- Page 78
- Freeman's Industry
- Cleanliness and Clothes
- Exercising in the Show Room
- The Dance
- Bob, the Fiddler
- Arrival of Customers
- Slaves Examined
- The Old Gentleman of New-Orleans
- Sale of David, Caroline, and Lethe
- Parting of Randall and Eliza
- Small Pos
- The Hospital
- Recovery and Return to Freeman's Slave Pen
- The Purchaser of Eliza, Harry, and Platt
- Eliza's Agony on Parting from Little Emily
very amiable, pious-hearted Mr. Theophilus
Freeman, partner or consignee of James H.
Burch, and keeper of the slave pen in
New-Orleans, was out among his animals early in the
morning. With an occasional kick of the older
men and women, and many a sharp crack of the whip
about the ears of younger slaves, it was not long
before they were all astir, and wide awake.
Mr. Theophilus Freeman bustled about in a very
industrious manner, getting his property ready for
the sales room, intending, no doubt, to do that day
a rousing business.
In the first place we were required to wash thoroughly,
and those with beards, to shave. We were then
furnished with a new suit each, cheap, but clean.
The men had hat, coat, shirt, pants and shoes; the
women frocks of calico, and handkerchiefs to bind
about their heads. We were now conducted into
a large room in the front part of the building to
the yard was attached, in order to
be properly trained, before the admission of
customers. The men were arranged on one side
of the room, the women on the other. The
tallest was placed at the head of the row, then the
next tallest, and so on in the order of their
respective heights. Emily was at the
foot of the line of women. Freeman
charged us to remember our places; exhorted us to
appear smart and lively, - sometimes threatening,
and again, holding out various inducements.
During the day he exercised us in the art of
"looking smart," and of moving to our places with
After being fed, in the afternoon, we were again
paraded and made to dance. Bob, a
colored boy, who had some time belonged to
Freeman, played on the violin. Standing
near him, I made bold to inquire if he could play
the "Virginia Reel." He answered he could not,
and asked me if I could play. Replying in the
affirmative, he handed me the violin. I struck
up a tune, and finished it. Freeman
ordered me to continue playing, and seemed well
pleased, telling Bob that I far excelled him
- a remark that seemed to grieve my musical
companion very much.
Next day many customers called to examine Freeman's
"new lot." The latter gentleman was very
loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several
good points and qualities. He would make us
hold up our heads, walk briskly back and forth,
while customers would feel of our hands and arms and
bodies, turn us about, ask us what we could do, make
our mouths and show our teeth,
precisely as a jockey examines a horse which he is
about to barter for or purchase. Sometimes a
man or woman was taken back to the small house in
the yard, stripped, and inspected more minutely.
Scars upon a slave's back were considered evidence
of a rebellious or unruly spirit and hurt his sale.
One old gentleman, who said he wanted a coachman,
appeared to take a fancy to me. From his
conversation with Freeman, I learned he was a
resident in the city. I very much desired that
he would buy me, because I conceived it would not be
difficult to make my escape from New-Orleans on some
northern vessel. Freeman asked him
fifteen hundred dollars for me. The old
gentleman insisted it was too much, as times were
very hard. Freeman, however, declared
that I was sound and healthy, or a good
constitution, and intelligent. He made it a
point to enlarge upon my musical attainments.
The old gentleman argued quite adroitly that there
was nothing extraordinary about the nigger, and
finally, to my regret, went out, saying he would
call again. During the day, however, a number
of sales were made. David and Caroline
were purchased together by a Natchez planter.
They left us, grinning broadly, and in the most
happy state of mind, caused by the fact of their not
being separated. Lethe was sold to a
planter of Baton Rouge, her eyes flashing with anger
as she was led away.
The same man also purchased Randall. The
little fellow was made to jump, and run across the
and perform many other feats,
exhibiting his activity and condition. All the
time the trade was going on, Eliza was crying
aloud, and wringing her hands. She besought
the man not to buy him, unless he also bought
herself and Emily. She promised, in
that case, to be the most faithful slave that ever
lived. The man answered that he could not
afford it, and then Eliza burst into a
paroxysm of grief, weeping plaintively.
Freeman turned round to her, savagely, with his
whip in his uplifted hand, ordering her to stop her
noise, or he would flog her. He would not have
such work - such sniveling; and unless she ceased
that minute, he would take her to the yard and give
her a hundred lashes. Yes, he would take the
nonsense out of her pretty quick - if he didn't,
might he be d__d. Eliza shrunk before
him, and tried to wipe away her tears, but it was
all in vain. She wanted to be with her
children, she said, the little time she had to live.
