"-3

/rif / 7

c.
I/'"

SKETCHES
OF

THE HIGHER CLASSES
OF

COLORED SOCIETY
IN PHILADELPHIA.

BY A souther:

PHILADELPHIA. MERIUHEW AND THOMPSON, PRINTERS.
Xo. 7 Carter's Alley.
1B41.

f^\^:

CONTENTS.

Preface,

-

-

-

-

CHAPTER

I.

Characteristics of CoIntroductory Observations— General
lored Society,

9

CHAPTER
Remarks—The Higher

n.
Society Detheir
-

Classes of Colored

and fined—State of Education—Young Ladies

Ac21

complishments—Isolated instances avoided,

CHAPTER
General

HI.
the Higher Classes

Remarks— Divisions among

of Colored Society-Causes

which lead thereto— Disre-

of Young Ladies putable Conduct of Parties-Insincerity

Confidence-Detraction toward each other-Breaches of

—Slander—" Northerners"

and " Southerners"— An34

Observations, other bad feature— Miscellaneous

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER

IV.

Social Intercourse-Visiting-Evenings at

Home-Amuseat private

ments and Conversation-Evening Parties-GuestsHours of Retirement-Habits of Temperance
Parties— General Remarks,
.
.

.^

CHAPTER
Political

V.

Rights-First National Convention of People of
of

Color-Character

Proceedings-Names
of the People

of Dele-

gates-Improvement
Meetings,

of Color-Public
at

Men and Measures-Contentions
-

Public
.

Meetings, Rivalry, Opposition, &c. &c.

68

CHAPTER
ry

VI.

General Remarks-Literary Societies-Philadelphia Libra-

Company

of Colored

Persons-Rush Library Com-

pany and Debating Society— Demosthenian InstituteMinerva Literary Association— Edge worth Literary As.
sociation-Gilbert

Lyceum-New

Association
-

Con93

templated-Miscellaneous Observation,

;

PREFACE.

In

presenting

this

little

volume

to

the

public, a

few words prefatory

may

not be

amiss.

Its

author does not pretend to have

entered fully into the general condition of colored society in Philadelphia
ly glanced at
;

but has mere-

some of the chief characteristics,
first,

with the design,

to

remove some of the
from without
;

unfounded

prejudices

and

secondly, to correct certain abuses

which are

known

to exist

among

themselves.
Classes" of colored so-

The idea of " Higher
ciety
is, it

must be confessed, a novel one

and

will,

undoubtedly, excite the mirth of a
its

prejudiced community on
Nevertheless,
it

annunciation.

is

perfectly correct

and pro-

6

PREFACE.

per

—and

is

only objectionable in

its

connex-

ion here, because the definition given of the

" higher classes"
tion,

is

too liberal in
to

its

construcfar

and may be made

embrace a

greater

number than

it is

intended to include.

This, however, could not be well avoided

it

was found a

difficult

case to decide intelligi-

bly otherwise
left to

—and

a proper discrimination

the intelligent reader.

Others, again, there are,

who

like to see

their neighbors' merits caricatured,
faults distorted

and

their

and exaggerated,

will expect

burlesque representations, and other laughter
exciting sketches,
led to procure this

and probably be thereby
little

volume

for the pur-

pose of gratifying their penchant for the ludicrous.

Now,

while
of
it

I desire

not to put any

thing in the

way

its

sale,

be the motive for
all

purchasing what

may, yet

such are

in-

PREFACE.

7

formed—but they must

first

procure

it

before

they can possess the information
will find

!—that

they

upon

perusal, that they

had indulg-

ed in a very erroneous impression.

As

to the colored classes themselves,

they

will at once discover that

none but the best

of feelings throughout, has
in guiding the

had any

influence

pen of

their

humble servant,

The Author.
Philadelphia, Jmie, 22, 1841.

SKETCHES
OF

COLORED SOCIETY,

&c.

CHAPTER
Introductory

I.

Observations

— General

Characteristics of

Colored Society.

The

subject of

men and manners

has ever

been one of

interest

and popularity with

almost every class of readers.
dispositions naturally

Our own
to ferret

evil

prompt us

out

the faults

and

foibles of others,

seemingly as

an apology or

justification of

our own.

Weak
to

and

irresolute ourselves,

prone

to inconsistit

ency, instability, and absurdity,
afford a relief to the

seems

mind

to

have the

follies

and short-comings of our neighbors elaborately canvassed, under the vain impression

2

10

SKETCHES OF

that in the general shout that

over the exposed parties, our

may own

be raised

misdeeds

will be kept entirely out of view.

Although these remarks may not be
applicable to
all

justly

the world, yet

it

is

most un-

questionably true, that they are well deserved

by

the far greater portion of mankind.

They
which

are evidenced in the insatiable desire

pervades the reading

classes, for productions

of a defamatory character, as the " Journals," " Diaries," &c., of those writers
visit countries foreign to

who

their

own,

for the

purpose of collecting together a

w^orthless

compilation of ridicule and personal abuse,
for retail

among
It

their
is

countrymen on

their reif

turn home.
fruits of

well known, that

the

such labors were not of the calibre

that

is

generally seen, their authors

would be

but poorly rewarded for the time, labor and

expense consumed

in their preparation

;

but

they are well acquainted with the tastes

it

may

be said the wishes

—of those

for

whose

COLORED
entertainment they
selves,

SOCIETY

11

may have
strict
is

exerted them-

and keeping in

accordance there-

with, their reward

certain.

They well

know
gossip

that their patrons will expect ridicule,
all

abuse, fault-finding, and
;

manner of

idle

and, beside large draughts upon the
fail

imagination, they

not to probe every vul-

nerable point, in order to comply therewith
in

the

fullest
is

measure.

Their book, once
if

completed,

sought with voracity, and

found

to

be well spiced with such ingredients
is

as named,

highly approved, by no small

portion of the monster public.

A

yet

more pointed and pertinent conside-

ration, in sustenance of the position here ap-

proached,

may be adduced from

the fact, that

when

a work, of the character under notice,

reaches the country of those
stitute its subject,
it

who form or con-

is

speedily repubhshed,
circulation, scarcely
it

and readily acquires a

surpassed by the reception given
point of
its

at the

original publication

!

This

may

12
arise

SKETCHES OF
from a pardonable curiosity
the author has said
to

know

what
topics

upon
;

the various
it

he

may have
It

chosen

but

evinces
is

something more.

shows

that such

the

anxiety of many persons for readings, as well
as hearings of the kind, that rather than suffer

deprivation of them, they will contribute to
the encouragement of their

own

defamers
is

!

Though
field
it

fully

aware, that there

ample

and abundant material

for so doing, yet

is

not for the purpose of administering to

this

depraved

taste, that the

writer of these

pages has undertaken the censorship of the

manners and morals of a

certain class of the

population of Philadelphia.
for perspicuity,

This

class,

more

than for the purpose of origi-

nating any invidious distinctions in the body at
large,
I

shall divide into

and denominate the
In pursuit

higher classes of colored society.
of this object,
false
1

disclaim

ail

intention to

make

representations, to

administer wanton
it

and undeserved

ridicule, or to excite

in

COLORED SOCIETY.
Others.
If correct principles did not place
this, I

13

me

above

think some assurance might be
!

gleaned from consanguinity

While

I

shall

not be forward to magnify the good or to extenuate
evil,

yet

still,

I

would not have

" aught set

down

in malice."
I feel

The

prejudiced reader,

well assured,

will smile at the designation " higher classes

of colored society."
the great body,

The

public

— or

at least

who have

not been at the

pains to

make an examination
to

—have

long

been accustomed
as one

regard the people of color
all

consolidated mass,

huddled

to-

gether, without

any

particular or general dis-

tinctions, social or otherwise.

The

sight of

one colored

man with
is

them, whatever
it

may be
is

his apparent condition, (provided

any

thing but genteel
nity
;

!)

the sight of a

commuis

and the

errors

and crimes of one,

adjudged as the

criterion of character of the
first

whole body. But the
tions
is

of these considera;

far

from being correct
2*

the latter, too


14

SKETCHES OP
to

openly palpable
tention.

command

a moment's at-

Compared

in condition,

means, and

abilities, there

are as broad social distinctions

to

be found here, as among any other class of
;

society

aye, and,
;

it

may be
for

added, with as
are
all

much

justice, too


is

what

human

distinctions worth,

founded otherwise than in
readily admitted, they
extent, the customary

virtue?

True,

it

have

not, to

any great

grounds which have

always obtained,
with

for

marking
ness
;

their lines of separation
is

distinct-

but this

the fault of circumstances

the offspring of existencies

which they had no

agency

in

producing

—and

which they have

never been able to surmount.

Taking the whole body of the colored
population in the city of Philadelphia, they
present in a gradual, moderate, and limited
ratio,

almost every grade of character, wealth,
I

and

think

it

not too

much

to

add

—of edu-

cation.

They

are to be seen in ease, comfort
all

and the enjoyment of

the social blessings


COLORED SOCIETY.
of this
life;

;

15

and, in contrast with

this,

they

are to be found in

the lowest depths of human

degradation, misery, and want.
also presented in the intermediate

They

are

stages— so-

ber, honest,

industrious

and respectable

claiming neither " poverty nor riches," yet
maintaining,

by

their pursuits, their famiUes

in comparative ease

and comfort, oppressed

neither with the cares of the rich, nor assailed

by

the deprivation and suffering of the indi-

gent.

The same

in these respects that
class of people,

may

be said of any other

may, with

the utmost regard to truth, be said of them.

They have

their churches, school-houses,

institutions of benevolence,

and others
if I
is

for the
in-

promotion of Uterature

;

and
it

cannot

clude scientific pursuits,

because the

avenues leading

to

and upholding these, have

been closed against them. There are likewise

among them,

those

who

are successfully pur-

suing various branches of the mechanic arts

tradesmen and dealers of various descriptions.

16
artists,

SKETCHES OF
clergymen, and other professional gen;

tlemen

and,

last

of

all,

though not the

least,

men

of fortune

and gentlemen of leisure.
nearly
all

Their churches embrace

the

Christian denominations, excepting the papal,

and those which may
I

be considered
that there
is

doubtful, as

am not
society

aware

any

Universalists'

among them.

Whe-

ther this arises from a determination to keep

on the sure

side here,

and enjoy the benefit
has
!

of others' doubts,

if realized, hereafter, it

never occurred

to

me,

till

now,

to inquire

The Methodists
ous
,

are
'to

by

far the

most numer-

and next
be

these, in numerical order,

may
tists

named

the

Presbyterians,
is

Bap-

and Episcopalians. There

in existence,

I believe, a Unitarian society ;

but their house

of worship, for the
port,

want of competent suppast,

has, for

some time

been

relin-

quished.

Mutual Relief

Societies

are

numerous.

There are a larger number of these than of

COLORED SOCIETY.

17

any other
nity.

description, in the colored

commu-

They

are generally well sustained, to

the great advantage of those

who compose

them.
strictly

There are also one or more others,
devoted
to objects of

out-door benevo-

lence.

The

last

mentioned are chiefly com-

posed of females.
I

pass by here the several literary associa-

tions,

proposing to

make them

a distinct sub-

ject in another place.

In

addition

to

the

public, or

common

schools supported
the continuance,

by the commonwealth

for

and prosperity of which,
solicitude
also

much

interest

and

has of

late

been

manifested

—there are
The
first

three or four pri-

vate schools, male and female, conducted by
colored teachers.
great facilities afford-

ed by the

mentioned of these, has had

the effect greatly to decrease the

numbers

in

the private schools
class
still

;

nevertheless, the latter

present a favorable condition —par-

ticularly the female

—from the superior excel

18

SKETCHES OF

lence of their government,

and attention

to

the general deportment of the pupils.

In addition to

this brief

random glance
features

at

some of the more prominent

which

distinguish colored society at large, the an-

nexed

statistical

account

is

added

for the

con-

venience of those
subject.
It
is

who

desire accuracy

on the

gleaned from

a statement
state of

"showing

the progress

and present

the colored population,'^

compiled by

the

" Board of Managers of the American Moral

Reform

Society,''

and published
latter

in their first

annual report, which

was

kindly fur-

nished me, by the chairn>an of said Board, Mr.

