HumanitiesWeb.org - The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (Chapter XIII: The Quakers.) by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin
Chapter XIII: The Quakers.

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The writer's sketch of the character of this people has been drawn from personal observation. There are several settlements of these people in Ohio; and the manner of living, the tone of sentiment, and the habits of life, as represented in her book, are not at all exaggerated.

These settlements have always been refuges for the oppressed and outlawed slave. The character of Rachel Halliday was a real one, but she has passed away to her reward. Simeon Halliday, calmly risking fine and imprisonment for his love to God and man, has had in this country many counterparts among the sect.

The writer had in mind, at the time of writing, the scenes in the trial of John Garret, of Wilmington, Delaware, for the crime of hiring a hack to convey a mother and four children from Newcastle jail to Wilmington, a distance of five miles.

The writer has received the facts in this case, in a letter from John Garret himself, from which some extracts will be made.

Wilmington, Delaware,, 1st month 18th, 1853.

MY DEAR FRIEND, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE,--I have this day received a request from Charles K. Whipple, of Boston, to furnish thee with a statement, authentic and circumstantial, of the trouble and losses which have been brought upon myself and others of my friends from the aid we had rendered to fugitive slaves, in order, if thought of sufficient importance, to be published in a work thee is now preparing for the press.

I will now endeavour to give thee a statement of what John Hunn and myself suffered by aiding a family of slaves, a few years since. I will give the facts as they occurred, and thee may condense and publish so much as thee may think useful in thy work, and no more.

In the 12th month, year 1846, a family, consisting of Samuel Hawkins, a freeman, his wife Emeline, and six children, who were afterwards proved slaves, stopped at the house of a friend named John Hunn, near Middletown, in this State, in the evening about sunset, to procure food and lodging for the night. They were seen by some of Hunn's pro-slavery neighbours, who soon came with a constable, and had them taken before a magistrate. Hunn had left the slaves in his kitchen when he went to the village of Middletown, half a mile distant. When the officer came with a warrant for them, he met Hunn at the kitchen-door, and asked for the blacks. Hunn, with truth, said he did not know where they were. Hunn's wife, thinking they would be safer, had sent them up stairs during his absence, where they were found. Hunn made no resistance, and they were taken before the magistrate, and from his office direct to Newcastle jail, where they arrived about one o'clock on 7th day morning.

The sheriff and his daughter, being kind, humane people, inquired of Hawkins and wife the facts of their case; and his daughter wrote to a lady here, to request me to go to Newcastle and inquire into the case, as her father and self really believed they were most of them, if not all, entitled to their freedom. Next morning I went to Newcastle; had the family of coloured people brought into the parlour, and the sheriff and myself came to the conclusion that the parents and four youngest children were by law entitled to their freedom. I prevailed on the sheriff to show me the commitment of the magistrate, which I found was defective, and not in due form according to law. I procured a copy, and handed it to a lawyer. He pronounced the commitment irregular, and agreed to go next morning to Newcastle, and have the whole family taken before Judge Booth, Chief Justice of the State, by habeas corpus, when the following admission was made by Samuel Hawkins and wife: they admitted that the two eldest boys were held by one Charles Glaudin, of Queen Anne County, Maryland, as slaves; that after the birth of these two children, Elizabeth Turner, also of Queen Anne, the mistress of their mother, had set her free, and permitted her to go and live with her husband, near twenty miles from her residence, after which the four youngest children were born; that her mistress during all that time, eleven or twelve years, had never contributed one dollar to their support, or come to see them. After examining the commitment in their case, and consulting with my attorney, the judge set the whole family at liberty. The day was wet and cold; one of the children, three years old, was a cripple from white swelling, and could not walk a step; another, eleven months old, at the breast; and the parents being desirous of getting to Wilmington, five miles distant, I asked the judge if there would be any risk or impropriety in my hiring a conveyance for the mother and four young children to Wilmington. His reply, in the presence of the sheriff and my attorney, was, there would not be any. I then requested the sheriff to procure a hack to take them over to Wilmington.

