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    CHAPTER XIX.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXI.

Brown, Josephine
Biography of an American Bondman



"Methinks I hear a tuneful voice
Chiming afar, o'er land and sea,
The sun of freedom wakes! -- rejoice!
Thy bonds are broken -- thou art free!"

In the winter of 1850, William and Ellen Craft, two fugitive slaves, arrived in England, and being in a strange land, and without the means of support, applied to Mr. Brown, who was just on the eve of making and anti-slavery tour through Scotland. Mr. Brown at once wrote to the Crafts to join him. These two interesting fugitives were born and brought up in Macon, Ga. To make their slaves more valuable, owners sometimes have them taught trades. A man who understands a good trade will sell for three or four hundred dollars more in the market. William Craft, having learned the trade of a cabinet maker, was able to earn considerable money for himself during hours when he was not required to work for his owner; and slaveholders always encourage their servants to labor, and get their own clothes, and other necessaries of life, because all that the slave gains in this way is so much saved by the master. William Craft did more than to get clothes for himself. In the course of five years, he laid aside one hundred and fifty dollars. William became acquainted with Ellen, a slave girl owned by Dr.

Collins, and residing in the same town. Like many of the slaves at the South, Ellen was as white as most persons of the clear Anglo-Saxon origin. Her features were prominent, hair straight, eyes of a light hazel color, and no one on first seeing the white slave would suppose that a drop of African blood coursed through her veins. With the permission of their owners, William and Ellen were united in marriage, after the fashion of the slaves. But both of these persons had long been lamenting their sad condition, and were only waiting for an opportunity of escaping from the house of bondage. It is usual, among what are called good slaveholders, to give their servants the Christmas week as a time of rest and pleasure. Such was the custom of the owners of William and Ellen. As the Christmas of 1848 approached, the Crafts, instead of studying how they should best spend their time in pleasure, began maturing a plan of escape. "I don't think this is a good half dollar," said William, as he finished counting his money late one night. "Still," continued he, "I shall have no trouble in passing it." "If some persons had your money, they would have a jolly time this Christmas," remarked Ellen. "I wish we could get our freedom with it," replied the husband. "Now, William," said the wife, "listen to me, and take my advice, and we shall be free in less than a month." "Let me hear your plans, then,"said William. "Take part of your money and purchase me a good suit of gentlemen's apparel, and when the white people give us our holiday, let us go off to the North, instead of spending our time in
pleasure. I am white enough to go as the master, and you can pass as my servant." "But you are not tall enough for a man." said the husband. "Get me a pair of very high-heeled boots, and they will bring me up more than an inch, and get me a very high hat, then I'll do," rejoined the wife. "But then, my dear, you would make a very boyish looking man, with no whiskers or moustache," remarked William. "I could bind up my face in a handkerchief," said Ellen, "as if I was suffering dreadfully from the toothache, and then no one would discover the want of beard." "What if you were called upon to write your name in the books at hotels, as I saw my master do when travelling, or were asked to receipt for any thing?" "I would also bind up my right hand and put it in a sling, and that would be an excuse itself for not writing." "I fear you could not carry out the deception for so long a time, for it must be several hundred miles to the free States," said William, as he seemed to despair of escaping from slavery by following his wife's plan. "Come, William," entreated his wife, "don't be a coward! Get me the clothes, and I promise you we shall both be free in a few days. You have money enough to fit me out and to pay our passage to the North, and then we shall be free and happy". This appeal was too much for William to withstand, and he resolved to make the attempt, whatever might be the consequences.

Permission having been obtained from their master, William and Ellen went to spend their Christmas on Dr. Collins's farm, twelve miles from Macon. It was

