely told him he 'would see if
he could go, when the harvest was over; but now he saw that
he could not go.' But Ned, who still claimed a positive promise,
on which he had fully depended, went on cleaning his shoes. His
master asked him if he intended going, and on his replying 'yes,'
took up a sled-stick that lay near him, and gave him such a blow
on the head as broke his skull, killing him dead on the spot. The
poor colored people all felt struck down by the blow.' Ah! and
well they might. Yet it was but one of a long series of bloody,
and other most effectual blows, struck against their liberty and
their lives. * But to return from our digression.

The subject of this narrative was to have been free July 4,
1827, but she continued with her master till the wool was spun,
and the heaviest of the 'fall's work' closed up, when she concluded
to take her freedom into her own hands, and seek her
fortune in some other place.

*Yet no official notice was taken of his more than brutal murder.


The question in her mind, and one not easily solved, now was,
'How can I get away?' So, as was her usual custom, she 'told
God she was afraid to go in the night, and in the day every body
would see her.' At length, the thought came to her that she
could leave just before the day dawned, and get out of the
neighborhood where she was known before the people were
much astir. 'Yes,' said she, fervently, 'that's a good thought!
Thank you, God, for that thought!' So, receiving it as coming
direct from God, she acted upon it, and one fine morning, a little
before day-break, she might have been seen stepping stealthily
away from the rear of Master Dumont's house, her infant on one
arm and her wardrobe on the other; the bulk and weight of
which, probably, she never found so convenient as on the present
occasion, a cotton handkerchief containing both her clothes
and her provisions.

As she gained the summit of a high hill, a considerable distance
from her master's, the sun offended her by coming forth
in all his pristine splendor. She thought it never was so light
before; indeed, she thought it much too light. She stopped to
look about her, and ascertain if her pursuers were yet in sight.
No one appeared, and, for the first time, the question came up
for settlement, 'Where, and to whom, shall I go?' In all her
thoughts of getting away, she had not once asked herself whither
she should direct her steps. She sat down, fed her infant, and
again turning her thoughts to God, her only help, she prayed
him to direct her to some safe asylum. And soon it occurred
to her, that there was a man living somewhere in the direction
she had been pursuing, by the name of Levi Rowe, whom she
had known, and who, she thought, would be likely to befriend
her. She accordingly pursued her way to his house, where she
found him ready to entertain and assist her, though he was then
on his death-bed. He bade her partake of the hospitalities of his
house, said he knew of two good places where she might get in,
and requested his wife to show her where they were to be found.
As soon as she came in sight of the first house, she recollected
having seen it and its inhabitants before, and instantly exclaimed,
'That's the place for me; I shall stop there.' She went there, and
found the good people of the house, Mr. and Mrs. Van Wagener,
absent, but was kindly received and hospitably entertained
by their excellent mother, till the return of her children.
When they arrived, she made her case known to them. They
listened to her story, assuring her they never turned the needy
away, and willingly gave her employment.

She had not been there long before her old master, Dumont,
appeared, as she had anticipated; for when she took French leave
of him, she resolved not to go too far from him, and not put him
to as much trouble in looking her up-for the latter he was sure
to do-as Tom and Jack had done when they ran away from
him, a short time before. This was very considerate in her, to say
the least, and a proof that 'like begets like.' He had often
considered her feelings, though not always, and she was equally

When her master saw her, he said, 'Well, Bell, so you've run
away from me.' 'No, I did not run away; I walked away by
day-light, and all because you had promised me a year of my
time.' His reply was, 'You must go back with me.' Her decisive
answer was, 'No, I won't go back with you.' He said, 'Well,
I shall take the child.' This also was as stoutly negatived.

Mr. Isaac S. Van Wagener then interposed, saying, he had
never been in the practice of buying and selling slaves; he did not
believe in slavery; but, rather than have Isabella taken back by
force, he would buy her services for the balance of the year-for
which her master charged twenty dollars, and five in addition for
the child. The sum was paid, and her master Dumont departed;
but not till he had heard Mr. Van Wagener tell her not to call
him master-adding, 'there is but one master; and he who is your
master is my master.' Isabella inquired what she should call him?
He answered, 'call me Isaac Van Wagener, and my wife is Maria
Van Wagener.' Isabella could not understand this, and thought
it a mighty change, as it most truly was from a master whose word
was law, to simple Isaac S. Van Wagener, who was master to no
one. With these noble people, who, though they could not be
the masters of slaves, were undoubtedly a portion of God's
nobility, she resided one year, and from them she derived the
name of Van Wagener; he being her last master in the eye of the
law, and a slave's surname is ever the same as his master; that is,
if he is allowed to have any other name than Tom, Jack, or
Guffin. Slaves have sometimes been severely punished for adding
their master's name to their own. But when they have no
particular title to it, it is no particular offence.


A little previous to Isabel's leaving her old master, he had sold
her child, a boy of five years, to a Dr. Gedney, who took him
with him as far as New York city, on his way to England; but
finding the boy too small for his service, he sent him back to his
brother, Solomon Gedney. This man disposed of him to his
sister's husband, a wealthy planter, by the name of Fowler, who
took him to his own home in Alabama.

This illegal and fraudulent transaction had been perpetrated
some months before Isabella knew of it, as she was now living
at Mr. Van Wagener's. The law expressly prohibited the sale of
any slave out of the State,-and all minors were to be free at
twenty-one years of age; and Mr. Dumont had sold Peter with
the express understanding, that he was soon to return to the State
of New York, and be emancipated at the specified time.

When Isabel heard that her son had been sold South, she
immediately started on foot and alone, to find the man who had
thus dared, in the face of all law, human and divine, to sell her
child out of the State; and if possible, to bring him to account
for the deed.

Arriving at New Paltz, she went directly to her former mistress,
Dumont, complaining bitterly of the removal of her son.
Her mistress heard her through, and then replied-'Ugh! a fine
fuss to make about a little nigger! Why, haven't you as many of
'em left as you can see to, and take care of? A pity 'tis, the niggers
are not all in Guinea!! Making such a halloo-balloo about the
neighborhood; and all for a paltry nigger!!!' Isabella heard her
through, and after a moment's hesitation, answered, in tones of
deep determination-'I'll have my child again.' 'Have your child
again!' repeated her mistress-her tones big with contempt, and
scorning the absurd idea of her getting him. 'How can you get
him? And what have you to support him with, if you could?
Have you any money?' 'No,' answered Bell, 'I have no
money, but God has enough, or what's better! And I'll have my
child again.' These words were pronounced in the most slow,
solemn, and determined measure and manner. And in speaking
of it, she says, 'Oh my God! I know'd I'd have him agin. I was
sure God would help me to get him. Why, I felt so tall within-I
felt as if the power of a nation was with me!'

The impressions made by Isabella on her auditors, when
moved by lofty or deep feeling, can never be transmitted to
paper, (to use the words of another,) till by some Daguerrian act,
we are enabled to transfer the look, the gesture, the tones of
voice, in connection with the quaint, yet fit expressions used,
and the spirit-stirring animation that, at such a time, pervades all
she says.

After leaving her mistress, she called on Mrs. Gedney, mother
of him who had sold her boy; who, after listening to her lamentations,
her grief being mingled with indignation at the sale of
her son, and her declaration that she would have him again-said,
'Dear me! What a disturbance to make about your child!
What, is your child, better than my child? My child is gone out
there, and yours is gone to live with her, to have enough of
every thing, and be treated like a gentleman!' And here she
laughed at Isabel's absurd fears, as she would represent them to
be. 'Yes,' said Isabel, 'your child has gone there, but she is
married, and my boy has gone as a slave, and he is too little to go
so far from his mother. Oh, I must have my child.' And here the
continued laugh of Mrs. G. seemed to Isabel, in this time of
anguish and distress, almost demoniacal. And well it was for Mrs.
Gedney, that, at that time, she could not even dream of the
awful fate awaiting her own beloved daughter, at the hands of
him whom she had chosen as worthy the wealth of her love
and confidence, and in whose society her young heart had
calculated on a happiness, purer and more elevated than was ever
conferred by a kingly crown. But, alas! she was doomed to
disappointment, as we shall relate by and by. At this point,
Isabella earnestly begged of God that he would show to those
about her that He was her helper; and she adds, in narrating,
'And He did; or, if He did not show them, he did me.'


This homely proverb was illustrated in the case of our sufferer;
for, at the period at which we have arrived in our narrative, to
her the darkness seemed palpable, and the waters of affliction
covered her soul; yet light was about to break in upon her.

Soon after the scenes related in our last chapter, which had
harrowed up her very soul to agony, she met a man, (we would
like to tell you who, dear reader, but it would be doing him no
kindness, even at the present day, to do so,) who evidently
sympathized with her, and counselled her to go to the Quakers,
telling her they were already feeling very indignant at the fraudulent
sale of her son, and assuring her that they would readily
assist her, and direct her what to do. He pointed out to her two
houses, where lived some of those people, who formerly, more
than any other sect, perhaps, lived out the principles of the
gospel of Christ. She wended her way to their dwellings, was
listened to, unknown as she personally was to them, with patience,
and soon gained their sympathies and active co-operation.

They gave her lodgings for the night; and it is very amusing
to hear her tell of the 'nice, high, clean, white, beautiful bed'
assigned her to sleep in, which contrasted so strangely with her
former pallets, that she sat down and contemplated it, perfectly
absorbed in wonder that such a bed should have been appropriated
to one like herself. For some time she thought that she
would lie down beneath it, on her usual bedstead, the floor. 'I
did, indeed,' says she, laughing heartily at her former self. However,
she finally concluded to make use of the bed, for fear that
not to do so might injure the feelings of her good hostess. In the
morning, the Quaker saw that she was taken and set down near
Kingston, with directions to go to the Court House, and enter
complaint to the Grand Jury.

By a little inquiry, she found which was the building she
sought, went into the door, and taking the first man she saw of
imposing appearance for the grand jury, she commenced her
complaint. But he very civilly informed her there was no Grand
Jury there; she must go up stairs. When she had with some
difficulty ascended the flight through the crowd that filled them,
she again turned to the 'grandest ' looking man she could select,
telling him she had come to enter a complaint to the Grand Jury.
For his own amusement, he inquired what her complaint was;
but, when he saw it was a serious matter, he said to her, 'This
is no place to enter a complaint-go in there,' pointing in a
particular direction.

She then went in, where she found the Grand Jurors indeed
sitting, and again commenced to relate her injuries. After holding
some conversation among themselves, one of them rose, and
bidding her follow him, led the way to a side office, where he
heard her story, and asked her 'if she could swear that the child
she spoke of was her son?' 'Yes,' she answered, 'I swear it's my
son.' 'Stop, stop!' said the lawyer, 'you must swear by this
book'-giving her a book, which she thinks must have been the
Bible. She took it, and putting it to her lips, began again to swear
it was her child. The clerks, unable to preserve their gravity any
longer, burst into an uproarious laugh; and one of them inquired
of lawyer Chip of what use it could be to make her swear. 'It
will answer the law,' replied the officer. He then made her
comprehend just what he wished her to do, and she took a
lawful oath, as far as the outward ceremony could make it one.
All can judge how far she understood its spirit and meaning.

He now gave her a writ, directing her to take it to the
constable at New Paltz, and have him serve it on Solomon
Gedney. She obeyed, walking, or rather trotting, in her haste,
some eight or nine miles.

But while the constable, through mistake, served the writ on
a brother of the real culprit, Solomon Gedney slipped into a
boat, and was nearly across the North River, on whose banks
they were standing, before the dull Dutch constable was aware
of his mistake. Solomon Gedney, meanwhile, consulted a lawyer,
who advised him to go to Alabama and bring back the boy,
otherwise it might cost him fourteen years' imprisonment, and
a thousand dollars in cash. By this time, it is hoped he began to
feel that selling slaves unlawfully was not so good a business as
he had wished to find it. He secreted himself till due preparations
could be made, and soon set sail for Alabama. Steamboats and
railroads had not then annihilated distance to the extent they
now have, and although he left in the fall of the year, spring
came ere he returned, bringing the boy with him-but holding
on to him as his property. It had ever been Isabella's prayer, not
only that her son might be returned, but that he should be
delivered from bondage, and into her own hands, lest he should
be punished out of mere spite to her, who was so greatly annoying
and irritating to her oppressors; and if her suit was gained,
her very triumph would add vastly to their irritation.

She again sought advice of Esquire Chip, whose counsel was,
that the aforesaid constable serve the before-mentioned writ
upon the right person. This being done, soon brought Solomon
Gedney up to Kingston, where he gave bonds for his appearance
at court, in the sum of $600.

Esquire Chip next informed his client, that her case must
now lie over till the next session of the court, some months in
the future. 'The law must take its course,' said he.

'What! wait another court! wait months?' said the persevering
mother. 'Why, long before that time, he can go clear off,
and take my child with him-no one knows where. I cannot
wait; I must have him now, whilst he is to be had.' 'Well,' said
the lawyer, very coolly, 'if he puts the boy out of the way, he
must pay the $600-one half of which will be yours'; supposing,
perhaps, that $300 would pay for a 'heap of children,' in
the eye of a slave who never, in all her life, called a dollar her
own. But in this instance, he was mistaken in his reckoning. She
assured him, that she had not been seeking money, neither
would money satisfy her; it was her son, and her son alone she
wanted, and her son she must have. Neither could she wait
court, not she. The lawyer used his every argument to convince
her, that she ought to be very thankful for what they had done
for her; that it was a great deal, and it was but reasonable that she
should now wait patiently the time of the court.

Yet she never felt, for a moment, like being influenced by
these suggestions. She felt confident she was to receive a full and
literal answer to her prayer, the burden of which had been-'O
Lord, give my son into my hands, and that speedily! Let not the
spoilers have him any longer.' Notwithstanding, she very distinctly
saw that those who had thus far helped her on so kindly
were wearied of her, and she feared God was wearied also. She had
a short time previous learned that Jesus was a Saviour, and an
intercessor; and she thought that if Jesus could but be induced to
for her in the present trial, God would listen to him, though he
were wearied of her importunities. To him, of course, she applied.
As she was walking about, scarcely knowing whither she went,
asking within herself, 'Who will show me any good, and lend a
helping hand in this matter,' she was accosted by a perfect
stranger, and one whose name she has never learned, in the
following terms: 'Halloo, there; how do you get along with your
boy? do they give him up to you?' She told him all, adding that
now every body was tired, and she had none to help her. He said,
'Look here! I'll tell you what you'd better do. Do you see that
stone house yonder?' pointing in a particular direction. 'Well,
lawyer Demain lives there, and do you go to him, and lay your
case before him; I think he'll help you. Stick to him. Don't give him
peace till he does. I feel sure if you press him, he'll do it for you.'
She needed no further urging, but trotted off at her peculiar gait in
the direction of his house, as fast as possible,-and she was not
encumbered with stockings, shoes, or any other heavy article of
dress. When she had told him her story, in her impassioned
manner, he looked at her a few moments, as if to ascertain if he
were contemplating a new variety of the genus homo, and then
told her, if she would give him five dollars, he would get her son
for her, in twenty-four hours. 'Why,' she replied, 'I have no
money, and never had a dollar in my life!' Said he, 'If you will go
to those Quakers in Poppletown, who carried you to court, they
will help you to five dollars in cash, I have no doubt; and you shall
have your son in twenty-four hours, from the time you bring me
that sum.' She performed the journey to Poppletown, a distance
of some ten miles, very expeditiously; collected considerable
more than the sum specified by the barrister; then, shutting the
money tightly in her hand, she trotted back, and paid the lawyer a
larger fee than he had demanded. When inquired of by people
what she had done with the overplus, she answered, 'Oh, I got it
for lawyer Demain, and I gave it to him. ' They assured her she was
a fool to do so; that she should have kept all over five dollars, and
purchased herself shoes with it. 'Oh, I do not want money or
clothes now, I only want my son; and if five dollars will get him,
more will surely get him. ' And if the lawyer had returned it to her,
she avers she would not have accepted it. She was perfectly willing
he should have every coin she could raise, if he would but restore
her lost son to her. Moreover, the five dollars he required were for
the remuneration of him who should go after her son and his
master, and not for his own services.

