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OCTOBER, 1860.      DOUGLASS' MONTHLY      349

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When the latter died it was found that he had made no provision for Mr. Briggs' freedom, and with the father's estate the son was sold.  The son at once ran away.  When we inquired as to the probabilities of any connection between his running away and the Underground Railway train, Mr. Briggs said, with a laugh, 'There wasn't anything else.'  However, after Mr. Briggs had comfortably married, and fixed his family in Philadelphia, he was recognized, captured, and taken South.  His wife walked for nearly a year through the streets, begging from house to house, for money to aid in her husband's purchase.  She religiously refused to appropriate a penny of this to the immediate necessities of her family, and at last had the joy of seeing the 'ole man' restored to her again.  Mr. Briggs, at this point, enthusiastic, broke out:

'I never kin forgit the ole woman for what she's done for me.  Let her spend all I got, she's made it.  If she hadn't begged for me, nothin' would thar have been for none of us.  Let her go her rope!'  Here all hands laughed, and the man on the balcony, who had been frequently heard to chuckle, put his head in the window, and said very hurriedly: 'What do become of de slave-catcher's soul?' after which he ducked our again in a most guilty way.

Mr. Briggs continued to relate his 'struggles on to fortune.'  He paid yearly taxes to the amount of $250 and owned property to the value of $40,000.

Mr. Swips, likewise, told his story.  After computation, the worth of the eight individuals in the room was laid down:

Jinks -                                       $25,000
Briggs -                                       40,000
Swips -                                        20,000
Man on the balcony -                            7,000
Other colored man -                            10,000
One conductor -                                 6,000
Two reporters (50 cents each) | [[underlined]]      1 [[/underlined]
Total -                                      $108,001

Great wrangling here ensued.  Everybody shook hands with everybody else, and Mr. Jinks rang the bell.  When a boy with a white apron answered the summons, Mr. Jinks ordered champaign and cigars.

Then the fortunes of the $108,001 were toasted, with wishes that the $108,001 might never grow less; after which, the man on the balcony put in his head and said, spilling half his wine, 'Yar's to our brethren in bondage.'  This was hailed with ovations.

Mr. Jinks, Mr. Briggs, and Mr. Swips, then insisted, simultaneously, that we should review at once each of their houses.


We found in Mr. Jinks' a piano valued at $700, formerly owned by a prominent actress. We saw a large engraving of John Brown, framed in gorgeous style, and were taken to a library, filled with anti-slavery books. Everything was arranged in a style combining neatness with luxuriance. At Mr. Briggs' we found a studio, hung with rare crayon drawings. We learned that these were the labors of Mr. Briggs' son. We have seldom met with finer pictures.

In this studio our reporters made speeches, which were hailed with acclamations. Mr. Briggs opened his sideboard, disclosing a tempting array of bottles. We were ordered up for a final text. Each of the individuals enumerated gave sentiments. – Some of them were mild – some fiery. Our guide with the degree of forbearance unexpected, said, lifting his glass:

'Let us drink to the social and intellectual advancement of the colored man!'

'God grant it,' said a chorus of earnest voices, and the glasses were emptied with such enthusiasm that the man who had taken a seat on the balcony partially choked himself, and threw a temporary shadow over the general good humor.


We have spoken lightly of our final visit, simply that variety may be infused into the narrative, for our most sanguine expectations

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of the respectability of the colored upper classes were overleaped by their actual condition.  We found, everywhere, good order and good humor, pride in the city, love of the State, and strange as it may seem, reverence for the nation.  Few of the families we visited knew anything of our object; their manner of life, as we observed it, was not assumed nor counterfeited.  In fact, we shrewdly doubted that we were not mistaken for descendants of Ham, for, in our visit, we saw many persons said to be of negro blood, who, by gas light, were identified as whites.

Nothing is more common than to hear it said, in general and sweeping terms, that the free colored people of the city are in a miserably degraded condition; constantly exposed to hunger and cold; lazy, having no tendency to improve, no energy, honesty, industry. - Such assertions are, indeed, made quite as commonly at the North as at the South. - Senator Brown, of Mississippi, only went a little way beyond the common opinion, when he remarked that 'the slave is blest with sound health, a sleek skin, and Christian instruction.  The free African is dwarfed by disease, scrofulous from hunger, and is a barbarian and a cannibal.'

What we have transcribed has indicated, to the credit of Philadelphia, a different order of things.  But it may not be out of place to allude, in equally truthful terms, to the


This branch of the question needs little illumination.  It has furnished the staple for much abuse of Philadelphia, and the dusky localities haunted by degraded blacks have been described as the sole resort of men of color in this city.

We made one day a flying tour through Bedford, Baker, Lombard and Spafford streets, but the dangerous appearance of the denizens of the diverging courts deterred us from entering them alone.  By the kindly care of Sergeant Selby and Officer Annie, of the Second-district police-station, we were escorted through the most dingy localities in the whole city.

