|A slave warehouse! Perhaps some
of my readers conjure up horrible visions of such a place. They fancy
some foul, obscure den, some horrible _Tartarus "informis, ingens, cui
lumen ademptum."_ But no, innocent friend; in these days
men have learned the art of sinning expertly and genteelly, so as not to
shock the eyes and senses of respectable society. Human property is
high in the market; and is, therefore, well fed, well cleaned, tended, and
looked after, that it may come to sale sleek, and strong, and shining.
A slave-warehouse in New Orleans is a house externally not much unlike many
others, kept with neatness; and where every day you may see arranged, under
a sort of shed along the outside, rows of men and women, who stand there as
a sign of the property sold within.
Then you shall be courteously entreated to call and examine, and shall
find an abundance of husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers,
and young children, to be "sold separately, or in lots to suit the
convenience of the purchaser;" and that soul immortal, once bought with
blood and anguish by the Son of God, when the earth shook, and the rocks
rent, and the graves were opened, can be sold, leased, mortgaged, exchanged
for groceries or dry goods, to suit the phases of trade, or the fancy of the
It was a day or two after the conversation between Marie and Miss
Ophelia, that Tom, Adolph, and about half a dozen others of the St. Clare
estate, were turned over to the loving kindness of Mr. Skeggs, the keeper of
a depot on ---- street, to await the auction, next day.
Tom had with him quite a sizable trunk full of clothing, as had most
others of them. They were ushered, for the night, into a long room,
where many other men, of all ages, sizes, and shades of complexion, were
assembled, and from which roars of laughter and unthinking merriment were
"Ah, ha! that's right. Go it, boys,--go it!" said Mr.
Skeggs, the keeper. "My people are always so merry! Sambo,
I see!" he said, speaking approvingly to a burly negro who was
performing tricks of low buffoonery, which occasioned the shouts which Tom
As might be imagined, Tom was in no humor to join these proceedings; and,
therefore, setting his trunk as far as possible from the noisy group, he sat
down on it, and leaned his face against the wall.
The dealers in the human article make scrupulous and systematic efforts
to promote noisy mirth among them, as a means of drowning reflection, and
rendering them insensible to their condition. The whole object of the
training to which the negro is put, from the time he is sold in the northern
market till he arrives south, is systematically directed towards making him
callous, unthinking, and brutal. The slave-dealer collects his gang in
Virginia or Kentucky, and drives them to some convenient, healthy
place,--often a watering place,--to be fattened. Here they are fed
full daily; and, because some incline to pine, a fiddle is kept commonly
going among them, and they are made to dance daily; and he who refuses to be
merry--in whose soul thoughts of wife, or child, or home, are too strong for
him to be gay--is marked as sullen and dangerous, and subjected to all the
evils which the ill will of an utterly irresponsible and hardened man can
inflict upon him. Briskness, alertness, and cheerfulness of
appearance, especially before observers, are constantly enforced upon them,
both by the hope of thereby getting a good master, and the fear of all that
the driver may bring upon them if they prove unsalable.
"What dat ar nigger doin here?" said Sambo, coming up to Tom,
after Mr. Skeggs had left the room. Sambo was a full black, of great
size, very lively, voluble, and full of trick and grimace.
"What you doin here?" said Sambo, coming up to Tom, and poking
him facetiously in the side. "Meditatin', eh?"
"I am to be sold at the auction, tomorrow!" said Tom, quietly.
"Sold at auction,--haw! haw! boys, an't this yer fun? I wish't
I was gwine that ar way!--tell ye, wouldn't I make em laugh? But how
is it,--dis yer whole lot gwine tomorrow?" said Sambo, laying his hand
freely on Adolph's shoulder.
"Please to let me alone!" said Adolph, fiercely, straightening
himself up, with extreme disgust.
"Law, now, boys! dis yer's one o' yer white niggers,--kind o' cream
color, ye know, scented!" said he, coming up to Adolph and snuffing.
