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Mattison, Hiram
Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon



We often hear pathetic appeals for money to send missionaries to the heathen, who burn widows on funeral piles, or throw their children into the Ganges; but the suttee was long since abolished in India; and so far as we know there is but one place on earth where human beings are burned alive. That place is the Slave States of America!

The following is from the St. Louis Democrat of July 20, 1859; it relates to a slave-burning that had recently taken place at Marshall, Missouri:

The negro was stripped to his waist, and barefooted. He looked the picture of despair; but there was no sympathy felt for him at the moment.

Presently, the fire began to surge up in flames around him, and its effects were soon made visible in the futile attempts of the poor wretch to move his feet. As the flames gathered about his limbs and body, he commenced the most frantic shrieks, and appeals for mercy, for death, for water. He seized his chains; they were hot, and burned the flesh off his hands. He would drop them and catch at them again and again. Then he would repeat his cries; but all to no purpose. In a few moments he was a charred mass, bones and flesh alike burned into a powder."

Read also the following description of a similar scene in Mississippi, from the Natchez Free Trader, 1858:

"The victim was chained to a tree, faggots were placed around him, while he showed the greatest indifference. When the chivalry had arranged the pile, in reply to a question, if he had any thing to say, he is reported to have warned all slaves to take example by him, and asked the prayers of those around. He then asked for a drink of water, and after quaffing it said, "Now set fire, I am ready to go in peace." When the flames began to burn him, in his agony he showed gigantic strength, and actually forced the staple from the tree, and bounded from the burning mass. But he instantly fell pierced with rifle balls, and then his body was thrown into the flames and consumed, to show that no such being had ever existed. Nearly four thousand slaves from the neighboring plantations were present as at a moral lesson written in characters of hell fire. Numerous speeches were made by the magistrates and ministers of religion (facetiously so called) to the slaves, warning them that the same fate awaited them if they proved rebellious to their owners."

Read also the following, taken from the Alton (Ill.) Telegraph of April 30, 1836; it is part of an account of a slave-burning published in that paper under that date:

"All was silent as death when the executioners were piling wood around their victim. He said not a word, until feeling that the flames had seized upon him. He then uttered an awful howl, attempting to sing and pray, then hung his head, and suffered in silence, except in the following instance: After the flames had surrounded their prey, his eyes burned out of his head, and his mouth seemingly parched to a cinder, some one in the crowd, more compassionate than the rest, proposed to put an end to his misery by shooting him, when it was replied, 'that it would be of no use, since he was already out of pain.' 'No, no,' said the wretch, 'I am not, I am suffering as much as ever; shoot me, shoot me.' 'No, no,' said one of the fiends who was standing about the sacrifice they were roasting, 'he shall not be shot. I would sooner slacken the fire, if that would increase his misery ;' and the man who said this was, as we understand, an officer of justice.

"If any one wishes evidence of other negroes being burned in the State of Missouri, I can furnish it--evidence of the burning of eight negroes within the last ten years, and innumerable instances of negroes being burned throughout the Slave States.Gilbert J. Greene .
" Tarrytown, N.Y., August 21, 1860."

Some time in the early part of 1860, Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, publicly denied that slaves were ever burned alive at the South. This denial led to the collection of quite an amount of

testimony upon the subject, most of which was published in the New York Tribune. We subjoin a few of these testimonies:

The editor of Hayneville (Ala.), Chronicle very justly observes:

"It is questionable whether burning negroes by whites has any better effect than to brutalize the feeling of a community. Several have already been burned in Montgomery County, without, it, seems, decreasing crime among them."

Here it is stated by an Alabama editor that "several" negroes have already been burned in Montgomery County. Several in a single county

Our next witness is a Mr. Poe, a native of Richmond, Va., and afterward a resident of Hamilton County, Ohio, where he was a highly respected ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church. In a letter written about twenty years since, upon the subject of slavery, he says: "In Goochland County, Virginia, an overseer tied a slave to a tree, flogged him again and again with great severity, then piled brush around him, set it on fire, and burned him to death. The overseer was tried and imprisoned. The whole transaction may be found on the records of the court."

The late John Parrish, of Philadelphia, an eminent minister of the Society of Friends, traveled through the Slave States on a religious mission, early in this century, and on his return published a pamphlet entitled "Remarks on the Slavery of the Black People." Among other instances of cruel punishment, he states that a slave "was burned to death at a stake in Charleston, surrounded by a multitude of spectators, some of whom were people of the first rank; ... the poor object was heard to cry, as long as he could breathe, 'not guilty--not guilty!'"

