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(title page) Narrative of William Hayden, Containing a Faithful Account of His Travels for a Number of Years, Whilst a Slave, in the South. Written by Himself
(spine) Life of Hayden
154 p., ill.
Call number E444 .H4 1846 (Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)
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"Party intolerance is despicable; the true spirit of Freedom acknowledges
only the supremacy of GOD, and the RIGHTS OF MAN."
TO THE FRIENDS OF MY YOUTH,
WHO, WHEN A POOR SLAVE BOY, TAUGHT ME THE FIRST RUDIMENTS
OF AN ENGLISH EDUCATION, AND TO
THE FRIENDS OF THE SLAVE,
THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE, TOGETHER WITH ALL
MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS,
WHO, THROUGH THE WISDOM OF GOD MAY BE SET APART TO RAISE
AND EDUCATE FAMILIES,
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.
By their humble servant,
THE AUTHOR.Cincinnati, O.
In appearing before the public with this brief Narrative, it becomes me, as a duty, to place before that public, some of the principal reasons, which induced me to the writing of it. It is a custom, now-a-days, on assuming the station of an author, to make an obeisance to those, whom the individual looks upon as private and personal friends; and acting under this impulse, I respectfully doff the cap to all, and salute them with a few stray leaves from the Diary of my travels through the Southern States, with the Slave Traders.
When first induced to pen this short narrative, I was but a mere boy--a slave--untutored, and alone in the world, save some few friends, who stood by me through "thick and thin." But from my infancy, I have been led on by degrees from step to step, by a supernatural Power--its voice has ever been with me--and each and every promise which has been made by it, has invariably been fulfilled. Many may smile in incredulity at this assertion, and consider it as a hallucination of the brain; or as an evidence of supercilious superstition. Well, let them--but I feel fully convinced and encouraged in that belief, from the blessings and knowledge which I daily see spread before me. Nor am I without precedence. We read in times gone by of the Spirit appearing to many of the believers in God. In the case of Mary the spirit of the Lord made manifest the birth of her son, Jesus--to the shepherds, too, were the same tidings delivered, through the voice of a spirit--the spirit also encouraged and converted Saul of Tarsus, as he wended his way on a crusade against the Christians--and even John was blest with a knowledge of the upper Heavens, through a supernatural spirit. Nor can I believe that those days have forever gone. A supernatural something has always forewarned me of approaching events, and endowed me with a knowledge, which has enabled me to weather the storms of forty years servitude and servile slavery, and to come forth from the trials with honor to myself, and honor to my nation. Nor has that spirit yet forsaken me--although an old man--some sixty years of age--it holds daily communion with me, and urges me on to deeds of sympathy and good will towards all men, whilst its sweet consolations repay
me an hundred fold, for all the trials I am doomed to undergo. God's name be praised.
I have said that I was forty years a slave. Yes, forty of the best years of my life, were passed in servile bondage to my fellow men. Yet, during that time, the body alone was prostrated in that degraded situation--the mind--the image and the best gift of God to man, was always elevated--it spurned the shackles, and soared to Heaven, where it revelled in Elysium; in blissful concert with its Creator.
Hard as was my fate, in being cast into a state of bondage, in witnessing the insult, the degradation--the licenstiousness, and the abuse, which the slave-traders heaped upon the unprotected slaves--yet, I stood firm--unshrinking to the commands of mortal--and centred my every thought upon a higher and a holier power. The body may be debased to purposes, at which the brute creation would shudder--it may be made an instrument in the hands of man to prosecute the most damning crimes--but the soul--the immaterial man--the thought--the mind, can never be chained. It belongs to a higher sphere, and ruled by a higher Being, in whose hands are held the whirlwind and the storm,--the existence and non-existence of all the human family. What cause had I then to fear? My heart laved in the waters of Salvation, and my Guardian Spirits stood forth as beacon lights, pointing the road to freedom and to happiness. I felt that this was the case with me, and I determined that "sink or swim," I would persevere in obedience until the goal was won--and the joyful shout of deliverance and bliss, echoed through the valley.
Mankind should ever bow to the power which rules and sustains him. But that power is not vested in mortal hands--it is coeval with Deity itself, and will ever be exercised with rigid justice by an almighty God. Nor will he permit his creatures to suffer--for he has promised that those who put their trust in Him, shall pass the fiery ordeal of the world, unscathed, and unharmed. To Him, then, must I offer up my prayers for my safe deliverance from all the ills which beseige me during my pilgrimage on Earth.
To some, this may seem as a wild and unfeasable theory--void of common sense in a practical point of view, but it is as true, and unchangeable, as that God exists in His might and power, and will one day come to judge the world in righteousness and justice. Why should I not put my trust in God? I am now sixty years of age
and by His power alone, I have been sustained and upheld, and by His power alone, I have passed through trials and temptations at which the stoutest heart would quail. He has borne me through them all--He has raised me up friends in every part of the world in which I have sojourned, and He has brought me out purified and sanctified of the sins of the world--and all connexion with the evil one. How, then, can I turn a deaf ear to his commandments--and turn aside from the path which He has pointed out to me, wherein to go? Were an earthly friend to do this--were he to extend over me the arm of his protection, during the reign of trial and vexation--were he to shield and protect me in health and in sickness, what would be thought of me by the world, if I should turn aside, and denounce and condemn him as a vain, inconsistent, and ambitious personage? Would they award to me the feelings of common humanity and respect? or, would they place any confidence in the sincerity of any profession I might thereafter make or endeavor to place before a discriminating public? No--most assuredly they would not. I would be looked upon as an ingrate--a wretch, whose feelings were seared in the heated cauldrons of base inhumanity, and corruption.
If the world would then look upon me thus--would treat me as a desperado of the deepest dye; what should I expect from an almighty parent who had sustained and protected me in every vicissitude of an ill-spent life? who has thrown the shadow of his protecting wings over me in health--and upheld me with His might and goodness when death overshadowed my couch, and laid the cold impress of his rigid seal almost upon my brow? What, I say, should be the feelings of a Righteous God, who had endowed me with talent--with understanding, and with a knowledge of good and evil, were I thus knowingly to transcend His commands--to turn ingrate upon His hands, and to say to Him by my actions,--"I am aware that you have been a kind and indulgent benefactor to me through life--but I feel that I am now beyond the influence of sickness, disease, or want, and I ask not your further aid?" Could I reasonably suppose that he would pass by such actions, and not stretch forth his "red, right arm" of vengeance; and smite His ungrateful and blasphemous creature to the earth? No! His vengeance most assuredly would fall upon me, and with such an effect that language would fail to draw the faintest picture of its direful consequences.
Why then, should I cast Him aside, after all the blessings which He has bestowed upon me? No, I will not--I cannot let go my hold upon the Saviour, though the Earth should sink, and bury me in its deep and awful chasms of destruction. He has been a friend, when all others have passed me by in silence and in scorn--He has smiled upon me, when every lip has railed out against me in loud and vehement denunciations--and blessed be His name, he has supported me when all would have gloried in my downfall.
Yes, gentle reader, God has sustained me in every vicissitude in which I have been placed, and I feel well assured that He will continue to sustain me, until He gathers me home, to rest with Him in endless happiness. What, but His mighty arm could have shielded me from the many dangers through which I was compelled to pass, when in the possession of wealthy, influential and relentless slave-traders and slave-holders? What but His power could have snatched me from destruction, when angered men raved at me, and stood with fire-arms pointed at my bared bosom? and who but He could have given me power to brave my oppressors, and declare my rights, when the thong and the scourge were about to be applied to me at Natchez? None,--no, I feel that it was He alone, that thwarted them in their proposed cruelty, and saved His weak and dependant creature from their savage and infamous designs. His holy name be praised--for, He has said that throughout all time, He will protect and encourage all his children, if they will but put their trust in Him.
Nor has He alone shielded me from danger and harm. He has, I have reason to believe, endowed me, as I have before stated, with the power and faculty of foreseeing events, which were to take place in my eventful career--and instructed me as to the path in which I should travel, by which to avoid their evil tendencies. This, I have studiously endeavored to do; and if I have, in any instance transcended my instructions, I can confidently assert, that it has been an "error of the head, and not of the heart." My liberation from bondage was promised me by my spiritual guide in the days of my youth, when the chains of slavery were first rivetted upon me--and the means and influences by which this happy event was to be consummated. Yes--even the year in which I was to become a free man, was made manifest to me, whilst toiling in servitude, and abject misery
for the malignant gratification of my fellow man--and it was this knowledge which supported me throughout nearly forty years of unjustifiable bondage. My heart was cheered with the blest conviction, that I was, at that period, to become my own master, and acknowledge the right of none to command or drive me in the commission of earthly acts, save the almighty Father of the human family. And my freedom was brought around in the exact manner which the Spirit had set apart for it. The stern, rigid and independent, yet, at the same time, obedient course which as a slave, I pursued towards my masters, was also, persevered in, for the express purpose of fulfilling to the letter, the commands of my Guardian. Never have I knowingly thwarted its wishes, but once--and heavy, indeed was my punishment, in the loss of a portion of my thumb, and uneasiness of mind for a long time thereafter. All its promises to me, have been rigidly fulfilled--and though the clouds of disaffection, and affliction have lowered heavily o'er my domestic concerns--yet, all, I feel assured will again be set aright in obedience with its stern commands. Man--frail, impotent man has no control over them,-- he can neither advance, nor retard them in their nature or their march--and until the hour arrives, in which the spirit is to set matters in their proper light before the world, things must still exist in the uncomfortable way in which they now are.
Reader--this little narrative, which will in its pages show you more conclusively the power which this Spirit has exerted over me during life, and the implicit obedience which I have ever yielded to its dictates--is another object brought forth at its commands. For this purpose I was endowed with an education suitable for the object allotted me--and for this purpose, I have now placed myself before the public as an author of a strange race. You may laugh in incredulity, if you please--you may hoot at the idea of man possessing the power of foretelling events, and you may term me fool, idiot, or what you choose--yet, as I have shown you before that this power was given man in former days--you may rest equally assured, that such power has been endowed me by an allwise God. The work is now before you, and though it springs from a dark and benighted source; yet your humble servant prays you will appreciate its merits in a spirit of kindness and leniency. May God bless you.
Lady,--in childhood, we were wont
To greet each others smile;
Were wont to romp in innocence--
In peace our hours to while,
But since age lower'd on our brow,
He wields his sceptre o'er us now.
The sainted mother blest us then,
And taught us of our God--
She taught our infant minds to bow
To his most righteous rod--
She taught our tongues to lisp his name,
And know He ever is the same.
She loved us both--her kindness seem'd
The love the angels bear--
She guided all our young desires,
Of sin, she said, beware--
And when in after years we stood
Before the world, we nam'd her--good!
Sweet were those hours to you and I,
When kneeling o'er our forms
She raised her hands to heaven, and cried,
Shield them from the storms,
Which rage through life--Great Father, save
Them from sin's dark, polluted grave.
The tears then bathed our youthful cheeks,
We knew not why we wept--
But He was o'er us night and day,
And watched us while we slept;
And led us with a parent's hand,
To study well His each command.
Storms since have lower'd o'er our heads--
Life's ills have sought to lure
Our wayward spirits from His charge,
And all His laws abjure.
But like the leaden weights of sin,
Have failed to touch the soul within.
Lady, I love thee, though I claim
No kindred with thy race,
But as the playmate of my youth,
I still can see thy face,
And bless the child of her whom then
I loved to hear--not to condemn.
Thy kindness, too, in after years,
Was shown to me throughout--
Thy love for me through health and strife,
Cast evil spirits out--
And I have blest thy name, and wept,
To think of thee, whilst others slept.
O, may thy life be one of joy;
May care ne'er reach thy mind;
And may the God of Heaven bless
The friend of human kind--
And grant that His sweet counsel may
Enrich thy soul through endless day.
Calm be thy pillow when in death,
Thy body shall recline--
When friends shall mourn thy swift decay,
Then tears of grief be mine.
The lowly sod which hides thy face
Shall water'd be by my poor race.
And now farewell! We ne'er may meet,
To join again the hand--
But yet in Heaven we shall join,
In God's ne'er dying band;
And in Love's concert voices swell,
To sing His praise--till then, FAREWELL.
We, the undersigned, have for many years known Wm. HAYDEN, the author of this work, and believe him to be an honest, upright man,--and withal, a Christian.
Isaac G. Burnet,
E. A. Sehon,
J. C. Miller,
John E. Williams,
THE subject of this narrative was born in the year 1785, at Bell-plains, Stafford county, Virginia. The life of a SLAVE, may be considered by many, as a matter of no curiosity--not even the smallest quota of importance in the great drama of human existence. But when the Divine interposition of Christ interferes with the earthly career of mankind, it is the duty of ALL, to treasure each token, small as it may be, which he, in his gracious providence, may vouchsafe to us, as particles in the great chain of human events, which is to guide us through this "vale of tears," and render us fit to anchor our frail barques on the ever blessed shores of the New Jerusalem.
Hence, it is the object of the writer to relate, and to endeavor in the briefest manner possible, to point out certain matters connected with his history as a man--and as a member of community, to show to his fellow mortals the wonderful means, and the various ways through which God exhibits to us, his wonderful nature. To some, he gives wisdom--to some, wealth--and to others he yields a complication of gifts, such as, wisdom, a foresight
of coming events, &c. Hence, the motto, "coming events cast their shadows before."
The latter was the means which Jehovah has employed with the subject of these few but serious reflections, and historical crumbs; and though they may appear as irrelevant, and non apropos, yet, ere they are finished, and perused by the kind reader to whose indulgence they are given, I feel fully confident that by a critical view of the same, he or she may be led to a full knowledge of God's means; of his supernatural agency in leading all to him, and which is considered by the world, or worldly portion of Creation, as superstition, and unworthy of aught save the contumely heaped upon the ignorant of the present day, and a comparison with the dark ages which have long since elapsed and passed from earth.
But this is all wrong. God works his wonders, not in one man--nor in any particular set of men--but in ALL, unobservant of clime and color. He has, in his wisdom, apportioned us as the beneficaries of his Divine precepts and gifts. None escape--the high and low--the rich and poor--all alike feel His wisdom, and acknowledge his goodness. It would be unjust, therefore in man to contend with Deity upon the principle of worldly elevation. The mighty in thought, are generally the very poorest in this world's gear. "All is not gold that glitters"--nor, yet is all unholy, which wears the semblance of the world, or pertains to the machinations of selfish and corrupt man. As an evidence of this, I have but to offer to the reader the case of the Apostle Paul. When worn down with disease; when racked with afflictions in both mind and body; famished and languid; dragged from a prison cell; emaciated, and almost disgusting to the sight of humanity--so cursed was
he with vermin and the filth of a prison house, he presented a poor, and I might say, a pitiful contrast, when confronted with the royal Agrippa; the tyrant Felix; the vain-glorious, and coquettish Felicia, who had met to pass judgment upon him. Yet the spirit of the Lord was there--his powerful hand upheld his servant through his trials, and supported him through his afflictions,--it pointed out to him the road he was to travel, and the means he was to employ, in order to overcome the temptation and snares of the wicked, and reach the haven he desired. Rags could not disguise the MAN--the prison habits could not cover him from the admiration of all. Even regal authority, surrounded by its slaves, its worshippers, and its proselytes, was not able to withstand the power, in the hands of God's most humble, abject, and comparatively inefficient agent. The glance and glare of royalty vanished--a kingdom became paralyzed; and the highest power in Christendom, robed with the authority of the land; entrusted with the treasure of the kingdom, surrounded with wealth, wisdom and greatness, quailed before the eyes of Paul; quaked at his words, as they fell trembling from his lips, and the poor, royal trio, quivering in agony, made known their effect through Agrippa, by the fearful assertion: "Thou almost persuadest me to be a Christian." Such was the effect of God's words upon the world's great men, when delivered even by his abject and imprisoned servant; and at this more enlightened age, what may be the result of these few stray leaves, Time, and God's ways alone will determine.
Until I was about five years old, I was permitted to live with my mother, who was the property of Mr. Ware, of Bell-plains, and who resided on the banks of the Potomac
creek. When quite an infant, not more than two or three years of age, I was known to crawl to the door of the cabin, and watch the rising of the sun. The Day God as he peered from the chambers of the east, and cast his reflection from the clear bosom of the Potomac, appeared to my infantile mind like two suns--the one in the heavens, and the other in the body of the waters; and every morning, it was my desire, and indeed, my first employment, to repair to the door and witness the rising of the two suns. How anxiously my mother, (fond and endearing as she was,) gazed upon me, as I was engaged in witnessing with joy, the beauties of Heaven, and Heaven's goodness.
This act was considered as remarkable in one so young as me, and many were the predictions, from men of influence and extensive learning, that in me, the slave would find a determined and consistent friend, whilst my race and my color would find a representative of their rights through the means of Christ, of which they should not be ashamed. At this age, too, the Spirit of the Lord was at work in my heart--my path of duty was pointed out--my many vicisitudes were before me--the acknowledged divinity of God was building up in my heart a throne, upon which to receive the offerings of many to a new knowledge of his grace--and through me, his humble agent, to lay down to my fellow creatures a new path--a new belief--a belief, unlike the Egyptian idols, but founded upon the uncontrovertable and inscrutable ways with which man is brought by a supernatural agency, to yield himself to Divine decrees, and throw off the yoke which Satan and the world has placed upon him;
"To be a man --a meek and lowly worm,
A firm despiser of all worldly scorn."
Nor was this infantile practice--this pleasure of gazing upon the beauties of Heaven's goodness without its benign effects. One morning, on rising from my straw pallet, to seek the door of the cabin, the bed was discovered to be on fire. A sense of danger was even then apparent to my young mind, and through exertions and persuasions, I was enabled to be the instrument of God's holy wisdom, to save the lives of my sister and brother who slept in the same room. That sister now resides in Cincinnati, and can be seen at my house; having removed with my mother and me from Virginia, when our parent was freed. God's beauties were before my mind; his hand was over me, and leading me on; he made my soul, even at that early age acquainted with the fact, that I was to become an instrument in his hand, to work out in my feeble capacity, a portion of his divine work.
But to my Narrative:
At the age of five years, I was taken from my mother, who, for the preceding four years, had a presentiment, that she was not the one designed by Providence to rear me. The man to whom I was sold in the capacity of a slave, was named John Ware, and resided at Swan's Point, on the Potomac, and from that time until I was seven years old, I was engaged in travelling through various parts of the State, as a nurse. And I must be permitted to say for myself, that those children, who are yet permitted to exist, and whom I had the privilege of nursing, can still bear testimony of the affection I bore them, and which I had every reason to believe was reciprocal upon their parts.
But a change soon came over my master's affairs. He was a gambler and a horse-racer, and becoming involved
in debt, he was necessitated to sell me. To some, this change might have appeared as an affliction of the deepest caste. But to me, although satisfied with my situation, is was a change for the better. My heart yearned for my mother, whose cabin I had left, and I hoped through God's goodness, to be enabled to procure a purchaser who resided somewhere in her neighborhood.
But a trial ensued. The nature of a master whose deception causes him to fawn upon, and flatter a slave, worked upon my youthful imagination, as it generally works upon the imaginations of all such, and was attended by a like result. A short period previous to my being sent off for sale, my master and mistress left home without taking me with them as a waiter. This, they had never before done, and I was at a loss to account for the change which had been wrought in their conduct. Previously, I had been a favorite, and having excited thereby the jealousy of my fellow slaves, I soon found that the absence of my master and mistress was attended with any thing but good results. The colored people of the household proved ungrateful, and by them, I was used with extreme harshness; hence, my strong affection for my mother, and the strong desire to be near her proved too much, and in my unguarded moments I caught one of my master's horses, and started on my journey. Herein, then, the reader will see the baneful influence of deception and ill usage towards a growing child. But being young, and unaccustomed to the treatment of a horse, I soon rendered him unfit for service, and was necessarily necessitated to perform the balance of the journey on foot. Hence, turning the horse loose, and tying the bridle around me, I made the best of my way towards my mother's cabin. And now, permit me to
relate the consequences of deception. Being conversant with it in my master's family, it was an easy matter for me to coin a palpable lie--so, whenever I was asked where I was going, and what my business was, (as was often the case) my invariable answer was, that I was looking for a stray horse which had broken from my master's fields. My youth, and the fact of my having the bridle with me, proved a sufficient shield, and I was permitted to pass unmolested; and having often travelled the road near where my mother resided, I soon found the place, where I arrived in safety, after having travelled for upwards of a whole day.
When I arrived at my mother's, I was in such a state of nudity, and so apparently altered that she did not recognize me. I remained with her about a week, when the master whom I had formerly served, sent me home, writing at the same time to my tnen master, requesting him not to punish me, and as I was a great favorite, his request was complied with; but shortly after, I was sent to my mistress's brother, who resided and kept a store near Port Royal. This was in consequence of my master being in debt to him for goods, &c., and though gentle reader, you may think it strange, yet it is nevertheless true, that human flesh and blood--the living image of Jehovah himself, was pledged as an old Jack-knife is now-a-days, to the Shylock money-lenders in payment, until my master could attain the means wherewith to redeem me. To this event I looked forward with hope, but the time passed, and, not being able to obtain the money for my redemption, I was sent to Ashton's Gap, a place on the mountain, where an auction for the sale of slaves was generally held; and in company with five other lads, was doomed to undergo the ordeal of the flesh-barterer's
hammer. And what think ye was the sum to be raised from the sale of six human beings? The mean and pitiful sum of $50. Here I remained three or four weeks, but time, which brings about all things, finally brought around the fatal day on which the traffic of flesh and blood was to take place. I have before remarked that from my infancy I was admired for my sprightliness, and whether this was the cause or not, I was the first one brought under the hammer, and strange to say brought the full amount of my master's delinquency. A further sale was deemed unnecessary, and the remainder of the boys were prepared to be returned home. During the day we had feats of wrestling, leaping, &c., at all of which exercises, I came off victorious. My young heart was elated with joy at my success, but when the moment came in which I was to be severed from my young companions, and when running to the carriage which was to convey them to their homes, their mothers, and all they held dear on earth, I was informed that I was doomed to remain, and seek a home with a strange master, my heart swelled within me and a flood of tears was the only balm left the benighted and sorely aggrieved slave. No mother's smiles were decreed to welcome me--no maternal words to soothe my pains, no kind and long known home to yield me sustenance and repose--naught but the clanking chains of slavery--the roof of a stranger, and my own sad reflections were meted out to me. Is it a wonder then, that tears gushed forth, or that the mind bent as a reed shaken by tempestuous blasts. Those who know the endearments of home, can duly appreciate my situation.
The master, whose property I became by this sale, lived in Lincoln county, Kentucky, and although he was deputized
by his brother to purchase a slave for him, he having advanced him the money for that purpose, he saw fit to send me to his brother, as being small, and purchased a larger, though a sickly looking youth, whom he kept for himself.
On leaving with my master, we went to Farquar county, and there staid until fall, near Smith's Mills; and here permit me to relate an anecdote of our travels. In returning to the house of my new master, I was compelled to travel on foot, except when going down hill on the mountain. In those days, locks were almost unknown, as used for locking the wheels of the wagons which travelled the roads, and small trees were fastened to them to act as holds back. On these trees would I climb, and for the purpose of displaying my agility, seek the very highest limb; and many a severe fall have I received in being thrown from them to the distance of many yards in front of my high seat of honor, so many, that in fact I began truly to conclude that "they that stand high, have many blasts to shake them, and if they fall, they dash themselves to pieces," insomuch that I concluded to abandon my sport, and take the more modest and unassuming mode of travelling, to wit: "Shank's mare."
Some time after I was sent to my master's brother, whose slave I then became, my purchaser came to pay a visit to my master. He was accompanied with several gentlemen, who were aware of his trick in foisting me upon his brother, and when they saw me, so surprised were they, in comparing me with the one which he had kept, that in their teasing and jeering him on his "profitable trade," they let the "cat out of the bag," telling him that appearances were generally deceitful, if not
totally opposite to the world's generally received opinions.
My master's name was Frederick Burdet, who resided near Georgetown, Ky. He was married to a Miss Cave, of whom I shall speak hereafter, as she proved to the friendless slave a mother and a guardian, when no relative was near to cheer his servile hours. Mr. Burdet was poor, owning naught of this world's gear, save me; but his wife was seised of three other slaves, and a small tract of land. But soon misfortune and disease visited the abode of my master. The fell Destroyer laid his chilly hand upon the latch, and bore hence to an unknown world the head of that much loved family. After his death, the Court decreed me to his unborn child.
As my master had raised me in a pious manner, and had intended setting me free, after he should have set before me the evils of the world, it became, as a matter of course, the duty of his wife to carry out his pious intentions. Being young, I generally repaired to a spring close to the house, and watching the sun as he rose, and cast his reflections upon the bosom of the spring, would often weep bitterly. In this I was indulged by my master, but after his death, following the same course, my mistress one day spoke to me, thus: William, if you be a good boy, and cry no more, I will be to you a mother; and placing one hand upon my head, and wiping the tears from her eyes, she raised them to Heaven, and supplicated God that he would enable her to fulfil her promise, and thanked him that he had placed some object in her way, to fill the vacuum occasioned by the death of her husband. To this I consented, but felt loath to abandon the spring, although she strictly fulfilled her promise. But from the spring I sought the chimney
corner, where I first held communion with the Spirit, which seems to be my guardian angel to the present day.
When, however, it was known that I had only commanded $50, the neighborhood was greatly surprised, and many a dealer in human flesh, would have been anxious to have purchased me; but my good mistress loved me for her dear husband's sake, and not all the wealth of Mexico could have then induced her to part with me.
Shortly after my master's death, I was received into the house as the servant of my mistress, and when my young mistress was born, was initiated as her nurse, with the assurance, that if I took good care of her, I should be free as soon as Miss Polly arrived at marriageable age. This raised my spirits to a high degree, and I became still more attentive to my duties, determining to deserve, if it were really in my power, my freedom from bondage. It was, too, a matter of surprise and astonishment to witness the difference in my actions. Naught but the thought of being a FREE MAN filled my mind from morning until night, and I felt as if I loved my mistress with a ten-fold ardor, whilst it seemed to me that the Lord was watching over the destinies of the poor, friendless colored boy, who was far beyond the reach of parents and relatives. These thoughts inspired me to good actions; but sorry was I, when my young mistress was about two years of age, to witness the lowering of my first cloud of sorrow. It loomed dark and heavy upon me, and has continued to grow darker and darker around me until the present day. At that time my mistress, needing no doubt the proceeds of my labor, as I was large enough to plough with a shovel-plough, hired me out to a man named Henry Barlow. To him I proved useful, and as I was always brisk in
running errands, and doing chores, I was universally liked and admired by both black and white.
I remained, however, but one year with Mr. Barlow, when my mistress's brother, Mr. Henry Cave, without her consent, hired me out for six years to a Mr. Elijah Craig, a rope-maker in Georgetown, and it was in this place that the Almighty, in his wisdom saw fit to reveal to His humble creature, the future destiny of his days--to open to him the various paths in which he was to tread, and to point out to him the straight and surest way by which to arrive at the goal of happiness for which his stricken soul panted. Blessed be his holy name. He has upheld me through good and through evil report, and placing all confidence in his supreme power, I feel that he will continue to watch over and bless his sorrowing creature.
