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Digital Bookshelf: Newspaper Articles

Underground Railroad

Original Citation
"Underground Railroad," Charleston (SC) Mercury, August 25, 1856, p. 2: 6.

This 1856 article from the Charleston (SC) Mercury vividly illustrates the standard southern view about the Underground Railroad. Antebellum southerners who believed in slavery considered such activities to be "stealing negros," and as this report about poor conditions in Canada West (where many fugitives found freedom) clearly shows, they relished any evidence of blacks suffering outside "their comfortable homes" in the South.


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Underground Railroad.

Among the nefarious schemes of those who have for years been plotting treason against our common country, one of the most disreputable is that of stealing negros - or what amounts to nearly the same thing, enticing them to run away from their masters by deception and falsehood.

A few years ago, we had occasion to visit Canada West during the winter. One morning, in passing up the principal street in Toronto, we saw a negro lad, of sixteen or seventeen years of age, standing bareheaded, barefoot - in short, without any other clothing than a shirt and pantaloons. It was cold enough to freeze a Laplander. It had been thawing a few hours previous, but was then freezing the "slosh" into the consistency of cast iron. There this miserable specimen of humanity stood, with bare head for several hours, beneath the peltings of snow and hail, almost at the very door of the office of the Globe, a malignant Abolition journal, - there he stood A FREE MAN, on British soil, and the British philanthropists took no more notice of him than if he had been a dog. The writer passed up and down the opposite side of the street in attending to business, a number of times during the forenoon, and no one took the slightest notice of this "God-made brother," bareheaded in the storm. Having occasion to cross over near to the place where he stood, stopped and asked him why he stayed there? He answered, as well as his chattering teeth would permit, that his mammy and himself were runaway slaves - they had no home, no place to stay, and no one to provide them a mouthful of food. This is specimen of British Philanthropy, No I. Please read on.

A few days after this occurred, the writer was called upon at the hotel in Hamilton, where he was stopping, by a negro man who desired to speak with him. He said - I hear you are from the States. I am a runaway slave; my name is Morton; I formerly lived in Georgia, but have been living for sometime in Michigan. I came to Canada to avoid the Fugitive Slave law, but I am treated here like a brute, - I can neither get wholesome food nor employment - and I want to get back again to Detroit. I had rather go back with the risk of going to Georgia, than to stay here and starve. Will you aid me in procuring the means to do so? The reply was in the affirmative, a donation was handed him, a subscription paper drawn up, stating the object for which the money was wanted, and that is the last we saw of Mr. Morton. This is evidence of British philanthropy No. II. For this, is it, that misguided philanthropists entice the negros away from their comfortable homes, where every want is provided for! They promise them freedom - but it is freedom to freeze, steal, or starve.



Citation for this page

Charleston (SC) Mercury, "Underground Railroad," August 25, 1856, Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008,

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