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The Continuing Serialization of the antebellum Charleston novel, “Jack.”

Book One (end)

Chapter 34 

The Story of the Runaway Slave

(Click on “Jack the Novel” in the banner photo above to read many of the earlier chapters in this planned three-part illustrated series. Book one will be available at Amazon soon. Teachers: email the author at dorion9@gmail.com for special rates)

Jack told Ginny and Molly what happened in school yesterday with master spewing out his poison about the darkies. They were not surprised. Jack said he wanted to do a report on slavery and said he was thinking of telling the story to the class about the runaway we was hiding. “Don’t you dare!” she said. “Wait here. I’ll be back in a jiff!” We attended to Molly’s stall while she went to get something. When she returned, she gave Jack a little book and made us promise never to reveal where we got it. “I’ll just say I found it on the road,” said Jack, “if ever I have to defend my having it.”

The next Monday, Jack brought the little book to the front of the classroom and told the class that he was going to read the story of John, a runaway slave who Jack said was now safe somewhere up in England where he was lecturing about the evils of slavery.

Master Whitemore grimaced as Jack had the attention of every one of the twelve girls and boys.

“What I’m a’gonna read to you was written down by John Andrew Jackson with the help of some white folks in England who wants his message to be heard by every child in America. So listen good and hear what this escaped slave, John Andrew Jackson, is a-sayin about freedom and how bad his life was at the plantation.”

Jack looked over at master who had the sourest look on his face any of us had ever seen. Jack cleared his throat a couple of times, and then picked up the short book that was Jackson’s autobiography:

(The following account read by the fictional character Jack is an excerpt from the actual autobiography of John Andrew Jackson provided through the courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the novel, Jack, the John Andrew Jackson book appears as though it was in circulation in the 1850s – it may have been in circulation then – but it was not formally published until 1862. The author of Jack took license with the time in order to incorporate the Jackson book into the novel. Call number E445 .S7 J32 (Wilson Annex, UNC-CH) The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South.  Jackson’s Book is entitled, The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina. It originally was printed in London by Passmore & Alabaster, Wilson Street, FINSBURY. 1862. Entered at Stationer’s Hall.)

“This is part of the sad and scary tale of John Andrew Jackson – an escaped slave who made his way to freedom but was forced to escape from his new home in Massachusetts to England when the good ole USA passed the Fugitive Slave Law, ” Jack explained.

“How am I a’doin’ so far, Master Whittemore sir? I hope this is a’goin’ to get me a good grade like ya promised sir! Cuz, as you can see Master, I put a lot of effort into this like you said you a’wanted to see there sir,” said Jack.

“Just get on with it Mr. Stone and have your say – you cannot shut up an ignorant scheming abolitionist anyway,” Whittemore replied. The children snickered to themselves as they knew now that Jack had tricked Master Whittemore.

“Okay master, thanks sir,” said Jack, “I certainly do appreciate it sir. I want to be one of your best students sir so I really studied hard for this speech just like you told me.” Jack proceeded to read to the class the following true story of this escaped South Carolinian slave:

“I was born in South Carolina. My grandfather was stolen from Africa. My father learned the African method of curing snake bites, and was in consequence, called Dr. Clavern. My mother’s name was Betty. I had five brothers and five sisters. Of these, two brothers and two sisters were dead when I left the plantation. My earliest recollection was of my mistress, whom I feared above all persons, as she used every means in her power to spite me. The reason for this was as follows:—When I was about ten years old, I and her son were digging for hickory root to amuse ourselves with, when he, seeing that I was obtaining mine quicker than he, kicked me on the nose, upon which I wiped the blood upon him. He ran and informed his mother, who whipped me on my naked back, to console her son, till the blood ran down. After that, she always hated not only me but my family, and would even stint my mother’s allowance; and since then, I had many whippings through her influence.

My mistress had four daughters, viz.:—Anne, Eliza, Jane, and Martha. Of Anne, the eldest, I knew but little, as she married when I was very young, and went to another plantation. Eliza, the next, was the worst of the three. She used to whip me almost as much as my mistress. Of Jane, the next, I also knew but little, as she married a minister named Brailly, when I was very young; but, as far as I know, she was the best of the three. Martha, the youngest, was very bad. I will give a specimen of her abilities.

