William Wells Brown, the subject of this narrative, was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1834 he escaped from a steamboat in Cincinnati and found shelter at a Quaker family. In 1849 he started a journey through Europe, of which this book tells us. Brown is also known as the author of "Clotel", the first novel written by an Afro-American. When we consider that it is the production of a fugitive from slavery, who never in all his life passed so much as a day in a school, its claims upon our notice are manifest enough. We are glad that it has been allowed to go forth just as is was written, with its slight inaccuracies and inelegancies, the genuine product of the writer's brain. Mr. Brown's opportunities were good, and his sketches of persons and things are very lively. Many a graduate of our colleges would not make half so entertaining a volume.
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The American Fugitive In Europe
Sketches Of Places And People Abroad
William Wells Brown
The American Fugitive In Europe
Preface To The English Edition
Note To The American Edition
Memoir of the Author
The American Fugitive In Europe, W. W. Brown
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
WHILE I feel conscious that most of the contents of those Letters will be interesting chiefly to American readers, yet I may indulge the hope that the fact of their being the first production of a Fugitive Slave as a history of travels may carry with them novelty enough to secure for them, to some extent, the attention of the reading public of Great Britain. Most of the letters were written for the private perusal of a few personal friends in America; some were contributed to Fredrick Douglass' Paper, a journal published in the United States. In a printed circular sent some weeks since to some of my friends, asking subscriptions to this volume, I stated the reasons for its publication: these need not be repeated here. To those who so promptly and kindly responded to that appeal, I tender my most sincere thanks. It is with no little diffidence that I lay these letters before the public; for I am not blind to the fact that they must contain many errors; and to those who shall find fault with them on that account, it may not be too much for me to ask them kindly to remember that the author was a slave in one of the Southern States of America, until he had attained the age of twenty years; and that the education he has acquired was by his own exertions, he never having had a day's schooling in his life.
W. WELLS BROWN.
22 CECIL STREET, STRAND, LONDON.
During my sojourn abroad I found it advantageous to my purse to publish a book of travels, which I did under the title of "Three Years in Europe, or Places I have seen and People I have met." The work was reviewed by the ablest journals in Great Britain, and from their favorable criticisms I have been induced to offer it to the American public, with a dozen or more additional chapters.
W. W. B.
BOSTON, November, 1854.
"Shall tongues be mute when deeds are wrought Which well might shame extremest Hell? Shall freemen lack the indignant thought? Shall Mercy's bosom cease to swell? Shall honor bleed?--shall Truth succumb? Shall pen, and press, and soul be dumb?"
WILLIAM WELLS BROWN, the subject of this narrative, was born a slave in Lexington, Kentucky, not far from the residence of the late Hon. Henry Clay. His mother was the slave of Dr. John Young. His father was a slaveholder, and, besides being a near relation of his master, was connected with the Wickliffe family, one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most aristocratic of the Kentucky planters. Dr. Young was the owner of forty or fifty slaves, whose chief employment was in cultivating tobacco, hemp, corn, and flax. The doctor removed from Lexington, when William was five or six years old, to the State of Missouri, and commenced farming in a beautiful and fertile valley, within a mile of the Missouri river.