The lawyer now renewed his promise, that she should have
her son in twenty-four hours. But Isabella, having no idea of this
space of time, went several times in a day, to ascertain if her son
had come. Once, when the servant opened the door and saw
her, she said, in a tone expressive of much surprise, 'Why, this
woman's come again!' She then wondered if she went too
often. When the lawyer appeared, he told her the twenty-four
hours would not expire till the next morning; if she would call
then, she would see her son. The next morning saw Isabel at the
lawyer's door, while he was yet in his bed. He now assured her
it was morning till noon; and that before noon her son would
be there, for he had sent the famous 'Matty Styles' after him,
who would not fail to have the boy and his master on hand in
due season, either dead or alive; of that he was sure. Telling her
she need not come again; he would himself inform her of their

After dinner, he appeared at Mr. Rutzer's, (a place the lawyer
had procured for her, while she awaited the arrival of her boy,)
assuring her, her son had come; but that he stoutly denied having
any mother, or any relatives in that place; and said, 'she must go
over and identify him.' She went to the office, but at sight of
her the boy cried aloud, and regarded her as some terrible being,
who was about to take him away from a kind and loving friend.
He knelt, even, and begged them, with tears, not to take him
away from his dear master, who had brought him from the
dreadful South, and been so kind to him.

When he was questioned relative to the bad scar on his
forehead, he said, 'Fowler's horse hove him.' And of the one
on his cheek, 'That was done by running against the carriage.'
In answering these questions, he looked imploringly at his master,
as much as to say, 'If they are falsehoods, you bade me say
them; may they be satisfactory to you, at least.'

The justice, noting his appearance, bade him forget his master
and attend only to him. But the boy persisted in denying his
mother, and clinging to his master, saying his mother did not live
in such a place as that. However, they allowed the mother to
identify her son; and Esquire Demain pleaded that he claimed
the boy for her, on the ground that he had been sold out of the
State, contrary to the laws in such cases made and provided-spoke of
the penalties annexed to said crime, and of the sum of
money the delinquent was to pay, in case any one chose to
prosecute him for the offence he had committed. Isabella, who
was sitting in a corner, scarcely daring to breathe, thought within
herself, 'If I can but get the boy, the $200 may remain for
whoever else chooses to prosecute-I have done enough to
make myself enemies already'-and she trembled at the thought
of the formidable enemies she had probably arrayed against
herself-helpless and despised as she was. When the pleading
was at an end, Isabella understood the Judge to declare, as the
sentence of the Court, that the 'boy be delivered into the hands
of the mother-having no other master, no other controller, no
other conductor, but his mother.' This sentence was obeyed; he
was delivered into her hands, the boy meanwhile begging, most
piteously, not to be taken from his dear master, saying she was
not his mother, and that his mother did not live in such a place
as that. And it was some time before lawyer Demain, the clerks,
and Isabella, could collectively succeed in calming the child's
fears, and in convincing him that Isabella was not some terrible
monster, as he had for the last months, probably, been trained to
believe; and who, in taking him away from his master, was
taking him from all good, and consigning him to all evil.

When at last kind words and bon-bons had quieted his fears,
and he could listen to their explanations, he said to Isabella-
'Well, you do look like my mother used to'; and she was soon
able to make him comprehend some of the obligations he was
under, and the relation he stood in, both to herself and his
master. She commenced as soon as practicable to examine the
boy, and found, to her utter astonishment, that from the crown
of his head to the sole of his foot, the callosities and indurations
on his entire body were most frightful to behold. His back she
described as being like her fingers, as she laid them side by side.

'Heavens! what is all this? ' said Isabel. He answered, 'It is
where Fowler whipped, kicked, and beat me.' She exclaimed,
'Oh, Lord Jesus, look! see my poor child! Oh Lord, "render
unto them double" for all this! Oh my God! Pete, how did you
bear it?'

'Oh, this is nothing, mammy-if you should see Phillis, I
guess you'd scare! She had a little baby, and Fowler cut her till
the milk as well as blood ran down her body. You would scare
to see Phillis, mammy.'

When Isabella inquired, 'What did Miss Eliza * say, Pete,
when you were treated so badly?' he replied, 'Oh, mammy, she
said she wished I was with Bell. Sometimes I crawled under the
stoop, mammy, the blood running all about me, and my back
would stick to the boards; and sometimes Miss Eliza would
come and grease my sores, when all were abed and asleep.'

*Meaning Mrs. Eliza Fowler.


As soon as possible she procured a place for Peter, as tender of
locks, at a place called Wahkendall, near Greenkills. After he
was thus disposed of, she visited her sister Sophia, who resided
at Newberg, and spent the winter in several different families
where she was acquainted. She remained some time in the family
of a Mr. Latin, who was a relative of Solomon Gedney; and
the latter, when he found Isabel with his cousin, used all his
influence to persuade him she was a great mischief-maker and a
very troublesome person,-that she had put him to some hundreds
of dollars expense, by fabricating lies about him, and
especially his sister and her family, concerning her boy, when the
latter was living so like a gentleman with them; and, for his part,
he would not advise his friends to harbor or encourage her.
However, his cousins, the Latins, could not see with the eyes of
his feelings, and consequently his words fell powerless on them,
and they retained her in their service as long as they had aught
for her to do.

She then went to visit her former master, Dumont. She had
scarcely arrived there, when Mr. Fred. Waring entered, and
seeing Isabel, pleasantly accosted her, and asked her 'what she
was driving at now-a-days.' On her answering 'nothing particular,'
he requested her to go over to his place, and assist his folks,
as some of them were sick, and they needed an extra hand. She
very gladly assented. When Mr. W. retired, her master wanted
to know why she wished to help people, that called her the
'worst of devils,' as Mr. Waring had done in the courthouse-for he was
the uncle of Solomon Gedney, and attended the trial
we have described-and declared 'that she was a fool to; he
wouldn't do it.' 'Oh,' she told him, 'she would not mind that,
but was very glad to have people forget their anger towards her.'
She went over, but too happy to feel that their resentment was
passed, and commenced her work with a light heart and a strong
will. She had not worked long in this frame of mind, before a
young daughter of Mr. Waring rushed into the rooms exclaiming,
with uplifted hands-'Heavens and earth, Isabella! Fowler's
murdered Cousin Eliza!' 'Ho,' said Isabel, 'that's nothing-he
liked to have killed my child; nothing saved him but God.'
Meaning, that she was not at all surprised at it, for a man whose
heart was sufficiently hardened to treat a mere child as hers had
been treated, was, in her opinion, more fiend than human, and
prepared for the commission of any crime that his passions might
prompt him to. The child further informed her that a letter had
arrived by mail bringing the news.

Immediately after this announcement, Solomon Gedney and
his mother came in, going direct to Mrs. Waring's room, where
she soon heard tones as of some one reading. She thought
something said to her inwardly, 'Go up stairs and hear.' At first
she hesitated, but it seemed to press her the more-'Go up and
hear!' She went up, unusual as it is for slaves to leave their work
and enter unbidden their mistress's room, for the sole purpose of
seeing or hearing what may be seen or heard there. But on this
occasion, Isabella says, she walked in at the door, shut it, placed
her back against it, and listened. She saw them and heard them
read-'He knocked her down with his fist, jumped on her with
his knees, broke her collar-bone, and tore out her wind-pipe!
He then attempted his escape, but was pursued and arrested, and
put in an iron bank for safe-keeping!' And the friends were
requested to go down and take away the poor innocent children
who had thus been made in one short day more than orphans.

If this narrative should ever meet the eye of those innocent
sufferers for another's guilt, let them not be too deeply affected
by the relation; but, placing their confidence in Him who sees
the end from the beginning, and controls the results, rest secure
in the faith, that, although they may physically suffer for the sins
of others, if they remain but true to themselves, their highest and
more enduring interests can never suffer from such a cause. This
relation should be suppressed for their sakes, were it not even
now so often denied, that slavery is fast undermining all true
regard for human life. We know this one instance is not a
demonstration to the contrary; but, adding this to the lists of
tragedies that weekly come up to us through the Southern mails,
may we not admit them as proofs irrefragable? The newspapers
confirmed this account of the terrible affair.

When Isabella had heard the letter, all being too much absorbed
in their own feelings to take note of her, she returned to
her work, her heart swelling with conflicting emotions. She was
awed at the dreadful deed; she mourned the fate of the loved
Eliza, who had in such an undeserved and barbarous manner
been put away from her labors and watchings as a tender mother;
and, 'last though not least,' in the development of her character
and spirit, her heart bled for the afflicted relatives; even those of
them who 'laughed at her calamity, and mocked when her fear
came.' Her thoughts dwelt long and intently on the subject, and
the wonderful chain of events that had conspired to bring her
that day to that house, to listen to that piece of intelligence-to that
house, where she never was before or afterwards in her
life, and invited there by people who had so lately been hotly
incensed against her. It all seemed very remarkable to her, and
she viewed it as flowing from a special providence of God. She
thought she saw clearly, that their unnatural bereavement was a
blow dealt in retributive justice; but she found it not in her heart
to exult or rejoice over them. She felt as if God had more than
answered her petition, when she ejaculated, in her anguish of
mind, 'Oh, Lord, render unto them double!' She said, 'I dared
not find fault with God, exactly; but the language of my heart
was, 'Oh, my God! that's too much-I did not mean quite so
much, God!' It was a terrible blow to the friends of the deceased;
and her selfish mother (who, said Isabella, made such a
'to-do about her boy, not from affection, but to have her own
will and way') went deranged, and walking to and fro in her
delirium, called aloud for her poor murdered daughter-'Eliza!
Eliza! '

The derangement of Mrs. G. was a matter of hearsay, as
Isabella saw her not after the trial; but she has no reason to doubt
the truth of what she heard. Isabel could never learn the subsequent
fate of Fowler, but heard, in the spring of '49, that his
children had been seen in Kingston-one of whom was spoken
of as a fine, interesting girl, albeit a halo of sadness fell like a
about her.


We will now turn from the outward and temporal to the inward
and spiritual life of our subject. It is ever both interesting and
instructive to trace the exercises of a human mind, through the
trials and mysteries of life; and especially a naturally powerful
mind, left as hers was almost entirely to its own workings, and
the chance influences it met on its way; and especially to note
its reception of that divine 'light, that lighteth every man that
cometh into the world.'

We see, as knowledge dawns upon it, truth and error
strangely commingled; here, a bright spot illuminated by truth-and
there, one darkened and distorted by error; and the state of
such a soul may be compared to a landscape at early dawn, where
the sun is seen superbly gilding some objects, and causing others
to send forth their lengthened, distorted, and sometimes hideous

Her mother, as we have already said, talked to her of God.
From these conversations, her incipient mind drew the conclusion,
that God was 'a great man'; greatly superior to other men
in power; and being located 'high in the sky,' could see all that
transpired on the earth. She believed he not only saw, but noted
down all her actions in a great book, even as her master kept a
record of whatever he wished not to forget. But she had no idea
that God knew a thought of hers till she had uttered it aloud.

As we have before mentioned, she had ever been mindful of
her mother's injunctions, spreading out in detail all her troubles
before God, imploring and firmly trusting him to send her
deliverance from them. Whilst yet a child, she listened to a story
of a wounded soldier, left alone in the trail of a flying army,
helpless and starving, who hardened the very ground about him
with kneeling in his supplications to God for relief, until it
arrived. From this narrative, she was deeply impressed with the
idea, that if she also were to present her petitions under the open
canopy of heaven, speaking very loud, she should the more
readily be heard; consequently, she sought a fitting spot for this,
her rural sanctuary. The place she selected, in which to offer up
her daily orisons, was a small island in a small stream, covered
with large willow shrubbery, beneath which the sheep had made
their pleasant winding paths; and sheltering themselves from the
scorching rays of a noon-tide sun, luxuriated in the cool shadows
of the graceful willows, as they listened to the tiny falls of the
silver waters. It was a lonely spot, and chosen by her for its
beauty, its retirement, and because she thought that there, in the
noise of those waters, she could speak louder to God, without
being overheard by any who might pass that way. When she had
made choice of her sanctum, at a point of the island where the
stream met, after having been separated, she improved it by
pulling away the branches of the shrubs from the centre, and
weaving them together for a wall on the outside, forming a
circular arched alcove, made entirely of the graceful willow. To
this place she resorted daily, and in pressing times much more

At this time, her prayers, or, more appropriately, 'talks with
God,' were perfectly original and unique, and would be well
worth preserving, were it possible to give the tones and manner
with the words; but no adequate idea of them can be written
while the tones and manner remain inexpressible.

She would sometimes repeat, 'Our Father in heaven,' in her
Low Dutch, as taught her by her mother; after that, all was from
the suggestions of her own rude mind. She related to God, in
minute detail, all her troubles and sufferings, inquiring, as she
proceeded, 'Do you think that's right, God?' and closed by
begging to be delivered from the evil, whatever it might be.

She talked to God as familiarly as if he had been a creature
like herself; and a thousand times more so, than if she had been
in the presence of some earthly potentate. She demanded, with
little expenditure of reverence or fear, a supply of all her more
pressing wants, and at times her demands approached very near
to commands. She felt as if God was under obligation to her,
much more than she was to him. He seemed to her benighted
vision in some manner bound to do her bidding.

Her heart recoils now, with very dread, when she recalls
those shocking, almost blasphemous conversations with great
Jehovah. And well for herself did she deem it, that, unlike earthly
potentates, his infinite character combined the tender father
with the omniscient and omnipotent Creator of the universe.

She at first commenced promising God, that if he would help
her out of all her difficulties, she would pay him by being very
good; and this goodness she intended as a remuneration to God.
She could think of no benefit that was to accrue to herself or her
fellow-creatures, from her leading a life of purity and generous
self-sacrifice for the good of others; as far as any but God was
concerned, she saw nothing in it but heart-trying penance, sustained
by the sternest exertion; and this she soon found much
more easily promised than performed.

