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The master's house

a tale of Southern life




Page 200


The Sabbath morning appointed for Mr. Goshawk's second
discourse, was one of the most delightful that ever shone
upon Beechland. Mr. Goshawk was late in coming; he had
been, against his inclination, detained on the road, and although
this caused considerable uneasiness among the mass
of the congregation, it left Dixon more time to thoroughly
collect his ideas, and prepare himself according to his own
notions for the services of the day.

On the previous Sabbath, occasion had been taken by
Governor, to extend his acquaintance among the servants
out of doors, who, like himself, were occupied by the light
labor of looking after their master's vehicles. A group of
carriage drivers had huddled themselves beneath the shade
of a wide-spreading oak, and there they sat in cosy and
confidential conversation.

Among the group was Mr. Moreton's Quash, a fellow
celebrated among his own race as a wit, and he kept his
auditors in constant laughter, only suppressed by the vicinity
of white folks in the church.


Page 201

Quash, finding that the minister did not arrive at the
time expected, insensibly became animated, and putting his
hard hand upon the head of a negro sitting next to him,

“Gentlem, I expose to gib you, widout furder circumloquation,
a toast”—general attention was paid; “now I
wishes to know who owns dis ere eight-hundred-dollar nigger
carriage-driver, belonging to Widow Hartshorn?”

“Why, his missus owns him,” said the outsiders all at

“Who owns dis nigger, called Monday?” repeated
Quash, looking triumphantly around.

“Why, missus owns me,” said Monday, getting rather
annoyed at being made a butt.

“Dus it is, gentlem,” said Quashee, “dat de niggers
run about in dese supersilious days, and like de poor white
man don't know who owns him, consequentially, dis culered
gentlem am so ignoramus dat he aint awar' dat he is prepossessed
by de very gentlem, dat is to minister de consolizations
of de good book to de sinners dis day.”

This significant allusion to the possible relation the
comical-looking Monday might bear toward Mr. Goshawk,
was received by Quash's auditors with a burst of laughter
which might have continued apparently until now, had not
a carriage, rapidly driven, scattered them from the immediate
front of the church door; out of which descended the
reverend gentleman, and the family of the planter at whose
house he was the temporary guest.

The little church was at an early hour crowded to its
utmost capacity, and in an obscure corner, among the listeners,


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sat Dixon, his face beaming with expectation and
interest; he was for the moment transported back to the
days of his boyhood innocence, the active scenes of his life
in the long years that had since passed had faded from his
mind, and a future, sanctified by good resolves, alone occupied
his thoughts.

The preliminary services having been concluded, the Rev.
Mr. Goshawk rose and stated, that he should that day found
his sermon on part of the second verse of the thirteenth
chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans: “Whosoever
therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of

In his preliminary remarks, he stated that he presumed
the institution of Slavery was most absorbing to their minds,
and that therefore he had concluded to confine himself to its
scripture view. That he had more recently been on at the
North, and had been compelled to have his attention drawn
to the important subject, by its agitation among the people
he had so recently visited.

At this announcement Dixon turned fairly pale, and
was obliged to disguise his excitement by leaning his head
upon the slip before him. His next impulse was to leave
the church, for he shrunk, in his then humor, from having
the full enormity of his crimes drawn by the powerful eloquence
of the preacher; but recovering himself, he determined
to receive the reproof in store for him with a penitent
spirit, and as part of the penalty he had to pay, for,
as he thought, “his many sins.”

“Slavery,” continued Mr. Goshawk, “is the oldest institution
relating to the government of men that exists in


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the world. The Jewish people, among whom it was established
as an accessory of their civilization (by the Almighty,
because they were his chosen people), have politically
passed away, but the institution remains. It was ingrafted
upon the world and humanity, the moment the surging
waters of the deluge subsided and left the dry land to appear.
For it was even then that the decree went forth
that the children of Ham should be bondsmen for ever; yet
in the face of this startling truth, so intimately interwoven
with the second creation of the world, do people professing
to be Christians, profanely attempt to put their hand upon
the Ark, and by their weakness would arrest the decrees
of a just, though inscrutable Providence.”

Dixon, as these announcements one after another struck
his ears, was perfectly overcome with astonishment. He
rubbed his eyes, as if trying to wake up from a sound sleep
—an expression of incredulity rested upon his face, and he
looked around, as if to satisfy himself that he was not

“Again I ask, if slavery were this terrible evil, would
the men selected by our Saviour, to carry the everlasting
gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, allowed it to go
uncondemned? Could these martyrs to the truth be charged
with moral cowardice? No! for men, most all of whom
were slain alive in defence of their cherished principles,
could have had no fear. The apostles, if they had been
anti-slavery men, would have cried aloud, where the evil
existed, and not like these modern disorganizers, abused
and vilified the slaveholder, when not only out of the way
of all usefulness but of all responsibility.