Here the slaves were put to work under a harsh and cruel overseer, named Cook. A finer situation for a farm could not have been selected in the state. With a climate favorable to agriculture, and soil rich, the products came in abundance. At an early age William was separated from his mother, she being worked in the field and he as a servant in his masters medical department. When about ten years of age, the young slave's feelings were much hurt at hearing the cries of his mother while being flogged by the negro-driver for being a few minutes behind the other hands in reaching the field. He heard her cry, "O, pray! O, pray! O, pray!" These are the words which slaves generally utter when imploring mercy at the hands of their oppressors. The son heard it, though he was some way off. He heard the crack of the whip, and the groans of his poor mother. The cold chill ran over him, and he wept aloud; but he was a slave like his mother, and could render her no assistance, He was taught by the most bitter experience, that nothing could be more heart-rending than to see a dear and beloved mother or sister tortured by unfeeling men, and to hear her cries, and not to be able to render the least aid. When William was twelve years of age, his master left his farm and took up his residence near St. Louis. The doctor having more hands than he wanted for his own use, William was let out to a Mr. Freeland, an innkeeper. Here the young slave found himself in the hands of a most cruel and heartless master. Freeland was one of the real chivalry of the South; besides being himself a slaveholder, he was a horse-racer, cock-fighter, gambler, and, to crown the whole, an inveterate drunkard, What else but bad treatment could be expected from such a character? After enduring the tyrannical and inhuman usage of this man for five or six months, William resolved to stand it no longer, and therefore ran away, like other slaves who leave their masters, owing to severe treatment; and not knowing where to flee, the young fugitive went into the forest, a few miles from St. Louis. He had been in the woods but a short time, when he heard the barking and howling of dogs, and was soon satisfied that he was pursued by the negro-dogs; and, aware of their ferocious nature, the fugitive climbed a tree, to save himself from being torn to pieces. The hounds were soon at the trunk of the tree, and remained there, howling and barking, until those in whose charge they were came up. The slave was ordered down, tied, and taken home. Immediately on his arrival there, he was, as he expected, tied up in the smoke-house, and whipped till Freeland was satisfied, and then smoked with tobacco-stems. This the slaveholder called "Virginia play." After being well whipped and smoked, he was again set to work. William remained with this monster a few months longer, and was then let out to Elijah P. Lovejoy, who years after became the editor of an abolition newspaper, and was murdered at Alton, Illinois, by a mob of slaveholders from the adjoining State of Missouri. The system of letting out slaves is one among the worst of the evils of slavery. The man who hires a slave looks upon him in the same light as does the man who hires a horse for a limited period; he feels no interest in him, only to get the worth of his money. Not so with the man who owns the slave; he regards him as so much property, of which care should be taken. After being let out to a steamer as an under-steward, William was hired by James Walker, a slave-trader. Here the subject of our memoir was made superintendent of the gangs of slaves that were taken to the New Orleans market. In this capacity, William had opportunities, far greater than most slaves, of acquiring knowledge of the different phases of the "peculiar institution." Walker was a negro speculator, who was amassing a fortune by trading in the bones, blood and nerves, of God's children. The thought of such a traffic causes us to exclaim with the poet,
"----Is there not some chosen curse, Some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven, Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man Who gains his fortune from the blood of souls?"
Between fifty and sixty slaves were chained together, put on board a steamboat bound for New Orleans, and started on the voyage. New and strange scenes began to inspire the young slave with the hope of escaping to a land of freedom. There was in the boat a large room on the lower deck in which the slaves were kept, men and women promiscuously, all chained two and two together, not even leaving the poor slaves the privilege of choosing their partners. A strict watch was kept over them, so that they had no chance of escape. Cases had occurred in which slaves had got off their chains and made their escape at the landing-places, while the boat stopped to take in wood. But, with all their care, they lost one woman who had been taken from her husband and children, and, having no desire to live without them, in the agony of her soul jumped overboard and drowned herself. Her sorrows were greater than she could bear; slavery and its cruel inflictions had broken her heart. She, like William, sighed for freedom, but not the freedom which even British soil confers and inspires, but freedom from torturing pangs, and overwhelming grief.
At the end of the week they arrived at New Orleans the place of their destination. Here the slaves were placed in a negro-pen, where those who wished to purchase could call and examine them. The negro-pen is a small yard surrounded by buildings, from fifteen to twenty feet wide, with the exception of a large gate with iron bars. The slaves are kept in the building during the night, and turned into the pen during the day. After the best of the gang were sold off, the balance was taken to the Exchange Coffee-house auction rooms, and sold at public auction. After the sale of the last slave, William and Mr. Walker left New Orleans for St. Louis.
