Columbia, South Carolina, May 25th.
WHAT a long time it is, my sweet Agatha, since I last conversed with you! but days and hours rush on like the river, and I have not many minutes to myself.
I wrote to you last at Savannah. Soon after that I left the city, overwhelmed with kindness and presents from its friendly inhabitants up to the last moment. I shall always have to thank my host, Mr. T., for his heartfelt kindness and good-will toward me. At the last moment he compelled me to allow him to pay for my journey to Augusta. People talk about the Americans' spirit [p. 358] of acquisition, and with justice; but with the same justice they ought to speak of their spirit of giving. They love to give, even as they love to acquire.
Just as I was about to go on board there came a Swedish sea-captain, who told some persons of my acquaintance in Savannah that he wished to see me, because he was brought up at the same place as myself and Jenny Lind. There was not much that was agreeable for me to remember in the educational establishment where we three could have been all together. And when my sea-faring. countryman presented himself before me, and we shook hands, he asked, "Was not mademoiselle brought up in Stockholm?"
I assented. "Ay, ay!" said he, with a significant nod of the head, "it is so; I was certain of it, and in Stockholm I was also brought up!"
We shook hands again, and the good man--for he looked like a hearty, good fellow --gave me likewise a present, which I shall bring home with me to Sweden. Almost sinking under presents, which to the last moment were laid in my arms, I set off.
This voyage up the Savannah River, which I had been warned against as slow and monotonous, was more agreeable than I can tell. The weather was charming, and as the stream was strong and the river swollen from the spring-floods, the voyage was slow; I had plenty of time to observe the banks between which the river wound, and though mile after mile and hour after hour presented me with only one scene, yet this scene was primeval forest. Masses of foliage from innumerable trees and shrubs, and beautiful climbing plants, seemed resting upon the water on each side of the river, the shores of Georgia and Carolina. Lofty, deep, and impenetrable extended the primeval forest, as I was told, for many miles inland.
But here it existed in its original luxuriance and splendor. I seemed to myself to be present on the third day [p. 359] of creation, when God called forth the vegetable world, "every tree whose seed was in itself after its kind." On the day when the earth opened its maternal breast and produced all the various trees and flowers of the earth, Savannah, with its red-brown water, was a river newly sprung from chaos, and rich with its essence, nor yet had had time to settle itself and clear its water, when the green plants of earth sprang forth in wild luxuriance; it seemed to play with them, and they, newly upsprung from the water, seemed to have no wish to part from it, but half longed to fall back into it. Flower-laden, climbing plants flung themselves to the very tops of the trees, and then fell down to dip again in the waves of the river. From amid these masses of verdure, forming porticoes, pyramids, and the most fantastic and massive creations, glanced forth now and then, a Catalpa, all flaming with its yellowish-white flowers; dark-green, solemn magnolias lifted up their snow-white blossoms toward the light, beautiful and pure as it. I noticed sycamores, amber-bearing poplars, tulip-trees, with their splendid yellow and red flecked blossoms, mulberries, many kinds of oak, elms, and willows as I went along, and high above all towered cypresses, with their long, depending mosses, spreading their vast arms abroad, like patriarchs over the lower tribes of vegetation. Not a human dwelling was to be seen on these shores, not a trace of human activity. There was neither the sight nor sound of animal life, and although alligators are numerous in the Savannah River, I did not see one; not a bird sang, and all was silent and hushed, even the wind itself. It was a desolation full of fantastic beauty, and just now in the pride of its splendor. At length I saw, sitting on the naked boughs of a dead fir-tree, two large birds of prey, reminding the beholder that "death was come into the world."
Thus we sped on, in a high-pressure boat, the Oregon, with its two reeking chimneys, up the river, mile after mile, hour after hour, while the morning and the evening, [p. 360] the sun and the moon, seemed to contend which should most beautify the scene. And I sang in my soul, as the earliest colonists of Georgia had done before me, "How beautiful is creation, how glorious the Creator!" and then I thought, what a poem, what a glorious romance is this portion of the world in its natural life; what wealth, what beauty, what varied scenes it embraces in its bosom! I was now again alone with America; America revealed her mysteries to me, and made me aware of her wealth, the inheritance of future generations.
The Savannah forms the boundary between Carolina and Georgia. I had tenderly-beloved friends both in Carolina and Georgia. I loved Georgia the most, and turned toward its shore as toward a more free, a more youthfully, fresh land.
The voyage was an incessant feast for me, and I wished only to be silent and enjoy it. But in order to do that, I had to avoid, in the saloon, a throng of handsome, but wild young girls, who had made, on their own account, a pleasure-party, and now ran about here and there, chattering, calling to one another, and laughing; and on deck, a few gentlemen, planters, who were polite and wished to talk, but talked only of "cotton, cotton, cotton," and how the world was beginning to busy itself about American cotton. I fled away from these worshipers of cotton, and endeavored to be alone with the river and the primeval forest, and with the light and shadows within it. There was with the troop of young girls, also, a youth, a handsome young man, a brother or relative of some of them. Later on in the evening he had to leave the vessel, and then the wild young girls took hold of him, embraced and kissed him, the one after the other, in fun and amid laughter, while he, half annoyed and half amused, endeavored to get loose from them. What impression would that young man carry away with him of that night's scene? Not esteem for woman. One of the elder gentlemen on [p. 361] deck shook his head at the young girls' behavior; "They make a fool of that young man!" said he to me. It was not till late in the night that I could get to sleep for the noise which these girls made.
The next day was Sunday, and life seemed to celebrate a holy-day, so still and so festively adorned appeared all nature. The wild young girls had become quiet, and assembled before the door of my cabin, which was open toward the river. They were evidently in a state of mind to hear something serious. The peace of the Sabbath rested upon them. Had now some sower, commissioned of Heaven, sown the seed of truth and the comprehension of the higher life in the souls of these young girls, the seed would assuredly have fallen in good ground. I have faith in the inborn, pure earnestness of woman's nature, and its kinship with the highest spiritual life, and it grieved me when I saw it running wild as in this case. Not that I think a moment of wildness is of much consequence in a human life; all depends upon the main direction of the whole. But if nature is left to itself, it becomes a wilderness, and wildernesses of human nature are very much less beautiful than those of the primeval forest--nor would even these be good to live in. The spirit of a superior nature must lay his hand upon the young heathen before he can become full of human dignity and beauty.
Fathers and mothers in the young, New World do not seem rightly to know the good old proverb, "Use is second nature;" nor the other equally excellent one, "It is easier to stem a brook than a river."
Toward the evening of this day, the young girls were landed here and there at different plantations, from which boats were put out to fetch them; and from the banks of the river I heard words of affectionate welcome, and saw cheerful fires blazing through the thick darkness, for the young moon had already set, and the darkness of night [p. 362] is very dark here at this season, while the evening glow of our skies lights up earth and heaven till it is dimmed by the glow of morning.
On Saturday afternoon I went on board at Savannah. On Monday morning I arrived at Augusta, where I was met by the agreeable, excellent Mr. B., who took me in his carriage to his house, where I was received with great kindness by his wife, a handsome and agreeable Irish lady, with a handsome English countenance, remarkably like Frances von K., but with a softer expression, and by Hannah L., the pale girl from the South, whom I first met with on the voyage from England, and whom I liked so much. It was a pleasure to me to find her health now better after her European tour, and she seemed to me, here in her home and her own circle of friends, more amiable even than before.
I spent here some very agreeable days, receiving visitors only in the evening, and spending the mornings in driving out to the plantations in the neighborhood and elsewhere. Here, also, I often had to listen to and to answer the same multitude of trivial and wearisome questions, one of the worst and most frequent of which was, "Do the United States answer your expectations?"
