Another scene in southern life.
In the city, a few miles from the plantation, a scene which too often affords those degrading pictures that disgrace a free and happy country, was being enacted. A low brick building, standing in an area protected by a high fence, surmounted with spikes and other dangerous projectiles, formed the place. The upper and lower windows of this building were strongly secured with iron gratings, and emitted the morbid air from cells scarcely large enough to contain human beings of ordinary size. In the rear, a sort of triangular area opened, along which was a line of low buildings, displaying single and double cells. Some had iron rings in the floor; some had rings in the walls; and, again, others had rings over head. Some of these confines of misery-for here men’s souls were goaded by the avarice of our natures-were solitary; and at night, when the turmoil of the day had ceased, human wailings and the clank of chains might be heard breaking through the walls of this charnel-house. These narrow confines were filled with living beings-beings with souls, souls sold according to the privileges of a free and happy country,—a country that fills us with admiration of its greatness. It is here, O man, the tyrant sways his hand most! it is here the flesh and blood of the same Maker, in chains of death, yearns for freedom.
We walk through the corridor, between narrow arches containing the abodes of misery, while our ears drink the sad melancholy that sounds in agitated throbs, made painful by the gloom and darkness. Touching an iron latch, the door of a cell opens, cold and damp, as if death sat upon its walls; but it discloses no part of the inmate’s person, and excites our sympathies still more. We know the unfortunate is there,—we hear the murmuring, like a death-bell in our ears; it is mingled with a dismal chaos of sound, piercing deep into our feelings. It tells us in terror how gold blasts the very soul of man-what a dark monster of cruelty he can become,—how he can forget the grave, and think only of his living self,—how he can strip reason of its right, making himself an animal with man for his food. See the monster seeking only for the things that can serve him on earth-see him stripping man of his best birth-right, see him the raving fiend, unconscious of his hell-born practices, dissevering the hope that by a fibre hangs over the ruins of those beings who will stand in judgment against him. His soul, like their faces, will be black, when theirs has been whitened for judgment in the world to come!