The Slave’s Friend, #16 (vol 2, no. 4) (1836)

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. (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 or three two woodcuts per issue. The last illustration here, of a white boy freeing a bird, also accompanied “The Pretty Robin” in issue 8. 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.

Gerrit Smith, whose son’s death is mentioned below, was a prominent abolitionist who ran for president three times; only two of his eight children lived to adulthood. A virtual museum devoted to Smith is part of the New York History Net, at James G. Birney was born into a slave-holding family, but became part of the emancipation effort in the 1830s.

The extracts from Charles Ball’s narrative are from his Slavery in the United States, a description of his life as a slave which was published in 1836; another edition was printed in 1837. The book was reprinted as Fifty Years in Chains.

The front cover for 1836 featured three white children reading between figures of Liberty (standing on the Declaration of Independence) and of Justice (standing on the Bible), under the all-seeing eye of God.

[cover p. 2; inside front cover]


On the waves there is a form,

And a voice in every storm:

In the sun, the moon, and sky,

On the mountain wild and high,

In the thunder, in the rain,

In the grove, the wood, the plain,

In the little birds which sing;

God is seen in every thing.



Cicero said, that man resembled God in nothing so much as in doing good to others. Benevolence is like the gentle dew from heaven. Men enslave their fellow-men because they are selfish; and they liberate them when they are benevolent.



Died at Utica, Fitzhugh, aged 12 years, only son of Mr. Gerrit Smith, of Peterborough. Just before he died he said, “I shall soon be in the arms of my Saviour.”

Died at Cincinnati, the youngest child of Mr. James G. Birney, aged two months. Mr. B. Went into the country to deliver an anti-slavery lecture, and when he came home, he found his sweet babe in a shroud and a coffin.

[p. 1]



Vol. II, No IV. Whole No. 16.

a white girl and boy kneel in prayer

Edward and Augusta were brother and sister. Their parents were praying people. Night and morning the whole family knelt at the family altar to unite in prayer to God. And not a day past [sic] but the children offered their prayers. They prayed in secret, and also together.

p. 2

One evening, after the monthly concert for the enslaved, and for the people of colour, (which is held by the abolitionist on the last Monday evening of each month,) Edward and Augusta conversed about the prayers, hymns, and addresses at the concert. “Don’t you recollect,” said Augusta, “what that stranger said, ‘The slaves will never be set free unless there is more prayer made for them?’ ” “Yes,” said Edward, “I do remember it, and I hope we shall never forget it, dear sister.”

The children then went into another room, knelt down, and prayed for the poor slaves. They asked God to break their yoke, loosen their chains, unbind their heavy burdens, and set them free. They prayed also for the slave-holders, that God would make their hearts soft, and that they might be willing to let their fellow men go free. They begged God to bless the free people of color, and to make the white people willing to treat them more kindly.

p. 3

Thus they had a good prayer meeting. And he who said, “Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” I doubt not, heard these lambs of Jesus’ flock, and answered their petitions.



Slavery brings about the slave-trade. If no one kept slaves, there would be no buyers. Put an end to slavery, and the trade in human flesh would end. There are more slaves in the United States than in any other country in the world. Therefore this country does more than any other nation to keep up the slave-trade. That is clear, I am sure. Ah, is it not then a guilty nation!

The king of England’s vessels are taking slave-ships almost every day. Thanks to the British nation! A Bahama newspaper states, that the brig Gannet arrived off that port, bringing in a Portuguese slaver, named the Creole, with three hundred and seven

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Africans on board, chiefly children. They were captured off St. Domingo, after being twenty-five days from Africa.

Most of these persons were stolen from Congo, and other places near Sierra Leone. One of the little girls could speak our language. She had learned it from the English at Sierra Leone. A man and his son say, that they had lived near the Cape of Good Hope. They went beyond the borders of that colony, were taken and sold.

Another vessel, called the Vivilante, had been taken by the British cruisers, with a large number of Africans on board. They had suffered severely from two diseases, called opthalmia[*] and eruptions.

The slave-deck of the Creole was not more than two feet high. The men were all in irons, and crowded in the usual manner, and several deaths had taken place. If the vessel had had bad

* A disease of the eyes.

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weather, or a long passage, many more would have died.

Most all these poor Africans had cultivated rice and other provisions. They were industrious and intelligent.



