Of many cases of the kind that might be cited, perhaps none is more strikingly illustrative than that of Charles Turner Torrey, a New England man. He was accused of helping a slave to escape from the city of Baltimore, and being convicted on what was said to be perjured testimony, was sent to the penitentiary for a long term of years. The confinement was fatal, a galloping consumption mercifully putting a speedy end to his confinement. And then a remarkable incident occurred. Torrey was a minister in good standing of the Congregational denomination, and also a member of the Park Avenue Church of Boston. Arrangements were made for funeral exercises in that church, but its managers, taking alarm at the threats of certain pro-slavery men, withdrew their permission and locked the sanctuary’s doors. Slavery punished the dead as well as the living.
The case of Amos Dresser, a young Southerner, may not improperly be mentioned here. He had gone to a Northern school, and had become a convert to Abolitionism. He went to Nashville, Tennessee, to canvass for a book called the Cottage Bible which would not ordinarily be supposed to be dangerous to well regulated public institutions. While peaceably attending to his business he was accused of Anti-Slaveryism. He did not deny the charge and was arrested, his trunk being broken open and its contents searched and scattered. He was taken before a vigilance committee and by it was condemned to receive twenty lashes on his bare back, “well laid on,” and then to be driven out of town. The sentence was carried out, we are told, in the presence of thousands of people of both sexes.
Of the many somewhat similar instances that might here be referred to the writer will make room for only one more.
A seafaring man of the name of Jonathan Walker undertook to convey in a sloop of which he was the owner seven colored fugitives to the Bahama Islands, where they would be free. Owing to an accident to his boat, he and his companions were captured. He was sentenced, among other things, to have his hand branded with the letters S.S., signifying “Slave Stealer.”
The incident just referred to inspired one of the finest productions of Whittier’s pen. Singing of that “bold plowman of the wave” he proceeds:
“Why, that hand is highest
Than its traces never yet
Upon old memorial hatchments was
A prouder blazon set;
And the unborn generations, as they
Tread our rocky strand,
Shall tell with pride the story of
Their father’s branded hand.”
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD