The Slave’s Friend, #4 (1835)

Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, The Slave’s Friend had a spotty distribution: few were sold, but copies were mailed to selected individuals or scattered through public places to be read. (See John R. Edson’s essay on the magazine in Children’s Periodicals of the United States for more information.) The magazine was microfilmed in 1978 by Greenwood Press and is available digitally as part of the American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals database.

This monthly magazine contained poetry and articles that were pro-Christianity and anti-slavery, with two or three woodcuts per issue. Illustrations are fairly generic and sometimes were used in several issues. The Slave’s Friend is an inviting little pocketful, 4.5 by 2.75 inches. Two page numbers on each page indicate that each volume was continuously paginated.

“The Starling” was an anecdote popular in the Friend: a version of it appears in several issues, and the illustration sometimes was printed on its own, with the starling’s words as a caption. An incident from Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, it is alluded to in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

Besides presenting young readers with the realities of slavery and of racism, the Friend discussed the activities of abolitionists, such as Joshua Coffin. Education is an important theme in several issues; here we have “The School” and “Children’s Letters.” “The Cart-Whip” has interesting undertones, as Northerners are made complicit in the slave trade by manufacturing and selling objects for use against slaves by Southerners.

In “Children’s Letters” appears a mention of the Tiskilwa. A steamboat by this name apparently had a regular route between Alton, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, in 1835 (see Chandler Robbins Gilman, Life on the Lakes [1836]; vol 2, pp. 273-274). The boat was sunk 18 April 1837, when it was broadsided by the Wisconsin (see S. A. Howland, Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents in the United States, 2nd ed. [1840] []). I’ve been unable to identify the incident referred to in the letter.

The scanned copy of issue 4 has illustrations hand-colored by an earlier owner. The issue is presented in its entirety.

The front cover for the first volume featured a white man teaching young black boys to read.

[cover p. 2; inside front cover]


I dream of all things free!

Of a gallant, gallant bark,

That sweeps through the storm at sea,

Like an arrow to its mark!

Of a stag that o’er the hills

Goes bounding in his glee;

Of a thousand flashing rills—

Of all things glad and free.

I dream of some proud bird,

A bright-eyed mountain king;

In my visions I have heard

The rustling of his wing.

I follow some wild river,

On whose breast no sail may be;

Dark woods around it shiver—

I dream of all things free!

Of a happy forest child,

With the fawns and flowers at play,

Of an Indian midst the wild,

With the stars to guide his way:

Of a chief his warriors leading,

Of an archer’s green wood tree—

My heart in chains is bleeding,

And I dream of all things free!


* Felicia Dorothea Browne, was born in Liverpool[.] Her father was a native of Ireland, and her mother was a German lady. When very young, her parents took her to Wales. There she married Mr. Hemans[.] She had five sons. She died in 1835, at Dublin.

[p. 1; p. 45]



NO. 4.

caged bird

As Mr. Sterne was walking along one day, he heard a voice saying “it could not get out.” He looked up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, he went on. In his

p. 2; p. 46

return back he heard the same words, twice over. On looking up, he saw it was a bird—a starling—hanging in a little cage—“I can’t get out, I can’t get out,” said the starling.

Mr. Sterne stood looking at the bird. To every person who came through the passage, it ran fluttering to the side toward which they came, with the same cry—“I can’t get out,” said the starling. “But I will let thee out, cost what it will,” said I. So I turned about the cage to get at the door. It was twisted, and double twisted, so fast with wire, there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces—I took both hands to it.

The bird flew to the side next to me, and putting his little head through, pushed his breast against it, as if he was impatient. “I fear, poor creature!” said I, “that I cannot set thee at liberty.” “No,” said the starling, “I can’t get out, I can’t get out.”

Is not this a pretty story? I knew

p. 3; p. 47

a slave who was whipped three hundred lashes because he helped some others to run away. I have heard of another, who was whipped till he died, for the same thing. Another was pounded with a board full of holes, till his flesh came off, for running away. O, how cruel, how cruel are wicked slave-holders!



