His father, a farmer and edge-tool maker, taught his sons how to make tools and work as blacksmiths.
Thomas Garrett was 71 years old when the Civil War began.
In 1813, Thomas Garrett had an experience he characterized as transcendental in directing his life's work toward aiding in the escapes of slaves. A family servant, Mary, a free woman of color, was kidnapped from their home by slave traders and nearly forced into slavery. The Reverend William Tilden of the First Unitarian Church, Wilmington, later wrote of this event:
One day as he came home, he found the family in sorrow and indignation at the kidnapping of a free colored woman in their employ. Thomas immediately started in hot pursuit of the kidnapper, hoping, if possible to rescue the poor woman before she was sold in hopeless bondage. It was during this pursuit, that a light above the brightness of the sun shone in upon his soul revealing to his awakened conscience, the utter enormity of slavery as he had never before see it . . . It was borne in upon his mind so vividly as to appall him, and he seemed to feel a voice within telling him that his work in life must be to help and defend this persecuted race.He tracked the kidnappers to a place near the the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, and returned with Mary.
|Birmingham Meeting House|
On June 1, 1818, Thomas Garrett joined the Pennsylvania Society for Promotion the Abolition of Slavery. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society had been founded in Philadelphia in 1775 as The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. It was the first American abolition society; Anthony Benezet and most of the other founders were Quakers, but the Society included others such as Thomas Paine. It was reorganized in 1784 as the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Benjamin Franklin was elected president of the society, which asked him to bring the matter of slavery to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He petitioned the U.S Congress in 1790 to ban slavery.
|Garrett's home on Shipley Street|
Wilmington was a growing city that offered Garrett new business opportunities; it was also the northernmost town in the slave state of Delaware, and about five miles away from the border of the free state of Pennsylvania. Chester County, Pennsylvania, just over the state border, was a center of abolitionism. Most of the residents of Wilmington, however, were not supporters of the anti-slavery movement; many of them owned slaves and wanted to protect the institution.
|Underground Railroad Routes in Chester County, Pennsylvania|
The sentiment of this community was, at that time, bitterly averse to any word or effort against Slavery, and Mr. Garrett had but half a dozen friends who stood by him. Nearly all others looked at him with suspicion, or positive aversion, and his house was constantly under the surveillance of the police, who then, sad to say, were always on the watch for any fugitives from bondage. Thomas was not disheartened or dismayed by the lack of popular sympathy or approval. He believed the Lord was on his side, and cared nothing for the adverse opinion of men.One of the families Garret assisted in escaping from enslavement was the Garnet family
|Henry Highland Garnet|
In the late 1820s, there was growing division in the Society of Friends between the "Hicksites" and the "Orthodox." Hicksites tended to be agrarian and poorer than the more urban, wealthier, Orthodox Quakers. With increasing financial success, Orthodox Quakers wanted to “make the Society a more respectable body—to transform their sect into a church—by adopting mainstream Protestant orthodoxy”. Hicksites, though they held a variety of views, generally saw the market economy as corrupting, and believed Orthodox Quakers had sacrificed their orthodox Christian spirituality for material success. Hicksites also viewed the Bible as secondary to the individual cultivation of God’s light within.
The Great Separation of 1827 resulted in a parallel system of Yearly Meetings in America, joined by Friends from Philadelphia, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Baltimore. Quakers in Great Britain only recognized the Orthodox Quakers and refused to correspond with the Hicksites. Garrett wrote in a letter to his mother in February 1828:
Could we but be favor'd to be satisfied with doing that, and that only, which divine wisdom clearly manifests to be our duty and leave the rest to Him.
If ever there was a time when it was necessary for the members of this Society to dwell on love, and keep down a spirit of selfish activity, it is in our day, and I think this active spirit will, in some cases, apply to both sides of the present controversy.
In 1827 Society of the State of Delaware was reorganized as the Delaware Abolition Society; its officers and directors included Thomas Garrett, William Chandler, John Wales, and Edward Worrell. Later that year, Wales and Garrett represented the group at the National Convention of Abolitionists.
|Chester County, Pennsylvania|
Abraham Shadd, born in Wilmington in 1801, was one of the black leaders in the Delaware area. He earned a respectable living as a shoemaker and had 13 children. After attending the National Convention to protest racism in Philadelphia in September 1830, Shadd went on to attend most major meetings regarding the abolition of slavery over the course of the next decades, including the National Negro Conventions and the American Antislavery Society's meetings. Shadd conducted anti-slavery and Underground Railroad activity from his home in Wilmington; he later moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania.
In 1835, Garrett became a director of the new Wilmington Gas Company, which made gas for lighting lamps. In 1836, he invested with William Chandler, Joseph Whitaker and other partners to revive the Principio Furnace in Perryville, Maryland.
In 1838, the Kennett Anti-Slavery Society declared that anyone "who aids in the restoration of the fugitive to his master . . . is guilty of a crime against humanity and religion" and any minister of the gospel who attempted to justify slavery was to be regarded as an enemy to religion.
|Isaac Price Garrett|
|James and Lucretia Mott|
In March 1840, James and Lucretia Mott made a trip to Delaware to visit friends and attend Quaker meeting; James Mott wrote a letter about their experience, accompanied by Thomas Garrett:
At Smyrna, where Dan Neall was mobbed, we were at meeting on First-day morning, notice having been given. When we rode into the village, the piazza of the only tavern in the place was full of people; many of them followed us to the meeting house, a short distance, and attended the meeting, all being quiet and orderly, except that one man, the leader of the mob before, went out when L. began to touch on the subject of slavery. Truth reigned, and some "who came to scoff, remained to pray."
After meeting we found that one of the linch pins had been taken out of the carriage, which, however, was soon replaced, and we went to the tavern, where the people were again collected, and calling for the landlord, asked if he would give us dinner and feed our horses; he replied, that there was much excitement, and he should be much obliged to us to excuse him from doing so. This we were willing to do, and drove away; the people around, to the number of fifty or more, were quiet, and I have no doubt those of them who had been at the meeting, were far more mortified at our being denied a dinner that we were willing to pay for, than we were.
Thos Garrett, and wife, of Wilmington, were with us in their carriage. We rode thirteen miles to a friend's house, to put up for the night.Mott refers in his letter to Daniel Neall being"mobbed." Their group included Daniel Neall and his wife, who was Lucretia's cousin. Daniel Neall had been born and raised in Delaware. Slaveholders in the area heard that Mott and her companions were abolitionists, and determined to send them a warning. Unwilling to harm a woman, the angry locals chose Daniel Neall as their target, shouting that he would be would be tarred and feathered. Lucretia Mott later wrote:
The scene was truly awful at the time. Dr. Neall's new wife was not inured to mobs as some of are - she shook as with an ague fit from head to foot. I plead hard with them to take me as I was the offender - if offense had been committed & give him up to his wife - but they declined saying "you are a woman and we have nothing to say to you" to which I answered "I ask no courtesy at your hands on account of my sex," but they had heard of him before as of Penna. Hall. Our presence and remonstrances no doubt moderated their purpose.
|White Horse Farm|
Wilmington, 7 mo. 5th, 1846
Respected Friend, Elijah F. Pennypacker, Thine of the 2nd, as well as a former
letter, came duly to hand, and I at once answered the first letter, which it would appear three has not reciv'd. I wrote three, I think, that a few days after the husband left here, a woman with two children came to town and inform'd me that she was the woman that was left by her husband at John Hunn's, to be forwarded to him as soon as he should get a situation. . . . Some two or three days after, I received a letter from my brother, Edward, requesting me to have the woman and the children forwarded to Samuel Rhoads . . . She and the children arrived safe there next evening, one of my sons being there when they arrived.
THE CASE OF MOLLY, A SLAVE, BELONGING TO E B , OF SMYRNA,
DELAWARE. BY JOHN HUNN, ENGINEER OF THE UNDERGROUND RAIL ROAD.
Molly escaped from her master's farm, in Cecil county, Maryland, and found a place of refuge in the house of my cousin, John Alston, near Middletown, Delaware. The man-hunters, headed by a constable with a search warrant, took her thence and lodged her in New Castle Jail. This fact was duly published in the county papers, and her master went after his chattel, and having paid the expenses of her capture took immediate possession thereof.
She was hand-cuffed, and, her feet being tied together, she was placed in the wagon. Before she left the jail, the wife of the sheriff gave her a piece of bread and butter, which her master kicked out of her hand, and swore that bread and butter was too good for her.
After this act her master took a drink of brandy and drove off. He stopped at a tavern about four miles from New Castle and took another drink of brandy. He then proceeded to Odessa, then called Cantwell's Bridge, and got his dinner and more brandy, for the day was a cold one.
He had his horse fed, but gave no food to his human chattel, who remained in the wagon cold and hungry. After sufficient rest for himself and horse he started again. He was now twelve miles from home, on a good road, his horse was gentle, and he himself in a genial mood at the recovery of his bond-woman. He yielded to the influence of the liquor he had imbibed and fell into a sound sleep.
Molly now determined to make another effort for her freedom. She accordingly worked herself gradually over the tail board of the wagon, and fell heavily upon the frozen ground. The horse and wagon passed on, and she rolled into the bushes, and waited for deliverance from her bonds. This came from a colored man who was passing that way. As he was neither a priest nor a Levite, he took the rope from her feet and guided her to a cabin near at hand, where she was kindly received. Her deliverer could not take the hand-cuffs off, but promised to bring a person, during the evening, who could perform that operation.
He fulfilled his promise, and brought her that night to my house, which was in sight of the one whence she had been taken to New Castle Jail. I had no fear for her safety, as I believed that her master would not think of looking for her so near to the place where she had been arrested. Molly remained with us nearly a month; but, seeing fugitives coming and going continually, she finally concluded to go further North.
I wrote to my friend, Thomas Garrett, desiring him to get a good home for Molly. This he succeeded in doing, and a friend from Chester county, Pennsylvania, came to my house and took Molly with him. She remained in his family more than six months.
In the meantime the Fugitive Slave Law was passed by Congress, and several fugitives were arrested in Philadelphia and sent back to their masters. Molly, hearing of these doings, became uneasy, and finally determined to go to Canada. She arrived safely in the Queen's Dominions, and felt at last that she had escaped from the hell of American Slavery.
Molly described her master as an indulgent one when sober, but when he was on a "spree" he seemed to take great delight in tormenting her. He would have her beaten unmercifully without cause, and then have her stripes washed in salt water, then he would have her dragged through the horse pond until she was nearly dead. This last operation seemed to afford him much pleasure. When he became sober he would express regret at having treated her so cruelly. I frequently saw this master of Molly's, and was always treated respectfully by him. He would have his "sprees" after Molly left him.Thomas Drake wrote in Quakers and Slavery in America:
Thomas Garrett's humanitarian feelings also extended to white men who unwisely got into trouble in connection with a practice that was the reverse of the Underground Railroad, namely, the kidnapping of free Negroes for sale in the Southern market.
One, Isaac Updike, was convicted of kidnapping in 1846-7, in Wilmington. Thomas Garrett spent a considerable amount of time and money in securing Updike's conviction.
In August, 1847, however, Garrett was moved by pity of Updike's condition and that of his needy family to seek a governor's pardon from the remainder of the sentence of lashes, fine, and two years in jail. Pleasing that Updike had been shown to be a dupe of a gang of kidnappers, and that he had now received sufficient punishment for his ignorance and folly, Garrett secured thirty-eight signatures for a petition for pardon . . . The incident shows the breadth of Thomas Garrett's sympathy for unfortunate human beings, no matter what their color.Garrett wrote a letter to Isaac Updike:
Wilmington, 8 mo. 2nd, 1847
To Isaac Updike: I have for some weeks had my mind drawn at times to thy situation, and to that of thy family. In my very soul I pity you all. Although I look upon the crime of kidnapping more cruel and wicked than I do that of highway robbing, I hope and believe that thy own conscience has punished thee sufficiently with the deprivation thou hast already suffer'd by being separated so long from a kind wife and family. and, believing as I do, that thou will be hereafter more careful to live an honest and respectable life than thou hast heretofore done, I have proposed to William S. Boulden to get up a petition to the Governor of the state for thy pardon, and I have agreed to head the list of petitioners for thy release. If the petition should be successful (as I hope it may) I sincerely hope that thou will resist all temptation to take strong drink to excess, or do any other act that shall again bring reproach on thyself or family.
I am not so circumstanced at this time . . . to do as much as I once could have done to assist thee should thee again get in difficulty, but will at all times be glad to do all in my power to render thyself or family, assisting by advice, or any other way in power, believing as I do if thee sincerely repents, the Heavenly Father will forgive thee all thy past crimes. So ought all His followers do the same. Hoping thou will deserve the Sympathy and Kindness of thy fellow men, I subscribe myself thy Sincere friend. - Thos. Garrett
SAMUEL D. BURRIS, Referred to by John Hunn, was also a brave conductor on the Underground Rail Road leading down into Maryland (via Hunn's place). Burris was a native of Delaware, but being a free man and possessing more than usual intelligence, and withal an ardent love of liberty, he left "slavedom" and moved with his family to Philadelphia. Here his abhorrence of Slavery was greatly increased, especially after becoming acquainted with the Anti -slavery Office and the Abolition doctrine. . . . Burris was an accredited agent on the road above alluded to, and he had been considered a safe, wise, and useful man in his day and calling. . . . A number were thus aided by Burris. But finally he found himself within the fatal snare; the slave-holders caught him at last, and Burris was made a prisoner in Dover jail. His wife and children were thereby left without their protector and head. The friends of the slave in Philadelphia and elsewhere deeply sympathized with him in this dreadful hour. Being able to use the pen, although he could not write without having his letters inspected, he kept up a constant correspondence with his friends both in Delaware and .Philadelphia.