Days wore away-new trials came-God's aid was invoked,
and the same promises repeated; and every successive night
found her part of the contract unfulfilled. She now began to
excuse herself, by telling God she could not be good in her
present circumstances; but if he would give her a new place, and
a good master and mistress, she could and would be good; and
she expressly stipulated, that she would be good one day to show
God how good she would be all of the time, when he should
surround her with the right influences, and she should be delivered
from the temptations that then so sorely beset her. But, alas!
when night came, and she became conscious that she had yielded
to all her temptations, and entirely failed of keeping her word
with God, having prayed and promised one hour, and fallen into
the sins of anger and profanity the next, the mortifying reflection
weighed on her mind, and blunted her enjoyment. Still, she did
not lay it deeply to heart, but continued to repeat her demands
for aid, and her promises of pay, with full purpose of heart, at
each particular time, that that day she would not fail to keep her
plighted word.

Thus perished the inward spark, like a flame just igniting,
when one waits to see whether it will burn on or die out, till the
long desired change came, and she found herself in a new place,
with a good mistress, and one who never instigated an otherwise
kind master to be unkind to her; in short, a place where she had
literally nothing to complain of, and where, for a time, she was
more happy than she could well express. 'Oh, every thing there
was so pleasant, and kind, and good, and all so comfortable;
enough of every thing; indeed, it was beautiful!' she exclaimed.

Here, at Mr. Van Wagener's,-as the reader will readily
perceive she must have been,-she was so happy and satisfied,
that God was entirely forgotten. Why should her thoughts turn
to him, who was only known to her as a help in trouble? She had
no trouble now; her every prayer had been answered in every
minute particular. She had been delivered from her persecutors
and temptations, her youngest child had been given her, and the
others she knew she had no means of sustaining if she had them
with her, and was content to leave them behind. Their father,
who was much older than Isabel, and who preferred serving his
time out in slavery, to the trouble and dangers of the course she
pursued, remained with and could keep an eye on them-though it is
comparatively little that they can do for each other
while they remain in slavery; and this little the slave, like persons
in every other situation of life, is not always disposed to perform.
There are slaves, who, copying the selfishness of their superiors
in power, in their conduct towards their fellows who may be
thrown upon their mercy, by infirmity or illness, allow them to
suffer for want of that kindness and care which it is fully in their
power to render them.

The slaves in this country have ever been allowed to celebrate
the principal, if not some of the lesser festivals observed by
the Catholics and Church of England;-many of them not being
required to do the least service for several days, and at Christmas
they have almost universally an entire week to themselves, except,
perhaps, the attending to a few duties, which are absolutely
required for the comfort of the families they belong to. If much
service is desired, they are hired to do it, and paid for it as if they
were free. The more sober portion of them spend these holidays
in earning a little money. Most of them visit and attend parties
and balls, and not a few of them spend it in the lowest dissipation.
This respite from toil is granted them by all religionists, of
whatever persuasion, and probably originated from the fact that
many of the first slaveholders were members of the Church of

Frederick Douglass, who has devoted his great heart and
noble talents entirely to the furtherance of the cause of his
down-trodden race, has said-'From what I know of the effect
of their holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the
most effective means, in the hands of the slaveholder, in keeping
down the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to
abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would
lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays
serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious
spirit of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would
be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the
slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation
of those conductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a
spirit will go forth in their midst, more to be dreaded than the
most appalling earthquake.'

When Isabella had been at Mr. Van Wagener's a few months,
she saw in prospect one of the festivals approaching. She knows
it by none but the Dutch name, Pingster, as she calls it-but
I think it must have been Whitsuntide, in English. She says she
'looked back into Egypt,' and every thing looked 'so pleasant
there,' as she saw retrospectively all her former companions
enjoying their freedom for at least a little space, as well as their
wonted convivialities, and in her heart she longed to be with
them. With this picture before her mind's eye, she contrasted the
quiet, peaceful life she was living with the excellent people of
Wahkendall, and it seemed so dull and void of incident, that the
very contrast served but to heighten her desire to return, that, at
least, she might enjoy with them, once more, the coming festivities.
These feelings had occupied a secret corner of her breast for
some time, when, one morning, she told Mrs. Van Wagener that
her old master Dumont would come that day, and that she
should go home with him on his return. They expressed some
surprise, and asked her where she obtained her information. She
replied, that no one had told her, but she felt that he would

It seemed to have been one of those 'events that cast their
shadows before'; for, before night, Mr. Dumont made his appearance.
She informed him of her intention to accompany him
home. He answered, with a smile, 'I shall not take you back
again; you ran away from me.' Thinking his manner contradicted
his words, she did not feel repulsed, but made herself and
child ready; and when her former master had seated himself in
the open dearborn, she walked towards it, intending to place
herself and child in the rear, and go with him. But, ere she
reached the vehicle, she says that God revealed himself to her,
with all the suddenness of a flash of lightning, showing her, 'in
the twinkling of an eye, that he was all over'-that he pervaded
the universe-'and that there was no place where God was
not.' She became instantly conscious of her great sin in forgetting
her almighty Friend and 'ever-present help in time of
trouble.' All her unfulfilled promises arose before her, like a
vexed sea whose waves run mountains high; and her soul, which
seemed but one mass of lies, shrunk back aghast from the 'awful
look' of him whom she had formerly talked to, as if he had been
a being like herself; and she would now fain have hid herself in
the bowels of the earth, to have escaped his dread presence. But
she plainly saw there was no place, not even in hell, where he
was not; and where could she flee? Another such 'a look,' as she
expressed it, and she felt that she must be extinguished forever,
even as one, with the breath of his mouth, 'blows out a lamp,'
so that no spark remains.

A dire dread of annihilation now seized her, and she waited
to see if, by 'another look,' she was to be stricken from
up, even as the fire licketh up the oil with
which it comes in contact.

When at last the second look came not, and her attention was
once more called to outward things, she observed her master had
left, and exclaiming aloud, 'Oh, God, I did not know you were
so big,' walked into the house, and made an effort to resume her
work. But the workings of the inward man were too absorbing
to admit of much attention to her avocations. She desired to
talk to God, but her vileness utterly forbade it, and she was not
able to prefer a petition. 'What!' said she, 'shall I lie again to
God? I have told him nothing but lies; and shall I speak again,
and tell another lie to God?' She could not; and now she began
to wish for some one to speak to God for her. Then a space
seemed opening between her and God, and she felt that if some
one, who was worthy in the sight of heaven, would but plead
for her in their own name, and not let God know it came from
her, who was so unworthy, God might grant it. At length a
friend appeared to stand between herself and an insulted Deity;
and she felt as sensibly refreshed as when, on a hot day, an
umbrella had been interposed between her scorching head and
a burning sun. But who was this friend? became the next inquiry.
Was it Deencia, who had so often befriended her? She
looked at her, with her new power of sight-and, lo! she, too,
seemed all 'bruises and putrifying sores,' like herself. No, it was
some one very different from Deencia.

'Who are you?' she exclaimed, as the vision brightened into
a form distinct, beaming with the beauty of holiness, and radiant
with love. She then said, audibly addressing the mysterious visitant-'I

know you, and I don't know you.' Meaning, 'You
seem perfectly familiar; I feel that you not only love me, but that
you always have loved me-yet I know you not-I cannot call
you by name.' When she said, 'I know you,' the subject of the
vision remained distinct and quiet. When she said, 'I don't
know you,' it moved restlessly about, like agitated waters. So
while she repeated, without intermission, 'I know you, I know
you,' that the vision might remain-'Who are you?' was the
cry of her heart, and her whole soul was in one deep prayer that
this heavenly personage might be revealed to her, and remain
with her. At length, after bending both soul and body with the
intensity of this desire, till breath and strength seemed failing,
and she could maintain her position no

longer, an answer came to her, saying distinctly, 'It is Jesus.'
'Yes,' she responded, 'it is Jesus.'

Previous to these exercises of mind, she heard Jesus mentioned in
reading or speaking, but had received from what she heard no impression
that he was any other than an eminent man, like a Washington or a
Lafayette.  Now he appeared to her delighted mental vision as so mild,
so good, and so every way lovely, and he loved her so much!  And, how
strange that he had always loved her, and she had never known it!  And
how great a blessing he conferred, in that he should stand between her
and God! And God was no longer a terror and a dread to her.

She stopped not to argue the point, even in her own mind, whether he
had reconciled her to God, or God to herself, (though she thinks the
former now,) being but

too happy that God was no longer to her as a consuming fire, and Jesus
was 'altogether lovely.'  Her heart was now full of joy and gladness,
as it had been of terror, and at one time of despair.  In the light of
her great happiness, the world was clad in new beauty, the very air
sparkled as with diamonds, and was redolent of heaven.  She
contemplated the unapproachable barriers that existed between herself
and the great of this world, as the world calls greatness, and made
surprising comparisons between them, and the union existing between
herself and Jesus-Jesus, the transcendently lovely as well as great and
powerful; for so he appeared to her, though he seemed but human; and
she watched for his bodily appearance, feeling that she should know
him, if she saw him; and when he came, she would go and dwell with him,
as with a dear friend.

It was not given to her to see that he loved any other; and she thought
if others came to know and love him, as she did, she should be thrust
aside and forgotten, being herself but a poor ignorant slave, with
little to recommend her to his notice.  And when she heard him spoken
off, she said mentally-'What! others know Jesus!  I thought no one knew
Jesus but me!' and she felt a sort of jealousy, lest she should be
robbed of her newly found treasure.

She conceived, one day, as she listened to reading, that she heard an
intimation that Jesus was married, and hastily inquired if Jesus had a
wife.  'What!' said the reader, 'God have a wife?'  'Is Jesus God? '
inquired Isabella.  'Yes, to be sure he is,' was the answer returned.
From this time, her conceptions of Jesus became more elevated and
spiritual; and she sometimes spoke of him as God, in accordance with
the teaching she had received.

But when she was simply told, that the Christian world was much divided
on the subject of Christ's nature-some believing him to be coequal with
the Father-to be God in and of himself, 'very God, of very God;'-some,
that he is the 'well-beloved,' 'only begotten Son of God;'-and others,
that he is, or was, rather, but a mere man-she said, 'Of that I only
know as I saw.  I did not see him to be God; else, how could he stand
between me and God?  I saw him as a friend, standing between me and
God, through whom, love flowed as from a fountain.'  Now, so far from
expressing her views of Christ's character and office in accordance
with any system of theology extant, she says she believes Jesus is the
same spirit that was in our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the
beginning, when they came from the hand of their Creator.  When they
sinned through disobedience, this pure spirit forsook them, and fled to
heaven; that there it remained, until it returned again in the person
of Jesus; and that, previous to a personal union with him, man is but a
brute, possessing only the spirit of an animal.

She avers that, in her darkest hours, she had no fear of any worse hell
than the one she then carried in her bosom; though it had ever been
pictured to her in its deepest colors, and threatened her as a reward
for all her misdemeanors.  Her vileness and God's holiness and
all-pervading presence, which filled immensity, and threatened her with
constant annihilation, composed the burden of her vision of terror.
Her faith in prayer is equal to her faith in the love of Jesus. Her
language is, 'Let others say what they will of the efficacy of prayer,
I believe in it, and I shall pray.  Thank God!  Yes, I shall always
pray,' she exclaims, putting her hands together with the greatest

For some time subsequent to the happy change we
have spoken off, Isabella's prayers partook largely of their former
character; and while, in deep affliction, she labored for the recovery
of her son, she prayed with constancy and fervor; and the following may
be taken as a specimen:-'Oh,
God, you know how much I am distressed, for I have told you again and
again.  Now, God, help me get my son.  If you were in trouble, as I am,
and I could help you, as you can me, think I would n't do it?  Yes,
God, you know I would do it.'
'Oh, God, you know I have no money, but you can make the people do for
me, and you must make the people do for me.  I will never give you
peace till you do, God.'
'Oh, God, make the people hear me-don't let them turn me off, without
hearing and helping me.'
And she has not a particle of doubt, that God heard her, and especially
disposed the hearts of thoughtless clerks, eminent lawyers, and grave
judges and others-between whom and herself there seemed to her almost
an infinite remove-to listen to her suit with patient and respectful
attention, backing it up with all needed aid.  The sense of her
nothingness in the eyes of those with whom she contended for her
rights, sometimes fell on her like a heavy weight, which nothing but
her unwavering confidence in an arm which she believed to be stronger
than all others combined could have raised from her sinking spirit.
'Oh! how little did I feel,' she repeated, with a powerful emphasis.
'Neither would you wonder, if you could have seen me, in my ignorance
and destitution, trotting about the streets, meanly clad, bare-headed,
and bare-footed!  Oh, God only could have made such people hear me; and
he did it in answer to my prayers.'  And this perfect trust, based on
the rock of Deity, was a soul-protecting fortress, which, raising her
above the battlements of fear, and shielding her from the machinations
of the enemy, impelled her onward in the struggle, till the foe was
vanquished, and the victory gained.

We have now seen Isabella, her youngest daughter, and her only son, in
possession of, at least, their nominal freedom.  It has been said that
the freedom of the most free of the colored people of this country is
but nominal; but stinted and limited as it is, at best, it is an
immense remove from chattel slavery.  This fact is disputed, I know;
but I have no confidence in the honesty of such questionings.  If they
are made in sincerity, I honor not the judgment that thus decides.

Her husband, quite advanced in age, and infirm of health, was
emancipated, with the balance of the adult slaves of the State,
according to law, the following summer, July 4, 1828.

For a few years after this event, he was able to earn a scanty living,
and when he failed to do that, he was dependent on the 'world's cold
charity,' and died in a poorhouse.  Isabella had herself and two
children to provide for; her wages were trifling, for at that time the
wages of females were at a small advance from nothing; and she
doubtless had to learn the first elements of economy-for what slaves,
that were never allowed to make any stipulations or calculations for
themselves, ever possessed an adequate idea of the true value of time,
or, in fact, of any material thing in the universe?  To such, 'prudent
using' is meanness-and 'saving' is a word to be sneered at.  Of course,
it was not in her power to make to herself a home, around whose sacred
hearth-stone she could collect her family, as they gradually emerged
from their prison-house of bondage; a home, where she could cultivate
their affection, administer to
their wants, and instil into the opening minds of her children those
principles of virtue, and that love of purity, truth and benevolence,
which must for ever form the foundation of a life of usefulness and
happiness.  No-all this was far beyond her power or means, in more
senses than one; and it should be taken into the account, whenever a
comparison is instituted between the progress made by her children in
virtue and goodness, and the progress of those who have been nurtured
in the genial warmth of a sunny home, where good influences cluster,
and bad ones are carefully excluded-where 'line upon line, and precept
upon precept,' are daily brought to their quotidian tasks-and where, in
short, every appliance is brought in requisition, that self-denying
parents can bring to bear on one of the dearest objects of a parent's
life, the promotion of the welfare of their children.  But God forbid
that this suggestion should be wrested from its original intent, and
made to shield any one from merited rebuke!  Isabella's children are
now of an age to know good from evil, and may easily inform themselves
on any point where they may yet be in doubt; and if they now suffer
themselves to be drawn by temptation into the paths of the destroyer,
or forget what is due to the mother who has done and suffered so much
for them, and who, now that she is descending into the vale of years,
and feels her health and strength declining, will turn her expecting
eyes to them for aid and comfort, just as instinctively as the child
turns its confiding eye to its fond parent, when it seeks for succor or
sympathy-(for it is now their turn to do the work, and bear the burdens
of life, so all must bear them in turn, as the wheel of life rolls on)-
if, I say, they forget this, their duty and their happiness, and pursue
an opposite course of sin and folly, they must lose the respect of the
wise and good, and find, when too late, that 'the way of the
transgressor is hard.'