One day, as she was returning from a walk in the garden, she saw my youngest brother, William, walking in the yard, and, from pure mischief, she picked some horse nettles, and, coming up to him, (he was quite naked) began to sting him with them, and, as he ran away, she ran after him, and kept up with him, stinging him on the sides and back, till at last he fell down through pain; nevertheless, she kept on stinging him, without any intermission; at last he got up and began running, and by that time I got up to him, (I was about ten years of age, and he being between five and six) and I cried out to him, “Run faster, William, run faster,” whereupon she turned upon me, and I being able to run faster than she, I escaped her, and by that means my brother William effected his escape. When William got home, he was covered with large lumps all over his body. When she was married she had my sister whipped to death. The circumstances were as follows:

My sister was religious, and perhaps it stung her conscience, or it might have been for some other reason; but, at all events, she ordered my sister to leave off praying, and as she discovered my sister did not obey her commands, she asked her husband, Gamble M’Farden (a member of the Salem Brick Church, who was, if possible, worse than herself, and she was a member also) to give her a hundred lashes, and he took her and hung her up by the hands to the beef gallows, (an apparatus on which they hang oxen when they skin them) and called his negro slave Toney, and ordered him to give her a hundred lashes, and he commenced beating her incessantly; he then remonstrated with his master, because she fainted, and his brutal master, (who, though a member of a Christian church, was notwithstanding, equal to the devil himself) coolly ordered him to bring a pail of water and throw over her, to revive her; and when she came to, he ordered him to continue, which Toney did; but at length made a pause, and told his master that he had given her fifty lashes, but the brutal answer was, “Give me the whip, and I will give her the other fifty,” which he did. She died at the end of three weeks, leaving two children, a boy and girl, who, with my father, I now hope to buy. My mistress also had four sons, James, Robert, Thomas, and Mack. James English, a member of Brick Church, was as bad as any of them; he was married when I was little. I worked on his plantation once, driving oxen, and I will relate what I saw there.

A slave, named Jack, was taken sick while working on the plantation, and he laid himself down in the fence corner. When his master came, he saw him lying down, and he told him to get up immediately and go on working. Jack replied, “O massa, I’m so sick.” “Get up immediately, you lazy varmint,” replied his master, and he commenced whipping him till he got up; but as soon as his master was off that field, he lay down again. The slaves, seeing his master returning, told him he had better get up, as master was coming, but he could not, and when the master returned he began to whip him again; but seeing, he could not get up, he went to the house and brought a tumblerful of castor oil, and forced him to drink it, and then said, “Now get up, you rascal, or I will whip you,” and made him continue his work; but his conscience smote him, and he sent for a doctor, and upon his certificate allowed him to return home. I cannot leave off without relating another incident about him. On one occasion there were a hundred negroes to be sold, and James English went to buy. Among the negroes to be bought there was one named Willis; when he was put on the block, and the bidding began. James English began to bid, and Willis, seeing him bidding, jumped down from the auction-block. The auctioneer said, “Why do you jump down, you rascal?” He replied, “Because that man, (pointing to James English) is bidding for me.” “Why do you not want him to bid for you?” “‘Cause he’s the baddest massa ‘tween this an’ hell fire.” This scene was repeated twice, but James English at length bought him; and he went towards the plantation till within three miles of it, when the negroes of another plantation again told him that there was not a worse master in the whole district. His fears returning, afresh, he fled to the woods, but hunger compelled him to return. When he got back he was put into irons, and taken out next morning and hung up, and received a hundred lashes; and when the stripes were partially healed, they gave him twenty-five lashes every other morning as long, as they thought he could bear it.

Afterwards, James English was taken ill, but such were his savage propensities, that he got out of bed and dressed himself; and took his whip and went into the cotton field, and commenced quarelling with a slave named Old George, on the plea that he did not pick cotton fast enough. I will repeat his words: “Never mind, you old rascal, when I get better I’ll give you sixty lashes,—never mind, you old rascal you.” But from that time he began to get worse, and went home and sent for the doctor, Mr. Miller. The following conversation then took place:— “Doctor, I am very sick, can you help me?” The doctor, after feeling his pulse, replied, “I can’t save you.” “Why, doctor?” “You have mortification in the head.” He did not believe this, and sent for Dr. Hainsworth. When Dr. Hainsworth came, he said also, “I can’t save you, you will die in a few days.” His terror on hearing this announcement was extreme. He prayed the doctors to save his life, but in vain. In five days that terrible hour drew nigh, and his agony and death struggles were such that he required to be held down. Thus ended the life of a member of a Christian Church. When the tidings of his death reached the negroes, they were overjoyed, and especially Willis, who went round to every hut, and shook hands with every negro, saying, “How d’ye do, brudder, de devil is dead an’ gon’ to hell, an’ Old George got clear of his sixty lashes.”