John P. Burr.
red
is

Though

the statement referit

to,

bears date as far back as 1837, yet
that

presumable

no

very

remarkable

changes, in most instances, have occurred since

then

;

and as there has been no
it

later

enume-

ration in this wise,

is

adopted, leaving the
in regard to

reader to form his

own judgment

more

recent advancements.

;

COLORED SOCIETY.

19

For the City and County of Philadelphia,
is

given as the
of Churches,
-

Number
"

15
-

Clergymen,
Day-schools,

34
21
6

"
"

Teachers,

"
.

Sabbath schools,
S.

17

"

School Teachers,

-

125 3*
3

"
" "
"

Literary Societies,

-

Debating

"

Mutual Relief or Benevolent, 64
Moral Reform,
Temperance,
-

-

1

"
"

-

4
It

Lyceums,

In the same tabular view, the number of

mechanics

for this city, are set

down

at 78

and

real estate
at

owned, and

taxes, rents, &c.,

paid,

^850,000.

In what manner this
fifty

eight

hundred and

thousand dollars
in

is

*There has been some change
of these.
j-

the character

of one

Since formed.

20
proportioned
nineteen
cult to

SKETCHES OF

among

the

population, rising
it

thousand inhabitants,
;

is

diffi-

determine

though

it

appears

to

be

undoubtedly true, that but a small rmmber
are actual free-holders,
the

when compared with
The succeed-

whole body.
for generalities.

Thus much

ing sketches, will be chiefly confined to that
portion of colored society, which shall hereafter

be indicated.

COLORED

SOCIETY^.

21

CHAPTER
Remarks

II.

— The Higher Classes of Colored Society Defined
their

— State of Education— Young Ladies, and plishments — instances avoided.
Isolated

Accom-

It

is

with caution and timidity that

I

ap-

proach the principal subject of the present
chapter.
plication,

Like, in

all

matters of similar ap-

where

distinctions

and comparisons

are

involved, the

greatest difficulty to the
feeling heart, arises

sensitive

mind and

from
one

the

indisposition to

give offence.

If

should approach a crowd of persons, point
out a certain number, and pronounce them

" gentlemen,'' those who might be neglected
in the designation,

would be very apt

to feel

a

little

incensed toward the individual

who

made

it.

They would

at least consider that

he had given a negative opinion against their
gentility.

But

this is

not necessarily the case.

Opinions are founded upon investigation, and
3

22

SKETCHES OF
facts.

a knowledge of
it is

If

upon examination,

found that a certain portion of any given

class of persons

have attained

to particular

positions in society

—which

also

may

be the
all

aim, and within the probable reach of
that class

of

in giving

a statement of the fact
tliat

merely,
ion
is

it is

not to be inferred,

any opin-

passed upon the merits of those

who

may
point.

not have yet arrived at the supposed

« Order

is

Heaven's

first

law

;

and

this confest,

Some
More

are,

and must

be, greater

than the rest

rich,

more wise."
it

In the present case, however,

must be

confessed, that the difficulty of establishing,
successfully, a distinguishing line of separation
is

very great. The embarrassment arises

altogether from the absence of those land-

marks,

which have

always

obtained

in

fashionable society, and which
consider indispensable to
that

many may
to others
to

make plain
obvious

which

is

sufficiently

those

COLORED SOCIETY.

23

who

are

aware of the

facts.

I

am

to present

a boundary between a class of persons
the great

whom

body of the pubUc have been accusconsider so closely allied to each
it

tomed

to

other, as to render

very improbable,

if

not

impossible, that

any

social differences could

be held in recognition
a great error,
it is

among them.
it

This

is

true, but

does not

much
upon

lesson the difficulty.
distinction

The

chief grounds of

among men,

are founded

wealth, education, station, and occupation.

In other countries, birth, or family connexion,
will

go a great

way

towards promotion
it is

;

but
soon

unattended by either of the former,
forgotten

it

will not stand alone.

But here

are none of these, to an extent

which would

warrant

their, or either of
I

them, being

made

the point of departure.

have not the foun-

dation of wealth

;

because the number
to

who
the

may

be permitted

come under

that denomi-

nation are too limited, to be justly

made

standard of the

men and manners

of the whole


24
body.
tions

SKETCHES OF
Beside
this,

there

are

other objec-

—objections
it is

which

will be discernible

when

known

that I cannot

make moral
;

worth,

strictly
it

speaking, the standard
to

for in

that case

might be necessary

exclude

a number of those

wealthy

I

who are denominated Neither may I erect upon education,
;

nor occupation as
unless

among the higher classes
and
illiberal

an

unjust
is

contrast

is

sought

—there
to

no very remarkable difference

any where

be found.

Having
of

thus, then, exhibited the difficulty
it

my

situation,

will be seen that in detersociety,

mining the higher classes of colored
it

will be necessary to glean
all

the

materials

from persons of

grades of moderate pos-

sessions, education,

moral worth,

(as

outward-

ly adjudged,)
rally

and whose occupations genelittle

present but

difference.

What,

therefore, I

would have the reader under-

stand by the designation '-higher classes,"
as here applied, consists of that portion of


COLORED SOCIETY.
colored society

25
their

whose incomes, from

pursuits or otherwise, (immoraUties or crimi-

nahties of course excepted,) enables

them

to

maintain the position of house-holders, and
their families in
fort.

comparative ease and comprobably includes a
will

This

definition

greater

number than

come within
it

the

scope of

my

sketches;

and

may
it

be that a
excluded.

few who are
It
is,

eligible, will

be by

however, the best that can be given
It

the

exceptions are unavoidable.

would

likewise

seem

to
!

be

liberal

enough

to suit the

most captious

The education of this

class

is

by no means
accustomed

so limited as the uninformed are
to

imagine.

The

seniors,

it is

true

—or most of

them

appear not to have enjoyed the great

advantages of early training of the mind; but
they possess a practical education

knowledge of all
hitelligence

—a general important matters—and an
fit

which

them
3*

for the
life,

occupancy

of

all

the useful stations of

wherein an


26

SKETCHES OF
is

extensive knowledge of letters

not required.

They turn their experience
look forward to
this life
least, to

to

good account

no extraordinary changes in govern themselves,
as, at

—and
often

so

maintain the position at which they
arrived, if they do not

may have
Having
sity of

improve

it.

had occasion

to feel the neces-

a good education themselves, they
to

have thereby been led
for

spare no exertion
;

securing the same to their children

so

that the

young men and young ladies of

their

generation, present, in this wise, quite a differ-

ent aspect.

They have enjoyed many

of those

advantages of which their parents were deprived;

and

it

maybe

said,

without exaggera-

tion, that the

most of them have equalled, and
opportunities
in

many

far surpassed, the best
It

afforded them.

must be borne

mind

that

they are opposed by
strictions

many and

varied re-

and

discouragements, at

almost

every step in the pursuit of knowledge
it is

^that

almost impossible for them to obtain, in

COLORED SOCIETY.

21
classical

an open, honorable way, a thorough
education here, whatever
for entering the pursuit
fore,

maybe

their ability

—and they are thereordinary
their

after

completing an

school

course,

thrown mainly upon

own, and

such other resources
as they

for further

advancement,

may

privately gather about them.

But even
face of
all

in this irregular

way, and

in the

embarrassments, some of the young
attained to a degree of intelligence

men have

and general information, which, with a little instruction in regard to details, fit them for any and
all

of the useful stations in

life

;

and

to the highest of which,
situated,
aspire.

were they otherwise

they might with great propriety

If

it

be asked

why

the

young men do not

give greater exhibition of the truth of this assertion,
it

is

answered that

they are but

men

—endowed with the same human nature
any other division of the
family

that characterizes

human

—and

more should not be ex-

28

SKETCHES OF

pected of them, than of any other class similarly circumstanced.

The machinery
its

of the

watch

will not fulfil

intent, unless the
;

im-

pulse of the spring be applied
things inanimate are

and, though

not

to

be compared

with the

human
to

soul, yet, neither
to

can a

man
of

be expected

rise

eminence in a given

department, where, as in the case of
color, there is not only

men
all

an absence of
all

en-

couragement
tive to cheer

all

him

— onward —but from
impulse
!

definite

mo-

the ex-

ercise

of the legitimate functions of which,
fitted therefor,

even were he

he would be
indeed reach
;

absolutely excluded
the base of the

He may
of science

hill

but

when

there, casting his eye

upward, what does he
to

behold

?

Brethren ready

extend the hand

of greeting and congratulation,

when he hath

made

the ascent
:

?

No

;

not so with the

man

of color

need

I

say what reception ^e would

be most likely

to

meet with

?

But the young men of color do give many


COLORED SOCIETY.
29

evidences of their intellectual acquirements

and worth.
field;

They

are confined to a

narrow

and hence those who would be con-

vinced, must seek
mises.

them on

their

own

pre-

The

literary associations
;

among them
must
in

must be

visited
;

their debating societies

be scanned
acting

the talent
all

which they exhibit

upon

public matters, of immediate

concern to them, must be taken into consideration
;

and the

result will be, that

no unpre-

judiced mind will have cause

to depart in

disappointment of the realization of any just
expectation.

The wonder,
upon
the

indeed, will be
fact that

most

likely to turn

they

have arrived

at the point of intelligence

and

refinement, which they already evidence on

such occasions, and
is,

in

such matters.
;

True

it

the

body may be destroyed but the mind

the immortal
it

mind

will rise

above the flesh

;

cannot be entirely crushed.
« Mind, mind alone, bear witness earth and heaven
!

The

living fountain in itself contains
;"

Of beauteous and sublime

30

SKETCHES OF
qualities,

and these

wherever

existing, will,

in greater or less degree, sooner or later, burst

forth

and show

their paternity.

In the departments of the lighter accomplishments, likewise, the higher classes of colored society
proficiency.

show much advancement and
The young
ladies, especially, are

deserving of notice in this respect.

In addi-

tion to the usual branches of education,

many
paint-

of them

show much

taste

and

skill in

ing, instrumental

music, singing, and

the

various departments of ornamental needle-

work, &c.
sociations

They,
for

too,

have

their literary as-

mutual improvement.

The

order of their exercises in these, consists, principally, of readings

and

recitations of appro-

priate compositions, both original
ed.
It

and

select-

has not transpired, that the ladies' as-

sociations

have yet introduced the form of
If such

systematic debates.

an introduction

were made, there

is little

cause to doubt, but

COLORED SOCIETY.
that great

31

improvement would
at least be the
;

result

there-

from.

It

would

means of proand ease and

moting conversational powers
fluency, in this respect,
certainly well
is

an accomplishment

worthy the aim of all.

In thus speaking of the state of education

among
or even

this class,

it is

by no means

my
It is

aim,

my

remotest desire, to claim for them
actually deserve.

more than they

not

my

purpose, to endeavor to excite the belief

that they possess qualities

and attainments,
to

which, upon examination, would prove
otherwise.

be

My intention
which

is to
it

render credit
due, and for

for that alone for

is

nothing more.

Had

a different course been chosen, more

than here appears might probably have with
justice

been

said.

But

isolated instances

have

been avoided.

The

professional

men

—the
ar;

educated ministry
tists

—the

physicians
the

—the

—have

not been

made

theme

but


B2

SKETCHES OP
it

society in a body, as

would be found by a
let

stranger visiting.

And

none say that these

instances do not exist.
three, or

There are one, two,
ministers in this city,

more colored
do honor,

who would
to

if it

may

so be spoken,

any

pulpit, not only lor their

exemplary

piety, but because of the intellectual ability

they evidence in their calling.

Will

it

be set

down

as a disparagement of the merits of the

others, if

among
it is

these, the liberty

is

taken

pardonable,

hoped

—of naming the Rev.
St.

William Douglass,

Rector of
?

Thomas'
such
it

Protestant Episcopal Church

No
;

inis

vidious comparison

is

intended

none,

hoped, will be inferred.
there are several of

As
;

to the physicians,

them

in practical anato-

my and

surgery, they

may

be deficient

;

and

though they

may

not have drank so deep at

the fountain of classical lore as

some of

their

contemporaries,

still,

in the great

end of the

practice of physic

— the healing

of the sick

COLORED SOCIETY.