John Hunn and Thomas Garrett were as faithful to him as brothers. After lying in prison for many months, his trial came on and Slavery gained the victory. The court decided that he must be sold in or out of the State to serve for seven years. No change, pardon or relief, could be expected from the spirit and power that held sway over Delaware at that time. The case was one of great interest to Mr. McKim, as indeed to the entire Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Anti-slavery Society, who felt constrained to do all they could to save the poor man from his threatened fate, although they had not advised or encouraged him in the act for which he was condemned and about to suffer.
In viewing his condition, but a faint ray of hope was entertained from one single direction. It was this: to raise money privately and have a man at the auction on the day of sale to purchase him. John Hunn and Thomas Garrett were too well known as Abolitionists to undertake this mission. A friend indeed, was desirable, but none other would do than such an one as would not be suspected. Mr. McKim thought that a man who might be taken for a negro trader would be the right kind of a man to send on this errand. Garrett and Hunn being consulted heartily acquiesced in this plan, and after much reflection and inquiry, Isaac S. Flint, an uncompromising abolitionist, living in Wilmington, Delaware, was elected to buy Burris at the sale, providing that he was not run up to a figure exceeding; the amount in hand. Flint's abhorrence of Slavery combined with his fearlessness, cool bearing, and perfect knowledge from what he had read of the usages of traders at slave sales, without question admirably fitted him to play the part of a trader for the time being.
When the hour arrived, the doomed man was placed on the auction-block. Two traders from Baltimore were known to be present . . . The usual opportunity was given to traders and speculators to thoroughly examine the property on the block, and most skillfully was Burris examined from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head; legs, arms and body, being handled as horse-jockies treat horses. Flint watched the ways of the traders and followed for effect their example. The auctioneer began and soon had a bid of five hundred dollars. A Baltimore trader was now in the lead, when Flint, if we mistake not, bought off the trader for one hundred dollars. The bids were thus suddenly checked, and Burris was knocked down to Isaac S. Flint (a strange trader). Of course he had left his abolition name at home and had adopted one suited to the occasion.
When the crier's hammer indicated the last bid, although Burris had borne up heroically throughout the trying ordeal, he was not by any means aware of the fact that he had fallen into the hands of friends, but, on the contrary, evidently labored under the impression that his freedom was gone. But a few moments were allowed to pass ere Flint had the bill of sale for his property, and the joyful news was whispered in the ear of Burris that all was right; that he had been bought with abolition gold to save him from going south.
Once more Burris found himself in Philadelphia with his wife and children and friends, a stronger opponent than ever of Slavery. Having thus escaped by the skin of his teeth, he never again ventured South.Because the law allowed for the sale into slavery of any free black person convicted of aiding in the escape of slaves, Burris' risk in acting as a conductor on the Underground Railroad was particularly great. He was placed on the auction block in the center of Dover's town green, stripped nearly naked to facilitate his inspection by slave buyers, and endured the humiliation of being appraised for sale. He had been captured in the act of assisting Maria Mathews, an escaping slave from Dover.
|Routes of the Underground Railoroad|
In 1847, William Still began working as a clerk in the Antislavery Society Office in 1847 as a janitor and mail clerk for $3.75 a week. He was soon given more responsibility and authority, and later became Chairman of the Vigilant Action Committee.
He interviewed every slave he came in contact with and kept comprehensive records even after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, when most Agents in the Railroad destroyed their paperwork. He hid the papers in the loft of a building on the grounds of the Lebanon Cemetery in Philadelphia, a colored cemetery owned by Jacob C. White Sr. The office at the Lebanon Cemetery was also an Underground Railroad stop, communication center and distribution point for anti-slavery newspapers. Still’s primary motive in hiding the paper was to use the records to help reunite relatives and friends. He later published his records, which include numerous letters from Thomas Garrett, in his history of the Underground Railroad in 1872.
|Underground Railroad Routes of Philadelphia|
|New Castle Court House, where Garrett and Hunn were tried|
|Roger B. Taney|
I have assisted over 1400 runaways in 25 years on their way to the North. And I now consider the penalty imposed might be as a license for the remainder of my life. But be that as it may, if any of you know of any slave who needs assistance, send him to me, for I now pledge myself to double my diligence and never neglect an opportunity to assist a slave to obtain freedom.William Still later wrote:
Mr. Garrett kept his pledge and redoubled his exertions. The trial advertised him, and such was the demand on him for shelter, that he was compelled to put another story on his back buildings. His friends helped him to start again in business, and commencing anew in his sixtieth year with nothing, he again amassed a handsome competence, generously contributing all the while to every work in behalf of the down trodden Blacks or his suffering fellowmen of any color.A compromise settlement was made and a lien was put on Garrett's house until the fine was paid. With the aid of friends, Garrett paid the fine and continued in his iron and hardware business, and helping runaway slaves to freedom.
I am sorry to have to admit this truth, that the slave states and slave interests have ruled this nation from the Declaration of Independence till the present time. . . They have provided a large majority of our Presidents, Cabinet officers, Foreign Ministers and Judges of our Supreme Courts from the slave states. They have made our laws to suit their peculiar institutions. It was slave holders that demanded the Admission of Texas into this union . . . The south always managed to have it their own way. . . The admission of Texas was the cause of the Mexican War; where hundreds of millions of the peoples' money has been wasted, and thousands of valuable lives sacrificed by sword and climate, all for the slave interest. . .
Slavery is an institution that cannot bear investigation. . . . This is what Abolitionists have been laboring for, to have the subject fairly canvassed by the people. . . Look at the nations around us. the cause of freedom is progressing with railroad speed. . . . I have not correctly read the signs of the times if the days of slavery are not numbered in this country. The south will have to yield to the growing anti-slavery feeling of the north and west; or before ten years from this date there will be a dissolution of this Union.On September 18, 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850; among the
provisions was the creation of a new, stricter, Fugitive Slave Law. Helping runaways had been illegal since 1793, but the 1850 law required that everyone, law enforcers and ordinary citizens, help catch fugitives. Those who refused to assist slave-catchers, or aided fugitives, could be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for six months.
It also eliminated what little legal protection fugitives once had. Before 1850, some northern states had required slave-catchers to appear before an elected judge and be tried by a jury which would determine the validity of a claim. After the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, anyone could be taken from the street, accused of being a fugitive from slavery, and taken before a federally appointed commissioner who received $5 for every fugitive released and $10 for every one sent south. Free blacks and anti-slavery groups argued the system bribed commissioners to send kidnapped people into slavery, and obliged citizens to participate in the slavery system. Garrett wrote to William Lloyd Garrison on December 5, 1850:
ESTEEM'd FRIEND, Wm. Lloyd Garrison: Enclosed please find a letter for our
mutual friend George Thompson. I feel very anxious to see him once more, and am so situation in business that I cannot well leave home form more than one or two days at a time. After having lost by imprudent partners, and unprincipled slave holders, all that had accumulated for Forty Years, about 40,000 Dollars, I commenced business anew last new year's day on borrow'd capital entirely, and it becomes me as an honest man, to attend closely to business, till I feel confident that in a an emergency I shall have enough saved to pay my friends that have loaned me money to commence with.
I have watched with great interest the course you have pursued in respects to the Crafts, and think it was managed in a such a manner that Slave Holders will hardly think it worth while to risk the expense and mortification of sending agents from the South of Boston to look up their runaway slaves. The slave population who have escaped to the free states have been very much alarm'd by the passage of this infamous bill . . . There has lately been several free persons arrested as runaway slaves in the neighborhood, but we have so far succeeded in getting all released pretty soon after they were imprison'd - any white man here may arrest a colour'd man on suspicion of his being a slave and put him in jail. If he is proved a slave, the man taking him up gets a reward, if free, the County pays the expenses, and the poor Black has no remedy or compensation for loss time.
|Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware|
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in book form in 1852; in less than
|Uncle Tom's Cabin|
The writer's sketch of the character of this people has been drawn from personal observation. There are several settlements of these people in Ohio; and the manner of living, the tone of sentiment, and the habits of life, as represented in her book, are not at all exaggerated. These settlements have always been refuges for the oppressed and outlawed slave.
The character of Rachel Halliday was a real one, but she has passed away to her reward. Simeon Halliday, calmly risking fine and imprisonment for his love to God and man, has had in this country many counterparts among the sect.
The writer had in mind, at the time of writing, the scenes in the trial of John Garret, of Wilmington, Delaware, for the crime of hiring a hack to convey a mother and four children from Newcastle jail to Wilmington, a distance of five miles. The writer has received the facts in this case, in a letter from John Garret himself, from which some extracts will be made:
"Wilmington, Delaware, 1st month 18th, 1853.
"MY DEAR FRIEND, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE,—I have this day received a request from Charles K. Whipple, of Boston, to furnish thee with a statement, authentic and circumstantial, of the trouble and losses which have been brought upon myself and others of my friends from the aid we had rendered to fugitive slaves, in order, if thought of sufficient importance, to be published in a work thee is now preparing for the press.
"I will now endeavour to give thee a statement of what John Hunn and myself suffered by aiding a family of slaves, a few years since. I will give the facts as they occurred, and thee may condense and publish so much as thee may think useful in thy work, and no more. In the 12th month, year 1846, a family, consisting of Samuel Hawkins, a freeman, his wife Emeline, and six children, who were afterwards proved slaves, stopped at the house of a friend named John Hunn, near Middletown, in this State, in the evening about sunset, to procure food and lodging for the night. They were seen by some of Hunn's pro-slavery neighbours, who soon came with a constable, and had them taken before a magistrate. Hunn had left the slaves in his kitchen when he went to the village of Middletown, half a mile distant. When the officer came with a warrant for them, he met Hunn at the kitchen-door, and asked for the blacks. Hunn, with truth, said he did not know where they were. Hunn's wife, thinking they would be safer, had sent them up stairs during his absence, where they were found. Hunn made no resistance, and they were taken before the magistrate, and from his office direct to Newcastle jail, where they arrived about one o'clock on 7th day morning.
The sheriff and his daughter, being kind, humane people, inquired of Hawkins and wife the facts of their case; and his daughter wrote to a lady here, to request me to go to Newcastle and inquire into the case, as her father and self really believed they were most of them, if not all, entitled to their freedom. Next morning I went to Newcastle; had the family of coloured people brought into the parlour, and the sheriff and myself came to the conclusion that the parents and four youngest children were by law entitled to their freedom. I prevailed on the sheriff to show me the commitment of the magistrate, which I found was defective, and not in due form according to law. I procured a copy, and handed it to a lawyer. He pronounced the commitment irregular, and agreed to go next morning to Newcastle, and have the whole family taken before Judge Booth, Chief Justice of the State, by habeas corpus, when the following admission was made by Samuel Hawkins and wife: they admitted that the two eldest boys were held by one Charles Glaudin, of Queen Anne County, Maryland, as slaves; that after the birth of these two children, Elizabeth Turner, also of Queen Anne, the mistress of their mother, had set her free, and permitted her to go and live with her husband, near twenty miles from her residence, after which the four youngest children were born; that her mistress during all that time, eleven or twelve years, had never contributed one dollar to their support, or come to see them. After examining the commitment in their case, and consulting with my attorney, the judge set the whole family at liberty. The day was wet and cold; one of the children, three years old, was a cripple from white swelling, and could not walk a step; another, eleven months old, at the breast; and the parents being desirous of getting to Wilmington, five miles distant, I asked the judge if there would be any risk or impropriety in my hiring a conveyance for the mother and four young children to Wilmington. His reply, in the presence of the sheriff and my attorney, was, there would not be any. I then requested the sheriff to procure a hack to take them over to Wilmington."
The whole family escaped. John Hunn and John Garret were brought up to trial for having practically fulfilled those words of Christ, which read, “I was a stranger and ye took me in, I was sick and in prison and ye came unto me.” For John Hunn's part of this crime he was fined two thousand five hundred dollars, and John Garret was fined five thousand four hundred. Three thousand five hundred of this was the fine for hiring a hack for them, and one thousand nine hundred was assessed on him as the value of the slaves!
Our European friends will infer from this that it costs something to obey Christ in America, as well as in Europe.
After John Garret's trial was over, and this heavy judgment had been given against him, he calmly rose in the court-room, and requested leave to address a few words to the court and audience. Leave being granted, he spoke as follows: "I believe that . . . the law of the United States, as explained by our venerable judge, when compared with the act committed by me, was cruel and oppressive, and needs remodelling. . . Had I believed every one of them to be slaves, I should have done the same thing. I should have done violence to my convictions of duty, had I not made use of all the lawful means in my power to liberate those people, and assist them to become men and women, rather than leave them in the condition of chattels personal. I am called an Abolitionist; once a name of reproach, but one I have ever been proud to be considered worthy of being called. For the last twenty-five years I have been engaged in the cause of this despised and much-injured race, and consider their cause worth suffering for . . . I now pledge myself, in the presence of this assembly, to use all lawful and honourable means to lessen the burdens of this oppressed people, and endeavour, according to ability furnished, to burst their chains asunder, and set them free; not relaxing my efforts on their behalf while blessed with health and a slave remains . . . After mature reflection, I can assure this assembly it is my opinion at this time that the verdicts you have given the prosecutors against John Hunn and myself, within the past few days, will have a tendency to raise a spirit of inquiry throughout the length and breadth of the land, respecting this monster evil (slavery), in many minds that have not heretofore investigated the subject. The reports of those trials will be published by editors from Maine to Texas, and the far West; and what must be the effect produced? It will, no doubt, add hundreds, perhaps thousands, to the present large and rapidly increasing army of Abolitionists. The injury is great to us who are the immediate sufferers by your verdict; but I believe the verdicts you have given against us within the last few days will have a powerful effect in bringing about the abolition of slavery in this country—this land of boasted freedom, where not only the slave is fettered at the South by his lordly master, but the white man at the North is bound as in chains to do the bidding of his Southern masters."In August 1853, Garrett's daughter, Anna, died, less than one year after her marriage to James Edwards. Less than three weeks later, his oldest daughter, Sara, died in September.
