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    Chapter 5

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    Chapter 6
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    _Gradual Initiation to the Mysteries of Slavery_

    GROWING ACQUAINTANCE WITH OLD MASTER--HIS CHARACTER--EVILS OF
    UNRESTRAINED PASSION--APPARENT TENDERNESS--OLD MASTER A MAN OF
    TROUBLE--CUSTOM OF MUTTERING TO HIMSELF--NECESSITY OF BEING AWARE
    OF HIS WORDS--THE SUPPOSED OBTUSENESS OF SLAVE-CHILDREN--BRUTAL
    OUTRAGE--DRUNKEN OVERSEER--SLAVEHOLDER'S IMPATIENCE--WISDOM OF
    APPEALING TO SUPERIORS--THE SLAVEHOLDER S WRATH BAD AS THAT OF
    THE OVERSEER--A BASE AND SELFISH ATTEMPT TO BREAK UP A
    COURTSHIP--A HARROWING SCENE.

    Although my old master--Capt. Anthony--gave me at first, (as the
    reader will have already seen) very little attention, and
    although that little was of a remarkably mild and gentle
    description, a few months only were sufficient to convince me
    that mildness and gentleness were not the prevailing or governing
    traits of his character. These excellent qualities were
    displayed only occasionally. He could, when it suited him,
    appear to be literally insensible to the claims of humanity, when
    appealed to by the helpless against an aggressor, and he could
    himself commit outrages, deep, dark and nameless. Yet he was not
    by nature worse than other men. Had he been brought up in a free
    state, surrounded by the just restraints of free society--
    restraints which are necessary to the freedom of all its members,
    alike and equally--Capt. Anthony might have been as humane a man,
    and every way as respectable, as many who now oppose the slave
    system; certainly as humane and respectable as are members of
    society generally. The slaveholder, as well as the slave, is the
    victim of the slave system. A man's character greatly takes
    its hue and shape from the form and color of things about him.
    Under the whole heavens there is no relation more unfavorable to
    the development of honorable character, than that sustained by
    the slaveholder to the slave. Reason is imprisoned here, and
    passions run wild. Like the fires of the prairie, once lighted,
    they are at the mercy of every wind, and must burn, till they
    have consumed all that is combustible within their remorseless
    grasp. Capt. Anthony could be kind, and, at times, he even
    showed an affectionate disposition. Could the reader have seen
    him gently leading me by the hand--as he sometimes did--patting
    me on the head, speaking to me in soft, caressing tones and
    calling me his "little Indian boy," he would have deemed him a
    kind old man, and really, almost fatherly. But the pleasant
    moods of a slaveholder are remarkably brittle; they are easily
    snapped; they neither come often, nor remain long. His temper is
    subjected to perpetual trials; but, since these trials are never
    borne patiently, they add nothing to his natural stock of
    patience.

    Old master very early impressed me with the idea that he was an
    unhappy man. Even to my child's eye, he wore a troubled, and at
    times, a haggard aspect. His strange movements excited my
    curiosity, and awakened my compassion. He seldom walked alone
    without muttering to himself; and he occasionally stormed about,
    as if defying an army of invisible foes. "He would do this,
    that, and the other; he'd be d--d if he did not,"--was the usual
    form of his threats. Most of his leisure was spent in walking,
    cursing and gesticulating, like one possessed by a demon. Most
    evidently, he was a wretched man, at war with his own soul, and
    with all the world around him. To be overheard by the children,
    disturbed him very little. He made no more of our presence, than
    of that of the ducks and geese which he met on the green. He
    little thought that the little black urchins around him, could
    see, through those vocal crevices, the very secrets of his heart.
    Slaveholders ever underrate the intelligence with which SUPPOSED OBTUSENESS OF SLAVE-CHILDREN>they have to grapple. I
    really understood the old man's mutterings, attitudes and
    gestures, about as well as he did himself. But slaveholders
    never encourage that kind of communication, with the slaves, by
    which they might learn to measure the depths of his knowledge.
    Ignorance is a high virtue in a human chattel; and as the master
    studies to keep the slave ignorant, the slave is cunning enough
    to make the master think he succeeds. The slave fully
    appreciates the saying, "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to
    be wise." When old master's gestures were violent, ending with a
    threatening shake of the head, and a sharp snap of his middle
    finger and thumb, I deemed it wise to keep at a respectable
    distance from him; for, at such times, trifling faults stood, in
    his eyes, as momentous offenses; and, having both the power and
    the disposition, the victim had only to be near him to catch the
    punishment, deserved or undeserved.