In the year 1836, a man of color was arrested in St. Louis for some offense, but was rescued by one Mackintosh, a free man of color, a steward on board a steamboat. On his way to the jail, in order to effect his escape, he stabbed and killed one of his captors. The wife and children of the murdered man excited

the rage of the people by their lamentations, the jail was surrounded, the murderer demanded, and given up. He was led into the woods, on the then outskirts of the city, but near the spot where the court-house was afterward built, brush wood and green wood was piled about him, and fire set to the heap, in presence of a concourse of two or three thousand of the citizens of St. Louis. The poor wretch was from twenty minutes to half an hour in dying, during which he was praying or singing hymns in a calm voice. When his legs were consumed, the trunk disappeared in the blazing pile. "There," said a bystander, "it is over with him; he does not feel any more now." "Yes, I do," answered a steady voice from out of the flames.

A correspondent of the Cincinnati Herald , in July, 1845, writes to that paper that, not long before, some slaves near Oakland Cottage, Mississippi, were emancipated by the will of their master. For some reason the will was not carried out, and the slaves, exasperated by the delay, and fearful of being cheated out of the property in themselves, left them by their master, set on fire the house of the overseer, and a white child was lost in the flames. The incendiaries, eight or nine in number, were seized by the neighbors, and two of them immediately hanged. The rest were confined in a log-house, and chained to the floor. A torch was then put to the building, and the miserable creatures roasted by a slow fire, while the air was rent with their cries.

"I have just received," writes a correspondent of the N.O. Picayune, at Jackson, Mississippi, on the 25th of December, 1855, "the particulars of a most horrid affair just transpired at Lexington, in this State. A young lady of the neighborhood was assaulted, on a lonely road, by a slave, who attempted to violate her person. She was rescued, however, before he had as complished his purpose, and after being deposited in a place of safety, the alarm was raised, and a hunt for the negro who had fled, was instituted. He was soon found, and execution was speedy. He was taken into Lexington, chained to a stake, as burned alive.


The Montgomery (Ala.) Mail of April 3, 1856, says, "We learn that the negro who murdered Mr. Capeheart, was burned to death yesterday at Mount Meigs. He acknowledge himself guilty."

The Union Springs (Ala.) Gazette of the 23d of December, 1858, gives the particulars of the murder of a Mr. J. by his slave-boy Mitford. He had been whipped, and chained up from Saturday to Monday, and, when released by his master, seized an axe and killed him. The negro made no attempt to escape, and no resistance when taken. A public meeting was called on Wednesday to consider the case, and, by a unanimous vote of the assembly, it was resolved to burn him alive. "That evening," continues the Gazette, "at three o'clock, in the presence of five hundred persons, he was chained to a tree and burned."

They closed their pleasant Christmas holidays of 1858 in the same way in Troy, Ky. On the first day of last year, 1859m at the annual negro sales at Troy, Mr. James Calaway, the brother-in-law of one Simon B. Thornhill, who, it seems, had been murdered by a slave in revenge for some punishment, mounted a box in the street, and exhorted the people to do speedy justice upon the murderer, and closed by saying, "All that feel as I do, will follow me." Eight hundred or a thousand followed him. They went to the jail, took out the prisoner, and in the jail-yard itself, drove down a stake, to which they chained him hand and feet. Fine split wood was piled around him, and he was miserably burned to death. "He gave," says a correspondent of the Maysville (Ky.) Eagle, "some of the most hideous dreams I ever heard come from any human being."

The Vicksburg Sun of Saturday, March 31, 1860, says that a negro man belonging to Mr. Woodfolk, on Deer Creek, was brutally burned at the stake for the murder of a negro woman. All the negroes on that and the adjoining plantations witnessed the burning. "His fate was decreed by a council of highly reiable gentlemen."


In 1856, Dr. Parsons, of Boston, a gentleman of unquestionable character, published a little work of travels at the South. He copies from the Sumter (Ala.) Whig an account of a recent burning of a slave in that county. "Dave," the slave, belonged to James D. Thornton, was accused of having murdered a daughter of his mistress, and, after his arrest, confessed his guilt. Thornton and his friends took him from the jail by a stratagem, and bore him off in triumph. "They left in high glee," says the Whig, and carried their prisoner to the appointed place of sacrifice. Here he was "tied to a stake, with fat light wood piled around him, and the torch was applied in the presence of two thousand persons, who had met there to witness the novel scene." There were, it seems, some rumors afloat, that "Dave" was tortured, but these, the Whig declares, were "entirely untrue." So, burning men alive is not torture in Alabama. An inquiring mind, which is not sensitive, might seek to know what is.

