LIVING CONDITIONS AND RACE RELATIONS IN THE NORTH
Since most of the crafts and professions were barred to blacks in the North, poverty went hand in glove with African ancestry. Negroes complained bitterly about these barriers but to no avail. The extent and reasons behind this literally pathological poverty are illustrated in Documents 1–5. Even though black people paid taxes, they received few public services without discrimination, and in times of trouble, they were forced to rely on the meager resources which could be supplied by their own institutions, such as the churches and benevolent societies (Doc. 3). The results sometimes meant death from malnutrition or exposure, both of which occurred frequently enough in Philadelphia during the 1840s to prompt the intervention of the city board of health (Doc. 4).
Racial prejudice, which contemporary opponents called “colorphobia,” was of course, at the root of the problem. Discriminatory laws existed throughout the northern states. A clear example were the Black Laws of Ohio (Doc. 6), which, among other stipulations, required blacks to exhibit a certificate of freedom in order to settle in the state, to register with the local clerk, and to post a $500 bond for good behavior. Moreover, without a certificate of freedom, it was illegal for an employer to hire a black person. While these codes were not always vigorously enforced, they were not to be taken lightly. Thus, in Cincinnati, authorities in 1829 looked the other way as a white mob rampaged through the city looking for Negroes without certificates. The result was a migration of about 2,000 Negroes to Canada where they could live in peace (Doc. 7). Blacks also encountered mob action in other northern cities, such as Philadelphia (Doc. 9).
Most union leaders were racists also. For example, John Campbell, a Chartist in England who emigrated to the United States and became the leader of the Typographical Union in Philadelphia, published a book at his own expense on the topic of race which portrayed blacks as inherently inferior to whites (Doc. 10). With respect to employment or patronage of black businesses, Afro-Americans could not generally expect much better treatment from the more liberal abolitionists (Doc. 11–16) . In 1845, for example, the Pennsylvania Freeman urged its subscribers not to continue in their neglect of black mechanics and artisans who were in desperate financial need (Doc. 12–13). Nor were abolitionists innocent of job discrimination. Martin R. Delany, the noted Afro-American surgeon, complained in 1852 that white anti-slavery men did not practice what they preached, and pointed to the fact that even the abolitionist presses employed black workers only in menial positions (Doc. 15). Even well-educated Negroes found few occupations commensurate with their abilities (Doc. 16).
When blacks could find employment, they frequently encountered white mobs who drove them off the job (Doc. 17–26). The 1834 riot in Philadelphia, for example, was precipitated by the conviction among white workingmen that, because employers preferred black workers, whites were unable to find work (Doc. 20).
The most dramatic evidence of powerlessness among northern blacks, however, was their exposure to kidnapping by unscrupulous whites who, sometimes in collusion with local officials, whisked them off to the South to be sold into slavery. Also, fugitive slaves were sometimes captured by professional slave-catchers and returned South where the catchers received a bounty. Black northerners were particularly outraged by these legal but nefarious captures (Doc. 27–36). Frequently they banded together to rescue captured fugitives, such as in 1845 when Boston Negroes formed an association to assist fugitives in making their escape from authorities (Doc. 35).
In approaching this part of our subject, we are well aware of the difficulties we have to encounter in obtaining a just estimate of the value of the colored people, as a component part of the community, when the census of the alms-house is made the criterion by which they are to be judged. But when we consider that, owing to the feelings and prejudices of the community, the colored people are almost altogether deprived of the opportunity of bringing up their children to mechanical employments, to commercial business, or other more lucrative occupations, whereby so many of our white laborers are enabled to rise above the drudgery in which they commence their career in life, and in turn, to become the patrons of their younger or less fortunate fellow citizens; it is not matter of surprise that a considerable number of them should be dependant on public support.
Under these circumstances it certainly cannot be considered unreasonable that in a gross population of 1,673 individuals in our alms-house, (on the 30th of Twelfth month, 1837,) there should be found 235 people of color, being about one-seventh part of the whole.
The Present State and Condition of the Free People of Color, of the City of Philadelphia and Adjoining Districts, as Exhibited by the Report of a Committee of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, Sc. (Philadelphia, 1838).
In this country ignorance and poverty are almost inseparable companions; and it is surely not strange that those should be poor whom we compel to be ignorant. The liberal professions are virtually sealed against the blacks, if we except the church, and even in that admission is rendered difficult by the obstacles placed in their way in acquiring the requisite literary qualifications; and when once admitted, their administrations are confined to their own color. Many of our most wealthy and influential citizens have commenced life as ignorant and as pennyless as any negro who loiters in our streets. Had their complexion been dark, notwithstanding their talents, industry, enterprize and probity, they would have continued ignorant and pennyless, because the paths to learning and to wealth, would then have been closed against them. There is a conspiracy, embracing all the departments of society, to keep the black man ignorant and poor. As a general rule, admitting few if any exceptions, the schools of literature and of science reject him—the counting house refuses to receive him as a bookkeeper, much more as a partner—no store admits him as a clerk—no shop as an apprentice. Here and there a black man may be found keeping a few trifles on a shelf for sale; and a few acquire, as if by stealth, the knowledge of some handicraft; but almost universally these people, both in town and country, are prevented by the customs of society from maintaining themselves and their families by any other than menial occupations. . . .
In 1836, a black man of irreproachable character, and who by his industry and frugality had accumulated several thousand dollars, made application in the City of New York for a carman’s license, and was refused solely and avowedly on account of his complexion! We have already seen the effort of the Ohio legislature, to consign the negroes to starvation, by deterring others from employing them. Ignorance, idleness, and vice, are at once the punishments we inflict upon these unfortunate people for their complexion; and the crimes with which we are constantly reproaching them.32
“On the Condition of the Free People of Color of the United States,” The Anti-Slavery Examiner 13 (New York, 1839):17–18.
The following facts in relation to the free people of color in this city, are taken from a small paper published here in 1837. We have reason to believe that their condition has been much improved since then; but as the statistical information in relation to it is not at present within our reach, we prefer to give the former statistics, and allow each to make such alterations as truth will warrant.
That there is much vice and misery to be found among these people, we may not deny—less than this cannot be said of the whites; but it is susceptible of proof, that much of their degradation and suffering is to be attributed to the unholy prejudice that exists against them, and the cruel persecutions that follow them to their very hearth-stone.
They who wish to make themselves acquainted with their real condition, must do more than view them in the lowest grog-shops, whose white owners filch from the poor colored men their little all; they must do more than visit the haunts where congregate the most degraded of them. If they wish to ascertain their true condition, let them also visit their churches, their literary institutions, their benevolent-associations—let them, in short, be as anxious to look upon the bright, as on the dark side of the picture, and they will find abundant cause to admire the perseverance and the moral power that has enabled them, in spite of the crushing influence of public opinion, to attain their present elevation.
From a statement published by order of the guardians of the poor in 1830, it appears that out of 549 out-door poor relieved during the year, only 22 were persons of color, being about four per cent of the whole number, while their ratio of the population of the city and suburbs, exceeds 8-1/4 per cent. By a note appended to the printed report of the guardians of the poor, above referred to, it appears that the colored paupers admitted into the almshouse for the same period, did not exceed four per cent of the whole number.
FACT, NO. 2.
The amount of taxes paid annually by the colored people of Philadelphia, is about 2500 dollars; while the sums expended for the relief of their poor, out of the public funds, has rarely, if ever, exceeded 2000 dollars a year. The colored people, then, not only entirely support their own poor, but also pay 500 dollars a year for the support of poor whites!!
FACT, NO. 3.
The colored people in Philadelphia have fifty-five Beneficial Societies, some of which are incorporated; they expend annually 10,000 dollars, out of funds raised among themselves, for mutual aid in time of sickness and distress, and for burying the dead, &c. Not a colored person, of any respectability, however poor, is buried at the expense of the poor funds. ‘The members of these Societies are bound by rules and regulations which tend to promote industry and morality among them. For any disregard or violation of these rules,—for intemperance or immorality of any kind,—the members are liable to be suspended, or expelled. In 1832, it was ascertained that not one of the members of either of these Societies had ever been convicted in any of our courts. One instance only had occurred of a member being brought up and accused before a court—but this individual was acquitted.’ We believe no instance has since occurred.
FACT, NO. 4.
The colored people in Philadelphia have fifteen churches belonging to them, a number of them brick buildings, which, together with their halls, are worth $172,000. They have thirty-four ministers; seventeen Sunday schools; a public library, consisting of about 500 volumes, besides 8333 volumes in private libraries; three Debating Societies; three Female Literary Societies; two Tract Societies; two Bible Societies; and two Temperance Societies.
FACT, NO. 5.
The colored people of Philadelphia pay annually for house rent, 108,121 dollars; for ground rent, 2777 dollars; for water rent, 260 dollars; and for newspapers, 1578 dollars. A committee recently appointed to investigate how much property the colored people possess, had not time to ascertain the amount of more than about two-thirds of the whole population, before they were required to report. It appeared, however, that these two-thirds possessed, in real estate, 500,000 dollars, and personal property 226,306. Is it for our interest to drive away such a people?
FACT, NO. 6.
‘Notwithstanding the difficulty of getting places for them as apprentices, to learn mechanical trades, owing to the prejudice which exist,’ in 1832 there were between four and five hundred people of color in the city and suburbs, who followed mechanical employments. We presume that by this time the number has considerably increased.
FACT, NO. 7.
‘Besides thankfully embracing the opportunities for schooling their children, which have been opened for them by public munificence and private benevolence,’ the colored people also support several pay schools, and the pupils in these schools will not suffer by an examination with those of any other school in the city.
FACT, NO. 8.
Of those colored people who have emigrated from other States to this State, many are the children of wealthy white planters at the South, by their slaves. Feeling affection for their own children, they have sent them to a free State, and settled handsome fortunes upon them. The name of one colored family might be mentioned, which has thus brought 100,000 dollars into the State; that of another, which has brought from 50,000 to 75,000 dollars, and the names of a number, all of whom are known to the writer of this, who have brought from 5000 to 50,000. Now, granting, if you please, that evils do result from having the colored people among us; are not these evils more than outweighed by the gold and silver which they bring into the State?
Query: Do any of the emigrants from foreign countries bring with them such sums of money to enrich the State of their adoption? We again ask, is it for our interest to prevent the colored people from emigrating here, or to drive away those already settled amongst us?
The Liberator, May 14, 1843.
Philadelphia, Dec’r 18th, 1848
During the fall and winter of 1845 and 1846, I observed much misery and distress among a portion of the coloured population of the city and suburbs, which was much increased in the fall and winter of 1846 and 1847. During the period before named, from September 1837, to April 1848, it increased to such extent as made it necessary to ask the intervention of the Board of Health and Guardians of the Poor. In that time, there came under my notice 76 cases, coloured, male and female (mostly within six blocks or squares, in the district of Moyamensing.) whose deaths after a full and thorough investigation of each case, were attributable to intemperance, exposure, want of nourishment, &c. Of this number eighteen were from 18 to 30 years of age; forty-six, from 30 to 50 years, and twelve from 50 to 90 years, besides some children who also died from exposure and want of proper nourishment and care.
Many were found dead in cold and exposed rooms and garrets, board shanties five and six feet high, and as many feet square, erected and rented for lodging purposes, mostly without any comforts, save the bare floor, with the cold penetrating between the boards, and through the holes and crevices on all sides; some in cold, wet and damp cellars, with naked walls, and in many instances without floors; and others found dead lying in back yards, in alleys, and others exposed situations.
These cases were principally confined to the lowest and most degraded of the coloured population, whose occupations were ragging, boning and prizing. Hundreds were engaged in those occupations and living as others have, that have died; many of whom, unless provided for, must become victims of death through their habits and exposure, should the coming winter be at all severe. Most of them have no home, depending chiefly upon the success of their pursuits through the day, either in earning or begging, (and I may add stealing,) sufficient to pay their grog and lodging. For food, they depend mostly upon begging, or gathering from the street what is thrown from the houses or kitchens of others.
Lodgings are obtained from a penny to six-pence a night according to the extent of the accommodations, with or without an old stove, generally without pipe, a furnace or fireplace, so that a fire may be had if they have means to pay for a few sticks of wood, or some coal; and were it not for the crevices and openings admiting fresh air, many would be suffocated (a few have been) by smoke and coal gas. It is no uncommon circumstance to find several setting around on the floor, with an open furnace in their midst, burning coal. Those places are mostly back from the street, not observable in passing, reached through narrow alleys, or by a back entrance if it be a house fronting the main street, wherein each story is subdivided into numerous small rooms, ofttimes made to accommodate as many as can be stowed into them, without regard to colour or sex. Such articles as an old bed, a carpet, or even straw upon the floor, are not often seen.
Notwithstanding their degrading occupation, yet it is possible for them to earn from ten to fifteen cents per day. There are numerous places for the disposal of their rags, bones, &c., but there are far more numerous places (and constantly increasing) for the disposal of their hard earned (or ill gotten) pennies; namely, at small shops, stocked with a few stale loaves of bread, a few potatoes, a small quantity of split wood, some candles, a few dried and stale herring, &c., exposed to view, serving too often as a cloak; whilst behind and under the counter, concealed from the eye, are kegs, jugs, bottles and measures, containing the poison, some at 4 and 5 cents a pint, and which is the great leading cause of the misery, degradation and death of so many.
Though I have observed much misery and distress both among blacks and whites, in different section of the city and suburbs, yet in no portion to that extent as was found in a small portion of Moyamensing among the blacks, principally in the smaller streets, courts and alleys between Fifth and Eighth and South and Fitzwater streets.
Respectfully your friend,
N. B. Leidy.
“The vicinity of the place we sought, was pointed out by a large number of coloured people congregated on the neighbouring pavements. We first inspected the rooms, yards and cellars of the four or five houses next above Baker Street on Seventh. The cellars were wretchedly dark, damp, and dirty, and were generally rented for 12-1/2 cents per night. These were occupied by one or more families at the present time; but in the winter season, when the frost drives those who in summer sleep abroad in fields, in board yards, in sheds, to seek more effectual shelter, they often contain from twelve to twenty lodgers per night. Commencing at the back of each house are small wooden buildings roughly put together, about six feet square, without windows or fire places, a hole about a foot square being left in the front along side of the door, to let in fresh air and light, and to let out foul air and smoke. These desolate pens, the roofs of which are generally leaky, and their floors so low, that more or less water comes in on them from the yard in rainy weather, would not give comfortable winter accommodation to a cow. Although as dismal as dirt, damp, and insufficient ventilation can make them, they are nearly all inhabited. In one of the first we entered, we found the dead body of a large negro man, who had died suddenly there. This pen was about eight feet deep by six wide. There was no bedding in it; but a box or two around the sides furnished places where two coloured persons, one said to be the wife of the deceased, were lying, either drunk or fast asleep. The body of the dead man was on the wet floor, beneath an old torn coverlet. The death had taken place some hours before; the coroner had been sent for, but had not yet arrived. A few feet south, in one of the pens attached to the adjoining house, two days before, a coloured female had been found dead. The hole from which she was taken, appeared smaller than its neighbours generally, and had not as yet obtained another tenant.
