Search using this query type:

Advanced Search (Items only)

"Slaves and Free Persons of Color," December 7, 1859


"Slaves and Free Persons of Color," December 7, 1859


This explosive front page of the North-Carolina Standard , published on December 7, 1859, and written by William Woods Holden, the future Governor of North Carolina from 1868 to 1870, discussed slaves and freedmen in North Carolina. Holden went into detail about how to treat slaves, including the correct way to whip them, and he discussed how to protect slaveholders' rights. Holden also wrote about the bad nature of freedmen, a retort to an anti-slavery leaflet; an attempted rape conviction of a black man against a white woman; reports of people signing up for militias in case the rights of North Carolina were threatened; and more.


William Woods Holden


William Woods Holden, "Slaves and Free Persons of Color," North-Carolina Standard, December 9, 1859, Chronicling America, accessed October 22, 2014,




Graham Jewell




Raleigh, North Carolina

Original Format

Newspaper Article


Slaves and Free Persons of Color.

At a time like this every thing which concerns domestic slavery is interesting and important.

We have observed for years in this community and in this State, the prevalence and the increasing prevalence of the opinion, carried out in practice, that an extraordinary amount of kindness to the slave is as proper to be shown as regular discipline and a just enforcement of duty on the part of the slave. Far be it from us to advise undue rigor; but too much liberty, too much indulgence will be sure to injure both the slave and the master. We must recur to primitive times and to the early condition of the slave. The laws of rewards and punishments must be strictly observed. If these should be set aside to any considerable extent, and the slave left to the exercise of his own will, under a mistaken idea of kindness and humanity, the consequences cannot fail to be serious.

We have laws in this State which apply to slaves and free persons or color; but these laws will be of little service, as they have been heretofore, unless the owners of slaves themselves take care that their slaves are properly cared for and properly ruled at home. Domestic government makes good or bad children, and good or bad servants. If that government be strict, but kind and reasonable, it will produce good results; but if it be loose, and careless, and vicious, the worst consequences may be anticipated.

It is a good rule, in the management of slaves or servants, to clothe well, feed well, and whip well, if whipping be needed. Such a rule as this, instead of being cruel to the slave, is indeed merciful. It meets every purpose which Providence has designed in his creation, so far as his mere physical or bodily services are concerned; but beyond and above this, it is the duty of the master to allow him or provide for him the means of spiritual instruction. With this view, as we have just said, we would recur to primitive times, and would have the servant and the master worship together around the same family altar and in the same Church. This is, to a considerable extent, still the custom in this State; but of late the slaves have been allowed to assemble in separate Churches, under the care and direction of two or three white persons, and thus carry on their own worship. We think this innovation on the old custom ought to be arrested. Its tendency is, in our opinion, injurious.

While the slave is treated justly and kindly, and while he is rewarded substantially, as well as by commendation and encouragement, for his good conduct, he ought at the same time to be taught to realize his absolute subjection to his master. His master's will should be his will. Nor should undue hindrances be interposed by the law to bis punishment, even for misdemeanors. By the law as it now exists, when a slave is arrested and brought before a Justice of the Peace for a misdemeanor, and when the Justice orders him to be whipped as is frequently done, after hearing all the evidence the master has a right of appeal to the County Court This right of appeal should be taken away, and such cases should be confided to three Justices of the Peace, whose judgment should be final. This would ensure prompt and speedy punishment, and at the same time protect the slave and his owner from any improper prejudice which might be entertained against them by a single Justice.

Our patrol laws should be strictly enforced, and the patrollers themselves, many of whom are non slaveholders, should be firmly upheld in the performance of their duties. It will not do, except for the best cause and on the clearest showing, to prosecute patrollers for damages for chastising slaves.