All the frowns and threats of Freeman, could
not wholly silence the afflicted mother. She
kept on begging and beseeching them, most piteously,
not to separate the three. Over and over again
she told them how she loved her boy. A great
many times she repeated her former promises - how
very faithful and obedient she would be; how hard
she would labor day and night, to the last moment of
her life, if he would only buy them all together.
But it was of no avail; the man could not afford it.
The bargain was agreed upon, and Randall must
go alone. Then Eliza ran to him;
embraced him passionately; kissed
him again and again; told him to
remember her - all the while her tears falling in
the boy's face like rain.
Freeman damned her, calling her a blubbering,
bawling wench, and ordered her to go to her place,
and behave herself, and be somebody. HE swore
he wouldn't stand such stuff but a little longer.
He would soon give her something to cry about, if
she was not mighty careful, and that she
might depend upon.
The planter from Baton Rouge, with his new purchases,
was ready to depart.
"Don't cry, mama. I will be a good boy.
Don't cry," said Randall, looking back, as
they passed out of the door.
What has become of the lad, God knows. It was
mournful scene indeed. I would have cried
myself if I had dared.
That night, nearly all who came in on the brig Orleans,
were taken ill. They complained of violent
pain in the head and back. Little Emily
- a thing unusual with her - cried constantly.
In the morning a physician was called in, but
was unable to determine the nature of our complaint.
while examining me, and asking questions touching my
symptoms, I gave it as my opinion that it was an
attack of smallpox - mentioning the fact of
Robert's death as the reason of my belief.
It might be so indeed, he thought, and he would send
for the head physician of the hospital.
Shortly, the head physician came - a small,
light-haired man, whom they called Cr. Carr.
pronounced it small-pox, whereupon
there was much alarm throughout the yard. Soon
after Dr. Carr left, Eliza, Emmy, Harry
and myself were put into a hack and driven to
the hospital - a large white marble building,
standing on the outskirts of the city.
Henry and I were placed in a room in one of the
upper stories. I became very sick. For
three days I was entirely blind. While lying
in this state one day, Bob came in, saying to
Dr. Carr that Freeman had sent him over
to inquire how we were getting on. Tell him,
said the doctor, that Piatt is very bad, but
that if he survives until nine-o'clock, he may
I expected to die.
Though there was little in the prospect before me
worth living for, the near approach of death
appalled me. I thought I could have been
resigned to yield up my life in the bosom of my
family, but to expire in the midst of strangers,
under such circumstances, was a bitter reflection.
There were a great
number in the hospital, of both sexes, and of all
ages. In the rear of the building coffins were
manufactured. When one died, the bell tolled -
a signal to the undertaker to come and bear away the
body to the potter's field. Many times, each
day and night, the tolling bell sent forth its
melancholy voice, announcing another death.
But my time had not yet come. The crisis
having passed, I began to revive, and at the end of
two weeks and two days, returned with Harry
to the pen, bearing upon my face the effects of the
malady, which to this day continues to disfigure it.
Eliza and Emily were also
brought back next day in a hack, and
again were we paraded in the sales-room, for the
inspection and examination of purchasers. I
still indulged the hop that the old gentleman in
search of a coachman would call again, as he had
promised, and purchase me. In that event I
felt an abiding confidence that I would soon regain
my liberty. Customer after customer entered,
but the old gentleman never made his appearance.
At length, one day, while we were in the yard,
Freeman came out and ordered us to our places,
in the great room. A gentleman was waiting for
us as we entered, and inasmuch as he will be often
mentioned in the progress of this narrative, a
description of his personal appearance, and my
estimation of his character, at first sight, may not
be out of place.
He was a man above the ordinary height, somewhat bent
and stooping forward. He was a good-looking
man, and appeared to have reached about the middle
age of life. There was nothing repulsive in
his presence; but on the other land, there was
something cheerful and attractive in his face, and
in his tone of voice. The finer elements were
all kindly mingled in his breast, as any one could
see. He moved about among us, asking many
questions, as to what we could do, and what labor we
had been accustomed to; if we thought we would like
to live with him, and would be good boys if he would
buy us, and other interrogatories of life character.
After some further inspection, and conversation
touching prices, he finally offered
Freeman one thousand dollars for me, nine
hundred for Harry, and seven hundred for
Eliza. Whether the small-pox had
depreciated our value, or from what cause Freeman
had concluded to fall five hundred dollars from the
price I was before held at, I cannot say. At
any rate, after a little shrewd reflection, he
announced his acceptance of the offer.
