The Underground Railroad eBook

William Still
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,446 pages of information about The Underground Railroad.


It is a very short document, but it used to be very unsafe for a slave in Richmond, or any other Southern city, to be found out in the evening without a legal paper of this description.  The penalties for being found unprepared to face the police were fines, imprisonment and floggings.  The satisfaction it seemed always to afford these guardians of the city to find either males or females trespassing in this particular, was unmistakable.  It gave them (the police) the opportunity to prove to those they served (slaveholders), that they were the right men in the right place, guarding their interests.  Then again they got the fine for pocket money, and likewise the still greater pleasure of administering the flogging.  Who would want an office, if no opportunity should turn up whereby proof could be adduced of adequate qualifications to meet emergencies?  But Charles was too wide awake to be caught without his pass day or night.  Consequently he hung on to it, even after starting on his voyage to Canada.  He, however, willingly surrendered it to a member of the Committee at his special request.

But in every way Charles was quite a remarkable man.  It afforded the Committee great pleasure to make his acquaintance, and much practical and useful information was gathered from his story, which was felt to be truthful.

The Committee feeling assured that this “chattel” must have been the subject of much inquiry and anxiety from the nature of his former position, as a prominent piece of property, as a member of the Baptist church, as taking “first premiums” in making tobacco, and as a paper carrier in the National American office, felt called upon to note fully his movements before and after leaving Richmond.

In stature he was medium size, color quite dark, hair long and bushy—­rather of a raw-boned and rugged appearance, modest and self-possessed; with much more intelligence than would be supposed from first observation.  On his arrival, ere he had “shaken hands with the (British) Lion’s paw,” (which he was desirous of doing), or changed the habiliments in which he escaped, having listened to the recital of his thrilling tale, and wishing to get it word for word as it flowed naturally from his brave lips, at a late hour of the night a member of the Committee remarked to him, with pencil in hand, that he wanted to take down some account of his life.  “Now,” said he, “we shall have to be brief.  Please answer as correctly as you can the following questions:”  “How old are you?” “Thirty-two years old the 1st day of last June.”  “Were you born a slave?” “Yes.”  “How have you been treated?” “Badly all the time for the last twelve years.”  “What do you mean by being treated badly?” “Have been whipped, and they never give me anything; some people give their servants at Christmas a dollar and a half and two dollars, and some five, but my master would never give me anything.”  “What was the name of your master?” “Fleming

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The Underground Railroad from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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