33

they would not sut!er by comparison with a
large
tages.

number who have enjoyed suchadvan
For the
artists,

there

is

at least one,

whose progress has no doubt been fully equal
to his

most favorable opportunities.

In contrast with the favorable view here
presented, I shall proceed, in the next chapter, to
lies

give an exposition of some of the
vices,

fol-

and

which corrupt the

social interto the

course,

and furnish a great obstacle

further mutual

improvement of the higher

classes of colored society.

34

SKETCHES OF

CHAPTER
General Remarks
of Colored Society

III.

— Divisions among the Higher Classes — Causes which lead thereto —Disreputable Conduct of Parties — Insincerity of Young Ladies toward each other— Breaches of Confidence — Detraction — Slander— "Northerners" and "Southerners" — Another bad feature — Miscellaneous Observations.
If

men
vain,
silly,

generally would but contemplate

how

how

ridiculous,

and oftentimes

how
ority,

are the various pretences to supericlass of

which one

men

frequently set

up over another,
past errors,

surely, in very
all

shame

for

we

should

be speedily brought

back

to the
;

only true and just standard

—the
it

—the mind, as developed in the goodpossessor. ness —the virtue — of be
MIND
its

If

" by the color of the soul" that "

we

shall

be

judged
to

at last,"
this the

why

are

we

not content

now
that

make

standard of our decision, in
?

passing upon our fellow-creatures

He

COLORED SOCIETY.
is least

35

disposed to dishonor the image of his

Maker

—why not give him precedence
who
is

in de-

termining
into

most worthy
?

to

he taken

companionship

But no

:

this equitable

rule of the Creator, will never serve the pur-

poses of the poor,
is

weak

creature,
if

man.

He

too well aware, that

the trite couplet of
strict

poor Richard should be held in

observ-

ance, and be carried into practice,

many who

now,

in perfect assurance,

wear

the dignity

of " men,'^

would soon be reduced and comtitle

pelled to bear the

merely of "fellows."

Hence

it is

necessary for such, in order to susor

tain their elevation, to call in accidental

adventitious circumstances to their aid

;

and

where " worth"
the catalogue

is

wanting,

if

something from be read in
its

of these
is at

may

place, the difficulty
scale

once adjusted

—the
is

is

at

once poised in their favor.
all

This

the

ground, above

others, that obtains

among men,

in regulating

and adjusting

dis-


36
tinctions

SKETCHES OF
in society;

upon such foundation
;

have they ever rested

and, until the advent
for,

of some happier period

but yet to

dawn

—patiently looked upon us — we have no reaunreserved and

son to apprehend any very beneficial change.

The

religious

world has never exhibited a
in-,

tithe of the horror at its

discriminate

intercourse with the

sinners

the sheep, the goats,

and the wolves of the
class of these

human

family

— that one
!

same

worldlings are seen to manifest at the idea of
contact with another

The

sources of divisions in society here re-

ferred to,
ries,

have no certain and fixed bounda-

but are purely arbitrary.
all classes

They

are

com-

mon among
the

—the

exclusives and
its

excluded— each

establishing

own
;

standard of government and adherence
as they are traced
rule

and

downward,

the primary

seems

to

be

—"that

there are none so

COLORED SOCIETY.
low, but others

37

may

be found a link beneath

them."

The higher

classes of colored society

in

Philadelphia, are amenable to a liberal share

of animadversion, on account of the numer-

ous divisions which

exist

among them.
eye of the

However they may appear

to the

casual observer to be resolved into one un-

broken
their

link, yet,

he

who

is

acquainted with

social

relations, well
is

knows

that this

seeming unity
existence,
spect.
circles,

quite contrary to the actual
state of things, in this re-

and true

There are numerous

distinct

social

even among those equally respectable

and of equal merit and pretensions, every

way

;

and

if

these

were confined within pro-

per and legitimate limits

—as each has the unBut

doubted right
friends— there

to
is

choose his or her private
certainly nothing in the fact

to excite surprise or call forth censure.

they are not thus confined.
4*

They

are carried

38
into

SKETCHES OF
most of the relations of
are kept
life,

and

in

some

instances

up with

the most bitter

and

relentless rancor

arising,

however, in

such extreme cases, from ancient feuds or personal disagreements, which have descended

perhaps from father
petuated
there
is
!

to son,

and

so

been per-

I

do not intend to represent, that
hostility

always an open

kept up

;

it

may appear dormant for thewhile; but favored
by the time and the
the occasion
occasion,

and often when
to forbid,
it

would seem loudly
develope
its

seldom

fails to

existence.

It is

the personification of true revenge.
"
patient as the watchful alchymist,

Sagacious as the blood-hound on the scent,
Secret as death."

Secret
its

until the opportunityoifers of
its

making

victim feel

presence.

But where those

personal dislikes or hates do not exist

— where

the social separation springs solely from the
exercise of the unquestionable right, to choose


COLORED
SOCIETY.

39

one's private associations and companions
the case
is

widely different; and

in

all

other

relations, they

meet each other on terms of
will.

apparent amity and good

The

separations, however, in all cases, are

seen to produce rivalry between the different
circles
;

and in setding the claim

to

precedence

and

superiority, the character

and reputation
is

of one or the other of the parties,
sure to suffer, that being the
at.
first

almost

thing aimed

An

effort

of this description,

when

set

on

foot, involves the basest of
it

means

for carrying
is left

forward, and frequently nothing

unfor

done that malignant mischief can invent,
destroying the peace, happiness, and

success

of any one party or individual, who or which

may become
The

obnoxious

to another.

chief causes

which lead

to divisions in

the society of the colored classes, are, in turn,

the very result of these divisions.

They

are

not to be found in any real pride of self-con-

40

SKETCHES OF
;

ceited superiority

for they well
this kind,

know

that

any pretension of

founded otherqualities,

wise than in personal good

would

never avail them aught beyond their
mediate pale, and

own imThey

among
to

those

who know
lie

them, would be laughed

scorn.

deeper or nearer the surface, as the reader
pleases.

There

is

an unhappy

disposition,

untiring

and ever constant,

to detract the
;

one

from the merits of the other
to

and

if

possible

thwart every plan or scheme, by which a
benefitted, unless
all
it

few may be

ismademore

than obvious, that

may
^'

equally partake of
is

such benefit.

The motto
live," to
let

changed from
live Jirst,

"

live,

and let

me

and

you afterwards.'^
tion,
it

Thisreprehensible disposisaid, is carried into nearlife.

may
in

be truly

ly all the relations of

The more

deter-

mined

its

practice, will disregard

every

honorable consideration, whenever they set
themselves about to arrest the career of some

one of their acquaintances,

who may appear


COLORED SOCIETY.
to

41

be more successful in some particular deInstead of
fol-

partment than themselves.

lowing the example of
neighbors

their

more

industrious
'

— of

letting

the

good fortune of

these furnish a motive to their

own

laudable

exertions
discredit

their first efforts are directed to
to destroy.

and

Thus, because they

either will not, or cannot

move

themselves,

they stand ready to grasp, and to hold back,
all

those

who would
more time

advance.

In this

way
all

many

lose

—waste more anxiety
to

than would be required

make them

they could reasonably wish to be.
are the

And what
vile,

means of
cases?

success, usually resorted to

in such

Falsehood the most
opprobrious,

slander,

the most

hypocrisy,
these,

violated faith, social traitorism,
their sub-divisions

with

and concomitants, furnish
for

the chief
strife.

weapons

keeping up the odious

The

influence of such a course of conduct subject to
its

upon those who are

operation,

42
is

SKETCHES OF
easily perceptible.

Suspicion and distrust
;

very naturally usurp the place of confidence

and without confidence
liance the one

—without

mutual

re-

upon

the integrity of the other;

no

circle of society

can long exist together in
Division after division,

unbroken harmony.

must necessarily be the consequence, upon the
discovery of each

new

conspiracy,

by any

aggrieved party; for surely no person of com-

mon

sense,

would a second time repose

full

confidence in those who,without provocation,

had, by the use of the basest of means,

shown

themselves so eminently unworthy of

it.

And
fre-

such discoveries, unfortunately, are too
quently

made

quite too frequent,

for

the

general good and improvement of colored
society
!

Those who are always the greatest
ferers

suf-

from the shafts of envy and malice,
at their destruction, are those

aimed
ladies

young

who

are so unfortunate

regarded in

many

instances

!

—so —as

it

may

be

to

become

COLORED SOCIETY.
objects of jealousy to their associates.

43

Be

the

cause of offence real or imagined, and never so
trifling

— and
it

though the newly
direct

appointed

victim

may have had no

agency in pro-

ducing

still it

makes no

difference with her
late,

inexorable persecutors.

The

perhaps,

bosom

friend, is

now

an object of aversion to

the circle of her

sex in which lately she
to

moved

and appeared

be esteemed, and must fare

according to the usage which, with them, in

such cases governs. This not being the kindest
or most sisterly,
is

not always to be coveted

!

This insincerity in the conduct of the young
ladies

toward each

other,

is

remarkable in

various other ways, and to an extent almost
incredible.
If a

young man makes

his ap-

pearance in society, whose position and prospects render as a prize,

him worthy of being sought
you may

for

by any

or all of the marriagable
rest

ladies of a circle,
if

assured that

he chooses

at all, the

one so decided upon

will

be marked out by her companions

—her

!


SKETCHES OF

44

dear, confidential friends!
racter

—as one whose chain order,
first

must speedily be blackened,
to

if possible,

prevent any consummated re" sound"

sults

!

They may probably

(as the vulgar phrase goes)

the

young lady

on the subject

first

"feel her pulse well"
likely to

and

if

they find she

is

make

a "case"

of the gentleman's proposal, they will leave

nothing available untried to
her

make a

case of

Suppose those

who engage
can
it

in such

cru-

sades are successful in their design,

what but

a fiendish

satisfaction,

afl^ord?

The

satisfaction of

having been instrumental in

destroying, perhaps, for ever the happiness of

a fellow creature
innocent young

—that fellow creature lady —that young lady
! !

an
late

you proclaimed your

friend

!

Is there

any

thing in nature more heartless and
It is

inhuman?
start

known

that

young men

!

not
call

reader!

it

is

known

that those

who

themselves men, have been engaged in simi-

COLORED SOCIETY.
lar

45
vir-

noble exploits against innocence and
!

tue

—but

for the

honor of our

common

na-

ture, they are passed
-

by

!

I

could give numerous instances, to prove
if it

the correctness of these representations,

were deemed proper.

But

I

am

additionally

deterred from so doing because of the personal
references
it

would necessarily involve
this nature, I desire

;

and

a charge of
I can,

not to incur.
refer-

however, scarcely refrain from

ring to a case in point,

which has occurred

within

two

or

three

weeks of the present more unprincipled
fame

writing.

An

instance of a

and

fiend-like attempt, to blast the fair

of an innocent and harmless young lady, and
that, too,

by her ci-devant friends,
It
is

is

rarely

to

be met with.

not likely, however,

that she will ever suffer

much

inconvenience

from the
so

vile

imputations which have been
her.

wantonly and so unjustly cast upon
it is

Falsehood,
while truth

true,

may
5

travel a great
;

way
but

is

preparing for the journey

46

SKETCHES OF
fails

the latter, though slow, never
tually to

most

effec-

do

its office

in obliterating error,

and

of shielding the innocent from the vultures of

our species,

who

are ever seeking to prey

upon

their happiness.

Think me not ungallant,

ladies

!

—think me

not ungallant for thus spreading before the

world, some of the vices, which, wherever

they obtain

among you,

are

calculated so

thoroughly

to

degrade your character
your
fair

to

blight

fame

As whirlwinds

nip the tender buds of spring,"

and render you worthy of being shunned by
all

who have
is

once discovered their existence.
I

It

for

your good that

have done so

;

'tis

that

you may view

their odious character
;

and

reform the heinous abuses

and

that, in

your

mutual intercourse, you
tates only, that are

may pursue those dicvirtue.

commendable of

Banish envy

—banish jealousy—banish
;

hy-

pocrisy and deceit

and with these
spirit

will

be

banished that hateful

of detraction and

COLORED SOCIETY.
slander,

47

which now renders each one of you

a terror to the other, and makes such sad

havoc with the reputations of

all

who come
;"

within the reach of the blighting influence.

