Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America

By Dwight Lowell Dumond | Go to book overview

Chapter 30
AMERICAN SLAVERY AS IT IS

American Slavery As It Is is history -- well written and well documented. It is an encyclopedia of knowledge. It is a book of horrors. It is the greatest of the antislavery pamphlets; in all probability, the most crushing indictment of any institution ever written. It was written by Theodore Weld, who said in the introduction:

"We will prove that the slaves in the United States are treated with barbarous inhumanity; that they are overworked, underfed, wretchedly clad and lodged, and have insufficient sleep; that they are often made to wear round their necks iron collars armed with prongs, to drag heavy chains and weights at their feet while working in the field, and to wear yokes, and bells, and iron horns; that they are often kept confined in the stocks day and night for weeks together, made to wear gags in their mouths for hours or days, have some of their front teeth torn out or broken off, that they may be easily detected when they run away; that they are frequently flogged with terrible severity, have red pepper rubbed into their lacerated flesh, and hot brine, spirits of turpentine, etc. poured over the gashes to increase the torture; that they are often stripped naked, their backs and limbs cut with knives, bruised and mangled by scores and hundreds of blows with the paddle, and terribly torn by the claws of cats, drawn over them by their tormentors; that they are often hunted with bloodhounds and shot down like beasts, or torn in pieces by dogs; that they are often suspended by the arms and whipped and beaten till they faint, and when, revived by restoratives, beaten again till they faint and sometimes till they die; that their ears are often cut off, their eyes knocked out, their bones broken, their flesh branded with red hot irons; that they are maimed, mutilated and burned to death over slow fires...we will establish all these facts by the testimony of scores and hundreds of eye witnesses, by the testimony of slaveholders in all parts of the slave states, by slaveholding members of Congress and of state legislatures, by ambassadors to foreign courts, by judges, by doctors of divinity, and clergymen of all denominations, by merchants, mechanics, lawyers and physicians, by presidents and professors in college and professional seminaries, by planters, overseers and drivers. We shall show, not merely that such deeds are committed, but that they are frequent; not done in corners, but before the sun; not in one of the slave states, but in all of them; not perpetrated by brutal overseers and drivers merely, but by magistrates, by legislators, by professors of religion, by preachers of the gospel, by governors of states, by gentlemen of property and standing, and by delicate females moving in the highest circles of society."1

Weld did exactly what he said here he was going to do. He wrote to all antislavery men who, to his knowledge, had been born and reared in the South or had resided there for a number of years. He sought the names of others, but required that the testimony of any man unknown to some one of the executive group -- Birney, Stanton, Tappan, Weld -- submit supporting affidavits, and these were scrupulously checked for proof of the man's character and veracity. These testimonials were

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