“’Let me introduce you to our Astor House,’ said our guide, turning into an alley between two of the buildings on Baker street. We followed through a dirty passage, so narrow, a stout man would have found it tight work to have threaded it. Looking before us, the yard seemed unusually dark. This we found was occasioned by a long range of two story pens, with a projecting boarded walk above the lower tier, for the second story to get to the doors of their apartments. This covered nearly all the narrow yard, and served to exclude light from the dwellings below. We looked in every one of these dismal abodes of human wretchedness. Here were dark, damp holes, six feet square, without a bed in any of them, and generally without furniture, occupied by one or two families: apartments where privacy of any kind was unknown—where comfort never appeared. We endeavoured with the aid of as much light as at mid-day could find access through the open door, to see into the dark corners of these contracted abodes; and as we became impressed with their utter desolateness, the absence of bedding, and of ought to rest on but a bit of old matting on a wet floor, we felt sick and oppressed. Disagreeable odours of many kinds were ever arising; and with no ventilation but the open door, and the foot square hole in the front of the pen, we could scarcely think it possible that life could be supported, when winter compelled them to have fire in charcoal furnaces. With sad feelings we went from door to door, speaking to all, inquiring the number of their inmates, the rent they paid, and generally the business they followed to obtain a living. To this last question the usual answer was, ‘ragging and boning.’ Some of these six by six holes, had six, and even eight persons in them, but more generally two to four. In one or two instances a single man rented one for himself. The last of the lower story of the ‘Astor’ was occupied by a blackman, his black wife, and an Irish woman. The white woman was half standing, half leaning against some sort of a box, the blacks were reclining upon the piece of old matting, perhaps four feet wide, which by night furnished the only bed of the three. Passing to the end of the row, we ventured up steps much broken, and very unsafe, to the second story platform, and visited each apartment there. It is not in the power of language to convey an adequate impression of the scene of this property. The filth, the odours, the bodily discomfort, the moral degradation everywhere apparent. Descending with difficulty, we proceeded to examine the cellars and rooms in the building still further back, having the same owner. The same want of accommodations was observed, few, if any there having a trace of bedding. For the place a few cents a night were paid generally, 8 cents for the rest. The miserable apartments in the houses brought about the same prices. Some places, however, rented as high as one dollar per week. . . .
Now for the statistics of this “Astor House,” and its appurtenances. The double row of pens cost perhaps $100 to erect; and if they contain twenty apartments renting for 8 and 10 cents per night, they produce an income of $600 per year. When the owner of this property was asked a few years back to sell it, that a House of Industry might be erected there, he declined; but in conversation with the individual who asked to purchase it, he stated that it had cost him $1300. A physician who is frequently called to attend patients in the place; being curious to know what yearly rent the owner was receiving, undertook with another white man to visit the apartments, and inquire the amount paid by the dwellers in each. The aggregate amounted to $1600.
We inquired the daily earnings of those we visited, and the amount they had to pay for a glass of whiskey. Some earned 50, some 75 cents per day; but we have reason to believe that many do not realize on an average more than a few cents over the daily rent. Whiskey, apple or rye, as best suits the taste of the drinker, is furnished at one cent per glass.
Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the People of Colour, of the City and Districts of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1849), pp. 35–39.
In my last essay, the pamphlet entitled, “A Statistical Enquiry into the condition of the People of Color,” was examined; the estimate of their numbers, and the value of their real and personal estate noticed, also the increased amount of house rents and taxes paid, and some notice of their trades and employments by which they earn their subsistence. The subject indicated by the heading of this essay, forms the next topic of enquiry, and upon which we are presented with a very interesting chapter. It is there stated that “the period between 5 and 15 may be regarded as comprising the children sent to school; while that between 10 and 20 comprise those whose services are made available to their parents. The number of colored children between those ages, that is, between 5 and 20, are computed to be about 4500. Of this number, 1940, or agreeably to a recent correction in the return of the Abolition Society’s school of 100 additional scholars, which gives us 2040 of those between 5 and 15 that go to school.” Besides which, “we have returns of the manner in which 1340 of those who do not go to school, are disposed of, leaving about 1100 minors between 5 and 20, who are not reported.”
The returns upon the subject of schools are admitted “to be imperfect, which is much to be regretted, as any comparison between the state of the colored schools within the last period of ten years, must consequently be very incomplete. According to the Society’s report, published in 1839, there were 25 schools, public and private, having 1732 scholars on the rolls. By the late report, there were in 1847, 12 free and 20 pay schools, in which it is stated there are 1940 scholars on the lists, or as corrected above 2040, showing an increase within the last ten years, of only about 300 colored children, who are in the way of attending school. In the concluding paragraph of this interesting chapter they say, “When we call to mind that there are 1100 children between the ages of 5 and 20, of whom no account is received, the greater part of who are probably growing up in idle and vicious habits; it is clear that this is one of the most painful facts brought to light by this enquiry, and one which should promptly and earnestly engage the attention of the friends of the people of colour.” That a large number of colored children are suffered to grow up, without partaking the benefits of school education, is a fact which cannot be doubted. But the discrepancy between the reports for 1837 and 1847 is so striking, as to encourage a hope that the number of 11 or 1200 delinquents from the privilege, or rather the duty of attending school, may also be proportionately over-rated. Taking the lowest estimate of the colored population for 1837, compared with the number for the late report for 1847, the difference is upwards of 3000, of which number one-fifth, equal to 600, may reasonably be set down as the increase of scholars within the last ten years.
“The Beneficial Societies” form the next subject treated of in the pamphlet under consideration. The funds of these associations, arising from contributions of the members varying from 25 to 37-1/2 cents per month, are appropriated to the support of the members in time of sickness, and to bury the dead. The writers of the pamphlet say: “On comparing the list (prepared from the report of their agents) with that published by the Abolition Society in 1837, we find the number of Societies increased from 80 to 106. That more than one-half of those then reported, have disappeared, or have assumed new names.” “The permanent funds of 76 of these Societies, (details of which have been furnished,) exceed those reported in 1837 by upwards of $7,000. Six hundred and eighty-one families have been assisted by them in 1847, and the sums furnished to 517 of those families, are slated at $7,189.” “It is clear that these charitable funds must very considerably relieve the distress attendant on the sickness of the heads of families, and maintain a large portion of the people of color under privations, and in circumstances, which would otherwise throw them upon the public for relief.” This is evident from the returns from the almshouse for 1847. By reference to the Society’s report for 1837, and comparing it with “the Statistical Inquiry” for 1847, it will appear that the number of colored paupers admitted into the house has declined very considerably. Agreeably to the former account, out of 1673 individuals in the almshouse in the 12th mo., 1837, there were 235 people of color equal to about one-seventh of the whole; the recent investigation shows that of an average almshouse population of 1704 persons in 1847, only 196 or 11.5 per cent were colored people. The total number admitted in the year was 4,403, of whom 522 or 12.15 per cent. were colored. When we advert to the character of the pauperism of the people of color during that year (1847,) the number of ordinary patients admitted is a matter of surprise. Of the 523 as above (including 23 born in the house) 117 were from the city proper, 21 from Southwark, 16 from the Districts north of Vine Street, and 10 from the Prisons and Hospital. From Moyamensing, which has not quite one-fifth of the colored population, there was 334, equal to one-third of the whole. “Of the white residents of the almshouse, 14.3 per cent. died, of the colored inmates 44.6 per cent died. Of the number of 523,277, or more than one half, were cases of fever; seven out of every nine were from Moyamensing, and most of these were cases of low typhus fever from the neighborhood of Baker, Bedford and Small streets.” These facts afford strong proof of the evil effects of the people of color crowding together in narrow and confined streets, courts and alleys.
“The amount of out door relief furnished to the people of colour, is likewise quite small,” being, as stated in the returns received, only 442.
On page 24 of “the Statistical Inquiry,” we are presented with a table exhibiting the manner in which the 4262 families of the colored population are distributed in the city and districts, and the proportions receiving public assistance. The amount claimed from the public funds by the people of color, is found to be small, thus the relief bestowed upon the 250 families residing in the city, consists in the greater number of cases of donations of wood, or from a quarter to half a ton of coal, some receive a small supply of groceries in addition, and a few fifty cents per week during sickness.
The following sketch exhibits the main features of the table alluded to, to wit:
By which it will appear that only about one-tenth of the whole number of families receive a small pittance of public out-door relief. Another circumstance developed by this tabular statement, is the superior advantage of a sparse, over that of a dense population of our colored people, as will be seen above. In Spring Garden, Northern Liberties, Southwark and West Philadelphia, comprising an aggregate of 834 families, only 18 received support as out-door paupers, which is only one in 46—while in the single district of Moyamensing, with a population very little larger, the number requiring assistance is 104—equal to 1 in 8.32.
There are other subjects of considerable importance contained in the pamphlet, which would perhaps be interesting to examine, beside the valuable remarks upon the general aspect of the concern, which the authors had been investigating, are well worthy of further notice. This review, however, has already occupied so much space, that the expediency of pursuing the subject further, becomes a question yet to be determined. Should it be deemed proper, I may, in a subsequent number present such observations as the subjects yet to be treated of may suggest.
Pennsylvania Freeman, February 25, 1849.
Below will be found all the enactments that we are aware of in the Statutes of Ohio, imposing disabilities on the Coloured portion of our citizens, now in force. They are mostly inoperative, on account of their unreasonable requirements; but sometimes, in cases of great excitement among the people, they have been productive of mischief.
An Act to Regulate Black and Mulatto persons. Passed and took effect, January 5, 1804, 29 v. Stat. 439
1. SECT.I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, That from and after the first day of June next, no black or mulatto person shall be permitted to settle or reside in this state, unless he or she shall first produce a fair certificate from some court within the United States, of his or her actual freedom; which certificate shall be attested by the clerk of said court, and the seal thereof annexed thereto by the said clerk.
2. SECT. II. That every black or mulatto person residing within this state, on or before the first day of June, one thousand eight hundred and four, shall enter his or her name, together with the name or names of his or her children, in the clerk’s office, in the county in which he, she or they reside, which shall be entered on record by said clerk; and thereafter the clerk’s certificate of such record shall be sufficient evidence of his, her or their freedom; and for every entry and certificate, the person obtaining the same shall pay to the clerk twelve and a half cents: provided, nevertheless, that nothing in this act contained, shall bar the lawful claim to any black or mulatto person.
3. SECT. III. That no person or persons, residents of this state, shall be permitted to hire, or in any way employ, any black or mulatto person, unless such black or mulatto person shall have one of the certificates as aforesaid, under pain of forfeiting and paying any sum not less than ten, nor more than fifty dollars, at the discretion of the court, for every such offence; and one-half thereof for the use of the informer, and the other half for the use of the state; and shall moreover pay to the owner, if any there be, of such black or mulatto person, the sum of fifty cents for every day he, she or they shall in any wise employ, harbor or secrete such black or mulatto person; which sum or sums shall be recoverable before any court having cognizance thereof.
4. SECT. V. That every black or mulatto person who shall come to reside in this state with such certificate as is required in the first section of this act, shall, within two years, have the same recorded in the clerk’s office, in the county in which he or she means to reside, for which he or she pay to the clerk twelve and a half cents; and the clerk shall give him or her a certificate of such record.
5. SECT. VI. That any person or persons who shall attempt to remove, or shall remove from this state, or who shall aid and assist in removing, contrary to the provisions of this act, any black or mulatto person, without first proving, as hereinbefore directed, that he, she or they is, or are legally entitled so to do, shall, on conviction thereof, before any court having cognizance of the same, forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars; one-half to the use of the informer, and the other half to the use of the state; to be recovered by action of debt, quitam, or indictment; and shall moreover be liable to the action of the party injured.
An act to amend the last named act. Passed January 25, 1807. Took effect April 1, 1807. 29 v. Stat., 440.
6. SECT. I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, That no negro or mulatto person shall be permitted to enter into, and settle within this state, unless such negro or mulatto person shall, within twenty days thereafter, enter into bond with two or more freehold sureties, in the penal sum of five hundred dollars, before the clerk of the court of common pleas of the county in which such negro or mulatto may wish to reside, (to be approved by the clerk,) conditioned for the good behaviour of such negro or mulatto, and moreover to pay for the support of such person, in case he, she or they should thereafter be found within any township in this state, unable to support themselves. And if any negro or mulatto person shall migrate into this state, and not comply with the provisions of this act, it shall be the duty of the overseers of the poor of the township where such negro or mulatto person may be found, to remove immediately such black or mulatto person, in the same manner as is required in the case of paupers.
7. SECT. II. That is shall be the duty of the clerk, before whom such bond may be given as aforesaid, to file the same in his office, and give a certificate thereof to such negro or mulatto person; and the said clerk shall be entitled to receive the sum of one dollar for the bond and the certificate aforesaid, on the delivery of the certificate.
8. SECT. III. That if any person being a resident of this state, shall employ, harbor or conceal any such negro or mulatto person aforesaid, contrary to the provisions of the first section of this act, any person so offending shall forfeit and pay for every such offence, any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars, the one-half to the informer, and the other half for the use of the poor of the township in which such person may reside; to be recovered by action of debt, before any court having competent jurisdiction; and moreover be liable for the maintenance and support of such negro or mulatto, provided he, she or they shall become unable to support themselves.
9. SECT. IV. That no black or mulatto person or persons shall hereafter be permitted to be sworn or give evidence in any court of record, or elsewhere, in this state, in any cause depending, or matter of controversy, where either party to the same is a white person; or in any prosecution which shall be instituted in behalf of this state against any white person.
This act shall take effect and be in force from and after the first day of April next.
An act to amend the act entitled “an act to regulate black and mulatto persons,” passed Jan. 5, 1804.
Passed and took effect, Feb. 27, 1834. 32 v. Stat., 29.
11. SECT. I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, That in all cases wherein a certificate is granted to any black or mulatto person, resident within this state, agreeably to the second section of the act to which this is an amendment, the clerk of the court issuing the same shall make or cause to be made, a record of the same, in a book provided for that purpose, and carefully preserved in said office; and on such record of the same being made, the said clerk shall endorse thereon the number of the same, the book in which, and the page or pages where such record is made; and shall forthwith, if required, deliver over the same to the individual for whose benefit it was intended. And it shall furthermore be the duty of the presiding judge of such circuit in which said certificate may be issued, on application being made to him by the holder of the same, to endorse thereon his certificate of the genuineness of the same: provided, that nothing in this act contained shall be so construed, as to bar the lawful claim to any black or mulatto person thus obtaining a certificate within this state.
BLACK LAWS IN OHIO
The Legislature of Ohio has refused to annul or amend her black laws.
Not one of the members of that body would hesitate about denouncing Slavery generally.—Very few of them who do not condemn the South for holding on to the institution. Yet they deny justice to the negro, and refuse to take his testimony in any of their courts.
There are hundreds of planters in this State who refuse to emancipate their slaves—and who oppose emancipation because of free State legislation of this character. They ask—“What can the slave do if he be set free? Where can he go?” And fearing that he may be worse off, they conclude to do the best they can with him, and for him!
Most of the free States deal shamefully in this matter. The majority of the Ohio Legislature, certainly, merit a rebuke for their inhumanity in sustaining laws which a Kentucky Statesman calls “atrocious,” and most men admit to be disgraceful.—Louisville Examiner.
The Non-Slaveholder 3 (1848):117–19.
The Anti-Slavery Society, late of Lane Seminary, appointed a Committee in March last, to inquire into the condition of the Colored People of Cincinnati. For the following statement, exhibiting the result of their investigation, we are indebted to them. Mr. Wattles, whose personal examination secured the facts here stated, is the superintendent of the colored schools in that city.33
Statement in regard to Cincinnati.
In the spring of 1829, an effort was made to enlist the citizens of Cincinnati in the plan of removing the free people of color from the United States. This effort was vigorous and protracted. Whatever were the motives which prompted the effort its particular effect was to excite the powerful against the weak, to countenance the lowest class of the whites in persecuting the victims of public scorn and contempt.