Soon after I came to reside with Mr. Craig, I was placed by him in the rope-walk, for the purpose of learning the rope-making business, and being very attentive, and quick of apprehension, I became a favorite with my employer, and set to work at spinning much sooner than is customary with the generality of boys; but being naturally good humored and quick on foot, I was frequently called from my work to run errands, and it appeared to me as if the fates were arrayed against me, for as soon as one "chore" was done--another stood ready waiting for my attendance. But this state of things was soon brought to an end, for it was soon discovered that I lacked but strength to be a first rate workman, and was accordingly sent with some others to Frankfort, Kentucky, to work in a "walk" of Mr. Craig's, under the management of a Mr. James Davis, with whom I had been but a short time, before I became a general favorite with my employer. And here I must digress for a brief time to return to my mistress.
See page 17.
See page 24.
When I parted with her at Georgetown, it was with tears, in which, kind woman, she, as well as myself, indulged freely. At parting she made, I well remember this remark:
"William, if you are ever whipped by any to whom you are hired, remember, I charge you, to return home immedately, for I can permit no one to correct you but myself."
When, then, I had been some time with Mr. Davis, for some trivial offence I was whipped, and remembering my mistress's words, I returned to her. But what was my surprise on hearing her exclaim, when I had narrated the circumstance to her:
"Go back, my boy, and stay till I send for you."
I was shocked, and although I was several times flogged thereafter, I never returned to her again. But my ruling star was uppermost, and I became a favorite with Mr. Davis's children, who taught me to spell, and for this act of kindness, I was always ready to accommodate them in any way I could. Unlike a majority of slaveholder's children, they were not above teaching the poor colored boy to spell and read, but seemed to pride in my rapid progress, which has endeared them to me through this cold and inhospitable world.
But as youths generally like a little spending money with which to enjoy themselves, I soon cast about me for a means of obtaining it. An opportunity soon presented itself, and as we lived near the Kentucky river, I applied myself during my leisure moments to fishing, at which I was generally successful. These fish I conveyed to market, and obtained a considerable sum of spending money, without, in the least, encroaching on my master's time, as I had in a short time became acquainted with
all the inn-keepers, who did not hesitate to purchase my "FINNY TRIBE."
This success was followed immediately by another. Having become intimate in my fish speculation with the principal inn-keeper in Frankfort, I made arrangements with him to work for him on holidays and Sundays, cleaning boots, washing dishes, &c.; and in this capacity was my leisure moments employed, during my whole sojourn at Frankfort.
About six months, however, before my time expired with Mr. Craig, my mistress had me a new suit of clothes made and sent, with directions to Mr. Craig to purchase me shoes, stockings, and other necessary "FIXINS," and charge the same to her: so, that for the first time in my life, I had a suit of Sunday clothes.
I here, about this time too, met with a still greater success, by becoming acquainted with Miss Martha Johnson, who lived near Mr. Toleman's, and to whom, through the interposition of Divine Providence, I am indebted for the completion of my limited education. And now, with the permission of the reader, I will commence giving data of my future events. Previous to this, my memory has failed me, and as it was the events of, I might almost say, my infancy, they have passed to the bourne of things forgotten.
About the year 1802, all the hands hired by the year in the rope-walk at Frankfort, were sent home again; but as my contract was for six years, I was compelled to stay six months longer. In the spring of this year I again went to Georgetown. On arriving there, my mistress did not recognize me, so greatly had I grown, and in fact since I had left Georgetown so great had been the improvement both in growth and mental endowments
with my YOUNG mistress, that I was at a loss to recognize her. During my absence, however, my mistress, had taken unto herself a second husband, which so much grieved me, on account of the love I bore her dear departed help-mate, that I felt very loath to return home. But as I had not seen any of them for many years, and as they were all anxious for me to return, I was soon compelled to forego my objections, and seek a home again, under the roof of my mistress.
Whilst I was in Georgetown, a new building, which had been reared during my absence, attracted my attention. On a flag stone in front, I discovered some marks which appeared to me as unintelligible as the hyeroglyphics of the Chinese. But I was determined to ascertain their purport, and accordingly asked a gentleman who was passing, the meaning thereof. He informed me that it was the year in which the building was erected; and from this I was aware that the succeeding year would be 1803. This inspired me with a love of figures, and so intently did I set myself about it, that I was soon a tolerable hand at calculation.
At the end of the year I again left Georgetown, and was hired to a man by the name of Peter January, sr., in Lexington, Ky., who owned a rope-walk there. Here I first saw Mr. Clay, who was then engaged in ornamenting his present residence at Ashland. With this gentleman, I became acquainted through the recommendations given him of me by his children, whose acquaintance, I had made previously, and with him I afterwards became a great favorite.
This gentleman and his lady were set apart by my guardian Spirit as my benefactors in time to come. Mrs. Clay
has already proved such to me, having used me with the tenderness and sympathy of an indulgent parent.
Before the year was out, too, it was discovered that I was so good a hand in the rope-walk, and so attentive to all the duties assigned me, that all the factors in the place were anxious to obtain me, so that a choice of homes was thus unexpectedly held out to me, of which I was exceedingly glad.
Casting among these people, then, it was my good fortune to accept the proposals of Mr. J. Ware, who had formed a friendship for me, and with whom I resided eight years.
In 1804, I went to board with a wagon-maker, by the name of Edward Howe, who generally employed a great many workmen. For these, I performed all the little offices they asked of me, insomuch that they were so well pleased with me, that they all agreed to teach me my lessons in reading, in order that I might become more perfect. To induce me, however, to devote some portion of my time to pleasure and amusement, for so studious had I become that they feared for my health, they would persuade me to play marbles with them, agreeing to learn me so many lessons, for so many games, so that in a short time, I began to like the amusement, and even progressed farther in my studies.
Soon after I went to board with Mr. Howe, it was my good fortune to meet with Miss Johnson, my former instructress. She was at this time teaching school, which was composed of the first families of the place, and having no one to cut wood, or run errands for her, I made an arrangement with her to do her "chores," provided she would teach me at nights, and on the Sabbaths. This she accordingly did, and she often unconsciously
filled me with joy, by remarking, that in the little time I had, I made more rapid progress in learning than many of the white boys with all their boasted privileges, and assiduity.
In the same fall, (1804) I became acquainted with Mr. Postlewate, a tavern-keeper, and went with him to clean boots, &c., as I had previously done in Frankfort.--During this time, I did not charge Miss Johnson any thing for the services which I rendered her, as I considered that the learning which she gave me, more than cancelled the obligation. But as I had now become, as I thought too large for a servile occupation, I began to be ashamed of cleaning boots, and consequently, obtaining an old axe, and putting it through the grinding operation, I concluded to make a good living by chopping wood. Through the influence of Miss Johnson, I obtained the work of all the parents of her scholars, so that I had now as much as I could possibly do.
Shortly after this, some of Miss Johnson's relatives came to Lexington. They were players, and engaged in the theatre in that place, and as they went to house-keeping immediately on their arrival, I soon became their "man of all work," so that I felt myself at home, either at their house or that of Miss Johnson. But in 1805, I again went to rope-spinning, and was soon acknowledged to be the best spinner in the country, so that again a choice of homes was again held out to me. This good fortune induced me to tell Mr. Ware, that I would not stay any longer with him, unless he would advance my wages. This, at first, he refused to do, but at last consented to raise them to $6 per year. At that period, twine was worth more at the South, than it ever has been since, bringing from 75 cents to $1 per pound. My task at
spinning was forty-eight pounds--and this was considered a good day's work for two men. This task I generally accomplished--gaining two days in every week, exclusive of the Sabbath. The proceeds of these two days amounted to three dollars, which it was optional with me to make, or devote my time to pleasure, if I saw fit so to do.
And now comes a question which many of my readers may smile at, as deriving its existence from Superstition. Meeting one day with Miss Johnston, I inquired of her, if she had ever known any one who could foretell what was to happen in after days. She replied that she had heard of people who had foretold things, and wished to know why I had proposed the question to her. My eyes brightened--my heart beat with a nervous anxiety, and I informed her that I could foresee the day when I was to become a FREE MAN; and that although I had been torn from my parents in my infancy, the day was in prospective, on which I should again meet with them.
The reason of my making this inquiry, was simply this--I had been for several weeks engaged in burying the chips which fell from the logs which I was chopping, on the lot where the house stood. This act I had been commanded, by the Spirit to do; and that, if I strictly fulfilled its mandates, the house should be removed, and no one should occupy the lot, until I had written a Narrative of my Life. Many years have since elapsed--and yet, the lot is vacant, and none seem disposed to occupy it. When, however, I told Miss Johnson this, she smiled, and doubted the virtue of the Spirit--to which I replied that, in four years from that time, we should meet for the last time upon earth, and part, with many tears. This, in the year 1807, was literally fulfilled--and my
prediction, so strangely verified, seemed to remove all doubts of my future destiny from her mind. God bless her--for she was to me, a friend indeed.
And here, gentle reader, permit me to give you a brief outline of my progress, and the means by which my limited education was acquired. The only book which I could command, was composed of the leaves of an old Spelling Book, which I had picked up, and sewed together, and from this I gleaned such instruction, that I was soon enabled to read the Testament with ease. From that--I attempted writing; which at first, was a difficult task for my friends to persuade me to undertake, as I was then under the impression that it was without the pale of a colored man's nature, to ever be able to write. The substance of this I remarked, to a friend who worked with me in the rope walk, and who after calling me a fool, informed me that he would guaranty to teach me how to write in a short time. He then got a small stick and pointing it, stooped down and wrote "W. HAYDEN," in the sand. After a long time, I was persuaded to make the attempt of copying it. The trial proved successful, and so great was my joy, that tears of pleasure trickled down my face. After this, I would go round the Court House, and picking up all the fragments of paper, I could find, would bring them home. I was afraid however, to attempt reading them, as my playmates informed me that if the white people, caught me reading or writing they would hang me. Whether this assertion was made in ignorance, or through envy, I never ascertained, but certain it is, that it had the desired effect; and consequently I was compelled to get some of the "walk hands" to read them for me, and when I got by myself, I would, with a stump of a pen which I had picked up, endeavor
to copy them. My ink, I made by boiling walnut bark and coperas, and having obtained some paper, abandoned my copies in the sand, and took to pen, ink and paper. In this manner, I succeeded in writing a tolerably legible hand, of which I was extremely proud, and would often reason with myself in this wise: "Yonder is a WHITE man--he has seen the frosts of sixty winters, and during that long period, has never been able to learn to read the word of God, or transmit by writing one solitary thought to his distant relatives and friends; whilst I, a poor, friendless colored boy,--a slave--can read the consolations held forth in the Scriptures, and inform my distant friends of my progress through life. O, the difference! I would not part with my little knowledge, for all the wealth of your illiterate dealer in flesh and blood!"
In the year 1807, there was a school started for some colored children, whose fate it had been to be bound out; and as their masters did not want them taught by a white man, they engaged a colored one, belonging to Dr. Downey, to instruct them in spelling and reading. This man was known among us as "Ned,"--what his surname was, I never ascertained. As there were not enough FREE children to make up the school, notice was given, that any one wishing their servants taught, (if they were willing to entrust them with Ned,) should be permitted to send them to school. On hearing this, I applied to Mr. Ware, and having obtained his consent, started, with three others, from the same factory.
The school was composed of about thirty scholars, and considering myself and my companions, as naught but rope hands, we were for a time reckoned as fit butts for all jeering and jesting. This, however, we heeded not, but attended to our books, and by close attention, I
was soon at the head of the first spelling class in the school, They were not aware that I had been to school before, and remembering their former conduct, I cared not to inform them of the fact. Ned, too, raised upon my shoulders, for it was generally considered that it was by his exertions that I made such rapid progress; and as a reward for my diligence he made me sub-teacher, and gave to me the charge of the younger children. Previous to this, however, Ned, rather offended not only myself, but all who were connected with the affairs of the school. Being "Principal," and striving to gain favor with some, he paid strict attention to the free children, and would sometimes neglect hearing us our lessons, for upwards of a day, in order to facilitate them. To this I objected, backed by Mr. Duke, and others. At last broaching the subject, (and merely because I spoke my mind freely,) I was deserted by my backing, and was finally expelled from the school. Sore as this occcurrence was to me, the Spirit upheld me, and I was finally rewarded for my obedience to its dictates.
"-- He stood,
The proud monument of flesh! Yet still,
The softest whisper of the Word Unchangeable,
The Spirit, and the Lord,--bade all return;
And mortal schemes were lost!"
The Trustees of this School, allowed the citizens to have a Night session, if they could procure a teacher. After looking around, they procured not only a teacher, but a room from Mr. Benj. Duke, or, as many called him Mr. Benjamin Almond; an individual of high standing, having a house of his own, in which he, every Sabbath, and often during the week, held Divine service. At a meeting of the Trustees, he and his brother, who were,
great friends of mine, recommended me, and agreed to vouch for my abilities and good conduct. This act of kindness they performed, without my knowledge. When, therefore, in a few days, I was called on by Mr. Duke and his lady, and informed of my nomination and election as teacher, I was greatly surprised, and not knowing what answer to return, I informed them of my total incapacity to teach, and of my want of means to rent a room. But Mrs. Duke overruled these objections, informing me that Mr. Duke had prepared his basement story for me, and that she would see I had no difficulty with the children as she would make them behave. Still diffident, to take charge of a school, I told her that I had no place to sleep. This she also overruled, telling me she had a cot at home, and that I might sleep there: so that I was compelled to reward their kindness by an acceptance of their offer. My closet at this time in which I kept my wardrobe was an old flour barrel, and this I conveyed one dark night to my school room.
Mr. W. W. Watson, and Mr. Henry Blue, who were then youths with myself, will no doubt recollect these occurrences, and testify to their truth. They are both, now, worthy and respectable citizens of Cincinnati.
The news of a school being about to commence, spread like wild fire, and when the children came to the house, inquiring for the master, so abashed was I that for a time I hesitated to say I am he. But this bashfulness soon passed away, and I commenced operations by drawing up and laying down a code of rules, by which my school was to be regulated.
The principal rule was, That there was to be no talking or whispering in school during school hours, which were from seven to ten o'clock, P. M. That this rule
applied to both old and young, regardless of merit or standing, and that any disobeying, or knowingly violating the rules laid down should be punished, by being turned out, regardless of the weather--if this appeared too hard, they had better withdraw, as their names should not be enrolled. I informed them, too, that I had been elected their teacher by a board of Trustees, that I knew but little, but what I did know, I was determined to teach to the best of my abilities, and that it was as much to their advantage as it was gain to me, to comply with the rules of the school. This brief code offended many, and the consequence was, that they left the school; but on informing their masters of the cause, so pleased were they, that they induced many gentlemen to send, who would not otherwise have done so, not knowing who or what I was. At length my duties commenced, and I soon gained the respect of my scholars to such a degree, that upon their representations, their masters authorized them to invite me to their houses on the Sabbaths, in order that they might see me. They did so--and when their masters became acquainted with me, they appeared surprised that a slave negro, should be so superior in learning to the free negroes, and declared that a person of my information should be immediately set free.
This was in the latter part of the year 1807, the same in which I had commenced my career as wood-chopper. But now, that I was installed as a school-master, my vanity was touched, and I began to consider myself above my old playmates; (O, the follies of youth!) and having the confidence of both my colored and white friends, among the latter of whom was a lady, whom I called "mother," from the kind treatment which I experienced at her hands; things went on right smoothly.
Whilst I was teaching, however, there came to me a young girl, who was a great favorite with her master, to learn to read. Her master would not permit her to keep company with colored folks, as he considered her much superior in grace and mental endowments, to the generality of her race, which, in fact, she really was. For me she soon formed an attachment, and from her representations of me to her master, he requested her to invite me to come and dine with her on the following Sabbath. I accordingly went, and so pleased were they with me, that Mr. Yaiser, (the master alluded to) took the trouble to inquire of my friends, if I was honest, as he felt disposed to become my friend.
About this time, my term ended, and as I had quit the wood-chopping business, I was at a loss what to engage in as a means of living. The inquiries of Mr. Yaizer, however, relative to my character, were answered satisfactorily, and he, being a tanner, and wishing to employ a person in whom he could trust, to attend markets and purchase hides, I was engaged. This business was generally performed before day, and delivered at his yard, he paying me a per centage on every hide delivered. My success at this was various; sometimes making as high as $2 50 per day. Here then, I felt again my indebtedness to the Almighty, for his merciful guardianship over me--for as soon as one business afforded me no longer the means of support; another was provided for me. In this way things progressed until 1809.
During all that at time I had not lost the hope of again seeing my parents; and so anxious was I to hear from them, that I inquired of every traveller with whom I met, if they were from the vicinity of Falmouth, Virginia. At last I met with a wagoner, and whilst inquiring from
whence he hailed, an old woman who was with him replied that she was from Falmouth. Here my mother had acted in the capacity of midwife, and I concluded that she must know something about her. Whilst revolving in my mind whether to ask her or not, the old lady inquired my name. I told her it was William, and that of my mother was Alcy--and that she belonged to Mr. George Ware, who lived at Bell-plains, Stafford county, Virginia. The old lady eyed me sharply for a few moments, and burst into tears, saying, that I was so much like my poor mother, that she would have known me any where, and informed me that she had just come from where my mother resided, and that she had charged her if she found her son any place in Kentucky, to give him her blessing, and write to her immediately. The old lady could not write,--consequently she got the overseer to write to my mother, the joyful news that the lost was found. I then applied to a friend to indict a letter for me, which I immediately endorsed and despatched to my poor, dear mother; to which, in a few months I received an answer, which filled my heart with unspeakable joy.
In the fall of 1809, I again went to Georgetown, where my old mistress still continued to reside. The young miss who was but two years of age, when I first left Georgetown, had now budded into womanhood, and was upon the eve of marriage. The reader will remember, that after the death of my master, the Court consigned me to her as her property, hence, as she was about taking to herself a husband, it was thought best that I should remain in Georgetown until the event took place; consequently I remained, living mostly at home. But here my pride was aroused--I had travelled considerably,
and had resided in large places, and I was illy contented to remain in so small a place as Georgetown; so after a short time, I again went into a rope-walk to work, and notwithstanding there was an experienced white man superintending the business, he could show me nothing that I did not already know; hence I soon became the foreman of the factory. From this time I was treated more as a white man than any thing else, as all were acquainted with my deportment whilst in Lexington; and should this Narrative ever meet the eye of any slaves who can read it, let them take my conduct towards my masters as an example. I can assure them that they will be treated with kindness, and rendered still more happy in the bondage in which Providence has seen fit to cast their lots. Nor did I confine myself exclusively to the rope-spinning business. Whilst I was in Lexington, I had learned to make a good article of blacking, and also a polish for morocco shoes of every color, so that I soon got more work of this kind, than my leisure hours would allow me to perform, from the good citizens of Georgetown.
But the day of my mistress's wedding at length came around, and I was sent for to attend. Previous to this, my old mistress had assured me, that it was her intention, as soon as her daughter became of age, to purchase me for herself, and give me a chance of buying my freedom. Now, that Miss Polly was of age, and about to be married, I considered her promise as about to take effect, and looked forward with pleasure to the brief space of time which was to intervene, and to the day, when I could stand forth as a man, and say to the world, "I AM FREE," "free as the air which scales our hills--or as the streams which leap our rocks." But disappointment is
the lot of frail humanity; and on the day of the wedding, all my high hopes of freedom were blasted. Whilst the wedding party were at the table, I unconsciously called the Preacher, who had performed the marriage ceremony, "Old Massa." He demanded of me why I did so; and I informed him, that it was because I had lived in the town with his son-in-law, Mr. Hawkins. He said that he had never seen me there to his recollection, but that he had seen me somewhere else. He then asked my mistress if she had raised me; to which she answered that she had, from the time I was seven years of age. He next inquired of me if I knew where my parents lived, and when I told him, he observed that he had been in search of me for ten years, having known my old master, at whose house he had frequently met with my mother; and that he had at her request sought for me in every gang of boys that he had seen in Kentucky--for when he was in Virginia, he saw my mother, who was well, but much distressed on my account, thinking that when I was taken away, I was too young to be raised, and feared that she would never again have the pleasure of beholding her long lost son. He told her that if he ever found me, he would purchase me, and when I grew up, he would send me to see her. He appeared to be surprised, that he had not before recognized me, as the resemblance to my mother was very striking--so much so, that he assured me he would have known me if he had met me in any State in the Union. In a short time, too, he inquired of my mistress if she would sell me, who informed him that I was the property of her daughter--that I would have to be appraised, and that she intended purchasing me herself if she could, for the purpose of setting me FREE, and asked me how I would like to be a
free man, to which I replied, with tears in my eyes--"very much, mistress, God bless you!"
The gentleman then remarked that Mr. Smith, the individual who had married Miss Polly, lived upon his place, and that he had expressed a desire to own it--and that if he was still of the same notion, he would endeavor to give him a trade. Mr. Smith, however, observed that I was spoiled, and that he would be under the necessity of bringing my high notions down a few "button holes," which remark grieved me so much, that I told my old mistress that I would not live with him any length of time. This news seemed to distress her to such a degree that I said no more.
In a short time the day came for the giving up of the estate, and Mr. Smith, knowing my determination of not living with him, set me up for sale to the highest bidder. There were present six gentlemen, who were anxious to purchase me, and I bid fair to command a high price--a price as infamous to the dealer in human flesh, as the thirty pieces of silver, which bought the Son of God, and yielded him up to an ignominious death. Like an ox brought to the shambles for the scrutiny of butchers, I stood before that flesh-buying crowd, awaiting the last stroke of the hammer--the last tone of the crier's voice, which was to consign me to a strange master, and perhaps a stranger land. Can such deeds prosper? Can the Shylock who deals in human flesh, the flesh and blood of his brethren and his sisters, expect to atone for the dark crimes which he is daily committing? Can Salvation reach his guilty soul with the shriek of the murdered slave ringing in his ears, and the phantoms of departed innocence, hovering about his guilty head? The Lord's will be done.
Among the individuals anxious to purchase, me, were Major Carneal, who is now residing in the city of Cincinnati, a worthy and respected citizen; Mr. Robert Wickliffe; Thomas W. Hawkins; Mr. Turner Haden and Governor Garrard, the gentleman whom I met with at my young mistress's wedding, and who became my purchaser. He, however, still kept me at work for Mr. Hawkins, to whom he afterwards transferred me, with this understanding:--that at the expiration of five years I was to be set free, and furnished as a freedom gift with a horse, saddle and bridle, and a suit of clothes, worth at least $100, to carry me home to Virginia. Here, then was another prospect of freedom, and my mind was filled with naught else than making money to bear my expenses home. But all earthly calculations, unless predicated upon the word of God, are but vanity and vexation of spirit. I was doomed again to be disappoinned; for, in 1811, Mr. H. became bankrupt, and was compelled to part with his property and me, in order to extricate himself from his difficulties. The purchaser was his brother James, who did not act so kindly toward me as was my desire, and my general usage theretofore.
As some of my readers may doubt the events above mentioned. I would refer them to Mr. Carneal, who gave way to Governor Garrard, through motives of delicacy, at the same time stating, that if I chose HIM, he would take me immediately to Cincinnati, where I would be free as soon as I touched the shores of Ohio. But the Spirit commanded me to make no choice--that it would bring me out of my trials unscathed, and I became the property of Governor Garrard. For Mr. Carneal, however, I have ever entertained the greatest kindness and gratitude, for
his sympathy to me on that occasion. May God bless and protect him through life.
Here, then, another crisis was before me. The foreman of the factory, and I, having served our time in the same place, were upon such intimate terms, that he refused to punish me for any of my youthful misdemeanors, hence it was thought advisable to remove me from his supervision. Previous to this, however, I had a long spell of sickness, during which, many thought that I was poisoned; but through God's Divine mercy, at the expiration of six months, I was restored to health. My physician was Dr. W. H. Richardson, of Lexington.--From the rope-walk I was sent immediately to Frankfort, to act in the capacity of house-waiter. But--I have inadvertently got ahead of my Narrative, and with your permission, kind reader, will return, and travel back with you again.
Mr. James Hawkins, was, at the time of purchasing me, engaged to be married to a young lady by the name of Miss Chew, who resided in Jefferson county, near Louisville, and as he desired to visit his intended bride, in a style consistent with that of wealth and aristocracy; and as I had now become the possessor of a horse, saddle and bridle, his conclusion was, that I would be an indispensable appendage, in the capacity of waiter to him, on his journey. This was what I desired, as I wished again to be travelling; therefore, I embraced the opportunity, and having arrived at the top of my trade, I bade farewell for a season, to the rope-walk. Shortly after I accompanied my master, and staying about a month, we returned. On our return, it was found that they could get along without me in the rope-making department, although at first they had conceived it to be a
matter of impossibility; consequently I accompanied my master on a journey to Frankfort, at which place he left me. I was now somewhat at the a loss to know what to do, to earn some money, for strange as it may seem, after so many disappointments, I had not lost the hope of becoming at some period, a FREE man. But Providence again pointed out the path in which I was to tread. I performed so miserably in the house that there was much fault found with me, which induced them to desire me to work out of doors; but as I had never worked in the sun, I could not stand it. This was, however, nothing more than contrariness, as I had my mind so fixed on Freedom, that I was not willing to do ANY THING. I was willing, nevertheless, to do one thing, i. e. to hire my own time, and to pay for it at the rate of $10 per month; but this was refused, and I was sent back to the factory to work. Here I did so badly, that they at last agreed to receive the $10, and permit me to have the use of my time. I had at this time $60 in money, deposited in the store of Mr. McGowan, and a horse worth $60. After I left the rope factory, I commenced cleaning clothes, boots, shoes, &c., for such gentlemen as gave me employment; and at nights I was employed at all the parties to play the tamborine--running errands--carrying messages, &c. My friends now advised me to learn to shave, and I concluded that I had better undertake it.
In the Spring of 1811, I packed up, and went back to Frankfort. I left my horse with a friend of mine with directions to sell him, and after paying himself out of the proceeds for his trouble, to remit me the balance wherewith to pay my hire. I then went to the Barber shop of Mr. John S. Gowans, who had formed a friendship for me during my boyhood, when acting in the capacity of a
fish-monger, and who felt disposed to aid me all in his power. Hearing that I had come again to Frankfort, he held out the hand of fellowship to me, and that friendship has left its indelible mark upon my heart which can never be erased, until I meet him again in the Land of Spirits, whither he has long since departed.
After telling my friend my circumstances, and my desires, I asked if he would undertake to learn me the trade. After a long parley, during which he gave me little encouragement, he requested me to call again after breakfast, and he would give me a final answer. I did so, and he told me to watch him, whilst he was shaving some of his customers. This request I rigidly obeyed, as also his manoeuvres in cutting hair. After he had finished, he sat down by my side, and conversing long and candidly with me, he gave me a pair of razors to dress. I retired, and in a short time returned, showing him the one on which I had been working. He examined it carefully, and saying that it was as well done as he could do it himself, requested me to undertake the other. I did so, and and having finished it, I again met with a similar praise. The apprentices were rather taken a back, for at first, they had considered it a capital joke, that a factory boy should presume to learn the Tonsorial art; but who, now, no doubt concluded, with Sam Patch, that "some things can be done as well as others." He then advised me to get a cup and box, and having given me a pair of razors and a hone, he told me to take them, with a clean towel, and go the rounds of the town every morning, shaving as many as I could for half price, and that in the course of a few weeks, I would be able to set up shop for myself. Before parting with him, to enter upon the duties of my new occupation, I asked him what he charged for
the kindness he had shown me, and the advice and instruction which he had given me? His reply was, "the only recompense I ask, is, that if you ever see any of my children, or grand-children in need, you will aid them as well as you can." To this I gratefully assented.
