The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter X: "Poor White Trash."
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
When the public sentiment of Europe speaks in
tones of indignation of the system of American slavery, the common reply has
been, "Look at your own lower classes."
The apologists of slavery have pointed England to her own
poor. They have spoken of the heathenish ignorance, the vice, the darkness,
of her crowded cities--nay, even of her agricultural districts.
Now, in the first place, a country where the population is not crowded,
where the resources of the soil are more than sufficient for the inhabitants--a
country of recent origin, not burdened with the worn-out institutions and
clumsy lumber of past ages, ought not to be satisfied to do only
as well as countries which have to struggle against all these evils.
It is a poor defence for America to say to older countries, "We are
no worse than you are." She ought to be infinitely better.
But it will appear that the institution of slavery has produced not only
heathenish, degraded, miserable slaves, but it produces a class of white people
who are, by universal admission, more heathenish, degraded, and miserable.
The institution of slavery has accomplished the double feat, in America, not
only of degrading and brutalising her black working classes, but of producing,
notwithstanding a fertile soil, and abundant room, a poor white population
as degraded and brutal as ever existed in any of the most crowded districts
The way that it is done can be made apparent in a few words. 1. The distribution
of the land into large plantations, and the consequent sparseness of settlement,
make any system of common school education impracticable. 2. The same cause
operates with regard to the preaching of the Gospel. 3. The degradation of
the idea of labour, which results inevitably from enslaving the working class,
operates to a great extent in preventing respectable working men of the middling
classes from settling or remaining in slave States. Where carpenters, blacksmiths,
and masons, are advertised every week with their own tools,
or in company with horses, hogs, and other cattle, there is necessarily such
an estimate of the labouring class that intelligent, self-respecting mechanics,
such as abound in the free States, must find much that is annoying and disagreeable.
They may endure it for a time, but with much uneasiness; and they are glad
of the first opportunity of emigration.
Then, again, the filling up of all branches of mechanics and agriculture
with slave-labour necessarily depresses free labour. Suppose, now, a family
of poor whites in Carolina or Virginia, and the same family in Vermont or
Maine; how different the influences that come over them! In Vermont or Maine,
the children have the means of education at hand in public schools, and they
have all around them in society avenues of success that require only industry
to make them available. The boys have their choice among all the different
trades, for which the organisation of free society makes a steady demand.
The girls, animated by the spirit of the land in which they are born, think
useful labour no disgrace, and find, with true female ingenuity, a hundred
ways of adding to the family stock. If there be one member of a family in
whom diviner gifts and higher longings seem to call for a more finished course
of education, then cheerfully the whole family unites its productive industry
to give that one the wider education which his wider genius demands; and thus
have been given to the world such men as Roger Sherman and Daniel Webster.
But take this same family and plant them in South Carolina or Virginia--how
different the result! No common school opens its doors to their children;
the only church, perhaps, is fifteen miles off, over a bad road. The whole
atmosphere of the country in which they are born associates degradation and
slavery with useful labour; and the only standard of gentility is ability
to live without work. What branch of useful labour opens a way to its sons?
Would he be a blacksmith?--The planters around him prefer to buy
their blacksmiths in Virginia. Would he be a carpenter?--Each
planter in his neighbourhood owns one or two now. And so coopers and masons.
Would he be a shoemaker?--The plantation-shoes are made in Lynn and Natick,
towns of New England. In fact, between the free labour of the North and the
slave labour of the South, there is nothing for a poor white to do. Without
schools or churches, these miserable families grow up heathen on a Christian
soil, in idleness, vice, dirt, and discomfort of all sorts. They are the pest
of the neighbourhood, the scoff and contempt or pity even of the slaves. The
expressive phrase, so common in the mouths of the negroes,
of "poor white trash," says all for this luckless race of beings
that can be said. From this class spring a tribe of keepers of small groggeries,
and dealers, by a kind of contraband trade, with the negroes, in the stolen
produce of plantations. Thriving and promising sons may perhaps hope to grow
up into negro-traders, and thence be exalted into overseers of plantations.
The utmost stretch of ambition is to compass money enough, by any of a variety
of nondescript measures, to "buy a nigger or
two," and begin to appear like other folks. Woe betide the unfortunate
negro man or woman, carefully raised in some good religious family, when an
execution or the death of their proprietors throws them into the market, and
they are bought by a master and mistress of this class! Oftentimes the slave
is infinitely the superior, in every respect--in person, manners, education,
and morals; but, for all that, the law guards the despotic authority of the
owner quite as jealously.
From all that would appear, in the case of Souther, which we have recorded,
he must have been one of this class. We have certain indications in the evidence
that the two white witnesses, who spent the whole day in gaping, unresisting
survey of his diabolical proceedings, were men of this order. It appears that
the crime alleged against the poor victim was that of getting drunk and trading
with these two very men, and that they were sent for probably by way of showing
them "what a nigger would get by trading with them." This circumstance
at once marks them out as belonging to that band of half-contraband traders
who spring up among the mean whites, and occasion owners of slaves so much
inconvenience by dealing with their hands. Can any words so forcibly show
what sort of white men these are, as the idea of their standing in stupid,
brutal curiosity, a whole day, as witnesses in such
a hellish scene?
