1860 Ungrateful Runaway Committed “Grand Larceny of His Own Body” and Deserves Severe Flogging


This May 12, 1860 edition of the New York Weekly Tribune features three interesting slave-related articles. “A deplorable instance of the mental darkness and obliquity of the African race has just been brought to light. An ebony chattel calling himself William Bracker—a name which probably belongs to his master—most ungratefully tired of working for such hog and hominy as is freely accorded to chattels in the patriarchal State of South Carolina—resolved to commit a grand larceny of his own body and bones, hide, features and wool—as villainous chattels have been known to do ere now—and, to this end, stowed himself away on board the steamship…If that negro should ever again be caught aboard of a vessel chartered by a regiment of Democratic officeholders and office-seekers, in the hope of thus escaping slavery, he will deserve for his stupidity a far severer flogging than his master has now in store for him.”…

In another article, a “Mr. Pollard” writes to the Editor of the N.Y. Tribune in response to a review of his book “Black Diamonds” about slaves in the South. In his letter to the editor, he defends his book stating “I advocated the reopening of the trade in the interests of the poor white men of the South, who are now oppressed by the monopoly of slaveholders. With these poor white men I have all my sympathies…I recommend the slave-trade in the interest of the negro.” “Make Slavery common and popular…and secure those beneficent results which logically belong to the subjection of the inferior to a superior race.” “I would secure and enforce the humane treatment of the blacks, and reduce Slavery to a well-guarded, mild, and domestic institution.” “Are you willing to give up the vagaries of emancipation to secure home societies organized to secure the slave from violence and wrong? These are common concerns of humanity.”


Another article describes payoffs by fugitive slavers to US Marshals to look the other way. Slavery was legal, but importation of slaves was outlawed after 1808. “They could make more money by allowing slavers to escape, than by seizing them….This case is probably only one of many which, if known, would explain why slavers sail out of this port with impunity.”