« PreviousContinue »
national character, from which no virtues will ever redeem her.” “I am happy," I observed, "to hear such noble sentiments fall from your lips; and I doubt not but you feel equally indignant against slavery, wherever it is practised."Yes, Sir," he replied, “I do; and hence, I could not remain in the West Indies with any comfort, where I saw it in all its horrid deformity. We did a good deed, when we abolished the slave trade; but, Sir, we shall never complete the work of righteousness, till we have abolished slavery. A state of slavery is no less repugnant to the principles of our Constitution, than it is to the genius of the Christian religion; and though it may continue to exist for a few years longer, as a foul blemish on our national character, yet, Sir, there is too much honour and too much humanity amongst us, to allow it to remain for ever. The people of England are against it; they regard it as an atrocious crime, offensive to God, unjust to man; and I have no doubt, but they will raise a voice in its condemnation, which their wise and powerful legislators will be proud to echo, till after some lengthened debate, the large majority will arise, and with a mighty swell of virtuous feeling, decide that Britain will have no slaves."
The personal testimony of this gentleman confirmed the written statements of the present s'ate of slavery in our West India colonies, which have lately issued from the press; and he related several instances of barbarous treatment which he witnessed, too revolting to the feelings of humanity to be heard without shuddering. We exchanged cards on taking leave of each other, at the Swanwith-two-necks; and in some future number, I may give the substance of our conversation and debates at the different interviews, which we mutually enjoyed.
As the state of slavery is now engaging so much of the public attention, and those, who feel the influence of religious truth on their hearts, are so anxious for its abolition, I think I cannot do a more essential service to the poor unhappy negroes, than by giving circulation to a few well attested facts, which will operate more powerfully in their favour, than the most cogent arguments which can be employed.
A man died on board a merchant ship, apparently in consequence of poison being mixed with the dinner served
up to the ship's company. The cabin boy and cook were suspected, because they were, from their occupations, the only persons on board who did not partake of the mess; the effects of which began to appear as soon as it was tasted. As the offence was committed on the high seas, the cook, though a Negro, became entitled to the benefit of a jury, and, with the cabin boy, was put on his trial. The boy, a fine looking lad, and wholly unabashed by his situation, was readily acquitted. The Negro's turn was next. He was a man of low stature, ill shapen, and with a countenance singularly disgusting. The proofs against him were, first, that he was cook; so, who else could have poisoned the mess? It was indeed overlooked, that two of the crew had absconded, since the ship had come into port. Secondly, he had been heard to utter expressions of ill-humour, before he went on board: that part of the evidence indeed was suppressed, which went to explain these expressions. The real proof, however, was written in his skin, and in the uncouth lines of his countenance. He was found guilty."
Mr. Crafts, jun. a gentleman of the Charleston bar, who, from motives of humanity, had undertaken his defence, did not think a man ought to die for his colour; albeit it was the custom of the country; and moved in consequence for a new trial, on the ground of partial and insufficient evidence; but the Judge, who had urged his condemnation with a vindictive earnestness, intrenched himself in forms, and found the law gave him no power in favour of mercy. He then forwarded a representation of the case to the President, through one of the senators of state; but the senator ridiculed the idea of interesting himself for the life of a Negro, who was therefore left to his cell and the hangman. In this situation he did not, however, forsake himself; and it was now, when prejudice and persecution had spent their last arrow on him, that he seemed to put on his proper nature, to vindicate not only his innocence, but the moral equality of his race, and those mental energies which the white man's pride would deny to the shape of his head and the woolliness of his hair. Maintaining the most undeviating tranquillity, he conversed with ease and cheerfulness, whenever his benevolent counsel, who continued his kind attentions to the last, visited his cell. I was present on one of these occasions,
and observed his tone and manner, neither sullen nor desperate, but quiet and resigned, suggesting whatever occurred to him on the circumstances of his own case, with as much calmness as if he had been uninterested in the event: yet, as if he deemed it a duty to omit none of the means placed within his reach for vindicating his innocence. He had constantly attended the exhortations of a methodist preacher, who, for conscience' sake, visited those who were in prison; and having thus strengthened his spirit with religion, on the morning of his execution breakfasted as usual, heartily; but before he was led out, he requested permission to address a few words of advice to the companions of his captivity. "I have observed much in them," he added, "which requires to be amended, and the advice of a man in my situation may be respected." A circle was accordingly formed in his cell, in the midst of which he seated himself, and addressed them at some length, with a sober and collected earnestness of manner, on the profligacy which he had noted in their behaviour, while they had been fellow-prisoners; recommending to them the rules of conduct prescribed by that religion in which he now found his support and consolation. "Certainly, if we regard the quality and condition of the actors only, there is an infinite distance betwixt this scene and the parting of Socrates with his disciples; should we however, put away from our thoughts such differences as are merely accidental, and seize that point of coincidence which is most interesting and important; namely, the triumph of mental energy over the most clinging weaknesses of our nature, the Negro will not appear wholly unworthy of a comparison with the sage of Athens. The latter occupied an exalted station in the public eye, though persecuted even unto death and ignominy by a band of triumphant despots; he was surrounded in his last moments by his faithful friends and disciples, to whose talents and affection, he might safely trust the vindication of his fame, and the unsullied whiteness of his memory; he knew that his hour of glory must come, and that it would not pass away. The Negro had none of these aids, he was a man friendless and despised; the sympathies of society were locked up against him; he was to atone for an odious crime, by an ignominious death; the consciousness of his innocence was confined to his own bosom, there probably
to sleep for ever; to the rest of mankind he was a wretched criminal; an object perhaps of contempt and detestation, even to the guilty companions of his prison-house; he had no philosophy with which to reason down those natural misgivings, which may be supposed to precede the violent dissolution of life and body; he could make no appeal to posterity, to reverse an unjust judgment. To have borne all this patiently would have been much; he bore it heroically.
"Having ended his discourse, he was conducted to the scaffold, where having calmly surveyed the crowds collected to witness his fate, he requested leave to address them. Having obtained permission, he stept firmly to the edge of the scaffold, and having commanded silence by his gesture, "You are come," said he, "to be spectators of my sufferings; you are mistaken, there is not a person in this crowd, but suffers more than I do. I am cheerful and contented, for I am innocent." He then observed, "that he truly forgave all those who had taken any part in his condemnation, and believed that they had acted conscientiously, from the evidence before them; and disclaimed all idea of imputing guilt to any one." He then turned to his counsel, who, with feelings which honoured humanity, had attended him to the scaffold: To you, Sir," said he, "I am indeed most grateful, had you been my son, you could not have acted by me more kindly" and observing his tears, he continued, "This, Sir, distresses me beyond any thing I have felt yet; I entreat you will feel no distress on my account; I am happy." Then praying to Heaven to reward his benevolence, he took leave of him, and signified his readiness to die; but requested he might be excused from having his eyes and hands bandaged, wishing, with an excusable pride, to give this final proof of his unshaken firmness; and died without the quivering of a muscle.
"The spectators, who had been drawn together, partly by idle curiosity, and partly by a detestation of his supposed crime, retired with tears for his fate, and execrations on his murderers." HALL, pp. 433 438. I might fairly challenge the writers of romance to rival this story in depth of interest. I should only weaken its effect by any comments of my own.
Printed by MILNE and BANFIELD, 76, Fleet street.
"It was a fine morning, though rather cold; the tide was running in at its usual rate; many were gazing on them, like myself, when a naval officer standing near me called to them through the ballustrades, and said, "a pleasant voyage to του.
PRINTED FOR FRANCIS WESTLEY, 10, STATIONERS'COURT, AND AVE-MARIA-LANE.