The Liberator published the following on October 14, 1853:
LETTER FROM THOMAS GARRET: We take the liberty of inserting the following letter from Thomas Garrett, of Delaware, though we are not sure it was meant for publication. This brand old man has done duty for several years on the frontiers of Slavery, and many a fugitive owes his freedom to his good offices. He has endured, as our readers will remember, the spoiling of his goods for conscience's sake. His entire property, we believe was taken from him and passed over to a slaveholder, to whose slaves he had given food and shelter. And his reply, when this miscreant said to him, as he pocketed the fruits of a life's labor for a deed of charity, "I hope, Mr. Garrett, you will take warning by this punishment, and never violate the laws again" - his reply will pass into the number of brave sayings which the heart of humanity loves to treasure up. Turning to the Sheriff, who had conducted the sale, and satisfied the execution, he said, quietly, "Friend, if thee should see a fugitive slave in want of help to-day, thee will please send him to me!"
Robert F. Wallout, Esteemed Friend, Enclosed you will find three dollars, which please place to my credit for the Liberator. I have subscribed to the paper almost from its commencement, and of all the papers I read, none has advocated so fully and fearlessly the cause of the oppressed bonds-man, and none has caused so much alarm to the slave-holders of the South as the Liberator, and the name of no living man has caused such fearful forebodings for the future, as William Lloyd Garrison. . . . I have several times caused the storm to rage violently for a time, but by keeping cool, the whirlwind would pass by and a calm would succeed. Whether it was my age - 64 years - plain Quaker garb, or "cool impudence," as some would call it, that protected me. I cannot tell. But certainly it is, I never received a scar or bruise on such occasions, except once, when two or three Southerners took hold of me to throw me off the cars in this city, when I entered to save a free colored woman from being carried to the South. I was then slightly bruised by the railing of the cars, but well in a few days. Thine very respectfully, Thomas Garrett.
In June 1854 Garrett was in Boston during the Anthony Burns trial. Burns was an escaped slave who was captured under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and tried under the law in Boston. The law was fiercely resisted in Boston, and the case attracted national publicity, large demonstrations, protests and an attack on US Marshals at the courthouse. Federal troops were used to ensure Burns was transported to a ship for return to Virginia after the trial. Garrett wrote in an August letter to Eliza Wigham:
I was in Boston when poor Burns was carried off into slavery; what I saw there then was not calculated to check my zeal in the cause.
|Eliza Wigham and her older sister, |
Mary Wigham Edmundson
In addition to her correspondence with Garrett, Eliza Wigham was acquainted with Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, George Thompson and Levi
|Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, and George Thompson|
ESTEEM'D FRIEND, William Lloyd Garrison: Isaac Flint, and myself, are very desirous for thee to Address an Anti-slavery Meeting in this City, as may suit thy convenience on the way to, or from the West Chester Meeting. I believe thou has never had a meeting of the kind in our City, and I really believe that many here, are now prepared to hear the truth Gladly, that but a short time since acknowledged their sympathies to be with the oppressor. Several here that have never attended an Anti-slavery meeting,have expressed a desire to hear thee. We therefor hope thee will make it suit to be with us, and make my House thy Home while here. . . .
This has been an eventful year for the successful escape of slaves from the Peninsular, over 30 has passed on t'wards Canada since the first of the year, two fine young men the past week. Please let me hear from thee soon, so that I may make arrangement for the meeting here in case thee can make it suit to be with us. Very respectfully thy friend, Thos. GarrettLetter from Thomas Garrett to William Lloyd Garrsion, November 11, 1854:
MUCH ESTEEM'D FRIEND, William Lloyd Garrison:Thee will perhaps recollect that I gave thee when at my House some four weeks 1.25/100 Dolls for six months subscription of the Liberator, to be sent to this office for F.I. Hay. He call'd today to see me about it, and says he has call'd at the post office for it every week since, but there was none for him, please enquire whether it has been forwarded. . . .
Lucy Stone had three Lectures here after the West Chester Meeting. Her meetings increased in numbers and respectability to the last. She realized about 50 Dolls over expenses by the three lectures, and we were much gratified by having her in our family during her visit here. She is a sweet spirited pure woman. . .
My list of slaves has now got to 1874, having passed seven this day week . . . and the best of it is, for our little State, they were all natives of Delaware. Would to God that all of the remaining slaves would run off before this time next year . . . I have hopes that, bad as they have been, and still are, there is some evidence of improvement - with sincere desires for thy health and Happiness, I remain thy sincerely attach'd Friend, Thos. Garret
|Thomas Garrett and other members of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee,|
including Robert Purvis, Passmore Williamson, and William Still
|James Miller McKim|
WILMINGTON. 12 mo. 29th, 1854.
ESTEEMED FRIEND, J. MILLER McKIM:-We made arrangements last night, and sent away Harriet Tubman, with six men and one woman to Allen Agnew's, to be forwarded across the country to the city. Harriet, and one of the men had worn their shoes off their feet, and I gave them two dollars to help fit them out, and directed a carriage to be hired at my expense, to take them out, but do not yet know the expense. I now have two more from the lowest county in Maryland, on the Peninsula, upwards of one hundred miles. I will try to get one of our trusty colored men to take them to-morrow morning to the Anti-slavery office. You can then pass them on. THOMAS GARRETT.
all who regard mankind as one Brotherhood, and who acknowledge the duty of showing their faith in God, not by assenting to the lifeless propositions of a man-made creed, but by lives of person purity and a hearty devoting to the welfare of their fellow men. Slavery, Intemperance, War, Capital Punishment, the denial of the Equal Rights of Woman, Oppression in all its forms, Ignorance, Superstition, Priestcraft and Ecclesiastical Domination--these, and all such as these, are the evils and sins, which they feel constrained to assail by every rightful and legitimate weapon; while they seek to promote every virtue . . . and to foster those . . . principles of justice, mercy and love, which alone can secure the peace, progress and happiness of all the children of God.
The moral obligations of one to another demand that the non-tobacco using class of society should be exempt from this flagrant wrong, which is constantly perpetuated by its devotees, who transform this beautiful earth into a reeking, noisome smokehouse by the conversion of 2,000,000 tons of this weed into poisonous vapor . . . By what right does the tobacco-smoker force us to inhale an atmosphere which we know to be not only disagreeable and nauseous in the extreme, but highly detrimental to health?The Progressive Friends of Longwood knew they were tackling the big issues, and that solutions were neither easy nor uncomplicated. Longwood did not create a new denomination, but opened a space were people of "practical righteousness" could work together despite differences in "technical theology." Perhaps the Longwood spirit is well described in the words of William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania:
The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask, they will know one another, though the diverse liveries they were here make them strangers.
Thy valued letter enclosed to our mutual friend, J. McKim, for me, enclosing a second 5 lb note to assist slaves . . . came safely to hand, & I desire three to present my thanks to the Ladies Emancipation Society of Edinburgh . . . I had 21 men & women to provide for in one gang. No less than 60 of God's poor have passed here within the last three months, every one of whom were passed safely over what was formerly termed the Underground Railroad . . . most of these surely have gone to Canada. I need not tell you that in a general way they are the most valuable, intelligent, & enterprising slaves that effect their escape.
I had written a letter ten days since, to send to you, giving you an account . . . but some of my friends advised me not to send it for fear that myself & some others might be implicated by your Society publishing my letters in some of the European papers, and by that means it should get transferred to some of the papers on this side of the Atlantic. . . . I felt willing to trust to your discretion; but . . . I yielded the point . . . Now I beg you will never publish one word about the 21 named above. . .
A very intelligent young captain from the port, who had at different times brought slaves from the South, had taken five on board at Norfolk. . . . His vessel became disabled, and to save himself & crew, he had to put back. His vessel was wrecked but a few miles from Norfolk . . . the wreckers being on the beach, he. . . gave himself up . . . stated that the slaves were on board . . . himself and mate were at once imprisoned, charged with attempting to carry slaves to the North. They are to have their trial on the 24th of this month . . . If convicted, & the full penalty of the Virginia Law meted out, they will have to serve or remain in prison 10 years in each case, or 50 years in all. The Captain has a young wife here, with one child, 15 months old . . . I went to the wife, yesterday. . . . I have pledged to raise 50 dollars towards furnishing lawyers to plead his cause, and hope e may be favored to get off, as by law in Virginia, a slave;'s testimony cannot convict a white person, so . . . the testimony of the slave will not be deemed valid. So it is, the Slave-holders, to accomplish the most vile of acts with their slaves, pass laws so that their evidence cannot be taken to convict them, & in cases like the present, if the law be fairly carried out, it will prevent the conviction of those, who in truth were guilty of no crime . . .
I feel as if I could not close this already too long letter, without giving some account of the doings of a noble woman . . a black one . . . She is strong and muscular, now about 55 years of age; born a Slave, and raised what is termed a field hand. She escaped from Slavery some 8 years since . . . She has made 4 successful trips to the neighborhood she left; & brought away 17 of her brothers, sisters, & friends & has mostly made the journeys down on foot, alone, & with her companions mostly walked back, traveling the whole distance at night, and secreting themselves during the day. She has three times gone to Canada with those she brought, and spent every dollar she could earn, or get in the cause. . . . Last week, after a trip of two weeks, she brought up one man. She took tea with me, & has left again with the determination (during the Christmas holidays) to bring away her sister, now the last left in slavery, & her three children, a sister in law & her three children, (the husband of the latter has been a Year in Canada), & one male friend. She says if she gets them away safely, she will be content, & give up such hazardous journeys, but says she will either accomplish it or be arrested . . . Should she be arrested for assisting a slave . . . she would be sold a slave for life . . . I can assure you I am proud of her acquaintance.
Our country is now is a sadly distracted state. Our politicians stand aghast. We are on the even of Civil War . . . But I must close; & must request thee to thank those ladies who have contributed such efficient aid for the fugitives, & shall ever hold their memory in grateful remembrances.
|Pages of William Still's Underground Railroad Notebook|
Wilmington, 12th mo., 19th, 1855.
Dear Friend, William Still :— The bearer of this is one of the twenty-one that I thought had all gone North; he left home on Christmas day, one year since, wandered about the forests of North Carolina for about ten months, and then came here with those forwarded to New Bedford, where he is anxious to go. I have furnished him with a pretty good pair of boots, and gave him money to pay his passage to Philadelphia. He has been at work in the country near here for some three weeks, till taken sick; he is, by no means, well, but thinks he had better try to get further North, which I hope his friends in Philadelphia will aid him to do. I handed this morning Captain Lambson's wife twenty dollars to help fee a lawyer to defend him. She leaves this morning, with her child, for Norfolk, to be at the trial before the Commissioner on the 24th instant. Passmore Williamson agreed to raise fifty dollars for him. As none came to hand, and a good chance to send it by his wife, I thought best to advance that much. Thy friend, Thos. GarrettLetter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
Wilmington, 3d mo , 23d, 1856.
Dear Friend, William Still:— Captain Fountain has arrived all safe, with the human cargo thee was inquiring for, a few days since. I had men waiting till 12 o'clock till the Captain arrived at his berth, ready to receive them; last night they then learned, that he had landed them at the Rocks, near the old Swedes church, in the care of our efficient Pilot, who is in the employ of my friend, John Hillis, and he has them now in charge. As soon as my breakfast is over, I will see Hillis and determine what is best to be done in their case. My own opinion is, we had better send them to Hook and there put them in the cars to-night and send a pilot to take them to thy house. As Marcus Hook is in Pennsylvania, the agent of the cars runs no risk of the tine of five hundred dollars our State imposes for assisting one of God's poor out of the State by steamboat or cars. As ever thy friend, Thos. Garrett.Followed by another letter the same day:
Wilmington, 3mo. 23d, 1856.
Dear Friend, William Still : — Since I wrote thee this morning informing thee of the safe arrival of the Eight from Norfolk, Harry Craige has informed me, that he has a man from Delaware that he proposes to take along, who arrived since noon. He will take the man, woman and two children from here with him, and the four men will get in at Marcus Hook. Thee may take Harry Craige by the hand as a brother, true to the cause; he is one of our most efficient aids on the Rail Road, and worthy of full confidence. May they all be favored to get on safe.
The woman and three children are no common stock. I assure thee finer specimens of humanity are seldom met with. I hope herself and children may be enabled to find her husband, who has been absent some years, and the rest of their days be happy together. I am, as ever, thy friend, Thos. Garrett.
Wilmington, 5 mo. 11th, 1856.Esteemed Friends — McKim and Still: — I propose sending to-morrow morning by the steamboat a woman and child, whose husband, I think, went some nine months previous to New Bedford. She was furnished with a free passage by the same time her husband came in. She has been away from the person claiming to be her master some five months; we, therefore, think there cannot be much risk at present. Those four I wrote theeWilliam Still wrote in his history of the Underground Railroad:
about arrived safe up in the neighborhood of Longwood, and Harriet Tubman followed after in the stage yesterday. I shall expect five more from the same neighborhood next trip. Captain Lambdin is desirous of having sent him a book, or books, with the strongest arguments of the noted men of the South against the institution of slavery, as he wishes to prepare to defend himself, as he has little confidence in his attorney. Cannot you send to me something that will be of benefit to him, or send it direct to him? Would not W. Goodell's book be of use? His friends here think there is no chance for him but to go to the penitentiary. They now refuse to let any one but his attorney see him. As ever your friend, Thos. Garrett.
The woman and child alluded to were received and noted on the record book as follows: Winnie Patty, and her daughter, Elizabeth, arrived safely from Norfolk, Va. The mother is about twenty-two years of age, good-looking and of chestnut color, smart and brave.
From the latter part of October, 1855, to the latter part of March, 1856, this young slave mother, with her child, was secreted under the floor of a house. The house was occupied by a slave family, friends of Winnie. During the cold winter weather she suffered severely from wet and cold, getting considerably frosted, but her faith failed not, even in the hour of greatest extremity. She chose rather to suffer thus than endure slavery any longer, especially as she was aware that the auction-block awaited her.
She had already been sold three times; she knew therefore what it was to be sold. Jacob Shuster was the name of the man whom she spoke of as her tormentor and master, and from whom she fled. He had been engaged in the farming business, and had owned quite a large number of slaves, but from time to time he had been selling off until he had reduced his stock considerably.