understood that the slaves were to start on their journey on the 24th of December, 1848, and to return to their employer on the day after Christmas. At the appointed time, instead of going to the farm, the husband and wife went to the railway depot, and took the six o'clock train for Philadelphia. Dressed in her new suit, with her hat of the latest fashion, and high-heeled boots, with a pair of spectacles, she had rather a collegiate appearance. Under the assumed name of William Johnson, she took her seat in a first-class car, while William, with his servant's ticket, entered the Jim Crow car. At Savannah, the fugitives took a steamboat for Charleston, and from thence, by railway and steamboat, they arrived at Philadelphia in four days. Many thrilling incidents occurred during their journey. At Charleston, Mr. Johnson stopped at the best hotel, and was not a little surprised to find himself seated near the Hon. John C. Calhoun at the dinner table. Both at Richmond and Washington, the fugitives came very near being detected. But the most amusing incident that happened during this novel journey was Mr. Johnson's making the acquaintance of a white family, who were also coming North. On the second day of the journey, a well-dressed old gentleman, accompanied by his two daughters, both unmarried, but marriageable, entered the car in which Mr. Johnson was, and took seats a short distance from him. The old gentleman, being rather communicative," soon entered into conversion with the young man in spectacles. "You appear to bear invalid," said the gray-haired gentleman, as he looked earnestly into the face of Mr.
Johnson. "Yes," replied the other, "I have long been afflicted with inflammatory rheumatism." "Ah! I know what that is, and can heartily sympathize with you," returned the old man. From the time of this conversation, both father and daughters appeared to take great interest in the young invalidate. At every depot where they took refreshment, William acted his part as servant admirably. He waited on the old gentleman and his daughters, as well as on his own master, and by his politeness and attention attracted the notice of all. "That is a valuable servant of yours," said the old gentleman to Mr. Johnson , as William passed through the cabin of the steamer, while on the way from Savannah to Charleston. "Yes, sir, he is a boy that I am very much attached to," returned the young man. "Good negroes are valuable appendages," said the old man, yawningly, as he pulled his gold watch from his pocket to see the time. As the train approached Richmond, the old gentleman expressed great regret that they were to lose the company of their new acquaintance. "I am also sorry that we are to part," remarked Mr. Johnson . It was then discovered that Miss Henriette, the oldest of the young ladies, seemed to have more interest in the young man than one would entertain for a mere acquaintance. "We are very much fatigued with this long journey," said the old gentleman, "and I am sure you must be tired; why won't you stop with us and rest yourself for a few days? My wife, knowing that you have been our travelling companion, will be glad to welcome you, and my daughter Henrietta here will be delighted." Miss Henrietta,
feeling that this gave her an opportunity to speak said, "Do, Mr. Johnson, stop and regain your strength. We have some pretty walks about Richmond, and I shall be so pleased to show them to you." The young invalid found that this was carrying the joke too far, and began to regret his intimate acquaintance with the young lady. However, he gave, as an excuse for declining the invitation, that urgent business demanded his immediate presence in Philadelphia, and promised them he would pay them a visit on his return to Georgia.

William and Ellen Craft, on their arrival in Philadelphia, committed themselves to the care of Mr. Brown, who was on a lecturing tour through Pennsylvania, and he brought them on to Boston. The Fugitive Slave Law drove them to England, where they again joined their old friend. Through Mr. Brown's influence, an interest was created for William and Ellen in England, and they were placed in a school, where they remained two years. In this "Sketches of Places and People Abroad," Mr. Brown describes an interview between Ellen Craft and Lady Byron as follows;--

"Some months since, a lady, apparently not more than fifty years of age, entered a small dwelling on the estate of the Earl of Lovelace, situated in the country of Surry. After ascending a flight of stairs and passing through a narrow passage, she found herself in a small but neat room, with plain furniture. On the table lay copies of the Liberator Near the window sat a young woman, busily engaged in sewing, with a

spelling-book lying open on her lap. The light step of the stranger had not broken the silence, so as to announced the approach of any one, and the young woman still sat at her task, unconscious that any one was near. A moment or two, and the lady was observed. The student hastily arose and apologized for her apparent inattention. The stranger was soon seated, and in conservation with the young woman. The lady had often hard the world `slave', and knew something of its application, but had never before seen one of her own sex who had actually been born and brought up in a state of chattel slavery; and the one in whose company she was so white, and had so much the appearance of a well-bread and educated lady, that she could scarcely realize that she was in the presence of an American slave. For more than an hour, the illustrious lady and the poor exile sat and carried on a most familiar conversation. The thrilling story of the fugitive slave often brought tears to the eyes of the stranger. O, how I would that every half-bred, aristocratic, slaveholding, woman-whipping, negro-hating woman of America could have been present and heard what passed between these two distinguished persons! They would for once have seen one who, though moving in the most elevated and aristocratic society of Europe, felt it an honor to enter the small cottage, and take a seat by the side of a poor hunted and exiled American fugitive slave."

    CHAPTER XIX.   Table of Contents     CHAPTER XXI.