The reader will pardon this passing homily, while we return to our

We were saying that the day-dreams of Isabella and her husband-the plan
they drew of what they would do, and the comforts they thought to have,
when they should obtain their freedom, and a little home of their own-
had all turned to 'thin air,' by the postponement of their freedom to
so late a day.  These delusive hopes were never to be realized, and a
new set of trials was gradually to open before her.  These were the
heart-wasting trials of watching over her children, scattered, and
imminently exposed to the temptations of the adversary, with few, if
any, fixed principles to sustain them.

'Oh,' she says, 'how little did I know myself of the best way to
instruct and counsel them!  Yet I did the best I then knew, when with
them.  I took them to the religious meetings; I talked to, and prayed
for and with them; when they did wrong, I scolded at and whipped them.'

Isabella and her son had been free about a year, when they went to
reside in the city of New York; a place which she would doubtless have
avoided, could she have foreseen what was there in store for her; for
this view into the future would have taught her what she only learned
by bitter experience, that the baneful influences going up from such a
city were not the best helps to education, commenced as the education
of her children had been.

Her son Peter was, at the time of which we are speaking, just at that
age when no lad should be subjected to the temptations of such a place,
unprotected as he was, save by the feeble arm of a mother, herself a
servant there.  He was growing up to be a tall, well-formed, active
lad, of quick perceptions, mild and cheerful in his disposition, with
much that was open, generous and winning about him, but with little
power to withstand temptation, and a ready ingenuity to provide himself
with ways and means to carry out his plans, and conceal from his mother
and her friends, all such as he knew would not meet their approbation.
As will be readily believed, he was soon drawn into a circle of
associates who did not improve either his habits or his morals.

Two years passed before Isabella knew what character Peter was
establishing for himself among his low and worthless comrades-passing
under the assumed name of Peter Williams; and she began to feel a
parent's pride in the promising appearance of her only son.  But, alas!
this pride and pleasure were shortly dissipated, as distressing facts
relative to him came one by one to her astonished ear.  A friend of
Isabella's, a lady, who was much pleased with the good humor,
ingenuity, and open confessions of Peter, when driven into a corner,
and who, she said, 'was so smart, he ought to have an education, if any
one ought,'-paid ten dollars, as tuition fee, for him to attend a
navigation school.  But Peter, little inclined to spend his leisure
hours in study, when he might be enjoying himself in the dance, or
otherwise, with his boon companions, went regularly and made some
plausible excuses to the teacher, who received them as genuine, along
with the ten dollars of Mrs -, and while his mother and her friend
believed him improving at school, he was, to their latent sorrow,
improving in a very different place or places, and on entirely opposite
principles.  They also procured him an excellent place as a coachman.
But, wanting money, he sold his livery, and other things belonging to
his master; who, having conceived a kind regard for him, considered his
youth, and prevented the law from falling, with all its rigor, upon his
head.  Still he continued to abuse his privileges, and to involve
himself in repeated difficulties, from which his mother as often
extricated him.   At each time, she talked much, and reasoned and
remonstrated with him; and he would, with such perfect frankness, lay
open his whole soul to her, telling her he had never intended doing
harm,-how he had been led along, little by little, till, before he was
aware, he found himself in trouble-how he had tried to be good-and how,
when he would have been so, 'evil was present with him,'-indeed he knew
not how it was.

His mother, beginning to feel that the city was no place for him, urged
his going to sea, and would have shipped him on board a man-of-war; but
Peter was not disposed to consent to that proposition, while the city
and its pleasures were accessible to him.  Isabella now became a prey
to distressing fears, dreading lest the next day or hour come fraught
with the report of some dreadful crime, committed or abetted by her
son.  She thanks the Lord for sparing her that giant sorrow, as all his
wrong doings never ranked higher, in the eye of the law, than
misdemeanors.  But as she could see no improvement in Peter, as a last
resort, she resolved to leave him, for a time, unassisted, to bear the
penalty of his conduct, and see what effect that would have on him.  In
the trial hour, she remained firm in her resolution.  Peter again fell
into the hands of the police, and sent for his mother, as usual; but
she went not to his relief.  In his extremity, he sent for Peter
Williams, a respectable colored barber, whose name he had been
wearing, and who sometimes helped young culprits out of their troubles,
and sent them from city dangers, by shipping them on board of whaling

The curiosity of this man was awakened by the culprit's bearing his own
name.  He went to the Tombs and inquired into his case, but could not
believe what Peter told him respecting his mother and family.  Yet he
redeemed him, and Peter promised to leave New York in a vessel that was
to sail in the course of a week.  He went to see his mother, and
informed her of what had happened to him.  She listened incredulously,
as to an idle tale.  He asked her to go with him and see for herself.
She went, giving no credence to his story till she found herself in the
presence of Mr. Williams, and heard him saying to her, 'I am very glad
I have assisted your son; he stood in great need of sympathy and
assistance; but I could not think he had such a mother here, although
he assured me he had.'

Isabella's great trouble now was, a fear lest her son should deceive
his benefactor, and be missing when the vessel sailed; but he begged
her earnestly to trust him, for he said he had resolved to do better,
and meant to abide by the resolve.  Isabella's heart gave her no peace
till the time of sailing, when Peter sent Mr. Williams and another
messenger whom she knew, to tell her he had sailed.  But for a month
afterwards, she looked to see him emerging from some by-place in the
city, and appearing before her; so afraid was she that he was still
unfaithful, and doing wrong.  But he did not appear, and at length she
believed him really gone.  He left in the summer of 1839, and his
friends heard nothing further from him till his mother received the
following letter, dated 'October 17 1840';-


'I take this opportunity to write to you and inform you that I am well,
and in hopes for to find you the same.  I am got on board the same
unlucky ship Done, of Nantucket.  I am sorry for to say, that I have
been punished once severely, by shoving my head in the fire for other
folks.  We have had bad luck, but in hopes to have better.  We have
about 230 on board, but in hopes, if do n't kave good luck, that my
parents will receive me with thanks.  I would like to know how my
sisters are.  Does my cousins live in New York yet?  Have you got my
letter?  If not, inquire to Mr. Pierce Whiting's.  I wish you would
write me an answer as soon as possible.  I am your only son, that is so
far from your home, in the wide briny ocean.  I have seen more of the
world than ever I expected, and if I ever should return home safe, I
will tell you all my troubles and hardships.  Mother, I hope you do not
forget me, your dear and only son.  I should like to know how Sophia,
and Betsey, and Hannah, come on.  I hope you all will forgive me for
all that I have done.

Another letter reads as follows, dated 'March 22, 1841':-


'I take this opportunity to write to you, and inform you that I have
been well and in good health.  I have wrote you a letter before, but
have received no answer from you, and was very anxious to see you.  I
hope to see you in a short time.  I have had very hard luck, but are in
hopes to have better in time to come.  I should like if my sisters are
well, and all the people round the neighborhood. I expect to be home in
twenty-two months or thereabouts.  I have seen Samuel Laterett.
Beware!  There has happened very bad news to tell you, that Peter
Jackson is dead.  He died within two days' sail of Otaheite, one of the
Society Islands.  The Peter Jackson that used to live at Laterett's; he
died on board the ship Done, of Nantucket, Captain Miller, in the
latitude 15 53, and longitude 148 30 W.  I have no more to say at
present, but write as soon as possible.

'Your only son,

Another, containing the last intelligence she has had from her son,
reads as follows, and was dated 'Sept.  19, 1841':-


'I take the opportunity to write to you and inform you that I am well
and in good health, and in hopes to find you in the same.  This is the
fifth letter that I have wrote to you, and have received no answer, and
it makes me very uneasy.  So pray write as quick as you can, and tell
me how all the people is about the neighborhood.  We are out from home
twenty-three months, and in hope to be home in fifteen months.  I have
not much to say; but tell me if you have been up home since I left or
not.  I want to know what sort of a time is at home.  We had very bad
luck when we first came out, but since we have had very good; so I am
in hopes to do well yet; but if I do n't do well, you need not expect
me home these five years.  So write as quick as you can, won't you?  So
now I am going to put an end to my writing, at present.  Notice-when
this you see, remember me, and place me in your mind.

Get me to my home, that's in the far distant west,
To the scenes of my childhood, that I like the best;
There the tall cedars grow, and the bright waters flow,
Where my parents will greet me, white man, let me go!
Let me go to the spot where the cateract plays,
Where oft I have sported in my boyish days;
And there is my poor mother, whose heart ever flows,
At the sight of her poor child, to her let me go, let me go!

'Your only son,

Since the date of the last letter, Isabella has heard no tidings from
her long-absent son, though ardently does her mother's heart long for
such tidings, as her thoughts follow him around the world, in his
perilous vocation, saying within herself-'He is good now, I have no
doubt; I feel sure that he has persevered, and kept the resolve he made
before he left home;-he seemed so different before he went, so
determined to do better.'  His letters are inserted here for
preservation, in case they prove the last she ever hears from him in
this world.


When Isabella had obtained the freedom of her son, she remained in
Kingston, where she had been drawn by the judicial process, about a
year, during which time she became a member of the Methodist Church
there: and when she went to New York, she took a letter missive from
that church to the Methodist Church in John street.
Afterwards, she withdrew her connection with that church, and joined
Zion's Church in Church street, composed entirely of colored people.
With the latter church she remained until she went to reside with Mr.
Pierson, after which, she was gradually drawn into the 'kingdom' set up
by the prophet Matthias, in the name of God the Father; for he said the
spirit of God the Father dwelt in him.

While Isabella was in New York, her sister Sophia came from Newburg to
reside in the former place.  Isabel had been favored with occasional
interviews with this sister, although at one time she lost sight of her
for the space of seventeen years-almost the entire period of her being
at Mr. Dumont's-and when she appeared before her again, handsomely
dressed, she did not recognize her, till informed who she was.  Sophia
informed her that her brother Michael-a brother she had never seen-was
in the city; and when she introduced him to Isabella, he informed her
that their sister Nancy had been living in the city, and had deceased a
few months before.  He described her features, her dress, her manner,
and said she had for some time been a member in Zion's Church, naming
the class she belonged to. Isabella almost instantly recognized her as
a sister in the church, with whom she had knelt at the altar, and with
whom she had exchanged the speaking pressure of the hand, in
recognition of their spiritual sisterhood; little thinking, at the
time, that they were also children of the same earthly parents-even
Bomefree and Mau-mau Bett. As inquiries and answers rapidly passed, and
the conviction deepened that this was their sister, the very sister
they had heard so much of, but had never seen, (for she was the
self-same sister that had been locked in the great old fashioned
sleigh-box, when she was taken away, never to behold her mother's face
again this side the spirit-land, and Michael, the narrator, was the
brother who had shared her fate,) Isabella thought, 'D-h! here she was;
we met; and was I not, at the time, struck with the peculiar feeling of
her hand-the bony hardness so just like mine? and yet I could not know
she was my sister; and now I see she looked so like my mother.'  And
Isabella wept, and not alone; Sophia wept, and the strong man,
Michael, mingled his tears with theirs.  'Oh Lord,' inquired Isabella,
'what is this slavery, that it can do such dreadful things?  what evil
can it not do?'  Well may she ask, for surely the evils it can and does
do, daily and hourly, can never be summed up, till we can see them as
they are recorded by him who writes no errors, and reckons without
mistake.  This account, which now varies so widely in the estimate of
different minds, will be viewed alike by all.

Think you, dear reader, when that day comes, the most 'rapid
abolitionist' will say-'Behold, I saw all this while on the earth?'
Will he not rather say, 'Oh, who has conceived the breadth and depth of
this moral malaria, this putrescent plague-spot?'  Perhaps the pioneers
in the slave's cause will be as much surprised as any to find that with
all their looking, there remained so much unseen.


There are some hard things that crossed Isabella's life while in
slavery, that she has no desire to publish, for various reasons.
First, because the parties from whose hands she suffered them have
rendered up their account to a higher tribunal, and their innocent
friends alone are living, to have their feelings injured by the
recital; secondly, because they are not all for the public ear, from
their very nature; thirdly, and not least, because, she says, were she
to tell all that happened to her as a slave-all that she knows is
'God's truth'-it would seem to others, especially the uninitiated, so
unaccountable, so unreasonable, and what is usually called so
unnatural, (though it may be questioned whether people do not always
act naturally,) they would not easily believe it. 'Why, no!' she says,
'they'd call me a liar! they would, indeed! and I do not wish to say
anything to destroy my own character for veracity, though what I say is
strictly true.'  Some things have been omitted through forgetfulness,
which not having been mentioned in their places, can only be briefly
spoken of here;-such as, that her father Bomefree had had two wives
before he took Mau mau Bett; one of whom, if not both, were torn from
him by the iron hand of the ruthless trafficker in human flesh;-that
her husband, Thomas, after one of his wives had been sold away from
him, ran away to New York City, where he remained a year or two, before
he was discovered and taken back to the prison-house of slavery;-that
her master Dumont, when he promised Isabella one year of her time,
before the State should make her free, made the same promise to her
husband, and in addition to freedom, they were promised a log cabin for
a home of their own; all of which, with the one-thousand-and-one
day-dreams resulting therefrom, went into the repository of unfulfilled
promises and unrealized hopes;-that she had often heard her father
repeat a thrilling story of a little slave-child, which, because it
annoyed the family with its cries, was caught up by a white man, who
dashed its brains out against the wall.  An Indian (for Indians were
plenty in that region then) passed along as the bereaved mother washed
the bloody corpse of her murdered child, and learning the cause of its
death, said, with characteristic vehemence, 'If I had been here, I
would have put my tomahawk in his head!' meaning the murderer's.

Of the cruelty of one Hasbrouck.-He had a sick slave-woman, who was
lingering with a slow consumption, whom he made to spin, regardless of
her weakness and suffering; and this woman had a child, that was unable
to walk or talk, at the age of five years, neither could it cry like
other children, but made a constant, piteous moaning sound.  This
exhibition of helplessness and imbecility, instead of exciting the
master's pity, stung his cupidity, and so enraged him, that he would
kick the poor thing about like a foot-ball.