Yet even here I also became acquainted with some excellent people, both men and women, real Christians and true citizens of the world, who are silently laboring at the work of emancipation, wisely and effectually; assisting the slaves into the path of self-emancipation; that is to say, giving opportunity to those slaves to acquire money, helping them to keep it, and encouraging them to industry and good conduct, with a view to their liberation at a certain time --in a few years perhaps, or it may be less, and afterward giving them that freedom for which they have worked. How beautiful it seemed to me when I saw them; in particular, an elderly gentleman and lady, how good they seemed to me, and how amiable! How happy [p. 363] I felt myself in knowing them! One of these friends of humanity had advanced to a negro woman a little capital, which enabled her, by her own labor, not only to pay monthly interest to her owner for the money he had paid for her, but by which she had the means of purchasing the freedom of four of her children; the fifth had yet to be purchased, but even this one, also, would shortly be free, through the help of a benevolent man. And who does not admire this slave, who thinks nothing of continuing herself a slave, but merely of purchasing the freedom--of emancipating her children? Such a mother would, in the times of Athens and Sparta, have been proclaimed as "an honor to humanity." But this mother remains an unknown slave. It is true that she feels herself well off' in her situation, and does not wish for a freedom which at her age could not be obtained but at the exchange of a life free from care, for one much harder--at least in Liberia. "When I am old," said she, "and no longer able to work, master and mistress will take care of me!" So think many old slaves, and do not trouble themselves about a freedom in which they would have to take care of themselves. And this is good when the master and mistress are good, and do not die before the old slaves, in which case the fate of these is very uncertain, and becomes sometimes, under new owners, worse than that of the domestic animals.
During my visit to a few of the plantations, I could clearly see that the ladies looked on me with suspicious glances. I liked one of these ladies, nevertheless. She seemed to me of a fresh, fine, motherly character. I requested her to accompany me to a slave village at a short distance from the house. She agreed to do so. The hands, as the working negroes of the South are called, were now out in the fields reaping the corn, and their houses were mostly locked up; I went into the few that remained open. In one of these an old negro, who had a [p. 364] bad foot, sat on the bed. Both himself and the whole dwelling bore the stamp of good care and attention. "He is well provided for in his old age, because he is one of our own people," said Mrs. E. aloud to me, so that the negro might hear her; "if he were free, he would not be so well off."
"And why not?" said I, but silently, to myself, for I would not say it aloud lest the negro should hear. "We too, on our estates in Sweden, have old and sick servants, and although they are free and enjoy freely the wages for which they serve, yet we consider it no less incumbent on us, in justice to them and as our own duty, to take all possible care of them in their sickness and old age; and if they serve us faithfully, to make their old age as happy as we possibly can consistently with our own means. The bad master with us, as well as the bad slaveholder, goes where he belongs.
This is what I wished to say to Mrs. E., and would have said it if we had been alone together, because I could not help seeing in her a somewhat proud, but at the bottom a noble character, who, by the injustice of the Abolitionists against the position of the slaveholder, has been driven to injustice against that of the workers, but who could and who would look at the truth, if, without any polemical asperity, it were placed before her unbiased judgment. But I did not find any opportunity for trying the experiment, because we never were alone.
The slave villages in Georgia have the same exterior as those in Carolina, and the condition of the slaves on the plantations seem to me similar also. The good and the bad masters make the only difference; but then, in such circumstances, this is immeasurable.
"Here lives the owner of a plantation who is universally known as cruel to his people," was once said to me as I went past a beautiful country house almost concealed by thick trees and shrubs. People know this, and they do [p. 365] not willingly hold intercourse with such a man, that is all. Neither the angel of justice nor of love ventures into these mystical groves, where human beings are sacrificed. What paganism amid Christianity! But this avenges itself, nevertheless, on the white races, as is evident in many things.
One day I went to see, in the forest, some of the poor people called "clay-eaters;" these are a kind of wretched white people, found in considerable numbers both in Carolina and Georgia, who live in the woods, without churches, without schools, without hearths, and sometimes, also, without homes, but yet independent and proud in their own way, and who are induced by a diseased appetite to eat a sort of unctuous earth which is found here, until this taste becomes a passion with them, equally strong with the love of intoxicating liquors; although, by slow degrees, it consumes its victim, causes the complexion to become gray, and the body soon to mingle with the earth on which it has nourished itself. Clay-eaters is the name given to these miserable people. No one knows whence they come, and scarcely how they exist; but they and the people called "Sand-hill people"--poor whites who live in the barren, sandy tracts of the Southern States--are found in great numbers here. The Sand-hill people are commonly as immoral as they are ignorant; for as by the law of the States it is forbidden to teach the negro slaves to read and write, and in consequence there would be no support for schools, where half the population consists of slaves, and the country in consequence is thinly inhabited; therefore the indigent white people in the country villages are without schools, and very nearly without any instruction at all. Besides which, these people have no feeling for the honor of labor and the power of activity. The first thing which a white man does when he has acquired a little money is to buy a slave, either male or female, and the slave must work for the whole family. The poor [p. 366] slaveholder prides himself on doing nothing, and letting the whole work be done by the slave. Slave labor is generally careless labor, and all the more so under a lazy master. The family is not benefited by it. If the master and mistress are famished, the slaves are famished also, and all become miserable together. But again to the clay-eaters.
Mr. G. and his family were a good specimen of this class of people. They lived in the depths of a wood quite away from any road. It was a hot and sultry day, and it was sultry in the wood. The poison-oak (a kind of dwarf oak, said to be extremely poisonous) grew thickly on all sides in the sand. Deep in the wood we found a newly-built shed, which had been roofed in for the poor family by some benevolent persons. Here lived the husband and wife, with five or six children. They had a roof over their heads, but that was all; I saw no kind of furniture whatever, not even a fire-place, and door there was none. But Mr. G., an affable little man of about fifty, seemed delighted with his world, with himself, his children, and in particular with his wife, whom he described as the best wife in the world, and with whom he seemed to be enchanted. The wife, although gray as the earth, both in complexion and dress, and pitifully thin, was evidently still quite young, and possessed real beauty of feature. She looked good but not gay, was silent, and kept her eyes very much fixed on her children, the handsomest, the most magnificent, unbaptized young creatures that any one can imagine, tumbling about with one another in perfect freedom, with natural grace, liveliness, and agility--very excellent human material, thought I, and better than many a baptized, over-indulged drawing-room urchin. Mr. G. was talkative, and volunteered us various passages out of his life's history.
He had at one time been the overseer of a slaveholder and churchman; but the office was one of so much cruelty [p. 367] that he gave it up. He could not endure having to flog the slaves himself, nor yet to have them flogged. But his master would not permit him to abstain from it. And others were no better. He had tried them. This one, it seemed to him, ought to have been better, as he was a religious man. "And in the beginning he was not bad" said he; "but after a while he married a rich planter's daughter, which changed him greatly, and he grew worse and worse every year. But that was the fault of his marriage, for he was unhappy with his wife."
The clay-eater in the forest looked down with compassion upon the rich planter-- religious professor though he was--unhappy with his wife and cruel to his people. He, the freeman in the wild forest, with his pretty, gentle wife, and his handsome children, was richer and happier than he! Mr. G. seemed proud as a king in his free, innocent poverty.
"But can not overseers be gentle to the slaves?" inquired I. "No," replied he, "they must be severe; they must drive them with the whip, if they are to work as they ought; and the planters will have nothing else."
