Continued from Part 1
Pages from the pamphlet Slavery and Abolitionism, as Viewed by a Georgia Slave. By Harrison Berry, the Property of S. W. Price, Covington, Georgia; 1861
Source: Documenting the American South (DocSouth) online collection at the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. See details at the end of this blog entry.
These are the words of a Georgia slave, in 1861:
We see the Apostles teaching peace all through the New Testament. We see, in the Epistles, they exhort Servants to be obedient to their masters; and not only in words do we find this, but in all their practice. For, on one occasion, when a Slave had run away from his master, and went to Paul, he does not hesitate a moment, but sends him back to his lawful owner. This shows that Christ and the Apostles had quite a different view of Slavery to that of our modern factionists of the United States…
We will now examine some of the leading principles of the Abolition party. It is not that I am opposed to freedom, that actuates me to address them in the manner which I do, for I believe it to be one of the greatest blessings earthly, when not contaminated with fanatical dispositions.
But rather would I die, were I a citizen of the United States, than to disturb the peace, or act in any way that would be detrimental to the onward progress and prosperity of my country. For, of all the Governments that now exist, or have ever existed, this perhaps is the least contaminated with injustice–the Constitution granting to every native born, or adopted citizen, the freedom of speech, and the power, at the ballot-box, of making their own laws to be governed by. What a lesson it ought to be to the American citizen, to view four-fifths of Europe and Asia having no more power to make the laws by which they are governed than the Slaves of this country who are not citizens!
Now, as the master waits all night for the return of the Slave that has run away from him, seeing, in the morning, he is absent, he goes over to his neighbor’s house, and asks him to look out for him. Says he, “I went to town yesterday after my paper, and when I had gotten it, I saw a statement of the organization of an Abolition Convention, resolving that Slavery was a sin, and a reproach upon any free people, and that they would never desist from its agitation, until they had eradicated the last string that bound it to the country.
“I, of course, became somewhat grum when I saw it; and, on going to the field, after getting home, in that grum state, I, perhaps, might have been too much vexed to have judged correctly the amount of work that should have been done. I, at any rate, thought they had not done enough, and scolded Tom for not having done more; he commenced muttering, which only added fuel to the fire already kindled within me; so I was in a bad fix to take his insolence, and made at him, when he ran away. I would like to get hold of him, for if any of those Abolitionists should happen to get hold of him, they would carry him off.”
Now, let us hear the consolation of his neighbor. He says: “Yes; and let me tell you what happened at my house last Sunday. As I was going to the lot, I saw my Bob have a newspaper, reading very attentively; and, on going to him, and asking him to let me see it, I found that he was reading the paper that had the very same proceedings of that Convention of the Abolitionists you were speaking of. So I lurked around my negroes’ houses that night, to see if I could hear Bob say anything about the Convention to the other negroes; and, sure enough I did, for I heard him tell them that they would not be Slaves much longer, for the Abolition party intended to set them all free, at the risk of their lives. He was going on at a terrible rate; and, on peeping through a crack, I saw two of Mr. Jones’ boys there too. So I slipped back to the house, and thought I would watch their manoeuvres the next morning; and when morning came, I found them to be dull, careless, and very slothful.
“So I took them up, and whipped every one of them, and gave Bob two hundred lashes; then I got on my horse and rode over to Mr. Jones’, and told him what I had heard Bob say in the presence of his two boys, and what I had done to mine. He called up his two boys and whipped them too. So you see how the thing is shaping. We must have our property protected against this diabolical set of Abolitionists, and our Legislatures must give us more power over our Slaves. And any man that will not agree to make the laws more binding on Slaves, can’t get my vote, nor any one else that I can in the least influence.”
- Harrison Berry, the Property of S. W. Price, Covington, Georgia, in his 1861 pamphlet Slavery and Abolitionism, as Viewed by a Georgia Slave.
Message to slaves, from one slave to another: listening to abolitionists will get your butt whipped. In case you didn’t know.
Sigh. As an African American living in the 21st century, it’s too easy to take derisive potshots at a 19th century slave who:
- tells his “brethren in bondage” that slavery is sanctioned by the Bible;
- says that if he was a citizen, he’d rather die than “disturb the peace” (as abolitionists were doing) because he lives in a place which offers its citizens all kinds of freedoms and rights; even as he acknowledges that he, as a slave and non-citizen, didn’t enjoy those freedoms and rights himself;
- warns that slaves who listen to abolitionists will get their butts whipped… as if they didn’t know.
But Harrison Berry – a slave and author of Slavery and Abolitionism, as Viewed by a Georgia Slave. By Harrison Berry, the Property of S. W. Price, Covington, Georgia, which was published in 1861 – lived in much different times. Slavery was nothing to joke about, and he clearly took his positions – a passioned defense of slavery and slave masters, and a biting critique of abolitionists and the Republican Party – very, very seriously.
More of his pamphlet is in part one of this two part blog entry; the entire document is here.
The pamphlet raises all kinds of questions: Just who was Harrison Berry? Did he actually write the pamphlet? If so, how was it that he was so literate and knowledgeable, in a state where teaching slaves to read was a minor offense punishable by a fine and/or whipping? Who was the intended audience? And what did he get out of it – financially or otherwise?