Isabella's informant had seen this brute of a man, when the child was
curled up under a chair, innocently amusing itself with a few sticks,
drag it hence, that he might have the pleasure of tormenting it.  She
had see him, with one blow of his foot, send it rolling quite across
the room, and down the steps at the door.  Oh, how she wished it might
instantly die!  'But,' she said, 'it seemed as tough as a moccasin.'
Though it did die at last, and made glad the heart of its friends; and
its persecutor, no doubt, rejoiced with them, but from very different
motives.  But the day of his retribution was not far off-for he
sickened, and his reason fled.  It was fearful to hear his old slave
soon tell how, in the day of his calamity, she treated him.

She was very strong, and was therefore selected to support her master,
as he sat up in bed, by putting her arms around, while she stood behind
him.  It was then that she
did her best to wreak her vengeance on him.  She would clutch his
feeble frame in her iron grasp, as in a vice; and, when her mistress
did not see, would give him a squeeze, a shake, and lifting him up, set
him down again, as hard as possible.  If his breathing betrayed too
tight a grasp, and her mistress said, 'Be careful, don't hurt him,
Soan!' her every-ready answer was, 'Oh no, Missus, no,' in her most
pleasant tone-and then, as soon as Missus's eyes and ears were engaged
away, another grasp-another shake-another bounce.  She was afraid the
disease alone would let him recover,-an event she dreaded more than to
do wrong herself.  Isabella asked her, if she were not afraid his
spirit would haunt her.  'Oh, no,' says Soan; 'he was so wicked, the
devil will never let him out of hell long enough for that.'

Many slaveholders boast of the love of their slaves.  How would it
freeze the blood of some of them to know what kind of love rankles in
the bosoms of slaves for them!  Witness the attempt to poison Mrs.
Calhoun, and hundreds of similar cases.  Most 'surprising ' to every
body, because committed by slaves supposed to be so grateful for their

These reflections bring to mind a discussion on this point, between the
writer and a slaveholding friend in Kentucky, on Christmas morning,
1846.  We had asserted, that until mankind were far in advance of what
they are now, irresponsible power over our fellow-beings would be, as
it is, abused.  Our friend declared it was his conviction, that the
cruelties of slavery existed chiefly in imagination, and that no person
in D- County, where we then were, but would be above ill-treating a
helpless slave.  We answered, that if his belief was well-founded, the
people in Kentucky were greatly in advance of the people of New
England-for we would not dare say as much as that of any
school-district there, letting alone counties.  No, we would not
answer for our own conduct even on so delicate a point.

The next evening, he very magnanimously overthrew his own position and
established ours, by informing us that, on the morning previous, and as
near as we could learn, at the very hour in which we were earnestly
discussing the probabilities of the case, a young woman of fine
appearance, and high standing in society, the pride of her husband, and
the mother of an infant daughter, only a few miles from us, ay, in D-
County, too, was actually beating in the skull of a slave-woman called
Tabby; and not content with that, had her tied up and whipped, after
her skull was broken, and she died hanging to the bedstead, to which
she had been fastened.  When informed that Tabby was
dead, she answered, 'I am glad of it, for she has worried my life out
of me.'  But Tabby's highest good was probably not the end proposed by
Mrs. M-, for no one supposed she meant to kill her.  Tabby was
considered quite lacking in good sense, and no doubt belonged to that
class at the South, that are silly enough to 'die of moderate

A mob collected around the house for an hour or two, in that manner
expressing a momentary indignation.  But was she treated as a
murderess?  Not at all!  She was allowed to take boat (for her
residence was near the beautiful Ohio) that evening, to spend a few
months with her absent friends, after which she returned and remained
with her husband, no one to 'molest or make her afraid.'

Had she been left to the punishment of an outraged conscience from
right motives, I would have 'rejoiced with exceeding joy'.  But to see
the life of one woman, and she a murderess, put in the balance against
the lives of three millions of innocent slaves, and to contrast her
punishment with what I felt would be the punishment of one who was
merely suspected of being an equal friend of all mankind, regardless of
color or condition, caused my blood to stir within me, and my heart to
sicken at the thought.  The husband of Mrs. M- was absent from home, at
the time alluded to; and when he arrived, some weeks afterwards,
bringing beautiful presents to his cherished companion, he beheld his
once happy home deserted, Tabby murdered and buried in the garden, and
the wife of his bosom, and the mother of his child, the doer of a
dreadful deed, a murderess!

When Isabella went to New York City, she went in company with a Miss
Grear, who introduced her to the family of Mr. James Latourette, a
wealthy merchant, and a Methodist in religion; but who, the latter part
of his life, felt that he had outgrown ordinances, and advocated free
meetings, holding them at his own dwelling-house for several years
previous to his death.  She worked for them, and they generously gave
her a home while she labored for others, and in their kindness made her
as one of their own.

At that time, the 'moral reform' movement was awakening the attention
of the benevolent in that city.  Many women, among whom were Mrs.
Latourette and Miss Grear, became deeply interested in making an
attempt to reform their fallen sisters, even the most degraded of them;
and in this enterprise of labor and danger, they enlisted Isabella and
others, who for a time put forth their most zealous efforts, and
performed the work of missionaries with much apparent success.
Isabella accompanied those ladies to the most wretched abodes of vice
and misery, and sometimes she went where they dared not follow.  They
even succeeded in establishing prayer-meetings in several places, where
such a thing might least have been expected.

But these meetings soon became the most noisy, shouting, ranting, and
boisterous of gatherings; where they became delirious with excitement,
and then exhausted from over-action.  Such meetings Isabel had not much
sympathy with, at best.  But one evening she attended one of them,
where the members of it, in a fit of ecstasy, jumped upon her cloak in
such a manner as to drag her to the floor-and then, thinking she had
fallen in a spiritual trance, they increased their glorifications on
her account,-jumping, shouting, stamping, and clapping of hands;
rejoicing so much over her spirit, and so entirely overlooking her
body, that she suffered much, both from fear and bruises; and ever
after refused to attend any more such meetings, doubting much whether
God had any thing to do with such worship.


We now come to an eventful period in the life of Isabella, as
identified with one of the most extraordinary religious delusions of
modern times; but the limits prescribed for the present work forbid a
minute narration of all the occurrences that transpired in relation to

After she had joined the African Church in Church street, and during
her membership there, she frequently attended Mr. Latourette's
meetings, at one of which, Mr. Smith invited her to go to a
prayer-meeting, or to instruct the girls at the Magdalene Asylum,
Bowery Hill, then under the protection of Mr. Pierson, and some other
persons, chiefly respectable females.  To reach the Asylum, Isabella
called on Katy, Mr. Pierson's colored servant, of whom she had some
knowledge.  Mr. Pierson saw her there, conversed with her, asked her if
she had been baptized, and was answered, characteristically, 'by the
Holy Ghost.'  After this, Isabella saw Katy several times, and
occasionally Mr. Pierson, who engaged her to keep his house while Katy
went to Virginia to see her children.  This engagement was considered
an answer to a prayer by Mr. Pierson, who had both fasted and prayed on
the subject, while Katy and Isabella appeared to see in it the hand of

Mr. Pierson was characterized by a strong devotional spirit, which
finally became highly fanatical.  He assumed the title of Prophet,
asserting that God had called him in an omnibus, in these words:-'Thou
are Elijah, the Tishbite.  Gather unto me all the members of Israel at
the foot of Mount Carmel'; which he understood as meaning the gathering
of his friends at Bowery Hill.  Not long afterward, he became
acquainted with the notorious Matthias, whose career was as
extraordinary as it was brief.  Robert Matthews, or Matthias (as he was
usually called), was of Scotch extraction, but a native of Washington
County, New York, and at that time about forty-seven years of age.  He
was religiously brought up, among the Anti-Burghers, a sect of
Presbyterians; the clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Bevridge, visiting the
family after the manner of the church, and being pleased with Robert,
put his hand on his head, when a boy, and pronounced a blessing, and
this blessing, with his natural qualities, determined his character;
for he ever after thought he should be a distinguished man.  Matthias
was brought up a farmer till nearly eighteen years of age, but
acquired indirectly the art of a carpenter, without any regular
apprenticeship, and showed considerable mechanical skill.  He obtained
property from his uncle, Robert Thompson, and then he went into
business as a store-keeper, was considered respectable, and became a
member of the Scotch Presbyterian Church.  He married in 1813, and
continued in business in Cambridge.  In 1816, he ruined himself by a
building speculation, and the derangement of the currency which denied
bank facilities, and soon after he came to New York with his family,
and worked at his trade.  He afterwards removed to Albany, and became a
hearer at the Dutch Reformed Church, then under Dr. Ludlow's charge.
He was frequently much excited on religious subjects.

In 1829, he was well known, if not for street preaching, for loud
discussions and pavement exhortations, but he did not make set sermons.
In the beginning of 1830, he was only considered zealous; but in the
same year he prophesied the destruction of the Albanians and their
capital, and while preparing to shave, with the Bible before him, he
suddenly put down the soap and exclaimed, 'I have found it!  I have
found a text which proves that no man who shaves his beard can be a
true Christian;' and shortly afterwards, without shaving, he went to
the Mission House to deliver an address which he had promised, and in
this address, he proclaimed his new character, pronounced vengeance on
the land, and that the law of God was the only rule of government, and
that he was commanded to take possession of the world in the name of
the King of kings.  His harangue was cut short by the trustees putting
out the lights.  About this time, Matthias laid by his implements of
industry, and in June, he advised his wife to fly with him from the
destruction which awaited them in the city; and on her refusal, partly
on account of Matthias calling himself a Jew, whom she was unwilling to
retain as a husband, he left her, taking some of the children to his
sister in Argyle, forty miles from Albany.  At Argyle he entered the
church and interrupted the minister, declaring the congregation in
darkness, and warning them to repentance.  He was, of course, taken out
of the church, and as he was advertised in the Albany papers, he was
sent back to his family.  His beard had now obtained a respectable
length, and thus he attracted attention, and easily obtained an
audience in the streets.  For this he was sometimes arrested, once by
mistake for Adam Paine, who collected the crowd, and then left Matthias
with it on the approach of the officers.  He repeatedly urged his wife
to accompany him on a mission to convert the world, declaring that food
could be obtained from the roots of the forest, if not administered
otherwise.  At this time he assumed the name of Matthias, called
himself a Jew, and set out on a mission, taking a western course, and
visiting a brother at Rochester, a skillful mechanic, since dead.
Leaving his brother, he proceeded on his mission over the Northern
States, occasionally returning to Albany.

After visiting Washington, and passing through Pennsylvania, he came to
New York.  His appearance at that time was mean, but grotesque, and his
sentiments were but little known.

On May the 5th, 1832, he first called on Mr. Pierson, in Fourth street,
in his absence.  Isabella was alone in the house, in which she had
lived since the previous autumn.  On opening the door, she, for the
first time, beheld Matthias, and her early impression of seeing Jesus
in the flesh rushed to her mind.  She heard his inquiry, and invited
him into the parlor; and being naturally curious, and much excited, and
possessing a good deal of tact, she drew him into conversation, stated
her own opinions, and heard his replies and explanations.  Her faith
was at first staggered by his declaring himself a Jew; but on this
point she was relieved by his saying, 'Do you not remember how Jesus
prayed?' and repeated part of the Lord's Prayer, in proof that the
Father's kingdom was to come, and not the Son's.  She then understood
him to be a converted Jew, and in the conclusion she says she 'felt as
if God had sent him to set up the kingdom.'  Thus Matthias at once
secured the good will of Isabella, and we may supposed obtained from
her some information in relation to Mr. Pierson, especially that Mrs.
Pierson declared there was no true church, and approved of Mr.
Pierson's preaching.  Matthias left the house, promising to return on
Saturday evening.  Mr. P. at this time had not seen Matthias.

Isabella, desirous of hearing the expected conversation between
Matthias and Mr. Pierson on Saturday, hurried her work, got it
finished, and was permitted to be present.  Indeed, the sameness of
belief made her familiar with her employer, while her attention to her
work, and characteristic faithfulness, increased his confidence.  This
intimacy, the result of holding the same faith, and the principle
afterwards adopted of having but one table, and all things in common,
made her at once the domestic and the equal, and the depositary of very
curious, if not valuable information.  To this object, even her color
assisted.  Persons who have traveled in the South know the manner in
which the colored people, and especially slaves, are treated; they are
scarcely regarded as being present.  This trait in our American
character has been frequently noticed by foreign travelers.  One
English lady remarks that she discovered, in course of conversation
with a Southern married gentleman, that a colored girl slept in his
bedroom, in which also was his wife; and when he saw that it occasioned
some surprise, he remarked, 'What would he do if he wanted a glass of
water in the night?'  Other travelers have remarked that the presence
of colored people never seemed to interrupt a conversation of any kind
for one moment.  Isabella, then, was present at the first interview
between Matthias and Pierson.  At this interview, Mr. Pierson asked
Matthias if he had a family, to which he replied in the affirmative; he
asked him about his beard, and he gave a scriptural reason, asserting
also that the Jews did not shave, and that Adam had a beard.  Mr.
Pierson detailed to Matthias his experience, and Matthias gave his, and
they mutually discovered that they held the same sentiments, both
admitting the direct influence of the Spirit, and the transmission of
spirits from one body to another.  Matthias admitted the call of Mr.
Pierson, in the omnibus in Wall street, which, on this occasion, he
gave in these words:-'Thou art Elijah the Tishbite, and thou shalt go
before me in the spirit and power of Elias, to prepare my way before
me.'  And Mr. Pierson admitted Matthias' call, who completed his
declaration on the 20th of June, in Argyle, which, by a curious
coincidence, was the very day on which Pierson had received his call in
the omnibus.  Such singular coincidences have a powerful effect on
excited minds.  From that discovery, Pierson and Matthias rejoiced in
each other, and became kindred spirits-Matthias, however, claiming to
be the Father, or to possess the spirit of the Father-he was God upon
the earth, because the spirit of God dwelt in him; while Pierson then
understood that his mission was like that of John the Baptist, which
the name Elias meant.  This conference ended with an invitation to
supper, and Matthias and Pierson washing each other's feet.  Mr.
Pierson preached on the following Sunday, but after which, he declined
in favor of Matthias, and some of the party believed that the 'kingdom
had then come.'

As a specimen of Matthias' preaching and sentiments, the following is
said to be reliable:

'The spirit that built the Tower of Babel is now in the world-it is the
spirit of the devil.  The spirit of man never goes upon the clouds; all
who think so are Babylonians.  The only heaven is on earth.  All who
are ignorant of truth are Ninevites.  The Jews did not crucify Christ-
it was the Gentiles.  Every Jew has his guardian angel attending him in
this world.  God don't speak through preachers; he speaks through me,
his prophet.

' " John the Baptist," (addressing Mr. Pierson),  "read the tenth
chapter of Revelations." After the reading of the chapter, the prophet
resumed speaking, as follows:-

'Ours is the mustard-seed kingdom which is to spread all over the
earth.  Our creed is truth, and no man can find truth unless he obeys
John the Baptist, and comes clean into the church.