The whole family escaped. John Hunn and John Garret were brought up to trial for having practically fulfilled those words of Christ, which read, "I was a stranger and ye took me in, I was sick and in prison and ye came unto me." For John Hunn's part of this crime he was fined two thousand five hundred dollars, and John Garret was fined five thousand four hundred. Three thousand five hundred of this was the fine for hiring a hack for them, and one thousand nine hundred was assessed on him as the value of the slaves! Our European friends will infer from this that it costs something to obey Christ in America, as well as in Europe.

After John Garret's trial was over, and this heavy judgment had been given against him, he calmly rose in the court-room, and requested leave to address a few words to the court and audience.

Leave being granted, he spoke as follows:--

I have a few words which I wish to address to the court, jury, and prosecutors, in the several suits that have been brought against me during the sittings of this court, in order to determine the amount of penalty I must pay for doing what my feelings prompted me to do as a lawful and meritorious act; a simple act of humanity and justice, as I believed, to eight of that oppressed race, the people of colour, whom I found in the Newcastle jail, in the 12th month, 1845. I will now endeavour to state the facts of those cases, for your consideration and reflection after you return home to your families and friends. You will then have time to ponder on what has transpired here since the sitting of this court, and I believe that your verdict will then be unanimous, that the law of the United States, as explained by our venerable judge, when compared with the act committed by me, was cruel and oppressive, and needs remodelling.

Here follows a very brief and clear statement of the facts in the case, of which the reader is already apprised.

After showing conclusively that he had no reason to suppose the family to be slaves, and that they had all been discharged by the judge, he nobly adds the following words:--

Had I believed every one of them to be slaves, I should have done the same thing. I should have done violence to my convictions of duty, had I not made use of all the lawful means in my power to liberate those people, and assist them to become men and women, rather than leave them in the condition of chattels personal.

I am called an Abolitionist; once a name of reproach, but one I have ever been proud to be considered worthy of being called. For the last twenty-five years I have been engaged in the cause of this despised and much-injured race, and consider their cause worth suffering for; but, owing to a multiplicity of other engagements, I could not devote so much of my time and mind to their cause as I otherwise should have done.

The impositions and persecutions practised on those unoffending and innocent brethren are extreme beyond endurance. I am now placed in a situation in which I have not so much to claim my attention as formerly; and I now pledge myself, in the presence of this assembly, to use all lawful and honourable means to lessen the burdens of this oppressed people, and endeavour, according to ability furnished, to burst their chains asunder, and set them free; not relaxing my efforts on their behalf while blessed with health and a slave remains to tread the soil of the State of my adoption--Delaware.

After mature reflection, I can assure this assembly it is my opinion at this time that the verdicts you have given the prosecutors against John Hunn and myself, within the past few days, will have a tendency to raise a spirit of inquiry throughout the length and breadth of the land, respecting this monster evil (slavery), in many minds that have not heretofore investigated the subject. The reports of those trials will be published by editors from Maine to Texas, and the far West; and what must be the effect produced? It will, no doubt, add hundreds, perhaps thousands, to the present large and rapidly increasing army of Abolitionists. The injury is great to us who are the immediate sufferers by your verdict; but I believe the verdicts you have given against us within the last few days will have a powerful effect in bringing about the abolition of slavery in this country--this land of boasted freedom, where not only the slave is fettered at the South by his lordly master, but the white man at the North is bound as in chains to do the bidding of his Southern masters.

In his letter to the writer John Garret adds that, after this speech, a young man who had served as juryman came across the room, and taking him by the hand, said--

"Old gentleman, I believe every statement that you have made. I came from home prejudiced against you, and I now acknowledge that I have helped to do you injustice."

Thus calmly and simply did this Quaker confess Christ before men, according as it is written of them of old--"He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt."

Christ has said, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed." In our days it is not customary to be ashamed of Christ personally, but of his words many are ashamed. But when they meet Him in judgment they will have cause to remember them; for heaven and earth shall pass away, but his words shall not pass away.

Another case of the same kind is of a more affecting character.

Richard Dillingham was the son of a respectable Quaker family in Morrow County, Ohio. His pious mother brought him up in the full belief of the doctrine of St. John, that the love of God and the love of man are inseparable. He was diligently taught in such theological notions as are implied in such passages as these: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.--But whoso hath this world's goods and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?--My little children, let us not love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

In accordance with these precepts, Richard Dillingham, in early manhood, was found in Cincinnati teaching the coloured people, and visiting in the prisons, and doing what in him lay to "love in deed and in truth."