Captain Lambdin, spoken of in Thomas Garrett's letter, had, in the kindness of his heart, brought away in his schooner some Underground Rail Road passengers, but unfortunately he was arrested and thrust into prison in Norfolk, Va., to await trial. Having no confidence in his attorney there he found that he would have to defend himself as best he could, consequently he wanted books, etc. He was in the attitude of a drowning man catching at a straw. The Committee was powerless to aid him, except with some money; as the books that he desired had but little effect in the lions' den, in which he was. He had his trial, and was sent to the penitentiary, of course.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
Wilmington, 7th mo., 19th, 1856.
Respected Friend, William Still: — I now have the pleasure of consigning to thy care four able-bodied human beings from North Carolina, and five from Virginia, one of which is a girl twelve or thirteen years of age, the rest all men. After thee has seen and conversed with them, thee can determine what is best to be done with them. I am assured they are such as can take good care of themselves, Elijah Pennypacker, some time since, informed me he could find employment in his neighborhood for two or three good hands. I should think that those from Carolina would be about as safe in that neighborhood as any place this side of Canada. Wishing our friends a safe trip, I remain thy sincere friend, Thos, Garrett.
Wilmington, 9, 12, 1856
My dear friend, Thy kind note of 6th mo. 26th came to hand by the kindness of our friend Sarah Pugh, & I can truly assure thee that it gave me great pleasure to receive a note from thee. . . .
[Harriet Tubman] was taken ill . . . & is now just able to travel again. She is to leave this day for Baltimore, to bring away two slave children. When she returns, if successful, she will set out for his sister & two children, on the coast of Maryland, near where her legal master now lives. She is quire feeble, her voice much impaired from a cold taken last winter, which I fear has permanently settled on her lungs. While sick in Canada, the colored man with whom she had made her house in Philadelphia, died; she had left in his care her clothes & ten dollars. His widow had broken up housekeeping and returned to Harrisburg, 120 miles distant. She yet hopes to get all her assets sometime. She told me, if she should be successful in getting the two from Baltimore, & the sister & two children from the eastern shore, she would be satisfied to remain at home till her health should be restored. . . She requests me to inform thee that if the friend still feels disposed to send the five pound sterling to aid her in her trustworthy calling, it may be sent to the care of Wm. Still, a clerk in the Anti-Slavery Office, Philadelphia, where our friend J. Miller McKim is employed . . .
I think in this country the friends of the slave have more cause than ever to hope that the days of Slavery are numbered. The North is becoming alarmed at the arrogance of 350,000 Slave-owners undertaking to rule 20,000,000 freedmen. I never knew the country so aroused politically at the present time. I cannot vote myself, or take part further than cannot be avoided in such a tyrannical government, being a firm believe in disunion being the only certain & effectual remedy for abolishing slavery. . .
I cannot well divest myself of an interest in the approaching Presidential
Election, which will be settled in about two months from this time. I believe that Fremont would be more efficient & better President than either Buchanan or
Fillmore. I look upon Fillmore as but a cipher, and very much doubt if he will get the electoral vote of any state in the Union. The contest will certainly be between Fremont & Buchanan. Pierce, who now occupies the White House, I look upon as one of the most contemptible trucklers to the Southern interest of any man that ever held a responsible station in this country, & had even-handed Justice been administered to him, he had long been impeached and sent back to New Hampshire.
Fremont is by no mans a thorough Anti-Slavery man. He is opposed to the further extension of Slavery, but does not wish to disturb it where it now is, but leave that entirely to the States. He says, if it be confined within its present limits, it will soon die out of itself. The South say if Fremont is placed in the Presidential Chair, the Union must & will be dissolved. . . . I have but little hope for the abolition of slavery in any other way than by dissolution of the Union. . .
Should Buchanan be elected, the South will be more arrogant and overbearing than ever; which will likely still further to arouse the North to retaliate. When that takes place the South must yield. In case of Civil War the South could do little more than take care of her own slaves; and my opinion is a rupture must take place within the next four years if Buchanan be elected.
1856 Buchanan Campaign Poster
The ten pounds which your Society sent to me was appreciated, I can assure you, much more than its value in dollars. It was a satisfaction to know that my labors for the slaves was appreciated by friends of humanity at a distance. I can assure you that I have been richly repaid for my labors in the cause of humanity by that Spirit that is ever near to bless those who are willing to live up to the light furnished by an all-seeing God. . . .
I received many letters written by those poor creatures, expressing their gratitude . . . I have passed a pretty active life till the present time, now 67 years of age, and do not recall to mind anything I have ever done which has given me so much real satisfaction as what I have done to benefit the colored race, bond and free.
For 20 years I spent much time in establishing and attending the colored schools here, as the colored children were not admitted to schools with white children. We now have two large schools almost entirely supported by the Society of Friends, both Hicksite a& Orthodox, & four private schools for colored children, all taught by colored teachers.In October of 1856, Harriet had been gone for a while; one day she came into Garrett's store and went to the back counting house to see him. Tubman told Garrett, "God has sent me to you for money," to which he replied, "Thee know I have a great many calls for money from the coloured people, and thee cannot expect much money from me." Harriet said, "You can give me what I need now...God never fools me." Garrett later reported that Harriet asked for the exact amount of money they had just sent him for the antislavery cause. Garrett asked, "Has anyone told thee I had money for thee? She replied, "Nobody but God." He wrote a letter on October 24 to Eliza Wigham in Scotland, while the story was fresh in his mind and in Harriet Tubman's:
My dear friend, E. Wigham, Thy esteemed favor of 9th month 11th was handed to me by J.M. McKim on the 18th of this month, also five pounds designated for that noble woman, Harriet Tubman, forwarded by thee. As I had not heard from her for several weeks past, I left a letter at the Anti-Slavery office with Wm. Still, informing her of the handsome donation I had just received for her.
Garrett's letter to Eliza Wigham, October 24, 1856
On sixth day last, less than a week after I received thy letter and money, Harriet came into my office and addressed me thus - "Mr. Garrett I am here again, out of money, with no shoes to my feet, and God has sent me to you for what I need" - I said - Harriet, art thou sure thou art not deceived? I cannot find money enough to supply all God's poor. I had five here last week and had to pay 8 dollars to clothe and forward them. She said, "Well, you have got enough for me to pay for a pair of shoes, and to pay for my own and a friend's passage to Philadelphia." Then she said, "I must have 20 dollars more: to enable me to go down to Maryland for a woman and three children."
She said she had paid her last copper that morning to a coloured man that had brought her, and a delicate female - a house servant - some 30 odd miles in his carriage. I then told her that the Good Spirit had put it into the heart of a kind friend in England to send, especially for her, five pounds, so that she would have enough for all her present wants without calling on her Philadelphia friends for aid. She said, "I thank you very much. I was sure I could get money from you, but I did not expect so much."
. . . Harriet's health has much improved since I last saw her. She now looks as though she might be able to perform good service in the cause for years to co come.
Our whole country is agitated at present about Politics, whether Buchanan or Fremont will be elected President. No one can certainly tell, but I think most likely Buchanan will be. But no matter which is elected, the slavery agitation must continue till slavery is abolished. The South is becoming bold and insolent towards the North, and towards the advocates of freedom. If the North once becomes fairly aroused, they have the power to dictate terms.
Fremont Campaign Poster
But I fear that slavery may not be abolished here without Civil War. . . .
I hope your anti-slavery efforts will be continued, as I can assure you that the slave-holders and their apologists on this side of the water are anxiously watching what is going on with you. . . . You can learn from the papers all that is going on here. You will no doubt conclude that there never was a more contemptible or unjust government on earth than ours at the present time, not only in respect to Kansas and Nebraska, but also to Central America. . .
If a rupture take place between the North and South, then, and not until then, will the South discover their weakness, for the majority of the whites at the South are poor, and do not hold slaves, and in reality are opposed to slavery, but dare not express their honest convictions on the subject, for the penalty would surely be expulsion from their houses, or imprisonment . . . There is now no freedom of speech or of the press in any Southern state . . .Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
WILMINGTON, 11th mo., 6th, 1856.
RESPECTED FRIEND: -WILLIAM STILL: - Thine of yesterday, came to hand this morning, advising me to forward those four men to thee, which I propose to send from here in the steam boat, at two o'clock, P. M. to day to thy care; one of them thinks he has a brother and cousin in New Bedford, and is anxious to get to them, the others thee can do what thee thinks best with, after consulting with them, we have rigged them up pretty comfortably with clothes, and I have paid for their passage to Philadelphia, and also for the passage of their pilot there and back; he proposed to ask thee for three dollars, for the three days time he lost with them, but that we will raise here for him, as one of them expects to have some money brought from Carolina soon, that belongs to him, and wants thee when they are fixed, to let me know so that I may forward it to them. I will give each of them a card of our firm. Hoping they may get along safe, I remain as ever, thy sincere friend, THOS. GARRETT.
|Market Street Bridge, Wilmington|
Letter from Thomas Garrett to Eliza Wigham, December 27, 1856:
Esteemed Friend, Eliza Wigham, Thy much valued letter of the 20th of 11th last, came to hand a few days since, and I received the five pound sterling your Society so kindly sent me, while attending the Anti-Slavery Fair in Philadelphia, from our mutual friend, J.M. McKim, for which token of regard please return thanks to your Society. . .
I had just commenced this letter when two colored men called to say they had three fugitives at their house, all able-bodied men, not more than 15 miles from their master's, and wishing me to give them directions how to evade their pursuers. I employed a pilot to convey them to the house of a friend in Chester Co. Thence they could pursue their journey with comparative safety, the whole neighborhood there being abolitionists. . .
Harriet Tubman has a good deal of the old fashion Quaker about her. She is a firm believer in spiritual manifestations, but I presume knows nothing about table rappings, but she has confidence God will preserve her from harm in all her perilous journeys, as she says she never goes on her missions of mercy without his consent, or approbation. . .
I have just received a circular from W.L. Garrison . . . inviting me to attend the
25th anniversary of Immediate Emancipation, to be held at Boston on the 2nd of next month. . . . I would gladly be with them, and no doubt would enjoy myself much, but at the close of the year, my business required my presence, and more than at any other season of the year, my services are required for the assistance of the fleeing bondsman. So I must remain at home for the present . . .
We were favored a few weeks since with the company of Frances E. Watkins, a
coloured lady, raised in Baltimore. Her mother died when she was 4 years of age, and she never knew her father. She was bound out to service, and went very little to school until she was 18. After that time she managed to get some education . . . For two years past she has been lecturing . . . She is one of the most efficient, talented, pleaders for her color and race I ever heard speak. She delivered two lectures here that were amongst the most thrilling and interesting I ever listened to . . .
I must now close, as I have written already enough to tire you, and more, I fear, than will interest you. But you must excuse an old man for dwelling on a subject that has been near to his best life from youth to the present time.
I am of a sanguine temperament - I know I am, and may be wrong, but I am sanguine in the belief that 20 years cannot pass by before every slave state in the Union will be glad to pass laws for the emancipation of their slaves, and I should not be surprised if it were not done in half that time. If they do not do it, the slaves will rise up in mass before 20 years and murder their oppressors. That is my candid opinion.
May that dreadful issue be prevented by the slave-holders becoming wiser than ever they yet have been.
|Inauguration of James Buchanan|
March 4, 1857
Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Wilmington, Delaware, 3rd mo. 29th, 1857
My dear friend, Mary Edmundson, Thy very acceptable letter, or note, reached me on the 24th instant. I feel very much flattered by the handsome donation your society has made to the cause of humanity in this land of boasted freedom, but in truth, a land of whips and chains. . . . Some 18 months since, I passed on a man of noble form in company with several others . . . He had left a beloved wife and three sweet children behind, all daughters, from 7 to 12 years of age. Soon after he had made his escape, the mother left with her three children and remained secreted in a cave for four long months, during the winter of 1855-6. In the Spring they were brought to me in a vessel, a fairer form of countenance I hardly ever saw in a woman or children. They were really white and very intelligent. I inquired her history. She told me her husband was about to be sold . . . and made his escape, since which she had never heard of him, and thought most likely she never would. After making inquiry for his real name . . . I told her I knew where her husband was, and would send her and the children to him . . . I would have paid for months of labour to have witnessed the joy of the whole family - it was First Day, but to gratify me, she let the youngest daughter sing and dance, and I thought she had one of the most sweetest, most musical, voices I ever listened to. I enjoyed their happiness and much as I ever enjoyed a Quaker meeting with the best of preachers. In 36 hours she was with her husband.
I will now give you an account of the miraculous escape of 8 slaves from Dover, the capital of this state, about 50 miles below here, on 3rd Day morning, the ninth of the present month: They were decoyed into Dover jail about 4 o'clock in the morning by a coloured man named Otwell . . . He had been employed by the friends of the coloured people, or slaves, for some time as a pilot and these slaves had paid him 8 pounds to pilot them . . . and I believe he had always preciously been true to his trust. Within the last year he had rented a small farm from a white man outside, named Hollis, who had been informed that Otwell had been employed as an agent in the Underground Railroad, and had so far succeeded in corrupting his morals as to induce him to pilot the slaves into Dover jail, where they would divide the reward between them.
Hollis had gone on the previous day to prepare the Sheriff for the reception. . . . Hollis took them directly to the jail, upstairs, into a room where the windows were barred with iron across them, which could be seen by the light of the moon. One of the men noticed this, and said he did not like the looks of the place, and stepped out . . . The rest broke out . . .
The next morning, after their escape, the person who had charge of them wrote to me . . . giving me a full account of what had occurred, and wishing my advice how to proceed. I at once wrote to an intimate friend near him to communicate my views, as I could not safely write to a coloured man while there was so much excitement there. He at once got my letter and all worked well. . . It was a week of great anxiety, I can assure you. I could not think of much else. It cost me in money nearly half the amount of your liberal donation, but I have no recollection of any money that I ever spend more cheerfully in the cause . . .
