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    Chapter 8

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    Chapter 9
    Previous Chapter
    _A Chapter of Horrors_

    AUSTIN GORE--A SKETCH OF HIS CHARACTER--OVERSEERS AS A CLASS--
    THEIR PECULIAR CHARACTERISTICS--THE MARKED INDIVIDUALITY OF
    AUSTIN GORE--HIS SENSE OF DUTY--HOW HE WHIPPED--MURDER OF POOR
    DENBY--HOW IT OCCURRED--SENSATION--HOW GORE MADE PEACE WITH COL.
    LLOYD--THE MURDER UNPUNISHED--ANOTHER DREADFUL MURDER NARRATED--
    NO LAWS FOR THE PROTECTION OF SLAVES CAN BE ENFORCED IN THE
    SOUTHERN STATES.

    As I have already intimated elsewhere, the slaves on Col. Lloyd's
    plantation, whose hard lot, under Mr. Sevier, the reader has
    already noticed and deplored, were not permitted to enjoy the
    comparatively moderate rule of Mr. Hopkins. The latter was
    succeeded by a very different man. The name of the new overseer
    was Austin Gore. Upon this individual I would fix particular
    attention; for under his rule there was more suffering from
    violence and bloodshed than had--according to the older slaves
    ever been experienced before on this plantation. I confess, I
    hardly know how to bring this man fitly before the reader. He
    was, it is true, an overseer, and possessed, to a large extent,
    the peculiar characteristics of his class; yet, to call him
    merely an overseer, would not give the reader a fair notion of
    the man. I speak of overseers as a class. They are such. They
    are as distinct from the slaveholding gentry of the south, as are
    the fishwomen of Paris, and the coal-heavers of London, distinct
    from other members of society. They constitute a separate
    fraternity at the south, not less marked than is the fraternity
    of Park Lane bullies in New York. They have been arranged and
    classified by that great law of attraction, which determines
    the spheres and affinities of men; which ordains, that men, whose
    malign and brutal propensities predominate over their moral and
    intellectual endowments, shall, naturally, fall into those
    employments which promise the largest gratification to those
    predominating instincts or propensities. The office of overseer
    takes this raw material of vulgarity and brutality, and stamps it
    as a distinct class of southern society. But, in this class, as
    in all other classes, there are characters of marked
    individuality, even while they bear a general resemblance to the
    mass. Mr. Gore was one of those, to whom a general
    characterization would do no manner of justice. He was an
    overseer; but he was something more. With the malign and
    tyrannical qualities of an overseer, he combined something of the
    lawful master. He had the artfulness and the mean ambition of
    his class; but he was wholly free from the disgusting swagger and
    noisy bravado of his fraternity. There was an easy air of
    independence about him; a calm self-possession, and a sternness
    of glance, which might well daunt hearts less timid than those of
    poor slaves, accustomed from childhood and through life to cower
    before a driver's lash. The home plantation of Col. Lloyd
    afforded an ample field for the exercise of the qualifications
    for overseership, which he possessed in such an eminent degree.