    One of the first circumstances that opened my eyes to the cruelty
    and wickedness of slavery, and the heartlessness of my old
    master, was the refusal of the latter to interpose his authority,
    to protect and shield a young woman, who had been most cruelly
    abused and beaten by his overseer in Tuckahoe. This overseer--a
    Mr. Plummer--was a man like most of his class, little better than
    a human brute; and, in addition to his general profligacy and
    repulsive coarseness, the creature was a miserable drunkard. He
    was, probably, employed by my old master, less on account of the
    excellence of his services, than for the cheap rate at which they
    could be obtained. He was not fit to have the management of a
    drove of mules. In a fit of drunken madness, he committed the
    outrage which brought the young woman in question down to my old
    master's for protection. This young woman was the daughter of
    Milly, an own aunt of mine. The poor girl, on arriving at our
    house, presented a pitiable appearance. She had left in haste,
    and without preparation; and, probably, without the knowledge of
    Mr. Plummer. She had traveled twelve miles, bare-footed, bare-
    necked and bare-headed. Her neck and shoulders were covered
    with scars, newly made; and not content with marring her neck and
    shoulders, with the cowhide, the cowardly brute had dealt her a
    blow on the head with a hickory club, which cut a horrible gash,
    and left her face literally covered with blood. In this
    condition, the poor young woman came down, to implore protection
    at the hands of my old master. I expected to see him boil over
    with rage at the revolting deed, and to hear him fill the air
    with curses upon the brutual Plummer; but I was disappointed. He
    sternly told her, in an angry tone, he "believed she deserved
    every bit of it," and, if she did not go home instantly, he would
    himself take the remaining skin from her neck and back. Thus was
    the poor girl compelled to return, without redress, and perhaps
    to receive an additional flogging for daring to appeal to old
    master against the overseer.

    Old master seemed furious at the thought of being troubled by
    such complaints. I did not, at that time, understand the
    philosophy of his treatment of my cousin. It was stern,
    unnatural, violent. Had the man no bowels of compassion? Was he
    dead to all sense of humanity? No. I think I now understand it.
    This treatment is a part of the system, rather than a part of the
    man. Were slaveholders to listen to complaints of this sort
    against the overseers, the luxury of owning large numbers of
    slaves, would be impossible. It would do away with the office of
    overseer, entirely; or, in other words, it would convert the
    master himself into an overseer. It would occasion great loss of
    time and labor, leaving the overseer in fetters, and without the
    necessary power to secure obedience to his orders. A privilege
    so dangerous as that of appeal, is, therefore, strictly
    prohibited; and any one exercising it, runs a fearful hazard.
    Nevertheless, when a slave has nerve enough to exercise it, and
    boldly approaches his master, with a well-founded complaint
    against an overseer, though he may be repulsed, and may even have
    that of which he complains repeated at the time, and, though he
    may be beaten by his master, as well as by the overseer, for his
    temerity, in the end the policy of
    complaining is, generally, vindicated by the relaxed rigor of the
    overseer's treatment. The latter becomes more careful, and less
    disposed to use the lash upon such slaves thereafter. It is with
    this final result in view, rather than with any expectation of
    immediate good, that the outraged slave is induced to meet his
    master with a complaint. The overseer very naturally dislikes to
    have the ear of the master disturbed by complaints; and, either
    upon this consideration, or upon advice and warning privately
    given him by his employers, he generally modifies the rigor of
    his rule, after an outbreak of the kind to which I have been
    referring.

    Howsoever the slaveholder may allow himself to act toward his
    slave, and, whatever cruelty he may deem it wise, for example's
    sake, or for the gratification of his humor, to inflict, he
    cannot, in the absence of all provocation, look with pleasure
    upon the bleeding wounds of a defenseless slave-woman. When he
    drives her from his presence without redress, or the hope of
    redress, he acts, generally, from motives of policy, rather than
    from a hardened nature, or from innate brutality. Yet, let but
    his own temper be stirred, his own passions get loose, and the
    slave-owner will go _far beyond_ the overseer in cruelty. He
    will convince the slave that his wrath is far more terrible and
    boundless, and vastly more to be dreaded, than that of the
    underling overseer. What may have been mechanically and
    heartlessly done by the overseer, is now done with a will. The
    man who now wields the lash is irresponsible. He may, if he
    pleases, cripple or kill, without fear of consequences; except in
    so far as it may concern profit or loss. To a man of violent
    temper--as my old master was--this was but a very slender and
    inefficient restraint. I have seen him in a tempest of passion,
    such as I have just described--a passion into which entered all
    the bitter ingredients of pride, hatred, envy, jealousy, and the
    thrist{sic} for revenge.