"O Lor! he'd do for a tobaccer-shop; they could keep him to scent
snuff! Lor, he'd keep a whole shope agwine,--he would!"
"I say, keep off, can't you?" said Adolph, enraged.
"Lor, now, how touchy we is,--we white niggers! Look at us
now!" and Sambo gave a ludicrous imitation of Adolph's manner;
"here's de airs and graces. We's been in a good family, I
"Yes," said Adolph; "I had a master that could have bought
you all for old truck!"
"Laws, now, only think," said Sambo, "the gentlemens that
"I belonged to the St. Clare family," said Adolph, proudly.
"Lor, you did! Be hanged if they ar'n't lucky to get shet of
ye. Spects they's gwine to trade ye off with a lot o' cracked tea-pots
and sich like!" said Sambo, with a provoking grin.
Adolph, enraged at this taunt, flew furiously at his adversary, swearing
and striking on every side of him. The rest laughed and shouted, and
the uproar brought the keeper to the door.
"What now, boys? Order,--order!" he said, coming in and
flourishing a large whip.
All fled in different directions, except Sambo, who, presuming on the
favor which the keeper had to him as a licensed wag, stood his ground,
ducking his head with a facetious grin, whenever the master made a dive at
"Lor, Mas'r, 'tan't us,--we 's reglar stiddy,--it's these yer new
hands; they 's real aggravatin',--kinder pickin' at us, all time!"
The keeper, at this, turned upon Tom and Adolph, and distributing a few
kicks and cuffs without much inquiry, and leaving general orders for all to
be good boys and go to sleep, left the apartment.
While this scene was going on in the men's sleeping-room, the reader may
be curious to take a peep at the corresponding apartment allotted to the
women. Stretched out in various attitudes over the floor, he may see
numberless sleeping forms of every shade of complexion, from the purest
ebony to white, and of all years, from childhood to old age, lying now
asleep. Here is a fine bright girl, of ten years, whose mother was
sold out yesterday, and who tonight cried herself to sleep when nobody was
looking at her. Here, a worn old negress, whose thin arms and callous
fingers tell of hard toil, waiting to be sold tomorrow, as a cast-off
article, for what can be got for her; and some forty or fifty others, with
heads variously enveloped in blankets or articles of clothing, lie stretched
around them. But, in a corner, sitting apart from the rest, are two
females of a more interesting appearance than common. One of these is
a respectably-dressed mulatto woman between forty and fifty, with soft eyes
and a gentle and pleasing physiognomy. She has on her head a
high-raised turban, made of a gay red Madras handkerchief, of the first
quality, her dress is neatly fitted, and of good material, showing that she
has been provided for with a careful hand. By her side, and nestling
closely to her, is a young girl of fifteen,--her daughter. She is a
quadroon, as may be seen from her fairer complexion, though her likeness to
her mother is quite discernible. She has the same soft, dark eye, with
longer lashes, and her curling hair is of a luxuriant brown. She also
is dressed with great neatness, and her white, delicate hands betray very
little acquaintance with servile toil. These two are to be sold
tomorrow, in the same lot with the St. Clare servants; and the gentleman to
whom they belong, and to whom the money for their sale is to be transmitted,
is a member of a Christian church in New York, who will receive the money,
and go thereafter to the sacrament of his Lord and theirs, and think no more
These two, whom we shall call Susan and Emmeline, had been the personal
attendants of an amiable and pious lady of New Orleans, by whom they had
been carefully and piously instructed and trained. They had been
taught to read and write, diligently instructed in the truths of religion,
and their lot had been as happy an one as in their condition it was possible
to be. But the only son of their protectress had the management of her
property; and, by carelessness and extravagance involved it to a large
amount, and at last failed. One of the largest creditors was the
respectable firm of B. & Co., in New York. B. & Co. wrote to
their lawyer in New Orleans, who attached the real estate (these two
articles and a lot of plantation hands formed the most valuable part of it),
and wrote word to that effect to New York. Brother B., being, as we
have said, a Christian man, and a resident in a free State, felt some
uneasiness on the subject. He didn't like trading in slaves and souls
of men,--of course, he didn't; but, then, there were thirty thousand dollars
in the case, and that was rather too much money to be lost for a principle;
and so, after much considering, and asking advice from those that he knew
would advise to suit him, Brother B. wrote to his lawyer to dispose of the
business in the way that seemed to him the most suitable, and remit the
The day after the letter arrived in New Orleans, Susan and Emmeline were
attached, and sent to the depot to await a general auction on the following
morning; and as they glimmer faintly upon us in the moonlight which steals
through the grated window, we may listen to their conversation. Both
are weeping, but each quietly, that the other may not hear.
