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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