Of Robert, the next brother, I knew nothing, as he died when very young. Thomas, the next, was, if possible, worse than James. He was also a member of Mount Zion Chapel. He was articled to a lawyer. While studying the law, he used to whip the negroes on the plantation exceedingly. I will give you an instance of it. He had just bought a new whip, and wished to try it, and, seeing me go by, he called me and told me to bring him some water to wash his hands in. I went and got it as quickly as possible. When I brought it to him, he said, “You have been too slow, now pull off your jacket,” and he then commenced whipping me, having first shut both doors, but I pushed open one of them and ran. I was then between ten and twelve years of age. He ran after me, and soon caught me, and whipped me again till the blood ran. When a young man, he went to Tennessee, and married. The lady’s name was Livinia. At his marriage his father gave him twelve negroes. He had then a son named West, and after ten years he returned to South Carolina. His father bought him a plantation five miles from his own, and gave him another slave girl as a nurse for his boy. The boy was very cross, and his mother asserted that the girl pinched the baby, which was not true. This girl was continually being whipped upon that false accusation, so that at length she ran away and went back to her old plantation. But the master tied a rope round her neck and sent her back to his son, who immediately ordered two flat irons to be put on the fire, and had her laid down on a log, and made three negroes, by the names of Frank, Save, and Peter hold her down. He then took the first iron and pressed it to her body on one side; and when he removed it the skin stuck to it. He repeated the same with the other iron, on the other side of the body. She then left him, and started that night for the old plantation: her pain was so great that she was all night going that little distance. The old master, on seeing the burns, declared she should not go back any more. The following conversation took place when Thomas came to see his father: “Thomas, did you burn this girl so?” “Yes, pa, I did, because she ran away.” “Well, you shan’t have her any more.” But, in this case, Thomas was a true son of his father, and the old proverb remained unshaken, viz., “The chip off the old block don’t fall far from the stump.” About this time he became a minister. He preached his first sermon in Mount Zion Chapel, and the negroes flocked to hear him, and were so overjoyed to think that now he had experienced true religion, he would be more merciful to them, but he was the same devil still. He owned a slave whose name was January, who could not pick cotton as fast as the other negroes. For this reason, this minister of religion gave him from twenty-five to one hundred lashes, and fifty blows with the paddle, which so frightened the negro that he ran away into the woods; but was caught, and again whipped, and put into the stocks, and was taken out every other morning, and received twenty-five lashes for a time, and then put to work with a lock and chain round his neck. At that time, his son West was overseer and whipping the negroes for his father. At that time I left slavery he often whipped the slaves severely. In the Southern States of America, any negro found out at night after nine o’clock, without a pass, is liable to be taken up and receive thirty-nine lashes; and it is a common amusement for young men to go out at night in parties patrolling. This minister, Thomas English, one night joined a party, and they came upon a slave named Isaac, on Dr. Grag’s plantation, and they gave chase, but he outran them, and this minister was leading them on, shouting at the top of his voice,  with horrid oaths, “Catch the rascal.” We will now pass on to Mack, the youngest brother, he was worse than either of the others, and was the one who kicked me when I was digging for hickory root. He had not finished his schooling, before he was put to oversee his father’s plantation. He used to whip the slaves more than his father. Among the atrocities which he committed, he knocked my mother down with the butt of his whip, while I stood by feeling as if I had been struck myself, when he suddenly turned round and said, “Go on with your work, you——rascal.” His whip spared neither old nor young. This youth ordered every negro to pick one cwt. of cotton each day—which was almost impossible for them to do—and on their not presenting that amount of cotton at the machine, he gave them from twenty-five to fifty lashes each; so that during the cotton- picking season, the place was filled with screams of agony every evening. There was a slave named Isaac, who could not pick cotton so fast as the others, and the consequence was, that he was flogged every night by this youth. This tyrant was going to give him fifty lashes again one evening, on the scaffold where they weigh the cotton, about ten feet high; and Isaac jumped down in the dark on a snaggy stump and ruined his feet, and could not work for more than a month. He used often to call the negroes up at midnight to screw cotton, and to move fences in the sweet potato fields.

The time of killing hogs is the negroes’ feast, as it is the only time that the negroes can get meat, for they are then allowed the chitterlings and feet; then they do not see any more till next hog-killing time. Their food is a dry peck of corn that they have to grind at the hand-mill after a hard day’s work, and a pint of salt, which they receive every week. They are only allowed to eat twice a-day. Mack English once tied down a slave named Old Prince, and gave him one hundred lashes with the whip, and fifty blows with the paddle, because he could not work fast enough to please him. A slaveholder named Mr. Wilson, having died in debt, my master bought two of his slave girls, named Rose and Jenny. Jenny was forced to have Adam who was already married; also her sister Rose was married to March, before she came on our plantation. Mack English, having turned a wishful eye on Rose, wrapped himself up in his big cloak, and went to the nigger-house in the night, and called a slave named Esau, and told him to tell Rose to come to him as he wanted her. She sent back to say, “I’m nursing my baby and can’t come.” “Go and tell her I don’t care about her baby, she must come,” answered Mack, “and if she does not come, I’ll give her twenty-five lashes to-morrow morning.” “Go and tell him, Esau, my husband will be coming, and I can’t come,” answered she. The next morning he tied her up and cut her naked back all over; the further particulars are too revolting to tell.