Conceive the misery of the slave who falls into the hands of such masters!
A clergyman, now dead, communicated to the writer the following anecdote:--In
travelling in one of the Southern States, he put up for the night in a miserable
log shanty, kept by a man of this class. All was dirt, discomfort, and utter
barbarism. The man, his wife, and their stock of wild, neglected children,
drank whiskey, loafed, and predominated over the miserable man and woman who
did all the work and bore all the caprices of the whole establishment. He --the
gentleman--was not long in discovering that these slaves were in person,
language, and in every respect, superior to their owners;
and all that he could get of comfort in this miserable abode was owing to
their ministrations. Before he went away, they contrived to have a private
interview, and begged him to buy them. They told him that they had been decently
brought up in a respectable and refined family, and that their bondage was
therefore the more inexpressibly galling. The poor creatures had waited on
him with most assiduous care, tending his horse, brushing his boots, and anticipating
all his wants, in the hope of inducing him to buy them. The clergyman said
that he never so wished for money as when he saw the dejected visages with
which they listened to his assurances that he was too poor to comply with
This miserable class of whites form, in all the Southern States, a material
for the most horrible and ferocious of mobs. Utterly ignorant, and inconceivably
brutal, they are like some blind, savage monster, which, when aroused, tramples
heedlessly over everything in its way.
Singular as it may appear, though slavery is the cause of the misery and
degradation of this class, yet they are the most vehement and ferocious advocates
The reason is this: They feel the scorn of the upper classes, and their
only means of consolation is in having a class below them, whom they may scorn
in turn. To set the negro at liberty would deprive them of this last comfort;
and accordingly no class of men advocate slavery with such frantic and unreasoning
violence, or hate abolitionists with such demoniac hatred. Let the reader
conceive of a mob of men as brutal and callous as the two white witnesses
of the Souther tragedy, led on by men like Souther himself, and he will have
some idea of the materials which occur in the worst kind of Southern mobs.
The leaders of the community, those men who play on other men with as little
care for them as a harper plays on a harp, keep this blind furious monster
of the MOB, very much as an overseer keeps plantation-dogs,
as creatures to be set on to any man or thing whom they may choose to have
These leading men have used the cry of "abolitionism" over
the mob, much as a huntsman uses the "set on"
to his dogs. Whenever they have a purpose to carry, a man to put down, they
have only to raise this cry, and the monster is wide awake, ready to spring
wherever they shall send him.
Does a minister raise his voice in favour of the slave?--Immediately,
with a whoop and hurra, some editor starts the mob on him, as an abolitionist.
Is there a man teaching his negroes to read?--The mob is started upon
him--he must promise to give it up or leave the State.
Does a man at a public hotel-table express his approbation of some anti-slavery
work?--Up come the police, and arrest him for seditious language;
and on the heels of the police,
thronging round the justice's office, come the ever-ready mob--men with
clubs and bowie-knives, swearing that they will have his heart's blood. The
more respectable citizens in vain try to compose them; it is quite as hopeful
to reason with a pack of hounds, and the only way is to smuggle the suspected
person out of the State as quickly as possible. All these are scenes of common
occurrence at the South. Every Southern man knows them to be so, and they
know, too, the reason why they are so; but, so much
do they fear the monster, that they dare not say what they know.
This brute monster sometimes gets beyond the power of his masters, and
then results ensue most mortifying to the patriotism of honourable Southern
men, but which they are powerless to prevent. Such was the case when the Honourable
Senator Hoar, of Massachusetts, with his daughter, visited the city of Charleston.
The senator was appointed by the sovereign State of Massachusetts to inquire
into the condition of her free coloured citizens detained in South Carolina
prisons. We cannot suppose that men of honour and education, in South Carolina,
can contemplate without chagrin the fact that this honourable gentleman, the
representative of a sister State, and accompanied by his daughter, was obliged
to flee from South Carolina, because they were told that the constituted authorities
would not be powerful enough to protect them from the ferocities of a mob.
This is not the only case in which this mob power has escaped from the hands
of its guiders, and produced mortifying results. The scenes of Vicksburg,
and the succession of popular whirlwinds which at that time flew over the
South-western States, have been forcibly painted by the author of "The
They who find these popular outbreaks useful when they serve their own
turns are sometimes forcibly reminded of the consequences--
Of letting rapine loose, and murder,
To go just so far, and no further;
And setting all the land on fire,
To burn just so high, and no higher.
