The American Prejudice Against Color Part 3

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Mr. Porter had committed no crime–nothing was charged against him, save that he had entertained us, and was known to be favorable to our union, or rather unfavorable to any interference in a matter which was of sacred right our own.

Mr. P. gave me no information with regard to Miss King, except that she was at home, and that in consequence of the extraordinary excitement she would probably be unable to get out of Fulton for several days to come.

He returned to Fulton the next morning, and three or four days after, I received from him the following letter. It is significant:–

“Gilberts’ Mills, February 4th, 1853.

“Professor Allen,– “Dear Friend:–

“I write you under very extraordinary circ.u.mstances. I have been obliged to leave the vicinity of Fulton, for a while at least. I am now stopping at A. Gilbert’s. How long I shall stay here, I cannot tell.

“Mary (Miss King) I have not seen or heard from, for two days. All communications between her and Julia, (her sister–who was favorable to our union) and our family has been broken off–strictly prohibited; and Hibbard’s house, on the hill, is the watch tower to guard Elder King’s house against such dangerous invaders as ourselves.

“When I came from Syracuse that morning, Hibbard was at the depot on the watch. In the afternoon I went up to the Elder’s, and was met on the door-step and told not to deliver any messages or letters to Mary. Of course, I had none with me to deliver, and so I told Elder King. But I saw Mary in the presence of the family and Hibbard, and Mrs. Case and Mrs. Sherman, and such like–for Elder King’s folks have a great many such sympathisers now.

“I wanted to say some things to her not in the presence of these strangers–so to speak–in the family; _but she told me that she was permitted to say no word to any one but in the presence of such companions as were appointed for her. I went away sad, for Mrs. King is trying to torment her soul out of her, by constant upbraidings and railings_.

“Yesterday morning Sarah (Mrs. Porter) started to go up to see her, not having seen her since the affair of the mob; but a cutter from Phillipsville whipped by her, and when she had got near the house, the cutter came back bringing Elder King, who told her that they thought it advisable to request her not to go to his house–that, in a word, _they were determined to prevent all communication between our family and Mary_. Sarah came back. In the meantime, a man came to see me–Mr.

Case–to tell me that I must not go to Elder King’s–_that I could not go there without getting hurt_. In fact, I had been that morning to Fulton early, to see the Editor of ‘_The Patriot_;’ while I was going through the street, a lot of rowdies gathered together and yelled after me. The explanation is easy. When I came from Syracuse, the story went that I was plotting to get Mary off. And I can hardly forgive Elder King for putting the sanction upon this falsity, by excluding us from his house. That act of Elder King gave the mult.i.tude full swing. They have now full liberty to mob me; _and last night I came very near getting into their hands. About sunset they came over headed by Hibbard_, and while stopping at the tavern on the way–this side of the bridge–a man whipped up to Watson’s on horseback, and gave me the wink. George Gilbert was at our room, (a lucky chance) and so I got under the buffalo, and Sarah sat on the seat, and so we rode down straight by them, and thus foiled them again. To-day I went back–packed up, and put my trunks in a neighbor’s house, and then came down here with Sarah and Libbie. Thus it is. _Mary–G.o.d help her–is in prison,–that is, she is guarded._ Elder King has consented to just such arrangements as Mrs.

King and Hibbard and some of the heartless, officious aristocrats of the village saw fit to propose. It cannot be helped. Mary will doubtless be used well, corporally–but oh, the torment of being confined with such despicable companions. I trust she will be brave; though I did hear yesterday morning that she was somewhat indisposed and was abed. Her eyes are inflamed.

“I left the vicinity not altogether out of personal fear, but because I knew that my presence kept up the excitement. Allen, _it is impossible for you to conceive what a convulsion this village of Fulton has been thrown into_. A regular siege and cannonading could hardly have raised a greater muss.

“Write to me soon. Enclose to G. Gilbert on the _outside_ wrapper. I dared not send from Phillipsville yesterday.

“Keep cool; and do not blame Elder King more than you can help, for I expect he is forced into some things. How much he is to be forgiven on account of the dilemma into which he has got himself, let time decide. I do not wish to make his case worse.

“Yours in friendship, “JOHN C. PORTER.”

[The italics and parentheses of the above letter are mine. I shall add no comment.]

On afternoon, Feb. 5th,–still in Syracuse,–I received a visit from Wm. S. King, Esq. This gentleman is also a brother of Miss King.

His visit seemed to have about it at the outset somewhat of a stealthy character, and I confess I did not receive him with any great degree of cordiality. He came on an errand, he said. His sister desired to have an interview with me, and to that end she would meet me at the house of a friend about four miles from the village of Fulton. The journey to this friend’s–hers of four miles and mine of twenty or more–he a.s.sured me must be conducted with the greatest possible secrecy; for should the Fulton people hear of it, the most disastrous results would follow. His sister was very ill, he said–was suffering intense anguish of mind–had been confined to her chamber with bodily ailings–had an eye also in a dreadful condition, the sight of which was in danger of being lost–still, her anxiety to see me was so great that she had entreated to be taken even in this condition to the place aforesaid mentioned.