I read in one of the slave-state newspapers, this advertisement—

For sale a valuable negro woman, with or without a child six months old.”

Do you understand this, my child? You remember when your little brother was six months old.—Don’t you recollect how he used to lie on his dear mother’s breast? Well, suppose someone had torn him away, carried him off, and sold him for a slave. What would you have done? Would you not have almost cried your eyes out? I dare say you would. That “negro woman” loved

p. 4; p. 48

her baby as well as your dear mamma loves hers. Solomon said, in twelfth chapter of Proverbs, tenth verse, The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. O, how cruel!



There was once a poor black man who had lost his right eye. It was put out when he was quite a little boy, by the overseer on the plantation. The reason of it was this: The child whose name I shall call James, stood in his way; the man knocked him down. The boy fell into a sugar pan, in the bottom of which was a little boiling sugar. If the pan had been full, he must have been killed.

We asked this poor man a great many questions. He said the worst flogging he ever had, was given him for crying when he parted from his mother. This is the account he gave of it:

“My mother,” he said, “was a slave from the time she was fifteen years old,

p. 5; p. 49

till her death. She was stolen from a part of the Gold Coast, in Africa. The housekeeper loved her because she was so good a girl. My mother was one of the house-cooks. I was looked upon as one of the happiest little slaves in the place. My mother could be kind to me. The housekeeper was good to me. She taught me to read.

“One day a gentleman from the Island of Barbadoes came to our house. Some dish at table pleased him very much, and he said he would give a hundred guineas for a slave that could cook like that. My master replied, ‘You shall have the slave that dressed that very dish for the sum you named.’ They made the bargain, and the next day my dear mother left me for ever. I felt very sorry, and I cried bitterly. I could not help it. Black children, as well as white, will cry, you know, when they are in pain or trouble. Then they punished me. Oh, how they made me smart under the lash! My mother was

p. 6; p. 50

far off, and she could not hear my cry; but God, whom the Bible says hears the cry of the raven, heard me. I can say no more. Let children who have kind mothers love them, and obey them. Oh, how I feel when I hear an affectionate child say—Mother!”


a whip

That is a driver’s whip. In New-York they make these whips, and sell them to southern merchants, who sell them to the planters; and the overseers and drivers whip the poor slaves with them most cruelly. Some one told me they sell these whips in Liberty-street. Only think of it. Slave-whips sold in Liberty-street! How that sounds. When the cruel drivers crack their whips they can be heard half a mile. It makes the hearts of the poor slaves

p. 7; p. 51

beat, and they tremble from head to foot. The business of the driver is, to walk about, crack his whip, and cry, “work, boys”—“work, gals;” “draw your hoes, draw your hoes.” When he pleases, the slaves are whipped on their bare backs, thirty to two hundred lashes.


a white man hears a black boy read

Edward. Do you see that good man teaching that boy?

Ellen. Yes, I see him. Who is he, dear brother? Oh, I guess I know. Isn’t it Mr. Andrews?

Edward. No, Ellen, it is not he. He has gone to Michigan, I am told.

p. 8; p. 52

But I will tell you who it is. It is Joshua Coffin, of Philadelphia.

Ellen. I know him. Papa said he went into his evening school, and saw them writing, ciphering, and studying. They looked very happy. Now I think of it, don’t they call that school the “African School?”

Edward. By no means. Mr. Coffin would not let them call it so. All his scholars are Americans.

Ellen. But I saw on a school-house, in the city of New-York, these words painted, “The African Free School.” What do they call it so for?

Edward. Because people have felt that the colored people among us were foreigners. They might just as well call our school-house, “the English or Irish School,” because our great grand-fathers came from England and Ireland.



— June 28, 1835.