My dear boy, how should you like to have a cruel man follow your dear father, or mother, about, all day, with one of these whips, cracking it about their ears, and striking them with it on their bare flesh? And after a hard day’s work, when your father and mother came home to supper, to see them tied up, and whipped a long time because they were tired in the field, or had stopped to play with their little baby, or had said something the wicked driver did not like? How would you feel? You would weep, your heart would ache, you would be distressed about your poor parents. Well, just so the dear boys and girls feel, in slave states, when they see their fathers and mothers

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cruelly beaten. They have as much feeling as you have, and their parents are as dear to them as yours are to you. You should then try to put yourself in their place; think that it is your father or your mother that is whipped; and then you can, as the apostle Paul said, “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.”



Little abolitionists must be noble-minded, generous, hardy, self-denying, courageous. If they are not, how can they manage the affairs of the Anti-Slavery Society when they are grown up? When I see a boy wearing a tin sword, with a feather in his cap, or beating a little drum; when I see a boy in a passion with a playmate, or fretting at home if he cannot have his own way; when I see a boy wanting to be helped first, and caring more for himself than for every body else, I fear, I say to

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myself, that boy will not make a good abolitionist.

Daniel Harding was such a boy as I want to have all the little boys be who read the Slave’s Friend. I will tell you a story about him. He worked in a coal-pit in England. An accident took place there, when six lives were lost. At the moment when the iron handle of the cart, in which these men were, snapped, a man and a boy, who were hanging on the rope above, made a sudden spring, and laid hold of a chain which is always hanging at the side of the pit as a guide.

A man was sent down from the top of the coal-pit, with a rope and noose, to assist them. He came first to the boy, whose name was Daniel. On reaching him, the noble lad cried out, “Don’t mind me, I can still hold on a little; but Joseph Bawn, who is a little lower down, is almost exhausted; save him first.” The man went on, found Joseph, brought him safely up, went down again, and restored the gallant boy to light and

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life. It was from fifteen to twenty minutes, from the time of the accident, till the boy was providentially brought up. What fortitude and heroism! Such boys as Daniel will make good abolitionists. They will pity the poor slaves, labor in the cause, and be willing to suffer, if God so wills it.



Cæsar. What’s that firing for?

Jubal. Don’t you know? They are keeping fourth July. Hark! hear the bells, the drums, the cannon. See the soldiers, look at the flags, see the crowds. ’Tis independence, Caesar!

Cæsar. Is it Jubal? But what is it all for? Tell me that.

Jubal. Why once we belonged to old England. They tried to keep us slaves. We fought them. After awhile we got our freedom and independence. The Declaration of Independence was signed on the fourth July; and so, ever since,

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the people celebrate it. That’s what the noise is for, my lad.

Cæsar. We fought sure enough; that is our fathers fought. General Washington thanked the colored people for being good soldiers. But what then? We did not get our “freedom and independence.” No such thing. We helped the whites get clear of England, but we were kept in bondage. And we are slaves NOW. Even the free people of color are despised, and have not half their liberty. And the poor slaves are bought, sold, whipped, and cursed as if they were brutes. We are not free—nor is the country free, I tell you. We have no independence to celebrate—not we.



George. I do not feel so joyful as I once did in celebrating the fourth of July, dear uncle.

Mr. Douglass. What makes you sad, dear George? You see how gay peo-

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ple appear with their bonfires, their fire crackers, the ringing of bells, the firing of cannon, the parade of troops, with eating, drinking, huzzaing, and the like!

George. Yes, sir, I do see it, and hear it too; but the more I see and hear, the more sad I feel. While the people are rejoicing that they are free, that they are in bondage to no man, they are keeping every sixth person in the land in slavery. That is what makes me feel sad. Even on the fourth of July I suppose that hundreds of thousands of slaves are hard at work for cruel masters. And those who are not at work cannot celebrate their own freedom.

Mr. Douglass. Would you have the people give up celebrating independence?

George. Certainly I would. It looks like downright hypocricy in slave-holders, and those who aid them, to boast of their own freedom while they enslave others. It will be time enough to celebrate our independence when the

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nation is indeed free; when liberty is proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the land.

Mr. Douglass. There is reason in what you say. When I was young, people did not think so much of the poor slaves as many do now. We were wrong, I really believe; and it is my prayer that the children of this age may be wiser, and more consistent, than their fathers were!



Charles Ball, who was born in Maryland, and sold to go to South Carolina, says, “at the time I was sold I was quite naked, having never had any clothes in my life. My new master had brought with him a child’s frock or wrapper, belonging to one of his own children; and after he had purchased me, he dressed me in that garment, took me before him on his horse, and started home. My poor mother, when she saw me leaving her for the last time, ran after me, took

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me down from the horse, clasped me in her arms, and wept loudly and bitterly over me.