Mean white men, who trade with and corrupt the slaves, should be severely dealt with. The African is naturally pliable, and easily imposed on. His appetite for ardent spirits and for the.means of "finery " and good living, is stronger than that of any other race; and, as a general rule, he will take a "little something of old master's," or young master's, as the case may be, and lay it out for grog or " finery." Let those who lead them into temptation, and who would make profits out of other men's property, thus obtained from slaves, be made to suffer for it. This evil can never be entirely put down in slave holding communities ; but vigorous and well-directed efforts by all good citizens, will do much to diminish it. Let the law be enforced; and let Grand Juries see to it that every case which will bear presentment be presented, without " fear, favor, or affection."

There is another defect in the management of slaves, to which we would call the attention of slave holders. It is the mistaken kindness exhibited by the owner in interfering with the hirer, in cases where interference is neither required nor ought to be tolerated. When a man hires a slave for a given space of time, that slave is his, substantially, during the time. He is entitled to his services, and has a right to control the slave for the time agreed upon, provided his treatment of the slave is not barbarous or cruel. The owner should interfere only in extreme cases, and should never, if he can possibly avoid it, take his slave away and re-hire him for the remainder of the year. Persons of moderate means complain that servants are thus unduly protected by their owners, who are generally large slaveholders ; and that they, the hirers, are exposed to loss, by such servants either absenting themselves for a Part of the time, or by their frequent appeals to their owners for redress of their supposed or alleged grievances. Let slaveholders in such cases as these be careful how they take the word of their slaves against the statements of those to whom they have hired them, no matter how humble in life the latter maybe.

Every slave should be under the immediate control of some white person. We have laws, whose object it is to effect this; but these laws are not served as they should be.

The true condition of the African race is that of dependence on the white man, or, in other words, slavery. This condition will continue, and will attach to this race in all the Southern States as Iong as their labor shall be either profitable or desirable. North Carolina contains at this time, we presume, about thirty thousand free persons of color. Sonic of these are worthy and industrious; but, as a general rule they are idle, improvident, and vicious. Their presence among us is injurious to slave property, while they no doubt consume more than they produce. No addition to their number can take place, except from their natural increase, for our laws already wisely exclude free negroes from other States, and the Legislature has very properly of late positively refused to emancipate in any case. We would advise nothing in relation to this unfortunate race of a harsh or unjust character; but it is apparent to every reflecting person that something should be done either to reform them and render them useful to society and to the State, or to banish them from among us. We trust this subject will engage the attention of the people generally during the ensuing canvass for members of the Legislature ; and that that body, acting under suggestions and instructions received from the people themselves, will adopt such measures in relation to this class of our population as may seem expedient and just to wards all concerned. For our part, we have always maintained the opinion that there should be but two classes in the slaveholding Slates the master white, and the subjugated black or colored race.

Conviction for Rape. At the late term of Rowan Superior Court a negro man named Oscar, the property of R. W. Foard, Esq., was tried and convicted of an attempted rape on Mrs. Bryant, of Concord. Oscar, as we learn from the Watchman, entered the house at night in the absence of Mr. Bryant, put out the light, which had been loft burning for Mr. B., and then got into bed with the lady. She discovered that the person was not her husband, screamed, struggled, and the negro fled. The Watchman describes her as a modest and handsome lady, and says that she underwent, her examination before the Court with firmness, self-possession, and dignity. Mrs. B. recognized the negro by his voice, by the light of the moon which shone in through the window, and by the light from the door, when he was passing out. The punishment for the crime will be death.

The Charlotte Whig, noticing this case, says: " We never heard of a female who came into Court with such an irreproachable character, being compelled to submit to so trying an ordeal as to be kept on the witness stand 34 hours; but with all the ingenuity of opposing counsel she could not be made to waver or contradict herself." The same paper adds that if the jury had returned a verdict of not guilty, the negro would have been shot before he left the prisoner's box.

Judge Heath presided. W. Lander, Esq., appeared for the State, and Messrs. Osborne and Boydcn for the prisoner. The Watchman speaks in highly complimentary terms of the speeches of Messrs.