None of the cribs, courts, cellars, or dwellings in the whole route was peopled exclusively by blacks.  In some quarters of St. Mary street, a large proportion were negroes, but we found the dwellings of that avenue several degrees more commodious, cleanly and cheerful than those of Spafford, Bedford, and Baker streets.  In the three latter avenues were people of every hue - the pale consumptive, white as leprosy, and the ebony negro, with polished skin and crisp wool.  In some dwellings we found both of these.


Our first visit was to a couple of cribs in the rear of a dwelling in Bedford street, above Seventh.

We passed through an alley, spotted with pools of dirty water, flowing around miniature islands of filth, and saw, at the extreme rear of the yard, what appeared to be a couple of dilapidated hen-houses.  They were made of bits of plank, and through sundry crevices in the gable and front appeared bits of rags, seemingly stuffed therein to keep out the cold and the rain.  There was no chimney, no hole in the roof, no window.  Two doors were placed in the front, one of which was open, the other secured with a chain and  padlock.  We peeped in at the open door, but a puff of dense smoke came gushing out, which almost blinded us.  The smell of foul gas, as if from a charcoal furnace, haunted the surrounding atmosphere.  For a long time we could make out nothing of the interior.  At length a negro made his appearance at the door.  He was naked to the waist, and wore trowsers of many colors, which hung in huge folds over shoes of unequal length.  He was blind in one eye, and looked at us through the remaining one like an idiot in a dream.  Such a piece of manhood we have never met.  A woman, with more of humanity in her face, edged up to his side.  She was barefooted, and wore a dress which seemed to have been just taken out of foul soak.

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'Two gemmen,' said she, referring to the police officers, and nudging the man, as if in doubt that his single eye could observe.

'How do, gemmen?' said the man with one eye.  'Job for us?'

His single orb seemed to scour the zenith and the radii, as if vainly striving to see something.

'Pleesemen?' said the woman suspiciously.

'I see their stars,' said the man; 'knows Mister Selby.'

The man said that the woman was his wife - that they had no living children - that he was a butcher's clerk - that he never drank, and so on.  Such an automaton we never saw.  He seemed to speak every word as if there was just mind enough in his unsightly body to comprehend human speech.  And all the while that one eye ran white and ghastly over the blue sky, as if conscious of the sunlight, and yet sightless.

'How old are you?' was asked.

'Was born in 1843' - he counted upon his fingers, as if hopelessly striving to ascertain the years of wretchedness he had passed. - At times the lone glimmer of intelligence brightened in his face.  Then he seemed to catch the idea he was struggling for.  But the shadow fell.  We could almost see the tho't fading away through his beseeching face.

'I'm jus' seventeen,' said he.

'Oh! you can't count,' remarked the officer.

'Yes, I kin count as well as you; got educashun.'

The earnestness with which he said this provoked a smile.

We learned that he paid ten cents per night for his lodging, strictly in advance.  He prided himself that he had never lived in a cellar.

The interior of his wretched hovel was damp and almost desolate.  The floor consisted of five pieces of plank spread on the bare ground.  A ragged pallet lay in one corner, and two old hats were hung on nails in the gable side.  The crib leaked - some of the shingles were detached; yet the proprietor received three dollars per month for a tenement whose entire cost was about two dollars.

We passed out of this court, running the gauntlet of all foul smells, and were again in the open street.

'Do you have frequent occasion to take charge of these people?' said we to the officer.

'Well, they don't trouble us much.  The proportion who are taken to the station-house is about five whites to one negro.  The negroes are never belligerents; their curse is laziness, induced by rum.'


Immediately across Bedford street was another alley, up which we passed, over decaying animal and vegetable matter, ashes, and all manner of vileness.  A row of such cribs as we have described studded the yard, and the effluvia from cellars was almost stifling. - On the bare pave, under the open sky, without dwelling or roof, or shelter of any kind, lived a negro family.  Such bright-eyed colored children we have not met.  Their fat, chubby faces and happy smiles contrasted with the miserable hovels around them like the smile of the angel in prison.  The mother was ironing on a board stretched from a barrel to a crack in the fence, and four juveniles stood admiringly upon either hand.  In a cradle lay the fattest of black babies, rocked to sleep by another scarcely a wit larger.  The children were 'alike as two peas.'

When we sauntered up to this well ventilated residence, the children ran in a body to seek shelter behind their mother, and the baby began to scream.  We quieted the latter with an apple, which it eyed with admiration and instantly began to chuckle.

We asked another urchin - a boy - under bribe of a penny, to tell us his name.

'William Henry,' said the boy.

'Who is your father?'


'Do you want something to eat?'

'Ess I do.'

In a few minutes we were overrun with 'Muzzy's' sable offspring.  As three of them were chewing tomatoes, this kindly familiarity
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