    The circumstances which I am about to narrate, and which gave
    rise to this fearful tempest of passion, are not singular nor
    isolated in slave life, but are common in every slaveholding
    community in which I have lived. They are incidental to the
    relation of master and slave, and exist in all sections of slave-
    holding countries.

    The reader will have noticed that, in enumerating the names of
    the slaves who lived with my old master, _Esther_ is mentioned.
    This was a young woman who possessed that which is ever a curse
    to the slave-girl; namely--personal beauty. She was tall, well
    formed, and made a fine appearance. The daughters of Col. Lloyd
    could scarcely surpass her in personal charms. Esther was
    courted by Ned Roberts, and he was as fine looking a young man,
    as she was a woman. He was the son of a favorite slave of Col.
    Lloyd. Some slaveholders would have been glad to promote the
    marriage of two such persons; but, for some reason or other, my
    old master took it upon him to break up the growing intimacy
    between Esther and Edward. He strictly ordered her to quit the
    company of said Roberts, telling her that he would punish her
    severely if he ever found her again in Edward's company. This
    unnatural and heartless order was, of course, broken. A woman's
    love is not to be annihilated by the peremptory command of any
    one, whose breath is in his nostrils. It was impossible to keep
    Edward and Esther apart. Meet they would, and meet they did.
    Had old master been a man of honor and purity, his motives, in
    this matter, might have been viewed more favorably. As it was,
    his motives were as abhorrent, as his methods were foolish and
    contemptible. It was too evident that he was not concerned for
    the girl's welfare. It is one of the damning characteristics of
    the slave system, that it robs its victims of every earthly
    incentive to a holy life. The fear of God, and the hope of
    heaven, are found sufficient to sustain many slave-women, amidst
    the snares and dangers of their strange lot; but, this side of
    God and heaven, a slave-woman is at the mercy of the power,
    caprice and passion of her owner. Slavery provides no means for
    the honorable continuance of the race. Marriage as imposing
    obligations on the parties to it--has no
    existence here, except in such hearts as are purer and higher
    than the standard morality around them. It is one of the
    consolations of my life, that I know of many honorable instances
    of persons who maintained their honor, where all around was
    corrupt.

    Esther was evidently much attached to Edward, and abhorred--as
    she had reason to do--the tyrannical and base behavior of old
    master. Edward was young, and fine looking, and he loved and
    courted her. He might have been her husband, in the high sense
    just alluded to; but WHO and _what_ was this old master? His
    attentions were plainly brutal and selfish, and it was as natural
    that Esther should loathe him, as that she should love Edward.
    Abhorred and circumvented as he was, old master, having the
    power, very easily took revenge. I happened to see this
    exhibition of his rage and cruelty toward Esther. The time
    selected was singular. It was early in the morning, when all
    besides was still, and before any of the family, in the house or
    kitchen, had left their beds. I saw but few of the shocking
    preliminaries, for the cruel work had begun before I awoke. I
    was probably awakened by the shrieks and piteous cries of poor
    Esther. My sleeping place was on the floor of a little, rough
    closet, which opened into the kitchen; and through the cracks of
    its unplaned boards, I could distinctly see and hear what was
    going on, without being seen by old master. Esther's wrists were
    firmly tied, and the twisted rope was fastened to a strong staple
    in a heavy wooden joist above, near the fireplace. Here she
    stood, on a bench, her arms tightly drawn over her breast. Her
    back and shoulders were bare to the waist. Behind her stood old
    master, with cowskin in hand, preparing his barbarous work with
    all manner of harsh, coarse, and tantalizing epithets. The
    screams of his victim were most piercing. He was cruelly
    deliberate, and protracted the torture, as one who was delighted
    with the scene. Again and again he drew the hateful whip through
    his hand, adjusting it with a view of dealing the most pain-
    giving blow. Poor Esther had never yet been severely whipped,
    and her shoulders were plump and tender. Each blow,
    vigorously laid on, brought screams as well as blood. _"Have
    mercy; Oh! have mercy"_ she cried; "_I won't do so no more;"_ but
    her piercing cries seemed only to increase his fury. His answers
    to them are too coarse and blasphemous to be produced here. The
    whole scene, with all its attendants, was revolting and shocking,
    to the last degree; and when the motives of this brutal
    castigation are considered,--language has no power to convey a
    just sense of its awful criminality. After laying on some thirty
    or forty stripes, old master untied his suffering victim, and let
    her get down. She could scarcely stand, when untied. From my
    heart I pitied her, and--child though I was--the outrage kindled
    in me a feeling far from peaceful; but I was hushed, terrified,
    stunned, and could do nothing, and the fate of Esther might be
    mine next. The scene here described was often repeated in the
    case of poor Esther, and her life, as I knew it, was one of
    wretchedness.
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