'All real men will be saved; all mock men will be damned.  When a
person has the Holy Ghost, then he is a man, and not till then.  They
who teach women are of the wicked.  The communion is all nonsense; so
is prayer.  Eating a nip of bread and drinking a little wine won't do
any good.  All who admit members into their church, and suffer them to
hold their lands and houses, their sentence is, "Depart, ye wicked, I
know you not."  All females who lecture their husbands, their sentence
is the same.  The sons of truth are to enjoy all the good things of
this world, and must use their means to bring it about.  Every thing
that has the smell of woman will be destroyed.  Woman is the capsheaf
of the abomination of desolation-full of all deviltry.  In a short
time, the world will take fire and dissolve; it is combustible
already.  All women, not obedient, had better become so as soon as
possible, and let the wicked spirit depart, and become temples of
truth.  Praying is all mocking.  When you see any one wring the neck of
a fowl, instead of cutting off its head, he has not got the Holy Ghost.
(Cutting gives the least pain.)

'All who eat swine's flesh are of the devil; and just as certain as he
eats it, he will tell a lie in less than half an hour.  If you eat a
piece of pork, it will go crooked through you, and the Holy Ghost will
not stay in you, but one or the other must leave the house pretty soon.
The pork will be as crooked in you as ram's horns, and as great a
nuisance as the hogs in the street.

'The cholera is not the right word; it is choler, which means God's
wrath.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are now in this world; they did not
go up in the clouds, as some believe-why should they go there?  They
don't want to go there to box the compass from one place to another.
The Christians now-a-days are for setting up the Son's kingdom.  It is
not his; it is the Father's kingdom.  It puts me in mind of a man in
the country, who took his son in business, and had his sign made,
"Hitchcock & Son;" but the son wanted it "Hitchcock & Father"-and that
is the way with your Christians.  They talk of the Son's kingdom
first, and not the Father's kingdom.'

Matthias and his disciples at this time did not believe in a
resurrection of the body, but that the spirits of the former saints
would enter the bodies of the present generation, and thus begin heaven
on earth, of which he and Mr. Pierson were the first fruits.

Matthias made the residence of Mr. Pierson his own; but the latter,
being apprehensive of popular violence in his house, if Matthias
remained there, proposed a monthly allowance to him, and advised him to
occupy another dwelling.  Matthias accordingly took a house in Clarkson
street, and then sent for his family at Albany, but they declined
coming to the city.  However, his brother George complied with a
similar offer, bringing his family with him, where they found very
comfortable quarters.  Isabella was employed to do the housework.  In
May, 1833, Matthias left his house, and placed the furniture, part of
which was Isabella's, elsewhere, living himself at the hotel corner of
Marketfield and West streets.   Isabella found employment at Mr.
Whiting's, Canal street, and did the washing for Matthias by Mrs.
Whiting's permission.

Of the subsequent removal of Matthias to the farm and residence of Mr.
B. Folger, at Sing Sing, where he was joined by Mr. Pierson, and others
laboring under a similar religious delusion-the sudden, melancholy and
somewhat suspicious death of Mr. Pierson, and the arrest of Matthias on
the charge of his murder, ending in a verdict of not guilty-the
criminal connection that subsisted between Matthias, Mrs. Folger, and
other members of the 'Kingdom,' as 'match-spirits'-the final dispersion
of this deluded company, and the voluntary exilement of Matthias in the
far West, after his release-&c. &c., we do not deem it useful or
necessary to give any particulars.  Those who are curious to know what
there transpired are referred to a work published in New York in 1835,
entitled 'Fanaticism; its Sources and Influence; illustrated by the
simple Narrative of Isabella, in the case of Matthias, Mr. and Mrs. B.
Folger, Mr. Pierson, Mr. Mills, Catharine, Isabella, &c. &c. By G.
Vale, 84 Roosevelt street.'  Suffice it to say, that while Isabella was
a member of the household at Sing Sing, doing much laborious service in
the spirit of religious disinterestedness, and gradually getting her
vision purged and her mind cured of its illusions, she happily escaped
the contamination that surrounded her,-assiduously endeavoring to
discharge all her duties in a becoming manner.


When Isabella resided with Mr. Pierson, he was in the habit of fasting
every Friday; not eating or drinking anything from Thursday evening to
six o'clock on Friday evening.

Then, again, he would fast two nights and three days, neither eating
nor drinking; refusing himself even a cup of cold water till the third
day at night, when he took supper again, as usual.

Isabella asked him why he fasted.  He answered, that fasting gave him
great light in the things of God; which answer gave birth to the
following train of thought in the mind of his auditor:-'Well, if
fasting will give light inwardly and spiritually, I need it as much as
any body,-and I'll fast too.  If Mr. Pierson needs to fast two nights
and three days, then I, who need light more than he does, ought to fast
more, and I will fast three nights and three days.'

This resolution she carried out to the letter, putting not so much as a
drop of water in her mouth for three whole days and nights.  The fourth
morning, as she arose to her feet, not having the power to stand, she
fell to the floor; but recovering herself sufficiently, she made her
way to the pantry, and feeling herself quite voracious, and fearing
that she might now offend God by her voracity, compelled herself to
breakfast on dry bread and water-eating a large six-penny loaf before
she felt at all stayed or satisfied.  She says she did get light, but
it was all in her body and none in her mind-and this lightness of body
lasted a long time.  Oh! she was so light, and felt so well, she could
'skim around like a gull.'


The first years spent by Isabella in the city, she accumulated more
than enough to satisfy all her wants, and she placed all the overplus
in the Savings' Bank.  Afterwards, while living with Mr. Pierson, he
prevailed on her to take it all thence, and invest it in a common fund
which he was about establishing, as a fund to be drawn from by all the
faithful; the faithful, of course, were the handful that should
subscribe to his peculiar creed.  This fund, commenced by Mr. Pierson,
afterwards became part and parcel of the kingdom of which Matthias
assumed to be head; and at the breaking up of the kingdom, her little
property was merged in the general ruin-or went to enrich those who
profited by the loss of others, if any such there were.  Mr. Pierson
and others had so assured her, that the fund would supply all her
wants, at all times, and in all emergencies, and to the end of life,
that she became perfectly careless on the subject-asking for no
interest when she drew her money from the bank, and taking no account
of the sum she placed in the fund.  She recovered a few articles of the
furniture from the wreck of the kingdom, and received a small sum of
money from Mr. B. Folger, as the price of Mrs. Folger's attempt to
convict her of murder.  With this to start upon, she commenced anew her
labors, in the hope of yet being able to accumulate a sufficiency to
make a little home for herself, in her advancing age.  With this
stimulus before her, she toiled hard, working early and late, doing a
great deal for a little money, and turning her hand to almost anything
that promised good pay.  Still, she did not prosper, and somehow, could
not contrive to lay by a single dollar for a 'rainy day.'

When this had been the state of her affairs some time, she suddenly
paused, and taking a retrospective view of what had passed, inquired
within herself, why it was that, for all her unwearied labors, she had
nothing to show; why it was that others, with much less care and labor,
could hoard up treasures for themselves and children?  She became more
and more convinced, as she reasoned, that every thing she had
undertaken in the city of New York had finally proved a failure; and
where her hopes had been raised the highest, there she felt the failure
had been the greatest, and the disappointment most severe.

After turning it in her mind for some time, she came to the conclusion,
that she had been taking part in a great drama, which was, in itself,
but one great system of robbery and wrong.  'Yes,' she said, 'the rich
rob the poor, and the poor rob one another.'  True, she had not
received labor from others, and stinted their pay, as she felt had been
practised against her; but she had taken their work from them, which
was their only means to get money, and was the same to them in the end.
For instance-a gentleman where she lived would give her a dollar to
hire a poor man to clear the new-fallen snow from the steps and
side-walks.  She would arise early, and perform the labor herself,
putting the money into her own pocket.  A poor man would come along,
saying she ought to have let him have the job; he was poor, and needed
the pay for his family.  She would harden her heart against him, and
answer-'I am poor too, and I need it for mine.'  But, in her
retrospection, she thought of all the misery she might have been adding
to, in her selfish grasping, and it troubled her conscience sorely; and
this insensibility to the claims of human brotherhood, and the wants of
the destitute and wretched poor, she now saw, as she never had done
before, to be unfeeling, selfish and wicked.  These reflections and
convictions gave rise to a sudden revulsion of feeling in the heart of
Isabella, and she began to look upon money and property with great
indifference, if not contempt-being at that time unable, probably, to
discern any difference between a miserly grasping at and hoarding of
money and means, and a true use of the good things of this life for
one's own comfort, and the relief of such as she might be enabled to
befriend and assist.  One thing she was sure of-that the precepts, 'Do
unto others as ye would that others should do unto you,' 'Love your
neighbor as yourself,' and so forth, were maxims that had been but
little thought of by herself, or practised by those about her.

Her next decision was, that she must leave the city; it was no place
for her; yea, she felt called in spirit to leave it, and to travel east
and lecture.  She had never been further east than the city, neither
had she any friends there of whom she had particular reason to expect
any thing; yet to her it was plain that her mission lay in the east,
and that she would find friends there.  She determined on leaving; but
these determinations and convictions she kept close locked in her own
breast, knowing that if her children and friends were aware of it, they
would make such an ado about it as would render it very unpleasant, if
not distressing to all parties.  Having made what preparations for
leaving she deemed necessary,-which was, to put up a few articles of
clothing in a pillow-case, all else being deemed an unnecessary
incumbrance,-about an hour before she left, she informed Mrs. Whiting,
the woman of the house where she was stopping, that her name was no
longer Isabella, but SOJOURNER; and that she was going east.  And to
her inquiry, 'What are you going east for?' her answer was, 'The Spirit
calls me there, and I must go.'

She left the city on the morning of the 1st of June, 1843, crossing
over to Brooklyn, L.I.; and taking the rising sun for her only compass
and guide, she 'remembered Lot's wife,' and hoping to avoid her fate,
she resolved not to look back till she felt sure the wicked city from
which she was fleeing was left too far behind to be visible in the
distance; and when she first ventured to look back, she could just
discern the blue cloud of smoke that hung over it, and she thanked the
Lord that she was thus far removed from what seemed to her a second

She was now fairly started on her pilgrimage; her bundle in one hand,
and a little basket of provisions in the other, and two York shillings
in her purse-her heart strong in the faith that her true work lay
before her, and that the Lord was her director; and she doubted not he
would provide for and protect her, and that it would be very censurable
in her to burden herself with any thing more than a moderate supply for
her then present needs.  Her mission was not merely to travel east, but
to 'lecture,' as she designated it; 'testifying of the hope that was in
her'-exhorting the people to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin, the
nature and origin of which she explained to them in accordance with her
own most curious and original views.  Through her life, and all its
chequered changes, she has ever clung fast to her first permanent
impressions on religious subjects.

Wherever night overtook her, there she sought for lodgings-free, if she
might-if not, she paid; at a tavern, if she chanced to be at one-if
not, at a private dwelling; with the rich, if they would receive her-if
not, with the poor.

But she soon discovered that the largest houses were nearly always
full; if not quite full, company was soon expected; and that it was
much easier to find an unoccupied corner in a small house than in a
large one; and if a person possessed but a miserable roof over his
head, you might be sure of a welcome to part of it.

But this, she had penetration enough to see, was quite as much the
effect of a want of sympathy as of benevolence; and this was also very
apparent in her religious conversations with people who were strangers
to her.  She said, 'she never could find out that the rich had any
religion.  If I had been rich and accomplished, I could; for the rich
could always find religion in the rich, and I could find it among the

At first, she attended such meetings as she heard of, in the vicinity
of her travels, and spoke to the people as she found them assembled.
Afterwards, she advertised meetings of her own, and held forth to large
audiences, having, as she said, 'a good time.'

When she became weary of travelling, and wished a place to stop a while
and rest herself, she said some opening for her was always near at
hand; and the first time she needed rest, a man accosted her as she was
walking, inquiring if she was looking for work.  She told him that was
not the object of her travels, but that she would willingly work a few
days, if any one wanted.  He requested her to go to his family, who
were sadly in want of assistance, which he had been thus far unable to
supply.  She went to the house where she was directed, and was received
by his family, one of whom was ill, as a 'Godsend;' and when she felt
constrained to resume her journey, they were very sorry, and would fain
have detained her longer; but as she urged the necessity of leaving,
they offered her what seemed in her eyes a great deal of money as a
remuneration for her labor, and an expression of their gratitude for
her opportune assistance; but she would only receive a very little of
it; enough, as she says, to enable her to pay tribute to Caesar, if it
was demanded of her; and two or three York shillings at a time were all
she allowed herself to take; and then, with purse replenished, and
strength renewed, she would once more set out to perform her mission.


As she drew near the center of the Island, she commenced, one evening
at nightfall, to solicit the favor of a night's lodging.  She had
repeated her request a great many, it seemed to her some twenty times,
and as many times she received a negative answer.  She walked on, the
stars and the tiny horns of the new moon shed but a dim light on her
lonely way, when she was familiarly accosted by two Indians, who took
her for an acquaintance.  She told them they were mistaken in the
person; she was a stranger there, and asked them the direction to a
tavern.  They informed her it was yet a long way-some two miles or so;
and inquired if she were alone.  Not wishing for their protection, or
knowing what might be the character of their kindness, she answered,
'No, not exactly,' and passed on.  At the end of a weary way, she came
to the tavern,-or rather, to a large building, which was occupied as a
court-house, tavern, and jail,-and on asking for a night's lodging, was
informed she could stay, if she would consent to be locked in.  This to
her mind was an insuperable objection.  To have a key turned on her was
a thing not to be thought of, at least not to be endured, and she again
took up her line of march, preferring to walk beneath the open sky, to
being locked up by a stranger in such a place.  She had not walked far,
before she heard the voice of a woman under an open shed;

she ventured to accost her, and inquired if she knew where she
could get in for the night. The woman answered, that she did
not, unless she went home with them; and turning to her 'good
man,' asked him if the stranger could not share their home for
the night, to which he cheerfully assented. Sojourner thought it
evident he had been taking a drop too much, but as he was civil
and good-natured, and she did not feel inclined to spend the
night alone in the open air, she felt driven to the necessity of
accepting their hospitality, whatever it might prove to be. The
woman soon informed her that there was a ball in the place, at
which they would like to drop in a while, before they went to
their home.

Balls being no part of Sojourner's mission, she was not desirous
of attending; but her hostess could be satisfied with nothing
short of a taste of it, and she was forced to go with her, or
relinquish their company at once, in which move there might be
more exposure than in accompanying her. She went, and soon
found herself surrounded by an assemblage of people, collected
from the very dregs of society, too ignorant and degraded to
understand, much less entertain, a high or bright idea,-in a
dirty hovel, destitute of every comfort, and where the fumes of
whiskey were abundant and powerful.