After they had been at St. Louis a few weeks, another cargo of human flesh was made up. There were amongst the lot several old men and women, some of whom had gray locks. On their way down to New Orleans William had to prepare the old slaves for market. He was ordered to shave off the old men's whiskers, and to pluck out the gray hairs where they were not too numerous; where they were, he colored them with a preparation of blacking with a blacking-brush. After having gone through the blacking process, they looked ten or fifteen years younger. William, though not well skilled in the use of scissors and razor, performed the office of the barber tolerably. After the sale of this gang of negroes they returned to St. Louis, and a second cargo was made up. In this lot was a woman who had a child at the breast, yet was compelled to travel through the interior of the country on foot with the other slaves. In a published memoir of his life, William says, "The child cried during the most of the day, which displeased Mr. Walker, and he told the mother that if her child did not stop crying he would stop its mouth. After a long and weary journey under a burning sun, we put up for the night at a country inn. The following morning, just as they were about to start, the child again commenced crying. Walker stepped up to her, and told her to give the child to him. The mother tremblingly obeyed. He took the child by one arm, as any one would a cat by the leg, and walked into the house where they had been staying, and said to the lady, 'Madam, I will make you a present of this little nigger; it keeps making such a noise that I can't bear it.' 'Thank you, sir,' said the lady. The mother, as soon as she saw that the child was to be left, ran up to Mr. Walker, and, falling on her knees, begged of him, in an agony of despair, to let her have her child. She clung round his legs so closely that for some time he could not kick her off; and she cried, 'O my child, my child! Master, do let me have my dear, dear child! O! do, do! I will stop its crying, and love you forever, if you will only let me have my child again.' But her prayers were not heeded; they passed on, and the mother was separated from her child forever.
"After the woman's child had been given away, Mr. Walker rudely commanded her to retire into the ranks with the other slaves. Women who had children were not chained, but those who had none were. As soon as her child was taken she was chained to the gang."
Nothing was more grievous to the sensitive feelings of William than seeing the separation of families by the slave-trader: husbands taken from their wives, and mothers from their children, without the least appearance of feeling on the part of those who separated them. While at New Orleans, on one occasion, William saw a slave murdered. The circumstances were as follows: In the evening, between seven and eight o'clock, a slave came running down the levee, followed by several men and boys. The whites were crying out, "Stop that nigger! stop that nigger!" while the poor panting slave, in almost breathless accents, was repeating, "I did not steal the meat--I did not steal the meat!" The poor man at last took refuge in the river. The whites who were in pursuit of him ran on board of one of the boats to see if they could discover him. They finally espied him under the bow of the steamboat "Trenton." They got a pike-pole, and tried to drive him from his hiding-place. When they struck at him he would dive under the water. The water was so cold that it soon became evident that he must come out or be drowned.
While they were trying to drive him from under the boat or drown him, he, in broken and imploring accents, said, "I did not steal the meat! I did not steal the meat! My master lives up the river. I want to see my master. I did not steal the meat! Do let me go home to Master!" After punching and striking him over the head for some time, he at last sunk in the water, to rise no more alive.
On the end of the pike-pole with which they had been striking him was a hook, which caught in his clothing, and they hauled him up on the bow of the boat. Some said he was dead; others said he was "playing 'possum;" while others kicked him to make him get up; but it was of no use--he was dead.
As soon as they became satisfied of this, they commenced leaving, one after another. One of the hands on the boat informed the captain that they had killed the man, and that the dead body was lying on the deck. The captain, whose name was Hart, came on deck, and said to those who were remaining, "You have killed this nigger; now take him off my boat." The dead body was dragged on shore and left there. William went on board of the boat where the gang of slaves were, and during the whole night his mind was occupied with what he had seen. Early in the morning he went on shore to see if the dead body remained there. He found it in the same position that it was left the night before. He watched to see what they would do with it. It was left there until between eight and nine o'clock, when a cart, which took up the trash from the streets, came along, and the body was thrown in, and in a few minutes more was covered over with dirt, which they were removing from the streets.
At the expiration of the period of his hiring with Walker, William returned to his master, rejoiced to have escaped an employment as much against his own feelings as it was repugnant to human nature. But this joy was of short duration. The doctor wanted money, and resolved to sell William's sister and two brothers. The mother had been previously sold to a gentleman residing in the city of St. Louis. William's master now informed him that he intended to sell him, and, as he was his own nephew, he gave him the privilege of finding some one to purchase him, who would treat him better than if he was sold on the auction-block. William tried to make some arrangement by which he could purchase his own freedom, but the old doctor would hear nothing of the kind. If there is one thing more revolting in the trade of human flesh than another, it is the selling of one's own blood relations.
He accordingly set out for the city in search of a new master. When he arrived there, he proceeded to the jail with the hope of seeing his sister, but was again disappointed. On the following morning he made another attempt, and was allowed to see her once, for the last time. When he entered the room where she was seated in one corner, alone and disconsolate, there were four other women in the room, belonging to the same man, who were bought, the jailer said, for the master's own use.