It was now nearly night; but elated with the prospects before me, I determined to go to Georgetown, and commence business, consequently I started, and reached that place about midnight.
The next morning I visited the inn, then kept by Mr. Leonard George, armed with the implements of my new vocation, and as good luck would have it, there happened to be a stranger present, who had but a few minutes before, been inquiring for a barber, which, previous to my debut, was an article the Georgetownians did not possess. As soon as he saw me enter, he took his seat, and called for a "shave." Now, the idea of "Billy Hayden" turning barber, was a fruitful theme of amusement for many of my friends, who stood around, laughing in their sleeves, and thinking, no doubt, that the whole affair would end as an amusing hoax, at the stranger's expense.
Nothing daunted, however, I put my razors in order; and placing my napkin under the stranger's chin, I proceeded to the task of "mowing" off his beard, as confidently as if I was an old and experienced hand at the business. All were surprised,--and the gentleman, when I had finished, acknowledged that he had never received a more "comfortable shave" in his life. But when he was informed that his face was the first that I had ever touched, he appeared utterly astonished, and predicted for me a high standing in my vocation.
For some time I continued to follow the occupation of "street barber" for the Georgetownians,--and at the end
of the first month, was much gratified to find that I had made $8, clear of my expenses. At the end of two months, my friends proposed to build me a shop, if I could, by any means, procure a lot. I immediately spoke to Mr. Hawkins, (my master) who consented to lease me a lot, and receive his pay therefor, as fast as I made it at my occupation. Not wishing to tax my friends, too, Mr. Hawkins subsequently agreed to build me a shop, which he did.
I had at this time, a female friend, whom I proposed to hire from her owners, in order that we might live together, and make money much faster than I could alone. This I accomplished--and an opportunity for speculation soon presented itself. There was a room underneath the Court House, which the jailor agreed to let us have, if we would clean it out. We accordingly did so, and stocking it with cakes, candies, mellons, nuts, &c., we embarked in another business, connected with my Tonsorial practice, and the consequence was, that we were soon enabled to lay by a considerable sum of money.
But my good fortune stopped not here. Shortly after we embarked in the cake-selling line, Mr. Job Stephenson had a lottery, at which a lot of saddlery was to be disposed of. After much persuasion, I was induced to take a ticket, and the result was, that I drew a saddle, worth $30. I now began to think myself a really fortunate man. My next chance of speculation, was a new assortment of confectionaries, and as I had a great many acquaintances in Lexington, and bearing a good character for honesty and industry, I was enabled, through their influence, to dray to any amount that I saw fit. Again I met with tolerable success.
Whilst trading in Lexington, however, I became acquainted
with an old man of color, known by the name of "Daniel," who belonged to Mr. Wickliffe. For this person I formed a strong attachment, for which I could never account; save, that I had a presentiment that at some future time, he would prove of incalculable service to me. I was, therefore, from this presentiment, induced to give the old man many small sums of money--sometimes a half, and sometimes a dollar. At this act of generosity, as he called it, he was greatly surprised, and often asked me the meaning thereof--in reply to which, I invariably told him that I foresaw, that at some not far distant time, he was destined to asssist me to a very great extent.
Thus things went on swimmingly until 1812--when a gentleman, living near Cynthiana, brought upon the tapis another lottery. At this period, a friend of mine, who always felt disposed to assist me in my exertions to prosper in the world, advised me to take a ticket--agreeing to pay for it himself, in case Fortune favored me not. With this inducement before me, I was, after some considerable qualms of conscience, prevailed on again to try my luck. This time I drew a horse and gig, which were valued at $500. Now, thought I, the very acme of happiness is mine--as I have now the means of making a grand display, in returning to my home again in Virginia.
After having been purchased by Governor Garrard, in 1810, and transferred by him to Thomas W. Hawkins, with the proviso of being set free in 1815, and who, by a sham sale, when he became bankrupt, made me over to his brother James, I almost began to despair of ever being set free. But the same supernatural Spirit, kept me still in mind of the Divine mercy of God, and promised
me that the day of my liberation was not far distant. The idea of my still remaining in bondage, however, I could not shake off, and as I had no writings to the effect that I was to obtain my freedom in 1815, I concluded to speak of the matter to Mr. Hawkins, which I accordingly did, but who gave me no definite answer: hence, I could not arrive at any conclusion as to his intentions with me, but being headstrong in my opinion, I entertained the notion that they still had the idea of keeping me in bondage. Whether I was right or wrong let the sequel tell. However, permit me to assure you I felt within me, a certain something which seemed to intimate to me that Governor Garrard's promise would one day, if not that specified, be brought about. Various were the advises given me by my friends, when the eventful year of freedom arrived, relative to the course I had better pursue. Many advised me to go to my master, and demand my papers, but this I positively refused, knowing Governor G. as a man of integrity and honor, and determined to await the result, and see if his promise would pass by unheeded. I was aware too, if it did, the fault would not rest with him, but with the fickleness which all earthly things are subjected to. Under this impression, I waited until Christmas, but no one came to hold out the papers, which were to announce me to the world, as a free man, although I previously expected that Captain William Garrard, a son of the Governor's, would be the individual, who would bear to me the happy tidings of Freedom's air fanning my youthful cheek. Captain G. too, was one of the signers of the Bill of Sale to Mr. Hawkins, from his father, who had exacted not only the word, but the written obligation of Mr. Hawkins to free me in 1815. I soon discovered that all was not right, as when I had met
Capt. G. he generally contrived to pass me with downcast eyes. I knew him to be an honorable man; what then could be the reason? I could divine nothing else, than that Mr. Hawkins was so embarrassed, that he could not consistently with his own interest fulfil the intent of his written obligation. Acting under this impression, I visited Governor G. and inquired of him, if Mr. H. designed fulfilling the promises towards me which he had made. The old man appeared grieved, and after a few moments, with his eyes suffused with tears, he broke the sad intelligence of disappointment to me, telling me that Mr. Hawkins was sorely in debt, and that unless I was able to purchase myself, he feared that I must still remain in the same bondage which had ground me down for many years previous--he told me his sorrow at the turn affairs had taken was almost too heavy to be borne--that he always designed to make me a free man, and now that his benevolent purposes had been nipped in the bud, he could say no more, than the Almighty Ruler's will be done! "But, William," he continued, "I will be a friend to you, and aid you as far as I possibly can." So great, however was Mr. Hawkin's embarrassments, that it became necessary for me to be again sold, and Mr. Edward Chew, the brother-in-law of Mr. James Hawkins, being on a visit to him at the time, they insisted on him purchasing me, and conveying me to Bayou Sara, the place where he resided. But this scheme was all blown through, as when the proposals were made to me by Mr. Chew, I informed him I would not go, as I was a free man, nor would I consent any longer to pay the $10 per month for the use of my time, as it was just as consistent to exact $10 per month from any FREE negro in the country, for the use of HIS time, as to exact it from
ME. I was now FREE, and as a free man had no hesitation in speaking my mind freely. The cause of my thus speaking so confidently, was the fact of having appointed with the consent and advice of Capt. Garrard, Mr. Timberlake as my guardian, consequently when Mr. Chew called for me, and Mr. Mitchell was directed to get me and sell me for the debt of Mr. Hawkins, I immediately referred them to Mr. Timberlake, who referred them to Captain William Garrard, who informed them that they dare not touch me, as I was within a short space of being free, by the deed of transfer from his father to Mr. Hawkins, to which he was one of the signers. This was too much for them, and they concluded to tack about, and take a new track, which was that of persuasion. But this with me was equally unsuccessful, so that they abandoned all further efforts, and I was left to dream on of the prospects of my freedom.
And now, gentle reader, permit me to indulge in a few moral reflections ere I proceed with my Narrative. The Almighty still had his guardian eye over me--he still held me within the hollow of his hand--blessing and leading unscathed--through the world's wickedness and trials the poor, friendless slave. He poured the oil of compassion into the benevolent heart of my old friend Governor G.--His Divine wisdom and goodness prompted the actions of Captain G. to be those of honor and integrity--he raised up a friend for me in Mr. Timberlake--and passing on through the various gradations of time, he brought me forth, and stood me before the world, a man, free as the first Adam, when enjoying the sweets of Paradise. Can it be wondered then, that his humble and sorrowing creature blesses his ever adorable name for all the goodness that he has shown him--that
he looks back to his days of bondage with disgust--that he blesses the names of his many friends, friends who stood by him in his hours of need, and lent a helping hand when the dark clouds of adversity loomed heavy and darkly in the horizon of his after life? O, no! He foresaw the storms which were to arise--he knew the troubles, the trials, and the vexations he was to encounter, and averting all, wrestling with the demon spirit of the slave-dealer, he braved the worst and came forth, singing hyms of deliverance to himself, and praise and thanksgiving to God, and his benefactors. But a boundless futurity is yet spread before him--the last act in the drama of life will soon be enacted,--the trump of the Archangel will soon summon all before the tribunal of God, where each deed must be atoned for--where the righteous will find rest, and the weary cease from sorrowing. There we shall all meet--there, face to face we will be confronted before a holy and a just Judge, and as I hope for happiness, I will deal justly with all whose destiny has been linked with mine on earth. May the friends of whom I have spoken above, be blessed; may they enjoy rest on earth, and eternal happiness hereafter, is the humble prayer of the poor being, who once endured with honesty and meekness their servile bondage. God grant his prayer may be answered.
Thus things went on until the year 1817, when Mr. Hawkins, seeing that he was unable to sell me, was prompted to connive with Mr. Thomas Phillips, a slave-dealer, with the understanding that if he could induce me to sell myself to him, he would let him have me for $650. Mr. H. was aware, that if this arrangement could be made, that I would be removed to a strange place, where none knew me, and that probably I would
soon forget the promises made of setting me free. But the Spirit of the Lord was working within me, and although for the purpose of extricating Mr. Hawkins from his embarrassments, I agreed to go with Phillips, yet I felt assured that when I chose to claim my freedom, I was privileged to go where I pleased. I accordingly agreed to go, and Philips despatched me to Mr. Hawkins with a note, which proved to be the Bill of Sale, containing a check for the required sum. When I reached Frankfort, I met Mr. Hawkins, walking arm-in-arm with Mr. John Marshall, in the market place. I called him to one side, and gave him the note--he opened it and read it, and stepping into Mr. Taylor's with me, without asking me a question, save who he was to sign the Bill in favor of, drew up the article which was to sever us forever. I told him to Mr. Philips, with whom I had concluded to go South. After taking farewell of him, I returned to Philips, downcast for the tears which many of my friends indulged in on my departure.
With this man I remained until the year 1824, when I purchased myself. Of my travels with Mr. Philips and my various adventures I will speak hereafter. In 1824 I became my own master, however, and as it was Court week in Paris, I made immediate application for a record of the same upon the archives of the Court. A gentlemen proposed the matter to the Court, when the two associate Judges cried out "no! no! we cannot be bothered with such records." But James Garrard, the presiding Judge, after a few moments, commanded the constable to make room, and bring the poor, friendless slave before them. This was accordingly done, and I was ushered into the presence of the Judges before a
large concourse of my fellow citizens. After eyeing me for a few moments, Judge G. asked me who I was?
"Why, Massa James," said I, "do you not know me--Billy Haden."
"Why, Billy Haden," replied he, "and is this you? Poor boy, you are at last free; well I am really glad," and bursting into a flood of tears, he ordered the Clerk to record my freedom.
Here the two associates again demurred, asking who would be security that I would not come on the town for support. "I will!" responded Judge G.; "not only security that he becomes not a pauper, but security, in the face of the whole County and State for all he does or says." The audience were astonished--the associates shrunk back into their insignificance, and I was permitted to leave the Court room filled to overflowing with the thoughts of my freedom, and my eyes wet with tears at the recollection of the scene through which I had just passed.
The King and Peasant are to Him the same;
His forming hand made in His image, all,
Nor placed distinction in an empty name,
Why then should man spurn on his fellow man,
When Heaven's pure light is given unto all?
Why should he wield a power o'er the mind,
And worse than slave, command his fellow fall?
All's free! By Heaven's pure laws we live,
Bound to obey no man in slavery;
The mind unshackled, lives for God alone,
Brothers in flesh--heirs of Eternity!
Bow then the knee to Him who rules the world,
Thy God, thy maker, and thy friend in death--
Place all thy thoughts on His atoning power,
And sing His praises with thy latest breath,
Now, reader, what but the goodness and the justice of God could have induced that high-minded Judge, clad in the ermine of his office, to burst into tears at the sight of a poor, friendless negro. Yes, it was this alone; he was a signer of the deed of transfer to Mr. Hawkins, and feeling almost as much as myself the wrongs which I had suffered, the Lord smote his heart, and caused his benevolence and uprightness to see that justice was done me, although at the eleventh hour. God's name be praised.
And now to return to the intervening epochs of my Narrative, from which I have digressed, in order to show you, that although a slave, I had a great many friends, and a greater than earthly friend, the Lord God of hosts to aid and uphold me.
After I had departed to meet Mr. Hawkins, Philips seemed to be somewhat alarmed with the fear that I would not again return; and he knew full well that the safety of his money depended solely upon my honesty. But I returned to him at the specified time, and giving up my business to my partner, Carter Lightfoot, prepared myself to become the waiting man of Mr. Philips. The only duties he required of me, however, was to call upon him, and shave him daily until we started. This I performed faithfully and much to his satisfaction. In October of 1812, we commenced our voyage, and I was made to steer the boat, and in a short time was considered a good steersman. Our passage went on smoothly until we arrived at Natchez, when Stone desired to take the management of the boat from me. In this, however, he was thwarted by Philips, to whom I considered that I justly and legally belonged. This opposition so irritated Stone, that he determined to be avenged on me. To
accomplish this, he proceeded up in the town, and sold me to an individual, named Whitehead. Of this proceeding, Philips knew nothing, until Mr. Whitehead came to the boat to demand the property purchased from Mr. Stone. My master was surprised, and assured Mr. Whitehead that Stone had no authority over me, and as his property, he would never permit of my leaving the boat, without his explicit and entire consent. The consequence of this assertion, was a "flare up" between my master and Stone--the latter insisting that I belonged to the firm, the money of the firm having been used in purchasing me. Philips, however, contended that I was exclusively his own--that I had never been entered upon the books of the firm--and that the firm could never recognize the individual property of any member belonging to it. I was a hearer of all that passed--having retired to the back part of the boat, where lying down on the floor, I feigned to be asleep. The dispute ran so high, that for some time I remained undiscovered; but at length Stone spying me, and thinking that I was only "playing possum," (as he termed it) approached me, and putting his foot upon my head, in no very tender manner, shook me considerably. The only answer elicited, however, was a few confused murmurs, as if disturbed in my slumbers; and a few inward chuckles at the success of my ruse. He finally turned from me, with an oath,--and after some further altercation with Philips, they affected a reconciliation--I remaining, as I had previously, in the possession of Philips.
In a few days, having purchased a new boat, we left Natchez, and embarked for Bayou Sara, where we remained for two months. At this place, they continued to dispose of a number of their cargo of slaves, and
hastening thence to Palaquemine, the balance were easily sold. On the road, however, we staid some time at St. Martinsville, where Philips was daily receiving letters from his partners in business. These he would generally leave open, unconscious of my ability to read English manuscript,--hence I was duly advised of all his proceedings by this covert means.
In the traffic of human flesh, their luck appeared to be good--so good, that they determined to return to Virginia, in order to purchase a new cargo,
The first verbal knowledge of this that I received from Philips, was revealed to me whilst in his room. He then asked me, how I would like to go with him to Virginia. Although I was aware that he had a notion of selling me, yet the proposition struck upon the long agitated chord of my heart, and vibrated with ecstacy throughout my whole system. Fancy portrayed to me in her most vivid colors, my long lost mother--the joyful greeting of maternal and filial affection--the checquered scenes of my infancy--the salutations of my playmates, and the blissful recollections of my long deserted home. It was a consummation devoutly to be wished for--and telling Mr. Philips that his will was my pleasure, I set about preparing for our journey. The reason, however, of my ready acquiescence to his proposal, independent of my own anxious wishes of beholding again my mother, was, a determination to ascertain all their intentions with regard to me, and this I expected to accomplish by a care-devil disposition as to what they did with me or mine--and strictly following this line of conduct, I proved successful. Philips now thought that he could dispose of me at any moment he deemed it convenient, and consequently concluded to take me with him for another trip,
at least. But this priviledge on my part, was purchased rather than received as a bonus, from him; as I was compelled to furnish my own clothes. But even to this extortion I consented; the more easily to further my designs, as the idea of my remaining in bondage all my days, never entered my mind.
Whilst we were in Bayou Sana, I made considerable progress in learning to speak the French language. This however, I kept a secret, as I knew if the fact was known that no Frenchman would purchase me, thinking that their secrets would be endangered by my knowledge. During the winter that I had been with Mr. Philips, I had managed to save upwards of $75. This amount I gave to him, and took his receipt for the same, at six per cent interest. Thence we embarked for home, where we arrived on the first of June.
We had not been long at home, however, ere another snare was set to entrap me. I have before stated that Castleman was anxious to secure me; and for this purpose, he came down to Philips. He appeared very glad to see me; but the man was known to me, and I was aware that the joy which he exhibited, was more like the joy the wolf feels when pouncing upon a lamb, than any emotions of the better qualities of the heart. He knew, too, that I would not live with him, from my oft repeated assertions to that effect. How, then, to bring about this object, he knew not, until Avarice, Selfishness and Villany, pointed out the road--and if ever fiend had the heart to perform a diabolical action, Castleman was that one. For the purpose of accomplishing his object, Philips, over whom he seemed to exercise a strange authority, for reasons best known I presume to themselves was to take me to Georgia, and after showing me the
cruel treatment of the overseers to the field negroes, he supposed by threatening to sell me to one of these, that I would be willing to abide the worst, and become the property of Mr. Castleman. But this was ineffectual. My Spiritual guide protected me; and even in the face of these galling tortures, I remained obstinate in my refusal--and informed him I did not wish to return. This was to him a matter of extreme surprise, so much so, that he gazed confusedly on me for some time, and silence seemed to have sealed his tongue. Castleman, too, seemed vexed, and with an oath informed Philips that he might keep me, and take me back and sell me.
As soon, then, as we were recruited, we started for Virginia. But previous to this, I wrote to my mother, that I expected to see her in June, and as I would have but a short time to stay, to endeavor by all means to be at home. On our journey we passed through Chillicothe, Ohio. Here, there was a strict watch kept over my actions, lest I should run away, knowing that I was in a free State; but I appeared to be ignorant of the fact, and much relieved of their suspense, I was permitted to wander where I pleased, unmolested. On leaving, we took what is generally known as "THE OLD TRACE," which had not been travelled for some time. This was thickly covered with timber, the principal part of which was young hickories. In passing through this, I had inadvertently fallen into a moody state, and was holding sweet communion with my Spiritual agent. My master, on discovering this, asked me what I was thinking about. Unwilling that he should know the train of my thoughts, I replied, pointing to the young hickories:
"What a folly, if this land were occupied by slaveholders, for a manufacturer of COW-HIDES, to engage in
business. Nature seems to have supplied whips for the slave's backs, from the thickness of an ox-goad, to the delicate riding-switch of a boarding-school miss."
This reply brought forth, as I anticipated, a general round of laughter, and became the theme of merriment and conversation for many a day afterward. In fact, in passing a copse of small timber ever afterwards, they would recur to the subject, and ask me if that was in my opinion, another of Nature's cow-hide manufactories.
But our course soon brought us to Winchester, Virginia, where we put up at the house of Mr. Van Horn. It was at this house that all the Georgian slave-dealers put up, and here were informed that it was worse than useless for us to go to Falmouth, (where my mother resided) as there were then more traders in that place than could find employment. Hence, it was concluded that we should go to Baltimore, via Harper's Ferry, per stage. On arriving at this conclusion, I was despatched onward with the horses, to await their arrival at the Ferry. I was dressed in the top of fashion, and having a spanking pair of horses in my possession, I concluded to go to Bunker Hill, a place I had often heard of, and longed to see. On the road I was an object of universal remark. The whites seemed surprised, and at a loss to know what I was; and those of my own color, paid due deference to their superior, whenever I passed them. At Bunker Hill, I staid but a short time--long enough only to bate my horses and eat my noon-day meal; when I proceeded on to Baltimore. Previous to this however, I had met my master at the Ferry, and as it was his intention to stay a few days in Fredericktown, I was despatched on to Baltimore alone. Whilst pursuing this journey, however, I was instructed not to let any one know either
who or what I was, nor yet the business of my master. These instructions I faithfully fulfilled, and when interrogated by any, curious to know Mr. Philips' business, I replied to them invariably in French, hence the attempt to ascertain, was generally abandoned as fruitless. This astonished many. The richness of my clothes; the span of horses in my possession, and the fact of a colored man speaking the French language, seemed to them as a new era of things under the sun; and I was treated with a civility, seldom extended to the colored race in the slaveholding states. My course pleased Philips very much; and induced him to extend to me many little privileges which heretofore he had withheld from me. But Jealousy was one great ingredient in the composition of his nature and although, my knowledge of the French, was pleasing to him in our travels through the NORTH, yet it was not agreeable, but filled him with alarm when I indulged in it in the SOUTH--especially among the French population. It ever seemed to him, as if I was recounting his many misdemeanors, and was projecting a scheme to his disadvantage. Of this, however, he need not have feared. I had been informed by my Spiritual counsellor that my freedom was as certain as that the heavens were above me; but that the time must be in accordance with its wishes. All attempts, therefore, to thwart the Spirit, would have had a tendency to my detriment--and well satisfied, I awaited patiently the dawning morn of my deliverance.
When I arrived at Baltimore--which I did some few days before my master, I wrote to my mother to come on to that place, and I would pay her expenses. And here permit me, gentle reader to digress from the regular train of my Narrative to indulge in a few brief emotions of tilial affection.
There is perhaps no feeling in the bosom of a child, which is more strong and binding, even unto death, than the feeling of love for his mother. 'Tis the love which Heaven first implanted in the bosom of man, save that which exists with the husband and wife. But the love of a son seems, even then, to have been in the eyes of God, of a more binding nature, as it was through His only Son that he exhibited its strength to the world, in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Is it any wonder, then, that I, a poor colored creature, could fail to feel the influence of love for a parent, which was even made an example upon Earth by His master Christ. O, how I longed for the arrival of my poor mother--her whom the galling chains of bondage still bound to a master's servile will--her, whom I almost adored and worshipped--who had given me life,--and nourished me through infancy, clad and upheld me, and taught me to place confidence in the Supreme power of God; and whom I felt--aye, knew, must one day be liberated by this hand, and clasped as a mother--a slave, freed from bondage, to the bosom of a long lost son. Every hour seemed an age--every day an eternity, until I should be acquainted with the news of her arrival. My mind was racked with intense anguish--my heart throbbed violently, and I very often found my cheeks bathed with tears, emanating from the vast solicitude which I felt; yea, deeply felt, on account of her whom, by the laws of nature and God, I was called upon to term--mother. The feelings of a child can be but poorly appreciated towards parents, until he is torn rudely from their protecting arms, and consigned to waste his youth and manhood in exile from their presence. Such was my case, and my mother I had not seen since the days of my infancy. O, how I yearned once more to behold her--to hold her to my bosom and bathe her sorrows in the tears of filial affection. Yearned to gaze into the tenderness of her eyes, and to exclaim with the poet:
"A mother's tenderness I see,--
It binds me ever unto, thee--
We meet again--my truant heart,
Proclaims we ne'er again will part."--
But the time was fast approaching, and I felt happy in the mere thought of the anticipated joy held out to me.
At length the appointed day came, and with it the object of my dearest solicitude. But still I was doomed not immediately to be permitted to clasp her to my bosom. From infancy we had never met,--and there was little possibility of our knowing each other when confronted. However, the anxiety was soon satisified, as one day I was walking near the house where my master had put up, and my attention was attracted by the sounds of an elderly colored lady, in conversation with the landlord. She said, "my dear son has written to me to meet him at this place. I have travelled a long way to enjoy this extreme pleasure, but the Fates have doomed me to disappointment." Her grief seemed, too, as almost insupportable; as she asserted, that in case of her not finding her son, she knew not what to do--as she had expended the small trifle she could command, to bear her expenses to the place, and would be without the means of getting again to her home. The kind hearted landlord, however, in order to cheer her spirits bade her take courage, and not to give way to her feelings in such an unmatronly manner; assuring her at the same time, that if her son could not be found, he would advance her the means of returning to the home of her master, in Falmouth. Little did I think that the voice of distress which I had heard, emanated from the fond being I was by the laws of nature compelled to call,--my mother! Little, indeed, did the son expect to hear the wailings of a parent; after having braved the dangers of her journey, to meet with him--or to see the tears of parental solicitude poured forth in the anticipated joy of his meeting. O, how fondly would I have soothed her sorrows,--how eagerly would I have wiped away the damp, dewey tears which trickled down her wrinkled cheeks, and fell in profusion on the floor at her feet. But--a
doubt seemed to have taken possession of my mind--Was it my mother? My heart seemed to tell me it was--yet, my eyes seemed to tell me, nay. Under this weight of uncertainty, I determined to await the result, and ascertain, if possible, the truth of my surmises, ere I made a definite approach. Of this I was soon informed. One of the maids belonging to the house, and to whom I had spoken previously, in a friendly manner, repeated to me, that an old colored lady had arrived there in search of her son, whom she had not seen since his infancy, and, as she had heard me say, that I expected my mother to be in Baltimore, in a few days, it was more than probable that this lady was the mother I spoke of. She then asked me my name, which I immediately gave her, and hearing which she replied, that she believed it to be the same mentioned by the woman. Upon this information, I determined to gain an interview with the old lady, and convince myself, if she were indeed my long lost mother. This I soon accomplished, as the landlord hesitated not to introduce me to her presence. She was a neat and tidy personage, dressed in the garb of a female overseer of the culinary and domestic duties of her mistress's household. She was past the prime of life, and bore traces upon her once fine features, of much sorrow and tribulation. The crowd which had gathered around her, gave way as I approached, and in a few moments I stood face to face with her who had given me birth, and whose heart now yearned to clasp a wayward son once more in her arms. My salutation was social and friendly; and was returned with a grace and warmness which rather astonished me. I entreated pardon for the apparently rude manner in which I had sought the conference; and begged that she would answer a stranger, the few questions he might ask her. She bowed her acquiescence.
I then asked her if she expected to find a son in this place?
She replied, she did; that he had written to her to meet him in Baltimore, and that he would bear her expenses back to her home--adding, that he had been taken from her at Bell-plains,
when he was but an infant, and carried to the South, from which she had never looked for his return. That she had long mourned him as dead, but that she felt assured, he still lived, from his letter to her, and that God had answered her prayers of again seeing him. That her heart throbbed to behold him again, and bathe his cheeks with a mother's tears of joy.