The statements made above can be substantiated by various documents--mostly
by the testimony of residents in slave States, and by extracts from their
Concerning the class of poor whites, Mr. William Gregg, of Charleston,
South Carolina, in a pamphlet called "Essays on Domestic Industry, or
an Inquiry into the expediency of establishing Cotton Manufactories in South
Carolina, 1845," says, p. 22:--
Shall we pass unnoticed the thousands of poor, ignorant, degraded white
people among us, who, in this land of plenty, live in comparative nakedness
and starvation? Many a one is reared in proud South
Carolina, from birth to manhood, who has never passed a month in which he
has not, some part of the time, been stinted for meat. Many a mother is there
who will tell you that her children are but scantily provided with bread,
and much more scantily with meat; and, if they be clad with comfortable raiment,
it is at the expense of these scanty allowances of food. These may be startling
statements, but they are nevertheless true; and if not believed in Charleston,
the members of our legislature who have traversed the State in electioneering
campaigns can attest the truth.
The Rev. Henry Duffner, D.D., President of Lexington College, Va., himself
a slaveholder, published in 1847 an address to the people of Virginia, showing
that slavery is injurious to public welfare, in which he shows the influence
of slavery in producing a decrease of the white population. He says:--
It appears that in ten years, from 1830 to 1840, Virginia lost by emigration
no fewer than 375,000 of her people; of whom East Virginia lost 304,000, and
West Virginia 71,000. At this rate, Virginia supplies the West, every ten
years, with a population equal in number to the population of the State of
Mississippi in 1840. * * * She has sent--or, we should rather say, she
has driven--from her soil at least one-third of all the emigrants who
have gone from the old States to the new. More than another third have gone
from the other old slave States. Many of these multitudes, who have left the
slave States, have shunned the regions of slavery, and settled in the free
countries of the West. These were generally industrious and enterprising white
men, who found, by sad experience, that a country of slaves was not the country
for them. It is a truth, a certain truth, that slavery drives free labourers--farmers,
mechanics and all, and some of the best of them too--out of the country,
and fills their places with negroes. * * * Even the common mechanical trades
do not flourish in a slave State. Some mechanical operations must, indeed,
be performed in every civilised country; but the general rule in the South
is to import from abroad every fabricated thing that can be carried in ships,
such as household furniture, boats, boards, laths, carts, ploughs, axes, and
axe-helves; besides innumerable other things, which free communities are accustomed
to make for themselves. What is most wonderful is, that the forests and iron
mines of the South supply, in great part, the materials out of which these
things are made. The Northern freemen come with their ships, carry home the
timber and pig-iron, work them up, supply their own wants with a part, and
then sell the rest at a good profit in the Southern markets. Now, although
mechanics, by setting up their shops in the South, could save all these freights
and profits, yet, so it is, that Northern mechanics will not
settle in the South; and the Southern mechanics are undersold by their Northern
In regard to education, Rev. Theodore Parker gives the following statistics,
in his, "Letters on Slavery," p. 65.
In 1671, Sir William Berkely, Governor of Virginia, said, "I thank
God that there are no free schools nor printing-presses (in Virginia), and
I hope we shall not have them these hundred years." In 1840, in the
fifteen slave States and territories, there were at the various primary schools
201,085 scholars; at the various primary schools of the free States, 1,626,028.
The State of Ohio alone had, at her primary schools, 17,524 more scholars
than all the fifteen slave States. New York alone had 301,282 more.
In the slave States there are 1,368,325 free white children between the
ages of five and twenty; in the free States, 3,536,689 such children. In the
slave States, at schools and colleges, there are 301,172 pupils; in the free
States, 2,212,444 pupils at schools or colleges. Thus, in the slave States,
out of twenty-five free white children between five and twenty, there are
not quite five at any school or college; while out of twenty-five such children
in the free States there are more than fifteen at school or college.
In the slave States, of the free white population that is over twenty years
of age, there is almost one-tenth part that are unable to read and write:
while in the free States there is not quite one in 156 who is deficient to
In New England there are but few born therein, and more than twenty years
of age, who are unable to read and write; but many foreigners arrive there
with no education, and thus swell the number of the illiterate, and diminish
the apparent effect of her free institutions. The South has few such immigrants;
the ignorance of the Southern States, therefore, is to be ascribed to other
causes. The Northern men who settle in the slaveholding States have perhaps
about the average culture of the North, and more than that of the South. The
South, therefore, gains educationally from immigration, as the North loses.
Among the Northern States, Connecticut, and among the Southern States South
Carolina, are to a great degree free from disturbing influences of this character.
A comparison between the two will show the relative effects of the respective
institutions of the North and South. In Connecticut there are 163,843 free
persons over twenty years of age; in South Carolina, but 111,663. In Connecticut
there are but 526 persons over twenty who are unable to read and write; while
in South Carolina there are 20,615 free white persons over twenty years of
age unable to read and write. In South Carolina, out of each 626 free whites
more than twenty years of age, there are more than 58 wholly unable to read
or write; out of that number of such persons in Connecticut, not quite two!