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“The laws of God, touching the subject of slavery, are
spread as clearly through every part of the Scriptures as
are the stars in the firmament of heaven. Human reason
may do battle against them, but the only result will be the
most glaring manifestation of mortal weakness. The institution
of slavery, from its divine origin, must continue
so long as sin shall have a tendency to lead to death, so
long as Jehovah shall rule and exercise the attributes of
mercy to fallen, degraded man.

“If slavery,” continued the preacher, “was a thing as
bad as its ignorant enemies represent, why are the Scriptures
so silent as to denunciations. Innumerable chapters
can be found justifying it, regulating it, yet no commands
that it should not exist. In Genesis, we have a pleasing
record of the ameliorating influence of slavery even in those
early times. `Judah said unto his brethren, what profit
is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come,
let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be
upon him.' The saving of the life of Joseph was the consequence,
and following it came all the blessings that through
him flowed toward the children of Israel. We are also to
notice, brethren, that the holding of slaves, in Jacob's day,
was neither illegal nor uncommon. We are, therefore, not
surprised that history gives us to understand, that in the
golden streets of Jerusalem were to be found the mart for
slaves. I can imagine the patriarchs of old, as do now our
noble planters, trafficking for servants, and selecting with
care those which best answered their purposes.

“In later and more glorious days, the streets of Rome,
and those of every dependency of that great republic swarmed


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with slaves. They were at times butchered without
mercy, thrown to wild beasts for amusement, and were even
used by epicures, as food for their petted fishes. Yet our
Saviour, blessed be his name, raised not his voice against
the institution, and the apostles exerted their influence, as
in the case of Onesimus, to return not only runaways to
their masters, but to frequently exhort them to be obedient
for the glory of God.

“What,” continued Mr. Goshawk, “is the position of
the slaveholder? He is the true patriarch; the parent
of a large family; his duties are sacred; he not only has
the bodies but the souls of men in his keeping; he educates
and religiously instructs his dependants; if they are sick,
he nurses them; if naked, he clothes them; and if borne
down by age and infirmities provides a support and finds a
retreat for them. Unlike the employer of the free laborer,
his care never ceases, it does not stop the moment the recipient
is no longer pecuniarily useful.

“And here, brethren, it is forced upon me to make
those personal applications of our discourse, that naturally
arise in considering this interesting theme. It is charged
against us, that our peculiar institutions encourage cruelty
to the negro. How absurd and unchristian is this scandal.
Imperatively commanded by the Holy Book to buy slaves,
we are also enjoined by the same Holy injunction, to keep
them in obedience. The divine law shows internal evidence
of its high origin, by providing for the punishment
of slaves with rods, and asserts, that if the slave die in a
day or two after his beating, yet his owner shall not be punished,
because he can appropriate to his own use, his manservant


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or his maid-servant, and his ox, and his ass, and
any thing that is his.

“Are we immaculate? are we not subject to excitements
like unto other men? Is it wonderful, that having, by
Providence, the great responsibility of slave-holding put
upon us, that we should in the administration of our sacred
office, sometimes, in moments of excitement, punish not
more severely than the law permits, but more than our interests
justify? Moses, who was denominated the meekest
of men, in a fit of passion threw down the hand-of-God-inscribed
tablets of the law; cannot, therefore, a fatal blow
to a degraded negro be passed by in silence? Peter, who
was evidently of a southern disposition, of a chivalrous,
noble temperament, in the very presence of our Saviour, on
the impulse of the moment, drew his sword, and smote
the servant of the high priest. That a master, provoked
beyond endurance, should do worse to that which he owns
and has bought with a price, should be set down to the
amiable and redeeming traits of humanity, rather than to
the indulgence of improper and brutalizing passions.

“Brethren, we are charged in the South with assisting
in affrays, duels, and murders. I need not say that these
slanders need no refutation. Look at the annals of crime
of the immaculate North,—the crime of every day,—and
ours sink in petty incidents, compared with the enormity of
these free people. We are charged with encouraging
duelling; but when did a high standard of honor injure the
unregenerate heart? As a clergyman, commissioned to
preach peace and good will to all men, I condemn the
practice; but if the grace of God prevails not, better that


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the passions should be regulated by rules accepted of by
the educated and refined, than be left to riot in unrestrained
wickedness of the natural heart.

“We are charged with not being as good as our neighbors.
Our brethren of the North have gone into the
temple, and thanked God that they are not as other men;
announced that they do not oppress,—that they are given
to alms. For all they have done in sincerity, Heaven be
praised; but I will simply say, in answer to such hypocrisy,
that our Southern piety is unobtrusive.