My soul filled with feelings which I could not master, as I listened to the poor woman's tale of woe,--which was so nearly my own,--and the tears trickled down my cheeks in copious floods. As soon as I could command myself, I asked her what name she bore at her master's house. She said--"ALCY SHELTON." The name fell upon my ears like a thunder-bolt. It was indeed my mother; and before her stood the son whom she so ardently sought to fold in a mother's embrace. O Heaven! how bounteous are all thy ways--how glorious are all their achievements, and how grateful should we, poor mortals, be, who have from thee, all our wants and wishes supplied, with tender and parental care. My heart filled with joy unspeakable--my tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of my mouth,--and I felt as if I stood in the presence of one, whom the grave had disgorged to fill my cup of joy to the brim. I gazed anxiously and fondly upon her! I longed to announce to her the end of her sufferings, and to tell her, that I, her son, would soon be instrumental in soothing her former anxieties and troubles, and exchanging her path for one of pleasantness and peace through the remaining years of her life. But I felt the task more easy to conceive than to execute; and I remained mute and thankful before the crowd, enjoying the sweet thoughts of a re-union with my mother. How long I remained in this delicious trance I know not; but I can remember that the sweet feelings which I then treasured, passed away, and I again assumed the character of an interrogator.
"My good woman," said I, "will you be so good as to answer me the few more queries, which I may propound to you?"
"With pleasure," returned she.
"And what name, madam, does your son bear?"
"William Hayden," replied she, "the name given him by his first master."
"Are you sure he lives in the South?"
"Yes,--it was there they bore him from me, and what would I not give--save the salvation of my soul,--to again gaze upon his features!"
"Then, madam, dry your tears--let your bosom no longer be racked with vague suspicions of his death--he lives, and now stands before you! I am William Hayden, your son! Mother again embrace your long lost boy!"
For some time the old lady remained with her eyes rivetted upon me, as if in the last stare of expiring nature, and wildly exclaiming, "IT IS! IT IS!" she flew to my arms, and bathed my cheeks with the tears of heart-felt joy. On releasing her from my embrace, she fell heavily to the floor, in a syncope--the excess of her emotions conquering the strength of nature, which had been severely tried during the whole course of my questioning. The inmates gathered her up, and conveyed her to my room, where they left her in my charge. All eyes were bathed in tears, and many of the boarders, who had now gathered in the house,--it being noon-day,--and witnessed the scene just mentioned, deeply sympathized with me, and offered me, congratulations upon my good fortune in again meeting with my parent. But there was none present, who felt the deep emotions which throbbed in my bosom. They were the feelings of the son for the parent--the strong ties which bind in consanguinity, the various members of the human family.--Before me lay the insensible form of her, who had given me life--hung over my cradle in infancy--consummated my every want--and soothed my every childish fear. She, it was, who taught my feeble steps to walk--and whose smiles partook of Heaven's goodness, as I lay in childish play upon her lap. She it was, who taught my infant tongue to lisp the word, mother,
and taught me the praise of an all Righteous God. Yes, it was her, who to my heart was dearer than all the wealth of Croesus, or Golconda; for whom I would have laid down my life willingly, and whose happiness it became me now to secure, by every possible means in my power. O, God, how I wished to see her revive, and bless her long lost son; but the long pent up feelings of her bosom was too great, and her syncope, arising from their discharge, proved to be of a long duration. But a son stood over her; and every restorative, his simple mind could call up, was resorted to, but of no avail. At that moment he would not have relinquished his charge, for the most towering height, ambition and human grandeur could invest him with.
O, how strong is the love which prompts the heart of the child, for the mother, to whom he owes all his hopes and fears! What strange and yet heart-felt emotions stir his every thought, when by the hand of cruelty he has been torn away, to waste many years of his glowing manhood in a distant clime, under the eye of a servile master, who recognizes him, not as his fellow man, but merely as goods and chattels. All the feelings of humanity are lost upon the slave-holder, when he contrasts his worldly importance--his increasing wealth and standing in society, with the poor slave--he, whose toils and privations are the very means of acquiring that wealth and standing--whose sinews and thews, are made to work as the beast of burthen, to amass that which is held as a sufficient basis, to found a distinction between his master and his fellow man. The former is looked upon as a man of rank--deified as a God--hosannahs sung at his every approach, and praises lavished upon him by the countless mass,--whilst the other is denied even the common necessaries of a life of poverty, and the title of a fellow man. And upon what authority, either human or divine, is this false basis established? Surely upon none. The same God who upholds the mighty, extends his parental protection over the humble--the same power that shields the kings of earth, wards off oppression from the subject--and the same Ruling Being,
who secures the life of the millionaire, protects the humble privileges and rights of the beggar. Hence, upon the doctrine of universal protection, the slave-holder, in forming such distinctions, perverts the will of God, and sets at defiance his most sacred mandates.
Again,--Upon the Protection and Equality of Human Ethics.
Nature, in her first principles, designed ALL TO BE EQUAL; she made no relative difference in any of her children, either white or black, and established no basis of distinction between them, save that which virtue, morality, integrity and uprightness of action, of themselves draw, as a natural line of demarkation. And he who, in the self wisdom of his heart, which bears the taint of vice at best, bases a distinction upon aught else, perverts her laws, and stamps infamy upon himself as a tyrant and a self willed wretch. Such are the feelings entertained by the slave-holder, towards his fellow beings, whose unfortunate lot it is to be placed within his power. How sweet, then, was the reflection that I had met with a mother; one who could sympathise with my misery, and whose sympathies were appreciated with filial affection by one she could hold to her bosom, and call by the endearing appellation of--son. God grant that those feelings may never leave this bosom, as I feel well assured, they will not;--they even at this moment burn with tenfold fervor. The will, and wisdom of God, I feel, will uphold me, and carry me safely through the trials and vexations of life, as He has hitherto done. His name be praised.
The syncope, into which my parent fell, lasted until the next morning; and yet, during all the previous night, I watched over her, and cheered myself with the consolation that reviving nature, would bring me back to a full enjoyment of the bliss which I had but merely tasted; and which I longed to drain to the very dregs. During the night, her syncope was disturbed by various visions, and her incoherent murmurings, though often indulged in, gave me but little hope of her mental faculties, on recovery. But the power of God was over her,--and when she finally
arose from my bed, she indulged in all the extravagant joy which a mother, re-united to her son, who to her, had been so long considered as dead, could well be conceived to indulge in. My heart was too full for utterance--and I verily believe, that if poor mortal was ever permitted to enjoy a foretaste of Heaven, God had so willed it that I should, in re-uniting with her whom I knew to be an affectionate mother.
My prayers were answered,--and how solemnly did I lift my hands to Heaven, and thank God, that I was yet to become his instrument in relieving the distresses of my parent--and elevating a human being, from the slough of bondage, to the blessings of freedom--that she might exclaim, with pride,
"Again, I assume the god-like attributes
Of man; and stand erect, in triumph;
Freed from the galling yoke of shame!
The child of Liberty and Heaven--
And he, my deliverer, is indeed--MY SON.
Shortly after the recovery of my mother, Mr. Philips, my master, entered the room in which we sat. I immediately introduced her to my master. The deep hypocrisy of this man was well known to me, and I was somewhat startled at his propositions to my mother. His features were wreathed in smiles;
"Yea, he could smile, and be a villain still."
and for the purpose, as he said, of accommodating the wishes of William, whom he professed to love for his honesty and integrity, he would take her with him to his home, and invest her with a house of her own, treating her well as long as life remained. But in this, he was doomed to be disappointed.--Whatever purposes he had conjured up, with regard to my mother. I knew not, but whatever they may have been, the interposition of Divine Providence placed itself between him and his object. To fulfil my promise with my mother, I found I had not sufficient change about my person; and as she was very anxious to return again to Falmouth, in accordance with her promise to her mistress, I felt bound to raise the required sum.
To pay her expenses home, was my agreement and for this purpose I was compelled to apply to Phillips, who held $75 of my money, at an interest of 6 per cent. I was anxious too, to get part of this money from him, on account of other things than merely paying the expenses of my parent; and consequently I visited him in his room. I was surprised, however, on making known my intentions to him, to see that he seemed to have objections in giving it to me; and, in order to accomplish his purpose more thoroughly, he endeavored, by all possible insinuations and persuasions, to induce me to believe that Alcy Shelton was not my mother; but that I had been imposed on, by a story trumped up to rob me of my money. This course partially grew out of his desire to keep my money still longer, and partially from the umbrage which he had taken that my mother, who was an excellent midwife, would not fall in with the terms which he had held out to her. Nothing was further from the wishes of my mother, or myself, than that she should go with him; yet, to mollify his feelings, she gave as a reason, that she would first have to return to Falmouth, before she could arrange it so as to take a journey to Kentucky. To back this I informed him that I must have $30 to bear her expenses. At first he hesitated, and finally refused to comply with my demand; telling me he had not the change, but would hand it to me in a few days. This, I felt fully convinced, was a mere "come off;" yet what was to be done. My mother remained with me for the time specified, when I again asked him for the amount. He did not much like the idea; but fearing, if he refused, that I might leave him, he at length reluctantly gave it to me. I then asked privilege of him, to see my mother a few miles on her way, which privilege he granted, with strict injunctions not to travel far with her; to which I, as a matter of course, consented. We then started, both in good spirits, I at the thoughts of having once more seen her, whom I had never again expected to see; and she, feeling that she could now die happy, as God had permitted her again to behold her son, and being happy in a knowledge of his filial affection.
We had not left town far, however, when on looking back, I discovered my master following our steps. His suspicions, I suppose, were aroused, and as a valuable body servant, he felt illy at ease, lest I should escape. Of this, I had not the least intention. The hour of my deliverance had not yet come; and my spiritual adviser warned me to await patiently its approach; consequently, having gone with her some few miles, I parted with her--and sorrowful indeed was that parting. Those alone who have parted from some loved object, can appreciate the misery which a heart feels, when about to sever from some dear one, whom you may never more see. The tears which bathed the cheeks of both, told too plainly the feelings which racked the bosom, as the farewell words still lingered on the tongue.
There is a deep, dread silence racks the heart
Of him who from a new-born joy must part;
There is a feeling none can plainly tell,
That springs from that sad word, farewell
With this feeling I again turned towards Baltimore, praying Heaven that the hour of my deliverance would quickly come, that I might extend the wishes of a a son's heart towards a parent, who was still a bond woman. With these reflections I reached town, where I met my master, who was much pleased at my returning so promptly.
In a few days after the above occurrence, we had made our preparations for departure for the south. During the time we were stationed at Baltimore, the clerk of Mr. Phillips' had remained at Winchester. He had in his possession upwards of two thousand dollars, and with this money he was creating quite a bustle among the youth of Winchester; thereby squandering his master's property, and neglecting his master's business. In order to secure this, my master despatched me to Winchester, to claim and bring the money safely to him. Accordingly, saddling Phillips' horse, I departed on my errand. The horse which I rode was a fine spirited animal, and my own rigging being
that which would now-a-days, set off to much advantage the most tenacious dandy, or fop, we became quite an object of observation and surprise. The clerk I met with as expected, and having made known to him the object of my errand, he gave me the funds, though with much apparent chagrin. At first he stated he was on his way to Mr. Phillips, and would be the bearer of the money unto him. To this I objected, stating, that however much I felt for him, yet my instructions from my master were definite, and it was my duty to see them carried into effect--even to the very letter. The clerk was well acquainted with the disposition of Phillps, and therefore, however bitter might have been the morsel, he gulped it down, and consigned to my charge the balance of my master's money. The object of my errand here ceased; yet as Mr. Cunningham had often, during his career as a slave-trader's clerk, exhibited a domineering disposition, and conducted himself with rudeness to the colored portion of his fellow beings, I was determined to show him, that even a beggar, or the veriest creature of pity that crawls upon the face of the globe, is not void of the power of stinging to the quick, the would-be tyrant. I have before stated, that during his stay in Winchester, he figured pretty largely upon the borrowed plumes and means of his master; hence the only scourge I sought for his merited punishment, was to reduce to the blush of shame, one, who had he been possessed with the power, would have crushed those he even then seemed to think were beneath him. Consequently, having divested him of his authority, as Clerk over the funds of my master, and having secured them in a belt which I wore around my waist, I prepared to start on my journey back. The clerk was soon in readiness, and knowing the subserviency of the slaves, he thought he would yet, for a short time, proclaim his "consequence," and retain his high standing with the youth of Winchester. But he was doomed to disappointment. As soon as he had mounted, instead of riding behind, and bringing up the rear, as slaves are in the general habit of doing, I put spurs to my horse, and was
soon carricoling by his side--his equal--and in point of confidence, his superior. I pitied the poor wretch, as he cast a rueful glance upon me, and seemed to speak with his eyes, what his tongue refused to give utterance to--but I was determined whilst the opportunity lasted, of teaching him one lesson of humanity which should not for a while escape his memory; and that was, that Nature, having placed us all upon a scale of equality, I felt no disposition to lessen myself in the eyes of my fellow men, by appearing as the servant of a slave-dealer's clerk. The lesson, during our journey had a good effect, for being treated on the road as his equal, he felt wounded in spirits, and became morose and sullen. This, to me was triumph sufficient; and as an act of punishment to him, I still upheld my character of "consequence," until we arrived at the place I had appointed to meet my master, which was Cumberland; and had delivered to him, a strict account of my stewardship. I then very cordially bid the clerk "good day," and assumed the servility of a slave,--not to an earthly master--but to a spiritual one. How a reconciliation took place between Mr. Cunningham the clerk, and Mr. Phillips, I know not; but he still remained as our clerk on our downward voyage to the South. It might have been, that the disgrace attached to a slave-dealer's clerk, was of such a revolting nature, that no young man of talent and correct principle, would have accepted the situation, or it might have been, that his services in the south, he being a perfect tyrant in heart, were such, as a set of such reckless panderers in human flesh would most need. Whatever it might have been, he was re-instated in his office, which he maintained during the whole journey.
In a day or so, we started for the south. My conduct and fidelity in the transaction with the clerk, gained me the entire confidence of Phillips. He feared shortly after my departure, that I might make my escape. For this I was, as many of the Swartwouters of the present day might think, well provided; having a splendid horse--upwards of two thousand dollars in
cash, and the privilege of Philips to travel where I listed.--But I dare not move save by the warning voice of my guardian spirit. I dare not acknowledge to myself the supremacy of aught, save in obedience to its commands. The hour had not arrived--many clouds were yet to intervene, and lower upon my path, ere I could feel myself justifiable in availing myself of any of the many means held out for my freedom. And with the voice of the spirit I was contented; I knew a supernatural hand guided me onward, and I knew also, that when the moment of my deliverance had really come, I would be enabled to throw off the yoke, and proclaim myself to the world as a free man--free as the wind that scales the mountain heights--free as the streams which leap our rocks, or, as the zephyrs, that float through Heaven's space--a MAN--a Christian, and responsible to heaven for all my acts! Its approach I felt assured was close upon me, and with a surcharged heart, I waited the dawning of its morn.
The confidence of my master in me, was indeed strong; yet, where the golden god, Mammon, interferes with the heart of a slaveholder, all confidence,--all the ties of consanguinity, are sacrificed; and wealth stands forth before the world in all its accursed force, and immolates upon the altar of vice, the thousand tender feelings of friendship, which man should feel for his fellow man. This confidence seemed, instead of decreasing, to grow,--until we arrived at Washington, Pa.--Here my master knew me to be in a free state, and as I before had shown some signs of such a knowledge myself, when placed in similar circumstances, he was much frightened, lost I should avail myself of the opportunity, and proclaim myself free. But his fears were all of his own imagining--he need not for a moment have harbored such an idea. I knew too well, my deliverance, and the means of acquiring it, to play false to my own conscience, and my master's interests. I was aware no human power could much longer hold me in bondage; and I anxiously awaited the warning of the spirit's voice.
From Washington we bent our course for Wheeling, Va., where we arrived in good health, with but little or nothing to vary the monotony of servitude on the part of one, nor the case and authority on the part of the other. After spending a short time at Wheeling, we concluded to wend our way towards the south. Preparations to this effect were made,--and at a favorable time, tide and wind allowing, we were upon the broad bosom of the Ohio, on our downward passage to the southern states. Mr. Stone, I knew to be the partner of Phillips, yet nothing could induce me to call him master,--I recognized none but Phillips, and his authority alone I would obey. Stone was a proud, overbearing and haughty tyrant,--one to whom white and black, who bear not the golden talisman, must bow in meek humility. He had outraged humanity, and trampled on the finer feelings of the heart so long, that becoming a dread to the poor, he commanded through fear, an implicit obedience. He was a fiend incarnate,--whose only joy was in the torture of feelings more noble and tender than his own; and whose greatest happiness was in witnessing the tears and supplications of the poor oppressed slave,--especially the female portion. What then was his surprise, when he saw that I was determined to stand firmly upon the rights of my manhood--to obey the orders of none, save he, whom I knew had paid the price for me, and claimed me as his body servant.--He foamed and sweat--threatened his deep revenge--but naught swayed me. I was as firm as the deep rooted Himmelehs; and unless Phillips ordered, I stirred not to obey. By acts of kindness, too, I had become a general favorite with the poor slaves, who, like myself were considered as negotiable property, and bound for that mart, in which a higher price could be attained for us, than in any other. Among these acts was the furnishing of them with such delicacies they dreamed not of. These, I was enabled to supply them, from the fact that I was Phillips' body servant, and had free access to the shore whenever I chose to claim it, whilst the labor of my
own hands, in shaving for the boats, provided me with the needful to supply their wants. Nor were these little acts of kindness without their good result. The slaves, thinking to serve me, and knowing my abhorrence of Stone, would convey to me, his threats of flogging me as soon as we arrived in Natchez. To these threats I merely made a laughing reply--and generally concluded by stating that as that was a two handed game, I very strongly imagined that they would be under the necessity of calling the city guards, to aid them in their laudable efforts--that I had strictly obeyed him, whom I was confident was my master, so far, at least, as money purchased human flesh--nor had any complaint escaped him as to my duty; and that unless he was the castigator, they would find me able and willing to defend myself. During our passage down, however, Phillips, who was the partner of Stone, was placed in the capacity of steering the boat. Of this, he soon tired; and I, having in the course of time, become somewhat of an adept in steerage, I was stationed at the oar;--at which, I gave general satisfaction. But the deep damning feeling of revenge burned within the bosom of Stone. "The feelings of that nigger," said he, to his comrades, "must be brought down; and I am determined on his arrival at Natchez, to punish his bravado."
When word of this threat was carried to me, I merely smiled, and replied, "I will see to that," and continued at my duty. Stone soon became aware of my apathy and hatred towards him, and my determination not to obey him. Hence, under some pretext, he contrived to take the oar from me; and placed the steering in charge of a relation of his, called Davis. This passed off well enough for a while,--but one day it was found that from the ignorance of this man, he had changed the course of the craft, and pulled nine miles backward. This mistake was first discovered by the people on the shore, who called to us, and told us that we had passed there the evening
before, and that we must undoubtedly be upon the wrong track.
This circumstance was the means of reinstating me in my former birth; and from that time until we reached Natchez, nothing of importance took place. Previous to this, however, Phillips had taken sick, and when we arrived in port he was confined to his bed. We had been in this place but a short time, when Stone and the Clerk came to me, for the purpose of chastising me for my arrogance. I demanded the reason,--and in reply, was only commanded to retire to another part of boat, and strip for a castigation. With this I immediately complied, throwing off my coat, rolling up my sleeves, and arming myself with weapons of defence. When they again confronted me, Stone in a voice of authority wished to know what I intended to do with the weapon which I held in my hand. To this, I simply replied, "if wronged by either look or act, rest assured, sir, I intend to defend myself!" "You do, do you," returned he, we shall see to that, men seize the nigger." "We had rather, Mr. Stone, you would perform that part of the ceremony yourself--we have no idea of losing life for you so easily," replied the clerk, who had until now exhibited himself foremost in the assault; no doubt as a recompense for the past liberty I had assumed, in riding by his side from Winchester to Cumberland. "D--n the cowards," retorted Stone in a passion. "Ho, niggers, come forth, and seize on Billy Hayden!" "Stand back!" cried I, as you value your lives stand back! The first man that dares to seize upon me, lies first a corpse upon the deck. And you, (turning to Stone,) what power have you over Billy Hayden? He is your equal in the sight of God--your superior in the scale of worth! Who are you? Let those who know you tell. Despised by all, both black and white, who have ever heard the accents of your more than contemptible name. You talk of punishing Billy Hayden. What has he done? In what consists his crime? In nothing. Nay, sir, I have done
nothing--and think you, I am a fool to work and rack my sinews throughout life for nothing,--and be flogged for the same? If you do, let me tell you, the City Guards will have to be called in to help you. You wretch, you call yourself a gentleman. I challenge any one, I care not who he may be, who has ever known you, to dub you with the title, and you talk of venting your revenge upon Billy Hayden,--backed & supported by your myrmidons. Let them come--they will find that Virtue, supported by strong thewes, can keep at bay a thousand tyrants of oppression. Advance, and you know the consequences."
Stone stood some time, expecting a break to be made by his creatures, both black and white,--but no such movement was offered, and he retired to his room, muttering curses upon me, and threatening to sell me to the worst master he could possibly find in Natchez. These threats I did not care for--as I was well aware my spiritual guide, who had protected me throughout life, would still protect me until death. But the fracas was not designed to end here:--Phillips, whom I have before said was sick, had heard the noise, and the language I addressed to Stone. Quick as thought, he sprang to the deck, and commanded them to desist any attempts at punishing Billy. 'Tis strange gentlemen, said he "that I cannot have a favorite slave, but he must be imposed upon." "Touch that one," said he, pointing to me, "and you'll meet your reward here," patting the haudle of a large bowie knife, which he invariably carried. These words put a grand quietus to the controversy for that time, and I retired to my room in the boat, greatly elated with my own and my master's success.
On the road from Maysville, too, another occurrence took place, which I have some reason to believe, gained for me the increased confidence and respect of my master. Sleeping in a room adjacent to the slaves, who were ironed, I discerned enough from their conversation to enable me to know that a mutiny was abroad, and that it was the intention of the slaves, in order to
effect their freedom, to put to death all the whites on board,--and that I, too, was included,--owing to the attention that was paid me,--with the doomed. By jests and cheerfulness with them, however, I gathered from their detached hints, their every movement. That they had even then provided themselves with a file from the lot of Blacksmith tools on board, and that many were at that moment, free from their chains. This information I immediately carried to my master; and after ascertaining the truth of my statement, he had them again bound more firmly than ever. He then asked me if I know who was the ringleader of the revolters. I knew enough of the slaveholders' disposition to be aware that it would be to him certain death, no the spot, if discovered--hence I concealed his name; but informed him in place thereof, of the name of him who was possessed of the file. This was immediately taken away, and our passage secured to one of peace and safety. For this information Mr. Phillips was thankful to me; and treated me, as far I could discover, with as much courtesy as a master can well find heart to exercise towards his slave. The name of the ringleader of the revolt was never made known to him, until the individual had been sold; which took place near St. Martinsville, and we were on our way home. Had a breath of suspicion alighted upon him, I feel well convinced he would have been sent to serve his master DEATH, instead of a living overseer.--Hence I felt grateful that I had been instrumental in saving the lives of a boat's crew, and thwarting the punishment of death, which the miscreant who, could in cold blood conceive so damning a plot, richly merited. And for all this, the scene at Natchez was my reward, merited in the estimation of slave-dealers. Such is their gratitude and justice--and such is a faithful character of the slave-holder's gratitude in most instances, where the slave is the recipient thereof.
From Maysville our course lay to Paris, where we remained until October, when we again embarked and came to Cincinnati. Here we staid for a few hours, and then sailed for Natchez. At
Cincinnati I had freedom to go and come when and where I listed, as long as the boat remained, but I soon found that this was not palatable to Phillips, who still entertained the idea, that I might escape, knowing myself to be in a free state. But even of this knowledge I feigned extreme ignorance, as any other course might have been detrimental to my purposes, and abridged me of many little freedoms which were otherwise extended to me. When the hour spoken of by the Spirit, had come. I was ready for my freedom; but until then, I was in mind and body, a slave. But O how anxiously did I await the arrival of that hour,--how ardently did I pray for its arrival, and thank my God that it was, for me, in store. To be a free man, was the height of my ambition; and to administer the same freedom to an aged parent, was the only hopes of my future happiness.
After the fracas above recorded, which happened at Natchez, things went on in their usual smooth style, until the slaves were divided between Stone and Philips, and destined for different marts. At Natchez, however, when application was made for the purchase of a slave, which was frequent every day; I behaved myself with such utter indifference and apparent independence, that many of the would-be purchasers were at a loss to know if, in reality, I were a slave, and subject to the hammer. I promenaded the deck, whistling some snatches of an old song, and looking, in regard to consequence, more like a master than a slave; so that when I was asked how I would like to serve, I invariably replied, "I don't know how I would like to serve any man, until I am tried."
"Well," continued they, "how do you like our looks?"
"I don't like them at all!" responded I. This answer generally called for an explanation between Philips and the anxious purchaser.
"Philips," said the latter, "is it possible that fellow is a slave?"
"Yes," replied Philips, "he is my body servant--why do you ask?"
"Because he appears too independent to serve--you must put another brow upon him, before you will be able to sell him in this market. He's entirely too free with the tongue." This was the state of things which I desired; and the power of God soon brought me to a knowledge of the kind care which was bestowed upon me.
When a division of the slaves took place, I still remained with Phillips; and having provided our boat, we proceeded to Bayou Sara, whilst Stone remained at Natchez; at this place I commenced the study of the French language, in which I made such rapid progress that in a short time I was enabled to speak and write it pretty fluently. This was a material advantage to me, although my master was in ignorance of my knowledge of it. By it, I was enabled to understand, more effectually, the various dealings of my master, and also inform myself of the transactions which daily took place between him and his correspondents. I, soon, too, became a general favorite with all the whites at Bayou Sara; one lady, in particular, came on board the boat to me, and wished that I would permit her to pick out a master for me. I replied, that I intended at some day, purchasing myself; but if I failed in this I would then call upon her to aid me in the selection of a kind and benevolent master. By some means or other my master became acquainted with my daily study of the French, and reproached me for studying a language which would be of no use to myself, but might probably be an injury to him. To this I replied, that I had merely taken it up to keep myself out of mischief. This was, as he said very well, but begged that I would not bother myself with such an outlandish gibberish. I understood him better probably than he expected, but said nothing, as it would have been of no avail.
From Bayou Sara, we embarked in a few days for Atakapas, where we remained all winter. While stationed at this place, my master often received letters from home, in which my knowledge of French constantly kept me advised of his intentions
and plans. Castleman, who was also a partner of Stone's and Phillips; and who had long wanted me for himself, but whom I scorned to serve, had now openly proclaimed to Phillips his determination of securing me. I was well aware that Phillips had purchased me for himself; and aware too that my disposal rested solely with Castleman--hence, Phillips being somehow within the power of Castleman, who had threatened a prosecution in case of a refusal, I knew not what course he might be led to pursue. I watched attentively the face of Phillips whilst he perused the letter containing the threat, in order to read, if possible, his determination, and was ready for any proposition he might make me. For some days he said nothing. At length he came to me, and after some preliminary remarks, informed me that on our arrival home, I would have to leave the State, as he was greatly embarrassed with debt, and that one of his partners was determined to have me sold, in case of his inability to pay him the debt he owed him. "And why not let him have me?" asked I, in order to ascertain better the motives which actuated him. "Because," returned he "you have been to me, a faithful servant, and I cannot spare you at this time." Knowing that it was my interest, as well as his own, that I should comply with his wishes, I unhesitatingly replied that wherever he chose I should go, on our arrival at home, his wishes should be strictly obeyed; and whatever he should desire, to state freely and it should be performed.
