The Slave’s Friend, #8 (1835)

For something not trying to be, The Slave’s Friend is remarkably difficult to find. The magazine — published by the American Anti-Slavery Society — had a spotty distribution: few were sold, but copies were mailed to selected individuals or scattered through public places to be read. In fact, on the cover of this issue is written, “Read + Circulate,” indicating, perhaps, that this was one of the issues cast upon the waters of early-19th-century American society. (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.

This monthly magazine contained poetry and articles that were pro-Christianity and anti-slavery, with two woodcuts per issue. Illustrations are fairly generic: the first illustration, for “The Afflicted Mother” resembles one of the standard abolitionist images, “Am I Not a Woman and a Sister?” The magazine 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 front cover for 1835 featured a white man teaching young black boys to read.

[cover p. 2; inside front cover]


[From a West India Newspaper.]

Take notice, That I shall put up to public sale, at Harty’s Tavern, on Monday, the 16th day of January next, between the hours of 10 and 12 o’clock in the forenoon, a PONY, a BLACK COLT, a HE MULE, a HE ASS, and the following NEGROES.

Flora, a field-negro, aged 13 years, [sic]

George, a field-negro, aged 45 years.

Ann, a field-negro, aged 26 years.

Eliza, (Ann’s daughter,) aged 8 years.

Henry, (Ann’s son,) aged 4 years.

Nicholas, (Ann’s son,) aged 1 years.

Morrice, (Ann’s son,) aged 2 years.

JOHN HEWER, Auctioneer.

Look into the newspapers, printed in the slave states, and you will see many advertisements similar to the above.—How singular it seems to us, who live in free States, to see men, women, children and cattle, advertised to be sold in this way! How strange it must look to people in other lands!! And what must God think of it!!!

[p. 1]


illus of a slave woman, praying


See that afflicted mother! She is almost broken-hearted. Her husband and children have been torn from her; and her wrists and ancles are fastened with a chain. She has no one to go to now, to tell her sorrows, but God. Ah, she has thought of that. Look, she has

p. 2

knelt down in prayer. She prays to her Father in heaven. I dare say she is a Christian, and that she knows how to pray, and that God will hear her prayer. Jesus said, “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

In the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah, fifteenth verse, we read, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel, weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.” So in the United States, there are thousands of wretched mothers who weep and cry bitterly, because their dear babes are taken from them, never to see them any more. They can find no comfort but in going to God in prayer. He feels for them, and pities them. Oh that Christians, all over the land, would remember the poor mother when they pray. And remember their poor children too, who are driven like beasts by the slave-driver, with his cruel whip.

p. 3


“Father,” said little Andrew, “that gentleman who prayed at our house this morning, asked God that abolitionists might be meek, very meek. Will you please to tell me what he meant? I do not know precisely.” His father told him it meant, mild of temper. When enemies slander, tell lies, and abuse, “Meekness” is, not being easily provoked. Moses is said to have been “very meek above all men.” The Israelites tried his feelings very much; but, except in one or two cases, he did not get in a passion, or lose his temper. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek! for they shall inherit the earth.” That is, happy are the meek, for they will have more true comfort on earth than other persons.

The Lord takes pleasure in the just,

Whom sinners treat with scorn,

The meek, that lie despised in dust,

Salvation shall adorn.

p. 4


David. Who was Æsop, dear father?

Mr. Snow. He wrote Æsop’s Fables, that you love so much to read.

David. I know that, sir, but where was he born, and who was he?

Mr. Snow. He was born in Asia, nearly 600 years before Christ. He was deformed, and a slave. His nose was flat, his lips were thick, and his skin was dark. He used to say, when any one asked him where he was born, “I am a negro.” (See Æsop’s Life.]

David. Æsop a slave, father! I did not know that before.

Mr. Snow. He was, my son. But he had a fine mind; one of his masters had him taught Greek. And Æsop told one he must not look at the color of his skin, but at his mind.

David. That was a very pretty remark, wasn’t it, papa? It seems then they let slaves learn to read in old times.

Mr. Snow. Yes, no slaves but American slaves have been denied books.

p. 5

How I blush for America! Æsop composed his fables to soften the hardship of being a slave. Learning did not hurt him, you see; and it will not hurt any one. On the cover of the Slave’s Friend, it is said, The lips of the wise disperse knowledge. This is from the Bible. This precious book says also, Fools hate knowledge.



“I cannot, cannot wash it off,”

Said the little colored boy,

Whose countenance ne’er shone

With the beaming light of joy—

“I went down to the river’s side,

While master’s people slept,

But I could not, could not wash it off,”

Said the colored boy, and wept.

