Lehigh University
The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
Previous Issue Next Issue
Previous Page Next Page
0 matches

Text for Page 198 [03-08-1861]


[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
like a grown-up child.  Surveying him and his fel-
lows, generally intelligent-looking negroes, neatly
dressed, most of them wearing rings, and some
watch-chains, observing their humble, dutiful be-
havior, a northern man is appalled to see how they 
have accepted their position as slaves; how their
every word and action implies their recognition of
the unchristian belief in their essential inferiority.
I think that this very submissiveness is, in itself, a
tremendous protest against the inherent wicked-
ness of the cherished institution.
  Would it be possible so to subdue any other race?
I doubt it.  �Gurth, the son of Beowulf, born
thrall to Cedric the Saxon,� with his dog�s-collar
round his neck, had yet his rights and possibilities
of emancipation, in a generation or two he was
almost certain of becoming a freed-man�not so
Quashee or Sambo.  His very loveable qualities
conspire to perpetrate his enslavement.  Yet they
are capable of a dreadful transformation, as witness
St. Domingo.  The South has no reason to fear a
repetition of that awful experiment possibly for
some generations, but if it persists in hugging this
evil, in believing it to be the one good, desirable
thing, that punishment must follow is as certain as
death and judgment.
  To return to the waiters at the Charleston Hotel.
It is not difficult to understand how the eager obei-
sance of slaves gratifies the southern recipient;
how he comes to consider it essential to his com-
fort and well-being; how, in short, mutual rela-
tions grow up between slave and slave-owner,
rendering the problem of the extinction of the
wrong horribly difficult.  Its perpetuation flatters
that instinct towards mastery which we all possess.
Every man with a white skin below Mason and
Dixon�s line is an aristocrat.  You observe it in
the demeanor of the Irish waiters towards their
colored associates; they would be insulted were
they required to take their food with �nagurs.�
One morning, being in my room, I overheard an
altercation between the chambermaid and a good-
looking mulatto who officiates as fire-maker.  He
had called to her rather familiarly, and she, indig-
nant at his presumption, was rating him soundly.
Who was he talking to? she asked; she would
let him know she was no wench, to be spoken to
in that manner!  Individually he was by far the
pleasanter-looking personage of the two.
  You very rarely hear a slave spoken harshly or
inconsiderately to in a large hotel, nor is there oc-
casion for it.  I have heard harsh words from a

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
drunken man, hardly in any other instance.
Southerners of education and position are less
exacting, more tolerant of the shortcomings of
slaves than a northern man finds it easy to be.
They seem to allow a certain margin of error, idle-
ness or small duplicity as incidental to negro posi-
tion.  It is an involuntary recognition of the neces-
sity of tempering a huge injustice with minor in-
  They are liable to be �paddled,� however.  This
punishment is generally administered at the guard-
house, by the Charleston police, who are all Irish-
men.  They use a thick, flat board with holes in it.
Any offended master or mistress sends a slave to
the place of chastisement with a note, stating the
desired amount, which is duly honored.  Like �in-
stitutions� breed like results all over the world;
in Sala�s �Journey Due North� we find the same
system in operation in Russia.
  At our hotel only white porters are allowed to
handle baggage, as slaves cannot be trusted.x  It is
also forbidden by law to sell or give them liquor.
Of course they get it secretly and have a �high
  Their approbativeness is curiously manifest in
their respect for persons of apparent wealth or
consideration.  Thus, a man who orders a bottle of
wine to his dinner will secure more attention�al-
ways provided he fees his �boy��than a water
drinker.  Let him appear in company of any re-
cognised Charleston magnates, above all let him
entertain them at a side-table with the appropriate
accompaniments of champagne, &c., his �boy�
and all the �boys� around henceforth conceive the
highest opinion of him.  �My boss a real gentle-
man,� your sable attach� will say, crowing over his
fellows and feeling his own importance considerably
augmented in consequence of your presumed aris-
  Do they listen to the conversation in progress un-
der their noses?�the eternal talk of secession, of
which Charlestonians are never wearied?  Of
course they do.  Do they understand it?  I think
this very doubtful.  They have certainly become so
incorporated in the system as to share to some ex-
tent the feelings of their masters.  To both the
word abolitionist is suggestive of nothing but un-
qualified, monstrous villany.  Perhaps the most
extraordinary thing in connection with slavery is
the hearing of it discussed for hours together in the
presence of slaves�as any resident of the South
can hardly have missed witnessing scores of times.

[Gunn�s handwriting]
  x Hence the absurdity of the Oriental-looking darkey in the
Illustrated London News cut.  Vol 18. page 14.               
Loading content ...