    Mr. Gore was one of those overseers, who could torture the
    slightest word or look into impudence; he had the nerve, not only
    to resent, but to punish, promptly and severely. He never
    allowed himself to be answered back, by a slave. In this, he was
    as lordly and as imperious as Col. Edward Lloyd, himself; acting
    always up to the maxim, practically maintained by slaveholders,
    that it is better that a dozen slaves suffer under the lash,
    without fault, than that the master or the overseer should _seem_
    to have been wrong in the presence of the slave. _Everything
    must be absolute here_. Guilty or not guilty, it is enough to be
    accused, to be sure of a flogging. The very presence of this man
    Gore was painful, and I shunned him as I would
    have shunned a rattlesnake. His piercing, black eyes, and sharp,
    shrill voice, ever awakened sensations of terror among the
    slaves. For so young a man (I describe him as he was, twenty-
    five or thirty years ago) Mr. Gore was singularly reserved and
    grave in the presence of slaves. He indulged in no jokes, said
    no funny things, and kept his own counsels. Other overseers, how
    brutal soever they might be, were, at times, inclined to gain
    favor with the slaves, by indulging a little pleasantry; but Gore
    was never known to be guilty of any such weakness. He was always
    the cold, distant, unapproachable _overseer_ of Col. Edward
    Lloyd's plantation, and needed no higher pleasure than was
    involved in a faithful discharge of the duties of his office.
    When he whipped, he seemed to do so from a sense of duty, and
    feared no consequences. What Hopkins did reluctantly, Gore did
    with alacrity. There was a stern will, an iron-like reality,
    about this Gore, which would have easily made him the chief of a
    band of pirates, had his environments been favorable to such a
    course of life. All the coolness, savage barbarity and freedom
    from moral restraint, which are necessary in the character of a
    pirate-chief, centered, I think, in this man Gore. Among many
    other deeds of shocking cruelty which he perpetrated, while I was
    at Mr. Lloyd's, was the murder of a young colored man, named
    Denby. He was sometimes called Bill Denby, or Demby; (I write
    from sound, and the sounds on Lloyd's plantation are not very
    certain.) I knew him well. He was a powerful young man, full of
    animal spirits, and, so far as I know, he was among the most
    valuable of Col. Lloyd's slaves. In something--I know not what--
    he offended this Mr. Austin Gore, and, in accordance with the
    custom of the latter, he under took to flog him. He gave Denby
    but few stripes; the latter broke away from him and plunged into
    the creek, and, standing there to the depth of his neck in water,
    he refused to come out at the order of the overseer; whereupon,
    for this refusal, _Gore shot him dead!_ It is said that Gore
    gave Denby three calls, telling him that if he did not obey
    the last call, he would shoot him. When the third call was
    given, Denby stood his ground firmly; and this raised the
    question, in the minds of the by-standing slaves--"Will he dare
    to shoot?" Mr. Gore, without further parley, and without making
    any further effort to induce Denby to come out of the water,
    raised his gun deliberately to his face, took deadly aim at his
    standing victim, and, in an instant, poor Denby was numbered with
    the dead. His mangled body sank out of sight, and only his warm,
    red blood marked the place where he had stood.

    This devilish outrage, this fiendish murder, produced, as it was
    well calculated to do, a tremendous sensation. A thrill of
    horror flashed through every soul on the plantation, if I may
    except the guilty wretch who had committed the hell-black deed.
    While the slaves generally were panic-struck, and howling with
    alarm, the murderer himself was calm and collected, and appeared
    as though nothing unusual had happened. The atrocity roused my
    old master, and he spoke out, in reprobation of it; but the whole
    thing proved to be less than a nine days' wonder. Both Col.
    Lloyd and my old master arraigned Gore for his cruelty in the
    matter, but this amounted to nothing. His reply, or
    explanation--as I remember to have heard it at the time was, that
    the extraordinary expedient was demanded by necessity; that Denby
    had become unmanageable; that he had set a dangerous example to
    the other slaves; and that, without some such prompt measure as
    that to which he had resorted, were adopted, there would be an
    end to all rule and order on the plantation. That very
    convenient covert for all manner of cruelty and outrage that
    cowardly alarm-cry, that the slaves would _"take the place,"_ was
    pleaded, in extenuation of this revolting crime, just as it had
    been cited in defense of a thousand similar ones. He argued,
    that if one slave refused to be corrected, and was allowed to
    escape with his life, when he had been told that he should lose
    it if he persisted in his course, the other slaves would soon
    copy his example; the result of which would be, the freedom of
    the slaves, and the enslavement of the WITH COL. LLOYD>whites. I have every reason to believe that Mr.
    Gore's defense, or explanation, was deemed satisfactory--at least
    to Col. Lloyd. He was continued in his office on the plantation.
    His fame as an overseer went abroad, and his horrid crime was not
    even submitted to judicial investigation. The murder was
    committed in the presence of slaves, and they, of course, could
    neither institute a suit, nor testify against the murderer. His
    bare word would go further in a court of law, than the united
    testimony of ten thousand black witnesses.

    All that Mr. Gore had to do, was to make his peace with Col.
    Lloyd. This done, and the guilty perpetrator of one of the most
    foul murders goes unwhipped of justice, and uncensured by the
    community in which he lives. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael's,
    Talbot county, when I left Maryland; if he is still alive he
    probably yet resides there; and I have no reason to doubt that he
    is now as highly esteemed, and as greatly respected, as though
    his guilty soul had never been stained with innocent blood. I am
    well aware that what I have now written will by some be branded
    as false and malicious. It will be denied, not only that such a
    thing ever did transpire, as I have now narrated, but that such a
    thing could happen in _Maryland_. I can only say--believe it or
    not--that I have said nothing but the literal truth, gainsay it
    who may.

    I speak advisedly when I say this,--that killing a slave, or any
    colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a
    crime, either by the courts or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman,
    ship carpenter, of St. Michael's, killed two slaves, one of whom
    he butchered with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out. He used
    to boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed. I have
    heard him do so, laughingly, saying, among other things, that he
    was the only benefactor of his country in the company, and that
    when "others would do as much as he had done, we should be
    relieved of the d--d niggers."