William's sister was seated with her face towards the door when he entered, but her gaze was transfixed on nothingness, and she did not look up when he walked up to her; but as soon as she observed him she sprang up, threw her arms around his neck, leaned her head upon his breast, and, without uttering a word, in silent, indescribable sorrow, burst into tears. She remained so for some minutes, but when she recovered herself sufficiently to speak she urged him to take his mother immediately, and try to get to the land of freedom. She said there was no hope for herself; she must live and die a slave. After giving her some advice, and taking a ring from his finger, he bade her farewell forever. Reader, did ever a fair sister of thine go down to the grave prematurely? If so, perchance thou hast drank deeply from the cup of sorrow. But how infinitely better is it for a sister to "go into the silent land" with her honor untarnished, but with bright hopes, than for her to be sold to sensual slaveholders!
William had been in the city now two days, and, as he was to be absent for only a week, it was well that he should make the best use of his time, if he intended to escape. In conversing with his mother, he found her unwilling to make the attempt to reach the land of liberty but she advised him by all means to get there himself, if he possibly could. She said, as all her children were in slavery, she did not wish to leave them; but he loved his mother so intensely, that he could not think of leaving without her. He consequently used all his simple eloquence to induce her to fly with him, and, at last, he prevailed. They consequently fixed upon the next night as the time for their departure. The time at length arrived, and they left the city just as the clock struck nine. Having found a boat, they crossed the river in it. Whose boat it was he did not know; neither did he care. When it had served his purpose, he turned it adrift, and when he saw it last it was going at a good speed down the river. After walking in the main road as fast as they could all night, when the morning came they made for the woods, and remained there during the day; but when night came again, they proceeded on their journey, with nothing but the North Star to guide them. They continued to travel by night, and to bury themselves in the silent solitudes of the forest by day. Hunger and fatigue could not stop them, for the prospect of freedom at the end of the journey nerved them up. The very thought of leaving slavery, with its democratic whips, republican chains, and bloodhounds, caused the hearts of the weary fugitives to leap with joy. After travelling ten nights, and hiding in the woods during the day for fear of being arrested and taken back, they thought they might with safety go the rest of the way by daylight. In nearly all the free states there are men who make a business of catching runaway slaves and returning them to their owners for the reward that may be offered; some of those were on the alert for William and his mother, for they had already seen the runaways advertised in the St. Louis newspapers.
All at once they heard the click of a horse's hoof, and looking back saw three men on horseback galloping towards them. They soon came up, and demanded them to stop. The three men dismounted, arrested them on a warrant, and showed them a handbill, offering two hundred dollars for their apprehension and delivery to Dr. Young and Isaac Mansfield, in St. Louis.
While they were reading the handbill, William's mother looked him in the face and burst into tears. "A cold chill ran over me," says he, "and such a sensation I never experienced before, and I trust I never shall again." They took out a rope and tied him, and they were taken back to the house of the individual who appeared to be the leader. They then had something given them to eat, and were separated. Each of them was watched over by two men during the night. The religious characteristic of the American slaveholder soon manifested itself, as, before the family retired to rest, they were all called together to attend prayers; and the very man who, but a few hours before, had arrested poor, panting, fugitive slaves, now read a chapter from the Bible, and offered a prayer to God; as if that benignant and omnipotent One consecrated the infernal act he had just committed.
The next morning they were chained and handcuffed, and started back to St. Louis. A journey of three days brought the fugitives again to the place they had left twelve days previously, with the hope that they would never return. They were put in prison to await the orders of their owners. When a slave attempts to escape and fails, he feels sure of either being severely punished, or sold to the negro-traders and taken to the far south, there to be worked up on a cotton, sugar, or rice plantation. This William and his mother dreaded. While they were in suspense as to what would be their fate, news came to them that the mother had been sold to a slave-speculator. William was soon sold to a merchant residing in the city, and removed to his new owner's dwelling. In a few days the gang of slaves, of which William's mother was one, were taken on board a steamer, to be carried to the New Orleans market. The young slave obtained permission from his new owner to go and take a last farewell of his mother. He went to the boat, and found her there, chained to another woman, and the whole number of slaves, amounting to some fifty or sixty, chained in the same manner. As the son approached his mother she moved not, neither did she weep; her emotions were too deep for tears. William approached her, threw his arms around her neck, kissed her, fell upon his knees begging her forgiveness, for he thought he was to blame for her sad condition, and if he had not persuaded her to accompany him she might not have been in chains then.