I leave this man's must to its own intrinsic value, and to the question whether it may not have had its origin in a want of wise management and gentleness in himself. But true it is that the overseers which I have as yet met with displease me by a certain severity, a certain savage expression in their countenance, particularly in their eye. And one of the heaviest grievances in the life of the planter seems to me to be, that the slaves, after a long series of years, are left in the power of the overseers while the master and his family are absent from the plantation for the sake of their health or their pleasure.
The day after my visit to the clay-eaters, I was present at a festival at Augusta, on occasion of the presentation of a sword of honor, on behalf of the State of Georgia, to a young officer of Augusta, who had distinguished himself, [p. 368] and had been severely wounded in the war with Mexico. A stage was erected for the occasion in a little park within the city, and around it, in the form of an amphitheatre, a gallery, with benches and seats, which were filled with spectators. The sword was presented to the young soldier on the elevated platform, which was covered with carpets and adorned with banners. It was a very beautiful scene, under the open sky and the beautiful trees, only there was rather too much talking. I was pleased that the young hero of the day, in his speech, mentioned, with affection and praise, many of his comrades in the war, who had, he said, deserved this distinction better than he; and he related their achievements. He seemed to have a heartfelt delight in speaking of the deeds of his companions-in-arms. The assembly applauded his speech rapturously. We besides, several other speeches. I can not help always being astonished at the Americans' great facility in talking. When, however, the speeches are too numerous and too long, I can not but recall the words of Mr. Poinsett, when on one occasion I spoke with admiration of this wonderful facility in making speeches, "It is a great misfortune!"
After the ceremony the cannon fired loud enough to split the drums of one's ears, if not the walls of the fortress.
The hero of the day descended from the platform amid a host of friends and acquaintances; his sword of honor, with its handsome silver hilt, its inscription and belt, was passed from hand to hand among the spectators. After this, music struck up, and the company proceeded in a promenade dance under the trees, which were illuminated with colored lamps, the young hero at a given sign taking the lead. Dancing then became general. I noticed a number of little girls dancing; they looked pretty, though I am not fond of seeing children so fine, and such little women, in the dance. The ladies who did not dance sat in grand style on the galleried seats under the trees.[p. 369]
Many were very handsome. It astonished me when Mrs. E., the planter's lady who had looked suspiciously on me, and yet whom I took a liking to, introduced me to her husband, and when they both invited me very kindly and warmly to pay them a visit for as long a time as might be agreeable to me. I was sorry to be obliged to decline so polite an invitation, one which proved to me that I had not been mistaken in my liking for the lady. Her husband, also, appeared extremely agreeable.
A heavy shower of rain, which came on quite unexpectedly, put a sudden end to the féte, and sent every body helter-skelter home.
When at home with Mr. B., I heard the negroes singing, it having been so arranged by Hannah L. I wished rather to have heard their own naïve songs, but was told that they "dwelt with the Lord," and sang only hymns. I am sorry for this exclusiveness; nevertheless, their hymns sung in quartette were glorious. It would be impossible to have more exquisite or better singing. They had notebooks before them, and seemed to be singing from them; but my friends laughed, doubting whether they were for actual use. In the midst of the singing a cock began to crow in the house, and kept on crowing incessantly. From the amusement this occasioned, I saw that there was more in it than appeared. Nor was it, in reality, a cock that crowed, but a young negro from a neighboring court, who, being possessed of the cock's ability to crow, chose to make one in the concert.
After this, another young negro, who was not so evangelical as the rest, came and sang with his banjo several of the negro songs universally known and sung in the South by the negro people, whose product they are, and in the Northern States by persons of all classes, because they are extremely popular. The music of these songs is melodious, naïve, and full of rhythmical life, and the deepest, tenderest sentiment. Many of these songs remind me [p. 370] of Haydn's and Mozart's simple, naïve melodies; for example, "Rosa Lee," "Oh, Susannah," "Dearest May," "Carry me back to old Virginny," "Uncle Ned," and "Mary Blane," all of which are full of the most touching pathos, both in words and melody. The words, however, are frequently inferior to the music; they are often childish, and contain many repetitions both of phrases and imagery; but frequently, amid all this, expressions and turns of thought which are in the highest degree poetical, and with bold and happy transitions, such as we find in the oldest songs of our Northern people. These negro songs are also not uncommonly ballads, or, more properly, little romances, which contain descriptions of their love affairs and their simple life's fate. There is no imagination, no gloomy background, rich with saga or legend, as in our songs; but, on the other hand, much sentiment, and a naïve, and often humorous seizing upon the moment and its circumstances. These songs have been made on the road; during the journeyings of the slaves; upon the rivers, as they paddled their canoes along or steered the raft down the stream; and, in particular, at the corn-huskings, which are to the negroes what the harvest-home is to our peasants, and at which they sing impromptu whatever is uppermost in their heart or in their brain. Yes, all these songs are peculiarly improvisations, which have taken root in the mind of the people, and are listened to and sung to the whites, who, possessed of a knowledge of music, have caught and noted them down. And this improvisation goes forward every day. People hear new songs continually; they are the offspring of nature and of accident, produced from the joys and the sorrows of a childlike race. The rhyme comes as it may, sometimes clumsily, sometimes no rhyme at all, sometimes most wonderfully fresh and perfect; the rhythm is excellent, and the descriptions have local coloring and distinctness. Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Carolina, "Old Virginny," all the [p. 371] melodious names of the Southern States and places there, the abodes of the slaves, are introduced into their songs, as well as their love histories, and give a local interest and coloring not only to the song, but to the state and to the place which they sing about. Thus these songs are like flowers and fragrance from the negro life in those states--like flowers cast upon the waves of the river, and borne hither and thither by the wind--like fragrance from the flowers of the wilderness in their summer life, because there is no bitterness, no gloomy spirit in these songs. They are the offspring of life's summer day, and bear witness to this. And if bitterness and the condition of slavery were to cease forever in the free land of the United States, these songs would still live, and bear witness to the light of life, even as the phosphorescent beam of fire-fly shines, though the glow-worm may be crushed The young negro whom I heard sing this evening, sang among other songs one of which I would that I could give you an idea, so fresh was the melody, and so peculiar the key. Of the words I only remember this first verse:
I am going to the old Pedee!
And there on the old Pedee,
On a summer's night,
When the moon shines bright,
My Sally I shall see!
The last syllable of the first and last verse is long drawn out. The little romance describes how the lover and Sally will be married and settle themselves down, and live happily all on the banks of the old Pedee. A heartfelt, charming Southern idyll.
The banjo is an African instrument, made from the half of a fruit called the calabash, or gourd, which has a very hard rind. A thin skin or piece of bladder is stretched over the opening, and over this one or two strings are stretched, which are raised on a bridge. The banjo is the negroes' guitar, and certainly it is the first-born among stringed instruments.[p. 372]
The day following, when dining with a Mr. and Mrs. G., I also had the pleasure of hearing some negro songs, which pleased me greatly. The young negro who sang, having weak lungs, was not able to do much work, and some kind people, therefore, had enabled him to cultivate his musical gifts by instruction and practice. He sang excellently. And in order to understand the peculiar fascination of their songs, they should be heard sung by negroes, with their beaming glances and naïve abandon.
Augusta is a little city of the same style as Savannah, but less great, less beautiful, smaller in every way; but very pretty, nevertheless, and situated in a broad bend of the Savannah. Around it are many charming country houses with their gardens. I visited several such; saw beautiful and earnest family groups, and heard the hundred-tongued birds singing in the oak woods. Of oaks, such as our Swedish oak, I find none; but many other kinds of oaks, of which the live-oak, with its delicately cut oval leaf, is the most splendid kind.
