Those with the intellectual vigor to pursue this story to the very last page are encouraged to share your opinions with me at email@example.com. If you do not prohibit the posting of your remarks they will be posted, subject only to the standards of decency and good grammar, as an addendum to this story. And now to continue with this first piece...
In looking at history today one can almost believe there were no slaves. Their housing has almost disappeared and their burial grounds, once ignored but now more and more remembered, are often located in places and in a way that makes their lowly status very evident. This book makes it possible to feel again the circumstances of early American Blacks. For those with the courage to know it is one way to know. It is not a full picture and I can not say it is a fair picture but it is so damning of its protagonists that one suspects the author believed it. He was a minister himself.
On the eve of civil war there were strong views both for and against abolition in the north. The outcome of war was certain to be very bad. Whether the nation should be drawn into a fight to the death would have made many wonder if the outcome would be worth the cost. This book seems to suggest the author is among the skeptics. His life and the circumstantial evidence suggest otherwise. He seems to almost be asking, “Do you know what you are getting into?” Such views were common. Such evidence is not. This is a rare and important book for what is says about attitudes in 1860 and for what it says about attitudes of almost a hundred years earlier.
The following excerpts are chosen to show how Blacks are portrayed in this book. In this first scene one of the book’s protagonists, Teunis, a White, comes upon a black enclave.
“With these reflections, he tied Sorrel [his horse] to a tree and followed the sounds, which became more distinct at every step. Climbing up one of those steep ascents, found at the base of the mountain, about one hundred feet, and proceeding hastily in a southerly course, he saw lights shining from below on his left hand. On looking narrowly, he perceived that those lights and sounds came alike from a deep defile that was hidden by the trees and bushes, which grew thick on the sides, and spread their branches so as to meet across, making a dark, damp, though spacious apartment, far down from the place where Teunis stood. He remembered the place, having entered from below through a small, covered, natural entrance, where the fox and bear found a refuge during the gloomy months of winter. It had in former times been a retreat for the Indians. Ashes, cinders, pipes and arrow heads were found here, together with their utensils for cooking fish. The mill, in which some ancient squaw had ground her corn to meal, has been dug out from one of the recesses in that rock, and stood as an ornament upon Garret Abiel’s mantelshelf, left there, no doubt, as in a place of safety, till her return; but alas! The place that once knew her, now knows neither her nor her race any more.