She remained for some time apparently unimpressionable, tearless, sighless, but in the innermost depths of her heart moved mighty passions. William says, "She finally raised her head, looked me in the face,--and such a look none but an angel can give!--and said, 'My dear son, you are not to blame for my being here, You have done nothing less than your duty. Do not, I pray you, weep for me; I cannot last long upon a cotton plantation. I feel that my heavenly Master will soon call me home, and then I shall be out of the hands of the slaveholders.' I could hear no more, my heart struggled to free itself from the human form. In a moment she saw Mr. Mansfield, her master, coming toward that part of the boat, and she whispered in my ear, 'My child, we must soon part to meet no more on this side of the grave. You have ever said that you would not die a slave; that you would be a freeman. Now try to get your liberty! You will soon have no one to look after but yourself!' and just as she whispered the last sentence into my ear, Mansfield came up to me, and, with an oath, said, 'Leave here this instant! you have been the means of my losing one hundred dollars to get this wench back,' at the same time kicking me with a heavy pair of boots. As I left her she gave one shriek, saying, 'God be with you!' It was the last time that I saw her, and the last word I heard her utter.
"I walked on shore. The bell was tolling. The boat was about to start. I stood with a heavy heart, waiting to see her leave the wharf. As I thought of my mother, I could but feel that I had lost
'The glory of my life, My blessing and my pride! I half forgot the name of slave When she was by my side.'
"The love of liberty that had been burning in my bosom had well-nigh gone out. I felt as though I was ready to die. The boat moved gently from the wharf, and while she glided down the river I realized that my mother was indeed
'Gone--gone--sold and gone To the rice-swamp, dank and lone.'
"After the boat was out of sight I returned home; but my thoughts were so absorbed in what I had witnessed that I knew not what I was about. Night came, but it brought no sleep to my eyes." When once the love of freedom is born in the slave's mind, it always increases and brightens, and William heard so much about Canada, where a number of his acquaintances had found a refuge and a home, he heartily desired to join them. Building castles in the air in the day-time, incessantly thinking of freedom, he would dream of the land of liberty, but on waking in the morning would weep to find it but a dream.
"He would dream of Victoria's domain, And in a moment he seemed to be there; But the fear of being taken again Soon hurried him back to despair."
Having been for some time employed as a servant in a hotel, and being of a very active turn, William's new owner resolved to let him out on board a steamboat. Consequently the young slave was hired out to the steamer St. Louis, and soon after sold to Captain Enoch Price, the owner of that boat. Here he was destined to remain but a short period, as Mrs. Price wanted a carriage-driver, and had set her heart upon William for that purpose.
Scarcely three months had elapsed from the time that William became the property of Captain Price, ere that gentleman's family took a pleasure-trip to New Orleans, and William accompanied them. From New Orleans the family proceeded to Louisville. The hope of escape again dawned upon the slave's mind, and the trials of the past were lost in hopes for the future. The love of liberty, which had been burning in his bosom for years, and which, at times, had been well-nigh extinguished, was now resuscitated. Hopes nurtured in childhood, and strengthened as manhood dawned, now spread their sails to the gales of his imagination. At night, when all around was peaceful, and in the mystic presence of the everlasting starlight, he would walk the steamer's decks, meditating on his happy prospects, and summoning up gloomy reminiscences of the dear hearts he was leaving behind him. When not thinking of the future his mind would dwell on the past. The love of a dear mother, a dear and affectionate sister, and three brothers yet living, caused him to shed many tears. If he could only be assured of their being dead, he would have been comparatively happy; but he saw, in imagination, his mother in the cotton-field, followed by a monster task-master, and no one to speak a consoling word to her. He beheld his sister in the hands of the slave-driver, compelled to submit to his cruelty, or, what was unutterably worse, his lust; but still he was far away from them, and could not do anything for them if he remained in slavery; consequently he resolved, and consecrated the resolve with a prayer, that he would start on the first opportunity.