Some unfortunate families among the coloured people had dear friends who were slaves in Nashville, Tennessee. Richard was so interested in their story, that when he went into Tennessee he was actually taken up and caught in the very fact of helping certain poor people to escape to their friends.

He was seized and thrown into prison. In the language of this world he was imprisoned as a "negro-stealer." His own account is given in the following letter to his parents:--

Nashville Jail, 12th mo: 15th, 1849.

DEAR PARENTS,--I presume you have heard of my arrest and imprisonment in the Nashville jail, under a charge of aiding in an attempted escape of slaves from the city of Nashville, on the 5th inst. I was arrested by M. D. Maddox (district constable), aided by Frederick Marshal, watchman at the Nashville Inn, and the bridge-keeper, at the bridge across the Cumberland river. When they arrested me, I had rode up to the bridge on horseback and paid the toll for myself and for the hack to pass over, in which three coloured persons, who were said to be slaves, were found by the men who arrested me. The driver of the hack (who is a free coloured man of this city), and the persons in the hack, were also arrested; and after being taken to the Nashville Inn and searched, we were all taken to jail. My arrest took place about eleven o'clock at night.

In another letter he says:--

At the bridge, Maddox said to me, "You are just the man we wanted. We will make an example of you." As soon as we were safe in the bar-room of the Inn, Maddox took a candle and looked me in the face, to see if he could recognise my countenance; and looking intently at me a few moments, he said, "Well, you are too good-looking a young man to be engaged in such an affair as this." The by-standers asked me several questions, to which I replied that, under the present circumstances, I would rather be excused from answering any questions relating to my case; upon which they desisted from further inquiry. Some threats and malicious wishes were uttered against me by the ruffian part of the assembly, being about twenty-five persons. I was put in a cell which had six persons in it, and I can assure thee that they were very far from being agreeable companions to me, although they were kind. But thou knows that I do not relish cursing and swearing, and, worst of all, loathsome and obscene blasphemy and of such was most of the conversation of my prison mates when I was first put in here. The jailors are kind enough to me, but the jail is so constructed that it cannot be warmed, and we have either to warm ourselves by walking in our cell, which is twelve by fifteen feet, or by lying in bed. I went out on my trial on the 16th of last month, and put it off till the next term of the court, which will be commenced on the second of next 4th month. I put it off on the ground of excitement.

Dear brother, I have no hopes of getting clear of being convicted and sentenced to the Penitentiary; but do not think that I am without comfort in my afflictions, for I assure thee that I have many reflections that give me sweet consolation in the midst of my grief. I have a clear conscience before my God, which is my greatest comfort and support through all my troubles and afflictions. An approving conscience none can know but those who enjoy it. It nerves us in the hour of trial to bear our sufferings with fortitude and even with cheerfulness. The greatest affliction I have is the reflection of the sorrow and anxiety my friends will have to endure on my account. But I can assure thee, brother, that, with the exception of this reflection, I am far, very far, from being one of the most miserable of men. Nay, to the contrary, I am not terrified at the prospect before me, though I am grieved about it; but all have enough to grieve about in this unfriendly wilderness of sin and woe. My hopes are not fixed in this world, and therefore I have a source of consolation that will never fail me, so long as I slight not the offers of mercy, comfort, and peace, which my blessed Saviour constantly privileges me with.

One source of almost constant annoyance to my feelings is the profanity and vulgarity, and the bad, disagreeable temper, of two or three fellow-prisoners of my cell. They show me considerable kindness and respect; but they cannot do otherwise, when treated with the civility and kindness with which I treat them. If it be my fate to go to the Penitentiary for eight or ten years, I can, I believe, meet my doom without shedding a tear. I have not yet shed a tear, though there may be many in store. My bail-bonds were set at seven thousand dollars, If I should be bailed out, I should return to my trial, unless my security were rich, and did not wish me to return; for I am Richard yet, although I am in the prison of my enemy, and will not flinch from what I believe to be right and honourable. These are the principles which, in carrying out, have lodged me here; for there was a time, at my arrest, that I might have, in all probability, escaped the police, but it would have subjected those who were arrested with me to punishment, perhaps even to death, in order to find out who I was; and if they had not told more than they could have done in truth, they would probably have been punished without mercy; and I am determined no one shall suffer for me. I am now a prisoner, but those who were arrested with me are all at liberty, and I believe without whipping. I now stand alone before the Commonwealth of Tennessee to answer for the affair. Tell my friends I am in the midst of consolation here.