Thou mentions that a small part of the money sent is intended especially for Harriet Tubman. Poor Harriet, I fear something has happened to her. She left here last 11th month with 3 or 4 slaves for Canada. . . . since which I have never been able to learn anything respecting her, but should I ever have an opportunity, I shall most assuredly give her the money sent to her.
Those eight slaves mentioned in this letter came from the immediate neighborhood of Harriet's old master . . . Three of the masters of three of those slaves arrived in Dover on 2nd Day before the slaves arrived. . . . It has astonished the whole neighborhood how they managed to get clear. . .
First day morning, 29th: I have this moment received a letter from W. Still of Philadelphia informing me that Harriet Tubman has arrived in Phila, and was well, and contemplates making a visit South, this week. This is good news. She is to call on me for the money on her way.William Still wrote in his history of the Underground Railroad:
The appended letter, from Thomas Garrett, will serve to introduce one of the most remarkable cases that it was our privilege to report or assist:
Wilmington, 6th mo., 9th, 1857.
Esteemed Friend— William Still: — We have here in this place, at Comegys Munson's an old colored woman, the mother of twelve children, one half of which has been sold South. She has been so ill used, that she was compelled to leave husband and children behind, and is desirous of getting to a brother who lives at Buffalo. She was nearly naked. She called at my house on 7th day night, but being from home, did not see her till last evening. I have procured her two under garments, one new; two skirts, one new; a good frock with cape; one of my wife's bonnets and stockings, and gave her five dollars in gold, which, if properly used, will put her pretty well on the way. I also gave her a letter to thee. Since I gave them to her she has concluded to stay where she is till 7th day night, when Comegys Munson says he can leave his work and will go with her to thy house. I write this so that thee may be prepared for them; they ought to arrive be- tween 11 and 12 o'clock. Perhaps thee may find some fugitive that will be willing to accompany her. With desire for thy welfare and the cause of the oppressed, I remain thy friend, Thos. Garrett.
Jane did not know how old she was. She was probably sixty or seventy. She fled to keep from being sold. She had been" whipt right smart," poorly fed and poorly clothed, by a certain Roger McZant, of the New Market District, Eastern Shore of Maryland. His wife was a " bad woman too." Just before escaping, Jane got a whisper that her "master" was about to sell he ; on asking him if the rumor was true, he was silent. He had been asking "one hundred dollars" for her. Remembering that four of her children had been snatched away from her and sold South, and she herself was threatened with the same fate, she was willing to suffer hunger, sleep in the woods for nights and days, wandering towards Canada, rather than trust herself any longer under the protection of her "kind" owner. Before reaching a place of repose she was three weeks in the woods, almost wholly without nourishment. Jane, doubtless, represented thousands of old slave mothers, who, after having been worn out under the yoke, were frequently either offered for sale for a trifle, turned off to die, or compelled to eke out their existence on the most stinted allowance.Letter from Garrett to Samuel Rhoads:
Wilmington, 3d mo. 13th, 1857.
Dear Cousin, Samuel Rhoads: — I have a letter this day from an agent of the Underground Rail Road, near Dover, in this state, saying I must be on the look out for six brothers and two sisters, they were decoyed and betrayed, he says by a colored man named Thomas Otwell, who pretended to be their friend, and sent a white scamp ahead to wait for them at Dover till they arrived ; they were arrested and put in Jail there, with Tom's assistance, and some officers. On third day morning about four o'clock, they broke jail; six of them are secreted in the neighborhood, and the writer has not known what became of the other two. The six were to start last night for this place. I hear that their owners have persons stationed at several places on the road watching. I fear they will be taken. If they could lay quiet for ten days or two weeks, they might then get up safe. I shall have two men sent this evening some four or five miles below to keep them away from this town, and send them (if found to Chester County). Thee may show this to Still and McKim, and oblige thy cousin, Thomas Garrett.
WILMINGTON, 3d mo., 27th, 1857,Letter to Mary Edmundson:
ESTEEMED FRIEND, WILLIAM STILL: - I have been very anxious for some time past, to hear what has become of Harriet Tubman. The last I heard of her, she was in the State of New York, on her way to Canada with some friends, last fall. Has thee seen, or heard anything of her lately? It would be a sorrowful fact, if such a hero as she, should be lost from the Underground Rail Road. I have just received a letter from Ireland, making inquiry respecting her. If thee gets this in time, and knows anything respecting her, please drop me a line by mail to-morrow, and I will get it next morning if not sooner, and oblige thy friend. I have heard nothing from the eighth man from Dover, but trust he is safe.
Wilmington, 8th mo. 11th, 1857
Esteemed Friend, Mary Edmundson, Thy much esteemed favor of 7th mo. 1st reached me by due course of mail, and I ought to have acknowledged its receipt ere this, but we have been very busy building an addition to my store, moving iron, and taking an account of stock.
. . . I lately say that the 4th day of the 6th mo. furnished Harriet Tubman's father and mother, Benjamin and Catherine Ross with 30 pounds to carry them to Canada. . . . Harriet Tubman accompanied them. The old man Ross had to flee. He had been guilty of sheltering in his hut, for one day, those 8 slaves that broke out of Dover jail, early last Spring. . . Harriet has still one sister and her 3 children yet in slavery. She has tried hard this summer to get them all away together, but two of the children are separated some twelve miles from their mother, which has caused the difficulty - her sister refusing to leave without bringing all her children away with her. . . Since Harriet's parents were here, I passed on a poor broken-hearted coloured woman, near 70 years of age, the mother of 13 children. She left husband and children behind. . . Her master was about to sell her. She secreted herself in the woods two days and nights, nearly naked, and suffered dreadfully with the cold. . . We had to keep her a week before she was able to travel. My wife fitted her out with two suits of underclothes, good worsted frock, stockings, bonnet, and when fully rigged, she really seemed to almost forget her troubles. I furnished her with money to carry her to New York . . .
I have never had cause to regret all I have ever done for those poor creatures. when I see how happy they are in the prospect of freedom, I cannot do less than partake with them in their joy . . .
We are here, at present, living under one of the most tyrannical and corrupt governments on the face of the earth. The whole United States are fueled by about 300,000 slave-holders and their northern dough-faced allies who, for the sake of power and gold, will stoop to any mean, despotic act.
12th: I was aroused early this morning by the arrival of three fugitives, a man, wife, and son, 20 years of age. They had travelled three nights . . . the man and wife have been owned by different persons, and lived 20 miles apart for more than 20 years. They will leave this morning on the Underground Railroad for Canada. . . . It would have made the heart glad to have spent an hour with them this morning as I did. they were so cheerful and full of hope for the future.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
WILMINGTON, 9th mo. 6th, 1857.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
RESPECTED FRIEND, WM. STILL: - This evening I send to thy care four of God's poor. Severn Johnson, a true man, will go with them to-night by rail road to thy house. I have given Johnson five dollars, which will pay all expenses, and leave each twenty-five cents. We are indebted to Captain F-t-n for those. May success attend them in their efforts to maintain themselves. Please send word by Johnson whether or no, those seven arrived safe I wrote thee of ten days since. My wife and self were at Longwood to-day, had a pleasant ride and good meeting. We are, as ever, thy friend,
Wilmington, 11th mo., 5th, 1857.
Esteemed Friend, William Still: — I have just written a note for the bearer to William Murphy Chester, who will direct him on to thy care ; he left his home about a week since. I hear in the lower part of this State, he met with a friend to pilot him some twenty-five miles last night. We learn that one party of those last week were attacked with clubs by several Irishmen, and that one of them was shot in the forehead, the ball entering to the skull bone, and passing under the skin partly round the head. My informant says he is likely to recover, but it will leave an ugly mark it is thought, as long as he lives. We have not been able to learn, whether the party was on the look out for them, or whether they were rowdies out on a Halloween frolic; but be it which it may, I presume they will be more cautious hereafter, how they trifle with such. Desiring thee prosperity and happiness, I remain thy friend, Thomas Garrett.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
Wilmington, 11th mo. 1857.
Esteemed Friend, Wm. Still: — Thy favor of a few days since came to hand, giving quite a satisfactory account of the large company. I find in the melee near this town, one of the Irishmen got his arm broken in two places. The one shot in the forehead is badly marked, but not dangerously injured.
I learn to-day, that the carriage in that company, owing to fast driving with such a heavy load, is badly broken, and the poor horse was badly injured; it has not been able to do anything since.
Please say to my friend, Rebecca Hart, that I have heretofore kept clear of persuading, or even advising slaves to leave their masters till they had fully made up their minds to leave, knowing as I do there is great risk in so doing, and if betrayed once would be a serious injury to the cause hereafter. I had spoken to one colored man to try to see him, but he was not willing to risk it. If he has any desire to get away, he can, during one night, before they miss him, get out of the reach of danger.
Booth has moved into New Castle, and left the two boys on the farm. If Rebecca Hart will write to me, and give me the name of the boy, and the name of his mother, I will make another effort. The man I spoke to lives in New Castle, and thinks the mother of the boy alluded to lives between here and New Castle. The young men's association here wants Wendell Phillips to deliver a lecture on the lost arts, and some of the rest of us wish him to deliver a lecture on Slavery. Where will a letter reach him soonest, as I wish to write him on the subject. I thought he could perhaps deliver two lectures, two nights in succession. If thee can give the above information, thee will much oblige — Garrett & Son.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
Wilmington, 11th Mo. 25th, 1857. Respected Friend, William Still: — I write to inform thee, that Captain Fountain has arrived this evening from the South with three men, one of which is nearly naked, and very lousy. He has been in the swamps of Carolina for eighteen months past. One of the others has been some time out. I would send them on to-night, but will have to provide two of them with some clothes before they can be sent by rail road. I have forgotten the number of thy house. As most likely all are more or less lousy, having been compelled to sleep together, I thought best to write thee so that thee may get a suitable place to take them to, and meet them at Broad and Prime streets on the arrival of the cars, about 11 o'clock to-morrow evening. I have engaged one of our men to take them to bis house, and go to Philadelphia with them to-morrow evening. Johnson who will accompany them is a man in whom we can confide. Please send me the number of thy house when thee writes. Thomas Garrett.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
Wilmington, 11th mo. 25th, 1857.
Esteemed Friend, Wm. Still: — I now send Johnson, one of our colored men, up with the three men I wrote thee about. Johnson has undertook to have them well washed and cleaned during the day. And I have provided them with some second-hand clothes, to make them comfortable, a new pair of shoes and stockings, and shall pay Johnson for taking care of them. I mention this so that thee may know. Thee need not advance him any funds. In the present case I shall furnish them with money to pay their fare to Philadelphia, and Johnson home again. Hoping they will get on safe, I remain thy friend, Thos. Garrett.William Still wrote in his book:
This epistle from the old friend of the fugitive, Thomas Garrett, excited unusual interest. Preparation was immediately made to give the fugitives a kind reception, and at the same time to destroy their plagues, root and branch, without mercy. They arrived according to appointment. The cleansing process was carried into effect most thoroughly, and no vermin were left to tell the tale of suffering they had suffered. Straightway the passengers were made comfortable in every way, and the spirit of freedom seemed to be burning like "fire shut up in the bones."
The appearance alone of these men indicated their manhood, and wonderful natural ability. The examining Committee were very desirous of hearing their story without a moment's delay.
As Harry, from having suffered most, was the hero of this party, and withal was an intelligent man, he was first called upon to make his statement as to how times had been with him in the prison house, from his youth up. He was about forty-six years of age, according to his reckoning, full six feet high, and in muscular appearance was very rugged, and in his countenance were evident marks of firmness. He said that he was born a slave in North Carolina, and had been sold three times. He was first sold when a child three years of age, the second time when he was thirteen years old, and the third and last time he was sold to Jesse Moore, from whom he fled. Prior to his coming into the hands of Moore he had not experienced any very hard usage, at least nothing more severe than fell to the common lot of slave boys, therefore the period of his early youth was deemed of too little interest to record in detail. In fact time only could be afforded for noticing very briefly some of the more remarkable events of his bondage. The examining Committee confined their interrogations to his last taskmaster.
"How did Moore come by you?" was one of the inquiries. "He bought me," said Harry, " of a man by the name of Taylor, nine or ten years ago; he was as bad as he could be, couldn't be any worse to be alive. He was about fifty years of age, when I left him, a right red-looking man, big bellied old fellow, weighs about two hundred and forty pounds. He drinks hard, he is just like a rattlesnake, just as cross and crabbed when he speaks, seems like he could go through you. He flogged Richmond for not ploughing the corn good, that was what he pretended to whip him for. Richmond ran away, was away four months, as nigh as I can guess, then they cotched him, then struck him a hundred lashes, and then they split both feet to the bone, and split both his insteps, and then master took his knife and stuck it into him in many places ; after he done him that way, he put him into the barn to shucking corn. For a long time he was not able to work; when he did partly recover, he was set to work again." We ceased to record anything further concerning Richmond, although not a fourth part of what Harry narrated was put upon paper.
The account was too sickening and the desire to hear Harry's account of himself too great to admit of further delay; so Harry confined himself to the sufferings and adventures which had marked his own life. Briefly he gave the following facts: " I have been treated bad. One day we were grubbing and master said we didn't do work enough. ' How came there was no more work done that day?' said master to me. I told him I did work. In a more stormy manner he 'peated the question. I then spoke up and said: 'Massa, I don't know what to say.'
At once massa plunged his knife into my neck causing me to stagger. Massa was drunk. He then drove me down to the black folk's houses (cabins of the slaves). He then got his gun, called the overseer, and told him to get some ropes. "While he was gone I said, 'Massa, now you are going to tie me up and cut me all to pieces for nothing. I would just as leave you would take your gun and shoot me down as to tie me up and cut me all to pieces for nothing.' In a great rage he said 'go.' I jumped, and he put up his gun and snapped both barrels at me. He then set his dogs on me, but as I had been in the habit of making much of them, feeding them, &c., they would not follow me, and I kept on straight to the woods. My master and the overseer cotched the horses and tried to run me down, but as the dogs would not follow me they couldn't make nothing of it. It was the last of August a year ago. The devil was into him, and he flogged and beat four of the slaves, one man and three of the women, and said if he could only get hold of me he wouldn't strike me, ' nary-a-lick,' but would tie me to a tree and empty both barrels into me.