More than the sixth part of the adult freemen of South Carolina are unable
to read the vote which will be deposited at the next election. It is but fair
to infer that at least one-third of the adults of South Carolina, if not much
of the South, are unable to read and understand even a newspaper. Indeed,
in one of the slave States, this is not a matter of mere inference; for in
1837 Governor Clarke, of Kentucky, declared in his message to the legislature,
that "one-third of the adult population were unable to write their names;"
yet Kentucky has a "school-fund," valued at 1,221,819 dollars,
while South Carolina has none.
One sign of this want of ability, even to read, in the slave States, is
too striking to be passed by. The staple reading of the least cultivated Americans
is the newspapers, one of the lowest forms of literature, though one of the
most powerful, read even by men who read nothing else. In the slave States
there are published but 377 newspapers, and in the free, 1,135. These numbers
do not express the entire difference in the case; for, as a general rule,
the circulation of the Southern newspapers is 50 to 75 per cent. less than
that of the north. Suppose, however, that each Southern newspaper has two-thirds
the circulation of the Northern journal, we have then but 225 newspapers for
the slave States! The more valuable journals--the monthlies and quarterlies--are
published almost entirely in the free States.
The number of churches, the number and character of the clergy who labour
for these churches, are other measures of the intellectual and moral condition
of the people. The scientific character of the Southern clergy has been already
touched on. Let us compare the more external facts.
In 1830, South Carolina had a population of 581,185 souls; Connecticut,
297,675. In 1836, South Carolina had 364 ministers; Connecticut, 498.
In 1834, there were in the slave States but 82,532 scholars in the Sunday-schools;
in the free States, 504,835; in the single State of New York, 161,768.
The fact of constant emigration from slave States is also shown by such
extracts from papers as the following, from the Raleigh (N. C.)
Register, quoted in the columns of the National Era.
THEY WILL LEAVE NORTH CAROLINA.
Our attention was arrested, on Saturday last, by quite a long train of
waggons, winding through our streets, which, upon inquiry, we found to belong
to a party emigrating from Wayne County, in this State, to the "far
West." This is but a repetition of many similar scenes that we and others
have witnessed during the past few years; and such spectacles will be still
more frequently witnessed, unless something is done to retrieve our fallen
fortunes at home.
If there be any one "consummation devoutly to be wished" in
our policy, it is that our young men should remain at home, and not abandon
their native State. From the early settlement of North Carolina, the great
drain upon her prosperity has been the spirit of emigration, which has so
prejudicially affected all the States of the South. Her sons, hitherto neglected
(if we must say it) by an unparental government, have wended their way, by
hundreds upon hundreds, from the land of their fathers--that land, too,
to make it a paradise, wanting nothing but a market--to bury their bones
in the land of strangers. We firmly believe that this emigration is caused
by the laggard policy of our people on the subject of internal improvement,
for man is not prone by nature to desert the home of his affections.
The editor of the Era also quotes the following
from the Greensboro' (Ala.) Beacon.
"An unusually large number of movers have passed through this village
within the past two or three weeks. On one day of last week, upwards of thirty
Waggons and other vehicles belonging to emigrants, mostly from Georgia and
South Carolina, passed through on their way, most of them bound
to Texas and Arkansas."
This tide of emigration does not emanate from an overflowing population.
Very far from it. Rather, it marks an abandonment of a soil which, exhausted
by injudicious culture, will no longer repay the labour of tillage. The emigrant,
turning his back upon the homes of his childhood, leaves a desolate region,
it may be, and finds that he can indulge his feelings of local attachment
only at the risk of starvation.
How are the older States of the South to keep their population? We say
nothing of an increase, but how are they to hold their own? It is useless
to talk about strict construction, State rights, or Wilmot provisos. Of what
avail can such things be to a sterile desert, upon which people cannot subsist?
In the columns of the National Era, Oct. 2, 1851,
also is the following article, by its editor.
STAND YOUR GROUND.
A citizen of Guildford County, North Carolina, in a letter to the
True Wesleyan, dated August 20th, 1851, writes:--
"You may discontinue my paper for the present, as I am inclined to
go Westward, where I can enjoy religious liberty, and have my family in a
free country. Mobocracy has the ascendancy here, and there is no law. Brother
Wilson had an appointment on Liberty Hill, on Sabbath, 24th inst. The mob
came armed, according to mob law, and commenced operations on the meeting-house.
They knocked all the weather-boarding off, destroying doors, windows, pulpit,
and benches; and I have no idea that, if the mob was to kill a Wesleyan, or
one of their friends, that they would be hung.
"There is more moving this fall to the far West than was ever known
in one year. People do not like to be made slaves, and they are determined
to go where it is no crime to plead the cause of the poor and oppressed. They
have become alarmed at seeing the laws of God trampled under foot with impunity,
and that, too, by legislators, sworn officers of the peace, and professors
of religion. And even ministers (so called) are justifying mobocracy. They
think that such a course of conduct will lead to a dissolution of the Union,
and then every man will have to fight in defence of slavery, or be killed.
This is an awful state of things; and if the people were destitute of the
Bible, and the various means of information which they possess, there might
be some hope of reform. But there is but little hope, under existing circumstances."