That opportunity soon presented itself. When the boat got to the wharf where it had to stay for some time, at the first convenient moment William made towards the woods, where he remained until night-time. He dared not walk during the day, even in the State of Ohio, he had seen so much of the perfidy of white men, and resolved, if possible, not to get into their hands. After darkness covered the world, he emerged from his hiding-place; but he did not know east from west, or north from south; clouds hid the North Star from his view. In this desolate condition he remained for some hours, when the clouds rolled away, and his friend, with its shining face,--the North Star,--welcomed his sight. True as the needle to the pole, he obeyed its attractive beauty, and walked on till daylight dawned.
It was winter-time; the day on which he started was the first of January, and, as it might be expected, it was intensely cold; he had no overcoat, no food, no friend, save the North Star, and the God which made it. How ardently must the love of freedom burn in the poor slave's bosom, when he will pass through so many difficulties, and even look death in the face, in winning his birthright freedom! But what crushed the poor slave's heart in his flight most was, not the want of food or clothing, but the thought that every white man was his deadly enemy. Even in the free States the prejudice against color is so strong, that there appears to exist a deadly antagonism between the white and colored races.
William in his flight carried a tinder box with him, and when he got very cold he would gather together dry leaves and stubble and make a fire, or certainly he would have perished. He was determined to enter into no house, fearing that he might meet a betrayer.
It must have been a picture which would have inspired an artist, to see the fugitive roasting the ears of corn that he found or took from barns during the night, at solitary fires in the deep solitudes of woods.
The suffering of the fugitive was greatly increased by the cold, from the fact of his having just come from the warm climate of New Orleans. Slaves seldom have more than one name, and William was not an exception to this, and the fugitive began to think for an additional name. A heavy rain of three days, in which it froze as fast as it fell, and by which the poor fugitive was completely drenched, and still more chilled, added to the depression of his spirits already created by his weary journey. Nothing but the fire of hope burning within his breast could have sustained him under such overwhelming trials.
"Behind he left the whip and chains; Before him were sweet Freedom's plains."
Through cold and hunger, William was now ill, and he could go no further. The poor fugitive resolved to seek protection, and accordingly hid himself in the woods near the road, until some one should pass. Soon a traveller came along, but the slave dared not speak. A few moments more and a second passed; the fugitive attempted to speak, but fear deprived him of voice. A third made his appearance. He wore a broad-brimmed hat and a long coat, and was evidently walking only for exercise. William scanned him well, and, though not much skilled in physiognomy, he concluded he was the man. William approached him, and asked him if he knew any one who would help him, as he was sick. The gentleman asked whether he was not a slave. The poor slave hesitated; but, on being told that he had nothing to fear, he answered "Yes." The gentleman told him he was in a pro-slavery neighborhood, but, if he would wait a little, he would go and get a covered wagon, and convey him to his house. After he had gone, the fugitive meditated whether he should stay or not, being apprehensive that the broad-brimmed gentleman had gone for some one to assist him: he however concluded to remain.
After waiting about an hour--an hour big with fate to him--he saw the covered-wagon making its appearance, and no one in it but the person he before accosted. Trembling with hope and fear, he entered the wagon, and was carried to the person's house. When he got there, he still halted between two opinions, whether he should enter or take to his heels; but he soon decided, after seeing the glowing face of the wife. He saw something in her that bid him welcome, something that told him he would not be betrayed.
He soon found that he was under the shed of a Quaker, and a Quaker of the George Fox stamp. He had heard of Quakers and their kindness; but was not prepared to meet with such hospitality as now greeted him. He saw nothing but kind looks, and heard nothing but tender words. He began to feel the pulsations of a new existence. White men always scorned him, but now a white benevolent woman felt glad to wait on him ; it was a revolution in his experience. The table was loaded with good things, but he could not eat. If he were allowed the privilege of sitting in the kitchen, he thought he could do justice to the viands. The surprise being over, his appetite soon returned.
"I have frequently been asked," says William, "how I felt upon finding myself regarded as a man by a white family; especially having just run away from one. I cannot say that I have ever answered the question yet. The fact that I was, in all probability, a freeman, sounded in my cars like a charm. I am satisfied that none but a slave could place such an appreciation upon liberty as I did at that time. I wanted to see my mother and sister, that I might tell them that 'I was free!' I wanted to see my fellow-slaves in St. Louis, and let them know that the chains were no longer upon my limbs. I wanted to see Captain Price, and let him learn from my own lips that I was no more a chattel, but a MAN. I was anxious, too, thus to inform Mrs. Price that she must get another coachman, and I wanted to see Eliza more than I did Mr. Price or Mrs. Price. The fact that I was a freeman--could walk, talk, eat, and sleep as a man, and no one to stand over me with the blood-clotted cow-hide--all this made me feel that I was not myself."
