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He spoke of her good disposition, order, fidelity; her uncommon qualifications for taking care of a house; her various talents, and remarked that the child that she bore at her breast, and which was to be sold with her, also increased her value. After this, he shouted with a loud voice,
“Now, gentlemen, how much for this very superior woman,--this excellent servant, and her child ?”
He pointed with his out-stretched arm and forefinger from one to another of the gentlemen who stood around, and first one, and then another replied to his appeal with a short, silent nod; and all the while he continued in this style,
"Do you offer me five hundred dollars ? Gentlemen, I am offered five hundred dollars only for this superior woman and her child !- It is a sum not to be thought of ! -and she, with her child, is worth double that money. Five hundred and fifty-six hundred-six hundred and fifty-six hundred and sixty-six hundred and seventy. My good gentlemen, why do you not at once say seven hundred dollars for this uncommonly superior woman and her child ? Seven hundred dollars—it is downright robbery ! She would never have been sold at that price if her master had not been so unfortunate.”
The hammer fell heavily; the woman and her child were sold for seven hundred dollars, to one of those dark, silent figures before her. Who he was,—whether he was good or bad, whether he would lead her into tolerable or intolerable slavery -- of all this the bought and sold woman and mother knew as little as I did; neither to what part of the country he would take her. And the father of her child—where was he?
With eyes still riveted upon that sleeping child, with dejected yet submissive mien, the handsome mulatto stepped forward down from the auction platform, to take her stand beside the wall, but on the opposite side of the room.
Next, a very dark, young negro girl got upon the platform. She wore a bright yellow handkerchief tied very tastefully round her head, so that the two ends stood out like little wings, one on each side. Her
figure was remarkably trim and neat, and her eyes glanced round the assembly with a look of bold inquiry.
The auctioneer exalted her merits likewise, and then exclaimed: “How much for this very likely young girl ! ” She was sold; and, if I recollect rightly, for three hundred and fifty dollars.
After her, a young man took his place on the platform : he was a mulatto, and had a remarkably good countenance, gentle and intelligent. He had been servant in his former master's family, and had been brought up by him, and was greatly beloved by him, and deserved to be so,—"a most excellent young man,”-as the auctioneer pronounced him. He sold for six hundred dollars.
After this came an elderly woman, who had also one of those good-natured, excellent countenances so common among the black population, and whose manner and general appearance showed that she, too, had been in the service of a good master, and, from having been accustomed to kind treatment, had become gentle and happy. All these slaves, as well as the young girl, who looked rather pert than good, bore the impression of having been accustomed to an affectionate family life.
And now what was to be their future fate? How bitterly, if they fell into the hands of the wicked, would they feel the difference between then and now !-how sad would be their lot! The mother, in particular, whose heart seemed engrossed by her child, and who, perhaps, would have soon to see that child sold away,-far away from her—what would then be her state of mind !
The master had been good, the servants good also, attached and faithful, and yet they were sold to whoever would buy them-sold like brute beasts !
Let any one of us compare our situation, our feelings, with the situation and the feelings of these poor slaves. Shall we not feel deep thankfulness to Almighty God for having placed us in a land of light and freedom, while we feel great compassion for our poor African brethren? Yes, my friends, they are our brethren; the children of
our Father,—that Father who dwelleth in heaven, and beholdeth all the families of men. It is of his will and mercy that He has made us to differ; that He has allotted to them a life of slavery and hardship,—to us a life of freedom and of comfort: and we must remember that we are responsible beings, and accountable to God for the superior blessings which we enjoy.
This is one useful view of the subject before us to lead us to consider if we are making good use of the talents and opportunities which God has given to us. But there is another equally useful: are we thankful and contented with the share of good things which God has given us? When we read of the cruelties practised on the poor negro slaves, and of the miserable degraded state into which they have sunk, we are not surprised if we also read of their running away from their masters, and of their conspiring against those masters. But what do you think would be the astonishment of the African if he, after seeing the comfort and well-doing of our English labourer, was to hear of strikes and outrages and such riotous proceedings ?
