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Old slave block in St. Louis Hotel, New Orleans, La.

An Interesting Slave Case

A few months ago a slave, named ______ Brown, belonging to a Mr. Somerville of Maryland, was murdered by his master. Some time after, the master himself was murdered, and a brother of the murdered slave was taken up and tried for the offense. Not the smallest evidence could be made out against him, and he was acquitted.

Acquittal of a colored man in such a region of the world must be held as a most convincing proof of his innocence. But the relatives of the deceased sold Brown into the desolating bondage of the South. He made his escape from New Orleans and reached Philadelphia, where he expected to live in safety. But the man-stealer was on his track. Brown had a wife and seven children in Maryland, whom he was desirous of rescuing from bondage. He had assumed the name of Russell, but a correspondence was commenced from Philadelphia in his real name; the letter reached the slave-owners, and they determined to be revenged still farther.

The thieves of Maryland had no longer any control over his body as property, for they had made it over to the thieves of New Orleans; but two of them appeared at Philadelphia, claiming Brown as a murderer!! This is a favorite and hackneyed mode of seizing a victim. The applicants knew well that they had no right to claim the persecuted man as a murderer, for he had been tried and acquitted and could not be tried again. But, if they had him once in their possession, they could easily do privately what they could not do judicially, and, at least, they could punish him severely for running away, and restore him to chains and bondage.

Two bloodhounds appeared at the magistrate’s office in Philadelphia, claiming their victim. He was clapped into prison, but the warrant was informal, and on that ground he was released. Seizing the favorable moment, before the informality could be remedied, Brown made track for Canada, passing through New York. Rev. Mr. Young of that city, kindly agreed to accompany the persecuted man to Canada.

Without the loss of a moment, they proceeded to Montreal, and laid the case before Lord Elgin, claiming that protection which it is the glory of the British law to give to the innocent. Proofs of the trial and acquittal, which, with other particulars, had been published in pamphlet form, were laid before the Governor-General, who gave his unqualified assurance that the hunted man would not be surrendered to his persecutors.

The appeal was not too soon. Next day the two bloodseekers presented themselves before the Governor-General, demanding the surrender of Brown, and, it is almost unnecessary to say, they met with a pointed refusal. And now, this injured man, with his wife and seven children, who had also escaped, are in Canada, safe from the hands of the man-stealer. Some magistrate, from ignorance of the facts, may give him up on a charge of murder, although this is not likely. However, to prevent it, we have to request our contemporaries, as an act of justice and humanity, to hand around this note of warning.

Let it never be said that there is a single magistrate in the length and breadth of British North America so ignorant or so indifferent as to surrender a fellow man into the hands of the relentless slaveholder. – Toronto Banner.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: The North Star, September 7, 1849
Image: Old slave block in St. Louis Hotel, New Orleans, La.

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Labor Day parade, New York, New York

Celebrating the American Worker

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887.  During that year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit.

By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.


Grand Prosperity Parades

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper usually featured at least one photo from parades in New York City or other locations.

Grand Prosperity Parade in New York. - September 17, 1908

Grand Prosperity Parade in New York. – September 17, 1908

A Grand Prosperity Parade on Labor Day  - 40,000 well-paid workers, men and women, marching down Fifth Avenue, New York.


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The Shepherd’s Dog

Without the shepherd’s dog the whole of the mountainous land in Scotland would not be worth sixpence. It would require more hands to manage a flock of sheep than the profits of the whole stock would be capable of maintaining.

Well may the shepherd, then, feel an interest in his dog.

It is, indeed, he that earns the family bread, of which he is content himself with the smallest morsel. Neither hunger nor fatigue will drive him from his master’s side; he will follow him through fire and water. Another thing very remarkable is the understanding these creatures have of the necessity of being particularly tender over lame or sickly sheep. They will drive these a great deal more gently than others, and sometimes a single one is committed to their care to take home. On these occasions they perform their duty like the most tender nurses.

Can it be wondered at, then, that the colley (collie) should be so much prized by the shepherd; that his death should be regarded as a great calamity to a family, of which he forms, to all intents and purposes, an integral part; or that his exploits of sagacity should be handed down from generation to generation?

Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1864

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Image: Illustration by Arthur Wardle, for A history and description of the collie or sheep dog in his British varieties (1890)

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Slave Manumission: A Case in Point

We cannot free our slaves if we would.” — Slaveholders.