During my stay at Augusta, I have been for some time deliberating upon an excursion which I proposed to make northward. I wished greatly to visit the Highlands of Georgia, and Tellulah Falls in that district, which had been described to me in Charleston as the most picturesque in America. I should like to have seen that original, who a few years since built the first inn at the Falls, and who christened his eldest daughter Magnolia Grandiflora, his second Tellulah Falls, and his son some other curious name, which I have forgotten. I had already half determined to undertake the journey, and a kind young lady had given me letters to her friends in Athens and Rome, places on the road to Tellulah Falls, and which I presume are related in about the same degree to the great of these names as we probably are to Adam and Eve; but the heat became great, and I felt myself so weak in consequence of it, and the journey would have been so [p. 373] fatiguing, that I gave it up, and determined instead to go back to Charleston by way of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, and which I have been told has a remarkably beautiful site in the neighborhood of the Highlands.
Having promised to return, I parted from my kind entertainers, thankful for the residence in their house, and for that which the residence in Augusta had given me, of gold, better than that of California.
The excellent, agreeable Mr. B. accompanied me a short distance to the rail-road, on the other side of the river. On our way we passed through the slave market. Forty or fifty young persons of both sexes were walking up and down before the house in expectation of purchasers. They were singing; they seemed cheerful and thoughtless. The young slaves who were here offered for sale were from twelve to twenty years of age. There was one little boy, however, who was only six: he belonged to no one there. He attached himself to the slave-keeper. Poor little fellow! Who was his mother? Who his sister or his brother? Many of these children were fair mulattoes, and some of them very pretty. One young girl of twelve was so white, that I should have supposed her to belong to the white race; her features, too, were also those of the whites. The slave-keeper told us that the day before, another girl, still fairer and handsomer, had been sold for fifteen hundred dollars. These white children of slavery become, for the most part, victims of crime, and sink into the deepest degradation. Yet again--what heathenism in the midst of a Christian land!
The greater number of these young slaves were from Virginia, which not needing much slave labor itself, sells its slaves down South. Some gentlemen were on the spot, and one or two of them called my attention to the cheerful looks of the young people.
"All the more sorrowful is their condition," thought I; "the highest degradation is not to feel it!"[p. 374]
But from this shame-spot in the young and beautiful State of Georgia, I turn my glance with pleasure to another spot, one rich in honor and hope--that so-called "Liberty county;" and it was a great loss to me not to have been able to visit this, the oldest home of liberty in the State of Georgia. Here began the first movement in the South for American freedom. "The Liberty Boys" originated here; and here it was that, still later, commenced the first effectual movements for the instruction of the negroes in Christianity, for their emancipation and colonization in their African father-land.
A short time ago there died in Liberty county a rich planter, Mr. Clay, universally known for his zeal on these subjects, and for his human kindness generally. His corpse was followed to the grave by a great number of persons, both whites and blacks. The whites, as soon as the grave was covered in, returned to their homes, but the negroes remained by the grave through the whole night, singing hymns. The sister of Mr. Clay participated with him in the work of elevating the slaves, and it is said continues it since his death. God bless all such noble and liberal-minded persons!
I found that in Georgia the following view of slavery prevailed generally:
Slavery is an evil; but under the wise direction of God it will become a blessing to the negroes. The whites who have enslaved them will make them compensation for their sufferings through the gift of Christianity, and by instructing them in agriculture and the handcraft arts --thus they may be first instructed, and then gradually emancipated and colonized in Africa; the heathen nations of Africa being finally Christianized and civilized through the Christianized and emancipated slaves of America.
I am convinced that this is the truth and the way. And by this view of the question in Georgia, and from what it has already begun, I see a proof of how much [p. 375] public opinion in this country goes ahead of legislation; for the law, as regards the treatment of slaves, takes a very low stand in Georgia, as well as in South Carolina.
Georgia may, with more justice than Carolina, be called the Palmetto State, as the palmetto is really very abundant there, besides many other plants, which indicate the neighborhood of the tropics, and a new face of nature; and how gladly would I contemplate this face still more closely! One of those plants, called Yucca gloriosa, as well as the Spanish dagger, sends forth its pointed dagger-like leaves in all directions from the stem, and has a cluster of splendid white bell-shaped flowers.
And now adieu for the present, amid the beautiful flowers of Georgia, and its still more beautiful human beings.
Columbia is a pretty little city of handsome villas gardens, and in the midst of these a fine Senate House, for Columbia is the capital of South Carolina. Every state in the Union has its capital situated in the centre of the state, and commonly it is of small importance, excepting as a place of meeting for the two legislative bodies, the Senate and Representatives, who sit in the Senate House of the capital some months of each year. Besides which, each state has its large trading towns situated by the sea, or upon some of the great rivers which pour in all directions through this abundantly-watered portion of the earth. Columbia, in Carolina--every state in the Union has, I believe, a city which is called Columbia or Columbus--is beautifully situated on a height near the River Congaree.
I have derived great pleasure, through the kindness of a Mr. Gibbs, here, a natural historian, who has shown me much attention. In his collection I have seen the remains of those antediluvian creatures, the Megatherium and Mastodon, the bones of which have been dug up here. These remains belong to Titanic creatures. A single tooth is as large as my hand. Mr. Gibbs has had the kindness to give me drawings and descriptions of these animals, which [p. 376] I shall be glad to send home to our Professor Sundevall. He has also given me a little humming-bird's nest, the prettiest thing in the world, built of small, delicate blades of grass and tiny pieces of paper.
I was one day invited by Professor F. to the weddings of two couples of his house slaves. The bridal pairs were young people, and looked very well, especially one of the bridegrooms, a negro black as night, and whom his master commended for the excellence of his character and his general intelligence, and one of the brides--but not of the bridegroom par excellence--were regularly handsome. Both the brides were dressed very prettily in white, and wore garlands. The clergyman entered the negro-company, stepped up to the bridal couples and very soon dismissed the marriage ceremony, after which they began dancing in the same room. Negroes and negresses swung round in a lively waltz; ladies dressed and decked out in gauze and flowers, altogether like our ladies, the only difference being that these had more finery about them, and considerably less grace; and, after all, they looked very much better in this borrowed and imitated finery than I should have believed possible. While the black company danced zealously, the white people went to see the wedding dinner-table, which was splendidly covered with flowers and fine cakes, and seemed really almost to bend under the abundance of meats.
I here became acquainted with a German, Professor Lieber, an author of talent, and a worthy man. For the rest there was nothing very remarkable here, unless it were the great number of colonels. All gentlemen of wealth, planters or others, it matters not, are called colonel, though they may not have been military. Such colonels abound in the Southern States. When I expressed my astonishment at this general promotion, I was told that when the President of the United States visited the various states, he nominated many of these gentlemen to be his adjutants [p. 377] for the occasion; and these adopted and have since retained the title of colonel. But that sounding title for so small service, and the passion for titles which evidently distinguished a portion of the republican people of America, especially in the South, is--a little possessed of the devil, and but little in harmony with the aim of this community. The old Adam in the old uniform is going about still!
Yesterday I went out alone on a ramble of discovery through wood and field. I came to a pretty little house in the midst of a wood, and there stood at its door, and apparently its owner, a fat mulatto woman. With the excuse of obtaining a glass of water, I went into the house and fell into discourse with the old couple, a negro and his wife, to whom the house and a little garden belonged. The mulatto woman was talkative, and showed me the whole house, which the master of herself and her husband had built for them and given them for their lifetime. It showed throughout that the old couple had a love of order and excellence, not only in the house but the garden. Their children were all dead, and some dark words, accompanied by dark glances, escaped the old woman in the bitter feeling of the loss of her children through the fault of others, which made me aware of a dark background to this bright picture. But I would not seek to know more. The old negro, I thought, looked anxious when his wife talked gloomily.