To many of us service seems a hard bondage, and we talk of our masters and mistresses as if they cared not for us, and we only cared for them as a means of gaining our livelihood. And yet, how often do we notice in a churchyard one or more monuments raised to the memory of some dear old departed servants, by the kind and grateful feeling of their masters! How often do we hear of a master who is, by any unforeseen calamity, obliged to part with his servants, interesting himself to find comfortable situations for his servants ! This is the feeling which should exist between master and servant in a Christian land ; and when it does not exist, there is some great fault; but it may either be in the master or in the servant. If the servant give a grudging service to his master, and, while he labours for him with his hands, does not give him his heart, the master will not feel grateful or attached to that servant. But if a servant looks to his master as his friend, goes to him in all his troubles and consults him in all his difficulties, it is seldom that he does not meet with a cordial return, and thus love brings love. But the strongest bond which can unite the master and the servant must be the bond of Christianity, the belief in our Saviour, the trust in one God, the dependence on the same Holy Spirit; and therefore it is that, if we seek to live happy and contented in service, we must, as far as we can, choose for our masters men of steady religious principles. We must not make wages the great point, nor liberty, but seek to serve those who, serving God themselves, will help us to serve Him also. There is comfort in remembering that it is this blessed influence, the influence of religion, which brings relief and comfort also to the poor slave.
In the same book from which I have taken the sad account of this slave auction, I had pleasure in reading the accounts also of Christian masters, men of religious principle, who took care of their slaves ; saw that they were well fed and not over-worked while well, and carefully tended when sick and old; and who had them taught to read, and gave them the opportunity of hearing the blessed Gospel, and of rejoicing in that light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world ; and who, fulfilling the Christian law of doing to others as we would they should do unto us, enabled them to work out their own freedom by paying them for their labour for one day or two days in the week, and saving this money for them till it amounted to the price of their redemption from slavery. This plan is found more for the happiness of the poor negro than giving him his freedom at once, for in that case they are very apt to sink back into the idle and profligate habits of savage life without making any exertion for their comfort and improvement. In the latter case they are enabled to gain their livelihood respectably, and are led to bless God for the bondage which has been the means of bringing them out of darkness into light, and go on their way rejoicing and looking forward to that blessed and glorious kingdom where there is no distinction of Jew or Gentile, bond or free, but all are received who have been made to drink of one Spirit and are members of one body, which body is Christ.
OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."-Rom. xi. 21. The other day I met with the following account of a settlement in the Illinois country in America, and it is so beautiful an illustration of this precept of the Apostle's that it deserves notice. We are too apt to think that such holy precepts cannot be fully carried out by us, but must bend to our interests and our infirmities; not so with the brave and pious band of thirty or forty New Englanders who went out to settle in the western wilderness.
“ They were mostly neighbours, and had been led to unite together in emigration from a general unity of opinion on various subjects. For some years previous they had been in the habit of meeting from time to time at each other's houses to talk over their duties to God and man in all simplicity of heart. With the volume of the Prince of Peace in their hand, and with hearts open to his influence, this little band started for the far West. They were industrious and frugal, and all things prospered under their hands. But soon wolves came near the fold in the shape of reckless, godless adventurers ; believers in force and cunning, who acted according to their creed. The colony of practical Christians spoke of their depredations in terms of gentlest remonstrance, and repaid them with unvarying kindness. They went further; they openly announced, “ You may do us what evil you choose, we will return nothing but good?' Lawyers came into the neighbourhood, and offered their services to settle disputes. They answered, “We have no need of you. What will you do,' asked the men of the law, if rascals burn your barns, and steal your harvests?' 'We will return good for evil,' was the answer.
" When the rascals heard this, they considered it a vastly good joke, and said and did many provoking things, which seemed to them witty. Bars were taken down in the night, and cows let into corn fields. The Christians repaired the damage as well as they could, put the cows in the barn, and at twilight drove them