The Underground Railroad eBook

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

Thus it was primarily to rouse those of his own class that he labored, to gall them into seeing (though they should turn again and rend him) that moral supineness is moral decay, that the soul shrivels into nothingness when wrong is acquiesced in, as surely as it is torn and scattered by the furies let loose within it, when wrong is done.  But just there lay the difficulty and pain of his mission:  that, from his acknowledged standing in the literary world, and as a leader in the interests of higher education, his path brought him into contact mainly with the cultured, and it was among these that the pro-slavery spirit ruled with its bitterest stringency.  Not cultured:  let us unsay the word; rather, with the gloss and hard polish which reading and wealth and the finer appointments of living can throw over spiritual arrest or decay.  Culture is a holy word, and dare be used of intellectual advance only when the moral sympathies have kept equal step.  It includes something beyond an amateur sentiment; in favor of what we favor.  If it does not open the ear to every cry of humanity, struggling up or slipping back, it is no culture properly so called, but a sham, a mask of wax, a varnish with cruel glitter; and what a double wrath will be poured on him who cracks the wax and the varnish, not only because of the rude awakening, but because the crack shows the sham.

It is impossible for us now to realize what revenge this class dealt to my father for twenty-five years.  Consider their power of revenge.  They could not force a loss of property or of life, it is true; they made no open assault in the street; their ‘delicacy’ held itself above common vituperation.  But they wielded a greater power than all these over a man whose every accomplishment made him their equal, and they used it without stint.  They doomed him to the slow martyrdom of social scorn.  They shut their doors against him.  They elbowed him from every position to which he had a wish or a right, except public respect, and they could not elbow him from that unless they pushed his character from its poise.  They cut him off from every friendly regard which would else have been devotedly his, on that level of educated life, and limited him to ‘solitary confinement’ within himself.  They compelled him to walk as if under a ban or an anathema.  Had he been a leper in Syrian deserts, or a disciple of Jesus among Pharisees, he could not have been more utterly banished from the region of homes and self-constituted piety.  They showered ineffable contempt upon him in every way consistent with their littleness and—­refinement.  Slight, sneer, insult, all the myriad indignities that only ‘good society’ can devise, these were what my father received in return for his love and his work in love.

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The Underground Railroad from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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