“If the windy work of blowing trumpets at the corners
of the streets,—if vociferation, and noise, are the evidences
of religion, we are lost; but Southern Christians
`do good in secret,' that they may in abundant crops,
and increasing wealth, be rewarded openly. Our ministers
compare favorably for learning and zeal with any
North; and if we are not given to sectarian controversy,
—if there be a quiet calm in the various churches in our
midst,—we have not to blush at beholding the fanatical
evidences of misguided and misdirected zeal.

“But, brethren, why dwell upon the unnecessary and
needlessly imposed task of defending ourselves against the
folly of fanatics and envy of irreligious men?—let us turn
and contemplate our glorious destiny, and remember, that
we have been singled out by Providence, as were the
children of Israel in olden times, to be his peculiar people.
The Southern Christians are chosen as the instruments
for the greatest and sublimest Christian revolution ever
achieved by mortal being. When the poor African was
landed on our coast, the slave-robbers did not know that


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their apparently evil deeds were to be made to praise God;
yet such was verily the case. We have but to stand still
and see the salvation of the Lord, and the glory that will
come up out of Jerusalem.

“In the glowing and eloquent language of a beloved
brother, `I feel satisfied with the tendencies of things.' I
stand upon the mountain-peak, above the clouds. I
see far beyond the storm, the calm sea, and the blue sky.
I see the Canaan of the African. I stand there on the
Nebo of his exodus, and look across not the Jordan, but
the Atlantic.

“I gaze as did Moses from Mount Pisgah over into
the promised land; I see the ocean divided by a great
wind, and piled up in walls of green glittering glass on
either hand; and through this crystal avenue the children
of Ham are crossing upon dry ground,—the marching
host amid the pillar of cloud and fire. I look over the
Niger, black with death, to the white man—instinct with
life to the children of Ham. There is the black man's
home; there, is his father's land,—there will he exhibit
his own type of Christianity. Verily, verily! this emancipated
race may rival the most amiable form of spiritual
life, and the jewel may glitter upon the Ethiop's brow, in
meaning more sublime than all the poet's imagery.

“Brethren, in the ordering of events, the African will
go,—the ocean will separate,—the miracle will be accomplished;
but let us remember, that we are potter's clay in
the hands of an overruling power,—the chosen instruments
of great good; and let us encourage in our hearts that simple
childlike faith, that makes us satisfied with things as


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they are, and willing to leave the future to the care of an
all-wise and merciful Providence.”

Never, probably, was there a discourse uttered by a
human voice, that had a more powerful effect upon an
auditor, than did Goshawk's upon Dixon. He had taken
his place in the congregation an hour or two before with a
wan face, sunken, careworn eyes, and debilitated frame;
he now walked forth absolutely changed in his physical as
well as moral constitution. A new light had broken in
upon his mind; he was clay in the hands of the potter,—a
blind instrument for doing good. He had gone to church,
feeling that he was in the slough of despondency, but was
now conscious that, under the enlightened influences of
“the sanctuary,” his burden had rolled from off his soul;
and in the exuberance of his new view of things, he absolutely
snapped his fingers over his head, and took one or
two steps that gave promise, if their style had been continued,
that the spectator would have had a very good
idea of a country jig.

The “Head-quarters” on the morning of Mr. Goshawk's
sermon had been unusually dull; as Busteed
remarked, “The Sunday races, down at Sawyer's, always
tuck away some of his customers, but the flare-up at the
church coming on at the same time, he was doing nothing
at all.” Even Puckett for a while deserted the popular
resort, and walking over to the church, thrust his head
in at the door, and got, what he said, was the “milk in
the cocoanut;” and not waiting for the closing ceremonies,
he rushed back to Busteed's, and leaning over the bar,
commenced quite an animated description of what he had


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heard. As Puckett proceeded, Busteed, who was busy
wiping tumblers with a rag, startled by some assertion
of Puckett's, exclaimed:

“Oh, nonsense, Goshawk didn't pile it on so thick as
that, did he?”

“Yes, he did, though,” returned Puckett, emphatically;
“and the parson went it even a little stronger,
for he made out Dixon and sich like to be rigler missionaries
of the gospel.”

At that instant Dixon stepped into the bar-room. His
improved appearance, and genial manner, compared with
an hour or two before, struck both the landlord and Puckett;
the latter, unable to contain his gratification, remarked:

“Major, you look better than you did this morning—
you must be getting well.”

“I am better,” said Dixon, emphatically; “I've got
clear of them confounded pains, that's troubled me so
much: I am now as good as new, and we'll take a drink to
celebrate the fact.”