I understood this brother at once. I was not to be trapped. I had read human nature (so I think the result will justify me in saying) to a much better purpose than he. I declined holding the interview at the time, on account, as I urged, of his sister’s feeble health and excited state of mind–but would have no objection, I added, to such an interview some two or three weeks to come. He then urged me to write, a.s.suring me that he would take the letter willingly. This also, I refused to do. So at last he left me with the understanding that upon the recovery of his sister’s health, we should have an “interview.”

Mr. King returned immediately to Fulton, and on the Monday following, I received by post a letter from Miss King. It was not in her own hand-writing–she was too ill to write, but it was dictated to her sister. Just as I expected, Miss King had found it necessary considering the influences against her, and that her relatives and the community would have left no means untried, however illegal or disgraceful to thwart her in her designs,–nay, would have sworn her into a lunatic asylum rather than to have permitted her to marry me–to consent that our engagement should be broken. This letter was to announce the fact, while at the same time, it gave as the reason–deference to the feelings of father and brothers.

Of course, I did not reply to the letter. As the “_Star_” says–I knew what I was about.

On Tuesday morning, February 8th, I published in the “_Syracuse Standard_” the following card:–


“So much has been said and written on the subject of the late affair at Fulton, that the Public by this time must have had nearly _quantum sufficit_; yet I deem it not improper on my own behalf to add a remark or two. I shall not undertake to describe in detail, the murderous outrage intended to be inflicted on a quiet and unoffending man–that is not of much consequence now.

“I wish now simply to show the public, that those who made the onslaught upon me on Sabbath evening, a week ago, acted no less like a pack of fools than a pack of devils; and this can be shown almost in a single word, by stating that the whole story of my intention of being married on the evening in question, or that I went to Fulton intending to consummate an affair of the kind at any period of my recent visit there, is a fabrication from the beginning to the end. The wretch who ‘fixed up’ just such a story as he thought would inflame the rabble to take my life, will yet, I trust, meet with deserved scorn and contempt from a community who, whatever may be their prejudice against my color, have, nevertheless, a high sense of what belongs to their own honor and dignity, and to the character and reputation of their village.

“I make this statement with regard to this matter of marriage, not because I regard myself as amenable to the public to state to them _whom_ or _when_ I shall marry, but that since so much has been said upon the subject, I am quite willing they should know the truth as it is. They are tyrants, and very little-hearted, and exceedingly muddy-headed ones at that, who will presume to take a matter of this kind out of the hands of the parties to whom it specifically belongs, and who are acting law-abidingly and honorably in the premises.

“Here then is the story. Read it. A band of several hundred armed men–armed, as I have been told, with an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails, tar, feathers and a pole, came down upon a certain house in Phillipsville, opposite Fulton, on Sabbath evening, a week ago, to kill or drive out a single individual, conducting himself in a quiet, peaceable manner, and that individual, too, in physical stature, one of the smallest of men,–and in physical strength, proportionably inferior!

If this is not cowardice as well as villainy–and both of them double-refined–then, I ask, what is cowardice, or what is villainy? The malignity of the whole matter also is set in a clearer light, when it is remembered that this same individual has never injured one of his a.s.sailants, nor has it been charged upon him that in his life-time he has ever inflicted the slightest wrong upon mortal man, but who has striven to maintain an upright character through life, and to fight his way for long years through scorn and contempt, to an honorable position among men. Truly, this is a precious country! However, it is some consolation to know that ‘G.o.d is just, and that his justice cannot sleep for ever.’

“A gentleman of Fulton writes an article on this subject, to the ‘_Oswego Daily Times_,’ of February the 3rd. The spirit of this gentleman’s article dishonors his heart. So filled is he with a prejudice which an eminent Christian of this country has rightly characterized, as a ‘blasphemy against G.o.d,’ and a ‘quarrel with Jehovah,’ that he will not even deign to call me by name, to say nothing of the t.i.tle which has been legitimately accorded me, but designates me as a ‘colored man, &c.’ The object of this writer in thus refusing to accord to me so cheap and common a courtesy is apparent, and as contemptible as apparent. Let him have the glory of it,–I pity him. Had I been a white man, he would not have so violated what he is such a stickler for–‘the laws and usages of society.’