Sir,—The enclosed ten cents is from

p. 9; p. 53

my son, who is between four and five years old. He is much interested about the slaves. He often comes and stands by me, and begs me to tell him “how the naughty white men treat the poor colored children.” A few Sabbaths ago, a minister from one of the Southern States was to preach in our church. At the ringing fo the bell, I called my little boy, and told him I was ready. “I do not want to go, mother,” said he, “for Mr. S. is going to preach, and he is a slave-holder, and its [sic] a very wicked thing to hold slaves.”

Your’s, [sic] very respectfully,

C. G.



The last Monday evening, in every month, the friends of the slaves, and of the free people of color, meet to pray. We hope every little abolitionist in the land will remembeer this monthly concert. You have read it in the Bible, dear children, that good Cornelius gave alms,

p. 10; p. 54

or money, as well as offered prayers; and an angel said to him, “Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” If you will turn to the tenth chapter of Acts, and thirty-first verse, you can read it there. Now, if you can pray, do not forget to imitate Cornelius, by giving some money also in aid of this holy cause.



Holy Father, God of love,

Send thy spirit from above;

Help us thy great name to sing,

God of mercy, heavenly King.

For the burdened slave would we

Ask the gift of liberty;

For the weary and oppressed,

We would ask thy peace and rest.

In thy gracious love arise,—

See his burdens,—hear his cries,—

Rend his fetters,—set him free

From oppression’s tyranny.

Then his thankful voice shall raise

Songs to thee of grateful praise:

Thy great love shall be his theme,

He shall own thee, Lord supreme.

p. 11; p. 55


One of the teachers of the colored schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, called upon a family, not long since, to see why the children did not come to school punctually. The father and mother were both out at work. Their eldest daughter was at home. She is about ten years old. We said to her, “Why don’t you come to school, my girl?” She replied, “I am staying at home to help buy father.”



Some of the scholars in the Cincinnati colored schools were asked to write compositions. So they wrote some letters for their teachers to read. Here are a few of them.

By a girl seven years old.

“Dear school-mates,—We are going next summer to buy a farm, and to work part of the day, and to study the other part, if we live to see it, and come home part of the day to see our mothers, and sisters, and cousins, if we are got any, and see our kind folks and to be good boys

p. 12; p. 56

and when we get a man, to get the poor slaves from bondage. And I am sorrow to hear that the boat of Tiskilwa went down with two hundred poor slaves from up the river. Oh how sorrow I am to hear that; it grieves my soul so that I could faint in one minute.”

By a scholar ten years old.

“Dear sir—This is to inform you that I have two cousins in slavery who are entitled to their freedom. They have done every thing that the will requires, and now they wont let them go. They talk of selling them down the river. If this was your case what would you do? Please give me your advice.”

By a scholar eleven years old.

“In my youthful days, dear Lord, let me remember my Creator, Lord. Teach me to do his will. Bless the cause of abolition— bless the heralds of the truth that we trust God has sent out to declare the rights of man. We trust that it may be the means of moving mountains of sin off all the families. My mother and step-father, my sister and myself, we were all born in slavery. The Lord did let the oppressed go free. Roll on the happy period that all nations shall know the Lord. We thank him for his many blessings.”

By a scholar twelve years old.

“Dear schoolmaster—I now inform you in these few lines, that what we are studying for is

p. 13; p. 57

to try to get the yoke of slavery broke, and the chains parted asunder, and slave holding cease forever. O, that God would change the hearts of our fellow-men.”

Do you not think these letters are very interesting? And don’t they show that colored children can learn as well as white children? Is it not wicked, then, to deprive little slaves of books, bring them up in ignorance, and then say they are so stupid they do not know any thing? Now just look at the picture on the cover. How much pleasure that good schoolmaster must take, in teaching those colored boys to read and write.