At another place in the wood I saw, at a very little residence, two elderly white ladies, evidently sisters, and meanly clad, sitting enjoying the shade of a live oak. I asked permission to sit down with them in the shade. They consented, and thus I fell into discourse with them, was shown their house, and made acquainted with their circumstances. These were narrow. The sisters had seen better days, but had, since the death of their father, fallen into need; they were now supported by the product of their place and by dress-making. But they were contented, and [p. 378] piety and labor made life serene and the days short. If only the health of one of the sisters were a little better, and the summers and the sand a little less hot! How similar every where are human circumstances, how similar are the causes of suffering and of happiness, of joy and of sorrow! Here is it the summer and the sand which is in the way of happiness; elsewhere it is the winter and the granite--every where it is sickness!
Charleston, June 2d. This Charleston--this "owl's nest," is nevertheless right pleasant as it now stands, like an immense bouquet of fragrant trees and flowers, and with its kind, amiable people! It has affected me deeply to have been received here as I have been by old and new friends. I have come to love Charleston for the sake of its inhabitants, especially for my two ladies there, Mrs. W. Howland and Mrs. Holbrook. I am now once more in the excellent home of the former, where I have been received as a member of the family.
I arrived here the day before yesterday half suffocated by the heat of the atmosphere, sunshine, smoke, and steam, but found here a real Swedish, fresh summer air, which still continues and has greatly refreshed me, to say nothing of all that is good, comfortable, and charming, with which this home abounds. God be thanked for this good home and for every good home on earth! "All good homes!" is my usual toast when I propose one at the American tables.
I found upon my writing-table a bouquet of beautiful flowers from Mrs. Holbrook, and a book which both surprised and pleased me. I little expected in the New World, and least of all in a great city, to meet with a profoundly penetrative, liberal spirit, which, like Böklin in Sweden, and H. Martensen in Denmark, places the ground of Christian faith in the highest reason. It is, however, precisely this pure German spirit which I find in the Philosophic Theology, or the first Principles of all [p. 379] Religious Faith founded in Reason, by the young missionary, James W. Miles; a small book, but of great import, written with English clearness and precision, without any German prolixity. This little work comes very near Martensen's "Autonomi;" that excellent treatise which Martensen has yet to develop; and it rejoices me all the more, as it proves that the laws of thought develop themselves in the human race from an inner necessity, irrespective of accidental circumstances. Truths, discoveries, do not emigrate from one country to another. Among all people who have advanced to about the same degree of intellectual cultivation the same phenomena and the same views present themselves. Thus here, a young, solitary, retired, but profoundly thinking man arrived at the same train of thought as our greatest Scandinavian philosophical theologians, and that without knowing them or the fountains from which they have quaffed the new life of thought. One instance in the book, by which the young Miles elucidates the connection of the subjective reason with the objective--that is, of man's with that of God, has struck me from the same cause--namely, how different minds in far distant countries and under different circumstances arrive at the same results of thought, because I myself have frequently made use of the same in conversation, as proof on this subject-- and have always regarded it as my own discovery, and have had my own little selfish pleasure in so doing. But how much greater is my pleasure in seeing that it also flashes forth before another seeking soul, and becomes for him a guiding star. The instance I alluded to is the well-known one of Le Verrier, who calculated that a star existed in a certain spot of the universe, and of the star being afterward discovered there.
I must immediately write to Mrs. H., to express my pleasure in the book and its author. And now once more I hope to wander with her in the shades of the myrtle grove.[p. 380]
Justina, the eldest daughter of Mrs. W. H., is just now returned, after about a year's residence in Baltimore, in Maryland. It was a delight to me to see her joyful reception at home. How alike are all good homes and relationships! The same sorrows, the same joys! But that I have long known, even without seeing it.
There is here this evening a great soirée for my sake. I am very glad that I am not responsible for it. I have nothing to do but to go about, tolerably elegantly attired, faire la belle conversation, reply to the questions of "How do you like this?" and "How do you like that?" and be amiable according to my ability.
June 10th. Now, my sweet child, I must prepare this letter, which is even now too long, for its departure. I have enjoyed myself for several days in doing-- nothing, watching the humming-birds, fluttering about the red flowers of the garden, or looking at the great turkey-buzzards, sitting on the roof and chimneys, spreading out their large wings in the wind or the sun, which gives them a very strange appearance; and for the rest, looking about me a little in the state and in the city.
South Carolina is a state of much more aristocratic character, as well in law as social life, than Georgia, and has not the element of freedom and humanity as the fundamental principle of its life, like its younger sister state. Massachusetts and Virginia, the old dominions, the two oldest mother hives, from which swarms went forth to all the other states of the Union, sent also its earliest cultivators to South Carolina. Puritans and cavaliers were united, but that merely through pecuniary interests. The Englishmen, Lord Shaftesbury and John Locke, established here an aristocratic community, and negro slaves were declared to be the absolute property of their masters. Nevertheless, South Carolina lacks not in her earliest history the moment which made her a member of the New World, and which, according to my view, was when she [p. 381] offered a sanctuary and a new home to the persecuted children of the Old World; yes, when she gave to all persecuted, oppressed, or unhappy human beings the opportunity and the means of beginning anew a new life, a new hope, a new and more happy development.
The noble Coligny, in France, long ago cast his glance toward South Carolina as a place of refuge for the Huguenots. And when persecution broke forth in all its unbounded ferocity, they who could save themselves fled hither across the sea to the land which rumor had described as the pride and envy of North America, and where, throughout the year, every month had its own flowers--which last is perfectly true.
"We quitted home by night, leaving the soldiers in their beds, and abandoning the house with its furniture," says Judith, the young wife of Pierre Manigault. "We contrived to hide ourselves for ten days at Romans, in Dauphigny, while a search was made for us; but our faithful hostess would not betray us. After our arrival in Carolina we suffered every kind of evil. In eighteen months my eldest brother, unaccustomed to the hard labor which we were obliged to undergo, died of a fever. Since leaving France, we had experienced every kind of affliction, disease, pestilence, famine, poverty, hard labor. I have been for six months without tasting bread, working the ground like a slave; and I have passed three or four years without having it when I wanted it. And yet God has done great things for us in enabling us to bear up under so many trials."
The son of Judith Manigault, who became an affluent man, intrusted the whole of his large property, during the war of American Independence, "for the use of the country which had adopted his mother." From Languedoc, from Rochelle, from Saintange, from Bourdeaux, and from many other French towns and provinces, fled the persecuted families, who "had all the virtues of Puritans, [p. 382] without their bigotry, to Carolina." Assignments of land were made to them on the flowery and peaceful banks of the River Cooper, beneath the shade of the glorious primeval forest, whence they could lift their voices in hymns of praise to their God. Thus became South Carolina the asylum of the French Puritans, and thus it takes its place in that great asylum for all people which the New World offers at this day.
And still, to this day, is Carolina, and most of the Southern provinces, full of families descended from these oldest settlers, but who have little more in common with them than the name. Language, manners, memories have become obliterated under the influence of the legislative, amalgamating race of the New World. Yet, nevertheless, somewhat of the French mode, of the French tone of mind, exists still in the life and temperament of the Southern people.