In the woods I lived on nothing, you may say, and something too. I had bread, and roasting ears, and 'taters. I stayed in the hollow of a big poplar tree for seven months; the other part of the time I stayed in a cave. I suffered mighty bad with the cold and for something to eat. Once I got me some charcoal and made me a fire in my tree to warm me, and it liked to killed me, so I had to take the fire out.
One time a snake come to the tree, poked its head in the hollow and was coming in, and I took my axe and chopped him in two. It was a poplar leaf moccasin, the poisonest kind of a snake we have.
While in the woods all my thoughts was how to get away to a free country."
. . .He was next asked, " Had you a wife and family ?" " Yes, sir," he answered, " I had a wife and eight children, belonged to the widow Slade." Harry gave the names of his wife and children as follows: Wife, Susan, and children, Oliver, Sabey, Washington, Daniel, Jonas, Harriet, Moses and Rosetta, the last named he had never seen."
Wilmington, 2 mo. 5th, 1858. Esteemed Friend William Still: — I have information of 6 able-bodied men that are expected here to-morrow morning ; they may, to-morrow afternoon or evening, take the cars at Chester, and most likely reach the city between 11 and 12 at night ; they will be accompanied by a colored man that has lived in Philadelphia and is free; they may think it safer to walk to the city than to go in the cars, but for fear of accident it may be best to have some one at the cars to look out for them. I have not seen them yet, and cannot certainly judge what will be best. I gave a man 3 dollars to bring those men 15 miles to-night, and I have been two miles in the country this afternoon, and gave a colored man 2 dollars to get provisions to feed them. Hoping all will be right, I remain thy friend, Humanitas.On February 5, 1858, Garrett wrote a letter to William Still announcing the successful quest for freedom of six more slaves from Maryland. Garrett paid one man three dollars to transport the fugitives fifteen miles, and paid another man two dollars to feed them on the way. The six slaves were
- Plymouth Cannon, a forty-two year old, one of six slaves of postmaster Nat Horsey of Horsey Cross Roads, who left his wife and his children
- Horatio Wilkinson, age forty-four, one of twelve slaves of Thomas J. Hodgson, who cautioned his slaves that "Canada is the meanest part of the globe that I ever heard of" in an unsuccessful attempt to deter any consideration of flight
- George Henry Ballard, age twenty-six, owned by the deceased William Jackson, who left his mother, sister and one other family member in bondage because he felt his owner's death would mean his sale
- Lemuel Mitchell, age thirty-five, owned by James R. Lewis
- His brother,John Mitchell, age twenty-four, owned by Mrs. Catherine Cornwell of Viana
- Josiah Mitchell, age twenty-three, also owned by Thomas J. Hodgson.
When Plymouth parted with his wife with a "full heart," he bade her good-night, without intimating to her that he never expected to see her again in this world; she evidently supposed that he was going home to his master's place as usual, but instead he was leaving his companion and three children to wear the yoke as hitherto. He sympathized with them deeply, but felt that he could render them no real good by remaining; he could neither live with his wife nor could he have any command over one of his children.
Slavery demanded all, but allowed nothing.
. . . John was twenty-four years of age, of unmixed blood, and of a quiet demeanour. He belonged to Miss Catharine Cornwell, of Viana. John described her as "tolerable good-looking, but real bad." His sister and. one other slave besides himself comprised her entire stock (of slaves).
According to John's story, his mistress was in the habit of telling her slaves that she did not "intend that any of them should be free if she could help it;" this sentiment was uttered so "scornfully" that it "insulted" Jack very much. Indeed, it was this that put the idea of Canada into his mind. The more she kept the idea of perpetual Slavery before the slaves, the more Jack resolved to make her arrogance cost her one slave at least.
Miss Cornwell was not only a warm advocate of Slavery, but was likewise a member of the Methodist church, under the pastoral charge of the Rev. J. C. Gregg. On one occasion, when the minister was visiting Miss C, the subject of Slavery was introduced in John's hearing. The reverend gentleman took the ground that it was not right to hold slaves, — said there were none in Pennsylvania, etc. The young mistress showed little or no sign of thinking otherwise while he remained, "but, after he was gone, she raved and went on in a great way, and told her brother if he (the minister), ever married her, he would have to come out of his notions about freedom." It was John's opinion that the subject of matrimony was then under consideration between them. For himself, he was highly delighted with the minister's "notions of freedom," as he had heard so many high notions of Slavery. In reference to the labor usage under the young mistress, John said that they had been "worked very hard, and especially last, and the present year." "Last year," he stated, "they had hardly any meat, but were fed chiefly on herring. Seeing that it was going to be the same thing this year too, I thought that if I could make my escape to Canada, I would do it." He had strong parental and kindred ties to break, but resolved to break them rather than remain under Miss Cornwell.
Wilmington, 8th mo. 21st, 1858
Esteemed Friend: William Still:
This is my 69th birthday, and I do not know any better way to celebrate it in a way to accord with my feelings, than to send to thee two fugitives, man and wife; the man has been here a week waiting for his wife, who is expected in time to leave at 9 this evening in the cars for thy house with a pilot, who knows where thee lives, but I cannot help but feel some anxiety about the woman, as there is great commotion just now in the neighborhood where she resides. There were 4 slaves betrayed near the Maryland line by a colored man named Jesse Perry a few nights since. One of them made a confidant of him, and he agreed to pilot them on their way, and had several white men secreted to take them as soon as they got in his house; he is the scoundrel that was to have charge of the 7 I wrote you about two weeks since; their master was to take or send them there, and he wanted me to send for them. I have since been confirmed it was a trap set to catch one of our colored men and me likewise, but it was no go. I suspected him from the first, but afterwards was fully confirmed in my suspicions. We have found the two Rust boys, John and Elsey Bradley, who the villain of a Rust took out of jail and sold to a trader of the name of Morris, who sold them to a trader who took them to Richmond, Virginia, where they were sold at public sale two days before we found them, for $2600, but fortunately the man had not paid for them; our Attorney had them by habeas corpus before a Judge, who detained them til we can prove their identity and freedom; they are to have a hearing on 2d day next, when we hope to have a person on there to prove them.In haste, thine,Thos. Garrett
Wilmington 8 mo. 24th 1858
Dear Friend Joseph A. Dugdale: received thine of yesterday inviting T. Clarkson Taylor and myself to attend the Temperance meeting at Longwood on the 7th day next. I this morning see Clarkson, who says it would give him much pleasure to attend the meeting, but he had made previous arrangements to attend meeting at Darby on First day morning next. He said he would have been pleased to be with you if he could have stayed on First day and paid a visit to thyself and Josiah Wilson. Situated as he is he will have to decline thy invitation at present.
Joseph A. Dugdale
We have succeeded in finding the two coloured men that were kidnapped the beginning of this month in Sussex County and sold by a villain to a Negro trader out of the state. They were first taken to Norfolk, thence to Richmond and there sold at public sale for 2600 dollars before they were found. Two men went on from this state on 6th day last to Richmond and fully identified the men, and the Judge gave promise that he would be ruled entirely by our laws in the case which were left with him by which they must be declared free, and when we get them we will try to make the cruel villain who sold them suffer for his sins.
We are as well as usual at present. I received a letter a week since from thy excellent mother. She writes very cheerfully, says the prospects of her son-in-law Harrison is much brighter than when she last wrote. Love to thy better half and self.In a note from August 1858, Thomas Garrett describes in vivid detail the escape of two slaves passing through Delaware to Media, Pennsylvania, that includes an encounter with their master on the train platform in Wilmington. Garrett also refers to a kidnapping case, illustrating how often the "underground" traffic worked both directions in antebellum America: slaves escaping northward and free blacks facing kidnapping rings that sometimes dragged them into the South.
Thy sincere friend
WILMINGTON, 8th mo. 25th, 1858.Letter from Thomas Garrett to Miller McKim and William Still:
ESTEEMED FRIEND: - WILLIAM STILL: - Thine was received yesterday. Those two I wrote about to be with thee last 7th day evening, I presume thee has seen before this. A. Allen had charge of them; he had them kept out of sight at the depot here till the cars should be ready to start, in charge of a friend, while he kept a lookout and got a ticket. When the Delaware cars arrived, who should step out but the master of both man and woman, (as they had belonged to different persons); they knew him, and he knew them. He left in a different direction from where they were secreted, and got round to them and hurried them off to a place of safety, as he was afraid to take them home for fear they would search the house. On 1st day morning the boat ran to Chester to take our colored people to the camp at Media; he had them disguised, and got them in the crowd and went with them; when he got to Media, he placed them in care of a colored man, who promised to hand them over to thee on 2d day last; we expect 3 more next 7th day night, but how we shall dispose of them we have not yet determined; it will depend on circumstances. Judge Layton has been on with a friend to Richmond, Virginia, and fully identified the two Bradley boys that were kidnapped by Clem Rust. He has the assurance of the Judge there that they will be tried and their case decided by Delaware Laws, by which they must be declared free and returned here. We hope to be able to bring such proof against both Rust and the man he sold them to, who took them out of the State, to teach them a lesson they will remember. Thy friend,
Wilmington, 9th mo. 6th, 1858.
Esteemed Friends, J. M. McKim and Wm. Still:— I have a mixture of good and bad news for you.
Good in having passed five of God's poor safely to Jersey, and Chester county, last week; and this day sent on four more, that have caused me much anxiety. They were within twenty miles of here on sixth day last, and by agreement I had a man out all seventh day night watching for them, to pilot them safely, as 1,000 dollars reward was offered for four of the five; and I went several miles yesterday in the country to try to learn what had become of them, but could not hear of them. A man of tried integrity just called to say that they arrived at his house last night, about midnight, and I employed him to pilot them to a place of safety in Pennsylvania, to-night, after which I trust they will be out of reach of their pursuers.
Now for the bad news. That old scoundrel, who applied to me some three weeks since, pretending that he wished me to assist him in getting his seven slaves into a free state, to avoid the sheriff, and which I agreed to do, if he would bring them here; but positively refused to send for them. Ten days since I received another letter from him, saying that the sheriff had been there, and taken away two of the children, which he wished me to raise money to purchase and set free, and then closed by saying that his other slaves, a man, his wife, and three children had left the same evening and he had no doubt I would find them at a colored man's house, he named, here, and wished me to ascertain at once and let him know. I at once was convinced he wished to know so as to have them arrested and taken back. I found the man had arrived; but the woman and children had given out, and he left them with a colored family in Cecil. I wrote him word the family had not got here, but said nothing of the man being here. On seventh day evening I saw a colored woman from the neighborhood; she told me that the owner and sheriff were out hunting five days for them before they found them, and says there is not a greater hypocrite in that part of the world. I wrote him a letter yesterday letting him know just what I thought of him. Your Friend, Thos. GarrettLetter from Thomas Garrett to Miller McKim and William Still:
Wilmington, 11th mo., 21st, 1858.
Dear Friends — McKim and Still: — I write to inform you that on the 16th of this month, we passed on four able bodied men to Pennsylvania, and they were followed last night by a woman and her six children, from three or four years of age, up to sixteen years; I believe the whole belonged to the same estate, and they were to have been sold at public sale, I was informed yesterday, but preferred seeking their own master; we had some trouble in getting those last safe along, as they could not travel far on foot, and could not safely cross any of the bridges on the canal, either on foot or in carriage. A man left here two days since, with carriage, to meet them this side of the canal, but owing to spies they did not reach him till 10 o'clock last night; this morning he returned, having seen them about one or two o'clock this morning in a second carriage, on the border of Chester county, where I think they are all safe, if they can be kept from Philadelphia. If you see them they can tell their own tales, as I have seen one of them. May He, who feeds the ravens, care for them. Yours, THOS. GARRETT.William Still wrote in his book:
The fire of freedom obviously burned with no ordinary fervor in the breast of this slave mother, or she never would have ventured with the burden of seven children, to escape from the hell of Slavery. Ann Maria, was about forty years of age, good-looking, pleasant countenance, and of a chestnut color, height medium, and intellect above the average. Her bearing was humble, as might have been expected, from the fact that she emerged from the lowest depths of Delaware Slavery. During the Fall prior to her escape, she lost her husband under most trying circumstances: he died in the poor-house, a raving maniac. Two of his children had been taken from their mother by her owner, as was usual with slave-holders, which preyed so severely on the poor father's mind that it drove him into a state of hopeless insanity. He was a "free man" in the eye of Delaware laws, yet he was not allowed to exercise the least authority over his children.
Prior to the time that the two children were taken from their mother, she had been allowed to live with her husband and children, independently of her master, by supporting herself and them with the white-wash brush, wash-tub, etc. For this privilege the mother doubtless worked with double energy, and the master, in all probability, was largely the gainer, as the children were no expense to him in their infancy; but when they began to be old enough to hire out, or bring high prices in the market, he snatched away two of the finest articles, and the powerless father was immediately rendered a fit subject for the mad-house; but the brave hearted mother looked up to God, resolved to wait patiently until in a good Providence the way might open to escape with her remaining children to Canada. Year in and year out she had suffered to provide food and raiment for her little ones. Many times in going out to do days' work she would be compelled to leave her children, not knowing whether during her absence they would fall victims to fire, or be carried off by the master. But she possessed a well tried faith, which in her flight kept her from despondency. Under her former lot she scarcely murmured, but declared that she had never been at ease in Slavery a day after the birth of her first-born. The desire to go to some part of the world where she could have the control and comfort of her children, had always been a prevailing idea with her. "It almost broke my heart," she said, " when he came and took my children away as soon as they were big enough to hand me a drink of water. My husband was always very kind to me, and I had often wanted him to run away with me and the children, but I could not get him in the notion, he did not feel that he could, and so he stayed, and died broken-hearted, crazy. I was owned by a man named Joseph Brown; he owned property in Milford, and he had a place in Vicksburg, and some of his time he spends there, and some of the time he lives in Milford. This Fall he said he was going to take four of my oldest children and two other servants to Vicksburg. I just happened to hear of this news in time. My master was wanting to keep me in the dark about taking them, for fear that something might happen. My master is very sly; he is a tall, slim man, with a smooth face, bald head, light hair, long and sharp nose, swears very hard, and drinks. He is a widower, and is rich."