“In another place in his article, he describes me as the ‘negro.’ This is preposterous and ridiculous. Were I a negro, I should regard it as no dishonor, since men are not responsible for their physical peculiarities, and since they are neither better nor worse on account of them. It happens in this case, however, that so far from being a negro, three-fourths of the blood which flows in my veins is as good Anglo-Saxon as that which flows in the veins of this writer in the ‘_Times_,’–better, I will not say, of course.

“Something also is said in this article from Fulton about the ‘course we’ (the young lady and myself) ‘were pursuing.’ Now, as the several hundred armed men strong who came down upon me on Sunday night, and some newspaper Editors, and this gentleman in particular, and the public very nearly in general, have taken the matter of judging what this ‘course we were pursuing’ was, out of our own hands, I propose to leave it still further with them. They can guess at it, and fight it out to their heart’s content.

“Something also is said by this gentleman about ‘wholesome advice being given me’–but I did not hear it, that’s all. Besides, I never take advice from those who can not tell the difference between a man and his skin.

“One gentleman–a true man–came to me, and expressed his deep sympathy for me, and his sorrow that I had been so wrongfully treated and shamefully outraged, and entreated me to regard with pity, and not with anger, the murderous wretches outside. This is the speech that I remember, and remember it to thank the friend for his manifestation of kind and generous emotions.

“This Fulton ‘Committee man’ also says that ‘the colored man asked if he was to be left to be torn to pieces.’ Beyond a doubt, I asked that question. It was certainly, under the circ.u.mstances, the most natural question in the world; for I had really begun to think that the fellows outside had the genuine teeth and tail.

“I close this Article. To the Committee who so kindly lent me their protection on that memorable night, I offer my thanks and lasting grat.i.tude.

“To the poor wretches who sought to take my life, I extend my pity and forgiveness.

“As to myself–having in my veins, though but in a slight degree, the blood of a despised, crushed, and persecuted people, I ask no favors of the people of this country, and get none save from those whose Christianity is not hypocrisy, and who are willing to ‘do unto others as they would that others should do unto them’–and who regard _all_ human beings who are equal in character as equal to one another.

“Respectfully “WILLIAM G. ALLEN”

Simultaneously with the above card, there appeared in the “_Syracuse Journal_,” the following Article. It is from the pen of Wm. S. King–the brother aforesaid mentioned. It is in spirit a most dastardly performance, more so, considering that the gentleman really _did_ know the circ.u.mstances, than anything which had hitherto been sent to the press. As a history of the “affair,” it is almost a falsity throughout–and especially is it so in that part of it which describes Miss King as repulsing me with her abhorrence of the idea of amalgamation. I do not propose, however, to be hard on Mr. King. His untruthful and cowardly spirit has been sufficiently rebuked by the marriage which took place in less than two months after the publication of his article:–


“Since the occurrence of the circ.u.mstances which induced the mob and consequent excitement at Fulton, on the 30th of last month, we have made considerable effort to procure a full and precise statement of the facts in the case. This we have finally succeeded in doing from a gentleman of standing, who is well acquainted with all the circ.u.mstances. They are as follows:–

“For some years past, Miss King has been attending the School at Mc.

Grawville, known as the ‘New York Central College,’ in which Allen, the colored Professor alluded to, is one of the teachers.

“During that time, Allen became deeply interested in the lady, and proposed marriage to her. This she at once rejected, declaring that the thought of such a connection was repulsive to her.

“For some time after this, the Professor said no more upon the subject; but in the course of a year or so, _again_ proposed marriage, and was _again_ rejected.

“Thus matters stood until some time since, when Miss King left the School, and returned to her home in Fulton. Shortly after, Allen went to that place and called on her, and, after a short interview, again, for the third time, proposed marriage. She _again rejected him_, and told him _that such was her firm and fixed decision_. Her manner towards him, however, during all this period, had been kind and friendly, but she had always expressed her abhorrence of the idea of ‘amalgamation.’

“By this time Madam Gossip had set the rumor afloat, that Allen and Miss K. were engaged to be married. Such a report was, of course calculated to produce a great excitement wherever it went.

“Allen, however, was not to be baffled by his former ill success, and was determined, if possible, to make the report good. He, therefore, a few days after his last rejection, wrote to a gentleman residing in Phillipsville, opposite Fulton–who had formerly been a student in Mc.

Grawville–that he intended making him a visit. As all the parties had been friends and acquaintances at School, Miss K. was invited to be present for the purpose of having a friendly visit. She accordingly called upon them on afternoon, and at their earnest solicitations consented to spend the Sabbath with them.

“In the meantime, it was whispered about that the Professor and Miss K.

were there for the purpose of being married. This, the people of Fulton determined at once, should not be done in that town. They, therefore, a.s.sembled several hundred strong, and appointed a Committee to wait upon the party, which they accordingly did, and informed the Professor that he must leave town, and the young lady that she must go home, to which request they both acceded without hesitation.

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