In South Carolina the spirit and the links of social life are aristocratic to a degree which I can not approve of, however much I may like certain people there. And aristocracy there has this in common with aristocracies of the present time; that, while the aristocratic virtues and greatness have vanished, the pretension merely remains. The formerly rich, magnificent planters exist no longer. Wealth, power, munificent hospitality are all gone. And, bowed beneath the yoke of slavery, the Southern States are a long way behind those of the North in their rapid development, in prosperity and population. The emigration of the present day is also beginning to bring in its manufactories and mechanical art even into the Southern States, but much more into Georgia than Carolina. Yet even here has a man from New England, Mr. Gregg, lately established a cotton manufactory, similar to that of Lowell, laid out beautifully with gardenplots for the work-people. Far behind the Northern States stand the South in any case, as regards moral and intellectual [p. 383] culture, and this in consequence of the unhappy slave institution, with all its consequences, both to the black and the white population. There are great individuals in the Southern States, but no great community, no united, aspiring people. The fetters of slavery bind, more or less, all and every one. Yet I love the South. I have found there many things to love--many things to esteem--many things to enjoy--many things to be grateful for; and as it is natural to me to enter into the life amid which I am living or observing, I have in the South felt myself to have a Southern tendency; and having entered into the peculiar life of the South, its circumstances and position, having a living sense of the good which abundantly exists here, which here is in operation, I have perfectly understood that bitter feeling which ferments, even in noble minds, toward the despotic and unreasonable North, against that portion of the North which is so opposed to the South; against the ultra-abolitionists and their violence. It is merely when I oppose them to the ultra of the pro-slavery party that I hold with the former. But what would I not give if the South, the true, the noble South, would itself take the subject of contention in hand, and silence the mouth of their opponents, silence their blame, both just and unjust, in a great and noble way, by laws which would bring about a gradual emancipation, by one law, at least, which should allow the slaves to purchase their own freedom and that of their families at a reasonable price, a price which should be established by law. This, it seems to me, might be required from the Southern States, as an act of justice to themselves, to their native land--so far as they desire to have part in its proud charter of liberty, and that they do desire--as an act of justice to their posterity, to the people whom they have enslaved, and for whom they thereby would open a future, first by means of hope, by a noble object for which to strive, and then a new existence in a life of freedom, either [p. 384] in Africa, or here in their adopted country, as the free servants or laborers of the whites; for I confess that, according to my opinion, the Southern States would lose a great part of their charm and their peculiar character in losing their black population. Bananas, negroes, and negro-songs are the greatest refreshments of the mind, according to my experience, which I found in the United States. And to every one, whether in Old or New England, who is troubled by spleen or dyspepsia, or over-excitement of brain or nerves, would I recommend, as a radical cure, a journey to the South to eat bananas, to see the negroes, and hear their songs. It will do them good to go through the primeval forest, with its flowers, and its odors, and to sail upon the red rivers! But the negroes are preferable to every thing else. They are the life and the good humor of the South. The more I see of this people, their manners, their disposition, way of talking, of acting, of moving, the more am I convinced that they are a distinct stock in the great human family, and are intended to present a distinct physiognomy, a distinct form of the old type, man, and this physiognomy is the result of temperament.
Last evening I went with Mrs. W. H. to a place in the city where the negroes, who come during the day to Charleston from the plantations to sell their small wares, baskets, woven mats, and such like, as well as garden produce, lie to with their boats. It was now evening, and the negroes were returning to their boats to row back up the river; they came with bundles in their hands, jugs on their heads, and all sorts of vessels filled with things which they had purchased with the product of their wares, wheaten bread and molasses being apparently the principal articles. Already were two boats filled with people, and baskets, and jugs, amid the merriest chatter and laughter; but still they waited for more, and I heard Adam, and Aaron, and Sally, and Mehala, and Lucy, and Abraham, [p. 385] and Sarah called for! We, in the mean time, fell into discourse with the negroes who stood on the shore, asking them to whom they belonged, whether they were well off, and so on. Two of those with whom we spoke could not sufficiently praise their masters, and told all that they had given them; on the contrary, they spoke ill of a planter in the neighborhood.
"I fancy you are talking against my master!" said a young negro, somewhat tartly, who came forward with a threatening gesture; on which the others immediately recalled their words. "No, Heaven forbid! They had said nothing, only that their masters--" But again they were interrupted by the champion of the censured master, who maintained that his master was not worse than theirs, and so on. And now a great cry was sent forth for Sally, and Nelly, and Adam, and Abraham, and Aaron! And directly Nelly, and Sally, and Abraham, and Adam, and Aaron, and I do not know how many other of Adam's captive sons and daughters, came running along with jugs, and baskets, and bottles toward the shore, and then down into the boats, amid loud shouting, and talking, and laughter; and how they all got into the boats, men and molasses, women and jugs, and baskets and bottles, helter-skelter, rolling and tumbling, without method or measure, rhyme or reason, which I could discover, is more than I can tell! I only could stare at it in astonishment. It was like a confused mass of arms, and legs, and heads in one black movement; but merry was it, and all went on good-humoredly, and good-humoredly they went off. And all the black mass was quiet, and then the boats put off from the shore with little zigzags, and talk and laughter was heard from one boat to the other, and white teeth shone out in the dark. When, however, they had got out in the river, and the oars kept time on the mirror-bright waters, they began to sing, and the chaotic confusion dissolved itself in the most beautiful harmony.[p. 386]
One peculiarity in these so-called children of nature is their aristocratic tendency; but I have always regarded the children of nature as natural aristocrats. They pride themselves on belonging to rich masters, and consider a marriage with the servant of a poor master as a great misalliance. They look up to their rich masters as an Oriental Grefac of the old race upon his ancestors. That which beyond every thing else is an impediment to the emancipation of this people, and in great masses, is their want of nationality, their want of popular spirit, and a general unity of feeling. They have merely a feeling for family or for kindred, and perhaps for the tribe, where the tribes still continue unbroken, as in Africa. They have no common memories, and no common object of lofty popular aspiration. The tribes and small principalities Africa prove this also. And to imagine that the emancipated slaves of America could, beyond the sea, in Liberia, in Africa, establish a community according to the American republic, is, I believe, a mistake. Small monarchical communities are, however, that which they appear to me formed for. They feel in a high degree the sentiment of piety and loyalty, and would always be easily governed, and would like to be governed by a naturally superior person. I see, therefore, the ideal of negro life in small communities, ennobled by Christianity, arranging itself round a superior--their priest or king, or both in one person. And in America I see them thus by preference around a white man, either as his free servants or small tenants, convinced that as a means of leading the people to order and reasonable industry the slaves' fetters and the whip are not needed, but merely Christian, human instruction, which leads to industry and order the preaching of Christianity, and that great influence which a man of the white race, by his natural intellectual superiority, and systematic turn of mind, will always have over the black. And if he would add to this in the [p. 387] scale a moral superiority also, he would become very powerful. To the white gentlemen of the South may be applied the words which Victor Hugo addressed to the monarchs of Europe:
"Oh rois! soyez grands, car le peuple grandit!"
The slave population of the South is increasing every day in numbers, in intelligence --is becoming more intelligent through the influence of the free blacks and the mulattoes, who are daily increasing in the Slave States, and who participate in the educational advantages of the whites. In a word, the black race is in a state of growth, in every way, in the Southern States. May the white race be wise enough to grow also, in spirit, in laws, in life! It has a great problem to solve. But I have hopes from the noble South, from the children of the light, from the truly emancipated in the Slave States. They will bring the right thing about.
And that would not be difficult, if the women would but awake. But ah! the greater number here sleep still--sleep still on soft couches, fanned by their slaves, not as free women. Man has so long talked to woman about her listening to the small voice, and that is good; but it is now time that she should listen to the great voice, to the voice of God's Spirit in the human race, which sounds over the whole earth, and vibrates through all free nations. Of a truth, it is time! --time that she listened to it, that she became magnanimous in heart and in thought. "If the mothers became noble-minded, would not the sons be noble?" said one of America's noble women; and history replies "Yes!"
