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Speech by John Andrew Jackson, Delivered at the Scottish Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures Connected with Architecture, Glasgow, Scotland
2 June 1857

From: Ripley, C. Peter, et al., eds. The Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. I: The British Isles, 1830-1865, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985, 427-429. Used by permission of the publisher. Originally published in Christian News (Glasgow), 6 June 1857.

In the spring of 1857, Jackson toured Scotland, giving well-attended lectures at Edinburgh, Stirling, and Glasgow. At eight o'clock on Tuesday evening, 2 June 1857, Jackson spoke before a large and attentive audience in the rooms of the Scottish Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures Connected with Architecture at 93 Bath Street in Glasgow." The following testimony is taken from Christian News (Glasgow), 6 June 1857:

On Tuesday evening last, Mr. J.A. Jackson, a fugitive slave, delivered a lecture in the Scottish Exhibition Rooms, Bath Street, illustrative of the evils of slavery, and gave a history of his own bondage and escape from the errors of the "peculiar institution." The chairman, having read several testimonials from Edinburgh clergymen, introduced the lecturer. Mr. Jackson is an intelligent-looking black, in the prime of his life; and although his command of the English language is far from perfect, yet in the peculiar broken dialect of the negro, he [did] "A round, unvarnished tale deliver" of his captivity and escape, and was easily understood. His object is to raise sufficient money to purchase the freedom of his father, and sister's children, who are still under the lash in South Carolina, and already 500 dollars have been raised for that purpose. In the course of his lecture he told a thrilling tale of a noble slave named Dred. This negro was remarkably tall and powerful—standing nearly seven feet high, and was driver of a gang of slaves on a southern plantation. Owing to his excellent management, everything went on well. He raised the best crops, and had the best slaves, for miles around; but having offended a neighboring planter by his independent bearing, and especially by his having refused or neglected to make an obeisance to him, a plot was formed to bring him down a "notch," and it began to be hunted to his master that there was a plot hatching under the woolly pate of his slave. His master entered heartily into the scheme, for he too chafed at the airs of conscious superiority which the slave assumed. Accordingly, the hoe, instead of the whip, was put into his hand; but no word or look betrayed that he felt the change. The master was puzzled. He had expected an outburst of passion at the supposed injustice; but instead of that, Dred worked in the gang with apparent cheerfulness. Attempts were next made to find fault in his work—but in vain; he had more work, and did it better than any slave on the plantation. A double task was assigned him; but his gigantic strength and resolution overcame this also. His master was now more than ever bent on his humiliation; and coming to his hut one evening, told him his work was not well done. Dred, who knew the master had not been in the field that day, asked him how he knew. This was going beyond the prerogative of the slave, and afforded sufficient excuse to flog the "nigger." Dred said he would take a flogging from no man; and the master, awed by his vast strength and self-possession, called on the overseer and the rest of the slaves to seize him. All their efforts were unavailing; and as Dred was beloved by the slaves, they were not over active in the attempts. The master thus openly braved by his slave, vowed vengeance. Calling several of the neighboring overseers, he made a fresh attempt to capture him. But being armed with a large knife, Dred so frightened them, that the master, as a last resource, loaded his gun, and coolly murdered him—preferring to lose his best hand, rather than to be bearded by a "cuss'd nigger." This story was told with great effect, as were several others of a similar nature. The black driver on the plantation on which Jackson was a slave, was flogged to death by the overseer. Jackson, himself, after the los of his sister, having come into possession of a pony, on one occasion went to a camp-meeting with it. Here, to his astonishment, he discovered his mistress and young master, who being completely ignorant of his having a pony, seemed as much astonished as himself. To the very natural inquiries of young master, regarding the pony, Jackson returned rather ambiguous answers; but contrived to retain possession. On reaching home, Jackson was secretly informed by one of the domestic slaves that he was to receive 100 lashes for daring to possess property. Dreading to encounter the lash, he fled, and being pursued, swam a creek of the Black River, which was swarming with alligators, and happily he got over safe. His young master, he tells us, was a wild fellow. His father, to get him out of the way, gave him a plantation in Tennessee, where he managed to flog most of his slaves to death. He next turned lawyer, and eventually this promising youth turned minister—lecturing slaves on their duty to their masters. Jackson set out for Charleston, ad halted at nightfall at a roadside inn, where he was partially known. After dexterously turning some of the landlord's questions, he started at midnight on his way to Charleston. Here, owing to his colour, and his extreme ignorance, he was in daily terror of being captured. He got a situation at four and a quarter dollars per day, and worked a few days; but becoming alarmed at the cross-questioning of one of the coloured workmen, he sold the pony, and having secured a large cloak and some loaves, he stowed himself on board a vessel bound for Boston. For seven days he remained in his voluntary prison; but his stock of water being expended, he discovered himself to the captain, who literally cut him out of the hold, and rather reluctantly gave him his liberty on arriving at Boston. He wrought as a freeman in a tanyard in Massachussetts, until the passing of the infamous Fugitive Slave Bill, when he went to Canada, and has since been engaged in the laudable effort of trying to purchase the freedom of his relatives.

Titles by John Andrew Jackson