The township trustees issued a proclamation that every colored man who did not fulfil the requirements of the law in thirty days should leave the city. The law here referred to had lain a dead letter since it passed the Ohio Legislature, in 1807. It provided, that every negro or mulatto person should enter into bonds with two or more freehold sureties, in the penal sum of $500, conditioned for the good behavior and support of such negro or mulatto person, if they should be found in the state, unable to support themselves. It also made it the duty of the overseers of the poor, to remove all such persons as did not comply with the above laws, in the same manner as is required in the case of paupers.
Another section of the same law provided that any person who should employ, harbor, or conceal any such negro or mulatto person, should, for every such offence, forfeit and pay any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars and be liable for their maintenance and support, should they ever be unable to support themselves. This proclamation was fully sustained and urged into execution by the public sentiment of the city. The colored people immediately held a meeting to consider what should be done. They petitioned the city authorities for permission to remain thirty days longer, and forthwith sent a committee to Canada to see what provisions could be made for them there. The sixty days expired before their return.
The populace finding that few, if any, gave security, and seeing no movement made, became exasperated, and determined to expel them by force. For three nights the fury of the mob was let loose upon them. They applied in vain to the city authorities for protection. Despairing of succor from the whites they barricaded their houses and defended themselves. Some of their assailants were killed and the mob at last retired.
The deputation to Canada returned with a favorable answer. The reply of Sir James Colebrook, Governor of Upper Canada, is characteristic of a noble minded man. “Tell the Republicans” said he, “on your side of the line, that we royalists do not know men by their colour. Should you come to us, you will be entitled to all the privileges of the rest of his Majesties subjects.”
On the receipt of this grateful intelligence a large number removed to Canada, and formed what is called the Wilberforce Settlement. It cannot be ascertained, definitely, how many went to Canada. But, one of the two men, who took the census a short time previous to the excitement, states, that the colored people numbered 2200. About three years after, the same gentleman assisting in taking the census again, when they numbered only 1100. “This” he added “is not guesswork, but matter of fact.”
The wrongs suffered by those who remained behind, either from inability to remove, or other causes, cannot well be imagined. The mechanical associations combined against them. Public schools were closed by law, and prejudice excluded them entirely from such as were selected. A general desire among the white population that they should remove to Liberia, or elsewhere, rendered the operation of these laws too effective. They were by no means a dead letter. One or two facts will be sufficient.
A respectable master mechanic stated to us, a few days since, that in 1830 the President of the Mechanical Association, was publicly tried by the Society, for the crime of assisting a colored young man to learn a trade. Such was the feeling among the mechanics, that no colored boy could learn a trade or colored journeymen find employment. A young man of our acquaintance, of unexceptionable character and an excellent workman, purchased his freedom and learned the cabinet making business in Kentucky. On coming to this city he was refused work by every man to whom he applied. At last he found a shop, carried on by an Englishman, who agreed to employ him—but on entering the shop, the workmen threw down their tools, and declared that he should leave or they would. “They would never work with a nigger.” The unfortunate youth was accordingly dismissed.
In this extremity, having spent his last cent, he found a slave holder who gave him employment in an iron store as a common laborer. Here he remained two years, when the gentleman finding he was a mechanic, exerted his influence and procured work for him as a rough carpenter. This man by dint of perseverence and industry has now become a master workman, employing at times, six or eight journeymen. But he tells us he has not yet received a single job of work from a native born citizen of a free state. This oppression of the mechanics still continues. One of the boys of our school last summer, sought in vain for a place in this city to learn a trade. In hopes of better success his brother went with him to New Orleans when he readily found a situation. Multitudes of common laborers at the time alluded to above, were immediately turned out of employment, and many have told us that they were compelled to resort to dishonorable occupations or starve. One fact—a clergyman told one of his laborers who was also a member of his church, that he could employ him no longer for the laws forbade it. The poor man went out and sought employment elsewhere to keep his family from starving, but he sought in vain, and returned in despair to the minister to ask his advice. The only reply he received was “I cannot help you, you must go to Liberia.”
This combined oppression of public sentiment and law reduced the colored people to extreme misery. No colored man could be a drayman or porter without subjecting his employer to a heavy penalty, and few employers had the courage or disposition to risk its infliction. Many families, as we know, have for years been supported by the mothers or female part of the family. This they have done by going out at washing, or performing other drudgery which no one else could be procured to do.
The schools, both common and select, remain shut against them to the present day although they have always paid their full proportion of taxes for all public objects. A short time since, it was discovered by a master of the common school, a presbyterian elder, that three or four children who attended had a colored woman for a mother. Although the complexion of these children is such that no one could distinguish them amongst a company of whites, they were told they could not stay in school, and were sent home to their parents.
The law not only placed the colored population in a situation where they must remain in ignorance and deprived them of the means of procuring a honest living, but it went still further and took from them their oath in courts of justice in any case where a white person was one of the parties. Thus they were placed by law at the mercy of their cruel persecutors. A few cases have accidentally fallen under our own observation. Last spring a colored man had his house broken into and property to a considerable amount stolen. The evidence was entirely conclusive as one of the thieves turned State’s evidence and confessed the whole. At the court, one of the pleas put in by the counsel was that neither the oath of the man nor that of his family could be taken to prove the property to be his. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and the robbers were cleared.
At the same court a white man was arraigned for murdering a colored man. The case was a plain one,—eight or ten men who were standing near, saw the murder. Only two of them, however, were white. On the day of trial one of the white men could not be found. The testimony of the other was received, while that of the colored men, though equally respectable, was refused. As it was a capital crime, where two witnesses were necessary, the murderer escaped unpunished. Subject to such disabilities is it strange that this population should be ignorant and degraded? Especially when we remember that nearly one half of them were formerly in bondage. They have grown up under its blighting influences. The charge is true, they are a degraded people. But this charge, true as it is, should not make them objects of contempt. It is the proof that they have minds and are susceptible of moral influence. We wonder as we sometimes sit and listen to their tale of sufferings and of woe, that black despair has not entirely palsied every energy. To those acquainted with the system of slavery, it is known that not only law but even brute force is frequently exerted to prevent the dawn of intellect. Said a colored woman to us the other day, “When I was little, I used to long to read. After prayers, master would often leave the bible and hymn book on the stand, and I would sometimes open them to see if the letters would not tell me something. When he came in and catched me looking in them he would always strike me and sometimes knock me down. . . . “
Proceedings of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Convention (Cincinnati, 1830), pp. 19–21.
In most of the States in which slavery is tolerated, the laws in relation to free colored persons are severe in the extreme. Though their freedom is recognized, yet they have not the rights of other freemen. . . .
Few whites will eat with blacks. Even where blacks and whites are domestics in the same kitchen, the blacks, as I have been told, are often compelled to eat at a separate table. So it is said that white journeymen and apprentices of mechanics often refuse to work with blacks. The prejudice has taken two different forms in the different parts of our country. At the North, few blacks are mechanics, because the whites will not allow them to work with them. At the South, on the contrary, few of the mechanics are whites, because they will not do the same sort of work as blacks. . . .
The Liberator, January 22, 1831.
The Commissioners of the pious and orderly District of Moyamensing, the hotbed of Sunday riots, the place where no decent person, can walk after nightfall, without being robbed or insulted, have recently had their sense of propriety outraged, and their tender hearts lacerated by a most iniquitous proposal to erect a House of Industry for colored persons in that District. In consideration of this fearful atrocity, these Commissioners met on the evening of Monday, Oct. 2d, (a day forever hereafter to be held sacred in the annals of Hunkerism,) and passed the following preamble and resolutions:34
Whereas, a petition has been presented to this Board, which sets forth that a building is about to be erected on Catharine, near Seventh street, within this District, which is to be occupied as a House of industry for poor and degraded negroes;
And, whereas, it is represented by the petitioners that the erection of a building to be occupied for such a purpose, in a thrifty and improving neighborhood, which is densely settled by white people, will create a disturbance or will drive away the white population, and thereby depreciate the value of property; therefore,
Resolved, That in the opinion of this Board the black population of our city and county is already sufficiently cared for, and the charities that now exist are ample to supply the wants of all of them that are worthy and deserving.
Resolved, That the erection of a building for such a purpose, in such a neighborhood as that within which it is intended that this shall be erected, manifests a wanton and reckless disregard of public sentiment, and contempt for the feelings of the neighboring inhabitants.
Resolved, That if those who have contributed to the fund for the erection of this building, are determined to waste their means in visionary schemes of philanthropy, justice dictates that they should concentrate the objects of their charity in their own neighborhood—near their own doors, where, if they create a nuisance, they may suffer the consequences of it, or if it is a public benefit, they may be eye-witnesses of its great advantages.
Resolved, That all buildings to be used for purposes to which public sentiment is opposed and which are thereby likely to create a disturbance or commotion, should be erected within the limits of the City of Philadelphia, whose great resources enable it to keep a powerful police, and thereby extend at all times ample protection to both persons and property.
Oh, the hardness of heart that can be guilty of the wickedness of driving away the respectable and liberal-minded “white population” of that District! None but a Nero or a Caligula could be guilty of such an atrocious wickedness. Besides, “the black population of our city and county (and they might have added, “of our country”) is already sufficiently cared for.” The chivalry of the Old Dominion, act towards them the part of fathers—they feed them, lodge them, clothe them, and chastise them, and lest they should get intelligent and discontented, keep them in ignorance! One of the candidates for the Presidency has 280 of the “colored population” living on his farm in Louisiana, whom he purchased with the express intention of “caring for them.” Another of the candidates says he will veto the Wilmot Proviso, or any other proposed act of legislation which would so grossly violate all the claims of justice as to exclude the “colored population. . . . “
And in Pennsylvania, and other Northern States, the colored people are prevented, as far as possible, no doubt as an act of charity towards them, from engaging in any but the most menial and dependent employments; and in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and benevolence, which it is proposed to erect a House of Industry for the colored inhabitants, the District Commissioners meet and vote that it is a nuisance, and that such a manifestation of partiality is likely to create a disturbance among the white people. Verily, the colored people are “cared for”—as the wolf cares for the lamb!
Shade of William Penn! Is not Philadelphia a glorious city—a Christian city—a liberal-minded city—a city of philanthropists! A lack a day!
The North Star, October 13, 1848.
A couple of years ago men were afraid in Philadelphia to speak out their opinions of the Negro; that day is past—his equality and humanity can be talked of now in any and every company. Were one to have said that no amount of education, or circumstances, or food, or climate, or all united, could ever make aught of a negro than a negro, there were not wanting a certain number of sham humanitarians, fierce as wolves, ready to pounce upon the unfortunate utterer of the truth, and willing to hunt him to the death. This evil had to be arrested—public opinion had to be changed—and the only way to accomplish this was by open and free discussion. I dared the abolitionists to the contest; nearly every speaker was upon their side at the commencement, but one after another changed their opinions, the nature of the evidence, and the character of the authority I cited were so irresistible that the honest and disinterested, having no selfish motives to blind their eyes to the evidence adduced, readily adopted the ideas of the great names who had made the science of man and the history of races their especial study.
Open, full, and free discussion will settle this question. In every contest of this kind the Negroites have been ignominiously driven from their strongholds. This must ever be the case where truth and falsehood come in contact. The truth must and shall prevail; and I am of opinion that a new turn will be given to public opinion in the free States, and the fact be believed, that whenever the white man and the Negro inhabit a warm climate together, there is no other state of society than mastery for the white and slavery for the black race; but this has been so clearly demonstrated by Hammond, Blackwood, and others, that I need not do more than allude to it.
In this place it may not be inappropriate to say something about the free colored people. I speak now of Pennsylvania. Here we have a negroid population numbering over fifty-three thousand. I hold that he would be a pure patriot, and a philanthropist, in every sense of the term, who could rid us of this intolerable curse; who could point out a plan by which this vicious, idle, lazy, mongrel race would be safely deposited in Liberia.
The Shams denounce any attempt at colonization as cruel and tyrannical, thereby displaying their usual ignorance of negro nature. They claim for this species of man the same rights the whites possess; whereas, if they understood the matter, they would know that Negro nature is not Celtic or Saxon nature; they would know that the destiny, constitution, intellect, civilization, and even diseases of the negro are all essentially different from the white. These things the abolitionists know, or ought to know. The plain fact of the matter is, that we must take efficient steps ere long to get rid of our negroes, either by colonization or otherwise; but get rid of them we must, and must is the word. We must appropriate a certain sum annually, to enable those who are willing to emigrate so to do. We must prohibit the introduction of free negroes into out State. We must alter our State constitution for the purpose of enabling us to get rid of this population. And after we have made ample provision to send them in comfort to Africa, should there be any left who would prefer being slaves to the whites instead of free blacks in Liberia, they should have the power to choose, but they must either go there as free, or remain here as slaves. Aside of us they cannot be on terms of equality.
Will the white race ever agree that blacks shall stand beside us on election day, upon the rostrum, in the ranks of the army, in our places of amusement, in places of public worship, ride in the same coaches, railway cars, or steamships? Never! never! nor is it natural or just that this kind of equality should exist. God never intended it; had he so willed it, he would have made all one color. We see clearly that God himself has made the distinction—has made him inferior to the white. Could any body or tribe of negroes maintain the warlike attitude which the Circasian, a typical stock of the Caucasian race do against the armed forces of the Russian Bear. This, I presume, none will attempt to answer in the affirmative. Why, then, all this rant about negro equality, seeing that neither nature or nature’s God ever established any such equality. . . .
John Campbell, Negro-Mania: Being An Examination of the Falsely Assumed Equality of the Various Races of Men (Philadelphia, 1851), pp. 543–45.
A correspondent in Philadelphia informs us that a number of colored people have abjured intemperance and other kindred vices, under the influence of the “Society for the Mental and Moral Improvement of the Colored Population.” They have kept their pledges faithfully, but they are surrounded by fiery temptations, and they cannot get employment. Most earnestly do they beg to be set to work, and be removed from evil influences. Farmers and mechanics, all over the country, in the name of humanity we beseech you not to turn a deaf ear to their appeal! Do employ these brethren, and help them to return to their Father’s House.
Some of our abolitionists seem not to know that there is any such thing in Philadelphia. Bootblacks and barbers are known to abound and are pretty well patronised, but as for artizans in any other line, they are either supposed to have no existence, or are most culpably neglected. Such at least is the testimony of respectable colored workmen with whom we have lately conversed, and who (we must confess) have made us feel not a little ashamed of the remissness of abolitionists, (including ourselves) in this particular. Colored mechanics, notwithstanding some of them are thoroughly proficient in their business, receive but very little encouragement or patronage from abolitionists. Their main support is derived from persons either hostile or indifferent to the anti-slavery cause. This ought not so to be, and must not so continue. We must be true to our professions, and extend a helping hand to our brethren who are struggling, against an iniquitous prejudice, to introduce among themselves those useful arts of which their oppressors have hitherto had almost an entire monopoly. There are some skilful workmen among them as we can testify—slight as has been our experience—and all that is wanted, greatly to increase their number, is the encouragement which they have a fair right to expect from their professed friends.
Taylors and shoemakers are the classes of mechanics who are in most requisition, and if abolitionists, when they have occasion for the services of workmen in either of these branches, would employ colored persons, many a respectable, and struggling family would be made comfortable and much good would be done every way for the whole colored population.
Pennsylvania Freeman, September 25, 1845.