As regards the slave owners, I may divide them into three classes: Mammon-worshipers, patriarchs, and heroes, or men of progress. The first regard the slaves merely from a pecuniary point of view, and use or misuse them at pleasure. The second consider themselves responsible for their office; consider that they can not, [p. 388] and ought not to surrender the property which they have inherited from their fathers, and which, perhaps, is all that they possess for themselves and their children; and they regard it as an imperative duty to preserve these inherited servants, to provide for their old age, and to make their present life as happy as possible, by means of instruction and Christianity, and to allow them as much freedom and as much innocent pleasure as possible. The third, highest class, advances the well-being of the slave with reference to their emancipation; and this is done by means of education, and such practical aids. They advance both people and country on the path of human cultivation. I have heard mention made of some persons even in Carolina as belonging to this latter class, and in particular of two wealthy ladies who have lately liberated their slaves. This is forbidden by the law; but here also has public opinion begun to go ahead of law; and the lawyers themselves aid by passing statutes to this end, and when they are reproached with this, they laugh, and seem untroubled by conscience.
I have heard some very beautiful traits of the patriarchs as well as of their slaves, and of the devotion on both sides. I believe them, because I have seen various instances of the kind, and they appear to me very natural. There is, upon the whole, no human being for whom I have a greater esteem and sympathy than the good and conscientious slaveholder, for his position is one of difficulty, and full of trouble.
By this assertion, however, I stand, that the institution of slavery degrades the white man still more than the black; it operates prejudicially on his development--on his justice --on his judgment; it operates prejudicially, in an especial manner, on the education of his children, and that subjection of their naturally violent tempers, which is so important in their earlier years. Private as well as public morals suffer therefrom. But enough, however-- [p. 389] and perhaps for you too much of this shadow-side of the state which is beloved by the sun.
I must now give you a short summary of my late doings.
I believe I last left off at the party which was going to be given in the house. It was very beautiful, and all went on well, and very charmingly too. Mrs. Hammarsköld (Emilie Holmberg) sang very sweetly; I played Swedish dances; people talked, and walked about, and drank--tout comme chez nous. I saw Mr. Simms, one of the best poets and novelists of South Carolina, this evening. He is an enthusiast for the beautiful scenery of the South, and that pleased me, and therein we agreed very well. Not so on the great question; but that I did not expect. I could embrace a young man who is able to look at this question with an unprejudiced and truthfully pure glance; that is, if he would permit it. I saw also a brother of young Miles, who said, speaking on this subject to me, "The world is against us, and we shall be overpowered by voices and condemned without justice, for what we are, and for what we are doing on behalf of our servants." I could not help sympathizing with him in this respect. The excitement is great and the bitterness is strong at this moment between the Northern and Southern States of the Union. Many voices in Carolina are raised for separation and war.
I have, besides, been to a great entertainment given by the Governor of South Carolina, Mr. Akin, and his lovely wife. There was very beautiful music; and for the rest, conversation in the room, or out under the piazzas, in the shade of blossoming creepers, the clematis, the caprifolium, and roses, quite romantic in the soft night air. Five hundred persons, it is said, were invited, and the entertainment was one of the most beautiful I have been present at in this country.
I saw many lovely young daughters of the South, but no great beauty; on the contrary, many were very pale. [p. 390] The ladies here universally use pearl-powder, which they afterward wipe off, and hence the skin has a sort of velvety, soft color for the moment, but the complexion only becomes more sallow in consequence. I am told that the great heat renders the use of this powder necessary. I have nothing exactly against it, if the powder be only rubbed quite off again; but that is often very imperfectly done. I fear that this white powdering is probably an heir-loom of the old French ancestry.
Yet once more have I wandered with Mrs. Holbrook in the myrtle groves of Belmont, and enjoyed with her an intellectual feast. I have also seen the young intelligent missionary, Mr. Miles; he has a pale, expressive countenance, a deeply penetrative eye--but ah! it has penetrated no more deeply to the heart of the great question than most other eyes here. On other subjects I have been delighted with the free, strong flight of his spirit.
I was invited one evening with Mrs. H. to meet various elderly members of her family. I met on this occasion a couple of old unmarried ladies, the owners of two beautiful islands on the coast of Carolina, where they live alone among three hundred negroes, as their owners, their advisers, and physicians, and in all cases on the best understanding with them. One white man only is on the plantation as overseer.
I regret much not having been able to accept an invitation, at least at this time, and that was to a Mr. Spalding's, a rich old gentleman, who, upon the beautiful island where he lives, has allowed the palmettoes to grow in freedom, and the negroes to live and work in freedom also, governed alone by the law of duty and love, and where all succeeds excellently; and all this have I been invited to see by this noble man. May he live forever!
The coasts, both of Georgia and Carolina, abound in islands, which, I understand, are beautiful as paradise, and rich in vegetation. The finest cotton grows on them.[p. 391]
Cotton is cultivated on the hills and on the islands of Georgia and Carolina; rice upon the lowlands. Even Carolina has hills and mountains abounding in metals, and fresh, clear mountain streams, which do not assume their chocolate hue till they are far on their course.
I intended to have made my journey northward through the highlands of Carolina, and thence through Tennessee and Virginia--because I must of necessity see "the Old Dominion," one of the oldest parent states, and the native land of Washington; but to travel through Tennessee would have been too fatiguing, where the roads are bad and the inns are bad--for that portion of the state is yet in its infancy--so that I did not dare to undertake the journey in the great heat; but instead shall return by the sea, beautifully and quietly as I came. On the 15th instant, therefore, I shall go on board the steamer to Philadelphia, and thence to Washington. Until then I remain quietly here, and only make little excursions in the city and its neighborhood.
I am quite well, my little Heart, thank God and homeopathy, and unremitting care as regards diet, and my beloved bananas! Besides this, I have availed myself of sea-bathing here; and though I bathe in a swamp and under cover, I feel that it is good for me. The Misses A., two wealthy unmarried sisters, of middle age, have had the kindness to lend me their carriage and horses to take me to the baths. The youngest of these ladies generally accompanies me. The coachman and the horses are faithful old servants of the family, and we are obliged to be driven as they will, and that is not rapidly. The other morning the following conversation occurred between the slave and his mistress.
She. "Dear Richard, don't drive us down ---- Street; it is so long and so sandy, we shall never get along. Do you hear, Richard?"
He. "Yes, I will drive that way, Missis."[p. 392]
She. "Ah, dear Richard, can't you drive another; for instance, along ---- Street?"
He. "No, Missis. I have something to get in ---- Street."
She. "Ah, dear Richard, can not I avoid going there?"
He. "No, Missis. I want to go there, Missis."
And, spite of renewed prayers, his mistress was obliged to yield, and we were driven the way which the obstinate Richard chose. These faithful old servants are more obstinate than ours, but then their eyes beam with a something so kind, with such a cordial life, that one can not help letting them have their way sometimes. They desire all for the good of the family.
Among other persons here who have shown me much kindness, and in whose society I have had pleasure, is the minister of the Lutheran Church, the clever natural historian, Mr. Bachman, a cheerful and agreeable man, and a universal favorite.
The master of the house where I am staying, Mr. William Howland, is now returned home. He is a man of refined, gentlemanly demeanor, and evidently a kind and beloved head of the family; one who seems particularly to enjoy being able to live, now for a time, quietly at home with his family. The children seem to dance in the evening more gayly than ever since Justina is at home, and Justina is a noble young girl, well grown, and with a noble exterior, but too pale in complexion. She has a fine talent for the piano, and in the evening, when the dancing is over, she and her sister Ilione sing to the piano negro songs, which amuse their father as much as they amuse me, and we sit under the piazza in the delicious night-air often till midnight.