In Atakapas I was well known, and by my conduct, had acquired many friends. Near this place too, resided a young lady, who was very anxious to purchase me, in order, as she said, that I might teach her the English language. Her importunities were frequent and strong,--and in order to get rid of her, I promised that when I next visited the country, I would be sold to her. Poor thing, she little dreamed I would never become hers,--that the spirit would work my deliverance from bondage, before the day on which she expected to call me her own, should arrive.
My master in this place, met with an unlooked for sale, and even anticipated, and gleaned a rich profit in a short stay--consequently, having made our preparations, we turned our course towards home. My savings, during this trip was about $100, which with the $100 my master was indebted to me, made the respectable sum of $200. A short time after, Phillips concluded to go to New Orleans, and I was induced to go with him; and as we expected to return to St[.] Martinsville, where there was no confectionary, I determined on investing my money in the purchase of candy, &c., and as soon as I arrived at St. Martinsville, to engage in the business of a Confectioner. With this determination, on reaching New Orleans, I was introduced to a lady, who kept a Confectionary shop, and who, after she had been apprized of my intentions, assured me that she would give me a bargain of her stock in trade; and further assured me, that if I would consent she would purchase me of my master, and live with me as my wife. Now, this was to much of a good thing for me; so purchasing her candies, which were weighed out, and leaving the living sweet, to seek some more suitable husband at her leisure, I left for St[.] Martinsville. I found no difficulty in selling my confectionaries, and when my sales were concluded, I discovered that a profit was made of 100 per cent, thereon; swelling the sum of one hundred dollars, which I had invested in the purchase, to two hundred dollars, which when added to the $100 already saved, secured me in one half the sum which was asked for my freedom.--Heaven! with what delight did I look upon that money, and long for the remaining $300 that I might lay it in the hands of Phillips, and say, "according to our agreement, sir, I am a free man." But how was I to secure this money? Phillips, in leading his present life, might be snatched off, and what would then become of my savings, or the proof that he held at the time of his death, one half the purchase money for my freedom. This I determined to remedy; and approaching him, I intimated to him the uncertainty of life, and my anxiety
of having some written evidence for the $100 which he already owed me, and the 200 dollars which I was then ready to pay him. He then asked me if I knew of any friend of mine who would draw up the writings? I told him I would call on Mr. Brent, a gentleman who seemed to think a good deal of me, and see if I could get him to do it; accordingly, I waited on Mr. Brent, and making known my errand, he informed me that as he was acquainted with Mr. Phillips, he could not, unless he was present, and gave his consent, comply with my request; as it might be the cause of ill feelings between them afterwards. I had mentioned to him also, in the presence of Mr. McElvain, that I was to have my freedom for $650, and that the $300 for which I wished the writings drawn were the first payments thereon; but that I feared Phillips had some sinister motives in view, and designed to cheat me out of my money and my freedom. Mr. Brent requested that I would go and bring Mr. Phillips to the store, which I accordingly did, after cautioning Mr. McElvain to watch the countenance of Phillips, and see if he could not plainly discover guilt of thought and action.--This, he promised to do. When Mr. Phillips came into the store, I placed myself in front of him and riveted my eyes upon him. He seemed embarrassed, and his face flashed like a living coal. Mr. Brent then told him what I had requested him to do--stating, at the same time he considered it nothing more than right that I should have security for my money, in case of his death; and after some hesitation my master concurred. The writings were then drawn up, and signed by Phillips, and attested by the gentlemen present; Mr. Brent counting out the money to Phillips. After he had signed the note, he told me I had better leave it at the store, in the keeping of Mr. Brent. To this I replied, that I intended to do so, and turning to Mr. B., I said, presenting him a letter from my mother, "here sir, is a letter from my mother. In case of my death, I wish you to send that and the money to her, as the present of an affectionate son. It is my will, and I hope you will not consider it
as an insult to request you to act as the Executor of a poor slave!" Mr. Brent promised faithfully to see my wishes carried out, and with tears in my eyes, I left the store, grateful to Heaven for the kind protection which I had received through the goodness of God.
My master was at this time very much embarrassed, and Castleman, one of his partners in business was determined to leave nothing unresorted to, to secure me, and ruin Phillips.--Consequently my master was obliged to take up his boarding with the Sheriff of Bourbon Co., Mr. John Reins. He told me to answer no questions relative to him, and that, if Castleman came to ask for him to tell him, I knew nothing of him.--It was but a short time before this rank hypocrite--bent upon the persecution of his victim,--in every manner, he could possibly do it, came. He appeared to be very glad to see me, but I discovered and knew that it was the same joy he felt, as that evinced by the hungry wolf, when the unwary lamb approaches its hideous jaws. His first question, after shaking hands very cordially with me, was for Phillips. I told him I knew nothing about him. This answer seemed to surprise him, as he gazed at me for some considerable length of time, in silence, when turning on his heel, and casting one malignant glance around him, which I shall never forget, he departed. I immediately went to Phillips, and communicated to him what had passed. He told me that I must instantly leave the State; and giving me $15 in money, and a pass to carry me to Cincinnati, I forthwith proceeded on my journey. Fortunately there was a wagon passing on the Georgetown road, at this time for Cincinnati.--I had, however, some friends whom I wished to visit ere I left the State, and having shown the wagoner my pass, which he recognized as genuine, he permitted me to take a birth in his wagon as far as Williamsport. As I left Paris, the Court House Bell was ringing. The first case before the Court was the case of Castleman vs. Phillips. On the appearance of Castleman in Court, I afterwards understood, the first query was for me.--
Castleman stated that he had seen me but a few moments since, and that for the purpose of securing my evidence, he did not deem it necessary to put me in close custody; but that he had no doubt I could be brought before the court, after a very little delay. The court, however, having but little time to lose, owing to cases of importance being upon the tapis, it adjourned the case of my master with Castleman--without a hearing. Thus the scheme of my master was accomplished, by my absence, and by an act of treachery and vice he was enabled to elude the swift arm of justice. But, his day was soon to come, and the spirit spoke of my triumph over his villany, as a matter beyond the reach of cavil. Upon the road we passed on smoothly, until we came to Williamsport, where some of the friends of the wagoner began to rally him on the quick sale of his marketing, and appearing not to believe him, they approached the wagon, and removing the hay under which I was safely ensconsed, they charged him with harboring a runaway slave. To this the wagoner stoutly replied that he scorned the idea of harboring a runaway slave, that the man he had there, was as free as either of them; and that he was responsible for the safe passage of me, to the end of his journey--and this authority he took upon himself, upon the pass which he now held in his possession. If any man dared to doubt him, and lay a finger upon me, with a design to capture me, they would first have to trample over his dead body. In this he was warmly seconded by his father-in-law, and after a few words of altercation, the melee ended, and the crowd dispersed, apparently well satisfied, and I was taken by my benefactor to his house. Here I had to tell my story over and over again to his wife, and many of their friends, who visited them, and all seemed to sympathize deeply with me, and pray me God speed in all my undertakings. After remaining under his roof for several days, aiding and assisting my kind friend in many things about his place; and being treated by him and his amiable lady, more like a member of the family, than as a stranger, I
departed on the morning of the fourth day, in the stage, for Cincinnati, with their blessings and well wishes heaped upon me. When the driver gave me a seat in the stage, there was but one lady and her little daughter inside, and from my kindness to the child, I soon gained the respect and well wishes of the mother--for it is a well founded fact, that the passport to a mother's affections, is through the medium of a beloved child--hence, I felt secure in my further progress to the haven of my destination. Many of my friends, however, informed me, previous to my leaving, that my pass would avail me nothing after I had arrived at the river, as it was against the law to ferry slaves from a slave to a free state, unless under the eyes of their masters or guardians.
Our passage from Williamsport was one of pleasure and anticipated joy, until we arrived at Gaines' station, some 18 or 20 miles from Covington. Here the stage, belonging to Mr. G., was permitted to stop over night; and after the lady and child were ushered into the sitting room, I was conducted to the kitchen, where my supper was served up to me. To cat, however, was not my intention, acting upon the impulse of the "yankee" who informed king George, on being commanded to uncover before royalty, that Americans never bowed to any man--especially when they stood in his kitchen--whilst the master of the house seemed to say, as I cast my eyes towards the bar-room, "we don't allow niggers in here!"
This, however, did not deter me from walking into the bar-room, and drawing a seat to the fire. After a short time, Mr. Gaines, who had once before seen me, when the body servant of Major Charles Clarkson; began a series of questions, and counter-questions, as to who I was--where I belonged--and who was my master--thinking, and even charging me with being a runaway slave--having in my possession a forged pass--and that, if I were not apprehended before I reached the river, he, himself, would see that I should not escape to Ohio, without, at least, giving a more strict account of myself, than I
had as yet. From me, he gained nothing--neither did his "quizzical leech" draw the blood of information from the stage driver, who was a friend of mine, and bore me on my journey at the instance of many of my friends, who stood accountable for my character and conduct to him, and to others.
Gaines, however, was not to be duped--and the next morning, when the stage started he despatched his "tools" through the woods, to head the team; and when I endeavored to cross the river, they were to apprehend me, and detain me, until his malignity was satisfied. But the Lord frustrated his intentions; and raised up friends for me in the persons of my fellow passenger and the driver, who informed me of their schemes, and projected a plan by which she, (God bless her) would insure me a safe passage to Cincinnati. This lady resided at that time in Newport, and the plan which she proposed was, that I should act in the capacity of her body servant, until she reached home, when she would send me to an old colored friend of hers, known as "Uncle James Taylor," who had the command of the ferry, and see that I should be landed on the other side, unmolested. Accordingly we continued on our route until we reached the water's edge, when I was surprised and astounded; the very first man who met my eye was Major Carneal, who was so anxious to purchase me of Mr. Smith, on the day of my young mistress's marriage--but whom I refused to accept as a master--merely on the ground that I was one day to become free--not as a resident of a free state, but as a slave, living and learning among my fellow slaves. Here, a general system of Indian warfare took place, Major Carneal endeavoring to fasten his eyes upon me, and I, fearing that he should recognize me, dodging and ducking behind the head of the child, and the person of its mother. In my object of remaining unknown, I was successful, and with naught to mar my further progress, we reached the house of the kind lady in Newport. After spending a few moments here, she proceeded to put her scheme in practice, and giving a boy "a bit," she
despatched him with me to Old Uncle Jim, telling the boy to introduce me to him, as a particular friend of hers, whom she wished to transact some private and important business for her in Cincinnati. I was thus soon landed unquestioned and unmolested on the free shores of Ohio--beyond hearing of the overseer's lash--and beyond the oppression of the human panderer, who makes a filthy living of luxury, by bartering his own flesh and blood in a public mart. The offspring of his own loins--the son of his own manhood--the daughter of his own blood, are dragged forth like cattle to the shambles, and sold like beasts of burden to the highest bidder.
Here, then, was freedom held out to me in all its bewitching forms. A life of slavery was behind--and a life of ease and liberty before me--but I scorned the boon and chose to obey the will of the Fates. I could not consistently sacrifice the confidence which Phillips had placed in me--and I felt fully assured that the hour of my deliverance had not yet come when I was to shake off my yoke of bondage, and proclaim my Emancipation to the world. I had delved for years--long and tedious years in slavery--and now, that I had touched upon a free soil, armed with a pass and signed by my master, authorizing my freedom to travel where I listed, I might have felt myself secure from the Shylocks of the Law, and laughed defiance at the administrators of Southern justice. But I craved not the aid of the laws of man. My liberation was to be supernatural--and effected through my own exertions. Hence, I cared not for the bright prospects which were then held out to me.
On arriving at Cincinnati, the first man whom I met, was a colored man, whom I had known at the South, and who had absconded from my master, Mr. Phillips. On seeing me, he immediately alarmed the citizens--stating that I belonged to a slave-trading Southernor, and that he felt confident that I was in search of him. This charge threw suspicion on mo, as a kidnapper, and as such, I was arraigned before the mayor, the
present former Judge, Isaac G. Burnett, a venerable and beloved citizen of Cincinnati--and there stood my trial. My pass was adduced, and I claimed that as a passport to freedom--but my intentions to return to the south on the call of my master, corroborated the circumstances against me, and not until I had a private conference with the mayor and a letter had been sent and replied to by Mr. Phillips, was the suspicion done away with in his mind; when I was honorably acquitted.
Whilst at Cincinnati, this honorable gentleman, together with many other friends, strongly urged me never to return to the South, but to fall in with their overtures, and they would see me safely landed in Canada. They regretted that one who placed such confidence in a slave-dealer's word--and refused so strongly to violate the authority of him whom I supposed was my master, as far as wealth gave him authority--should, for a longer period be made a subject for cruel treatment, and invidious distinction! But their kind wishes were cast aside, and as an obedient servant I chose to return to the home of Phillips. When the venerable Mr. Burnett saw that I was thus determined, he shook hands, and with watery eyes and a sorrowful tone of voice, he resigned me to my fate. Previous to leaving him, however, I remarked to him, having asked him if he thought he could again recognize me on meeting, that the day would come, after many years had elapsed, when I would become a free man--occupying a Barber's shop in Cincinnati, and claiming him as a regular customer.
Sixteen years since then have now elapsed and my prediction has been verified--my freedom has been achieved, and for the last five years the venerable old man has been a constant customer at my shop. The frosts of many winters are now scattered on his head--and he is fast verging to the land of Spirits. May the Almighty God sustain him and his amiable family to the last--and when their earthly career is run receive them and bless them in the world to come.
For to the poor, he is a friend--and to all a beloved and respected citizen.
Accordingly, after the lapse of time, the letter of recall arrived. This letter contained instructions that I must throw away my pass and letters, which I had received from him, previously, and immediately wend my way homeward. Upon the commands of the letter, I immediately acted,--and embarking on board a boat, I was in the course of time, landed at Maysville. Here, before the boat had safely reached the shore, I promptly complied with the request of my master, and threw the pass and letters on the beach. This was merely done for the purpose of clearing myself of an act of disobedience,--but, as I had learned that these papers were of almost invaluable importance to me, and that they might materially aid me in my future freedom, as soon as I leaped on shore, I gathered them up once more and secured them about my person. I had now complied with his request, and my own desires; and feeling myself secure from all censure, I started with pleasure on my return to Paris. When I arrived in town, the first man whom I met was Major Throckmorton. He appeared glad to see me, but informed me that I had better secrete myself, as Phillips had threatened when he next got me, to inflict upon my bare back five hundred stripes. Of this, Phillips himself had informed me, stating that he had made the threat to shield himself. The Major did not know the understanding which existed between Phillips and myself, and consequently feared for my safety.--I thanked him for his kindness in warning me of the circumstance, but stated that I would go and see Mr. Phillips. Accordingly I bent my steps towards Phillips' room. The first question after shaking hands, and appearing overjoyed at again seeing me, was, whether I had obeyed him in throwing the pass and letters away. To this I replied that I had. This appeared to increase his confidence, and he informed me that I must now tell some plausible story, to screen him from all knowledge of my where-a-bouts, during my absence. To this I consented.
although I felt my conscience check me at the mere idea of falsehood. But the ultimate good, bid fair to bury the present evil, and I chose for once to stoop to a little dissimulation.--Thus, Phillips was shielded in his iniquity, by one whom he claimed as his own--and it is thus that the slave-holders in general are shielded in crime and infamy, at the expense of even the soul and body of those whom their wealth holds as mere personal property. The gold of the rich, and the callous heart of the slave-dealer, make man, the image of God--a mere thing--an article to be pandered through the public mart, and sold to the highest bidder. His body is converted into a beast of burden--racked with toil, persecuted with stripes, and as the red blood flows in streaks from the gashing wounds inflicted by the scourge, he is denied the existence of a soul and denied the rights of fellowship with his fellow-man. Can Heaven's vengeance long withstand this haughty arrogance of depraved mortality? Can God view unconcerned the bleeding pores of His own glorious likeness, lascerated and scourged by unfeeling fiends, and withhold his just indignation? No, his frown will come, and terrible will be his vengeance.
Here then my supernatural guide was again of advantage to my benighted soul. My master, relying, as he thought, upon my rank ignorance, and upon my implicit confidence in him, imagined that his hypocrisy was a sufficient cloak for all his deep designs towards me. But, reckless soul--I knew his object too well. I knew, that upon the first opportunity it was his design to sell me;--I knew, too, in case of a sale, he would attempt a fraud, with regard to the $300 of mine, which he had in his possession; by forging a receipt, and imposing a belief upon my friends, that he had paid me ere he had sold me. But I said nothing. My tongue was struck dumb by the spirit, and I was compelled to abide the issue without a murmur. I was, however, permitted to advise with my friends, which I immediately concluded to do. But to cast the first hint to him that I was aware of his designs, was the farthest from my heart.--Hence,
in the language of my spiritual guide, "thus far, and no farther, shalt thou come," I fortified my mind, and anxiously awaited the result. Phillips had again stated to me, that he designed taking a trip to the South, and informed me that I must hold myself in readiness to accompany him. This command I obeyed with so much eagerness, as to drive my master from the suspicions which he seemed to entertain towards my future plans. All went on as it should, and the rank hypocrisy which he so illy concealed, was daily becoming more and more apparent. Now, thought he, have I tested his confidence. He might have been free in Cincinnati, but his ignorance has driven him once more into the slave mart. He shall be sold--and as he is a valuable slave, he will command a high price, which with the three hundred dollars of his, I now hold in my possession, will recruit my fortune, and set me once more at ease.--But he little knew that that sale could never be consummated--that Billy Hayden was then in possession of his last earthly master, and that the genius of freedom stood ready to proclaim his deliverance from earthly bondage. His schemes were about to vanish, and he was shortly to be doomed to stand before the world in all the ignominy and shame he so richly merited.
Previous to our departure, however, I went to see my old friend Mr. Brent. whom I found in his store. I then told him of the villany of Phillips in his designs towards me. Mr. Brent seemed surprised at my narrative; yet his mind was partially prepared for such a crisis, from his former scrutiny of the man's conduct. He accordingly called me to speak with him more privately; and we retired by ourselves. He then made known to me that he had signed the note in my favor, and asked me if I could manage to keep it secure if he would relinquish it to my keeping. I replied that I thought I could; when he immediately transferred it to me. Before parting with him, however, we had a long conversation, in which I made known to him many of my plans of future action. With these he seemed to be highly pleased, and avowed that he had never before witnessed
one of my race, who was to him so great a wonder as myself. He wished to know where I had picked up my information; but of this I was not capable to inform him. Hence, after a long time in private communion, I parted with the good old man, while the tears of sorrow trickled down my cheeks. I felt, on leaving him, as if I had parted from my father, for the acts of kindness which he had shown me, and which he had confirmed by endorsing the note and referring me to Mr. Postlewaite, of Natchez, cashier of the bank, where I could draw the money on sight of the note, had bound him to me with a tie, strong as the ligaments of my heart could bind a beloved object. God bless his memory--for it is a sweet and consoling reflection that he was one of my dearest friends in my captivity: and, in my freedom, I cannot be such an ingrate as to pass him by in silence. After leaving Mr. Brent, I immediately proceeded to a hatter's shop, where I procured a coon skin, and having carefully shaved the hair off, I sowed the note, together with Phillips' letters and his pass, safely within it, and having re-inclosed this in some old cloth and pieces of blanket, I sowed them all on the shoulder of my old coat between the lining and the cloth. This served a double purpose. By it, my shoulder was protected whilst pushing or pulling the boat, and in this place, although my trunks were searched, which I knew would be the case, my papers were secure. Thus equipped, I presented myself before my master, and awaited his orders for a departure.
In a few days we started,--and in the course of time landed again at Natchez. Here, I knew it was the design of Phillips to sell me, if possible. But still I entered no complaint, but was determined to serve no other earthly master. Near Bayou Sara, whither we went, there resided a fiend, (for I cannot call him man) named Sterling, who followed the avocation of "negro-breaker." This consisted in taking the raw slaves of the traders, and placing them in a field, with iron bands on their limbs, where they are made to work like beasts of burden.--
This wretch who had several plantations, and who was notorious for his cruelty to the colored population, almost entirely subsisted upon their labor, whilst engaged in breaking them. I knew that in case I was sold, and refused to work, or even treated my purchaser with anything in the shape of impudence, that I would be passed over to this fiend, and treated more like a dog, than a human being. Hence, I concluded to abide patiently the ways of fate. After a few days my suspicions were confirmed. Phillips did indeed sell me to a Mr. Maxwell of Bayou Sara. This gentleman did not call on me for some days after, and during this time, Phillips had left the place, thinking when he returned, I should have been carried off by my purchaser. One day, however, Mr. Maxwell came to the boat, and calling me to one side, he asked me how I would like to live with him? To this I replied, I could not tell, but if I belonged to him, I thought I would like it very well, as I had always found him a kind and indulgent master. He then informed me that he had purchased me of Mr. Phillips, and that having three stores in the place, and being compelled to spend most of his summers in the north, in consequence of his health, he needed just such a person as I was to take charge, and see that his business did not languish in his absence. He said he had some clerks, whom he did not think rendered him a strict account of the proceeds of the stores; he therefore wanted me, as I would be in their friendly notice through his influence, to correspond with him during his absence, and inform him of anything I might conceive to be not right. He further assured me that he had always heard me spoken of as an honest and upright man; whose word was as good as a bond, and that I was just the person, he would, of all things admire.
As he concluded, I fixed my eyes keenly upon him, and asked him, apparently unconscious, if he had indeed understood me to be upright and honest all my life?
He replied that he had.
"And do you believe it?" returned I.
"To be sure I do; and would stake my life upon your integrity."
"Then, sir," said I, "would you have me prove myself a villain and a liar in one day? You would have me, Mr. Maxwell, prove myself a hypocrite--you would have me gain the confidence of your clerks, with whom, as you say, I should share in their carousals; and whilst they were bestowing friendship on me, and placing their confidence in me, you would wish me to stab their reputation for honesty behind their backs. Sir, although a slave, I am not so base as to betray the first principles of humanity--and I would scorn to pursue such a course as you have pointed out. You are aware, too, that Phillips has pledged himself to free me as soon as I can raise $650, and, according to our agreement, cannot sell me."
"But he has," said Mr. Maxwell, "and the bill of sale needs but the signatures."
"Which it shall never have," said I. "He now has $300 of my money, for which he has given his note, and I can very soon raise the remainder."
"But those $300 he has paid you long since--at least so he informed me."
"He did!" exclaimed I, in astonishment--"then, sir, all I have to say is, he informed of what was false--await until his return, and if I cannot arrange it so as to pay the full price of my freedom, and find him such a villain, I will willingly become your property. Till then I cannot act."
"All right," exclaimed Maxwell, shaking me warmly by the hand. "It shall be as you wish it. Meanwhile, good-day."
He had expected the circumstances, when related to me, would fire me with rage, and in such a case Sterling's aid, who was present, promenading the levee with a long cow-hide, awaiting the issue, would be called upon to quell me; but having treated him so fairly and so much like my equal; my freedom, instead of offending him, had proved much in my favor; and I was permitted to enjoy my own way until Phillips' arrival.
In a few days he arrived. When the boat landed I was standing upon the wharf, and Mr. Maxwell, the gentleman who had purchased me was standing by my side. As Phillips came from the boat, he extended his hand cordially to me, and shaking mine warmly, he inquired how I got along. I told him very well; but circumstances had transpired since his departure for which I would wish him to account. He looked surprised, and asked me what they were. I then narrated to him all that had passed between Mr. Maxwell, and myself, and asked him if it was true, that he had indeed sold me. He laughingly replied, that some such occurrences had taken place but that the whole transaction was merely a joke between Maxwell and himself. I told him such jokes, I could not find it in my heart to relish, and referring him to our bargain, when I became his property, I told him that my term of servitude had expired.
"You are aware," said I, "that we were to maintain the relative positions of master and servant, so long as we could agree; but when either of us became dissatisfied, that bond was to be void." I now could agree to serve him no longer, as his course had destroyed all my confidence in him, and I could not consider myself bound to one whom I could not esteem.
"And again, sir, you have informed Mr. Maxwell that you have long since paid me the $300 which you were indebted to me, and for which you gave your note. This, you knew to be false, as your note is still in existence against you. All I now demand is, that you will return me the money, and we will part friends."
My language seemed to somewhat startle him, as he had no idea of losing so valuable a body servant as I had proved to be. Hence, he resorted to every kind of dissimulation, which it was possible for him to do, in order to gain my attendance on him on his return to Paris. He coaxed and cajoled,--and finally flattered so hard, that I agreed to go, but I expressly gave him to understand that I recognized myself as a free man,
and that I would act in the capacity of a slave to no one. To this he made no reply, and I embarked with him on our passage up the river. It is true, I still continued to shave him every morning as usual, but further than this I claimed the privileges of a freeman, and refused to do all acts of servitude which I had hitherto done, paying my own passage to Paris.
Previous to leaving Bayou Sara, however, many of my friends came to me, and very generously offered to advance me the balance of the money, wherewith to purchase my freedom. I thanked them with gratitude for their sympathy for my distresses, but declined receiving their favors; from the fact that my deliverance was to work its way through some spiritual medium, backed by my own exertions. The hour, had not yet dawned upon me, but I felt assured of its swift approach.
With these feelings, and throwing myself upon what I deemed my rights,--refusing to do the work of a slave, and devoting my time to my own amusements, we finally reached Paris. Hence, through the intervention of the spirit, I became fully satisfied that no mortal man could again purchase me.--This was strongly corroborated on our journey--where several wished to purchase me very much; among whom was Major Miner, but when I related to him my determination; and the understanding which existed between Phillips and myself, together with the means I had of freeing myself, they withdrew their desire, and refused to stand between me and my heart longing ends. Mr. Miner also informed me, that as soon as I had freed myself, if I would come to Natchez, and become a citizen of the place. I might depend upon any assistance which lay in his power to render me. To this I consented, and in after days, reaped the benefit, which his promise had held out to me. After we arrived in Paris, I went to the boarding house of Phillips, where I remained until towards night fall, when I took my hat and bade Mr. Phillips "good night." He did not know what to make of this movement, and surprised as
he was, he forebore to say anything. I remained away a few days, working with a friend in a Barber shop in the place, and during this time I saw nothing of Phillips. Finally he came to me, and asked me what I meant by such a course of conduct. I replied by asking him, if he did not remember what I had told him; that I would never again serve him in the capacity of a servant, nor would I enter the service of any mortal, unless assured of my wages, as was the right of every freeman. I also told him, if he was at leisure in the morning, I would call upon him, to know what he intended to do relative to the money, for which I held his note;--accordingly, he left me, and in the morning, I waited upon him. On demanding the money he told me to follow him to his room. This I did very willingly. When he had entered, he immediately locked the door, and going to his trunk, he took out a brace of pistols, and a bowie knife, and having examined them thoroughly, he laid them upon the table, at which I sat, and placed himself directly opposite me. Every muscle of his face was set in demoniac determination, and eyeing me attentively, as if he would have read my very soul, he deliberately informed me, that he owed me nothing--that a slave whilst in servitude, could command nothing of his master; that he and his, were the property of that master, and were at the disposal of his master, and that he was determined to pay me nothing. Fortified by the spirit, and not dreading the show of bravo, which he had exhibited, I informed him that I still held his note, and was determined by some process to collect the $300 which I loaned him. He then asked me for his note, which I refused to accede to. This, for awhile staggered him; and finding that I was not to be cozened by threats or falsehoods, he returned to his trunk and in a few moments counted me out the amount coming to me. After I had recounted it in his presence, in order to show him that I placed no confidence in his honesty, I gave him his note, and securing my money about my person, I took my hat, and very cordially bade him "good morning," leaving him to
dispose of his note as he saw proper, and to return to his trunk his brace of "shooting irons," or turn them against his own head, as he saw fit; well assured that either would be much easier done, than frightening even a colored man, who knew himself to be fortified by a supernatural shield, and knowing his rights as a freeman, out of $300, of his hard earned wages.
