Clotel; or, The President's Daughter

by William Wells Brown

Chapter 11: The Parson Poet

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1853
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Source: Brown, W. W. (1853). Clotel; or, The President's Daughter. London, England: Partridge & Oakey.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 8.6
  • Word Count: 1,782
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Keywords: abolition, equality, injustice, society
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"UNBIND, unbind my galling chain,
                         And set, oh! set me free:
                         No longer say that I'll disdain
                         The gift of liberty."

        THROUGH the persuasion of Mr. Peck, and fascinated with the charms of Georgiana, Carlton had prolonged his stay two months with his old school–fellow. During the latter part of the time he had been almost as one of the family. If Miss Peck was invited out, Mr. Carlton was, as a matter of course. She seldom rode out, unless with him. If Mr. Peck was absent, he took the head of the table; and, to the delight of the young lady, he had on several occasions taken part in the family worship. "I am glad," said Mr. Peck, one evening while at the tea table, "I am glad, Mr. Carlton, that my neighbour Jones has invited you to visit him at his farm. He is a good neighbour, but a very ungodly man; I want that you should see his people, and then, when you return to the North, you can tell how much better a Christian's slaves are situated than one who does nothing for the cause of Christ." "I hope, Mr. Carlton," said Georgiana, "that you will spend the Sabbath with him, and have a religious interview with the negroes." "Yes," replied the parson, "that's well thought of, Georgy." "Well, I think I will go up on Thursday next, and stay till Monday," said Carlton; "and I shall act upon your suggestion, Miss Peck," continued he; "and try to get a religious interview with the blacks. By–the–by," remarked Carlton, "I saw an advertisement in the Free Trader to–day that rather puzzled me. Ah, here it is now; and," drawing the paper from his pocket, "I will read it, and then you can tell me what it means:

        'TO PLANTERS AND OTHERS.—Wanted fifty negroes. Any person having sick negroes, considered incurable by their respective physicians, (their owners of course,) and wishing to dispose of them, Dr. Stillman will pay cash for negroes affected with scrofula or king's evil, confirmed hypochondriacism, apoplexy, or diseases of the brain, kidneys, spleen, stomach and intestines, bladder and its appendages, diarrhoea, dysentery, &c. The highest cash price will be paid as above.'

        When I read this to–day I thought that the advertiser must be a man of eminent skill as a physician, and that he intended to cure the sick negroes; but on second thought I find that some of the diseases enumerated are certainly incurable. What can he do with these sick negroes?" "You see," replied Mr. Peck, laughing, "that he is a doctor, and has use for them in his lectures. The doctor is connected with a small college. Look at his prospectus, where he invites students to attend, and that will explain the matter to you." Carlton turned to another column, and read the following:

        "Some advantages of a peculiar character are connected with this institution, which it may be proper to point out. No place in the United States offers as great opportunities for the acquisition of anatomical knowledge. Subjects being obtained from among the coloured population in sufficient numbers for every purpose, and proper dissections carried on without offending any individuals in the community!"

        "These are for dissection, then?" inquired Carlton with a trembling voice. "Yes," answered the parson. "Of course they wait till they die before they can use them." "They keep them on hand, and when they need one they bleed him to death," returned Mr. Peck. "Yes, but that's murder." "Oh, the doctors are licensed to commit murder, you know; and what's the difference, whether one dies owing to the loss of blood, or taking too many pills? For my own part, if I had to choose, I would rather submit to the former." "I have often heard what I considered hard stories in abolition meetings in New York about slavery; but now I shall begin to think that many of them are true." "The longer you remain here the more you will be convinced of the iniquity of the institution," remarked Georgiana. "Now, Georgy, my dear, don't give us another abolition lecture, if you please," said Mr. Peck. "Here, Carlton," continued the parson, "I have written a short poem for your sister's album, as you requested me; it is a domestic piece, as you will see." "She will prize it the more for that," remarked Carlton; and taking the sheet of paper, he laughed as his eyes glanced over it. "Read it out, Mr. Carlton," said Georgiana, "and let me hear what it is; I know papa gets off some very droll things at times." Carlton complied with the young lady's request, and read aloud the following rare specimen of poetical genius:


                         "I have a little nigger the blackest thing alive,
                         He'll be just four years old if he lives till forty–five;
                         His smooth cheek hath a glossy hue, like a new polished boot,
                         And his hair curls o'er his little head as black as any soot.
                         His lips bulge from his countenance—his little ivories shine—
                         His nose is what we call a little pug, but fashioned very fine:
                         Although not quite a fairy, he is comely to behold,
                         And I wouldn't sell him, 'pon my word, for a hundred all in gold.

                         "He gets up early in the morn, like all the other nigs,
                         And runs off to the hog–lot, where he squabbles with the pigs—
                         And when the sun gets out of bed, and mounts up in the sky,
                         The warmest corner of the yard is where my nig doth lie.
                         And there extended lazily, he contemplates and dreams,
                         (I cannot qualify to this, but plain enough it seems;)
                         Until 'tis time to take in grub, when you can't find him there,
                         For, like a politician, he has gone to hunt his share.

                         "I haven't said a single word concerning my plantation,
                         Though a prettier, I guess, cannot be found within the nation;
                         When he gets a little bigger, I'll take and to him show it,
                         And then I'll say, 'My little nig, now just prepare to go it!'
                         I'll put a hoe into his hand—he'll soon know what it means,
                         And every day for dinner, he shall have bacon and greens."