We hope the writer will re-consider his purpose. In his section of North
Carolina there are very many anti-slavery men, and the majority of the people
have no interest in what is called slave property. Let them stand their ground,
and maintain the right of free discussion. How is the despotism of slavery
to be put down, if those opposed to it abandon their rights, and flee their
country? Let them do as the indomitable Clay does in Kentucky, and they will
make themselves respected.
The following is quoted, without comment, in the National
Era, in 1851, from the columns of the Augusta Republic (Georgia).
FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN GEORGIA.
Warrenton (Ga.),Thursday, July 10, 1851.
This day the citizens of the town and county met in the court-house at
eight o'clock, A.M. On motion, Thomas F. Parsons, Esq.,
was called to the chair, and Mr. Wm. H. Pilcher requested to act as secretary.
The object of the meeting was stated by the chairman as follows:
Whereas, our community has been thrown into confusion by the presence among
us of one Nathan Bird Watson, who hails from New Haven (Connecticut), and
who has been promulgating abolition sentiments, publicly and privately, among
our people--sentiments at war with our institutions, and intolerable
in a slave community--and also been detected in visiting suspicious negro
houses, as we suppose for the purpose of inciting our slaves and free negro
population to insurrection and insubordination.
The meeting having been organised, Wm. Gibson, Esq., offered the following
resolution, which, after various expressions of opinion, was unanimously adopted,
Resolved, That a committee of ten be appointed by the chairman for the
purpose of making arrangements to expel Nathan Bird Watson, an avowed abolitionist,
who has been in our village for three or four weeks, by twelve o'clock this
day, by the Georgia Railroad cars; and that it shall be the duty of said committee
to escort the said Watson to Camak, for the purpose of shipment to his native
The following gentlemen were named as that committee:
William Gibson, E. Cody, J. M. Roberts, J. B. Huff, E. H. Pottle, E. A.
Brinkley, John C. Jennings, George W. Dickson, A. B. Rogers, and Dr. R. W.
On motion, the chairman was added to that committee.
It was, on motion,
Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting, with a minute description
of the said Watson, be forwarded to the publishers of the Augusta papers,
with the request that they, and all other publishers of papers in the slaveholding
States, publish the same for a sufficient length of time.
DESCRIPTION.--The said Nathan Bird Watson
is a man of dark complexion, hazel eyes, black hair, and wears a heavy beard;
measures five feet eleven and three-quarter inches; has a quick step, and
walks with his toes inclined inward, and a little stoop-shouldered; now wears
a checked coat and white pants; says he is twenty-three years of age, but
will pass for twenty-five or thirty.
On motion, the meeting was adjourned.
THOMAS F. PARSONS,
Chairman. WILLIAM H. PILCHER,
This may be regarded as a specimen of that kind of editorial halloo which
is designed to rouse and start in pursuit of a man the bloodhounds of the
The following is copied by the National Era from
the Richmond Times.
On the 13th inst. the Vigilance Committee of the county of Grayston, in
this State, arrested a man named John Cornutt (a friend and follower of Bacon,
the Ohio abolitionist), and, after examining the evidence against him, required
him to renounce his abolition sentiments. This Cornutt refused to do; thereupon,
he was stripped, tied to a tree, and whipped. After receiving a dozen stripes,
he caved in, and promised not only to recant, but to sell his property in
the county (consisting of land and negroes), and leave the State. Great excitement
prevailed throughout the country, and the Wytheville Republican
of the 20th inst. states that the Vigilance Committee of Grayston were
in hot pursuit of other obnoxious persons.
On this outrage, the Wytheville Republican makes
the following comments:
Laying aside the white man, humanity to the negro, the slave, demands that
these abolitionists be dealt summarily, and above the law.
On Saturday, the 13th, we learn that the Committee of Vigilance of that
county, to the number of near two hundred, had before them one John Cornutt,
a citizen, a friend and backer of Bacon, and promulgator of his abolition
doctrines. They required him to renounce abolitionism, and promise obedience
to the laws. He refused. They stripped him, tied him to a tree, and appealed
to him again to renounce, and promise obedience to the laws. He refused. The
rod was brought; one, two, three, and on to twelve, on the bare back, and
he cried out; he promised--and, more, he said he would sell and leave.
This Mr. Cornutt owns lands, negroes, and money, say fifteen to twenty
thousand dollars. He has a wife, but no white children. He has among his negroes
some born on his farm, of mixed blood. He is believed to be a friend of the
negro, even to amalgamation. He intends to set his negroes free, and make
them his heirs. It is hoped he will retire to Ohio, and there finish his operations,
of amalgamation and emancipation.
The Vigilance Committees were after another of Bacon's men on Thursday;
we have not heard whether they caught him, nor what followed. There are not
more than six of his followers that adhere; the rest have renounced him, and
are much outraged at his imposition.
Mr. Cornutt appealed for redress to the law. The result of his appeal is
thus stated in the Richmond (Va.) Times, quoted by the National Era.