Sojourner's guide there was too much charmed with the
combined entertainments of the place to be able to tear herself
away, till she found her faculties for enjoyment failing her, from
a too free use of liquor; and she betook herself to bed till she
could recover them. Sojourner, seated in a corner, had time for
many reflections, and refrained from lecturing them, in obedience
to the recommendation, 'Cast not your pearls,' &c. When
the night was far spent, the husband of the sleeping woman
aroused the sleeper, and reminded her that she was not very
polite to the woman she had invited to sleep at her house, and
of the propriety of returning home. They once more emerged
into the pure air, which to our friend Sojourner, after so long
breathing the noisome air of the ball-room, was most refreshing
and grateful. Just as day dawned, they reached the place they
called their home. Sojourner now saw that she had lost nothing
in the shape of rest by remaining so long at the ball, as their
miserable cabin afforded but one bunk or pallet for sleeping; and
had there been many such, she would have preferred sitting up
all night to occupying one like it. They very politely offered her
the bed, if she would use it; but civilly declining, she waited for
morning with an eagerness of desire she never felt before on the
subject, and was never more happy than when the eye of day
shed its golden light once more over the earth. She was once
more free, and while daylight should last, independent, and
needed no invitation to pursue her journey. Let these facts teach
us, that every pedestrian in the world is not a vagabond, and that
it is a dangerous thing to compel any one to receive that hospitality
from the vicious and abandoned which they should have
received from us,-as thousands can testify, who have thus been
caught in the snares of the wicked.

The fourth of July, Isabella arrived at Huntingdon; from
thence she went to Cold Springs, where she found the people
making preparations for a mass temperance-meeting. With her
usual alacrity, she entered into their labors, getting up dishes a la
New York, greatly to the satisfaction of those she assisted. After
remaining at Cold Springs some three weeks, she returned to
Huntingdon, where she took boat for Connecticut. Landing at
Bridgeport, she again resumed her travels towards the north-east,
lecturing some, and working some, to get wherewith to pay
tribute to Caesar, as she called it; and in this manner she presently
came to the city of New Haven, where she found many meetings,
which she attended-at some of which, she was allowed to
express her views freely, and without reservation. She also called
meetings expressly to give herself an opportunity to be heard;
and found in the city many true friends of Jesus, as she judged,
with whom she held communion of spirit, having no preference
for one sect more than another, but being well satisfied with all
who gave her evidence of having known or loved the Saviour.

After thus delivering her testimony in this pleasant city, feeling
she had not as yet found an abiding place, she went from
thence to Bristol, at the request of a zealous sister, who desired
her to go to the latter place, and hold a religious conversation
with some friends of hers there. She went as requested, found
the people kindly and religiously disposed, and through them
she became acquainted with several very interesting persons.

A spiritually-minded brother in Bristol, becoming interested
in her new views and original opinions, requested as a favor that
she would go to Hartford, to see and converse with friends of his
there. Standing ready to perform any service in the Lord, she
went to Hartford as desired, bearing in her hand the following
note from this brother:-

'SISTER,-I send you this living messenger, as I believe
her to be one that God loves. Ethiopia is stretching forth
her hands unto God. You can see by this sister, that God
does by his Spirit alone teach his own children things to
come. Please receive her, and she will tell you some new
things. Let her tell her story without interrupting her, and
give close attention, and you will see she has got the lever
of truth, that God helps her to pry where but few can. She
cannot read or write, but the law is in her heart.

'Send her to brother -, brother -, and where she can do
the most good.
'From your brother, H. L. B.'


As soon as Isabella saw God as an all-powerful, all-pervading
spirit, she became desirous of hearing all that had been written
of him, and listened to the account of the creation of the world
and its first inhabitants, as contained in the first chapters of
Genesis, with peculiar interest. For some time she received it all
literally, though it appeared strange to her that 'God worked by
the day, got tired, and stopped to rest,' &c. But after a little time,
she began to reason upon it, thus-'Why, if God works by the
day, and one day's work tires him, and he is obliged to rest,
either from weariness or on account of darkness, or if he waited
for the "cool of the day to walk in the garden," because he was
inconvenienced by the heat of the sun, why then it seems that
God cannot do as much as I can; for I can bear the sun at noon,
and work several days and nights in succession without being
much tired. Or, if he rested nights because of the darkness, it is
very queer that he should make the night so dark that he could
not see himself. If I had been God, I would have made the night
light enough for my own convenience, surely.' But the moment
she placed this idea of God by the side of the impression
she had once so suddenly received of his inconceivable greatness
and entire spirituality, that moment she exclaimed mentally,
'No, God does not stop to rest, for he is a spirit, and cannot tire;
he cannot want for light, for he hath all light in himself. And if
"God is all in all," and "worketh all in all," as I have heard them
read, then it is impossible he should rest at all; for if he did, every
other thing would stop and rest too; the waters would not flow,
and the fishes could not swim; and all motion must cease. God
could have no pauses in his work, and he needed no Sabbaths of
rest. Man might need them, and he should take them when he
needed them, whenever he required rest. As it regarded the
worship of God, he was to be worshipped at all times and in all
places; and one portion of time never seemed to her more holy
than another.'

These views, which were the results of the workings of her
own mind, assisted solely by the light of her own experience and
very limited knowledge, were, for a long time after their adoption,
closely locked in her own breast, fearing lest their avowal
might bring upon her the imputation of 'infidelity,'-the usual
charge preferred by all religionists, against those who entertain
religious views and feelings differing materially from their own.
If, from their own sad experience, they are withheld from shouting
the cry of 'infidel,' they fail not to see and to feel, ay, and
to say, that the dissenters are not of the right spirit, and that their
spiritual eyes have never been unsealed.

While travelling in Connecticut, she met a minister, with
whom she held a long discussion on these points, as well as on
various other topics, such as the origin of all things, especially the
origin of evil, at the same time bearing her testimony strongly
against a paid ministry. He belonged to that class, and, as a matter
of course, as strongly advocated his own side of the question.

I had forgotten to mention, in its proper place, a very important
fact, that when she was examining the Scriptures, she wished
to hear them without comment; but if she employed adult
persons to read them to her, and she asked them to read a passage
over again, they invariably commenced to explain, by giving her
their version of it; and in this way, they tried her feelings
In consequence of this, she ceased to ask adult persons to
read the Bible to her, and substituted children in their stead.
Children, as soon as they could read distinctly, would re-read the
same sentence to her, as often as she wished, and without
comment; and in that way she was enabled to see what her own
mind could make out of the record, and that, she said, was what
she wanted, and not what others thought it to mean. She wished
to compare the teachings of the Bible with the witness within
her; and she came to the conclusion, that the spirit of truth spoke
in those records, but that the recorders of those truths had
intermingled with them ideas and suppositions of their own.
This is one among the many proofs of her energy and independence
of character.

When it became known to her children, that Sojourner had
left New York, they were filled with wonder and alarm. Where
could she have gone, and why had she left? were questions no
one could answer satisfactorily. Now, their imaginations painted
her as a wandering maniac-and again they feared she had been
left to commit suicide; and many were the tears they shed at the
loss of her.

But when she reached Berlin, Conn., she wrote to them by
amanuensis, informing them of her whereabouts, and waiting an
answer to her letter; thus quieting their fears, and gladdening
their hearts once more with assurances of her continued life and
her love.


In Hartford and vicinity, she met with several persons who
believed in the 'Second Advent' doctrines; or, the immediate
personal appearance of Jesus Christ. At first she thought she had
never heard of 'Second Advent.' But when it was explained to
her, she recollected having once attended Mr. Miller's meeting
in New York, where she saw a great many enigmatical pictures
hanging on the wall, which she could not understand, and
which, being out of the reach of her understanding, failed to
interest her. In this section of country, she attended two
camp-meetings of the believers in these doctrines-the 'second advent'
excitement being then at its greatest height. The last
meeting was at Windsor Lock. The people, as a matter of course,
eagerly inquired of her concerning her belief, as it regarded their
most important tenet. She told them it had not been revealed to
her; perhaps, if she could read, she might see it differently.
Sometimes, to their eager inquiry, 'Oh, don't you believe the
Lord is coming?' she answered, 'I believe the Lord is as near as
he can be, and not be it.' With these evasive and non-exciting
answers, she kept their minds calm as it respected her unbelief,
till she could have an opportunity to hear their views fairly
stated, in order to judge more understandingly of this matter,
and see if, in her estimation, there was any good ground for
expecting an event which was, in the minds of so many, as it
were, shaking the very foundations of the universe. She was
invited to join them in their religious exercises, and accepted the
invitation-praying, and talking in her own peculiar style, and
attracting many about her by her singing.

When she had convinced the people that she was a lover of
God and his cause, and had gained a good standing with them,
so that she could get a hearing among them, she had become
quite sure in her own mind that they were laboring under a
delusion, and she commenced to use her influence to calm the
fears of the people, and pour oil upon the troubled waters. In
one part of the grounds, she found a knot of people greatly
excited: she mounted a stump and called out, 'Hear! hear!'
When the people had gathered around her, as they were in a
state to listen to any thing new, she addressed them as 'children,'
and asked them why they made such a 'To-do;-are you
not commanded to "watch and pray?" You are neither watching
nor praying.' And she bade them, with the tones of a kind
mother, retire to their tents, and there watch and pray, without
noise or tumult, for the Lord would not come to such a scene
of confusion; 'the Lord came still and quiet.' She assured them,
'the Lord might come, move all through the camp, and go away
again, and they never know it,' in the state they then were.

They seemed glad to seize upon any reason for being less
agitated and distressed, and many of them suppressed their noisy
terror, and retired to their tents to 'watch and pray;' begging
others to do the same, and listen to the advice of the good sister.
She felt she had done some good, and then went to listen further
to the preachers. They appeared to her to be doing their utmost
to agitate and excite the people, who were already too much
excited; and when she had listened till her feelings would let her
listen silently no longer, she arose and addressed the preachers.
The following are specimens of her speech:-

'Here you are talking about being "changed in the twinkling
of an eye." If the Lord should come, he'd change you to nothing!
for there is nothing to you.

'You seem to be expecting to go to some parlor away up
somewhere, and when the wicked have been burnt, you are
coming back to walk in triumph over their ashes-this is to
be your New Jerusalem!! Now, I can't see any thing so very
nice in that, coming back to such a muss as that will be, a
world covered with the ashes of the wicked! Besides, if the Lord
comes and burns-as you say he will-I am not going away; I
am going to stay here and stand the fire, like Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego! And Jesus will walk with me through the fire,
and keep me from harm. Nothing belonging to God can burn,
any more than God himself; such shall have no need to go away
to escape the fire! No, I shall remain. Do you tell me that God's
children can't stand fire?' And her manner and tone spoke louder
than words, saying, 'It is absurd to think so!'

The ministers were taken quite aback at so unexpected an
opposer, and one of them, in the kindest possible manner,
commenced a discussion with her, by asking her questions, and
quoting scripture to her; concluding, finally, that although she
had learned nothing of the great doctrine which was so exclusively
occupying their minds at the time, she had learned much
that man had never taught her.

At this meeting, she received the address of different persons,
residing in various places, with an invitation to visit them. She
promised to go soon to Cabotville, and started, shaping her
course for that place. She arrived at Springfield one evening at
six o'clock, and immediately began to search for a lodging for
the night. She walked from six till past nine, and was then on the
road from Springfield to Cabotville, before she found any one
sufficiently hospitable to give her a night's shelter under their
roof. Then a man gave her twenty-five cents, and bade her
go to a tavern and stay all night. She did so, returning in the
morning to thank him, assuring him she had put his money to
its legitimate use. She found a number of the friends she had seen
at Windsor when she reached the manufacturing town of Cabotville,
(which has lately taken the name of Chicopee,) and
with them she spent a pleasant week or more; after which, she
left them to visit the Shaker village in Enfield. She now began
to think of finding a resting place, at least, for a season; for she
had performed quite a long journey, considering she had walked
most of the way; and she had a mind to look in upon the
Shakers, and see how things were there, and whether there was
any opening there for her. But on her way back to Springfield,
she called at a house and asked for a piece of bread; her request
was granted, and she was kindly invited to tarry all night, as it
was getting late, and she would not be able to stay at every house
in that vicinity, which invitation she cheerfully accepted. When
the man of the house came in, he recollected having seen her at
the camp-meeting, and repeated some conversations, by which
she recognized him again. He soon proposed having a meeting
that evening, went out and notified his friends and neighbors,
who came together, and she once more held forth to them in her
peculiar style. Through the agency of this meeting, she became
acquainted with several people residing in Springfield, to whose
houses she was cordially invited, and with whom she spent some
pleasant time.

One of these friends, writing of her arrival there, speaks as
follows. After saying that she and her people belonged to that
class of persons who believed in the second advent doctrines; and
that this class, believing also in freedom of speech and action,
often found at their meetings many singular people, who did not
agree with them in their principal doctrine; and that, being thus
prepared to hear new and strange things, 'They listened eagerly
to Sojourner, and drank in all she said;'-and also, that she
'soon became a favorite among them; that when she arose to
speak in their assemblies, her commanding figure and dignified
manner hushed every trifler into silence, and her singular and
sometimes uncouth modes of expression never provoked a
laugh, but often were the whole audience melted into tears by
her touching stories.' She also adds, 'Many were the lessons of
wisdom and faith I have delighted to learn from her.' . . . . 'She
continued a great favorite in our meetings, both on account of
her remarkable gift in prayer, and still more remarkable talent for
singing, . . . and the aptness and point of her remarks, frequently
illustrated by figures the most original and expressive.

'As we were walking the other day, she said she had often
thought what a beautiful world this would be, when we should
see every thing right side up. Now, we see every thing topsy-turvy, and
all is confusion.' For a person who knows nothing of
this fact in the science of optics, this seemed quite a remarkable

'We also loved her for her sincere and ardent piety, her
unwavering faith in God, and her contempt of what the world
calls fashion, and what we call folly.

'She was in search of a quiet place, where a way-worn
traveller might rest. She had heard of Fruitlands, and was
inclined to go there; but the friends she found here thought it
best for her to visit Northampton. She passed her time, while
with us, working wherever her work was needed, and talking
where work was not needed.

'She would not receive money for her work, saying she
worked for the Lord; and if her wants were supplied, she
received it as from the Lord.

'She remained with us till far into winter, when we introduced
her at the Northampton Association.' . . . . 'She wrote to
me from thence, that she had found the quiet resting place she
had so long desired. And she has remained there ever since.'


When Sojourner had been at Northampton a few months, she
attended another camp-meeting, at which she performed a very
important part.

