The Story of William Houston

This article from the London Times in 1852 was reprinted in America in Frederick Douglass Paper on April 15, 1852.  It relates the long and complicated path from freedom – through slavery – and back to freedom for William Houston.  Houston was a British seaman who was sold into slavery by his employer when the ship was in New Orleans.  There are references to the case in footnotes of some later editions of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

The Horrible Adventures of a British Subject Sold into American Slavery

At the Thames police office one day last week, William Houston complained to the magistrate that he, a free born British subject, had been sold into slavery by a sea captain, with whom he had engaged as a steward for wages. He exhibited his register ticket as a “seaman,” No. 548,818, and stated that he was born in Gibraltar in the year 1810, his father a native of San Domingo, and his mother a London woman. About thirteen years ago, when settled in Liverpool, as steward, for $25 per month. The captain’s name was Joseph M’Coy.

On the arrival of the ship at New Orleans, the vessel was sold, and the captain took him on shore and sold him to an American, by whom he was taken to a place called Tricupo, in St. Matthew county, where he remained in bondage for five years.

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The Drunkard’s Alphabet

This little list appeared in Progress of Life and Thought, or “Papa’s Scrap Book” in The Civil War: Iowa’s Perspective.

  • A is the young man’s first glass of ale.
  • B is the beer which next will prevail.
  • C is the cider, so simple at first, causing in future unquenchable thirst.
  • D is the dram taken morn, noon and eve.
  • E is the extra one – eleven I believe.
  • F is the flip, thought so good for a cold.
  • G is the gin, not so pure as of old.
  • H is the hotel where often he goes.
  • I is the inner room he so well knows.
  • J is the jug he there fills to the brim.
  • K is the knocking of conscience within.
  • L is the landlord who smiles when you drink.
  • M is your money he’s getting, I think.
  • N is the nightmare which visits your brain.
  • O is the orgies of the midnight rain.
  • P is the poor, penniless pauper you become.
  • Q is the quarrel, the product of rum.
  • R is the ruin rum brings to your door.
  • S is the suffering ne’er known before.
  • T is the tremors that make few calls ere death ensue.
  • U is the undertaker who comes to your aid.
  • V is the valley where your body is laid.
  • W is the wretched wail and woe
  • X execrable drunkards alone can know.
  • Y is the yearning for misspent time.
  • Z is the zenith of the drunkard’s climb.

Part V of our Civil War collection, Iowa’s Perspective, consists of memoirs, pamphlets, and regimental histories from the Civil War holdings at the University of Iowa. Iowa provided more troops per capita than any other Union state, and these writings reflect the experiences of Iowa soldiers as they fought in nearly all the campaigns and major battles throughout the war years.
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The Bottle

A Victim and his Child in The Colored American

We occasionally find a capital police report in the St. Louis Bulletin. On a recent occasion a bloated being, named Johnson, by profession an actor, was found drunk in the streets by a good hearted sailor, who in vain attempted to win him from his vile ways and evil companions. Johnson continued to drink, until he fell to the ground like a beast, when the following scene ensued;

“Just as they were about removing the miserable wretch to prison, a little girl about eight years old, barefooted and extremely ragged, came into the room sobbing and crying most bitterly. No sooner did she see her father than she ran to him, knelt down by his side, and motioning the officer away, cried – “Don’t take away papa while he sleeps! By and by he will wake up once more and kiss me.”

The Colored AmericanIt was a sight to wring the heart of more than man to see that pure and innocent creature, with her little head bare and her white shoulder peeping out from her tattered frock, leaning with fond affection over her drunken father, as if her affection strengthened with the unworthiness of its object. At length the sailor came forward, and speaking kindly to the little girl, took her away in his arms, and wrapped her little feet carefully in the skirts of his coat. The brutish father, by this time snoring in complete and disgusting insensibility, was then taken to the guard house for the purpose of sobering him.

This morning, after manifesting some symptoms of that most dreadful of diseases – mania [ ], he seemed to regain his senses in a measure, and confessed having been drunk, “I was not,” said he, “always the miserable wretch to which drunkenness has reduced me. I once was respected by friends, and beloved by my family. But I contracted bad habits, which got so strong and old upon my nervous temperament as to make a beast of me. My business was neglected, and my wife died, I do believe of a broken heart. Since that time I have wandered around the world without end or aim, except to procure whiskey! I have yet a daughter – at least I had yesterday – a beautiful, tender creature, who still loves me, despite my unworthiness.”

At this moment the benevolent sailor entered the room, leading the little girl by the hand. He had dressed her with new and comfortable clothes, and she looked really very pretty and interesting. After learning that a small fine had been imposed upon Johnson, he immediately paid it, and leading the little girl forward, placed her in her father’s arms. The poor man wept and sobbed over her as if he had been an infant: and for our part, we do not believe there was dry eye in the room. The three left the room together, and we sincerely hope that this lesson will work a thorough reformation upon the unhappy and degraded man.”

Now, my youthful readers, was not this an affectionate, good little girl? And do you not, while you read about her love her? And will you not try to be like her, although, we presume and hope, you have not a drunken father as this little girl had?

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.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: The Colored American
Date: April 11, 1840
Title: A Victim and his Child
Location: New York, New York

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An Appeal for WM. S. Bailey of Kentucky

Sir:

I wish to say a word to the Republicans of the free States, which I hope will be copied into other Republican journals. William S. Bailey of Newport, Ky., has edited and published, for seven years, an Anti-Slavery paper in Kentucky.

He and his family have suffered slow martyrdom all this time. He has been maliciously prosecuted, his buildings have been burned, and he has endured personal violence. But he preserves, and is resolved to do so till Kentucky becomes a free State. He needed new type for his paper, and I undertook to raise $500 of the $1,000 required for that purpose in the Massachusetts Legislature and in Boston.

I have sent him $430, and shall probably get the remainder. Other friends in Boston have sent him $200; friends in Salem nearly $200. He now needs and ought to have immediately $1,000 to pay on his house which he has sacrificed for Freedom, but holds still under mortgage. He will lose the opportunity of redemption unless he is aided to this amount. His paper is doing good service in Kentucky.

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The Confederacy and a Culture of Vegetables

There is nothing we shall want more during the coming season than an abundant supply of vegetables. The army will need them to preserve its men from scurvy. The people will need them to make up for the inordinate price of meat.

It is the duty, as well as the interest, of everybody to cultivate as large a quantity as possible. There is not a yard in any city or town which should not be made to contribute something towards the general store.

Among other inducements, it may be mentioned that vegetables, with few exceptions, are exempted from the tithe, and that they are not taxed beyond the income tax on the profits from their sales. A little attention and a little labor given to this end would do incalculable good.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

Source

Collection: The Civil War
Publication: The Charleston Mercury
Date: April 7, 1864
Title:
Culture of Vegetables

Top Image:  Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection

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