" Faithful are the wounds of a friend
is

and

it

alone in friendship that
If
it

I

thus openly reto result in

buke you.

shall

be found
to

your improvement

if,

any extent, you are and are

led to think seriously of the matter,

thus benefitted

I shall

be more than rewardit

ed

for the

disagreeable task of here giving

record.

There are other causes of
disunion
society,

disaffection

and

among

the higher classes of colored

which might have been before nobut they are either so limited or
intri-

ticed

;

cate

as

to

command

but

little

attention.

Among
arise

these might be

named

those

which

from

real or pretended sectional prefe-

rences.

The

prejudices said to exist in

some

instances

between the natives and the south-

ern families that have located

among them.

48

SKETCHES OF
I

are of this character.

do not think the

"northerners" have any just cause of complaint against the conduct of the "southern-

ers" in this respect.

The

latter are true

and
a

faithful in their friendships, while they find
like reciprocation
;

and

it is

not to be wonder-

ed

at,

that they should be equally faithful to

themselves, in resisting further intercourse,

whenever and wherever they discover opposite qualities

on the part of the former.

But

instances of this kind, as before intimated, are

but limited ; the southerners are held in esteem

by

the northerners, generally

;

and notwith-

standing some young ladies " can't bear the
southerners,"
it

does not appear likely that

either party will ever suffer

much from

the

prejudice.

Another bad feature

in the circles of the

higher classes of colored society, is that which
requires of those

who

obtain admission into

any

particular one, a total surrender of their
to the

independence

whims

or caprices of the

COLORED SOCIETY.
majority

49

who compose
his

it.

In fact one must

make up
their

mind

to

be governed entirely by
affections

feelings

their

and

aver-

sions;

—love
whom

those

whom

they love
those

—hate

those

they hate

—slander
is

they slander

—and

laud those

whom whom they
to

speak well of

Any exhibition

of the right of

opinion, in such matters,
for

very apt

beget
it,

him who has

the boldness to

show

the

indifference
circle

of the

other

members of

the

—excite

in their

bosoms suspicions of

his attachment to

them

—and thereupon he
fully

is

very apt

to find his society

suddenly " cut,"

before, perhaps,

he

is

aware of the
have

cause

!

It

may

be, however, that they

"searched the scriptures"

for this rule of their to consider

government, and are determined
all

who

are "not with them," to the utmost

extent required, as being decidedly " against

them."

Although
general

I

have here spoken

in terms of

application,

in recounting

some of

50
the

SKETCHES OF

more prominent

vices, that are in practice

among

the higher classes of colored society,

yet I would

hy no means have
all

it

understood

that they are
respect.

equally vulnerable in this

There are exceptions

—honorable
male and

exceptions
female.

in the ranks of both
ladies,

There are young

whose

vir-

tues, purity of

mind and

strict

moral worth,

render them in no wise amenable to
sures,

my

cen-

— who are as incapable of the practices
to,

adverted
division
it is

as

any

to
;

be found in any other

of society

—but

whose misfortune

to

be brought in social contact with those
this

to

whom

exception cannot justly apply.

Those therefore
dily recognise the
will

whom
repair

it

will

fit,
it

wiU
is

rea-

garment

—and

hoped
it

endeavor
illy

to

it;

— and

such as

would

become, will concur heartily in
its

the most unlimited denunciation of

wear.

The
tries,

vices of the higher classes in

all

coun-

are no less those of the better informed,

and more wealthy portion of those who form

COLORED SOCIETY.
the subject of these
sketches.

51

The vulgar

and indecent

practices

which obtain foothold
for

among them, and which would perhaps
ever
soil

the

fame of any one of the
unpretending

plain,

unostentatious,

members of

plebian society in the estimation of his associates, are
foibles,'^

by them termed " fashionable
is

and he or she who
is

not an adept

in

such matters,

looked upon as a "simpleis

ton,'^ or

a "flat;" or

otherwise regarded

in the

light that

one would be

who

should

appear in a ball-room and

offer to lead in the

dance, with brogans upon his feet

—a grossly
!

ignorant and unfashionable fellow

It

is

not of course for the want of education or of
better information, but in truth the very pos-

session of these,

which they consider

—conthe
to just

joined with wealth

—confers upon
practices,

them

privilege of establishing

and adhering

whatever regulations and

imder the

name
lead

of "fashion," their corrupt fancies

may
at

them

to.

So with many of those

52

SKETCHES OF
vices I

whose

have aimed.
is

Their demeanor

in the eyes of the world,

by no means

in

consonance with such conduct.*
as fully sensible of the importance

They

are

of "keep-

ing up appearances," as any that

can be

named, and are as equally
taining them.

successful in main-

The succeeding chapter
measure
to

will serve in

some

show

the ability of the higher

classes of colored society to maintain social

intercourse,

on terms as creditable and honoand

rable as the most fastidious could desire,
to the satisfaction of the

most pungent and

carping of moralists.
*

Let

it

be here distinctly understood, that

I

design not

to

impute any greater criminality or grosser immorality,

than has been distinctly designated.

COLORED SOCIETY.

53

CHAPTER
Social Intercourse

IV.
at

— Visiting—Evenings Home — Amuse—Evening Parties— Guests Hours of Retirement — Habits of Temperance private Parties — General Remarks.
ments and Conversation
at

The
been

prejudiced world has for a long time

in error, in judging of

what may be
social inter-

termed the home condition, or

course, of the higher ciassesof colored society,

by

the

specimens
life

who

in

the

every day

walks of
the

are presented to their

view as

"hewers of wood and
This rash

the drawers of

water."

mode

of judgment

—the

forming an opinion of the beauty of the landscape merely by the heavy shading in the
fore-ground of the picture, has long been the
source of

many

groundless and unjust asper-

sions against their general character,

and one
be
re-

which common
moved.
It
is

justice requires should

equally erroneous to adjudge

54
all to

SKETCHES OF
be
saints,
all

because of the few good

;

as

to

suppose

are in a state of servitude
it is

and

degradation, because

not denied that the

majority are in close approximation to that
condition.
fess not to

With

the latter, however, I pro;

concern myself here

but

may

say

with great propriety, in passing, that
of those even

many

who

are usually regarded in
against, than
visited,

this light, are far

more " sinned

sinning ;" and

if their

homes could be
an

they would be seen

to present

air of neat-

ness and the evidences of comfort

which

would be

quite astonishing,

when compared
for

with their limited advantages
them.

securing

Among

the higher classes there

is

no want
life,

of a knowledge of the good things of this
or of the ability so to arrange the
their disposal, as to

means

at

make them

productive of

the most substantial good, present
pective.

and pros-

Unlike fashionable people of other
in-

communities, they mostly live within their


COLORED SOCIETY.
comes, from whatever resources derived
hence,
if
;

55

and

they do not appear to
to

make very
wealth, they

rapid advances in the road

manage well

to

maintain even appearances,

and support such comforts, conveniencies and
luxuries, as they appear to

have

for a long
to.

period been uniformly accustomed
this

In

way

they avoid

many
to

of the embarrassthose

ments that are
claim to
^^

common

whose

sole

fashion" consists

in the success

they
ing "

may meet
show" on

with in making a commandparticular occasions.

They
all
it

keep up, apparently, an even tenor at
times,
is

—seeming very wisely
of

to consider that

quite as proper for themselves to enjoy the
their possessions or exertions,

fruits

as
all

that strangers should

come

in

and have

heaped upon them.
sent

Not

that I

would

repre-

them

as being less hospitable than other
it

people in this latitude:
they are.

does not appear that

Probably

if trial

were made


56

SKETCHES OF

means compared
least

—the
is

scale in this respect at

would turn
it

in their favor.

It will notj

believed, be expected of

the writer, in speaking of the ability of the

higher classes of colored society to maintain
social intercourse

on terms of respectability

and

dignity, to give

an elaborate statement or

inventory of the furniture of their dwellings
its

quality

and

cost

;

—the

size of their

market-

baskets (an article, by the way, not to be lost
sight of in

making up the sum of a happy

home
tents
;

!)

and the usual character of their conit

will not

be necessary

to

say that

their parlors are carpeted

and furnished with

sofas, sideboards, card-tables, mirrors, &c. &c.,

with, in

many

instances, the addition of the

piano
ters,

forte.

These, with other relative mat-

governed by no particular standard, the
is left

reader

to

form such an opinion
correct
I

of,

as

he

may deem most
they
fail

I

will say,

how-

ever,

that usually,

according to pecuniary

ability,

not to gratify themselves in

;

COLORED SOCIETY.
this wise, to the extent

57

and

after the

manner

that gains observance

among

other people.

Visiting sans ceremonie does not obtain to

a very great extent with the higher classes of
colored society.

Even among

those

who

are

otherwise intimate acquaintances, the order
of unceremonious visits
are mostly
or
.in
is

but limited.

They

by

familiar or formal invitation,

return for others previously received.
latter

This
to

observance

is

most
its

rigidly

adhered

by many.

Such as are

more determin-

ed

votaries, will not

attend

upon a

friend,

even by particular
call

invitation, unless their last

has been acknowledged by like return.
in such instances,
is

The intimacy

however, as

may
and
little

be readily imagined,
it

not very great
is

seems rational

to

suppose there

very

care to continue that

which may

exist.
visits,

The
is

period of paying and receiving
;

mostly confined to the evening
so.

among the
circum-

gentlemen almost entirely
stances combine
to

Many

render this arrangement

;

58

SKETCHES OF
to all parties

most convenient and agreeable

and as
nearly

the
all

same observance

is

respected in

conditions of society in our

moneyadop-

seeking country, the chief cause of
tion will be

its

found too obvious

to require par-

ticular reference.

Casual visiting with the young

men is very
at their

common.
is

Their attendance upon the ladies
to visiting
little

mostly confined

them

dwellings.
is

Very

out-door amusement

resorted to, as walking or riding excur-

sions; but the reason of the non-observance

of these, and one which
prohibit them,
source.
is

is

quite sufficient to
its

readily traceable to

proper

With

the

young

ladies at
if

home they

pass their evenings agreeably
It is

so disposed.

rarely that the visitor in the different

families

where there are two or three

ladies,

will not find
to

one or more of them competent

perform on the piano-forte, guitar, or some

other appropriate musical instrument;
these, with singing

and

and conversation on what-


COLORED SOCIETY.
ever suitable topics that
the

59

may

offer, constitute

amusements of
love of music

their
is

evenings at home.
;

The
ed
to

universal

it is

cultivat-

some
;

extent,

—vocal or

instrumental,

by

all

so that

it is

almost impossible to enter
is

a parlor where the ear of the visitor

not, in
It is

some

sort or other, greeted

therewith.

consequently

made a prominent
all

part of the

amusements on

occasions of social meet-

ing together of friends.

The

character of the

conversation

is

usually varied, interesting and

instructive. All the current topics of the time,

appropriate and of

sufficient

interest,

are

elaborately discussed in a mild, dignified

and

becoming manner,
ly take part

in

which the

ladies most-

and contribute

their full quota.

The degree

of promptness and ability often
is

displayed on such occasions,
the

far surpassing

common

opinion on this subject.

The

best informed persons could not but be pleas-

ingly entertained, provided they could com-

mand sufficient

courage

to

enable them to lay


60

SKETCHES OF

aside, for the time, the

mask

of prejudice,

(if

bUnded by

it,)

so as to be competent to take

a just and an impartial view.
If prejudiced persons

were

to

be governed

more by
stration

positive

knowledge
are

—actual
rash,

demonhasty,

—than

they

by

groundless conclusions, very different views

than at present' generally obtain, would soon

be formed, respecting the degree of refine-

ment and

cultivation to be found

among
The

the

higher classes of colored society.

ease

and grace of manner with which they are
capable of bearing themselves in company
their
strict

observance of

all

the nicer

eti-

quettes, proprieties

and observances that are

characteristic of the well-bred

—render

their

society agreeable

and

interesting to the
;

most

fastidious in such matters

and speak loudly
done them,
in re-

against the injustice that

is

fusing to accord to

them any knowledge, pos-

session or practice of those qualities or accom-

plishments.

COLORED SOCIETY.