Incitement to Treason and Civil War. We find in the Northern papers, and especially in the New York Herald, full accounts of a new edition of the infamous publication of Hinton R. Heifer against the South. This work abounds in the most treasonable and incendiary doctrines. Its obvious design is to rouse the whole North against the South, and to commence and continue, with more violence than ever heretofore exhibited, that ill-starred series of aggressions upon our property and safety which must result, if not soon arrested, in a total severance of the bonds which now unite us. We do not consider it either necessary or expedient to quote at length from this pamphlet, but we give an abridgement of it, as follows, from the Herald:

"the banner to stand or die by. Inscribed on the banner which we herewith unfurl to the world, with the full and fixed determination to stand by it or die by it, unless one of more virtuous efficacy shall be presented, and the mottoes which, in substance, embody the principles, as we conceive, that should govern us in our patriotic war fare against the most subtle and insidious foe that ever menaced the inalienable rights and liberties and dearest interests of America :

1. Thorough organization and independent political action on the part of the non-slaveholding whites of the South.

2. Ineligibility of pro-slavery slaveholders; never another vote to any one who advocates the retention and perpetuation of human slavery.

3. No co-operation with pro-slavery politicians; no fellowship with them in religion; no affiliation with them in society.

4. No patronage to pro-slarery merchants; no guestship in slave-waiting hotels; no fees to pro slavery lawyers; no employment to pro-slavery physicians; no audience to pro-slavery parsons.

5. No hiring of slaves by non-slaveholders.

6. Abrupt discontinuance of subscription to pro slavery newspapers.

7. The greatest possible encouragement to free white labor."

This pamphlet refers to what it calls "the stupid masses" of the South, who submit to slavery characterizes African slavery as the sum of all human villainies mistakes and misrepresents the pro ducts of Southern labor declares that "slavery must be throttled," and the South " redeemed from her infamy and degradation "justifies old Brown and his confederates in treason and insurrection and declares that slavery must be exterminated, " peacefully if we can, violently if we must" Such, in brief, is this publication. Under ordinary circumstances it would be regarded as the emanation of a malignant fool; but the circumstances under which it has been brought out, the men who have endorsed and subscribed for it and the purpose avowed of distributing at once one hundred thousand copies of it throughout the country, render it one of the most significant and dangerous movements yet set on foot. It is endorsed and recommended, in the first place, by sixty-nine black Republican members of the House of Representatives; and in the second place, it has been subscribed for by numbers of leading persons in the non-slaveholding States, whose names are given in the Herald. Among these names we observe that of E. D. Morgan, the present Governor of New ! York, who subscribes one hundred dollars. Thurlow Weed, of the Albany Evening Journal, and Greely, of the Tribune, have also subscribed each one hundred dollars. Heifer himself is a native of North Carolina; and we observe in the list of names two other recreant sons of this State Daniel R. Goodloe, now of Washington City, and B. S. Hedrick, formerly of the University.

This book is called " Compendium of the Impending Crisis of the South," and is published by A. B. Burdick, of New York. It is said to bear on its face the combined labors of a club of disunion abolitionists, each having contributed his quota to different parts of the work.

We observe in the list of subscriptions $105 contributed in North-Carolina. No names are given. Will these traitors and incendiaries dare show their heads? Who are they?

If the doctrines set forth and urged in this work shall be received and approved by the Northern people, and if a majority of that people shall attempt to carry them out, they will at once destroy the government under which we live. Indeed, the purpose of these conspirators seems to be to dissolve the Union, for they must know that the Southern people will never submit to the control of men who entertain such doctrines.

This man Hinton R. Heifer, as we have said, is a native of this State. He is a thief and a scoundrel. ''While employed some years since in Salisbury as a clerk, he robbed his employer. The fact was proved on him, and we believe he himself admitted it, and offered some lame excuse for his " picking and stealing." He was exposed some two years ago in Congress, by one of our Senators, Mr. Biggs, whose statements where he is known are implicitly relied on. That exposure is a part of the Congressional records, and may be examined by Heifer's abolition friends. We cannot just now lay our hands upon it, but we will re-produce it in some future number, to show how and by what high authority this miserable traitor has been exposed and branded. But, mean as he is, he is a very good abolitionist Heifer stole money, and Greely and Thurlow Weed would steal and run off slaves from their masters. Heifer turns upon the spot that gave him birth, and seeks to destroy its material and social prosperity; Gov. Morgan aids him in his work, and hugs the traitor to his bosom. Nay more the Governor of a sovereign State, whose chief City has been mainly built up by Southern trade and slave labor, has sub scribed money to aid in lighting up the flames of civil and servile war in fifteen States of the Confederacy! Is this the menage of affectum which New York sends greeting to North-Carolina? Is this a common Union?

