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    CHAPTER XXIII.   Table of Contents

Brown, Josephine
Biography of an American Bondman



"Hail, noble-hearted, sympathetic band!
Men of hope-giving speech and ready hand!
Followers of the Lowly, One, who first began
To plead for charity to fallen man!"

As it regards social position, any government is preferable to that of the United States for a colored person to live under. The prejudice which exists in most of the American States against people of color is unknown in any European country. This, therefore, is a great inducement to colored Americans to take up their residence abroad. Although recognised as a man, and treated with deference by all he met, Mr. Brown wished to return to the United States. His feelings and inclinations were all with the slave and his friends, and his soul yearned to be where the great battle for freedom was being fought. With such feelings, he had no wish to remain in England, when informed by his friends that his liberty had been secured; he therefore made preparations to return home immediately. The following, from "Sketches of Places and People Abroad," will give some idea of the (now) freeman's feelings, when preparing for his departure from London:--

"What a change five years make in one's history! The summer of 1849 found me a stranger in a foreign

land, unknown to its inhabitants; its laws, customs and history were a blank to me. But how different the summer of 1854! During my sojourn, I had travelled over nearly every railroad in England and Scotland, and had visited Ireland and Wales, besides spending some weeks on the Continent. I had become so well acquainted with the British people and their history, that I had begun to fancy myself and Englishman, by habit, if not by birth. The treatment which I had experienced at their hands had endeared them to me, and caused me to feel myself at home wherever I went. Under such circumstances, it was not strange that I commenced with palpitating heart the preparations to return to my native land . Native land! How harshly that word sounds in my ears! True, America was the land of my birth; my grandfather had taken part in her Revolution, had enriched the soil with his blood, yet upon this soil I had been worked as a slave. I seem to hear the sound of the auctioneer's rough voice, as I stood on the block in the slave-market at St. Louis. I shall never forget the savage grin with which he welcomed a higher bid, when he thought he had received the last offer. I had seen my mother sold, and taken to the cotton-fields of the far South; three brothers had been bartered to the soul-drivers in my presence; a dear sister had been sold to the negro-dealer and driven away by him; I had seen the rusty chains fastened upon her delicate wrists; the whip had been applied to my own person, and the marks of the brutal driver's lash were still on my body. Yet this was my native land, and to this land was I about to embark."

Mr. Brown came home in the steamship "City of Manchester," and landed at Philadelphia, where a reception was given to him. "The meeting," says the Anti-Slavery Standard , was held in the Brick Wesley Church, which was crowded to its utmost capacity with the friends of Mr. Brown, and the public generally, to extend to him the most cordial token of regard. The fact that he had faithfully and nobly represented his enslaved countrymen, while in Europe, was too obvious, in the estimation of those who had assembled to welcome and great him on his return, to admit of a shadow of doubt. During the five years that Mr. Brown had passed in Europe, his numerous friends, especially the colored man, have had great cause of satisfaction and gratification in looking over his labors; as a lecturer, presenting the claims of his brethren in bonds; as an author, constantly using his pen in enlightening the British people on the monstrous iniquities of slavery, and likewise contributing to the demands of literature and knowledge in other respects--two of his works having been published and creditably noticed by the press of Great Britain."

Robert Purvis , Esq., one of the most devoted friends of the slave, presided over the meeting, and at its close, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:--

" Resolved , That we rejoice in the opportunity afforded by this meeting of greeting our friend Wm. Wells Brown, on his return to this country, and that we hereby avail ourselves of it to extend to him our heartiest assurances of welcome.


"Resolved , That our thanks are due to Mr. Brown for the zeal and fidelity with which he has advocated the cause of freedom and the interests of the colored man in Great Britain, and that we are severally grateful to him for leaving a country where a black man labors under no disabilities, and where there is no prejudice against color, to return to this land of slavery, and labor for the disenthralment of his brethren from the hate of the white man and the chains of the slave holder."

At Boston, a meeting was held in the Meionaon, at which Francis Jackson , Esq., the staunch friend of humanity, presided. Speeches were made by Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Wm. C. Nell , and Wendell Phillips . The last-named speaker, in welcoming Mr. Brown, said,-- "I rejoice that our friend Brown went abroad; I rejoice still more that he has returned. The years any thoughtful man spends abroad must enlarge his mind and store it richly. But such a visit is, to a colored man, more than merely intellectual education. He lives for the first time free from the blighting chill of prejudice. He sees no society, no institution, no place of resort or means of comfort from which his color debars him."

After mentioning some amusing instances of the surprise of Americans at this absence of prejudice abroad, Mr. Phillips said,-- "We have to thank our friend for the fidelity with which he has, amid many temptations, stood by those whose good name religious prejudice is trying to undermine in Great Britain. That land is not all Paradise to the colored man. Too

many of them allow themselves to be made tools of the most subtle foes of their race. We recognise, to-night, the clear-sightedness and fidelity of Mr. Brown's course abroad, not only to thank him, but to assure our friends there that this is what the Abolitionists of Boston endorse."

Mr. Phillips proceeded:-- "I still more rejoice that Mr. Brown has returned. Returned to what? Not to what he can call his 'country.' The white man comes 'home.' When Milton heard, in Italy, the sound of arms from England, he hastened back-- young, enthusiastic, and bathed in beautiful art as he was in Florence. 'I would not be away,' he said, 'when a blow was struck for liberty.' He came to a country where his manhood was recognised, to fight on equal footing. The black man comes home to no liberty but the liberty of suffering--to struggle in fetters for the welfare of his race. It is a magnanimous sympathy with his blood that brings such a man back. I honor it. We meet to do it honor. Franklin's motto was, Ubi Liberates, ibi patria -- Where Liberty is, there is my country. Had our friend adopted that for his rule, he would have stayed in Europe. Liberty for him is there. The colored man who returns, like our friend, to labor, crushed and despised, for his race, sails under a higher flag: his motto is, 'Where my country is, there will I bring liberty!'"

    CHAPTER XXIII.   Table of Contents