"Mother, just lay your head on my lap, and see if you can't sleep a
little," says the girl, trying to appear calm.
"I haven't any heart to sleep, Em; I can't; it's the last night we
may be together!"
"O, mother, don't say so! perhaps we shall get sold together,--who
"If 't was anybody's else case, I should say so, too, Em," said
the woman; "but I'm so feard of losin' you that I don't see anything
but the danger."
"Why, mother, the man said we were both likely, and would sell
Susan remembered the man's looks and words. With a deadly sickness
at her heart, she remembered how he had looked at Emmeline's hands, and
lifted up her curly hair, and pronounced her a first-rate article.
Susan had been trained as a Christian, brought up in the daily reading of
the Bible, and had the same horror of her child's being sold to a life of
shame that any other Christian mother might have; but she had no hope,--no
"Mother, I think we might do first rate, if you could get a place as
cook, and I as chambermaid or seamstress, in some family. I dare say
we shall. Let's both look as bright and lively as we can, and tell all
we can do, and perhaps we shall," said Emmeline.
"I want you to brush your hair all back straight, tomorrow,"
"What for, mother? I don't look near so well, that way."
"Yes, but you'll sell better so."
"I don't see why!" said the child.
"Respectable families would be more apt to buy you, if they saw you
looked plain and decent, as if you wasn't trying to look handsome. I
know their ways better 'n you do," said Susan.
"Well, mother, then I will."
"And, Emmeline, if we shouldn't ever see each other again, after
tomorrow,--if I'm sold way up on a plantation somewhere, and you somewhere
else,--always remember how you've been brought up, and all Missis has told
you; take your Bible with you, and your hymn-book; and if you're faithful to
the Lord, he'll be faithful to you."
So speaks the poor soul, in sore discouragement; for she knows that
tomorrow any man, however vile and brutal, however godless and merciless, if
he only has money to pay for her, may become owner of her daughter, body and
soul; and then, how is the child to be faithful? She thinks of all
this, as she holds her daughter in her arms, and wishes that she were not
handsome and attractive. It seems almost an aggravation to her to
remember how purely and piously, how much above the ordinary lot, she has
been brought up. But she has no resort but to _pray_; and many such
prayers to God have gone up from those same trim, neatly-arranged,
respectable slave-prisons,--prayers which God has not forgotten, as a coming
day shall show; for it is written, "Who causeth one of these little
ones to offend, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about
his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea."
The soft, earnest, quiet moonbeam looks in fixedly, marking the bars of
the grated windows on the prostrate, sleeping forms. The mother and
daughter are singing together a wild and melancholy dirge, common as a
funeral hymn among the slaves:
"O, where is weeping Mary?
O, where is weeping Mary?
'Rived in the goodly land. She is dead
and gone to Heaven; She is dead and gone
to Heaven; 'Rived in
the goodly land."
These words, sung by voices of a peculiar and melancholy sweetness,
in an air which seemed like the sighing of earthy despair after heavenly
hope, floated through the dark prison rooms with a pathetic cadence, as
verse after verse was breathed out:
"O, where are Paul and Silas?
O, where are Paul and Silas?
Gone to the goodly land. They are dead
and gone to Heaven; They are dead and
gone to Heaven; 'Rived
in the goodly land."
Sing on poor souls! The night is short, and the morning will
part you forever!