Dr. Parsons gives another instance which occurred not long before his visit in Georgia, the particulars of which he received from eye-witnesses. A slave had received from his mistress some punishment of great severity, when he seized a hatchet, and, as he supposed, killed her, though she afterward recovered. On committing the deed, he ran at once to the court-house and surrendered himself to justice. Justice in civilized countries would have been hanging. In Georgia, it was this: The slave was given to the mob, who first gave him fifty lashes a day for five days to prepare him for what was to follow. On the following Sunday, he was taken from the jail, and suspended, naked, by his two hands, from the limp of a large oak-tree near the court-house. A fire made of hard-pine shavings was kindled beneath him, and "then the clear bright flames quickly ascended, curling about the limbs, encircling the body, scorching the nerves, crushing the fibers, charring the flesh--and, in mortal anguish, he was (in the words of an eye-witness) 'sweating as it were, great drops of blood.'" But before life was entirely extinguished, the lungs, the heart, the liver, were cut and torn from the body, with knives fastened upon poles, and with these

quivering organs elevated above the crowd, the executioners shouted, "So shall it be done to the slave that murders his mistress!"

On the 7th of January, 1857, three years ago, Mr. John Kingsley, of Portsmouth, Ohio, wrote to the Antislavery Standard of this city that he was the week before in Carter County, Ky., where he saw a negro tied to a stake, a pile of dry wood heaped about him, and set on fire. The man belonged to one Wm. McMinnis, of that county, and was suspected of planning an insurrection. He was first whipped, 200 lashes, but denied his guilt. Fire was then tried, and, though not burned to death, he died next day. Mr. Kingsley, unable to remain and witness the sufferings of the agonized creature, road away and attempted to excite the neighbors to a rescue; he was told to mind his own business.

Big Rapids , Mecosta Co., Mich.,

March 28, 1860.

* * * In the township of Extra, in Ashley County, Arkansas, the discovery was made, that a widow named Hill, and a slave woman, belonging to J.L.M--,Esq., who lived with her, had been murdered, and the house burned to conceal the deed. The alarm soon spread, and an investigation was instituted by Mr. M--, in connection with many of the leading citizens. Suspicion fell upon a slave named Ike, belonging to a man named Perdue. Ike was whipped nearly to death, in order to extort from him a confession, but he persisted in denying any knowledge of the affair. Mr. M--then poured upon his bleeding back spirits of turpentine, and set it on fire! Ike then confessed that he and a negro named Jack, belonging to J.F. Norrell, were hired by one Miller to assist in performing the deed. One fact, however, greatly invalidated this testimony, and that was, that Mr. M--and Mr. Norrell were deadly enemies, and Ike must have known that nothing could have pleased Mr. M--more than to convict Jack, thus subjecting his most bitter enemy to a loss of a favorite slave, worth twelve or fifteen hundred dollars. Jack was, however, immediately arrested and brought before the regulators, and certain circumstances

seeming in some degree to corroborate Ike's statement, stakes were driven into the ground, and the two slaves chained to them. A large quantity of fat pine was piled around them and J.L.M--set it on fire! In a few minutes, nothing but charred and blackened corpses remained. A subscription, was circulated to indemnify the owners for their losses.

Mr. Norrell told me that when the flames were rising ten feet above Jack's head, he said to the dying slave, "I have raised you, Jack, and I never caught you in a lie. You are going to die! nothing can save you; and now, tell me truly, as you hope for heaven, are you guilty?" Jack answered from the flames, "Master, I don't know any more about it than you do." Mr. Norrell and all his family believed Jack to have been innocent, and shed tears as they spoke of him.

The act of burning turpentine upon the lacerated back, I had from the lips of Mr. M--himself, who rather boasted of his ingenuity in thus eliciting testimony when ordinary means had failed.

I have given true names and can give the names of more than one hundred men in the vicinity, and I am ready at any time to make affidavit to what I have stated.Corydon E. Fuller.

Such is the barbarism of slavery. And let no man say that these "evils" of slavery are no part of the system, and not justly chargeable to it. As well may we expect drunkenness without broils and litigation, and idleness and destitution, as to expect to hold men and women in slavery without scourgings, and thumb-screws, and murder, and almost every species of torture.

God never made a man to be a slave, and no measure of cruelty can reduce an immortal spirit, made in the image of God, to entire submission to life-long bondage. Hence, while slavery exists, chains, and thumb-screws, and slave-maiming, and slave-burnings must exist, as the only means by which one race can be kept in a state of even partial submission to another. And even with all these terrors before them, the wonder is that the slaves do not arise, and assert their freedom at all hazards.