The kind Quaker, who so hospitably entertained William, was called Wells Brown. He remained with him about a fortnight, during which time he was well fed and clothed. Before leaving, the Quaker asked him what was his name besides William. The fugitive told him he had no other. "Well," said he, "thee must have another name. Since thee has got out of slavery, thee has become a man, and men always have two names."
William told him that as he was the first man to extend the hand of friendship to him, he would give him the privilege of naming him.
"If I name thee," said he, "I shall call thee Wells Brown, like myself."
"But," said he, "I am not willing to lose my name of William. It was taken from me once against my will, and I am not willing to part with it on any terms."
"Then," said the benevolent man, "I will call thee William Wells Brown."
"So be it," said William Wells Brown, and he has been known by this name ever since.
After giving the newly-christened freeman "a name," the Quaker gave him something to aid him to get "a local habitation." So, after giving him some money, Brown again started for Canada. In four days he reached a public-house, and went in to warm himself. He soon found that he was not out of the reach of his enemies. While warming himself, he heard some men in an adjoining bar-room talking about some runaway slaves. He thought it was time to be off, and, suiting the action to the thought, he was soon in the woods out of sight. When night came, he returned to the road and walked on; and so, for two days and two nights, till he was faint and ready to perish of hunger.
In this condition he arrived in the town of Cleveland, Ohio, on the banks of Lake Erie, where he determined to remain until the spring, of the year, and then to try and reach Canada. Here he was compelled to work merely for his food.
Having tasted the sweets of freedom himself, his great desire was to extend its blessing to his race, and in the language of the poet he would ask himself,
"Is true freedom but to break Fetters for our own dear sake, And with leathern hearts forget That we owe mankind a debt?
"No! true freedom is to share All the chains our brothers wear, And with heart and hand to be Earnest to make others free." While acting as a servant to one of the steamers on Lake Erie, Brown often took fugitives from Cleveland and other ports to Buffalo, or Detroit, from either of which places they could cross to Canada in an hour. During the season of 1842, this fugitive slave conveyed no less than sixty-nine runaway slaves across Lake Erie, and placed them safe on the soil of Canada.
In proportion as his mind expanded under the more favorable circumstances in which he was placed, Brown became anxious, not merely for the redemption of his race from personal slavery, but for the moral and religious elevation of those who were free. Finding that habits of intoxication were too prevalent among his colored brethren, he, in conjunction with others, commenced a temperance reformation in their body. Such was the success of their efforts that, in three years, in the city of Buffalo alone, a society of upwards of five hundred members was raised out of a colored population of less than seven hundred. Of that society Mr. Brown was thrice elected president.
In the Spring of 1844 he became an agent of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, and afterwards spent some time in the service of the Massachusetts Society. In 1849 Mr. Brown embarked for Europe as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference.
The reception of Mr. Brown at the Peace Congress, in Paris, was most flattering. He admirably maintained his reputation as a public speaker. His brief address upon that "war spirit of America, which holds in bondage nearly four millions of his brethren," produced a profound sensation. At its conclusion the speaker was warmly greeted by Victor Hugo, the Abbé Duguerry, Emile de Girardin, Richard Cobden, and every man of note in the assembly. At the soirée given by M. de Tocqueville, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the other fêtes given to the members of the Congress, Mr. Brown was received with marked attention.