Since writing the article under this heading in our last number we have been making some further inquiries, and find all we there said in regard to the claims of our colored tradesmen to the support of white abolitionists, and the remissness of abolitionists in meeting these claims, fully sustained by the facts in the case. The facilities for getting work done by respectable and competent colored mechanics, particularly in regard to the articles of boots, shoes and clothing, which are in most frequent requisition, are greater than we had supposed, while the patronage extended to them by abolitionists is less than any one would imagine. A colored tailor informs us that while the principal part of the work which he does is for white persons, and while his main customer is one of the most distinguished lawyers at the bar of this city, he has never been called upon to make but a single suit of clothes for an abolitionist. This he feels to be bad treatment on the part of those who profess to be his friends.
We happen to know the abolitionist here alluded to: he has since removed from the city, but we remember to have heard him say before he left, alluding to this circumstance, that for neatness of fit and cheapness of price he could not have been better accommodated by any white tailor in the city; and the handsome black suit which he was wearing at the time bore testimony in part of the truth of his statement.
Now our colored friends should not have such grounds for complaint; they should not be made to feel that they are badly treated by those who profess to be their best friends. They have a right to a fair share of the custom which abolitionists have to give and we hope for their sakes and for the sake of the cause that they will hereafter receive at least a larger portion of what is their due.
Supposing that some of our friends may be inclined to profit by these remarks and to look out for a colored tailor the next time they have any clothes to make we would recommend them either to N. W. Depee, 334, South st., or Francis Moore, 150 Locust st., or Jno. Gilberry, 147 Locust st., or Wm. Tollson 200 N. 8th. st. And we would add that by giving one or other of these men their patronage, they will not only be consulting duty but economy. Colored tradesmen from the necessity of their circumstances, are compelled to work cheaper than the whites, in order to get what little custom falls to their lot. This is perhaps a low motive to urge for the performance of a duty, but it is one, the force of which we all feel more or less.
Pennsylvania Freeman, October 9, 1845.
It is well known that colored persons have to encounter great difficulties in attempting to learn any mechanical business; and it too frequently happens, when individuals of this class have, through perseverance, become qualified to engage in such business for themselves, that they are deprived of a proper share of public patronage by the general but cruel prejudice against color.
These facts suggest to the true friends of the colored man, the propriety and, we may perhaps say, the duty of giving special encouragement in such cases; and we have great satisfaction in recommending our friend Peter Lester, boot and shoe maker, No. 76 north 7th street, Philadelphia, to the patronage of our readers. He recently commenced the manufacture of Boy’s shoes in addition to his former business of making men’s boots and shoes; and we are particularly gratified in being able to state that he not only uses leather of the best quality, but so far as muslin is used in his work, it is exclusively made of FREE cotton.
The Non-Slaveholder 4 (1849):226.
The cause of dissatisfaction with our former condition, was, that we were proscribed, debarred, and shut out from every respectable position, occupying the places of inferiors and menials.
It was expected that Anti-Slavery, according to its professions, would extend to colored persons, as far as in the power of its adherents, those advantages nowhere else to be obtained among white men. That colored boys would get situations in their shops and stores, and every other advantage tending to elevate them as far as possible, would be extended to them. At least, it was expected, that in Anti-Slavery establishments, colored men would have the preference. Because, there was no other ostensible object in view, in the commencement of the Anti-Slavery enterprise, than the elevation of the colored man, by facilitating his efforts in attaining to equality with the white man. It was urged, and it was true, that the colored people were susceptible of all that the whites were, and all that was required was to give them a fair opportunity, and they would prove their capacity. That it was unjust, wicked, and cruel, the result of an unnatural prejudice, that debarred them from places of respectability, and that public opinion could and should be corrected upon this subject. That it was only necessary to make a sacrifice of feeling, and an innovation on the customs of society, to establish a different order of things,—that as Anti-Slavery men, they were willing to make these sacrifices, and determined to take the colored man by the hand, making common cause with him in affliction, and bear a part of the odium heaped upon him. That his cause was the cause of God—that “In as much as ye did it not unto the least of these my little ones, ye did it not unto me,” and that as Anti-Slavery men, they would “do right if the heavens fell.” Thus, was the cause espoused, and thus did we expect much. But in all this, we were doomed to disappointment, sad, sad disappointment. Instead of realising what we had hoped for, we find ourselves occupying the very same position in relation to our Anti-Slavery friends, as we do in relation to the pro-slavery part of the community—a mere secondary, underling position, in all our relations to them, and any thing more than this, is not a matter of course affair—it comes not by established anti-slavery custom or right, but like that which emanates from the proslavery portion of the community, by mere sufferance.
It is true, that the “Liberator” office, in Boston, has got Elijah Smith, a colored youth, at the cases—the “Standard,” in New York, a young colored man, and the “Freeman,” in Philadelphia, William Still, another, in the publication office, as “packing clerk;” yet these are but three out of the hosts that fill these offices in their various departments, all occupying places that could have been, and as we once thought, would have been, easily enough, occupied by colored men. Indeed, we can have no other idea about anti-slavery in this country, than that the legitimate persons to fill any and every position about an anti-slavery establishment are colored persons. Nor will it do to argue in extenuation, that white men are as justly entitled to them as colored men; because white men do not from necessity become anti-slavery men in order to get situations; they being white men, may occupy any position they are capable of filling—in a word, their chances are endless, every avenue in the country being opened to them. They do not therefore become abolitionists, for the sake of employment—at least, it is not the song that anti-slavery sung, in the first love of the new faith, proclaimed by its disciples.
And if it be urged that colored men are incapable as yet to fill these positions, all that we have to say is, that the cause has fallen far short; almost equivalent to a failure, of a tithe, of what is promised to do in half the period of its existence, to this time, if it have not as yet, now a period of twenty years, raised up colored men enough, to fill the offices within its patronage. We think it is not unkind to say, if it had been half as faithful to itself, as it should have been—its professed principles we mean; it could have reared and tutored from childhood, colored men enough by this time, for its own especial purpose. These we know could have been easily obtained, because colored people in general, are favorable to the anti-slavery cause, and wherever there is an adverse manifestation, it arises from sheer ignorance; and we have now but comparatively few such among us. There is one thing certain, that no colored person, except such as would reject education altogether, would be adverse to putting their child with an anti-slavery person, for educational advantages. This then, could have been done. But it has not been done, and let the cause of it be whatever it may, and let whoever may be to blame, we are willing to let all pass, and extend to our anti-slavery brethren the right-hand of fellowship, bidding them God-speed in the propagation of good and wholesome sentiments—for whether they are practically carried out or not, the professions are in themselves all right and good. Like Christianity, the principles are holy and of divine origin. And we believe, if ever a man started right, with pure and holy motives, Mr. Garrison did; and that, had he the power of making the cause what it should be, it would all be right, and there never would have been any cause for the remarks we have made, though in kindness, and with the purest of motives. We are nevertheless, still occupying a miserable position in the community, wherever we live; and what we most desire is, to draw the attention of our people to this fact, and point out what, in our opinion, we conceive to be a proper remedy.35
Martin Robison Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (Philadelphia, 1852), pp. 26–30.
The position of the colored man to-day, is a trying one; trying, because the whole country has entered into a conspiracy to crush him; and it is against this mighty power that he is forced to contend. Some persons think we are oppressed only in the South: this is a mistake. We are oppressed everywhere on this slavery-cursed land. To be sure, we are seldom insulted here by the vulgar passers by. We have the right of suffrage. The free schools are open to our children, and from them have come forth young men who have finished their studies elsewhere, who speak two or three languages, and are capable of filling any post of profit and honor. But there is no field for these men. Their education only makes them suffer the more keenly. The educated colored man meets, on the one hand, the embittered prejudices of the whites, and on the other the jealousies of his own race. Perhaps you may think that there are exceptions. This is true; but there are not enough of them in the whole United States to sustain, properly, a half dozen educated colored men. The colored man who educates his son, educates him to suffer. When La Martine said to an Armenian chief at Damascus, ‘You should send your son to Europe, and give him that education you regret the want of yourself,’ the Armenian answered, ‘Alas! what service should I render to my son, if I were to raise him above the age and the country in which he is destined to live? What would he do at Damascus, on returning thither with the information, the manners, and the taste for liberty he has acquired in Europe? If one must be a slave, it is better never to have known anything but slavery. Woe to the men who precede their times: their times crush them.’ And woe to the black man who is educated: there is no field for him.
The other day, when a man who makes loud anti-slavery pretensions, and who has the reputation of being the friend of the blacks, had it in his power to advance the interests of a colored man, and was asked to do so, he said, ‘Colored men have no business to aspire—the time has not come’! This gentleman no doubt regrets that he did not originate the ideas that ‘black men have no rights that white men are bound to respect,’ and that ‘a white skin is the only legitimate object of ambition.’ He has now only to sigh for ‘a plantation well stocked with healthy negroes,’ and his cup of pleasure will be full. Some men are ruined by success. I remember very well that about five years ago, he was an active laborer with us, and I am certain he did not say, ‘the time has not come,’ when he asked us to elect him to the Legislature. (Applause.)
No where in the United States is the colored man of talent appreciated. Even here in Boston, which has a great reputation for being anti-slavery, he is by no means treated like other talented men. Some persons think that because we have the right to vote, and enjoy the privilege of being squeezed up in an omnibus, and stared out of a seat in a horse-car, that there is less prejudice here than there is farther South. In some respects this is true, and in others it is not true. For instance, it is five times as hard to get a house in a good location in Boston as it is in Philadelphia, and it is ten times as difficult for a colored mechanic to get work here as it is in Charleston, where the prejudice is supposed to be very bitter against the free colored man. Colored men in business here receive more respect and less patronage than in any other place that I know of. In this city, we are proscribed in some of the eating houses, many of the hotels, and all the theatres but one. Boston, though anti-slavery and progressive, supports, in addition to these places, two places of amusement, the sole object of which is to caricature us, and to perpetuate the existing prejudices against us! I now ask you, is Boston anti-slavery? Are not the very places that proscribe us sustained by anti-slavery patronage? Do not our liberal antislavery politicians dine at the Revere House, sup at the Parker House, and take their creams and jellies at Copeland’s? We have several friends, (whose tested anti-slavery is like gold tried in the fire, which comes out purer every time it is tried,) who speak occasionally upon platforms that are claimed to be anti-slavery, and which are dependent upon their eloquence for support, which have, up to this time, refused to give any colored man a hearing. The Boston Theatre, an institution which has been fighting death ever since it came into existence, could not survive a single year without anti-slavery patronage!
The friends of slavery are everywhere withdrawing their patronage from us, and trying to starve us out by refusing us employment even as menials. Fifteen or twenty years ago, colored men had more than an even chance in menial employments; to-day, we are crowded out of almost everything, and we do not even get the patronage of our professed friends. The colored stevedores who could once be found all along the wharves of Boston, may now be found only about Central wharf, where they meet with just encouragement enough to keep soul and body together. Such is the progress of the public sentiment and of humanity in Boston!
Last summer, a colored servant who was stopping at the Revere House with a gentleman from New York, was maltreated by the Irish servants. He told his employer, who made complaint to Mr. Stevens. Mr. Stevens replied, that he would not interfere in anything that his servants should do to any colored man—that if gentlemen travel with colored servants, they must expect to be insulted, and he would rather that such gentlemen would stop some where else. That is the idea—colored men have no right to earn an honest living—they must be starved out.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, a Catholic priest in Philadelphia said to the Irish people in that city, ‘You are all poor, and chiefly laborers; the blacks are poor laborers, many of the native whites are laborers; now, if you wish to succeed, you must do everything that they do, no matter how degrading, and do it for less than they can afford to do it for.’ The Irish adopted this plan; they lived on less than the Americans could live upon, and worked for less, and the result is, that nearly all the menial employments are monopolized by the Irish, who now get as good prices as anybody. There were other avenues open to American white men, and though they have suffered much, the chief support of the Irish has come from the places from which we have been crowded.
Now, while we are denied the humblest positions, is there anything higher opened to us? Who is taking our boys into their stores at a low salary, and giving them a chance to rise? Who is admitting them into their workshops or their counting-rooms? Who is encouraging those who have trades? With the exception of a handful of abolitionists and a few black Republicans, there are none. If a few more of those who claim to be our friends would patronize us when they can, and in this manner stimulate us to be industrious, they would render us infinitely more service than all of their ‘bunkum’ speeches.
You can have but a faint idea of the charm their friendship would carry with it, if they would spend a dollar or two with us occasionally. It will not do to judge men by what they say. Many speak kindly of us when their hearts are far from us. Or, as Shakespeare has it,
‘Words are easy like the wind, Faithful friends are hard to find.
This is our experience, and we have learned to appreciate the Spanish proverb, ‘He is my friend who grinds at my mill.’ In New England, we have many mechanics, who get very little patronage. Indeed, a trade appears to be of but little service to any of us unless we can, like the tailor of Campillo, afford to work for nothing, and find thread.
The committee of citizens appointed at the town meeting in Providence on the 25th ult. to investigate and make a statement of facts, have made a report. It is stated that for several years there has been in Olney’s lane and in that part of Providence called ‘Snow Town,’ a number of houses inhabited chiefly by idle blacks, others by whites, and others by a mixture; constituting a continual nuisance, from their riots and affrays; that the town authorities had been remiss in not correcting the nuisance, as so hateful was it to those who lived within its sphere, that they made no efforts to discountenance the mob, whose proceedings on the night of the 22d inst. were scarcely interrupted in the presence of nearly 100 satisfied and passive spectators. Yet those who thus countenanced the mob, are now convinced that of all the evils that can be inflicted upon civil society, that of a lawless and ferocious mob is the most capricious in its objects, the most savage in its means, and the most extensive in its consequences.
The first of the recent riots took place on Wednesday evening, Sept. 21. Five sailors, after supper, started from their boarding houses in the southerly part of the town to go ‘on a cruise.’ They arrived at the foot of Olney’s lane about eight o’clock, where they met six or seven men, of one of the steam boats, with sticks or clubs in their hands, and without hats or jackets. They stated that they had been up and had a row with the ‘darkies,’ and asked the five sailors to go up and aid them. About a hundred persons were assembled, all of whom appeared ready for an affray. The five sailors admit that they proceeded up the lane with the multitude. A great noise was made, the crowd singing and shouting until they came near the elm tree, when a gun was discharged and stones thrown from the vicinity of the houses occupied by the blacks. Stones were also thrown by the crowd against the houses. The committee have received no satisfactory evidence whether the discharge of the gun and stones by the blacks preceded or succeeded the stones thrown by the crowd, or whether they were simultaneous. It is pretty certain that upon the firing of the gun, the main body of the crowd retreated to the foot of the lane. The five sailors, however, continued up the lane, and when nearly opposite the blacksmith’s shop, another gun was discharged. Wm. Henry, one of the five sailors, put his hand to his face and said he was shot. George Erickson and Wm. Hull proceeded to the house the farthese east but one, on the south side of Olney’s lane, occupied by blacks. A black man standing on the steps presented a gun, and told them to keep their distance at their peril. Hull proposed taking the gun from him, but Erickson thought it best to leave him. They accordingly joined their three comrades, and proceeded up the lane about 100 feet to a passage leading from the south side of the lane to a lot in the rear. They saw three or four men, one of whom Hull knew. The black whom they had seen on the steps with a gun, perceiving that they had stopped, ordered them again ‘to clear out,’ or he would fire upon them. He said, ‘Is this the way the blacks are to live, to be obliged to defend themselves from stones?’ The sailors refused to go any farther. One of them, Hull thinks it was George, told the black to ‘fire and be damned.’ Two attempts to fire were made, a flash and a snap; upon the third, the gun went off.