As soon as Eliza heard it, she was in an agony
again. By this time she had become haggard and
hollow-eyed with sickness and with sorrow. It
would be a relief if I could consistently pass over
in silence the scene that now ensued. It
recalls memories more mournful and affecting that
any language can portray. I have seen mother's
kissing for the last time the faces of their dead
offspring. I have seen them looking down into
the grave, as the earth fell with a dull sound upon
their coffins, hiding them from their eyes forever;
but never have I seen such an exhibition of intense,
unmeasured, and unbounded grief, as when Eliza
was parted from her child. She broke from
her place in the line of women, and rushing down
where Emily was standing, caught her in her
arms. The child, sensible of some impending
danger, instinctively fastened her hands around her
mother's neck, and nestled her little head upon her
bosom. Freeman sternly ordered her to
be quiet, but she did not heed him. He caught
her by the arm and pulled her rudely, but she only
clung the closer to the child. Then, with a
volley of great oaths, he struck her such
a heartless blow, that she staggered
backward, and was like to fall. Oh! how
piteously then did she beseech and beg and pray that
they might not be separated. Why could they
not be purchased together? Why not let her
have one of her dear children? "Mercy, mercy,
master!" she cried, falling on her knees.
"Please, master, buy Emily. I can never
work any if she is taken from me: I will die."
Freeman interfered again, but, disregarding him,
she still plead most earnestly, telling how
Randall had been taken from her - how she never
would see him again, and now it was too bad - oh,
God! it was too bad, too cruel, to take her
away from Emily - her pride - her only
darling, that could not live, it was so young,
without its mother!
Finally, after much more of supplication, the purchaser
of Eliza stepped forward, evidently affected,
and said to Freeman he would buy Emily,
and asked him what her price was.
"What is her price? Buy her? was the
responsive interrogatory of Theophilus Freeman.
And instantly answering his own inquiry, he added,
"I won't sell her. She's not for sale.
The man remarked he was not in need of one so young -
that it would be of no profit to him, but since the
mother was so fond of her, rather than see them
separated, he would pay a reasonable price.
But to this humane proposal Freeman was
entirely deaf. He would not sell her then on
any account whatever. There were heaps and
piles of money to
be made of her, he said, when she
was a few years older. There were men enough
in New-Orleans who would give five thousand dollars
for such an extra, handsome, fancy piece as Emily
would be, rather than not get her. No, no, he
would not sell her then. She was a beauty - a
picture - a doll - one of the regular bloods - none
of your thick-lipped, bullet headed, cotton-picking
niggers - if she was might he be d--d.
When Eliza heard Freeman's determination
not to part with Emily, she became absolutely
"I will not go without her. They shall
not take her from me," she fairly
shrieked, her shrieks commingling with the loud and
angry voice of Freeman, commanding her to be
Meantime Harry and myself had been to the yard
and returned with our blankets, and were at the
front door ready to leave. Our purchaser stood
near us, gazing at Eliza with an expression
indicative of regret at having bought her at the
expense of so much sorrow. We waited some
time, when, finally, Freeman, out of
patience, tore Emily from her mother by main
force, the two clinging to each other with all their
"Don't leave me, mama - don't leave me," screamed
the child as its mother was pushed harshly forward;
"Don't leave me - come back, mama," she still cried,
stretching forth her little arms imploringly.
But she cried in vain. Out of the door and
into the street we were quickly hurried. Still
we could hear
her calling to her mother, "Come
back - don't leave me - come back, mama," until her
infant voice grew faint and still more faint, and
gradually died away, as distance intervened, and
finally was wholly lost.
Eliza never after saw or heard of Emily
or Randall. Day nor night, however,
were they ever absent from her memory. In the
cotton field, in the cabin, always and everywhere,
she was talking of them - often to them, as
if they were actually present. Only when
absorbed in that illusion, or asleep, did she ever
have a moment's comfort afterwards.
She was no common slave, as has been said. To a
large share of natural intelligence which she
possessed, was added a general knowledge and
information on most subjects. She had enjoyed
opportunities such as are afforded to very few of
her oppressed class. She had been lifted up
into the regions of a higher life. Freedom -
freedom for herself and for her offspring, for many
years had been her cloud by day, her pillar of fire
by night. In her pilgrimage through the
wilderness of bondage, with eyes fixed upon that
hope inspiring beacon, she had at length ascended to
"the top of Pisgah," and beheld "the land of
promise." In an unexpected moment she was
utterly overwhelmed with disappointment and despair.
The glorious vision of liberty faded from her sight
as they led her away into captivity. Now "she
weepeth sore in the night, and tears are on her
cheeks: all her friends have dealt treacherously
with her: they have become her enemies.
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