Phillips did not call upon me for some days after the above occurrence; so that I concluded to go to him, hearing that he was determined to force me again into his service, to know his pleasure. He informed me that I was still his property, and commanded me to return to my duties. I recapitulated to him my determination of serving no mortal man, unless in the capacity of a freeman, and under wages; telling him at the same time, that it was upon the authority of his own agreement with me that I so acted. That he had promised when we could not agree, he would release me, and accept of my purchase money. That his own conduct had been such as to render it necessary for us to part--that he had betrayed confidence, and that I could never serve a master, in whom I had no confidence. A frown gathered upon his brow, but I heeded it not, and in the hight of his anger he informed me with an oath, that he would compel me to serve. This, I told him he could not do.
"And what," replied he, "would you do?"
"Choose death before I would serve you, or any other man in the capacity of a slave! What right have you to me! Who made me a slave? Was it He who placed us here in the great bond of brotherhood? Where was the first human soul made a marketable commodity? Surely it was not by the orders of God--nor by His word declared in revelation to moral man in Holy Writ. All there recorded, goes to prove directly the reverse. Nor was it even in the Declaration of Independence, of your country. It is there plainly stated, that "all men are born free and equal," and have the same rights with one another. Whence, then, comes your authority? From the motto
claimed by pirates and cut-throats--from the voice of panderers in human blood--from the blood-stained blade of him whose blows have filled Heaven with the cries of widows--the groans of oppressed humanity, and the wailing of almost frantic orphans. This is where your authority comes from, and I envy you not the very ELEVATED source of its coming. I envy you not your irreligious and unholy motto of action, that might makes right--those who know no better are free to groan in bondage as long as their minds are easy under their degraded yokes, but as for me, you will find me ready to shed the last drop which supports life, before I will serve either you, or any other dealer in the God-like attributes of man. Our fathers were first torn from their native country, and made beasts of burden at the shrine of wealth--were dubbed with the ignominious title of slaves and things--they left nothing else to us as a heritage--but I, for one, am determined to spurn the patrimony, and assume the rights, which nature and the God of nature designed, at my entrance into the world, I should--and for my support I appeal to God and the rights of man. God gave me means and the light, and by these I claim to be your equal."
By the time I concluded, there was quite a crowd of citizens gathered around me. Some of them were so incensed that a black man should thus address his master, that they raised the cry of "shoot him! shoot the d--d nigger!" But this alarmed me not. I turned deliberately upon him who had last uttered the cry, and baring my breast, asked who among them would be the executioner? You may shoot the body--but the soul belongs to God. The blush of shame mantled their cheeks, and many of my friends who were mixed in with them, seemed highly delighted with my course. Some of them asked me what I intended to do. "Do," repeated I, "I have both the means and the knowledge to travel by land or water--I have the money, and I am master of the English and French languages--you need not therefore fear for me becoming a pauper,--but a freeman I am determined to be!" They seemed utterly
astonished at my determination; and seeing that nothing could be done to compel or wheedle me into the service of Phillips again, I was soon left standing "solitary and alone!" in all my glory.
I had for many years foreseen these trials and difficulties,--but I was warned of a safe deliverance from them all. There was, however, another dark cloud lowering in my horizon. I had been forewarned that at a certain period of my life, I was to be immured within a prison, and I now knew that the hour for that had arrived. I nerved myself for it, and felt assured that as I had outridden all my trials, through the Divine Providence of God, I would again come forth unscathed and free--triumphant over the combined efforts of my enemies. Nor was I doomed to be disappointed.
The declaration of my freedom, surprised many, even of my warmest friends, who had calculated that they were acquainted with all the events of my life. They had known me in Paris, for upwards of fourteen years, and had never heard me mention the circumstance of my approaching freedom before. Their astonishment therefore was great, when they saw me standing before those who had held me in bondage, and who still, as far as money held claims on human flesh, were entitled to the name of masters, and proclaiming as my own champion, my rights and freedom as a man. But others were not so easily to be thwarted. They feared that my example, unless punished exemplary, would arouse the ire of the other slaves, and endanger their future peace and authority. They, therefore, applied to Mr. Brent, my old friend, who was then Treasurer of the place, for his advice relative to my course.--Mr. Brent, with whom I was a great favorite, listened attentively to their complaints, and mildly informed them that they could do nothing. All that Billy Hayden has said, is true.--His knowledge he has gathered from some higher source than us, who refuse to educate the slave, and as he proclaims himself a freeman, the easiest plan of conducting the matter to
the satisfaction of all parties, will be for Phillips to take what he offers to him in fulfilment of his agreement, and sign his deed of emancipation. For rest assured, the bonds of slavery will never hold in bondage a spirit such as his!" The citizens listened with due deference to Mr. Brent, but were illy satisfied with his advice. They had ever been in the habit of witnessing the scourge applied to the back of a rebellious slave, until a meek spirit of surveilance was brought about. They longed for this course to be pursued towards me; but little did they know the heart with which they would tamper. I considered myself free--free, in the eyes of God and man--free, by all Laws human and Divine, and as such I was prepared to resent any indignity that might be offered me. I was surrounded by the shield of the spirit, and feared not the consequences, as my cause was that of Freedom and manhood--the two great gifts of an Almighty Power, who rules our destinies.
From the manner in which I spoke, and from what my friends, together with Mr. Brent told Phillips relative to me, he concluded that it would be necessary for him to appeal to stratagem and force. For this purpose, he drew up a sham Bill of Sale, and conveyed it over to a certain Christopher Keyser, better known as "Kit Keyser," who boarded with Mr. Throckmorton. After pursuing this course, he left the place, and I afterwards learned, he had also left the State. His object in this was, I expect to await until my arrest had been made, and I should be securely in the possession of Keyser. But here again, he was doomed to be disappointed. The spirit had armed me for the result and I feared not that it would speedily be righted. In order, then, to carry his object into effect, Keyser sent for me one morning stating that he wished to see me. I was ignorant of his intentions and immediately went to Mr. Timberlake's, whither he had removed,
On entering, I asked if he had sent for me.
He answered that he had.
I then desired to know his pleasure.
He informed me that he had purchased me from my master, and wished me to go and clean his shoes.
"Purchased me!" said I, "You, sir, cannot purchase me; I am a free man, and no power on Earth can compel me to play the part of the Slave any longer. And from my master too;--Sir, who is my master? Have you a Bill of Sale signed by the God of the Universe? If not, you have no Bill of Sale from the hands of my master. He alone I acknowledge as such--and He alone will I obey as such! Clean your shoes! thou audacious coxcomb! better were it that thou, in thy ill-gotten arrogance and assumption of power, which you know not how to use, should think of cleaning mine! for in the scale of honesty and morality, I look upon you as my inferior!--This is your first offence of the kind--let it be the last, you miserable puppy. I scorn you too much to meddle further with you," and turning to the other gentlemen who were present, and who were pleased to excess at my manly course, I bade them good morning, and retired, whilst the poor, chop-fallen Keyser knew not what to say. Thus things passed along a few days longer, when Dr. Willis Webb called on me and congratulated me on my independent course. I went again to Mr. Timberlake's, and saluting a saddler of my acquaintance, in the presence of Keyser, I asked him what he charged for making a pair of the largest sized saddle bags. He replied eight dollars. I then inquired, if he could have them done in a day.--He said he could; and I agreed to pay him his price, charging him not to disappoint me in the time, as I intended to go immediately to the Blue Lick Springs, and a day's delay would materially injure my future calculations.
I would here inform the reader that nothing was further from my mind than this. It was a bait thrown out to see how Keyser would bite. Nor was it thrown out in vain. Although the miscreant said nothing, yet I saw from the writhing of his soul he was struggling with assumed power and enmity. After making arrangements with the saddler, I proceeded to my old
friend Carter Lightfoot's, who had at a former time been a partner in business with me, and telling him that the time of which I had so often warned him, was now at hand, and that I was compelled to go to jail, I then took the $450 which I had in money and stuck it in every hole and corner of his shop, where I knew it would be secure from the lynx eyes of the searchers of the Law; I then opened my trunk which was in his shop, and taking therefrom all my clothes, I consigned them to his care, until I should call for them. I then locked my trunk and hung the key above it, and having charged him to disclose nothing he knew of me--which he strictly promised me to fulfill,--I awaited in anxiety the issue of the evil which I knew was now to befall me. I moreover told him that I intended to go down to Timberlake's, and inquire the price of passage to the Springs--to engage a seat for myself, and then, tell the driver to stop at his shop in the morning for William Hayden. This I accordingly did to my own satisfaction; and arming myself with the aid of spiritual advice, I awaited the deadly enmity of Keyser, and the moment when the evil of which the spirit had forwarned me I should surmount, should come to pass. With a throbbing heart I awaited it, well convinced that I should come off triumphant.
At the appointed time, the stage drove up to the door of Carter Lightfoot, and I shortly appeared with my luggage. But I was well aware of what was to follow; and, as I expected, as I attempted to enter the stage, Keyser and his myrmidons rushed upon me, they having been watching my movements, and charging me with an attempt to leave the place as an absconding slave, they stated I must go and await the arrival of Mr. Phillips in jail. I replied very mildly that their will was my pleasure, and accompanying them, I was soon lodged in jail. I had remained here for three or four days, when, by inquiry, the people, with whom I was a great favorite, began to wish to know the where-a-bouts of Billy Hayden. This was soon answered by some of my friends, by the information, that I was
confined in jail. Among those who most deeply sympathized with me, was Mrs. Throckmorton, whose children I used to be-friend, together with those of Mrs. Timberlake, and the sons of whom were, for those acts of kindness, to release me from my confinement. But it will be necessary here, for the reader to understand the nature of the transactions and revelations I had made to Mrs. Timberlake, and, through her, to Mrs[.] Throckmorton.
In the year 1817, whilst keeping a small confectionary, I was in the habit of treating her children, and those of her friend, Mrs. Throckmorton, to sweetmeats, and advancing them money for all their juvenile wants. They remonstrated with me, asking me the reason I did so? I told them that I was sowing the seeds now in the shape of cents, which should, in the course of time, sprout to dollars--and the debt would be paid, not in filthy lucre, but by releasing me from a difficulty more essential than the wealth of all the south. "You will live, ladies," said I, "to see me, seven years from this, in the common jail; and one of your sons, I know not which, will be the means of my deliverance, which will be more than a sufficient recompense for all I may now bestow upon them. You may smile in incredulity--but such a state of things will come to pass, and you shall live to see the consummation of all that I have told you." They laughed heartily at the idea, but I felt fully convinced the words of the spirit would be fulfilled.
In jail I lingered for some six weeks, upon the rough fare of a common prisoner: at the expiration of this time, however, the influence of the spirit seemed to work upon the feelings of Mrs. Throckmorton, and after much uneasiness she was supposed to think that all was not right. She, therefore, acting under this influence, sent to the jail by her son Mordecai, one of the youths spoken of above, to know if I was well treated. I returned her an answer that I was not. After that, I was daily served from her own table, and I believe through her influence, received much kindness, which I would not otherwise
have received from the Jailor. But still there was something which the spirit seemed to tell her was wanting, and it was indeed a long while before she could arrive at any means of ascertaining what it really was. Previous to this, let me here inform the reader, that I might have often freed myself, as I still reserved the written proofs of Phillips' villainy, signed by his own hand. But there was one thing which materially deterred me from so doing. Phillips was yet in the prime of life. He was looked up to by his aged and grey haired parents, as the prop of their declining years. They stood as it were, with one foot in the grave, and the other upon the brink; and was it my province to blast the reputation of this aged couple by an exposure of their son's conduct to me, and to others, in his absence? I could not think of it--I could not snatch the morsel of food from their lips, nor heap ignominy upon their heads, unless with the instructions of my guardian angel. But my good intentions, were by this spirit thwarted, as will appear in the sequel, and my own rights were to be vindicated unconcerned as to who suffered. Age and discrepency were to be blasted by the proofs--the tears of paternal and maternal grief were to be shed over the misdeeds of a son--and the withering curse of blasted reputation was to be attached to him, whose hypocrisy, concealed his tainted character. I shuddered at the issue, but it was the only one left me, and my counsel was, to avail myself of it.
Accordingly, the spirit working so powerfully upon Mrs. Throckmorton, she sent her son to me to inquire what was the matter, and what it was for, that I was really confined; as she could not believe it was for the alleged offence which general rumor assigned. At first, I hesitated to answer, but finally I requested the boy to go back to his mother, and ask her if she remembered seven years ago, when you were but a small boy, of a conversation I had with her and Mrs. Timberlake, relative to my reasons of relieving all the children's wants, of her and her friend. Ask her, if she remembers of my saying that I was
sowing cents to reap the worth of dollars. If she does, she will know the reason why I am confined here. The boy immediately started, and I afterwards learned, delivered his errand as I had told him. Mrs. Throckmorton at first could not remember, and consequently she sent over for Mrs. Timberlake to come to her which she immediately did.
On entering, Mrs. Throckmorton immediately asked her, if she remembered Billy Hayden?
She said she did, and she had understood that he was now confined in jail in this place.
"He is," replied Mrs. Throckmorton; "but do you remember a conversation which he had with us seven years ago, when we remonstrated with him about surfeiting our children with candy, and furnishing them with money?"
The two old ladies sat to work to recollect the purport of my imprisonment. They remembered my many acts of kindness to their children, they remembered their remonstrance, and after computing the various ages of their children, they finally remembered the unconnected particles of the conversation I so much wished them to understand. They remembered that I had told them that seven years from that time, I should be imprisoned--that I was then sowing the seeds of gratitude, to be reaped thereafter in the bosom of their children; and they remembered too, that they had laughed and hooted at the idea; but now their computation just made it seven years, and now they felt was the time for their action. But how the knowledge could have arrived to me, was a question over which they long lingered, and could not solve. My conversation was plain--my imprisonment was now palpable; but how had I known it so long a time be forehand? This they could not divine. Surely the God of the universe had a hand in this. The ways of God are inscrutable--He worketh his wisdom, and no man knoweth the extent of His power--He buildeth up the weak and destroyeth the mighty towers of the strong--He smileth on the oppressed, and smiteth with a heavy hand the oppressor--He protects
the innocent, and brings to a debased position the children of vice. He enlightens the benighted, and dims the lamp of Intelligence in the bosoms of the worldly wise. Thus, he had bestowed upon me a more than equal portion of His benign knowledge--led me through the labyrinths of slavery--elevated me to the rank of manhood--enabled me to bring to light villany, and to shield honesty. But how I had been enabled to predict this so many years before, was a matter which they, poor weak sighted mortals could not conceive. They fell short of scrutinizing the motives by which I was actuated, but they were fully convinced of one thing, (and this was the point to which I wished to bring them,) and that was, that my predictions had proved true--that I was now a prisoner, not for the alledged crime of attempting to escape, but to satiate a spirit of petty revenge, and they felt themselves called upon to use their exertions in my behalf.--God bless them, for in every station in life, and through every vicissitude, I ever found them endowed with the tender feelings of Christianity, and sympathy for the oppressed and down trodden. Nor did the contest rest with them. It seemed to become a bone of contention with the children, to know which had been appointed by the spirit to become the deliverer of his old friend; and amid tears of joy from the mothers, and high ambitious thoughts of the children, I was doomed to pass the day in solitude and gloom.
Accordingly, when Mr. Throckmorton came home, for he had been absent during the day, Mrs. Throckmorton called him into the parlor, and recapitulated all that had passed during his absence; asserting that she remembered the conversation--was grateful for my kindness, and that she felt that she was in duty bound to do something in my behalf. She therefore requested her husband to visit me in jail, and ascertain how she could serve me. Her husband hooted at all she said, and treated the whole matter as a thing of air. But Mrs. Throckmorton was not thus to be driven from her stand. She urged, that unless he came to me, she would, in person, come and see me, and learn
my wishes. Hence, in order to appease her, Mr. Throckmorton came after tea, to the jail, and enquired for me. He appeared glad to see me, and after shaking hands with me, asked what was the nature of the "Cock and Bull story" his wife had been telling him of a conversation between us several years previous. I immediately narrated the circumstances to him, and concluded by telling him of the villany of Phillips. He appeared utterly astounded, and asked me if I could prove it. I told him I could. That I had written proofs from under Phillips' own hand, and showed him the letters and pass of Cincinnati memory. After he had read them, he ejaculated, "good God! who would have taken him to be such a scoundrel!"
He then asked me if I needed his assistance.
I told him that I would like it, and that I had the money to purchase myself.
He then pledged me his friendship, and assuring me I should not long stay in jail, he departed.
His wife was highly delighted when he informed her how matters stood, and exclaiming "she knew some villany was afloat," and entreated Mr. Throckmorton to lose no time in sifting the matter, and setting me at Liberty. To this he replied he would promptly see it attended to. Mrs. Throckmorton then communicated the result to Mrs. Timberlake, who appeared as much pleased to think that innocence should be righted, and guilt exposed as she herself, and the two kind hearted ladies wept tears of joy. They remembered me in distress, and their memory shall be revered by me through life--for they were indeed to me "friends in the hour of need."
In a few days Phillips arrived, but his reception was any thing but a cordial one. His villany had been discovered, and the citizens could not find in their hearts any sympathy for one who could thus wantonly sacrifice all principles of honor and humanity. He saw however, that his scheme had failed, and that, although I was confined in prison, yet I was as much determined
to serve no earthly master, as I was when I last conversed with him upon the subject. He did not appear to be fully prepared for this state of things, and was cogitating some other plan of enforcing servitude, when Mr. Throckmorton rallied him upon my freedom. "Free!" exclaimed Phillips, "do you think I would be foolish enough in the purchase of a slave, to enter into such a contract--or if I were that I would be fool enough to ever think of fulfilling it! If Billy is free, as you say, let him show the proofs to offset his word." "Phillips," replied Throckmorton, "it is all folly in yonr attempting to deceive us longer in this business. Your conduct is all known to us, and Billy Hayden has at this time, a free pass and two letters signed by you, which were sent to him whilst in Cincinnati." Phillips was thunderstruck. He had long since lived in hopes that these papers were destroyed, and he was now, for the first time, since my return to him, informed of their existence. The blush of shame mantled his cheeks, and muttering some horrid oaths, he said he would go down to the prison, and if the "d--d nigger had any such forged papers about him, he would off with his cars on the spot." Accordingly he came, and after being admitted by the jailor, he called me down stairs. I had heard of his threat, and I must confess I trembled somewhat for my safety, knowing the impetuous disposition of the man I had to deal with. When I had approached his person, he appeared glad to see me, and immediately held out his hand. I took it, and looking him keenly in the face, I could discover that fear prohibited him from taking any summary means of chastisement.
After a pause he asked me if I still had the pass and letters which he had given me.
To which I replied, that I had.
"Why, said he, I thought you informed me on your return, that you had thrown them away."
"And I told you the truth sir, I did indeed throw them away as we touched at Maysville. But think you, Mr. Phillips, I
was ignorant of their future importance to me? If you do, you are much mistaken. I knew the course you would pursue with me, and I was determined that naught but death should separate me from the papers, consequently, as I leaped on shore, having obeyed your orders in throwing them away, I obeyed the orders of a higher power than you, in picking them up again, and reserving them. I have them now, and have showed them to some of my friends, who have kindly volunteered to use them to my advantage."
During this dialogue, the jailor, who was prompted by curiosity had been listening, and he had heard the question and answer, he rushed out to where my friends were standing, exclaiming "by Heavens, boys, Billy Hayden is free! I heard Phillips, myself, acknowledge that the pass and letters were genuine, and reprimand Billy for not destroying them."
When this was announced a general shout was raised, and Phillips finding he could do nothing with me, and the scorn of his former friends coming so hard upon him, he left the jail, and immediately went to Maysville. In leaving, however, he did not give orders for my liberation, but ever afterwards the doors of the prison were left open for the purpose of my escaping. It was a long while, and not until the jailor had become tired of my remaining, and my friends had advised and solicited me to leave, that I finally departed from my prison, and breathed again the breath of freedom, released from the shackles of bondage.
But my trials were not to stop here. Another act of villany, more hideous than the last was to be attempted in order to secure my remaining years in slavery. Several desperadoes were employed to visit my sleeping apartment, in the dead of night, and having gagged and bound me, to carry me off to some place where Phillips could again get possession of me and where he would have an opportunity of carrying me to the South, and selling me to the slave dealers. But their movements were not unknown to me. I foresaw the attempt--the
intervention of friendship, and the safe deliverance which was for me in store. I therefore went to Lexington, hither the desperadoes followed me. There was, in the place, an old colored man, known as "Uncle Daniel." Upon this man, I used to lavish a great deal of loose change, which was of great advantage to him, in procuring him many little necessaries, which he otherwise would not have received. Often has he remonstrated with me upon the waste of my money, as he was pleased to term it, and asking the reason, why I did so, I told him, invariably that I was now paying him beforehand for an act of kindness, which he was appointed to perform for me in after days, and which no money could then purchase. The old man wept tears of joy, when I told him this, and raising his hands and eyes to heaven, he invoked its aid in enabling him to discharge his duty to me, in performing whatever act I might require.
For some nights after my release from prison in Paris, a servant of Phillips' who professed much friendship for me, but whose real object was to ferret out my future plans, and have them conveyed to his master, came to the house where I lodged, and slept with me. I had remarked, that he invariably left in the dead of night, leaving all the doors open. I was aware of his object, that it was to admit the kidnapping party, and was also aware of the time of the premeditated attempt and its consummation.
Accordingly, on the day appointed, I went to uncle Bob, a servant of widow Todd, and telling him that the hour had come, in which he was to aid me, requested him to come and sleep with me that night. To this he freely consented, and towards dusk we bent our steps towards the house. The emissaries of Phillips, I was fully assured had their lynx eyes upon us--but we pursued the even tenor of our way. On my way to Lexington, however, I passed the house of Castleman, to whom I immediately went, and after explaining to him the reason of my absconding from Phillips, I showed him the pass and papers.
Castleman saw at once that I was free from blame, and that Phillips had proved himself a villain in the whole transaction. Mr. Castleman therefore extended to me his cordial friendship, but informed me that it was now too late, and that he could not be of any service to me at that time. We therefore shook hands and parted. On arriving at the house with uncle Bob, I told him the circumstance of the attempt of kidnapping me. He seemed startled--but I merely asked him to remain and watch, and that I would go to the pile of corn shucks which was in the field, and sleep there; and if any one come and asked for me, to tell them he knew nothing of me. This he promised, and at dead of night all I had told him proved true. On the succeeding morning, I turned my steps towards Lexington, which I reached in safety, and took lodging with Mr. Wickliffe, a tavern-keeper in the place, where I had often visited as Phillips' servant, and whom and his family had formed a friendship for me. On arriving there I was strongly invited to take dinner and tea with his own family, in order that they might have the news from the south. This invitation I accepted, and the servants being dismissed from the room, I was seated with the family of the landlord, and treated more as an equal than a slave. Here was a transition sure enough--a runaway, seated at the table with slaveholders, and engaged in a pleasant conversation.--O, ye powers! what various vicissitudes is man subjected to through life! Here, too, I again found my old friend uncle Daniel, who was a hostler with Mr. Wickliffe, and of whom I have above spoken. On meeting with him, and explaining how matters stood, through the superintendance of the spirit, I again escaped from slavery. The old man knew not what to think of it, and asked me what he was next to do? I told him that my absence would soon be observed from Paris, and that I would be advertised as a runaway. That I wished him to build me a sort of a room in the hay in the loft, and permit me to remain there, in the stable of Mr. Wickliffe, whom I had known long, from Mr. Phillips' recommendation to him
and whose good will I had secured. This, the old man promised faithfully to attend to, and I remained secreted in the stable nine days, living during the whole of that period, upon three cakes and the same number of pints of water. On the morning of the ninth, as I expected, hand Bills, bearing the signature of Keyser, who held the sham bill of sale, were circulated through the town, offering $50 reward for me, stating also, as I spoke and wrote the French and English fluently, I might possibly have a pass; but with a pass, or without one--dead or alive the reward would be paid for me on my delivery in Paris. Uncle Daniel, tearfully solicited to know what was next to be done. I told him to come to me at midnight, and I would leave by the back door of the stable and return to Paris. This he accordingly did, and travelling through the woods, I arrived at the half-way house, kept by Dr. Cochran, now of Louisville, in advance of the slave who was circulating the Bills for my apprehension. Here I made arrangements with the stage driver, to clean his horses and harness for my passage to Paris. Whilst I was engaged in this occupation the servant of Phillips, who was despatched with the Reward Bills passed the stable. I watched him closely until he was past, and discovered that his eye was directed to the lamp post before the door of the Inn. When he was past, and I had performed my work, I returned to the tavern, and looking at the lamp post, I discovered what had before escaped my observation, to wit: a Hand-Bill offering $50 Reward for Billy Hayden, dead or alive!" After awhile the stage was ready for starting, and the driver telling me to walk ahead a few miles, he would overtake me, and permit me to get in the stage. This I did, and in the course of a mile and a half, the stage overtook me. The only passengers which were in the stage, were two gentlemen from Philadelphia. The driver applied to them and asked them if they had any objections to my riding with them. They were very kind hearted men, and seemed glad of the opportunity, as they said of changing the conversation, accordingly I took my seat, and in due time
we arrived at Paris. Some of my friends had previous to this warned me that Phillips had sworn to shoot me, when he next saw me, and entreated me not to go back, but I felt secure in the spirit, and fearlessly entered the town where he had arrived. As the stage dashed up to the door of Mr. Timberlake, I leaped upon the pavement, where many of my warmest friends were standing. As soon as they recognized me, they swarmed round me, shaking hands, and congratulating me on my return.
"And where have you been, Billy?" said they.
"Why, visiting my friends," returned I. "I am now free, and having some leisure moments, I thought I would profit by them and visit some of those whom I longed to see."
"And do you know," continued Squire Boon Ingles, "that there are now two Billy Haydens in town?"
I informed them, that I was not aware of the fact, and asked them where the second was.
"There!" answered they, pointing to a Bill for my apprehension.
I looked at it for some moments, and then turning to them, I said--"Poor Devil! He's some slave I suppose,"--"and pray is this Keyser the same impertinent puppy who boarded at Mr. Timberlake's when I left town?"
"The same," remarked they, bursting into a boisterous laugh.
"Then, indeed, I pity the poor wretch to serve so contemptible a miscreant as him."
"But, do you not recognize yourself, as the man there spoken of?" asked they.
"Me!" No, gentlemen, I am free! Free as any of you--and that Bill calls for a slave--a thing--an article of a negotiable nature!"
This brought from the by-standers, another round burst of merriment, much to the chagrin of Phillips, who stood present, and of whose appearance, I intentionally took no notice.
Mr. Timberlake's children now came forward, and clinging
to me with childish affection, poured out their joy at my return, and informed me that their mother, who had heard of my arrival, wished to see me very much.
I sent Lady Timberlake word that I would call on her in the morning. I then bade my friends good morning, and wended my way to Mr. Lightfoot's. On my road thither, my friends poured to their doors shaking hands with me, and congratulating me on my courage in returning.