Richard was engaged to a young lady of amiable disposition and fine mental endowments.

To her he thus writes:--

Oh, dearest! Canst thou upbraid me? canst thou call it crime? wouldst thou call it crime, or couldst thou upbraid me, for rescuing, or attempting to rescue, thy father, mother, or brother and sister, or even friends, from a captivity among a cruel race of oppressors? Oh, couldst thou only see what I have seen, and hear what I have heard, of the sad, vexatious, degrading, and soul-trying situation of as noble minds as ever the Anglo-Saxon race were possessed of, mourning in vain for that universal heaven-born boon of freedom which an all-wise and beneficent Creator has designed for all, thou couldst not censure, but wouldst deeply sympathise with me! Take all these things into consideration, and the thousands of poor mortals who are dragging out far more miserable lives than mine will be, even at ten years in the Penitentiary, and thou wilt not look upon my fate with so much horror as thou would at first thought.

In another letter he adds:--

Have happy hours here, and I should not be miserable if I could only know you were not sorrowing for me at home. It would give me more satisfaction to hear that you were not grieving about me than anything else.

The nearer I live to the principle of the commandment, "Love thy neighbour as thyself," the more enjoyment I have of this life. None can know the enjoyments that flow from feelings of good-will towards our fellow-beings, both friends and enemies, but those who cultivate them. Even in my prison-cell I may be happy, if I will. For the Christian's consolation cannot be shut out from him by enemies or iron gates.

In another letter to the lady before alluded to he says:--

By what I am able to learn, I believe thy "Richard" has not fallen altogether unlamented; and the satisfaction it gives me is sufficient to make my prison life more pleasant and desirable than even a life of liberty without the esteem and respect of my friends. But it gives bitterness to the cup of my afflictions to think that my dear friends and relatives have to suffer such grief and sorrow for me.

********

Though persecution ever so severe be my lot, yet I will not allow my indignation ever to ripen into revenge even against my bitterest enemies; for there will be a time when all things must be revealed before Him who has said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." Yes, my heart shall ever glow with love for my poor fellow- mortals, who are hastening rapidly on to their final destination--the awful tomb and the solemn judgment.

Perhaps it will give thee some consolation for me to tell thee that I believe there is a considerable sympathy existing in the minds of some of the better portion of the citizens here, which may be of some benefit to me. But all that can be done in my behalf will still leave my case a sad one. Think not, however, that it is all loss to me, for by my calamity I have learned many good and useful lessons, which I hope may yet prove both temporal and spiritual blessings to me.

"Behind a frowning Providence
He hides a smiling face."


Therefore, I hope thou and my dear distressed parents will be somewhat comforted about me, for I know you regard my spiritual welfare far more than anything else.

In his next letter to the same friend, he says:--

Since I wrote my last, I have had a severe moral conflict, in which, I believe, the right conquered, and has completely gained the ascendancy. The matter was this:--A man with whom I have become acquainted since my imprisonment offered to bail me out and let me stay away from my trial, and pay the bail-bonds for me, and was very anxious to do it. [Here he mentions that the funds held by this individual had been placed in his hands by a person who obtained them by dishonest means.] But having learned the above facts, which he in confidence made known to me, I declined accepting his offer, giving him my reasons in full. The matter rests with him, my attorneys, and myself. My attorneys do not know who he is; but, with his permission, I in confidence informed them of the nature of the case, after I came to a conclusion upon the subject, and had determined not to accept the offer; which was approved by them. I also had an offer of iron saws, and files, and other tools, by which I could break jail; but I refused them also, as I do not wish to pursue any such underhanded course to extricate myself from my present difficulties; for when I leave Tennessee--if ever I do--I am determined to leave it a free man. Thou need not fear that I shall ever stoop to dishonourable means to avoid my severe impending fate. When I meet thee again, I want to meet thee with a clear conscience, and a character unspotted by disgrace.