On the road the poor mother, with her travel-worn children became desperately alarmed, fearing that they were betrayed. But God had provided better things for her; her strength and hope were soon fully restored, and she was lucky enough to fall into the right hands. It was a special pleasure to aid such a mother.
Her arrival in Canada was announced by Rev. H. Wilson as follows:
Niagara City, Nov. 30th, 1858.
Dear Bro. Still: — I am happy to inform you that Mrs. Jackson and herHiram Wilson was an abolitionist who worked directly with escaped and former slaves in southwestern Ontario. He attempted to improve their living conditions and help them to be integrated into society by providing education and practical working skills. He established ten schools to educate free blacks in southwestern Ontario. Wilson was a delegate to the 1843 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. He lived in St. Catharine's, Ontario, where his home was the final terminal for the Underground Railroad.
interesting family of seven children arrived safe and in good health and spirits at my house in St. Catharines, on Saturday evening last. With sincere pleasure I provided for them comfortable quarters till this morning, when they left for Toronto. I got them conveyed there at half fare, and gave them letters of introduction to Thomas Henning, Esq., and Mrs. Dr. Willis, trusting that they will be better cared for in Toronto than they could be at St. Catharines. We have so many coming to us we think it best for some of them to pass on to other places. My wife gave them all a good supply of clothing before they left us. James Henry, an older son is, I think, not far from St. Catharine, but has not as yet re-united with the family. Faithfully and truly yours, Hiram Wilson.
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Letter from Thomas Garrett to Miller McKim and William Still:
Wilmington, 8th mo. 25th, 1859.
Esteemed Friend, Wm. Still: — The brig Alvena, of Lewistown, is in the Delaware opposite here, with four females on board. The colored man, who has them in charge, was employed by the husband of one of them to bring his wife up. When he arrived here, he found the man had left. As the vessel is bound to Red Bank, I have advised him to take them there in the vessel, and to-morrow take them in the steamboat to the city, and to the Anti-slavery office. He says they owe the captain one dollar and fifty cents for board, and I gave him three dollars, to pay the captain and take them to your office.
I have a man here, to go on to-night, that was nearly naked; shall rig him out pretty comfortably. Poor fellow, he has lost his left hand, but he says he can take care of himself. In haste, thy friend, Thos. Garrett.On January 17, 1860, Maryland State Delegate C.W. Jacobs proposed a resolution in the Maryland House of Delegates to encourage the imprisonment of Thomas Garrett if he returned to Maryland. Jacobs presented to the House information about the twenty-fourth anniversary of the American Abolition Society meeting held in New York in May of 1857, that Garrett had attended. He claimed that abolition societies had raised $196, 912, which was used as a bounty on runaway slaves, "to decoy them from their owners, and induce them to run away." Jacobs said that
The said sum of $196, 912, bestowed upon said Garrett in May, 1857, and his large annual receipts per capita, for every slave he can so steal, has made him rich in wealth, and marked him as a wicked base traitor to man and God. And whereas, most of the slaves so stolen by said Garrett, belong to the citizens of this State, whose rights of property the State is sacredly pledged to secure inviolate; therefore, Be it resolved, by the General Assembly of Maryland, that the Treasurer pay, upon the order of the Comptroller, the sum of ----- dollars to any person or persons who may secure said Thomas Garrett in one of the public jails of this State, and that the Governor of this State, on information of such fact, is hereby requested to employ the best legal ability of the State to prosecute said Garrett to conviction and punishment.
Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Still:
I write to say I have not yet been kidnapped by the Marylanders, and hope by this time my friends may breathe freer. I have had sundry letters from friends, some advising me to leave home for a few weeks, and one to go to England for a year or two and take my wife along. I presume you have not been so alarmed about me.
Wilmington, 12th mo., 1st, 1860.
Respected Friend William Still:— I write to let thee know that Harriet Tubman is again in these parts. She arrived last evening from one of her trips of mercy to God's poor, bringing two men with her as far as New Castle. I agreed to pay a man last evening, to pilot them on their way to Chester county; the wife of one of the men, with two or three children, was left some thirty miles below, and I gave Harriet ten dollars, to hire a man with carriage, to take them to Chester county. She said a man had offered for that to bring them on. I shall be very uneasy about them, till I hear they are safe. There is now much more risk on the road, till they arrive here, than there has been for several months past, as we find that some poor, worthless wretches are constantly on the look out on two roads, that they cannot well avoid more especially with carriage, yet, as it is Harriet who seems to have had a special angel to guard her on her journey of mercy, I have hope. Thy Friend, THOMAS GARRETT.
These slaves from Maryland were the last that Harriet Tubman piloted out of the prison-house of bondage, and these "came through great tribulation."
Stephen, the husband, had been a slave of John Kaiger, who would not allow him to live with his wife (if there was such a thing as a slave's owning a wife.) She lived eight miles distant, hired her time, maintained herself, and took care of her children (until they became of service to their owner), and paid ten dollars a year for her hire. She was owned by Algier Pearcy. Both mother and father desired to deliver their children from his grasp. They had too much intelligence to bear the heavy burdens thus imposed without feeling the pressure a grievous one.
Harriet Tubman being well acquainted in their neighborhood, and knowing of their situation, and having confidence that they would prove true as passengers on the Underground Rail Road, engaged to pilot them within reach of Wilmington, at least to Thomas Garrett's. Thus the father and mother, with their children and a young man named John, found aid and comfort on their way, with Harriet for their " Moses." A poor woman escaping from Baltimore in a delicate state, happened to meet Harriet's party at the station, and was forwarded on with them. They were cheered with clothing, food, and material aid, and sped on to Canada.
Notes taken at that time were very brief; it was evidently deemed prudent in those days, not to keep as full reports as had been the wont of the secretary, prior to 1859. The capture of John Brown's papers and letters, with names and plans in full, admonished us that such papers and correspondence as had been preserved concerning the Underground Rail Road, might perchance be captured by a pro-slavery mob.
For a year or more after the Harper's Ferry battle, as many will remember, the mob spirit of the times was very violent in all the principal northern cities, as well as southern ("to save the Union.") Even in Boston, Abolition meetings were fiercely assailed by the mob. During this period, the writer omitted some of the most important particulars in the escapes and narratives of fugitives. Books and papers were sent away for a long time, and during this time the records were kept simply on loose slips of paper.The Civil War began in April 1861; during the war, Garrett's house was guarded by the free blacks of Wilmington.
Wilmington 12 mo. 2nd 1861
Dear Children: it is now more than a week since the receipt of James kind letter, which mentioned that Margaret was rather more comfortable which we were truly glad to hear, and hope she continues to improve . . .
My dear Rachel has often within 10 years been so ill that none of her friends but myself ever expected her to get about again, now she is favored with pretty good health, about as good as she has ever had since we were married, taking her age into consideration, yesterday we took Charles and rode out to brother Bennys and dined, spent a few hours very pleasantly and returned home to tea.
. . . This day Eli is 31 years of age, business remains pretty fair for selling, but our country customers are very bad pay, John was away 5 days last week, and got but 200 dollars and had bills with him for more than 2,000, we must patiently bide our time.
The President responded very impressively, saying that he was deeply sensible of his need of Divine assistance. He had sometime thought that perhaps he might be an instrument in God’s hand of accomplishing a great work and he certainly was not unwilling to be. Perhaps, however, God’s way of accomplishing the end which the memorialists have in view may be different from theirs. It would be his earnest endeavor, with a firm reliance upon the Divine arm, and seeking light from above, to do his duty in the place to which he had been called.Letter from Thomas Garrett to William Lloyd Garrison, January 5, 1863:
Dear Friend Garrison, I see in the Liberator thee proposes to advance the price
of it 50 cents per annum in consequence of the advance in paper, &c. All right the Liberator must be sustained; it cannot be dispensed with while a slave clanks his chains in the land of boasted liberty.
The beginning of the end of the slave's deliverance has commenced by the Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, of freedom of the slaves in the rebel States, with a few exception named; which exceptions, in my humble opinion, were wrong. . . I believe it would have been much better for the whole country if a general proclamation of emancipation had been declared by the President to take effect at once, paying reasonable compensation to all loyal slave holders in the border States (provided any such could have been found) . . . Had such a proclamation been made it would have done more toward stopping the effusion of blood . . . and in the end cost the Government less to pay for such slaves than to prolong the war - not that I believe it right to pay the master for the slaves, but as a matter of expediency.
Every sentiment of my nature is to oppose to war; but non-resistant as I profess to be I have not been able to see how the North could have avoided war. Slavery must die; till then, the country can have no peace.
. . . I have been suffering very much for two weeks with an attack of Bilious, and severe cold combined, but with the faith application of steam and the free use of water, without any medicine, I am now improving. . . . Today am at my desk at the store again; My wife is quite well this winter and has proved an excellent and faithful nurse to me. As ever, thy friend Thos. Garret
In August 1863, his youngest daughter, Margaret, died at the age of 36; she was the last of his three daughters.
William Still wrote in his book:
In 1864, a young man who had "been most unrighteously sold for seven years," desirous of enlisting, sought advice from the wise and faithful Underground Rail Road manager, who gave him the following letter, which may be looked upon in the light of a rare anecdote, as there is no doubt but that the "professed non-resistant" in this instance, hoped to see the poor fellow "snugly fixed in his regimentals" doing service for "Father Abraham."
Wilmington, 1st mo. 23rd, 1864.
Respected Friend, William Still: — The bearer of this, Winlock Clark, has lately been most unrighteously sold for seven years, and is desirous of enlisting, and becoming one of Uncle Sam's boys; I have advised him to call on thee so that no land sharks shall get any bounty for enlisting him; he has a wife and several children, and whatever bounty the government or the State allows him, will be of use to his family. Please write me when he is snugly fixed in his regimentals, so that I may send word to his wife. By so doing, thee will much oblige thy friend, and the friend of humanity, Thomas Garrett.
N. B. Am I naughty, being a professed non-resistant, to advise this poor fellow to serve Father Abraham? T. G.
We have given so many of these inimitable Underground Rail Road letters from the pen of the sturdy old laborer, not only because they will be new to the readers of this work, but because they so fittingly illustrate his practical devotion to the Slave, and his cheerfulness — in the face of danger and difficulty — in a manner that other pens might labor in vain to describe.
Dear Friend, W.L. Garrison, I yesterday accompanied by my wife attended the burial of Ellie, wife of Aaron Mendinhall, and Daughter in law of Isaac & Dinah Mendinhall. She was buried at Longwood, the corpse was followed to the grave by a large concourse of sympathizing Friends . . .
I see by the Liberator some weeks since that thy wife was quite poorly. I hope by this time she has quite recover'd her health. I should have been very happy to have been with you at the reception meeting of our friend Thompson, but my wife's health is so frail, that I seldom leave her for even 24 hours.
I feel very anxious that thee and G. Thompson should call and spend at least one night with me on your way to or from Washington, as Wendell Phillips inform'd me last week . . . I have written a few lines enclosed with this to our friend Thompson, hand it to him and oblige thy friend, Thos. GarrettThomas Garrett's wife, Rachel, died on April 20, 1868.
Letter from Thomas Garrett to Harriet Tubman's biographer, Sarah Bradford:
WILMINGTON, 6th Mo., 1868.
MY FRIEND:Thy favor of the 12th reached me yesterday, requesting such
reminiscences as I could give respecting the remarkable labors of Harriet Tubman, in aiding her colored friends from bondage.
I may begin by saying, living as I have in a slave State, and the laws being very severe where any proof could be made of any one aiding slaves on their way to freedom, I have not felt at liberty to keep any written word of Harriet’s or my own labors, except in numbering those whom I have aided. For that reason I cannot furnish so interesting an account of Harriet’s labors as I otherwise could, and now would be glad to do; for in truth I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul.
She has frequently told me that she talked with God, and he talked with her every day of her life, and she has declared to me that she felt no more fear of being arrested by her former master, or any other person, when in his immediate neighborhood, than she did in the State of New York, or Canada, for she said she never ventured only where God sent her, and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.
I have now been confined to my room with indisposition more than four weeks, and cannot sit to write much; but I feel so much interested in Harriet that I will try to give some of the most remarkable incidents that now present themselves to my mind.
The date of the commencement of her labors, I cannot certainly give; but I think it must have been about 1845; from that time till 1860, I think she must have brought from the neighborhood where she had been held as a slave, from 60 to 80 persons, from Maryland, some 80 miles from here. No slave who placed himself under her care, was ever arrested that I have heard of; she mostly had her regular stopping places on her route; but in one instance, when she had two stout men with her, some 30 miles below here, she said that God told her to stop, which she did; and then asked him what she must do. He told her to leave the road, and turn to the left; she obeyed, and soon came to a small stream of tide water; there was no boat, no bridge; she again inquired of her Guide what she was to do. She was told to go through. It was cold, in the month of March; but having confidence in her Guide, she went in; the water came up to her arm-pits; the men refused to follow till they saw her safe on the opposite shore. They then followed, and if I mistake not, she had soon to wade a second stream; soon after which she came to a cabin of colored people, who took them all in, put them to bed, and dried their clothes, ready to proceed next night on their journey.
Harriet had run out of money, and gave them some of her underclothing to pay for their kindness. When she called on me two days after, she was so hoarse she could hardly speak, and was also suffering with violent toothache. The strange part of the story we found to be, that the master of these two men had put up the previous day, at the railroad station near where she left, an advertisement for them, offering a large reward for their apprehension; but they made a safe exit.
She at one time brought as many as seven or eight, several of whom were women and children. She was well known here in Chester County and Philadelphia, and respected by all true abolitionists.
