"The Underground Railroad," Richmond (VA) Dispatch, June 1, 1858, p. 1: 4.
Richmond (VA) Dispatch
The Underground Railroad
Zak Rosenberg, Dickinson College
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
The Underground Railroad: Excitement at Norfolk- Another Public Meeting-Exciting Scenes
On Saturday the proceedings of a public meeting at Norfolk, Va., held to consider measures proper to be taken for ridding the city of agents of the "underground railroad," were published in full. Another meeting was held on Saturday night, had the exciting scenes occuring there, are described as follows by our correspondent in that city:
[CORRESPONDENCE OF THE RICHMOND DAILY DISPATCH.]
Norfolk, May 30th, 1858
There was another large and excited convention of the people of Norfolk last night. Asland Hall was densely packed, and it is a matter of great satisfaction to me to state, that while the most intense excitement prevailed, and every breast was filed with indignation at the repeated and extensive depredations of the Northern negro stealers, the utmost coolness was manifested in the deliberations of the assembly, and the more excited portion kept within the bounds of prudence by the cool and clear-sighted judgment of the parties who had the controlling influence in the meeting.
As this was an adjourned meeting from the evening before, the same officers officiated. After the meeting was called to order, Mr. Saunders, the chairman of the committee of twenty-three, to whom was entrusted the carrying out the resolutions of the evening before, came forward and reported that, in obedience with the commands of the previous meeting, the committee had seen that the obnoxious parties, Willett Mott and William Dandenberg had been sent out of the city; the former had gone by way of the Roanoke to New York City; the latter had taken the Baltimore boat and had gone North by way of the Baltimore. He (Mr. S.) farther stated that the committee had given these two men notice, that if they were ever caught, in Norfolk, or its vicinity again, they would surely be furnished with a gratutious coat of tar and feathers.
During the day it had been whispered around that one B. Kayton had been implicated in this matter, and after the above report, some mention of this matter was made. Mr. Kayton, who was in the house, immediately walked to and stationed himself upon the stand, amid shouts, jeers, biases, and applause. The President called the immense body to order, and stated that Mr. Kayton had a right to be heard. This was received with manifestations of various feeling; some were willing to hear Sir. K., and the more excited were unwilling. Good order, however, prevailed. Henson was triumphant in the struggle, and Mr. Kayton was permitted to speak.
Gentlemen, said he, you all know that I am unaccustomed to public speaking; but as my name has been mixed up in this matter, I respond to the call made by some of you, to clear myself of any imputation that may be cast upon me.
A voice in the crowd.-Come to the point; come to the point.
Kayton.-Well, gentlemen, in the first place, I would like to know with what I am charged?
An excited voice.-You know d--d well.
Kayton.-There is not a man in this house who is a better citizen that I am-there is not a man present in this vast assemblage, who is more true to the South than I am. I was born in the South-I was raised in the South-I was-
A voice.-Where were you born?
Kayton.-In the city of Baltimore; and, gentlemen, my relations are all Southerners; aye, they live in this city. My father's remains reside in the same city where your departed friends now lie buried. My feeling and interests are identified with the South and her institutions; and if there is a man here who says I am in any way connected with these vile negro stealers, he lies! (great applause) Aye gentlemen, he LIES and he dare not face me and tell me so. (Tremendous applause.) And let me tell you, gentlemen, I would be the first man to put a rope around any man's neck caught stealing a negro.
A voice.-Tell us what you had to do with paying the money for Daudenberg when he was warranted for the price of the boat.
Kayton.-Mr. Dandenberg came to me with the money and requested me to pay it to Peter Moore, saying that he was not friendly with Moore, and did not wish to have anything to do with him.
[Mr. Saunders, chairman of the committee, here interrupted Mr. K., to explain and corroborate his (K.'s) first statement.]
Kayton.-I do not think there is a child or grown person in this community who can say I ever wronged them. I am a true citizen of the South, and would assist in hanging any man who would come among us to steal our slave property, as soon as any man in this assembly. Yes, gentlemen, I would be one of the first to place the rope around an abolitionist's neck. I invite the closest scrutiny of my actions, and defy any man to say I over acted in concert or sympathy with these abolition scoundrels.
Here Mr. K.'s feelings overcame him, and he was forced to stop. A voice in the crowd said, "Don't cry, Kayton; you shan't be hurt," while others said, "Go on, go on." Mr. K., however, left the stand, and was followed by Mr. Saunders, who was instructed by the committee to offer the following:
Your committee have reason to believe that a free negro, by the name of Edmond White, and a salve, by the name of George Washington, are acting in concert with the abolitionists of the North, and should be driven hence. Your committee also recommend that a special committee of ten be appointed to ascertain what free negros are now residing in this city, contrary to law, and that the said committee be instructed to request the proper authorities to enforce the law immediately.-A resolution embodying the above being offered, was passed by acclamation.
On motion, the meeting adjourned to meet again the 1st of July, or sooner, if necessary. And thus terminated a series of the most excited meetings it has ever been my fortune to attend.
The entire community have been greatly excited-more so than ever before. The flame which had been gradually kindling in the public breast, had now become too intense for longer suppression, and had burst forth, and like the devouring conflagration, could not be suppressed until some victim had been immolated at the altar of justice.
Willett Mott has been suspected for a long time, as well as Dandenberg, and about one year ago, an effort was made by Peter Moore, constable, of this city, to bring the parties to justice, as well be seen by the following statement made by him through the columns of the Norfolk American, and published some eleven months ago.
[The statement sent by our correspondent, shows that Mott had acknowledged to Moore, some knowledge of operations in running off slaves by Dandenberg, in 1857; also, a confession that he, Mott, had furnished provisions to an "underground" vessel, and had a slave in his kitchen ready to send off on her.]
The above statement, together with the bill and receipt, go far to prove that the action of the meeting, in driving Mott and Dandenberg from the city, is but an act of justice to the community, which should have been done long since.
I take occasion in this connection, to remark that it is the wish of the meeting, that all papers South or friendly to the South, publish the action of that body.
The examination of the Captain of the Francis French, together with his crew, was to have taken place yesterday morning, and a curious and excited multitude filled the Court room to hear it, but owing to the fact that the owners of the vessel had been telegraphed and were expected, the examination was postponed until Monday or Tuesday.
The boy Anthony was brought into Court and identified as Mr. James Scott as his slave, saying he "had owned him since he was a boy of 10 or 12 years of age," he also says that he had every confidence in the boy, and would not have believed it, if he had been told, that the boy would runaway. He was sent to jail.
The schooner Francis French had been particularly unfortunate. She went ashore about five years ago, on Cedar Island, Accomack County. The Commissioner of wrecks got $500 to get her off.-She went ashore again last winter on Old Point beach, and was gotten off at considerable cost more to get clear of than all others combined; indeed, so far as her owners are concerned, she is a perfect wreck and a total loss, against which all the underwriters in the country cannot indemnify her.