Agony and Horror
It appears that a “Mr. Mullen, of Grant county, Kentucky,” sold a man and his wife to a negro-trader, who was seeking slaves for the market of New Orleans. They had one child only, and this the trader did not want. The poor creatures dreaded to be sold; they had been faithful in their service, and the man, especially, was noted as one of those “contented slaves who wouldn't take their liberty if they had the offer of it,” of which so much has been said by Northern apologists for slavery. To induce them to go more willingly, the trader cunningly suggested that it would be best to let the child remain with them until he had made up his cargo, and was ready to start down the river, when it could be taken from them and sent back to Grant county. This diabolical advantage of parental affection was accordingly taken, and the three slaves were brought to Covington on the 18th ult., and placed in the jail for safe-keeping. Just before entering the jail, the parents learned by some means the cruel trick that had been played upon them, and that they were to be sold away from their child in a few days.
The agony and horror which followed this revelation are known only to God. The wretched pair looked upon each other and upon their child. They were about to leave the sole pledge of their love in the hands of a master who had proved himself cruel and heartless. They were themselves soon to be sold again, perhaps to different owners, and driven by the whip on separate plantations, never to see each other again, never to hear the voices of old friends and relatives, and at last to die exhausted in the cotton-row, or neglected in the cheerless hut, and to have, when all was over, a brute's burial. From this awful destiny, which their imagination all through that miserable night painted on the black wall of the dungeon, there was but one door of escape - death ! Who marvels that they sought it?
In the calmness of their great despair, they deliberately resolved to die together. The mother cut the throat of the child, and then gave the knife to her husband, who killed her, and then attempted to complete the sacrifice by cutting his own throat. He was found alive, but it was thought he could not recover.
Upon whom, in the sight of truth and reason, rests the guilt of this terrible immolation? Not, surely, upon the poor victims themselves. We may pity, but we cannot condemn them. We leave them to Him to whose mercy they have so solemnly appealed from the cruelty of man. The damning sin of this tragedy lies at the door of those who thrust upon them the terrible alternative - who compelled them to choose between the separation, the shame, the stripes, the long agony of slavery, and a sudden and violent death - the freedom of the grave!
But the responsibility is not confined to the men directly concerned in buying and selling the husband and wife; nor to those who, living in slave States, have enacted or give active support to the laws which authorize the holding of man as property. The people of the whole Union are responsible. The blood of this sacrifice rests on the garments of the individuals who compose the State and the church, North as well as South. Congress possesses the constitutional power to prohibit that inter-State slave trade, in the prosecution of which the Covington slave dealer drove his victims to the dreadful extremity of suicide. That this power has not been exerted is alone owing to the fact that the people represented in Congress have not demanded its exercise.
The free States hold this whole matter in the hollow of their hands. They are the majority, despite the slave holding representation of property vested in human beings. With a will to put a stop to the domestic traffic in slaves, the power would not be wanting. Whenever the will of the people of the free States is unequivocally expressed in favor of the repeal of all laws of Congress sanctioning slavery, and for such a regulation of the traffic between the States as shall put an end to the loathsome occupation of the negro trader, their delegation in Congress (now, we fear, but faithful representatives of the servility, prejudice, and indifference of the mass of their constituents on the question of slavery) will, whether from choice or from necessity, lose no time in making that will the law of the land.
The National Era, June 8, 1848