    As an evidence of the reckless disregard of human life where the
    life is that of a slave I may state the notorious fact, that the
    wife of Mr. Giles Hicks, who lived but a short distance from
    Col. Lloyd's, with her own hands murdered my wife's cousin, a
    young girl between fifteen and sixteen years of age--mutilating
    her person in a most shocking manner. The atrocious woman, in
    the paroxysm of her wrath, not content with murdering her victim,
    literally mangled her face, and broke her breast bone. Wild,
    however, and infuriated as she was, she took the precaution to
    cause the slave-girl to be buried; but the facts of the case
    coming abroad, very speedily led to the disinterment of the
    remains of the murdered slave-girl. A coroner's jury was
    assembled, who decided that the girl had come to her death by
    severe beating. It was ascertained that the offense for which
    this girl was thus hurried out of the world, was this: she had
    been set that night, and several preceding nights, to mind Mrs.
    Hicks's baby, and having fallen into a sound sleep, the baby
    cried, waking Mrs. Hicks, but not the slave-girl. Mrs. Hicks,
    becoming infuriated at the girl's tardiness, after calling
    several times, jumped from her bed and seized a piece of fire-
    wood from the fireplace; and then, as she lay fast asleep, she
    deliberately pounded in her skull and breast-bone, and thus ended
    her life. I will not say that this most horrid murder produced
    no sensation in the community. It _did_ produce a sensation;
    but, incredible to tell, the moral sense of the community was
    blunted too entirely by the ordinary nature of slavery horrors,
    to bring the murderess to punishment. A warrant was issued for
    her arrest, but, for some reason or other, that warrant was never
    served. Thus did Mrs. Hicks not only escape condign punishment,
    but even the pain and mortification of being arraigned before a
    court of justice.

    Whilst I am detailing the bloody deeds that took place during my
    stay on Col. Lloyd's plantation, I will briefly narrate another
    dark transaction, which occurred about the same time as the
    murder of Denby by Mr. Gore.

    On the side of the river Wye, opposite from Col. Lloyd's, there
    lived a Mr. Beal Bondley, a wealthy slaveholder. In the
    direction of his land, and near the
    shore, there was an excellent oyster fishing ground, and to this,
    some of the slaves of Col. Lloyd occasionally resorted in their
    little canoes, at night, with a view to make up the deficiency of
    their scanty allowance of food, by the oysters that they could
    easily get there. This, Mr. Bondley took it into his head to
    regard as a trespass, and while an old man belonging to Col.
    Lloyd was engaged in catching a few of the many millions of
    oysters that lined the bottom of that creek, to satisfy his
    hunger, the villainous Mr. Bondley, lying in ambush, without the
    slightest ceremony, discharged the contents of his musket into
    the back and shoulders of the poor old man. As good fortune
    would have it, the shot did not prove mortal, and Mr. Bondley
    came over, the next day, to see Col. Lloyd--whether to pay him
    for his property, or to justify himself for what he had done, I
    know not; but this I _can_ say, the cruel and dastardly
    transaction was speedily hushed up; there was very little said
    about it at all, and nothing was publicly done which looked like
    the application of the principle of justice to the man whom
    _chance_, only, saved from being an actual murderer. One of the
    commonest sayings to which my ears early became accustomed, on
    Col. Lloyd's plantation and elsewhere in Maryland, was, that it
    was _"worth but half a cent to kill a nigger, and a half a cent
    to bury him;"_ and the facts of my experience go far to justify
    the practical truth of this strange proverb. Laws for the
    protection of the lives of the slaves, are, as they must needs
    be, utterly incapable of being enforced, where the very parties
    who are nominally protected, are not permitted to give evidence,
    in courts of law, against the only class of persons from whom
    abuse, outrage and murder might be reasonably apprehended. While
    I heard of numerous murders committed by slaveholders on the
    Eastern Shores of Maryland, I never knew a solitary instance in
    which a slaveholder was either hung or imprisoned for having
    murdered a slave. The usual pretext for killing a slave is, that
    the slave has offered resistance. Should a slave, when
    assaulted, but raise his hand in self defense, the white
    assaulting party is fully justified by southern, or
    Maryland, public opinion, in shooting the slave down. Sometimes
    this is done, simply because it is alleged that the slave has
    been saucy. But here I leave this phase of the society of my
    early childhood, and will relieve the kind reader of these heart-
    sickening details.
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    Chapter 9
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