Among these, was my old friend Mr. Brent, who quietly asked me what I intended to do?
I informed him that the hour was nigh when I was to be pronounced free.
He wrung my hand warmly, and said, as the tears gathered in his eyes--"success attend you boy--may Heaven fulfill your dearest wishes."
The scene was too much for me, and the tears trickled down my cheeks, as I continued my walk to the house of my friend Lightfoot. When I arrived here, I found all things as I had left them, and my friend after warmly entreating me to be seated, recapitulated all that had transpired during my absence.--Here I remained until after tea-time, when I heard Phillips hail my friend, and ask if Billy Hayden was with him. He answered that he was. He told him to inform me that he wished to see me. I returned him as an answer that if his business was particular, he had as much time to wait upon me, as I had upon him. This answer being duly delivered, he returned to the Hotel, and about seven o'clock came to see me. He cordially extended his hand, which I took, and inquired after my health; I told him it was as good as I could expect. He wished to know why I had left town. I informed him that as a free man, I did not hold myself responsible to any man for where or when I might go or come. He strove so hard to get me again into his service, stating that if I would go with him once more to the South, that he would immediately liberate me on my return. But he strove in vain, for informing him that I would not
take his word for a chew of tobacco, I peremptorily refused to accompany him.
"And you are determined to be free!" continued he.
"I am! and not only free in body but in mind. I promised you $600 for my liberty,"--and although I felt he was not entitled to the first cent of it, yet I would pay it in order to keep my word. I was now ready to pay $450, and would give him my note for the remainder.
Finding he could not accomplish the ends he had in view, he finally agreed to accept of it in the morning, stating that I was well aware it was a mere act of clemency on his part, as he could get $2000 for me in Atakapas.
"Provided, in all cases" replied I, that you had me there--but I am determined no wretch who barters in human blood, shall ever again have dominion over me in a slave market."
After he had left me, I went to Mr. Thomas C. Owens, an Attorney at Law, and informing him of the transaction, requested him to draw up the papers, and attend to my business for me. This he did, and in the morning, the deed of emancipation in my favor was signed and sealed, and I now stood before the world morally, religiously, and legally free! My own humble exertions had brought it all about, through the interposition of Divine Providence, and as the tears of joy bathed my swarthy cheeks, I offered up a heart-felt prayer to the Almighty God for my safe deliverance. In a few days the Deed was duly recorded in Court, and my name proclaimed to the assembled citizens, as a free and independent citizen of the land.--The reader can judge of my feelings, while I assure him that no language of mine can justly portray them.
After my liberation, I concluded to visit my old mistress at Georgetown. Since my boyhood, when she had made me kneel at her knee, with her own daughter, and raised her eyes to Heaven for blessings on us both, she had but seldom seen me. When I arrived at her house she did not know me, and it was a long while before I discovered myself to her. She had a partial
recollection of the features, and as soon as I revealed myself to her she burst into tears, and throwing up her hands to Heaven, blessed the Lord, that she had seen the day of my deliverance. The servants were immediately called from the fields, and the house, although it was much earlier than the hour they were usually called, and after my mistress had made them acquainted with the high esteem she had for me, and held me up as a pattern of honesty and integrity to them, we sat down to a hearty and savory meal. At the house of my mistress, I staid but a short time, as I was then on my way to Louisville, to comply with the request of Mr. Miner, in becoming a citizen of that place. This gentleman had ever extended his kindness to me, and had even gone so far, as to procure for me a Bill of relief, from the Legislature of Mississippi. To this many of my friends objected, until ascertaining the standing of Mr. Miner, they finally waived their objections, and considered it wise in me to accede to the propositions made me by him. Accordingly after a short time, I embarked with Mr. Miner for Natchez, at $15 a month. This was the first occupation I had engaged in as a free man, and my heart throbbed violently, as I implored the aid of Heaven in upholding me, and thanked God for the many mercies extended to me.
After remaining in this place for the space of five years without hearing from my mother, I met with a gentleman direct from the place where she resided, and who informed me that she was very ill. I felt that the Lord had appointed me as her deliverer from bondage, and now that her declining years needed the prop of youth and the support of filial affection, I felt that the time had arrived, and that I must hasten on to her support. Accordingly, I began to make my preparations for my journey to Falmouth. Of this, however, I made known my intentions to none, but on the morning on which I started, I found that Mr. Brune, the agent of Mr. Miner, and who took a great interest in my welfare, was also going East. Under his protection, I therefore placed myself, and obeying his advice
was enabled to get along very fairly. This gentleman was on his way to New York for goods; and he was anxious that I should accompany him; but I was forewarned to go no farther than the spirit of the Lord would permit. My poor mother was now ill, and I now felt that she might probably be within a few hours of the grave. Whose duty therefore, was it to prop her declining years? Was it not his who claimed the title of son? I felt that it was, and was determined that it should be performed.
Under this gentleman's guidance, things passed off very smoothly, and every one on the representations of Mr. Brune as to my character, and the object of my visit to the home of my childhood, looked upon me as an extraordinary individual, and treated me with all the due courtesy which is extended to the most exalted of another color. I was hailed as a brother, by all who heard my story. The first event of any interest which transpired after my leaving Natchez, was at Louisville, where on my friend Brune's representations as above spoken of, I met a gentleman who kept the stage tavern at Froststown, Maryland. This gentleman, as soon as he heard my tale of distress, and my filial devotion to my mother, immediately became deeply interested in my case, and giving me letters of introduction to his family, requested that I would, on all accounts, if I found my mother, call at his house on my return, and permit him to witness the mother of so obedient and affectionate a child--and if dead, he requested me to leave with him a spear of the grass from her grave as a memento of our meeting, and as a tribute of one, who, though born in slavery, and of a different race, could undertake so long and tedious a journey, to bathe the grave of a mother with the tears of a son so long absent. This I faithfully promised to fulfil, and in a short time, Mr. Brune and myself, departed for Wheeling. At this point, my friend was to leave me; and I felt that I was about to sever from one of the truest of God's noblemen, and the dearest friend I had ever found upon the face of the Earth. He is now in a distant country (Havre,) and he, who held him as a brother still lingers in the land of
the living, many thousand miles away--with the wide waters of the ocean rolling between us. But wherever he may wend his way, the dearest prayers of his colored friend will follow--and hoping that God will sustain him in all his various vicissitudes through life, and in all his undertakings, I drop a tear to his memory, and bid him a heart-felt adieu!
When the hour of our parting arrived, my friend Brune came to me in company with a young gentleman, who had been a fellow passenger from Natchez, and with tears in his eyes bade me a cordial, yet a long good bye. My heart swells even at this late day, when the thoughts of that event come across me. Tears bathed my cheeks--and language failed to utter my gratitude and grief. He then turned and introduced me to the gentleman above spoken of, and related to him my history and my mission, requesting him at the same time to take charge of me as far as he went, and consider that all the kindness he had bestowed upon me, was the same as if he, himself, was the recipient thereof.
"Permit him not to be imposed upon," continued he, "by any, bearing a paler face, for a truer heart never beat in the bosom of any man, either in veneration of his God, or the world. But he has been raised a slave; and being so long subjected to the brutality of modern barbarism--and not permitted to avow his manhood, or his rights, his extreme modesty will not even now permit him to free himself by resenting the insults and impositions of such as he has been taught to look upon as his superiors. Take care of him, sir, and believe that while you are protecting him, you are lending your protection to Wm. Brune, who never forgets a kindness. To your charge I now commit him--guard well your trust as you love God and your fellow man."
The gentleman faithfully pledged himself to see me safely to Washington, which promise he religiously observed. Mr. Brune thanked him, and kindly shaking me by the hand, turned sorrowfully away. We parted--and perhaps forever--but his
memory is fresh in the bosom of the slave--and when the last trump shall summon all before the throne of Grace, I hope to see him crowned in glory on the right hand of a Righteous and Allwise Redeemer, and to this friend who protected me, may the Lord give his bounties and his blessings--richness and health, and a glorious eternity.
On my way to Falmouth, I again visited the house of Mr. Clay, and after a very flattering reception, I informed Lady Clay of my errand, and assured her that if my poor mother was dead, I should esteem it a great privilege to pluck from her grave some few spears of grass, and bear them with me to my own long home. This narration melted the heart of Mrs. Clay, and she burst into tears; and ere I left her, she made me promise her, that when I returned, I would stop at her house, and present her to the mother of such a son, assuring me, that although she stood high in the estimation of the world; yet she could not flatter herself that she had a child in whom she could place confidence to perform the same task for her. I assured her that I would, and hence departed.
We now took our course to Uniontown, at which place we received an acquisition to our company in the person of Mr. Stewart, who was bound for Washington city, having been elected to Congress from that district. Shortly after Mr. Stewart came into the stage, he inquired of my friend, who and what I was. The gentleman very affectionately repeated to him the story of my distress and the reason of my travelling. The narration so affected Mr. Stewart, as he was himself an orphan, and my attentions to him on the road during our passage, so pleased him, that he formed so strong an attachment for me, that he treated me as an equal, and even went so far as to call me brother.
When we arrived at Washington City, we stopped at the Stage Office, kept by Mr. Brown. Mr. Stewart strictly warned them to pay the same attention to me, after introducing me to them that they would to himself. Mr. Brown was himself
absent, and the Bar tenders, after the departure of Mr. Stewart, neglected to comply with his request. Accordingly, the next morning, when he called on me and asked me how I fared, I told him. My words seemed to raise his ire, and with many apologies on the part of Mrs. Brown and her attendants, in justication of themselves, I was introduced. After his remonstrance, I was treated more like an equal than any thing else. Mr. Stewart informed them that I was an orphan Boy--that I was going on to Falmouth to purchase my mother by tears and entreaties, being penniless; or if I found her dead, to bathe her grave with the tears of filial affection, which but few whites would undertake to perform--that I had been kind to him,--and he considered an insult to me, more than one given to him, and if I could not receive the treatment of a gentleman from them, he would conduct me to where I could be treated as such. Mrs. Brown on the recapitulation of this, burst into tears and begged that all should be forgiven, and urged me on my return, if I found my mother alive, to be sure and stop with her. This I promised faithfully to perform, and after a few days sojourn I renewed my travels to Falmouth, in quest of my poor mother.
When my preparations were concluded, Mr. Stewart came to me, and before parting, he performed an act of kindness, for which he will ever be entitled to my gratitude. He went with me to the steam boat; and I having advanced him the money, he paid my passage to the captain, and after informing him of my intentions, he begged of the captain, as he valued his friendship, to treat me on the road as a gentleman. This the captain promised to perform, and with tears rolling from the pent up assylums of my eyes, I bade farewell to one of the kindest hearts that ever beat in the bosom of man.
On board of the boat I considered myself a perfect stranger; and the anxiety which I felt for the welfare of my mother--the uncertainty of her being longer numbered with the living, and the hopes of bearing with me in case of her death some slight
memorial of her to my home in Natchez, whither I intended in such a case to return, kept me in a constant flood of tears. This attracted the attention of an old colored gentleman on board, by the name of Uncle Parish Green, who immediately approached me and kindly enquired the cause of my depression of spirits. I informed him that I was returning from a long absence to the home of my nativity, and that the uncertainty of my meeting my mother alive, gave me much uneasiness, and caused me to exhibit the weakness which he had witnessed. For awhile the old gentleman gazed at me in astonishment--telling me that I must surely be mistaken, as he had known me for a long time, though he could not call me by name, and that I was certainly some one of his neighbor's men. I replied to him that he had never seen me before, that I had been taken from my parents in infancy, and that I had not been in Belle Plains, where I was born, since that time.
"You born in Bell Plains!" exclaimed the old man, "and pray who are your parents?"
I informed him, that my mother's name was Alcy Shelton; and it was to her that I was now on a visit."
Uncle Parish looked at me wistfully for a few minutes, and bursting into tears, told me that he had been the play mate of my mother in infancy; that he had visited her a few weeks previous and found her well; but informed me that she had not to his knowledge, ever spoken of a son, who was absent. He then ran to the cabin, and called forth Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh, who had known my mother for many years, and for whom she had acted as midwife, when the young lady, their daughter, who was now travelling with them was born. When they came on deck. Uncle Parish, asked them if they had ever seen me. They unhesitatingly answered that they had, but where they could not then call to mind.
I reminded them that they were mistaken; that I was a perfect stranger to them, and was travelling to Falmouth, having purchased my own freedom, to see my mother, if living and
free her from slavery--and if dead, to gather from her grave some few spears of grass, that I might keep as a memento of the spot where her body reposed. They then very anxiously inquired my mother's name, and when I told them that it was Alcy Shelton, the old lady raised her eyes to Heaven, and exclaimed:
"I knew it--her every feature is there! I would have known him, had I met him in New Orleans!"
The whole party were now bathed in tears, and the daughter having been called also on deck, I received their joint blessings and good wishes for the consummation of my filial devotedness.
On the road, Uncle Parish Green took particular interest in me, and pointed out to me many scenes, with which I had once been familiar, but which a long absence and the changes they had undergone, were but now indistinctly remembered. Among these was the spot where my father's cabin stood, and the house of his master, but none attracted my mind with much attention, until on rounding the point, my eyes fell upon the ruins of the home of my infancy. It was still a ruin, and whilst I gazed upon it, my heart throbbed, and my eyes were filled with tears. The past was before me, and I was choaked with gratitude to God, that there I had once been instrumental in saving from death a beloved brother and sister.
"How dear to our hearts is the home of our childhood.
When fond recollections recall them to view,"
and I praised God that I once more beheld it.
Nothing further of importance transpired until I arrived at Bell Plains, and I left the boat bewildered in mind, and shedding a copious flood of tears, as I thought of the probable fate of my mother.
Here the stage was awaiting us. My baggage had been taken from the boat, and placed in the boot of the stage. On inquiring of the driver, seeing that the inside of the stage was filled, I was informed that I could not go on to the place of my
destination by that stage--that I must wait a return. I immediately went to the captain of the boat, and informed him, that I could not go, as the stage was full, and the driver refused to let me ride with him on the outside. The Captain therefore, hailed the stage and having examined the inside, informed the passengers and the driver that he was pledged to a gentleman of high standing and worth; that I should, by that stage, be taken to Fredericksburg--that it was optional with me to ride inside or out, as my name was the first on the way Bill; and that if they could not permit me to go, he had but to assure them the stage could not go. This had the desired effect, and after many vinegar looks, the driver consented to let me ride by his side. When I mounted the box, this august individual, closely drew his coat around him, and sheered off to the far side of the box, fearing no doubt that the touch of a colored man would contaminate him. But for this I cared not--my mind was too full of my poor mother, and her supposed death, to notice such trivial matters, and a surcharged heart found relief in a copious flood of tears. On passing the spot where the home of my infancy, and where the charred and blackened mass told me had once reared the humble cot that had sheltered me in youth was now visible, I could restrain my feelings no longer, but gave vent to them in loud sobs and many sighs. There was the spot where I first breathed the breath of Heaven's air--there the stream where I had in infancy sat and watched the rising of the two suns as I thought--there too, was the old apple tree, which when but a sappling, my mother has often taken her chair and leaning against which, she has entertained me with some juvenile tale, as she gave nourishment to my little sister. All, all was plain before me, as the noon day sun; and as the recollections through which I had passed flitted over of my mind, was it a wonder that I was unmanned, and made to feel as if indeed I were a child again? Perhaps now, the roundelays of innocence to which I had hearkened in my infancy, as they fell from the lips of a mother, were hushed in
death--perhaps, that maternal eye which had so often shot forth sparks of joy as I told of some childish feat I had performed, had been closed and dimmed by the hand of the grim monster, and the hand which had smoothed my pillow, was nerveless and unstrung. Perchance, ere this the body had mouldered into dust--the worms had gorged and fattened upon her dear form, and the spirit had sought a habitation of rest in the mansions of the blest. O, how I longed to unfold the reality of my fate, and if living to clasp a mother, once more to my fond bosom--to sooth her sorrows--to dry her tears, and to elate her heart with anticipations of freedom, and a happy home with me. These feelings crowded in quick succession upon me, rending the very chords of my heart, and opening every fountain of my soul. But I felt aware that God would uphold me in all my trials, as he had hitherto done; and I returned praises to His adorable name, as the tears trickled down my swarthy cheeks.
This burst of grief soon attracted the attention of the driver, who somewhat relinquishing his austere manner, enquired why I wept? I told him that I was now passing the scenes of my infancy,--that I had been born and raised upon the spot where that charred and blackened mass now presented itself; and that I could not gaze upon it but with the deepest feelings of reverence and regret. He seemed surprised, and told me that he had lived about the place all his life, but did not remember me; that I must be crazed; but that he knew me, having seen me somewhere before, but when or where, he could not at that moment tell. I informed him that he must be mistaken--that he had never seen me before, that I was a stranger in these parts; that I had been taken away in my infancy to the south. After a little conversation he politely enquired the name of my parents. I told him my mother's name was Alcy Shelton, and that my father's was James, a servant of Mr. Daniel. At the disclosure of this the driver dropped his lines, and seizing me by the hand, he warmly and affectionately welcomed me back
to my long lost home. "My God!" said he, "why could I not before discover the likeness. Granny Alcy is my god-mother, but I knew nothing of her having a son in the south. He informed me that he would, if possible, like to drive through Falmouth, which was two miles out of the road, for the purpose of leaving me at my mother's door, but that the late fall of rain which had been, had rendered the road slippery and impracticable. That he would give the world to see the meeting between my mother and myself." Having made known who I was to the passengers, who were in the stage, and among whom were Mr., Mrs. and Miss Fitzhugh who had been made aware of the facts, as I have already stated on board the Boat, backed the driver in his desire, and solicited him, if possible, to go by the way of Falmouth. But it was found as the driver had anticipated, impassable--and after he had shown me the house where my father resided, and the path he generally chose in going and coming from the setting and examination of his traps, we held our way to Fredericksburgh, where we arrived at about one o'clock at night, on the 2d of July, 1828.
Here, he determined to become my Chaperoon himself. The driver delivered his team into the hands of the servants. He immediately led me into the bar room of Mr. Young, an old friend of his, and where I afterwards ascertained my mother had, a few days before been living, during the confinement of his wife, and taking me up to the light he asked Mr. Young if he knew me. The striking resemblance which I bore to my mother, prompted him immediately to answer that he did; and he seemed somewhat confounded when I informed him that he had never before seen me--that I was taken from that neighborhood when quite a child, and had come directly from Natchez on a visit to my mother, who was known as Alcy Shelton. The good old man, when he heard this, raised his eyes to Heaven and gave me his warmest blessing, thanking God that I had returned to relieve the anxieties of my mother, who was a general favorite with all the citizens of the place. In this prayer
he was accompanied by Mrs. Young, who had been called to the bar room by the warm congratulations she heard going on, and never did, a poor soul feel his heart overflowing with happiness, more than I did at that moment. The mention of Natchez also brought to the room where I was, a great number of southern gentlemen from that place, and among whom were many of my customers and strongest friends. Their warm and zealous congratulations and joy at again seeing me, I will remember with gratitude to my dying day, and my own feelings, as a stranger in a strange land, meeting so unexpectedly with friends whom I so highly esteemed, I can never forget; even though years have passed away, it comes before me now as a green spot in my recollection.
I had here again to repeat to them the story of my travels and the reasons which prompted me to visit the scenes of my childhood--that it was for this purpose, and for this alone. When they had heard me through, the old folks again praised God that I had arrived to alleviate the bondage of my mother, and aid my brother and sister, who had married in the mean time, in order, that if my efforts were successful, all should again be rejoined, and constitute one family, devoted alone to God, and looking upon the past as so many trials which the Lord had strewn in our pathway, to teach us how much we are bound to thank and adore him. This sister I had always loved as the apple of my eye. It was she whom I had snatched from the burning building, and it was she, whom I felt almost as great an anxiety to unite with me in one family, together with her husband, as the release of our poor mother. The means were all that was needed to accomplish this mission, which I felt assured Heaven had designed, and which I felt, too, he would call up the means of consummating. As I before remarked there were present at Mr. Young's, many of my old friends from Natchez. These individuals had entered as Mr. Young was informing me of the anxieties of my relatives, and urging me to form such a family union, which was so desirable
to Heaven and ourselves. They had heard me regret my want of means to do so, and they now generously stepped forward (God's name be praised) to alleviate my wants. Mr. Offord, of Georgetown, one who had been acquainted with me from my boyhood assured me, in the presence of his friends that I should not lack for the means of carrying my laudable desires into execution, and pulling a well filled wallet from his pocket, insisted that I should take from it as much as I myself thought it would require to consummate my wishes, and secure the freedom of my mother. Mr. Ballard, too, informed me to let money not stay me in my heart felt wish to free my mother. He told me to go to any person in the city, and purchase a wagon and a span of horses for their removal, and whatever else I needed, and to use his name with his free consent, as an endorser of my notes. To use his credit to any extent, but to be sure and remove my mother and sister, regardless of the expense. I thanked these gentlemen very kindly for their offers, but declined receiving their bounty unless I could not make my ends meet with my own exertions. After this, I retired to a private room with Mr. Young, who gave me a full and succinct account of my parent, and informed me where to find her. He bade me go to the Bridge, if I were anxious to go on, as it was a delightful moonlight night, and telling the keeper who I was, he would let me cross, and also put me upon the path to my mother's house. I determined to profit by his advice, and thanking him warmly for the interest he had taken in my affairs, I departed with a throbbing heart for my dear mother's abode. I felt that I was now treading the Land of my nativity, a free man--that I was the ambassador of a Heavenly Power, to alleviate the woes of a heart-stricken parent and furnish her also with the means of her freedom and a home, where her declining years should be supported, and her last sigh be registered in a son's heart. Where her least want should be tenderly administered to, and with these feelings, and with heart elate,
I bent my steps towards her lonely dwelling, racked with anxiety and hope.
When I arrived at the bridge, all things were as Mr. Young had foretold me. The toll-gatherer, on ascertaining that I was the son of Alcy Shelton, immediately arose from his bed, and after a long conversation, during which he informed me, that my mother had been at his house the same evening and started for home, after night-fall, he opened the gates, and permitted me to pass. In parting from him, however, he informed me that as the road to my mother's house was difficult to find, he would advise me to stop with a colored man on the other side of the river, who was well acquainted with the road and whom he felt assured on hearing my story, would immediately accompany me. When I arrived at the house of this man, I found him wrapped soundly in sleep. Having awaked him, and informed him of my desires, he at first refused, but after a short time, with the offer of a half dollar being extended to him, he agreed to accompany me. Having therefore accoutred himself for the journey, which was but a short distance, we set out, and soon arrived at the door of my mother.
On rapping at the door, an old gentleman who was keeping my mother company, she being confined to her room by sickness, came, and demanded our business. I informed him that I was the bearer of a letter from Mrs. Shelton's son in the South to her. She immediately demanded that I might come in, which I hesitatingly did. As I entered, the old man held the light to my face, exclaiming;
"O, Alcy, if God ever gave you another son, this is him:--He is the very image of you, and has your voice, as nearly as two individuals can resemble each other in life."
My mother looked at me, from the pallet on which she was lying, and immediately asked if indeed I were her son?
I replied, by asking her if I looked like him?
She said she could not tell, but if I were, not to keep her in suspense.
I could stand it no longer, but catching her to my bosom, I exclaimed, "I am indeed your long lost son!"
After the first burst of affection had subsided with my mother, she sprang from the couch, and hastening to the door, she called to my sister to come over immediately. My sister having left her on the same evening, and fearing something was wrong, came running in her night clothes, accompanied by her husband. The scene that then ensued, I shall never forget, as my heart has never since been blessed with so much happiness. The next morning, my father was sent for, and after a recognition had taken place, I sat down with my mother and him at the table. There was none else present, and as I sat and witnessed the tears as they trickled down the cheeks of them both, and found a response with myself, I felt that the words of God had been fulfilled, and that one moment of my presence now added more to their happiness than many years had tended to give them previously. Thus was I again brought together with my family, and thus did the Lord prosper my actions as a son. All the praise be His.
My future plans were after a short time set about, and after much trouble and many trials, I achieved what my heart most panted for, the freedom of my mother. In this I was materially aided by the well wishes of many kind friends. After I had achieved her liberation, I accompanied her to the Court which was held in Stafford in order that I might witness the registering of her freedom. This was duly accomplished, and after she had received the certificate of the Court, that she was now a free and independent citizen of the land, she left the house to indulge in the feelings, which she fain would be relieved of by discharging the emotions of a surcharged heart. She retired from the Court House, and some time after I sought her behind the House, where she was pouring forth her tears of joy to an Almighty God, coupled with her prayers for the kind protection He bestowed upon her, and in upholding her through the severe trials which she had passed.
Never can I forget that scene! My mother, bathed in tears, and clutching the certificate of her release from bondage in her hand, as if it would leave her grasp, and praying to God to still shield her through life. My heart felt heavy as I witnessed her distresses--and my soul still felt elevated as I kissed from her cheeks all traces of her sorrow, and prepared to lead her from all her trials to a land of freedom and the home of a son.
After the freedom of my mother, finding that I could go no further at the present time by my own exertions, I accepted of the kind offers formerly held out by Mr. Ballard. On his credit I bought a horse and wagon, and having made all our hasty prepartions, I took my mother and sister and bent our course to Natchez, where we arrived about the last of November, 1828.
But before parting with you, gentle reader, permit me to lay before you a few incidents which took place on my homeward passage. On starting from Falmouth, I carefully packed up my clothes in a trunk, and procuring an old ragged suit, the better to conceal my true motives, and appear more to advantage in the eyes of a sympathyzing people--for my funds were now run ashore, and my only hope of proceeding on my journey, was by begging. This suit was the one which I had assumed for the purpose of begging the freedom of my poor old mother, and in which I had proved successful; and I felt fully convinced I would also be successful in it in my second attempt--for I concluded that to cast away an old friend, who had stood by me in time of need, would be ill luck. But in order that the reader may the more readily conceive the appearance I made in these habiliments, I will endeavor, in my rude style, to draw a portrait of myself, for their satisfaction.
The pantaloons, which I wore, would have puzzled the wisest magician of the east, to tell which was the original piece--so patched and repatched were they from waist-band to foot,--here stood out in bold relief, a large spot of Virginia linsey--there a half section of red flannel--here, a patch of home-made cloth, which appeared to have belonged to the nether garments
of Mathusalem--there, a portion of an old peticoat, which, no doubt Eve claimed the proprietorship of--and in fact from east to west--from north to south of those old pants--the leopard seemed their facsimile, and every spot and patch (which were almost as numerous as the sands of the sea,) assumed chamelion-like a different shade; whilst a thick coat of grease and tar added a gloss to them, which would put to blush the finest satin now worn by the most exquisite dandy, or City belle; and the coat!--Ye Gods! Joseph's was but a faint idea of the patch work, and variety of colors which decorated my back. From black to green--from white to red--from olive to brown--from scarlet to claret--from yellow to crimson--from lake to blue, and in fact all these, with their innumerable shades added "dignity" to my looks (as the beggar would say) and acted as a mark of attraction to every passer by, and an open-sesame to the charity of all of whom I asked assistance--(for be it recollected that I was beggar generalissimo for a family of six besides myself and horses.) Nor was this the most remarkable feature of my habiliments. The hat! O, Jupiter, what a hat! Caesar wore his antique casque--Napoleon, his chapeaux--the "man wot eat the oysters," his ragged Beaver--but these were comfortable and comely, when compared to my head gear. My hat was an old wool, flat crowned hat (which had once been a hat) and which no doubt some old slave had thrown aside as a nothing--the brim fell over my eyes, and when I had pinched it into a three cornered cock, and decorated it with a sprig of green leaves at the different corners, you may well suppose that I resembled some scare-crow set in a field to protect the corn and grain of the farmer--nor was this resemblance lessened in my mind, when at every house we passed, the children ran from me, crying at the top of their lungs--"Lord! here comes the rag man;" and my family were rallied at all our stopping places for following such an object of commisseration and apathy.