One evening which I spent at Mr. G.'s I was present at the evening worship of the negroes, in a hall which that good, right-thinking minister had allowed them to use for that purpose. The first speaker, an old negro, [p. 393] was obliged to give place to another, who said he was so full of the power of the word that he could not possibly keep silence, and he poured forth of his eloquence for a good hour, but said the same thing over and over again. These negro preachers were far inferior to those which I heard in Savannah.
Finally, he admonished one of the sisters "to pray." On this, an elderly, sickly woman began immediately to pray aloud, and her evident fervor in thanksgiving for the consolation of the Gospel of Christ, and her testimony on behalf of its powers, in her own long and suffering life, was really affecting. But the prayer was too long; the same thing was repeated too often, with an incessant thumping on the bench with her fists, as an accompaniment to every groan of prayer. At the close of this, and when another sister was admonished to pray, the speaker added, "But make it short, if you please.!"
This sister, however, did not make it short, but longer even than the first, with still more circumlocution, and still more thumping on the bench.
A third sister, who was admonished to pray, received the short, definite injunction, "But short." And when she lost herself in the long bewilderment of prayer, she was interrupted without ceremony by the wordy preacher, who could no longer keep silence, but must hear himself talk on for another good hour. Nor was it until the singing of one of the hymns composed by the negroes themselves, such as they sing in their canoes, and in which the name "Jerusalem" is often repeated, that the congregation became really alive. They sang so that it was a pleasure to hear, with all their souls and with all their bodies in unison; for their bodies wagged, their heads nodded, their feet stamped, their knees shook, their elbows and their hands beat time to the tune and the words which they sang with evident delight. One must see these people singing if one is rightly to understand their [p. 394] life. I have seen their imitators, the so-called "Sable Singers," who travel about the country painted up as negroes, and singing negro songs in the negro manner, and with negro gestures, as it is said; but nothing can be more radically unlike, for the most essential part of the resemblance fails--namely, the life.
One of my pleasures here has been to talk with an old negro called Romeo, who lives in a little house in a garden near, and which said garden he takes care of, or rather neglects, according to his pleasure. He is the most good-tempered, merriest old man that any one can imagine, and he has a good deal of natural wit. He was, in the prime of his life, stolen from Africa and brought hither, and he tells stories about that event in the most naïve manner. I asked him one day what the people in his native land believed respecting life after death! He replied "that the good would go to the God of heaven who made them." "And what of the bad?" asked I. "They go out into the wind," and he blew with his mouth around him on all sides.
I got him to sing me an Ethiopian death-song, which seemed to consist of a monotone vibration upon three semi-tones; and after that an African love-song, which seemed to be tolerably rude, and which convulsed the old fellow with laughter. I have his portrait in my album, but he laughed and was so shame-faced while I made the sketch, that it was difficult for me to catch the likeness. He is dressed in his slave garments, gray clothes, and knitted woolen cap.
The negro people and the primeval forest have made a peculiarly living impression upon me, and have extended my vision as regards the richness of those forms in which the Creator expresses his life. The earth seems to me as a great symbolic writing, a grand epic, in which the various species of man, of vegetable productions and animals, water and land, form groups of separate songs and [p. 395] paragraphs which we have to read, and from which to learn the style of the Great Master, His design, and His system. My soul, in this view, spreads forth her wings and flies--alas! only in spirit--around the whole world; across the deserts and the paradise of Africa; across the icy tracts of Siberia; over the mountain land of the Himalayas--every where between the poles and the equator, where man lives, and animals breathe, and vegetation ascends toward the light; and I endeavor involuntarily to group and arrange the dissimilar forms into harmonious constellations around one central, all-illuminating Sun; but--all is yet only anticipation, glimpses, flashes of light into my soul--merely the dawn, the morning watch! Perhaps at length the perfect day may appear; perhaps in the native laud of runes, in my own silent home, I may be enabled to expound these runes of the earth, and that runic song which has been given me to ponder upon.
Of the mysteries of Charleston I shall not tell you any thing, because I know them not, excepting by rumor, and that which I know merely by rumor I leave untold. Dark mysteries, more indeed than rumor has told, can not fail in a great city in which slavery abides. I have heard it said that there is a flogging institution in Charleston for slaves, which brings the city a yearly revenue of more than ten thousand dollars. Every person who wishes to have his slave punished by the whip sends him there with money for his chastisement. I have both heard and read of this many times, and I believe it to be true. But the position of things here makes it difficult, nay, next to impossible, for me to search into such things. But I can not and will not become a spy. I receive merely that which comes to me compulsively by my own experience, and which I therefore consider as a knowledge by higher design, as a something which I ought to know and to receive. I have here properly to do with the ideal, and to [p. 396] seize and present it purely and faithfully. And it is in the feeling of that ideal South, as it already exists in some degree, and as it some time may wholly exist, in order to fulfill the design of the Creator, that I now bid farewell to the South, with both admiration and love-- sorrowing for that which it now is not, and hoping again to return.
I shall write you no more from this place, but next from one of the Northern States. I long to go northward for cooler air and a freer people. Here one is often obliged to swallow down one's innermost thoughts and be silent, if one would avoid either wounding others or disputing with them. And this heat--if it continues without intermission, as it is likely to do from one month to another, till October--rather would I dwell at North Cape, and be lighted by fire-wood three parts of the year!
But, notwithstanding, farewell thou beautiful, flowery South, the garden of North America! Thou hast warmed and refreshed me deliciously! farewell to thy piazzas covered with blossoming creepers shading pale beauties; farewell fragrant forests, red rivers where the songs of the negro resound; farewell kind, beautiful, amiable people, friends of the slave, but not of slavery! When now in spirit I look back to the South, I shall think upon you, and, through you, on the future of Carolina and Georgia. I see you, then, beneath your palmettoes or your magnolia and orange groves, the fruits of all the earth, and beyond all, the tropical bananas, spread out before you upon your hospitable boards; see you distribute them, as I have done many a time, to the stranger, to the needy, to the messengers of all nations! I see around you blacks as servants and friends. They are free, and you have made them so. They sing hymns which you have taught them, joyful songs which they themselves have made. And for them and for you sing the hundred-tongued birds in the cool live-oaks, which wave their long pendent mosses, [p. 397] while above them and you beams the mild blue southern heaven, and the blessing of heaven! May it be so!
P.S.--Yes, I must tell you about one of the mysteries of Charleston, because I have often seen it steal hastily by like a shadow in the streets and alleys there. It appears to be a woman, meanly clad, in the hues of twilight. She is called Mrs. Doctor Susan, for she is the physician and helper of the poor. She belongs to one of the higher families of the city, but, having made a false step in her youth, became an outcast from society, which in North America endures much secret immorality, but none which becomes public. It might perhaps, in the course of years, have forgiven, and again admitted the young delinquent to its circles, but she no longer sought for pardon from man. She turned her heart and her eye to One much higher. She became the servant of his poor and afflicted people. And since then she may only be met with among them, or on the way to them. That which is given to her, either of money or of clothing, is applied by her to the use of the poor, and she herself lives in voluntary poverty.
The negroes in my friend's family were at one time so ill of an infectious fever that every one fled from them. But Doctor Susan came and tended them, and restored them to health, and when she was rewarded for it she considered her reward too great. Known throughout the whole city, she goes every where in her poor, dark attire, like a messenger of consolation, but always rapidly, silently, and as if fearful of being seen. Like the fire-fly, it is only in the dark that she sends forth her clear in-dwelling light; like it has she been trampled upon by mankind, and she yet gives forth light.
Farewell dear heart! Greet those you know, and wish it from yourFREDRIKA.
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