“My master seemed to pity her, and tried to sooth her distress by telling her that he would be a good master to me, and that I should not want any thing. She then, still holding me in her arms, walked along the road beside the horse, as he moved slowly, and earnestly besought my master to buy her and the rest of her children, and not permit them to be carried away by the negro buyers. While thus begging him to save her and her dear children, the slave-driver, who had first bought her, came running after her with a rawhide in his hand. When he overtook us, he told her he was her master now, and ordered her to give that little negro to its owner, and come back with him.

“My mother then turned to him and cried, ‘Oh, master, do not take me from my child!’ Without making any reply, he gave her two or three heavy blows

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on the shoulders with his rawhide, snatched me from her arms, handed me to my master, and seizing her by one arm, dragged her back toward the place of sale. My master then made his horse go quick. The cries of my poor parent became more and more faint, and at length they died away in the distance, and I never again heard the voice of my poor mother.

[“]Young as I was, the horrors that day sank deeply into my heart, and even at this time, though it is fifty years since, the terrors of the scene return upon my memory. Frightened at the sight of the cruel blows upon my poor mother, I forgot my own sorrows at parting from her, and clung to my new master as an angel compared with the cruel man into whose hands she had fallen.

[“]She had been a kind and good mother to me; had warmed me in her bosom in the cold nights of winter; had often divided the small quantity of food given

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her by her mistress, between my brothers and sisters and me, and gone supperless to bed herself. Whatever victuals she could obtain, beyond the coarse food allowed to slaves, she carefully divided among her children, and treated us with all the tenderness in her power. I have no doubt that she was chained and driven to Carolina, and spent the rest of her life in the rice swamps, or indigo fields of the south.[”]


[From Ball’s Narrative.]

As I went out to work in the morning, I saw several women, who carried their young children in their arms to the field. These mothers laid their children at the side of the fence, or under the shade of the cotton plants, whilst they were at work; and when the rest of us went to get water, they would go and nurse their children. One young woman did not, like the others, leave her child at the end of the row, but had a sort of

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rude knapsack, made of a piece of coarse linen cloth, in which she fastened her child, which was very young, upon her back; and in this way carried it all the day, and did her task at the hoe with the other people.

I pitied this woman; and as we were going home at night, I came near her, and spoke to her. I asked her why she did not do as the other women did, and leave her child at the end of the row in the shade. “Indeed,” said she, “I cannot leave my child in the weeds among the snakes. What would be my feelings if I should leave it there, and a scorpion were to bite it? Besides, my child cries so, when I leave it alone in the field, that I cannot bear to hear it. Poor thing! I wish we were both in the grave.”



As I entered this humble abode, the mistress was not at home. She had not yet returned from the field. I found a

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child, about a year old, lying on the mat bed, and a little girl, about four years old, setting beside it.

These children were entirely naked; and when we came to the door, the eldest rose from its place and ran to its father, and clasping him round one of his knees, said, “Now we shall get good supper.” The father laid his hand on the head of his naked child, and stood silently looking in its face, which was turned upwards toward his own, for a moment, and then turning to me, said, “Did you leave any children at home!”—Charles Ball.



I slept but little the night I was separated from my wife and little children. I never expected to see them any more. At length I fell asleep, but was disturbed by painful dreams. My wife and children seemed to be crying, and begging my master, on their knees, not to carry me away from them. My little boy seemed to come and asked me not to go and leave him, and tried, as I thought, with his little hands to break the fetters that bound me.—Ib.

[inside back cover; cover p. 3]


’The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’

Almighty God! by thy great power,

I hail again the morning hour;

How fair the green fields meet my eyes!

How sweet the birds sing in the skies!

How fresh appear the hills and trees!

And Oh, how pure the morning breeze!

I bless thy love in all I see,

For were not these things made for me!

And was it not to meet my sight

Was hung aloft that globe of light?

Not mine alone—for thou hast given

Thy good to all beneath the heaven;

And I rejoice that others share

The gift, the blessing, and the prayer.

And, though a little child I be,

I yet may bend myself to thee,

And join my infant voice to raise

A simple hymn of grateful praise.

[back cover; cover page 4]


The Praying Children, … 1

Near 307 stolen children, … 3

The Cart-whip, … 5

The Boys we want, … 6

Caesar and Jubal, … 8

Independence, … 9

Charles Ball’s Mother, … 11

The Mother and Babe, … 14

A Slave’s Cabin, … 15

A Slave’s Dream, … 16

white boy freeing a bird

Go, little bird! Take thy liberty. I will emancipate you, Robin-redbreast. I’ll turn you loose into the open air. I dare say you can take care of yourself. There! Good-by to you, my little fellow. I am sorry I ever shut you up in this cage.

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