MORE TROUBLE IN GRAYSON.
The clerk of the Grayson County Court having, on the 1st inst. (the first
day of Judge Brown's term), tendered his resignation, and there being no applicant
for the office, and it being publicly stated at the bar that no one would
accept said appointment, Judge Brown found himself unable to proceed with
business, and accordingly adjourned the Court until the first day of the next
Immediately upon the adjournment of the Court, a public meeting of the
citizens of the country was held, when resolutions were adopted expressive
of the determination of the people to maintain the stand recently taken; exhorting
the Committees of Vigilance to increased activity in ferreting out all persons
tinctured with abolitionism in the county, and offering a reward
of one hundred dollars for the apprehension and delivery of one Jonathan Roberts
to any one of the Committees of Vigilance.
We have a letter from a credible correspondent in Carroll County, which
gives to the affair a still more serious aspect. Trusting that there may be
some error about it, we have no comments to make until the facts are known
with certainty. Our correspondent, whose letter bears date the 13th inst.,
"I learn, from an authentic source, that the Circuit Court that was
to sit in Grayson County during last week was dissolved by violence. The circumstances
were these. After the execution of the negroes in that county, some time ago,
who had been excited to rebellion by a certain Methodist preacher, by the
name of Bacon, of which you have heard, the citizens held a meeting, and instituted
a sort of inquisition, to find out, if possible, who were the accomplices
of said Bacon. Suspicion soon rested on a man by the name of Cornutt, and,
on being charged with being an accomplice, he acknowledged the fact, and declared
his intention of persevering in the cause; upon which he was severely lynched.
Cornutt then instituted suit against the parties, who afterwards held a meeting
and passed resolutions, notifying the Court and lawyers not to undertake the
case, upon pain of a coat of tar and feathers. The Court, however, convened
at the appointed time; and, true to their promise, a band of armed men marched
round the court-house, fired their guns by platoons, and dispersed the Court
in confusion. There was no blood shed. This county and the county of Wythe
have held meetings and passed resolutions sustaining the movement of the citizens
Is it any wonder that people emigrate from States where such things go
The following accounts will show what ministers of the gospel will have
to encounter who undertake faithfully to express their sentiments in slave
States. The first is an article by Dr. Bailey, of the Era, of April 3, 1852.
LYNCHING IN KENTUCKY.
The American Baptist, of Utica, New York, publishes
letters from the Rev. Edward Matthews, giving an account of his barbarous
treatment in Kentucky.
Mr. Matthews, it seems, is an agent of the American Free Mission Society,
and, in the exercise of his agency, visited that State, and took occasion
to advocate from the pulpit anti-slavery sentiments. Not long since, in the
village of Richmond, Madison County, he applied to several churches for permission
to lecture on the moral and religious condition of the slaves, but was unsuccessful.
February 1st, in the evening, he preached to the coloured congregation of
that place, after which he was assailed by a mob, and driven from the town.
Returning in a short time, he left a communication respecting the transaction
at the office of the Richmond Chronicle, and again
departed; but had not gone far before he was overtaken by four men, who seized
him, and led him to an out-of-the-way place, where they consulted as to what
they should do with him. They resolved to duck him, ascertaining first that
he could swim. Two of them took him and threw him into a pond, as far as they
could, and, on his rising to the surface, bade him come out. He did so, and,
on his refusing to promise never to come to Richmond, they
flung him in again. This operation was repeated four times, when he yielded.
They next demanded of him a promise that he would leave Kentucky, and never
return again. He refused to give it, and they threw him in the water six times
more, when, his strength failing, and they threatening to whip him, he gave
the pledge required, and left the State.
We do not know anything about Mr. Matthews, or his mode of promulgating
his views. The laws in Kentucky for the protection of what is called "slave
property" are stringent enough, and nobody can doubt the readiness of
public sentiment to enforce their heaviest penalties against offenders. If
Mr. Matthews violated the law, he should have been tried by the law; and he
would have been, had he committed an illegal act. No charge of the kind is
made against him.
He was, then, the victim of Lynch law, administered in a ruffianly manner,
and without provocation; and the parties concerned in the transaction, whatever
their position in society, were guilty of conduct as cowardly as it was brutal.
As to the manner in which Mr. Matthews has conducted himself in Kentucky
we know nothing. We transfer to our columns the following extract from an
editorial in the "Journal and Messenger" of Cincinnati, a Baptist
paper, and which, it may be presumed, speaks intelligently on the subject:
"Mr. Matthews is likewise a Baptist minister, whose ostensible mission
is one of love. If he has violated that mission, or any law, he is amenable
to God and law, and not to LAWLESS VIOLENCE. His going
to Kentucky is a matter of conscience to him, in which he has a right to indulge.
