“It was a Sabbath evening,” he says. “I had spoken about fifteen minutes when the most hideous outcries—yells and screeches—from a crowd of men and boys, who had surrounded the house, startled us, and then came heavy missiles against the doors and the blinds of the windows. I persisted in speaking for a few minutes, hoping the doors and blinds were strong enough to withstand the attack. But presently a heavy stone broke through one of the blinds, scattered a pane of glass, and fell upon the head of a lady sitting near the center of the hall. She uttered a shriek and fell bleeding on the floor.”
There was a panic, of course, and the Abolition lecturer would have been roughly handled by the mob if a young lady, a sister of the poet Whittier, had not taken him by the arm, and walked with him through the astonished crowd. They did not feel like attacking a woman.
There was nothing unusual, except the part performed by the young lady, in the affair described in the foregoing narrative. Mobs were of constant occurrence in the period of which we are speaking. It was not in the slave States that they were most frequent. Northern communities that were regarded as absolutely peaceable and perfectly moral thought nothing of an anti-Abolitionist riot now and then. They occurred “away up North” and “away down East.” Even sleepy old Nantucket, in its sedentary repose by the sea, woke up long enough to mob a couple of Abolition lecturers, a man and a woman.
The community in which the writer resided when a boy, was fully up to the pacific standard of most Northern neighborhoods. Yet it was the scene of many turmoils growing out of Anti-Slavery meetings. The district schoolhouse, which was the only public building in the village that was open for such gatherings, called for frequent repairs on account of damages done by mobs. Broken windows and doors were often in evidence, and stains from mud-balls, decayed vegetables, and antiquated eggs, which nobody took the trouble to remove, were nearly always visible.
On one occasion, at an evening meeting, the lecturer was a young professor, who was “down” from Oberlin College, against which, as “an Abolition hole,” there was a very strong prejudice. He had not got more than well started, when rocks, bricks, and other missiles began to crash through the windows. The mob was resolved to punish that young man, and had come prepared to give him a coating of unsavory mixture. He was a preacher as well as a teacher, and his “store clothes” were likely to betray him; but some thoughtful person had brought an old drab overcoat and a rough workman’s cap, and arrayed in these garments he walked through the crowd without his identity being suspected.
But another party was not so fortunate. He was a respected citizen of the village, an elder in the Presbyterian church, and a strong pro-slavery man. He dressed in black and his appearance was not unlike that of the lecturer. By some hard luck he happened to be passing that way when the crowd was looking for the Abolitionist, and was discovered. “There he goes,” was the cry that was raised, and a fire of eggs and other things was opened upon him. He reached his home in an awful plight, and it was charged that his conversation was not unmixed with profanity.