61

On

occasions of appointed entertainments,
in the

which are usually
ties,

form of evening par-

the greatest order and neatness of
is

mafirst

nagement

observed. There
table,

is

always a

and second
stored,

both appropriately and well

and

in

a manner generally unexcepguests at the parties consist

tionable.

The

only of such individuals or families as are ac-

customed

to

entertain their host or hostess,

for the time, in a similar

manner

in their turn.

Those who are

all

things in reception

and

nothing in return,
tertaining

—strangers,
city

agreeable, en-

and
the

eligible

bachelors,

and

so-

journers in

at

board,

always of

course excepted,
to the

—are considered detrimental
of social hitercourse
;

harmony

and,
in
!

consequently, are very apt to be neglected
the
list

of invitations, that

may

be issued

In this

way

they

manage
all

to collect

a very

agreeable company,
perfect agreement

perhaps on terms of

and inthnacy. The amuse6*

ments of the evening are much the same as


62
before noticed,

SKETCHES

01*

—music,

conversation, &c.,

with the addition of exchanging " mottoes"
taken from the "secrets' papers," which are
to

be found in plenteousness at
parties.

all

the regular

evening

The hours

of retirement from the evening

entertainments, are usually from ten to eleven
o'clock

—rarely

beyond eleven.
;

Many
and

of

the visitors leave as early as ten the
first

after

movement,

it

is

not long before the

entertainers are in full

and quiet possession
it is

of their parlors, recounting, as
the incidents of the evening,

imagined,

and determining
thing " passed

among themselves how every
off."

The observance
ties

of abstinence at the par-

of the higher classes of colored society

total abstinence to intoxicate

from

all

that has a tendency

is

worthy of remark.

So

far

as

my

observation

has extended, the only

drinks that are presented

if

indeed there are

any others seen than the pure, unadulterated

COLORED SOCIETY.
ale of our fisrt

63

parents—may

consist of lemo-

nade, or some pleasant and wholesome syrup

commingled with water.

No

wines of any

description—not even the lightest and mildest

—are

ever brought forward.

Whether

this arises

from a pure love of temperance or

a disposition to avoid unnecessary expenditure, either of

which

is

commendable,

I shall
is

not pause to inquire.

But

certain

it

that

the visitors at such times

and

places,

who

neglect to carry " merry hearts and laughing

eyes" with them, will find nothing in the way of distilments to excite them after they
get there.
It is

not intended to insinuate

tliat

there are no

worshippers at the shrine of
this class.
It is to

Bacchus among
there
are.
It

be feared

will

be observed, however,

to prithat I have spoken solely in relation

vate entertainments, or social parties, where

both sexes are present.

Enough has been
tlie

said,

it

is

conceived, on

subject

of the

social

condition of the


64

SKETCHES OF

higher classes of colored society, to convey to
the

mind of the

stranger reader, a sufficient

outline of the actual position they occupy.

They
liar

are, indeed, far in

advance of the pecusur-

circumstances

by which they are
illiberal,

rounded.

The exceedingly

unjust

and oppressive prejudices of the great mass
of
the

white

community, overshadowing
of their existence,
is

every
to

moment

enough

crush

effectually crush
It

and keep down

any people.

meets them at almost every

step without their domiciles,

and not unfre-

quently follows even there.
terprise

No

private en-

of any moment,

—no

public

move-

ment of consequence

for the general

good,
relent-

can they undertake, but forth steps the
less

monster

to blight
this,

it

in the

germ.

But in

the face of

all

they not only bear the
elasticity

burthen successfully, but possess the
of

mind

that enables

them

to

stand erect un-

der their disabilities, and present a state of

COLORED SOCIETY.
society of which, to say the least,
just cause to be

65

none have

ashamed.
lose

Yet
the

I

would not have them
evils

sight of

numerous

existing

among them-

selves,

(adverted to in a preceeding part,)
effect greatly to retard their

which have the
still

further progress in the walks of cultiva-

tion

and refinement.

They have

the

ele-

ments among themselves
stacles

—regardless
;

of ob-

from without

for

a more general and

more uniform advancement
them, peculiarly, to banish

and

it

becomes

all

those low-mind-

ed

traits,

as jealousy of each others' success,
superiorisustain,
all

envy of advancement or conceived
ty
;

and endeavor

to

uphold and
destroy

rather than to pull

down and

that
to.

any

portion

may

not have yet attained

The

habit of detraction

— of undermining each

the other's worth
entirely banished.

and attainments

—must

be

The

effect

of this practice
are predisfruit-

often furnishes those

whose minds

posed

to

unfavorable judgments, with a

66
ful

SKETCHES OF
source of forming additionally derogatory-

opinions.
tent

Those who indulge
to this, little

in

it

to

an ex-

which leads
to

think, in their

anxiety

laud themselves, that they are aimin attempting

ing at their
to strike

own best interests, down the prosperity

of those with

whom

they are so closely linked in destiny.

Let, then, such

unworthy considerations be
;

entirely banished

and the general improveto

ment of all

will

be seen

be two-fold greater

than at present.
It is

not

my

desire to be understood as

an

advocate for universal social union. Far from
it.

Such a union would not only be impractieven could it take place, would,
to

cable, but

say the

least,

be highly injudicious and pre-

judicial. If the virtuous

and exemplary mem-

bers of society should not keep aloof from the
vicious and worthless, they

would furnish no

example

to the latter to strive to

make them-

selves reputable,

and of

like

consideration.

By associating

with such persons

we

not only

COLORED

SOCIETY.
to their doings,

67

thereby give countenance

but

we

degrade ourselves

to their level,

and are

adjudged accordingly.

Hence, distinctions

and

divisions

on

this

ground, are in every rejust;
is

spect

commendable, proper and

but

it

should be borne in mind, that this

the only

just foundation—the condition of the

mind and
;

heart—upon which they can be made

and

discriminathe only one that should govern the
society, tion of the higher classes of colored

particularly,

in

regulating their intercourse

with each other.

68

SKETCHES OF

CHAPTER
Political Rights

V.

Color

— First National Convention of People of — Character of Proceedings—Names of Delegates — Improvement of the People of Color— Public Meetings, Men and Measures — Contentions Public
at

Meetings, Rivalry, Opposition, &c. &c.

Among

the very erroneous opinions that
is

are fornied, respecting the people of color,
the one that supposes
state of things

them

indiiferent to the

by which they are surrounded,
little

and that they make
relief.

or no effort for their

But

this arises

from the Avant of closer

observance of their situation, and the nature

and character of
truth,

their disabilities.

If the
is

which should be
it

the

aim of all,

faith-

fully sought,

will

be found in the very re-

verse of this supposition.

Never have any

people, in proportion to their
tion,

means of opera-

made

greater efforts for their entire en-

COLORED SOCIETY.
franchisement.
It

69

should be kept in view,

that in Pennsylvania, particularly,

and

also in
states,

some Other of the non-slaveholding
they are almost,
political rights
if

not entirely, deprived of
;

and power

and

that, conse-

quently, in
rests,

all

matters relating to their intelegislative action, they
in the attitude of suit-

which involve

must appear altogether
ors;

and show themselves very humble

in

the exercise of even that prerogative.

They
act

cannot say
for us,

to legislators,

"if you

fail to

we

shall not fail to act against you,

when

called to exercise the functions of elec-

tors ;" they

expect not, as yet, to be called
;

to that exalted purpose

and

this the

former

being well aware
to

of,

they take particular care

proceed in such manner only, as they

deem

best calculated to further their popularity with
those

who
he

do possess and exercise that power.

When

a certain Secretary of State was asked
did not
7

"Why

promote

merit?"

he

70

SKETCHES OF

promptly replied, "Because merit did not

promote

me

!"

This anecdote (which

I

have

somewhere

read,) represents the precise situa-

tion of our legislators.

"

Why

do you not

act

for

colored

men

?'^

"Because colored
!"

men

did not act for

me
this

(And may not

another question in
propriety asked
?

connexion be with
hindered them
.?")

"

Who

Thus
to

it

is

necessary for the people of color
their

keep up an incessant begging of

rulers to legislate in their behalf; and with

what

effect is
first

well

known

to

all.

The
tance

national

movement

of any impor-

among

the people of color in this countheir general con-

try, for the

improvement of

dition, took place in 1831.*
*

A call for

a Na-

An

effort

was made

the year previous by "

The Ame-

rican Society of Free Persons of Color, for Improving their

Condition," &c. &c., to organize a National Convention,
but in consequence of a want of extensive notice in time,
there

was but a small

representation, and consequently no-

thing of importance was transacted

— saving to recommend
Hence
this

Conventions annually

thereafter.

may

be con-

;

COLORED SOCIETY.
tional

*

71

Convention was issued by a society

then in existence in Philadelphia,

and the

people in five states (three of which were,

and are
thereto.

at present

slaveholding,) responded

The

smallness of the

number of

states represented,

and a part of those lying
be wondered at by some

South of
but
is

this, will

easily accounted for, in various
not,

ways,

which need

however, be noticed here.
represented in the States of

The people were

New

York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Mary-

land and Virginia.

Nothing

is

said in the

minutes (from
tion,)

vv^hich 1

gather the informa-

of any rep^resentation North or South of

these.

The

delegates

met

in the city of Phil-

adelphia on the 6th of June, and continued
their sessions five
sidered the
first

days

—probably

intending

regularly organized National Convention.
is

The

credit of its origin,

however, due to the « Ameri-

can Society,"

&c,, of which the

Rt. Rev. Richard
the

Allex was

the President, and

Williax Whtppeu

Corresponding Secretary.

72
to give

SKETCHES OF
each of the states represented, a day
It

to itself!

was hardly

to

be expected that

under the auspices of a
blage,

first

annual assem-

and that so meagrely attended, much
effected;

good could be immediately

but the

minutes show, that important improvements

were contemplated, the most advantageous
part of which, however, has never yet been
carried into execution.

Among

the plans for

future improvement, decided upon,

was

the

establishment of a College or

Manual Labor
in accordance

School in

New

Haven,

Ct,,

with suggestions made
three well

to the

Convention by
per-

known philanthropists, who in
its sittings.

son attended upon

The plan sub-

mitted by those gentlemen* to a committee
of conference, appointed by the convention,

estimated the cost of the College at about

twenty thousand

dollars,

one thousand of

which amount was conditionally subscribed

by a gentleman on
* Messrs. A.

the spot,

and agents apand

Tappan,

S. S, Jocelyn,

W.

L. Garrison.

COLORED SOCIETY.
pointed to collect the remainder.

73

Nothing

more

at this time

is

heard of the contemplatit is

ed Manual Labor School, so that

now preof
its

sumable that the

difficulties in

the

way

establishment were too great to be surmounted.

Since the period of the meeting of the

first

Convention—though only ten years
a great and beneficial change.
that

—the conresult of

undergone dition of the people of color has

The
upon

movement was

to resolve

similar

meetings annually, and so they have, in some

form or other, been continued up
sent time.

to the pre-

Measures were

also taken to se-

attendcure a more numerous and general Meetings were called and auxiliary

ance.

societies

formed in nearly
it

all

the states, cities

and towns, where

was found

practicable

;

the and as soon as the people were aroused to most importance of the measure, it met with

hearty concurrence and support.
tion," says
the
first

"Persecu-

conventional address.

74

SKETCHES OF
the cause of our Convention;"
spirit

"was
this

and

same

and

practice of persecution

has not been wanting since then to keep the
people on the alert in regard to their
rights.

But

to the "first

annual Convention" certain-

ly belongs the credit of having

blown

the

first

great blast,

by which

the people

were awak-

ened

to the

importance of their
action, in

own

united

and energetic
bilities

removing
rights

their disa-

and securing equal
I,

with other

men.

therefore,

cheerfully take pleasure

in doing

what

little I

can towards crowning

with immortality the names of the delegates

who composed

it.

NAMES OF THE DELEGATES,
TVho composed
the First

National Convention of the Pen-

pie of Color ^ held by adjournments in the City of Phi-

ladelphia, from the

sixth to the eleventh of June, 1831.

Philadelphia.

John Bowers,

Pres't. of Convention.

Dr. Belfast Burton.

James Cornish.

colored society.
Junius C. Morel,

75

Wm. Whipper,
John Peck.

Secretary.

