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Artemas Carter to Frederick Douglass, April 28, 1854



For Frederick Douglass' Paper.


CHICAGO, April 28th, 1854.
MY DEAR FRIEND DOUGLASS:—I know you will be glad to hear of the main event which I now record for you. Your good friend John Jones of this city invited me to accompany him to his house this morning, there to see three "chattels personal" who were on their route to Canada, and whom he, seeing them "hungry, gave them meat," and seeing them "athirst, gave them drink," the impious fugitive act to the contrary notwithstanding. While I am penning this note, those said "chattels personal" are nearing a free home at the full steam speed of twenty five miles an hour, and I trust that to-morrow's breakfast will be the last meal they will partake in a nation which, although the land of their birth, is yet, shame to say, a land not affording liberty nor safety to them, or such as them on any acre of its vast extent. No—the country they are leaving, though it may reckon its territory by millions of acres, and though ready with its offer of freedom and a home to strangers from the remotest corners of the earth, yet offers not to these, its own native children, throughout its whole length and breadth, a spot even of size to stand upon where they may be either free or safe. We whites, when discouraged and oppressed in spirit, find relief in thinking there is "another and a better world, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." So may the colored man find glorious relief in thinking there is another and a better country, beyond the reach of the thousand bitter ills which, in boasting, but hypocritical America, beset them on every side, and especially beyond the reach of kidnappers and fugitive slave (falsely called) laws. These three persons were a mother and her child, and another female, all of them, I should judge, fullblooded negroes. The mother was about five and twenty years of age, and was bright, intelligent, animated, and really fine looking. Her little one was an active daughter, strong and promising, of about fifteen months—They were owned (?) in Saint Louis. On Monday last, the mother was to have been sold to be takenwithout her child to New Orleans. No remonstrances and pleadings of that mother could avail to change the determination of seller and buyer to sell and [?] the mother, leaving behind in BONDAGE, and NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN ON EARTH, that little one dearer than self—her only possession, save, alone, her husband, held by another master. On the evening previous to the appointed sale and separation, this true and devoted mother effected her escape, bringing her little one with her I saw them comfortable and happy at brother Jones's house, and had the privilege of offering to that heroic mother my congratulations, and good wishes, as well as of contributing "material aid." That other female of whom I spoke, might have been nineteen years of age, and was worthy of the companionship in which she wended her way to liberty, and, of course, of that liberty itself. I was glad to aid the revenues of the U.G. Rail Road; for I am a stockholder therein. That is a well-managed road, and is doing a truly glorious business.


I greatly admire the devotedness and efficiency of its directors. I felt gratified in thinking that the little investment made by myself and others, in its stock this morning, would so soon as ten o'clock to-morrow yield a dividend of three free persons, said dividend to be declared in Windsor, C. W., so soon as these fugitives' feet shall press British soil. It will be the first time (O! shame to say,) those feet have ever stepped on soil truly free. Joy and gratitude will fill their hearts when they ascend the further bank of the Detroit River, and feel that they are SAFE. It would be a grateful sight to see that spirited and noble mother, as in her thrill of delight she shall set her little daughter down on Canadian soil, where in freedom and in safety with herself they may tread in time to come. Yet will her joy not be full! Far, very far from this. A husband and father yet remain in the house of bondage. Not until he shall have followed in her footsteps in the perilous pathway of escape and transit to Canada will her happiness be nearly complete. It is confidently expected by her, that he will soon follow and join her at her new home. God grant a speedy fulfilment of these expectations! This woman told me that at five different times she had made preparations to escape, but not till now, as she thought, had a safe opportunity offered. I am glad that Canada, instead, of Missouri and Louisiana, is to be the future home of these courageous and energetic persons. Such events as these, all the time happening, refresh us over and over with evidence of the negro's discontent in bondage and fitness for freedom. And in proportion as they show these, do they at the same time show the hollow-heartedness of those who would have us believe them contented in slavery, and fit only for that condition.
I receive your paper regularly, and prize it highly. I have made a long letter out of what might have been condensed into a short one, but writing out an apology for offending in this way, is like Pat's splicing the rope because it was too long.
I remain, cordially your friend, and ob't servant,



Carter, Artemas




Artemas Carter to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick Douglass P, 12 May 1854. Tells the story of a woman and her infant daughter escaping slavery in Saint Louis; commends Underground Railroad conductors for helping so many to freedom.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Papers



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Frederick Douglass' Papers