MR. EDITOR, – How many endeavor to cover their sins, in holding slaves, under the pretext that “The laws of the state in which they reside, will not allow Manumission.” The following anecdote, related to me lately, by a person who could have no reason for wishing to deceive, and who had himself been a slave overseer, will throw some light on the subject:

While walking out, he observed an old, gray-headed negro, sitting on the bank of a river, and thus addressed him: “What are you doing, boy?” The old man replied, “Trying to catch fish, master.” “Whose boy are you?” “Squire Smith’s I used to be, but now I am free – my master gave me free.”

The person who told me of the circumstance, being impressed with the injustice of turning off an old servant, under the false pretense of making him free, and being himself acquainted with Sqr. Smith, who was an influential member of the Methodist Society in N.C., determined to speak to him on the subject.

He soon had an opportunity to do this: asking the Squire how it was that he could free his slaves, contrary to the law of the State, – “Oh,” said this Christian slaveholder, “when they are old and useless, we let them shift for themselves – they’re no good to us!” He continued to remonstrate with the Squire, showing the injustice of it, and with such faithfulness, that Squire Smith, notwithstanding he endeavored to evade the charge, felt his conscience smite him.

“Do you think that on a dying bed,” said his friend to him, “should you have your reason, you will approve of such conduct?  Can you act in such a way to a fellow being, and yet consider yourself a Christian?”

The Squire begged that he would say no more about such an unpleasant subject, and very condescendingly invited him to ride out to his plantation with him.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

Source: The Colored American, August 19, 1837

Photo: “Ex-slave with a long memory, Alabama” by Dorthea Lange in 1937 or 1938.

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Reverend Wayland’s Model Woman

The following from the pen of the Rev. H. L. Wayland should not be a mere fancy sketch, but the reality with every born woman. He knows one such he tells us. Let that one stand the prophecy of all women in the future. We do not expect much of humanity, and so do not realize much in man or woman. “According to your faith be it unto you,” is one of the truest and sublimest utterances in human language, and one of the most important. And the principle runs through all human action and aspiration. We expect nothing, we aim at nothing, we arrive at nothing, is true of an awful proportion of the human race. The Hot Wells of Bath, England, have brought multitudes there to die as well as to be cured during the centuries, and the Old Abbey church is filled with mural and other monuments of the departed, but scarcely a name known to fame appears among them all. And a satirist there has left this tracing to be read as his estimate of them:

“These walls adorned With monument and bust,
Show how Bath’s waters serve to lay the dust.”

Over how many cemetery gates might not the substance of this be placed? And the satire will be just until loftier ideas of human possibility and perfection are entertained.

Men sometimes say of a caged lion, if he only knew his strength, how soon he would be free! So of the man, if he only knew his power, his possibilities, how quickly he would burst the second death cements that now hold him, and leap to loftier life and action? Who shall speak the new word of life to stir the stagnant souls of these unburied dead, that make our nation and the world of man so like the vision of the Hebrew prophet: a valley of dry bones! Who shall cry with his fervor and his faith too, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live!”

But our readers shall not lose Mr. Wayland in these musings of our own. It should be impressed on the mind and heart of universal humanity that the rare models like this described below, and all the sublimest attainments ever yet reached by saint or sage, are but the beginning, not the end, of what every mortal man and woman will one day reach in the earthly life, not the heavenly, where it doth not yet appear, even in a few models, what we shall be.

Mr. Wayland says:

I know one lady (I use the singular number not unadvisedly), and she is not compelled by her circumstances, who makes housekeeping an art, who studies chemistry and physiology, that she may adapt her table to the comfort and health of her family; who is the mistress of her servants, and not their unpaid dependent; who knows when the work of the house is done, and if it is not done is able to show the servants the reason of their failure; and with all this, she is not a drudge, with a soul confined to pots and pans, but a sensible, pleasing and truly religious woman, who, while enhancing the happiness of her family and doubling the income of her husband, alike by reducing his expenses and freeing his mind from vexing cares, yet is also reading the best books, is serving God, and dispensing charity to man. One such woman I know; pray how many do you know?

Source: The Revolution, August 13, 1868.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

Top Image:  Brooklyn sanitary fair in 1864  as shown in New England Kitchen.

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