He looked upon his master’s child,

And thought with what delight

’Twould fill his little breaking heart,

Were his brow so pure and white;

And softly to the river’s brink

At early dawn he crept,

“I cannot, cannot wash it off,

Said the colored boy, and wept.

p. 6

Though dark his brow as ebony,

And sable was his skin,

The gentle mind that he possessed

Was pure and fair within:

But the Ethiop dyes which guilt and sin

Have spread o’er human clay,

There is not any earthly stream

Can cleanse or wash away.

O no! but there’s a fountain pure,

Whose sacred source is Heaven;

Whose ever-living waters

To a sinful world are given—

“Wash in that fountain and be clean,”

Faith hears the spirit say—

“Go to that pure and holy stream,

And wash thy stains away.”



Jack had been several years apprenticed to his master, and was almost twelve years old, but could not read. No person had ever taken the pains to teach him. His master was a kind man, but ignorant; and there was not a book in his house.

One day, as Jack was going along the street, he saw several school- boys, about his own age, playing at marbles; and as

p. 7

he was very fond of the play, he stopped to look at them. His attention was soon caught by something new to him; this was their books, ranged by the side of a wall. He ventured to take hold of one; and was turning over the leaves, when the boy to whom it belonged came up, and angrily asked what he was about.

Jack took some marbles out of his pocket, and offered to give them to the boy, if he would let him look at the book till the play was over. The owner consented; and Jack turned over the leaves, of course without being able to read them. When the play was ended, Jack returned the book, and asked the boy many questions about reading; and offered to give him another marble if he would read him some of his lessons before they parted.

The next day, Jack watched for the boy’s return from school, and after some talk about books, asked him to teach him to read. He promised to give him a marble for every letter he taught him.

p. 8

The boy consented; and Jack tried hard to get marbles enough to pay his little master. For some time, his teacher heard him read every day; and the little Sweep soon began to spell words of one syllable.

One day, Jack came to the place where they were accustomed to meet; but did not find his teacher. He searched for him, and finding him busy at marbles, he waited till the play should be over. After a short time, the boy called out,—“Sooty boy, I can’t teach you any more. Father and mother scold at me, because you dirty my book with your black hands.”

Poor Jack had not expected this; and it made him very sorry. Being different from some idle children, who are glad of any excuse to escape from their books, he offered to give two marbles for every lesson; and promised to wash his hands carefully every day. But his teacher was either tired of his task, or afraid of being blamed. Poor Jack was almost

p. 9

discouraged; but he suddenly recollected that he had seen letters on the tombstones in the graveyard; and as these could not be hurt by his black fingers, he offered to pay any boy, who would teach him to read the words on the stones.

The boys were pleased with his desire to learn; and they promised to take turns in teaching him. After continuing this method for some days, one of them offered to take him to a Sunday School. The teacher of the school found him so desirous to know how to read, that he took pains to procure him instruction during the week also. He applied diligently, and was soon able to read an write; and from the instructions he received, he was brought to love the bible and the truths it contained.

When any of my little readers feel tired of their lessons, I hope they will remember the Sweep and the Tombstones.

p. 10

illus of white boy and bird


Away, pretty robin, fly home to thy nest,

To make thee a captive I still should like best,

And feed thee with worms and with bread:

Thy eyes are so sparkling, thy feathers so soft,

Thy little wings flutter so pretty aloft,

And thy breast is all colored with red.

But then ’twould be cruel to keep thee, I know,

So stretch out thy wings, little Robin, and go,

Fly home to thy young ones again;

Go, listen again to the notes of they mate,

And enjoy the green shade in thy lonely retreat,

Secure from the wind and the rain.

But when the leaves fall, and the winter winds blow,

And the green fields are covered all over with snow,

And the clouds in white feathers descend;

When the springs are all ice, and the rivulets freeze

And the long shining icicles drop from the trees,

Then, Robin, remember thy friend.

p. 11

When with cold and with hunger quite perished and weak,

Come tap at my window again with thy beak,

And gladly I’ll let thee come in;

Thou shalt fly to my bosom, or perch on my thumbs,

Or hope round the table and pick up the crumbs,

And never be hungry again.



On board one of the London and New-York Packets, the captain’s wife was very sick. They did all they could for her, but she grew worse and worse, until at last she died. The funeral was very solemn. They buried her in the deep ocean. There she will lie until the resurrection morn, when it will be said, “the sea gave up the dead.” There was a minister on board; his name was Mr. Paul. He is a colored man, and a native American. He was very kind to the sick lady. He talked with her, and prayed with her, and pointed her to Jesus, dying upon the cross for sinners. And at the funeral, Mr. Paul offered a prayer, and made an address. The captain, when he arrived at New-York,

p. 12

told some one that Mr. Paul was so kind to his poor wife, and to him, that there was no person on earth he loved so well. Don’t you think that captain is an abolitionist? Yes, I do, for he has now lost his prejudices against people of color. He finds Mr. Paul is a man, and thinks he is a good man. He is grateful to him, and loves him. Mr. Paul was kind to his dying wife, and he don’t care a fig about his dark skin. Why should I?