George fell, mortally wounded, with a large shop in the breast. William Hull and John Phillips were wounded, but not dangerously. George died in about half an hour, during which time Hull states that he could obtain no assistance from the crowd below. Before he was removed, and within half an hour after his death, as Hull states, the crowd had increased to a large mob, and they proceeded up the lane, and demolished two of the houses occupied by blacks, and broke the windows and some of the furniture of others.
On the 22d, the knowledge that a white man had been shot by the blacks, made a great excitement, and the mob assembled at 7 o’clock, and the sheriff arrested seven and committed them to jail, but in three or four other instances, the mob made a rescue. Twenty-five soldiers of Capt Shaw’s company being ordered out, they were pelted by the mob with some injury, and it being perceived that nothing short of firing would have any other effect than to exasperate the mob, they were marched off, and no further attempt made that night to quell the mob. On Friday morning, it was generally reported that an attempt would be made to break into the jail and rescue the prisoners. A meeting of the State Council was had, three infantry, one cavalry, and one artillery company ordered to be under arms. Four of the rioters were liberated for want of evidence, and three bound over for trial, that the mob might have no pretense to attack the jail. In the afternoon, the following placard was posted.
‘All persons who are in favor of Liberating those Men who are confined within the walls of the Providence Jail are requested to make due preparation, and govern themselves accordingly’
‘N B—No quarters Shone’
Most of the evening from 30 to 50 collected in front of the jail, many threats were uttered, and it was with difficulty that the mob could be made to believe that all the prisoners had been discharged. Soon after, a man who had an instrument under his arm, apparently a sword, appeared and ordered the mob to Snow Town, whither they went, but did but little damage.
On Saturday evening, 6 o’clock, the same companies mustered about 130 men at their armories, and the Sheriff repaired to Snow Town at 8-1/2. There was a great crowd, and stones were thrown at the houses; he waited on the Governor, who at his request ordered out the troops, who on their way to their post on the hill west of the buildings the mob were destroying, were sorely pelted, and in clearing the hill, one of the mob seized an Infantry soldier’s musket, and pulled him down the bank 20 feet. A skirmish ensued between two or three soldiers and some of the mob, in which an artillerist gave the man who had seized the soldier, a sabre cut. After the military had taken their position, the riot act was read, audibly by W. S. Patten, Esq. a Justice of the Peace, the mob listening in silence, after which all persons were repeatedly warned to disperse peaceably, and told that all who remained would be considered rioters. The night was still, and the proclamation and statements were plainly heard at a great distance; but the multitude answered by huzzas, shouts and threats. The Sheriff then gained attention, and stated that all must disperse, or in 5 minutes they would be fired upon. The shouts and stones were redoubled, and exclamations of ‘fire and be damned’ were heard from all quarters. The civil officers were constantly employed in trying to induce the mob to depart. Soldiers being injured from an opposite hill, the Sheriff directed the crowd to retire from that, or he would have to fire upon them; one party moved off towards Mr. Newell’s residence, and another portion towards the houses near the bridge.
The mob then again attacked one of these houses, throwing stones and demolishing the windows. The Sheriff, in a very loud voice, commanded them to desist, but no attention was paid to him. The violence of the attack increased, so that it was supposed they had begun to tear the building down. At this time, the Sheriff requested the Governor to detach a portion of the force to suppress the riot. The Light Dragoons and the first Light Infantry were accordingly ordered to march under the Sheriff’s directions. The Governor advised the Sheriff not to fire unless in self defense.—As these two Companies approached Mr. Newel’s in order to gain the road, they found a portion of the tumultuous crowd still posted in that quarter, who threw stones upon them. The soldiers halted, and musketry was discharged into the air, with a view to intimidate the rioters, and thus cause them to disperse without injury, but this firing produced no other effect than a shower of missiles, accompanied with hootings and imprecations. The Sheriff left this detachment, returned to the Governor, and said he did not deem it prudent to move down the hill, leaving this large body of the mob in the rear. The Governor then directed the Company of Cadets to occupy a position to protect their rear, which they did accordingly. The Sheriff with the two companies first detached, then marched down, the infantry in front, he constantly directing all persons to retire, and moving sufficiently slow to give them an opportunity to do so. As he approached the house, the mob desisted from their work.
During this march, the stones were continually heard rattling against the muskets, and fall thick among the soldiers. As the troops approached the bridge, part of the mob retired before them, some occupied the ground upon each flank, and the sides of the bridge were filled. They slowly crossed the bridge, the Sheriff continually and earnestly repeating his request for the rioters to disperse, warning them of their danger. The crowd immediately closed in upon their rear with great clamor, throwing stones without cessation. After the detachment had gained the street east of the bridge, the assaults upon them increased to so great a degree of violence, that the Cavalry were forced against the Infantry, and the rear platoon of Infantry nearly upon the front. The Dragoons called out to the Infantry that they could not withstand the incessant shower of missiles, and unless the Infantry fired upon the rioters, it was impossible that they could remain. The Cavalry were without ammunition. The Infantry also exclaimed that they could no longer sustain these dangerous vollies of stones, and if they were not permitted to defend themselves, they felt they were sacrificed. The detachment halted in Smith-street near its junction with North Main-street, at a distance of about forty rods from the residue of the military on the hill. The Infantry faced about to present a front to the assailants, and the Light Dragoons who had been compelled to advance partly along their flanks, filed past them, and formed upon the left.
After they halted, the stones were still hurled unremittingly. Many of the soldiers were seriously injured. The stocks of several of the muskets were split by the missiles. The air was filled with them. The Sheriff, who was by the side of the Captain of the Infantry during the whole march, repeatedly commanded the mob to desist, but those orders were wholly unavailing. It having now become manifest that no other means existed by which the riot could be suppressed, or the lives of the men preserved, the Sheriff directed the Captain to fire.—The Captain then gave the word, ‘ready.’ Here a momentary pause took place. The stones were still thrown with the greatest violence, and exclamations were vociferated ‘Fire and be damned.’ The Captain turned to the Sheriff and asked, ‘Shall I fire?’ Perceiving that the crisis had at length arrived, and that the danger was imminent, he replied, ‘Yes, you must fire.’ The further orders were then given, ‘Aim—Fire.’ A discharge followed in a somewhat scattering manner. After the order was thus executed, a second was immediately given to cease firing. The most perfect silence ensured, not a sound was heard, and all violence instantly ceased. In about five minutes, it being evident that the mob was now quelled, the Infantry assumed a new position in line on the east side of Main street, facing westwardly with the cavalry on their left.
At the moment these two companies passed the bridge on their march eastward, the shouts were so violent, and the attacks upon them appeared so alarming, that the Governor, apprehensive for their safety, ordered the Company of Cadets to march in double quick time to their support. The firing of the Infantry was heard immediately after. The Cadets were then moving down, but had not passed below the point where the Governor with the artillery and volunteer companies remained. They however continued their march, crossed the bridge, and proceeded down Canal street to Weybourne bridge, dispersing the mob before them. After the firing ceased, information was brought to the Governor, that the multitude was separating. Before leaving the hill, the Governor requested Dr. Panter, who was with him to attend upon the wounded, and render them every possible assistance.
Throughout this investigation, the committee have not been able to conceal from their view the disastrous consequence of a predominance of the mob over the Infantry, on the night of the 24th. The Dragoons had been driven upon the Infantry, and forced partly around their flank; the men could stand the pelting no longer. Surrounded as they were, no effectual use could be made of the bayonet. They were obliged to fire, or suffer their ranks to be broken. Had their ranks been broken, the lives of many if not all of the soldiers would have been sacrificed, and their arms fallen into the possession of the mob.
The Committee therefore are of unanimous opinion, that the necessity of a discharge by the Infantry was forced upon them by the mob, and that it was strictly in defence of their lives.
The Liberator, October 1, 1831.
. . . Last Wednesday night, some disturbance taking place in Olney’s Lane, a sailor, a young and promising fellow, 2d mate of the Anna H. Hope, who was in search of the cook of the ship with two or three others, was shot dead from a house occupied by negroes, and the rest wounded. The alarm spread rapidly, and a large company assembled, and tore down the house and one or two other small ones, occupied by negroes. The next night, the moon shining bright, an immense multitude gathered in the Lane, and began to show signs of tearing down more houses. The Governor, Sheriff and all the watchmen were on the spot ready to prevent it, if they could. The first who commenced, were immediately seized by the Sheriff and watchmen, who succeeded in holding only two of them, after hard fighting; the mob then burst forward, and drove all the watchmen off, and commenced pulling down all the bad houses in the Lane. They stationed sentinels, and went to work as busy as bees, first pulling down the chimneys and then with a firehook and plenty of axes and iron bars tearing down the buildings and rolling them into the street. The air was so still, and the weather so pleasant that Elish tells me he could hear them talk when he was at the mill.
The whole street was full of spectators, a great many of whom were cheering the mob every time a house fell. About 11 o’clock the Governor ordered out the 1st Infantry, and they marched up the lane, but the mob stopped work and surrounded them, throwing stones at them, hissing and hooting, etc. Several of them were badly wounded by the stones, and they had to retreat. As soon as they were gone, they began work again, and levelled 8 or 9 buildings with the ground. They then marched over to Snowtown, and tore down two or three houses there, breaking windows in others, &c. It was then near 4 in the morning, and they dispersed. The next day the whole of the military companies were warned to meet at 6 oclock and wait further orders, but it rained very hard, and but few of the mob assembled, they having threatened to tear down the hall, to liberate some of their companions. This was Friday night; but the worst was yet to come.
Yesterday, Saturday, the companies were again ordered to meet at sunset, at their alarm posts, and wait further orders, the ringing of the Court House but being the signal for them to march. As soon as it began to grow dark, the streets were thronged with persons moving up towards Snowtown that being the place it was expected they would meet. The whole of Canal street, from the basin up to Shingle Bridge was filled with spectators, and about 9 o’clock, the stones began to rattle against the negro houses, and the axes to fly. The Court House bell then rang, and the whole town was alarmed. Four companies with the Governor and Sheriff then marched up to Main st. and over Shingle Bridge, and up on to the hill, where the rioters then principally were. By this time, the whole street was full (over the Bridge) of citizens. The Sheriff then read the riot act, amid a shower of hisses and stones, which severely wounded some of the troops. Before the act was read, they drove the mob off the side of the hill, and among them was Daniel Branch, the carpenter, who had his face badly cut by a sword, so that they had to carry him home. He wounded some of the troops badly after he was struck. The riot act allowed them one hour to disperse, but they continued to pour stones into the corner house, owned by Mrs. Granger, breaking all the windows. The military then fired across the street, into the side hill, towards Fletchers, some of the balls hitting his shop, but the mob only renewed their attacks. As soon as the hour was out, they marched down the street, towards the bridge driving the crowd before them. The Sheriff kept telling them to disperse, but was only answered by showers of stones. He then ordered the companies up the street by Janny’s, in front of Metcalf’s shop, wheeled round, gave orders to fire down the street on to the bridge, and killed two men, and badly wounded several others. I, with hundreds of others stood at the time, at the corner shop, just round the corner, and the men dropped in the dirt right before us. No one had any idea of their firing, and the street was full. Wethermore, a bookbinder, a young man, and Walter Lawrence were killed. The town was in the utmost a larm all night, and to-day a town-meeting was called to raise patrols for to-night, in addition to the military. I never knew such an excitement before, Many blame the Governor and Sheriff, and threaten hard, so that we look for something perhaps worse.
J. A. Randall to Mowry Randall, September 25, 1831, Ms., Brown University Library.
Though gatherings of large numbers of people at Philadelphia to commit acts of violence, had ceased after the third night—many excesses subsequently took place, and colored persons, when engaged in their usual vocations, were repeatedly assailed and maltreated, especially on the Schuylkill front of the city. Parties of white men have insisted that no blacks shall be employed in certain departments of labor. This is going a “considerable length.”
Niles’ Weekly Register, August 30, 1834, p. 441.
At an adjourned meeting of the citizens of the City of Philadelphia and the adjoining districts, held at the District Court Room, September 15, 1834. JOSEPH R. INGERSOLL, Esq. the Chairman, being absent, John Goodman, Esq. of the Northern Liberties, was called to the Chair. The minutes of the first meeting having been read, John Binns, Esq. from the Committee appointed to make inquiries as to the origin, character and extent of the riots in the month of August, made the following
The Committee appointed at a Town Meeting of the Citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, held in the District Court Room, September, 3, 1834, “to inquire into the origin and progress of the late riots in Philadelphia, and the means taken to suppress them; and to ascertain the extent of personal injury inflicted, and the damage done to property, real and personal;” with instructions, to make report to an adjourned meeting of the Citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, to be held at this place, this evening—respectfully Report:—
. . . It is notorious—indeed, a fact not to be concealed or disputed, that the “object of the most active among the rioters, was a destruction of the property, and injury to the persons, of the colored people, with intent, as it would seem, to induce, or compel them to remove from this district. A similar feeling and intent, had previously manifested itself in the city of New York, and has subsequently been in active operation in the interior of this state, as well as in the state of New York. These events are called to mind, for the purpose of remarking, that general principles and convictions, rather than local feelings or interests, must have been in operation thus extensively to influence public opinion, and disturb the peace of so many districts in our heretofore tranquil country. Whatever those principles and convictions may have been, their consequences are deeply deplored, and by this community, sincerely regretted. . . .
Among the causes which originated the late riots, are two, which have had such extensive influence, that the committee feel they would be subject to censure, if they did not notice them. An opinion prevails, especially among white laborers, that certain portions of our community, prefer to employ colored people, whenever they can be had, to the employing of white people; and that, in consequence of this preference, many whites, who are able and willing to work, are left without employment, while colored people are provided with work, and enabled comfortably to maintain their families; and thus many white laborers, anxious for employment, are kept idle and indigent. Whoever mixed in the crowds and groups, at the late riots, must so often have heard those complaints, as to convince them, that the feelings from which they sprung, stimulated many of the most active among the rioters. It is neither the duty, or the intention of this committee, to lay down rules for the public, or the government of individuals, but they deem it within the obligations imposed upon them, to make the statements they have made, and to leave the matter for correction, to the consideration and action of individuals.
The other cause, to which the committee would refer, is the conduct of certain portions of the colored people, when any of their members are arrested as fugitives from justice. It has too often happened, that when such cases have been under the consideration of the judicial authorities of the country, the colored people have not relied on the wisdom and justice of the judiciary; on the exercise of the best talents at the Bar, or on the active and untiring exertions of benevolent citizens, who promptly interest themselves in their behalf; but they have crowded the Court Houses, and the avenues to them, to the exclusion of almost all other persons; they have forcibly attempted the rescue of prisoners, and compelled the officers of justice to lodge them for safety, in other prisons, than those to which they had been judicially committed. Scenes like these, have given birth to unfriendly feelings, for those who have thus openly assailed the officers of justice. The committee hope and expect, that such disgraceful scenes will not, again, be exhibited in our city, causing disrespect for the laws; instilling a spirit of subordination; familiarizing the public to breaches of the peace; and a resistance to the judicial authority, and stimulating the violent and the turbulent, to make war upon the officers of the Courts, and exhibit, in our most public places, an armed and a riotous people.
These, and other causes, have long operated in the minds, and occupied the thoughts of no inconsiderable portion of our fellow citizens. Nearly twenty years ago, there was, in this district, an out-breaking of popular discontent, which issued in the destruction of a place of worship, of the colored people, in the Northern Liberties. As a small frame building, used by the same description of people, as a meeting house, was torn down, and the windows of another broken, during the late riots in the Southern Liberties, the Committee deem it proper to remark, that the directions thus taken by the rioters, was, in no instance, given by any prejudice against any religious sect, or from any indisposition to seeing the people of color assemble together, for the purpose of public worship. It is believed to have been caused by the disorderly and noisy manner in which some of the colored congregations indulge, to the annoyance and disturbance of the neighborhood, in which such meeting houses are located.