. . . To say the least, there was something remarkable in these facts, whether clairvoyance, or the divine impression on her mind from the source of all power, I cannot tell; but certain it was she had a guide within herself other than the written word, for she never had any education.
She brought away her aged parents in a singular manner. They started with an old horse, fitted out in primitive style with a straw collar, a pair of old chaise wheels, with a board on the axle to sit on, another board swung with ropes, fastened to the axle, to rest their feet on. She got her parents, who were both slaves belonging to different masters, on this rude vehicle to the railroad, put them in the cars, turned Jehu herself, and drove to town in a style that no human being ever did before or since; but she was happy at having arrived safe. Next day, I furnished her with money to take them all to Canada. I afterwards sold their horse, and sent them the balance of the proceeds. I believe that Harriet succeeded in freeing all her relatives but one sister and her three children. Thy friend, THOS. GARRETT.The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.
By 1869, amendments had been passed to abolish slavery and provide citizenship and equal protection under the laws, but the narrow election of Ulysses S. Grant to the presidency in 1868 convinced a majority of Republicans that protecting the franchise of black voters was important for the party's future. After rejecting more sweeping versions of a suffrage amendment, including voting rights for women, Congress proposed a compromise amendment banning franchise restrictions on the basis of race, color, or previous servitude on February 26, 1869. The amendment survived a difficult ratification fight and was adopted on March 30, 1870.
|Wilmington, Delaware, 1870|
Letter printed in The Liberator
Wilmington, Del. 4th mo. 5th, 1870
Aaron M. Powell, Esteemed Friend, I received an invitation from thee and our
kind friend, Mary Grew, to attend a meeting in New York, the 9th of this month, to commemorate the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. I certainly would be with you on that interesting occasion were it in my power to do so. Some five weeks since I received an injury, getting out of a carriage, in one knee, and have been confined to my room with it for the last four weeks, and cannot walk across my room without crutches, and therefore have no hope of being able to get to attend to the meeting . . . It would give me great pleasure to meet my old friends who have so long been with me in the cause of the slave, and join with them in the last meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
I rejoice that I have lived to see this day, when the colored people of this favored land, by law, have equal privileges with the most favored. And I have faith to believe that ere long equal justice will be granted to the poor Indians, and the Chinese.
In the year 1818, I became a member of the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania, and labored therein till 1822, when I moved to Wilmington, Del. that year, I was appointed, with William Chandler, by the Delaware Anti-Slavery Society, to investigate the case of two colored bound girls, they were sold as slaves to a trader in slaves, who took them out of the State and sold them. From that time I neglected no opportunity to aid all those oppressed people who called on me for aid, and I have cause to be thankful that I was placed in a situation where I could aid those abused and down-trodden people.
No labor during a long life has given me so much real happiness as what I have done for the slave.
And I now rejoice most heartily that African Slavery is forever ended in this country.
But there is much yet for philanthropists to do for this people before they can fully enjoy the great boon granted them by the Fifteenth Amendment. In this city, on 7th Day last, at an election for school directors, the colored people's vote was taken at seven of the nine wards. At two wards with Democratic inspectors, their votes were refused. This state of things cannot continue long.
The friends of the slave may now profitably turn their attention to the Sixteenth Amendment, and the Woman Suffrage question, for that, too, must soon be settled by granting equal suffrage to male and female alike.Less than one year later, on January 25, 1871, Thomas Garrett died of bladder disease. He was 81 years old.
near Wilmington Meeting House
The recent death of Thomas Garrett, called forth from the press, as well as from abolitionists and personal friends, such universal expressions of respect for his labors as a philanthropist, and especially as an unswerving friend of the Underground Rail Road, that we need only reproduce selections therefrom, in order to commemorate his noble deeds in these pages. From the "Wilmington Daily Commercial," published by Jenkins and Atkinson (men fully inspired with the spirit of impartial freedom), we copy the following notice, which is regarded by his relatives and intimate anti- slavery friends as a faithful portraiture of his character and labors:
Thomas Garrett, who died full of years and honor, this morning, at the ripe age of eighty-one, was a man of no common character. He was an abolitionist from his youth up, and though the grand old cause numbered amongst its supporters, poets, sages, and statesmen, it had no more faithful worker in its ranks than Thomas Garrett. . . In time, he came to be honored instead of execrated for his noble efforts. Wilmington became an abolition city, and for
once, at least, a prophet was not without honor in his own city. Mr. Garrett continued his interest in every reform up to his last illness, and probably his last appearance in any public capacity, was as president of a Woman Suffrage meeting, in the City Hall, a few months ago, which was addressed by Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, and Henry B. Blackwell.
Thomas Garrett lived to see the realization of his hopes for Universal Freedom, and in April last on the occasion of the great parade of the colored people in this city, he was carried through our streets in an open barouche, surrounded by the men in whose behalf he had labored so faithfully, and the guards around his carriage carrying banners, with the inscription, " Our Moses."
. . . He has been suffering for several years, from a disease of the bladder, which frequently caused him most acute anguish, and several times threatened his life. The severe pain attending the disease, and the frequent surgical operations it rendered necessary, undermined his naturally strong constitution, so that when he was prostrated by his last illness, grave fears were entertained of a fatal result.
He continued in the possession of his faculties to the last, and frequently expressed his entire willingness to die. Yesterday he was found to be sinking very rapidly. Just before midnight, last night, he commenced to speak, and some of those in attendance, went close to his bed-side. He was evidently in some pain, and said: 'It is all peace, peace, peace, but no rest this side of the river.' He then breathed calmly on for some time. About half an hour later, one of those in attendance ceased to hear his breathing, and bending over him, found that his soul had fled.
He retained a good deal of his strength through his illness, and was able to get up from his bed, every day, with the assistance of one person.
He will be buried in the Friends' grave-yard, corner of Fourth and West Streets, on Saturday next, at three o'clock, P. M., and in accordance with a written memorandum of an agreement made by him a year ago with them, the colored people will bear him to his grave, they having solicited of him that honor.William Still included an account of the funeral on January 28, which was printed in the Wilmington Daily Commercial on January 30, 1871:
FUNERAL SERVICE ON SATURDAY. The funeral of Thomas Garrett, which took place on Saturday, partook almost of the character of a popular ovation to the memory of the deceased, though it was conducted with the plainness of form which characterizes the society of which he was a member.
There was no display, no organization, nothing whatever to distinguish this from ordinary funerals, except the outpouring of people of every creed, condition, and color, to follow the remains to their last resting-place. There was for an hour or two before the procession started, a constant living stream of humanity passing into the house, around the coffin, and out at another door, to take a last look at the face of the deceased, the features of which displayed a sweetness and serenity which occasioned general remark. A smile seemed to play upon the dead lips.
Shortly after three o'clock the funeral procession started, the plain coffin, containing the remains, being carried by the stalwart arms of a delegation of colored men, and the family and friends of the deceased following in carriages with a large procession on foot, while the sidewalks along the line, from the house to the meeting-house, more than six squares, were densely crowded with
Wilmington Friends' Meeting House
The Friends' Meeting House was already crowded, except the place reserved for the relatives of the deceased, and, though probably fifteen hundred people crowded into the capacious building, a greater number still were unable to gain admission. The crowd inside was composed of all kinds and conditions of men, white and black, all uniting to do honor to the character and works of the deceased. The coffin was laid in the open space in front of the gallery of ministers and elders, and the lid removed from it, after which there was a period of silence.
Presently the venerable Lucretia Mott arose and said that, seeing the gathering
of the multitude there and thronging along the streets, as she had passed on her way to the meeting-house, she had thought of the multitude which gathered after the death of Jesus, and of the remark of the Centurion, who, seeing the people, said: "Certainly this was a righteous man." Looking at this multitude she would say surely this also was a righteous man. She was not one of those who thought it best always on occasions like this, to speak in eulogy of the dead, but this was not an ordinary case, and seeing the crowd that had gathered, and amongst it the large numbers of a once despised and persecuted race, for which the deceased had done so much, she felt that it was fit and proper that the good deeds of this man's life should be remembered, for the encouragement of others. She spoke of her long acquaintance with him, of his cheerful and sunny disposition, and his firm devotion to the truth as he saw it.
Aaron M. Powell, of New York, was the next speaker, and he spoke at length with great earnestness of the life-long labor of his departed friend in the abolition cause, of his cheerfulness, his courage, and his perfect consecration to his work. He alluded to the fact, that deceased was a member of the Society of Friends, and held firmly to its faith that God leads and inspires men to do the work He requires of them, that He speaks within the soul of every man, and that all men are equally His children, subject to His guidance, and that all should be free to follow wherever the Spirit might lead.
It was Thomas Garrett's recognition of this sentiment that made him an abolitionist, and inspired him with the courage to pursue his great work. He cared little for the minor details of Quakerism, but he was a true Quaker in his devotion to this great central idea which is the basis on which it rests. He urged the Society to take a lesson from the deceased, and recognizing the responsibility of their position, to labor with earnestness, and to consecrate their whole beings to the cause of right and reform.
. . . William Howard Day then came forward, saying he understood that it
would not be considered inappropriate for one of his race to say a few words on this occasion, and make some attempt to pay a fitting tribute to one to whom they owed so much. He did not feel to-day like paying such a tribute, his grief was too fresh upon him, his heart too bowed down, and he could do no more, than in behalf of his race, not only those here, but the host the deceased has befriended, and of the whole four millions to whom he had been so true a friend, cast a tribute of praise and thanks upon his grave.
William Howard Day
Rev. Alfred Cookman, of Grace M.E. Church, next arose, and said that he came there intending to say nothing, but the scene moved him to a few words. He remembered once standing in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, in London, and seeing therein the name of the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, inscribed, and under it this inscription: "Stranger, if you would see his monument look about you." And the thought came to him that if you would see the monument of him who lies there, look about you and see it built in stones of living hearts.
. . . Lucretia Mott arose, and said she feared the claim might appear to be made that Quakerism alone held the great central principle which dominated this man's life; but she wished it understood that they recognized this "voice within" as leading and guiding all men, and they probably meant by it much the same as those differing from them meant by the Third person in their Trinity. She did not wish, even in appearance, to claim a belief in this voice for her own sect alone.Aaron Powell, who had been editor of The National Anti-Slavery Standard, the official weekly newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, wrote a tribute to his friend:
On the 24th inst., Thomas Garrett, in his eighty-second year, passed on to the higher life. A week previous we had visited him in his sick chamber, and, on leaving him felt that he must go hence ere long. He was the same strong, resolute man in spirit to the last. He looked forward to the welcome change with perfect serenity and peace of mind. And well he might, for he had indeed fought the good fight and been faithful unto the end.
He was most widely known for his services to fugitive slaves. Twenty-five hundred and forty-five he had preserved a record of; and he had assisted somewhat more than two hundred prior to the commencement of the record. . . The friend and helper of fugitives from Slavery, truly their Moses, he was more than this, he was the discriminating, outspoken, uncompromising opponent of Slavery itself. He was one of the strongest pillars and one of the most efficient working-members of the American Anti-slavery Society. He was an abolitionist of the most radical and pronounced character, though a resident of a slave State, and through all the period wherein to be an abolitionist was to put in jeopardy, not only reputation and property, but life itself.
Though he rarely addressed public meetings, his presence imparted much strength to others, was "weighty" in the best Quaker sense. He was of the rare type of character, represented by Francis Jackson and James Mott.
Thomas Garrett was a member of the Society of Friends, and as such, served by the striking contrast of his own life and character, with the average of the Society, to exemplify to the world the real, genuine Quakerism. It is not at all to the credit of his fellow-members, that it must be said of them, that when he was bearing the cross and doing the work for which he is now so universally honored, they, many of them, were not only not in sympathy with him, but would undoubtedly, if they had had the requisite vitality and courage, have cut him off from their denominational fellowship.
He was a sincere, earnest believer in the cardinal point of Quakerism, the Divine presence in the human soul—this furnishes the key to his action through life. This divine attribute he regarded not as the birth-right of Friends alone, not of one race, sex or class, but of all mankind. Therefore was he an abolitionist; therefore was he interested in the cause of the Indians; therefore was he enlisted in the cause of equal rights for women; therefore was he a friend of temperance, of oppressed and needy working-men and women, world-wide in the scope of his philanthropic sympathy, and broadly catholic, and comprehensive in his views of religious life and duty.
He was the soul of honor in business. His experience, when deprived at sixty, of every dollar of his property for having obeyed God rather than man, in assisting fugitives from Slavery, and the promptness with which his friends came forward with proffered co-operation, furnishes a lesson which all should ponder well. He had little respect for, or patience with shams of any kind, in religious, political or social life.
|William Lloyd Garrison|
I held him as one of the best men who ever walked on earth, and one of the most beloved among my numerous friends and co-workers in the cause of an oppressed and down-trodden race . . . His career was full of a dramatic interest from beginning to end, and crowded with experiences and vicissitudes, most eventful.
What he promised, he fulfilled; what he attempted, he seldom or never failed to accomplish; what he believed, he dared to proclaim upon the housetop; what he ardently desired and incessantly longed for, was the reign of universal peace and righteousness.Thomas Garrett was survived by three of his sons, Elwood, Henry and Eli, and more than twenty grandchildren.
|Station Master on the |
In 1991, Delaware began celebrating “Thomas Garrett day” on August 21. In Wilmington, there is a historical park, Tubman-Garrett Park which pays tribute to the abolitionist movement. On October 3, 2012, the City of Wilmington dedicated a new Tubman Garrett sculpture at the newly named Tubman Garrett Riverside Park. The bronze work titled “Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom” is by sculptor Mario Chiodo. The work depicts Tubman and Garrett in dramatic poses as they assist escaping slaves along the Underground Railroad. The $220,000 project was funded through the City of Wilmington’s Percent for Art funds. At the dedication, Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker said, “Wilmingtonians and visitors alike can enjoy a beautifully executed piece of art while at the same time learning about our City’s heritage—namely our important link to the Underground Railroad.”
|Thomas Garrett in “Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom”|