In another place he says, in view of his nearly approaching trial:--

O dear parents! The principles of love for my fellow-beings which you have instilled into my mind are some of the greatest consolations I have in my imprisonment, and they give me resignation to bear whatever may be inflicted upon me without feeling any malice or bitterness toward my vigilant prosecutors. If they show me mercy, it will be accepted by me with gratitude; but if they do not, I will endeavour to bear whatever they may inflict with Christian fortitude and resignation, and try not to murmur at my lot; but it is hard to obey the commandment, "Love your enemies."

The day of his trial at length came.

His youth, his engaging manners, frank address, and invariable gentleness to all who approached him, had won many friends, and the trial excited much interest.

His mother and her brother, Asa Williams, went a distance of 750 miles to attend his trial. They carried with them a certificate of his character, drawn up by Dr. Brisbane, and numerously signed by his friends and acquaintances, and officially countersigned by civil officers. This was done at the suggestion of his counsel, and exhibited by them in court. When brought to the bar it is said that "his demeanour was calm, dignified, and manly." His mother sat by his side. The prosecuting attorney waived his plea, and left the ground clear for Richard's counsel. Their defence was eloquent and pathetic. After they closed, Richard rose, and in a calm and dignified manner spoke extemporaneously as follows:--

"By the kind permission of the court, for which I am sincerely thankful, I avail myself of the privilege of adding a few words to the remarks already made by my counsel. And although I stand, by my own confession, as a criminal in the eyes of your violated laws, yet I feel confident that I am addressing those who have hearts to feel; and in meting out the punishment that I am about to suffer, I hope you will be lenient; for it is a new situation in which I am placed. Never before, in the whole course of my life, have I been charged with a dishonest act. And from my childhood, kind parents, whose names I deeply reverence, have instilled into my mind a desire to be virtuous and honourable; and it has ever been my aim so to conduct myself as to merit the confidence and esteem of my fellow-men. But, gentlemen, I have violated your laws. This offence I did commit; and I now stand before you, to my sorrow and regret, as a criminal. But I was prompted to it by feelings of humanity. It has been suspected, as I was informed, that I am leagued with a fraternity who are combined for the purpose of committing such offences as the one with which I am charged. But gentlemen, the impression is false. I alone am guilty--I alone committed the offence--and I alone must suffer the penalty. My parents, my friends, my relatives, are as innocent of any participation in or knowledge of my offence as the babe unborn. My parents are still living, though advanced in years, and, in the course of nature, a few more years will terminate their earthly existence. In their old age and infirmity they will need a stay and protection; and, if you can, consistently with your ideas of justice, make my term of imprisonment a short one, you will receive the lasting gratitude of a son who reverences his parents, and the prayers and blessings of an aged father and mother who love their child."

A great deal of sensation now appeared in the court-room, and most of the jury are said to have wept. They retired for a few moments, and refurned a verdict for three years' imprisonment in the Penitentiary.

The Nashville Daily Gazette of April 13, 1849, contains the following notice:--

"THE KIDNAPPING CASE.

"Richard Dillingham, who was arrested on the 5th day of September last, having in his possession three slaves, whom he intended to convey with him to a free State, was arraigned yesterday and tried in the Criminal Court. The prisoner confessed his guilt, and made a short speech in palliation of his offence. He avowed that the act was undertaken by himself without instigation from any source, and he alone was responsible for the error into which his education had led him. He had, he said, no other motive than the good of the slaves, and did not expect to claim any advantage by freeing them. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in the Penitentiary, the least time the law allows for the offence committed. Mr. Dillingham is a Quaker from Ohio, and has been a teacher in that State. He belongs to a respectable family, and he is not without the sympathy of those who attended the trial. It was a fool-hardy enterprise in which he embarked, and dearly has he paid for his rashness."