Let the public keep watch for these pamphlets. An attempt may be made to circulate them in this State. If any copies are discovered, let rigid search be instituted as to the manner in which they were obtained and the purpose in having them. They are incendiary in their character, and those who may circulate them will do so at their peril.

L A Abolitionist Poled and Ducked. We learn from the Salisbury papers that on Saturday last Sandy Taite, a Scotchman, who has resided in Rowan for some five or six years, took it into his head to express incendiary abolition sentiments; whereupon the said Sandy was seized, carried into a back lot, stripped to his waist, tarred and feathered, then carried through town on a pole, and then ducked in the creek. He was afterwards arrested under a warrant and committed to prison to answer for his offence.

We learn from the Charlotte Democrat that the Hornet's Nest Riflemen, of that town, have tendered their services to Gov. Ellis, in case he should need their aid in maintaining the rights of the State. There are some ten or fifteen Volunteer Companies in this State. There ought to be at least one for each County in the State. The formation of such Companies should be encouraged in every proper and practicable way. We see it stated that a Company has been formed in Halifax County, commanded by W. B. Pope, Esq. a gentleman admirably fitted for the position.

Warlike Students. The Students of Richmond Medical College have formed themselves into a Military Company, to the number of fifty, elected their officers, and tendered their services to Gov. Wise, which he has accepted. The local Editor of the Enquirer says that medical students " would be the very devil at cutting up. We will guarantee they would do their full share of hewing on the carcasses of the abolitionists. They know where the mortal parts lie, and therefore every lick would be a finisher."

Visitors to the execution. The execution of Capt. Brown is to take place on Friday next, before the hour of 12 o'clock, and it is expected there will be a large attendance from the Northern States. We learn that a second letter has been received by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from Mr. Perham, the great excursionist, stating that he has already made arrangements to bring 2,000 as far as Baltimore. Charlestown, Nov. 30, 1869. John Brown maintains his equanimity, and is busied with correspondence and reading. No further interviews with him will be allowed. His time and patience were exhausted by curious visitors. On being importuned for his autograph, he kindly but firmly declined, on the ground that he could not grant the favor and keep his faith with others. Cook is very much shaken. His lip quivers, his hand shakes, and his eyes wander. He evidently anticipates his death with great horror. The other prisoners are much the same. Stephens' face is very much swollen, but his life will last long enough The negroes say they are "as comfortable as could be expected."

The execution of Friday will take place in a large field back of the prison, in the rear of which are the mountains. The scaffold will be finished on Thurs day morning. The noose is already made in the cotton rope.

The arrangements of the hanging are in charge of Major-General Taliaferro, Sheriff Campbell, Mayor Greene and Col. Hunter, but as yet none of them have been disclosed.

A proclamation has been issued forbidding any person to leave his house after dark, under penalty often dollars.

Several reporters of the Northern Press, having arrived at Harper's Ferry yesterday, were compelled by the military to return to Baltimore. It is said that Brown stated to a gentleman yesterday, that he had now no hope of a rescue, on account of the extent of the military preparations, but that his boys would never have permitted his execution if there was any prospect of an attempt proving to be successful. The military now in Charlestown numbers over fifteen hundred, and several more companies will be here tomorrow, swelling the number to two thousand.


Holden, William Woods. "Slaves and Free Persons of Color," North-Carolina Standard, December 9, 1859. Accessed October 22, 2014.


Copy the code below into your web page


North-Carolina Standard Front Page 1861-12-09


William Woods Holden, "Slaves and Free Persons of Color," December 7, 1859, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 12, 2024,