The earliest facts immediately connected with the origin of the late riots, of which the committee have been able to obtain authentic information, are the occurrences on the evening of Tuesday, the 12th of August. On a lot in the rear of South street, and above Seventh, there had been for some time before, an exhibition of what were called, Flying Horses. On these horses, a limited number of persons, for a certain sum of money, were allowed to ride a limited time. On these horses, the whites and the blacks rode indiscriminately, and seats were eagerly sought after, angry words and quarrels would arise, as to the rights of preference to a seat. On the night stated there was an unusual crowd of young men, and it was at the time remarked, that they were principally strangers, persons not residing in the vicinity. What was the immediate cause of the riot, or whether, as is, by many believed, it had been preconcerted, the committee have been unable, with certainty, to ascertain; but a disturbance arose in a very short space of time, the whole of the Flying Horses, were torn to pieces. The magistrates and peace officers of that vicinity, did their duty courageously, and except the damage done on the premises, where the riot commenced, and where some wounds were inflicted, the public peace was not again disturbed that night.
The next evening, the 13th of August, a considerable mob unexpectedly presented itself in the vicinity of the premises, which had been destroyed the night before. There having been no expectation of such a visit, no preparation had been made, and the resistance to the mob, on that evening, was principally by the local authorities and inhabitants, until, at a late hour, and after much mischief had been done, they were reinforced by the Constables, Watchmen, and Police from the City. In Seventh, Shippen, Bedford, and Small streets, and in the Lanes in that neighborhood, the mob did much injury to property, breaking into houses, destroying the furniture, and greatly abusing and beating the inmates, all colored people, many of whom, after having labored hard through the day, had retired to rest, without a thought that their dwellings would be invaded, and their lives endangered by the inhumanity of persons to whom they were strangers. We record such facts with deep regret, but trust that their record will act as a warning, and deter other persons from being seduced into a participation in such an outrage.
On Thursday, the 14th of August, the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and the Attorney General wrote to the Sheriff, and, on their representations, he promptly took the necessary steps to preserve the public peace. As the execution of Murray had been fixed for the next day, the 15th, and no reprieve had then arrived, the time and attention of the Sheriff, was so much occupied in making arrangements for that melancholy event, that he entrusted to his Counsel, P. A. Browne, Esq., the calling out of a sufficient force to ensure the public peace. In a communication from this gentleman to the committee, he expresses an entire conviction, that the civil authority, is, in this district, without the aid of any of our Volunteer Corps—which, however, was promptly tendered—abundantly sufficient to quell any riot, which unfortunately may take place. The attendance of nearly every individual summoned on the Posse Commitatus, and the facility with which, by volunteers, the places of the few who were absent, were supplied, affords gratifying evidence of the general determination of our citizens, that the laws should be respected, and the public peace preserved. If any additional evidence was required, it is to be found in the obedience, discipline, and good order, which was, at all times observed, whenever the citizens were called out, wherever they were directed to go and whatever they were ordered to do, by those under whom they were organized. It is due to these citizens, and to the volunteers, horse and foot, who were out during the riots, to remark, that, nowithstanding their determination at all times, to do their duty, they were in no instance, guilty of a wanton exercise of power, but, were as forbearing, as they were resolute. This evening, (Thursday,) although the number of the people assembled, was greater than before, in the neighborhood, where persons and property had been assailed, yet was there little, or no, mischief done, so well had the constituted authorities made their arrangements, and so overwhelming was the force they had called out.
This night, however, was marked by the complete destruction of a small frame building, used as a place of worship by the colored people, near Wharton Market, a distance of a mile and a half from where the riot had commenced. This was an event so unexpected, that conjecture was busy to account for it. The committee have ascertained the cause why this building, thus situated, and thus used, was prostrated.—The evening before Wednesday, there had been some excitement in that vicinity, but of no great extent, and without any marked character or object. Between 9 and 10 o’clock, of Wednesday night, as three lads, strangers to each other, were passing the south end of this frame meeting, they were fired upon from a house, and the general belief was that it was an officer of the meeting, a colored man, who fired. The young man, about 17 years of age, most injured, the committee have examined. He was shot in the hand and in the leg. It was this unprovoked firing, and the general belief, that it was done by an officer of the meeting, which excited popular indignation, and directed it against the frame building.
On the night of Friday the 15th, serious and not unfounded apprehensions were entertained that blood would be shed. In Seventh street, below Lombard, some colored men had taken possession of a house called Benezet Hall, into which, it was said, they had conveyed arms and ammunition. The crowd in front of the Hall was great, and made violent threats. The Mayor of the city, with an effective force of constables and watchmen, came on the ground. The windows of the hall and the doors were fastened on the inside, the tumult without increased every every hour, and some stones were thrown at the hall. The Mayor, justly apprehensive of the consequences, and feeling the deep responsibility resting on him, addressed with energy and effect, those who were in the hall, as well as those around him. Soon after the effect produced by this address, High Constable Garrigues stationed four watchmen in front of the hall, and then went round, and made his way in, at the back of the building.—He made known who he was: some of the colored men were turbulent and disposed to resist, but the mass of them, (there were about 60,) were willing to submit, and were only anxious for their safety. He took them all quietly out the back way, announced to the crowd that the hall was cleared, and quiet was restored. The weapons found in the hall were swords, sword canes and clubs—there were no fire-arms.
This evening, Friday, in consequence of many assemblages of young men, and some threats thrown out against the colored people in the Northern Liberties, strong apprehensions of a riot were entertained in that district. The Sheriff organized the citizens—the Police Magistrate, and the other local authorities were on the alert; a few individuals were arrested, and happily the peace was preserved. An occurrence which took place on Saturday night, and which was wonderfully distorted and magnified, again endangered the peace of this district. Two black men were fighting in their own yard; a watchman interfered to keep the peace, and was, by one of the black men, cut with a scythe on the head, arm, and shoulders, in a very dangerous manner, A correct account of this affair was industriously and actively circulated, the public mind was informed and tranquilized, and peace preserved.
In the district of Spring Garden, an apprehension at one time prevailed, that an attack was contemplated on Type alley, inhabited principally by coloured people. Dispositions were made by the Police Magistrate of that district to avert the threatened calamity, but happily the peace of that neighborhood remained unbroken.—Since the night of the 15th, no attempt has been made to disturb the tranquility of any part of Philadelphia.
The committee have taken pains to ascertain the damage done, and the personal injuries inflicted. All the houses injured were occupied by colored people.—The houses in the same neighborhood, inhabited by white people, were preserved from injury by the white inhabitants showing themselves, with lights, at the doors and windows. More than thirty houses were, more or less, injured—a frame meeting house torn down, and the windows and sashes of another meeting house much broken. As the rioters broke into the houses, their inhabitants fled, many of them nearly naked, to save their lives. The furniture of the houses was utterly destroyed. The whole amount of damages is probably less than $4000. The damage sustained does not average to the sufferers a hundred dollars; but small as is that sum, it had been hardly earned, and it would require much time and labor to replace the things which were destroyed. They were the little all, of those to whom they belonged, and as the cold weather approaches, they will more and more feel the want of their stoves and their beds, and other necessities.—Many of these people were forced from their abodes, and for days were afraid to return; others were beaten severely, and one, we regret to say, died of his wounds. . . .
The case of Stephen James is entitled to some consideration. He was an honest, industrious colored man; a kind husband and a good father. He had retired to rest on the night of the 14th of August, but was aroused by the clamor of the mob. The cries which met his ears soon informed him that he was in danger, and he fled for safety; he was however overtaken, and wounded in many places, even unto death. He never spoke after he was found wounded, in the yard. The Committee do not believe that among all the persons, who made up the mob assembled on this occasion, there was one wicked enough to contemplate taking the life of an inoffensive and unoffending aged man—yet, in truth, they did this accursed thing. These facts are stated, to induce men to reflect upon the desperate deeds, which mobs, without desperate intentions, may commit. It may be proper here to state, that more than one of the peace officers were so seriously wounded that their lives were despaired of.
Some of the coloured population are yet under apprehensions, that, at no distant day, another attack will be made on their persons and property. The committee have diligently sought to acquire information as to the ground on which these apprehensions rest, and they have been unable to ascertain any facts which authorize them. As, however, the peace of every community, however large and peaceably disposed, may be endangered and broken, by the machinations of a few designing or turbulent persons, it is deemed a portion of the duty of this committee, to make such suggestions, as, in their opinions may tend to avert so dreaded an event, as an irruption upon the quiet of any portion of our population. Nothing will tend to win the good opinion, and secure the good offices of the community, more than a respectful and orderly deportment. It would do much good if those of the coloured population, whose age and character entitle them to have influence, would take the trouble to exercise it, and impress upon their younger brethren, the necessity as well as the propriety, of behaving themselves inoffensively, and with civility at all times, and upon all occasions; taking care, even as they pass along the streets, or assemble together, not to be obtrusive, thus giving birth to angry feelings, and fostering prejudices and evil dispositions. . . .
Resolved, That it is due to justice and to the character of this community, that the losses sustained by the unhappy sufferers, among whom are included those who were wounded in defence of the public peace, should be compensated.
Resolved, That a committee of fifteen be appointed to investigate the claims of the sufferers, to collect subscriptions from our fellow citizens, and distribute them in the most speedy and equitable manner, among those who have suffered, in proportion to their losses.
Committee. . . .
Hazard’s Register 14 (September 27, 1834):200–04.
21. ROBERT PURVIS’ REACTION TO THE PHILADELPHIA RIOT36
Philadelphia, August 22, 1842
My dear friend Wright:
I have been absent from the city all of the past week. This I offer in excuse for not acknowledging your letter before this.
I am even now, in every way, disqualified from making proper answers to your [questions] in reference to one of the most ferocious and bloody-spirited mobs that ever cursed a Christian (?) community. I know not where I should begin, nor how or when to end in a detail of the wantoness, brutality and murderous spirit of the actors in the late riots, nor of the apathy and inhumanity of the whole community in regard to the matter. Press, Church, Magistrates, Clergymen and Devils are against us. The measure of our sufferings is full.
From the most painful investigation in the feelings and acts of this community in regard to us, I am convinced of our utter and complete nothingness in public estimation. I feel that my life would find no change in death, but a glorious riddance of a life weighed down and cursed by a despotism whose sway makes Hell of earth—we the tormented, our persecutors the tormentors.
But I must stop. I am sick—miserably sick. Everything around me is as dark as the grave. Here and there the bright countenance of a true friend is to be seen. Save that—nothing redeeming, nothing hopeful. Despair black as the face of death hangs over us—and the bloody will of the community [is] to destroy us.
In a few days perhaps I will write you again. To attempt a reply to your letter now is impossible.
Antislavery Collection, Boston Public Library.
It is well known that the Anti Abolition mob of ‘38 was, to a great extent, a mercantile speculation—a bid for Southern trade, and that Pennsylvania Hall was a burnt-offering to both Mammon and Slavery. Whether our Esaus who bartered away order, peace and liberty have ever received their pottage in pay is doubtful. The table below which gives merely the pecuniary losses from the riots, bred by that great courage, does not tell much for the shrewdness of these speculators in honor and justice.
The Philadelphia Inquirer says: From the official sources, we learn that the following sums have been paid by the County of Philadelphia for riots, pay of military and civil posse, since the year 1842 up to 1849, inclusive:
Could we have added to these statistics the losses of life, of moral principle, and social restraints, of security at home, and reputation abroad, which are the most alarming expenses of those mobs, it would make a fearful balance against this city. But the end is not yet, nor know we when it will be. We have but just begun to reap the bitter harvest of our sowing. The future we hardly dare to explore in thought. Still the past may do one service to ourselves and the world, if we will heed its warning against the first step of wrong or violence.—
Excitement ran high everywhere. Some idea of the state of affairs in Columbia at this time may be had when we read the following, which the chief burgess of the borough caused to be issued two days after the town meeting:
“Whereas there is at present an undue excitement in this town, and whereas there have been unlawful assemblages doing much damage and destroying the peace of the borough, and whereas numerous assemblages of people of color are particularly to be avoided, I do hereby command and enjoin it upon all colored persons from and after the issuing of this Proclamation and until publicity revoked, to cease from the holding of all public religious meeting whatsoever, of any kind, after the hour of 8 o’clock in the evening, within the borough limits. And I do further request of and enjoin it upon all good citizens to aid in the suppression of all disturbances whatsoever, and particularly to aid in the execution of this Proclamation and in all proper ways to prevent the good order of the town from being destroyed, the laws broken and the lives and property of the citizens endangered, so that all persons concerned, or aiding or abetting in such disturbances may be arrested and dealt with according to the utmost extent of the law.
“Given under my hand and seal of office as Chief Burgess of the Borough of Columbia, August 22, 1834.
On Saturday evening, August 23, 1834, the day following the issuance of the Chief Burgess’ proclamation, a meeting of the working men, and others favorable to their cause in the borough, was held in the town hall. Dr. Thomas L. Smith was appointed chairman and Joseph M. Watts, secretary. The following preamble and resolutions were passed at this meeting, without a dissenting voice:
“When a body of citizens assemble to concert measure for the protection of those inestimable rights secured to them by the constitution, they owe to the public a distinct statement of the grievances they meet to redress, so that disinterested and patriotic persons may not labor under any mistake or imbibe prejudices against them. We therefore, willingly detail to the people the causes that urged us to meet this evening, confident that the intelligent will approve and coincide with us in support of our measures. We cannot view the conduct of certain individuals in this borough, who by instilling pernicious ideas into the heads of the blacks, encourage and excite them to pursue a course of conduct that has caused and will continue to cause great disturbance and breaches of the peace, and which we are fearful if not checked will ultimately lead to bloodshed, without feeling abhorrence, disgust and indignation. The practice of others in employing Negroes to do that labor which was formerly done entirely by whites, we consider deserving our severest animadversions; and when it is represented to them that the whites are suffering by this conduct, the answer is, ‘The world is wide, let them go elsewhere.’ And is it come to this? Must the poor honest citizens that so long have maintained their families by their labor, fly from their native place that a band of disorderly Negroes may revel with the money that ought to support the white man and his family, commit the most lascivious and degrading actions with impunity, and wanton in riot and debauchery. Who in this town does not know in what manner many Negroes spend their leisure hours; and who, but one that has lost all sense of right and justice, would encourage and protect them? As the negroes now pursue occupations once the sole province of the whites, may we not in course of time expect to see them engaged in every branch of mechanical business, and their known disposition to work for almost any price may well excite our fears, that mechanics at no distant period will scarcely be able to procure a mere subsistence. The cause of the late disgraceful riots throughout every part of the country may be traced to the efforts of those who would wish the poor whites to amalgamate with the blacks, for in all their efforts to accomplish this diabolical design, we see no intention in them to marry their own daughters to the blacks, it is therefore intended to break down the distinctive barrier between the colors that the poor whites may gradually sink into the degraded condition of the Negroes—that, like them, they may be slaves and tools, and that the blacks are to witness their disgusting servility to their employers and their unbearable insolence to the working class. Feeling that this state of things must have a brief existence if we wish to preserve our liberties, therefore be it
“Resolved, That we will not purchase any article (that can be procured elsewhere) or give our vote for any office whatever, to any one who employs Negroes to do that species of labor white men have been accustomed to perform.