Carlisle,

Penn.

Maryland.
Rev. Abner Coker,

Robert Cowley.

New
Rev.

York.

Wm. Miller,
Sipkins, L. Jennings, Assist. Sec'ry.,

Henry
Thomas

William Hamilton.

Long

Island.

James Pennington.
Delaware.

Abraham

D. Shad, Vice President,

Rev. Peter Gardner.
Virginia.

Wm. Duncan,

Vice President.

Tliere are other

names mentioned

in

the

76

SKETCHES OF
in the pro-

" Minutes" as having taken part
ceedings, but their
the hst of delegates.

names do not appear

in

Among these are noticed the Rev. Charles W. Gardner, and the Rev. Samuel Todd, who were appointed
Chaplains to the Convention.
I

do not profess,

in this brief notice, to give a connected histo-

ry of the Convention, or the more immediate
causes which gave rise to
tice
it;

but only

to no-

such facts as are in

this place

deemed

appropriate.

The

ten years that have elapsed since the
I

period to which

have adverted, have wit-

nessed a great change in the condition and
prospects of the people of color in Philadelphia.*

You could

not find here

now,

as

was

the case then, a committee of intelligent

men

submitting to one of their meetings or other
public bodies, in unqualified terms, " the necessity of their
This
where.
is

deliberate

reflection

on the

not said in disparagement of the people else-

COLORED SOCIETY.
* *
^*

''7

disolute, intemperate,

and ignorant
;''

condition of the colored population

be-

warrant cause the facts would by no means
the
indiscriminate

and sweeping

assertion.

The higher

classes, at least,

who form

the

chaste and subject of these sketches, are as
as temperate as
lation
;

any other body of the popu-

and,

it

as thousands

may be added, as intelligent who have had better facilities
of expressing the popular

afforded them.

The usual mode

will, in all free countries,

by public assem-

fullest exblages of the people, obtains to the the people of color at the present

tent with

time.

They never
to

let

a subject of peculiar

importance

them, that

may

be agitated in

public expresthe community,pass without a
sion of their views
it.

and opinions

in regard to

the

Their inability to act with efficiency in premises makes but little difference with

most of the leading men.

A

meeting they

must have. The

sin of faiUng to remonstrate


78

SKETCHES OF

against any scheme, that

may

be tm'ned to
never
is

their disadvantage, they are determined
to let rest

upon

their shoulders.

This

cer-

tainly very praiseworthy, of itself considered;

but the character of their proceedings are
frequently very objectionable.

Measures deto,

nunciatory are too often resorted
especially
will not be
tates of

which

when

directed against those

who
dic-

moved, by even the ordinary
right,

common

where the people of
most
assuredly

color

are

concerned

— are
on

calculated to defeat, rather than to achieve,
the
tion

end desired.
are
to

Instances of this descrip-

be

found

any

occasion

of legislative attempt to abridge or deprive of
existing rights.

At such

times,

as

is

very

natural, the proceedings of the Legislature

are scanned with

more than ordinary

interest;

and

as soon as the cast of parties in the mat-

ter is ascertained, those

who

are found to be

adverse to their interests, are, without more
ado, set

up

as targets to be " abused at," (no

COLORED SOCIETY.
better

79

term

is

deserved,)

instead of being

selected for convincement

and consequent

conviction of their error.

This misguided course

is

often resorted to,
is

in matters of far less importance than

here
diffe-

supposed, and Ukewise of altogether a
rent tenor

and bearing. But

in all

such cases

and,

it

may

be added, with saints and sin-

ners, very nearly the

same

effect is

produced.

No man
measure.

likes to

be abused into, or out of any

He

is

by such a course put upon
to take

the defensive,

and driven

stronger
in the

measures
right

to sustain himself.

Whether
would

or

in

the wrong,
difference

it

be apt to
it

make but

little

;

and even were

possible to convince

him by
to

senseless railing,

he would be very slow
It is left to

acknowledge

it.

metaphysicians to inquire into the

nature of the courage by which he would be

most

likely to

be prompted, but
such
is

know,

that

degenerate

we do man. And
this

how

is it

when such

a one finds that his as-

80
sailants are

SKETCHES OF

composed of those

whom
?

he

is

already inclined to hold in contempt

—from
any
all,

whom,
and

politically

— without

imputing

higher motive
fear,
it

—he

has nothing whatever to

therefore, if

he heeds them at
?

is

with derision and scorn

What

folly,

then, for

men

of color thus to
for

" offer

war

where they should kneel
tempt
is

peace ;"

to atleft

to

coerce,

where the only mode

to
?

sue

the

way

to

consideration

and

favor
I

should not neglect
that

to state in this

con-

nection,
color

however severe

the

people of

may

be in assailing their opponents,
less

they are no

forward in expressing their

gratitude to those
ert

who, on such occasions ex-

themselves in their behalf.
the evils

Among
duce
I

which operate
to

to pro-

the

mode

of proceeding,

which

have adverted, the constant competition
the
all

among
lead in

"leading

men"

to

take

the

matters of concern

may

be men-

COLOKED SOCIETY.
tioned as one of the
principal.

81

The

ab-

sence

of discipUne

of

mind and want of

ma-ture reflection, undoubtedly has a large

share

in

it

;

so

hath

oppression,
;"

which
if

" maketh a wise

man mad

—but

moless

mentary
thought

self-exaltation
of,

were a

little

and the general good more, they

would have ample time to provide themselves
in these respects with the necessary qualifications for wiser

and more deliberate

action.

There are too

many men, who might other-

wise be useful,

who

desire to be

considered

the leaders and the chiefs in every matter of
interest that
is

agitated.

They

will not take

part in

forwarding

any scheme, however

well intended on the part of the original

movers, unless they themselves were components of that original.

This begets rivalry
public meetings.
;

and contention

in the

Ri-

valry must be sustained
this,

and

in order to

do

impeachment of motive and other personwords are resorted
8
to.

al assaults of

If these

;

82
fail to

SKETCHES OF
produce the end desired

—of

settling the
is

question of precedence

— attention
Then,

at last

turned

to

the

object the meeting

may have
if

been called
ject

to pass to

upon.

the sub-

happens

be of the character before

supposed, where " our dearest rights" are involved, the batteries are opened upon those

who
this,

are

known
all

to

be adverse

to

them.

In

nearly

the " leaders" and would-be

leading men, are apt to join. Blustering, loud

speaking and
substituted for

unlimited

denunciation, are

reason and

common

sense

and he who

is

most proficient

in this respect

and gains the loudest plaudits of the moment,
thinks himself fairly entitled to the consideration
est
this

he aimed

to secure
all

— of being

the smart!

and wisest of

his competitors

And

the thoughtless

crowd

—as

is

apt to be

the case
often

among every
to

class of persons
deserts.

— too
is

award

no greater

Thus

the general good

made

subservient to private

ends

;

and

thus, too, in the pursuit of those

!

COLORED SOCIETY.
ends,
is

83
it

the very object defeated which

was

ostensibly the sole

aim of

all to effect.

The
ly

public meetings are likewise frequentthe scenes of personal disputes

made

and

quarrels, totally irrelevant to the matter for

which they were assembled, and of no possible

consequence
in them.

to

any but those

directly

engaged

In such cases the most

ridiculous, vulgar

and unmanly

—not

to

say

ungentlemanly
sented.
is

!

—exhibitions are

often pre-

A quarrel between

two school boys
it

magnanimous when compared with

Undoubtedly they do appear ridiculous
eyes of the juveniles,

in the

who may

at

such times

be looking on

I

But the

parties themselves,

in their enraged moments, are not in a con-

dition to enter into the feelings of the calm,
reflecting auditor.

Of

this I

am

well aware

;

and

it

is

for this reason, that I
to

have here

taken occasion

help them to a picture of

themselves, that they

may

see

its

defects

and

amend them. The

belligerents in these

windy

84
combats, surely
cency,

SKETCHES OF

know what
much,
;

belongs
in

to de-

— or

so

at
if

least,

charity
selflittle

must be allowed
respect, they

and

they have no
to

ought certainly

pay a

regard to the feelings and rights of those upon

whom

they intrude such scenes.*
private piques,

This evil of introducing

preferences and antipathies into the public

assemblages, convened for acting upon matters for the general

good, operates badly in

every

way and
;

not
it

among

the least of

its

results is

the effect

has of driving

many
direct

useful

men

entirely out of the

way

of exert-

ing themselves for the public good,

by

co-operation with others in matters of general
interest

that

may command

attention.

Refor

specting themselves,
* I

—having

no

taste

have learned, recently, that certain moderate and

discreet

men

of the community, having become disgusted
to,

with the frequency of the scenes here referred

have deall

termined to thrust out the participators therein, on
ture occasions

fu-

when

attempts shall be
meetings.

made

to bring

them

forward

at the public

COLORED SOCIETY.
contention and
strife,

85

—they

very properly

keep

aloof,

and thereby save themselves from

unpleasant feeUngs, and the discouragements

which such disorderly proceedings are apt
engender.
pointed out

to

There are several who could be

—men

of sound judgment and
to

mature minds

— who are rarely seen
who
But
is

appear

upon

the platform of public action.

This un-

doubtedly excites the wonder of some

who

know

them, but

are not

aware of the

causes which, in this respect, keep them apparently
silent.
if

such were pressed for

a reason, there

no doubt they would reply
effect

something

to this

—that

they have no

objection to visit a menagerie occasionally, for

the sake of gratifying their love for natural
history
;

but that they do not desire to enter

an arena where the voracious animals are
permitted, uncaged,'to

roam
!

at large,

and prey

on

whom
?

they please
;

This would be a

severe figure
cation

but

is it

wholly void of appli-

8*

86

SKETCHES OF
Besides those gentlemen

who keep away

from the pubUc meetmgs, or go merely as
spectators, there are others

who do co-operate
amenable
to

in this wise, but are not justly

the charges of disreputable conduct adverted
to.

Their only culpability consists in giving

a moment's heed to the impotent, harmless
assaults of those

who endeavor

to

gain imprebest

portance by provoking a reply.

They

sent themselves at a meeting with the
intentions in the world
tion in the
starts
;

they offer a sugges-

same

spirit

;

when
Sir

forthwith,

up

some blustering

Oracle, to

give,
his

gratuitiously,

an unfailing indication of

own

vulgar mind, and dishonest heart, by

questioning the purity of the mover's intentions
.

He
;

pauses not for examination or
sufficient for

explanation

it is

him

to

know

that the proposition

comes from one, against
ill-will
;

whom
that
is is

he cherishes personal
the key to
sufhcient
all his

—and

opposition
all

—that with
other con-

him

to

outweigh

COLORED SOCIETY.
siderations
for the
!

S7
is

The only

alternate left then,

former to withdraw from the proceed-

ings, or take

upon him the hangman's duty
it

of applying the scourge; and this

may truly

be

said,

has sometimes been done, and with

an

effect that

has operated

to

the no small
!

discomfiture of the assailing party

But

why
may
to

not visit the impeachment with contempt, and

proceed peaceably and in order

?

This
Sir

be answered by saying that our

Oracle

may

be one of those beings so insensible
or so puffed up with his

refined feelings,

own

imagined consequence, that such treatment

would defeat

the object intended

;

that mis-

taking contemptuous silence for fear, he might

f^rowmore obstreperous than before!

—so that
and

disorder in either event contention and general
is

quite unavoidable.

Thus

are well

peaceably disposed persons in
into the degrading scenes
;

a manner forced
are, therefore,

and

to a greater or less extent excusable.

Now

what

is

the effect of

all this ?

Does

88

SKETCHES OF
better or

any individual grow

wiser by

it ?

Who

is

aided or whose interests are promot?

ed by such proceedings
wise course

Surely a more uncertainly calculated

—one

more

to retard or defeat

every beneficial undertak!

ing

is

—could not well be pursued — duelling out of fashion — was somewhat more
If the standard of courtesy
!

since

ele-

vated,

much

of the dissension

which

now

divides the energies of

men

of color in Phila-

delphia, might be avoided.

There are one
in this respect,
all

or

more " public men," who,

are sadly at fault.

They

are not at

back-

ward
and

in laying claim to

"

all

the decency"
to witness

all

the good sense

;

and yet
all

their

conduct on almost

public occasions,

one would be led

to think that

they had

been educated

in

a pigstye

!