After being in this country about fourteen months, this gentleman has returned to England. He sailed form St. John, New-Brunswick, Nov. 27, 1835. In a letter written the day before he sailed, he says, “Oh, how freely do I forgive every attempt to injure me! How joyfully shall I continue to put forth all the energies I possess, for the good of those who have sought my destruction!”

He left his wife, and three little children. I called to see them the other

p. 13

day. The youngest was born in this country. His name is George. Poor little fellow, he was quite sick. If he is well enough, his mother will sail for England soon. I hope every body will be kind to her, and her sweet babes. They were much frightened at a place where they stopped in Massachusetts. The mob came one night for Mr. Thompson, but he was absent. Some of them said, “we will tar and feather his children.” But others cried, “no, no, that will be too bad.”

Does any one ask, why the people treated Mr. Thompson so, when he came here to persuade them to let the poor slaves go free? He told the people of their sins, and they were angry. They felt as the Jews used to when the prophets set their sins in order before them.

But George Thompson has left many friends in this country. He has done great good here, and thousands will remember him with gratitude, and pray for him as long as they live. He is a

p. 14

Christian, and has a noble heart. But all this did not protect him from slander and persecution. Jesus warned his disciples that they should suffer persecution. He said to them, “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household.”



This sweet bird’s name comes from the red on his breast. Only see, Emily, how very pretty he looks. He has just flown on the cherry-tree. See him hopping to the end of that limb. Well, Robin, you may eat those cherries; they are so far out we cannot pick them.—See Robin turn his head, and look if we see him. See him look at that great red cherry. Robin loves good cherries. There, he pecks at it. Look, he has got a piece of it in his mouth. There it goes. He has swallowed it. What,

p. 15

stone and all, uncle! Oh no, Robin never swallows the stone. That’s a good bird. Little girls and boys, when they eat cherries, must not swallow the stones. They will make their stomachs ache. Only look at little Robin Red-breast.—See, he has got another piece in his mouth. See how he holds it,—how tight. Will he eat it? No. There he goes, see him fly; away goes Robin, and away goes the piece of cherry. Whither will he carry it? I suppose he has a nest somewhere, perhaps over in that orchard, on one of those apple-trees. The other Robin, his mate, sits on the eggs, to keep them warm, so that by and by they will be hatched, and then there will be little Robins. This good Robin has carried the piece of cherry to that poor Robin who can’t leave the eggs, and has given it to her. Good little Robin, isn’t it? When the eggs are hatched, and the little Robins have got their feathers on, you shall see them fly and hop on the ground.

p. 16

Emily. Now if some boy comes along, climbs that tree, and steals the eggs, won’t he be a very wicked boy?

Uncle. Certainly he will. It is wrong, it is wicked, to rob Birds’-nests, of eggs or little birds.

Emily. Isn’t it more wicked to rob a cabin of a little child, as the slave-traders do?

Uncle. Yes, as much more wicked as a child is of more value than a bird. Jesus said, “ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

Emily. But suppose Rufus robs the bird’s-nest, and sells the eggs, or the young birds, to Richard, is not one as bad as the other?

Uncle. Yes. The old saying is, “The receiver is as bad as the thief.” If they should be sold to twenty boys, one after the other, all of them would do wrong to buy stolen eggs, or stolen birds. It would be encouraging the first boy, Rufus, in doing wrong.

[inside back cover]


For indeed I was stolen away out of the land.

And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage.

And God heard their groaning.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Ye shall not oppress one another.

They shall not be sold as bondmen.

Bondage was heavy upon this people.

The Lord also shall be a refuge for the oppressed.

The Lord will judge the fatherless.

Leave me not to my oppressors.

Let not the proud oppress me.

Plead my cause and deliver me.

Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man.

Bring my soul out of trouble.

Envy thou not the oppressors.

Plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Learn to do well.

I am oppressed; undertake for me.

I have lost my children, and am deolate.

They are cruel, and have no mercy.

And I will punish all that oppress them.

Our necks are under persecution.

We get our bread with the peril of our lives.

Wo to the oppressing city.

Have we not all one Father?

Be ye therefore merciful.

Their Redeemer is mighty.

They are oppressed without cause.

[back cover]


The Afflicted Mother, … 1

Meekness, … 3

AEsop, … 4

The Little Colored Boy, … 5

The Sweep and the Tombstones, … 6

The Pretty Robin, … 10

The Funeral at Sea, … 11

George Thompson, … 12

Robin Red-Breast, … 14



[By William Cowper.]

To purify their wine, some people bleed

A lamb into the barrel, and succeed;

No nostrum, planters say, is half so good

To make fine sugar, as a negro’s blood.

Now lambs and negroes both are harmless things,

And hence perhaps this wondrous virtue springs,

’Tis in the blood of innocence alone—

Good cause why planters never try their own.

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