Many good anti-slavery men would question the wisdom of such a step. None
would doubt his RIGHT. Many, as a matter of taste and
propriety, cannot admire the way in which he is reputed to do his work. But
they believe he is conscientious, and they know that 'oppression maketh even
a wise man mad.' We do not think, in obedience to Christ's commands, he sufficiently
counted the cost. For no one in his position should go to Kentucky to agitate
the question of slavery, unless he EXPECTS TO DIE.
No man in this position, which Mr. Matthews occupies, can do it, without falling
a martyr. Liberty of speech and thought is not, cannot be, enjoyed in slave
States. Slavery could not exist for a moment, if it did. It is, doubtless,
the duty of the Christian not to surrender his life cheaply, for the sake
of being a martyr. This would be an unholy motive. It is his duty to preserve
it until the last moment; so Christ enjoins. It is no mark of cowardice to
flee. 'When they persecute you in one city, flee into another,' said the Saviour.
But he did not say, Give a pledge that you will not exercise your rights.
Hence, he nor his disciples never did it. But it is a question, after one
has deliberated, and conscientiously entered a community in the exercise of
his constitutional and religious rights, whether he should give a pledge,
under the influence of a love of life, never to return. If he does, he has
not counted the cost. A Christian should be as conscientious in pledging solemnly
not to do what he has an undoubted right to do, as he is in labouring for
the emancipation of the slave."
The following is from the National Era, July 10,
Mr. McBride wished to form a church of non-slaveholders.
CASE OF REV. JESSE McBRIDE.
This missionary, it will be remembered, was expelled lately from the State
of North Carolina.
We give below his letter detailing the conduct of the mob. His letter is
dated Guilford, May 6. After writing that he is suffering from temporary illness,
"I would have kept within doors this day, but for the fact that I
mistrusted a mob would be out to disturb my congregation, though such a hint
had not been given me by a human being. About six o'clock this morning I crawled
into my carriage and drove eighteen miles, which brought me to my meeting-place,
eight miles east of Greensboro'--the place I gave an account of a few
weeks since--where some seven or eight persons gave their names to go
into the organisation of a Wesleyan Methodist church. Well, sure enough, just
before meeting time (twelve o'clock), I was informed that a pack of rioters
were on hand, and that they had sworn I should not fulfil my appointment this
day. As they had heard nothing of this before, the news came upon some of
my friends like a clap of thunder from a clear sky; they scarcely knew what
to do. I told them I should go to meeting or die in the attempt, and, like
'good soldiers,' they followed. Just before I got to the arbour, I saw a man
leave the crowd and approach me at the left of my path. As I was about to
pass, he said--
" 'Mr. McBride, here is a letter for you.'
"I took the letter, put it into my pocket, and said, 'I have not
time to read it until after meeting.'
" 'No, you must read it now.'
"Seeing that I did not stop, he said, 'I want to speak to you,' beckoning
with his hand and turning, expecting me to follow.
" 'I will talk to you after meeting,' said I, pulling out my watch;
'you see I have no time to spare--it is just twelve.
"As I went to go in at the door of the stand, a man who had taken
his seat on the step rose up, placed his hand on me, and said, in a very excited
" 'Mr. McBride, you can't go in here!'
"Without offering any resistance, or saying a word, I knelt down
outside the stand, on the ground, and prayed to my 'Father;' pled his promises,
such as, 'When the enemy comes in like a flood, I will rear up a standard
against him;' 'I am a present help in trouble;' I will fight all your battles
for you; prayed for grace, victory, my enemies, &c. Rose perfectly calm.
Meantime my enemies cursed and swore some, but most of the time they were
rather quiet. Mr. Hiatt, a slave-holder and merchant from Greensboro', said--
" 'You can't preach here to-day; we have come to prevent you. We
think you are doing harm--violating our laws,' &c.
" 'From what authority do you thus command and prevent me from preaching?
Are you authorised by the civil authority to prevent me?'
" 'No, sir.'
" 'Has God sent you, and does he enjoin it on you as a duty to stop
" 'I am unacquainted with Him.'
" 'Well, 'acquaint thyself now with Him, and be at peace,' and he
will give you a more honourable business than stopping men from preaching
his gospel. The judgment-day is coming on, and I summon you there, to give
an account of this day's conduct. And now, gentlemen, if I have violated the
laws of North Carolina, by them I am willing to be judged, condemned, and
punished--to go to the whipping-post, pillory, or jail,
or even to hug the stake. But, gentlemen, you are not generally a pack of
ignoramuses; your good sense teaches you the impropriety of your course; you
know that you are doing wrong; you know that it is not right to trample all
law, both human and divine, in the dust, out of professed love for it. You
must see that your course will lead to perfect anarchy and confusion. The
time may come when Jacob Hiatt may be in the minority, when his principles
may be as unpopular as Jesse McBride's are now. What then? Why, if your course
prevails, he must be lynched--whipped, stoned, tarred and feathered,
dragged from his own house, or his house burned over his head, and he perish
in the ruins. The persons became food for the beasts they threw Daniel to:
the same fire that was kindled for the 'Hebrew children' consumed those who
kindled it; Haman stretched the same rope he prepared for Mordecai. Yours
is a dangerous course, and you must reap a retribution, either here or hereafter.