But now it is morning, and everybody is astir; and the worthy Mr. Skeggs
is busy and bright, for a lot of goods is to be fitted out for auction.
There is a brisk lookout on the toilet; injunctions passed around to every
one to put on their best face and be spry; and now all are arranged in a
circle for a last review, before they are marched up to the Bourse.
Mr. Skeggs, with his palmetto on and his cigar in his mouth, walks around
to put farewell touches on his wares.
"How's this?" he said, stepping in front of Susan and Emmeline.
"Where's your curls, gal?"
The girl looked timidly at her mother, who, with the smooth adroitness
common among her class, answers,
"I was telling her, last night, to put up her hair smooth and neat,
and not havin' it flying about in curls; looks more respectable so."
"Bother!" said the man, peremptorily, turning to the girl;
"you go right along, and curl yourself real smart!" He
added, giving a crack to a rattan he held in his hand, "And be back in
quick time, too!"
"You go and help her," he added, to the mother.
"Them curls may make a hundred dollars difference in the sale of
Beneath a splendid dome were men of all nations, moving to and fro,
over the marble pave. On every side of the circular area were little
tribunes, or stations, for the use of speakers and auctioneers. Two of
these, on opposite sides of the area, were now occupied by brilliant and
talented gentlemen, enthusiastically forcing up, in English and French
commingled, the bids of connoisseurs in their various wares. A third
one, on the other side, still unoccupied, was surrounded by a group, waiting
the moment of sale to begin. And here we may recognize the St. Clare
servants,--Tom, Adolph, and others; and there, too, Susan and Emmeline,
awaiting their turn with anxious and dejected faces. Various
spectators, intending to purchase, or not intending, examining, and
commenting on their various points and faces with the same freedom that a
set of jockeys discuss the merits of a horse.
"Hulloa, Alf! what brings you here?" said a young exquisite,
slapping the shoulder of a sprucely-dressed young man, who was examining
Adolph through an eye-glass.
"Well! I was wanting a valet, and I heard that St. Clare's lot was
going. I thought I'd just look at his--"
"Catch me ever buying any of St. Clare's people! Spoilt
niggers, every one. Impudent as the devil!" said the other.
"Never fear that!" said the first. "If I get 'em,
I'll soon have their airs out of them; they'll soon find that they've
another kind of master to deal with than Monsieur St. Clare. 'Pon my
word, I'll buy that fellow. I like the shape of him."
"You'll find it'll take all you've got to keep him. He's
"Yes, but my lord will find that he _can't_ be extravagant with
_me_. Just let him be sent to the calaboose a few times, and
thoroughly dressed down! I'll tell you if it don't bring him to a
sense of his ways! O, I'll reform him, up hill and down,--you'll see.
I buy him, that's flat!"
Tom had been standing wistfully examining the multitude of faces
thronging around him, for one whom he would wish to call master. And
if you should ever be under the necessity, sir, of selecting, out of two
hundred men, one who was to become your absolute owner and disposer, you
would, perhaps, realize, just as Tom did, how few there were that you would
feel at all comfortable in being made over to. Tom saw abundance of
men,--great, burly, gruff men; little, chirping, dried men; long-favored,
lank, hard men; and every variety of stubbed-looking, commonplace men, who
pick up their fellow-men as one picks up chips, putting them into the fire
or a basket with equal unconcern, according to their convenience; but he saw
no St. Clare.
A little before the sale commenced, a short, broad, muscular man, in a
checked shirt considerably open at the bosom, and pantaloons much the worse
for dirt and wear, elbowed his way through the crowd, like one who is going
actively into a business; and, coming up to the group, began to examine them
systematically. From the moment that Tom saw him approaching, he felt
an immediate and revolting horror at him, that increased as he came near.
