Posted by: Dominic | December 9, 2012

Slaves and Masters

Some months ago I blogged about an amazing letter from an escaped slave to his former master, published on the website Letters of Note. On the same website popped up yet another letter of this kind, this time including both the missive of the master asking for the slave to return, as well as the response from the former servant.

The subject of this exchange is Jarm Logue, who in 1834 escaped from slavery in Tennessee and traveled to Canada before relocating to New York, becoming a pastor and abolitionist as well as opening schools for black children. The wife of his former owner, Sarah Logue, wrote him on the eve of the U.S. Civil War in 1860 to demand that he pay for his freedom, feeling that he had robbed her by escaping from servitude. As she writes:

I understand that you are a preacher. … I would like to know if you read your Bible? If so can you tell what will become of the thief if he does not repent?

She demands of him $1,000, since she was forced to sell Jarm’s brother and sister, as well as some land, after losing Jarm. She adds, with some vaguely threatening language,

If you do not comply with my request, I will sell you to some one else, and you may rest assured that the time is not far distant when things will be changed with you. … You had better comply with my request.

His response speaks for itself, and there is little I can do to introduce it or amplify its emotional or historical value. According to Wikipedia, it was published in the Boston-based abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, but I have found no confirmation of this statement.

[Y]ou have the unutterable meanness to ask me to return and be your miserable chattel, or in lieu thereof send you $1000 to enable you to redeem the land, but not to redeem my poor brother and sister!

You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, “you know we raised you as we did our own children.” Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping-post? Did you raise them to be driven off in a coffle in chains? Where are my poor bleeding brothers and sisters? Can you tell? Who was it that sent them off into sugar and cotton fields, to be kicked, and cuffed, and whipped, and to groan and die; and where no kin can hear their groans, or attend and sympathize at their dying bed, or follow in their funeral? Wretched woman!

Jarm changed his name to Jermain Wesley Loguen after escaping slavery. He eventually became a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. He also ran an Underground Railroad station in Syracuse, N.Y. and published his autobiography in 1859, which can be found in electronic format at the University of Michigan Digital Library. Loguen died in 1872. More information is available on the New York History Net.

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