We will sing a hymn,' said I.
" 'O yes,' said H., 'you may sing.'
" 'The congregation will please assist me, as I am quite unwell;'
and I lined off the hymn, 'Father, I stretch my hands to thee,' &c., rioters
and all helping to sing. All seemed in good humour, and I almost forgot their
errand. When we closed I said, 'Let us pray.'
" 'G--d d----n it, that's not singing!' said one of
the company, who stood back pretty well.
"While we invoked the divine blessing, I think many could say, 'It
is good for us to be here.' Before I rose from my knees, after the friends
rose, I delivered an exhortation of some ten or fifteen minutes, in which
I urged the brethren to stedfastness, prayer, &c., some of the mob crying
'Lay hold of him!' 'Drag him out!' 'Stop him!' &c.
"My voice being nearly drowned by the tumult, I left off. I was then
called to have some conversation with H., who repeated some of the charges
he preferred at first--said I was bringing on insurrection, causing disturbance,&
c.; wishing me to leave the State; said he had some slaves, and he himself
was the most of a slave of any of them, had harder times than they had, and
he would like to be shut of them, and that he was my true friend.
" 'As to your friendship, Mr. H., you have acted quite friendly,
remarkably so-- fully as much so as Judas when he kissed the Saviour.
As to your having to be so much of a slave, I am sorry for you; you ought
to be freed. As to insurrection, I am decidedly opposed to it, have no sympathy
with it whatever. As to raising disturbance and leaving the State, I left
a little motherless daughter in Ohio, over whom I wished to have an oversight
and care. When I left, I only expected to remain in North Carolina one year;
but the people dragged me up before the Court under the charge of felony,
put me in bonds, and kept me; and now would you have me leave my securities
to suffer--have me lie and deceive the Court?'
" 'O! if you will leave, your bail will not have to suffer; that
can, I think, be settled without much trouble,' said Mr. H.
" 'They shall not have trouble on my account,' said I.
"After talking with Mr. H. and one or two more on personal piety,&
c. I went to the arbour, took my seat in the door of the stand for a
minute; then rose, and, after referring to a few texts of Scripture, to show
that all those who will live godly shall suffer persecution, I inquired, 1st,
What is persecution? 2ndly, noticed the fact, 'shall suffer;'
gave a synoptical history of persecution, by showing that Abel was the first
martyr for the right--the Israelites' sufferings. The prophets were stoned,
were sawn usunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, had to wander
in deserts, mountains, dens, and caves of the earth, were driven from their
houses, given to ferocious beasts, lashed to the stake, and destroyed in different
ways. Spoke of John the Baptist; showed how he was persecuted, and what the
charge. Christ was persecuted for doing what John was persecuted for not doing.
Spoke of the sufferings of the apostles, and their final death; of Luther
and his coadjutors; of the Wesleys and early Methodists; of Fox and the early
Quakers; of the early settlers in the colonies of the United States. Noticed
why the righteous were persecuted, the advantages thereof to the righteous
themselves, and how they should treat their persecutors--with kindness,&
c. Spoke, I suppose, some half an hour, and dismissed. Towards the close
some of the rioters got quite angry, and yelled, 'Stop him!' 'Pull him out!'
'The righteous were never persecuted for d--d abolitionism,' &c.
Some of them paid good attention to what I said. And thus we spent the time
from twelve to three o'clock, and thus the meeting passed by.
"Brother dear, I am more and more confirmed in the righteousness
of our cause. I would rather, much rather, die for good principles, than to
have applause and honour for propagating false theories and abominations.
You perhaps would like to know how I feel. Happy, most of the time. A religion
that will not stand persecution will not take us to heaven. Blessed be God
that I have not thus far been suffered to deny Him! Sometimes I have thought
that I was nearly home. I generally feel a calmness of soul, but sometimes
my enjoyments are rapturous. I have had a great burden of prayer for the dear
flock; help me pray for them. Thank God, I have not heard of one of them giving
up or turning; and I believe, some, if not most of them, would go to the stake
rather than give back. I forgot to say I read a part of the fifth chapter
of the Acts of the Apostles to the rioters, commencing at the 17th verse.
I told them, if their institutions were of God, I could not harm them; that
if our cause was of God, they could not stop it--that they could kill
me, but they could not kill the truth. Though I talked plainly, I talked and
felt kindly to them.
"I have had to write in such haste, and being fatigued and unwell,
my letter is disconnected. I meant to give you a copy of the letter of the
mob. Here it is:
" 'Mr. MC BRIDE:
" 'We, the subscribers, very and most respectfully request you not
to attempt to fulfil your appointment at this place. If you do, you will surely
" 'May 6, 1851.' (Signed by 32 persons.)
"Some were professors of religion--Presbyterians, Episcopal
Methodists, and Methodist Protestants. One of the latter was an 'exhorter.'
I understand some of the crowd were negro-traders.