He was evidently, though short, of gigantic strength. His round,
bullet head, large, light-gray eyes, with their shaggy, sandy eyebrows, and
stiff, wiry, sun-burned hair, were rather unprepossessing items, it is to be
confessed; his large, coarse mouth was distended with tobacco, the juice of
which, from time to time, he ejected from him with great decision and
explosive force; his hands were immensely large, hairy, sun-burned,
freckled, and very dirty, and garnished with long nails, in a very foul
condition. This man proceeded to a very free personal examination of
the lot. He seized Tom by the jaw, and pulled open his mouth to
inspect his teeth; made him strip up his sleeve, to show his muscle; turned
him round, made him jump and spring, to show his paces.
"Where was you raised?" he added, briefly, to these
"In Kintuck, Mas'r," said Tom, looking about, as if for
"What have you done?"
"Had care of Mas'r's farm," said Tom.
"Likely story!" said the other, shortly, as he passed on.
He paused a moment before Dolph; then spitting a discharge of tobacco-juice
on his well-blacked boots, and giving a contemptuous umph, he walked on.
Again he stopped before Susan and Emmeline. He put out his heavy,
dirty hand, and drew the girl towards him; passed it over her neck and bust,
felt her arms, looked at her teeth, and then pushed her back against her
mother, whose patient face showed the suffering she had been going through
at every motion of the hideous stranger.
The girl was frightened, and began to cry.
"Stop that, you minx!" said the salesman; "no whimpering
here,--the sale is going to begin." And accordingly the sale begun.
Adolph was knocked off, at a good sum, to the young gentlemen who had
previously stated his intention of buying him; and the other servants of the
St. Clare lot went to various bidders.
"Now, up with you, boy! d'ye hear?" said the auctioneer to Tom.
Tom stepped upon the block, gave a few anxious looks round; all seemed
mingled in a common, indistinct noise,--the clatter of the salesman crying
off his qualifications in French and English, the quick fire of French and
English bids; and almost in a moment came the final thump of the hammer, and
the clear ring on the last syllable of the word _"dollars,"_ as
the auctioneer announced his price, and Tom was made over.--He had a master!
He was pushed from the block;--the short, bullet-headed man seizing him
roughly by the shoulder, pushed him to one side, saying, in a harsh voice,
"Stand there, _you!_"
Tom hardly realized anything; but still the bidding went on,--ratting,
clattering, now French, now English. Down goes the hammer
again,--Susan is sold! She goes down from the block, stops, looks
wistfully back,--her daughter stretches her hands towards her. She
looks with agony in the face of the man who has bought her,--a respectable
middle-aged man, of benevolent countenance.
"O, Mas'r, please do buy my daughter!"
"I'd like to, but I'm afraid I can't afford it!" said the
gentleman, looking, with painful interest, as the young girl mounted the
block, and looked around her with a frightened and timid glance.
The blood flushes painfully in her otherwise colorless cheek, her eye has
a feverish fire, and her mother groans to see that she looks more beautiful
than she ever saw her before. The auctioneer sees his advantage, and
expatiates volubly in mingled French and English, and bids rise in rapid
"I'll do anything in reason," said the benevolent-looking
gentleman, pressing in and joining with the bids. In a few moments
they have run beyond his purse. He is silent; the auctioneer grows
warmer; but bids gradually drop off. It lies now between an
aristocratic old citizen and our bullet-headed acquaintance. The
citizen bids for a few turns, contemptuously measuring his opponent; but the
bullet-head has the advantage over him, both in obstinacy and concealed
length of purse, and the controversy lasts but a moment; the hammer
falls,--he has got the girl, body and soul, unless God help her!
Her master is Mr. Legree, who owns a cotton plantation on the Red river.
She is pushed along into the same lot with Tom and two other men, and goes
off, weeping as she goes.
The benevolent gentleman is sorry; but, then, the thing happens every
day! One sees girls and mothers crying, at these sales, _always!_ it can't
be helped, &c.; and he walks off, with his acquisition, in another
Two days after, the lawyer of the Christian firm of B. & Co., New York,
send on their money to them. On the reverse of that draft, so
obtained, let them write these words of the great Paymaster, to whom they
shall make up their account in a future day: _"When he maketh
inquisition for blood, he forgetteth not the cry of the humble!"_