A captain of a Spanish vessel, in New-York harbor, not long ago knocked overboard a little colored boy, who was only eight years old, in a passion! The little fellow swam to the wharf. He was covered with blood. A gentleman took care of him, and says he is an excellent boy.

p. 14; p. 58

white girl and butterfly

Poor harmless insect, thither fly,

And life’s short hour enjoy;

’Tis all thou hast, and why should I,

That little all destroy?

Why should my tyrant will suspend,

A life by wisdom giv’n;

Or sooner bid thy being end,

Than was design’d by Heaven?

Lost to the joy which reason knows,

Ephemeron and frail,

’Tis thine to wander where the rose,

Perfumes the cooling gale.

p. 15; p. 59

To bask upon the sunny bed,

The damask flower to kiss,

To range along the bending shade,

Is all thy little bliss.

Then flutter still thy silken wings,

In rich embroidery drest,

And sport upon the gale that flings

Sweet odours from his vest.



James. I thought, father, you did not mean to have such long words in the Slave’s Friend.

Father. I can not always help it. If you find any word you do not understand, you must ask the meaning of it.

James. I will, papa. Do tell me what that great long word, a r i t h m e t i c i a n s, means?

Father. It means those who study arithmetic, my son.

James. Is that all? Why, father, I’m ashamed that I asked you such a question. The word looked so long, I did not think I knew what it meant.

p. 16; p. 60

Father. I want to tell you something about mental arithmetic. It is to reckon in your head. Cyphering, you know, is to do it with a slate, or pen and ink. The Africans reckon in their heads. Their money is a kind of shell. They are called cowries. It takes a great many to make a small sum. Travellers are surprised to see the Africans calculate, in their heads, so well as they do. They say we cannot reckon so well.

James. Don’t that show that the blacks have as much sense as we have?

Father. It shows that some of them have more. And I want to tell you, my son, and all my little readers, that it is very rash, and very offensive to God, for white people to think he has made them superior to black people. If the colored people only had the same advantages the whites have, they would be equal to them. This has always been the case.

[cover p. 3; inside back cover]


Rachel Carr.

This girl had been a slave, and purchased her freedom. She heard, in some ways, of the schools in Cincinnati, taught by the Lane Seminary students, and came 500 miles, that she might attend them. She did not know her letters. In four weeks, she could read in the New Testament.


He was ten years old, and learned his letters in four days. He commenced June, 1834, and is now a good reader, and well advanced in arithmetic.


He is another boy ten years old. At the second quarter he had gone through Ray’s Arithmetic, and could do any sum which the book contained.

The children generally, of eight and ten years of age, who began with their letters, can now spell any word in the spelling-book. Fifty are learning geography, thirty grammar, forty arithmetic, and twelve history. Sixty to eighty lines in history are often repeated for a morning lesson.

About three-quarters of the scholars are either now slaves, or are the children of slave parents. Those who are now slaves, are working out their freedom.

One man, thirty-five years of age, is trying to learn his letters.

A pious widow, aged sixty, is doing the same. She says, if she only gets so as to read in the Testament, she will be satisfied.

[cover p. 4; back cover]


The Starling, … 1

Taking away a Baby, … 3

What is Slavery? … 4

The Cart-Whip, … 6

The School, … 7

Letter to the Editor, … 8

Monthly Concert for slaves, … 9

Hymn for the Concert for Slaves, … 10

The Child that loved her Father, … 11

Children’s Letters, … 12

Cruel Captain, … 13

To a Butterfly, … 14

Little Arithmeticians, … 15



A missionary went into the Sabbath School on the first of August, 1834, and asked the children many questions. “What day of the week is this?” “Friday.” “What month is this?” “August.” “What day of the month?” “The first.” “What is done to-day?” “Negroes all made free!” At this moment several of the little colored children showed their strong feeling by laughing, and throwing their bodies about so as to express their joy. “Ah, my little children,” I said, “you seem to know all about it well.” At this their joy knew no bounds.



Be you to others kind and true,

As you’ll have others be to you;

And neither do nor say to them,

Whate’er you would not take again.

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