Having finished his peace mission in France, he returned to England, where he was received with a hearty welcome by some of the most influential abolitionists of that country. Most of the fugitive slaves, and, in fact, nearly all of the colored men who have visited Great Britain from the United States, have come upon begging missions, either for some society or for themselves. Mr. Brown has been almost the only exception. With that independence of feeling which those who are acquainted with him know to be one of his chief characteristics, he determined to maintain himself and family by his own exertions,--by his literary labors, and the honorable profession of a public lecturer. From nearly all the cities and large provincial towns be received invitations to lecture or address public meetings. The mayors, or other citizens of note, presided over many of those meetings. At Newcastle-upon-Tyne a soirée was given him, and an address presented by the citizens. A large and influential meeting was held at Bolton, Lancashire, which was addressed by Mr. Brown, and at its close the ladies presented to him the following address:
"AN ADDRESS PRESENTED TO MR. WILLIAM WELLS BROWN, THE FUGITIVE SLAVE FROM AMERICA, BY THE LADIES OF BOLTON, MARCH 22ND, 1850:
"DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER: We cannot permit you to depart from among us without giving expression to the feelings which we entertain towards yourself personally, and to the sympathy which you have awakened in our breasts for the three millions of our sisters and brothers who still suffer and groan in the prison-house of American bondage. You came among us an entire stranger; we received you for the sake of your mission; and having heard the story of your personal wrongs, and gazed with horror on the atrocities of slavery as seen through the medium of your touching descriptions, we are resolved, henceforward, in reliance on divine assistance, to render what aid we can to the cause which you have so eloquently pleaded in our presence.
"We have no words to express our detestation of the crimes which, in the name of liberty, are committed in the country which gave you birth. Language fails to tell our deep abhorrence of the impiety of those who, in the still more sacred name of religion, rob immortal beings not only of an earthly citizenship, but do much to prevent them from obtaining a heavenly one; and, as mothers and daughters, we embrace this opportunity of giving utterance to our utmost indignation at the cruelties perpetrated upon our sex, by a people professedly acknowledging the equality of all mankind. Carry with you, on your return to the land of your nativity, this our solemn protest against the wicked institution which, like a dark and baleful cloud, hangs over it; and ask the unfeeling enslavers, as best you can, to open the prison-doors to them that are bound, and let the oppressed go free.
"Allow us to assure you that your brief sojourn in our town has been to ourselves, and to vast multitudes, of a character long to be remembered; and when you are far removed from us, and toiling, as we hope you may be long spared to do, in this righteous enterprise, it may be some solace to your mind to know that your name is cherished with affectionate regard, and that the blessing of the Most High is earnestly supplicated in behalf of yourself, your family, and the cause to which you have consecrated your distinguished talents."
A most respectable and enthusiastic public meeting was held at Sheffield to welcome Mr. Brown, and the next day he was invited to inspect several of the large establishments there. While going through the manufactory of Messrs. Broadhead and Atkin, silver and electro-platers, &c., in Love-street, and whilst he was being shown through the works, a subscription was hastily set on foot on his behalf, by the workmen and women of the establishment, which was presented to Mr. Brown, in the counting-house, by a deputation of the subscribers. The spokesman (the designer to Messrs. Broadhead & Atkin), addressing Mr. Brown on behalf of the work-people, begged his acceptance of the present as a token of esteem, as well as an expression of their sympathy in the cause be advocates, namely, that of the American slave. Mr. Brown briefly thanked the parties for their spontaneous free-will offering, accompanied, as it was, by a generous expression of sympathy for his afflicted brethren and sisters in bondage.
Mr. Brown was in England five years, and during his sojourn there travelled above twenty-five thousand miles through Great Britain, addressed more than one thousand public meetings, lectured in twenty-three mechanics' and literary institutions, and gave his services to many of the benevolent and religious societies on the occasion of their anniversary meetings. After a lecture which he delivered before the Whittington Club, he received from the managers of that institution the following testimonial:
"WHITTINGTON CLUB AND METROPOLITAN ATHENÆUM, 189 STRAND, June 21, 1850.
"My DEAR SIR: I have much pleasure in conveying to you the best thanks of the Managing Committee of this institution for the excellent lecture you gave here last evening, and also in presenting you in their names with an honorary membership of the club. It is hoped that you will often avail yourself of its privileges by coming amongst us. You will then see, by the cordial welcome of the members, that they protest against the odious distinctions made between man and man, and the abominable traffic of which you have been the victim.
"For my own part, I shall be happy to be serviceable to you in any way, and at all times be glad to place the advantages of the institution at your disposal.
"I am, my dear sir, yours, truly,
"WILLIAM STRUDWICKE, Secretary.
"Mr. W. WELLS BROWN."
The following lines were read at a soiree given to Mr. Brown at Bristol, in 1850:
TO WILLIAM WELLS BROWN, THE AMERICAN FUGITIVE SLAVE.
BY E. S. MATHEWS.
Brother, farewell to thee! His blessing on thee rest Who hates all slavery And helps the poor oppressed.
Go forth with power to break The bitter, galling yoke;
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