We will now relate his death. He went with his father one summer to the White Sulphur Springs. There he was taken ill, and death took place in five days. His death-bed was a scene of heartrending agony. He swore, and he cursed, he shrieked “Murder! Murder!! Murder!!! Pa, you stand here and see all these doctors hunching and punching me. Murder! Murder!!” Then, as he expired, he shrieked with fearful agony, “God to blast.” This I heard from Old Bob, the carriage driver, who was his nurse till his death. The following conversation I overheard when his father returned:—”Wife, our son is dead and gone to hell.” “Hush! hush! talking so before the niggers.” “Well, he is, he died cursing and swearing.” Just then, Mack’s playmate, named Davey Wilson, entered and inquired for him. “Your playmate is dead and gone to hell,” was the answer he received. His wife immediately replied, “Hush! hush! shut your mouth, you old fool, what are you telling him that for.” Davey Wilson went and told his mother, who told the minister, Mr. Reed, of Mount Zion Church, who preached a sermon to the young about his death. After that, none of the English’s family attended Mount Zion Chapel. When he went to the White Sulphur Springs, I prayed that I might never see him again, and thus was my prayer signally answered. I remembered when he and his father both whipped me at the same time, about sunrise, on my naked back, and then made me work till twelve o’clock without eating anything. I also remember that when he was going to the springs, he said, “When I get back, my father will give me the Creek Swamp plantation and fifty niggers, and then I will buy a cowhide whip, well corded, five feet long, and I’ll make all the niggers take Ephraim by force, and tie him to an oak tree, and I’ll make Adam give him one of the hardest hundred lashes that ever man put on nigger.” I, myself, was willed to that tyrant, but God had willed me to myself. Surely the words of the Psalmist came true in this case: “They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search; both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.”

I am a’gonna skip a lot of the book now and read you something that will make your hair stand up:

On one occasion I saw my brother Ephraim tied up and blindfolded with his own shirt, and beaten with fifty lashes before his own wife and children, by a wretch named Sam Cooper, because he was falsely accused of having stolen a yard of bagging. Fathers! think of being tied up and stripped before your wife and children, and beaten severely for nothing at all; and then think that it is a daily, nay, hourly, occurrence in the Slave States of America, and you will begin to have some idea of what American slavery is. But to proceed with my life. Just as I was beginning to be settled at Salem, that most atrocious of all laws, the “Fugitive Slave Law,” was passed, and I was compelled to flee in disguise from a comfortable home, a comfortable situation, and good wages, to take refuge in Canada. I may mention, that during my flight from Salem to Canada, I met with a very sincere friend and helper, who gave me a refuge during the night, and set me on my way. Her name was Mrs. Beecher Stowe. She took me in and fed me, and gave me some clothes and five dollars. She also inspected my back, which is covered with scars which I shall carry with me to the grave. She listened with great interest to my story, and sympathized with me when I told her how long I had been parted from my wife Louisa and my daughter Jenny, and perhaps, forever. I was obliged to proceed, however, and finally arrived in safety at St. John’s, where I met my present wife, to whom I was married lawfully, and who was also an escaped slave from North Carolina. I stayed there some time and followed the trade of whitewasher, and at last I embarked for England.”

“So there you have it! You see, master’s been lyin’ to you all these months,” said Jack. The students cheered wildly and applauded.

“Nonsense!” cried Whittemore. Master stared at Jack coldly and tried to smile at the class. But he had finally lost the war with Jack — and with me too — and he knew it.

“Master lies,” Jack continued, “because he never mentions the real story which is the truth! You wouldn’t want to see your family broken up and sold off to some cruel lady or man who beats you all the time or kills someone close to you just cuz they feel like it. But you also need to remember that John was helped out on his road to freedom by some good-hearted white people-there are enough of them who do care. They don’t see things the way master sees them. The times are changing down here in the south. It’s time we all woke up to see what misery we are causing to fellow human beings. This is what master should be teaching us and I’m a’gonna make y’all a promise right here and now-that I’ll never set foot again in this here place until master starts telling us the truth.”

Havin’ had his say finally and havin’ perfectly executed his plan with tricking master into allowing him to make his speech for a good grade and even some extra credit, Jack said, “So long Master, it’s been fun and educational. Addressing the students, he simply said,  “Bye kiddies,” and walked out. I walked out with him. Unbeknownst to me then, we were headin’ for the biggest adventure of our lives and we had not seen the last of Master Whittemore. In fact we had not, until a little later, seen the real Master Whittemore.

END of BOOK ONE

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