On this journey I had many difficulties to surmount--many
places at which we stopped, we were prohibited the privilege of remaining, owing to my uncouth appearance--but the Lord had extended his shield over me, and although we were compelled to encamp many a long and weary night by the road side, yet he still was with us, and protected us, as he did the children of Israel of old. Yet all men were not thus hardened in heart--and in the capacity of a beggar, I was enabled to gather from the sympathizing people along the road, sufficient to support my family and the other inmates of the wagon, who had embarked with me for Natchez, and which consisted of two young ladies, and a young gentleman, who now reside in this city, (Nathaniel Belfour) who can at this day corroborate all which I have stated.
Nothing of importance transpired until we arrived at Washington, where Mr. and Mrs. Clay then resided, (he being at that time, Secretary of State,) I immediately concluded to call upon her according to promise, and introduce my mother. This I did, and I felt fully satisfied with its beneficial results. When we arrived at her lodging, Mrs. Clay had not yet left her room, but on ascertaining that I, and my mother, had arrived, she instantly gave orders to admit my mother to her chamber. Here they were engaged in a long conversation, and in the course of time, she brought my mother to me, and gazing tenderly at me for a short time, congratulated her on having so affectionate a son. Her husband was then absent--but was expected home every hour, and we were strongly insisted upon to remain until his arrival; which owing to our want of time we were compelled to refuse. Mrs. Clay, however, for the purpose of inducing us, stated that if we would await his arrival, Mr. Clay would be happy, owing to the high opinion he, and his sons entertained for me, and knowing my filial regard for my parent, to furnish our scanty purse, and enable us to prosecute our journey to its end in comfort. But time pressed upon us--and we could not even avail ourselves of this kind and benevolent offer. When she found that all her importunities were in vain.
she insisted upon our receiving from her a lot of provisions;--which consisted of a quantity of bread--a large and delicious ham--and a huge spicy cheese. This appeared to us a Godsend, and lasted us for some weeks on our journey. Mrs. Clay when we parted, gazed alternately upon my mother and self, and as the tears trickled from her eyes, remarked:--
"Madam, you know not the treasure you have now in charge. You know not the value of your son. Were you to hear my husband and sons, speak of him, you might form some just estimate of his worth. Rest assured he is an individual of most surprising and unspeakable tenderness for his parents--and as I before told him, I have no child of whom I could expect the sacrifice which he has made for you."
Both she and my mother were bathed in tears--and offering up a prayer for our safe arrival at our destination, we parted, joyful indeed at the thoughts of God's will, and the kindness with which we met. If ever this Narrative should reach the eyes of my benefactress, I sincerely hope she will remember her kindness, and believe that it is still thought of with gratitude; and that she will not think it less worth as coming from the mouth of a poor creature, who groaned out thirty-six of his best years in bondage. May the Almighty protect her--and may all the pleasures and bounties, which He showers upon His people be her's--and when done with this world, may He accept her spirit among those of his own chosen band, is my sincere prayer.
On passing from the door of Mrs. Clay, we bent our steps to Georgetown, where my waggon had stopped;--owing to the sickness of my sister--yet, in looking back, we could discover Lady Clay, still standing in the door watching our steps, whilst beside her stood her old and faithful servant "Letty," and her daughter "Nancy," my old friends. She still looked, as in fact did all of them, as if they grieved for my inability to stay--and were blessing the mother, who was possessed of so kind a son. A long series of moons have passed since, but that scene is still
fresh in my memory, and will follow me in greenness to my grave. The Lord's will be praised--for His goodness has followed me through every vicissitude, and blessed me with a fullness and richness of heart--which even now sustains and enervates me, at this late day.
On leaving Washington we wended our way smoothly until we reached the vicinity of Uniontown, when we met with an accident, from the breaking of our axle-tree. Yet the Lord was with us, and the misfortune happening before a kind neighbor's house, who was the proprietor of a Blacksmith shop, and having been informed of our circumstances, they very kindly and generously repaired the accident, and sent us on our journey rejoicing. But here, too, I was, in the appearance I bore, an object of apathy. My garb belied me--and they looked upon me as the children in all places did--a "rag-man;" but when my mother informed them that I was her son, and what I had suffered for her, the tune was generally changed, and I was cordially greeted with anxious inquiries, and benevolent wishes for my success.
Whilst the blacksmith was repairing our axle-tree, I accompanied my mother up to the residence of the mother of Mr. Stewart, the Congressman from Uniontown, of whom I have previously spoken--and whom I faithfully promised, if I passed that way to call upon. The meeting of the old folks, when she ascertained who I was, I could not withstand, and consequently sauntered away, to hide my tears from observation.--After a long conversation, Mrs. Stewart with tears in her eyes, requested my mother to await, and to induce me to remain until her son should arrive, whom she felt fully convinced would leave nothing undone to guaranty us in a comfortable and happy journey--but, as in the case of Mrs. Clay our time was urgent--and the old Ladies were compelled to part with each other, though with tears. After affectionate entreaties, Lady Stewart accompanied my mother to the end of the lane, in order to bid farewell to the family, which was some half mile distant
from her residence. When she arrived, all were delighted to see her, and when I assure you that all equally regretted her departure--and tears were copiously shed on either side, I present to you but a faint idea of that meeting and parting--for if God ever implanted truth and honesty in the heart, which none can doubt--prayers and well wishes were freely exchanged at that humble wagon of the penniless and begging Ethiopian, who had thus reduced himself for his family's freedom, and his own affectionate regard for them.
Previous to this, however, I have neglected to mention one very important circumstance. The reader will remember that I have before mentioned a gentleman whom I met with, whilst in company with Mr. Brune, and who kept the stage office at Froststown, Maryland. This gentleman had strongly invited me in returning to call upon him, which I accordingly did. Here I remained with my family for a week, and I must say, that never was man and family treated more kindly than I was. Nothing appeared too much for him or his, to perform for me--and my request was all that was necessary to insure any service which lay in his power. I am sorry, I cannot now call him by name--but I feel assured the Lord still upholds him, if living--and if dead, that he has met a great and glorious reward for his kindness to a penniless boy, whose love of family had thrown him upon the wide bosom of a cold uncharitable world.
I had been in the habit, since I left Washington, of hailing the stage as it passed me, I ever being in advance of the wagon which bore my family, and inquiring if there were among the passengers any gentleman from the vicinity of my boyhood and acquaintance. This proved unsuccessful, until near Wheeling; when on my hail a gentleman answered, saying that he came from Paris, Kentucky. I immediately approached the coach, and gazed at the individual with feelings of joy. He proved to be an old acquaintance, and after eyeing me some time, for my scare-crow garb seemed a mystery to him, he asked--
"And who, pray, are you, that comes from Kentucky?"
"Why massa Huggard," replied I, "don't you remember me Mr. Brent's favorite,--Billy Hayden?"
"Impossible!" replied he.
"The same, sir, I assure you," replied I, "but my garb, seems to belie me."
"My God! and is it so? and what in God's world has possessed you to wear such clothes?"
"Why, massa Jim, I'm begging now for a mother and sister, whom I have just rescued from bondage. The wagon which you passed, behind us, contains them, and we are bound for Natchez!"
"And are you really out of funds?"
"I am," replied I.
"Here then," said he, "is all the change I have at present but at the next stopping place I will leave you some means to prosecute your journey," pitching out to me twenty-five cents.
I thanked him very kindly for his favor, and when I reached the place of stoppage, I very politely inquired if any money, had been left there for me. Here, another difficulty occurred as the landlord and landlady refused to recognize me, or to give me the money until the arrival of the wagon, when my mother corroborated my statement, and claimed the funds.
The striking resemblance between myself and my mother convinced them; and after many apologies they handed me some five or six dollars, and filling our cargo with provisions, we again renewed our journey, rejoicing.
For this act of kindness on the part of Mr. Huggard, he has the sincere prayers of a faithful heart; and if unable to liquidate the debt in this world--rest assured that the same God who has upheld me through life, and who suffers not a sparrow to fall, without his knowledge, will treply reward him in a world to come.
O, how good and glorious are the ways of a Divine Providence! He sustains the rich, whilst He extends a doubly protecting
arm over the poor--He shields the monach, while he blesses and protects the subject--He turns all to love, where the heart rebels not, and he stands willing to pluck all to his protection who are willing to give up their hearts to Him.
The next incident of interest which transpired was when we arrived at Wheeling, Virginia. To the landlord of the stage office at this place, I had on my upward passage been introduced by my friend Mr. Brune, who hearing from his lips, a narrative of my history, strongly invited me to call on my return. At his house I accordingly stopped, and I must be permitted to say that his invitation at that time was faithfully repaid. As soon as we arrived at his house, and I had made known who I was, he took us to a colored family at the lower end of town, and after making arrangements with them for house-room and board--which he himself paid, and also furnishing us with provender for our horses, he left us comfortably situated. In the mean-time too, he secured for the balance of the family, save my mother and self, a passage on board a boat from that place to Maysville, whilst we were to proceed on our way to Maysville in our wagon. All that man could do--all that nature could possibly divine which belonged to man to perform for his neighbor was faithfully fulfilled, and religiously observed. The Lord had raised him up as a friend to me and to mine--for the Lord never yet according to Holy writ has seen his seed begging bread--nor the poor and righteous wanting in the affections and support of Christ. He had upheld me through the various trials and vexations of life--He had given me life--He had shielded me from all dangers, and though He placed difficulties, apparently insurmountable before me--yet He brought me forth in triumph and landed me safely upon the shores of faith, and the brink of Immortal love. Who, then, can fail to thank Him for all the kindness he bestows upon them in life--who can fail to consider that Christ himself, when he suffered crucifixion for a world, that they might be saved, would lead us safely through the fiery ordeal, and as he
promised us on Earth, eventually lead us to the throne of Grace, to sup and rejoice with us in the presence of His Holy Father. Surely none--therefore, I can do naught but adore his holy name, and thank him for the innumerable blessings which he has showered upon me.
In Maysville, my mother met with a sister, whom she had not seen for a long time; and with whom she remained for some few days. This sister, she had not seen for at least forty years; but the result was not for me to witness. Those who have seen a meeting among the members of a family long separated, can fully appreciate the feelings which throb in their bosoms. The Lord had brought about a meeting, and the Lord alone could sympathize with those two aged females as they embraced each other with the tears of sisterly affection.
This was the last scene of interest which occurred until we arrived at Natchez, where, as I have before stated, we arrived in November, 1828.
Here we remained until 1835, when we removed to Cincinnati, where I now reside, and where in 1842, I buried the dear creature who had given me life, and watched over me with maternal affection, and here as a citizen I have felt the kindness of God in all my acts with my fellow men.
If any of my old friends see (and I am aware many of them will,) this narrative, my sincere hope is that the truths which I have herein stated will find a cordial response in their bosom, and having once paved the way they will again wish to hear more from their well wisher Billy Hayden.--In this I have not intended to wound the feelings of any--God knows I revere my friends, whilst I extend forgiveness to my enemies. My intentions have been to fulfill what I conceived to be a duty to myself, and my feelings toward my God, and my most earnest prayer shall be extended to Heaven in their behalf through life and in death--for they have travelled with me on Earth, and my desire is that we may all meet again in Heaven.
God's name be praised, for he has guided me safely through all the trials I have had to undergo through life, and aided me in my heart-felt wish and desire of obtaining a parent's freedom. Reluctantly, therefore, I bid you a heart-felt adieu for a short period. This hasty sketch, for it is my intention hereafter, to lay before you a more succinct history of the same, God willing, and your present liberality calling for it, is but the forerunner to prepare the way for what I conceive to be a final good.--Many of the most important incidents of my life are omitted, and many that would cause by a true and faithful narration, the hair to stand on end, for their cruelties have been but slightly winked at during this brief period. But I now, thank Heaven, enjoy the rights and immunities of a free citizen of your land--I enjoy the freedom of mind, body and soul, and can cast my eyes to Heaven, and exclaim, with my fellow mortals, "here Lord am I, and the treasures, tenfold increased, which thou hast given me." My mother, the saint over whom I so long held a son's faithful trust, I buried some years since in the Methodist Episcopal Burying Ground in this place. God bless her memory, for a son's tears now fall, in adverting again to her. As for myself, I am about to continue and lengthen out these memoirs, to be given to the public, if called for by them. Hoping, therefore, that the Almighty God may sustain us all through the various vicissitudes through life--that he may protect and watch over us in the hour of death, and finally save us, to partake of His richness in Heaven, is the sincere wish of your friend as he bids you a cordial and heart-felt ADIEU!
Woman! thy heart is love--thy form is grace,
Thy smile disarms the bloody hand of strife,
And beauty is enshrined upon thy face,
As gentle maiden, or as faithful wife.
The music and the melody of life;
A beam of mercy, sorrow's tear to dry,
To man with holy influences rife,
On Earth, thou art an angel of the sky.
Light from thine foot-prints shine, and glory from thine eye.
Winter prepares the embryo flowers of spring,
Among the leafless boughs the birds are mute
Again, that the more gladly they may sing;
The rose shall bloom again, the tendrils shoot
And branch in beauty, rich with golden fruit,
But blighted woman blossoms not again;
Dews may not cherish; sun-beams may not boot,
Her angel bowers she never shall regain,
Bright tears may pity shed, her sorrows are in vain.
The whitest robe most easily is stained,
The soft most readily the impression takes,
The acutest nerve most sensibly is pained,
The delicate machine, the soonest breaks;
The oak resists the storm, that ruin makes
Among the roses; in the finest mind
The reason slumbers when the fancy wakes,
The heart the most susceptible and kind,
To danger's most exposed--when mischief is designed.
Here how few gentle women then escape,
When all beneath the roses lurks the snare,
And wheresoever she her course may shape,
The influences of the earth and air,
Seduce, corrupt, and things themselves most fair,
Against the soft confider are combined;
No shield defends her, and no guardian care
Watches the varied workings of her mind,
By every impulse led, as Fancy is inclined.
Sees she the stars in Heaven, like angels, blaze,
In them she reads a history impure,
Or wanders she amid the forest's maze,
Within the solemn circle is a lure
For vestal virtue--who may then insure
The unheeding one against the poison'd wound,
Or if inflicted, who devise a cure;
It festers, gangrenes, till the whole is found
One pestilent disease--and leprosy unsound.
The pathway, how may she discover, where
The sun that rules the day is dark as night,
Amid the trackless waste how may she fare,
Where an impure Religion's meteor light,
The soul bewilders, and unnerves the sight,
And vice is worshipped, and the very shrine,
A place impure, and priestly fingers write,
Precepts unholy, that men deem divine,
To quench the unborrow'd lights, that in the spirit shine.
Alas! how wreck'd the promise of her birth!
In poison'd plants arise the ambrosial seeds.
She who might be the ornament of Earth,
A ruined temple overgrown with weeds,
A golden chamber, where the serpent feeds,
A rayless jewel, or a beamless star,
A silver cistern of unholy deeds,
The smile of gentle peace--the heart of war,
Impure idolatory the work of God to mar.
Yet she may pity claim, she never knew
The holy training of a law divine;
Nor the domestic right to nature true,
Nor love, nor truth that kindle on the shrine
Of a pure household--gods and men combine
To wreck and ruin--from a child a slave
Of sire and husband, who in chains confine,
And home--their Virtue's altar, is the grave--
The temple is a thrall from which no power can save.
Medicine may heal the body's deepest wound,
The spirit's gashes never close again;
For it, availing balsam is not found,
And for its fractures, ligatures are vain,
They knit not but incurable remain;
The leprous soul no leech may purify,
And no physician mitigate its pain,
No hand again may reinstate on high,
Palsied and bent to earth the native of the sky.
Can she be faithful? She who never knew
Love's rosy hopes, and its alternate fears?
Its fair varieties, forever now;
The sweet surprise, and the delicious tears,
As from one fountain flowing, in the ears
The melody of bliss, the blending heart,
The conscious smile that each to each endears,
The undisguised avowal without art,
The drama of true love wherein each plays a part.
[Pages 145-146 missing in the original.]
In addition to the foregoing, my mother received the following certificates of character, and skill in her profession, from Mrs. Esther T. Moncure, and from Dr. Carmichael and Lady, and which I beg leave to attach hereunto:
I have known the bearer, Alcy, for about 25 years, during which time, she has supported a most excellent character, and has been very successful in her profession as a midwife.
I have often met with Alcy, as a midwife for the last twenty years, in the neighboring towns of Falmouth, in the most respectable families. She may be safely trusted--always calling in medical aid in a proper time.
James Carmichael.Fredericksburgh, Sept. 5th., 1829.
This is to certify that Alcy Shelton has practiced midwifery for the last thirty years, with success, and that she in an honest and good woman.
The above recommendations are not the trumped up certificates of the scum of the neighborhood, in order to impose upon the credulity of the reader, but are from the pens of the first families in the South. No one who knew Alcy Shelton, will for a moment hesitate to subscribe their testimony as to her honesty, and goodness of heart; and those upon whom she has been permitted to call, during the period of their confinement, have ever commended her for her kindness and attention. It is true that in order to attain her freedom, I was compelled to surmount barriers, which at first appeared to be almost impracticable; but I was laboring in the cause of my mother--one who was a favorite with all her acquaintances, and one whom
to me was more than life itself. And what gentle reader, would be your feelings, as a son, if you were placed in similar circumstances. I anticipate your answer. Death to you would be a paradise, when compared to the thought of longer seeing your aged parent toiling in the bondage of Slavery--her toil worn limbs, hurried beyond their strength in the fulfillment of duties, dictated by a master's will. The tears of sorrow were hardening upon her wrinkled cheek--the fire of life was beginning to leave her eye; and the elasticity of youth, had long since departed from her step, and yet she was a slave--bound by laws, neither human nor divine, to fulfill whatever duty a master or a mistress, in their self-wisdom, or actuated by other motives, either of malice, or authority, should impose upon her. I was in the prime of my youth--the son of this aged sufferer. By my own exertions I had become a free man--and what course, let me ask, did humanity--the laws of God and nature, point out to me? Was it my duty to stand idly by, and witness the careworn struggles of an affectionate mother, without an effort for her freedom? No! I felt that such a course would blast my claims to humanity forever--I felt that unless I struck a blow for her freedom, I would be sacrificing all the feelings, which should bind a son in the ties of consanguinity and filial love to her who had given me existence, and protected me through childhood--that I was sacrificing the most heaven-born principles of Jehovah; and I concluded to strike fearlessly, and regardless of consequences. Acting under these impulses, I did strike, and struck too, effectually--so much so, that after surmounting all the difficulties thrown in my way, through the benign influence, and protection of the Almighty God, I succeeded in breaking her chains, and setting her free from the trammels of bondage, upon the broad basis of universal freedom, which acknowledges no distinction between the human family--drawing no line of demarkation between the sons of the north and south, between the tawny skin of the Ethiopian and the lily hue of the northern maiden. All,
all are recognized as free, and as such, my mother was, through my exertions, enabled to proclaim her gratitude to God.
The reader will, no doubt, consider this as a digression from the subject, which should characterize this narrative; as indeed it is: but I feel well assured that he will pardon my indulgence in a few filial reflections, guided by right, and approved of by Heaven; and hoping that such may be the case, I hasten to proceed to those papers, which will bear more directly upon myself, and at the same time confirm the premises laid down in the foregoing pages.
With this view I will unfold the pile of evidences and recommendations of character, and spread them before the reader in regular rotation; in order that he may know more fully, who and what he is, who has addressed himself to his understanding in the preceding narrative. I shall also claim the privilege, with the reader's permission, of making such comments as I may see proper, upon each gentleman's testimony, that I may thereby the more readily illustrate the matter.
The first, therefore, that I shall present to his observation, is the Deed of Emancipation, declaring me a free and independent citizen of the United States, entitled to rights and immunities of my fellow men. Yes that deed which consummated the object for which I toiled and struggled for many long and tedious years--for which my soul yearned--and for which I had so often prayed to God to bring within my grasp, My prayer was finally answered--and the health and strength which I was blest with, during my struggles, I was induced to look upon as blessings, showered upon me to accomplish my earthly purpose But to the paper, which reads as follows:
This Indenture of Emancipation made this second day of October, eighteen hundred and twenty
four: Witnesseth, that I, Thomas Phillips, of the town of Paris and State of Kentucky, do hereby emancipate, set free, and forever discharge from servitude of myself, my heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, a certain negro man slave, by the name of William Hayden, a barber, about thirty-five years of age, five feet ten or eleven inches high, and dark complexion.
Witness my hand and seal, the day and date above written.
N. C. Marsh,
Tho: C. Owings.
Bourbon County Court, October Term, 1824.
This Deed of Manumission from Thomas Phillips to William-Hayden, was this day proven in open Court, by the oath of Thomas C. Owings and Nicholas C. Marsh, subscribing witnesses thereto, to be the act and deed of the said Phillips, and ordered to be recorded: Att.
Thomas P. Smith, C. B. C.
State of Kentucky, ss.
I Thomas P. Smith, Clerk of the County Court of Bourbon, in the State aforesaid, do certify that the foregoing Deed of Manumission, from Thomas Phillips to William Haden, is truly copied from the record in my office. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the seal of said County, this fifth day of October, eighteen hundred and twenty-four, and in the 23d year of the commonwealth.
Thomas P. Smith, Clerk,
By A. Chs. Dickerson, D. C.
I certify that the within Deed of Emancipation was received into my office, to be recorded, on the 16th day of January, 1826.
Woodson Wren, Clk.,
By J. Greene, Dep. Clk.
State of Mississippi,
I, Woodson Wren, Clerk of the County Court of said County, certify that the within Deed of Emancipation is a true transcript from the records of my Office.
Given under my hand, and the seal of office at the city of Natchez, this 20th day of February, 1826.
Woodson Wren, Clk.,
By J. Greene, Dep. Clk.
This was the paper for which I had so long looked, with so much anxiety, and which when I received, I clutched to my bosom, with more true feelings of joy, than I would have done the immense wealth of the Mexican mines. It is true, many years elapsed, ere it came, but come it did, and when I knew it was really in my possession, and as I followed the traces of the hand that penned it, I felt that I was no longer a slave, but a representative of the Almighty God. I felt that I could now stand forth in my God-like attributes, and claim from my fellow men the rights and privileges which they themselves exercised. I looked upon the earth, and the beauties of nature, in a new light--not that which fills the soul of the slave, as he witnesses the freedom of all around him, and shudders at his own chains, but as a human being--a being whose soul is God's and whose every aspiration is free to his will, alone: and I appreciated this change, my cheeks were suffused with tears, and in the fullness of my soul, I gave God the praise, and the glory of the great change which had been wrought in me.
Shortly after receiving the above deed of Emancipation, I prepared to conform with the request previously made of me, by Mr. Minor, of becoming a resident of Natchez, which in company with my mother and sister, I carried into effect. To facilitate this, and to show the kindness which he had formerly expressed for me, Mr. Minor procured for me, the following
Bill of Relief, from the Legislature of Mississippi:
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, of the state of Mississippi, in General Assembly convened, That from and after the passage of this act, it shall, and may be lawful for William Hayden, James Miller, and Hannibal, free men of color, to reside within the limits of the state, any law to the contrary, notwithstanding: Provided, that the said William Hayden, James Miller, and Hannibal, do each and severally enter into bond, with good and sufficient securities, in the sum of five hundred dollars each, payable to the Governor, and his successors in office, conditioned for their good behavior and that they will not become a public charge.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted that it shall be the duty of the Judge of Probate of the Countie's in which the said individuals may reside, to take and receive the bond, provided for in the first section of this Act, and file the same in the Clerk's Office of the Court over which he presides.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, that Peter Sewall, a free man of color, shall have leave to reside within the limits of this State, upon his entering into bond with good and sufficient security, in the sum of eight hundred dollars, payable to the Judge of Probate of the county of Wilkison, and his successors in office; conditioned for his good behavior, and that he will not become a public charge.
Ch. B. Green,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
A. M. Scott, L't. Governor,
and speaker of the Senate.
Approved Feb. 14, 1828.
Gerard C. Brandon."
But I will not weary the reader with a multiplicity of papers which I might adduce as the testimony of my friends, relative to my character as a man and a christian, and whom in this little narrative, calls upon you for sympathy and support. Suffice
it to say, that he holds letters of the strongest recommendation from the following gentlemen, who stand high for honor and integrity, and who move in the best society of their country:
Hence, having satisfied the reader as to his honesty attested by the above named gentlemen, he only asks the privilege of inserting the following letters received from Mrs. Mary S. Smith, his young mistress, with whom he was raised, and with whom he received the blessings of her mother, and he will bid thee a God's blessing, and retire.
Garrard County, Oct. 16th., 1842.
MR. WILLIAM HAYDEN,
Honored Sir:--Your letter of September the 13th, came safe to hand a few days since--I was highly gratified to hear from you, as it is the first correct account I have had of you since you were at my house in Scott. I often think of you, William, and sometimes regret that I ever parted with you, thinking that you would have been of so great a benefit to me, in the absence of my husband, to have attended to his business. But, perhaps, it is all for the better--you were anxious to have your freedom, and would not have been satisfied without it. I hope that you are doing well, and have accumulated a handsome property. Knowing that you are very industrious and economical, I would of course come to such a conclusion. I would be pleased to hear from you more particularly,--whether you have a family--and of your situation, generally. I shall
certainly expect a visit from you, as you have settled so near us. We are now boarding at Mr. George Moore's, in Garrard County, twelve miles north-west of Lancaster. I have not any of my children at home with me, at this time. I have a daughter married, and living in Lexington--and a son, married and located in Columbia, Missouri. He is a physician, and doing well in his profession. He is also a member of the Christian Church, and is very much devoted to the cause of Christ. My youngest daughter is now at school in Franklin, about three miles from Frankford. She is in her 15th year. I have but three children, and they are all professors of the Religion of Jesus, which is a great source of pleasure to me--they are comely, and possessed with good powers of mind. You requested me to give you some intelligence of my mother. She has gone to Missouri, and is living in Boon County, about three miles from Columbia. She lives with her youngest son, Joel, and has the most of her children near to her. She is very infirm, and has been afflicted for years. Mr. Smith, my youngest daughter and myself, went out last Fall, a year ago, and returned this Fall. Mother has resided in that State thirteen years. I think it is not such a country as has been represented. It is not like the rich part of Kentucky.
When you write let me know whether you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, for I view that of more importance than any thing on earth. We may live without it, but it is hard to die, unless we have a hope in the Saviour of sinners. But O, to think of dying a Christian's death, and meeting with our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and all the righteous who have gone before! O, how transporting the thought! It lifts my soul from earth to heaven!
I do not know whether the latter part of my letter will be interesting to you; but I do hope you have started in the heavenly race before this. But if you have not, let me entreat you not to delay. The wheel of time is rolling on, and we shall soon be laid in the dust. I will now close, by subscribing myself
Your friend & well-wisher until death.
Mary S. Smith.