The words

honor, courtesy, self-respect, they seem never
to

have heard

;

or hearing, could never protheir import
: !

perly comprehend
at least
is

So

much

said in charity

for if

they have

COLORED SOCIETY.

89

heard and do comprehend, they are most assuredly of a nature debased past reclaimmg
!

I

have said that from a

spirit of

rivahy or

some other cause, one class of the " leading men" in the colored community will not fall
in

with the suggestions or plans of another,

unless themselves were party to the original

movement.
renders
it

This

is

true to

an extent which

almost impossible for the people to

proceed together with unanimity on any given subject, however directly important to them,

may

be the

issue.

Instances have occurred,

wherein the wishes of the majority have been an totally misrepresented before the public, by
alteration of their proceedings, before send-

ing

them

for

publication, to gratify the pri-

vate feelings of parties

who may have been
'.

disappointed in the original results

Proba-

bly these individuals

may

have got themto attend to

selves appointed on a committee

publishing the proceedings

;

and have taken

90

SKETCHES OF

advantage of the appointment to violate the
trust

reposed in them

!

No one,

of course, expects unanimity in

all

matters of policy

among any

people.

Diffe-

rences are expected and will always arise.

But

it is

expected that those differences will

be marked by an open, manly and honorable
course of procedure, and not
ing and chicanery,
It is
if

by low schem-

not positive dishonesty.

hardly necessary to add, that those

who
last

merit

reproach for indulgence in the
practices, are

named

always the very

first to

pounce upon and impeach the motives of
their neighbors
!

I will

do them the favor

to

say, however, that the error of judging

man-

kind by their

own

standard does not rest

alone with them.

The

virtuous and good

sometimes repose great confidence in persons
totally

unworthy of the

trust,

because they
evil

are too pure in

mind

to

adjudge
;

without
it is

testimony not to be mistaken

and

no-

thing extraordinary to see the reverse of the

COLORED SOCIETY.
proposition

91

exemplified,

by those who are
!

themselves of questionable worth
It is

certainly to be

hoped

that the

young

men

— and there are many of them—who are
and shoals upon which
their senior
all

just entering the stage of public action, in be-

half of their fellow men, will guard against
the rocks

cotemporaries have nearly wrecked
of ever being able to
ral good.

hopes

do any permanent gene-

Had

they, instead of striving with
to destroy

and endeavoring

each other, unitfor the

ed their energies and labored
benefit of
all,

mutual

they might have presented a

state of society

which would have been an

in-

vincible

argument against the tyrannical act*

of the ever
tion,"
all

memorable "Reform Convenfor their posterity

and perhaps secured

of the " rights, privileges and immunities"

enjoyed by other citizens of the
wealth.

Commontherefore,

The young men may,

building upon past results, rest assured, that
* Disfranchisement.

92

SKETCHES OF
respect themselves,

until they learn to

and

the rights, feelings

and

interests of their breto

thren, they can never

hope

gain the respect

of others, or attain to any remarkable point
of political consideration, or private worth.

COLORED SOCIETY.

93

CHAPTER
General
ry

VI.

Remarks—Literary
of Colored

Societies— Philadelphia Libra-

Company

Persons— Rush Library Com-

pany and Debating Society— Demosthenian InstituteAsMinerva Literary Association— Edgeworth Literary
sociation—Gilbert
plated.

Lyceum— New

Association Contem-

The number and
tions for the

character of the mstitu-

promotion of Uterature in any
as an un-

community,

may be justly regarded
It

failing indication of the tastes
its

and morals of
to

components.

would be vanity here

attempt to

illustrate the effects

of education

upon

society, or to describe the superior

worth
it is

and prosperity of communities in which
generally diffused

among

all

classes,

over

those where the majority of the people re-

main

in

comparative ignorance.

The

aspirits

ing disposition that education imparts to

possessor— the continued, insatiable desire is for more, more, the farther he progresses—

94
of
itself

SKETCHES OF
sufficient to

show

its

inestimable

worth

in fitting us for the

high stations ni the
the Creator that

scale of being, designed

by

we
and

should occupy.
it

He who

implanted the

mind and endowed
faculties

with certain capabilities

of developement, hath also

placed in our power the

means

thereof;

and

happy

is

he

who makes

the best use of them.
to their

Among

no people, in proportion
is

means and advantages,

the

pursuit

of

knowledge more honored than among the colored inhabitants of Philadelphia.
alted standard in the world

The exwhich

of

letters,
is

characterizes the favored class,

by them
power.

seconded

to the

utmost extent

in their

Many

of

them seem,

in this respect, to

have
re-

fully entered into

the spirit of taste

and

finement of those by

whom
is

they are sur-

rounded; and their success
as

seen to besucli,

of which they have no reason to

be

ashamed.

The

actual standard of literary
true,

acquirements,

it is

even among the best


COLORED SOCIETY.
informed
itself

95

class,

is
;

nothing extraordinary of
they have engaged in the
for its

considered

pursuit of
the

knowledge more
it

own sake
them

adornment which

gives

—than

from any relative or

collateral
;

advantages

which could be expected they have not been
stimulated and encouraged to seek education
as a trade, v/hich
siduity

would well repay

their as:

and the pecuniary

cost of the pursuit
all

and, therefore, in the absence of

those

cheering motives which impel others, to expect a higher state of advancement than they
at present exhibit,

would be

illiberal

if

not

unjust.

The educated man
States,
is

of color, in the ^United
so
far as

by no means, by

he

may

be

affected

exterior circumstances, the hap-

piest man.
abiUties

He

finds himself in possession of
fit

and acquirements which

him

for

most of the useful and honorable
life,

stations in
;

where such

qualities are requisite

but

does he find

—can he even with reason

antici-


96
pate

SKETCHES OP

their ever

being in like manner appreIf there

ciated

and rewarded ?

was nothing
well might
of the

in education to

recommend

itself,

reason be construed against the

utility
;

man

of color's entering

its

paths

aye, well

might he conclude within himself, that with
the people of color "ignorance is bliss!"
for
'•'

and

them

it is,

therefore, " folly to be wise !"
let

He
is

that

is

robbed,
a.t

him not know

it,

and

he

not robbed

all."
its

But education possesses
worth, which
its
it

imparts to

own intrinsic those who enter

pursuits.
to

Of this, colored Philadelphians

seem
ant

be fully aware; and as one import-

avenue towards further advancement
perfection, they

and

have established numer-

ous literary associations, the most prominent
of which
it is

here proposed briefly to notice.

Among

the earliest established of these in-

stitutions, stands first

"The Philadelphia Library Company
Colored Persons."

of


COLORED SOCIETY.
This
1833.

97

Company was

instituted

January

1st,
its

The number of persons

present at

formation, and

who

signed the Constitution,
are here given
:

were nine

;

whose names

Messrs. Frederick A. Hinton, James Need-

ham, (now Treasurer, and who kindly

fur-

nished these particulars,) James Cornish, Robert C. Gordon, junr.,

John Dupee, William

Whipper,

J.

C.

Bowers, Charles Trulier,

Robert Douglass, junr., and James C.

Ma-

thews

;

— who

may

be considered the foun-

ders of the

first

successful literary institution

of this description, established by the colored
classes in Philadelphia.

The
plies,

object of the

Company,

as

its title

im-

was

the collection of a library of useful
for

works of every description
its

the benefit of

members, who might there successfully

apply, without comparatively any cost, for
that mental
ly

good which they could not readiThis enterprise met
in the

obtain elsewhere.

with great encouragement, both
9*

way

98

SKETCHES OF

of donations of books, pamphlets, maps, &c.,

and otherwise

;

so that in a short time a large
collection

and valuable

was made.

A

sys-

tematic order of reading

was then adopted

by

the members, to the very great advantage

of those

who

persevered therein.

In con-

nexion with

this,

a system of debates was in-

troduced, for the purpose of stimulating the

members
and
tion

to historical

and other researches,
in the arts of elocu-

for practising

them

and public speaking.
after the establishment

Soon
ry

of the Libra-

Company

their

numbers having greatly
to

augmented— application was made

the

Legislature for an act of incorporation.
this

In

they also met with speedy success

—corthem

porate existence having been granted
in the early part of 1836.

From

this

period

the

Company

rapidly increased in

numbers

and
roll

usefulness, until at the present time the

book presents the names of about one

hundred (including a number of honorary)

COLORED SOCIETY.

99
its

members
benefits.

;

all

of

whom

have partaken of

The debating department has
ly

of late great-

improved

in regard to the intelligence

and

ability of those
in.

who

usually participate there-

Discussions of interesting subjects, take

place on Tuesday of each week.

The Library

at present contains

nearly six
historical,

hundred volumes
scientific

of

valuable

and miscellaneous works, among
several

which

are

Encyclopoedias, and
profit to the

is

a source of great mental
bers of the

mem-

Company.
in,

Among

those

who

took an interest

and contributed towards

the collection of the Library,

was

the late

Right Reverend Bishop White, of the Protestant Episcopal church.

The

fee of admission to

membership of the
it

institution, is

such as

to place

within the

reach of every one disposed to connect themselves therewith.
It is

one dollar

;

and the

100

SKETCHES OF
thereafter,

monthly assessment
cents.

twenty -Jive

The Company,
meetmgs

at the present tmie, holds its

m

the basement

of

St.

Thomas'
where

Episcopal Church, South Fifth

street,

persons, so disposed, are at liberty to visit

and judge
racter.

for

themselves of

its

probable cha-

The

progress of this institution has been
the most gratifying

marked by evidences of
character

—gratifying
their

to all

who

delight to

witness the progress of knowledge and refine-

ment

among

fellow-men.
in
this

Many
The

a

young man of color

community, who
^'

previous to the establishment of
delphia Library

Phila-

Company

of Colored Per-

sons" never dreamed of rising before a public

auditory to
is

make an

address, or engage

in a debate,
little

now

enabled to do so with

or no embarrassment,

and

in a

manner

highly creditable.


COLORED SOCIETY,
101
its

The
comes
*'

next, in

the

order of

formation,

The Rush Library Company and Debating Society of Pennsylvania."
This Society was formed on the
16th of
is

December, 1836; and, as will be seen,
several years yonnger than
its

predecessor.

Present at
sons,

its

formation there were seven per:

as

follows

—Messrs.
— and
to

John L. Hart,

(now

the President

whom

I

am

in-

debted
ton,

for these particulars,)

William D. BanR. Sylva,

Littleton

Hubert, Harrison
Brister.

James Bird, and Charles
two months
its

In about
list

after this beginning, the
to

of
;

members had increased
which period an

twenty-two

at

act of incorporation

was
date

granted by the Legislature,

bearing

March
The

1,

1837.

object

aimed

at,

by the founders of the
Sofirst

"Rush
ciety,"

Library

Company and Debating
same as
that of the one

was

the

noticed.

They have succeeded

in collecting

102

SKETCHES OF
at the present

a handsome library,

time

num-

bering two hundred vokimes, and gradually
increasing.
Its

contents

are,
;

of course, of
all

a

miscellaneous character

but

of the

books are useful, and among them
luable works.

many

va-

From

this

source the

members

have derived great advantages.

The debating department
ed with
cing
spirit

is

also maintain-

—many of the members evidenlikewise, to the

much
This

ability in the discussion of the

various

questions that are brought before
is

them.

members, a

source of great improvement in elocution and
public speaking.

The

roll

book of the Rush Library Compais

ny, at the time this

written, (June,

1841,)

numbers
ditions.

thirty
Its

members, with occasional adis

place of meeting
street.

at

" Salters'

Hall," Elizabeth

Those best acquainted with the
this institution, are of

aifairs
it

of

opinion that
its

is

"one

of the most really useful, of

kind,

among


COLORED SOCIETY.
the colored classes, in the city ;"

103

—that others
This opin-

may
ion
is

equal

it

in regard to the benefits deriva-

ble therefrom, but
is,

none surpass.

in all probability, nothing
If the

more than

justly due.

energy and enterprise of
taken as a sample of the

its

President

may be

spirit that characterizes the

body of

its

mem-

bers, there

is

no doubt but that " The Rush
Society of

Library

Company and Debating

Pennsylvania," will eminently keep pace, in
the

onward march of improvement, with
its

the

best of

contemporaries.