A party of wild young men, with no motive but that of
entertaining themselves by annoying and injuring the feelings of
others, had assembled at the meeting, hooting and yelling, and
in various ways interrupting the services, and causing much
disturbance. Those who had the charge of the meeting, having
tried their persuasive powers in vain, grew impatient and tried

The young men, considering themselves insulted, collected
their friends, to the number of a hundred or more, dispersed
themselves through the grounds, making the most frightful
noises, and threatening to fire the tents. It was said the authorities
of the meeting sat in grave consultation, decided to have the
ring-leaders arrested, and sent for the constable, to the great
displeasure of some of the company, who were opposed to such
an appeal to force and arms. Be that as it may, Sojourner, seeing
great consternation depicted in every countenance, caught the
contagion, and, ere she was aware, found herself quaking with

Under the impulse of this sudden emotion, she fled to the
most retired corner of a tent, and secreted herself behind a trunk.
saying to herself, 'I am the only colored person here, and on me,
probably, their wicked mischief will fall first, and perhaps fatally.'
But feeling how great was her insecurity even there, as the
very tent began to shake from its foundations, she began to
soliloquise as follows:-

'Shall I run away and hide from the Devil? Me, a servant of
the living God? Have I not faith enough to go out and quell that
mob, when I know it is written-"One shall chase a thousand,
and two put ten thousand to flight"? I know there are not a
thousand here; and I know I am a servant of the living God. I'll
go to the rescue, and the Lord shall go with and protect me.

'Oh,' said she, 'I felt as if I had three hearts! and that they
were so large, my body could hardly hold them!'

She now came forth from her hiding-place, and invited several
to go with her and see what they could do to still the raging
of the moral elements. They declined, and considered her wild
to think of it.

The meeting was in the open fields-the full moon shed its
saddened light over all-and the woman who was that evening
to address them was trembling on the preachers' stand. The
noise and confusion were now terrific. Sojourner left the tent
alone and unaided, and walking some thirty rods to the top of
a small rise of ground, commenced to sing, in her most fervid
manner, with all the strength of her most powerful voice, the
hymn on the resurrection of Christ-

It was early in the morning-it was early in the morning,
  Just at the break of day-
When he rose-when he rose-when he rose,
  And went to heaven on a cloud.'

All who have ever heard her sing this hymn will probably
remember it as long as they remember her. The hymn, the tune,
the style, are each too closely associated with to be easily
separated from herself, and when sung in one of her most animated
moods, in the open air, with the utmost strength of her most
powerful voice, must have been truly thrilling.

As she commenced to sing, the young men made a rush
towards her, and she was immediately encircled by a dense body
of the rioters, many of them armed with sticks or clubs as their
weapons of defence, if not of attack. As the circle narrowed
around her, she ceased singing, and after a short pause, inquired,
in a gentle but firm tone, 'Why do you come about me with
clubs and sticks? I am not doing harm to any one.' 'We ar'n't
a going to hurt you, old woman; we came to hear you sing,'
cried many voices, simultaneously. 'Sing to us, old woman,'
cries one. 'Talk to us, old woman,' says another. 'Pray, old
woman,' says a third. 'Tell us your experience,' says a fourth.
'You stand and smoke so near me, I cannot sing or talk,' she

'Stand back,' said several authoritative voices, with not the
most gentle or courteous accompaniments, raising their rude
weapons in the air. The crowd suddenly gave back, the circle
became larger, as many voices again called for singing, talking,
or praying, backed by assurances that no one should be allowed
to hurt her-the speakers declaring with an oath, that they
would 'knock down ' any person who should offer her the
least indignity.

She looked about her, and with her usual discrimination, said
inwardly-'Here must be many young men in all this assemblage,
bearing within them hearts susceptible of good impressions.
I will speak to them.' She did speak; they silently heard,
and civilly asked her many questions. It seemed to her to be
given her at the time to answer them with truth and wisdom
beyond herself. Her speech had operated on the roused passions
of the mob like oil on agitated waters; they were, as a whole,
entirely subdued, and only clamored when she ceased to speak
or sing. Those who stood in the back ground, after the circle was
enlarged, cried out, 'Sing aloud, old woman, we can't hear.'
Those who held the sceptre of power among them requested
that she should make a pulpit of a neighboring wagon. She said,
'If I do, they'll overthrow it.' 'No, they sha'n't-he who dares
hurt you, we'll knock him down instantly, d-n him,' cried
the chiefs. 'No we won't, no we won't, nobody shall hurt you,'
answered the many voices of the mob. They kindly assisted her
to mount the wagon, from which she spoke and sung to them
about an hour. Of all she said to them on the occasion, she
remembers only the following:-

'Well, there are two congregations on this ground. It is
written that there shall be a separation, and the sheep shall be
separated from the goats. The other preachers have the sheep,
I have the goats. And I have a few sheep among my goats, but
they are very ragged.' This exordium produced great laughter.
When she became wearied with talking, she began to cast about
her to contrive some way to induce them to disperse. While she
paused, they loudly clamored for 'more,' 'more,'-'sing,'
'sing more.' She motioned them to be quiet, and called out to
them: 'Children, I have talked and sung to you, as you asked
me; and now I have a request to make of you; will you grant it?'
'Yes, yes, yes,' resounded from every quarter. 'Well, it is this,'
she answered; 'if I will sing one more hymn for you, will you
then go away, and leave us this night in peace?' 'Yes, yes,'
came faintly, feebly from a few. 'I repeat it,' says Sojourner,
'and I want an answer from you all, as of one accord. If I will
sing you one more, will you go away, and leave us this night in
peace?' 'Yes, yes, yes,' shouted many voices, with hearty emphasis.
'I repeat my request once more,' said she, 'and I want
you all to answer.' And she reiterated the words again. This time
a long, loud 'Yes-yes-yes,' came up, as from the multitudinous mouth
of the entire mob. 'AMEN! it is SEALED,' repeated
Sojourner, in the deepest and most solemn tones of her powerful
and sonorous voice. Its effect ran through the multitude, like an
electric shock; and the most of them considered themselves
bound by their promise, as they might have failed to do under
less imposing circumstances. Some of them began instantly to
leave; others said, 'Are we not to have one more hymn?'
'Yes,' answered their entertainer, and she commenced to sing:

'I bless the Lord I've got my seal-to-day and to-day-
To slay Goliath in the field-to-day and to-day;
The good old way is a righteous way,
I mean to take the kingdom in the good old way.'

While singing, she heard some enforcing obedience to their
promise, while a few seemed refusing to abide by it. But before
she had quite concluded, she saw them turn from her, and in the
course of a few minutes, they were running as fast as they well
could in a solid body; and she says she can compare them to
nothing but a swarm of bees, so dense was their phalanx, so
straight their course, so hurried their march. As they passed with
a rush very near the stand of the other preachers, the hearts of
the people were smitten with fear, thinking that their entertainer
had failed to enchain them longer with her spell, and that they
were coming upon them with redoubled and remorseless fury.
But they found they were mistaken, and that their fears were
groundless; for, before they could well recover from their surprise,
every rioter was gone, and not one was left on the
grounds, or seen there again during the meeting. Sojourner was
informed that as her audience reached the main road, some
distance from the tents, a few of the rebellious spirits refused to
go on, and proposed returning; but their leaders said, 'No-we
have promised to leave-all promised, and we must go, all go,
and you shall none of you return again.'

She did not fall in love at first sight with the Northampton
Association, for she arrived there at a time when appearances did
not correspond with the ideas of associationists, as they had been
spread out in their writings; for their phalanx was a factory, and
they were wanting in means to carry out their ideas of beauty
and elegance, as they would have done in different circumstances.
But she thought she would make an effort to tarry with
them one night, though that seemed to her no desirable affair.
But as soon as she saw that accomplished, literary, and refined
persons were living in that plain and simple manner, and submitting
to the labors and privations incident to such an infant
institution, she said, 'Well, if these can live here, I can.'
Afterwards, she gradually became pleased with, and attached to, the
place and the people, as well she might; for it must have been no
small thing to have found a home in a 'Community composed
of some of the choicest spirits of the age,' where all was
by an equality of feeling, a liberty of thought and speech,
and a largeness of soul, she could not have before met with, to
the same extent, in any of her wanderings.

Our first knowledge of her was derived from a friend who
had resided for a time in the 'Community,' and who, after
describing her, and singing one of her hymns, wished that we
might see her. But we little thought, at that time, that we should
ever pen these 'simple annals' of this child of nature.

When we first saw her, she was working with a hearty good
will; saying she would not be induced to take regular wages,
believing, as once before, that now Providence had provided her
with a never-failing fount, from which her every want might be
perpetually supplied through her mortal life. In this, she had
calculated too fast. For the Associationists found, that, taking
every thing into consideration, they would find it most expedient
to act individually; and again, the subject of this sketch found
her dreams unreal, and herself flung back upon her own resources
for the supply of her needs. This she might have found
more inconvenient at her time of life-for labor, exposure, and
hardship had made sad inroads upon her iron constitution, by
inducing chronic disease and premature old age-had she not
remained under the shadow of one,* who never wearies in
doing good, giving to the needy, and supplying the wants of the
destitute. She has now set her heart upon having a little home
of her own, even at this late hour of life, where she may feel a
greater freedom than she can in the house of another, and where
she can repose a little, after her day of action has passed by. And
for such a 'home' she is now dependant on the charities of the
benevolent, and to them we appeal with confidence.

Through all the scenes of her eventful life may be traced the
energy of a naturally powerful mind-the fearlessness and child-like
simplicity of one untrammelled by education or conventional
customs-purity of character-an unflinching adherence
to principle-and a native enthusiasm, which, under different
circumstances, might easily have produced another Joan of Arc.

With all her fervor, and enthusiasm, and speculation, her
religion is not tinctured in the least with gloom. No doubt, no
hesitation, no despondency, spreads a cloud over her soul; but
all is bright, clear, positive, and at times ecstatic. Her trust is in
God, and from him she looks for good, and not evil. She feels
that 'perfect love casteth out fear.'

Having more than once found herself awaking from a mortifying
delusion,-as in the case of the Sing-Sing kingdom,-and
resolving not to be thus deluded again, she has set suspicion to
guard the door of her heart, and allows it perhaps to be aroused
by too slight causes, on certain subjects-her vivid imagination
assisting to magnify the phantoms of her fears into gigantic
proportions, much beyond their real size; instead of resolutely
adhering to the rule we all like best, when it is to be applied to
ourselves-that of placing every thing we see to the account of
the best possible motive, until time and circumstance prove that
we were wrong. Where no good motive can be assigned, it may
become our duty to suspend our judgment till evidence can be

In the application of this rule, it is an undoubted duty to
exercise a commendable prudence, by refusing to repose any
important trust to the keeping of persons who may be strangers
to us, and whose trustworthiness we have never seen tried. But
no possible good, but incalculable evil may and does arise from
the too common practice of placing all conduct, the source of
which we do not fully understand, to the worst of intentions.
How often is the gentle, timid soul discouraged, and driven
perhaps to despondency, by finding its 'good evil spoken of;'
and a well-meant but mistaken action loaded with an evil design!

If the world would but sedulously set about reforming itself
on this one point, who can calculate the change it would
produce-the evil it would annihilate, and the happiness it would
confer! None but an all-seeing eye could at once embrace so vast
a result. A result, how desirable! and one that can be brought
about only by the most simple process-that of every individual
seeing to it that he commit not this sin himself. For why should
we allow in ourselves, the very fault we most dislike, when
committed against us? Shall we not at least aim at consistency?

Had she possessed less generous self-sacrifice, more knowledge of
the world and of business matters in general, and had she
failed to take it for granted that others were like herself, and
would, when her turn came to need, do as she had done, and
find it 'more blessed to give than to receive,' she might have
laid by something for the future. For few, perhaps, have ever
possessed the power and inclination, in the same degree, at one
and the same time, to labor as she has done, both day and night,
for so long a period of time. And had these energies been
well-directed, and the proceeds well husbanded, since she has
been her own mistress, they would have given her an independence
during her natural life. But her constitutional biases, and
her early training, or rather want of training, prevented this
result; and it is too late now to remedy the great mistake. Shall
she then be left to want? Who will not answer. 'No!'



In the spring of 1849, Sojourner made a visit to her eldest
daughter, Diana, who has ever suffered from ill health, and
remained with Mr. Dumont, Isabella's humane master. She
found him still living, though advanced in age, and reduced in
property, (as he had been for a number of years,) but greatly
enlightened on the subject of slavery. He said he could then see
that 'slavery was the wickedest thing in the world, the greatest
curse the earth had ever felt-that it was then very clear to his
mind that it was so, though, while he was a slaveholder himself,
he did not see it so, and thought it was as right as holding any
other property.' Sojourner remarked to him, that it might be
the same with those who are now slaveholders. 'O, no,'
replied he, with warmth, 'it cannot be. For, now, the sin of
slavery is so clearly written out, and so much talked against,-(why,
the whole world cries out against it!)-that if any one says
he don't know, and has not heard, he must, I think, be a liar. In
my slaveholding days, there were few that spoke against it, and
these few made little impression on any one. Had it been as it
is now, think you I could have held slaves? No! I should not
have dared to do it, but should have emancipated every one of
them. Now, it is very different; all may hear if they will.'

Yes, reader, if any one feels that the tocsin of alarm, or the
anti-slavery trump, must sound a louder note before they can
hear it, one would think they must be very hard of hearing,-yea, that
they belong to that class, of whom it may be truly said,
'they have stopped their ears that they may not hear.'

She received a letter from her daughter Diana, dated Hyde
Park, December 19, 1849, which informed her that Mr. Dumont had
'gone West' with some of his sons-that he had
taken along with him, probably through mistake, the few articles
of furniture she had left with him. 'Never mind,' says Sojourner,
'what we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord.' She
thanked the Lord with fervor, that she had lived to hear her
master say such blessed things! She recalled the lectures he used
to give his slaves, on speaking the truth and being honest, and
laughing, she says he taught us not to lie and steal, when he was
stealing all the time himself, and did not know it! Oh! how sweet
to my mind was this confession! And what a confession for a
master to make to a slave! A slaveholding master turned to a
brother! Poor old man, may the Lord bless him, and all slave-holders
partake of his spirit!


HURLEY, ULSTER Co., Oct. 13th, 1834

This is to certify, that I am well acquainted with Isabella,
this colored woman; I have been acquainted with her from
her infancy; she has been in my employ for one year, and
she was a faithful servant, honest, and industrious; and have
always known her to be in good report by all who employed her.


NEW PALTZ, ULSTER Co., Oct. 13th, 1834

This is to certify, that Isabella, this colored woman, lived
with me since the year 1810, and that she has always been
a good and faithful servant; and the eighteen years that she
was with me, I always found her to be perfectly honest. I
have always heard her well spoken of by every one that has
employed her.



We, the undersigned having known Isabella (or Sojourner
Truth) for several years, most cheerfully bear testimony to
her uniform good character, her untiring industry, kind
deportment, unwearied benevolence, and the many social
and excellent traits which make her worthy to bear her
adopted name.


BOSTON, March, 1850

My acquaintance with the subject of the accompanying
Narrative, Sojourner Truth, for several years past, has led
me to form a very high appreciation of her understanding,
moral integrity, disinterested kindness, and religious sincerity
and enlightenment.  Any assistance or co-operation
that she may receive in the sale of her Narrative, or in any
other manner, I am sure will be meritoriously bestowed.


This book is put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative
at the Celebration of Women Writers through the combined work of
Laura LeVine, Margaret Sylvia, and Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

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