Imágenes de páginas

either. He takes confidence, and goes on his way rejoicing

For the young men of New York Mr. Chapin has always manifested a deep and lively interest. Many of his public lectures have been exclusively for their benefit. The cause of temperance has ever found in him one of its most ardent supporters. In his own city he fought the license law with all the force he could bring to bear upon it. He took the ground that it was a legalized system of crime. He maintained that if any shops should be licensed, they should be the low kennels, which could tempt only those who were already, comparatively speaking, past hope. He has also lectured much upon the subject in other places, and stands among the first of speakers upon the platform of temperance.

In Mr. Chapin's sermons we find frequent allusions to slavery, which evince hostility to the system, but he has not made that a special branch of his labor. We should be slow to believe that a man of his honesty and humanity would withhold his influence from the right side of the question.

As has been intimated, Mr. Chapin is now settled in New York. He labored for a number of years in Richmond, Virginia, and in Boston and Charlestown, Massachusetts. He is a little more than forty years of age, and is now hale and hearty, in the meridian of his usefulness.


The remarkable man who is the subject of this sketch, was born a slave in Maryland. His exact age is not known, though it is supposed that he is between thirty and forty years old. His mother died when he was quite young. His father was a white man, according to rumor, his own master. He was early compelled to witness and experience the bitterness of a life of bondage. Speaking of a time when he was quite young, he says :

“I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom her master used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin. I remeinber the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibi. tion. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I remember anything. It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it.”

For years

the poor slave, as a field hand, served a sad apprenticeship to slavery. He was sold from master to master, and transferred from the whip of one overseer to that of another. But it was impossible by experience to reconcile him to his condition. Naturally possessed of brilliant powers of mind, with a fiery yet noble nature, he could not remain contentedly a miserable chattel on a Maryland plantation. As yet, he had thought-little of liberty, for the love of it which is in every human creature's heart, had not kindled in his. Still there were strange, murmuring thoughts: constantly haunting his brain. A melancholy was in his heart. He says, very strikingly as well as beautifully, of the songs which the slaves are so noted for singing :

"I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle ; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension ; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and com

plaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now,

afflicts me;

and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation, and, on allowanceday, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him in silence analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul, and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.”

From the field Douglass was transferred to the town. His joy was great at being permitted to live in Baltimore. He was allowed clean and decent clothing, for he was going to live with city people. His city mistress was a mild, pleasant woman, and he says that his soul was filled with rapture when he first saw her kind face, and experienced her gentle treatment. She taught him how to read, or rather, taught him his letters, and he, without further aid, coinpleted his education. By persevering and secret toil, he managed to acquire the art of reading. One of the first books he met with was Sheridan's Speeches, and they served well to stir his heart, to awaken and intensify his longing for liberty. Months and years flew on, and in the meantime he changed masters. The desire for freedom grew strong in his heart, but it was not till after he had felt in his own person one of the bitterest portions of the slave's experience, that the desire attained its full intensity. We will quote his own account of this passage in his life :

“ On one of the hottest days of the month of August, 1833, Bill Smith, William Hughes, a slave named Eli, and myself, were engaged in fanning wheat. Hughes was clearing the fanned wheat from before the fan, Eli was turning, Smith was feeding, and I was carrying wheat to the fan.

The work was simple, requiring strength rather than intellect; yet, to one entirely unused to such work, it came very hard. About three o'clock of that day I broke down; my strength failed me; I was seized with a violent aching of the head, attended with extreme dizziness; I trembled in every limb. Finding what was coming, I nerved myself up, feeling it would never do to stop work. I stood as long as I could stagger to the hopper with grain. When I could stand no longer I fell, and felt as if held down by an immense weight. The fan of course stopped ; every one had his own work to do; and no one could do the work of the other and have his own go on the same time.

Mr. Covey was at the house, about one hundred yards from the treading-yard where we were fanning. On hearing the fan

« AnteriorContinuar »