His mother, before leaving Nashville, visited the governor, and had an interview with him in regard to pardoning her son. He gave her some encouragement, but thought she had better postpone her petition for the present. After the lapse of several months, she wrote to him about it; but he seemed to have changed his mind, as the following letter will show:--

Nashville, August 29, 1849

"DEAR MADAM,--Your letter of the 6th of the 7th mo. was received, and would have been noticed earlier but for my absence from home. Your solicitude for your son is natural, and it would be gratifying to be able to reward it by releasing him, if it were in my power. But the offence for which he is suffering was clearly made out, and its tendency here is very hurtful to our rights, and our peace as a people. He is doomed to the shortest period known to our statute. And, at all events, I could not interfere with his case for some time to come; and, to be frank with you, I do not see how his time can be lessened at all. But my term of office will expire soon, and the Governor elect, Gen. William Trousdale, will take my place. To him you will make any future appeal.

"Yours, &c., "N. L. BROWN."

The warden of the Penitentiary, John McIntosh, was much prejudiced against him. He thought the sentence was too light, and, being of a stern bearing, Richard had not much to expect from his kindness. But the same sterling inegrity and ingenuousness which had ever, under all circumstances, marked his conduct, soon wrought a change in the minds of his keepers, and of his enemies generally. He became a favourite with McIntosh and some of the guard. According to the rules of the prison, he was not allowed to write oftener than once in three months, and what he wrote had, of course, to be inspected by the warden.

He was at first put to sawing and scrubbing rock; but, as the delicacy of his frame unfitted him for such labours, and the spotless sanctity of his life won the reverence of his jailors, he was soon promoted to be steward of the prison hospital. In a letter to a friend he thus announces this change in his situation:

I suppose thou art, ere this time, informed of the change in my situation, having been placed in the hospital of the Penitentiary as steward..... I feel but poorly qualified to fill the situation they have assigned me, but will try to do the best I can..... I enjoy the comforts of a good fire and a warm room, and am allowed to sit up evenings and read, which I prize as a great privilege..... I have now been here nearly nine months, and have twenty-seven more to stay. It seems to me a long time in prospect. I try to be as patient as I can, but sometimes I get low-spirited. I throw off the thoughts of home and friends as much as possible; for, when indulged in, they only increase my melancholy feelings. And what wounds my feelings most is the reflection of what you all suffer of grief and anxiety for me. Cease to grieve for me, for I am unworthy of it; and it only causes pain for you, without availing aught for me..... As ever, thine in the bonds of affection,

R. D.

He had been in prison little more than a year when the cholera invaded Nashville, and broke out among the inmates; Richard was up day and night in attendance on the sick, his disinterested and sympathetic nature leading him to labours to which his delicate constitution, impaired by confinement, was altogether inadequate.

Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, grief, and pain, by turns dismayed,
The youthful champion stood: at his control
Despair and anguish fled the trembling soul,
Comfort came down the dying wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whispered praise.


Worn with these labours, the gentle, patient lover of God and of his brother sank at last overwearied, and passed peacefully away to a world where all are lovely and loving.

Though his correspondence with her he most loved was interrupted, from his unwillingness to subject his letters to the surveillance of the warden, yet a note reached her, conveyed through the hands of a prisoner whose time was out. In this letter, the last which any earthly friend ever received, he says:--

I oft-times, yea, all times, think of thee; if I did not, I should cease to exist.

What must that system be which makes it necessary to imprison with convicted felons a man like this, because he loves his brother man, "not wisely but too well?"

On his death Whittier wrote the following:--

"Si crucem libenter portes, te portabit."


"The Cross, if freely borne, shall be
No burthen, but support, to thee."
So, moved of old time for our sake,
The holy man of Kempen spake.
Thou brave and true one, upon whom
Was laid the Cross of Martyrdom,
How didst thou, in thy faithful youth,
Bear witness to this blessed truth!
Thy cross of suffering and of shame
A staff within thy hands became,
In paths where Faith alone could see
The Master's steps upholding thee.
Thine was the seed-time: God alone
Beholds the end of what is sown;
Beyond our vision, weak and dim,
The harvest-time is hid with Him.
Yet, unforgotten where it lies, 
That seed of generous sacrifice, 
Though seeming on the desert cast, 
Shall rise with bloom and fruit at last.

J. G. WHITTIER.


Amesbury, Second mo. 18th, 1852.
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