But what right had a negro, which white slave-holders were “bound to respect?” Many who had been willed free, were held just as firmly in Slavery, as if no will had ever been made. Robert had too much sense to suppose that he could gain anything by seeking legal redress. This method, therefore, was considered out of the question. But in the meantime he was growing very naturally in favor of the Underground Rail Road. From his experience Robert did not hesitate to say that his master was “mean,” “a very hard man,” who would work his servants early and late, without allowing them food and clothing sufficient to shield them from the cold and hunger. Robert certainly had unmistakable marks about him, of having been used roughly. He thought very well of Nathan Harris, a fellow-servant belonging to the same owner, and he made up his mind, if Nathan would join him, neither the length of the journey, the loneliness of night travel, the coldness of the weather, the fear of the slave-hunter, nor the scantiness of their means should deter him from making his way to freedom. Nathan listened to the proposal, and was suddenly converted to freedom, and the two united during Christmas week, 1854, and set out on the Underground Rail Road. It is needless to say that they had trying difficulties to encounter. These they expected, but all were overcome, and they reached the Vigilance Committee, in Philadelphia safely, and were cordially welcomed. During the interview, a full interchange of thought resulted, the fugitives were well cared for, and in due time both were forwarded on, free of cost.
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This traveler arrived from Millsboro, Indian River, Delaware, where he was owned by Wm. E. Burton. While Hansel did not really own himself, he had the reputation of having a wife and six children. In June, some six months prior to her husband’s arrival, Hansel’s wife had been allowed by her mistress to go out on a begging expedition, to raise money to buy herself; but contrary to the expectation of her mistress she never returned. Doubtless the mistress looked upon this course as a piece of the most highhanded stealing. Hansel did not speak of his owner as being a hard man, but on the contrary he thought that he was about as “good” as the best that he was acquainted with. While this was true, however, Hansel had quite good ground for believing that his master was about to sell him. Dreading this fate he made up his mind to go in pursuit of his wife to a Free state. Exactly where to look or how to find her he could not tell.
The Committee advised him to “search in Canada.” And in order to enable him to get on quickly and safely, the Committee aided him with money, &c., in 1853.
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