“Resolved, That we deeply deplore the late riots and will as peaceable men assist to protect the persons and property of the citizens in case of disturbance.
“Resolved, That the Colonization Society ought to be supported by all the citizens favorable to the removal of the blacks from the country.
“Resolved, That the preachers of immediate abolition and amalgamation ought to be considered as political incendiaries, and regarded with indignation and abhorrence.
“Resolved, That the editor of the Spy be requested to publish the proceedings of this meeting.”
Another meeting of the citizens of the borough of Columbia assembled at the town hall on Tuesday evening, August 26, 1834, in pursuance of a printed call “to take into consideration the situation of the colored population, and to devise some means to prevent the further influx of colored persons to this place.” James Given, Esq., was called to the chair, and Thomas E. Cochran appointed secretary.
The following resolutions were offered by Chief Burgess Robert Spear and adopted at the meeting:
“Resolved, That a committee be appointed whose duty it shall be to ascertain the colored population of this borough, the occupation and employment of the adult males among them, and their visible means of subsistence.
“Resolved, That a committee be appointed whose duty it shall be to communicate with that portion of those colored persons who hold property in this borough and ascertain, if possible, if they would be willing to dispose of the same at a fair valuation; and it shall be the duty of the said committee to advise the colored persons in said borough to refuse receiving any colored persons from other places as residents among them; and the said committee shall report their proceedings to the chairman and secretary of this meeting, who are hereby empowered and requested to call another meeting at an early period and lay before said meeting the reports of said committees that such order may be taken thereon as may be most advisable.
“Resolved, That the citizens of this borough be requested, in case of the discovery of any fugitive slaves within our bounds, to cooperate and assist in returning them to their lawful owners.”
The last resolution was offered by Henry Brimmer.
The following committees were then appointed by the meeting:
On the first resolution, Messrs. James Collins, Peter Haldeman, Jacob F. Markley, John McMullen and William Atkins. On the second resolution, Robert Spear, Esq., Messrs. Henry Brimmer and James H. Mifflin.
At the adjourned meeting of the citizens convened at the town hall on Monday evening, September 1, 1834, to receive the reports of the committees appointed to inquire into the state of the colored population and to negotiate with them on the subject of a sale of their property, the officers of the former meeting resumed their seats.
The committees having made their reports, it was on motion
“Resolved, That these reports be remanded to the committees who offered them for the purpose of having resolutions attached to them, and that this meeting do adjourn until Wednesday evening next.”
The meeting convened pursuant to adjournment on Wednesday evening, September 3, 1834. The committee appointed to inquire into the state of the colored population of the borough presented the following report and recommendation, which were adopted:
“Number of black population found in Columbia, Penna., on August 28, 1834; —214 men, 171 women, 264 children— total 649.
“It is supposed that a good number have left the place within a few days, and that a number were scattered through the town that were not seen by the committee. Among the above men, the committee consider the following named persons as vagrants: William Rockaway, Henry Holland, Wash Butler, Charles Butler, Jacob Coursey, Joe Dellam, James Larret, Joseph Hughes, Abraham Waters, William Malston, Jr., and Lloyd Murray.
“A house occupied by John Scott and William Stockes, is considered by the committee as a house of ill fame; it is rented by Joshua P. B. Eddy to them.
“J. F. Markley
The committee also recommended the attention of the proper authorities as early as practicable to the above named vagrants and nuisances.
The committee appointed to negotiate with the blacks on the sale of their property, reported as follows:
“That they have endeavored to give that attention to the subject which its importance justly demands.
“They have, in the first place, ascertained as nearly as possible the names and number of colored freeholders in this borough, which according to the best information they could obtain they lay before you as follows, viz: Henry Barney, William Brown, Aaron Brown, James Burrell, Michael Dellam, Charles Dellam, Joshua Eddy, Walter Green, John Green, George Hayden, Widow Hayden, James Hollinsworth,—Henderson, Glascow Mature, Edward Miller, William Pearl, Nicholas Pleasants, Philip Pleasants, Jacob Dickinson, John Johnson, Ephraim Malson, Sawney Alexander, Robert Patterson, Stephen Smith, Peter Swails, John Thomas, James Richards, Betsey Dean (formerly Roatch), George Taylor, George Young, Stephen Wilts, Eliza Park, Thomas Waters, Samuel Wilson, Patrick Vincent, John Vincent and Washington Vincent—making all thirty-seven.
“They have called on most of them in person and think the disposition manifested by most of them decidedly favorable to the object of the committee. Some of them are anxious, many willing, to sell at once provided a reasonable price were offered—others would dispose of their property as soon as they could find any other eligible situation.
“All to whom your committee spoke on the subject of harboring strange persons among them, seemed disposed to give the proper attention to the subject. Your committee deem the result of their observation decidedly satisfactory.
“In presenting this report your committee would respectfully call your attention to the impropriety of further urging the colored freeholders to sell until some provisions are made to buy such as may be offered, lest they should be led to consider it all the work of a few excited individuals, and not the deliberate decision of peaceful citizens. They therefore recommend the subject of the attention of capitalists; having no doubt that, independent of every other consideration, the lots in question would be a very profitable investment of their funds, and that if a commencement were once made nearly all of the colored freeholders of the borough would sell as fast as funds could be raised to meet the purchasers. Your committee would further remark if everything was in readiness, considerable time would be required to effect the object; they would therefore recommend caution and deliberation in everything in relation to this important object.
“In conclusion your committee offer the following resolution:
“Resolved, That an association be formed for the purpose of raising funds for the purchase of the property of the blacks in this borough.
The report and resolution were adopted, and the following committee of five was appointed to form an association for the purpose of purchasing the property of the blacks in the borough: Joseph Cottrell, Dominick Eagle, John Cooper, Robert Spear and Jacob F. Markley. . . .
William Frederick Warner, “The Columbia Race Riots,” 26 (October, 1922):178–82.
Since the evening of the 9th instant, there have been nightly riots and mobs in the city of New-York, caused by the mad conduct of a class of visionary and fanatical zealots in that city, who have taken the lead in the wild scheme of immediate and unqualified emancipation of the blacks, and by openly advocating the amalgamation of the blacks with the whites. Degraded as are the instigators of these riots, the cause is still more disgraceful and degrading to the character of an enlightened community. We had occasion to allude to this subject nearer home some months since, and to express our opinion of the impropriety and bad effects produced in community by the discussion of a question in itself so exciting, and so entirely out of the power of the people of this State to afford any salutary remedy. We regret to learn that the subject has again been publicly broached in this city, and that there is a certain religious class among us desirous of agitating the subject at this time. The example of New-York should deter them from so doing. We have no desire to see the disgraceful scenes of that city re-enacted here; but if the matter should be carried to the same lengths in Utica, may we not fear the same consequences to result from it? We trust the good sense of our citizens will be directed against any public discussion of this nature.—utica Observer.
The Liberator, August 21, 1834.
The Evening Post, last evening, contained the following statement relative to the longshoreman:
“Riot of the Stevedores—The Strike for Higher Wages—Compelling Men to Leave their Work—The Police called Out.—A most high-handled measure is now pursued by the stevedores on a strike for higher wages. Because merchants refuse to pay more than one dollar and a half per day these men are determined that no work shall be done. Hundreds of poor men are desirous of labor at the present price. No sooner, however, do they begin to work, than they are pounced upon by these disturbers of the public peace.
“This morning, between 9 and 10 o’clock, about two hundred of the discontended stevedores went to the packet-ship Lease Allerton, at Pier No. 50 East River. A large number of men were discharging the vessel under the orders of Wm. Nelson & Son, shipping merchants, in South, st. The rioters did not go on board the ship, but demanded that the men should cease work. Afraid of their lives, they complied with the request of the mob, and come ashore.
“The rioters then fell upon the men and beat them severely. Mr. Nelson sent for the Seventh Ward Police, who soon arrived and dispersed the rascals. The men again resumed work on the ship, and the stevedores scattered. The owners of Holmes’s line of New Orleans packets have been paying one dollar and fifty cents a day to the longshoremen for the past four weeks. They load their vessels at the foot of Pine st., and have had occasions frequently to call upon the Police to protect their men.
“Negroes have been employed in the vessels of Morgan’s London Line. At dusk, last evening, while one of the colored men was going home from the Margaret Evans, at Pier No. 48 East River, he was attacked by an Irishman, who struck him on the head. The colored man was armed, drew a pistol upon his assailent, and fired. The Irishman took to his heels, and it is not known whether he was shot. At the time of the attack, only the two men were present but in a few moments afterward, as if by magic, several hundred longshoremen were gathered upon the wharf. The negro escaped from the crowd.
“The Police are stationed along the wharves of the North and East Rivers to day, to maintain order and to guard men at work in loading and discharging vessels. No disturbances have taken place on the North River side. We observed squads of policemen at the wharves of the Charleston and Savannah streamers. . . .
New York Tribune, January 18, 1855.
Sometime since a dispute arose between a negro fireman on a steamboat and one of the white hands, which occasioned an altercation at St. Louis. Last week, the negro arrived in our city, and met his antagoist on the landing, who was armed with a dray pin. Blows were exchanged, the negro snapping a pistol, and it failing fire, threw it at his adversary and struck him on the head. He was arrested and brought before the Mayor and held to bail for farther examination on Monday, yesterday. It was rumoured that the security intended to pay the amount and let the negro escape. This drew a crowd around the house of the bail on Saturday, which was dispersed after some threats had been made. The negro was brought before the Mayor yesterday morning for farther examination.—The Mayor ordered him to be committed. A crowd having gathered in the street in front of the Mayor’s office when the marshal and his assistants brought out the prisoner on the way to the jail, they were surrounded by the crowd—stones and other missiles were hurled at them. The mob seized the negro, rescued him from the officers, carried him to the river, and across into Covington, Ky. followed by the officers and a great crowd of persons. The negro man was taken to a point in Covington, where was a scaffold erected and ropes provided, and other preparations made for hanging him without law or trial. They placed the rope round his neck, and were deliberately proceeding to execute their purpose, when the Mayor of Covington with a police posse appeared on the ground, cut the ropes and commanded the crowd to disperse, assuring them that if they would proceed in their work of violence, they must go back to Cincinnati for that purpose. The resolute and honorable course of the Mayor of Covington was successful in preventing a farther violence there. The mob then took the negro man down the river and landed him in the lower part of Cincinnati, when he was recaptured by our city police, and taken to prison. They were pursued on their way by the excited and noisy crowd, hurling stones at the officers. The police maintained their ground and committed the negro man to jail. The last we heard of them they were in pursuit of the rioters.
Cincinnati Gazette, September 14, 1847.
To the Honorable the Senit and House of Riprisentetives of the common Welth of Massachsetts bay in general court assembled February 27 1788:
The Petition of greet Number of Blacks freemen of this common welth Humbly sheweth that your Petetioners are justly Allarmed at the enhuman and cruel Treetment that Three of our Brethren free citizens of the Town of Boston lately Receved; The captain under a pertence that his vessel was in destres on a Island below in this Hearber haven got them on bord put them in irons and carred them of, from their Wives & children to be sold for slaves; This being the unhappy state of these poor men What can your Petetioners expect but to be treeted in the same manner by the same sort of men; What then are our lives and Lebeties worth if they may be taken away in shuch a cruel & unjust manner as these; May it pleas your Honnors, we are not uncensebel that the good Laws of this State forbedes all such base axones: Notwithstanding we can aseuer your Honners that maney of our free blacks that have Entred on bord of vessels as seamen and have been sold for Slaves & sum of them we have heard from but no not who carred them away; Hence is it that maney of us who are good seamen are oblidge to stay at home thru fear and the one help of our time lorter about the streets for want of employ; were-as if they were protected in that lawfull calling thay might a hanceum livehud for themselves and theres: which in the setturation they are now in thay cannot. One thing more we would bege leve to Hint, that is that your Petetioners have for sumtime past Beheald whith greef ships cleared out from this Herber for Africa and there they either steal or case others to steal our Brothers & sisters fill there ships holes full of unhappy men & women crouded together, then set out to find the Best markets seal them there like sheep for the slarter and then Returne near like Honest men; after haven sported with the Lives and Leberties fello men and at the same time call themselves Christions: Blush o Hevens at this.
These our Wattey greevences we cherfully submeet to your Honores Without Decttateing in the lest knowing by Experence that your Honers have and we Trust ever will in your Wisdom do us that Justes that our Present condechon Requires as God and the good Laws of this commonwelth shall [one word illegible—ed.] you—as in Deutey Bound your Petetioners shall ever pray.
Herbert Aptheker (ed.), A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States (New York, 1950), pp. 20–21.
Beware of kidnappers! Two villains from Boston visited Salem a few days since, and introduced themselves to some of the colored people there, as particular friends of Garrison & Knapp, and as being there at their request; and also desiring to see a certain person supposed to be a runaway slave.
We all understand that a certain Constable in this city, is very active in entering the dwellings of colored people, pretending to have search warrants, and ransacking their houses from cellar to garret, in search of fugitives from slavery. Constables have no right to enter a house, without a special Warrant for that purpose from some Judge, granted for a special case. Colored People, beware! put confidence only in such persons as you know to be your friends.
The Liberator, August 3, 1836.
It is too bad to be told, much less to be endured!—On Saturday, 23d instant, about 12 o’clock, Mr. George Jones, a respectable free colored man, was arrested at 21 Broadway, by certain police officers, upon the pretext of his having ‘committed assault and battery.’ Mr. Jones, being conscious that no such charge could be sustained against him, refused to go with the officers. His employers, placing high confidence in his integrity, advised him to go and answer to the charge, promising that any assistance should be afforded to satisfy the end of justice. He proceeded with the officers, accompanied with a gentleman who would have stood his bail—he was locked up in Bridewell—his friend was told that ‘when he was wanted he could be sent for.’ Between the hours of 1 and 2 o’clock, Mr. Jones was carried before the Hon. Richard Riker, Recorder of the city of New York. In the absence of his friends, and in the presence of several notorious kidnappers, who preferred and by oath sustained that he was a runaway slave, poor Jones, (having no one to utter a word in his behalf, but a boy, in the absence of numerous friends who could have born testimony to his freedom,) was by the Recorder pronounced to be a SLAVE!
In less than three hours after his arrest, he was bound in chains, dragged through the streets, like a beast to the shambles! My depressed countrymen, we are all liable; your wives and children are at the mercy of merciless kidnappers. We have no protection in law, because the legislators withhold justice. We must no longer depend on the interposition of Manumission or Anti-Slavery Societies, in the hope of peaceable and just protection; where such outrages are committed, peace and justice cannot dwell. While we are subject to be thus inhumanly practised upon, no man is safe; we must look to our own safety and protection from kidnappers; remembering that ‘self-defence is the first law of nature.’
Let a meeting be called—let every man who has sympathy in his heart to feel when bleeding humanity is thus stabbed afresh, attend the meeting; let a remedy be prescribed to protect us from slavery. Whenever necessity requires, let that remedy be applied. Come what will, any thing is better than slavery.
The Liberator, August 6, 1836.
The citizens of Lynn and vicinity are requested to meet at Lyceum Hall, on Friday evening, at 7 o’clock, to adopt some effectual measures to prevent kidnappers from stealing, and carrying off to the South, the peacable inhabitants of this Commonwealth. The case of George Latimer, who, a few days since, was kidnapped in the city of Boston, and manacled in the very halls of justice, and in presence, and under the direction of the sworn protectors of our liberty, and who is now lying in Leverett street jail, waiting the order of the Court to consign him to interminable slavery, ought to arouse every working man in the country to a sense of his own personal insecurity.