I shall

now

proceed

to notice

an

institution

which was

originally

composed of young men

in their minority,

and who were thereby ex-

cluded from the membership of those previously established.
I
It

w^as

this

exclusion,
chiefly

if

am

correctly informed,

which

gave

rise to the

now

flourishing

" Demosthenian Institute."
This association was formed January 10,
1839, at the house of Mr. John P. Burr
j

at


104

;

SKETCHES OF
place, the following

which time and

named
:

young men were
E.

elected

its

officers

— John

Bm-r, President;
;

David Gordon, Vice
Stanley,
;

President

Benjamin

Secretary

William Jennings, Treasurer
Librarian
;

G. W. Gibbons,

Lewis B.

Meade, E. Parkinson,
and

Zedekiah

J.

Purnell, A. F. Hutchinson,

B. Hughes, the Board of Managers. In the course of inquiries respecting the
condition and progress of the " Demosthenian
Institute,"
I

have been furnished by the
J.

President, Mr. Z.
ry,

Purnell,

and the Secreta-

Mr. T.

S.

Crouch, with a brief written
particulars,
:

history, containing

and from

it

make

the

annexed extract
[at the

" Here
ings

house of Mr. Burr] the meetfor

were held

nearly a year, during

which time several addresses were deUvered
and numerous questions discussed;
the presence of the

—but
owing

in to

members

only,

a general wish that the Institute should be

made a preparatory

school, until the

members

;

COLORED SOCIETY.

105

had gained
ence, to
fit

sufficient

confidence and experi-

them

for

an appearance before a
the
institute

public auditory.

As

emerged

from

its

obscurity, the

number of its members
became necessary to

rapidly augmented,
secure a

till it

more commodious place of meeting.
Suiters^

Accordingly,

Hall was engaged

and

the

first

meeting of the Institute there,

took place December 18th, 1839."

From

the period here mentioned, to

the

present, the "

Demosthenian

Institute'^

has

continued

its

meetings at " Salters' Hall ;"
it

where, though but of recent origin,
the

has, in

words of

its

President, "

made a
it

great

deal of noise ;" though not,

is

believed,

without

much good
show
its

reason.

The

addresses

and course of lectures during the past season
(1840-41,)
great energy

and

enterprise

on the part of

members, and

also forcibly

exhibit the abiding interest

which actuates

them
ness.

for
It

its

continued prosperity and useful-

should also be borne in mind, that 10

106

SKETCHES OF
the work, chiefly, of the
;

these lectures, are

members of the
ful

Institute

and

it is

very doubt-

whether

many

of them ever ventured be-

fore the pubhc,for such purposes, previous to

becoming connected

therewitli.

The debating department has
a source of great improvement

likewise been
to the

young
In

men

of the " Demosthenian Institute."

this respect

they have not remained in the

rear of their predecessors.

They

are

still

im-

proving, and will, ere long, be undoubtedly

enabled

to

cope with the oldest of those in

existence before them.

The members

of the Institute number, at

the present time, forty-two, with a gradual increase.
Its

Library contains over one hun-

dred volumes, comprising
torical

many

valuable his-

and

scientific

works.*

*Shortly after this notice of the " Demosthenian Institute"

was

written, I

was shown the
<'

first

number

of a very

neat

little

paper, entitled the

Demosthenian Shield,"

which has been established by the enterprise of the young


COLORED SOCIETY.
107

Having now endeavored
to point out the condition

in a

few words,

and chief sources of
literary associaI

improvement afforded by the
tions

among

the gentlemen,

shall

proceed

briefly to glance at those in existence

among

the ladies.

The
is

first

of these that comes un-

der notice

"

The Minerva Literary Association."
This association was formed in "October,

1834."

There were present

at the

forma-

men who compose

publishthe Institute, and intended to be
first

ed weekly, from the time of its
1841.)
Its subscription list

appearance, (June 29,

numbered " over one thou-

sand subscribers" before the
success, therefore,

first

number was issued— and

seems

certain. Its typographical appear-

ance

is

very neat; and, judging from
is

No.

1,

it

proin

mises dignity— which

very important— and

ability

the editorial department.
flect
is

The whole
''

is

calculated to reInstitute,''

great credit

upon the

Demosthenian

and

a far better evidence of

its

onward march, in general imit,

of provement, than the brief notice we had taken

previ-

ous to the
therefore,

appearance of the
to see

''

Shield."

It

is

pleasing,

what was

said

hereby so promptly cor.

roborated.

lOS
tion
thirty

SKETCHES OF
ladies,
all

of

whom
this

constituted

themselves members.

With

good begin-

ning, the daughters of the goddess whose'name

they bear, went into immediate active operation
;

and were soon permanently organized
encouragement and pro-

into a school for the

motion of
exercises
original

polite literature.

The

order of their
recitations of

were readings and

and selected

pieces, together

with
the

other

appropriate matters.

Many

of

essays and other original productions, both in

prose and poetry, have been

deemed highly

meritorious, and at different periods have ap-

peared in the "poets' corner" or other de-

partment of some of the friendly publications.
"

The Minerva

Literary Association"

is

composed of a large number of members
the present time.
It still

at

holds

its

meetings

once each

week

as heretofore, to the improve-

ment and
with
it.

edification of all

who

are connected

——
COLORED SOCIETY.
There
"
is

109

also

among

the ladies

The Edgeworth Literary Association/^
object

whose
the

and exercises are

so identically

same

as those of the

"Minerva/' that areIt is suf-

petition thereof
ficient to

seems unnecessary.

say that the ladies consider them both
is

worthy of being cherished, which

a

suffi-

cient guaranty that they are not wanting

in

importance and usefulness.*

The

last of the literary institutions

which

I

shall here notice, is the nondescript

" Gilbert Lyceum."
This institution
is

composed, as will be
its

seen by the names of

founders, of indiviis

duals of both sexes, and

the

first,

and only

one established by the colored classes of Philadelphia, for both literary
*
It

and

scientific

pur-

may

be due to the ladies, and therefore proper to

state, that I

should have very cheerfully taken a more ex«<

tended

notice of the

Minerva," and the « Edgeworth,"

had

I

not failed in attempts to procure such authentic in-

formation, in regard to them, as

was

requisite to

a correct

detailed understanding of their condition,

&c. &c.

10*

;

110
suits.

SKETCHES OP

The name "
to

Gilbert"

is

prefixed in

honor

the gentleman of that
its

name, who
of but re-

recommended
cent origin,

formation.
(as I

It is

—instituted

am

informed by
31,

Mr. R. Douglass,

junr.)

January

1841.

The persons who composed
gave
it

the meeting, that

a " local habitation and a name,"

were eleven in number
Robert Douglass,

—as follows —Messrs.
:

senr.,

Joseph Cassey, Jacob

C. White, John C. Bowers, Robert Purvis

and Mrs.

Amy M.

Cassey,

Miss Sarah M.

Douglass, Mrs. Hetty Burr, Mrs. Grace Douglass,

Mrs. Harriet Purvis, and Miss Amelia

Bogle.
In consequence formation, the "
to
its

of the late period of

its

Lyceum"

has not been able

do

much towards
It

eifecting the objects of

formation.

has, however, already

had

a course of

scientific
it,

and other

lectures de-

livered before

which generally have been
It
is

well attended.
the

understood, also, that

"Lyceum"

proposes the collection of a

COLORED

SOCIETY.

HI

&c., as soon cabinet of minerals, curiosities, will admit of as its permanent organization

SO doing.

The mimber

of

members

at the

present

a great intime are about forty— exhibiting If governed by a crease in a short period.

proper

spirit,

the " Gilbert

Lyceum" may no
to its

doubt be made a source of improvement

members, not

to

be surpassed by any

literary

institution previously in existence.

In addition

to

those already established,
it

and
tion

in active operation,

is

in

contemplato

with a rmmber of young men,

form a

new

literary association, the object of

which

will be to

encourage and promote among the

the arts; colored classes, literature, science and

and

to

embody

all

the good features of those
it

now

in existence, while

will be the

aim

to

avoid such as have proved disadvantageous.

The plan

of this contemplated institution, as
to

drawn up and exhibited

me by Mr. James

112
Needhaiii,

SKETCHES OF
is

of the most liberal and enlight;

ened character

and seems well calculated
with
all

to

become
lovers

miiversally popular,

the

and seekers of knowledge
It

in the color-

ed community.

proposes that " not only

the learned, but the unlearned the

— the

old

and any

young

—male

and female
a

—without

other qualification than

good character,

should become members;" and that frequent

meetings should be held, and have such a
varied detail of exercises presented at each, as

might be found best calculated
ercise the degree of education

to call into

ex-

and

ability of

each member.

It is

further proposed to have

"lectures delivered,
at stated periods;
to

by competent
encourage

persons,

^^to

men

of color

become
;

professors in particular branches

of science

to

establish a library, collect a

cabinet of minerals, and procure philosophical

apparatus," as soon as

its

permanent

or-

COLORED SOCIETY.
^anization might allow of so doing.

113

This

seems

to
;

be in every

way

plausible

and prac-

ticable

and

if

carried out in the spirit of the

possibly fail to outline here given, could not

be of great advantage,

to

such as might con-

nect themselves therewith.

There are some errors that have become
associations, matters of course with the older

which

it

would be well

for the

one

now

in

against. contemplation, studiously to guard

The

persons apease and facility with which

themselves plying have succeeded in getting

voted

to the

membership, has had the

effect

to incorporate a large

number of young men
interest

who

take

little,

or

no

whatever, in the
institution, af-

prosperity
ter

and success of the

they have once got their names enrolled

as

members.

They seldom appear
any purpose
;

at the

stated meetings for

and many
com-

of

them never appear

for the purpose of
!

plying with the periodical assessment

114
This
class

SKETCHES OP
of
self-constituted
if

honorary

memhers

^iOvSA,
for

possible, be kept out; for

no society can

any length of time withis

stand the evil influence that
their conduct.
'

generated by
weight';

A heavy, immoveable
constitution they

they totally destroy the usefulness of the association

whose

have sub-

scribed to support,

and dishearten those who
obligation,

are

sensible

of the

and earn-

estly desire to acquit themselves accordingly.

All such, be

it

repeated, should be steadily

shunned.

These short notices of the principal
ry institutions, though not so
full

litera-

and com-

prehensive as
will

was

originally contemplated,
to

be

sufficient

show

that the colored

classes are not at all
efforts to raise the

behind the age, in their

standard of education and
to

polite

literature,

a

much

greater height

among themselves than they have
enabled
to do.

yet been

Heretofore they have had to

;

COLORED SOCIETY.

115

most

in alencounter innumerable discouragements, these every ennobling undertaking ; but

there

is

every reason to beUeve, will be within proportion as the former
shall de-

drawn,

monstrate by

their acts, the gross injustice of

their infliction.

This,

it

is

contended, they

have long ago

done—in
to—but

fact

they 7iever de-

conserved the tyrannical prejudices they are
stantly

exposed

the great

community
case,

have closed

their eyes to this

view of the
short

and seem resolved

that nothing
their

of a
salva-

"miraculous working of
tion" shall ever secure to
ble

own

them those
which

equita-

and

just considerations

are enjoy-

ed by

all

others of a difl'erent descent.

And
to, if

even this the people of color are equal

to the they will only give a right direction elements which they have among themselves.
It

becomes them, of aU

others, to

be united

in all efforts for their general

improvement
bantheir

and whether they
ish the

will hereafter seek to

unworthy causes upon which

116
present

SKETCHES OF COLORED SOCIETY.
disunion
is

founded,

—a

disunion
for

which renders them, as a body, powerless

good in any common cause, and so furnishes
rich

food

for

prejudice,
is,

—time

will

make
to

known.

There

unquestionably,
it is

much

be done, and the sooner

done, the sooner

will they secure that estimation,

from those

who now
the

oppress them, which is undoubtedly
all,

aim of

and without which they can
enfranchisement,
or

never hope for entire
live in quiet,
civil liberty.

undisturbed possession of their

Let them, then, take a lesson
;

from the past
to

and

let

the future be devoted

amendment.

>^

^

l^4£

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