Ingenuity of the Negro
Sitting with a company of smokers last night, one of them,
to shod me the manner in which a slave of any ingenuity or cunning would
manage to avoid working for his master's profit, narrated the following
anecdote. He was executor of an estate in which, among other negroes, there
was one very smart man, who, he knew perfectly well, ought to be earning for
the estate $150 a year, and who could do it if he chose, yet whose wages for
a year, being let out by the day or job, had amounted to but $18, while he
had paid for medical attendance upon him $45. Having failed in every other
way to make him earn anything, he proposed to him that he should purchase
his freedom and go to Philadelphia, where he had a brother. He told him if
he would earn a certain sum ($400 I believe), and pay it over to the estate
for himself, he would give him his free papers. The man agreed to the
arrangement, and by his overwork in a tobacco factory, and some assistance
from his free brother, soon paid the sum agreed upon, and was sent to
Philadelphia. A few weeks afterwards he met him in the street, and asked him
why he had returned. "Oh, I don't like dat Philadelphy, massa; ant no
chance for colored folks dere; spec' if I'd been a runaway, de wite folks
dere take care o' me; but I couldn't git anythin' to do, so I jis borrow ten
dollar of my broder, and cum back to old Virginny."
"But you know the law forbids your return. I wonder that you are not afraid to be seen here; I should think Mr.----- (an officer of police) would take you up."
"0h! I look out for dat, Massa, I juss hire myself out to Mr.- himself, ha! ha! He tink I your boy."
And so it proved, the officer, thinking that he was permitted to hire himself out, and tempted by the low wages at which he offered himself, had neglected to ask for his written permission, and had engaged him for a year. He still lived with the officer, and was an active, healthy, good servant to him.