Already the clank of chains is heard in our streets! The kidnapper is allowed to go abroad, in open day-light, unharmed, while spotless innocence is consigned to the felon’s cell.
Husbands and Fathers! one and all, turn out! Let the New Cradle of Liberty rock on Friday evening, as the Old one did, in the days of Hancock and Adams.
If our present Government fails to protect us from the blood-hounds of the South, it is high time to fall back upon our reserved rights!—LIBERTY BEFORE CONSTITUTIONS!! The times demand a second rovolution!!!
The People’s Advocate (Concord, New Hampshire), November 18, 1842.
An able-bodied colored man sells in the southern market for from eight hundred to a thousand dollars; of course he is worth stealing. Colonizationists and slaveholders, and many northern divines, solemnly affirm, that the situation of a slave is far preferable to that of a free negro;—hence it would seem an act of humanity to convert the latter into the former. Kidnapping being both a lucrative and a benevolent business, it is not strange it should be extensively practised. In many of the States this business is regulated by law, and there are various ways in which the transmutation is legally effected. Thus, in South Carolina, if a free negro “entertains” a runaway slave, it may be his own wife and child, he himself is turned into a slave. In 1827, a free woman and her three children underwent this benevolent process, for entertaining two fugitive children of six and nine years old. In Virginia all emancipated slaves remaining twelve months in the State, are kindly restored to their former condition. In Maryland a free negro who marries a white woman, thereby acquires all the privileges of a slave; and generally, throughout the slave region, including the District of Columbia, every negro not known to be free, is mercifully considered as a slave, and if his master cannot be ascertained, he is thrown into a dungeon, and there kept, till by a public sale a master can be provided for him.—But often the law grants to colored men, known to be free, all the advantages of slavery. Thus, in Georgia, every free colored man coming into the State, and unable to pay a fine of one hundred dollars, becomes a slave for life; in Florida, insolvent debtors, if black, are SOLD for the benefit of their creditors: and in the District of Columbia, a free colored man, thrown into jail on suspicion of being a slave, and proving his freedom, is required by law to be sold as a slave, if too poor to pay his jail fees. Let it not be supposed that these laws are all obsolete and inoperative. They catch many a northern negro, who, in pursuit of his own business, or on being decoyed by others, ventures to enter the slave region; and who, of course, helps to augment the wealth of our southern brethren. On the 6th of March, 1839, a report by a Committee was made to the House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Legislature, in which are given the names of seventeen free colored men who had been enslaves at the South. It also states an instance in which twenty-five colored citizens, belonging to Massachusetts, were confined at one time in a southern jail, and another instance in which 75 free colored persons from different free States were confined, all preparatory to their sale as slaves according to law.
But it is not at the South alone that freemen may be converted into slaves “according to law.” The Act of Congress respecting the recovery of fugitive slaves, affords most extraordinary facilities for this process, through official corruption and individual perjury. By this Act, the claimant is permitted to select a justice of the peace, before whom he may bring or send his alleged slave, and even to prove his property by affidavit. Indeed, in almost every State in the Union, a slaveholder may recover at law a human being as his beast of burden, with far less ceremony than he could his pig from the possession of his neighbor. In only three States is a man, claimed as a slave, entitled to a trial by jury. At the last session of the New York Legislature a bill allowing a jury trial in such cases was passed by the lower House, but rejected by a democratic vote in the Senate, democracy in that State being avowedly only skin deep, all its principles of liberty, equality and human rights depending on complexion.
Considering the wonderful ease and expedition with which fugitives may be recovered by law, it would be very strange if mistakes did not sometimes occur. How often they occur cannot, of course, be known, and it is only when a claim is defeated, that we are made sensible of the exceedingly precarious tenure by which a poor friendless negro at the north holds his personal liberty. A few years since, a girl of the name of Mary Gilmore was arrested in Philadelphia, as a fugitive slave from Maryland. Testimony was not wanting in support of the claim; yet it was most conclusively proved that she was the daughter of poor Irish parents, having not a drop of negro blood in her veins; that the father had absconded, and that the mother had died a drunkard in the Philadelphia hospital, and that the infant had been kindly received and brought up in a colored family. Hence the attempt to make a slave of her.—In the spring of 1839, a colored man was arrested in Philadelphia, on a charge of having absconded from his owner twenty-three years before. This man had a wife and family depending upon him, and a home where he enjoyed their society; and yet, unless he could find witnesses who could prove his freedom for more than this number of years, he was to be torn from his wife, his children, his home, and doomed for the remainder of his days to toil under the lash. Four witnesses for the claimant swore to his identity, although they had not seen him before twenty-three years! By a most extraordinary coincidence, a New England Captain, with whom this negro had sailed twenty-nine years before, in a sloop from Nantucket, happened at this very time to be confined for debt in the same prison with the alleged slave, and the Captain’s testimony, together with that of some other witnesses, who had known the man previous to his pretended elopement, so fully established his freedom, that the Court discharged him.
Another mode of legal kidnapping still remains to be described. By the Federal Constitution, fugitives from justice are to be delivered up, and under this constitutional provision, a free negro may be converted into a slave without troubling even a Justice of the Peace to hear the evidence of the captor’s claim. A fugitive slave is, of course, a felon—he not only steals himself, but also the rags on his back which belong to his master. It is understood he has taken refuge in New York, and his master naturally wishes to recover him with as little noise, trouble, and delay as possible. The way is simple and easy. Let the Grand Jury indict A. B. for stealing wearing apparel, and let the indictment, with an affidavit of the criminal’s flight, be forwarded by the Governor of the State, to his Excellency of New York, with a requisition for the delivery of A. B. to the agent appointed to receive him. A warrant is, of course, issued to “any Constable of the State of New York,” to arrest A. B. For what purpose?—to bring him before a magistrate where his identity may be established?—no, but to deliver him up to the foreign agent. Hence, the Constable may pick up the first likely negro he finds in the street, and ship him to the South; and should it be found, on his arrival on the plantation, that the wrong man has come, it will also probably be found that the mistake is of no consequence to the planter. A few years since, the Governor of New York signed a warrant for the apprehension of 17 Virginia negroes, as fugitives from justice. Under this warrant, a man who had lived in the neighborhood for three years, and had a wife and children, and who claimed to be free, was seized, on a Sunday evening, in the public highway, in West Chester County, New York, and without being permitted to take leave of his family, was instantly hand-cuffed, thrown into a carriage, and hurried to New York, and the next morning was on his voyage to Virginia.
Free colored men are converted into slaves not only by law, but also contrary to law. It is, of course, difficult to estimate the extent to which illegal kidnapping is carried, since a large number of cases must escape detection. In a work published by Judge Stroud, of Philadelphia, in 1827, he states, that it has been ascertained that more than thirty free colored persons, mostly children, have been kidnapped in that city within the last two years.
The Colored American, March 21, 1840.
A colored man named Horace Hitchcock, is now confined in New Orleans Jail, on charge of being a slave. He affirms he is a free man—says he was born in New Lebanon, N. Y., in the year 1805; is known to Messrs. Brown & Morris, Hardware Merchants, J. Wilson, Dry Good Merchant, and Mr. Woodruff, Public Notary. Any information respecting this man, tending to establish his claim to freedom, will be thankfully received. Ministers of colored churches will serve the cause of humanity by reading this notice in their congregations.
Any communications may be directed to the office of the Colored American, post paid, or to 198 Hudson street, New York city.
Editors friendly to the cause of liberty, will please to insert this notice.
The Colored American, June 6, 1840.
. . . Then rally, ONE AND ALL, to the meeting on Sunday evening, and let the OLD CRADLE OF LIBERTY rock as it did in “the times that tried men’s souls,” and let the majestic voice of a FREE PEOPLE be heard, “like the voice of many waters,” in favor of IMPARTIAL LIBERTY and UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION! Even now, kidnappers infest our community! Even now, one made in the Divine image—created free by the power and grace of God—a MAN, a BROTHER, lies incarcerated in Leverett street jail, charged with no crime, guiltless of all wrong-doing against society, without even the forms of law, or any legal authority whatever, at the bidding solely of the kidnapper—claimed as a SLAVE—a THING—and in a few days to be hurried to the South, to be cut to pieces by the infernal lash of the slave driver—unless he be rescued by THE STRONG ARM OF LIBERTY! No citizen is safe! The color of the skin has ceased to protect any of us from the doom of slavery! Are we not able to protect ourselves! SHALL WE NOT DO IT! Or shall we basely consent to give up our rights to any ruffians who may choose to take them from us? Let FANEUIL HALL answer!37
The meeting will be addressed by several distinguished advocates of equal rights and impartial liberty.
Boston, October 29th, 1842.
The People’s Advocate (Concord, New Hampshire), November 18, 1842.
MR. EDITOR:—I happened to be present last evening at a conference of citizens at the house of S. Hill, of South Boston, and had an opportunity of seeing the man at whose dictum Boston jail is converted into a yard, and a Boston jailor into a paid herdsman for one of his human cattle; and as it may be interesting as well as important to some to know how a soul-hunter looks, I will just say, that he is about five feet nine inches high, dark complexion. Whoever looks in his face will perceive at once a want of one of the most important properties of a man, viz, a soul; which, however, is supplied by a sort of hyena energy. His object obviously was to take vengeance upon the sympathizing benevolence of the citizens towards his victim, George Latimer, for the trouble and expense which he had been at in the pursuit of his victim, which in his estimation was considerable, as he said he had put $200 in the hands of his lawyer, &c. &c.—not forgetting his heardsman.
It was truly painful, in listening to his talk about the nigger, to see how slavery can eat out all that is lovely in human nature. The following, as near as can be recollected, was the conversation which passed between him and those present.
Citizen—Have you a wife and children, sir?
Citizen—Then you know the feelings of a father and husband?
Ans.—I didn’t come here to talk about that.
Another citizen—How much are you willing to sell Latimer for?
Gray—Put yourself in my situation and what would you do?
Cit.—Adopting your sentiments, and putting myself in your situation, I should expect he would run away again if he could, and to save myself, if I got him back to Norfolk, I should sell him to the highest bidder, to go farther South.
Gray—If I get him back, he’ll not run away again.
Another cit.—You will be under the necessity of using great severity to prevent him from attempting it.
Gray, with a slaveholder’s look—I know how to keep him.
Cit.—How much are you willing to take for him?
One of his Guardians—[He had two men with him, who seemed to exercise a watchful supervision over him]—You have left it with your attorney, have you not?
Gray—Yes, I have left the figures with him; he will tell you.
Cit.—What was the character of Latimer before he left you? was he honest?
Gray—I shouldn’t think he was honest, to treat me so; this is the second time he has run away from me, and the second time he has stolen from me.
Cit.—Well, as to his running away, that was quite natural. Would not you run away if any one should attempt to hold you as a slave?
Gray—Me! I hope you don’t think I’m a nigger!
Cit.—But as to the money, don’t you think he had earned it?
Gray—Earned it! when?
Cit.—When in your service.
Gray—He was my slave.
Cit.—That may be; but that does not alter the justice of the case.
Gray—Justice! Don’t you think that slavery has existed from the beginning?
Cit.—There has been a devil from the beginning; but that makes neither slavery nor him any better.
Gray—I didn’t come here to talk about that.
Cit.—How could Latimer get at your money to steal it?
Gray—He was my salesman; I trusted him with the store; he could get as much as he wanted.
Cit.—Is it not singular, Mr. Gray, if, as you say, Latimer was dishonest and had stolen from you before, that you should trust him in that manner again?
Gray—Ahem, ahem—I forgave him that time.
Cit.—Has Latimer a wife?
Cit.—How long had he lived with her?
Gray—About ten months.
Cit.—Don’t you think Latimer has the feelings of a man?
Gray—I shouldn’t think he had, or he wouldn’t have given me all this trouble.
Cit.—Don’t you think he loves his wife?
Gray—He love his wife? Niggers!—I didn’t come here to talk about that.
Cit.—Latimer is part white, is he not?
Gray—He’s touched with white; he’s merlatter.
Cit.—They are apt to get “touched” in that way at the South, are they not?
Gray—They mix ‘em here at the North; I see black and white walking together since I been here.
Cit—Yes; but at the South you seem to have the faculty of mixing black and white in one person.
Gray—Well, I didn’t come here to talk about that.
Cit.—Does his wife belong to you?
Gray—She didn’t; but she does now.
Cit.—Did you buy her since she ran away?
Gray—I have a power of attorney, and shall take her back.
[Mark that, colored men! and keep your eye out for Judases.]
Cit.—Has she any children?
Gray—She’s had one since she came here.
Cit.—Well now, Mr. Gray, as Latimer loves his wife and child, and wants freedom, would you not find pleasure in making some sacrifice yourself and allow us to pay the rest, and let him have his freedom?
Gray—I didn’t come here to talk about that. I’ve told you what I’d take for him, and I wont take a cent less. [Rising up to go.]
Cit.—You mean you have left the figures with your attorney. But, Sir, instead of carrying back your man or the money for him, you may carry back the frowns of God for your heartless cruelty. Good night.
Really, Mr. Editor, while listening to this rare specimen of Southern humanity, this soulless thing, which by the partiality of Southern law, is “second among sentient things,” I could but think, were the slaves half as soulless, it were less crime to reckon them among “things,” “chattels.” He is just one of those petty tyrants, subjection to whose caprice is worse than death. Poor Latimer! Poor Latimer!!
The People’s Advocate (Concord, New Hampshire), November 18, 1842.
35. ASSOCIATION OF FREE BLACKS TO AID FUGITIVE SLAVES38 FREEDOM ASSOCIATION, BOSTON, 1845
The object of our Association is to extend a helping hand to all who may bid adieu to whips and chains, and by the welcome light of the North Star, reach a haven where they can be protected from the grasp of the manstealer. An article of the constitution enjoins upon us not to pay one farthing to any slaveholder for the property they may claim in a human being. We believe that to be the appropriate work of those at the North, who contend that the emancipation of the slaves should be preceded by the compensation of the masters. Our mission is to succor those who claim property in themselves, and thereby acknowledge an independence of slavery.
Fugitives are constantly presenting themselves for assistance which we are at times unable to afford, in consequence of the lack of means. Donations of money or clothing, information of places where they may remain for a temporary or permanent season as the case may demand, are the instrumentalities by which we aim to effect our object. We feel it to be a legitimate branch of anti-slavery duty, and solicit, therefore, in the name of the panting fugitive, the countenance and support of all who “remember those in bonds as bound with them.” . . . Donations are punctually acknowledged in some of the anti-slavery papers.
The Liberator, December 12, 1845.
Harrisburg, Sept. 30, 1849.
FRIEND DOUGLASS.—During the past week a family of five or six persons arrived in this place, from the peculiar, contented, happy, religious, pious and Christian Institution of the South, and feeling themselves secure from the grasp of bloodhounds of the south and north, who are ever ready to scent the track of the flying bondman.
They dismantled themselves of those habiliments by which a fugitive from the peculiar institution may be known, and set themselves now to rest. They, however, were not permitted to rest in peace.
On Saturday the 29th inst., as one of their number was passing along Front street on the river bank, he was pursued by two men, and after a considerable chase they overtook him, and endeavored to get him to the bridge. Fortunately, two colored men observing the chase, joined the parties, and effected the release of the fugitive, his pursuers making good their escape across the river.
The seizure of a man in open day in one of the most public thoroughfares of the Capital, for the purpose of reducing him to bondage, did, as might be expected, create a considerable excitement among the citizens.39
The North Star, October 12, 1849.